Tuesday 31 January 2012

In which Tris ponders the purpose of the House of Peers and wonders at the politics behind the benighted deknighted

I'm not entirely sure how much the House of Lords costs us taxpayers every year. Many figures are bandied about (and we are told how much cheaper it is than the Commons), but no one seems to know exactly what the figures represent:
Expenses of peers (or attendance allowance as it should properly be called) is surely only a small part. There is an historic building to be run, with priceless artwork to be hung and maintained; there are restaurants, tearooms, shops and bars to subsidise, staff to pay to open doors, type letters, run errands, polish coronets, oversee robing rooms, clean toilets, offices, corridors, etc. There are windows to wash, drains to unblock, doors to paint. And then there's security. There are government ministers to be paid and transported. And it all has to be heated and lit. (A lot of them are elderly and need lots of warmth...)

I dunno...£ 1/2 billion...£ 3/4 billion? More?

So... whatever it costs, if, as Mr Clegg tells us, it is necessary for the smooth running of our democracy, why is it that when the government suffers defeats, such as it has over the last few days because various sections of the Welfare Reform Bill have been voted out by their noblenesses, the aforementioned government can simply overturn aforementioned defeats the next day in the Commons, as if nothing had happened.
You see, I reckon that we don't need the Lords. Well, that goes without saying. Ermine collars, red gowns, coronets, together with titles like Duke, Viscount, Marquis, Earl, Baron, and styles like "your grace" and "my lord" seem to me to be completely out of touch with the reality of today. (I'm not, of course, saying that the reality of today has a great deal to recommend it, however, at least our parliamentarians should be living in it the same as we are forced to.) 

But I don't think we even need a Senate. Surely one chamber, with good committees, real debates (without the disruptions of the wearing of top hats and cries of "I spy strangers"), and with sensible a good chairmanship (not pompous overblown little pip squeaks), should suffice to get the job done.
It's not as if having a second house has saved the UK, and England in particular, from some incredibly inept legislation, which can be, and is, challenged in courts, usually in London, but sometimes in Europe.

Every time I hear the government of the day saying that it will overturn the votes of the second chamber, I ask myself if the half or three-quarters of a billion pounds or more per annum, wouldn't be better spent on something useful.

I see that Fred Goodwin is just that, Fred Goodwin...now that they have taken away his 'Sirness'.

Against titles as I am, it's a matter of complete indifference to me whether he has (or had) one or not. Like the titles in the Lords it all belongs to another day, another society, even more class ridden and riven than the one we live in. But that aside doesn't the whole "removal" thing have the smell of an exercise in futile populism by Cameron? That's how it seems to me, anyway.
Fred was, probably still is, a greedy bounder, who is as clever as clever can be at making money, and behind whom all these MPs were standing cheering when he was making that obscene money for the RBS Group, and of course for the UK. But he, like every other gambler, was bound to back the wrong horse sometime.

And he did. Big time. But he wasn't the only one. Goodwin didn't bring down the UK economy single handed. Oh no. There were many others. The City of London is teaming with them. Goodwin was just the best known. And Cameron wants to look tough with the bankers.

Fail...again. It all just looks as silly as giving him the daft title in the first place.

Sunday 29 January 2012

From Backstage... NYC. Petula continues, in her 70th year in show business, to sell out...

Petula Clark

at Feinstein's at Loews Regency

Reviewed by Erik Haagensen
JANUARY 25, 2012
Photo by Stephen Sorokoff
Back in the mid-1960s I had a brief but passionate boy crush on English pop singer and film actor Petula Clark. She knocked out a string of hit singles penned by composer Tony Hatch in a vibrantly distinctive belt voice, including "I Know a Place," "Don't Sleep in the Subway," "My Love," and, of course, the mother of them all, "Downtown," for which she won her first Grammy Award. But what really cemented my fandom were her marvelous performances in the film musicals "Finian's Rainbow" and "Goodbye, Mr. Chips." Then the diminutive star segued to a long career as an international concert singer, with occasional stops in West End musicals. Well, she's back, appearing at Feinstein's at Loews Regency with just a four-piece band. It's a rare appearance in an intimate venue, and for anyone who cares about great singing, it is not to be missed.

Clark turns 80 this year, but you'd never know it from the lithe and limber, boundlessly energetic, agelessly beautiful woman onstage. My eyes went from wide to wider to positively popping as she flung out hit after hit in its original key, with fully held top notes, burnished tone, and complete control of those wonderfully unique vocal stylings that are always enhancing and seem to emanate from the center of her soul.

All the above-mentioned tunes get an airing, as well as a flirty, playful medley of "Who Am I?" and "Color My World" (both by Hatch and Jackie Trent), a liquid "This Is My Song" (Charlie Chaplin, which Clark introduced on the soundtrack of his final film, "A Countess From Hong Kong"), and a spot-on country reinvention of Hatch and Trent's "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love" that featured a dynamic drum solo from Dan Gross and an intense, whip-up-the-crowd finish from Clark.

Representing her work in musicals, we get a meltingly simple "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" (Burton Lane–E.Y. Harburg) from "Finian's" and a glowing "You and I," the centerpiece of Leslie Bricusse's criminally undervalued score for "Chips." A haughty and flashing "With One Look" (Andrew Lloyd Webber—Don Black—Christopher Hampton), from "Sunset Boulevard," suggests that Clark was a Norma Desmond to be reckoned with (she played the show in the West End and on tour).

In her sharp and witty patter, Clark confesses to a teenage desire to be cool and sophisticated that expressed itself in an affinity for Peggy Lee and Cole Porter. She shows off those predilections with a driving, percussive take on Porter's "I Concentrate on You," in an inventive arrangement flecked with electronic guitar, and a swinging, ballsy interpretation of the great songwriter's comic lament "Miss Otis Regrets." Both are utterly untraditional yet so compelling that I can't believe Porter wouldn't have loved them (and they are executed flawlessly by musical director Grant Sturiale and the tight band, which also includes Courtney Sappington on guitar and Jason Di Matteo on bass).

Clark is also a writer herself, a talent she showcases in the pensive "Starting All Over Again" (music by David Hadzis) and in a tart, well-observed poem about life in the theater she recites that includes the interesting observation that when she gets too angry she sings, something that perhaps accounts for the intensity of emotion with which she can invest a song. And yet there's always a lightness and a sexy buoyancy to her work, no doubt springing from her impish sense of humor, which she deftly displays on a smart comic parody of "Downtown" written by Barry Kleinbort.

More than anything, though, Clark is a skilled musician, something most apparent in two magical moments when she simply sits at the piano and accompanies herself while singing a soulful "Someone to Watch Over Me" (George and Ira Gershwin) and a shimmering, dramatically acute "La Vie en Rose" (Edith Piaf–Louis Guglielmi, English lyric by Mack David), which the multilingual chanteuse, who saw Piaf perform live, delivers in perfectly accented French.

Clark, who was an English music hall star at age 9, distills 70 years worth of performing experience in her work while still in great physical and vocal shape. It's an unusual and unbeatable combination that makes for a highly memorable evening.

Presented by and at Feinstein's at Loews Regency, 540 Park Ave., NYC. Jan. 24–Feb. 4.Tue.–Thu., 8 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 8 and 10:30 p.m. (212) 339-4095 orwww.feinsteinsattheregency.com.

Saturday 28 January 2012


Even if Stephen Hester still hasn’t got the message that as a Civil Servant he should not be entitled to a bonus of £900,000, it seems his boss, Philip Hampton is a bit quicker on the uptake (or more sensitive), for he has said that he will not take his £1.4 million bonus as it is not justified. Well, you’re right there mate.
 On the subject of city salaries and bonuses, why does Cameron claim that he will do something about them, when he knows full well that companies are companies; they can pay whomsoever they wish whatsoever they wish. So then he says that major shareholders should take action to avert these disproportionate rewards, but as the custodian of the shares that we have in the Royal Bank (over 80% and you don’t get much more major than that) he does nothing about Hester’s bonus. The probably reason is that he's been tipped the wink that if he did, Hester would resign, so would half the board and the whole thing would go BANG, with all our money.

My advice to him would be to listen to Labour peer, Meghnad Desai who, unlike his populist leader, Ed Miliband, seems to have a handle on the situation.

Stop posturing for the cameras. You just look stupid and impotent. It would be best to admit that they have you over a barrel; that way you’ll still look totally impotent, but at least you’ll look as if you have the measure of the situation, thus not so terminally stupid.

After all, Cameron gets bent out of shape with the EU, making enemies across Europe, telling them to get their hands off the competitive edge of London’s financial centre; that their idea of introducing regulations and a code of conduct is not going to happen. After all, it’s all the UK has between it and bankruptcy. (If you can call running a deficit of £1 trillion NOT being bankrupt).  

Having thus appeased his right wing, he tries to appease "ordinary decent hard-working families up and down the country" by making it look like he’s going to do the one thing that will send the bankers off to Mumbai or Dubai faster than you can say “quantitative easing” (or inflation... they are the same thing)... namely reducing said bankers ability to stuff billions in bonuses into their pinstriped pockets. There won’t be much of a competitive edge if all yer actual bankers have fled the coup, will there, Dave?

Desai’s only haver, as far as I could tell on the news on Friday night, was that he insisted that these people deserved the money for all the work they do, the risks they take, the stress of it all.  Maybe they do work hard; maybe it is stressful; maybe the chairman of Lloyds Bank has just been claiming sickness benefits for 10 weeks because of it.

But I’d just say, to the his nobly lordliness... brain surgeons (average £250,000)... firemen fighting blazes (average £25,000)... troops in combat in Afghanistan...(less than minimum wage)?  If stress is the factor that shoves the payments up to millions, why are these life savers left so incredibly far behind...


I've been tardy (so what's new, I hear you ask), in bringing to people's attention the independence referendum consultation paper launched by the Scottish government. My thanks, as ever, to Cynical Highlander for reminding me.

In a way I'm glad I am late, because James has produced another corker of a set of answers to the questions, to which I can have the pleasure of directing you!

I think it's important that we complete this consultation, regardless of what side of the argument we are on, with the best answers we can give.

I have never made any secret of the fact that I thought that the consultation into our country's future, launched by David Cameron, was no more than 'an exercise in having a consultation', but I think that this one is likely to be a genuine attempt to find the mood of the country, particularly with regard to the "second question". Some have said that the possible inclusion of a 'devo max' option on the ballot paper is a cop out for the SNP. 

But given that opinion poll after opinion poll shows that option to have massive support, it would surely be anti democratic to allow no official discussion of it (on the basis that we want to discover what the people of Scotland actually want, as opposed to what the leaders in Scotland or London prefer for them, or for their careers).

In the Tory referendum of last year about constitutional change in the UK (voting systems), it seemed to me that the choice that most people wanted was left off the ballot paper, possibly exactly because it was the choice that most people would have voted for. (Unscientific assertion there, based on my personal questioning of anyone and everyone I could ask, across a wide range of contacts.) 

I think Cameron banked on the fact that, although many (most?) people  didn't think much of the FPTP system, the only alternative offered was very much more complicated, not much better, likely to produce the same biased results, and had, only months before, been disparaged and ridiculed by its main supporter in the campaign, namely the UK's deputy prime minister. 

It was a "devil you know" situation, as both options would allow some MPs to go on with their "jobs for life" on a minority of votes.
For us Scots this decision is vastly more important than how we elect our representatives. It's our whole entity, our way of life, our future in the world, which could be changed... in my opinion for the better; in the opinion of others for the worse.

I genuinely believe that the government will listen to what we have to say: how we feel about the actual question; whether there should be a second option; the design of the ballot; its clarity, possible bias (or lack thereof); what we feel about the extension of the electorate to include all adults in Scotland (rather than accept the English legal definition of adult), and the timetable allocated to the referendum by the government.

This consultation in and of itself is not the most important decision we will ever make, but it is part of a process that (apart from our very personal decisions) may well be.

Friday 27 January 2012


HMCR chief Dave Hartnett (you remember him, don’t you?),  says that it is the public's duty not to pay tradesmen cash in hand, otherwise said tradesmen may be tempted (look away if you are of a sensitive disposition) to 'evade paying their fair share of tax.' (Shock, horror.)

And, if you do not act as tax collectors (unpaid), and they do "forget" to declare all their earnings, this might result in even deeper government cuts to public services. (More shock and horror!!)

Now, would this be the same Dave Hartnett who, having allowed himself to be bought, on over 100 occasions, incredibly expensive meals, arranged multi-billion pound tax avoidance schemes with the Goldman Sachs and Vodafone...who, by strange co-incidence, had picked up the tabs for these "fine dining experiences"?

And did this multi-billion pound drop in tax revenue not in some way result in the government having less money to spend?

Some people might be tempted to think  that Dave was saying that there was one rule for him, and one rule for the rest of us.

But we all know that none of our (the public) servants would ever do anything like that...

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Olympics: Another Day, Another Laugh

Because the transport system in London is at breaking point anyway, without the additional 3 million journeys a day anticipated to be made by the 800,000 spectators and 55,000 competitors and officials and VIPs, the Olympics minister, Hugh Something or Other, and the English Department of Transport have decreed that Londoners should try to... "think creatively and adjust travelling patterns, try different routes, stagger journey times, work remotely, walk or cycle to work" during next summer to avoid hold-ups during the Olympics.

Erm, it's just a thought, but, when they were bidding for this expensive extravaganza, did no one in London, like maybe Mayor Ken Livingston, or in the Westminster government, maybe Minister Tessa Jowell, or in the Olympics organisation like the head blokey, Coe, ever give a thought to the fact that there were people in London who had to get to work, school, to airports, to railway stations.... Did it never occur to anyone at all that the transport system just couldn't cope?

And what half wit came up with this advice;

to "try alternative routes"? If you've been going to work at a certain place for a fair amount of time, the likelihood is that you have already worked out the best route for you. Why would you change it;

to "stagger journey times"? So, how would that work if you're a shop worker, or a doctor, or policeman, a teacher, a train driver, or indeed most employed in the majority of jobs?

to "work remotely"? Yeah that will work with a lot of jobs, won't it? "I'd like two coffees and a rock bun, please"..."Well could you pop out to Epping. That's where the waitress is."

to "walk or cycle to work"? What if it's raining? What if you have bad feet or have to spend all day walking about? In any case, are there THAT many people that live so close to central London that they could reasonably walk?

I see that there is to be a trial for civil servants working from home to see if all the computers and networks are in place. I wonder how much that is costing us, and what budget it is coming out of? And what do we do if we want to speak to a member of staff in one of the Whitehall Departments? Phone them at home?

Not only that, but it's the first of three trials which is to take place before the actual event! What are they planning for? Nuclear war?

Another complete foul up in a fouled up set of arrangements for a fouled up games, after which I have no doubt Jowell will go to the House of Lords and Coe will...well, what can we do with him..? Make him Queen?


Talking of Olympics and Fiasco, have you ever heard of anything as completely daft as this? Isn't a rather weird thing to do to take a baby to an event where you can't guarantee, for example not to be in a draft, or direct sunlight, where there maybe a lot of noise, or where absolute silence may have to be observed? But if people insist on doing it, surely they can't be expected to pay for a seat for someone who is going to sleep on their knee throughout.


Tuesday 24 January 2012


Sickened as I am by the quality of debate on the independence question, I have looked elsewhere for a subject to post on... and I didn't have to look far.

As each and every one of us "ordinary, decent, hard working families up and down the land" (don't they realise how patronising that is) cuts and trims their budgets, it appears that, despite calls for them to, and their promises that they will, cut the cost of bars and restaurants in Westminster, the subsidy we pay these 650 members has, according to the Telegraph, risen to an unbelievable £5.8 million. (£8,923.08 per person per year.) For every £10 an MP spends on lunch now, the public contributes £7.60; last year the sum was £6.90.
 The menus are mouth watering, I warn you in advance, so be prepared:

Artichoke and tomato salad with truffle dressing: £2.05;
Seared breast of pigeon with aubergine purée and spiced couscous: £4.15;
Spinach, ricotta and sundried tomato pizza with a rocket salad: £2.75;
Roasted half spring chicken with stuffing: £2.95;
Risotto of pea and broad bean with goat’s cheese: £2.40;
Char-grilled rib-eye steak with hand-cut chips and béarnaise sauce: £7.80;
Green tea and white chocolate brûlée: £2.05;
Cheese board: £3.10.

And Pugin Room bar prices include a glass of malt whisky, Cointreau liqueur or Grand Marnier: £2.55; Glasses of 2009 Sauvignon Blanc or 2010 Merlot: £2.35.

And at these prices, our brave representatives do a power of drinking. They spent £1.33 million in the last financial year in the bars (£2.046.15 each). Given the subsidy, imagine what that would have been in real prices. 

But Holyrood cannot claim much superiority here. The Edinburgh parliament restaurant was subsidised by £80,000 in the last year (£620 per member).

The meal prices are equally mind blowing with smoked salmon and beetroot lax with potato blini, herb cream cheese capers and spring onions at £1.40.
and seared salmon with herb crème fraiche potatoes, braised celery and soy cucumber relish a mere £4.80.

Any restaurant on the Royal Mile would laugh at these prices. And with bar prices at less than £3 for a malt whisky, the bar is being subsidised at around £130 per member.

On average MPs are paid around £66,000 and MSPs around £52,000 per annum. With average salaries around the £25,000 mark, no one could say that they are not reasonably well paid. Surely it is unnecessary for the public to subsidise their eating, and absolutely unnecessary to subsidise their drinking! Something to think about if we are really "all in it together".

However, the laugh of the week has to be our favourite nut job, the Sarah Palin of English politics, Nadine Dorries, who tweeted about the state of the Westminster restaurants:

Erm, we are, you silly old sausage!

Monday 23 January 2012


I'm sorry about another page of jokes. I'm up to my neck in work at the moment, but I promise a proper post soon!

A guy has a talking dog. He takes it to a talent scout. 

"This dog can speak English," he claims to the unimpressed agent. 

The guy says to the dog, "What's on the top of a house?" "Roof!" the dog replies. 

"Oh, come on..." the talent agent responds. “All dogs go 'roof'." 

"No, wait," the guy says. 

He asks the dog, "What does sandpaper feel like?" "Rough!" the dog answers. 

The talent agent gives a condescending stare. He is losing his patience.

"No, hang on," the guy says. "This one will amaze you." 

He turns and asks the dog: "Who, in your opinion, was the greatest baseball player of all time?"

"Ruth!" barks the dog. 

And the talent scout, having seen enough, boots them out of his office onto the street.

The dog then turns to the guy and says, "Maybe I should said DiMaggio?"

One day, a priest was walking through a forest, when he came upon a pond. On the pond was a lily-pad, and on the lily-pad was the saddest frog the priest had ever seen! 

"Dear frog" the priest asked, "what is the matter? Why are you so sad?" 

"Well," said the frog, "I was not always a frog." 

"Tell me more" said the priest. 

"One day, I was walking through these woods when I came upon a wicked witch. 'Stand aside witch' I said to her. But alas, she called me a nasty cheeky boy and turned me into a frog." 

"But that's terrible! Isn't there anything that can be done to reverse the spell?" asked the priest. 

"Well" said the frog, "if a kind person were to take me home for the night, feed me and put me to sleep on their pillow, I am sure I would wake up human again." 

"Well, this is your lucky day!" said the priest. 

So he took the frog home, fed him and put him to sleep on his pillow. And lo and behold, when he woke up the next morning, there was a 10 year old choir boy in his bed!

"And that, Your Honour, is the case for the Defence!"

Saturday 21 January 2012


Today we get the first edition of the new tabloid-sized Dundee "Courier", which they euphemistically term “compact”. I would like to say that it’s a welcome, fresh and new face to the Scottish media scene but unfortunately, I can’t. The best I can do is say that it is shockingly partisan and riddled with mistakes. So no change there then!

I would have thought that it would be impossible for as paper as pro-Tory and pro-Union as the "Courier" to be more biased, but with its re-launch it has somehow managed it. 

Political Editor, David Clegg, launches the new paper with an interview with David Cameron, which is continued and fleshed out on page 10 under the headline “Leafy town key to fate of Union”. 

The leafy town in question is David Cameron’s constituency of Witney in Oxfordshire. What follows is one of the most pro-Union, pro-Tory puffs I have ever had the misfortune to waste ten minutes of my life on. You can just picture David Clegg simpering and drooling over the PM and failing to ask a single hard hitting question.

If DC Thomson wanted to increase the circulation of the "Courier", instead of tinkering with its format and rumoured price hike of a whopping 25% to 60p, a good way might have been to cater for the political aspirations of its potential readers. 

And that might have been indicated to them by observing the voting patterns of the folk in Dundee, Angus, Perth and Fife, which are most certainly not Conservative!

Instead DCT prefers to continue to frustrate them with this nauseating interview with the UK prime minister in which “Call Me” is allowed to expound the virtues of the Union and repeat ad nauseam that he “cares deeply” for it an that he “profoundly hopes” that people will vote for it.

Additionally, whilst in Witney, Mr Clegg conducted a vox pop of a supposed cross section of folk that he met. All, strangely, seem to agree with their leader. 

Clegg tells us that the majority of people he spoke to wanted Scotland to remain in the Union, which is a little odd considering that every poll conducted in England shows a majority for Scots leaving the Union. 

Is he trying to tell us that people in Witney in Oxfordshire are in inverse proportion to the rest of England? Or did he search out his respondents carefully before asking the question in an attempt to portray the English as dewy eyed lovers of all things Scots? (Instead of what they really think, which is mostly that Scots are a bunch of drunk, drug addicted, moaning spongers and subsidy junkies. 

Really, David (Clegg), if you are going to try that kind of thing, it might be a good idea to at least try to keep it within the bounds of reality and not in the most far flung realms of cloud cuckoo land where the sky is a bluer Tory blue and the birds sing out for England and St George.

Now on the paper itself. One would have expected that with the re-launch all the stops would have been pulled out to avoid the perennial "Courier" blunders. (For those of you who don’t read it, the "Courier" is hilariously badly proof read, in fact I don’t think it is proof read at all. Apart from the usual typos, repeat words, spelling mistakes and grammatical snafus, stories end, mid sentence, on a word like “and” with whole sections missing, and even worse, sometimes an entire story is repeated verbatim later in paper.) 

In the new paper I did not spot a mistake until page three, where we get the following “...Mr Hutchison said told the 'Courier'...”. Clearly Mr Hutchison at one point had 'said' something and later it was edited to him 'telling the Courier' but the word 'said' was left in. There are several more mistakes of a similar nature throughout the paper that are the result of sloppy editing and poor proof reading.

So all in all, not much change then... oh, except for the tabloid format and anticipated price hike of 25%.

Friday 20 January 2012


I'm sorry about the lack to postings over the last few days. I've been having some work done on the flat and it's involved a shed load of clearing up. I've now got a load of decorating to do. I hope in the meantime you enjoy these American funny stories...

A frog telephones the Psychic Hotline and his Personal Psychic Advisor tells him: "You are going to meet a beautiful young girl who will want to know everything about you."

The frog is thrilled, "This is great! Will I meet her at a party?" "No," says his Advisor, "in her biology class."


A sixteen year-old boy came home with a new Chevrolet Avalanche and his parents began to yell and scream, "Where did you get that truck???!!!"

He calmly told them, "I bought it today." 

"With what money?" demanded his parents.

"Well," said the boy, "this one cost me just fifteen dollars."
 So the parents began to yell even louder. "Who would sell a truck like that for fifteen dollars?" they said. 

"It was the lady up the street," said the boy. I don"t know her name - they just moved in. She saw me ride past on my bike and asked me if I wanted to buy a Chevrolet Avalanche for fifteen dollars." 

"Oh my Goodness!," moaned the mother, "she must be a child abuser. Who knows what she will do next? John, you go right up there and see what’s going on." So the boy’s father walked up the street to the house where the lady lived and found her out in the yard calmly planting petunias! 

He introduced himself as the father of the boy to whom she had sold a new Chevrolet Avalanche for fifteen dollars and demanded to know why she did it. 

"Well," she said, "this morning I got a phone call from my husband. (I thought he was on a business trip, but learned from a friend he had run off to Hawaii with his mistress and really doesn’t intend to come back).  He claimed he was stranded and needed cash, and asked me to sell his new Chevrolet Avalanche and send him the money.  So I did."


A woman's husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months,  yet she had stayed by his bedside every single day.

One day when he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer.
As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears, 'You know what? You have been with me all through the bad times.

 When I got fired, you were there to support me.

 When my business failed, you were there.

 When I got shot, you were by my side.

 When we lost the house, you stayed right here.

 When my health started failing, you were still by my side...

 You know what Martha?'

 'What dear?' she gently asked, smiling as her heart began to fill with warmth. 

 'I'm beginning to think you're bloody bad luck.... 


A tough looking group of bikers were riding when they saw a girl about to jump off a bridge, so they stopped.
The leader, a big burly man, gets off his bike and says, "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to commit suicide," she says.

While he didn’t want to appear insensitive, he didn't want to miss an opportunity so he asked... "Well, before you jump, why don't you give me a kiss?"

So she did... And it was a long, deep, lingering kiss.

After she's finished, the biker says, "Wow! That was the best kiss I have ever had! That's a real talent you are wasting. You could be famous. Why are you committing suicide?"

"My parents don't like me dressing up like a girl"


Monday 16 January 2012

This will choke you up... it really will.

We're in a recession (almost undoubtedly); everything costs more than we reckon we should spend; it's getting worse; unemployment is rising by the day and may reach 3 million; almost no one feels secure (except the chairman of Barclays who is heading for a £10 million bonus); the roads are dangerously full of potholes (drivers spend more time trying to dodge the worst ones instead of looking where they are going); Willie Hague has warned us he hasn't ruled out war in Iran (why not, it's Muslim, doesn't like us, and has a lot of oil); our sick are just about to be thrown on to a massive dole queue and ordered to find work that doesn't exist....
...But not to worry. Mr Gove, the House Elf who also doubles as England's Education Secretary (despite being Scottish), has the answer to all our woes. This will cheer us up no end, he reckons. Why not spend £60 million on a new yacht for the Queen?

Why not indeed, Mr Gove? It would cheer us all up immensely, especially those of us called Windsor and lord knows they have had it worse than most of us. They deserve a break..
What is this man doing in government? Does he have any idea what it's like down here on Earth?

What a silly little dip stick.


It seems to me that some places in small town New Hampshire (is there any other kind of New Hampshire, I wonder) have it about right.
Danny sent me this picture a week or so ago when the first primary of the season was under way. 

Politicians, it seems, find it easier to get to people when they're out and about, rather than go knocking on doors. One of the best places to "nab" someone is a café or restaurant (which Americans use far more than we do), where the poor soul is captive until such time as he or she has managed to gulp his food and coffee and make a hasty exit. 

So much so that café owners have  got round to the idea that to attract more customers, even if it means shutting out the man who who might just be the next president, the best idea is to bar the politicos!

Not a bad idea really, is it? 

It occurred to me as I read the notice that America restaurateurs must be better schooled than our equivalents. Without a doubt we at best would have had: "No Politician's No Exception's"

Sunday 15 January 2012


In an article today in the paper edition of the Herald (apparently unavailable on-line), Michael Forsyth, one of Scotland's least liked Tories (in fact the man who led the Tories in Scotland to utter oblivion in 1997), writes that he thinks that the coalition parties should take a back seat in the referendum debate.

He seems to appreciate that the London government's involvement in the lead up to 2014's poll is bound to have a negative effect for their cause. He is probably aware that since Mr Cameron upped the stakes on the independence question last week, the SNP membership has soared. At one point 9 people per minute were joining, according to the Courier and Advertiser, Dundee's Tory-leaning morning paper.

He says that he knows that Scotland is a left of centre country with a tendency to vote Labour. He proposes therefore, that Alistair Darling, Labour's ex chancellor, should be involved in leading London's campaign for Scotland's dependence.

It is a shrewd choice. Particularly since Darling launched his attack on Brown in his memoires, he has become a relatively respected figure in Scottish politics in the elder statesman category. If I had to chose someone to present the status quo argument, he would certainly be on my short list.

But wait a minute. Forsyth, an arch Thatcherite Tory, thinks that the UK government (Tory and Liberal alike), which the status quo vote that he craves would force upon Scotland, possibly for the next 10 years or more, is so unpopular that it should keep away from the debate about that future?

Does Mr Forsyth really not see any irony in his argument?

Saturday 14 January 2012


There are rumours that Ed Miliband is on the way out. The bookies have cut the odds on his not leading Labour into the next election. Gossip from Simon Carr of the Indy, suggest he may be gone by Easter.  
So who have they got to replace him? Surely his brother wouldn’t consider being second hand Rose? In any case would he be any better? So, would it be Ed Balls, close bosom friend of the retired chef de cuisine of the stew that the country is in, Gordon End to Boom and Bust Brown?

Ed’s wife Mrs Balls, knowing how her husband covets the job, would surely never take it from him. And the rest? Burnham, Murphy, Alexander? They’d all be just as bad.

Labour are lost. Tony Blair made them Tory Light in order to make them electable in the south of England, where half the UK population lives. It was a good move politically. They got 13 years of government out of it, and Blair himself became a multi millionaire on the back of his war crimes. But ideologically they have never really got over this, because they don't now know that they are for.

They used to be about the "working man": the factory worker, the miner, the foundryman, the ship builder, the agricultural worker, but Thatcher got rid of most of them, put them on the dole, or on the "sick", and sold the rest shares and houses.

It wasn’t enough to be for the workers anymore; there weren't enough workers.

So they elected themselves a complete loser. A man who oozes indifference; who seems even when he is telling you how passionate he is about something, lacks any kind of sincerity. A man who, from day one, has been a dead loss weight round their collective neck.

Cameron is not clever. He’s cunning and devious, but he’s not good with facts, lacks depth and gets easily flustered if people push him. The Flashman tendencies are never far from the surface, which makes him incredibly vulnerable. He’s already been forced to apologise for wisecracks, and biting sarcasm delivered in barely controlled temper.

And yet this second rater can't begin to unseat him. Just imagine if there was a prime minister who was clever and knowledgeable!

Look at some of the things the government is doing will completely change the character of English life: eg, introducing a two tier health service where the rich will pay for better treatment IN NATIONAL HEALTH HOSPITALS, and where, because of the shortage of facilities, the poor will wait till their betters are seen to, scanned, exrayed, operated upon, looked after in ICU, de-fibrillated...  for their turn, if all the staff haven't gone home by that time.

And then there are measures that will cause hardship in the whole of the UK. Cameron once said that it made him physically sick to think of a guy who had stolen, say a couple of bottles of water, being allowed to vote. (I imagine because he fondly imagines that most of them would vote Labour; the people who count usually being able to call in the odd favour to avoid such indignity.)  Well, it makes me physically sick to think that I belong to a society that sends patients with life threatening illness to a job readiness interview, or denies severely disabled children benefits when they come to 18, and thereby denies them any independence, because they’ve never paid any National Insurance.

And still this Labour can’t get get the upper hand, because they can’t really argue with most of what Cameron says. Even tonight Balls was saying that it's unlikely that they would reverse any of the Tories cuts.

It doesn’t matter much whether it’s Miliband Maximus or Minimus, Balls male or female, Andy Birnham or anyone else for that matter. Labour hasn't got any soul left. Once their raison d’être was lost, they were lost. In the south of England they compete for the same votes now as the Tories do. Nowhere else matters that much, for that is where the elections are won and lost. 

That's why the Tories too were useless in opposition. They don’t seriously OPPOSE each other any more.

This should have been the Liberal’s opportunity to make a massive comeback, and they blew it, which is, I think, unfortunate for everyone in the UK.

Pics: Ed, David and Andy, all apparently describing things of varying sizes


The extradition request from Turkey for Sarah Ferguson (right) has been turned down. 

Well, I never! I suppose that the judge will be  looking for a seat on the red benches.

The reason given was that what she did is not an offence in the UK. (I suppose they mean England, but they probably don't know,or care that there is a separate legal code in Scotland.)

So, in England you can go around filming orphans in orphanages without telling anyone you are doing it, can you? You can film children without their guardians' approval? That's OK? Funny, I thought it was banned to stop paedophiles storing up jolly memories. 

(And before I get lambasted, I know that the conditions in the orphanage were appalling, just as I know that some of the ones run by nuns in Scotland were appalling, and it makes me weep to think of kids suffering like that, wherever it happens, and that Sarah should be commended for bringing this to out attention. But surely the reason given for excusing her extradition is nothing more than a fiction.)

Embarrassing though Ferguson may be to the Widsors, it would be unthinkable that someone who was once married to the Dipso Duke (above, making a fool of himself), friend of Gaddafi and other strange exotic dictators, and is the mother of two royal highnesses, Princesses Goofy and Podgy, no less, would be thrown into a Turkish prison.

(I'd add here that I quite like Fergie, even if she did produce these ghastly free-loaders. I particularly admire her for sticking it to the Windsors and managing to spend a lifetime getting money out of them...something which is extremely hard to do, given that they are as tight as drums with our money and ever tighter with their own.)

In other news Richard O'Dwyer (right, with his mum) will be extradited to America on charges of hosting a web directory, or search engine, for pirated films. Probably a bit like Google or Ask Jeeves. I'm not entirely sure that pointing out where pirated stuff can be purchased, as opposed to actually providing it, is, or should be, a crime in England, but it doesn't much matter. Despite both Cameron and Clegg promising to sort out the unbalanced extradition arrangement made with American by arch creep Tony Blair, they have, as we might have expected, done sod all.

Bad luck on Mr O'Dwyer, who probably should have had the foresight to marry Fatty York to ensure safe criminal activity almost anywhere in the world. Still some things are even worse than 10 years in an American prison, and close contact with Fatboy is probably one of them.

Friday 13 January 2012


I haven't yet had time to look at FMQs from yesterday, but I had to laugh at the clip of Ruth Davidson on the STV (Grampian) News. Every poll ever published (in the whole wide world in the history of mankind) agrees with me? What? It's a wonder then Ruth that you're not First Minister, or the Queen, or something. And of course, as James points out, clearly the poll of September last year, and umpteen others showing a lead for independence over dependence, were figments of our febrile imaginations.

Lamont was just as bad. "He has the majority, he has the mandate...." (well, thanks for admitting that Johann) ...so why, she wondered, didn't he call the referendum now. 

Well, you see Johann, the clue to the answer is in the question. It works like this:-

He has the majority to decide whether or not, and when, to call the referendum. This is a majority given by us, we, the Scottish electorate. And although by Westminster standards it is a tiny majority, it is, in fact, the majority that should never have been: a majority that was never envisaged: a majority that the system was set up to avoid ever happening (because Blair  wanted 'parish councils' rather than strong government in 'the provinces'). 

And (and this is important), it's not a majority based on the voters being sick of the last lot, as so often happens, but instead a majority based on their being SATISFIED with the last lot, because as you may remember, the SNP was the last lot.

And as Johann says, the mandate is there; there's no escaping that. The referendum was in the manifesto. And, just in case someone who didn't know what the SNP was all about, and who didn't read the manifesto, was in some doubt, it was hammered home by none other than Tavish Scott in the Leaders' Debates when he pointed out that "a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence".
 And when pressed on the timing of that referendum, Johann, you may remember, Alex Salmond said, on national television, in front of the then leaders of the now opposition parties, a hand picked studio audience, and anyone who was interested enough to be watching, that if the SNP won the election, the referendum would be called in the second half of the parliament.

So, to answer Mrs Lamont question, he is calling a referendum, and he is calling it in the second half of the parliament because he has the majority, he has the mandate, and that’s when he promised the Scottish people he would do it.

And why, anyway, is Mrs Lamont in such an all-fired hurry now to have a referendum that only a few months ago her party, in an opposition coalition with the Tories and the Liberals, made clear would be defeated were proposals to “bring it on”  brought before parliament?

Unless, as part of Labour’s “Bring it on: Don’t Bring it on” referendum policy, we're in the 'Bring it on' cycle. 

Pics: Ruth Davidson, Conservative leader, and Johann Lamont, Labour leader, providing her own caption and advertising campaign.

Wednesday 11 January 2012


The scare tactics have begun. The respect agenda gone out the window. And we're only on day two!

A "spokesman" for Mr Cameron has said that Scotland could be "forced" to join the Euro if it insists on independence.

What does he think Alex Salmond is going to do? "Oh well, that's it lads. That Eton and Oxford education was too much for me. Call me has outwitted us. We'll just have to scrap any idea of independence"?

Yeah, that's likely!

In more civilized times, with far more civilized and intelligent leaders, Ireland was granted independence from the United Kingdom (although it took a war to make it happen) and carried on within the sterling area. There was no rush to throw Ireland  out of the sterling area and the Irish Pound stayed pegged to the English pound until the advent of the ERM. 

Here is a part of the Wikipedia page on the subject. 

"Despite increasing political independence from each other from 1922 and complete political independence since the new constitution of 1937, the union left the two countries intertwined with each other in many respects. Ireland used the Irish pound from 1928 until 2001 when the euro replaced it. Until it joined the ERM in 1979, the Irish pound was directly linked to the pound sterlingDecimalisation of both currencies occurred simultaneously on Decimal Day in 1971. Coins of equivalent value had the same dimensions and size until the introduction of the British twenty pence coin in 1982,.
"Irish citizens in the UK have a status almost equivalent to British citizens. They can vote in all elections and even stand for Parliament. As well as this, some people born in the Republic of Ireland before 1949, but after 3 March 1922, are British subjects. British citizens have similar rights to Irish citizens in the Republic of Ireland and can vote in all elections apart from presidential elections and referendums. Under the Irish nationality law anyone born on the island of Ireland to a British or Irish parent can have Irish citizenship and so most children born in Northern Ireland can have a British or an Irish passport (or both). Before 2002, there was no requirement for one parent to be a British or Irish citizen and so all persons born on the island of Ireland before then are entitled to be Irish citizens."

So why does Cameron insist on behaving like a spoilt child? There is absolutely no need, nor is there a precedent, for Scotland to leave the sterling area immediately. 
Can Cameron possibly think that threatening to force Scotland into a currency that is wobbling dangerously on the edge of extinction and which might not even exist by the time the referendum has come and gone, is a clever move on his part? Frankly I think it's a dumb as a stump.

But John Swinney will already have contingency plans in place for this eventuality, whether that is starting out own currency or working with another country like Norway.

Message to Cameron: If you want to behave like an 8 year old who isn't getting his own way, take your bloody ball and sod off home. We'll get our own ball.