Smorgasbord

Sorry about the lack of posting: I’ve been busy.

Last week I was on a short business trip to Pori in the west of Finland to visit a testing facility and kick off a project I’m managing. Three of us went, flying into Helsinki and then boarding a 30-seater twin prop between Helsinki and Pori operated by Budapest Air Service. Yeah, I couldn’t work that one out. Apparently the flight is subsidised by the Pori municipality, who might worry nobody would come and visit otherwise. When we went to the desk to check in twenty minutes before our flight we found it deserted. We asked someone from the Luftwaffe Lufthansa desk next door and she said it was a bit early. Sure enough, 10 mins before departure a lady showed up, asked us our names, and ticked us off a list. There were only about 6 or 7 people on the flight including us. We were aboard and airborne on time. When we landed they dropped the stairs and we just sort of got off and wandered across the apron towards what we guessed must be the terminal building. This is how flying should be done.

We got a taxi from Pori airport to our destination, about a 10 minute drive. The driver grunted at me once when I gave him the address, again when I paid him, and once more when I thanked him. I initially thought he didn’t like me for some reason, but then I remembered in Finland this is what passes for a warm welcome. Our hosts were rather more chatty, and we spent a day wandering through laboratories and industrial units, stopping for lunch to eat salmon, lamb, and a dessert made with sea buckthorn. Last time I was in Finland I found the food so bad I started missing even German food. This time was a lot better. It’s amazing what effect not being a tourist has. That evening we went for a short walk along the river. Some early snow had fallen leaving a dusting over everything, and there were an awful lot of birch trees. It brought back a lot of memories of Russia, a country I’ve not been to since 2012, and made me miss the cold and snow. It beat the miserable wet of Cambridge hands down. Afterwards our hosts took us to a very nice restaurant and we drank lingonberry vodka and ate reindeer steak, which I ordered rare so it was red as Rudolph’s nose. It was excellent.

We were dropped off at Pori airport at 8pm and we were the only ones in the entire building except one other passenger. About 20 minutes before takeoff a bloke showed up who checked us in without even giving us boarding passes, a couple of pilots who looked as though they ought to be tucked up in bed somewhere, and two security personnel who didn’t yell at us. I rather enjoyed my trip to Finland – they’re nice, competent people – and I’ll be going back on monthly visits either to Helsinki or Pori between now and March or April. So if anyone is around up there, let me know.

When I got back from Finland I quit my serviced apartment in Cambridge and moved to London, lodging with my Dad for a few days while I look for a temporary apartment. I found myself rather isolated up there: I didn’t know anyone, the traffic on the drive to work was awful in one direction and abominable in the other, and the weather was miserable. One of the things which has changed since I left the UK in 2003 is the introduction of flexible working in offices. I arrived in my new job to find I didn’t have a desk assigned to me. Instead I had to hot desk, and carry all my stuff home at the end of each day like a sherpa. It seems nobody is provided with desk phones any more, instead you get given a Skype number which routes straight to your laptop. Most people work 3-4 days in the office and the rest either from home or somewhere else. Attending meetings over Skype is the norm, and I realised that the oil industry is still operating somewhere in the early 1990s. The expense system, travel booking system and HR benefits and admin system are all third-party and online. In my last place of work they were, respectively: 1) paper-based requiring multiple signatures, 2) a confusing chain of emails to umpteen managers and departmental secretaries who often appeared to have brain damage, and 3) non-existent. In short, I don’t really need to be physically in the office as much as I thought. I then discovered I can get a the Brighton to Cambridge train from London Bridge pretty easily, what with it being empty going north once it’s passed St. Pancras and most empty coming south until you reach Farringdon. So I can get a good 40 minutes work done on the train each way.

My intention was to find an AirBnB in London for a month while I sorted myself out. So I found one near London Bridge and booked it, and my credit card was charged accordingly. Next thing I know I get this message:

However looking again at the price it seems to be incorrect I can’t accommodate next to tower bridge in effect a 4 star hotel 2ned suite with lots of storage at £100 a night . Hotels next door are £200 a night tiny double room or £1500 plus for a 2bed suit .

The price should be £175 a night I can do for a compromised £149 a night .

Still very reasonable for that price .

If I can send you a price amendment pls can you accept failing that can u please ask you politely to cancel the reservation.

This was rather odd: I thought we’d agreed the price and I’d paid, and now he wanted more – 50% more, to be precise. So I told him to sod off. Then I got this:

Hi Tim

I hope your okay . I’m new to airbb (my property is on One Fine Stay at £250 a night).
I’ve called airbb to rectify the pricing if it was just a couple of nights stay I wouldn’t mind . But for a months stay I simply can’t make commercial sense flats in the area rent out on normal market at £3000 plus a month .

So if you can’t pay the extra can I pls ask you to cancel I hope your decide to stay as I can’t imagine your find better in this locality .

This chap makes Theresa May look like a master of negotiation. Anyway, I told him to sod off again. Which resulted in this:

Hi Tim

I hope your well.

I’ve just been on the phone to airbb customer service they have advised me to increase the to a commercial viable amount I do hope we can compromise and meet half way. Once you see the apartment it’s great home and you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for your empathy and storage is no problem .

Assuring you of my personal attention at ALL Times .

The next thing I know I have someone who sounded Filipina calling me from AirBnB trying to persuade me to pay the extra money, adopting the role of negotiator with his interests at heart. I explained to her as far as I was concerned the deal was done and I’d paid an she said “Yes, you make a good point, I’ll go back and tell him that.” Whether she did or not I don’t know, but within 5 minutes my booking had been cancelled and I received this message from my would-be host:

Best of luck best price £135 a night very responsible to be opposite Tower Bridge in Luxury apartment same as a five star hotel suite .

I fired off a complaint to AirBnB and they said “they were sorry I had to cancel my booking” but I’ve been refunded, although the money could take up to 15 days to reappear in my account. I told them I didn’t cancel it and they went quiet until I started having some fun telling the story on Twitter while tagging in @Airbnb. Eventually someone emailed me and said they’d investigated but due to privacy reasons they couldn’t tell me what the outcome was. The email, like all their correspondence on this case, was littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. I’m wondering how long AirBnB are going to be in business before someone is killed in an unsafe property and they respond by sending the grieving relatives a list of alternative properties and wishing them a pleasant stay. In the end I got 10% off my next booking, but I’d have preferred my would-be host’s head mounted on a spike at the Tower of London.

Anyway, the good news is I’ve met someone in London who is neither Russian nor a lunatic and therefore is unlikely to be providing much blogging fodder as others have done. I’ve checked and she’s not into polyamory, which must be a disappointment to my readers. In fact, she’s rather wonderful. And that’s the main reason behind my move to London and, if I’m being honest, my lack of blogging.

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Cotton Dud

I’ve written before about Dany Cotton, the commissioner of the London Fire Brigade:

Her professional biography seems to be a lot more about being a woman than a firefighter.

So how’s she getting on?

Relatives of Grenfell Tower victims today called for the embattled London Fire Brigade chief and other senior officers to be prosecuted over the inferno.

Nazanin Aghlani, who lost two family members in the blaze in West London in June 2017, said the LFB was ‘the hands of people that are incapable of their jobs’.

But the embattled London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton refused to quit as she apologised for causing ‘additional hurt’ to families of Grenfell Tower victims.

Miss Cotton, who had defended the fatal advice for residents to ‘stay put’, plans to retire next April aged 50 on a pension worth up to £2million.

She admitted the LFB would ‘do different things’ after learning lessons following the inferno, but refused to quit, saying she wanted to ‘continue to protect the people of London’ and insisted she was ‘standing here and taking responsibility’.

It comes after the report concluded that the LFB breached national guidelines over its ‘gravely inadequate’ preparations and did not have a plan to evacuate the tower.

I don’t know how much the LFB really are to blame for the deaths in the Grenfell Tower fire, but it looks as though this Cotton woman was completely out of her depth. And I can’t but help notice that her “taking responsibility” by staying in her post until she collects her hefty pension looks a lot like that of her Metropolitan Police counterpart Cressida Dick’s “taking responsibility” for the umpteen failures on her watch. These people haven’t a shred of personal integrity, nor an ounce of shame.

Not that I don’t think the whole Grenfell Tower incident hasn’t been a wall-to-wall demonstration of the failings of the modern British state and wider society, from the number of people who were in the tower to the dodgy “green” cladding, from the blatant fraud which followed to the sight of foreign activists demanding the national government resign, from the lack of curiosity over how the fire started to the prosecution of people who didn’t get the memo that the charred remains have been consecrated.

Home appliance firm Whirlpool faces a potential multi-million pound lawsuit after the Grenfell report found a faulty fridge freezer sparked the inferno after Sir Martin dismissed their ‘fanciful’ claim fire was caused by a cigarette;

Just that one fridge freezer, eh? Would have thought a fault like that would have occurred in a number of them. How handy that a major corporation with deep pockets is in the firing line for a hefty compensation claim.

The Grenfell Grift will go on for years, but if it claims the scalp of a useless diversity hire at the head of the LFB, I’ll not shed too many tears. I suspect those who actually turned out to tackle the blaze did brilliantly though, insofar as they were permitted to.

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The crimes they are a-changin’

In the context of yesterday’s post and the prosecution of Bruno Dey, comes this series of tweets:

I suppose being born in the post-war era in western Europe it’s hard to imagine what it’s like living under a murderous, totalitarian regime and therefore it’s easy to kid ourselves that we’d have been the Chinese guy standing in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square. I suspect those who lived through the Soviet Union, occupied France, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq don’t hold themselves in such high regard, though.

I’ve written before about the appalling binary choices the Nazis forced on people, and while I’m not going to say Dey is much of a victim (especially considering those on the other side of the wire) it’s unlikely teenage draftees into the Wehrmacht had a whole lot of say about their career paths. There are claims that guards didn’t have to serve at concentration camps and could request a transfer. Even supposing this is true, transfer to where? Stalingrad? Or perhaps it was true in theory, just as the Soviet constitution guaranteed a fair trial. This chap on Twitter presumably thinks Dey should have disobeyed orders and been shot instead, but what if he had others to think about, such as a family who might face repercussions? For all the fear of non-existent Nazis in contemporary society people seem to have forgotten how the real Nazis operated and how much the Gestapo was feared by the population. In my 19 years of corporate life I’ve barely met anyone brave enough to disagree with their boss, yet we’re supposed to believe our generation would face down a Nazi officer in 1944? Please.

Thinking about this last night, what Germany is doing by prosecuting this man is signalling to everyone they take Nazis and the Holocaust seriously in order to deflect attention from the fact that anti-Israeli sentiment runs strong across German politics and, largely thanks to Merkel’s immigration policies, antisemitism is on the rise. The decision to prosecute is therefore political, as is the hounding of British troops who served in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. You’ll note that the politicians who sent them there and the senior officers who commanded them aren’t being hauled into courtrooms 45 years after the events in question, it’s just the squaddies, NCOs, and junior officers who are having their lives ruined at the hands of treacherous lawyers and spineless politicians. Those really responsible are either dead or off-limits, which is why these prosecutions are happening only now.

The irony is this Ian Noble chap is an ex-soldier who served in Kosovo. He says he went there to prevent genocide and maybe he did, but he was there without a UN mandate and many Serbs (and probably a lot of Russians) would have every reason to think he was an accessory to war crimes. Bear in mind he was sent there by Tony Blair, a man who ordered Britain into an unsanctioned attack on Iraq, and if by some strange turn of events Russia ends up wielding clout on the international stage in 40 years time he might find himself yanked from his retirement home and asked to explain why he was murdering innocent Serbs. And he was no draftee. This chap probably doesn’t think it’s possible and nor do I, but I wouldn’t want to bet on some future British government not seeking to burnish its progressive credentials by punishing soldiers who took part in the Iraq War – or maybe even the Kosovo War – once the people responsible are safely dead. Who knows what form the British government will take in another generation? We already have an overt IRA sympathiser as leader of the opposition, and the demographics don’t look good if it’s favourable views of the Iraq War we’re after.

The fact that every German who served in the Wehrmacht wasn’t a genocidal Nazi was well-understood at the time, even by those who fought them. My Austrian friend from my MBA has grandparents who fought in the German army because – surprise surprise! – that’s what Austrian men of that age were forced to do. There’s a good chance they might have done some pretty unpleasant stuff while in the uniform too, because that’s what happens when men go to war across an entire continent. Their contemporaries on the winning side hanged the leadership then moved on, and never sought to punish the rank and file. But the ever-so-clever modern generation who weren’t there and have never seen their country attacked let alone occupied by a foreign army know better. In the same vein they’ve convinced themselves that every American who fought for the South was a racist who hated black people and took up arms only to prolong slavery, while those who fought on the Union side could be assistant editors at The Huffington Post. And somehow they think Abraham Lincoln fought the war to free the slaves. Unfortunately there are no ex-Confederates left for liberals to put in jail so they have to be content with tearing down their statues instead.

It’s hard to know what’s worse, the ignorance, the revisionism, or the opportunism. Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with justice.

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Ridin’ the bruv train

Regular readers will know how I feel about the modern British police, particularly the leadership. Here’s a video which surprises even me:

In a different age this woman would be sent out to the forest to fetch firewood, being of little use for anything else. But in the modern era she gets to speak to us as if we’re retarded children, telling us which words we may or may not use to address people who are probably insane.

Now I’ve speculated before about how it’s only a matter of time before the British public begin to do what happens in a lot of the world, and see the police as nothing more than a nuisance to be avoided at all costs. We’re already seeing incidents of police men and women being beaten and humiliated while citizens just walk on by or, increasingly, stop and guffaw. This morning a couple of Extinction Rebellion morons thought stopping a tube train at Canning Town and preventing city boys and builders getting to work was going to be the same as lying down in the road on Westminster Bridge. They thought wrong:

What is so heartwarming about this – aside from Swampy getting a good shoeing – is the mantra in Britain has for years been “don’t intervene, leave it to the police”. Only the people on the platform knew damned well the police wouldn’t do anything about these idiots, and even if they did the station would be shut for hours. So they shook off a lifetime of indoctrination and dragged them down so everyone could go to work unimpeded. As the tweeter said, problem solved in 60 seconds.

What interested me most was when the police arrived they arrested the two protesters, not the two who climbed up after them. I suspect the police might have got a whiff of a changing wind here. Had they turned up and done anything other than arrest the two crusties, they might well have found themselves on the receiving end of a mob beating. The police leadership might be stupid, but those who have to walk into a fired-up crowd are not.

Today’s incident, coming off the back of the authorities’ decision to ban any more unauthorised Extinction Rebellion protests in London, might be a sign things are starting to turn. On top of that, it looks as though Boris might have reached a deal with the EU which can pass a parliamentary vote and see Britain leaving the EU at the end of the month as planned. While probably not perfect, it is better than May’s appalling Withdrawal Agreement and does actually represent Brexit in more than name only. That will leave an awful lot of Remain activists unemployed, and a fair few MPs staring down the barrel of a P45 cannon at the next election.

All in all, things are looking a little brighter after today, aren’t they?

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Faux Food and Cambridge

Last weekend I had a visitor from London come and stay with me in my humble serviced apartment in Cambridge, and we went for a wander into town. Parts of it were nice, mostly those parts you could only look at through heavy iron railings unless you were a student at the university. We wandered across a sheep field which some daft sod had put in the middle of the city, then down by the river where I watched people playing on boats that were in dire need of an outboard motor. If this was in Thailand they’d have mounted an old V8 truck engine on propeller shaft and they’d get where they were going quicker than the current arrangement which requires a long pole and a hipster telling lies about what they’re sailing past.

Cambridge is probably nice in the summer but it didn’t do a whole lot for me. It seemed to do a lot for China though, as a third of its population was there taking photos. The good news is I’ve found a bluegrass jam session and bought a second-hand guitar so I could join in. I went along last night and had a great time. There were two or three professional fiddle players there, and I got them to play Soldier’s Joy, an old civil war tune which you can hear a superb rendition of between 6:14 and 8:49 here:

Our jam sessions in France often lacked a fiddle, and it’s not quit the same without one. It appears the banjo is the rare instrument in Cambridge bluegrass circles, whereas we had plenty of them in France. Good job I brought mine with me, then. All I need to now is learn to play it properly. Sadly, this group only meets once a month so I might have to look for another one.

The one thing I am really missing about France is the food. Boy, the food in Cambridge is bad, bordering on inedible. In the early afternoon on Saturday we got hungry so found a pub and asked them if they served food. They said they didn’t, but the barman recommended a place on the edge of the city centre where he said the food was excellent, especially the burger. We went there and ordered the burger. It was tasteless and came on a plate beside a huge, wrinkled lettuce leaf which looked as if it came off a rhubarb plant. Whoever was masquerading as a chef that day had put on top of it large dollops of thousand island dressing, coleslaw, and ratatouille all in a row. What effect he was going for, and what national cuisine he’d drawn his inspiration from, I have no idea. The chips, which were extra, had been fried in oil which should have been chucked out a month ago. The next day we tried another pub. I ordered a piece of chicken which the chef had tried to make taste of something by piling bacon and barbecue sauce on top of it until its thickness was doubled. My companion ordered a pie the size and shape of a half-brick and about as edible.

Now I know what everyone’s going to do. They’re going to list all the amazing places one can eat in the United Kingdom and how with a little effort involving a week of research and driving to Dundee, I can get a perfectly good meal provided I don’t mind booking in advance and paying through the nose. So let me say yes, I know you can get good food in Britain. The problem is you have to know where to go. You can’t just wander through any random city, spot a joint, and go in and expect something edible. But in France I did just that for 6 years, including in Paris. I’d just walk into the first place I stumbled across and 99 times out of 100 it would range from good to superb. I never looked up anywhere and ignored recommendations, and I frequently ate in the tourist spots in Annecy. It seems in Britain I’m going to have to maintain a list of recommended eating spots and avoid anywhere else. As soon as I’ve got my own flat sorted out – a plan which has hit a small hiccup – I’ll start cooking for myself again.

It’s not all culinary doom and gloom, though. We have a canteen at work which, while not of the same standard as that of an oil major in Paris, isn’t bad at all and is absolutely free. They even have puddings with custard. It’s like being back in school and I’m there every lunchtime.

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Whine and Punishment

I couldn’t get my phone to connect to my car on the drive home this evening, so I was forced to listen to Radio 4 where I heard this:

It’s basically a female MP complaining how terrible her life became when she discovered her boyfriend – not husband – was a dick. Or at least, that’s what she says: we don’t get his side of the story. I’m not sure if I heard the whole thing, but she didn’t mention violence, just “abuse” which included him not speaking to her, hiding his salary, and refusing to help pay for a new sofa. MPs no longer have the brains or ability to manage anything difficult such as get Britain out of the EU or work within a budget, so instead they use the commons as a stage on which to dramatise their personal lives. There is absolutely no purpose to this woman reading out details of her bad relationships other than to seek attention, which seems to be the primary motivation of a lot of politicians these days.

Followed her speech, Radio 4 shared this story:

Scotland has become the first country in the UK to make it a criminal offence for parents to smack their children.

The ban on all physical punishment was backed overwhelmingly by 84 votes to 29 by the Scottish Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

The move will give children in Scotland the same protection from assault as adults when it comes into force.

Parents and carers are currently allowed to use “reasonable” physical force to discipline their children.

The smacking ban bill was introduced by Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie, a former police officer, who won the support of the SNP, Labour and Lib Dems as well as his own party and many children’s charities.

The irony is that a child raised with no discipline will become just the sort of narcissistic, manipulative adult the MP in the video claims made her life miserable. It’s one hell of a world these idiots are building for themselves, isn’t it?

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Vive la difference!

I’ve written before about my frustration with presentations and meetings in French companies (or at least, French oil companies). I’m rather pleased to say that my experience in my new outfit has been rather different.

That’s not to say everything got off to a great start: halfway through my third day I was hauled into a small meeting room by my boss and the HR lady who both had serious looks on their faces. I won’t go into details, but I was rather relieved to find 1) I’d done nothing wrong and 2) it had nothing to do with my blog. But other than perhaps the first six months in Lagos, when I had a superb French boss, this is possibly the first job I’ve had in a long time where I’m not treated like someone who’s arrived fresh from the field of a fuckwit farm. The method of distributing work seems to run along the lines of, “You see that job there? Get on with it.” Whereas I’m more used to being told what bullet points to add to a slide and how to make what I’ve written sound more stupid.

Now it might not just be the switch from France to England that explains this; after all, my new boss is French. It is probably as much down to my moving from an oil company – which has the efficiency of a Soviet toaster factory but the income of a warehouse of oligarchs – to a firm on the cutting edge of technology with demanding customers. Whatever the reason, when we have meetings the chairman cuts in if people start drifting off topic or the discussion goes on too long, and five minutes before the end everyone is told to wrap it up because the meeting will end on time. If there’s something on a screen, it’s a handful of slides. Often it’s just half a page.

It’s nice not to feel completely useless for a change. Alas, such utilisation leaves me with little time to blog. This must be what psychologists mean when they say people are conflicted.

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Court and Rolled

I’ve often written about the parallels between Brexit and Trump’s election, and another has revealed itself over the past few days.

I haven’t followed the story too closely, but it appears the American Establishment is going into meltdown over a phone call Trump made to the Ukrainian president. Their Russian collusion narrative having failed, they’ve effortlessly switched to trying to impeach Trump over this phone call to Ukraine. In many respects, this is hardly news: the insane wing of the Democrats – which is most of them – have been banging on about impeaching Trump for months. They have no idea what for, and nor do they care; they just want to force him from office. The only newsworthy bit about this story is that Nancy Pelosi has finally been browbeaten into getting on board with it.

When it comes to Trump, the American ruling classes threw out the rule book a long time ago. The joint intelligence community and Democrat attempt to prevent him being elected and then unseat him after the event would have resulted in lengthy prison sentences or executions in pretty much every other country at any point in their history. They lied through their teeth about the Russia collusion and activist judges are ensuring every move he makes gets blocked. They don’t care about the law, nor who sees it. All they care about is removing Trump from office and they’re prepared to bring the whole house down on themselves to do it. In many respects, the rule of law no longer applies in Russia.

On our side of the Atlantic, our political classes are doing much the same thing. The other night the supreme court judges upended the British constitution to declare Boris Johnson’s proroguing parliament was illegal because they couldn’t think of a reason why he did it. If we cut through all the bullshit, a handful of judges – who are very much members of the ruling classes and share their interests – decided to kill off another attempt to deliver the Brexit which was decided via referendum in June 2016. So Britain now has a politicised supreme court like in the US, one which considers itself above the monarch. The ruling classes aren’t even pretending any more. They might as well come out and say Brexit isn’t happening because they don’t want it to. It would at least be more honest, and they might avoid adding a string of appalling precedents to the one they’ve already set by refusing to enact the result of a free vote. As with the US, Britain is no longer a country of laws. It is ruling class free-for-all.

With each passing month, the barriers between peace and violence get torn down one by one. There is only one place at the end of this road, and that is the sort of political violence you see in failed states with politicians, judges, policemen, and journalists all fair game. I don’t think it will happen soon, though. Instead, we’ll enter into decades of being ordered around at the whim of the ruling classes, who take ever more brazen liberties while tightening the noose around our own. And then a generation will arrive who won’t stand for it, and the blood will start flowing.

It won’t be Nancy Pelosi or Brenda Hale who pay the price of their contempt for the people and the law, nor even AOC or Gina Miller. It’ll be their grandchildren, assuming they have any, who will inherit their privileges but not their protections. Those clowns hanging onto the words of Greta Thunberg are right to be worried about their children’s futures, but not for the reasons they think.

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Tyranny of Losers

As you know, I’m living in the UK with a French car, a BMW. My plan was to go back to Annecy at some point in the autumn and sell it quickly on one of the auction sites. The trouble is, the service light came on. Apparently it needed an oil change and nobody is going to buy a car with a service light on, or at least they’re not going to pay full market value for it. So I called the BMW dealership closest to me and asked if I could book it in (yes, I know the main dealers are expensive and honest Hank down the road can turn the service light off, etc.) They took down the VIN number and told me there was a safety recall on an engine component, and they might need the vehicle for a few days. I said I’d had the car in the main dealer in France a few months back and they’d not said anything, even though this recall is a couple of years old. So I said skip the faulty component, just change the oil. Ah, but this is Britain:

“We can’t do that, we are not allowed to release the car with a safety malfunction”. 

Not allowed by whom? Is there a law saying a garage cannot change the oil in a car with some alleged problem in part of the engine? No, it’s probably some policy imposed by BMW, or even the dealership, being presented as if they are words handed down by God himself. You see a lot of this in Britain, appeals to mysterious higher powers who have delegated their formidable authority to the person you’re dealing with. There’s nothing a British jobsworth likes more than pompously telling you something mundane is illegal, truth be damned.

I decided to take the car in anyway. I asked at the counter why the French BMW concession hadn’t told me about this recall. “Well, it was just a UK-wide recall,” I was told. “Then why does it affect my French car?” I asked. She had no answer for that. When the work was done I asked the same question to another clerk. He replied that “There were a lot of recalls, maybe they were too busy and so decided not to mention it?” Which seems odd for a problem which, according to these jobsworths, was so severe they simply couldn’t just change the oil and let me be on my merry way.

For some reason, I don’t think my experience with BMW was too far removed from this video, which shows a couple of thugs employed by the local government in Grimsby fining a pensioner for having a dog in a graveyard:

British people, in the main, like to follow the rules and cooperate with authority. The downside of this is that certain people, when given a smidgen of temporary authority, gleefully wield it against ordinary folk, and especially those who have little choice but to cooperate. You can be damned sure the fat fool in the video would stay well clear of a couple of chavs with a pitbull; they’d have slapped him silly and posted the video on Snapchat. You see this authoritarian, bullying attitude everywhere in Britain, especially at airports and anywhere else where jumped-up little wannabe Hitlers can cite a Blair-era law to justify their actions. I remember years ago being on a rubbish dump outside Worcester with the bloke who ran the place lecturing us on how interfering with a washing machine we found lying there was “breaking the law”. You can only imagine what these people would be like if given real power.

None of this happens in France. For a start, the local government wouldn’t hire thugs to harass pensioners for walking their dogs. Secondly, no Frenchman would take the job because they’d find the local bar wouldn’t serve them any more. Thirdly, the public wouldn’t cooperate. There’s no way you’d get a hundred euros out of Frenchwoman the way these two shook down the old lady in Grimsby for £100. They’d risk arrest and imprisonment before they’d cough up on the spot like that. One of the things I like about the French is their disdain for authority, particularly that wielded by the government. I’ve written before about the very different relationship the French police take towards the citizenry in comparison to their British counterparts (the gilets jaunes in big cities notwithstanding).

That’s not to say the French fonctionnaires aren’t the most frustrating people on the planet; a trip to the local prefecture would disabuse you of that notion within minutes. But their contempt for you is one of utter indifference: they don’t hate you, they simply don’t care. But in the UK the bureaucrats and petty officials take delight in lording it over people, as if they’re trying to make up for a lifetime of being a complete loser in every field.

There’s also no room for nuance. I expect the reason the recall never happened in France is because the Frenchmen who owned the dealerships realised they were going to have a load of irate BMW owners on their hands, demanding compensation and free courtesy cars. So they probably negotiated and persuaded BMW that maybe the issue wasn’t that bad after all. Whereas in Britain BMW would have called the UK dealerships who immediately accepted whatever they were told and decided they’d refuse to perform routine services on customers’ vehicles unless they agreed to surrender them for several days during which they’d have to hire a car at their own expense (as I did).

The French approach to things can drive you insane at times, but there are times when I grudgingly admire their intransigence. And few things make me feel more ashamed of my country than the combination of authoritarian bullying by British jobsworths and its craven acceptance by ordinary people.

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Sinking Funds

Remember this story?

A lifeboatman who served with the RNLI for 15 years was sacked alongside his junior colleague for having mugs with naked women on them in the office.

Whitby crewman Ben Laws and his workmate Joe Winspear were allegedly sacked over the phone on Tuesday.

The pair are reported to have swapped the ‘jokey’ tea mugs for Secret Santa presents.

One featured Mr Winspear’s head superimposed on a naked woman’s body.

And I said:

As an organisation grows and gets more wealthy, parasites in the form of professional “managers” come in and use the excess cash to feather their own nests and set about building their own little empires. In effect, the organisation splits in two. You have a ruling class, sitting in plush air conditioned offices pushing progressive agendas and advancing their careers; and you have everyone else, including those tasked with fulfilling the core function of the organisation.

Well, whaddya know?

The chief executive of the RNLI has said that the lifeboat charity is facing the “perfect storm” of a shortfall in funds at a time when its services are more in demand than ever.

Lifeboat crews and lifeguards are being called out more often to save lives but the charity is suffering from a shortfall, largely created by the economic climate and a drop in money left to the charity in supporters’ wills.

Of course, the drop-off in donations has nothing to do with the RNLI demonstrating to the public that it is nowadays more a jobs program for middle-class grifters than an organisation devoted to saving lives at sea.

In 2018 the RNLI’s financial resources dropped by £28.6m. Its total expenditure was £192.9m but its net income was £186.6m, leaving an operating loss of £6.3m. A leading factor that contributed was a reduction in legacy income of £8.5m.

And how much of that £192.2m is spent on middle managers whose job is to patrol lifeboat stations in all weathers looking out for offensive coffee mugs?

I notice that the CEO who presided over the debacle last year has moved on to another cushy posting, replaced by one Mark Dowie who is:

a former naval officer who went on to work in the banking industry

Which sounds a lot like the previous chancer, but at least this one does seem to have some relevant experience:

Dowie gave the example of Salcombe lifeboat station in south Devon, where he volunteered before taking on the role of chief executive, as an example of how the pressure on the service was growing.

Right, but:

Dowie, who has been in post for four months, said: “As a people we use the sea in ways that change all the time. We have many more people working on the sea, things that we weren’t doing when we were founded, for example wind farms. But there is also a vast amount more pleasure activity in, on and around the sea.”

Are there really many more people working on the sea than in 1824? I doubt it. The man is talking rot. Four months into the job and the only thing on his mind is how to get more money in, his predecessor having demolished the institute’s reputation in a matter of days.

Dowie said he hoped the decrease in bequests was just about “ebbs and flows”. He said: “We don’t have an easy way of getting statistics on why the amount of money from legacies was reduced.”

Translation: we know damned well why the money is drying up but we don’t want to say anything which will detract attention from our core business of policing the morals of those who volunteer to risk their lives for those at sea.

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