The Curmudgeon


Monday, July 28, 2014

Reforming Characters

An NHS accounts worker has been convicted of funnelling money meant for cancer drugs into the hands of various smallish units of the private sector. Some of the money has been recovered, but the hospital in question is still more than three hundred thousand pounds short. It is fortunate that so many sick people these days are shirkers whose treatments can be cut back in the name of efficiency; otherwise the Minister for Health and News Corporation might very well be displeased. The fraudsters spent the money on such things as luxury shopping and mortgages, which epitomises their tragic underachievement. With a little less hedonism and a little more dead-eyed financial acquisitiveness, their scheme could probably have qualified as part of the Private Finance Initiative.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Behold Our Reproach

To what god shall we chant our songs
Of penance? Put the candles out,
Sing tragic tunes, and do not doubt
To whom the role of moral guide belongs.

The Church that called on men to go and fight
For Kingdom, Empire and the holy cause
Now hopes to expiate our human flaws
By chanting words and blowing out a light.

We must adopt no narrative, no blame;
Repent, instead, the frailty which can lead
To scapegoating, to murder, to the need
For Him who made us frail enough for same.

Rev. Sorbus Malbarb

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Checks and Balances

Doubtless with November in mind, the US House of Representatives has voted through a resolution against the President's sending of military advisers to Iraq in a "sustained combat role" unless he can first cajole Congress into authorising it. Congress is a little concerned that, over the past few years, it has ceded too much of its authority to the executive branch on the matter of killing industrial quantities of brown people. Nevertheless, the resolution is purely symbolic and does not have the force of law; so the re-accomplishment of George and Tony's mission is safe from Congressional meddling should the oil companies decide once more to exert their democratic will. In our own Mother of Parliaments, of course, the system is a little more rigorous, requiring the Prime Minister to persuade a simple majority of vassals, seat-warmers and expenses claimants that Western Civilisation is once again in peril.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Closing Time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel


At any given time, there are any number of establishments which claim the title of oldest pub in England. Some optimistic reckonings put the number as low as fifty-seven, and even many of those can be discounted for one reason or another.

The commonest fallacy is to assume that, just because a pub is in an ancient building, it can therefore be considered an ancient pub. The building which is now the Fiddler’s Arms in Gloucestershire, for example, was probably completed as early as the sixteenth century; but it went through successive incarnations as a lodgehouse, a threshing barn, a debtors’ prison, a school, an emporium for gentlemen’s undergarments and a roller disco before finding its present calling.

There is also the equal and opposite fallacy of assuming that the survival of a pub’s name is the same as the survival of the pub itself; and this despite the recent discoveries of semioticians and other heavy drinkers that the sign is by no means the same as the signed. In one sense, the Old Game Leg in Yorkshire has “survived” since the year 1487; but only in the sense that the name has been bestowed on half a dozen successive establishments which were built and demolished on more or less the same premises, though arguably even one of these does not count, on the grounds that it is slightly on the other side of the Pennines.

The oldest pub in England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom and probably the world is, in fact, the Gallows and Glockenspiel; which, thanks to its unique time-travelling facility, is also often the newest.

Although the Gallows and Glockenspiel has been present at any number of different times and locations since first being built, this does not invalidate its claim to antiquity, since the building, the barman and the regular patrons always remain the same. In this sense, of course, they are much like England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom itself, whose essential character has remained constant through many centuries of glorious history. The fact that the Gallows and Glockenspiel can travel through so many centuries, past and future, without changing its external appearance or exciting much notice among the locals is a testament to the homely continuity of British life and the steadfast calmness of the natives.

The means by which the Gallows and Glockenspiel travels are obscure, thanks either to the natural taciturnity of the barman, the lack of expertise in advanced physics among the regulars, or the unconstructive influence upon scientific research of dubious alcoholic beverages in large quantity.

Nor have the causes or purposes of these travels been satisfactorily researched, if indeed there are any causes or purposes to research. One hypothesis mentions half a dozen barrels of Swigler’s Old Malarkey being left in the cellar past their sell-by date, with fungal and chemical consequences possibly beyond the conceptions of modern science. Another hypothesis proclaims that the Gallows and Glockenspiel was originally built at some point in our future, after the invention of time travel, and that the pub will be intended all along as a device for exploring the centuries in their ever-developing, ever-continuing Britishness.

This last idea seems a plausible one, but it must be admitted that there is next to no evidence to support it. We do not even know whether the Gallows and Glockenspiel’s chronological voyages are deliberately steered, according to the subtle calculations of some guiding influence; or whether they really are the random, uncoordinated lurches about the space-time continuum which they in fact appear to be.

In a way, of course, such questions are secondary, and even irrelevant. The Gallows and Glockenspiel is undoubtedly a licensed establishment run for legitimate profit, and its motions through history and the future are not our business to judge. It behoves us only to stand and observe as the magnificent pageant of British history reveals itself to us through the thoughts and observations of ordinary drinking people.

Available as paperback or as PDF

Extracts all over the place

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What's Excruciating

Following on from recent research in Ohio and Oklahoma, the Christian state of Arizona has carried out another human experiment, with results that are just and humane according to the state governor. The object of the exercise was injected with drugs so humane that the Christian state of Arizona won't tell anybody where they came from, and took just under two hours to die, gasping for breath the while. At least one American jurist has argued that the lethal-injection method as a whole is "doomed to failure" and that people should accept brutal methods for a brutal process: “I personally think we should go to the guillotine, but shooting is probably the right way to go,” he said. The guillotine, of course, has unfortunate political connotations, being bound up with notions of liberté, egalité, fraternité to which most of the United States has long ago stopped pretending to subscribe. Shooting, on the other hand, has the virtue of simplicity (any high-school kid can do it), and the advantage that America is not as yet a net importer of guns and ammo.

“What I saw today with him being executed, it is nothing compared to what happened on August 7, 1989,” said the sister of one of those whose murder was expiated in today's experiment in payback. “What's excruciating is seeing your father lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying in a pool of blood.” As long as America is committed to the Christian values of blood vengeance and a life for a life, perhaps the way to go is simply to take Big Government out of the equation altogether, and give surviving relatives the chance to polish off the condemned for themselves.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Another Slant on British Values

As an island nation with a world-famous culture, an imperial history and a writing system which can be mastered only by native speakers and masochists, Japan is of course different in every significant way from the United Kingdom of Westminster, London and the Other Bits. Doubtless this explains how some Japanese people managed to misinterpret the Gove History idea of pride in one's island story. A public monument dedicated to Koreans who were brought to Japan as forced labour was erected by a friendly society ten years ago; the inscription reads, in part: "We hereby express our determination not to repeat the same mistake by remembering and reflecting on the historical fact that our country inflicted tremendous damage and suffering on Koreans in the past." This sort of lefty breast-beating has no place under the revisionist government of Shinzo Abe, who has about as much time for regrets about racism and "comfort women" as the Gove-Ferguson™ model of history has for qualms over Nagasaki or the Third Battle of Ypres; and the local authority has ordered the offending monument removed. It is certainly a great pity that the lesser breeds never seem to learn the proper lessons from history. Meanwhile, the deplorable situation in the Middle East continues to be entirely the fault of selected local residents.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

They're Just Not Like Normal Human Beings

Although several hundred human shields have been rendered permanently inoperable to the terrorists of Hamas, a complication has arisen which may cause a cease-fire to be delayed. One of the Righteous State's defenders has gone missing and may have been captured; this of course does not happen in normal war zones, but only in those where a nuclear-armed occupying power faces an existential threat from small-arms and hand-made rockets. Similarly, unlike normal humane military powers of the kind that use nail-bombs against civilians, the genocidal fanatics of Gaza are prone to using captured soldiers in prisoner exchanges. The Righteous State has already lost several dozen lives through this latest escalation of the peace process; if the terrorists cannot observe even the most basic rules and usages of war, what possible hope remains of the master race not being unduly inconvenienced far into the future?

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Anthropocene Stratum

Those tribes who hunted mammoth on great plains,
And those whose game now runs on little screens,
And those beyond our own oblivion
Are gathered unto this memorial stone,
Outlasting their small horrors and small hopes:
Brief pyramids or long-lived isotopes.
Humanity, for what it's worth, is here
Become this stripe of sediment, this smear.

Cliff Chipper

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Doing a Bang-Up Job

The Minister for Profitable Incarceration, Chris Graybeing, has discovered, much to his surprise, that if you close lots of prisons and fire the staff while continuing to imprison people, certain problems may result. Two thousand prison officers who were made redundant have been invited back on nine-month contracts to help the Government with its warehousing difficulties. The invitation refers to "particular short-term pressures" such as, presumably, the need to avoid too many major riots between now and the election, a little more than nine months away; and states: "Your previous governor has indicated that, in their opinion and based on your past service, we would be happy for you to join the Reserve." It is very considerate of prison governors to indicate what Chris Graybeing and his part-time, unpaid and not very bright flunkey in charge of prisons would be happy about, although the governors themselves seem to have forgotten making the assertion. For his own part, Sadiq Khan for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition said that the Government had brought the crisis on itself by implementing New Labour policy too fast.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Congratulations on Your Recent Promotion

One beneficiary of Daveybloke's reshuffle thingy was Mark Harper, the former Home Office thug who was in charge of the squalid and idiotic Powellite Pantechnicon Programme. Harper contributed further to the gaiety of the nation when it was discovered that his own cleaner had not been given leave to remain in the country. Harper resigned, but has now been given a post in the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith's Department of Workfare and Privation, where his compassion, competence and expenses claims will doubtless come in handy.

Meanwhile, the illegal Britishness-diluter herself has been carted away from her daughter's wedding by fifteen Home Office henchmen and "a small number of regular police". Perhaps they were afraid that a wheelchair user would ambush them; but be that as it may, this particular skirmish in the crusade for British values is interestingly timed: not only in the petty Home Office vindictiveness of invading the wedding ceremony, but in its coming so soon after the promotion of Mark Harper. Are some old, fond colleagues marking his return to government with the Conservative Party's equivalent of a congratulatory strippergram?