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As this story is released, the UK’s transitional deal with the EU will end, and we will step out, blinking and dazed, into a strange and unfamiliar world. For many of us, first the EEC and then the EU has been a low background thrum in our lives since childhood. The United Kingdom joined the EEC a couple of months before my third birthday, and confirmed our continued membership a little over two years later, just as I was about to start school.

All through my school life, as we learned metres alongside feet and inches, there was a sense that the world we were joining was a bigger, more open one, one free of some of the enmities that had, all too recently, been the source of so much death and suffering. My parents were born during the war, but barely even knew it, though they did remember the rationing after. My grandparents, like so many others, were less fortunate. They did fight. And I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have fancied doing it again, nor forcing us to. …

Robert Galbraith

Oh boy has this one ever turned out to be controversial. Even before launch people were queuing up to throw out opinions on its subject matter, mostly based on the strength of a second-hand reviews from less than entirely reliable sources. The dust has settled a little now, and so it’s probably a good time to to talk about JK Rowling’s fifth novel writing as Robert Galbraith.

It’s the summer of 2013, and a year has passed since the events of book 4, Lethal White. The detective agency in which Strike and Robin Cunliffe (1) are partners is doing fairly well, but their personal lives are much messier. The aunt to whom Strike has always felt close is terminally ill, while Robin’s marriage is over in all but name following the discovery of her husband Matthew’s infidelity. In the midst of al this they are contacted by Anna Phipps, the daughter of Margot Bamborough, a doctor who vanished in Clerkenwell in London in 1974. …

The thing that was supposed to set us free, has done anything but

One of the great pillars of the neo-liberal worldview that has been the dominant socio-economic driver in the UK over the last four decades is about the benefits of choice. It’s almost been a mantra since the days of Margaret Thatcher, and her political successors have gone with it, in some cases to an almost insane degree. It has affected almost every aspect of life, from education, to healthcare, to transport. …

My introduction to manga and anime

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I’m not quite sure where I saw the videos of Love Hina first, probably in an idle few moments browsing youtube after work before nipping out for the bus. But very soon I’d watched the whole of the anime series, and gone browsing round to find out more. So, the first thing I found out was that though people liked the series, the English dubs of Love Hina sucked, according to most. This didn’t bother me, because I tend to like original voices plus subtitles. Fansubbed videos made life a bit more interesting because of the variable quality. But one thing everyone did agree on was that the manga was way better. So I had to read it. And so I did, firstly by reading the fansubbed ones, but the by buying all 14 volumes in paperback (still got ‘em). And they’re right. …

Each year, around about this time, I write a little article (like for 2019, 2018, and 2017) that points out the little disconnects in the generations between those of us working in HE, either in teaching and professional services, and the students who wander blinking into life as an undergraduate, as we did all those years ago. Except this time, it’s not quite like that. This year’s freshers will start their University career in a way that none of us in living memory has had to experience. …

Normally at this time of year I’d be sitting here talking about trivia like Left Hander’s Day (which is 13 August), as well as rolling my eyes at the pictures on social media and the websites of the Daily Mail and the Express showing nubile 18 year old girls pictured mid-leap as they celebrate their A Level results.

Not today.

Today, Gavin Williamson, The Secretary of State for Education, sat during an interview and used the words:

“…people being over-promoted into jobs beyond their competence.”

Leaving aside the clanging irony of one of the most mediocre Cabinet Ministers in living memory (and that’s a high bar right now) complaining about anyone else being promoted beyond the levels of their basic competence, let’t talk about the worst parts of all this. …

The Trump Campaign goes batshit rogue, yet again

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Source: David Mulder / Flickr Creative Commons

These are apparently the words of Courtney Parella, a member of the Tangerine Amin’s campaign team overnight after Facebook finally grew a pair (1) and removed a post claiming that children were “almost immune” to the coronavirus. Twitter has also blocked it, according to The Guardian overnight. The only real shock is that it’s taken this long for the social media platforms to properly respond to what, in this case especially, is pretty much criminal negligence and irresponsibility on Trump’s part. Again.

But let’s leave aside Trump’s Olympian levels of asininity aside for just a moment and concentrate on those words…

Bless This House cast photo
Bless This House cast photo
Bless This House.

I’ve been watching sitcoms. Again.

Every morning, around nine o’clock, ITV3 reruns old sitcom episodes. So, over the spring and summer weeks there has been an assortment of 70s comedy to enjoy, including Man About The House, George and Mildred, the more dubious pleasures of Mollie Sugden in That’s My Boy. and Bless This House. Quite apart from the fact that there were still some laughs to be had (it’s Sid, for God’s sake, so of course there are), it’s interesting to look at them another way: as little capsules of social history, on screen. …

Over the last couple of days, there has been a steady stream of stuff on Twitter about food poverty, including this little gem from an unfortunately all too familiar source of risible bullshit.

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Just for starters, lets break this down. The cost of those potatoes doesn’t include:

  • A peeler to peel the spuds
  • A knife to cut them up (though the knife could double for peeling and scraping).
  • Oil or fat in which to cook the chips. Which probably probably means oil because chip pans are very much frowned on now. A litre of vegetable or sunbflower oil is just over a pound a litre at Asda as I write this. …

The Great Day has arrived. The day when the pubs can throw open their doors and welcome in all those thirsty drinkers who’ve been deprived of a brew all these long, dry lonely weeks. Unless of course they bought any from a supermarket (which most have). Or brewed their own (which some did). In fact, in the first month of lockdown, most of the reasonable estimates were that alcohol sales had gone up by around 30%, so it’s not like people were quaking under the oppressive yoke of enforced temperance.

All those people who said they were dying for a pint are going to have opportunity to demonstrate just how much they really mean it, starting today. …


Darren Stephens

A northern man

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