Monthly Archives: February 2014

Evening Standard #fail

Credited to: A History of Britain From Above, by James Crawford, Katy Whitaker & Allan Williams

Eastbourne pier 1931

It is about 105 miles from the Evening Standard‘s London office to Bournemouth Pier. Was even so in 1931.

Leave a comment

Filed under Evening Standard, London

New bust for London

UntitledYesterday it was LT124 … and there’s something (as left) you don’t see too often. Fortunately. But seems to be happening too often. Unfortunately.

It’s also £354,000 (apparently the contract price, each, over the intended 600) of badly-bent vanity vehicle, foisted in the London tax-payers.

So far, that’s the fourth “event” involving one of these badly-ventilated, daft — even dangerous — staircased, three doored (though one closed on a semi-permanent basis) lard buses. A sad record for the over-hyped:

…monarch of the road,
Observer of the highway code,
That big six-wheeler,
Scarlet painted,
BoJo transport,
Hybrid engined,
Seriously overweight omnibus.

[We can knock out such rubbish, At The Drop of a Hat. We sincerely apologise for mistakes afterwards. BoJo never does.]

It looks as if LT124 was attempting to make the turn into the bus garage, and #Failed.

There are precedents

By all accounts, this is the fourth smash by one of these behemoths, and the second in a week. Acording to @BorisWatch:

four of Boris’s expensive buses are now broken: LT35, LT62, LT96 and LT124, all drove into something hard and unyielding.

And that amounts to :

2.8% of the fleet, if applied city-wide would be 200+ buses always off the road due to accidents. Doubt that happens.

It also appears that two of those “incidents” occurred five and six months ago, but the vehicles remain unrepaired and unusable.

Something is wrong, certainly politically, certainly administratively, possibly mechanically, and it’s time someone came clean.

If not the organ-grinder-in-chief, then the mini-Me sub-grinder (who also seems to have been at it), or — as a last resort — some designated flak-catcher (Leon Daniels, “responsible for the safe and efficient delivery of London’s bus services“) could be earning his £328,448+ exes crust.

1 Comment

Filed under blogging, Boris Johnson, London, politics, travel

Alex Salmond defines #indyref

In the 1980s, while I was compiling the oil and gas index, David Cameron was still fooling around on the playing fields of Eton.

In that sentence, on the BBC Today programme,  Alex Salmond identified my problem with the Scottish Referendum.

P5151083He presumably intended to imply his experience over Cameron’s jejune effeteness. Or, in Francis Bacon’s usage, effete

Ieiunenesse or extreme Comminution of Spirits.

For Salmond’s deserved contempt ought to raise the question,

What and who is Scottish “Independence” for?

Because, if it is for the bankers and oil economists, I want nothing to do with it.

My concept of Scottish independence would be something more robust:

hamishwebIt’s a thocht that wad gar our rottans,
Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay,
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play

Or, as Béarla (= in common English):

It’s a thought that would drive our vermin,
all the rogues who strut and swagger,
to take the road and seek other fields,
to go and play elsewhere with their wicked tricks.

Hamish Henderson, Seumas Mór’s soaring verse transcends petty capitalist nationalism, but it serves here to illustrate the poverty of the SNP vision.

An old romantic concludes:

Perhaps, if anyone, John Maclean, the old Clydeside Marxist, — back in 1923, not long before his early death — came close, if naïvely, to defining a credible free and independent Scotland:

Russia could not produce the World Revolution. Neither can we in Gorbals, in Scotland, in Great Britain. Before England is ready I am sure the next war will be on us. I therefore consider that Scotland’s wisest policy is to declare for a republic in Scotland, so that the youths of Scotland will not be forced out to die for England’s markets.

I accordingly stand out as a Scottish Republican candidate, feeling sure that if Scotland had to elect a Parliament to sit in Glasgow it would vote for a working-class Parliament.

Such a Parliament would have to use the might of the workers to force the land and the means of production in Scotland out of the grasp of the brutal few who control them, and place them at the full disposal of the community. The Social Revolution is possible sooner in Scotland than in England…


Leave a comment

Filed under David Cameron, folk music, History, Scotland, SNP, social class, socialism.


I’m going to employ it in a post coming up.

Let’s get that word by its withers.

the-kings-englishKingsley Amis had a typically acerbic rant on this, imagining the transition of jej(e)une through three users:

Stage 1: A writes: “His arguments are unoriginal and jejune” (A knows that ‘jejune’ means ‘thin, unsatisfying’, a rare word, admittedly, but one with a nice ring to it).

Stage 2: B notices the nice ring. He doesn’t know what the word means and, of course, wouldn’t dream of consulting a dictionary even if he possessed one. There is something vaguely French as well as nice about the ring to ‘jejune’; in fact, now he comes to think of it, it reminds him of ‘jeune’, which he knows means ‘young’. Peering at the context, he sees that ‘jejune’ could mean, if not exactly ‘young’, then something like ‘un-grown-up, immature, callow’. Hooray! — he’s always needing words for that, and here’s a new one, one of superior quality, too.

Stage 3: B starts writing stuff like “much of the dialogue is jejune, in fact downright childish.” With the latest edition of OED giving ‘peurile’ as a sense of ‘jejune’, the story might be thought to be over, but there is one further stage.

Stage 4: Having ‘jeune’ in their heads, people who have never seen the word in print start pronouncing ‘jejune’ not as ‘djiJOON’ but ‘zherZHERN’, in the apparent belief that French people always give a tiny stutter when they say ‘jeune’. (I have heard ‘zherZHERN’ several times in the last few years). Finally C takes the inevitable step of writing ‘jejeune’ (I have seen several examples) or even, just that much better: “Although the actual arguments are a little jéjeune, the staging of the mass scenes are [sic] impressive.” Italics in original! – which, with the newly acquired acute accent in place set the seal on the deportation of an English word into French, surely a unique event.

That, pretty well, covers the waterfront.

Except …

Amis is self-evidently a boring old fart, protective of the language of , for and because of similar boring old farts.

For jejune is an early-seventeenth-century Anglicising of the Latin adjective, ieiunus [“having consumed no food or drink, fasting, hungry empty”].  No more, no less. Cicero, in his second letter to Atticus, is using it in a derived sense [“Deficient in goodness, meagre, starved”]. From there Cicero, elsewhere, makes simple metaphoric leaps and the term refers to unproductive land, and then to poor literary style.

In place of the Latinate term, we might supply, as the OED does:

dull, flat, insipid, bald, dry, uninteresting; meagre, scanty, thin, poor; wanting in substance or solidity.

De haut en bas

An objection might be those terms, as a catalogue, are hardly a shorthand. Nor, singly or collectively, do they convincingly express the note of superior snootiness implied when we deploy jejune. For that we need to go to Shaw’s stage-direction in Act II of Arms and the Man, telling us more than we need to know of the Byronic Major Sergius Saranoff:

By his brooding on the perpetual failure, not only of others, but of himself, to live up to his imaginative ideals, his consequent cynical scorn for humanity, the jejune credulity as to the absolute validity of his ideals and the unworthiness of the world in disregarding them, his wincings and mockeries under the sting of the petty disillusions which every hour spent among men brings to his infallibly quick observation, he has acquired the half tragic, half ironic air, the mysterious moodiness, the suggestion of a strange and terrible history that has left him nothing but undying remorse, by which Childe Harold fascinated the grandmothers of his English contemporaries.

Which is why, in this intended post, it will be applied to David Cameron.

Leave a comment

Filed under David Cameron, George Bernard Shaw, Oxford English Dictionary, prejudice, Quotations, reading

A problem of geometric geography

Tom Whipple, “Science Correspondent”, of The Times has a piece on how to rescue the flooded Somerset Levels:

Building a vast tidal lagoon in the Severn Estuary would be a better way to combat floods in the Somerset Levels than dredging and would generate a significant amount of renewable energy, a senior hydrologist has said.

Roger Falconer, of Cardiff University, argued that the government decision to ignore expert advice and dredge rivers in the region was not just largely pointless but contradicted the “fundamental laws of fluid dynamics”.

Here’s the bit that has me totally confused:

“In the Somerset Levels, you’ve virtually got a horizontal water slope,” Professor Falconer said. “The real solution to flooding is to increase the slope. Raising the land is out of the question, so what you need to do is effectively drop the sea level.”

See my problem: a horizontal water slope, whether virtually or not, seems self-contradictory.

As for effectively dropping the sea level, there is a precedent. Send for Cecil B. DeMille.

Leave a comment

Filed under Britain, films, Times, weather

Twenty gone. How many more?

York has many good pubs. Some provide for locals. Many inside the walls are more for the tourists and day-trippers. Many new venues have opened: occasionally the new opening is “older” than what it replaces:

This week the York Press has a feature on a score that have been lost over the last two decades. It is currently the “most shared” item on the site.

Nostalgia isn’t enough

To be honest, many of these lost pubs look as welcoming as a bucket of spit. Saying they are “greatly missed” takes hyperbole to new levels. They closed because their trade had gone. Story: end of.

What is equally depressing is that, when pubs are demolished for housing, the replacement buildings have all the architectural merit of yet another concrete block.

We have come a long way in the twenty years the Press feature covers. The choice of beers has improved enormously — many York pubs have half-a-dozen on hand-pump — a favourite of mine (though it’s the other side of the Ouse, and a fair stroll) is the much-touted Brigantes.  One of its more positive features is that it isn’t on the most beaten track from station to centre. It is personable, and does a good job. Long may it and its like prosper.

We even have our own York Brewery (and its excellent Terrier and Guzzler brews).

Food is now the norm — and often of decent quality. As the clientele has changed, so have the facilities, the seating, the … err … ambiance.

If pubs have to work harder for their custom, that is no bad thing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beer, pubs, York

The Great Rat-wagon contest

Long-gone days of school summer holidays involved trucking young daughters to camp-sites in the south of France. It was necessary to invent diversions, competitions and games to keep them occupied in the longueurs of the driving.


This was aeons before Jeremy Clarkson and co. started picking on them.

What was required was to spot a caravan, cry “Piggle!” A more sophisticated version required the counting of the number of vehicles trapped behind the obstruction: longest queue wins that day’s round.

This was the “I am the snail. You are the slime” challenge.

Naming bridges

Each motorway bridge deserves a name.

Spot a bridge. Give it an appropriate title. Marks awarded, as in ice-dancing, diving and similar non-sports, for style and interpretation.

Unknown-1Mister/Monsieur/Mein Herr Blob

This, in more egalitarian and sympathetic days, would be considered offensive and discriminatory.

Spot an obese, over-extended belly. Claim him as the parochial, provincial, regional or national champion.

And the best game of the lot …


In those days French and Belgian roads featured large numbers of those strange corrugated-sided vans. Many were Peugeots, but the prime specimens were — without question — aged Citroen H vans.

Since the Type H was produced over three-and-a-half decades (1947-1981) and there were going on half-a-million of them, some still in daily use, some reduced to hen-huts, there was a wealth of material to abuse and mock.

A rat-wagon is identifiable by:

  • its lack of speed (though alternative, imaginative, non-mobile uses were regarded as a bonus);
  • its obstructiveness; and — above all —
  • by advanced decay and rust.

The ultimate all-time winner was spotted being used as a road-side fish-stall in Versailles: it clearly hadn’t shifted in years, and probably never again could, without dissolving into a heap of iron oxide.

So, this morning the Pert Young Piece recalls the fun, with a photo from her iPhone, taken in Park Road, Hornsey:


Her caption is:

Needs more rust

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, leisure travel