Monday, 31 October 2016

Kissing Cousins?

There was a time when Ken Loach, the film maker and icon of the Left; Margaret Thatcher, born Roberts, who went into politics and myself, were doing the same thing at the same time for the same reasons. Were our reactions similar and our opinions of what should be done and was right to be done?

The period was 1940 and later, we were responding to the warning sirens, going to the air raid shelters and avoiding the bombers going over eastern England and heading for Coventry and the West Midlands. The Coventry Blitz is well known,  The Nuneaton Blitz where Ken was only a short distance away is described in this journal.

Another common item was Rugby Union Football, or rugger. Margaret did not play, I suspect that in the modern world she would have made an attacking fly half. Her husband, Denis, became a first class referee. Both Ken and I were at rugger playing grammar schools, thanks to R.A. Butler's 1944 Education Act. His, King Edward VI, was a good team with a decent fixture list.

Rugger in the Midlands was not the preserve of the public schools etc. as in some parts, many of the ordinary working population both watched and played. The Nuneaton town team then was very good having and beating some of England's top teams on its fixture list. Similarly, the Nuneaton Old Edwardians were a strong local team and are still around.

Was this a positive CV item for Ken for his entry to St. Peter Hall in Oxford, not then a College?  I recall when playing against Hall teams at Oxford some public school men having a thing that women could have Colleges when some men didn't. More important was that at both Cambridge and Oxford female company was in very short supply for the students.

Margaret never served in the Armed Forces, although Grantham was the middle of many airfields and camps between 1942 and early 1945. She would have been well aware of the military. Ken did do National Service said to be in The Royal Air Force, The Brylcreem Boys, probably between 1955 and 1957. It was not an ideal time with the Suez Crisis of '56 as well as a great deal of other activity. On 31 October 1956 the RAF bombed Egypt.

Ken, after National Service in 1957 went up to Oxford and signed up with the OU Drama Society perhaps hoping for some romantic Rattigan or Coward. But did he feature in the 1960 Ionescu's "The Bald Prima Donna" in the then fashionable Theatre Of The Absurd? This together with the arty French films etc. around at the time left its mark on his later work.

Margaret when up at Somerville College nearby in the mid '40's went in for politics, another form of surreal drama. Pity really, she might have made a good Mistress Ford in "The Merry Wives Of Windsor". Then she went into research science one of the key team that gave us emulsifiers for ice cream, that great leap into the unknown.  After marriage she decided on law, studying part time for the hard to get qualification as a Barrister.

Ken did a Jurisprudence degree at Oxford. Ken's study of law would have made a world of difference to his career in film making and the media. When it came to the contracts and small print he would have had a grasp of the basics and the detail and could make sure he was right in the same way that Margaret could meet with lawyers and scientists on equal terms.

We know what happened next to the pair of them, but what had happened before in the further past? In this blog the item "Tribune of the Plebians" it was made clear that Margaret was one of the working classes in her family history her father rising to the dizzy heights of a shopkeeper who owned his own shop and Mayor of his town.

Going back to 1851 Ag. Lab's, agricultural labourers appear in her family tree. It is the same with Ken; and his Ag. Lab's are not far from Margaret's. Before then it is difficult to trace much more as is normal and neither has a "gateway" ancestor at that stage although you can never tell what might happen, where or how.

Often it is not what you want to see. Both are likely to have the Yeomen and Husbandmen and small farmers, so many of whom were wiped out by enclosures and who had families who went downward in terms of social mobility.

A possible Thomas Loach appears in the military during the Napoleonic Wars when Britain fought against the domination of Europe. He enlisted for the Coldstream Guards and saw service with Wellington in the Peninsula. Also, he was in London, and would be seen guarding King George III, The Prince of Wales, later Regent and The Bank of England against revolutionaries and republicans.

One hope was that the Ag. Lab of 1851, Charles Loach, gave his place of birth as Snitterfield in Warwickshire, the birth place of the John Shakespeare of the 16th Century, who moved down to Stratford upon Avon and whose son William we know. Sadly, that one did not work out. But on the side of Ken's mum, the Hamlin family had come from Bibury in the Cotswolds.

This is near to Sapperton and the Poole family of the 16th Century one of whom married an Aylesbury of Warwickshire and numbered Whittington's among their families. There were many and various of these. It was a Frances Aylesbury who became a grandmother to Queen Mary II whose husband was King William III. This is a very long shot, but you never know.

More to the point about the Cotswolds was that once it was one of the heartlands and major industrial bases of the Medieval Wool Trade and later. Sadly, under the Stuarts the combination of high taxation, central control of trade and unwise regulation brought it to ruin and the wool trade went elsewhere. The late Professor EM Carus-Wilson of LSE was an authority on this subject, her tract on Merchant Venturers is available on Amazon.

But back to 1851 for another matter. On the same page as Charles Loach is a James Chaplin and a William Hitchcox (Hitchcock?), to raise the eyebrows.

But whether the 57 year old unmarried Ag.Lab Thomas Roberts living next door to Charles is connected is interesting.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

He Nose You Know

The news that Ms. Samantha Cameron, spouse to David Cameron, a former Prime Minister now languishing among his financial advisers, is to confirm her status as a celebrity in her own right by lending her name to a brand of cosmetics, personal stuff and deodorants is perhaps not entirely a surprise.

What a pity she did not do this a few years ago.  What fun we might have had with the idea of "Stinker Cameron" at the head of government responsible for all those decisions on trade, industry and the environment. The imagination might run riot, but I am not up to it today.

No doubt some of it will be called "natural" which means a little Ho2, as distinct from HS2, and the odd dash or so of concentrates of the juices of some flowers or plants.

Most of the content and engineered to carry far and hit hard will be synthetics of standard kinds of the petro-chemicals available in bulk from a refinery near you.

In effect the reality is that the overall impact of these wonders of personal appearance will be much the same as sitting on a motorway stuck behind a line of trucks which have not been serviced for some time.

As to the content there is enough information out there to tell you what you what it is. It is of course a commercial enterprise to promote increased GDP, aka your money and very likely your rising debt liabilities.

There is a good deal of debate about the overall health and living aspect of all this stuff which has been marketed in recent decades. How typical of Cameron it is that in his mission to be with it and popular and impress people he has now moved on to poisoning the planet.

Are we paying him for this?

Friday, 28 October 2016

Going To The Bank

1720 Jonathan Swift

The bold encroachers on the deep
Gain by degrees huge tracts of land,
Till Neptune, with one general sweep,
 Turns all again to barren strand.

The multitude's capricious pranks
Are said to represent the seas,
Breaking the bankers and the banks,
 Resume their own whene'er they please.

Money, the life-blood of the nation,
 Corrupts and stagnates in the veins,
Unless a proper circulation
 Its motion and its heat maintains.

Because 'tis lordly not to pay,
 Quakers and aldermen in state,
Like peers, have levees every day
 Of duns attending at their gate.

We want our money on the nail;
 The banker's ruin'd if he pays:
They seem to act an ancient tale;
The birds are met to strip the jays.

"Riches," the wisest monarch sings,
 "Make pinions for themselves to fly;"
They fly like bats on parchment wings,
 And geese their silver plumes supply.

No money left for squandering heirs!
Bills turn the lenders into debtors:
The wish of Nero now is theirs,
 "That they had never known their letters."

Conceive the works of midnight hags,
 Tormenting fools behind their backs:
Thus bankers, o'er their bills and bags,
 Sit squeezing images of wax.

Conceive the whole enchantment broke;
 The witches left in open air,
With power no more than other folk,
 Exposed with all their magic ware.

So powerful are a banker's bills,
 Where creditors demand their due;
They break up counters, doors, and tills,
 And leave the empty chests in view.

Thus when an earthquake lets in light
 Upon the god of gold and hell,
Unable to endure the sight,
He hides within his darkest cell.

As when a conjurer takes a lease
 From Satan for a term of years,
The tenant's in a dismal case,
 Whene'er the bloody bond appears.

A baited banker thus desponds,
 From his own hand foresees his fall,
They have his soul, who have his bonds;
 'Tis like the writing on the wall.

How will the caitiff wretch be scared,
 When first he finds himself awake
At the last trumpet, unprepared,
 And all his grand account to make!

For in that universal call,
 Few bankers will to heaven be mounters;
They'll cry, "Ye shops, upon us fall!
 Conceal and cover us, ye counters!"

When other hands the scales shall hold,
 And they, in men's and angels' sight
Produced with all their bills and gold,
 "Weigh'd in the balance and found light!"

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Picture This

The film maker Ken Loach, defying old age, has won the Palme D'Or and praise in many quarters for his latest film "I, Daniel Blake" set in what he regards as his home intellectual territory, the lives of those at the bottom of the heap and having a bad time.

There is interest in how much he would make on this in that film making is one of the those ruthless capitalist activities that are red in tooth and claw. That his film had other support has been an interest. So what will he do with the loot, sorry, the rewards of work and thought?

My suggestion is that he revisits one of his early successes, "Kes, A Kestrel for a Knave" to tell us what happened to Billy Casper the boy at the centre of the film.  Ever willing to be constructive, a plot line is suggested below.

Billy, now in his 60's is a retired former social worker who made it to the higher grades only to be early retired after an internal reorganisation following a management consultancy review. His hobby is stuffing birds for sale online but he has become the target and victim of eco' warriors.

After one divorce and then the failure of the second marriage, unwilling to pay for another divorce Billy has had several partners. His latest, Millie Glossop-Wooster is a former Guardian journalist who went to Barnsley to research poverty only to realise that if she sold her suburban home in Hampstead she could buy a decent large house and small holding up in the Pennine area of Barnsley.

Millie has created a bird breeding centre as a tourist attraction and  source of income. It is the old birds that Billy kills and stuffs to ply his trade. They live a quiet and ordinary life between Barnsley and their other homes in the Costa del Sol and Caithness. The plot deals with the stresses in their lives and partnership now they have become local hate figures.

A lot of noisy rows, debates, incidents and the rest involving much of the local community, the police and other services mean that Millie decides to go back to Hampstead and leave Billy. His only consolation is his season ticket in the main stand at Oakwell to watch Barnsley play.

Billy is lost and bereft. One day wandering in a part of old Barnsley he is drawn to enter a church where the door has been left open. Somewhere high up a choir is singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" as he goes to the altar and feels impelled to kneel and pray.

Then there is a tap on his shoulder. He looks up and sees Clarrie Hirst, his old Head Teacher who so often told him to get stuck in on the football pitch or else. But Clarrie has long since gone. "Come on lad," says the ghost of Clarrie, "Time for t' Big Kick Off, Barnsley are in the heavenly Premiership and you are the centre forward. The lads from Longcar will be there and Brannan has promised to put it down to expenses."

Billy follows Clarrie through the wall. The film closes with a cleaner, being paid below minimum wage, discovering the body of Billy, beside him is the feather from the tail of a kestrel.

Would crowd funding do the job?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Independence Day

"A consequence of the 1858 Government of India Act was that the United Kingdom ceased to be independent." Discuss. The history of the British Empire assumes that control was centred in London.  But that control depended on the interests involved, substantially those of the upper classes, the City of London and the imperatives of trade.

These imperatives often meant the UK paying the price or accepting commitments to others. Also, as India became so important to the UK for a variety of reasons, it might often be the case that the UK was obliged to follow the line of those in charge in India in making some decisions or determining lines of policy.

By the 1880's we were involved in Africa to a great extent but we could no longer go it alone. African matters involved other European powers, let alone the major financial interests in the City. The UK did not decide; the decisions were shaped for us by others.

By 1919 the First World War had left the UK a debtor state and had created a network of obligations, treaties etc. that bound our policies and actions, such as The League of Nations. Also, the Empire had changed and we had become tied in several ways to other commitments that impacted and what we did or did not do.

After the Second World War there was yet more debt, victory in theory but with a destruction in capital and money with continuing conflicts that left us impoverished and obliged to others for what we might eat or consume. There was the United Nations and progressively we became more and more tied to more organisations and continuing obligations.

It is arguable that before the First World War the counties of Down, Dumfries, Denbigh and Derby were more independent than was the United Kingdom by the 21st Century. When we hear the word "independence" from yapping politicians pandering to their paymasters they might mean detachment from EU officials or the Westminster offices and agencies for this and that but nothing else.

The media is full of big decisions that might soon be made, Hinckley Point, HS2 and Heathrow. But just who will be running the projects, who will be dealing with finance and who will be the real owners? As I walk about the town on the Chinese granite paving to visit my foreign bank, pass by the foreign owned railway service and pay money out to shops and services which are largely foreign owned I might wonder why.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

England Awake!

England awake! The Russkies are here, their navy manned by men with snow on their boots is off our shores just now. The last time their Baltic fleet headed East; back in late 1904, when they arrived off China in 1905 the Japanese navy blew them out of the water. Now they are headed for Syria with only what is left of the US Navy to inflict any damage.

Before they got out of the North Sea in 1904 under the impression that the Japanese Navy was waiting for them; communications were not so good then, they sank two English fishing trawlers out of Hull. Mercifully thanks to the great and good of the EU this is not likely to happen, we do not fish these days.

As they pass we have the services of the voluntary RNLI lifeboats to rely on, mostly. They will fish out any wobbly Russian sailors who fall overboard after the vodka ration and are unused to being at sea. Some may jump overboard to join all those refugees anxious for benefits and needing advice as to the nearest nightlife.

There is claimed to be a Dragon Destroyer, apart from a couple of border control boats with limited distances, that may "shadow" them.  That is, unless it gets choppy off the Scillies or rough in the Bay of Biscay. In any case it cannot go far, the ECHR about to rule that active servicemen with pets must be allowed time off for reasons of first, animal rights and secondly, human rights.

What will happen off Syria is an interesting question. What we should have firmly in our minds that all those people with all that military hardware are prone to hitting the wrong targets and often inflicting self damage. So the USA does not have only the Russians to fear, "Hit the button" Hillary could soon send half her navy to the bottom by accident.

Back in '05 many other things were happening. In Odessa there was that business with the Battleship Potemkin and in St. Petersburg, The Winter Palace. The Kaiser went to Morocco and upset the French. In France a research psychologist named Alfred Binet, wanting to outdo the Freudians, claimed that intelligence in humans might be most easily be measured by mental agility tests rather than by traditional education and examination notably in the classics.

Back in December '04 the "Missionary Of The Empire", Unionist Joseph Chamberlain, the Harriet Harman of the day, they are related, went to the East End to persuade the masses who were enthusiastic to his cause, thousands of them attending. They cheered his demands for curbs on immigration from Europe which he asserted was responsible for crime and disease.

Meanwhile, between Baker Street and Uxbridge the Metropolitan Railway had introduced electric trains and salivating dogs had won a Nobel Prize for Ivan Pavlov.

The big news was the play "Peter Pan, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up".  Nowadays, they go into politics.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Molar Panels

As a child medic's came to my school to check us over regularly.  They were looking for Tuberculosis (TB or Consumption) in the time before antibiotics. They were neurotic about this and my school was labelled high risk because of migrants fleeing the London Blitz.

If diagnosed you were banged up either in the local Open Air Residential School for as long as it took or an isolation ward if serious. My teeth were checked for signs of this or that. When selected for a secondary school education, another check including my teeth, the advanced thinking local authority having health as a priority before the NHS was created. There were later checks.

When conscripted for the Army, everything was checked, I spare you the details. This happened again when posted out of the UK, twice more and then later before demob' for all of us. The Army was neurotic about Venereal Disease, STI or STD nowadays, especially syphilis, there was a lot of it about, including the Tertiary form. The Secret files I read during boring duty weekends were fascinating in their accounts of the relevant issues.

In London afterwards the reported roundups of street sex workers for medical checks by The Met' Police were said to be triggered by yet another Tory minister having caught a dose of something nasty. These involved mouth checks due to their curious habits. See the 1959 Butler Street Offences Act.

For my first job, another set of checks, for later jobs more checks.  Along with this toothy experience were at least a dozen dentists here and there prodding and searching about and then endlessly reminding me it was time for another go.

In later life there has been an interesting selection of hospitals, all of which wanted to examine the anatomy on an extensive basis, including teeth. If I could have claimed to be a refugee child interested only in slave or sex trafficking, terrorism, gang warfare, death to the infidels and such like, it would have been a lot easier.

In the present furore it seems to have been forgotten that many cases of young migrants will be obviously children. Equally it ought be obvious that some are not. The cases needing a check will be the rather fewer marginal ones and those where there is cause for doubt.

But and it is a very big but, there is the far more difficult question of many people coming from high risk areas in which there are serious health issues, including diseases that we have been desperate to eliminate in the past, especially where new forms have developed.

Such as drug resistant TB.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Old Habits Die Hard

There has been comment recently about Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and elsewhere. The form it has taken relates to how things are now, but there is nothing new about this. It would take a long post to go through it all from the Middle Ages to the 19th Century.  Then the Tsar's of Russia expelling populations with the effect on other countries that in many towns in Britain had the effect of sparking resentment and antipathy.

After this came the relatively recent history since the First World War. When Britain came away from the Versailles Conference and treaties with the Mandate for Palestine there may have been rapture in the chapels and valleys of Lloyd George's Wales that Jerusalem was now cared for by the wise and just UK.  The reality was very different.

Wikipedia has an article on this, Mandatory Palestine if you have the time to read this long and complicated article. To fully grasp it will need many clicks on a lot of the links. Twenty five years after LG's triumph at the negotiating tables we fully realised the scale and nature of the disaster he had visited on us in the late 1940's.

For my generation of conscript soldiers, Palestine, along with Malaya (then the Straits Settlements) and Korea were at the top of list for being the worst places to be sent to. Other Middle East locations were also highly placed. Yet we all knew about what had happened in Germany.

I recall early in 1945 going to see a comedy film only to be faced with the Pathe news from Belsen-Bergen. It was 11 Armd Div that arrived there and I can imagine what they had to deal with.  A few years later I was with 7 Armd Div and the location and nearby garrison were in our area. Indeed the 4th Hussars were there, Churchill's regiment of which he was the honorary Colonel in Chief.

Yet various forms of Anti Semitism were common enough in Britain.  Only months after the end of the war I was at a variety hall when on came a comic for his usual routine replete with Jewish jokes. Did it ever occur to him to change the routine? Did it not occur to the management to haul him off?

The Suez Crisis of 1956 was part and parcel of the troubles we took on ourselves in the Middle East. Mercifully, I was not there but I did see the military files. My mate, the General Officer Commanding, who had commanded a Parachute Brigade at Arnhem in 1944 had visits from Montgomery, his old mate, and Hugh Stockwell who had drawn the short straw of being the British Commander having done time in Palestine not long before. My experience is that what was in writing and what they said to each other were quite different things, but Stockwell had the politicians and the gung ho French to deal with.

A few years later a friend, good honours degree and a fine teacher was advised that because he was a Jew, apart from a handful of areas in London and a couple of towns he had no chance of being a Head or Deputy. From the school I attended the few Jewish pupils went into traditional medical etc. work but none could expect jobs say, with the local authority or in some areas of professional work.

So what has happened in the last half century? Perhaps there  a couple of decades when this was relegated or began to be forgotten and even the BBC cut out the Anti Semitism routines in its comedy shows. Now it is back for a simple reason. In a way we are recreating the old Palestine problem in our own back yard.

For some 160 years or more we have been involved with the Middle East and elsewhere and seemed to have learned nothing. It was inevitable that encouraging large scale Muslim movement to come to the UK would bring with it a new cultural dimension and revive an old one, Anti Semitism.

As soon as enough had the vote we would have politicians and others for whom Anti Semitism would become necessary in their personal interest.

And did those feet in ancient time..........

Friday, 14 October 2016

Nonsense Of Identity

If, according to the BBC, the Scottish National Party is represented by a gorilla, see Kumbuka above, the London Zoo escapee; perhaps wanting to be at the concert at the Wigmore Hall, then which political parties are the primate species below?

Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and UKIP are the choices.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Sing A Song Of Soccer

Looking for something completely different, came up with the news that Nottingham will mark the centenary of the death of Herbert Kilpin, a founder, possibly the key man, of the AC Milan football club, one of the greats of Europe.

Given the British upper classes fascination with Italy and its culture I assumed that he would be one of those or at least the younger son of a clergyman, wrong again.

It was not the case. In fact he was of humble origins. He was born in a butcher's shop, his father, Edward, being the butcher, before becoming a leading footballer, perhaps a high protein diet might have helped.

From the same patches as his family a more recent football personality has emerged, Gary Lineker. It is only an outside chance of a any connection, although some of that name were around the same place at the same time.

Before become a butcher, Edward was listed as an Ag. Lab., that is an agricultural labourer, as I have said the holy grail of ancestry.  Moreover his wife, married 1854, Sarah Smith, was the daughter of an Ag. Lab.

The Kilpin's were sons of the soil and no doubt proud of it. Edward was born in Stoke Goldington in Buckinghamshire of a local yeoman family.  The Smith's were from Baggrave in Leicestershire, not far from Lineker's Thurmaston.

And now Herbert Kilpin is buried among the good and the great of Milan and of Italian music, culture and thought.

Did he ever have tickets for La Scala?  If he was at the disaster of the world premiere of "Madama Butterfly" on 17 February 1904 he might have been given more applause than the opera.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Not The Way To Do It

Tuesday 8th November cannot come soon enough.  The real issue is how did Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton become the two major candidates for the Presidency of the USA?

The USA is a major state with hundreds of millions in population including some of the best brains in the world and also some of the most able and skilled. Is this the best it's proud democracy can do?

It is more Charlie Chaplin than Alexander Hamilton. Something is badly wrong. There are other candidates, but the way the US system works in they have little chance of success or even having any impact.

What catches the eye are that so many are over 60. And the old shall inherit the earth?

Vote Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn.

Monday, 10 October 2016

How To Break An Economy

Looking back at the last couple of decades and more one of my regular questions about the state and nature of the UK economy is what happened to the UK Mittelstand? That is all the middling, smaller and upcoming companies that are necessary to the future and for a healthy balance in the economy.

This is what happened to so many of them.  This longish article on the subject of the extent and purpose of the destructive raiding of ordinary businesses  by RBS tells the basic story.  But RBS was not alone.  Most big banks were doing this as were others in the financial sector to one degree or another.

Essentially, for some forty or so years now the way the State sector has been run and the way the private sector has been governed and regulated has been relentlessly in favour of the limited number of big financial firms close to the politicians and with revolving doors with the civil service.

In the meantime we are being told that two thirds of the jobs that will be available in twenty to thirty year's time have not been created yet.

The way the UK is and is going they will not be created at all.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Work Ethic

Another person offered an honour has declined it on the grounds that it is one of the Empire category and the British Empire once had many slave owning and trading colonies until the late 18th and  early 19th centuries when along with others it ended it.  This was an extension of the forms of slavery and serfdom that had existed in the Atlantic Isles in the millennia before.

The Irish and Scots might argue that these lasted in one form or another until the 19th Century when between famine and rapid economic change they began to collapse. Our new Prime Minister, Ms. May, could claim that she has family who were in a condition of slavery in this period up until 1799. She has Paterson's in her ancestry who were mine workers in Scotland, Clackmannanshire.

Under an Act of 1606 of the then  Scottish Parliament, there was a category of "bound labour" in Scotland that applied to colliers and salters. The Scots are in no doubt that this was a form of slavery under which these men and their families suffered and if you apply the test of what the conditions etc. were of those affected, I would agree.

But there are the wider issues arising from servitude, serf status and other labour conditions that for the individual at the bottom of the heap amount in effect to slavery. There is indentured labour, contract labour and the Padrone System (see Wikipedia) of employment that in theory are not slavery in that there is supposed to be a time condition or other means of ending.

But all too often these become a lifetime of serfdom of which debt bondage is all too common or the liabilities or problems of moving meaning people have no effective choice.  Indentured labour along with convicts from The Atlantic Isles ran parallel to that of slave labour in America and the Caribbean West Indies.

In England into long in the 19th Century the Acts of Settlement applied by which people could be forcibly sent to what the law specified was their home Parish.  Once there it could be the Workhouse and in those places and under the Poor Law of 1834 for those at the benches, in the fields or breaking rocks it was a form of servitude hard to escape.

It went on until late in the 19th Century and the conditions for orphans or other children became a scandal.  In particular the use of what were in theory apprenticeships was a form of forced labour beyond ordinary servitude.  Even for what appear to be ordinary workers it could be oppressive. Mill owners for example, with company housing, company shops and being local magistrates could leave a family with very little money and no choices.

Even for ostensibly free people in some villages and estates the landowners could regard the lower orders as in effect serfs, those who could not get away were trapped. For many men the only way out was to take The Kings Shilling and join the Army or to volunteer for The Navy, another form of unfree condition but for many better than staying where you were in many rural areas.

The question of military service raises other questions.  For a long period the Royal Navy used impressment to man its ships, that is forced labour for uncertain periods.  Also, men might be called for The Militia, many of who then were packed off into the regular Army, again for periods fixed in theory but not in practice.

In the 20th Century we have had conscription.  In theory this is not forced labour but during my time at least I would have argued that it was.  To argue or disobey could mean time banged up which added to the length of the service. Military service meant that some did not come back, or did as casualties.  But this is true in the past of some of the more onerous and demanding types of forced labour.

One person I knew, whose calling was to be a minister of a dissenting congregation, did not do this service but was obliged to spend three years working in a mental hospital to discharge his liability. The common element is being forced under law to give time or even a life time to work that you did not choose and perhaps did not want to continue with.

It has long been my opinion that our honours system is well overdue for revision, going back even to the 60's. At the present, what is a grim irony, is that some of those who complain about the past have clothing and footwear that come from the Far East from factories and locations whose labour conditions are little different to those of the slaves of the past.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Weather Guess

Having once visited The Bahamas not long after a hurricane had gone through, I can imagine the scale of the devastation and human tragedy that will be the result of Hurricane Matthew.

It has already hit Haiti very hard and is on course for the south east of the USA. the map above is from the US National Hurricane Centre as at midday today UK time.

But out there to the east of Matthew is storm Nicole which is large in its own right.  If they were to merge and then that storm heads east across The Atlantic where might what is left make landfall and with what effect?

Check your diaries for later in the month. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Polling Politics

This week in deepest Birmingham at the Symphony Hall has been more Boulez that Beethoven and has seen the birth of yet another new political party to replace The Conservative Party. It is the Consbour Dimocrat Party, the short form being Conrat.

It's essential purpose is that it will be a party that is all things to all persons that will spend more with less money from tax while at the same time observing due economic care.

Quite how this will be managed is apparently a mystery to many in the media.  But last week's "Private Eye" which gave a lot of space to the business history and personal background of Amber Rudd might suggest that imaginative finance is the key.

Ms. Rudd is now Home Secretary, which is not finance, but may enable her to prevent undue interest and actions in these matters should anyone be so foolish or unwise to think about it.  She was canny enough to grab the headlines on immigration issues which has kept the media and many others excited.

There is also the Health Service.  Our NHS lately has taken to employing more spin doctors than medical doctors. With the mortality rate rising and the and the health standards falling it is proposed to train more medic's rather than importing them.

There was once a time in a past age when the local GP's had not only men but often with Scots or Irish accents.  If you could not find one in the surgery you could always try the bar at one or other of the local rugby clubs.  These happy times have passed. Now the ones we have spend time crouched over their laptop screens wonder what on earth their patients may be suffering from.

If they are not very good at this there is a real risk that they could be looking at web pages dealing with animal health or treatments in the medieval or ancient world.  Usually, they see a pop up advert' for a pill and prescribe that, however, which is what they are supposed to do.

Little seems to have been said about foreign affairs beyond just how much we will be under the rule of Brussels, Berlin or Deutsche Bank, or rather the financial imperatives of bailing them all out of unwise and over optimistic decisions of the past.  The bank has a lien on the freeholds of many thousands of UK properties, but don't mention that to the leaseholders.

The real question of the day is when the Prime Minister of this new party, Ms. May might decide to have a General Election.  One opinion on this is next Spring.  But if my reading of the world situation is right she ought to go for it as soon as possible.  A delay might mean she is the new Gordon Brown rather than a Tony Blair.

Blair was always a Conrat at heart, but did not like to say so in public.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The Fourth Plinth

The debate about the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London has been revived again.  The latest is that it is being reserved for a statue of HM The Queen on a horse. presumably gazing down Whitehall or down The Mall rather than at other statues.

These include King George IV, an interesting monarch but perhaps with a very different lifestyle.  Another is King James II, who was dethroned in a civil war who is near to one of George Washington, donated by the State of Virginia, an offer we could not refuse.

There are three busts of Admirals, Jellicoe and Beatty of WW1 and Cunningham of WW2, who do deserve some recognition but then two major statues are those of General Sir Charles James Napier and Major General Sir Henry Havelock, two warriors of The Raj in the sub-continent and the former distinguished himself against Napoleon. Edith Cavell is just round the corner in St. Martins Place.

But this is the 21st Century, and perhaps another location might be preferred.  On 12 June 2010 I blogged to the effect that the Fourth might have, say, a group of Watson, Crick, Franklin and Wilkins to recognise their work on DNA, or perhaps Davy and Faraday.  But I plumped for General's Ross and Brooke who burned Washington in 1814 given Obama's dislike of the UK.

The obvious alternatives for HM are in The Mall, perhaps close to the Palace, or Whitehall, given that she has seen so many Prime Ministers come and go.  Or maybe Parliament Square as a change from all those alpha males.  Given the repair costs of the Palace of Westminster, why not raze it to the ground and turn the site into gardens with the statue at the centre, as Elizabeth Gardens?

But, given the way are governed and who is really in charge it might be somewhere else altogether, say outside The Shard?

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Gaming Conferences And Golf

After the Liberal Democrat and Labour Party Conferences both of which have shown parties in disarray and uncertainty, the way is open for the Conservatives to take advantage.

This means clear thinking, coherent policies, broad agreement, a sense of team spirit, dignity, intelligence and dare I say it, a little style lacking in the other parties.

We are not going to have it.  Already Ken Euro-Clarke has got out of the attic demanding to bring back the much loved policies of Edward Heath and Listen With Mother on the radio.

We know how he incites other lesser beings. He has much to offer the Tories, notably from British American Tobacco, Unichem, assorted financial services interests and not least what he has learned from his friends in the Bilderberg.

The knives are already polished for the ritual back stabbing to take place in quiet corridors, corners of bars and expensive restaurants.  Rivals will seek to ruin reputations and tell tales of errors of personal judgement.

The debates about policy will leave us none the wiser as to what they are or why.  Excuses will be made for what went wrong, especially under Cameron.  Promises will be legion for things that can never be delivered.

It will all be a charade from which we will learn little and gain nothing.  Today, I would like to go to the peace, quiet and dignity of the Ryder Cup.  Unluckily, this is not possible, elements in the American crowd preventing this.

It is a grim irony that the Euro man the Americans hate is Rory McIlroy, the golfing great from Ulster and if I am not mistaken with a good smack of Scots Irish in the blood. American's  tend to know little of their history.

In recent decades they have forgotten that many of the USA ideas about democracy, freedom, rights and Independence etc. came with the Scots and Scots Irish migrants of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

See "The Scottish Invention of America, Democracy and Human Rights", University Press of America, Klieforth and Munro, 2004.

The immediate concern is whether we are going to have months of snow and ice, as forecast by weather people headed up by Piers Corbyn, yes one of the those Corbyns, which would do for the Tories, or the kind of milder winter of recent years.

Wait and see.