Late Life Crisis - March 2020

Here is one of the best recent quips. The Chief Medical Officer tells Boris Johnson that the length of time Johnson spends washing his hands should be twice the length of singing Happy Birthday to his children and Johnson says that that could take a very long time.


Most of the stuff below was written before the tone of life changed radically during this month, but I will leave be as there has to be life outside Coronavirus.


Three men seen in a park with their dogs. Talking about poo. Probably not their own. 


Two men in the gym changing room. Ages slightly older than me. First one says he is going to the opera that evening to see a lesser-known Verdi work. He adds that he does not enjoy all these modern stagings of classic operas where there is an attempt to have popular appeal. Second one agrees and says that he didn't think opera was supposed to be popular. First one says he thinks that too. I was about to suggest that they each apply immediately for membership of the local old farts club.


An article about roses. Apparently the majority of roses bought in the UK come from Holland - makes sense. Next comes Kenya (31%) and Colombia (15%).

Naughty Kenya and Colombia, stamping a whopping great carbon footprint on the planet as the produce is whisked into the UK. Except that the article goes on to point out that the growing and delivery of Dutch roses causes significantly greater overall CO2 emissions than the products of those other countries, due to the temperate Dutch climate requiring the roses to be grown in heated greenhouses. 


There is apparently such a thing as the Dunning-Kruger effect, whereby certain people who are incompetent in their jobs do not believe that they are incompetent. and even worse believe that they are competent. Why this has been mentioned in the course of discussing the performance of Priti Patel as Home Secretary, I have no idea.


The UK's chief negotiator for trade talks, David Frost, gave a blustering first speech. He argued that Britain's institutions have just evolved through time. It has been pointed out that this does not fit well with the English Civil War. There are plenty other examples - the voting franchise did not extend through gentle chats over cups of tea. Frost will be delighting Brexiteers (as Ms Patel seems to be delighting them) with an aggressive style. Remembering his now deceased namesake, could he open trade talk meetings with "Hello, good morning and f---k off"?


I have a number of animal-lover friends, so writing about animal lovers feels like approaching a stack of eggshells and doing a grape-treading job.

However, I was struck by an article with the theme: "Let animals be animals", discussing the personification of pets. Or not pets, as apparently one charity says that to call a home cared-for animal a pet reduces the creatures to commodity status. An Instagram site called Doug the Pug - I've checked it out; it has 26,000 Followers and a lot of pictures of pugs - suggests, according to the article, that owners call their animals "furbabies". For my own part I have seen the "fur" bit cut out through biologically challenging references to "Mummy" and "Daddy".

Yet to pursue this musing to the point of cruelty may be evidence merely of total lack of understanding of the owner/animal relationship, though perhaps it is wrong to say "owner" as this may denote the animal being a chattel in the way of a historically enslaved man or woman. The emotional value of a pet is so undeniable as to make it trite even to discuss it. The value must be even more so to those who would otherwise have an emotional void in their lives. So in classic empathy terms you can appreciate the importance of the animal without ever having looked after one.

Alternative reasoning for any sense of distancing on my part is not that I have been lucky to have wonderful children and have needed no pet supplement (yes, I know some families manage both happily), but may be that my only animal caring experience ended disastrously. My children when younger prevailed on us to buy fish, as a compromise between no pet and a labrador. I bought the books, consulted with the pet shop, and then took delivery of a modest aquarium, to which was added fish - I have no recollection of the species.

Within a week, and despite my feeding and caring according to the books, the fish started to die and the ones that were left were swimming around in circles like a Liberal Democrat looking for a role. I consulted the pet shop staff, and received a response of profound circularity:

"Why are the remaining  fish swimming round in circles?"

"They're stressed"

"What exactly is stress in a fish?"

"When it starts swimming round in circles".

The end for the remainder of the creatures was thankfully swift. But guess who had to do the burial duties in the back garden?


A couple of weeks I posted an item that discussed how the Dad's Army characters might respond to the current crisis: Since then there have coincidentally been various references to spiv Private Walker. I know that to watch the episodes these days can be associated with an unhealthy liking for UK Gold, but I still think that the humanity of a world under pressure is demonstrated splendidly by the good folk of Walmington-on-Sea. 


The author is a former City law firm partner, still teaching legal practice but also doing guided walks as a professionally qualified tour guide and writing and speaking on various things.