Passports, R Numbers, and Bolsheviks

A new piece from me, yesterday, on what I think is missing from so much of the coverage of Trump in Tulsa.

As I sit here today, however, at 11.20am on a Tuesday morning, I’m waiting for the news to break that the lockdown is finally ending. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that if it happens. Yes, it’s probably motivated by the economics, which was starkly explained by the Bank of England Governor, Andrew Bailey, yesterday. Yes, we seem to be getting a grip on the pandemic since numbers are now coming down significantly. But on the other hand, certain key indicators aren’t moving the way I’d want them to move, namely: Prince William still hasn’t sent his kids to school and the Queen is still under lock and key at Windsor. I might begin to believe in the situation when those two factors change.

This is the problem with numbers. They don’t always tell the full story. It’s like the story of the R number spiking in Germany over the weekend. It made headlines until it was pointed out that the R number is tricky when only a few people have a disease. If there’s nobody in the country with the virus and one person catches it and gives it to 20 other people, then the R number goes immediately from 0 to 20, since it’s a measure of how many people are infected by each person with the virus. Numbers don’t always make a good argument, whereas it’s the small details like the habits of the royal family that give a better indicator of where we are.

It’s why I noticed with interest that Stanley Johnson has apparently applied for a French passport in order to secure the right to work and live in the EU for his grandchildren. I’m not as entirely wound up about that as others. I believe most of the Johnson clan were for Remain until Boris sold his soul in exchange for the leadership. I also know you can’t blame the parent for the sins of the child. Yet it does feel like a good indicator of where the smart money is going, especially as the government struggles to convince anybody that trade deals are working out that well. A new book is also due out next week, by Luke Harding, which looks like it will be a must read. It will claim that Putin helped fund Brexit; an allegation made by Christopher Steele, he of the famous Trump dossier. I don’t know whether it’s true or not but it’s something I’ve been mumbling about since well before Brexit. Putin has been playing us brilliantly for years. The overdue publication of the Russia report certainly adds to the mystery.

Myself, I’d like an EU passport since I know I’m eligible. My grandmother was Lithuanian but I’m not sure how the hell I’d prove that. She came over as a child when her parents fled the Bolsheviks. Or that’s the story I’m told. There’s a family name that I can never spell and, as far as I know, no official records given it was all done in a rush. My nan didn’t even know with any certainty how old she was and the family tree on that side of the family disappears into the revolutionary murk. I’m certain in no mood to go traipsing across Lithuania searching for some family record, even if one survived or I knew where to look.

Instead, I think I’ll either draw some cartons or I’ll spend the day seeing if I can organise that non-fiction book I’ve been working on for a year or so. It’s 55,000 words and some part of that is pretty decent. I’m just not sure about how to wrestle the good from the bad and then push on to finish the bloody thing.

Leave a Reply


It’s a cool domain name and it was available. Yes, I know. Available. Crazy, isn’t it?


Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.