LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
25 October 2015
Chinese Chequers

Veni, vidi, vici. Oh oops. Wrong language. But supremely confident Chinese
president Xi Jinping did accomplish his stratagem. During the thoroughly staged
State visit, he said in his speech: “Opportunity may knock just once; grab it
before it slips away.” Oh dear. Not ‘et tu, Xi’? If you were uneasy, don’t be.
Opportunity keeps knocking. Dave ‘n Georgie are taking every possible
opportunity to sell off the North as fast as they can. What Georgie calls the
“unstoppable momentum” of the Northern Powerhouse (aka conservative-vote-
amassing). Transparent, Georgie-Boy.

Xi’s feet never had to touch the ground; at every occasion the red carpets were
rolled out. Xi was dragged around to places and events; but not the ones he
requested. Huh? He wanted proper fish and chips – you know – with salt and
vinegar; so where did they take him? He’s a Manchester United fan, not their
rivals, Manchester City; so where do they take him? Surely his translators were
clear.

We saw obsequious CallMeDave visibly sweating while panting, kowtowing,
supplicated, genuflected, photo-bombing…oh Dave! Not photo-bombing! Clearly
Xi enjoyed the pomp and ceremony, this being China’s first state visit since
2005. He said of the Houses of Parliament: “It is like going back in time”. Now is
that a compliment or a criticism? Now what do you think? Pints in the pub over
billion pound deals, handbags exchanged (oh I do despair – handbags – ah the
little women; pathetic) and a confession – not even delivered under duress.

If you experience empathetic embarrassment, look away now. We know he’s
dim, but this dim? Rhetorical question. Dave retold that familiar story of when he
left his daughter, Nancy, in the pub, that very pub. Oh dear, oh dear. CMD not
embarrassed? Clearly not. Oh Dave.

He said: "I once famously made a terrible mistake. I got into the car and I left my
daughter. I’ve been in here a few times but I'm not leaving my family here today.
She [Nancy] tells the story about her dad leaving her in the pub. She's coped
very well." Cringe-making, Dave. I’m going to need counselling.

Do you suppose Dave suggested Xi call Dave, Call Me Dave? Do you suppose
Dave has offered up Chequers to Xi? SamCam? Erm. Keep in mind (I really
want to say ‘what mind’, but I won’t) Dave, the Chinese press find the UK
ridiculously provincial, the land of peasants. They may have mentioned potatoes.
Putting things into proper perspective for a moment: the Communist Party has
just cracked down on golf – what? - and gluttony, as in no extravagant banquets.
Oh dear. Had Dave et al not been properly informed?

Seemingly inspired, Met police took their cue from Chinese law enforcement.
They jumped on, wrestled to the ground, dragged away, arrested, kept in jail and
raided the home, took the computer and other items in the middle of the night
from of Tiananmen Square dissident, Dr Shao Jiang, who stepped in front of the
diplomatic motorcade holding up two small banners expressing his protest a la
Tiananmen Square: End Autocracy and Democracy Now. He was seized
outside Mansion House where Xi was due to attend a banquet. Only banquets
for the higher echelon then. Having sought refuge here, Dr Jiang and his wife
were confused; they thought the UK had become China overnight.
Understandably.

Dr Jiang: “And when I was arrested I couldn’t believe that this country was no
longer protecting freedom of expressing. It’s just like China now.”
His bail conditions: Jiang was not allowed within a mile of Heathrow, Chequers,
100 metres of Xi to “prevent further harassment of the victim”.  Red-faced – the
Met? Ha. Meanwhile in Manchester a cheerleading Chinese official working the
bussed-in-flag-waving-pro-Xi demonstrators to a jingoistic frenzy was
encouraged. They were naturally given ‘pride of place’.

Did Xi maintain a bemused expression throughout his visit? As you would when
you have no respect for this grovelling government. Or am I imagining it? Not.


Forward to the Past

Labour leader Jeremey Corbyn finally bowed to convention, toed the line (I
know, I know) by managing to wear, more like allowing his thin frame to inhabit,
white tie and tails at his first State banquet at Buckingham Palace. David (Road
to Nowhere? Burning Down the House? Psycho Killer? Don’t Worry the
Government? Found a Job? OK. OK. I’ll stop). Byrne still his inspiring fashion
stylist then?

“What to wear? What to wear? The brown or the beige jacket? Tie or no tie?
Clean shirt or dirty?” Not giving in to convention/tradition, JC left his tie askew,
two buttons missing from his shirt and – oh dear oh dear – no white hankie in his
top pocket, but instead a red biro on view. Oh really, Jeremy. Not a predictably,
persistent biro-in-the-pocket. But red? Really?

Clearly, ever so clearly, Jeremy is making a statement via his clothing choices.
For starters, he never ties his ties properly, he never buttons the top button of
his shirt. He wears beige/brown jackets, not suits. Revolutionary? Really? Oh
please. Call the fashion police!

Unfortunately the left is out of fashion, so perhaps it makes sense then. Not
really. At least Che wore a beret.


Grand(ious) Gestures

With Boris’ bid for CallMeDave’s job, his reputation as London Mayor is not
quite so impressive is it? His big ‘look what I did for you’ vanity ventures are
proving to be not exactly winning projects are they?

The list: the major Olympic Park reminder, Anish Kapoor’s towering (well, it is)
Orbit is losing £10,000 a week rather than bringing in the estimated £1.2m the
first year. If you do the maths - okay here they are: it cost £114.5m…loss
£520,000…only124,000 visitors…and we paid in £3.1m. People interviewed at
the site said they didn’t know what it was, clearly the Olympics passed them by
and others said it was “ugly”.

The cable cars. You remember. Oh, you don’t? Those Emirates Air Line cable
cars Boris encouraged us/tourists to shuttling from Greenwich to the Royal
Docks. Hmmm. I wonder why. Because no one ever rides in them. Four Oyster
card holders sat in one more than five times per week. Assuming the same four.

The £11.4m Routemaster. Now this really annoys me personally. The best bus
ever and why you ask? Because it was ‘hop on, hop off’. Well, the new and not
improved Routemaster keeps the doors closed. So, quelle point then? Three
entry/exit doors? Oh the thrill. As much as I love designer Thomas Heatherwick,
I find the interior rather – um – visually disconcerting for want of another word.

Remember in the summer when you could have fainted after trying to fry an egg
at sweltering temperatures? Remember that the windows didn’t open? Big doors,
big windows, doors shut, windows shut; huh? Who missed these major flaws?
I know those who love Boris will all be saying in unison “Boris bikes! Boris
bikes!” Surely you know it was ex-Mayor Ken Livingston’s idea, don’t you?
So. We can all be rather amused at tousled-haired-rumpled-jokey-verbose
Boris; but is that enough?


Settle Down

While the masses are dressing up and queuing up to see Back to the Future,
Spectre outside the cinemas for days, you could simply put on your furry puce
socks, rip open that sweet & salty popcorn bag, cosy up under the duvet, forget
US Netflix/Amazon Instant Video and instead watch all those fab programmes
you’ve been taping. Or should have.

Hints: The Unforgiven, The Returned (heavenly), River…if these were food, I’d
be salivating…You, Me and the Apocalypse, Marley’s Ghosts (three? Where are
the other episodes?), Dag, Lewis, From Darkness (although I have no idea
what's really going on) and Arne Dahl (be prepared to be a bit bored here) and
The Last Kingdom – well, perhaps not.

After lasting 40 minutes into the first episode, I abandoned the fur-covered,
snarling marauders to their torture-is-fun merry-making. I found myself looking
forward for gory battle scenes as a relief. I’m not planning to subject myself to
the second episode. The critics are drooling, even sans naked breasts every 10
seconds – oh you know I’m referencing the Game of Thrones – or wait – nearly
every other programme. But I do digress. Two female actresses had clearly just
been visiting their local Viking nail bar. Not good. Did I hear one actor actually
say “I’m fine”? I hope not. The Saxon leader Uhtred prevail on his troops, ‘‘Every
man must be prepared to die” and you actually hoped they would. Too many
accents, too much over-acting, but that aside, it was the soundtrack. I seriously
need to know why that unbearable, irritating, pointless wailing falsetto is added to
every other show. Not exactly authentic is it? The Lost Kingdom. Thank god The
Bridge is coming 26 November. Reserve your spot on the sofa.
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