Greg's Occasional News & Views

25 June 2017

My goodness we’ve had a hot week – temperatures soared into the mid to high 80s and stayed there for much of the week – Scorchio indeed.

I know the boys and many/most of my British friends and acquaintances will recognise the “Scorchio” reference – it’s from a series of skits from the Fast Show (apparently known as Brilliant in the US) with Paul Whitehouse and an assorted collection of others including the gloriously funny Caroline Aherne.

Wednesday turned out to be the hottest June day since the great drought of 1976 – the temperature reached 34.4o (93.2o F) at Heathrow. Can you believe it? Growing up in southern California, my recollection is that we regularly had summer temperatures over 100. And, coupled with the Los Angeles smog, that truly was barely tolerable.

I appreciate that our “soaring” temperatures will be of little significance or interest to those of you residing in parts of Australia or in the southwest US who enjoy such temperatures much of the time. For the UK, however, it has been SCORCHIO!

It has to be said – Banburians are at their least attractive during any period of elevated temperatures. They strip off to reveal mountains of flabby, tattoo-covered flesh, their bellies cascading down to perform a delicate multi-coloured wobble as they shout at their children while progressing through the shopping precinct. It sometimes makes you think that the winter with its colder temperatures has something to recommend it after all.

Fortunately, I suppose, the “heatwave” broke on Thursday with much cooler temperatures, cloudy skies and a pleasant breeze. We’ve not yet, however, seen anything of the torrential downpours and thunder storms the meteorologists were predicting – Penelope’s garden could do with the rain! Speaking of which, she dug the first new potatoes the other day:

We enjoyed a lovely Father’s Day lunch with Nick, Lucy and Annabelle on Sunday. They kindly invited us to join them at the Saxon Mill in Warwick, a restaurant we had never been to before. And, my goodness it was good.

It’s located in a gorgeous setting right on the river Avon just below Guy’s Cliffe House which can be seen high above the other side of the river. As its name suggests, it was once the site of an old Saxon water-powered mill and there is still a working water wheel on display as the mill race flows under the heart of the building.

This being Father’s Day the place was absolutely heaving with families out for Sunday lunch. How they coped with the numbers – there were easily 200 or more folks dining when we were there – I do not know but the service was excellent and the food was delicious. Another five star review on TripAdvisor, I think.

After lunch we made our way to the Leamington Peace Festival which was good fun but, not surprisingly, SCORCHIO! There was face-painting for Bubble and two band stands where various artists performed. There were also lots of very interesting and inviting food stalls but, having just consumed an outstanding Father’s Day lunch, we had room for no more! The Festival has been going for twenty years now and both Pen and I were astonished that there were still such a large number of “hippies” selling hippie-style clothing, etc. to a similarly large number of modern-day hippies. What did I ever do with those flowered, bell-bottom trousers my mother once made for me? I could make a fortune.

We had a lovely outing to Coton Manor Gardens on Wednesday which, coincidentally, happened to be the hottest day of the “heatwave”. The gardens were magnificent and we whiled away a couple of very pleasant if somewhat sweltering hours meandering around. As if the gardens weren’t sufficient on their own, the place also has a menagerie of ducks, chickens and brightly coloured flamingos which snuffle and scratch their way around utterly unperturbed by the dozens of people wandering about. And, Ms Playchute came away with a few plants perfectly suited to a few spots in her garden as well as dozens of ideas. Win, win.

Thursday evening we were out (again), this time to the Banbury cinema for an NT Live streaming of Salomé, a new play by Yaël Farber from the National Theatre which was terrific. This version tells the tale from a different angle, putting Salomé at the centre of Hebrew resistance to the Roman occupation. Pen and I sat spellbound through the two hours and came away feeling completely drained.

Once again, however, the Banbury crowds for such a cultural sensation were somewhat less than immense. When we arrived about five minutes before curtain up, there were about half a dozen people waiting outside, presumably having arranged to meet a friend or two. When we went in to choose our seats we were somewhat spoiled for choice – there was one other patron waiting for the performance to begin! In the end, the audience for the show consisted of precisely 12 people.

There’s been lots of political nonsense this week. We had the start of the Brexit negotiations on Monday and then the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday opening the new session of Parliament.

By the end of the first day of the Brexit negotiations several papers were employing the metaphor of a football/soccer match, reporting that the UK was down 3-0 after the first five minutes. John Crace had an excellent article on Monday evening suggesting that David Davis, the Minister for Brexit, had “caved in” to the EU’s insistence that the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and the “divorce bill” had to be discussed first and significant progress made on those issues before the talks could turn to the really big issue of Britain’s future access to the single market.

Surprise, surprise! The EU had been saying this for months; for months the Conservative government had rejected that position and said they were going to discuss a future trade agreement at the same time as the “divorce bill” and citizen’s rights negotiations. It’s amazing what failing to secure a huge mandate in a general election can do to undermine your negotiating position.

The EU hadn’t made any concessions because it hadn’t needed to. It was the UK that wanted to leave the EU, not the EU who had wanted to leave the UK. He [Michel Barnier, the chief EU negotiator] had warned that there would be trouble if Britain left the EU, and if the Brits were stupid enough to go through with it, then they deserved everything they got. It wasn’t about the EU punishing the UK – it was just that the consequences of leaving the EU would inevitably be punishing.

There was also much media coverage of the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond’s, speech on Tuesday declaring that he wants the economy to be the top priority in the Brexit negotiations.

Philip Hammond said a comprehensive trade agreement, a transitional deal after the 2019 deadline for the end of talks, and a commitment to keep borders open should form a three-point Brexit plan for Britain.

Duh! Where have these people been living?

The Brexiteers want to keep immigrants out, precisely those immigrants the country needs to keep the economy and, especially, the NHS going. Never mind that our currency has already been devalued by about 20%, the NHS and seasonal agricultural employers are already finding it impossible to fill job vacancies and business will lose its unfettered access to the largest trading block in the world. I find it astonishing that it’s only now, after the Tories failed to gain the landslide election victory they were counting on, that some MPs are tentatively beginning to suggest that the focus needs to be on the economy. If they are truly serious about securing the best economic relationship with the EU, I have a great idea, let’s keep the free trade arrangements we currently have. In other words, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.

And finally, an interesting little aside – requests for French & German citizenship have sky-rocketed since Brexit. At least the Brits living in Europe get it.

Love to you all,

Greg

 

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