The British news update, complete with a make-your-own Stonehenge

Missed the solstice? No problem. You can still take part in a virtual festival, making your own Stonehenge out of the cardboard cores of toilet paper rolls or cookies or some things that look a lot like sugar cubes but could be a lot stranger. I’m not trying to sound like I know something you don’t but would if you were one of the elect, I just can’t tell what I’m looking at a photo of.

If you’re in your teens, you can click on the one-finger salute to find the Quaran-teen section of the site. If you’re not, or want to see what the grownups get up to when they think you’re not around (answer: nothing all that interesting), then head over to the Twitter hashtag and see if it’s worth your time. 

I decided it wasn’t, but then I’m not much on festivals, even when they’re real. 

*

A rare relevant (if out of season) photo. Primroses. The next story features plants. Don’t count on this happening often.

Barcelona’s opera house, the Liceu, will open for the first time since lockdown by live-streaming a string quartet playing Puccini’s “Chrysanthemums” to 2,292 potted plants. The plants must already be in place, because photos of them filling the seats accompany the articles I’ve seen. 

None of them are wearing masks.

You can catch the concert on June 22, at 5 pm local time. 

*

The world’s largest liquid air battery is being built near Manchester, so unlike a lot of what I sneak in here this really is British news. 

What’s liquid air? I’ve lived in Britain long enough that I thought it was just, you know, air in Britain. It’s a wet country. After Brexit, wet air may be all we’re able to export. But no, liquid air is what you get when you compress air down so much that it turns into–yes! You got it! A liquid.

Doesn’t Britain already have enough liquid? Most of the time, yes, although some people claim, during a fair part of the day, to be perishing for a cup of tea. But in general, yes, lots of liquid. The point of this liquid, though, is to store energy. When wind and solar power are producing excess energy, it uses it to squish that air down, and when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing and everyone comes home from work (in that mythical world where everyone’s going to work and then coming home) and puts the kettle on for a nice cup of tea, it lets up on the air, turning it back to a gas and in the process powering a turbine that powers something else that powers that kettle.

And that, my children, is how we store green energy. Or how we will as soon as they get this beast built, which should be sometimes in 2022.

It’s being built by Highview Power, whose chief executive is a high-tech guy who says things like, “Air is everywhere.”

He really did say that. 

I hate it when tech people can’t explain things simply. 

*

Britain’s lost a lot of money during the coronavirus lockdown, and it’s spent a lot of money trying to get the country through these unprecedented times–some of it well and the rest of it on subsidizing satirists. I don’t know what I’ll do with myself if we ever get a sensible government. 

But to our point: Air really is everywhere, and so is incompetence, along with its good friend ProfitingFromACrisis, which (or possibly who) spells its name solid like that because you can never tell what will leak to the press if you leave space between the words. Not that leaks can’t be faced down if you have the right friends, but still, who wants the bother?

Never mind all that, though. It’s what we’ve learned to expect. I want to talk about money well spent.

How do I know it was well spent? I know because the prime minister said so–or at least his news flacks did. It’s “value for money,” they told us, and it’ll promote the U.K. around the world, and besides all the work’s being done in the U.K., so it’s twice the value for–

Half the money? Or is that twice the money? 

We’ll skip the math. For £900,000, which will cover the work of repainting the prime ministerial plane so that it looks like the British flag. 

Before he became prime minister he complained that it was dull looking–and also that he didn’t get to use it often enough. And you don’t want the prime minister getting bored, do you? 

You can never keep everybody happy, though. The plane has to do double duty as an air force plane, and a defense analyst and former military pilot, Andy Netherwood, complained that it will make it useless outside of the safest of safe airspace.

“No one wants to go to war in a jet painted like a brightly colored lollipop.”

Except, being British, he said “coloured.”

*

At England’s first Premier League football games (which if you’re American are soccer games), the players on four teams, along with staff and match officials, took a knee before starting. The players’ names on their shirts had been replaced with “Black Lives Matter.”

I hope I got the details of that–the number of teams, the plural in games–right. I have a sports allergy, so I’m a little vague on the sports part of this. I’d been going on the assumption that a football game involves two teams, not four, so I’m guessing this was two separate games. Or else it was one, played in some parallel universe where four teams play one game and it takes three parents to make a child.

*

Did I mention how moving it is to see our government’s competence in action? First it was going to develop its own app to notify people who’ve been to Covid-19 that they need to get tested. This was going to fit seamlessly with a testing and tracing system and all together it was going to be the envy of the world, because what’s the point of having something like that if the world doesn’t envy you? 

Then the app’s grand unveiling was postponed because it had a small problem, which was that it didn’t work. Which is pretty much what experts had been saying would happen. 

But what do experts know? The unveiling was postponed again while some tinkering was done.

I won’t drag this out. They abandoned it the other day. Britain’s now going to use a Google-Apple app. But it won’t be ready until the autumn because it doesn’t measure distance accurately enough and so it sends out you’ve-been-exposed notices to people who were a safe distance from an infected person.

What they’re going to do is stick the two apps in the oven and bake on a low heat until they meld, at which point Britain’s will transfer its innate sense of distance to the Google-Apple app. 

Of course, they may just end up with melted gigabytes, in which case all the combined app will do is let people who think they’re coming down sick report their symptoms. It won’t notify anyone of anything.

Why bother to have it, then? Well, it’ll make everyone feel better, although we could probably buy everyone in the country a nice stuffed bear instead. A good cuddle makes everyone feel better.

The app was initially sold to us as an essential part of the test-and-trace system which was going to get us safely out of lockdown. We’re now coming out of lockdown with no app and a questionable system of testing and tracing. But we’ll be fine. Don’t worry about a thing.

*

What went wrong with the world-beating British app? Well, it only recognized 4% of Apple phones and 75% of Androids. No one’s saying how much money was spent on it, but some clever devil of a reporter got into a database: The company that developed it had three contracts worth £4.8 million. 

They repainting four or five planes for that amount of money. 

*

In the meantime, scammers are busy telling people they’re tracing the virus. If you don’t want to get sick, they tell you, you should give them your bank details, call a premium rate number, and spend money on a free test kit. For extra safety, there’s some software you can download. Because this is a very sneaky virus and can infect your computer as well as your lungs.

*

Oriel College–the Oxford University college with the statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes outside it–has voted to remove the statue. That doesn’t mean it comes down tomorrow. It’s set up an independent inquiry into the issue involved in taking it down. One of them is that some donors will stop supporting the college–something they’re aware of because some have been in touch to say they’d do just that. Now a tech entrepreneur, Husayn Kassai, has pledged to “make up for every penny any racist does pull.”

*

The internet is full of claims that wearing masks can kill you–they trap all your nasty exhaled carbon dioxide inside the mask, leaving you to re-breathe it. 

Predictably enough, this is total bullshit. The carbon dioxide molecule is smaller than the droplets that masks keep it. They pass quite happily through the kind of masks people wear. And surgeons wear much heavier masks for longer periods and don’t have a track record of dropping down dead during surgery.

Another claim is that wearing a mask “literally activates your own virus.” The video that said that has been taken down.

Someone named Aubrey Huff tweeted that “it’s not healthy to breathe in your own CO2 all the time.”

I’m going to break the quote here so I can start it again: “I would rather die from coronavirus than to live the rest of my life in fear and wearing a damn mask,” Huff huffed.

Cheesy joke, but I had to do it.  

The problem, of course, is that the mask isn’t to protect him. It’s to protect other people. So they’re the ones who he’s rolling the dice for.

61 thoughts on “The British news update, complete with a make-your-own Stonehenge

  1. Maybe all that stockpiling of toilet paper a couple of months ago was in anticipation of the need to be able to make a clone-henge then? Makes as much sense as any other reason I’ve come across…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I suppose it is difficult for some people to understand that you wear a mask to protect others, not yourself. Since I don’t go on public transport, or into shops or hospitals, or even leave the house really, I haven’t worn a mask yet. This is probably as well, since the masks I made would win prizes for ugliness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Re the app, a UKanian friend of mine posted this recently:
    Apple – We will make a free track and trace system.
    Google – We will help, then it will work across 99 percent of phones. Should be ready by May.
    UK govt – No, We’ll make our own version.
    Apple and Google – you’d need our help.
    Uk govt. – No we dont, Dom’s mate says he can do it.
    Apple and Google – off you go then.
    Dom’s mate – can I have your propriety code.
    Apple and Google – hahahaha. No.
    Dom’s mate – why not?
    Apple and Google – Because your system breaches international privacy laws by ripping peoples contact data and storing it on your servers so you can use or sell it later.
    Public – It does? Fuck that!
    Hancock – our world beating system is up and running, at a cost of only £120,000,000
    NHS – no its not.
    Hancock – we have hit a snag. It doesn’t work.
    Whole world – no shit Sherlock…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It was Friday night here so it was time for the cockwomble to do a massacre. Get rid of the head of one of regions of the Justice department. And the night before they cleaned house at Voice of America and put in one of the womble’s mouth pieces. Stay tuned for the opening broadcast of “only the cockwomble’s life matters.” Frankly I am surprised he has not tried to fire HRM. He is just that sort of womble. We may not have time to cure the virus. Still we have plenty of time to rip apart the government and rebuild it with prats.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. £900,000 for a paint job? Someone’s padding the bill.

    The average car is 4.5m, a Boeing 747 is 228m, that makes the plane about 51 car lengths. There’s a guy over here who advertises he’ll paint any car for $99.95 (£81), so a 747 (taking wings into account as well) would cost about £8,300. I’m sure if the PM stood in front of the plane with a sign advertising the paint job the guy might even cut the cost down to around an even £8,000.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Somehow, the civil service seems to have disappeared from the view of the media…in normal times we have stories of its incompetence, unpreparedness and wilful blindness to the obvious, but in the time of virus…nothing.
    Since the whole saga has been marked by incompetence, unpreparedness and wilful blindness to the obvious, either it has handed these attributes to elected government – in which case we no longer require the civil service – or it is indeed at work, and using the bunch of half wits in the elected government to act as scapegoats.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Elected governments are taking the flak…but the infrastructure of government is showing serious flaws and no one seems to be concentrating on this.
        Costa Rica is dealing well with the bug itself, leaving management to their NHS equivalent chiefs and, apart from WHO requirements, letting them seek the help they need without bureaucracy which in turn has encouraged the universities and research institutes to come up with innovative ideas and equipment. However the economic damage has shown up the appalling weakness of the public finance sector, both elected ministersand, almost more importantly, career civil servants.
        From what I read of the U.K., levels of competence in the semi privatised public services seem to be at rock bottom…but no one seems to be investigating this, concentrating on the elected government.
        Governments come and, thank goodness, go…but there needs to be much more scrutiny of the way in which public business is conducted, especially when it concerns lives, not just money.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Then, relying on the media and living far away I have missed this, completely. I just wonder why the media have taken the heat off the officials and turned it up on the government. Not like them at all with a Tory government.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’m not sure where you’re drawing the line between officials and the government. With the NHS, the government–Tory for years–has restructured it more than once, making a it more complicated with each simplification. And more privatized. Officials are in charge, but appointed by the government and working to their instructions.

              A few papers have written about how weakened the NHS was going into this, and as a result unprepared. A few others wrote about how the queen’s horse had a nice carrot this morning. I do feel like the papers haven’t written enough about the war on the NHS, and in the last election campaign I felt Labour didn’t campaign on it enough, but it’s not being completely ignored.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Liquid air? I think I heard everything now! As for the liquidity of the UK (I am sure this means something else than wet weather in the UK but what do I know darn EU immigrant that I am 🤷‍♀️) you clearly live at the other end of the UK: here in Norfolk its dry. Very dry. So dry in fact that we hadn’t had proper rain from summer 2018 until autumn 2019. We grow vegetables believe me I know…. that was so so close to a proper drought. But when D. Cameron predicted one we had the wettest summer in years. This country is extremely confusing… 😜🙋‍♀️🐝

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The lawyer that the cockwomble’s AG announced yesterday was quitting announced today that he is NOT quitting – or surrendering his files or stopping his investigations. And of course in about 5 hours the Bug Rally in Tulsa will begin. Hopefully the real protesters will have packed up and left and only the impersonators will be left to try to kill each other.

    Aubrey Huff is a (now retired) major league baseball player. He is not on track to be inducted into the Hall of Fame…or to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine – as near as I can tell.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey_Huff

    He is probably still trying to appear tough in order to convince all the players who ragged him unmercifully about being named Aubrey that he is a manly man. C’est la vie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The thought of someone going into the game with (let’s hope) a spare pair just so he can do that–

      Okay, I’d rather believe that than believe that he went to all the trouble of taking off the pair he was wearing. Either way, I don’t think I’d want to spend much time around this guy.

      Like

  9. Money well spent. I’ve been searching to the answer for that for most of my adult life.
    Was that money well spent? Was this money well spent?
    If it’s so difficult for one semi-reasonable adult to figure out, imagine how difficult the questions must be for a collective of politicians in charge of monumental amounts of mythical debt.
    Mythical in that no one can count the number of zeroes anymore in budgets – and no one has any intention of repaying their debts except to the Chinese who seem to be better at figuring out interest rates than anyone else.
    Cheers – have a wonderful weekend – summer solstice and all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. It looks like it’ll be a beautiful day here. Rain overnight–very well behaved–and now sunshine. No one here takes sunshine for granted.

      I think it was Senator Everett Dirkson (whose name I may be spelling wrong but I can’t be bothered to check) who said, “A million dollars here, a million dollars there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

      I’m as sure as someone who hasn’t been on the inside of the decision-making process can be that a lot of the decisions aren’t made on the basis of what would be well spent but on the basis of what looks good politically or who’s owed a favor. Or what suits the economic/political religion of the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. You know there’s a Foamhenge in Virginia, south of me. I’ve been meaning to go see it. It’s an exact replica, it’s website claims, and looks interesting: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/foamhenge. That stonehenge site you linked to: wow. There’s a picture of a guy wearing a tam, a kilt, and wellies, carrying a very large teddy bear. And did they used to let people climb on the stones? I know people used to climb the pyramids, but this seems to have been not that long ago, but I suppose I should have read more carefully. I think those sugar-cube like blocks are that stuff people mix up with flour and salt and water. Some of them were nicely colored. The cookie thing would just not last, but I was impressed with the biscotti. My, I have rambled. Can’t comment on anyone else’s politics anymore. Ours are so unspeakable..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’d want to use the cookie-henge when you’ve got important company and want to do a, you know, formal presentation. Maybe the first time you meet your future mother-in-law or something like that. You bring this try out, carefully, so you don’t know anything over. I know, we’re the wrong generation for that, but still, these life skills can be passed on and it’s never too late to expand our repertoire.

      Maybe I need to start a lifestyle blog. I’d be a natural.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was working as a cashier and a masklees man came through. He asked me if I wanted him to put on a mask. He only does it for other people because he’s not afraid of getting sick. I wanted to tell him that in that case, he should put his on and I would take mine off.

    Liked by 1 person

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