Sunday, 30 November 2014

Downton In The Doghouse

This leap into the steamy waters of TV soap; the one about Downton Abbey, is sparked  by an article on the Mises Institute web site.  As many viewers have decided opinions of one sort or another of programmes it is always risky if a stick is poked at the detail or the souffle shaken and not stirred.

That Downton has a dirty secret is argued by Mark Thornton.  It relates to the place where the TV programme is filmed and its history.  That he is talking about high finance rather than who does what with who will disappoint  many but that's the way it was.

In the media there has been a debate about the personalities of those depicted in the programmes, their apparent ordinariness or sometimes hapless lives that many do not accept either for noblesse oblige or the ideas of the left about their oppression of the masses.

For my part there is certainly something missing that was important in the late 19th and early 20th Century, a regular feature of most of their lives and activity, which is little recorded or recognised.  As well as the central nature of field sports and Freemasonry  to the upper classes of that time there is another thing forgotten.

This opinion arises as a result of a good deal of time spent poring at  digitised newspapers recently made available.  In the past you had to go to the archive, say Colindale for the British Library, and turn page after page in the hope of spotting an item, easily missed buried in the close type.

Chasing names, once looked at, inevitably the eye runs over the rest of the page.  The papers then would give long lists of names of who were at this or taking part in that.  If you are able to see the pattern and realise what was entailed it gives a fascinating insight into people and society at the time.

One feature that struck me is the large number of charitable funds and societies, events and other things that were given major free publicity.  Before the Welfare State it was  the Poor Law or the Friendly Societies etc. or the Charities.

It is clear that for the Aristocracy, the upper classes in general and for all the local worthies  charity work was not an option, but a given and integral to their status, function and place in the social structure and this applied from the top, The Royal Family, down.

One way or another they were expected to be there, to contribute and to lead and from the evidence of the listings it was a necessary part of their lives and I suspect many saw it as Duty.

One example will serve.  A bazaar held for the Royal Hospital for Incurables, patron the Monarch, had thirty stalls run by ladies.  All were either Duchesses or Countesses who would be assisted by other members of the upper classes.

So, for example, the grand parents of Mad Frankie Fraser, who died this week, recently arrived from Clydeside and needing perhaps ornaments for their mantelpiece could claim to have been served by a Royal duchess, or a Countess high in society at least.  Or if they had more to spend, a family christening gown.

Clearly, the problems of poverty, inequality and life at the time were far greater than the work of the charities could deal with.  Also the Poor Law was last ditch form of provision and while the Friendly Societies did a great deal of good work, they were only voluntary and not enough.

Moreover, in the late 19th Century the returns from the land that supported the Aristocracy had begun to decline in the age of Free Trade and many of them saw their wealth diminishing.  Also, large families with younger sons and daughters to provide for made its own impact.

With the benefit of hindsight and what we now know, that class as it was on the way down and badly damaged by the First World War, but it is a pity we do not recognise, or do not want to see that in many ways they were different from what we are now asked to think and believe.

But I suspect that a TV soap may not want to look at incurables, the insane, the rescue of the depraved and deprived, the widows, orphans or maimed.

The ratings might drop.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Hear Hear

Today, I leave it to the inimitable Ann Widdecombe writing in of all places, The Grauniad, on the subject of noise.

Here is her direct view on a plague of our times.

It makes one proud to be a pensioner.

Well, almost. 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Kicking Balls

At the time of the London Olympics there were some who  claimed that the figures did not add up.  Also that the promised legacy may have serious costs to be added to the claimed figure.

Ross Clark in the Spectator spells out the gruesome reality of what is going on at the Olympic Stadium.  He asserts that West Ham United is getting at least a £175 million subsidy to use it as a home ground.

If it is lucky this amounts to 25 to 30 home games a year each of 90 minutes with a small amount of added time and on rare occasions extra time and penalty shoot outs.

What is deeply worrying is that this kind of financial thinking is not simply a minor set of errors it is endemic almost across the board in public finances.

To the cost of all of us.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Follow Anything But The Money

In the economic turmoil of the last few years, this blog, along with others, has suggested that those economists involved may not have been quite right, indeed a good many may have been quite wrong.

This article on economic modelling appears to agree with this, if I understand the complex wording correctly.  It is not long but intriguing.  The conclusions are:


Our methodology points out the lack of proper modelling of financial and labour markets in the representative macroeconomic model during the financial crisis, which may help shed light on Ng and Wright’s (2013) results, and suggests that additional work to include more labour and asset market frictions in the models would be especially useful.

Our empirical findings confirm the conventional wisdom that appears in much of the existing literature, indicating that model mis-specification cannot be ignored in policy analyses.

Furthermore, our techniques might prove to be useful more generally to guide researchers in improving their models.


To put it crudely, essentially our financial systems seem to have been based on thinking which claims that the best way to win the lottery is to put in the winning numbers from last week.

In the meantime the blog Financial Crimes on Tuesday 25 November suggests that the National Lottery and Euromillions these days could be a superior way of investing.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

From Here To Eternity

Further to my previous post on Mrs. Thatcher, born Roberts.  A comment suggests that her present role is incorrect and that her spirit is contracted to another.  It is possible that many people today are unaware of the changes to Eternity Resources that have occurred recently, albeit with little or no mention.

Essentially, a reverse takeover has occurred and now Eternity is one operation designed to cut costs and increase efficiency in soul handling and management. Funded by a group of Private Equity firms and Limited Liability Partnerships backed by HSBC, Goldman Sachs and others Heaven is now only a brand name for certain specialist marketing functions.

In fact soul security equities are handled by Deutsche Bank and its trusts using them as a basis for Collateral Deposit Obligations and derivative activity across the trading markets in the ether.  Satan And Familiars Inc of the Cayman Islands are now the controlling financial base for all local universe Eternity activity.

The Devil is now both Devil and God, and the former God is tasked with increasing market penetration in Alternative Universes in partnership with Virgin Space.  This is a challenging project which is breaking new ground and takes all his time.

I hope this makes it clear.  The implication for Earth souls is that we are all going to hell, subject to terms and conditions.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tribune Of The Plebians

Margaret Hilda Roberts, otherwise Thatcher, now drafted in to help manage the Great Organising Deity's diary; it is very busy these days, must be having a quiet chuckle.  Her boss has decided that enough is enough for the Scottish Labour Party and it is now as dust.

If any group made it their business to demonise her, it was them.  During the 1980's and beyond they dominated affairs in Scotland and oblivious to the challenges and rapidity of economic and other change attempted to create a New East Germany on Scots soil.

It is undeniable that she was a first.  The first woman to be Prime Minister, the first research scientist to do so and there is something else.  The "posh" voice and appearance are deceptive.  Apart from Ramsay Macdonald she is arguably the most Plebian of our Prime Ministers in origins, although it is a close call with Jim Callaghan.

What is surprising is how English she was.  As you step back from generation to generation and the numbers in each increase you expect to see variations occurring in terms of origins, religion and class.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, also, there was mobility in many ways that gave rise to some variations that could be astonishing.

Having looked at her paternal side to discover generations engaged in the East Midland Shoe Trade with others, I managed to track back her maternal side with the advanced systems.  There appeared the Holy Grail of ancestry.  A great grandfather listed as Ag. Lab., or Agricultural Labourer in the first half of the 19th Century deep in rural Lincolnshire.

But it is from this line that the "posh" might come along with the ferocious attention to detail that so upset both colleagues and civil servants.  It is fashionable to suggest this is the product of something going on the head that differs from ordinary mortals, but it may come from upbringing.

Because the Ag. Lab. put his children through elementary school before compulsory attendance, a son, grandfather to MHR, was good enough to be taken on as a regular railway employee, a desirable occupation at the time for many reasons, not least the chance of advancement by performance.

From my own experience of the old railways and working with men who joined as boys before the First World War, I have a good idea of what this entailed in the late 19th Century.  Things had to be right and you were accountable.

Also, you had to be clean and smart, polite and careful. You had to be able to deal with the travelling public, be clear in speech and know what you were doing.  The interesting thing about MHR's maternal grandfather is just who he was dealing with on a regular basis.

Burgh le Marsh Station is a relic now of a once busy Lincolnshire railway line.  But it was a short distance from Gunby Hall, now National Trust, home of one of the leading families of the day.  So through that station would be Society and others of importance coming and going, and their servants, horses and valuable luggage.

This is where grandfather started and then he moved down to Grantham.  Although essentially, a modest market town with some small industrial activity and a busy Main East Coast Line junction, when it came to the Railway Station's customers then it was in the big time.

There were the Brownlow's of Belton House, at Court and moving at the highest levels of society and the Manners family, Duke's of Rutland from Belvoir Castle.  For the fox hunting world Grantham was slap in the middle of the Belvoir country, prime territory and the Meet was sometimes in the town centre.

During the season there would be almost a procession of the good and the great going through the station and MHR's grandfather would be on the platforms, smart as paint, polite and efficient to deal with them and all their kit.

So this is the way her Mum was brought up and never forgot, and this is the way Margaret was trained not just by her mother but perhaps her grandmother who died in 1934, grandfather having died in 1917, aged 66 and still at work.

It wasn't only the needs and business of her father's shop work that was instilled into her, it was something else as well.

It might be the reason why she could always look people in the eye and politely and succinctly tell them where to go.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation

One of the joys of the internet it that it has become far easier to make connections that would not have been possible in the past or only by great effort or long research.

There are two items in the last couple of days which offer some interesting possibilities,  One is the cost of restoration at the Palace of Westminster and the other what to be done about certain of our incoming migrants who are less welcome than others.

The Mother of Parliaments is going to seed and will need not just cosmetic work but full scale surgery in detail.  It is priced at £3 billion, not including all those tasty secret expenses that its present occupiers will demand for their minor inconveniences if the work is done.  The 1941 picture above shows that much of it recent in any case.

In our modern, wired up and joined up age, do these people need to be in the middle of London at all?  Could a move hugely cut costs, provide more space and better facilities and go to a place where clear economic benefits will arise from a large injection of public funded activity offering a range of high paid and varied jobs?

Here is a good property which offers all the potential.  It ticks a number of boxes.  It is in the North and in a former mining district. The land is much cheaper, local property prices could do with a boost, etc. etc.  Also the buildings could be kept down to the large basic open plan sheds for much of the work with designated other areas for specific functions.

Think of it as a collection of cut price supermarkets cum trading floors with ancillary administrative and communal areas, plus basic motel style provision for overnight and short stays.  It would all do the job and be far more efficient than the existing set up.

It would set a striking example of UK consideration for its tax payers in contrast to the many and various over blown arrogant buildings recently put up elsewhere.  Also, it would end the British identity of the past of Empire and conquest seen in all the old films with their shots of Westminster as it was.

The site could be levelled and to put uses for a modern age that would reflect our new and global status and our rulers intention to be the servants of others rather than demanding service for ourselves.

The art work and statuary could either be sold off or put out to museums.  The archives could be shredded to remove the taints of our past, or sold off.  The stone would make good hard core for social housing.  After all, some of the present users of the building are familiar with hard core.

Among the many and various migration issues that now loom large in our politics there are radically diverse views about what should or should not be done.  At one end of the debate there are those who assert that all should be welcome and we must learn to enjoy the many and various contributions they might make.

Putting out the welcome mat is the theme of this article from the LSE website.  Anca Puska is saying we should give a cautious welcome to all the Roma peoples and argues that the UK is likely to fare much better by working with local support groups to ensure migrants are aware of their rights and opportunities.

The Chairman of the LSE Board is Peter Sutherland, who believes in open door migration, and Cherie Blair is a governor, again a believer in unrestricted movement, if only to boost the rentals of all the family properties.

If Labour win in 2015, it is unlikely that they will do much to restrict incoming peoples and may well see the Roma as becoming the standard bearers of our new proletariat.  The site in the middle of Westminster would be ideal as a welcome facility as many of the social and other services will be available.

There is a large park nearby, St. James, that could be earmarked for use as well as spaces for vehicles, the Square, Horseguards, Trafalgar Square etc.  Other large Crown or public properties in the vicinity also could be requisitioned.

And the Abbey could be stripped out of its old stuff and used for stabling.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bashing More Than Metal

In the disputes about climate change it is often claimed that past social and economic collapses can be attributed to this.

As the science involved in much of the research is complex and continually evolving, fresh examinations can lead to revisions of both history and perspective.

One relatively recent population shock is the ending of the Bronze Age when the world turned and climate change in the same period appeared to be the major reason.

New recent studies at the University of Bradford, hat tip to Archaeologica, have led to a different view. It wasn't the weather, it was us, or rather our ancestors, that were the problem.


"According to Professor Armit, social and economic stress is more likely to be the cause of the sudden and widespread fall in numbers. Communities producing bronze needed to trade over very large distances to obtain copper and tin.

Control of these networks enabled the growth of complex, hierarchical societies dominated by a warrior elite. As iron production took over, these networks collapsed, leading to widespread conflict and social collapse.

It may be these unstable social conditions, rather than climate change, that led to the population collapse at the end of the Bronze Age."


There is something strangely familiar about all this.

Friday, 21 November 2014

White Vans Rule The Road

It is time to admit to a deep prejudice which causes me to make discriminatory and sometimes offensive remarks about my fellow men, mostly, few women are in this category.

It is people who drive white vans and cause me problems or worries.  The most common is those who drive a foot or two behind my back bumper and who flash lights and blast their horns.

My reason for obeying the road signs is not simply because my usual passenger offers directive advice on the subject but what happens if I get speeding tickets in terms of points on licence with the effect then on insurance charges or at worst loss of the use of my license.

There are other inconveniences they cause.  One is shooting the red at traffic lights, especially at junctions without clear vision of the other roads.

Another is  fast inside overtaking in complex traffic systems.  Yet another is parking on a narrow road in such a way as to cause long tailbacks or creating dangerous situations.

The most likely to incite a reaction is cutting up in busy traffic or weaving about the road when communicating on phones or checking satellite directions.

Yes, I know I should be tolerant and accept that these are the folkways and mores of a population group who are on our roads to promote economic growth and provide the services needed by our communities.

So when Emily Thornberry, busted from being Shadow Attorney General for Tweeting allegedly snobbish comments about this group, takes flak, there is a sneaking sympathy in spite of her being a senior figure in the Labour Party.  If she has been carved up a few times on the road I can understand her taking a shot.

What we seem to forget is that a good many white van drivers these days are in fact self employed and as such are under different forms of incentive and working conditions to many ordinary workers in distribution in the past.

The flying of the flags of the Cross of St. George at the driver's house pictured by Ms. Thornberry may be that he is a football supporter.  Perhaps she should do penance by turning up at Wembley now and again.

Now that really would teach her a lesson.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Well, I'll Be Fracked

The debate over the nature and impact of fracking is one to be wary of given the complicated science and other things, notably costs, prices and general economic impact.

This article in E Science caught the eye in that it admits that a variety of chemicals are involved.

What is striking is the claim that many of them are more or less the same as in the products in your kitchen, bathroom and for that matter the fridge and freezer.

What I really want to know is whether, down below, are vast reserves of cheap ice cream?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What If The SNP.......

After the 2015 General Election the arithmetic of the membership of the House of Commons may be complicated.  How many members any party might have is uncertain.   Quite what this or that party will do is a matter of guessing games or tentative assumptions.

At the moment the question relating to the Scottish National Party is what will Alec Salmond do next?  He might, he might not contest this Parliamentary seat or that. What others need to think about is what happens if the SNP do achieve the numbers currently suggested.

They might go onto the Opposition Benches to vote according to their policies.  They might have some working agreement with others in Opposition.  On the other hand they might be part of a new Coalition in order to extract demands and money.

But what happens if they decide not to turn up at Westminster but just form a conclave in Edinburgh as a Scottish Government in waiting?  Has anyone thought this one through yet?

It would remove at a stroke the issue about Scots voting on English matters at the same time as evading responsibility for any unpopular decisions that have to be made.

The worst is if they decide to turn up only now and again for purely disruptive purposes.  If things turn out as bad as they might do and urgent and unpopular decisions have to be made might they block the Budget or try to trigger a collapse in market confidence in the UK?

What other areas of policy are there which could be a source of real problems?  Inevitably, there is the basic question of EU membership together with a raft of other EU matters.  It's budget and the many and various obligations causing grief at the present time.

Then there is the big nasty of migration.  The SNP at present seem to be for open borders.  Whether that can last is a real question.  Clearly if England want more and far tighter border controls there is scope for some ugly debate and trouble.

Where this might lead to who knows?  But it will be bitter and strong with all sort of implications.  My fantasy here is what might happen if Scotland welcomes large numbers from its former domain, the Sub Continent now comprising India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ceylon.

We might yet see Skinner's Horse parading in Edinburgh for a future President of Scotland.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Horns Of A Dilemma

Trawling old newspapers for some bits of information saw an item from late in 1868 about Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, being taken out by a rampant stag while hunting in the Forest of Compiegne north of Paris.

Although unhorsed, he had only minor injuries, was able to remount and continue the hunt.  This was intriguing in that it was very close in date to fifty years later when The Armistice was signed in a railway carriage in the forest to bring World War One to an end.

But what if the stag had done for him?  There are many and various possibilities.  One in the period is that the political fall out and other matters may have meant that the Franco-Prussian War may not have occurred as it did.  Doubtless Germany may have come to be united, but it may have been at another time and on a different basis.

There were his two sons to succeed him, both very young, Albert Victor and George, whose upbringing and education may well have been different if Queen Victoria had taken charge.  Also a much greater role may have been played by his younger brothers. 

The next in line to Edward was Alfred, Duke of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, who died in 1900.  The next son was Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, who married Princess Louise of Prussia.  The next then was Leopold, Duke of Albany, who had haemophilia and died young.

It was Edward who came to be closely associated with France and popular in Paris because of his appreciation of its many and various delights.  It is argued that as King after 1901 he may have been a moving force in the shift of British foreign policy to support for and alliance with the French as opposed to our traditional dislike and opposition.

If either Alfred or Arthur had managed to strike up and maintain a level of friendship and closeness with Emperor Wilhelm of Germany, not only might the 1914 war have been different, it may not have happened at all.

If only it had been a bigger stag.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Moving Futures

As the sun of the world economy sinks slowly in the East there is an air of panic now in some quarters, notably those where either elections are due or they have realised, too late, that the mess from last time has not yet been cleared up.

There has been a good deal of discussion and anxiety about Japan is ceasing to be one of the engines of the world economy and is now simply trying to keep things on hold by large scale monetary activity that is unusual and risky.

But around the web it is not all doom and gloom.  There are those who hope for the best.  There are others who think that our world leaders can agree solutions and action.  But there are many who think all our times have come.

A more sanquine view is taken by Frances Coppola if you follow the link to her Pieria article which is longish and discursive.  It is still not good news for those who demand ever increasing growth or expansion.  It suggests that an ageing Japan might just be able to potter on.

But Japan's overall situation is not the same as others.  So this option is not available to all the high debt nations.  The people who do population point to nations with a growing number of old contrasting with those of growing numbers of young with little future. Their idea is to move the young to the ageing economies.

But why not send the old to where the young are?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Think About It

The above was in a newspaper of 1868 on a page full of reports about political riots, mining accidents and criminal activities. For some reason it appealed.

Among the reports was one mentioning Rupert Potter, a leading practising barrister of Lincoln's Inn being among the speakers at a meeting at The Adelphi discussing how to deal with criminals.  Human Rights were not on the agenda.

Rupert was the father of Beatrix Potter, the famed writer of children's books.  He was politically very active in the Liberal Party, notably close to John Bright.

Also, a neighbour in The Lakes was Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Baronet of Brayton, whose statue is on The Embankment in London, another senior Liberal who was a notable fox hunter.

Rupert was an excellent shot, often being out with the best on The Glorious Twelfth and active elsewhere.

I wonder if Beatrix became fed up with eating rabbit pie?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Beware Of The Bear

The boy David has been trying to poke the Russian Bear into some reaction.  He may not get the one he is hoping for.  In fact he may well get one that will cause him endless trouble.

To understand President Vladimir Putin you have to understand Russia. To understand Russia you have to understand its history. This is far from easy given its scope and complexity.

This eight minute clip from Youtube, the Coronation Scene from "Boris Gudunov"  will give you the sense of it.  For Boris read Vladimir.  This kind of thing is not lost on another Boris much closer to home.

This leading scholar did understand Russia, for various reasons.  I was one of the first students he tutored.  His insights were remarkable.  One was that to understand French political history it was necessary to study closely the 1934 book "Clochemerle".

He was very right.  Also, he was right about Russia.  Without a real knowledge of its deep history you are meat for the bear.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Brother Can You Spare £25 Billion?

There are times when the hunt is up and closing for the kill that one half hopes that the fox will escape.

It is this soft side to the brain that makes me wonder if somehow Ed Miliband can be saved for the nation, although what for is uncertain.

According to Damian McBride, formerly special adviser and spinner to Gordon Brown, see Wikipedia for the entry on him, there is a huge nasty problem at the centre of the election campaign.

Damian drew the Return To Go card after a leaks and smear fuss and now offers advice from the touchlines in his blog and media forays.

What his blog of a couple of days ago, a long one, does in discussing the issue, as well as giving a fascinating description of how ministers are briefed, or sometimes fail to be briefed, is to argue the matter of £25 billion in cuts to be found at least to make the tax, spend and debt figures work.

He says that if Chancellor George Osborne admits to this and lets it be known how and where the cuts will be made then it will be the second longest suicide note in UK political history (the first being Michael Foot's 1983 Labour Election Manifesto) given that he cannot avoid hitting a great many sensitive spending areas.

On the other hand if Miliband denies cuts will be made and spending increased then how is he going to do it?   The Old Labour way was to beef up taxes.  New Labour gave up on that and allowed tax avoidance to become a human right for the rich and better off and went for big borrowing.

The result is that now if an attempt is made to impose more and greater taxes, those able to avoid will, leaving those unable to having to pay the bills.

Unluckily, this includes many of those among the Old Labour population, never mind the marginal voters.  There are no easy answers and politically the choice is between wrong and unpopular and wrong and even less popular.

As the election campaign unfolds there are a number of coalitions possible if no party has a clear majority.  At present it could be that next May the result will be to have four parties in numbers with a handful of Liberal Democrat makeweights.

So we could have Labour with either UKIP or the SNP or both.  Or Conservative with either UKIP or the SNP or both.

Returning to the fox theory of the chase, foxes can do the unexpected, turn tail and go for the lead hounds, sometimes it works.  Could there be such an "impossible" happening?

A Con-Lab or a Lab-Con Coalition?  Who might be PM and who Deputy?  Who would be Chancellor?

If the cuts to be made might need be greater, say up to £50 billion, it might just happen.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Travelling In Hope

Do you have that sinking feeling that you are not sure at all of what is going on out there in the markets?

Do you feel guilty that you believe you should but somehow none of it adds up?

Do you sometimes think that it isn't you but all the greasers and gamblers that seem to be running things?

You are on a road to nowhere according to Tim Price of the Cobden Centre this week.  He asserts in a not long but intricate article that:


"And as Singer fairly points out, whether as workers, consumers or investors, we inhabit a world of “fake growth, fake money, fake jobs, fake stability, fake inflation numbers”.


Does that make you feel better?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Destroying The Memory

The media is going at full throttle on the subject of war and wars at present.  It reminds us not simply of the past but what we were and more important what happened to many of our families and their communities.  Going back through the generations there have been men in uniforms in each one of them in my case.

At the front of all this are our politicians striving for the right photo opportunities and uttering the glib rubbish served up by their spinners and vote counters.  There are times when I feel like chucking a NAAFI rock cake at them, but it would probably just bounce off.

Buried in the fine detail however of the government's plans for expenditure is slashing cuts in the budget of the Imperial War Museum.  Because in the past it was told to go out to the provinces the tourists have not followed it.

In London it is now more for those with specialist interests and off the itinerary of all those from distant parts who are more interested in where the celebrities go to eat and drink.

Crucially, however, the Library, which is at the heart of the Museum's basic work, preserving both collections of unique primary sources together with literature unobtainable elsewhere, is to be broken up and sold off.

This would fetch the equivalent of the cost of a platform at one of the lesser HST2 stations or five yards of a tunnel.

It is more difficult to cost the joint expertise of the staff who would also go and could not be replaced.  Also, lost would be the chance to digitise and maintain all their material or keep it in good order or to be accessible.

It is wanton destruction and almost a deliberate laying waste of a major part of not just the national history but that of so many.  But perhaps it is what lies behind the memory of all the conflicts and wars that is behind government thinking.

That is the wars were started by politicians and then left to the ordinary man to deal with.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


It is always difficult to know exactly what to say on Remembrance Day.  On this occasion, here is just one small part of the whole and referring to one day in the War taken from The Cameronians web site.


Extract from General Sir John French's Address to the 2nd Cameronians after the battle of Neuve Chapelle, 10th March 1915:

'I come here as Commander-in-Chief of this Army to express to you my heartiest gratitude for the splendid part which you took at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. I know what awful losses you suffered, I know the gallantry you displayed on that occasion has never been surpassed by a British soldier.

You came up against the enemy's wire, and although the artillery was unable to get at it, you showed the utmost bravery and gallantry. I deeply regret the terrible losses you suffered on that occasion. No less than 22 officers were killed or wounded; the officer commanding your splendid Battalion, Colonel Bliss, being included amongst the losses.

Everyone in the Regiment will deeply regret this loss. I do not mean to say it was too much - I want you all to realise that, I am sure your officers will always lead you on, it may be to die, but follow them right gallantly, I know you will.

I am sure at the same time you will all feel what your officers have done for you, leading you as they have done; but still at the same time the officers on their part felt they had splendid and gallant men who would follow them anywhere and had every confidence in them.

That is one great thing, the mutual confidence which exists between leaders and men. I can not say more.'



Monday, 10 November 2014

And Now The Commercial Break

My first attempt at computer games was on the BBC Micro, bought at vast expense, which had a tennis game.  It used up 10kb, a hefty chunk of what Bill Gates then told us was the upper limit, 150kb, of computer space.

My efforts did not go well.  Moreover, when there was a solitaire game on a machine that went badly.  When playing with ordinary playing cards it was always possible to use methods which were imaginative and outside the box to complete.

This was not possible on the machine to my regret.  Since then the games bit has never been part of the way time is spent.  You may suggest it might have been better had I stuck to games, but such criticism I brush aside.

This has been sent to me  by someone to whom I am under an obligation.  It is called "Don't Shoot The Planets" on Google app box and has been devised by a young teenager.  It runs on Android phones and tablets but not on iphones or ipads.  It may also be going on Windows app store.

What all that means is beyond me.  I am off to play darts on my bespoke board where all the numbers are twenties and the bullseye is much bigger than usual to achieve scores in which large margins of error are allowed.

Perhaps I should have gone into politics.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Less Means Less

An in and out today, but time for some links.

Just what exactly is going on?  The trouble is it is far from exact and very complex.  Also, those piling into to the debate usually have fixed ideas or positions which impede clear thinking.

This long and closely written on the Our Finite World blog by Gail Tverberg does not make comfortable reading.  She is saying that to some extent the game is up on oil pricing.  Given the critical role of oil in both economies and politics the prospects could be very bleak.

Among the many expert links is this one to the book by Joseph A Tainter in 1990 on "The Collapse of Complex Societies, New Studies in Archaeology".  Essentially, it is about diminishing returns.

A third is a middling length readable article by Robin Hambleton of the LSE arguing that the proposed Devo Plan for Greater Manchester is not what it seems.  Rather than handing power down it is a move to even more centralisation.

It is not a question of losing the picture, there may not be a picture there to lose.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Fire Down Below

Very recently there has been a stack of archive material coming online and some of it is worth taking a look, if only more in hope than any actual information you would like to see.

You never know your luck, the saying goes. and chasing the past generally entails more bad luck than you want.  That ancestor who was thought to be a respected craftsman and pillar of the local community turns out to have done time for breaches of the game laws.

At least some sources will turn out to the relatively neutral  If you have someone who is known to be a mariner then the chances are that they came and went on ordinary sailings with the usual ports and cargoes.

So when the Liverpool Crew Lists appeared from the City of Liverpool archives, one tapped in the name hoping to find a ship or two and where in the world he might have been.  Not that he would have seen much, he was a stoker in the boiler room.

A couple of ships turned up and there he was among a lot of familiar looking names.  The names of the ships did not mean much either, "City of Berlin" and "City of Brussels" but they were out there on the web.

More to the point, not only was the basic information available there were Wikipedia entries.  Both of them had held Trans Atlantic Blue Ribands and the chances were that my man was one of those shovelling the coal into the firebox.

Which makes his history a lot more interesting.  What is more some of the names around him were the same and from the same locales as a bunch of names that are in the Trafalgar Roll.  Are they linked over seventy years?  There is work to be done.

The point of all this is that it was being done at home, with the odd break for cups of tea, or times out to check how the football was doing.  It did not take long at all thanks to the web and all the contributions made to it by so many people.

It is not so long when to access this information might have meant either a lot of travel, a great deal of time and expense.  Failing that would mean extensive correspondence and the hope that someone expert could do it for you, perhaps at a price.

Now instead of days or weeks or more it can be a matter of minutes for anyone with some idea of how to work the web and who knows what to look for and how.  Which raised some intriguing questions.

One is how much of our education system is now redundant?  Another relates to other professions.  A great many of these are about supposedly expert people with access to limited and complicated information.  Many of the complexities arise from the people.

If there was, as now exists in some spheres, a major effort to get the guidance, information, and other material out there, how much time, trouble and effort could be saved for very many people?

The implication is that there are many areas now wide open to major structural change and not only might this happen in some sectors it almost certainly will.

Where have all the stokers gone?