Thursday 30 November 2017

Ring Out The Bells

The nuptials to be for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are giving plenty of scope for coverage. The lady's ancestry has attracted comment with some parts having more attention than others for example, The Daily Mail. The one that caught my eye on the father's side was the name Sykes, in particular the Thomas Sykes born around 1835, which went no further.

Possibly, this may have been because the Sykes/Sikes surname is one of the no go areas for many. Charles Dickens, contemporary with Thomas, in his book "Oliver Twist" has a Bill Sikes, who is not nice at all. Worse however, the surname is one of those local ones that many do not want to see. Yes, it is Yorkshire and could be Barnsley.

On a basic search, the one I picked out as a lead was a Thomas Sykes whose family had braved the metaphorical barbed wire fencing, trenches and armed guards to slip into Lancashire to find work a couple of hundred or more years ago. He had married an Irish girl, as one did in that county. If her birthplace might be found it could be very interesting.

There is a Sikes Sykes Family Association web site that has a great deal of information. Also, some years back there was DNA testing being done on a select number of family names to see if there could be a single ancestor. Sykes was one of the names and possibly originated with a lay monk in the early middle ages.

But all those Sykes and Sikes have intermarried with other Yorkshire families. The names that come to mind are Michael Parkinson, Geoffrey Boycott and Arthur Scargill, all from Sykes/Sikes vicinities. Will they be invited? Instead of Westminster or Windsor why not one of the fine churches up on the Pennines?

Then over to Germany, again family ancestral parts. I would suggest Hannover as a good option for a quiet time. Our monarchs were once the Electors of Hannover, and Prince Harry is a near cousin. In May they could have a night at the Opera, they are doing one by Smetana, "Die Verkaufte Braut" which is a fine comedy with some great tunes.

We call it "The Bartered Bride".

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Puffing Silly

It is now a common cry in the media etc. for more houses to be built almost anywhere and in any numbers. There is little or no mention that along with them might be factories, offices, shops or other facilities, such as hospitals, schools and other community structures.

What does turn up, and as you may imagine, from the relevant construction companies, financial organisations and interest groups stoking the property boom, is a demand for both new railways and rebuilding of lines lost in the 1960's.

It appears that factories are a no go since the UK is on the skids as a manufacturing centre. Some will be retained, but perhaps not much. Offices and retailing are other matters, but those worlds are changing rapidly as well with the extent and nature of new technology.

Once I visited many an office and in the ordinary business of life needed the facilities of shops for my needs. It is now months since I went to any shop and I forget the last time I visited an office or bank. My main issue now is when will the phone go ping to tell me when the delivery person arrives.

So it is very peculiar to read in the claims for the vital need for new railways that the calculation of the amount of time needed by business men to be functioning is critical to government decision making. The business person who regularly visits me is always in contact on a world wide basis for either individual or group response.

But railways are supposed to be for mass movement and not just the bosses and the rich. There is more of a logic when mass movement is needed in heavily urbanised areas. That is ones that have jobs for people to go to and has the ability to tax to pay for provision if profit is unlikely or unprofitable for various reasons.

The visions we are presented with by the lobbyists and policy makers are uncannily like the futuristic plans and films of the 1930's that impacted so much on government urban planning of the later 20th Century. However, it did not work out like that. In the UK we finished up with dreary, inadequately serviced council estates, elsewhere in the world it was shanty towns. Neither of which enabled any profit or surplus from railway building.

The rationalisation of rail in the UK in the mid 20th Century is referred to as the Beeching report from the name of the chairman of the committee that recommended the major changes in the railway system to meet the then present and immediate future. He is alleged to be a big bad man, but he was just one in a long line of people for whom the railways were a problem needing difficult decisions.

Wikipedia has a page on "Railway Mania" about the 1840's crisis. We did not learn much from that nor all the other problems as the system extended rarely on rational grounds, more on hope and forecasts that proved hopelessly wrong. By 1914 the system was having problems, by 1918, the end of the war it was in crisis.

So we had the "Rationalisation" of 1923, a political botch job that cobbled together many into few. As the new HQ's went up they provided for public relations etc. Hence all those films about the wonders of progress on the railways. Actually, not much did change, but a few fast trains on key lines with waiters convinced a gullible public and the politicians were served a decent lunch, along with the busy businessmen.

Then came 1939 to 1945 and a war that left the railways in a dire state. With a Labour Government that meant nationalisation. The end of the war also meant a lot of cheap trucks and vans on the market as well as factories producing them and this meant a new world of delivery and transport.

The 1970's saw a changed system, but still with too many inherited problems. Then in the 1980's we had a Conservative government who rather than see money effectively going to the unions, preferred it to go to the companies etc. supporting them and we had a privatisation which was not really but only partial and it was almost back to a pre 1914 type of organisation and government support.

What is quite clear to me is that the proposals for new lines mean structures with liabilities that will never, ever, yield a surplus but will have to be funded, perhaps substantially either by subsidy derived from tax or year on year additions to government debt.

Also, while one or two may have their advantages, the reinstatement of lines closed will bear the same kind of costs and maintenance and running deficits. Quite what the lines will be like if the urbanisation planning goes wrong can only be imagined.

But perhaps not, the picture above gives a good example. Say West Hampstead in 2050?

Monday 27 November 2017

A Loss

The loss of Dmitri Hvorostovsky has had full coverage in the media. There is little to add except that touch of personal sadness and the memory of his performances that we managed to see.

This duet with Jonas Kaufmann from "The Pearl Fishers" at six minutes is one to savour. It rivals the Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill one.

 He will not be forgotten.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Kicking Out Of Touch

At 2.00 p.m. in the afternoon on Saturday, 29 April 1950, I first watched television, invited by a neighbour for a special occasion. The Sutton Coldfield transmitter had opened in December 1949 to bring TV to the outer provinces.

At least to those who could afford four or five weeks average wage for a set and then the cost of the big aerial and fittings. The box took up a large part of the room and the size of the spotty black and white screen meant you had to get up close and near and squint.

The occasion was the FA Cup Final, a poor game with a lot of heavy tackling and little skill. It was not helped by a referee who had put on his reading glasses. HM The King was there which meant that the commentary was of the gruesomely deferential of the time.

Before the game there was the wailing community singing, thought to be good for the masses, culminating with "Abide With Me" conducted by a hyperactive man on top of a pile of scaffolding. I could not abide it, which offended others because I was supposed to like it, the BBC said so.

Today it is evening, the sound is radio music the sight is football on the screen. It is now a long while since when watching it I have listened to or endured a commentary. The football is habit, a reason being that you can get a run of 45 or so minutes without a long loud session of advertisements, usually, that is.

On many channels an hour or two of watching means 15 to 20 of mind bending and eye straining noisy items that put me off their products for all time. So we rarely watch much as screened but use the box to replay with fingers poised over the remote to skip the advert's or whatever else will remove them.

The game I am watching today is similar in the rules, pitch and number of players engaged. But not much else. In 1950 we had another neighbour on the street of terraced houses who played for our local second division club who was also invited. He could not afford a TV, unless the club directors bought one for him as a backhander.

He was one of the lucky ones, on retirement he managed to jump the queue for a council house and was fixed up with a manual job in the building department. The mansions and  property portfolios of our leading players at present could only be a wild mad dream to the players of the time.

My particular problem with watching the footie is not all this history and remembrance of times past is that it is becoming both boring and confusing, two things which often go together. The squads and substitutions mean that you can never be entirely sure of who is on the pitch. Moreover, the nature of player contracts and scale of movement neither are you sure of who is playing for who or why.

Above all it is now all the science and statistics applied to tactics and the organisation of the teams. It has become more and more predictable. The babbling explanations of the experts do not help but only add to what seems to be the irrationality of the whole manner of play.

I am no longer just watching a game of footie I am in the middle of a complex debate centering on the numbers, forms of movement and general strategic implications. It is like watching a documentary on a military campaign of history only less informative and more given to theory than practice.

One matter that does strike me is that the game is supposed to be about scoring goals. Yet modern systems demand less attacking and more defending players than in the past. Now it is common for a side in the opponents half to back pass to their own goalkeeper or deep defenders to start all over again.

If the football bubble does burst then the implications could be significant, especially for satellite TV. It is the hinge on the door of Sky TV. If I decide to pack in the football and I suspect many people are close to this decision as well, I do not need Sky TV. Without the Sky money the incomes of major clubs and players will collapse.

Another feature of the football on TV is the extensive advertising of gambling products and companies. Many of those sponsor clubs. It is everywhere. How much of this gambling is taking money away from savings and consumption? There must be doubts about how long this can last.

It is not so much watch this space, it is that it might all suddenly be sent off.

Friday 24 November 2017

White Out

Today is "Black Friday" when we are urged by retailers to take advantage of major reductions in prices to boost sales in what otherwise might be a slack few days at the tills.

It is one of those things that have crossed the Atlantic with the typical added frenzy of publicity and media coverage.

But, as the picture above suggests, there are better things to do.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Time Goes By

Ancient Egypt

Middle Ages

1900 Capitalist System

2017 Credit Suisse Global Wealth

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Chirp Of The Day

Today is Budgie Day when we are told how to take care of that intruder into our homes whose demands are insatiable.

You will be asked to feed it with more seed, although you will be told that this is not a problem.

Also,  you will be required to do more to take care of it and all the associated foreign budgies that we are helping to feed.

You will be told that this will enrich your lives. Sadly, when the reality dawns on you it will be too late.

When you next get the chance to vote, it will be a question of which is the biggest budgie but it will be impossible to tell.

Also, it might be a catastrophe.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Is Anybody Listening?

The TV channel RT, Russia Today, has a programme hosted by George Galloway (who?) a former politician famous for saying a great deal, many feeling a great deal too much. A few of our politicians etc. have appeared on it. The fee is said to be a very good one.

The programme is called "Sputnik", because RT intends to orbit the world with it as a must see news item for the masses displaying that Russia is still a force to be reckoned with. The name comes from the space mission of April 1961.

One avid viewer is John McDonnell, the Labour leader in waiting, who wants to nationalise everything that moves. Apparently, in order to flee capitalism when it collapses he has a small sailing boat named "Morning Star".

This is the name of the ultra Left daily newspaper. Once it was called the "Daily Worker", but when it became clear that in 1966 it was  more written and read by the London bourgeoisie of the Left it was changed to something more inspirational. The workers were saving up for a deposit on a house.

The web is a wonderful place and from it came the picture above of the "Daily Worker" issue of April 1961 which headlined the Soviet space mission, the first manned flight to make it outside the Earth. Yuri Gargarin was the hero of the day, rightly, in this major step in science.

Look across the picture above, however, to see what the UK ultimate space guru, Professor Bernard Lovell, has to say.

You might just make out that in referring to who would be the first to put a man on the moon he states that the chances of the USA doing so were now negligible.

I wish I had put on a bet on that one.

Monday 20 November 2017

My Artificial Brain Hurts

One web site of choice is "Bank Underground" from the Bank of England. Essentially it is about how it works and tries to explain what it is up to or not up to as the case may be. It is neither fun nor easy.

Certainly, it needs a site like this because it is all too evident that most or nearly all of the main media, political parties, traders, dealers, retail bankers, experts of one sort or another and far too many economists are not really up there with the economic game.

To be fair, the game is not the old fashioned single entity where the rules are more or less the same from year to year, and there is a fair chance that predictions may be right or work. In effect, the rules change almost by the day as well as the pitch, the players and the purpose.

This article in titled "New Machines For The Old Lady" is about the advances made at the Bank of England in applying high and new technology to its function as a central bank. There has been, it says, an explosion in the amount and variety of digitally available data.

All you need are machines that will analyse it and allow you to suggest the policy options it alleges are required. If you are in a hurry with all those berserker politicians crying for answers, it seems a good idea.

I prefer the Bank articles to be brief and not to challenge the wiring between the ears. This one needs time because of the subject matter and having to explain what is what. But if you want to know what your central bank is up to, why and how, it is part of the answer.

Unluckily, in this world however good the mathematics, science, data gathering, artificial intelligence, analytic systems and coffee machines, there are no certainties and not much comfort. After all the explanation, it ends:


However, care is needed when interpreting the outputs from ML models. For example, they do not necessary identify economic causation.

The fact that a correlation between two variables has been observed in the past does not mean it will hold in the future, as we have seen in the case of the artificial neural network when it is faced with a situation not previously seen in the data, resulting in forecasts wide of the mark.


Told you so.

Sunday 19 November 2017

A Hundred Years Ago

I had just sketched out another "what if" item which may or may not have worked when I came across a better one. It is good reading and tells us how our world might have been a much better one had the opportunity been taken.

It is in The Spectator by Simon Kerry and the title is "What if the first world war had ended a year earlier" and is not simply a think piece. It is about his forebear who was a leading political figure at the time.

The Lord Lansdowne, a former member of the Cabinet had composed a letter arguing for a negotiated peace and end of fighting in 1917 and had been discussing it earlier with friends and colleagues, who soon became former friends.

In essence they ratted on him having gone too far down the road that would lead to the destruction of Germany. The events at the Somme and Passchendaele had been too much and the sacrifices demanded too many.

It is possible also that the Lloyd George government's ambitions in the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire may have been a reason.

Only three months later the new Soviet government in Russia agreed an end to hostilities with Germany and Austria.

We are still paying the price today for Lloyd George's obsessions with the Middle East and the Palestine question. Reading the article it is difficult to avoid considering that Lansdowne may have been right.

Friday 17 November 2017

Pass Me A Handkerchief

The debate on the National Health Service goes on and from the Left we are given the impression that they are the "defenders" from the forces of change who must be wrong if they wish to change anything. In the meantime medicine and medical problems move on.

We learn more and more and realise much better the complexities and difficulties of many conditions. But the Left want to just remind us of the past, indeed the long past, as though nothing could or would change.

A choice example is this tear jerker in The Canary from Harry Leslie Smith about the indeed tragic loss of his sister, Marion, who had tuberculosis, TB, at the age of 15. He says she was denied medical treatment nor were the family given a wheelchair.

There are one or two problems here. The three towns given for his family are Barnsley, Bradford and Halifax. All of these had local authority hospital facilities plus provision for the poor, advanced for their time, and for those signed up with friendly societies. Also, Marion had been diagnosed, who by and what were his parents told or asked?

In December 1943 an uncle of mine, much loved and respected died young from TB, he was not in hospital nor was he given medication. But he had been one of the rare men working as a nurse in an isolation hospital, where no doubt he had contracted TB. He opted to die at home with his family.

The drugs that beat TB, the antibiotics were not available then. The hospital beds were for any potential survivors, most likely who had the condition spotted early, for whom long months in an open air ward might just help them beat it.

And you did not want the serious cases on the ward. The only two options were either a managed death facility, more or less an annex to the mortuary, or being at home and told to stay at home.

So contagious was the disease and so dangerous you did not want victims being wheeled around the shops or any other public place or even up or down the street. It was not just a death sentence, it was being put into isolation as well.

The local Medical Officers of Health had TB as a major priority along with other bad ones, for example Typhoid. I recall one school I attended before the NHS was created where a pupil was found with TB and they came in like the cavalry at Waterloo to deal with it.

Go home, stay at home and wait for the results parents and pupils were instructed. Parents who did not take heed were told that if they were not careful their children would be taken into isolation for months. My parents were far from happy but obeyed.

The creation of the NHS occurred at the same time as major advances in pharmaceuticals, treatments, surgery and in other fields of medicine, notably training and functioning of family doctors. It was never simply "private" and never had been.

The problem in the late 1940's arose mainly from the effects of two world wars within thirty one years, other crises, all the industrial and employment conditions on the rise, the ex-service injured and the increasing numbers of births etc. The greater movement of people added to this.

Clearly some central policy thinking and direction would be needed in certain fields, also how to give stimulus to improvement and to even out the differences between local authorities. What it did not need was the wipe out of so much of the local and charitable provision and imposition of detached bureaucracies regardless of function.

We now have the transformations possible in the digital age and other major challenges. Does the Left seriously think that these can be dealt with by people sitting in offices in London being directed by committees of politicians with poor degrees in PPE?

Back To The Land

Digging in for Labour on rural matters comes up with some strange ideas. This is a party for whom food begins and ends at the supermarkets, especially those who come up with the contributions to party funds.

Quote from last week:

Speaking in Lincoln on Saturday, McDonnell will say that tens of billions paid to shareholders should have been used to bring prices down for consumers. “These figures show what could have gone into investment in these public services in order to expand and improve them or keep their charges down,” he will say at the event to mark the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, which, in 1217, enshrined the rights of people to the lands they lived and worked on.


The Charter Of The Forest has a Wikipedia article which explains it briefly. Let us say it seemed a good idea at the time.

Over the centuries much of the Atlantic Isles became deforested. Then  the common land was over grazed to the point of failing to sustain animals for meat and industry. Then it was not possible for the land to grow much in the way of crops. Harvests were scant at best, and often total loss occurred.

Last but not least, in the common lands the rule of law failed as groups of individuals and families came into violent conflict over whose rights were paramount. The failure to keep records of the past and decisions of the relevant bodies or courts made this a great deal worse.

So when Kings who believed in Divine Right came to rule and with them group or tribal leaders who had major following they began to carve up the land for their own benefit. At least in some it gave rise to improvements in agriculture and greater productivity.

The end came with the mass migration from these lands when weather conditions turned adverse over long periods. Notably from the uplands worse affected.

McDonnell appears to be saying that any surplus from an industrial or agricultural source of production should not be applied to that or others that promise a surplus but should be redirected to State spending. That is we should have an economy that will be largely static in a world of global trade and finance.

Neither he nor his comrades seem to realise that the world they grew up in has gone and cannot be recreated by committees of the brothers and laws passed in Westminster.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Riding The Money Go Round

When in West Germany first, before we were fool enough to allow it sovereignty, being sent to save the world from the Soviet hordes, the money question was of key interest. Not only did we have little of it but neither did the locals.

There was actual sterling coin and notes for the better off, then Army scrip, bits of scrubby paper valid only in particular British outlets, but which might used with people who could access these, the then Mark, distrusted, inevitably cigarettes and in addition anything which was desirable and could be bartered.

Both we and the Germans were used to barter. For all of us the 1940's had been a time for the resurgence of barter, for those in the UK, to get our hands on things not available or rationed and for a time for the Germans to survive in the collapse of its state.

How did we manage? The answer is that we did because we all knew the basic rules of this money game and if we applied common sense and straight dealing we would both benefit. It could apply to services. I dig your cabbage patch because I have boots, you clean my windows because I do not like ladders.

So when the government permitted the making of more cigarettes it was not just a health matter, the medic's then insisting it was good for us, or helping our sense of identity or social mixing, it was in effect money creation given the multiple effects of the ensuing transactions.

All this began to go in the 1950's and it became the norm to have a cash economy for the great majority of transactions. As our two main political parties in the UK were closely matched the electorate had to be bribed, which meant promises and therefore spending and that meant flows of money and credit.

The theoretical basis for much to this was alleged to be Keynes, albeit the convenient parts. The inconvenient were skipped. Sometimes our rulers got it wrong and other times they took the risks, hoping they could evade the consequences. Inevitably we began the long era of persistent inflation with occasional surges.

Half a century further on as the tribes of economists stalk the land and the statistics, we are still no wiser. Allegedly, a good many have been better off, but whether that has been better technology allied to greatly increased productivity plus greater reliable trade is something we could debate without coming to any real conclusions. There has been the property boom which has entailed transfers of wealth to some.

The losers, acutely aware that the winners have had a great deal of help from the State, directly and incidentally in many ways, understandably want assistance and support as the economy rapidly changes and their futures are uncertain. They also have a lot of votes in key areas.

We have on occasion nearly come off our money go round. But might the next time the gear wheels fail, we all fall off?

Monday 13 November 2017

Question Of The Day?

On the subject of tax havens I saw in the Telegraph on Sunday that Daniel Hannan, Member of the European Parliament has had something to say.

He has an ability to attract coverage in the media, has commented in favour of the function and purpose and tax havens claiming that they are perfectly legitimate. Does this apply to all their customers?

My quibble with all this row at present is that it is far too simplistic. There is tax manipulation. There is the tax politics, who actually pays and who doesn't re the structure and working of the many different tax authorities.

Also, who these answer to, are guided by and who are integral to the determination of general taxation. So there is also Tax Theft as well as those away with the fairies who live in the Magic Money Trees.

Dan boy has stated that there is nothing wrong with tax havens and they fulfil a much needed purpose for business and those with lots of spare.

It would make an interesting question to answer on an examination paper in political philosophy.

"Define perfectly legitimate".

Saturday 11 November 2017


                      NOVEMBER 1914 

                      NOVEMBER 1916

                      NOVEMBER 1948


Thursday 9 November 2017

Stranger In Paradise

The release of The Paradise Papers has put a bucket of blancmange into the air conditioner. Wikipedia has an article on them giving lists and some information. Unluckily, Her Majesties investments on behalf of her maintenance costs have taken the main headlines. This distracts from the other questions that need to be asked.

Such as what are the big firms out there up to, why, where and to what effect for the rest us scrambling around with our lottery tickets, Premium Bonds and interest free government investments? The official line is that government spending will rise because it has to rise but how that is to be managed is difficult to explain.

Having done a lot of tax avoidance in my time, sadly grubbing away at the lowest levels rather than anything big or bountiful, to be complaining about others who have more money and are much better at it could seem a tad hypocritical. But when taxes are levied if allowances are made or some things excluded on political or other grounds then necessarily they are not entirely what they seem.

In my day however, it was all done on paper, claims for this, costs for that, this type of loan tax beneficial that type of spending free of tax and so on. Eyes crossed, tees dotted as we used to say to put some humour into the endless form filling. Send off or hand in the form and the chits and hope you got the figures right.

Today is very different. Technology has moved on. I do not even have to sit at a desk, I can deal with things almost anywhere, indeed even there, if you know what I mean. It is done in seconds and in only minutes complex transactions can go on moving money around to get the best deal or arrangement.

The big firms in the money game have not only got the latest in technology, they can afford to use it to the full. The result is that money can be moved, changed, reshuffled etc. in very large amounts. This can be done globally in series to avoid the crooks, or maybe the police and worse than them, the taxman. We call it money laundering.

How HMRC, our tax collectors, working with older, slower machines, short on critical information and not up with the latest ways and techniques; just that bit too far behind, can keep up with it all is very doubtful. Especially, if the teams of lawyers etc. employed by the big firms are able to win at the margins and beyond them muddle the difference between avoidance and evasion.

For a government needing taxes to pay for all those election promises made in haste and sometimes in anger, it has become impossible to get this by the traditional tax structure. That means either austerity way beyond our present imaginations, or heavy taxation where it would be least popular.

Not just property of all types, but food, a major import, all those goods more or less critical to our functioning and comfort that flow in from global sources, vehicles, essentially anything that moves or is consumed in the UK. Almost back to the 1960's.

This would be very unpopular, the best thing a party could do if an election came along would be to finish up as the opposition. The one who had to form a government would need to scour their benches for sado-masochist politicians who would enjoy becoming the fall guys for the bad times to come.

The trouble is that when a country is in this kind of fix and democracy cannot deliver because it cannot raise the taxes in the way it wishes to, then populations tend to look for alternatives. We have been here before in the past and it all ended very badly. It is the story of too many states in recent centuries.

The word "Paradise" refers to those tax havens located in warm and welcoming places around the world, welcoming that is to those with money. For the locals and the poor it is not the case. Much of the money goes through the City of London.

Perhaps Paradise Gardens in Bethnal Green might be made an outpost of The City and include within the enclave Barnsley Street and Cudworth Street.

For the money men it would be essential to include the "Smarty Pants Dry Cleaners and Laundrette" on the Bethnal Green Road, see the picture above.

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Kicking Into Touch

William Shakespeare, as ever, has something to say on the subject of touch. When taking time off from his property investment and speculation in the City on gold prices as we know he put on plays at The Globe, much as the money men of today support the theatre. From the play "Troilus And Cressida", we have "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin".

This is not about sexual predation of the unpleasant groping and grabbing that occurs never mind the worse that can be done as some use this to exert their dominance over others. It is about ordinary touch and those for whom contact is a part of communication in the ordinary business of life.

The current scatter gun coverage of the issues of who might touch whom and to what effect is bringing out many and various joining in the publicity and coverage. One is the elderly celebrity, Michael Parkinson, late of Cudworth by Barnsley, Yorkshire now in retreat in Berkshire.

One of his characteristics was a hands on approach to the job. Who can forget the lean forward, the smile, the inflected Yorkshire accent and the "Eh up me duck" when with the lovelies who smiled, if only for the fees they earned for doing so. His grandfather, I believe, worked at a pit that had a major disaster.

He is not the only one. There is also Brian Blessed, born down the road from Parkie eighteen months later. His family has been at Hickleton Main, I knew a lady whose husband had been killed there. Brian is an actor who is known for his hands waving and going all over the place. Seeing him both on TV and on stage I have often muttered, "For the sake of Zeus, stop waving them about."

But they were not alone. If anything they were men of their time and place. It was not just men, it was women, it was people of all ages and it was a common feature of their lives. So why did some be like this and why was it so common among many groups of people?

The answer is simple. It wasn't sex, it was work. When the masses left school at 14 and before and went to the factories, mills and mines, it was in the same places as their parents and other members of the community. It was a very different world in structure and purpose.

Also, it was noisy, often very noisy. Literally, you could not hear yourself speak. To take Brian and Parkie, both from mining families, they will have known what the effect was as a consequence of working in the concentrated noise that occurred. What is was like in the past could only be imagined.

For those growing up in industrial areas, some places had noise, just about tolerable and allowing speech to be heard. Some were not. At one shoe machinery factory, most of the engineering was loud but manageable. But the tacking shed was a horror, the acoustic scrambled the brain never mind the ears.

The answer to the obvious difficulty in communication and gaining attention was touch and the movement of hands. People learned this at an early age, it was necessary to the job and inevitably carried into ordinary life and living. The workers touched because they needed to and were used to it.

In the offices and the professions, however, touching and hands were generally regarded as no go, do not, it is not proper or polite. In those classes and higher, you had to know the etiquette and the detail of that defined what touch, when and how between persons. Hands off was more or less the rule, unless etiquette required it. And very often you wore gloves.

In the 21st Century we have a different problem. Many have things now constantly plugged into their ears or have head phones tuned in to something or other. Also, many are now paying the price in hearing loss for the loudness thought essential to modern living. So we are back to hands on again, but touching is becoming a risk.

So if I want to attract your attention, it might have to be the shillelagh.

Monday 6 November 2017

1918 Scousers Invade Russia

This week we are expected to celebrate the revolting Russians of the year 1917.

This film by Eisenstein from 1929 was on BBC Four on Sunday. It is heavy going for near two hours and concerns the masses fighting for their liberty in 1917 urged on by men who had lived on benefits in London a few years earlier.

This from Hollywood in the same year I think appealed rather more to the masses than that of the Russian. It is also about Liberty and comes in at an economic twenty minutes.

I wonder which one the veterans of this force might have preferred? Especially, the Scousers of the 17th King's Liverpool Regiment?

It is known that King George V and particularly Queen Mary, opposed refuge for the family of the Tsar in 1917 in Britain, as well as the politicians being very nervous of the reactions. But why not in Cyprus or another part of the Empire? And yet British troops were sent to North Russia to support the White Army opposition to the Communists.

But the record of Tsar Nicholas II as an autocratic ruler was very bad and he was certainly a high security risk bearing in mind all the other refugees in London who had fled from his regime or been the victims of his pogroms.

Had refuge been granted, might Edward, Prince of Wales; the King who abdicated in 1936 because of his wish to have Wallis Simpson as his Queen, have married Olga, the Tsar's eldest daughter much earlier?

Imagine, a Buckingham Palace, Balmoral and Windsor Castle without the corgi dogs.