John Bull Profile picture
Author of the Brexit Tapes. Editor of @lonrec. Historian. Journalist. Occasional grand strategy game streamer. Once made Neil Gaiman cry.
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27 Jun 20
I want a sitcom about Legolas and Gimli, in which they've fallen through a dimensional portal and are living in a small flat in Brooklyn.

They have to work in the gig economy, and there's a subplot about whether the old lady who lives next door is actually Sauron.
There's a recurring joke where at least a couple of times a season members of the original film cast turn up as random one-line extras. Making Gimli and Legolas double-take every time.
"Aragon?! ARAGORN! Legolas! It's ARAGORN!

"Read my badge dude. My name is Alan. You want Mayo on this sub or not? C'mon man. There's a queue."
Read 13 tweets
26 Jun 20
Been seeing a lot of tweets about the Union Jack on Johnson's plane being the wrong way up.

It is. But no one is really explaining why.

So let's talk planes, flag codes, sloppy copy/paste of French aircraft tail designs and blitz-fire-damaged aviation ensigns #thread New UK plane design. Flag on tail. The wrong fucking way aro
So the Union Jack has a right way up. The white stripes are the clue. Here's a handy guide from WikiHow.

Hanging it upside down is an international sign of distress. This is presumably why so many garden flagpole racists get it wrong. It's their subconscious crying out. graphic showing the correct way up for a Union Jack - fat wh
"Ahhhh!" You say, if you're one of those annoying tweeters with too many numbers in your name, "but there's no flagpole on a plane, is there?! QED Boris is awesome something something angry snowflakes."

Well you're wrong. Because this isn't Vietnam. There are rules.
Read 26 tweets
11 Jun 20
Okay, Pro-tip here for Microsoft Office 365 users:

Editor > Settings > Inclusivity. Tick the boxes.

Your spellchecker will now help you to start overcoming your subconscious biases.

(It's a brilliant feature. I wish they'd make more noise about it). ImageImage
UPDATE: For those not seeing it, I've asked Microsoft Office to confirm availability.

To my knowledge, I'm not running any additional plugins or on anything other than business-version Office 365.
More advice for those trying to find it:
Read 12 tweets
1 Jun 20
HANCOCK: So thanks for joining me at Cabinet Subcommittee today to test 'Garden Adventures!' Our new roleplay module. This is Josie.
HANCOCK: Josie is from NHS Digital, and she's Zoomed in to DM for us.
JOSIE: Okay, to begin, have you all rolled characters? #thread
HANCOCK: So my character is Catt Hanmock. She's...
WILLIAMSOM: Catt Hanmock?
HANCOCK: Catt Hanmock. It's an anagram
WILLIAMSON: Not the most obvious one
JOSIE: Respect the table Gavin
HANCOCK: Anyway Catt is a level 3 NHS keyworker who still likes being clapped.
JOSIE: Why don't you go next then, Gavin?
WILLIAMSON: Sure. I'm Gav Awesome. He's a level 4, ex-MI6, MMA Fighter and chopper pilot
RAAB: No fair! I thought we had to be realistic!
WILLIAMSON: That's realistic
JOSIE: Gavin...
WILLIAMSON: Okay fine. Ex-chopper pilot. Now a teacher.
Read 22 tweets
24 May 20
A lot of us journos who knew Boris from his city hall days have said this since the beginning.

Boris likes the IDEA of leadership more than leading. Same as he seems to like the idea of relationships more than being in them.

He just likes 'winning', and people seeing he's 'won'
Everything is about conquest and ownership with Boris. It's about having more toys and titles than WHOEVER he has decided are his peers at any given moment.

He wants to be loved. He wants to be acclaimed. He wants to be envied.

He DOESN'T want to actually do anything himself.
Boris would rather be King than PM. Simply because he likes being a figurehead, not a manager.

Now don't get me wrong: there are certain circumstances when that can be quite useful. AS LONG AS the people actually doing the work are smart, and manage upwards.
Read 10 tweets
15 May 20
To those asking: we won't do anything on the TfL/Gov deal on @lonrec as we like to give it a few weeks to get the full picture/detail.

Here's some VERY quick initial points for you to think about from me, based on what has published so far though #thread
The deal includes limitations on Freedom pass and a return to fare increases. Most likely RPI+1.

That's bad news for those affected. POLITICALLY it's actually rather good news for Khan, whether he's realised it or not.
The current FP model is broken and outdated. Fares were always going to have to return to rises too.

Pretty much EVERY candidate in the Mayoral elections was stressing about how to explain that to voters.

Now the government is the bad guy.
Read 20 tweets
13 May 20
The framing on this is outrageous.

I'm just going to post, verbatim, the bits from my TfL Finance article where we debunk the 'myth' public transport in London is somehow optional.

It is not. It is a necessity. /1
"Drive to work” may sound like a reasonable temporary measure. And indeed for the majority of the UK it is not only reasonable, but a return to the norm. In London, however, this simply isn’t possible. /2
This is a complex issue. A few very broad comparisons, however, should serve to highlight the difference between London and the rest of England in this area. /3
Read 17 tweets
12 May 20
I'm not saying you HAVE to read my article on TfL's finances, but I kinda need to point out that TfL is a LOCAL AUTHORITY about 24hrs from beginning the Section 114 process.

And if you are a local government nerd, you are going WAIT OH SHIT WHAT right now.

This matters. #thread
So what's a Section 114?

Well local authorities - ya know, your local council - have to agree annual budgets by law. They then have to STICK to those budgets throughout the year. Obviously.

The moment they can't. Their CFO HAS to initiate the Section 114 process. By law.
Now anyone in local government will tell you that a Section 114 is a proper 'sit down. stop shaking. have a glass of whiskey' moment. for a CFO.

It's basically a stop order:

Read 12 tweets
17 Apr 20
It's Friday. I should be boozing but no. Lockdown.

So have a history thread about where I should be.

Let's talk about Bradley's Spanish Bar, London's classiest and oldest (maybe) dive bar, and about how a bunch of old Greek wrestlers helped turn a tiny corner of Soho Spanish.
So this is Hanway Street which links Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. If you're a Londoner, you've probably walked past it bunch of times.

Two things should set your London history spidey senses off here:

1) It's PROPER tiny and wobbly.
2) It has weird old bollards.
Both these things shout 'VERY OLD ROAD' and that's 100% true. Hanway Street is an ancient parish boundary lane. It's no-man's land. Soho's forgotten March on Fitzrovia's southern border.

Which is, I suspect, why @neilhimself made it an entrance to London-below in Neverwhere.
Read 22 tweets
13 Apr 20
Challenge accepted.

Let's play historical detectives. Because you just need to think a bit laterally with this stuff.

This is the uncovered shop front in question. It's on Lea Bridge Road, Walthamstow. /1
Okay, so the easy and obvious bit first is always to hit up the 1911 census, as it's the latest one we have full access to. Do we get any Dollows and Goldbarts?

And the answer: yes. A LOT.
Now there are a bunch of Dollows, but there's no obvious Walthamstow link. London, Stepney, Whitechapel, Hendon and York.

So East London and North London with a York outlier.

If you know your London (and York) history, then that says one thing is likely: Jewish families.
Read 17 tweets
28 Mar 20
The last time a Royal Navy ship fired a full broadside, and a triumph based in part on the work of Dilly Knox and his entirely female team of codebreakers at Bletchley.

And Cunningham admitted that (unlike Monty). Even visited Bletchley to thank them.
Also indirectly led, decades later, to the public admission of Bletchley's existence. Thanks to a randy Italian admiral, accusations of spying and an in-court decryption of the original fleet order by the late, great Mavis Batey (one of Dilly's team).

Must write that up one day
Both Cunningham and Monty wrote autobiographies BEFORE Ultra/Bletchley's existence was public, btw. They're both fascinating to read knowing what we know, now.

Cunningham makes lots of little clues and comments suggesting he had 'help'. Monty doesn't.
Read 17 tweets
17 Mar 20
Major Clem Attlee was (almost literally) last off the beach during the retreat from Gallipoli (lead the rearguard).

I remember reading that occasionally he'd make a veiled comment about that if Churchill got a bit too batshit in the War Cabinet.

Tended to focus Churchill's mind
This, and the current situation, also highlight why good leaders don't surround themselves with yes men. You need smart dissent in the room.

Boris Johnson thinks he's emulating Churchill. But he's not. He's emulating Skeletor.
Only weak leaders surround themselves with idiots. People who THINK they're smart but are too insecure to put that to the test.

As an old boss taught me:

1) Hire smart people
2) Break their plan
3) Make it unbreakable together
4) Get out of their way
Read 3 tweets
12 Mar 20
Coronavirus doesn't have to be scary, if you prepare your home properly. Here's a few top tips.


When it's all over, bottle caps will be currency. Leave them scattered on your desk, or strategically placed in empty drawers in rolls of ten.

During your confinement, keep a diary of your thoughts. Record this on physical media (tape decks are cheap on Ebay!)

Leave these in interesting places around your house. Remember to start sequentially from your front door!

Wrap some barbed wire around a baseball bat and place it in a box near your front door. Lock it with a combination lock.

Don't forget to scrawl the combination on a scrap of paper and leave it in a cupboard upstairs, just in case!
Read 11 tweets
6 Mar 20
Another issue on top of this: Too many people/politicians think infrastructure investment is linear.

i.e. you can get away with freezing investment one year, and just spend twice as much in the future to "catch up".

It doesn't work like that. Here's why. /1
So your reaction to that first tweet was probably:

"B'wuh?! Why can't you just spend twice as much in future?"

And that's cool. I get that. It's how our brains work. But it's wrong.

Because you have to think about the CUMULATIVE costs over time of not fixing/investing.
These (broadly) fall into three categories:

1) Mitigation costs
2) Inflationary costs
3) Opportunity costs

Let's start with the first one.
Read 13 tweets
2 Mar 20
This isn't a new idea. People have been banging on about rebuilding the Great Central Railway, as if it's a viable alternative to HS2, for about 10 years.

It's not. And the whole idea is disingenuous for a whole bunch of reasons. /1
Let's start with the obvious one:

It's πŸ‘ not πŸ‘ the πŸ‘ same πŸ‘ route.

No Leeds or Birmingham which is, ya know, kinda a big deal.

It's like giving a kid a Gobot and saying "here's your new transformer" (showing my age here. 😁 )
Next, talk of the route still being "available" are just... well... wrong.

Lord save us from old white dudes with crayons and Google maps. They like to brush over minor inconveniences such as that you'd have to tunnel under most of Nottingham or Leicester.

Have fun with that.
Read 15 tweets
29 Feb 20
<An evil volcano lair. Alarms sound>

MINION: She's getting closer sir.
EVIL GENIUS: No matter! The ignition sequence is complete. Firing now...
MINION: Sir...
EG: No give it a second. Touch unlock just takes a while sometimes.
MINION: It's just that she's getting closer and...
EVIL GENIUS: It's fine! It just takes a minute!
MINION: Was it definitely that finger you configured touch unlock for?
EG: Are you questioning me?!
EG: I mean I think it was...
MINION: Try your index
EG: Ok
EVIL GENIUS: No, that's not working either. I'm going to let the screen dark out and...

<blarp blarp>

MINION: She's past the shark room, sir
EG: Blimey, that's good work
MINION: Yes sir
EG: Okay there, let's try... gah
MINION: Still no sir?
EG: I don't get why it's so stubborn
Read 11 tweets
13 Feb 20
HAMMOND: Goldeneye?
CLARKE: Sounds good. Licence to Kill? Odd Job ban?
HAMMOND: Of course.

<ding dong>

HAMMOND: That'll be Lidington. You set it up, I'll get the door. David! You better have got those snacks and...


JAVID: Hello.
HAMMOND: ....ah shit.
HAMMOND: What do you want?
JAVID: The Saj had to get away
CLARKE <other room>: Is that David?
HAMMOND: It's Javid
CLARKE: What does that twat want?
HAMMOND: I just asked him that
JAVID: The Saj
CLARKE: Is he still calling himself The Saj?
CLARKE: Tell him he's a twat
HAMMOND: What DO you want?
JAVID: The Saj had nowhere else to go
CLARKE: Remind him that he's a twat
JAVID: They've forced me out!
CLARKE: Like a really big one
JAVID: Does he know the Saj can hear him?
HAMMOND <shouts>: He can hear you Ken
CLARKE: Oh Good. You're a twat, Javid!
Read 13 tweets
11 Feb 20
Speaking as an occasional 'TV Expert', this isn't a BBC problem. It's a broadcast media problem. It happens because the expert system is often self-policed.

Here's a quick thread on my experience of how it mostly works.
I'm going to reiterate this first, as Twitter is stupid.


It is the result of the explosion in talk radio and (first) 24hr and (now) instant news coverage. Stop and think for a second: how many 'experts' does the industry need every day:

Worse, most shows (again, radio or TV) need experts quickly. Not just same day, but sometimes same hour. This is because they are under enormous pressure to break the story or remain current.

Shitty government comms encourages this, by not pre-briefing, to avoid better coverage.
Read 19 tweets
24 Jan 20
Thread time!

Meet Mary Burchell, one of the most successful romance writers EVER. Over 110 Mills & Boons to her name.

Got an image of her in your head now, right? Bin it.

Because Mary is a Righteous Gentile.

She wrote books to fund her efforts to help Jews escape Nazi Germany
Mary was born Ida Cook (and we'll call her 'Ida' from now on) in Sunderland in 1904. Her parents were an average middle class couple, and Ida and her sister Louise had a sheltered, happy upbringing mostly in London (their mother was a proper 'Bow Bells' cockney).
One thing their parents were very good about was just letting the girls be themselves.

As a result, by the 1920s Ida and Louise were both working in secretarial roles, happily living their own lives, but together. They would remain life-long companions.
Read 37 tweets
15 Jan 20
Don't think I've ever told my favourite Drop Bear prank story on here. So here's a quick thread.

It starts on a peacekeeping deployment, and highlights why you need to be VERY careful what you tell new arrivals. /1…
So this story really belongs to an old boss of mine, who we'll call 'The Major'. It's about one of his peacekeeper deployments. I believe to Sierra Leone.

One of the ways, naturally, that soldiers let off steam on what was a pretty dark deployment sometimes was through pranks.
Generally speaking, The Major and their other officers ignored this, AS LONG AS it didn't disrupt operations, hurt anyone, offend anyone (local or peacekeeper) or go to far. They recognised the value of the stress relief.
Read 16 tweets
6 Jan 20
Britain once launched its own rockets. Today the last legacy of that will pass overhead.

She's called Prospero. And she's our only independently launched satellite.

This is why you should look up and give her a wave. /1
She was launched from Australia in October 1971, on top of our own rocket launcher: Black Arrow

This was the result of some British lateral thinking after WW2. America had nicked all the German V2 rocket scientists so we nicked the engineers and soldiers who'd launched them.
Prospero is the legacy of this brilliant piece of rocketry on the cheap. We were doing High Test Peroxide launchers while everyone else was still on solids.

Bluntly: we were doing HTP DECADES before everyone in Silicon Valley decided it was cool and super-efficient.
Read 14 tweets