Sunday 30 January 2011

The straw that breaks the camel's back...

Poor old President Mubarak. His people are revolting, his army is mutineering, his coppers hiding, scoundrels are even attacking mummies in the Cairo Museum. Now we learn he has had to endure a stern telling-off in a phone call from David Cameron.....

Saturday 29 January 2011

30 minutes later

Pigeon now a handful of feathers.

Nature red in tooth and claw

Just watching a buzzard devour pigeon outside my French doors. Not sure whether pigeon pre-deceased its encounter with buzzard -- perhaps it froze to death last night. Anyway not much of it left. Buzzard seems to be supremely uninterested in my presence.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Mr Gove has been reading Dickens' Hard Times...

...which is strange because it's usually the novel Tories like to ignore. Anyway even if he hasn't, his speechwriters clearly have. This is the much admired opening, written in 1854:  

“NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”

Hard Times, Charles Dickens

Wednesday 12 January 2011

BBC Cult of Youth

Alan Yentob (63) has announced that, following a David and Goliath style humiliation over the Miriam O'Reilly case, the BBC will be ultra ultra careful about ageism in the future. There will be lots of special training for executives and monitoring and policies and probably a few layers of compliance management as well. Of course that's how the BBC always responds when it get gets caught out.

The real problem is that the BBC just doesn't get it. The Corporation already has a vast apparatus of "diversity" with tsars and enforcers and committees and monitoring groups; equality policies by the ton; a groaningly large Human Resources Empire -- headed by executives whose pay is in multiples of the Prime Minister's; and a Director General who leads the TV Industry's Cultural Diversity Network. If it still screws up after all this what good are a few more Diversity Awaydays going to do...?

Monday 3 January 2011

Circa 1971

In the garden in Dartmouth Row, Blackheath. Just to prove I got there with the haircut over three decades before Justin Bieber.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Talent Show

Freya Salkeld on drums...

Chips II

I came across chips nearly as fine as those from the Hind in Bray at a roadside caff on the South Coast near Mombasa, Kenya. 30p a plate. Can't go wrong but quite a trek to satisfy the craving so Heston's number one slot is safe.

This Sporting Life

I am pleased to find that the Kenyans’ favourite cigarette is still called “Sportsman”. Recently in neighbouring Tanzania the name of that same smoke was changed to “Portsman”. The cigarettes remained unchanged as did the rest of the natty orange packaging with its equine branding. The fags are still universally known as “Sports” in both countries.

So what about a rather bizarre new name? Well of course it didn’t just happen. It was a victory for Western health busybodies. No doubt the name change will have been the “output” of some bossy master plan. Goals will have been achieved, targets surpassed, KPIs will be buzzing, a thousand dreary powerpoints will be launched across the development world. And the game won’t be over there, a year on business class to Africa will packed as more “consultants” jet in to justify their existence with evaluations and data gathering. Reports that no-one will ever read will be tapped out on expensive laptops. That’s where your aid money goes, banishing an “s”.

Meanwhile a weary Tanzanian will seek a moment’s solace after a day’s labour cleaning the consultant’s offices or wiping the consultant’s children’s arses or other such services to development, and reach for a “Sports”. What a difference an “s” makes.   

Africa at last

It is very difficult to avoid the Chinese in Africa. They have been there a long while. Graham Greene mentioned the British Intelligence Service’s neuroses over Chinese activity in Zanzibar in The Human Factor. I passed the faded TAZARA railhead in Dar this morning, a 1970s Chinese gift to the peoples of Zambia and Tanzania, or more strategically a route for copper exports out of landlocked Zambia that bypassed apartheid South Africa.

Now it’s business. Scarcely a development goes up without a Chinese name on the construction boards. Take an African flight and the chances are you will be sharing it with a posse of immaculately dressed Chinese businessmen or officials. They drive a bargain as sharp as their suits. The Chinese are here for very self-interested purposes, recognising the long term economic potential of “undiscovered” Africa.  They have of course drawn ire from the Western poverty lobby for their rampant commercialism. I wonder how things will look in fifty years’ time? The selfish Chinese would have to have done remarkably badly to match the disasters of half a century’s Western attempts at development in Africa. We may find that the inscrutable men in suits deliver a lot more to the average African than all the pampered, Land Cruisered poverty parasites we send.