Wednesday 31 October 2018

Peterloo Revisited

There is a film by Mike Leigh, "Peterloo" one to mark the centenary of the disaster as St. Peter's Fields in Manchester in 1819 when a major political meeting/demonstration was confronted by military contingents and many deaths occurred. The figures given are not reliable probably omitting many later deaths from injuries.

My introduction to this was the film "Fame Is The Spur" of 1947 about a reformer whose family has a sword taken from a soldier in 1819 at the disaster and kept it to preserve the memory and the family tradition of political action. The reformer becomes a success in politics but loses his principles and the sword goes rusty.

King George III was a sick and dying man in his last year of life and in July 1819 the question of the alleged adultery of the Princess Caroline, spouse of the Prince Regent, later King George IV was commanding the attention of the Cabinet and London press. He had no successor.

There was a collection of Royal Dukes, none of whom had a successor, save one, the Duke of Kent, whose daughter, Victoria was born in May. Rumours that she was actually the child of the Duchess's footman were not supported by evidence.

1819 was a year in which one of the five worst financial crashes in the USA occurred, resulting in a collapse of the economy. It was also where an increasing proportion of the raw cotton of the Lancashire cotton industry came from. This crash had effects on the British and European markets, notably in serious shortages of specie, that is ready cash and difficulties in the credits of the City of London.

When we say shortages of money today it is remote from the reality of shortages of the early 19th Century. It means in a society that depended on specie (hard cash) for almost all its day to day transactions there was not enough to be had. Banks crashed and businesses failed to add to all the confusions.

Not that the government was idle, earlier in the year it has tried to address the problem, but it was too little, too late and failed to deal with the core problems. To quote Lord Addington, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Lord Liverpool Tory government.

The first resolution, namely, "That it is expedient to continue the restriction on payments in cash by the Bank of England beyond the time to which it is at present limited by law," was agreed to.

The second resolution, namely, "That it is expedient that a definite period should be fixed for the termination of the restriction on cash payments; and that preparatory measures should be taken, with a view to facilitate and ensure, on the arrival of that period, the payment of the promissory notes of the Bank of England in the legal coin of the realm," was agreed to.

The third resolution, namely, "That in order to give to the Bank a greater control over the issues of their notes than they at present possess, provision ought to be made for the gradual repayment to the Bank of the sum of 10,000,000l.; being part of the sum due to the Bank, on account of advances made by them for the public service, and on account of the purchase of exchequer-bills under the authority of acts of the legislature," was agreed to.

Upon the fourth resolution being read, namely "That it is expedient to provide, by law, that from the 1st of February, 1820, the Bank shall be liable to deliver, on demand, gold of standard fineness, having been assayed and stamped at his majesty's Mint, a quantity of not less than 60 ounces being required in exchange for such an amount of notes of the Bank as shall be equal to the value of the gold so required, at the rate of of 4l. 1s. per ounce." was agreed to.

Then there were the problems of Empire. In the Caribbean the abolition of the slave trade had upped the prices of slaves leading to heavy borrowing by the plantation owners who were running out of cash. This was both making a demand for more finance from The City and contributed to the specie shortage and added to risks.

In India, the East India Company was fighting on a number of fronts and had expanded north into Nepal. It was needing more cash and added to the demands for silver. The Royal Navy was busy carrying the many convicts transported to expand other colonies. More were needed so magistrates were expected to provide them as a necessary source of basic labour to cut the costs of expansion.

Lurking at the back of the minds of many of the upper classes and especially the King and Cabinet were the memories of the French Revolution that had begun only thirty years before and what had happened there in a France plagued with similar problems at the time.

When they looked at Hunt, Johnson and Saxton and their fellow reformers they saw the ghosts of Desmoulins, Robespierre and Danton of France and others. Among the extreme reformers there were some who might want to guillotine the upper classes. A question was that in France reform had led to Napoleon and there seemed to be no shortage of ambitious reformers who might follow his example.

The mass meeting at St. Peter's Fields was not the only one that year, there had been others earlier involving the same reformers and where trouble had occurred so when they came to Manchester the local magistrates, in the absence of any proper command structure, decided to attack.

Among the troops were the local Yeomanry, the Manchester and Salford, along with the Cheshire Yeomany who had experience earlier that year at a similar meeting at Chester. While we assume these to be simply local men of higher class, we do not know what experience many of them had during the wars that ended in 1815.

Of the regular army there was some artillery, a firing or two of grapeshot could break up most threats. There were two cavalry regiments, the 15th Hussars and the 23rd Dragoons who had been in Spain and at Waterloo. The 15th Hussars in particular had a noted record and took part in the famous charge.

Also there were two regiments of infantry, one the 31st, Huntingdonshire, which had been in Spain, but not at Waterloo. The one that sent a shiver down my back was the 88th, The Devil's Own, The Connaught Rangers. This regiment was one to be feared and astonishing it should be used for civil duties.

This is excessive for what is alleged to be a simple meeting, large perhaps, of ordinary people wanting reform and a say in elections and government. But what the government saw in the series of meetings around the Northern industrial areas was the formation of a large band of revolutionaries that might march on London and could not be stopped.

What they might have been singing is a question. Might it have been "Brighton Camp" that is "The Girl I Left Behind Me" or one of that era? All too likely in London the Prince Regent and Government might assume that it could be an English version of the "Marseillaise" or "Veillons au salut D'Empire".

Peterloo was a catalogue of mistakes, blunders and a panic reaction. How different from our democratic governments of today.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Budget Roundabout

In the post budget discussion about the extent of what is being given by the government to us all, allegedly, the usual suspects have been asking about where is it coming from.

Has May been growing magic trees in the enchanted garden at Chequers? Is Hammond obeying the Inland Revenue? I did wonder, but then a document including this dropped through the door and the answer is "of course".

Many of those who live in flats depend on a managing agent to do a lot of the jobs that have to be done and it is common to have staff on site to deal with this.

One part of this sector that has been growing in size and numbers is retirement developments which with the decline in the number of residential homes now have a high proportion of the very elderly and therefore disabled.

The document says:


HM Revenue & Customs have issued a briefing and information sheet which requires  Managing Agents to add Value Added Tax at the Standard Rate (20%) to the total employment costs (salary), employers National Insurance Contributions  (pension contributions) of on-site staff. This charge will apply with effect from 1 November 2018.

This instruction applies to all Managing Agents and the additional cost, which will be included within the service charge of all staffed developments, will be paid over to HM Revenue & Customs, there is no benefit to the Managing Agent.

The impact, will, quite simply, increase the salary costs with the service charge account by 20%. Whilst we will not make any changes to the budget for the current service charge, there is likely to be an overspend in areas of the budget that include employed on-site staff, any resultant overall overspend will be recoverable when the accounts for the year are finalised.

We will, in the meantime, continue to monitor the situation in case the ruling is challenged.


In the Budget I do not recall seeing any mention of this or the doubtless many other administrative alterations, updates and revisions which will be in train from one part of government or another.

How typical it is for our government to promise extra for those in need and then to find the money from out of their pockets.

It may be a roundabout, but it ain't magic.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Wandering Hain Trouble

The current dispute between a shopkeeper who has done very well and a professional politician of the Left has grabbed the headlines. The shopkeeper is alleged to have let his emotions rule on occasions in the past with ladies.

Now he prefers it to be a private matter. The politician does not agree and insists that it be public. I can hardly wait for someone to come up with errors of judgement in the politicians past.

The shopkeeper has been given a knighthood for giving money away and the politician wants it taken away from him. The politician is now a peer in the House of Lords for giving away vast amounts of taxpayers money to people who agree with him.

Florrie Forde a wonderful singer from the past says it all.

Now back to the sports pages.

Friday 26 October 2018

Looking To The Past

A document unearthed recently by archaeologists from a building site near Kings Cross, evidently a place of ritual, has been translated. It is a public declaration by an official called “Custodian” and is dated to the beginning of 410 AD in modern form.

“ After due examination of the entrails of several beasts and offerings to the great and good amongst our gods and officials we can confidently state that there is to be a new beginning to our future, quite unlike the beginnings of the past, which will lead to a recovery in our affairs to reinstate what we have lost forever and no longer need.

The reductions in our defence budget and planned future deployment of more of our legionaries to the furthest corners of the Empire to secure our borders against the Persians, Goths, Vandals, Dacians and others will enable us to concentrate our efforts on our own internal security.

This will be achieved by the empowerment of local officials in liaison with groups of the auxiliary forces in consultation with local interests. We are sure that the high level of mutual interests will lead to the political stabilisation of the Atlantic Isles for another four hundred years at least.

This will be enabled by the wise foresight of the control of the mints. The progressive reduction of the silver content of the coinage will continue to help increase the amount of money to further trade and critically the great work being undertaken by the money changers and lenders.

It is to them and their central role in the getting and spending of money and trade that we look to provide a continuing rise in our prosperity.
The reduction in the amount of gold we hold to assist the Empire in paying dues to the peacemakers on our eastern borders has been of great benefit and the continuing reduction will free us from concerns from this quarter.

Our policy of increasing the amount of protective fortification of the dwellings of our patrician class and local tribal leaders together with the concentration of trading in designated walled centres has helped our internal security and protected our vital interests.

The continuing troubles among the plebeians and the other classes dependent on free grain doles will be addressed by firmer laws and wider powers being granted to lower officials and others to allow them to act without reference to the usual procedures. We have no doubt that the best way of dealing with the problem is to extract promises from the disaffected elements and to then release them to adjust to their communities in accordance with their lifestyle.

Community spirit will be maintained and improved by the provision of extra games and pursuits. Necessarily some of these will be violent amusements and others giving insights into the baser instincts and conduct of ordinary people. This is part of our lifestyle and we must learn to tolerate and welcome this as a staple of social intercourse.

In administration the greater influence and authority of Aquisgranum the city serving the interests of the Belgae, the Germanians and the Gauls is to be welcomed giving the Atlantic Isles a more central pivot to refer to for policy and trade.

Similarly the transplantation of local tribal peoples, the Scotti, from the territories of south eastern Britannia around Camulodunum and Venta Icenorum to the furthest north can only be of benefit to all concerned. We are sure they will be welcomed by the Picts and the remnants of earlier peoples who went north in past times.

The Empires greatest achievement is in creating a diversity of peoples and beliefs.  The steady flow of the skilled and able workforces from the lands around the Rhine and its northern and eastern neighbours we are sure will be augmented by more of these law abiding and peaceful tribes bringing with them their inclusive and benign gods.

Moreover increased trade and contact with the horsed tribes far to the east has opened other wonderful opportunities.  The Empire has little to fear from them. There are other groups with other gods, including some who believe only in a single god.

While the great majority of these are meek, submissive and helpful in their beliefs there are small number of extremists who give concern and who are both reluctant and unwilling to respect other gods and practices.

Some have taken down bridges to make their places of worship and only allow marriage and child bearing within the terms of their own laws.  More worrying is the lack of diversity in their relationships with others and secretive internal dealings. Nevertheless they are important to the Empire as a valuable source of slaves for the galleys and mines.

There are other issues for the Empire to deal with in the coming decade.  The deforestation of much of the Isles is leading to difficulties in sourcing fuel and building materials. Also the more fertile soils of the lowlands are no longer giving the yields that they once did which means that the Province is failing to meet its revenue and export targets.

The lack of maintenance of water facilities has led to breakdowns in some urban communities that are difficult to rectify.  The calls on the legions have removed not only soldiers but the water engineers who have kept the systems running in the past.

Nevertheless the future is bright and the Empire has guaranteed that more coins will soon be had that although different will mean that the chariots and pack mules will soon be as busy as before.

Morituri te salutant!”

How different it all seems from our modern world.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Refer What?

For those who have seen the Disney films of old, there are times when all this talk of Referendums past and those to come brings to mind that the dum in Referendum comes close to that of Dumbo, the flying elephant.

This short trailer at one minute and forty seconds makes as much sense as anything in the context of our modern politics and government, although Dumbo might say poliment and governtics.

Circus is a simpler way of putting it.

Monday 22 October 2018

Glory Days

The Madrid Opera have done the Benjamin Britten opera "Gloriana", shown on Sky Arts, about Queen Elizabeth I and her affair with the Earl of Essex which went badly wrong. Whether this is to signal that Spain is part of Europe and so should we be or that they think the sooner they are rid of the Brit's the better is an open question.

It was Elizabeth One who did for the Spanish Armada in 1588. The first night of "Gloriana" in 1953 at Covent Garden also went wrong. This work is "not a lot of laughs" and was first performed on 8th June 1953 at Covent Garden as one of the major items around the Coronation of 2nd June of Elizabeth Two.

E Two is not an opera fan, although duty sometimes calls, but "Gloriana" is serious and heavy and a long sit. She was not best pleased, it had been a busy week. Neither was the audience of aristocrats who barely applauded.

The BBC at the time was telling us all that we should all join in with the various celebrations. But when we switched the wireless (!!!) on we lasted about twenty minutes and then it was off to the pub for a couple of stiff black and tans to restore the nerve endings.

What E One and E Two shared was the passion for hunting. But E One with a fine hunting lodge at Chingford was untroubled by peasants moaning about the damage to crops and the death of wild life and E Two and her family have had to stick to gentle rides in the park and none of this chasing foxes and stags, jumping, following the hounds and banging away with noisy guns at birds.

There is a lot of music about hunting but an evening of Tally Ho was perhaps lese-majeste. What is a puzzle is why Britten was chosen to do something for The Coronation, or indeed why have an opera at all. But after the death of King George VI in February 1952, it was decided to show the world that Britain was still Great, up to a point, and that a big buster Coronation was the way to show it.

Typically, it meant fifteen months to organise something that might have been done simply in days, or with a more ceremonial in three to four months. As ever the bungling had a great deal to do with politics. The Tories with their narrow majority wanted a big bang patriotic show piece of everything firstly as a reason to keep them in power and secondly to be part of the run in to the next election. The Department of Bright Ideas ruled supreme.

There could have been a evening aligning the music of the age of E One with that of E Two which would have been much easier on the ear and without the anguish. William Walton was around and might have been a good choice but he was embroiled in trying to finish his "Troilus And Cressida", which did not suit.

One of the composers of that era was William Wordsworth, who we now hear little of but whose style and interests would have fitted the bill a great deal better. But he was not "modern" and Scottish and may have been inclined to have little sympathy with the world of E One if this part was needed.

Britten, following his major success "Peter Grimes" (also not a lot of laughs) and other works may have seemed the obvious choice. "Albert Herring", "The Little Sweep" and "Billy Budd" had also been written and he could clearly come up with a score etc. in the time.

What was not seen in his works was the dark world inherent in the stories which emerged in "Gloriana". Also, that it was based on the text of a play by Lytton Strachey should have put up the warning signs. If that then it was going to be a serious evening.

If it was to be fun, then it might have been better to go back to Shakespeare in the form of Verdi's opera "Falstaff". But we were supposed to be on a Great Britain roll. Stanley Matthews had just won his FA Cup Winners medal, Gordon Richards had ridden a winner in The Derby and so on.

A few days after the Coronation, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill had a major stroke from which he never fully recovered. Anthony Eden had the reins of power in his hands and was determined to show the world that Britain mattered.

So in 1956 we had the Suez Crisis which showed it was all over. Perhaps Britten was more right than wrong.

Friday 19 October 2018

The Ownership Of Mankind

There is a great deal being argued on the subject of the history of the slave trade, largely in the limited context of the British involvement of between 1603 and 1833. It is said that in the schools the subject should be taught usually meaning only that small part.

Since Homo Sapiens, that is us, began to increase in numbers and occupy the various territories of the Earth; at some stage this began to entail warfare, claims to owning land and rivalries. In turn came social stratification and changing systems of rule and the way people related to people.

The consequence was that the ownership, servility and oppression of mankind came to take many forms. They might be distinctive but represent layers of domination that often arise from force but also from the structure of society, its economic foundations and related belief systems in religion and law.

The existence of one form does not exclude others and there is the contingent risk of lower level forms becoming more servile as a result of events, policy or radical change. Below is a summary of forms of control or ownership of humans by humans.


Persons are taken, used at the decision of owners or their representatives, bought and sold and counted as assets. In slave based societies some levels of work at high levels might have slaves, for example Greece and Rome. Very many societies in history have been slave based.

Contract Labour Slavery

Persons forced or induced to enter contracts that entail loss of personal freedom and decision. They might expect to be able to fulfil the contract but the nature of payment means this may be cancelled by charges and failure by the contractors to observe their part which then entails forced labour which cannot be escaped. In the 19th and 20th Centuries this form became common after the abolition of full slavery.

Debt Slavery

Debt slavery may result from Contract Slavery but there are many ways where a person may take on debt at levels greater than they can afford. In particular, the charges and rates of interest may be at levels, little understood, which mean it is impossible to repay. It exists in modern times.

Social obligation and standing.

This might be family, inherited and in the forms of bound labour or laws of land holding and requirements. The terms of bound labour may in effect amount to a condition of slavery, for example when a whole family is bound.


Persons captured in conflict or interned politically and used as slave or forced labour.


Societal, such as feudal, picture above, or similar systems, or the precepts of religious faith. Also, there can be structural in business or trade, for example some types of apprenticeship, job requirements etc.


Governments may enact laws or put in place organisations that require types of servility of those affected or employed that take various forms.


Localisation, servants, unintended consequences and lapsed political or social systems or absence of the rule of law.


Demand exceeds supply.


We can only theorize as to how and where any began. Over the whole of known history one form or another can be found. It exists today and the question is will any of these forms of stratification become greater or less.

Thursday 18 October 2018

Drying Tonight

Very often I am on the web to find things to cheer me up and to look forward to happier things. Especially, advances in science etc. that are to the benefit of us all.

Then I read this in Science Daily. So today is Mr. Glum day and I wonder whether to amend the grocery order to include large quantities of bottled water.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Arresting Story

When you helped a few friends do that wages security van job back in the 90's you were unhappy that they coshed the carriers and did a lot of damage, but it did get you the car of your dreams.

You forgot to wear your gloves, but your fingerprints etc. were not on file and the couple of things you left behind would not be traced. So you were in the clear and the police would never find you and your mates would never rat on you.

But the police, mindful of the physical force used as well as other things kept the items in a box. Time and science have moved on. The things that were incidental had parts which have yielded your DNA but then the police could not trace this.

But the game is up according to Science Daily, in that the near cousin who is a family history and ancestry fan had her DNA done hoping to prove wonders way back in time among her family.

The trouble is that while she may not have Queen Victoria in the family  she has proved that the DNA you left behind was good enough to lead the coppers to your door.

Time for family historians may be an ever rolling stream, but you will soon be doing time for something you thought was forgotten.

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Remembrance And Poppies

There are misinformed people who think that the Poppy of Armistice Day glorifies war. A little knowledge and a few minutes search would tell them it does not and is a way of acknowledging the horrors of World War One and other wars since.

The poppy is to remind us of those we knew and lost especially when the remains were never found. They are taken from the sight of many of the battlefields where in the ruins that were left, they were among the first plants to appear giving rise to fields of the fallen that became fields of poppies.

I knew people from World War One who understood that meaning among them my grandfather who became a stretcher bearer on the front line. I have the poppy for him, his comrades and all those who did not return. Also, for those I knew personally in World War Two who were lost and the many others.

On Remembrance Day 1955 I paraded with the 7th Armoured Division in Germany. During World War Two, the Division, created in 1942 and in action to May 1945, was remanned four times. So some fifty thousand plus had been in a formation of some 15,000 in strength.

We were just along the road from where the Belsen-Bergen camp had been and poppies were there as well.

Monday 15 October 2018

Learning From Disasters

One of the worst events of Empire was the Amritsar Massacre of April 1919, see Wikipedia, which ever since has been a subject of angry debate and a matter for which the Raj and the British Government of the time was responsible.

As I was born rather later, my parents were not yet teenagers and none of my grandparents nor their parents never went anywhere near India, why I should be carrying the can I do not know.

Which brings me to Colonel Reginald Dyer, the literally dyspeptic acting Brigadier General who was in charge of the troops. He had been an soldier for thirty years with a long record of active service. During the First World War he was in one of the forgotten sectors, the borders of Persia, where bitter battles were fought between the tribes and peoples.

In the spring of 1919 the British Army was still running down its troop levels in the Occupying Force in Germany as well as having had the Murmansk Expedition to Russia to support the White's against the Reds. At home there had been the Spanish Flu epidemic and the economy was in the throes of post war change.

In the UK the Coalition Government elected in November 1918 were still struggling to make decisions of any kind leaving India to The Raj. The Labour Party, now a large number in Parliament, were more concerned with Russia and the impending centenary of Peterloo and its meaning for electoral reasons.

Those ruling The Raj believed that the Empire was on the brink of collapse, so when trouble begins around Amritsar etc. they send for Dyer to deal with it. He proved to be the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. They needed a diplomat and negotiator and sent in a warrior, with his own problems.

One was his personal situation. The end of war meant contraction of the armed forces and with it the officer class facing not a reliable career of promotions and service bringing notice and honours but years of routine garrison duty and paper pushing without much, if any, promotion.

The secret, perhaps not so secret, was that Dyer, whatever his record in combat etc. was not officer class and therefore going to be off the lists for the positions of highest status. His father had been a brewer who did well after being sent to India around 1860, the period of the Mutiny and the reprisals, when there were a lot of thirsty troops in action.

His parents were of London skilled working class origin and had married in Islington, the home of his mother's family. This district is now  the centre of a socialism determined to wipe out private enterprise.

How ironic that so many of our  private and smaller enterprises have been created and run by those from the Sub Continent.

Saturday 13 October 2018

Living On Credit

When a politician finds him/her self appointed to high office what they might most dread is that in the first meetings with his senior civil servants and advisers etc. after the initial chattering there is a cough from somebody and then, almost off hand, the words, "Something must be done about........".

When they have finished the others seem to be looking out of the window, checking their diaries or staring at the ceiling. The Minister knows what this means. First, there is a disaster area in the Department's functions. Secondly, it has been going on for too long. Thirdly the express train will soon hit the buffers. Fourthly, this was known to his predecessors all of whom chickened out of doing anything.

Which brings me to Universal Credit which now has the media in full cry because the Government ran out of time and space with the old systems of benefits and finally had to do something, anything to begin to sort out the old mess while having a new mess to begin with in the initial stages of any, repeat any, new system devised.

This time round there are differences from the longer past. One is information. The net now can give anyone immediate access to several providers of basic information, sometimes advice and at least an idea of what their personal situation might be.

What is not being discussed so much is that in the past the providing agencies had limited sources for their information on benefits. Today, the net etc. enables wider and deeper searches to be made and basic information checked as well as other things.

As it is very political and large numbers of voters are affected, we can expect all the usual posturing, fibbing, misinformation and allegations that come with any change. This is for the usual reason and an unwelcome one.

When change occurs, unless vast amounts of money are thrown at it regardless of form or function, then there will be winners and losers. Probably, many of the winners will think that they should be among the better winners while the losers will take it very badly.

In short it is a vote loser. When there is a government floundering already in other areas of action and policy, for example Europe, royal marriages, sports provision, transport and health then it adds to the complications.

This one is going to run and run and nobody is going to catch up because just about the entire population believes it ought to benefit from government spending and that the others must be made to pay for it.

But we do not have enough "others" and importing them may create new takers. This is not going to get any better, and I shall claim credit for predicting it will be worse.

Friday 12 October 2018

Good And Bad Taste

Long ago when the world was a bit younger I arrived in 1950's London to improve my situation in life and other things. Among the discoveries I made was a place where the utmost delights of life were to be had as well as increasing the need for dental treatments.

It was on Old Compton Street in London and a cake shop beyond the imaginations of people who had not long before had rationing to think of let alone the limited diets and old recipe's of either home cooking or the basic offerings of local bakers etc.

It was Patisserie Valerie, see the Wikipedia page for the history, and for decades afterwards was on the short short list of places to go to when any London visit was made, or even crossing in transit. Then Thatcherism struck at my vitals in 1987. It was taken over and became one of a small chain in central London.

Near twenty years later in 2006 and under Blair and Brown another takeover turned it from a small specialist business with a niche market to a brand name with many branches and part of a major financial operation. You might even find the brand in some supermarkets.

Now, to coin a culinary saying, it has gone down the pan. The markets value the whole business at £450 million, presumably property, and there is £20 million worth of chocolate money dressing missing in the accounts. From sweet to sour with an unknown future and publicity that will scare off customers the end could be in sight.

The story of our World and of the Britain of today can be seen in what has happened. Behind it all lurks the menace and threat of the EU and Brussels. All that is good must go and finance must rule.

And Madame Valerie was a Belgian who sought to make England a tastier place to be.

It Stinks

I think I am getting confused:

Scientists investigate how DEET confuses countless critters
Date: September 26, 2018
Source: Rockefeller University


DEET, a chemical in bug sprays, affects the behavior of highly diverse organisms -- but how it works remains unclear. New research in C. elegans shows that the compound exploits unique receptors and neurons to interfere with the animals' response to odors.


DEET, thought to be the most effective insect repellent available, may not be an insect repellent at all.

It's not that DEET doesn't keep away critters -- it verifiably does. However, Leslie B. Vosshall, Rockefeller's Robin Chemers Neustein Professor, has shown that DEET acts not by repelling bugs, but rather by confusing them, messing with neurons that help the animals smell their surroundings. Moreover, the effects of DEET are not limited to insects: spiders, ticks, and many other pests also act strangely in the chemical's presence.

In this sense, DEET may be less of an insect repellent and more of an invertebrate confusant. The term doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but new research from the Vosshall lab supports this rebranding of the chemical.

In a recent paper, published in Nature, Vosshall and former graduate fellow Emily Dennis show that, like insects, the nematode C. elegans succumbs to confusion when DEET is around. The team also describes the genetic and cellular mechanisms underlying this response, shedding light on how a single chemical might confound the senses of vastly different species.

All in the DEET-ails

First developed in the 1940s, DEET can be found in most bug sprays used today. Research has shown that, in flies and mosquitoes, the chemical works by interacting with odor receptors that are unique to insects. This research, however, cannot explain how DEET exerts its effect on non-insect species.

Seeking an explanation, Dennis and Vosshall teamed up with Cori Bargmann, Rockefeller's Torsten N. Wiesel Professor, to examine whether and how DEET changes the behavior of the roundworm C. elegans, a relatively simple animal with an elaborate sense of smell. When the researchers presented the tiny worms with samples of DEET alone, the animals didn't go out of their way to avoid the chemical, indicating that DEET doesn't simply repel every organism that crosses its path.

The scientists then mixed small amounts of DEET into agar, the gel-like substance that C. elegans crawl on in Petri dishes. The presence of DEET limited the worms' movement toward isoamyl alcohol, a chemical that usually attracts them; it also reduced their avoidance of 2-nonanone, a compound that they typically dodge. Still, the worms reacted normally to some other chemicals. These findings suggest that DEET can interfere with responses to both "good" and "bad" smells, but that it does not entirely shut down olfaction.

The researchers also found that the worms' DEET sensitivity depends on a gene called str-217, which is expressed in neurons called ADL cells. When the researchers artificially activated these neurons, the worms paused in place -- a behavior also observed among C. elegans navigating DEET-infused agar. Together, these results indicate that the chemical works, in part, by turning on neurons that induce pausing.

"Somehow activating ADL puts the worms into a frame of mind where they're more introspective, they're pausing more, they're not paying as much attention to odors," says Vosshall. "But if you take away the right gene or neuron, this spell is broken."

Indeed, the researchers showed that worms lacking either str-217or ADL neurons are less affected by DEET. They conclude that str-217 likely codes for a DEET receptor, and that ADL cells play an important role in mediating response to the chemical.

A special chemical

The Vosshall lab previously demonstrated that DEET keeps mosquitoes away by interacting with odor receptors in a way that confuses the animals' sense of smell. This latest study shows that DEET causes similar confusion in C. elegans, but through entirely different mechanisms.

"We went into this study thinking perhaps we'd find some magical conserved DEET receptor common to all species," says Dennis. "But we found that, in C. elegans, a completely unique gene is required for DEET response."

Though the study did not lead to the discovery of a magical receptor, it nonetheless provides insight into the chemical's effectiveness across highly diverse species.

"The one common theme in all of these organisms is that DEET is doing something to affect odor perception -- it's like sensory system sabotage," says Vosshall.

Dennis adds: "Something about DEET is really special. And I think we're just starting to uncover all the ways that it can affect different neurons, receptors, and species.

"Story Source: Materials provided by Rockefeller University.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Counting Out The Past

This one goes back to 2003 and used in 2005 titled "Forty Years On When Afar And Asunder". It is now fifteen years old and still relevant. It says:

“Parted are those who are singing today. When we look back and forgetfully wonder what we were like in our work and our play.”  Forty years ago, local government was reformed by the 1972 Act, the new system was installed on 1 April 1974 and by 1976 the UK was broke and in hock to the IMF. Probably you need to be something over 60 to recall the scale of the mess we were in and how we got there.

The words are taken from the Harrow School song, Sir Winston Churchill would have known it, but by 1974 his Great Britain had gone never to return. Now in 2012 the United Kingdom that replaced it is going and also will never return. The details of the mess we are in now and those in 1974 differ but the principles apply.

When the new authorities took over many found that the former authorities had run down the general financial reserves, sometimes leaving nothing. At the same time often repairs and maintenance had been cut to release money for new vote winning schemes and popularity for some local politicians.

In particular buildings and road maintenance reserves had gone, again to all sorts of projects often designed on a have it now pay later basis.  Promises had been made to many staff and salary and pension rights ramped up before vesting day. The accounts were faked or forgotten or lost.

One feature was that before reorganisation there had been serious imbalances in rating values from one area to another and in types of building. When this was rationalised a lot who had enjoyed cheap rates were being hit. What was worse was that the high inflation of the period meant that everyone paid more in cash, despite some gaining in real terms, but they did not see it that way.

Edward Heath, the then Conservative Prime Minister made the mistake of trying to take on the miner’s in the middle of it and then calling a snap election early in 1974. He lost and Labour under Harold Wilson took control, conveniently blaming the Conservatives for the mess that was revealed in local government.

On 15 March 1974, John Poulson, architect extraordinary was jailed for fraud and corruption. He was active in a number of the old local authorities with the paradox being that a high proportion of them were Labour held mining communities. Had Heath waited it might have been different, but as Poulson buttered up a few Conservative ministers perhaps not.

Reginald Maudling, Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, who left The Treasury in a mess was associated with him.  His wife wanted to make East Grinstead the ballet centre of the world. It was trying to help out this expensive project that may have been the straw that broke the back of Poulson’s companies.

As I remarked at the time “It was all tutu expensive”. But nobody laughed, but it was in a meeting attended by Labour councillors former friends of Poulson. That some had been given fun times in London with ladies for hire was giving them cause for concern, especially if the wives found out.

Harold Wilson and Jeremy Thorpe, an Old Etonian and the then Liberal leader did a deal in 1974 and Labour took power. Look up Jeremy in Wikipedia for another grim tale. Looking back I wonder now whether Harold Wilson had already begun his decline into dementia by 1974 and came to realise it in 1976 when he resigned.

Then as now there were many changes under way which we neither recognised nor understood. Even the few that did realise that some things were changing irrevocably misjudged the scale and potential impact.

North Sea Oil was on its way, sea transport by container was transforming trade, major companies, such as Rolls Royce had gone to the wall. The railways were facing the loss of most of the freight traffic.

Cheaper holidays were transforming travel and tourism. The old basic industries of the economy were becoming neither basic nor economic and the subsidies handed out were not working.

Also, we had been led into the European Economic Community on false promises and a pack of lies. To do this we ditched the Commonwealth and imagined that Europe could replace the faster developing markets of the rest of the world.

Forty years on and the world is turning again. Just as nobody can go back to the 1970’s now nobody can go back to 2005.

And now in 2018 it is almost that we cannot go back to 2015.