Sunday, 14 September 2014

Plan B for bracelet - the learning from your young starts earlier than you think

Well, if this latest comms gig doesn't work out I think I have plan B in place. Yes, B for bracelets. Stylish, elasticated bracelets. 

Before the Mouse showed me how to make one, during a recent visit, I was a purchaser of Loom Bands and a 'spectator' of Loom Banding. Now I've crossed the line, I have walked into the mirror, and gone bandtastic. 

These things are compelling, compulsive, comfortable to wear and so therapeutic to make! And while, technically, it will be hard to elicit, er, an actual living out of this banding craze I feel I have already earned a lot out of it as an act of learning. 

Weaving little coloured elastic bands together in a way that would never have occurred to me, to obtain these cheerful, deeply satisfying little objects, is the first thing my nephew, in all of his 10 years on earth, has ever taught me how to do. I now look forward to at least four decades of practical and theoretical wisdom from this new source of knowledge. 

Readers of this blog know I fully expected to have to rely on him in my dotage to adjust my teleportation machine or help me change my replaceable organs. I just didn't expect the learning would start this early - and concern, tiny, analogue, 20th century elastic bands.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Trying to sell Brexit? Better not make it sound like self-harm

Is there life after (out of) the EU? Well, of course there is. Those among us who are worried about losing the benefits of EU membership, or fear Great Britain becoming an insignificant mid-range power that nobody listens to need not fret, according to the newest report by eurosceptic think-tank Civitas.
True, the report acknowledges, following submissions from a series of contributors, the consequences could be 'devastating'. But only for sectors ranging from agriculture and fisheries, to engineering and automobiles, science, innovation and the City, as well as for the UK's poorer regions currently enjoying EU funding.
True, it concedes, there will be a period of uncertainty which might force - and I quote - "desperate UK diplomats to accept unbalanced trade deals and would leave British fishing in chaos".
And yes, if you want to be fussy about it, lack of future international clout is a bit of a major issue when it comes to trade deals.
But there is no need to be gloomy or scared. Provided the UK Government commits itself to long term 'mirror funding' to regions, farmers and fishermen, as well as R & D subsidies and development grants for industry all could remain almost as good as we have it now.
Projecting soft power will get trickier but it needs not be a disaster provided the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gets "a serious long term boost in training, investment and recruitment (especially into languages) to make up for the absence of the various EU diplomatic bodies."
I'm sure reversing the steady budget-slashing trend which has beset the poor old FCO in the last few years, will also be a doddle. And if extra money can indeed be found, what better use for it than replicating structures which already exist today at EU level? I mean, it's not as if we face renewed geopolitical threats from all sides or a particularly high internal terrorist threat, or anything.
As for what kind of terms of exit we'd be negotiating with the rest of the EU member states, "elements of Norwegian, Swiss Turkish and 'free trade' could be the goal of an exiting Government, including free movement of capital". They left out 'guarantees of permanent victory of the Eurovision song contest' and 'free roaming of the UK swine fleet in European skies' but I'm sure it's just an oversight.
Of course the simplest thing any UK Government can do to mitigate the 'devastating' consequences of pulling out of the biggest market in the world is not to drag the UK out of the EU but rather stay in and work with its allies to make the EU more prosperous and more efficient. Brexit is not a rational alternative to leadership in Europe, nor an inevitable outcome but a baffling act of self-harm.
So ironically this report, from an organisation which time and again has made its hatred of EU membership very clear, contains some of the best arguments for staying in that I have seen in some time.
But my favourite thing about it has to be the title: Softening the Blow. Well, as they say, you had me at "Hello".