I've just heard Michael Howard on Radio 4 bemoaning political correctness. Fair enough you might think, but let me quote what he said. Obviously I won't be able to quote him exactly, but I certainly won't change the sense or content of his speech.

See if you can spot all the occasions on which he makes nakedly populist* comments.

"Political correctness is driving people mad. There are so many examples, it's difficult to know where to start. But here are a few, to get us started.
During the last World Cup, office workers were forbidden to hang English flags from their windows, [sarcastic] for fear of offending supporters of other teams.
Or the publican who was refused an extended licence on the grounds that [indignant] St George's Day wasn't special enough, despite having had no problem getting one for the celebrations for the Chinese New Year."

Even if I was in danger of voting Conservative, those oily, sly, manipulative few sentences would change my mind. I wouldn't want to align myself with a political party whose leader stoops to such underhand methods, nor with the people to whom they are intended to appeal.

How rude. Does he think that sentiments like that will endear him and his party to any group other than middle English voters? One of his other crackers was calling for "the protection of minorities, while allowing the police to do their job effectively"; that's such a loaded and emotional sentence.


* "Populist", for my purposes here, is defined as anything designed to appeal on an emotional level rather than ideological or objective one. It's distinct from "popular", and no matter what Ann Widdecombe says, it's not about tapping into a national mood. Or if so, it's an ugly mood, and our political leaders should be able to resist the temptation to exploit it, doing instead that which is right rather than that which is popular.

And before anyone accuses me of youthful idealism, I'm aware of how naive this appears at time.

It has been a while, so I thought I'd empty out my 'To blog' folder in Safari. Links ahoy!

Click me! Photos from the wedding anniversary shennanigans
Click me! Graphic design cleverness
Click me! Scottish man + London = a right good read!
Click me! The problems with translating Harry Potter into ancient Greek; much more interesting than it sounds
Click me! The most untranslatable word in the world. Apparently
Click me! How good is your popup blocker?
Click me! Optical illusion; click on the proof, otherwise you just won't believe it...
Click me! The nicest iPod accessory I've seen
Click me! An apparently very thorough survey of inconsistencies in the Bible; um, I haven't checked them all, though...
Click me! Waaahhh!
Click me! One for the Star Wars geeks
Click me! The science of word recognition; I confess I haven't read it yet, but I will...
Click me! Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness
Click me! Pretty pictures
Click me! Exactitudes; a study of stereotypes

The last few are perhaps what we'd term 'NSFW'; Not Safe For Work. None of them are actually pornographic, but they might set off a klaxon in your IT department. They're in descending order of dodgyness; if one offends, the next one will be worse...
Click me! The Always Amusing Euphemism Generator
Click me! If condoms had sponsors
Click me! If KY advertised (sadly, this is not an official ad)
Click me! The Harry Potter merchandising you may not have heard of...
Click me! Spiderman remixed

The bliss! I decided to get the train from Glasgow instead of Carlisle – long story, unimportant – and I'm now firmly ensconced in the first class carriage of one of the new Virgin Voyager trains.

Why is this bliss? I've got an electrical socket! I'm writing this at 2:30, and I'm not due to arrive in Euston until after 9. This would ordinarily be a complete bitch, and would necessitate much careful planning given that I'd normally have enough juice in my laptop to last through one movie with ten minutes to spare. But now I have unlimited power. Unlimited, I tell you! *maniacal laughter*

(So please forgive me if this turns into something of an epic post; it's just that I have unlimited power!)

The upgrade to first class for travelling the length of the country only costs £20, and frankly it's worth every godforsaken penny.

This week away from work has been, largely, much fun. What it hasn't been is a holiday. It was lovely to see Emma, and it was of course fun throwing my folks their silver wedding anniversary bash. But what with running around the country visiting relatives, having ice cream, painting ceramics, troubleshooting no fewer than three computers, one of which was running Windows XP, paddling at the Dhune – not to mention organising the anniversary bash – it has been something of a knackering few days.

Hence pampering myself with the upgrade to first class before I launch back into real work tomorrow.

The anniversary party went off flawlessly, but I want to draw attention to Jenny's conduct throughout the whole débacle.

She was a star.

No matter how nice they are, spending time with the in-laws can be taxing, and the stress increases by an order of magnitude with each additional family member. So by the time I'd dropped her off at Isla's at well past midnight last night, she had spent time being charming, witty and gracious with Mum, Dad, Nana, Johnny, Julie, Ross, Fraser, Paul, Martin and Elizabeth – the last she was meeting for the first time. All this without getting in any way tetchy, or being at all a bad sport. Thank you, sweetheart.

I was very grateful to note too that my family really seems to have welcomed Jenny in – Nana in particular went out of her way to be very affectionate towards her.

One slightly embarrassing note. I had apparently left my mobile sitting on the back seat of the car when I got out to come to the station; I think it just slipped out of my pocket. The folks very kindly battled their way back from Paul's flat to return it to me.

I'll be posting some photos from the anniversary celebrations soon for the rest of the family to enjoy, and will post a link here when I get back home to unmetered internet access. We all managed to keep it secret, even if it did nearly kill us. There were a few near missed – Julie's 'Pick up anniversary cake' to do list in plain view, Fraser's wibbling about silver presents in plain hearing, my humming Happy Anniversary as we walked down towards the restaurant – but I genuinely don't think they suspected a thing. The meal was excellent, and the bonhomie flowed just as readily as the wine. The Midds gave them a silver basin filled with 25 individually-wrapped silver presents – ranging from silver bottle openers to silver foil by way of Silver Spoon sugar – and Nana's gift was a big, framed silver anniversary cross-stitch with a very sweet message on the back.

Back to the house for champagne, cake and fireworks. The cake was in the shape of a 2 and a 5, with one being sponge and one fruit. Apparently they didn't have a cake at their wedding, so it was particularly nice. Much family whooping and hollering when I showed on the TV the couple of hundred photos from which I had selected a few for the book. Cries of "I've got brown hair in that photo!" and retorts of "You've got hair in that photo" echoed around the top room.

The fireworks were utterly spectacular. I decided to get them as when, on a whim, I had bought a rocket and a couple of Roman candles for last Hogmanay, the folks went mad for them. I tried to get something similar from the same place for the anniversary. I'm glad I couldn't. I actually bought an Annual Extravaganza online, and carted it up on the train. It's a single-ignition system: just plonk it down, light one fuse and retire. Quickly. It seemed to last for ages, and the show was magnificent, with all sorts of different individual rockets.

The cows in the field next to us were a bit spooked, though, stampeding from patch of field to patch of field, eventually coming to a dazed halt on the crest of a hill. I like to think they had realised what was happening and were just settling down to watch the show, but I suspect the real reason was slightly less cutsily anthropomorphic. I had nipped into their field so as to be behind a stone dyke if the rockets decided to fire sideways, but confess to a Brennan-esque squeak and jump back to the other side when the cows started running towards where I was standing at full tilt. The unlikeliness of a rogue firework was preferable to the much more probable trampling I would otherwise have received, I think you'll agree.

Saturday's concert in the grounds of Glamis castle was fun, especially if, like Jenny and I, you spent a significant amount of time spotting genuine rich people. It's a subtle art. The only immediate disqualifications are people who actually look rich; they're just aspirant middle-classes. What you're looking for is people in baseball caps. Be very careful not to confuse pikey with posh, here; a good rule of thumb is that if the cap features a Burberry check, it's pikey. Tweed is another indicator, yes, but very battered tweed that obviously cost as much as a family car twenty years ago. Again, I hope to post some photos later.

Right now, though, I'm looking forward to getting Home. Home with a capital H. My bed, my things, my worries. My life. Jenny doesn't come home for a week. I will enjoy the time alone, but all things considered I'd rather she was with me. It feels like we haven't had time together for a very long time. I'm going to start putting away at least £5 a week to start building up a holiday pot. We've never really had a holiday before, just the two of us. Come October, if we haven't got anything else planned, I'm going to book something for next summer. I don't care how much it costs. We need a proper break, and I think we deserve it.

That is all.

I'm never not in the mood for R.E.M.

That is all.

Readers of this blog who are both

a) Long-term readers, and
b) Technologically inclined

...will no doubt be delighted to know that the email encryption thing I was prattling on about a while back is now available to read on the MacUser website. Go and enlighten yourself here.