Friday, 7 August 2020

A bit of a Jam

In their 1980 hit, Going Underground, The Jam sang "you've made your bed, you'd better lie in it." Meaning, in terms of this blog, those who voted to Leave and the areas, like Kent and Sunderland, that voted heavily, will have to deal with the consequences.

In his blog today, Chris Grey, implores those of us who voted Remain to try not to be too harsh on those who voted to leave, because they were so obviously lied to.

Oddly, many of the area that voted to Leave most heavil with suffer the worst thanks to the hard or no deal Brexit that is coming. And those areas that rely on exports so much, like car making in Sunderland, Oxford and Swindon, aerospce in Bristol, BEA Systems in Lancashire, they will need to most support, and many of "middle England" that voted to Remain will have to fork out more in taxes or accept cuts to our local services to help these areas out.

It really doesn't sound very fair to me.

Maybe its because I have a desire to know things, to be informed, so when the time comes to make a choice, I make an informed one. Or put it another way, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

I know this. You probably know this, but in some's eyes, Nigel and Boris can do no wrong. Even today, Nigel is stirring up anti-immigrant hate as some boys landed in Kent yesterday, and it turns out some immigrants had a tour round Anfield. Clearly, he thinks a good lynching is in order.

But, Brexit has happened. And nothing has changed, people are still trying to reach here, just like Brexit was supposed to stop. But it hasn't, nor will it. Just another Brexiteer lie.

We drove past the lorry park/customs post in Ashford; work is underway, earth moving is going on and a new entrance road is being laid. It will be very busy there for many months. I can't see much of it being ready in time. But it might, even if the IT system won't be. But whatever, on January 1st, all freight and trucks arriving in Dover or at the Tunnel must be compliant with EU rules and have the paperwork to verify it. If not, the truck or freight doesn't get on the ferry/shuttle. The Ferry companies and Eurotunnel know their responsibilities in this.

One of the "benefits" from Brexit is supposed to be Freeports. A freeport is an area outside a country's tax and regulatory regime. Goods can come and leave and not trigger VAT or tariffs. Freeports are a recipe for tex evasion, but they are legal in the EU, if the UK wanted them so bad, then we could have had them, unless Ministers want to bend the rules even further. IN not collecting taxes and tariffs this deprives the exchequer of funds, meaning more tax for elsewhere to maintain spending, or cut spending. This coupled with probable reductions in corporation tax means less and less money to spend on us, the people and society at large.

If the problems at Dover were not bad enough, at Hollyhead in Wales, it could be worse, with the town crowing in on three sides of the port, a railway station, and somehow the same infrastructure needed at Dover and other Channel and North Sea ports would be required because NI will remain partially in the EU. But uncertainy of NI supply chains is already raising fears of food shortages. This will also not be an easy fix, if it can be fixed.

The UK is close to signing a FTA with Japan. But this is not as good news as it might appear, as it is on inferior terms to the one Japan has with the EU, and has been rushed, so will not be a complete agreement, covering as much as the UK might have wished, and parts of it might have to be renegotiated once some kind of deal is struck between the UK and EU.

But an FTA isn't a magic bullet. It needs to be negotiated, and the text combed through by armies of lawyers on both sides, and there hasn't been time for this to have happened.

IDS and the other Brexiteer MPs are not stupid. They knew what was in the WA, and always planned to undermine it later in the process. That he, in particular, now claims stuff is hiding in the "small print", when he, himself, stood up and argued for less scrutiny as the details had been debated to death. His words. So, he is lying. If so, just the latest Brexiteer to do so, and won't be the last. But he should be asked why he didn't read the WA he ratified in Parliament, and keep asking until he gives an answer.

But the Express of Torygraph won't do that, of course.

But Brexit is coming, the actual leaving of the EU has happened, and leaving the SM and CU will happen at the end of the year. There is no avoiding that or the measures that need to be taken. Should have taken place years ago to be honest, but then Brexit wasn't defined other than saving money and having no downsides.

It will cost £1,000,000,000 to implement as parallel UK chemical system just to replicate the EU one, a UK system that does the same job as what we currently use, for free, as part of the EU. That money we send to the EU each week/month/Year actually gave us some considerable benefits. Benefits we will now have to pay for, incuding set up costs to do the same job as what we have left, just because someone equates this bullshit with "freedom".

Brexiteers knew this was coming, but labelled it "project fear".

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Wednesday 5th August 2020

And now the big news:

KITTENS!

I can reveal, though not a world exclusive, we are to adopt two kittens later this week.

I have been following the RSPCA Cattery in Ashford on FB for a while, and tried to adopt littens before, but with no luck, but this week a mini-Mulder and mini-Scully, bother and sister came up, I applied and we got 'em.

Or will get them.

As I write this Thursday afternoon, they should have already have been with us, but they had the op yesterday (it is a condition of adopting that there can be no more kitties) and their little tummies are upset today, probably from the anesthetic, so we will collect them tomorrow.

Expect lots of cute kitty pics for several months.

But back to Wednesday for now, and well, the usual stuff.

Though I did sleep in until twenty past six, meaning I got up groggy, drank a coffee and had time for a truncated session on the cross trainer before I had to stop to prepare for work.

I am all ready and ready to go at half seven, where we swap news and stores.

Breakfast and more coffee at eight, tidy up and work.

I get news on the kittens. The centre had GSVd along the road and were happy with the location, but wanted to see shots from inside, so I went with camera to snap the downstairs and garden. It just so happened that Mulder and Scully featured in two of the shots.

Two hundred and eighteen For the afternoon, Jools had arranged for the gardener to come round to cut our hedges, now that the wild birds had fledged their first and second broods. So, for four hours he trimmed, strimmed and cleared up the clippings. Hedges are a bone of contention, and an easy way for neighbours to fall out, but we have got to know hours, and he talks to them before cutting to make sure he don't take too much off.

Tidy We could do it ourselves, but we don't have the tools he has, so paying him to do it works. Means I can carry on working too. And at the end the garden looks stunning.

I do a second session on the cross trainer, longer than any previous on this machine, but not by much, but, you know, its a start.

Then for dinner we have fish cakes, baby new potatoes, but as these have been kicking round the fridge for a couple of weeks, more like teens than babies, really. And a huge amount of stir fry, and fresh corn.

It hits the spot.

And that is it, really.

We were pooped, so we listen to the radio whilst computing or beading. It does get dark now by nine in the evening, meaning the year is getting old and will soon by autumn.

In plain sight

Under cover of COVID, but in plain sight, the UK Government has been contracting their friends and backers to provide goods and services that they were never capable of supplying.

The Good Law Project is taking the Government to court regarding three such contracts, one for £252,000,000 to provide PPE from China by a company with £100 worth of stock and owned by one of Liz Truss's advisors. Mr and Mrs Mills made between 10% and 20% of the value of the contract.

Not bad considering every single one of the masks supplied to the NHS was against the purchase specification and so cannot be used.

The money cannot be recovered.

Nor did the procurement follow the usual rules of oversight and scrutiny, so friends of Ministers and senior advisors could make money out of the crisis while NHS and care workers risked their lives with no or poor quality PPE.

Meanwhile Johnson says at every opportunity what a great job he and his Government did with the crisis, and his friends and former colleagues in Fleet Street cheer his on.

But this isn't limited to COVID where more and more PPE r Ventilator contracts were handed out to rabid Brexiteer lead companies or those of friends or party backers. For Brexit, the then Minister, Chris "Failing" Grayling, handed a contract to a company with no ferries of experience to provide a ferry service from Ramsgate.

Meanwhile, planning permission on projects of friends have local refusals overruled by Jannick, and now the plan is to further loosen local planning rules to make it easier to build because of the housing shortage caused by there being no council houses or affordable housing. Where such schemes had requirements for affordable housing, Ministers removed that provision, making their friends millions more in profits.

And with the three separate Judicial Reviews into this corruption, it now becomes clear why this Government wants to restrict JR in the future, and has handpicked a review if its friends to conduct said review.

Power, corruption and lies.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Tuesday 4th August 2020

Tuesday.

Jools says she has lost track of time, and its only because I am working she knows it is a weekday. I have to admit, sometimes I struggle. There is something to be said for work and keeping a routine.

I suppose.

It is to be another sunny and slightly warmer day, each day this week will be warmer, until Friday when it will be warmer here than on the surface of the sun.

Or something.

We get up, have coffee before I go to do a session on the new cross trainer. Its not fun, it squeaks and groans as we use it, but we seem to be getting used to it. I do 14 minutes, not a huge amount, but my arm aches, and it seems enough. I planned to do another session later in the day.

Planned.

There is breakfast to prepare and eat, second coffee to make and drink, and the early morning meeting to attend. Nothing important to report.

The morning drags, but the afternoon would be packed with stuff.

We have ham rolls and beer chutney for lunch. And brews. Huge, if true.

For the first part of the afternoon, we have a Zoom meeting with the solicitor, mainly to answer our endless questions, mainly about when we would see the money. It turns out it would probably be September. Lots of other stuff to discuss, but for the most part, all is in place for our solicitor's annual vacation from 17:00 that evening, but all is in place, paperwork has been submitted and just needs to be dated.

Two hundred and seventeen Don't panic.

In other words.

When we were done, our old friends, Gary and Julie, arrive.

Hello!

We were expecting them to be honest, and had bought beer, wine, presse, peanuts, cheesy nibbles, tortillas. We retire to the bottom patio to talk and eat and drink whilst observing social distancing.

Two hours pass.

We were joined at one point by a dragonfly, Gary keeps an eye on it until I return with camera to snap it. I get closer until with it's multi-lensed eyes, it sees me and flies off. But I have my shot.

Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta By the time they leave at five, it was too late for phys. It wasn't, but I had no enthusiasm.

I make dinner.

Dinner was breaded chicken in rolls, with slaw instead of butter. Fit for kings. Or Gods.

And then there was the rush to get everything completed before the final domestic game of the season: the Championship Final between Fulham and Brentford.

And it was shit.

Full of mistakes.

Neither team deserved to win, but Fulham did, by two extra time goals, by which time Jools was up on the cliffs watching the just past full moon rise over Calais.

I stay home to watch football and drink sloe port.

End of the season report

Last night, the domestic season drew to a close, when Fulham beat Brentford 2-1 after 120 minutes of poor quality football.

It was 368 days since the Championship season began back on August 2nd.

It has been quite a ride. And one we will never forget.

It will be remembered for the season, at least in the Prem, with two mid-season breaks, one planned and the other not so.

As a Norwich fan, this season, especially since the restart, has been very painful, and joyless. One goal scored in nine league games, and few other shots on goal. 21 points and 26 goals says everything. As a team, Norwich wasn’t good enough, made too many average teams look like Brazil 1970.

So, bear the above in mind when I write about this season. The one just finished.

I am glad it is over.

Before the lockdown I watched some games, but every MOTD. Since it returned I watched most games and no MOTD. Not one. The avalanche of games and goals meant that it all became meaningless. It was bad enough following the games I watched, sometimes three in one evening. All merged into one.

Up to the return and the start of lockdown, football and its TV coverage has all been about “events”: Super Sunday, Monday Night Football, Friday night football. And so on. With two hours build up, two hours analysis after, a 90 minute game could take six hours to get through. If you watched all that, I only ever watched the games. But I did enjoy the build up, on Twitter and on BBC sport website. But with three games, kicking off at four in the afternoon, next one at six and the final one at eight, there was no build up, just bang, bang, bang!

The lack of build up, especially for the second and third games meant by the end of the night, it felt like being punch drunk, games flew by, night after night, week after week. And then the season ended. And it was like the lockdown.

Games had no fans of course. I had the sound turned down, or had the fake Sky Crowd effect on, and was OK. Even the cut out figures, banners and scarves made it look OK. And once the slow start in terms of tempo was over, games were played pretty much like as before, at the home team’s ground, though statistics show that without fans there was little advantage to playing at home, as away teams won a higher percentage of games.

I was doubtful that the restart would be any good, or safe, but I was proved wrong. After a few early positive tests in the build up to restarting and in the opening week, after that it was fine. Players began to celebrate as before, even without fans.

And without fans is the important part. WSC this months says that football has been stripped to bare basics, nothing other than the game, 22 players, 5 subs to be used, and little time for the added value that TV has brought. Will we ever want to go back? There is no passion driving on teams from the stands, no roar when the ball goes in the net, so “ooohhhh” when a shot is missed or saved. Just pick up the ball and move on.

Outside the Premier League, football isn’t viable without fans. Championship might survive, some teams will, but many won’t. If there is to be no fans for months, maybe even the whole of next season, then it won’t finish. Some leagues below the EFL won’t start until fans are allowed into grounds, as it really isn’t viable. But players have to be paid, bills have to be paid, and no income is coming in. Clubs will either have to come to agreements with players under contract to suspend contracts, or reduce wages, or the clubs will become insolvent and fold. Dover Athletic announced that beyond this month it cannot go on as players refuse to take a 20% pay cut.

There are professional footballers outside the EFL, making enough money not to have a “proper” job, but without football, they can’t pay their bills either. Hundreds, thousands of footballers also face ruin.

A pandemic was always likely to happen, at some point, and the fundamental problems with the game became laid bare. There is enough money in the game for every club to be protected, every player to be paid, it needs the money at the top to filter down. Which won’t happen. The Prem will return on or about September 12th, TV money will roll in, bills and wages will be paid. Heck, talk is of hundreds of millions to be spent on players over the summer, as if there was no change.

It needn’t be this way. But since the mid-80s, football has been about money, and the top clubs getting more and more of it. And keeping it. And will continue to do so. Ask a Liverpool fan if they think their club should support Blackpool, Wigan or Tranmere instead of buying a third choice left back, you know what the answer would be. Money no longer trickles down the league ladder with big clubs buying from small er ones, at least in England. Premier League clubs buy from all over the world, because it appears that buying a home-grown player is more expensive than buying from elsewhere.

Over the 27 years of the Premier League, all amateur grounds could have been bought and saved with just a few percent of TV deal money skimmed off the top. But that was never an option, enriching themselves, at whatever the cost. And the smaller clubs in the Prem getting bagfulls of fifty quid notes to go along with the Ponsi scheme, which keeps the rich, rich and out of reach from the rest.

And football without fans on the terraces and in the stands isn’t the same. They are part of the matchday experience for TV fans as well as for those who go to games. No consideration is ever given to the fans; matches switched, sometimes with little notice, to satisfy TV who, in fairness, pay top dollar for that. But getting to the other end of the country for an 11:30 kick off on a Sunday, or on Boxing Day when there are no trains or public transport, clubs don’t give a shit. Mostly.

In the future, football needs to consider fans. And really ask, we have representation at clubs and in football administration, so they can ask fans what their decisions would mean, to us. Acknowledge that we are every bit as important as the players and managers in the whole package that is sold to TV, especially overseas where they can feel by the passion and noise, what games mean to us. Until fans are part of the decision making process, things won’t change. I fear nothing will change, we will be just happy to get back inside a stadium and cheer our team on that we won’t notice the dozens of clubs that didn’t make it back to normal.

I am lucky, in that I got a sense of perspective 15 years ago when I nearly went bankrupt, had to give up my season ticket and nearly lost my home. When I could, I went back, and still do. I watch games on TV, when it suits me, not just because they’re on. I might give up sports on TV again. I survived before, listening to the radio and watching MOTD. I get to see the action, the goals, just not as it happens, and not having to pay £30 a month either.

I support Norwich, and last season was a heck of a ride, it was stressful, but we came through and got promoted as champions. This season didn’t go well, and got worse and worse. We are relegated, but time will pass, players will leave, others will come in, the new season will start and we will forget how sit we were for those nine games. But, I for one, will not get depressed, not about being relegated, about being one of the worse teams in PL history. It isn’t everything in my life, just about everything is more important than football, and the fact that some players are paid £400,000 or more a week and people who filled shelves as the pandemic raged at its worse get minimum wage should not be forgotten, and I hope it isn’t, that shelf-fillers, care workers, delivery drivers are all more important and deserve to be paid more than the lowest, least experienced, least skilled professional footballer.

We can live without football, after all, but we can’t live without food, and the people who grow it, deliver it, work in our shops.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Monday 3rd August 2020

Back to work.

Day of the harvest.

Or at least in the big field we can see from the house. All day the harvester trundled up and down the field, hour after hour, a fleet of tractors and trailers in attendance to take away the grain. Just leaving behind lone lines of straw that created longer and longer shadows through the day. While in Chez Jelltex the sound of the fan that must suck the wheat and chaff up, created a low background hum.

Two hundred and sixteen Bread comes from somewhere.

From time to time I tried to get shots, but at least in the afternoon, the sun came out so made the shots "punchy".

We had got up at half five, had coffee, then when Jools went for a walk, I climbed the stairs and onto the new cross trainer for the first session of the day.

I do 13 minutes. It is hard.

It has a different position, or makes me stand in a different position, which makes it feel like it is a cross between and cross trainer and a step machine. It makes my thighs ache. Which is supposed to be a good thing.

I remind myself of Mum sinking into her armchair, getting old before her time, and redouble my efforts.

Sitting on the patio is a fine reward for phys having been done well. I st and watch the birds try to get peanuts out of the empty feeder. So I walk over and top it up, they tweet their approval.

I cut up fruit for breakfast, smother it in yogurt in each bowl, and make a second pot of coffee. Outside the sun shines brightly and the cool start warms up. The BBC weatherman says it could be 38 degrees in southern England by Friday. I will sleep in the fridge if that happens.

Just saying.

And so to work.

Early morning virtual coffee machine meeting. No news. No gossip.

And onto the final overdue task I had been saving for three days. That takes five minutes to complete.

Work trickles in, but I deal with it in a prompt and professional manner. As you would expect.

Jools makes lunch: warmed up hash, salad and slaw. No wine.

Its fine.

The afternoon drags.

We have a brew.

And another brew. And the leftover chilli chocolate.

I do another session on the cross trainer. Another 13 minutes.

Building up.

I guess it's full moon that evening, so check on moonrise times, and see that it is 21:10. I hope to see it.

But through the evening, cloud rolls in and looks impossible we will see the moon.

I say, 2yes, I will play Uckers", and beat Jools by four pieces and am happy.

I was sitting doing some late evening procrastination when Jools calls me up and tells me to bring my camera. Out the bathroom window, the moon could be seen through the trees the other side of The Dip. It rose slowly, and I take many shots, of this is one.

One hundred percent Green Corn Moon, apparently.

The return of Operation Brock

In the build up to last year's abortive Brexit on 31st October, the Government and Highways England put in place mitigation measures, Operation Brock, to have queues of trucks and lorries through Kent and try to keep traffic moving. Part of that was the turning of the coastbound carriageway into a lorry park, and the London bound side reduced to two lanes each way with a steel barrier. Traffic on this was limited to 50 mph.

In the end, Operation Brock wasn't needed, and the contraflow removed and traffic on the motorway returned to normal.

Brock was a scaled up version of old Operation Stack, where areas of the M20 and M26 would be used to park Dover-bound trucks. In 2016, phase 4 of Op Stack was started, meaning traffic had blocked all of the M20 between Dover and Maidstone, and the M26 was going to be used.

What is now clear is that these "temporary" measures are to be semi-permanent. A draft paper was published, with questions for the haulage industry if the Government had got stuff wrong.

Remember, we were promised frictionless trade with the EU, no visible changes in what was to be the easiest trade deal in history.

Trucks over 7.5tonnes will need:

"While it is the responsibility of the trader (or the trader’s agent, such as a customs agent or freight forwarder) to provide the necessary documentation to the HCV driver, it is the HCV driver who must present the documentation at the EU ports.

Being border-ready means that an HCV driver is carrying all the necessary documentation to get through the GB and EU port (or has been provided with the appropriate information to get the documentation).

This includes:

customs documentation:

a master or movement reference number (MRN) from an import declaration if the goods are going to stay in the country of disembarkation (for example, goods going from GB to France), or a transit accompanying document if the goods are either staying in the country of disembarkation or going to move beyond it (for example, goods going from GB to Spain via France)

an admission temporaire/temporary admission (ATA) carnet if the goods are temporarily going abroad (for example, goods going from GB to France and then back to GB) a transports internationaux routiers (TIR) carnet if goods are sealed and/or going to non-Common Transit Convention (CTC) member countries (for example, GB to India overland).

import and export documentation depending on what goods are carried (it is possible that a free trade agreement or sectoral deal may change some of the requirements for import and export documentation). For example, EU member state authorities will check for the following on arrival at the EU port: products of animal origin require an export health certificate

plant and plant-based products require a phytosanitary certificate

fish require a catch certificate, export health certificate and where appropriate a captain’s certificate.

Some documentation could be electronic or physical (like the MRN barcode) while others would need to be physical (like the ATA carnet). Please note that the list is not exhaustive; for more information, please refer to the Border Operating Model published on 13 July 2020.

In addition, there may be other forms of import/export documentation that an HCV driver will need to carry on behalf of their trader which would not be checked at the ports. An HCV driver using the accompanied roll on roll off (RoRo) route would need a safety and security declaration before arriving in the EU. However, EU rules mean that they can be completed shortly before arriving in the EU.

Some EU member states have additional national requirements for goods arriving from GB, for example:

France requires the use of the SI Brexit system, and the MRN barcodes for multiple consignments must be compiled in to a single ‘envelope’ MRN that will be scanned the Netherlands and Belgium require that all movements are pre-notified using the Portbase and RXSeaport systems respectively; HCVs that are not pre-notified will not be allowed to leave Dutch or Belgian ports.


And the four phases of Operation Brock are:

"phase 1: using the Dover Traffic Assessment Protocol (TAP 20) to hold around 500 lorries on the six-mile section of A20 leading to Dover

phase 2: queuing on the coastbound M20 (J8-J9) with a steel barrier to create the contraflow, with all other non-freight traffic going through the M2.

phase 3: Manston Airport HCV holding facility for all Port of Dover freight (Eurotunnel freight would have continued to be held on M20 J8-J9)

phase 4: M26 queuing system coastbound and London-bound for all Eurotunnel freight"


This will be the new normal. No freight will be able to leave the UK for the EU without compliance as they won't be allowed on the ferry or Tunnel Shuttle. This is not UK red tape, this is EU red tape that all third countries have to comply with, and being outside the CU and SM always meant would be mandated, but was dismissed by Brexiteers as "project fear".

Thing about phase 3 is that Grant Shapps wants to use Manston as a freight airport. So, the two departments will have to work out what is more important. Or maybe they haven't noticed, and planes will try to land only to find the runway packed with trucks......

This is Project Reality. This is Operation Brock.