Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 24th July 2018

THE anti-Trump protests will have served little good, other than to feed the US President’s vindictive side.

The marches and the floating of that giant balloon mocking Trump were futile. It would have been better to ignore him altogether.

Donald Trump, as ever, seized the headlines. Behind his visit at the weekend lay a more disturbing truth, that in post-Brexit Britain our dependence on the US will increase, Trump knows it and played us like a fish on a line, destroying the hapless Mrs May, then coming over all conciliation.

Trump is obnoxious. Some say monstrous. Diplomacy is not a word in his dictionary. But he understands the nature of power more than critics give him credit for. He’s a businessman, a shark, and he spots the vulnerable points and attacks them.

Right now Britain is weaker politically than it’s ever been. A vacillating government that can’t agree on Brexit. An opposition that never really says what it wants. What a mess, and if the Prime Minister’s White Paper proposals are accepted we are set to become a mere economic satellite of the EU.

Donald Trump has got us where he wants us, able to interfere in our internal affairs at will. It’s ugly, but it’s reality. Furthermore he’s not stupid, as opponents want us to think. He’s right when he says most European countries are not pulling their financial weight in Nato. He’s right to believe we are at our weakest while our politics are an ongoing shambles. He could quite easily win four more years as president. Are we simply going to spend those years insulting a man who regards himself as untouchable?

Britain after Brexit will have less say in world affairs. We will be more dependent on the US. Trump’s visit merely makes the nightmare more real.

Make no mistake, Brexit will dog this country for decades to come. You can’t just crash out. There will be years of untangling the mess. David Cameron called the referendum and left a legacy of bitterness and conflict the like of which we’ve never seen before.

Leavers and Remainers have insulted each other. We have insulted the Europeans. Now we’ve insulted the President of the US. Donald Trump’s interview in The Sun, humiliating Mrs May, could be a pointer to what lies ahead post-Brexit. We may dislike Trump and many of the things he stands for, but we should not treat him as a joke.

LONG-FORGOTTEN JOBS

MANY years ago I had an uncle who travelled in ladies’ underwear. No, titter ye not. He didn’t wear the stuff, he sold the latest lines in under garments to outfitters’ shops all over the north of England.

It was back in the 1950s. I was a child, but I remember him coming to stay with us on occasions when he had business in these parts. He always carried several large suitcases packed with his wares.

It was the heyday of travelling salesmen. They had a regular round of shops in thriving town centres. But then shops started closing down, long-standing customers retired, and along came online shopping.

My uncle was fortunate in having a car to go with the job, although it kept breaking down and he did a lot of his travelling by train, lugging those suitcases from platform to platform. A good job they never burst open. People might have got the wrong idea.

I spotted an item on my computer the other day about jobs that have gone extinct. Jobs like telegram boy, switchboard operator, door-to-door encyclopaedia salesmen, the typing pool and, heading further back in time, the knocker-up who used to go round waking factory workers to ensure they got to work on time.

But the one that really tickled my fancy was the used teeth salesman. People who could not afford the dentist used to buy second hand false teeth to replace their own once they had rotted away. Thankfully the foundation of the NHS in 1948 put an end to that trade.

These people dealt first hand with their customers. Now many of our town centres are going to the dogs and everything is impersonal. If my uncle was around today he’d probably be sweating away in some gigantic warehouse, packing and posting items to people he’d never meet.

A thought occurred as I read through the list of defunct occupations. Once the high street is gone for good, exactly where will we all go to try clothes on and pore through the book shelves before we nip home and buy on the internet?

FASCINATING FACTS

NO doubt fashionable female readers of this column will be getting their finery out in readiness for Carlisle racecourse’s Ladies’ Night on 6th August. There is always a best dressed award, although for some of the participants the idea seems to be to get away with wearing as little as possible while still remaining decent.

You live and learn, although at my great age knowledge arrives more slowly than in days of yore, and by the time it gets here it’s not much use. However I have, this very week, thanks to Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, added the “fascinator” to my bank of information about ladies’ head wear.

I always thought a fascinator was either a jingly decoration for the nursery or, dare I say it, the sort of item that comes discreetly through the post under a plain cover to prevent neighbourhood gossip.

But now I know. It’s that light, decorative headpiece worn as an alternative to a hat at events like weddings and the races. Celebrity milliner Philip Treacy told Kirsty Young, in between selecting his favourite items for the desert island, that he had little time for the fascinator — “an excuse for a hat”, as he dismissively put it.

For milliners, the highlight of the year is Royal Ascot. Five days in June when the rich, the posh and the pretenders parade in the Royal Enclosure showing off their new headgear and outfits. “It’s Christmas for us,” said Treacy.”

Mr Treacy calls fascinator a “dreaded word.” They are banned from Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure; have been since a decree was sent out in 2012. Thankfully we Cumbrians are more egalitarian, and just a bit less well off than Royal Enclosure patrons who can pay thousands of pounds for a fancy titfer.

Come 6th August there will be fascinators aplenty on display at our local races, and perfectly smart they will look. So go and eat your hat, Mr Treacy.

THE REAL WINNER

THE real winner at the World Cup was that nice Mr Putin.

Yes, it was a highly successful World Cup. The Russians rolled out the red carpet for visiting fans, their criminals and hooligans were sent on holiday, the footie was quite good for a change, and all the forebodings were proved wrong.

Amid the hype over England’s reconnection with their fans it was easy to forget a few little details like the disappearance of dissidents, under lock and key somewhere in distant Siberia presumably, the nerve-agent poisonings on British streets and other mysterious deaths; the allegations of computer hacking; the Russian spies charged over meddling with the election in the US; Ukraine, Crimea, Syria.

I can’t help thinking we and the other footballing nations played into the hands of a cold-eyed and ruthless leader. Sometimes we are rather good at enjoying sport while neatly hiding our hypocrisy. The World Cup, for all its wonders, was a perfect mask for the real Putin to launder his international image.

50-YEAR GAP

NEXT month, at Ambleside sports, former fell runner Pete Bland will watch the senior guides’ race, 50 years after winning it at the ninth attempt.

I remember interviewing Pete at local sports events where he was a regular competitor. He helped plant a seed of interest in fell running which I was later to take up, with considerably less success, but with immense enjoyment.

A schoolboy athlete, at 14 he was in a motorcycle accident and told he would never run again. Two years later he was back, proving them wrong.

He’s been one of the great personalities of the Lakeland sporting scene, first as a professional running for a few bob, then later as an amateur doing long distance events and marathons. I was reporting at Ambleside the day he won that race. Makes both of us seem a bit ancient, really.