Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Turning Up The Heat

So David Attenborough made it to the White House to talk about Climate Change, Nature and the Environment with President Obama.  It was all quite polite, David is used to talking to people of high status, as in carefully and avoiding trouble.  The President was equally polite, despite being unused to dealing with aged pensioners who worked in button factories.

But there was common ground left unexplored.  The President's job requires him to send US troops to many places.  One of the cutting edge formations is that of the 82nd Airborne Division.  David would have been aware of them as a boy.  They were difficult to avoid spending quality time around Leicester in the early months of 1944, before going to France.

During the period 1940 to 1945 the population of the town was obsessed by weather and climate, which may in part explain David's early interest.  There were two reasons, one was the bombers, incoming German and then outgoing British, American and Allied.  The other was food supplies.  The margins were very tight.

When the 82nd left the area Leicester missed the men and they missed the additional sources of scarce supplies that seeped out of the American stores and eased the margins for many people.  If David seems to be too much of a worrier about weather and sustainability he has memory of what it was like for people to be short and not knowing where the next meal might be coming from.

What he is also aware of is that since that time the world population has quadrupled and the pressure on land, water and supplies has increased.  It has been astonishing that we have been able to provide for so many, albeit with large numbers left without.  The question is how many more can we cope with and can we retain even our existing levels of supplies?

The issue of what climate change may be occurring and with what effect is debated far and wide and can be seen elsewhere.  What we cannot avoid is that in history there have been catastrophic geophysical incidents that have had global effects on population.

Also, what cannot be avoided is the knowledge of the collapse of so many civilisations either urbanised or agricultural for other reasons. The President and David skirted these in their discussions leaving a vaguely academic feel to the discussion.  It might help to persuade more people to take an interest but there is too much in the media claiming our attention for other things.

Another subject not touched upon is that of Grey Owl, see Wikipedia, who so impressed David and his brother Richard in 1936, and later turned out to be not quite what he seemed.  Richard in 1999 made a film about him as a late apology.  Also, absent from any media mention is the younger brother John, despite his abilities, might he have been at the Grey Owl lecture and had been less impressed?

My position is very simple.  If climate has changed in the past, and on occasion radically, then it might do again or even will,  we are only a lump of matter spinning about in vast space.

It is when and not if.

Friday, 26 June 2015

To Calais Glittering In The Sun

Around just over 495 years ago Sir Richard Carew of Beddington was quietly biding his time until  retirement as Lieutenant of Calais when a courier arrived.

It was not a routine scroll from fussy Clerks of the Exchequer querying the accounts that he needed to juggle to pay the bills and fiddle for his families future, it was a directive from the King.  He was going to pay a visit in June 1520.

This was bad news enough, keeping the King and his immediate Court amused and well fed was difficult.  But this time he was bringing almost the entire aristocracy with him and was to meet the King of France, also with his Court and a host of others of high standing.

It was to be a Royal occasion to surpass all others of known history as King Henry VIII wished to be at the heart of Europe and to be seen as a force to be reckoned with in the union of Europe of its day. Embracing fellow monarchs and leaders is nothing new.

The event was known as The Field Of The Cloth of Gold and was held by Balinghem on the D231 between Guines and Ardres in the then territory of Calais.  For just a few days of politicking, fun, jousts and the rest that almost approached such occasions of the present, there would be a temporary tented city created.

It would not be basic or modest.  It was to be a rich, glowing fantasy world at huge expense that would be beyond the imaginations or ordinary men with no expense spared and every known luxury provided and with food and entertainment at the highest levels.

We know those of the high elites who were there.  What we do not know are the names of the hordes of both those who were there to serve and work and inevitably the vast numbers who would turn up on the main chance.  Nor do we know where they went when the tents were folded and the party ended.

Seeing all this would cause them to think that England was the place to go.  If the English could spend on this scale it was impressive.  They could throw money around, build palaces and fine houses and enjoy the good life of the age.  To have a share in this the only problem was to cross The Channel.

By 1520 the miserly austere years of King Henry VII were almost forgotten.  His desire to tax but not spend, storing money away and avoiding debt had been overtaken.

As well as the landed elite there was a network of great religious houses wealthy in their turn from farming and the interlocking wool trade which allowed hospitals, schools and charity to be had.

In London, The City was becoming wealthier having devised new means of moving money and accounting for in great ledgers.  It released new activity in support of all the Kings great schemes and called for greater sums as year followed year.  There was to be wealth for all and all comers.

And when Queen Catherine bore the King a living son the circle would be complete and the future certain.

The sad news was that Sir Richard Carew had died suddenly on the 23rd of May 1520, said to be from over work.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Posh, Posher, Poshest.

All the talk about "posh" is deceptive in that it muddles a great many things up.  The claims that the best jobs in the higher reaches of finance are being restricted to persons of a particular type from the upper class segment of the population, namely "posh", are nothing new in essence only the jobs involved have changed.

Once upon a time these jobs that the upper segment, allegedly, have taken over recently were done by persons regarded as being "in trade" and of lower status.  In some cases younger sons of younger sons might find their way into them but not often.  Also, spare daughters needing to be unloaded without too demanding a dowry might marry down a step or two if a suitable clergyman was not to be found.

This was because there was a large Empire needing high officials, substantial armed forces needing a lot of well born officers and a relatively devolved local government run by the gentry who then had money from land and inheritance etc. Politics, government and The Court were also their preserves.
As some of these have dried up and the UK does not do very well in picking up top jobs in international organisations etc. the children of the upper segment have shifted ground.  Additionally, all this democracy business has limited opportunities in politics.  The plebians are prone to voting for some of their own at the drop of a promise.

The upper segment has been obliged by the nature of our times to come down to trade and in doing so gone to activities where the loot is, much as their medieval forebears went in for land grabbing.  This has the advantage of enabling them to stay in property, buy the new politicians etc. and call the crucial shots in many ways.

As they have grubbed down they meet some of the lower segments grubbing their way up.  This represents Society at the present day in all its many forms of confusion.  It is displayed in the two pictures above.  One is the Posh on their way to a nosh and racket and you will see the Three Tenpercents; Cammers, Ossers, and Johnners, doing their Alpha Male thing.

The other, which could be mistaken for a group of commis waiters out in the back yard standing perhaps adjacent to the waste bins, is in fact a group of leading political advisers to the Labour Party. On the left is Handy Andy currently bidding to be Leader who made his name prescribing PFI as a Health cure all and increasing the mortality rates as one way of dealing with excess demand.

The first group are determined to hang on to power the second want it very badly.  With power comes the flows of money, as the upper segment know all too well and the lower segment hope will continue for them to get their hands on.  The question is how far the upper ones will retain their Posh and how will the lower ones either try to emulate it or replace it with their own version.

This does not leave the rest of us with much of a choice.  It lies between those who have already and those who badly want to have.  Somebody has to pay and these days it is largely the taxpayer. To add to this both the upper segment and their want to be rivals have made extensive arrangements to avoid paying tax.

POSH once meant Port Out Starboard Home in the ships of old going out to the East and returning back, the expensive cabins avoided the sun.

For us in boiler room it is purely academic.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Rebuilding The Palace Of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster has fallen behind with its maintenance work.  Tell me the old old story.  As ever this means that work is becoming urgent or else and the costings vary.

Numbers of billions of pounds are predicted and the one certain thing is that after they start they will find a lot more to be done.  Also, there will be committees full of people with bright and expensive ideas.

A while back in this blog the suggestion was made that Parliament should go to Tamworth in basic buildings for the key functions.  With all the technical facilities around a lot could be out sourced and for that matter a lot of the members as well.

Of course, there will be a strong case put for tradition, but it need not be the 19th Century one that claimed to have some sort of medieval origin.

My view is that if history is the guide there are much better choices to be had; such as in the picture above.

If this were adopted there would be no problem of public interest or TV coverage and in addition there would be predictable natural wastage enabling the proper management of business.

Monday, 22 June 2015

You Cannot Follow The Money Any More

Scotland's place in the world and all that is one of the issues of the present Parliament that is exciting debate.  The roaming pundit alleged historian David Starkey has weighed in with one of his bids to grab a headline regardless of the facts.

His vision of the SNP as a National Scottish Devolution Action Party with Task Group Blueshirt enforcers derives from 1930's Germany and is typically well wide of the mark.  There are more than enough examples around of authoritarian single party regimes to choose from today and recently, never mind history.

This kind of intervention simply distracts attention from more careful thinking and analysis of what the reality of the early 21st situation is and what it implies.  In our present age more than ever than in past times it is as well to follow the money.

If you can that is. For all the welter of state and allied bodies statistics and time taken we are aware that they are only about what is measured and accounted for.  It is all too evident now that there is a lot of economic and financial activity that does not appear in any of these figures and can only be guessed at.

There is all the tax haven activity, related financial movements and also all the goings on at the margins of legality and beyond that we know is happening but can neither control nor measure.  Beyond that there are the rewards of crime itself in its many ways.  Some think that in some places this is almost as large, if not larger, than the actual measured economy.

The bright financial future that is envisaged for Scotland may be in these spheres if this post from Naked Capitalism is near the mark.  The SNP and others have declared already that the financial sector will be among the foundations of future prosperity and freedom from austerity.

Quite how this squares with being members of a regulatory EU  and/or being bound by the Euro is difficult to work out.  But it might be possible.  Perhaps we should really be looking at not so much at what appear to purely political structures but at the great crime and related political syndicates of recent history.

Given that some of these could control either most or the key parts of governments by traditional and well established means sheltered from the Law or law enforcement this could well be what might be the future.

Looking at the contrast between the USA and the UK in the numbers of financiers brought to book and that the Scottish end of our debacles loomed large it would be not too great a step.  The terms of the Naked Capitalism post suggests that secrecy is already a given and is legal under existing Scottish law.

So just who is already fixed up with secret company and financial structures which protect them from inquiry, criticism and using politics to pursue their personal financial interests?

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Telling Tales

The BBC is telling me that the world is said to have entered now a great extinction period with huge losses of species along with many other geophysical events.

This has happened a few times before.  The way I feel this morning with the hay fever, I am not entirely surprised.

This news item may or may not be connected.  I recall when I was Prime Minister a few years back the Ministry of Truth, pictured above, could be very helpful in these matters.

See George Orwell's book "1984" that I knocked off as a schoolboy, under an assumed name.  I know Tony Blair claims to have written it but who would believe a Blair?

The building above had an excellent cafeteria at one time.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Who Were The French?

The idea that some of the current notions about populations and demographics have become more a militant religion than anything scientific or philosophical has gained a little ground.

DNA and Genetics study can be regarded as racist in France says this article in The Independent.  A University of Leicester group ventured into France to research evidence of Viking traces in the present population of Normandy.

The team was led by Dr. Richard Jones whose interests are:


"My research focuses on the complex and changing relationships which existed between people and the land between c. 400 and c. 1500 AD.  It centres on examining how the landscape was exploited both as an economic resource, and as a medium through which personal and community identities (particularly of the non-elite) were negotiated, forged and reinforced.

Other research themes include: the early medieval origins of English villages and the take-up and spread of open-field farming; medieval manure; the impact of Scandinavian settlement on the English countryside; and rural depopulation as a stimulus for landscape change."


The University of Leicester is now among the top 1% in the world, one of the reasons being its extensive and critical work in genetics especially related to medical conditions and disease.  So if they did find a glitch in the DNA related to any of this they could be marched off to the guillotine.

They did not expect to find mobs of large armed men hanging round street corners or roaming around pillaging and sacking and taking over anything that can be taken over.  It is identifiable bits in the DNA that are sought to see what might be made of them.

At best they will find around two per cent, top, of DNA lurking in the corners of a small number of the existing population.  What this might indicate concerns the pattern of human movements around 1200 years ago, give or take a century or two.

But the French are not happy about this.  They might accept that the Northmen came and conquered long ago, but it seems are unwilling to accept that the French of today have anything to do with them and wish to ban the testing on the grounds that there are things statistics should not be applied to.

I assume that the bones of Pierre-Simon Laplace (see Wikipedia) will be removed from his tomb in Normandy soon by members of the Academie Francaise and burned at the stake for his heresies in applying statistics to probability studies.

But France, along with other EU countries currently has other people movement issues that are giving problems that are very much in the news.  These are not easily dealt with or resolved and are increasing in scale without much hope of checking it.

This scale of movement reported by Bloomberg deals with the now and the gross numbers.  The comparison with 1945 brings back to memory the many I knew in the years after who were part of it and the scale of impact.

Only in the 1940's the world population was around less than a third of that today. Even so in that period the UK, for example, was encouraging emigration as a means of tackling the housing, jobs and social provision crises that existed.

Such movement on the present scale and greater has been potential for decades for all the usual reasons, see the history of the last few millennia, but because of our faith in mid 20th Century dogma's there has been a reluctance to admit it.

It is likely to increase from the 73 million estimated in the last four years with the potential for much more and if the past really is a guide it could increase on a compound basis.

It is not just war and internal conflict, for example, a run of monsoon failures could lead to major shifts and many parts of the world are said to be running short of fresh water.

California is one place where the problems of water have become urgent.  This is where the population went from around one million to around forty million in seven generations.  It could go back down again soon.

So will we open our doors to the poor, lost and huddled masses of California?

Now where is my old helmet, chain mail and battle axe?

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Circus Is In Town

With the Labour Party Leader wish list down to four the debate begins.  One issue is the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn and his role in both shaping what it may be about and to what purpose.

The question is whether he might make it to be Leader of the Opposition.  He has the advantage of appealing to sections of the party who still hold their visions of the past for the future.

Jeremy has an interesting background and is said to be related to the Chipperfield's, a famed circus family. This took me to Youtube for inspiration.

Will the elephant fly I ask?              

If Jeremy doesn't become Leader he would be a shoe-in for Chief Whip for the Opposition.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Robert Burns And The Flax Trade

A person interested in Robert Burn's, his life and times will be aware of his efforts to find a place in the world of work and fortune.

One notable phase of this was his time in the flax trade in Irvine, which did not work out, see my post of 9 June "Chances of Life" for a brief mention.

For those more deeply interested in the fuller background to this and so why Burn's might have attempted to make his way in this industry can be hard to fathom because of the way it was overtaken by cotton etc.

This post in a new Economic History blog, "Capitalism's Cradle" gives an excellent brief of the flax industry in the 18th Century at the time from the view of how invention was critical to the rise of capitalism.

It adds a greater insight to Burn's life as a working man.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Phil Judd 1934-2015

A very sad day with the news that Philip Judd, front row forward of Coventry RFC, when it was, if not the, a top club, also Warwickshire (as in the picture above) and England, who he captained has died aged 81.

He is the man who broke my nose.

Those were the great days of Rugby Union football as an amateur sport when we played for the love of the game.

I had just done for one of his colleagues collar bone.

Perhaps we might meet in the great clubhouse in the sky.

If so, Phil, you owe me a pint and I might buy you one.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Papering Over The Cracks

In the attention being paid to the anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 there is a lot of discussion as to what it might mean, if anything in the modern world.

This is what was posted in this blog on Thursday 14 May 2009 on the subject and all that can be added is that it is not getting any better.

But the clip of Hancock is as fresh as ever,

Something different is this fable of 2000 words about Good King John was posted on Tuesday 14 May 2013.

In the worst possible taste.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Regiment Will Advance

There has already been a lot of material in the media and other places about the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.  Inevitably, the sound of axes being ground rises above the clamour as well as the noise of more or less informed opinion as to it all.

There is no doubt that it was a critical event in the history of Europe and to some extent has defined the history and perception of Europe in the 19th Century.  What is striking is how much else was going on in different places which we have lost sight of.

This could take a long post to do a tour of all these and what were the consequences and effects.  We could start, for example with the major campaign in Nepal in 1815 in which the HEICS, agents for the British Government decided to nibble away at the edges of the once mighty Chinese Empire.

But something else is lost sight of regarding the battle because the attention is on the main commanders and others are relegated to supporting or less consideration.  Just who were the officers on whom Wellington had to rely in the British Army?

If you want a long read try this book The Roll of Waterloo from the archives.  It is a list of all the officers of the British Army engaged in the battle with a lot of supporting information.  It helps to know your military history and how an army functions, but it does tell you a lot about them and their capabilities.

What men they were.  Sadly, we do not have the same for the Other Ranks but have to pick this up in bits and pieces from other sources.  But I have looked at the Muster Rolls for a number of regiments with an eye to who were the men and what they could do.

The later canards about the men who officered the Army and those who served in the ranks need to be forgotten.  The idea that the rankers were drawn from the slums and gaols is rubbish whatever might have been said about some of their habits.

Such men would never have lasted.  My reading is that they were a large sample of the ordinary working population.  Calculation of the proportion of the male population engaged over the many years of war suggest a higher rate than that during either the First or Second World Wars.

Yes, many were labourers or in other trades and liked a pint or gallon and could be a rough old lot when annoyed.  But they were good ordinary men.  Similarly the officers were not fools or fops, such officers would not have lasted or survived.

There were very many hardened, able, experienced men who knew what they were doing and how to do it.  Indeed the commissions were bought and class mattered, but in the field of battle all are equal and these officers were more than up to it as were their men.

We should remember the battle for what it was and the men for who and what they were.  Wellington's combined force was fighting for a Europe of peoples and not one dominated by a French elite.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Don't Bank On It

With the contraction of Shanghai Lil's (HSBC) and possible retreat to the East there is talk that its UK holdings may revert to being The Midland Bank and perhaps even sporting the Griffin Logo of old.  For some of us it brings to mind past ages of banking.

It is sixty years ago and a youngster wearing a battered tight sports jacket and trousers with worn knees enters a branch of the Midland Bank.  But there is a white shirt with a stiff collar and a tie with devices on it.  On making it to one of the tills the clerk looks down his nose.

The youngster wants to open an account, the clerk is taken aback, this is not the sort of person with whom they like to do business.   Eventually, the clerk concedes that a manager might be approached to deal with this higher level matter so the youngster, after waiting for some time, is shown into the manager wondering whether to tug his forelock or fall to his knees. 

The manager looks frostier than the clerk.  On being told that the person is about to become a student does not help but then it is made clear where and that the studies will be reliably funded.  The manager tells the youngster it can only be a short term matter because military service will follow.

The youngster tells the manager that he has done it and with whom.  The manager looking at the tie realises that he has a problem and concedes.  The youngster is signed up with the Midland Bank.  And so it remained for many decades even with work and retirement taking the former youngster to different locations around the kingdom.

But in 1999 the HSBC, already by now having a major holding dumped the Midland Bank name and history to create a new modern all bells and whistles banking, other finance and near loan sharking company playing fast and loose with the currency, credit and other finance markets.

The former youngster had gone from being a high risk account holder to being a regular customer who could expect a polite reception and reasonable attention, but no longer.

This ended and instead of clerks being willing to help going to the bank meant fending off the over eager sales staff before any ordinary business could be attempted, hence the Shanghai Lil term.

Now the debate is about how this new UK bank, maybe called Midland might position itself in the banking sector. Will it become a retail bank servicing ordinary general customers like the Midland Bank of old, will it become more of financial services agency or will it some kind of messy mix and not so much customer friendly as out for the main chance?

We do not know because banking is now in the throes of major changes, technological impacting on function, service, staff and jobs; structural in a rapidly changing world and regulation which will largely be determined by agencies and governments who know little and understand less about the changes in progress.

Meanwhile the former youngster is now looking at his options.  The Midland Bank was founded in 1836 and he has a cash box at home dating from that period, a family heirloom.  One option which is very attractive is to go into cash and make greater use of the old cash box.

Back to the future to coin a cliche.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

It's Being So Cheerful What Keeps Me Going

Our Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken it into his head that to pass a law saying no more budget deficits would be a good wheeze to keep the Bilderberg Group chaps happy and away from the door.

We were once adjacent to George and his party at Covent Garden for a performance of "The Sleeping Beauty".  All I can say is please, please can someone give him a big sloppy kiss to wake him up.

Preferably, an individual who is large, hairy, with big teeth and prehensile muscles and one of our distant primate cousins.

The Blair Brown years and the EU gave us some daft laws trying to control complex issues that cannot be resolved in crisis by laws.  Cameron and his Aunty Clegg gave us the utterly stupid one about fixed five year Parliaments, oblivious to the many and various risks entailed. 

We may need our options open if the doomsters are anywhere near right about some immediate prospects.  If you want a good range of choices in this they are available.  It would take some reading but a quick scan of the list will give you an idea.

They are to be found in today's Automatic Earth.  If you go down the list you will see the brief items which invite you to read more in the longer articles.  Taken together they could spoil your evening.

Perhaps there ought to be a law against it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Chances Of Life?

What might seem a small thing can have greater effects.  When Mrs. Peacock knocked the candle over during Hogmanay in a Heckling Shed in Irvine, Ayrshire, (see above) and burned it down she ended the career of a budding entrepreneur in the flax industry.  Also a farmer he had to find other things to do.

The story of his stay in Irvine is here and it is Robert Burns, who went on to other things, notably an Excise Officer with a gift for words and song for which he is better known.  Had he continued with the flax all sorts of possibilities arise.  One is that he may have made his living in Irvine.

But he might have moved on to other places either in Ulster or elsewhere in Ireland or to a part of England where the flax trade and industry was well established.  It was only handful of years later that an optician and clockmaker in Darlington invented a machine to do the messy business of flax dressing.

Had Burns been in the right place at the right time with either capital in hand or access to it he could have become a leading industrialist having the qualities and contacts etc. to make his way. It was a basic and expanding industry and the chances were there.

Many areas of work were not open to him.  The Incorporations of the burghs limited admissions to a number of key trades and you had to be either family or close to family to enter them.  It was why so many Scots moved on to other places and other work in that period and with such ambition.

Banking was one and in the vigorous, if erratic, expansion of the late 18th Century financial sector in the City of London, Scots bankers, some from Ayrshire, were well to the fore in imaginative schemes and risk taking.  The idea of Burns the banker is a little hard to take but it might have been.

The reason this is intriguing is that one of my forebears was in Irvine at the same time as Burns, close in age and married an Irvine girl.  Some of their children were born in Ayr and the others in Irvine and a grandson moved to Liverpool.

Could Burns have become a Scouser in his time?  Perhaps it is better that Mrs. Peacock knocked over the candle.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Property Boom And Bust

Meanwhile the property boom goes on and on.  One effect is that a street in central London that housed hundreds a century ago now houses tens at best, when they are there, which is less and less often in that the properties are bought for investment and not used.

Around the country in rural and seaside areas there are all the second, and third and in some cases fourth homes.  Again all much less occupied these days.  Add to that the sprawling mid 20th Century estates, private and public, once housing families now with many houses having just single or two occupants.

This tale of housing horror comes from the USA where it is argued that the price boom does not just cause serious issues for the younger generations but is having an adverse impact on the economy as a whole.

Governments are reluctant to do much because of the extent of the vested interests and are by various means stoking it up to the apparent advantage of some and to gain plaudits from the winners.  The rich get richer and to some extent at the direct expense of the poorest and by those I means the lower income employed who have to pay the taxes.

In the UK there is a suggestion that the Labour idea's on "mansion tax" had the effect of pushing enough home owners to vote Tory, enough to make the critical difference.  At the same time it is said that the incoming very rich regard our choice London homes as little better than broom cupboards compared to the space they can buy elsewhere.

So there is extensive work going on in the areas in question to create bigger and better mansions for smaller and smaller numbers of people. On the other hand figures suggest that down the market new properties tend to be smaller than in the past and taking up less ground.  The more you pay the less you get.

There is the question of migration.  Necessarily, the more that come in, the more space that will be wanted.  Traditionally, higher rates of incomers in the past led to reductions in space per head especially in the lower income groups.

This may well be happening in many areas, the appearance of what are essentially shanties in some areas of London is no more that what usually happens.  Also, in some districts there are now increasing numbers of properties intensively occupied and often cheek by jowl with those that are not.

What also seems to be happening is that the urge to build and to increase use of existing property is going ahead without much in the way of additional facilities.  In my own area, the road space needed for increasing traffic flows is not there, nor are the schools, nor other educational facilities, much else and critically health provision.

Also, the radical change in the shape and nature of property, its ownership and management is not matched by any rebalancing or adjustments to tax structure and impact.  The mess that is local and property taxation in the UK has a very long history and has been a political no-go area too often.

In the past it has led to the damage wreaked on what should have been the UK "Mittelstand" and other sectors of the economy.  It may now be that soon the price will have to be paid on top of the existing distortions to the economy generally.

When it might hit is impossible to predict, but hit it will because there are already too many faults in an ancient structure that has poor foundations.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Past Times Revisited

This is a retrospective, one of my first posts at the beginning of 2009.  How little changes.

Digging For Victory

The day the bank bailouts broke out, the missus said to me, “So what are you going to do to save the economy?”  “It isn’t up to me!” I said, “What can I do about it in any case?”  “Well,” she said “you can make a start, and my hair needs cutting.”

After we cut each other’s hair, normally free, gratis, and for nothing, this time we exchanged cheques for £1000 each.  “There,” she said, “that’s a nice boost for the GDP”  “But what do we do next?” I asked, and she had an answer for that, well she always does have an answer.

So we go down to at Thresher and Porbeagle Financial Services, Cookiecutter House and meet a gent’ called Fred Sands.  Nice chap, the sort of Scottish burr in the voice you like to hear on the customer services help lines telling you there is nothing they can do to help, who makes us an offer we could not refuse.

They had only just set up after he had left his old firm to improve his prospects. Grabbing the cheques from our hands, he told us he could immediately lend us up to £100,000 to spend as we wanted, or to take part in a wonderful investment deal that had only turned up on his laptop that very morning, limited offer, closing in half an hour, so we had to make up our minds quick.

He wrote us a cheque on the spot for the £100,000, gave to us, and then snatched it back, saying it was now an asset and collateral for buying £5 million pounds worth of rented garages in Arizona, Beijing, and Moscow, and these would become the assets for investing in a lot of Hedge Funds, who would do a lot of other lending.

Because all the loans were assets, and not what my father told me, income was guaranteed at fifteen per cent, and the whole value would grow at least thirty per cent a year, so we could soon have our villa, yachts and all the rest, and even get invited to a Paris fashion show.

I tried to tell the missus that I was happy with our caravan at Bognor, but she would not listen, all it would cost us she said was trivial money, small change, for all the administrative fees and bonuses, and I should be grateful for everything.

Then she went into the back room with Fred and came out smiling in a way I hadn’t seen since she was a part time barmaid at “The Dragon’s Head”.

So we have now “kick started” the economy and Fred says with luck I could get a knighthood and the missus will then become a lady, at last.  “It will all be worth it,” she said, “and Fred even gave me a tenner, for the service economy he called it.” 

When I told my neighbour, Jim, he gave me a funny look, asked for his lawnmower back, and told me not to bother with Christmas Cards this year as he was a bit short.

Apologies to Rob Wilton and Michael Williams.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Choice Or No Choice?

Sometimes it happens that there are two articles, on subjects that are different, but have an interesting connection.  The first is from the LSE web site that tells us that all that wonderful choice in the supermarkets is not what we seem.

The second raises the question about the role that the supermarket sector may play in the referendum on the EU.

The one on choice is by Terry Hathaway, short and to the point, who says that the branding methods used by large corporations to sell what appear to be a variety of products is hokum (his word) and that marketing is the method.

Personally, I would go further and if you look carefully at the long lists of ingredients of many products essentially they are all conjured up from the same chemical bags of tricks.

He mentions mayonnaise and bleach.  What might be mayonnaise to the supermarkets is often well removed from that in our kitchen.  As for the bleach and related household products they are often closer to industrial poisons than to purpose.

The same corporations according to Richard North's short blog of today on what is going on in the Europhile movement could be trying to influence our choice on "In" or "Out".  Lord Sainsbury is on the job to help organise and fund the "In" campaign.

For the ordinary man this means the global corporations with their grip on the EU will be less interested in providing choice than exerting their will.

The picture above is of Ann Hathaway's cottage in Stratford upon Avon, the lady who was wife to William Shakespeare.

In the play "Hamlet" there is the quote "Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice and could of men distinguish, her election hath seal'd thee for herself."

To choose or not to choose that is the question.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Rights Of Way

When the fictional poor Billy Budd, see Wikipedia, was pressed for the Royal Navy in 1797 the merchant vessel he left was the "Rights Of Man", which caused him to be suspect.  It is not a happy story and nor does it have a happy ending.

A key theme of the original novella and later dramas, stage, film and opera, is what Rights are and what we understand about them and how they might be applied.  What you start with is not what you get.  What you think are Rights is not the same as others think.

The British Library has an exhibition on Magna Carta as it is now 800 years since it was signed in 1215 at Runnymede between King John and the Barons.  Along with this are lectures.  Recently Thomas Asbridge talked about the role of William the Marshal but an earlier one is of interest.

What exactly does it say is the theme of the talk by Professor Sumption who analyses the content and what has been claimed in later years to be found in the document, here in PDF.  The item is longish but quite clear.  Also, it shows that much of what we believe derives from it simply is not the case.

The question of what are "Rights", who might enjoy them, to what purpose and why has been with us since 1215 and is still a major feature of our politics.  The latest Human Rights Act is just another crossroads on a long and complicated journey.

Whether this time, like other times in the past, a wrong turning has been taken is going to be a source of serious dispute and trouble.