Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Big Question

It is said that on the whole we are all getting bigger, some a lot bigger and this is having many and various consequences. When sitting in a waiting room a few days ago I noticed that some chairs provided were of double size.

There is no shortage of research, opinion, advice and discussion about all this. Some of it is conflicting, some is common sense and there are many theories. Then there are those for whom the problems are marketing and sales opportunities.

In the earlier days of the 20th Century of not so fond memory there were fictions of life to come on earth. Some visualised communities so ordered and provided, and largely urbanised where it was all organised, provided with foods and taken care of.

There are developed parts of the world now where many people live in  relative luxury to the past. In comparison they want for little but consumerism drives them onward to want more and more. Especially in the food provision.

How long food production etc. can be kept up with it all is another set of issues. There are places where hunger and even starvation occurs. There are others where food is a major expense. But for a lot of the "developed" world the food is there.

The trouble is that a consequence despite all the dieting and advice etc. a lot of people are fatter and getting fatter. We were supposed to get fitter, better and wiser. It seems as though the opposite is too often the case.

Which raises an interesting question that is not much debated. Could it be not just the quantity of food, but the content and quality? One of the features of the modern livestock industries has been the drive to have poultry and meat getting bigger faster giving more in a lot shorter time, a huge difference in the economics of supply.

Tapping "growth promoters in livestock" into search gives a lot of information. By the same token, tapping, "growth promoters in vegetables" (or plants) also gives an astonishing array of substances in your everyday cabbage and parsnips etc. So the typical home with the usual meals of today will be taking in with them residual traces of many a growth promoter in just about all we eat.

This is not something that has happened overnight, but during the 20th Century the research and chemistry for substances to grow livestock and plants quicker, bigger and avoiding disease or such gathered pace.

The farmers can get a lot more output with a lot less input, critical for their survival. And they may not take much notice of the instructions. It is now a major feature of our economies and without it there would be a lot less and a lot more expensive food.

There is the debate whether this level of food production can be maintained without wrecking the earth and us with it. But this is another story.

We may be living on the fat of the land but the price we pay is to become a lot fatter ourselves.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Westminster Crimes

What happened in Westminster yesterday was a major crime, committed by a single man. Given that the attack he made was in Westminster, our centre of government it was political. Given that he was motivated by certain ideas then it was ideological.

One major issue in today's world is that it is common to suggest or argue that if a political or ideological reason is given for such an action, and irrespective of the consequences for those harmed; too often entirely innocents, then it is not a crime.

That this crime took place close to the time that the funeral rites were being read over a former IRA activist involved in many brutal deaths is one of those unhappy coincidences. Moreover, it has been pointed out that before the Westminster murderer became a violent Muslim he was a violent Christian.

The problem has become wider in that our police forces are now retreating from dealing with many crimes committed within an underworld of people who will argue that they are the unhappy losers in a wrongful society. This could be for either political or ideological reasons or both.

At the same time new crimes are invented, especially in the field of what we call political correctness, rapidly becoming a haven for those who are among the criminal classes. While politicians (are they now a criminal class?) prattle on about our civilisation being built on the rule of law and pass more and more laws for us to obey.

On the other hand when it comes to whether or not a person commits a crime they are the first to claim, especially if it is a politician or an immediate ally, that the fact of a crime can be over ridden. If the person involved can play the political card or argue the ideological case by some miracle of interpretation there is not a crime.

We are going to have make up our minds about crimes being crimes and dealt with as such and the sooner the better.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

When Irish Eyes Stop Smiling

One of the accidental meetings made with many people was the time I met the leading Irish republican writer Brendan Behan, 1923-1964, at the end of the 1950's. Inevitably, it was in a bar when I rolled in for my evening rehydration. He was supposed to be somewhere else but had been overcome by thirst and just went into the nearest bar.

It was a private student and not a public bar but the barman feeling that discretion was the better part of valour served him and his minder. The others in the bar stayed clear and looked sideways out of their eyes. Behan might mean trouble.

Ever one for an interesting chat I had a conversation with him about Dublin pubs, it was not long before when I had visited Davy Byrne's and others there on a trip down to Bantry Bay and Mizen Head. His minder managed to persuade him to go to the occasion to which he had been invited so it was but a short meeting and instructive.

This article at 50 years after his death is from The Skibbereen Eagle gives an idea of the man and Wikipedia has a page on him. The memory arises from the final part of the Sky Arts series "Portrait Artist Of The Year" when both the subject Graham Norton, and artist in question were Irish and down at Bantry Bay.

It was The Eagle which famously warned Tsar Nicholas II of Russia that his foreign policies were ill advised and potentially disastrous. St. Petersburg took no notice and the world descended into chaos with dire effects for all those involved, notably in Ireland.

There has been a death in Ireland which reminds us that the issues have not been resolved. But they never will be because as Behan recognised their republican movement had moved on from being Irish to being another branch of international Marxism and never ending dispute.

The picture above is Brendan Behan at The Fitzroy Tavern, another place I have visited a few times. The irony here is that it is on the home patch of George Bernard Shaw in the late 19th Century.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Changing The Course Of History Again

Wandering the web can turn up all sorts of things. Most of it may be trivia but now and again something can catch the eye. Which brings me back again to Mrs. Thatcher, her life and times, and the things we have forgotten or not noticed.

This clip from  the Lincolnshire Archives is a two minute item about the Kesteven Training College For Teachers in 1961 at Stoke Rochford Hall. Almost quaint, it is another world from this one inhabited by a what could be a different species. It was just down the road from Grantham, her home town.

A few years later it was designated a College of Education, only to be closed down as such in 1978, in the great purge of the local and the religious from teacher training of that period in the name of progress. It did not become such a college until after the war when massive investment was made in recruiting teachers to meet the population boom and a later leaving age.

During the war it became for a period the base for the 2nd Battalion of The Parachute Regiment, so Miss Margaret Roberts, as she then was, would have been all too aware of their local presence. So when Maggie takes off for Goose Green in The Falklands in January 1983 she is no stranger to the Battalion. She had seen them go off to Arnhem, in particular.

Because it was at Stoke Rochford Hall that the Arnhem assault of 1944 was planned and where the likes of Urquhart, Montgomery and the others sought to plan the critical breakthrough to get the tanks across The Rhine before winter struck.

Back in 1954 there is a newsreel clip on Youtube of the celebration of the 100 years of the Aldershot Garrison of several minutes. 2 Para are on that one and I recall them well, being in the next barracks to theirs in that year. Charming chaps, so long as you did not give offence, and they were very sensitive.

Which brings me back to the career of Margaret in that period. After Oxford she went into science, but and the big but then was in that period as a female she was all too likely to be a glorified lab' assistant for the rest of her career. She decided to go into politics.

But what if she had gone into teaching? There would be have been jobs a plenty for a well qualified etc. science teacher in the girls grammar schools of the period. If later had she thought go into lecturing in teacher training she would have been a good candidate and with decent prospects at that time.

In a college like that of Kesteven at Stoke Rochford, along the road from Grantham, it might have been ideal. Until, of course, the Labour government urged on by its Marxist elements closed it down and put her on the jobs scrapheap of the period.

Time, that ever rolling stream.......

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Match Of The Day

With Ireland playing against England today, this "Telegraph" obituary from three years ago came to mind. It comes under the general heading of "They don't make them like that anymore" and is about Gerry Murphy, above.

This 1952 Pathe clip of three minutes picks him out.


Canon Gerry Murphy, who has died aged 87, was an Irish rugby international and later Domestic Chaplain to the Queen. His uncomplicated character, warm personality and charm was employed with outstanding success for 22 years as an Army chaplain.

He then held a series of important ministries: to holiday-makers on the Norfolk Broads; as vicar of Sandringham and Domestic Chaplain to the Queen; as Rector of Christ Church Cathedral at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands; and finally as chaplain of the Royal Chapel at the Tower of London. In each he won admiration and considerable affection, and it was often said that he displayed the Anglican ministry at its best.

John Gervase Maurice Walker Murphy (he was always known as Gerry) was born in Bangor, Co Down, on August 20 1926 and educated at the Methodist College in Belfast, which he left in 1944 to serve in the ranks of the Irish Guards.

A year later he was commissioned in the Royal Ulster Rifles, in which he remained until 1947. On demobilisation, he went to Trinity College, Dublin, to prepare for Holy Orders and resume an unusually promising rugby career that had started while at school.

During his three years (1952-55) as a curate in the Shankill parish at Lurgan, Co Armagh, he played at fullback for Ireland. Against England at Twickenham, in 1952, he was not the only novice priest in the team — the hooker, Robin Roe, would later be ordained into the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department and would win an MC for bravery in Aden.

However, Ireland lost 3-0 – with England’s winning try being scored by Brian Boobbyer, the grandson of the Bishop of Buckingham. Murphy went on to win caps for Ireland against Scotland, Wales and, in 1954, the All Blacks. In 1955 he moved to England to join the Royal Army Chaplains Department and was almost immediately sent to post-war Korea, where Army units were still stationed.

On his return in 1957 he was enthusiastically recruited into the British Army XV and, although required to serve for relatively short periods in Aden and Cyprus, managed to play also for London Irish against Wales and occasionally for the Barbarians.

Murphy was in every way an ideal Army chaplain. He mixed easily with all ranks, enjoyed the company of ordinary soldiers, knew how to address them effectively in church services and was always on hand to help with personal and family problems.

He rose through the ranks and, having been senior chaplain to the Commonwealth Brigade, was Deputy Assistant Chaplain General of the Rhine Area from 1969 to 1972. He then returned to England to become senior chaplain of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, before final appointments as Assistant Chaplain General British Army of the Rhine, then ACG South-East Area at Aldershot.

On retirement in 1977 Murphy accepted appointment as rector of the Norfolk parish of Ranworth and Rural Dean of Blofield. Attracted to the additional role of chaplain to holidaymakers on the Norfolk Broads, he became a familiar and popular figure as he exercised his ministry from a boat.

After only two years he was called to the special ministry of rector of Sandringham and Domestic Chaplain to the Queen, when she was in residence there, and to the staff throughout the year.

Again, he was perfectly suited to the task. An admirable rector who was also leader of an eight-parish rural group, he knew exactly how to serve in the Royal Household. As a master of the seven-minute sermon (a Royal requirement), his services in Sandringham church suited all ranks.

He was made an honorary canon of Norwich Cathedral in 1986. Although it came as a surprise to many, it was entirely in character (and doubtless with the Queen’s approval) that a year later he announced his intention to leave for the Falkland Islands to become rector of the cathedral at Port Stanley.

This remote outpost of the Church bears no resemblance to any other cathedral in the world, and for the next four years Murphy ministered not only to the civilian population and military personnel on the main island, but also to those parishioners – 1,900 in all – who lived on an archipelago of 200 other islands in the region.

Boats, helicopters and light aircraft were necessary tools of a ministry he greatly enjoyed and which is still remembered with gratitude by islanders. The contrast between this and the chaplaincy of the Royal Chapel in the Tower of London, to which he moved in 1991, could hardly have been greater.

His official duties in the latter post were not heavy. But during his five years there he made good use of the opportunities afforded by the post, conducting the services, pastoring the Beefeaters and other members of the staff, welcoming the huge number of visitors and making his presence felt in the City, where he was chaplain to the Lord Mayor in 1993-94.

He retired in 1996 to Norfolk, where he assisted in the parishes for several years, while finding time to take a degree in Classics at Birkbeck College, London, as well as write a biography of Lowther Edward Brandon, a noted Dean of the Falkland Isles (The Very Reverend Dean Lowther Edward Brandon, 2005).

Earlier he had published a centenary history of Port Stanley Cathedral. He was a Chaplain to the Queen from 1987 to 1996, continuing as one of her Extra Chaplains until his death. He was appointed LVO in 1987. Gerry Murphy is survived by his wife, Joy, and five daughters.

Canon Gerry Murphy, born August 20 1926, died January 7 2014.


Back in the late fifties a fixture muddle meant instead of being up against Woolwich College we had Woolwich Garrison of The Army, not the same at all. Worse was when Murphy trotted out in the Garrison team. It was a difficult afternoon trying to keep the ball away from him at all costs.

Yes, we lost, but not by much. But the hospitality made it a night to remember.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Taste The Difference

From film and the media as well as a great deal of written work we have a vision of the Vikings as packs of big chaps given to feasting on large lumps of all sorts of meats and fine foods, at the expense of others, of course.

Inevitably, science married to archaeology and testing the remains of the Vikings, their bones and teeth has spoiled it all. Reality, as ever, seems to be different.

What we may have as their desirable and basic meals seems to be along the lines of cabbage soup, gently poached haddock, or other fish, along with parsnips or such and a lump of rye bread. Afters might well be a bowl of stewed oatmeal with a touch of honey.

It might explain a very different reason for all that raiding all over the place.

They were looking for take away meals.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

All Aboard The Cutty Sark

It appears that Ms. Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party, SNP, has made it back onto the front pages etc. again, which was her intention, to demand another vote on Scottish "independence".

She has attracted some critical comment personally, which I have a problem with. If she has a squad of ancestry in Ayrshire at the same time as those of my lot we might, I emphasise might, share a twist of DNA.

It is said that the UK currently is subject to around 14,000 obligations, treaties, commitments etc. gathered over the years to many bodies and agencies around the world. I assume it is not the SNP intention to dump out of them all to achieve true freedom.

So how many and which will simply continue and how many will they want to revise? Answers please on the back of a postcard of old Campbeltown distilleries, an ancestor worked in one. For starters, do you know about the way Eurocontrol works? You may be independent on the ground but not up in the air above.

At present the SNP is devoted to making it sound so easy. Just vote this way and then all will be well, nothing to worry about, move along there now please, just tell them all what you want and how you want it and none will dare argue or disagree.

For those whose personal memories are scarred by major upheavals, reorganisations, closures and the rest ought to be aware that nothing of this kind is easy or quick to deal with. It will mean a decade at least of hard decisions, upsets and crises and a condition of being a hostage to fortune.

Moreover in dealing with England, the SNP do not seem to have realised that the England of their stereotypes and media is not the England as it is now. I have only to walk round the town I live in to see that this England is not that of even twenty odd years ago. The town I grew up in is no longer English.

The actual "independence" means detachment from Westminster because that is as far as it can go before engaging in global and European matters. But the reality is that in these matters Westminster will be involved and in contention.

Given that Westminster may or may not or more or less be in hock to Brussels, this is not simple. Never mind all those big, bad, brutal financial and other corporations and international agencies, all with their own agendas.

In the last couple of decades, looking at it from south of the border, Scotland has been given a great deal of scope and Westminster, notably under Labour, has been all too anxious to keep the Scots, if not happy, at least quiescent.

The SNP with its combative and aggressive stance may find that if independent this could change overnight. It will not be the soft ride that is being suggested to the voters.

It is much more likely to be a long hard footslog in which neither England nor Scotland are the winners, only the others they have to deal with.

Campbeltown once had thirty distilleries, and now is said to be down to three.

Anyone for gin and tonic?