Air France

air france.jpg

How a flock of French dodos could drag down Europe

It was when Air France told us that our bags were still in Paris, rather than Peking, that I suddenly understood why the French national carrier is, in my opinion – an opinion I am wholly prepared to defend in the libel courts of any European nation – the single worst airline in the world. My understanding of the problem had been slowly forming over the past 24 hours.

It began as I stared at the back of the pockmarked neck of the bus driver at Charles de Gaulle, his iPod wires dangling insolently from his ears, and I watched the passengers beg him to get his panting machine into gear and take them to the departure gate, and I observed his shrugs of dismissal as no one went, and no one came, and the bus stood still and the minutes ticked by.

My insight grew steadily clearer when we reached the gate, and the five shoulder-padded Air France women and three Air France men refused to let us on the Peking aircraft, even though the thing lay berthed before us for at least another 25 minutes, and even though we were late in making the connection from London only because our first Air France flight had been half an hour late in landing in Paris.

And so when the French national airline flew us five hours later to the wrong Chinese city, and then told us on landing that our bags would not arrive until the following day – even then, monsieur – I did not pop with rage. I did not allow myself to swear, even in French.

I laughed, with the weary indulgence of one who comprehends it all too well.

What is the salient fact about the 71,600 employees of Air France? It is that they are all, in one way or another, controlled by the French state because, in spite of the 2003 amalgamation with KLM, the French government is still the largest shareholder in this flock of dodos, and that means that the “workers” are all virtually unsackable. Why should he show the slightest consideration for his customers, this dilatory bus driver, when he knows there is no sanction his employers could use?

It makes no difference to the ground staff whether or not you or I get on the plane, even when we have arrived at the gate five minutes before it is meant to close, because their pensions and their benefits roll in regardless.

They can afford to laugh up their tailored sleeves at a bunch of despairing Anglo-Saxons, because they work to a different rhythm, and they have acquired disastrous habits that poor Dominique de Villepin is now desperately trying to cure.

More than 3,000 people were arrested yesterday in demonstrations against the French premier’s attempt to free up the labour market, the contrat de première embauche. As far as I am concerned, every one of them deserves to spend a night in the Bastille. Every one of the 800,000 demonstrators is supporting a piece of Luddite lunacy that has caused chronic and worsening chaos in France, and is now dragging down the rest of the Eurozone.

As anyone who has dealt with French baggage handlers can testify, the French devote less time to their work, when they work, than any other European country. They manage 39.1 hours per week, compared with 42.2 hours in Britain and 42.6 hours in Poland; and then there are the growing numbers of French who do not work at all.

The number of unemployed – the number of jobless people in France who might make more zealous bag handlers, who might show some gumption and get an innocent passenger on his plane – is now at a six-year high of 10.2 per cent of the work force.

Youth unemployment is at a terrifying 23 per cent and rises to 50 per cent in some suburbs; and yet there is almost no way of getting these people into jobs, because in France there is almost no way of getting the shiftless and idle out of their jobs, especially in the state sector.

In order to fire someone, French companies with more than 600 employees must go through legal procedures lasting 106 days. It costs French companies 2.6 times as much to fire a 35-year- old as it costs an English company; and of course there may be some people out there who are sometimes nervous about losing their jobs, and might wish that they had the kind of protections enjoyed in France.

But that is to miss the central economic reality, an understanding that was at the heart of the British labour market reforms of the 1980s, changes that have been very largely responsible for the 52 consecutive quarters of growth enjoyed by Britain and unemployment currently low by European standards.

The point is that if you make it easier to fire, you also make it easier to hire: and that is the way to get the economy moving. Anyone who cares about the future of the European economy – and it matters deeply to us, the fate of our leading trading partners – should get out to Paris and support de Villepin in a counter-demonstration.

At last someone at the top of French government has rejected the Colbertian lump of labour fallacy, the idea that there will be more work to go round if you restrict the amount that each person does, an economic misconception that has turned potentially productive French workers into lumps of inertia.

The crisis in France is affecting the whole of the EU, meaning that Europe’s growth will lag behind America’s for the 13th year in a row. Why do we hear so little from the British government about the complete failure of Europe to reform? Why, when France and Italy engage in a spat of old-fashioned protection, do we hear almost nothing from Labour except a mild protest, by junior Foreign Office minister Douglas Alexander, in a German newspaper?

Is it possibly because the Labour government is increasingly nervous about the way its own policies have swollen the state payroll, and does not feel able to criticise? Britain is still doing relatively well, but France is a terrible warning of what could happen if the current tendency is protracted.

187 thoughts on “Air France”

  1. Since it isn’t yet the height of the summer tourist season, surely BA would have been a better bet than Air France?

    Why subsidise the French state by taking their national carrier?

  2. Welcome back to form, you pompous Tory buffoon. The only reason you were mistreated by Air France staff is because you are a representative of the last remnants of feudal aristocracy still to exist in the civilised world. We would, no doubt, all be better off if the insolent serfs were constantly under the threat of losing their livelihood at the whim of the wealthy minority.
    I suggest that next time you bicycle to China, as you seem so fond of the vehicle.

  3. <It costs French companies 2.6 times as much to fire a 35-year- old as it costs an English company<
    But the proposed law is for those aged 26 and younger.

    If companies could be trusted, this law might seem reasonable. Unfortunately, companies employing over 600 people tend to have a higher regard for their shareholders than their employees. As people tend to get pay rises, you can guarantee that the companies will replace their young workers every 2 years in order to “save money”. Whilst the employment figures may look good at first, 2 years later it will be exactly the same position as it is now. Except the young workers will probably have enough money to buy guns the next time around.

    The UK unemployment figures are also not very accurate, due to a habit of hiding the true figure by calling vast swathes of the unemployed by other names. Ask any business person what state the economy is in over here too…you will get a much different response than you would asking Brown the same question.

    And as to flying Air France…well, serves you right for not flying British! And i hope you planted enough trees to cover your carbon footprint, you eco-terrorist you!

    Finally, america’s growth: The worlds biggest debts, greater than everyone else’s put together, doesn’t make them the richest nation now, does it? Surely they are really the worlds poorest? Don’t believe their spin!!

  4. Psimon: America deeply in debt; GB plagued by “vast swathes of hidden unemployed”; French economy on a knife edge; German industry in decline; Japan staggering from its fiscal knees.

    So where is this economic Shangri-la? Usbekistahn?

  5. Try easy-Jet next time, Boris. It’s even 10x better than travelling by Concorde.

  6. Boris’s comments come as no surprise to me. The French national airline has been abusing the goodwill of it’s customers for years. The final straw for me was when I mistook a chicken salad for a plate of randomly shaped rubber pieces, which as I tried to consume moved further from my mouth and closer to the row ahead of me due to the broken upright on my seat. The French have a great rail network but sadly things take a dive when they try to fly.

  7. This bus driver is obviously related to the Parisian bank clerk who I have had occasion to mention before.

    The payroll vote is a serious problem. Once you’re in it then there is no incentive to get out and no incentive to cut it back elsewhere because you’re all in it together. The result is that there is no internal mechanism by which it can shrink and any external attempt by government, despite loud big talk, is usually half hearted. A sort of pseudo-enterprise culture grows up where people compete for ‘funding’ – aka other people’s money – with the difference from real enterprise being that no wealth – representing food, housing etc. – comes into being as a result directly or indirectly. One of Mrs. T’s greatest cultural atrocities was the elimination of the humourously named Direct Works Departments of local councils. These guys knew art – six months to replace a door handle and so on. Gilbert and George, Tracey Emin and the rest had nothing on this absurdists. Trouble was they’re back again.

    It may grate when the shop assistant smiles and says ‘Have a nice day’ but it beats the hell out of the sharp intake of breath, the British equivalent of the Gallic shrug and the scarcely concealed delight in informing you that whatever you had in mind won’t be possible.

  8. the French devote less time to their work, when they work, than any other European country. They manage 39.1 hours per week, compared with 42.2 hours in Britain and 42.6 hours in Poland; and then there are the growing numbers of French who do not work at all.

    I thought the French had a legally-required 35 hour week. I know that it went down very well with workers. Not so well with their bosses.

    Sitting under all this is a structural problem: as we increasingly automate jobs away, there is less and less need for workers, which is probably the fundamental reason for the appearance of unemployment in modern industrial societies.

    But the promise that the industrial revolution held out was always to provide leisure, to free people from unremitting toil. Reducing working hours, and increasing leisure time, serves to begin to fulfil that promise.

    If, in their leisure hours, some people choose to take a second job, then let them. But don’t force everyone to work 50 or 60 hours a week.

    Or does Boris think that we should all be continuously working to ‘create wealth’, or something? Anyway, this is what, in 1953, Winston Churchill had to say about it:

      There is no doubt that if the human race is to have their dearest wish and be free from the dread of mass destruction they could have, as an alternative, what many of them might prefer, namely, the swiftest expansion of material well-being that has ever been within their reach, or even within their dreams. By material well-being I mean not only abundance but a degree of leisure for the masses such as has never before been possible in our mortal struggle for life. The majestic possibilities ought to gleam and be made to gleam before the eyes of the toilers in every land and ought to inspire the actions of all who bear responsibility for their guidance.

    Take heed.

  9. I add my support to Idlex’s comments. It seems that as we progress into the 21st century we find ourselves recreating the working practices of the 19th, only with less dirt.

    Industrialisation promised a better life, and so masses of credulous farm workers headed for the cities, only to find they had exchanged the back-breaking, low-wage field for the back-breaking, low-wage factory – with a variety of life-shortening illnesses thrown in for free.

    Computers were going to give us a huge amount of leisure time, we were told. Remember that when you’re sat in front of one for eight hours a day, five days a week and you’re “invited” to do some overtime. (And don’t get me started on the “paperless office”…)

    Mind you, it’s fair enough to say that some people have had their leisure hours increased by the computer. Unfortunately they have no jobs at all, or they are forced to take a lousy, minimum-wage part-time job stacking shelves. Their only interaction with a computer is to try to decipher the incomprehensible form letters spewed out by the DoE and the council’s Housing Department.

    So what’s the answer? Damned if I know. I’m just moaning, I’m afraid. (I’m trying to get emergency NHS dental treatment, so please bear with me.) All I know is that life is pretty rotten for the bottom layers of society – and the only hope in their blighted lives comes from watching bloody football and drinking. God help us all.

  10. No France is in the s**t because 1) the 35 hour working time regulation is killing the economy and 2) the Government is oppressing the workers.

    That doesn’t tend 2 happen in the UK, also our unions r less into militanc and more into negociation.

  11. Shouldn’t Boris be flying British? Or at least Colonial? Bad form, this purchasing-frogophilia, eh?

    My father was an aircraft mechanic and trust me, you do NOT want to fly Pakistan International Airlines. Canadian Airlines (or they might have been swallowed by Air Canada by then) purchased a handful of used planes from them. When they arrived, the nooks and crannies of the planes were found to be full of COBRAS! They had to park the planes outside in the Canadian winter for a week or so just to make sure they’d all be dead before mechanics had to do the renovations. And my father reported that on one ofthe planes the bulkhead between the “human refuse” tank and the luggage and cargo compartments had completely rusted through, leaving all the luggage and cargo essentially swimming in poop soup.

    Also, as an Elvis Costello fan, Boris should be well aware of the phrase, “Daddy, can I turn this?

  12. Raincoaster… Having just watched Supersize Me, there’s only one way I can take your remark.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about this aviation thing. As usual, Boris et al are getting all hot and flustered about the quality of the service. And the restrictions to economic growth this poor service might be imposing on the rest of a bullish and bustling European economy.

    Because, of course, ‘growth’ has been the Holy Grail ever since the British were stupid enough to elect Margaret Thatcher and the Americans made a similarly tragic mistake with Reagan. Anything goes, folks, so long as it helps us make more, use more, consume more, get more at the expense of people we don’t live with or know or even car about because they’re hidden away in some fetid shanty town in the third world.

    I’m sure the service on Air France was ghaaaaastly, darling. It’s clearly a bad way to run a business. But it’s time to ask whether Boris’s alternative is any better.

    Imagine, just for a moment, that the airlines were penalised as they should be for the environmental damage they cause, every day, on every flight, in every corner of the world.

    Imagine what might happen if consumers started to ask themselves whether their journey was really necessary before they hopped gaily in the cab to the airport clutching their matching Vuitton bags.

    You got it. There’d be less airlines, less flights, less unnecessary journeys. And those flights that did take place would cost a lot more. Which might even improve the service, because it wouldn’t all be about squeezing the maximum number of people into the smallest possible space as often as possible, every day, on every flight, in every corner of the world.

    Why exactly did you go to China, Boris? How did it help? What benefit did it accrue?

    When you answer that, weigh it against the envoronmental damage. No doubt you were doing something important, so it’s a fine balance – but it’s a question we should all be asking, all the time.

  13. I don’t know- Boris clearly works very long hours and still has time for leisure and family etc. A fine example to us all.

  14. ‘And those flights that did take place would cost a lot more. Which might even improve the service, because it wouldn’t all be about squeezing the maximum number of people into the smallest possible space as often as possible, every day, on every flight, in every corner of the world’

    You’d just have very nice planes half full of very rich people, wouldn’t you? Nothing to do with how ‘important’ their mission is? And the rest of us would have to holiday in Margate. Yukky.

  15. I think Mark has a point here. It’s dead easy to point at people in 4*4s but how many people of quite modest means fly at least once a year? When it comes to our own sins against the environment we often find ourselves less radical.

    There’s an old joke about a socialist activist explaining socialism to a peasant. The SA says socialism means if you have two houses then you should give one to someone without a house. “Seems very fair” says the P. “Or” continues the SA “if you have two goats then you should give one to someone without a goat”. “Reasonable enough” comes the reply. “And” says the SA, warming to his task “if you have two chickens then you should give one to a man without a chicken”. “Oh that is not good” excalims the P. The surprised SA says “Why not?” to which the P answers “I have two chickens”.

    Now I’m not usually in favour of more taxation but suppose air travel were taxed to the hilt so that only a few rich could afford it. There would a lot less greenhouse gas around. Would this be better than the current arrangement?

    Are you prepared to swap your holiday in Spain for a week at Margate to save the planet? Or are you an Independent reader who browses the dire front page warnings before moving on to findout about the travelling you can do as a cool Indie reader?

  16. ‘It’s dead easy to point at people in 4*4s but how many people of quite modest means fly at least once a year’

    Because people in 4x4s are rich ponces who are wrecking the environment for the sake of a few extra feet of superiority at the school gates, while people of modest means are flying abroad once a year for a well earned escape from grotty weather and 42hr weeks in crappy jobs. 4×4 owners probably fly abroad much more often and much further (eg New York vs Costa del Sol), and probably own at least one other gas guzzling status symbol too. So let’s keep finger pointing, I say.

  17. Look…

    I take your point. I wasn’t suggesting a return to elitism, though it may have sounded like it.

    However: sooner or later, by dint of reason or by dint of having it forced on us, we are going to have to consider carbon-dependence in all our purchase decisions. We’re going to have to measure our success as a species not in terms of increased shareholder value, but in terms of our impact, or lack of it, on the environment. Air travel is just a bleedin’ obvious example, because we don’t tax aviation fuel like we tax the petrol in our cars.

    I don’t pretend to have the answers to this problem. But if it means choosing to take more holidays in Margate before we run out of holiday options altogether, then so be it. Jetting off to the sun every time it takes our fancy is not and never has been a God-given human right.

    I’m all in favour of progress. Just let’s stop confusing progress with greed.

  18. look

    The point I’m making is that it is essential to identify the problem and what constitutes a solution. No doubt the rich are consuming more fuel per ponce than we humbler types. However the scapegoating of a small minority, no matter how seemingly richly deserved does not address the problem, if the relatively modest amount of emissions per humble person times the number of humble persons is far greater than that of the ponces. You are in danger of falling into the old class enemy tactic of the Bolsheviks in explaining the problem. It doesn’t solve the problem but makes a few cadres feel good about themselves.

  19. Perhaps by the time ‘we run out of holiday options altogether’, thanks to 4x4s and easyjet, Margate will have a mediteranean climate anyway.

    Every acid rain cloud has a silver lining.

    I think you’re absolutely right about greed and progress, but instead of just penalising foreign holiday makers, there’s no payoff for those making environmentally conscious decisions. Train tickets are a rip off (getting to Margate by train probably costs the same as a plane trip to Malaga and takes twice as long). Many more would take public transport if it were super cheap, but at the moment I for one am so much happier in my car. It costs about the same and it gets me home quicker- important when we are so starved of leisure time anyway.

  20. Jack- I understand that whining about ponces does not solve the problem, guilty as charged. But in a consumer society, us plebs aspire to ponce lifestyles. How can we expect Mr and Mrs Average to go swampy when the cabinet shun ecofriendly cars for jags?

  21. Look:
    I think you should be very careful whom you address as Swampy . Jack is a dedicated carrot cruncher , and doesn’t take kindly to slurs on east Anglia.

  22. the “workers” are all virtually unsackable. Why should he show the slightest consideration for his customers, this dilatory bus driver, when he knows there is no sanction his employers could use?

    pot/kettle, Boris

  23. <How can we expect Mr and Mrs Average to go swampy when the cabinet shun ecofriendly cars for jags?<

    Where and when did politicians (especially Nu Liebore) forget they are our elected <representatives< and decide they were our delegates? Did i miss the meeting?

    Oh what am i saying…the Liebore party are just a bunch of authoritarian tosspots who don’t even have a shred of socialism left in them, and are so isolated from the public they honestly(?) believe they are doing the right thing. Of course they are…we don’t need freedoms, or the assumption of innocence, or a second house to moderate evil dictatorships. And it’s perfectly ok for them to decide that new laws can be applied retrospectively (have you <SEEN< the new Parliament Act?), so that if they decide tomorrow that blogging here is illegal, ALL of us could be arrested, charged, and imprisoned <even< if we stopped the second the law was passed.

    Blair is still insistent on ID cards and an attached database. Taking into account the way they have taken this country, can you see them NOT using this against us? Purifying the ballot boxes, disposing of anyone they don’t “approve”?

    Blair is a liar, a warmonger, a thief, and a murderer. I know this site is barely moderated, as Boris believes in freedom of speech. We now also know that the papers (well, at least one!) read these blogs. The initial sentence in this paragraph might be taken as libellous. I do not believe it is, and i would love a day (or more) in court defending my comment. I take FULL personal responsibility for my comments, and will now repeat them again…this time in caps and bold!


    I also grant permission for my comments on this to be quoted ANYWHERE, and will gladly add my real name to them.

    Meanwhile, good to hear you are back safe and sound, Boris. Did you pick up any bicycle safety tips whilst in China?



  24. We’re going to have to measure our success as a species not in terms of increased shareholder value, but in terms of our impact, or lack of it, on the environment. (Mark Gamon)

    Really? Do you really think this?

    Never mind the ‘shareholder value’ bit, but the idea that we should measure our success in terms of our impact on the environment is just completely barmy. We will never measure our success that way. And if, by some freak of chance, we ever did, then the only logical result would be mass suicide. After all, we each of us personally impact on the environment, consuming food, water, oxygen, etc, and emitting carbon dioxide and other toxic wastes. If this really matters, the only solution is that we should all die, right now, in a Jonestown self-massacre.

    But, anyway, what does ‘impacting the environment’ mean? Is The Environment some sort of sacred deity, perhaps Gaia, who we must worship, and sacrifice ourselves before, lest she wreak vengeance upon us? Is The Environment something that must be maintained exactly as it is currently configured, with sea levels exactly as they are? Why should we be trying to maintain something that has never been in equilibrium in the entire history of this planet? The environment is always changing anyway, regardless of human activity. We may speed things up a bit, or slow them down, but the environment will go and do whatever it does anyway.

    No doubt rising sea levels will cause havoc. But humans are pretty adaptable. Dammit, we were living in an ice age until about 10,000 years ago!

  25. We now also know that the papers (well, at least one!) read these blogs. (Psimon)

    I think they’ve only been reading this blog for the past week, and then only to see if they can find some dirt to throw at Boris.

    Incidentally I was very pleased to see that Gorgeous George Galloway has succeeded in outing the NoW’s notorious ‘fake sheikh’.

  26. Idlex:

    The environment, as you so rightly point out, is constantly changing.

    We are on the edge of making ourselves (as a species) extinct, and this is the concern.

    However, we are but one species. Evolution is an ongoing process. Our extinction will only be OUR problem…life, in its diverse forms, will continue. And continue to diversify. We are actually pretty much irrelevant in the great scheme of things.

    So, in summary, i pretty much agree with your post.


  27. Hello Look.
    I really like your name.
    Every time anyone replies to you, they sound like Tony Blair, thereby nullifying any criticism they may have of your arguments.
    I am going to change my sobriquet to “NoNoYouAreQuiteRight”.

  28. look

    Watch out for Vicus. Follow his link to find out why. Young people can easily be led and if you are not careful there will tears before bedtime.

  29. look

    Watch out for Vicus. Follow his link to find out why. Young people can easily be led and if you are not careful there will tears before bedtime.

  30. psimon has a point. There are a an awful lot of bicycles in China. And presumably a lot of pedestrians too. Pedestrians who might or might not come into contact with bicycles.

    Maybe Boris learned something useful out there after all…

  31. We are on the edge of making ourselves (as a species) extinct, and this is the concern. (Psimon)

    Really? First time I’ve heard that. Global warming, rising sea levels, increasing weather extremes are going to kill us all off?

    I’ve forgotten now what the projected rise in sea levels is supposed to be, but it’s only of the order of a couple of metres or so. It will be most inconvenient, but it’s not going result in the extinction of the human race.

    I can imagine a global population crash, due to failed harvests, droughts, plagues, and wars. But we’ve already been there, done that. And a population crash isn’t the same as extinction.

  32. Didn’t our Boris know that the stewardesses’ breaths smell garlic? You would never kiss them anyway? that’s okay then… Viva Air France, I say!

    That WAS a joke by the way, folks.

  33. Idlex : I would suggest you re-assess your expectation of “a mere couple of metres rise on sea level ” .
    Make a thorough check on the real expected rises: it’s a shocker.

  34. It’s at times like this I want to sing a long with Rowan Atkinson

    They all wear berets and they’re all called Jacques,
    They even steal from us the words they lack
    Le weekend, Le Camping and cul de sac
    That’s why I hate the French, oh,
    That’s why I hate the French.

  35. Quick check gives my figure as an overestimate, Mac.

      Considering all of these factors, the IPCC estimates that sea level will rise 9 to 88 cm by the year 2100. A recent EPA study estimated that global sea level has a 50 percent chance of rising 45 cm (1-1/2 ft) by the year 2100, but a 1-in-100 chance of a rise of about 110 cm (over 3-1/2 ft). epa. Also Wikipedia

  36. And this:

      No stopping rising sea levels, study says

      Even if pollution suddenly ends, Earth will still grow warmer

      Even if all industrial pollution and auto emissions suddenly ceased today, Earth’s climate will warm at least 1 degree by the year 2100 and seas will rise 4 inches (11 centimeters), according to a new study.

      The warming is likely to continue through 2400, another study forecasts.

      The worst-case scenario projects the global average temperature rising 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit within this century and the sea level climbing a foot or more. msnbc

  37. You know, if the bike incident had happened AFTER this flight, it would have been an obvious case of payback. I don’t know about you, but I’m wondering if Boris’ tin helmet doesn’t pick up some strange wavelengths and he somehow knew it was coming and acted pre-emptively on the nearest Frenchman.

    I think my own helmet might be a bit tight.

  38. The worst scenario Idlex , should it ever get that far , long, long after we are gone, at the melt of the Antarctic ice , and the earlier Greenland melt , is as much as SIXTY METRES not centimetres. Estimates of possible rise , up to 2100 are only about 20 inches , but once the thing gains momentum , WOW. generations not yet thought about mid=ght even be saved by another intermediate Ice
    Age , but by then ???? Hello Mars, or even Alpha Centauri?
    Source:”howstuffworks ”

  39. but once the thing gains momentum

    I’m not at all sure that momentum comes into this. If it did, we would either have a boiling or a freezing Earth, whichever direction the momentum took it.

    Instead, the geological record shows a great variety of climates, most of which are largely unexplained. Somehow or other, our planet’s climate has been oscillating quite considerably.

    And I rather suspect that we are very much at the mercy of events in this matter, just as we are quite helplessly at the mercy of the laws of gravity and motion as our little planet revolves annually around the Sun.

  40. I fully agree that whilst puny mankind has indeed done its worst to aid the panet’s deterioration, Mother Nature will still do, as she always has; her own little thing.

  41. Sorry ! There might arguably be no ‘L on earth , but I missed the L in Planet.

  42. No ‘L on Earth? You’ve never been to my neighborhood, Mac.

    Beneath the Malebolge lies Hastings street
    The province of the pimp upon his beat
    Where each in his little world of drugs or crime
    Drifts hopelessly, or hopeful, begs a dime
    Wherewith to purchase half-a-pint of piss
    Although he will be cheated, even in this.
    I hope, although I doubt it, that God knows
    This place where chancres blossom like the rose
    For in each face is such a hard despair
    That nothing like a grief finds entrance there.
    An on this scene from all excuse exempt
    The mountains gaze in absolute contempt.
    Yes this, yet this is Canada, my friend
    Yours to absolve of ruin, or make an end.

    Malcolm Lowry. The Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry. Vancouver: University of British Columbia; 1992.

  43. Idlex –

    Just noticed your post. I don’t give a hoot for the notion of the earth as some kind of living organism, or maintaining the environment exactly as it is, or somehow miraculously getting back to the environmental equilibrium of the Saxon years, or any of that backward-looking stuff.

    You seem bafled by the notion of measuring our imact on the environment. How’s about, for ‘impacting the environment’, you read the alternative phrase ‘fouling our own nest’.

    That’s fine, so long as you’ve got another nest to fly off to. We don’t, so I would think it pretty valid to measure our success as a species in terms of our ability to keep our nest clean. In other words, feel free to dump in your own nest, but recognise that sooner or later you’ll need to clean up the do-do if you want to carry on living there.

    You point out that the environment is always changing. You’re right, and we should thank our lucky stars for this, because the environment’s adaptability has enabled us to get away with the fouling up to now. Unfortunately there comes a point where there are simply too many of us, with too many bad habits, and the fouling starts to overtake the environment’s ability to sustain our species.

    And yes, all this means changing our mindset. Which can happen. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: in the Middle Ages, we defined our success in terms of our relationship with God and the Church. Later, we defined our success in terms of conquest. More recently, we’ve defined out success in terms of ‘economic growth’.

    You can’t grow forever. Come up with a surefire escape hatch from this planet, and I’ll start buying shares in Exxon tomorrow. But there ain’t no hatch, ain’t no rocket ship, ain’t no magic fist of God coming from the sky to put everything right. If we carry on as we are, we will eventually fill this planet with human beings, and we will have to find a way to manage our resources or die.

    You may take the view that the game’s up; that we will all be replaced by cockroaches anyway; even that all this is God’s will or something so what they heck can any of us do about it; That we may as well get on and party like it’s 2099.

    I don’t think we should give up like that. I think we can find a new mindset, because we’ve done so in the past. I don’t know how, and I know it will take an enormous amount of individual work and political will, but I quite like the human race and I’d like to think we’ll still be here in another 1000 years time.

    So – in answer to your question – perhaps we can’t maintain environmental equilibrium. The planet is simply too big a subject for us, so far. But what we can do is recognise that we ae responsible for our own survival, take responsiblity for our species and our actions, and question whether the way we’ve lived in the last two centuries really is the right model for the next two.

    What’s our first moral target? Well, yes: I think we could do worse than stop hero-worshipping ‘shareholder value’. We act like it’s the word of God or something…

  44. mark

    I’m more or less with you all the way although I think if you can’t make the market part of the solution then the prospects are pretty dire. This is not the same as saying that the market solves all problems!

    I’m always worried by inductive arguements which say that X happened before and we managed. The problem is that X changes over time and the effect of 6 billion people with a range of consumptions is far greater than that of 300 million people, only the very richest of which could rival the average consumption now.(I’m estimating that the world population in the mid 17th centure was about 300 million – any better estimates gratefully received).

  45. raincoaster : I like that poem. it vividly reminded me of places I’ve been, even if only in transit. It describes , for example Soho, as was.

    Mark: Including the cockroach was a touch of near genius. Viva la cucaracha.

  46. Jack Ramsey – 300 million’s close enough to support your argument. You’e right, of course, that the market has to be part of the solution. But there is good business and bad business – and we need to be clear which is which.

    Dear @…

    An apology. I just looked at my last post and it was A/ rather off subject and B/ a bit on the long side. I’ll try and get to the point quicker in future, I promise…

  47. But what we can do is … question whether the way we’ve lived in the last two centuries really is the right model for the next two. (MarkGamon)

    I agree, but that would involve asking some pretty fundamental questions, and is the last thing anybody is going to do. Questioning one’s fundamental assumptions, thinking seriously, is far too difficult and disturbing. It’s much easier to simply blame people who drive 4x4s, or jet off on holidays.

    In the end, we will have to think very seriously, but I see precious little sign of it happening at present. Our politicians mouth sound bites, our press is mostly full of dross, and television is a multi-channel stream of vapid quiz shows.

    There used to be, some 50 years ago, a BBC television programme called the “Brain’s Trust”, on which several worthy academics, philosophers, writers, and politicians, wreathed in pipe smoke, would congenially discuss at length important issues of the day. We have no time for such discussions now, and we have no philosophers anyway, and of course smoking is utterly forbidden.

  48. Mark – no need to apologise. It was a work of art.

    I’m no socialist but I do find “shareholder value” (OK capitalism, let’s not mince words) odd in one particular respect. Why is a company that simply wants to do a good job without rapid growth or acquisition seen as a dud? If you don’t turn in double-figure profit increases you’re yesterday’s man.

    The Acme Bedspring Company is tipped for a lacklustre a 6% profit rise this year – quick, pull out your money!

    What’s so wrong with ABC continuing to churn out bedsprings, good bedsprings, ensuring a continual supply of bedsprings for all and secure jobs for its staff?

    And I see so much waste in the scramble for growth. Vast quantities of marketing literature ending in the skip; gelled and besuited reps tearing round the M25 at dawn in their quest for the extra shilling; harrassed call centre workers irritating half the population with their nuisance calls; consolidations and acquisitions that usually result in an inferior product or service along with wholesale job losses.

    There’s something not right with it. Or am I plain naive?

  49. Hunh?

    Talkin’ ’bout Boris: As a rule we voters do not think politics is a laughing matter. Err, actually we do. They’re all scumbags, poltroons, mere vote stealers. Laughing at them in their presumptuousness is indeed the correct attitude. My only

  50. But what we can do is … question whether the way we’ve lived in the last two centuries really is the right model for the next two.

    This question is examined in the book A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright, which was published as part of the Massey Lecture series of the CBC. Haven’t finished it yet, but it’s solid gold so far. Here’s the back cover copy:

    Each time history repeats itself, so it’s said, the price goes up. The twentieth century was a time of runaway growth in human numbers, comsumption, and technology, placing a colossal load on all natural systems, especially earth, air, and water – the very elements of life. The great question of the twenty-first century is how, or whether, this can go on.
    In A Short History of Progress Ronald Wright shows how our modern predicament is as old as civilization, a 10,000 year experiment we unleashed but have seldom controlled. Only by understanding the patterns of progress and disaster that humanity has repeated around the world since the Stone Age can we recognize the experiment’s inherent dangers, and, with luck and wisdom, shape its outcome.

  51. Idlex – in my darker moments, I share your pessimism. Right now my daughter’s on her travels in Thailand, and someone’s cloned her cash card, and I find myself thinking that the human race really is a bucket of gloop if we can do things like that to each other, and the sooner we get snapped off the tree of evolution the better.

    But then, I have a daughter. Two, in fact. And I want them both to live in peace and simple comfort, all their lives (which will continue well into this new world of energy wars and destabilised environments and religious dogmatism).

    And somehow this makes me wish for optimism. I share your nostalgia for the more considered thinking of the Brain’s Trust, but there are encouraging signs all around us. The mere fact that this blog exists is one of them. I wish he’d join in occasionally, but I reckon Boris should be applauded for making it happen.

    (I’ll keep looking for other examples, and let you know…)

    PaulD – exactly the same thought crossed my mind whilst watching the BBC’s adaptation of Under the Greenwood Tree the other day. There’s a scene in it where a son confronts his father about the family carting business. The son wants to expand, diversify, seek new markets etc. The father is content to keep the business as it is: it’s provided a usefl service and kept food on the table for generations and he doesn’t understand why they should try and amass more wealth than they actually need.

    In the film/book, the son wins the argument. But I sense that Hardy was on the father’s side. I’m not sure. I certainly am.

    I’d love to find an economist who can give me a coherent argument in favour of growth and acquisition in business. Anyone out there?

  52. Mark G:
    Today is Palm Sunday! This , I believe,has lately come to mean the holding out of palms for yet another unearned handout.

    I can’t give a cogent argument on continuing market expansion, mainly because I don’t believe there is one .
    What I can say is ; if there is to be coninuing growth , particularly at the rate which investors demand , there has to be a heretofore totally untapped source of limitless new money.

    As I see it , this does not exist, and judging by the fast approaching saturation point in all areas of manufacturing/ sales , there never will be. We regardlessly consume resources that are irreplaceable, but do not apparently care or even understand that fact yet.

    Therefore , existing money ,daily
    becoming less and less
    valuable,will have to be made to work, in inevitably decreasing circles , until like an overworked athlete , it will become defunct: like the Norwegian Blue parrot , an ex currency, a mere nothing, where once was a value: total worthlessness.

    This won’t yet happen , because there are still selfish cartels who haven’t finished disecting the already decomposing corpse of so called free( read careless),enterprise ;whilst refusing to return the, by now, redundant component parts to where they were originally discovered.

    The West has enjoyed its day in the sun, excepting perhaps some who demand sunshine the year round.

    The developing world ‘s turn will come, and who can blame it? Meanwhile , back at Amageddon!!!?

  53. I take Hardy to be looking both ways. The old and the natural has its comfort and virtues but is also where repression and material suffering and want are the lot of nearly all. The new and the artificial can provide material goods and freedom however we are cast into a world of bewildering complexity and choice.

    The carter’s problem, as I recall it, exemplifies this. He has position where he is in direct touch with his work and his community, warts and all but it’s nice to have people you have a little light grumbling about. However the market is transforming. Soon there will be cheaper carriers which will make more goods available at lower prices. The son may want more money than is required by their present lifestyle but he may also have in mind that the traditional way of doing things will have a hard time in competition.

    Are there any better alternatives? I don’t think there are any fundamentally better alternatives to the market.

    “What is to be done?” is not a question that should be left to the villains of history. We know roughly how the market works. Perhaps those of us who may not be filthy rich but don’t do so badly should consider using our money ethically.

    Here is an example. Although I don’t care for the PC propaganda of many charities I think that they are usually quite canny when it comes to spending their funds and are effective. A tenner a week from 5 million people would give Oxfam 2.5 billion a year. This is (presumably) invested in water pumps, goats, blankets and so on. If the market followed this to provide high quality ‘charity merchandise’ at lower prices, competing for Oxfam’s patronage this would be a result.

    There is no reason why we should do all our own consuming. Outsource consumption to people who need to do some consuming!

    Please note my use of HTML as I boldly sail into the future.

  54. Idlex – in my darker moments, I share your pessimism. (MarkG)

    I’m not actually a pessimist, even if I sound like one. I was simply noting the process of ‘dumbing down’, the increasing absence of serious public debate and discussion, which now seems to extend to the highest offices in the land.

    There is a simple explanation for it all. And that is that, in our increasingly hectic and busy modern world, there simply isn’t any time for anyone to think. Hence the ‘sound bite’. Hence TV interviews where the interviewee has barely opened his mouth before he is told to shut it. Hence also any number of hasty ill-thought judgments. Hence also dogmatic conviction steadily replacing considered opinion.

    The pace of life was much slower 50 years ago. The cars were slower, and there were far fewer of them. The steam trains were slower, and would regularly stop for ten or fifteen minutes for no obvious reason. But nobody complained, perhaps because it didn’t really matter whether you arrived on time. There weren’t many shops, and there wasn’t much in them. It wasn’t paradise, but it had a far gentler pace. In that world, the long rambling discussions of the Brain’s Trust fitted easily.

    Now, in a world dominated by big business (i.e. extreme busyness), where everything moves at breakneck speed, and ‘full employment in wealth creation’ is the primary political goal, and the titanic engine of our industry chews through irreplaceable forests and oilfields and fish stocks, and spews out huge volumes of toxic wastes and greenhouse gases, we have burnout and breakdown and drug addiction. The source of nearly all our problems is our own demonic industriousness, which inherently deprives us of the leisure time in which to think, to wonder, to dream.

    I am not pessimistic. I am not even angry. All things must pass. This Titanic, racing too fast across the ocean, will in due course hit its iceberg. And whoever comes after, gazing on the wreck, will wonder at the sheer stupidity of our age.

  55. I like you Boris. Of course, I disagree with most of what you say, but at least you speak your mind. But your flippancy tends to get in the way of a balanced view. Okay, people in the UK work more hours than those in France, but we also have a very low productivity, currently and historically. That’s because everyone is pretending to their boss to be busy, killing time surfing the internet just so they can be seen to be still at their desk at seven. Who is that man/woman, mummy/daddy?

  56. idlex

    You’re right.

    One of the things I find distressing is the almost oxymoronic notion of ‘leisure activity’. The whole point about leisure is it is a freedom to go where you will, on your feet, in your mind, in books or in woods. Some of us are more purposeful than others perhaps but without regimenting ourselves.

    But I know people who join book clubs and then find that they are driven to get n chapters finished before Tuesday. They have effectively increased their working week and probably ruined a potentially good experience into the bargain. There are books with titles like ‘1000 places to go before you die’. If anyone can think of places they want to go then they should do so, preferably on foot, bike, boat or train and enjoy the experience but I would rather that they didn’t raise the anxiety level of poor sinners like myself with enough to regret anyway.

    I have found that only watching TV as a special thing to do, only going to films panned by the critics and avoiding ‘lifestyle keep up with the Joneses’ takes a lot of the fret out of everyday life.

  57. It seems like an American national pastime . Even the name of the people with whom one is urged to keep up was chosen by an American cartoonist..
    Tack change.BTW, any idea who the 8 bodies found in a part of Canada belonged to?

  58. Yes, the AP reported it was the work of a cycle gang, the Bandidos. There are bike gangs in the area and they’ve done some executions before. Link is here.

    Biker gangs in Southern Ontario control basically all of the pot trafficking(forget hippies, they’ve been shot or run out of the business), much of the other drug trade, and virtually all of the snuff and otherwise underground film trade. They are also peripherally involved in the people-smuggling business.

    Don’t ask how I know that. Smart money says this was about controlling the drug trade.

  59. raincoaster said:There’s an ad for a credit card in the US that says: The Joneses are $350,000 in debt

    only $350,000? Slackers.

  60. WHAT is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

    No time to stand beneath the boughs
    And stare as long as sheep or cows.

    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance.

    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began.

    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

    W.H. Davies

    It’s a beautiful day, and I’m going to go down to the pub by the river, and watch the water go sliding by.

  61. Have a nice time idlex and thanks for the poem. I only knew two lines and didn’t know who it was by.

  62. Ooh, men discussing politics… there’s always something very attractive about them… My own poem for a man who like politics:

    -The Lover

    I run my loving fingers
    Through his tousled hair-
    Wild finches darting from his golden wheat field…

    I look deep into his eyes-
    Blue skies kissing high summer…

    by Eliza 10.4.2006

  63. Good one idlex and Happy Easter y’all!

    I had a ‘Lent moment’ yesterday – I’ve given up alcohol for Lent (again) and events conspired such that I was gagging for a drink. Ever felt like that? Only a long cool beer will do? Preferably accompanied by the crisps of your choice? I tried to confirm that Lent was indeed Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday by turning to my bible but found nothing and I happened upon ‘Lust’

    Ephesians 5:3-6. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place …God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”

    So I’m not even supposed to laugh at the joke about a married man choosing peace in the Middle East? Well there was never any promise of fun I suppose. So if our present difficulties are Gods wrath for our sins then what?? If we lead a circumstantially moral life but laugh at a risque joke is that reason enough to be considered a sinner and reviled person. Does an honourable life really have to be so dour? But if you murder and truly repent you can be forgiven? Nope, “an eye for an eye”

    But we must remember that most of the Bible was written by men and not by God.

    OK so let’s look at the laws passed directly from God to Moses (Leviticus). Unlawful sexual relations are pretty clear and sensible for the peaceful continuation of the species. I think that purpose is clear by law 19: “Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.” – doubtful she’ll get pregnant then, this is obviously not meant to be recreation. But some laws have been conveniently forgotten: Leviticus 19:27 “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” Why?? And Leviticus 11:41 “Every creature that moves about on the ground is detestable; it is not to be eaten.” Why??

    We are all equal before God. Are we? See ‘Purification After Childbirth’ Leviticus 12: “The Lord said to Moses.. ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred… If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean.. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.'” Then she has to give a sin offering to the Lord for atonement. Why?? Why is childbirth a sin? And why twice as long for a girl?

    Have any of you ever actually read the Bible? It’s incredibly sexist. If a woman wants to know anything she must ask her husband. And I can’t find where I read it but I’m sure i read somewhere that if a woman becomes a man she/it will enter the kingdom of heaven. ???

    Well i don’t know about you but I’m having a small crisis of faith here.

    So anyway, it’s Easter. Let’s think about what Easter’s about. I’m not trying to trash the good book or make fun but Easter is supposed to be about the resurrection of Christ. It is a Christian festival and not about chocolate or bunnies. This new manuscript; the gospel of Judas has raised a few questions and I’m just saying that actually you don’t have to go far to have them, questions i mean. I know I’ve got a few. I actually went to my Vicar after reading the book of Job and told him it sounded like it was written by an adolescent schoolboy. That’s when he reminded me that the Bible was written by men and not to be too censorious of their writing style. Fair point. I suppose it comes down to choosing which men to put your faith in. Whether you are religious or not, we all do that every day don’t we? From trusting that the bus is not going to mount the kerb and kill us to deciding who to vote into office.

    This Easter I suggest a time of reflection. Not just to stand and stare at the daffodils, but to reflect on what we believe in, whatever that might be.

    Happy Easter.


  64. Tousled hair… golden wheat field blond… blue-sky eyes…???

    Hmmm, sounds like our Boris suspiciously…

  65. You’re all welcome here to Margate, though its a little disappointing that the comments hint that Margate is a last option of sorts. Margates not that bad.

  66. (groan) Alright, alright… we’ll go to your Margate this Good Friday, Maskell. Hope it will not rain while we’re there!

    No waaaaaay it’s Prescott!!!

  67. (groan) Alright, alright… we’ll go to your Margate this Good Friday, Maskell. Hope it will not rain while we’re there!

    No waaaaaay it’s Prescott!!! Ewww…

  68. Jaq –

    ‘MOST of the Bible was written by men and not by God?’

    Don’t you mean ALL?

    (I’m tempted to mention the Koran at this point, but I don’t want to start a war on Boris’s blog).

    Oops. I mentioned it.

  69. Mark, you already missed the Koranic dust-up. That was back on the burqa thread.

    Tin hats all around. Looks like another interesting week. I see Ben & Jerry’s, that genius American company which has never put a foot wrong in their marketing, has just released a stout-flavoured ice cream called Black and Tan. I can think of a few places that might not be a top-seller…

  70. raincoster

    I seem to recall that Black and Tan is the name of a drink – a mix of stout and bitter. However I think you are wise to advise against ordering it over the Easter weekend in Dublin. Even a pinacolada would be safer.

  71. I’ll join you in the libel court, Boris. I had a good friend who worked at Air France in Berkeley Square. After several “experiences” with them, I used to ring him to congratulate them on being the worst airline in the world. That was 40 years ago. Plus ca change!

    Unfortunately, you sometimes cannot avoid them. Going to Mauritius three years ago connecting via Paris (big, big mistake) they re-confirmed my belief in them. A ten-hour flight but no time or inclination to serve pre-dinner drinks, just a Gallic shrug when asked why not.

  72. Question for you in the Braisn Trust, which occurred to me following raincoster’s link. Why were there a herd of Gadarene swine? The Jews don’t eat pork.

  73. They don’t have to Jack : you are obviously not of the knitting fraternity. One has to have something at which to cast the purls when one is done with the pattern.

  74. MarkG – what ABOUT the Koran then? Don’t tell me; it’s divine!

    raincoaster – Black and Tan?? Ouch! Jack – a sloe comfortable screw against the wall would be better in Dublin, but the yanks would never go for that one!

    Macarnie – Purls before swine? I could answer that but I’m laughing far too much. Oh, and Sainsubury’s have some great deals on wine – it’s nearly Easter sunday and I’ll be raring to go! Don’t tell me you’re on the wagon??

  75. The next wagon I’ll be on is probably a hearse: I still don’t have a date for the op.

    And as for Lent ;I’ve given up giving things up ,these many years ago.

  76. A political gentleman who also enjoys “outdoor activities”, I must hasten to add, like camping..< giggle >. Imagine two persons in love, cuddling by a roaring campfire, in the middle of nowhere.. Ah, that would be bliss..

    -Next To You

    Under the lonesome night sky,
    By the roaring campfire,
    I can see the sweat on his forehead,
    The embers glow over his stubble blue…

    I can feel the heat rising
    From the forests of his arms’ hairs
    And his hissing snake
    Under my loving touch…

    I can feel the warm soil
    In his torso’s fields-
    Rippling valleys across and down
    Upon where my head rests now…

    by Eliza 11.4.2006

  77. Wherever you are, Jack, I’m with you.

    As someone of Irish Catholic extraction on one side and Irish Protestant on the other, I enjoy the beverage Black and Tan and have the advantage of being able to both lord it over each side of the quarrel AND play the victim. Ah, the advantages of being a mongrel!

  78. The Gadarene swine were in pagan territory, and you KNOW what those pagans got up to.

    In all exorcisms except one, Jesus simply expelled the demons. But at Gadara (or Gerasa or Gergesa), Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs. Matthew 8.30-32 (cf. Mark 5.11-13 and Luke 8.32-33) wrote:
    And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.
    Jesus performed this miracle in pagan territory, the Decapolis.

  79. Sorry Eliza, couldn’t cope with “his hissing snake, Under my loving touch” especially next to a campfire – I’m expecting someone to say ‘Mmn, tastes like chicken’ and couldn’t help but giggle.


  80. I realise that Judaism was not the only religion knocking around the area at the time but I understand, maybe wrongly, that the ban on eating pigs was common for the practical reason that pork went off more quickly than other meat. Hence common practise between Judaism and Islam on this front. (As a CofE atheist I am not trying to insult anyone on this one, just trying to find out. All help appreciated. As you get older, but probably no wiser, it seems that you realise that things don’t fit together so well.)

    To all Christian readers, a Happy Easter. To all Jewish readers, a Good Passover. The rest of you, enlighten my ignorance and I’ll wish you a good Whatever.

  81. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr….

    Following on from Jack’s good wishes to the various religious elements contaminating a perfectly good blog site, I would like to add my own wishes.

    “To all those clinically insane advocates of divine theistic authority and worshippers of the ‘grown up’ version of the tooth fairy:

    I sincerely hope you all die as soon as conveniently possible and consequently enjoy a closer proximity to your respective imaginary friends (YHWH, God, Allah etc.) thus freeing the rest of us from the insufferable burden of the knock-on effects of your self-inflicted psychological ‘conditions’. To say that I loathe and despise the sheer (and demonstrable) hypocrisy of the abundant self contradiction of these tawdry and patently ridiculous ‘world views’ and hold each and all of you in utter contempt, is somewhat akin to stating that ‘the sun’s core is a little warm’ in the currency of understatement.”

    Dear Jim this, Easter, please please please let them ALL get closer to God. Preferably within head-butting distance.

  82. jaq : your mo=ind is on the wrong wavelength for most , but the last lie or two of that piece of blank verse tells me that you ain’t all wrong about the Chicken Tonight.

  83. I’m wondering how Boris is going to feel upon discovering that this particular week his site has become the repository for political fellow-themed erotic poetry(regardless of the merits thereof). “Thrilled” isn’t the first word that comes to mind

    So to speak.

  84. It won’t bother Boris
    Nor even Auntie Doris
    To read about the hissin
    And the cookin and the kissin
    It may taste of chicken
    And be oh so finger lickin
    But there’s no point in kickin
    Up a fuss and nitty pickin
    If you’re sittin in the sights
    Of the tabloid ‘brights’
    They’ll be paying any snitches
    To talk about your britches
    And no amount of worry
    Will stop them in a hurry
    So relax and have a snooze
    Till you see the latest News
    No doubt a later ‘scandal’
    Is waiting for a handle.

    Happy Easter and whatever you’re having yourself.

  85. Sorry Joe – I didn’t mean to leave you out.

    Have a Happy Grumblemas! :}

    p.s. I don’t believe it either

  86. In the , sadly unlikely, event that vicar strangling ever becomes an Olympic event, I occasionally fantasize that I have it in me to be a gold medallist.

    That being said, it invariably astounds me that medalist has two ‘l’s.

  87. There are other minority but growing sports such as journalist slicing and Ken Livingstone pickling also waiting their turn.

  88. Thank you all for ensuring that this thread has deviated so far off-topic. I can now live in the knowledge that it is in safe hands during my absences.
    Do any of you hear from old Boris Johnson these days?

  89. No mate, he’s in China, keeping his head down – down what is anyone’s guess, if he’s morphed into the mindset of the rest of Westminster it’s down a rabbithole!

  90. I don’t know what you mean Mac! I just posted my best attempt at erotic poetry and lost the lot – obviously fate spared you all. Shame, I rather liked it.

  91. Never mind, here’s some better stuff – I just love this guys poetry: it’s David Thewlis


    Where, and when, and if,
    I die
    I desire to revisit this filth
    As a fly
    and on some squalid afternoon
    Fly smack into your bathroom,
    Small and black,
    And crawl all over
    Your naked young back.
    I know you imagine I’m a sensitive man,
    But I’m afraid that’s just
    The kind of fly
    I am.

  92. Boris on front page of Private Eye today – joke about Avian Flu and birds…

  93. Jaq –

    I expect the Koran is a JOLLY GOOD READ. If you like that sort of thing.

    Personally I prefer a good Argos catalogue. So much funnier.

  94. I knew they’d get around to it pretty quickly.

    “Rabbithole?” I could do something with that…and Easter…hmmmm..must post again when I feel less sleep-deprived.

    jaq: is it the same rabbit for all of Westminster, or do they take it in shifts? Must be quite tiring.

  95. raincoaster – take it in shifts?? I don’t think they’re that organised. I’m not sure if each party has their own rabbithole down which they trot or whether they all share the same one. My guess is they all subscibe to Tony ‘that’s just the kind of guy I am’ Bliars rabbithole ideal.

    Mark – not so funny if you have small children, my pockets smarting a bit. I can’t imagine people like Boris and PH waiting in Argos, can you? Mind you, I can’t imagine Boris putting a…an activity centre was it Melissa? swing/slide thingy together? I thought MP’s employed people to do that sort of thing. I bet New Labour MP’s do, whilst droning on about the rights of ‘the people

  96. Oh stuff it – this PC is driving me nuts, I’m going to run away now y’all.

    Have a good one! x

  97. In the understanding that host nations may introduce a new sport to the Olympic Games, I want to see something properly “British” promoted in time for the 2012 games.

    My suggestions so far:

    1. British Bulldogs
    2. Kiss Chase
    3. Cheese Rolling
    4. Commuting to London

    Now, who do i have to harrass to get these accepted, and what else is a truly “British” sport?


  98. The French aren’t so bad,
    when you know how they work,
    though it’s terribly sad,
    to see these frogs shirk

    Their duties and jobs
    aren’t terribly hard
    and rioting mobs
    should be summarily barred

    If a shrug and a sneer
    is all we receive
    its unsurprising to hear
    that Boris is peeved

    But what of the France
    of its old glory days
    when an aristo’s glance
    made a corpse of a knave

    They’ve rather lost touch
    with respect for their lords
    and it’s asking too much
    to make them lay down their swords

    The sword in this case
    is contempt and poor service
    and, though it is base,
    it’s not cause to be nervous

    They’ve always been slow
    and of sloppy inclination
    and it’s to this that we owe
    Britain’s current emancipation

    if Napoleon’s army
    didn’t reek garlic stench
    and were slightly more smarmy
    this would be written in French.

  99. All right, since it is now mandatory to write erotic poetry in this thread, here’s my best shot:

    You came back
    From the shops
    This afternoon,
    And said,
    “I couldn’t get any

    Now, I’m sure that some people will immediately say that this is neither erotic nor poetic.

    But this would be to miss the central insight – which is that life itself, including failed shopping trips, is always subtly suffused with both eroticism and poetry, and much else as well. See?

  100. PS: Oh no!! I can’t do erotic!! I’ve just looked at my potatoes and there was not a glimmer. Oh no, does this mean….? Is there NOTHING out there that can tempt me? uhuhhhhhh 🙁

    (jaq walks off, quietly anxious and in need of chocolate)

  101. Melissa- did you say Boris on front page of Private Eye today- joke about Avian Flu and ‘birds’ !!!

  102. Dear Boris

    You have my deepest sympathy, not for the flight fiasco, but for the fact your blog seems to be inhabited by a horde of mad socialists.

    Do you ever get any comments from fellow rational thinkers?

  103. (blush)..err, they can chop off… I mean they can delete ‘his hissing snake’ if they want to..(giggle)… but that will kill off the passion in the poem… Life without passion is very sad…(sigh) God invented passion and we are only his followers…

    -Breakfast In Bed

    Friday night
    Handsome promised me breakfast in bed,
    With colours created by God…

    Saturday morning
    Sunlight streams in fruit juice orange,
    The calm sea in his eyes blue,
    His sensual lips sun-ripened tomato red,
    Two snug eggs on straw mellow,
    One shining hot sausage brown,
    Mimosa scatters crumbs on our bed yellow…

    …(2 hours later)…

    His love milk

    by Eliza 12.4.2006
    (*I wish my political man can cook…)

  104. I thought I was the only socialist on this site!?!?!?! Where are all these others?

    Not every objection to erotic poetry posts is PC- or socialism-based.

    I’ll have to come back when I’m more pun-ready. And, completely off-topic, DAYUM Private Eye, they don’t put their covers online!

  105. Pun ingredients:

    hats, tin or otherwise
    head(s) down
    Rabbit holes
    Avian flu
    British Bulldogs
    Kiss Chase
    Cheese Rolling
    Commuting to London
    Breakfast foods
    finches (relates to birds, above)

  106. That’s a very long breakfast, Eliza!!! It made me splutter into my port!!! I loved your racy poems, though. Thanks!

  107. @ !
    Is this to be allowed, this trend toward pornocracy I find,
    These finger painted pictures of the woman’s daily grind.
    The brown eggs and the sausage; are they meant to blow the mind?
    Or are they conjured images by a girl who; wined and dined.
    Retired with the chickens, but found the rooster redefined?

  108. Fantastic to hear Boris! As a graduating student, the future is important to me because it will be my present during the most important parts of my life. Labour’s tax rises and failed privatisations have destroyed a lot of what Thatcher gave us and we don’t even realise it. It’s as disgusting to hear pompous moaners worrying about who’s got more than them as it is to see political freedoms used to rob others of their humanity and self-determination (I’m talking about socialism, here, especially communism). I think people should be proud of where they come from and make it better instead of satiating themselves at its expense. I don’t want Labours over- and mis-regulation, I was quite happy before.

  109. raincoster

    You’re on! Communism is a form of socialism just as Nazism is. There are somewhat gentler forms of socialism such as are expressed in some of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount which you can happily accept without having to be a theist. In this sense the current direction of the Conservative Party is socialist, perhaps summed out by Mr. Cameron’s observation that there is such a thing as society but it’s not the same as the state.

    I think this view may be controversial enough to put me in a minority of one.

  110. Presumably, therefore, ‘politics’ is the manifestation of tension between society and state.

  111. The ism of today is the wasm of tomorrow.

    The word “socialism” was first used Ca. 1830 to describe doctrines developed by Fourier and Saint-Simon in France ( perhaps in revenge for the ” Let them eat cake crack “), and Robert Owen in the UK.
    It should be remembered that in ancient times several earlier philosophers were found to have anticipated so called modern socialist ideas. These included Plato among the ancients “The Republic”); Sir Thomas More (1516;”Utopia”) and T. Campanella (1623 “City of the Sun”)
    Owen, who is generally regarded as the father of British socialism, was a highly successful and model industrialist who argued for a co-operational; competition-free system devoted to the spiritual and physical well-being of all.

    Owen’s views naturally attracted a large working-class following, and several Owen inspired communities developed up in the United States (notably at New Harmony, Indiana.) as well as in the UK.

    This was the early beginnings of the nefarious Peter and Paul system of division of wealth, alive and kicking today. (Witness e.g. the UK). Some might say; in my opinion falsely; that Robin Hood was a Socialist. This is patently untrue: he was a robbin’ SOB, if he existed at all outside ” The Last of The Summer Wine “.

    BTW! Have you heard that Friar Tuck, that famously jolly gross Friar , will no longer be allowed to be portrayed by a fat man, in case of hurting the PC feelings of the clinically obese? Socialism at work!

    Marx and Engels used the word “communist” to describe this classless society and generally reserved the word “socialist” to refer to transitional phases and movements in which the erstwhile under classes had indeed already acquired, one way or another, the means of production.

    It must logically follow that The Soviet Union , although officially titled Communist, according to the founding fathers of the idea and thus the deed , was Socialist, thus squaring the circle that the two terms were ( and maybe still are , interchangeable)

    Addressing the word “Communist”.
    Engels explained, about the end of the 1880s, that The Communist Manifesto was so named, only because the term “socialist” had come to be identified with “multifarious social quacks.” Plus ca change.

  112. It ‘s certainly socialism at work here , insisting on the relativist dioctrine’s practice.

  113. Macarnie

    I don’t think that the terms communism and socialism are interchangeable. Of course we could get into “It all depends what you mean by…”. I think that the free market is indispensible to a free society, but it is only a necessary condition not a sufficient one. There are positive moral attitudes in the thoughts of people like Robert Tressell and J. B. Priestley who would describe themselves as socialist. In fact Priestley lamented what he saw as the necessary evil of conformity in the socialist movement in its struggle to overcome the ‘waste of human beings’. He was wrong – it wasn’t necessary.

    The current dose of New Labour socialism is doing little to end the waste of human beings and their alienation from work (Marx might have been righ sociologically on this one). Instead a flourishing of rigid and ridiculous regulation continues to take away what little fulfillment many people do find in their daily work.

    Capitalism provides a means to living a better life. Despite romanticism about the past it’s quite hard for your moral and aesthetic sides to prosper if you are cold and hungry. Capitalism is not an end in itself nor a guarantor of that better life.

  114. One could also argue that communism, socialism and theism are not interchangeable, but each of the proponents of such theories began their theses with the base ideal that all are born with equality in worth.

    It is the translation between theory and practice where the bottom falls out of these ‘isms’. In every society,there has to be someone more equal than the rest, or there is chaos.

    Capitalism , tempered with thought for the relative wellbeing of ones fellow is the only way to go, IMHO.

    But never mind , even this band of socialist robbers haven’t taxed thought ….. YET

  115. Boris, Thank God I don’t live in your country which allows a bunch of people like you with nothing else better to do than write a blog with stupid, insulting & pointless remarks.
    What a load of rubbish.

  116. Peter:

    Yes, thankfully you do not live in this country – otherwise your stupid, insulting & pointless remark might be taken as something other than the load of rubbish you posted.


  117. Peter – ditto Psimon.

    excuse me folks as I am surrounded by grandchildren just wringing wet with excitement at being at their grandparents – if they run around any more we’ll be able to hook them up to the national grid and provide enough electricity to run a small town. So, I’ve escaped to a dark corner with a PC, hee hee hee..

    On communism: my Dad says that if you gave everyone the same house, car etc, say a blue Ford Escort – someone, somewhere would want a red one.

    Then a bloke down the road would install a radio and pressure would be brought to bear for everyone to have a radio, except Mr H, he doesn’t like music, thinks it’s the root of all evil. Why should taxes be spent on a radio when music corrupts society? Good argument, no radios. So other people put in radios and/or SMUGGLE in radios. Radios are stolen, radios become currency. And Miss B wants a silver car because silver doesn’t show the dirt so much and Mr P hates cards and thinks he should just have the money but that’s not allowed and Mrs J NEEDS a car because she’s in her 70’s now and can’t get about too well.

    Communism completely ignores the human condition: no one else is quite like ‘Me’ and I want the freedom to live how I choose in safety. That’s it really.

  118. Eliza (just catching up..)
    I like your poetry but ‘His love milk’? Eew!!!

    (I’m so conservative, I’d never be an MP)

  119. Quite right jaq – hope you and the sprogs have a good time at grandma’s and grandpa’s.

  120. Eliza I’m inspired and have seriously tried to write erotic poetry, all I come up with is ‘ermmmmmmm’. It’s not for want of passion – ask the others on the blog, I really HATE Bliar; ask Melissa: remember when PH wound me up with his article about The Pill? I was born with the full compliment of emotions, honest. Don’t quite know where I’ve put them. Probably in the loft.

    Time for some Puccini to get the juices flowing or it’s back to the Argos catalogue for me. Mmn, very attractive garden furniture.

  121. jaq, maybe you could do something with Blair, Puccini, and the milk marketing board? It’s a socialist plot, you know.

    (OT: I am completely hating being in a mindless course all day when I should be posting insightful comments on people’s blogs, rather than starting up fights I never get to participate in. Got to go, teacher is looking at me…)

  122. I believe you Jaq! perhaps it’s time to bring things down from the loft too though

  123. U R a-m-a-z-i-n-g raincoaster : the greatest multi-tasker on the planet!!

    (ps got the book yet?)

  124. No, I don’t think so Melissa – I’d be like Tony Curtis on the boat in ‘Some Like it Hot’ (really!) and if the journalist of my choice could persuade me, I don’t think I could afford the Milk Marketing Board!

    Eliza – Puccini and Bliar? Hmnn interesting – they all die of consumption with Puccini!

    Here’s a poetic interlude:

    Long live love which dreams,
    flares up and then flees!
    Long live love which dies
    in one night!

    So cry then, damsels,
    but only empty tears!

    Long live love, etc.
    If love has wings,
    it is so he can fly away!

    Boris, can you name that tune in one?

    And a little something for PH:

    sono la sua vicina
    che la vien fuori d’ora
    a importunare.

  125. Mon dieu, judging from the letter I just saw on the Telegraph website, it appears that the French Ambassador to the UK has gotten his knickers in le twist over Boris’ Air France travelogue.

    If I read his letter correctly, I am supposed to understand that Air France is just fine, merci beaucoup – not because their performance is better than Boris implies but because that kind of thing happens all the time, they didn’t single Boris out and besides, they merged with KLM.

    Let me see if I understand . . . piss poor performance is acceptable so long as it inconveniences everyone and not just the lucky few and is especially to be embraced if it can only partly be blamed on you.

    Well, I’m certainly glad he cleared that all up. I think I’ll keep flying Continental.

  126. My tuppence on Socialism and Capitalism.

    It’s all just about confusing wants and needs, or perhaps conflating wants and needs.

    I need food …but I want a Ferrari.

    Socialists think we all need everything. Capitalists think we all want everything. Both are wrong.

  127. I know what I want and i know what I need – sadly he agrees to neither, he’s a fundamentalist.

  128. No book yet, Melissa. I have already pestered them once, will have to do it again Saturday.

    Communism isn’t a kind of Socialism at all. It is the opposite of Capitalism, and was formed as a result of the capitalist abuses which came to a head in the nineteenth century. Socialism, the idea that some items and responsibilities should be shared while other are subject to private authority, is a much older and far more sophisticated idea. Indeed, any government which exerts authority and offers services (policing, defence, garbage collection, power and water provision etc) and levies taxes in exchange can be said to be socialist.

    See how cleverly I co-opted the Tories there? Buncha goddam socialists, eh?

    Liberté, Egalité, Publicité!

  129. Jaaaaaq…
    I’m not fleeing…
    Mr. Johnson is here. We don’t want to put Melissa in trouble.
    No more love poems, okay? It’s all Jaq’s fault…
    Puccini. Do a Madam Butterfly poem!
    Take care, Jaq… Bye x

  130. I’m in complete agreement Air France are terrible. I came back from Beijing via Charles De Gaulle on the 11th and not only was the flight from Beijing delayed 1h45 but the movies weren’t working so we sat for 10 hours with nothing to do and when we finally got into Paris we’d missed our connecting flight which was the last one of the night. We were put on the 9 am flight the next morning which was fine for me but my Russian friend had a flight from Heathrow to Moscow at 9 am and there was no way she would make it and she was forced to reschedual.

  131. I was thinking that perhaps triremes might be a good idea. (Mac, have I spelt it right?). The idea would be that not only do you charge people for their passage but you bill it as a leisure activity with full workout and then charge them for the privilege of rowing the thing.

    It’s green, it’s healthy and it would make megabucks pour moi!

  132. I’m sure you could get a grant to develop that. And if you employ students to build the thing, perhaps you could get the government to pay their salaries under some “training” scheme?

    OT: Good thing I’m not a copyeditor. I just now noticed that Boris calls it “Peking.” He’s probably the only man alive who does so; frightfully dated.

  133. You old dog , you know quite well you have spelt the word correctly.
    Three tiers for Jack !

  134. raincoaster – oh ha ha, very very good reply. Chris Hitchens seems to think that it’s overrated and I’m quite happy to take his word for it! Anyway, I’m quite done with all that nonsense.

  135. Eliza, forgive my naivety but, huh??

    No more love poems? Didn’t you like it? not another one who critisises my enjoyment of music – it was ‘Aubade: Vive amour qui reve’ from Cherubin by Massenet. If Boz is there, tell him I’m surprised he didn’t recognise it.

  136. Jaaaaq, I looooved ‘that thing’ you wrote, I did… I meant no more love poems from me, Jaaaaq… By the way, I have just been told Puccuni was a kind of Italian coffee. And my mum told me never go for a coffee with a stranger… (giggle) Jaaaaq…. xxx

  137. From airships to triremes…isn’t a merging of the two called for? 3 decks of paying passengers who have to turn the propellers by hand?

    We could be onto something here….



  138. Psi : sounds like something being launched from Brighton Pier with Jules Verne as the drum master i/c stroke frequency.

  139. Melissa, it’s Saturday night! Shouldn’t you be out somewhere – tripping the light fandango? Come to think of it – what the heck am I doing here? Anyone have a fandango that needs tripping?

  140. Psimon

    This looks good! We need a feasibility study. This could breath life back into mechanical engineering in this country!

    Can we get passengers/fitness freaks to turn the props fast enough to ensure their own carriage plus some left over for the equipment? If we had a time machine we could give the Ancient Greeks air supremacy over the Persians (or vice versa depending on your bias in ancient history).

    Oh wow!

  141. Jack – nothing can bring life into mechanical engineering in this country – it’s a dead duck.

  142. Jack: A little pedal power would be good for warding off DVT

    Jaq: Are you saying the Mechanical Engineering industry here is a victim of bird flu? I suggest you badger* your MP to give grants to students studying Science and Engineering, as opposed to student loans, to encourage the next generation


    (*=before “They” kill all of the badgers, the bastards**!)

    (**=the gits calling for badgers to be eradicated, not the badgers!)

  143. Perhaps we could do something about traffic in central London by supporting the reintroduction of sedan chairs. If you’re willing to be one-quarter of the power source, you can trundle around for free on the Transit system once you get tired. If you want to sit in the chair, you have to buy lunch for each of the bearers at the pub of their choice.

  144. There used to be a passenger ferry here in Vancouver that was passenger pedal powered. I can certainly see Boris getting behind something like that. It was, as far as I can recall (after half a bottle of CabSauv) run out of business by the phalanx of fossil-fuel ferries.

  145. Fandango, from the
    early fifteenth century Japanese.
    Fan = ventilator; or propellor
    Dan = coloured belt
    Go= A two player game.
    Hence the compound word which means ” The ‘to-do’ one has when the pedal driven propellor drive belt breaks.
    The Japanese of course ,invented the ” Hally Potter” before Leonardo , but there was no one there to see it, so it remained one of the undiscovered wonders of the World for a long time, by which time oil had been discovered, thus outdating the invention.

  146. dmnyc, what the hell is a fandango anyway?

    in addition to being a rather dreadful film from 1985, fandango is a Spanish dance – sometimes involving castanets.

  147. Hear, hear Boris! The Italian national carrier is only just better than AirFrance, and I completely agree that the EU is a Franco-protectionist mess right now.

  148. Oh, Jaq. I’m so sorry. I was only joking.
    ‘Long live love which dreams,
    Flares up and then flees!
    Long live love which dies
    In one night!’ ?

    That’s very beautiful but so sad, Jaq. But I loved it. Love should be beautiful and sad…
    God bless you at Easter, Jaq x

    And you, too, Melissa.

  149. I spent a chunk of yesterday trying to get back into the UK despite the best intentions One (allegedly a railway company) and our glorious passport agency. anyway, for disrespect, inefficiency, rudeness and making me ashamed to be british, there was no real difference between public and private sector. The similarities of course lay in the tiny numbers of staff, lack of information and overwhelming smell of crappy, target driven, bottom-line management. So no dodos here then!
    you vile, ignorant buffoon.

  150. I presume the word ‘dudos’, in the penultimate line of ianrs’ rant, was a reference to the fame and renown earned by a long dead member of the columbiforme family : Raphus cucullatus.

    The question as to how he came observe the tuft of curly feathers high on the rear ends of these birds,as a means of identification, will remain , I hope, forever unanswered.

  151. Hope you had a great Easter too, Eliza – and all you others on this site – you kept me well entertained!

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