Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Three boys aged about 17 came to the next table. Casually dressed & a bit noisy, but it was soon evident that they were what in my youth would have been called grammar school boys
One had bought some kind of small electronic gizmo in the usual impenetrable packaging. Wait for so-and-so, said one. He has a knife
So-and-so arrived. When asked, reached into the calf pocket of his combats & produced a penknife
That’s a bit estate, isn’t it? said one of his friends
The knife was just like the one I used to carry, when in Girl Guide uniform, hanging from a special hook on the belt. His was even quite venerable looking – might have been passed down by one of his grandparents
I wonder if he is still carrying it now, risking arrest if he gets caught by the increased police search activity
It is not the first time we have had a panic about young men & knives. I remember a great to-do about flick knives in the 50s. And wasn’t Brighton Rock about knife gangs?
This panic has been building for a long time. A few high-profile incidents. More than one article by anxious London-based columnists, wondering how to tread the line between mithering molly-coddling maternal concern & raising a confident, street-wise hero son
I have recently been wondering what kind of knives are being used these days – something the press reports seem strangely silent about. Sir Ian Blair gave the answer yesterday. Kitchen knives
This just illustrates how the carrying of a knife can not be an absolute offence. Even I sometimes carry a craft knife or Swiss Army knife in my bag
And it cannot be yet another If you look as if you might be under 21 offence
However it seems pretty clear that boys themselves will be profoundly grateful if grown ups really can sort this one out
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The OED defines lyric as "Of or pertaining to the lyre, meant to be sung." It also quotes Ruskins maxim: "Lyric poetry is the expression by the poet of his own feelings"
Compare, with reference to these diverse senses of lyric,
Sir Walter Raleighs 'As You Came from the Holy Land'
with 1 or 2 out of:
'Love is a Losing Game' – Amy Winehouse & Mark Ronson
'Fine & Mellow' – Billie Holiday
'Boots of Spanish Leather' – Bob Dylan
Copies of all 4 lyrics were provided for the examinees
This strikes me as a brilliant question – unexpected but patently fair. One which would really sort out the A*s from the As
And if it is the behaviour of Ms Winehouse which prompted the outcry, it is as well to remember that Raleigh himself was a celebrity showboat (putting his cloak over a puddle in front of the Queen) & turned England into a nation of drug addicts (nicotine)
Among the questions which were once used as in introduction to the intricacies of establishing the size of the population of local areas was: Do the boys of Eton count as part of the population of Eton & Slough? Or should they be counted as members of the family household, wherever that may be?
In one sense, they should be counted both ways of course, depending on your purpose. But we have to have some discipline & consistency, one agreed national population figure. It was partly for this reason that Winston Churchill established the Central Statistical Office, to stop tedious time-wasting arguing figures in Cabinet
The question of who counts as part of the population of England used to be relatively unproblematic, compared with local authorities. But with globalisation, EU rules, cheap flights, tax breaks for non-doms etc etc …
The nation state itself has become fuzzier round the edges
The terrifying opening: About suffering they were never wrong, puts me in mind of two World Wars & the holocaust
I always think of Breughels as humorous paintings. Heart-warming. The cheerful ignoral of Icarus plunge is comic
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on
The story of Icarus, at primary school, introduced me to the sin of pride, the importance of not thinking yourself a cut above the others, & the sins of pushy parents. No sympathy, just just deserts
So in truth I find the two parts of the poem do not really fit together
But perhaps that was Audens point
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The Times is really getting good with its pictures these days
The two I have picked as illustrations both come, as it happens, from the Business pages
I am a sucker for the stark geometric beauty of the man-made industrial landscape credited to Alamy
We have seen many heartbreaking & terrifying pictures from the Sichuan earthquake. This pained & puzzled pig (credited to Nicky Lom/Reuters) may be the one which sticks in my memory
I have 2 beefs with The Times & its picture policy:
I have no idea of the name of the picture editor
Save for the news pages, they are very bad at, remiss about, picture credits
It is hard to work out which bit of a forecast on national radio applies to us. You listen to a 2-3 minute explanation, trying to concentrate all the way through because there is no standard order. Try to remember the geographical areas mentioned, then try to work it out
Are we Northern England, the Midlands, The North West or just Elsewhere today?
A similar confusion about electoral geography jogged my memory
In a fascinating comparison of the Mid Staffs by election of 1990 & the recent one in Crewe & Nantwich, Tim Hames managed to place Crewe in northern England & Mid Staffs in Middle England
Well psychically, socially, demographically & politically these may be valid descriptions
Physically & geographically they are next door neighbours
Related post: Regional government & the choice of supermarket
If we rely only on Pride and Prejudice we might come to the conclusion that Jane Austen, not altogether unusually for a young woman, had little time or sympathy for the older woman.
Mrs Bennet, Mrs Phillips, Lady Lucas and Lady Catherine are far from sympathetic characters and are very unsympathetically treated. Of course Jane Austen was only 20 when she began this novel, not far from the age at which the young generally consider the middle-aged to be an embarrassment.
I shall consider the heroines mother first. In this I am following Jane Austens example since in all three novels the mother is introduced on page 1 and in two of them mother is introduced before daughter. And when we consider all three mothers we see that Jane Austen does not always have such an unforgiving view of the older woman as appears from Pride and Prejudice alone.
The business of MRS BENNETs life was to get her five daughters married; and since their social circle in a small country town was limited, and there was real necessity to marry off her daughters because of the entail on their fathers estate, we might start with some sympathy for her.
Such sympathy is however difficult to maintain in light of her continuing vulgar and insensitive behaviour and of the authors refusal to give her sympathetic treatment.
She is quite mercilessly shown as too self-absorbed to realise when her long-suffering but ineffectual husband of twenty-three years is teasing her; too vain and shallow to grow old gracefully and protect her youngest daughters from chasing injudiciously after the officers, (whose scarlet coats she still dreams she is herself young and pretty enough to chase and be chased by); too mean spirited not to wish a patently unpleasant husband on to her least favourite daughter; and too stupid to realise that her transparent plots to throw her eldest daughter at the eligible Mr Bingley could backfire and even endanger her daughters health.
Even her failure to conceive again after the birth of a fifth daughter is treated almost as proof of silliness.
In short "a woman of mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper". Not even the achievement of two good marriages for her eldest daughters could "make her sensible, amiable, well-informed .. for the rest of her life .... she was still occasionally nervous and invariably silly"
In contrast the second MRS HENRY DASHWOOD was the good hearted mother of three cheerful daughters who was much loved by her husband; she coped with fortitude with his relatively early death and her unexpectedly reduced circumstances, albeit that her fortitude was sustained by a certain romanticism and an unrealistic attitude to the need for economy.
She was moreover, unlike Mrs Bennet, open to advice from cooler more sensible heads such as that of her eldest daughter, and was thus restrained from an impetuous break with her stepson. Jane Austen also treats Mrs Dashwood with more generosity than Mrs Bennet, in allowing that it is not too late for her to learn how to govern her strong feelings. In the meantime she, like her middle daughter Marianne, is "everything but prudent."
Nor does she escape the authors censure when she is careless over Marianne and Willoughby's behaviour and reluctant to tackle them about it; "common sense, common care, common prudence were all sunk in Mrs Dashwoods romantic delicacy."
In the end Mrs Dashwood does recognise that her own poor judgement had helped endanger her daughter's life, spends her time after Elinor's marriage "acting on motives of policy as well as pleasure" to bring Marianne and Colonel Brandon together and ultimately is prudent enough, when her aim is achieved, to stay at the cottage rather than move to Delaford, thus staying tactfully out of her daughters married lives
MRS MORLAND, mother of ten, wife of a comfortable but by no means rich west country parson was a woman of "useful plain sense, with a good temper and ..... a good constitution."
She has an intensely practical turn of mind and either ignores or is unaware of her 17 year old daughters romantic longings and imaginings. This causes her to issue only mundane warnings about wrapping up, keeping warm and keeping accounts when her daughter embarks on her first independent adventure in the dangerous waters of Bath.
She is equally calm and down to earth when Catherine returns so ignominiously from Northanger Abbey:
I am glad I did not know of your journey at the time; but now it is all over perhaps there is no great harm done. it is always good for young people to be put upon exerting themselves; and you know, my dear Catherine, you always were a sad little shatter-brained creature; but now you must have been forced to have your wits about you, with so much changing of chaises and so forth; and I hope it will appear that you have not left anything behind you in any of the pockets
Nevertheless she, like all three mothers, does seem a little too careless about her daughters love life, given the age they lived in. And her husband was equally careless. "They never once thought of her heart, which, for the parents of a young lady of seventeen, just returned from her first excursion from home, was odd enough! "
This treatment of the Morlands as quite naturally a team in the upbringing of their children is typical of them. We are not told whether Mr Morland, like Mr Bennet had married slightly beneath him, for we are told nothing of Mrs Morlands background and fortune, but their family life is certainly a contrast to the Bennets.
We get to see other mothers coping with unmarried daughters in LADY LUCAS AND MRS THORPE. Both are sharply, even unkindly, portrayed by the author.
LADY LUCAS is "a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbour to Mrs Bennet"; a bit lackadaisical but sharp enough "to calculate with more interest than the matter had ever excited before how many years longer Mr Bennet was likely to live" once her daughter married Mr Collins; and who "could not be insensible of triumph on being able to retort on Mrs Bennet the comfort of having a daughter well-married; and she called at Longbourn rather oftener than usual to say how happy she was, though Mrs Bennet’s sour looks and ill-natured remarks might have been enough to drive happiness away".
We hear very little more of Lady Lucas; she does not accompany her husband and second daughter on their visit to the Collinses (perhaps because she had to stay at home to look after an unspecified number of smaller children) but she does take the earliest opportunity to enquire "across the table after the welfare and poultry of her eldest daughter”. Mrs Bennet also refers to Lady Lucas' sharp household management, reflecting her struggle with a reduced income after her husband so rashly retired on his receipt of a knighthood
MRS THORPE is a lawyer's widow who has 3 sons and 3 daughters to settle in life and no great fortune. We are told that she is gossipy but does not listen to her friend Mrs Allen's gossip in return, that she is over-indulgent as a mother and lacks the clear eye to see her children’s shortcomings. However she disappears abruptly in the middle of the novel so we never get to hear how she copes with the disappointment of her son's failure to get engaged to Catherine Morland or her eldest daughter’s loss of two eligible suitors
LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH is another mother with a daughter to get off her hands. She is also much the grandest older woman we meet in these early novels - daughter of an earl, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, sister of the late Lady Anne Darcy and in possession of some fortune.
None of this is enough to keep her from being totally unhinged.
In the earlier chapters this derangement is partly hidden by Mr Collins obsequiousness towards his patron. All is revealed however when Lady Catherine descends on the Bennets to confront Elizabeth and order her to deny a non-existent engagement to Darcy while asserting his equally non-existent engagement to her daughter.
I can only assume that this derangement is caused by sadness at not having more children and anxiety about who but a cousin would marry and be kind to her sickly daughter.
That a reconciliation with Darcy is eventually arranged "by Elizabeth’s persuasion” shows that this 20-year old heroine of a 20-year old authoress is just too good to be true.
MRS FERRARS was another mother who held the purse strings. She was the widow of a man who died very rich, and had already seen her only daughter married to a man (John Dashwood) who was at least very comfortably off. She was equally concerned that her two sons should marry wives of suitable fortune and was also ambitious for them to achieve worldly success, preferably in politics.
She too is described with sarcasm and without any generosity as "a little thin woman upright, even to formality, in her figure and serious, even to sourness, in her aspect. Her complexion was sallow: and her features small, without beauty, and naturally, without expression: but a lucky contraction of the brow had rescued her countenance from the disgrace of insipidity, by giving it the strong characters of pride and ill-nature."
As usual our heroine can discern no redeeming features in this ogress but all ends happily when Mrs Ferrars comes to love Lucy as a favourite child and her son Robert is restored to her favour.
MRS JENNINGS is a wealthy widow, a mother who has safely married off her two daughters and is free to take a kindly interest in other girls.
"A good humoured, merry, fat, elderly woman who talked a great deal, seemed happy and rather vulgar", her humour on the subject of lovers and husbands was not always appreciated by shy young things such as Marianne Dashwood. She is garrulous and prone to repeat herself - within weeks of their acquaintance she had "repeated her own history to Elinor two or three times." She is also nosey and not ashamed to pry, despite the remonstrances of her daughter, Lady Middleton
Overall however her portrayal is affectionate. She is very generous as well as aware of her faults - she invites both Dashwood girls to London so that they can laugh at her odd ways together. There is more than an element of snobbishness in the attitude of Elinor and others to her humble origins as the wife of a man in trade.
Generous to the end, almost the last we hear of her is when she gives the ruthlessly abandoned Nancy Steel 5 guineas when, following her sisters marriage to Robert Ferrars, Nancy is left with no money to get back to Devon
MRS ALLEN is the only older woman in these novels whose shortcomings cannot in part be attributed to the strains of bringing up a family, because she has none.
Lack of maternal shortcomings however does not save her from the author's barbed pen. She is "one of those numerous class of females whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them. She had neither beauty, genius, accomplishment nor manner"
She is, of course, gossipy, though in what she and Mrs Thorpe called conversation there was "scarcely ever any exchange of opinion and not often any resemblance of subject for Mrs Thorpe talked chiefly of her children and Mrs Allen of her gowns" She is also generous in a way which other characters do not always appreciate, not only taking Catherine to Bath but always ready at home to receive her when she needs an escape from her numerous siblings.
As I've said before, I do detect in all this something of the young woman – you would never mistake it for something written by Beryl Bainbridge
Jane Austen had such a notably sharp pen that I suspect that looking at other categories, such as younger men, would find similar kind of treatment
It is instructive that we are not generally shown these women having any kind of hobby or occupation that really absorbs them. Even Lady Catherines voluntary work in sorting out the problems that the villagers have is treated with great derision as being nosiness
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Driving a bus is a great job, with only one drawback.
The ones who blame the driver for every delay. Who cannot find their money or their pass or expect the bus to wait if they have not reached the stop yet. Who fail to see any connection between the latter & the former
Then there is going-home-from-school time. And Friday & Saturday night drunks
Well, happy buses are going to be a thing of the past if a recent press report is anything to go by. Bus company shares are holding up well. Most bus companies have hedged their fuel costs. Contracts for regulated services have clauses to claw back higher fuel costs. And the rising cost of motoring is likely to attract more passengers for those essential trips to work, school or shopping
The over 60’s will be disproportionately tempted to switch to the bus as petrol prices rise, thereby just adding to the pressure on council tax
Related post: Doom & gloom on the buses
I heard most of Cherie Blair’s own reading of extracts from her autobiography on Radio 4. It did come across as a more interesting & thought provoking work than was suggested by the Times extracts, so I shall read (but not buy) the book
I hesitated before adding my bit in an earlier post , but my interest in contraceptive equipment was not merely salacious. And I find her flippant explanation – We all do or we would have families in double figures. You can always go to confession - insulting
If I wanted to be really nasty, I would say that her husband delayed his conversion not because of Alistair Campbell but to spare himself the embarrassment of having to go to confession himself. Or does the Catholic church regard the use of contraceptive equipment other than condoms merely a sin of the wife?
I understand the dilemma of course
It may be easy for educated western couples to find the arguments which make them comfortable with ignoring this ruling of their Church
But this Roman Catholic doctrine affects policies on population growth, womens freedom & the spread of AIDS throughout the world
Politicians often get accused of hypocrisy on specious grounds (If he can lie to his wife he can lie to the electorate)
I find it true hypocrisy on the part of a man about to set up a Faith Foundation to promulgate the virtues of religious guidance to have acted in his own interests in this way
Related post: Victorian birth control
Derbyshire oatcakes are not at all like the hard Scottish biscuits. More like pancakes or crepes – thin, flat, soft & pliable, about 8” across
Best fried in bacon fat, part of the kind of decent breakfast which every proper mother would have made sure was inside her children before they set off to walk to school
Good for tea as well. You can toast them, but I prefer them cold. With honey, Golden Syrup or a crumbly white cheese. Derbyshire White Stilton for preference but Wensleydale, Cheshire or Lancashire will do
I think the authentic traditional ones must have used suet for the fat content – why else did we buy them from the butcher? But last nights came from the supermarket & are made with vegetable oil. The ones from Sainsburys are actually labelled Staffordshire oatcakes
We had a curry supper. My tried & tested repertoire – creamy prawn curry, aromatic yellow rice (Madhur Jaffreys recipe) & same old, same old accompaniments: very garlicky cucumber raita; sliced bananas with coconut, brown sugar & lemon juice; tomato, spring onion, coriander salad; green leaf salad; mango chutney
Tired & tested perhaps. Need to try something different
I have been meaning to try oatcakes instead of roti for years. Should have tried in private first. But –
I also meant to buy some naans, as a fallback, but I forgot
Hey! Oatcakes work really well. Though you are perhaps slightly more likely to get gravy dribbles down your chin than you are with more absorbent naan or roti breads
The ingredients – as listed – are the same
Are they having to practically give away the old stock?
Related post: Casareep
I took a train trip yesterday without paying for a ticket. Not deliberate fare dodging: the guard’s machine just refused to issue my kind of ticket – other passengers were not affected. He told me to pay at the other end, but there was no one there. I was not prepared to queue at the ticket office just for that
In general I am punctilious about paying my fare – quite apart from the embarrassment of being caught, I prefer to pay the price & keep the service
But I have been musing over who gains & who loses from this incident
I am obviously better off to the tune of nearly £3
But half my fare would have been “funded by HM Government & your local authority”. So fellow taxpayers are better off by the same amount
I long ago lost track of how our railways are funded. But the line is one which was saved from the Beeching axe & used at least to get some kind of social need subsidy to keep going. Perhaps tax payers will have to fork out to make up for the loss of revenue. In which case the train company benefits
But all things considered, I am half way to persuading myself that everybody benefits from this minor misdemeanour
Related post: Bus pass latest
Monday, May 26, 2008
The nameless king expressed an ambition to turn England into a safe country. One which a mother carrying a baby could travel on foot from end to end without being molested by marauding hordes or gangs of one sort or another
Well, I cannot even walk to the other end of the village without threat from marauding hordes hurtling around in tons of metal
All of whom seem to believe that I am a poor deluded soul who believes she has a right to be there, even on a quiet lane or side street with no pavement. I have no business getting in their way & I certainly do not have right of way
And we wonder why children are not allowed freedom these days
Sunday, May 25, 2008
The Americans still had conscription. All recruits were given an intelligence test to help determine their assignment.
Almost as soon as he arrived on the base it was clear that one young man did not offer 10 cents to the dime in the intellectual department. Everybody was astonished therefore when he scored 100% in the IQ test. Could he possibly be one of these idiot savants?
The best thing was to ask him to take another test. By the time these results came back – 100% again – everybody was sure that he could not have undiscovered genius. An investigation was ordered.
Being a nation at the forefront of technology the IQ test was in multiple-choice, tick-box format, marked by a computer using an early form of optimal mark reading.
The computer checked that there was a tick in the right box.
But only the right one.
The young man had achieved his perfect score by ticking every box on the form.
Which is, after all, a form of genius
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I have very ambivalent feelings about how I would feel if my husband had written such a poem on our honeymoon
The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Friday, May 23, 2008
There is here a classic confusion between accuracy & precision
A bomb may be aimed with perfect precision. It will only be accurate if it is aimed at the right target
Precision can usually only be achieved by the elimination of pesky human variability. In the case of exams this means, eventually, that both examiner & examinee must be able to know, in advance, which is the right, or at least the required, answer
So teaching must be to the test & the quality of teaching is judged by performance in the test. The aim of education becomes the production of young people able to parrot back to us those things which we already know, those views which we already hold
The system does not require the exercise of individual human judgement
It certainly precludes the kind of judgement exercised by Professor Smellie
Thursday, May 22, 2008
It is odd that I feel a bit sad that the new card does not proclaim itself, & me, to be proudly, Derbyshire.
The new card finds it necessary to declare Concessionary travel funded by HM Government with your local authority. Is the lack of an is in there a modern fashion, or a subtle nod in recognition that it is funded out of my, & my fellow tax-payers pockets, after the authorities have taken their cut?
I think the basic colour & red ribbon are meant to be common to all cards throughout the country, to make them easier for bus drivers to recognise. It causes complications at the train station however. They now ask: Is that a Derbyshire pass?
The London Freedom Pass definitely has a different design, according to the website. And the leaflet which accompanies our new pass sternly reminds us that we are not entitled to free travel on the Tube Because those benefits are paid for by the London authorities. I think I foresee another campaign coming on
I have also just discovered that there is an organisation ITSO, dedicated to building and maintaining a specification for secure 'end to end' inter-operable ticketing transactions, utilising relevant ISO and emerging CEN standards.
Which is, actually, reassuring to know
The new system has been rolled out with remarkably little trouble. Most people seemed to be using their new cards right from 1 April, & bus drivers were gently reminding or giving information to those who were still using the old ones
Of course no new major government computer system was required, nor any new data collection. Just the sending of letters to a relatively immobile demographic - immobile in the sense of tending to stay put at one address
It is distressing to find therefore that The Times Crossword editor has endorsed the use of LITE as a valid word
Select English, low in calories (6) [Crossword # 23,917]
And another one:
Cream, with lo-calorie drug? (6) [Crossword # 24,041]
In so far as I do ever call myself a fan, it is of course of United. I was born in Manchester, it was the nearest big city to where we lived, & my grandpa was committed to the team. We always had to keep quiet when the results were read out on the wireless at Saturday teatime
I was also surprised at the evidence of how much it meant to the people of Stockport when I went to do my shopping yesterday teatime. Not groups of noisy men outside pubs, but a real family affair. It was all the red shirts which gave it away
I saw one 40-ish couple. The tight red shirt did nothing to flatter the mans torso. His wife was dressed in a lime green shalwar kameez & a black cardi. Both were in high good humour
A family group. Dad, two older children, & a girl of 4 in red shirt, black socks & what may have been football boots – don’t they look like slippers these days. As they turned in to the shopping centre the little girl decided to run around & up the ramp, giving Dad a momentary conniption as he realised she was not with them. I am sure she had a ball at her feet as she ran
Mother & daughter in the checkout queue: So where are you going to watch the match then?
Two middle aged ladies in the coffee shop, bemoaning the absence of any kind of parade: They are punishing us for what the Rangers supporters got up to. We’re not like them
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
This essentially means going back to the past. Although it will probably be an improvement on the current, seemingly random, sizing, it will not necessarily make it easy to find the clothes which are the right size for you
It all depends on what you mean by ‘fit’, & these are as much questions of fabric & fashion as of centimetres.
Then there are the compromises: trousers to fit your long legs or your slim waist? Your broad shoulders or less than ample bosom?
The article also gives some fascinating figures about the change in the average woman’s measurements since 1920
I am particularly intrigued by the big increase in waist size. It seems extraordinary to me that journalists can scoff at Mrs Beckham’s 25” waist as suggestive of an eating disorder. When I was young 24” was a bit much, & 26” the absolute limit. More than that was our equivalent of having to admit to being more than size 16 today
I just wonder whether it is all to do with body mass, as such, or whether corsetry & posture have anything to do with it. Even teenagers might have worn a garment called a roll-on, which was a kind of lightweight elastic corset. As to posture, we were nagged constantly to stand up straight, pull up our rib cage & tuck our bottom in
You expected an expanded waistline after childbirth, one which would never go back to its maidenly span. Nothing to do with weight; your rib cage had been pushed out by the baby & often failed to spring right back. Allegedly
I have only recently found out that the monthly pattern of births in this country has changed quite dramatically since 20 years ago
September has taken over as the busiest month on the maternity ward. We used to have two smaller peaks, in March & May, which were popularly attributed to the Moon in June & annual August holidays
Now Christmas has taken over. I wonder if this is the result of planning – time-poor career couples taking advantage of the guaranteed break - or alcohol-related accident? [Cue joke about Virgo births]
It does help to explain the modern mothers puzzlement about the old habit of putting the baby outside in the garden. Nobody put babies outside in winter, despite the strong belief in their need for fresh air. I seem to remember not a few medical research reports on the adverse heath effects (both short & long term) of a winter birth.
A spring baby also meant that the house would not be draped in nappies steaming dry instead of blowing outside on the line
The graph comes from The birthday problem by Mario Cortina Borja & John Haigh which was published in Significance September 2007
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
When I read that my first reaction was Interesting. My second was that I am very glad not to be put into a position of having to explain, particularly in a court of law
Fortunately Professor Dawid is an experienced expert witness.
For some that would sound like a double disability, implying sarcasm on my part. Anything but
Related posts: Lies, damn lies, and Florence Nightingale
Monday, May 19, 2008
But the green is definitely much more yellow than it has been in recent years. Nearer to lime than emerald. This is much more noticeable in the leaves than it is in the grass on the hills
Which set me thinking. If this were paint you would just say: Add more blue
So, what does put the blue into chlorophyll?
Some kind of nutrient which is relatively lacking this year?
Or is it an effect of the light? Somehing in the atmosphere filtering out the blue?
Or just a bit of etiolation due to poor light, too much cloud cover during March & April?
Related post: Has spring sprung?
Since the Old Bailey, Bow Street & the Royal Courts of Justice were nearby this was good advice, which I took to heart
My first venture into the Royal Courts offered real excitement. James Bond was on trial! Or, at least, Ian Fleming was being sued
It was surprisingly easy to get in - the public gallery was crowded but not full. The well of the court was crowded too, though not much seemed to be happening. I caught a glimpse of the Fleming profile
Then the usher approached. Asked me to Hutch up a bit, make room for this lady
The seats, highly polished narrow wooden benches, were steeply raked. So I first noticed the legs, which were elegantly crossed. Well polished leather court shoes, & very expensive stockings
I started to take covert peeks at my new neighbour. Fully tailored dark green suit (which we called a costume in those days) – straight narrow skirt reaching below the knee; jacket with buttons, collar, full length sleeves & nipped-in waist. Hair dark, in a grown-up style. She may have been wearing a small hat too, can’t remember now. Full make-up, perfectly applied. Powder, deep red lipstick, well-plucked eyebrows, mascara. And a beautiful fur stole which seemed to ripple even as she sat still
Think Joan Crawford in a 1950s film
But she was quite young – in my own mind I put her at 27 or 29, max
This was the beginning of the Swinging Sixties! Pale pink lipstick, false eyelashes, eye liner! Mary Quant & the Kings Road!
Why would someone who could afford anything she wanted settle for clothes which my mother (even my gran) would be proud to wear?
The proceedings bored me. No dramatic cross examination, just polite & barely audible conversation. I left
In the corridor the usher came up to me
Do you know who that was?
Ian Fleming, I said
No, no. The lady I brought in
That was Bobo Sigrist
I decided that being an heiress was not all it was cracked up to be if it brought with it that kind of repression – (pseudo-Freudian analysis was one of the intellectual pretensions of the time)
And I was very surprised to read, in among all the coverage of Bonds 50th anniversary, that the Thunderball case was finally settled a mere 10 years ago
Sunday, May 18, 2008
There should be mess
There should be fuss
There should be blood
That is a quotation from Ian Rankins la[te]st Rebus novel, End Music
Sums up the books really. And a kind of Arts & Crafts attitude to policing: Get your hands dirty (craft), despise modern methods & clean clothes
I used to find Rankins books difficult to follow unless I wrote the names down in the back as I went along. More than 80 in Black & Blue for instance, some with at least 2 nicknames (Malcolm 'Malky' 'Stanley' Toal), or aliases. It seems a compulsion to give all his characters names, even those such as waiters or barmen who never reappear. Other characters seem to be of that ilk but then crop up as crucial to the plot several hundred pages later.
I got tired of this & I just stopped bothering to read him, until this latest
Rebus is a brother under the skin of Banks & Resnick. Lonely cops with maverick tendencies. Not good at relationships, as they say
Nothing new about that. Since the days of Sherlock Holmes, at least, there has been something about crime fiction which demands The Outsider to observe & interpret human foibles, to see through the façade of civilised behaviour
Sue Grafton has said that personal ties & family life can get in the way of the plot. Kinsey Millhone would not be able to do what she does if her energies went on caring for those close to her
But Rebus, Banks & Resnick bother me. They seem so far down that they are almost not there at all. No wonder they cannot sustain a relationship. To live in the same house, to share a bed with, someone who is not there would be scary
Melancholia, depression, or a realistic reaction to the disillusion of police work, of the kind described in Roger Graefs Talking Blues?
Some fictional policemen have had a reasonably rounded private life. I used to be pretty keen on John Creaseys (writing as JJ Marric) Gideon of the Yard. And Ruth Rendells Inspector Wexford. I also used to enjoy the prolific outpourings of Elizabeth Linington (Dell Shannon, Lesley Egan, Anne Blaisdell), all featuring uxorious family men. I doubt, though, that I would want to reread any of them today
Rankin, Robinson & Harvey each tries to give their character emotional depth by letting us know their musical tastes. Too much detail for me, verging on the obsessional going on autistic. And does not provoke empathy if you do not know the tracks involved
You can have too much of a good thing however. Faye Kellerman gives too much information about Deckers wife & marriage
But to hear that they are still being used to ferry troops to & from war zones …
We used to call it the VC-When? Its unreliable time keeping was caused not by any kind of mechanical problems but as a consequence of the vagaries of BOAC scheduling
I wonder if passengers on RAF civilian flights still have to sit facing the rear?
In my experience only the Trident did this on commercial flights, & then it was only a few seats. I had the misfortune to occupy one once. Not an experience I should care to repeat, it was very disconcerting
The reason for the RAF rule was supposed to be passenger safety. ‘Everybody’ knew that many of those unfortunate enough to be involved in an air crash might have survived the impact, what killed them were the abdominal injuries caused by being thrust forward against the seat belt
Years ago now, though, I heard a radio programme about the Kegworth air crash. One of the contributors was an abdominal surgeon who had been called in, with his team, expecting to be very busy: they sat mostly just twiddling their thumbs
So I wonder if seat belts technology now means that what’Everybody knew’ is now just an old wives tale
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Her father died last night. She was having to go in again today to pick up his clothes. She had not been allowed to take them home with her last night because there is a procedure to go through, lists to be checked, papers to be signed
At least the journey cost only time. The bus pass took care of the cash cost
With the new polyclinics ordinary visits to the doctor will cost patients more in time & travel costs. But these will not have to come out of the NHS budget, treatment will still be free once you get to the point of delivery
Related post: Parents & children
Friday, May 16, 2008
Mary Wilson is the main example during my lifetime. She thought she was marrying an Oxford don & ended up, very uncomfortable, in Downing Street
But now I almost feel sorry for Cherie Blair
She got exactly what she wanted. But now, 50 something, she finds herself not free – all the security that still surrounds her. Unlikely to find that being released from the awkwardness (from the constitutional separation of powers point of view) of being PMs wife will allow her judicial career to soar
Older children leaving the nest
Hardly ever seeing her husband who travels the world he is keen to save, where she has no official role as his wife
No wonder she wants to Speak For Herself
But – oh dear
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Mind you with child protection worries the way they are, I expect any parent would be tempted to lock a child with a bruised or grazed face out of public view for the duration
But why do you never see children with grazed knees? Do they really never fall over these days?
Or are there magic potions which stop all bleeding & prevent all scars?
I still have a good one on my knee the legacy of a satisfyingly large piece of gravel which made its way in there when I ran too fast down the lane
We used to be quite proud of our scars. Proved what brave children we were
They meant touch typing. We had a family typewriter, an ancient metal sit up & beg Imperial which my father acquired somewhere & set into working order. I typed The quick brown fox … over & over to learn QWERTY
In later years I made half hearted attempts to learn properly, but it seemed too much trouble to make my little fingers do any work when hard 2-fingered bashing would do all I needed. By the time it would have been really helpful to be able to watch what was happening on the teleprinter terminal while I typed I felt it was too late to learn
Isnt it odd how men elbowed women aside in the rush to the keyboard
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
It was not until I passed the flag-bedecked pub that I realised that Rangers also wear blue, so the parties have spread throughout Greater Manchester, not just the city centre. I guess though that these are mostly local rather than travelling fans
Interestingly some people outside the pub were wearing England shirts & I also spotted a flag of St George & a Union Jack
Related post: Football crowds
A conventional electric oven with a timer is what you need. If your hours are unpredictable, or with congestion how it is these days, the timer should be capable of switching itself off as well as on
Good old fashioned potato pie (the one which does not actually have any pastry) provides a particularly warm welcome, but any stew or casserole will do the job
Related post: Microwave smells
Before long complaints were being made. The marketing was misleading
I remember one surprised new mother on tv saying that she had relied on the claim of 94% reliability. She would never have gone ahead with something which had a failure rate of 1 in 16
That kind of misunderstanding is very common. Over 90% sounds so very reassuring
And fertility is not the only human variable for which new methods of measurement are being sought. Biometrics is a growth industry.
Yesterdays Times carried a letter from Malcolm Windsor from Edinburgh about how 'faulty' biometrics frustrated his plans to fly home from Heathrow
I do not know what is the quoted reliability of the new BAA biometric system at Terminal 5. Nor do I know how many passengers they expect once the terminal is fully open. But say the figures are 99% reliability and 1 million a year. Then nearly 30 people a day can expect an experience like Mr Windsors, without any 'fault' at all
One final thought: Mr Windsor was trying to fly to Scotland. Ms Booth had her contraceptive accident at Balmoral. Is this significant?
Is the link royalty, or Scotland?
Oh no! 100,000 Scotsmen are visiting Manchester today (I am not). Should we be very afraid?
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
By chance, one of the first, not-being-looked-for items to come up was an item from the local paper just a couple of months ago: the nuns who taught her are finally leaving Stockport
Two other interesting snippets, from a man who bought the lasts of Stockport’s last clog maker, & the memories of a wartime evacuee from Guernsey who was also struck by clog-wearing children
Links: Sisters will leave a long legacy behind - News - Stockport Express
Phil Howard clog maker
BBC - WW2 People's War - Margaret's Story - An Evacuee in Stockport
Related post: Serendipity proves I exist in a world
But I am dying to know one thing more
What sort of equipment was so embarrassingly unpacked for her by the servants?
Or was it just the mere fact that, as a good Catholic mother, she was carrying any such equipment at all?
But these days I (along with many others, I suspect) shop mostly by eye. Does that look like enough broccoli, mince, … ? 4 slices of ham please. 3 apples will do. Just a small tin of tomatoes
Even if I do cook from a recipe I am likely to use my own skill & judgement (!) as to quantities. I do not possess a pair of scales & have usually thrown away the till receipt which tells me how many grammes of mushrooms I bought
But I still remember the frustration of getting letters from my Nan, when I had requested her recipe or advice on some matter of cooking: Mix some sugar & flour, … cook it until it is done
Monday, May 12, 2008
She told me that she had been a pupil at the convent school which occupied the site where Stockport Grammar School stands today. This surprised me because I had been under the impression that the Grammar School had moved to that site much earlier than 1948
We fell into reminiscence. She mentioned the extreme poverty which could still be seen in Stockport in her childhood – children without shoes
I told her the story of how my mother had begged – fruitlessly – for clogs instead of proper shoes. The great attraction was that you could strike sparks off the cobbles with the metal studs on their soles
My new friends brother had done exactly the same at the age of 8 or 9. He then complained that they ere too uncomfortable – he should not be made to wear them
It did not just start with trainers
Related post: Jumping in the river
Auden wrote this over half a century ago, but it could well have been written about a certain Twenty First Century Prime Minister. Here is the closing section:
To rule must be a calling,
It seems, like surgery or sculpture, the fun
Neither love nor money
But taking the necessary risks, the test
Of one’s skill, the question,
If difficult, their own reward.
Perhaps one should mention
Also what must be a comfort as they guess
In times like the present
When guesses can prove so fatally wrong,
The fact of belonging
To the very select indeed, to those
For whom, just supposing
They do, there will be places on the last
Plane out of disaster.
No; no one is really sorry for their
Heavy gait & careworn
Look, nor would they thank you if you said you were
Lay your sleeping head my love
Human on my faithless arm
The phrase enchanted slope sprang out at me. Was that a direct reference to/quotation from The Ecstasy by John Donne?
Well, no. I guess it just reminded me of the opening lines:
Where, like a pillow on a bed,
A pregnant bank swelled up
Reading through the whole poem (yet again), another few lines from the Donne put me in mind of Larkin’s Arundel Tomb:
We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing all the day
Another quotewhich always goes direct to the heart:
When love, with one another so
Interanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow
Defects of loneliness controls
Another passage (on the relationship between body & soul) always, for some reason, recalls to me the Speech of Aristophanes
Our bodies why do we forbear?
They are ours, though they are not we, we are
The intelligence, they the sphere
We owe them thanks, because they thus
Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their forces, sense, to us,
Nor are dross to us but allay
On man heaven’s influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the air,
So soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair
Two more quotes – no comment needed
That subtle knot, which makes us man
That mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book
And, set in its full context, Auden’s enchanted slope is indeed reminiscent of The Ecstasy
Soul & body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love & hope
Read the full texts; The Ecstasy
Sunday, May 11, 2008
It is some years ago now that my timetable made it convenient for me to break my journey to work & stop off for a proper (bacon & egg) breakfast. I was astonished to find out how popular these had become – everybody from McDonalds to Debenhams were providing them
It also made me realise how many men are in sole charge of toddlers at that time of day. It was pretty obvious that these were men with jobs, who arranged their shifts so that they took charge while Mum was at work. Easier to let someone else do the food prep & washing up though
Just recently I have noticed lots of teenage dads pushing a buggy around on their own. Don’t know of this is a new trend, or just another change in my timetable letting me see what was there all along
I even saw one young man with a very new baby. It was in a newsagents, so he probably had not come very far. He looked quite terrified, not sure how to manoeuvre the buggy & all. But you knew he was the Dad – he had that slightly stunned look & enormous, hovering grin that they all get. I wonder why he had been let, or sent out, alone? Train them early, or something more sad?
Actually I doubt if the way men feel about (their) children has changed very much with time, though practicalities & social pressure put limits on how they can express it. During my childhood it would have taken a brave man to wheel a perambulator in public, on his own
Unless it was being used to transport something too heavy to carry, rather than a baby
Trollope was very good on fathers. In one book he writes movingly of a gaunt, ascetic pastor who loved but also frightened his young children. Trollope sympathises that he was just unable to be one of those avuncular, unselfconscious baby danglers, expert at using his pocket watch to entertain
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Attlee was referring to Eden’s disastrous failure as PM. The heavy roller had been the dominance of Winston Churchill
Hennessy’s point was about the lack of young pretenders in the Labour Cabinet. While it is always possible for someone to surprise us, not one of them seems to have the maturity, authority or just what used to be called bottom to make the step up
As an aside, it is a mystery to me why Jack Straw’s name never crops up in discussions of Labour leadership. Not that I am advocating this, it just seems strange
With the Blair/Brown dominance it was perhaps always going to be impossible for anyone to learn how to shine
But I always thought that it was, in this sense, a very serious mistake to make a binding pledge to keep to the Tory spending plans in 1997. It may have been a political necessity at the time. With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to believe that Labour could have won with a threat of 90% taxes for all
Anybody who knew anything at all about the then cycle for setting Departmental expenditures would understand the problems which this would cause. Even in that tired old comparator, the ordinary family budget, nobody would expect to have to adhere, in two years time, to a line by line estimate of what could be spent on potatoes, new shoes, car maintenance, trips to the cinema …
But most of all it really put the fetters on a set of new & untried Ministers who were unable to perform one of their most basic roles of prioritising & decision-making. Completely unable to learn to grow into the job
It was only when one such procession passed me on the pavement that I realised all those adults may well have been needed under regulation or whatever to ensure the childrens safety. They were all very young – no more than 5 or 6 - & in the group which passed me there was one adult to 2 children, hand in hand, one on either side. Admittedly this was alongside a very busy main road
I expect most of these (all-women) escorts were parents/volunteers but wouldn’t they all have to have had Criminal Record checks? How much would that have cost?
A friend of mine took early retirement as a primary head nearly 20 years ago now. She had mixed feelings about this – it was one of those moves which, in the early days of school budgets, eased the pressures considerably because she was paid right at the top of the scale
She said that she had not anticipated how much she would feel the sheer relief of not being responsible for the safety of other people's children every day. How much worse it must be now
Then we read of the case of a boy who has been awarded damages, expected to be £1 million, because of an accident on a bouncy castle. The award has been made against the parents who had organised the birthday party for their 10 year old triplets
Of course the important point about this story (buried in paragraph 7) is that the parents were insured, so it will not be a personal financial liability for them
The judge found that there had been inadequate supervision. The point that worries me though is that the other boy involved in what was accepted as a pure accident is described as a gentle giant & enormously tall
The implication is that particular care & supervision are needed for such freaks, who should not be allowed unfettered play with normal children
Back in the 1960s The Guardian cost 4d – that is less than 2p in decimal money. We used to sell it to fellow students for a 1d commission
These days The Guardian costs 70p, more than 40 times as much as 40 years ago
I wondered how that compared with the cost of paperback books
At the end of my second year in college I went on a splurge in WH Smith & bought 6 books, all novels – I had hardly read one for over 4 years, what with A levels, travelling & college. Total cost £1. I don’t remember them all now, but they included High Wind in Jamaica, The End of the Affair & Brave New World. The total would be at least £42 now I think. A steeper rise than newspapers, but essentially in the same ballpark
Friday, May 09, 2008
Today – 30 million vehicles, 3,500 deaths
So progress, of a sort
It is nevertheless true that the thing which is most likely to kill me any time soon, the most dangerous thing I do in my daily life, is crossing the road when I get off the bus on my way home
There is not, & almost certainly could not be, any kind of controlled crossing
Some method of guaranteed enforcement of the 30 mph speed limit would do
The problem is in checking whether any traffic is coming from your right before you step off the pavement. The road climbs up a short fairly gentle hill but there is a bit of a dip about 100 yards back, alongside some very tall trees. In winter you can at least see the headlights but when the evenings, though light, are falling in to dusk, it can be impossible to see pale, grey or even black cars
Even this would not be a problem if they were moving at only 30 mph, but so many drivers, anxious no doubt to get home or maybe to relieve the frustration of having had to negotiate their way through the cars parked on either side of the road in the village proper, just put their foot down
As a fellow passenger once said: I am sure that 30 miles an hour was never as fast as this in my day
Thursday, May 08, 2008
I must put an end to this obsession with sloping shoulders. It is only made worse by the daily bombardment of pictures of the naked clavicles of current fashion
This time, with the help of Google Books, I found an explanation in A Handbook of Anatomy for Art Students by Arthur Thomson
I should have known it would take an artist to teach me how to see
That report does not tell us how much of that 30% is made up of translations from English. Nor whether Continentals are any more likely than the British to read fiction from Egypt, Japan, S America …
Related post: A really modest proposal on the teaching of languages in English schools
I was a bit surprised to see that the BA transatlantic load factor dropped ‘as low as’ 72% in April compared to 79% last year. Ryanair (all routes) dropped to 79% from 83%
Even the higher figures for last year are lower than I expected. You get the impression that planes are usually completely full these days. I wonder what the annual figures are
In the 1960s – national flag carrying pre-jumbo days – airlines usually operated on an expectation of a 60% annual average load factor. Since August & December were usually close to 100%, the rest of the year gave those who did fly a luxurious amount of space, even in Economy
Luxury came at a price however. The return fare London-Barbados was about £300 (in 1960s £s) – one-third of a years gross salary for a young teacher
You can probably get a ticket for not much more than that in 2008 £s
Related post: Baggage
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I expect he meant to say Bad People. Good People are not afraid of anything
For, as those wheeled round the broadcasting studios this morning to defend the use of lie detectors on those applying for housing benefits from local councils were quick to remind us: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of
Related post: Im only watching - what have you got to hide?
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
If you keep talking about team building you havent got one
If you talk about listening you admit that is something you do not do
Sheila Gunn made an interesting point on radio. The latest polls show that Gordon Brown is not respected, not admired, not liked. Great politicians usually have a 'but', whatever you think of their policies or personality. Maggie Thatchers guts. Even John Majors niceness
Mr Brown has got himself into a position where he seems to have no buts
Related posts: Cross purposes Take me to your leader
The traditional ribbons on 2 of the cars were red.
Only the chauffeurs were outside, the ceremony was obviously still in progress inside. So I had no sight of the happy couple or their guests.
But it reminded me of a scene I saw on another sunny Saturday afternoon from the window of a bus as we passed through Longsight.
Four or five nervous-looking young Asian men standing on the pavement. Brushed & scrubbed & dressed in dark formal lounge suits. An older man fussing around, bearded & be-turbaned. A tiny elderly lady in a sari sitting in one of the two parked cars.
Both cars were adorned with wedding ribbons. Not white (or, possibly, pink) as I would have expected, but red. The colour of Indian weddings.
I just thought That is the kind of multiculturalism I like to see. Mix & match blending, adaptation to changed circs, whatever you feel comfortable with.
For no other reason than that this is a piece about weddings I am posting one of my favourite holiday snaps. It was taken from the window of a taxi speeding through Bombay traffic on another sunny (& very hot) Saturday afternoon. The horse galloping alongside should have been carrying a bridegroom to the home of his bride, but he had other ideas & managed to bolt.
It is a miracle that the survived for the length of time he was in our view. I do not know what was his ultimate fate.
1.1 New art brings new ways of seeing
2 There are books about the influence of science on art or the art of scientific illustration eg CH Waddington's Behind Appearances: 'The case I am arguing - that our developing scientific understanding of the nature of our material surroundings has had important effects on the ways in which painters have worked '
2.1 There is no work on the influence of art on science
3 Major advances in science follow the development of the ability to see the phenomena under study [Aristotle etc]
3.1 Telescopes, microscopes, X-rays, physical models, electron microscopes, computer simulation, colour reproduction, film, video, mobile phones
3.2 How does a scientist know what to see or how to look at something never seen before? By comparing it to or with something else, something seen before
3.3 Available art, visual representations of the world, must play a part in this
4 Even phenomena detectable by other senses – hearing – are made visible to be more easily recorded, remembered, interpreted, communicated
4.3 Medical monitoring
4.4 Chaos theory
Question: does art affect or effect science?
Related posts: Compressing the Human Memory File
No longer a black & white world
Saturday, May 03, 2008
After much sweating over Blue Books, Red Books & departmental reports I came to the conclusion that one might just as well take the overall average which was then near enough 40%
This should not have been such a big surprise. Many more years ago I made some even more interesting estimates for work about tax incentives for industry which showed, broadly, the same phenomenon: what you gain on the swings you lose on the roundabouts & everybody (government & industry) would be better off with a simpler system with slightly lower rates of tax. A point beloved of politicians on the right
Of course in real life & politics things are not that simple. Time & cash flows make a difference which is not always captured by economic theory
And perception is all. So many people believe that the abolition of the 10p tax means that their tax has doubled overnight, & attempts to explain why this is not so are destined to suffer the same fate as Harold Wilson's Pound in your pocket
Non-doms arguing for continued favourable treatment when it comes to income tax are the only ones currently arguing on the basis of the total they pay in all forms of direct & indirect taxes
What I wonder is, do we all, unwittingly, pay at the same overall rate?
Beat the credit crunch. Everything £1. Same price since 1990
Up here yet another £ store has taken a different route & their sign now reads All Items from £1. An explanatory notice informs that Due to customer demand we will now stock items which cost more than £1
They have even closed for 2 weeks for a refit, presumably to fit the upmarket image
Related post: A sign of inflation
Thats a lot of power, used wisely
He may be one of those starry politicians of whom historians say He could not cope with the cares of administration. So much will depend on those who work for him in the next layer down. They will have an interesting time of it, just so long as they really do know their stuff & are well organised. And can live with an unpredictable but very sharp witted boss. Sort of Sir Humphreys without the ego
Not least because of his hair Boris reminds me a bit of Robert Lowe, a Victorian politician who was born an albino & was very nearly blind. He overcame all the ribbing he got at Winchester, learned Latin & Greek through prodigious feats of memory, went to Oxford & eventually became MP & Cabinet Minister with an extraordinary reputation as a parliamentary debater
Am I the only one who remembers that Boris has been taking politics seriously for a long time now? He has not just waltzed in on the back of playing the buffoon on tv & a made-for-a-toff safe seat in Henley. He did the traditional new boy slog of fighting an unwinnable seat (in Cardiff?)
I also treasure the memory of an article he wrote in The Spectator on the vagaries of the law on British nationality, probably around 1990. My Daughter Is A Belgian!
Related post: What am I?
Friday, May 02, 2008
She is really having to look around now. The bottom has dropped out of entertainment since the smoking ban – none of the pubs pay singers any more
Well, I suppose singing in smoky pubs was not ever so good for ones health. But its also another job loss one can blame on the Government when people are in a mood to do that anyway
But it was a lovely morning & the signs of spring are really there to see. The ducks have come quite a long way upstream, but only to the point where our stream meets the river. No sign of any females, I guess they were all sitting on the nests hidden somewhere under the bank
I saw one of the herons but he was being lackadaisical & just feeding peacefully, he did not bother flying away
The water level is pretty low despite all the recent rain. Most of the showers have in fact been quite gentle, as well as scattered, so the water will not have been rushing down the drains
The daffodils are still very sad & a bit sorry for themselves, heads down & a bit anaemic – not at all the usual glorious display. They need a good spell of unbroken sunshine to perk them up
Don’t we all
I succeeded, briefly. But I can still remember the first verse:
Lars Porsena of Clusium by the Nine Gods he swore
That the great house of Tarquin
Should suffer wrong no more
By the Nine Gods he swore it
And named a trysting day
And bade his messengers ride forth
East & west & south & north
To summon his array
I have just looked it up & some parts come back instantly:
``Oh, Tiber! Father Tiber!
To whom the Romans pray,
A Roman's life, a Roman's arms,
Take thou in charge this day!''
So he spake, and speaking sheathed
The good sword by his side,
And with his harness on his back,
Plunged headlong in the tide.
No sound of joy or sorrow
Was heard from either bank;
But friends and foes in dumb surprise,
With parted lips and straining eyes,
Stood gazing where he sank;
And when above the surges,
They saw his crest appear,
All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
And even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.
And then the end:
And in the nights of winter,
When the cold north winds blow,
And the long howling of the wolves
Is heard amidst the snow;
When round the lonely cottage
Roars loud the tempest's din,
And the good logs of Algidus
Roar louder yet within;
When the oldest cask is opened,
And the largest lamp is lit;
When the chestnuts glow in the embers,
And the kid turns on the spit;
When young and old in circle
Around the firebrands close;
When the girls are weaving baskets,
And the lads are shaping bows;
When the goodman mends his armor,
And trims his helmet's plume;
When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom;
With weeping and with laughter
Still is the story told,
How well Horatius kept the bridge
In the brave days of old.
Thomas Babbington Macaulay, in Lays of Ancient Rome
Link to full text: Lars Porsena King of Etruria
Thursday, May 01, 2008
At least it is simple to decant the meal into an earthenware dish for cooking
You cannot do the same with their individual sponge puddings. I forgot that these are microwave or steam only on about 3 occasions. The last time I just thought What the heck & gave it a go in the oven. With predictable results
So I hope I will always remember in future to buy a sponge pudding from one of the other supermarkets who provide the option of conventional oven cooking
Many moons ago when I was considering whether to buy a microwave a friend said Before you get one you will wonder what on earth you are going to use it for; after you get it you will wonder how you ever managed without it
Well, at the last house move it was left behind as part of the fixtures & fittings
I can see the point if you have a family – being able to keep plenty of bread in the freezer & defrost on demand is a great boon if you have teenagers
But otherwise they seem of very limited use. I find home cooking with it fiddly & more trouble than it is worth (even though it saves on washing up)
Most of all I find the ritual & time taken to prepare a meal, even if it is just reheating a ready meal, somehow an important part of appetite. Pinging & wolfing down in the space of a few minutes just does not appeal
I discussed this after the move with another friend
Its because you cant smell it, she said. My son cannot eat meals from the microwave for that reason