JOHN HUMPHRYS: If only there was a wise man in charge

JOHN HUMPHRYS: If only there was a wise man in charge

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Christmas in crisis? If only there was a wise man in charge

The nation is facing a crisis. I refer, of course, to the possibility that there will be no pigs in blankets to nibble on the morning of December 25.

How extraordinary that Boris Johnson made no reference to it in his bravura knockabout performance (sorry, great conference speech) on Wednesday. 

But what could he have said? It’s not as if we hadn’t been warned many weeks ago when we were first alerted to the impending collapse of our freight transport system.

And yet, the great threat to Christmas has been singled out by one politician after another as the equivalent of the outbreak of World War III.

Never mind that at least half the nation would secretly raise a great cheer if they were told they would never again have to shovel a dry slice of tasteless turkey breast into their mouths — and then pretend to enjoy it. 

The nation is facing a crisis. I refer, of course, to the possibility that there will be no pigs in blankets to nibble on the morning of December 25 (stock image)

Let alone those poor souls saddled with having to cook the wretched thing!

I include myself in that category. And my father before me. The only meal he ever cooked when I was a child was the Christmas dinner. But the less said about it the better.

‘So what?’, you say. It’s Christmas dammit! That’s what we do at Christmas. Whether we like it or not.

But the thing is… I suspect that an awful lot of us don’t.

I’m well aware that I may stand accused of being seen at the very least as an old misery-guts, and at the worst as a Grinch: that green, hairy, pot-bellied cynic who loved nothing more than stealing Christmas from weeping children.

But I’m not. I’m just fed up with being bombarded with breathless bulletins telling us how the Government is struggling heroically to ‘save’ our Christmas — even though it’s still months away.

And anyway, Christmas is not all about children. It’s also about grandparents who don’t see their families often enough. 

And, lest we forget, it’s also about all those devout Christians who gain real spiritual nourishment from celebrating the birth of the man they see as their saviour.

How extraordinary that Boris Johnson (pictured) made no reference to it in his bravura knockabout performance – sorry, great conference speech – on Wednesday

Christmas should be — no, must be — a time for celebrating the best of humanity. Generosity. Self-sacrifice. Simple kindness to those we may not much care for.

Maybe that sounds a little too naïve. After all, the world has moved on from Charles Dickens and Tiny Tim. And, of course, Christmas is also the time of year when a vast number of companies make the profits that will help them survive the lean times.

So, yes, Christmas does matter on many different levels. But that doesn’t excuse the way our leaders manipulate our attitudes to it as part of a collective brainwashing exercise. 

It is patronising at the least, deliberately misleading at worst. The threat of a turkey-free Christmas is used by our political masters to invoke the Dunkirk spirit.

Don’t worry, they tell the credulous, we’re doing our damndest to make sure you get your turkeys and pigs in blankets. Just don’t press us too hard on how. Nor on small details such as how we will sort out the terrible energy mess we’ve managed to get into.

Not a word from Boris in his speech on that either.

Nor on how everyone will be able to pay for it. Nary a nod towards those who are seriously feeling the pinch and how they are going to be able to join in this great bacchanalian bean feast that awaits. 

Of course, consumption is good. It’s what makes the wheels of a modern economy go around.

So it’s fine for the supermarkets and the toy manufacturers to urge us to spend, spend and spend again. After all, that’s what the little kiddies expect, isn’t it?

Well, perhaps. People of my generation may not be the best qualified to judge. What I remember of Christmas as a child in a poor household was that my mother and the neighbours would give a few coppers a week to the corner shop when they could afford it so that when Christmas came around there’d be enough in the pot for at least the essentials.

I was three years old when the family allowance was introduced. William Beveridge had wanted eight shillings a week to be paid to the mother of each child. It ended up as five shillings and only for the second child onwards. But it made a difference.

Of course, we’ve all become richer since those dark days. Much richer. But there is a big squeeze coming. Not so much for many older people. Pensions have been protected and those lucky enough to have bought their own homes have reaped the benefits.

It’s low-income families who are feeling the pinch, especially those who have lost their £20 a week Universal Credit bonus. But they’re not alone. The breathtaking, looming increases in energy bills are already hitting home.

Some will benefit from a slightly higher return on their savings as interest rates inevitably rise, but you’ll have to shop around to get it. 

But it’s not as if we hadn’t been warned many weeks ago when we were first alerted to the impending collapse of our freight transport system, John Humphrys (pictured) says

Don’t expect greedy banks to change their ways too drastically after ripping their customers off for years by paying effectively zero interest.

Many will feel the effect of the National Insurance increases when they kick in. And all of us will be hit by a rise in prices across the board. The ogre of inflation has been dozing for a long time. It is about to awaken. Some warn it could hit 8 per cent.

You’d have listened in vain to hear the Prime Minister making any reference to all that stuff in his conference speech. Nor indeed the crisis over shortages. 

Obviously he doesn’t think it all adds up to a crisis. It’s so much easier to play to the gallery than to offer solutions.

After all, Christmas is coming and haven’t we just been told more drivers are being recruited to get more turkeys into the shops? We might even save the pigs from a cull so we can slaughter them to eat them in a blanket instead.

But perhaps, Mr Johnson should remember where his gung-ho approach to Christmas got us last year when Covid was a real threat.

Many experts said he might have to become the first Prime Minister to cancel Christmas since Oliver Cromwell back in the mid-17th century. But he was Boris the Benevolent. 

He told us we could forget most restrictions for the Christmas celebrations — unlike other countries including Germany which imposed a nationwide lockdown.

Then, within days, a new lockdown had come into force across this country, too. The number of new cases rose to 60,000 a day — the worst since the pandemic had struck. The cost to the economy and to so many bereaved families was appalling.

It was a steep price to pay for a few days of jollity — even if we did get to share a plate of pigs in blankets.

DUCKLINGS USE MUM FOR AN EASY LIFE!

There is something curiously heart-warming about watching a family of tiny ducklings or goslings swimming behind their mother. Each one almost exactly the same distance apart, all in a dead straight line.

Such remarkable discipline for tiny creatures. Such devotion for their mother.

And now those heartless scientists have rather spoiled it with a new piece of research.

Dr Zhiming Yuan, of Strathclyde University, has discovered that they are doing much more than just following mummy. They are using a ‘destructive wave interference phenomenon’.

There is something curiously heart-warming about watching a family of tiny ducklings or goslings swimming behind their mother (stock image)

It means that if they space themselves out equally and keep a straight line they are finding a ‘sweet spot’.

They not only get the benefit of ‘surfing’ the wave that their mother is creating but they refocus the energy of the wave so that the baby coming behind reaps the benefit, too.

We’ve known for many years that geese and other migratory birds use a similar technique when they’re flying vast distances. 

The ‘V’ formation means they take advantage of the wind current from the bird in front.

But Dr Yuan’s research might have implications beyond the duck pond.

He now wants to apply his findings to ships which could create a similar effect by sailing in convoy.

Important stuff, no doubt. But I’d prefer to watch a line of fluffy ducklings.

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