Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Idler, Monday, January 7, 2019

The wall

that's not

a wall


We're going to hang out our washing on the Siegfried Line,

Have you any dirty washing mother dear?




THE World War II marching song and morale-booster comes to mind as President Trump's Great Wall of Mexico appears to dissolve into something more like a palisade fence.


It's an extraordinary situation. America's federal government has shut down. Some 800 000 federal government workers are not being paid because Trump refuses to sign off on the budget unless it allocates $5.6 billion to his wall. He says the federal government will remain closed for as long as it takes - months, years if necessary.


The Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, will have nothing of it. They're prepared to allocate a much smaller amount to border security but not to a "wall".


The figure of $5.6 billion is, of course, really nothing in a budget of several trillions of dollars.


Is compromise possible? Well, maybe. Trump is now indignant when people suggest that his wall would be of concrete. What's wrong with steel? he asks. The American steel industry would benefit greatly.


Also, a solid wall is undesirable, he says. You need to be able to see through it, see what's going on the other side.


Ah, a fence of some sort. Steel palisades? I suppose you could even describe a high barbed wire fence as a wall of steel.


And here lies the possible compromise. The Democrats vote for a border fence. Trump describes it as a border wall and signs off.


Maybe they'll grow grapes and grenadillas on this fence/wall. Maybe even hang out their washing.


Vladimir Putin must be writhing with laughter.



A CAPTION to a picture last week described a "murmuration" of starlings in the sky. Why not a "flock"? Where do these twee collective nouns come from?

Examples: a confusion of chiffchaffs; a commotion of coots; a murder of crows; an asylum of cuckoos; a curfew of curlews; a trembling of finches; a parliament of rooks; a mischief of magpies; a wisdom of owls ...

Who makes up this nonsense?

The tweeness appears to apply mainly to birds, though "a shrewdness of apes" falls into the same category.

"A congress of baboons"? – that's fifty-fifty, though for anyone who's been watching political developments in America these days, it's spot-on.


INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener expresses, in his latest grumpy newsletter, the puzzlement we all have at the phenomenon of social media.

"Those of us who remember why 'dial' is the verb used to describe punching buttons to contact someone by phone have much sympathy for others puzzled by the dangers and pitfalls of so-called social media, much of which is rather more anti-social.

"For example, a parameter of success for anyone 'posting' one's innermost secrets, inane thoughts and pictures of lunch and cats, is a count of how many followers one has.

"Now the smart-phone equivalent of a hissy fit when annoyed by a follower whose responses to your 'posting' is displeasing, is to 'block' future access to your contributions. Which reduces one's number of followers. Which lowers your score in this non-existent contest.

"Weird or what?"


IT'S January 7 and good news – the Springboks are unbeaten this year.



Weight loss tip: If you're tempted to stuff your face, do it standing naked in front of a mirror.

The restaurant will chuck you out before you've swallowed too much.


Last word


The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.



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