Lizards, sewage, antisemitism, and Rembrandt: It’s the non-pandemic news from Britain

Is anything happening in Britain other than the pandemic?

Why yes, and thank you for asking. 

A fake Rembrandt has been hiding in the basement of a museum. It’s a small picture of an old man with a beard, looking unhappy (the man, not the beard). When it was first stashed down there, the man was young, clean-shaven, and hopeful looking. 

The painting was given to the museum in 1951 and spotted as a fake in 1981 by the world’s leading authority on the subject, the Rembrandt Research Project. 

Then a new curator came along and the picture just bugged her. It looked too Rembrandtish to write off. 

It’s now been analyzed by dendochronologists. Those are people who, um, analyze dendos. Or possibly dendons. In time–that’s the chronology part. 

Oh, never mind. You don’t need to know what they do and I don’t either. What matters is that they’ve figured out that the wood the old man’s painted on came from the same tree as an acknowledged Rembrandt. So it was, at least, likely to have been from his workshop. And may be by the master himself.

It’s a pity it couldn’t have happened when the man was young and optimistic, but at least it’s happening.

*

Utterly irrelevant photo: A castle ruin near Edinburgh. Photo by Ida Swearingen

A seven-year-old with cerebral palsy climbed Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, raising over £17,000 for the National Health Service and a disability charity. 

When he was born, his parents were told he’d never walk, sit up, or talk, never mind raise money for the NHS. 

*

It was always going to be hard to make importing sewage sludge for farm fertilizer sound appealing, but it’s being imported anyway. It’s happening quietly, though, so no one has to take on the job of explaining why it’s a good idea. 

Why is it a good idea? Well, its use on farmland is effectively banned in the Netherlands, and the Dutch water authorities had problems incinerating it. And the stuff has to go somewhere, so they looked across the channel and saw Britain and said, “Hmmm. Betcha they’d pay good money for it.”

Only in Dutch. 

The sludge could contain E coli and salmonella, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals (not the musical kind–no one’s complained about it causing noise pollution), and microplastics. And it could be a source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Other than that, it’s nice stuff and does return nutrients and carbon to the soil. 

Yum.

*

The rapper, singer, and songwriter Stormzy has donated £500,000 to fund scholarships for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. They’ll go fifty students of any age–and not just university students. 

The plan is to give £10 million over ten years to groups fighting racial inequality in Britain. 

*

The street artist Banksy donated we don’t know how much for a refugee rescue boat, the Louise Michel, which is now sailing the Mediterannean. Last I heard, it had picked 219 people out of the water and the deck became so crowded that the boat was effectively stranded. The most vulnerable 49 (along with a man who died before being picked up) were transferred “to safety” (I’m not clear where), and the remainder were put aboard another rescue ship.

Finding a port willing to accept refugees is a serious problem. Plucking them out of the water is, relatively speaking, the simple part.

The International Organization for Migration says more than 7,600 people have been picked up at sea and forced back to Libya–a policy of both the Libyan coastguard and European Union states. Another 500 are known to have died in 2020, trying to make the crossing, although the actual number is likely to be higher. Libya has been accused of mistreating refugees at sea and of selling them to militias. 

Banksy explained why he wanted to get involved when he wrote to Pia Klemp, who’d captained several rescue boats: “I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something?”

Klemp initially thought someone was putting her on, but they soon settled down and worked together. She summed up the arrangement this way: “Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists.”

*

Local governments in Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole have proposed, in their wisdom, fining homeless people £100 for sleeping in doorways or leaving their belongings in the street. If they don’t pay up, that can go up to £1,000. 

Which of course they have. That’s why they’re living on the street.

*

Emma Cownie and Doug Jacquier have clued me into–

Guys, I don’t know how to break this to you, but it seems the royal family are actually lizards. Shapeshifting lizards.

I know. I couldn’t have imagined it either. And it’s not just the royal family. The whole world, it turns out, is run by lizards. It explains a lot, doesn’t it? 

This isn’t new news, but then this isn’t a newspaper, I’m not a reporter, and I only just found out about it. It rose from the depths of the conspirosphere in April, when a former broadcaster, David Icke, did a TV interview in which he left the road way, way behind. 

This wasn’t the first time he’d talked about it. You can find him here, explaining everything to us. “Much of it,” he says, “is backed up by hard factual information.”

And the rest of it? Oh, hell, who cares?

Okay, I confess: I haven’t listened to the interviews, relying on the writeups instead. How much time do you think I have here?

Icke’s life moved from sports to broadcasting through the Green Party and alternative medicine to spiritualism to–well, he did predict that the world will end in 1997. As far as I can tell, he was wrong. He’s been accused of antisemitism, which he denies, but he also says that whoever wrote The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (an antisemitic forgery) ”knew the game plan.” 

I’m working from WikiWhatsia here. I normally hold out for something marginally more reliable, but with a topic like this, why quibble?

The lizards are from the Draco constellation and have been breeding with humans. And the scientific method is bollocks and climate change is a hoax. 

Um, yeah, I think he’d broken with the Green Party by the time he announced that.

Anyway, it all gets complicated. Have a good time. It could almost make a person go back to the pandemic for a little rest.