Thursday, 30 May 2013

News Bad And Worse

This is coming from a new machine that has not long been set up.  The learning curve is very steep and the top seems a long way off.

Global cooling it seems may be with us.

This is something that you may or may not enjoy.

So here is something to cheer you up.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Money Matters Find The Bawbee

A very brief item today because things are looking busy.

The link below is a discussion about the issue of the currency should Scotland become independent.  The author is a Scot and someone engaged in relevant economic research in the UK.

The item from the LSE web site is a longish abridgement of a fuller item.  But it attempts to deal with the complications and implications.

The lesson is that the sweeping simplistic statements made by politicians and spinners, never mind the polemics of the media, are misleading and fail to tell the electorates that is it far from an easy business.

More worrying is that some of the loudest voices either do not know what they are talking about, which is all too possible, or are evading the truth.

Wikipedia has an article on the Bawbee.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Pulling Power

In the news today was an item about heritage steam railways now facing serious shortages in coal supplies and the prospect of a sharp increase in prices.  Also, they are having to burn whatever they can get and not the preferred forms. 

The recent fire at Daw in Warwickshire and the failure of Scottish Coal have led to the immediate situation although the risks of such shortage were increasing.  But around the world and in relation to energy policy, coal is still a major fuel.

Energy policy is complex, difficult to assess and has many unpopular features among environmental interests who are very often opposed to the suppliers and those who process the fuels. 

This makes for difficult politics and this makes for delay or the inability to come to decisions soon enough for the development of and expansion of energy supplies.  Given the habit of governments throwing money at problems this area has seen too many corporations being given easy money for doubtful projects.

An article in the Oil Drum has a pessimistic view on what is going on. 

If the clock is ticking and present trends of demands and requirements are anywhere near correct then it could become serious.  The one certainty is that to put in place the investment and the construction for new supplies takes a long time and in many places has not even made it off the planning boards.

What is more is that between all the various real costs and the political needs not only may the process be too long delayed but in many cases may not even start because those involved cannot afford it.

With prices due to increase sharply as well as a consequence of the shortages and these increase it increases the disincentive for new investment by risk takers.

So when will Thomas The Tank Engine and The Flying Scotsman become horse drawn?

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Blow The Wind Southerly

According to the US National Weather Service National Hurricane Centre, the 2013 Season in the Atlantic is due to start next Saturday.  The Eastern Pacific one began on 15th May.  At the moment on the Eastern side are three low pressure systems reckoned at low risk.

The one thing it is possible to be absolutely certain about is that it impossible to predict the likely course and impact of any of those that will form.  Equally the simple answer is that each will be highly complex with differing characters.

When she arrives Andrea will be the first to turn up, although just when and where we will have to see.  As to which might cause the most trouble it could be any one of them.

With none of my personal family names in the frame this year there can be no telling which will be the worst and most damaging.  In the past for some reason known only to Poseidon or maybe Zeus one of them was almost a certainty.

The lists of names are here, make your own wild or informed guess:

The big question is will Wendy arrive at all?  If not, then which of the others will fail to turn up or just drizzle away in mid Atlantic?  If Wendy does arrive earlier than expected then whose names are in the frame to follow?

And which major community on the US eastern seaboard will get the big hit this year, if any?

Friday, 24 May 2013

The Times They Are A Changing

It is the late May Bank Holiday and the heaters have had to go back on.  Ne’er cast a clout ‘till May is out and the rain it raineth.  At present the time is taken by the last frantic efforts to sort out the documents on the old machine before the new system is installed.

In a way the distraction and time lost is an advantage.  There is so much at present to comment on or to keep up with.  But following John Redwood, the tragedy of the soldier in Woolwich will be left to the many others.

Also, the last couple of posts on Rowans Blog, although long, have said a great deal on the matter of the banks and bankers and where we are now.  It is not where any sensible working democracy would want to be.

Additionally, trying to make sense of the current economic data is increasingly difficult, indicated by the sprawl of comment and strongly differing opinions around a large number of expert web sites.  It is much easier to watch the astronomy documentaries and work out what the universe is about and up to.

One thing is that it is still throwing large asteroids, solar flares, neutrons, blasts of radio waves and all sorts of other things.  Perhaps just when the economy settles will be the time for the world to flip its magnetic field or the tectonic plates decide to get a move on.

So the work to be done will limit comment for a few days.  The change will happen soon and there will be the tribulations of finding what is what.  One immediate difficulty is that it is going to be a whole lot faster and more sensitive that this one. 

It is astonishing what the power and reach of a modern computer is and what can be done.  It is beyond the wildest imagining of even a couple of decades ago.  The trouble is learning how to do it and keeping on top of what you hope and think is going on.

There is a proverb about old dogs and new tricks.  But I can’t find a web site for it.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Sensation! Angela Merkel Was A Teenager!

Around the media and web has appeared a picture of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel at the beginning of the 1970’s.  She, a teenager, is in a sort of uniform and then a member of a Communist Youth Movement and is actually smiling on parade.  Possibly the presence of the official/officer in charge next to her and looking hard may have had something to do with it.

Although old enough to be her father, there is a touch of sympathy for that situation.  When a teenager not much older and conscripted into the Army, uniformed and paraded, when the Sergeant Major or other said “smile”, I smiled.  Nor did I volunteer for the various humiliations that service entailed. 

Although a volunteer in theory, I doubt that Ms. Merkel was in practice.  If the local party boss suggested you might join, you joined.  On another tack she was said to be 17 years old at the time. 

Personally, I should not like to be judged now on my form or on some of the things I did or believed in my teens.  I really should not have gone to a social evening for the local Guild of Abstaining Youth after a pint or two in the “Marquis of Granby” nearby.

Rehydration was needed after rugger training.  The consequence was not a happy one.  The organiser did not like the jolly atmosphere we tried to bring to the evening.  Now, I fully realise we should have stayed in the pub and left them to it.  It was evident that they did not want to be converted.

There are then the subsequent couple of decades after this picture of her when she was a part of the East German community before its collapse and take over by West Germany.  This was a grim authoritarian regime that brooked no opposition and adhered to an absolute dogma of power and social organisation.

Since then there has been a longer period when those in East Germany have had to march to a different drum and attach themselves to a changed set of ideas.  They were not simply German any more.  They had become “European” and made the change just when the EU was gathering pace and power.

There are to be elections in Germany in the near future.  The German system is complex and can give rise to many possibilities.  Sometimes it is relatively predictable but at present there are many uncertainties.  These arise from the situations not just in EU organisation and reach but the whole economic basis resting on the Euro currency union.

For a long time there has been the assumption and expectation that Germany can somehow maintain good control over its own affairs and influence others to a degree that allows it not so much a governing but at least a presiding role in European affairs. 

This may well be a main element in the structure of Ms. Merkel’s idea structure and her inheritance of top down social and economic organisation may owe much to the Prussian heritage embedded in the former East German Communism.  But the world may have changed too much too quickly for this to continue.

If we are to criticise and judge her sensibly then we need to look very hard at the way she operates, her essential thinking on the way things should be done on what should be done when and by whom.  Then see how this works within her party and whether her party can continue in this form.

It is possible that this time is past and there is a need for a rapid reordering and repositioning of the German government in the face of the ongoing crisis and the threats to Germany as much as the rest of Europe.  It may be that Europe is no longer Germany and Germany is no longer the heart of Europe.

In the meantime the UK media will continue its obsession with whether the proposed new England football kit is too like that the German one when Ms. Merkel was a teenager on parade.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Naming Of Names

The Manchester United, for the time being, footballer, Mr. Wayne Rooney is now a father for the second time, Mrs. Colleen Rooney having given birth to a son a couple of days ago.  Congratulations to them both and my hopes that all goes well.

The child has been named Klay Anthony Rooney.  The reports suggest that the first name represents the practice among celebrities of choosing very modern or “different” names to distinguish them from the common herd.

This was once a practice in certain of the more ambitious and publicity seeking members of the former and now defunct aristocracy.  Old habits are hard to shake off in British society.

One problem is that the immediate effect is to encourage impressionable members of the plebeian classes to do the same.  So there are a lot of them to come.  There is a snag however, and that is sometimes these things need a bit of research.

After many hours toiling in libraries (OK half a minute on Wikipedia) this is what I came up with.  Apparently Klay is a character in a TV series called “Chaotic” that has escaped my relentless surfing of the Sky channels.


Klay is not popular to say the least. He lies, steals and swindles newbies out of their best cards as well as grabbing any advantage over opponents that he can, but stops just short of outright cheating in matches to avoid being disqualified.

He also likes to lurk in the food court and eat people's leftovers. Everyone knows Klay's a dirty slimeball, but the problem is nobody can prove it.

Frankly, Klay couldn't care less what the other players think of him, and what the Code Masters don't know can't hurt him. he plays strip poker with the other players for their "cards"

In Perim, Klay is no more restricted by rules than by decency. He will often follow other players to good finds before jumping in and stealing their scans. Sometimes, he even tries to get rid of rivals ("dying" in Perim results in your Chaotic profile being deleted).

A longtime rival of Kaz's, Klay took an instant disliking to Tom as well and has spent most of the series attempting to sabotage both of them. It's been now known that he and Krystella work for Lord Van Bloot.

He also has an Australian accent implying that he is from Australia. His appearance somewhat resembles Bono and David Bowie. His Chaotic username is Klayotic.


Yes, well, these things happen.  But an Aunt who lived in Formby and was a much nearer neighbour to Mr. Rooney than she wanted to be would not be surprised.  She had strong opinions on the subject.

Perhaps the Anthony name comes from recent Prime Minister Blair and also relates also to his father-in-law, Anthony Booth, father of Cherie Blair nee Booth.  This is possible in that the Booths were close to the same patch as the Liverpool Rooney family.

One question is where did the earlier Rooney family come from?  One patch with an extended network of Rooney’s also has a number of other families in Liverpool in the past who are closely connected.

By one of those quirks of genealogical fate they connect to the Bowes-Lyon family.

Who needs “Dynasty”?

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Eyes Have It

When I turned out on the rugby field at scrum half and up against a pack of forwards who were more aggressive than was necessary, the ability to be swivel eyed and adopt unpredictable responses was an advantage.  Get your retaliation in first is our family motto.

But our politics today is less ordered and more violent than some grim struggle on a muddy field between men who are sworn enemies for eighty minutes before the bar opens.  Although reports from the Palace of Westminster suggest that their violence both of speech and person is often a feature of the activity in the bars.

So when there are complaints about swivel eyed loons wanting the UK to leave the EU there is an instinctive reaction to be on their side.  This is one of the great political questions of the decade.  There are others but not many. 

The EU debate is about our future for the rest of the century as a political entity and as either a democracy or an element in a quasi-imperial structure.  Down at Westminster essentially many of them have given up on democracy and see their chief task on getting the right deal out of Europe.

The difficulty is that their “right deal” is not my right deal nor of many other people and groups in the Atlantic Isles.  I choose the words “Atlantic Isles” with care because the various groups in that geographical area have a need for mutual support because of all the related interests.

In this case, Westminster is too often more of a liability than an asset.  Historically, many of the issues that have arisen around the Atlantic Isles are traceable back to London’s obsessions with money, power and global activity.  There have been some passages of time when The City’s influence has been reduced but not many.

Moreover the EU now is not what many people think it is, is not the same as it was only a handful of years ago and is quite different to forty years ago.  What we signed up for in the 1970’s was a Europe that we saw from the 1950’s.  We did not think much about what was going to be needed in the 1980’s and beyond.

Clearly, there can be many different views and perspectives.  There will be those for whom self interest is paramount, now it seems the governing consideration.  There will be others with ideologies and theoretical notions about what might be.  There are some trying to take a practical view.

Many of them will be merrily forecasting and predicting on ideas and data from one bit of the past or another.  At the moment in the Conservative Party it seems to be from the 1980’s.  In the Labour Party is seems to be from the time that Blairism was rampant around 2000.  That does not make it any better.

As a great many people have become cynical and distrusting there is a feeling to support a policy of “a plague on all your houses” which accounts for the surge in the voting for UKIP.  The allegation is that UKIP does not know what it is doing and has a mish mash of conflicting policies.

Probably, the critics are right.  The trouble is that to many that as the other parties are in an even worse state and UKIP as such represents the best of a bad job.  As for other elements when it was announced that there were 14,000 treaties and obligations to be renegotiated if the UK was divided this seemed to many to be a very good reason for it to happen.

At the moment it feels that we are playing behind a badly beaten pack with a line of threes that can’t tackle or pass; a full back with butter fingers and uphill and against the wind and rain on a filthy mud heap in a place where the local brewery is one of the worst in the region.

This is all going to end badly.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Is Bob Crowe Raven Or Right?

Part of my idea set is that as we move on into the 21st Century our beliefs on what is economics, politics and other things need radical reordering.

Notably, one area is the Left v Right business.  If you look hard at who is supposed to be one or the other, it seems that it is not easy to apply that to the way things are and how they are becoming.

Below is a link to an interesting example from Bob Crowe of the rail workers union, who is not entirely popular amongst the commuters of the south east.  He is generally regarded as an ultimate Leftie. 

But if you look at his comments on Europe you wonder how far away from UKIP and Nigel Farage, their leader, he might be.

Perhaps they might have a pint or two together in “The Coal Hole” on The Strand.  If so I would be pleased to join them, if only to act as referee and as a one time member of the rail workers union over half a century ago. 

Adjacent to The Savoy Hotel, it is about as elitist as you get.  Also, it is but a few yards from Covent Garden, which when a fruit, vegetable and flower market was as plebeian as possible.

It is where the people who broke the police lines to trigger the Suez Riots in 1956 made sure they were properly hydrated beforehand. 

Arguable, but it is possible to trace the line from the 1956 Suez debacle to our first hand wringing attempts to join Europe.


The computer change is impending so blogging will be light.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Large Immigration Shock

Nellie the elephant is beginning to wonder if moving to Britain is all that it was cracked up to be.

Will her future employment relate to her skill set and experience?

Just what is random memory function?

Friday, 17 May 2013

At The Risk Of Repeating Myself

“Little Local Difficulties” from June 2009.


We have been here before.  In January 1958 a beleaguered Government under a non-elected Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, lost three senior ministers in a row over economic management and fiscal policy.  “Supermac” brushed the major policy disagreements and resignations aside by referring to it as a “Little local difficulty”. 

Despite the howling of the press, and adverse bye-election and council election results, Macmillan carried on with his high spend policies of public services expansion to create employment. 

He ignored calls for fiscal restraint and caution.  A host of learned economists were summoned to recommend that an annual rate of inflation of 3% compound would be entirely manageable.

It would lead to sustainable economic growth, maintain the value of the power, enable increased public spending, and last but not least keep the UK as a world economic and military power.  Well, we all know what happened in the next two decades don’t we? 

But do not forget, as I have not forgotten, that Macmillan won the election in the next year, 1959.  I recall too well at the count I attended the astonishment and despair of all those Gaitskellite Labour followers when the results were announced. 

It was clear even at our local level that against all the odds the Conservatives had survived, and Macmillan was clear for another give years.  Or everyone thought he was until the Profumo Affair and his prostate failed in 1963.

But it was Macmillan who when asked by the new President Kennedy of the USA (they were related by family marriages) what the main problems he faced were, answered, “Events, my dear boy, events.”

In the meantime, as Martin Wolf in the FT points out, we have a fiscal problem that is very serious, will not go away, and needs difficult decisions to be taken very soon, and not after the next General Election.


Try Youtube, Tennessee Ernie Ford with his 1956 hit “16 Tons”.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Pick A Pocket Or Two

As the Euro scuffles among the Conservatives continue some are calling it a Civil War.  Perhaps, but hardly Cavaliers and Roundheads, if Peter Oborne in The Telegraph today is right in his leader comment that those in Parliament now seem to have forgotten the lessons of their debacle on the scandal of expenses and other wheezes to feather their nests, then it is more like Cops and Robbers.

The trouble is that the Palace of Parliament it is evident that the robbers far outnumber to cops.  What is more some of them are behaving more like the Kray’s and Richardson’s of the past London gang land, or Capone and Lansky for those in the USA

The tales of bullying and harassment against the poor devils who have to sort out and agree their expenses and other claims is unsavoury at least and disgusting to any normal rational person.  But our Parliamentarians too often are neither.

Given that the EU as presently run and organised is one big, big honey pot for every shyster, fiddler, greedy gob and conman who can walk talk and open a network of bank accounts in convenient places then there is great scope for reform.

Even were we to stay into some kind of agreed customs and economic network the present Brussels system and the rest, notably the Euro currency will have to go and a quite radical reformation take place.

Those of us who do not quite recall the last Reformation will be aware that what provoked it was the determined centralism, predatory financing, out of control spending, secrecy and dogmatic ideology fastened on the peoples of Europe.

The latest “Private Eye” this week, No. 1340 has a six page section headed “Where There’s Muck There’s Brass Plates” subtitled “How UK Ghost Companies Made Britain The Capital Of Global Corporate Crime” starring Vince Cable, a sort of St. Ignatius Loyola of The Coalition.

In the meantime President Obama, firm in his belief that The British Empire is and always has been the chief enemy of the USA is now instructing Dave The Bagman, The Cameron who is not coming and has failed to arrive, that he must both believe in, submit and conform to Europe.

The President is a great fan of the former President FD Roosevelt and his ideas.  But The Mises Institute today features an article by David A. Stockman which is an excerpt from his book “The Great Deformation – The Corruption Of Capitalism In The USA” in which the words “intemperate, incoherent and bombastic” are the more complimentary comments.

He suggest that FDR and his later fan Tricky Dicky Nixon were peas from the same statist pod and between them made economic decisions on the hoof that helped enable some of the pre-conditions for our existing miseries.

This post may seem a tad bad tempered but a change of computer is impending.  Going through the pile of past things I came across something from a while back called “Windows 98”.  Could I use it for an update I wonder?

Which makes more sense that our management of the economy at present.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Hitting The Decelerator

A short post today, but with a link that is not too long.

The good news for some is that the world is not running out of oil quite yet.  There is enough of the stuff around to keep many of us chugging along for another century or so. 

Whether this is good for the environment, climate/weather or a fairer distribution of wealth and economic growth is another matter.

The bad news is that as well as a number of winners there will be a good many losers. 

One chunk of the world which at present rates as doomed to be a loser is Europe, mostly for its hapless and hopeless policies.

Quite where the Atlantic Isles will be in all this is not known and becoming ever more difficult to predict, although there are some possibilities.

If the sea levels go continue rising the chances of central London flooding are becoming better and better (or should that be worse and worse?).

Perhaps if Westminster were to be cut off from civilization even more than it is at present this could be good news for most of the rest of us.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Fable, "Beware Of The Dog"

Good King John was on A Visit of State to, or rather freeloading on, the wealthy and powerful Bishop Mauger of Worcester one spring, being short of ready money yet again, the legacy of the spendthrift and war mongering brother King Richard who had preceded him. 

Also, as King John had been excommunicated he did not have to bother with the Cathedral services and going through the motions of worship that such a visit might entail.  Bishop Mauger was happy; it meant he could snooze through the droning of the services instead of being disturbed by the interminable rattle of the King’s dice on the Cathedral floor and the yelping of the Royal gambling school. 

It was morning, and in keeping with the ordinary procedure of the Court, just after the breakfast, time for exemplary cases of justice to be dealt with to keep the wheels of administration turning, and to clear the dungeons of felons, heretics, and tax evaders. 

The King did not believe in the deterrent effects of imprisonment, the sooner wrongdoers were granted the benefit of the judgement of God, the better for all concerned, especially those whose lifestyle relied on the raising of taxes.  The first case promised to be tedious if it was allowed to drag on, and the King did not want to waste the day on matters such as this. 

Hubert the Chamberlain had two peasants dragged in and thrown before him.  They had been found in the Palace with several items of the King’s silver plate stuffed up their jerkins, and were unable to claim benefit of clergy.
The Chief Executioner had been summoned up from his lair in the crypt, the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Of Mercy, and had the first thief hauled forward by his hair, “Eh up lad,” John said, the King was Norman French and his mastery of the many and various local dialects that plagued England was imperfect, “’oo the ‘ell are you and what’s t’ excuse?” 

“I am Adam a’ Winwood of Leigh, and my family are starving.”  “Bad move!” said the King, and pointed his sword at the jury, who had been dragged from their ploughs that morning and made to stand at one side, each with a noose around his neck to remind him of the fallibility of the human mind. 

Their plaintive cries of “Yea” were immediate and unanimous.  John nodded to the executioner who hung Adam from a beam by his legs and then got to work with an axe.  This greatly cheered the King as an execution or two after his morning spitted wild boar and goose eggs set him up for the day.

After what was left of Adam was chopped into smaller portions to be thrown to the dogs the next thief was dragged before him.  King John was now into his stride, “Right then?”  “I am Thomas le Vobe of Mathon and I was engaged in the necessary business of redistributing wealth held off balance sheet for the purpose of encouraging consumption to help overcome the present economic difficulties.” 

King John had heard all this before from his Exchequer, and a preaching friar, Maynard John of Keynsham, had been bricked up in a wall for a similar suggestion, so he just nodded again, not waiting for the jury.  It was the way King John smiled when he beat them to the decision that worried them, as well as the tightness of the ropes, but they gibbered their agreement. 

As Thomas le Vobe was being lifted to the beam, he coughed, pointed to the King’s favourite dogs and said, “Pity about this I was just going to offer to teach one of them to talk.”  King John heaved a deep and weary sigh; even the most crazed heretic or alchemist had failed to come up with anything like that. 

The King was about to enjoy another blood bath, but then he felt Queen Isabel, the Beauteous Rose of Angouleme tug at his sleeve.  He had abducted her in a burst of passion, divorced his wife, and then remarried to Isabel in a haste he had come to regret.  Her urgent voice, told him that she was at the pleading game again.

Isabel’s command of the local patois was worse than his, which was saying a lot.  “’ere dearie, just you fink abart it, one, give a bit of mercy now and again puts points up with God, two, you’re down for a war against the Barons again after harvest and three, you need your poll ratings up with peasants.  They’d love a talking dog, so they’d forget this Parliament rubbish, believe you me, God would like that as well.”

King John was not a man who enjoyed being interrupted, especially when there were things to do.  On the list were women taken in adultery to be trebucheted off the Cathedral roof into the River Severn; to be rescued only if the King desired to ascertain their vulnerability to this dreadful sin, one of the few duties he enjoyed. 

He needed to cut Isabel short and proceed with the business.  “Can’t we just give them another baby?” asked the King,  “No you dirty sod, anyhow its Lent, and they are fed up with royal kids, all the gifts, now a talking dog……”  It was a long ten minutes before he could intervene, when she finally needed to draw breath.

King John was not entirely happy.  When he had snatched the maiden from her betrothed at Baron William de Mowbray’s suggestion, her God thing had not been mentioned, and she was altogether too keen on it for his taste.  At the times he pleasured her, her appeals to The Good Lord for his mercy for engaging in carnal activity seemed excessive. Mowbray had time to consider his error now; with his head spiked on London Bridge

But she was usually right about the peasants; they seemed very keen on God as well.  The King did not like it, some of them thought that the Deity was on their side, and even the incessant rambling of certain of the Bishops could lead to them making such a mistake.  Mowbray had suggested something for the peasants called football instead to distract them, the fool’s idea that had cost him his head.
As the Chief Executioner was about to swing the axe, King John raised his hand.  He was reluctant, he never liked to disappoint the Chief, “A word first.”  Thomas was lowered, cuffed about the head, spat on, and then flung down again before the King, according to the ancient custom.  “Oh aye, a dog, talking?” 

Waiting first for the Royal goblet to be flung to bounce off his head, Thomas raised himself cautiously, pausing and giving meaningful weight to his words.  “Indeed, Sire, give me a year, with my well tried linguistic training techniques, preferential feeding, and psychological incentives, and you will be able to hold an intelligent conversation with the animal to your entire satisfaction.” 

The court was silent, this was a new one, and John’s reactions were variable at the best of times. It was a little while before the King spoke, he was sure he could find a way to have the insolent head, greed usually tripped up people like this.  “And I suppose you will want a fortune and an heiress?” 

Thomas brightened, smiled, and all thought he had been hooked, “By The Lord no, Sire, decent board and lodging only, time and the right to walk the dog.”  The grunt of dissatisfaction was audible.  The Queen squealed with joy, with luck Thomas le Vobe would be the first English Saint since Thomas A’ Beckett. 

Modern Archbishops and the clergy had become more circumspect in recent years and cautious of martyrdom.  Even Gerald of Wales had learned when to be quiet, but then there had been a glut of Welsh martyrs on the market.  This could be better than Francis of Assisi,

The Church would have a new Order, The Caninian Order of St. Thomas even, and if she played the game right, the offerings would be rolling in, and there would be joy in the Vatican.  A happy Pope made a happy Church she was fond of saying to her husband, who did not always agree.
“Nothing more?”  The King was feeling trapped, then Thomas spoke again and the King’s hopes were raised.  “Well, Sire, just one thing,”  “Got ‘im” thought the King.  “The executioner, I wouldn’t like him to lose his fee or bonus, well, it’s only right.”  The Queen clapped her hands, the Bishop nodded, and the King had lost. 

“Right, right, yeah, one year, then we see.”  King John pointed to the most stupid hound he had and it was brought to Thomas, who was led away, clutching the dog.  “Next!” shouted the King with an edge of venom in his voice.  All the courtiers twitched in fear.  The jurors looked at each other and began to pray.

The Chamberlain had brought in a shrunken weakly figure.  It hobbled unevenly across the floor, lurching and lumbering.  A large cowl enveloped the shoulders and upper torso.  It looked like a under sized goblin.  The Chamberlain pulled back the cowl to reveal a scarred and lopsided face of surpassing ugliness. 

“’oo’s this then?”, asked the King.  “Robin the Hood, son of Lawrence the Scrivener of Eastwood in the Shire of Nottingham.”  The King liked the odd joke on these occasions, the question in the courtiers’ minds was always who would be the victim.  He sat back, waved his arm with a generous gesture at the specimen before him and declaimed, “Ha, look, someone’s son and lover!” 

The courtiers paused, uncertain of the context, the King could be playing tricks again, and the King was below his performance target on the body count for the month.  But they saw the Plantagenet smirk on the mouth, relaxed, and laughed as loudly as they could.  The King let them go on until they all began to wheeze and then flapped a hand. 

“And?” said the King.  The Chamberlain delivered the charge.  “Branch Secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Foresters And Related Trades; responsible for your job creation scheme in the North Sherwood District to employ and train local unemployed bandits into revenue collectors.  Failure to keep up to date accounts and to consult fully with senior management before introducing new work procedures.” 

The King bent forward with a smile of sheer malice playing on his face.  The Hall was warmed with more laughter from the audience; they knew what was about to happen.  The sword was raised, the Jurors cried “Yea” with a religious rapture previously unknown in the Cathedral, and the King roared, “So, you forgot to pay the Sheriff his consultancy fee?” 

The King picked up a slice of wild boar and waved it above his head.  “Chop, chop!” he cried, and the courtiers roared with helpless relief and joy.  Cardinal Langton waved a chalice of claret above him cried “Errare humanum est!” and then fell off his stool.  Even the Chief Executioner laughed so much that he had difficulty in hoisting Robin to the beam.  Outside in the cloister, Thomas heard the merriment and began a cold muck sweat.

Two weeks later in the quiet of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin of Mercy, a place never visited by any of the Court, Thomas le Vobe and the Chief Executioner were sharing a gallon of ale, a haunch of venison, and a few other good things and passing the time of day.  “You know, that Robin was a rare giggle,” said the Chief, “His last words were I should have stuck to being a ponce.” 

There was a short silence then the Chief spoke again.  “I’m going to be sorry to do for you, you know, at the end of the year, I’ve learned a lot from you, and I like your theory that unpredictable monetary movements are the cause of all the trouble and not the Devil going round shagging old women.”  “Who knows?” said Thomas, throwing a lump of meat at the chosen dog.  “Woof!” said Thomas,  “Woof, woof.” replied the dog. 

The Chief shook his head. “Look, this is the age of instant communication, in a years time bits of you are going to be nailed to the doors of Parish Churches all over the Kingdom as a dire warning.”  Thomas waved a bone at him.  “No, no, no, look at it this way, in a year, I might die anyway, you might die, indeed the King might die, and that brings a pardon.  Who knows, even this young dog might die.”  The Chief shook his head again.  Thomas threw a larger piece of meat and barked at the dog. “Aaargh Woof.”  

“Aaaarrrgh Aaaarrrgh, Woof Woof.” responded the animal.

“And the dog might talk,” said Thomas.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Rest Is Noise

This is a short post because the link is a very long one, provided by one of the family.  It relates to the physiological and neurological effects of sound at excessive levels.

The implications are interesting given the way both technology and use have developed over the last three or four decades.  It might explain a lot.

As it happens three years ago I put up a post of ordinary length dealing with the same overall subject at a more basic level.

The reason for the omnisonic link is because a lot of my life was spent in dealing with the effects of deafness in various ways amongst numbers of other people.

Also, that I am old enough to recall the catastrophic effects on the hearing and health of many people before serious measures were taken to control levels of sound in workplaces.

Now it is not the old but the young who seem to be at the most risk.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A Cheer For The BBC

The BBC has come under criticism for doing too many repeats of programmes with the implication that a substantial majority of its screenings should be original material.  This time round the inclination is to say the BBC is doing the right thing by providing a regular pattern of repeats at widely varying times.

For us and for very many people now TV watching is about flexibility, being able to watch a programme appropriate to either mood or personal time obligations and with choices about when to “box” either “one off” programmes with repeats or a series.

It is especially useful if the diary is becoming complicated and you are watching a series where you want to see all or most of the programmes.  That the BBC now routinely is giving extra screenings across its channels for many programmes is consistent with the way many viewers now operate and the way that other channels manage their outputs.

Additionally, there are screenings where sometimes you want to see it more than once if there is something to think about or on a particular topic that catches the interest.  This is especially so where a drama, live performance or demanding programme occurs.

One programme recently is a case in point for us.  It was the one hour short biography of Marie Curie.  It covered a lot of ground in a short time and there were one to two things that might need a revisit to check up on impressions.

To all this might be added the many programme clashes now across the channels and also the functioning of the saving system and reruns from the box.  There are times when the extras screenings at alternative times is a great help whatever channels are involved.

These include the BBC.  For those with a TV and box now there are still many who do not have a computer or who do not really want to do their TV viewing on one.  There have been times when the internet screenings have come in useful for us but as we are paying we prefer to watch TV programmes on the TV.

We would go further and only wish that the BBC could reclaim from its archives many of the programmes of the past, whether popular, serious, Arts or sport that are still gathering dust but which many would like to see.

Some of these might turn up later on the commercial channels but these in turn are limited for a number of reasons and where they go are also repeated many times where the viewing figures hold up.

It is not just the BBC that is affected by the “loss” or “gone missing” of a good deal of decent watching.  The former ITV channels now have a large body of material that is not just entertaining but also actually historic which is very rarely tapped or used.  This is a considerable loss to our understanding of the media of the past.

Carry On Repeating is often a show to watch.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Going Down To The Sea

Off the usual beat today with a couple of brief items on the same subject with an added thought.

The Mail Online ran the story about Dunwich in Suffolk that was taken over by the sea from the 14th Century onward.  Recent scans have revealed more of what lies below the waves.  Dunwich was once a major port.

The coastline has long been vulnerable to ordinary erosion especially in when severe weather conditions occur.  When the wind, tide and seasons come together adversely the funnelling effect in the North Sea can do a great deal of damage.

Rising sea levels also are involved since the last Ice Age given that once this area was connected to the European land mass.  The Mail Online story features the map above drawn up in later centuries.

The Mail seems to have derived the story from Science Daily, where a good deal of its material originates in these fields and the link is below has other links in turn.

A question in my mind is one that is bound to annoy a great many people.  The 13th Century philosopher John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan, first turns up in Northampton in England and in Oxford.  A birth in Duns, Scotland is assumed from the name.

But this has not stopped other claimants, notably Irish, from arguing for other places for other reasons.  But looking at the map there is something interesting.

It is that the Greyfriars Monastery, that of the Franciscan Order, has a Scott’s Lane leading up to it.  Moreover a merchant (alleged also pirate) family of Scott’s were prominent in Dunwich in the 13th Century and feuding with a St. John family.

It is said that the Scott’s were the first recorded users of gunpowder in conflict in English history when they tried to blow up a St. John vessel.  This rather assumes interests in the practical sciences never mind philosophy.

There is a Wikipedia article on John Duns Scotus which is useful for brain stretching exercises.

Mind blowing in its way.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Puzzles For Today

With the prospect of some warmer weather, global warming or not, it was time to buy a couple of new fans.  It came out of the box not as a whole but as a basic part with bits to be added, not quite DIY but some work to be done.

Why was this?  It may be that because it was made in the Far East to avoid EU or other tariffs or quotas on whole products it was packaged as unfinished.  But it was suggested that as the package for a whole item would have been twice the size of one reduced to major parts then you could get twice as many in the container.

Either or both of these would impact on price, perhaps significantly.  It was the price that made me think however.  Back in 1962 we bought a premium grade fan, one that had options in the controls.  The cash price, repeat cash price, of that was a little more than the one we bought today.

Certainly, the 1962 fan was more strongly built and largely metal.  But in terms of options and performance the 2013 one was much the same, only much quieter able to oscillate and using less electricity to power it.  Also, we bought a couple of other things and again the price of those in cash equated to that of the long past.

The items bought in the past would not have been imported but from factories not far away and with local distribution systems to bring them to the retailer.  The fans bought today have come thousands of miles and required complex distribution.

There is a general problem with trying to compare prices and performance with the past.  When The Flying Shed is serviced annually, we have a courtesy car.  This is a small, bottom of the range cheap machine in today’s terms.  It costs thousands, however, as opposed to the hundreds of pounds of those long ago.

The thing is that the cheap cars of today in terms of comfort, performance, capability and extras are roughly equivalent to the very expensive limousines of forty to fifty years ago or those snazzy sports cars that cost a great deal and we could only envy.

It is not always “better” however.  The environmental and ecological rules of today have meant that whilst washing machines are still relatively cheap and with many more options, in terms of actual time and efficiency you can find yourself with one that does not really do the wash in the time and how you might want it to be done.

The other problem today is that a great many of the bits of kit which we now are told are necessary are far more complicated and with functions and parts which may never be used and may not even be wanted.  But to get a simple and cheap article for basic functions is now becoming almost an impossible dream.

There was an old song way back from the musical “Pal Joey” in 1940 called “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” which sums it up.  It is probably out there on CD somewhere but maybe not on DVD or Blueray.  It seems to be on MP3 but what on earth is that?

Thank goodness the Ella Fitzgerald version is on Youtube.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Anaphylaxis, The Shock Of The Peanut

What do a Rock Star and a Government Minister for Equalities have in common, other than an interest in their particular public images etc.?  In the last couple of days it is anaphylactic shock, the potentially terminal allergic extreme reaction to something that has become a permanent threat to their immune system.

In both cases the apparent cause was peanuts, Liam Gallagher, the rocker, when hungry went for a package of M&M’s, a popular sweet that turned very sour.  Jo Winsor the Lib Dem Member of Parliament doing her constituency duty had a bite of lovely home cooked cake and then bit the dust, almost.

They were among the lucky ones who had treatment in time.  With this problem it is possible that among the many sudden deaths are some that are anaphylaxis never either identified or suspected.  Also, there are many potential causes and a big one can come out of the blue.

One major problem is “words”.  Allergy might be a medical condition but the word is used colloquially in other ways.  Similarly, “reactions”, “attack”, etc. are also not precise.  What is missing is some sort of structure to define the levels as clearly as possible to allow better understanding and description.

Here is one below, based on a common framework a 1 to 5 Scale with the 1 being the least and the 5 being the most dangerous. 

In the case of the two cases that made the headlines they were both at Scale 5 and they were lucky to survive.



The Reaction to Allergy and Toxicity Scale (RATS) is a scale of one to five of the severity and impact of a physical and neural reaction to any substance or combination of substances.  The scale is a broad indicative measure of relative effect.  It is not diagnostic and at the margins of the central three parts of the scale the distinctions may be variable or not clear cut.

The intention of the scale is to enable both those affected and those involved in any treatment to have a common perception of the degree and extent of the problem.  Also where an individual has reactions to more than one substance either separately or concurrently it will help to estimate a simple differentiation of effect between one substance or another.

The RATS Scale is:

  1. Mild
  2. Moderate
  3. Serious
  4. Severe
  5. Extreme

Extreme (RATS 5)

This is a reaction that is potentially terminal within a short period of time or induces a collapse with loss of consciousness or brain or muscular control.  It includes anaphylactic shock or coma or toxic shock.  It will require immediate emergency treatment and probably hospital admission. 

A person vulnerable to this level of reaction will have restrictions, safeguards and monitoring at a constant and high level.

It will be critical to determine both the cause of shock and the extent of other issues and vulnerabilities.

Severe (RATS 4)

This may begin in many cases with a lesser form of shock but may arise from either persistent or cumulative reactions.  It is when the condition is debilitating with some loss of bodily or neurological function that may be recurrent or chronic. 

The impact on function and management of life will be extensive and will require continuing monitoring and safeguards to prevent the risk of a RATS 5 attack. 

It will require testing of a number of substances and possibilities to determine any immediate cause of shock and to ascertain whether more than one substance may be involved in the nature of the vulnerability.

Serious (RATS 3)

The impact and extent of the reactions will require continuing medical intervention, treatment and monitoring.  The nature of the reactions will have adverse effects on the individual’s ability to control their environment and in the making of life choices.  Commonly, at this level it will be necessary to impose restrictions, safegards and active avoidance procedures and measures.  Impairment of mental and physical functions will be evident and disruption of life management.

Moderate (RATS 2)

The reactions will cause marked effects and have more than nuisance value.  They will be more evident and medical advice should be sought on the actual and potential causes to try to avoid the risks of increasing severity of reaction.  They will require treatment and may be continuing in effect.

Mild (RATS 1)

The reactions will be noticeable and a source of either discomfort or minor medical issues.  They will not be such as to disrupt or to badly impact on life choices or activities but need an awareness of their risks.  In many cases minor medical treatments will be needed or helpful together with an awareness of possible causes.


There is a great deal of information about allergy and the many reactions that can occur.  This can be helpful and confusing at the same time.  An issue is that the word “allergy” is used extensively for many types and levels of reaction and as a colloquial descriptive word for any effect and sometimes opinion. 

Attempts are made to distinguish reactions by the use of words such as “intolerance” and “sensitivity”, which can be useful to assist recognition in terms of the Mild Level 1 RATS effect but are too broad in their meaning to deal with severity.

The issue of “toxic” effects is less recognised and may be difficult to define without immunological analysis but the word can be used in broad terms especially at RATS Levels 4 and 5, Severe and Extreme.  Possibly “toxic” is more applicable to effects that are immediate and powerful.

There are two matters that interconnect.  The first is that allergy, medically, is one set of reactions and toxicity is another.  However there may be areas of uncertainty and overlap.  The other is the difficulty of assessing cause and effect. 

One real and major problem is that most ordinary science is concerned only with a linear approach to research or investigation; that is the search for a single cause with an identifiable single effect. 

This dominates the handling of cases and treatment.  But allergy and toxicity issues are likely to be far more complicated.  Reactions may have complex causes and in turn particular causes might have complex effects.  Medical services at present cannot cope with complexity and are reluctant to admit them. 

Dealing with any complexity requires rigorous monitoring, assessment and analysis normally over a period of time.  What appears to be a cause may only be a means for another cause to take effect.


The picture above is of the safeguard that people at risk need to carry to buy time in the event of going into shock.  They are hypodermic auto-injectors of a set amount of the medication needed to try to control the reaction and buy time until treatment.

There is a delicate irony in a rock star being obliged to carry a couple of needles to keep him going when things go wrong, never mind a politician.