Clown Aid

The Government is proposing a temporary cut in overseas aid. It should be seen not as a problem caused by our Covid difficulties but as an opportunity to reconsider our aid priorities. Aid should perhaps be focussed on poverty relief, education, governance and sustainability.
The current system is fraught with waste and abuse.
It is reported that the EU have been ‘acting like clowns’ after splurging £23million of overseas aid on more than 400 circus related acts. The British contribution to these bread and circuses was £3million.
The money was spent between 2014 and 2019.
The circus grants included £182,000 teaching tightrope-walking in Belgium, Ireland and Romania. Two troupes in Palestine got £138,000 in 2016 to help “foster unity and diversity”. Another in Ethiopia got £280,000 the same year, using some for a new big top.
Britain’s circuses received £721,000 which may have been for touring overseas rather than U.K. based education and entertainment.
The revelations have prompted circus jokes such as from German MEP Nicolaus Fest: “Many of my colleagues act like clowns, but I never thought they would actually fund the circus”.
“Taxpayers deserve better than to have their hard-earned money squandered on such extravagant comedy.”
And that is the tragedy. It cannot be too difficult for better uses to be found for the monies – either as aid promoting self-sufficiency or as benefits in our own territories where we have asylum seekers and our own people who need to be levelled up.

Pinocchio Effect

Most of us learned from the adventures of Pinocchio not to utter falsehoods, because if we did, our actions would betray us and  we would be found out lickety split
Whilst we are all aware of the dangers of untruths, many people decide to chance their luck and see what they can get away with.
Hence my interest in the East Anglia Daily Times of the 16th which contained a letter from Mr. John Bailey of Stanton who indicated that the U.K. does not have a single trade deal in place for when we leave the EU.
As I was pleased to point out in today’s EADT, we signed a trade deal with Japan earlier this month and there are 23 other trade deals signed.
So what prompted Mr Bailey to go forward with his Bremainer falsehood.
I would like to think that it was just ignorance and a feeling of being hard done by.  I suspect, though, that it is from the Bremainer bubble for whom nothing about Brexit can be good and any assertion, truthful or otherwise denigrating Brexit is welcomed.
Whatever the origins of Mr Bailey’s opinion, we would all do well to remember what happened to Pinocchio when crossing the line between truth and otherwise.
The exchange of correspondence is attached.

Darwin Award Nomination

It’s never too late too late to nominate someone for a Darwin Award.
Earlier this month the Sun reported that last May, Lee Williams, a hospital patient in University Hospital of Wales removed his oxygen mask and lit a cigarette.
Thirty eight patients had to be evacuated during the ensuing explosion and fire. A doctor and two nurses were treated for smoke inhalation and shock.
The explosion closed the hospital for two weeks. Damage was assessed at £50,000.
Williams ended up in intensive care and almost died.
Currently our man is enjoying the Queen’s hospitality having received a five year sentence, which hopefully will be long enough to protect the rest of us, whilst he appreciates the dangers and evils of smoking.

An Outbreak of Common Sense

  • Saturday’s Telegraph (5th September) reported that a hair salon owner in Stroud, Gloucestershire, was asked to remove an advert for a “happy” stylist because the word happy “discriminated against people who aren’t happy”.

The Department for Work and Pensions has since apologised, calling it a mistake.
The Telegraph further noted that one could follow woke logic to its ultimate conclusion and ban the advert for discriminating against those who can’t cut hair, or against anyone who doesn’t want a job. So long and broad is the list of “problematic” words that adverts in the future might have to be just a picture of something associated with the position, such as a pair of scissors and a large question mark.
We voted to leave the EU because we thought it discriminated against common sense and whilst you might think that common sense is not so common after all, every now and then someone steps in and corrects the idiocies that abound in local government.
Three cheers for the DWP!

 

Connectivity

Today, the 15th August commemorates the 75th anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) day. My own family tree has three uncles, a father in law and at least one cousin who served in the Pacific.
They were quite reticent about their services. So, instead of celebrating my late near relatives I would like to recollect Ray Dunningham who lived in Raydon, Suffolk and who was taken a prisoner of war in Singapore in 1942. With the end of the war he was repatriated to England and because many of the FEPOWs’ physical condition was so atrocious they were sent home via the Pacific and the United States so that they could be “fattened up” before they reached England.
They crossed the U.S. by rail and every evening they were looked after by the residents of the towns.
One evening Ray’s host asked him where he came from.
“From England” – “I know that but where?”
“You wouldn’t know it, but it was near Colchester” – “But where?”
“You wouldn’t know it, it was a small village” – “But where?”
“You wouldn’t know it, it is very small – I’m from Raydon” –
“I know it, you have a very fine airfield there.”
“Ain’t no airfield in Raydon!” – “There is now, because I built it!”
Such was the connectivity of the world and the changes it wrought even to the small communities of Suffolk
Even now the village has a population of less than a thousand. The village wasn’t helped by the closure of the railway station and railway.
Ray’s memory lives on in his legacy to the Masonic Lodges in Hadleigh which provided for the Master’s & Senior Warden’s chairs.
And the purpose of this anecdote?
To highlight the debt we all owe to all to those who participated in the theatres of war. Like our hero, many of them came from yeoman stock salt of the earth families and their worlds like ours were changed for ever.

Chip Mountain

Earlier this year, Leo Varadkar (Taoiseach of Eire) was reported to have said: “I don’t think the UK has yet come to terms with the fact it’s now a small country. I think the reality of the situation is that the European Union is a union of 27 member states. The UK is only one country”. The EU’s attitude towards Britain has not been lost on other trading nations throughout the world.
One of the side effects of the Covid-19 lockdowns is that restaurants and fast food outlets are not selling as many french fries as previously. Consequently, there is a mountain of 2.6 million tons of frozen EU chips looking for export markets.
The population of New Zealand is less than 10% of the U.K.’s and their farmers are apprehensive that there will be a chip tsunami heading their way. Potato NZ have discussed possible responses with the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) should there be a flood of EU chips on the NZ market.
In a typical bureaucrat fashion, the Government have responded that they are keeping an eye on the situation and that under WTO rules there needed to be evidence of actual harm or a risk of harm to the industry before an anti-dumping action could be taken.
When I first read of Potato NZ’s action, I thought it was a case of crying before you are hurt. But it is. NZ’s potato growers supply approximately 85% of their domestic market, a large proportion of which is consumed in the hospitality business.
They are quite rightly fearful that EU producers will roll over them like invading tanks.
Meanwhile NZ and the EU are negotiating a free trade agreement. If NZ is to have open borders for EU goods, then the potato growers of N.Z. are not the only ones who should be feeling fearful.

Another Fine Mess

Sometimes you just have to admire someone, even though you know it may encourage them to pursue otherwise questionable activities.
One such person is Glyndwr Wyn Richards of Aberystwyth who was recently convicted in Aberystwyth Magistrates Court of using a vehicle in a way likely to cause danger or injury.
Which is a pity as Mr Richards apparently took reasonable steps to avoid any such danger or injury.
He needed to move his non-functioning Skoda and what could be more appropriate and efficient than to hoist it on top of his VW Passat, tie it down as securely as possible, drive slowly and be supervised/escorted at all times by a man on foot who could and did give warning when the load shifted.
There were various comments by people who gave a knee jerk reaction to something that definitely is not on the list for a Darwin Award. The best comment came from Dyfed-Powys Police who said “That’s no way to move a second vehicle.”
So, raise a toast to Mr Richards.
Faced with an insurmountable problem he marshalled his resources and harnessed his brain cells to provide a viable solution. His activity did not injure anyone and he brightened our day.

Meanwhile on Planet Babergh- Precision v. Accuracy

We’ve all had those days when we were much younger, when our boss asked us to produce a five/ten/twenty year forecast of whatever was taking his fancy at the time. The forecast would take into account economic cycles, inflationary expectations, disposable incomes, family sizes and so on. To make it credible all assumptions should be detailed and justified.
I suspect that something like that happened recently in Babergh & Mid Suffolk’s housing department when someone was asked to produce a twenty-year plan for housebuilding based on whatever factors were deemed relevant.
The answer is 17,568 homes over twenty years.
Note the precision.
Who believes this rubbish? In the real world our boss would have either called it 17,500 or being a clever sort, he might have said 15,000 so he could under promise and over deliver. If he was on the brink of an unwelcome retirement, he would have rounded the figure up to 25,000 so that his successors would be forever on the wrong end of target fulfillment.  
But he would have realized early on that the further away you are from the present the less reliable is your forecast and the more precise it is, the more it will attract criticism & derision.

Unfortunately, many of our public servants do not review their public utterances – hence precision taking precedence over accuracy and unreliable statistics rule our lives.

Buying Greenland

EPSON MFP image

We have returned to England and are in the throes of buying a house. Meanwhile between moving the buying process along and setting up paint samples – alas we have three different kinds of white and I cannot tell the difference – every day seems to bring a different moan or calamity warning about Brexit. But every now and then there is a glimmer of unintended humour to brighten up the day.
One such shaft of brilliance was a letter in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph which could unkindly be sub-headlined “the view from the manse”. Supporting the proposal to buy Greenland the writer gives no thought to the outcomes for the present inhabitants – only to characterize them as requiring (permanent) subsidies and being alcohol addicted.
What these people need is “American investment and can do spirit (which) would enable it to do what Denmark had failed to do:  … up and running”.
It’s a bit like the kettle calling the pot black. One day the Scots will live the life they long for: devoid of subsidy and alcohol, and they will not like it!

Hahoter Hatov השוטר הטוב

If you need a break from Trump, Brexit, Boris, Hunt, Iran and so on I cannot recommend more highly the Israeli police series Hashoter Hatov (Good Cop)  It’s available on Netflix and ticks all the boxes:

  • It’s cross cultural.
  • It’s intellectual (foreign language with subtitles), but occasionally risqué.
  • It’s family centered from the police station to the actual families.
  • It’s only 30 minutes for each episode so you can binge-watch without guilt.
  • The humour and situations range from the real to the bizarre into the surreal but always credible.
  • Finally, it let’s you laugh at other people’s problems without excessive schadenfreude.

It’s my find of the month!