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07 April 2022

Whatever Happened to "Yes we can" ?

I believe it still exists in the USA. The British think the phrase is too short. We prefer the longer version: “Yes we can, but here are some reasons why we shouldn’t”.

This is being applied mercilessly by the Home Office concerning the Ukraine refugee crisis. While Ireland and other European countries are enthusiastically taking in these desperate people, our Home Office (which is run by incompetent half-wits) is constructing an obstacle course in the shape of Visa Application forms of unfeasible length, containing such questions as Are you a War Criminal?

Then these applications appear to be dealt with on an individual basis, with no consideration being given to possible links with others; for example, a 4-year old girl was issued with a Visa, but not her mother! (So, good luck with making that journey little girl!)

That’s not the end of it; regarding the Homes for Refugees scheme, local authorities are now putting their bureaucratic noses into whether the receiving home might have potential hazards for children, such as garden ponds or electrical sockets positioned too near the floor.

Give me a break! These people have come from apartment blocks reduced to rubble, they’ve watched their relatives being executed on the streets, and seen women being raped. They’ve been starved of food and water. So now they are to be subjected to the fresh unimaginable horrors of a garden pond and low-lying plug sockets?!

By the way, the beauty of a British electrical plug socket is that you cannot poke something into the positive/neutral sockets. Try it. You need the longer of the three pins of a plug to be inserted to ‘open’ the two dangerous sockets. Our own children are not endangered by our plug sockets, so why would anyone else’s children be?

All of this is the perfect application of “Yes we can, but here are some reasons why we shouldn’t”.

An apoplectic Nick Ferrari on LBC radio this morning (I was worried for his health) was shouting “For God’s sake, sack the bloody lot of ‘em and get the Military in to do the job. The military are not only efficient, but also have compassion”. I couldn’t agree more.

04 April 2022


These people are keeping me awake at night:

VLADIMIR PUTIN megalomaniac obsessed with re-building the old Soviet Union by visiting atrocities on an innocent neighbouring country that once used to be part of it.

DONALD TRUMP megalomaniac who thinks he's still President and  believes VALDIMIR PUTIN'S invasion of Ukraine was an act of "Pure genius".

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE American congresswoman who thinks DONALD TRUMP is still President, and regards Ukraine's President ZELENSKY as "A thug". Said Covid rules were like NAZI treatment of the Jews. Nutty as a fruitcake and dangerously ignorant.

RON DE SANTIS Florida Governor often described as "Trump 2.0", supporter of voter suppression and protest suppression, opponent of gay rights.

NIGEL FARAGE Rabble-rousing English nationalist who calls DONALD TRUMP "My friend"; a driving force behind the great Brexit scam by stoking fears of hordes of immigrants. 8 years ago he called VLADIMIR PUTIN "The World Leader he most admires". In fairness, he now thinks PUTIN is finished.

VIKTOR ORBAN Hungarian Nationalist, Prime Minister who's just won a fourth term, a critic of Ukraine's President ZELENSKY, and refuses to censure VLADIMIR PUTIN. Proud to be an autocratic, illiberal homophobic, and a perpetual thorn in the side of the EU.

BORIS JOHNSON UK Prime Minister; Imposed Covid Lockdown Rules on social gathering & contact with dying relatives, then broke his own rules with a series of parties at 10 Downing Street, subsequently denying all knowledge of them; expert in bluster & waffle; a serial liar.

All these people keep me awake at night because they are, (singly or in concert) an offence to my own beliefs on morality and civilised behaviour, and a danger to world peace. In my opinion we'd all be better off without them.


10 March 2022


Lionel Beck – March 2022

Apparently, in the Star Trek series, Mr Spock never actually spoke these words; the closest approximation to them is “No life as we know it”. So, since my title quotation is fictional in at least two senses I feel confident in appropriating it, and re-wording it to read “It’s life, Jim, but not as we used to know it” as the title of this essay, and I’m suggesting it accurately describes our own lives since the pivotal year of 2019.

For my generation in Britain there are phases in our lives that are indelibly written into our memories:

  •      The Second World War
  •      Wartime and Post-War food rationing
  •      The 1947 deep freeze
  •      The 1950s-60s ‘Cold War’ threat of mutual annihilation (including the Cuban Missile Crisis)
  •       The 1963 deep freeze
  •       The 1982 spat with Argentina over the Falklands
  •       The fall of the ‘Berlin Wall’ in 1989 with the accompanying collapse of Communism, the USSR and its replacement by the Russian Federation. 
  •        The 2001 destruction of the World Trade Centre ‘Twin Towers’ by Islamic terrorists
  •       The rise of Islamic terrorism and mass murder by bombing atrocities in our cities

So now it turns out (looking at the above list) that the “life we used to know” was actually fraught with difficulties, discomfort, and downright fear. So then I now come to:

  •     2019-2022 – Covid-19 Pandemic, then the Russian invasion of Ukraine ..

.. and the title of this essay suddenly seems inappropriate, because it appears that this IS “Life as we used to know it”!

On the other hand, we did actually enjoy a period of relative peace accompanied by a general increase in living standards over the past 25 years or so. We have become accustomed to it. Which is why I originally chose the title, because 2019 seemed to be a tipping point, throwing us into a despair that is in marked contrast to the life we had more recently enjoyed. So it seems that life in the long-term is journeys through tranquil country lanes interspersed with enforced rides on a roller-coaster wearing a blindfold.

From 2019 onward we’ve had to suffer lock-downs, face coverings, social distancing, interrupted education, no visits to theatres and cinemas, highly-controlled and limited visits to restaurants and pubs, cancelled sporting fixtures, anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, plus a generous helping of fear, general anxiety, depression and other manifestations of mental illness. Then, just as we thought we were recovering from the ravages of Corona Virus and getting back to ‘normal’, a delusional, deranged, power-mad dictator in the Kremlin unleashed a totally unjustified invasion of Ukraine because Ukraine had the audacity to exercise its sovereign right to think about membership of both the EU and NATO.

The world unleashed its disapproval of President Putin, and imposed harsh sanctions upon its financial systems, Russian individuals of interest and their properties, the provision of armaments to Ukraine, and reduced dependence upon Russian oil and gas.

None of this can be done without also hurting ourselves to some extent, and so what we have to look forward to now, after more than two years of Covid restrictions, is a kind of War-time economy for the foreseeable future. Food, goods and services are already in short supply through the (predictable) consequences of leaving the EU, fuel prices are going through the roof, and so we are moving even further into the darkest recesses of the forest instead of coming out of the trees and into the sunshine. (I seem to have switched metaphors here. I should have said, we’ve been thrown back on to the roller coaster wearing a blindfold.)

What with the fear, pain and deaths caused by a new virus, and the atrocities being visited upon hospitals and residential areas in Ukraine, people who believe in God must surely be asking themselves how exactly is He showing his boundless love of mankind right now? (And, as a Humanist, I would add – or at any time in history, come to that).

It is difficult but important to get something positive out of all this, and come out the other side in the same way as we’ve managed to do with all the other vicissitudes throughout the periods I’ve mentioned above. For example, during the anxiety-laden Covid Lockdown periods (especially the first serious one), we found the permitted 1-hour per day exercise periods outside to be beneficial, because not only did we have the unusual pleasure of walking in the middle of main roads, we learned new courtesies to others as we bid them “Good Morning or Good Afternoon” or “Thank you”, by way of compensation for giving them a seriously-wide berth as we passed them on our walks (fortunately being able walk into the road in order to do so!)

Main Road during Covid Lockdown
We also appreciated the utter peace caused by the absence of traffic, so we could actually hear birdsong. We learned (we shouldn’t have had to) how to look after and care for our neighbours, and indeed other people we didn’t even know, delivering meals to them, and checking they were managing OK.

I hope that we can rediscover pleasure of visiting our High Streets and Shopping Centres, because if we don’t, the already diminishing number of thriving shops, pubs and restaurants, since decimated by Covid restrictions will continue to disappear because we have become a nation of online shoppers through necessity. It’s almost a habit now. If we need something we don’t even think about going out to find it physically. No, it’s straight on to the computer, find what we want – click – debit/credit card number – click – and a few days later there’s a courier on your doorstep.

As we now appear to be moving into a ‘wartime economy’ (thanks to the need for sanctions on Russia, with retaliations, in particular regarding oil and gas) perhaps one important positive mind-set would be to learn the important difference between what we want and what we need.

I want a new car, but I don’t need one. There’s nothing wrong with the car I already own. I want a new suit, but I don’t need one. I already have three perfectly good suits. I want another European River Cruise, but I don’t need one. I can have three or four holiday breaks in the UK for less than the price of the river cruise. I want to drive into the next town, and I want to drive to Scarborough or Whitby for a bit of sea air, but I don’t need to. I can walk to my next town and I can get a bus to Scarborough or Whitby (especially as I have an old git’s free bus pass!)

We can make choices to make our lives easier or less expensive, and whilst we are doing that we should remember that however much we care to moan about whatever dire situation we believe ourselves to be in, it is NOTHING, it is ZILCH, compared to the plight of the millions of Ukrainian refugees fleeing from President Putin’s atrocities.

Above all, we should endeavour to treat people as we wish them to treat us, care for those less fortunate, forgive those who we think fall short of our own exacting standards; do a bit more loving and a bit less hating.

That should be LIFE AS WE KNOW IT. "To boldly go where no man has gone before" .. that is to say, stop worrying about Split Infinitives, hold on tight for the roller-coaster ride and look forward to when you can get off.

I'll end with a story I found on Facebook .. A man in Moscow goes into the newsagent's every morning, buys his newspaper, looks at the front page then throws it into the bin. He does this every day for a week until the shopkeeper asks him why he keeps on doing that. The man replies, "I'm just checking the Obituaries." "But", says the shopkeeper, "The Obituaries are always on the inside pages, never the front page." The man replies, "Believe me, the one I'm looking for WILL be on the front page!"

Keep smiling.😎


16 January 2021

Trumpian Tragedy

The tragedy of Abraham Lincoln was that he went to the theatre. It is tempting to be sorry that Donald Trump didn't himself patronise the theatre. He has, nevertheless, spent four years creating his very own style of theatrical performance, and we are currently watching the tragic finale.

This failed businessman (who managed to persuade nearly half of the USA that he was successful) has provided a deluge of inappropriate behaviour, a fountain of religious hypocrisy, and a cluster bomb of personal insults. He ran roughshod over hitherto accepted norms of behaviour: 

  • Demeaning women
  • Applying insulting epithets to colleagues and political opponents alike.
  • Calling fallen veterans suckers and losers; 
  • Making fun of disability.
  • Telling a presidential competitor that he had an ugly wife.
  • Demeaning a high-profile war hero because he'd been captured.
  • Sucking up to tyrannical dictators whilst insulting his international allies.
  • Disrespecting the British Head of State by walking directly in front of her. 
  • Standing next to the British Prime Minister at a press briefing and publicly belittling her. 
  • Making it OK for Americans to hate each other. 
  • Instilling into the national psyche that the free press is the "Enemy of the People". 
  • Organising grandiose Mussolini-style photo ops.
  • Surrounding himself with crooks and sycophants (any one of which could be "A great guy" one day and a fired "Loser" the next.) 
  • Telling well over 20,000 documented lies, the very first one being about the number of people attending his inauguration.

All of this was deemed as acceptable (and even enjoyable) behaviour by what became known as his "Core Base" .. that section of Republican voters who were happy to accept as 'Facts' anything their Dear Leader told them were facts. Some even thought Trump had been sent by God! Their slogan was "Make America Great Again", the irony being that in their approval of their saviour's behaviour they were in fact making America an international laughing stock (which is not my definition of "Great"). The other slogan .. "America First" coined by Trump was made worthless by the fact that much of his Trump-branded goods was made in China!

The final act of this tragedy has been beyond the imagination of most of us: the storming of the seat of democratic government by a howling assortment of thugs, criminals, idiots, neo-NAZIS, white supremacists, anarchists, and vicious hooligans calling for the Vice President to be hanged (presumably because he had officially confirmed that Joe Biden had decisively won the Presidential election). 

Donald Trump and his MAGA brigade stuck to the belief that Trump had in fact won the election by a "landslide", and an evil cabal of Democrats (all of whom are apparently Satan-worshippers and Communists) had "stolen" the election by nefarious means, in spite of a series of  court judgements that said otherwise. "President" Trump encouraged his supporters in this direction, and promised to be there with them. Of course, he wasn't. He should have said "I'm behind you", because he was .. a long way behind, watching it all on TV. (More 'leadership').

Consequent upon the howling mob rampaging through The Capitol building, Joe Biden's inauguration will be a poor affair, with little or no public attendance, taking place encircled by a fence topped with razor wire and 15,000 armed National Guard. No doubt Trump will take solace from such a travesty of what normally occurs befalling his erstwhile opponent.

It's good to know that arrests and prosecutions have ensued from all of this, but I worry that Biden's going to have a hell of a job on re-uniting this divided nation and restoring their international reputation. We must hope that this particular tragi-farce is never shown again on the world stage, or indeed the 'provincial theatres' of State governments.

Footnote for Cult Members: It would appear that God has had second thoughts.

23 March 2020

The Age of Stupid

This was the scene in a London park yesterday, 22nd March.

Similar scenes could be seen on beaches and at popular tourist spots around the country.

For me, it's Day 1 of the new (non) working week, and I feel acutely aware that we are truly living in the Age of Stupid.

Thousands of people appear to think that they have some kind of superpower that protects them again Covid-19. Not only are they deluded, they are also ignorant and selfish, giving no thought to the part they a playing in spreading the disease and increasing the death rate.

Some people go in the opposite direction: a paramedic reported that he'd been slung out of his lodgings because his landlady regarded him as a health risk. Well, let's hope she doesn't need a paramedic any time soon.

Teenagers are having parties; some are standing around the streets in close-knit groups joking and laughing about ignoring all the current advice. Well, let's hope that when they are laying in a hospital bed they continue to appreciate the joke.

Pauline and I are not in self-isolation as we currently have no symptoms, but we are mainly confining ourselves to the house, and if we go out for exercise or essential shopping we think about where we are, and try to observe "Social Distancing".

It's a weird life we are all (apart from the idiots of course) having to endure, but there are ways to adapt, perhaps by taking Stephen Fry's advice: make yourself a schedule (either mentally or on paper); slow down time by doing everything at a relaxed pace, slowly and methodically, be it household tasks, or cooking. After all, we have all the time in the world right now. Nothing is happening. The country is closed. It's an opportunity to read stuff we've never read before, listen to music, appreciate the garden if you're lucky enough to have one. Re-evaluate what is and what is not important in life.

At first I was angry and depressed. For the first time in 58 years of marriage we will not be going away this year. I had made all the plans, paid all the deposits, happily basking in the anticipation of what was to come later in the year. Now it is all out of the window. There are only two choices: angrily fume about it, or just forget it and seek other kinds of pleasure.

To end on the subject with which I began this piece, it is now time for the Prime Minister and our Government to stop all the weasel words about ADVISING us to do this and ADVISING us not to do that. It is time for the French approach .. Compulsory Rules. You may think this is extradordinary coming from someone who values individual liberty and has never hidden his Liberal Democrat credentials, but these are extraordinary times.

It was announced on the News this morning that McDonalds had decided to close all their restaurants. Half an hour after hearing this announcement there was an advert on LBC encouraging us to enjoy breakfast at McDonalds. The Age of Stupid.

21 March 2020

"It's Life, Jim, but not as we know it."

It’s Saturday 21st March 2020 and Day 1 of being without my part-time job. All schools are closed until further notice. (Nobody worked out how a school transport driver could work from home!) My wife also lost her job as a Doctor’s Receptionist following reorganisation of the Practice surgeries to deal with Covid-19, resulting in our local surgery operating without a receptionist.

Now we have to learn to how fill our weekdays constructively, and live without the benefit of the wages that supplemented our Pensions. But we are fortunate. There are many who are much worse off, so to complain would be both unreasonable and churlish; and if we have to self-isolate we have the benefit of a garden. I feel sorry for the poor souls who live in apartment blocks.

So - schools closed, pubs, clubs, cafes, restaurants, gyms, theatres, and cinemas closed. Britain is closed. We have cancelled theatre trips and holidays. 2020 will be a year unlike any other we have experienced.

These are strange times. When did my wife ever go shopping at 7 a.m.? The answer is, today. She was entitled to take advantage of special opening hours for people who have the dubious privilege of being over 70. Yesterday I called at our local Pharmacy (no hand sanitizer and no thermometers by the way) and found a shivering queue of people outside the door on which there was a notice permitting only one person inside at any time. Outside, the queue was spaced out, not in the sense of being on magic mushrooms, but physically spaced out. Social Distancing. When I got inside to pick up my prescriptions, I found a shopping trolley and two chairs placed in front of the counter to prevent close contact with the pharmacist.

There have to be some positive aspects. Perhaps there are. We are having to re-evaluate what is important and what isn’t. People are learning (re-learning?) how to co-operate, how to help each other, how to be unselfish. Some people are not, however. There are those who still persist in trying to buy up the entire contents of supermarkets as if they are about to be consigned to a desert island, and the lady seen in our local supermarket this morning picking up a pack of “Wonky” Carrots at a discounted price and rejecting them in favour of a perfect cauliflower. If you need to eat, does it matter if your carrots aren’t straight? And why is there a kind of mass hysteria over toilet rolls?! Supermarkets really need to be more rigorous in their rationing system.

On the negative side, there the people who are totally amoral (one of them is running the USA), happy to operate scams, sell magic potions to ‘cure’ the virus infection, engage in blatant over-pricing, or steal food from food banks; and the young people who think they are immortal, joking about ignoring all the current advice concerning “social distancing”.

Party Politics is changing .. and it needs to! There are positive signs that parliamentarians who normally spend their time tearing lumps out of each other in our highly adversarial system are ‘morphing’ into beings prepared to countenance more reasonable discourse with each other, co-operating in the face of an invisible enemy. I strongly feel that if we can move to a position where we recognise there is more in life that unites us than divides us, then Covid-19 will have taught us something useful. Whether we are Socialist, Conservative, Liberal, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, ‘Brexiteer’ or ‘Remainer’ (sorry to bring that up again), or none of the above, we don’t exclusively hold all the keys to wisdom, knowledge, vision, or political ideas.

It’s going to be a weird 2020. Learn to appreciate new values. Stay strong. Stay well.

13 December 2019

2019 Election - Just Another Day at the Office

Well, for this Liberal Democrat, it was just another day at the office. A lifetime of disappointments and false dawns has hardened me. I do, however, stick with my basic social liberal democratic philosophy of life. Onwards and upwards, as they say.

Whilst the Liberal Democrats' vote went up in most constituencies, they didn't win many new seats, and lost some they already had, including the seat of Party Leader Jo Swinson!

Conservative Leader Boris Johnson (who marked his campaign by refusing an interview with one of Britain's most forensic political interviewers, pocketing an ITV journalist's phone, and hiding in a dairy company's fridge) romped home to victory by somehow persuading hardened lifetime Labour suporters in the industrial Midlands, North West and North East to risk the psychological trauma of actually voting Conservative.

As for the Labour Party, their performance was so bad that their number in Parliament roughly equates to the representation they had back in 1935. Their programme almost made Michael Foot's 1980s manifesto ("The longest suicide note in history") look reasonable. Whilst enthusiastic Labour activists, in particular, their 'Momentum' group appear to be enthralled by their Party being led by a couple of pseudo Marxists, it turns out that this enthusiasm for hard-left politics is not shared by the general population.

To end with what I started with, Jo Swinson's personal, and Party's disappointing performance is, I believe, entirely down to her. She made two massive strategic errors, which stretched some Party members' loyalty to breaking point. Firstly, she stood before the Liberal Democrats' Conference and announced herself as Candidate for next Prime Minister. It reminded me of Liberal Party Leader David Steel some years back, telling Conference to go back to their constituencies and "prepare for Government". That went well, didn't it?! Secondly, by announcing her intention to cancel Brexit unilaterally, without a second referendum, she effectively told 17 million people who'd voted to leave the EU to get stuffed. She appeared to have misunderstood the meaning of the second word in the title of her Party.

Both Labour and Liberal Democrats are now looking for new leaders.

Happy New Year! (We hope)