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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Tributes to a Starman


David Bowie RIP

The sad death of David Bowie has brought with it the usual, generally poignant, host of Twitter tributes. Among these are some posts that are reactions to David Cameron’s own tribute. These range from the splenetic (e.g. surely he’s too busy fucking pigs’ mouths to listen to Bowie) to the indignant (e.g. what right does HE have to even comment on Bowie’s death?).

Now I am no Cameron fan; I disagree with a number of his policies and views; likewise those of Corbyn. Cameron may or may not have been a Bowie fan; Bowie was non-committal about his own politics. Whatever the case, the  moment you believe it is genuinely morally repugnant for an elected Prime Minister to say something nice in tribute to a rock icon who died is the moment when you should really turn the mirror on yourself and wonder just how twisted your world view has become.



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Third Degree Burns

It’s the time of year for this to be appropriate once more. Happy 2016 everyone!

Kind of Lime


It’s New Year’s Eve and later, after a few snifters, we’ll no doubt be singing Auld Lang Syne. But what on Earth does it all mean? Fear not, my faithful friends! I studied Burns at school and, as my gift to you as we part with 2013, 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…

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