I read an entertaining review t’other day of Matthew Engel’s acerbic, sardonic new book ‘That’s the Way it Crumbles’, a fascinating analysis of the Americanisation of our own language. Whilst insisting he isn’t rabidly anti-American, the author certainly laments the corrosive impact that particular country’s speech has had on British English and at times you can imagine Engel’s monocle hitting the soup!
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50 years ago, only 2% of our population went to university, and 10% achieved First class degrees. Today, 30% goes to uni, and 25% of them obtain firsts. Now, I’m no mathematician, but even I can work out that represents a massive increase in the achievement of the ultimate award from 0.2% to 7.5%. The ‘powers that be’ resolutely state there has been no grade-inflation whatsoever so I can only assume today’s graduates are thirty times more clever! Well, who’d’ve thunked it.
Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve always been a non-smoker (I was worried it would stunt my growth!) I’ve never actually been a rabid anti-smoker. I come from a northern family of heavy smokers, was relatively sanguine about the smoking ban when it was being debated and was even slightly jealous of those who thoroughly enjoyed the post-coital or post-restaurant-meal cigarette. Yes, it’s going to kill you, as it has done many of my family, but it’s your decision and you pays your money (currently about a tenner I believe) you takes your choice…
Not a great deal appears to have happened whilst I’ve been away on my two-wheel travails. Trump continues to tweet nonsense; Mother Theresa’s still playing hide & seek and no-one’s able to find her; Deranged Davis is throwing his weight around Brussels convincing no-one he has any idea what comprises a good Brexit deal; Roger Federer proved there’s life in the ol’ dog and Chris Froome won another Tour to the deafening apathy of everyone watching. Myself included. The notable exception to the same-old-same-old was that Postman Vince’s red-letter finally arrived, announcing his promotion to the leadership of the Lib Dems.
ust occasionally the planets align and circumstances conspire for opportunities to be presented. The Grand Tour (no, nothing to do with clapped-out Clarkson and his posh-boy pals) proved to be just such a case. For many years I’ve followed the Tour de France and when I noted it was passing directly through one of my favourite regions, specifically via several of my favourite towns, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. The plan, as such, was to load up the bike and cycle 500 miles in five days, ride Stage 10 (Perigeux to Bergerac) on the (real) Tour’s rest day, watch the pros do it properly the following day, and spend a while recovering round the pool.
The other month a primary school head teacher was widely reported chastising parents who largely ignore their offspring. Signs were whacked-up around various school entrances entreating the smartphone-addicted grown-ups to “greet your child with a smile, not a mobile”. Poetic quality apart, by all accounts it’s worked a treat, at least within a radius of about 200m, and the conveniently-sized universe of wonder and source of modern enlightenment and self-esteem have been consigned to either back-pocket or glovebox. Name & shame, call ‘em out and lead by example. Who’d’ve thought it was all so easy!
Well, what a whirlwind the last couple of weeks have proved to be. So much so, that we’ve all kinda forgotten that today’s the big day when David Davis’ leads the political equivalent of the charge of the light-brigade and kicks-off the long-awaited Brexit negotiations. Notwithstanding that to my mind, this is of greater importance than either who won the last election or who’s going to win the next election, it’s illuminating to analyse Mrs May’s vital statistics in her cynical attempt to gain a stronger position within these contested & convoluted conversations.
Many of us are soon to be engulfed in the fun, frivolity and general all-round hysteria that accompanies July’s Tour de France. It is to cyclists what SW19 is to tennis. What lends the Tour its global appeal isn’t just the terrific exploits of endurance but the shenanigans, skulduggery and subterfuge, that have always been part & parcel of the race, and have helped cement its super-human reputation. I stand by the fact that, along with Italy’s own version (Giro), it remains the world’s toughest professional escapade.
Having been given ‘the Spanish fiddler’ (el-bow!) from my latest attempted foray back into the world of work I find myself with too much time on my hands. Again. My initial good intentions of early starts and keep-fit regimes soon floundered and I found myself drifting into a diet of mid-morning cake and too much day-time TV. T’other day I heard it explained on Tim Wonnacott’s wonderful Bargain Hunt that they no longer have ‘winners & losers’ but ‘winners & runners-up’. In a race of two, this struck me as absurd: one wins, one loses. Are the teams in that delightfully British of game shows so fragile that they can’t be referred to as losers?
For many of you, my earlier article analysing the ins and outs of Pippa Matthew’s (nee Middleton) bottom proved a step too far and cries of dumbing-down & selling out to the glitterati have hounded me ever since. So, in an attempt to reinstate the highbrow I came across an interesting piece of work that sought to establish, without the usual implication of stupidity and/or bigotry, a link between the increasing gentrification of our key cities and the growth of isolationist & populist politics. In short, how the metropolitan elite have unintentionally, and perhaps intentionally, brought about Brexit and Trump.