Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Idler, Thursday, January 17, 2019

History,

hysteria

in Blighty

 

"BREXTINCT!" So screeched the headline in yesterday's Sun – one of the more vociferous pro-Brexit Fleet Street tabloids – alongside an illustration depicting Theresa May as the Dodo.

Hysteria was inevitable following May's humiliating defeat in the House of Commons of her Brexit deal negotiated with the EU. But what follows?

And why, oh why, did the pound sterling rally on the world's financial markets just as Prime Minister May's humiliation sank in, instead of doing the opposite? Do the punters believe Brexit is dead? That the no-deal crash-out is a non-starter? That this is the start of a return to pre-Brexit normality?

What certainly has happened is that parliament has asserted itself over the populism created by a referendum where complex issues are so easily over-simplified. What parliament will do with that assertion is another matter.

Some weeks ago, Tory MP Dominic Grieve, a former attorney-general, defeated his own government with a motion bringing control of the Brexit process back to parliament, in the event of the deal being rejected. May acknowledged that in her speech accepting defeat and committed herself to reaching out to all sides in finding an alternative. Presumably, that is where matters now stand.

What will be stitched together? Can it be stitched? Will it be a cross-party deal? Will the Brexit process be abandoned? Will it be modified? Will the Article 50 deadline of March 29 be extended? Will Article 50 be withdrawn? Will Theresa May continue as prime minister?

Will there be another referendum, as so many urge? But what happens if the result produces just another clash between the populist will and parliament?

Will Britain simply crash out of the EU, and to hell with the consequences? Can it happen by accident as they run out of time?

So many questions, so far no answers.

Only one thing can be said with certainty. To draw on the collective wisdom of political analysis: Snot en trane still lie ahead.

 

ENTERTAINMENT value apart, does Brexit have any real impact on us down here in South Africa?

Well, yes if it's a messy Brexit. The EU is probably our biggest trading partner. The UK is a major part of that. We sell wines, fruit and other agricultural produce extensively in the UK.

The world's economies are inescapably intermeshed. Economic decline in the EU or Britain would certainly be felt here.

 

INTERVIEWED on the spot by Sky News, former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind was upbeat about developments at parliament.

No riots, no violence, nothing like what's going on in Paris, he pointed out. Parliament would sort it out.

Yes, all very British. But no less problematic.


 

"CAT gets head stuck in rat-trap"… Relax, this isn't more about Theresa May.

A black cat was found with his head stuck in a commercial rat-trap near a hotel in Newport, South Wales, according to Huffington Post.

"This poor cat's head was completely wedged ... and he was unable to free himself," Inspector Sophie Daniels of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said.

The cat in the box was brought to a vet, who managed to safely free him. The kitty was "understandably shaken," the RSPCA said.

Yes, and he hadn't even been told about the Brexit goings-on.

 

Tailpiece

DON'T forget, when in Rome – be an awkward cuss and do as the Belgians do.

 

Last word

Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.

Albert Schweitzer

The Idler, Friday, January 18, 2019

Zebras

models and

horseflies

 

SCIENTISTS believe that the black and white stripes on a zebra are a deterrent to horseflies.

Indigenous communities in Africa, Australia and Papua-New Guinea are known to paint stripes on their bodies for decorative. purposes and as markers of group identity. But does this also protect them against horseflies?

Scientists in Hungary decided to find out, according to Sky News. They smeared some models with glue and placed them in a horsefly-infested meadow.

Now these were not the gorgeous models you find on the fashion catwalks. Such models do not take kindly to being smeared with glue and placed in a horsefly-infested meadow. The models used by the Hungarian scientists were plastic mannequins of the human form.

They were coloured brown or beige, to mimic dark and fair skin. Some had white stripes

The brown model attracted 10 times as many horseflies as the white-striped brown one. The beige model got twice as many horseflies as the striped brown model.

The researchers said: "The results of our field experiment support the theory that the use of striped body painting may be related to protection against dangerous parasitic pests."

Next scientific project: "Striped football jerseys and parasitic pests in the stands."

 

WHICH recalls a dialogue between Reub and Josh in America's Deep South.

"Josh, what's these things buzzin' 'bout mah face?.

"Them's hossflies, Reub."

"What's hossflies, Josh?"

"Hossflies, Reub, is them things what goes buzzin' 'bout the rear end of a hoss."

"Is youse insinuatin', Josh, that I gotta face like the rear end of a hoss?"

"Ise insinuatin' nuttin', Reub. But you cain't fool them hossflies!"

 

A GAL in Ventura, California, was alarmed when the house she shared with her mother suddenly filled with black smoke. Maddison Ridgik rushed to her mum, who dialled the emergency services.

Next thing a group of firefighters burst in, wearing full kit, according to Huffington Post. Then one of them went down on one knee in front of Maddison and whipped off his oxygen mask. It was her boyfriend, Zach Steele – indeed a firefighter by profession. He asked her to marry him.

Background violins.

At which Maddison burst into tears, almost sufficient to douse the flames. Except there were no flames. Zach had set off a few smoke bombs in the house and hidden round the corner with some firefighting buddies. Mum was also in on the lark. She had only pretended to phone emergency services.

And Maddison accepted. This is going to be an interesting marriage.

 

OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "The only way to make a man love you and nobody else is to become his secretary."

 

 

MORE from Rosemarie Jarski's Great British Wit. Topic: Radio.

·       The plot of The Archers is squelchy and the dialogue compost … but Shula Archer is trimly stacked, with eyelashes like long grass, and any man would climb a loft ladder for her. – Jean Rook.

·       I have always characterised the relationship between my producer and I as that of a man and his dog, each believing the other to be the dog. – John Peel

·       I am amazed at radio DJs today. I am firmly convinced that AM on my radio stands for Absolute Moron. I will not begin to tell you what FM stands for. – Jasper Carrot

 

Tailpiece

THEY'VE formed a self-help group for compulsive talkers

It's called On and on Anon.

Last word

The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. - Lily Tomlin

 

The Idler, Thursday, January 17, 2019

Easy with

that soup,

garcon!

QUELLE domage! Paris's first nude restaurant is about to close.

O'Naturel opened in December 2017, specialising in three-course dinners of foie gras, lobster, snails, lamb and scallops.

Guests would arrive fully clothed, strip off in a changing room then sit down to a sumptuous meal in the altogether, served by staff in impeccable evening dress.

But now it's all over, according to Huffington Post. The owners have announced on their website that they're closing their doors next month next month.

"We will only remember the good times, meeting beautiful people and customers who were delighted to share exceptional moments," they said.

Is this perhaps a switch-around? Diners in future to be fully clothed, waiters and waitresses in the nude? They don't say.

Nor do they say why they're closing. Was nude dining not quite as popular as anticipated? Spillage of soup in the lap might well be a factor.

STILL with haute cuisine, White House chefs are among the 8 000 federal government workers who are on furlough, not being paid, as a result of the Great Wall of Mexico shut-down.

Is President Donald Trump himself going hungry? It seems not, he's a fast-food man anyway.

In fact when he wanted to entertain the Clemson Tigers with dinner at the White House to celebrate their winning the college football national championship, it was the easiest thing, according to Sky News.

He just ordered 300 hamburgers, a pile of pizzas and French fries. The footballers munched through it all in splendid fashion.

"It's all American. If it's American, I like it," Trump said of the sumptuous feast.

He's said to favour eating cheeseburgers in bed. Maybe he did exactly that later on, a tasty follow-up to hamburgers and pizza.

 

A ROBIN redbreast has made a rare appearance in Beijing, according to the BBC. Hundreds of bird-watching photographers flocked to the Beijing Zoo Friday after word spread that a European robin had been spotted there – in the wild, not in a cage.

European robins are visitors to the Far East so rare that few twitchers have ever seen them.

The birdwatchers joke that the robin might be a "Brexit refugee".

Real wags, those Chinese birdwatchers.

 

 

DURBAN'S musicians are at it again. This time they're raising funds in aid of the Fynnland Drum Majorettes, according to my old muso mate, Smelly Fellows.

They're holding a Let's Go fundraiser at Fynnland Sports Club, Smith Drive, Fynnland,on the Bluff, on Sunday week, January 27.

It kicks off at 12 noon, music and entertainment provided by GP's Choice, Gleit)n Winter, Lee Henning and others.

There'll be raffles, face painting and a jumping castle for kids (when Smelly can be persuaded to stop bouncing on it).

Then – flourish of trumpets – a display by the Fynnland Drum Majorettes.

Entry is free, though donations will be welcome.

Further information: Sharon - 084 511 6516.

 

 

Tailpiece

 

A CLERGYMAN is walking down the street when he sees a small boy trying to ring a doorbell. He's so small he can't quite reach it. The clergyman walks up behind him and gives it a firm, hard ring.

"And now, my little man?" he says kindly.

"Now we run like hell," says the small boy.

 

Last word

HYPOCRISY is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit, it cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practised at spare moments; it is a whole-time job. – William Somerset-Maugham

The Idler, January 16, 2019

Easy with

that soup,

garcon!

QUELLE domage! Paris's first nude restaurant is about to close.

O'Naturel opened in December 2017, specialising in three-course dinners of foie gras, lobster, snails, lamb and scallops.

Guests would arrive fully clothed, strip off in a changing room then sit down to a sumptuous meal in the altogether, served by staff in impeccable evening dress.

But now it's all over, according to Huffington Post. The owners have announced on their website that they're closing their doors next month next month.

"We will only remember the good times, meeting beautiful people and customers who were delighted to share exceptional moments," they said.

Is this perhaps a switch-around? Diners in future to be fully clothed, waiters and waitresses in the nude? They don't say.

Nor do they say why they're closing. Was nude dining not quite as popular as anticipated? Spillage of soup in the lap might well be a factor.

STILL with haute cuisine, White House chefs are among the 8 000 federal government workers who are on furlough, not being paid, as a result of the Great Wall of Mexico shut-down.

Is President Donald Trump himself going hungry? It seems not, he's a fast-food man anyway.

In fact when he wanted to entertain the Clemson Tigers with dinner at the White House to celebrate their winning the college football national championship, it was the easiest thing, according to Sky News.

He just ordered 300 hamburgers, a pile of pizzas and French fries. The footballers munched through it all in splendid fashion.

"It's all American. If it's American, I like it," Trump said of the sumptuous feast.

He's said to favour eating cheeseburgers in bed. Maybe he did exactly that later on, a tasty follow-up to hamburgers and pizza.

 

A ROBIN redbreast has made a rare appearance in Beijing, according to the BBC. Hundreds of bird-watching photographers flocked to the Beijing Zoo Friday after word spread that a European robin had been spotted there – in the wild, not in a cage.

European robins are visitors to the Far East so rare that few twitchers have ever seen them.

The birdwatchers joke that the robin might be a "Brexit refugee".

Real wags, those Chinese birdwatchers.

 

 

DURBAN'S musicians are at it again. This time they're raising funds in aid of the Fynnland Drum Majorettes, according to my old muso mate, Smelly Fellows.

They're holding a Let's Go fundraiser at Fynnland Sports Club, Smith Drive, Fynnland,on the Bluff, on Sunday week, January 27.

It kicks off at 12 noon, music and entertainment provided by GP's Choice, Gleit)n Winter, Lee Henning and others.

There'll be raffles, face painting and a jumping castle for kids (when Smelly can be persuaded to stop bouncing on it).

Then – flourish of trumpets – a display by the Fynnland Drum Majorettes.

Entry is free, though donations will be welcome.

Further information: Sharon - 084 511 6516.

 

 

Tailpiece

 

A CLERGYMAN is walking down the street when he sees a small boy trying to ring a doorbell. He's so small he can't quite reach it. The clergyman walks up behind him and gives it a firm, hard ring.

"And now, my little man?" he says kindly.

"Now we run like hell," says the small boy.

 

Last word

HYPOCRISY is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit, it cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practised at spare moments; it is a whole-time job. – William Somerset-Maugham

The Idler, Tuesday January 15, 2019

Seals

invade

Canada

SCORES of seals have become stranded in a Canadian town after waters they used to navigate in the ocean froze over. It's happening in Roddickton-Bide Arm, Newfoundland, according to Sky News.

Says Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald: "It actually feels like we're being inundated with seals, because there's seals on the road, there's seals in people's driveways, the backyards, the parking lots, the doorways, the businesses."

Heavens, it sounds worse than the invasion of Mexicanos on the southern border of the US.

The seals migrate south from the Arctic in December and tend to gather near shores, harbours and bays, but - with no obvious route back to where they came from - the animals are now lost and are moving through the snow, going further and further inland. Will the Canadian mainland be next?

Don't tell Donald Trump. He's in wall-building mode.

 

SPEAKING of which, an item on the internet announces "Trump gets his wall." It shows the American president sitting grim-faced on a chair in the corner while a Mexicano builds a small brick wall round him.

Meanwhile, the shut-down of the US federal government continues as Trump continues to wrestle with Congress, refusing to sign off on the budget unless it provides $5.6 billion for the building of his Great Wall of Mexico.

Some 800 000 federal government workers are going unpaid. At airports they're still working anyway – for now. How long can it last?

Trump claims he's getting messages of support from these unpaid workers. Eh? And now one of his economic advisers says those workers are actually better off for the shut-down.

Kevin Hassett, the White House's chief economic adviser, is quoted by Huffington Post saying many of them were going to take vacation days anyway.

"Then we have a shutdown, and so they can't go to work, and so then they have the vacation, but they don't have to use their vacation days. And then they come back, and then they get their back pay. Then, in some sense, they're better off."

Oh boy! And this is an economic adviser to the White House?

A glimmer of hope of a breakthrough comes with a piece in the New Yorker saying Trump is prepared to compromise on his demand for a wall, instead posting Vice-President Mike Pence on the border with a large pair of binoculars, alternately keeping an eye out for intruders and glaring menacingly into the distance.

But of course this is satirist Andy Borowitz again, and we're back at square one. Who scripted all this? You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Tailpiece

A COP in America watches as a little old lady drags two bulging plastic bags down the street. He notices one of the bags is slightly torn and $20 notes are coming out.

"Hey, ma'am, you're losing money."

"Why, so I am. Thank you."

"I gotta ask you. Where'd you get that money?"

"From the golf course."

"The golf course?"

"Yes. My garden runs next to the golf course. And at the 14th hole these critters walk across and widdle through the fence right onto my flowers. I've had enough. I've got a sharp pair of garden shears. I catch them in the act and say: "$20 fine or I snip it off!"

The cop falls about laughing.

"What's in the other bag?"

"Well, not all of them pay the fine."

Last word

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

Oscar Wilde

 

The Idler, Monday, January 14, 2019

4ir – this

is our

future?

 

EVERYONE is talking these days about 4ir. Open any newspaper and some honcho is telling us 4ir means a constant learning process.

In the near future, you won't just go to school, then to varsity or trade school or whatever to qualify as something. You'll have to keep on working your butt off, studying to keep up with the digital gismos, to keep ahead of the robots and keep your job.

Lots of jobs will go to the robots. Human beings will themselves become almost robotic as they work in the digital world. It doesn't sound much fun.

4ir? You don't know what that is? Why, it's the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the digital age, artificial intelligence and the rise of the robot. Where have you been?

Most of us have heard of the First Industrial Revolution in Victorian England. The Second and Third are slightly more obscure. Maybe the Second was when they put in the Nkandla party line. The Third? Could it have been strobe lights and go-go dancing?

Anyway, here we are with 4ir, and we need to be careful. They must not leave behind those of us who don't know what an app is and don't intend finding out; who think Bluetooth is a guy who's been eating Roquefort cheese.

These benighted individuals must not be abandoned, to become the equivalent of the Luddites of Victorian England, who went about breaking machines. They must somehow be kept in the mainstream of society, otherwise they could indeed drift off as latter-day Luddites, declaiming in bars subversive passages of Shakespeare or - worse – distracting people with lewd tales in Chaucerian accents of misdirected kisses at dark windowsills.

What I'm saying is that 4ir must not be allowed to become as boring as it sounds. There has to be room for humanity. Our heritage cannot be ignored.

Tehee quod she and clapte the window to.

 

 

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener addresses the question of paternity leave in his latest grumpy newsletter.

"It is indeed all very civilised and modern to suggest that fathers need time off work to bond with their new-borns and apparently legislation now obliges employers to grant fathers at least 10 days of paternity leave.

"In a country where around half the mothers don't know the whereabouts or even the identity of their infant's father this is going to be interesting. At least two consequences come to mind.

"Unless the law insists on the leave claimant proving monogamy, those active and virile chaps (like our ex-president) are going to be permanently on paternity leave.

"The good news though is that this might provide a method for abandoned single mothers to put in a child-support claim on the salary of the new-found dad. So maybe there's a natural limit that will come into play.

"But equally it might provide an incentive for the timeous registration of new births which is another area where we as a nation are failing to keep up. It's just about this time of year when we read of schools having to cope with many more new pupils than the Home Affairs records suggest would pitch up."

 

Tailpiece

CRUISE ship passenger: "I wish to complain. I went to my cabin and a common seaman was using my shower."

Purser: "Well what do you expect in second class? The captain?"

 

Last word

Preserving health by too severe a rule is a worrisome malady.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Idler, Friday, January 14

Woids,

woids,

woorde

 

A NUMBER of distinctly South African words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Some have been introduced to English from various African languages and Afrikaans.

Afrikaans, the dictionary notes, has been a particularly rich source of loanwords.

Well, the dictionary always did kick off with "Aardvark" (warthog), closely followed by "Aardwolf" (hyena) and "Aasvogel" (vulture), with "Zulu" about third item from last.

New words included are "deurmekaar", an adjective applied to something that is confused, muddled, or mixed up – inspired no doubt by the Brexit debacle - and "voetstoots", first used as a legal term to describe "the buying or selling of items in their existing condition and today used more generally as an adverb to describe actions carried out unconditionally, without reservation or qualification."

Yes, voetstoots is a term used in Roman-Dutch law – pushing away with the foot – meaning that an item is sold as is, the seller not responsible for any subsequent defect.

How would the English language manage without our input?

Other new words in the Oxford Dictionary are "Amakhosi" (1857), a collective term of Xhosa and Zulu origin for tribal leaders or chiefs in traditional Nguni societies, and "ubuntu" (1860), a word signifying the fundamental values of humanity.

Other words on the list, including some slang, are: bunnychow, district surgeon, dwaal, eina, gumboot dance, howzit, ingcibi, ja, ja well, kasi, kif, Mzansi, sakkie-sakkie, sarmie, shackland, skedonk, spaza, tickey box, traditional healer and wine of origin.

I'm surprised they weren't all there already, though I must confess to being mystified by "incibi" and "kasi". "Mzansi" is a rather silly name for South Africa. It means "down there".

"Tickey box" is surely a little archaic. The tickey was the small, silver threepenny bit that disappeared with the calamity of decimalisation. A tickey box was a telephone booth, which doesn't exist any more, while the idea of a call of unlimited duration for the equivalent of two-and-a-half cents is today in the realm of fantasy.

There's a way to go. Future editions of the Oxford English Dictionary need to contain words like skebenga (politician), bambaduza (dancing close) and poepdronk (very drunk).

It all adds up to enrichment of the language, coloration of our vocabularies and is to be encouraged.

 

IT'S with sadness that I note the death of Stephanie Churton, a grand old lady of art in Durban.

Steph began drawing and painting when she was a child of 11. She died the other day at the age of 92, still painting. Her prodigious output included portraits, landscapes, still life – roses were a speciality – and some amusing experimentations.

Her early mentor was Professor Jack Grossert, and from there she took off, painting mainly in oils though also using other mediums. Her skill and decorative flair made her work popular. One of her last projects was a portrait of her much-loved friend and care-giver Bonnie Nene, who was also teaching her Zulu. This was a lively mind.

I count myself fortunate to have three of Steph's paintings hanging in my flat.

 

Tailpiece

A STREAKER runs through a golf club with a towel covering his face. Three female members are sitting in the lounge.

"At least that's not my husband," says one.

"No, it isn't," says the second.

"He's not even a member," says the third.

Last word

Any woman who thinks the way to a man's heart is through his stomach is aiming about 10 inches too high.

Adrienne E Gusoff

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Idler Thursday

Isipingo

takes a

knock

THIS is most distressing. It rudely shakes my faith in Isipingo as a centre of culture, good taste and good manners. As a sometime patron of the Island Hotel, in the middle of Isipingo lagoon – a place of cultured conviviality – I find it difficult to believe.

According to Post, our weekly sister newspaper, a most unseemly brawl broke out on Isipingo Beach on New Year's Day. Loutish fellows were using obscene language, fighting and threatening people with broken bottles. They were all of them hopelessly drunk.

Also, an "aunty" was seen to remove her knickers and show off her wares, adding to the turmoil. She denies it, saying she was merely removing sand that had been thrown at her. But the incident was videoed and has gone viral on social media. Can Isipingo's reputation ever recover?

As I say, distressing. Isipingo's world standing as a centre of the arts and culture is under threat. And what is terribly unfair is that the culprits are almost certainly from elsewhere.

Don't blame the Bluff. I suspect that this was an invasion of hooligans from the Berea, who spend the year suppressing their instincts under a veneer of good manners then cut loose at New Year.

Shocking, shameful! And Isipingo gets the blame.

 

EARLIER this week we discussed a case of mistaken identity in Maritzburg where a fellow kept cutting off a police car that was trying to overtake him, then flicked a stompie at the copper as he drew level – under the impression it was one of his pals.

It reminds reader Sally Stretch – a pillar of the arts soiree at St Clement's – of an incident of mistaken identity in England.

Her friend drove a white Rover. The cops in England also drove white Rovers. He was driving home from the pub one night, very mellow, when to his dismay he saw a police roadblock ahead. There was no escaping it. He stopped. A cop ordered him to get out of the car. He obliged.

Then suddenly there was a terrible crash on the opposite carriageway. The cops all rushed across to attend to it. Barely able to believe his luck, this fellow got into the Rover and drove off home.

Early next morning there was a knocking at his door. Bleary-eyed, he opened up. Two coppers were on the doorstep.

"Sir, do you own a white Rover, registration No. xxxxx"

He replied that he did.

"Where is the vehicle now?"

"In my garage"

"May we see it?"

"Certainly."

He took the cops to the garage and opened the door. There, indeed, stood a white Rover. With a blue light on the roof…

 

AND another case of mistaken identity, also in England. I was working in Essex on the Barking and Dagenham Advertiser (read in every quarter of the globe) and late at night was giving a colleague a lift home in my green Austin A40.

Suddenly a white Rover cut me off, forcing me just about into the kerb. Another screeched to a halt just behind. We were surrounded by coppers.

"Show me ID!"

I produced my press card.

"Press? Bloody 'ell!"

Then they were off again, quick as they'd arrived.

Some fellows in a green Austin A40 had just heaved a brick through a jeweller's window a couple of blocks away and helped themselves.

 

Tailpiece

WHAT goes zzub, zzub?

A bee flying backwards.

Last word

Against logic there is no armour like ignorance.

Laurence J Peter

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Idler Wednesday

Demons

unleashed with

a vengeance

THERE'S a sense akin to Dunkirk in Britain as the clock ticks toward Brexit in March, with no sign that the House of Commons will accept the deal Prime Minister Theresa May has reached with the EU and no sign she will take steps to avoid a "no deal" crash-out.

This week heavy trucks staged a traffic jam exercise in Kent to see how traffic could be managed in the case of a crash-out, in which case customs checks at Dover would cause massive vehicle back-ups.

The exercise, which involved using a nearby airfield as a parking lot, was supposed to involve 150 heavy trucks but the government could procure only 89 in time. Heavy vehicles involved in the real traffic jam that would follow a Brexit crash-out would number in the thousands.

Meanwhile, MPs against Brexit are being harassed just outside parliament by ugly far-right groups who demand a crash-out. MPs have written to the commissioner of police, asking for protection. This at the Mother of Parliaments?

David Cameron, prime minister at the time he called the Brexit referendum, is said to have expressed misgivings that he could be "unleashing demons". That's about the only thing he had right.

As the clock ticks, a cross-party group of 210 MPs – supported by business organisations including Jaguar-Land Rover and Rolls Royce – have written to May, calling on her to take no-deal Brexit "off the table" as an option. In other words, the Brexit deadline should be extended while negotiations with the EU continue and, if negotiations fail, Britain remains in the EU.

Mrs May meanwhile continues with a two-way game of chicken – against the EU to extract further concessions (the EU would also suffer in the case of a crash-out) and against her own MPs who hate her deal but quail at the thought of the cliff-edge departure.

In the US, the federal government has been shut down in a stand-off over funding Donald Trump's Great Wall of Mexico. Britain and the EU are in crisis. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

But they'll be rolling around with laughter in the Kremlin  and other quarters. Let's hope all they're doing is laugh.

Will the British parliament somehow manage to right the ship, assert itself? Will the lemming-rush be averted? It's a long way from us, to be sure, but economic collapse anywhere causes waves rather than ripples. Remember the bank that collapsed in the US back in 2008?

 

RAIL passengers in Britain have been asked to be more careful about what they flush down the toilets on trains. The latest item to have caused a blockage on Virgin Trains is a bra.

Other objects found in blocked toilets include spectacles, wedding rings and a football scarf, according to Sky News.

Four toilets a day are being taken out of service due to people flushing foreign objects instead of using the bins provided, the rail company says.

I bet that bra could tell a story. The football scarf? Maybe it's the same story.

Tailpiece

TWO teenagers are caught smoking a joint in the park. They're taken to the police station. The desk sergeant tells them they're entitled to one phone call. A while later a man comes into the police station.

The sergeant asks: "Are you these kids' lawyer."

"Heck no, I'm delivering a pizza."

Last word

Nobody will ever win the Battle of the Sexes. There's just too much fraternising with the enemy.

Henry Kissinger