Generally Speaking

On with the celebration

It is of course deeply worrying that so many Americans voted to give Donald Trump another four years – after everything they know he is, and everything they know he has done. We wonder what can possibly have got into them.

But I think there is a dark side of human nature that is there, to greater or lesser extent, in all of us, and right-wing political messaging plays to that side and presses that hidden button with perennial effect.

Read more…

Why I am not ‘moving on’ from the Cummings affair

This is based on a letter I sent yesterday to my MP, who is a Conservative back-bencher and former Minister.

I cannot express how profoundly worried I am by the fact that Dominic Cummings is not only still in post, but still wielding extraordinary power in Westminster. I want to know what on earth this means. And I want to know what hold this deeply-sinister man had over the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the Minister of Health, and even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that led them to trash their moral authority, and in the case of the Attorney General her clear duty under the Separation of Powers, by making public statements on the record in defence of what was so obviously indefensible behaviour.

They tried to take us all for fools, but it did not work because we are not fools. The resulting loss of the government’s moral authority, and its abject failure to punish Cummings’ gross irresponsibility, has been the cause, not only of further national humiliation in the eyes of the world, but of an unknowable number, possibly in the tens of thousands, of coronavirus deaths which could otherwise have been avoided.

‘Move on, nothing to see here’

I know the Prime Minister wants us to ‘move on’. I know he has declared the Cummings affair ‘closed’. But that is the trouble with throwing away your moral authority – you lose the right to respect for such appeals. If it had been me that had behaved as Johnson and the others have behaved, I would in addition have lost the right to something even more precious, something beyond price, my self-respect.

But in my small life, and in the small lives of my father, and of my closest friends, that reputation for honour, for integrity, has not been thrown away. And nor has that self-respect. And that is why we do not ‘move on’. And that is why the Cummings affair is not ‘closed’.

It simply beggars belief that with our proud history of scientific, medical and governmental excellence, the UK’s, and specifically England’s, response to the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the worst, or even by some measures the worst, in the entire world.

Mr Johnson has shown himself incapable of the slightest shame or apology for his dreadful performance. But as an intensely patriotic citizen, I personally feel a deep sense of humiliation for my country. While Johnson obviously thinks apology is a sign of weakness, people worthy of admiration see it as a strength. This government has brought shame on us all and all I could say to my own MP, who had been Minister of Education under Mrs May but escaped reappointment by opposing Johnson, was to congratulate him on his good fortune in not being part of it. The current attempt to shift blame onto senior civil servants just underlines the sub-Trumpian rottenness of these third-rate people, whose only qualification for office was their unswerving commitment to the imbecile cause of Brexit.

Which brings me to my explanation for the extraordinary immunity of Cummings. There is only one issue which is sufficiently massive to explain the bizarre dominion of this ‘unelected bureaucrat’ (to use one of the Brexiters’ favourite phrases). Having been the Director of the Vote Leave campaign, he has chapter and verse on aspects of the 2016 referendum which render its result invalid and he has threatened to spill the beans if he is sacked. That would cut the ground from under the government’s sole uniting cause and place them in a wholly untenable position. Avoiding that is more important to them than anything else. Even the health of the nation and its international reputation.

30 April 1966 – 30 April 2016

1966 Loch Ness


30 April 2016

Peter's party picture

Wonderful Golden Wedding anniversary party last night in Beech Village Hall with all the family and so many dear friends.
And now a beautiful, sunny morning.


We had no less than six copies of this card, from different people – they must have thought it was us!

News of the Paris Climate Conference

Family visitors from America with us for Christmas wanted to find out the outcome of the Paris Climate Conference. They had known it was going to happen and had been interested in the activities of the Alton Climate Alliance but had not been able to find any news of the outcome in the US media.

We were able to tell them that the conference had been an historic success, probably the most important international conference there has ever been, and was first item on the BBC news the next morning, occupied the whole front page of the Observer, half the front page of the Independent on Sunday and got a little mention, bottom right, in the Sunday Times.

Nowhere else that morning, almost needless to say, but perhaps we are still a relatively responsible country.

By Eurostar to Marseilles direct

Enjoying three days in Marseilles before joining the Alton Town Twinning Association visit to Pertuis. We are looking forward to staying with the couple we hosted last October.

Unlike the main party who will be arriving by plane tomorrow evening, we came all the way by high speed rail – Eurostar. 1,200km in just over six hours, arriving in the very heart of Marseilles and little more than five minutes walk from our lovely B&B. Smooth and quiet and incredibly free of hassle, the journey has left us feeling subtly but completely different from traveling by air. Premium tickets with good food and extra comfort cost us £180 down and going back standard will only be £60.


With three day bus/metro/tram passes we are finding getting about here very straight forward. Thus, today we visited the Calanque coast to the East by Metro, two buses, and a two and a half mile walk each way. No problem. No charge. Especially as the isolated beach cafe at the end is closed as it is a Wednesday in September – the owner’s message said he hoped we’d understand! So we made up with an extraordinary Haagen Das ice cream extravaganza down by the harbour when we got back.


Why only half new teachers in England are still in it 5 years on…

From the Guardian’s second editorial today:

“…young teachers [in England] are leaving so fast that, five years after qualifying, only half of recruits are still teaching. Compare that with more than 90% in Scotland, where, as the Teacher Development Trust points out, there are no league tables, the inspection regime is constructive more than judgmental, and the minatory approach to lesson planning is absent.”

Mr Gove, what is so difficult about that?

Getting Streetview back in Google Maps

I have just solved a problem with the Maps app on my Samsung Galaxy I which was not answered in any of the advice I could find online.

The problem was that I couldn’t find Google Streetview, even though it was apparently correctly installed.

There is no option to delete the Maps app in Android, so I couldn’t do that and then reinstall it as I intended. So I just tried simply clearing the Data, without much hope it would do anything. However, when I re-started Maps it installed the latest updates and, bingo, Streetview was back again, working perfectly, as one of the options when you touch the down arrow on any ‘location’ box.

I don’t know anyone will see this, but if they do and they have the same problem  I hope it helps.

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