February 6, 2016
by Paul
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Assange: From Townsville to Knightsbridge via Cloud Cuckoo Land

In Evelyn Waugh’s “Handful of Dust”, the fortunate owner of a fantastic Gothic English country pile, Tony Last, has an idyllic life which is gradually brought crashing down by a series of unfortunate events including betrayal by his wife. He ends the book trapped as a prisoner in the Brazilian jungle – the plaything of an insane tribal chief – having to continually read Charles Dickens’ “Little Dorrit” to the inhabitants. Continue Reading →

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February 6, 2016
by Paul
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Migrants’ benefits debate is a proxy channel for xenophobia in some quarters

“EU referendum: David Cameron wins Theresa May’s backing” – reads the Guardian headline this morning.

Hello? Theresa May is the Home Secretary! It is incredible that her backing for Cameron on this is presented as some sort of surprise. What the Prime Minister does should automatically have the backing of the whole cabinet. Are we saying that there are cabinet ministers who do not support the Prime Minister on his referendum stance?

The cabinet’s support for the PM on a crucial national matter appears to be in question. This is quite an extraordinary state of affairs. Continue Reading →

January 30, 2016
by Paul
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A 30 second video which sums up why Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States of America


This post carries the normal proviso that I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about so anything I predict is likely to be pure nonsense.

I’ve just done something which I very occasionally do. I last did it in February 2007. I put a modest little wager on who will be the next President of the USA. I put money on Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton. Continue Reading →

January 29, 2016
by Paul
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Dorothy Thornhill wows Newbury and West Berkshire Lib Dems

Dorothy Thornhill at Bournemouth

What a real breath of fresh air to have Dorothy Thornhill, Mayor of Watford and a newly created Baroness, as our guest speaker at Newbury and West Berkshire Lib Dems’ annual dinner tonight!

With over 20 years experience as a councillor and 14 years in office as the elected mayor of Watford, Dorothy speaks from real grass roots experience about a raft of subjects, but yet does so with down-to-earth ease. Her real skill and passion particularly showed when she answered questions about housing.

Thank you Dorothy for coming down to Newbury on a blustery and drizzly Friday night – you were a superb speaker and gave us all a real morale boost to get out there and get stuff done in the #libdemfightback!

January 29, 2016
by Paul
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This week’s guilty secret – Gladys Knight and the Pips

I’ve been listening to this one a lot this week. The orchestration on this recording is particularly powerful – the drums, the horns and the strings are very effective. And, of course, there is the fantastic voice of Ms Knight. It sold over a million copies. The lyrics by Jim Weatherly (who also wrote that other Gladys Knight and the Pips classic, “Midnight train to Georgia”) are wonderful because, I suspect, most people have someone special they can dedicate this to and mean every word.

She won’t read this, so I won’t embarrass her, but I mean every word of this song about my darling lady wife, Janet.



January 29, 2016
by Paul
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Does a perceived distrust of politicians justify redistributing an image meme that was discredited 14 months ago?

Meme debatesThe image meme above went the rounds of social media in November 2014. It was roundly and conclusively fisked by Isabel Hardman on the Spectator Coffee House blog. I noticed that the meme was getting re-distributed a week ago. I pointed out to the people sharing this meme that it had been thoroughly discredited well over a year ago. Interestingly, several replied saying that “most people” think that’s how parliament behaves so it’s not a problem distributing it.

My indignation hit about twelve on the Richter scale. Continue Reading →

January 29, 2016
by Paul
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Book review: ‘This Boy’ by Alan Johnson

this boyWhile this is a very late review, hopefully it will persuade anyone left in the political community, who has not read Alan Johnson’s “This Boy”, to read it.

I tend to read at a snail’s pace and also have a habit of (accidentally) reading volumes of memoirs back to front chronologically. I read both Alan Clark’s and Chris Mullin’s volumes backwards. I read and reviewed Alan Johnson’s later work “Please Mister Postman” last summer. Just before Christmas I was kindly loaned “This Boy”.

The book is a remarkably detailed, harrowing account of a one-parent (and then no-parent) family living in 1950s/60s London in grinding, distressing poverty as the parent suffers increasingly failing health. Abandoned by her husband, Johnson’s mother, Lily, works all the hours God sends, and struggles bravely to bring up her children, Linda and Alan. Living in appalling slum conditions, they manage to survive through various trials and hardships. Linda emerges as a great confidante of her mother and a strong pseudo-parent for Alan as she grows into a young adult. Continue Reading →

January 12, 2016
by Paul
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David Bowie – some memories

It’s a god-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair

So the beginning words of “Life on Mars” emerged from a slightly tinny, small record player in the fourth form common room of my school. A classmate from Plymouth had bought the single. It was about the only record we had between us. We played it almost continuously. We always left it on for the studio phone ringing and the bit of chat at the end. Continue Reading →

January 10, 2016
by Paul
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Is David Cameron mixing up cause and effect?

David CameronParents should take lessons in how to control children – PM” – runs the main headline in the Observer this morning.

Expansion of parenting classes is certainly something to be welcomed. When I was first a parent, I thought it was very strange that parents were offered classes on breathing techniques during pregnancy and pelvic floor exercises, plus inspection of changing areas and bottle procedures after birth, but not a word of guidance after that, until primary school “parent/school agreements”. Continue Reading →

January 10, 2016
by Paul
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Ed Stewart’s last Junior Choice from just a fortnight ago

Ed Stewart

I was saddened by the news of the death of Ed Stewart and express my sympathy and sincere thoughts to his family and friends upon their loss.

“Stewpot” cheered up many a weekend morning as I was growing up. His cheery, cheeky bonhomie and his wonderful old favourite records were a very regular backdrop to our lives.

Please do listen to his last “Junior Choice“, broadcast just a fortnight ago on Christmas Day. It has all the usual banter and records, including the marvellous “Sparky’s magic piano”.

A great broadcaster. The world will be a little poorer without “Stewpot”.

January 6, 2016
by Paul
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Mozart’s Lacrimosa – great music for a damn good murder

Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor was used at the start of the first episode of the new series of “Endeavour” on ITV. It’s a great piece to be used, with no other sound, to show deeds of murderous mayhem.

It’s been used on Midsomer Murders and also (from memory) on either or both of Morse and Lewis.

A fantastic tune for a good murder!

January 5, 2016
by Paul
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Flood protection or overseas aid? A false choice

Help UK
Over the festive period, I saw the image on the right on a social media site, stating, against a backdrop of flooded housing:

It’s time to STOP sending money abroad and help people in the UK now. LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE if you agree?

A comment under the image mentioned:

…the 250 million we are giving to India to fund their Space Programme.

Oh dear. Where to start? Call me an old pedant, but I’m naturally suspicious of any entreaty which feels the need to include block capitals. But that’s just one of my little foibles.

My mind boggled at the idea that we are giving “250 million” to India to fund their Space Programme. It took just a quick Google to see where that came from. Our old friend the Daily Mail had a remarkably thoroughly, if one-sidedly, researched article on 15th February 2015 which was headlined as follows: Continue Reading →

January 2, 2016
by Paul
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When the words of Max Bygraves ring true…

greenham“You need hands”, wrote Max Bygraves. Since New Year’s Eve these words have rung very true for me. I tripped while running on that day. But I didn’t trip in any old place. I tripped right in front of a (disused) nuclear weapons bunker and Star Wars film backdrop (just near the site of my photo above).

Well, if you’re going to trip, why not do it in style?!

I was able to break my fall with my hands. But they took a bit of a battering and are somewhat sore. One of them showed a tiny possible fracture under X-ray and I’m awaiting a call back from something remarkable called “The Virtual Fracture Clinic”.

So I am re-learning why you need hands. …For those important little things like putting on and taking off socks, which, with partially decommissioned mits, take ages.

Blogging is another thing that needs hands. So I am delighted to be back tapping away at the keyboard.

Let’s celebrate the moment with the remarkable Sex Pistols’ version of the Bygraves classic: Continue Reading →

January 2, 2016
by Paul
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We’re all doomed! (2) – good riddance to 2015 and hello to the future

2015 was a bit of a devil of a year. We lost Charles Kennedy. That was, of course, an immensely sad blow for Charles’ family and friends. It was a shattering and tragic blow for the Liberal Democrats as a party. Unexpectedly, it brought home what a treasure he was to the party. All that is decent, humourous, humane, human and passionate about our party can be summed up in the words: “Charles Kennedy”.

I’ve also lost, or heard bad news about, several dear friends, colleagues and acquaintances, all cut short in their prime.

Upon hearing the news of one of these tragic pieces of news, a friend said:

It doesn’t make any sense.

Indeed it does not. When friends with everything to live for suddenly have their lives cut short, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

The only sensible thing one can do is live everyday as if it is your last, a philosophy I’ve tried to have for a long time. You never know when one’s turn comes – death and taxes and all that. Hold tight to your loved ones and friends. Be nice to others and enjoy yourself.

Happy new year! Let’s hope 2016 is better than 2015!

January 2, 2016
by Paul
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We’re all doomed!

“We’re doomed The Dad’s Army story” is a wonderful BBC comedy drama about the evolution of the much-loved comedy classic. I recommend watching it, if you missed it. It’s available on BBC iPlayer here for the next 25 days.

It’s a great programme which offers some interesting insights into the show’s development. It has a marvellous cast, notably John Sessions as Arthur Lowe.