Thursday 30 October 2014

A Bang And A Whimper

With a lot of chasing about and admin' to do, a search of the files to remind us that our present lack of efficiency is nothing new.  Below is an extract from the author Evelyn Waugh's papers relating to the Second World War when he was training with the Commando's.

It was not a happy period for him and even more unhappy for some of the commandos.


Evelyn Waugh writes to his wife Laura, 31 May 1942;

No. 3 Commando was very anxious to be chums with Lord Glasgow, so they offered to blow up an old tree stump for him and he was very grateful and he said don't spoil the plantation of young trees near it because that is the apple of my eye and they said no of course not we can blow a tree down so it falls on a sixpence and Lord Glasgow said goodness how clever and he asked them all for luncheon for the great explosion.

So Col. Durnford-Slater DSO said to his subaltern, “have you put enough explosive in the tree”.

“Yes sir, 75lb.”
“Is that enough?”  
“Yes sir I worked it out by mathematics it is exactly right.”  
“Well better put a bit more.”
“Very good sir.”

And when Col. D Slater DSO had had his port he sent for the subaltern and said, “Subaltern better put a bit more explosive in that tree. I don't want to disappoint Lord Glasgow.”

“Very good sir.”

Then they all went out to see the explosion and Col. DS DSO said you will see that tree fall flat at just that angle where it will hurt no young trees and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever.

So soon they lit the fuse and waited for the explosion and presently the tree, instead of falling quietly sideways, rose 50 feet into the air taking with it 1/2 acre of soil and the whole of the young plantation.

And the subaltern said “Sir, I made a mistake, it should have been 7 1/2 lb, not 75.”

Lord Glasgow was so upset he walked in dead silence back to his castle and when they came to the turn of the drive in sight of his castle what should they find but that every pane of glass in the building was broken.

So Lord Glasgow gave a little cry and ran to hide his emotion in the lavatory and there when he pulled the plug the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head.


Wikipedia has an article on the Lt. Colonel in question, John Durnford Slater.  The picture above is of Kelburn Castle near Largs in Ayrshire, once family seat of the Earl's of Glasgow.

I knew some former commandos, and have often wondered whether they were there.  It would have appealed to their sense of humour, I think, as well as mine.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Blast From The Past

The article below was written in 2001 just after the election of that year.  It is 1600+ words and slightly edited for redundant material.


The Blair Bounce Election of 2001 has been a strange experience.  All along it has had the whiff of 1959, when McMillan’s Conservatives should have been punished for the grotesque adventure of the Suez Affair, their dissembling arrogance, and the cavalier treatment of the public purse.   Again, an electorate befuddled by style, unsure of the future, and lurching to the apparent safety of the certain have given authority back to an undeserving and creepy bunch of hoods.  So what happened this time, and where were the Tories?


Who are these Tories?  Apart from Hague and a handful of others they were strangers to us all.  It is possible for a party to be elected as a more or less clean slate of unknowns, Blair managed it in 1997 against the Tory misfits, but it is much better for a team to have made an impact on the minds of the electorate.  This is something that had not happened, and it is worrying.  Was it simply a failure of strategy on the part of the Conservative Party, or has the media drifted away so much from routine and day to day politics and issues that we no longer know who is in the frame?  During the election most of the tabloids were rarely deflected from their style and celebrity sensations, and even the broadsheet newspapers gave cursory attention to any but the leaders.  If the media cannot be bothered with the second tier politicians then why should the voter?

A part of the problem now is that few members of the House of Commons have ever done much of a real job.  As one pensioner put it, they don’t know one end of a shovel from the other.  This means that in dealing with the world of work, the getting and spending, and realities of the ordinary jobs, they really have no idea of what goes on and how things are organised or done, and it shows.

At one time the typical Tory could claim that by and large most of them had more experience in actually running real things than their Socialist equivalent, the sons of toil, but that is no longer true.  The generation who had some idea of how to react when things got rough quickly and things had to be done fast and firmly have gone.  Blair and Major both, as well as their advisers, have been flustered and floundering in these situations.

Also, the Tories do not lie convincingly, when they have needed to temporise there has been the tell tale slack in the mouth.  Their inexperience has meant that many have retained the habits of childhood, the wide-eyed frankness and the excuses that just get you into more trouble.

New Labour with its essential qualification of a total lack of any concept of truth has been able to lie with impunity.  If anything there has been the smack of admiration amongst those voters in commercial life and especially in the public services for whom toughing it out is an article of faith.

William Hague has been worse off in having Sir Edward Heath, the Beast of Bexley, to contend with.  In addition there has been Boyo Heseltine The Dome, the very sundry fans of Europe (Prodi and Kinnock Rule OK) led by Napoleon Howe, and as an occasional comedy turn, Baroness Thatcher, to distract people from his message.


Can anyone remember what the policies were, and did anyone really know in the first place?   Oliver Poole, one of the great Chairmen of the Conservative Party averred that it was necessary to have your ideas firmly planted in the public mind a good six months before an election.  Then you convinced the voters that you had a grasp of the essentials.

It is more difficult today, when there are no longer the great issues of war and peace, and we have accepted some of our limitations. Additionally, the media driven need to go after what is defined as a story about human interest or the latest gruesome sensation, remains a formidable obstacle to putting over a closely argued case on the needs of the future.  Moreover, the voter has become convinced that matters like health, education, and race are the only real items and are not secondary to the critical concerns.

Is it possible actually to have a set of policies as a means of guidance for the voter?  The movement in the Nineties to legislation on the hoof, running sloppy regulations and directives past Parliament in a hurry, and taking on board as policy the latest utterance of the more influential pressure groups and public relations outfits, means that government increasingly is a game of hopscotch.

So when an opposition leader attempts to say that policy is important then the counter argument is simply “Trust me when it happens”.  In a world of real and media uncertainty and incompetence it is very difficult to counter this claim.  The next Conservative Leader can hope only that something comes up which causes Blair to blow a fuse big enough to lose the faith of the masses.

One of the paradoxes of history is that in 1959 there was an electorate, most of whom had left school at fourteen or earlier having had only an Elementary School education, but possibly were better informed with less media facilities.  The much longer educated voter of today with a multiplicity of news sources and providers of information, arguably knows little, and cares less.

So who needs policy?


Gaitskell observed that he would fight, fight, and fight again, for the principles he believed in, which may have been a factor in his losing the 1959 election.  The British seem to be averse to this sort of open pugnacity in their politics.  They prefer to be lied to with honeyed words and told things are easily accomplished and at much less cost than anyone expects.  This is the basic reason for so many of our financial fiascos in central and local government.

Corelli Barnett has observed that Tony Blair is not a man he would care to be with in a slit trench with when the bullets start flying.  He has missed the point.  Blair is well aware that he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.  William Hague has given the appearance of being a bit of a bouncer who wants to get on with it.  Politically this is not the British way.


In the late 1940’s Bevan took the local arrangements for health care in Tredegar, which worked well in the context of a Welsh Valley, and made them the template of the National Health Service of the future for the whole of the UK.  At the same time the Government imprinted on the public mind that there was a finite end in sight.  As I heard Attlee say in 1950, “It will take a long time and we will have to work very hard, but we will get there.”  The trouble was that there wasn’t any “there” to arrive at; the destination was always going to be changing, as well as the roads to be followed.

The combination of Bevan’s single model with mid 20th Century administrative systems was fatal to the idea.  The NHS was badly flawed at the outset, and all the reorganisations, initiatives and the rest, have simply added to the confusion.  At least in 1959 you could reckon on a clean floor and a tidy bathroom and food in the mouth. The indescribable filth of so many hospitals and the sight of the incapable old starving in their beds for lack of staff to feed them is a testament to the capabilities of our civil service and political system.

It would be possible to go through a litany of failures and incredible stupidities, and one wonders how the government of the day got away with it all.  But they did so there should be little surprise that despite its manifest weaknesses and failures the government of Blair and his associates have survived, trading on the weakness of the electorate when faced with the need for change.

When the results began to come through in 1959, we were disbelieving of what we were seeing.  Surely they were untypical?  How could the shyster, Supermac, as they called Harold Macmillan, be going back to Downing Street?  The historians have pored over the subject, but have not come up with convincing answers.  Was it really the fear of radical change?  There is one possibility, though, a remark made at the time by a senior lady Labour councillor who knew her ward and city better than any.  “They thought we were going to close ITV down, and didn’t want to lose Take Your Pick.” she said, talking of the virulent reaction of many Labour leaders to the introduction of the commercial television channel and the new world of game shows.

So what did the electorate of 2001 think they were going to lose?  I am at a loss here and can think only that the price of houses may have something to do with it, but that is a weak and tentative gut reaction, and probably wrong.  The worry is that in 1963 the electorate lost Gaitskell as an option and in 1964 finished up with Wilson after Macmillan finally blew his fuse and left Home with insufficient time to make up lost ground.  This gave us the dreadful combination of Heath and Wilson and the abandonment of any future for Britain.

Surely, we can do better than that?  But it all may be academic.

In the eighties, there were commentators who predicted that the Conservative government of the day could rule forever.  In the nineties, they self destructed, but can New labour be trusted to do the same?


Not much has changed.

Monday 27 October 2014

Be Afraid

When I have an attack of the memories and think back to the way things were done and how we worked decades ago it is alarming to see all that has happened and what has resulted.

There were offices full of typists, filing clerks, routine pen pushers and people doing basic calculations manually and recording them all in hard print.

There was stratification of supervision and management to an extraordinary degree.  The  education system was geared to producing people usually of the last phase but one.

But at each phase of change there was the innate idea that change was in the past and we had arrived at the future.  According to "Wired", however, the pace is faster and more extensive.

The future is almost here according to this article.  It is longer, complicated in part, but tries to tell us that we are about to enter a world of radical and rapid change. I quote the final comments below:


As it does, it will help us better understand what we mean by intelligence in the first place. In the past, we would have said only a superintelligent AI could drive a car, or beat a human at Jeopardy! or chess.

But once AI did each of those things, we considered that achievement obviously mechanical and hardly worth the label of true intelligence. Every success in AI redefines it.

But we haven't just been redefining what we mean by AI—we've been redefining what it means to be human. Over the past 60 years, as mechanical processes have replicated behaviors and talents we thought were unique to humans, we've had to change our minds about what sets us apart.

As we invent more species of AI, we will be forced to surrender more of what is supposedly unique about humans. We'll spend the next decade—indeed, perhaps the next century—in a permanent identity crisis, constantly asking ourselves what humans are for.

In the grandest irony of all, the greatest benefit of an everyday, utilitarian AI will not be increased productivity or an economics of abundance or a new way of doing science—although all those will happen.

The greatest benefit of the arrival of artificial intelligence is that AIs will help define humanity. We need AIs to tell us who we are.


Where is my portable typewriter and carbon sheets for copies?  Oh, and the bottle of correcting fluid.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Valeat Armis

So we are leaving Afghanistan at last.

It has been worse in the past, but that is no excuse.

We should never have gone in.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Chuff Chuff

In spite of all the world's troubles the question of whether we have yet another fast railway to the north still is at the forefront of our politics.

This time round it involves the question of HST2 going by Stoke on Trent or Crewe.  This is exactly the same debate that occurred at the beginning of the railway age.

In those robust days large well funded companies were not above bribing, bullying and bull baiting the politicians, media and others that mattered dancing fleeting figures before their eyes.

The base cost of the present HST2 caper has sneaked up from 14 to 50 billion.  Probably, it might be multiplied by four to get anywhere near the real figure should it be built.

If it is the contracts will likely go to foreign firms and the work done largely by foreign labour.  It will never ever yield any return on investment and the interest on the debt involved could well be much above present figures.

Unless, of course there is a default as in the good old days of the Railway Mania of 1845 and a number of later ones.  The Rationalisation of 1923 was a default in disguise and the nationalisation of 1947 a bail out in effect.

This lovely old song says it all in three minutes.  They don't make films like this one any more.  But we are still making all the same mistakes.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Sound And Fury

The trouble with going to live performances is other people.  You all know who and what I mean.

Quite why they spend a large part of their disposable income going to a performance only to do anything but either listen or relate to it is one of life's mysteries.

In recent years there have been a few critics maundering on about accessibility and easy audiences say that classical concerts ought to be more like pop concerts.

There is an alternative view that pop concerts really should be more like classical concerts.  Jessica makes a good case for music as it is and should be.  What are called "live" events are often soulless and sad in reality.

Our central issue is sound.  The use of amplification is a no no not because of the ear drum damaging decibel levels but it is the altered sound you get and not the real performance.

Moreover for those who have a "musical ear" which is pitch sensitive to the frequencies and essence of the sound then amplifying literally murders the music.

This is a debate that will never be resolved.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Football Crazy

The shock, horror, wow, whatever next story of the day is about the American Football NFL coming to Wembley Stadium on a regular rather than occasional basis.

This is The Standard story and it alleges that George Osborne is involved.  This should make it easy then, depending on whose money it is.

If it is that an existing outfit is moved here is my idea.

The New England Patriots should become the Old England Georgians.

Life Is A Lottery

Yesterday, Tuesday, the blog Capitalists@Work, pondered on whether it would be the big one and the author the winner of £143 million smackers.  If so, the real problem was what to do with it.  Quite why, I am not sure, he could buy the government with that.

However, my concern is that in a humorous discussion on a subject of intense interest to all those with a ticket he (or she or other) failed to take account of who else might read it.  If the leaders of our political parties did so then he might have triggered a political media storm.

The Deputy PM and chief bottle washer, Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems would be out of his hutch like a startled rabbit to claim that it was a human right for the buyers of tickets to win not just a measly few pounds but at least a million and preferably more if the Lib Dem's gained power.

This would be supported by high words and emotive whinging to claim how this would make the UK and the world and especially those in marginal constituencies happier, better people , freed of worry, work or the need to do anything for themselves.  It would all be paid for by property taxes.

Ed Miliband, for Labour, after intense talks with his advisers and a call from Len McClusky, the General Secretary of the Unite trade union, would announce that the State would take control of the Lottery which would then plan for an allocation of funds that would reflect national, or at least party needs.

Purchasing a ticket would guarantee you would never need  benefits.  Indeed the bedroom tax would be reversed, you would be paid extra for all the added rooms.  Not only children, but pets, visitors arriving from abroad on the backs of lorries and anyone defined as being close would have separate rooms.

Moreover, everyone would be given an income of at least twenty per cent more than the average wage.  Employment would be optional.  House prices would be geared to allow trading up.  Those in social housing would be compensated by giving them a grant in lieu of being unable to trade in property.  None of this would ever be paid for and done by increasing government debt.

The Conservatives would have to respond to all this and quickly so Cameron will be on the stump declaring while there would be winners and losers in this free lottery economy, the losers would be entitled to interest free loans with no penalties for default from selected financial institutions.

Additionally, money flows would be created by credit creation that would allow ever increasing GDP of ten per cent at least a year, much of which would allow infrastructure projects and extended building programmes, again by selected companies that would end unemployment.

The government would borrow the money from the Bank of England who would raise the money from the government who would divert all the pension liabilities it has via the use of imaginative financial products churned through specially selected financial institutions which would make London not just the greatest but the only financial centre in the world.

You read it all here first.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Employment Figures

Above are pictures of three vessels.  One is the new "Edith Maersk", registered at Roskilde, Denmark, a place once used by Viking longships, and one of the biggest, if not the biggest, cargo ship in the world.

It is said to have a crew of 13. The "Edith" will certainly require and have a number  of shore based back up staff monitoring and advising but limited in numbers.

The second is the "Lady Lilford", 1838-1851, which for a period was in the hands of a Master Mariner ancestor, who did well out of it.  We wish that one or more of the Kashmiri shawls he imported had been kept in the family.

By my highly advanced rule of thumb on the back of an envelope calculations, it would need 285 or so "Lady's" to shift the same amount as that of the "Edith".

This would mean not just 285 Masters and 285 Mates etc. but a total crew count in the order of 8,500 according to my recorded crew lists.

As for, third, a Viking longship now preserved at Roskilde in Denmark, by the same method of calculation you might need over 1500 to 2000 or more vessels and say between 60 and 120 thousand men.

On the other hand if consumer demand does collapse in the near future we may not need any "Edith's" at all.

Monday 20 October 2014

Carry On Europe

There is a political row going on at present involving the leading lights in UK politics and in the EU over what may or may not be done and the laws involved.

Necessarily the media has to keep it simple.  There are some blogs, notably EU Referendum, who say it is very complicated and too few, if any, of our UK political leaders either know or understand the legal basis of the EU.

This link may help you fathom the nature of some of the complexities, if you have a year or more to spare trudging through it all.

This is but one academic department.  Out there must be dozens, if not hundreds of them.  If you want specifically a Barroso take on things there is a 2011 thesis to help you.

The download for the thesis by Luis Barroso on The Problems And The Controls Of The New Administrative State of the EU is here giving you 175 solidly written pages of text about the joyous and fun lifestyle of EU administrative law.

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.  How did we get into this?  How do we get out of it?  How on earth can you run economies on this basis?  How on earth can you run anything?

Come back King Philip II of Spain, all is forgiven.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Cargo To Move

The weather is fresh, wet and windy and takes me back sixty years to an October morning when the Sergeant told us to wear our fatigues (denims) for morning parade and to lay out our kit first to be checked.

The reason for the departure from mindless bull and square bashing was simple.  We were on standby to go to Southampton Docks to take over the work of the striking dockers.  This meant that what might have been the worst part of our national service became a strange interlude of relative sanity.

Churchill and his cabinet had run out of patience with the London dockers who were looking to a national dock strike.  The far Left and men like Jack Dash (see Wikipedia) were seeking to exert control over crucial parts of the economy to bring about a Stalinist revolution.

It was about four years later that I met Jack Dash after one of his talks.  We had things in common.  He was the same age as my father.  Both had been useful boxers and dock work was in the family.

The point of our brief discussion was that had the Army gone in and been allowed to do the work in the way it wanted the result might have been that they would have shifted twice as much cargo in half the time. Jack Dash had been in the Army at one time and knew the risks.

Had the strike lasted a lengthy period instead of ships queuing for berths there would have been berths ready and waiting for them.  It would have laid bare the inefficiency, inadequate facilities, the bane of demarcation issues and the antique management and administration of the docks at that time.

Much of the paperwork was 19th Century in form and function.  Across so many areas of work Britain was slow to change not just in working practices but in supervision, management and many other ways.

It was in this period, 1955, that Anthony Eden became Prime Minister, called an election and increased the Tory majority from a marginal figure to a working one.  At the time there was a strong modernising group in the Party relating to the domestic economy and society and their message appealed to many of the electorate as did concern over trade union power.

But Eden's interest lay in Foreign Affairs and it was here that he blundered into the Suez Crisis by which he came to be known to history.  Whether it was fully his idea or the benzedrine he was on at the time is now a matter of debate.  He failed and we had Macmillan, another Foreign Affairs man who avoided difficult decisions in home policy.

What is striking is the way much of Tory domestic policy in the brief time of Churchill's later period running into the time of Eden prefigured that of Margaret Thatcher twenty and more year later.  After it was the lost generation of British politics when we failed to admit, recognise and deal with the changes that were under way.

Hugh Gaitskell, for a short period Leader of Labour after Attlee, recognised it but he died too soon and we had Wilson, a numbers man who fiddled the figures and sincerely believed that a statistical plan would work.  Heath took us into Europe as the answer and now we realise that Europe is the problem.

It is one of the "What If's" of history.  Overall the Eden cabinet had a strong bias to Foreign Affairs.  There was still the view that the future lay in being a "Great Power" and the economy was a secondary priority.  Had he structured his cabinet to provide a better balance and to realise  and grasp the greater need for far attention to domestic issues it might have been very different.

For some time Jack Dash and others had their day.  But the world had begun to change more radically than any of them knew or might understand.  Containerisation of cargo had begun, which transformed transport costs and capability and now the old docks have gone.

And so have the dockers.

Friday 17 October 2014

Demos And Demographics

One of our more respected and better regarded persons, David Attenborough, the naturalist, thinker and broadcaster, in that order, took some heavy flak when he suggested that global population growth at present rates was bad for the planet and for many other forms of life therein.

It indicates that we are at a stage at present when any attempt to look at population in terms of demographics, economic history or statistics risks the wrath of the racism lynch mobs and the ideologues determined to quash rational discussion.

So when there is an election in which migration and movement have become questions and the politicians are involved it all becomes very confused and emotional.  Also, there are consequences.

One of the latest ones is that it is suggested that we need to build 45,000 properties a year in London to cope with expected inflows.  This would cater for about one to two hundred thousand people a year in that area alone, perhaps a few more.

Once upon a time it is claimed we humans existed by hunting and gathering alone.  Whether it was some Garden of Eden or nasty, brutish and short is one of the debates. However, if we look at The Atlantic Isles alone what does this mean in terms of the numbers?

Again, we are in intricate and argued areas of academic debate based on limited evidence.  But if we take the thesis that an extended family then needed around fifty square miles to sustain itself, this means something like 2500 of them amounting, say, to between one and two hundred thousand across the whole area, perhaps a few more.

As humanity grew in numbers, clearly something would have to give and it did.  We changed to cultivation of crops and animals.  This enabled a continuing and rapid growth of numbers, curbed by periods of conflict, climate and weather pattern variations, diseases, and shortages in foot or water supply or in forms of energy needed to power systems.

If the academics who study all these things are correct there have been many times in the past when either locally or more generally events and happenings have impacted not simply on population growth but size.  With this has been movement with its own consequences.

At the moment we have a number of pots on the boil.  In the USA we are told that in California the San Andreas has been stuck in parts now for too long and could glitch.  There are overheated volcano watchers secretly hoping for Yellowstone to blow with the big one.  Others think it is time for a volcano series to bring about global cooling or a mini ice age.

There are those who watch the seas and extreme weather.  In the UK at this moment there is a hurricane out there, Gonzalo, which could knock out the power over large areas. And so on and so on, never mind long term energy, water and other matters.

The key one is food.  The Atlantic Isles has to import a great deal of it and does not hold large stocks.  It depends on complex and highly organised logistical systems for the mass of the population.  We who go down to the farms are but a very small minority.

Food has to be paid for, as well as being transported.  Food prices can vary.  As a lot of food supply and provision is governed in the last analysis by financial speculators and operators it is also dependent on sound credit and finance.

The more people and the more they are concentrated into crowded urban areas the more we are all reliant on the money systems as well as all the other facilities, few of which we have much control over.  And as we see time and time again these are neither reliable nor certain.

We have the pre-conditions in place for either problems or worse.  If it has happened before it can happen again and it has happened before very many times and it is all down to the numbers.

But let's not talk about it.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Chewing Over The Previous Post

For completion; yesterday in the post "Return of the Raj" the question was posed "Anyone for mutton curry" and here is the answer.

The recipe above derives from the 1830's and an officer in the 39th Madras Native Infantry.

The persons named in that post from that time may well have enjoyed the dish in that the officer commanding the 39th was the brother of one of them.

You will need proper and younger mutton at least, and hogget would do well.  Lamb is not sufficiently robust.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

The Return Of The Raj

It may seem strange to post a picture of the LSE Rugby Club of 1936-37 at a time when some of its latest successors are under the cosh for crass teenage behaviour but the point of it is the man who is at the centre.

This is William Henry Beveridge, then Director of the School, who had transformed its work and status and built an empire of social studies with an international range and reputation.

Later was he the man who delivered the crucial Beveridge Report (see Wikipedia) in December 1942 setting out the kind of society and state provision that many envisaged for the post-war future of the UK.  He was made a peer in 1946.

It is prompted by this article on the LSE web site about the current links and relationships between the UK and India and how they are moving on from the issues of recent decades.  At the centre now is trading and as in the past as is who gains and who gives.  Today the news that Mata Steel of India is selling on its European and British mills raises questions.

We forget that Beveridge was a child of the Raj and of the 1936 students some may well have been hoping for a career in the Colonial and perhaps even the ICS, the Indian Civil Service. His father, Henry Beveridge, of Scots origins, was a senior judge but more to the point a leading Orientalist in sympathy with Indian nationalism.

Henry, born in 1829 was a young man when the Mutiny broke out which led to the demise of the old Honourable East India Company Service, HEICS, and the takeover of authority by the British Government.   Change had already begun in the attitude and policy to India before this.

The new regime was different in many ways from that of the late 18th and early 19th Century and similarly how rule was conducted and how the British society in India lived changed too.  The old India had seen people like Charles Hindoo Stuart with Charles Metcalfe and not least James Skinner.

William Beveridge was born in 1879 and grew up in an India in which Auckland Colvin was a major figure shaping the Raj that we are more familiar with.  The old was not far away.  Colvin's mother was half sister to one of Skinner's closest officers, Ralph Henry Sneyd, who was also close to Metcalfe, naming a son after him, had been nominated to the HEICS army by Stuart and for good measure ended his service as Commander of the Governor General's Body Guard, later the Viceroy's and now the Presidents.

Sneyd ended his days in Hampshire across the fields from the Duke of Wellington, the former Sepoy General, and next door to Elizabeth, widow of Colebrooke Nesbitt, one of the HEICS Nesbitt's in The City named for the Colebrooke family so prominent in the early Raj.  It was Sir Henry Colebrooke who founded the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1823, modelled on the 1784 Asiatic Society in Calcutta.

Beveridge was brought into the Civil Service in 1908 by Churchill to add some intellectual bite to the projects of the then Liberal Government.  He did key work during World War One before going to the Webb's LSE in 1919 to promote his ideas on social administration derived from India and Eugenics.

Because the Raj had been run by an Indian Civil Service on a centralised and greatly planned basis with tight controls over subordinate authorities, using agencies and controlled private sector commerce.  It was always that Calcutta, and later Delhi knew best and where all authority lay.

It is commonplace now for it to be argued that the central direction of affairs from London in the UK arose from the two world wars.  This is true because of the demands of those wars.  However the Raj had been born out of many wars and was always at risk of others.

It was the Raj and it's many senior men in politics, government, law, education and administration that bestowed on changing Britain the basic attitudes, mind sets and principles of state control and how to do it.  I can recall from around fifty years ago the number of former colonials in senior jobs in central and local government.

In this way we are all children of the Raj.  But in the 21st Century it is not going to be the British who will be in charge and cracking the whip, it will be the children of our former subjects.

If there is any consolation, in the early Raj it was the practice of many British men to maintain regular local households akin to marriage but not recognised as such by Britain. The result down a number of generations means we have many cousins, distant and unknown perhaps but still sharing our ancestry.

Anyone for mutton curry?

Monday 13 October 2014

Belief And Beggary

We are now hearing a lot about the distancing of the political leadership from what was once its core votes.  In the UK referring to a Westminster inward looking elite.  In the USA, it is Washington DC with lines to New York and California.  In France, as always, Paris, etc. etc.

This book review in "Spiked" by Sean Collins of Joel Kotkin's "The Tyranny Of The New Secular Priesthood" argues that we now have a caste, he calls it "Clerisy", who dominate debate and dictate an ideology that is reducing living standards and life opportunities for the middling and lower orders.

The word "Clerisy" is not a new one but used by Samuel Taylor Coleridge early in the 19th Century to describe the new evangelical mission of the Anglican Church to exert control over the lives and thinking of the lower orders.

There is a touch of irony here in that Coleridge was closely connected to one of the chief figures of the world of science in his day who employed Humphrey Davey.

Thomas Beddoes was supported by Georgiana, Duchess of Cavendish, among others, and also involved were the family of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, including Maria, and the Greys of Howick.

Yet our new Clerisy is said to take its reasoning and dogmas from modern science, albeit selected and presented to support their view of our world and how it should be.  It seems that not a lot changes, as ever.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Turning Round In Circles

Around the web recently there has been lot of discussion about the use of windmills for our future energy needs, notably that most of the rural areas and scenic hills etc. will be plastered with them at high cost and to not much good effect.

Raedwald has a brief but acerbic comment on the immediate situation with reference to Conservative policy being based on the requirements of their corporate friends.  For my part I can say only cough now and think of Hinckley Point.

It brings to memory the late 1960's hit "Windmills of the Mind" in the clip by Noel Harrison on Youtube.

A long time ago perhaps, but it makes a lot more sense than present or past government policy on the subject of both windmills in particular or energy policy as a whole.

Full text of the song below, if interested.

"Windmills of the Mind".

Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind!

Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind!

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly? Was it something that you said?
Lovers walking along a shore and leave their footprints in the sand
Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song
Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair!
Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in
The windmills of your mind!

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head
When did summer go so quickly? Was it something that you said?
Lovers walking along a shore and leave their footprints in the sand.

Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song
Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over in the autumn of good-byes
For a moment you could not recall the color of his eyes!
Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in
The windmills of your mind!

Saturday 11 October 2014

The Self Preservation Society

Fifty years or so can be a long while in terms of technology, think 1825 to 1875 or 1905 to 1955.  If anything in the last fifty or so change may have speeded up.  This deep thinking arises from watching the late 1960's film "The Italian Job" recorded on the box.

If you do not know it, Wikipedia has a decent item.  It was a caper film about a clever heist in Turin using cars released in 1969 in full colour and starring Michael Caine and many of the famous faces of the day.  It ends unresolved with a literal cliff hanger, a bus rocking above a ravine at risk of falling.

Some things have not changed.  The gold price is still a key economic item, there are problems with our Balance of Payments, on the roads Mini-Coopers can still be seen as can examples of top end sports cars, although very different items under the bonnet and much else, also they do not rust quite so quickly.

One of the key features in the film was the role of major computers in the control of Turin's traffic systems.  Much of this was fanciful and in a sense futuristic.  This computer was housed in a huge block with teams of expert staff and a large banks of whirring machines.

Yet the computer power in such a system then was rather less than the Sky Box sitting under my TV, never mind the TV itself and this do not compare to the capability of the little laptop on which this item is being knocked out by a one unpaid person.

In the late 1960's the vast majority of the population knew little about computers and were bemused by what was alleged to be their function.  Many able people regarded them as glorified typewriters that would only ever do the most mundane work albeit with a small number of higher functions which had very restricted applications.

One of the great questions is why the UK, which might have had a head start in the computer age and had some priority or recognition of the wider potential were not at the forefront.  We did have experts and some people with the ability but were well behind the game at the critical points of time.

A reason, among many, is that the state put its money behind other things which did not work out.  This would be at the same time it was backing declining industries and fixated on big companies while small business paid the taxes and were hamstrung by both regulations and capital restrictions.

As in many areas of business it was difficult to get started, more so to expand and real growth was hit by a range of costs beyond those which others had to meet.  There are many areas of manufacture that have now gone, or almost.  Along with this are those which were never able to really grow as they should have done.

It is not getting any better.