Sunday, 28 May 2017

Thinking About The Numbers

In the coverage of the Manchester bombing attack the question has arisen about the size of the Middle Eastern terrorist element in the present population of the UK. A figure of 23,000 has been quoted. But what is meant by this?

Broadly, there are three potential groups. The first is those who are willing, able and likely to be active in making attacks. The second are those in support, one way or another but not the front line. The third is those who sympathise, condone and regard themselves as being of the same people.

They are not fixed groups. Some will come and go, some will switch between groups and some will be more or less active in time. Also, if the figure of 23,000 is anywhere near the first group active number how can there be so many? Personally, I think this figure may be too high, might it be around 10,000?

But if over a ten year period, there are 100,000 young men a year coming in and many of that population group, then you can have around a million. So having 10,000, give or take a few, is possible in the event of strong beliefs binding them together in a common cause. However, of that group only some will strike.

The active terrorists who strike may be only a small number but they will be enough to cause major disruption, anxiety and disasters. They may be hard to track and predict given the support group they have and being within a larger community of their own.

Dealing with them will be a much greater problem if within the general population there are many with ideas or a perception of history that lead them to accept justifications of the scale and nature of the potential terrorist activity and the demands of the wider groups that support them.

Then there is a lack of understanding. We are shocked that the attack in Manchester should happen at a Pop concert for a young audience and their families. But for this group of believers such a music event is an example of the badness of Western life and part of that which should be ended. In short for the terrorist the attack was an act of faith.

When a few years ago our politicians were welcoming the new millions while at the same time sending in the armed forces to invade and bomb the home countries of some of them none of them ran the numbers. Also, when they came many did not embrace the popular culture of our time which they were supposed to do.

In fact, they did not like what they saw. Now we have a General Election, called because there is a time of hard decisions to be made by a government willing and able to make them. Whoever wins, the manifestos suggest we are not going to get one.

If our security services and police are good, allowed to and lucky, the attacks might be limited, if not the prospects are bad. It is said that since police stop and search was restricted the numbers of stabbings and gun crimes in districts with gang cultures has increased sharply. Goodbye privacy, hello keystroke checking.

In past centuries and in particular the post Columbus expansion of Europe, the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, British and other colonial ventures and empires were often the product of small numbers of men either displaced or ambitious for land taking their chances in distant lands.

Francisco Pizarro   c1471-1541, also Gonzales, see Wikipedia, is a key figure in this, perhaps triggering much of the later surges of adventurers and migrants. It is arguable that the British Empire began with its 16th Century pirates stealing Spanish gold and then realising it might be better to claim a part of the districts of its origin.

Charles James Napier 1782-1853 is an interesting British example, see Wikipedia. The section on his attitude to slavery and plunder is worth a look. But times change; he is the kind of man we prefer to forget and there are some of us who would welcome the Amirs of old and allow them to take charge of our localities.

Britain in turn has been part of other empires, the Roman, the Viking and the Plantagenet. Again it is remarkable how few men were needed to invade and take possession and how easily many of the existing leaders were defeated or welcomed the incomers.

In 1066, the figure for the invasion by Duke William of Normandy and who fought in the Battle of Hastings for him is said to be around 10,000.

Monday, 22 May 2017

This One's For John

John McDonnell, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is from Liverpool. I wonder if the Robert McDonnell listed for the 4th Pals, 20th Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment in World War is his grandfather? Perhaps, perhaps not, but anyhow, here is their war history below:


Extracts from PRO War Diary

“The History of the The Kings Regiment (Liverpool) 1914-1919”
Everard Wyrall, in 3 volumes, 1928-1935, Published by Edward Arnold

Chapter 2, “The Hell They Called High Wood – The Somme 1916”, Terry Norman, Published by Kimber, 1984

“Liverpool Pals”, Graham Maddocks, Published by Leo Cooper, 1991
ISBN: 0 85052 340 0

Note:  The place names given below are as written; in some cases they may not appear the same on modern maps or other sources.


On 16th October 1914 the battalion was raised by Lord Derby in parallel with other battalions of the regiment, at various locations in Liverpool and district.  The Pals, the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th were mustered at Knowsley Park, the family seat of the Earls of Derby, who took their title from the ancient Hundred of West Derby in South West Lancashire and whose family name was Stanley.  The Pals battalions were for War Service only, hence the “Service Battalion” designation.  As equipment and arms were in short supply, as well as organising the officers, there was a lengthy period of preliminary training, before the Pals were ready to move.


On the 30th April, 1915 the Pals moved to Belton Park, Grantham, were they were constituted as the 89th Brigade in the 30th Division for battle training.  Belton House is now a National Trust property, and although there is minor mention of the Machine Gun Corps training there from 1916 onwards the presence of the Liverpool Pals in the previous year and so many of whom were lost in the war has been air brushed out of the history of the House.

The House today is best known as a location for period TV productions; and as a quiet country place that the Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII and Prince of Wales would retire to with close friends and Wallis Simpson for private weekends.  At one time there were a number of soldiers’ names etc. scratched into the walls of the stable block and working buildings, but these have been removed.

27 August 89 Bde and 20 Bn came under War Office Orders.
15 September 20 Bn to Larkhill on Salisbury Plain.
30 October Instructions to move from Larkhill.

6 November 1st group, Southampton to Le Havre.
7 November 2nd group Folkestone to Boulogne
9 November at Pont Remy (Amiens), drill etc.
17 November to L’Etoile
18 November from L’Etoile to Vaux-Amenois on wet roads.
19 November Kit, route marches, Drill, Stand To.

28 November Bde to Bernaville, weather cold, route via Fienvillers and Doullers to Halloy
29 November to Lamerliere and billets.
30 November to Mondicourt, and La Belle Vue

1 December at Lamerliere inspection and cleaning village
2/3 December Work on 7 Corps lines, Lt. GS Sutton dealt with dropped grenade
4 December 20 Bn had baths
5 December weather wet
6-15 December works, gas drill, etc.
15 December orders to Berles-au-Bois (110 Bde)
16 December Orders under 110 Bde in 37 Div
17 December to Berles-au-Bois via La Herliere, alongside Leicesters, wiring, digging, and trenches.
25 December to Halloy via Pommier, St Armand, Henu Pas Grenas.
26 December L’Esperance, Doullens, Hem, Fienvillers to Bernaville (Lens)


1 January Bernaville
2 January march via Canaples, Wargenies, to Naours
3 January via Talmas, Pierregot, Molliens-aux-Bois, St Gratien, Querrieu to Pont Noyelles
4 January via Corbie, Vaux-sur-Somme, to Sailly Laurette (Amiens)
5 January va Chailly Etinehem, Bray Road, Suzanne (Albert) to Maricourt, between 16 Manchesters and   Queen Victoria’s Rifles

8 January relieved by 17 KLR and to Suzanne (Albert)
9 January baths
10 January Sector A4 Maricourt
To 16 January tunnelling
To 19 January trench routines
26 January shelling at Maricourt and on Albert-Peronne road sniping
27 January trenches
28 January bombarded
31 January trenches, Sgt Amster shot a German.

1-11 February trenches, shelling, sniping, grenades etc.
12 February relieved and to Bray and Etinehem
16 February back to Maricourt in trench on 17 February and whizz bangs
20 February Etinehem, then Maricourt
25 February snow

2 March relieved, 4 March heavy snow
5 March at 30 Division depot at Etaples
8 March relieved via Bronfay to Etinehem
13 March trenches Maricourt to Germans Wood
16 March relieved, marched to Corbie via Chipilly, Sailly-Larrette, Sailly-le-Sec, Vaux-sur-Somme
25 March football match and concert
28 March Corbie to Bray and Froissy (Albert), digging, street cleaning, works.

8 April general training and machine gun training
12 April construction of light railway Suzanne to Maricourt
1 May Etineham
5-9 May return to Maricourt, shelling
10 May Briqueterie Road
25 May Bn marched to St Saveur via Daours, Amiens, Fort St. Maurice, a long march indeed (Amiens)
26 May to 5 June practising attacks

10 June Brigade attack dress rehearsal
12 June entrained Ailly-sur-Somme to Heilly then the Billon Wood, where relieved 18 Manchesters, trenches (Maurepas).  Also, entrenching in Maricourt.
23 June Bn HQ moved Billon Wood to Maricourt
25 June Operation Order No. 40 issued for 1 July
29/30 June Copse Valley, Maricourt, Bn HQ Cobham Street,


1 July, Battle Of The Somme, 0625 hrs, bombardment, 0730 hrs advance to attack in four waves, ground unrecognisable, little cover, opposition speedily overcome. 
2 July holding captured trenches
4 July relieved, then to Bois-des-Tailles (Albert)
8 July returned to Maricourt and Trigger Wood Valley
11 Enemy attacked at Trones Wood and Waterlot Farm
12 July relieved
13 July Bois-des-Tailles
14 July Vaux-sur-Somme (Amiens), Corbie area

15 July congratulatory messages to 30 Div from Lord Haig, and the Earl of Derby (Corps Commander), Maj-Gen JCM O’Shea promised they would attack again.

The Battle of The Somme has been extensively researched and is the subject of a literature of its own, as well as bitter debate about its inception, planning, conduct, and consequences.  This is not the place to attempt any analysis or comment.  It is enough to say that 30 Div, and the Liverpool Pals attained their objectives early in the day, and with light casualties.  That here and at some other places along the line breakthroughs that were made were not taken advantage of or the attack pressed forward and supported meant that the opportunities were lost.  The Pals Brigade did attack again and paid a heavy price a few days later.

18 July Vaux-sur-Somme
19 July Somme Valley, road to Etinehem to Happy Valley (!)
30 July Trench at Maurepas, 4.45 attack, mist, could not see more than 10 yards, therefore no connection between waves.  Chaos, machine gun fire, patrols lost, heavy casualties.

31 July relieved, Pals congratulated by Div GOC, Maj-Gen O’Shea

Note:  According to one listing on 30 July 1916 the Pals Brigade, the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Battalions lost 456 men, few of whose bodies were recovered.  There was a high incidence of other casualties, a large number of men sent to the rear and later to England for treatment and convalescence.  Of those who returned to combat some were posted to other battalions, notably the 13th KLR in 3 Inf Div (The Iron Division).

2 August Longpre, Huppy, Pont Remy Station, Merville, then Le Sart
7 August Vieille Chapelle
14 August concert by “Very Lights” group
18 August Locon
27 August Givenchy section, (Bethune) trenches

7 September Gorre
9 September Hingette
18 September La Pierrierie
19 September Doullens, Gazeincourt
20 September Vignacourt via Candas, Monstrelet, and Canaples (Amiens)

5 October buses to Dernancourt (Albert)
10 October to Mamets, Bazentin-le-Grand, trench Evacourt L’Abbaye/Gueudcourt
11 October near Eaucourt L’Abbaye

12 October Battle of Flers, a major Army attack by both British and French, 20 KLR advanced in four waves, intense machine gun fire, gained approximately 200 yards and then consolidated.  Note: Over 100 Pals deaths listed for that day.

14 October between Montauban and Bazentin-le-Grand
16 October back in trench, Flers support trench
18 October attack 

Note: the attack failed being attempted in the face of heavy shelling, gas, and very wet muddy conditions.  The four waves became confused and losses led to a retreat to the start trenches.

19 October near Guendecourt
22 October Bivouacs near Mametz Wood
24 October Buire
25 October Talmas
27 October Halloy (Lens)
29 October Pommier

11 November BienLillers, opposite Monchy? (Ransart)
22 November Humbercamps
7 December Berles, then Ransart
25 December our artillery bombarded German lines
29 December Berles


1 January Blaireville, a typewriter was issued to Bn HQ
31 January Brigade Cross Country Run, won by 20 KLR
4 February to Agny (Neuville Vitasse)
13 February Monchiet

8 March Arras, concert the “Very Lights” the Bn Follies!
14 March Neuville Vitasse
26 March Agny and Grosville
28 March Bavincourt

1 April Bavincourt, preparation for attack on Hindenburg Line
7 April Battles of The Scarpe, Henin –sur-Cojeul, attacked and occupied St Martin-sur-Cojeul, heavy fighting
9 April St Martin, fierce fighting
12 April Billets in Blaireville
15 April Bayencourt
21 April Beurains
24 April occupied Heninel in Hindenburg Lines system
28 April relieved
29 April Neuville Vitasse, march to Arras, train to Petit Houvin (Vaulx)

20 May left Vaulx, 30 Div ordered to march to Ypres Salient via St. Hilaire,
28 May at Brandhoek Camp
7 June Messine Ridge, mine blown at Hill 60
10 June relieved by 2 Royal Scots
11 June Brandhoek, training, trench duties, working parties

July Dikkebus Reserve Camp
30 July Chateau Segard, Hooge,then Sanctuary Wood
31 July attack at 3.50 a.m. Battle of Pilkem Ridge, Third Battle of Ypres, heavy fighting, shelling, a number of men lost, 42 in 20 Bn, and other casualties.
3/4 August relieved, to Chateau Segard and then Brandhoek

Through the Autumn and winter of 1917 into 1918, the brigade were in general service in the Ypres Salient, and the 18th were merged with the Lancashire Hussars as it was then accepted that cavalry units were of limited use. 

There was no other major battle, although there was involvement in some trench raids, and casualties occurred as a consequence of general shelling in the Salient.  At Christmas the 20 Bn were at Swan Chateau, and then at Reninghelst.  During the seven months spent in the Ypres Salient 540 men were lost, and three times that number wounded.

In early 1918 development in the political situation at home meant that fewer troops were being sent from England, and a number of reorganisations had to be made both for the new conditions, and in anticipation of a German offensive.  This was known to be likely, as Russia had surrendered on the Eastern Front, allowing their troops to be moved to the West, and the Americans had yet to deploy their forces.

Consequently, on 8 February 1918 the 20th Battalion Liverpool Pals were disbanded at Chauny, East of Noyon, and their surviving men posted to the remaining KLR units.  Although most Pals were demobilised not long after November 1918, the 17th were unluckily enough to be sent to Northern Russia in the Murmansk Expedition to protect British interests during the Russian Revolutionary war.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Owning Up

The word "nationalisation" has returned to the political debate, just when we, almost, had begun to forget about it. As we no longer have a coal mining industry or much of an iron and steel one they are no longer in the frame.

We do have "privatised" ones, or now rather corporate ones. Also, the word seems nice and simple for a politician to tell the public that the government will triumph.

This item by Ken Craggs in the site "Orphans of Liberty" reminds us that a socialist cabinet in the throes of nationalising major industries in the late 1940's did not find it easy. In fact, quite the reverse. Just who took the decisions, notably the hard ones?

They almost seem muddled and uncertain as to what actually they were doing. A little later, still in the age of steam, I did some work on the Railways. Then I lived and worked for many years in coal mining areas. The work involved a good deal of contact with the NHS.

It was never entirely clear who was in charge or how actually the decisions were made, except that government claimed the successes and the lower levels, who actually did the job, or attempted to, were left with the failures. In the picture above, who exactly, were "the people"?

It might be all academic if the dire forecasts in this item in Zero Hedge are anywhere near correct. Essentially, you ain't seen nothing yet is the message, which is that the age of oil is coming to an end. And shooting the messenger is not the answer.

Nor is nationalising the sectors of the economy headed for rapid decline.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Going To The Market

Now that the parties have found their manifestos at the bottom of their gardens or in the outside facilities we are being treated to media analysis and comment. Which does not tell us much more. At present there is a hue and cry about those of the Left.

This article in Naked Capitalism is an attempt to persuade the Left to address itself to the modern theory of markets as it has evolved in recent years as opposed to those of long past. The title is "Hayek And Neoclassicals Meet Information Theory And Fail".

It is a long article, mathematical in parts, which I suspect will mean that it is beyond the understanding of almost all the politicians and all the civil servants of today.

This quote is the easy bit at the end:

An Interpretation of Economics for the Left. So again, Hayek had a fine intuition: prices and information have some relationship. But he didn’t have the conceptual or mathematical tools of information theory to understand the mechanisms of that relationship — tools that emerged with Shannon’s key paper in 1948, and that continue to be elaborated to this day to produce algorithms like generative adversarial networks.

The understanding of prices and supply and demand provided by information theory and machine learning algorithms is better equipped to explain markets than arguments reducing complex distributions of possibilities to a single dimension, and hence, necessarily, requiring assumptions like rational agents and perfect foresight.

Ideas that were posited as articles of faith or created through incomplete arguments by Hayek are not even close to the whole story, and leave you with no knowledge of the ways the price mechanism, marginalism, or supply and demand can go wrong.

Those arguments assume and (hence) conclude market optimality. Leaving out the failure modes effectively declares many social concerns of the left moot by fiat. The potential and actual failures of markets are a major concern of the left, and are frequently part of discussions of inequality and social justice.
The left doesn’t need to follow Chris Hayes’ advice and engage with Hayek, Friedman, and neoclassical economics. The left instead needs to engage with a real world vision of economics that recognizes the limited scope of ideal markets and begins with imperfection as the more useful default scenario.
The real world is a funny old place.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Water Water Nowhere

Just along the road a man has had an external car wash fitting put on the front of his garage. Retired without a job to do he has made his car the centre of his universe. So it is washed after almost every outing. He must use in a month on his car etc. the same amount of water as a village in one of the drier parts of the world.

In 1976 in the UK there was a serious drought; a long dry spell followed by a hot period when temperatures were high. During our holidays we went to the South of France to cool down. It was a sweaty ride up the A1 home. On return our lawn was a scanty brown, but some neighbours had managed a green and pleasant land despite pleas and restrictions.

One rose at after midnight to get in an hour or so to water his lawn secretly but oblivious to the fact that the sounding of swishing water in the quiet was all too obvious, let alone the hedges dripping with water as dawn broke and the bright fresh shine of morning.

There was at first a panic, then a blame game and a cry for summat to be done. When the rain returned it was soon forgotten. Since then we are into our tenth General Election, in all the promises and made and policies declared I do not recall much if anything at all to do with water supplies.

There was vague talk about desalination plants, but these were expensive and needed energy. More to the point they had to be somewhere on the coastlines and nowhere wanted them. The greenies threw mega wobbles at the very idea.

The population is now rather greater and more properties have been built and more cars and vehicles are on the roads etc. The call is for us to increase population rapidly, put up millions more properties and all of us to enjoy the benefits of an advanced society.

One of these is "free" or cheap water in unlimited supply. It is just assumed and is a powerful incentive for many from the hotter places where it is not cheap or indeed easy to access. We are arguing about climate and about energy policy. But water supply has been low on the agenda, if there at all.

The few of us that look across the millennia at climate and weather patterns and their effects on food supply, population and economic matters will be aware that the last century has been but a brief blink of time. What happens next we can only guess and hope. What we in the UK have been doing with water policies is simply hoping.

We could use our imaginations. A high pressure here, a low pressure there, a few marginal shifts in winds and changes in temperatures and there you go. The Atlantic Isles becomes a dry desert region that can support limited life who can survive. The politicians, financiers and techies have fled leaving a population that depends on the nearest well for its supply of the most vital commodity.

Go to Youtube and put in "There's a hole in my bucket" for the children's nursery rhyme that is probably an accurate summary of our present policy for water supply and management.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Pat On The Back

The leaders have all gone hyperactive in the last few days trying to win our votes in the General Election, and anything goes.

Which party, I wonder, will be the one to promise to bring back The Royal Mail with the basic job of delivering hard copies of all emails to everyone.

Free, of course.

Friday, 12 May 2017

What Do We Want?

Who decides? This is one of the eternal questions at all levels and in all human life. It is easy to think that people will accept rational debate or want to consider the issues fully. In my sad experience it is all too often the reverse.

The question crops up again in the Labour Manifesto where it addresses the implications of commercial companies, public and private, who are faced with a variety of decisions, often with manifold choices.

It says, quote:

'At present directors owe a duty to promote the company for the benefit of the shareholders, and must only have regard to employees, suppliers, the environment etc. Labour proposes to amend the Companies Act 2006 so that directors owe a duty directly to these groups and will consult on who the duty will be owed to."


Quite why the consumers are omitted is a question, but perhaps it is assumed that their interests are taken care of in sales. This is not always the case. Also, it is assumed that the providers of services or goods who are government authorities or agencies do this when all too often they do not.

The picture above is from around 1950. Had the public been invited to vote as to whether television should go national in the post war period and the experimental London TV service expanded or closed what might the result have been? One can imagine the arguments put forward. What might The People have said?

We have the radio, isn't that good enough? Only the posh can afford TV sets, why should we pay for something we can't afford? If people stay at home what will happen to the cinemas that most of us like and want? It could never compare with the music halls and live performances. All that money for a big box with a nine inch picture?

As we know TV impacted on a great many people and interests. One can only imagine the strength of the opposition that would have been put up by the interested parties to get a "No" vote. Also, the newspapers wary of competition for news services etc. Then, who would decide what people might watch? Clearly, this would be a worry. We might all be forced to watch advertisements if it got out of hand.

The above implies majority voting. In the world of today, you may not need a majority to put a stop to something, often only the efforts of a small minority are needed. Again taking the picture above, it would take only the protests of a few Irish washerwomen to see Arthur Lucan and Kitty Mcshane's act banished from screen and stage.

This is only simplistic matters. More seriously, it could allow any existing company to resist competition or any group to rack up the production costs of a targeted company wanting to start or expand their business. It would encourage any lobbyist for any reason to block any new development.

All would become dependent on the state and its local agencies. If you want to see what Labour's vision of the future is, it is not just that of Venezuela recently, it is much more like the Argentina of the time of the Peron's. Wikipedia on Juan Peron is useful.

Don't cry for me, Argentina.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Forty Years On

Some of the media is howling about going back to the 1970's as a consequence of the emergence of the Labour Manifesto from its chrysalis.

Strangely the idea of some of the privatised etc. sectors now largely or wholly foreign owned by major cartels being repatriated offends the "right wing" media. This will not be easy.

However, for someone of my age a return to the 1970's may not be all that bad. We were at St. Tropez a few times, camping, and mingling with the international jet set then in place.

In 1975 even shopping for the groceries, see Brigitte Bardot above in that year, could have its attractions.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

View Hulloa

When, we might ask, is the long predicted big bad bust going to occur? There are those who tell us all we need to do is spend, spend, spend, which in effect means borrow, borrow, borrow. They have a belief in the endless creation of credit money, especially by the State doing it on our behalf.

In her blog, yesterday, 9 May, entitled "Intergenerational Unfairness" Frances Coppola has a long carefully set out case that few of the younger generations are aware of the realities of the developing situation. Also, the present system cannot continue.

It does not mean we are all doomed. Some of the older people, those who took advantage of what was on offer, will avoid the worst, but it could become very ugly. The kind of future that was hoped for, and was the basis of much past political policy to win the votes, is not going to happen.

She limits her article to the basic economic situation. What we might do is think about other issues that bear on this and could make it worse. Globalisation and its effects, wars and conflicts, continuing high population increase which will not pay for it because of low wages and governments that break their banks are all possibilities.

More worrying, however, are the politician leaders that sit at desks, firing out decisions and actions to be taken that relate to the latest opinion polls and lobbyist demands. Strategy for them is the media coverage of the now. It does not take many wrong moves to create a crisis.

This applies to the UK General Election. There is still time and plenty of opportunity for the Tories to blow it in the thrill of the chase. I wonder what the voters really think about fox hunting?

"Gone away" is the cry of the hunters in the field.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Parking For All

There is to be a General Election. Preferably I would like to judge from the party manifestos which has the most sensible and thought out policies for the future in maintaining the Rule of Law, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Social Security, and other sectors of government.

What I am getting is batty and lost marbles bright ideas that the politicians think will garner the extra votes needed in the marginal constituencies. I read that Jeremy Corbyn says that a Labour Government will end hospital parking charges.

Car parks are an economic cost of our present travelling habits. Who should pay these? The users? The places that need them for the users, in the case of hospitals the NHS? The State? The old age pensioners, sorry about that, just exploring the wilder shores of policy.

Our local hospital is at the edge of town. There is a frequent cheap bus service, in effect partly subsidised by the Council. In the morning it is busy going to the hospital but not going back. In the late afternoon the reverse applies.

This would mean that there would be a strong incentive for car commuters to our town to take advantage of this by those from that direction parking at the hospital. The answer is for the hospital parking charge to match the town centre charges at least, with the staff having its own.

There is another matter, the hospital is a short walk from a commuter railway station to London which has hefty parking charges. Rail subsidies are big enough without giving free parking. This might well encourage people to walk up to a quarter of a mile; exercise which will do them good.

Given that the commuters will park from around 7 a.m. to around 1800 p.m. or later, the incentive to use it is strong unless the hospital charges match or exceed those of the railway station.

I suspect that there are similar cases like this dotted around the country and it will not be long before we have promises of free parking for all, any time, anywhere, subsidised by the State. Of course, those who use taxi's will need to be reimbursed for their costs as well.

See you at the bus stop.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Thinking Out Loud

The press has been featuring John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor and potential Labour leader, who suggests that we might all benefit from reading Karl Marx. This Prussian thinker, he feels, would give us insights.

But Marx, like all of us, derived some of his basic ideas from others, the usual suspects from mid 19th Century and before. Germanic philosophers have been wheeled out as the men to read. If you can get your heads round the ifs and buts.

Again, I point out that it is not these but others. The first is Morgan Kavanagh, antiquary, philologist and philosopher who was Karl's housemate in 1851. The breadth of his knowledge and ideas is astonishing and he would have been an inspiration.

But there is another, Julia, his daughter, 1824-1877, see Wikipedia, born in Thurles, County Tipperary, who might be a better bet. The picture above is the cover of a book about her written recently. What is said is:


Julia Kavanagh was an extraordinarily versatile and significant writer who was held in high esteem by both her contemporaries and her readers.

Like many women writers of the nineteenth century she has since been shunted to the sidings of literary history and therefore, it is not surprising that little is known about her or her work today.

In writing this book my aim is to introduce this gifted but neglected writer to a new audience and to glean, at least, a small insight into her world.


The Labour party is these days is much more Prussian than anything else, and for McDonnell it's a long way to Tipperary. He was born in Liverpool. There were many Kavanagh's there and their relations.

Perhaps he should read more widely.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Allez La France Again

Five years ago, this post was made. Little has changed.


The French Presidential election is under way and this could be an event of some importance.  For the average UK citizen the workings of French politics are a mystery even greater than their own.  Perhaps it was time to renew my acquaintance with that place at the other end of our local tunnel.

So off we went to London and to the performance of “La Fille du Regiment” at Covent Garden starring Ann Widdecombe doing a fractured French/Franglais/English turn.  The part of La Duchesse de Crackentorp is essentially a pantomime routine but with her experience in the House of Commons she was very much at home.

The opera, a comedy romance with troops was written by Donizetti in 1840 and has been a favourite in the repertoire ever since.  With its combination of satire, fun, and gentle romance it is easy to watch.  Unlike most opera’s there is no body count and an absence of tortured anguish and misery.

There are one or two interesting features.  Designed for a French audience it features the then 21st Regiment of Infantry as a unit that won all its battles.  The regiment certainly had successes, including Moscow at first.  But the Retreat from Moscow in 1812 and its defeat at Waterloo were perhaps best not to mention.

The other is that the toff’s lost out; things were not as they appeared to be and at the end the foot soldiers triumphed in romance to leave us with a happy ending.  But all the signs are that in the French 2012 Presidential Election there will not be a happy ending, whoever wins.

Whilst in the Euro Zone Germany is supposed to be the “strong man”, France has the role of “Strong Woman”, very much a Marianne leading the charge to save the Euro and the zone from financial collapse.  This is arguable.

Those who believe that politics will determine the financial future think that they will.  But there are an increasing number, amongst which are those who believe that economics rules, that do not like the numbers in the French economy or the prospects if the financial and related problems drag out for much longer.

Some extremists argue that it will not be a Spanish debacle that finishes off the Euro, it will be a French crisis and that is a serious possibility.  The French method of running their financial sector, the complicated structures of their banks and state organisations have left them very vulnerable to any major disruption if the crisis amongst the PIIGS worsens.

Added to that the inherent elitism of the French administration at the centre and the way the interests of that group are enmeshed in the way the economy has worked makes it reluctant to either face up to or to implement the radical reordering of both policy, the relationships with Europe and the organisation of the economy.

My own connection with French politics is very slight.  There was a day nearly 40 years ago when we camped at Desvres in the football stadium and went to look at Etaples, visited by Grandfather in 1915 and then to Azincourt (or Agincourt) via Hesdin.

We were taking the D roads back to Desvres when we were pulled over by a couple of large motor cycle police. At first I assumed that the family singing the “Agincourt Carol” in Hesdin might not have been a good idea but the cops took little interest in us.

After a couple of minutes suddenly a cavalcade of police and big black cars came racing by, it was The President heading North by the back road.  As I was being watched by the cops I took off my cap as a gesture of deference and when they moved off they signaled for me to follow.

So for a few minutes on the road to Desvres I could claim to be at the heart of French politics.  But what I wondered might have happened if my car had just broken down and blocked the road?


Time goes by.