Should Auld Acquaintance…

This blog has been recycled from a previous blog. Recycling is good for the environment. Fact.


It’s Burns Night and later, after a few snifters, those of a more Scottish persuasion will no doubt be singing Auld Lang Syne. But what on Earth does it all mean? Fear not, my faithful follower! I studied Burns at school and, as my gift to you, I am happy to bring you the inside dope on what was going on amid that impenetrable thicket of Scots. You’re welcome.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?

Should we forget our old friends and not remember them?

[Note how Burns uses this tautological device to drive home his point about forgetting things. Like the thing he just said.]

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Should we forget our old friends and Old Lang Syne!

[Old Lang Syne was a teacher of mathematics at Dalrymple Parish School where Burns first learned some of the things he later forgot. At that time, of course, Old Lang Syne was Young Lang Syne, second son of the headmaster, the original Old Lang Syne. To this day the debate rages furiously among scholars as to which of the Old Lang Synes is referenced in this poem. Some have even posited that Burns was referring to both. A sort of co-Syne.]


For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

My best drinking bud, let us drink a cup of something alcoholic to the memory of Old Lang Syne.

[A cup of kindness is generally held to be a corruption of “a cup of Kidney’s”. Kidney’s Old Peculiar Dark Ale was a perennial favourite at the Tam O’Shanter Inn, Alloway, where Burns spent many a long day between poems.]

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For certain you’ll drink several pints of Kidney’s Old Peculiar, and so will I, to the point that we will toast Old Lang Syne over and over again with little memory of having done so already.

[The device of repetition is deployed by Burns throughout the poem, capturing the essential tediousness of a conversation between two drunkards.]


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;

Basically we’re both at that stage of inebriation where we’ve totally pissed our pants but don’t care because we’ve now moved on to the optics.

[Gowan’s Fine Scotch Single Malt Whisky was another staple at the Tam O’Shanter. After a particularly heavy session on it, Burns was once moved to write an ode to a louse.]

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

But we’ve come a long way since Old Lang Syne. Which reminds me, we must drink a toast to him.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;

We’ve been piddled in the pub all day

[The Burn was a tavern notable for being frequented by poets of all persuasions. After heavy drinking sessions a favourite line among locals was: “Aye! Burns is burned in The Burn again the noo!”]

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

And it feels like we’ve drunk an ocean of ale

Sin’ auld lang syne.

Jings! We really should drink a toast to Old Lang Syne, before we forget.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

Give me your hand, my best drinking buddy, I’ve just realised that after nineteen pints of Kidney’s and a couple of bottles of Gowan’s I am feeling such friendship for you that I might very well let you stroke my manhood. After all, it’s what Old Lang Syne would have wanted. Here’s to him!


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A Vision in a Dream. A Figment

My spirit guide, Bob, has been knocking urgently on my astral door ever since the inauguration. Seems Samuel Taylor Coleridge was on the Ethereal Blower with this report from the Other Side.


Millions of people thronged the Capitol  last Friday. And a Christmas tree.

In Washington did Donald Trump

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

And Ralph, the White House dresser, ran

Through swatches to complete the plan

   Downtown in old DC.

With twice five miles of plate gold found,

The walls and rooms were gilded round;

And there were toilets bright with auric frills,

The toilet rolls were golden filigree;

And here were Donald’s photos, flattering stills

Staring down at whomsoever had a pee.


But oh! that cool reflecting pool which slanted

Across the green Mall beside the Lincoln shrine!

Trump hated it! The whole thing left him haunted

As e’er because his self-esteem was taunted

By great deeds of the past he could not outshine!

In his speeches, with ceaseless swagger seething,

Were countless porkies, natural as breathing,

Almighty whoppers, pan-handled from a stream

Of glinting fools’ gold, a never-failing seam.

Huge falsehoods vented in front of cameras,

No evidence, each claim bigly bold as brass.

Amid these diatribes the TV and press

Were made to sit in silence, witness the mess:

Five pages wandering with hazy notions

Through countless words the hapless visitors sat,

And gawped at each new shiny alternate fact,

Then sank at length, bewildered, in commotion;

And ’mid this tumult Donald heard from far

Journalist voices prophesying war!

   The shadow of the presidency

   Passed across the gathering;

   Nothing that was evidentiary

   Seemed to mean a single thing.

It was a miracle of rare device,

A White House pleasure-dome with caves of ice!


   A spokesman with a bone to pick,

   Sent out by the president:

   “We had two million. Period

   The multitudes were myriad!”

   Millions at the Capitol?

   Could I believe, within me,

   His rhetoric so strong?

   I knew the answer instantly:

Something here was very wrong.

I would put that Trump on air,

That White House dome! those caves of ice!

And all who watched should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His tiny hands, his stupid hair!

Beware this man who cleaves to power

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on Russian treats hath fed,

And drunk a call girl’s golden shower.

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Don’t Panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Donald J. Trump

With apologies to Douglas Adams


It has been remarked by members of a certain bipedal species that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – despite being an indispensable repository of occasionally accurate knowledge for the intergalactic traveller – is somewhat terse on the subject of Planet Earth: “Mostly harmless” wrote the contribution’s author, Ford Prefect, after just fifteen years of research.

Seasoned observers of the Guide have commented that it’s what Ford Prefect did not say that is most illuminating – specifically, the unqualified exceptions to the word “mostly”.

Some scholars have suggested that, if only one knew where to look, the brusque entry would reveal hidden dimensions, containing a plethora of useful information about the types of harm one might encounter on Earth. Those more au fait with Ford Prefect’s work ethic consider that these scholars are misguided buffoons. Doctor Grizzlybald Spintlepook, Visiting Professor of Hyper-Cultural Awareness at Tau Ceti University, points out that Ford Prefect “could no more hide important information in a pan-dimensional footnote than he could paint a convincing forgery of da Vinci’s  La Giaconda with his rectum.”

Spintlepook, it should be noted, spent many of his formative graduate years sinking Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters in the company of Ford Prefect, so it is understandable that he developed a jaundiced view of his fellow student. Of his four livers, one alone survived the alcoholic onslaught – and only then by pretending to be a Rigelian sand weasel on vacation in Spintlepook’s renal system.

As it happens, both sides of the argument had it wrong. Ford Prefect had made extensive notes on how to have fun on Earth, with a lengthy side glance at some of the dangers. His editors, however,  who clearly favoured brevity as the soul of wit, pruned it back to just the two, albeit pithy, words.

Zarniwoop, one-time president of Megadodo Publications, reminisced in his autobiography, Megadodo Man, that his editors had striven to reduce it to just one word, but had failed to agree whether that word should be “mostly” or “harmless”. “In any event,” he observed, “the whole thing was rendered pointless when the Earth was demolished by Vogons, to make room for a hyperspace bypass.”

A series of shenanigans involving, among other things, the Infinite Improbability Drive led eventually to a restoration of Ford Prefect’s original work and the surprise appearance of another Earth. Insofar as the Guide was ever a truly accurate resource, it now remains the only link between the Earths, old and new. It may, or may not, contain useful insights into the human condition, and it may, or may not, throw new light through old windows. In a nutshell, it is business very much as usual for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It is in this spirit of uncertainty, therefore, that we delve once more into The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to see what it has to say on the subject of Donald J. Trump.


Trump, Donald J.

There are certain things that humans generally consider inexplicable: a complete theory of quantum mechanics; the true nature of God; the enduring popularity of American-style bacon.

Along with these imponderables must be included the continuing success of the life-form known as Donald J. Trump. With no discernible intelligence or ability, he has risen to unimagined heights: TV star, property magnate and plutocrat. Some have suggested that he might one day run for President of America and be successful, against all logic.

From a galactic perspective, these things are impenetrable to humans in much the same way that the success of humankind is impenetrable to more evolved and sensitive beings. It is an ironic fact that humans are generally considered the Donald J. Trumps of the universe. “How are they even still alive?” goes the whisper around the more erudite circles of galactic society. “How does a species so fundamentally stupid that it still thinks digital watches are a pretty neat idea even get out of bed in the morning without tripping over the dog and killing itself?”

A symposium was put together by some of the universe’s leading universities to contemplate this very question. Learned scientists – including some super-intelligent mice – put together a raft of virtual experiments. However, in each and every scenario, the virtual civilisation always destroyed itself in new and generally interesting ways. The researchers knew they were missing something important, but no one could put an appendage on what.

Then, one morning, the huge doors of the main debating chamber were thrown open to reveal an old, ragged man in old, ragged clothes. The scientists were in uproar at this unwanted intrusion, until someone recognised the man as one of their own, a scientist who had gone missing in the very early days of the symposium when an entire experimental Earth had literally vanished into the space-time continuum without so much as a by-your-leave. Now, as he staggered down the aisle amid his shocked colleagues, the chamber fell into an apprehensive silence.

Ranzelman Gnathobdel spoke.

“My friends and learned colleagues,” he quavered, “I am returned, miraculously, from the brink. As you know, I was lead researcher on the simulation known as Earth Eight.”

There was a hesitant stirring among the assembled scientists. The babel fishes in their ears were feeding back a horrid screech, beneath which it was difficult to pick out exactly what Gnatobdel was saying.

Here is what they heard:

“Greetings everyone! I am bigly pleased to be here! It’s been years since I went on holiday and I’ve had a blast!”

The untranslated Gnathobdel continued: “The last thing I remember was turning the dial of the Infinite Luck Generator to maximum before switching on the system…”

The scientists heard:

“I beg and implore you to send me back to Earth, where I am anxious to make it great again!”

“At that exact moment, it appears we intersected with some form of Improbability Drive and were transported clear across the universe. We should all have been killed, but I can only assume the Infinite Luck Generator kept us safe, for, no matter what happened after that – be it asteroid collisions, wars, plagues, the rise of idiot dictators, the proliferation of nuclear weapons – none of it made any difference. We kept on surviving. Ridiculously, but with absolute certainty! Ladies and gentlemen, friends and fellow scientists, I know without a scintilla of a doubt what happened to make humans so impervious to unkind fate. And, trust me, we have to find a way to stop them before it is too late! Please, somebody! Please help me! Help me stop them before they take over the entire universe with their wretched good fortune!”

“My name is Donald J. Trump and one day I will be President of the entire Universe!”

After much scratching of heads and great debate the symposium decided to abide by the avowed wishes of the weird man. The symposium itself was wound up as inconclusive and the budget it saved was turned over to Donald J. Trump’s travel and upkeep. He was sent back to Earth to continue his great work with the humans. No matter how he protested, all people heard was exactly what the luckiest man in the entire universe did not want them to hear.

He is still there, and doing very well, to his continuing despair.

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The Model of a Modern US President


I am the very model of a modern US President,

Like some old farts once said, I hold this thing to be self-evident,

I know a lot of words, in fact my mind is a distillery

Of facts I gleaned from Wikileaks concerning Crooked Hillary.


I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I’ve never paid a cent in tax because I’m bigly tactical,

I wrote the book on wealth, no shit, I’m pretty much the Lexicon,

I’ll make this country great again and charge it to the Mexicans.


He’ll make this country great again and charge it to the Mexicans!


My education knows no bounds, I owned a university:

It showed poor, starving salesmen how to win, despite adversity,

For thirty grand I showed them how to build a great portfolio

You know it’s true, I’m not the type to deal in braggadocio.


My properties range far and wide, from Scotland through to Istanbul

From Turnberry to big hotels with great big fancy swimming pools

The name of Trump’s emblazoned on the front of every edifice

I don’t exactly own them, I’m, like, more a friend with benefits


He don’t exactly own them, he’s, like, more a friend with benefits!


I’ve so much wealth I cannot count, I’m part of a plutocracy;

A billionaire for decades now, a credit to democracy,

My fingers in so many pies, from radio to NBC,

From steak to ‘The Apprentice’ and from there to beauty pageantry.


I’m something of a ladies’ man, my record is formidable,

The greatness deep inside me seems to make most women biddable,

Some say it’s just my bank account, but they’re just being cynical,

You might as well accept it, boys, The Donald’s at his pinnacle.


In matters of the heart, it’s true, I’m something of a prodigy,

The girls, they see this Alpha Male and line up for my progeny,

I’m known for grabbing second base, some see it as misogyny,

I’ve such respect for women I need offer no apology.


He’s such respect for women he need offer no apology!


My military instincts lean towards the interventionist,

I’ve learned a lot from Russian Vlad, and, trust me, he’s no terrorist,

He wants to bomb some Muslims in some shit-hole deep in Syria,

So what? Who cares? Those idiots are totally inferior.


In politics my loyalties rest, like any great Republican,

Upon the right to take up arms to make this country great again,

If I can get my small hands on the launch codes of our weaponry,

I’ll send a few reminders up the asses of our enemies.


So people of America, you aided my ascendancy

You huddled masses voted and ensured my campaign victory,

I am the new incumbent, in the White House I’ll be resident,

I am the very model of a modern US President.


Yes, he is the very model of a modern US President!


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Mobile Dicks

A reprise of a blog from several years ago. Based, as they say, on a true story. Names have been changed yada, yada, yada…

Kind of Lime

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Two Irish men who stole a fishing trawler after missing their ferry had to be rescued off the British coast where they were going in circles because they did not know how to sail. After hours at sea, the men called what they thought was the Irish coastguard for help.


“They thought they were just off the coast of Ireland,” said Ray Steadman, press officer of the Holyhead lifeboat in north Wales, about 66 miles east of Ireland.

In fact, the two were just 12 miles north of where they started in Holyhead and had called the British coastguard, Steadman told Irish broadcaster RTE Monday. Lifeboats and a helicopter were sent out to rescue the men, who were detained by police before being released.

They were later rearrested after the boat owner discovered some damage to his trawler.

Call me Mahoney. Some years ago – never…

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Defeeting Terorism by Nigel Molesworth (The Curse of St Custard’s)

In this sad week, a retread for Molesworth on Terrorism.

Kind of Lime

With apologies to Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

@reelmolesworth has been keeping the flame alive much longer than I (GRAMMER). Please follow him if you read and like  this.

Molesworth Hello, gentle reeder and welcome back to st custards. Everything you wanted to kno, and a lot you didn’t, is rite hear at your fingertips.

Exclusiv news…our Head is in a rite bate. As any fule kno st custard’s hav not exactly set the thames alite when it comes to Leage Tables (viz. botom of OFSTED Ryman Leage Div 5 nine yeres running, 0 goles scored, ten points deducted for spending the skool gym referb money on BEER and CIGGIES for masters) but today he sa in a v. loud angry voice that the expetiv deleted govt. is making his life an expletiv deleted misery.

Between you and me it is v. hard to see how any Headmaster coud posibly be more miserible than…

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The Moving Finger Writes


“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám


The horrifying events in Brussels this week have brought the all-too-predictable backlash from every side of the terrorism debate. Many of the comments are doubtless heartfelt, but are mostly confirmations of opinions and positions already held.

Thus George Galloway hauled out his oft-repeated mantra that the West is reaping the whirlwind of its colonial past; Brexiteers saw the atrocity as proof positive that we would be better off outside the EU, while the Remainers drew entirely the opposite conclusion; Donald Trump and others found further proof of their belief that Islam is the root cause of the problem.

It is the very nature of problems such as terrorism that the search for an exact cause, or an exact “truth”, is essentially a wild goosechase that as often as not serves only to muddy the murky waters still further. All views hold a small element of truth, enough to allow the connection — no matter how tenuous — to be made. From the terrorists’ perspective the resultant chaos reflected in social media is, itself, reason enough to continue their nihilistic path. The seeds of discord are what they seek to scatter, as widely as possible: websites like Twitter have become part of a Hall of Mirrors within which they, too, can bolster their own argument by cherry-picking their own truths.

Division and discord. It might as well be their corporate slogan. Global protagonists such as Vladimir Putin regularly use the same devices to self-serving effect, most recently in the Syrian intervention. Democracy, they reason, is too prone to introspection and self-doubt to be an effective means of governing. As proof, they have only to contemplate the toothless lion that is the United Nations. For all the use it has been in the world’s various conflagrations it might as well have been Trumpton Fire Brigade. Hugh, Pugh, Ban Ki Moon too.

We cannot dis-invent the internet; no more can we undo our colonial past or travel back in time to prevent a peaceful religion branching off into tribal, warring factions. The past is another country. Dwelling on it is counter-productive, like trying to identify individual turds in a shitstorm. Arguably, all of today’s discontent is a by-product of failing to let go of the past.

Let’s live our lives in the possible future, not the irredeemable past.

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Brave New World

keep calm

Imagine that you worked for a County Council as a receptionist/telephonist, one of a dwindling number of such staff — the result of cost cutting measures — charged with answering and redirecting all inbound calls for the whole Council.

Suppose that, in the last year, many of the departments you served had asked you to take on many of the more routine jobs they were supposed to do, whilst still being responsible for your own job.  Picture the staff of these same departments simultaneously refusing to take more difficult calls at all, citing “pressure of work”, and asking you to take a message instead. Imagine their tasks are frequently onerous and require specialist knowledge of  the work and their systems, yet suppose your training was limited to around one hour per department. Don’t forget, though, that you are expected to complete the work on their behalf without fault of any kind, lest you find yourself the subject of a cautionary e-mail from a high-up in that department to a high-up in your department.

Now contemplate that, as a result, you are currently doing the work of scores of other people, which fact has inevitably knocked through onto call waiting times — callers are now routinely waiting up to 30 minutes before someone even answers the phone. Picture that many of these callers, already in a bad mood because they were ringing in the first place to complain about some negative aspect of Council service, are by this time incandescent with rage and liable to scream obscenities at whomever is unfortunate enough to field the call. Suppose that your day now comprises scores of such calls, as opposed to the once-in-a-blue-moon Mister Angry of yesteryear.

Assume, for a moment, that you work for a management which actually believes that this ridiculous scenario, far from being a short-term fudge which could never seriously be expected to work in a million years, is instead a shining example of brilliant leadership. Envision that not only do they see it as a working plan, but that they intend to extrapolate upon it in 2016 by adding yet more departments’ tasks to your already extensive list.

Finally, imagine that last week management told you that to do this spectacularly unappealing job, you could no longer work from home (only necessary because cost-cutting measures meant they had insufficient hot desk space at the office) unless you were prepared to fund it yourself. Oh, and by the way, don’t expect that pay rise we promised you. All pay increments are frozen. Oh, and the money we should contribute to your lighting and heating since you’re working from home? Alas, also discontinued.

Surely, you might ask, no council could be that dim-witted? Surely a body paying its Chief Executive hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to think up elegant strategies could conjure up something a little more, well, elegant?

Sadly not, it seems. This is no hypothetical example. That job is done by a good friend of mine and the tale is actually even sorrier in real life than I have depicted. I daresay it is not even a rare example in today’s brave new public sector world.

Quite frankly, if this is the best they can do, things are not going to get any better anytime soon. My friend, as you might well further imagine, is currently seeking new employment.

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The Only Way Is Ethics



The much-loved board game Monopoly contains a lesson for all capitalists, one that seems especially relevant given the news this week that Tesco has serially screwed its suppliers with cynically late payments, complicated clawback scams and barely-veiled threats to comply with its one-sided “negotiations”, or else.

The lesson is not, at first glance, obvious but can be summed up as “the winner loses”. In the world of Monopoly, players are in a closed system with a finite amount of money to be shared. The object of the game is to serially screw over your opponents until all their money is your money, all their property your property and the only remaining solace for the sore losers is the pleasing prospect of smashing in the winner’s big, fat, smug, amoral face. Having won, however, the game is now at an end. With no more players left to fleece, the winner could only carry on the game by endlessly circulating the existing money between properties and utilities they already own. The mechanism for wealth creation has essentially disappeared. To quote Hans Gruber misquoting Plutarch in Die Hard: “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept; for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

The relevance to Tesco is not necessarily that the supermarket chain is doomed to end up in a monopolistic prison of its own design. In an economy that is not closed, wealth production tends to ensure an endless supply of future victims to feed the vampire squids of commerce. Rather it is the inherent short-termism of a policy that squeezes one’s alleged partner until their pips squeak and then discards them without a “by your leave”. It is the depressing range of line-of-least-resistance strategies that you sense no one in the business’s upper echelon can see past, or can be bothered to challenge, because, well, you know, it’s all about results now: jam today. What would the shareholders say if we dared to take the jackboot from our suppliers’ throats for a second, just to let them breath every once in a while?

It’s not just Tesco. Everywhere you look, the biggest players in industry and commerce seem hellbent on their own variants of jam today policies, their visions stretching no farther than the next set of results to set before the Board. When Google dropped its “Don’t Be Evil” motto it was but a short march from there to the risible tissue of lies that comprises its corporate tax reporting today. And let’s not even get started on the effect of this corporate malaise on the companies’ own personnel. Far from being “our most valuable asset” most staff find themselves in pretty much the same boat as the suppliers: caught between a rock and a hard place as they strive to make good the ridiculous cheques that their masters write on their behalf.

There is a word that is sadly missing from the vocabulary of many of today’s executives. They would probably find it ludicrously quaint and laughably naive. They probably saw it on a poster somewhere once and wondered what it meant. The word is “ethical”.

It shouldn’t have to be made a mandatory requirement for a business to be ethical in its dealings; it should be obvious to even the meanest intelligence that win-win is a better long term strategy than win-lose. But then most businesses are so myopic they make Mr Magoo look positively eagle-eyed.


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Feeling Low

shhh bowie.jpg

Monday morning head fog,

Dead dog telling me to stay down

“Lay down your dreams, boy,

‘Cause nothing good is in your stars.”

Reach out and turn the TV on

Something’s wrong,

The news is playing ‘Life on Mars’?


The Dog Star has set at last,

Faded fast:

Hero passed.

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