Archive for May, 2010

Here’s to the next

The third Annual St Marti d’ Empuries wine fair, Arrels del Vi, has come and gone. Dom, my stepson, and his crew of friendly, and family, volunteers, put on the best show yet, and provided an excellent showcase for Emporda’s best. The event drew over 1,000 visitors to the tiny village, the restaurateurs loved it, and even the mayor was impressed. (Thanks Sr. Alcalde, for the help that the ajuntamente gave to the event.)  Oh yes, and the lovely and serene Frida played a vital part, by not going into labour halfway through! I made it into the fourth session without tasting, but finally gave in and assessed my first alcohol in four months. (I spat most of it, folks, honest.) On the back of that I bought a couple of bottles from Jonathan and Rachel, two very nice people. He’s English,  and she’s New Zealand, translated from windy Wellington to windy Catalunya ; their winery is in France, but less than an hour from us, and their products are superb. Another star of the show was this one. They do a white that’s 100% Grenache, and bloody terrific.
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Alison Kanuritch

Thanks for that feedback. It’s useful to know that the Kindle actually does what it says on the tin. Now, about your confusion: I suggest that you go back to the end of Coffin for Two and read the relevant passage very carefully. You won’t find a name there, and for one very good reason. When I wrote that, not even I knew the direction that  he was going to take. One ting you have to understand about Oz; he leda very complicated life. Or, is he still leading it?

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Joe Clark

Given your professional situation, you might be writing books, rather than reading them. You don’t tell me much about your story, but I’ll bet it’s a fascinating one. I hope your life gets quieter soon.

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Michele Brown

I never post those, unless they’re on a book. That might seem a little Scottish, but there are good reasons for it.

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Yes, and very soon. A Rush of Blood will be released on June 10, as my website will tell you. Signed copies can be pre-ordered through

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Sally Clifford

Sorry to learn about your mum. I lost mine a few years ago; there’s no way of preparing for it. But maybe you could think of it this way; from now on, you’ll be reading for two. London? Yes, that is a possibility, within the next month. As soon as I have something concrete, I’ll post it on site, under events.

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Norah Rothwell

The familiarity with Melbourne comes from my having been a guest at that Festival a couple of years ago. I’d love to go back, and to do Brisbane, but a few things have to happen for that dream to come true. It’d be nice, though.

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Margaret Rose

Nice name. May I use it for a character? As for your comment, I’m not even close to understanding it, so I can’t respond.

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Sue Stewart

No can do, I’m afraid. It would be a lot easier for you to change your birthday.

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Steve Paton

I don’t know, Steve, but I’ll make a promise: if it isn’t on my terms, never.

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Where are we now?

Things you remember, things you’ll never forget. When Kennedy was shot, when Elvis died, when Thatcher resigned; the time and the place that I heard of each one of those era-ending events is burned on my memory. Now I have another. On Tuesday evening, I was on a Ryanair plane at Edinburgh Airport, strapped in my seat, waiting for the remaining passengers to board. With the door still open, I checked my Blackberry (yes, I’m afraid I have one) and learned courtesy of the BBC, that Gordon Brown had resigned and advised the Queen to send for David Cameron.

Readers of my blog, and before that my journal, will know that I have been a vigorous opponent of the former PM throughout his term of office. I never believed that he was the right man for the job, and when it came to the test more than 70% of the voting electorate agreed with me. Well, he’s history now. I hope very much that he will enjoy his future, as a father, and in whatever other roles he’s asked, or chooses, to fill. My wife reckons he should teach politics. I’m not so sure about that, given that there was a  lot he neglected to learn himself. Who knows? Maybe, now that he has the time, he’ll pay more attention to what’s on his own doorstep and turn his attention to his homeland. He’s a figure of vast  experience of high office, and even I would acknowledge that he’s bring gravitas to the debating chamber in the Holyrood parliament, if he chose to leave Westminster behind him. God knows, if his party needs him anywhere it’s in Scotland. For all that our anti-Tory hysteria maintained Labour’s vote share last week, it has its troubles. Its Scottish parliamentary leadership is light-weight, and in its biggest power base, Glasgow it’s enmeshed in a scandal so bizarre that it ‘s best left satire-free.

But back to that plane. When it took off, I knew that Brown was out and Dave was in, but I didn’t know about the double act. After all Clegg’s shenanigans and shape-shifting in the days after the election I assumed that we’d have a minority Tory government. But no, true to their lack of principle to the last, the Lib Dems, did it; they sold out. The price?  A disproportionate number of ministerial cars. Not the outcome I’d expected or wanted but . . .

It’s what we’ve got, and given the job that needs to be done in the deeply Disunited Kingdom, it behoves us all, in my opinion, to cross our fingers, trust in the sincerity of all parties, and hope that the medication they prescribe will cure the national ills.

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The Captain walks the plank

I’ve just heard. Captain Barbossa is leaving the sinking ship, in an attempt to keep it afloat.

What will happen next? The Lib Dems’ negotiations with the Tories will break down. They will cross the street and sell themselves to the highest bidder, making a nonsense of Clegg’s speech on Friday about the party with the most seats being given the chance to form a government. Brown will go in three months or so and once again we will have a Prime Minister chosen by his own party, but not by the electorate.

I hope I’m wrong and that Clegg will prove honourable, but I am not holding my breath, because that’s how they are: entirely untrustworthy. If I am right, I make one further prediction. As a result of this stitch-up, this country will be royally f*cked.

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Mike Berliner

Yes, I have been told, but thanks anyway.

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Show how much I know about politics on my own doorstep. My prediction of a narrow Lib Dem gain from Labour turned into an increased majority for  the Bolsheviks. However, my hunch was pretty much spot on nationally, with the Tories coming out on top but without an increased majority.

Thirty-six hours later, we Brits are no nearer knowing who’s going to lead us, and all sorts of horse-trading is going on behind closed doors. However, nobody I’ve spoken to has any real belief that Barbossa can carry on in Number 10.  All the talk is of the Lib Dems, with less than a quarter of the popular vote, and fewer than 9% of the seats in the House of Commons determining who will lead us, and blackmailing the potential Prime Minister into adopting their policies, despite the fact that they were even more resoundingly rejected than were Labour’s. I don’t know whether Clegg is on an ego trip, whether he has fallen for all this kingmaker stuff, or whether he’s actually sincere: nor do I care all that much.

It has been said that our electoral system has failed. To me that is bollocks, absolute bollocks. If ever our system has worked it is now. It has shown us what the alternative would be like, a system that would almost certainly eliminate the possibility of an outright majority for any party, and condemn us to this sort of haggling every time, and to the cautious mediocrity of the centre left. First past the post has worked for a few hundred years now. It’s given us the strongest and most stable parliament in Europe. I cannot see for the life of me why it should be changed simply to appease a small minority who are frustrated because they fell out of fashion ninety years ago, and have never caught the public imagination since then. Did Lloyd George, the last great Liberal, ever espouse proportional representation? Hell no; he described it as ‘a device for defeating democracy’.

So please, let’s stop taking Nick Clegg seriously. Of the three main UK party leaders, he’s the one who’s taken the biggest stuffing.

Instead, let’s look at other, unconsidered possibilities. Does Britain need decisive action by a major political figure? Yes. Who might that be? Step forward Captain Barbossa, skipper of the Black Pearl. Step forward Gordon Brown. For maybe there is a way for the rejected leader to rise from the wreckage. What if Brown ignored Clegg and his minority faction? What if he stood up and said, ‘Yes, the people have spoken, and we will listen. We will not oppose a Conservative Queen’s Speech, we will work with them to agree a budget, and we will sit seek to extend a constructive hand from  the Opposition Benches to which we have been sent .’

If he did that, he would leave Downing Street with dignity. If he gave a minority Tory Government its head,  he would put his party on the right side of the moral argument, and even if he then withdrew quietly as its leader, he would give it the possibility of winning the next election in a couple of years time, whereas, as things stand Cameron can go to the country in October and walk it.

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I’ve been trying very hard for the last four weeks to avoid blogging about the election, and all in all, I reckon I’ve done fairly well. But when I read this morning that the execrable Ed Balls and his colleague Peter Hain, another guy I’ve never been able to admire, or even like, have been urging Labour voters to vote Lib Dem in certain seats, I could restrain myself no longer. If anyone needed proof that the Black Pearl is sinking they need only cast an eye upon those two rats, as they head for the lifeboats.

That said, I have been facing up to the issue of tactical voting over the last couple of days, as I contemplate the postal ballot paper on my desk. My constituency, East Lothian is in an interesting state. In 2005 the Labour majority fell from a flattering 10,000+ to under 8,000, with the Lib Dems in second place. But, two years later in the council election, the SNP ran the Bolsheviks very close in the popular vote and emerged with the same number of seats. Since then, East Lothian CLP has had a small civil war, which resulted in the sitting MP being deselected at the last minute, and replaced by a relative unknown. So, I’ve been asking myself, what’s going to happen this time? First, I’m certain that the Labour vote will slide further; the days are gone when my Granny’s budgie would be elected if it wore a red rosette. After that my gut feeling is that the debates must have an effect, and that Alex Salmond’s  complaints over his exclusion will be shown to have been justified. I expect the Lib Dems  to benefit from Labour defections because of the Clegg effect, and that this will slew the outcome.

So I found myself pondering; since my main hope from this election is that Captain Barbossa will walk the plank, should I, in a once in a lifetime gesture, add my vote to the bandwagon?

I considered it seriously, I admit; for about fifteen minutes. Thing is, since the 1980s I have detested the Lib Dems, for the Janus-like flexibility of their platform, and for their willingness to spout utter falsehoods. Take for example, Clegg’s claim this week that the election is ‘a two-horse race’. Come on, son, if anything is clear, it is that there are now three runners in UK terms (as there are in East Lothian, since the Tories have no chance here. Labour has not gone away; it’s plain daft for Clegg to assert that. Indeed it is still slightly ahead of his party in most polls). Clearly, the Lib  Dems haven’t changed in 25 years; they’re still liars and dissemblers. Therefore, the conclusion of my personal debate was this: if the price of Barbossa’s demise is my setting my principles aside and voting for a crowd I loathe, it’s one I’m not prepared to pay. I’d sooner see Labour survive than do that.

So, my vote is cast, and sealed in the envelope, ready to be handed in, since I’ll be here on the day. It’s gone to the SNP, even though my bet would be on a Lib Dem win in East Lothian with a majority of around 1,000. Yes, I expect my party to lose, but I’ll feel good about myself even if it does . . . and that is what democracy is really about, Messrs Balls and Hain.

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Louise McKenna

Sorry about those symptoms. Be assured that I’m working on the cure, as hard as I can.

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Katie Cook

Many thanks for your very moving remarks on our late friend Carlos. I’ve passed them on to Kathleen, Alex and John, and I know that I can thank you also on their behalf.

Interesting; I had much the same conversation with Carlos as your dad did. He loved his home base, but it didn’t stop him from becoming a great traveller in later life, or from appreciating the chosen surroundings of others. He and Kathy came to East Lothian once. I took him for a quick tour of the county. When it was done, he looked at me and said, ‘My Got, why do you come to Spain when you live here?’

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David Craddock

I have several questions about Barbossa and Mrs Duffy. They are:

1) why was he wearing a Sky mike in the first place?

2) why did the person who fitted in on him let him go off wearing not just the mike, but the transmitter that goes with it?

3) why did none of his staff spot this and at least make sure that he switched the transmitter off?

4) how did the signal get out of an armour-plated Jag?

5) how and where was it picked up?

6) why was Sky, a news organisation that’s normally as jealous of its exclusives as any other, so quick to share this one with their rivals that the tapes were with Jeremy Vine within the hour?

7) was it always the plan to put a camera in the production box of a radio studio, or was that done to stitch Barbossa up even tighter?

The PM did everything wrong after that. The penitent visit to Mrs Duffy’s house was right up there with Henry II being flogged by the monks after the murder of Beckett. And when, oh when, is the great media guru Mandelson going to sit him down and give him the advice he needs? ‘Do not smile, Gordon, when you’re on camera. At best you look insecure, at worst you look as if you’re lying.’

Okay, that’s my rant, now your question. Short answer, I don’t know, but hardbacks are available via a link from my website, and signed at that.

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