O Tempora O Mores.


The  results of the 2011 census published yesterday shed a fascinating insight into the changing face of Britain.

For example, the seaside town of Blackpool has the highest percentage of its population who are divorced  – 13.1%.

Our neighbouring council, Rushmoor, has the highest percentage concentration of Buddhists – 3.3% – anywhere in England and Wales.

26.3% of the population of the Isles of Scilly do not have central heating compared with the national average of 2.7%.

Islington has the highest percentage over ove 16s who are not in a relationship – 59.9% compared with the national average of 34.6%.

Kings Lynn has the highest percentage of its population living in caravans – 5.9% compared with the national average of 0.4%.

30% of the population of Blaenau Gwent do not have passports compared with the national average of 16.9%.

Norwich has the highest proportion recording no religion – 42.5%.

People calling themselves Christians fell from 72% of the population in 2001 to 59% in 2011. Fewer than 50% of households were inhabited by couples who were married.

We expect our political leaders to have a vision and the strength of their convictions. They may be wrong-headed but at least they have a sense of where they are going. Our present incumbent, I am afraid, fails this test and trims his policies at the first whiff of trouble.

Take the issue of same sex marriage. The census has indicated that Christianity and the institution of marriage is declining. Our (unwritten) constitution is centred on the separation of church and state. But Cameron having gaily announced that it was going to be lawful for same sex couples to marry, has done  U-turn (again) and exempted the major churches to keep the right wing, the antediluvian clerics and the U-kippers at bay.

For a whole host of reasons, mainly to do with inheritance, civil partnerships are unsatisfactory. This is the 21st century for goodness sake. Same sex marriage should not be an issue and the necessary legislation should pass on the nod.

The PM and his party should concentrate on finding solutions to our economic crisis, the surge in youth unemployment,  the lack of affordable housing etc etc etc.

At times like these I join Cicero in despairing.


Show Me The Way To Mildura



I must confess I am firmly in the sat nav on, cruise control set and good quality stereo cranked up school of motoring but even I recognise that sat navs have their limitations. The suggested route can be eccentric at times and you do need a vague sense of where you are going to obviate a more eccentric route to your destination, even at the risk of incurring the wrath of the disembodied voice giving you directions.

The stories of motorists getting into difficulties through their blind adherence to these handy pieces of technological kit are legion – lorry drivers getting stuck under low bridges, motorists going down dead ends etc. The latest glitch in the error strewn Apple Maps app has led Victorian State police to urge motorists to avoid using it altogether. Apparently, the city of Mildura (population 30,006 and a noted grape producing area of Victoria) is shown as being in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park whereas in reality it is some 70 kilometres away. It seems that a number of motorists, blindly following their Apple Maps iOS 6 software, have found themselves stranded in the outback where there is no water supply and where temperatures can get as high as 46C.

The decision by Apple to remove Google Maps from iOS 6 resulted in Apple CEO, Tim Cook, issuing an apology in September and recommending the use of other competing apps. It is thought that the resignation of Scott Forstall, the SVP of iOS in October was a consequence of the furore and it is understood that Apple are now trying to recruit former Google Maps developers to improve the iOS mapping capability.

The lesson is clear – avoid Apple Maps, set off with a vague understanding of where you are going and don’t be afraid to use your common sense and override that sat nav.



An Unexpected and Unanticipated Event…



…was the response of our favourite Mauritian waiter when he heard that a coconut had fallen from a tree and just missed a table of guests. No doubt his sentiments were echoed by the two Australian DJs when they heard of the tragic consequences of their hoax phone call to the King Edward VII hospital. Our heartfelt sympathies go to Jacintha Saldanha’s family.

As any schoolboy knows, pranks have a habit of back-firing and, inevitably, lead to a visit in front of the beak but there is a long history of hoaxes and pranks perpetrated by the media. Jeremy Beadle, for one, made a career out of them.

It goes without saying that the tragic death has prompted calls from the censorship brigade to outlaw this form of intrusion, calls which need to be resisted. Each incident needs to be treated on its own merits rather than prompting a blanket ban on people trying to test and push the boundaries.

One question which does not seem to be getting an airing and is worthy of asking is – where was the royal security in all of this? This is the third high-profile event in recent months – Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge being caught en dishabille being the other two – where you would have thought some level of security screening would have nipped the problem in the bud. As tax payers we pay enough for them, after all. Was David Jason’s crass Royal Bodyguard nearer the mark than we gave it credit for? We should be told.


“Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.”



Students of the physiognomy of our esteemed Chancellor of the Exchequer have remarked upon his propensity to smirk, a feature which is particularly pronounced the starker the news he has to convey. (There have been lots of opportunities recently to observe this trait). Smirking, a word which derives its origin from the Old English noun for a smile, smearcian, has developed a connotation of smugness and scornfulness. A smirk can indicate a degree of self-satisfaction and perhaps even insecurity and nervous strain.

Lord Chesterfield has something to say on smirking (natch), “a constant smirk upon the face and a whifling activity of the body are strong indications of futility”.

Futility, smugness, self-satisfaction – surely none of this can apply to our Gideon?


Taxing times

Starbucks coffee shop4

The state of Washington has just voted to legalise the smoking of marijuana – for aspiring pot tourists, please note that it is still illegal to buy and sell the stuff there. Seattle, the largest city in the State, houses the corporate headquarters of, amongst others, Starbucks, the coffee chain that first made its appearance on the London streets on the King’s Road (natch) in 1998.

I wonder whether the sweet aroma of the herb has been mixing with more pungent whiff of coffee beans in the corporation’s board room, judging by their latest wheeze. Recognising that the plea of poverty and poor operating results in the UK resulting in no profits upon which to pay tax was not finding much favour with the great British populace – I have noticed ever since their tax affairs came into the public arena that Starbucks joints are looking a tad empty these days – they have just launched a new concept – pay as much tax as you want when you want to.

I think it is a great idea. You can put your own value on the benefit you derive from the services and benefits that are funded by your tax pounds and make your own assessment as to how much you value them and what you want to contribute to maintaining them. To give a bit of rigour to the process perhaps your valuation should be a matter of public record so that your neighbours, friends and foes can see how generous or niggardly you have been. It will save having to fill in tax forms and the government having to employ a panoply of civil servants who seem to spend their time harrying the poor individual citizen rather than pursuing with vigour the corporates.



The Epitome of Insouciance?


The other day I was musing about what would be the epitome of insouciance and I couldn’t help concluding that it was the individual who let their claim to the Euromillions jackpot of around £63.8 million lapse.

Of course, some people don’t understand this enlightened approach to life. Shila Sachania, the newsagent in Stevenage who sold the winning ticket – 5, 11, 22, 34 and 40 with Lucky Star numbers 9 and 11 – reported that local residents had been hunting high and low for the missing ticket.

But look at this way – you spent your £2 in the spirit of making a charitable donation – after all, the chances of winning are so remote. Studiously ignoring your win until the 6 month deadline has passed means you are absolved from being plagued by long lost friends and, even worse, relatives who want to share in your good fortune. The money goes to good charitable causes – providing diamond encrusted nappies for a baby in Anglesey, bailing out feckless banks or EU countries or funding an unnecessary election for a Police Commissioner – saving you the angst of having to decide which charities to bestow your favours upon.

You are saved all the worries and can sail serenely on and enjoy the rest of your life.

That’s what I call class.

“What Comfort can the Vortices of Descartes give to a Man who has Whirlwinds in his bowels!”



Christmas will soon be upon us and Brussels sprouts will make their annual appearance on our plates. As is well known, these innocuous vegetables can make their own particular and unique contribution to the festive atmosphere.

Generally, flatulence is caused when the stomach and/or small intestine fails to digest completely foodstuffs so that when the material arrives in the large intestine fermentation by yeast or prokaryotes present in the gastrointestinal tract creates an excess of wind.

Flatulence-producing foods are those which are typically high in polysaccharides such as inulin and include beans, lentils, dairy products, onions, garlic, scallions, leeks, turnips, radishes, potatoes, cashews, oats, wheat, yeast in bread and brassicas. Not only do brassicas cause flatulence but they are said to increase the pungency of the wind.

The great Benjamin Franklin, more of whom anon, in his paper “A Letter to the Royal Academy” written as a satirical response to a call for scientific papers from the Royal Academy of Brussels – I cannot believe he wasn’t prompted by the idea association – suggested that research be undertaken into methods of improving the odour of human flatulence.

He wrote, “it is universally well known that in digesting our common food, there is created in the bowels of human creatures, a great quantity of wind. That the permitting this air to escape and mix with the atmosphere is usually offensive to company from the fetid smell that accompanies it. That well-bred people therefore, to avoid giving such offence, forcibly restrain the efforts of nature to discharge that wind. That so retained contrary to nature, it not only gives frequently great present pain but occasions future diseases such as habitual cholics, ruptures, tympanies and often destructive of the constitution and sometimes of life itself. Were it not for the odiously offensive smell accompanying such escapes, polite people would probably be under no more restraint in discharging such wind in company than they are in spitting or in blowing their noses.

My prize questions therefore should be, to discover some drug wholesome and not disagreeable to be mixed with our common food or sauces that shall render the natural discharges of wind from our bodies not only inoffensive but agreeable as perfumes”.

Alas for all of us, his challenge went unanswered.