Sunday 12 May 2024

The Sunday Ishmael: 12/05/2024

Did anyone else see the Laura Kuenssberg Show this morning?  She (or her producers) had assembled a veritable rogue's gallery to inflict their opinions on us. For the government we had David Cameron, Baron of SomewhereorOther, Foreign Secretary and Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford on Avon.
Remember him? Used to be Chancellor of the Exchequer and Conservative Party Chairman until his attempt to protect his millions was scotched by the HMRC. He apologised to  the nation this morning and said he had bought off the tax authorities with just under £5million.
For the opposition, we had Jonathon Ashworth (who looks like a nice boy but has a really nasty sneer when provoked) 
and Zarah Sultana, MP for Coventry South. Sultana is a piece of work, and no mistake. Still identified with the passions and delusions of the young, although, at 31 in October, she is getting a bit mutton for that demographic, Sultana turned up for her Kuenssberg gig with a jotter filled with hand-written notes, highlighted with two different colours - red and yellow, like an industrious female fourth former. 
is that a chip on your shoulder, or are you just really happy to see me?
Belligerent, opinionated, rude and verbally incontinent, she clearly owes her allegiance to an intolerant international religious movement and is outspoken in her condemnation of the British government and its refusal to allow Hamas to wipe out the state of Israel. You'd better get used to her, though, because she is wildly popular amongst a certain sort: in May 2023, she was ranked 47th on the New Statesman's "left power list", which described her as a "rare" "genuinely viral politician" with the highest number of TikTok followers of any MP, 438,000, along with 273,000 Instagram and 324,000 Twitter followers. She made me reflect on the unenviable position of Sir Keir Starmer, who has to smile and smile and smile again at the lunatics he has to accommodate within his broad camp, and remind himself that it is better to have them in the tent pissing out than outside, pissing in. She is obviously unmanageable. She must have ignored the memo from Sir Keir, instructing his unruly flock to hail the defection of Nadine Elphicke, formerly Conservative MP for Dover, as a PR triumph, and she loudly stated her undying contempt for the newly-minted Labour MP in the following terms: “[Elphicke] was a member of the [Eurosceptic] European Reform Group; she voted for Liz Truss in the leadership; she’s at odds when it comes to fire and rehire; she has attacked trade unions and their activities; [she’s] not great on the environment either. So unless she’s had the biggest Damascene conversion ever, I just don’t buy it.” 
There's actually a lot to raise eyebrows about in Elphicke's Damascene conversion ( Christian simile, much?). A lawyer who specialised in housing policy, she succeeded her now former husband – the disgraced former Tory M.P. Charlie Elphicke – as the MP for Dover. He was convicted and jailed for sexual assault in 2020. 
She announced weeks before the 2019 election that she had been “unanimously” selected to fight the seat, but it was later revealed that the local Conservative association had put Elphicke forward as the only candidate. She was also temporarily suspended from the Commons and told to apologise after being found to have tried to influence a judge presiding over the trial of her ex-husband, Charlie Elphicke, who was jailed for two years in September 2020.
So Sultana's refusal to toe Sir Keir's party line puts her firmly in bed line with dear old David Cameron, who announced: “(Elphicke) was actually quite a rightwing MP, who had absolutely no affinity with Labour policies or Labour people or Labour philosophy. (The fact that) they welcome her in, I think it says a huge amount about the Labour party. If you don’t have a plan, if you don’t have policies, if you don’t have things you stand for, you will literally fall for anything.”
Baron Munchauson of Chipping Snoredum acquitted himself as a conviction politician of integrity, whose values are firmly in place. He spoke with sincerity and passion and defended Britain's decision not to resume funding for UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). You'll recall that Israel alleged that at least 12 UNRWA employees were directly involved in the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7th, that another 30 supported the attack in some way, and as many as 12% of the organization’s staff were affiliated with Hamas. 
I had to go and have a little lie down, after that lot. Well, I am recovering from another bout of bloody Covid, thanks to a shedding chum who'd been abroad. No respiratory symptoms, this time. Swollen fingers, sore hips, can't stand up for very long, head sweats, extreme fatigue, sore eyes and the head staggers. Maybe this creeping feeling I'm getting that the Conservatives, despite their manifest self-interest, over-moneyed privilege, grandiose sense of self-importance, sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, self-belief, arrogance and haughty behaviours (woops, that the definition of narcissistic personality disorder, mrs ishmael. Yes? And your point is?), despite all that, the Tories are better behaved than His Majesty's loyal opposition. Or maybe that's the Covid talking. 

Speaking of which, amidst the controversy surrounding the Covid vaccine, ishmaelites might wish to note that if they, or a relative managing the estate of the deceased, has experienced severe illness, hospitalisation or death in consequence of the vaccine, than a claim for a one-off tax-free vaccine damage payment (VDP) of £120,000 can be made to the government. The government is keen to point out that these cases are very rare, and that the VDP is not a compensation scheme and that those affected can still take action against the vaccine manufacturer. Astra Zeneca has admitted in a High Court document that its Covid vaccine can "in very rare cases" cause Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome, which results in blood clots and a low platelet count with life threatening consequences. Proof that illness/death resulted from the vaccine is dependent on diagnostic tests and post mortem examinations. For survivors, there is a "60% disablement threshold".
This is a photo of Papa Westray on a nice day. The name means "Island of the Papar (Priests)"
Papa Westray is first mentioned in the "Orkneyinga Saga" as "Papey in meiri" - "the greater island of the Priests/Monks", "Papa" being the word used by the Norsemen to identify the early Christian monks who arrived in approximately 800AD. They are still there.
It is a small island off the larger island of Westray, which is an island within the archipelago of 70 islands constituting the Orkney Isles and is  a 90 minute ferry ride from Orkney Mainland. I am sure that it will look breathtakingly beautiful in the film The Outrun, on general release this year, having gone down well at the Sundance Film Festival in Texas. Based on a memoir by Amy Liptrot, a former Orkney resident, it describes how the protagonist, played by Saoirse Ronan,
having unwisely gone to live in London, became addicted to alcohol and illegal drugs and returned to her home on Papa Westray to recover from her addiction through - oh, I don't know - wild swimming, I think, maybe a bit of baking, gazing out to sea, (it's a while since I read the book), and writing a memoir. The book was picked up by the BBC, enjoyed great popularity amongst the chattering classes who like this sort of plotless, narrativeless introspective memoir with a happy ending, was sold to the  movie people and the author has gone to live happily ever after in Hebden Bridge. (Honestly, you can't make this stuff up).
We Orcadians are happily looking forward to a boom in property sales as wealthy Londoners, wanting to overcome their drink and drug problems, stuffed full of cash from the sales of their over-priced London properties, planning on sorting out their alcohol and coke problems with a bit of wild swimming; engage in a bidding war to snap up houses that have been languishing on the market. Then we can all go and live in Hebden Bridge.
A delightful irony is that the Orkney isles (not Orkney mainland), have no police force, but the population of the archipelago has an interesting relationship with alcohol. The cathedral city, Kirkwall, originally pronounced Kirkwaa, its name derived from Kirkjuvagr, meaning The Church Bay, has a population of 9, 293, and around 15 or so pubs and bars. There's two whisky distilleries, a brewery and a gin distillery, which makes a gin called Kirkuvagr. You can sample the produce at each of them. Not really the place to come if you want to get off the booze. Especially Hoy.
best not go wild swimming here
There's a colony of alcoholics on Hoy, and no police presence. The Kirkwall Sheriff Court's pages in the local newspaper frequently feature amusing and instructive stories. Here's one about a Hoy resident, 67 year old Hugh Seatter, who really doesn't like English people. He was recently found guilty of causing a reasonable person fear or alarm. He stormed into the Council's offices, threw a council tax reminder, on which he had written: English bitch at the customer services staff member, instructed her to "stick it up your fucking arse" and shouted: "You can tell that English bitch to stick it up her arse. Orkney, Orkney, Orkney! She should be shot with the greylag geese."  He then left and was arrested, after some difficulty, at the Hoy ferry terminal, where he told the officers "I didn't threaten anybody. I told them to shove it up their fucking arse". He then told the arresting officer, "I would like to head-butt you" and produced a lock knife. When the officers eventually got him into the back of the police car, he stared fixedly at PC Cuthbertson and said "They're all fucking English", before enquiring if the officers thought he was black and that was why they were arresting him. He then enlivened the journey to the police station by making pig noises. At trial, he said he hadn't threatened the officer by saying he would like to head butt him, he was just giving him a bit of advice, and that the Council tax department is "like a bloody Nazi government, or in Russia."
Mr. Seatter's case has been deferred for sentence to the 7th June, when he will appear for a separate trial for further offences of threatening and abusive behaviour to council staff.

I'm tired now and going for another little lie down, but, should you wish to read some original mr ishmael or stanislav, then the four-volume Call Me Ishmael oeuvre, collected and curated by editor mr verge, is available on Lulu and Amazon.

Honest Not Invent, Vent Stack, Ishmael’s Blues, and the latest, Flush Test (with a nice picture of the late, much lamented, Mr Harris of Lanarkshire taking a piss on a totem pole) are available from Lulu and Amazon. If you buy from Amazon, it would be nice if you could give a review on their website.
Ishmaelites wishing to buy a copy from lulu should follow these steps :
please register an account first, at lulu.com. This is advisable because otherwise paypal seems to think it's ok to charge in dollars, and they then apply their own conversion rate, which might put the price up slightly for a UK buyer. Once the new account is set up, follow one of the links below (to either paperback or hardback) or type "Ishmael’s Blues" into the Lulu Bookstore search box. Click on the “show explicit content” tab, give the age verification box a date of birth such as 1 January 1960, and proceed.
Link for Hardcover : https://tinyurl.com/je7nddfr
Link for Paperback : https://tinyurl.com/3jurrzux
https://www.lulu.com/shop/ishmael-smith/flush-test/paperback/product-9yjvn7.html?q=Flush+Test&page=1&pageSize=4

At checkout, try WELCOME15 in the coupon box, which (for the moment) takes 15% off the price before postage. If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for "Lulu.com voucher code" and see what comes up.
With the 15% voucher, PB (including delivery to a UK address) should be £16.84; HB £27.04.


Monday 6 May 2024

Happy May Bank Holiday

 
This is May Morning on Magdalen Tower, by William Holman Hunt, a major Pre-Raphaelite painter. No apologies for posting this picture again - I covered it last May Day, along with the usual snarkey-ness about May Day traditions.  This picture is an exquisite example of the artistic principles of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. They designated themselves pre-raphaelite because they considered Raphael's (1483 to 1520) classical poses and elegant compositions to have been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art.  Here's Raphael's portrait of the Duke of Urbino - judge for yourself-
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art. They particularly objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, (1723-1792) founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts, whom they called "Sir Sloshua". Well, they were young men at the time, fired by vision, filled with enthusiasm and kicking against the Establishment. 
Here's Sir Sloshua's portrait of Lady Elizabeth Delmé and Her Children, 1777-1779 -
Sir Sloshua's work and sloshy in general, meant, according to William Michael Rossetti:  "anything lax or scamped in the process of painting ... and hence ... any thing or person of a commonplace or conventional kind".  The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, and considered mimesis, imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art. 
So, look again at May Morning (1890):
The freshness of the sky, the sense of height and distance, the swift movement of the birds and clouds, the sun on the faces of the choristers, the aged figure to the extreme right contrasting with the youth and vitality of the boy choristers, the depiction of sturdy, vigorous adulthood in the small group of clerics, the shocking deep red of the priestly gown leading the eye into the heap of vibrant May flowers scattered on the pitched roof of the tower, the subtlety of the many shades of white of the choristers' surplices, lit by the early morning sun, and the central image of the pretty boy, with his golden curls, just about to discard the white lily, symbol of virgin innocence, onto the piled flowers at his feet - there's nothing sloshy here. It is carefully detailed, finely painted, with a mastery of craft skills. It is actually quite small. Here it is in the frame designed for it by its creator - a depiction of the sun.

There's a whole separate craft skill in framing, and, of course, fashion dictates how a thing should look - modern sensibility would expect this painting to be in an understated plain black frame. Which would miss Holman Hunt's religious reference.
Now, some would disparagingly and erroneously call May Morning chocolate box art.
 Chocolate box art originally referred literally to decorations on chocolate boxes. Over the years, however, the terminology has changed; it is now applied broadly as an often pejorative term to describe paintings and designs that are overly idealistic and sentimental.
Using his own paintings of children, flowers and holiday scenes Richard Cadbury, the son of the founder of Cadbury's, introduced such designs to his chocolate boxes in the late 19th century.  Renoir's paintings have been described as "chocolate box" and have been derided by Degas and Picasso for being happy, inoffensive scenes. Constable's landscapes have also been so described. It's just fashion, really, and the accident of Richard Cadbury decorating his chocolate packaging has given the art snobs a handy sneer. 
The dissemination of comparatively cheap cameras and photographic processes rendered obsolete all those artists making a small living by faithfully depicting, as realistically as they could, portraits and landscapes to hang on the walls of the middle class. The invention of photography initially spurred artists on to be more photo-realistic than a photograph. Richard Estes (born May 14, 1932, in Illinois) is regarded as one of the founders of the  international photo-realist movement of the late 1960s. His paintings generally consist of reflective, clean, and inanimate city and geometric landscapes. Here's one:
Apart from the photo-realist movement, photography freed artists from the earnest labour of making paint on canvas look like something - realism, and allow them to ditch the trade skills and produce conceptual and abstract art. This sort of thing:
Venice, by Howard Hodgkin.
Or this, The Green Chateau, by Hodgkin, 
which sold for £1.3 million as a part of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on October 6th, 2017. Here's the blurb: "With its opulent palette of strong primary colours, it’s a prime illustration of Hodgkin’s breakthrough period, executed between 1976-1980. Challenging the boundaries between painting and frame, the artist covers the latter with a sumptuous, bright red stroke, expanding the limits of the emotive image with a geometric narrative unfolding at its centre."
You'll have come across the aphorism: I may not know much about art, but I know what I like.
It really should be re-rendered as: I may not know much about art, but I like what I know,
Or:  I may not know much about art, but I know about money. 
Which is amply demonstrated by auction audiences clapping the money when a painting achieves a price that would have made the safely-dead artist go cross-eyed.  

There's an exhibition on at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery:   ‘Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement’.
Birmingham has the best and most complete collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world. Selected from its outstanding and internationally renowned collection, Victorian Radicals presents paintings, drawings, jewellery, glass, textiles and metalwork that explored a radical vision for art and society. The collection also celebrates Birmingham’s historic importance as a centre for the Arts and Crafts.

The exhibition explores three generations of progressive British artists working between 1840 and 1910: the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their circle; the second wave of Pre-Raphaelite artists who gathered around Rossetti from the late 1850s, including William Morris and Birmingham-born Edward Burne-Jones; and a third generation of designers and makers associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, working from the turn of the century to just before the First World War.

By the early 20th century, Birmingham’s School of Art was one of the most important centres in Britain for progressive art and design. Women artists were particularly significant in the School, including the painter Kate Bunce and her metalworking sister, Myra; stained-glass designer Florence Camm; enameller Fanny Bunn; and embroiderer, painter and designer Mary Newill.

With more than 160 works on display, by artists such as Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Elizabeth Siddall, the exhibition’s paintings, drawings, watercolours, and decorative arts explore the relationship between art and nature and the search for beauty in an age of industry.
Melody by Kate Bunce, Birmingham Museums


Set of Curtains, Mary J. Newill

If you are anywhere near Birmingham, do go along. You'll need to leave your car behind, though, because the city fathers, who have driven the city into bankruptcy, have imposed a car tax of £8.00 per day. I'd take the Mercedes in and hang the expense, but I live 603 miles and a sea crossing away.

Sunday 5 May 2024

The Sunday Ishmael: 05/05/2024

O Scotland! Scotland!.... If such a one be fit to govern, speak:
Fit to govern? No, not to live - O nation miserable! With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd, when shalt thou see thy wholesome days again?                                 (l.100-105, sc.III, Act IV, Macbeth)

Steady on, mrs ishmael - untitled, why, yes indeed - yet another unelected First Minister; and Scotland - yep, miserable nation, that's true, and he's certainly not fit to govern, but I'd hardly call John Swinney a bloody-sceptred tyrant. More likely he'd have you gnawing your own leg off with boredom than smiting you on the pate.
At 60, this sweet, bald old tortoise is a veritable youngster  compared with the octogenarian President of the United States and his 77 year old rival on whom Biden is determined to hang a criminal conviction to scupper his chances of election. Dear little old Swinney is even one year younger than Ancient Ralph Fiennes. But you know how they say age is just a number? And Swinney was born ancient -

Here he is, aged six months, having a tantrum.

and is careful to present himself as thoughtful, loyal, financially astute, a subdued performer, a safe pair of hands and in possession of a "deep Christian faith". He even got an annulment of his first marriage in order to marry his current wife in the Catholic church.
He has been around forever - MSP for North Tayside from 1999 to 2011, then MSP for Perthshire North from 2011 to the present. He was Leader of the SNP from 2000 to 2004, when he was censured by colleagues who said there was no room in Scotland for his brand of extreme nationalism and Alex Salmond advised him to resign in exchange for senior party figures not calling openly for his resignation, so he did, triggering a leadership contest, which Alex Salmond won. Funny how things work out, eh?
Swinney then held various Cabinet roles under both Salmond and Sturgeon, where he entirely failed to distinguish himself,* and held the post of Deputy First Minister from 2014 to 2023. Which places him right in the centre of the senior SNP figures interrogated by the police as part of their Operation Branchform investigation into the embezzlement of SNP funds - which resulted in the resignations of Sturgeon and her husband, Morrell, who was recently formally charged with embezzlement.
In August 2020 he was subject to a vote of no confidence in Parliament, with the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all accusing Swinney of creating an exam results system which "unfairly penalised pupils at schools which had historically not performed so well". The Herald newspaper reported that: "Mr Swinney endured a deeply uncomfortable hour in the Holyrood chamber, as opposition MSPs said he had been a serial failure at the education portfolio, and he knew it." The motion was defeated by 67 votes to 58 resulting in Swinney surviving the vote and remaining as Scottish Education Secretary.

*In March 2021 Swinney was the subject of a second motion of no confidence. As the minister in charge of liaising with the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, Swinney twice refused to publish legal advice requested by the committee. After two votes in Parliament failed to persuade him to publish the advice, opposition parties announced a motion of no confidence in him. Swinney u-turned and published the advice; the Scottish Greens declared they would not support the motion of no confidence and it was defeated by 65 votes to 57. (Bloody Greens again)

*Also in March 2021, Audit Scotland published a report concluding that the results of Swinney's efforts to reduce the poverty related attainment gap in Scottish education were "limited and [fell] short of the Scottish Government’s aims. Improvement needs to happen more quickly and there needs to be greater consistency across the country." In 10 Scottish council areas the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest children increased.


Despite all this, the SNP establishment has decided that he is the man of the hour, will repair the relationship with the Scottish Greens - who like him - (see above) and take the SNP forward into greater triumphs. Kate Forbes, who was dithering about, considering standing herself, was bought off by the promise of great things in a Swiney Government. He's warned off other potential candidates, saying they would: "delay the ability for the [party] to start its rebuilding". He accepts that the party has had a "difficult" two years. I'll say. "Difficult" is typical mealy-mouthed, Swiney-esquery. Despite Swinney issuing understated threats like a Mafia boss, 'tis rumoured that Graeme McCormick, extremist nationalist, is gathering the 100 votes necessary to announce his candidature. Deadline is Monday noon. Central to McCormick's campaign is that "a majority vote will result in SNP MPs being instructed to dissolve the union, establish the sovereign government of Scotland, advise the UN that the union is ended and that Scotland will adhere to the terms of the Vienna Convention on the dissolution of a former state. Under international law, this is the "how" of delivering our nation statehood.”
Oh dear.

In the midst of all this nail-biting, edge of the seat Scottish stuff, England has been holding elections for local councils. Unsurprisingly, the Tories have tanked and Labour has done pretty well. Suella Braverman, wearing a magnificent Labour-red suit,
appeared on the Laura Kuenssberg show this morning to vent her spleen, dish up some cold revenge, and basically go: Ha Ha, Ho Ho, Hee, Hee. God, she was as magnificent as her suit. Clearly not at all resentful that Sunak had dismissed her as Home Secretary on 13th November 2023 and replaced her with Big Black James Cleverly (she only mentioned a couple of times that she was not a member of the Cabinet, not part of Sunak's team and had no say in his policies), Suella (named after Sue Ellen Ewing in Dynasty, because her mum was a fan) listed Sunak's failings as Prime Minister which included migration, gender ideology, and the European human rights convention. And she regrets ever supporting him. So there.
Suella was the best bit of the whole local election shindig. The next best bit was the opportunity Kuenssberg seized, on the excuse that Labour had won Redditch, to include Jacqui Smith on her panel. You do remember her? No? Here's a few facts:
Jacqui Smith gained a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from 
 Worcester College of Higher Education. Working as a school teacher, she taught economics at Arrow Vale High School in Redditch from 1986 to 1988 and at Worcester Sixth Form College. She served on Redditch Borough Council from 1991 to 1996, and was selected through an all-women shortlist as the Labour candidate for Redditch, winning the seat in the 1997 general election. She employed her husband, Richard Timney, as her parliamentary aide on a salary of £40,000 (equivalent to £75,396.00 today). He earned his hefty salary by writing letters to the Redditch Advertiser, pretending to be an ordinary member of the public impressed by Jacqui Smith's outstanding performance as the local MP. Despite an income that most people would regard as generous, he entered a Parliamentary expenses claim for viewing two pornographic films and two other pay-per-view films on the television in their family home. 
 In January 2020, she and Timney announced they had ended their 33 year marriage. I'm truly surprised it took that long.
There was also the matter of  her investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over allegations that 
she had inappropriately designated her sister's home in London as her main residence, despite stating in her website that she "lives in Redditch" .The arrangement had allowed Smith to claim over £116,000 (in then money) on her family's Redditch home since becoming an MP. When asked whether it was fair that she made claims for items such as a flat-screen TV and scatter cushions, she said that analyses of her receipts had been very particular and they were picking on her because she was a woman. In October 2009, it was reported that the Standards Commissioner, John Lyon, had looked into complaints over her expense claims. He concluded that, although her London home was a genuine home and she had spent more nights there than in her Redditch home, her constituency home was in fact her main home, and that she was in breach of Commons rules, despite "significant mitigating circumstances". The claims for pay-per-view films were also found to be in breach.
Then there was the decorating scandal. On 24 August 2011 it emerged that Smith had arranged for two prisoners on day-release to paint a room in her house, when they were supposed to be undertaking work to benefit the community. The Ministry of Justice launched an internal investigation into the matter, and Smith made a donation to the charity overseeing the scheme.The episode was condemned by Matthew Elliot of the TaxPayers' Alliance, who stated: "It's a disgrace that a former home secretary has used prisoners as her personal handymen".
It is a wonder that the woman can hold her head up at all, let alone appear on national television on a serious political show. Maybe a Kuenssberg producer of a Conservative cast of mind thought it would mitigate the Labour local election landslide by reminding us what Labour politicians used to be like, back in the day. Balance, you know. And hope that mrs ishmael would extract this delightful piece from the ishmaelian archive:


WHAT THE PAPERS SAY, WHAT'S COOKING? A NAZI FEMINIST SPEAKS.
The Grauniad, Saturday 11 July 2009

By Simon Hack, Cookery correspondent.

Jacqui Smith is bounding through the corridors of Filth - through the mighty central lobby, where eminent journalists such as Sir Michael Kneepads Wight fellate shabby, scumbag politicians in exchange for a bit of unattributable gossip, past the ancient subsidised bars, down the stairs to her somewhat shabbier office. She seems so different from the hardened home secretary who made glum pronouncements on terror –everybody’s under suspicion - and migration control – wogs go home, unless you can donate large sums to Labour plc. She laughs, and tells me I'm not the first to have mentioned it. "This sounds a bit naff, but I've always been quite stupid, dull, flabby, and there's something about being a disgraced and wholly incompetent home secretary that suits me perfectly," she says. "But it was much worse over the past few months."

Disgraced cookery teacher, Jacqui Schmidt, the most mediocre home secretary in history, was talking to the Arsebridger Grauniad, the home of well-paid media celebrity and all things correct.
The Smith Gang of Two
Asked about her marriage to her employee, Mr Richard Wank; the girl from Redditch, an overspill town for Birmingham’s burglar community, says: One of the worst things is that newspapers are going around friends saying we know her marriage is on the rocks. "That's horrible. And it isn't, no. It’s off the rocks and down in Davy Joneses locker" No, she didn't force him to sleep on the sofa, he always did that, from choice, and yes she has forgiven him. “I fully intend to keep my husband on as my employee at forty thousand of your pounds per year. Who else would write nice letters about me to the papers and pretend he was a complete stranger?” It’s one of the great strengths about our marriage, the lies we tell. And his wanking.

The trouble is, she says, the government underestimated the public's reaction to expenses. "We should have recognised there was a problem coming and covered it up, sharpish. But then recognising problems is hardly government business, is it, not here, on Planet Hindsight? I and others were saying, no this isn't the thing that people will be worried about, what they'll be really worried about is the economy, which, thanks to us, is completely fucked."

Has Labour missed Tony Blair? "Of course. Yes, we've missed him individually, and we've missed that ability to communicate." Would he have dealt with this crisis better? "He has a real strength of understanding people's feelings and being able to communicate to people, he bombs them, shoots them, burns them and tortures them and you can’t communicate better than that; Tony Blair really is a pretty, straight guy, although some people say Mr Rupert Corpse of News International has evidence to the contrary. I think he would have got the zeitgeist about expenses and made everybody transparently shred their receipts just as he and Imelda did and then none of this would have happened. One of his strengths is he understands how people feel about things, he identifies it quickly and then he's able to lie about it. Just take his Catholicism, for instance, that’s the most sincere piece of lying from any bisexual freak of his generation. I think he would have been less good on the substantive issue of the last year - Gordon would have had to do that, a pity he didn’t." She calls Blair the greatest British war criminal of modern times, and names Brown second and Thatcher third.
An international criminal and his Moll, Tony
Asked about her future plans Schmidt said that her experience as a cookery teacher at the Leys High School in Redditch –motto, any girl not pregnant at thirteen is an outstanding success for Team Leys – combined with having been the most laughable home secretary in history would stand her in good stead. For now, though, she was spending her time making her famous and delicious Snotbuns and selling them, three for a quid, to the other thieves at the Redditch and Studley CarBoot Sale (for all your cheap stolen goods). The recipe is quite simple, she beamed, suddenly cheerful, take one cup of fresh snot, half a cup of flour and a handful of raisins, mix them all together with your hands and shape into small bun-shaped buns, bake in your John Lewis Oven for ten minutes and serve hot or cold, they are delicious and children and prime ministers love them.

In the longer term, what's the most important thing she has learned from all this? "To not get out of touch with what people think is the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do and when you are definitely doing the wrong thing insist that you are doing the right thing.Y’know, like in Afghanistan." She insists she will stand at the next election, and is far from done with politics. She'd love to have another crack at home secretary. Does she think her constituency will re-elect her? "If the general election was tomorrow, definitely not. You must be fucking joking.”
....................................................
mr ishmael later explained: 

As stanislav, a young polish plumber, this writer launched the delightful confection, among others, that Ms Jacqui Smith’s previous career had been as a cookery teacher in Burglarsville High School, Redditch, and it runs to this day, the most inept and mediocre home secretary in history is, in the minds of many, always a jumped-up cookery teacher - and isn’t it the case that, what with the hubbyporn and the bathplug and squatting in sister’s broom cupboard, Schmidt acted in just the way you’d expect of a greedy, belligerent cookery teacher propelled into wholly unsuitably high office? The reality, in Schmidt’s case, has outrun the metaphor. Jacqui Smith; you couldn’t make her up, her taxpayer-salaried husband-assistant writing, under a nom de plume, to the local paper, praising the local MP, pretending she wasn’t his Mrs, that he was just a regular guy, spontaneously commending his elected representative. Since I was paying him, not the Labour party, that - the crass, cynical, illicit propagandising - for me, was the graver SchmidtSin, and in a proper country he’d go to jail.
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Oh, yes, and she appeared on Celebrity Come Dancing. Was voted off in the first round.

What's on at the Theatre?
Another outing from the shouting, spitting and running around school of acting. That's What.
Macbeth
Rafe Fiennes was ridiculously old for the part and for some peculiar reason he chose to play the whole thing bent double, with a pronounced case of bow-leggedness. He had one note and that was a loud one. There was nothing of the heroic soldier, of calm intelligence, of thoughtful reserve as Macbeth struggles with the conflicting demands of conscience and ambition.. Nope – he just went straight into crazed, evil, bent-over-shout mode and stayed there. He did manage to calm down a bit for the Tomorrow and Tomorrow speech – if he hadn’t I might have left the cinema at that point. Lady Macbeth was, as usual, angular and unwomanly. When she claims to have given suck, one thinks, aye, right, what with? The three witches were badly-dressed chubby teenagers with too much make up.

The Porter was cut out completely. No Porter. Cut out. Gone. They had to have someone to open the door to Macduff, so they gave a couple of lines to one of the Murderers. But all that lovely stuff about equivocation went into the shredder - it would have supported a view that Macbeth was not just embodied evil.

I keep going to Shakespearean productions hoping for something wonderful, some actor who can dignify the words. I want to be moved by nuance and ambiguity. But I just get shouted at. Apparently, they could hear the shouting out in the corridor.
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Here's the Youtube vlog I promised mr mongoose. 
We've had the restoration of a derelict wooden house in the forest in Belarus, the off-grid stone hut rebuild in the Italian Alps, and now we go to the Shahdag mountains in Azerbaijan, where a middle-aged couple tend the land and cook huge quantities of food in the open air on wood fires. 
Enjoy, as the waitresses command these days.
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The four-volume Call Me Ishmael oeuvre, collected and curated by editor mr verge, is available on Lulu and Amazon.

Honest Not Invent, Vent Stack, Ishmael’s Blues, and the latest, Flush Test (with a nice picture of the late, much lamented, Mr Harris of Lanarkshire taking a piss on a totem pole) are available from Lulu and Amazon. If you buy from Amazon, it would be nice if you could give a review on their website.
Ishmaelites wishing to buy a copy from lulu should follow these steps :
please register an account first, at lulu.com. This is advisable because otherwise paypal seems to think it's ok to charge in dollars, and they then apply their own conversion rate, which might put the price up slightly for a UK buyer. Once the new account is set up, follow one of the links below (to either paperback or hardback) or type "Ishmael’s Blues" into the Lulu Bookstore search box. Click on the “show explicit content” tab, give the age verification box a date of birth such as 1 January 1960, and proceed.
Link for Hardcover : https://tinyurl.com/je7nddfr
Link for Paperback : https://tinyurl.com/3jurrzux
https://www.lulu.com/shop/ishmael-smith/flush-test/paperback/product-9yjvn7.html?q=Flush+Test&page=1&pageSize=4

At checkout, try WELCOME15 in the coupon box, which (for the moment) takes 15% off the price before postage. If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for "Lulu.com voucher code" and see what comes up.
With the 15% voucher, PB (including delivery to a UK address) should be £16.84; HB £27.04.

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Off the grid in the mountains

World news, or at least the bits of the world in which we are interested, is, as usual, bleak. Here's a round-up:

  • Israel/Hamas cease fire - well it's a possibility and the negotiators are working on something that would release a handful of the hostages Gaza took in an unprovoked act of war in October last year, but the stumbling block is that Hamas wants a truce that would allow it to continue as a military force, whereas Israel wants to resume fighting and wipe out Hamas. So Israel wants a short cease-fire, while Hamas wants a longer one that could be dragged out into permanence, while continuing to manipulate the sympathies of the West.
  • Russian forces have captured a number of villages on Ukraine's eastern front last week. As many as 25,000 Russian soldiers are also trying to take Chasiv Yar, which lies on strategic high ground, about seven miles west of Bakhmut. Biden has signed off a package totalling $60 billion in military aid for Ukraine. No sign of a speedy resolution of that conflict.
  • In Darfur, a country the size of Spain in the north central bit of Africa, where 52% of the population are aged under 16, on account of genocide 20 years ago that killed 300,000; further trouble is brewing and renewed ethnic slaughter is anticipated.
  • In Scotland, Humza Yousaf resigned yesterday, in a speech which ended in suppressed sobs, probably because he realised he has no-one but himself to blame.
  • In Iraq, a hit man killed Um Fahad, a 30 year old mother who had previously been jailed for 90 days for posting a video of herself on Tik Tok dancing with her 6 year old son. It seems that she just wouldn't be told and would keep posting videos of herself, unveiled, wearing make-up. Her murder was the third killing of social media performers.
  • In Kenya, 45 people were killed after a dam collapsed due to heavy rain.
  • Ireland is drafting emergency legislation to deport illegal migrants to Britain, whence they have fled, fearing Sunak's Law to deport illegal migrants to RwandaForFuck'sSake.
  • In the United States of America, the students are revolting (but of course), in an anti-semitic movement, supporting Hamas. Columbia University has finally put its foot down and has announced that it has started suspending students who had failed to leave a pro-Palestinian encampment.
  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said, no, no, you cannot make me go, even though I did say last week I would resign because of corruption accusations against my wife.
  • In Germany, the first of three trials has commenced in a case involving defendants accused of plotting to overthrow the German government. In December 2022 heavily armed German police officers stormed houses, apartments, offices and a remote royal hunting lodge, making dozens of arrests, including a dentist, a clairvoyant, an amateur pilot and a man running a large social media group. The German authorities contend that their figurehead was Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, an obscure and conspiracy-minded aristocrat who would have been made chancellor if the coup had succeeded. The group was well organized and dangerous, some of its members were former officers trained by German elite military forces, one was a judge turned far-right lawmaker with Alternative for Germany, the surging populist party known as the AfD. The police said the group had stashed more than a half-million dollars in gold and cash; amassed hundreds of firearms, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and a cache of explosives; and secured satellite phones to communicate once it disabled national communications networks. Germans, eh? They don't change.
  • In France, Gérard Doopy-doo was ordered to stand trial on criminal charges that he sexually assaulted two women during a 2021 film shoot.
If all of this (and that's just last week) makes you want to get well away from other members of the human race, here's a video made by Martijn Doolaard, a chap who seems to be of a hermit frame of mind, living off grid, restoring an old stone hut high in the Piedmont mountains. Mr mongoose will like this, as it shows the chap laying a stone floor then cleaning it with acid to remove cement grout and reveal the sparkling colours of the stones. It's a long video, but, god, its soothing.

Sunday 28 April 2024

The Sunday Ishmael: 28/04/2024

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

Have you been following the Scottish news this week? It is quite chaotic, unbelievable, unprecedented - what larks, as mr mongoose would say. Here are the dramatis personae: 
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party.
Lorna Slater,  co-leader of the Scottish Green Party.
Yes, that's right, one of each - but that was before the Greens fully embraced the diversity agenda in their constitution. These days, there would be several co-leaders, including a smattering of trans.
Handsome, debonair Martin Geissler, presenter of BBC's Sunday Show, fearless interviewer of Scottish politicians.
Alex Salmond, Leader of the Alba Party and former Leader of the SNP until Nicola Sturgeon, disgraced former leader of the SNP stuck her pickling fork into him. Not currently the subject of a police investigation into fraudulent use of SNP funds, unlike Sturgeon, whose hubby is under arrest as part of same investigation.
Humza Yousaf, the Fool, elected to replace the disgraced Sturgeon and carry the can for her, was unable to form a government, having secured only 63 of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament. So he did a deal with the Scottish Greens, thus letting the lunatics run the institution.
The deal was called the Bute House agreement, by which, in order to secure the 7 Green votes, Yousaf basically sold the family silver by agreeing a raft of anti-climate change policies with the potential to trash the economy.  Fortunately, the fishing industry was saved from the Ultra Marine Protection zones, Westminster stepped in to defeat the nonsense about gender declarations and the premature glass recycling debacle, and on Thursday, 18th April, the  
Net Zero Secretary, Mairi McAllan informed MSPs that the key climate change target of reducing emissions by 75% by 2030 was being abandoned by the SNP Government. It was always a preposterous and unattainable idea, one which couldn't happen as alternative fuel resources are too expensive, too scarce or too unpopular.  The Greens kicked off about the “worst environmental decision in the history” of devolution. And on Sunday, the 21st April, Martin Geissler, handsome, debonair etc, had fun rubbing salt into squirming little Patrick Harvie's wounds, indulging himself in quite a bit of Green baiting about the failed Green policies before moving onto the Cass Report, which, being what they like to call "progressive", the Greens had no qualms about dismissing out of hand. The Cass Report highlighted a lack of evidence for the efficacy of interventionist and hormonal treatments of children to delay puberty and imitate a change of gender and led to the closure of the Tavistock Gender Identity Dysphoria Clinic, although Scotland lagged behind relating to the Sandyford GID clinic in Glasgow. Questioned by Geissler, Harvie dove in there, saying the report had been politicised and weaponised against trans people. Ash Regan, formerly SNP, who defected to Alba after her bid for leadership of the SNP failed, subsequently lodged a motion of no confidence against Harvie, saying:
 "The motion of no confidence speaks for itself. The Scottish Greens wish to side with ideology over clinical evidence."
Then, on Thursday 25th, Yousaf ripped up the Bute House Agreement, ending power sharing with the Greens. 
This didn't go down well, especially with Lorna Slater, a nasty piece of work, who immediately started slagging off Yousaf and the SNP, called for the First Minister's resignation and launched a vote of no confidence in Yousaf.  Yousaf refused to resign and said he will fight the vote of no confidence - its a bit of a worry for him, though, as there are more of his opponents than his supporters.
Denouncing Yousaf’s actions as “a spectacular breach of trust”, Slater told Martin Geissler today: “We will vote in support of a vote of no confidence against Humza Yousaf and I cannot imagine anything at this point that would change that position.” What, Geissler quipped, even if he goes down on his knees? (bit near the knuckle, that, Martin.)
Ian Blackford, former SNP leader in the Commons, on the Kuenssberg political show, also this morning, apologised to the Greens for the way it had been handled, and said: “I want to appeal to our friends and colleagues in the Green Party to recognise where we are. We are colleagues together in arguing for independence. We pushed through legislation for which there has been mutual support," Kuenssberg should have replied that it was crap legislation that has either been overturned by Westminster or abandoned by Yousaf.
Great stuff, eh what? The cream of the jest occurred when Alex Salmond, interviewed under an umbrella in his Aberdeenshire garden, told Geissler that it was all his fault for goading Harvie last Sunday, and that he, Alex, now holds all the cards, because Yousaf's only chance of winning the vote of no confidence is if he does a deal with Ash Regan, Alba's only MSP, who will hold the deciding vote in the stand off between Independencers and Unionists.
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What's on at the Theatre

Nye, National Theatre, South Bank, London. Tickets £20 - £99

Great trailer - you can see why I wanted to see it. What with me being a former Labour Party member, and all. And Nye being a bit of a hero. I didn't pop down to London, though - saw it as a streaming at the local cinema. Only cost me £13.00 and an evening of my life that I won't get back.

The pre- and interval comments by the National Theatre were all about how it was the 100th N.T. streaming, how 1000 NHS nurses were watching it in the theatre and many more in cinemas up and down the land, and how the whole focus of the production was on the creation of the NHS and Bevan’s death in an NHS hospital. The end was very emotionally manipulative. They were expecting tears. There were some good lines, Bevan’s poverty, deprivation, socialism and Welshness were well observed and rendered, Churchill’s mythic status was thoroughly debunked and the production emphasised the strength of the doctors’ union and how they damn nearly scuppered the NHS before their mouths were stuffed with gold and concessions in order to bring them on board. So the consultants could keep their god-like status and incomes. Bevan promised them he would make doctoring the most highly-paid profession – (and he did and that is what is bankrupting the NHS).
But the self-conscious theatricality of the production was dreadful. There was no stillness, no calm, no thoughtfulness, no subtlety. The politics were cartoonlike, people shouted their lines at each other and every one talked/shouted at once. There was a song and dance number in the first half, and a sort of circus scene, in which Bevan was lifted shoulder high by his fellow actors and carried around the stage. They didn’t ask us to bang saucepans and cheer for the NHS, which was a surprising omission, given the manipulation we were being subjected to. The set was an NHS ward, the props were curtains and beds, which gave extra service as the Commons’ green benches and the schoolroom of the sadistic Welsh schoolteacher who tortured Bevan because of his stammer. The casting was colour- and gender-blind, as usual, so Bevan’s sister, Arianwen, was played by Kezreena James.
This mightily puzzled a couple of my theatre companions, who thought this must be a first wife, because how could he have a black sister? They don’t understand modern wokery, or, as one husband kindly explained to his wife, political correctness. Not a term one hears too much these days. Winston Churchill was played by Tony Jayawardena, a big Asian bloke in a fat suit and a cigar.
Clem Attlee was played by Stephanie Jacob, 
a woman in a bald wig and three-piece suit, seated at a motorised desk that swooped about the stage.
Yes, as I write this, I realise that I really hated the production. You have to write stuff down to work out what you think. Sheen was very good, given the dreadful directorial decisions. The play was by Tim Price, who is a gingerish Welsh writer of frightfully right-on plays and TV shite. It was impossible to understand a lot of the dialogue because it was delivered at pace, at volume and with everyone shouting at once, so I couldn’t begin to evaluate the merit of the material. If it had been directed in a less shouty, spitty, running about, instantaneous-scene-changing way, it might have been interesting – but things have to be fast and noisy nowadays to keep the attention of the audience. 
I’m beginning to think that theatre is an infinitely lesser art form than film and that it really shouldn’t be subsidised.
There you go – I’ve watched it, so you don’t have to – and now you can speak knowledgeably about it at dinner parties – if you don’t mind being contrarian, because most people there seemed to think it was absolutely wonderful. I don’t think they actually thought that, and they were really watching the clock from 8.00 pm onwards, thinking dear god, how long will this go on for, but they believed it was the correct and acceptable response to a major theatrical event. My chum asked me if I liked Shakespeare and I said, yes. So she said Macbeth is coming soon. So I said, which Macbeth? And she said by Shakespeare, and I said, yes, I’d guessed that, but which theatre company, which director, which actors? And she said, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, so I said, oh dear. Why so oh dear? she enquired. Because they do not respect the plays, the words, the plots, such as they are. They engage in colour blind casting, disabled casting, chronological mayhem and re-gender roles. They will probably have Lady Macbeth re-gendered and present the bloody and ambitious Macbeths as a same sex, probably black, or maybe Glasgae Asian, couple. But it's got Ralph Fiennes in it, she said. 
Hmm, I replied, playing Lady Macbeth, is he?
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The four-volume Call Me Ishmael oeuvre, collected and curated by editor mr verge, is available on Lulu and Amazon.

Honest Not Invent, Vent Stack, Ishmael’s Blues, and the latest, Flush Test (with a nice picture of the late, much lamented, Mr Harris of Lanarkshire taking a piss on a totem pole) are available from Lulu and Amazon. If you buy from Amazon, it would be nice if you could give a review on their website.
Ishmaelites wishing to buy a copy from lulu should follow these steps :
please register an account first, at lulu.com. This is advisable because otherwise paypal seems to think it's ok to charge in dollars, and they then apply their own conversion rate, which might put the price up slightly for a UK buyer. Once the new account is set up, follow one of the links below (to either paperback or hardback) or type "Ishmael’s Blues" into the Lulu Bookstore search box. Click on the “show explicit content” tab, give the age verification box a date of birth such as 1 January 1960, and proceed.
Link for Hardcover : https://tinyurl.com/je7nddfr
Link for Paperback : https://tinyurl.com/3jurrzux
https://www.lulu.com/shop/ishmael-smith/flush-test/paperback/product-9yjvn7.html?q=Flush+Test&page=1&pageSize=4

At checkout, try WELCOME15 in the coupon box, which (for the moment) takes 15% off the price before postage. If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for "Lulu.com voucher code" and see what comes up.
With the 15% voucher, PB (including delivery to a UK address) should be £16.84; HB £27.04.
Here's Humza, making his First Ministerial way down the corridors of Holyrood. How much did the Holyrood building, the home of the Scottish Parliament, cost to build? £414 million. What was the original estimate? Between £10 and £40 million. Just saying.