Donald Trump and the Chinese

Well, it seems that the Royal Biscuit is only an ordinary biscuit from tomorrow. He and his tame Yank have left Canada and flown – by private jet of course – to Los Angeles where they will be closer to their Hollywood friends.

As soon as they arrived in America, Donald Trump announced that the American government would not be responsible for the cost of their security and I can’t blame him for that.

After all, the Markle snubbed Mr Trump when he came to the UK for a state visit – and a snub it was, whatever was said about her being excused royal duties as she was on maternity leave.

Although the Biscuit did deign to meet Trump, he appeared lukewarm about it. He missed a state dinner at Buckingham Palace for the president and earlier the same day, during a visit to the Royal Picture Gallery, he noticeably hung back from being photographed with the president, chatting instead with his daughter Ivanka.

At the time, Trump brushed aside their differences – although he made clear he knew all too well that the duchess had attacked him. “She was nasty to me,” he said in an interview, “and that’s OK for her to be nasty, it’s not good for me to be nasty to her and I wasn’t.

‘She’s doing a good job, I hope she enjoys her life… I think she’s very nice.” It sounded like a generous, high-minded response which anyone who knew anything about Trump didn’t believe for a second was sincere.

But I must admit, I feel a bit sorry for Donald Trump. He is an oaf with the bombast and arrogance of a street thug but he does seem to get things done. He was legally elected by people who were fed up with the venality and underhand dealings of the Clintons and their democrats. Yet for all the good he has done – and he has – Trump is consistently under vitriolic attack, not only from the Democrats, but also from the American – and to an extent the British – media.

In fact, the situation was summed up in a joke sent to me yesterday. It is not terribly funny but seemed pretty apt.

President Trump invited Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, for lunch on his mega yacht one day. She accepted and during lunch, a gust of wind blew her Maj’s beautiful hat into the water.

The hat floated off about fifty feet, then the wind died down and it just floated in place. The crew and all the queen’s entourage were scrambling to launch a boat to get it, when Trump waved them off, saying “Never mind, boys, I’ll get it.”

Then Donald climbed over the side of the yacht, walked on the water to the hat, picked it up, walked back on the water, climbed onto the yacht, and handed queen Elizabeth her hat.

Everyone on the yacht was speechless.

No one knew what to say, not even the queen.

But that afternoon, the BBC, Sky News, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN all knew how to cover the story. Their banner headlines read:

“TRUMP CAN’T SWIM”

As my great friend Mfanasibili (Two Boy) Nkosi would put it, ‘Nuff said.’

There can be little doubt that the current coronabug crisis started in China and nobody who reads these pages can have any doubt of my feelings on that country. Yet now China has been proclaiming its own generosity in helping the rest of the world deal with what President Trump with undeniable accuracy if not much tact calls ‘the Wuhan virus.’

Beijing has made much of the supplies of masks and testing equipment which its manufacturers have been delivering at pace and at a reasonable price to countries such as Spain and the Netherlands. What Beijing does not tell us is that when the virus took hold of Wuhan, Chinese companies were ordered to buy up vast quantities of thermometers, surgical masks, hand sanitisers and antibacterial wipes from countries such as Turkey, Canada and Australia.

Somehow I feel that China has got the better of this exchange.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais has reported that the virus-testing equipment arriving from China had been shown in Spanish laboratories to have an accuracy rate of thirty per cent rather than the eighty per cent advertised. The paper quoted a Spanish doctor as saying that such a failure rate meant the tests were useless.

Similarly, a newspaper in the Netherlands has revealed that a batch of six hundred thousand face masks, delivered to its health service from China, was unusable: ‘They have membranes that do not function properly, so do not block particles of the virus,’ a spokesman was quoted as saying.

Of course this means that the masks are not only useless but downright dangerous. A health worker would think that they were being protected when the pathway to their lungs was actually being exposed to the virus.

So how I wonder will this affect Bunter Johnson’s government decision to award the contract to deliver the next generation of smartphone technology, 5G, to the Chinese company Huawei.

Leaving aside the argument forcibly put forward by the U.S. government that it is folly to allow a company intimately connected with a Communist dictatorship into the heart of our data-based national infrastructure, is Huawei actually capable of delivering equipment of the necessary reliability?

I doubt that anything will be cancelled now, although the pressure on Bunter J from Conservative MPs, still adamantly opposed to the Huawei deal will mount – and it is probably to mollify them that Downing Street has been talking about ‘doing less trade with China in future.’

I will believe that when I see it! It is already too late as far as recent steel and nuclear deals are concerned. And Bunter remains firmly committed to the speedy rolling-out of super fast broadband – which only Huawei can deliver in the time frame he wants.

In other words, the Government’s apparently outraged comments to journalists that everything about our trading relationship with China is now to be reconsidered are little more than empty rhetoric.

Let’s face it, if this is what the Government really intends to do, it’s pretty stupid to allow such threats to leak out before it is ready to take action.

Once again, I fear that we will be kow towing to the Chinese and that makes me cross.

Bugs, Bobbies and Boredom

I received an email from a friend yesterday asking whether I was alright as I haven’t ranted in nearly a week. His concern is much appreciated and one of the nicer aspects of the current coronacrisis but in truth, the said crisis has caused me so much uncertainty and confusion over the past few days that my brain has been too scrambled for scribbling.

I am still at ‘my’ mansion in leafy Gloucestershire but should have been going home today when the owners were due to return from Australia.

Huh! Earlier in the week, the told me that their flight had been cancelled and they would be coming back four days earlier than intended. That flight was then cancelled as well because they weren’t allowed to stop for refuelling in Hong Kong so when asked, I told them I could probably manage another three weeks here if absolutely necessary.

Then I was told that they wouldn’t need me after all as their son Olly who is a lawyer in London would come out on Sunday (today) to relieve me. I spoke with Olly on the phone and he seemed to be looking forward to it, but the next day that fell through too, due apparently to some problem at his work.

So now I am back to the extra three weeks unless stranded tourists in Australia are to be airlifted home. I am far better off than most people in this lockdown. I am in a comfortable home, surrounded by five acres of privately owned field and nestled in one of the most beautiful valleys imaginable. I can walk to my hearts content and enjoy the peaceful ambience of the Cotswold countryside.

But I was looking forward to going home to bleak Princetown and the Moor today so I face the next three weeks with a heavy heart and a big lump of disappointment at not going home.

But I am unlikely to catch the bug in this idyllic spot so my real sympathies lie with the little people in the cities – particularly London where my daughter and granddaughter are holed up. NHS staff in general are quite rightly, being heaped with the praises of a grateful nation. Imagine, though the feelings of the lowly folk – the hospital cleaners or the lads working on a building site. They have no choice but to commute to work, squeezing themselves onto crowded tube trains where any notion of maintaining social distance is for the birds. 

The idiotic decision to reduce services was the perfect illustration of middle-class bureaucrats failing to consider what life is really like for those less fortunate. And when the little people get to work, there is even more stress and anxiety. 

With so many people off sick, I would imagine that most offices or places of work are not pleasant places to be. Everyone has to work harder, bosses are at the end of their tether and normal courtesies are suspended. 

Eventually, exhausted, the workers have to face the crowded tube again with even more people coughing and sneezing. And the next day these unfortunates find themselves being sneered at on social media and in many newspapers by those more fortunate than themselves. 

And what about the young people? Teenage boys tend to prefer hanging out with friends to helping out with a spot of gardening or assisting around the house but now that option is closed. And there are no real choices for poor kids in tower blocks. Just a screen and endless acres of boredom. Their mothers aren’t the ones stripping supermarket shelves and hoarding food. So they rely on the corner shop – more unpredictable and more expensive. They probably have to buy much less than their usual. 

The Government may have acted swiftly to protect most incomes, but there will be many who slip through the net or are defeated by bureaucracy. There always are. And they’re almost always the poorest. We must hope that the current mood of national solidarity lasts long enough to see us through this crisis and beyond. 

With all the new restrictions, the authorities and police risk being seen as too dictatorial I’m afraid. Should careful dog walkers in isolated places like the Peak District or the Moors be treated as enemies of the state? It really does seem somewhat overboard but that is what is happening.

Let’s take an extreme case from the week just past. The good old Metropolitan Constabulary fined a bakery boss £80 for criminal damage after she put temporary lines outside her shop to keep her customers safe from coronavirus.

The extraordinary incident took place outside the Grodzinski bakery in Edgware, north-west London, this morning, when police spotted the owner using a can of non-permanent spray chalk to help maintain social distancing of two metres. 

The officer (a sergeant so he should have known better) told the flabbergasted woman that she had graffitied the pavement and if police failed to punish crimes like these there would be anarchy adding, “I can’t help the law. We’re also fining people for congregating – is that wrong too?”

The unfortunate woman stood up to the sergeant and told him: “’This is not graffiti, it’s chalk, it washes off. So you would rather all my customers don’t stand two metres apart? I’m doing it for people’s safety – to stop the spread of coronavirus,” to which the pompous twonk replied, “It doesn’t matter. It’s criminal damage. It’s the law.”

A bystander filmed the incident and I do so hope that the lady’s fine is rescinded and the prat concerned is told to use his common sense in future but somehow I doubt if that will happen. I know there are people flouting the rules for self-isolation but if the police are going to act in such a heavy-handed manner, a great number of law abiding people will be tempted to do the same.

Yes, this would appear to be a crisis, but crises are survived through clear thinking and common sense not by over-zealous application of petty rules and regulations however well-intentioned they might be.

For me, it is a question of pushing myself through the next three weeks in my comfortable corner of Paradise and once I have read all the books in the house, not being too bored. It might even mean starting another book.

Sunday Snippets

Prof. Jihad Bishara, the director of the Infectious Disease Unit at Beilinson Hospital in Israel, said that some of the steps being taken to combat the coronabug around the world were very important, but the virus is not airborne, most people who are infected will recover without even knowing they were sick, the at-risk groups are known, and the global panic is unnecessary and exaggerated.

“I’ve been in this business for thirty years,” Bishara said. “I’ve been through MERS, SARS, Ebola, the first Gulf war and the second, and I don’t recall anything like this. There’s unnecessary, exaggerated panic. World leaders have to calm their people down.

 ‘So many are thinking that this virus is in the air, it’s going to attack every one of us, and whoever is attacked is going to die.” He said.

“That’s not the way it is at all. It’s not in the air. Not everyone who is infected dies; most of them will get better and won’t even know they were sick or will have a bit of extra mucus.

‘But in Israel and around the world, everybody is whipping everybody else up into panic – the leaders via the media and the wider public – who then in turn start to stress out the leaders. We’ve entered some kind of vicious cycle.”

Oh well said Sir. I have stopped watching the television news because every bulletin is the same but with different solemn-faced ‘experts’ on show. Yes, it is a bad epidemic but the world has been through such things before. The Spanish flu pandemic in the early part of the last century killed off about eighteen million people but the world survived. This one is pretty minor by comparison.

Mind you, I did like the way President Crocodile Mnangagwa calmed the people of Zimbabwe. He glibly announced that Zim would beat the virus because they have built a new crematorium.

I am sure that most Zimbabweans were comforted by those soothing words!

Yet another group of ‘experts’ have claimed that the happiest people around are those who tend allotments.

Really?

Possibly the best known tender of an allotment in this country is the self-acclaimed leek grower Mr Jeremy Corbyn, still the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition. I don’t think I have ever seen this particular pratwinkle with a smile on his face! Somehow I don’t think his leeks are making him happy.

Some good has already come from the government’s coronabug restrictions. Only five people including the priest are now allowed at weddings. Because of this, can it be possible that television viewers will not be subjected to the nuptials of Princess Beatrice with Pompous Andrew giving her away and Fergie simpering and making daft pronouncements for Hello magazine.

Or is that too much to hope for?

On a pleasanter note, the sun is shining today and my little Cotswold Valley is beginning to dry out. Daffodils and primroses are out in force and I have five glorious acres of field to wander with ‘my’ dogs. The local pub is closed but all in all, it feels good to be alive now that winter is hopefully behind us.

Well it feels good until I listen to news bulletins!

Are We All Doomed?

No we are not, no matter how many forecasts of doom are being thrown at us. As I am still house sitting in the Cotswolds, it is incumbent on me to buy my own groceries. This morning I took a ride through the lanes and visited the huge Tesco store in Cirencester. It was an education into the ridiculous venality of human beings in the twenty-first century. Yes, I know the weekend is coming up and everyone has been advised to stay at home, but the store was packed with shoppers despite the early hour and out of interest, I trailed behind one young woman who was loading up a large trolley.

Every time she passed a shelf containing tins, she swept the majority of them into her trolley. It didn’t seem to matter what they contained – meat, fish, fruit or vegetables. Yes, she could have been feeding a very, very large family or she could have been shopping for a dozen or so elderly neighbours, but the determined look on her face made me doubtful that she was doing anything but stocking up at the expense of others to prepare for a lengthy siege.

Other people were also filling trollies with frantic haste and I think I was probably the only person in the store who was carrying just a basket. In the midst of this shopping madness, I can only wonder what it is that I’m missing because I simply don’t understand it, I’m afraid.

Like most people I followed with interest what happened recently when a cruise liner docked off the coast of California. Let’s face it, these liners cram thousands of people in together and provide the perfect environment for the dreaded virus to have its deadly way. I fully expected to see hundreds of body-bags being removed for careful disposal, a long way away from crowds of terrified onlookers. But not a bit of it; as far as I know, while many passengers were infected, only two people – both over eighty – died. If this is what happens on a cruise-ship I reckon most of us have a pretty god chance of surviving.

Normal statistics should place this hysteria in perspective, but it looks as though few people are paying any attention. The University of Hamburg reports that worldwide, in the first two months of this year, there were two thousand, three hundred and sixty deaths from the Coronabug and sixty-nine thousand, six hundred and two from the common cold. The Centre for Disease Control reports that twenty-two thousand Americans have died from seasonal flu, which kills between three hundred thousand and six hundred and fifty thousand people around the world every year.

From what I have read over the past weeks the coronabug is relatively easy to treat and the risks of death are very low unless a person has ‘underlying health issues.’  So am I irresponsible in not panicking about the bug? Am I totally insensitive and putting my head in the sand over this veritable apocalypse that is enveloping the world? Perhaps I am but I don’t trust politicians and don’t really accept many of the gloomy pronouncements we hear from the powerful, unelected bureaucrats who run money making quangos like the World Health Organisation.

Let’s face it, not long ago we were warned by these same people that AIDS was going to wipe out most of the African population and decimate the heterosexual community of the world; then there was Mad Cow disease, Zika, Ebola and SARS which had everyone racing for facemasks. We received apocalyptic warnings about all Now we have Covid-19 or whatever they want to call it, with similarly dubious credentials when it comes to its ability to spread and its lethality. Somehow this one has received far more publicity and caused far more panic than the others which have preceded it. However, the crass stupidity of the masses is surely a factor. When Corona beer takes a dramatic drop in sales because people believe it carries the virus, then you just know there are a lot of idiots out there, who believe anything, no matter how preposterous. This hysterical idiocy is manna from heaven to the media who love to preach gloom and doom no matter what.

For me the situation was put in context by a letter printed in the Telegraph last week. This came from a retired doctor from Shipton Moyne here in darkest Gloucestershire. Dr Birdwood qualified in 1953 and with apologies to him, I am quoting his letter verbatim.

He wrote, ‘I have been reflecting on how we would have reacted to a coronavirus epidemic in those days. The answer is not at all, for three main reasons. The Covid-19 virus could not have been identified rapidly enough, if at all. Most cases would have been too mild to attract attention in this season of coughs and sneezes and the small proportion of deaths among elderly people with chronic respiratory disease would have remained much as usual for the time of year.

It follows that there would have been no alarm or counter-measures. International trade and travel would have carried on as usual. World stock markets would not have collapsed. And governments would not have needed to get involved.

As it is today, we know too much about the coronavirus for our own good, but almost nothing about treating its victims or preventing its spread. Sometimes a little knowledge really can be a dangerous thing.

I’m not advocating complacency, but I do worry what we’re seeing right now is well-intentioned over-reaction.’

If I do go down with the coronabug, it might well kill me, but I am damned if I am going to work myself into a panic worrying about it. Surely it is time for a bit of general common sense – or is that too much to ask in the twenty-first century?

Age, Politicians and Good Morning Britain

And so it goes on. Coronavirus is gathering strength and making life difficult for all of us, even though it would seem that a few politicians and all the usual gloom and doom merchants are revelling in it. Bunter Johnson continually uses the word war and looks grimly serious for once, even though I am sure most of us would prefer his normal ‘bumbling clot but ruddy good chap’ persona. Perhaps he sees himself as his hero Winston Churchill in a time of crisis.

And time of crisis it would appear to be. My only complaint about the measures being taken – after all, this is an unprecedented situation – is why on earth I should be locked up for the next twelve weeks simply because of my age. Where on earth is the evidence that says being over seventy is more likely to result in death or hospitalisation? So far out of all the deaths we have heard about, the sufferers had one thing in common – health problems. 

 

Surely it is better to lock down everybody of any age with underlying health problems – as well as the very elderly – and leave the rest of us to get on with life? 

The Government wants what it describes as ‘herd immunity’ (whatever that may mean) but under this policy, we will be without any immunity at all when the wretched virus strikes again as the experts tell us it probably will.

Then what? Another three months of isolation for those of us who despite our age are still fit and strong? 

I understand that retired doctors and nurses are being asked to return for the duration of the crisis. Where is the logic in that? With a general retirement age of sixty six, many of them must be over seventy too. Shouldn’t they too be locked away?

I know that whenever any policy is introduced there has to be an arbitrary line somewhere but what is the sense in indiscriminately lumping together those who were in their sixties yesterday with those who will be ninety next week? Many people in their seventies still work so quite apart from the impact on their own finances, how does it help to take them out of the economy?

As for being told how to run my life by the likes of Gavin Williamson, Matt Hancock and Grant Shapps – second rate politicians with all the worldly know how and charisma of peanut salesmen – the only reaction to this gang of Dad’s Army characters must be one of incredulity. What do they know about anything damnit?!

I am more inclined to listen to the apparently calm Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, who says the people who should ‘minimise social contact’ are over seventy, pregnant women and those eligible for a flu vaccination because of other health issues.

Minimise social contact by all means. That is common sense, but loneliness also kills off the elderly so why lock us all away.

Besides, there’s no evidence that my generation are more likely to spread this disease than twenty-somethings who eat out more and have a more active social life. Condemning healthy old toppies who have staved off mental and physical degeneration by choosing a fulfilling life, seems unnecessary and cruel. Most of us are well balanced and sensible and quite capable of looking after ourselves. After all, I completed walking over three thousand kilometres of the wild Zambezi Valley (read In Livingstone’s Footsteps) just three months before my seventieth birthday. Had this edict come out then, I think I would have marched on Downing Street myself and challenged the incumbent of Number Ten – I think it was Crafty Cameron then – to match my physical prowess.

And now the new Chancellor Rishi Sunak is spending money like water on his ‘war effort’ only days after promising the earth in his budget speech. Where will this money come from, I wonder?

I have never been complimentary about Theresa Maybe but I did admire her for sounding a warning note about the budget splurge last week.

 Not just because what she was saying made sense. It was more that after being Prime Minister, she did her duty and returned to the backbenches to serve her constituents and the public after being in high office. 

Unlike David Cameron and George Osborne, who thought something so mundane was beneath them – and swanned off to make millions writing books and editing newspapers instead.

Unfortunately Mother Maybe is the exception rather than the rule in this regard. The rest of them are too busy feeding off the public purse. 

I turned on the idiot box on Monday morning because I hadn’t watched the news over the weekend. Quite by chance, it was on the ITV channel and I found myself watching Good Morning Britain, hosted by Piers Morgan.

The entire set up appalled me. Contributors – of course the programme was all about the coronabug – shouted over each other and Morgan shouted over them all. Appalled but strangely fascinated by the argumentative chaos, I watched again on Tuesday and it was if possible, even worse. Although Morgan’s co presenter from the Monday edition is apparently in quarantine, she was replaced by an even ruder and noisier harridan while Morgan himself pontificated as though he was George Washington.

I have read and sometimes agreed with this man’s somewhat controversial views in various media outlets but what a horrible piece of work he is in the flesh – at least on television. He was rude, bumptious and appallingly egotistical. I don’t know how many people watch this chaotic daily programme but if it is a sizeable portion of the population then it is no wonder Britain is in a mess. Needless to say the television in my adopted mansion will remain firmly off in the mornings – and probably the evenings as well – from now on. A shame really as the screen is five times as large as the one we have at home.

Corona Panic, Injustice and a Thick Biscuit

Well I am back in Gloucestershire, house sitting one of ‘my’ mansions for a couple of weeks and marvelling at the inanities of the modern world.

Take coronavirus for example. I suppose I am having my own quarantine at the moment, but isolated though I am, I take three dogs for a long walk along the roads every morning. I go early so seldom meet anyone, but I don’t suppose that is one hundred percent certain to protect me from this bug.

It would seem that as I am well over seventy, I am more likely than most to turn my toes up should I get the bug, but should I panic? I don’t really think so but I watch the media and read the newspapers and it seems that I am in a minority. People seem to be running around like headless chickens, even to the extent of ripping hand sanitiser dispensers from hospital walls. Why can’t they use soap I wonder? Britons have always been proud of their stoicism and I hear a great deal about the ‘blitz spirit’ but see little signs of this.

The problem is that nobody really knows what the coronabug is or how best to avoid it. Bunter J’s government are doing their best to make plans to combat the virus, but they seem to be as confused as everyone else. They tell us that their plans are based on scientific advice from the health ‘experts’ and we must accept that. The politicians are not clinicians and can only follow advice and that applies to us all.

Yet the government are being castigated by the ‘celebrity experts’ such as that bumptious clown Piers Morgan who is ranting at me as I write. According to Morgan, we are all in desperate danger and the government – because they won’t come on to his programme – are deliberately endangering us all. I know it is Morgan’s job to be contentious but he is stoking up ever more panic among the great unwashed out there.

It is surely time that everyone calmed down and did what they could to stay healthy and avoid infecting anyone else. Where is the British stiff upper lip for Pete’s sake?

In the meantime, the world keeps spinning with all its attendant madness. For instance, a former British spy who murdered a child has been awarded sixty thousand pounds by blaming his horrific crime on having contracted post traumatic stress disorder caused by working for the intelligence services. The man who cannot be named for security reasons alleges that MI5 and SIS chief allowed him to carry out dangerous missions in Egypt and Afghanistan despite knowing he was suffering from PTSD.

Believed to be in his forties this man claims to have infiltrated al Qaeda and to have been tortured as he shared company with Taliban insurgents.

His career ended in disgrace when he was convicted of murdering the child and in 2015 he launched a legal bid to sue the Home Office for compensation. The child killer won twenty thousand pounds for his alleged PTSD and was also awarded forty thousand pounds which he argued was money, owed to him by the government.

Surely this is ruddy outrageous? The idea of a child killer receiving this sort of compensation for a ‘disease’ that cannot be reliably diagnosed is abhorrent to me. No matter what service you give to the government or what effects are suffered, there can be no excuse for a grown man killing a child.

I have an Instagram account on which I occasionally post photographs of the Moor but I don’t follow the magical world of SussexRoyal which is apparently a little like Disneyland with less gritty realism.

This of course is the Instagram site of the Royal Biscuit – should that be prefaced with former perhaps? – and is their main conduit for communicating good deeds – usually their own – to the world.

These days they are accompanied by their own film crew and photographers so only the most polished and flattering images are sent out to their fans. In SussexRoyal-Land Harry’s bald patch is as elusive as the ruddy unicorn — it is simply never seen!

Meanwhile, every little film clip finds adoring crowds hanging on Meghan’s every word and laughing uproariously at her jokes. This really is Hollywood at its best.

This Instagram account is followed by 11.3 million people, who surely must be wondering if anything bad ever happens in this funny little Never Never land. 

There is no mention of hoax phone calls, royal rifts, sister-in-law Kate’s thunderous face at Westminster Abbey, private jet travel or secret lives of luxury. In this land of make believe, the Sussexes are forces for inclusivity and change, just like they told the fake Greta Thunberg. What absolute claptrap!

Talking about the worthy Greta and that phone call, why on earth did the Biscuit give the Russian pranksters his email address without being suspicious when they talked about the island of Chunga Changa? ‘I know a man in the North Pole’ was one of his responses. Most of us do Harry – he visits us every December.

This prince or possibly ex prince obviously sees himself as a misunderstood maverick but really, he is thick as two short planks.

Political Correctness and Running the Country

According to a statement issued by a hundred health professionals and led by King’s College, London, we should stop calling people fat or lazy because it does not help combat obesity. Oh, for pete’s sake! What do we call them? Trying to pretend someone is not fat is hardly likely to help them.

Ultimately we are all responsible for our own actions and that applies to obesity as much as to alcoholism, gambling, smoking and drug addiction. Save in some rare medical conditions and in some people with mental health problems, the causes of serious obesity are simple – gluttony and idleness. 

The fat eat too much and exercise too little. That is surely pretty obvious to anyone apart from the political correctness brigade. Fat is fat; thin is thin and trying to disguise either condition with fancy expressions just to be politically correct doesn’t help anyone at all.

It merely justifies excuses and in any case, how can we possibly take these supposedly well-qualified idiots seriously? As far as I can see, woke ‘experts’ are like spoiled five year olds who keep screaming until mommy buys them a sweetie. Then when the sweetie is finished, they start screaming again and stamp their petulant little feet until we all give up in disgust and accept what they say as the gospel truth they tell us it is.

I don’t think I know anyone who is genuinely fat, but if I did, I am not sure how I could describe them apart from being fat.

This crazy modern world is very difficult to follow at times.

As coronapanic envelops the country, it turns out that a health minister, Nadine Dorries has developed the disease. This makes parliament itself a potentially hazardous place so it will be interesting to see how many MPs appear to hear the new chancellor’s budget speech this afternoon. Budget presentations usually attract a very full house with parliamentarians packed in like overfed sardines.

Will they be sensible today and listen to their own government advice about staying away from crowds or will they be too interested in making headlines by praising or criticising what measures Chancellor Sunak proposes for the economic future?

It will be interesting to see but really, every single one of our politicians and their staff should now be put into quarantine for two weeks. Let the clowns run the country. In most cases, they already do so it won’t make much difference.

Drivers, Coronabug and a Grand Old Man

Let me start with the grand old man. One of the talks I give is entitled Never Too Old for Adventure and a small piece in one of the newspapers today rather reinforced this premise. Ninety-five year old Keith Stephens, who uses a walking frame, made a fifteen thousand foot sky dive with his carer Angelica Lundekesi. Angela later revealed that the pensioner was not at all scared – unlike her. Keith, who lives at Silvermere Care Home in Cobham, Surrey, raised £1,300 for cancer charity Macmillan for his feat at Old Sarum Airfield in Salisbury. Afterwards he said: “I thought it was super. It’s a good experience.” 

Keith was able to make the jump after convincing care staff that he was fit enough for the challenge. He also had to pass a medical to jump from that height – which is the highest altitude permitted in the UK. 

Carer Angela said: “He’s a bit of a daredevil and quite adventurous. Nothing fazes him at all.” 

Good for him. There is hope for us all with people like Keith about.

Unfortunately though, that bit of cheerful news was buried under the flood of negative articles about the coronavirus. There seems to be a sense of gathering panic among the people of Britain and I am sure this is fuelled by the media, who really do not want us to feel at all cheerful.

Yet the World Health Organisation – another august and overpaid body who don’t seem to achieve very much -have issued a statement saying that it is important we all keep a sense of perspective.

Since the virus arrived on the scene last December, around three thousand five hundred people have died from its effects, most of them in Wuhan where it originated. On its very worst day in early February, one hundred and eight deaths were recorded.

Tragic yes, but fifty thousand people die around the world every day from heart disease, twenty six thousand from cancer and three thousand or so from malaria. That is not to mention road accidents, murders and various other assorted causes of death. Even snake bites account for over a hundred and thirty deaths a day.

Surely it is time for the authorities – and the media of course – to calm down?

Yet even the coronabug seems to be a symptom of how modern society is getting its values and aims mixed up. I mentioned road accidents, which as a former copper I have always looked on as the most needless form of death. British laws on driving are relatively strict but they are being circumvented by clever lawyers intent on earning easy money at the expense of careful road users.

The law states that if a driver accumulates twelve penalty points on his or her licence, he or she is automatically banned from driving for at least a year. That is as it should be, particularly as most penalty points are awarded for exceeding speed limits. Yet now we learn that drivers with dozens of penalty points are remaining on the road due to a legal loophole.

It seems that magistrates can use their discretion to allow an offender to stay on the road if they believe it would cause ‘exceptional hardship’ to revoke their licence. What a load of fatswallop! The law is the law damnit and if you break it, you accept the consequences.

Yet one man with sixty-six points on his licence has avoided a ban, as have a further two men with sixty points. The next-worst offenders – all of them women – have kept their licences despite having between forty eight and fifty nine points each.

This ridiculous loophole in the law of the land has helped ten thousand five hundred and eighty nine motorists to stay on the roads when they should by rights have been banned. 

Road safety charity Brake has called for an urgent review of the ‘exceptional hardship’ nonsense. A spokesman said: ‘If drivers who rack up twelve points aren’t banned, it makes a mockery of the system.’ Of course it does.

There is no strict definition for exceptional hardship, which is judged on a case-by-case basis, but it could cover caring for a sick relative who relies on someone to drive them around. I am sorry but there are always taxis to be had and if you can afford to run a car, you can afford to take a taxi when it is needed.

John Bache, of the Magistrates’ Association, said: ‘The process for establishing exceptional hardship is robust and magistrates scrutinise each case very carefully.’

Rubbish Sir! I have personally witnessed many a magistrate swayed by impassioned appeals from shyster lawyers and have absolutely no faith in amateur judges, no matter how well intentioned they may be.

Those ten and a half thousand drivers who should have been banned are a danger to the rest of us. It is surely time for the government to be firm on upholding the law. So far I have been complimentary toward Priti Patel as Home Secretary but she needs to address this particular problem as a matter of urgency. If I am written off by a driver who should not have been on the road, I will come back and haunt her – as well as Bunter Johnson!

Sunday Miscellany

Inspired by Screeching Greta, nearly three-quarters of eight to sixteen year olds in this country are worried about the environment, with some parents even getting professional counselling for their kids’ ‘climate anxiety.’

Serves them right I’m afraid. They are so busy trying to convince the rest of us that the end of the world is night that they are frightening themselves to death. The snowflake generation is melting faster than the polar ice caps and while these eco warriors as they grandly entitle themselves are allowed to get away with virtually anything in the name of climate change, the situation is only going to get worse.

MPs have been awarded a three point one per cent pay rise, taking their salary to £82,000 and that does not include their allowances for housing, gold-plated final-salary pensions and expenses.

The armed forces, teachers, prison staff and police officers all got less than that, without the perks. The pains of a decade of austerity seem not to have been visited on our MPs. Perhaps they should spare a thought or two for their struggling constituents before digging their sticky little fingers in to the public purse yet again.

Bunter Johnson – bless him – explains his absence from the flood disaster zones, saying he was told by emergency services they would have to down tools, distracting them from their job of helping people.

Yes I can understand that, but he should remember that the Queen was given – and initially heeded – that advice after Aberfan, later recalling it was the greatest regret of her life. 

Think about it Bunter.

It occurs to me that if we had not discovered that the coronavirus existed and so had not descended into a floundering panic about it, it would be doing far less damage than it is.

Yes, some people would have fallen ill and died, but they always have and always will. This is not the Black Death damnit and we might be better off if we stopped behaving as if it was. 

The most dangerous and frightening political leader in our part of the world is Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan. Not only does he ceaselessly stir the pot of war in Syria, making it almost impossible to end that conflict but he is now making criminally cynical use of migrants. 

To get his way in Syria, he deliberately encourages these poor people to head for the Greek frontier in a blatant, almost medieval piece of blackmail. There they are routinely arrested, beaten robbed and turned back but Erdogan doesn’t care.

In his own country he has destroyed formerly free media and independent courts, and flung scores of journalists into prison. Surely he should be condemned in the loudest possible tones by the British government?

But no, this dictatorial clown is Britain’s Nato ally so Bunter and Co dare not undermine him. Instead they whitter on and on about Vladimir Putin instead. 

But I did read a lovely quote from Vlad the Hulk this week. He said, ‘To forgive a terrorist is up to God, but to send them to God for forgiveness is up to me.’

We could do with a few more strong leaders in the world I fancy – even if that does mean not bothering too much about ‘human rights.’

Blinkered Celebrities

Oh God, I have received yet another petition urging me to support a total ban on trophy hunting. I’m afraid I am not going to sign it, despite being informed that it is supported by a number of ‘prominent personalities.’

‘Why would anyone want to destroy something so beautiful, then stuff its poor lifeless body to keep as some kind of macabre trophy?’ This came from Bunter Johnson’s popsy, Carrie Symonds not long ago. She went on, ‘A trophy is meant to be a prize, something you’re awarded if you’ve achieved something of merit that requires great skill and talent, Trophy hunting is not that – it is the opposite of that. It is cruel, it is sick, it is cowardly and I will never, ever understand the motivation to do it.’

Actually Ma’am, ethical hunting requires a great deal of skill and talent as well as a huge amount of stamina! Ms Symonds is not alone I’m afraid. Lately, it feels as though there isn’t a TV celebrity who doesn’t feel outraged about shooting big game. Since its formation just over a year ago, the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting has amassed a list of supporters that reads like the guest list for a BBC Christmas party. Lorraine Kelly, Carol Vorderman, Nicky Campbell, Michael Palin and Ed Sheeran have all pledged their support. To be fair to Sheeran, he has actually been to Africa. He made a film in Liberia which one African commentator deemed to be ‘the most offensive and stereotypical fundraising video of the year.’

The trouble with all this righteous rage is that big game hunting, or trophy hunting is far from a simple story. Hunting is an industry that for instance brings each of Namibia’s eighty-two community-owned game conservancies an average income of well over five million pounds every year. And according to government figures, the sector has created fifteen thousand jobs including trackers and skilled taxidermists. Even more interesting for the vociferously anti- hunting ‘celebrities,’ Namibia is a country where wildlife is booming, with the rhino population growing six per cent a year and elephant numbers doubling since 1995.

Earlier this year, just over the border, President Masisi of Botswana came in for a personal attack from Joanna Lumley who insisted that he keep in place the ban on hunting elephants. For a bit of context, Botswana has a stable population of a hundred and thirty thousand elephants. In other words, they are thriving at the moment. It is because of this burgeoning population that the decision was made to allow a number of elephants to be shot. This wasn’t just to bring in cash either – it followed a consultation that found rural livelihoods were being destroyed by elephants trampling over farmland and coming into conflict with people. A team had been set up to usher them away, but inevitably the damage is done before they arrive. A number of villagers have died while trying to protect their crops.

Why should Lumley take the lives of elephants over people? And isn’t this white privilege at its worst? In some parts of Botswana almost fifty per cent of people live below the poverty line, so it is easy to understand why, to ordinary citizens, Lumley lobbying the President to keep a hunting ban in place was classic western arrogance.

However much you love animals, it’s really worth trying to look at African conservation issues from an African point of view. Last year, Prince William came in for some stick after official footage was released showing him visiting conservation projects in Tanzania and protesting against poaching. The video featured just one black person, whose contribution was an adoring appraisal of William’s leadership skills. Mordecai Ogada, an ecologist who specialises in community-based conservation, suggested the film conveyed a damaging narrative: ‘The message that goes out is that African wildlife is in danger, and the source of the danger is black people.’

Dr Ogada has a point. The source of the problem lies in the Far East and not with black people at all. And isn’t it a little rich of Prince William and his pals to decide to save African wildlife from poachers when British high society in the last century, spent decades profiting from pillaging African ivory? Add to that, the fact that this noble twit thinks nothing of hunting bears and other European wild animals while gunning down helpless game birds in the name of sport and it all seems somewhat hypocritical.

Another outspoken and ignorant numpty, Ricky Gervais suggested on a 2015 radio programme that rather than hunt animals, why don’t we say, ‘for ten thousand dollars you can hunt a poacher?’ Great idea Ricky: kill Africans for trying to protect themselves and benefit from their own wildlife. Yet I am sure he does not regard himself as in any way racist.

The irony of a trophy hunting ban – one that’s lost on its celebrity followers – is that the best way of preventing poaching is to sanction controlled hunting. I tried to explain this recently in my novel, Ivory Challenge, but not everyone seems to agree with me. Let’s go back to Namibia – the mantra there when it comes to big game is that ‘if it pays it stays.’ In other words, local communities look after wildlife because it is legal to sustainably monetise it. In Kenya and a few other countries, hunting is illegal and poaching is rife. There is bleak logic in the fact that if poor and hungry people can’t charge tourists to cull certain animals, they will simply slaughter them and make money from selling their body parts.

In fact, only a few hours ago, I watched a BBC programme about the trade in tiger carcasses that is carried out in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and controlled by China. It is a brutal business and mirrored in South Africa by a similar trade in lion bones. World governments and even CITES (the United Nations Convention into Investigating Trade in Endangered Species) are all too scared to stand up to the Chinese and wildlife trafficking – not only feral cat bones, but ivory, rhino horn, abalone and pangolin scales – is escalating to an alarming degree.

Come on, Ms Symons and Ms Lumley, as well as all you other mewling ‘celebrities,’ protest with the Chinese representatives and forget about the people who bring in a great deal of money to impoverished countries for the privilege of taking home trophies of their hunt.

Remember Cecil the lion – of course you do. How can anyone ever forget him. This animal was legally shot by a Minnesota dentist and the ensuing public outcry from people who did not know Africa at all virtually forced the dentist out of business.

But Cecil was a lucky cat. Dr Palmer’s crossbow bolt saved him from a far worse fate. Let me just tell you briefly how lions live and usually die. Male lions in particular become old very quickly. They enjoy a brief period – usually around two years – as pride leaders with all the attendant privileges. This is when they are in their prime between five and eight years old.

But their halcyon days quickly come to an end. Wearied with advancing age and continuous fighting for their kingship, they are driven out by younger males, sometimes after a brutal battle which leaves the exile with torn muscles, crushed bones or festering sores that will not heal. Alone and without the hunting prowess of female lions to help him feed, the big fellow rapidly loses condition and is soon reduced to scavenging or eating lizards and beetles in attempts to survive.

Sometimes they resort to hunting porcupines and end up with quills through their paws and faces which make it impossible for them to eat at all. Their end is slow and terrible.

One way or another, the king of beasts slowly becomes a barely walking skeleton. In the end he just staggers from shady spot to shady spot and is probably lucky if hyenas tear him apart while he still lives. If that does not happen, he will grow weaker until he is unable to get up at all. Then it is a matter of waiting for the vultures and the ants or whatever finds him and eats him slowly. Dehydration and shock will take the last of life from the luckier ones.

I have lived much of my life among lions and although I do not regard myself as an expert, I give talks on how they live. I watch the horror in the faces of my audiences when I explain the true facts and show them photographs to back up what I say. It is not what they have seen when they watch lion documentaries or animated children’s movies. Nor is it what they hear from the celebrity brigade in their crusades to stop hunting.

Reality is very different to fantasy I’m afraid and the problems are not as simple as those who have only seen lions on television imagine. For one thing, human beings have broken the ecosystems that once enabled Nature to regulate itself. Not even the largest wildlife parks can sustain the giant-scale cycles and migration patterns which make self-regulation possible.

Animals at the top of the food chain multiply until there are so many that their numbers simply have to be reduced. Mankind has made it impossible for nature to do this. In so doing, we have inherited a huge responsibility. If we can’t create game parks as big as entire countries, we will have to do the necessary – that means reduce the numbers in a way that makes economic sense. You don’t do that because it is pleasant. You do that because it is necessary.

Despite what the emotional ‘celebrities’ and do gooders may think, Cecil was a lucky lion. He was old but still mobile and if there had been no hunter to end his life, he would have endured a huge amount of suffering.,

Petitions to ban hunting or ‘celebrity rants’ from the likes of Symonds, Lumley and Gervase will achieve nothing to help lions in the wild, Nor will dropping pennies into collection boxes to save the Cecils of this world.

The hunters, whether you like them or not are the ones dropping real dollars and writing genuine cheques that do not only save Cecils but all the warthogs, wildebeests and little creatures that the sentimental warriors customarily ignore.

A vote against hunting is a vote for destroying sustainable conservation of wildlife. The real world is bigger and far more violent than cat’s sandbox. It is up to us to try and preserve it and we cannot do that by banning hunting..