Brexit, royalty, and falling iguanas: it’s the news from Britain

Britain and the European Union now have a Brexit deal, so instead of complete chaos on January 1, we can only expect moderate chaos.

Moderate chaos looks good these days. 

Like 99.4% of the country–and quite possibly like the Members of Parliament who are expected to approve all 1,246 pages of it before their tea’s had time to cool down (some sources say it’s 2,000 pages; does it really matter)–I have only the more general idea of what the deal says or what it will mean for any of us, although the papers are starting to fill us in. 

Before the agreement was reached, a poll asked people first whether they thought we were wrong to leave the EU and then how they’d vote in a referendum to rejoin: 49% said we were wrong to leave and 39% said we were right. Then they took one chair away, restarted the music, and asked the next question. (Presumably that same) 49% said we should apply to rejoin while 51% said we shouldn’t.

So 10% had no opinion on leaving or staying but did on rejoining. I have no idea what that means. 

Screamingly irrelevant photo: strawberry leaves after a frost.

The queen

Britain’s Channel Four showed a fake queen’s Christmas speech, timed to follow the real one on Christmas afternoon. 

The queen’s speech? It’s a British institution, and everywhere but here it gets capital letters. Every Christmas day, she addresses the nation and says something. I don’t know what because even during the brief moments when I haven’t been able to avoid listening all I heard was a faint buzz.

People take it very seriously, though. At various times, I’ve been asked if I was going to listen to the queen’s speech, if I did listen to the queen’s speech, if I do in general listen to the queen’s speech. It’s a measure of something, although I don’t know what. When I answer, I try to avoid expressions of horror and I try to avoid making jokes. A fair number of my fellow citizens–and even of my friends–take her seriously. And I’m an outsider here. It’s best not to walk into someone’s house and rearrange the furniture, although I might whisper quietly to a few thousand of my closest readers that I find the whole queen thing–not to mention the queen’s speech–odd.

So, yes, this Christmas we doubled down on oddity and had a real queen’s speech followed by a fake queen’s speech. Officially, the fake one was to send a “stark warning” about deep fakes and the possibility of fake news. Unofficially, I’m pretty sure lockdown was responsible. A bored mind is a dangerous thing. 

The fake speech has been criticized as not a very good fake, and it’s true that the queen looks rigid, but I watched a (very short) snippet of the real speech and the real queen was also rigid.

The fake includes  a TikvTok dance and the queen saying about Harry and Megan that it’s hurtful when someone tells you “they prefer the company of Canadians.” 

That was entirely realistic.

Yeah, go on and watch it.

*

Speaking of the queen, England and Wales are fighting the history of colonialism all over again.

To brush up on our British history: England’s bigger than Wales. England conquered Wales and did all the unpleasant things that conquerors do. That started centuries ago. It lasted until–

Um, yeah. We could argue about the end point, and also about whether there’s been one. But even if we agree that it’s all in the past (we won’t, but never mind that), I doubt anyone in Wales has forgotten the history.

That takes us up to the present day, when a few politicians on the English side of the Severn Bridge, which links England and Wales, proposed renaming it to mark the queen’s platinum jubilee

No, I don’t know how many years you have to put behind you to get a platinum jubilee and I don’t care enough to look it up. A lot. It’s not the point.

The proposal woke both residents and politicians on the Welsh side of the bridge, and they all sat up in bed to said–in unison, mind you–that if the bridge gets renamed it should be named after either the Welsh rugby hero Gareth Edwards or the Welsh politician Aneurin Bevan, who led the establishment of Britain’s National Health Service. That last idea is guaranteed to annoy the Conservative politicians who want to rename the bridge (and quite possibly the health service and also your back teeth) after the queen. 

The bridge is made up of several parts, and one of them both starts and ends on English soil, which is why the English politicians think they can pull this off, but the collection of bridge part-lets are maintained as a unit and up to now seem to have been named as a unit. 

In addition to offending the Welsh, the renaming would cost money–probably a lot of it, although no one’s mentioned a figure yet. It’s maintained by Highways England, which was itself renamed recently at a cost of £7 million after having been called–apparently quite happily–the Highways Agency.

 

Chilly weather and a chance of falling ignuanas

On December 23, the south Florida weather forecast included cold weather and the possibility of falling iguanas. 

I know. Florida’s not in Britain. I cheat. It’s your own fault for not keeping an eye on me.

Iguanas are cold blooded. At around 45 F., they go dormant and look like they’re dead. They’re not. Or at least the ones who don’t die aren’t. The larger they are, the more likely they are to be alive but dormant.

The problem is that they like to sleep in trees and if they go dormant up there they have a habit of falling out. Which doesn’t do them any good and can also be a problem for humans underneath. Iguanas can measure up to 5 feet long and weigh as much as 20 pounds. 

If you need to know the impact of a 20-pound iguana falling out of a tree–and who doesn’t?–the formula is W=PE=Fd=mghF=d [over–sorry, my computer skills aren’t up the finding the right symbols and this is too important to leave out] mgh

I have no idea what any of that means, but I do know that at some point you’ll need the height of the tree before it does you any good. After that it gets complicated–there’s a second step, where you have to plug in the results of the first step. You’ll be happier going to the website for the second formula without me. 

Iguanas aren’t native to Florida, but they have adapted. Some dig deep burrows to stay warm. Some live near water, where the air temperature’s higher. Some sleep in trees and fall out if it gets too cold. And some cry weee, weee, wee, all the way home.

It’s a brutal kind of personality test. 

Or maybe which way they face the cold doesn’t depend on their personalities but on what they find to work with–cement, water, tree, diggable dirt. We are all, to some extent, creatures of our environment.

68 thoughts on “Brexit, royalty, and falling iguanas: it’s the news from Britain

  1. Ellen, if it makes you feel any better, I am not an outsider and i don’t think I have ever sat through a Queen’s speech without falling asleep. She is an extremely monotonous woman, and I thank my country for allowing me the freedom to say this, although not to her face. Whatever she says, to me, sounds like the drivel one MUST say in order to ‘do one’s duty’ and ‘keep the country together’. Which is all very well, and good for some who like to take such things seriously. But that is why we have those nice parodies of her, like the one on Death to 2020 (Charlie Brooker’s Yearly Wipe but on Netflix instead of the BBC), because it gives us a flavour of what she is like, but a more entertaining one :D Also, how on earth did it cost 7 million to rename a HIGHWAY? Surely you just write some sort of letter to the court? Also, whenever weird news is mentioned about America, it is usually out of Florida. Falling iguanas, now that beats corona and brexit :)

    Liked by 4 people

    • I agree about the freedom to make fun of the queen and her speech. There was a time when that would’ve been treason, I’m pretty sure. In Henry VIII’s time, even to imagine the death of the king was treasonous. Of course, you had to speak the thought for anyone to catch you at it, but still–

      The £7 million: They had to redo all the vehicle logos, the stationery, probably the highway diversion signs, and I can’t imagine what else. So printers, designers, and everyone involved in the physical replacement of all that. And, who knows, if they took it seriously enough, focus groups. It’s absurd.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I heard on NPR the other day that it takes $13 million a year to maintain a single prisoner at Guantanamo Bay for one year. I can never fathom how they arrive at these numbers. It doesn’t even take $1 million to maintain me for a year, and I have expensive taste in coffee and cheeses! Granted, I don’t have to pay for guards to watch over me, but I have to pay for lots of other things – both necessary and superfluous. Am I doing something wrong? Should I be spending a LOT more money?

        Liked by 1 person

        • I can’t be sure whether you should be spending more money–possibly–but I do remember somebody adding up the cost of plain ol’ everyday incarceration and realizing it would be cheaper to send young people to expensive boarding schools than to prison. But, yeah, all you have to do is set up some community youth program and get the government to fund it and someone will yell that it’s too expensive. Putting people behind bars, though? That we can afford.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes it would have certainly been treason, we have come a long long way. I did not think about all the logos and whatnot. Bloody hell. That is absurd. I can think of far better ways to spend that kind of money but hey ho!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Just to reassure you Ellen, I am fifty-erk years old cornishman and I’ve never, ever watched a Christmas queens speech. I figure it’s going to be all over the place if there’s anything newsworthy in it anyway, especially if she chokes on a corgi or misses a peasant and accidentally shoots Phil or something.
    Besides, I don’t want to take ‘We’re all in this together’ from someone sat recording a speech in whichever one of her many palaces she’s chosen to do it from.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve been ambivalent about the royal lot all my life, couldn’t give a fig for any of it, but have recently been watching The Crown on Netflix and while it hasn’t changed my mind, I’ve come to like Netflix’s version of the Queen, which is based on more fact than maybe the family would like. Quite fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The poor old Queen must not be seen to support any political party, and she has to make sure her speech is not ageist, sexist, racist or any other ‘ist’ for that matter. No wonder she doesn’t really say anything! However, she’s the head of the Church of England, and so she has to mention the church and God sometimes. It’s a wonder somebody hasn’t stopped her from doing that as well. Next year perhaps there’ll be a cardboard cut-out that just sits there and smiles?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would say there are a lot more people who don’t watch the queen’s speech than those who do. Even those who do watch it probably don’t give it their full attention. But it’s part of an English Christmas so it has to happen, Just like you have to have sprouts with your Christmas dinner -whether you like it or not.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Those iguanas, methinks, are related to Australia’s drop bears, which suggests that Floridians are besides themselves with laughter that the falling iguanas story has gone viral. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-13/uk-journalist-pranked-into-holding-a-drop-bear-during-bushfires/11863942 . As to the bridge issue, perhaps there’s a need to revive a version of the bumper sticker, ‘Land Rights for Gay W(h)ales’.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Before the agreement was reached, a poll asked people first whether they thought we were wrong to leave the EU and then how they’d vote in a referendum to rejoin

    I like polls. You can make the results anything you want just by changing the way the question is asked. I took a statistics course in college where they taught you how to change the questiion around to get the numbers you want, even if most of the people you ask are from the other side of the question.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very large falling iguanas…and I thought we had problems in South Carolina.
    I actually prefer a falling iguana to that reptilian Lindsay Graham who spent the weekend golfing with the outgoing lame duck lunatic leader of the US in Florida. If only an iguana had fallen on both of them. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Grumps of “It’s raining iguanas out there” would actually delight my children and me. I wonder what one is supposed to do when stumbling across a chilly iguana. Should we give it a scarf, bundle it up in a blanket.

    I have never watched the Queen’s Speech and am, therefore, unfamiliar with the usual format. So I am left to wonder how far into the fake broadcast I could have gotten before realizing it was a fake. I agree with your suspicion that the video was created by someone with a lot of time on their hands who wished to showcase their skills rather than it being served up as some sort of cautionary tale.

    Best of luck with the fallout from actual Brexit. All of my instincts tell me it is going to be catastrophic for Britain with sparse positives, if any, but I will take no satisfaction in being proved correct.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure what you do for a freezy iguana. I’d skip the scarf, the top hat, the rest of the dress-up clothes. Maybe a quilt, but I–well, I’m ignorant about the beasts. But I don’t see any reason why “it’s raining iguanas” shouldn’t be a family phrase. Around here, we don’t say, “Sleep tight,” we say, “Sleep like a pig.”

      I think you’d have caught onto the fake broadcast at the point where she started dancing.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Another very enjoyable post Ellen.

    I have never watched the Queen’s speech. However I like the Queen, I like her steady soldiering on kind of spirit. I am not a royalist per se as I don’t think people should be exalted above others. Yet I am rather charmed by her, by the way she has taken her role seriously and yet with an air of modesty in not being overly preachy. I rarely watch her speeches, but I am understood that she condones goodness and endurance (and tries to appear as if she has her finger on the pulse) rather than lording it over the commoners.

    In some ways she has become a symbol of “traditionalism” and I can understand why so many cling to the traditional while the decades that have passed of the Queen’s own life time have been so fast paced and brought such drastic changes to people’s lives. I understand why some hark back to a simpler time when they understood the basic values all shared. The changes in morals have been rather frightening for many and when they voice their opinion they are made to look like villains.

    The problem I guess is when people start to explore British history and tradition (and this could be said of other lands too) there is so much corruption and injustice – you start to wonder why anyone would want to preserve the past. And yet….they do, many are in deep admiration for the antique creaky framework that was glorified to stellar heights, even though it allowed for appalling abuse and misjustice to be “sanctified” by the church.

    I don’t know where my thoughts are headed so I will stop there, just to say I have never listened to the Queen’s speech even though I rather like her as a person (not her role) and I am rather glad I don’t have to worry about iguanas from above here in London.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do think London’s safe from iguanas. A pandemic’s trouble enough.

      I wonder if most–maybe all–countries don’t teach their children a sanitized myth of their history. Something they can be proud of, even if it’s largely bullshit. And a fair number of people believe it, and stoke themselves up about it, and get angry when anyone undermines it or wants to tell it another way.

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      • That’s why I have an issue with nationalism and improper pride.

        I was listening to someone witter on the other day about the pandemic being a hoax – they are a member of a church that seems collectively to feel they are involved in a battle for freedom of worship.

        Not my knowledge of history is sometimes a little vague, but is it not the case that when Europeans entered the US, the spread of disease that wiped out enormous swathes of the population that had occupied the Americas for many centuries and eventually allowed Europeans to make their questionable claims to the land.

        Many of the churches in America fled Europe because of persecution – did they not?

        I don’t know what I am trying to say – I just thought that any church claiming this virus / disease is a hoax seems to be wearing to have put the mask over their eyes, rather than their mouth.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Many of the religions that left England for the US sought freedom of religion for themselves but not for other beliefs. The Puritans hounding the Quakers comes to mind, but there were others. And the schoolbooks I had as a kid held the US up as a bastion of religious liberty. I expect the current ones do as well.

          I don’t know what to say to people who think the pandemic’s a hoax. Unless there’s some common grounding in reality, it’s hard to know how to hold a discussion. I could send them links and information, but these days people feel perfectly free to dismiss anything they don’t want to hear. I’d be tempted to throw logic to the winds and go emotional instead, talking about the person I know who died of it. Try denying that.

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          • There will always be people who believe in something way out there – I have met people over the years who were obsessed with aliens and the Loch Ness monster and fairies to name a few.

            But when it comes to religious faith, I have a respect for people who have reasoned and debated within themselves and practice timeless principles and hold a good conscience. I especially respect them if they have some solid basis or authority for their beliefs. But where I am stuck is how a church claiming to be Christian can stray so far away from the scriptures. Disease was never a hoax in the scriptures – it was a very real threat – there are laws on hygiene and quarantining there to protect people – we have all been asked by scientists during 2020 to essentially follow those laws written thousands of years ago. It’s made my respect for the Bible deepen.

            So I find it hard to reconcile any church that ignore the scriptures and start an inflammatory campaign that makes them look like maniacs.

            However, it would not be the first time that there have been reasonable balanced people of faith, and frankly religious nutcases bent on their own vindication rather than concerned with the big picture.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I can’t claim to have followed religious history or philosophy much, but I have the impression that religions all adapt to the realities they work within–to the politics, the economics, the whatever it takes to allow them to function–and somehow they can always find a religious justification for it. The Bible–and for all I know, other religious texts–is so full of contradictions that you could justify many sides of an argument from its pages.

              Sorry–I do try to respect people’s deeply held beliefs, but basically I judge them by their actions. If they bring kindness to the world, great. If they don’t, I don’t much care what their reasoning is.

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  11. Ha ! We have Dear Leader’s rants, so by comparison the Queen’s Speech would be up there with Churchill, Lincoln and FDR !

    Florida is also being overrun with large snakes such as pythons, which are breeding because people released pets they could no longer handle . They (the snakes not the people) occasionally climb trees and are also ectothermic (the politically correct term for “cold-blooded”, which is better applied to politicians in Florida.) but there seem to be no reports of a 15 foot python falling out of a tree onto someone. Yet. There is still time unless Mar-a-Lago suddenly sinks beneath the waves like Atlantis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Florida, unfortunately, is unknown country to me, so I tend to blur its geography into one indistinguishable mass, but I know that some part of it is starting to flood. Not exactly sink yet, but as the waters rise (wherever it is in Florida that this does happen), they’ve developed a habit of rising up through people’s lawns. Which is inconvenient at best. Add pythons falling out of trees and it starts to sound like biblical plagues.

      On the other hand, when I was a kid we all assured each other that the New York sewers (I lived in New York) we full of full-grown alligators. The circus sold baby alligators, that kids took home and at some point parents flushed them down the toilets and–well, there you go.

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  12. My parents watch the queens speach every year, I almost never do but i did this year and I thought it was rather good. How ever I would never admit this in my house as my husband believes the root of of the UK’s ails stem from the fact that we still have a hereditary monarchy, leaching off us (and public schools that produce so many of useless toffs who “govern” the country).

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I watch bits of it sometimes (the Queen’s speech) mostly to see if her expression changes. I found a tiny bit of it entertaining when she referred to one year as ‘Annus Horribilis’. Er… well. Yes.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annus_horribilis

    I think they should change the Severn Bridge to the Severed Bridge and all stay off it…

    And those iguanas. They don’t know how good they’ve got it just dropping out of trees. I watched a wildlife programme last night in which baby iguanas were hunted by packs of snakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s what I hate about wildlife programs. I’ve learned to turn down the emotional volume, but they really haunted me when I was a kid. Yeah, I did identify with the prey. Always. What can I tell you? I was a younger sister.

      I could see working up a drinking game (if I still drank) involving the queen’s speech and trying to spot a change of expression. I’m not sure anyone would get to touch a drop, but it might make it fun.

      Liked by 1 person

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