Yesterday was spent doing all those tidying up things that go with this time of year. Leaves are falling, fallen fruit needs to be swept up, and nuts gathered. It’s now obvious that the walnut crop is a disaster: black on the outside with nothing but dust where the flesh should be. It’s not just my tree – I’ve started checking out all the others in the area, and everyone has the same problem. If one picks them off the tree while still green, perhaps one in three are OK: but they’re no good for storage, because they need to be opened now. So I have a small sealed jar containing fresh, cream-coloured nuts, but that’s it.
The hazelnuts, by contrast, have thrived. The only trouble there is that the pair of red squirrels here have spotted this, and they got the lion’s share. Which is only fair, given that they need them – whereas for me it’s just a nice-to-have. As for the quinces, there are a dozen in total (usually I get over three hundred) and of pears are there none. Not one. A dozen cooking apples maybe – that was it.
Then last night, we had the mother and father of electric storms followed by four hours of torrential downpour. It was, to coin a phrase, too much too late: not only is the place now covered in tree bits and the pool full of plastic chairs, torrential rain like that isn’t going to do the local vines any good. 2016 is shaping up to be the worst vintage in my lifetime.
The thing about electric storms in France is that they knock out the electricity. Even landline phones these days need power, as of course does the internet….and the only gas for cooking is in the main house. So it was a night of candles, demi-monde lighting and then going to bed early. Mobile phones (if charged) are OK….if the reception is good. At my place it is almost non-existent.
In previous centuries, after disastrous weather like we’ve had this year (far too wet and cold followed by far too dry and hot) the authorities would, come August, have been worried. There is and always has been a direct correlation between crop-failure, consequent hunger and revolution. Even today, the agricultural planners (dealing as they do with increasingly international markets) make sure about the bread self-sufficiency first. In England, by comparison, no doubt the chaps at the Treasury would ask if the People had any spare cake available to eat. In France, rather more common sense is attached to the business of governance.
George Osterity having retreated to the back trenches, I confess to having been astonished at the verdicts given on David Cameron’s career following his decision last Monday to fall on his bank. The bloke was an inexperienced, mendacious idiot with no sense of people judgement: his career (all fifteen years of it) was a catalogue of bad decisions from start to finish….yet most reviewers yesterday called the Referendum ‘his one big mistake’. It beggars belief.
Given a key role in Michael Howard’s general election campaign, Cameron presided over a comprehensive defeat. Having gained the leadership, he made a series of silly promises that came back to haunt him later…and came up with The Big Society which soon sank with all hands, despite his repeated attempts to make it fly as a concept.
The pathetic, amateur-night nature of his briefings at PMQs meant that between 2006 and 2010, he barely landed a punch on a mentally ill Prime Minister, despite Brown’s Cabinet being involved in some of the most blatant and casual corruption and embezzlement seen since the Eighteenth Century.
Equivocating to ‘play safe’ during the 2010 election, he blew what should’ve been an easy victory against the serial dysfunctionality of Gordoom, and so wound up in a Coalition with Nick Clegg.
Soon after the election he made a speech praising the ghastly Erdogan, and engineered an opportunistic role for Britain in the Libyan war before later (at the second attempt) persuading Parliament to bomb Syria. All of these interventions proved disastrous for British security.
Fiscally, he bought into Osborne’s strategy for national debt reduction (it went up by 60%) and wiping out the trade deficit (it was only halved). All it would have required to reject the Chancellor’s wheeze was the ability to compare the savings over five years – 63 billion net versus a debt of just over a trillion Pounds. The economy itself, meanwhile, was even more unbalanced towards financial services as it had been when he came into Office.
In the midst of austerity confrontation, however, Cameron suddenly announced a scheme (HS2) to bring Birmingham and Manchester closer to London by train. It quickly emerged that nobody further North wanted it, nobody in the South needed it, and the budget had been – as a retiring Sir Humphrey casually informed the ways and means committee – “stuck in there on no basis at all….we made it up”.
Advised by his key spin doctor that his was a golden opportunity to cut Murdoch out of British politics, Cameron chose instead to appoint one of his editors, Andy Coulson, as Communications Chief, and allow free access to government documents for News International’s Rebekah Brooks. Both wound up on criminal charges, and the man appointed to handle the Murdoch acquisition of BSkyB, Jeremy Hunt, faced a Parliamentary Inquiry about his obvious bias and previous history of being close to Newscorp. Pressed by close colleagues to fire Hunt in the reshuffle that followed, Cameron inexplicably made him Health Secretary…and created a series of unnecessary NHS disasters and industrial actions.
Throughout his Premiership, Cameron underestimated the appeal of UKIP in general and Nigel Farage in particular. This led him to promise a referendum on Europe which, all parties agree, he believed he could win easily. His conviction became all the stronger after the shock size of his 2015 electoral victory over Eds Miliband and Balls, probably the weakest Labour leadership team in history.
David Cameron was immensely fortunate in the poor quality of opponents he faced. But when given the chance to give a verdict on the EU in general and him in particular, the grey voter (still in possession of common sense and discernment) stuck it to the British Establishment. It was the only time Cameron ever faced a worthy opponent, and he lost.
But it seems that his “only” mistake was the Referendum decision. All of which goes to show what passes for excellence in UK politics these days.