Thursday, 29 September 2016

Vizual Aides

The Labour Party Conference has finished in Liverpool, some would say the Labour Party has finished in Liverpool. The internal disputes and differences of philosophy are being described as "trench warfare".

To compare the petty rivalries, spites and student type politicking of the last few days to this is an insult to the men who fought in the First World War, notably those of the Kings Liverpool Regiment.

Given the antics and behaviour of many of the senior figures in the Labour movement today, if there is anything to compare it might be the characters in the Viz comic, see online, viz dot co dot uk.

Football Crackers

In the late 1940's, it was a puzzle to me that the players and the manager of our town's soccer team in The Football League managed to enjoy the lifestyle they did.

Despite having middling wages and liable for tax etc. at the same high levels that were imposed they could afford to spend a great deal of time enjoying themselves.  Money did not seem to be a problem, they could even afford whisky.

Also, finding a decent place to rent was very difficult but they were able to move straight in to nice houses. They had far better clothing and seemed untroubled by the food rationing that the rest of us had to accept.  I could go on.

Being an enquiring youngster I once asked someone close to the club how this could be.  All he would say was that the answer was what they found in their boots.  Quite what he meant I did not know until much later.

How things change.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Going To The Pictures

Over the weekend BBC4TV was given over to Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. On Sunday he chose the film "The Man Who Would Be King", which was preceded by an episode of the cartoon "Captain Pugwash". The Stones were always keen on contrast and there has been an interesting one in the last few days.

The film, made in 1975 with Michael Caine and Sean Connery leading, was based on a short book by Rudyard Kipling written in 1888, towards the end of his time in India.  He had been born there, son of a Yorkshire artist cum Principal of a new Art College. Kipling, however, was sent to England for his education, returning in 1882.

Currently, in the media there is the story about actor Marc Anwar in the leading TV "soap", "Coronation Street", who has been sacked for making racist comments about Indians, he being of Pakistani origin. They relate to the recurrence of problems in Kashmir which  arise from differences and hostilities between local groups that go back centuries.

One irony is that the remarks tell us that some things have not changed since the time of Kipling.  The other is that the issues are now with us among the peoples of the sub-continent who have moved here in the last half century. The nature of Anwar's remarks were silly and childish but was it "racism" or was he simply expressing his cultural identity derived from centuries past?

In the film, which I suspect would not be made today, one of the elements of the plot relates to the continuing warfare in the period between tribes and villages whose cultural lifestyle involved killing their neighbours and stealing their women, cattle, and goats. It is set in the fictional territory of Kafiristan; that name would have to go today, to which two unprincipled rogues, likable unless you were stung by them, go to make their fortunes was placed beyond Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains.

But given the period in which the book was written, it may well have drawn on what was happening in Kashmir at the time.  This territory is at the point where South East Asia, that means China, meets the Sub Continent, now Pakistan and India. Kashmir, see the Wikipedia article, has a long and full history of warfare, coming and going and changes in power.

In the film Danny Dravot and Peachey Carnehan, time served former soldiers and sergeants, enforce law and order with Martini-Henry rifles and British Army discipline, centralise power and create a tax gathering public sector authority, intending to make off with the loot to retire to England. Nowadays it would be one of our retired Prime Ministers and their ilk advising on financial services and banking structures for a fee paid into a tax haven.

But Danny then decides he wants to stay, retain power and found a dynasty. Among all this is Freemasonry, Alexander The Great and how Danny came to be regarded as a god.  Unluckily, Danny is bitten by an unwilling wife, the blood making it clear he is not a god and it all goes badly wrong.

Danny finishes up dead singing "The Minstrel Boy", Carnehan is captured and goes mad but makes it back to tell Kipling the story giving him Danny's head and the diadem of Alexander The Great to  prove it.  The lessons that can be drawn are various.  One may be that extensive cultural and ancestral differences and centralised high tax systems of government do not go together.

This would align with Kipling's own thinking. When the Fall of the Rupee was inflicting economic damage in India and the Treasury of India was faced with a serious deficit along with major famine, Auckland Colvin introduced income tax which Kipling satirised.

Upsetting Colvin could have been a sound reason for Kipling to leave India in 1889, returning only for a brief visit in 1891. Kipling, despite being a Nobel Prize Winner, is now off the shelves and an author those fame and popularity are now long past. He has become that relative whom we do not care to mention.  Yet at the time his style and ability to tell the tale made him readable by all classes.

His vision of imperialism, "The White Man's Burden" meant imposing peace and sound government for the benefit of all by self sacrifice. But Kaiser Bill in Germany, who Kipling disliked, had his own ideas and World War One saw the beginning of the end for Imperialism, especially with the USA determined to break the British Empire.

After Kipling's death in 1936 it was ironic that the Labour Party had among its intellectual leaders men whose families had been prominent in the Raj and derived their ideas on central control, planning and government from the way it became in India in Kipling's time and after.

This they thought was the vision for ruling the British working class command of the economy as well as dismantling the Empire.  One of the serious problems of this in the Sub-Continent in 1947 was who would rule Kashmir, the old enmities still not resolved but the British getting the blame.

Which is part of The Burden of The White Man.  We have never really forsaken this idea and indeed it has been taken up by the USA, who took over much of the Empire.  How many interventions, invasions and other warlike or peaceful forays into other nations and territories have been made in the last half century?

Then there is the home version of it, in that our rulers have imposed a regime where nothing may be said or done that gives offence to others or be construed as discriminatory.  It is another irony that one of those to be caught out and punished severely is moved to be rude by the latest conflicts in Kashmir.

There is another matter, it is that our rulers who carry The Burden today are not really persons of high noble ideals and beliefs living a dedicated life to benefit us all by their wisdom and abilities.

In fact, they are much more like Dravot and Carnehan.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Expert Predictions

With Jeremy Corbyn confirmed as Leader of the Labour Party by a convincing majority there is a lot of clatter in the media predicting a bad future for Labour.

Let me see now.

In the 1935 vote Herbert Morrison was assumed to be the man of the future, but Clement Attlee won despite Arthur Greenwood being favoured by many.  In 1945, this alleged nonentity beat Churchill by a large majority to become Prime Minister.

In 1955, Eden, the man for all seasons, took over from Churchill to be Conservative Prime Minister winning the 1955 Election.  Macmillan was but a party stalwart who at one time was thought to be only just Cabinet material.

In 1963 Harold Wilson was a man with a small following but not to be relied on, especially with his fetish for figures.  Gaitskell was a man of ideas with a long future ahead of him.

In 1963 Macmillan concluded it was time to go, especially with major figures such as  Butler to take over.  But Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister to the astonishment of all.

In 1976 Wilson suddenly left office for health reasons. Dennis Healey was expected to succeed, but Jim Callaghan, regarded as a useful workhorse, became Prime Minister.

In the late 1960's and early 1970's those listening wearily to Mrs. Thatcher turgidly turning over the pages of prepared speeches would have been rolling in the aisles with helpless laughter at the idea of her becoming a Prime Minister.

In 1994, John Smith, Labour Party leader, widely expected to beat John Major in the coming election, died suddenly to be succeeded by Tony Blair.

In 2005, the Conservatives were undecided as to who next might be Leader after the previous two had lost elections and divisions in the ranks.  David Cameron won on the second ballot and was thought to be the least worst option.

In 2007 Tony Blair resigned unexpectedly to spend more time with his bankers, meaning that Gordon Brown also unexpectedly became Prime Minister.

In 2016 Cameron went off in a sulk after being caught out in one of his major errors of judgement.  Theresa May, the girl from nowhere, became Prime Minister as the least worst option.

Also in 2016 Jeremy Corbyn won decisively to retain his position as Leader of the Labour Party, and the media and others tell us that he will never become Prime Minister.

Be careful what you wish for.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Election Fever?

With the party conference season on and hitting the remote control change channel to sport at the hint of a politician or report from these events, we know that between now and 2020 a general election should be held.  My reaction which long ago may have been that this is very important is now more muted and indeed wearied.

The young adult part of the electorate will have been born in the late 1980's and the 1990's.  Their early memories of politics would have been the Prime Ministers Blair, Brown, Cameron and May.  At the other end of the age scale my equivalent was Attlee, Churchill, Eden and Macmillan.  Hardly like with like.

The picture above is of Hugh Gaitskell, Leader of the Labour Party 1955-1963, one of Labour's intellectual Sons Of The Raj, who died young and lost the 1959 election, defeated not just by Macmillan's big spending but the divisions in the Labour Party which the electorate did not like, especially in the depths of the Cold War.  My view at the time that it was a pity that Gaitskell wasn't leading the Tories and Macmillan the Labour Party was unwelcome.

When an election occurred information was derived from cinema newsreels, newspapers, journals and people around me.  Some watched TV news, such as it was, but I did not have either the time or a TV.  These days we greatly exaggerate the influence of TV in this period, forgetting that for many, notably young adults, there were other things to do.

This time round, I like many of the young of today, will be tapping away at my gizmo with immediate access to a wide range of sources, which include some of the press, media and journal legacy of the past but now not the same at all. What politicians say or are reported to say belongs to the realm of another world, one where imagination rules rather than information.

There are great changes from the past.  Retailing was very different and entailed a wide range of contacts on a daily basis.  The ordinary business of life was not the same, again a range of other ways and means. Debt was no go and consumption was not remotely on today's scale.  Education was different etc. etc.  Our young adults of today have grown up on a different planet.

It is not surprising that the major political parties are becoming so fractured.  We live in a fractured world with age groups whose life experience and formative thinking are very different.  Labour cannot rebuild its working class vote because that class of the past have gone into the mists of time.  The lower paid etc. today are not the same and they are changing rapidly in any case.

The Lib Dem's rely on old ideas and structures than cannot be recovered.  The Tories play the media game better, at the moment, but lack the ability to make the hard decisions and apply them thoroughly.  Their shifts, devices, shallow thinking and attempts at making deals and compromises will catch up with them.

The question is when and how.  A major financial bust will mean sooner. So who will the various age groups turn to?

All bets are off.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Life And Literature

When looking for answers often you face more questions and they become harder to answer.  One in history is the "silent servants", who were the servants of certain people and what role did they play?

This comes to mind when Cassandra Austen decided shortly before her death in 1845 to destroy many of her late sister Jane's letters and other documents and to censor those remaining.  Who may have helped with the poker at the fire and perhaps busy with a pair of scissors?

For many years academics, Austen lovers and others interested have regretted this decision.  What has been lost can only be guessed at but it would have been of interest to a wide range of people.  The social or national history interest may have been limited, but there may have been items of value.

What is intriguing is that a young servant, one of the few of Cassandra's who might have helped, was Jane Tidman, born 1826 to Isaac Tidman and Mary Ann, born Andrews. She lived until 1919 and died at the age of 93.  Her mother, born around 1790 also lived long, until 1874, and had been in Chawton at the time of Jane Austen herself. What memories might they have had?

Jane Tidman married in 1848 to a William Garnett, in an ordinary way of life to do with horses and labouring.  William died in 1868 leaving Jane a widow for fifty odd years who got by as many did as a dressmaker.  There were six surviving children but there have been problems looking for descendants.  I suspect emigration which was common and from Hampshire the docks were not far away.

One intriguing question is what knowledge and talk there may have been about what was happening in Selborne a short distance away.  It could not be ignored, one of the famous works of the late 18th Century was "The Natural History And Antiquities Of Selborne" by the Rev. Gilbert White, who died in 1793.

It was a seminal work in its field and for a time Selborne was a famous place, the Austen's must have know about it and are likely to have read the book.  There was a difficulty, however, in that The Priory Farm there had been at the centre of White's studies but by the late 1790's and into the 1800's had the Fitt family as leaseholders.

They were of a robust outlook on life and manners. The surname Garnett has come to be associated with one of one of TV's most notorious fictional oafs and bigots, Alf Garnett of "Till Death Us Do Part".  Alf is a very bad fit with the politesse of Jane Austen. The Fitt's, however, could have run rings round the likes of Alf.

They sired a number of children out of wedlock. The circumstances were not unusual locally. In 1821/22 the Rev. J. Monkhouse wrote in the Parish Register of Bramshott, nearby, “Of 72 marriages in the last 10 years ending 1820, not less than 69 females have been unchaste before marriage. Those who gain husbands are more fortunate than those who bear bastards, but not more virtuous."

The records of Magdalen College show in the lease registers that Charles Fitt was in occupation on 6th August, 1795. It is possible that he followed a member of the Lassam family into the holding. In 1816 it was decided not to renew the lease after a legal opinion had been sought.  In 1817, however, the lease was renewed on condition he give the interest to his family.

In 1818 the lease registers confirm that in 1818 leases given to Benjamin and Frederick Fitt, Sons of Charles Fitt of Selborne, Yeoman. Leases were drawn up, also, in 1824 and 1832 for John Dunn of Alresford, as mortgagee, subject to a proviso of redemption by the Fitt’s. Orders were made in 1825, 1833, and 1834 related to arrears and interest owing, but in July 1834 an entry fine was accepted. Charles died aged 83 in Selborne, and was buried on the 11th May, 1843.

From the works of Jane, it might be assumed that the rural areas of Hampshire were a relatively peaceful and gentle part of England.  But during the period of the Wars against France it was home to large numbers of troops on the move as well as being the major base of the British Navy.  Among the ordinary people it might be anything but peaceful.

In 1823 William Cobbett, in his “Rural Rides” remarked on the unhappy situation in Selborne, and The Rev. Cobbold, Vicar of Selborne wrote on the subject.  This situation led to conflict over the tithes due each year to the Church, payable in Selborne’s case to Magdalen College, Oxford, the freeholder of the properties, and in respect of the Parish Rates. The upshot was a serious outbreak of trouble in 1830, in parallel with many others in England, generally known as the “Captain Swing” riots.

In Selborne the unpopular Workhouse was attacked and set on fire.  Then the Headley Workhouse nearby was attacked and a threshing machine destroyed.  There were other violent incidents in Selborne and in neighbouring parishes such as Chawton, and the Yeomanry was deployed to restore order.  Worse still in Selborne, a local hostelry, “The Compasses” was burned down.  The “Queen’s Head” replaced it in 1837.

The consequence was that a number of men were transported and others served long prison sentences with hard labour. Edward Fitt spoke at the trial at the Winchester Assizes on behalf of a Benjamin Smith, who was probably a relative. There were also Warne relations involved, deservedly transported to Australia to mend their manners.

The Reverend Cobbold on the other hand, in contrast to the appeals for mercy made by other clergy, wrote to the Secretary of State for Home Affairs demanding that the criminals be hanged forthwith.  Perhaps having had a pistol held to his head during the disturbances had concentrated his mind.

Given the financial difficulties with which the Fitt’s were then faced, it raises the question of what their position may have been.  Were they sympathetic to or even supportive of anti-Tithe and similar activities, or opposed to the disturbances?  It is alleged that some local farmers encouraged the rioters.

During the 1850's, the Garnett family moved down the road to Hursley and Jane Garnett was still there in 1911, apparently on her own.  It was from Hursley that the Fitt's had come to Selborne.

When all the academics and enthusiasts later in the 19th Century and into the 20th studied the world of the Austen's, it is a pity they did not seek out the servants or their families for their view of the past.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Fast Finish Fashion

Something literary has turned up which will take a little time so a short item but with large implications.

It is suggested that among the many destructive consumer goods markets are the ones in clothes.

Fast fashion from Naked Capitalism explains what it is.

Frock horror?