Monday, 31 May 2010

Are You Feeling Tired?

This one may be of interest for its implications. I have forgotten where I found it so apologies.


Post Contamination Syndrome

Post Contamination Syndrome (PCS) is a period of reaction, shorter or longer, that manifests itself as weariness, physical or mental or both. It is a reaction to contamination by a substance that impacts on the immune, respiratory or brain function with allied effects on mental and body performance.

The length and strength of the PCS reaction will depend on the extent of effect and the nature of the substance, complex or simple, and the impact of the initial and following reactions in relation to the state of general and other health of the person affected.

In those cases where there is awareness of the contamination and measures are taken to either avoid or to reduce risk and impact the effect may be contained within a few hours. Often it will be more prolonged, perhaps days, if the PCS reaction is severe and/or measures to contain and control it are delayed.

Successive waves of contamination occurring in series that are not diagnosed or realised will result in prolonged PCS reactions and issues entailing a persistent debilitating condition that may be mistaken for illness arising from other causes.

A complication is that where a substance or product containing those substances is chemically designed to impact on the sense of smell and effectively either negates or significantly degrades its capability then there is a major risk that the lack of both awareness and ability to take avoiding or controlled measures will occur with more prolonged and severe reactions.

Other issues arise where it is not immediately evident that contamination is present because the PCS reactions might be delayed. This can arise in many instances. One type is where an individual may be subject to a chemical reaction and is not aware of the extent of the chemical haze now common in many public areas and facilities.

These mostly arise from personal and other products with synthetic aromatics, carrier, dispersal and penetrating agents. In those cases where nanotechnology has been applied to the relevant substance in the products the contamination may occur at a distance that makes avoidance and recognition difficult.

In cases where an individual may be subject to other either severe asthmatic reactions or anaphylaxis the PCS onset may occur after an unpredictable period of delay that will make identification more difficult.

The causes of the initial onset of vulnerability are normally complex and can arise from a variety of medical situations. Consequently their impact and diagnosis is often complex and requires rigorous and detailed analysis of the relevant conditions.

One area that presents difficulty is the role of virus infections. The illness may create vulnerability and as the virus trace remains in the blood it is easy to assume that the PCS reactions to contamination by one or more chemicals represent a persistent and difficult to treat feature of the virus.

The virus will have affected the immune or other body system in such a way that its resistance to certain forms of contamination is then weakened. This is hard to predict and the effect of a virus may lead to a range different reactions including PCS in different people.

As modern living and movement enables the wider spread and greater variety of virus infections and the levels of chemical contamination in the immediate environment of the great majority of the population have substantially increased the incidence of virus infections, subsequent chemical reactions and PCS will have risen progressively.

The increased rapidity of the application of new synthetic chemicals, techniques of manufacture and marketing together with the increased impact and power of products in the competition for market share will have outstripped the capacity or capability of modern science and medicine to recognise, diagnose or deal with the extent of the effects on human systems.


It might explain a few other things as well.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Tanks Are Not Ministerial Limousines

When politicians these days head for photo opportunities to do with the Army they instinctively want to he associated with the most expensive and lethal hardware available. Sometimes it might work, but only rarely. They finish up looking either superfluous or ridiculous, usually the latter. Mostly it displays their deep ignorance of the nature and implications of military action.

The allegations that the UK part of the Iraq invasion in 2003 was a shambles that often verged on disaster are likely true. The Daily Mail reports that the current Chilcot inquiry is being denied access to top secret documents written by senior commanders that set out the many and various failures, lack of planning and on the hoof political decisions that put British troops into the firing line with wholly inadequate resources and support.

This is no surprise. At the time there were critics who included a number of persons almost invariably found amongst the most hawkish of commentators on military and related matters. When it is not only the usual flock of doves complaining about the use of force but a collection of hawks, falcons and eagles then something odd is going on. Amongst the birds of prey and scavengers was a familiar vulture.

I was moved to write to a leading journal who actually printed it, near defamatory jeers and insults included. It was not matters of principle that moved me; nor even the issues of national interest, prestige and world influence. It was the fact that the Government of the day were intending to embark on a military action that could potentially break down.

We have a not so proud record of disasters, shambles and rank bad decisions down the centuries amongst the great victories and triumphs, so there is a lot of experience to draw on. Movement was the key. Given the poor security and extent of political leaking at the time it was possible for an informed observer to work out a great deal. It was clear to me and to other deniers amongst the traditional hawks that the figures simply did not add up.

In order to achieve the objectives probable then the number and level of front line troops were such that unless immediate success occurred we could be in serious trouble. This was both in terms of effective reinforcement and in the support necessary for complex movement, perhaps rebalancing the forward elements, and in terms of making any tactical readjustments necessary let alone strategic.

Critically, the amount of hardware and its backup deployed allowed only a very fine margin once the troops had been committed. Yet this was the best case scenario given the figures. If you looked at who was going, the materials they had, what they were being given in support, their recent experience and the relevant training and analytical work and real intelligence available it was nowhere near enough.

In the outcome it was the US air superiority that enabled the speed of victory and in the aftermath it was the US command and resources that the British became wholly dependent on. All the problems that the British encountered after the collapse of the main Iraqi forces reflected the lack of planning and provision made at the outset.

Moving, supplying, controlling, deploying and maintaining command numbers of troops is an extremely difficult and complex business. Been there, done that and with more men, tanks, equipment and support than went to Iraq. The trouble is that propaganda films show tanks charging about with a fine disregard for terrain, distance, fuel consumption and maintenance and repair. What they do not show is the harsh reality of the difficulties of their deployment in battle conditions and huge scale of mechanical work needed to keep them available for action and to move them any significant distance within limited time frames.

Tanks are difficult beasts to feed and run. At the time I stated that they needed their own kind of tender loving care which could not be supplied on a just in time basis from the local garage. In the invasion of Iraq it simply wasn’t there in the same way that the needs of the infantry were not properly supplied.

The trouble was that the Iraq war was run by a government that could not tell the difference between a main battle tank and a ministerial pool limousine.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Vulnerability Of Not Knowing

We are all wrong and there is nobody who is right. This is not going to change in the near future if at all. The UK General Election is just a minor skirmish on the edge of a major battle of ideas and we are wandering around a No Man’s Land unsure of either the terrain, who the enemy is, or when the fog of war is going to disperse.

My theory is that there is no theory that is viable at present and that all the past ideas about economics, finance, society, politics and such are redundant. Other disciplines and fields of study from time to time have to change quite radically and many today have key differences from their past forms. Unluckily when it comes to those that bear on human economic behaviour, action and belief humans have a need to hang on, sometimes literally to a grim death, to ideas ancient and modern which no longer serve.

Take “Capitalism”, the early 19th Century form of Manchester Capitalism which was understood by many thinkers at the time was to be changed after the introduction of Limited Liability eventually into a bigger and broader form that lasted until the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries. After the stresses of rampant Imperialism and the disasters of the 1914-1918 War it was another thing in another world. There was a transition until the 1939-1945 War and in the aftermath of that a different structure emerged. This was modified by a variety of developments during the period of The Cold War and at the end of this we have experienced what we call Globalisation etc. and still use the term Capitalism.

One key difference between now and when it all began is that at the beginning many people understood what the general idea was and how it worked. One of the signal features of the recent financial collapse is that none of the owners nor senior managements of the large scale financial operations, nor their regulators, nor their governments, nor their clients had much idea of what was truly going on and why other than sightings of figures that more often than not have been false, illusory or meaningless.

Much the same type of analysis can be applied to just about all the other “Ism’s” and bundles of beliefs and ideas on which we have based our constitutions, political parties, legal systems, and governing organizations, national, international and global. It has all become too complicated for humanity to understand or control. Our zeal for good news has led to us being given manipulated information and an overload of nonsense to persuade us to keep borrowing and consuming.

One striking illustration of how things change is Lord Mandelson, grandson of Herbert Morrison and heir to the Old Labour leaders, riding around in a top of the range Ferrari with a scion of the Rothschild family on the way to meet with an old friend. The friend is a Russian multi-billionaire oligarch who built his fortune by asset stripping the product of the labours of three generations of the former Soviet proletariat. Also in the frame to be a top man at BP, well nobody gushes better than Lord Mandelson, unlike many today, employment is not a problem for him.

Which brings me to one of the key features of much of modern macroeconomics, how to achieve Full Employment. In 1945 it was the belief that Labour was the party to do this that gave them a landslide majority and let Herbert Morrison loose on the nation. One of the key thinkers was Maynard Keynes and it was his ideas that became part of the core of much theory and policy for the next generation.

However, Keynes published his General Theory in 1936 and was unable to review and revise them in the changed world post 1945. The operational functioning of the financial markets, world trade, industrial structures and systems of government had changed in such a way as to impact significantly on much of his theory. Professor Philips of LSE had devised a machine to show how it worked with flows of coloured waters but in practice blockages, leaks, faulty joins and valves were evident and bits that simply did not work like that any more.

The series of changes from 1966 to 2006 has been very radical indeed and if you follow Keynes flow plans of money, investment, interest and employment they will not work because they can no longer work because everything is so different, controls are diffused, governments are finding their real powers compromised and the complexities very much greater.

To cite one example rarely appreciated but noted by some. It seems that in the period 1997 to 2007 there has been something in the order of a doubling of the labour available for employment in the world. This has not been accompanied by a doubling in oil output, energy, or real wealth, or for that matter water or food supplies. Also, whatever maybe happening in the West the increase is still going on and unmatched by the rise in the rate of resources available. Indeed, there are a lot of suggested “peaks” in many key resources.

It is arguable that this feature is one of the key factors behind the recent crash since this rise in labour availability to a great extent was discounted and disguised by monetary expansion that went hopelessly out of control. Given that some of the places where this rise has occurred and others where it is evident have much larger populations that some developed countries sooner or later they are going to feel the effects on the general functioning of wealth of their economies.

How can we attempt to control this? It will depend on how far we are in control of our own economy and own affairs. So, who "owns" the UK? This is in the sense of the real productive assets in industry and commerce. Much of this is now held outside the UK one way or another. The other "ownership" is the public sector, but if this is dependent on government, agency and municipal debt then who are the creditors? It is no good trying to go to old theories to find and deliver comfortable and soothing answers, because there are none to be had.

And I can assure you that nobody, especially those most insistent that they do know, will have any realistic ideas about what happens next.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Sing Choir Of Angels

St. Peter today expressed his mortification and abnegation at the revelations in “The Universe” that he was willing to accept half a million masses to arrange direct access to God. “The Universe” investigating reporting team led by Lucifer Dawkins filmed St. Peter in secret under the guise of a team of penitents.

St Peter said “It has been hell up here since this happened”. God was not available for comment but the Celestial Media Choir chorused that he was disappointed to have been betrayed a fourth time. The Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM PLC) was out of heaven visiting Australia to help with wine crops in areas of water shortage. She has been known to have been critical of British developments in recent centuries.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said “We need a full deep discussion about all the many tautological epistemologies of ontology with all faiths and oh conundrum I’ve sat on my glasses again.” Other faith leaders were agreed that they could not believe it.

Tony Blair, recently appointed representative of God on earth and United Nations Tsar for New Warfare, supported St. Peter claiming that it was normal business practice and in the past people had paid tens of thousands just to sit on his sofa.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that they would not be investigating as the matter lay outside their jurisdiction, but that recently special confessors had been appointed to the Forces community of Flagellants to ensure that they would be fully available for the Opening of Parliament and other state occasions.

St. David Beckham said that he would be praying for Fabio Capello and that he will be willing to contribute when his advisers had arranged admission to the College of Cardinals and media rights. Victoria Beckham will be designing new see through vestments to help the Churches achieve transparency in their functions.

The Pope was fully engaged in Spain giving blessings to golf courses to help overcome the financial crisis. However, the Vatican Marketing Department announced a new Premium Full Gold Rosary product designed as an investment in both the Cities of Earth and Heaven. Buyers would be given a Personal Purgatory Account Manager during the period of transition.

Her Majesty The Queen was at the Tower of London discussing the restoration of some of its older traditions.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Scorched Earth And Criminal Fraud

On Friday 26 June 2009, last year, I posted “I Know Where I’m Going” copied below, which put the question of whether the Labour Government had embarked on a deliberate “scorched earth” policy. With an interest in military history it was possible to see the signs of such an approach to tactics. Also, not much less than sixty years ago, I was involved in issuing Operation Orders in the event of a war in Europe. We had very practical ideas on the subject and as the photo above shows, our seniors who worked them out had a good deal of experience.

There are many ways and means of achieving such an objective and for differing purposes. It is more complicated than it seems. What have been told is that in the last year it is evident that there was no coherent purpose in the conduct of Labour. It seems to have been a mindless, ill contrived shambles, largely aimed at providing very personal benefits for those involved and their associates along the line of where the money went.

As “scorched earth” activity can lead to looting by uncontrolled and criminal mobs this has happened in effect. The more refined types are those conducted by regimes that loot the treasuries of their countries of which there are many examples, notably in places blessed or cursed with the attentions of the UK Aid agencies. It is very New Labour to have reduced UK’s public finances to this level.

What I want to know is where has the money gone and who has had it? My attitude is that this form of “scorched earth” amounts to criminal fraud. During the last 13 years we were all aware that peculation, corruption and fraud were all optional extras for members of the government and their helpers and that the relevant authorities were not merely reticent and fearful but often actually co-operative.

Of course, we will hear all about the needs of “privacy” for the great and greedy. Well, I haven’t got much privacy and nor have most people. Why should they be able to funnel public funds around and into protected Blind Trusts and other devices on one basis or another? If some ministers signed off big monies then were did it go? Did any at all find its way to people and accounts in which they had an interest?

Is anyone going to start an investigation into these people?

“I Know Where I’m Going” – Friday 26 June 2009

I believe that the Government has embarked on a “scorched earth” policy in anticipation of an electoral defeat together with a substantial clear out of the present Labour Party in the House of Commons. It is the only rational explanation for its present course of action and behaviour.

Government is about choosing priorities, allocating resources, and dealing with legislation, along with other duties and obligations. The intended effect is to wreck the ability of any new administration to determine any independent decision for the UK. It is to enable the effective decisions in major areas of policy to be put into the hands of the EU. Financially, the budget options will be predetermined by a disastrous fiscal situation and related international commitments that will be impossible to be freed from in the short term.

If the EU gets its way in Ireland and Denmark, the Lisbon Treaty will be in force by this Autumn, and the problems arising for a new government trying to make changes in the way they affect the UK will be intractable, whoever is in charge in Europe. I would not be surprised if during the Parliamentary recess, the moves necessary for the UK to enter the Euro currency will be under way, and may proceed rapidly, given the willingness of the Government to agree terms and make concessions. Perhaps 1st January or 1st April 2010 is already pencilled in for the vesting date.

In preparation for this the Government has been proposing actions around the “Regions”, those historical remnants from the early years of the Cold War assumed by political laziness and administrative stupidity to be an easy way of dividing up England for Whitehall, and then EU purposes. We are going to hear a lot more about the need for the regions in the recession, given the parallel need to find jobs and places, preferably with generous expenses, for all those displaced Labour MP’s and lost cause candidates.

As for priorities, the financial problems a new administration will have to deal with will be not just difficult, but plain nasty. In the NHS it will a question of who dies, and in social security who goes hungry. Commitments will be made in Defence that will bear no relation to requirements, but to job creation, and our forces will become little better than a peripatetic militia. As for education, how many universities will be closing, and other colleges going to the wall after January 2010, because of decisions made by the outgoing Labour administration?

The most dangerous consequences of all this arise from all the uncertainties and the uncontrollable matters that can arise in the world economy. Where the oil prices might go and by how much is a matter of bitter debate. The movement and interplay of currencies is currently a game of liar’s poker. Where interest rates may go in relation to the sovereign debt of too many badly extended countries, and whose credit might fail is still unknown. But the UK and the USA are both much too high on the list for comfort. If the government leaves the UK with junk bond status, it effectively means goodbye for the independence and coherence of the UK.

Quite a number of the prophets of doom out there are talking about the end of the nation state and the end of the industrial world as we know it. The Government are embarked on a course which could mean that the UK which began the Industrial Revolution will be the first to relapse into urban predatory tribalism.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Butch Dick And Sundance Willie

Butch Dick and Sundance Willie

Sir Richard Branson and Mr. William Walsh, late of Dublin want some of my money. One way or another they are doing fairly well already, Richard with his trains that I do not use, preferring the civilities of the Chiltern Line and well paid Willie with an airline that I do not fly on. The airlines they run, or rather large scale financial operations which require the transportation of people by air and in doing so benefit from a range of hidden subsidies and financial tax and other breaks from the government.

Richard has a need for substantial support for his ventures into outer space, if only he would just keep going. Willie also needs help because BA’s slowness in the race to the bottom in terms of customer service means that their pension fund is in dire condition. There is nothing like a leaky pension fund to scare the wits out of senior management who might be reduced to a single yacht in their retirement.

These are yet another “private sector” activity but in effect quasi public sector which means that if there are financial glitches or targets that might not be met in the short term to satisfy their host of creditors, large shareholders, and dealers in strange financial instrument that fly only on the web then they run screaming to the politicians, many of whom have bought shares for their private and blind trusts.

The former Taoiseach of Eire, Mr. Bertie Aherne who knows one when he sees one was averse to Willie when he ran Aer Lingus and tried to frogmarch the Irish government into selling it to him and his friends for a knock down price. Also the Irish are wary of Richard, Virgin or no Virgin. It is the London politicians who have fallen for their ill defined charms. New Labour were especially attached to Richard’s vapourings, had he bottled them and branded it “Virgin’s Breath” they would have queued all night to buy it when the shops opened.

A part of the problem is that the former government were starry eyed and suckers for anything to do with the air industry and its moguls. We were promised lots of new runways, the doubling of air traffic in a decade or so, Mandy saw to the carbon emission figures, and all sorts of deals and debts were incurred to keep Britain flying. That most people were doing it on credit and because they were told to believe in it all did not matter.

The ash clouds that caused relatively minor disruptions in the great scheme of things but a good deal of inconvenience and cost to the unlucky have prompted the pair to demand money from the taxpayer. What happened to the business of insuring against future problems? What happened to the idea of holding sums in reserve to cover unexpected difficulties? What happened to the need in the business plans to accommodate losses of flight time?

No way, the airlines wanted to extract every last penny and to work all the assets as hard as they could so when problems hit it was always going to hurt. In this case whilst the actual event was unpredictable, in strategic terms it was not. There are a lot of volcanoes which can erupt and many do.

My first memory is that of March 1944 when Vesuvius went up and a teacher explained it to us. He qualified around 1908 so his ideas were based on ancient history as taught to him by a chap who may have been influenced by the 1883 Krakatoa event. Things have moved on since then. It seems that Richard and Willie have not caught up with it.

In my purely personal opinion that they should be blaming the government and the bodies involved for over reaction is a squalid tactic in trying to extract added subsidies for what are serious management failures. It is also grossly irresponsible and potentially dangerous in destabilising public confidence.

In the most recent decades they have been very lucky that a really bad winter or run of summer storms, or other event has not caused real problems. As for ash clouds it was always going to happen somewhere at some time and a betting man would have laid short odds on Iceland.

This is not the place to go into the complexity and large number of factors in the science of vulcanology or the chemistry of eruptions. Besides engine damage and loss of power there is the matter of fine particles of potentially toxic material getting inside the cabins. Overall is the uncertainty and sheer difficulty of making fully informed decisions in a highly fluid situation with variable weather conditions.

Certainly, there might well have been more research done beforehand, but that can only tell you so much. But who now directs UK science research and on what basis? It is people like Richard and Willie who urged the government to direct research into “added value”. As vulcanologists cannot make predictions on which financial targets can be based their work is too like “pure science” to be given much attention.

“Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” was a fantasy fun caper film of 1969 about two loveable rogues in Wyoming who robbed banks and stole government gold. The caper goes wrong when The Kid uses too much dynamite. Nowadays it is the owners of the banks who do the robbing and their political sidekicks who hand over the government gold.

I hope this time Butch Dick and Sundance Willie have overdone the dynamite.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Something To Cheer You All Up

Whilst we in our small off shore island continue the incessant debates about our own affairs as though we mattered much out there it seems to be getting rough. From many of the sites I look at there is now an increasing level of agreement from differing standpoints that the Eurozone is in for a bad time.

How bad and who will be worst affected is uncertain, all this is agreed is that the overall position is essentially untenable. The long standing flaws in the system have become major faults and in all the complex arrangements there were no plans or ideas about what to do if things went wrong or how to do them. So it is all being done now on the hoof, which means greater opportunity for serious error.

There are commentators who tell us to look East. It is not so good out there. The Saudi’s may now be deciding to consume most of the oil they produce, Dubai has blown a fuse, Iraq is Iraq, the Iranians are being restive, old problems are becoming worse and seismologists are placing bets on the next large one along the North Anatolian fault.

Further east the Afghan imbroglio is getting worse. If a fungus has done for the opium crop and illegal drug prices rocket who knows what can happen? Certainly it will not get any better in Pakistan. Meanwhile, India in between dealing with Maoist terrorists and falling water tables is running inflation at over 15%.

You will have read about Thailand on the news. China theoretically is the one major strength in the world, or so the Australians hope. But that is only if you believe the figures. This depends on the level of trust you have when sourcing chemicals from uncertain Chinese factories. Japan is not the financial power of the 21st Century it was intended to be, it may well become the biggest sovereign debt crisis in world history.

In the America’s there are a number of problems. The USA has eye watering debts and one wonders how far a union can survive if over half the states are hopelessly broke. BP is contributing to the mess in both financial and physical terms. On the quiet the USGS have started their hurricane and tropical storm emergency watch early this year. To add to your joy even when hurricanes are in short supply the Gulf of Mexico normally provides a number of major tropical storms to keep emergency services busy.

So while our media and the BBC rush around seeking sulking Lib Dem’s and outraged Tories as well as hyping up the New Labour Rat Race, agonising over the latest English football fiasco and telling us what a wonderful summer it will be and never mind the water shortages and A&E Wards full of heat stroke patients, be afraid, be very afraid.

Reading one highly respected academic who has tried to explain the impact of climatic variations on human history, he has wondered if some of the problems of the past that have been difficult to explain can be traced to volcanic eruptions not simply as single big bangs but as an unpredictable sequence of a series.

That is that there are periods when quite a few go up one after the other with cumulative effects, for example, not only places like Iceland but others at the same time. If these accompany economic and political events that have significant effects in the same general period then you finish up with a general big chaotic disaster.

You might call it the Lot Of Little Bangs Theory of change.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The NHS - Cutting The Cost

Looking for anything but politics during the week there were two stories that left me startled and with that sinking feeling again about what should be very obvious. After all the clatter above protecting “front line services” one wonders who exactly is being protected. Is it the patients, doctors, nurses, and medical support or could it be other interests?

One story was about children with behaviour issues who were difficult to control and were both over active and apparently over stimulated. According to the report the drug Ritalin is now being prescribed by doctors to around 750,000 children. Not long ago when a psychologist I knew quite well was asked he assured me that the drug was not given unless a number of criteria had been met.

If there were boxes to be ticked ordered by those on high then that was enough. In the past I have had too many rows with the “mind men” not to be worried about what appears to be the mass medication of large numbers of children with apparently little real control or analysis.

The other one was that last year 36,000,000, yes million, prescriptions were written on the NHS for PPI drugs, Proton Pump Inhibitors that are designed to reduce long lasting gastric acid production. Patients are rarely tested so that those who have levels of gastric acid that are too low have them lowered further. If the problems arise from something else they may never know.

Moreover these drugs may have a formidable array of side effects on the principle of garbage in garbage out. The NHS requires its family doctors to worry little about medication side effects; after all there are large numbers of other drugs to deal with those. Reporting the side effects is therefore sketchy to nonexistent in most cases.

But the report and other information say that PPIs increase the risk of pneumonia, osteoporosis, broken bones, kidney problems and infection with C.difficile, the superbug that afflicts thousands of older hospital patients every year. While PPIs were effective in several conditions, there was evidence they are excessively used to treat indigestion when other prescription medicines costing half as much would work just as well, without such severe side-effects

Doctors have previously warned the NHS is spending £100million unnecessarily each year over-treating indigestion patients with PPIs around one-quarter of the total expenditure on the drugs. A report in the British Medical Journal found overuse of the drugs flouted NHS guidelines, because doctors were reaching for the 'top weapon in the armoury' to treat even mild cases of indigestion.

Dr Mitchell Katz, of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, writing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, said overuse of PPIs was a major problem. He said: “That proton pump inhibitors relieve dyspepsia is without question but at what cost and I do not mean financial.”

That people have problems in the digestive and related systems is all too evident. When watching satellite and other TV you see many advertisements. Some are for chemical products of one kind or another and for junk food. A lot are for stomach problems. As advertising is expensive the companies must make enough from selling a great many products to a great many people to make it pay.

This is confirmed when I visit a chemists shop and look at the long aisle of such products and see them also in supermarkets. On the aisles also there are vast amounts of manufactured and pre-prepared foods. If you look at the contents there is a huge array of “fillers”, stabilisers, colourings, texture effects, salts, sweetening agents and in particular both flavourings as such, largely synthetic, and flavour enhancers notably MSG.

Again looking into the trolleys at the checkouts there are few people without products including some or almost all of these. Compared to the food I had when young, not only at home, but also in various catering establishments the increased chemical load is astonishing. Is it surprising that numbers of people will have gastric and other reactions?

The way the NHS works at family doctor level is to be able to put an easy label onto a problem, usually a catch all word or phrase for the identifiable symptoms and then shove an approved prescription drug at the patient. In a few cases something else quite serious may be spotted but often all too late and worsened by both the delays and the previous treatment.

What the NHS does not do is look for causes and address itself to getting rid of them. The Coeliac Society suggests that there are many more people with gluten problems than are identified. Getting a test done for gluten reactions too often involves a major campaign. My own NHS Primary Care Trust refused to test for Anaphylaxis (extreme toxic or allergic shock) contracted in an NHS Hospital as a result of NHS treatment.

There are a range of intolerances and allergies, testing for which is almost absent from many NHS areas. Doctor’s in the UK don’t do “causes” only pill popping for the most part. So vast amounts of taxpayers money is going on medications without any attempt to inform or advise people or to establish what the cause might be and how the relevant problems might be avoided or substantially diminished.

Children who are people in the process of highly complex development that involves the natural body chemistry are being stuffed with stimulant junk and then when they get jumpy are stuffed with medications whose side effects are unpredictable, maybe nasty and can cause permanent damage.

Major pharmaceutical companies are “private sector” but in effect bailed out by the NHS. They are the Northern Rock‘s and RBS of the public health sector. Whilst on the face of it having some useful functions they do a great deal of collateral damage. A huge amount is funded by government science spending on treatments and medications, these “add value”. Little is spend on causes and effective control and attempting to deal with issues at source do not “add value” so cannot have funding.

This has been governing policy of government, science, and the management of the health service for a long while now. If we cannot afford the present health service in the future then the use of it as a market place and guaranteed outlet for medications made by powerful pharmaceutical companies ought to he the first thing to look at.

But I suspect it may well be the last.

Friday, 14 May 2010


The Gordon picture in the previous blog seems to come from Old Rightie, I might have known. He states Ludlow Town Hall, admittedly a hgher class of place than The Royal Society of Arts., and his home patch I believe. Was he in "The Wheatsheaf" around Easter of 1953 when I had a pint or more there? It was at Ludlow Castle in April 1502 that Arthur, Prince of Wales died tragically young. It was his younger brother Henry who inherited the throne as King Henry VIII in April 1509, one of the great "What If's?" of British History. It's been a lot quieter since.

Unemployment Rising

This one turned up in my inbox from a cousin, orignal source unknown, and it was impossible to resist. But I am wondering where the doors at the back are, could they be The Royal Society Of Arts back door down by the Embankment in London? This is just across the road from the rear of the Robert Burns statue in the gardens. If so, this chap may well be getting a hard time from the regulars.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A Far Away Country

At today under “Blood In The Streets” there is footage of the riots at Leinster House in Dublin. They look to have been very ugly as protesters demonstrated at the continuing bail out of the banks and finance houses whilst heavy cuts to public spending are being made. Leinster House is the home of the Dail Eirann, the elected lower assembly of the Republic of Ireland.

Because of the large scale coverage in the UK Media of the comings and goings of who are to be the people in London who administer the instructions from Brussels and Berlin for the UK these riots have been ignored. But they are an expression of the growing resentment of the reductions being made, the likelihood that they will last a long time, whilst between Ireland, London and the EU steadily increasing sums from Irish taxpayers are going to prop up banks and finance houses.

Dublin is in a far away foreign country that we take little notice of these days save for the occasional imported celebrity. Perhaps there may be lessons for us. In the meantime I am off to the Post Office to meet a few friends.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Bananas And Boundaries

Now that “Grabber” Gordon Brown is Has Been Of The Year what happens next? Will he adorn the benches of the House of Lords as Baron Brown of Balamory or even Earl of Glenvarloch? Will he retreat north to carry on plotting? Or has be bigger fish to fry, subject to EU quotas and environmental regulations?

Perhaps, given the resilience of the Labour vote in his homeland he may emerge as either the next First Minister or at least the Grey Eminence of a Scotland detached from England. The first straw in the wind is the claim by Martin Gilbert, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management that Scotland, or rather Edinburgh, could become one of the major tax havens of the world leaching capital from the deficit stricken developed world and the increasingly impoverished undeveloped by enabling the rich to evade taxation and other penalties of citizenship.

This was reported by the Tax Justice dot blogspot dot com on Tuesday 4th May under “The BBC, Scotland and Offshore” criticising the BBC’s lauding of the proposal. But the BBC at that point was trying to whip up support for Brown. The item in the Tax Justice blog just before that, one from Monday 3rd May was about “London, The Most Unequal City In The Developed World”. The nub of this was that London, the central agency for most of the world’s tax havens, necessarily has followed the pattern of such places by becoming a place with a super-rich elite and a helot population who are becoming ever poorer and now tops the list for inequality.

Who was responsible for that happening? Please refer to the first paragraph, Gordon Brown himself. The Scots remaining north of the border should be careful not only of what they wish for but who and take a look at just where Martin Gilbert’s lot operates. If Banana Man Miliband succeeds Brown as Labour Leader will he pave the way for the UK to become a collection of warring Banana Republics?

Those poring over the electoral map point to the disparity in the balance of voting and suggest that this necessarily means the potential end of the union. Quite why this should occasion an expensive and damaging breakup is a puzzle. Especially if any part remains in the EU, in which case the putative “independence” would be a complete fiction. It would means that relationships between say Cumbria and Dumfries would be determined by a clutch of continentals in Brussels without much reference to either Edinburgh or London.

Most other countries manage to accommodate differing patterns of voting in various parts by means of routine politics and the ordinary business of transactions. That we allow the whole business to be bedevilled by some of the more grotesque posturing of nationalist propaganda and myth making is plain silly. In any case if you look a little harder at the map you see that the voting imbalance in not marked by the current border, itself once known as cutting through The Debateable Land. The line is found further to the south.

You might take it either along the line of the Tees over to Morecambe Bay, north of the old Yorkshire and Lancashire or to the south from the Humber to the Mersey, in my view the more northerly one is the better of the two, but it is arguable. It depends on your view of the implications of The Treaty of York of 1237 later more or less firmed up by the Treaty of Edinburgh and Northampton of 1328.

Before 1237 the situation was in constant flux with the coming and going of Kings and Lords. Until 1283, the year of the Battle of Largs the Norse still had an interest. During the last years of King John in 1215 the Northern Earls of England allied with the King of Scots to attempt a coup whilst those in the South brought in Prince Louis of France as their potential King.

What is little understood today is that this line was drawn across lands disputed by various families and additionally amounted to a partition of the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria. This had been reduced to an Earldom, which had several claimants, including the King of England, the King of Scots and others, Mowbray’s to the south and Douglas’s to the north.

There was continuing conflict and violence until the early 17th Century when the accession of King James 6th of Scotland to the throne of England led to a crackdown on the Border families. This was accompanied by a range of bribes and honours for the great landowners. The territory is still thick with Barons, Earls and Dukes to this day.

So if voting pattern is the criteria could the southern part of the old Kingdom of Northumbria be rejoined with the northern part if that might be the wish of the relevant electorates? Cumbria might care to join them in such a Greater Scotland or Albion. Perhaps over the water the Six Counties might be allowed a vote on an individual county basis. Would Antrim and Down and even Londonderry prefer unity with the newly defined northern country?

Why in the 21st Century should borders necessarily be based on ancient long dead dynastic political deals? Especially, if they are troublesome and lack logic in the present world? There is enough trouble around the globe in places cursed with an unwise division imposed either by outsiders or as the consequence of a grubby personal deal between the reigning elites at that time.

If we are serious about democracy and local empowerment perhaps we should extend it to reviews of all boundaries in what is going to be a very changed world.

The real issue, however, is whether the various parts of the Atlantic Isles should function in one form of close liaison or another with each other or whether we allow ourselves to be detached and separated under the domination of other entities, whether in an EU with a broken currency or as economic colonies of China and Russia. When this was the case in the past in the Atlantic Isles it meant continuing and damaging conflict for the benefit of others.

At present we have a botched and bastard federalism. It might be better if we looked to the Swiss as an example. At least we would have a decent and affordable railway system.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Eyes Windows Of The Mind And Whirlpools

Sometimes it is good to have a look at what others outside may think. Distance and another perspective may not make the heart grow fonder but the mind will look through different eyes. Try this one below from The Automatic Earth written by Stoneleigh.


The Imperial Eurozone (With All That Implies)

In the light of events in Greece, I want to address the structure and prospects for the Eurozone, and specifically how the structure pre-determines the prospects. Talk about long term austerity measures in southern Europe by no means covers a worst-case scenario.

All aggregate human structures at all degrees of scale are essentially predatory. They all convey wealth from a necessarily expanding periphery towards the centre, where wealth is concentrated. The periphery may be either forced or enticed to join the larger structure, but that does not affect the outcome. Such structures are all inherently self-limiting, as the fundamental dependence on the buy-in of new entrants grounds them in Ponzi dynamics.

The Eurozone project is no different. The European periphery was sold an impossible dream - that they could by fiat have the same living standards as northern Europe. Perhaps the architects of the project believed that equalization by fiat would work, but whether their intentions were honourable or not is immaterial to the outcome.

The Ponzi scheme was very effective, because the impossible dream was so appealing. The euro project gave people and companies and governments in the periphery access to far lower interest rates than they had ever seen before, and encouraged them to enter the gingerbread palace.

The result was a manic period of credit expansion where people borrowed vastly more than they could ever hope to repay, just like the US subprime borrowers who indulged in the same dynamic. Attempting to borrow yourself into wealth absolutely never works, no matter where you live. The developing debt slavery further enriches the centre in the meantime, though.

As we have discussed at The Automatic Earth many times, credit expansions create outward appearances of great real wealth. They do this by creating multiple and mutually exclusive claims to the same pieces of underlying real wealth pie. Many people feel wealthy, but that is perception, not reality. This wealth is virtual. The structure is Enron-esque. At maximum expansion it appears robust, yet it is destined to implode rapidly.

When such expansions happen on a small scale, borrowers can end up in long term debt slavery but a centre can hold, albeit after taking a haircut and perhaps seeing a change of control to some larger external entity able to absorb the impact. When the same thing happens on a large scale, or indeed an all-consuming scale as it has this time, it will take down both borrowers and creditors alike, in a climate of mutual recrimination.

The debt exposure to the periphery is simply too large to avoid taking down the centre as well, especially as there is no external structure large enough to absorb the impact. This time we have created the first truly global Ponzi scheme, with a myriad local manifestations.

To revisit an earlier essay on “Adaptive Cycles In Natural And Human Systems” the effect of a cycle turning to the downside depends on where it is positioned in relation to both the smaller-scale cycles it is composed of and the larger-scale cycles within which it is embedded. The deepest collapses occur when cycles at many scales move to the downside in a coordinated fashion, so it is not possible to cushion the fall. The erstwhile European Imperium is destined to fail, and it will by no means be alone in this, as it is but one component of a global financial structure of the same nature and at the same position on the brink.

A credit expansion requires two sides - a predatory lending structure at the centre and and gullibility and greed in the periphery. They are mutually responsible for the outcome. In a collapse, the center attempts to blame the periphery and impose all the consequences upon it, while holding on to all the perceived wealth. This is toxic to the larger structure.

The socioeconomic disparities created in the attempt to contain the consequences in the periphery will be politically impossible to sustain. Germany will not be able to continue business as usual while expecting the Greeks (and the Portuguese, Spanish, Irish, Italians, British, Eastern Europeans etc.) to live with drastic austerity measures for years.

The extent to which the attempt to do this will inflame destructive old hatreds is very much larger than people currently suppose in a place as apparently civilized as Europe. Collective memory is long.

Remember Sarajevo - the veneer of civilization is very thin when push comes to shove.


There is a lot on the web on “Ponzi” and schemes. Stoneleigh refers to The Balkans but there are other places. On the other side of the pond they are more open about their pessimism as they are about their deficits.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Teaching Young Dogs Old Tricks

The present uncertainties arise for a number of reasons. Our new crop of youthful members of parliament has grown up since the late 1980’s. There are some remnant old stagers around as well as those on the Left who burble incessantly about Mrs. Thatcher. This seems to be their modern fetish in line with the worship of antique pop groups. Back in the 1950’s I do not recall us wittering on about Ramsay Macdonald or paying good money for 1920’s ballroom dancing melodies. As for dancing the Charleston, I mean my Dad did that and well who wants to do that kind of thing?

For all of her media dominance and thrust of her personality, Mrs. Thatcher still presided over a party of many parts. It was a coalition of one kind, unluckily because of the electoral system with some bits missing that should have been there. Old Labour always was a coalition where the Methodists traded uneasily with the Marxists, never mind the rivalries of the many trade unions.

Nowadays, but not then, you will find the boilermakers in with the collective of sex workers and a bundle of local government personnel and shop workers as in the GMB, yes dear reader, I am a member of that union, it is a long and strange tale.

Under John Major the old Tory party began to disintegrate and despite the efforts of its publicity people is still fragmented. The difficulty now is that under the Great Leader concept of party management the old checks and balances have gone and it is all very messy.

New Labour has abandoned its traditional base to build up a client base by huge spending in the public sector. It has created a new middle class who are not so much consulted as directed by media and modern management techniques and whipped along by bonus payments and target setting. The BBC is a case in point. The dictatorial nature of New Labour originates amongst the extreme Left groups that so many of them belonged to whose intellectual inspiration was East Germany.

The Liberal Democrat’s began as a coalition of sorts, essentially the dissatisfied meeting the disorientated. Bits that might have remained have dropped off, as Greens and such, but they have become a raggle taggle bunch of camp followers who can see only Europe as the future and Britain as an off shore base for good intentions for the world who will take no notice.

In office New Labour has taken advantage of its position by a process of “creative destruction” which has been very effective on the destructive side but very bad on the creative. They have certainly created unsustainable debt and expenditure levels but not much else.

The only people they have compromised with are the money men and the big spenders. For the rest of it they have steam rollered Parliament, dismantled the old civil service, the Foreign Office cannot even be civil to The Pope, and have created a web of entities and activities too big either to control or to co-ordinate.

In short none of the three major parties has any real experience of the nature of discussion, manner or management of a real coalition situation and of their members few have either grown up or been obliged to conduct any serious business or work in negotiation to achieve the results needed. It is quite literally like putting not so much the lunatics in charge of the asylum as the predatory animal packs in charge of the zoo.

Historically, at different times and in different places similar situations have arisen before and the results are not happy ones. In some cases the political entities just disintegrate as a whole, in others one form or another of absolute government occurs, perhaps after a period of bloodshed and misery. Occasionally, the state concerned just staggers on from one disaster to another. Lastly and all too often the state goes off the map as it is taken over by outsiders in one form or another.

Is anyone taking bets?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Those taxpayers who cannot avoid paying tax are the only persons contained by existing political boundaries and are wholly at the mercy of their political elites. These elites, their support systems and much of large scale economic activity notably in financial services are not financially confined within the “nation states” they control and from whom they extract their rents and income streams.

They take their money and ownership of assets where they wish. So for the UK the offices of our Inland Revenue which extracts taxes from most of us are no longer owned by our government but by a private equity company based in Bermuda. This company made a very profitable deal on the purchase of the offices and is doing very well out of the leasehold and other charges.

It would be wearying to go on and on and on about all the other examples, please refer to Tax Justice Network on the international situation. In some countries, notably Greece it has gone to greater extremes. There, it is said, hardly any of the top 30% in wealth terms pay much if any tax. Nor do they intend to. One side effect is that such Greeks have been buying into London property and helping to keep up prices there. The UK needs this kind of help much as it needs a return of the Bubonic Plague of 1665-1666.

The great trouble for the media, the politicians and the pundits is that explaining all this to the ordinary, or even most of the educated population is conveying the sheer complexity and depth of what is involved. All I can do is give below the comment made by Tyler Durden yesterday in Zero Hedge dot com “The CDS Traders Verdict Is In – UK In Deep – As Are France And Deutschland”. In another post the site points out that the Greek bail out is also a bail out of French banks.

In the next few days and maybe months you are going to hear a lot about “contagion” and the gathering sovereign debt crisis implodes, explodes or goes stratospheric. Like it or not you and I are part of it, so get used to the idea.


Portugal... Spain...Greece...these are all last week's news based on CDS trading patterns. Indeed, this week saw the biggest trade unwinds of all top 1000 CDS entities (including all corporates) precisely in these three names.

As the PIIGS implosion is finally being appreciated by everyone and their grandmother, the "speculators" are booking massive profits: the net cover/rerisking in Portugal and Spain was a massive $500 million net notional unwinds in each in the week ended April 30.

Also known as taking profits. Greece and Ireland were also in the top 5, so as we have repeatedly claimed, the market will no longer make the news in Club Med. So where will it? No surprise there - the UK, France and Germany. The smartest money in the world is now actively betting the core of the eurozone is where the next CDS blow up will take place.

With a stunning $630 million, $558 million and $370 million in net notional derisking, France, UK and Germany are the top three most active recipients in negative bets in the prior week, not just in sovereigns but in all names.

The greatest non-sovereign derisker in the last week? Goldman Sachs, with $175 million. Nuff said. Yet a tangent on the UK: last week the UK saw $443 million in net notional derisking. This week the number is even higher: $558 million. There is now over $1 billion in net risky bets made that the UK may not last.

And Zero Hedge's outside bet to be the first core country to blow up, thanks to its massive PIIGS exposure, France, finally made the top spot in net derisking, with $629 million in net notional, or 189 contracts. The smart money is now massively betting that Europe's core is done for; as the PIIGS have demonstrated, the blow out in spreads for the core trifecta can not be far behind.


The ones who will be worst affected are those who are the taxpayers. And there is no known cure.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A Grand Day Out

Today I went fishing the easy way, by going to the fish shop and asking the fishmonger to do the necessary. As old fashioned fishmongers have gone from almost all our shopping centres you now have to travel some miles. Our nearest is on the coast a forty minute belt down the motorway. We like to eat fish to promote our “green” credentials” The trouble is that fish stocks are now getting low and the price is going up and all sorts of other things so it is no longer “green”.

We took a walk along the seafront. To the south we could see Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, now mostly mothballed, and there is a debate about its renewal. If it is not renewed it will add to the energy problem, if it is it will be the source of other problems. Close to it we could just pick out the huge Romney Marsh Wind Farm, built to provide us with “clean” power. We could see them easily because the sails were not turning as there was no wind.

Adjacent to the power station and wind farms is Lydd Airport. Its owners want to expand it to allow bigger planes and a more extensive air service. This will entail other works. At the moment it offers a world class service to Le Touquet where the French Elite once used to keep their mistresses. Now it has some attractive casinos. Just the kind of thing to support our GDP in peril.

Up to the north the P&O Ferries are working hard out of Dover. They need to in order to keep up with the traffic created by all the strikes in France. There are two large new ferries on order. They hoped to name them “Olympic Spirit” and “Olympic Pride” to celebrate the coming of the Olympic Games to England.

They are not able to. It seems that the use of the word “Olympic” now contravenes legal rules that protect the commercial rights of the organisers of the Olympic Games. As the UK government whose idea this is has not consulted Zeus or his staff I suspect that something unexpected and nasty could happen in 2012.

Despite it being a beautiful day there are not many people around and it is all sad and more than tired. The British seaside does not attract many these days. People have been instructed that they must fly off across the world to be stranded in far away places and sit on beaches and in bars indistinguishable from any others to enjoy themselves.

However, there were two chaps enjoying themselves with their tins and jolly banter echoing around the promenade. It did not take long for me to deduce that they were Glaswegians from the nature and verbal texture of the exchanges as we greeted each other. A short distance away there is a road named after a Glaswegian of great fame, Sir John Moore, and the whole township celebrates his name and memory. Behind us was the great Shorncliffe Redoubt that he built two hundred years ago.

The Glaswegians, old soldiers, it appeared were not in work and homeless, so I invited them to join me in invading France, whose coast was just possible to see. They demurred, they had already tried it and had been thrown out by the French in a sad betrayal of European solidarity.

Sadly, my new friends would not be voting, like many of their ilk. But in their old homes their votes would not be missed being replaced by new postal votes as in so many places. It is one of the wonders of New Labour that the number of fake votes provided by ineligible non European Afghans and Iraqi men will far exceed the number of British troops prevented from voting by administrative difficulties. Sir John Moore would not have understood.

Having advised the two about the location of a decent fish and chip shop and how easy it is to slip out through the back door of the local Waitrose store, it was time to come home. On the way back we were suddenly overtaken by a stream of large expensive limousines doing the ton in the fast lane.

One of my obsessive traits is to work out the meaning of number plates. This lot were off the train from Brussels and headed for London. Does this mean that come Friday there will be a posse of Eurocrats and others on hand to take part in any discussions about power broking or personalities in any new regime?

The only thing that made sense today was the conversation with the Glaswegians.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

How We Voted

When the time came to send off our postal votes; we did not take up the kind offer from that very nice man dressed in combat gear, big boots, a badly washed T shirt saying “Gordon The Great” and carrying a baseball bat; it was difficult to decide.

Normally, we would go down the list of candidates and simply roll the dice. It has worked very well in the past, up to a point. The year I voted for the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate got me a tapped phone and regular visits from the Special Branch man anxious to check my gas boiler. I had some fun with that.

But alas we could not find the dice. So we had to resort to a random sample approach, if you can call it that. We allocated a particular event to each candidate and then sat down by the window to see which happened first. In the old days this might have been done by watching out for a postman or a parcels delivery or a policeman on the beat or a doctor or a nurse or other things very likely to appear. This no longer works.

So our list included an urban fox, a rat, a environmental inspector doing a sneak check on recycling bins, a junkie burglar, a serial arsonist, an unlicensed driver with a foreign number plate trying to do the ton in a hundred yards and an elderly man using our hedge because the council have closed all the local W.C.’s.

Use your skill and judgement to work out which event was allocated to which party candidate and which one turned up first.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Social Mobility - Dodgems and Roller Coasters

When politicians say that they want more social mobility then they should be careful what they wish for. Social mobility might go up or down. The 19th Century may have allowed a good deal of upward movement but undoubtedly there was a great deal downward, one of the effects of large families with a higher proportion of children surviving than in the past.

Our problem is to insist on basing our ideas of what is the two dimensional perspective of the notional class structure imposed by statisticians and the belief that this is somehow rigid and mechanical in its workings.

I regret that reality, as ever, is chaotic, very complicated and subject to all the chance and unpredictable fortunes, or not, of life. It is not just swings and roundabouts, it is roller coasters and dodgems and all the rest. Take the happy family above, for example. This is Mark Mac Donnell, 10th Earl of Antrim, his Countess, Jane Emma Hannah and their family. The present Earl does not use his title much, as a businessman it can get in the way of his work.

Mark, however, was very happy to become Earl. Initially, a younger son sent into the navy he was going to have to make his own way in life. His wife was the daughter of an Army Cavalry Major, Turner Macan of Carriff in County Armagh, one of a minor Ulster gentry family who went to India to make his name and fortune. Carriff is now a garden centre.

Mark and Jane with their growing family at one time could hope only for a modest prosperity that would allow them to educate and place their children. By one of those quirks of Irish politics in the late 18th Century the 6th Earl secured in Letters Patent the reversion of the Earldom of Antrim to the female line in the event of no male heir. So Mark was plucked from the Quarter Deck in 1855 to take over the title and estates of the Earldom and the name Mac Donnell.

This was much to his surprise as he had two elder brothers, both of whom died early and childless. They had succeeded their mother who before that her eldest sister, and then their father who had secured the special favour of a female descent for his title. Mark and Jane had risen in the world.

But there was more to come. The later Antrim’s were at Court at the turn of the 19th and 20th Century. One, Lady Jane Grey Mac Donnell, who left a private printed memoir in 1938, married Lord Clinton, Aide and Secretary to the Prince of Wales. Their daughter Fenella, married John Herbert Bowes-Lyon in 1914. He had a rather younger sister Elizabeth and the rest, as they say, is history.

But this is just one small part of the family. Some of the other descendants and connections are strewn about Burke and Debrett, Home, Lichfield, Bicester and others. But many are not. Where are the rest of them? The vast majority have gone off the radar to be found only by grubbing away in the ordinary records. As you go down the years so also you go down the scale of status and income. It is possible to connect both Wayne Rooney and Cherie Booth-Blair to the late Queen Mother. I did say roller coaster, didn’t I?

As for us ordinary lot, even within the limitations of the ups and downs of our own families there is a rise and fall. You start one thing, become another, get lucky or unlucky, make right or wrong decisions, back the right or wrong enterprises, make the right or wrong friends and networks and it will be different. This does not allow for health matters. One day it is all go, the next it all changes.

One of my uncles went into hospital work and for career reasons in the late 1930’s chose an Isolation Hospital. He caught TB and died young. Had he survived, he might well have become a senior figure in the National Health Service in the 1950’s. I could go round all the branches of my family and plot the ups and downs of life.

There is one key difference today however and that is Education. In the past in the Lower and Upper reaches of the middling orders, the pump house of social mobility, it was possible to move up without a great deal in the way of formal education. If anything around much of commerce and industry there was a prejudice against graduates. Work was the university of life.

Nowadays, unluckily, we are virtually at the point where is it compulsory to have a degree and to be in formal Education until the age of 21 at least to obtain the equivalent of entry clerical post. In short, the Education system and the way it is managed and used has become the major obstruction to social mobility.

It is not so much old fashioned class or money that matters but how long and where you were educated. You now often need a post graduate education to become the sort of very junior manager that my uncle was seventy years ago. As lotteries of life go, this is even worse than any of the former obstacles and hurdles.

No wonder that the ambition of so many girls is to become models and footballer’s WAG’s. At least it shows respect for the older traditions of social mobility.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

May Day

Today I heard a distant voice singing, it is a very long while since I last heard this in a place far away in distance and in time. Lost, lost, lost.

“Sing a song of May time,
Sing a song of Spring,
Flowers are in their beauty,
Birds are on the wing.
May time, play time,
God has given us May time,
Thank Him for his gifts of love,
Sing a song of spring.”