The World in 2050


Three giant steel fingers stood out on the dark grey skyline. An orange fuzz surrounded the pale yellow sun as it sank below the horizon. An aerocar shot along the elevated track which led to the three flats, each a mile high. This area might have been a forest, or even swampland, sixty or so years ago. But, thanks to technology, it had been cleared and the ground was an enormous field covered in artificially grown grass, which lasted years longer than the stuff that used to be around. In the flats, everything is provided, shops, playrooms, laundries, houses (some with gardens), and even a nylon football and cricket pitch. Water is obtained from the fields, when it rains the water is drained away, underground, and purified, again underground. The electricity comes from the coastline, where many nuclear power stations, safely depositing atomic waste in the sea, provide all the city’s needs. High speed lifts carry people to different levels at speeds of up to a hundred feet per second. Every morning the people are checked to see if they are healthy by automatic doctors, which then give the person any attention he may need if he is ill. All this is possible because of modern technology. It is a marvellous thing. Already man has landed on Venus, although it was a wasted trip, and nearer home many things have been done. Even now, point zero zero zero zero zero zero one of the earth’s atmosphere has been completely cleared of pollution and there is a rumour that from one place in America it is actually possible to see blue sky.

The greatest thing that any person can want to see is the Scientific Museum. This is a gigantic building with one thousand different floors. The museum is full of stuffed animals and for each animal there is a reel of film. For instance, for the sparrow there is a film showing a sparrow flying, but many people who visit the museum have said that the film is a load of rubbish. They do not believe that birds which are so clumsy can fly, because the planes fly without flapping their wings and they are very streamlined compared with the birds. There are no such things as zoos because there are no animals to put in them. The only animals left are a few kinds of eatable fish bred for eating and cats and dogs. Every family has either a cat or a dog, this being the only reason that they have survived. The oil and coal reserves of the world have been long since tapped and therefore electricity is the only power left.

Twenty years ago we had what the histories called ‘The Age of Pollution.’ In these days all of the creatures of the earth became extinct, that is all but the cats and dogs. There were many deaths in those days, half the population of the world in fact, and this was because of the great shortage of gas masks. Prolonged breathing of the earth’s atmosphere was fatal, and to swim in the river was instant death. This period lasted for four years, and the problem was eventually solved, at the cost of blue skies. A great project was started to warm the atmosphere of the earth, so that it rose, and to replace it with clean air. When the polluted air was high enough it was cleaned by a liquid, which was sprayed onto the earth from orbiting satellites. This cleaned the atmosphere but increased the cloud level so much that the entire earth was surrounded by clouds. The liquid also had some strange effect on the colouration of the clouds and turned into the dark grey colour which they now are. We have technology and progress to thank for our position. Whatever other people say it is true that we would still be wandering about in caves if it were not for man’s curiosity and intelligence. In the future, life will be easier. That is certain.

16½/20 Good

It’s “down to me”

Dear Derek,

Hi, James. Thanks for emailing me. Allow me to reply.

Parliament isn’t working. Instead of getting on with the country’s priorities, MPs have spent all their time arguing about Brexit.

On this, we can agree.

We need to break the deadlock that is preventing Parliament from getting Brexit done, so that we can move on.

“Getting Brexit done”. You Conservatives keep saying that as if it means something, but without ever saying what it means or why you are intent on continuing with it. You also neglect to mention the many, many years of grief, arguing and negotiations which will follow this mythical “done.”

This retarded way of thinking is exactly why there is deadlock. You failed to specify what Brexit was before holding a referendum. It is entirely your fault.

With this election, we have a chance to ensure the country has a functioning government. A government that works for the people, and delivers on voters’ priorities.

Yes, by voting you out. As you know, but are too scared of your financial backers to acknowledge, the country is now in favour of staying in the EU. Despite that, the people’s priorites are NHS, housing, police, and having a nice country to live in. Not lower taxes for already wealthy individuals and companies.

On the 12th of December, you’ll cast your vote. So the next five years are down to you.

Brilliant. If only I had this power.

We can end the uncertainty, end the delays – and put Britain back on the road to a brighter future.

Really? The delays such as proroguing parliament? If this road is one where you promise to revoke Article 50, maintain our trade deals with the world, welcome people from the EU who work and contribute to our country’s wealth, then I’m in.

Getting Brexit done with our new deal. £33.9 billion extra for the NHS. 20,000 extra police officers. More money for every single school in the country. And a growing economy.

Your new deal which is so bad you will not publish the Treasury’s report? The one you tried to rush through Parliament without any impact assessment? The one which removed the backstop by implementing it immediately?

These 20,000 police officers – that’s not quite enough to replace the ones you’ve sacked already is it? More money for schools, you say, but not enough to guarantee an education 5 days a week.

This “growing economy” which the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said will shrink the economy by 4% and cost £70 billion over the next ten years?

But here’s the risk. Labour and the Lib Dems can’t win a majority. So the more votes they get, the more likely another hung parliament is.

You say that. You can’t possibly know. Anyway, I’m personally in favour of co-operation in government.

The other parties have ruled out a coalition with us. So in a hung parliament, Jeremy Corbyn would be in charge. For Five. Long. Years.

Bloody. Good. Thing.

Five years of tax rises, out-of-control spending, more referendums, and politicians arguing about Brexit. The same politicians who spent the last three years getting nothing done.

Tax rises are good. Cutting taxes just means less money for the things which make a society work. If you need to see “out-of-control spending,” just check the bribe given to the DUP, or the waste of Brexit spending on misleading ads, minted & melted down commemorative coins, literally anything Chris Grayling has done, or the £1,821.3 billion National Debt your government has run up.

So let’s not go back to square one. The road to a brighter future starts today. And it starts with you.

Square One was good. We held the Olympics, everybody was happy and the world was impressed. Now we are a laughing stock, with a proven liar as Prime Minister and it was your party which put us here.

If it starts with me, I’m voting for anybody but you.

Yours sincerely,Rt Hon James Cleverly MP
Chairman of the Conservative Party

Yours sincerely,
Derek Law

Dear Lucy Frazer

I am writing to you again, despite your previous mass boiler plate replies, to implore you to represent your constituents and the country and do your very best to stop the terrible damage that will be inflicted if we leave the EU. Damage which the Government’s own assessments have stated will happen. Damage which will only be intensified if you let the small fraction of your party represented by the ERG hold the entire country to ransom.

You claim that the only way forward is to “respect the referendum” because to hold another vote now would be undemocratic, even though the first referendum was merely advisory, illegally funded, based on proven lies, and without understanding or explanation of the effects of leaving the EU.

Your leader has said that another vote would “destroy people’s faith in democracy”, as if democracy meant voting once and never ever changing your mind.  Yet, this same leader has been defeated twice and still intends another vote on the very same deal. The only difference being that we are now even closer to disaster. Attempting to win by blackmail and coercion does not appear democratic to me.

The UK government has been reduced to an object of international ridicule. We will probably never regain the respect and influence we once had. You have spent money on Ferry Companies without ferries, embarrassed us all with lorry park experiments when even the lorries did not turn up, we are now on our third Brexit secretary; yet even now we plough on.

There is a way out of this mess. Your party got us here, in an attempt to appease a small number of MPs. It has backfired spectacularly and served only to amplify their influence. The Labour party is no better. Only the people can fix this, in a second referendum.

I disagree profoundly with almost all your policies, but in the end these have only temporary effects, as government will inevitably change. They will not cause the long term irreversible harm which leaving the EU is about to inflict. For our children’s sakes, to regain some respect in our institutions, for co‑operation with our neighbours, please stop this. Please support a people’s vote.

Glastonbury 2009

I have just rediscovered an old email, which is making me even more excited about going to Glastonbury after the fallow year of 2018, and thought I would share it. We had first been to Glastonbury with Karen in 2007, and this was after our second visit when we went on our own.

Karen asked:

how fab was it? and who were the best acts?

My reply (and please remember, in 2009 Rolf Harris was still OK):

It was tremendously fab.

We had a horror journey there (12 hours on the coach) and so had to put the tent up in the dark when there wasn’t much room left, but that was soon forgotten.  We ate Fish’n’Chips, Green Chicken Curry, Pommes de Terres d’Or, real Sausages, bacon roll with rocket, fruit salad, Yeo organic Ice Cream, tempura & noodles; never the same thing twice, and all the food was splendid. We drank beer, strawberry pear cider, lager and lots of water as it was, with the exception of Friday morning, exceptionally hot. The Calais Capes did get an hour’s use as capes, and many more as groundsheets!

We watched lightning flash across the valley from the safety of our tent.

Bruce was best. Not only his Pyramid stage gig on Saturday (2 1/2 hours), but we also went to see The Gaslight Anthem in the John Peel tent, and he popped in there for a spot of guest guitar playing and chorus singing. The smallish crowd went berserk, and Wen nearly fainted.

We were at the front for Lily Allen, The Specials, The Gaslight Anthem, Kasabian, Bruce and Tom Jones; and near the front for Nick Cave and Blur, and in the arena for Spinal Tap, Tony Christie, Bjorn Again, Fleet Foxes, Madness, The Script, Paolo Nutini, The Maccabees, The Ting Tings and Bloc Party.

Rolf Harris was major and had the biggest crowd that Jazz World has ever seen. We saw and danced to a groovy old band on the Bandstand called Biggles Wartime Band (we only stopped because they had a tuba player in a tiger suit) who covered Bear Necessities and finished with their own composition called “Gluesniffin”. We danced some salsa in the Parlure, watched Banjo Circus (the world’s smallest banjo orchestra incorporating circus acts) in the Circus Outside, heard that Michael Jackson was dead from some kid with a mobile phone in The Glades, grooved to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a Kidney Donor disco in Shangri-La, watched giant metal heads play music with firejets in Trash City, and walked miles and fucking miles.

That’s how fab it was. Next year is the 40th anniversary. It’ll be awesome.

[Photo Album on Flickr]

Border Moved!

After the Civic Affairs Committee Meeting, groups representing the Parish Councils of Over and Willingham arranged three meetings over the Christmas period to agree a compromise (see posts passim).

The first meeting was an outdoor walk over the current and proposed boundaries, so everybody knew what we were talking about on the ground. This was amicable and not unpleasant, if slightly damp underfoot.

The next meeting was at Willingham Parish Council offices, and took place after Over had their next Full Parish Council Meeting. It was a very short discussion, because Over had voted unanimously not to change the border, because 400 years. So much for compromise. The final meeting was cancelled.

So, back to the Civic Affairs Committee with low expectations. I didn’t attend this time, as it was held during the working day, but the astonishing result was a decision to move the border to the green line, minus a couple of fields to the south (the red hatched fig-leaf to the committee shown on the map). An astonishing eleventh hour outbreak of sanity.

It’s not a completely done deal as the decision of the Civic Affairs Committee is only a recommendation to the Council. We will have to wait for the 25th January Council meeting for the rubber stamping to seal the deal – unless more politics intervenes.

Council Politics

Last evening I attended the South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Civic Affairs Committee Meeting as a member of the public, albeit wearing my Parish Council Planning Committee Chairman’s hat.

Under consideration was a petition from businesses and residents in a portion of Willingham village which, for historical reasons, is actually across the border and in the neighbouring village of Over, although it adjoins Willingham and is separated from Over by more than a mile of open countryside.

It’s a good job there was no flammable liquid to hand because self-immolation was becoming an increasingly tempting option as the evening wore on. This was essentially a single agenda meeting and it took 2 1/2 hours. As a member of the public, I was not allowed to speak.

It should have been simple. The Guidance says: “The .. council must have regard to the need to secure that community governance within the area under review .. reflects the identities and interests of the community in that area.

The people and businesses in the area want to be in Willingham. Therefore, according to the Guidance, they should be in Willingham.

Over Parish Council objects to moving the boundary. Nobody knows why, and they didn’t say. The best I could glean was because 400 years.

Various District Councillors are also against it, and it is even harder to understand why. They never addressed the point, but did argue themselves into corners on several occasions.

One Councillor briefly raised the question of cost, but not what the cost related to – it seems the cost of debating this must now dwarf the cost of actually changing the boundary, but to discover whether that was true would have required the injection of facts into what was an almost fact-free evening.

The petitioner was asked what tangible benefits would be seen if the boundary were to be changed – even though this is not a criterion for judging whether it should be moved. He related the trouble some businesses have with deliveries, where lorry drivers first go to Over, then start looking for the business park. There is a business park in Over, so they drive around there for a while and eventually give up and phone.

The Councillors then became obsessed with SatNavs and postcodes, speculating on whether deliveries really would get lost – despite having just been told that they did. An anecdote about a villager who regularly misses having her bin collected was related. Her Councillor always tells her to ring the relevant department, and the first thing they ask for is the postcode, thus intending to emphasise the postcode’s importance but entirely failing to see that even with it she was not getting her bins emptied.

Another proposed benefit was that building a footpath to the business park might be possible. This was dismissed as “pie in the sky” by the Over representative because nobody would fund a footpath which was 1.25 miles long. A footpath to Willingham would be 75 metres.

Several Councillors expressed themselves “unable to grasp the concept” that all that would be achieved was the moving of a line on a map. This is entirely the point, despite another claim that to change the boundary would in effect be a “land grab;” no land ownership is in any way affected by parish boundaries.

One final irrelevance: it was observed by another Councillor that there are many anomalies like this in Cambridgeshire village boundaries. I’m not sure why he raised this because he didn’t say how it was connected. I assumed because they would then all want to change (some already have) but again, he didn’t say why that would be an issue. In fact, the Guidance does have something to say: “a [review] offers an opportunity to put in place strong, clearly defined boundaries, tied to firm ground features, and remove the many anomalous parish boundaries that exist in England.

It may be my political naïveté, but there appeared to be an unspoken commitment amongst the objecting Councillors (by no means all Conservative) that “nothing must change.” Ever.

How did it end? Astonishingly, with a compromise: the decision was deferred for 4 weeks so that Willingham and Over Parish Councils can meet and agree a way forward. It has taken an alarming amount of time and effort to get to what should have been the starting point.

It has also shown me that logic, reason and plain-speaking are strangers to local politics, and I can only thank my lucky stars that most of these meetings take place when I am at work and therefore cannot attend.

“Successful” Brexit

Just a small rant, because shouting at the radio in the car is not as cathartic as you might think.

I am getting increasingly annoyed by the repeated use of the expression “make a success of Brexit” without the slightest definition of what that success might be. Obviously, for T.May it is already a success. For R.Murdoch it is about increasing personal wealth, power and influence. I cannot imagine what goes on in the rage-driven minds of the Daily Mail editors and writers.

Nobody has defined “success,” but lots of people seem to be able to read the minds of the 38% who voted to quit – the will of the people – without actually saying what it was they saw there.

For me, a successful Brexit will be one where we

  • have free movement & trade within & with Europe,
  • welcome refugees from wars we have helped to start,
  • have no local duplication of civil service and bureaucracy,
  • retain influence on local & world politics,
  • have less racism & division, more unity,
  • keep & extend protection of workers & human rights, and
  • see an end to petty-minded nationalism.

You may be able to see where we would have to be to achieve all those things.

Marketing Fail

Fancy New Bottle (right)

We’ve been buying Filippo Berio olive oil for years. Some say that’s an error, and there is much better olive oil to be had, but we’ve been happy. Now some bright spark in their marketing department has changed the bottle.

“Why is that bottle empty,” you might ask, “if it is new?” Excellent point. Let me demonstrate.

Continue reading “Marketing Fail”

Free Getty Images

Getty Images are now allowing non-commercial use of their image library for free. The images are fixed in size (as above) with the text and links below included.

They say that their photographs appear widely on the internet anyway, illegally, so at least this way the metadata (photographer’s credits and a link back to Getty) remain intact. They also might add advertising later, according to the small print, although there is no mention yet of how any revenue might be shared with the photographers.

There is no individual opt-out for Getty contributors – I wonder if this includes me, because I seem to recall allowing Flickr to pass on my images to Getty, so that they could charge for them and reward me with big money. (It hasn’t happened yet.) All my Flickr images are CC licensed anyway, so I have no problem with that, but I can see that it might be worrying for professional photographers.

I had to create a Getty account to access the “embed image” link when browsing through their library, but you can see that one of the links in the embedded image above allows for re-embedding and that can be used by anybody (with the usual token “By embedding this image, you agree to Getty Images terms of use.”).

Interesting times.