Uber thwarted and a pub is saved…

TWO surprise decisions in York this week. First up, the taxi firm Uber is refused a licence to continue operating in the city. Then a doomed Victorian pub wins a last-minute reprieve.

In both cases, council committees acted in unexpected ways. Opinions differ on the results, particularly over the pub, as a trawl through the sticky silt of the comments sections reveals.

I felt cheered by the Uber decision, as the ride-hailing service is another of those modern things that is taking over the world. Then again, I’ve never been in an Uber taxi and this opinion is based in part on being a host for Airbnb – another modern thing that is taking over the world.

An Uber driver delivered a guest recently, a lovely young man from India by way of Birmingham. He delivered him to the wrong house as he relied on Google maps, which isn’t a good idea when coming here. That’s the trouble with modern things that take over the world: sometimes they go wrong.

So, never taken an Uber – but I do sometimes use taxis in York. The trips are more expensive than in some cities, but the drivers are usually gruffly pleasant and provide a good service. And know where they are going without relying on Google maps.

Local taxis for local people, to adapt a line from the TV sketch show The League of Gentleman.

In banning Uber, York is following London, which refused to renew the firm’s licence in September. Tuesday’s decision was greeted by applause in the meeting – and in the city, too.

The Carlton Tavern is a large pub set back from one of the routes into York, just beyond the Cold War Bunker and a little before the restored Holgate Windmill. It was due to be demolished to make way for a home for elderly people.

The planning decision that gave the nod to that proposal caused a local outcry. Now Crown Care can no longer buy the pub from Marstons just to knock it down.

Those opposed to the demolition had the backing of Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society, and York’s branch of CAMRA. Louise Ennis, a leading light in the campaign to save the pub, is quoted on the York-Mix website, saying: “It’s amazing! I’m overjoyed that the right thing has been done. Texts are already flooding in because people are delighted with the outcome.”

You can count me among the delighted as knocking down old buildings without good cause is a form of corporate vandalism. That said, I’ve never been inside the Carlton Tavern, and do recognise the hypocrisy in wishing to save something I’ve never supported.

This is where things get sticky. It’s great that this pub has been saved. But what happens now?

An offer has gone into Marstons from Joe Gardner, the man behind Spark York, to turn the building into a restaurant, café and deli, non-for-profit enterprise hub and microbrewery.

This sounds like a fantastic idea to me, but not to the terminal curmudgeons who lurk in the comments section of my old newspaper’s website. Dear me, they do like to moan, whinge, bitch and generally complain about life.

If you don’t know York, the cause of their complaints – apart from a terminal love of complaining – is that Spark:York is behind a community space close to the centre of York, containing cafes, bars and restaurants, and other community spaces.

The opening has been delayed until the spring, so this remains an unpretty work in progress. Spark:York is made up of repurposed shipping containers, a look that hasn’t gone down well with the moaners, as right now it resembles a graveyard for shipping containers.

This is not, by the way, intended as a negative comment. I am not one of the moaners. Spark:York is a great idea, just the sort of community initiative from young people this city needs. But it does also need to get a move on.

Saying you want to take over a pub when your prominent project has stalled isn’t the best timing – but the idea is imaginative and great. If it happens, you can count on a visit from this man on a ledge.

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As Kermit said to Mrs Maybe, it isn’t easy being green…

I SEE that Tory MPs are under orders to be green again. It’s not always a good look for them.

Political parties are tainted by caricature, and for Conservatives the quick-brush summary goes like this: foxhunting, game-bird shooting, badger-baiting, fracking-loving types who think the environment is where they go for the weekend, with a nice pub for a pint or a G&T to relax after a spot of recreational destruction.

Whispers of Tories turning green have been circulating for a while now. The latest rumour finds its way onto the front page of today’s i-newspaper under the headline: “Tories go green to win back voters.”

Conservative MPs are being summoned to Downing Street, according to the paper, and told to focus on the environment to broaden the party’s appeal.

Mrs Maybe has apparently spotted that her promise to repeal the foxhunting bill didn’t go down well, particularly with younger voters, at her “strong-and-stable-I’ll-bash-this-easily” election.

Ah, Theresa, the bad penny has finally dropped. You’ve noticed the general distaste at the thought of dogs ripping foxes apart, while watched by a pack of men whose red faces match their coats.

Now I’ll come clean here. Yes, I have indulged in a spot of cliché-waving. But the thing about clichés is that they are born for a reason. Plenty of the MPs being summoned to Downing Street for a ticking off about the environment will have foxhunting sympathies. And maybe they’ll think the environment is fine so long as it doesn’t harm the balance sheet. Oh, and global warming is jolly serious, but have you seen the snow in the Cotswolds?

David Cameron went green for a while, sticking a mini wind turbine on the roof of one of his houses. Oh, and changing his party’s logo to a nice drawing of a tree. He visited some huskies in the Arctic in 2006 and hugged one for a photo opportunity.

There isn’t space here for an audit of his actual greenness. But as leader of the opposition, and husky fan, he said: “Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the world and we must have a greater sense of urgency about tackling it.” Ten years later, he reportedly told aides to “get rid of all the green crap” on energy bills. I’ll leave you to colour that one in.

Mrs Maybe has also tasked environment secretary Michael Gove with enshrining the principle in UK law, post Brexit, that animals can feel pain and suffering. This is a good and important measure, if it happens.

People being green, politicians thinking green – all of that is for the good. I’m happy to welcome any shade of green the Tories decide to try on. But the trouble, as Kermit the frog could have told them, is that it’s not easy being green.

Parties other than the Greens tend to take a pick-and-mix approach to being green. If the Tories are going green again, will they now turn against fracking – a destructive form of energy extraction hated by all shades of green?

Being green, as much as this environmentally mixed-up this-and-that person can see, is about the whole picture. Everything to do with the environment is connected. To be green you need to use joined-up thinking. Turning a shade greener because you’ve noticed that younger voters don’t like you doesn’t really cut it.

And here is a tragic irony for our times. If other parties wish to be green, how come the actual Greens win so few votes? Green politics often strike me as sensible and the only way ahead. Yet I have voted Green precisely once, and that’s because I was pissed off with Labour for some reason or other.

What would the world be like if we all voted Green? A lot safer and more pleasant, but it’s unlikely ever to happen.

Is social media ‘destroying society’? Hang on… I’ll just check my phone…

Is social media ripping society apart? Former Facebook boss Chamath Palihapitiya, believes so, and his fears are splashed over this morning’s newspapers.

Palihapitiya was vice-president for user growth, whatever that means, but left six years ago.

In a speech last month to Stanford Business School, he said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”

In remarks reported by a tech website called The Verge on Monday, he also said: “This is a global problem… It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”

Newspapers moaning about social media usually have an ulterior motive, as social media threatens their very existence.

There are two examples of this trend today. First, the Daily Mail makes the Facebook story its splash under the headline: “FACEBOOK ‘RIPPING SOCIETY APART’”. The story, or the snatch I read, says that Facebook leaves its users feeling “vacant and empty”. Funnily enough, that’s just how your blogger feels after reading the Daily Mail.

Over at The Sun, Twitter is accused of being a “playground for paedos” because it “allows perverts to share their vile fantasies”. Twitter denies the accusation and says it removes content that promotes child sexual exploitation.

I don’t know the truth of the Twitter row as reported by The Sun, but let’s stick with the idea that social media is changing or harming society.

It’s certainly changing society on the sofa of an evening. Here’s how a typical evening shapes up. The television is on and the two occupants of the larger sofa sit with phones to hand. Their eyes flick between the TV screen and the smaller screen. My wife’s attention is mostly drawn to Facebook; mine to Facebook, Twitter and my three email accounts. I also check headlines on the Guardian and the BBC.

My wife spends more time than me trawling through Facebook in the evening, but this is only because my working life allows me to dip into that box of repetitious delights and distractions, and hers doesn’t.

The days before Facebook – BF – are eons ago now. Back then, I always had a newspaper on my knee on that sofa. That still happens, but it doesn’t get read as fully as before. Eyes that flick between mobile, television screen and newsprint take nothing in at all.

Facebook isn’t the problem so much as Facebook and everything combined with smart-phones. Perhaps I should try removing Facebook and Twitter from my phone, leaving them for the laptop. That way the newspapers I still buy might receive fuller attention.

Social media is part of a massive, barely controlled experiment in how society operates. Pleasure can be had in seeing what your friends have been up to. Sharing is good too, and you stumble across all sorts of things you wouldn’t otherwise see. And it keeps us in touch with our distant daughter during her year in Oz, so that’s good.

Right now, I can’t imagine life without Facebook and Twitter. They give more than they take, but only up to a point:  determining where that points lies is tricky.

Too much time frittered on Facebook is time wasted. Yet there is pleasure – and that dopamine hit – in spotting what’s been liked, and seeing comments good or bad.

Is Palihapitiya right to say that the social media phenomenon he helped to bring about is tearing society apart? It seems to be a thing for the social media barons to wring their hands at what they’ve done. Former Facebook vice-president Sean Parker said last month that the site was made to exploit human ‘vulnerability’.

On that Colehouse family sofa, we are both certainly vulnerable to Facebook, but are we being exploited or just having idle fun?

The thing is, life seems to change more rapidly now ever before, but is there anything we can do about that? We can’t uninvent the internet or put Facebook back in the box.

Modern, connected life is a bottomless pit of dangers and delights held the palm of your hand. Sometimes that seems good and sometimes it seems  alarming. And no one knows where it will end, but we can always have a look on Facebook.

An unseen guest and worries about snow…

THE man I’ve never met is asleep upstairs and I am sitting here worrying about snow.

He arrived yesterday before anyone was home. After a spot of phone messaging, he got the spare key from our neighbour – thanks, A – and let himself in, then shot off to watch the snooker. He returned after we were asleep; now he is asleep, or so I am guessing, and I am awake (sort of).

This sometimes happens with guests who arrive late. If this visitor has a lie-in, we might not meet at all, as I am off to work in an hour or so. Incidentally, the guests still come and go, not talking of Michelangelo. Well, I was going on about old poetry books the other day, and a scrap of TS Eliot just flapped into my mind there.

Last weekend’s visitor was a lovely young man from India, now living in Birmingham. We chatted about food over breakfast. I showed him a favourite recipe for spinach, coconut and lentil dhal.

He read the recipe, nodding approvingly. “That’s a good recipe,” he said. “It’s from southern India and you can tell that because of the coconut.”

Not so much southern India as from a book by the ever-reliable Simon Hopkinson. Other pages remain pristine, but that one has spills and spatters. I guess Simon must have got the recipe from southern India; now we make it on the outer western fringes of York.

Snow is forecast for tomorrow – “Coldest weekend of the year…” says the Daily Express, which keeps a weather eye on the seasons, telling us it will be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Where would we be without such useful advice?

In the old days snow didn’t much bother me. Sometimes I had to push my bike home; sometimes I booted up and walked. Thanks to having to drive now, more notice is taken of snow. First thing Monday, I will be on the road to Horsforth in Leeds. If the forecast is right, snow will be lying on the ground.

My usual route is devious and ends with a swoop down a steep valley that, oddly, then winds into a suburban road close to the university. That way will be out, so it will have to be the A64 and then all those horrible roundabouts on the ring-road – otherwise known as the Leeds traffic jam, a study in lack of momentum.

On good days you get nowhere fast on that road; heaven knows what it will be like in snow.

Life was easier before I shuffled onto this ledge all that time ago. But life is what it is; living on a ledge is what it is. The life I once led is disintegrating a bit more now for those who are still there.

Other than imminent snow, this morning’s papers are Brexit-blasted, a swirling storm of words adding up to not a lot. “Huge Brexit boost as last,” says the non-snowy part of the Express. “The price of freedom,” says the Telegraph – pompous and nonsensical in four words. “Rejoice! We’re on our way,” says the Mail.

Never has one tiny step forward been celebrated with so much pomp and wordy ceremony.

Well, I’ll be on my way soon. And I’ve still not heard a sound from our guest.

 

An unseen guest and worries about snow…

THE man I’ve never met is asleep upstairs and I am sitting here worrying about snow.

He arrived yesterday before anyone was home. After a spot of phone messaging, he got the spare key from our neighbour – thanks, A – and let himself in, then shot off to watch the snooker. He returned after we were asleep; now he is asleep, or so I am guessing, and I am awake (sort of).

This sometimes happens with guests who arrive late. If this visitor has a lie-in, we might not meet at all, as I am off to work in an hour or so. Incidentally, the guests still come and go, not talking of Michelangelo. Well, I was going on about old poetry books the other day, and a scrap of TS Eliot just flapped into my mind there.

Last weekend’s visitor was a lovely young man from India, now living in Birmingham. We chatted about food over breakfast. I showed him a favourite recipe for spinach, coconut and lentil dhal.

He read the recipe, nodding approvingly. “That’s a good recipe,” he said. “It’s from southern India and you can tell that because of the coconut.”

Not so much southern India as from a book by the ever-reliable Simon Hopkinson. Other pages remain pristine, but that one has spills and spatters. I guess Simon must have got the recipe from southern India; now we make it on the outer western fringes of York.

Snow is forecast for tomorrow – “Coldest weekend of the year…” says the Daily Express, which keeps a weather eye on the seasons, telling us it will be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Where would we be without such useful advice?

In the old days snow didn’t much bother me. Sometimes I had to push my bike home; sometimes I booted up and walked. Thanks to having to drive now, more notice is taken of snow. First thing Monday, I will be on the road to Horsforth in Leeds. If the forecast is right, snow will be lying on the ground.

My usual route is devious and ends with a swoop down a steep valley that, oddly, then winds into a suburban road close to the university. That way will be out, so it will have to be the A64 and then all those horrible roundabouts on the ring-road – otherwise known as the Leeds traffic jam, a study in lack of momentum.

On good days you get nowhere fast on that road; heaven knows what it will be like in snow.

Life was easier before I shuffled onto this ledge all that time ago. But life is what it is; living on a ledge is what it is. The life I once led is disintegrating a bit more now for those who are still there.

Other than imminent snow, this morning’s papers are Brexit-blasted, a swirling storm of words adding up to not a lot. “Huge Brexit boost as last,” says the non-snowy part of the Express. “The price of freedom,” says the Telegraph – pompous and nonsensical in four words. “Rejoice! We’re on our way,” says the Mail.

Never has one tiny step forward been celebrated with so much pomp and wordy ceremony.

Well, I’ll be on my way soon. And I’ve still not heard a sound from our guest.

How music makes Brexit disappear (for a moment)…

OH, I really wasn’t going to do this. I mean, yesterday I even switched off the BBC Today programme because it was all just too much.

BBC Radio 3 provided a haven of beautiful sound as I drove to work, taking the back roads. Open scenery and good music, even an unexpected burst of Miles Davis after a piece by Chopin; open scenery in contrast to the closed scenery of Brexit.

It was another discussion that did it, you see; another discussion about bloody Brexit. I forget now which Tory talking head was churning out the usual rubbish; but, honestly, it’s not important, as they are interchangeable, a waxwork gallery of talking heads who talk a lot and say little.

Bliss it was to complete the journey without another word about Brexit. Some days it seems that the media and the politicians are completely obsessed with Brexit at the expense of everything else; a single-issue sclerosis that stops any other issue being discussed, anything being done.

It is hard not to conclude that politicians and journalists are more interested in Brexit than most ordinary people are. Perhaps this plays to the Leavers in the end, as it would be understandable if even ardent opponents of Brexit found themselves mumbling: “Oh, for pity’s sake, just get on with it.”

While Mrs Maybe leads a government seemingly incapable of thinking about a single thing other than Brexit, the NHS is deep in a struggle to survive, the housing crisis worsens and, shockingly, six months after the Grenfell fire, most survivors are still living in temporary accommodation.

Just pause to consider that last point. Six months; six months of Brexit babble and Brexit bollocks, and this country can’t get itself organised enough to house people made homeless by that appalling tragedy. Parliament should ban Brexit for a day, force all MPs to attend and discuss nothing but rehousing those people.

As this blog goes out almost ‘live’, the headlines this morning are all Brexit-blasted again. “Sufficient progress” has been made to move on to talks about Britain’s future relationship with the EU, according to Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President.

And Mrs Maybe says the issue of the Irish border has been settled – apparently to the satisfaction of the Arlene Foster and her backing vocalists in the DUP band, Arlene and The Discontents. No hard border and the Good Friday Agreement will be upheld.

Eighteen long months after the referendum, and we can talk now about our relationship with Europe. This is not the end, barely even the beginning of the end, just a move forwards by one shuffle inch.

I didn’t intend to write about Brexit again, as nothing anyone writes seems to make anything clearer. As a parting thought, we held an in/out referendum and the answer came back for leave, by a relatively slim margin. Nothing was mentioned in that referendum about a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit; nothing was mentioned about quitting the customers union and so on.

Instead, the shape of Brexit has been left to the Tories, with little more than offstage muttering from Labour. And today’s news is just one step forwards in a long and arduous slog.

Saturday jobs down the years and Mrs Maybe’s troubles with Northern Ireland…

I’VE had three ‘Saturday jobs’ on newspapers. The first was on the Daily/Sunday Mirror in Manchester as a copy boy. I puttered there on a Honda 50 and worked in Thompson House; a building later rechristened as a jar of coffee by the corrupt press baron Robert Maxwell.

Can you still buy Maxwell House coffee? Google confirms this is possible, although not for a coffee snob. Anyway, Maxwell took over the Mirror and wanted his name on the building, perhaps unaware of the coffee.

That job involved clipping page proofs to wires and putting messages in vacuum tubes. The folded message would be sucked away to another part of the editorial operation. The building, by the way, was later used as the police headquarters in Prime Suspect, with a striding Helen Mirren replacing all those old-school journalists. Memory tells me that one of them wore a green eye-shade.

Two things about that Saturday job: you had to leave at 18 for tax reasons or something; and you had to know someone on the inside. My brother took the job after me, and I think he took the Honda 50 too.

I left at 18, infected with the newspaper bug. Ten years later, I had a grander Saturday job on The Observer. Again, you needed to know someone. I’d interviewed the poet Blake Morrison, the paper’s literary editor. He lived in a rented apartment inside the walls of Greenwich Park, a cool sort of residence, but I don’t think he lives there now.

Morrison put in a word, and I rolled up on that first Saturday without a clue as to what I’d be doing. At the time, I wrote artsy features on a weekly paper and did a spot of subbing as part of that role. They gave me a news subbing job and I stayed for three years until York called.

Now I have another Saturday job, working on the Sunday Independent. This newspaper is produced in Dublin and then sent to the Press Association to be checked and further edited.

My latest Saturday job comes with a Friday attached too, and two days a week have taught me a bit about Ireland and Irish politics. Lately all the familiar names from Ireland have been popping into the headlines over here.

The Irish are much exercised over Brexit and have been worrying away since that disastrous vote. The Sunday Independent contains comment about many things, but much of it concerns Brexit. How odd it is to read through that copy as a Brexit-phobic Englishman sitting in Howden. Many Irish commentators sound sensible to my ears, often suggesting that Britain has flounced out of Europe on a perverse whim, and now wants to rewrite the rules to suit itself.

The Irish are nervous about Brexit, as we are now realising. The shaky political edifice on which Theresa May is balanced is propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. Arguments over what sort of border should exist between the province and the rest of Ireland have just scuppered the latest attempts to come to a Brexit deal.

Mrs Maybe was in talks with Jean Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, when she was forced to take a call from Arlene Foster of the DUP.

What a humiliation. The prime minister hauled outside to endure an ear-bashing from a woman whose abrasive manner could sandpaper a table. Well, Mrs Maybe got herself into this mess after botching that unnecessary election and then bunging a billion to Northern Ireland in a pact with hard-line Conservative devils who make some of her own lot look like pixies.

Everything stalls again, as Britain does a weary waltz towards the cliff outside the Brexit Ballroom.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, or Taoiseach as they say over there, was whisked away to deal with all this while still wearing his running clothes. How very Leo. They love Leo in Ireland, or they did for five minutes, and now they love to grumble about him.

As for Leo and Arlene, no love is lost there. They seem intent on shouting at each other over the world’s most contentious garden fence.

Today is Tuesday and I don’t have to go Ireland, even if Ireland has come to me.

How JC looks in GQ… and a row about nothing much

WE are sitting in the car talking about Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader is on the front of GQ magazine, touched up a little but looking smart in his M&S suit and customary red tie.

You wouldn’t have thought that such a starry cover slot could have led to another one of those rows – you know, the ones where the thinner-skinned disciples of Jeremy take offence on his behalf.

But that would be to reckon without yesterday’s BBC Today programme interview with Dylan Jones, editor of GQ. He told the BBC that Mr Corbyn’s photo shot was “as difficult as shooting any Hollywood celebrity”.

Jones said many politicians had appeared on his cover, but none had arrived with such a ‘ring’ of ‘gatekeepers’ intent on minding their charge.

What seems to have annoyed the easily outraged disciples of Jeremy is that Jones claimed that behind the Labour leader’s “rock star persona” he was “underwhelming” in person.

Here’s the bit that really got under their skin…

“When he actually turned up for the shoot it was almost like he was being pushed around like a grandpa for the family Christmas photograph. He wasn’t particularly aware of what was going on. But we’re very pleased with what we ended up with.”

The endlessly offended took to Twitter to express their anger, crying “hatchet job” and pointing out that Jones was a Tory supporter who once wrote a book about David Cameron. This crawly exercise, by the way, was thrillingly titled Cameron On Cameron, and contained a series of interviews with the former Tory PM. According to reports, Jones paid £20,000 for the privilege of conducting those interviews

One of the usual suspects, an ardently ‘pro’ blog, brandished the Corbyn cudgels and said the interview was the third time in a week that the BBC has dissed the Labour leader, or something like that.

Anyway, none of that was what we talked about in the car. Instead, we discussed the demands of performance. This was partly because my wife was singing with her choir last night; and partly because we’ve been this way before.

The thing about performance is that you hold back in rehearsals; performance is animating, and getting to that point requires restraint. A comedian off stage is not the same as a comedian in the middle of his act; a violinist playing a demanding piece doesn’t give her all in the rehearsal, keeping something back for the performance.

And politics is a performance, too. The Jeremy Corbyn who wowed the Glastonbury crowds with on full-pelt oratory is not the same Jeremy Corbyn who kicks his heels during a photo-shoot. And you wouldn’t expect him to be.

For Dylan Jones to find Corbyn ‘underwhelming’ in person is then hardly surprising – although it was surprising to discover, thanks to Huffington Post, that Jones wasn’t there for the photo-shoot and was reportedly relying on what he was told.

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn looks the part on the cover of GQ, and this row – like so many in the past – is essentially a silly bit of outrage about not very much.

The more serious question to ask is whether Corbyn will ever get the chance to look the part at the door of Ten Downing Street. The Tories are certainly in grave disarray, but could well stagger on long enough for the shine to dull on Corbyn’s late-career ascendancy.

Well, that nicely took up the journey from Morrison’s to home.

A twerp tweets…

MY fingers just typed the word ‘Trump’ without me asking them too. I do wish they would stop doing that.

The scary thing about Trump; hang back a minute, one of the many and endlessly scary things about Trump, is that he has become a sort of virus – a rampant bug spread by Twitter.

Whether you love to hate Trump, hate to love him, or take the sensible option of hating the man outright, you just can’t escape him. Trump is everywhere, and deadly orange atoms of Trump-ness float into our lives, never mind if we close all the windows and hide under the bed.

Much of this is down to his rampant and unrestrained use of Twitter. In the hands of a saner president, this might be beneficial; a chance to look inside the president’s mind as he goes through his decision-making process. Perhaps such an experiment could teach us something.

But in the (little) hands of Trump, what it teaches us is that Twitter should never have been invented (and I like Twitter). With Trump, the non-stop Twitter commentary, the endless barbs and slights, the appalling misjudgements, the rudeness and the undertow of racism – all this adds up to a bully kicking up a fight in a tin box.

So, it is easy to feel sympathy for Theresa May as she tries to react sensibly to the latest news from Trump-ton. Mrs Maybe told reporters that it was ‘wrong’ for Trump to have re-tweeted anti-Muslim posts from the far-right group Britain First. And ‘wrong’ doesn’t even begin to cover the President promoting a vile mini-collective of Brit fascists with a tap of his finger.

Yet for all her welcome criticism of Trump, Mrs Maybe seemed unwilling to really go for him. That’s because she decided early on that Britain was going to be Trump’s friend. The trouble is, who wants a friend like Donald? That’s a devilish pact you’ve sealed there, Theresa.

When Trump heard of Mrs Maybe’s criticism of his tweet, he took to Twitter and stabbed out: “Theresa May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”

The Trumps are due here sometime for a ‘holiday’ with the Queen. Mrs Maybe spurned demands for his trip to be cancelled, saying: “An invitation for a state visit has been extended and has been accepted. We have yet to set a date.”

Ah, is that a tiny crack of hope I see there? We have yet to set a date… well, just commit to a bad case of social forgetfulness. As with any other loud-mouthed moron you’d rather not have to stay, accidentally overlook the unguarded invitation. Or find that all available weekends are already booked between now and, I don’t know, doomsday.

It is difficult to find a light moment in this latest twitter atrocity from the fascist-friendly president. But there is one. At first, Trump accidentally tweeted to @theresamay, believing he was sending a message to Mrs Maybe. Instead, he was attacking an innocent woman from Bognor who has six Twitter followers. But I do have a bit of an exclusive here: I’ve just looked and she now has seven.

Theresa May Scrivener told the Press Association that she’d been bombarded with messages. She said it was “amazing to think that the world’s most powerful man managed to press the wrong button”.

Yes, Trump and buttons – now that is scary. Let’s hope he never mistakes his mobile for the code to fire off nuclear missiles.

 

Sober thoughts on the Mail’s 42 pages about that engagement…

SOBRIETY is the new drunk, apparently. I’ll address that in a moment after issuing a heartfelt an apology. My efforts yesterday to write about two people getting engaged were  woefully inadequate. A measly 550 words against the Daily Mail’s 42 pages.

Yes, you read that right: 42 pages just because Prince Harry and his girlfriend, Meghan Markle, are going to get married sometime next year. The date has been announced and the venue, but I lack the energy to look them up: sometime in May in the Windsor Castle register office, something like that.

Thanks to the New Statesman’s Media Mole column for alerting me to that superfluity of pages. The mole’s coverage begins as follows: “There are 42 pages in a daily newspaper about two humans getting engaged. Two human beings deciding they like one another enough to both write their names on the same piece of paper. 42 pages about this. Forty. Two.”

When I complained about the BBC News rolling out lickspittle sticky-backed velvet by the yard, I wasn’t yet aware of the Mail’s even more sterling efforts at saying a lot about little.

That, by the way, is often the role of royal correspondents: speculating, bluffing and fluffing about bugger all, while also drinking deeply at the fountain of obsequiousness.

Anyway, 42 pages. That’s at least 41 more than I  wish to read. As Media Mole points out, backed up by a YouTube film flicking through all those pages, the Mail’s coverage is daft, weird and more than vaguely creepy, as it features family snaps of the teenage Markle and pictures from her Instagram account.

Oh, and some “very tame screenshots of a mildly saucy Suits scene – or, “TV ROLES SHE’D RATHER FORGET… AND THE ONES HE’D RATHER FORGET.”

I hope you will accept my apology for not being inventive or weird enough to come up with such a pile of “Stupid or untrue talk or writing; nonsense.”

That, by the way, is the dictionary definition of ‘bullshit’, should you be wondering. Incidentally, with the Mail in mind, at what point does fawning become stalking?

On now to not being drunk. It’s the latest thing, according to a report in last Sunday’s Observer, which claimed that millennials are discovering the joys of “mindful drinking” as the party season begins.

Everything is mindful nowadays, and I would warn you to be, ahem, mindful about anything which is being sold to you under that banner.

“Mindful drinking” is basically just not drinking; abstinence reinvented; temperance for trendies – that sort of thing. It’s all the rage in London, according to the Observer, where alcohol-free party nights are the latest thing. One of those quoted in the report is journalist Hannah Betts, who says she has been sober since September 2014. Hannah uses a phrase I have never encountered before – “sober-curious”, which embraces people who want to know more about sobriety. She also admits to a degree of what you might call sober scepticism about the ‘bandwagon element’ in all the books being published about people giving up drink.

My message on this is simple: cutting down alcohol, being careful around alcohol, perhaps not having that extra glass of red (that’s a note to self, by the way); all of that is sensible, in the same way that eating less meat is sensible.

But I do hope that (sensible) drinking is here to stay. My claim to sobriety isn’t as strong as Hannah’s. Will ‘since last Saturday’ do?

I do realise that alcohol can be a serious problem in society; it can also be one of life’s great pleasures. Finding a balance is  the trick for many of us: more alcohol-free days than drinking days, in my case.

Chacun a son gout, as the not always entirely sober French say.