Are compostable plastic bags really compostable? Part 2

Part 2 of an experiment in home composting.

I am conducting an experiment to see whether The Guardian’s compostable bags do actually degrade in a home compost heap.

I finally got round to checking up on the heap on Sunday 7 July. This was exactly ten weeks after I had begun the experiment. Longer than I meant to leave it, I know, but various things intervened.

I began by removing all the material carefully with a spade and placing it into a bin. As I got near the bottom, I could see that there were two obviously separate large pieces of partly-decomposed plastic, but it wasn’t possible to tell which one was the Guardian bag and which was the one made by Greensax. There were also a number of smaller fragments which could have come from either bag.

I had to move them around a bit to get enough material exposed so that I could take a photograph, but this is roughly where they were when I uncovered them, and these are the biggest pieces I could find.

On checking back their positions in the dump from my earlier picture (left) I reckon that the fragment on the left is the Greensax bag and therefore the one on the right must be the Guardian. I was pleased to see that there were a lot of worms in the heap so they must have been doing a good job. There was no sign of the two wooden plant markers which I had carefully dated, which made me think that in the interests of science I should probably have used plastic markers. No matter.

I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised that so little is left of the two bags after just ten weeks. In my regular composting activities I have been using two or three Greensax bags every week for at least the last two years, and there are many fragments of plastic bag left over in all my bins. I have diligently moved these back to the large bags in which this autumn’s leaves will be kept, when the cycle begins again.

Having returned all the compost to the heap I then added two further distinct items, both of which claim to be compostable.

The first is a ‘compostable’ cup, acquired by my daughter at an event in the AirBNB offices. The second is the clear packaging from a loaf of bread, bought in a local food co-op. This is made by an Irish company, NJB. The company says that this is made from vegetable resources and is completely compostable.

I’ve covered all this with grass cuttings to a depth of an inch or two, then topped it off with more garden waste and vegetable peelings etc from the kitchen. I will carry on adding to this for another four or five weeks and then take a look at what has happened below the surface.

Deerie me

Yet more underwhelming signage in the Phoenix Park about feeding the deer. These ones look as though they were probably produced by staff in the Laboratory of Wildlife Ecology and Behaviour at University College Dublin, as they carry the Laboratory’s logo. It’s a shame that whoever designed them never went to the first year Information Design class which I used to run at UCD. (I see that this course is still being offered, by the way, although it is now under new management.)

There is a much better piece of design on the Laboratory’s Twitter feed, shown above, but it’s not clear whether this is meant to be a poster or a one-off exhibition panel (I suspect the latter). The typography and the use of clipart could be improved, but overall the message is clearly presented. The Twitter feed has a lovely little film clip showing the first of this year’s fawns, by the way.

Meanwhile in more Phoenix Park news, a consultation process over a new set of proposals for its future has just ended. The 18 page executive summary contains the usual guff about enhanced visitor experiences (including a possible funicular railway) and potential retail areas but not a single word about the lack of recycling facilities which means that thousands of plastic bottles and aluminium cans are left strewn in the open or dumped in rubbish bins every day.

Close, touching

Pic: Nick Shinn on Typedrawers

A great post on the Typedrawers forum reminded me of what typesetting sometimes looked like in the 1970s. Throughout much of this time I worked for the Folio Society as a publicity and production assistant. Part of my job was to design and create the artwork for publicity material – including prospectuses, forms and flyers – and press ads. Most of the typesetting for these items was still done in hot metal from various specialist Monotype houses: I still have the specimen book from the one we used most, Watkins Repro Services. After proofing, the final ‘report quality’ pulls were done on a special press on baryta paper, which gave a lovely crisp finish to the typesetting.

Less often, we used output from the various phototypesetting companies: I remember that we had a big set of ringbinders which contained the Conways catalogue, and there were others as well. I would use this for headlines if we needed a particular typeface which wasn’t available in Monotype. It was while first ordering this kind of typesetting that I came across the need for specifying letterspacing and, most of the time, I would use the instruction ‘Close, not touching’. However, at the time there was a vogue for much tighter letterspacing, as can be seen in any edition of the Sunday newspaper colour magazines of the time.

Nick Shinn’s post above brought in comments from a bunch of other big names from the type design community besides Shinn himself – Mark Simonson, Ray Larabie, Stephen Coles amongst them – as well as discussion as to whether the output had actually been generated by a phototypositor or by hand, using Letraset. August company indeed, but they don’t seem to have come up with a definitive answer.

I googled around on the subject and came up with a page which shows pictures of 1970s phototypositors, which are presumably similar to those in use in the London bureaus at the time. As all the pics say ‘Rights Reserved’ I haven’t nicked one, but you can see them at this link.

Are compostable plastic bags really compostable? Part 1

Part 1 of an experiment in home composting.

I am conducting an experiment to see whether The Guardian’s compostable bags do actually degrade in a home compost heap.

I have been using compostable plastic bags in my normal composting activities for several years but in order to run this experiment I decided to build a separate new compost bin and start a new pile from scratch. So today I have created a new heap in my brand new bin, using two loads of kitchen compost waste in separate compostable bags. One is from a Saturday edition of The Guardian, the other is from the normal range I buy in my local supermarket, made by the Irish company Greensax. I put both of these into the bin and added in some extra kitchen waste, some in a brown paper compost bag, the rest just a random pile of peelings, teabags, used coffee grounds, apple cores and the like. This is the pile shown in the photograph below, resting on some old slats at the bottom of the bin.

I then added a small amount of other garden waste (some grass cuttings and some specially cut nettles) and topped the whole thing off with a couple of spadefuls of compost from one of the other bins which have already done their work.

Here is what the new bin looked like this afternoon, after I had finished work:

I will keep on adding ordinary garden and kitchen waste to this over the next month, and then turn the heap over how much of the two plastic bags have disintegrated. Watch this space!

The Colonel B Four

The four MPs who gave the real name of ‘Colonel B’ in the House of Commons on 20 April 1978. L–R: Jo Richardson, Chris Price, Robert Kilroy-Silk, Ron Thomas. Pics from the Times Guide to the House of Commons, October 1974.

At last week’s launch of the Crispin Aubrey Archive, held in the MayDay Rooms in Fleet Street, a colleague and I were reminiscing about the ABC campaign and we realised that neither of us could recall the names of all four backbench Labour MPs who named Colonel B in a House of Commons debate.

Googling this was no use and neither was Wikipedia, although I was able to establish that it happened in April 1978. I then went through that month’s debates on the wonderful Historic Hansard website, which revealed that the naming happened during Business Questions on 20 April 1978. This was the day after the Director of Public Prosecutions had tried to block discussion of various motions mentioning the Colonel’s real name at the National Union of Journalists conference in Whitley Bay, Northumberland. The naming occurred in the form of questions about the order of business put to Michael Foot, who at the time rejoiced in the full title of Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. They weren’t all asked in a continuous sequence, so I have pasted in below the transcript of each one, as recorded in Hansard, leaving out the other questions.

The first was asked by Jo Richardson, then MP for Barking, and also a member of the NCCL’s Executive Committee. She later became Shadow Minister for Women, but died in 1994 before Labour came to power.

Miss Richardson Will my right hon. Friend try to find time, next week if possible, for a debate on Press freedom, in view of the restrictions on Press freedom in connection with the case of Colonel Johnstone, otherwise known as Colonel B?
Mr. Foot I cannot promise any debate on that subject in the near future.

She was followed by Chris Price, the MP for Lewisham West. He was also on the left of the party and had a long-standing interest in civil liberties. He lost his seat in 1983 and died in 2015.

Mr. Christopher Price Will my right hon. Friend say when we are to get a White Paper on official secrets and a debate on the subject in view of the crisis that has emerged between the Government and the NUJ over the Colonel Johnstone affair?
Mr. Foot I cannot give my hon. Friend a promise about the date of the White Paper. I am not sure that the two matters he refers to could be dealt with together. Of course, Questions can be put down in the House on these matters, but I do not think that we should necessarily say that the two subjects should be discussed together.

Next to get in on the act was Robert Kilroy-Silk, at that point the MP for Ormskirk. He was never regarded as being on the left of the party, and was often seen by his colleagues as a bit of a careerist. He later became a Shadow Home Affairs spokesperson under Neil Kinnock’s leadership. He resigned his seat in 1986 in order to take up the presentation of his own TV show Kilroy, later going back into politics as a UKIP MEP. He then left UKIP and set up his own new party, Veritas.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great disappointment in the country at the Government’s failure to implement their manifesto commitment to legislate on official secrets and a freedom of information Bill? Will he give an assurance that the Government will legislate in this Session and that we shall not have a continuation of cases of the sort that have surrounded the publication of Colonel Johnstone’s name?
Mr. Foot I can give no promise that we could legislate in this Session. The House has had indications that we do not believe that it would be possible to legislate in this Session in such a far-reaching matter. I have said — and I believe my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has indicated this to the House — that there will be a White Paper and that it will be debated. We shall have to see then how we should proceed. I am not saying that there is not considerable interest in the subject in many quarters, but I suggest that what I have proposed is the best way to proceed now.

The final MP was Ron Thomas, MP for Bristol North West for one parliament only, between the October 1974 and 1979 elections.

Mr. Ron Thomas If it is not possible to have a debate on Press freedom, could the House at least have a statement on what to all intents and purposes looks like interference by the Attorney-General in the democratic proceedings of the National Union of Journalists annual conference in regard to the activities of Colonel B, who the whole world knows is Colonel Johnstone?
Mr. Foot I would not accept my hon. Friend’s description of what has occurred. In view of the legal position, I doubt very much whether a debate in the House is the best way in which to proceed. I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends who wish to make representations will make their representations to the Government on this matter.

Because Colonel Johnstone had been named under parliamentary privilege, the mainstream media now published his real name, with it being reported on both main national TV news bulletins that evening and making headlines in the press the following day. The whole Colonel B affair was another example of the ham-fisted prosecution of the ABC case, which would reach its final act in the Old Bailey a few months later.

A spell in the CaRSI

Century House, home of MI6 in the 1970s, photographed in 2006 after refurbishment. It is now a block of luxury flats. Photo: Peter Jordan/Wikimedia Commons

The late Crispin Aubrey’s research material has now been donated to the Statewatch archive, and is in the process of being digitised. It seems a good time, therefore, to provide a brief account about my own small effort to shine a light into the murkier corners of 1970s official secrecy. 

One Sunday lunchtime in the early summer of 1976 I went to a party in Hampstead, where I met a young Scottish woman called Aggie MacKenzie. We chatted for a while and then a few hours later I gave her and a friend a lift into town in my old Austin A40, dropping them off at a bus stop before heading home to my rented flat in not at all trendy Stoke Newington.

Somehow, I had acquired her phone number and a few days later I plucked up enough courage to ring her. We began our relationship shortly after that: she shared a house in Stockwell with several other young women who worked with her in, what she told me then, was the Foreign Office. I lived on my own, so we took to spending most nights together in my flat.

Her housemates were all the kind of well-bred Home Counties types that you would have expected to be secretaries in the Foreign Office, but Ag was different. The year 1976 is famously remembered now for its long hot summer, but it was also the year in which the ‘George Davis is Innocent OK’ protest came to a triumphant end. Davis was a Londoner with a criminal past but he had been arrested and convicted for a crime he did not commit, after the police concocted a case against him. He was finally released from prison that summer under the royal prerogative. Living in east London I knew about this, but Ag knew more. Not long after arriving in London the previous autumn, she had been to the play about him which was then running at the Half Moon theatre and had even been on a subsequent demonstration demanding his release. When her bosses found out about this, she was warned never to go on a demonstration again, she told me.

This was also the time when I was instrumental in getting the community newspaper Hackney People’s Press back into publication. I had become involved in HPP the previous year, when the main person in the publishing collective had been the Time Out journalist Crispin Aubrey. Crispin had dropped out of this in the autumn and it went into abeyance for a while. However, I got together with two or three other people and we had produced a modest eight page edition in April, with the aim of building up another group. A few more then came forward and Ag also began helping on the production weekends, her typing skills leading to an immediate improvement in the quality of the artwork.

At that point I still thought that her job was in the ‘Permanent Under Secretary’s Department’ of the Foreign Office. It was not based in Whitehall, she said, but in an anonymous looking building next to Lambeth North tube station. However, a few months later she told me that this was a fiction: she was in fact working for MI6, or ‘the Service’ as it was known, and this office block was its head office, Century House. She said that she hadn’t known who her real employer was until the day she started, having been recruited straight from college in Aberdeen to work for the Foreign Office as a bilingual secretary. (She has written about this herself on a number of occasions over the last few years.) I should say at this point that I never asked her for any details of her work. There were a few times over the next couple of years when she mentioned things in passing, but we were both conscious of the fact that she had signed the Official Secrets Act, and all that entailed.

My natural caution was exacerbated in November 1976 when the news broke that two American journalists, Philip Agee and Mark Hosenball, had been told that they were to be deported from the UK on the grounds of being threats to national security. Agee was an ex-CIA employee who had written a book about his time in the agency. Hosenball was a Time Out reporter who had written extensively about security matters in the magazine. My interest in this story was given added spice by the knowledge that Crispin was a colleague of Hosenball’s in the Time Out newsroom.

Two months later, the lease on Ag’s Stockwell house ran out and we decided that she would move in with me. We had only been together in the flat for a few weeks when the news came that Crispin had himself been arrested, along with another journalist Duncan Campbell, after the pair had conducted an interview with a former soldier, John Berry, who had contacted the Agee/Hosenball Defence Campaign. The three were eventually charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act.

An ABC Defence Campaign was set up immediately and I started going to its meetings. The people attending were a mixture of family members, friends and colleagues, lawyers and the usual oddballs who turn up when events like these are advertised publicly. Although the charges the three men faced were serious, there was an element of farce both in the way in which they had been arrested and the subsequent course taken by the prosecuting authorities, and a lot of the campaign’s activities therefore concentrated on ridicule and fun. I tried to make myself useful by doing artwork for posters and badges as well as turning up for various leafletting and picketting events. It was at one of these, a lunchtime protest outside the MI5 head office at Curzon Street House, that I suddenly became aware that a small window had opened behind my head and a camera lens was poking out. As soon as I turned to look at it, the lens was hastily withdrawn and the window closed.

A few months later, in May 1977, Ag was sent by the Service on a residential course. Apparently this was standard procedure for secretarial staff, to prepare them for possible postings abroad. She didn’t tell me exactly what it would entail but I had read enough John le Carré novels to guess that it involved tradecraft and the like. The venue was somewhere referred to only as ‘the Fort’, and it was somewhere near Portsmouth. (In a sign of how things have changed since then, I now know that the site is in Gosport and is called Fort Monckton. The centre is even mentioned on the Fort’s Wikipedia page.) In preparation for the course, she had been told that she had to give her current address and phone number, so she listed ours. At this point in our relationship she hadn’t yet told her parents that she was living with a boyfriend, knowing that they wouldn’t approve. They thought that she had moved in with a female work colleague who, conveniently for her, wasn’t on the phone. However her sister, who lived in London, did know the truth.

So I was surprised when, late one evening, the phone rang and a man with a middle class English accent asked to speak to ‘Aggie’. No, you can’t, I said, she’s away on a work course. I asked who was calling. He told me that he was a cousin, and that he was unexpectedly down in London and thought he would get in touch. I said that if he was a cousin, he presumably knew Ag’s sister’s number and that he should get in touch with her in the meantime. At this point, the man sounded confused and hung up. It then dawned on me that he was in fact some sort of spook checking up on the number, and seeing who answered. Also, I knew that no one in her family called her ‘Aggie’: to them she was always Agnes or Ag. When she came home at the end of the course, I told her and she immediately agreed that it must have been someone checking.

I decided then that I should be even more careful about Ag’s real employer and not do anything to draw attention to it. However, over the year or so we had now known each other I had gleaned various bits of low level information from her which I thought it would be useful to share with the wider world. It wasn’t difficult to work out, for instance, exactly which was the building in North Gower Street which housed the headquarters of the MI5/MI6 joint station. It had no signage outside, a bomb-proof protruding ledge over the entrance doors, discreet security men sitting behind the reception desk and floor to ceiling net curtains in all the windows. I learnt to recognise similar characteristics in London’s other ‘top secret’ buildings.

By coincidence, a building in Borough High Street housing the MI6 Training Department was almost next door to my own place of work, the Folio Society’s offices in Great Suffolk Street. I would stroll casually past in my lunch break, noting how various plain vans could occasionally be seen reversing into its loading bay.

I couldn’t just give this information directly to Crispin, or anyone else for that matter. If I did I would have to reveal Ag’s real employer and even though I could trust him not to pass on the information, it would probably leak out. So I decided that the best thing to do was send it out anonymously, although I would have to wait for an opportunity to do so.

Ag went back home to Rothiemurchus, near Aviemore, for the Christmas and New Year holidays leaving me in London, and I realised that I then had time to act. I decided to create a bulletin from a new organisation which I called CaRSI, the Campaign for the Revelation of Secret Information. Producing the bulletin involved me adapting some of the tradecraft I had gleaned from all those spy novels. I had plenty of Letraset at home which I could have used to create the CaRSI letterhead but I realised that this would be easily traceable so I stayed late at work one day and photocopied the Bodoni Bold page – a type sheet I had never owned – from the Letraset catalogue on the office copier. I remember being quite pleased with the logo I designed using this photocopy, with its use of a lower case a in an otherwise all-cap setting, but I realised that I wouldn’t be able to claim ownership of it for a while. I pasted the logo up into a master page and then used the copier again to make some letterheads. The copier had a replaceable ‘blanket’ on which the original image was cast before transferring it to the copy, so I changed the blanket and threw the old one away after finishing the work. As I knew it would be some time before I posted out the letters, I reckoned the bin’s contents would be well on the way to landfill by then.

I had spotted an office equipment shop in the Strand which had a sign in the window saying typewriters for hire, so I called in there and rented a portable typewriter for a week, paying cash and leaving a deposit. To be on the safe side, I gave the shop a false name and an address in west London. Everyone was much more trusting in those days. I typed up my information onto a single page of my letterheads, rather grandiosely calling it Bulletin No.1, and put it into a plain envelope. There was a self-service photocopier at Baker Street Tube station so I went there to make copies, taking care to wear gloves when handling them.

I bought a sealed packet of envelopes and some stamps, and again wearing gloves while handling them, typed the names and addresses of various newsrooms onto a number of envelopes. I forget how many media outlets were on my list but it was probably about a dozen in all. These included Time Out, Peace News, The Leveller and various left papers. Then I put the bulletins into the envelopes, sealing them and sticking on first class stamps with a damp spongecloth, so not to leave saliva traces. I placed all the envelopes into another larger one before removing my gloves. Then I burnt all the leftover bulletins and the original master copy in the kitchen sink and flushed the ashes away. I put the typewriter away in its case, having first given it a thorough wipedown to remove any fingerprints from the keys and the carriage. I wiped down the outside of the typewriter case, took it back to the hire company and then dumped the rest of the envelopes in a public litter bin.

I decided not to post the envelopes out while Ag was away: someone might spot this, I thought, and decide that this wasn’t a coincidence. So I sealed the larger envelope up and put it at the back of a desk drawer, reckoning that she wouldn’t find it there. One day, a few weeks later I decided that the time was right to post the bulletins off, and took the envelope with me to work. I went up to the West End on my way home and posted the individual envelopes, if my memory serves me correct, in a busy letterbox in Tottenham Court Road. Again, I wore gloves and dumped the outer envelope in a public bin.

Nothing happened for a while. I think Crispin might suspected something because he made a cryptic remark to me about getting some anonymous information, but I feigned surprise. A good summary of the bulletin appeared in Peace News, and some other publications referred to it but, for obvious reasons, I didn’t want to go out of my way to save the press clippings. Crispin also referred to the bulletin in his 1981 book, Who’s Watching You, describing it as being ‘clearly based on the inside knowledge of a “whistleblower”.’

It’s now 42 years since my foray into the espionage world. Ag left her ‘Foreign Office’ job in 1978 and went to work in the press office of the National Union of Students. Shortly afterwards, I also started a new job, as the publications officer for what was then called the National Council for Civil Liberties (now just Liberty). Its dingy office in King’s Cross Road had also served as the headquarters of the Agee-Hosenball Defence Committee, and a tap on its phone had probably led to the arrest of the ABC defendants. The ABC case itself finished in November 1978 in pretty farcical circumstances with the three defendants being found guilty on three Official Secrets Act Section 2 charges, which was almost a technicality. Crispin and Duncan got conditional discharges, and John Berry a suspended sentence.

Crispin Aubrey left a voluminous archive at the time of his sudden death in 2012. As his wife Sue said ‘Crispin never threw anything away.’ It has now been handed over to the Statewatch collection and is in the process of being catalogued. Somewhere in the two and half filing cabinets there may well be a copy of CaRSI’s one and only bulletin. I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

The issue of Peace News which reported the CaRSI bulletin. (No 2064, 24 February 1978).

They know whereof they speak

For over a year the most incisive comments on the whole Brexit fiasco have come from the wonderful Irish Border Twitter account. The anonymous writer (I am the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. I’m seamless & frictionless already, thanks. Bit scared of physical infrastructure) provides a running commentary on the absurd pronouncements of ‘experts’ and politicians in London, Brussels and elsewhere as they try to find yet another solution to the backstop conundrum. (The answer is, there isn’t one.)

Another person who understands all this is the comedian and TV presenter Patrick Kielty, who comes from Co Down. His analysis of the absurd situation was published in a terrific article in Tuesday’s Guardian, with his credentials summed up in a chilling three sentences at the foot of the page: “His father was killed by loyalist paramilitaries in 1988. Those responsible were later released under the Good Friday agreement. His documentary, My Dad, The Peace Deal and Me, exploring the legacy of the Belfast agreement won a 2018 Grierson award.”

Keilty writes eloquently how for the DUP (“the political wing of the Old Testament”) Brexit is about “proving they’re biologically British, not adopted. It means the party will always order what Johnson and Farage are having but, unlike them, actually eat it.” However, as he adds, the irony is that their hardline position could mean that they end up by jumping off the cliff, thereby causing a hard border, a border poll in Northern Ireland and the perfect economic storm where it might lose that vote.

It’s worth reading Kielty’s article in full, but here is a substantial quote:

As the prime minister Maybots her way through the charade of alternative arrangements, there’s only one thing you need to know – there are no workable alternative arrangements. If there were, you’d have heard of them by now. The details of this technological masterpiece would already be a double-page spread in the Daily Mail with Rees-Mogg mocked up as Alan Turing under the headline “Enigma cracks Enigma – spirit of Bletchley takes back control”. If an alternative arrangement that worked actually existed (or was likely to exist in the next couple of years) Brexiteers would have already accepted the backstop, knowing they could easily replace it with their idea during the transition. The fact that they won’t bet on themselves tells you all you need to know about what they have in the locker.
… All of this could have been avoided if the majority in Northern Ireland had been listened to during the referendum campaign. But as Nigel Farage and Johnson trumpeted their migrant-free magic kingdom, we were Kevin in Home Alone – only remembered at the baggage carousel after the plane had landed. It’s why the minutes of the first meeting between Michel Barnier and David Davis will never be released. “So, what do you propose for your land border with Europe?” Polite laughter. “We have a land border with you guys?”
Even at this late stage, it remains the unanswered question – how can you take back control of your borders when the only land border you have can’t be put back in place? The fact that more than 70% of people in Northern Ireland voted to give up control of that border via the Good Friday agreement so they could live in peace remains totally ignored.
When Conservatives say they care about Northern Ireland, they actually just mean the freehold. Like a stable block with planning permission, they know the extra square footage adds value but they’ve no intention of actually developing it. Just as long as they can see it from the big house, they’re happy. As for those who live in the stable? If Brexit has proved anything, it’s that many Tories don’t give a stuff about the people of Northern Ireland – not even the unionists. If they did, they wouldn’t dream of a hard Brexit because it only guarantees one thing – a border poll.
That’s one that will be decided not by Sinn Féin or DUP votes, but by the moderates in the middle – nationalists who once felt Irish enough post-Good Friday agreement and those pro-European unionists applying for Irish passports. The inevitable economic downturn and border circus of a hard Brexit might just be enough to swing those floating voters and Northern Ireland out of the union. So, why would any member of the Conservative and Unionist party take that risk? Because no matter what they say in public, they’ve never honestly believed Belfast is just like Finchley.

As a Brit who has lived in Dublin for twenty years, I completely agree. Most people in Britain have some vague notion that Ireland is that other island on the left hand side of the weather map – the bit where the temperature symbols only appear in the top corner. But they can’t tell the difference between the accents of Eamonn Holmes and Louis Walsh and if they work in a call centre or mail order firm they inevitably say “Is that in Southern Ireland?” when I give them my address.

These are the kind of people who couldn’t give a toss about the unintended consequences of the Brexit decision. They just want the politicians to “get on with it”. They voted to “take back control” and the fact that taking back control could well result in the break up of the whole United Kingdom is a consequence that they just haven’t thought through.

But we are not allowed to disagree with them because they represent “the democratic will of the people”. Never mind that the slim majority in 2016 was brought about by a perfect shit storm: lies and chicanery from the Leave camp and ineffective support from the Labour leadership for the Remain campaign. This has led to the terrible position of there being a small bunch of  Labour MPs who voted Remain themselves but, because a majority in their seats voted Leave, will probably support a Tory Brexit. It will be a sad, sad day if they are the ones who – along with the DUP – finally carry Theresa May’s disastrous deal over the line.