Speak to us…

Here, overlooking the immeasurable horizon, sitting on a wooden chair with my coffee and water, I bought a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece ´The Prophet’. It can be read without absorption in half an hour, but to fully grasp it can take half a lifetime. Each chapter begins with the same words as the title of this post. Reflection takes us both inward and, more importantly, outward as we gain insights into both our insignificance also the uniqueness of our own being. Nobody is like us. We, like a pebble on the beach, or a fallen leaf are utterly and completely unique. We sometimes try to measure the unmeasurable, comprehend the incomprehensible in order to find meaning amidst chaos, rest amidst the fury, silence amidst endless chatter. Looking out over the limitless ocean is reason enough to visit it, its capricious waves and turbulence softly hidden beneath the long, straight horizon. I was reminded of a verse from Isaiah 40 which sets all things in their rightful place and the raging winds are quietly calmed. And peace unspoken sets our restless soul in order.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on a scale and the hills in a balance?”

China Shops and Bulls

Broken crockery not shown.

I wasn’t going to write about Brexit because everybody is fed up to the back teeth with it and most of us have stopped caring. However, the proroguing (there’s a fifty-dollar word) of Parliament and the theatrical and frankly disgraceful behaviour of those who purport to govern us, has caused me to sharpen my quill.
The mess we are currently in began three and a quarter years ago but reached a cacophonous crescendo this week. Mr Speaker, blessedly and slightly tearily announced his retirement – for a Tory MP he was Labour’s favourite lapdog and the stony silence on the Tory back benches contrasted painfully with Labour’s cheers as if to a conquering hero instead of a dwarfish and often petulant Speaker who seemed to imagine that Parliamentary rules were for other people. Furthermore, does his wife buy his neckties for him, I wonder? If so, a rapid and painless divorce might be recommended.

Screenshot 2019-09-11 at 10.06.09

Is that the Periodic Table, Mr Speaker?

David Cameron’s catastrophic miscalculation and the backstage manipulation by the devious Dominic Cummings – surely the comparison to Robespierre is not without merit – was enough to tip the balance. The referendum ballot paper in 2016 was unambiguous. ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?’ Simple enough question – a binary choice – no problem. Clearly, the political class wanted us to vote one way and Cameron, with stern upper-class gravitas, warned us all that this was a once-in-a-lifetime decision, yet, like the idle wind, we heeded him not and perversely voted the wrong way.

If we had chosen ‘Remain’, as most of the Establishment expected, Britain would still be trapped in an unhappy but survivable marriage with Brussels. However, the country voted the ‘wrong’ way and filed for divorce. As it happens, the British people’s decision wasn’t quite without precedent, except, of course in outcome. In the past, whenever other member countries were given a vote on the EU, they too wanted to slam on the brakes. The Dutch decisively but firmly made their collective view known at the ballot box some years ago when they were asked to ratify a proposed constitution that was clearly intended to push Europe towards super-state status. The Irish brushed Brussels aside in a similar referendum in 2008.
Inexplicably, both were told to vote again until they swore allegiance, or perhaps, subservience to Brussels as it steamrollered along towards the sunny uplands of superstatehood.

The tentacles of the EU have woven themselves inextricably into British society and a simple handshake and farewell had no chance of success. It has been suggested that the EU needs us more than we need them so they’ll strain every sinew and set as many bear traps in our path to prevent us leaving as they can manage. One commentator has even suggested that the EU might never let us leave, since we contribute so much. Theresa May with all the enthusiasm of a ride on a tumbril and against her better judgment tried, as a good servant of the people, to push a deal through with spectacular lack of success, thwarted by just about everybody in Opposition plus a cabal of right wingers who stood to benefit, perhaps substantially, by a no-deal outcome. Now, in her place, we have an oafish, unpredictable, but oddly charismatic leader who blunders along with all the grace of a bull in a china shop, oratorical dexterity notwithstanding, towards the cliff edge. Famously, he declared that he’d rather be dead in a ditch than extend the deadline further. Quite a number of people have offered to hire a mechanical digger for a day to expedite the process.
Selling any kind of deal to the implacable mandarins in Brussels isn’t, as BoJo seems to imagine, like selling prayer mats to Arabs; instead more like selling air conditioners to Eskimos.

Hallowe’en, exit day, isn’t far away. Until that time, we have no Government for at least five weeks, unless the Supreme Court gives a ruling, currently with trousers neither up nor down after the English ruled the suspension lawful whereas the Scottish did not. Meanwhile, the Labour Party twiddles its thumbs, looking vacuously out of the window, dreaming of the overthrow of the hated capitalists and are, it appears, even more bovine and helpless than Baldrick who at least had “a cunning plan”.  If anybody, anyone at all, has a strategy, a way through the swamp, a ‘secret trick’ that nobody has yet thought of, don’t bother sharing it because nobody’s listening any more.

Private Baldrick is about to execute a cunning plan.

Double Act

Since we’re all utterly cheesed with Brexit, BoJo sucking up to both Mutti Merkel and Macron’s wife in Biarritz and claiming victories yet, lo, they are not, I thought a bit of levity might be an antidote to the gin-sodden melancholy that has gripped us all.

A few years ago, I created a fictional character for a magazine called Peregrine Spode, a kind of amalgam of Bertie Wooster, Tim Nice but Dim and Mr Bean.

Poor Perry. He’s rather alone in the world and doesn’t write like me at all, possibly because he was dropped on his head as a baby. This much at least we have in common. I thought you might like one of his pieces, so, here it is.

“Came across this the other day and thought it absolutely spiffing. Being a bit of an arse, I can’t really claim to be much of a screenwriter, but, I’ll have a bash and hope you get the idea. So, possibly some scene setting,  subdued yellow lighting, dark, vibrant ‘cello music. Cue to fogbound street, lit by a single, weak gas lamp.  Nobody about. A hansom cab, its horse weary from a long day clops forlornly in and out of scene,  hooves gently clacking on cobbled stone. A shifty-looking chap with a cap pulled down over his forehead emerges, scuttles, almost runs, head down, glancing left, right and occasionally behind as if pursued by some foul fiend that ‘doth close behind him tread’.  Cut to first floor window. A tall, languidly elegant man in a beautifully cut black frock coat parts the curtain with a violin bow, and takes in the entire scene, his eyes unblinking and heavy-lidded. He sees absolutely everything, cocks his head, listens for a moment, one eyebrow raised until the inevitable single pistol shot rings out and said chap sprawls, dead as a dodo.. And then, an opening line: “You see, Watson, but you do not observe”, the great detective’s famous maxim. Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character created by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, still enthralls, fascinates and inspires. Got that last bit from one of the books, actually, so, have to admit that I didn’t actually write it. But look, old Perry isn’t just a pretty face, if I’m allowed a little laughingly hysterical untruth.  I used to quite often imagine myself as trusty assistant to the Man himself – how easy it is to baffle those of weaker intellect – my own little Walter Mitty moment. No tricks, sleight of hand or miracles here, just cold, lightning fast logic and a dazzlingly rapid display of neural connectivity and systematic common sense.  You see, even I am capable of the odd fifty-dollar word. It comes from having been quite a lonely and, let’s be honest, quite an ugly, friendless child. Holmes became my joiner of dots par excellence, my personal Einstein of detection. I used to slip easily between being Holmes or Watson, depending on mood. 

Everybody knows this and, since I read it somewhere, I’ll copy it down so that you can read it too.  “ “It was really elementary, gentlemen” was the phrase ascribed to Conan Doyle’s mentor and inspiration, the Edinburgh doctor Joseph Bell with diagnostic powers verging on the magical and under whom Conan Doyle had studied.  He is described as remarking  ‘I always impressed upon my students the vast importance of little distinctions, the endless significance of trifles.’ “ Gosh.

When I first came across this, I thought it had something to do with those rather jolly things with sponge-cake, jelly and cream that Grandmother used to make on Sunday afternoons… Oh, never mind. 

When at that spotty, unpleasant age of perhaps about eleven, when the nastiness of one’s classmates is most keenly felt, I had a maths master at school who loved his trifles and little distinctions. I suppose he was utterly fed up with dealing with dimwits who didn’t quite get the notion of a quadratic equation. “…the endless significance of trifles” was his way of saying “you’re a bunch of useless halfwits who can’t count your change on the bus.’ 

Whether it’s solving a crime or a maths problem, the process of deduction, according to Sherlock, remains the same – ‘you take all of your observations … you put them in order, starting from the beginning and leaving nothing out – the chain of reasoning and the test of possibilities – and you determine what feasible answer remains.’ I suppose he and I diverge a bit on a few of the more salient matters since I don’t really have that ever-ready attention to detail, being, as it were, a bit of a duffer, and I’m afraid I’m really not awfully adaptable as I go all wobbly in a crisis. Also I’m no good at maths and the sight of a quadratic equation makes me feel quite queer. Not allowed to say that, obviously. The idea of Holmes’ constant habitual vigilance is, I regret to say, often a bit more than the old Spode grey cells can manage, drifting off, as they rather tended to do into what some poet or other described quite neatly as “endless flights of fancy”, meaning, I suppose that the old intellectual balloon tended to slip its moorings once in a while and drift away into the wide blue yonder . Put simply, I’ve got the IQ of a watermelon. Although, I do have to say that old Sherlock and I do have a number of common features. Not facially or anything, you understand, but, well, er…features. For want of a better word.  

Under the bedclothes with my torch, hidden from mother’s prying eyes, Spode Minor learned a lot about Sherlock’s methods. “You know my methods, Spode” I used to imagine him saying. 

One thing we did seem to have in common was the fact that when he was working on a problem, he worked alone. I do too, but not out of choice. “This is quite the three-pipe problem, Spode”, I imagined him saying “and I beg that you will not speak to me for fifty minutes.” Which, coincidentally, was exactly the length of the Lone Ranger episodes on the television, so I had no difficulty leaving him to his own devices, and felt sure that when we returned, he’d have everything sorted. I used to imagine that Sherlock and I made up a proper double act. John Watson was really no match for the Spode/Holmes combo; I used to think of him lagging behind because he’d forgotten his old Service revolver, while S and I were sleuthing for real, the game afoot. It was always so very gratifying when we had to tell Watson afterwards how it was done which left him open-mouthed with astonishment and our trifling efforts seemed to him to be nothing less than sheer genius. 

The television can be such a disappointment, don’t you find? Especially American television. Nothing against our transatlantic cousins, of course, apart from the mangling of language, but, they do like to take a good idea and, well, ruin it. Take Sherlock, for example. Whoever could have imagined that an enthusiastic somebody would come up with the idea of an American version? Transplanting SH to New York City is as foreign as marmalade in Madagascar. To make matters worse, they not only called it “Elementary” but they came up with a Joan Watson! Delicious as Lucy Liu undoubtedly is, my breakfast curdled in my stomach as she and Jonny Lee Miller solved their way across New York for three whole series. Had I, like Watson, suffered from an old war wound, a Jezail bullet in the shoulder, to be precise,  it would have given me sharp, disapproving cramps every time the theme music was played.  OK, OK, call me Mister Old-Fashioned, but Sherlock and Victorian London are as inseparable as the holes and the Emmental.” 

Well, there you have it. Perry was raised from the dead for one post only. Unless he goes viral, of course, in which case we shall pursue his adventures in due course. I’m not holding my breath.

 

Common Sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years, indeed millennia. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned, but overbearing, education regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, (oh, dear, is a simple kiss to blame?) teenagers suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch and a teacher actually fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. I once had to physically restrain an unruly student who attempted to headbutt me. Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they had themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children and the result is anarchy in so many classrooms. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer paracetamol, sun lotion or plaster to a pupil, but could not inform the parents when a pupil became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became not just contraband, but virtually illegal. Churches became businesses with slick advertising and good dentition and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home, but the burglar could sue you for assault because you protected yourself and your own. Firing a weapon in defence is, it seems, a criminal act. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap and was promptly awarded a huge financial settlement. Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility and his son, Respect. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I’m A Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realised that he was gone. They played The Parting Glass at the ceremony. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

A Gentleman’s Game

I don’t normally write about sport. The English, minus the Agincourt archers, are to do battle today for the World Cup in a game which one famous, sadly deceased, journalist once described as ” the game you invented and the rest of the world whips you at”.

But, not today. The Kiwis are out for blood in the final and we shall see in a few hours’ time whether they have the bowels to see off the England squad and get their hands on the Cup.

Cricket, unlike baseball, is a gentleman’s game. Etonians play it well – I was in the First XI the day we beat them through sheer Midlands brutality, facing their fastest men. I was a nasty spin bowler and caught their captain out  at mid-on with an incredibly lucky catch, overarching and backward. I still remember the thud as I hit the ground.

Sport is like war. It’s strange how we have replaced our thirst for battle with a thirst for victory in the arena. But, rightly so. There are no widows or orphans, No fire, demolitions or rape. Even chess, the most benign of conflicts, rouses passion in its adherents .Yet there is never blood on the chessboard,  Queen’s Indian defence notwithstanding.

It may be that even the Australians, the semifinal losers, will gather in Melbourne bars to see if the  bastard colonials get their asses’ whipped and the pride of the Pacific will be restored.

On the obverse side of the coin, today is Juillet Quatorze when French armed forces parade down the Champs Elysées, the final march being from the Légion Entrangère. They have to be last because the pace of their march is slower than all the others. Here, as of now, there is thunder, sheet lightning, as if the horses of the gods are girding for battle. Quite the metaphor. As if the gods are at war.

I used to love the fireworks. On a hilltop in St Germain, we could see the displays from at least seven different locations, including the spectacular one on the Champ de Mars where half a million gather.

I miss Paris.

Back to the Future

Some memories from long ago, which is, of course  the old man’s privilege, surfaced today. But the memory was so sharp, so vivid, so as if yesterday, It made me wonder. A friend mentioned Hildegard of Bingen – I haven’t given thought to her for half a generation – I wanted to remind him of the Kabbala, but, I did not. A rabbi whom I have met might do better. Another friend of a friend, a New Yorker whom I met in Jerusalem  again just popped her head above the parapet, reminding me of Susan, whom I loved, and she loved me. All rather maudlin, but I was reminded of the fact that we ourselves live in the chronos, not the kairos – much as we might like it to be different.

I took a group once to Westminster Central Hall to hear a man called John Wimber, who spoke for ten minutes, sat down at the piano-he used to play for the Righteous Brothers – and the fire fell – this bit is just for those who know – but the memory in massive detail remained with me.

Allow me.

Insects and Grass

Cave paintings, Chauvet, France about 20,000 years old

A musing, a voyage of the imagination. Take it with me if you will. Suspending disbelief, let’s just suppose that without speculating on the reasons, every human being on planet Earth no longer existed. In every city, on every continent, every island, beach resort, town, village, hamlet and farm all that human activity just…stopped. No more brand loyalty, political posturing, buffoonery, warfare, enslavement. Nothing.

Climate is clearly shifting and in so doing is changing our demographics, our thinking, our sense of unease. A carboniferous change, man – made, or not, is the presumed cause and mankind with Promethean hubris seems determined to try to stop it. Today, Parisians have received orange weather warnings; Lyon has a projected temperature of over 40 Celsius. Severe storms are projected in my little corner of Heaven; air conditioner is working overtime, the air outside suffocating. A recent visit to Kuwait, searing and inhospitable, reminded me of how much worse it might get. An even more recent foray, hoping to miss the storm and pay the bills – ten seconds in torrential near-tropical rain plus flash flooding, winds enough to tear any umbrellas foolish enough to have been opened to shreds and branches littering the streets like slain giants, right here at home.

One hour later, all is sweetness and light – there’s a metaphor here for those who follow British politics – no need necessarily to call the police if you happen to hear what my late wife called a “wee domestic”.

Let’s just pretend that as a result, the species Homo Sapiens was unable to protect its existence and simply faded away into obscurity by some indeterminate mechanism. All our culture only exists as artefact, slowly decaying like ancient cave paintings.

We share this fragile little blue-green space with perhaps just under nine million different life-forms, according to an exhaustive study undertaken some eight years ago; apparently the most accurate estimate yet of life on Earth. Three-quarters of them, mostly insects, inhabit the 30%, which is dry land. Species have become extinct before we’ve even heard of them. Over nine-tenths of marine species have yet to be classified. Most things stay out of our way and the ones that either can’t or don’t are confronted with speciocide, butchery or enslavement. If we leave, what will happen to them? When we’re gone, will Nature heave a sigh of relief and set about creating a new republic of insects and grass? And, how long will it take for every trace of our existence to be obliterated from the Earth, to go back to Eden when the sun was high in the heavens on the fifth day?

Up High

When I lived in Paris, I sat in little pavement cafés – un flâneur – a strolling watcher. Here, up high – the traffic is lighter, the people politer but, they come and they go…

From my balcony, the world passes.

Early morning. Dark skinned ladies dressed in bright green sweep the streets with old-fashioned straw brooms, grimly picking up the detritus of the night, spent cigarettes, wrappers, leaves and whatever has been abandoned from clandestine assignations in the little park opposite.

Later,  large women fed on a diet rich in fat, carrying heavy bags of shopping, ignore the pedestrian crossings and march on sturdy shoes across the roads – the cars mostly stop to let them pass. Young girls from the art school twitter like starlings, emulating their avian sisters who wheel and scream overhead like fighter pilots, curving so close to the building I can hear the rush of air.

Gym-buff boys in Nike T shirts swagger arrogantly, eyeing up the Russian girls with their baby blue eyes.

The old man with the shopping trolley – his lameness clearly visible, peers myopically, trying to get himself and his meagre possessions to wherever he takes his afternoon nap. The fat gipsy woman, eyes vacant but wearing a clean white skirt, sits in the shade, clutching coffee, accepting a few coins.

A wedding party, men stiff in suits and bow ties, the women in gloriously flowered dresses, bedecked with gold, spill out on to the sidewalk from the pretty church across the street.

As night falls, the fat black Mercedes-Benzes and Porsches growl menacingly in reluctant obedience to the traffic lights.

Finally, late, very late, the streets are as quiet as a mausoleum – the odd trickling taxi – yet the incongruous sight of a young couple, backpacked, yet pushing a pram with a spaniel puppy  who sniffs the trees curiously, tethered on an extensible leash, seem in no hurry to find their way home.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

 

Outliers

I spend most of my time alone. This gives me endless opportunity to think, especially late at night when the ideas come. It’s never a bad thing to listen to people you don’t agree with; iron sharpens iron, after all. So, I have found myself listening to and watching everything from Pope Francis, Bethel TV, and its detractors,  Nadia Bolz-Weber and hers, Derek Prince, Henri Nouwen, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Fr Séan O’Leaoire….it’s a long, long list. Each of the above is worth a look – it’s a smorgasbord worth sampling. One problem with that is that in so doing, I am intellectually forced to confront and wrestle with a multitude of different opinions, mentally incinerated in a firework display of my own ignorance. I think we’re quite binary, monochromatic little creatures at heart, we like the idea of coming down on one side of the line or the other. Chaos – in the sense of unpredictability – and uncertainty bother us, because we have to navigate a minefield of different notions, apparent certainties, gut instinct and other people’s views. Sometimes these views are expressed with great force; why do preachers feel the need to shout at their congregations, imams wave their arms and thunder at the worshippers, and so on?  It is because, at heart, they believe that they have an obligation to try to convince people that they are right, and thus, by definition, others are not and they have a responsibility to correct the errors of the ways of those less ‘woke’ than they are. Shouting just reinforces the message.

The Age of Reason, the Enlightenment was a quantum leap, but it had one fatal flaw, in that it supposed that Reason was man’s highest, most important and ultimately final achievement, to the extent that it trumped all other cards in the pack. The spiritual, the mystical quietly took a back seat and, with breathtaking hubris, the drivers of Reason floored the accelerator, taking us all with them into a brave, new, uncertain world. Reason brought scientific and mathematical advancement – in our day, growing exponentially. When I was at university, the Standard Model, the bedrock of modern physics was a speculative gleam in most researchers’ eyes. But, Reason has a ceiling, beyond which we seem unable to travel – it suggests that there is no such thing as the Unknowable and by dint of study, logical application and research, we will ultimately overcome any trivial obstacles that hinder. Our knowledge is such that we now know – but don’t understand – that eighty-five percent of the Universe as we perceive it is made up of dark matter and its younger sibling, dark energy. Such concepts are, at present, beyond reason. I asked myself the question – will we ever understand the ‘how’ of the universe, in all its totality? I think the answer is ‘perhaps’  – or better – ‘perhaps not’. The goal is unattainable as of now, the twilight in which we stumble around isn’t bright enough to distinguish between woods and trees. Furthermore, if we don’t understand the ‘how’, comprehension of the ‘why’ is light years away.

I’m not much of a belonger, whether it be to the golf club or to a congregation. In a statistical sense, I’m an outlier – the graph misses me out. I asked myself why. Perhaps it’s because if I join such a group, there are rules, some of which are irksome, some quite unnecessary. Some require special clothing, like priests, Hassidic Jews or the Amish, some require abstinence from certain foods, some require or at least encourage specific patterns of hehaviour (I used to call them ‘spiritual farmyard noises’). Being a Jew has 613 of them, being a ‘Christian’ has rather fewer. This isn’t to suggest that I’m an anarchist – for whom rules are irrelevant – of course not. Societal groups need rules, some written but most not, in order for people to live harmoniously together and act in such a way that benefits the majority. Another reason might be that I don’t really want to share; the concept of community both fascinates and appals me. I’m an only child – we don’t share – which applies to our opinions as well as our material goods. I was once asked by an evangelical friend “what was God doing in my life”, to which I would have loved to reply “none of your business”, but out of some misplaced sense of conformity, I mumbled something unintelligible and he went away, safe in the knowledge that he had done his Christian duty.

My copy of the Jewish Study Bible was left in France and a while ago, I replaced it. In reading, I discovered how little I really knew about the historical background of the faith that has sustained me for so many years and why pale Jewish scholars scurry about in Mea She’arim, eyes weak with endless hours of study. Hebrew words have different meanings and the layers, like onion skins, peel away so very gradually. Why bother? If you think that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, it’s time to choose an alternative destination and a better mode of transport.

 

Waiving the Rules

 

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Mermaids were a favourite up front.

Somebody living in the People’s Republic of Cloud Cuckoo Land has objected to the fact that ships are referred to as “she”. Because it’s sexist, innit. In fact, the English language gets the word “ship” from the Middle High German “schiff”,  a neuter noun and the feminine designation, lost in the mists of antiquity, was perhaps derived originally from the idea that a ship was a motherly place of safety for those in peril on the sea. Weathering the storm, binding the restless wave and whatnot. This romantic tradition is changing. Since 2002, Lloyd’s List, stuffed to the gunwhales with actuaries who found accountancy too exciting and which began reporting shipping news in 1734, has referred to all vessels as “it” and many news sources have adopted this new convention.

Happily, most mariners have not.

It’s a wee bit sad as little snowflakes whimper when gender neutral identity is put before common sense. It was thus immensely cheering to catch a glimpse the other day of a piece in the Royal Navy News, the staple read of the jolly Jack Tar and having the useful secondary function of being of some use in the bathroom afterwards.

With no apology to the anonymous seafarer who wrote it, I have plagiarised it shamelessly and tidied up the grammar, spelling and punctuation, while adding a few clips and snippets of my own.

The Royal Navy is proud of its new fleet of Type 45 destroyers. Having initially named the first two ships HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, the Naming Committee has, after intense pressure from Brussels , renamed them HMS Cautious and HMS Prudence. The next five ships are to be named HMS Empathy, HMS Circumspect, HMS Nervous, HMS Timorous and HMS Apologist. Costing £850 million each, they meet the needs of the 21st century and comply with the very latest employment, equality, health & safety and human rights laws. The new user-friendly crow’s nest comes equipped with wheelchair access. Live ammunition has been replaced with paintballs to reduce the risk of anyone getting hurt and to cut down on the number of compensation claims. Stress counsellors and lawyers will be on duty twenty-four hours a day and each ship will have its own on-board industrial tribunal. The crew will be 50/50 men and women, carefully balanced in accordance with the latest Home Office directives on race, gender, sexual orientation and disability. Sailors will only have to work a maximum of 37 hours a week in line with Brussels Health & Safety rules, including during wartime. All the vessels will be equipped with a maternity ward and nursery, situated on the same deck as the LGBTQ Disco, open every night, cross-dressing optional. Tobacco will be banned throughout the ship, but cannabis will be allowed in the wardroom and messes. The Royal Navy is eager to shed its traditional reputation for “rum, sodomy and the lash”; the rum ration is to be replaced by sparkling water from a reputable English spring. Saluting officers is to be abolished because it is elitist and is to be replaced by the more informal, “Hello Sailor”. All information on notice boards will be printed in thirty-seven different languages as well as Braille. Elevators will all be equipped with a Shabbat button and all food on board is both kosher and halal. Crew will now no longer be required to ask permission to grow beards or moustaches; this rule applies equally to women crew members. The MoD is working on a new “non-specific” flag because the White Ensign is considered to be offensive to ethnic minorities. The newly renamed HMS Cautious is due to be commissioned soon in a ceremony where Captain al-Hook from the Finsbury Park Mosque will break a petrol bomb over her bow. She will gently glide into the water as the Royal Marines Band plays “In the Navy” by the Village People. Her first deployment will be to escort boat loads of illegal immigrants across the Channel to beaches on England’s south coast. The Prime Minister said, “While these ships reflect the very latest in modern thinking, they are also capable of being upgraded to comply with any new legislation coming out of Brussels .” Her (or should it be ‘their’) final words were, “Britannia waives the rules.”

And, finally:

Kirk: ‘Maintain warp 9, Mr Sulu.’

Scotty: ‘I’ve given her all she’s got, Captain, an’ I cannae give her no more.’