Thursday, April 30, 2009

Small mercies

Is it too much to hope that one good thing which might come out of a flu panic is that young men start to find it totally unacceptable to spit on to the ground – in the street, on the football pitch ….

The modern Quetelet

I just recently came across a very interesting paper Adolphe Quetelet (1796–1874)—the average man and indices of obesity by Garabed Eknoyan published in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation in 2007

It gives some of the history of the BMI since it was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1960s, & its use particularly in the Framingham study & has a particularly useful bibliography

Frustratingly (for me) I still have not found where the magic numbers 20, 25 & 30 come from, but I shall keep working on it

I was amused to see that the author found it necessary to point out that “Quetelet analysed data from both genders and highlighted differences where they existed; despite his exclusive use of the singular masculine in the title of his book and writings

Clearly in the world of American nephrology in the Noughties the male most definitely does not embrace the female

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fighting the flu

I wonder if virologists have a PR or media company to field & organise into an orderly queue all the requests for interviews that they are getting about the flu (maybe) pandemic

The ones I have heard (all on radio of course) have been doing a terrific job, all able to speak succinctly without waffle or blinding technicalities.

I am left with one question, about the slightly surprising advice to keep washing your hands. We are used to that message as a way of preventing the spread of tummy bugs, but we always used to be told that Coughs & sneezes spread diseases

For somebody who is out of the house for large parts of every day, without the benefit of office or workplace, I rely on public provision, which does not always run to reliable washing or – (even more importantly for someone with Raynauds disease) – drying facilities. So I always have a small bottle of anti-bacterial hand rub in my bag (like in hospital) in case of need

Not much use against a virus, so is there any point in using it frequently as a substitute for washing? Especially as it is not impossible that there may be people just returned from Mexico on our bus?

More importantly - could using it actually do harm?

And what is the safe way of disposing of the used tissues which cover up our sneezes?

English as she is spoke

The news that children are to be taught how to speak in primary schools reminds me of a favourite joke from the golden age of talking proper

A Lancastrian teacher wrote on the blackboard:

‘He putten the book on the table’

And asked if anyone could explain what was wrong

Johnny volunteered:

“Please Miss, you’ve gone and putten ‘putten’ where you should have putten ‘put’”

Making my meaning clear

I think it was Auden who said that there should be a special font called Ironic

According to a website I just found, The Unofficial Smilie Dictionary I could use

;-) Winky smilie. "I just made a flirtatious and/or sarcastic remark," a "don't hit me for what I just said" smilie.

0r :-> "I just made a really biting sarcastic remark"

Perhaps if I search I can find a really good tongue in cheek smilie icon

But they are not fonts

Holistic catholicism

It was while I was listening to Gillian Tett on Start The Week on Monday that I suddenly thought: people use holistic these days in the way we (used to) use catholic

When I investigated I got a bit of a surprise

First, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, holism is a term coined by General J. C. Smuts (1870-1950) “to designate the tendency in nature to produce wholes (i.e. bodies or organisms) from the ordered grouping of unit structures.” So holist & holistic came into our language

Catholic comes from the Greek Καθολικος - general, universal, concerning, in respect of, according to the whole - which is subtly different, being whole already, not just a tendency

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography sums up Smuts thus:

“White South Africa's most outstanding twentieth-century figure, and its most renowned internationally, Jan Christiaan Smuts was a man of remarkable intellectual gifts. The major actor in the unification of South Africa, he helped refashion the modern Commonwealth, established the framework for the League of Nations, and inspired the preamble to the charter of the United Nations Organization. A peacemaker who played a notable role in Paris in 1919 and Ireland in 1921, Smuts nevertheless spent much of his life at war and achieved a reputation within South Africa for high-handed ruthlessness. A philosopher and scientist, he seemed psychologically unable to address South Africa's all-important ‘colour question’, and in this respect never rose above the racist discourse of the time. If Africa was his emotional mother country, Europe was his intellectual fatherland and throughout his life he retained an almost visceral fear that the fragile European civilization established in South Africa would be overwhelmed by black ‘barbarism’. He thus remains a curiously elusive if not evasive figure, as his frequent sobriquet, Slim (‘crafty’) Jannie, suggests.”

The Anglican version of the Christian creed includes the words:

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.

with the stress on the universal meaning of Catholic, not just (or even at all) the Roman branch

Some dictionaries suggest that catholic-with-a-capital-C refers specifically to the Roman version; others suggest that no religion should be capitalised

But I want to set the ball rolling on a campaign to brand the word holistic as unacceptable & totally non-pc

Because of its obviously racist origins, of course

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

They did warn us

About higher rate taxes for high earners

I was searching my blog for something or the other when I came across this post The games people play , which I had forgotten all about

Odds & ends of clerks

"It was towards the end of the year 1859 that, fresh from Marlborough, I distinguished myself by gaining the first place in a competition held by the Civil Service Commissioners for a clerkship in the Privy Council Office

Frankness compels me to admit that the other two nominees (required by the regulations to make up the prescribed number of 3) may possibly have been the special couple known as the Treasury Idiots, who could never pass anything, & were sent again & again to give a walk-over to any Ministers protege able to reach the standard of minimum qualifications. At any rate, they could barely read or write, & so I found myself entitled to a desk in Downing St"

H Preston Thomas: The Work & Play of a Government Inspector

My mother sometimes liked to boast that a boy at her school came second in the National Competition for Civil Service Clerical Officers open to those who had gained their School Certificate in 5 subjects including maths & English

I do not know when this competition stopped being a topic of national interest, but the results of the competition forthe higher grade of assistant principle (open to graduates holding a first or second class honours degree) were still being announced in the newspapers into the 1960s. The winner was often dubbed ‘the cleverest young man in England.’ Peter Jay, later Ambassador to America, may well have been the last to earn this soubriquet, as press attention moved elsewhere

The First Division Association is the trades union for the higher reaches of the civil service. Many are shocked by the snobby supercilious elitism of the name until they hear that it just stems from the old division of the civil service into First & Second Division Clerks.

There has been no attempt to rename it the Premier Division

Monday, April 27, 2009

Nice ways to put it

Mark Lomas wrote to The Times last week to point out that “approximately 83 per cent of games of Russian roulette have no complications”

On Start The Week today Gillian Tett described the rocket scientists & others who claimed to understand the new monetary instruments as “Priests talking financial Latin”


Related posts

A nation of clerks

I was among those children who got all their education under the 1944 Education Act. A privileged generation, at least the quarter or so who passed the 11+ & went to grammar school. We experienced levels of social & economic mobility which the country has proved unable to sustain

The steps on the social ladder were clearly marked out. Even at grammar school, the majority of children left at 16, after sitting for GCE O level

Three O levels (including English & maths) would get you the most junior kind of clerical work – white collar, but probably waged rather than the status of a monthly salary

5 O levels (still with maths & English) would get you higher status – the equivalent of Civil Service Clerical Officer. You could also apply for army officer training & possibly an articled clerkship with an accountant, solicitor or Chartered Surveyor

If your parents supported you through the 2 extra years of 6th form, 2 A levels could get you a junior management post – bank, Civil Service Executive Officer. It could also get you training for SRN at one of the major London teaching hospitals, or 2-year training for primary, secondary modern or specialist sport or domestic science teaching

About 1 in 20 of the age group got to University, on a means tested grant. From the provincial point of view the main purpose of a university education, except for medics & scientists, seemed to be to qualify to teach in a grammar school

Even in those days a teacher might say that they could not teach the subject as they would like to be able to do, because they had to make sure we got the all-important O level – just as the driving instructor would later say they were teaching you to pass the test, not how to be a good driver

Some testing of proficiency is obviously essential. The trick is to leave enough room for personal interests & passions, the development of new & unconventional ways of thinking, not just efficient repetition of what the examiners already know

The problem with an education policy which judges its outcome by how many children have 5 good GCSE’s (including maths & English) is that we seem to have set our sights on producing a nation of clerks

Related post

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Moving along

Adam Gopnik has written a short book about Darwin & Lincoln, Ages & Angels, which I look forward to reading

I have not had chance to read it yet – I heard about it on Start the Week with Andrew Marr

The basic idea, the one which is new (they said) is a lovely one to play with: both men taught us how to look horizontally rather than vertically, to see time rather than god as our judge & our cause

In a sense to see the road to eternity in alternative ways - both linear, continuous, reaching to infinity, but orthogonal

You could say that this was just building on something which was in the air – the Cartesian co-ordinates of the Enlightenment, a way of locating all things on a two dimensional plane

Something of the same – god or time? – infused the arguments about population growth at the end of the C18th

Does it have to be either/or, horizontal or vertical?

Some people need to be certain about their belief – it was often remarked that many rejected the strict Catholicism of their childhood only when they could find an alternative certainty in Marx - & was he not also a horizontalist?

And if there is only one new way, does it have to be orthogonal to the one rejected? Perhaps bisecting the angle?

Call it the Third Way

"The right angle, is as it were the sum of the forces which keep the world in equilibrium. There is only one right angle; but there is an infinitude of other angles. The right angle, therefore, has superior rights over other angles” – le Corbusier

St Peters fountains

One feature of the modern urban landscape of which I definitely approve is the introduction of water features into public open spaces

Why is it, I wonder, that water is such a sure-fire source of delight for small children?

One sunny lunchtime this week I watched a boy, barely 2 years old, conceive the hypothesis that he could make the water spout on his command if he leaned over & shouted down the hole. The hypothesis did not survive more than 4 or 5 experimental tests, but then the young woman who was minding him came & showed him another one: compare & contrast a wet foot print made on the cream coloured stone with one made on the red-flagged pathway

Related post

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Modern conveniences

We had another power cut in the wee small hours of Friday morning – sometime between 1 and 3 am

I am not sure if it was the change in the light or the sudden silence that woke me. There is only a very dim greyish greenish glow from the bedside clock & the winter curtains are still up so there is only a little light penetration from the streetlight outside, so not much change there. It was only after I was conscious enough to clock that the clock really was not on that I realised the utterness of the silence. Absolute stillness. No hum from anywhere

The fridge & the clock radio are the only things left plugged in over night & at that time there is no traffic moving for several miles in any direction, so it was disconcerting to realise that there is still a constant low level noise when the power is on – from the transmission itself, the street lamps, neighbours equipment …

It woke me up all over again when the power came back on. First because the clock was flashing 12:00, second because I had managed to leave the radio switched on & the default frequency was emitting some weird crackles & whines

Either way I had to get up & do something: pull the plug or reset the *!~#*^* thing

Related post
Staying in power


Another poem by Vernon Scannell, from A Sense of Danger, now out of print, which says much better than I can about child arsonists


That one small boy with a face like pallid cheese
And burnt-out eyes could make a blaze
As brazen, fierce & huge, as red & gold
And zany yellow as the one that spoiled
Three thousand guineas’ worth of property
And crops at Godwin’s farm on Saturday
Is frightening – as fact & metaphor:

An ordinary match intended for
The lighting of a pipe or kitchen fire
Misused may set a whole menagerie
Of flame-fanged tigers roaring hungrily.

And frightening, too, that one small boy should set
The sky on fire & choke the stars to heat
Such skinny limbs & such a little heart
Which would have been content with one warm kiss
Had there been anyone to offer this

Related post
Burning desire

Friday, April 24, 2009

The betrayal of clerks

I was misled by the press reports about the young man who leaked Home Office papers to Damian Green. He was not a private secretary, “He was an administrative officer and he provided administrative support”

In other words, he was a clerk

For some reason that word has gone out of favour, is considered almost demeaning, & therefore politically incorrect

But it has an honourable & distinguished history – was once considered fit for a king: “In these dayes regned in Inglond Herry the First, whech was named Herry Clerk[Capgraves Chronicle of England, 1460]

From its original meaning – a member of the clergy or of a religious order – it came to mean scholar, since learning & the ability to read & write did not extend far beyond the walls of the monastery or church.

The word gradually extended to those who performed other functions of writing & secretarial work, & came to mean the officer in charge of the records, correspondence, and accounts of any department, court, corporation, or society – an important & powerful personage

There were many clerks whose role or function was very specific. Henry VIII had a Clarke of the Spicery – an interesting sounding & probably lucrative position. An officer in the Royal dockyards was known as the Clerk of the Cheque – he was a kind of inspector whose job was to go on board the ships to check that they had the number of sailors they claimed to have on board, were not trying to make ‘false musters’. By the time that it became necessary to carry out similar checks on police forces the officer was known as Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary

And with the great growth, especially in the 19th century, of large industrial, municipal or financial organisations the word clerk began to be applied to those in subordinate positions who kept accounts, made fair copies of documents, did the mechanical work of communication & kept the written records

In his book Money, Stanley Jevons was able to remark that "Some banks employ as many as six clerks"

No longer recorders of the word of God or of earthly kings, but of mammon & aldermen

The Pooters & Cratchits of the literary world


Just good friends?

When did it start to become uncomfortable for some people to describe themselves as married, a wife, a husband. Settle for the word partner instead?

I first noticed this when looking for information about a New Labour MP – her website described her as living with her partner, other sources talked about her husband or who she was married to. Then I started noticing it in other places, about other people too

Is it some kind of desire to seem not to be boasting, to want to seem to accept & to say “All partnerships are equal, civil, cohabiting, whatever. No, really, some partnerships are not more equal than others”

The problem is that not all partnerships are like that, you know.

It can be confusing, potentially embarrassing, even when not up against someone as crass as Cherie Blair was to Princess Margaret

If a couple who are in business together call themselves partners, are you supposed to put them up in the same bedroom if they come to stay? Is it all right to ask them what partnership means?

Doctors, accountants, solicitors, all kinds of businesses, have partners.

And the John Lewis Partnership must be a far more interesting place to work than its principles & reputation imply

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Is this a photograph of Dale Winton?

Umbrella carrier

Damian Green & his umbrella carrier met the press on the day that the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that no criminal charges would follow his much publicised arrest

He was not completely exonerated however: the DPP concluded that "there is evidence upon which a jury might conclude that Mr Green aided or abetted Mr Galley's conduct and, in particular, his breach of the public's trust. There is, additionally, evidence upon which a jury might conclude that there was an on-going relationship between Mr Galley and Mr Green, which Mr Green encouraged in the hope and expectation that Mr Galley would continue to supply restricted and/or confidential information to him.”

Not the sort of conduct one normally expects from a senior member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition

The DPP also concluded that “there is evidence upon which a jury might conclude that there was damage. The integrity of the Home Office arrangements for handling restricted and/or confidential information was breached. That caused damage to the proper functioning of the Home Office, which was exacerbated by the prolonged period of the alleged leaks, the on-going relationship between Mr Galley and Mr Green and the sensitivity of the material to which Mr Galley had access.

"One of the principal concerns at the Home Office was that whoever was responsible for the leaks in question may have had access to Ministerial papers and that there was a potential risk that highly sensitive material relating to national security might be disclosed. This damage should not be underestimated"

However, the DPP went on to say that the damage done was not great enough to pass the stringent legal tests for the offence alleged: “The documents leaked undoubtedly touched on matters of legitimate public interest and Mr Green's purpose in using the documents was apparently to hold the government to account.”

The DPP says that it was not necessary for him to decide whether the search of Damian Green’s home or parliamentary offices was legal. He does however point out that “once the pattern of leaks was established in this case it was inevitable that a police investigation would follow” [my emphasis], & that without such “thorough investigation”, he would not have been “able to reach a conclusion on the particular facts of this case.”

Damian Green’s wife, Alicia Collinson, published a good humoured book some years ago called POLITICS FOR PARTNERS, which has now been updated to include a section on what to do when the police search your home. “The knowledge that police officers have gone through every room in the house and have taken photographs of everything, can leave you feeling as violated as if the house has been burgled.”

Yes indeed, & it is not only nice middle class people who feel this way. Perhaps a lesson more valuable than just 'It should not happen to an MP' has been learned


Related posts

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


This morning there was a programme on Radio 4 – Life’s Soundtrack

I am very glad I did not know about the sounds heard by a baby in the womb while I was pregnant – the awareness would I am sure have given me much more to feel concerned about than the odd glass of wine

However I am now going to see if I can track down a version to listen to myself – far more genuinely relaxing than most of the tapes that are sold under that description. Most of those end up just making me want to scream

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

May is out

The hawthorn blossoms are looking particularly dense & lush this year

Round here they tend to grow in all sorts of depressions in the ground which you do not normally notice – either natural sinkways for streams, (very) small ancient quarries or even over a forgotten lead mine shaft, as well as in the hedgerows & gardens

They are very welcome, but I shall still be cautious about casting any clouts


Identity crisis

In 1976, when Denis Healey had to turn back from Heathrow & introduce an emergency cost cutting budget to meet the IMF demands, the one thing he had to say which was greeted with a cheer was that he was cancelling the 1976 Census.

This was the first time that it had been proposed to hold a full national census more frequently than once a decade (there had been a problematic 10% Sample Census in 1966)

There was however a not inconsiderable body of opposition to the government poking its nose into the citizens private business in this way & keeping the information on a computer

What is the betting that one of Alistair Darling’s efficiency savings to be announced today will be the cancellation of the compulsory national identity card scheme?

Related post

Monday, April 20, 2009


Damien McBride is 34, going on 64 years old, a career civil servant until he was talent spotted by Gordon Brown & chosen to be his special right hand man, joining a team who back in the day thought that it would show Gordon Brown’s human side to let it be known that he enjoyed all-boys together sessions in the Dorchester Hotel watching football & eating pizza & no doubt leaving a real mess for others to clean up, probably some of those funny things called women

Then Damian got caught having done something really naughty. Even Gordon was sickened, when he saw the evidence

So Damian was dumped – just like that. Even the media seems to have no interest in him – at least we are not being treated to reports about where he is or being shown pictures of the paparazzi lurking outside his lair

He has no pay off & no job, in the prime minister's utterances on the subject he does not even have a name, but I hope someone is looking after him after all his loyal service

Gordon Brown’s famous moral compass is as wonky as my magnetic one turned out to be when I took it on the bus, but it has taken me much longer than a single bus ride to finally work that out

Letter to 'The Times'

I like this rather sly poem about the difference between humans & other natural things. It was published in Dannie Abse’s collection, Tenants of the House in 1957, but is now unfortunately out of print. It has a nice touch of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells about it, not the fierce denunciation of John Stuart Mill

The first section has a swipe at roses, then:

consider trees. Just try, Sir, just try to cut one down
in Fitzjohn’s Avenue at three o’clock
in the ordinary afternoon. You will be
prosecuted. Soon the Householders will arrange
themselves into a deranged mob. They’ll grow
Hitler moustaches, Mussolini chins. Frightful,
and write oathy letters to the Council,
naming you tree-criminal. Yet tell me, when
the bombs met their shadows in London,
amidst the ruin of voices, did one tree, just one
tree, write an angry note in its sly green ink?

Just imagine the reaction & demands for public apology from anyone who likened today’s tree huggers to fascists

After moving on to have a go at rivers in similar vein, he continues

And stars,
so indifferent& delinquent, stars which we have
decorated with glittering adjectives more numerous
than those bestowed on Helen’s eyes – do they
warn us when they fall? Not a hint.
Not a star-wink. They are even too lazy
To shine when we are most awake. Creatures
of the Night, they are probably up to amoral
purposes. You can’t trust a star, that’s sure

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Infinitives split are made to be

Part of me can sympathise with those unfortunates who cannot bear a split infinitive – I find my own creepy crawlies in the language jungle

But even at school I just did not get it. It makes no sense to say that they should not be split in English because they are nor split in Latin

Well, of course they’re not – Latin infinitives are just one word

And isn’t it tedious to have to learn all those different inflections - amorabissimissimus, abamerameramer, yeh,yeh, whatever

English had the bright idea of turning an infinitive into two words precisely so that it could be split

So there

Unruly sun

The sun has been teasing us recently. As good a reason as any to read again one of John Donne’s love poems

The Sun Rising

BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th'Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, "All here in one bed lay."

She's all states, and all princes I;
Nothing else is;
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Maurice Druon

Maurice Druon died on Tuesday at the age of 92

I read his trilogy, published in English as The Curtain Falls mostly as I lay on my stomach in a small tent during an extraordinarily wet family camping holiday in Pembrokeshire the summer I was just 14. It made the most tremendous impact on me, as a primer in the ways of the adult world

Although I was delighted to come across a second hand copy on the same bookstall where I found Keynes on Probability, I have never wanted to re-read it, in case it disappoints the grown up, but it sits on the shelves as a kind of reminder of youthful innocence

I still occasionally read one of his historic novels – my schoolgirl French can still cope with that precise Academic style

Related post
Back to basics

The Laws of 1899

I could not find a copy of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act of 1899 on the web when I needed one. Since it is repealed it does not appear on the Statute Law database

But since this is still a proper library a kind librarian went to retrieve a bound volume for me from the basement & I had a pleasant time doing desk research the old fashioned way, with the smell of book dust in my nostrils. Why is this dust always so black?

One slim volume contained all the 51 Acts passed in 1899 – many of them are very short

Many of them also concerned topics which are still exercising Hon members, 110 years later

These were Acts which:

- raised the school leaving age to 12

- divided London into metropolitan boroughs, for more efficient government

- updated the electric lighting regulations

- made compulsory the provision of seats for shop assistants (but only where female assistants were employed)

- repealed the law which said that no municipal swimming bath (covered or open) could be used for singing & dancing

- allowed local education authorities to ascertain “what children in their district, not being imbecile, & not being merely dull or backward, are defective so that suitable education could be provided for them

- had to amend the previous year’s Inebriate Act to arrange for the payment of prosecution expenses

- tightened up the powers of the Poor Law guardians to care for abused or abandoned children

- made provision for the Improvement of Telephonic Communication

- revised the legislation on sale of food & drugs, especially with regard to the import of margarine & margarine-cheese, extending the provisions of the Margarine Act of 1887

The interesting question is this: Would any single Act of 2009 fit into the volume which contains the laws of 1899?

Friday, April 17, 2009

A parable of the property market

I was amused to see that the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act of 1899 (the SDA) had had to be consequentially amended to take account of the Decimal Currency Act of 1969. This is the sort of need which can arise in all sorts of unexpected places when new laws are brought in.

These days one wonders how they managed to keep track of all the requirements in pre-computer database days. Respect is due to all those human search engines & filing clerks

The other startling thing about this is that apparently there was no need to allow for inflation in the amounts specified in the original Act of 1899, so that ‘for the words “one halfpenny”, in both places where they occur, there shall be substituted the words “0·3p”’

The SDA was one of the earliest interventions in the housing market by a government keen to help the respectable working classes to get a foot on the property ladder. This was the government led by the Conservative Marquess of Salisbury, who had a lifelong interest in this subject

The act allowed local councils to advance money to “a resident in any house … for the purpose of enabling him to acquire the ownership of the house” (I wonder if the male embraced the female in this instance? No reason why not – women could & did own property). The advance could be of up to 80% on a market value of no more than £400. The house must be in good sanitary condition & repair, & must not be used for the sale of intoxicating liquor

An original TOP SECRET Cabinet document from October 1945, now released on the National Archives website (HTML version) , contains a proposal by the minister of health to increase the value of a house which could be financed under the SDA from the £800 set in 1936 to £1200 – this was the Aneurin Bevan who had said that no encouragement would be given to the speculative builders, who built for sale, and that the responsibility would fall on the municipalities since building for rent was the overwhelming priority

So the limits on the amount that a local council was allowed to lend to the purchaser had been increased to reflect rising property prices since 1899. The sums which had to be amended when decimalisation came in related to the councils own finances – they could not spend more than the proceeds of a half-penny rate on the scheme. The amount raised would have risen automatically as the rateable values rose generally in line with increases in property prices, & also in real terms as the area grew & the number of properties on the rates list grew too

Back in 1985 when the SDA was finally repealed I had a brief moment in the sun when it seemed that I was the only person who had ever actually heard of it

This was not down to professionalism. It had cropped up in the legal documents relating to 2 places where we had lived, which had both at one point in the past been financed with an SDA loan

The second had been given an exemption from the condition which proscribed the sale of liquor – beer & porter could be sold, for consumption off the premises, through a specified window in the side wall

The first SDA house we lived in had been bought either during, or soon after, WWII & had sitting tenants as well as providing a home to the family of the working class landlord

That house, originally built during the boom of the 1850s, whose developer went bust when the banks failed, is in what is now one of the most desirable Crescents of trendy Notting Hill. Much improved, modernised & titivated, shorn of its raggle-taggle band of sitting tenants it would, even in these straitened times, be on the market for a sum well in to 7 figures – at least 2000 times the figure Bevan had in mind

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bulls, china shops & glass houses

I thought it worth checking the origin of the phrase ‘red rag’, just to see if it meant what we think it means today

Courtesy of the OED, here are some interesting quotations

1785 Shut your potatoe trap, and give your redrag a holiday – Francis Grose in A classical of the vulgar tongue

1876 Stop that cursed red rag of yours, will you – WS Gilbert in Daniel Druce

1875 ‘What do you suppose I told you the names of those points for?’
‘Well, to to be entertaining, I thought.’
This was a red rag to a bull
Mark Twain in Atlantic Monthly

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The power of music

I just happened to catch Tales from the Vienna Woods on the radio the other day

I was slightly taken aback by my reaction – at that time of the morning!

When I was a teenager & grown ups were appalled by young people dancing the new fangled rock ‘n’ roll, & spoke of Elvis the Pelvis in shocked tones, we used to retaliate by reminding them that once upon a time mothers thought that the waltz was indecent & refused to let their daughters take part – & now what could be more respectable than Victor Sylvester

The Buxton Festival had, for at least a couple of years, a Viennese evening, with the Halle orchestra conducted by none other than Sir John Barbirolli. Some people refuse to believe me when I tell them that the evening ended with a Viennese ball – still with Barbirolli conducting, or so the programme said (I cannot find any confirmation of this on the web)

My mother did not like classical music but my father took me to the regular concerts in Sheffield from when I was about 10 years old. We went to the Buxton Halle concert earlier in the evening but the ball was far too late for me. I longed to be able to stay & dance with my father

Listening to Vienna Woods I began to wonder if that had not been all too, well, a bit, you know, Freudian

Well no, I don’t think so. The really shocking thing in those days would have been to go to a dance with a young man – as opposed to being chaperoned to one where people of all ages would have been present. And my father was one of the very small number of men I knew who were actually taller than me. Unfortunately he had two left feet & only ever shuffled a lady around the dance floor when bounden duty called. The Viennese waltz & the polka would have been well beyond his capabilities

But anyway, who cares. Just enjoy the music


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BMI confusion

Sara Buys wrote an interesting piece about Marilyn Monroe’s costumes in The Times Magazine on Saturday

One thing startled me. Since I got into a bit of a tiswas with the calculations I am going to show my workings in full, as they used to say on the exam papers

“Monroe was 5ft 5in”

5ft 5in = 65inches
x2.54 = 165cm
÷ 100 = 1.65 metres
Squared = 2.72

“Monroe was just over 8 stone”

8 stone x 14 = 112 lbs
÷ 2.2 = 50.9 kgs

So BMI = 50.9/2.72 = 18.7

which is distinctly underweight

But “she had a respectable BMI of 21”

So start with BMI =21
Assume height is correctly given as 5ft 5 in
Then weight = 21 x 2.72
= 57.1 kg
= 126 lbs
= 9 stone

I am not bothering to write all this here just to pick nits. I suspect the mistake might have been to assume that there are 16 lbs in 1 stone – easily done, I have done it myself

Since Monroe was American her weight would usually be quoted in pounds, but on this side of the water we still tend to think in terms of stones, despite years of metric-only education. So if people then multiply by 16 on the way to kilogrammes BMI will be overstated, which could explain some of the odder assertions we sometimes read

Seek & ye shall find

Am I the only person who finds themselves a little troubled by the BBCs description of scurrilous allegations as unfounded?

It is just the slight hint of no smoke without fire, that there might be something to be found

And that therefore if we simply accuse the person responsible for making the allegations of being a liar we may be open to an action for libel or something

Monday, April 13, 2009

Time is of the essence

I now realise that the reason I have recently started to notice, read & take an interest in the daily Court Circular is that it appears these days on the same page as The Times archive photograph, which is always well worth a look & often prompts interesting correspondence on the letters page

On 8th April I noticed that the Queen had held a [Privy] Council at precisely 12.40p.m. I wonder what is the significance of this precision – I doubt it is mere pernickitiness

The 1985 Housing Act was meant to be a purely consolidating Act, involving no new law. A genius in the parliamentary draughtsman’s office had put together a coherent version of what had become a very convoluted set of Acts of Parliament, dating back at least as far as the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act of 1899

Shortage or parliamentary time however meant that the final stages of getting it into law were left to the very last day of the parliamentary session. In a race against the clock it had to be whizzed through both Commons & Lords, then rushed to Buckingham Palace to receive the Royal Assent. If it did not get there before parliament was prorogued it would not be the law of the land & we would have to rely on the old hodge podge until at least sometime next year

For us it was no mere technicality. We had statistical returns which should already have gone to the printer, but were sitting waiting to find out which version should be printed – the one with the old or the one with the new statutory references

I am sure there were other even more important actions hanging on this as we sat in the office waiting to hear whether la reine did indeed le veult


Stinking fish

Mary Beard has been writing about garum on her blog. She gives Heston Blumenthal about 7 out of 10 for his televised attempt to recreate it for a modern kitchen.

Is this another example of what I call serendipity? Well, not really. Mary Beard was one of the participants in the In Our Time which prompted my post.

I sense a new blogger version of the Kevin Bacon game coming on - Link the Fat Duck to Carthage in 6 steps or less. Or a PhD (or life time study) - Rotten Fish: Its Role in the Rise & Fall of Civilisations

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Population control

We know that Emma Darwin was not one of those women (there are some) who found deep & profound fulfilment in being pregnant & giving birth. It would be fair to say that her reaction, at least to her later pregnancies, was tinged with dismay

It is clear that Charles Darwin worried about the inherited consequences of cousin marriage, & therefore about his own ‘responsibility’ for the health problems of his children

We also know that, like most Victorian men, he worried about money & his continued ability to support a family

He was a close student of Malthus & would have understood about ‘moral restraint’

He also knew about contraception, but was against it on moral & social grounds

Of course we also know that he revelled in the role of paterfamilias & that the home, despite trials, tribulations, sadness & grief was a happy one, the relationship between the parents solid & intimate – Emma was the principle nurse during his bouts of sickness

Today such ‘reproductive behaviour’ would be almost universally condemned, in our society, from many different points of view: carbon footprints, broken society, women’s liberation …

How did we get from the Victorian situation to that of today, when we seriously debate how to encourage children in the use of contraception

Related post

Nearly forgot

When writing about financial embarrassments the other day I typed the abbreviation MPs into the document

The spellchecker enquired: Did you mean MP3?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Minority male government

The Rt Hon David Hanson was the only man present at a recent meeting of the Privy Council

The 3 other ministers present were all women, as was the Clerk of the Council, and as of course is Her Majesty

I wonder if this is something new

And whether it represents an achievement for women, or if the New Labour macho man (in his dreams) thinks that such flummery can safely be left to the girlies

Gentlemen & hooligans

Any follower (however marginal) of football in this country will be aware of the scorn & contempt which is heaped upon Americans for calling the game soccer

It only recently occurred to me to wonder where the name soccer comes from

Lo & behold it could hardly be more English, in the sense that is an abbreviation of Association, & it was the English Football Association, formed in 1863, which codified the modern game

I suspect that the English aversion to the name soccer has its origins, as do so many of these sensitivities, in class

The Oxford Dictionary has the following quote from the Westminster Gazette of 1893:

W. Neilson was elected captain of ‘rugger’ and T. N. Perkins of ‘socker’

I suspect a certain amount of chippiness in the insistence that ‘true’ football is ‘The game as played under Association rules’, not that snooty one played by Public School boys.

Easter crunchy bits

Vasectomies have been much in demand in America since last autumn

Nobody orders 100 hampers @ £150 a throw to give as corporate gifts these days

The number of British holiday makers in Spain fell by a quarter in February

Sales by Bloomsbury’s children’s publishing division fell from £99million to only £38 million last year. This was not so much the crunch however, just the end of Harry Potter

Corporate guests at this years Hong Kong 7s rugby fest had to pay for their own drinks

Practitioners of Rescue Archaeology may lose their livelihoods because demand from property developers has dried up

California has decided now is not the time to ban black cars

Enquiries about treatment for stress at the Priory clinic rose 20% in 6 months

There are now more supermarkets than pubs in Britain

Casino takings are down in Las Vegas 7 340 events have been cancelled in the past 3 months

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hard times for an MP

I was thinking about adding a little to the debate on MP’s remuneration by suggesting a return to the 19th century custom of the testimonial – an invitation to a grateful public to subscribe for a suitable token (sometimes in cash) for public service

I was looking in The Times archive for an example, when I came across this Letter To The Editor of 1852. While it is not referring to a request for funds to celebrate a living public figure, the evidence of how hard up an MP can be shows why we might need to help them with their expenses

Being an admirer of the late Duke, I spell over every name in the subscription lists to the Wellington Testimonial Fund … but I have come to one name which has disturbed all harmony of feeling

- that of an MP who subscribed £20 who

owes me money, some £150 or £200, & at the risk of being thought a hard man, I will confess to you … I endeavoured, after all other means had failed, to obtain payment by putting an execution into the MP’s house. The execution produced exactly £2 3s 4d! The sofas which he pressed, the plate he used, the horses he rode, were all hired, & his person was of course protected; but the sheriff ingeniously contrived to seize a few books, including The Whole Duty Of Man, which the MP had overlooked in his general arrangements

Now, Sir, can you not rectify your list by inserting my name for the balance of the £20, after giving credit for £2 3s 4d, instead of the name of my gallant & “honourable” debtor, & thus oblige

Your obedient servant,

The Times Tuesday, Dec 21, 1852; pg. 8

Skirts & Trousers

I just came across this poem by Vernon Scannel in his Collected Poems 1950-1993

It is a fact – or would have been until
About half a century ago –
That any picture showing Jack & Jill
Would carefully preserve the status quo
And represent the boy as wearing some
Type of trousers with his manly shirt
To clothe his legs & privy parts & bum,
While Jill of course would wear some kind of skirt.

Not quite the same today. Some women wear
Trousers all the time (I mean as fact
As well as metaphor). Most choose a pair
For work or play, some simply to attract –
On certain female shapes they look sublime –
And yet I sometimes feel, I must confess,
Regret for those lost days, that faded time
Of whispering hem, that unambiguous dress.

I’ve often wondered why it’s always been
The woman clad in skirts, the man in breeks –
At least here, on the European scene –
Though come to think of it, the ancient Greeks
(The males I mean) wore skirts, the Romans too,
And both held to the view that those who wore
Trousers were barbaric; it’s still true
Some Scots wear skirts, by which they set great store

There are three more verses which I won’t repeat here. While sympathetic to an old man’s view that “There is something magical/In women wearing skirts” my feminist self won’t let me

Thursday, April 09, 2009


The RAF will finally retire its fleet of VC 10s in 5 years time

Strange to think that one of those planes I might have flown on has been spending its retirement form commercial flying in such hazardous work

Related post

Mystery buyer

Somebody (footballer?) has enough money to buy a new Lamborghini

It is still in the showroom, with a discreet & ever so tactful SOLD sign in front of it

The doors (of the car, not the showroom) have been thrown open to allow us to admire ze leathaire – just on the tasteful side of scarlet (with a hint of plum)

Some of the models on display have been extraordinary citrus or lollipop colours, which you could get away with under a tropical, or possibly a Mediterranean, but never a Manchester sky

The bodywork of the newly sold one is good-taste cream with intimations of grey & cappuccino to tone it down. Is it also a touch metallic, or just VERY highly polished?

50 years ago I would have been pea green with envy. These days I just wonder how anyone can bend down far enough to get into it. And if by some miracle I did, I would be unable to rise again, unless it has ejector seats

And I certainly would not want to drive in it on roads which also carry HGVs, or even 4x4s

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Theoretical confusion

As social science undergraduates we used to spend much time (much influenced by Popper) in earnest debate on the question of whether social science could ever be a science

It was not until I was in my 30s, working alongside scientists, engineers & medics in multidisciplinary teams that I began to think: Hang on a minute. Is science a science?

I was thinking again about this after the recent In Our Time on Baconian science
when even the distinguished panel seemed to be expressing some doubts about what this was, or is, or ever could be

This came together with another question I have recently been pondering: What is the difference between a Law & a Theory

We have Newton’s Laws of Motion, but Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. And a theory is more than just a hypothesis, certainly when that hypothesis involves intelligent design

Does the difference lie in mathematical expression – Darwin was certainly aware of his limitations in this regard

But if it does, why are modern physicists searching for a Theory, rather than a Law, of Everything?

And where does that leave those of us who find just looking for, or at, patterns, in all their infinite variety, a far more absorbing activity

Winners & losers

George Soros was quoted recently as saying “Everybody who realised that this was unsustainable expected it to collapse much sooner

Ken Livingstone has said that he forecast it as long ago as 1983

I forecast it in 1986, when I first heard somebody boast that they had been offered a mortgage of 4 times joint salary, so would not suffer the humiliation of being gazumped again. A stockbroker acquaintance remarked that “There are going to be a lot of 6-figure mortgages looking for jobs

I made my dispositions accordingly

The crash came a bit later than I expected

I could not believe it when the whole process started up again

George Soros made his billions. Ken Livingstone won & then lost the mayoralty of London. I missed my chance to profit from 20 years of boom, but at least have not much to lose

So who are the winners

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Disco better

The next computer genius will be the one who invents the equivalent of CTRL+F for audio & video clips

What happens next

In recent years we have got used to creation marking the fault line between believers & non-believers

In the last few weeks, reading Ruth Padel & Mary Lamb has reminded me how much store used to be set on being able to look forward to spending eternity with ones loved ones

The belief that one earned one’s place in eternity through one’s beliefs and through one’s actions in this life was both a powerful spur & a source of dread

And now?

Hardly anybody ever refers to this, at least not in public

Does everybody believe that death is The End – we live on only in the memory & record of our deeds?

Does this explain our obsession with health & ‘avoiding’ death – the Jane Eyre solution?

And is it the cause or the effect of the widely observed or assumed retreat from belief, in Europe at least

One effect is that it removes almost any understanding of martyrdom – the idea of giving up your life for (rather than just to) a cause which will earn you your reward in eternity

We may scoff at the reported belief of some suicide bombers about what awaits them

But …

Pure gold

Graham Stewart’s Past Notes in Saturday’s Times gave a fascinating account of the 1933 equivalent of last weeks G20

The London Monetary & Economic Conference was attended by 66 of the then 67 independent nations in the world, accompanied by their spouses

The opening address was broadcast throughout the world, stretching the then newish technology of radio to its limits. It was given by His Majesty King George V via a symbolic gold microphone

The conference was an abysmal failure, since the American President was adamant about not giving in to European demands that the USA return to the Gold Standard

It is salutary that hardly anybody these days has heard of this great event

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mahometism explained

I have been dipping in to Charles & Mary Lamb again

Odd to think that some of their works were still popular when I was a child – certainly I had a copy of Tales From Shakespeare. Does anyone ever read them these days, I wonder

The tale which caught my attention this time is by Mary & comes from Mrs Leicester’s School: or The History Of Several Young Ladies Related By Themselves

Published in 1808 it has the distinctly Gothic flavour which was popular then – Jane Austen was writing Northanger Abbey at about the same time. This one is not at all funny however – it has a stern moral, not my taste at all. But it was the title which drew me in & kept me going: Margaret Green The Young Mahometan

Margaret & her recently widowed mother go to live with a very rich, elderly & now frail woman in her vast house. Most rooms are shrouded & closed but Margaret is allowed to roam & eventually manages to penetrate the library

“If you never spent whole mornings alone in a large library, you cannot conceive the pleasure of taking down books …”

Written by Mary Lamb no doubt from the heart & from experience. In childhood she had been granted free range of the library of her father's employer, Samuel Salt, a bencher of the Inner Temple

The fictional Margaret comes across Mahometism Explained which had a great many of its leaves torn out. Nevertheless it was full of wonders, & Margaret came to believe that she must be a Mahometan “for I believed every word I read”

The problem with this was that, as the book explained:

“After we are dead, we are to pass over a narrow bridge, which crosses a bottomless gulf. The bridge was … no wider than a silken thread”, and all non-Mahometans would slip & drop into the gulf that had no bottom

Clearly neither her mother nor their patroness would be able to make this journey

Margaret grew anxious, became ill, & the physician discovered that “I had read myself into a fever”

She is removed to the physician’s home, where his wife is skilled in the care of such cases. She prescribes a visit to Harlow Fair where there were “rows of booths that were full of showy things; ribbands, laces, cakes & sweetmeats". Margaret is loaded with gifts, companions of her own age are invited round to play & the doctor’s wife coaxes her into explaining the source of her anxiety

Thus Margaret then learns that “so far from ‘Mahometism Explained’ being a book concealed only in this library, it was well known to every person of the least information”

And what is more, the missing pages would have explained that the stories of Mahometism were not true

“I was carried home at the end of a month. Perfectly cured of the error into which I had fallen, & very much ashamed of having believed so many absurdities”

What is intriguing about this story, apart from the renewed topicality of anxieties in the west about the Muslim faith, is the way that the treatment (though not the diagnosis) would not seem extraordinary to any modern therapist or medic concerned to treat anxiety

And the determination to wean her away from error is not that far from the governments determination to wean young hotheads from 'extremism'

Related post

Treasury bankers

It completely slipped under my radar but in 2004 the Bank of England decided to withdraw from the provision of retail banking & clearing services to government departments in order to concentrate on its core responsibilities

Well, I suppose that is just going with the flow of another popular modern management theory & all the implications were well thought through

So then each government department had to go through a public procurement process to find an alternative supplier of banking services – presumably complying with EU rules about giving all European banks a fair chance to bid

And so it has come to pass that Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs have selected the Royal Bank of Scotland for this role

When I can lever my jaw up from the floor I shall want to ask: Who provides retail banking services for HMRC’s parent company – Her Majesty’s Treasury?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The value of zero

Considering the reverence which we give to the adoption of 0 as a place holder in our system of numeric notation, it is intriguing to think about how much effort we put into getting rid of it

Especially in the (early) computer age, with storage space at a premium, we had to get rid of the things, squash them down or squeeze them out

More intriguingly, in its way, is how we cope with the trailing zeroes in VERY BIG numbers: we give them a name. Million, googol, gazillion

But milliard or billion? English or American? Instead of resolving this by taking refuge in scientific notation – 10 to the 9 – or longer phrase – thousand million – or alpha/numeric abbreviation – ‘000 million – we just slug it out, helped no little by inflation. When UK GDP (in thousands of £) reached 7 figures, then government expenditure, then departmental budgets – we just gave in & went for the billion. And got cavalier - £1m registered only in the final digit, so who is going to worry about that, between friends

But the problem did not just come with the computer age or 20th century inflation. The ordinary human brain cannot cope with long strings of digits in the way that it can with antidisestablishmentarianism – most of us stop at a 4 digit PIN

I remember reading somewhere (can it really have been in one of the editions of Yule & Kendall) of long-ago experiments which showed that the average human can count, at a glance, only up to 5 objects, though some few may be able to count up to 8. Above that number the normal person has to (mentally) point & enumerate – unless of course the objects are arranged in a recognisable pattern, such as on playing cards

So it is not just the zero digits we want to compress or suppress, squash into a form easier to handle – give it a name

But there is another strange thing. Zero itself does not have a single proper unique name by which it is invariably called - nobody uses cipher now, except figuratively


In that it is like 1,2,3 & maybe 4 or 5 (rarely & only in specialist fields for digits bigger than that). Two may be referred to as pair, twin or double for example

It does not even have an unambiguous symbol of its own

Early typewriters did not give it a key – why bother when you can use the O (some did not have 1 either, since I or l would do)

A fact which became noticeable for a while when newspapers were first computerised & journalists & subs proved not to know their O from their 0

In the days when programmers had to write out their code by hand to be transformed into machine-readable code by key-punch operatives, there were attempts to distinguish the two by the use of Ø. The problem was, remembering which was which

It was also important to make clear when a real space was intended, rather than just variable, wonky spacing between your handwritten code; Δ was adopted for this

So Zero does not necessarily have or mean nothingness, in the way that twoness belongs to 2. It may stand for not known, missingness, or just absence

And that is before you get into the philosophical problems of how no number can be a number, & the problems of division, limits & infinity

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The answer is a lemon

The Harvard Social Science Statistics blog has a nice graph in the correlation is not causation series – lemons prevent road deaths

A favourite in my undergraduate days showed the correlation between the local birth rate & the number of storks seen nesting on the rooftops in a small German town

The really interesting question in this however, is why we so readily dismiss some, accept others as perhaps providing an interesting hypothesis, while falling on others as proof of what we suspected all along

Sauce for Google

Surely there is a simple way to stop Google from taking photographs of every street in the country

Just use the same anti-terrorist law that is being used to stop ordinary members of the public from using their cameras

Friday, April 03, 2009

Role model

I was incredibly touched by the photo – smudgy but thought important enough to take up the whole of the top of the front page in yesterday’s Times – of the Queen & Mrs Obama with their arms round each other. I was even more moved by the BBC report the previous evening that the Queen had said: Now that we have met, I do hope that you will keep in touch

Mrs Obama showed her class again with her address to a group of schoolgirls yesterday: I never cut class. I loved getting As, I liked being smart. I liked being on time. I thought being smart is cooler than anything in the world. You too, with these values, can control your own destiny

I do not suppose it was an accident that her visit was to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school - the first woman doctor in this country & a passionate advocate of education for girls.

What an impressive journey Mrs Obama has made from the young woman who felt that at Princeton no matter how liberal and open-minded someof my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong

Speaking up

I caught a part of the Obama/Brown press conference live on the radio on Wednesday morning

In fact I was not sure what it was to begin with, not at all sure that it was the President speaking – he was using a much more relaxed & deeper voice than he does for his speech- making. But very impressive.

I have always envied people who can speak in whole sentences & follow their train of thought (though those who can speak in whole paragraphs, complete with footnotes, are usually either scary or tedious). He was doing the journalist the honour of treating the question seriously

The President’s cadences were interesting too, the way he picked the right words to emphasise or stress. He was graceful too, recognising other’s points of view while defending stoutly his government’s & his country’s role in the world

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Public interest

We are told that police used CS gas to break up a fight in a House of Commons corridor as guests left a drinks party

We are told the name of the politician who hosted the event

We are given a quote from 2, unnamed, fellow guests who thought the police overreacted

We are not told the names of the two pugilists, so we can deduce that they were not politicians, footballers or celebrities

So is there absolutely no public interest in knowing who they were?

Of course not, silly. They were journalists

Perilous journeys

While not in any way wishing to play down the tragedy of the 16 people who lost their lives when the helicopter taking them to work on oil rigs off Aberdeen crashed in to the sea, it is salutary, at least for those of us not directly affected, to consider a report which appeared in yesterday’s Times

Last year an average of 17 people died each weekday on Mumbai’s suburban rail network

Commuters consider that the risk is worth taking – a journey which takes 45 minutes by train can, because of congestion, take more than 2 hours by car

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Think before you explode

The Today programme had a piece this morning about a scientific proposal to classify humans as merely another species of ape

The programme secretary of the Linnaean Society came on to speak about the meeting they were organising ASAP. That is when I took notice, because she spoke about the need to involve the scientific community & also the public community

It proves something or the other that I took her language seriously enough to make a note to check her name from the website

Then I also made a note of the date

Loss of tenure

Our national obsession with owning our own home, complete with mortgage debt, has long been known to cause all sorts of economic distortions & other problems

It has even played its part in the current horrible mess over MPs expenses. If a thriving rental market meant that at least one of the 2 homes which MPs are almost bound to maintain, now that we demand that each MP ‘lives’ in some sense in their constituency, should be rented rather than mortgaged, there would not be the same need to quarrel over how that second home is financed