Sunday, 26 March 2017

Dear Sir or Madam, Will You Read My Book ....

Three out; one at the printer and due in May 2017. Two general works of autobiography and criticism; two academic works. Published by degree zero. All available on Amazon, new and used, or by order at your local bookshop (Waterstones included). Take your pick:


Click on Image to Magnify

The Best I Can Do. 176 pages. Paperback. Published May 2016. £8.95



Materials and Medium: An Aesthetics. 160 pages. Hardback. 
Published October 2016. £17.95


Silence Is So Accurate. 224 pages. Hardback. Published February 2017. £20


Studies in Pragmatics. 240 pages. Hardback. Due May 2017. £30


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Sauve Qui Peut

When the euro was introduced, I decided to dual-price my stock. I still occasionally come across an old label reading £10 / 16 €. Today the second figure would be 11.4 € and already Brexit has undermined part of my business model: I bought in euroland and sold in the UK which was profitable when the rate was 1.4 even 1.3. But now it’s not. Right now I am trying to buy in the UK and sell in euroland, mostly through European auctions since I am not so keen now on long-distance travelling to stamp shows and so on.

At the age of 69, my thinking cannot exactly be long term but it has now become decidedly short-term. Enjoy the Single Market while you can! is my guiding thought. That basically means trying to sell up in the next two years ending March 2019 so that I am not stuck with stock which is a nightmare to export, whether by post or by physical travel to mainland Europe from my base on England’s south coast where France is much nearer than Wales or Scotland, let alone Northern Ireland.

There is a major international stamp show coming up LONDON 2020 which may turn into a catastrophe for the organisers if the UK has fallen off the cliff into some nightmare of red-tape bureaucracy, the UK a country hard to get into and hard to get out of. I was going to allow my stock to drift up specifically for that show, but now my thinking is to sell everything by 2019 and if LONDON 2020 turns out to be viable, then to re-stock rapidly in 2019 – 2020. Any other course of action effectively assumes there are not huge risks to small businesses coming up. Some small businesses will fail well before 2019. EU staff are quitting London, for example, making some companies non-viable; and British will become a brand to avoid when you cannot guarantee the robustness of the supply chain.


Well, it was good while it lasted. In my twenty-odd years as a single market dealer, I have stood behind tables selling my wares in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Slovakia. Sometimes only once, it’s true. But I drove a lot of miles in my Skodas. One or two more trips hopefully still to come before the curtain comes down and the lights go out. Less money for Her Majesty's Revenues and Customs then, I'm afraid.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

When We Were Idiots




On an afternoon sometime in 1969, I took part in a march down Piccadilly in support of some cause I have now forgotten. But I have not forgotten that one of our chants was directed at those on the pavements:

Hey, Hey, Bourgeoisie, Hurry Home It’s Time For Tea

It did not occur to me that this might be the dream chant of an agent provocateur, aiming to deprive us of as much public support or sympathy as possible. No doubt there were bourgeois on the pavements of Piccadilly, but there were also – as there always are – shop and office workers, bar and restaurant staff, shoppers who had come into town, tourists, off-duty nurses and doctors … the list can go on. But we were sufficiently blinkered not to realise that the pavements were crowded with people no more privileged than ourselves and, in many cases, no doubt less so.

I did soon enough begin to have my doubts about demonstrations. Most of them came to seem to me pointless or perverse. Ineffective in achieving their objectives, even modest ones, and a waste of time for those who participated. Clearly, demonstrations make some people feel good. The same is true for nights in crowded nightclubs where you can’t hear anyone speak.


I am impressed  by imaginative, alternative forms of protest, occasions when - for example -Greenpeace hangs splendid banners off high cranes. But marching up and down busy streets, causing general annoyance to people -  except to the police who are counting their overtime payments – no, that’s strictly for idiots.

Image result for greenpeace protest white house

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Doctor Will See You Now

As a young child, I already had a considerable knowledge of Britain’s health system, the new National Health Service introduced in 1948, a year after my birth. I spent a lot of time in the company of ageing aunts and uncles for whom ailments and visits to the doctor were routines of life. The basic picture was this. If you were ill, you went to the Doctor who gave you medicine which was either white or pink but in both cases supplied in glass bottles. Sometimes the Doctor gave you Pills, but I wasn’t so sure about those since they were less visible on bathroom shelves. And occasionally the Doctor would give you a Letter to the Hospital (you would sometimes personally carry it there), and in this case you would have cause to be Worried. Hospitals were only interested in you if there was something seriously wrong. In contrast, you could go to the doctor in a normal frame of mind.

What my world view missed was a fact fully visible. Doctors all the time deal with things which are wrong, sometimes seriously and, indeed, so seriously that it would be irresponsible not to respond on the spot. The thing might not be immediately life threatening but would become so if you left it for 48 hours or a week. Take out life-threatening, and there are a large number of acute debilitating conditions which patients walk into the surgery and from the pain or frustration of which, they quite reasonably want relief. If you have an acute ear and throat infection which mean that you basically can’t swallow or sleep, you would not be impressed if the Doctor said to you, “Hmm. This is so serious that I must refer you immediately to hospital”. You want medicine (pink or white, that’s the Doctor’s job to decide) and you want it now. You want to be pointed onto the right path of treatment and cure, now. That’s what you have come for.

In thinking about alternative to the ten minutes with the front line triage of the GPs surgery, it’s important not to lose sight of the core need which generated the system in the first place: an immediate, practical response to a problem which is subjectively distressing and may also be objectively threatening. This includes nowadays, the possibility of a response which is based on the doctor’s judgement prior to confirmation by a test of its correctness. If a man walks in the surgery and says he is pissing blood, the doctor asks for accompanying signs of infection but even in the absence of signs will in all probability prescribe antibiotics since infections should not be left to go out of control. There is a Protocol which tells GPs to behave like this.

So alternative systems need to be able to mimic such protocols. Either the person at the end of a phone line must have authority to prescribe prior to test results or else the patient must have authority to take that decision. Indeed, already GPs quite often pass authority on to the patient as when they pre-prescribe medications for patients travelling abroad just in case. At one time, I used to keep quite a medicine chest acquired in this way and used it mainly as insurance against the vagaries of Opening and Closing times.


Of course, people walk into GP surgeries with pre-planned problems rather than emergencies. Their arthritis is getting worse and they wonder what they can do about it. It’s true, such pre-planned problems should be scheduled in ways which does not mean that they take away valuable,finite slots of time from people who are ill now. One weakness of free-at-the point-of-use appointments is that there is only a weak internal self-regulation mechanism available to us to decide whether we have an acute problem which really needs to be addressed now or whether it's a nice day and convenient  to go to the doctor to talk about that arthritis which has been bothering us. The same problem applies to Accident and Emergency. What is perhaps most remarkable is that only in very recent years does the NHS seemed to have developed a Public Education model designed to nudge people towards better (and more socially-responsible) decision-making about when to go where.