Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Breaking Eggs.

I've been reading political books over the past couple of weeks, possibly triggered by the fact that for the first time in my voting life, I don't know who to vote for. Hoping for inspiration. Maybe it's my choices:  John Crace, Gavin Esler and now the acidly funny Marina Hyde. But even though they've made me laugh, it's hollow laughter and I still don't know who to vote for. They've just brought back to me the hideousness of the past few years, and the general impression that whoever is in power, it's likely to continue, because we have a broken, undemocratic system, as corrupt and useless as any of those countries we used to mock. 

One quote from Marina Hyde struck me forcefully. It's a quote of a quote of a quote, but it's apt. 'There's something rather Stalinist about Brexit's wreakers of so-called creative destruction. In his Memoirs of a Revolutionary, Victor Serge quotes the Romanian writer Panait Istrati, when the latter visited the 1930s USSR of purges and show trials. "All right, I can see the broken eggs," he said, "Where is this omelette of yours?"' Hyde wrote this piece in 2017. Little did she know what was coming our way. 

No sign of the omelette so far. Lots of destruction, even in small ways. I posted three slim poetry books to Poland yesterday. It took about fifteen minutes, while the patient counter assistant weighed the little parcels, measured them, asked what was in them, looked up the customs number for books, typed in the Polish addresses, typed in my address three times, printed out stamps and bar codes, stuck them on, along with an air mail sticker, and then printed out three customs forms for me to sign. And don't even ask about the cost. As anyone who has tried this knows, it will still be touch and go whether they arrive at all. Don't blame the EU. We did this to ourselves. All this for something that pre-Brexit involved a small and very simple sticker of which I kept a stash at home. God knows what small businesses including small publishers do. Actually - I know what they do. They don't send to Europe. Or import from there. Well done, 'party of business'.  

There's a bit of fairly low key egg breaking going on in my world as well at the moment. Well, it IS  low key in that the vast majority of people won't give a flying you-know-what about it.  'Writers' (I use the word advisedly, because some of them seem to be more celebrities than actual working writers) have demanded that book festivals such as Hay divest themselves of their main sponsor, a company called Baillie Gifford. I should explain that unless you want to charge Taylor Swiftian prices for tickets without the added attraction of Taylor herself, most book festivals need help to stay solvent. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is next on their list. And more, since the company in question does a lot of sponsoring. The egg smashers call themselves Fossil Free Books. BG's investment in fossil fuels is minimal, and it's obvious that the FFB crowd don't understand much if anything about the rules surrounding investments. I'm seldom invited to book festivals, although whenever I have been, I've enjoyed the experience. And sometimes it has been very moving, like my gig last year at the excellent Boswell Book Festival, on the same platform as a traumatised young woman who had escaped from Ukraine, with her equally traumatised little girl. 

Mostly festivals are a significant pleasure for those attending, including middle aged and elderly women. Who buy a lot of books. And the organisers generally do excellent work promoting reading to children as well. But hey, the omelette brigade are gaily smashing eggs and celebrating their success, all while disclaiming any responsibility for finding replacement sponsors. 'Not our job,' they say. 'We've broken it. Now fix it.' It remains to be seen if the omelette ever materialises, or if they're simply left with egg covered faces. 

But here's a thing. The most cursory online search reveals that the UK's biggest book chain is now owned by a US hedge fund with a really significant investment in oil. Are all those writers who signed letters demanding that book festivals find new sponsors now going to approach their publishers demanding that they remove their books from this chain? And if not, why not? There's signalling virtue and then there's shooting yourself in both feet. Perhaps the foot shooting is the preserve only of Brexiters. 

All of which leads me back to my initial problem. I still have no idea who to vote for. Where are Lord Buckethead and Count Binface when you need them? 

The Master and Margarita - A Novel for All Time


I reread this wonderful novel very recently. I remember the first time I read it, on the recommendation of my dad, many years ago, I thought it funny, clever, beautifully written. But this time round, I also realised just how powerful and how satirical it is. And why, allegedly, Putin is afraid of it. 

I can think of any number of organisations and well-known toadies here and now in the UK that should also be afraid of it. But it cheers me up enormously. It was written between 1928 and 1940. Bulgakov burned the first manuscript but wrote it again. It wasn't published - and even then in a censored version - till after his death. 

You can buy a very beautiful Folio Society edition (cover above).Worth every penny. 

What's it about? 

Satan comes to Moscow. Of course nobody believes in him. Or his sidekicks, including a 'cat like personage' called Behemoth. He is free to wreak havoc. And he does. Especially among those complacently in power. Especially, it seems, those complacently in power in the arts. London and Edinburgh, take note. 

Meanwhile, enjoy this extract. Then, if you haven't already done so, read the whole novel.

'The branch office of the Theatrical Commission was quartered in a peeling old house at the far end of a courtyard, which was famous for the porphyry columns in its hallway. That day, however, the visitors to the house were not paying much attention to the porphyry columns. Several visitors were standing numbly in the hall and staring at a weeping girl seated behind a desk full of theatrical brochures which it was her job to sell. The girl seemed to have lost interest in her literature and only waved sympathetic enquirers away, whilst from above, below and all sides of the building came the pealing of at least twenty desperate telephones. 
    Weeping, the girl suddenly gave a start and screamed hysterically: 'There it is again!' and began singing in a wobbly soprano, 'Yo-o, heave-ho! Yo-o heave-ho!' 
    A messenger, who had appeared on the staircase, shook his fist at somebody and joined the girl, singing in a rough, tuneless baritone: 'One more heave, lads, one more heave . . .' 
    Distant voices chimed in, the choir began to swell until finally the song was booming out all over the building. In nearby room No. 6, the auditor's department, a powerful hoarse bass voice boomed out an octave below the rest. The chorus was accompanied crescendo by a peal of telephone bells. 'All day lo-ong we must trudge the shore,' roared the messenger on the staircase. Tears poured down the girl's face as she tried to clench her teeth, but her mouth opened of its own accord and she sang an octave above the messenger : 'Work all da-ay and then work more . . .' 
    What surprised the dumbfounded visitors was the fact that the singers, spread all through the building, were keeping excellent time, as though the whole choir were standing together and watching an invisible conductor. Passers-by in Vagankovsky Street stopped outside the courtyard gates, amazed to hear such sounds of harmony coming from the Commission. As soon as the first verse was over, the singing stopped at once, as though in obedience to a conductor's baton. The messenger swore under his breath and ran off. The front door opened and in walked a man wearing a light coat on top of a white overall, followed by a policeman. 
    'Do something, doctor, please! ' screamed the hysterical girl. 
    The secretary of the branch office ran out on to the staircase and obviously burning with embarrassment and shame said between hiccups: 'Look doctor, we have a case of some kind of mass hypnosis, so you must. . .' He could not finish his sentence, stuttered and began singing 'Shilka and Nerchinsk . . .' 
    'Fool!' the girl managed to shout, but never managed to say who she meant and instead found herself forced into a trill and joined in the song about Shilka and Nerchinsk. 
    'Pull yourselves together! Stop singing!' said the doctor to the secretary. It was obvious that the secretary would have given anything to stop singing but could not. When the verse was finished the girl at the desk received a dose of valerian from the doctor, who hurried off to give the secretary and the rest the same treatment. 
    'Excuse me, miss,' Vassily Stepanovich suddenly asked the girl, 'has a black cat been in here?' 
    'What cat? ' cried the girl angrily. ' There's a donkey in this office - a donkey! ' And she went on, 'If you want to hear about it I'll tell you exactly what's happened.' 
    Apparently the director of the branch office had a mania for organising clubs. 'He does it all without permission from head office!' said the girl indignantly. In the course of a year the branch director had succeeded in organising a Lermontov Club, a Chess and Draughts Club, a Ping-Pong Club and a Riding Club. In summer he threatened to organise a rowing club and a mountaineering club. And then this morning in came the director at lunch time . . . '. . . arm in arm with some villain,' said the girl, 'that he'd picked up God knows where, wearing check trousers, with a wobbling pince-nez . . . and an absolutely impossible face!' 
    There and then, according to the girl, he had introduced him to all the lunchers in the dining-room as a famous specialist in organising choral societies. The faces of the budding mountaineers darkened, but the director told them to cheer up and the specialist made jokes and assured them on his oath that singing would take up very little time and was a wonderfully useful accomplishment. Well, of course, the girl went on, the first two to jump up were Fanov and Kosarchuk, both well-known toadies, and announced that they wanted to join. The rest of the staff realised that there was no way out of it, so they all joined the choral society too. It was decided to practise during the lunch break, because all the rest of their spare time was already taken up with Lermontov and draughts. To set an example the director announced that he sang tenor. What happened then was like a bad dream. 
    The check-clad chorus master bellowed: 'Do, mi, sol, do!' He dragged some of the shy members out from behind a cupboard where they had been trying to avoid having to sing, told Kosarchuk that he had perfect pitch, whined, whimpered, begged them to show him some respect as an old choirmaster, struck a tuning fork on his finger and announced that they would begin with ' The Song of the Volga Boatmen.' 
    They struck up. And they sang very well - the man in the check suit really did know his job. They sang to the end of the first verse. Then the choirmaster excused himself, saying, 'I'll be back in a moment . . .' - and vanished. Everybody expected him back in a minute or two, but ten minutes went by and there was still no sign of him. The staff were delighted - he had run away! Then suddenly, as if to order, they all began singing the second verse, led by Kosarchuk, who may not have had perfect pitch but who had quite a pleasant high tenor. They finished the verse. Still no conductor. Everybody started to go back to their tables, but they had no time to eat before quite against their will they all started singing again. And they could not stop. There would be three minutes' silence and they would burst out into song again. Silence - then more singing! Soon people began to realise that something terrible was happening. The director locked himself in his office out of shame. With this the girl's story broke off - even valerian was no use,.
    A quarter of an hour later three lorries drove up to the gateway on Vagankovsky Street and the entire branch staff, headed by the director, was put into them. Just as the first lorry drove through the gate and out into the street, the staff, standing in the back of the lorry and holding each other round the shoulders, all opened their mouths and deafened the whole street with a song. The second lorry-load joined in and then the third. On they drove, singing. The passers-by hurrying past on their own business gave the lorries no more than a glance and took no notice, thinking that it was some works party going on an excursion out of town. They were certainly heading out of town, but not for an outing: they were bound for Professor Stravinsky's clinic.

Swedish Cinnamon Buns, Seeing Family, and More Bureaucratic Fudging


Yesterday, in spite of the heat - it's still warm and sunny in south west Scotland - I baked some Swedish cinnamon buns. They're delicious, and I had to freeze some, otherwise we'd have eaten far too many of them. I'll put the recipe at the end of this post so if you want to, you can skip the small rant that follows and go straight to the recipe! 

I first came across these gorgeous Scandinavian pastries when I worked in Finland for a couple of years, back in the 1970s. Then, I forgot all about them until I started reading crime fiction from Sweden, in which everyone seemed to eat them, which made me want some too, so I had to seek out a recipe from a friend. 

A few months ago, mid pandemic, our son moved to Sweden. Before that, he had been working in Barcelona for a couple of years. We were meant to visit him there, but Covid put a stop to all that. And then, at the request of his company, he moved to Stockholm. He loves the city and he loves his job, so there are no complaints on that score. In fact I'm delighted for him, because if he was unhappy, we'd be doubly unhappy too.

It would be true to say that Brexit has done him no favours, making everything infinitely more complicated than it need be. But at least, working in video game design, he has skills that are very much in demand. 

In the same boat.

However, we haven't seen him for some 18 months now. We are not alone. I could name at least a dozen friends in the same boat. There are people who haven't seen longed-for grandchildren, there are people who have missed weddings and funerals, there are chronically ill people who are desperate for a (vaccinated and tested) visit from a much loved family member living abroad. There are probably millions of us, although nobody knows, because nobody in government, not in Westminster and not in Scotland, seems to care. Nobody seems aware that vast numbers of families have members living elsewhere. In fact it feels like a concept with which most politicians are totally unfamiliar.

We are at the back of a long queue, while the government and the media focus almost exclusively on holidays. 

Earlier this year our son booked - and then cancelled - a trip home on 17th July. He had holidays and was planning to spend a week with us, but it wasn't to be. Partly it was that the flights kept being changed. Mostly it was that he had had only one vaccination by then, he would have had to isolate at home with us, which he would have willingly done for the days of his visit. But nobody, not even our - otherwise extremely helpful and obliging MP - could tell us what the protocol was for getting tested. As a UK citizen coming back here, he would have to register and pay a rather extortionate amount up front for two tests, only one of which he would use, since he would be returning to Sweden within 7 days. Nobody could give us any information about how he would obtain the other test necessary for travelling back to Sweden. (Test centres are only for residents, not UK passport holders.) Or what would happen about the expensive but wasted test, meant to be submitted by post on day eight. 

The Same Vaccinations

Now, he's hoping to come back for a few days in late September, or early October. Taking the bull by the horns, I wrote to the Scottish health secretary, pointing out that even though rules had been relaxed for double vaccinated people returning to the UK, neither Scotland not anywhere else in the UK was prepared to recognise the very same vaccinations, given in the EU. Even though proof of said vaccination would be available. 

What I got from the 'operational management team' was disappointing. It was a standard, vague and faintly admonitory email as though I had asked an unreasonable question, and not one that is exercising many thousands of people in the whole of the UK right now. In fact it didn't really answer my detailed question at all. Basically, it said, we know best, best get back in your box till we tell you what you can do.

It surely shouldn't be beyond the bounds of possibility to respond to a concerned citizen by saying that EU and indeed worldwide vaccinations and tests will be recognised as soon as possible and that tests will also be made available while people are visiting family in Scotland. Most people would be happy to pay for them. We don't expect miracles. We don't expect it to happen tomorrow. Just a response that refrains from sending out a bureaucratic finger-wagging one-size-fits-all exercise, recognises the pressing problem and promises a solution some time soon. 

If, like me, you need something to sweeten your temper, here's the recipe for cinnamon buns

I mix it in my bread-maker and bake it in the oven. I use the measuring cups that came with the bread-maker, which I think are very similar to US cups. but this is a very forgiving recipe so as long as you get the relative proportions right, it should be OK. 


1 cup milk

4 tablespoons melted butter

half a cup of caster sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cardamom (I had run out so I pounded a few seeds and used them instead but you can leave this out altogether if you're not keen on cardamom.)

1 beaten egg plus extra for glazing

4 - 5 cups plain flour

1 packet dried yeast


2 tablespoons melted butter

three quarters cup of soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (more if you like) 


I chuck all the pastry ingredients into the bread-maker on the 'dough' setting. This is usually about an hour and a half, but I sometimes give it another half hour or so on the same setting. If you don't have a bread-maker, you can just put the dry ingredients together, add the wet and mix it all in a bowl, kneading it very well in the usual way, and then leaving it in a warm place to rise for an hour or so. It should be very soft, but not sticky. The spices can be variable - you can add more or less according to your taste.

Divide your yeast pastry in half, and roll out one half into a rectangle, brush with plenty of melted butter, and sprinkle with mixed sugar and cinnamon. Then, roll it up, starting on the long side, cut your roll into about seven triangles, pinch each into an ear shape (I'm not very good at this, but they still turn out OK) and put on a well greased baking tray. Do the same thing with the other half. You finish up with about 14 buns and you can put them reasonably close together on the tray. The filling will leak out a bit but this doesn't matter. Leave in a warm place till they start to rise again and then brush with beaten egg.

Bake in a hot oven: 400F or 200C for about 15 minutes, perhaps a little more. My oven is over hot, so I find 175C works better and doesn't over crisp them. Leave them to cool on the tray for a little while before lifting so that any leaked sugar has time to set. Best eaten warm. They don't need butter. Lovely just as they are - especially with a large mug of coffee. 

Throwing It All Away

There was a time, back in 2012, watching the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, when many of us felt at least a stirring of pride in - or perhaps I mean genuine affection for - the island group that we call home. It was a production full of historical awareness, creativity and good humour. We liked to think it reflected the best of us.  

Yet here we are, eight years later, and many of us can't think about that time without a profound sense of regret and horror. Because in eight short years, we've been precipitated into the most divisive political situation of my life - although I know other parts of this now precarious union have been through worse times.

How on earth, we wonder, could a country that is supposedly part of a voluntary union, deliberately throw away all that goodwill, all that affection, in the pursuit of an unattainable, unrealistic and unworthy dream - one, moreover, that has turned into a nightmare for so many of us, based as it is on lies, greed and xenophobia. The sabre rattling we're now seeing at Westminster is terrifying. It takes an Irish writer, wise Fintan O'Toole, to call it out for what it is: England recasting itself as a victim of colonisation, emerging from the imaginary 'empire' of the EU. 

Somebody remarked to me today that - living in the EU - he always makes it clear that he is Scottish, not English, because so many of his friends, coming from many different nations, have admitted that they really don't much like the English now. They're very fond of Scotland though.

I'm glad for Scotland, but sad for England. After all, I was born there, albeit with an Irish grandmother and a Polish father. I spent the first eleven or twelve years of my life in England and I loved it deeply. Still do, in so many ways. But the cultural and ideological gap between Scotland and England is now a gaping chasm, one that can't be spanned - and certainly not by one of the PM's imaginary bridges.

As most of my friends know, last year, after thinking about it since 2016, and taking some time to gather together the various papers needed, I reclaimed the dual nationality I had when I was born. It was a fiddly but not particularly difficult or expensive procedure, largely down to helpful advice from the Polish vice consul in Edinburgh and the fact that I still had a number of my father's old documents squirrelled away.

I haven't yet applied for my passport. I had all my 'ducks in a row' but then Covid and lockdown and shielding (for my husband) intervened and I couldn't get to Edinburgh. I'm hoping to do so before the end of the year. 

What the process has done, though, is to highlight for me that the citizenship is more important to me than the passport. The passport, when I get it, will be a convenience. The rather beautiful and formal citizenship letter was what I craved. Let's face it, Poland too has its troubles. But I don't think it's ever going to be stupid enough to vote to leave the EU. So the letter symbolises something very important to me - not just Poland, but Poland in the heart of Europe - and the precious retention of my European citizenship that the Cummings government has tried and failed to take away from me.

I loathe the constant stream of tabloid insults to our European friends and relatives. Now the government intends to break international law, threatening the Good Friday Agreement in the process. I resent every lie, every implication that the EU is the enemy, every wretched inconvenience. I resent having to try to stockpile food and medication. I resent every smirking politician who invades my TV screen, disparaging the rest of the continent to which I belong, and which I love. 

But you know what I hate most of all? I hate the way the revulsion at what this government is inflicting on the rest of us fills my days and disturbs my nights. 

I've always been interested in politics. I can't call myself an activist, but I've done my bit. I campaigned to join the Common Market, back in the 70s. I've been a Labour party member and now I'm a member of the SNP. I've read and debated and I've always voted. 

I've also made big mistakes. Huge. Voting no at the last indyref was the biggest mistake of my life, and, hand on heart, I did it because I swallowed the lie that it was the only way of remaining in the EU. I've regretted it every day since. I didn't do my homework. I didn't look at countries like Finland - which I know well - and Denmark and Norway, and wonder why on earth we couldn't be like them. There's nothing I can do about that now except say sorry, and campaign for independence. And to be fair, I've been welcomed into the fold like the lost sheep in the bible. 

But it strikes me that although politics should be something we all engage with, it works best when we don't have to think about it every single day; the way so many things that are important to us in our lives go on working just well enough that - even the most proactive of us - don't have to consider them or be afraid of them all the time. I am careful what I buy, shop local as much as possible, read labels. But I don't spend my entire days worrying that the farm shop down the road is up to something nefarious behind my back. I trust them. I love the fact that the water that comes out of our taps here tastes pure and clean and I would be alarmed if it didn't. But I also pretty much trust Scottish Water to keep it that way, without worrying about it every time I drink a glass of water.

Throughout my life there were some governments who seemed to be doing their best, and some that I didn't trust. Some I voted for and some I didn't. I never believed that any of them would keep all those fine election promises. And there were some that I disliked intensely. But there has never been a government like this one. 

It was in 2016 that everything changed. At first, we thought it might be OK. Given the closeness of the referendum result, and the way in which Scotland voted to remain in the EU by an overwhelming majority, we actually thought that some sensible compromise might be reached. And you know, we would have gone along with it. Leaving the EU would have been bad and we wouldn't have liked it, but staying in the single market and customs union would have honoured the referendum result while accepting that just under half of the country disagreed. That would have been a way forward: a decent and honourable compromise. And it wouldn't have threatened the Good Friday Agreement in the way that it is under threat now.

There was no compromise. None whatsoever. There were people who predicted the way things would go and we thought they were exaggerating. We underestimated the xenophobia and carelessness and malice at the heart of the state. We underestimated their determination to placate the Brexit Ultras. They threw it all away: forty seven years of co-operation and collaboration. Almost all of my adult life. All that goodwill, all that regard, all that honour and honesty. All those - let's face it - special privileges England demanded and largely got. They threw it all away to placate a minority of delusional haters.


God alone knows. For money? Because they're disaster capitalists? To save an ageing Tory party? Because it was always the plan? Because some of them never really understood that blackmailers will always ask for more? Because they thought that if they were dishonest in very specific and limited ways, we would all be fooled into agreement? 

As I write this, the European press are increasingly bemused - but also amused - by our self destructive posturing. They still have each other and they can do without us. So long and thanks for all the fish.

Hunting around for some - any - words of wisdom, I'm reminded of an F Scott Fitzgerald observation: Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.

It doesn't help our despair, but it helps to explain their difference and their indifference. 

In last week's Brexit Blog post, The Descent Into Political Insanity, the usually measured and restrained Professor Chris Grey pulls no punches when he points out that the Brexit Ultras are now willing to sacrifice anything and everything to a cause that has long since ceased to bear any resemblance whatsoever to the promises they made. It has now become – and I don’t use this term lightly or carelessly – a form of political insanity, and it is an insanity which has spread to the entire government.

Precisely. Which is why Scotland must save itself. And soon. We must not allow ourselves to be dragged off the cliff with our neighbours. We've tried to talk sense into them, but it hasn't worked. We've been willing to compromise in all kinds of ways, but we've been ignored and our elected representatives insulted. We are rich in things that matter. And we have plenty of friends elsewhere in Europe who would be happy for us to cut the rope. When England comes to its senses, we can forgive, get on, heal our divisions, be better neighbours. But it doesn't look as though that's going to happen any time soon.

Meanwhile, how's your stockpile of imported goods coming along? 

Xenophobia, Bad Behaviour and the Blame Game

I don't normally blog about politics, even though I have strong opinions (don't we all?) but sometimes politics and events in your home country overlap with the kind of character analysis you find yourself doing all the time as a writer and sometimes you just have to say something.

Way back in 1983, the Russians were accused of shooting down a passenger airliner, with great loss of life. It was one of those terrible incidents that could be attributed to a horrific set of coincidences - always much more likely to occur at times of international tension. The aircraft had strayed off course, and the Russian fighter planes claimed that they couldn't identify it as a civilian aircraft. Disaster ensued.

Our tabloids, of course, had a field day. I had only moved to this village some three years previously. And I had an Eastern European surname. It's my dad's name and I'm proud of it, so I always tended to use it professionally, even after I got married. But of course all Eastern European names sound the same to many people, and - going about my business on the quiet street where I live - I found myself the target for name calling and jeering from a group of young lads.

My husband happened to know and like the father of the chief culprits. He had a quiet word and it all stopped, as if by magic. And that was that.

The interesting thing though, is that those 'culprits' were not the chief culprits at all. They were invariably the fall guys. They are all grown up now, and they never really got up to any more than minor mischief. This is still a rural area, where farmers don't stand for any nonsense and everyone knows their neighbours. But the more I kept an eye on the dynamics of that group of lads, back then, the more obvious it became that the real villain, in a small way, was the neat, clever, good-looking, middle class boy whom everyone praised as being 'such a nice boy'. He would set up situations but when retribution struck, he was nowhere to be seen.

One example will suffice. From a distance, I saw him kick a football at a martin's nest, on the eaves of one of the old cottages, deliberately dislodging it and bringing it down into the street. A moment or two later, an irate householder emerged, to find the usual suspects, still hanging about looking guilty, while the real culprit had - as if by magic - melted into the scenery. He always contrived to do it, and for all I know, he may be doing it still.

He may have gone into politics, where he is still destroying lives, and then melting into the scenery, leaving those less cunning to take the blame.