This was first posted on Facebook on 7th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network. Every time I tried to begin a post here about politics, since Thursday, I kept thinking “But David Graeber is dead.”
David Graeber died in Venice on Wednesday 2nd September. I didn’t know him personally and my sense of loss is only what I feel when a writer I admire and respect and want to keep writing is gone: there will never be any more clear sharp insightful essays and articles from him, never again. He was 59 and I am old enough to feel strongly that this is far too young to die.
I watched PMQs on Wednesday, and Boris Johnson, fresh from his holidays, reacted to Keir Starmer’s questions with an outpouring of poisonous bile. He didn’t look well, not that his illness excuses his behaviour: as John Crace noted, PMQ is essentially a kind of Westminster performance, something perhaps only political afficionados care to watch: but it is a dance with rules, a question followed by an answer, a follow-up question, a follow-up answer. Boris Johnson was interrupted mid-flow by the Speaker, who very gently and politely told him to answer the question. I don’t think I’m inventing this: Lindsay Hoyle looked worried.
I like new coins.
Some time in June 1982, I got change from a shop that included shiny new 20p coins.
The design was like nothing I’d ever seen before in British money – heptagonal like a 50p piece but much smaller and lighter (the new light 5p and 10p coins were not to appear for another 10 years, and the lighter 50p coins not for five years after that).
I recognised it instantly as a British coin, but a new coin for a different value. I liked it. (I had a similar feeling when the £2 coins first appeared in 1998.) And in 1982, I had had no idea that 20p coins were about to be a thing.
Today, 28th March, new £1 coins appear: dodecagons. We haven’t had dodecagon currency since the thruppeny bit was discontinued in 1971.
On 7th August, I went to the first day of the Foodies Festival in Inverleith Park.
If you haven’t been, you should: it was a fantastic day out “celebrating its 10th anniversary in Edinburgh with a three-day showcase of Scotland’s finest culinary talents and regional produce”. (To be clear upfront, my free ticket was provided by Lanyard Media, but I got no instructions from them what to say or what to blog about.)
Edinburgh is full of festivals, but I unashamedly love this one: so much good food and drink to celebrate and share.
One of the free lectures for Friday was on urban beekeeping, by Brian Pool, a third-generation professional beekeeper, who teaches beekeeping at the Secret Herb Garden and is Beekeeper in Residence at Edinburgh Zoo (where they’re having a Bee Festival on 29th August, free to anyone who visits the Zoo that day).
I learned that the British black honey-bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) is more aggressive and more inclined to sting if provoked than the mellower Italian honey-bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) which Brian Pool attributes to the Italian bee expecting to find honey all year round, breeding to huge numbers within the hive and therefore needing to be fed by the beekeeper: whereas British bees (“hardier and have smaller populations going into winter, so they need less food to survive, and they also have fewer mouths to feed during a cold spring snap” says Terry Clare, president of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association) are better at saving honey for a rainy day.
97% of those eligible to vote have registered, including many first-time voters. In principle, there could be 4.28 million votes cast today. Anything above 3,424,000 votes cast is record-breaking: that’s over 80%, highest turnout in Scotland in five decades.
Vote Yes: vote No: if you can’t make up your mind go to your polling station and write “Undecided” or “Team Scotland” or “A plague on both your houses” on your ballot. But go to the booth, stare at your ballot, see if you can’t make up your mind for one or the other: and if you can, then make your vote, and no repining.
If you want your vote counted, best to use the pencil provided in the voting booth to make a clear X in the box next to your choice. (Yes, you can use a pen if you want, but the Electoral Commission provides pencils because they make a thick black line that is very difficult to erase and won’t run or blur if the ballot paper gets wet.)
Recently, there was a kerfuffle in the Better Together / Yes Scotland camps about would prices rise at Tesco in the event of Scottish independence. Better Together had published a leaflet saying they would: Tesco’s bounced in to say prices would stay the same: Yes Scotland publicised this triumphantly.
How do prices stay cheap in the big supermarkets while maximising their profits?
Well, it’s all a load of royalist imperialist hooey, of course, but once in a while the Honours List does light on someone who you think “Yeah, she deserves it!”
The Virtual Inglenook said of Mary Moriarty in 2009 that even she “only retires once”. He did not predict that Moriarty’s idea of “retirement” involved the Leith Festival (Gala Day yesterday, continues to the 20th, enjoy!)
The Tories have produced a buzzfeed-style page for the indyref.
They take their assertion that Scots are better off by £1200 per year each in the UK than we would be if independent (their figures don’t make sense, but frankly the SNP’s arguments that we’d be better off by x amount per year each don’t make sense either) and they’ve done a series of images of the things that £1200 could buy.
Both sides have tried this argument, and both sides made a hash of it, because it is a frankly silly argument. The wealth of the UK is not a cake to be sliced up and everyone given a bit. Even if Scotland were to become actually independent in March 2016, or enter a devomax arrangement set up between the Tories and the SNP as planned in the White Paper, or remains part of the UK as at present, Scotland will still have a very few very rich people, a proportion of wealthy people, and a lot of people who are horrifyingly poor.
In 1962, when Cambridge House in Rochdale was opened to give young men a clean safe place to stay, Cyril Smith was 34, already an important man in the local community, and he seems to have regarded it as his private pleasure centre. The hostel ran from 1962 to 1965, Cyril Smith had keys and could come and go at any time, and was responsible for bringing in several boys to live there who’d been in difficult home situations, often then to work for the local authority, so that Smith would have control both over their jobs and over their home. Continue reading
The Official Twitter account of Président Cheese is @PresidentCheese. They’ve been on Twitter since 21st March, and in two months they’ve managed to acquire 125 followers.
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