Friday, 21 April 2017

A Matter Of Taste





Long ago my mother was told by a her doctor to take a swig of Lucozade now and again because it would be good for her. He had qualified before the First World War at an Irish University, and kept up more with the horses than medical science.

At times I might take a secret swig of this elixir and liked the strong sweet taste. In the days of sugar rationing this was a rare treat. But as time wore on the delights of mild and bitter became more desirable.

Then along with the Yanks and dietary freedom came the fizzy soft drinks, in bottles and then in cans. When family shopping became a part of life it was very tempting to take one or two, OK perhaps half a dozen to put into the fridge.

The advert's constantly on TV and in the other media told us how good they were for us giving us the sprightly energy we needed to do our work, whether it was moving paper from one side of the desk to the other or more physically demanding.

It took some time before the realisation that a refreshing cold drink actually packed in more sugar than was good for the system, never mind the waist measurement. The health warriors declared war on it. But it was not long before the makers came up with the sweet taste wanted.

I ought to have known that it was not as simple as that. In this article from Science Daily, lifted by the Daily Mail and others, the artificial sweeteners derived largely from chemical synthetics are said to be doing us no good at all. From bottom to brain they are doing their worst.

Now where did I put the newspaper?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Election Fever




It is Wednesday, 14th June and the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Corbyn looks round the Cabinet table at the members of his coalition government. He has done the difficult bit, accepting the job from an elderly lady who has no place in his plans for the future, but HM was as courteous as ever, even offering him corgi pups to cheer up Downing Street.

He did not expect this. Quite why Rupert Murdoch had decided to offer free Sky Sports and adult channels to the under 30's if JC won may never be known. Perhaps the decision by Russia to allow SkyTV may have had some bearing on it. The gods of the media move in mysterious ways.

Some compromises had been necessary, notably those that allowed the SNP to claim full independence, which he had announced over the weekend, yet retain places at Westminster and in the Cabinet, purely for advisory and co-ordination purposes.

JC had granted them the pound as a currency and control over interest rates and bond issues, related to the promise to meet any budget deficits they might have. Defence matters had been agreed with Russia and even now their naval vessels were being cheered as they entered the River Forth.

The Lib Dem's had been reluctant to join the coalition and still were coming to terms with the fact they had any MP's at all. But the absence of any coherent policies gave them a freedom of purpose to take the jobs they were offered to supplement their incomes. They were happy to agree.

Although Sinn Fein were numerically small, they did have a role to play and had suggested, if only privately, that if certain concessions were made to The Republic, if only financial, then added persons from the South and Republic might join the Cabinet, again to assist co-ordination. Whether the Roman Catholic Church, however, would welcome Orthodox Missionaries from Russia was still an open question.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives were arguing bitterly about why they lost. Some said the lack of celebrities and weepie human interest stories in their campaign was the cause. Others felt that promising President Trump as many golf courses as he liked was an error. But Theresa May's coming out as an Arsenal supporter was perhaps the clincher.

One could forgive her many things, but that was too much.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

And Now The Bad News





So there is to be a General Election and weeks of even more stupidity that we have been enduring.

But it is the beginning of the cricket season, so all I can say is:

Quote:

There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red -
Red with the wreck of a square that broke
The gatlings jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed its banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

Unquote.

Not a chance.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Picturing Past And Present






The connection between the two pictures above will not be obvious. The 2017 cartoon has the text as "I was the first in my family to get into student debt". The picture is from 1948 of Friedrich Hayek, Professor of Economics at the LSE giving a lecture to undergraduate students.

If this near all male group looks older than modern students this is because many will have done time in the armed services first and some will have worked for a year or two to save, most grants then being as the discretion of local authorities and this was an age of austerity.

The 2017 cartoon reminds us that very many students face high levels of debt. It is said that some will never be able to repay them. Then there are the debts entailed in buying or even renting property now commonplace. To add to these burdens the latest are the debts arising from car ownership for essential travel.

Behind all these lies the hand of government. Firstly making university education almost obligatory and offering loan facilities to allow this to happen. For property centrally controlled rates of interest, held down for political reasons has triggered the boom in property prices. For car ownership, lax regulation and low rates of interest again have added to this.

Hayek would have had none of this. A man for free markets as opposed to nominally free but "guided" or "supported", and any kind of central control, such as tariffs or restrictions, in the world of the late 1940's Britain he was out of place. His views were held to be those of the past and economic history not reality.

So in 1950 he went off to Chicago to join a very different school of economics and it would be thirty years before grudging governments found it necessary to relax their grip. What we do not realise is that the grip was still there, only moderated and as ever with government ruled by short term thinking and the next poll predictions.

The students in the 1948 picture would have been looking to work eventually in particular areas. Only a few might become academics. The cost of post graduate study was high and at that time jobs in universities or colleges limited. Some might teach but most I think would be looking to work in government, central and local and for a few trainee management jobs in either select corporations or more so the new headquarters of nationalised industries.

For all Hayek's work he was not talking to the converted, he was talking to students who could not be converted as their futures lay in a society and polity that was centrally controlled, planned and administered. His economics, as I have said was of the past and in Britain there was then no possible future for it.

Half a dozen years after he left the economics staff etc. were mostly Keynesians of one sort or other, none pure or who Keynes would have recognised, with some Marxists and a handful of Welfare Economists, now lost and forgotten. Also there was a group of the wild men of mathematical economics and the surreal world of Games Theory.

Which brings us to the present day and the trillions of debt owed not just by governments or banks, but the couple next door, their student children and the cars in the garage and on the drive.

I wonder what Hayek might say?

I told you so?

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Toilet Training





The keen eyed click people among you have seen the picture above on the web so I will skip the jokes about Mr. Corbyn's trip to Doncaster. Assuming that he shunned the delights of the A1 road, the sweet smell of nitrous oxide that he was so happy to use to avoid global warming and the groups of kindred travel peoples in the lay byes and service stations, he might have risked all in going by train.

Yes, there is life for Londoners beyond Potter's Bar. I hope that on passing through Hatfield he might have stood out of respect to the Gascoyne-Cecil family who have shaped so much of our History. It was Lord Salisbury in 1896 who brought in pensions for teachers, which helps so many of his Labour workers.

Also in 1899, he provided for education for the handicapped, shunned by the eugenicists of the Left and Liberal of the time. Not least, his nephew, Lord Balfour in 1902 brought in the Education Act for secondary education, a cause that Lord Salisbury promoted. Mr. Corbyn is a direct beneficiary of that Act, albeit a little later.

At Huntingdon he would have been up again. It might be as it is the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell and M.P. for that town. On the other hand King Charles I used the George Hotel as an HQ. Then there might be allowing a respect for another former London local councillor MP for the town, who made it to be Prime Minister, John Major, a hard act for Mr. Corbyn to follow.

At Peterborough, as well as the London Road football stadium he should reflect on the Cathedral with the mortal remains of Queen Catherine of Aragon, who kept her head but not her marriage as the first wife of King Henry VIII. Unable to deliver the heir (or policies) required she was shunted off to a quiet life in the country.

Then on to Grantham, passing Burghley, those Cecil's again, where he might detrain for a moment to bow his head to the memory of Alderman Alfred and Beatrice Roberts whose gift to the nation (Margaret, later Thatcher), prevented the UK from becoming communist under the heel of Cromwellian gentry such as the Foot's and Benn's in time for the collapse of communism.

Newark passes in a flash so no time for the toilet and was a town of many sieges during the Civil War so he might take his pick as to who to choose. Then it is time to gather the wits as well as the luggage that still remains in his possession, especially if it is an Edinburgh bound train.

Doncaster was a major industrial town, now less so, but has retained part of the tradition of railway works. Its' first were those of the Great Northern Railway, after 1923 LNER, and one the locomotives built there was the "Flying Scotsman". This is a loco' known to many of us through TV and media, for most it is the steam age.

But not all is as it seems. In 1949, I was one of a party that visited the loco' works, when it was thought sensible that we should learn about the basics of the economy. In general ordinary servicing and minor repairs were done in local loco' sheds but major overhauls and repairs at the specialist works.

The bosses were as much concerned with throughput as those of today, the system could not do with too many loco's out of service, the timetables were hard enough to keep as it was. So at Doncaster when a loco' came in it was stripped down and dismantled.

But the loco' that emerged was made up of parts from stores and prepared major items. By the late 1940's the "Flying Scotsman" was wearing out and downgraded from the then LNER mail line to the secondary Great Central line and based at Leicester Great Central. Around 1950/51 it went to Doncaster for major overhaul.

Some basic framework was retained but the boiler and other major parts were taken from stock. Either unused or in most cases items which had been repaired etc. from other earlier dismantled loco's. So the loco' you see now is not the 1923 version nor a good deal of the 1950's version.

Mr. Corbyn might reflect that there is a lesson to be learned here. Meanwhile Doncaster works is now about carriages, seats and toilets.

Which might be another lesson.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Making Moves





Long ago on the banks of the Elbe when Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister but Stalin had gone to the Great Committee down below, I recall looking at the Red Army. It is doubtful whether their detachments a few yards away liked to see us. Not that they were a lot of use in their main job. That was to stop the refugees getting across the water to a new and better life in the West.

It was not a good beginning for them, typically being put on the back of a smelly three ton lorry to go to a camp already short of space and where the food was basic. First the wheat had to be sorted from the chaff, that is the potential spies and trouble makers packed off back across the bridge to the East.

The process was rudimentary and it is likely that some of those sent back should not have been. Women who were with child and children were not included. Quite how many families were parted wrongly we shall never know.

By this time the refugee problem was long standing, several years after WW2 had ended with its mass movements of populations, some forced and some voluntary. The 1951 Census for the UK gives 165,000 Poles alone, many ex-servicemen unwelcome in their home country under Communism.

As a youngster I had known a few, some refugees after the War and during the War members of the Polish Airborne Division. But the Poles in the UK were one thing, those in Germany were another. As ever, there were no right answers and many decisions had to be made on the hoof.

I was once on the local park where well meaning people had organised a football match between our local Poles and Irish in the name of community. The Poles being short of one, I volunteered. It became very physical. Afterwards, the Irish went to the public bar and the Poles to the Saloon. It was diversity, but not as we know it.

The borders today seem to have shifted towards The East but we are rehearsing all the old disputes, not least those in The Balkans and The Middle East and Africa. When Blair was Prime Minister apparently the Foreign Office archives were dumped. I assume much the same has been happening in other countries.

Destroying the past may be convenient to those ruling at the present but there is a heavy price to pay and serious risks that we are about to pay them. It may account for some of the relentless stupidity being exhibited among the major powers in the present series of crises.

The USA and Russia should now be establishing common ground to keep the problems in the Middle East from escalating and spreading. The EU's ambition to recreate the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire should be stopped.

The basic lessons of meddle meaning muddle meaning conflicts and mass migration have to be relearned by all those allowing their military and corporate interests to dictate actions based on the shortest of term thinking.

The UK politicians in all this may make a lot of noise but they are not of much use. They are rather like the children being loaded on the back of a lorry with an unknown future and lost parents.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Taking A Sip





The headline below in Mail Online, that is the Daily Mail, gave food or drink for thought.


Then reading the story I realised that it applied to the cups.

Especially those that become waste to create the mountains of them in our waste disposal systems.

But to be sure I think I'll stick to tea.
     

Monday, 10 April 2017

Signs Of The Times





Sent out to do the shopping found myself behind a large white van with a legend that was a statement on the nature of the society of our times.

A delivery van for Krispy Kreme, it read "No doughnuts are left in this van over night".

Imagine, we live in a world so lacking in moral values that not even such a humble food product is safe from predatory theft.

Does this presage the end of consumerism?

But it reminded me to book a visit the dentist.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

CME Means Trouble





It is a lovely warm day, much like summer and the sun is shining. We are all, well almost all, happy, not least because it will reduce the electric or other bills for heating.

The sun is not always quite so friendly, in fact it can turn quite nasty. This article, longish and complicated reminds us of this.

It says we had a near miss on 23 July 2012. Whether that was the Carrington Event, a CME, Coronal Mass Ejection, hitting the earth, that is alleged to be due is an issue for debate.

There are some advantages, you won't have to worry about the emails etc., or indeed the TV or radio.

But you might have to fight the neighbours for food and water.

Friday, 7 April 2017

It's That Man Again





During the 1940's a BBC comedy radio show "It's That Man Again", see Wikipedia, starring Liverpool man Tommy Handley, was very popular. The title referred to a common catch phrase used to describe reports about the warmongering European dictator whose name began with "H". No, it was not Hirohito, go to the bottom of the class.

Quite why Red Ken Livingstone, the Lost King of London, should be so attached to this ancient joke is a puzzle. Born 17 June 1945 the H in question had gone a few weeks earlier. Worse he is alleged to have become attached to certain racist views of the followers of H.

Given his status as a Londoner Primus I was tempted to take a look hoping to discover Jewish migrant forebears for Ken from Eastern Europe in the 19th Century or before, or even those from other climes of earlier ages. But no luck, but there was other things that caught the eye.

Wikipedia says that Ken's father was from Dunoon, Clydeside. Another man of the Clyde, David Moyes, football manager perhaps only for a few days more at Sunderland, bottom of the Premiership, is a Glaswegian also in trouble for what he said. Could migrant Scots from the area of The Clyde be excused on grounds of cultural ethnicity?

However, there is a possibility that Ken's parents may have met in Liverpool, this should raise a laugh. Dunoon is the other side of the water from Ayrshire. Nicola Sturgeon is said to be of Ayrshire stock. Could they be connected, if not related? They would make a lovely couple. Ken's ideology might make a good fit with that of the SNP.

One thing did raise the eyebrows. It seems that both of us had grandfathers in the line at The Battle of Arras a century ago this year. Mine survived, just, his did not.

The picture above from "Chariots Of Fire" might seem out of place, but there is a surprising, if distant, connection.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

No Sense Of Smell





Forty odd years ago in a job that required a car to use as well as for family reasons, when in the office between cups of tea blokes would talk about cars. Jack, now long gone, something of a motor head, was keen on diesel cars and their cost saving at the time. With my mileage, he had a case.

But they did not have the acceleration and other advantages of the petrol cars, notably the versions with the bigger engines. As my mileage involved a lot of motorway runs I wanted that and the speed to stick out in the fast lane. It cost more, but for me it was worth it.

Another reason, again to do with long journeys was that although diesel gave fewer fills of the tank, some parts of the land were scarce in petrol stations with diesel pumps. Last but not least was the smell. When Jack came into the office there was always a distinctive whiff of diesel, so we all knew when he had been fingering through our papers.

In those innocent days, the environment, climate change and fumes were far from our thoughts. But many still did not like the stink of the crude diesel at the time. With trucks and buses, being behind one for any time could mean a long slow coughing journey.

When scientists said petrol was ruining the planet we believed them, the petrol stink was convincing enough. Quite why the politicians and governments lurched towards diesel is one of those mysteries difficult to fathom. It simply did not make sense.

Inevitably, now, we are told that diesel is bad as well. It was little surprise. Veterans of the age of coal knew that whether the coal or coke was used on open fires, stoves, boilers or what then what came out of the chimney was not nice, especially in a cold day with no wind.

Then there are the uses of petrol-chemicals in quantity that no politician wants to talk about. Let us just say the population is now eating them, drinking them and plastering them all over the body. And they have their own pungent smells as well.

Of course, we could try to go organic. When, I wonder, will the car makers mass produce a wood burning motor car?

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

California Here I Come





The news that Nicola Sturgeon has signed a climate agreement with the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, suggests that she is hoping for support in funding the SNP.

This one minute trailer for the film of long ago, "Paint Your Wagon"  reminds me that that adding gold digging to her portfolio has its risks.

But the big theme song at the end says it all.


Monday, 3 April 2017

Swing Voting





Long ago when compelled to serve in the Army, there came the time where the concern was where in the world would one be posted to. A bad one would be the distant islands where nuclear bombs were being tested. Worse would be to stay in Aldershot.

For various reasons, this being the age of the imminent threat of the Soviet Union and the retreat from Empire, the list of bad postings was a great deal longer than that of the good. One of the few on the "good" list was The Rock of Gibraltar.

It was warm, but not tropical. It had good communications with the UK, so was much like home. The local population were not opposed to the UK presence, in fact welcomed it. It was small enough to know your way around easily. But beware of the apes.

The problem was that this choice spot was only for very few and they were likely to be regular signed on soldiers. Some national service types did make it there and for them it was almost a holiday posting as compared with almost any of the others. British Honduras was reckoned to be quite good but a long way off.

The trouble was the people across the border in Spain, who were held in low regard. Now we know that during that period the Franco regime did not dispose them to be of a generous or welcoming nature. They were best avoided and at all costs. If you strayed across the border it could be a long time before you came back.

In recent decades, following the fashion of democracy, the citizens of The Rock have been given a choice. To the astonishment of everyone except those who knew The Rock, they have opted to retain the wayward old British link and avoid the regulation of Spain.

One reason is that they have a nice number going as a tourist resort cum tax haven and becoming part of Spain would spoil it. Also, for them London has been a better place to go than Madrid. Given what Spanish officials and government offices are like this is probably a rational and informed decision.

If the people of Gibraltar want to stay British, then we should allow them. But to be fair the apes could opt to be citizens of the new EU, perhaps with their cousins who moved to the Blair Drummond Safari Park in Scotland.

Eh? Blair?

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Asking And Getting





Consider, the great majority of the people of England have never had a Parliament of England.

The meetings of the 13th Century that gave rise to one in England were for the Peers and a Commons who were the Knights of the Shires and the Burgesses of the then major boroughs elected by small numbers of their own standing. This system lasted with minor changes etc. until the 19th Century.

By the time the franchise was extended to the lower orders in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and Parliament reformed, it had become the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It had men, later women from across the Atlantic Isles. In our present arrangements while there is devolution to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, there is none for England.

For the UK, the First World War with all its consequences, notably The Treaty Of Versailles of 1919, meant that it had many formal obligations and duties to other states that affected both the powers it had and how far it might act alone. This was alongside The British Empire developing in many places to a condition of interplay of interests rather than absolute rule.

After World War Two and a new tranche of world bodies, treaties and mutual aid systems and with some close integration, together with the financial effects, the UK was beholden to many others. The end of Empire complicated this and left many uncertainties. These led to joining the EEC, later the EU.

In the House of Commons, most seats are from England and in the House of Lords most peers have some sort of English origin, but this does not mean they speak for England. They speak for their party and to a great extent the lobbyists, corporations and bodies who pay best. This is one of the fruits of globalisation. Whether it is sweet or sour is open to debate.

When the Scottish National Party claim "independence" from London, sadly they cannot have it. Because it is not for London to give. All London can give is some residual powers and bits and pieces of authority that are not conditioned by other obligations.

Anything else must be conceded and agreed by the relevant world and other bodies with which the UK has been engaged for some time. But their removal, along with the Scottish MP's, could allow more say for purely English interests, in particular those counties and cities which have been the losers in competing with Scotland for money and assistance.

I suspect that in England there are ordinary people, especially in the more diverse communities that are now the norm in many parts, who will be glad to see the Scots go.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

First Of April




As it is the first day of April, commonly known as April Fools' Day, I wondered about attempting a humorous item filled with insight and such as to the state of the world or parts of it.

Concluding that the many idiocies and stupidities out there at present defy comparison and cannot be improved on, I have settled for a picture of the main Cabinet Committee meeting to consider future policy and legislation.

All I can advise you to do is carry on screaming.