Monday, 22 October 2018

Glory Days

The Madrid Opera have done the Benjamin Britten opera "Gloriana", shown on Sky Arts, about Queen Elizabeth I and her affair with the Earl of Essex which went badly wrong. Whether this is to signal that Spain is part of Europe and so should we be or that they think the sooner they are rid of the Brit's the better is an open question.

It was Elizabeth One who did for the Spanish Armada in 1588. The first night of "Gloriana" in 1953 at Covent Garden also went wrong. This work is "not a lot of laughs" and was first performed on 8th June 1953 at Covent Garden as one of the major items around the Coronation of 2nd June of Elizabeth Two.

E Two is not an opera fan, although duty sometimes calls, but "Gloriana" is serious and heavy and a long sit. She was not best pleased, it had been a busy week. Neither was the audience of aristocrats who barely applauded.

The BBC at the time was telling us all that we should all join in with the various celebrations. But when we switched the wireless (!!!) on we lasted about twenty minutes and then it was off to the pub for a couple of stiff black and tans to restore the nerve endings.

What E One and E Two shared was the passion for hunting. But E One with a fine hunting lodge at Chingford was untroubled by peasants moaning about the damage to crops and the death of wild life and E Two and her family have had to stick to gentle rides in the park and none of this chasing foxes and stags, jumping, following the hounds and banging away with noisy guns at birds.

There is a lot of music about hunting but an evening of Tally Ho was perhaps lese-majeste. What is a puzzle is why Britten was chosen to do something for The Coronation, or indeed why have an opera at all. But after the death of King George VI in February 1952, it was decided to show the world that Britain was still Great, up to a point, and that a big buster Coronation was the way to show it.

Typically, it meant fifteen months to organise something that might have been done simply in days, or with a more ceremonial in three to four months. As ever the bungling had a great deal to do with politics. The Tories with their narrow majority wanted a big bang patriotic show piece of everything firstly as a reason to keep them in power and secondly to be part of the run in to the next election. The Department of Bright Ideas ruled supreme.

There could have been a evening aligning the music of the age of E One with that of E Two which would have been much easier on the ear and without the anguish. William Walton was around and might have been a good choice but he was embroiled in trying to finish his "Troilus And Cressida", which did not suit.

One of the composers of that era was William Wordsworth, who we now hear little of but whose style and interests would have fitted the bill a great deal better. But he was not "modern" and Scottish and may have been inclined to have little sympathy with the world of E One if this part was needed.

Britten, following his major success "Peter Grimes" (also not a lot of laughs) and other works may have seemed the obvious choice. "Albert Herring", "The Little Sweep" and "Billy Budd" had also been written and he could clearly come up with a score etc. in the time.

What was not seen in his works was the dark world inherent in the stories which emerged in "Gloriana". Also, that it was based on the text of a play by Lytton Strachey should have put up the warning signs. If that then it was going to be a serious evening.

If it was to be fun, then it might have been better to go back to Shakespeare in the form of Verdi's opera "Falstaff". But we were supposed to be on a Great Britain roll. Stanley Matthews had just won his FA Cup Winners medal, Gordon Richards had ridden a winner in The Derby and so on.

A few days after the Coronation, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill had a major stroke from which he never fully recovered. Anthony Eden had the reins of power in his hands and was determined to show the world that Britain mattered.

So in 1956 we had the Suez Crisis which showed it was all over. Perhaps Britten was more right than wrong.

Friday, 19 October 2018

The Ownership Of Mankind

There is a great deal being argued on the subject of the history of the slave trade, largely in the limited context of the British involvement of between 1603 and 1833. It is said that in the schools the subject should be taught usually meaning only that small part.

Since Homo Sapiens, that is us, began to increase in numbers and occupy the various territories of the Earth; at some stage this began to entail warfare, claims to owning land and rivalries. In turn came social stratification and changing systems of rule and the way people related to people.

The consequence was that the ownership, servility and oppression of mankind came to take many forms. They might be distinctive but represent layers of domination that often arise from force but also from the structure of society, its economic foundations and related belief systems in religion and law.

The existence of one form does not exclude others and there is the contingent risk of lower level forms becoming more servile as a result of events, policy or radical change. Below is a summary of forms of control or ownership of humans by humans.


Persons are taken, used at the decision of owners or their representatives, bought and sold and counted as assets. In slave based societies some levels of work at high levels might have slaves, for example Greece and Rome. Very many societies in history have been slave based.

Contract Labour Slavery

Persons forced or induced to enter contracts that entail loss of personal freedom and decision. They might expect to be able to fulfil the contract but the nature of payment means this may be cancelled by charges and failure by the contractors to observe their part which then entails forced labour which cannot be escaped. In the 19th and 20th Centuries this form became common after the abolition of full slavery.

Debt Slavery

Debt slavery may result from Contract Slavery but there are many ways where a person may take on debt at levels greater than they can afford. In particular, the charges and rates of interest may be at levels, little understood, which mean it is impossible to repay. It exists in modern times.

Social obligation and standing.

This might be family, inherited and in the forms of bound labour or laws of land holding and requirements. The terms of bound labour may in effect amount to a condition of slavery, for example when a whole family is bound.


Persons captured in conflict or interned politically and used as slave or forced labour.


Societal, such as feudal, picture above, or similar systems, or the precepts of religious faith. Also, there can be structural in business or trade, for example some types of apprenticeship, job requirements etc.


Governments may enact laws or put in place organisations that require types of servility of those affected or employed that take various forms.


Localisation, servants, unintended consequences and lapsed political or social systems or absence of the rule of law.


Demand exceeds supply.


We can only theorize as to how and where any began. Over the whole of known history one form or another can be found. It exists today and the question is will any of these forms of stratification become greater or less.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Drying Tonight

Very often I am on the web to find things to cheer me up and to look forward to happier things. Especially, advances in science etc. that are to the benefit of us all.

Then I read this in Science Daily. So today is Mr. Glum day and I wonder whether to amend the grocery order to include large quantities of bottled water.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Arresting Story

When you helped a few friends do that wages security van job back in the 90's you were unhappy that they coshed the carriers and did a lot of damage, but it did get you the car of your dreams.

You forgot to wear your gloves, but your fingerprints etc. were not on file and the couple of things you left behind would not be traced. So you were in the clear and the police would never find you and your mates would never rat on you.

But the police, mindful of the physical force used as well as other things kept the items in a box. Time and science have moved on. The things that were incidental had parts which have yielded your DNA but then the police could not trace this.

But the game is up according to Science Daily, in that the near cousin who is a family history and ancestry fan had her DNA done hoping to prove wonders way back in time among her family.

The trouble is that while she may not have Queen Victoria in the family  she has proved that the DNA you left behind was good enough to lead the coppers to your door.

Time for family historians may be an ever rolling stream, but you will soon be doing time for something you thought was forgotten.

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.