Saturday 31 August 2013

Is There A Doctor In The House?

As a departure from the raging debate over Syria and the fall out in more ways than one here is an added comment on another issue that has been put to one side in the meantime.

It is the National Health Service and it arises from old memories of the location of the film clip below.  The film, "Doctor In The House" is from 1954 and it was around then when I was in digs with a couple of medical students who were at University College, London.

The opening scene is in the courtyard there that I knew well because of many visits to the student bar for various reasons unconnected with learning.

But more to the point is that it is a striking picture of the old National Helth Service we knew and loved.  This is the way it was and is never to return. Amongst other things the clip is about Telling The Time before life became digital.

Nowadays the surgeon would be obliged to wait in the queue in order to ask the Deputy Assistant Executive in the Spatial and Throughput Management Division of the hospital management to find out where his patients were and if they were still alive.

That is if the computer hardware hadn't broken down or the software glitches had been dealt with.  At least the relationships with the patients were a lot better in 1954.

Friday 30 August 2013

Back To The Wrong Future

If you have time on your hands this weekend and want a couple of longer reads here are two choice items below with a common theme.

One is by Frances Coppola, always good for an interesting and well informed take on economic matters.  Her view of our money management is that it is being run by the Bank of England according to Stalin and we are paying the price.  It could be a very heavy one.
The other is from the LSE web site and is by Ron Amann who has been at the centre of many of the government changes and worked in organisations set up to do this and that.

His view of our present political class is parallel to that of some of us in that he does not like much who and what they are in relation to the business of government.

In fact he says that we are being run by Stalin's children and accordingly the UK has become increasingly like that of the former Soviet Union and its subject states.

If our world seems to be getting uglier, this may be an explanation.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Humanitarian Military Action

Our Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, has promised us that the military action to be taken in Syria will be humanitarian.  What does he mean exactly?  We have been here before.

The above picture is one of the Battle of Tel El Kebir in 1882 and is one of many such actions undertaken to bring peace and understanding to the peoples of the Middle East.

On the Embankment a short walk from Downing Street is the memorial to the Camel Corps of World War One.  He might care to take a look and then call for the files on their service in Syria.

Perhaps not, I suspect the FO and the MOD have long since sent them to either the shredder or the incinerator.

Is there anywhere in Whitehall someone who knows how many civilians have died there since the Blair Bush War on Iraq in 2003?

Cliff Morgan, One Of The Best Of The Best

Among all the other bad news there was the report of the death at 83 of Cliff Morgan, the wonderful fly half of Cardiff and Wales, along with the Barbarians and British Lions.  Later he joined the BBC where he commented with his characteristic verve and wit.

I was lucky enough to see him play a few times, but sadly never managed to be on the park at the same time with him.  It is one of life's regrets that it is not possible to boast that I once played with Cliff.  Nor, if in opposition to claim, yes I played against him, but never saw much of him.

I hope the joke is appreciated, he was a hard man to mark and to keep track of.  At times his head and body and direction would be going one way, but then the legs would go another, leaving even the fastest and best floundering while he went on to give the pass for yet another try to be scored.

Cliff's biography gives the outline of his career and skills and more or less covers the ground.  For me the two main occasions are the Barbarian's games against Leicester at Welford Road in December 1951 and December 1956 when I was on the ash bank at one end and could only gasp at his handling and clinical kicking to touch.

Goodbye Cliff, you were and still are one of the greats.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Gaming Graduates And Universities

The attraction of Washington DC is such with our leading politicians of all stripes that any half baked idea that emerges there is seized on as a new policy or initiative over in London.

This is part laziness and part the craving for attention in DC.  One of the latest wheezes the Obama administration has come up in a hurry to beef up the polls and keep in the headlines is how to fund higher education in the future.  

There are aspects of the present that are not liked, so change is a moral imperative.
Oh no, not one of those again, I hear.  The trouble is that the intention is to use hyped up mathematical models to do the trick and as a way of persuading people that nothing can go wrong.  Oh no, not again.

Naked Capitalism has taken a look at this and does not like what it sees in an article which suggests that higher education for many is more than a set of drills to get a bigger meal ticket.

Not long but a good read which has a sympathy both for the arts generally and the notion there is more to life than money grubbing.  

Also, it admits that the individual States have a function that is worthwhile and needs sensitive support.

But here in the UK such retrograde notions will be shunned from any thinking.  

The chances are we will have a "new" higher education policy based on pure "economic" function very soon.

Only the sums will be even worse than Obama's.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Cameron To March On Russia?

There are very many experts in both the military and diplomatic world saying that going into Syria without either a strategic purpose or an exit plan is little short of insane in the present world.

Given the state of the army, the limited capability of both the navy and the air force as well as the inexperience and lack of understanding in 10 Downing Street if the intervention is anything other than a hit and run raid then we are in deep trouble.

Even if it is such a "raid" it could be more like the Dieppe Raid of August 1942 than any other of recent memory.  Unluckily, such "raids" of this kind can turn into commitments that are ruinous by any standard.

Yet we are told, and haven't we heard this one before so often, that there is a Moral Imperative.  It is baffling that in a conflict that has had so many hideous incidents that suddenly the use of chemicals is "different".

Coming from nations that in the past have never been shy of flinging the horrors of war on others, notably in chemicals, this is a little rich. It looks more like a nasty way of putting a spin on a political cum military caper that is fraught with danger.

There is every chance of making things worse in Syria, so much for the Moral Issue.  There is at least a chance of  inflicting serious damage on our own capability and standing in the world.  As well as this we could badly disrupt relations with other states whose tolerance we need, notably Russia.

GK Chesterton wrote a fascinating book once, called "The Napoleon of Notting Hill".  Cameron, pictured above, at least it looks like him, would do well to read it.  While he is at it perhaps he should swot up on The Crimean War of 1853-1856.

Possibly, he may think that he is going to do a repeat of the Battle of Omdurman where the Brit's overcame the locals with Winston Churchill present.  Such a feat is now wholly beyond our abilities.

Those of us who know a bit will be aware that only a few months before Omdurman, in April 1898, there was a fiasco at Kismayu that we all seem to have forgotten.  As for Obama it may be more like a trip to the Kasserine Pass in 1942.

And Cameron ought to leave Russia to President Hollande.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Shaking Up The Property Market

In our self regarding way we regard the high rolling London property market as the only one in the game.  Around the world there are other hot spots where prices are going well beyond the capability of many locals to pay.

One is in San Francisco where local employment effects have produced another internet boom in housing that the link describes.  What the long term effect might be is not known but history suggests a messy situation developing.

The city, however, has had difficult times in its past history of one kind or another.  As the boom unfolds it is worth recalling how a past rapid expansion came to a sudden end and the causes.

This time the reason was not human error beyond that of actually building a major city there but an entirely natural cause that brought things to a sudden halt in 1906.  London is thought to be relatively free of such things but this is not the case.

Recently it was realised that the ground water in the London Basin which had long been depleted was rising as a result of the departure of a great deal of industry etc.  Steps were taken and it is now said to be under control.

But if we have a couple of years of very heavy rain who can tell what might happen, notably if weather conditions produce a degree of flooding as well.  We have had enough plagues and quite a number of fires in the past so perhaps it is time for this form of disaster.

The Californians can always pray of course.  The saint in question ought to be Saint Andrew, see Wikipedia and all the other sites.  But this hope for divine intervention has form, as they say.  He is said to be Greek and of Constantinople.  His cross is pictured above.

Perhaps it might be more appropriate to use the proper name instead of the English version, that is San Andreas.  None the less Greece in the present day has both seismic and financial issues to worry about.

So might Istanbul, formerly Constantinople. which is at one end of the North Anatolian Fault, a notoriously unstable  major fault line reaching from the Red Sea to the Balkans, another troubled part of the world.

There is another territory, it has slipped the memory that adheres to San Andreas, or St. Andrew, that hopes for an independence financially based on multi-frequency trading, derivative packaging, financial mathematical algorithms and the manipulation of energy pricing which will trigger a property boom in its capital city.

Seismically, it is normally quiet, but adjacent to an area of high volcanic sensitivity.  In 1783 it was covered in a layer of ash and in both the late 17th Century and after the Mount Tambora blow of 1815 suffered almost Ice Age conditions.

Must go, it is time for the weather forecast.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Boom And Bust Old Style

The linked article below, taken from the web site, Archaeologica, is about the eruption of Santorini in the Eastern Mediterranean around 1600 B.C. and its dating.

Fixing just when ancient volcanic eruptions took place is very difficult because those researching are challenged by the evidence they do find.

In the case of this one it appears that the presence of bean weevils in sealed storage jars allows them to fix not just a period of a few years but also the season.

This rather invites the joke, Waiter theres a weevil in my soup to which the reply must be, then would you like a date to go with it, but this is a serious matter.

One big unexpected bang triggered the end of a number of complicated and growing civilisations.  It does not need a volcano to be the big bang, humanity is all too capable of producing one of its own.

So when we look at the situation in Greece today and in other places around the Mediterranean we ought to start thinking.

Sensation! Teenage Drivers May Not Pay Attention!

Picked up an interesting item in Science Daily, the web site used by so many media interns as an easy way to pick up a shock horror science item which will not test either the patience or the understanding of the journalist whose name will head the piece.

It is about teenagers who as well as the world are alive to the the sound of music only instead of jumping about a mountain in happiness they are at risk of pranging the car they are driving.

The key issue here is that it is not music that annoys them that does the damage but that they prefer.  Perhaps the jumping about waving their arms and trying to do a rap or rock routine when bombing along the bypass or back road is not a good idea.

The article is reasonably short and readable.  Inevitably, the possibility arises that those among us who have never quite grown up may be taking the same risks.  It might explain why these days so many drive far too close to the vehicle in front.

Often you do not need to look in the mirror, you can hear them coming from the beat and it is not their engine.

So if you really want to give the kids the keys to the car then take the radio and music player out first.

Friday 23 August 2013

A Dance To The Beat Of Security

The present fuss over the holding and questioning at Heathrow Airport of David Miranda the Brazilian partner of a Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, related to security issues is intriguing in many ways. 

At the time of the London bombings the government of the day were berated for failures in preventing it and banged through a large chunk of confusing legislation.  For the 2012 Olympics security almost anything went.

But Miranda  as a result of his interest in security matters and his Guardian partner were given cause to worry when he was taken in for questioning and his laptop checked out.  The emphasis accordingly is that this should not happen at any time to people of this kind. 

It has raised all the questions again about the powers of the state, the manner in which they are applied and who they might be addressed to.  But I have little doubt that if I began sniffing around some things others would return the compliment.

Especially if there might be any question about whose side I was on and uncertainty about my real intentions. 

So we have a journal anxious to insist on cracking down hard by the State on tax avoidance, dictating what some might say and think on certain matters, hacking away with the searching iron itself complaining when it happens to them.

It is a strange world we live in.  The name of the person involved struck a long forgotten chord in the memory.   It is a poem called Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc from long ago when everything was so different

It seems to have a relevance to the dances between the problems of security in London and the wish of the London media to be free from its hindrances.

There are no right decisions.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Personal Profiling Rules OK

As it allegedly the "silly season" perhaps it is time for some more off the wall posts to keep things going.   There is a lot happening out there that is far from silly and will take a lot of catching up on when we decide to get serious again.

Calling all Scousers who object to the routine belief that their homeland is inhabited by more than its fair share of those who are inclined to bend the rules and also break them if you can get away with it.

This lovely article from The Mail is about Everton fans on a day out and hoping to make a profit on the excursion.  The choice item is that the entrepreneur of this particular bit of business is a law student.

The three names given are Hamilton, Carberry and Gray.  Now where I wonder do those three surnames have their origins in the Atlantic Isles?

As a declaration of interest one of my uncles lived 25 yards away from the Everton ground, often went to matches with my father to watch Dixie Dean and before Everton was founded there was a whole mob of my family in the vicinity.

Psssst, do you need any nice hub caps?

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Labour Policy On Gibraltar

A statement is expected shortly from Ed Miliband (pictured above), Leader of the Opposition and rumoured of the Labour Party, on their position in respect of Gibraltar. He is expected to emphasise our ties with Spain and the crucial need for the UK to be at the oesophagus of Europe. 

As the status of the Gibraltarians is that of illegal immigrants in the Labour view, a handover would be arranged soon after Labour's success in the 2015 elections and the Gibraltarians removed to the Cotswolds to be close to David Cameron and his friends.

Crucial to our needs are the imports of salads from Spain, the sherry he prefers and how much Spanish trucks on our motorways are essential to growth. He will remind us of our historical debt to Spain arising from the Peninsular War of 1807 to 1814 when the Kingdom of Spain saved Britain from Napoleon.

The present Duke of Wellington will be arrested and handed over for trial in Madrid for the war crimes of his ancestor along with the descendants of Israel Wilde who led the Forlorn Hope of the 43rd Light Infantry through the breach in the walls of Ciudad Rodrigo and are alleged to have caused damage to property.

Paella will become compulsory for school meals.

The Lance Corporal Theory Of Employment, Interest and Money

We are Mark Carney's Army,
No financial use are we,
The only time you'll see us,
Is when we're on the spree.

And when our contracts over,
We'll shout with all our might,
Per ardua ad astra,
Blow you jack, I'm alright.

With apologies to Gideon Osborne Baldrick, or Gobbles the rudderless cox as we used to call him on boats.

Monday 19 August 2013

A Case Of Self Determination

Among last week's sob stories designed to bring tears to your eyes and weep into your hankie about the way ordinary people of the labouring classes are treated was that of Will Self & Son given a going over by the local fuzz in deepest Yorkshire.  My recollection of that area was that the locals thought that any evident Londoner needed watching and was a cause for suspicion.

Will Self, one of those attached to left wing politics and famous for writing and being famous was on an extended ramble, which he does, from Whitby south, probably to Hull.  Perhaps to call on his chums the Prescott's, our once prize Deputy Prime Minister in the good old days of Blair, and talk London property prices and how to regain control over Labour thinking.

Like very many of those on the Left he seems to have gone off track.  East Yorkshire is distinctly short of hills and mountains and is also well populated with many roads and even a railway or two.  For those who can read a map it is very easy to get round and you are never more than a couple of miles from some village or small town.

So where there's a Will there's a way and finding himself outside a large estate he decides to go through it rather than round it to the local village.  It is going on evening and he has a child in tow, doubtless looking as though he would much rather be somewhere else and wondering where on earth the next food was going to come from.

The estate is not one of your big elite private ones.  It is in fact part of the public sector and an agricultural college and a fine one at that.  Bishop Burton College is long established and well known and a credit to our educational system.  If any rambler is using a proper map there can be little doubt about just where and what it is.

Sadly, in our modern times, unlike the days when I used to be a regular visitor, it needs security men who need to watch out very carefully for who might try to get access to their land, facilities and all the very expensive gear they have.  Out in the country and not far from both motorway access and a city with a strong criminal culture, in our present land they are very vulnerable.

So when this scruffy bloke with an odd London accent turns up wanting to drag a child through woods and trees to some unlikely location the security guard who encounters them has to think quickly and to be careful, very careful, about what he does and says.  If I were that man all sorts of warning bells would be going ding dong loudly in my head.

So the security man uses his common sense and summons the police.  In any case it may be in his brief to do so if he has any serious concern.  Moreover, the local police will know that the College is a high risk case for intrusion or criminal attempts or surveying.  Additionally, we do not know who is in the student body from overseas.

May I recommend the security man for a gong in the New Years Honours for courage in the face of media hostility? It is about time the ordinary man stood up to the pretensions and demands of our London elite who think they are above everyone else.

We have distant family connections in that area.  It is a pity Will did not hitch a lift in one of their vehicles.  It would have been interesting and perhaps useful to him.  They specialise in the carriage of livestock to slaughter houses.

That would have given him something to write about.

Friday 16 August 2013

Riding The Seven Year Cycle

Life is full of coincidences, some that might be expected, such as finding yourself in a crowded room where someone shares the same birthday, and some that are not but just seem to happen.  Yesterday I mailed my in house expert on the American property market to suggest there was a smell of 2006 about it.  Meaning the figures were not adding up.

The response was that there are certainly a great many oddities about it but not the same as 2006.  This did not mean a repeat could not happen.  What it did mean was that it could all go very sticky again.  Looking around the web and select media one or two of my old twitches have started up again. 

The coincidence was that in the Guido Fawkes blog today he chose to pick on a Polly Toynbee article from The Guardian, aka Grauniad, from 2006 lauding the wisdom and wonders of our once Great Leader, Gordon Brown.  You have to read it to believe it and you can Isnt He Doing Well Our Future Leader in a longish piece where the choicest passage occurs at the end of the first paragraph.

As we know now, boom and bust were not abolished.  Not just that but the agents of change critical to the abolition, the banks, are mostly bust themselves to be propped up by the state.  Everywhere we look governments are bungling, collapsing, racking up debt and frantically throwing time and effort and money at any media wheeze that the celebrities and journalists might like.

The alleged "science" of economics is full of theories about economic cycles.  I would like to spend thousands of words airing my knowledge and deep understanding of all these but it will be tea time soon and  most of it has been forgotten.  In any case in such a radically changed world from that of the 20th Century the basic elements of these either no longer apply or have ceased to exist in their past form.

The ancient texts may tell us of seven lean years and seven fat years and some economic theorists feel that seven year runs might well occur.  If that is the case we are now seven years on from 2006.  During the bad times of human history it is possible that seven bad years might lead to seven worse years and then seven even more worse years.

If you take the very long view and factor in complex political breakdowns along with wars, hunger, energy shortages, over population, climate fluctuations etc. and mass movements of people then not only could it happen, it has happened and many times.  In our global world this is no longer local, or regional but now involves almost all of us.

In the very delicate and fluid situation we are in it would take only one serious error by Obama, Cameron, Merkel or others of that ilk to trigger a downslide. In the meantime in India the Rupee is falling  and Egypt is in turmoil.

Auckland Colvin where are you when we need you?

Thursday 15 August 2013

Where There's A Will There's A Way

Among the certainties of life there is death.  Where there is death there is probate.  When there is probate all sorts of things can happen and can go badly wrong.  John Mortimer, the barrister, author and writer of scripts for film and television served his legal time in the old Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division. 

It was his considered opinion that when it came to wills and in heritance matters all bets were off and the normal forms of polite and honest human behaviour were forgotten in the bitter struggles for the right to money and property.  This is when there are wills to be had and discussed.  Things can go badly wrong as the recent fuss over the will of Joan Edwards who bequeathed money to the State demonstrates.  To the astonishment of us all, political parties decided that they were entitled to it and made a grab.

I recall reports about one will, made well over twenty years before death where the lady left her house to the child who was her carer and then allocated money figures from the rest of her assets among the other children, the figures then looked even.  But during that time these assets evaporated so when the will was proved the other children demanded the sale of the house to get something out of it.

When there is no will and there a deceased is Intestate it can be even rougher.  As a large proportion of people do not make wills there is endless scope for confusion.  The more tragic cases are of people who think they have made a will but have done so on bad or amateur advice and the will fails to meet the legal requirements.  There are many of those to add to the long list of intestates.

Often, in intestacy cases there are some family or near relatives to hand to administer the estates and to try to sort things out within the law.  Often there are not, perhaps a close friend will try but not always succeed.  The result is many cases left open to question although the Probate Laws do stipulate who the beneficiaries should be.

If they can be found.  In many cases they cannot without a good deal of expert research and often related expense.  This has led to a number of companies who make their living from finding the unknown families from official and other records.  Some of these are highly professional and earn their fees and are long established often working to requests from solicitors etc. 

Recently, with the power of digitised records and the rest they have been joined by others who are less concerned with fairness and proper conduct.  Essentially, anyone who knows enough to find their way around and can get to any heirs first are in with a chance.  The Treasury Solicitor deals with those who apply to it and stands off from detailed research of its own.

The BBC have run a number of series, amounting to around 135 programmes from Flame, an independent producer, called Heir Hunters that have covered a large number of cases.  While some deal with referred cases to probate research firms the bulk deal with cases from the Treasury Bona Vacantia lists of estates with no known heirs that are published each Thursday.  It is evident that the race is to the swift in cases that are worth chasing.

It is only rarely and then where the case is categorical that these programmes deal with any fraud or attempts at deceit.  This is understandable for legal reasons but nevertheless recent reports indicate a worrying set of developments.  It is possible that the extent and nature of probate fraud has and is escalating to a degree where it is becoming a major problem and one which is ignored.

This is especially the case where property is involved and title to it.  It is not simply faked wills or the traditional methods of bilking funds.  It is that there are people who make it their business to just move in on vacant property and establish title to it, often with the Land Registry and then reap whatever profits there are to be had.  If those entitled do discover the theft there is often little to be done because the police have no interest and regard these cases as a civil matter.

It may not be just individuals but it is possible that some property companies and housing associations, never mind legal firms run for profit as opposed to professional service have cottoned on to the benefits of being able to lead the chase on the decease of someone with assets or title to property.  In a sense many of these will be in pole position.

The Treasury, who are supposed to be in charge of all this, may be presiding over major areas of fraud on ordinary people arising from the serial failures in dealing with probates, property registration, collection of taxes and the rest.  If you are looking for money leaking out of the economy due to theft and malpractice this is certainly one area.

It is a pity that when the figures for "growth" and the "economy" are published there is no provision in the figures for that arising from fraud, theft, malpractice and the rest.  It might just be that this is the only real growth at all.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Happy Days Are Not Here Again

Arriving at our destination yesterday a puzzled acquaintance asked us why London seemed to be full of men in kilts.  As there did not seem to be a performance of the ballet "La Sylphide" that day, nor something jollier like one of the operas about "Macbeth" or "Lucia di Lammermuir" it was a puzzle.

Then I remembered, today at Wembley there is to be a "friendly" soccer match between England and Scotland, that word only loosely meaning that there was nothing to play for except playing the game and may the best team win, do stop laughing. 

Quite why so many should come so far to see a game without purpose which will be on all the full screen TVs back at home can be put down only to conspicuous consumption, possibly done on the good old credit cards.

We had not seen any men in kilts, but we had been down on the Embankment by the large statue of Robert Burns looking down and brooding over the First World War Memorial to the Camel Corps.  They had not ventured this far away from Trafalgar Square with its large blue cock on the spare plinth or the ethnic food shops of Soho.

London was in the news for another reason.  This was to do with the "recovery" boom or alternatively inflating bubble in the property market. 

It seems to be concentrated in London and Frances Coppola, an interesting economist has taken a cold eyed look at the implications and realities of it Housing Fantasy Island which should give us pause for thought about what we are being told.  It is not too long a post but easy reading.

Finally, I have looked at something which has been flagged around the web about The End Of Britain and is long and discursive but intended to be alarming.  This centres on debt and the real trouble that the UK is getting into, with a good deal of the debt being in property.  The UK is not a major power but now entirely dependent on others notably the economies of the USA, the EU and China.

For much of the 20th Century the USA was key to all that went on economically but not any longer, The USA A Gone Man comes from Zero Hedge which theorises that President Obama is the worst President in American history.  Given some of the men who have held that office that is quite a statement.  This one is not too long and detailed.

We were at Covent Garden for the Bolshoi performance of "Jewels", mingling with some of the London Russian elite who now own so much of London property and are alleged to pay so little tax.

The ballet does not have a plot but is based on three themes, Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds.  It was created by the Russian ballet master Georges Balanchine in New York for the American Ballet to the music of French and Russian composers.

It is said that he was inspired by wandering along the New York shopping streets and noticing especially the richness of the jewellery shops.  With it seems a major shortfall in actual gold holdings compared to the ownership titles across the world for gold and some of it not really being gold at all, the rich are being recommended to get big into precious stones.

You did not hear it here first those in the know are already into the markets.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Today Is Jeremy Taylor Day

Normally, if anything is normal these days, this blog steers well clear of the rocks, squalls and tempests of religion and faiths and the rest.  With a clutch of mixed denomination marriages in the family and some relatives devout in their particular belief it is better to avoid trouble than to invite it.

Especially, if because of age one has forgotten most of that which was taught only to remember most of what was inconvenient when religious matters were encountered.  Nevertheless, as it is a large part of history, the degree to which is a debate to be avoided, it has to be taken into account.

This week sees the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the birth of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, a quote from whom appears at the top of this blog.  For a long time his works were a major part of the ideas of the Anglican Community and informed the teaching on faith, marriage, family, the exercise of authority and other matters.  Today, Tuesday 13 August is Bishop Jeremy Taylor Day in the Anglican Church.

How far this will have been marked is not known, it is likely that more attention will have been given in the American Episcopal Church and Church of Ireland than elsewhere.  He died too young, at 54, so what he might have achieved later can only be guessed. 

Had he been given another twenty five years, given that his son-in-law, Francis Marsh, who became Archbishop of Dublin and was close cousin to Queen Mary II and Queen Anne, the history of the Stuarts might have been different.

For those interested, here are some links, below.  The Wikipedia entry is a basic outline but necessarily limited in terms of his personal life and suffering and the scope of his interests.  The other two give firstly a personal modern reaction to his teaching and the second the order of service to commemorate his life on his name day this week in the Anglican Church.

Nowadays little notice is taken of the anniversary or the role he played at the centre of one of the most tempestuous parts of our history.  Like many other major figures of our own past we prefer to forget because what they had to say does not suit our present obsessions.

Long before he came over my radar Uppingham was a town I knew quite well, and played rugby there.  Also, I played against Gonville and Caius at Cambridge.  There might have been the odd hurly burly football in his time when he was a youngster, but it is unlikely that he joined in.

Ten and more generations on there will be many descendants. Those in the 18th Century were closely interwoven with the literary and political world of the time.  Goldsmith, Johnson, Sheridan and even Keats had connections to his later family.  Jane Austen would have been well aware of them.

In the present era, in the 1960's and later both the 1963 to 1964 Prime Minister the 14th Earl of Home and the photographer, Patrick, Earl of Lichfield were descendants, something of a contrast.  There are likely to be very many who are entirely unaware of this ancestry. 

You could be one of them.

Monday 12 August 2013

Jolly Good Fracking Weather

Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced that fracking is good and we should rejoice in the manifold benefits it will bring us.  His keenness matches that of some other world leaders, notably President Obama.

Fracking is a complicated business and a subject that was well covered in the former Oil Drum web site, still available as archive.  I remember that at the time when North Sea Oil came on stream one of the effects was to strengthen the pound in the money markets. 

The adverse effect of this was serious for many UK manufacturing firms for whom exports were a key to their survival.  Was it Michael Edwardes, put in charge of the collapsing British Leyland Motor Company who said it might be better to leave the so and so stuff in the ground?

There have been times, looking at UK economic and social history that I wonder if we might not have been better off leaving the coal in the ground.  There is an old Chinese proverb, be careful what you wish for.  One thing is certain, and that it there are going to be a great many unforeseen and unintended consequences.

Not long ago, I wondered if another version of the "Going Courting" song from the film "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" might do, Cameron's recent intervention means that there is only one real option, inevitably the Eton Boating Song.  So here we go with the Eton Fracking Song.

Jolly fracking weather
And a new financial wheeze
End of the tether
Tories on their knees.

Drill, drill together
As far as you dare to go
Drill, drill together
As far as you dare to go

The Gulf may be more clever
America may make more row
But we'll drill forever
Steady from then to now

And nothing is going to stop us
Hydraulics will do the trick
We'll just keep going
Telling the locals to stick

Twenty years hence the money
May tempt us to take more risks
The money may be funny,
But that will give us more kicks

But we'll still swing together
And swear by the best accounts
Because we are all the richer
By totally fantastic amounts.


See you in the tailings.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Where My Caravan Has Rested

With a German election next month which may create a number of additional uncertainties, an EU becoming less of a Union and Spain spoiling to avenge the Armada defeat against England in 1588 and the USA heading into a walled garden with no exits the UK election campaign has begun under a whole collection of storm clouds.

Then there is what might happen which is unexpected, expected but ignored in the hope it will go away or should have been expected if anyone had been paying real attention rather than being away with the media fairies.  Quite where the forecast of a move of substantial numbers from the Balkans to the UK fits in is open to question.

The potential for this arises because in January, rules of the EU that we have avoided will come into effect.  This means that nationalities or groups within them will have unimpeded access to the UK. 

As these are alleged to include a great many Travellers, of an ethnic group unloved and unwanted in Romania and Bulgaria, and everywhere else acquainted with them this could have effects which nobody seems to have addressed or been advised about.

One of the key uncertainties is where they will all go and in what numbers.  As far as the government are concerned we have been here before.  In the 1960's when Idi Amin of Uganda expelled the Asian communities we were told by Edward Heath that this would amount only to one family in each parish.

These Asian communities with extended families and traditional supportive close ties to each other did not see it that way and preferred to be together within a limited number of locations. Unluckily some went to towns that had begun to decline.  Those who took jobs there often found that within a short period the industries contracted and began to lay off workers.

As the Trade Union rules at the time were very often that redundancies were to be on a basis of last in first out inevitably this appeared to be racist.  One major problem in the period that was that often then the loss of a job meant the inability to pay rent.  So you were out on the street as well.  The consequences of all this were entirely unexpected in Westminster.

So where are the latest mass movement of newcomers going to go?  They will want their own space and have a preference for areas where they can adhere to their traditional economic functions.  Unluckily, these are often in contrast to the established laws and arrangements of where they settle. 

I am trying to avoid being judgemental and am aware of the implications of DNA which means that they are much closer to us all than most may think.  One prime location for many of them go gather is spaces in or near towns with room to move and which are little used.  Racecourses would seem to fit the bill in many areas.

The picture above is Pontefract Racecourse, which has a great deal of spare room in the shape of a little used public park.  There is ample access and it is by a junction to the M62 not far from the A1 link.  There are also railway connections and a great deal of electrical power installations.  So there is an immense amount of wire for the taking.

A major advantage is that the local Member of Parliament is Yvette Cooper one of the leading supporters of all the Equality legislation, human rights activities and a firm believer in the Blairite immigration policies.  Her husband is Ed Balls a man of similar mind.  The Traveller groups would be certain of being welcomed by the local Labour Party, especially if they become members.

Sadly, one of the old mainstays of the Labour movement in the area, John Poulson. is no longer with us to help and guide Yvette in how to house and provide for them.  If the Travellers are minded to go there perhaps it could be renamed the Poulson Peoples Park to mark its new role in Yorkshire society.

Yvette and Ed might be able to get exemption for the Travellers from the new EU rules for the annual testing of caravans for safety.  As Travellers rarely test their cars at present it would be logical although they seem to have a very high rate of turnover in premium cars for some reason.

One racecourse for them to avoid is Aintree, Liverpool, which would have the advantage of a built in motor racing circuit.  The locals are undisciplined and the poor Travellers might be robbed down to their last hub cap.

They could always go along the road, however, to Haydock, where a local Labour MP, Andy Burnham would welcome them with open arms and arrange priority hospital treatments.

This could get very interesting.

Friday 9 August 2013

Any Messages?

As opposed to some long posts lately, this is a short one with a link, which came from family, that is not too long itself. 

If you have the feeling that they are all watching you it is not paranoia in need of attention.  It is just an awareness and maybe some form of electro-magnetic sensitivity.

On this site below there are some interesting items, many about China, including the one on Chinese steel.  Where on earth do you put 73.1 million tons of ore?

Back to the link, the lengths they will go to is quite extraordinary:

All I can say is bin there bought that.

As for the ore, oresome.

Thursday 8 August 2013

What's In A Name?

There has been as storm of stuff around the media and the web about the UKIP politician Geoffrey Bloom and his use of the term "Bongobongoland" relating to UK overseas aid going to regimes where the money might put to uses not intended, notably enriching the least deserving.
The usual comment is that it harks back to Alan Clark who was carefree in his use of insults and rather enjoyed upsetting people.  Accordingly it is taken to be a relatively recent insulting term with racist overtones referring to Africa and one that should be avoided.

But as ever, these things are more complicated.  The attractive picture above is one of a maternal Bongo, a species of African antelopes.  Clearly it is a part of our natural life that deserves to be preserved and cherished.  It is possible that the Bongo drums originally were made from the hide of this particular type.

When I saw the reports, I recognised the word and headed straight for the bookshelves.  As expected listed in the British Railways Eastern Region locomotives for 1951 was a Class B1 locomotive 61005 "Bongo", many of the class bearing the names of African antelope species.  Running a check on the web revealed that the name perhaps has a history.

There is a web site for railway enthusiasts call for those interested in the former London and North Eastern Railway.  In the forums a question arose over one of the B1 Class of locomotives, 61036 Ralph Assheton which seemed an oddity for this class.

Two of the posts dealt with 61005, the first:

Reminds me of the story of L.P.Parker, Running Superintendent, Southern Area who had a problem with B1 61005 'Bongo', which spent some time at Parkeston, stating that it should not be used on the Hook Continental boat train. He evidently thought the name inappropriate, lacking gravitas and that it conveyed the wrong impression to overseas visitors. No idea whether anyone took any notice of his edict, though he could evidently be a somewhat terrifying figure. 

Another comment was: 

I was a BONGO once.  One of the terms applied to new recruits in the Army pre passing out.

This latter comment is intriguing.  New recruits undergoing basic training were called many things, most of them laced with extreme obscenities.  But one was an expression now seriously offensive, it was "nig nog" although then in more casual use to suggest someone who did not really know what they were doing.

Another site noted that the trains between Harwich and Parkeston Quay that moved troops between London and The Hook of Holland between late 1945 and 1961, had B1's as their locomotives, including "Bongo". So was Bongoland originally Holland or even Essex?  It might just have been a word to describe somewhere that you did not want to be.

Clearly there is real research to be done about this.  But it is not going to be me.  The other aspect of this case was the surname Bloom.  Immediately, the reaction is Leopold Bloom of the book "Ulysses" by James Joyce. 

The book is set on the same day that Joyce had his first date with Norah Barnacle, 16th June 1904, an  event which has had whole schools of academia debating who did what to whom.  Fifty years later the first "Bloomsday" was celebrated to celebrate the life and works of Joyce.  So the coming 16th June 2014 will be the centenary.  We can expect a great deal of attention then and coverage in the press.

When we pick up our next supply of venison from the deer farm along the road, we must ask which species it is.  It may or may not add to the taste.