Thursday 24 February 2011

Foreign Office

150 people arrive back in UK on rescue flight from Libya...hurrah...but was that plane organised by the government? No by BP. Already perilously late Government charter stuck on tarmac at Gatwick for 10 hours.

Polish President's plane managed to take Brits.

Turkey, well known for efficient logistics, has got all its people out.

Libyan airport security firing automatic rounds to "calm" chaos -- does the FCO advice for British nationals to go to airport with lots of money still hold?

HMS Cumberland "waiting for permission" to dock at Bengazi. MMmm.

Cameron still poncing around the the Middle East as chaos reigns. Surely he can ring up the FCO and give them a rocket, after all he must have been at Eton with a fair number of the chinless wonders.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Foreign Office Advice ...continued...

Very interesting interview on WATO just now with woman who went to Tripoli Airport and was helped out of Libya by Portuguese Embassy staff on a Portuguese plane -- no sign of HMG's representatives at airport or before.

FCO clearly too busy supporting Cameron's ludicrous grandstanding tour of the Middle East.

Nul points to the chinless wonders.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Foreign Office advice on how to escape from a danger zone

You have to ask on which planet the chinless wonders of the Foreign Office reside. "Planet Common Sense" it ain't.

I see that they are sending out advice, from the safety of King Charles Street, to British citizens caught up in the crisis in Libya. You must leave, they say, without checking how that is to be achieved. If they had, they would have found that British Airways and British Midland have cancelled their flights from Tripoli. The airlines that are left flying out are all, surprise surprise, full.  Just go to the airport with lots of cash is the next nugget of wisdom, at the same time as reports of chaos at same airport. Well at least they alerted all the thieves and muggers in North Africa to look out for escaping Brits. We have no plans to organise special flights they conclude. No that would be useful.

I imagine this supremely incompetent or at best unthinking advice is a great comfort to our countrymen and women out there.

Monday 21 February 2011

How to write well

A very well-written piece about writing well from Robert McCrum. I share his agnosticism about the teaching of creative writing.

Not a day goes by without my inbox filling with junkmail about screenwriting courses. If they were all so brilliant imagine what Hollywood or even TV would be like? Of course -- with some honourable exceptions -- they are not good. These courses tend to perpetuate the hackneyed old formulae which blight 99% of film and TV. Particularly TV. Recently a well-know someone was unfortunate enough to have to work on a series  with a TV commissioning editor "graduate" of this type of course . After a barrage of inane edicts from TV exec, my man remarked : "If he mentions F***ing "jeopardy" or C***ing "discovery" one more time,  he is going to discover his jeopardy rammed up his S***ing arse."

McCrum's list of examples may challenge my library but I think they are well worth seeking out. Tonight's task.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Cold Pastoral

I have always found the last two weeks of February the most challenging of the British winter. Even though we have the snowdrops and (so I noticed in Dorset this week) the odd daffodil, it is still chilly and bleak and drab with all the excitements of the cold season long past. My Swahili friends in Zanzibar, Dar and Mombasa are all complaining about the heat. The irony.

This year things seem particularly bad. We have the depressing, overwhelming blanket of austerity, real or imagined, cut thorough with the clear reality that the burden is not being shared fairly despite the bleating of Coalition ministers  I have been re-reading David Kynaston's magisterial Austerity Britain and Family Britain  about the immediate and not so immediate post war years (I have probably mentioned this before but they are long books). Kynaston curates a wonderful selection of first hand descriptions of the time. There is a sense of nostalgic virtue in the process of austerity that was a part of building a new Jerusalem. Some of that Jerusalem we now know failed to deliver but it is difficult to summon the same "dig for Britain" enthusiasm to restoring bankers' bonuses.

Of course the best things in life are free. Perhaps. So this weekend I will be enjoying some walks in the countryside, daydreams, conversation and (not free) beer.

Thursday 17 February 2011

what a performance

I caught "the" Archers episode in the car today. Oh dear. Oh dear dear dear. I don't think they will be having her back in Ambridge.

Friday 11 February 2011

A million words

A fantastic collection of pictures from the Egyptian Revolution on the Atlantic site here  -- if a picture is worth a thousand words then these must add up to well over a million!

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Lizard brains

To the LSE for Paul Dolan's inaugural lecture. Ambitiously he aims to bring behavioural economics together with human happiness. It's a bravura performance to a house packed with people from across the political spectrum. This thinking is, after all, supposed to be one of the engines of the Big Society.

I rather like the fact that Dolan frames his lecture around a song from The Jam -- how young professors are getting, or am I simply getting old? But content wise I am most interested by the insights into how our ancient, instinctive limbic system, lizard brain to me, can be manipulated to any number of ends. He cites a study where a group of human guinea pigs were sent loan offers with randomised interest rates, additionally some of these offers were presented with the picture of an attractive woman. The results showed that people would give up a 1% interest rate advantage to sign up for the loan with the attractive woman. No they weren't all male respondents, nor lesbians, they were a properly balanced sample. The explanation? The lizard brains had taken over matching attractive human with attractive financial deal. So much for the rational decision making of Homo Economicus, much more Homer Economicus. I think this is all fascinating in its implications for economics, for the spurious sciences of consumer research and for the way (as Professor Dolan is working on just now) in which governments influence the public.

Monday 7 February 2011

Spotted by the road in Kenya

I want to know what "crocodiles educational" are. Can we have them on the National Curriculum?

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Meanwhile in Ambridge...

"Ohhh it's windy up on Lakey Hill, or has Joe Grundy been at the Bridge Farm organic pickled turnips again?"

Do I detect a weeny little bit of limelight envy ...? Is Camilla's forthcoming appearance on the Archers -- eating Ian's shortbread at Grey Gables -- a naughty shot across her stepson's bows before The Wedding??

Anyway full marks to her press team  -- Ambridge is the classiest of media ops and the Duchess has a great face for radio.