Good piece by Margaret Atwood about… what everything’s about, these days.

Any child growing up in Canada in the 1940s, at a time before there were vaccines for a horde of deadly diseases, was familiar with quarantine signs. They were yellow and they appeared on the front doors of houses. They said things such as DIPHTHERIA and SCARLET FEVER and WHOOPING COUGH. Milkmen – there were still milkmen in those years, sometimes with horse-drawn wagons – and bread men, ditto, and even icemen, and certainly postmen (and yes, they were all men), had to leave things on the front doorsteps. We kids would stand outside in the snow – for me, it was always winter in cities, as the rest of the time my family was up in the woods – gazing at the mysterious signs and wondering what gruesome things were going on inside the houses. Children were especially susceptible to these diseases, especially diptheria – I had four little cousins who died of it – so once in a while a classmate would disappear, sometimes to return, sometimes not.

Jolyon Maugham QC and the Good Law Project are petitioning Johnson to ask the EU to allow us to have associate EU citizenship, as part of the exit negotiations. I can’t imagine it’ll do much good, but there’s no harm in signing.

On one level I think they’re trolling Johnson: suggesting that he might want to — or suggesting that there’s any chance he would — appear statesmanlike.

“Why’s it taking so long? We should just leave!” | The Reinvigorated Programmer

Good analogy:

Suppose your family lives in a flat that’s rented from a housing association. And you have come to feel (rightly or wrongly) that it’s not a very nice flat, and that the association interferes too much. So you discuss it as a family, and you think about all the lovely houses out there that you could live in, and eventually you decide to leave. So far, so good.

Italian Coffee is the Best

This post on someone who’s trying to bring Starbucks-style coffee shops to Italy is kind of annoying. Not least for the closing quote:

“It’s not that Italian coffee has always been bad,” Campeotto said. “They have been geniuses. The god of coffee is the Italian espresso. The problem is, they have been stuck there. They stopped.”

If they had already achieved the “god of coffee” (which I happen to agree with), then why would they do anything other than stop? If you’ve already achieved perfection you have no need to improve. Just make sure you maintain that level.

I spent twelve months of 1989-90 in Turin. A cappuccino was 1200 lire, or about 60p (around 45-50 US cents, probably). And it was delicious. The best coffee I had, or have, ever tasted.

The growth of Starbucks and the other chains came after that, and I’ve been looking for coffee as good ever since. I’ve never found it. The closest I ever found in London was Costa in its early days. It has slipped down to the level of Starbucks and Caffè Nero, though.

Which is not to say that any of those are truly bad: not, at least, compared to what was available before they came on the scene.

But nothing matches my memory of Torinese cappuccino.

Some Labour MPs are thinking along similar lines to me.

Wes Streeting:

“Labour cannot sit by and allow the choice to be between the economic ruin of a hard Brexit or the loss of sovereignty under Theresa May’s deal, with Britain subjected to EU rules but with no say over them,” he said. “As with any fork in the road, there is always the option of turning back home.

“We know this is a mess made by the Tories, but the Labour party can’t just sit back and watch. It’s time for all of us in the Labour party to make the full-throated case for a people’s vote with the option of remaining in the European Union.

“That leadership must now come from the top, or our party may never be forgiven for the consequences that follow.”

Chris Leslie:

“With even Tory ministers recognising Brexit threatens the poorest in society, our public services and Britain’s place in the world, to have a Labour leader just shrug about it, then go awol, is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.”

OK, they’re maybe not planning to leave the party, but still.

‘A Special Way of Being Afraid’

I only know one other of Philip Larkin’s poems; it is about parents and children. This one — ‘Aubade’ — is the best poem about death I’ve ever read.

A sample:

That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.