Out Now!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Sing those blues away


I read this week that we don’t wash our hands long enough. I was mortified. I always wash my hands though sometimes, I confess, briskly in a burst of cold water and a quick rub of the towel. It seems the whole Keyton household should have gone down with the plague decades ago and more than once.

But helpful pundits have once more saved the day—a simple rule for the simple-minded. We should all wash our hands to the tune of two verses of the national anthem, and if you don’t know the national anthem ie the very simple-minded, two verses of Happy Birthday sung slowly.

I love it. Not only are my hands gleaming clean my ego is too. It’s so self-affirming:
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday dear Michael,
Happy Birthday to me.
Personally, I think twice is not enough, though I get very strange looks on leaving the bathroom.
Then again, if I was to get to the second verse of our anthem:
O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall.
Confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks
On Thee our hopes we fix
God save us all.

I’d wash my hands with even more gusto and probably get locked away.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Sanctimonious drivel

Recently we have been subjected to the most sanctimonious drivel about the glorious impartiality of English law. The case in question was that of the High Court’s decision that Brexit could not be set in motion without the prior agreement of Parliament. I’m not concerned with the legalities here. I am concerned that to dare question the Judge’s impartiality is to verge on secular blasphemy. Somehow we are expected to believe that these same judges who have European interests and sympathies become judicial deities when they put on their wigs.

Law is a fine thing and beautifully expressed in Robert Bolt’s play: A Man for all Seasons.
When asked whether he would give the Devil the benefit of the law, Sir Thomas More answers in the affirmative, asking his son-in-law whether he would cut a great road through the law to get at Satan. William Roper has no doubt about the matter. He would cut down every law in England to do so.
Thomas More responds thus:

“And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you—where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast—man’s laws, not God’s—and you cut them down . . . d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

It’s a fine speech, one of a whole canon that sanctifies English law. I also believe the principle applies equally well to nation states. They too in their traditions and variety stand as bulwarks against the tyranny of empires from—Napoleon to Brussels. The same might also reflect the tension between perceived States’ rights Vs Washington in America. Levelling flat —however grand the motive—is a dangerous game.

But we are talking about law and there is more than a hint of hypocrisy in all this. In fact it exemplifies the Hans Christian Anderson story of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes,’for it is not only the law we are expected to worship, but those who interpret the law; and judges for all their robes and long wigs are not even emperors, though some would demur.

Marx hit the nail on the head when he diagnosed all law as essentially class based, developed in the interests of the ruling class. It might, as a byproduct, defend the property rights of the poor, but it is the rich who benefit the most or the dominant power in the establishment at any given time.

In its crudest form this is best illustrated by the career of the notorious Judge Jeffries, the ‘hanging judge’ and champion of King James II. Jeffries was made Chief Justice after convicting one of the king’s opponents, Lord Russell, despite a previous judge having serious doubts about his guilt. The solution then – and now – was to replace the judge. After the 1685 Monmouth rebellion against James, Judge Jeffries hung hundreds, often in batches, and transported hundreds others to the West Indies. A grateful king elevated Jeffries still further, making him Lord Chancellor.

The right interpretation will get you far in the British establishment, but when the establishment changes . . .?
In the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, the Catholic James was deposed and replaced by a Protestant Dutchman, William III. Jeffries was arrested and died in the tower of London a year later. His interpretation of the law was not to taste of the new regime.

The Americans, though less brutal, recognise the reality of politics and justice when it comes to the composition of the Supreme Court. There, political balance or lack of it is openly debated.

 In Britain 7% of us are privately educated as opposed to 75% of senior judges. And yet we cling on to the fiction that judges are socially, culturally and politically impartial, and that this impartiality can never be questioned

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The burnt pan refurbished

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The same applies to pans

Friday, 4 November 2016

Learning the hard way

We have just come back from the Lake District, but that’s a different story. Three days before we went I stewed some apples, took my eyes from the ball, and ended up burning the pan. The apples tasted quite nice actually, nutty and toffee flavoured. The pan was something else. A thick black crust looked back at me, as to to say, ‘Come on big boy, do your worst.’

It was clearly a case for Dr. Google, and I scanned sites, British and American, on the best way of dealing with a badly burned pan. Each one assured me they had the answer, that this method or another would deal with the problem in no time at all. Certainly nothing so horrid as scraping.

In order then:

Leave it overnight soaking in Coca Cola—Rubbish.
Leave it overnight soaking in vinegar and baking powder. That looked promising, gave off a nice fizz at least. Verdict? Rubbish.
Soak it in washing powder. Again: Rubbish.
Some suggested boiling with said concoctions beforehand. I tried that, too.
I finally admitted defeat and set to it with a great ball of wire-wool and elbow grease. This is how far I’ve got so far. I think it makes quite a pretty pattern, a fantasy archipelago but not the pan I started out with before burning the apples.

At last I tried the final cure-all. Boil a dishwasher tablet in some water and leave overnight. I did better than that. I left it soaking while we went of to the Lakes. And came back to find this:

A fresh ball of wire wool and elbow grease it is then, with no quarter given and no further truck with quackeries. No stewed apples for a time either.

--> --> -->