Thursday, 23 December 2021


 The Christmas story seldom changes. Presents. Crackers. Santa. Carols. Christmas cards and the greatest story ever told. Shops and ‘Toys-of-the Year’ come and go but there’s an annual constant in our lives. Anticipation, celebration, decoration and fun.

Another constant is the illusion that this year it’ll snow. But there’ve been only 10 white Christmases in the south of England since 1960 (admittedly 26 in the chilly north). But we can hope one day it’ll look like this.

But when it does, we’ll all be having fun on the ice like the Dutch were doing in this Breughel painting of 1565. He manages to make cold look so appealing. But so cold!        

Or having a wonderful dinner like these Edwardian grandees, people like you, I imagine, rich, successful, out of your minds… by the way, beware that chap on the bottom right who seems to have had several too many already.

But best of all is that wide eyed anticipation and excitement of children everywhere at Christmas and the thrill of all those unchanging Christmas decorations. The joy of those children and their delicious expectations are heartwarming.

Have a happy and, yes, a heartwarming Christmas and an enjoyable New Year full of nice surprises. It’s time for optimism.

Richard and Kate

Monday, 20 December 2021


No. Not the weather. Rather it was the rowdy debate in the House of Commons and, specifically, the torrents of unseasonal, ill humour that we saw from the government backbenches. We have become used to it over time but something snapped on December 14th. People I know who have always voted conservative were aghast at the vituperation and sheer nastiness and declared they couldn’t vote conservative again. Was it because of the parties, the Boris buffoonery, sleaze or resistance to government policies on health?

Coronavirus: Tory rebel Desmond Swayne in stern warning to PM as lockdown  begins | Politics | News |

None of these. It was the performance of backbenchers like Sir Desmond Swayne that made many feel they could have nothing to do with people like this.

I quote his remarks at some length because they were so distressing to many:-  

"On a typical winter’s day, between 200 and 350 people will die of flu. Do we hide behind our masks? Do we lurk at home, working from home? Do we demand that people provide their bona fides before going to a venue? Do we require people to be vaccinated as a condition of keeping their jobs?

Do we take seriously some of the extraordinary extrapolations that we have been given, particularly given the previous record? The fact is that those are things that might take place, and we have to balance them against the known costs and damage to enterprise, economy and society.

Desmond Swayne proves himself to be the Muhammad Ali of stupid – the  stupidest of all time | The Independent

In the end, it comes down to a matter of opinion—a matter of our prejudice. Typically, we are capable of organising our lives and making those decisions for ourselves. We decide what our risk appetite is and what we are or are not prepared to encounter. Notwithstanding the carnage on our roads, which is certainly killing more people than covid at the moment, some of us still decide to drive. It is a matter of opinion.

It comes down to letting loose the dogs of war—getting the fear factor into it and getting the officials, the members of SAGE, Independent SAGE and SPI-M and all those who speak in their private capacity out there twisting the fear lever……

The Government, having administered this Ministry of fear, are absolutely complicit with their officials and organisations who have designed and delivered it. In doing so, they have abandoned any principle of social democracy or liberal democracy, absolutely beyond anything that we have endured in recent living memory, in the history of this pandemic. As a consequence, having abandoned what might have been their ideology, they are rudderless and so much more at risk of the opinions and predictions of the advisers to whom they are in hock."

In fact 1,460 people died in road fatalities in the UK 2020. 147,000 people have died of Covid so far. That’s about 5 times the number who typically die of flu.

Coffin - Wikipedia

Fear? Yes, most people are frightened and it seems more people support recent Government measures and accept it’s their social  responsibility to protect others as well as themselves. Unmasked people on buses are the exception now. Large indoor gatherings are being generally avoided. 

A real shame' if enforcement needed against Aucklanders not wearing masks  on public transport, Chris Hipkins says |

Should we not welcome debate? Of course we should. But as Sir Desmond, himself admits “typically we are capable of organising our lives” but typically we also find it helpful to have scientific advice. 

If we look at Europe we find most countries take a much tougher attitude to lockdowns and personal restrictions than we do in the UK.

This may not make this the most convivial Christmas ever but “typically” we are pretty good at making the best of things. So let’s do that now.

The Christmas lights displays you can see without leaving your car - Hull  Live

Monday, 13 December 2021


Throughout my life the nation’s mood seemed to lighten in the build-up to Christmas and for a few days afterwards and it wasn’t Christmas parties that created this bonhomie. It was a combination of the ending of one year and starting another; a year which started with hope and wonder. The lead-up to Christmas was one of good humour and community. It was silly season in the media and silly spending on presents. There were always a few Grinches and Scrooges around but as  the quote in the Gospel of St John says:

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer

Especially at Christmas. 

“Be of good cheer” sounds old fashioned but those words reek of Christmas. But Christmas 2021 which started weakly has collapsed in a complete mess. 

Politics first. Donald Savoie said in the Guardian “Politics has lost its soul”. He then said image had replaced policy and that:

“The problem is that the economic and political interests of the political, intellectual and economic elites are heard at the expense of the broader community.”

I have a problem with this. 

Donald wrote this piece in 2011 and now it’s got much, much worse.  And will probably get even worse. We can blame much of this on the Billy Bunterish antics of the current Prime Minister but the problem is more deep seated than those provoked by this cavalier misfit. 

Things Can Only Get Worse? by John O'Farrell | Waterstones


Billy Bunter at Butlins - Cartoon Gallery

From top to bottom the political system is rotten. There are so few grown-ups around– perhaps a few - but with the departure of Angela Merkel as German leader Nicola Sturgeon seems the leader with the most gravitas. 

We don’t pay our MPs enough, although we could sort that by having fewer of them, but the real issue is quality, integrity, intelligence and their breadth of real world experience. Most of us have no one we could vote for. Should it be Priti Patel or Angela Rayner? Crumbs, that’s such a hard choice. As things stand abstentions will be the winning vote at the next election.

The fact that the current furore is about Christmas Parties says it all. Those who broke the rules are fools and that’s what hurts most. Why should we be governed by fools?

Secondly the pandemic….again. Sick of it as we may be, we have to face probable truths (no, we don’t categorically know how serious an illness Omicron will be). However at least 60 Tory MPs seem happy to risk its being a minor thing as they vote against increased precautions this week (anyway it’s their constituents in their smaller homes and in their poorly paid jobs who are most at risk). Prudence was a word much loved by conservatives once. No longer.

Kentucky tornadoes: up to 100 feared dead in historic US storms | Tornadoes  | The Guardian

Thirdly climate and catastrophe. Over the weekend the small town of Mayfield, Kentucky was flattened by one of the worst tornados ever. At least 70 people were killed. The tornado was preceded by weird extremes of temperature. Commentators described the pulverising of ornate Christmas decorations in this town. Happy Christmas? No, not there, poor souls.

And in the Ukraine it isn’t sledges we’ll be looking out for next Saturday. 

A military tank driving on a dirt road

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Despite this (hard but try) let’s be of good cheer and be nice to our family and friends (remember being nice?) Let’s stop listening to the ghastly news and infuriating social media – guys, haven’t you got anything better to do than rail and grumble?

Keep safe, keep calm, have a relaxing time and heed the words of the briefing in the 1980s TV series Hill Street Blues

“Hey…let’s be careful out there.”

Monday, 6 December 2021


I’ve just had the first mince pie this year. That’s rich I’ve just had the first mince pie this year. Spiciness brings back memories of Christmases past when Christmas was just a three-day interlude.

The best mince pies in Britain 2019: Country Life's ultimate taste test -  Country Life

This week the “Christmas Party” debate has started. Boris, who resembles, as much as anything else, an out-of-work Santa Claus – full of “ho, ho, ho’s” with sacks of expensive presents but nowhere to do his stuff. He is (when was he not?) determined to give us the Christmas we need and deserve. He’s surrounded by Ministers and medical advisors who’d like to dial down these celebrations “just one glass of mulled wine and drink it slowly.” Boris, on the other hand, belongs to the “let’s get lashed and snog anyone pretty” party.

Remarkable photos reveal Boris Johnson and his now famous contemparies  partying in the 1980s | Express Digest

I loathe Christmas Parties of the sort being discussed; the corporate shindigs that HR hates yet thrives on when picking up the pieces of party ‘naughtiness’ or worse and the highfliers who compromise their careers by over-doing it. These are occasions when people of talent, worth and weak-will awaken the next day muttering “oh no, I didn’t, did I?” 

Christmas parties are expensive, high-risk adventures. They belong to the past when patronising, senior management were meant to smile indulgently at their staff “letting their hair down.” 

Avoiding Christmas Party HR Disasters - Employsure

I reject all the nonsense about bonding, motivation and building the culture. Read about the ghastly orgies of the discredited company We Work, and you may agree. Or you may think mine are the fun-rejecting rants of a Grinch. For sure I am not the Minister of Mirth. 

Because I hate phony fun. I hate self-destruction. I hate the imperative for “big parties” without asking “why are we doing it?”

I’ve watched a restaurant destroyed by an out-of-control crowd of Christmas celebrants. At another all three of the emergency services arrived – to save someone trapped in a lift (Fire); to rush to hospital a poor soul who’d fallen and twisted his kneecap, so it pointed agonisingly out of the back of his leg (Ambulance) and (Police) in response to householder complaints, a large number of policemen arriving to arrest “whoever was in charge” (exit discreetly all senior management).

Cops storm wake after dozens of 'travellers' break Covid lockdown to cram  into caravans for funeral party

It was infamous but it was a long time ago. Afterwards everyone involved felt like members of a riotous rebel insurrection. We were precursors of the Insulate Rebels who stick themselves to the tarmac. But on reflection we had more fun and made a lot more noise.

So, can we have fun without that office party?

Yes, we could spend that money better; yes, we could construct something more exciting than just another booze-up. But no, we can’t be entirely rational in deciding what to do. Fun didn’t get a degree. Fun doesn’t live in spread sheets. But fun does make us feel more human. And Christmas is and always was exciting and a revelation. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate a great story and the spectacular music, tunes and celebration that Christmas creates. It’s still special and human.

Let’s just stop and think about how to create our own sense of fun and celebration. We don’t need an office load to create bonhomie. A few friends; a few colleagues; people you’d want to be with, not people you have to be with and don’t really know.

I remember my father, sometimes a little dour, suddenly a revelation of jollity, toasting me in Green Chartreuse (does it still exist?) many years ago and smiling “Happy Christmas, old boy”.

Green Chartreuse, 70cl. Gerry's Wines & Spirits - Buy wines and spirits  online at

That was a magic moment. 

Let’s have Christmas parties that make us feel more like that.