News & the weather

On a sour note of feigned optimism, I post this upon the vernal equinox, a cold blustery miserable overcast day in Parkdale, under plausible threat of blowing snow, after the coldest winter in memory. Spring is not yet in sight. But one must take the longer view, in which these parts were for millennia under more than a mile of ice — so that life on the surface would be the colder for the altitude — and note that the accumulation towards the next glaciation remains quite modest. For all we know the summer may still take it away. Eventually a summer may come which fails to do so, and at the first of those we’ll start moving south. (Our agent Barraco Bammer has done a fine job of Canadianizing the territory we shall eventually occupy.) No one in his right mind up here at this latitude ever feared global warming. Which isn’t to say a plurality are not in their right minds. But the sales pitch for further massive public globalwarmalarm and environmentalcase funding has been undermined.

Simple, but irrefutable, is my own theory of climate change. The Weather Fairies were monitoring the hockey stick diagram and other spuriosities and shams from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, various third-rate redbrick universities, the London Met Office, &c. Human hubris has long irritated them, and that was the last straw. They decided to punish us so unambiguously that no intelligent person could pretend it was “chance.” We may not be in the cusp of a new Ice Age — no such thing is humanly predictable — but take note when the Weather Fairies tell you to chill out.

My other concern, just now, is that sooner or later interest rates must rise. This comes from inattention to the Economy Fairies, with whom we should never toy, for they can become spiteful quicker and on less cause than the Weather Fairies. Everything I know about USA and the West tells me the mild recovery is fake, that the stock prices are illusory, that it all hangs on very cheap money, and that government accounts everywhere seriously understate the aggregate debt. Add a few points to the interest rate, which the Economy Fairies could do in a blink, and the game is up. It could only be played for so long, and I can’t see bottom when it is over. (But then, bottom is usually what we don’t see.) The most worrying part is their delayed action. This most likely means the Economy Fairies have moved beyond routine spite, and are saving for a bigger catastrophe.

I have consulted several reasonably successful investors on this, asking for the upside. None could provide one. Their suggestions range from purchasing shares in gold and silver mines, to stocking up on tinned food. There was also some advice on guns and ammo. This would not be for self-defence, alone. Hunting skills will also be important in the new economy.

Which takes us to the loss, this week, of two of my favourite living people. One was Clarissa Dickson Wright, an advocate of the hunt, indeed a magnificent woman who consciously sacrificed her media career, once she had stored up enough eating money, by outraging every right-thinking, gliberal person in the United Kingdom, right across the field of political incorrectitude. Dead now, at the tender age of sixty-six. (Her health had been impaired by the quinine in the tonic water she poured to excess into her harmless gin.)

I met her many years ago in her cookery bookstore in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh: it was love at first sight. A woman of formidable girth, and heroic appetite, she could drink even Scotsmen under the table. She had, too, one of the sharpest minds of her generation, and easily the sharpest in the British media. A life-long indifference to nonsense had led her from one adventure through another, including the inheritance and purposeful dissolution of a large fortune. Her work on behalf of red meat, butter and cream, as one of the “Two Fat Ladies” — along with her devoutly Catholic colleague Jennifer Paterson, also of sainted memory — will stand as one of the two great accomplishments of the BBC. (The other was of course Monty Python.) I imagine them ascending Mount Purgatory together in Miss Paterson’s motorcycle with double-wide sidecar. “Fat, loud, outspoken,” according to one of the more respectful obituaries, they were both examples of what I adoringly call “insolent women.” (An essay on this topic may follow, in due course.)

Meanwhile, in India, and at the tender age of ninety-nine, we have lost a delightful opponent of the hunt, in Khushwant Singh. He was as vociferous against the shikaar, or princely pursuit of big game, as Ms Dickson Wright was champion to the fox hunt. His column in the Hindustan Times, entitled, “With Malice Towards One and All,” will be missed up here in the High Doganate. He kept it up to the eve of his death; it was always entertaining. I had also the honour of meeting this man in passing, and found him as most vicious satirists, a kindly and empathetic soul.

His books are all readable, for all are light and slight, especially his celebrated two-volume History of the Sikhs, in which the scholarship is almost indetectable. Khushwant (my apology for this familiarity, but India is over-supplied with Singhs) was an agnostic, and nearly a vegetarian. He subscribed to the ancient subcontinental notion of Ahimsa: that we should not kill people or animals gratuitously, and should by preference go about most tasks in a non-violent way. But then he supported “euthanasia”: in the Jainist or Eskimo manner, i.e. oldies who have become a burden should find a way to push off. Fortunately, except a bit of wheezing, he never found himself in that situation, and remained a profit centre to his extended family. Verily, all of his views were mistaken, on everything, so far as I could make out; he even supported Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency.” But notwithstanding, what a lovely man.