Saturday 29 April 2017

Out For The Count

In the election campaign as well as in the usual run of politics we hear a very great deal about managing the economy and the many and wondrous things governments might do to control it in our, or rather their, favour.

They have to make it sound easy and possible in order to have a chance of garnering the votes. Most of us know that this is not the case but we put up with it should we think that we are among the winners rather than the losers.

We assume that these people are in some way "expert" etc. and many claim to be. We know that they depend other "experts" in the civil service and agencies, who have similar PPE degrees to them and can talk wisely about economists of the past.

If this is not enough there are many expensive consultants and others ever willing to give advice, especially as they do not have the responsibility. To return to Stanley Baldwin, in 1931 he reminded us that power without responsibility was the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

But when it comes to the crunch in money matters it is the Central Banks that have a key role. They in turn have their experts, the ones who run the figures and what figures they are.

This long and complex exercise in the mathematics involved comes from Bank Underground of The Bank Of England. It is the kind of thing which is now the start point. Also, I suspect barely any or none of the "experts" in government, the media and the rest can understand a word, or number, of it.

Figure it out for yourself.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Promises Promises

The parties, especially the government are now beginning to natter about their "policies". We have heard it all before. The below is from a long time ago, but not a lot changes.


1923 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto
Stanley Baldwin's Election Address

In submitting myself to you for re-election, I propose frankly to put before you the present situation as I see it, and the measures which in the opinion of myself and my colleagues are necessary adequately to deal with it.

The unemployment and under-employment which our working people and our great national industries are now facing for the fourth winter in succession, on a scale unparalleled in our history, having created a problem which calls urgently for a solution.

Their indefinite continuance threatens to impair permanently the trained skill and the independent spirit of our workers, to disorganise the whole fabric of industry and credit, and, by eating away the sources of revenue, to undermine the very foundations of our national and municipal life.

In large measure this state of affairs is due to the political and economic disorganisation of Europe consequent on the Great War. In accordance with the policy affirmed by the Imperial Conference we shall continue to devote every effort through the League of Nations and by every other practical means, to the restoration of a true peace in Europe.

But that at the best must take time. A year ago Mr Bonar Law could still hope that a more settled condition of affairs was in prospect, absence of any modification of fiscal policy, of the ultimate necessity of which he himself was always convinced. Since the occupation of the Ruhr it has become evident that we are confronted by a situation which, even if it does not become worse, is not likely to be normal for years to come.

The disorganisation and poverty of Europe, accompanied by broken exchanges and by higher tariffs all the world over, have directly and indirectly narrowed the whole field of our foreign trade. In our own home market the bounty given to the importation of foreign goods by depreciated currencies, and by the reduced standard of living in many European countries, has exposed us to a competition which is essentially unfair and is paralysing enterprise and initiative.

It is under such conditions that we have to find work for a population which, largely owing to the cessation during the war period of the normal flow of migration to the Dominions, has in the last census period increased by over a million and three quarter souls.

No Government with any sense of responsibility could continue to sit with tied hands watching the unequal struggle of our industries or content itself with palliatives which, valuable as they are to mitigate the hardship to individuals, must inevitably add to the burden of rates and taxes and thereby still further weaken our whole economic structure. Drastic measures have become necessary for dealing with present conditions as long as they continue.

The present Government hold themselves pledged by Mr Bonar Law not to make any fundamental change in the fiscal system of the country without consulting the electorate. Convinced, as I am, that only by such a change can a remedy be found, and that no partial measures such as the extension of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, can meet the situation, I am in honour bound to ask the people to release us from this pledge without further prejudicing the situation by any delay. That is the reason, and the only reason, which has made this election necessary.

What we propose to do for the assistance of employment in industry, if the nation approves, is to impose duties on imported manufactured goods, with the following objects:-

to raise revenue by methods less unfair to our own home production which at present bears the whole burden of local and national taxation, including the cost of relieving unemployment.
to give special assistance to industries which are suffering under unfair foreign competition;

to utilise these duties in order to negotiate for a reduction of foreign tariffs in those directions which would most benefit our export trade;

to give substantial preference to the Empire on the whole range of our duties with a view to promoting the continued extension of the principle of mutual preference which has already done so much for the expansion of our trade, and the development, in co-operation with the other Governments of the Empire, of the boundless resources of our common heritage.

Such a policy will defend our industries during the present emergency and will enable us, as more normal conditions return, to work effectively to secure a greater measure of real Free Trade both within the Empire and with foreign countries.

Trade which is subject to the arbitrary interference of every foreign tariff, and at the mercy of every disturbance arising from the distractions of Europe, is in no sense free, and is certainly not fair to our own people.

It is not our intention, in any circumstances, to impose any duties on wheat, flour, oats, meat (including bacon and ham), cheese, butter or eggs.

While assisting the manufacturing industries of the country we propose also to give a direct measure of support to agriculture. Agriculture is not only, in itself, the greatest and most important of our national industries, but is of especial value as supplying the most stable and essentially complementary home market for our manufacturers.

We propose to afford this assistance by a bounty of £1 an acre on all holdings of arable land exceeding one acre. The main object of that bounty is to maintain employment on the land and so keep up the wages of agricultural labour. In order to make sure of this we shall decline to pay the bounty to any employer who pays less than 30/- a week to an able-bodied labourer.

The exclusion from any import duties of the essential foodstuffs which I have mentioned, as well as of raw materials, undoubtedly imposes a certain limitation upon the fullest extension of Imperial Preference.

But even the preferences agreed to at the recent Economic Conference within our existing fiscal system, have been acknowledged as of the greatest value by the Dominion representatives, and our present proposals will offer a much wider field, the value of which will be progressively enhanced by the increasing range and variety of Empire production.

Moreover in the field of Empire development, as well as in that of home agriculture, we are not confined to the assistance furnished by duties. We have already given an earnest of our desire to promote a better distribution of the population of the Empire through the Empire Settlement Act, and at the Economic Conference we have undertaken to co-operate effectively with the Government of any part of the Empire in schemes of economic development.

More especially do we intend to devote our attention to the development of cotton growing within the Empire, in order to keep down the cost of a raw material essential to our greatest exporting industry.

These measures constitute a single comprehensive and inter-dependent policy. Without additional revenue we cannot assist agriculture at home, but the income derived from the tariff will provide for this and leave us with means which can be devoted to cotton growing and other development in the Empire, and to the reduction of the duties on tea and sugar which fall so directly upon the working class household.

For the present emergency, and pending the introduction of our more extended proposals, we are making, and shall continue to make, every effort to increase the volume of work for our people. The Government are spending very large sums on every measure of emergency relief that can help in this direction.

Further, the local Authorities of all kinds throughout the country, and great individual enterprises, such as the railways, with the assistance of the Government, or on its invitation, are co-operating wholeheartedly in the national endeavour to increase the volume of employment. This great combined effort of the Government, of the Local Authorities, and of individual enterprises, represents an expenditure of no less than £100 millions sterling.

The position of shipbuilding, one of the hardest hit of all our industries, is peculiar. It can only recover as shipping revives with the development of Empire and foreign trade which we believe will follow from our measures. We propose in the meantime to give it special assistance by accelerating the programme of light cruiser construction which will in any case become necessary in the near future.

We are informed by our Naval advisers that some light cruisers will be required during the next few years in replacement of the County class, as well as a variety of smaller and auxiliary craft, and we intend that a substantial proportion of these shall be laid down as soon as the designs are ready and Parliamentary sanction secured.

The solution of the unemployment problem is the key to every necessary social reform. But I should like to repeat my conviction that we should aim at the reorganisation of our various schemes of insurance against old age, ill-health and unemployment.

More particularly should we devote our attention to investigating the possibilities of getting rid of the inconsistencies and the discouragement of thrift at present associated with the working of the Old Age Pensions Act.

The encouragement of thrift and independence must be the underlying principle of all our social reforms.


Not a lot changes really.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

What About The Workers?

There are many and various matters  which will receive scant attention or discussion in the General Election. Or, if any, what is claimed will be removed from either the realities or what might be done.

We hear a lot about skills and how we are short of them and need to import them. What is not said is that one reason is that in the last couple of decades at least, maybe more, politics and government have relegated training and apprenticeships to a back number, bodged and fiddled.

There are many reasons for this. One is that schools are judged more on how many bodies can be packed off to a university than on how many actually finish up in the jobs being created and are trained in the basic requirements.

Given the way we are governed when it has become clear that we have a problem in apprenticeships and training, a posse of media advisers, PR men, senior civil servants and the usual suspects are asked to come up with some answers, preferably cheap that do ot impinge on any other interest.

In short the effect is to deal with a mess by creating a bigger brighter mess. The ones worst affected luckily are people with little or no say or are among the groups we do not bother with these days. The ones running the show are low down in the political and government pecking order.

This brief article says what should have happened.

This later brief article tells us what is, or rather is not happening.

What has happened is that the whole process was made very complex for firms and companies and others who need simplicity and clarity. Add to that is that to complete and qualify, often added steps and requirements are built in to an extent which guarantees high rates of failure.

When we have a skills shortage the shortage is increased as the net is widened. So then we import the skills from abroad. Because they are foreign they are recognised despite being nowhere near or equivalent to the UK requirements.

A little like replacing the undertakers, because they are not up to speed with environmental issues, with dustbin men from wherever.

Monday 24 April 2017

Bending The Knees

There are reports that around half the Church of England Cathedrals in England are experiencing financial difficulties. Not only have many of their costs risen due to recent legislation and the rest, but time and air pollution have taken their toll over the last century.

But the congregations have fallen in number and they are no longer centres for the rich and wealthy to display their wealth or their attachment to that Church. They depend now to an extent on tourism, use as arenas for performances and other activities.

These were buildings that often took generations to complete. Now in structural etc. decay it does not make many decades for the situation to become critical for many and this is what has happened. Nor is it Satan, only the human failing of not allowing for maintenance and running costs in doing their calculations.

At one time, the Church of England could call readily on the governments, national and local, for some funding and often hidden subsidy. Now we have different communities and there is a real issue if monies are directed to one particular faith.

Then there are the people who do not help. They suggest the buildings can be taken over, in part or whole, and used for varied community purposes by such as local authorities or other agencies. Then the argument is that this makes them "free".

But they are not free from all the costs of keeping them standing and in a condition for use,  never mind the preservation of ancient art and sculpture. This at a time when all governments and agencies are facing severe pressure on taxing and spending because of all the commitments promised and undertaken.

In the Middle Ages not only did we have the Cathedrals and all the churches, great and small, but we had the monasteries that rivalled them is size and costs.

Whatever happened to them?

Friday 21 April 2017

A Matter Of Taste

Long ago my mother was told by a her doctor to take a swig of Lucozade now and again because it would be good for her. He had qualified before the First World War at an Irish University, and kept up more with the horses than medical science.

At times I might take a secret swig of this elixir and liked the strong sweet taste. In the days of sugar rationing this was a rare treat. But as time wore on the delights of mild and bitter became more desirable.

Then along with the Yanks and dietary freedom came the fizzy soft drinks, in bottles and then in cans. When family shopping became a part of life it was very tempting to take one or two, OK perhaps half a dozen to put into the fridge.

The advert's constantly on TV and in the other media told us how good they were for us giving us the sprightly energy we needed to do our work, whether it was moving paper from one side of the desk to the other or more physically demanding.

It took some time before the realisation that a refreshing cold drink actually packed in more sugar than was good for the system, never mind the waist measurement. The health warriors declared war on it. But it was not long before the makers came up with the sweet taste wanted.

I ought to have known that it was not as simple as that. In this article from Science Daily, lifted by the Daily Mail and others, the artificial sweeteners derived largely from chemical synthetics are said to be doing us no good at all. From bottom to brain they are doing their worst.

Now where did I put the newspaper?

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Election Fever

It is Wednesday, 14th June and the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Corbyn looks round the Cabinet table at the members of his coalition government. He has done the difficult bit, accepting the job from an elderly lady who has no place in his plans for the future, but HM was as courteous as ever, even offering him corgi pups to cheer up Downing Street.

He did not expect this. Quite why Rupert Murdoch had decided to offer free Sky Sports and adult channels to the under 30's if JC won may never be known. Perhaps the decision by Russia to allow SkyTV may have had some bearing on it. The gods of the media move in mysterious ways.

Some compromises had been necessary, notably those that allowed the SNP to claim full independence, which he had announced over the weekend, yet retain places at Westminster and in the Cabinet, purely for advisory and co-ordination purposes.

JC had granted them the pound as a currency and control over interest rates and bond issues, related to the promise to meet any budget deficits they might have. Defence matters had been agreed with Russia and even now their naval vessels were being cheered as they entered the River Forth.

The Lib Dem's had been reluctant to join the coalition and still were coming to terms with the fact they had any MP's at all. But the absence of any coherent policies gave them a freedom of purpose to take the jobs they were offered to supplement their incomes. They were happy to agree.

Although Sinn Fein were numerically small, they did have a role to play and had suggested, if only privately, that if certain concessions were made to The Republic, if only financial, then added persons from the South and Republic might join the Cabinet, again to assist co-ordination. Whether the Roman Catholic Church, however, would welcome Orthodox Missionaries from Russia was still an open question.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives were arguing bitterly about why they lost. Some said the lack of celebrities and weepie human interest stories in their campaign was the cause. Others felt that promising President Trump as many golf courses as he liked was an error. But Theresa May's coming out as an Arsenal supporter was perhaps the clincher.

One could forgive her many things, but that was too much.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

And Now The Bad News

So there is to be a General Election and weeks of even more stupidity that we have been enduring.

But it is the beginning of the cricket season, so all I can say is:


There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red -
Red with the wreck of a square that broke
The gatlings jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed its banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"


Not a chance.

Monday 17 April 2017

Picturing Past And Present

The connection between the two pictures above will not be obvious. The 2017 cartoon has the text as "I was the first in my family to get into student debt". The picture is from 1948 of Friedrich Hayek, Professor of Economics at the LSE giving a lecture to undergraduate students.

If this near all male group looks older than modern students this is because many will have done time in the armed services first and some will have worked for a year or two to save, most grants then being as the discretion of local authorities and this was an age of austerity.

The 2017 cartoon reminds us that very many students face high levels of debt. It is said that some will never be able to repay them. Then there are the debts entailed in buying or even renting property now commonplace. To add to these burdens the latest are the debts arising from car ownership for essential travel.

Behind all these lies the hand of government. Firstly making university education almost obligatory and offering loan facilities to allow this to happen. For property centrally controlled rates of interest, held down for political reasons has triggered the boom in property prices. For car ownership, lax regulation and low rates of interest again have added to this.

Hayek would have had none of this. A man for free markets as opposed to nominally free but "guided" or "supported", and any kind of central control, such as tariffs or restrictions, in the world of the late 1940's Britain he was out of place. His views were held to be those of the past and economic history not reality.

So in 1950 he went off to Chicago to join a very different school of economics and it would be thirty years before grudging governments found it necessary to relax their grip. What we do not realise is that the grip was still there, only moderated and as ever with government ruled by short term thinking and the next poll predictions.

The students in the 1948 picture would have been looking to work eventually in particular areas. Only a few might become academics. The cost of post graduate study was high and at that time jobs in universities or colleges limited. Some might teach but most I think would be looking to work in government, central and local and for a few trainee management jobs in either select corporations or more so the new headquarters of nationalised industries.

For all Hayek's work he was not talking to the converted, he was talking to students who could not be converted as their futures lay in a society and polity that was centrally controlled, planned and administered. His economics, as I have said was of the past and in Britain there was then no possible future for it.

Half a dozen years after he left the economics staff etc. were mostly Keynesians of one sort or other, none pure or who Keynes would have recognised, with some Marxists and a handful of Welfare Economists, now lost and forgotten. Also there was a group of the wild men of mathematical economics and the surreal world of Games Theory.

Which brings us to the present day and the trillions of debt owed not just by governments or banks, but the couple next door, their student children and the cars in the garage and on the drive.

I wonder what Hayek might say?

I told you so?

Saturday 15 April 2017

Toilet Training

The keen eyed click people among you have seen the picture above on the web so I will skip the jokes about Mr. Corbyn's trip to Doncaster. Assuming that he shunned the delights of the A1 road, the sweet smell of nitrous oxide that he was so happy to use to avoid global warming and the groups of kindred travel peoples in the lay byes and service stations, he might have risked all in going by train.

Yes, there is life for Londoners beyond Potter's Bar. I hope that on passing through Hatfield he might have stood out of respect to the Gascoyne-Cecil family who have shaped so much of our History. It was Lord Salisbury in 1896 who brought in pensions for teachers, which helps so many of his Labour workers.

Also in 1899, he provided for education for the handicapped, shunned by the eugenicists of the Left and Liberal of the time. Not least, his nephew, Lord Balfour in 1902 brought in the Education Act for secondary education, a cause that Lord Salisbury promoted. Mr. Corbyn is a direct beneficiary of that Act, albeit a little later.

At Huntingdon he would have been up again. It might be as it is the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell and M.P. for that town. On the other hand King Charles I used the George Hotel as an HQ. Then there might be allowing a respect for another former London local councillor MP for the town, who made it to be Prime Minister, John Major, a hard act for Mr. Corbyn to follow.

At Peterborough, as well as the London Road football stadium he should reflect on the Cathedral with the mortal remains of Queen Catherine of Aragon, who kept her head but not her marriage as the first wife of King Henry VIII. Unable to deliver the heir (or policies) required she was shunted off to a quiet life in the country.

Then on to Grantham, passing Burghley, those Cecil's again, where he might detrain for a moment to bow his head to the memory of Alderman Alfred and Beatrice Roberts whose gift to the nation (Margaret, later Thatcher), prevented the UK from becoming communist under the heel of Cromwellian gentry such as the Foot's and Benn's in time for the collapse of communism.

Newark passes in a flash so no time for the toilet and was a town of many sieges during the Civil War so he might take his pick as to who to choose. Then it is time to gather the wits as well as the luggage that still remains in his possession, especially if it is an Edinburgh bound train.

Doncaster was a major industrial town, now less so, but has retained part of the tradition of railway works. Its' first were those of the Great Northern Railway, after 1923 LNER, and one the locomotives built there was the "Flying Scotsman". This is a loco' known to many of us through TV and media, for most it is the steam age.

But not all is as it seems. In 1949, I was one of a party that visited the loco' works, when it was thought sensible that we should learn about the basics of the economy. In general ordinary servicing and minor repairs were done in local loco' sheds but major overhauls and repairs at the specialist works.

The bosses were as much concerned with throughput as those of today, the system could not do with too many loco's out of service, the timetables were hard enough to keep as it was. So at Doncaster when a loco' came in it was stripped down and dismantled.

But the loco' that emerged was made up of parts from stores and prepared major items. By the late 1940's the "Flying Scotsman" was wearing out and downgraded from the then LNER mail line to the secondary Great Central line and based at Leicester Great Central. Around 1950/51 it went to Doncaster for major overhaul.

Some basic framework was retained but the boiler and other major parts were taken from stock. Either unused or in most cases items which had been repaired etc. from other earlier dismantled loco's. So the loco' you see now is not the 1923 version nor a good deal of the 1950's version.

Mr. Corbyn might reflect that there is a lesson to be learned here. Meanwhile Doncaster works is now about carriages, seats and toilets.

Which might be another lesson.

Thursday 13 April 2017

Making Moves

Long ago on the banks of the Elbe when Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister but Stalin had gone to the Great Committee down below, I recall looking at the Red Army. It is doubtful whether their detachments a few yards away liked to see us. Not that they were a lot of use in their main job. That was to stop the refugees getting across the water to a new and better life in the West.

It was not a good beginning for them, typically being put on the back of a smelly three ton lorry to go to a camp already short of space and where the food was basic. First the wheat had to be sorted from the chaff, that is the potential spies and trouble makers packed off back across the bridge to the East.

The process was rudimentary and it is likely that some of those sent back should not have been. Women who were with child and children were not included. Quite how many families were parted wrongly we shall never know.

By this time the refugee problem was long standing, several years after WW2 had ended with its mass movements of populations, some forced and some voluntary. The 1951 Census for the UK gives 165,000 Poles alone, many ex-servicemen unwelcome in their home country under Communism.

As a youngster I had known a few, some refugees after the War and during the War members of the Polish Airborne Division. But the Poles in the UK were one thing, those in Germany were another. As ever, there were no right answers and many decisions had to be made on the hoof.

I was once on the local park where well meaning people had organised a football match between our local Poles and Irish in the name of community. The Poles being short of one, I volunteered. It became very physical. Afterwards, the Irish went to the public bar and the Poles to the Saloon. It was diversity, but not as we know it.

The borders today seem to have shifted towards The East but we are rehearsing all the old disputes, not least those in The Balkans and The Middle East and Africa. When Blair was Prime Minister apparently the Foreign Office archives were dumped. I assume much the same has been happening in other countries.

Destroying the past may be convenient to those ruling at the present but there is a heavy price to pay and serious risks that we are about to pay them. It may account for some of the relentless stupidity being exhibited among the major powers in the present series of crises.

The USA and Russia should now be establishing common ground to keep the problems in the Middle East from escalating and spreading. The EU's ambition to recreate the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire should be stopped.

The basic lessons of meddle meaning muddle meaning conflicts and mass migration have to be relearned by all those allowing their military and corporate interests to dictate actions based on the shortest of term thinking.

The UK politicians in all this may make a lot of noise but they are not of much use. They are rather like the children being loaded on the back of a lorry with an unknown future and lost parents.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Taking A Sip

The headline below in Mail Online, that is the Daily Mail, gave food or drink for thought.

Then reading the story I realised that it applied to the cups.

Especially those that become waste to create the mountains of them in our waste disposal systems.

But to be sure I think I'll stick to tea.

Monday 10 April 2017

Signs Of The Times

Sent out to do the shopping found myself behind a large white van with a legend that was a statement on the nature of the society of our times.

A delivery van for Krispy Kreme, it read "No doughnuts are left in this van over night".

Imagine, we live in a world so lacking in moral values that not even such a humble food product is safe from predatory theft.

Does this presage the end of consumerism?

But it reminded me to book a visit the dentist.

Sunday 9 April 2017

CME Means Trouble

It is a lovely warm day, much like summer and the sun is shining. We are all, well almost all, happy, not least because it will reduce the electric or other bills for heating.

The sun is not always quite so friendly, in fact it can turn quite nasty. This article, longish and complicated reminds us of this.

It says we had a near miss on 23 July 2012. Whether that was the Carrington Event, a CME, Coronal Mass Ejection, hitting the earth, that is alleged to be due is an issue for debate.

There are some advantages, you won't have to worry about the emails etc., or indeed the TV or radio.

But you might have to fight the neighbours for food and water.

Friday 7 April 2017

It's That Man Again

During the 1940's a BBC comedy radio show "It's That Man Again", see Wikipedia, starring Liverpool man Tommy Handley, was very popular. The title referred to a common catch phrase used to describe reports about the warmongering European dictator whose name began with "H". No, it was not Hirohito, go to the bottom of the class.

Quite why Red Ken Livingstone, the Lost King of London, should be so attached to this ancient joke is a puzzle. Born 17 June 1945 the H in question had gone a few weeks earlier. Worse he is alleged to have become attached to certain racist views of the followers of H.

Given his status as a Londoner Primus I was tempted to take a look hoping to discover Jewish migrant forebears for Ken from Eastern Europe in the 19th Century or before, or even those from other climes of earlier ages. But no luck, but there was other things that caught the eye.

Wikipedia says that Ken's father was from Dunoon, Clydeside. Another man of the Clyde, David Moyes, football manager perhaps only for a few days more at Sunderland, bottom of the Premiership, is a Glaswegian also in trouble for what he said. Could migrant Scots from the area of The Clyde be excused on grounds of cultural ethnicity?

However, there is a possibility that Ken's parents may have met in Liverpool, this should raise a laugh. Dunoon is the other side of the water from Ayrshire. Nicola Sturgeon is said to be of Ayrshire stock. Could they be connected, if not related? They would make a lovely couple. Ken's ideology might make a good fit with that of the SNP.

One thing did raise the eyebrows. It seems that both of us had grandfathers in the line at The Battle of Arras a century ago this year. Mine survived, just, his did not.

The picture above from "Chariots Of Fire" might seem out of place, but there is a surprising, if distant, connection.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

No Sense Of Smell

Forty odd years ago in a job that required a car to use as well as for family reasons, when in the office between cups of tea blokes would talk about cars. Jack, now long gone, something of a motor head, was keen on diesel cars and their cost saving at the time. With my mileage, he had a case.

But they did not have the acceleration and other advantages of the petrol cars, notably the versions with the bigger engines. As my mileage involved a lot of motorway runs I wanted that and the speed to stick out in the fast lane. It cost more, but for me it was worth it.

Another reason, again to do with long journeys was that although diesel gave fewer fills of the tank, some parts of the land were scarce in petrol stations with diesel pumps. Last but not least was the smell. When Jack came into the office there was always a distinctive whiff of diesel, so we all knew when he had been fingering through our papers.

In those innocent days, the environment, climate change and fumes were far from our thoughts. But many still did not like the stink of the crude diesel at the time. With trucks and buses, being behind one for any time could mean a long slow coughing journey.

When scientists said petrol was ruining the planet we believed them, the petrol stink was convincing enough. Quite why the politicians and governments lurched towards diesel is one of those mysteries difficult to fathom. It simply did not make sense.

Inevitably, now, we are told that diesel is bad as well. It was little surprise. Veterans of the age of coal knew that whether the coal or coke was used on open fires, stoves, boilers or what then what came out of the chimney was not nice, especially in a cold day with no wind.

Then there are the uses of petrol-chemicals in quantity that no politician wants to talk about. Let us just say the population is now eating them, drinking them and plastering them all over the body. And they have their own pungent smells as well.

Of course, we could try to go organic. When, I wonder, will the car makers mass produce a wood burning motor car?

Tuesday 4 April 2017

California Here I Come

The news that Nicola Sturgeon has signed a climate agreement with the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, suggests that she is hoping for support in funding the SNP.

This one minute trailer for the film of long ago, "Paint Your Wagon"  reminds me that that adding gold digging to her portfolio has its risks.

But the big theme song at the end says it all.

Monday 3 April 2017

Swing Voting

Long ago when compelled to serve in the Army, there came the time where the concern was where in the world would one be posted to. A bad one would be the distant islands where nuclear bombs were being tested. Worse would be to stay in Aldershot.

For various reasons, this being the age of the imminent threat of the Soviet Union and the retreat from Empire, the list of bad postings was a great deal longer than that of the good. One of the few on the "good" list was The Rock of Gibraltar.

It was warm, but not tropical. It had good communications with the UK, so was much like home. The local population were not opposed to the UK presence, in fact welcomed it. It was small enough to know your way around easily. But beware of the apes.

The problem was that this choice spot was only for very few and they were likely to be regular signed on soldiers. Some national service types did make it there and for them it was almost a holiday posting as compared with almost any of the others. British Honduras was reckoned to be quite good but a long way off.

The trouble was the people across the border in Spain, who were held in low regard. Now we know that during that period the Franco regime did not dispose them to be of a generous or welcoming nature. They were best avoided and at all costs. If you strayed across the border it could be a long time before you came back.

In recent decades, following the fashion of democracy, the citizens of The Rock have been given a choice. To the astonishment of everyone except those who knew The Rock, they have opted to retain the wayward old British link and avoid the regulation of Spain.

One reason is that they have a nice number going as a tourist resort cum tax haven and becoming part of Spain would spoil it. Also, for them London has been a better place to go than Madrid. Given what Spanish officials and government offices are like this is probably a rational and informed decision.

If the people of Gibraltar want to stay British, then we should allow them. But to be fair the apes could opt to be citizens of the new EU, perhaps with their cousins who moved to the Blair Drummond Safari Park in Scotland.

Eh? Blair?