Monday, 10 September 2018

Unexpectedly quit

The file you have been working on for the

last hour is going to crash. We are going to

quit. This computer is going to do that thing

where your screen is going to revert to that

naff image you’ve got on your desktop. The

file that you were working on will stop existing.

It won’t be anywhere. There is a button called

‘diagonistics’ which you can press, wait for about

three weeks and get a message which will say

that an error called something like DF110 (which

is in fact a painkiller) has just happened. This

implies it is your fault that the file has

disappeared. Usually we find that the files that

disappear are ones that punters like you have

grown overly attached to. Perhaps it was a story

or a poem or an article. You were probably

getting locked in, fully engaged with what you

were trying to say, getting that satisfaction where

the words felt right, the phrasing had a kind of

rhythm and the ideas seemed to flow from one

part of the file to another. We expect there

were one or two jokes in there that you had just

made up. OK, not exactly jokes, perhaps more

like wry comments, or that thing where you

repeat things but in different ways for effect.

The weird thing is, we could lay money on it,

you’ve probably forgotten the best bits. That’ll

be because they were so new. And extra-weird

that you had only just made them up, so surely

they were right at the front of your brain so

for goodness sake they should be still there.

But they’re not. Gone. You’ll notice that we’ve

used the word ‘unexpectedly’ before the word

‘quit’ which is not strictly true. It’s not ‘unexpected’

for us. We do it all the time. We roam

round the world unexpectedly quitting all over

the place. Wherever we see a computer that’s been

running along in a fine and dandy way, we

hurl in an ‘unexpectedly quit’. Have a nice day.

All We Like Sheep

It wasn’t that we were enthusiastically Christian.

In fact, we weren’t Christian at all but my brother

who loved singing was in a choir that was going

to sing the ‘Messiah’. Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and he

practised at home. From another part of the flat,

we would hear, ‘Every valley shall be exalted’. It

came into my head: ‘Every va-alley’. And it was

going to be exalted. And the ‘exalted’ came out as

‘exal.....ted’. But which valleys? Where were

these valleys? We went on camping

holidays and walked up valleys. We camped in

a valley in Wales. Would it be exalted? And what

is exalting? How do you exalt a valley? I was 12

and I didn’t have the answer to these questions

but because my parents started singing it round

our flat, ‘Every valley shall be exalted’ as well as

my brother, I didn’t ask. It was just an obvious thing

that you could sing about. The valleys were going to

be exalted. And there were other bits that stuck too:

‘All we like sheep who’ve gone astray-ay-ay-ay-ay....’

That was the valley in Wales again. The farmer had

hundreds of sheep and some of them went astray.

My mother thought this one was funny. I had no idea

why she thought that was funny. We might be

listening to the radio and some item on the news

would set her off singing, ‘All we like sheep have

gone astray-ay-ay-ay....’. And everyone would join in.

Me too.


It took me some time to discover that some

emails intended for me sometimes arrive

straight into a folder called ‘Deleted’. I

hadn’t deleted them. They contain

important information. Stuff that I need.

Like where I’ve got to be. And when. And

yet they’re in ‘Deleted’. Who decided that

I shouldn’t know where I should be. And

when. For some time people had been saying

to me, ‘I sent you the information the other

day.’ And I would say, ‘No, it didn’t come in.’

And we would say, ‘Hah! Email, eh?’ like

these emails had disappeared into a space

we couldn’t describe, a dimension that doesn’t

exist a square-root-of-minus-one dimenions

or, there is a vacuum cleaner in California that

hoovers up emails. ‘Hah! Cyberspace!’ we said,

like we were saying something that had any

meaning. And then, I don’t know why, one day

I peeped into this place called ‘Deleted’ (if it is

a place) and there was an email full of

information about where I was supposed

to be. It was hard not to feel for a moment that

a hidden hand had intervened in my life, saying:

‘Hey you, I don’t want you to read this!’ but then,

I thought it was kinda worse to think of it as odder

than that: machines randomly ranging across

humankind, deleting millions of messages under

the pretence of doing us a favour. Like even at

the moment of creating instant worldwide

conversations, it prevents them happening too.

And I thought how yesterday I forgot a thing that

I had only just remembered. It was as if I had

sent it from one part of my brain to the other

and then deleted it without asking for my permission.

But, hey, at least I did that. I think.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Wow! someone's leaked me this speech from the Department for Education

[smile at everyone]

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity today

to talk to you about standards.

[pause for effect]

You will have seen in the press a good deal of alarmist headlines about so-called cuts in funding and provision. Let me leave to one side the matter of whether these really are or are not cuts.

[look up at everyone to make sure that this point is understood]

The issue for all teachers, parents and children is standards. So whether there is or is not less money in the pot, what counts is the standard of education that our children are getting.

[if necessary repeat this point with a gesture with the right hand]

And let me make it quite clear right from the start that when I say standards I don’t mean the standard of education. What I mean is the standards reached by children in the tests and exams they do right from the off and all the way through their school lives. It would be a great mistake to confuse the matter.

[prepare for a change of tone, be sneery but not too sneery]

Yes, of course, due to the last Labour government’s complete mismanagement of the economy, we’ve all had to tighten our belts and in the case of schools, it might have been that we’ve even lost the belts themselves, so there isn’t much left to tighten.

[pause for laughter].

As a result, I’m told that there are schools cutting back on school journeys, art, music, teaching assistants - even the school day itself.

[appear slightly regretful at this point]

But this has nothing to do with standards.

[right hand forceful movement]

I repeat, standards are the standards achieved in the tests and exams. So long as they stay stable or better, there is no decline in standards.

Now some might say that the tests and exams are regularised and moderated so that we have comparable outcomes. I apologise if that sounds like jargon, that may not mean a great deal to everyone listening to this.


In effect, it means that once the exam results are in, a group of highly trained

[try to sound like Michael Gove at his best here]

mathematicians look at the results overall and if there is any sense that there is slippage, they make sure that the results come out with the overall scores we want.


This way we know that standards are maintained.

So, what I say to all the prophets of doom out there is: never mind the standard, focus on the standards.

[raise the voice at the end of the sentence and pause for applause[

Yes, never mind the standard, focus on the standards.

[stay standing while people applaud.]

Wanted: for topical news programmes

We are a production company providing a variety of top quality, topical news programmes for radio, TV, podcasts and other online platforms and we are looking for any politicians who have been disgraced, caught committing offences of any kind - false expenses claims, libel, lying, deceiving, etc or any politicians who escaped prosecution by making unfounded accusations under parliamentary privilege, any politicians who have lucrative (albeit legal) arrangements with companies who lobby parliament for special treatment of some kind, any politicians who have special relationships with foreign powers, known but not usually declared, any politicians with millions of pounds in tax havens or highly tax-efficient arrangements or if you are a politician who falls into one or other of these categories or anything that sounds similar, we need you urgently to appear in some of our programmes disguised as moderate, sensible, middle-of-the-road, reputable, reasonable, reliable, honest, not particularly wealthy people. We guarantee to make you feel welcome and you will be free to make your points uninterrupted and without any reminder of any of your past or present attachments, associations, misdemeanours, transgressions or crimes. In the event of our being in touch with you, could you please rehearse some accusations of your own, directed at any of the following: Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, Momentum, the Labour Party Front Bench, Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and Jeremy Corbyn?
Look forward to hearing from you.

All Hail to the Raspberry Pip

All hail to the raspberry pip, survivor, desperate to

stick between the teeth; wedge itself like a pebble in

a tyre-tread; it refuses to be dissolved or shrunk,

it hunkers down, cornered, resisting a poking with

your finger-nail, and even the tooth-pick can fail.

All hail to the raspberry pip, hiding in its scarlet globule,

migrating into your mouth, a bird’s beak, a fox’s jaw,

disguised as softness, waiting to be munched, ready

for the peristalsis, the long slide through.

All hail to the raspberry pip, heading for a spot of dirt, a

railway siding, where it becomes a bramble, winding and

arching its thorny way, obstreperous enough to delay

your longing for the fruit until it has

fully scarletted.

Please give Tony Blair at least a tiny bit of media exposure

Is there a chance, a faint possibility, a smidgeon of an opening, a reasonable opportunity, please, please, please for Tony Blair to have a chat show or platform all of his own, a solo spot, a talk show, a late night spot, a morning talk, a regular interview, a brief appearance, a timely intervention, on any major media outlet or all major outlets, so that we can hear from him regularly, at least once a month, but ideally, more often, once a week, or once a day, or several times a day across several channels, or multiple news slots, a variety of media platforms so that we can for once, just once, hear what his views, thoughts, timely musings are on politics, war, the Middle East, the Labour Party, elections, Jeremy Corbyn, anti-semitism, morality, hope, the will to live, personal wealth, human rights, bigots, socialism, values, community, money, weather, shirts, toilet cleaner, printing ink, acne, the stone age, driving tests, fortune cookies, Jeremy Corbyn, water melons, Jeremy Corbyn, morality, Jeremy Corbyn, personal wealth, Jeremy Corbyn, war, Jeremy Corbyn, Jeremy Corbyn, Jeremy Corbyn and Jeremy Corbyn?