Tag Archives: David Cameron

Error Of The Week (3)

For some unaccountable reason, I have been thinking about the erstwhile British Prime Minister, David Cameron. No, I’m not talking about Brexit but that famous occasion when even his most ardent supporters might have had an inkling that he wasn’t up to the job.

I’m talking about the time in June 2012 when he and his wife drove off in separate cars, leaving behind his eldest daughter, Nancy, in the Plough Inn at Cadsden in Buckinghamshire. As the poor girl was only eight at the time, she probably wouldn’t have been as pleased at an enforced stay in the pub as a teenager would have. Fifteen minutes later an embarrassed Mrs Cameron returned to pick her up.

Parental amnesia, tempting as it may be in theory, is rare in practice and, indeed, it is hard to imagine how it could happen but it does. The scheduled Saudi Airlines flight SV832 from Jeddah to Kuala Lumpur, had to make an unscheduled return to King Abdul Aziz airport. The reason?

One of the passengers suddenly remembered that she had left her baby in the airport lounge and was kicking up a fuss, wanting the plane to turn round. The captain radioed Air Traffic Control, received the OK to return, woman and child were reunited, and the flight took off again.

As for the rest of the passengers, not only were they an hour behind schedule, they had to put up with a bawling baby for the duration of the flight.

The legacy of Cameron lives on in many ways.

Flag Of The Week

You would have thought that by now our betters would have realised the perils of having the hoi polloi comment on matters of high importance.

But if this story from Estonia I stumbled across this week is anything to go by, the lesson has not sunk in.

A new municipality, Kanepi, has been created out of what were formerly three councils in the south-eastern part of the country and to celebrate the administrative and financial efficiencies that were doubtless to be achieved, the council decided to waste some money on a referendum to design a new logo and flag.

The good folk of Kanepi, all 15,000 of them, decided on a bold green design which can only be described as looking like a cannabis leaf. Hardly surprising as kanep is Estonian for hash.

The Council did have the sense to establish the referendum as a consultative exercise – David Cameron, take note – but the people have spoken. In a smoke-filled room the Council have decided that they will stick with it but in a more stylised form.

We will see what transpires.

Shed Of The Week

As we meander up to the general election, it is good to be reminded that deep at heart the Tories share working class aspirations. Former prime minister, David Cameron, I learned this week, has just bought himself what many an ordinary man yearns for, a shed.

Mind you, it is no ordinary shed. It is hand-built shepherd’s hut and comes replete with sheep’s wool insulation, a wood-burning stove, (a chimney, I hope), Bakelite light switches and hardwood stable doors. Although you can get a basic Red Sky shepherd’s hut for as little as £16,500, this one is reported to have set him back a cool twenty-five grand, a smidge above the annual benefit cap for low-income families.

I just hope it is strong and stable.

What Is The Origin Of (96)?…


Hell in a handcart

If something is going to hell in a handcart or, as a variant, in a handbasket, it means that it is going from bad to worse, deteriorating rapidly. It graphic power comes from the concept of hell being underneath and a handcart speeding up uncontrollably as it goes downhill. I used to think it was an Americanism but now I’m not so sure.

What has given me pause for thought is an image in the wonderful 15th century stained glass windows at St Mary’s church in Fairford in Gloucestershire of a scolding wife being pushed in a wheelbarrow by a blue devil. So the concept of being wheeled to hell dates back to a time before Columbus took the wrong turning. And then there is the phrase, going to heaven in a wheelbarrow, a euphemism for going to hell. This was referenced, albeit obliquely, by Thomas Adams around 1618 in God’s Bounty on Proverbs, “Oh, this oppressor must needs go to heaven! What shall hinder him? But it will be, as the byword is, in a wheelbarrow: the fiends, and not the angels, will take hold on him”.

So the concept and the idiom, if we accept Adams’ use of byword to suggest idiomatic usage, would seem to be English but it indisputable that the first usage of our phrase appeared in print in the United States. Elbridge Paige in his undoubtedly useful book entitled Short Patent Sermons published in 1841 wrote, “[those people] who would rather ride to hell in a hand-cart than walk to heaven supported by the staff of industry”. Clearly the road to hell is speedier than the way to salvation.

Going to hell in a handcart is the variant that is most regularly used here in the UK. David Cameron, no less, said a little while ago, Government policy would “save a lot of lives that would otherwise would go to hell in a handcart”. But what of the variant, hell in a handbasket?

In the days when capital punishment was more the norm than, thankfully, it is these days, the executioner, using an axe or the guillotine, would occasionally put a basket in front of the block to catch the victim’s head. If the victim was truly guilty, perhaps they went straight to hell from the basket. The American Reverend Samuel Sewell – although he emigrated there from Britain at the age of nine – used the phrase in a handbasket in a figurative sense in his diary entry for 23rd March 1714, “Governor said he would give his head in a Handbasket as he would pass it”, a voluntary decapitation the equivalent of poking your eye out.

Perhaps the first recorded linkage of hell and handbasket was made in 1865 in I Winslow Ayer’s exposition of the conspiracy of the Order of the Sons of Liberty during the American Civil War to release prisoners from Fort Douglas and burn down Chicago. Reporting a speech made by Judge Buckner Morris, he wrote, “that thousands of our best men were prisoners in Camp Douglas and, if once at liberty, would send abolitionists to hell in a handbasket”.

The Corydon Republican of 1877 recorded an extended variant, “we’re all going to hell in a cast iron hand basket” whereas Dean Koontz in Blood Risk (1977) used a shorter version, “and it all goes to hell in a basket anyway”. Handcart or handbasket – you can take your choice. Either way, the alliteration is pleasing.

Change The Record


Father Christmas (TOWT) has b(r)ought me a record player. A rather splendid jobbie it is too, encased in a brown faux-leather attaché case, with a red interior with the letters G.P.O embossed in the inside upper lid. It can handle all formats of vinyl – records that go at 33 and a thirds, 45 and 78 revolutions a minute – and its tip of the head to modernity is a slot for a USB stick – a free one is provided – which can be used to record the vinyl into MP3 format or play music content from the stick through the player’s speakers.

The sound quality is surprisingly good, especially if you wire it up to play through an amp. Ever since digitally formatted music became available there has been a long (and for many, tedious) debate as to the respective merits of digital versus vinyl. You will be relieved to know that I won’t be adding to the debate save to say that there is something undeniably romantic, at least for someone of a certain age, in removing a 12 inch circle of grooved vinyl from a record sleeve and placing it over the metal rod. Releasing the arm from its holder and positioning it carefully on to the edge of the vinyl you are greeted with a hiss and then slowly but surely the music plays.

What you lose in the clinical precision of digital music, you gain in excitement. No play will be the same because of the condition of the stylus or of the record – the simple act of putting the stylus on or off the record inevitably leads to some surface damage and the stylus is marvellously efficient at collecting dust and fluff that previously was imperceptible to the human eye. And the lack of portability or at least the need for mains electricity means that you are required to stay in the same room as the player to enjoy the music. Your music is no longer an ephemeral accompaniment to your everyday life. It becomes an event in itself.

One of the most shocking features of Lord Ashcroft’s revelations about the youthful indiscretions of David Cameron’s time at Oxford was that he spent time listening to Supertramp. No wonder, allegedly, that it drove him to smoking dope. I know how he felt. The problem with having a new form of music reproduction is that you relive that time in your youth when you only had one record to play. You played it ad nauseam so you were painfully familiar with every nuance of every track.

TOWT thoughtfully provided me with some vinyl carefully selected from the discards in the local charity shop bins and the one she selected was Breakfast In America by, of course, Supertramp. They were never one of my favourites but by Boxing Day I was familiar with every word and every chord of their 1979 opus. It was only when friends and relatives had left after the Christmas break and sobriety had returned that I was able to get up into the loft and retrieve my boxes of vinyl albums.

It had always been a retirement task to sort through them to see what gems were lurking there and discover whether they had escaped the ravages of prolonged confinement and the dust and damp of ages. They are now in my study and during the course of the next few months I will be playing them and, where I don’t have CD equivalents, recording them. In this new series I will share some of my discoveries, the stories and memories associated with them and what I think of them now. I will have some fun even if you don’t!