Friday, November 25, 2016

Lat Night of the Proms

Englishness gone mad
In The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson describes his British Citizenship test. He was asked to identify Sake Dean Mahomet (introduced shampoo to Britain), the other name for the 1944 Education Act (The Butler Act), who Jenson Button is (Formula One racing driver), what is the actual name of Big Ben (the Elizabeth Tower) and other such important and essential bits and bobs relating to British culture.

There is an easier way to do this. Simply require candidates to watch The Last Night of the Proms and disqualify them if they regurgitate during the performance: It would certainly discriminate between the unsuitable and the seriously unstable, both of which we don't really want or need in Britain.

Nothing else comes close to capturing the essence of the English character in all its glory than the Last Night of the Proms. The Last Night is really the official end of the British Summer, so much as summer actually exists here. The venue is the Royal Albert Hall. I know this for my step-son used to work there. Stories he tells of the antics at the Last Night are the stuff of which legends are made.

Prom is short for promenade concert, a term which originally referred to outdoor concerts in London's pleasure gardens, where the audience was free to stroll around while the orchestra was playing.”

The Last Night of the Proms celebrates British tradition with patriotic music of the United Kingdom. That's the bare-bones explanation. The reality is something actually and seriously quite different.

Many people's perception of the Proms is taken from the Last Night, although this concert is very different from the others. It usually takes place on the second Saturday in September, and is broadcast in the UK on BBC Radio 3, and on BBC2 (first half) and BBC1 (second half). The concert is traditionally in a lighter, 'winding-down' vein, with popular classics being followed by a series of British patriotic pieces in the second half of the concert. This sequence traditionally includes Edward Elgar's "Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1" (to part of which "Land of Hope and Glory" is sung, n.b. to which I often append the sub title, “Land of Shite and Tories”) and Henry Wood's "Fantasia on British Sea Songs", followed by Thomas Arne's "Rule, Britannia!".

However, the "Fantasia" did not feature from 2008 to 2011, though "Rule, Britannia!" has retained its place in the programme in its own right. The full "Fantasia" re-appeared in 2012, but was again absent from the 2013 concert. The concert concludes with Hubert Parry's "Jerusalem" (a setting of a poem by William Blake), and the British national anthem, in recent years in an arrangement by Benjamin Britten. The repeat of the Elgar March at the Last Night can be traced to the spontaneous audience demand for a double encore at its première at a 1901 Proms concert. The closing sequence of the second half became fully established in 1954 during Sargent's tenure as chief conductor of the Proms. The Prommers have made a tradition of singing "Auld Lang Syne" after the end of the concert, but it was not included in the programme until 2015. However, when James Loughran, a Scot, conducted the Last Night concert in the late 1970s and early 1980s he included the piece as part of the programme. Since 2009, "You'll Never Walk Alone", for audience participation has been included annually– a contribution made by the current Proms director, Roger Wright.”

I had to include this Wikipedia explanation just to set the stage, for I believe nothing quite like The Last Night exists in any other country or culture. It is so saccharinely sweet and intrinsically twee that it would be impossible to either imitate or even replicate to a close approximation. And then again, why would you want to?

This year's guest tenor was, as the Telegraph put it, “Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez steals the show at Last Night of the Proms as he delights fans with Inca costume.” His finale was Wahine Guantamamea sung whilst wearing his Inca King gear. No, I'm not making this up – he pranced around the stage dressed as a gooney bird and sang Land of Hope and Glory to thousands of Union Jack-waving pelicans in the crowd – the assemblage which contains possibly the greatest collection of saddos and wierdos on the planet (with the exception of the Mathematics Department at Birmingham University). He warmed up by singing various operatic pieces. At this point, they show sub-titles in English, but this does not really help. Even the most rudimentary of language students can see that the sub-titles bear no actual resemblance to what is being sung.

Now, I will not abuse those who like opera: I just never found the reason or sense in it. There is no melody. It's is really just organised shouting (in a foreign language).

I particularly enjoy it when the camera focuses on the orchestra. Now these folks are very skilled musicians. But the whole shemozzle is so artificial that it positively reeks of sycophancy. The first violin believes he is the modern-day equivalent of Julius Caesar's First Spear Centurion. The promenaders ooze orgasmic noises when he deigns to wave at them. (Hand me the sick bag please, Hazel) And, I really wish someone could explain to me why there are no left-handed violin players in an orchestra?

I tracked this down:


I am a left handed violinist, as in bow in left hand. I play classical, as well as many other styles.

In your opinion, what would be my odds of getting into an orchestra? Be honest, say what you feel and think.

Obviously there a big stigma attached to playing left handed in the classical world.

Answer (or should I say Antwort?)

You want me to be honest, so I will. I have been a manager of orchestras and professional musicians for more than 30 years and I have to tell you stand NO CHANCE at all of getting a job in an orchestra if you play the wrong way around. Your bow will always be going in the wrong direction, with the potential to clash with your stand partner. You will also 'look' very strange in the middle of a section. Also, your instrument will be facing the opposite way to everyone else's, leading to balance problems. There is no 'stigma' against left-handed players in music. There is a higher proportion of left-handed people in the music profession than almost any other strand of society. However, they were not as unlucky as you in being 'allowed' to play a string instrument back-to-front.

Every left-handed string player I know (and there are lots, owing to the relatively high proportion of left-handers in the music business) was taught to play the correct way. They actually have the advantage of using their strong hand to play all those fiddly left-hand fingerings.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you should never have been allowed to learn to play 'the wrong way'.

My case is well and truly rested. 20% of the population are excluded just for being born left-handed! Where is the march on Downing Street?

The finale includes Jerusalem – words by that well-known drug addict William Blake who must have been high as a kite when he postulated that Jesus strolled about England. Because it has become a kind of English pseudo-anthem tells you all you need to know of the real English character. Odd, weird, jingoistic, mad as a March Hare.

The finish is Auld Lang Syne and two verses of God Save the Queen. Since no-one actually knows more than one verse now-a-days they have the big screen with the words helpfully scrolling by. How thoughtful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sunday Times does the election

The Sunday Times Does the Election

        a view from across the pond

From Camille Paglia

Talentless, venal Clinton deserved to lose. . . . any other Democrat would have won this election because so many people voted for Trump just to stop the utterly sociopathic Hillary from gaining office. . . . Bill Clinton was a skilled politician – I voted for him twice – who knew how to negotiate with people and enjoyed public life - but Hillary had none of these qualities. . . she rose to prominence on her husband's coat tails and never accomplished anything on her own. . . her attempts to reform healthcare as first lady were a disaster . . . she became senator for New York through pure nepotism . . . as Secretary of State she spent a lot of time on airplanes meeting people and shaking hands . . her only legacy was destabilizing North Africa . . . we must terminate all connections with the Clintons . . . they must be consigned to the dustbin of history . . . they have drained too much of our mental and political energy for 25 years.

From John Glancy in Wilkes-Barre. Pa.

77 year old Joe Brown voted for Obama in the last two elections. . . this year he switched to the Republicans . . . why? . . . we need a change . . . Obama did nothing . . . Brown loathes the system and the “Washington elites” . . . people are angry about illegal immigration . . . in Wilkes-Barre the Hispanic population has increased by 523% . . . it would have been difficult to find a candidate worse placed to win in Wilkes-Barre than Clinton . . . academic, dynastic, elite . . . Maureen Frank, 58, believes people voted for Trump because “they're uneducated, they're idiots” . . .

From Niall Ferguson

. . . the politics of the Republic has always been a blood sport . . . at least this year we didn't have an actual duel of the sort that killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804 . . . the economist Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times, “people like me . . . truly didn't understand the country we live in . . . We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law. It turns out we were wrong. . . a huge number of white people living in rural areas don't share our ideas of what America is about. For them it is about blood and soil (Hitler's German: Blut und Boden) refers to an ideology that focuses on ethnicity based ideas – my italics) about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. . . I (Ferguson) received an email from my old university, “we have heard from students, faculty and staff who have expressed anger, anxiety and fear . . .take care of yourselves and give support to those who need it” . . . the Founding Fathers provided for this . . . Alexander Hamilton warned “of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants”. . . It will not be like that. This is how democracy in America was and is meant to work . . . the hysteria on the left is partly because being this wrong has to hurt . . . the Princeton Election Consortium gave Clinton a 98-99% chance of winning . . . how did they get it so wrong? . . . it was very close . . . Clinton was predicted to get 47% of the vote, she got 47.7% . . . the pollsters critically underestimated Trump's vote . . . predicting he'd get 44% . . . in fact he got 47.5%. . . most waverers and undecideds chose Trump . . . if just one in a hundred votes chose Clinton over Trump she would have won 307-231. . . nice try, but no cigar . . . Democrats assumed the Electoral College would help their candidate . . .it did not . . .because Trump spoke in so derogatory terms about Mexicans and Muslims, partly because his campaign won the support of white supremacists, the standard liberal answer is race won it for Trump. . . at first sight the whitewash theory seems to be supported by the data. . . Trump beat Clinton 62%-33% in counties that are at least 85% white. . . in placed where 97% of the population was born in America he won 65%-30% . . . yet 29% of Hispanics voted for Trump - same percentage of Asians and 37% of other racial groups – even 1 in 12 black Americans voted for him . . .but, class turned out to matter at least as much as race. . . your income, your education and your distance from a big city were at least as predictive as your colour . .
the hillbillies were not too drunk or drugged to vote. . . for the average American family the last 16 years have been a round trip via a massive financial crisis . . . Yale economist Ray Fair's simple model which predicts elections on the basis of economic performance clearly pointed to a Democratic defeat. . . lots of well-educated Americans voted for Trump . . . more than half of the over 64's voted for Trump, less than third of 18-24's. . . women voted for Trump 53% of them. . . the status quo offered by Clinton can be summed up as SNAFU – but the alternative may well be FUBAR. . . the word “work” featured nine times in Trump's victory speech . . . deal with it.

From Ron Liddle

I see that John Kerry, the US Secretary of State has been on a trip to Antarctica. Good move. Get used to it John – it's where your staggeringly inept party will be, metaphorically, for at least four years. Get used to the silence and the desolation and the whale-blubber sandwiches. . . the list of utterly pointless people ferried to the North or South Pole by the climate change monkeys is so lengthy they even asked me to go on one of these daft beanos . . . why would I do that? . . . it's cold there . . . I do not believe, as does the President-elect that climate change is a “Chinese hoax” . . . I think climate change is probably happening . . . it's all the attendant baloney that makes me wish to reach for my revolver, if I had one . . . perhaps the most stupid policy was the rush for diesel . . . children can now look forward to choking, nausea and turning blue as a consequence of nitrogen oxide poisoning . . there are calls to ban diesel cars from London's roads . . . But nothing beats wind farms . . . nothing comes close . . . the Scots in particular are gung-ho and aim to destroy the beauty of their entire country by planting them wherever . . . they do enormous damage . . . offshore wind-farms are basically Moulinex blenders for gannets and kittiwakes . . . they discombobulate whales and mince bats (I include this article just to show that Mr Trump is not alone in his environmental scepticism!)

Sunday Times lead editorial page 18

The election of Donald Trump broke so many precedents it is not surprising that the world has been left wondering what will happen next in Washington . . . Mr Trump's victory was not quite a “Dewey defeats Truman moment . . . but it came close . . .pollsters expected a clear win for Clinton, the most optimistic model gave him a 29% chance . . . it is important that Trump's victory should not be seen as the end for free trade, open markets and globalisation . . . the election, after all, was between two candidates notable for their lack of appeal – Mr Trump was regarded by enough people as the lease worst . . . another Democratic candidate might have won easily, just as another Republican might have beaten Mrs Clinton by a larger margin . . . Trump won because he spoke directly to the American working class . . . in the rust belt they probably do not expect him to reopen mothballed steel mills and closed coal mines (I'm not so sure about that!) . . .the Democrats are losing touch with their traditional power-base but have not quite lost it . . . people need to be convinced that open markets benefit them and not just big corporations . . . people do not like open borders and uncontrolled immigration . . . Politicians who ignore, this, as Mrs Clinton mainly did, will suffer . . . Jean-Claude Juncker always strikes the wrong note on behalf of the EU. “We need to teach the President-elect what Europe is and how it works, predicting two wasted years whilst Trump tours a world he doesn't know . . . Angela Merkel, whose open door immigration policy ranks as on of the gravest errors of recent times, offered to work with Trump only on the basis of the values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views . . . Europe seems determined not to learn anything from Trump's victory . . . our “special relationship” may become rather important again in the next few years.

A snippet Teresa May – better safe than sorry

The Prime Minister wore a sari to visit a temple in Bangalore for the final day of her trip to India last week. It's now traditional for visiting leaders to wear the costume of their host country. George W Bush and Vladimir Putin wore traditional silk jackets in China in 2001 and Chilean ponchos during a summit in Santiago in 2004. So, here is the appeal to Teresa May, when Donald Trump comes to Britain for his first state visit, we beg of you: don't let him anywhere near Brighton beach and its nudist beach.

From Adam Boulton

Donald Trump is making nice . . . He praised and looked forward to dealing with Barack Obama . . . he told Americans they owe Hillary Clinton a debt of gratitude . . . even professional protesters got a backhanded compliment . . . just like Brexit, no-one saw this coming – including the candidate himself . . . several hours after the polls closed the Republican pollster, Frank Luntz stated flatly that Mrs Clinton was the next president . . . (I'm just guessing, but he may now be looking for another job) . . . Nationwide Mrs Clinton got 444 000 more votes than Mr Trump, but Trump won 30 states to Clinton's 20, so nobody (except real hard-core numpties!) is disputing the result . . . the winner has abandoned his claim that the system was rigged . . . an unabashed Nigel Farage hastened to the US offering to the the “responsible adult” in the room when the PM and the President meet . . . nobody in the US was remotely interested in what Britain was saying . . it seems with each new President we have a nervous breakdown over whether we are cringing low enough before our masters and whether they really love us . . . his team: veteran right-wingers who remained loyal to him, many of them failed candidates – Rudy Guilianil, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie . . . these are all establishment figures, not blue-collar insurgents . . . and none is a noted friend of the UK . . . Trump's priorities are domestic . . . Mrs May should be careful . . . hugging the President (watch out for your bum Teresa!) got Tony Blair involved in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . Trump's foreign policy statements have been contradictory, sometimes isolationist, sometimes aggressive . . . to tie the UK too closely to Trump in the hope of scavenging from the billionaires table would be rash.

From Heather MacDonald

America's Republican elite are as stunned by Trump's conquest of the White House as the Democrats and the press . . . They shouldn't be, since they created the conditions that led to his improbable victory . . . for decades the Repubs suppressed the debate about the costs of mass low-skilled immigration . . . questioning the open borders policy led to charges of xenophobia or were simply ignored . . . immigration was said to be unalloyed good . . . however, residents of areas with large numbers of low-skilled immigrants were experiencing a different reality exemplified by California, the state most transformed by mass immigration . . . the majority of babies now born there are Hispanic and Hispanics have expanded their numbers six-fold since 1970 . . . in the 1950's and 60's California led the country in educational achievement, today the percentage of students lacking the most rudimentary maths and reading skills matches those in Miss, Louisiana, Alabama . . . (so why are Californians still voting for the Dems?) . . . Hispanics have the highest rate of unwed teen pregnancy of any group in the nation . . . low-skilled immigrants depress the wages of less-educated workers . . . in 2016 only two in three American adults without a college degree were working . . . thanks to competition from low-skilled immigrants . . . to go by his campaign performance Trump would seem a deeply-flawed national leader – thin-skinned – childishly vindictive and almost pathologically narcissistic but voters were willing to overlook his failings because he voiced their concerns on immigration . . . the Republican establishment could have prevented the Donald's rise years ago by subjecting its open borders orthodoxies to empirical testing and to good faith moral criticism . . . it has fallen to a boorish reality TV star to articulate some basic truths: the citizens possess the right to police their borders; a country's immigration policy should serve first and foremost the interests of its citizens; and lawlessness in one area breeds lawlessness in many others . .
Trump's famous “wall” is far less important than the enforcement of immigration laws in the interior of the county, including against employers . . . the country watches breathlessly for every hopeful sign that the seriousness of the office he has won will make Trump mature and teach him long-overdue impulse control.

Jeremy Clarkson – as usual had the last word

Almost all my friends are bleeding-heart liberals . . .they host fund-raising evenings t buy padded bras for people with trans-gender issues and they are utterly bewildered and devastated by the Brexit vote . . . they cannot understand why we are leaving because everyone they ever met in their pastry shop and dinner party and on the touch-line of every school sports pitch wanted to remain . . . of course they are completely stunned by the Donald Trump thing, because the Americans they know seem so sensible . . . “I was with Gwyneth only last night trying out some smoothies and she's such a lovely girl . . . they can't understand the US election result because they all go to America a lot and to them the place always seems so reasonable . . . they stay at the Mercer in New York and Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica California . . . all the celebs were for Hillary and she lost . . . (I've been trying for what seems a life-time to explain to the English that the real America lies, in general and in the most part, between New York and California) . . .
Now they are wondering if democracy has had its time . . . if I were to suggest that people with low IQ's (another one of Adolf's great ideas!) should be given less of a say in who runs the country than those in Mensa, most would nod sagely and say pensively, “It may have to come to that, because it's ridiculous that my cleaning lady has the same influence in an election as me.” . . . But I'll let you into a little secret . . . all those words that I cannot use any more in this newspaper . . . all those jokes no-one can say any more on TV . . . all those phrases that are no longer socially acceptable in Notting Hill and the home counties . . . well, up North you will hear all of them, all the time . . . political correctness simply doesn't exist in a Doncaster pub . . . because there is no time to worry about the correct word for “cross-dresser” when you haven't got the money . . .in parts of America there are people who spend all day in a queue for the food bank . . . how much of a shit do you think they give about trans-gender issues or polar bears” . . . in parts of Britain all my friends see from their Range Rover window as they drive to Scotland for a bit of shooting are towns and villages full of young people who have nothing to do all day but reproduce . . . Dims breeding dims, is what my grandfather used to say . . . every time there's an election some politician come on the TV they half-inched (stolen, I translate from British to American – ain't I wonderful!) to say he will make life better, so they vote for him and then find out later that his idea of underprivileged is actually someone who wants to dress up in a frock (dress). . . yes my heart bleeds for those who are bullied because of their sex or their looks or their sexual orientation, but it only bleeds because I've got a ton of money and two houses . . . if I had an empty larder (kitchen cupboard) and a rash and a terrible hacking cough, I assure you of this: I wouldn't care a bit . . . Trump talked a lot of nonsense in his campaign, if I were to meet him I'd probably dislike him on a cellular level; however he said the politicians had let the poor down . . . Ker-ching; he said they would always let the poor down . . . Ker-ching . . . and the only thing that could provide them with jobs and money was business – big business . . . Ker-ching again . . . they said, Yep, the future's bright, the future's orange . . .happily I have a solution . . .The Palace of Westminster is to be closed for essential repairs . . . MP's will have to meet somewhere else and I reckon they should all go to Hartlepool (they hung the monkey – I mean yes they really did hang a monkey – look it up on Wikipedia) . . . after a few years in this former steel town they might start to understand that in the big scheme of things Eddie Izzard's right to wear a pink beret is not that important (look that one up as well)

Friday, November 11, 2016

A House Divided

Trump Trumps All

Well, it's over. After what must surely rank as the strangest, most polarized campaign in history, Donald Trump is now the President-elect.

You have to go back to Abraham Lincoln's election to find an equivalent shake-up to the established order – and we all know where that led us.

Not since Dwight Eisenhower, a war hero with extensive experience of “governing” the most fragile coalition in history, has anyone entered the Oval Office with less governmental experience. This may or may not be a bad thing, but it is certainly unique.

First of all, how did he do it? As more and more information becomes known, it seems that almost anyone except Hillary could have won for the Democrats. In many respects, she lost it more that he won it.

But, it cannot be quite that simple. The fact is she got more votes, but he got them were it mattered. In state after state, he won a majority by simply not being Ms Clinton. Folks were not sure of much, other than that they were fed up with the Establishment and wanted a change. (Remind anyone of Brexit?). Out in the rust-belt where jobs have gone overseas and the blue-collar has not been replaced by the white collar the anger was thick and sloppy enough to cut with a dull butter knife.The more the voters were told about the bullying tactics of Trump, the misogamy, the crazy ideas and the lack of a coherent plan, the less they seemed to care. They wanted change, almost any change, and now they've got it.

I saw a quasi-poll that had Bernie Sanders running The Donald a close race and maybe winning. Why? Bernie was fresh, he was new, he was seen as a outsider and he was saying unpalatable things that upset the Establishment. Ditto The Donald.

Where do we go from here?

First, back to Lincoln who told us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. The protestors currently roaming the streets of New York, Chicago, Seattle and other great cities must be heard, but they must not be allowed to spoil the Trump victory with their vitriolic asserton that they will not accept the result. That is not the American way. Donald Trump has said he intends to be a President for all the people. He must get a chance to deliver.

But, deliver what?

The parties all publish their platforms. (In Britain they are called Manifestos.) What was in the Republican platform and can they deliver it? Here's what they said:


The establishment of a pro-growth tax code as a moral imperative. We oppose
retroactive taxation. We condemn attempts by activist judges at any level of government to seize the power of the purse from the people’s elected representatives by ordering higher taxes. We oppose tax policies that deliberately divide Americans or promote class warfare. Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities, and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering generosity and patriotism, they should not be subject
to taxation and donations to them should remain deductible. To guard against hypertaxation of the American people in any restructuring of the federal tax system, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment. (Income Tax – my interjection and explanation) to switch to a territorial system of taxation so that profits earned and axed abroad may be repatriated for job-creating investment here at home. We believe American companies should be headquartered in America.

Well, they would say that wouldn't they. All parties say they are going to simplify the tax system, and raise more money whist actually cutting rates. It's what parties do. I remember The Donald telling the voters that the national debt had to be cut. How? When? Where?

Freeing financial markets

The Republican vision for American banking calls for establishing transparent, efficient markets where consumers can obtain loans they need at reasonable rates based on market conditions.

Hard to argue with this one – you might as well argue against Mom's apple pie. As usual the devil is in the detail.

Increase transport infastructure

Our country’s investments in transportation and other public construction have traditionally been non-partisan. Everyone agrees on the need for clean water and safe roads, rail, bridges, ports, and airports. President Eisenhower established a tradition of Republican leadership in this regard by championing the creation of the interstate highway system. In recent years, bipartisan cooperation led to major legislation improving the nation’s ports and waterways.

This looks like one of the key points that President Trump is going to be able to move on and move on quickly. Infastructure means improved competitiveness for business and lots of construction jobs for Trump supporters. Dare I mention The New Deal – or will many Republicans faint if I do?

Building the Future: America’s Electric Grid:

Our nation’s interstate electric transmission system has long been a catalyst for developing and delivering low cost energy while spurring economic growth throughout the United States. The grid is aging, vulnerable to cyber and terrorist threats, and unprepared to serve our energy needs of tomorrow.

Ditto the infastucture comments. Add the shale gas and the coal question. Can Trump find common ground with West Virginia miners and new-age, mega-bucks shale gas drillers?

Start-up Century: Small Business and Entrepreneurship

A central reason why the 20th century came to be called the American Century was the ability of individuals to invent and create in a land of free markets. Back then they were called risk-takers, dreamers, and small business owners. Today they are the entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and small business men and women of our new economy. Their innovation drives improvement. . .

Standard Republican fare here extolling the virtues of laissez-faire capitalism. But, when we are competing with countries who do not subscribe to this economic model, chiefly the Chinese, it does seem a bit pie-in-the-sky. Interestingly, it seems that the entrepreneurs of small-town America may have been the source of Trump's votes in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Workplace Freedom for a 21st Century Workforce (Republicans are traditionally anti-union or at least as ambivalent towards organised labor as the Conservative Party in the UK)

The greatest asset of the American economy is the hard-working American. That is why our first priority is getting people back to work by fostering the kind of growth that creates jobs.

Can't argue with this! Just tell us what it means.

A Federal Workforce Serving the People

We urge Congress to bring federal compensation and benefits in line with the standards of most American employees. A Republican administration should streamline personnel procedures to expedite the firing of bad workers, tax cheats, and scammers. The unionization of the federal workforce, first permitted by Democrat presidents in the 1960s, should be reviewed by the appropriate congressional committees to examine its effects on the cost, quality, and performance of the civil service. Union representatives in the federal workforce should not be paid to conduct union business on the public’s time.

Standard Republican ideas.

Reducing the Federal Debt

We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations. A strong economy is one key to debt reduction, but spending restraint is a necessary component that must be vigorously pursued.

Hard to square this one with the promise of infastructure improvements. In common with all governments, the reduction in debt is really tied to pie-in-the-sky improvements in the overall economy. If this happens debt can be repaid. If not?

We the People

We reaffirm the Constitution’s fundamental principles: limited government, separation of powers, individual liberty, and the rule of law. We denounce bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, and religious intolerance. Therefore, we oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability, or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination. As the Party of Abraham Lincoln, we must continue to foster solutions to America’s difficult challenges when it comes to race relations today.

Anyone against this one? I should hope not.

The Judiciary

The rule of law is the foundation of our Republic. A critical threat to our country’s constitutional order is an activist judiciary that usurps powers properly reserved to the people through other branches of government. Only a Republican President will appoint judges who respect the rule of law expressed within the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, including the inalienable right to ife and the laws of nature and nature’s God, as did the late Justice Antonin Scalia. We are facing a national crisis in our judiciary. We understand that only by electing a Republican President in 2016 will America have the opportunity for up to five new constitutionally-minded Supreme Court justices appointed to fill vacancies on the Court. Only such appointments will enable courts to begin to reverse the long line of activist decisions — including Roe, Obergefell, and the Obamacare cases — that have usurped Congress’s and states’ lawmaking. . .

This is a tough one. Reading it one way, you could be excused for thinking that the Republican party has lost its sense of the historical, constitutional process. The Constitution makes it clear that the three branches, President, Congress and the Judiciary are co-equal. Any attempt by any party to tamper with this principle is not only bound to fail but will simply garner the opprobrium of the American people. Even FDR found this out when he tried to pack the Supreme Court to get his New Deal legislation passed.

Reading it another way, it is true that the President can nominate Supreme Court judges who he thinks will see things his way. (This doesn't always work) Congress will scrutiize their appointment. The Donald made great pay in the campaign about Hillary appointing Supreme Court judges and how this must be opposed. He may well get some of his own medicine.

Administrative Law

We call on Congress to begin reclaiming its constitutional powers from
the bureaucratic state by requiring that major new federal regulations be approved by Congress before they can take effect, such as through the Regulation Freedom Amendment.

That's the way it's supposed to work. Just need to know what “major” is?

Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary

Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.

This echoes Roe v Wade – another part of the circle which is going to be difficult to square as many of Trump'ssupporters will not, I believe, support restictions on either gay marriage or abortion. States rights?

It has always surprised me that either and/or both political parties seem to want to legislate public morality. Did they not learn from the Prohibition debacle?

On a personal level, I oppose on-demand abortion. But, I don't believe I have the right to impose my morality on others. The Republican-led federal government should stay out of the morality game. They can't win.

The First Amendment Religious Liberty

We pledge to defend the religious beliefs rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control.


The First Amendment: - Constitutionally Protected Speech

We believe the forced funding of political candidates through union dues and other mandatory contributions violates the First Amendment. Just as Americans have a First Amendment right to devote resources to favored candidates or views, they have a First Amendment right not to be forced to individually support individuals or ideologies that they oppose. We agree with Thomas Jefferson that “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

Fairly typical Republican anti-union stuff here; however I agree – except workers who benefit from “closed-shop” agreements lawfully entered into by unions and employers, Workers can not opt-out simply to become cheap-skates! BTW the sound you may hear is Jefferson spinning rapidly in his grave when he is the subject of praise from a party whose ideas he would certainly oppose if he were alive.

The Second Amendment: Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms

We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle.

Nonsense. I support the Second Amendment. I do not believe the right to bear arms is unqualified. I'm presuming this is in the platform to pander to the NRA. This is a good example of why some people voted for Trump. People supported him for a variety of reasons.

The Fourth Amendment: Liberty and Privacy

Affirming the Fourth Amendment “right of the people to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” we call for strict limitations on the use of aerial surveillance on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders for illegal entry and activity.

Typical politicians fudge. No unreasonable searches except when we think it's a good idea.

The Fifth Amendment: Protecting Human Life

. . . we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.

As I said, I support this philosophically, but it is a classic example of “Lord make me holy! (But not quite yet, please!)

The Fifth Amendment: Protecting Private Property

We call on Congress and state legislatures to enact reforms to protect law-abiding
citizens against abusive asset forfeiture tactics.

Sensible if applied sensibly. Not sensible if large landowners are allowed to milk the public purse.

The Fifth Amendment: Intellectual Property Rights

Today, the worst offenses against intellectual property rights come from abroad, especially in China. We call for strong action by Congress and a new Republican president to enforce intellectual property laws against all infringers, whether foreign or domestic.

Trump has already strongly hinted that the party is over for the Chinese. Good. Easy, quick and poular policy – except for the fact that they might ask for the debt to be repaid, like now.

The Ninth Amendment: The People’s Retained Rights

We welcome to our ranks all citizens who are determined to reclaim the rights of the people that have been ignored or usurped by the federal and intrusive state governments.

I suspect that what they mean is the things that they don't like.

The Tenth Amendment: Federalism as the Foundation of Personal Liberty

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

States rights? Not again, surely! The Congress must not attempt to usurp the powers of the Supreme Court.

Honest Elections and the Electoral College

We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.

I agree, despite the fact that Clinton won the popular vote. Remember Lincoln only won the popular vote in 1860 because he was not on the ballot in many southern states. The electoral college is a guarantee of state's legitimate rights.

Honest Elections and the Right to Vote

In order to preserve the principle of one person, one vote, we urge our elected representatives to ensure that citizenship, rather than mere residency, be made the basis for the apportionment of representatives among the states.


The rest of the platform is really just a list of aims and ideas. Nothing wrong with that but it does occupy more than half of the platform pages with waffle.

When the dust settles what have we got?

A Republican President and a Republican controlled Congress should be able to get things done. People will be waiting, not very patiently, for them to get on with it. All Presidents get 100 days to get moving. President Trump will be no different. He has already hinted that big things are going to happen. Can he turn the rhetoric into action? The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has said he is ready to seize the initiative, work with the adiministration and get things moving. Can he carry the house with him?

In the Senate it's 48 Dems and 52 Repubs. Trump should have support in the Senate, but Senators are notorious for their independence. Could be interesting.

The same can be said for the Supreme Court. Congress should be able to ratify any Trump nominees, but any really overt political ones may have problems.

The Bottom Line

I'm encouraged by most of the noises coming out of the President-elect's camp. Perhaps the reality of his achievement has just sunk in, but he certainly looks and sounds more presidential. He wants to be everyone's President and although all Presidents-elect say that I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Only time will tell if he can bridge the gulf between rhetoric and reality. Perhaps, as a reality TV star he will find it easy. Somehow I've got my doubts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

An Election Like No Other

The most entertaining take on the Presidential race this week was from Niall Ferguson, writing in the Sunday Times under the headlline: Serial lecher Trump finally blows up. But that's not why he deserves to lose.

He compares the candidates to mobile phones. “Donald Trump is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 of US politics – a phone so hurriedly assembled that it spontaneously combusts. That would make Hilary Clinton the iPhone7. She's essentially the same as your current President but harder to connect to and with inferior email security. . . . The American public is fascinated by Trump, but in the way people are fascinated by a really gruesome car crash. It is bad enough to boast that you have groped women. It is fatal to deny it only to have numerous women appear within days to state that oh yes you did. In March, I observed that Trump's “caveman politics” was based on a deeply phoney machismo. A man who has to reassure the world about the size of his genitals is not macho he wrote.

Yet it will be tragic if history records that Trump lost the 2016 election because he confessed to, and was then accused of, sexual assault that he then denied. . . . After all we have had sexually hyperactive Presidents before. Quite apart from the dalliances of Bill Clinton, recall the priapism of JFK, still among the most revered Presidents in US history.

(I interject the following from Wikipedia, "" But Warren G. Harding is really in a category of his own. No other philandering chief executive had the 29th president’s way with words (he termed the vagina of one of his mistresses “Mrs. Pouterson”) or his sense of scenery (he and Nan regularly had sex in a White House closet). And, as was underscored this week, when news broke that Harding did in fact father a child with Britton as she had claimed, no other was quite as reckless with his libido."")

The reason we should pray for Trump to lose is not for the future safety of female air travellers or beauty queens, but for the future security of the western world. . . the most shocking aspect of the Trump campaign is not the revelation that he is a serial sexual harasser, but rather that he is the dupe, if not the pawn of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

As November 8th approaches, the mud-slinging will intensify. So, will the cyber-warfare. And the more complicated the allegations become, the more voters will tune out and make their decision on the basis of feelings, rather than facts that they no longer trust.

The scariest thought of all is that if they don't like the ultimate result, they won't trust that either. For proof that this election is rigged, download the Sputnik app to your smartphone today.”

Niall may be correct, but if not he is at least very entertaining!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Chiefs Prospects 2016 Season

Chop till you Drop!
I have been tardy.  I usually do my Chiefs analysis and forecast for the season before the season starts.  I've been busy.

Perhaps it is no bad thing.  Two games into the season gives me an opportunity for the scales to fall from the eyes and a more realistic mood to prevail.  Two games in and the tribe are 1-1.  They beat San Diego (a division rival) and lost to the Texans.  The first game saw a great comeback and the second almost no offence at all in a 19-12 defeat.

As usual, the rock is on Alex Smith's shoulder.  He was brilliant in Week One and very ordinary in Week Two.  Consequence?  We are one and one.

What are the Chiefs up to on offence this season.  They brought in Nick Foles to back up Smith.  Chase Daniel was the back up but went in free agency.  Foles is a proven NFL QB with the Eagles.  Hit me with a brick, but I can see a scenario where Alex Smith doesn't perform and Foles is at the helm.  An NFL back up QB is always just one snap away from starting no matter what the coaches say to the media.  Forget what Andy Reid says if he thinks Smith is not doing it he will change to Foles.  They have kept Tyler Bray as third QB.  Someday my dream will come?  He has the size, the arm and is getting the experience.  He may well be the future.

Running backs should be the strength of the team.  Anthony Sherman is a mainstay at fullback.  Jamaal Charles is still a class act.  Spencer Ware is getting a lot of snaps.  Chacandrick West is a capable back-up.  Knile Davis has slipped down the pecking order, but still has a role in kick returns.  The problem is Charles has yet to play.  Ware and West have shared the work and whilst both are capable, Charles has really been missed.  If the running-back-offence starts to click when he does then fine.  If not – big trouble.

The wide receiver corps has been revamped. (About time too!)  Jeremy Macklin leads.  Chris Conley is now a second year receiver.  Tyrek Hill is listed but is really a kick returner.  The rest?  De'Anthony Thomas who has mysteriously been inactive for the first two games, Demarcus Robinson, a rookie and Albert Wilson a 200 pound 5' 9” receiver (very out-of-date in the NFL).  You can still make a case that this group is not going to scare anyone and not going to help Smith very much in his quest to become an elite QB.

How about the O-line.  Lots of folks are very big on this group.  I wish I could join them.
The eight listed linemen have a grand total of 17 years of NFL experience.  That's not a lot.  Eric Fisher is now a very solid tackle.  He is moving forward from the burden of being a Number 1 pick in the draft.  The Chiefs apparently love Mitchell Schwartz who was a free agent signing.  The Canuck Duvernay-Tardiff is flavour of the month.  Unfortunately, in game two Parker (rookie starter) and Tardiff were injured and inactive.  The Texans pass rush had a field day.  When they are all healthy we'll see.  I'm not convinced that this is their year.  Maybe in 2017-18 but not today.

Turning to the defence which, as everyone with a brain cell knows, is what wins titles and Super Bowls.  What was a strength is now just about average.  Justin Houston is injured and will not return for some time.  Tamba Hali is just about past his sell by date.  The corners look just about Ok with Marcus Peters a stand-out.  The D-line should be good but has struggled to create any pass rush.  On a one to ten grading system they get about a 5.5.  This will not be good enough for the play-offs and may not even be good enough to get them there in the first place.
Special teams are very good.  Santos kicks as good as most.  Tyrek Hill may get you some touchdowns on punts and kick-offs.

The coaching is what it is.  There is no pressure real on Andy Reid.  They are stable.  They have good, experienced and capable coaches on the staff.  They need to earn their money now.  Anyone can coach an exceptionally good team.  Can they make winners out of some mostly average talent?  We'll see.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

NHS Budgets - Junior Doctors

Money Talks - Bullsh** walks - as usual.

I'm back. After the summer break wherein readers were deprived of both my expertise and sterling wit, I renew my efforts with both humility and verve.

The Junior doctors are striking in a series of five-day walk-outs. Patient care will suffer as sure as eggs are eggs. What's it all about?

Firstly, it is essential to remember that no system of health care can possibly function without the consent and support of the health care professionals involved. That's the bottom line. The NHS could not have come into being were it not for many compromises made to keep the doctors on-board. ( Most serious was the opposition of doctors who disliked the idea of becoming employees of the state. Doctors were in an extremely powerful position, as without them the National Health Service (NHS) could not operate, and the government was forced to make a number of compromises. General Practitioner (GP) surgeries remained private businesses that could be bought and sold, and the NHS effectively gave these practices contracts to provide health care. Only the most senior doctors in hospitals (consultants) were allowed to continue private treatment. Similar compromises were worked out with dentists. Aneurin Bevan conceded these points in order to make the NHS work, but he was not happy with them. ) - The Cabinet Papers

Even today the NHS can not possibly function without the doctors being extensively involved.

For some reason, known only to the government and Jeremy Hunt, this fact has been conveniently forgotten. The government has imposed a new contract on the Junior doctors and they don't like some of the provisions. The government's goal of creating a seven day service cannot be done without the doctors and their good will. Somebody has forgotten to line up the ducks.

What are they up to? Why pick a fight you can't win? It's the old story, money talks and bulls**t walks.

The government knows very well that you can have any sort of NHS you are willing to pay for. They are just not willing to pay for it. So, they need to increase the work load of doctors and the new contract is the way they have chosen to accomplish it.

In response. the doctors are trying to occupy the moral high ground. They need to convince the public, whose support they still have, that this is nothing to do with money. This is, of course, nonsense but they keep pushing it. Their support among the public is slipping. If the planned 5 day strikes go ahead they will soon lose the support altogether.

Any light at the end of the tunnel? Well, not all doctors are quite so convinced that the new contract is the work of the devil. Cracks are appearing in the support of the various Royal Colleges to which the doctors belong. Time is running out.

Very soon, some people are going to die who might have lived. Where will the blame be apportioned? The Government? The BMA?

One thing is probably sure – the bean counters (the real culprits in the piece) will get off scot free. Money talks . . . .

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


 New song - "I got the real lowdown Brexit Blues"

I went to bed early last Thursday thinking that when I got up it would be over. It was.

I took the precaution of asking Pete to check with the bookies on the odds for remain. Remain in the EU was favourite – about 6/4 on. Early on the pound went up in value to about 1.50 against the dollar. When the result became clearer it tanked and ended up about 1.30. How did the bookies get it so wrong again?

Pete explained. Lots of big money went on remain from the “elite”. Big bets in currency terms but small on numbers. Hence the odds and hence the win for leave.

Then the snowball began to roll. Little Dave Cameron (he used to be Big Dave) is toast. Jeremy Corbin is being crucified for a seeming lack of enthusiasm for remain and probably won't last the rest of the week.

How did this happen?

Firstly, and this will become increasingly important as we move forward, it was close. About a million votes swung it. With 33 million voting that qualifies as close where I come from. Secondly, and I was the first that I know of to point this out, it was those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder that voted quite largely for getting out. Or, as I so eloquently put it – the lunatics have taken over the asylum. The Dewsbury Chavs, the Monkey Hangers and the Yarmouth Oicks are now running the country.


Immigration, immigration, immigration. The leave campaign managed to successfully shift the blame for all the country's ills from the Tory government to immigrants. “It was the Sun wot done it!”. They convinced the less than literate masses that if we just get out of the EU things will not only be fine – they will actually be better. There was no evidence for this of course, but in true “Big Lie” fashion they just kept banging on about it and some of it stuck.

It was the old folks who voted in big numbers who won it for leave. The under 30's voted to stay in. It was the disadvantaged, the destitute, the angry and not too sure who to blame, the irrational, the ill-educated, the unemployed or under-employed, the ill-advised, the Little Englanders, the downtrodden, the oldies who wanted to return to the “good old days”, them that harken back to an England of full employment for the masses and “homes fit for heroes”, those that felt that the prosperity which is largely confined to southern England in general and London in particular had passed them by, and those simply looking for a convenient scapegoat.

The Tories should have not been so surprised. They have spent the last decade using the EU as a nice, comfortable whipping boy when things weren't going so well. They have just woken up to what it has cost them. Little Dave for starters. Credibility with the voters for afters. They have now learned, to their cost, that government by referendum is a dangerous beast.

The Tories only crumb of comfort is that the Labour Party is, if it is possible, in even worse shape. Jeremy Corbin is reaping the whirlwind. His support for remain was seen as lukewarm at best and the attack dogs are out to get him. They are likely to succeed. Whether in the short term they can get their act together, unite behind a new leader and force an election they might win is less than certain. We'll see.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are the flies in the ointment. Both these parts of the UK voted to stay in the EU. What to do? The Scottish Nationalists are in Brussels right now seeking ways to remain in the EU even if the rest of the UK leaves. You couldn't make it up! The Irish are likely to have some sort of border with the EU (in the shape of Eire) and this is an anathema to the Ulster Unionists. Great. No comfort there.

Economically, things have stabilised. The stock market has adjusted – lower but adjusted. The pound seems happy at its new level. Will this last? No-one knows.

Meanwhile our erstwhile partners in the EU are cursing their own stupidity for the drafting of Article 50 – that's the one that prescribes how a country can leave the EU. The ball is firmly in the UK’s court. The clock does not begin to tick on leaving until the UK gives formal notice that it is actually leaving. What, I hear you say? The result of the referendum was leave, so leave you must! Well, not exactly!

Many English people – perhaps even most – do not really understand how they are governed. In the USA sovereignty resides with the people. In the UK it lies with the Queen in Parliament. In theory, there is no limit to the powers of Parliament, provided they can get the sovereign to agree. So, despite the fact that the people voted for Brexit, Parliament could take a different view. All political parties and all politicians have been queuing up to swear blind that the referendum must be respected. But, there is probably a majority in Parliament that might vote for a second referendum – especially if the predictions of the “Inners” begin to come true.

This may be already happening as EU leaders maintain that the UK can not get “easy” terms for Brexit – they are scared stiff that their own electorate might want to do the same. The UK is going to have to pay for the privilege of leaving – the only question is – how much?

Down the line we have Donald Trump giving his support to the leavers. We have the EU Parliament saying, “Go, and go now!” We have a leadership election in the Conservative Party. We have the official opposition in free-fall with Jeremy Corbin just holding on by his fingertips.

Where do we go from here? As predicted no-one really knows. That, strangely, is what people voted for. All the big wigs told them not to vote for uncertainty, but they did it anyway. Whatever happens it sure will be interesting!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

At the Hospital

Chapter Eight

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

Wherein I learn some new skills, use my science training, see first hand the fragility of life and bring to a close the chapters of my working life.

I became a housekeeper on the Acute Medical Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The NHS is the largest employer in Western Europe. I hardly even registered as a cog in this enormous wheel. But, it was valuable work and I saw it as giving something back to the community – and I didn't mind getting paid for it either.

I job-shared with two ladies, Debbie and Chris. They liked working mornings and early afternoons and I liked late mornings and late afternoons. Perfect.

I used my bus pass to get in about 10 and get home about 6 – three days a week on a rotating shift pattern. There was no weekend working. Perfect.

Housekeeper is a bit of a misleading job title. What we did was more like being a gopher or dog's body. We looked after the stock, including the essential equipment used on the ward. We made sure the nurses had everything they needed to do their job. We made sure everything was where it ought to be and, if it wasn't, made sure we got it there. We overcame difficulties. It was interesting and not too taxing for old folks.

On the ACU people died. In many cases that's why they ended up there. The arrived, old, frail and sick: they received end of life care and they died. So, the sound of the alarm going off, the dash for the crash trolley and the attempts to resuscitate were just part of the everyday rhythm of work. Took some getting used to. All in all, it was interesting and not too taxing, or, as they say it kept me out of the pub.

As time moved on it became apparent that my knees were not doing the NHS much good. I had a lot of pain and my mobility decreased markedly. I didn't feel as if I was able to contribute and I didn't like the feeling.

An opportunity came up to actually retire on my 65th birthday and I took it.

Here endeth, as they say the story of my working life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chapter Seven - School Days

Chapter Seven

School Days

Wherein I move to a new country, start a new job, learn a new sport and engage in some very interesting sidelines.

We took the train from KC to NY. That way we could “easily” transport the suitcases and whacking great crates. It was an overnight train and I enjoyed the daytime sights as we trundled through Pittsburg. Very scenic.

I arrived in England on the QE II in June of 1974. We docked at Southhampton where we were met by my father-in-law. He had hired a small van to transport the crates containing all our worldly goods.

I distinctly remember the Immigration Officer asking Maureen if she had come home to have the baby in a sneering, deprecating tone.

Whilst they unloaded the passengers' luggage, we went into Southampton and had some lunch.

On our return we found the terminal closed with our possessions inside. We found an unlocked door and dragged the stuff up a down-escalator and out the door. Not a customs official in sight. We should have brought some guns or narcotics – there would never be a better chance!

I set about trying to find a teaching job. In the meantime I visited the Labour Exchange and they fixed me up with a job at Kingers gasket factory in Foots Cray. It was my first introduction to the world of work in the UK – and what an introduction. I worked in the warehouse with two old boys whose names now escape me. The day went like this: we arrived and clocked on. We stood about for a bit and then we went for breakfast in the staff subsidised canteen. A “full English” set you back about 20p. We wandered back to the warehouse and did a bit – we gathered some gasket material and placed it on a trolley. We moved the trolley about for someone else to pack the stuff and get it ready to ship.

We went to lunch.

After lunch we did almost nothing – maybe a bit of tidying up or re-arranging the stacks of gaskets.

The “old lags” had made a kind of makeshift rest area out of some tatty packing crates. It had rustic chairs and a battered, dilapidated old sofa. They sat about most of the afternoon studying the racing form. I often went to the bookies to place bets or collect winnings.

Then it was quitting time. We went home. We were paid not very much.

Interestingly the whole of Britain operated roughly on the same principles at that time. There was almost no unemployment, but everywhere was grotesquely inefficient and over-staffed. Maggie Thatcher would see to that.

I was still looking for a teaching job and one came up near Gt Yarmouth in Norfolk. From my extensive research, I knew that the East coast was the warmest and driest part of Britain. My kind of town. (Actually, I still like Gt Yarmouth even though I don't live near there – and I am definitely in the minority!)

Got the job.

In 1974, believe it or not, there was no rental market for properties in England. I know it sounds strange with the emphasis on Buy-to-Let with which we currently suffer; but it is, nevertheless, true. Somehow we managed to rent a house in Winterton-on-Sea for the princely sum of £10 a week (a lot of money in those days).

I began teaching in September 1974 and I was not very good at it. Looking back I can say without much argument that I was not only inexperienced but also suffering from culture shock. The country was new. The school was unlike any in Missouri and the children were somewhat of a mystery to me.

I stayed there for 11 years. My problem has always been, believe it or not, that I don't really like change. I'm a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. So I stayed and gradually got better at the job and began, almost, to think it was a good career choice. Then the school decided to close for lack of pupil numbers and I was made redundant.

In the summer I did a variety of seasonal jobs. I cleaned swimming pools. I cleaned pubs. I cleaned toilets. Such was the life of a hard-up young teacher. I delivered newspapers – wholesale. Start at 04:30. Rode my bike from Winterton to Yarmouth and then back to Scratby to teach all day. I worked at North Denes airfield doing security checks for off-shore workers. I loaded sightseers into light aircraft. I refuelled helicopters. I did almost anything to make a buck.

During that time I played basketball for the Gt Yarmouth Gunners and cricket for, firstly, NALGO in the Gt Yarmouth Mid Week League and secondly for Belton CC in the Norfolk Cricket League. I had never seen a cricket match until 1974 when I used to watch the old John Player League (yes, cigarette manufacturers sponsored many sports in those days) and listen to Test Matches on the radio with Johners, CMJ. Blowers, Aggers and, of course, the best of all, John Arlott.

All this coincided with two children, a divorce, and a remarriage.

After a few months of unemployment and being unable to find a suitable teaching job, I went to work for Dardan Security as a guard. I did shifts at Bacton gas terminal. It was tiring and uninteresting, but it did keep the wolf from the door.

Some people I knew were teaching at Finborough School (then St George's) near Stowmarket in Suffolk. An English job came up and I got it. I started in September 1987 along with my good buddies John Cowley (Head of Maths) and Steve Banks (Head of History). I had to work away from home during the week. I had a small room at Finborough. I worked some weekends. I stayed there until my retirement in 2004.

Eventually, I became a good teacher. Good enough to be nominated for the Teaching Awards anyway – but I didn't win. At the end of the day, teaching is actually quite a simple job. As I was fond of explaining to the teacher trainees I occasionally supervised, all you have to do is to get kids to do things they would rather not. Not that they won't do it necessarily, it's just that given a choice they would rather not. There are as many ways of doing this as there are good teachers. I also explained that if you cannot do this you are going to have a miserable life, so leave now. Do not pass go, do not collect the 200. Go and get a “real job”.

The first year was quite trying and I seriously though about giving up, but I persevered and eventually got paid for doing what I like and would have probably done for free. I talked about and read good books. I taught Shakespeare and Chaucer to the sixth form. Eventually, I was persuaded to take on the role of Head of the English Department. I made many very good friends.

In 2004 I was approaching the age when I always said teachers should retire, for after the age of 50-55 you become out of touch with the next generation. So, when the boss offered me early retirement I took it.

After a short interlude, I decided that I would have nothing whatsoever to do with education ever again. Opportunities to continue to mark exams were there, substitute teachers were always in demand and experienced, successful teachers are always in short supply. Non of this attracted me, so I decided to do nothing at all.

Then one day I was reading the EDP and a job advert for a Housekeeper at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital seemed so interesting that I (stupidly) mentioned it to Juliet who said that I should apply. So I did. I got an interview. I got the job.

This was only made possible by giving up smoking. In 2004, post retirement from teaching, I said to Juliet that it was time to go to France to stock up on cheap baccy. She said, “I think I'll give up.”

I said, “I think I'll join you.”

She said, “You'll never do it.”

We went to the surgery and go all the gear - inhilators, patches, nicotine gum and lozenges, We set a date to give up. I woke up, put on a patch and puffed at the inhilator all day. It was a long day – a very long day.

In the evening I took Juliet to an art class at the Hoveton Village Hall. I went straight to the local store and bought 10 cigs. I sat in the car and smoked one. That was the last cigarette I ever had. I gave the nine smokes left to my step-son Steve and told him to take them to Norwich (he was going out that evening) and give them to some old down and out. I believe he did.

I persevered and was rewarded. A good test came about a week into the challenge. I had to go to a cricket committee meeting in Dereham. Dereham is a funny old place. No matter how many times I go there I never feel entirely confident about finding my way about. I did have a favourite parking spot but it was occupied so I had to find a new one. It was in a car park behind some shops. After the meeting I could not remember where the car was. I must have got turned around, for I just could not find it. Would that I had a ciggie I would have lit it. I wandered about for what seemed an hour before I found the car. That was the last time I really fancied a smoke.

I was one of the lucky ones. You can blow smoke in my face and it does not elicit a craving.

Because I gave up I could work at the hospital. So I did.