Self-Denial

Yesterday I quoted from a recent article by Chris Snowdon. In the same piece he wrote:

there is more religious influence in the ‘public health’ crusade against alcohol than most people realise,

The above link takes one to a 2015 article by Snowdon in which he wrote:

 [the modern anti-alcohol movement] remains steeped in temperance. Most people think that the temperance movement is virtually dead and that ‘public health’ is a different beast which just happens to have the same objectives of raising taxes, restricting licensing and banning advertising. In fact, the old temperance groups are still very much alive. They have simply changed their names or set up new organisations to pursue the same goals. This is one reason why I use quote marks around ‘public health’. I refuse to accept the rebranding of moralists, religious zealots and puritans.

The definition of temperance is. 1 : moderation in action, thought, or feeling : restraint. 2 a : habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions.

What’s so good about moderation? Why is it regarded as virtuous to engage in self-denial with respect to alcohol and tobacco (and any number of other things)?

In Christianity there is a long history of abstinence or self-denial of this sort. And one form of abstinence is fasting. And one period of fasting is Lent:

From its start on Ash Wednesday until its conclusion on Easter Sunday, Lent has been a traditional time for fasting or giving something up or abstinence.

Why should it be virtuous to engage in self-denial for several weeks every year? What are the origins of this practice?

The Christian practice of fasting must also be associated with with the opposite practice of feasting. For if Christianity entails fasts, it also has many feasts. The practice of Christianity entails a cycle of feasting and fasting.

And in this respect Christianity simply reflects the annual cycle of rural life. During Spring, seeds were germinated and animals mated. During Summer both plants and animals grew. And in the Autumn the plants were harvested and the animals were slaughtered. And so it was in late autumn that there was an abundance of food available, and so this was the time of necessary feasting, in a time when many foodstuffs could not be preserved for long.

But the corollary of this was that Winter and early Spring (the period around Lent) was a time of relative scarcity of food. There were few plants or animals to eat. And so this was a period of necessary fasting and abstinence.

And this might often be a period of self-denial. During periods of relative shortages of food, parents might deny themselves food so that infants and children could continue to be well fed. Some people would deny themselves food so that others could continue to eat. It was a “selfish” adult who refused to deny himself for the sake of others.

Seen in this light, self-denial and abstinence and fasting were not virtuous in themselves, They were only virtuous to the extent that other people (e.g. children) benefited as a consequence.

But this annual cycle of necessary feasting and fasting came to an end when ways of preserving food for long periods of time (using salt, sugar, drying, canning, refrigeration, etc.)  became available. Once this happened, it was no longer necessary to have feasts at the end of summer to consume surplus food accrued over previous months. Nor was it necessary for fasting at the end of winter in order to extend a deficit of food during this time. Instead, preserved foodstuffs could be eaten at the same rate throughout the year: there ceased to be a need for either feasting or fasting.

But if people continued, as a matter of settled religious practice, to observe the traditional annual cycle of feasting (Thanksgiving, Christmas) and fasting (Lent), it could only be by detaching these practices from their original practical purposes, and making them virtuous in themselves. There was no longer any obvious reason for these practices, and so some other justification for them had to be found. It was only at this point that self-denial came to be regarded as virtuous in itself.

Christianity’s annual cycle of feasting and fasting, and of death and rebirth, was one which reflected the same cycle already present in the natural cycle of the seasons. Christianity was fully embedded in the natural world. It is us moderns who, insulated by our technologies from the worst effects of the natural cycle of seasons, have become estranged both from the natural world and from the Christianity that reflected and celebrated it. We no longer know why we there should be Christmas and Easter, or feasting and fasting, or death and rebirth. Or if we continue in their observance, we do so using new justifications for them. If we continue to practise self-denial, even though the necessary and purely practical reason for it has vanished, it is because some of us see self-denial and abstinence and fasting as virtuous in themselves.

Certain traditional practices are slow in dying out. Tea was always traditionally made in a teapot in which the tea leaves could be retained. But once porous teabags were invented, it was no longer necessary to use teapots and tea-strainers. Nevertheless, many people continue to brew tea using loose tea and teapots and strainers. But to do so they need to invent new justifications for this practice (e.g. better flavour/authenticity).

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Loss Of Faith

Via Chris Snowdon:

Health advice too often follows the principle of the noble lie. Rather than being told the plain truth, we are told what the authorities believe will lead us to behave properly, when “properly” means not just in the way that is most prudent for ourselves, but what is seen to be morally appropriate. This means that whatever the truth about healthy drinking or drug-taking is, we can’t trust government health advice to provide it. When the best current scientific evidence meets moralising paternalism, it is truth that starts to bend.

The trouble with noble lies is that, in the end, they are just exactly that: lies. And once people realise they are being lied to, they cease to trust whoever it is who’s lying to them.

And once this rot has set in, the end result can only be distrust of all authorities. So if you don’t trust Tobacco Control, you’ll pretty soon distrust Public Health, and the World Health Organisation, and the medical profession, and the mainstream media, and political parties (all of them, without exception), and the entire political class.

It’s perhaps the central characteristic of our time: a loss of faith in institutions of every kind.

Brexit was the consequence of a British loss of faith in the largest institution in Europe: the EU. The election of Donald Trump was a consequence of a loss of faith by Americans in both the Democrat and Republican political class: they elected a non-politician. The rise of UKIP in the UK was a consequence of a loss of faith by Britons in the established British mainstream political parties. And the same loss of faith is increasingly evident throughout the whole of Europe, with the rise of anti-politicians of various different shades and flavours, all of whom set themselves apart from the mainstream political parties of their various countries.

I don’t watch TV or read newspapers: that’s loss of faith in the mainstream media. I don’t believe in climate change/global warming: that’s loss of faith in science. I don’t care what either the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury say: that’s loss of faith in the churches. I don’t have a doctor: that’s loss of faith in the medical profession.

It seems that when this sort of loss of faith sets in, people turn away from institutions and organisations, and towards individuals. When institutions decompose, they decompose into their atomic individual components. And so Donald Trump is a highly individualistic individual. And so is Nigel Farage. And so is Beppe Grillo. And Marine Le Pen.

It’s also why strange people suddenly rise to prominence: for example, Jordan Peterson (who also happens to be highly individualistic) or Alex Jones or Rush Limbaugh.

Last night I watched an interview of William Binney. Binney worked for the NSA for 32 years, until he became thoroughly disillusioned. As is appropriate to this era of disillusionment, Binney wasn’t being interviewed by the BBC or CNN or MSNBC: he was being interviewed by a complete outsider armed with a computer and a couple of webcams. And for good measure, and extra added authenticity, he was interviewed in what seemed to be a noisy cafeteria.

And here’s another multiplying loss of faith, this time in intelligence agencies like the FBI and CIA and NSA. They’re all seen as liars, even if they’ve been telling noble lies. And it’s why people like ex-CIA director John Brennan and ex-FBI director James Comey are now appearing on TV and writing books: they’re trying to stem the rising tide of distrust in them and people like them. And it’s probably a lost cause, because neither Brennan nor Comey are authentic individuals: they’re both colourless empty suits.

What’s touted as a new American ‘civil war’ is perhaps simply the conflict between the dwindling numbers of true believers in mainstream media/science/politics and the multiplying numbers of newly disillusioned disbelievers. It’s not a reversible process. It’s not possible to regain faith once it has been lost. Once you’ve stopped believing Tobacco Control or Public Health or the BBC or the WHO, you can never regain your faith in them again. You can only gain faith in something new, something different. Hence Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Jordan Peterson. If so, then the growing disillusionment that we’re seeing will only deepen.

It seems I can no longer publicise WordPress posts on my Facebook page. Not sure what to do about that.

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The Day That Freedom Died

I suppose that, these days, over much of the Western world, if you asked anyone what their most pressing concern was, they’d probably say Immigration, or maybe Terrorism, or maybe Islam, or Donald Trump, or the European Union.

I should perhaps do a poll of my readers. I would ask: What matters most to you? And the question would be accompanied by a list of options which would include not only all the above but also Global Warming and Political Correctness and Net Neutrality.

They’re all important things that get talked about. And they’re all things in which I’m interested as well. After all, I frequently write about them.

But if anyone were to ask me what my own most pressing concern was, I’d have no hesitation in giving my own personal answer:

The Smoking Ban.

For it remains the case that, since 1 July 2007, when the UK smoking ban came into effect, it’s been the centre of my concern.

In fact, I wake up thinking about it every day.

Nothing else really matters to me. Europe? I’m not too bothered, to be honest. Donald Trump? I don’t care. Immigration? I’m indifferent. Islam? I couldn’t give two hoots.

But the smoking ban is something I care about profoundly. And I can illustrate what it is that matters to me by something that happened on 1 July 2007. I was standing outside a pub in Devon that day, in the company of a number of other smokers who had all just been exiled to the outdoors, when one of them – a complete stranger – came up to me and said: “It’s not a free country any more.”

Never a truer word was spoken. In England, 1 July 2007 was the day that freedom died. Because if you can’t sit in a pub and drink a pint of beer and smoke a cigarette, you have no freedom. You have no freedom at all.

Some 1000 years of English history was annulled that day. We all became serfs just like we used to be 1000 years ago. We all became subject to complete and absolute tyranny again. After 1000 years of struggle to throw off the yoke of Popes and Kings and Tyrants, we were back under the yoke again.

And it wasn’t just us poor English that fell under the yoke. The Scottish and the Irish also fell under the same yoke, but on different days than we English did. And the same happened in France and Spain and Italy. Almost every single country in Europe has fallen under this yoke. In fact, more or less every single country in the world has come under the yoke. Much of the USA has fallen under the yoke. And also Russia and China and India, and Australia and New Zealand and Canada.

The smoking bans that have spread over the globe over the past decade or two have seen the imposition of a global tyranny.

But nobody talks about it! Instead, they talk about Donald Trump, or the EU, or immigration, or global warming. Nobody ever talks about the poisonous smoking bans spreading their mendacious, totalitarian, and divisive mantle of control over the whole world.

They think it doesn’t matter. They think there are more important things that deserve their concern. They think that more or less anything else is more important than smoking bans. And that’s the main reason why the smoking bans continue to multiply and spread, and why freedom is vanishing everywhere at ever-increasing speed.

I think that Alex Jones is an American patriot. I think that Owen Shroyer and David Knight and Steve Pieczenik and Roger Stone and Michael Savage are American patriots as well. I think Donald Trump is an American patriot too. I think they’re all patriots and freedom lovers. But to the extent that they ignore the smoking bans that are multiplying around them, to that extent they may as well not be fighting for their countries or for freedom at all. For Tobacco Control wishes to take away everyone’s freedom, and Alex Jones and Owen Shroyer and David Knight and Steve Pieczenik and Roger Stone and Michael Savage and Donald Trump are letting them take it. None of them are protesting about smoking bans at all. These patriots and freedom lovers never say a word about the absolutely tyrannical smoking bans proliferating everywhere.

What’s the point in having a First Amendment right to free speech, or a Second Amendment right to bear arms, if you can’t even light a cigarette inside a bar or in your own home?

I notice that Q or QAnon – a phenomenon about which I’ve written a couple of times – is now getting mainstream media coverage (e.g. BBC). And Q presents himself as a patriot and freedom-lover. His regular mantra is Where We Go One We Go All.

Not if you’re a smoker, though. If you’re a smoker, you can go to hell, and ‘we’ won’t be anywhere in sight. For neither Alex Jones nor Donald Trump nor Q will lift a finger to help you.

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The Bullies In Tobacco Control

Dick Puddlecote highlights the tortured logic of Tobacco Control/Public Health in the Lancet as it claims that its “sin taxes” are progressive rather than regressive:

There is no case whatsoever economically, or health-wise, for stating that sin taxes are progressive. So why are ‘public health’ campaigners making up daft fantasies over this – which no-one believes for a minute – when they have never felt the need before?

Well, perhaps they can sense that the public just doesn’t buy their shit anymore.

It is pretty well established in the minds of the public that the poor suffer from these taxes. In the past ‘public health’ got away with it because people would say “well poor people shouldn’t smoke/drink/eat fast food” etc if they are short on cash. But taxes are so incredibly high now – especially on tobacco – that the public are increasingly seeing them as an injustice. A form of bullying of those least able to afford a comfortable life.

Another form of bullying is highlighted in a long comment by Rose on prison smoking bans, which is well worth reading in its entirety.  In the Isle of Man:

“Many prisoners appeared to be intensively and creatively engaged in circumventing the smoking ban.

“We saw this happening in full view of staff and were satisfied it was a wide spread and long standing occurrence.”

Prisoners were also found to be using lint from tumble dryers and pubic hair to make their homemade cigarettes.

“They boiled up nicotine patches, soaked fruit peel or other substances in it and then rolled cigarettes from the resulting ‘tobacco’ in pages from dictionaries and bibles held together with toothpaste. Lights were obtained from kettle elements and electrical wiring.”

The propensity of prisoners to manufacture their own cigarettes would seem to vindicate the late Lauren Colby, who wrote: “The active ingredient in smoke is… smoke.” After all, if nicotine is the ‘active ingredient’ of tobacco, shouldn’t nicotine patches be as effective as cigarettes? Clearly not, if prisoners will go to extraordinary lengths to manufacture something they can smoke.

Or perhaps it’s that nicotine is only one of several ‘active ingredients’, with nicotine as one active ingredient, and ‘smoke’ as another. In a time when all sorts of new ways of smoking are being invented, the requisite ‘active ingredients’ may eventually be accurately identified as the new technologies evolve and become more refined. Since the vapour in e-cigarettes doesn’t contain any ‘smoke’, but many people claim to prefer them over traditional tobacco products, it would seem that smokers and vapers have a shared need to inhale something, and a patch or piece of gum will not suffice. Furthermore, it would seem that smokers need to inhale some sort of hot vapour or smoke. The physical composition of the experience may be as important as the chemical composition.

Like all bullies, the bullies in Tobacco Control fix upon the weakest and most vulnerable social groups. The poor are one such group. And prisoners are another such group.

One might add that hospital patients are another weak and vulnerable social group. And also patients in psychiatric institutions. And elderly people in care homes. For in all these places, the bullies in Tobacco Control are now well established. And they seem to have been well established there for many years, long before their bullying practices were extended to the entire population.

Where else do we see large scale bullying? I think there’s a strong case to be made that the EU is a bully state, and this is why more and more people want to escape it. The EU bullies its smaller and weaker states (e.g. Greece).

Also David Cameron’s Conservative government established something called a “nudge unit” (an idea he seems to have got from Barack Obama):

Nudge theory is an attempt to resolve a classic Conservative dilemma: since they believe in the small state and low taxation, should the Conservatives just leave us to our bad habits, and accept the undesirable social consequences that will follow, or use the levers of state to try to improve our behaviour?

Cameron’s Nudge Unit was, of course, just another bunch of bullies. The only thing that was remarkable about it was that it was a bunch of bullies ensconced in the heart of government. And if Cameron established a bullying Nudge Unit in the heart of his government, it was probably because David Cameron was himself a bully.

Where else are there opportunities for bullying? What other weak and vulnerable social groups are there? One obvious one is: children. Children are the easiest people of all to bully. And I now find myself wondering, in our strange new era of rampant paedophilia, whether paedophilia may simply be another form of bullying. The paedophile is perhaps just yet another kind of bully in a world that is already chock full of bullies. The paedophile maybe only likes children, and actively seeks them out, precisely because they are the easiest to bully.

But it appears that it is always necessary for bullies of every kind to feel morally justified in their bullying. They need to feel that the pain that inflict on others is for their own good. As long as bullies can find some sort of moral justification for their activities, they can continue to inflict pain and suffering with a clear conscience. And that’s why they need to explain in the Lancet why their punitive “sin taxes” are “progressive”.

The same is probably true of any other sort of criminal conduct. The criminal must believe that his crime is morally justified before he can carry it out. If he is a thief, he must tell himself that he is justly redistributing wealth. If he is a murderer, he must believe that his victim deserves to die. And so on.

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The Ministry of Silly Walks

A couple of says back, Junican wrote:

There is something seriously, seriously wrong when TV dramas dare not show someone committing the criminal act of smoking in ‘an enclosed public place’ but can show the criminal act of stabbing someone, or shooting someone, or beating someone.

I wouldn’t know whether TV dramas do or don’t show people smoking, for the simple reason that I don’t watch TV. And I have a very powerful incentive not to watch TV, because if I do, I’ll be liable to pay a TV licence fee of £155 or maybe more.

Why don’t I watch TV? Because TV no longer shows people smoking. It hasn’t done for a very long time, in fact. People stopped smoking on TV long before they were forced to stop smoking in the real world.

I think that the idea is that if you don’t see people smoking on TV, you won’t do it yourself. And in this manner TV can be used to shape people’s behaviour, and gradually make them behave like the people on TV do.

But it doesn’t seem to work with me. I just stop watching TV. And I stop watching because TV no longer reflects my reality. It becomes a fictional world.

For example, for all I know, nobody on TV eats meat any more. And in TV dramas when they’re all sitting around a table having dinner, they’ll say things like “Pass the parsley please,” and “May I have another glass of your wonderful sparkling water,” and “Do you have any more dry bread crusts?”

And maybe, in those same TV drama dinners where everyone is eating bread and water, they only ever talk about Global Warming and what a terrible threat it is. And maybe all the women wear trousers, and all the men wear skirts.

But who cares? TV is essentially always a fictional construct. It’s an imaginary world. All the TV dramas are fictions. And these days all the news and current affairs programmes are fictions as well.

Is it possible to change the real world using a fictional one? If you construct an imaginary world on TV, is it likely that the real world will gradually come to resemble it? If nobody smokes on TV, will the result be that nobody will smoke in the real world?

The Monty Python TV comedy had a Ministry of Silly Walks. If everyone on TV walked in silly ways, would ordinary people start walking that way too? If everyone on TV only hopped around on one leg, would real people start hopping around on one leg too?

No, of course they wouldn’t. And they wouldn’t because hopping around on one leg is a very slow and difficult way to move around. It’s much easier to walk, using both legs rather than just one. So even if some people started hopping around on one leg, most people wouldn’t. And when the hoppers found themselves facing an emergency – for example, being hunted by wolves – they’d pretty soon remember how to use both legs. They’d learn how to run.

It’s the same with smoking. The smoking life is an easier, more relaxed life than the non-smoking life. It’s easier in the exact same way that it’s easier to walk than to hop. And in the same way as it’s also easier to walk than to run. Sometimes – as when pursued by wolves – it’s necessary to run. And sometimes it’s necessary to hop. But for the most part it’s easier to walk.

Smoking may have been “de-normalised” on TV, but TV isn’t normality. TV is fiction. And in fiction, absolutely anything is possible. But in the real world, not everything is possible. A fictional Superman can fly and lift mountains unaided, but real people can’t fly or lift mountains.

But back to Junican. He’s pointing out that while smoking has been de-normalised on TV, assault and murder are not being de-normalised. But once again, this reflects the fictional nature of TV. In the real world, assault and murder isn’t normal behaviour. And no amount of attempts to normalise assault and murder will ever succeed in making it normal behaviour. Why? Because assault and murder are hard work. It’s easier to not engage in such activities. Peace is easier than war.

What’s seriously wrong is that there are people who believe that if they show fictional people doing things and saying things on TV, this will somehow get real people to do and say the same things in real life. Theirs is the belief that the tail can wag the dog.

But in fact, the tail can’t wag the dog. And what’s much more likely to happen is that, rather than fiction invading reality, real life will eventually invade the fictional world of TV. And smoking will re-appear on TV. And people on TV will stop hopping around on one leg, attacking and killing each other.

TV reflects reality. Reality doesn’t reflect TV. The real world doesn’t change place with the mirror.

And speaking of silly walks:

Why do the palace guards all look down their noses at Putin as he walks past?

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A Chilling Tweet

I had a phone call this morning, A recorded pseudo-voice told me: “Your internet access will be terminated today. To fix the problem, please press 1.” And I hung up. So if I don’t manage to publish this post, you’ll know why. Or rather, you won’t know why.

This is what life is like these days. Whenever the phone rings, it’s somebody trying to get me to do something with my computer, or trying to sell me a few cases of Fine Wine. It’s almost become pointless to answer the phone at all.

I’m not the only one. A lot of conservative websites seem to be being closed down (not that I’ll ever be a conservative). I was reading yesterday that Paul Joseph Watson had all his videos deleted by YouTube (although there seem to be a lot of them still there). Alex Jones’ Infowars is another website threatened with extinction (according to him), but always seems to be still there. Michael Savage, who is banned from visiting Britain, says that he’s under attack as well, but he’s still there too. And Google and Amazon and Facebook and Twitter all seem to be torn with internal dissent, although they’re all still there too. And the Mueller investigation has got Paul Manafort, Trump’s one-time campaign manager, behind bars. And his lawyer, Michael Cohen, as well. It’s all gone crazy.

Yesterday I read something that I found deeply alarming, and rather chilling. I don’t know exactly where I read it, but I think I saw it on some video, and I’ll try to find the link [this one, 39 minutes in]. Here it is:

John Brennan is an ex-director of the CIA. He’s one of America’s top spooks. Assuming that this is a genuine tweet by him, in response to Donald Trump, he’s telling his allies and friends around the world that Trump is a temporary aberration, and normal service will be resumed (when Trump is removed).

I don’t think I’ve ever seen better evidence for what many people are describing as a civil war that’s going on in the USA.  And it’s one that’s Spy Vs. Spy (just like in Mad magazine). It’s a war between one bunch of US spooks and another bunch of US spooks, with helpful contributions from British spooks and Russian spooks as well.

And nobody knows who’s on whose side. In the link above, Michael Savage is telling Trump that his new lawyer, ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, is working for the other side.

About the only thing that’s clear about this internecine conflict is that neither side has a decisive advantage. They’re both about equally powerful. For if Trump had a decisive advantage, we’d be seeing the likes of Brennan and Mueller being arrested. And if Brennan and Mueller had a decisive advantage, we’d be seeing Trump removed from office. And we’re seeing neither. So the civil war is still being fought.

It’s a conflict that broke out when the wrong guy won the last presidential election, and half of America has never been able to accept that fact (including John Brennan above).

And it’s a conflict between globalists and localists/patriots/nationalists, or between progressives and conservatives. I sometimes wonder if it’s simply a conflict between idealistic, progressive, pot smokers and realistic, conservative, tobacco smokers. For the globalists are out to remake the whole world in every possible way, abolishing borders, abolishing nations, abolishing ethnic and sexual identities, abolishing almost everything. And as far as I can see, most of the world’s political class are revolutionary globalists. The EU is a globalist political entity in which borders and nations have been being abolished, and millions of African migrants shipped in to shatter European national identities. And more or less the entire EU political class consists of idealistic globalists.

But most ordinary people everywhere are realists and conservatives. Most Americans are conservatives. And most Britons. And most people in any nation you care to mention. Or most adults. Because idealism is a largely youthful mental disorder. The idealists are all dreamers. And dreams bear little relation to reality.

I used to be rather idealistic when I was about 20. But it wore off after the age of about 30. And I’ve become more and more of a realist the older I’ve got. I’m interested not so much in how life could be, but how life actually is. I want to understand the world, not change it. I don’t see how anyone can change the world if they don’t understand it. I don’t see how anyone can fix a broken engine if they don’t know how engines work. And I increasingly think that us humans hardly know anything about anything. Not just in psychology or sociology or politics or economics or ethics, but also in physics and chemistry and mathematics as well. We think we know everything, when actually we know next to nothing. We think we’re Masters of the Universe, when actually we’re its slaves.

I’m no utopian. I have no plans for anyone. And I don’t want anyone having plans for me. Because whatever their plans for me might be, I don’t think they’re ever going to work. That’s the trouble with idealism: it never works. It always gets shipwrecked on reality, because it’s always trying to achieve the impossible.

Anyway, the global civil war that’s currently being fought out seems to be between dreamy idealists in search of an utopian ideal world, and hard-nosed realists who are trying to conserve an imperfect existing order.  And I’m on the side of the realists. And John Brennan seems to be on the side of the idealists. If nothing else, he mentions American ideals in his tweet.

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Donkey Apocalypse

I don’t know about anyone else, but these days I’m beginning to suffer from Severe News Overdose Reaction Trauma ( SNORT). Among today’s headlines that have caused me to inhale sharply:

“God Help Us” – British Army Readied In Case Of Hard Brexit (1)

Is it “God Help Us” in the event of a hard Brexit? Or “God Help Us” if the British Army shows up? Or both?

It had me fantasizing this morning that the streets would soon be filled with army trucks delivering hot tea and tins of bully beef and spam. And Dad’s Army characters with fixed bayonets changing all the road signs around.

What is bully beef anyway? Will they let me try a slice of it before delivering my allotted ration? Do they have a vindaloo flavour?

Trump Declares State Of Emergency As “Apocalyptic” Wildfire Devastates Northern California (2)

Maybe they need the British Army more in Northern California? They could drive round San Francisco delivering bully beef and spam, and changing all the street signs around.

London weather forecast: Temperatures will soar back up to 30C by Friday as UK heatwave returns after washout weekend (3)

Will that mean wildfires across Britain?

And just when I was really enjoying all the wonderful rain and cloud.

Donald Trump is the greatest threat to human life since the Black Death. (4)

Did he start the wildfire in California?

HOTEL HORROR Brit mum-of-two, 37, dies on Greek holiday after eating just ONE mouthful of raw chicken from hotel restaurant (5)

Who eats raw chicken? I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any. Why didn’t she bring a few tins of bully beef or spam?

Clade X virus ‘could wipe out 900 million people,’ experts warn… (6)

I always ignore what experts say.

Greece breeds new donkey type to carry overweight tourists… (7)

That’ll be all those overweight tourists eating raw chicken, I suppose.

I find that in Severe News Overdose Reaction Trauma, all the news headlines I’ve just read blend together into one headline, something like:

Wildfire horror emergency forecast: donkey apocalypse.

On days like this I think it would be much better to read a good book than read all these news headlines. Something light and humorous. Perhaps something by P. G. Wodehouse? The Luck of the Bodkins has a promising opening line:

‘Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.’

I know the feeling of being about to talk French. I was in Boulogne’s docks many years ago, and I couldn’t figure out which ship was the ferry back to Britain. But I spotted a gendarme on the quay, and so carefully composed a question to ask him. I can still remember the question, which I revised and recited several times before summoning up the courage to approach him and declare:

“Est-ce que sais que ce bateau-ci est le bateau qui parte á Angleterrre?”

The impassive gendarme immediately replied with a single word:

“Way.”

I wondered whether, as a courtesy, he was replying to me in English. And further wondered whether I had missed something he’d said. Had he said, for example, “No way”? Or, worse still, “Go away”?

But I didn’t have a carefully-composed follow-up question to ask him. I had in fact completely exhausted my French vocabulary with my single utterance. I had shot my bolt. If I was going to ask another question, I would have to sidle off somewhere, and laboriously compose a new question, and practise asking it a few times, before coming back to confront the gendarme with it.

But it also occurred to me that he had in fact replied in French, and had mis-pronounced the word “Oui.” Could gendarmes mispronounce French? Maybe it was not different from an Englishman replying “Yeah” or “Yup” rather than “Yes” to the same question.

But what if the gendarme had come out with a long and fulsome response, such as: “Les hommes ne croient jamais les autres capables de ce qu’ils ne le sont pas eux-mêmes”? That would have sunk me completely. I should have been grateful for his monosyllabic response: he’d presented me with a single word to puzzle over, rather than twenty or thirty.

In far retrospect, I can now see that I had asked the gendarme an almost existential question that prefigured Brexit by 30 or 40 years: I was an Englishman trying to find my way home.

Suddenly decisive, I lifted the two heavy suitcases I was carrying, and turned towards the nearest bateau, but not before smiling confidently and declaring:

“Merci beaucoup.”

…and then climbing aboard a ship that would take me I knew not where.

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