Kellyanne’s Vacation


‘She isn’t around anymore.’

‘I don’t like the sound of that.’

‘She isn’t around anymore, Mr President.’

‘That’s not what I mean. When you say isn’t around I don’t think I like the sound of that. Or I should say I don’t like you saying that to me.’

‘She is no longer with us, Mr President.’

‘Is that bad? That sounds bad.’

Bad, Mr President? Do you mean bad as in not good or as in terrible?’ Spicer rather than the secret service agent asks.

‘I don’t understand what you are asking, but I don’t like being told she is no longer with us. I don’t mind that she isn’t here anymore, but I don’t understand what this agent is telling me. Is she dead? Did we – I mean – did someone have her…,’ he inflects his voice upwards, ‘… removed? That would be bad,’ the President says.

President Trump pouts with pursed lips but the others in the Oval Office are not yet sure if this is just his normal face or one of concern. If Kellyanne was there she would probably let the others know, as she was always in the know about these kinds of things, but she is no longer around anymore.

‘She just isn’t here, Mr President,’ Spicer tells him. ‘No one had her removed, Sir.’

‘Are you sure, Spicer?’ the President asks. ‘You aren’t always sure about things,’ the President adds.

‘I’m sure about this, Mr President, and I don’t think…’

‘….gas,’ the President interrupts. ‘That was bad.’

Spicer looks down at his feet, but at least he is standing on them. Not like Kellyanne who had hers curled up under her ass sitting on the Oval Office chair. That was the beginning. That’s when others – not the President – suggested it was time for her to go, not that they suggested this to the President. He hadn’t noticed. It was like a lot of things the President didn’t notice. Like not noticing if Kellyanne was around anymore.

‘You can sit down Sean,’ the President tells Spicer, pointing to the chair where Kellyanne sat on her feet.

‘I’m fine,’ Mr President, Spicer says.

‘I liked having Kellyanne around.’ the President says to anyone listening. ‘She made me feel good.’

‘You mean not bad?’ Mr President, Spicer asks.

President Trump looks at Spicer with an empty stare that Spicer interprets as normal on one of the few occasions when he is right.

‘She is secured,’ the agent who was earlier speaking with the President speaks again.

‘Secured?’ the President asks.

‘Not here anymore,’ Spicer interjects. ‘At the press briefing today I will be informing everyone that Kellyanne is taking a well-deserved vacation, Mr President.’

‘Is she having a vacation?’ the President asks.

The agent looks at Spicer who looks at his feet – his own feet – and shuffles them a little.

‘It’s the last day of National Poetry Month today, Mr President,’ Spicer continues. ‘I’m going to read the poem Vacation by the former US Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Mr President, and then I’m going to make a seamless reference to the fact Kellyanne has gone on vacation and make it sound relevant and intelligent.’

The President looks at Spicer with an empty stare. So does the agent. So does everyone else in the Oval Office.

‘Today’s my 100th day in office,’ the President says, looking confused and disappointed.

‘That’s why I’m reading a poem, Mr President,’ Spicer tells him. ‘It was Kellyanne’s suggestion, Mr President, one she made 100 days ago. A bit of foresight I think. She had some good ideas, but in the end she had to go, Mr President.’

‘Is Kellyanne not with us anymore?’ the President asks.

‘Mending Wall’: National Poetry Month – the final day

On this final day of America’s National Poetry Month, here is one of my favourite poems from one of my favourite American poets, Robert Frost. It takes on an extra, contemporary resonance, doesn’t it?

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Have I Got News For You, ‘Have I Got News For You’


The good news is I was not alone in detesting last night’s HIGNFY; the bad news is how HIGNFY is becoming as pointless and pathetic as the politics/politicians it used to be so much sharper and accurate in exposing.

Twitter postings are rightly voicing and therefore reflecting widespread disdain about this Friday’s episode of Have I Got News for You and the programme’s early attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.

The very first programme of HIGNFY – itself an acronym artefact – was aired in 1990 and it must be the longest surviving comedy panel show and now institutionalised cultural artefact. Over the years it has delighted with incisive satire and straight comedy gags, the team captains of Ian Hislop and Paul Merton sustaining this firstly with host Angus Dayton and subsequently with guest hosts of varying quality and impact [I was, for example, disappointed with the great Patrick Stewart’s chairing last week when he performed like a parody of Brian Blessed, unwittingly yet still sadly doing so].

Obviously over time even the best of such television will get tired on top of making the occasional, or even regular, mistakes. Ian Hislop has always been but is increasingly just smug; Paul Merton’s signature comic incredulous face can only rarely work. To be fair – begrudgingly – it was Merton who did in this Friday’s programme make a critical observation about the singular negative portrayal of Labour as a Party in its sustained attacks on Corbyn.

If this matters at all and you are therefore reading I would suspect you saw the episode, so I won’t outline the three specific moments of ridicule and just piss-taking. The one I found poignantly ironic – and so I definitely do not mean comically so – is the clip of Jeremy facing a small crowd of sign-carrying supporters, and as he is about to address them, an aid rushes into the shot to turn Jeremy around to face the cameras filming this: the ‘classic’ electioneering framing where the candidate is backed by the supporting political people and their signage.

The implication of Corbyn ‘needing’ to be turned is that he is a buffoon, not knowing how to perform. And yet, without question, isn’t it rather the case that Corbyn was instinctively doing what he always does: addressing his audience, no matter how big or small, as people, rather than instinctively as the entirely sham performance set-piece it is for others, especially Theresa May who has recently – apparently – banned workers from attending their own workplace venue for such an orchestrated presentation, or more tellingly when she recently spoke to camera about encouraging people to ‘come to this town’, obviously not knowing where she was, this more arrogant buffoonery? A long question, but rhetorical.

And speaking of buffoons. Whilst the panel did discuss Boris Johnson’s recent mugwump comments about Corbyn, this didn’t, in fact, get the acerbic ridicule it deserved, Hislop and Merton probably the most aware of Boris’ scattergun ineptitude from his historically shambolic hostings of previous editions of HIGNFY.

I have never been an apologist for Corbyn’s problematic leadership of Labour, and projecting of himself as a Leader of the country, often precisely because he does not play the performance game that is probably, even if cynically, an inherent part of being elected by a large body of people these days. However, I have always and will continue to champion his principles and integrity, and the genuine, humane and personable qualities so clearly demonstrated in his sweet and warm and honest turn to that crowd of sign-carrying people – yes, people, not planted human and sign placards, even if in essence this was the understandable ruse of the event.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb Announces National ‘Pupilcopiers’ Scheme


The Glib has intervened in arguments about under-funding of schools in England and offered the following educational advice to the nation.

Reacting to criticism about cuts to school budgets, The Glib is quoted as having written in response to such condemnation with the following suggestion:

“Schools could save, on average, up to 10% by making use of our national energy deal and over 40% by using the national deal for printers and photocopiers.”

With over 8.56 pupils in schools in England [including Independents], The Glib has also suggested schools should outsource all copying needs to their own pupils. By linking this to a national Raising Handwriting Standards campaign, provisionally titled Pupilcopiers, this would, according to the Schools Minister, save “bucketloads of money”.

In contacting the DfE to seek more details on this proposal, a spokesperson stated that the idea was being put on hold until after the general election, adding “whilst not being implemented as government policy in the immediate future, all schools, and especially Academies, have the autonomy to begin trialing of this excellent cost-cutting idea at any time of their choosing.”


Nick Gibb’s Cloying Fry-up

breakfast - Copy

On the day we hear in the news media about the censure of a previous report claiming saturated fats do not increase the risk of a heart attack [I would guess censured correctly], I should like to confirm that any suggestion reading the pompous nonsense of Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb is also safe to consume is dangerously bad advice.

Waking up to the House of Commons Hansard transcript of the Parliament debate yesterday on the petition “Authorise open book examinations for GCSE English Literature 2017”, one could have fallen into the trap of tucking into its plateful of commentary like a few pounds of seemingly tasty sausages and bacon – but I am too health-conscious of the cloying effects of anything The Glib has to say on study and assessment in English, at any level.

The point is, I have only skimmed his response – a bit like trimming the fat from the bacon slices and pushing the sausage to the side – because the greasy gist of it all is a given. In a pompous breakfast feast, he trotted out all the old arguments for rigour and dated convention in examining, not understanding a single reality about teaching, learning and assessment. This is gleaned from a brief perusal of the traditional and expected fry-up he always sets before us.

The two Labour MPs speaking in favour of the petition, Helen Jones [Warrington North] [Lab] and Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck [South Shields] [Lab], did respectively and eventually speak convincingly to why the prevention of open book examination in GCSE English Literature – especially in the context of such examination from 2017 being entirely terminal – is a bad, educationally unsound decision. I was disappointed to see that these two both couched this within rather self-indulgent extrapolations on wider reveries about Literature and Chaucer and so on, but I suppose this is the convention of such debates. That Jones and Gibb were able to have a little oratory giggle about a Morecambe and Wise sketch made me want to regurgitate my breakfast.

Not that I had actually eaten, going on the computer with morning coffee and reading this causing me to lose any appetite immediately.

I will not trawl through The Glib’s response unpicking its saturated nonsense gristle bit by gristle bit. You can read the transcript, or actually watch the debate for yourself at the links below [Watch a recording of the debate? What kind of masochism would that indicate?]. The one piece of full blubber I will pick on is The Glib claiming the prohibition on an open book exam is all the work of Ofqual when we all know it is a part of the singular decision-making and/or suggestions of the previous Education Secretary Michael Gove, to which The Glib is simply another part of the continuing fatty sausage link.

Transcript here

Video here

A Scam of Many Meanings

I received the letter below a few days ago. My initial reaction was to laugh off its affront and incompetence: the audacity of thinking I or anyone else would fall for such a scam, and the ineptitude of its trying [e.g. the Chung/Chang error of its sender!].

However, having an elderly relative who is otherwise sharp as a razor but somehow continually believes in these types of scams, that reality does diminish any sense of humour. The fact this was personally addressed and sent as a letter, rather than the ubiquitous scammers’ email or phone call, demonstrated one kind of deceptive cleverness, as pathetic as that still is.

But I also considered, and became further wearied, how the blatant and brazen lying of its promises reminded me of current [and past] Tory promises as we enter this most cynical of all general election periods.

It does not originate from an illegal act. That’s all right then: