Wash Your Ears Out . . .

I have terrible trouble with my ears. Partly this is due to the gradual failure with age of the neural circuitry which results in hearing loss. But, in addition, for some reason, possibly childhood illnesses and their complications – the infamous “double Mastoid” – the external auditory canals of both of my ears have narrowed considerably. The left hand one is still open and usable, the right hand one, not so. This was noticeably so as far back as the middle of the 1970s when a consultant in Salisbury, where we were living at the time, opined that “if he had his way” he would fit grommets. Quite who was stopping him from having his way I never found out, and when I have mentioned this in ENT Departments in later years they express astonishment and tell me this is or was only ever done for a finite period in the treatment of children – something to do with glue ear if I remember aright.

One upon a time, if one went to the Doctor’s and complained of poor hearing your ears would get inspected, the pouring in of warm olive oil by over worked mothers would be commanded for several days, and frequently for several times each day, and then the nurse at the surgery would produce her big brass syringe and you would get an almighty flush which left your ears feeling exquisitely clean and restored your hearing immediately. Then someone (the ear police ?) stepped in and suddenly syringing was non-PC. Off you went to the local hospital to the ENT Department where an expensive piece of equipment, a glorified vacuum cleaner, would be inserted (often painfully) into your ear canal and the wax sucked out. Sometimes it felt as if not only wax came out but part of one’s ear canal as well, and from time to time one would find a spot or two of blood lurking at the entrance to one’s ear which did not inspire confidence in the procedure.

Some 30 years ago, when living in the southern art of the Lake District we had a local GP who was an ex naval doctor. He had a splendid piece of kit which pumped, via a small jet, warm water into your ear. A very gently pulsating stream over a period of several minutes. The effluent therefrom was caught in a kidney basin and the amount of stuff which came out in that time had to be seen to be believed. Never have I seen a similar piece of kit until we arrived in our present abode, where Lo ! the practice nurses use something similar. Knowing that the “insert oil” instruction would be given I commenced doing this seven or eight days beforehand and then booked a wash out appointment. Yesterday was the big day and our lovely practice nurse peered down her apparatus into my right ear and pronounced “no wax there” which came as a bit of a surprise seeing as that ear is just about closed up. On the left, not so good, and in went the water for only a very short time before the nurse saw results coming out and inspected my ear again. “All clear”, she said and showed me the lump of sludge in her cardboard beaker.

My hearing aid has not been fitting into my ear snugly as it should do for a couple of weeks past which made me suspect that a trip to Mountainhall in Dumfries might be necessary, but since yesterday’s clean out I have not had so much trouble, so I suspect the lump of wax had been preventing the proper entry of the mould on the hearing aid.

A Doctor told me once that many of the health troubles of the third world (I do not say this facetiously) could be prevented by the regular application of soap and water, and yesterday’s treatment kind of bore that out.

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Business Management . . .

The results of three years on a business management course at the company’s expense . . .

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Playing with code . . .


(Test of html editor)

This is the view of the Water of Ken from the dining room of the Ken Bridge Hotel.

This page was constructed in HTML 5 with the assistance of the Geany text editor.
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Oh, Deary Deary Me . . .

This is another copy and paste job and that is all I can claim credit for. Ian Dunt first came to my notice when he published a book about leaving the European Union way back in 2016 or thereabouts. At the time it seemed to some to be a Domesday prediction, but as time has gone on everything he said would happen, or might happen has come about or been widely accepted. He is, some would say, an opinionated commentator, but he – unlike many others – knows his subject and understands it.

It is not a cheerful read, but I think it is a fair summary of the position at the end of this week.

The government has been defeated by MPs on propositions that they themselves backed two weeks ago. The whole edifice of blather and nonsense is coming tumbling down.

It’s commonly accepted that there’s no majority in the Commons for any given response to Brexit. But today it went a step further. It was inadequacy squared. It is clear now that there is not even a majority for the imaginary things MPs had only recently given a majority to. The whole British political system is imploding in on itself.

It might seem like reasonless chaos, but there is a moral message to what is happening here. You cannot govern on the basis of gibberish. You cannot make gurgled yearnings the basis for your negotiating posture. Because the lack of meaning in those original propositions means that they do not work as functional foundations of policy.

This is what the farce looks like when it’s untangled. May was defeated on her Brexit deal last month. It did not win the support of the opposition parties or her own MPs. They were concerned about the backstop, which would prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

There were then a series of amendments on what to do next. One of them was the Brady amendment. This substituted the backstop for “alternative arrangements”, which it did not specify, on how to avoid a border. Even though this detonated her own deal, May whipped her MPs to support it.

The Brady amendment passed and the prime minister was able to claim, seemingly with a straight face, that she now had a mandate from the Commons to go to Brussels to negotiate some sort of magical solution to Ireland. She was unable to say what the solution was. She held meetings in which she tried to get people to accept ideas which she could not describe.

But MPs also voted on another series of other amendments that night. These would have provided a mechanism to stop no-deal, by extending Article 50. They rejected all of them, but then supported one by Caroline Spelman which ruled out no-deal in the abstract. So MPs were saying they backed the principle of something while rejecting any of the powers which would allow them to secure it. Nevertheless, even that modicum of reason appears to have now destroyed the government all over again.

It was a pitiful, ridiculous night, one in which parliament threw its weight behind fantasies without having the courage to support realities. But compared to this evening it looked like a towering moment of statecraft.

Today, the prime minister put forward a motion which said that the House “welcomes” her statement from earlier this week – one which said she was still trying to negotiate these fantastical “alternative arrangements” for Ireland. But then it also stated, and here was the kicker, that it “reiterates its support for the approach to leaving the EU expressed by this House on 29 January 2019” when it backed the Brady and Spelman amendments.

The Brexit jihadists in the ERG didn’t like that, because it included the amendment ruling out no-deal. And the opposition parties didn’t like it, because it included the Brady amendment on alternative arrangements. The House was divided against itself. It was in such a mangled and contorted state that it could not form sustainable majorities on anything. It literally could not even agree on the things that it supported two weeks ago. If it was a person you would have it sectioned.

The government has based its negotiating position on amendments which are on the one hand meaningless and on the other hand powerless, and now it is surprised when they do not form the basis for a stable platform of parliamentary support.

It was a shameful moment, one which was conducted without any honour or dignity whatsoever. Even for this government, which is quite plainly the worst of our lifetime, it was a despairing spectacle. The prime minister did not even attend the Commons for the result. She sat elsewhere, probably watching on a TV in an office somewhere, her political career departing her physical body.

“Is there some way you can encourage her to return to the despatch box and tell us what her plan actually is?” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked John Bercow. The Speaker could not. Instead he peered at Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay and offered him the chance to respond.

The secretary of state sat unmoving in his seat. He is a man no-one had heard of, given arguably the most important ministerial appointment in post-war British history on the basis that he might not have the imagination to resign when he realised what it entailed. And now, when great moments come, he is unsurprisingly incapable of living up to them. He simply sat there. A government without a position, led by an absent prime minister, and a quivering, unmoving secretary of state.

“Or if the government chief whip wants to do so?” Bercow tried. No, he didn’t want to get up either. The government was gone. It had vanished along, with its imaginary mandate.

There is really no government. It exists only on a formal level. As a functioning entity, it has ceased to exist. Its deal was demolished. Its negotiating mandate, which never had any content anyway, was rejected. It is a wisp of smoke, a lingering smell from somebody dreadful who already left the room.

Now, finally, MPs have to take back control. The fact that this even needs saying, that it did not happen weeks ago, should be a source of eternal shame to this parliament. But even if they did not have the spine then, they must discover it now.

This is where myth-making and fairytales get you: precisely nowhere. We need a concrete, meaningful plan to stave off disaster, with a firm and realistic timetable. That begins with a mechanism – not a principle, a mechanism – for extending Article 50. If they don’t secure that soon, we’re all going the way of the government.

Ian Dunt’s blog for Thursday, 14th February 2019.

Ian Dunt is editor of Politics.co.uk and the author of Brexit: What The Hell Happens Now?

The opinions in politics.co.uk’s Comment and Analysis section are those of the author.

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Another Test

After a monumental change of settings according to the instructions in “Postie” ( which I should have read first, I know, I know) here is another attempt to post from the laptop – but why did it all work the first time round if the settings were (allegedly) wrong ?

(OK. So now I think I know how to make this thing work, but I am not at all sure I know why I do what I do to make it work !)

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Live from the Field

With the wonders of modern science (sounds like a boys’ book from the 1930s) it is possible to send a post in to one’s blog by email – or so they tell me.  The last time I tried this Word Press plugin it was a total failure, but a little test earlier seemed to show that it might now be a goer. So, here’s to modern science, even it if is not so terribly modern, and the only thing I have to think about now is am I going to be bovvered to tinker about when out and about to post things by email?

We shall see.

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Making Stuff Up ???

Do people do that ? I mean, really ?

Good heavens !

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Telling it like it is . . .

We have had over two and a half years of waffle, half truths and outright lies from the Government or its officers. The Labour Party -the official opposition – has nothing to contribute and long ago ceased to represent the labourers of this country. Such opposition as there is comes from parties like the Greens, the Scottish National Party or the Liberal Democrats and none of them get any credit for their efforts.

How refreshing are the speeches of Guy Verhofstadt in the European Parliament and the remarks of the president of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council. They seldom say anything which is not accurate, or relevant.  I was particularly taken with President Tusk’s recent remarks after meeting the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and so I append them in full below. His final sentence, colourfully expressed,  is one of the few pieces of truthful criticism which have come out of this whole debacle. There will always be a place in heaven for those who speak the truth whatever the criticism that may come their way.

President Tusk speaks to the press after his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

There are 50 days left until the UK’s exit from the European Union, following the decision and the will of the UK authorities. I know that still a very great number of people in the UK, and on the continent, as well as in Ireland, wish for a reversal of this decision. I have always been with you, with all my heart. But the facts are unmistakable. At the moment, the pro-Brexit stance of the UK Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, rules out this question. Today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for remain. I say this without satisfaction, but you can’t argue with the facts.

Today our most important task is to prevent a no deal scenario. I would, once again, like to stress that the position of the EU27 is clear, as expressed in the documents agreed with the UK government – that is the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration – and the EU27 is not making any new offer. Let me recall that the December European Council decided that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation. I hope that tomorrow we will hear from Prime Minister May a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse, in which the process of the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU has found itself, following the latest votes in the House of Commons.

The top priority for us, remains the issue of the border on the island of Ireland, and the guarantee to maintain the peace process in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement. There is no room for speculation here. The EU itself is first and foremost a peace project. We will not gamble with peace; or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. And this is why we insist on the backstop. Give us a believable guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland, and the UK will leave the EU as a trusted friend. I hope that the UK government will present ideas that will both respect this point of view and, at the same time, command a stable and clear majority in the House of Commons. I strongly believe that a common solution is possible, and I will do everything in my power to find it.

A sense of responsibility also tells us to prepare for a possible fiasco. The Taoiseach and I have spoken about the necessary actions in case of no deal; I know that you will also be discussing this shortly with the European Commission.

By the way, I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely. Thank you.

Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

06/02/2019 | 12:50

European Council
06/02/2019 12:50 Statements and remarks 70/19
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+32 476 85 05 43


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Welcome to my world . . .

I haven’t posted much lately, partly because I haven’t had the heart to do so, and partly because of not knowing what on earth to say. My mind has been much taken up with the shambles which our Parliament has demonstrated itself to be, which is a subject in its own right. There are calls for a General Election, which is the long time, only, and stock remedy for the sort of situation we now have, but knowing what we do of many of the present lot of MPs, and realising that there is not likely to be a wholesale dismissal of existing candidates and a fresh selection process to find newer and better ones, that our voting system is one that destroys any semblance of a relationship between what the voters ask for and the eventual composition of the House of Commons, one is left with a feeling of hopelessness about one’s inability to do anything constructive about the future of one’s country. And that also begs another question, to what extent IS it one’s country any more? The things we were brought up to believe that it stood for have apparently flown away while we were not looking, (were we perhaps deliberately misinformed ?) and nothing amiss is seen (for example) about appointing an adulterer, who has made his living by writing lies for a once respectable newspaper, as our Foreign Secretary. The man himself is unfitted for public office, and what can one say about a Prime Minister who makes such an appointment ?

We have watched this dreadful performance for weeks now, wondering what the most likely outcome is to be and yesterday, having discussed this on several occasions, we included in out supermarket shopping the beginnings of a stockpile of food. We will not eat very luxuriously, fresh food is likely to be unobtainable, so tinned food or anything with a long shelf life is to be preferred with enough of protein, fat and carbohydrate to sustain life on a daily basis until the International Red Cross comes to our aid (he writes hopefully). Whether we will have a reliable electricity or gas supply is uncertain as much of it comes in from outside sources. It was been pointed out last year that if the electrically driven pumps that keep our water supplies coming to us, and ensure that our sewage is taken away cannot work, or can only work for short periods each day, we shall indeed be living a third world existence.

No one seems to know which, or if any, medicines will be able to get into the country so people like myself who consume a great deal of tablets and capsules of a preventative nature will then have to live with all the heightened risk factors the drugs are designed to abate. I anticipate an increased death rate from things such as stroke and heart attack in my own cardiac community alone. The diabetics seem to be in worse case as much of their insulin comes from Europe and cannot be stockpiled for any length of time. I wonder whether somewhere in the civil service arrangements are in hand for increased rates of disposal of the dead and whether the Undertakers have been offered help to boost their capabilities ?

Eighty plus years ago we faced all these same questions (apart perhaps from the supply of medicines) as we faced the second world war of that century. Fortunately at that time there were many people still alive who had experienced the first world war, and sufficiently young as to be able to set in motion things like the Air Raid Precautions, Gas Masks, Evacuation drills, and Food Rationing and the rest, so that by 3 September 1939 we had arrangements, offices and people in place, and best of all we KNEW about what to do. As 29 March next approaches we have only rumours of arrangements in place (making use of shipping firms that have no ships !) and not a word of help, advice or encouragement from our atrocious non – Government.

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More Updates . . .

Word Press is now up to 5.0.3 and a whole bunch of other updates for themes and plugins have arrived as well. All installed successfully.

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