Friday, September 30, 2016

John’s pics

Every once in a while, something lands in my PO box that pretty much deserves its own video. Such is the case with a letter I received with some photos taken in Aschaffenburg in the mid-1950s, which immediately prompted a video in which I was able to compare the town as it was then with the modern town. The best thing about this video is that the historic images are ones you won’t find anywhere else — not those exact photos, in any case.

But while it was a great video (at least, I think so), it doesn’t really let you study the photos (either the old ones or the new ones) at your leisure. So here they are, in order they appear in the video (remember you can click to expand).

First, looking up Herstallstraße:

A few people commented on the video to complain about the ugly new building on the left. Bear in mind, though, that German cities did have to rebuild very extensively, and very rapidly, after the war. In the decade after, the emphasis was on building homes to deal with a massive shortage of housing stock. That said, Germany did a much better job of preserving or recreating historical buildings than, say, the UK.

Next, the Collegiate Church:

You can quite clearly see how I was unable to get the right angle. I found one photo taken from the air just after the completion of the new Town Hall, which was in 1958, and most of the buildings opposite the church simply weren’t there: it was basically a parking lot. I think that must be where John was standing when he took the photo, because try as I might I couldn’t get the whole spire in and also get the fountain where it appears on the old photo. Not without stepping backwards through a plate-glass window.

The Hotel is up next:

I like this one because at first sight it looks as if it’s hardly changed at all. And it hasn’t: it’s still run by the same family (well, at some point it passed to the in-laws, but I still count that as “in the family”), as it has been for over 100 years. It’s only when you look closely that you notice the little changes.

Finally, the castle:

What a shame that tower is under scaffolding, but the reality is that historic buildings like this require an awful lot of maintenance. I am, though, surprised that nobody picked me up on mentioning the “symbol of the six-spoked wheel” while showing images of wheels with at least eight spokes each. I probably should have watched the rough cut more closely before recording the commentary, but in fact the Mainz Wheel is supposed to have six spokes. It’s often depicted as having more, and in previous centuries people didn’t always pay attention to such fine details: nevertheless, the symbol of Mainz is supposed to have exactly six spokes.

Also notice that there are more trees (and vines, too) in the newer picture. John did take his photos in the winter (you can see a light dusting of snow in some), but still air raids and things like the lack of firewood during the war took their toll on the local tree population: this has, as you can see, since been corrected.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Public transport in Frankfurt: Additional notes

I could have picked a better day to make my video about the public transport system of Frankfurt; it was, if not the hottest day of the year, certainly not the ideal weather to be stomping about in the city. But into every life a little rain must fall (metaphorically, in this case), so I braved the elements and tried not to choke on the smog.

Of course, it’s tricky getting everything into a five-minute video (any more and people would have fallen asleep), so here are a few little extra bits — starting, though, with the map of the airport that did actually make the final cut:

There are, as I mentioned in the video, two stations. Or rather, the station is divided into two: tracks 1, 2 and 3 are in the older station, right below the entrance to Terminal 1, and are for local traffic; while tracks 4 to 7 are on the other side of the autobahn, and are for long-distance trains. You’d notice if you were going for the long-distance station by mistake: it’s quite a long walk. Printed timetables helpfully number the tracks “Regio 1” to “Regio 3” for local trains, and “Fern 4” to “Fern 7” for long-distance trains.

To get there from Terminal 2, you can walk if you’re a glutton for punishment, or you can take a courtesy bus or the SkyLine monorail. Currently under construction is Terminal 3, which is at the other end of the airport to the south, and will require an even longer journey by SkyLine.

I’m not completely sure of the logic of using an “S” to indicate the regional station and “T” to indicate the long-distance station, but that’s what’s on the signs at the airport.

For S-Bahn trains into Frankfurt, you need track 1: during the day, there should be one train every 15 minutes. Any S-Bahn train will do. Other regional trains departing from that platform will be travelling in the right direction, but those headed for Hanau or Aschaffenburg will call at Frankfurt Süd (also known as “Südbahnhof”): that’s okay, because you can still get off there and take the U-Bahn into the centre.

Some regional trains going towards Frankfurt depart, rather confusingly, from track 2, which also has trains travelling away from the city. It’s probably best simply to go to track 1 and take whichever S-Bahn train comes in next.

Regarding the Hauptbahnhof (“Hauptbahnhof” or “Hbf” indicates a city’s most important — not necessarily the most central — station), don’t be worried by the fact that track numbers go up to 104. It’s common, when a station is in two separate sections, for tracks in one section to be numbered beginning at 1, and in another section beginning at 101. That way, you can tell at a glance which part of the station the track you need is going to be. In this case, ground-level platforms are numbered 1 to 24, and low-level platforms (for most S-Bahn trains) are numbered 101 to 104.

The next map shows Frankfurt’s railways, with the S-Bahn in green and other lines in red:

Names of regional and long-distance stations are given, along with the types of train that stop there: anything in red is long-distance; “RB” indicates the “RegionalBahn”, with trains that call at every stop; and “RE” is “RegionalExpress”, with trains that, well, don’t call at every stop. The main point about this one is to give a brief overview of where the various long-distance stations are: probably a bit useless, but it might be useful for somebody.

Potentially more useful is this map of central Frankfurt:

Here, names of S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations are in white, while blue-green is for important areas of the city.

The only other thing to say is that the area around the Hauptbahnhof is not particularly pleasant. Frankfurt has, by German standards, a very high crime rate, and this is concentrated around the Hauptbahnhof area. This mostly involves drugs, and with it associated problems like violence (due to turf wars) and the like. The authorities have been unable to get a proper handle on the issue, and attempts to clean it up only result in temporarily moving it elsewhere. At the time of writing, the dealers have left Münchener Straße and are instead on Niddastraße.

It’s important to stress that while the crime rate is high, it is high by German standards — compared to many US cities, for example, it’s really not that bad. Still, walking out of the station to get a lungful of the aroma of urine is not a pleasant introduction to Germany, or to Frankfurt. You might, if this sort of thing worries you, want to avoid getting hotel or hostel accommodation in this area.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A clapperboard would look more professional

In my latest video, about the history and possible future of the geographic centre of the EU, I went “on location”, as we in the (cough!) film business say. After all, I live very close to it, so it would be stupid of me to stay at home to do it. Of course, since I don’t have a car (or a driving licence), that meant a sweaty trek cross country, over one ridge and up to the top of the next... with all my gear. To all those who still cling to the belief that making these videos means just sitting in front of a camera for five minutes, I hope you begin to appreciate just what is actually entailed.

Up until now, filming on location has meant using a long extension cord to connect my lapel mic directly to the camera and vaguely wondering if I could justify the expense of getting a radio mic. This does mean I am severely restricted in how far away I can position the camera and what movements I can make.

But then I had one of those forehead-slapping why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-before revelations: I have a digital sound recorder. I can plug the mic into that, and (as long as I am wearing relatively loose-fitting trousers) put it in my pocket.

The only real downside to that is that you end up with separate sound files that you then have to synchronize with the video. But there’s a very simply remedy to that: before you start talking, clap your hands.

In Hollywood, they use clapperboards for the same purpose. It’s not just a meaningless ritual: the clapperboard has, written on it, information about the scene and take, which is also verbally repeated, then the clapperboard is snapped shut. The camera records the visual part of that, the sound recorder the audio part. Later, it’s a simple question of getting the right audio file for the visual recording (that’s why you record the scene and take numbers), then lining up the sound of the clapperboard snapping to the visual cue of the clapperboard closing.

For a quick video like this, where you only have a couple of scenes, just clapping your hands serves the same purpose. A clap is ideal, because it’s a very short sound and so easy to line up with the visual: it shows up on the waveform in the video editor as an obvious peak.

It helps that my camera still has its own built-in microphones, which are recording the sound at the same time, so in the video editor I can also line up the peak in the audio file with the peak in the audio from the camera — although, depending on how far away the camera is and what other noise it’s picking up (wind, for example), it might not be so easy to find. But the image of me striking my hands together is very easy to find. Line everything up, delete the audio from the camera, and voilà!

Incidentally, you may have noticed that on some shots, the sound is quite bad. I think I must have initially had the sound turned up too high on the recorder, and it was peaking too much: at some point I accidentally knocked the dial to a more sensible level. I should have done some trial runs first to determine the right level, but at least now I know.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Production notes: Filming a festival

If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you (for no other reason than that it’s mainly what this post is about) to watch my video on last weekend’s Straw Bale Festival in my home village. It condenses a four-hour festival (well, the four-hour climax to a day-and-a-half-long festival) into about ten and a half minutes.

I’m often told that making videos is really easy; and it’s true that many very excellent videos are pretty easy to make (simple vlogs, for example, if you happen to be naturally funny or engaging). But for an idea of how “easy” this video was, take a look at the arranger:

Just to make this clear: this is amateur level. People with more skills, resources, time and money than I have routinely make much more complex videos. But I found this one a fair challenge.

The six tracks you can see there are:
  1. Video (from the camera).
  2. Sound (also from the camera).
  3. Titles (including the open captions where people are speaking German).
  4. Visual images that will appear superimposed over the video in track 1.
  5. Music (the green lines show where the music fades up and down).
  6. Commentary.
In itself, that's quite simple. But there’s some complexity hidden there. For example, when the gentleman talks about his “straw bale garden” (he is, by the way, the local “straw professor” Alfred Leistenschläger), the scene cuts away from him to views of the straw bale garden... but his voice keeps going. Basically, I’ve taken the footage of him speaking, and at strategic points removed the video (but not the sound) and replaced it with different video.

This is one way to save a little time, by the way, as well as make it a bit more interesting. Instead of seeing him drone on, and then later showing the garden, we instantly see what he’s talking about.

But condensing a four-hour show into ten minutes is no mean feat. I came away with perhaps an hour and a half or more of material, in 355 takes. Most of that, of course, never made the cut; but you have to film more than you need (much more, if possible) and then decide what to do with it. And because some shots will later turn out to be unusable, you should never shy away from filming the same thing several times.

I spent a lot of time essentially pointing my camera in the direction of people having fun: eating, drinking, chatting, that sort of thing. I also took as many shots as I could of people seemingly watching, applauding, pointing cameras: this can be useful later to disguise edits or bad camera work. For example, if I were to slip on something as the Straw Bale Queen was making a speech, I could at that point (in the edit) cut away to people watching with rapt attention — just as long as I pick a shot that doesn’t have the Straw Bale Queen in it. (This didn’t happen, but you’ll notice a couple of those shots in the video all the same.)

There were many other things I filmed, and then didn’t use, mostly speeches. The outgoing Queen made a fairly long speech during which her voice cracked with emotion, but it was mostly a list of her engagements over the past year: not exactly riveting for my viewers. Some of the speakers attempted to tell jokes. A great deal of fuss was made over the fact that this was the first year Alfred Leistenschläger was not involved in organising the event. They forgot to give the runners-up their bottle of wine. There was also a long, and pretty awful, piece of doggerel read out by one of the guests of honour in a faultering voice and with great shuffling of pieces of paper.

All that had to go for various reasons. Most of all, though, when you have to condense something of this magnitude to something YouTube-ready, you have to decide on what story you really want to tell — and then to tell that story, and ruthlessly cut out everything else. I set out to tell the story of the election of the new Straw Bale Queen, and apart from the sequences of “people having fun”, everything is there to tell that story. The only extra thing I kept in was the pro-celebrity threshing, but even that explains what the hell that contraption is that the Queen was wheeled in on (it’s a winnowing machine).

You will, therefore, never find out how a knowledge of apple cultivars might win you a hot-air balloon ride, why a six-pack of beer suddenly appeared on the new Queen’s throne, or who that young lady in the pink ballgown is.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Miltenberg: Extra notes

It may seem obvious, but I’ve come to realize that one of the things this blog should be used for is to give extra information about the places I film for my Destination series. For those who like the video and perhaps feel that one day they should visit. So here are my extra notes to accompany my video of Miltenberg. And what a beautiful place it is, too.

Miltenberg: the classic view.

This, of course, despite the fact that it started raining while I was there — not much, but some of the rain is visible in the video. But at least the light was nice and even: no deep shadows, and no wishing I could afford a new camera with useful things like dynamic range stretch. (I’m still looking, by the way, for somebody foolish enough to pay me to make videos.)

In the video, I mention that the historic centre is in the shape of a narrow wedge. Basically, the river Main flows head on towards the Odenwald, and when it reaches it, makes a sharp right turn; and that’s where Miltenberg is built. Here’s what it looks like if you take a map of the town and draw a line around the historic centre:

What’s long, thin and about 700 years old?

It’s a long way from one end to the other (although you don’t have to go all the way to the Mainz Gate at the extreme western end unless you really want to). It is, though, for the most part, flat, except for the path up to the castle (which is seriously not wheelchair-accessible).

For those reliant on public transportation, Miltenberg is best reached from Aschaffenburg (which is itself easy to get to from Frankfurt), with slow RB trains departing every hour and faster RE trains every two hours.

It’s a fair distance from any autobahn, but there are good roads from the A3 near Aschaffenburg.

The Lilli Chapeau Theatre really is the smallest in the world, at least according to the Guinness Book of Records (and they should know). The story behind it is quite sweet: Lilli Chapeau was a member of a company of street performers which once stopped at Miltenberg. She fell in love with, and later married, a local, but found it hard to settle down and lead a conventional life. So he basically converted a room into a tiny theatre and founded a theatre company with one actor (Chapeau), and one other person (himself) doing all the rest. The theatre is only open from October to April: during the summer months, Chapeau performs at their new project, an open-air theatre in nearby Kleinheubach (with twice the number of seats) where she shares the bill with a string of horses.

Finally, afficionados of German post-war comedy films may recognize Miltenberg as one of the locations used for filming the 1958 classic The Spessart Inn (original title Das Wirtshaus im Spessart).

Monday, June 27, 2016

A very long list

The country of my birth, the country I grew up in and which educated me, the country which still contains most of my family, is going to pieces. The economy is shrinking faster than a deflating balloon, the government is in complete disarray, the opposition has completely collapsed, and a sense of near anarchy reigns with people walking around shouting racist abuse at random foreign-looking types.

It’s natural to want to pin the blame for all this on somebody or some thing, whether it’s “the Tories” or “xenophobia”, but I think pretty much the entire nation is probably responsible in some form. I can probably nearly excuse myself from most of it, having been living in Germany for over 20 years and been ineligible to vote: in the past few weeks I have been cast in the role of helpless bystander. Probably not entirely, though, since I do have a voice (thanks to YouTube, and social media generally), so I have to ask myself whether I could have used by voice more effectively.

But still, I am extremely angry at the moment with a large number of people, and so I have decided to write a very long list of some of my grievences. It will probably be therapeutic for me, but it’s likely to include you somewhere in it, so be warned. Of course, there’s a chance just writing this will make me even more angry, but I’m honestly past caring.

All right, so let me begin with some of the usual suspects and work my way through the UK’s population.

David Cameron

The way it looks from here, Dave, is that you had these loony eurosceptics on your back and wanted to shut them up. So you devised this wonderful plan: promise them a referendum. If you then lost the election, no problem. If you won the election, you could have the referendum, which you would win easily, and the eurosceptics would stop bugging you for the next five or ten years at least. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, now we know what could possibly go wrong, because it went wrong, didn’t it? And you didn’t plan for this. At no point, it seems, did you stop to think, “But what happens if I don’t win the referendum?” You just steamed right ahead, thinking you could tell people that in the event you lost you would immediately trigger Article 50, safe in the mistaken knowledge that you would never have to do it. And so here we are, and you had to renege on that promise because you were completely unprepared for it.

You used the future of an entire nation to quell the voices of a few irritating loons. You don’t do that unless you are prepared to lose. You don’t ever bet more than you can afford.

Boris Johnson

Looking at you, Boris, when you delivered your victory speech, you really didn’t want to win at all. Which raises the very important question: Why the hell did you campaign for Leave? What in heaven’s name possessed you? Was this really all about setting yourself up as the next Prime Minister? And how could you do this to your old chum Dave? Did you think this was a game of Monopoly?

And to do this, you ran a campaign full of deliberate lies. That whole £350 million a week for the NHS thing was a total fabrication, which you knew at the time. Well, the public bought that and other lies, and now they expect you deliver on promises you never intended to have to keep.

Michael Gove

Most of what I said about Boris applies to you, although at least you are known to have been an actual eurosceptic — so at least you had a smidgeon of integrity, although it’s damned difficult to find.

But that comment about everybody being fed up with experts will go down in history as the most imbecilic statement ever. Right there, in that one sentence, is the encapsulation of everything that’s wrong: this pandering to the idea that people with no knowledge are somehow more knowledgeable than those with expertise. And the result of that is that your wife went on Facebook to ask for people to come forward with helpful suggestions on what to do next: if you don’t see why that should be a problem, you have no business in any job that requires you to make decisions.

Nigel Farage

Well, I suppose at least you truly believe in what you’re doing, but sincerity will only take you so far. Hospitals are full of people who sincerely believed they could cross the road. Your tactic of appealing to the basest forms of xenophobia, as exemplified by your “Breaking Point” poster, is not just odious, it is reckless.

Jeremy Corbyn

What the actual hell? This is the “kinder, gentler politics” you wanted to usher in? You were being kind and gentle to whom, exactly? You showed such a total lack of leadership that your own Labour voters didn’t know which way you wanted them to vote. And so when one of your most respected front-bench colleagues confronted you, you fired him, triggering a series of resignations — so many, in fact, that you’re now having problems assembling a shadow cabinet. And you obstinately won’t resign, claiming, against all the evidence, that you somehow command the overwhelming support of the grass roots. Britain now has no functioning official opposition. If a snap election is called, how on earth do you think you’re going to win it?


Yes, you: those who still think that Jeremy Corbyn is the Greatest Thing Ever and Can Do No Wrong. I’ll bet most of you wanted Remain to win. Maybe you should know that Jeremy Corbyn is a eurosceptic: his view on the EU is that it is a corrupt capitalist organisation that puts the needs of big business ahead of the needs of ordinary workers. You may dismiss as “mainstream media bias” stories that he didn’t do all he could to campaign for Remain, but he really didn’t. Unable to decide between supporting the fat-cat capitalists in the City and the swivel-eyed racists and Islamophobes everywhere else, he dithered and left the working-class Labour heartlands to vote according to gut instinct. You want proof? He refuses to confirm that he voted Remain. “His own private business,” you may say, but you’re making excuses for him: somebody supposedly part of the Remain campaign shouldn’t feel he’s giving anything away by saying which way he voted, unless he voted Leave.

Barack Obama

Yes, Mr President, you. It was very nice of you to come over and help Dave’s campaign, and full points for using the word “queue”. Unfortunately, just about everything else you said seemed deliberately scripted to irritate the British. At one time you said that Brexit would leave Britain unable to enjoy the full benefits of TTIP. I suppose you believe in it yourself, but the threat of TTIP is the one thing that would make even the most committed europhile stop and think. Here in Europe, we tend to believe that businesses should obey the law, not the other way around.

The tabloid press

For decades now some of you have been feeding your readers exaggerations, misinformation and outright lies about the EU. You make up stories that aren’t true, whip up racial hatred when it suits you, and don’t even seem quite clear yourself just how the EU works or what it does. And by the way, just to clear this one up once and for all: The European Court of Human Rights has nothing whatever to do with the EU.

And so you told your readers that by voting Leave, they would usher in an instant and golden future in which Britain can in some unspecified way get back its sovereignty and freedom which will be really good for some reason. Now you’re having to explain to your readers why the economy is going down the pan, why the country is still in the EU, and why the immigrants haven’t gone home.

The “You Can’t Say That” brigade

Look, racism (and other -isms) are obnoxious and have no place in our society. But if your response to it is to constantly tell people who express it that they are bigots and intellectually-challenged thugs, if your response is to ridicule and publicly humliate them, to pillory them and hound them, you are not solving the problem. You may think you are, but that’s only because people become cautious about saying things.

And so the venom remains, seething below the surface, where resentfulness and suspicion lurk — until something happens to release the pressure, and then all hell, as we have just seen, is let loose.

People aren’t racist just because they have this sort of evil racist gene. They become racist because they are worried about their jobs, their security, their livelihoods. It’s not that hard to understand: when in difficult circumstances, they look for ways to explain their predicament, and immigrants are a natural target. Tell these people to shut up because you think they’re stupid, and they will simply feel marginalised, magnifying their hatred and making it worse.

Instead of pouring your energy into well-meaning but ultimately counter-productive vigilantism, work on trying to understand why people feel the way they do, and then doing something constructive about it.


You thought this referendum was about giving the Establishment a kicking? (In which case, why did you then take Boris Johnson’s side?) You thought your vote wouldn’t count? You didn’t think to find out what exactly you were voting for?

Well, at least you now realise what you did. Let’s hope you’ve learned your lesson.

Young people

So the older generations have ruined your future. Yes, that’s horrendous — but you’re partly to blame for that.

Well, not those of you who bothered to vote; but the problem is, that’s not many. Of all those of you in the 18-24 demographic, a whopping 64% didn’t vote. Where the hell were you?

It’s no good moaning that the government should have given 16-year-olds the vote. It probably wouldn’t have made that much difference: at 18, you’re likely to be thinking of studying, possibly abroad; at 16 — and I know this, because, although I don’t often admit it, I was once a 16-year-old — those considerations are much less pressing.

No, the fact is: You should have voted.

But oh, the whining, which started as soon as the referendum date was set: you complained that it clashed with Glastonbury, and so the PM had to explain the concept of a postal vote without sounding patronising. Vast numbers of you didn’t even register to vote, and some of you even complained that three months’ notice wasn’t enough.

It’s no good now stamping your feet and saying it’s not fair: you had your chance, and you blew it, and in doing so you left the country to take that “leap in the dark” the Remain camp warned us about and we all thought it was scaremongering but it turns out it wasn’t.

Maybe at the next elections we’ll see a better turnout among you lot. Maybe you’ll stop listening to Russell Brand.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Now the party’s over

When the British electorate went to the polls to vote on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union or leave it, a lot of people looked at the arguments that had been presented (such as they were), decided to vote Leave. And that’s absolutely fine: I would have voted Remain if I’d been eligible, but I recognize that this is a complex issue nobody really understands, and it may yet prove that leaving the EU is the right thing to do. I doubt it, but I understand that’s how a lot of people see it. So I have no issue with these people, who exercised their democratic right in a responsible way.

My issue is with those people who said they voted Leave and now regret doing so; with those people who googled “What is the EU?” after the results had been announced; and with those people who are busy phoning election officials asking if they can change their vote.

What did they think this was? Britain’s Got Talent?

The whole thing was a terrible advert for democracy. First, the capaigning on both sides was short on facts, long on hysteria. Then, it seems that significant proportions of the electorate saw this referendum as a way to give “the political elite” a good kicking, without actually realising that this was going to have consequences. As a result, there’s a very real chance that two years from now, if Brexit negotiations go ahead and end in stalemate, my passport will be about as useful to me in Germany as a piece of cardboard torn from a cornflakes packet.

What am I supposed to do with this?

I think it’s true that the EU has serious problems it refuses to address: in particular, although it’s a lot more democratic than most people realize, the system of government is so complicated that nobody has a snowball’s chance in hell of working out how it operates and what the point of EU elections is. Yes, it can be overly bureaucratic, and is only now realizing that it should perhaps make a little more effort when it comes to listening to and dealing with the concerns of its citizens. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to get drunk on mindless jingoism, punch Brussels in the face and then wake up the following morning with a splitting headache to find Brussels standing over you, divorce papers in hand and asking for a signature.

The level of “What have I done?” is staggering. More value was wiped off the British economy in just a few minutes than Britain would ever have saved in not paying EU contributions. Cornwall, which voted overwhelmingly to leave, now wants the UK to ask the EU to continue paying subsidies after Brexit, which is literally not going to happen. Yorkshire, which also voted to leave, thinks the British government can now just take over paying these subsidies. Scotland is considering another independence referendum, but if it thinks it can then just get EU membership on its own terms, that is something else that simply will not happen — you don’t get things just because you wish very hard for them. There’s even now a movement calling for London to declare independence from England (London voted Remain), which is totally boneheaded: the logical extreme of this attitude (if the rest of the country disagrees with you, declare independence) is that every constituency will eventually declare independence. My mother would have to get a visa just to visit my sister. Meanwhile, in the event of Brexit, Northern Ireland (which did vote Remain) is going to have to choose between staying in the UK and needing a visa to visit the Irish Republic, and reuniting with the Irish Republic and needing a visa to visit the UK.

In British politics, the traditional way to punish whichever party is in power is in local council elections — voting for people in charge of things like garbage collection and public toilets. If putting a cross in a box helps you feel you’ve given the Prime Minister a bloody nose, be my guest; but not in any election or referendum that is going to have a major effect on the political and economic future of the entire country.