13 June 2021

Oh my goodness! What a lovely week – for the most part we have been enjoying pleasantly warm temperatures (high 60s, low 70s in old money), bright blue skies with the occasional fluffy cloud and a pleasant breeze. Just about perfect for lounging in the hammock. What a pity that there is so much to do!

The weather’s been so nice I’ve been coaxed out onto the road a couple of times this week. The exercise bike must be wondering why I’ve been neglecting it.

With all the mileage I’ve been clocking up I rolled into and through Oxnard on my virtual Pacific Coast ride early this week. The place names and landscape are beginning to become increasingly familiar – I’m more or less in home territory having grown up in Southern California.

Oxnard holds a special place in our family’s consciousness. My family, of course, knows this story and I’ve told it to just about everyone else I know. But, for the two strangers who occasionally drop into the Picayune, I will tell it once again. The rest of you can skip this bit.

Amongst other things for which it is noted, Oxnard is where my father used to take his hunting dogs to be trained in the art of spotting & marking a fallen bird and, perhaps most importantly, retrieving said bird. I know that most of his dogs passed this training with flying colours. They were, after all, Labrador Retrievers – noted for their swimming and retrieving skills.

There was one dog my father had particularly high hopes for and he delivered him to the trainer in Oxnard. (I think its name might have been Bullet but my brothers and sisters will have to confirm or refute that assertion). A few weeks later my father received a phone call from the trainer asking him to come up and see how Bullet was progressing. So, one morning he set off and drove to Oxnard to meet the trainer and the dog. They went out somewhere to shoot and my father dropped a duck for Bullet to retrieve. The dog marked the bird with pinpoint precision and set off like a fire engine, straight to the spot where the bird had fallen. He picked the bird up and proceeded back towards my father and the trainer (sitting in a duck blind, I guess).

About half way back the dog dropped the bird, paused and then lifted its hind leg and pissed all over it. He then picked it up and happily trotted back to my father, dropping the still dripping bird at his feet. My father was astonished and/or dumb-founded. The trainer said, “Doc, I’ve been training dogs for twenty-five years and I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve tried everything I know and I cannot break him of this habit.” Bullet proved to be the first and only one of my father’s dogs to “fail” training school. I believe he was given away to some kind soul somewhere and lived out his days as a much-loved family pet rather than a working retriever.

Pedalling furiously and with a strong wind at my back, I’ve continued down the coast and also rolled into and through Malibu on Wednesday. Malibu is, amongst other things, the site of Taverna Tony, an excellent Greek restaurant which Ben has taken us to on many of our visits to Southern California. I can particularly recommend the Lamb Kleftico which literally falls off the bone as you look at it. Delicious!

Kudos maximus to my niece Emily and her husband Rob who are walking the Pacific Crest Trail. They started at the southernmost point of the trail at the Mexican border and are steadily trudging their way up towards the Canadian border. I know they’ve done at least 700 miles so far and they’ve shared some great photos including this one of them setting up camp underneath some Joshua trees.

I know they started at the southern end of the trail so that the mountains would be free of snow by the time they got into the High Sierra but I have found it so much easier to cycle (virtually) from the Canadian border heading south – it’s all downhill, after all.

I ran across this link to a photo essay on the Guardian web site – from London to Beijing on the old Silk Road – some weeks ago but forgot to include it in the Picayune (I think). Some great photos.

The government was found to have acted unlawfully this week in awarding a Covid related contract to friends of the then Special Advisor to the Prime Minister. I’ve lost track of how many times they’ve now been found to have acted unlawfully since the liar Johnson became Prime Minister. Perhaps the most egregious example was his lying to the Queen in asking for Parliament to be prorogued to stifle dissent during the Brexit negotiations (which was found to have been unlawful) but there are dozens of others. The Health Secretary was found to have acted unlawfully over more than 500 Covid-related contracts, the Home Secretary was found to have acted unlawfully in sharing information without regard to whether those involved might ultimately face the death penalty and now we know that Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, acted unlawfully when the government awarded a contract without a tender last March to a polling company owned by long-term associates of his and Dominic Cummings.

I would say you couldn’t make this shit up but sadly it continues apace. I don’t understand why no one has been asked to resign, or better yet been sent to jail. So, as well as being an utterly incompetent government of liars we can now add law breakers to that assessment.

And, the calamity that is Brexit and in particular its impact on peace in Northern Ireland continues to rumble on. Apparently, the agreement that the UK negotiated, signed and pushed through Parliament in one day is not fit for purpose. Who could have guessed?

We agreed with the United Kingdom that the protocol was the only solution, ensuring the absence of a hard border for Northen Ireland [with the Republic of Ireland], we’ve been really debating that since years and we found the one and only solution.

Now, we have a treaty on that, the withdrawal agreement, it has been signed by both sides – Pacta sunt servanda [agreements must be kept]. It is importnat that we now implement the protocol. We have shown flexibility, we will show flexibility, but the protocol and the withdrawal agreement has to be implemented, completely.

The good part about an agreement, a signed treaty, is that both sides signed up to also a dispute settlement mechanism, and to remedial measures that can be taken. So, there are no unilateral actions, but there is an agreed dispute settlement mechanism with different steps.

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President

The thing that the loony Brexiteers don’t understand, (or pretend not to understand) even those like Lord Frost who were in the room when the discussions were taking place, is that there are only three possible “solutions” to the issue of the border in Northern Ireland. (1) The UK could remain part of the Customs Union with the EU, (2) Have a border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland or (3) Have a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Theresa May and the loony Brexiteers rejected option 1 and that particular ship has sailed. No one in the world is advocating option 2 – to resurrect a “hard” border between the Republic and Northern Ireland would reignite the “troubles” and would result in a return to the bombings and killings of the 60s and 70s. Ergo, option 3 is the only remaining solution. And, indeed, that is the solution that Johnson and Frost agreed to and signed. And the solution on which Johnson campaigned in the 2019 General Election with the mantra “Get Brexit Done.” And the solution about which Johnson had previously said no British Prime Minister could ever sign up to. And the solution about which he lied to the electorate and the political parties in Northern Ireland saying there would be no customs checks between NI and the rest of the UK. And the solution which he is now reneging on by unilaterally extending the “grace” period before all the changes are implemented.

There is, of course, a fourth option – for the UK to rejoin the EU but I’m afraid that won’t happen anytime soon.

This is not going to end well.

We’re off next week for a short break in Wales with the usual gang of suspects – first time away since we were able to escape for a short break in Dorset last autumn. Hopefully, the weather will co-operate although our previous experiences of camping in Wales do not bode well. In any event, it will be grand to be able to spend time with dear friends.

Finally, Happy Birthday to my dear friend Chip whose birthday is today. Also, to my nephew Greg for tomorrow and to my sister-in-law Pam on Tuesday – hope that each of you has a great day!

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating as much as you can, wear a facemask when you go out and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,


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