SPEAKING at a weekend conference in London hosted by a hard-right US political think-tank, British Home Secretary Suella Braverman (above) said that the UK needs to train up lots more fruit-pickers to ensure that post-Brexit food doesn’t continue to rot in the field and on the branch.

The conference – National Conservatism, also known as Nazionalische Konservatismus – featured an array of right-wingnut speakers trying to outdo each other in winning the approval of an audience reminiscent of nothing more than a rather large Daily Mail focus group.

Fruit-picking is a subject on which Squinter is well qualified to comment because as a boy he used to pick apples and pears in an orchard near his family home in Carryduff. So listen up: If you’ve ever picked an apple or pear, chances are you did it wrong. 
The obvious way to do it is to hold with your fingers and pull, but that will potentially damage both the fruit and the tree. The apple is connected to the tree by a fruit-bearing ‘spur’ which needs to be left intact and if you grip and jerk (no tittering at the back) there’s a good chance you’ll i) bruise the ripe fruit and/or ii) remove the spur from the tree, destroying one of the tree’s fruit producers.

So cup the apple gently in the palm of your hand and twist, using the the back of your fingers and not the tips. If the apple/pear is ripe it will come away easily with just the stalk; if it is not ripe and you’re having to work to get it off, then leave it alone. And, having already been told how to identify ripe fruit by the size, colour and shade of different varieties, you’re all set. 

So it’s not as straightforward as most people think and Cruella is right to point out that you can’t just throw people into a field and let them get on with it – you have to teach them how to do it like a pro. In Squinter’s case, the ripeness explanation and the picking demo took approximately two minutes.

Squinter has never picked any of the softer fruits, but a quick chat with Professor Google assures him that the training process is similarly straightforward and brief.
So while the Home Secretary would very much like Brexit Britain to believe that the virtual collapse of the UK fruit industry is attributable to training issues, it’s not. It’s a bit like saying Sainsbury’s and Tesco can’t recruit enough shelf-stackers because the shelf-stacking degree course is too long and too expensive.

The truth is that you could bring a busload of people who have never seen an apple tree their lives to an orchard and have them picking away in five minutes flat. Similarly, a new-start in Tesco is not told that he or she can’t begin solo-stacking until they’ve spent 300 hours stacking shelves in the company of an instructor. And this truth is pointed out with all due respect to the hard-working shelf-stackers in Squinter’s family and fruit-pickers the world over.

Growing the fruit is where the training and knowledge is needed and an industry insider tells Squinter that the sector faces a very healthy future if they can manage to recruit the requisite number of pickers.

“The water used for field and orchard irrigation in Britain has of late become very conducive towards the speedier growing of bigger fruit,” he said. Asked why he explained: “Because the Tories have filled it full of human fertiliser.”

Getting that election message across

SO the DUP have still not got to the bottom of who runs (or ran) the West Belfast UPRG Twitter site amidst allegations that it was the work of one of their election candidates.
The UPRG account was an utter cesspit of bigotry, sectarianism, misogyny and racism, which comes as no surprise as the UPRG is linked to the UDA, and while that upstanding body of men has many fine qualities, a yearning for social justice not generally accepted to be one of them.

Not surprisingly, the DUPRG was being coy about the matter in the run-up to the election this week, but a party insider broke ranks to explain to Squinter that while the matter of who was responsible for the site has not yet been dealt with, its author and its content had been scandalously misrepresented in the local media, both mainstream and social.

MYSTERY: So just what's going on with the DUPRG?

MYSTERY: So just what's going on with the DUPRG?

– Thanks for talking about this, appreciate it.
– Not a bother. It’s important that the truth be told with an important election on the horizon.
– You said when you first phoned to set up this interview that you thought much of what appeared on the site had been taken out of context. Can you elaborate on that, please?
– Yes, well, there’s so much mischief-making I don’t know where to start.
– How about starting with ‘If the Taigs don’t like our culture put them on a boat to Bongo-Bongo Land along with the Ali Babas and the Kunta Kintes.’
– Ah, now, that was a piece of Michael Stone-like performance art for social media highlighting the complex relationship between immigration, culture, identity, place.  
– Then we have this message addressed to non-unionist female politicians: ‘Get back barefoot into the kitchen and get me an Ulster fry and a tin of Harp, bitches.’
– I hoped you were going to ask me about that, actually. The way I read that one is that it is an endorsement of the previously stated position of senior party members that a woman’s first job is as a mother. And since the kitchen is the beating heart of the traditional Christian family home, the tweet was a fond acknowledgment of the role women have played and continue to play in the life of Our Wee Country.
– What about… give me a minute here… ah, yes – ‘It’s National Rip Off a Burka Day. Do your bit and get out and get ripping.’
– Again, I feel that’s a passionate restatement of women’s rights and the yearning of women the world over to be free. If someone in Loyal Ulster is doing their bit to help a few birds cast off their shackles then I believe that’s to be applauded.
– Says here ‘Statement from the UDA: “At no time did we threaten to drop a female journalist off the top of a bonfire this summer.We simply suggested she accompany us to the top of one to admire the amazing view.”’ Where did you get that statement from?
– I’m told the account moderator was driven blindfolded to meet a man he doesn’t know in a pub he’s never been in.
– Who told you that?
– Man I don’t know in a pub I’ve never been in.
– The account described the Famine Song as ‘an absolute banger’ and the Billy Boys as ‘Ulster’s summer soundtrack’.
– Have you heard the songs? He has a point, like. They’re floor-fillers at the best of times, but when you’re two bottles of Buckie in on the Eleventh Night it’s like Ibiza-on-the-Woodvale. Also, it is technically correct to say the Famine is over and the Billy Boys were a Glasgow razor gang who were regularly wading in Fenian claret. If people don’t know their history then that’s their problem.
– Finally, about this other DUP election candidate who thought 39 Vietnamese migrants choking and freezing to death in the back of a lorry in Essex was the funniest thing since Grenfell Tower...
– Oh, yes, well, as the party has explained, he was very young when he put the tweet up and he now spends his times helping kittens cross the road and OAPs stuck up trees. You only have to see what age he was then and what age he is now.
– 14 and 32?
– 26 and 29.

Bonfire called off and EU rule is here to stay

BRITISH Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has decided not to have a bonfire of EU regulations after all. The Brexit Bunch were so looking forward to it that half of them were reading the proposed legislation nightly with one hand while the other half were having the text made into wallpaper.

Anybody with a titter of wit – ie anybody who didn’t vote in 2016 to turn the UK into a global comedy club – knew that it wasn’t going to happen as the sheer amount of work and bureaucracy that would be involved in putting an entirely new regulatory regime in place would have made the builders of the pyramids take a dizzy turn. And in a country which can’t pick its own strawberries, another industry sector is the last thing needed.

4,000 statutes were meant to have been binned by the end of the year, but now the Brits are stuck with them and no doubt even the ones that don’t exist – about bendy bananas and tiny Italian condoms – will continue to be Gammon Gripes.

But here’s a question: If the whole of the UK is stuck with EU regulations, what does that mean for the Protocol? The Irish Sea border will remain, and as we know, that means that for unionists This Here Pravince is a vassal state of the EU instead of an integral part of the UK. But since the most vocal advocates of Brexit now believe that Sunak’s binning of the bonfire means that the whole of the UK is a vassal state, then all good. No?