Tuesday 31 January 2017

Have You Come Far?

Let me see. This man who father was German and mother Scottish is invited to visit a lady whose mother was Scottish and whose father had a good many Germanic origins. He is married to a lady whose family is from somewhere else. The lady is married to a man whose family is Greek, Germanic and Balkan.

As it happens they are both now Heads of their respective states, so their families done good as we Ancient Brit's might say. But there is a fuss. He has said and done things that many disagree with as Head of his State. The lady is very canny and does not say much but does what she has to do, albeit being Head of State this often involves the trappings of ceremony.

She would prefer to be riding a horse around the countryside. At one time this could involve hunting foxes but wary of the popular urban love for these rather nasty predators has given it up. He has had interests in the past of chasing  which time also means he has had to give it up.

Personally, I do not think that I would get on very well with either of them. My talents for skiving, insubordination and evasiveness when asked where things are and why this or that has not been done would lead to a coolness in relations.

She has had to let the politicians get away with far too much for our good. On the whole they have lied to her even more than they have lied to us. He is a hard driving boss from the world of business who runs the figures and acts if he does not like the look of them.

This is a bad fit in political structures which would rather avoid making real decisions, kick the cans down the road, screw the taxpayers, borrow the money and has politicians who grab what they can and run leaving the problems for the future.

In terms of the Heads of State around the world, the lady is very different from almost all of them. Similarly with the man, if you look at the backgrounds of Heads of State in past history you have very few of them who were active business men. In the UK we once had as Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, but historians have been unkind to him.

Certainly, many Heads of State etc. have dabbled or interfered in business but as things have turned out have learned the wrong lessons, usually at the expense of their country. Last but not least we are in the 21st Century and the past is not much of a guide to the present and none at all to the future.

The present row is over migration and in the era of fake news etc. many of the protesters have not looked at the detail, or the implications or run the figures.

So they want to stop one migrant family man going back to one of the ancestral homes and paying a visit to a lady who has a distinctive  migrant background.

I suspect the two of them might agree that the Euro is bust and the world is about to turn again.

Sunday 29 January 2017

Head To Head

Head injuries are common in some sports. At one time taken as just a part of the game they are now regarded more seriously.

A feature is that in sport, especially professional, not only have the players become more physical, the people playing them are bigger, more muscled and gymnasium trained.

This means that they hit harder and with more effect.

This article in the Engineer magazine goes into the subject. In many sports the nature of the game as it is being played at present and by whom and at what age is being questioned.

The sports of today are mostly of recent origin in terms of history. It may be that they could go the way of past sports.

Where's my horse and jousting kit?

Friday 27 January 2017

Cut To The Chase

Part of the fun in watching history programmes on the TV is being picky about the detail and seeing what slant the producers put on the finished version that goes to screen. Often, their view raises interesting questions, not just about the research but what they are trying to say.

Clearly, the producers have their problems. When a programme is meant for a mass audience it has to be presented in a way that interests the average viewer, the information is very likely a lot simpler than the reality and the case being made is one that will keep them watching.

Which means story lines will have "human interest", any complexity of detail that needs careful analysis is avoided and in the present a full helping of politically correct comment that fits modern ideas about this and that. The past was often quite different.

Not so long ago flogging was a norm not just as a punishment decreed by magistrates and not limited to those at the bottom of the heap. Dr. Keate Head of Eton College in the 19th Century was notable in that he flogged many of the young male aristocracy and some who later became members of the Cabinet. If he were alive today those Eton men who joined The Bullingdon Club would have the scars to show.

This blog has mentioned before items from the family history series "Who Do You Think You Are" where as a BBC1 item with only an hour to present the personality covered and fit in two or three stories that the viewer will be inclining to keep watching. This week's was about Ian McKellen, see Wikipedia for a full article.

My own reaction is that given that he is a leading actor, it is a great pity that he never had the chance to play either of the parts of Arthur Kipps or Alfred Polly from the HG Wells books of 1905 and 1910, both made into films long ago.

The chance he missed was the musical version of Kipps, "Half A Sixpence" where the film lead was taken by Tommy Steele. In 1901, Ian's McLellen grandfather, an engineer, was living in a drapers shop in a line of shops, run by his elder sister.

The main story was about Frank Lowe or Lowes, a brother of his ancestor and a notable actor in the North in the late 19th Century, who had the misfortune to contract TB, bad for anyone, especially someone in the theatre. Among the nasty effects of this disease is that it can take some time before the end, wreck a family and mean years of poverty.

Frank ended up in the Liverpool Workhouse, yet another in this series, note Ricky Tomlinson's family. Even so, the BBC did not understand the situation. As it happens one of my great grandfathers died in the Liverpool Infirmary eighteen days before Frank and even younger, from pneumonia.

The programme did not understand that the Infirmary was for those for whom there was a chance to cure while the Workhouse had a death ward for those without hope, many of whom then would have been TB cases. Given that TB is on the rise again and the real fear that antibiotics may no longer cope, perhaps a little more might have been said.

Frank's father was a Robert Lowes, remarkable in his way in his political work to improve conditions for the workers of Manchester, and by extension, the country. But he was descended from a James Lowes, a master engraver. It was his illustrations in the key first books to appear about The Lake District that helped create the idea of back to nature and wildness.

This invited mention of the Wordsworth's and their friends and their time there extolling the beauties and wonders of the land. This soon turned it from a remote and isolated place into a top tourist destination. What the programme did not mention was what the locals really enjoyed.

It was fox hunting. Along with certain shires, The Lakes was a major location for the sport, Do you ken John Peel and all the rest. But I do not really see Sir Ian McKellen in the role of John Jorrocks, the hunting grocer of the Surtee's novels.

Wednesday 25 January 2017

A Man's A Man

Tonight is Burns Night and many Scots and others will celebrate the anniversary of the poet. There is no shortage of material on the web about Robert Burns, his poetry and his life.

But there are the might have been aspects. Like us all he had choices to make and some made for him which directed the course of his life and there were plenty of alternatives. Apart from those known there are some which did not happen but were possible.

What if he had gone into the Royal Navy as a midshipman?  We might now think of Admiral Burns who sailed with Hood and Nelson. What if he had gone to India, like another in his family? A letter from a laird involved in the Ayr Bank to Arnold Nesbitt in The City of London could have given him a cadet post in Calcutta.

More likely is to have managed to become a member of one or other of the Incorporations of Ayr, the associations of Freemen who ran the Burgh and the lives of those within it. He would have had his own designated seat in the Kirk and in time might have been a man of standing.

In this last case he may well have been totally forgotten if the poetry, if any, had not been published like that of so many at the time and since. The Incorporations declined during the 19th Century and as the quote below suggests, there are now only what is left of local documents that tell us only part of the tale.



§MR. SOMERVELL (Ayr, &c.)

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether he is aware that the funds of certain Charitable Institutions in Ayr are being diverted from their original purpose; and, if so, whether he can suggest a remedy for the misappropriation of these funds, or direct an inquiry into the working of the existing Trade Incorporations of Ayr?

I presume the question of my hon. Friend refers to the three Incorporations of Tailors, Weavers, and Fleshers of Ayr. As regards the first, my only information is that there is an existing membership, and that recently a Mr. Loudon raised an action in the Court of Session asking that he should be admitted a member, but in this claim he was unsuccessful.

The case of the Weavers' Incorporation has also been the subject of litigation, which does not appear to have yet been finally decided, and the membership of the Fleshers' Incorporation having become extinct, the property which formerly belonged to them has fallen to the Crown as ultimus h┼ôres.

I am further informed that a movement is on foot to ask that the sums which have fallen to the Crown may be devoted to benevolent purposes within the district; but as this is a matter which falls to be dealt with by the Treasury, I am unable to give my hon. Friend any further information on the subject.


Imagine, when it came to Burns, the last words might well have applied, no further information.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Not So Merry Go Round

You may wonder why in a world where a trillion here or a trillion there does not seem to matter too much, while many of us and our governments etc. seem to be so chronically short of the readies.

What is a greater mystery is why some of the figures seem to be fine and dandy and moving in the right direction, so much is going in  opposite direction and never to return.

One major explanation is here in the LSE Business in a full article on Private Equity and the way money is moved these days, by whom and to what purpose.

It may make the eyes ache at times but if you can take it, you will have learned something useful. It is titled: "How Private Equity Firms Are Designed To Earn Big While Risking Little Of Their Own".

This is the way it ends, quote:


The PE business model is designed to funnel income from portfolio companies and PE funds upwards to the PE firm. With so little of their own money at risk, these firms make outsized bets that pay off in good times.

In bad times, they make money on the steep management fees paid by investors and monitoring fees paid by portfolio companies. Like the house in a casino, PE firms never lose.

One example is that just about anyone with a leasehold property will playing in the game only picked for the losing side.

Monday 23 January 2017

Screen Shots

In the "what fun" category of revisiting, revising, re-examining the course of history the BBC this week is giving us Lucy Worsley once again. She is to change our minds about King Richard III; now is the winter of our discontent to his mates; then The Glorious Revolution of 1688; King Billy rules OK, or rather his missus did; and lastly the Creation of the Raj, or how we got hooked onto the caffeine in the tea with the odd shot of opium and needed the gold to maintain our financial liquidity as well.

Another more delicate matter is a look at the KKK, the variants of the Ku Klux Klan, and its Scottish origins. Secret societies; they were with about as much real secrecy as a railway timetable. Yes indeed they will have some Scottish input. Almost anything in the USA from way back has a Scottish connection because there were a lot of Scots there and very active.

I now confess that I am the leader of a secret society. This one has the advantage of having only one member, me, so as long as I keep quiet nobody will realise that I rule the world; up to a point. So far the mission has not been entirely successful, but something may turn up in the National Lottery. Also, I can skip the kit, fiery crosses and bits of business usually needed.

Going back down the ages humanity, mainly males for some reason, seem to have had a yearning to get together in groups bent on the control of others, rule by force and scratching each other's backs to ensure they have the big share of whatever pot is going. This has often needed obscure rules, contests, ceremonies and the whole bag. It might even explain Grand Opera.

Roman emperors were good at this, with the difference that a lot of them liked their own versions. Caligula was a case in point. His did not last because of the basic rule that if anybody forgot the rules or got the words wrong they were executed. Eventually, the few members that were left got rid of him and went their own ways.

Yes, I have my own angle on all this. All these secret societies etc. and some of the not so secret give rise to all the many and various conspiracy theories of history. These are false. The BBC should ignore them and start some real history into the cock-ups that made the modern world. There is a rich choice to be had.

One is the government decision to create a BBC.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Mind Games

Back in December 2010 this item was posted:


When I was in the British Army of Occupation in Germany the European Unity idea seemed a good thing as long as the Americans and the Brit’s were directly in charge.  At the time we even thought that if the locals were allowed to work together on their coal and steel production it would be of use to us.

Sadly, our period of direct control ended and when it did The Treasury cut the rate of exchange for the UK Armed Service personnel in pounds to the new DM in Germany by 40%.  We should have regarded this as a bad omen.  Since then it has all gone down hill and down market.

After our failure to rebrand the Empire as a Commonwealth held together by The City in the Sterling Area and to compete with the USA in the America’s and other places we surrendered to the New Europe in the 1970’s and dumped The Commonwealth.

More by accident than design we kept the pound sterling if not the Sterling Area and this was kept afloat by the discovery of North Sea Oil and Gas.  In the meantime our neighbours invented the Euro.

This was because it was apparent that even a united Europe could not stop the French, Italians and Spanish from serious mismanagement of their currencies.  At the time I suggested that the Euro was essentially a vehicle without a reverse gear or reliable steering and brakes.

Like others who shared my view I was dismissed as an ignoramus entirely lacking in vision and belief and with a tawdry attitude of expecting things to work properly.  This is why I regarded those hyping the Euro as about as reliable as salesmen selling British cars of the 1970’s.

Now the fuses are blowing in European finance and the Euro is under stress we wonder what is going on.  If you ask what will become of it and feel that at present none of it is quite logical and that those at the top are mostly distraught or drunk, then you are not alone.


When Trump, who has Scottish crofters as ancestors meets May who has Scottish miners, it could be a meeting of minds.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Friday's Child

Having kept more or less clear of the USA Presidential business, partly out of amazement and partly to avoid trying to take up a position on a situation that is changing by the hour, just one thing.

It is said that Donald Trump is having a problem recruiting suitable celebrities to do a stint at the Inaugural Ceremony because so few either supported him or want to be included.

Or perhaps he does not pay as much as Russian oligarch's having a family bash. But in these digital days do we need the living any longer? It might be more entertaining to have those of the past who gave so many so much pleasure.

This from mid 1946 is as good as any.

We live in interesting times.

Sunday 15 January 2017

Going For A Ride

Having said something about vehicle taxation, it reminded me of an item on file on transport costs, probably inspired by a TV series set a couple of hundred years ago. It is one of my gripes that we do not understand the real costs of living all those years ago.


We are all very worried about our transport costs, personal, public, and those supplying our food and essentials.  But historically, even if oil prices do move up a good deal, they are very much cheaper than in the past.

When you look at the historical dramas on TV and see all the coaches, horses, and the rest, much of it is flights of fancy, for the vast majority of people it was all a lot simpler.  Basically, you walked, unless you were possessed of a good income.

If you look on the four in hand coach used for Stage or for private purposes, necessarily four horsepower and run down the potential costs they are very high.

A two or one horse rig would be for lighter and shorter distance work, and six horses is at State Coach levels or magnate display purposes.

So restate say 1830 prices at 2009 levels, by calculations that relate to labour costs rather than price comparisons of identifiable consumer products.

Cost of coach new: £250,000 or more.
Cost of horses:  £15,000 each, good quality horses cost a lot more than others.
Annual forage cost:  £5000 at least for four horses.
Annual maintenance:  £50,000, given the rate of contemporary wear and tear.
Labour costs for driver, guard, postillion, ostlers, and boys, plus stabling and incidentals, then probably up to £300,000 a year at least of probably more.

For that you would get 0-6 mph in five minutes.  You might need a full service (that is change of horses) at every 15-25 miles.

Commercial Operation Seat Prices for London-Bath (100 miles)
Inside - £1500; Outside rear - £1000; Outside top - £750
Partial refund for winter outside passengers freezing to death on journey.

Now for freight an example is a ten ton log going from a woodland to the boatyard for the shipwrights to make a mast would need a team of 16 heavy horses, plus a full complement of drivers, minders, and labourers and ten miles a day would be good going.  Try working the cost of that out in modern money.

A single horse and cart would cost much less than a stage coach, less than half, and need less support labour etc., but carries only as much as an average size van.

So why complain about motoring and transport costs today?

Because the future may become much more like the past.  At least we will have free compost deposits in the streets.


To think, how we all complain about car insurance........

Friday 13 January 2017

Wacky Taxes

One of the early joys of the day is to check the local roads to count the accidents and road works and see whether the red lines are all around, or if we are lucky, only adjacent and avoidable. The motoring question soon may become more political and a source of many discontents.

A plea to go back to the past to when vehicles displayed tax discs from the DVLA is made by Stephen Glover in The Daily Mail. One of those wonderful wheezes of government to save a bit of money was to get rid of them by digitising the system. Yes, we have heard that one before.

He claims that the losses incurred are massive, they mutter and say, yes well, it is a lot but not that much and hey guy's we are digital. The basic law of humanity that if there is a way round or a risk worth taking because the chances of being caught are minimised many more will have a go was ignored.

So on our roads it seems that a great many cars now are not taxed. Which raises other questions about whether they are insured or not. The other question, especially in the younger generations is whether many of them do not have a valid license.

The car tax itself is due to change in April when the new VED system from the time of George Osborne, who has since made his escape, will come into force. Instead of a flat rate tax system we now have one based on your emissions, or rather those of your car. This is a long story involving the EU and others that I will skip.

There is guidance available, but it is clear that some drivers will be hit hard. Among those will be many using automatic gearboxes, that includes inevitably, many people with problems for whom manual gear systems are difficult. The recent VW scandal suggests that some car makers have been imaginative in declaring their emissions, but we shall see.

The signs are that a lot of people will be paying much more and unhappy whilst others will be paying little or nothing because their car has low emissions. They may drive more miles, use the roads a great deal, consume lots of petrol, which is taxed, etc. but this is no matter. What will happen, again, is many people being peeved and possibly a disruption in the car markets.

Given that so many people need cars today this all could be an exercise in how to lose votes. Also, it could involve losing tax income as a great many more decide to take their chance and skip paying car tax at all.

Then there is the economics of car owning at present and the sales practices of so many agents. For many the move to cheap old cars taken off the radar of the records that can be dumped at will at little loss is very tempting.

There are other motorists on the roads besides the UK citizens. Many EU "working visitors" have brought their own cars (or I suspect in a number of cases somebody else's cars) with them. There is guidance about taxing etc. for incomers if you can work it out. Very many of the visitors do not seem to have bothered.

But it suggests that the authorities do not inquire much as to what is going on in reality. Locally, the number with EU plates is remarkable, again tempting to have one going cheap in a quick cash deal. These "visitor" cars may not be insured, or taxed and the drivers may even not have licenses, who knows? Why bother?

So driving becomes ever more dodgy and the good citizen who does his duty and pays his dues is the loser, especially if an accident occurs. All it needs is cowboy lawyers willing to act for untaxed, unlicensed etc. drivers who bump into you.

Oh, it seems that there are already a lot of them out there.

Muttley, do something? Scrap car tax and increase fuel tax?

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Now What?

There has been coverage in the media about the School of Oriental and African Studies; the University of London and the choice of philosophers in their courses on philosophy. Persons there want the "Europeans" out and others in because in the last handful or so of generations Europe had its Empires etc.

Down the centuries with philosophers there have been a lot of them about, wittering on about the meaning of life and all that. Opinions vary strongly and the debates can be bitter.

My theories that Karl Marx was simply retreading the ideas of Morgan Kavanagh to get the cash to pay the rent and Lenin was influenced by the views of Henry Hook VC, attendant at the British Museum and late of Rorke's Drift have not had much support.

Had I been in Eastern Europe a while back and uttered these ideas it would have been off to the Gulag sharpish to be taught the official versions. In my travels I have encountered senior members of the Order of the Dominicans, men of Rome and you had better believe it.

One I knew was clear in his mind that something like philosophy should not be taught either in schools or indeed universities. He felt strongly that it only gave people ideas that they were better off without and it was the good of their souls, as defined by The Dominicans, was the only thing that mattered.

The younger generations today might be influenced more by Marvin the depressed computer from "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" than others and it is arguable that the mobile robot was more right than wrong, Artificial Intelligence in practice perhaps. I wonder if the only true philosophers of our age are the software engineers.

Of course, it is poor Plato who gets it in the neck again. I have a soft spot for the old boy. When a few days after leaving the Army I was asked to think about Plato by Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990 see Wikipedia) it was much nicer than dealing with senior NCO's and Brigadiers who disagreed with my opinions, they were not Platonic in their view of the world.

The oddity in complaining about Plato is the idea that he is a Euro geek bent on the supremacy of Europe and its race or races. The archaeologists and paleontologists today with the aid of science and extensive research are discovering that the human story is a great deal more complicated than we have believed. In what we thought were primitive societies things are turning up which mean extensive contact over wide areas in trade.

So ancient Greece, notably Athens, was not just a centre for trade but one of many meeting places for people from far and wide and they in turn would have had other connections. In short, someone like Plato at the time may have simply been trying to make sense out of a flood of ideas and opinions from far afield. Ultima Thule, (Glasgow?) at one end and perhaps China etc. at the other?

One source would have been Ancient Egypt and going back  many centuries before Plato. Imhotep was as far from Plato as Plato is from the present day. The trading and meeting places of southern Egypt would have extended far and wide and into deepest Africa from a time when we have no written records of so much of the world.

Greece may now be seen as "Europe", but this is a modern entity. Long ago it was literally in another world of its time and place. It was a one time a major centre and before then a part of extensive complexes of human interaction, trade and thought, much of which is lost and forgotten apart from the few remains that we are busy wrecking.

Is it possible that if we knew a lot more than we think we know at the moment that Plato might be a thinker of his time who was toying with and suggesting ideas that came to the agora from many places which we are not aware of. It is possible that if some were from Egypt and its vicinity then these might derive from the further south.

That is, what we now refer to as Africa. I wonder what Confucius would make of all this?

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Age Shall Wither

An article in "The Spectator" by Jeff Prestridge, the Personal Finance Editor of "The Mail On Sunday" is a confession on his part for his lack of pension planning personally, and a simple article setting out the mess that private pensions are today.

We no longer have the systems we once had and they have not been replaced by anything sensible, coherent or able to fund all those people wanting to retire. What will happen is in the future, what may happen is that suddenly instead of the elderly retiring at predictable ages a great many will have to soldier on.

The blame is fairly laid at the door of the Treasury and by default the many and various politicians dipping into pensions policy for money for other reasons.  This is an impending disaster. The wealthy are able to make deals, often off shore, that will keep them in yachts.

One interesting feature is that for the mandarins etc. at the head of the Civil Service and at the Treasury they are on what we call "gold plated", inflation proofed and generous schemes which are to be envied.

They are public sector, in theory funded in some cases but in all cases relying on the taxpayer one way or another. They are rivalled only by those for the politicians who instruct them. In the last two decades this has been very convenient, or rather too convenient, it has been like grandmother's purse, ever open for special pleading.

At the moment to some extent in certain parts of the country the problem is shrouded by the long running property boom. If that ends at the same time as the pensions crisis begins to kick in the government of the day will be in trouble.

They will be in the position of enforcing policies and taxes etc. with "no right decisions" and ones which will very unpopular with the majority of the electorate.

Monday 9 January 2017

Time To Start Worrying?

The Great Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un has been saying that he intends to make use of intercontinental ballistic missiles to make war.

Given the complications of the internal politics of that state it is not clear what may happen. It may not be something that can be settled by last minute frantic efforts by those who want to avoid the worst.

The present issue of North Korea has a long history, beginning in 1950 with the outbreak of the Korean War which lasted until 1954, one of the nastiest conflicts of the modern era.

In April 2013 I put on a post about this, below.


Long ago, when a teenager, it was that long ago, the question of Korea came up.  At the end of the introductory training for National Service in the Army the issue of where you might be posted to arose.  In those not so happy days it could be anywhere.  A lot of those places had disadvantages.

These included wars, places with terrorists (or freedom fighters if you insist), places that were very hot and dry, others hot and steamy, others cold and wet; there was plenty of choice.  Even London was possible, if you wanted to risk your lungs and liver.

Except that there was not a choice.  Someone in the deepest recesses of the War Office would rush out into the street, find a passing beggar and pay him a quid or two to pick the names of the sack blindfolded.

At least that was the theory and was regarded as the only rational explanation at the time for the way people were selected for the vacancies on offer.  When the time came for our time for this particular lottery of life the nerves were twitching.

In the squad a couple of keen types had volunteered for Korea on the grounds that they would have rapid promotion and it would be good for their CV’s, if that is, they returned in one piece if at all.  We were all deeply grateful to them as the rest of us skiving louts were desperate for a cushy number close to the bright lights.

In the event, most of us were packed off to Germany where the forces were being strengthened because of uncertainties.  The rest were scattered about largely in the UK.  Of the two Korea volunteers one finished up at Nuneaton and the other on the staff at a military prison out in the wilds.

But there were stories about Korea and it is difficult to convey the views of us at the time without breaching all the present requirements to avoid being judgemental or unkind on ethnic grounds on those from the North.

These arose not just from people who had been in the Korean War, but others from elsewhere in the Pacific where those of the North had some notoriety.  Those who had been in Japanese Prison Camps during WW2 asserted that the worst places to be were those with North Korean guards who had volunteered for this duty.

The views today would seem extreme but to us at the time were regarded as well founded.  One certainty was that mentally they were in another Universe and it was one to be avoided at all costs.

Sixty odd years ago the Korean War broke out because China was backing the North in their immediate post revolutionary period.  Russia was bidding for their friendship in the struggles of the Cold War.  Remember that Russia is a Far Eastern power and not just a Western one.

Japan at that time was not independent and only in a supporting role to the USA.  The USA was determined to stop Communism wherever it emerged.  Between the contests of all these powers it became impossible to agree either a peace or a way forward that avoided conflict.

If we have another muddle of ambitions and failures to come to terms among the great Pacific powers in how the North Korean problem can be addressed then it could turn bad but this time round with far wider economic consequences than in the late 1940’s.

South Korea is now a small but important part in an industrial and financial globalised world.  We cannot afford to see it wrecked out of the mixture of spite and stupidity that motivates the regime in the North.

Essentially, Moscow and Beijing need to cooperate quickly and effectively and to work with the USA and Japan to defuse the whole situation.  Any idea of relying on normal human or political thinking in North Korea can be forgotten.  They do not work like that and never have done.

Our media, government and others do not seem to realise the risks they are taking in just hoping it is just another passing row.  At some time that simply may not be the case.


This time round the USA may no longer be able to do what is necessary or to afford any major campaign. Also, it is difficult to see who else could except China. So who is there to check this "dictator" and the generals who are doing the dictating?

Sunday 8 January 2017

Answer Please

Please help a poor blogger in need of fish and chips.

Where is this statue?

I have tried, and tried and no luck at all.

Friday 6 January 2017

Hospitals And Emergencies

Recent days have seen stories in the media about horror in the hospitals as the drive to the financial margins has created tighter treatment margins with crises when the margins are reached and exceeded.

This is an edited item from 25 October 2010, "Bed Blocking For Dummies" and originated in a piece from 2005. Bed Blocking was exciting the BBC and other media because of the spending review.


In the last dozen years the pre-conditions for serious problems have been in place but have gone critical only a couple of times, mercifully avoiding the worst.  Whatever planning may have been done in the past there have been some significant developments quite recently so the figures have been going the wrong way.  This means that critical phases will occur more often. Just when the tipping point might occur into chaos, or collapse or catastrophe is an open question.

Quote from the earlier item:


The ambulance arrived in the early hours of the morning, a routine event; recently there were four visits by paramedics and ambulances in one day.  The reason is not mobs of drunken yobs beating out each other’s brains or local addicts overdosing, it is a quiet, well behaved, ordinary and indeed gentle group of neighbours who fall or have a medical crisis.

The problem is their longevity and its consequences. The carers come and go from 6 a.m. to midnight, and so do the medical and emergency services. Nationally, the number of call-outs for the ambulance services has increased sharply in the last decade; this is one reason for the added demands.

The wider problems in the NHS have compounded the problems.  Ladies who once rivaled each other in their fashion sense and men in competitive sports now try to cap each other’s trolley horror and medical disaster stories.

They are many and various, one who visited her Family Doctor for a routine prescription discovered that the local hospital had declared her to be deceased and all her medical records had been deleted from the relevant NHS systems; so the undead stalk the land.

A desperately sick man died quietly on his trolley after a 72 hour wait.  Treatment that is nearly too late, or long delayed, complicates long-term recovery, and when attention is given for the immediate issue they are packed off home as quickly as possible to manage and recover as best they can. Some soon return to the hospital, often as an emergency case.  Where have all the convalescent facilities of former decades gone?

The bungled attempt to regulate residential homes more closely by New Labour, that caused so much personal damage and distress, wiped out a huge number of temporary and permanent beds and accommodation for the elderly infirm when the owners decided to take the money and run as property prices rocketed.

In the meantime the major erosion of the income of the old by stealth taxes through the machinery of local government and national finance means they are less able to care for themselves.  The effects of other regulations, Health and Safety and Euro inspired instructions and admonitions have added to costs and prices.

In all the planning for new housing demanded by the government, intended to be in the hands of the forthcoming Regional Governors and their development directorates, the bit that is missing is what to do about the old.

The vagaries of the housing market add to the complexity of the problem, as do the serious dangers of boom and bust. In boom, there is a tendency to hang on for the best possible price, and that is always a little too long.  In bust, the old who cannot cope also cannot sell their homes in the new situation.

Because of what has happened already it is possible that one way or another over the last few years the number of ordinary houses and properties effectively removed from the market and occupied by single old people needing daily care is more than the numbers of new properties demanded by New Labour as vital for “new needs”.

A lot of these “new needs” arise from the expansion of the holdings of second and third homes and the buy-to-let sector fueled by cheap credit.  The people who benefit from this surge in property buying are subsidised, probably, through the tax and benefits system far more than the struggling pensioners, and the ones who benefit from the ramp include almost all of the current political and media elite.

We know that the slow disintegration of the pensions system since 1997, part of the assault by Brown and New Labour on the Lower Middle Class, the “peasants” as they engagingly call them, will create intricate problems in the decades to come.

More pressing for the immediate future is a disaster about to happen; one serious pandemic of influenza could be enough.  Although the government may well put it down to a necessary conjunction of statistical trends relating to demographic factors inherent in the age structure of the population, the electorate may take the view that the state has a responsibility.

Given the state of the A&E and geriatric facilities in most hospitals, the serious and growing problems in community medicine and general practice, the tipping points from pressure to crisis and from crisis to disaster are perilously close to daily experience.

The only considerations that will worry the government, of course, are the poll ratings amongst those able to vote, the question of how the young voter will react, and the serious worry that the sudden availability of up to a hundred thousand houses could crash the property market in the run up to the next general election.

In the meantime we give almost all our attention and thoughts to the media excitements of the day. In the night, the ambulances come and go, and the carers wake long before the dawn.

Unquote first.

Christmas is coming.

Unquote second.

What will happen at the end of this year?