2016 Notebook

From the late 90s I blogged frequently with various random observations and things I wanted to record. Pre-2003 material seems to have been lost on various early web platforms, and this sort of stuff went over to Twitter eventually, but I’ve gathered together the shorter WordPress blog posts in these annual roundups…

My complete guaranteed predictions for 2016

Friday 1 January 2016


Denmark: makes the news in May.

I’m sure that some of you may take these predictions for 2016 and somehow make money out of them, because they’re guaranteed**, but nevertheless, on this new year’s day, I’m going to tell you what 2016 has in store for everyone. Use the information as you will.
JANUARY: England win the Test series in South Africa 2-0 (odds: 12/1). Nick Compton is player of the series. Toasters are big news.
FEBRUARY: JMW Turner is announced as the new face of the £20 note (4/1). The top Oscars are won by Leonardo DiCaprio
(4/11)and Cate Blanchett(11/2), with Carol getting Best Picture (14/1) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Best Director (11/4). Rihanna is unavoidable.
MARCH: Batman v. Superman is rubbish. Apple makes the most amazing tech acquisition of all time. George Osborne sends much of the pensions industry the same way as he sent the solar panel industry, by scrapping tax relief for pensions. The Decemberists announced as headliners at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Oculus Rift launched, making a lot of gamers very nauseous. Apple Watch 2 looks just like the Apple Watch.
APRIL: Australia win the ICC World Twenty20 in India (5/1)*, beating the hosts in the final. Rory McIlroy wins the Masters (13/2)* by 3 shots. Amazon launches an amazing smartphone. Pineau de Rey (33/1)* wins the Grand National.
MAY: Denmark win the Eurovision Song Contest, comfortably. Spurs wrap up an unexpected Premier League title (11/1) by 2 points, with Arsenal, Manchester City and (rather brilliantly) Leicester making up the Champions League places. Aston Villa (1/12), Norwich(7/2) and Swansea(9/2) are relegated, with Middlesbrough (1/6), Derby(2/7) and Ipswich(5/1)* taking their places. Liverpool(9/1)* win the FA Cup, beating Everton 2-1 in the final. Labour retain control of Cambridge City Council but with a net loss of two councillors. The people of Cambridgeshire do their duty and unquestioningly elect Jason Ablewhite as their new Police and Crime Commissioner, although they’d elect a park bench if it was what the local Conservative party offered. Captain America: Civil War turns out to be rather good.
JUNE The UN elects Irina Bokova as the next Secretary-General. Rihanna is even more unavoidable. Hands-free scooters (hoverboards, Swagways, Swegways, etc) are everywhere and the government is pressured into legalising their use on pavements. Best Glastonbury ever with Muse (5/1), Adele (evens), ELO and Diana Ross. Half Man Half Biscuit play in Cambridge. England win their group (evens) at the Euro 2016 Championships, but are defeated in the semi-finals (5/1).
JULY In the final of Euro 2016, Germany(11/4) beat Belgium 3-0. Robert Lewandowski wins the Golden Boot (18/1). Stan Wawrinka(12/1)* is the Mens Wimbledon 2016 winner, with Victoria Azarenka(12/1) winning the Women’s title. Henrik Stenson wins the Open at Troon (33/1)*, just ahead of Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka.
AUGUST: England win the Test series vs Pakistan 3-0. Mo Farah (twice (8/15)), Jessica Ennis-Hill(6/4) and Greg Rutherford(8/11) all succesfully defend their titles at the Rio Olympics, where Team GB equal 2012’s six-medal haul. Swimming is judged as our biggest improvement at the games. Overall, Britain win a decent 42 medals with 12 golds, compared with 65 and 29 in London.
SEPTEMBER: Damian Lewis is announced as the next James Bond (11/2). William and Kate announce yet another pregnancy. The EU Referendum is held, and there’s a surprisingly large win for “Leave”(7/4) (55%-45%) (7/1). David Cameron resigns as leader of the Conservative party (11/2). In a completely unrelated occurrence, Angela Merkel also resigns. iPhone 7 is surprisingly curvy and includes solar-powered battery top-up system.
OCTOBER: Europe win the Ryder Cup 15-13 (11/8). I finally admit that at least one of the predictions for 2016 on this page isn’t that hot.
NOVEMBER: Hillary Clinton wins the US presidential election (8/11) by a landslide. Magnus Carlsen wins the World Chess Championship. Nico Rosberg takes the F1 Drivers Championship (7/2), with Mercedes(1/5) winning the constructors’ title. Boris Johnson gets elected as the new leader of the Conservative party and becomes Prime Minister (13/2). Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the largest film opening of the year.
DECEMBER: Chocolate is a lot more in the news and a lot less available for Christmas stockings. Jessica Ennis-Hill wins Sports Personality Of The Year (8/1). The FTSE 100 ends the year at 7,054. Jesus returns to Earth. Southampton and Manchester Utd lead the Premier League.
**I guarantee that these predictions for 2016 may or may not come to pass over the next 12 months.
*Money where mouth is: I’ve done these on a 5p Super Heinz.

How should an MP vote?

Sunday 26 June 2016

I’m writing this in the aftermath of the EU membership referendum, and the result is still very raw. I’m probably not alone around here in having almost all of my friends, colleagues and neighbours having voted ‘remain’, and not having been exposed to whatever it is which drove people to vote the other way. In both Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, the areas which my house flip-flops for different elections, the sentiment was clear:
At some stage in the months to come, MPs are going to be asked to vote on legislation to allow the UK to leave the EU. How should they vote? In my opinion, the issue brings us to the fundamental question of who an MP represents. I want an MP who represents the views of their constituents, but I recognise that there are other views on this. Many, particularly on the left in my experience, believe that an MP represents the party to which they belong, and should always vote to support that party. They say that voters understand this when they vote for them. Others say that this is a representative democracy, and that we are simply electing someone to make the best judgement they can on each issue as it arises; they want an MP to vote with their conscience.
I believe that the people who voted ‘remain’ in the referendum do not expect their MP to automatically acquiesce to a national sentiment. SNP politicians who lost their referendum did not do so; they resolved to continue the fight, and were richly rewarded at the ballot box.
So how should our two local MPs, Daniel Zeichner (Labour, Cambridge) and Heidi Allen (Conservative, South Cambridgeshire) vote on legislation to allow the UK to leave the EU? Well, it depends on which factors they see as the most important. Here’s a table which sets out what they have to consider:

Daniel Zeichner
Heidi Allen
South Cambridgeshire
Stated personal convictionRemainRemain
National party policy pre-referendumRemainRemain
National party policy post-referendumRemain (presumably)Unknown
Local party member sentimentRemainUnknown (possibly Leave?)
Overall constituency voteRemainRemain
Own party voters in constituency sentimentRemain (almost certainly)Remain (probably*)
National voter sentimentLeaveLeave

It seems to me that both MPs, especially Mr Zeichner, should continue to fight for continued EU membership in any way that they can, unless they genuinely believe that a national referendum outweighs any local considerations. This includes voting against leaving the EU in parliament. Certainly that’s the path MPs in Scotland will be taking.
I put this to the MPs concerned via Twitter, and received an immediate response from Ms Allen, who has already been described as one of the best communicators in this parliament:
This, I have to say, is disappointing. I am not suggesting that parliament as a whole should refuse to vote through legislation on leaving the EU. Each MP should weigh up the importance of the considerations which I’ve outlined above, and I suspect that if they do so, the leave legislation will be passed. But in the case of our two local MPs, I would hope the fight will continue. If it does not, it’s because they believe that the responsibilities marked ‘Leave’ above outweigh those marked ‘Remain’. In the case of Ms Allen, it means that she considers the national result, and perhaps the views of local party members, to be more important than what her constituents want overall, and probably even what the majority of the 31,454 people who voted for her want.
And that’s a very serious statement from them about who they represent.
Addendum: It’s been pointed out to me that Ms Allen will be one of the very few Conservative MPs who have a mandate from their own constituency to continue the fight for EU membership. An even fewer number of Conservative MPs (I’m struggling to find any others, to be honest) will probably have a mandate from those who voted Conservative in their constituency. I suspect that people across the country will be looking to her not to waste that opportunity.
Addendum 2: Daniel Zeichner has now stated quite categorically that he will be voting to reflect the wishes of his constituents:

Great news.

*Do the maths; at the general election, the votes here in Ms Allen’s consituency were 50% Conservative, 10% UKIP, 40% Others. At the referendum, the vote was 40% ‘Leave’. If we assume that all 10% of the UKIP voters went for ‘Leave’, and 20% of the Labour, LibDem and Green voters joined them (forming another 8% of the total), then the 50% of voters who supported the Conservatives must have provided 22% to the ‘Leave’ vote and 28% to ‘Remain’. For the Conservative vote to have favoured ‘Leave’ would have required 90% or more of Labour, LibDem and Green voters to have voted ‘Remain’, which seems unlikely.

The “Cambridge Independent” Newspaper

Wednesday 12 October 2016

If you haven’t seen it yet, the Cambridge Independent is a major new weekly newspaper for the area. I’ve really put this blog post up because a month after its launch, the newspaper still hasn’t managed to get Google to rank its website at all, and I suspect a lot of people will be searching for it online in vain. So here’s a link to the newspaper’s website!

Cambridge Independent – www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk

I suspect that in the rush to get the print issue out (which is rightly the main thing), the newspaper neglected to invest in a little search engine optimisation, which might have made a big difference to its online traffic and the general awareness of the title. The newspaper itself has got off to a good start, but you’d expect a quality product as it clearly has a decent amount of investment and it includes a lot of experienced former Cambridge News people on its staff.
My local newsagent on Cherry Hinton Road reports that although there was very little interest or awareness of the newspaper at its launch, after three weeks copies started to shift in quite decent numbers, and he’s been quite impressed. My own full self-interest disclosure coming up: I’m a member of Smarter Cambridge Transport, and the newspaper has given us a regular column, which I got to write this week (see below). Cambridge Independent Column Copies are £1, but less if you take out a regular subscription, which seems to be a decent offer. They give you vouchers which you can redeem at your newsagent each week, or (round here at least) you can leave them with the newsagent and have it delivered.

Faces Of The Year Christmas Quiz 2016

Saturday 17 December 2016

I made up a quick quiz for our Christmas party last night, and one or two people asked if they could have copies to recycle at their own gatherings, so here it is (below, click for printable PDF). All entrants need to do is to identify the faces who have been in the news for good and bad reasons this year. Do use and enjoy, wherever you may be. I reckon it’s best tackled in teams of two – each row has a connection, and if people do it on their own and one of the rows isn’t their thing, they’ll struggle to compete. But teams of three or more might find it too easy.
Our winners scored 19/20, only coming unstuck (perhaps surprisingly) on the very last one.
Anyway, here it is (click to enlarge before printing):

…and here are the answers!
If you print this out and use it, please give full credit as: “I got it off some bloke’s website somewhere”. Thank you.

Films of the Year 2016

Wednesday 21 December 2016

It’s that time again. Absolutely delighted to report that after several years of trying, and always narrowly failing, I managed to watch 52 new release films at the cinema this year. Here then are my 10 favourites, and the rest placed into some vague generalisations. Many thanks to everyone at The Light Cinema in Cambridge for making the place such an enjoyable and friendly local, and to the Arts Picturehouse in the city for filling in a few gaps by showing some films which The Light disappointingly failed to show, including my top two! Perhaps a little bit more ambition next year guys?

The 10 which just failed to make it (liked them a lot though!):

  • Bridget Jones’ Baby
  • Eye In The Sky
  • Hail Caesar
  • Moana
  • Passengers
  • Rogue One
  • Spotlight
  • The Accountant
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • War Dogs

Unremarkable, but I guess worth the trip:

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Central Intelligence
  • Daddy’s Home
  • Doctor Strange
  • Fantastic Creatures
  • Girl On The Train
  • Jason Bourne
  • Joy
  • Love & Friendship
  • Our Kind Of Traitor
  • Star Trek: Beyond
  • Tarzan
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Jungle Book
  • The Man Who Knew Infinity
  • The Nice Guys
  • The Revenant

Hard to say, I can barely remember these:

  • David Brent: Life On The Road
  • How To Be Single
  • Lo And Behold
  • Morgan
  • Now You See Me 2

…and the disappointments:

  • Absolutely Fabulous
  • Christmas Office Party
  • Creed
  • Dad’s Army
  • Ghostbusters 2
  • Grimsby
  • Independence Day 2
  • Sausage Party
  • Sully

Drum roll…

The Ten Films Which Gave Me The Biggest Buzz At The Cinema This Year:

10. Zoolander 2

9. The Edge Of Seventeen

8. A United Kingdom

7. Florence Foster Jenkins

6. Finding Dory

5. Eight Days A Week

4. Arrival

3. The Big Short

2. Youth

1. Sing Street

Music of the Year 2016

Monday 26 December 2016

So for the fifth year running, every time I came across some new music I liked in the last 12 months I added it to a ‘best of the year’ Spotify playlist. And for the third year running, the list ended up at around 70 songs (back in 2012 and 2013 it hit 100 songs – maybe I’m getting more discerning). From that, a bit like my favourite films list, I’ve picked out a Top 10 Songs of the year, and 10 which nearly made it. Some choices were chosen to acknowledge a great album, others just did it for me on their own. The only limiting rule was that I only allowed one song per artist.

Didn’t Quite Make It (but have a listen, they’re all great)

  • Go! – M83, Mai Lan
  • I Exhale – Underworld
  • Suen?os – Santana
  • You, Darling You – Treetop Flyers
  • Are You Lost In The World Like Me? – Moby And The Void Pacific Choir
  • Particles – Island Songs Vi – Ólafur Arnalds, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir
  • I’m In Love – Teenage Fanclub
  • Miss Fortune – The Coral
  • High Castle Rock – Chris Forsyth, The Solar Motel Band
  • Red Eye – King


The Top Ten

10. Can’t Stop The Feeling! – Justin Timberlake

9. Ether – Mogwai

8. Black Rabbit – Turin Brakes

7. Choke – King Charles

6. Death Of A Bachelor – Panic! At The Disco

5. The Sound – The 1975

4. I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie

3. Drive It Like You Stole It – Sing Street

Admittedly largely because it was the centrepiece of my film of the year, but nevertheless a joyous standout song.

2. Because I’m Me – The Avalanches

One of the surprise comeback albums of the year was patchy, but when it was good it was sublime.

1. Kiss Me Goodbye – ABC

The album concept which had disaster written all over it (“The Lexicon Of Love 2”) turned out to be quite glorious. This was my highlight.