Election Notes 4: Registration

If I sound as if I’m obsessed by this, I do not apologise; I am deeply concerned that everybody should vote, and if I can persuade just one person who was not going to that they should exercise their democratic right and responsibility, then it will have been worth it. If you are a UK citizen and you haven’t been registered, it’s dead easy. Just go on this website:


It takes about five minutes or less and all you need is your National Insurance number. It doesn’t matter if you have already done it- you don’t get two votes! (Yes, if you’ve already got a polling card you don’t need to do it.)

Then you can vote in the June 8th election. You can choose by hair colour, dress sense, personality, political party or even (for goodness’ sake!) their policies.

Just do it. But register before midnight on Monday May 22nd or you will be disenfranchised. Painful.

‘The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend’ by Katarina Bivald

I picked this up from a charity stall. The basic premise: Sara, from Sweden, visits a little town in America called Broken Wheel, and sets up a bookshop. Well, you can see why it appealed.

It is apparently a New York Times bestseller and is translated from the original Swedish.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Some time ago I decided only to read books written in English, but occasionally make an exception. I was happy to do so for this book, as I suppose it is best described as charming.

Sara is meant to be visiting Amy, who she has only ever corresponded with. Amy dies; Sara is left without a purpose to her visit. The town take care of her and she responds with the bookshop, thereby gently changing lives.

It is not primarily about the transformative power of books, although that does come into it. It’s more about people and everyday sorrows and kindnesses. Love of course plays its part, without overwhelming the rest of the plot. Characters are sympathetically drawn.

I suppose some might describe this as chick-lit, although I’m never quite sure what that means and wouldn’t see it as a derogatory term. My only slight reservation is that my edition is a ‘Richard and Judy Book Club’ edition and has ‘Richard and Judy Book Club’ Questions for Discussion. Yes, I could easily ignore that. I wouldn’t mind being in a Book Club, anyway.

To sum up; a gentle, pleasant read. Probably good for holidays. Or just for pleasure.


Forgotten Dishes 7: Memsahib Scones

A strange cultural mix, this one.

In the days of British rule in India a memsahib instructed her cook to make her fruit scones. Unfortunately she was very peremptory and had not bothered to learn Hindi. The poor cook did her best, and ended up with what were basically chapatis layered with local fruit.

These were apparently rather appreciated by the British rulers and enjoyed a brief popularity.

They were mentioned in an old children’s book called something like ‘Child Heroes of the Raj’, allegedly as a true story. (This stirring book was along the lines of one I used to have called ‘From Powder Monkey to Admiral’.) I read it at school in our very eccentric class library. I have never seen it since and have been unable to trace it.

I have no idea what these chapati/ scones look like, so have photographed some of Mrs Oblique’s creations with some fruit that is grown in India. Yes, it is. I checked.


Boston Tea Party, Honiton

Boston Tea Party is a small chain of cafés in the South West. We visited the Honiton branch for breakfast on a Sunday. It is, as we trendy types say, jolly good.

It is located in what was presumably a Georgian shop in the High Street. It has wooden floors and somewhat varied wooden tables and chairs. In this respect it is like the Exeter branch, which we used to visit some years ago. (That may well have changed, but was quirky and equally lovely.)

I had Eggs Royale, on sourdough bread, with slices of radish. Sourdough is annoyingly overused, but it really worked with the eggs and salmon, as to my surprise did the radish. It was delicious. Mrs Oblique had Chorizo Hash, with spinach, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and poached egg on top. It was equally delicious; we really couldn’t fault it. The coffee (proper filter coffee) was excellent. Miss Oblique as usual went for pains au chocolat and there was appropriate silence while she ate them.

What’s not to like? Nothing. The rest of the menu looks varied but not over-long, and it all involves a large proportion of locally sourced ingredients. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff are friendly, polite and attentive but not pushy. If you sit at the front there is a pleasant view of the street and the non-conformist churchgoers opposite. There is a garden at the back. The customers are a mix of regulars and visitors. I commend it!


Footnote: I notice that BTP now have 19, soon to be 20, cafés. I hope they maintain their independent feel. Catch them now! (No, of course they don’t sponsor me…..)

Boston Tea Party

BTP Honiton

Election Notes 3

The turnout for the recent UK local elections was abysmal. In the mayoral ballots, fewer than a third of eligible voters turned out. In the council elections: well, I can’t find the figures. Not even my usually reliable political sources (RG and CASA) can tell me. I assume the turnout was awful.

So, trying to be positive, why is this and how can it be changed? (Assuming, as I always do, that voting is a Good Thing.)

Apparently people think that voting doesn’t change anything, to which you only have to whisper “Brexit” in their ear. (Or, if you are one of our cousins from across the Atlantic, “Trump”.) Admittedly, Brexit was an unusual event. Most ballots don’t have such a clear effect. However, looking at recent history in the U.K., Thatcherism and Blairism are two clear consequences of ballots. If voters hadn’t voted the way they did, neither would have happened.

You are probably going to say that these are isolated examples, and that once you have made your choice you have no further say. Additionally, it may be that those idiots who voted for the other candidate were in the majority, and you have been ignored. This is only true if you let it be true. Believe it or not, your elected representatives (and those who want to be your elected representatives) will listen. Sure, if you are campaigning for, say, the Flat Earth theory to be taught in schools, they may well ignore you. However, if you have a clear, well-argued and sensible case; if you are polite and persistent; and especially if you have some others involved in your cause, you will get attention. I believe that most MPs, councillors  and the likeactually do care about what their constituents think. You might not get any policy change, but they are acutely conscious of anything that might start to swing the electorate against them.  Write, e-mail, go to surgeries. Join a political party, if you care enough for a particular point of view.

Come to think of it, Brexit is a very special case, and the above does not necessarily apply. No further comment.

As I have mentioned in a previous Election Note, some of the electorate will tell you that they are not sufficiently informed about the policies of parties and candidates. I increasingly feel this is a cop-out. You have the right to vote; you have the responsibility to inform yourself about the issues. Newspapers, radio, TV; there’s also this new-fangled thing called the internet. Fake news? Bias? Of course. It’s your job to use your critical faculties to sort it out and make your choice. Talk to canvassers, other people. To be honest, if you want to make your choice based on how much you like the various candidates’ eyes, at least it’s a reason. At least you voted.

In the longer run, it’s clear the public needs to be better informed about politics: the issues, the policies and the system. No doubt someone will say that this is yet another job for schools, blah blah blah. I have a sneaking feeling that we need more respect for politics and politicians.

Footnote: Having seen the newspapers this morning, I am not sure about their validity as a source for information about issues. I say this without a party bias! More later, if I get round to it.

£367, 640

Many of you will recognise that sum as the alleged weekly wage paid to one of the star English Premier League footballers. As far as I know, it has not been disputed.


As my legion of followers and regular readers will know, I try desperately to be positive in this blog, sometimes in the face of overwhelming odds. I just can’t bring myself to be positive about this.

I’m sure there have been all sorts of comparisons and conversions made to show what this figure really means. For example, to take an example I know a bit about, unless teaching has suddenly become hugely more profitable since I retired, this would pay the annual salaries of ten teachers, with a lot of the other costs of employing them…. in a week.

It would pay for six thousand homeless people to stay in Southampton Travlelodge for a night. Yes, I know…. it’s not big enough. OK, it would pay for 16 of them to stay in a Travelodge for a year. 32 if they doubled up.

It would buy a three bedroomed house in Southampton. That’s every week. It would buy 81, 879 Big Mac meals. For pity’s sake, it would buy me chocolate for life, or 1868 copies of that Steve Hillage box set I don’t really want. Really. Yes, I am very privileged to be able to make that comparison, and my life is very privileged compared to very many people’s in this country and abroad.

Some of you (and I can guess who you are) will argue that this is just a result of market forces; that if the fans didn’t pay for the tickets, then salaries like these would not be paid; that players with this level of skill deserve what they get. You have a point. But my point is that such enormous discrepancies in rewards are out of all proportion.

I’m sorry, I think this is just wrong. No. I can’t think how it can be changed. Yes, my reasoning probably has huge holes in it. But I think it’s just wrong.