OmniFuck

All the important things in life – football, relationships, football – can be planned to within a gnat’s crotchet only to be knocked off course by something completely unexpected. The mother-in-law popping round for a cup of tea, the discovery of suspiciously worded text messages, the hitherto reliable centre-forward hacking the ball with such force in another context it could have been a hole-in-one along a tricky par 5….

As you may be aware, Gordon Brown today plunged himself into a controversy which would have made Malcolm Tucker turn the air twenty shades of puce. Predictably called “Bigotgate”, Brown made one of his “meeting ordinary people” trips into a great clunking fist of a disaster when he labelled a housewife “a bigot” for her views on immigration.

Clearly the media went batshit mental over his comment rather than her views (although, let us be honest here, Labour’s record on both immigration and assisting the unemployed is somewhat lacking…). Brown is entitled to his views, of course, but to call a potential elector such a word, at such a time in the election period, with Labour in third place in some opinion polls shows a total and complete lack of understanding of the greater picture.

It shows Brown has a lack of understanding and empathy, and a complete lack of control over his emotional outbursts.

Ms Duffy thought she had the chance to tell the Prime Minister exactly what she thought on the subjects close to her heart. That those views were somewhat lacking in facts and heavy in opinion would have been handled far better by most other political leaders (Blair would not have been anywhere near this level of knee-deep controversy).

Did he need to apologise ? Once, yes. So many times? And with Hallmark card sincerity?

Tomorrow is the third, and final Leaders Debate. With quite unfortunate timing, Brown has ensured any chance of Labour Party spin leading up to tomorrow will be shadowed by this event. Like Prescot’s Punch all those years ago, this whole affair will eventually become nothing more than a curiosity, a footnote. In the glare of the cameras, it is typical of a Prime Minister whose luck tends to last mere hours.

Tomorrow is the last chance for Brown, Cameron, and Clegg, to sell their Parties before polling day. As I was told many years ago by LibDem campaign experts, the last week of any election campaign is “repetition, repetition, and repetition”. For the next week, Labour will doubtlessly crawl out of this saga, just as the country is struggling to recover from the longest, deepest recession in modern times (thanks again, Gordon…)

Older readers may remember what happened, some decades ago now, when television chef Fanny Craddock was asked to judge ‘ordinary people’ on a precursor to modern programmes like “Masterchef”. Craddock – never one to quite understand the way ‘real people’ lived – laid into housewife Gwen Troake for her menu with such force and condescension that while Troake was speaking, she pretended to retch and vomit. Craddock’s career was finished, her contract terminated early, never to be seen again.

For all his will and strength, Brown appears to have a similar problem with interacting with ‘ordinary people’. His unease and awkwardness, his social anxiety, has shown itself in ways throughout his Prime Ministerial career – from not understanding why low income earners would be upset at the loss of the 10p tax rate, to this recent outburst.

A Craddock-like axing from public life is not likely to happen…but something very similar must be on its way after polling day.

all the news fit to print

It’s been a busy old week for news. Can you tell there’s an election coming? Yes, you’re getting quicker flicking over to Glee when you hear the BBC News theme aren’t you?

Always a sign.

Tony Blair – remember him? Last seen doing the old science-fiction “retcon” trick over at the Chilcott Inquiry? – has been sounding the drum for his (auld) enemy Gordon Brown. This surely cannot have gone down well in the heartlands, as most Labour seats are lost as a consequence of Tony Blair sticking around looking and sounding exhausted and deceitful.

This kind of thing is quite common in football, though, with just about as much sincerity. “I respected the job he did at the club and there’s a lot of signs of his influence around the ground today…” he says, looking at dwindling crowd of anoraks Twittering around a Thermos while a huddle of unfit next-big-things hoik long balls towards the local paper reporters.

It was Blair, we remember, who gave Brown the title “clunking fist”, and for headline writers everywhere, Brown has not disappointed. He’s made a clunking fist of everything since taking over. He couldn’t even make a disaster work in his favour though; he’ll always have the longest, deepest recession in history to his name – after all, he created it – but Blair sanctioned an illegal invasion of Iraq. Second place again, Gordon!

Bigger, more meaty news-stories of recent times struggled to make the lead on either BBC or Sky. The former retreated into usual territory – the ban on methedrone was treated pretty much like the IT’S WAR! frenzy over on The Day Today – while the latter continues to push its forthcoming Leaders Debates slot as though self-referential programme plugging is part of OFCOMs definition of “news”.

In times gone by, the staggering achievements at the Large Hadron Collider would have been enough to send all workers and schoolchildren home to enable the population the honour of being within a screen’s width of life-changing science.

The…shall I say…”incident” within troubled waters excited those of us who have North Korea down on the “end of the world sweepstake”. Currently – I think, you know how these things change when North Korea are involved – the South claim the whole thing was caused by a mine. Possibly Northern. Probably one of their own. But it definitely did not start with warning shots being aimed at flocks of The Dear Leader’s Armed Seagull Division.

Though you never know.

Last night, Ribéry showed what comes when you’re an expensive top-league footballing talent who doesn’t lose concentration after 80 minutes. Tonight, may Allah be kind upon us all, Messi will treat Arsenal’s gameplay as a particularly cruel and cunning poker player toys with novices used to the occasional on-line flutter.

I understand, flicking over to cricket for as short a time as possible, that there is some concern over IPL commentators referring to players “scoring a maximum 6” and wondering if “all bases are covered”.

We warned them this would happen, did we not?

To conclude, I have two stories, but only enough space for one….So it will have to be….Toads can predict earthquakes.

Much ado…

Gordon Brown, so controlling and demanding, and reportedly high on the autistic spectrum, has never understood how the economy fell from out of his grasp. Having inherited the golden economic legacy from the Conservatives in 1997, nothing his clunking fist could get hold of stayed the way he wanted. Through political fudges and not exactly subtle stealth taxes – and let us not forget such highlights as the gold sell off disaster and unforgivable 10p tax abolition – Brown will be recorded by future historians as one of the least credible economic figures in British political history.

His attempt today to force Alistair Darling into yet another ventriloquists act has done nothing to rescue his reputation one inch. The Budget today is a middle of gimmicks and aspirations; above all else, it is the equivalent of treading water. Darling did not want the end of his career to come like this, reading out Gordon Brown’s words, coming up with sticking plaster solutions to the serious debt and unemployment issues facing the country. But Darling had no choice.

Today’s budget has few highlights. I welcome the tax-break scheme for British video game developers, an overdue recognition. The increase in the ISA limit is one I genuinely applaud.

I certainly don’t welcome the sneeky “freeze” on personal tax allowances, the oldest trick in the book, one to increase Government tax intake.

Freezing Inheritance Tax at £325,000 could cost an additional £37,000 in real terms.

And as for the 10% hike in the cost of cider – what exactly is this going to achieve? Oh yes, that’s right, the Brown “new puritan” drive, the same “ban everything, tax everyone, full naked body scanners for all!” mantra we have heard year after year. “Has he taxed curry, music and sunshine?” asks a work colleague.

The problem with this budget, of course, is how shallow it is, from the moment Darling stood to the minute he was duly patted on the back by his Master. There is nothing in this budget because Brown needs yet more breathing space before calling the election. His hatred of uncertainty, of things out of his control, will soon catch up with him. An election cannot be delayed much longer, and everyone in the Chamber knows this to be true.

This was the introduction. Now the main show. Time to show the depth to the slogans, the meat on the bones, and call the election.

champagne and chips

“Mature, and depressing” was how I summed it up. Like the day you decide not to stay up late to masturbate over the Television X “ten minute preview”.

My decision was the big black line drawn through the one word question; “Laptop ?”. My April “budget” now reads like a list of actions rather than objects; nights out, at least two Burscough home matches, and payment of bills. I daren’t deal with percentages: over half my monthly wage is gone before the sun rises on pay day weekend…

Not having a laptop (and therefore regular internet access) is my biggest personal problem at the moment. Well, that and not bringing socks in from the washing line in time to avoid a passing storm. Oh, and eating most of an Easter Egg for breakfast this morning, that weighs pretty heavily, too. But let me focus on internet access for the time being. It’s not that I am the archetypal geek who misses live-tweeting Question Time and updating Wikipedia at 2 in the morning – as much as that truly is missed – it’s the very fact of being ‘locked away’ from a world I have grown accustomed to over ten years of dial-up and broadband access. Yes, okay, I have wandered into the 4chans and meme factories of the ‘net as much as anyone; I am with the Finns on this, Internet access is a human right, as important to business leaders as the child in a high-rise aspiring to be the best they can be in the world outside their flat.

It may sound somewhat like a sulk, and perhaps after nearly a year without access at home, my mild annoyance at having nothing to do when the television lets me down is close to developing into something less admirable.

I will land on one side of the argument, though. By deciding against buying a laptop this month, I have freed up spends and been awfully sensible about the use of my wage over a 5-week month. And that’s far more sensible than I have been recently.

This week Alistair Darling is set to read out Gordon Brown’s election budget, much like the Queen is forced to read Labour’s manifesto at least once a year. Oh for either Darling or Liz to bring their own script to Parliament.

In the case of Darling, he knows Brown cannot wait to get rid of him, which makes the cowardice over the Budget details all the more depressing. If it was me – and Good Lord, can you imagine that! – I wouldn’t let the Prime Minister within stapler-throwing distance of the Budget Speech until it was too late to change so much as the break in the first paragraph. Brown, responsible for the longest and deepest recession in British history, taking low income earners to 20p tax rate, and every other economic shit-storm since 1997, may well fail to impress this week in any case, given UNITE’s attempt to ensure every last detail of 1979 is recreated in colour prior to the election on May 6.

Darling does not want a “give away budget”, exactly the opposite to Brown, who would prefer to plunge into the bottomless pit [as he sees it] of debt to ensure more votes are bought for Labour in seven weeks time. Darling would be best to outline exactly how he intends to deal with the deficit and growing numbers of “invisible unemployed”, signing Brown up to a deal he cannot escape. Clearly in my current state I would prefer a £1,000 “citizens payment” straight into the bank accounts of everybody through some form of the fabled Robin Hood Tax. That personal moment aside, I am a Liberal Democrat, where fairness in the tax system has been at the centre of our policies for longer than Brown has been plotting to parachute Ed Balls into Number 11. And that’s a long time, readers.

I would have used this blog to vent spleen on the latest tabloid target – the legal high “MCat” or “drone”. However, given how well it is written, I leave you in the sensible hands on this subject to Charlie Brooker

Fall of Gordon


Peter Hennessy’s “Prime Ministers – the Job and its Holders” is one of my most well-thumbed reference books. Each post-war PM is treated with care and consideration, with a chapter heading as concise as they are cutting. John Major is the “solo-coalitionist”, Tony Blair introduced by “command and control”.

So what if Hennessy updates his book to include Gordon Brown? What chapter heading then, what treatment given through the window of recent history? “Flawed by design, floored by events”, perhaps?

It was always clear before the relaunched Observer gave up its pages to the newest allegations that Gordon Brown is a man of short-temper and bullying tactics. It’s how he got the job of Prime Minister in the first place; influential blogger Guido Fawkes has been detailing these allegations for years.

That Brown has mental instabilities is not the sole reason behind wanting him to lose the next election. Pick any of the disastrous policies of this Government from 1997 to the present day for more than enough – from the billions wasted on Trident renewal to decrease in civil liberties through the continued scandal of child poverty levels, lack of funding for public transport, and of course the £800bn national debt. Every failure of the Labour “regime” has Brown’s fingerprints all over them.

The “clunking fist” can barely keep a grip on the ramshackle, tumbledown caboose that is the current Government, of which he has been the over-controlling keeper of the purse for too long.

That Downing Street has been in smear mode for most of today should come as no surprise, either. This Government has run a parallel news agenda to the rest of the media since Tony Blair became its leader; there is the news, and there is the New Labour Reality Information Service, and occasionally the latter will force the hand of the former while rarely vice versa.

Brown, as a leader, is finished after the events of this weekend. He has been lucky to have lost so many Blairites from his Cabinet, so as to dampen the blow of any backbench rebellion, but regardless of this quirk of history, the man has very few friends left to rely on. The allegations of bullying have been around for too long for them to be so easily dismissed by Harman and Mandleson; and events from the “election that never was” and the 10p tax shambles prove Brown can not be trusted to make a single decision without flapping around in a haze of indecision.

Were he a good leader with a short-fuse, very little of this mud would stick. But he is far from a good leader. He has dragged this country to about as low as it can possibly get. Nation-changing, life defining general elections rarely come around very often – after 1979, and 1997, this forthcoming 2010 vote is one of those rare moments.

Show Labour that you cannot afford to trust their policies or unreliable leader any more. Use your vote in 2010 to remove them from power.

The picture comes from this entry in Iain Dale’s blog

Missives From 2010

Doctor Who came to its conclusion on New Year’s Day. Intense, dramatic, overblown, and just a tad overlong (pause for effect), there are undisputed parallels to the forthcoming UK general election campaign. If the over egged regeneration sequence had you willing Matt Smith to get on with it, you just wait for the protracted election campaign. The other prominent David, Mr Cameron, hopes to be the new face on our screens from March….or May….or June, at the latest.

And how “late” it will feel given the very early doors to Cameron’s “Year For Change” launch this weekend, and today’s rebuttal from Gordon Brown. For those who missed the Prime Minister on Andrew Marr’s show this morning, Brown really did speak in the third person about his chances on Polling Day. Knuckle down chaps, we could be in for a very long ride….

The BBC certainly hope for a Whovian ratings boost whenever the Leaders’ Debates begin, although with the clock ticking and general election drums banging I cannot be confident that the Labour great and good really think Brown is going to attract floating voters to them. And for the record, the SNP leader Alex Salmond really should give up thinking he can drag his sad attempt to get on screen through the courts. It won’t happen, sir, you got what you wished for.

I predicted in October that turnout will fall below 50% at the next election. This still stands. Talk of a shallow class war campaign from Brown will give loyal voters some reason to cheer; the vast majority of British voters already sick of party politics would not be enthralled by the silly talk of the playing fields of Eton.

David Cameron is ‘love-bombing’ the Liberal Democrats. On fairness, environment, civil liberties, the difference between the two parties is a far more vast space than Cameron realises. I did not join the Liberal Democrats as a stepping-stone to the Tory Party; Nick Clegg has my full support, not any wishy-washy talk of ‘progressive alliances’ from an Opposition who remain lacking in policy credibility. If you want your country to be different, vote for the party that’s different.

Meanwhile, from this blog, I hope to retain regular entries and posting. There will be the usual mix and muddle of entries. Maybe less politics, maybe more bad poetry. I wish every one of my readers (hello, incidentally, to my first ever Croatia registered IP address) a very happy new year. If you want to read previous entries from Missives, just use the “Previous Prescriptions” drop-down box on the right….

Vote for Songs, Vote for Change

Someone have a word with Simon Cowell. If he of the high-trousers wants an international X-Factor, he’s better off saving his money. There already exists a multi-national amateur singing contest, it’s called Eurovision and at almost 60 it’s had ten-times the life span of most talent show careers.

But…all the same, Cowell knows when he’s onto a winner. Not that the “final 4” in the current run of the X-Factor is exactly over running with talent. The main prize has rarely been given to someone who deserves it (see, for that matter, most talent shows, namely Eurovision and the fancy dress contest at a hotel in Split back in 1991. I’m not bitter but damn it, all the winners did was wrap themselves in out-of-date Beano comics……)

Sorry, back to the X-Factor. The apparent favourite is Daryl, who has the satisfied arrogance of a libel lawyer with an ability to add extra long notes to the end of everything he sings like some form of computer character “special move”. He’s up against a one-time contestant on Deal Or No Deal, called Olly Murs, who has been forced to warble the same old selections from The Greatest Copyright Free Swing and Blues Album…Ever! while being talked about as “one of the lads”. When he was made to perform (and/or murder) George Michael’s “Fastlove” in a tight shirt and AIDS awareness ribbon I wonder exactly what had happened to the “one of the lads” demographic. Maybe Simon had been off that week. He often is.

A squat gnome-faced 12 year old called Joe, who should have never been allowed near a microphone on pain of death, has been consistently voted through despite the (very) annoying habit of turning every song into a theatrical pastiche. You know Mitch Benn? You know how everything Mitch Benn does is a) unfunny, and b) forced, and c) unfunny and forced and annoying and unfunny? Joe is RIGHT up there with the forced, annoying, unfunny Mitch Benn. He’s likely to win. It’s just not right. If Simon Callow wants a winner – and it’s likely he doesn’t really give two-hoots now there’s the opportunity to reinvent the Eurovision wheel – then Stacy “Essex girl who actually lives in the London Borough of Dagenham but why ruin a USP” Soloman is the one on whom a fiver should be placed at the bookies.

Okay, Stacy does sound like an over polished Hazel Dean, but compared with the other three – Mr Arrogant Warbler, Mr Ambiguous, Mr Mitch Benn – she’s the only one who has a singing voice worth hearing more than once. Just.

Voting for any of these potential one-hit wonders is not something I am likely to do, all that said. My real focus is on actual voting and actual democracy, with long-term consequences and all that stuff. I am annoyed to the highest limits with the news that chicken-scared Labour MPs are attempting to force Gordon Brown into rushing changes to the Westminster voting system through Parliament to trap the Conservatives into looking like “status quo stick-in-the-muds”. In short, Labour MPs who may well lose their seats in 2010 (and so they should) hope that switching to AV will a) keep them in a cushy job for a few more years, and b) stuff the Tories ever ruling with a working majority ever again.

As a liberal, a democrat, and a Liberal Democrat, my life-long dream has been to see the introduction of a fairer voting system for Westminster. AV is not my first choice by any stretch. I would much prefer STV. But of course, STV means Labour are not likely to keep the big bad Tories out of office. And for some robotic ultra-loyal Labour MPs, they would rather keep their careers nice and feather lined (so hence this cynical attempt to force through a Tory blocking measure before March 28th), than actually deal with the inadequacies of the FPTP system.

Using “politics as usual” techniques to suggest “politics is really changing” is the lowest form of Westminster game playing. It’s little wonder Yes, Minister and Thick Of It make me cringe so much; they are so much like the real goings on inside the corridors of power they may as well be broadcast as news.

It’s enough to make me give up on politics all together and become a talent show judge.

Justified and Ancient

Well, hasn’t Nick Clegg caused a fuss today?

The leader of the Liberal Democrats has called for the cancellation of the Queen’s Speech, calling it “window dressing” and “a displacement activity”.

He is absolutely right, of course. And don’t the political establishment hate it when someone says something against the grain of the norm?

Let us be honest. Gordon Brown is a dead duck, covered in oil and mud, sinking deeper into the mud ever closer towards political death. Attempts to help Labour from the worst election demise in history is akin to racing to the beach with a bucket and spade as the first waves of the oil slick slurp against the rocks. This Queen’s Speech will absolutely be used for pushing the clean-up of politics to one side for the political benefit of the Labour Party; think about it as pinning a rosette on Elizabeth’s crown.

Clegg has set fire to the norm because, as a refreshing and radical voice in politics, all liberals and Liberal Democrats walk with matchboxes in their pockets. There would be no benefit for Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs spending their time – no more than seventy days before the next UK general election – helping Labour form their next manifesto. Labour are a deflated and dying clutch of the desperate, a Party which is hoping a list of Bills they cannot possibly get through Parliament can grab the last positive headlines of their final months in office.

Thinking out of the norm is second nature to the real, credible alternatives in politics. Let us clean up Parliament for good, make real reform possible now, and stop dragging ourselves over the deep ruts of tradition for the sake of it.

Fixed-term parliaments, automatic General Elections as and when Prime Ministers are changed, voting reform, votes at 16, full devolution for Wales and the English Regions, ending the Royal prerogative on all but the most vital of reasons of the State, an automatic maximum number of Government Ministers, a fully elected House of Lords, directly elected Chiefs of Police, halving the number of Councillors and introducing “Street Panels” and inner-city Parish Councils: so much to do with our democracy, and not a single one of them needs Her Majesty, Black Rod, or the other flim-flam of a Queen’s Speech.

Votes @ 16 B4 ’10

Last week, Gordon Brown suggested that he supported the call for “votes at 16”. The question was put by Phyllis Starkey, of the Milton Keynes South West constituency, and apparent expenses-related farago. But enough of her. The main issue is one of the few outstanding electoral improvements I think Labour should enact immediately; it took over a generation to give women the vote, decades to lower the voting age to 18, with the second decade of this 21st Century almost two generations from this last welcome move.

With the age at which people can be a candidate now at 18, the time to bring the voting age in line with most other “society says you’re an adult now” levels is all the more relevant. Sixteen is not exactly an age at which people are clueless children; “Make Poverty History” and anti-fascist demonstrations show a growing number of teenagers who are rejecting party politics in preference to single-issues. This should be encouraged as much as possible; the often sneered at world of “student politics” is far deeper than detractors would have believe.

Through Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, younger people who feel marginalised by the political processes have found other means to react and interact with the matters of the day. Be it the drug legalisation debate, student fees, or how to deal with persistent illegal downloading of music, teenagers are more at the centre of the contemporary political debate than ever before. If a candidate aged 18 can request the support of a large electorate in an election, how can it be justified to ignore a growing surge of 16 and 17-year olds whose points of reference are so similar?

As a long-time (failed!) candidate in elections, I have first hand knowledge that not all adults walk into polling stations having read each and every party manifesto. This kills the notion that awarding teenagers the vote would somehow award ignorance. It’s simply not the case.

The entrenched party loyalties often stubbornly stuck to by people in their 30s, 40s, and older, do not exist to the same extent with younger voters; continued polls of the young show a taste for democracy and a willingness not to be loyal to one “brand” or “party”. Elections to and activities in the Youth Parliament continue to grow as increasing numbers of young people find their voice at a time when “youngster” so often means “thug” or “clueless hoodie” in the columns of the tabloid press.

Labour do not have a faultless record with either electoral administration, or policies which improve the lot of younger people. They should not be scared to embrace the one policy which would bring into the political process thousands of people whose minds are open to questioning the norm and walking against the tide. Relevance to the debates which alter their lives seem so distant at a time when politics is alive with issues. Sixteen year olds are in the same position today as 18 year olds were in the 1960s; a new generation of people more than able to participate in politics. It is time for the improvement to be made, for the issue to be sorted out before the next general election.

Give 16 year olds the vote.

pennywise

Thatcher’s children turned 18 with the country on an economic high and confidence soaring. Blair’s children turn 18 at a time of deepening recession and unemployment touching 3 million. Such are the circles of history and the echoes which come from whoever is writing the great story of life.

Okay, yes, I know that things are not so simple, but try arguing with ultra-loyal Labour supporters about the real reasons behind the current economic problems faced here and world-wide. They deny that £800bn debt (and climbing) is of any real concern. Gordon Brown was looking somewhere else, doing something different, it was the Bank of England really, nothing to do with anyone on the Government benches. It is such cowardice from Labour and their more vociferous supporters which makes their certain defeat in 2010 all the better to look forward to.

As I wrote some weeks ago this month has turned out to be the complete opposite of what I was expecting. To have only around £7 to stretch out across three weeks is entirely my own doing. How I have lived, and what I have experienced, puts the national politics and economic headlines to one side. I do not want to come across as enjoying these past few weeks, acting like some kind of “poverty tourist” doing it for show.

It has been rather humbling, if nothing else. My 9o’clock or 10o’clock jaunts to the “reduced to clear” aisles as Tesco reminded me how much food waste there must be in this country, and how many people must live without the spare cash available to impulse buy or stock up on expensive treats. “Invisible poverty”, the reality of life behind closed doors, is something which affects thousands of people across the country. Thousands of pensioners who have to choose between heating and eating; a growing number of millions who cannot find a place back on the job ladder.

The first week following the discovery of my less-than-a-tenner situation has been something of a struggle. Entirely my own doing, I have to stress how much I realise this. I have become quite the fan of cut-price hotdogs and sell-by-date skimmed milk. Walking to work – five miles each way – is still hard to master. At Bamber Bridge I start something resembling a hurried trot: I must resemble a sit-com bridegroom late for the wedding after a list of “hilarious misunderstandings” and “you couldn’t make it up” situations.

I had to bite my tongue whenever a beggar asks “Do you have any spare change?”, as strictly speaking I actually don’t, which is different to the times I shake my head and mumble something indistinct about having ‘nothing to give’, whatever that means. As I type this – free Internet!, such things now become welcomed with open arms, thank you, thank you Lancashire County Council! – my bank balance is around £2.70. This should be fine, though, I’ve stacked up on Aldi Shredded Wheat and cup-a-soups. People from work are being quite generous with left overs and unwanteds.

But it’s not a situation I want to repeat. This is a window into another world; of actual poverty, of real life for thousands in this country and millions around the world. Unlike my temporary inconvenience, a lack of money and no guaranteed access to food is the reality for those in developing countries and so-called developed Western superpowers. It’s a bit much, I admit, taking one man’s overspending into the context of starvation in the poorest countries on Earth, but it takes a little of “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” to put things into context.

However – and it’s a big “however” – having said all this, and with two weeks of struggle and lack of food still to go, this pay day weekend will be marked by a night of spending money with some abandon. It is surely my right to acknowledge the achievement of living this way by having one or two swift ales and the best darn foodstuffs So! Noodles has to offer of an evening…

…isn’t it…?