Thursday 29 September 2016

Vizual Aides

The Labour Party Conference has finished in Liverpool, some would say the Labour Party has finished in Liverpool. The internal disputes and differences of philosophy are being described as "trench warfare".

To compare the petty rivalries, spites and student type politicking of the last few days to this is an insult to the men who fought in the First World War, notably those of the Kings Liverpool Regiment.

Given the antics and behaviour of many of the senior figures in the Labour movement today, if there is anything to compare it might be the characters in the Viz comic, see online, viz dot co dot uk.

Football Crackers

In the late 1940's, it was a puzzle to me that the players and the manager of our town's soccer team in The Football League managed to enjoy the lifestyle they did.

Despite having middling wages and liable for tax etc. at the same high levels that were imposed they could afford to spend a great deal of time enjoying themselves.  Money did not seem to be a problem, they could even afford whisky.

Also, finding a decent place to rent was very difficult but they were able to move straight in to nice houses. They had far better clothing and seemed untroubled by the food rationing that the rest of us had to accept.  I could go on.

Being an enquiring youngster I once asked someone close to the club how this could be.  All he would say was that the answer was what they found in their boots.  Quite what he meant I did not know until much later.

How things change.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Going To The Pictures

Over the weekend BBC4TV was given over to Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. On Sunday he chose the film "The Man Who Would Be King", which was preceded by an episode of the cartoon "Captain Pugwash". The Stones were always keen on contrast and there has been an interesting one in the last few days.

The film, made in 1975 with Michael Caine and Sean Connery leading, was based on a short book by Rudyard Kipling written in 1888, towards the end of his time in India.  He had been born there, son of a Yorkshire artist cum Principal of a new Art College. Kipling, however, was sent to England for his education, returning in 1882.

Currently, in the media there is the story about actor Marc Anwar in the leading TV "soap", "Coronation Street", who has been sacked for making racist comments about Indians, he being of Pakistani origin. They relate to the recurrence of problems in Kashmir which  arise from differences and hostilities between local groups that go back centuries.

One irony is that the remarks tell us that some things have not changed since the time of Kipling.  The other is that the issues are now with us among the peoples of the sub-continent who have moved here in the last half century. The nature of Anwar's remarks were silly and childish but was it "racism" or was he simply expressing his cultural identity derived from centuries past?

In the film, which I suspect would not be made today, one of the elements of the plot relates to the continuing warfare in the period between tribes and villages whose cultural lifestyle involved killing their neighbours and stealing their women, cattle, and goats. It is set in the fictional territory of Kafiristan; that name would have to go today, to which two unprincipled rogues, likable unless you were stung by them, go to make their fortunes was placed beyond Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains.

But given the period in which the book was written, it may well have drawn on what was happening in Kashmir at the time.  This territory is at the point where South East Asia, that means China, meets the Sub Continent, now Pakistan and India. Kashmir, see the Wikipedia article, has a long and full history of warfare, coming and going and changes in power.

In the film Danny Dravot and Peachey Carnehan, time served former soldiers and sergeants, enforce law and order with Martini-Henry rifles and British Army discipline, centralise power and create a tax gathering public sector authority, intending to make off with the loot to retire to England. Nowadays it would be one of our retired Prime Ministers and their ilk advising on financial services and banking structures for a fee paid into a tax haven.

But Danny then decides he wants to stay, retain power and found a dynasty. Among all this is Freemasonry, Alexander The Great and how Danny came to be regarded as a god.  Unluckily, Danny is bitten by an unwilling wife, the blood making it clear he is not a god and it all goes badly wrong.

Danny finishes up dead singing "The Minstrel Boy", Carnehan is captured and goes mad but makes it back to tell Kipling the story giving him Danny's head and the diadem of Alexander The Great to  prove it.  The lessons that can be drawn are various.  One may be that extensive cultural and ancestral differences and centralised high tax systems of government do not go together.

This would align with Kipling's own thinking. When the Fall of the Rupee was inflicting economic damage in India and the Treasury of India was faced with a serious deficit along with major famine, Auckland Colvin introduced income tax which Kipling satirised.

Upsetting Colvin could have been a sound reason for Kipling to leave India in 1889, returning only for a brief visit in 1891. Kipling, despite being a Nobel Prize Winner, is now off the shelves and an author those fame and popularity are now long past. He has become that relative whom we do not care to mention.  Yet at the time his style and ability to tell the tale made him readable by all classes.

His vision of imperialism, "The White Man's Burden" meant imposing peace and sound government for the benefit of all by self sacrifice. But Kaiser Bill in Germany, who Kipling disliked, had his own ideas and World War One saw the beginning of the end for Imperialism, especially with the USA determined to break the British Empire.

After Kipling's death in 1936 it was ironic that the Labour Party had among its intellectual leaders men whose families had been prominent in the Raj and derived their ideas on central control, planning and government from the way it became in India in Kipling's time and after.

This they thought was the vision for ruling the British working class command of the economy as well as dismantling the Empire.  One of the serious problems of this in the Sub-Continent in 1947 was who would rule Kashmir, the old enmities still not resolved but the British getting the blame.

Which is part of The Burden of The White Man.  We have never really forsaken this idea and indeed it has been taken up by the USA, who took over much of the Empire.  How many interventions, invasions and other warlike or peaceful forays into other nations and territories have been made in the last half century?

Then there is the home version of it, in that our rulers have imposed a regime where nothing may be said or done that gives offence to others or be construed as discriminatory.  It is another irony that one of those to be caught out and punished severely is moved to be rude by the latest conflicts in Kashmir.

There is another matter, it is that our rulers who carry The Burden today are not really persons of high noble ideals and beliefs living a dedicated life to benefit us all by their wisdom and abilities.

In fact, they are much more like Dravot and Carnehan.

Sunday 25 September 2016

Expert Predictions

With Jeremy Corbyn confirmed as Leader of the Labour Party by a convincing majority there is a lot of clatter in the media predicting a bad future for Labour.

Let me see now.

In the 1935 vote Herbert Morrison was assumed to be the man of the future, but Clement Attlee won despite Arthur Greenwood being favoured by many.  In 1945, this alleged nonentity beat Churchill by a large majority to become Prime Minister.

In 1955, Eden, the man for all seasons, took over from Churchill to be Conservative Prime Minister winning the 1955 Election.  Macmillan was but a party stalwart who at one time was thought to be only just Cabinet material.

In 1963 Harold Wilson was a man with a small following but not to be relied on, especially with his fetish for figures.  Gaitskell was a man of ideas with a long future ahead of him.

In 1963 Macmillan concluded it was time to go, especially with major figures such as  Butler to take over.  But Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister to the astonishment of all.

In 1976 Wilson suddenly left office for health reasons. Dennis Healey was expected to succeed, but Jim Callaghan, regarded as a useful workhorse, became Prime Minister.

In the late 1960's and early 1970's those listening wearily to Mrs. Thatcher turgidly turning over the pages of prepared speeches would have been rolling in the aisles with helpless laughter at the idea of her becoming a Prime Minister.

In 1994, John Smith, Labour Party leader, widely expected to beat John Major in the coming election, died suddenly to be succeeded by Tony Blair.

In 2005, the Conservatives were undecided as to who next might be Leader after the previous two had lost elections and divisions in the ranks.  David Cameron won on the second ballot and was thought to be the least worst option.

In 2007 Tony Blair resigned unexpectedly to spend more time with his bankers, meaning that Gordon Brown also unexpectedly became Prime Minister.

In 2016 Cameron went off in a sulk after being caught out in one of his major errors of judgement.  Theresa May, the girl from nowhere, became Prime Minister as the least worst option.

Also in 2016 Jeremy Corbyn won decisively to retain his position as Leader of the Labour Party, and the media and others tell us that he will never become Prime Minister.

Be careful what you wish for.

Saturday 24 September 2016

Election Fever?

With the party conference season on and hitting the remote control change channel to sport at the hint of a politician or report from these events, we know that between now and 2020 a general election should be held.  My reaction which long ago may have been that this is very important is now more muted and indeed wearied.

The young adult part of the electorate will have been born in the late 1980's and the 1990's.  Their early memories of politics would have been the Prime Ministers Blair, Brown, Cameron and May.  At the other end of the age scale my equivalent was Attlee, Churchill, Eden and Macmillan.  Hardly like with like.

The picture above is of Hugh Gaitskell, Leader of the Labour Party 1955-1963, one of Labour's intellectual Sons Of The Raj, who died young and lost the 1959 election, defeated not just by Macmillan's big spending but the divisions in the Labour Party which the electorate did not like, especially in the depths of the Cold War.  My view at the time that it was a pity that Gaitskell wasn't leading the Tories and Macmillan the Labour Party was unwelcome.

When an election occurred information was derived from cinema newsreels, newspapers, journals and people around me.  Some watched TV news, such as it was, but I did not have either the time or a TV.  These days we greatly exaggerate the influence of TV in this period, forgetting that for many, notably young adults, there were other things to do.

This time round, I like many of the young of today, will be tapping away at my gizmo with immediate access to a wide range of sources, which include some of the press, media and journal legacy of the past but now not the same at all. What politicians say or are reported to say belongs to the realm of another world, one where imagination rules rather than information.

There are great changes from the past.  Retailing was very different and entailed a wide range of contacts on a daily basis.  The ordinary business of life was not the same, again a range of other ways and means. Debt was no go and consumption was not remotely on today's scale.  Education was different etc. etc.  Our young adults of today have grown up on a different planet.

It is not surprising that the major political parties are becoming so fractured.  We live in a fractured world with age groups whose life experience and formative thinking are very different.  Labour cannot rebuild its working class vote because that class of the past have gone into the mists of time.  The lower paid etc. today are not the same and they are changing rapidly in any case.

The Lib Dem's rely on old ideas and structures than cannot be recovered.  The Tories play the media game better, at the moment, but lack the ability to make the hard decisions and apply them thoroughly.  Their shifts, devices, shallow thinking and attempts at making deals and compromises will catch up with them.

The question is when and how.  A major financial bust will mean sooner. So who will the various age groups turn to?

All bets are off.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Life And Literature

When looking for answers often you face more questions and they become harder to answer.  One in history is the "silent servants", who were the servants of certain people and what role did they play?

This comes to mind when Cassandra Austen decided shortly before her death in 1845 to destroy many of her late sister Jane's letters and other documents and to censor those remaining.  Who may have helped with the poker at the fire and perhaps busy with a pair of scissors?

For many years academics, Austen lovers and others interested have regretted this decision.  What has been lost can only be guessed at but it would have been of interest to a wide range of people.  The social or national history interest may have been limited, but there may have been items of value.

What is intriguing is that a young servant, one of the few of Cassandra's who might have helped, was Jane Tidman, born 1826 to Isaac Tidman and Mary Ann, born Andrews. She lived until 1919 and died at the age of 93.  Her mother, born around 1790 also lived long, until 1874, and had been in Chawton at the time of Jane Austen herself. What memories might they have had?

Jane Tidman married in 1848 to a William Garnett, in an ordinary way of life to do with horses and labouring.  William died in 1868 leaving Jane a widow for fifty odd years who got by as many did as a dressmaker.  There were six surviving children but there have been problems looking for descendants.  I suspect emigration which was common and from Hampshire the docks were not far away.

One intriguing question is what knowledge and talk there may have been about what was happening in Selborne a short distance away.  It could not be ignored, one of the famous works of the late 18th Century was "The Natural History And Antiquities Of Selborne" by the Rev. Gilbert White, who died in 1793.

It was a seminal work in its field and for a time Selborne was a famous place, the Austen's must have know about it and are likely to have read the book.  There was a difficulty, however, in that The Priory Farm there had been at the centre of White's studies but by the late 1790's and into the 1800's had the Fitt family as leaseholders.

They were of a robust outlook on life and manners. The surname Garnett has come to be associated with one of one of TV's most notorious fictional oafs and bigots, Alf Garnett of "Till Death Us Do Part".  Alf is a very bad fit with the politesse of Jane Austen. The Fitt's, however, could have run rings round the likes of Alf.

They sired a number of children out of wedlock. The circumstances were not unusual locally. In 1821/22 the Rev. J. Monkhouse wrote in the Parish Register of Bramshott, nearby, “Of 72 marriages in the last 10 years ending 1820, not less than 69 females have been unchaste before marriage. Those who gain husbands are more fortunate than those who bear bastards, but not more virtuous."

The records of Magdalen College show in the lease registers that Charles Fitt was in occupation on 6th August, 1795. It is possible that he followed a member of the Lassam family into the holding. In 1816 it was decided not to renew the lease after a legal opinion had been sought.  In 1817, however, the lease was renewed on condition he give the interest to his family.

In 1818 the lease registers confirm that in 1818 leases given to Benjamin and Frederick Fitt, Sons of Charles Fitt of Selborne, Yeoman. Leases were drawn up, also, in 1824 and 1832 for John Dunn of Alresford, as mortgagee, subject to a proviso of redemption by the Fitt’s. Orders were made in 1825, 1833, and 1834 related to arrears and interest owing, but in July 1834 an entry fine was accepted. Charles died aged 83 in Selborne, and was buried on the 11th May, 1843.

From the works of Jane, it might be assumed that the rural areas of Hampshire were a relatively peaceful and gentle part of England.  But during the period of the Wars against France it was home to large numbers of troops on the move as well as being the major base of the British Navy.  Among the ordinary people it might be anything but peaceful.

In 1823 William Cobbett, in his “Rural Rides” remarked on the unhappy situation in Selborne, and The Rev. Cobbold, Vicar of Selborne wrote on the subject.  This situation led to conflict over the tithes due each year to the Church, payable in Selborne’s case to Magdalen College, Oxford, the freeholder of the properties, and in respect of the Parish Rates. The upshot was a serious outbreak of trouble in 1830, in parallel with many others in England, generally known as the “Captain Swing” riots.

In Selborne the unpopular Workhouse was attacked and set on fire.  Then the Headley Workhouse nearby was attacked and a threshing machine destroyed.  There were other violent incidents in Selborne and in neighbouring parishes such as Chawton, and the Yeomanry was deployed to restore order.  Worse still in Selborne, a local hostelry, “The Compasses” was burned down.  The “Queen’s Head” replaced it in 1837.

The consequence was that a number of men were transported and others served long prison sentences with hard labour. Edward Fitt spoke at the trial at the Winchester Assizes on behalf of a Benjamin Smith, who was probably a relative. There were also Warne relations involved, deservedly transported to Australia to mend their manners.

The Reverend Cobbold on the other hand, in contrast to the appeals for mercy made by other clergy, wrote to the Secretary of State for Home Affairs demanding that the criminals be hanged forthwith.  Perhaps having had a pistol held to his head during the disturbances had concentrated his mind.

Given the financial difficulties with which the Fitt’s were then faced, it raises the question of what their position may have been.  Were they sympathetic to or even supportive of anti-Tithe and similar activities, or opposed to the disturbances?  It is alleged that some local farmers encouraged the rioters.

During the 1850's, the Garnett family moved down the road to Hursley and Jane Garnett was still there in 1911, apparently on her own.  It was from Hursley that the Fitt's had come to Selborne.

When all the academics and enthusiasts later in the 19th Century and into the 20th studied the world of the Austen's, it is a pity they did not seek out the servants or their families for their view of the past.

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Fast Finish Fashion

Something literary has turned up which will take a little time so a short item but with large implications.

It is suggested that among the many destructive consumer goods markets are the ones in clothes.

Fast fashion from Naked Capitalism explains what it is.

Frock horror?

Monday 19 September 2016

Arts And Pseudo Science

If it is your view that the world, or rather the human part of it, has gone barking mad it is fair to ask why.  One reason could be that what is called "management theory" has now been applied so extensively and rigorously and in spheres to which it is alien that it is leaving a trail of ruin and destruction behind it.

Jessica Duchen gives a warning about what it proposed and a summary of how the Arts are intended to be fitted in to the mathematical models and the algorithms by which we are ruled, assessed, taxed, selected, deselected and the rest today.

This prime example she links to which tells of the extremes to which it is put comes from Arts Professional who have cause to be concerned.  The article which tries to simplify the issue makes demanding reading and has to be longer than more blog readers like to spell out what is involved.  It is grim stuff.

So many of us ask for the arts to have some funding and support to ensure their survival and continuance in a difficult world.  Now it seems that this can only be if extensive management is applied to the distribution and assessment of those which are being assisted.

What might result can only be guessed at.  One artist comes to mind, Rembrandt, who painted and drew a great many small pictures, almost miniatures in a way, but which enable you to appreciate the large wall sized masterpieces that we are more familiar with.

So which will go in the bin?  The smaller ones because the relative cost per square inch does not meet the guidelines?  Or the big ones which management think could be digitised and shrunk to a size that can be handled by one person?

Sunday 18 September 2016

John Simpson's Near Miss

In the news today is a major story about John Simpson, the BBC news reporter who has been in so many danger zones at so much risk so often.

This was nearly the one that got him, Anaphylaxis, the extreme toxic allergic shock.  What the article does not say is which was the critical substance that triggered it.

Been there, done that and when the Guys immunologists eventually checked it out they remarked that they were glad to see me because so few survived it.

A possibility to be considered is Chlorhexidine, it fits the kind of time, place, severity and difficulty in diagnosing.  If so, this comes with conditions.

One is the cheerful advice I was given to stay out of hospitals and indeed avoid medical personnel and establishments as much as possible.

If John has copped for this or a parallel substance, I would be happy to give advice.

Friday 16 September 2016

McDonnell, Memory And Money

There has been one of those strange stories about politicians, this one around being John McDonnell (what again?), Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, who claims on Youtube, the modern journal of record, that he waited a lifetime for a full scale banking crisis as in 2008.

He admits to being a Marxist, whatever that is these days, and  was born a scouser in Liverpool, but then moved south, see Wikpedia.  Scousers are noted for their imaginations.   Although, it was rather more east, being Great Yarmouth, but his geography may be as suspect as his history.

One wonders where he had really been all that time.  Was he tucked away snoozing happily before being wakened by a 2008 kiss from Gordon Brown, the Prince from the lands of Bailout?  Or could it have been Tony (what's my percentage?) Blair.

Purely as an aside a look at the Wikipedia page for Angus McDonnell 1881 to 1966, then look at his mum, Louisa McDonnell, Countess of Antrim, lived 1855-1949.  Louisa had an aunt who lived in Liverpool and with extensive family. Relations? Perhaps not, but the Antrim's and connections were prominent at Court for around a century.

But when John was a teenager, doubtless learning The Communist Manifesto by heart in the late 60's, we had a sterling crisis and Harold Wilson defending the pound in our pockets by a substantial devaluation.. It wasn't long to wait before the next, the secondary banking crisis of 1973-1975 when capitalism looked doomed.

Then later in the decade Prime Minister Callaghan and Chancellor Healy kept the banks open by borrowing from the IMF, an event that marked the end of Empire and was supposed to be the beginning of the end for capitalism.  This seemed overdue by the early 80's as the groups of The Left beguiled by Soviet propaganda and the wonders of East Germany thought their day would come.

In 1984 the Great Event happened, Scargill, John's version of Lenin, he thought at the time , called a miner's strike to trigger The Revolution. The Left might have been adept at talking and theorising, but were bereft of organisation, logistics and common sense and lost which meant that later in the decade the capitalists gained the upper hand and regulation was discarded.

Then the Soviet Union was the one to crash with all that followed. There were further ups and downs as time went on in one place or another as well as a nasty internet crash, but somehow or another it kept going until a big one hit in 2008. One problem here was that the government had become a branch of the banks instead of a regulator.

Another problem was that very few in politics, Left, Right and Centre simply did not see or understand how much and how fast the world was changing.  So when someone like McDonnell comes along, whose thinking does not seem to have moved on from the 1970's what do we make of them?

Dinosaurs or dimwits or both?

Thursday 15 September 2016

Call To Arms

It is sixty years this week since the Army and I parted company, which of us was the happier is an interesting question.

The recent reports to the effect that an EU Army is being proposed call to mind an old song, slightly amended so as not to give offence.

We are Claude Junckers Army,
No Euro use are we,
The only time you'll see us,
Is when we charge a fee.

But when a war is over,
We'll shout with all our might,
Per Ardua Ad Astra,
Up yours I'm alright.

So, by the Left..........

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Parliament Repair Or Replace?

Below is in part a repeat of one of my first posts, back in 2009, on the subject of what to do with Parliament when the Palace of Westminster has to close for repairs etc. or preferably demolition, if my money is involved.

There are times when I think that King Charles First had the right idea, the trouble however was Charles and his advisers.  How history can repeat itself.  In 2009 I said that the problem with the UK is London, and it has always been London.  If there has been anything damaging, and destructive in the Atlantic Isles and the reach of its activities, too often it has had its roots in London one way or another.

Although London has now lost most of its industrial base, it has remained the central location (black hole?) for Government, Parliament, Finance both national and international, Media and Press, Sport, Arts, Culture, and a good many other things.

In recent years a number of commentators have warned about the creation of a class of professional politicians and associates too closely enmeshed a web of greed and deceit so easily created and sustained in a small geographical area that is also the centre of communications.

They have now given us a system of government where the legislative powers have been largely off shored to their remittance men in Brussels and the money has been off shored to tax havens. The executive does its strategic planning day by day with its eye on the headlines and the civil service is a revolving door to lobby's and major corporations.

As for the economy, London has been taking in its own financial washing for some decades now, and has comprehensively wrecked the basic structure to the cost of every man, woman and child in future generations.

The quickest and best way to administer a radical cure would be to move Parliament and Government out as soon as possible.  Some time in the 1960’s a journal, was it “The Economist”, did a think piece about moving it all up to a new town to be built on the North York Moors called Elizabetha.  Perhaps, but it would be a pity to disturb the insect life there with a lesser form of species.

Before London, there had been other capitals in England.  One was Winchester, where King Alfred the Great held court, probably the option that would most appeal to the inhabitants of the Westminster Village.  To the north there might be York, the old Viking City, which has excellent communications.  Further north, there is Bamburgh, now a small village, once the seat of the Kings of Northumbria.

My favourite would be Tamworth however, the seat of the Kings of Mercia, now a modest late industrial Midlands town.  It is famous for its two stations one on top of the other, Low Level on the old LNWR West Coast Main Line, the High Level on the old Midland Railway main line from Bristol to York through Birmingham, Sheffield. Also, it was one of the seats of the Stanley family whose decision to ride for King Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth helped to put the Tudors on the throne.

As for the present row about updating the electoral boundaries and total membership of the House of Commons, if you keep delaying difficult decisions, they do not become easier, they become much harder as more boundaries are more affected and more members threatened with loss of seats.

In 2012 the Liberal Democrat members of the Coalition asserted their vision of democracy by preventing the government from amending the constituency boundaries to meet population changes.  It was a spectacular lack of foresight culminating in their debacle in the 2015 Elections.

In the meantime the House of Lords, as undemocratic an institution as it is possible to get has become stuffed with redundant and surplus Lib Dem's among its thousand and more expenses claimers who do little and understand less.

When the roof falls in at the Palace of Westminster, either in structural or political terms, it should be off to Tamworth, 500 members of the House of Commons at most, preferably fewer and a second chamber of no more than 300 elected on a basis of strict proportional representation.

It may be that to force a decision something drastic has to happen.  Say around the beginning of November a big bang of one kind or another? 

Monday 12 September 2016

Hillary Clinton

Putting aside the politics etc. I wish Hillary Clinton a recovery from her present health problems.  Inevitably, the media and the blogs have been full of comment.  Among the several possibilities there may be a problem that is little understood or admitted.

This relates to the sketchy information that Hillary has allergies and takes antihistamines to control the effects.  Were it as simple as that.  Allergy, arising from problems in the immune system, is not a fixed or limited issue, it can develop and worsen with age, stress and the impact of strong substances during a period of vulnerability.

Often particular ones can be very difficult to identify and control. They can hit quite suddenly and for no apparent reason other than routine exposure to what has suddenly became an allergen, perhaps serious, for that individual.

This is the case for those who contract serious chemical sensitivities and these can become multiple.  In recent decades our ordinary products, foods, household and personal contain more, increasingly complex and stronger synthetic chemicals.  One case in point is fragrances, now in and on almost everything and everywhere.

Inevitably, some people react and some of them badly and many may not be diagnosed. I hope for her sake that her bad turn was not anaphylactic shock and she now has anaphylaxis to deal with.  It might be a lesser reaction in someone already unwell.  But if it is something or anything like this it can be life changing.

If she is, it might be better for all of us if she were to admit it.

Sunday 11 September 2016

Grammar, Words, Words, Words.

Ms. May reminding us that like Caesar's Gaul, secondary education was once divided into three parts has predictably put up a lot of flak in politics.  Is this serious, or a three legged political horse that will never run but keep Labour etc. and the Education "Blob" busy while other matters are dealt with quietly, such as pensions?

Grammar Schools have a very long history, too long and too complicated for a brief post and is one shared with many of our Public Schools, actually private.  For this it is best to start with the 1940's when R.A. Butler was parked at the Ministry of Education, tarnished with a reluctance when at the Foreign Office to make commitments that might lead to war and questioning whether Churchill was a suitable First Lord of the Admiralty when war did begin.

The 1944 Education Act that embodied the tripartite system, Grammar, Technical etc and Secondary Modern was both a Noble Idea and a Bright Idea for the Coalition cum Tory government.  It was one of a raft of proposals for a new Britain after the war although in this case legislated for.  Churchill and other leaders were too busy with more pressing matters to give it any attention.

The Noble one was secondary education for all that was broad based, The Bright one was that it should be organised in a particular way.  While there were documents galore on the subject and Classicist cum PPE cum Historian senior civil servants bent on nationalisation, rationalisation and central control what was actually on the ground was ignored, as was basic statistics and any concept of the problems that would face post war Britain.

The Attlee Labour government of 1945 to 1951 had a lot to deal with so education was largely left with the local authorities  Those where the tripartite theory gave serious problems in practice began to have other ideas.  In London where the bombing had cleared many patches and was intensively populated they came to the conclusion that new build was best with large comprehensive schools.

In contrast in Leicestershire County, a Conservative council devised a two stage system with high/middle schools 11-14 plus the early leavers and Grammar/Upper Schools for those wanting to stay on until 16 and take examinations, not quite Grammar Schools for all, but at least with a choice for the parents.  The picture above is the former Leicestershire County Council Education Offices.  The hole in the ground is the grave of King Richard III, history casts a long shadow.

Leicester City on the other hand were well on the way to a tripartite one by 1944 and only needed new buildings and to eliminate the senior classes from the Elementary Schools.  In the broad acres of the West Riding of Yorkshire Sir Alec Clegg, preferring comprehensive allowed flexibility in the type of structure related to what was inherited locally.

The major question was all the building to be done and the cost.  In areas where population increase was occurring and which had priority for Government money it was one thing.  In areas however with static or shrinking population they had to make do and mend.  But it was slow going because of austerity and all the other demands for state spending.

It was rather later in 1958 with the White Paper, "Secondary Education For All" that the final drive began and at the time the debate about comprehensive and selective tripartite was well under way.  So when politicians and others now refer to the Grammar Schools they probably have in mind the larger well equipped and staffed schools serving urban or the forward looking rural areas.

They are also talking in simple terms when that period in fact was one of very complicated forms of organisation and other standards, sometimes quite great.  Also, the economy, the structure of the population and the diversity are very different from then.  If it was complicated enough by the 1960's when politicians threw "rationalisation" and "planning" at every problem it is more so now.  Quite where you start and where you end up is difficult to assess.

Political Betting has an item that discusses the May initiative more fully.  For many it may be Noble but has all the potential to be Bright.  There is the mode of selection.  For some, attracted by the simplicities it might be parental choice, but it is not that simple.    Admitting by some sort of selection that reflects the numbers  local population groups would not be easy and may not guarantee the standards sought.

Selection by strict independent tests of one kind or another for academic potential might leave you with a school with a many pupils of one type of background or population group. Do not assume that they would be Brit's and if they are not and they along with certain others are minimal in numbers then watch out for trouble.

So what exactly do we mean when we say the words "Grammar School"?

Friday 9 September 2016

Here We Go Again

We still have our annual rituals.  Tomorrow, Saturday, is the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and we have the fuss and hoopla over the last few minutes.  This is the part where they sing "patriotic" songs and wave flags.  Given the number of Proms during the season, add the Late Night ones, the Chamber Concerts and other events, it amounts to around one half of one per cent of the whole, if that.

Yet for many it symbolises the whole.  Sir Nicholas Kenyon, former Director has been wheeled out for the tenth or twentieth time to remind us that it is a two month international event embracing world and many forms of music, old and young, ancient and modern giving an extensive choice.

Having posted on this before and having been in the Arena a few years and at times on the front row of the Last Night, see picture above, I can claim to have been there on done that.  One of these we had an Estonian waving his flag, tactful Japanese waving coloured banners, Germans waving the Union Jack out of courtesy and Italians waving what seemed to be items of female underwear.

If some of the clowns that are unavoidable in public places these days insist on politicising that last few minutes it would be a pity, because in the second half the item preceding it is "Serenade To Music" a lovely piece by Vaughan Williams for which the youngsters tackling it have spent a lot of time rehearsing.

The promised demonstration is said to be Remainers confronting patriotic Brexit people about the Euro thing.  If you scratch the surface of the music and songs this is quite idiotic.  The composer of the music on which "Land Of Hope And Glory" is based, a Pomp And Circumstance March, was Edward Elgar.

He was one of a number of intellectuals who loved and respected Germany, its culture and its people.   The events of the early 20th Century and the First World War were a personal disaster for him.  Have I heard the tune in an obscure Bach cantata?

Also, the composer of "Rule Britannia" was Thomas Augustine Arne, a Catholic, like Elgar in a time when Catholics were suspect and also a Freemason.  This was written for King George II, also Elector of Hanover, husband of Caroline of Ansbach and son of King George I who could barely speak English and was married to Sophia Dorothea of Celle.  He was the son of Sophia of the Palatinate and grandson of Elizabeth of Bohemia.

Another tune of Arne's borrowing from German musical sources, became the basis of our national anthem "God Save The Queen" during the time of King George III.  George III was the son of Frederick, a nod to the Prussian connections, Prince of Wales, who died young, and Augusta of Saxe Gotha.  George III married Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz.

Today Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is a lass from Mecklenburg and a lady whose firm ideas on this and that have led to difficulties.  So singing our National Anthem could be construed as a gesture of support for her in these troubled times.  The Bavarians, whom Elgar so much admired, have taken a dislike to her.

In the first half of the Last Night there is a piece by Benjamin Britten, "Matinee Musicales" based on Rossini's music, an easy to listen to and enjoyable musical jaunt.  A quirk of history is that one of Britten's forebear families have a surname and are off the same patch as the servant employed in the Elgar household when he was a child.  How much of his musical interest did he owe to her?

The BBC claim in The Proms to reflect our history of music but it is curious who never appear despite their fame and talent in the past.  One is Leslie Stuart, impresario, composer and librettist of many of the big hits in musical theatre.  Born Thomas Augustine (yes, another one) Barrett, but beginning when another T.A. Barrett was a leading figure, he changed his name.

One of his most popular songs was "Soldiers of the Queen", 1898, which begins, "Britons did once loyally proclaim, about the way we ruled the waves", a nod to the earlier Thomas Augustine.  Wikipedia has the full words under "Soldiers of the King".

Stuart's Barrett family were from County Mayo in Ireland, incidentally, and he grew up in Liverpool close to the Willis organ factory in Liverpool, a branch of the London firm.  It is a Willis organ in the Royal Albert Hall, erected in memory to the late Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg Gotha. I have mentioned before that Edwin Willis in 1881 was next door neighbour to Karl Marx, the well known Prussian German internationalist.

So if we really want to have a change from these old songs now alleged to be tarnished with nationalism and patriotism, why not try "Soldiers of the Queen" in its place.  It could follow "The Garryowen".

I marched to that in Germany when in The Army of Occupation.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

House Hunters

The problem with housing is politics.

The problem with politics is money.

The problem with money is debt.

The problem with debt is housing.

Monday 5 September 2016

Privacy On Parade

As the Member of Parliament for Lower Hades reports that I have taken a two headed battle axe to cut short a debate are untrue and defamatory, the matter is being referred to my lawyers, Fiddle Partners, Parkhurst, Isle of Wight.

I just happened to be skinning a live neighbour's dog with a meat cleaver when he tried to intervene by assaulting me. Other reports about my use of a JCB at the local bank cash machine are misleading, anyone can forget their pin number.

These intrusions into my private life are a shocking and unwanted use of powers by the media and they should suffer if not prosecution and lifelong gaol terms then the payment of personal damages at a level that might even make my creditors shut up.

So watch it all you banks that lent me money when I was at The Treasury.  Also:


Noel Coward, "Private Lives" 1931

Amanda says: "I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives. It all depends on a combination of circumstances.

 If all the various cosmic thingummys fuse at the same moment, and the right spark is struck, there's no knowing what one mightn't do.

That was the trouble with Elyot and me, we were like two violent acids bubbling about in a nasty little matrimonial bottle."


Any connection between the Vaz affair and the above is purely chance, it has been on the draft list since the major to-do before last, I have forgotten what it was.  He is MP for Leicester East. When I was on the electoral roll near sixty years ago the M.P. was a lawyer Welsh Dissenter named Ungoed-Thomas, or as the Catholics and Anglicans called him, Ungodly Thomas.

As a judge he made a number of judgements that are still listed today. I suspect his views on privacy in relation to those holding public office were very different from the hand wringing apologists of the present day.Then it was very different.  If you put yourself up to be in a superior, responsible and senior position if you were caught out doing things which did not fit in with the general moral code claiming privacy was not an option.  You might ask to be forgiven or tolerated, but not secret.

The Vaz Man is listed as a Roman Catholic, a fact which given his domestic capers raises the other eyebrow.  If he spends much time in his constituency then which church might he worship at?  There is a Polish Church which has served the Polish community since the late 1940's.  We had the American 82nd Airborne close to us as well as the Polish Airborne Division during the War and my father's chess meant Poles in the parlour many a time.

But I think not.  The most likely is the Sacred Heart Church, more central and I suspect closer to his personal population group.   This once had an Elementary School run by The Blessed Sisters of Mercy who if troubled by louts or such invading their privacy were terrors with the policemen's truncheons kept within their skirts.  The idea of one of them chasing their local MP along Charnwood Street and battering him brings a smile of hope.

In town there is always the Holy Cross Church, a sterner more demanding one run by the Order of the Dominicans, famed for their Inquisitions of the past.  They are priests with sharp minds and careful tongues who can shred a faulty argument or a sinner slowly, quietly and thoroughly.

On the other hand, given his present troubles and situation perhaps he might prefer the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel.  He certainly needs it.