What a difference a week makes in politics. Having been criticised and scoffed by all and sundry following his crowning as UK prime minister, Boris Johnson has suddenly become the cat’s pyjamas.
Politics is a continuous game of snakes and ladders and it is only for participants with the thickest skin. As preening Piers Morgan once aptly opined, ‘One day you’re cock of the walk, the next day a feather duster’ and never was it more true than in Westminster’s House of Commons. Still, Johnson is a robust, avuncular and intellectual player and despite his heavy penchant for faux pas and clumsy, undiplomatic rhetoric, able to hold his ground.
As he stubbornly refuses to bow to the EU’s demands in the whole ghastly Brexit fiasco, he extraordinarily found a friend in, of all people, national treasure, Sir David Attenborough. In an interview with Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, the broadcaster declared that the British people were ‘fed up’ with ‘the silly interference in UK affairs’ by the EU. This must have been manna from heaven for Johnson. As if that lucky shake of the dice - double sixes all round – hadn’t been enough, he topped the latest opinion polls with 42 per cent, a 17 per cent lead over Labour at 28 per cent, leaving the poor old Lib Dems dragging their heels - with 15 per cent – at rock bottom.
Meanwhile, BoJo has charmed the spiky Emmanuel Macron, even jokingly being invited to stick his feet up on a coffee table at the president’s palace in Paris, and had a 30-day Brexit deal stay of execution from Angela Merkel. Donald Trump is imminently about to announce a road map for future trade deals between the UK and US and so for now Boris Johnson is basking in ‘told you so’ heaven.
As with all board games, success can never be guaranteed, and the roll of the dice, is fraught with uncertainty. Will Boris’s run of good luck and surprise popularity last or will the bricks all come tumbling down if a deal cannot be forged with the EU? All we can do, like a helpless chorus in a Greek tragedy, is watch from the sidelines and wait and wait.
Poor old people
An elderly couple have bitterly complained in the British media that they were referred to as ‘old people’ in a hotel restaurant. Phyllis and Robert Hidden had dined at the Riverside Hotel in Kendal, Cumbria, paid their bill and left. Only when they arrived home did they glance at their order receipt and noticed that instead of a number, the waiter had simply referenced their table as the one with ‘old people’. Both were greatly offended to have been discriminated against in such a way.
The hotel made an apology and promised to speak with the young waiter concerned to correct his ways.
Of course it was impolite and inappropriate to refer to the Hiddens in such a (probably unintentionally) derogatory way but on the other hand was it really so terrible? I’m sure if I’d been 80-year-old Phyllis, I would have laughed my head off and shown the receipt to family and friends who no doubt would have had a ball at my expense.
In truth, the young waiter could have written ‘grumpy old gits’ or far worse. And how do we know that he doesn’t habitually label everyone as such in his zeal to remember the right table orders? For example he might have already clocked the ‘sad middle agers’, ‘warring newly weds’, ‘fat and frumpy teens’, ‘snooty up-with-the-Jones’s’ and ‘nice but dim couple’ in the corner.
The fact that ‘old’ (sorry, slip of the pen) Phyllis and Robert Hidden went to the national press to air their grievances underlines two things for me: That they have absolutely zero sense of humour, and that they expected recompense in the form of a freebie meal or overnight’s stay, neither of which appears to have been forthcoming. I guess sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but not to possess a sense of humour and be capable of laughing at yourself is surely the greatest loss of all?
What excitement there must have been in Cáceres, Extremadura at the re-discovery of a 5,000-year-old Neolithic monument, submerged at the bottom of a reservoir for 50 years.
During the reign of Franco, the Bronze Age structure, originally found in 1925 by a German priest and amateur archaeologist, was summarily dismissed and seemingly buried forever when the dictator created a dam over it.
Luckily, the Neolithic temple has become visible once more due to the drought in the western part of the peninsula. The 144 granite blocks, formed in a circle similar to Stonehenge in the UK, will hopefully now be uprooted from their watery grave for good. Locals would like the monument to be erected on the nearby banks as a tourism attraction, where it could also be properly maintained and preserved for posterity.
I think Stephen Fry was absolutely right when he said that too much pressure was placed on GCSE students these days. I never remember such panic and hysteria in my generation but I think expectations were never too high anyway, and of course far fewer students entered university back then. Most of us who did carry on with study got into our respective university of choice fairly effortlessly.
Fortunately, more and more pupils are bravely taking new directions, entering apprenticeships and looking for opportunities above and beyond university that don’t necessarily require crazily inflated exam grades.
A new era is hopefully dawning and more opportunities are out there for those who don’t want to go onto further education and who would rather cut their teeth on the university of life.