Colonoscopy . . .

I am sitting in our living room with a blanket of my knees, the rain is beating on the windows, and the wind is making weird noises round the house. It is the 28th of June, just a week after midsummer’s day ! I had a bit of a snack lunch, some cream crackers and a mug of Bovril because I am now on no solid food until late tomorrow afternoon. Tonight at 5.00 pm I mix up some jollop called Moviprep and start taking it at 6.00 pm. Thereafter I expect to be in some discomfort for a time – “stay close to a toilet” say the instructions. Then when tonight’s efforts have worn off I get to do the same all over again tomorrow morning in the pious hope that all will be finished by 12.00 noon when a taxi is coming to pick me up. Then, once at the hospital, I have to try to get to the Short Stay Unit to await my fate. Since this is somewhere up on the first floor the hospital have assured me that there will be a volunteer somewhere willing and able to wheel me there. On my recent visits, volunteers have been noticeable by their absence so I am rather dreading this bit of the afternoon. “Just ask at Reception” we were told on the telephone, so watch this space.

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Here we are again . . .

There has been as you can see, something of a pause in the blogging of late. To cut a long story short, I wasn’t feeling to well for some time, had spells of dizziness and symptoms not unlike angina and on 22 May, much to my wife’s alarm, I passed out in the kitchen. Fortunately I was sitting down at the time, so I didn’t do myself or her any harm, but she couldn’t straighten me up. So she dialled 999 and the ambulance came, what time I had recovered somewhat and after many questions and an ECG they decided that hospital was the best place for me to be.

I was in there for nine days, had various scans, endless blood tests, and a gastroscopy, the upshot of which was that I was anaemic – quite seriously so I think, so they gave me three units of blood after which I felt a great deal better. The question was, and remains, why was I so anaemic, and that question remains unanswered with more investigations yet to come.

Meanwhile “Spring Fling” has come and gone without us going out to visit any of the open studios, which was a great disappointment. Such comment as I have seen indicates that it was felt to be a great success by all the participants and visitors, and it is good that after two missed years due to Covid it was felt to be safe enough to put it on.

With me being off colour the garden is now a wilderness. We have a date for our second booster vaccinations which we had to obtain by a certain amount of lucky chance and a bit if detective work. It seems that a letter was probably sent out, but never reached us – “lost in the post”, they said. Evidently if letters go out no attempt is made to reconcile the list of names of those attending with the list to whom letters were sent, so discrepancies between one and the other were not looked for. Hopefully, if all goes well and we get the vaccinations and allow time for them to become effective we might be able to get on with employing a cleaning lady, getting some gardening assistance and possibly getting a few minor jobs dome around the house.

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Boris Johnson – by a Psychologist . . .

The following is taken from “The Conversation” and was written by Steve Taylor, you can read about him HERE. It is dated 16 May 2022, 1.37 pm BST.

The darkness of Boris Johnson: a psychologist on the prime minister’s unpalatable personality traits.

In all the chaos that characterises the administration of Boris Johnson, it’s sometimes difficult to understand why the prime minister behaves the way he does. Why does he never really apologise or admit mistakes?

Most recently, Johnson continues to insist that he did not know he was breaking any rules by having parties during pandemic lockdowns. It’s just the latest example of behaviour that, I would argue, can only be understood in terms of psychological factors.

First, let me be clear: I am not attempting to diagnose the prime minister with a personality disorder. Like many psychologists nowadays, I believe it’s too simplistic to think in terms of specific conditions like narcissistic personality disorder or sociopathy. I prefer to use the concept of a “dark triad” of three personality traits that belong together – psychopathy, narcissism and machiavellianism. This makes sense because these traits almost always overlap and are difficult to distinguish from one another. The traits exist on a continuum and are more pronounced in some people than others.

Another, more wide-ranging model is called the “dark factor”. This suggests that the essence of “bad character” is a desire to ruthlessly put your own interests before other people’s, and to pursue them even when they cause harm to others. Besides psychopathy, narcissism and machiavellianism, the dark factor model includes traits of spitefulness, moral disengagement (behaving immorally without feeling bad), entitlement (believing you deserve more and are better than others), and egoism.

The actions of a ‘dark’ personality
There are many aspects of Johnson’s behaviour that make sense in terms of these models. “Dark” personalities are marked by psychopathic traits of a lack of empathy, conscience and guilt, and a failure to take responsibility. They can’t accept that they are ever at fault, so they instinctively blame other people – or other external factors – for negative events. We’ve seen Johnson deflect blame for the Downing Street parties ever since allegations about them first emerged. Now he refuses to take responsibility by offering his resignation.

We also know that Johnson has a tendency to break rules and ignore normal codes of behaviour (a signal of moral disengagement). Even before partygate, he unlawfully prorogued parliament to further his own agenda and refused to sack the home secretary even when she was found to have broken the ministerial code.

An essential feature of “dark” personalities is that they are disconnected. They are trapped inside themselves in narcissistic isolation and find it difficult to take other people’s perspectives. As a result, they lack a clear sense of how their actions will be perceived, or of what type of behaviour is acceptable.

This could help explain some of Johnson’s miscalculations. Take, for example, his attempt to change parliamentary rules rather than sanctioning former MP Owen Paterson for breaking lobbying rules. Johnson assumed this would be acceptable and failed to anticipate the subsequent furore. He obviously also believed that it was acceptable to smear Keir Starmer with conspiracy theories in parliament. This type of response is typical of the spitefulness of dark personalities when they feel under threat.

Machiavellianism, the third part of the dark triad, means the ruthless pursuit of power for its own sake, with the willingness to abandon integrity and morality along the way. Johnson has shown a consistent trait of prioritising his own personal interests over other factors. Why else would he make such reckless promises on the campaign trail, such as his £350 million per week for the NHS after Brexit?

A good case could clearly be made for the trait of entitlement (believing you deserve more and are better than others) in Johnson’s case, too. A consistent complaint against the prime minister is that he behaves as if rules don’t apply to him. During strict lockdown, he apparently believed it was acceptable to sidestep restrictions. He also believed that he was entitled to solicit donations from Tory donors for renovations to his Downing Street flat.

What is ‘truth’?
Johnson is often accused of dishonesty. However, it may not be so much that he intentionally lies, but that he doesn’t have a fixed notion of truth.

Since dark triad personalities are self-absorbed, they are disconnected from objective criteria of behaviour and have a strong tendency towards self-deception. They select information which supports their positive image of themselves and ignore negative information. They believe whatever suits their view of reality.

When he claims not to have broken lockdown rules or not to have misled parliament, Johnson may simply be selecting information to support his preferred version of reality. It’s likely that he has convinced himself that the events he attended really were work events, and that his attendance of them was purely inadvertent. This also relates to Johnson’s apparent inability to apologise, which would mean admitting to an imperfect image of himself.

Dark personalities are also unable to tolerate criticism, which brings a tendency to try to avoid dissenting voices. Whereas sensible prime ministers select ministers on the basis of ability, Johnson has packed senior government roles with loyalists, which has led to a lack of expertise and creativity.

Inevitable decay
Unfortunately, it’s common for dark triad personalities to become leaders. Motivated by a deep unconscious sense of lack, they have a strong desire for power and dominance. And their ruthlessness and ability to manipulate means they attain positions of power quite easily.

When a “dark” leader attains power, conscientious, moral people rapidly fall away. A government operating under these conditions soon becomes what the Polish psychologist Andrzej Lobaczewski called a “pathocracy” – an administration made up of ruthless individuals devoid of integrity and morality. This happened with Donald Trump’s presidency, as the “adults in the room” gradually headed for the exit, leaving no one but staffers defined by their personal allegiance to Trump. A similar decay in standards has occurred in the UK.

In an ideal society, there would be measures to restrict such people’s access to power, and we would be more likely to have the kind of leaders that we deserve.

Author : Steve Taylor
Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Leeds Beckett University.

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For Vladimir Putin, the sinister cult of victory is all that is left . . .

Vladimir Putin was born seven years after the end of the second world war, and raised on the Brezhnev-era myth of the great victory. A man of no great education, he loved to quote Soviet films and old stories. The history books portrayed the “great patriotic war” as a magical fable in which the hero – the Russian people – vanquishes a monster, to the envy of the whole world. In this myth there was no room for many of the actual facts of war, such as the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact, the war with Finland, the occupation of the Baltics. The myth ignores the deportation of millions of Poles. It glosses over the Rzhev campaign of the winter of 1942-43, in which the Soviet army sustained terrible losses, preferring to dwell on the storied victories of Moscow and Stalingrad.

The myth, celebrated today on Russia’s Victory Day, has become the essential narrative underpinning Putin’s plan to rule Russia eternally.

There came a point when Putin resolved to stay in power indefinitely. Elections would come and go, and he would lie that they would be his last, that he had no intention of changing Russia’s 1993-era constitution, which provides for a maximum of two consecutive terms. His first strategy for eternal rule was to allow citizens to become wealthy, as the country became richer than it had ever been in the second half of the 2000s. But when growth stopped, with much of the wealth captured in a few hands, he had to turn to propaganda. He began to invoke a sense of “traditional values” to augment the notion of his paramount importance to Russia – the indispensable leader who was the only defence for Russians against westernisation and dissolution in the sea of European peoples.

And Putin came to believe his own propaganda – that he now had a special historic mission to create a Greater Russia. Not quite a new USSR, because no one was about to rebuild Communism, or invent some new ideology or recolonise Central Asia so as to secure nice cheap labour for the Russian economy. Greater Russia fancied itself as the world’s third big power (along with the US and China). And if the rival US had the EU as its satellite then Greater Russia would need its own sphere of influence. Putin’s “traditional values” essentially boiled down to homophobia and the cult of military victory. It quickly became clear that persecuting gay people didn’t really amount to a durable strategy for the eternal rule of a strong leader. The cult of victory was all that was left.

The picture slowly took shape. The operetta of Russian militarism grew out of TV propaganda, where numerous “experts” began to speak of how we were the strongest in the world, no one could order us around, our rockets could circle the world several times and destroy anyone we wanted. It was ridiculous, but Putin’s speeches slowly began to sound more and more like those of the late neofascist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He spoke less and less about dull things like economic development, but really lit up when talking about new “unparalleled” types of weapons. “We can do it again,” became the main slogan of Putin’s Russia, a clear reference to the fact that Russians defeated Nazism in the second world war, and believe they can do it again.

Putin has won four presidential elections, but a fifth is looming in 2024. Covid took a heavy toll in Russia and the economy has slumped, so Putin’s options are few. In his mind, his best way to hold on to power is a repeat of the great victory. A symbolic march-past on 9 May would not be enough; they’d need to fill the image with blood.

And so they tried to “do it again”, orchestrating Europe’s biggest tragedy since 1945. The war is the world’s first to have been directly invented by TV. It also feels like the moment when the Soviet Union truly fell apart, because Russia, as heir to that empire, cannot come through this crisis with all those Soviet myths about victory still intact. We shouldn’t be surprised that most Russians have bought into this and are indifferent to the military crimes being committed in Ukraine. It’s not just that they don’t get the full picture because of the obliteration of journalism and social media. It’s that if you stop believing the propaganda, then you no longer can believe in a Russia of traditional values, a victory-day hero nation. All that is left is a wild person wandering through the ruins of a militarised kleptocracy, carrying a nuclear suitcase in his hand. And who wants to believe in that?

Who are we, and how did we let this happen? It’s scary to answer this question. Russians will hold on to their myths until the very last. In the meantime, they have their military parade, their victory day swoon, the opiate of the masses.

Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at
Kirill Martynov is editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Europe
Today on Russia’s Victory Day, the Guardian and other European news organisations are publishing articles by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta

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Brexit . . . again . . .

As you may know, dear reader, we have ceased our membership of the European Union – I mention this because quite a lot of people, it would appear, would have no idea what I was talking about – and of those who knew or know of the existence of the European Union, many, including many MPs seem to have any notion that membership actually conferred various rights and privileges, so a cessation of membership which brings with it changes to daily life comes as a bit of a surprise.

The terms of our leaving were set out, agreed and signed in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, dated 30 Dec 2020 and to come into force on 1 May 2021. This sets out (among other things) the rules and regulations for goods leaving the country (exports) and going into the EU, and likewise, rules and regulations for goods coming in (imports). For goods leaving the UK and entering the European Union the EU did what it signed up to do and began to implement the rules straight away. The burden of paperwork so generated has been the main cause of the enormous queues of lorries on the roads leading to Dover, and the necessity of Operation Brock.

The UK Government, knowing that the UK did not and still does not have the administrative capacity to implement the rules for incoming traffic postponed their implementation, and continues to do so. They were due to come into force after the last postponement on 1st July next – but once again they have been put back. Thus traffic from the EU flows into the country quite smoothly – but doesn’t get checked – and the rules and regulations are there precisely for that purpose. They are what stops poor quality food coming in, and the transmission of various plant diseases and viruses. Knowledgeable people have pointed this out for some time, but the recent postponement announced by the awful Jacob Rees-Mogg has stirred things up again.

Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers’ Union has now weighed in as follows . . .

For those of us who remember things like the discovery of horsemeat in food when there WERE regulations, have understandably a certain apprehension about food products streaming in from the 27 countries of the European Union. No doubt many producers will continue to apply the EU standards to their products and we shall be OK. Bu there will be pressure to produce cheaper stuff, and thus sell more of it, and then standards may fall to achieve this. And, of course, the out and out rogue always exists and will take advantage of weaknesses in the system very quickly.

The aforesaid Jacob Rees-Mogg presents this state of affairs as a positive Brexit advantage. “We can make our own rules now” and thus make things easy for our importers is his line, with no mention of the arrival of pests and diseases. Nor does he show much sign of appreciating the difficulties of our exporters which are, he says, in no way attributable to “Brexit” but are due solely to the EU authorities being deliberately hostile and difficult.

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Billy Kay’s Address to the Scottish Parliament . . .

The Wee Ginger Dug writes . . .

“On TuesdayBilly Kay, the writer, broadcaster, and advocate for the Scots language gave an address to the Scottish Parliament, The Time for Reflection address is not meant to be partisan or party political and Billy’s eloquent speech most certainly was not. Instead he used his address to highlight the importance of the Scots language to Scottish culture, literature, and identity. Scots is a language which, despite decades of official neglect and at times outright hostility and oppression still has over a million and a half speakers in Scotland and many more who understand the language even if they don’t actively use it themselves.”

So, I append below the text of what Billy Kay said. I can understand most of it, but there are certain words not yet in my vocabulary which are beyond me, so I have work to do . . .

“Thank ye, Presidin Officer, fur giein me the honour o addressin oor national Pairlament.

Ah wull stert wi a kenspeckle quote fae Hugh MacDiarmid, yin o the skeeliest makars in Scots leeterature’s thoosan year history:

“To be yersel’s—and to mak’ that worth bein’.

Nae harder job to mortals has been gi’en.”

It is mibbe even haurder fur MSPs, fur ye cannae jist be yersel fur yersels

, but fur aw the sels

, aw the sowels

, aw the brither an sister Scots fae

Maidenkirk tae Johnny

Groats and ayont

, that ye represent, amang whilk there is ower

1.5 million Scots speikers.

Noo is the day and noo is the oor tae rax oot and bring their words, scrievit on the waws ootside the Pairliament, intae the hert o this chaumer. They are wirds perfit fur debate sic as “speir”—inquire; “threap”—assert; “jalouse”—suspect; and “tak tent or it’s tint”—take care or it is lost. Or, gin ye dinnae want tae be douce, ye can hae “a flytin”, fur it is a leid hoatchin wi gleg insults—“glaikit”, “gawkit”, “gowk”.

In daein sae, ye wull raise the international profile o this airt wi words fae fremmit leids that touch us at hame. Fae the French “se fâcher”, we hae “dinnae fash yersel”. Fae Dutch, “hunkers”; fae Scandinavian, “lugs”; and fae Latin, “dispone”.

Ye wull be howkin as weel fae a gowden seam in yer ain pairties’ histories. MacDiarmid wis a foondin faither o the National Pairty o Scotland. Fellae makar Cunninghame Graham and his freen Kier Hardie were foondin faithers o the Labour Pairty. The chiel wha first defined oor democratic intellect wis the Conservative Walter Elliot. The Liberal Gladstone wis originally Gled Stane—“gled” bein Scots fur the bird o prey, the kite. And the Greens are thirled tae oor ayebydand land whaur Scots wirds sic as “smirr”, “caller”, “haar” or “gloaming” seem tae arise oot the yird itsel and haud oor herts.

But, mair important than thon, ye wull gie a signal tae the weans in the schuil that the culture o their hame is valued by fowk electit by their mithers an faithers. Bairns like the quaet wee lass in primary 2 in Fawkirk wha ran an lowped intae her teacher’s airms, lauchin and greetin wi joy, whan she furst heard her mither tongue in cless, or the sweirt learners in Dundee, dour teenage boays wha gaed tae the tap o the cless fur the very furst time whan the langage they yaised ilka day cam intae the schuil in buiks that they then devoored, and they nivver luikit back. Scottish weans transformed learnin a Scottish leid.

A nation whaur naebodie is excludit and awbodie kens that they belang. Shairly, dear memmers o the Scottish Pairliament, thon is weel worth bein yersel fur.”

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Kirkcudbright is a winner . . .

A Kirkcudbright business called “Made on Cloud Nine” entered Kirkcudbright in a competition and the town won a prize. Full marks for enterprise. The details can be found on her Facebook page HERE.

And then the page detailing all the towns in the competition can be accessed HERE

Julie Hollis aka “Made on Cloud Nine” describes herself thus :

Made on Cloud 9, owned and run by artist Julie Hollis, is a new eco-friendly arts and crafts shop in the Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright.

Run on ethical terms, the shop aims to supply goods made from sustainable sources, using environmentally sound processes to eco-conscious customers.The ethos of the business revolves totally around sustainability.

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We are donating fire engines to Ukraine . . .

We are, I read on Twitter, donating fire engines to Ukraine. I wonder if this is seen as a good method of disposing of these old faithfuls ? They had a good outing in the Firemen’s strike of 1977, but we haven’t heard or seen much of them lately. The famous “Green Goddess”.

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Tail Wagginess . . .

For sheer tail wagginess this takes a lot of beating . . .

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Matilda Thorpe explains it all . . .

Matilda Thorpe (@tillythorpe) and Rosie Holt (@RosieisaHolt) are the saviours of the nation at the present time.

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