Lost in Translation

Phone transcript: Foreign Office Flunky to the Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab, Amirandes Hotel, Crete – Friday 13 August 2021.

Foreign Office Flunky: Sir, we reckon Kabul’s about to fall.

Raab: You’re telling me why?

FOF: Erm… You’re head of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, sir. We need you to request top-level assistance from the Afghan foreign minister so we can get our interpreters out.

Raab: I thought everyone used Google Translate these days.

FOF: No, sir. And our interpreters do far more than translate, sir. Their cultural knowledge and diplomacy are vital to the work and safety of our troops. That’s why the risk of Taliban reprisals is sky-high and we need you to…

Raab: …yes, yes. Look, just delegate it, OK? Try Zac G. – they love a Lord.

FOF: But sir, time’s of the absolute essence.

Raab: It most certainly is. Happy Hour’s ticking away here!

Be there in a sec, darling. Make mine a Bloody Mary!

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9906319/Dominic-Raab-busy-holiday-help-brave-translators.html, 18 August 2021

Clive Lewis, ‘I saw Afghan interpreters translate so much more than words’, The Guardian, 6 August 2021

Write to your MP: https://www.safepassage.org.uk/write-to-your-mp


pingdemic, noun; see also pandemic

This term surfaced in the UK media during the third wave of the COVID pandemic, and referred to the wildly increased number of NHS COVID app notifications—or ‘pings’—instructing individuals to self-isolate after coming into contact with an infected person. The term featured extensively in newspaper headlines such as ‘Fears over shortages as stores hit by pingdemic’ (The Times, 22 July 2021), and implied that ‘pings’ were responsible for retail staffing crises rather than the 40,000 daily new cases following Prime Minister Johnson’s wholesale lifting of COVID restrictions. This was much like suggesting a smoke alarm be blamed for a house burning down, as opposed to the actual fire or the fire brigade failing to show up. The origin of the term is unclear. Most likely a pun-loving journo after a very boozy lunch.

From Covidiot to Zoombombing: Lexicon of a Pandemic (Oxford 2027), p. 182.

Plague Island

2042 GCSE History Exam

Question 6. Why did Prime Minister Boris Johnson decide to proceed with so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on 19 July 2021 — despite a COVID-19 daily infection rate of 54,000, a population that was 48% unvaccinated, the heightened risk of Long COVID and vaccine-resistant mutations, and his Health Minister contracting the virus two days earlier?

a.  utterly incapable of learning from past mistakes

b.  reliant on swivel-eyed libertarian Tories to stay in power

c.  chance to implement the Social Darwinist herd immunity strategy called ‘Let the Bodies Pile High’

d.  privatising the NHS was easier once it was on its knees

e.  rampant case of Old Etonian God complex

f.  tanking the economy with a Hard Brexit somehow wasn’t enough

g.  bored, decided on a whim to ‘let it rip’

h.  what do the ‘experts’ know, anyhow?

i.  completely insane

j.  all of the above

10 bonus marks if you can name the landmark criminal negligence case brought against Boris Johnson in 2025: ________________________________________.

Graph from https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/, 18 July 2021. 

The Ketchup of Catch-up

JOHNSON: …our economy is slowly and cautiously picking itself up off the floor…there is every prospect that this country is poised to recover like a coiled spring…East Germany, a place of strange little cars with two-stroke engines and fake coffee…the ability of places to regenerate without discovering gold or oil under their streets…we don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies…to use a football metaphor the approach has always been to hang around the goal mouth rather than being the playmaker, or to borrow from the Bible, for biblical comparison, governments have created a sort of Matthew effect, to him that hath shall be given…levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation, it’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul…there is one final ingredient, the most important factor in levelling up, the yeast that lifts the whole mattress of dough, the magic sauce, the ketchup of catch-up and that is leadership.*


* Text taken directly from the PM’s speech on ‘levelling up’, given 15 July 2021:  https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-prime-ministers-levelling-up-speech-15-july-2021

Freedom Day

Talk Show Host: Please put your hands together for our special guest – THE DELTA VARIANT!

*wild applause as Delta waves & takes a seat*

TSH: Such a meteoric rise! Did that surprise you?

Delta: Well, I’m contagious and deadly, so I knew the odds were on my side. But it was really my mates who took me to the next level. Boris ‘Superspreader’ Johnson, I’m looking at you!

TSH: A good pal?

Delta: Oh yes. He let 28,000 potential carriers flood into the UK last April, and now 99% of cases are mine. 30,000 a day and rising! And the best thing? My very own ‘Freedom Day’ on 19 July — the masks are coming off and then it’s paaaarty time!

TSH: So how does that make you feel?

Delta: Incredibly grateful. I’d heard the Tories hated immigrants: Windrush, hostile environment, blah-blah-blah. But I’ve gotta say, I couldn’t feel more welcome on Plague Island.

*turns to camera and winks*

You know what? I think I’ll stay a while.

Stats from https://inews.co.uk/news/indian-variant-42000-passengers-travelled-between-uk-india-april-red-list-covid-variant-1025027 and https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57755733 and https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases on 10 July 2021


when is a snog not just a snog?

the snogger is health secretary
during a pandemic
and tells
to abide by strict rules
that he himself

right around the country
people can’t hug or kiss
their loved ones
or be with them
as they die
while the snogger

the snogger appoints
the woman he is snogging
to a paid advisory role
then takes her
to the G7
on the
taxpayer’s dime

the brother
of the woman the snogger is snogging
runs a private health company
that’s received

the snogger’s
failure to protect
the elderly or care workers
leads to

the UK’s
Covid death toll is
while in other countries
like South Korea
pop. 50 million
it’s 2,008

the Prime Minister
won’t sack the snogger
he himself is
of all this
and more

The image we’ll never be able to unsee.

Who Cares?

Carrie: Ta-daaaaa! You can open your eyes now…

Boris: Sweet Jesus! It looks like a Turkish bordello! I mean – perfectly divine, my little otter. Erm, how much did it cost again?

Carrie: Well, the thirty grand redecorating allowance was obviously inadequate, but I didn’t go a penny over deux cent mille.

Boris: 200,000 quid?!

Carrie: Darling, it was a total John Lewis nightmare. Had to start completely from scratch. Is there a problemo?

Boris: Just some of the natives getting restless. There’s talk of £840-a-roll wallpaper, a £10,000 ‘baby bear’ sofa, and the small matter of how we paid for everything.

Carrie: Who cares?

Boris: The Electoral Commission, apparently. Oh, and the nurses we gave a measly 1% pay rise, not to mention businesses who’ve gone tits up thanks to our handling of Covid and Brexit.

Carrie: Just keep your head down, Bozzie. It’ll all blow over, you’ll see.

Burning Down the House

It’s a rather special house. Built 23 years ago by a team of international, award-winning designers, who battled their way through some frankly mind-boggling construction problems. Really quite an achievement.

Such a shame it’s on fire. Can’t think how that happened.

I mean, gosh, I personally visited the place to give a fire safety talk. Assured everyone I’d safeguard the property. Then removed the batteries from the smoke detectors and locked the fire extinguisher in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leprechaun’.

Yes, they did raise concerns. Warned me I was creating a fire hazard as I sloshed accelerant from the front door down the hallway and right up the stairs. Looked on in horror as I lit a match, tossed it over the threshold, and watched the fire steadily take hold.

Kerosene is nothing but perfume to me.

H/T Talking Heads, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury

For an overview of the current threat to the Good Friday Agreement, see Jonathan Freedland, ‘The consequences of Boris Johnson’s careless Brexit are playing out in Belfast’The Guardian, 10 April 2021.

P is for Protest

The Right Honourable Bertrand Somerville-Thruppe waddled from the chamber. He’d just voted in favour of the anti-protest bill and was feeling rather smug. That he styled himself a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian didn’t strike him as remotely hypocritical, because of course all that really mattered was his own liberty to do what he damn well pleased.

It wasn’t as if peaceful protest had ever achieved anything worthwhile: women’s votes, workers’ rights, upholding free speech… Poppycock, the lot of it. Those chaps in Brazil and Hungary had the right idea: their laws were doing a top job of keeping dissenters off the streets.

Best of all? The Home Secretary’s new powers to define “serious disruption” however she wished. It pained him to admit it, but she was doing a bloody good job for a woman.

Oh delicious irony. The suffragettes would be spinning in their graves.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons by 359 votes to 263 on 16 March 2021. Not a single libertarian Tory voted against it. Or any Tory at all, for that matter.

One per cent

Tory Government: Congratulations, ladies! You’ve got a whopping 1% pay rise!

Nurses: 1%?

TG: Damn right! Just think of everything you’ll be able to buy with that extra £3.50 a week.

Nurses: But… We’ve put our lives on the line for you in a FRIGGING PANDEMIC. Held people’s hands as they were dying. Kept the NHS from tanking!

TG: Hmmm, there is that, I suppose. OK — let’s do another Clap for Carers.

Nurses: No. More. Token. Clapping. Give us a decent pay rise.

TG: Sorry, girls. Too busy outsourcing billions to our mates instead. And just think: if we can get away with 1% for nurses, then other public sector workers won’t stand a chance. So definitely don’t write to your MP. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got a meeting about Carrie’s £200,000 makeover of Number 10. You know what they say: charity begins at home.

*According to the Royal College of Nursing, the pay of an experienced nurse has fallen by 15.3% in real terms over the past 10 years*