Monday, 20 November 2017

My Artificial Brain Hurts

One web site of choice is "Bank Underground" from the Bank of England. Essentially it is about how it works and tries to explain what it is up to or not up to as the case may be. It is neither fun nor easy.

Certainly, it needs a site like this because it is all too evident that most or nearly all of the main media, political parties, traders, dealers, retail bankers, experts of one sort or another and far too many economists are not really up there with the economic game.

To be fair, the game is not the old fashioned single entity where the rules are more or less the same from year to year, and there is a fair chance that predictions may be right or work. In effect, the rules change almost by the day as well as the pitch, the players and the purpose.

This article in titled "New Machines For The Old Lady" is about the advances made at the Bank of England in applying high and new technology to its function as a central bank. There has been, it says, an explosion in the amount and variety of digitally available data.

All you need are machines that will analyse it and allow you to suggest the policy options it alleges are required. If you are in a hurry with all those berserker politicians crying for answers, it seems a good idea.

I prefer the Bank articles to be brief and not to challenge the wiring between the ears. This one needs time because of the subject matter and having to explain what is what. But if you want to know what your central bank is up to, why and how, it is part of the answer.

Unluckily, in this world however good the mathematics, science, data gathering, artificial intelligence, analytic systems and coffee machines, there are no certainties and not much comfort. After all the explanation, it ends:


However, care is needed when interpreting the outputs from ML models. For example, they do not necessary identify economic causation.

The fact that a correlation between two variables has been observed in the past does not mean it will hold in the future, as we have seen in the case of the artificial neural network when it is faced with a situation not previously seen in the data, resulting in forecasts wide of the mark.


Told you so.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

A Hundred Years Ago

I had just sketched out another "what if" item which may or may not have worked when I came across a better one. It is good reading and tells us how our world might have been a much better one had the opportunity been taken.

It is in The Spectator by Simon Kerry and the title is "What if the first world war had ended a year earlier" and is not simply a think piece. It is about his forebear who was a leading political figure at the time.

The Lord Lansdowne, a former member of the Cabinet had composed a letter arguing for a negotiated peace and end of fighting in 1917 and had been discussing it earlier with friends and colleagues, who soon became former friends.

In essence they ratted on him having gone too far down the road that would lead to the destruction of Germany. The events at the Somme and Passchendaele had been too much and the sacrifices demanded too many.

It is possible also that the Lloyd George government's ambitions in the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire may have been a reason.

Only three months later the new Soviet government in Russia agreed an end to hostilities with Germany and Austria.

We are still paying the price today for Lloyd George's obsessions with the Middle East and the Palestine question. Reading the article it is difficult to avoid considering that Lansdowne may have been right.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Pass Me A Handkerchief

The debate on the National Health Service goes on and from the Left we are given the impression that they are the "defenders" from the forces of change who must be wrong if they wish to change anything. In the meantime medicine and medical problems move on.

We learn more and more and realise much better the complexities and difficulties of many conditions. But the Left want to just remind us of the past, indeed the long past, as though nothing could or would change.

A choice example is this tear jerker in The Canary from Harry Leslie Smith about the indeed tragic loss of his sister, Marion, who had tuberculosis, TB, at the age of 15. He says she was denied medical treatment nor were the family given a wheelchair.

There are one or two problems here. The three towns given for his family are Barnsley, Bradford and Halifax. All of these had local authority hospital facilities plus provision for the poor, advanced for their time, and for those signed up with friendly societies. Also, Marion had been diagnosed, who by and what were his parents told or asked?

In December 1943 an uncle of mine, much loved and respected died young from TB, he was not in hospital nor was he given medication. But he had been one of the rare men working as a nurse in an isolation hospital, where no doubt he had contracted TB. He opted to die at home with his family.

The drugs that beat TB, the antibiotics were not available then. The hospital beds were for any potential survivors, most likely who had the condition spotted early, for whom long months in an open air ward might just help them beat it.

And you did not want the serious cases on the ward. The only two options were either a managed death facility, more or less an annex to the mortuary, or being at home and told to stay at home.

So contagious was the disease and so dangerous you did not want victims being wheeled around the shops or any other public place or even up or down the street. It was not just a death sentence, it was being put into isolation as well.

The local Medical Officers of Health had TB as a major priority along with other bad ones, for example Typhoid. I recall one school I attended before the NHS was created where a pupil was found with TB and they came in like the cavalry at Waterloo to deal with it.

Go home, stay at home and wait for the results parents and pupils were instructed. Parents who did not take heed were told that if they were not careful their children would be taken into isolation for months. My parents were far from happy but obeyed.

The creation of the NHS occurred at the same time as major advances in pharmaceuticals, treatments, surgery and in other fields of medicine, notably training and functioning of family doctors. It was never simply "private" and never had been.

The problem in the late 1940's arose mainly from the effects of two world wars within thirty one years, other crises, all the industrial and employment conditions on the rise, the ex-service injured and the increasing numbers of births etc. The greater movement of people added to this.

Clearly some central policy thinking and direction would be needed in certain fields, also how to give stimulus to improvement and to even out the differences between local authorities. What it did not need was the wipe out of so much of the local and charitable provision and imposition of detached bureaucracies regardless of function.

We now have the transformations possible in the digital age and other major challenges. Does the Left seriously think that these can be dealt with by people sitting in offices in London being directed by committees of politicians with poor degrees in PPE?

Back To The Land

Digging in for Labour on rural matters comes up with some strange ideas. This is a party for whom food begins and ends at the supermarkets, especially those who come up with the contributions to party funds.

Quote from last week:

Speaking in Lincoln on Saturday, McDonnell will say that tens of billions paid to shareholders should have been used to bring prices down for consumers. “These figures show what could have gone into investment in these public services in order to expand and improve them or keep their charges down,” he will say at the event to mark the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, which, in 1217, enshrined the rights of people to the lands they lived and worked on.


The Charter Of The Forest has a Wikipedia article which explains it briefly. Let us say it seemed a good idea at the time.

Over the centuries much of the Atlantic Isles became deforested. Then  the common land was over grazed to the point of failing to sustain animals for meat and industry. Then it was not possible for the land to grow much in the way of crops. Harvests were scant at best, and often total loss occurred.

Last but not least, in the common lands the rule of law failed as groups of individuals and families came into violent conflict over whose rights were paramount. The failure to keep records of the past and decisions of the relevant bodies or courts made this a great deal worse.

So when Kings who believed in Divine Right came to rule and with them group or tribal leaders who had major following they began to carve up the land for their own benefit. At least in some it gave rise to improvements in agriculture and greater productivity.

The end came with the mass migration from these lands when weather conditions turned adverse over long periods. Notably from the uplands worse affected.

McDonnell appears to be saying that any surplus from an industrial or agricultural source of production should not be applied to that or others that promise a surplus but should be redirected to State spending. That is we should have an economy that will be largely static in a world of global trade and finance.

Neither he nor his comrades seem to realise that the world they grew up in has gone and cannot be recreated by committees of the brothers and laws passed in Westminster.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Riding The Money Go Round

When in West Germany first, before we were fool enough to allow it sovereignty, being sent to save the world from the Soviet hordes, the money question was of key interest. Not only did we have little of it but neither did the locals.

There was actual sterling coin and notes for the better off, then Army scrip, bits of scrubby paper valid only in particular British outlets, but which might used with people who could access these, the then Mark, distrusted, inevitably cigarettes and in addition anything which was desirable and could be bartered.

Both we and the Germans were used to barter. For all of us the 1940's had been a time for the resurgence of barter, for those in the UK, to get our hands on things not available or rationed and for a time for the Germans to survive in the collapse of its state.

How did we manage? The answer is that we did because we all knew the basic rules of this money game and if we applied common sense and straight dealing we would both benefit. It could apply to services. I dig your cabbage patch because I have boots, you clean my windows because I do not like ladders.

So when the government permitted the making of more cigarettes it was not just a health matter, the medic's then insisting it was good for us, or helping our sense of identity or social mixing, it was in effect money creation given the multiple effects of the ensuing transactions.

All this began to go in the 1950's and it became the norm to have a cash economy for the great majority of transactions. As our two main political parties in the UK were closely matched the electorate had to be bribed, which meant promises and therefore spending and that meant flows of money and credit.

The theoretical basis for much to this was alleged to be Keynes, albeit the convenient parts. The inconvenient were skipped. Sometimes our rulers got it wrong and other times they took the risks, hoping they could evade the consequences. Inevitably we began the long era of persistent inflation with occasional surges.

Half a century further on as the tribes of economists stalk the land and the statistics, we are still no wiser. Allegedly, a good many have been better off, but whether that has been better technology allied to greatly increased productivity plus greater reliable trade is something we could debate without coming to any real conclusions. There has been the property boom which has entailed transfers of wealth to some.

The losers, acutely aware that the winners have had a great deal of help from the State, directly and incidentally in many ways, understandably want assistance and support as the economy rapidly changes and their futures are uncertain. They also have a lot of votes in key areas.

We have on occasion nearly come off our money go round. But might the next time the gear wheels fail, we all fall off?

Monday, 13 November 2017

Question Of The Day?

On the subject of tax havens I saw in the Telegraph on Sunday that Daniel Hannan, Member of the European Parliament has had something to say.

He has an ability to attract coverage in the media, has commented in favour of the function and purpose and tax havens claiming that they are perfectly legitimate. Does this apply to all their customers?

My quibble with all this row at present is that it is far too simplistic. There is tax manipulation. There is the tax politics, who actually pays and who doesn't re the structure and working of the many different tax authorities.

Also, who these answer to, are guided by and who are integral to the determination of general taxation. So there is also Tax Theft as well as those away with the fairies who live in the Magic Money Trees.

Dan boy has stated that there is nothing wrong with tax havens and they fulfil a much needed purpose for business and those with lots of spare.

It would make an interesting question to answer on an examination paper in political philosophy.

"Define perfectly legitimate".

Saturday, 11 November 2017


                      NOVEMBER 1914 

                      NOVEMBER 1916

                      NOVEMBER 1948


Thursday, 9 November 2017

Stranger In Paradise

The release of The Paradise Papers has put a bucket of blancmange into the air conditioner. Wikipedia has an article on them giving lists and some information. Unluckily, Her Majesties investments on behalf of her maintenance costs have taken the main headlines. This distracts from the other questions that need to be asked.

Such as what are the big firms out there up to, why, where and to what effect for the rest us scrambling around with our lottery tickets, Premium Bonds and interest free government investments? The official line is that government spending will rise because it has to rise but how that is to be managed is difficult to explain.

Having done a lot of tax avoidance in my time, sadly grubbing away at the lowest levels rather than anything big or bountiful, to be complaining about others who have more money and are much better at it could seem a tad hypocritical. But when taxes are levied if allowances are made or some things excluded on political or other grounds then necessarily they are not entirely what they seem.

In my day however, it was all done on paper, claims for this, costs for that, this type of loan tax beneficial that type of spending free of tax and so on. Eyes crossed, tees dotted as we used to say to put some humour into the endless form filling. Send off or hand in the form and the chits and hope you got the figures right.

Today is very different. Technology has moved on. I do not even have to sit at a desk, I can deal with things almost anywhere, indeed even there, if you know what I mean. It is done in seconds and in only minutes complex transactions can go on moving money around to get the best deal or arrangement.

The big firms in the money game have not only got the latest in technology, they can afford to use it to the full. The result is that money can be moved, changed, reshuffled etc. in very large amounts. This can be done globally in series to avoid the crooks, or maybe the police and worse than them, the taxman. We call it money laundering.

How HMRC, our tax collectors, working with older, slower machines, short on critical information and not up with the latest ways and techniques; just that bit too far behind, can keep up with it all is very doubtful. Especially, if the teams of lawyers etc. employed by the big firms are able to win at the margins and beyond them muddle the difference between avoidance and evasion.

For a government needing taxes to pay for all those election promises made in haste and sometimes in anger, it has become impossible to get this by the traditional tax structure. That means either austerity way beyond our present imaginations, or heavy taxation where it would be least popular.

Not just property of all types, but food, a major import, all those goods more or less critical to our functioning and comfort that flow in from global sources, vehicles, essentially anything that moves or is consumed in the UK. Almost back to the 1960's.

This would be very unpopular, the best thing a party could do if an election came along would be to finish up as the opposition. The one who had to form a government would need to scour their benches for sado-masochist politicians who would enjoy becoming the fall guys for the bad times to come.

The trouble is that when a country is in this kind of fix and democracy cannot deliver because it cannot raise the taxes in the way it wishes to, then populations tend to look for alternatives. We have been here before in the past and it all ended very badly. It is the story of too many states in recent centuries.

The word "Paradise" refers to those tax havens located in warm and welcoming places around the world, welcoming that is to those with money. For the locals and the poor it is not the case. Much of the money goes through the City of London.

Perhaps Paradise Gardens in Bethnal Green might be made an outpost of The City and include within the enclave Barnsley Street and Cudworth Street.

For the money men it would be essential to include the "Smarty Pants Dry Cleaners and Laundrette" on the Bethnal Green Road, see the picture above.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Kicking Into Touch

William Shakespeare, as ever, has something to say on the subject of touch. When taking time off from his property investment and speculation in the City on gold prices as we know he put on plays at The Globe, much as the money men of today support the theatre. From the play "Troilus And Cressida", we have "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin".

This is not about sexual predation of the unpleasant groping and grabbing that occurs never mind the worse that can be done as some use this to exert their dominance over others. It is about ordinary touch and those for whom contact is a part of communication in the ordinary business of life.

The current scatter gun coverage of the issues of who might touch whom and to what effect is bringing out many and various joining in the publicity and coverage. One is the elderly celebrity, Michael Parkinson, late of Cudworth by Barnsley, Yorkshire now in retreat in Berkshire.

One of his characteristics was a hands on approach to the job. Who can forget the lean forward, the smile, the inflected Yorkshire accent and the "Eh up me duck" when with the lovelies who smiled, if only for the fees they earned for doing so. His grandfather, I believe, worked at a pit that had a major disaster.

He is not the only one. There is also Brian Blessed, born down the road from Parkie eighteen months later. His family has been at Hickleton Main, I knew a lady whose husband had been killed there. Brian is an actor who is known for his hands waving and going all over the place. Seeing him both on TV and on stage I have often muttered, "For the sake of Zeus, stop waving them about."

But they were not alone. If anything they were men of their time and place. It was not just men, it was women, it was people of all ages and it was a common feature of their lives. So why did some be like this and why was it so common among many groups of people?

The answer is simple. It wasn't sex, it was work. When the masses left school at 14 and before and went to the factories, mills and mines, it was in the same places as their parents and other members of the community. It was a very different world in structure and purpose.

Also, it was noisy, often very noisy. Literally, you could not hear yourself speak. To take Brian and Parkie, both from mining families, they will have known what the effect was as a consequence of working in the concentrated noise that occurred. What is was like in the past could only be imagined.

For those growing up in industrial areas, some places had noise, just about tolerable and allowing speech to be heard. Some were not. At one shoe machinery factory, most of the engineering was loud but manageable. But the tacking shed was a horror, the acoustic scrambled the brain never mind the ears.

The answer to the obvious difficulty in communication and gaining attention was touch and the movement of hands. People learned this at an early age, it was necessary to the job and inevitably carried into ordinary life and living. The workers touched because they needed to and were used to it.

In the offices and the professions, however, touching and hands were generally regarded as no go, do not, it is not proper or polite. In those classes and higher, you had to know the etiquette and the detail of that defined what touch, when and how between persons. Hands off was more or less the rule, unless etiquette required it. And very often you wore gloves.

In the 21st Century we have a different problem. Many have things now constantly plugged into their ears or have head phones tuned in to something or other. Also, many are now paying the price in hearing loss for the loudness thought essential to modern living. So we are back to hands on again, but touching is becoming a risk.

So if I want to attract your attention, it might have to be the shillelagh.

Monday, 6 November 2017

1918 Scousers Invade Russia

This week we are expected to celebrate the revolting Russians of the year 1917.

This film by Eisenstein from 1929 was on BBC Four on Sunday. It is heavy going for near two hours and concerns the masses fighting for their liberty in 1917 urged on by men who had lived on benefits in London a few years earlier.

This from Hollywood in the same year I think appealed rather more to the masses than that of the Russian. It is also about Liberty and comes in at an economic twenty minutes.

I wonder which one the veterans of this force might have preferred? Especially, the Scousers of the 17th King's Liverpool Regiment?

It is known that King George V and particularly Queen Mary, opposed refuge for the family of the Tsar in 1917 in Britain, as well as the politicians being very nervous of the reactions. But why not in Cyprus or another part of the Empire? And yet British troops were sent to North Russia to support the White Army opposition to the Communists.

But the record of Tsar Nicholas II as an autocratic ruler was very bad and he was certainly a high security risk bearing in mind all the other refugees in London who had fled from his regime or been the victims of his pogroms.

Had refuge been granted, might Edward, Prince of Wales; the King who abdicated in 1936 because of his wish to have Wallis Simpson as his Queen, have married Olga, the Tsar's eldest daughter much earlier?

Imagine, a Buckingham Palace, Balmoral and Windsor Castle without the corgi dogs.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Poachers And Gamekeepers

Those of you who have not been trapped underground or lost in some impenetrable forest will be aware that in the current media there is a lot of talk about the proper relationships that men should have both with women and with each other.

Not only talk but revelations, gossip, allegations and who dun its rule the headlines. Even the government is tottering with shock, one among many. For those of us who have other major interests, sport, Xmas rail services, war and peace, it is all very tiresome and predictable. But it is only to be expected.  How did it all begin?

One item in The Telegraph points out that it was in 1960 that in the Courts it was ruled that the book "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by DH Lawrence could be sold to the public because although certain words were used, it was in context and therefore the book was not obscene. Also, because the author was a man of the people, coal miners, no less, it was only to be expected.

Other things were going on around that time in popular culture. The film makers up against a rapidly expanding TV needed shows to pull  (if that is the right word) in the audiences. Within TV the introduction of commercial TV and the battle for audience figures also triggered a race to the bottom (oh dear, another wrong word?).

In the 60's and 70's then it all began to hang out, to use the current phrase, there was talk of a moral revolution and the end of Victorian morality. Except it wasn't quite like that at all. It has all been there before except out of view, below the counter and in private, up to a point.

Biographers of the good great and famous of before tell us that far from being persons beyond reproach and of the highest morality a good many of them would have been quite at home in the late 20th and early 21st  Centuries in whatever activity you care to mention. But then it was not claimed to be a desirable norm or for all.

Our present political class is largely made up of the children of the 60's to the 80's, growing up in a more limited media world but one of its time. What we think of as traditional morality was not only on the wane but among their contemporaries was not one practiced. It, was a world of slappers and slapped in many ways.

Now, suddenly, while we do not have much of or seem to want traditional morality, for want of a longer and messier term, other imperatives have arisen. These relate to the world of our times when both ancient religion and severity of personal contact are creating a new norm for public and private conduct.

The world of DH Lawrence, 1885-1930, and his book seems very far away and ridiculous in the shock of a lady of the manor shacking up with a gamekeeper. But now the gamekeepers have all gone.

And we are left only with the poachers.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Banging On Again

Bonfire Night has long been a pain in the ears, especially since all the cheap foreign fireworks etc. became available. My young ones when given a choice between bangers or the cash, opted for the cash. I wonder how many, if made that offer, would do the same?

Normally, I prefer to avoid "ifs and buts" of history, but so long as not too much is made of it can be an interesting perspective. One assumption I do not agree with is that had Guy Fawkes and the plotters succeeded, the Catholics would have taken control.

It is said that the House of Lords would have gone up with the King, but in the British way of primogeniture for land and titles there would have been a good many heirs in waiting of the right age, some young, but still there. There would be the core of a new second chamber.

Then there was the House of Commons, largely composed of the higher gentry who wielded much of the power in the counties, the law and the rest. Along with them were the leaders of the boroughs and the major merchant and financial families.

These are the people who did well out of The Reformation. That it is assumed that the Holy Orders of Rome would just return and take it all back is unlikely. They would need an army behind them, either that of Spain, or France.

Such an army might succeed if the population were divided enough or not capable. But this did not apply in England or Scotland. The logistics alone would be challenging but the extent of opposition would present serious difficulties.

There are other things. If James V and I had died, then he would not have pursued either his creation of monopolies or the gross spending sprees on entertainment and giving out largesse to his special favourites. He would not have created the situation that led to King Charles I facing a revolution.

If a monarch had been appointed whose spending was under control and fitted needs better and above all allowed industry and commerce to grow and create riches the industrial revolution might have happened a lot earlier.

What the choice of monarch might have been had James family been wiped out as well raised the question of the union with Scotland. It may have been that they might go their separate ways again; the Scots reverting to medieval and other rivalries between the major families and the English nurturing the wool trade and contacts with the Low Countries.

Best of all; those awkward people with their beliefs centred on The Bible and that The Reformation was unfinished business may have been able to stay at home in England instead of going off across The Atlantic to take land from the local population.

No James, no "Mayflower", have a good Thanksgiving.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Inside The Head

One of the great mysteries of Planet Earth is why we humans seem to mess up as much as we do and often with the best intentions trigger disasters, collapses, confusion and conflict. We are told by human experts that will all end in tears, or climatic catastrophe.

Perhaps we are not as bright as we think we are and all that brain thing what is between the ears is neither as good or as active as it should be. At least we can ask the question why.

We do not use it much seems to be implied in this article in Science Daily headed "Humans don't use as much brainpower as we like to think".

The bit I like in particular is the wonderful "using a technique known as multiple regression" in that regression to bad habits and ideas seem to be the norm of much modern thinking.

It concludes:

"What the data can't show is whether energetically expensive brains evolved first, and then predisposed some groups of animals to greater mental powers as a byproduct, or whether preexisting cognitive challenges favored individuals that devoted more energy to the brain, the researchers say."


I regressed therefore I am.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Learning Curve

When I am digging around for information and trying to get my head round a topic or subject unfamiliar, what is a shock to the old system is that so much now can be done in minutes that once took me hours or days or even longer when travel might be involved.

I have done enough time to know that facts need checking, care taken over interpretation and analysis and that you need to look at quite a few things before coming to conclusions or theorising. Not least to make sure the sources are reliable.

But all those journeys, heaving of books and ledgers, going through card or other indexes, in recent decades squinting at microfilm screens or for ancient documents peering through magnifying glasses and the rest is now a rare event.

Because so much now is on the net. And not just in text. Want to know how to use a vacuum cleaner? There are many and various on Youtube. Want to know what a piece of unfamiliar music is like, go to Youtube etc. etc.

This article in FE News by Stefan Drew on The Death Of The Conventional College may seem to apply only to that sector. But one way or another the same issues apply to almost any educational provision. We see tots in the street tapping away at their gizmos, if they can do that they can pull up whatever they want or need.

Clearly, not all of present education can be done in this way. There is still a lot of hands on, practical and skilled work in many subjects and occupations. But how this is organised and programmed and where it might be done could be very different.

Notably, what might be studied at what ages. Are there things which we think are older secondary or college subjects that can be done rather earlier? Not so long ago who would have imagined children of not yet ten navigating their personal computers?

This is a very big subject and the article just brief ideas of what may be involved for one sector. Five hundred years ago Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of a church and Europe, its religion and its governance changed.

Thanks to the net and the rapid advances being made the whole education systems derived from those times are now about to change and we have little or no idea of what the result may be.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Taking The Stage

Those who stray into the culture pages of the press which has articles and reviews on drama will be aware that there is a new theatre in London. It is "The Bridge" built by The London Theatre Company and is a handsome auditorium for modern audiences and equipped for up to date hi-tech staging.

Among the first productions is a play directed by Nicholas Hytner, a leader in the field, and written by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, titled "Young Marx". They have appealed to the audience in depicting Karl Marx as a person of his age and time in 1850 as well as being a writer and thinker of new ideas proclaiming a future for the masses.

It is the period when he was living at Dean Street in Soho which gives a chance for some fun as well as his patronising the local public houses. I wonder how different or not they were from when I was doing the same. One thing missed there will be that one had as the publican in Marx's time a George Gissing. I have tried to connect him to the author of the same name rather later, but failed.

The writers appear to have been faithful to the family and household of Marx at the time, notably the maid servant and have Friedrich Engels visiting, an obvious choice. But there is more to it than that. One curiosity is that in the 1851 Census he is listed as Charles Mark.

Whether this was the enumerator getting it wrong or Marx being careful given the fact that whether or not he was right, he might be have been under surveillance we shall never know. Because the maid servant and others are given the correct names.

But there is a name missing from the play and a very important one. I have written on this before, it is Morgan Kavanagh, of the Kavanagh's of Carlow, Ireland, an older man and a published expert in philology, the history of religion, cults and sects and society as it might and should be. Was he in effect Karl's mentor at the time?

Was there music for the play? If so, what kind? Despite his origin I doubt that "Prussian Glory" would be quite right. But the one that would be is this from Balfe's The Bohemian Girl "I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls", first performed at Drury Lane in 1843. Balfe was Irish and I could see Karl and Jenny up there in the balcony loving every bit of it, possibly with Kavanagh providing the tickets.

What is little understood these days is that in the period of the 1840's and 1850's there had been mass migration from all the upland areas of the Atlantic Isles, including England, arising from the conditions in climate and agriculture.

This meant many coming into London either by choice or because they failed to make it onto the boat to somewhere else. It was the same in other urban areas. So "the masses" were not simply the basic workers but hordes of mobile displaced poor looking for any work at almost any price.

As in my time, in the search for living space the windows and doors of properties would often have signs saying no this or that of one race or faith or another or some. After my stay in one the item "rugby players" was added. The exclusions were many and various.

One that was very common was "No Irish". Nowadays this kind of thing is forbidden for the most part. But it seems that The Bridge still feels that way about its drama.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Books Do Furnish A Room

It was typewriters that began this one. I am of an age when going to museums and stately homes etc. tells me not only of other pasts but reminds me of my own. So when I was at Bateman's by Burwash and the guide wafted a hand around Rudyard Kipling's study he told us that this was the typewriter used by the author to write his great works.

But I told him it wasn't. First of all, the Imperial Typewriter Company was not founded until 1908 and second the model in question was not produced until the 1930's when Kipling was writing very little. I was reminded of this by another museum again with an Imperial model.

This was a writer of the Left who began his work in the late 1950's and with whom we are all familiar from his work for TV, I spare you his name. I felt obliged to tell the museum that the model was not produced until 1969 and in 1965 the Imperial had been taken over by Litton Industries .becoming just another brand name.

This company was one of the most ruthless asset stripping and destructive financial organisations of its time; capitalism that might explain a lot of the drift to the Left, especially in out sourcing production and closing down British manufacturing, including the old Imperial firm, the wreck of a once great company.

I could write a book about this and perhaps about some other things, despite being, as Noel Coward might have said, of excessively humble origins. Enter stage an interesting collection of people that the accidents of personal history entailed. It might be Liverpool before The Beatles and during wartime, Yorkshire in the 70's and 80's, London in the '50's, scope for fiction, fact or the more usual faction.

It might be printed, but apparently there is no hope of it entering the lists of books to be read or even publicised in the media. I do not meet the criteria of colour. All those brown blobs and scars do not count, or diversity, despite having Scots, Irish, Welsh, English, French, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Mulatto and sundry other ancestry, even Yorkshire.

All I can ask is "what about the workers", to which the answer will be "get lost".

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Reading By Degrees

There have been ructions at Oxford University about which authors should be dealt with in English Studies. It has always been necessary to be selective because many scribble but few are chosen.

Sales figures are not one of the key reasons for some obscure reason despite the economic implications and the fact that the big sellers are the ones who keep the literary world afloat.

May I nominate as one who fits the bill, Leslie Charteris, 1907-1993, author of the very popular "Saint" novels of which so many made it on to film and TV?

Perhaps it might be hokum for the most part but for spotty teenagers of the mid 20th Century it was worth pawing through the pages.

He was born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin in Singapore and after a short stint at Cambridge took off for an interesting life living off his literary earnings.

He changed his surname legally in 1928 taking the surname of a Colonel Francis Charteris, 1675-1732, a Scotsman who also lived an eventful life. Wikipedia has the basic information on both of them.

I suspect that if faced with a detailed study of the life, times and essential philosophies of these men our present students may find it all a little too much.