Election day looms in Canada.

One of the main issues of the moment centres on Liberal leader Stéphane Dion’s alleged inability to understand English.

In PM Stephen Harper’s view, this renders Dion unfit to handle the economy.

The question he supposedly stumbled over is, “If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?”

M. Dion, a French speaker at heart, attempted to clarify the question several times.

The question is a mixed conditional which references a hypothetical present and past in the same sentence.

Nothing wrong with that. “If I were rich at this point, I wouldn’t have bothered going to work last week.”

Nothing wrong with M. Dion clarifying when this hypothetical past is supposed to have started either.

As the pre-recorded interview kicked off a third time, the interviewer emphasized the time frame he was getting at:

“No. No. If you were prime minister during this time already.”

Ah “during this time already”. Why didn’t he say that in the first place?

I’ll use this Canadianism more often in future. When I’m striving for real clarity.

“Did you finish that report”

During this time already!”

“So it’s finished or you’re still working on it?

“That’s right! During this time already!”

“Enough already! I thought you Brits spoke proper English”

“Well, people say we used to. But then again maybe not during this time already if you see what I mean.”

“Right. Thanks for the clarification.”


Of course, if the interviewer had known how to construct a half-decent past conditional question with just the right amount of “woulds”, none of this would have happened, would it?

The election is on Tuesday. With English/French entente at these levels, this is going to be an inordinately productive minority government.


Full text of interview is here.

A Toronto Star article is here.

Here’s a more earnest interpretation from the National Post.

And here’s the smugly patronising CTV clip.

How to turn heads

Are you left-brained or right-brained?

Or do you simply enjoy any linty navel-gazing activity that provides an excuse to push work aside for a bit longer?

Whichever – here are thirty seconds of unbridled fun plus fodder for next time the office herd gathers at the water cooler.

Click on the dancer below. She will transport you to a place of dizzying delights.

All you have to decide is whether she is spinning clockwise or anti-clockwise.

This will, erm, determine which side of the brain you prefer to sit on.

For some people, she will appear to alternate between spinning modes. Don’t worry – there are folks who can help you with this.

Go ahead – click to spin!

Summery summary

For trips to the UK, always start with the Lake District.

Wait for me.

wait for me

Check the walls.

Typical northern dwelling and evening fayre 😉

It’ll need a big coil ‘oil…

Hallowed be thy game.

Scraping a pre-season 2-2 draw against the mighty Glossop North End.

The masses have braved Woodhead Pass for this feast of football. 

Should probably take the kids to the smoke. St. Pancras has scrubbed up well.

Interesting use of space. But is it art? No, it’s just the way in to Tate Modern.

Nice doggy.

Crossing the river in 45 minutes. Feels like a millennium.

Is Liz back?

Just one more visit.

South Yorkshire.

It’s a state of mind.

Stimulating the economy

The UK government is worried. The chancellor sees the country’s financial plight as “arguably the worst” in 60 years.

A draft Home Office document fears an increase in support for “far right extremism and racism”.

In addition, a surge in “acquisitive crime” is expected. Presumably, that scourge of a booming economy – gratuitous property offloading (GPO) will experience a sharp decline. No more waking up to a house mysteriously filled with other people’s unwanted high-end electrical products then.

Worse still, the Home Office fears the nation’s cultural bedrock is cracking under the strain.

According to the Guardian, “Jacqui Smith, the home secretary … WARNS that a downturn may lead to”:

“a FALL in the use of cocaine and LESS drunken disorder in town centres unless drinks companies respond to the downturn by aggressive price cutting.”

Odd government warnings these. Perhaps plummeting cocaine use would trigger a cabinet crisis of confidence. or even a full-blown crash.

As for warning that less drunken disorder would be evident on the streets, this is easier to explain.

A sober and fully aware populace always presents a clear threat to government stability. There are obvious political gains in 24/7 drinking laws and the carpet-bombing of town centres with liquor licenses.

More drunken disorder  = good. More civil disorder = bad.

Work may be the curse of the drinking classes, but, for leaders in peril, sizeable numbers in the latter can be a merry blessing.

Man overbored?

Spare a thought for the Bergschrund family who drew into Iceland this morning. Tragically, their cruise of a lifetime came to an abrupt end.

The rest of the carefree cruise passengers ran open-armed towards the feisty geysers for their day off the boat.

Meanwhile, the Bergschrund family were pushed down the gangplank with their plush suitcases tossed unceremoniously after them.

Reykjavik will be their last port of call. They will not be returning to the boat.

Last night, Mr and Mrs Bergschrund chanced their luck in the ship’s casino. Mrs B, keenly sensing an abject lack of fortune, quit the tables early, leaving Mr. B with his dwindling chips and rapidly replenishing glass.

What happened next remains something of a transparent mystery.

At 5.30 a.m. this morning, the  captain made a ship-wide announcement:

“Would Mr Bergschrund of Cabin 251 please call zero on any phone.”

At 6.15 a.m. – in tones of rising desperation:

“Would Mr Bergschrund of Cabin 251 PLEASE call zero on ANY phone.”

6.30 a.m. – a more authoritative and more sombre announcement

“All crew involved in the search procedures please begin standard initial ship sweep and all guest services will be suspended.”

7.00 a.m. – Au revoir to the glitz and glamour of this particular cruise: 

“Ladies and Gentlemen we have been unable to locate Mr Bergschrund, who has been missing since 4 a.m. this morning. We are turning the ship around 180 degrees and will be ready to perform Man Overboard procedures. Meanwhile all crew please conduct stage 2 of the ‘bomb search’ procedure.”

8.15a.m. – Hint of extreme irritation:

“We have located the missing person and all services will be resumed as normal. Our arrival in Iceland is likely to be delayed several hours.”

The upshot was that Mr Bergschrund had drowned his sorrows with gusto in the casino after his wife had gone to bed.

Sometime in the unthinking small hours, he repaired to the cabin of a ‘new friend’, passed out and slept through the procession of announcements.

He was found during the stage 2 search (the combing of every cabin and waking of every guest at 7am)  draped on his new friend’s couch in a state of complete nakedness and insobriety.

Mr Bergschrund had remained blissfully unaware of the chaos all around.

Captain’s log:

The ship covered an additional 35km at a fuel cost of $518 per km. Four coastguard helicopters were scrambled. Two other ships began diversions to cover the same track. 

Estimated cost – forty thousand dollars US.

Mr Bergschrund and his family were dumped in Reykjavik this morning and left to find their way home (or to wherever Mr. B will henceforth be banished).

Just when you think the chips are down…

Something of a mix up on the Yahoo news service.

This screenshot featuring furry pre-Olympic jollities and a slightly incongruous headline is a bit wrong on so many levels.

This was even accessible from your laptop in Beijing for a day or so thanks to the timely removal of censorship barriers by the Chinese government.

A quiet word was had and now everything is just fine again.

Yorkshire Day

August fust – Yorkshire Day ageean.

Fuh this un, thuz mooah chance ter celibrate. This year, tha kun ‘oist t’flag in thi own back yard un nobbdi kun do owt abart it.

Int UK, t’Flag Institoot regulates wot flags tha kun raise wiart evvin ter ask fuh plannin permission.

Up ter nar, t’iconic white rose ont blue backgrarnd wornt reco’nized us un official flag.

But nar, aftuh a Sproxton bloke kicked up a fuss a few year aguh, thev gid in. Bart time un all.

Ah woh lucky enough ter spend a month in God’s Own County this summuh.

Tha cahnt beet it can tha?

Sing t’anthem wi a bit uh pride!