Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Remembrance And Poppies

There are misinformed people who think that the Poppy of Armistice Day glorifies war. A little knowledge and a few minutes search would tell them it does not and is a way of acknowledging the horrors of World War One and other wars since.

The poppy is to remind us of those we knew and lost especially when the remains were never found. They are taken from the sight of many of the battlefields where in the ruins that were left, they were among the first plants to appear giving rise to fields of the fallen that became fields of poppies.

I knew people from World War One who understood that meaning among them my grandfather who became a stretcher bearer on the front line. I have the poppy for him, his comrades and all those who did not return. Also, for those I knew personally in World War Two who were lost and the many others.

On Remembrance Day 1955 I paraded with the 7th Armoured Division in Germany. During World War Two, the Division, created in 1942 and in action to May 1945, was remanned four times. So some fifty thousand plus had been in a formation of some 15,000 in strength.

We were just along the road from where the Belsen-Bergen camp had been and poppies were there as well.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Learning From Disasters

One of the worst events of Empire was the Amritsar Massacre of April 1919, see Wikipedia, which ever since has been a subject of angry debate and a matter for which the Raj and the British Government of the time was responsible.

As I was born rather later, my parents were not yet teenagers and none of my grandparents nor their parents never went anywhere near India, why I should be carrying the can I do not know.

Which brings me to Colonel Reginald Dyer, the literally dyspeptic acting Brigadier General who was in charge of the troops. He had been an soldier for thirty years with a long record of active service. During the First World War he was in one of the forgotten sectors, the borders of Persia, where bitter battles were fought between the tribes and peoples.

In the spring of 1919 the British Army was still running down its troop levels in the Occupying Force in Germany as well as having had the Murmansk Expedition to Russia to support the White's against the Reds. At home there had been the Spanish Flu epidemic and the economy was in the throes of post war change.

In the UK the Coalition Government elected in November 1918 were still struggling to make decisions of any kind leaving India to The Raj. The Labour Party, now a large number in Parliament, were more concerned with Russia and the impending centenary of Peterloo and its meaning for electoral reasons.

Those ruling The Raj believed that the Empire was on the brink of collapse, so when trouble begins around Amritsar etc. they send for Dyer to deal with it. He proved to be the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. They needed a diplomat and negotiator and sent in a warrior, with his own problems.

One was his personal situation. The end of war meant contraction of the armed forces and with it the officer class facing not a reliable career of promotions and service bringing notice and honours but years of routine garrison duty and paper pushing without much, if any, promotion.

The secret, perhaps not so secret, was that Dyer, whatever his record in combat etc. was not officer class and therefore going to be off the lists for the positions of highest status. His father had been a brewer who did well after being sent to India around 1860, the period of the Mutiny and the reprisals, when there were a lot of thirsty troops in action.

His parents were of London skilled working class origin and had married in Islington, the home of his mother's family. This district is now  the centre of a socialism determined to wipe out private enterprise.

How ironic that so many of our  private and smaller enterprises have been created and run by those from the Sub Continent.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Living On Credit

When a politician finds him/her self appointed to high office what they might most dread is that in the first meetings with his senior civil servants and advisers etc. after the initial chattering there is a cough from somebody and then, almost off hand, the words, "Something must be done about........".

When they have finished the others seem to be looking out of the window, checking their diaries or staring at the ceiling. The Minister knows what this means. First, there is a disaster area in the Department's functions. Secondly, it has been going on for too long. Thirdly the express train will soon hit the buffers. Fourthly, this was known to his predecessors all of whom chickened out of doing anything.

Which brings me to Universal Credit which now has the media in full cry because the Government ran out of time and space with the old systems of benefits and finally had to do something, anything to begin to sort out the old mess while having a new mess to begin with in the initial stages of any, repeat any, new system devised.

This time round there are differences from the longer past. One is information. The net now can give anyone immediate access to several providers of basic information, sometimes advice and at least an idea of what their personal situation might be.

What is not being discussed so much is that in the past the providing agencies had limited sources for their information on benefits. Today, the net etc. enables wider and deeper searches to be made and basic information checked as well as other things.

As it is very political and large numbers of voters are affected, we can expect all the usual posturing, fibbing, misinformation and allegations that come with any change. This is for the usual reason and an unwelcome one.

When change occurs, unless vast amounts of money are thrown at it regardless of form or function, then there will be winners and losers. Probably, many of the winners will think that they should be among the better winners while the losers will take it very badly.

In short it is a vote loser. When there is a government floundering already in other areas of action and policy, for example Europe, royal marriages, sports provision, transport and health then it adds to the complications.

This one is going to run and run and nobody is going to catch up because just about the entire population believes it ought to benefit from government spending and that the others must be made to pay for it.

But we do not have enough "others" and importing them may create new takers. This is not going to get any better, and I shall claim credit for predicting it will be worse.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Good And Bad Taste

Long ago when the world was a bit younger I arrived in 1950's London to improve my situation in life and other things. Among the discoveries I made was a place where the utmost delights of life were to be had as well as increasing the need for dental treatments.

It was on Old Compton Street in London and a cake shop beyond the imaginations of people who had not long before had rationing to think of let alone the limited diets and old recipe's of either home cooking or the basic offerings of local bakers etc.

It was Patisserie Valerie, see the Wikipedia page for the history, and for decades afterwards was on the short short list of places to go to when any London visit was made, or even crossing in transit. Then Thatcherism struck at my vitals in 1987. It was taken over and became one of a small chain in central London.

Near twenty years later in 2006 and under Blair and Brown another takeover turned it from a small specialist business with a niche market to a brand name with many branches and part of a major financial operation. You might even find the brand in some supermarkets.

Now, to coin a culinary saying, it has gone down the pan. The markets value the whole business at £450 million, presumably property, and there is £20 million worth of chocolate money dressing missing in the accounts. From sweet to sour with an unknown future and publicity that will scare off customers the end could be in sight.

The story of our World and of the Britain of today can be seen in what has happened. Behind it all lurks the menace and threat of the EU and Brussels. All that is good must go and finance must rule.

And Madame Valerie was a Belgian who sought to make England a tastier place to be.

It Stinks

I think I am getting confused:

Scientists investigate how DEET confuses countless critters
Date: September 26, 2018
Source: Rockefeller University


DEET, a chemical in bug sprays, affects the behavior of highly diverse organisms -- but how it works remains unclear. New research in C. elegans shows that the compound exploits unique receptors and neurons to interfere with the animals' response to odors.


DEET, thought to be the most effective insect repellent available, may not be an insect repellent at all.

It's not that DEET doesn't keep away critters -- it verifiably does. However, Leslie B. Vosshall, Rockefeller's Robin Chemers Neustein Professor, has shown that DEET acts not by repelling bugs, but rather by confusing them, messing with neurons that help the animals smell their surroundings. Moreover, the effects of DEET are not limited to insects: spiders, ticks, and many other pests also act strangely in the chemical's presence.

In this sense, DEET may be less of an insect repellent and more of an invertebrate confusant. The term doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but new research from the Vosshall lab supports this rebranding of the chemical.

In a recent paper, published in Nature, Vosshall and former graduate fellow Emily Dennis show that, like insects, the nematode C. elegans succumbs to confusion when DEET is around. The team also describes the genetic and cellular mechanisms underlying this response, shedding light on how a single chemical might confound the senses of vastly different species.

All in the DEET-ails

First developed in the 1940s, DEET can be found in most bug sprays used today. Research has shown that, in flies and mosquitoes, the chemical works by interacting with odor receptors that are unique to insects. This research, however, cannot explain how DEET exerts its effect on non-insect species.

Seeking an explanation, Dennis and Vosshall teamed up with Cori Bargmann, Rockefeller's Torsten N. Wiesel Professor, to examine whether and how DEET changes the behavior of the roundworm C. elegans, a relatively simple animal with an elaborate sense of smell. When the researchers presented the tiny worms with samples of DEET alone, the animals didn't go out of their way to avoid the chemical, indicating that DEET doesn't simply repel every organism that crosses its path.

The scientists then mixed small amounts of DEET into agar, the gel-like substance that C. elegans crawl on in Petri dishes. The presence of DEET limited the worms' movement toward isoamyl alcohol, a chemical that usually attracts them; it also reduced their avoidance of 2-nonanone, a compound that they typically dodge. Still, the worms reacted normally to some other chemicals. These findings suggest that DEET can interfere with responses to both "good" and "bad" smells, but that it does not entirely shut down olfaction.

The researchers also found that the worms' DEET sensitivity depends on a gene called str-217, which is expressed in neurons called ADL cells. When the researchers artificially activated these neurons, the worms paused in place -- a behavior also observed among C. elegans navigating DEET-infused agar. Together, these results indicate that the chemical works, in part, by turning on neurons that induce pausing.

"Somehow activating ADL puts the worms into a frame of mind where they're more introspective, they're pausing more, they're not paying as much attention to odors," says Vosshall. "But if you take away the right gene or neuron, this spell is broken."

Indeed, the researchers showed that worms lacking either str-217or ADL neurons are less affected by DEET. They conclude that str-217 likely codes for a DEET receptor, and that ADL cells play an important role in mediating response to the chemical.

A special chemical

The Vosshall lab previously demonstrated that DEET keeps mosquitoes away by interacting with odor receptors in a way that confuses the animals' sense of smell. This latest study shows that DEET causes similar confusion in C. elegans, but through entirely different mechanisms.

"We went into this study thinking perhaps we'd find some magical conserved DEET receptor common to all species," says Dennis. "But we found that, in C. elegans, a completely unique gene is required for DEET response."

Though the study did not lead to the discovery of a magical receptor, it nonetheless provides insight into the chemical's effectiveness across highly diverse species.

"The one common theme in all of these organisms is that DEET is doing something to affect odor perception -- it's like sensory system sabotage," says Vosshall.

Dennis adds: "Something about DEET is really special. And I think we're just starting to uncover all the ways that it can affect different neurons, receptors, and species.

"Story Source: Materials provided by Rockefeller University.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Counting Out The Past

This one goes back to 2003 and used in 2005 titled "Forty Years On When Afar And Asunder". It is now fifteen years old and still relevant. It says:

“Parted are those who are singing today. When we look back and forgetfully wonder what we were like in our work and our play.”  Forty years ago, local government was reformed by the 1972 Act, the new system was installed on 1 April 1974 and by 1976 the UK was broke and in hock to the IMF. Probably you need to be something over 60 to recall the scale of the mess we were in and how we got there.

The words are taken from the Harrow School song, Sir Winston Churchill would have known it, but by 1974 his Great Britain had gone never to return. Now in 2012 the United Kingdom that replaced it is going and also will never return. The details of the mess we are in now and those in 1974 differ but the principles apply.

When the new authorities took over many found that the former authorities had run down the general financial reserves, sometimes leaving nothing. At the same time often repairs and maintenance had been cut to release money for new vote winning schemes and popularity for some local politicians.

In particular buildings and road maintenance reserves had gone, again to all sorts of projects often designed on a have it now pay later basis.  Promises had been made to many staff and salary and pension rights ramped up before vesting day. The accounts were faked or forgotten or lost.

One feature was that before reorganisation there had been serious imbalances in rating values from one area to another and in types of building. When this was rationalised a lot who had enjoyed cheap rates were being hit. What was worse was that the high inflation of the period meant that everyone paid more in cash, despite some gaining in real terms, but they did not see it that way.

Edward Heath, the then Conservative Prime Minister made the mistake of trying to take on the miner’s in the middle of it and then calling a snap election early in 1974. He lost and Labour under Harold Wilson took control, conveniently blaming the Conservatives for the mess that was revealed in local government.

On 15 March 1974, John Poulson, architect extraordinary was jailed for fraud and corruption. He was active in a number of the old local authorities with the paradox being that a high proportion of them were Labour held mining communities. Had Heath waited it might have been different, but as Poulson buttered up a few Conservative ministers perhaps not.

Reginald Maudling, Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, who left The Treasury in a mess was associated with him.  His wife wanted to make East Grinstead the ballet centre of the world. It was trying to help out this expensive project that may have been the straw that broke the back of Poulson’s companies.

As I remarked at the time “It was all tutu expensive”. But nobody laughed, but it was in a meeting attended by Labour councillors former friends of Poulson. That some had been given fun times in London with ladies for hire was giving them cause for concern, especially if the wives found out.

Harold Wilson and Jeremy Thorpe, an Old Etonian and the then Liberal leader did a deal in 1974 and Labour took power. Look up Jeremy in Wikipedia for another grim tale. Looking back I wonder now whether Harold Wilson had already begun his decline into dementia by 1974 and came to realise it in 1976 when he resigned.

Then as now there were many changes under way which we neither recognised nor understood. Even the few that did realise that some things were changing irrevocably misjudged the scale and potential impact.

North Sea Oil was on its way, sea transport by container was transforming trade, major companies, such as Rolls Royce had gone to the wall. The railways were facing the loss of most of the freight traffic.

Cheaper holidays were transforming travel and tourism. The old basic industries of the economy were becoming neither basic nor economic and the subsidies handed out were not working.

Also, we had been led into the European Economic Community on false promises and a pack of lies. To do this we ditched the Commonwealth and imagined that Europe could replace the faster developing markets of the rest of the world.

Forty years on and the world is turning again. Just as nobody can go back to the 1970’s now nobody can go back to 2005.

And now in 2018 it is almost that we cannot go back to 2015.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Another Look At History

What is thought to be "history" has changed down the years and today not only are there many schools of history but a debate on the sources, their meaning and reliability. As a great deal of "history" is to create a new past or bolster an old one or to impress one theology or philosophy there is plenty of debate.

Something however we do not know is what exactly who said what to whom and where and to what effect. Necessarily, this has to be second hand and what is on paper may differ either in content or meaning. But people did meet and talk. They had family and connections and it is often these about whom we are unsure.

In the 18th and 19th Century in Europe the meeting places were often in private, in homes and as a consequence among the rich and powerful in "salons". Men may have been men etc. but in the salons it was a different matter. We know of a few where an intelligent and well informed lady may well at the centre of talk and debate, but often little about her or her connections.

You will not find Harriet Sneyd, 1795 to 1871, above, in the history books Her first marriage was to Turner Macan of Carriff, Armagh, he died in 1836, and second to William Henry Whitbread in 1845, head of the Whitbread family but it is the story of a remarkable woman.

Born in 1795 as one of the family of a clergyman in Ireland, the Rev. Wetenhall Sneyd, BA, was noted for his descent from Bishop Jeremy Taylor of the 17th Century. He moved to the Isle of Wight in the early 1800's from Hampshire, where he married again, having been widowed in 1797, his first wife, Margaret Cullen dying at Bristol Hotwells, possibly as a patient of Dr. Thomas Beddoes.  He began as the Curate at Newchurch, although Chaplain to the local military, becoming Vicar in 1816.

The family and their connections, were known to Jane Austen, who mentions them in "Mansfield Park". "Sense And Sensibility" might also be a reference. Given that Wetenhall's uncle, Jeremy Sneyd, with an estate in Hampshire, had been Private Secretary to Prime Ministers, Head of the Northern Department and effectively chief of the then Civil Service, as well as being a close friend of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, it would be difficult not to.

Harriet Sneyd married Turner Macan at Calcutta Cathedral on 14 November 1822, aide and interpreter to the Governor General.  Three of her brothers were in India, and a fourth, Nathaniel, had died there earlier of fever. As well as being a cavalry officer and Master of the senior Freemason's Lodge of Bengal, Turner Macan was a scholar who was instrumental in saving works of ancient Persian literature, notably the Shanameh of Firdausi.

Also he had studied the "Arabian Nights" in the original before Sir Richard Burton, who drew on his work. Later apparently the Shah of Persia and Princes of India when in London would visit her to pay their respects.

Harriet's elder brother, Ralph Henry Sneyd, had commanded the Governor General's Bodyguard in Calcutta, later Viceroy's now President's, and had been with Skinners Horse. He retired to Hampshire as neighbour of the Duke of Wellington, another old India hand. A daughter, Emma Katherine Julia Sneyd (Kate), became a Lady at Court and one of the six beauties of England according to J. Hayter in his 1851 "The Court Album Of The Female Aristocracy".

Harriet was widowed in 1836 and returned to England. In 1845 she married William Henry Whitbread head of the brewing family who had been widowed a little earlier that year.  He was chief executor of Turner Macan's will, as an esteemed friend. Whitbread was prominent in the Royal Asiatic Society and in politics. There were no children but Harriet was a major hostess. He died in 1867 making provision in his will for her family.

 This was the same Whitbread who had been executor to the will and estate of Hester, the second wife of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the land holding having been at Polesden in Surrey. In later life Hester had lived for a time in the parish of Newchurch. William was the son of Samuel Whitbread and Lady Elizabeth Grey, daughter of Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey

One daughter, Caroline Nesbitt Macan, married Captain Charles Conrad Grey of the Grey's of Howick, nephew of Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister, both dying young, the widowed Caroline in 1855. Their daughter, Maria Grey, was taken up by Charles Grey, Private Secretary to Prince Albert and later Queen Victoria.

She became Countess of Home in 1881 marrying Charles Alexander Douglas-Home who succeeded as 12th Earl of Home in that year.  Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister, 1963-1964, also Lord Home, was her grandson.

Another daughter of Harriet's, Jane Emma Hannah Macan, became Countess of Antrim in 1855, having married Mark Seymour Kerr in 1849, later McDonnell. He became 5th Earl of Antrim and had family who were later at court.

A son, Schomberg Kerr McDonnell was Personal Private Secretary to Lord Salisbury, when Prime Minister, and prominent in the Conservative Party. He died in action in 1915 serving with the 5th Cameron Highlanders in France, aged 54.

A granddaughter, Fenella Stuart Forbes Trefusis daughter of the Baron Clinton who had married Lady Jane Grey McDonnell, married John Herbert Bowes-Lyon, elder brother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later Queen Elizabeth.

Harriet's son, Arthur Turner Macan, backed by Whitbread money was Master of the Elstow Hunt, a leading one its day and was "out" with other hunts. Was he ever with the famed Bay Middleton and perhaps "Sisi", Empress Elizabeth of Austria?

Arthur married one of the Longs and his son Ralph Edward Macan in 1907 in the wedding of the year married Dorothy Howard of the Earl of Suffolk's family. His best man was Francis Curzon, brother of Lord Curzon. General Redvers Buller gave away the bride.

A younger half-sister of Harriet's, Emma Sophia, married John Russell Colvin, Wikipedia, Lieutenant Governor of the North West Provinces of India who rests in a magnificent tomb in the Red Fort of Agra where he died at the time of The Indian Mutiny of 1857. Emma Sophia was regarded as the heroine of the Siege of Agra.

They were parents of Auckland Colvin, Wikipedia, later Treasurer of India at the time of The Fall Of The Rupee (silver) when the City of London declared for a gold standard. Rudyard Kipling wrote an acerbic critical poem about Colvin's introduction of Income Tax but left India very soon afterwards.

Harriet had an older sister, Marianne who married Sir Arthur Brooke, Wikipedia and DNB, 1772 to 1843.  He was Deputy Commander, later Commander, of the British Expedition to the Chesapeake of the USA which burned Washington DC in 1814. A son, Arthur Beresford Brooke married Frances Wemyss earlier in 1843.

Marianne was not faithful to her husband with the scandal of having a child out of wedlock, Juliana, who died in 1836 for whom Arthur cared, by the heir to the Earldom of Belmore, she having had other lovers.  The Belmore Estate allowed annuities from rental income to Marianne from certain properties into the 1850's.

There is little doubt that Harriet was a major figure in her time but we can only guess at the extent of her influence in society and perhaps wider matters. Bedfordshire County Council Archive has a great deal of material from the Whitbread Estate, the picture above is one.

Around 1850 a neighbour along the street was Joseph Locke, the Barnsley railway engineer, was he ever a guest among the company kept at her Drawing Room?

Also, if there was music played, what might it have been? It is likely that the Philharmonic Society of London might have had a say, so perhaps Mozart, Haydn, Mendelssohn and Beethoven?