30 April, 2012

Wind Farms

Reading that a new study has been published, by the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of New York, would send the average person into a fit of depression - usual stuff, climate change, we are all guilty etc.

But this time it is cause for amusement.

It appears that whilst at night the earth cools and temperatures fall, in areas with a lot of wind turbines this cold air is mixed with warmer air higher up, warming the atmosphere. It is estimated from a study in Texas that over a decade temperatures increased by 1deg C, a dangerous amount.

So windfarms are actually causing global warming, while we have to pay to subsidise them.

29 April, 2012

It's started....

Citizens in East London have been told that their block of flats may have surface to air missiles placed on the roof, as 'security' during the Olympic Games to be held there this summer.

This will encourage them to wonder what might be flying through the air towards their homes which requires advanced weaponry to down it. What if that weaponry fails? What if, as on 9/11 in New York, it is an airliner full of passengers?

Is this really what we want, that people go in fear of their lives just so we can hold some games, which we anyway make them pay for (and, oh yes, they'll be paying, rich and poor)?

I said at the start when the fool Blair went for this that we'd regret it. We are only beginning now to see how much.

28 April, 2012

DSK horror

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, DSK to his friends, which don't include this blog, former head of the IMF and former favourite for the French Presidential Elections, claims that there was a plot, managed by Sarkozy's allies, to discredit him.

Imagine that.

26 April, 2012

Mein Kampf

Mein Kampf is to be published in Germany for the first time since the war. Hitler's book - it is hardly an autobiography since it was written in 1925 and therefore misses out some of the important bits - has hitherto been banned.

What really disappoints me is that its re-publication is subject to its containing notes, critical of the wannabe fuehrer's philosophy.

I have bought two copies of mein Kampf (it means 'my struggle'), one, in English, in London in 1972, another, in German, in Stuttgart in 1974 (and it wasn't difficult to find) and have lost both, probably not given back by people I lent them to. Their loss has caused me no grief because the book is an incoherent, self-justifying rant and very hard to get through.

The attitude of the German authorities is too patronising: you are far less likely to be a supporter of Fascism if you have read this drivel than if you haven't. Leave out the worthy commentary and let people read it for themselves.

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor of Liberia has, after a five year trial, been convicted by a specially constituted court of aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone to commit atrocities. It is accepted that he had no command responsibility for these atrocities.

This verdict has been welcomed by the British Government, although I should have thought we were on slightly shaky ground having aided and abetted rebels in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, none of whom, I expect, committed any atrocities. It is the first time a head of state has been convicted, and it must be giving Her Majesty the Queen some food for thought about any future military adventures.

Amongst other things Taylor was accused of using child soldiers as young as 15.

My father joined the British Army in peacetime in 1930 aged 14, and I am awaiting the compensation for this appalling breach of his, and my family's human rights.


Just been listening to the testimony of Rupert Murdoch to the Leveson Inquiry. Marvellous. It was like watching a mature actor at the height of his powers – Judi Dench, Diana Rigg, Anthony Sher, Tony Blair -  going through for a masterclass the various emotions an actor can convey. At times Roop was a handwringing Uriah Heep, almost tearful, ‘I admit that I, I Rupert, was wrong’. Then he was the jokey successful man, then the senior figure to whom it was vulgar to put such questions.

At times he played the pitiable elderly man, bullied into the publc eye, who couldn't keep up with the younger man's questioning. Moments later he showed he has a mind like a laser.

It was a wonderful display. I have never met Murdoch, although I have come across a few of his subordinates, but the impression I was left with, based on just what I have seen and heard, was that..

I wouldn’t trust him with the change for a parking meter.

At some stage, when the hurly-burly’s done, we are going to have to decide whether he and his folk are fit and proper people to run media organisations.

For me, the burden of proof is going to lie with the Murdochs.

23 April, 2012

Dutch trouble

The government of the Netherlands, which is what we had better call it now that someone called Hollande is likely to occupy the Elysée Palace, has resigned.

The government was a coalition which incorporated Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, which cannot accept the austerity measures required by the new Fiscal Pact: The Netherlands would have to cut some €15 billion to get down to the maximum 3% figure permitted. There is increasing talk that The Netherlands will be downgraded from its AAA status.

Elections will probably not take place until the autumn.

So, on a good day for Hollande, a bad day for Holland. 

St. George's Day

Today is St. George's Day, that of the patron saint of England (as well as of quite a few other countries - he was a popular guy).

Whilst St. Andrew's Day is a holiday in Scotland, St. David's Day a holiday in Wales and St. Patrick's Day a holiday in N. Ireland, there is no lay celebration in England, largely because, whilst the other bits have regional assemblies to declare a national holiday, England, with more than 80% of the population, does not.

Today is also supposed to be the anniversary of both the birth and the death of William Shakespeare.

A Question of Identity

Preliminary results of the first round of voting in the French Presidential Elections are in: Hollande 28%, Sarkozy 26%, Le Pen 19%, Mélenchon 12%, Bayrou 9% + 5 others.

For many people this election was about the unpopularity of Nicolas Sarkozy, that is evident. For others the result is an astonishing level of support for Marine Le Pen, gaining nearly one in five votes with strong support among young and unemployed. Others see it as a weak support for the Far Left: Mélenchon, who was supposed to shake the edifice to its foundations, gaining less than Le Pen.

Something has been going on in France, but what? The first thing to remember is that the labels 'left' and 'right' mean nothing here. There was only one candidate amongst the ten who could have qualified as even a wishy-washy member of the British Conservative Party and he got 2%. Le Pen is to the right on social policy, certainly, but splattered her campaign with Left-Wing economic rhetoric which would have embarrassed the British Labour Party in 1970.

It was not just about voting Sarkozy out, though he is highly unpopular personally, and the political upheaval in my view did not, as some are saying, come from 1789. I believe it came from the 1950s.

After the war Britain, nominally on the winning side, was exhausted and depressed. The string of leaders, most too old fashioned to understand that anything had changed, failed to ignite the popular morale. We watched the Empire gain its independence, the pound devalue and the economy decline as if it were fate. In France, by contrast, which could not seriously lay claim to being a winner (but was not a loser), De Gaulle's staunch evangelical nationalism made people think France was a great country.That greatness resided in the bones of France itself, in its quirky cars and terroirs, in that indefinable Frenchness which some love and some hate.

The instrument of Gaullism was not to be an Empire but the European Union, which France dominated intellectually and politically from 1957 until 2010.

Now France is beginning to ask itself questions. The 'Merkozy' concept, that the EU would be run jointly by France and Germany was in itself a climbdown but now that parity has also been lost. With France's debt downgrade (more important for morale and status than many think) and its obvious economic underperformance, France no longer ranks alongside Germany. It is as if it had lost one of those tiny 19th century battles which somehow changed the established order.

So whereas you could have told Britain - at least any time up to the Falklands - that it was a third rate country and the population would have accepted it, France is left wondering what has happened. It has been left asking itself who it is.

And the answer? The future is not, I fear, bright. Those of us who wish the country well are dismayed by the almost Trotskyite tone of some of the candidates, the anti-trade, anti-competition speeches made by most of them, the depressing, mercantilist isolationism of the whole debate.

Hollande should have a comfortable mandate on 6th May. But it does not augur well, for France or for Europe.

22 April, 2012


The Bahrain Grand Prix takes place today, or at least it will unless the police lose a running battle with the protesters, and this is unlikely: the Bahraini government has Saudi support, British weaponry and a former British police chief to guide them.

Of course it would be nice if Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula 1 team bosses stood up and said they don't like what is going on and that the ruling family are shits, but this isn't going to happen. More than any other sport, F1 is a business, and businessmen don't bite the hand that feeds them.

I am sympathetic to the protesters and to their worldwide support but I would like to know one thing: why was there none of this international protest when the race was held in China last week? Can anybody point to something the Bahrainis have done which the Chinese haven't?

Let's bear it all in mind.

20 April, 2012

Beware of Greeks

An extraordinary story in the FT a couple of days ago, one of those where you automatically check that it is not April Fool's Day. I waited to see if other newspapers took it up but they haven't. Nevertheless the FT is a sober newspaper and the piece deserves to be given air.

It appears that the organisers of the Olympic Games, due to take place in London this summer, had arranged for a copy of a Greek trireme to be rowed down the Thames.

The boat is a part of the Greek Navy (shows the sort of trouble the country is in, the rest of us have frigates and destroyers and the like).

However, having spent £150,000 doing the thing up (it appears the Greeks can't even keep their triremes in good shape) it was decided that it might be too popular. The FT intercepted emails (I hope that's not the wrong term) to the effect that there was a danger that as the trireme went by, the riverbanks would be packed and people might throw themselves into the water.

Martin Green, the head of ceremonies for London's Organising Committee, appears to have written 'Clearly a vessel such as the trireme has the potential to draw large crowds and it is a risk we are just not able to take at this time.'

I don't know how many instances there are of people seeing a trireme and throwing themselves off a bridge but there it is: you can't be trusted.

Bert Weedon

We mourn the passing of Bert Weedon, aged 91. I was a Bert Weedon student, having got hold of a copy of his self teaching manual Play in a Day and from there became a non-star.

He pioneered the idea of the guitar being the lead instrument, rather than a part of the rhythm section, which continued for years, from the Shadows to the great Rock Bands.

Weedon was a great giver to charity. Wonderful talent, good egg.


We regret the passing of Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist for The Band.

The Band were a group of highly talented musicians, perhaps more respected by musicians than by the general public. They backed Bob Dylan in the late 60s / early 70s and were the subject of Martin Scorsese's film 'The last Waltz'.

EU spending bonanza

The draft EU budget for 2013 shows increased contributions of 7% - for Britain an extra £900 million.

This is, of course, quite ridiculous when individual countries are having to make savings, and, more to the point, this is something that is quite easy to explain and to understand.

Mr. Cameron, widely acused of dithering and incompetence, should welcome this as a chance to be seen saying 'NO' to Europe, boosting his flagging reputation among his own supporters.

19 April, 2012

Elephant and Castle

Much hoo-ha in Spain as the King is found to have gone elephant hunting in Botswana, while his subjects are suffering under the austerity package. The licence apparently cost $15,000.

Juan Carlos also enjoys bear hunting, but unfortunately not the sort of bears who are selling Spanish bonds at the moment.

Perhaps of more interest is that he is the honorary president of the Spanish branch of the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

18 April, 2012

Guilty already

Italy's senate has approved by a two thirds majority the proposal that a balanced budget should be a constitutional requirement in Italy.

Apart from this being a dangerous hostage to fortune, the news (see below) that Italy won't balance its budget before 2017 means the government knows it will be in breach of the constitution as soon as the bill is signed into law.

It's a different world here.

Europe: how are we doing?


Greece seems unlikely to survive without a further bailout: even if the population were to accept the pronounced austerity measures proposed, they still don't add up. The economy is contracting and that means lower government income which means more austerity. There is an election on 6th May which looks likely to be indecisive, bringing in some sort of coalition, bringing further uncertainty.

Portugal seems likely to need a further bailout in 2012.

Spain will fail to meet its target budget deficit. The banks are in serious difficulty and the Germans won't allow the bailout fund to target banks. Two of them are major shareholders in the Argentinian oil producer YPF and are likely to lose further sums. The property market has further to fall, bringing more trouble on the banks.

Italy has admitted that it will no longer be able to get rid of its budget deficit by 2013 as promised by Mario Monti. 2017 looks like a more probable date but in the meantime the economy is contracting (see above). The proposals to alter the labour laws, making it easier to invest in Italy, have been watered down and are scarcely worth fighting for.

France has had the spotlight turned on it in recent days. The first round of the election is on Sunday. François Hollande, the front runner, has threatened to veto the economic pact if it doesn't contain growth measures (it doesn't, on the insistence of Germany). Meanwhile Sarkozy has said the ECB should discuss with the various countries the euro exchange rate; Germany will never permit this tinkering with the ECB's independence.

It looks like Merkozy have divorced.

Meanwhile effective inflation in Germany has reached 3.5%. As the economy overheats the ECB will be forced to raise, not lower, rates.

€1 trillion of liquidity injected by the ECB seems only to have bought them a couple of months, and they did nothing with this time.

Things are going from bad to worse.

15 April, 2012


Scientists claim to have discovered the Majorana fermion, a particle which contains as many negative ions as positive (if I have got that right).

The existence of the particle was posited by Ettore Majorana, a hugely gifted theoretical physicist who worked with Fermi and Heisenberg and Bohr, sometimes, it is said, making dramatic discoveries and refusing to take credit for them.

In 1938, aged only 31, he disappeared from a boat travelling from Palermo to Naples. The body was never discovered.

Various reasons for his disappearance have been suggested, and in particular the celebrated writer Leonardo Scascia suggested, in his book 'The disappearance of Majorana' (La Scomparsa di Majorana) that he hid in a monastery; others say that he fled to Argentina, in order to avoid having to work on an atomic bomb.

Anyhow, it is important that these people are remembered. It has taken three quarters of a century for his ideas to be shown to be correct.

The Grand National

If I had been going to give betting advice on the Grand National I might well have chosen Synchronised, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In fact the horse unseated its rider on the way to the start, delaying it for several minutes, then fell at Becher's Brook, unseating the poor blighter again. Synchronised, however, got up and started running down the course again. Then he was captured and put down. Another horse was put down, having broken its neck.

Last year two horses were also put down, and at the Cheltenham Festival in March five horses were put down.

I am not an expert on this, and therefore sometimes distrust my own opinions, but I do believe this has to be looked at, and pretty carefully. I have the impression, perhaps wrong, that horses are being put down because they can no longer race, rather than 'putting them out of their misery', and I'm sure other people have that impression, too. In part, a civilisation can be judged on how it treats its animals, and Britain prides itself on scoring very highly in this category.

Let's hope that pride is not misplaced. Full investigation, please.

Burma looks forward....

Good news in Burma, where the regime appears to be pursuing a policy of gradual relaxation. Analysts say they don't know why this is happening, but I think it clear that China has told them to. The regime was kept in power by China, and Burma supplied it with raw materials but now that colonialism is beginning to look counter-productive for Beijing.

David Cameron did well to be the first Western leader there, and has invited Aung San Suu Kyi to Britain. I think I am right in saying she has never seen the grave of her husband, Michael Aris.

The British, meanwhile, seem more interested in some Spitfires that are buried there. As if we didn't have enough WWII memorabilia.

I propose that the Spitfires be left where they are and that we start trying to live in the 21st century, looking forward, not back, as Burma and the rest of the Far East are doing.

14 April, 2012


Titanomania - well that's what I call it. For the last month or so the Press have begun milking the story. Then 10th April was the 100th anniversary of the ship setting sail. It called at Cherbourg and Cork and then hit the iceberg around midnight ship's time on 14th, ie early morning on 15th GMT.

I often wonder why this is a subject of such fascination. It is the world's 7th worse peacetime maritime disaster, and nobody knows the other six (the worst was the Dona Paz in 1987). But many people, called Titanoraks, are obsessive about it. And despite the assurances of American Film Directors that access to the life rafts was a class struggle, we really know hardly anything of what went on. Legend had it that Benjamin Guggenheim, despite being a supposedly classless American, felt too posh to get in the lifeboats and made his valet drown with him. Now we know for certain (ha!) that his valet being of mixed race wasn't allowed in the lifeboat and Guggenheim drowned with him. Got to be a story there, nudge nudge. Or not.

Not long after the Titanic sank, the First World War began which claimed nine million lives and after that the Spanish 'flu claimed even more. But still they go on and on about the Titanic, bore bore bore.

Let's hope the circus is over soon.


13 April, 2012

Sporting with the baddies

Debate on the holding of a Grand Prix in Bahrain is confusing. Some say it is about the safety of the teams, some about whether we should be encouraging the pernicious regime of the Al Khalifa family.

As to the first, the Bahraini people have a supportable grievance: they began Arab Spring-type uprisings against the regime but these were brutally put down with assistance from Saudi Arabia (Bahrain, connected to Saudi via a causeway, is a place for wealthy well-connected Saudis young and old to buy cocaine, get drunk and find a prostitute). This uprising needs the oxygen of international publicity and so it seems quite likely there will be some trouble at the event, and equally likely that it will be brutally put down by the regime.

Formula 1 is, more than any other sport, a business, and I rather think that it can look after itself on security matters. If they want to go and the teams agree, that's that.

The other aspect is whether we look complicit in all this (we, the West, and we, the British since several of the teams are located in England).

I remember the 1980 Olympics in Moscow which America boycotted and Britain wanted to boycott, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (times do change, don't they?). The unpleasant dwarf (I knew him at university) Colin Moynihan was a government minister but insisted on going to the Olympics (being only 2ft high and having a loud voice he was cox to the rowing VIII, or possibly the mascot). In the end Mrs Thatcher let him.

What we thought then was that a sporting event bestowed kudos on, or at least acceptance of a regime and we shouldn't participate with Russia (or, of course, South Africa at the time, as you will remember). I'm not sure I do think that, now. It looks as if Bernie Ecclestone just wants to make money out of the Bahrainis, not endorse their government.

And I am quite sure that this is no business of the state. The British Foreign Office should make it clear to Bahrain and Saudi what we think of what is going on there and that's all.

Not that it will make any difference.

11 April, 2012

The Republican Race

Sadly, Rick Santorum, the second ranked Republican challenger, appears to have pulled out of the race due to a child being ill. I don't want to ascribe any cynical motive to him, because obviously he is a decent man, but he could hardly go on anyway, as the family candidate with a gravely ill child; and he was losing in any case. Possibly the way is now open to him to stand again. And being the family candidate is not such a bad thing to be.

He may well get the opportunity, since Mitt Romney is all that is left (this blog's favoured candidate, Ron Paul, isn't going to be nominated, and choosing Newt Gingrich would be absurd). One analyst pointed out that Mitt Romney has showed he can win against underfunded, badly organised opponents. Now he is up against the united Democratic Party.

As so often, I am left wondering where the Americans find these people. Anyway, in 2016 Obama will be finished and the Republicans know what they need to do: find someone that everybody can accept and that some people find inspiring.

It ain't Mitt.

09 April, 2012

Budget Relief

Bit of a scare at a concert in Rome: a chap came on to announce the programme and you'd have sworn it was George Osborne, with the same strangely inappropriate haircut and a whiny voice, as if he were about to deliver an amendment to the budget ('free pasties for all!'). It was only after a few seconds I realised he was speaking in Italian.

If anyone saw me weeping during the Massenet, they were tears of relief.

07 April, 2012

Shame about the boat race

I am indebted to the Daily Mail for the above photos (actually I nicked them). Today the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge was staged and for the first time in 158 contests it was interrupted by a swimmer. The man, believed to be an anarchist called Trenton Oldfield, was arrested.

I find all this very curious. Around 1900 everyone was worried about anarchists all the time, conservative Britain thinking they might upset the established order. But we don't hear much about them now: we are quite capable of screwing up the established order ourselves (jolly good thing too).

And the chap's name. Trenton Oldfield is a delightfully British name, suggesting old school charm and manners, dependability, derring-do in a right-thinking cause. People's characters are often  suggestive of their names: the first man to be arrested for air piracy (pinching a stewardess' bottom) was called Audrey Bumguard. But a Trenton Oldfield would be rescuing the plane as it hurtled to the ground, as well as comforting the hysterical trolley dolley.

And then, why was he arrested? If a gentleman (I may be stretching the meaning of the word here) wishes to go swimming in the Thames, why shouldn't he? I have rowed the Tideway many times (the race is tougher than it looks, by the way) and the rule then was that if you fell in you were given a tetanus injection, whilst if you swallowed any water you had your stomach pumped. But perhaps it is cleaner now.

And have a look at the policeman who has arrested him. He looks like he was dressed for an armed insurgence: the French CRS riot police on a bad day. Now I and my friends have occasionally been lively at the boat race, particularly afterwards - high spirited, even noisy, but there has never been any need for the heavy mob. Have things changed? Were they expecting Trouble? Had an anonymous tip-off from what we would now call the Oxbridge Community warned that there there would be anarchists about? Swimmers challenging the established order? My God, Watson, the devils!

And why is Mr Oldfield not carrying some message to the world's viewers, some slogan from Fathers for Justice or the David Cameron is a Pratt campaign, so neglected in our Press? Was it just a pure anarchistic act, designed to make Parliament tremble and petty dictators shiver on their gilded thrones?

There's a lot more we need to know about this, but I can say this: sometimes, in my quiet middle-class life, I feel that a little bit of unfocused anarchy might be a good thing.

06 April, 2012

The Panda

Tian Tian and Yang Guan, two pandas on loan to Edinburgh zoo, have failed to mate in the limited breeding season. I shouldn't have thought it that attractive an activity in the glare of publicity but I suppose the keepers know best.

The BBC brought out some expert who said that pandas were perfectly viable creatures who had only come to difficulties when humans started to invade their space (we are all guilty, as I am sure you know).

Actually I think the opposite. Pandas were originally meat eaters but became too incompetent to catch their prey. They now live on bamboo which, with its lack of protein, means they are even lazier, and amble around like an 80-year old with a hangover. The breeding season is about 36 hours per year, so that's it for 2012 - back to eating bamboo. This species is not viable and should have been allowed to go extinct years ago. Instead huge sums of money are spent on them which could have been used to preserve some useful creature.

Good Friday

I have always felt Good Friday to be one of the telling differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Here in Italy it is not a holiday; a Roman Catholic would say 'what are you doing having a holiday on such a sad day?'. A Protestant would say 'what are you doing earning money when you should be at home pondering the sacrifice made for you?'

The Italians have a good party on Easter Monday (Pasquetta) when it is all over.

Cheesy gaffe

The French elections are turning into a long-running comedy. François Hollande, the Socialist candidate, who has proposed an insane 75% tax rate, is losing ground to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Far-far left candidate, who proposes a 100% tax on incomes above €360,000 a year.

In the meantime, Nicolas Sarkozy, in order to thwart Marine Le Pen, of the Far-far right, has proposed a crackdown on immigration. M.Sarkozy is the son of immigrants. Now the diminutive contender, who embarrassingly admitted a while back that he does not drink wine, says he does not allow cheese on his table. Surely this makes him unelectable?

04 April, 2012

Greek Pizza

Jurre Hermans is a young economist living in the Netherlands. When I say young he is in fact 11 years old.

Young Jurre has submitted an offering to the Wolfson Prize, which offers £250,000 to the best idea as to how, if one or more countries leave the euro, the matter can be resolved comfortably.

Jurre says he is very worried about the euro, as he should be because when he becomes a taxpayer in 10 years' time they will still be paying off the debts.

The Jurre plan is for the Greek government (he seems to feel Greece is the only one at risk) to monopolise the repayment of euro-denominated debt, coupled with strong exchange controls. He has been sent £100 for his entry.

Interestingly, the lad compares Greek debt to a pizza, which I don't suppose any of the other entries have done. Unfortunately he does not say whether that would be an uncooked pizza, which looks good but is still rising, a pizza undergoing cooking, where it is all bubbling up and quite a lot of red appears, or a cooked one, which is a topic too hot to handle for the average European.

Well done, though, Jurre! I hope the world hears more from this young chap, perhaps using his fast food skills to solve Mr. Cameron's pasty tax.

02 April, 2012

The Falklands

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands. Much will be written about those days but I wanted to put the matter into its historical context, and in my view this is so important that it dwarfs the underlying issue of whether the islands are the Falklands or the Malvinas and who rules over 12,000 sq km of unplantable land and 3,000 people, together with a lot of sheep and penguins. Incidentally I was intrigued to learn that 0.6% of the population are Japanese amounting, I suppose, to 2 people if we don't take into account their size.

What I remember from those days is that once it was believed that we might be able to mount a taskforce there was such a public outcry to do so that Mrs Thatcher would have had difficulty saying no. But - and I think this is the key - most people still didn't expect her to do it. The origins of that pessimism lie in the years of post war decline. Having handed back what remained of the Empire we began our economic decline. Underperformance, socialism, overmighty trade unions and debt gave the country a smell of decay. One government after another had been weak. No one was proud of Britain.

I was born just before the Suez debacle, when America told us we were living in the 1950s not the 1850s. Apart from winning the World Cup in 1966 and the brief Cool Britannia years of the Beatles and Carnaby St, in my lifetime Britain had never won anything or seemed good or talented or brave. I was in my mid twenties and when one went abroad one was embarrassed to admit to being British. I, like most of my friends, often considered leaving.

Then this happened. The taskforce seemed to take an awful long time to get there - people wanted a battle, they wanted results, even if they had hitherto never had a clue where the Falklands were. It seemed to take ages but I read we landed on the Falklands on 21st May. As the ships, which included the liner Queen Elizabeth II, sped south, there was no talk of anything else. In pubs and in homes people followed our boys as they would follow the football team progressing through a tournament. We had forgotten that perhaps the one remaining area of British excellence lay in our armed forces.

The nationalism was riveting. People sported T-shirts marked 'QE II in the Falklands - the Empire strikes back'. Private Eye's spoof tabloid headline 'Kill an Argie, win a Metro' was not too far from the truth.

We regained the Falklands in mid June and people felt great. Mrs. Thatcher seemed like Churchill and was easily re-elected in 1983 and 1987. For those few days, and arguably until the economy was brought to its knees in 2008, Britain felt comfortable in its own skin.

01 April, 2012

Earth Hour

While we are on the subject of foolishness (see previous post), yesterday the world 'celebrated' Earth Hour. This is where lights are turned off for an hour to highlight global warming. As you can imagine this has been invented by those preachy types who know what is best for you. In this case it is the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF.

It is estimated that this event results in the equivalent of 6 cars being taken off the road, out of the billions in existence. Indeed some estimates show that a reduction in energy usage, followed by a surge when the lights go back on again, will in fact use more fuel. And of course if you use candles, which are made of paraffin, you will be increasing the amount of fossil fuel usage. In addition there is the risk to life and limb, as experienced by the Environment Minister of British Columbia last year, when he set his cat on fire.

It is so obvious that it sometimes just isn't mentioned: most of us don't want to be told what we should be celebrating or regretting on a particular day. We can think for ourselves.

Urbi et Orbi

On the 1st April this blog, unlike more traditional media, does not play tricks on its readers – April fools, or Pesci d’Aprile as they are known in Italy.

The reason is that this blog finds everyday life crazy as it is. The mainstream media, conservatively accepting that what goes on is ‘normal’ invents its own silliness, missing the point that the real craziness lies in the fact that we let these ‘normal’ things happen.

Instead, this blog, in its annual Urbi et Orbi message to mark the Feast of All Fools, invites you to take a pace back and consider the silliness around you.

In Italy, the politicians, not being completely stupid, were aware that the country had spent and borrowed its way to perdition and that something had to be done. It was pretty obvious what had to be done, as well. But the snag was that they didn’t want to become unpopular by doing it. So instead of explaining it to the people and carrying the electorate with them, they agree, democratic politicians agree to suspend democracy and allow unelected university professors to run the country and make all the hard choices. Then next spring these saintly democrats will again present themselves to the electorate saying ‘Dear me, this is a bit of a mess, let me make it better’, assuming that the people, whose trust they betrayed, will welcome them with open arms.

Elsewhere in Europe, Greece has had a Prime Minister imposed on it by the French and the Germans. Everybody knows that it cannot become solvent by austerity and nor can Spain, but they choose not to discuss the matter. Belgium ran for more than a year without any government at all, Britain is run by a coalition nobody voted for, and spends its time debating whether Cornish pasties are better hot or cold.

Greece will hold elections this year, despite there being no confidence in the political parties. France looks likely to elect the maddest government in its history, and Britain will spend the year hosting games it cannot afford, and remembering an octogenarian monarch, a war which ended 30 years ago and a ship which sank 100 years ago.

The whole fabric of our society has broken down. We drift in and out of democracy, while criticising regimes such as Burma which are reluctant to adopt it. We close our eyes to things we don’t want to see. Perhaps we have all taken the lead from Belgium and let the politicians gabble meaninglessly on in their self-importance, while ignoring them and getting on with our lives, knowing that if something horrible happens, someone will sort it out, don’t you worry.

Perhaps we are all Fools. And today is our day.