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:


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!"


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.