Number of the Month

February 2014

The politeness of princes and politicians

In a calculated act of lèse majesté, the epithet “oaf” was applied here to the heir to the throne last month. Though distasteful, this had a purpose, which was to emphasise that politeness is a two way process; a principle that is even more essential to the successful operation of a constitutional monarchy than to ordinary human intercourse.

The UK derives great benefit from having an apolitical head of state. You only have to look at what goes on in less fortunate states to realise that.

Furthermore, the subsequent discussion ended with a personal reaction to an encounter with the Royal Consort – “Now, there goes a man!” On second thoughts this seems to be something of a non sequitur when taken out of context. The occasion in question was a day of celebration to mark the elevation to university status of the institution in which I was doing my research towards a PhD. Now, that may seem to be a poor excuse for celebration in these days when every tin-pot college is called a University, as a result of modern political wisdom and control. Then, however, it was just a small wave before the tsunami yet to come. The promotion was restricted to the four Colleges of Advanced Technology. My role was to speak about the research to a stream of distinguished visitors. I was the last one on their schedule. The experience turned my political prejudices upside down.

With a few honourable exceptions, the MPs were identikit versions of each other, they were not interested in what I had to say, but were intent on burnishing their own images. It was also obvious that their basic technique was to build on what someone else had just told them. What they had not allowed for was the fact that they had all just been talking to the same people. I found myself having the same dull conversation over and over again. The peers of the realm were a bit better, but that was long before New Labour had converted the House of Lords into the House of Tony’s cronies. What came to my mind continually was the line by e e cummings:

a politician is an arse upon which every on has sat except a man

That, Dear Reader, was why, after the departure of that final visitor my thought was “Now, there goes a man!”

It is all a matter of politeness, which brings us to the activities of the Chairman of the House of Commons IPCC assessment review. It is none other than the double Numby Laureate, Tim Yeo, lately abandoned by his constituency party as their candidate. Thanks to one of His Grace’s correspondents; we have access to a brief encounter with one of the great and noble gentlemen of science, Professor Lindzen, without having to go through the whole ghastly performance again.

Pardon gentles all; your flat and unraisèd author hath quite run out of epithets.



AWOL again – apologies of absence for most of this month. Your bending author has been obliged to resort to opioid pain killers, which are neither conducive to clear writing nor, particularly, to dredging through scientific garbage. This time it was due to a pain in the neck; not Michael Mann, but inflammatory arthritis due to a long standing immune system deficiency. Heartfelt apologies for failing to reply to communications, some of which were important and much appreciated. This week I will mostly be having morphine patches. Yes, other people’s ailments are a bore, but unexplained disappearances are also annoying.


Rights of spring

The Daily Telegraph has announced that the “official” start of spring is on March 1st. Apparently it is official because it has been decreed by the Met Office. A Telegraph reader has protested today that spring starts on the Vernal Equinox on March 20th. Let us examine these alternatives.

The traditional first day of spring

bulletIt is based on the Vernal Equinox
bulletThis is an astronomical event, a purely physical phenomenon
bulletIt is thus immune to the passing fads and fantasies of human organisations
bulletIt recognises the phenomenon of time lag between a sinusoidal stimulus and the response of an inertial system

 The officious first day of spring

bulletIt is based on an arbitrary declaration by one national organisation
bulletThat organisation is widely regarded as a national joke
bulletThe jocularity arises from the almost invariable 180 degree inaccuracy of its forecasts (such as the unusually dry winter Britain has just experienced)
bulletThese prophecies owe more to a new religion than they do to science
bulletIt is fixed to the calendar, a barely rational human invention
bulletIt is set at a date that is traditionally regarded as being in winter
bulletHence the well known folk lore description of March as “in like a lion, out like a lamb”

Let us hope that the population ignores this arrogant and irrational decree and leaves spring where it always was. The establishment media will, of course, meekly obey orders.

Hence –

 Number of the month – 19

This is the number of days by which the official start of spring has been capriciously brought forward by bumbling bureaucrats. Please ignore.


 Link to this piece

PS (03/03/14) Further apologies for late posting. The culmination of a series of incidences of Sod's Law was the host system temporarily forgetting my identity.

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