Thursday 17 January 2019

Declan Lynch: 'Who needs sausages when you can save the world instead'

VEGAN TRAILBLAZER: Davey Payne, left, performing with Ian Dury and The Blockheads in London on December 27, 1979. Photo by David Corio/Redferns
VEGAN TRAILBLAZER: Davey Payne, left, performing with Ian Dury and The Blockheads in London on December 27, 1979. Photo by David Corio/Redferns
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

We have just had a vegan breakfast. It was made by our daughter, Katie, who is a vegan. It was quite nice, really, whatever it was.

In truth, I don't have much interest in food, so it wasn't a great hardship for me to be eating the Linda McCartney version of sausages, and the vegan rashers, although I didn't go so far as to try the strangely-coloured "pudding", whatever it was.

But I would venture to suggest that whatever it was, its provenance would be more gentle on my mind than that of the traditional black and white pudding, not to mention the other elements of the traditional Full Irish. No, I don't like to think about that stuff, about how the sausage is made.

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So I suppose that my instincts have always been broadly vegetarian, and indeed my innate distaste for eating animals may help to explain my fondness for McDonald's, in which there seems such a disconnection in the mind's eye between farm and fork, it rarely occurs to me that what I am eating is actually meat in any form. It's just…McDonald's, whatever it is.

Katie indeed used to enjoy the odd Happy Meal with Chicken McNuggets until she embraced the vegan ideal about two years ago, around the time she went to university - so it can complicate her busy student life more than somewhat, but then I suppose there are worse ways of complicating it.

Before that, I was aware of veganism for two main reasons, the first being the fact that I grew up at a time when the only person I ever saw described as a vegan was Davey Payne, the saxophone player with Ian Dury and The Blockheads; the second being the number of jokes about vegans, including a big one told by some well-known comedian which got a load of laughs, though the only part of it that I remember, was that it really wasn't much good.

Now my daughter has made me aware that universal veganism is more or less essential if we want human life to continue in any acceptable fashion for much longer, I realise Davey Payne was massively ahead of the curve. Indeed, when I was Katie's age, I used to think that people like Davey could change the world for the better with their music, and of course I was right about that, without realising that the man who gave us the spectacular sax-playing on Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick was working on an even bigger canvass.

And while I find it hard to see myself going full vegan with no opt-out clauses, due to that fondness for the quarter-pounder with cheese at the drive-in, I have to say that there was also a time when I thought I couldn't write an article without smoking about 40 cigarettes during it, and enjoying a selection of fine wines afterwards.

Then I thought that I couldn't write anything without the nicotine gum which replaced the cigarettes, or the plain chewing gum which replaced the nicotine gum.

These days I can do it without either the smoking or the chewing or the drinking, or the prospect of the drinking, and indeed after my vegan breakfast I can tell you that I am now topping up with a selection of fruit slices which is excellent in itself, though I am making a mental note to complain to the supermarket that the plastic container may be understandable, but the small plastic fork which is enclosed with the fruit slices, is not just environmentally scandalous, it is completely ridiculous.

So I'm here to tell you that you can find yourself doing things that you once thought unimaginable, and I'm also telling you that some of you reading this may well be vegetarians or even full-blown vegans by 2020, and thinking it quite normal - yes, I hear the young vegans being attacked for the ferocity of their campaigning, but then this has always been the way of young people who know that they are right, and that everyone else is wrong. So it is, if you like, normal.

Nor do I mock my daughter's idealism, because not only has that big vegan joke never been funny, it definitely isn't funny any more.

Whatever it is.

Don’t talk about Brexit, talk about No Brexit

It's not looking great, is it? You've got the old Brexit to be worried about, and the stock markets aren't looking the best, and the climate change thing is there or thereabouts, all of these things being made immeasurably worse in whatever way he can possibly manage it, by a US president who some believe is working ceaselessly for Russia.

Then again that's the intro that most commentators will be using at this time, marking your cards for what they see as a terrible year ahead - "how can it not be terrible?", they cry.

In this there is perhaps some solace to be found, because in relation to Brexit in particular, I have found the responses of our old friends, "most commentators", to be generally poor. It's not that they have been wrong about everything - though it will probably turn out that way - it's almost as if they don't want to be right. That they don't think it's part of their remit to draw certain conclusions from the available information, which might involve the deployment of a small bit of imagination.

I know this, because I have been paying extra special attention to everything I have heard on this subject, since the day just after the Referendum in 2016 when I suggested that "there will be no Brexit" - by which I meant either the reversal of Brexit which might take place in this Second Referendum of which we are now hearing much; or the No Brexit Brexit, the Brexit that would be called Brexit for appearances' sake, but would be so similar to what had been there already, it would minimise the catastrophe of Brexit to something much worse than Suez, but much better than the Somme.

My reasoning was simple and obvious, or so I believed - Brexit is essentially a kamikaze deal. And at some point, I knew not when - perhaps at the last possible moment - Britain would decide that it would not, after all, go down in flames.

Now I did not think that this was an outlandish assessment of the situation, but still I listened with some anxiety to most commentators, fully expecting that at some stage, some of them - or at least maybe one of them - would perhaps allude to this as a vague option on the spectrum of possibility.

I listened and I listened, with that anxiety born of being alone in the world, in making such a prediction - I listened in vain.

Imagine my surprise then, to find that the odds on these options have somehow fallen from about six-billion-to-one to something in the vicinity of evens at close of business in 2018. It's almost as if most commentators have suddenly realised that, well, Brexit is essentially a kamikaze deal and at some point - perhaps at the last possible moment - Britain will decide not to go down in flames.

But this is not about which commentators might have been right, or at least on the right planet, no, no, no, no, no... it's not about that at all. It's about how the myopia of most commentators adversely affects the whole environment, so that the only remotely sane option is hardly even spoken about until it is almost too late.

Because one of the reasons that people are now talking about a possible Second Referendum is, well, because people are talking about it.

If the vast majority of the hacketariat simply fails to mention that such a thing is feasible, naturally it will remain largely unsaid. Or at least it will remain unsaid publicly even if, in private (as they say) a lot people were saying it.

I have no doubt that many business leaders and others who live in the actual world in the UK were staying quiet, convinced that the British establishment would find a way out of this morass - though like me, they may have over-estimated the abilities of Theresa May to make a bags out of Brexit, in the right way.

It explains why said business leaders are only now saying publicly that they've have had enough of this carry-on, basically that they - and by extension the United Kingdom - don't want to die. Perhaps they felt that this went without saying until now, whereas for most commentators the reluctance to speak of such things is coming from a much sadder place. They are afraid, above all else, of not being taken seriously.

They are afraid that they will never be asked onto the proverbial Marian Finucane Show, if they are found to be expressing an opinion that has not already been expressed a thousand times. So in September, when Labour's Keir Starmer said that "nobody is ruling out Remain as an option", the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg tweeted: "Impossible to imagine this a year ago".

Impossible for some, Laura.

Will Trump take us all down with him?

With a kind of dramatic symmetry, Brexit and Trumpism are both scheduled to be having a major confrontation with reality in the next few months. We will soon know if Trump colluded with the Russians. Though many already believe it to be true - not from the fact that there are more smoking guns out there than in the saloons of Dodge City on a Saturday night, but simply from his own constant declarations that there was NO COLLUSION.

So when defence secretary James 'Mad Dog' Mattis checked out recently, there was renewed concern that Trump, if cornered, will take the nuclear option, and take us all down with him. Would he really do this? Well, the only thing we know for sure is that precedent won't help us here, nothing that has happened before is of any use to us in trying to gain a clear insight into this situation.

All we know is that world leaders in general have been most reluctant to drop the Big One, it just isn't done. But then there are a lot of things that no world leader has contemplated doing, that are second or even first nature to the Trumper.

The thing that I can never get out of my head, is the golf buggy. He drove a buggy across the green at one of his golf clubs, and I think it is fair to say that nobody - nobody in his right mind at any rate - has ever done that in the normal course of a round of golf, and thought it was fine.

Even playing this game that he loves, his delinquent energies were seen to be inexhaustible.

Here, we knew for sure, is a man with no boundaries.

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