I start this week off with a European flavour. Orthodox readers know and understand totally
about the halachic restrictions on men shaking hands with women, at least that’s how it
works in many communities. A German Court ruled that a Muslim doctor was correctly
denied citizenship, because he refused to shake hands with the woman presenting him with
the certificate during the ceremony. Aargh! Talk about ‘so near, yet so far!’ When one digs a
bit deeper, we realise that the individual had been living in Germany since 2002, firstly as a
language student before then qualifying as a doctor, and working his way up to a position of consultant. Commendable. However this young man, a professional of the highest order,
with a deep religious conviction, and additionally an impeccable record regarding his
integration, has now seen his citizenship attempt flattened by his non-compliance over a
handshake. Judges at Baden-Wurttemberg explained the applicant would have to
demonstrate ‘living according to the values set in the German constitution,’ which enshrines
equality, and added that a ‘handshake holds special importance’ because of its formal use in business. I personally feel sorry for this chap, who has now taken his dispute to the federal court to appeal. Surely the administration realises this young doctor is treating and saving German lives?!  I doubted his patients complained about him waving goodbye, without the mandatory handshake. In the UK such an outright rejection would possibly fall at the first hurdle, as I imagine both Government {Boris} and Royalty {Prince Charles & Queen} would be sympathetic to a person of religion, on these grounds. Maybe in the light of the current pandemonium, they should all just wear gloves?
‘Qu'ils mangent de la brioche’ we might recognise as an expression attributed to Marie Antoinette, who told the peasants to ‘go, eat cake.’ France is back in the news again with their fishermen insistent that they can have their fish and keep it. Actually that would be OUR fish… I think they’re driving an incredibly hard bargain, insisting on protecting their current fishing rights after Brexit. It's more unsavoury as they are often using super trawlers, which are decimating ocean stocks, and it's not like they are even fish & chip fans, with their palates more attuned to less traditional poisson, such as fruits de mer. They can have all of that with the greatest pleasure; just buy it from our fishing fleet, in the market, and make your frites ‘a la maison.’
Up north, not content with extending restrictions on social distancing, there are now explicit instructions that children should call 999 if their parents smack them. I can just imagine the emergency switchboard jammed up, whilst disgruntled little Johnny and Jenny ring in to complain that ‘their dad gave them a ‘skelp’ for their cheek.’ Now I will reserve further
comment on this but must share with you a wee story. In 1987, a parent in my former school decided that they would go to the Court of Human Rights, because they opposed corporal
punishment. In our school the strap was used, or the chalk duster thrown, but only veryoccasionally (and the duster usually missed). Now following the ban, the same parents
thoroughly delighted with their result – withdrew their child and put him into a private school, because they wanted real discipline. [Private schools followed suit with a ban in 1998].
Teachers suffered dreadfully with the consequences, and now we are stigmatising even
domestic sanctions. We really are letting the lunatics run the asylum – sorry kids, but
bedtime, homework and good behaviour are non negotiables. There are oodles of vexatious
complaints made daily by children, who challenge anyone in authority, especially their
parents. Nicola thinks the ban a grand idea, but I notice she isn’t a parent.
Lastly in the foreign affairs round up, it made for chilly reading to see the restructuring of
Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which is being stitched up in a move which will see at least 50
stores close, with the loss of 600 jobs. There are redundancies planned at Peacocks chains,
which are also owned by Philip Day. Day, who lives in Switzerland, has a stable of brands
including Jaeger and Austin Reed. Due to lockdown he is imminently planning to appoint
administrators. Mr Day and his investment company Spectre (based in Dubai) have been
criticised on the grounds that the businesses and landlords concerned reject the
restructuring plan, claiming they have been in dispute over rent and service charges.

There was a very interesting article on cancer this week, and you will sense shortly I’m
having a bit of a moment. You’d be right! Beth Purvis (41) had been diagnosed with S3
bowel cancer back in September 2016, and – by the following year – was deemed as S4
[metastatic], after it had spread to her lungs. Now what particularly caught my attention was that mets to the lung or liver are a precursor of the cheery goodbye which we cancer patients dread, in terms of receiving any curative treatment, but Ms Purvis had better luck than most.
Not only did she receive two operations on her lungs plus chemo in 2019 to deal with the
mets, she managed to be awarded the all clear in January, although her primary tumour was likely still there. She had a further lesion appear on her lung, and a 3rd surgery was planned for this March, but cancelled because of covid. By May, her cancer had spread to her brain and she is now deemed incurable. I can’t imagine the mental agony this must now cause, but I think back on Lucy, who never got surgery, because of shocking misdiagnosis and, ascurative treatments essentially end up ‘about the mets,’ I have a personal gripe.
My oncologist has always stated that they ‘can’t operate or remove lesions on the lungs
because a) the lung is a moving organ and b) often the lesions are small and very difficult to excise. Perhaps this lady was under a different health authority, but hey-ho, they are all
supposed to be following standardised national guidelines. If I’d had the little lesions
removed from my lung when they had first been spotted {2 years ago}, I’m convinced I
wouldn’t have found myself in a situation where they had the chance to grow like giant
marrows on the allotment {okay, okay, I’m being over graphic}, with doctors then arguing
almost a year later, that they had been ‘metastatic’ all along. And SO WHAT if they were,
because at least those nasty little blighters would be gone, and less likely to fire up like a
Roman Candle on bonfire night. For the price of the lung biopsy (denied), excision (denied),
and in the absence of anything other than a radiographers interpretation, I was then denied
potentially curative radiotherapy or surgery, both of which were on the cards for a young(ish) person like myself, with many years of life still to fight for. I’m going to be following this up with my care provider, remembering I have been off-treatment for almost a year. I am frantic my Mazal will change, and feel that this may not be one of my happier communications.

We are all feeling the pinch, so I am shocked at the amount of money being wasted on
politically correct policies in the civil service. If you knew anti-bias training for civil servants
had cost more than £400,000 over two years, for what is otherwise known as woke training, you’d refuse to pay your taxes. Other spending anomalies include Mr Blair’s now infamous trip to America, when “he came back and forgot about isolating rules,” even though he gave Matt a call in advance to check his position. With his attendant personal security team costs,
plus hire of the private jet racking up £7000 per hour, he is possibly costing us more than
HM the Queen. He’s turned himself into a fabulously wealthy speaker since his turn in office
and I’m forever asking myself why on his multi million salary, he’s not funding these little
sojourns himself? In Blair’s case, he also has a security detail watching his home constantly,
which seems a bit steep when Margaret Thatcher (and doubtless other former PM’s) wasn’t
afforded the same level of personal protection. I wonder if that’s because she annoyed fewer people, or had less of a problem with an inflating ego. All this is put in place at the taxpayers expense. Ask yourself, if it was so important that he make a presentation, could he not have travelled on British Airways, or even better, done it by Zoom like the rest of us mere mortals!
Staying on the financial front I wonder if it would surprise anyone to hear that the British
government paid up to £320 million of taxpayers money to the Chinese state run companies in their scramble to procure medical supplies during coronavirus. Part of this figure is attributable to the Department for Health and Social Care, who signed contracts with companies directly linked to Beijing, worth a total of £148 million. The Department for Health in Northern Ireland similarly awarded contracts worth £16 – 170 million for their PPE. It is surely iniquitous that someone can create such a problem, and then profit exponentially from it, although to be fair, it’s partly our own fault for having become so reliant on goods Made in China. Will we learn from this?
Finally a huge thank you to those who tuned into my Zoom earlier this week. It was an
opportunity for me to reminisce over various life events from my childhood to date, and was enhanced by my musical colleague Romano Viazzani, who joined us playing his accordion.
It was my first ever attempt at a zoom presentation, albeit slightly interrupted by problems in WiFi connection. But I’m looking forward to giving an extended talk in the future. If I’m still