There is definitely a "shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic" feel to the situation in Britain at the moment. If recent political events had been presented as a soap opera script it would have been rejected for being totally unbelievable.
The writing was on the wall for Liz Truss three weeks ago when she tried to stroke Larry the Cat and the feline showed considerable displeasure and ran off down the street. That was not a good omen. The No 10 chief mouser now awaits his third boss in a matter of months and there have even been mischievous suggestions Larry be appointed prime minister.
As speculation grew about the PM’s chances of survival the Daily Star held a competition to see if an iceberg lettuce would have a longer shelf-life than Ms Truss. The lettuce won. The vegetable even received messages of congratulations from the public including “Lettuce Rejoice” and “Truss sunk by an iceberg”.
The mugs that had been on sale with “In Liz We Truss” were understandably hastily removed from the Conservative Party’s shop. One wonders whose face will be on the next official mug. No one knows at the moment but people haven’t forgotten that Boris Johnson’s last words to the Commons after he was booted out were “hasta la vista” (see you later).
But who would be daft enough to take on the job as PM in the present dire situation? It seems to be at the very least a recipe for a nervous breakdown.
The most obvious solution of course is to have a general election. But for the embattled ruling party that would be the equivalent of turkeys voting for Christmas. So now it seems all they can do is “keep calm and carry on”.
Business as usual
The “keep calm and carry on” philosophy surfaced in World War I when the British slogan was “Business as Usual”, adopted from a Winston Churchill speech. It suggested that whatever the enemy did it would not affect everyday life.
“Keep Calm and Carry On” posters first appeared in 1939 and played a role in raising British morale throughout WWII.
The slogan is a reflection of the “stiff upper lip” culture particularly associated with the British when faced with a potential catastrophe.
The expression derives from the belief that the first sign that someone is fearful is when the upper lip starts trembling.
The British populace will probably need to display a combined 64 million stiff upper lips in the coming weeks.
It is good to see that after a brief absence the Target word puzzle has returned to its rightful home in the Life section of this newspaper thanks to a campaign from readers. As witnessed from recent letters to PostBag one thing that will incur the wrath of readers is tinkering with what is called the comics or puzzle page. Although the Post is regarded as a sober newspaper one suspects that the puzzle page is still amongst the most widely read. It’s always there and is kind of comforting, a bit like putting on your favourite slippers.
For many readers, their regular fix of puzzles, whether it be the crossword, scrabble, sudoku or Target, is an essential part of the day. One reader wrote the non-appearance of Target had “left a large hole in our morning ritual”.
About 10 years ago the Post attempted to reduce the number of comic strips. Just as in the case of Target the readers made a passionate defence of Peanuts and company and the comics were soon back in place. It became clear that the daily dramas in the life of Andy Capp, Snoopy and The Born Loser were of more concern to readers than the burblings of politicians on the front page. It was encouraging to see they had their priorities right.
Admittedly the political tales on the first few pages of the Post are sometimes actually funnier than the comics.
Words fail me
I gave up attempting Target many years ago primarily because it was a constant reminder of my limited vocabulary. However, for old times’ sake I decided to have a bash at last Monday’s offering. Not a good idea.
My sole aim was to reach the minimum 24 words to get a “good” mark. Forget about the “very good” and “excellent” which required 36 and 47 words respectively. It wasn’t long before I realised there was a pertinent reason why I had stopped trying to conquer Target all those years ago — I wasn’t any good at it. It can also drive you mad, leaving a jumble of letters swirling around in your head all day.
The following day I sneaked a peek at the answers to see which words had beaten me. For a start there was the nine-letter “congenial” which I should have nailed. I groaned at the alarming number of simple everyday words I missed. Even worse was the thought that most readers probably cruise to somewhere near the “excellent” mark on a daily basis without thinking about it.
I’m pleased for the readers that Target is back, but I’ll leave it to the experts.