Squirrel Scam

This morning – Brexit morning – I was cycling to work when a squirrel crossed my path, carrying another squirrel in its mouth. I assumed it was some sort of omen, something about Britain cannibalising itself. But it seems the second squirrel might have been the baby of the first, and that carrying one’s young in one’s mouth is an emblem not of a cannibalistic Britain but of a warm and furry and nurturing Britain struggling to get across a busy road and a bit wild-eyed in consequence.

The world is a dangerous place, as I fear we are about to find out. Yesterday evening I was on the wrong end of a phishing email, purportedly from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Here is the mail:


In a spirit of hands-across-the-ocean co-operation and fair-play, I was moved to reply, as follows:

May I suggest ‘You have’ for ‘You’ve’ and ‘We have recalculated’ for ‘We have recalculate’. Also ‘If you want’ is very direct and informal. You should try something a little more polished, such as ‘Should you wish to’. ‘Determinated’ should, as I am sure you are aware, read ‘determined’ (an easy mistake to make, over-generalising from ‘determination’). Further, ‘If you will…’ is grammatically incorrect in this case. You also insert a stray space before a comma, on two occasions. Oh, and the day the tax office addresses me as ‘Hi ferrisjt’ is the day I declare myself an independent state and dig a moat around my house and get myself a little cannon.

HMRC does many things wrong, but it writes OK English, in the main.

Good luck with your otherwise first-rate scam.

I think there is probably a good opening for an editor of scam emails in our Brave New Brexuent World, and I advertise my services accordingly.



I don’t know if we can now regard ourselves as at the denial or bargaining stage of grieving, where the referendum and our upcoming Brfreefall are concerned. Over the weekend the papers (anyway, the ones I read) were full of stories about the impossibility of our ever triggering Clause 50, about the near-certainty of a parliamentary revolt, of a second referendum (best of three! as Nigel Farage was quick to point out), of a Scottish veto. The path to exit is seemingly strewn with obstacles, practical and psychic and moral. Brexit is a fiction. It can never happen. If we ignore it, it will just go away. Like cats, we ask insistently to go out until they open the door, and then we just sit and stare at it.

Melencolia I (B. 74; M., HOLL. 75)*engraving  *24 x 18.8 cm *1514

Melencolia I (B. 74; M., HOLL. 75) *engraving *24 x 18.8 cm *1514

We are, evidently, in a state of shock. It is curious that events of national importance can have such a strong micro-impact on our daily lives and psychological well-being. It is, I suppose, a lingering tribal instinct. We somehow identify the nation with our social group. We are wired to care about blips in GDP, the value of the pound, beyond any economic logic. They are our markers. They tell us how we are doing.

And we are admittedly doing rather poorly at present. Rather than planning any sort of future, most of the major players have been reduced to panicked infighting. Never waste a good crisis, said Winston Churchill, and perhaps that is what they are all doing. Not wasting the crisis. And perhaps just as soon as the rest of us emerge from our deep slumbering trauma, pass from denial to anger, or from bargaining to depression, and on to a sort of furious acceptance, we can get on and not waste the crisis as well.