5 February 2017

I’m delighted to report that Lady Penelope has all but recovered from her recent cold, cough, and chest maladies. Thank you to all those who sent good wishes. She’s nearly back to her original self and, once again, an increasingly frequent visitor to the gym. During her confinement she very kindly passed on to me a very minor version of the original but since I do not have any asthmatic tendencies, my own confinement was short and sweet.

A week is a long time in politics.

Wow! Nowhere or at no time has that seemed to be more true than over the past week. OMG! Never mind that the President lies – that’s what politicians do. Never, I don’t think however, have we had a president who lies not because he wants to persuade people to support him and his policies, but rather simply because he doesn’t like the truth and wishes to deny the evidence. Obsessively fragile ego. Sad.

The cack-handed introduction of his travel ban which targets those of an alternative faith is simply absurd. Not only is it in conflict with all values of human decency, it’s a huge distraction which does nothing to make America any safer.

An article in The Atlantic magazine makes the point much better than I could. A few extracts:

The 9/11 attacks were carried out by 19 men—from Saudi Arabia (15), the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt (1), and Lebanon (1).

None of these countries is on Trump’s list.

Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.


As for refugees . . . Trump’s action ‘is a response to a phantom menace.’ Over the last four decades, 20 out of 3.25 million refugees welcomed to the United States have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on U.S. soil, and only three Americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees—all by Cuban refugees in the 1970s.

I used to be fond of using the expression, “You couldn’t make it up!” Sadly, that is exactly what’s happening – made up fantasy politics derived from fantasy “news” which regrettably impacts on us all.

Just one recent example: After the Quebec mosque attack Fox News tweeted that the suspect arrested was Moroccan born.

Not true. In other words, a lie. It took the Canadian Prime Minister’s intervention to finally get Fox to delete the tweet but the lie was out there, people will have seen it and those who get the majority of their “news” from outlets such as Fox will have believed it.

I am currently reading The Sellout by Paul Beatty which won the Mann Booker prize this year and I ran across the following which I thought was pretty good advice.

“Factio vestri aevum, non vestri calceus amplitudo.”

Act your age, not your shoe size.

And, as if the childish tantrums and illogical antics of Mr Trump were not sufficient to keep us horrified all week, in the UK we’ve just taken another step towards the shit-storm that will be Brexit. The debate on triggering Article 50 took place this week and the vote on the second reading resulted in a comfortable majority for the government. There was a lot of rehashing of old arguments and trivial point-scoring in the debates but what was interesting (to me, at any rate) were the speeches by some prominent MPs who supported Remain but who now have “reluctantly” changed their tune, even though they know it’s going to be disastrous. Take George Osborne, for example (yes, please – take him), the former chancellor who was largely responsible, along with Cameron, for this shambles. While he did mildly rebuke the government for prioritising immigration over the economy, he revealed that he would reluctantly vote in favour. It’s something, isn’t it, when career politicians can deduce which way the wind is blowing – if Osborne ever wants another chance in government (which he does) he needs to forget that he said that voting to leave the European Union would be the worst possible disaster for the UK and get on board with the new fantasy politics. Because, what’s more important – your career or the future economic well-being of your country?

Ken Clarke was one of the few Tory MPs who refused to support the proposition that the UK was headed for a land of perennial sunshine and golden opportunity:

Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and you emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries around the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we had never been able to achieve as part of the European Union. . . Nice men like President Trump and President Erdoğan are just impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access. No doubt there is somewhere a Hatter holding a tea party with a dormouse.

Fantasy politics. In what alternative universe is a “middle-ranking” country of 65 million able to negotiate a better trade deal than one of the largest trading blocks in the world numbering some 450 million? The Alice in Wonderland analogy is very apt.

We’ve had a very busy week.

Wednesday we went to the Silver Matinee showing of The Girl on the Train at the Banbury Fleapit. As most of you will know, I’m a big fan of the Silver Matinee – £3 tickets and free coffee and biscuits. No wonder the place is always packed.

Both Pen and I had read the book so we knew what was coming. It was interesting, though, to see how the book was adapted for the screen and transformed for the American marketplace. I have to say, we both found it oddly disconcerting at times as the story unfolded along the Hudson and the railway journey into NYC, rather than along the grimy back branches of Southern Rail into London where the train crawls along and stops for no apparent reason several times on each journey. This was, I thought, a case where the book was indeed better than the film. Still, the story is a compelling one and it was well adapted, I thought. Emily Blunt was very good and very convincing as the alcoholic former wife of the villain who knows something but struggles to dredge it up from her drink-befuddled memory.

Thursday evening we had a great night out – an early dinner at Pizza Express (yes, I had vouchers!) followed by another trip to the Banbury Fleapit, this time to see the NT Live showing of Amadeus which was simply sensational. It’s been a while since we attended any of the NT Live stuff – somehow we kind of lost touch with their updates but it’s a great way of being able to see and, in many ways, enjoy the atmosphere of a high-priced London show without having to make the trip up to town.

I think I’ve written before about these streaming events – it’s somewhat more akin to watching something on the television then being in the theatre itself as you get all the different camera angles and closeups. However, you also get the atmosphere of being in the theatre as you get all the audience noises and reactions.

The Amadeus production was, as I say, absolutely fabulous – the three hours simply flew by. I’m sure most of you have seen the film if not the play at some point so you know the story. Lucian Msamati plays Salieri and he was outstandingly good and Adam Gillen plays the young, rowdy and disgusting Mozart, the musical prodigy. When Mozart arrives in Vienna he is determined to make a splash. Awestruck by his genius, court composer Antonio Salieri has the power to promote his talent or destroy his name. Seized by obsessive jealousy he begins a war with Mozart, with music, and ultimately, with God.

And, if that weren’t enough excitement for one week, this weekend we are down to our friends Sue & Stuart on the south coast for more fun and distraction – Friday night’s performance by Miles Jupp at the Brighton Dome.

Not sure I can stand the pace!

Much love to you all,




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