Let’s start with Brexit, since January 31–the day this post goes live, in case you’re getting here late–is the last day that Britain is still a member of the European Union.
To mark the occasion, Boris Johnson announced a fundraising campaign to rush the repairs on Big Ben so it could ring out when Britain crosses that wild Brexit frontier. The cost was estimated at £500,000. He called it “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong.”
Don’t expect me to give you a word-for-word translation of that into American. Basically, it means “give money” and “I’m cute.”
Then, without the alliteration, a government spokesperson said there might be, um, problems in accepting public donations. Cue assorted forms of confected outrage. The newspaper I deliver to a neighbor (nice neighbor, godawful paper) ran a headline about a Remainer stitchup over Big Ben’s bongs. Because that’s what remainers are about: keeping that clock from ringing.
The headline didn’t get the clock ringing but it saved a bit of Johnson’s alliteration.
The aforesaid hapless government spokesperson was asked if Johnson would apologize to the people who’d already contributed to the crowdfunding campaign. He declined to say either that he would or he wouldn’t. Several times over.
But maybe church bells could ring out all over Britain.
Well, as it turns out that ringing bells, or not ringing them, is governed by church law. Who knew? And only parish priests get to decide when and whether to ring them. A quick survey by the Guardian didn’t indicate much enthusiasm for it, either on the part of the clergy or the bellringers.
An Exeter Cathedral spokesperson said, “The Church of England in Devon is the church for everyone, whether they voted leave or remain. Church bells are first and foremost a call to worship and, in line with the Central Council for Church Bellringers, we do not feel, in principle, they should be rung for political purposes.”
Rumor has it that Boris Johnson has banned the word Brexit from 10 Downing Street as of January 31. It’s not clear why. Maybe it’s his way of addressing people’s Brexit exhaustion: Let’s just not talk about it anymore.They’ll also stop talking about negotiations with the EU and pretend everything’s taken care of. Maybe that’s what people really voted for: not to fix anything, just to stop hearing about it.
So what does the new 50p Brexit coin say? “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.”
Seriously. An earlier edition of 1 million was melted down because it had an exit date that Johnson, in a fit of enthusiasm, promised but then changed–October 31. How much did that cost? Nobody’s saying, although a fair number are asking. In an trial run, a thousand were minted with an earlier date that Theresa May missed.
One last bit of Brexit news: Bloomberg Econmics estimated that since the referendum the cost of Brexit has been £130 billion, and if expects another £70 billion to be added to that by the end of the transition period. But hey, it’s only money, right?
If you’re interested in how Brexit is likely to affect business or in the issues around regulation and what alignment with EU regulations means, check out the Brexit Blog.
The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued advice saying that sex should be for married heterosexuals only. Which makes sense. If god had wanted anyone else to have sex, he would have given them sexual desires and clearly he didn’t.
Designers have introduced high heels to men’s fashion. One said they made her customers feel “more powerful and sexy.”
The last pair of heels I ever owned–or ever will, and this was back in 1804 or thereabouts –made me feel like I was going to fall down the stairs. That was a split second before I did fall down the stairs. It was sexy as hell. And very powerful. In spite of which I doubt the trend will transfer from the catwalk to the allegedly real world, but if it does, guys, you’re welcome to my share of the damn things, although you’ll probably need a larger size.
I also read that designers are reintroducing the codpiece. You know the codpiece? It’s “a pouch attached to a man’s breeches or close-fitting hose to cover the genitals, worn in the 15th and 16th centuries,” according to Lord Google. A highly exaggerated pouch. Henry VIII wore one. He would have had room to stuff his falconer’s gloves in there, and the falcon along with them. One paper said they’re intended to induce awe. I’m sure they will if you can only get people to stop laughing.
A study of UK students reports that focusing on happiness could leave a person depressed. The students who valued happiness most registered as more depressed.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Let’s shift countries for a few entries: An octopus escaped a New Zealand zoo by breaking out of its tank and slipping down a drain to the ocean. A zoo spokesperson said the octopus wasn’t unhappy at the zoo–they’re solitary creatures–just curious.
I’d need to hear that from the octopus before I feel certain of it, but it didn’t designate a spokesperson before it left.
In the US, a drop-down menu on the Department of Agriculture’s website listed Wakanda, the imaginary country in the movie Black Panther, as a free-trade partner. What do the US and Wakanda trade? Ducks, donkeys, and dairy cows. Possibly more, since those all start with D and I’d hope they’d trade up and down the full alphabet. I’d check but once it hit the papers, someone erased the evidence.
A chef in France lost one of his three Michelin stars because a Michelin inspector claimed he’d substituted that English horror, cheddar, for good French reblochon, beaufort, or tomme in a souffle. That threw the chef into a deep depression (he might want to focus less on being happy; I’m told it helps), which in turn threw everybody involved into court.
He lost. Not because anyone proved that he’d used the dread cheddar but because he couldn’t demonstrate that losing the star had hurt his business. A “degustation” menu at his restaurant costs 395 euros.
Me? I like cheddar. Think how much money I’m saving.
Coming back in the UK, a five-foot corn snake named Allan broke out of his vivarium (no, I never heard of one either; it’s a bit like an aquarium but without the water) when his people were making one of those Christmas trips that no sane person would make without a five-foot snake in the back seat.
I’m not sure why they noticed that Allan had gone slither-about, but when they did they pulled off to the side of the motorway (if you’re American, that’s a freeway) and started pulling the car apart. Not figuratively: literally. They pulled out the seats and assorted other parts until they found him curled around the gear shift, trapped. They buttered it but he still couldn’t get loose.
This is sounding more and more like I’m making it up, isn’t it? I’m not.
They ended up with the Fire and Rescue Service and the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals on the scene, one group cutting through a bit of metal and the other using a damp towel to protect the snake from the heated metal the first group was cutting.
Allan is fine. There’s no report on how the car is.
After a contestant on a British quiz show, Celebrity Mastermind, misidentified Greta Thunberg simply as Sharon, Thunberg changed her Twitter handle to Sharon.
Gardeners in at the Cambridge University Botanical Garden spent years trying to get the Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis orchid to blossom. It finally did in December, and it smells like rotting cabbage. Or a mix of dead rats and smelly socks. Or rotting fish. Choose one randomly, since it didn’t bloom for long and we’ve all missed the chance to describe it ourselves.
Isn’t that sad?
Try not to focus so much on being happy and you won’t feel as bad about it.
Dominic Cummings, who as far as I can tell is Boris Johnson’s brain, placed an ad inviting weirdos and misfits (the two nouns are quotes, but I don’t like littering a paragraph with quotation marks around a bunch of bitsy words) to apply for jobs at Number 10 Downing Street, where both Boris and his brain work. Cummings has also (a) called for civil servants to be tested regularly to make sure they’re up to doing their jobs and (b) said he regularly makes decisions that are “well outside” his “circle of competence.”
He has not been tested to see whether he’s up to doing his job, and the weirdos and misfits ad may have been outside his circle of competence, because a few days later Number 10 announced that Cummings won’t be doing any recruiting outside of the usual procedures.
Security may also be outside his circle of competence, because he was using a gmail address in his ad instead of the secure government address he’s supposed to be using. Gmail’s known for reading users’ emails, and in some situations for making them available to third parties.
In January, a 26-year-old Plymouth man denied wounding with intent to cause bodily harm after allegedly throwing a seagull at someone’s head. He didn’t enter a plea to the charge of attempting to injure a wild bird.
You’d think you could find out more about a story like that, but I haven’t been able to. Except that it happened in a cafe, that he’s due in court in April, and that he was wearing a smart suit at his bail hearing. You know: the stuff that really matters.
My thanks to Phil Davis for this one. I can’t begin to tell you how much poorer my life would have been if he hadn’t let me know about it.
My last news roundup included a story about mysterious packets of money appearing in the village of Blackhall Colliery. The people who left the money have now outed themselves, but anonymously. Just enough to reassure everyone that the money was meant to be found and that the finders are welcome to keep it.
The two people who left the money aren’t related, aren’t married, aren’t local, and seem to have started out separately before joining forces. They made a point of leaving the cash where it would be found by people who most needed it.