What I’ve been reading lately, part 33

Ordeal by Innocence — Agatha Christie

Apparently one of Christie’s two favourites among her own books (along with Crooked House), and I can understand why. The two books share dark atmospheres, with the multi-generational inhabitants of houses deeply mistrusting each other. Some of Christie’s books feel like games; this one feels serious. The protagonist is a man who was unwittingly the alibi of a murder suspect who was convicted two years earlier and has subsequently died in jail. When he realises this, he goes to the dead man’s family to tell them the good news that he was not, after all, the murderer — only to find that they are not delighted. He had failed to realise that his news meant that one of the other family members had done it, and that they were therefore still living with a murderer. Good stuff; but not a good jumping-on point for new readers, as it’s rather atypical. Continue reading

My MP seems to be running ELIZA code from the 1960s

You may remember that eleven days ago I wrote to my MP, Mark Harper:

Whatever your feelings may be about just “getting Brexit done”, you must know that this is no way to do it. I beg you at least to vote to provide Parliament with proper time to analyse the deal documents, to scrutinise an OBR report on the economic implications, and to debate them properly both in the House and in select committees.

Today, in response, I get a letter explaining that what people in the Forest of Dean want is to “get Brexit done”.

But whether that is true or not(*), it bears no relation to the actual subject of my letter, which was about giving a complex bill proper scrutiny. I even explicitly stated that whether or not we want to “get Brexit done” did not bear on my point.

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Dear Mark Harper: scrutinise the deal

Yet another letter to my MP, as the country comes apart around me.


Dear Mark,

Boris Johnson returns from Brussels with a deal that, according to the best economic assessments, will wipe 6.4% off GDP, with particularly painful effects on economically depressed areas like our own Forest of Dean.

For no compelling reason, this is being done in a tearing hurry, such that the deal is not able to undergo the scrutiny that any ordinary piece of policy would be subjected to. Clearly 48 hours is nowhere near enough to properly scrutinise documents that will profoundly affect the national identity and economy for the next 50 years.

Whatever your feelings may be about just “getting Brexit done”, you must know that this is no way to do it. I beg you at least to vote to provide Parliament with proper time to analyse the deal documents, to scrutinise an OBR report on the economic implications, and to debate them properly both in the House and in select committees.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mike Taylor

Chili con carne

A while back I published my recipe for bolognese sauce. Our eldest is starting a scheme where he cooks for us once a week, and last week he used that recipe. This week he wants to do chili con carne, so I’m posting my recipe mostly for him to follow. I hope it’s of use to others, too.

While this superficially resembles bolognese sauce, and shares many of the same ingredients, it’s a very different dish. (My wife’s tendency to refer to both of them just as “mince” is one of her few imperfections.)

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Dear Mark Harper …

Dear Mark Harper,

Whatever your, my or anyone else’s views on Brexit, it is surely obvious to all of us that no one man should be able or allowed, in a Parliamentary democracy, to shut down Parliament for fear that it will disagree with his own personally favoured policy. It makes me ashamed of my country.

I know it is difficult for a Conservative MP to take any action against the Conservative Party. But if you have any respect for our democratic system, any concern for those you represent in the Forest of Dean, or any political integrity, you will stand — with members of other parties if necessary — against Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue Parliament for his own personal short-term advantage.

The Conservative Party has been stolen from conservatives by demogogues and would-be dictators. Take it back.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mike Taylor
Oakleigh Farm House #F
Crooked End
Ruardean
Gloucestershire GL17 9XF


I just sent this letter to my MP using writetothem.com. It is quick and easy. I encourage you to write to your own MP.

 

Updating the “About” page

When I started this blog over nine years ago, back in February 2010, I made an about page that said I was 41 years old and had been happily married to Fiona for 17 years. I said I was father to three boys: Daniel (12 years old), Matthew (10) and Jonno (7). And I included this photo of my with them, crouching in front of a whale jaw in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History:

Me with (left to right) Jonno, Daniel and Matthew, in front of a baleen-whale skull at the Oxford University Natural History Museum

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 32

Popcorn — Ben Elton

More Elton, this one the story of a film director, clearly based on Quentin Tarantino, who makes very violent but very stylish films; and about two copycat killers who break into his Hollywood mansion and hold him hostage.

Again, fast-moving and compelling. Ironically, though, it falls into exactly the trap that it’s accusing Tarantino of falling into: making the mindless violence seem exciting and sexy. I would like to think that Elton did this deliberately, as a sort of meta-comment, but I’m not sure he’s that clever. Continue reading