We just can’t cope with snow!

Like most Londoners, I have found myself badly affected by the weather. Coping with the vagaries of our island weather is very British sort of thing. We are generally quite good when it comes to drizzle, fog and occasional cloudy sunshine. Those we are very comfortable with. But when it comes to snow, particularly when it has the audacity to lay more than half an inch thick, then everything comes to a standstill. It seems that our smooth and efficient transport infrastructure comes to a crashing halt at the first sign of snowflakes.

But that said, it has been damnably cold this week. The Beast from the East the newspapers have been calling it, and a beast it surely has been. I understand that quite a few trains and the like have been cancelled and some parts of the north virtually cut off. But I am sure I remember much colder winters and certainly much deeper snow. As a child I would often be able to spend days on end tramping through the snow, building snowmen and hurling snowballs at my chums. There was actually something quite magical about the old estate covered in a blanket of snow.

I was actually a little disappointed that it was not like this last week when I was back at the old pace. Although it has to be said that too much snow can leave one a little isolated in the country, especially if the local hostelry is temporarily beyond reach. I remember one particularly harsh winter as a child when we were unable to leave the house for almost a week, the snow was so deep. My father was extremely frustrated and stomped about the house the whole time. He was never very good at relaxing I being away from work for more than a day or two was something he seemed almost physically incapable of doing. For my mother and me it was something of an adventure. With the grounds looking like a scene from Narnia, it was a very special time when I was able to spend the whole time with my parents without them rushing around, busying themselves with social engagements and work.

Despite the inclement weather I did manage to get down to the Club yesterday evening. I had expected it to be a little quiet, what with the snow and wind, but instead, I found the old place quite busy. I was joined for dinner by my old chum Cambridge, who it turns out has been staying at the Club for a few days. Something to do with faulty plumbing or some such. I found him in surprisingly good form. The last time I had seen him he was looking a little frail. But Cambridge is not the sort of chap to let a little thing like cold or flu get in the way of things.

After eating we adjourned t the bar where we walked in on a very interesting debate about the weather. It is not an unusual subject for the chaps at the bar, but this particular discussion had just moved on to the idea of global warming by the time we joined them. It is one of those subjects that comes up every now and again, with the two sides of the debate seeming to become increasingly irate. I rarely get involved in these debates as I feel that I do not know enough about the subject to form any kind of meaningful opinion. Not that this seems to stop some of the other chaps from wading in with their size tens and having their say.

But whether one is suitably informed or not, one cannot deny that there is something slightly amiss with the weather these days. Every year one reads increasingly alarming reports of record-breaking extremes; heavier than usual rainfall, stronger and stronger winds, more hurricanes than ever before, flooding and like. It really does paint a very worrying picture. But one has to ask, is this just a case of the media exaggerating events to fit their own agenda? Or is there really something behind all the stories.

I know that my father was very much in the doubting camp. He claimed that all the talk of global warming was total rot. He would often remind us of the really bad winters we had back in my younger days, and the droughts and water shortages that plagued the country for several years at a time. And what about those long past winters when the Thames froze over and they were able to hold winter fairs on the ice. No, to him it was all very clear and he would have none of it, despite what the scientists say.

And I have to admit that his argument was very persuasive and it was one I shared until very recently. That is not to say that I have completely changed my mind, but I am becoming more and more convinced that most of the people I hear opposing the idea of climate change are those who have a vested interest in the status quo. But I suppose that is true of anything, nobody likes change, particularly those who have something to lose by it.

Anyway, the talk around the bar became rather heated at one point, with some of the chaps claiming it is all a conspiracy and others saying that even if it was true, it won’t affect them so why worry about it. I may not be particularly knowledgeable about these things but I do think that when so many respected scientists are all telling you the same thing, it probably makes sense to listen.

I am not particularly happy when discussions of this mature get too heated, so I made my excuses and left. All the way home I thought about the various things that were said on both sides. Whilst I am not entirely convinced that there is a problem, one cannot ignore the weight evidence that says there is. I am sure the debate will rumble on at the Club and elsewhere. I wonder what Hope or Dorothy have to say on the subject.

Talking of Dorothy, she told me this morning that she and Angela have found themselves a flat and are planning to move in around Easter. I have to admit that I had hoped it would take them a little longer to find their own place. Purely for selfish reasons, I admit – I am going to miss them both. Although Dorothy has only been staying with me for a few months, I find it difficult to imagine the place without her. Although she tends to keep herself to herself, it has been rather nice just having her there when I need someone to talk to or to watch old black and white films with.

I haven’t heard from Hope this week. I presume she has been busy with the gallery. I did try to speak to her on Monday but she was out for lunch, I presume with a client. I have been invited to a bit of a do in the country next month and I would love it if she were able to join me. I am planning to make a weekend of it, staying at a lovely little place I know in the Cotswolds. I will have to try her again tomorrow.

This evening I am joining dear old Uncle George at his club for some kind of celebratory dinner. It involves some political chappies so it is bound to be a frightful bore, but one has to support one’s family.

 

 

 

Musings on Brexit

One of the many things that I like about spending time at the Club is the variety of topics and opinions that one encounters over drinks at the bar. Obviously, there are plenty of the old guard around, reminiscing about the Empire days or what they see as the lack of moral fibre in society today. Whilst one has to have some sympathy for their views, one cannot always agree or even understand what they are talking about.

The chaps and I have often found ourselves at loggerheads with some of the old duffers over one issue or another, and I have also found myself, on more than one occasion, completely at a loss to understand what they are talking about at all. They sometimes seem to have their own language and talk about people and places that I have never heard of. At the same time, one has to respect them and their achievements. Many are war veterans and seem to spend their days and evenings reliving adventures in far-off corners of the old empire.

But there are times when the life experiences of the old guard are actually very interesting. Whilst one or two of the old chaps have obviously lost the plot completely, a number of them still have enough of their marbles to provide valuable insights into some of the political discussions we often fall into. And we have certainly been having a few of those recently, what with the interminable discussions about Brexit, this week’s budget and events in Zimbabwe, there have been some very lively discussions going on. Not that I have too much to say on some of these subjects, but it is always interesting to see just how passionate some of the chaps can get over seemingly trivial things.

The one topic that continues to surprise me is Brexit. I mean, we had the vote, a decision was made, so why don’t they just get on with it? All this faffing about and opening up debates about so-called divorce bills and such look like nothing more than political procrastination. And I am not alone in becoming a little frustrated by having the issue constantly thrust in my face everytime I switch on the news or read a newspaper. Mind you, I had thought that the fellows at the Club would be pretty united on the subject, but it seems not. Whilst I knew that there were one or two who were closet remainers at the time of the vote, their ranks have apparently swelled somewhat over recent months, and last night it all came to a head when the debate was re-opened once again after a fairly lengthy drinking session.

I think it was all sparked off by the announcement in last week’s Budget about the amount of money being set aside to pay for the Brexit process. Admittedly I don’t normally take much notice of the budget as it rarely has any real impact on either myself or my immediate family, but even I was shocked to see that the Chancellor has set aside £3bn to pay for Brexit preparations. That seems quite a lot of money to me, considering that we are also looking at paying something like £40bn just for the privilege of leaving. I also learned from one of the chaps that over 8,000 people have been employed by the government just to manage the process of leaving the European Union. Obviously, anything that creates that many new jobs has to be applauded, but I for one had not anticipated all of this extra money and work being part of the Brexit process.

A couple of the chaps were very concerned at the loss of jobs in the City as EU institutions have already begun the process of moving to other cities on the continent. I do not remember any conversations during the referendum where these things were mentioned. Although I have little time for the interference in our affairs by our continental cousins, I have always been sympathetic to the freedom of trade and employment that membership has brought. I think like many my main concern has always been the unnecessary bureaucracy, the needless harmonisation and the feeling that our sovereignty and culture were under attack. Now, after one of the most heated debates I have seen the Club for quite some time, I am beginning to see why so many influential people warned against Brexit.

I remember well the divisions within the Club in the months leading up to the referendum. And from where I stood, it looked to me like it was the younger members who were supporting the Remain campaign, and the older chaps who wanted out. The way I saw it, the younger chaps were simply not experienced enough to see the problems the country faced if it were to remain part of the European Union. I know a lot was said about foreign workers coming over here and taking all our jobs which is something I had thought would have been of more concern to the younger people, but apparently not. Several of them were more than happy to employ Easter European workers in their businesses, often stating that they were cheaper and more productive.

One thing I do know for sure is that if my father were still alive he would be furious about what is going on. He was a very firm supporter of the European Union. He often spoke quite eloquently on the subject, and although we didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the issue, I did respect and admire his position.

So it seems that the closer we get to leaving the Union, the less support it has, at least amongst my friends down at the Club. However, amongst the old guard, support for Brexit is as strong and determined as ever, although I am not sure that some of them will live long enough to see the result.

 

A frank exchange of views

One of the things I really enjoy about the Club, aside from the excellent food and extensive wine cellar, is that one never knows who is going to be there and which way conversations will go. There is such a variety of views that discussions are never boring, and can at times become quite heated. However, there is one thing that unites almost all of the members, and that is our concern over the terrible state our country is in at the moment. What we cannot agree on is the cause of the problem and how to fix it.

Quite a few of the chaps, and I include myself in this, are getting just a little impatient with the government over the whole Brexit thing. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to politics and finance, but even I can see that things aren’t going so well. The media is constantly referring to it as a divorce, which I suppose in a way it is, with both sides fighting over the family silver. My worry is that whilst the Union chappies seem fairly united in their approach, we are still fighting amongst ourselves over what we want to get out of the process. We can all see that despite what the Prime Minister says there is very little unanimity even in her own government.

What some of the chaps are saying is that they are more worried about the uncertainty and bickering than they are about Brexit itself. Like any divorce, each side wants to get the best it can for itself. Even the most amicable of separations will inevitably result in some conflict of interests; not that I have much experience of this kind of thing. What most people seem to want is certainty. I know one or two of my friends have business interests in the City and they are the ones most concerned about all the dithering and in-fighting. Apparently, the uncertainty about what is going to happen after Brexit is having an impact on investments and trade. I suppose I am in the same boat having investments of my own in City properties. Which reminds me that I really must talk to Aunt Murdock about this when I see her next.

There is still some disagreement amongst the chaps about how best to go about the Brexit negotiations. On one hand, there are those who want Mrs May to take a very firm stand and refuse any kind of compromise. On the other, and these are mainly the same people who supported the remain argument, there are those who want us to take what they refer to as a more pragmatic and open approach. I am not entirely sure which will be best for the country, but I suspect that it is somewhere in the middle. Even I know that there is never going to be a deal that satisfies the demands of both sides completely so we will have to accept some form of compromise. I am sure the debate will rumble on at the bar and, if the past week is anything to go by, it will only get more heated.

It is not just at the Club that the subject of Brexit rears it’s ugly head from time to time. Dorothy and Angela have been very vociferous in their support of remaining in the EU and are still very angry at the result. Angela has even spoken about getting herself a German passport. It seems that her mother’s family are from Germany so she can claim dual nationality if she wishes. I know that a number of people have done this recently, but to me, it seems a little futile unless one is actually planning to move there. I am not sure Dorothy would be too happy about that, but I am not going to interfere with their relationship or plans. What Dorothy has said on more than one occasion is that she is embarrassed by the whole thing. She has a lot of foreign friends and says that they can’t understand why we would want to leave the European club. I have tried to explain about sovereignty and the British standing in the world, but for some reason, she just can’t seem to understand it. I know that some people have implied it is some form of nostalgia for the days of the old Empire, but, at least as far as I am concerned, it isn’t that. It is just about being in control of our own destiny and our own laws. We should not be dictated to by other people. The rules and regulations we have to accept from Brussels are scandalous. For me, it is all about being able to decide things for ourselves. No one likes to be dictated to by outsiders who don’t understand our history or our customs. The French, Spanish and Germans have all tried to defeat us in war and failed; we can’t let them succeed by the back door.

Another subject that seems to have been creating something of a buzz at the bar this week is that of the Prime Minister’s position. I didn’t follow the events of the Party conferences – far too boring and narcissistic for my liking, all that self-congratulation and pompous self-righteousness does nothing for me – but those who do were very critical of Mrs May’s performance and the way she has been treated by the Party. I have to admit to having a great deal of respect for Mrs May, but even I am beginning to think that maybe she isn’t up to the job of leading us through our current troubles. Not that there seems to be a great deal of choice for replacement at the moment. With the Party so divided over Europe I don’t honestly think that there is anyone else capable of uniting all sides, and as far as I am concerned, unity is far more important than anything else right now.

There is only one subject at the moment that seems to have almost unanimous agreement with the chaps at the bar, and that is our mutual distrust of the American President, Donald Trump. Whilst he may be successful as a businessman – and there seems to be a little disagreement even over that – as a politician and diplomat he is very much out of his depth. The man seems to have absolutely no idea of how the world actually works. Several of the regulars at the Club have financial interests in the aircraft industry and are very angry over Trump’s recent announcements over the imposition of tariffs on Bombardier aircraft. One gets the feeling that he makes these announcements without thinking them through first. I certainly get the feeling that he doesn’t discuss things with his staff before taking to social media to make is pronouncements. I suppose that he is used to having complete control of his businesses and can’t seem to grasp the idea that his decisions have to me about more than just making money. America is not a business, it is a country, and it cannot be run in quite the same way. Having said that, Americans can be a little odd that way, putting financial gain ahead of everything else. I have said it before, they are a nation with no history and no idea of social etiquette. It is unfortunate that they have so much power and influence or we could just ignore them and let them get on with playing their silly games.

Mind you, we do have to be careful when discussing the Americans, and their President in particular, if my old chum Dorchester is around. Apparently, his American girlfriend is a Trump supporter (a Trump-et!) and he is very defensive of her views. According to Annabelle, the President can do no wrong. She fully supports his positions on immigration, North Korea and protecting American businesses. And whilst I can sort of see her point and some of his decisions, I cannot support her misguided view that Donald Trump is the saviour of the western world. The man’s a fruitcake I would hesitate to leave in control of a Sunday School, let alone a country.

Changing the subject completely, I had a call yesterday from Hope about some event or other she is holding at her gallery in a couple of weeks time. Apparently, it is one of those evenings when new artists get to display their work and she has asked me to go along. Of course, I have accepted the invitation, but I am not sure it is really my kind of thing. I have seen some of the work she has on display and it is all far too modern for me. My taste is more conservative I suppose, but she has been kind enough to ask me, so I will definitely have to go. I had thought of inviting Dorothy to join me, but she will be in Edinburgh by then.

 

Let battle commence

It’s an old adage that when in company you should never discuss politics or religion. And it’s a little bit of well-worn wisdom that I try to adhere to as much as I can. We all know that these are subjects that will inevitably cause friction and dissent, even amongst friends and family. I have seen more that one gathering descend into chaos as those with opposing views draw up their battle lines.

From the sidelines, these confrontations between people who are otherwise quite close can be rather amusing. But I have seen such disagreements lead to long-lasting breakups, which is not so funny.

I was reminded of this earlier today when I met with my Aunt Murdock and Uncle George. I had invited them to join me for lunch at a little place that we are all rather fond of on Parliament Square. Aunt Murdock has said more than once that it is her favourite London restaurant, and it is one I am rather fond of myself, although neither of us tends to frequent it too regularly. My choice of Partridge, followed by Cumbrian Beef, were a perfect reminder of why we enjoy it so much.

Anyway, today’s lunch was my treat. I have always been very close to the Murdocks and although I see quite a lot of old Mad Duck, I don’t get to spend much time with Uncle George these days. Since he retired from running his business he spends a lot of time playing golf, very often abroad, so I have to take these opportunities to get together whenever I can. I really like George and he is one of the few people I know I can talk to about politics and religion without causing a family feud. I could always talk to George in ways I never could with my own father. We have always seen eye to eye on most things, even the dreaded Brexit.

I find there is no better way to catch up on recent events than over a good meal. One can truly relax and savour the best in food and company if you chose your venue with care. Once seated George and I were very soon making observations, recommendations and comments about all kinds of things, from how to deal with North Korea, to the best ways to reduce terrorism and immigration. George’s immense experience travelling around the world gives him a wonderful insight into the way foreigners think and work. I have always taken his advice on political matters and very rarely do I find the need to disagree with him.

It was as we were waiting for our main courses I began to notice that conversation at the next table seemed to be getting a little heated. It was obvious from what was being said they were discussing the ramifications of leaving the EU, and I can tell you, there was little or no common ground between the two primary antagonists. I assumed they were two couples; the men were quietly battling it out while the women tried to come between them and broker some kind of peace. Things calmed down with the arrival of their desserts, which gave the ladies an opportunity to change the subject to families, children and last night’s television.

But the ceasefire didn’t last, and it wasn’t long before I heard mention of Boris Johnson, after which things began to get very heated. Mind you, it’s not the first time I have seen people fall out over their opinion of dear old Boris. I have to admit that I do like the chap, despite the silly things he sometimes does or says. I was almost tempted to leap to his defence, but a quick glance from Uncle George dissuaded me from that particular course of action.

In the end, it all got a little too loud and they were encouraged to leave the restaurant. It must have been frightfully embarrassing for the two young ladies who really need to learn to take a firmer hand. Aunt Murdock would never have allowed that kind of thing to happen at her table.

Once all the excitement was over we were able to enjoy the rest of our meal, which was as good as anticipated, as was the company. George and I were able to put the world to rights without coming to blows and Aunt Murdock got to enjoy her favourite Raspberry Souffle. For the three of us, it was a particularly enjoyable lunch. I only hope that the four young people who ignored the advice on avoiding politics and religion have made up their differences.

 

 

Nice chap

I have read and heard a lot this week about my old chum Jacob Rees-Mogg, and it has not all been good. Actually, I use the term old chum in the loosest possible terms here as, to my knowledge, we have never actually met, but we do move in the same circles and I am sure our paths have crossed at some point over the years. Anyway, as I was saying, the media seem to be having a field day over old Jacob and I for one do not think they are being totally fair.

I mean, he seems a nice enough chap. He is from good stock and seems to be saying all the right things, so what have they all got against him? I know that he can be a little rebellious at times, and doesn’t always tow the party line, but surely that is what we need in this country, people who are prepared to stand up for their beliefs and not just play “follow the leader” all the time.

I have heard people criticise him for his accent! Now that is something I can’t understand at all. I have heard him speak on the radio and his accent sounds perfectly fine to me. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. If he had a broad northern or cockney accent I could understand people’s criticisms, but he hasn’t. He speaks like any other well-educated person. I have been told he sounds a little like me in fact, but I could not swear to the accuracy of that.

No, to me, Rees-Mogg is one of those upstanding and respected sort of chaps that this country needs if we are to make Britain truly Great again.

As for his becoming leader of the Conservative Party, well, why not? I am a great fan of Theresa May, but she has made a number of silly mistakes that may in the end, cost her her position. I feel rather sorry for her actually. I am not sure she was really ready to take on the role of PM, but that is the way things went so she has to make the most of it.

Jacob Rees-Mogg came up in conversation with Dorothy yesterday evening and I must say I was rather surprised at her reaction. It seems that not everyone sees him the way I do, and Dorothy certainly doesn’t share my opinion of him. In fact, she was unusually insulting about the poor chap. Mind you, in heer defence I believe she has actually come across him so may know him better than I do, but still, the names she called him were a little uncalled for.

It seems that Dorothy and I do not always see eye-to-eye on political matters. She is far too liberal, but I suppose that comes from being an actor. And of course, she takes a great exception to his views on gay marriage, but I am not going to go down that particular avenue right now. That is a whole new can of worms that I am trying to keep a lid on at the present time.

Which reminds me, I am off to the country later this afternoon for a weekend of fun with some old chums from school. Dasher has found is a place that accommodates the wives and girlfriends, offering them some kind of beauty therapies and the like, leaving us chaps to enjoy our own outdoor pursuits. I did ask Dorothy if she would like to join me for a the, but it seems she is too busy doing theatrical things.

And I should just say that all has been quiet on the Aunt Murdock front recently. I was expecting a summons this week but she seems to be avoiding me. In fact I haven’t seen her since her misguided attempt to set me up with Dorothy or Angela. I don’t even know if she is aware of her mistake over that particular foray into matchmaking. I will try to pop in to see her on my way home on Sunday I think; see how the land lies sort of thing.

What a week!

I may have only been away for a week watching Wimbledon, but it is starting to feel so much longer. Apparently, last week the chaps at the Club persuaded old Neighsmith to see a doctor, and it seems that his only problem is his hearing. Otherwise he is as sound as a bell – a rather rusty and battered old bell – but you get my meaning.

It was a relief to get the news that he will be with us for a while yet, all-be-it sporting a fine pair of hearing aids. The chaps had an impromptu collection at the bar and raised enough to afford him a pair of these new-fangled digital aids that you can hide inside your ear. It is truly amazing what they can do these days. Indeed, during our chat I discovered that a number of the members were also wearing similar devices, and I had never noticed! And everyone knows how observant I am.

With one thing and another it has been quite a busy couple of weeks for me. First, we had Ascot, then Wimbledon, and tomorrow I am off to Southport for the Open Golf. I am beginning to feel that I am spending too much time away from home and my friends. Not that I don’t see people at these events, but I have never been comfortable being outside of my own environment for too long. One the other hand, last week I spent a great deal of time in the company of Dorchester and his lady friend. I saw a lot more of that young lady than I would have liked. Dorchester himself has always been great company, taking part in all our japes, but with Annabel in tow, he was quite a different chap. It is enough to put a gentleman off relationships. Not that I have that much experience of these things myself, but from what I have seen of my friends, I am best avoiding it until I really must.

But I am not the only one who has had problems with their friends recently. I was devastated to read in the newspapers about Mrs May’s problems with her friends in the Cabinet. Now I really do like our Prime Minister. She is one of us, and deserves more support from her colleagues. It is just a shame that she doesn’t seem to command the same respect amongst her peers as the late Lady Thatcher did. What a wonderful woman she was; she knew she was right and would not let anyone divert her from her vision. She changed this country for the better. I only wish I had been around to see her at her best, but alas, I was born a little too late.

As for Theresa May, she has the right ideas, but just can’t seem to keep those beneath her under control. I had always thought than men like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson were men of vision and integrity, but their actions since the European vote had been somewhat below the standard I would expect from men of integrity. And just when I believed that everything was running smoothly, last weekend saw various members of the Cabinet rocking the boat, with the question of Mrs May’s leadership raising its ugly head once again. I do wish that these people would stop playing silly games and focus on doing what we elected them to do, put an end to that left-wing troublemaker Corbyn.

Anyway, tomorrow I am off to “sunny” Southport to catch the Open. Last time I was there I stayed with friends, but this year I have a small apartment in a promenade hotel. It will be a pleasant change to have a little time to myself. I am rather fond of a round or two of golf and enjoy watching the Open when it’s at Royal Birkdale. It is a lovely course and I do like Southport itself. I will be back on Sunday and I am not planning any further excursions for the time being.