Cold off the press: News from Britain

Let’s start with news from Britain, since that’s what we allegedly talk about here. Then we’ll wander off topic, as we usually manage to.

In June, scientists took water samples from Loch Ness to see if they could find a “biological explanation” for reports of the Loch Ness monster.

The plan was to test fragments of scales, skin, feathers, fur, feces, and urine–all that fun stufff that gets left in the water and carries DNA. (Sorry, I didn’t mean to ruin your swim, but really, what did you think happened in there?) They expected to find invasive species and unspecified surprises down there (I know, it’s in the nature of surprises to be stuff you can’t list, so I shouldn’t complain, but I will anyway). What they didn’t really expect to find was Nessie, but dropping her name isn’t a bad way to get attention. And even scientists like attention–or some of them do anyway.

I haven’t seen any reports on what the study found. Probably because Nessie doesn’t like attention. She eats researchers if they get too close to the truth.

You heard it here first.

Irrelevant photo: The Cornish coastline. Or a small bit of it anyway.

To keep ourselves from being eaten, let’s take a couple of giant steps back from the water and talk about politics instead. I’ve been convinced ever since–wait: let me take my mittens off so I can count. Hmm. Turns out it’s since the Conservatives took power that I’ve been convinced the country’s being run by a random collection of amateurs. But that’s come into focus in a new way recently.

In early November, then-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told a technology conference that he “hadn’t quite understood” how heavily the U.K. relies on the crossing between the ports of Dover and Calais. The full quote is, “I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this, but if you look at the UK and look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing.” Which led to headlines about him having just discovered that Britain is a island. And to some of his allies feeling that they had to tell the press that of course he knows it’s an island.

On behalf of all voters in the country, I’d like to say that we were relieved to know that. Every last one of us.

Dom has now resigned and is once again a lowly member of parliament. Having negotiated the Brexit agreement, he resigned to protest it. If I’m missing a piece there, someone please let me know where it got to. I’m happy to blame the cat for shoving it under the couch.

But back to this passing whim Britain had to turn itself into an island: In case your geography’s as hazy as Dom’s is, Dover’s in Britain. Calais’s in France, Paris is the capital of Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia has been divided so that the blouse is now separate from the trousers (or pants if you’re American). It just didn’t work as a jumpsuit but it still looks very nice with a scarf.

Rhode Island is not an island.

I hope that helps.

Anyway, welcome to the world, Dominic. No man is an island, but any number of countries are.

Dom isn’t alone in bringing limited knowledge, limited talent, and an impressive amount of candor to his [now former] job. Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said in September, “I freely admit that when I started this job, I didn’t understand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted issues that there are in Northern Ireland. I didn’t understand things like when elections are fought, for example, in Northern Ireland, people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice versa.”

If you’re American, that’s sort of like someone in charge of civil rights legislation saying they hadn’t known the country has a history of slavery, or that it still matters. Only, of course, the U.S. isn’t doing civil rights legislation anymore. All that unnecessary regulation is being rolled up and stuffed in the back of the closet, right next to the jeans that haven’t fit since 1964. By people who haven’t noticed that our history of slavery still drips toxins into our civic bloodstream. Or who’ve noticed but think it’s fine.

Sorry. I tried to be funny about that. Honest I did.

On a brighter note, U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, who’s responsible for media as well as culture, announced that he doesn’t read newspapers. That led the prime minister’s office to announce that she does read newspapers. 

The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Yes, we all think as one over here.

When Wright became culture secretary, to prove he was up to date with modern media, he quick set up a Twitter account. I took a quick scroll through it just now and found him pleased, delighted, feeling very positive, and feeling really positive. It was all I could do to tear myself away but I knew you’d want me to report back, so here I am, energized and enlightened by my trip. 

Four days after he announced that he didn’t read newspapers, he was in the news again to explain not what he doesn’t do but what he does: He plays with Legos.

“Putting Lego together and pulling it apart again is a very therapeutic process,” he said. He mentioned having built a Death Star from 4,500 Lego bits.

It explains a lot about how policy gets assembled.

Enough politics. If we do any more of it, we’ll all get depressed.

In the Netherlands, a 69-year-old went to court to change his birth date so he’ll be twenty years younger. He compared being the wrong age to being transgender. He was born in the right body but the wrong year, although he didn’t put it quite like that.

What he did say was this: “When I’m 69, I am limited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car. I can take up more work. When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer. When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”

He will also be less prone to arthritis. Now that I’m 23 again, my joints are like a 23-year-old’s. I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

But enough about me. This is about him, because he sounds like the kind of guy who’d want it to stay that way.

“It is really a question of free will,” he said.

His website says he’s in a long-term relationship with–oh, I don’t know, it was some moderate description like the most wonderful woman in the world. He’s so much in love that he spends his time on Tinder.

Humans. They make me crazy.

For no good reason, that makes my atheistic mind turn toward religion–not as in converting to one or several but as in thinking about the fact that they exist. The Church of England has created a program that allows Alexa–that clever little eavesdropper in your home (or not; I have no idea how you live or what you drag into your living room)–. Can we start that over? I made a mess of it. It programs Alexa to tell you who god is. Pour it in her electronic ear and she’ll also be able to answer questions like “what is the Bible?” and “what is a Christian?” She can say prayers for you, find nearby churches, and answer questions about weddings and funerals.

I can also answer questions about weddings and funerals: At a funeral, you bury someone. Or cremate them. Ideally, they’re dead before this happens. At weddings, two people agree to spend some absurd amount of money feeding their friends and family and getting them drunk. At the end of it, the community agrees to recognize them as a couple. Without the food and alcohol, tradition holds that they would still be single.

In some traditions, neither event is complete unless there’s a fight.

But the Church of England isn’t the only religious group to have enlisted Alexa. She’s been converted to any number of religions, even though they all claim that theirs is the only real god or set of gods. In a way I can only think of as godlike, Alexa embraces them all.

Google, meantime, has introduced Smart Compose, which will complete your sentences as you type an email. You thought predictive text was getting you in trouble? This will bring you a whole new level of mayhem to your life, introducing bland insincerity, cliched phrases and emotions, and things you didn’t mean to say at all. You write, “I haven’t” and it supplies “seen you in a while.” Since the cat’s about to jump on your keyboard, you don’t notice that you haven’t actually typed “had a chance to tell you how sorry I am to hear about your father’s death.”

Then the cat lands on the keyboard and hits a few random keys, triggering an onslaught of pre-programed joy at your upcoming reunion.

“Let’s get together soon,” Smart Compose writes. “Glad to hear life’s treating you so well.”

I love technology.

The army’s been taking a non–technological approach to predictive text. It’s been accused of dictating what soldiers say when they talk to the press.

Child Soldiers International spotted a series of identical quotes from graduates of the Army Foundation College. They date back to 2015. And the graduates didn’t even have to type that initial word.

I can’t find a link between this and the last paragraph, but Scotland’s ahead of England in finally putting a woman’s face on the £20 note. Who’s the trailblazer? Kate Cranston. What did she do? Um, she gave Charles Rennie Mackintosh enough money to start his famous Mackintosh tearooms. At least the papers (I do read the papers) tell me they’re famous, which I’m grateful for because I’d never heard of them. But I’m a foreigner here, on top of which Scotland’s at the far end of the island and that’s a long way to go when all you want is a cup of tea and you’ve got a perfectly good kettle on the counter.

Cranston was “a leading figure in the development of the tearooms.”

Now there’s the stereotype-smashing spirit that would make any feminist proud.

Speaking of pride, the midterm elections in the U.S. saw a dead pimp elected to the Nevada state assembly on the Republican ticket. 

Can Britain, for all its amateurishness, match that?

74 thoughts on “Cold off the press: News from Britain

  1. I have seen a very reliable documentary about the Loch Ness monsters, apparently they are a family and they have adventures whilst only admitting their presence to two school age children and a red haired man with bagpipes…

    I say documentary it *might* have been a cartoon in my childhood…

    As for Politics, the sooner Lucy Brazier and I from Portergirl.com are in charge the better!! We are working on it!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I get British news from an iNews email and it sounds alarmingly like U.S. news! But Brits can’t Trump the daily barrage of lies and shenanigans from our Chief Executive. On the other hand, you have the daily sh*tshow of Brexit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The craziness over here isn’t even close to the leage US politics has launched itself into. And–as a side effect of that–I find it funnier. Maybe that’s because it’s (so far) less threatening. Or maybe it’s just that as an outsider I can see how strange it all is.

      Like

  3. A fun jaunt through political (and Scottish nautical) issues far and wide. Somehow I managed to miss the fact that Nevada is so backward, they’d vote for a self-professed pimp. (Perhaps that fact that he was already dead is a mitigating factor? But I doubt it.) May your spirit survive the times we live in and always find the funny!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I turned off predictive text after you hinted that I could. My life has improved greatly for the better. So has the lives of those who try to read my comments.

    Electing a dead pimp might be better than electing a dead one. Or maybe not. My question is whether they knew he was dead when they voted for him. If they did, so much the better.

    When in grammar school I could not understand why they called Rhode Island an island when it was not. I still don’t understand.

    Trump thought Yugoslavia was in the Baltics. There is a lot of ignorance still over here also.

    Always happy to see your posts and miss them when Friday comes and I don’t see one. I guess it means you have a real life also, and that is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do have a real life (I think), but I also have a whole line of posts waiting to go live, so if you don’t see one of a Friday it means something went wrong. So far, I’ve posted at least one a week since I started–whenever that may have been. Two suggestion: 1: Type in notesfromtheuk.com and see if something new is up. 2. Um–I don’t think there is a two. Do let me know, though, would you? I’m not sure I’ll know how to fix it, but I can at least pretend to try.

      The voters did know the pimp was dead. There was a sign outside voting centers. I don’t think it said, “The pimp is dead,” but it was something pretty clear.

      Like

  5. You’ve brightened a day that was very dull: typical November weather coupled with typical moronic Brexit news. Sorry, I said the B word there – I’ll self-flagellate later to atone. As others have noted, here in the UK we are governed by idiots who don’t have a clue how to run the country in any direction other than over a cliff. Just like the US. But I’d disagree with them about the corruption: we’re just better at hiding it. All of the major pro-Brexiteers (double flagellation) are wealthy, many have already made moves to protect their riches from the inevitable collapse of the UK economy after we leave the EU (avoided it that time). But at least none of them is selling tacky Christmas decorations to boost the family coffers, though I suspect many of them will have wished they thought of it first when they saw the news about the Trump trinkets. Assuming they had removed their heads from their arses in time to notice, that is.

    Thanks for cheering me up – you always do 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Rhode Island is not an island.

    That may be so, but it wants to be. Considering it’s neighbors: haughty Massachusetts and stuffy Connecticut, who wouldn’t want to be cast adrift? Besides who wants neighbors whose names no one can spell?

    Like

  7. I had to look up the dead pimp story. I wondered if he was a “comedy” candidate that people voted for as a joke, but in this day and age I am worried that they were all deadly serious. I enjoyed reading your take on Brexit, the whole thing terrifies me. I cant cope with predictive text, that Google Compose sounds like a recipe for a lot of shouting.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As a Scot, I am aware of Cranston and her tearooms but she still strikes me as a peculiar choice to appear on a bank note. There must have been a reason why some more famous Scottish women got dumped off the short list to leave Cranston the winning member of the bank note tontine.

    Brexit is just a relentless mess and I really cannot fathom why they keep trying to push it through when it is abundantly clear that disaster will ensue. Brexiteers are jumping from the ship they sank for goodness sake. Isn’t that enough of a sign of impending doom? Every time an American asks me why on earth we have not fled the US and returned back to Britain, “Brexit” is my single word reply.

    I trust you will let us know if the scientists discover some Nessie poop. It’s amazing what you can get research funding for, it really is.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was reading this while on the TV as background were the clips of Dear Leader summarizing his thoughts on This Day. So all I can say is, we will trade Governrnent Twitter Accounts with you any day !

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hmmm. I like the age idea. I’m going to have my birthdate changed to 1048, that way I’ll be older than Methuselah. When people in America turn 100 they get a congratulatury letter from the president, I’ll be owed quite a few. I can probably apply for back-pay from our Social Security system as well. Based on my current estimated $2,520 monthly benefit I figure they owe me $29,332,800.00. I’m willing to accept it as a flat amount instead of insisting it be adjusted for inflation.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “Alexa, is Britain an island?”

    “An island is a land mass surrounded by water.”

    “Alexa, that’s true but it doesn’t answer the question I asked. Why didn’t you answer my question?”

    “I’m running for office.”

    ‘Alexa and the Dead Pimp’ – maybe there’s a story there. Maybe not, but right now, they may be two of our best office-holders.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pretty sure there is a story there. And the dead pimp story would’ve been much better if he’d been dead when they nominated him. He wasn’t, though, which loses his party any sympathy I might’ve felt for them.

      Liked by 1 person

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