Politics

“Brexity”

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Today’s Times has discovered a new word being used by younger people in the UK, i.e. “Brexity“.

It turns up in a comment piece by Janice Turner admonishing those outward-looking folk who voted to remain in the EU in that disastrous referendum for continuing to criticise the isolationist Little Englanders who voted to undo 4 decades of European integration and dragging a partly reluctant UK into a more modern era.

Ms Turner’s piece gives a couple of examples of the usage of “Brexity“. For instance, concerning places: “It was this horrible Brexity little town“; and food: “He ate this disgusting Brexity pasty“.

According to Ms Turner, it denotes something low-grade, provincial, unsophisticated; enjoyed or frequented by the old, the white working class.

Brexit Monstrosity float in Manchester

Brexit Monstrosity float in Manchester. Image by Robert Mandel courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Commenting on a reference to the Times comment piece, Twitter user Fish in a hat has pointed out the following:

I understand it is now coined freely in youth slang to mean trashy & tawdry. The young have a good eye, but are cruel. OTOH it is their future that is being trashed & were denied a vote. They have the right to complain. I am sure they will rejoin as soon as they are old enough to.

Quite. Those under 18 have even greater grounds for being upset as they were denied a vote in the referendum, unlike the 2014 Scottish independence referendum when all Scots over 16 years of age were given a say.

Getting rather old and coming from white working class stock, your correspondent hopes his readers won’t find him and his attitudes too Brexity. 😀

Sexy shellfish?

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Many press organisations have sacked sub-editors and dispensed with proofreading in recent years as a means of saving money.

Alabama’s Times Daily in the USA seems to have been part of this movement, as is apparent from the following photo of its front page today on the unfolding story of former Alabama state judge and Republican politician Roy Moore‘s past sexual indiscretions.

Headline reads party divided over sex clams

If one were dining out, what would be the right wine to accompany sex clams? 😉

Hat tip: Dr Ray Schestowitz.

That Florence speech… in foreign

It’s a well-known fact that when the Brits go abroad and want to converse with Johnny Foreigner, the most convenient is (for Brits of course) to speak English very s-l-o-w-l-y and very LOUDLY; there’s no need to go through all that tedious process of learning how to have intercourse with the locals in the vernacular.

Mrs Theresa May, a woman who does very poor Prime Minister impressions, went to Florence in Italy on Thursday to make a speech (posts passim). However, it is unlikely that non-Brits understood it as it was delivered sotto voce.

As my working life as a linguist has been devoted to improving international understanding, I felt it was my duty to help the EU negotiators understand what Mrs May said and have therefore translated her Florence speech into foreign, as per the screenshot of her opening paragraphs below.

screenshot of start of May's  Florence speech, converted into upper case in LibreOffice

To convert May’s speech into foreign was simplicity itself. Indeed it was so simple I don’t know why Theresa’s staff at 10 Downing Street didn’t bother to do it themselves.

The first stage was to copy the transcript of May’s speech from the government’s website, open a new document in the excellent free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite (other, usually proprietary, office suites are available. Ed.), paste the content from the operating system’s clipboard, then hit Ctrl+A to select all the text, followed by going to the Format menu and selecting Text -> UPPER CASE.

Job done! I now had a copy of Mrs May’s Florence speech in easily intelligible foreign and one perfect for online use as it is also 100% shouty. 😉

Your ‘umble scribe’s version in foreign is available to download (PDF) should readers also wish to promote international understanding. 😀

Real tripe from Florence

Today Theresa May, a woman who does Prime Minister impressions, will descend on the Italian city of Florence to make a speech. She will have with her a full supporting cast of cabinet ministers, plus hangers-on from the British mainstream media.

The speech, all about Brexit, is being talked up by the British media as an attempt to prompt progress in the stalled negotiations on the UK’s exit from the European Union.

However, no senior figures from the EU will be in attendance at May’s speech at the church of Sant Maria Novella (conveniently situated opposite the main railway station for a quick getaway. Ed.).

However, for true lovers of tripe, this blog has a better recommendation: ignore Theresa’s speech altogether and go for Lampredotto instead.

Lampredotto sandwich

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This typical Florentine dish is made from the abomasum, the fourth and final stomach of the cow.

Lampredotto” is derived from the Italian word for lamprey eels, lampreda, as the tripe resembles a lamprey in both shape and colour. Lampredotto is typically chopped, slow-cooked in a vegetable broth, seasoned with herbs and served on a bread roll; in addition, it is sometimes topped with either a piquant or green sauce.

One final point: Florence was once a leading financial centre – a status it may soon be sharing with a post-Brexit City of London.

Public money? Public code!

Digital services provided and used by public sector organisations are the critical infrastructure of the 21st century. Central and local government agencies must ensure they have full control over systems at the core of our digital infrastructure to establish trustworthy systems. However, this is rarely the case due to restrictive proprietary software licences.

Thirty-one organisations are today publishing an open letter in which they call for lawmakers to advance legislation requiring publicly financed software developed for the public sector be made available under a Free and Open Source Software licence, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) reports. The initial signatories include CCC, EDRi, Free Software Foundation Europe, KDE, Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, openSUSE, Open Source Business Alliance, Open SourceInitiative, The Document Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland.

All the signatories are asking individuals and other organisation to sign the open letter, which will be sent to candidates in the forthcoming German parliamentary election and, during the coming months, to other representatives of the EU and EU member states until the 2019 European Parliament elections.

image text reads why is software created with pubic money not released as Free Software? If it is public money it should be public code as well

Public institutions spend millions of euros each year on the development of new bespoke software. The public sector’s procurement choices play a significant role in determining which companies are allowed to compete and what software is supported with taxpayers’ money. Public sector organisations often have problems sharing code with each other, even if they fully funded its development. In addition, sensitive personal data on citizens is at risk if there is no option for independent third parties to run audits or other security checks on the code.

FSFE President Matthias Kirschner says:

We need software that fosters the sharing of good ideas and solutions. Only like this will we be able to improve digital services for people all over Europe. We need software that guarantees freedom of choice, access, and competition. We need software that helps public administrations regain full control of their critical digital infrastructure, allowing them to become and remain independent from a handful of companies. Public bodies are financed through taxes. They should spend funds responsibly and in the most efficient way possible. If it is public money, it should be public code as well!”

The PM’s pay

Dr Patricia Greet

Worth more than the PM?

Whenever there’s a new appointment to a senior, high-paying post in the British public sector, the press and their pals in the rest of the country’s media are queuing up to make the inevitable comparison with the salary of the Prime Minister.

The latest example of this is the coverage of the appointment of Dr Patricia Greer by Bristol’s newspaper of (warped) record, the Bristol Post.

New Bristol bureaucrat to be paid more than the Prime Minister“, thunders the headline in a piece posted yesterday on the paper’s website.

This is reinforced in the article’s first 2 sentences.

Bristol’s newest public servant is to be paid a whopping £150,000 a year – more than Prime Minister Theresa May.

The chief executive of the West of England Combined Authority will be paid more than double the amount received by her boss, Metro Mayor Tim Bowles.

First a bit of background: the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is made up of three of the local authorities in the region – Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire. North Somerset decided not to join in this additional level of local bureaucracy, but has said it will co-operate with WECA on transport matters.

WECA was imposed top-down by central government in the last round of so-called “devolution”. There was no referendum to legitimise its establishment, merely the usual inadequate consultation from the local authorities involved. WECA comes under a so-called “Metro Mayor”, the incumbent being Tory Tim Bowles who was elected in May 2017 on a turnout of less than one-third of the electorate.

Its detractors refer to WECA as Avon County Council Mk. 2, a reference to a previous unpopular round of local government reform.

image of Theresa May

Worth £143K a year, or not worth the paper she’s written on?

Anyway, back to the PM’s pay. Theresa May, the present occupier of 10 Downing Street, is currently paid an annual salary of £143,462 for doing Prime Minister impressions. Other senior ministers are on similar amounts once their parliamentary salaries are included.

However, to my way of thinking, the comparison of senior public sector employees’ remuneration with the Prime Minister’s pay is erroneous on a number of counts.

In the first place both Prime Minister and the Metro Mayor are elected offices: their holders find their way to their desks via the ballot box. WECA’s chief executive is appointed, presumably by a small body of individuals; the electorate has no say in who gets their feet under the big desk on the deep pile carpet.

Secondly, there are many appointed officers in the public sector whose pay is more on a level with those in the private sector. Take for example the large quantities of gold showered on the vice-chancellors of English universities such as Bath, which has resulted in resignations from that institution’s council.

Another comparison that could be taken into account is budgets. WECA will be receiving funding of £30m a year for 30 years, which is really just petty cash in public sector terms when stood next to the 2015 figure of running the NHS (£115,398m. Source: Cabinet Office).

Perhaps a fairer comparison would be with the PM’s senior civil servant, namely the Cabinet Secretary, the country’s most senior civil servant, who acts as the senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and as the Secretary to the Cabinet. The post is currently held by Sir Jeremy Heywood, for which he receives an annual salary of £195,000.

Whilst this may be a fairer comparison, there’s one major drawback. Whereas most people could readily identify the Prime Minister when questioned, how many members of the public could readily name the Cabinet Secretary.

The media deal with certainties and the familiar, hence measurements related to the size of football pitches (and Wales! Ed. and, by extension, comparisons of those in high office with the PM’s pay packet.

Bristol Crown Court judge resorts to Google Translate

Bristol Crown CourtThe shambles that is the Ministry of Justice’s outsourcing of court interpreting services continues, although it does not have such a high media profile these days.

Today’s Bristol Post reports that a judge was forced to use Google Translate to discuss a case with the defendant.

Bath resident Jaroslaw Nowacki was appearing at Bristol Crown Court on Wednesday 30th August to answer a charge of possession of a kitchen knife in a public place without good reason or lawful authority.

However, His Honour Judge Euan Ambrose was unaware until the hearing that Nowacki would need the services an interpreter.

After confirming the defendant was originally from Poland, the judge decided to adjourn the plea hearing until 6th September to arrange for an interpreter to be in attendance.

The Post continues:

But due to Nowacki’s limited grasp of English, he did not understand what he was being told and Judge Ambrose turned to Google Translate to get his message across.

“Whether Google Translate will accurately translate what I want to say I don’t know,” said the judge.

After spending several minutes typing out a message, Judge Ambrose printed it off and it was handed to Nowacki for him to read in the dock.

Nowacki then confirmed that he understood the message and the case was adjourned.

Mr Gove pays a visit

Yesterday the BBC reported on the visit of DEFRA Minister Michael Gove (the man who, when Education Secretary, wanted all schools to be “above average”. Ed.) to the Antrim Show in the company of DUP MPs Paul Girvan and Ian Paisley.

The DUP are of course the minority Conservative government’s new best friends, having bribed them with £1.5 bn. from the “magic money tree” (© Prime Minister Theresa May) to prop it up in crucial parliamentary votes.

Whilst courting his party’s new best pals in the DUP, Gove managed at the same time to snub half of the Northern Irish electorate by pulling out of a meeting with Sinn Féin at the last minute.

However, the BBC fails to make mention of the sterling groundwork done by DEFRA civil servants in communicating the pre-visit wisdom of the Minister to the local media. In this context we should be grateful to Belfast freelance journalist Amanda Ferguson for posting the following on her Twitter account.

shot of Defra statement for Gove's Antrim visit mentioning Welsh lamb

No, you didn’t misread the above. Gove mentioned Welsh lamb, a product with a protected food name, the implication of this being that he believes this fine product from west of Offa’s Dyke actually comes from even further west from over the Irish Sea.

One has to wonder whether Mr Gove could find his backside with both hands with such a poor grasp of geography. It was evidently not a subject at which he excelled at Aberdeen’s independent Robert Gordon’s Academy, to which he won a scholarship.

For your ‘umble scribe this is yet further proof that the government in Westminster and their sidekicks, the mandarins in Whitehall, care little for anywhere in the country outside the M25 and the metropolitan commuter belt and tend to view the devolved regions of the United Kingdom and the English regions too as little more than colonies of London and therefore ripe for exploitation and patronising treatment.

Tidy Barton Hill

Bristol Clean Streets logoYesterday, along with Kurt James, Bristol City Council’s co-ordinator for the Bristol Clean Streets campaign, and local resident Eric Green, I joined a group of volunteers from Tawfiq Mosque in Barton Hill (usually rendered as “Bart Nil” in the local vernacular. Ed.😉 ) for a community litter pick.

Starting at 10.30 in the morning, we split into 6 groups and tackled six different parts of the area for the next 2 hours, picking up litter and noting any larger, fly-tipped items for reporting later.

While picking, we did get passers-by thanking us for our efforts, but ultimately I’m sure all those taking part would prefer it if our fellow citizens didn’t mess the area up in the first place. 😀

It was a successful event and I was most encouraged by the cheerful enthusiasm and commitment of those involved. The photo below shows just some of the stuff we collected.

litter pickers and litter picked

Some of the litter picked up assembled at the Urban Park collection point.

Your correspondent understands the mosque plans to make this a regular event. If so, I’ll try and get along again to assist.

In the meantime, if you spot a problem on a Bristol street, be it an abandoned vehicle, litter, fly-tipping, a blocked drain or anything else, please report it to the council for attention.

Child superheroes launch campaign against litter

Superheroes picture

Photo courtesy of Bristol City Council

Local ‘superhero’ schoolchildren are the stars of a new publicity campaign to reduce litter in Bristol.

As part of Mayor Marvin Rees’ Clean Streets campaign, children from schools across Bristol have been taking part in litter picks to improve their neighbourhoods and now they’re encouraging all Bristolians to do their bit by not dropping litter in the first place.

Each year Bristol Waste Company collects 3,700 tonnes of litter from the city’s streets, not including rubbish that is fly-tipped or residents’ residual waste. That’s equivalent to the weight of over 290 double-decker buses.

Chesney, one of the children taking part in the campaign, has been helping with the clean-up as he felt sad at seeing litter in the park. “You try to make a difference but then people just litter again, and it’s like a consistent circle.” says Chesney.

Taking inspiration from these youngsters, the council is asking everyone in Bristol to help keep the city clean. The message is simple: Use a bin or take your litter with you.

Find out more at bristol.gov.uk/superheroes.

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