Thursday 30 March 2017


And so it begins. How was it that once a firm "In" for so long I became a firm "Out"? By a freak of chance I was in Paris, although a teenage traveller, in 1951 when the first meeting was on. Then in Germany in 1955 when its sovereignty was regained. I will skip the 1939-1945 years.

By the end of the 1950's I had studied modern European History and the detail of all those treaties etc., crises and conflicts. Inevitably, I had come round to the view that trade, political and diplomatic close liaisons were needed on a permanent basis. This meant a joint office in an acceptable place, like Brussels.

By the 1970's and into the 1980's I was playing a very minor part in all this. Attending a few conferences and joint meetings here and there. Writing a report or two, being asked to go somewhere as part of an EEC group. It was all very worthy and building a new and better future and all that.

It was not a sudden revelation or hearing a sermon or being taken quietly aside to be told that the bank I patronised had failed. It was the way things began to go in the 1980's and no, it was not Mrs. Thatcher. In my view she was behind the game and being misled by those of the Euro faction around her.

What was happening in the two major parties was that the centrist elements largely in control became closely attached to Brussels, for many part of their network; all those jobs and money, and most of the opposition to it was from the party extremes, people you would not invite to the bistro. During this time few saw or understood the nature and purpose of the growth of the Brussels bureaucracy.

On the left were those attached to the Soviet Union. When it collapsed there began a switch to Brussels with the long term hope of creating a successor centralised socialist state for a Greater Europe. On the right there were too many links to major corporations which began to have a far closer relationship with the bureaucracy there, to their mutual profit.

Then came the Maastricht Treaty and an EU of a different order and intent; it was not the kind of Europe I wanted. In the last quarter of a century it has become another world. I did not want Western Europe to resume involvement in The Balkans; Western Europe to be pushing to the East, Brussels regionalising its domains and breaking up the UK.

Then came the Euro. Long interested in financial crashes and their effect on economies, I was aware that history has some spectacular big ones. The ones we do not understand or even see are the slow burn ones. The reason is that they do not seem alike. But they do share some critical features.

From the day of its inception the Euro was a slow burn crash that was overtaken by a bigger spectacular one. It is still there and is still going on.

Which is why the sooner we are out the better.

See you in the bistro.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Strike A Light

It is reported that there has been a major oil strike sixty miles west of The Shetland Isles at present reckoned at a billion barrels in potential of good quality.

Assuming the exploitation of this field will allow profits and therefore enable tax to be levied by government at a high level what might the taxes pay for?

Will it allow the UK government to subsidise the provision of low cost housing in the south east of England to meet the needs of the rapidly rising population there?

On the other hand, if Scotland is the relevant government when the oil begins to flow, will this enable it to subsidise social housing to a much greater degree, increase welfare benefits and promote open borders for middle Scotland?

But what if the people of The Shetland Islands take the view that the benefits will be for the Shetlanders, by the Shetlanders and of the Shetlanders?

This could be interesting.

Sunday 26 March 2017

A Big Question

It is said that on the whole we are all getting bigger, some a lot bigger and this is having many and various consequences. When sitting in a waiting room a few days ago I noticed that some chairs provided were of double size.

There is no shortage of research, opinion, advice and discussion about all this. Some of it is conflicting, some is common sense and there are many theories. Then there are those for whom the problems are marketing and sales opportunities.

In the earlier days of the 20th Century of not so fond memory there were fictions of life to come on earth. Some visualised communities so ordered and provided, and largely urbanised where it was all organised, provided with foods and taken care of.

There are developed parts of the world now where many people live in  relative luxury to the past. In comparison they want for little but consumerism drives them onward to want more and more. Especially in the food provision.

How long food production etc. can be kept up with it all is another set of issues. There are places where hunger and even starvation occurs. There are others where food is a major expense. But for a lot of the "developed" world the food is there.

The trouble is that a consequence despite all the dieting and advice etc. a lot of people are fatter and getting fatter. We were supposed to get fitter, better and wiser. It seems as though the opposite is too often the case.

Which raises an interesting question that is not much debated. Could it be not just the quantity of food, but the content and quality? One of the features of the modern livestock industries has been the drive to have poultry and meat getting bigger faster giving more in a lot shorter time, a huge difference in the economics of supply.

Tapping "growth promoters in livestock" into search gives a lot of information. By the same token, tapping, "growth promoters in vegetables" (or plants) also gives an astonishing array of substances in your everyday cabbage and parsnips etc. So the typical home with the usual meals of today will be taking in with them residual traces of many a growth promoter in just about all we eat.

This is not something that has happened overnight, but during the 20th Century the research and chemistry for substances to grow livestock and plants quicker, bigger and avoiding disease or such gathered pace.

The farmers can get a lot more output with a lot less input, critical for their survival. And they may not take much notice of the instructions. It is now a major feature of our economies and without it there would be a lot less and a lot more expensive food.

There is the debate whether this level of food production can be maintained without wrecking the earth and us with it. But this is another story.

We may be living on the fat of the land but the price we pay is to become a lot fatter ourselves.

Friday 24 March 2017

Westminster Crimes

What happened in Westminster yesterday was a major crime, committed by a single man. Given that the attack he made was in Westminster, our centre of government it was political. Given that he was motivated by certain ideas then it was ideological.

One major issue in today's world is that it is common to suggest or argue that if a political or ideological reason is given for such an action, and irrespective of the consequences for those harmed; too often entirely innocents, then it is not a crime.

That this crime took place close to the time that the funeral rites were being read over a former IRA activist involved in many brutal deaths is one of those unhappy coincidences. Moreover, it has been pointed out that before the Westminster murderer became a violent Muslim he was a violent Christian.

The problem has become wider in that our police forces are now retreating from dealing with many crimes committed within an underworld of people who will argue that they are the unhappy losers in a wrongful society. This could be for either political or ideological reasons or both.

At the same time new crimes are invented, especially in the field of what we call political correctness, rapidly becoming a haven for those who are among the criminal classes. While politicians (are they now a criminal class?) prattle on about our civilisation being built on the rule of law and pass more and more laws for us to obey.

On the other hand when it comes to whether or not a person commits a crime they are the first to claim, especially if it is a politician or an immediate ally, that the fact of a crime can be over ridden. If the person involved can play the political card or argue the ideological case by some miracle of interpretation there is not a crime.

We are going to have make up our minds about crimes being crimes and dealt with as such and the sooner the better.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

When Irish Eyes Stop Smiling

One of the accidental meetings made with many people was the time I met the leading Irish republican writer Brendan Behan, 1923-1964, at the end of the 1950's. Inevitably, it was in a bar when I rolled in for my evening rehydration. He was supposed to be somewhere else but had been overcome by thirst and just went into the nearest bar.

It was a private student and not a public bar but the barman feeling that discretion was the better part of valour served him and his minder. The others in the bar stayed clear and looked sideways out of their eyes. Behan might mean trouble.

Ever one for an interesting chat I had a conversation with him about Dublin pubs, it was not long before when I had visited Davy Byrne's and others there on a trip down to Bantry Bay and Mizen Head. His minder managed to persuade him to go to the occasion to which he had been invited so it was but a short meeting and instructive.

This article at 50 years after his death is from The Skibbereen Eagle gives an idea of the man and Wikipedia has a page on him. The memory arises from the final part of the Sky Arts series "Portrait Artist Of The Year" when both the subject Graham Norton, and artist in question were Irish and down at Bantry Bay.

It was The Eagle which famously warned Tsar Nicholas II of Russia that his foreign policies were ill advised and potentially disastrous. St. Petersburg took no notice and the world descended into chaos with dire effects for all those involved, notably in Ireland.

There has been a death in Ireland which reminds us that the issues have not been resolved. But they never will be because as Behan recognised their republican movement had moved on from being Irish to being another branch of international Marxism and never ending dispute.

The picture above is Brendan Behan at The Fitzroy Tavern, another place I have visited a few times. The irony here is that it is on the home patch of George Bernard Shaw in the late 19th Century.

Monday 20 March 2017

Changing The Course Of History Again

Wandering the web can turn up all sorts of things. Most of it may be trivia but now and again something can catch the eye. Which brings me back again to Mrs. Thatcher, her life and times, and the things we have forgotten or not noticed.

This clip from  the Lincolnshire Archives is a two minute item about the Kesteven Training College For Teachers in 1961 at Stoke Rochford Hall. Almost quaint, it is another world from this one inhabited by a what could be a different species. It was just down the road from Grantham, her home town.

A few years later it was designated a College of Education, only to be closed down as such in 1978, in the great purge of the local and the religious from teacher training of that period in the name of progress. It did not become such a college until after the war when massive investment was made in recruiting teachers to meet the population boom and a later leaving age.

During the war it became for a period the base for the 2nd Battalion of The Parachute Regiment, so Miss Margaret Roberts, as she then was, would have been all too aware of their local presence. So when Maggie takes off for Goose Green in The Falklands in January 1983 she is no stranger to the Battalion. She had seen them go off to Arnhem, in particular.

Because it was at Stoke Rochford Hall that the Arnhem assault of 1944 was planned and where the likes of Urquhart, Montgomery and the others sought to plan the critical breakthrough to get the tanks across The Rhine before winter struck.

Back in 1954 there is a newsreel clip on Youtube of the celebration of the 100 years of the Aldershot Garrison of several minutes. 2 Para are on that one and I recall them well, being in the next barracks to theirs in that year. Charming chaps, so long as you did not give offence, and they were very sensitive.

Which brings me back to the career of Margaret in that period. After Oxford she went into science, but and the big but then was in that period as a female she was all too likely to be a glorified lab' assistant for the rest of her career. She decided to go into politics.

But what if she had gone into teaching? There would be have been jobs a plenty for a well qualified etc. science teacher in the girls grammar schools of the period. If later had she thought go into lecturing in teacher training she would have been a good candidate and with decent prospects at that time.

In a college like that of Kesteven at Stoke Rochford, along the road from Grantham, it might have been ideal. Until, of course, the Labour government urged on by its Marxist elements closed it down and put her on the jobs scrapheap of the period.

Time, that ever rolling stream.......

Saturday 18 March 2017

Match Of The Day

With Ireland playing against England today, this "Telegraph" obituary from three years ago came to mind. It comes under the general heading of "They don't make them like that anymore" and is about Gerry Murphy, above.

This 1952 Pathe clip of three minutes picks him out.


Canon Gerry Murphy, who has died aged 87, was an Irish rugby international and later Domestic Chaplain to the Queen. His uncomplicated character, warm personality and charm was employed with outstanding success for 22 years as an Army chaplain.

He then held a series of important ministries: to holiday-makers on the Norfolk Broads; as vicar of Sandringham and Domestic Chaplain to the Queen; as Rector of Christ Church Cathedral at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands; and finally as chaplain of the Royal Chapel at the Tower of London. In each he won admiration and considerable affection, and it was often said that he displayed the Anglican ministry at its best.

John Gervase Maurice Walker Murphy (he was always known as Gerry) was born in Bangor, Co Down, on August 20 1926 and educated at the Methodist College in Belfast, which he left in 1944 to serve in the ranks of the Irish Guards.

A year later he was commissioned in the Royal Ulster Rifles, in which he remained until 1947. On demobilisation, he went to Trinity College, Dublin, to prepare for Holy Orders and resume an unusually promising rugby career that had started while at school.

During his three years (1952-55) as a curate in the Shankill parish at Lurgan, Co Armagh, he played at fullback for Ireland. Against England at Twickenham, in 1952, he was not the only novice priest in the team — the hooker, Robin Roe, would later be ordained into the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department and would win an MC for bravery in Aden.

However, Ireland lost 3-0 – with England’s winning try being scored by Brian Boobbyer, the grandson of the Bishop of Buckingham. Murphy went on to win caps for Ireland against Scotland, Wales and, in 1954, the All Blacks. In 1955 he moved to England to join the Royal Army Chaplains Department and was almost immediately sent to post-war Korea, where Army units were still stationed.

On his return in 1957 he was enthusiastically recruited into the British Army XV and, although required to serve for relatively short periods in Aden and Cyprus, managed to play also for London Irish against Wales and occasionally for the Barbarians.

Murphy was in every way an ideal Army chaplain. He mixed easily with all ranks, enjoyed the company of ordinary soldiers, knew how to address them effectively in church services and was always on hand to help with personal and family problems.

He rose through the ranks and, having been senior chaplain to the Commonwealth Brigade, was Deputy Assistant Chaplain General of the Rhine Area from 1969 to 1972. He then returned to England to become senior chaplain of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, before final appointments as Assistant Chaplain General British Army of the Rhine, then ACG South-East Area at Aldershot.

On retirement in 1977 Murphy accepted appointment as rector of the Norfolk parish of Ranworth and Rural Dean of Blofield. Attracted to the additional role of chaplain to holidaymakers on the Norfolk Broads, he became a familiar and popular figure as he exercised his ministry from a boat.

After only two years he was called to the special ministry of rector of Sandringham and Domestic Chaplain to the Queen, when she was in residence there, and to the staff throughout the year.

Again, he was perfectly suited to the task. An admirable rector who was also leader of an eight-parish rural group, he knew exactly how to serve in the Royal Household. As a master of the seven-minute sermon (a Royal requirement), his services in Sandringham church suited all ranks.

He was made an honorary canon of Norwich Cathedral in 1986. Although it came as a surprise to many, it was entirely in character (and doubtless with the Queen’s approval) that a year later he announced his intention to leave for the Falkland Islands to become rector of the cathedral at Port Stanley.

This remote outpost of the Church bears no resemblance to any other cathedral in the world, and for the next four years Murphy ministered not only to the civilian population and military personnel on the main island, but also to those parishioners – 1,900 in all – who lived on an archipelago of 200 other islands in the region.

Boats, helicopters and light aircraft were necessary tools of a ministry he greatly enjoyed and which is still remembered with gratitude by islanders. The contrast between this and the chaplaincy of the Royal Chapel in the Tower of London, to which he moved in 1991, could hardly have been greater.

His official duties in the latter post were not heavy. But during his five years there he made good use of the opportunities afforded by the post, conducting the services, pastoring the Beefeaters and other members of the staff, welcoming the huge number of visitors and making his presence felt in the City, where he was chaplain to the Lord Mayor in 1993-94.

He retired in 1996 to Norfolk, where he assisted in the parishes for several years, while finding time to take a degree in Classics at Birkbeck College, London, as well as write a biography of Lowther Edward Brandon, a noted Dean of the Falkland Isles (The Very Reverend Dean Lowther Edward Brandon, 2005).

Earlier he had published a centenary history of Port Stanley Cathedral. He was a Chaplain to the Queen from 1987 to 1996, continuing as one of her Extra Chaplains until his death. He was appointed LVO in 1987. Gerry Murphy is survived by his wife, Joy, and five daughters.

Canon Gerry Murphy, born August 20 1926, died January 7 2014.


Back in the late fifties a fixture muddle meant instead of being up against Woolwich College we had Woolwich Garrison of The Army, not the same at all. Worse was when Murphy trotted out in the Garrison team. It was a difficult afternoon trying to keep the ball away from him at all costs.

Yes, we lost, but not by much. But the hospitality made it a night to remember.

Thursday 16 March 2017

Taste The Difference

From film and the media as well as a great deal of written work we have a vision of the Vikings as packs of big chaps given to feasting on large lumps of all sorts of meats and fine foods, at the expense of others, of course.

Inevitably, science married to archaeology and testing the remains of the Vikings, their bones and teeth has spoiled it all. Reality, as ever, seems to be different.

What we may have as their desirable and basic meals seems to be along the lines of cabbage soup, gently poached haddock, or other fish, along with parsnips or such and a lump of rye bread. Afters might well be a bowl of stewed oatmeal with a touch of honey.

It might explain a very different reason for all that raiding all over the place.

They were looking for take away meals.

Wednesday 15 March 2017

All Aboard The Cutty Sark

It appears that Ms. Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party, SNP, has made it back onto the front pages etc. again, which was her intention, to demand another vote on Scottish "independence".

She has attracted some critical comment personally, which I have a problem with. If she has a squad of ancestry in Ayrshire at the same time as those of my lot we might, I emphasise might, share a twist of DNA.

It is said that the UK currently is subject to around 14,000 obligations, treaties, commitments etc. gathered over the years to many bodies and agencies around the world. I assume it is not the SNP intention to dump out of them all to achieve true freedom.

So how many and which will simply continue and how many will they want to revise? Answers please on the back of a postcard of old Campbeltown distilleries, an ancestor worked in one. For starters, do you know about the way Eurocontrol works? You may be independent on the ground but not up in the air above.

At present the SNP is devoted to making it sound so easy. Just vote this way and then all will be well, nothing to worry about, move along there now please, just tell them all what you want and how you want it and none will dare argue or disagree.

For those whose personal memories are scarred by major upheavals, reorganisations, closures and the rest ought to be aware that nothing of this kind is easy or quick to deal with. It will mean a decade at least of hard decisions, upsets and crises and a condition of being a hostage to fortune.

Moreover in dealing with England, the SNP do not seem to have realised that the England of their stereotypes and media is not the England as it is now. I have only to walk round the town I live in to see that this England is not that of even twenty odd years ago. The town I grew up in is no longer English.

The actual "independence" means detachment from Westminster because that is as far as it can go before engaging in global and European matters. But the reality is that in these matters Westminster will be involved and in contention.

Given that Westminster may or may not or more or less be in hock to Brussels, this is not simple. Never mind all those big, bad, brutal financial and other corporations and international agencies, all with their own agendas.

In the last couple of decades, looking at it from south of the border, Scotland has been given a great deal of scope and Westminster, notably under Labour, has been all too anxious to keep the Scots, if not happy, at least quiescent.

The SNP with its combative and aggressive stance may find that if independent this could change overnight. It will not be the soft ride that is being suggested to the voters.

It is much more likely to be a long hard footslog in which neither England nor Scotland are the winners, only the others they have to deal with.

Campbeltown once had thirty distilleries, and now is said to be down to three.

Anyone for gin and tonic?

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Question Time

One of the questions older people might ask themselves as time wears on and they wear out is if they are living in a larger property than is required; whether they are living in the house or for the house. As being older their property is older so there are all the costs of repair, maintenance, heating etc. which do not reduce.

This is nothing new. Noel Coward had a song about "The Stately Homes Of England" and the upper classes and the lengths they had to go to in order to keep their houses standing in the period between the wars. These days the issues have become obscured by the way the market in property has gone, but are still there, lurking.

Also, in business, it is not unknown for a firm to be identified with an iconic building, or have a prestige head office which in time the firm seems to be working for rather than the office being subject to the firm's real needs.

In this context the SNP member, Mhairi Black, who has expressed her dislike of the Palace of Westminster, may be on to something. At one time, rather in the past, I saw it as a wonderful building and therefore necessary to government.

Now I am not so sure. It is certainly grand but now much decayed, that is the structure as well as The Lords, and will cost a huge amount to put right. But is not the only thing that has decayed and another is what we used to refer to as The British Constitution.

It is possible to argue that the internal complexities of the building and its brooding architecture is now The Constitution in effect, and that government follows from this instead of the other way round.

Certainly, The British Constitution from say, fifty years ago, no longer exists as such and only the rules, habits and procedures of Parliament remain to act as a quasi-constitution. What matters most now are the lobbies rather than the Chambers and the lobbyists rather than the members, almost surplus to real function.

This blog has already suggested that it is high time Parliament moved to the centre of England, say Tamworth, in buildings and offices fit for purpose and flexible in use as changes occur. The first time I was at Westminster, in Churchill's time, I was impressed. The last time in Gordon Brown's we could not get out fast enough.

In my inbox there is sitting an invitation to an evening at the House of Lords which we are unlikely to attend. We fear that we might be faced with an Earl or two rattling a collecting box.

Sunday 12 March 2017

Wait For It

Sooner than anticipated we have the present Government beginning to meet the criteria to lose the next election, as many in the past have done, despite being apparently ahead and the Opposition an unlikely prospect for the future. Perhaps the ghosts of Macmillan and Home are up there in the tree taking bets.

The Budget of Chancellor Hammond is going to adversely affect many of those who voted Conservative last time and in ways they won't like. This problem stems from the cheery promises made by Cameron and Osborne at the last election not to raise taxes, but hardly ever.

By 2020 there will have been around ten per cent of the 2010 electorate gone and a new ten per cent on the electoral lists, those of the millennial generation and recent migrants. No wonder it is claimed that Prime Minister May is more New Labour than Old Tory. No wonder some old Tories may go AWOL next time round.

Then Brexit (thank you Dave again) is causing rifts in the party in power to add to squabbles over tax and spend and other little things. One thing that is not so little is the impending crisis in agriculture either from the EU or following any serious changes. The farmers are land rich and income poor in many cases.

Then there are the disruptions and disasters to come, tricky to predict, very difficult to analyse when the impact occurs and then sometimes impossible to clear up afterwards, if it can be done, without upsetting even more voters. Anyone for a property crash?

There are smaller ones that could cause a lot of trouble with the complaining classes. The hike in business rates is said to be bad for many SME's. One sector that is predominantly in this class is the whole organic and natural sphere of production, increasing in size and support and very sensitive to being messed about by stupid civil servants and politicians.

This is not quite in the killing babies problem area but the ongoing need for the NHS to keep up with modern science and medicine as well as coping with a population mostly devoted to unhealthy living is difficult. Again rapid population increase makes the earlier planning figures for NHS provision look as weak at the knees as many of the elderly patients.

In the finance sector not only is there the question of what is happening to the inflows and outflows of money and why but what could go wrong next. In the EU it may be that soon France will need bailing out and no doubt our offshore financial corporations will soon be feeding on the remains? France being France they are more likely to choke or face a political guillotine.

There is a lot to add to this little list but this will take a long time and many will have good and better ideas for how the Government could lose votes. All around the net the grumpy ones are saying there a financial apocalypse to come and soon, don 't mention the Chinese who own so much in the UK and want more.

And I have not even mentioned or hinted at that man who has a lot to say and do over the Atlantic. If he does cause seismic changes in the US economy and trade, like all seismic events it will impact far and wide, not necessarily for the better.

As for the Opposition, if by some freak of chance they find a new leader who can spin the spin and talk the talk in the media and on the net who knows what could happen?

Saturday 11 March 2017

Rising High

There is a lot of clatter going on in the media and the web relating to what is called "Feminism" in its various forms. On the whole this is a subject I stay clear of, if only because the notion of hapless dominated women does not square with my experience or much of history.

Which explains this comment I made on an article about the BBC and it becoming controlled by some Feminists with particular beliefs on the subject.


Recently I have been researching a lady known as Liza, born in 1863 in London and orphaned as an infant. She later is found in one of the worst slums, Houghton Street, now LSE, not far from Covent Garden.

It is quite possible that when GB Shaw was walking through in the late 1870's she bullied him into buying flowers. In a long hard life she rose to be a respected boarding house keeper in Blackpool. I suspect this is not the kind of woman that the BBC are interested in.


This would be at a time when Blackpool was a desirable and classy resort in many ways.

Friday 10 March 2017

Songs For Supporters

The England Rugby supporters recently have taken to singing the American spiritual "Swing low sweet chariot". Quite why I do not know. Despite alleged to have been written after the end of slavery in the USA, there have been protests that it is wrong to do so and the supporters prosecuted.

Assuming that "Jerusalem" is held to be a non-starter as well, what else might there be? At first I thought of "Over The Hills And Far Away" but gathered that this is Scottish in origin, which will not do at all, despite the proportion of England supporters with a tinge of Scots in their ancestry.

A search of folk songs gave a lot of good tunes but words that perhaps did not quite fit. The one I think might fit the bill is "The Girl I Left Behind Me" which I once marched to, also called "Brighton Camp".

My real favourite which has a good tune is also the Regimental March of The Royal Tank Regiment. But the title "My Boy Willie" is perhaps a disadvantage as well as the words not quite right for a rugby match, and the other versions do not fit.

Last but not least, perhaps "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at", albeit more regional, but daft enough for the South Bank. The picture above is England v New Zealand, January 1954, when I was first there.

Here are the words of both:

The Girl I Left Behind Me

I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill,
And over the moorland sedgy,
Such heavy thoughts my heart do fill,
Since parting from my Sally.

I seek no more the fine and gay,
For each just does remind me
How sweet the hours I passed away,
With the girl I left behind me.

O ne'er shall I forget that night,
The stars were bright above me,
And gently lent their silvery light
When first she vowed to love me.

But now I'm bound to Brighton camp -
Kind heaven then pray guide me,
And send me safely back again,
To the girl I left behind me.

Her golden hair in ringlets fair,
Her eyes like diamonds shining,
Her slender waist, her heavenly face,
That leaves my heart still pining.

Ye gods above oh hear my prayer,
To my beauteous fair to find me,
And send me safely back again,
to the girl I left behind me.

Ilka Moor Baht 'at

Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee, ah saw thee?
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee, ah saw thee?
Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee?

On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at

Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane
Tha's bahn' to catch thy deeath o' cowd
Then us'll ha' to bury thee
Then t'worms'll come an' eyt thee oop

Then t'ducks'll come an' eyt up t'worms
Then us'll go an' eyt up t'ducks
Then us'll all ha' etten thee
That's wheear we get us ooan back

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Reliving Schools Past

Being of the generation educated in the post War old Tripartite System the row over money being allocated to bodies that wish to create new ones again by creating Grammar Schools makes me wonder whether our leaders know what they are talking about.

The old grammar schools were not a set of similar places offering a particular education but of different sizes, catchment areas, histories and structure in terms of the subjects offered. This could be an article of thousands of words but you do not have the time for that. They were far from being all the same.

Because I was on the rugger and athletic teams this meant I visited quite a few other schools of various kinds across the Midlands. Not only grammar schools, but public schools, major and minor. I once played at Rugby School against a team terrified at being at risk of disgrace before their whole school if they lost to the likes of us.

My lot found the public schools a bit sad. When we returned we were looking forward to social evenings, perhaps the films, perhaps a jazz club or perhaps an evening in a pub that did not ask questions about age. They would be shackled to their desks or at best allowed to listen to the Home Service.

One key reason for the demise of the old grammar schools, now forgotten, was in that post War period local authorities were dealing with substantial changes in the numbers of school populations as well as major building work being needed. This occurred at the same time that the campaign for comprehensive schools gained political backing.

In the town halls and county halls already having to reshape their local schools the great majority, faced with hard decisions, ended the provision of grammar schools. In some places it was easier, in that where there were small grammar schools, with small sixth forms, a lesser choice of subject and poor facilities it seemed inevitable.

You cannot bring back that past in that you cannot restore the society, the values, the ideas, the hopes, the economy or any of it in which those grammar schools operated and educated. You might create new schools with a certain job to do, you might call them grammar schools, but they will be what they will be and that is something else.

Other things have changed that bear on present decisions. The effect of imprisoning most of the teenage population in schools, colleges and universities into their early twenties means that there is relatively little selection today compared to the past. The university sector is now a service industry dedicated to expansion and financial profit, of sorts.

Again forty to sixty years ago many left grammar school at sixteen equipped with the Schools Certificate or later GCE's to go into various forms of training, apprenticeship and work experience which would lead them on to higher status and often management and at the highest levels.

An effect has been to remove around ten per cent of workers or more from the home labour market. When, wandering about the much longer past and looking at what people did and when the capabilities and work done by teenagers then was astonishing. They do not seem to be any lesser people than those of today. In fact they seem to have achieved a great deal more.

The problems schools face today are manifold and testing. This could be another long essay but the 21st Century teenager is on a different planet to the 1960's one. Political fudge and bodge for media effect and to keep the paying members of the party happy, often an aged bunch with fond memories of the past is taking us nowhere.

I am being re-educated now at the University of Google Scholar.

Monday 6 March 2017

When Is A Budget Not A Budget?

The answer to the question is when it is a Treasury Budget. There was a time when the nation would be huddled round the wireless sets listening to the great and learned of the land, say Sir Stafford Cripps, telling it what we were in for.

Afterwards misery would enfold the nation for days and weeks until the blows fell and then the complaining would begin. Cripps was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Attlee government from 1947 to 1950 taking over from Hugh Dalton who resigned after unwisely trusting a journalist.

Early in the war he had been Ambassador to the Soviet Union and then sent to India to sort things out, in 1945 he became President of the Board of Trade in the high days of nationalisation. His legal, political and Church family were a leading one and he was related to Beatrice Webb. He was seen as the ultimate travelling expert.

The Tories who in 1945 had been consigned to the dustbin of history clawed their back with promises to change not quite all of this but enough to collect the votes of all those who felt that they had been dunned and asked to pay the costs of war as well as all the Attlee's government's flights of fancy.

Essentially, the Cripps mode of operation has set the pattern since then but the world has moved on. Whether the why's and wherefore's of The Treasury have is another matter. They have some very expensive computers and systems but they seem to take us no further than in the days of Cripps.

Bluntly this antique business of an annual Budget decreed on high and politically for all time that is until the next crisis or calamity, say in six weeks, is just a left over political con job to pretend that the politicians are in charge. The Budget caper now is a bit of knock about politics to keep the media moving.

What should a government do to convey its finance and taxation policies to the public at large and to the world in a real sensible way? The kit that the Treasury has been given ought to be able to keep a running tab on the bulk of things. Beyond that are regular and occasional summaries.

How many per year is arguable and in what form the information sets should presented for policy decisions and changes is another question. The basic political problems are when it becomes clear that previous policies are not working and issues where hard decisions and losers are needed, usually evaded unless they are either easy touches or generally disliked.

Additionally, there are too many key influences on The Treasury via linked financial corporations, lobbyists, party fund contributors and overseas magnates and political leaders all of whom want the less said the better and the less tax burden even better.

How this lot can be reformed is a herculean task or more like something that happens after a major crash or crisis.

Bring back Lord Grenville.

Thursday 2 March 2017

Pennies In The Pot

There are some serious questions arising about pensioners and paying for pensions at present which do make easy reading for those who are in that category now, may soon be there or have to think about their longer futures.

The Bank Of England asks questions about the implications of long term low interest rates etc. for defined pension schemes and does not like what it sees.

In the USA there are issues with funding in the states for their schemes and The Teamsters Union is in trouble and putting down a marker for many other similar schemes.

All these pose potential risks for financial markets. In those schemes which are unfunded, such as many government employee ones, there are other questions. So who pays?

The taxpayers, who have their own pension worries? Borrowing money as a sort of Quantitative Easing to justify it on pretending it is keeping the economy going?

But who will lend, there are those who think the government should lend to itself via those schemes etc. and other similar ideas. It will be all very difficult.

This one minute advert may remind you. Wikipedia has a page on Allied Dunbar, gone but not forgotten.