Category Archives: Europe

Having second thoughts

We are currently booked and paid for to visit London, UK in Autumn 2019. Nothing much, we’re going to spend a little quality time with ‘North’ (Younger stepdaughter) in the great metrollops and go do some sightseeing. Only the current Police crackdown, where they are doing the whole facial recognition fascist thing has me thinking twice. Arresting otherwise law abiding people for getting annoyed at being scanned without permission? That and they’re confiscating spoons for heavens sakes. I’ve just seen a triumphant tweet from London Police of a ‘deadly weapons cache’ that looks like the contents of my cutlery drawer before I had a clear out last year. I swear this picture of a ‘weapons cache’ had a butter knife and a spoon in it, FFS! All right, there was a fencing foil in amongst the edged kitchen tools on display, but that had a fencing button on the tip and might have put someone’s eye out if they were very, very unlucky / clumsy. I bet most of those other bits of metal weren’t all that sharp, rather like the arresting officers.

Jesus H Freaking Christ on a Velocipede! I used to be part of the UK law enforcement ‘community’ as a lowly bylaw enforcement officer, but right at present any trust of the UK Police on my part has been eroded to the point of nothingness. You can even be arrested for telling jokes for heavens sake! Or questioned for holding the ‘wrong’ opinions. After that some bozo in black will probably make an excuse to rummage through your kitchen drawers and try to make a case for terrorism. “All right chummy. Yore nicked! Slice your own bread do you? Right! You’re under arrest for conspiracy to make sandwiches.” Dear God alive. Does anyone understand how retarded that sort of behaviour makes them look? God knows what they’d make of my Sabatier and Sushi knife collection. Probably accuse me of a massive conspiracy to cook a casserole.

Honestly at this juncture I’m actually becoming more afraid of the UK Police than any criminal I might happen across and am inclined to avoid any uniformed presence like the plague, refusing to engage with them and crossing the streets where possible to avoid said uniformed presence.

This is why the current crop of party politicians have to go. They’re the ones behind the moral panics driving this idiocy. All of them. Tory. Labour. Lib Dem. Green. None of them have a clue. This is getting worse than the 60’s and 70’s and this extreme behaviour by the UK Police is liable to make things far, far worse than they already are.

I am seriously thinking about cancellation. Stuff ’em. I’m halfway inclined to spend my tourist dollars elsewhere.

On the plus side, my deck garden is looking well. The largest Lemon plant just crept over the twenty four inch marker. My Capsicum seedlings have been planted out and we should shortly have Sunflowers, Canna Lillies, Lupins and Delphiniums. A Blue rose has also been added to the collection. Once the rain stops I’ll be outside reading Montaigne’s essay on the delights of solitude.

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Done and done

That’s it. I have the papers for my postal vote and will be casting ballots against both my old constituencies Tory incumbent and the Labour / Limp Dem / Green ‘opposition’ in future, in favour of either the BREXIT or UKIP candidate.

The UK will still be an EU member on 23-26 May 2019 and not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22 May 2019, so those are my voting intentions. Stick that in your polls and smoke it. Although not in a non-smoking area, which is most of the UK.

The mainstream UK political class have screwed over a large democratic vote, I’m talking Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens, so they all now richly deserve hammering after hammering at the ballot box. Not just the local elections but at every election. Remove the mandate, the access to power and privilege that the old guard of politicians (From all sides of Parliament) have so flagrantly abused by the only peaceful means possible. Time for the party to end. Call it a mandatectomy is you will.

Throw the bums out, as our colonial cousins would say.

Say it ain’t so

A song has been going through my head for the last day or so. A powerful tune written in the mid 70’s by Murray head. One which I have taken diabolical liberties with and altered salient lines which I hope retain the power and majesty of the original, but which I have adapted for an obvious purpose.

Say it ain’t so, Joe please
Say it ain’t so
That’s not what we want to hear Joe and we’ve got a right to know

Say it ain’t so, Joe please
Say it ain’t so
We’re sure they’re telling us lies Joe please tell us it ain’t so

They tell us that our heroes have played their best cards
And don’t know how to go on
We’re clinging to solemn promises we were made
But the honest days are gone

The country and democracy have fallen apart
The money has gotten scared
One mans words could hold the country together
But the truth is no-one cared

Say it ain’t so, Joe please
Say it ain’t so
We pinned our hopes on you Joe and they’re ruining our show

(Ooo Baby)
Don’t you think we’re gonna get burned
(Ooo Baby)
BREXIT’s gonna to get turned
We’re gonna get burned
We’re gonna get learned
We’re going to get turned
We’re going to get burned
We’re going to get burned
Ooo learn
Turn
Burned
Ooo burned
Yea…..

Say it ain’t so, Joe please
Say it ain’t so
That’s not what we want to hear Joe please tell us it ain’t so
Say it ain’t so, Joe please
Say it ain’t so
We’re sure they’re telling us lies Joe and we’ve got a right to know

They tell us that our heroes have played their best cards
And don’t know how to go on
We’re clinging to solemn promises we were made
But the honest days are gone

The country and democracy have fallen apart
The money has gotten scared
One mans words could hold the country together
But the truth is no-one cared

Say it ain’t so, Joe please
Say it ain’t so
That’s not what we want to hear Joe and we’ve got a right to know

Say it ain’t so, Joe please
Say it ain’t so
They keep on telling us lies Joe please tell us it ain’t so

Say
Say it ain’t so
Say it ain’t so
Cause we’ve got a right to know

We are, I feel, past the point of no return. Unless one side or the other backs down. Or the political left (Including half the current UK parliamentary Tory party) learn to behave like grown ups and do what they solemnly promised.

I wish this weren’t so. But it is. I leave you with the 1977 version of this poignant little number as sung by Roger Daltrey.

Apologies to Murray, but it’s such a great song.

Democrats in name only

There are a lot of people like this. Democrats in name only or DINO’s (Pronounced to rhyme with Rhino’s) They lose a democratic vote, or can’t win by the pre-agreed rules of the game, then get all precious and clutch their pearls when their guy loses. Or refuse to accept a democratic vote and get all bent out of shape when those who actually won cry “Foul!”.

There’s far too much of this from the political class. They have forgotten who they are supposed to serve. Perhaps they need reminding? Just in case it’s slipped their mind. You know how easy that is. Busy taking cheap shots at each other and virtue signalling, calling people names. Well, there’s just so much to do.

Now they’ve shifted the putative date for BREXIT to October 31st 2019. Well, well, well. I will actually be in London that day and look forward to whatever events unfold. Parliament Square anyone? This should make for a Halloween worthy of remembrance. Or bonfire night. I’m quite looking forward to seeing the fireworks first hand.

If the wife lets me.

Service guarantees citizenship.

Are they mad?

Over here in BC we’re watching the farrago of BREXIT with a heavy sigh in our hearts, all I can do from this side of the pond is shake my head in astonishment and quote Malvolio from Shakespeare’s 12th Night:

My masters, are you mad? Or what are you? Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? Do you make an ale-house of my lady’s house, that you squeak out your coziers’ catches without any mitigation or remorse of voice? Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?

This is how the current shenanigans of the UK Parliament look to me. There is no rhyme or reason to the remainers antics. They, like my Brother in law, are behaving like a bunch of spoiled brats. If they cannot have their way to stay in the EU as their corporate masters dictate, then they will abuse every parliamentary tactic at this late stage of the game to throw spanners in the works and thwart the democratic mandate.

The EU has done a great deal of damage to blighty over the last forty years, from the decimation of UK Fisheries and Agriculture to hamstringing certain areas of commerce and continually attempting to move the major banking centres in the UK over to places like Frankfurt. The European Union post Maastricht and Lisbon devolved into one long slow motion car wreck. Not to mention the selling out by the Major, Blair and Brown administrations.

However, minded as I am to look on the bright side, as my deck garden is doing well, we do indeed have germination.

One thing did strike me today as I looked south to the vast snow capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains. I am beginning to look at the current period of populism and overturning of the old order as the dawning of a new enlightenment. Like in the late 18th and early 19th century. Maybe we’ll get a better form of democracy. Not discredited old ideas like Socialism, but something better, which prevents usurpation by NGO’s and vested interests. A less easily manipulated media. The parallels, at least to my mind, are out there if you look. Or is that me being hopelessly naive?

Oh what the hell, you can call me a dreamer… Sounds like a song lyric, doesn’t it?

Looking forward

Am I optimistic? Well probably yes and then possibly, definitively no. We have in laws visiting us in April, however, this means both of my wife’s sisters will be descending upon our doorstep for two weeks. For a delicate sensitive soul such as myself, this is not a favourable scenario. So I have offered to make myself scarce for a few days to allow for a little sisterly rebonding. All they’ll want to do is shop and gossip and my small talk is next best thing to non-existent. Ergo, I would be a constant brooding presence, resented by all. Better to make like a banana and split. Yes, I’m a coward. Next!

A downtown Victoria hotel room beckons for a few days while all three are together. The current plan is for me to take a couple of books and perhaps enjoy the rooftop bar at the Sticky Wicket. Mrs S has kindly offered to pay for my accommodation as recompense for my exile. I might even treat myself to tea at the Empress. They do an excellent Kenya blend there.

Current reading is Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and The Great Degeneration by Niall Ferguson. I like Dr Ferguson’s writings, he has a fluid, eminently readable style and is frequently bang on the money, as it were.

On a broader front I’m hoping that the EU rejects the UK parliaments’ request for a BREXIT ‘extension’ and the UK can simply slip it’s moorings to sail away and let the whole shoddy faux-empire collapse. Let’s face it, the Italians don’t want it. France is too busy with the Gilets Jaunes protests and the Germans don’t want to have to carry the economic can for the entire bloated bureaucracy. Could it be ‘game over’ for the EU? Maybe more sensible minds will come to the fore and propose winding back the idea of the EU to a simple free trade zone, although that is rather unlikely. Even if they do, the French farmers and fishermen won’t like that. They’re too prone to riot if they don’t get their way.

Am still rather looking forward to sending all my UK email contacts a “Happy freedom day” email on the 30th March. Depending upon the EU’s final response, BREXIT may still happen on time despite the remainer MP’s frantic treasonous backpedalling.

Good luck everyone. Nil Desperandum.

Planning for Lahn-dahn

The crocuses and snowdrops have surfaced from under the snow and we’re currently travel planning for an Autumn sojourn in dear old Lahn dahn as some of the locals call it. No, that’s not a place in Vietnam or Thailand but the estuarine pronunciation of London, capital and Metrollops of the dear old dis-united kingdom. We’ve sorted out where we’ll be staying in Earls Court and looking at places to eat and drink while we’re sauntering around the various museums and cultural icons. Top of my list are the National Science and Natural History Museums. Mrs S will be bimbling around the V & A and suchlike while I have a thorough geek-fest in Kensington. We plan to take in a couple of shows while we’re there too.

It will be interesting to visit a post-BREXIT Britain. I’m almost tempted to send all my UK contacts a ‘How does it feel to be free?’ greeting when the UK finally wrests itself loose from the choking tendrils of the EU. Hopefully in the next month. Thinking about it I haven’t been into Harrods or Selfridges Food Hall in a Donkey’s age. Which I’m quite looking forward to. It’s not so much the range of produce as the cornucopia of smells of a properly kept Fish and Game counter that tease the old olefactories. To a country raised boy like me it’s almost like going home. Even if where I once called home is over a hundred miles away. Now it’s several thousand and over ten years, but we are where we are and there’s an end of matters.

There’s also another small matter of yet another fence to mend. This time it’s the other party which will have to come to me, or at least down to the Smoke. I’m not spending good money hiring cars and booking hotels visiting someone who may not appreciate any olive branch I hold out. However, I’m jumping the gun a little. Best to hold my tongue and extend the hand of reconciliation. Even if none of the parties involved can be bothered to cross the pond to visit me. I know they can afford it.

However, I do so enjoy the old country in controlled small doses. It also pains me to see what it is becoming. Likewise Canada, increasingly divided and all in the name of ‘diversity’. Misguided ‘Hate speech’ laws creating privileged minorities. Police investigating non-crimes, all the while prioritising ‘thought crime’ like rogue tweets and off colour facebook posts over real crime, like burglary, criminal damage and assaults. Prediction; this will come back to bite the rule setters and enforcers. Very hard indeed. They depend on the public trust to operate successfully, and the current value of that trust is so far below zero it resembles the state of the Great lakes, which when I checked this morning had over seventy four percent ice cover. I’ll also say this; Laws which dictate thought rather than deed pave the descent into a really dangerous form of totalitarianism.

To wax poetic; boils like prejudice and hatred only heal after they have been properly examined, lanced, drained and debrided, if you’ll forgive the medical simile. To extend the metaphor, such poison is always best treated with free and honest debate. Shutting people up only lets matters fester until the only certain cure is high amputation. Which is a tactic tried by many totalitarian regimes, always failing at the cost of many innocent lives and eventually the ruling regime. It also destroys trust in the Police who are supposedly protectors, not persecutors of the general public. It is not their job to check someone’s thinking. Or is that just me being horribly naive?

Notwithstanding, say you think that Justin Trudeau is metaphorically a Weasel, Socialism is a murderous doctrine or that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with western democracy. Regardless of whether anyone finds those statements ‘offensive’ they should be considered and examined to see if they are true. Which they are. Even the most cursory reading of the facts will highlight the realities. If the law of the land is changed to suppress such opinions, what happens when these views become mainstream once more? Will the laws put in place to protect those opposed to such views be, like any captured weapon, be turned against their erstwhile abusers?

This is the danger of criminalising opinion. Opinion is mere fashion. It changes, and the mob it is meant to drive changes with it. The mob can turn in a heartbeat. When it does, you don’t want to be in it’s way.

Idle thought for my single US visitor; I think Bernie Sanders bears a strong resemblance to a deceased British far left politician from the 1970’s and 80’s, Michael Foot. See what you think. Well, it amused me.

Digging my way out

Snow shifting over the last two days. Two 10kg bags of snow melt and a kilo of salt later and last night there was still a big lump of packed snow and ice on the drive. Then I found out that there’s another tranche incoming of up to six inches overnight. Bloody hell. I’d only just dug us out of the last lot. This is Victoria in British Columbia for heavens sake, not Nunavut above the Arctic circle, reputedly the place where Canadian brass monkeys come from. Fortunately it’s only a Summery two Celsius outside my window at the moment, I can tell because our Hummingbird feeders are no longer frozen. After getting rid of half the two foot deep berm of snow on our deck I’ve elected to leave our deck garden covered because the snow acts as an insulator and stops our delicate little plants freezing completely. It’s even worse at the Great lakes, we’re talking 49.3% ice coverage with Ontario completely frozen, which is not unusual, but the historical data for the last 3 years says we’re in a cold spell as of 2018 & 2019. See Screengrabs below.

Fortunately my best Lemon Tree plants are sitting aloof from all the white stuff on a nice warm window ledge indoors. They will survive. I’m not too sure about the other plants we left outside. Our Hummingbird feeders are being visited by some copper throated and green backed species, so they’re all right.

Back in the old country I see Theresa May has snatched defeat from the slavering jaws of victory, yet again. My wife thinks she’s being very clever and manipulative. I disagree. She’s clearly out of her depth. Her prevarication have cost the UK dearly due to the uncertainty her government has created. Had they just said to the EU “Bye chaps, we’re off at the end of March 2019, toodle pip. Thirty nine billion you say? Don’t hold your breath.” everyone in business would have known where they stood and made provision accordingly. Instead May and cohorts tried to do what their sponsors and lobbyists told them, which was betray the spirit of a democratic vote. She’s still trying to get a last minute deal when that time is long past. The EU wants what it wants and boo sucks to everyone else. Which will be it’s ultimate downfall. The French protests continue, with their ‘leader’ on trial for ‘carrying a stick’ at one of the protest flashpoints. Over in Germany, the AfD are gaining ground. Hungary is still being a real dog in the EU’s manger and let’s just not talk about Italy. Overall, things do not look good for the EU. When the UK leaves, the implosion of the EU will accelerate. Trade will continue and the world will still turn. A lot of worthless mouths will have to relearn some job skills. Or starve.

Youngest reports that it’s been snowing in the great metrollops, but not much else. She’s too busy sorting the legal fallout from other people’s foolishness. Oh well, all makes work for the working lawyer to do I suppose. She’ll never be short of remuneration.

Then there are the reported five thousand children who went ‘on strike’ to ‘save the planet’. Manipulated by activist teachers no doubt. In reality their ‘strike’ probably increased emissions by forcing the held up traffic they created to idle their engines. This is why the voting age should not be lowered. Children should be allowed their childhood, not used as pawns for the ideologically blinkered and fanatic.

Not that the activists actually look at what’s really happening in the big wild world (See above screengrabs). They live in their own bubble realities of victimhood and delusion and when the worst happens are not equipped to survive. Those of us who pay attention simply douse the outside lights, barricade our doors and ensure the larder is full. The howling activist mobs can freeze and starve. They are the authors of their own undoing.

Snowflakes falling

What can I say, we’ve had snow here on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Not a great deal, not enough to trigger a ‘snow day’, just a strinkling for decoration. No biggie. Just make sure you have your cold weather tyres on and turn up as usual. Well I would if my desk required a commute. Which it doesn’t. Which at the moment is nice. The only downside is that you have to be really careful about how many hours you work. It is very easy sometimes to work over seventy hours a week if things get a bit hectic. Fortunately work is quieter at present and the powers that be less demanding. Maybe they’re hibernating? No matter, I just keep my head down and graft until my scheduled tasks are done and decline any further workload. On the grounds that I’ve got enough to do already. Besides, my ambitions have shifted away from being purely employment focused. It’s safer that way.

One thing occurred to me while I was watching a fine snow fall Sunday and Monday was all the talk of Martial Law floating around circa a no-deal BREXIT. It’s almost as if Theresa May et al are looking for a way to not deliver, which I personally wouldn’t put past her and her remainer cohorts. There’s an air of not so quiet desperation about the remoaner faction. It’s like they’re planning to act like a spoiled six year old on the losing side of a game, who runs away with the ball so no-one else can play any more. I have this awful suspicion they’re going to welsh on the British people, or try to provoke a violent reaction so they have an excuse to keep the UK firmly in the EU’s clutches, because actually getting on with running a country is such hard work don’cha know. Not that the alternative is any better. All Labour ever achieved for the UK was ‘managed decline’ and the Tories (and the country) need another Thatcher. Or at least something or someone the economically productive can feel secure about, because when they feel good the money flows, investment rises and unemployment drops. Which is good for everyone but extreme lefties in academia and those in the public sector.

Having worked in both public and private sector institutions I’ve come to prefer the private. Working for the public sector puts too many constraints on you as a person, far more so than in a large corporate. The work may be much easier in the public sector, but where’s the fun in that? Where’s the challenge, the adrenaline rush?

This worker has seized his own means of production like we all should and has learned ways of moving his resources rapidly, just in case the jealous beast of big government casts envious eyes upon that small fiscal redoubt he has built outside of the banking system. Because even banks can fail. Yes they may have all the money, but as in the case of BNP Paribas, the biggest French bank by market capitalisation, has had to retrench recently. Trading losses forced it to make cuts of almost half a billion quid. This is symptomatic of a general malaise across European investment banking. Nothing for customers to freak out about yet, but certainly a sign that the uncertainly about BREXIT and unrest throughout Europe is being felt further along the European financial food chain. A clean break would be far less painful. I’m moving my money out of continental Europe until the dust settles in five or ten years time. Covenant-lite loans will be Europe’s next downfall. The Euro is already down and has further to go. Which will be good when the big money finds a new safe haven in Sterling and the US Dollar.

While contemplating the above I took a time out to inspect our little Winter deck garden, I was amused to see our Snowdrops and Crocuses have punched their way through a thin crust of ice and snow to provide a little colour other than white everywhere. When the clouds part, the Crocuses have their petals spread wide in a huge YAAAY! to great the thin warmth of a Winter sun. Life is perennial like that. There might be snow and rain, but there will always be the odd flash of sunlight to lighten the gloom. Those are the moments to live for.

What else? Oh yes, never mind his state of the union triumph, Trump has by executive order escalated the trade war against Canada. Is it being reported? Not so much. Very little. In fact a crucial detail completely slipped under my radar. The FT missed it completely, despite the the relevant executive order being on the official White House web site. Canadian companies being given the big shut out from the USA? By the way, Obama did exactly the same thing back in 09, but our then PM Stephen Harper, had enough savvy to negotiate a Canadian exemption. Trudeau’s incompetent bunch of snowflakes are too focussed on feel-good virtue signalling than doing what’s right for employment in the great diverse North. He was even caught slagging off Canadian blue collar workers last year. If he wins the 2019 Federal election I’ll know something is amiss because he is not a popular figure right now. Only a concerted bought and paid for media assault can help him. What’s that Sooty? He’s given taxpayer dollar to that cause already? Well stap me vitals. Who would have thought?

Anyway, it looks like being a lively discussion on Friday when I finalise my buying picks. There may even be a significant opportunity. Canadian pipeline companies are looking interesting because they have just upped their prices at contract renewal time. This is because Trudeau’s Feds won’t let them build any more pipelines, a move which paradoxically means higher dividends for no additional infrastructure costs. True, the price of the shares won’t go anywhere fast, but the way my tax sheltered investments are structured, I automatically reinvest any share dividends, increasing holdings and thus boosting the income from a relatively limited outlay. Despite all the deluded wibbling about ‘renewable energy’, there is no ‘low emission’ power generation technology mature enough, apart from Hydro-Electric or Nuclear (both ideologically unpopular with the Greens, Liberals and NDP) to cover the energy needs of Canada’s growing population. In spite of what all the talking head prophets of doom say, ‘Fossil’ fuels aren’t going to run out any time soon.

May, you leave?

Excuse the comma, but Madame Tracey, UK Prime Monster really has got to go. A vote of no confidence from her own party is needed and then she should step aside to let someone who can deliver BREXIT, not the abortion currently referred to as the ‘Chequers deal’. Even the EU is offering a Canada-style (a.k.a. Canada-plus) free trade deal which would allow the UK to negotiate outside of its auspices, so why the focus on Chequers when nobody likes it? As David Davies points out in the Sunday Times this week (Paywalled), the public does not like Chequers, Parliament doesn’t like it, nor does the EU. So why on Earth is Theresa May so damned keen on pushing this dead donkey up a hill? Despite what the big corporates think, no deal is way better than chequers. Oh and by the way, weren’t they part of the cabal that got the UK into this mess?

I’m just old enough to recall all the propaganda surrounding joining the then European Economic Community, how big business promised more car sales, more sales of everything to this wonderful ‘common market’. What happened to the UK’s automotive sector? Leyland/Rover got flushed down the pan. Land Rover and Jaguar are still going (now owned by Indian conglomerate Tata). But the big Longbridge site I was once familiar with is long gone. Remember Rover?

What the propagandists also forgot to mention was how over three decades the EU would morph into a bureaucratic monster. Even though that was in the game plan all along. A European Superstate run by the self-selected ‘elite’ few. Democracy to be quietly sidelined for the convenience of bureaucrats. But you knew all this didn’t you? Because all the relevant information was openly posted on the EU’s own web sites. Go and look. Don’t just take my word for it.

Yet despite assurances the UK’s sovereignty has been repeatedly sold down the river. First by Heath, then John Major with Maastricht, then Gordon Brown effectively committing Treason when he slunk off to ratify the latest Lisbon treaty salami slice without a mandate. May on the other hand has a mandate and furthermore has reiterated that BREXIT means BREXIT.

One could say, well article 50 has been triggered.  Northern Ireland has a border which may need extra customs officers, but so what?  Why the prevarications?  Well, one answer may be that May is a known Remainer who appears to be doing a bad job in the hope BREXIT will all go pear shaped so that the UK stays within the oleaginous grasp of the EU. Another explanation might be that she lost her nerve early on and is trying to please everyone but ending up pleasing no-one. Which is one good reason why a vote of no confidence and a short sharp leadership contest might not be such a bad idea.

Light at the end of the tunnel..

Well I thought there was light at the end of my personal tunnel, but it was some bugger with a torch bringing me more work. Fortunately they were bringing money with them as well, so that’s fine by me. The work is something I can do standing on my head but there is quite a lot of it, so this new state of affairs just means little time for blogging.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel regarding BREXIT as well, although I don’t think it’s a very healthy light. Frankly, the more I look at it the better a ‘no deal’ BREXIT looks. Despite all the propaganda in the FT and elsewhere. All the op-eds masquerading as ‘news’. Candidly me deario’s, most of what I read in the mainstream on this topic is utter bunk, unfit to line an incontinent moggy’s litter tray. There seem to be a lot of people who think that the EU is the fount of all there is right and proper, despite the plain reality that it’s an anti-democratic, opaque and bloated bureaucracy, with only one purpose, it’s own corrupt continuance.

Sargon has been spending some time in Strasbourg of late with his fellow-travellers from the Purple Gang and I recommend you watch the whole video below. If you eyes aren’t opened by this, go back to sleep and await your turn to fall foul of the ever tightening noose of EU rules and taxes.

Nothing left Toulouse

A quick reboot from the long lost days of my murky past. Love this tune, particularly the chorus line “If it’s all the rage to be insane, let me play the fool…” Very me. Listen to the whole thing below;

So where have we been? Or in the words of Blackadder’s Lord Flashheart “Where haven’t I been!” For one, seeing more of the rural French road network than I’d bargained for, courtesy of our hire cars satnag, although driving along the plane tree lined single carriageways winding through vineyard and Hectares of Sunflowers has been very pleasant indeed. Even though we almost ran out of ‘Essence’ (Gas, Petrol, Joy juice etc) the other day when the little electronic tinker elected to take us on the longest rural short cut I’ve ever been on. Seriously, we were running on fumes when we finally found an open filling station. I swear the fuel gauge needle had been resting on the stop yawning for at least ten kilometres before we finally found fuel.

Historical note; the planting of the Plane trees along most of Frances D and N routes was begun not because they look nice, but to shade Napoleon’s troops as they marched from battle to battle. A couple of years ago there was a disease scare, but in the region of Languedoc and Haute-Girond, many of these trees form cool green corridors in the heat of midday. Which if you were one of Bonaparte’s heavy infantry would be far better than fainting in the sweltering months of Summer when his nibs packed them off to kick some rebellious peasant arse. For the trees lost to disease in 2012-5 there is a replanting programme, so the little Emperors most worthwhile achievement will not be lost to posterity.

All the way to Toulouse via Carcasonne, the impressive fortress town once home to the Albigensians or Cathars as they were otherwise known. The Cathars of this area having been massacred repeatedly in the early 13th century, one particular bout of mass killing giving rise to the quotation “Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His”, often paraphrased as “Kill them all, God will sort it out.” attributed to the Abbot of that time. Nice people, not.

Lots to see and do in Toulouse and an architectural treat to wander down some of the narrow medieval city streets. This is a town that has been around since before Roman times. There’s a fair bit of brickwork that looks like recycled Roman tiles. In our current hotel our inside bedroom wall looks like Julius Caesar and friends only packed up and left last year. Not quite as hot as it’s been, but warm enough for me to agree to visiting several shopping malls on a daily basis(!), just for the air conditioning.

I see from the FT and Times that Juncker and Trump have been holding trade talks, which is good but it does leave one question dancing through my frontal lobes; How did they keep Juncker sober enough? Answers on a mucky French postcard somewhere else please.

Heading off east now toward Monaco and Monte Carlo tomorrow. I may not break the bank, but I’ll restrict myself to a short drive around, just to say I’ve been there. Abientôt mes vieux.

Space oddities

One thing I’ve been looking at around during our sojourn in the ‘Dam are the odd looking little gadgets the Dutch use to get around their highly populated little metropolis. The huge amounts of sit up and beg style of bicycle common to this part of Europe for example. I’ve had to grab Mrs S between seven and nine times today to yank her out of the path of one of these speeding velocipedes. They don’t brake. Well they don’t want to and most of them expect you inconvenient pedestrians to get the fuck out of their way. I’m reliably informed the only thing that can stop a cyclist from the ‘Dam is one of the cities many trams and buses.

However, the psycho cyclists aren’t the whole story. Although only a tiny minority wear helmets and we have yet to see one person wearing spandex. Not one. Everyone cycles in ordinary street clothes. There are no Lance Armstrong impersonators. Also helmetless and spandex deficient are the majority of moped riders who speed along the bicycle lanes without a care in the world. In addition curious little four wheeled two seaters like mini smart cars occasionally whizzing through traffic like manic scalextric toys. One model is called a Canta, but there are others not listed on wikipedia. They exist because I’ve seen them. Parked at the end of a row of mopeds, scooting down bike lanes and scattering pigeons.

A word to the wise regarding hop on and hop off tours of Amsterdam; the boats are best. Failing that, trams and buses. The rest of the time walk. Forget trying to drive in Amsterdam. The buses won’t even get you close to where you want to go. Indeed, the one way system can only be described as Byzantine and the delays mean that it takes you three times as long as in any other city to get anywhere. And the best bit is that there are no bicycles on the river, just pedalos whose unskilled drivers veer all over the bloody place and annoy the tour boat drivers and passengers.

Anyway, we’re moving on now on the third leg of our European Beano to the Sarf a France to sample the liquid delights of Provence, Languedoc and Gascony. Game plan is to fly in, unpack, have a shower and several large glasses of the local vineyards finest before collapsing into a well deserved somnolence. The rest is all day trips out to Carcasonne, Toulouse and maybe a breeze down the Corniche, whichever one of the three that takes our fancy.

Amusement today was found in a Times op-ed about certain companies refusing to allow meat on expense paid for lunches. There’s a simple way round this restriction known to any exec worth his salt. Ask your friendly restaurateur to alter your bill to show a vegetarian meal for the price of a nice steak and glass of red for you and your client. I’ve done it a couple of times back in the day and no-one batted an eyelid.

Oh, and I’ve decided what to nickname our two girls. ‘North’, previously known as Youngest and ‘South’ previously called Eldest. Sounds okay to me, hemispherically speaking.

Amsterdam

Back in the ‘Dam again after a few years, enjoying the heat, feeling vaguely embarrassed by bozo Brits behaving like, well, bozo’s. It’s why being a dual passport holder can spare my blushes when faced by the offensive behaviour of idiots who are only there to get stoned because it’s all they know.

Frankly I think that marijuana should be legalised, licensed and taxed everywhere because it would cut the legs out from under the illegal drugs trade and take money away from organised crime. Not only that but it would cut the user base, because the illicit thrill of doing something naughty would be taken away and it wouldn’t be fun any more. Can’t stand the sickly smell of the stuff myself. The stuff in BC is less sweet smelling and is a bit more skunk like. My own drugs of choice are alcohol and caffeine and nowadays I’m modestly abstemious about those. At least until we hit the sarf a france to make a spirited attempt at draining the notorious wine lake. Then all bets are off.

On a walk up from Dam Square to our Tram stop we encountered a group of about thirty (Possibly less, I didn’t count properly) purple t-shirted women shouting and singing about women’s rights, leaving me to think that Mrs S and I have done more than all these shouty types, having raised two successful and independent daughters who are making their own way in the world, which is a better kind of feminism than all the ‘third wave’ dogma currently being touted by activists. A silver haired photographer was dancing ahead of this annoyingly loud group, taking pictures from a high angle that would make the thirty shouters look like hundreds. News management in action.

Travelling again…

Next step of our journey looms. Amsterdam and all points Dutch. A Switch of beers from Tuborg to Heineken. From apartment to hotel. A few points further south. Day trips to the Hague and similar are planned.

As cities go I’ve enjoyed our stay in Copenhagen. Very easy to walk, very flat. Picturesque, with few buildings more than seven storeys tall. Also undergoing a couple of large scale redevelopments in the centre. I wouldn’t want to drive here, that’s a certainty. This is not a vehicle friendly city, even if it is mostly a friendly city. Fine to visit, but like most capital cities, very expensive to live in.

Youngest, although she’s not a girl any more but an intelligent young woman in her own right, capable of making her own way in the world, has gone back to jolly old Londinium to continue her work of trying to sort other people’s legal lives for them. She has a solid network of friends and associates now, some quite highly placed in her section of the legal firmament, so needs very little assistance, either emotional or financial, from us. ‘Youngest’ no longer seems an adequate term because although she’ll always be the second born, she’s earned the right to a more flattering label. Something will come to me.

I notice the two minute media hate is still spewing against the President Trump who has actually been talking to those naughty Russkians instead of listening to the constant litany of ‘Russia is bad’ propaganda, which gets us nowhere. Newsflash kiddies – this is not the old Stalinist Soviet Union we’re dealing with here, they’re mostly democratic and quite capitalist nowadays and definitely not filling mass graves with tens of millions like they used to in the bad old socialist and communist days. So why aren’t we talking to them? Jaw-jaw is better than war-war, as Winston Churchill once put it. Trade better than conflict. All right, Putin jails the odd journalist, but so does everyone else. The Russians are just more open about it. They have a robust attitude, which is to their credit.

Eldest has been to Russia and recommends Moscow and St Petersburg as Summer tourist destinations. So a trip there might be worth the price of a visa. There’s a lot of Russian tourists here in Copenhagen if these old ears don’t deceive me. Just like there are a lot of Americans. I’ve picked up a pdf copy of ‘Russian for Dummies’ and over Winter will be trying to gain a smattering of Russian so we can at least navigate and negotiate our way around.