Perfidious Albion II

Was a little rushed this morning, and skipped over a few things.

The direction of travel suggests to me that the question of triggering Article 50 is going to be the major issue of the 2020 election.

There is a little more to this statement than the perpetually pushed back triggering of Article 50. The largest of which is the future of the currently dysfunctional United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

One of Mrs. May’s first official visits was to Holyrood Palace for an audience with the Queen of the North, the Great Nicola of Dreghorn. The reported content of their conversation was that there would be no invocation of Article 50 until there was agreement on a negotiating position within the Union.

Right. That’s going to happen in short order. Or, more likely, never.

It’s another one of those “evil genius, purely evil, or extremely shrewd” moments for the press to consider. Is the Queen of the North now on the hook to absorb the heaped opprobrium of little england as she valiantly saves them from their idiotic impulses?

Is it an excuse to moan, “If it wasn’t for that stubborn Scot we’d have taken back our country by now!” Or, more of a “Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don’t throw me into the briar patch”?

It’s pretty obvious that it puts another checkpoint in front of any call from the swivel eyed brigade – “we must respect the view of our partners in the Union… or are you prepared to be responsible for it’s destruction?!”

We may never know for sure one way or the other, but it’s very hard to see it as anything other than a delaying tactic.

Following on from Scotland is a report today that:

there will be no return to border checks for people entering the UK from the Republic of Ireland despite Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

That’s generations worth of clusterfuckery to be resolved! It’s not clear to me how it’s possible to have an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland when one is part of the EU, with freedom of movement, and the other is fortress england. The obvious solution would be to introduce a hard border between Northern Ireland and little england… you can imagine how well that would be received in the Union.

In a lot of ways the unknown fate of Northern Ireland is one of the hardest parts of the referendum result to accept. It seems impossible to me that Cameron could ever gambled with the fragile peace in that region. The Good Friday agreement relies on Ireland and the UK being members of the EU to facilitate freedom of movement over the border. Is the potential resumption of The Troubles a reasonable outcome of internal Tory party spats really a price worth paying? Earlier when i referred to Cameron as “a political midget” i meant no offence to midgets…

And Wales? Well, Wales is fucked. As the song goes, “if you go to bed with the pigs, you wake up with the pigs”.

Advertisements

Perfidious Albion

A few people have asked how the recent “brexit” (oh, how i’ve come to loathe that portmanteau…) will effect me here in Europe. Now that a little time has passed, and given my generally inability to organise my thoughts verbally, it seems reasonable to attempt to put a few things down.

Things that we know:

  • the uk as a whole voted to leave the EU by a majority of 52%
  • Scotland and Northern voted not to leave, England <spit> and Wales … yes, well.
  • the referendum is non-binding – that is to say, there is no constitutional requirement for the government of the day to act, and obviously the actions of any future government are not restricted
  • until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered the UK is still part of the EU, and must act within that legal framework
  • David Cameron is an idiot, a political midget

Everything that we thought we knew about the Tories under Cameron is now up for re-assessment. While there is no doubt that they will continue to pander to their constituents, and sell the general population down the river at the earliest opportunity, the means by which this will be accomplished will be different. That is to say, the formula for the sugar-coating on the bitter pill of english public life is being revised.

We don’t know much about Mrs. May. Her cabinet appointments are played up in the press as being of create significance. They are either the work of an evil genius, purely evil, or extremely shrewd. The only conclusion i’d draw is that they are more relevant to the Tory Party than the general public.

Anyway. Here we are, a month after the vote, and nothing has changed.

Before the vote the notification required by Article 50 was to be sent immediately.

The day after the vote Article 50 was to be the responsibility of the next (un-elected) prime minister, and all bets were off until some time in September.

When May was appointed, “Brexit means Brexit” (yes, very gnomic..), Article 50 would be triggered by the end of year.

Two weeks ago, when legal challenges made it to the courts, the government announced it had no intention to trigger Article 50 before the end of the year.

Last week Article 50 would be triggered early in 2017.

This week the deadline seems to have stretch out to Article 50 definitely being triggered by the time of the General Election in 2020.

The direction of travel suggests to me that the question of triggering Article 50 is going to be the major issue of the 2020 election. No, that is not what anyone is currently saying, but if there was an appetite for getting this process underway i very much doubt we’d be seeing the degree of back-peddling that is obviously happening.

What does all this mean for me? Well, delay is good – the residency requirement for applying for german citizenship is 8 years. The longer the decision to put off Article 50, the easier it becomes for me to make that application. There are other requirements (such as language ability) which i’d currently fail to meet, but they are not insurmountable. If it is possible to apply for German citizenship, and not have to give up my UK passport, that would be nice… but at this point i’m hardly tied to anything english.

In the worse case, where the UK turns around and triggers Article 50, without parliamentary approval, without waiting for the process in the courts to play out, etc. the two year negotiating period gets me close enough that it probably wouldn’t matter. Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where the EU, let alone Germany, implements forced repatriation – even if the UK acts irresponsibly and denies residency rights to existing EU citizens.

As John Lanchester’s brilliant London Review of Books essay ‘Brexit Blues‘ makes clear, the most likely outcome is an arrangement that maintains access to the EU markets, especially ‘passporting’ for the banks, and compromises on the demands to end free movement of people. This is “obvious” as the white working class voter is the constituency of least concern to the Tories:

So the likeliest outcome, I’d have thought, is a betrayal of the white working class. They should be used to it by now.

Yes, indeed they should.

In summary: Tory party politics spills over into reality, causing much chaos, confusion, and distress, but ultimately not changing very much. In many ways a fitting metaphor for england’s inability to comprehend it’s diminished role in the world. Post imperial decline’s a bitch!

Book Covers

Tangentially related to the previous post…

25778105.jpg

That’s Iain’s latest book (or maybe it isn’t – a few months have passed…) The cover is a crop of the following photograph of mine, taken with the previously maligned Natura Black 1.9:

9628135464_c719b63a19_z.jpg

Not sure it’s the crop that i’d have made, but i’m notoriously bad at cropping my shots.

It strikes me as somewhat unusual to have covers that are “full bleed” photographs at the moment. Maybe it was never a thing… but certainly the current trend is to more designed and graphical covers. The IWTFY books have eschewed that direction and, to my eye, look all the more distinctive for it.

Both IWTFY covers have also been fairly abstract portraits of M., taken in the bath with a digital P&S… that is a trend which seems difficult to continue.

Sticky Shutter

The olympus xa2XA2 is pretty much my favourite P&S camera. I’ve travelled with one for years. And i mean years – M. had one when we met…

That particular one died a few years ago. The shutter had started to get unreliable and eventually completely unresponsive.

It was a sad day, but a new one was purchased on Yahoo! Auction, and point and shoot life carried on unabated.

This problem with the shutter is apparently common, and the inevitable is now happening to the replacement. It’s hard to get too upset that a camera that was produced in 1980, and has likely seen hundreds of rolls of film, starts to give up the ghost. However, at this point it’s likely that any replacement that i find is quickly going to suffer the same fate.

Time to start to learn to fix it! According to this “tutorial” it should be simply a matter of opening it up, cleaning, tweaking the contacts, and getting it back together. It’s the last part of that which gives me pause… the alternative is to take it to the grumpy camera repair man and have him do it. Less embarrassing than turning up with a bag of pieces.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of P&S cameras, there is also the Fujifilm Natura S. Another purchase from Yahoo! Auction… and i have to say that i don’t like it. Some people rave about them, but unless you’re *only* shooting 1600 ASA film, it’s a horrible experience. The flash tends to be very eager to fire, even when you’d expect that it wouldn’t, the menu system is junk, settings don’t survive a power cycle, it has no exposure compensation, which leads to “fun” DX coding hacks (scraping paint of film canisters with your keys…), and to top it all off, the focus on mine is really soft in a lot of situations. Despite some reasonable results over the last couple of years, it has never become the replacement that i hoped it would be.

Grilled Mushroom and Spinach Pesto Pasta

Spur of the moment cooking with what was around…

  • long pasta
  • eryngii (King Trumpet) Mushrooms
  • large brown mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • spinach leaves
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves
  • fresh lime
  • fresh tomatoes (cherry or large) roughly chopped

Cut thick slices of the mushrooms, throw a little olive oil at them, season with salt / black pepper, and put them under the grill.

Blanch a handful of spinach leaves (1 – 2 mins depending on how young / fresh they are), drain, and squeeze dry. Blend them in a food processor with olive oil, garlic, and the juice of half a lime.

Put the pasta on to boil (we’re currently in love with Bucatini, but spaghetti, linguine, etc. would be fine).

Meanwhile, cook the pesto on a *low* heat for a couple of minutes – you just want to warm it and cook away some of the raw garlic bitterness. Add the grilled mushrooms… you remembered to turn them, right?

When the pasta is cooked (leave it a little hard to the tooth – it’ll cook some more in the frying pan) use tongs to transfer into sauce. Don’t worry if the pasta is a little wet, that’ll just let down the pesto a little and stop it being to cloying.

Coat the pasta with the pesto and add the chopped tomato, and give them a minute to warm through. Serve with the rest of the lime squeezed over.

Nightmare Nr. 16376247

First recollection is stepping off the back of the dive boat, on the outer parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Hit the water and go to take the first breath, but the valve isn’t open. With no air in my vest, start to sink. Quickly. The water is crushing me. The boat is moored at the edge of the reef. The drop away is probably a 1000m. Start trying to get out of my vest, while kicking upwards, still falling…

and wake up struggling.

Oddly, i take this as a sign that the oceans are calling me, and it’s time to go diving… just don’t forget those safety checks!

My Father

11836359286_f7e0a9fe02_c

Rest in peace.

For the last decade or so i’ve been using writing and publishing online as a means to organise my thoughts, to provide structure to what often feels like a whirlwind of ideas and emotions. I suppose this is going to be another one of those posts. It has taken me several weeks to start writing, and i’m still not really sure what i want to say. It mostly feels too personal to share…

Over the last twenty or so years, roughly corresponding to the time that i left england, my relationship with my father became much closer. During my pretty standard angry / confused / rebellious teenage years things were a little fraught… My memories of him that time are a mixture of him sleeping off his work schedule (commuting to London from the Norfollk coast, and a lot of travel…) and a general feeling that i wasn’t meeting some vaguely known set of expectations. Never bluntly expressed, but perceived to be there under the layer stress, and periodically, anger. No doubt that was all to do with wanting me to make the best of things, but i guess it never comes across that way to a teenager.

He was a big, imposing man, both physically and intellectually, leaving a impression on any of my friends that he met during this period. His humour was pretty coarse, his wit often caustic. Being direct, telling people what they didn’t want or expect to hear, was always softened with charm, and i dare say, sheer physical presence.

By the time i’d made it to California, and was making a fist of starting a career, the tension went away and we started to build a relationship on a different, more equal basis.

At heart he was an engineer (originally aeronautical, at hawker-sidley, i think) but eventually on trains (APT-E at BR, bi-modal (truck / train) systems, and eventually railway networks). It was an engineer that he approached most things. We spent a lot of time talking about photography, with him more interested than me in the raw technology. I don’t think it’s fair to say that the gear was as interesting as the photographs, he was just fascinated by the changes and what could be done with them. A lot of his bird photographs are really good. One day i’ll go through it all and get it online. In much earlier times i’d been his darkroom assistant, (whether i was actually helping is debatable) and have happy memories of those times developing and printing together.

Similarly with computers, we’d had computers around the house almost since it became practical (early BBC Microcomputer, in 1981, etc) but it was mostly left to me to do the tinkering / programming after all the pieces had been brought together and shown to function. Like photography it wasn’t that he couldn’t code, just that having new toys was more interesting. He told me once that as a kid he’d taken a lot of things around the house to pieces to find out how they worked. Unable to get them back together he’d taken to burying them in the garden… creative destruction?

Towards the end of his career, when he was living in Holland during the week, he started to mellow. Maybe it was just that the pressure was gone, the house was paid for, the kids had been put through university and were working. We never really spoke about it… but he travelled more for pleasure than business, and was easier to be around. In his 60s, after retiring, he had cancer, and the experience of beating that, seemed to mellow him even further. My wife, with whom he’d always got on, took to him as a gentle giant, and i’d often find them sitting around chatting about nothing in particular.

During a turbulent time in my mid-30s, which saw me quitting a good job and wandering around aimlessly for a year not really knowing what to do with my life, he did the only thing that would have helped – listened. My clearest memory from that period is him telling me, “some people seem to go through their entire lives without a single directed thought”. I can’t really say that helped with the existential gloom through which i was stumbling, but it did give me a perspective from which it was possible to embrace the turmoil.

Over the last five years, we’d generally talk one or more times a week. He was still trying to find the perfect camera / lens combination for birding, and even though his hands weren’t as steady, was out there in the hides most days that the light was good. We’d talk more about which lens or doubler he should buy than the photographs, but it was always entertaining, and gave us an excuse to talk about other things where perhaps i wouldn’t have otherwise made the effort.

All those chats and calls on IM / Skype / Video reduced the importance of me not being around much  – i’ve almost spent more than half my life outside england. Had we not had those tools, it would probably be a source of great regret that i’d not had more opportunities to talk with him.

And now he’s gone. All those things will have to remain unsaid. A great treasure house of memories and experience groans closed.