Thursday, 17 June 2021

Of intentions

I worked in the area of executing commercial contracts for over six years. It was a difficult business, made worse by badly drafted contracts that sometimes contradicted itself, sometimes in successive paragraphs.

I blog little about my work, mainly because it is dull as hell, but that doesn't mean I can't share some of what I learnt.

Back in 2014, I was working on my first project, and there was a disagreement between the company I worked for and the customer. We could not fix it, so brought in one of the people on our side who helped negotiate the contract.

"That was not the intention of that clause", they would begin. And we would argue for the rest of the meeting.

Thing is, we learned, that it mattered not a jot what the intention was months or years ago when that clause or paragraph was agreed, its what it says now and who gets to interpret it to their satisfaction.

Back in 2014, we talked about the issues, agreed on a common sense way forward that satisfied the "spirit" of the contract, and we moved on.

Now to Brexit.

This week Sir David Frost has been explaining to MPS that the intention of the NIP was not the way in which the EU are interpreting it.

See where I am going with this.

The intention two, three years back make little sense now. It is possible the requirement in the NIP was vague to satisfy both sides, but not with enough detail to make both sides happy when push came to shove.

Legal purity means, really, that the other side is expecting you having negotiated and signed up to the NIP to honour its provisions. That it doesn't make you happy reflects on you (Frost's) poor negotiating skills. And on top of that, that is if the UK Government actually wants to make the NIP work. There is more than enough evidence to show that Johnson's intention (that word again) was to get it signed and talk some more, or failing that ignore it. Maybe not be in compliance with most or all of the NIP or the WA and/or the TCA too.

International trade agreements relies, in the end, on the lie that your word is your bond. Time and time again the UK Government has acted in bad faith, and is threatening to do so yet again, in violation of the three parts of the Brexit agreements, and international law on treaties themselves.

The EU might agree to talk about some part of the NIP or another, but the lesson here is that there is no guarantee that the UK will even live up to the new obligations, if they don't the old ones. And taken together with news of a probable trade deal between the UK and Australia, and the UK allowing in sub-standard meat and other agri-food products, the EU might think its best to draw the battle lines now with sausages and minced beef, rather than down the line. Because the NIP and TCA is not there to manage alignment, but to manage divergence, and this is the clear sign where the UK is heading.

THe EU has a right to protect its SM and CU as well as enforcing the rules, standards and regulations it has agreed, but in Ireland without the UK Government's willingness to cooperate, the land border between NI and the Republic cannot be a regulatroy border, then thos products could very easily find its way into Ireland and into the wider EU.

It is sausages now, but could be GM food next week and then, who knows? And it has both Ireland and NI to consider. This will be tricky for the EU to manage, where flexibility is rare, especially when in legal terms it is in the right.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Tuesday 15th June 2021

The birthday of the first Mrs Jelltex. It is a quarter of a entury now since I last saw her, still not enough time to quench the anger.



Poppy has now settled down into a routine: one night out, at least. Then back inside at breakfast, sleep have breakfast, 2nd breakfast, maybe pop out in the evening, then back in for the night. Maybe a second day like that, then on the third, at least 12 hours out, maybe 24 hours. Sometimes longer. But she seems happy, less bothered by Mulder chasing her. Scully is still always on guard, but the front door being open has certainly helped.

One hundred and sixty six We were having our early morning coffee when she burst in through the open front door, and sat on the stairs asking for breakfast. And an hour later, she was asleep on the chest of drawers, and was more than happy to accept strokes and head rubs.

It is a cool morning, but with the promise of sunshine later, but cool enough to close the doors, most of the windows and put a jumper on. Jools leaves for work, and I begin work, checking mails and dealing with the issues of the day.

Our garden looks magnificent, with the former lawn looking as high as the more formal beds, from the back room and looking down, the contrast with our neighbour's gardens is striking.

Pyramid Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis We like it, though its not for everyone, of course.

I have breakfast. Another coffee, and generally keep on top of work though the morning.

The cats are all sleeping, I am not bothered when at work now.

I didn't go for a walk, instead I have to remove the smooth sow-thistles from the garden before they seed. Most are in flower, so soon enough will go to seed. They have taken up the space beside the hedge, and are all between two and three feet tall, but I find they have very shallow roots and were easily pulled up, so need no pruning. I also prune the pink climbing rose, a few flowers had gone ober and petals were falling. Then is the great task of watering. Watering the tomatoes, and all the other plants in pots. It takes a good half hour.

Vanessa atalanta And once I was done, you' not known I'd done anything. So it goes, so it goes.

And for once there was no afternoon kick off, just a blank in the schedules where a football match should be. We would have to wait until five for the Hungary v Portugal game. And when it did, was a good game, all level and goalless at 80 minutes, and ten minutes later Portugal were 3-0 up. This was the first match in the so-called "group fo death", which also features France and Germany who play in the evening.

Borago officinalis I cook shrimp stir fy, the sauce made with a sauce sent in a Brexit Red Cross parcel from Canada (thanks, Liza), so it was Mexican spiced stir fry and noodles. Seafood was a real test for the gout, in that it can be a trigger, so I make sure I was well hydrated.

There were no ill-effects.

Time then for the evening game, a real battle of the giants; France v Germany. Should have been a classic, but Germany are a shadow of their former self, and although huffed and puffed, never looked quite good enough. They even scored France's goal for them, and that's the way the match ended.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Monday 14th June 2021

And here we go, back to working from home.

There are pluses and bonuses in working from home, and I enjoyed being away, but the five or six hour drives each way are spapping for sure. The thought of being home, though, with the kettle and cats at close call, and able to listen to radio or a podcast or two is also good. In fact, I think that I am now out of practice with travel, ten months since my last trip, and that was five months after the one previous to that. Working from home is the new normal, and one which gives me hours more a week at home, time for photography, cooking, blogging or whatever.

One hundred and sixty five I was awake at ten to five. It was broad daylight and was already warm. Cats were fighting, so I get up, as does Jools and she feeds the cats and makes coffee.

She is going to have to go to work early to catch up as they're so busy, so she is rushing around getting ready and was gone.

I make another coffee, put on a new edition of A Word in Your Ear and settle down to listen to tales of rock from decades ago.

I had a task to complete before the end of work, so hoped I could get on with it, but rumours had been going round of a Windows update. I log on, and sure enough there was an update. I close everything down and accept the update. I make another coffee and breakfast, and by the time I sat back down, it was done. So, I log on, make a call and all was going well when another update was allowed, I saw I had 20 seconds before it shut down whether I wanted it to or not.

A summer walk nearly to Windy Ridge Two hours later it was done, just in time for a meeting, pushing back the start of the data analysis even further. Last time this took three days, I had five hours.

A summer walk nearly to Windy Ridge The meeting is fine, we all complain.

And then down to the analysis. There is a new template, which has macros so that the data trawling is easy and the results do themeselves.

Which is nice.

Meaning at half three I was done and I could send the report in.

That meant I had time to go for a walk before preparing dinner.

It has been a while since I did a local walk, so after work yesterday I went out, well up for an argument with the rude and nosy neighbour I met last time, but of him there was no sign.

A summer walk nearly to Windy Ridge The path over the field was almost totally overgrown, meaning that a new path along the edge of the field had been created by the dogwalkers.

Going out at four wasn't too bright, as it was the warmest part of the day, so wasn't pleasant, and there were no butterflies to be seen, or one I could get near to.

A summer walk nearly to Windy Ridge So, I headed back, having taken an hour and some new flowers had been snapped and will be posted in due course.

I had made bread during the day to go with the insalata, so with the bread done, it was a case of just slicing the tomatoes and cheese, seasoning and adding vinegar, oil and basil. As before, there is no beer, no wine, just squash.

A summer walk nearly to Windy Ridge Through the afternoon I had multi-tasked with doing work whilst watching Scotland lose their first game in the Euros, that there was a stunning goal to seal the win just made it funnier. Men in kilts sat with their heads in hands. They play England next.

I watch the Spain v Slovakia game at eight; Spain had over 90% possession and yet failed to score.

So it goes, so it goes.

The Wizard of Aus

It has been announced that a framework agreement has been reached between the UK, maybe GB and Australia, for a trade deal.

It would eliminate almost all tariffs for Australian goods, making things like, er, wine and swimming costumes slightly cheaper. It would probably also allow sub-standard meat and other agri products into the UK.

I say possibly, as the detail is secret, and not even Parliament can or will be able to subject the deal to scrutiny.

Promises made to the farming industry by the UK Government and Conservative Ministers would be broken.

IN addition, if sub-standard products were allowed into Britain, then regulations between Britain and the EU, and NI, would have to be strengthened to ensure that all prodcts entering the SM was according to their regulations.

This is the real effect of divergence.

The loss of trade to the EU could be as much as 15% of GDP, so how much would the very best deal with Australia counter that? 0.02%.

Or £1.22 of savings per household, per year.

I wrote years ago that any food could agree a trade deal, but getting one that was better for the UK required skill and leverage. The UK has Liz Truss on the case. And former Australian trade negotiator, Dmitry Grozoubinski, states that what Australia has won in theis deal is unpresedented in global trade negotiations, in getting most of what it wants and having to surrender very little to get it.

So, as ever, an industry or secotr will be thrown under the red bus to get some positive headlines today. After the mess of the WA, NIP and TCA, the UK Government clearly hasn't leaned that negotiating at speed delivers very poor results. Negotiate at speed, repent at leisure.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Four more weeks

At least.

Last night, the PM announced to the nation that the final stage of unlocking was delayed four weeks to July 21st due to the increase in Delta infections.

What he didn't say that the infection has taken over as the primary variant as he failed to lock the border down from India. It took 22 days for India to be put on the red list, 22 days in which people could travel over, not go into quarantine and just pass through immigration and go to any of the four corners of the nation, on public transport if they wanted, spreading as they went.

This was a policy decision by the Government, and JOhnson in particular, and is a monument to his failure of leadership and ability to make timely decisions.

That he was trying to curry favour with Modi over a trade deal, so wanted to do nothing to risk that meant he gambled, and lost, with the nation's health. Again.

More than that, the advantage of the vaccination program has been lost. Other European countries restricted immigration and are not seeing this spike in infections.

And so, here we are.

And yet, although the entertainment industry is put on hold for another four weeks, dancing inside is against advice or is it the law? A full Centre Court at Wimbledon is green lighted. Does the virus not infect tennis fans, then?

It is madness and such logic-defying rules such as this that further undermines the public;s remaining confidence.

Am now beyong angry, or surprise, just shocked that anyone else is.

Sunday 13th June 2021

In recent years, by now the main season would be all but over, and there would be a pause of a couple of weeks before the Lizards and Marsh Helleborines, Pyramidals and so on begin to appear. But the season is late, and the main season is just about still going, with Monkey, Man and Lady still worth seeking out, and those that flower a little later, like Heath and Common Spotted and Butterfly Orchids should be approaching their peak.

Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata Hope this is making sense.

Last year I went to see the Heaths at the end of May, and, OK, there was just one in flower, but were about to pop. Two, if not three weeks later this year, and I arranged for us to meet my new padawan, Ian, at Hothfield for some acid bog botanising, if he was up for it.

Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata He was.

As Hothfield is popular with families and dogwalkers, I try to get there early to avoid crowds and questions. So, we arrange to meet at eight. Meaning we had to be up and out pretty sharpish, and on the road by quarter past seven. Sounded OK when I made the arrangements, but we were slow in getting going, and after coffee we had to leave, so we called in at Hythe Services for supplies, eating sandwiches, samosa and crisps on the go.

Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata We arrive at Hothfield at five to eight, Ian arrives just over five minutes later; and so the gang was all here.

Kent is mostly chalk, and so alkaline in PH, meaning although there are downs, marshes, meadows and brownfields sites, acid based ones are rare. One of the few is Hothfield, and there is an orchid for almost every habitat, and for acid there is Heath Spotted. This is similar, but different to the Common Spotted, I won't go into details, as they are boring, and I don't think even the books are that reliable. For me it is knowing the sites, so I can say here, at Hothfield they are Heaths, most other places they will be CSOs.

Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata Hope that makes sense too.

So, in order to see most species the county has to offer, a visit here is needed each year, and I come early. It is a short walk, five minutes, from the car park, through the wood and into the fenced off area which is the bog itself, and soon among the overgrown paths were a few small Heath spikes. Other species have been left to grow, so there are fewer orchids. Much fewer.

Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica We snap as many as we can, but about half are yet to fully open.

We walk to the boardwalk, and I show Ian the bog specialists: bog cotton, Lousewort and Sundew. Sundew is carnivorous, and each fleshy leaf is covered in spines tipped with sticky stuff that catches insects, and so once caught the leave folds over and the plant absorbs the insect, because the bog is lacking in nutrents, so it gets its own. Not only interesting, but a beautiful one, so we take shots too.

One hundred and sixty four There was the chance to go to the other boggy area to look for hybridgs between SMOs and the Heaths, but the temperatures was already climbing quickly, so we decide to go to the second and final call, Stalisfied to Sprockle Wood to look in on the Greater Butterflies. I have been going there for three years and never seen a spike open, as in 2019 work got in the way and last year a late frost destroyed pretty much every spike, so one flowered.

Mad dogs..... We drive along the A20, then up the hill, parking opposite The Plough again, Jools said she would sit this out and read on a wooden bench, so Ian and I strap on our cameras and set off down the lane in the increasing heat. I know we complained when it was grey and cool, but is the other extreme.

Mad dogs..... At least it was downhill, so we walked across the field and into the wood, the gate to which seemed to be the entrance to the underworld as the trees were so dense now, blocking most of the sunlight out. Not many come here, the path down was all but invisible due to encroaching undergrowth. At least the mud had dried.

Mad dogs..... We reached the bottom path, then walked up to the high fence over which we had to scramble, carring our gear, and on the other side we could see the majestic spikes of dozens of GBOs streting away up the down.

Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha At last.

We take shots of a few of the spikes, but then just wander through the meadow, up the down and back along. We were looking for Flies or maybe a Bee or two, but the grasses had sprouted and the Fly couldn't be found, maybe they had faded and frazzled?

Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha And that was it.

We tried to chase a butterfly or two, but our hearts were not in it. We walk back to the fence, climb back over and begin the long haul up the down, through the wood and over the fields.

Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha Phew.

Back in the car, I announce we were to go home, no other calls, which Jools was pleased about.

We drove back to the M20, but I could see a jam heading towards Dover, so instead we drove up to Challock through King's Wood, then to Faversham. But Jools using her phone said there was an accident on the A2, so we cut through Chartham, over the railway which reminded me it has been a good two years since I snapped a railtour through there.

Mad dogs..... And back to Barham, up onto the A2 and then to home.

Made it.

One reason for being home was at two England were playing Croatia, who knocked us out in the World Cup three years back. I had low expectations, but in the end, England played well, were pretty much in control, and Sterling scored the only goal for a deserved win.

Agrostemma githago Yay.

Jools went swimming, and I messed around here, before preparing fritter batter, and once Jools came home, I fried them up into a golden plateful of scrummy spicy food.

I am still off the booze, and as I said, don't really miss it.

The evening was #Wildflowerhour for which I had dozens of shots, and keeping an eye on the evening game on ITV, sitting on the sofa with Scully beside me.

Get over Brexit

Ever since the referendum result, Brexiteers have DELIGHTED in telling us "remoaners", that we should just get over Brexit and accept it.

Well, we have. I have. I might not like it, but it has happened. I will never embrace it, as it is turning out every bit as badly as feared.

But I'll tell you who needs to get over Brexit: Brexiteers!

This is the hardest of Brexits, the one most would have wet their pants for five years ago, they told us how great it was, that we all knew what was in it and so there was no need for scrutiny, and passsed through Parliament in a metter of a few hours.

And here were are. Or they are: bitching like bitches.

Well, maybe if you believe in your Brexit more, you would make more of a success of it?

The UK Government chose control over trade, and guess what? Trade suffered. Suffers. But that was a UK Government policy decision.

Northern Ireland was always going to be the problem, but once being out of the SM and CU there had to be a border, just a matter of where.

And here we are.

You like Brexit and not like the consequences, bitches? Well, join the fucking club. But this is your clusterfuck, and starting a trade war with the EU and probably the US too isn't going to make it better, is it?

As DAG points out, wisely, there has not been made a positive case for the effects of Brexit or the NIP. Just as Remainers never made a positive case for being a member state. In what way has Brexit improved life in the UK, Britain or NI? Not at all, and it will get worse. And the hard reality is, that as Britain moves away from alignment with the EU and our borders will get harder, so will the border between Britain and NI.

These are facts.

Pesky things.

Five years were spent trying to come up with alternatives to border checks; technologial solutions, alternative arrangements and even madder ideas, and nothing worked, or was within 5 years of being usable. So, here we are. Either have dynamic alignment, or have borders. Borders between Britain and the EU and between Britain and NI. Rather than make that choice, Johnson seems to be choosing a trade war.

Please call me when a grown up takes charge of this country. Elect a clown, get a circus.