Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Friday, September 22, 2017

FRIDAY MUSIC: Hillbilly Moon Explosion, by JD

YouTube always offer their 'recommendations' as well as the music you are actually looking for. Occasionally there appears something interesting and one such was Hillbilly Moon Explosion.

A strange mixture of Rockabilly, Reggae, Swing and other pop styles mixed in with 1950s style smoochy, cheesy 'Dolce Vita' type ballads. Very bizarre and very different but it works!

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Transsexual Coincidence

One thing leads to another. It certainly did last Wednesday, when blows were exchanged at Speaker’s Corner between transsexuals and feminists who don’t wish the former to have the rights they enjoy themselves.[1] These TERFs[2] don’t seem to realise how old-fashioned their prejudice is.  For transsexuals play a key part in a novel from 1960 that took nearly 50 years to get published.[3]

Murray Sayle’s “A Crooked Sixpence”[4] tells of an Australian journalist who comes to London following a girlfriend and manages to get a job on a newspaper, the Sunday Sun.[5]  Largely based on his own experiences from the 1950s[6], the book describes the underhand stratagems by which “human interest” journalists got stories to titillate their readers, regardless of the damage they caused to obscure individuals in their hypocritically moralistic exposés.[7]

A game-changer in the tale is a transsexual who offers to tell his/her story, naively hoping for fair coverage. (This was very modern: in 1961 the Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic - the first in the UK[8] - was still 5 years into the future. But the successful fashion model April Ashley was just about to be outed as a transsexual - in the Sunday People.)[9]

The brutal editor, Barr, gives O’Toole his brief: offer £25 and “that bollocks about explaining his tragic plight to the public”, then turn on the trans in print:

“I see the angle like this: “This disgusting pervert has had himself mutilated to get money from the innocent British public. He even had the nerve to ask money for the revolting details of his sickening operation. You ought to be in a prison or a mental home, you're not fit to breathe the same air as the decent people of Britain, you contemptible beast.” With this twist, it ought to make a page lead.”

More than half a century later, the decent TERFs of Britain are turning on the often tremendously brave transsexuals, in a location famously dedicated to the principle of liberal tolerance.

[2] “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists”
[3] Originally published in 1961 but pulped almost immediately because of an attempt by a broke toff to sue the publishers: Michael Alexander was the model for “Michael Macedon”.
[5] Based on The People, which was taken over by Mirror Group in 1961. Now called the Sunday People:
[6] He quit in 1956, like his fictional hero James O’Toole.
[7] There was another book about Fleet Street - “The Street Of Disillusion” - published three years earlier (in 1958) by a man called Harry Procter. Like Sayle, Procter left the profession in disgust; but Sayle was to return a few years later and earn distinction in serious investigative journalism.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Merkel's refugees: a twist

Germany is not inviting refugees/migrants out of love for them, for if that were so the incomers would not be kept in such degrading conditions. They are

"effectively warehoused in wholly inadequate conditions, housed twelve to a “room” in what are no more than, and indeed described as, “containers”. Existing on disgusting food, jobless and with no apparent means of emerging from these holding pens, these migrants have in effect been abandoned by the German state."

The real motive is to wipe the guilt blackboard clean so that they can get back to hating Jews, says Melanie Phillips in this review of undercover Jewish investigator Tuvia Tenenbom's latest book, "Hello, Refugees!"

Friday, September 15, 2017

FRIDAY MUSIC: Joan Osborne, by JD

This week's musical treasure is Joan Osborne:

Maybe not as well known as she deserves to be but she is a very good 'soul' singer and seems to fit in quite happily in other genres; I first heard her on the BBC show 'Transatlantic Sessions' and one or two songs below come from that series.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Notes Towards A Blueprint For A Self-Destroying Financial Machine

There are many elements to the current economic system that threaten to tear it apart; so many that we will have to approach the design piecemeal, with the hope of eventually integrating all the pieces into one flowchart.

One aspect is the benefits trap. Undermining our domestic workforce by putting them in competition with far lower-paid people around the world has meant wages have stagnated, while in order to keep up with inflating living costs those out of work cost more to keep and those in work often need some form of in-work financial supplement.

The gap then narrows to the point where the unemployed cannot afford to work and the lower paid wonder why they bother to work. Responding to Sunday's post here, "Jack Ketch" says:

" A life on welfare today probably gives you a better standard of living than a working man had 40-50 years ago"

Bollocks does it! If I wanted to live in that kind of poverty, the soul destroying grinding poverty of Granddad's era, I'd go get a job....and yes I am genuinely on benefits. We pull in something like £1k a month cash in hand and the rent is paid. Going to work is a luxury many can't afford, that's the stone cold truth.

As the old song goes:

I was outside a lunatic asylum one day, busy picking up stones
When along came a lunatic and said to me, "Good morning Mr. Jones,
Oh, how much a week do you get for doing that?" "Thirty bob!" I cried.
"What, thirty bob a week, with a wife and kids to keep?
Come inside, you silly bugger, come inside."

"Come inside, you silly bugger, come inside, you ought to have a bit more sense.
Working for your living, take my tip, act a little screwy and become a lunatic.
Oh you get your meals most regular and a brand new suit besides.
What's thirty bob a week with a wife and kids to keep?
Come inside you silly bugger come inside."

See here from 2:05 for a visual metaphor:

Jean Tinguely - Homage to New York (1960) from Stephen Cornford on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Welfare State, meet your end

Peter Hitchens hits the nail on the head again today. Under the headline "Our drug-addled louts are the REAL reason we need migrants" he runs through the four plagues withering Britain:

- undisciplined, fatherless children;
- the failure of the education system to differentiate - not to access the same learning in many different ways (turning teachers into overworking, PC-ridden drudges), but to teach what is most suitable to that child's abilities, including vocational skills;
- giveaway welfare, and a laissez-faire approach to the habitual intoxication that lets youngsters grow up feckless and feral;
- courts that don't enforce the law

Michael Heseltine appears to second Hitchens' solution. While he now says "There have to be controls on immigration across Europe" - which I think is a forced change from his previous position - he points out the shortage of manpower in the public services:

"There is no alternative supply of skilled labour from our own population...It would take a decade to train up enough British workers to fill the gaps."

Fine, do it. Yes, let's admit foreign labour to remedy our shortfalls, but let's also tackle the real problems we have in our disorderly society. Because if we don't, goodbye the Welfare State.

75 years ago, William Beveridge produced his report, aiming to slay the "five giant evils of society": squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease. We now have them again, but in a different guise - their modern versions are voluntary.

The long-term solution is not more immigration. The country is already incapable of feeding itself without massive food imports, which will become much more expensive for us as the differences in global pay narrow. If somebody comes in and pays less in taxes (direct and indirect) than he and his family take out, the wealth of the country declines; especially if by coming in ready and able to work he helps cement his British underclass counterpart in toxic idleness.

Our system doesn't challenge enough. The social workers I meet think that for a client to have a need is to have it met, and I'm not hard-hearted enough to say that underfed children should continue to sleep on sofas in dingy, dogbeshitten houses; but nobody seems to want to strengthen the family by enforcing marital/quasimarital responsibilities, particularly on men - but even if they did, where's the work and training? Where are the negative consequences for crime? What, other than pleading, wheedling and emotional manipulation (and they are trying, believe me), are teachers allowed to do to enforce discipline in the classroom?

People respond to game rules:

"I have a little boy, younger than you, who knows six Psalms by heart: and when you ask him which he would rather have, a gingerbread-nut to eat or a verse of a Psalm to learn, he says: 'Oh! the verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;' says he, 'I wish to be a little angel here below;' he then gets two nuts in recompense for his infant piety."

- Charlotte Bronte, "Jane Eyre", Chap. 4

The rules are long past due an overhaul. We've helped create the underclass in pursuit of other objectives: Labour and the LibDems, riding their hobby-horse of melting-pot immigration; the Tories, exploiting their opponents' Johnny-Head-In-Air idealism to bring in cheap labour and swell the bottom line of their business backers. Who defended our industry and its domestic ownership, our intellectual property, our R&D, our trade in real things?

If the decline continues, Beveridge's wonderful system will crack.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

"Elitist" education and Britain's survival

James Delingpole on the famous scientist James Lovelock:

Born in 1919 into a working-class Quaker family, [...] Lovelock’s experiences at a grammar school in Brixton made him a firm believer in selective education.

‘It wasn’t the teaching, it was the kids,’ Lovelock says. ‘When I came back from the summer holidays when I was 13 there was one boy called Piercy, who said: “I’ve been spending the hols swotting up on quantum theory.” This was 1933. It was utterly new. It wasn’t taught in universities. “And if any of you are interested in discussing it…” And we did. Now this is the unique education only a grammar school could give because it had selected. No bullies. No nasties. Just kids who were intelligent enough to be interested in the world around them… Egalitarianism is utterly evil. It’s contra Darwin.’ (i)


"If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland."

- Anthony "Tony" Crosland, in 1965, as quoted by his wife in her biography of him. (ii) "Tony" attended an independent school (Highgate) and went on to Trinity College, Oxford, returning after the War to read PPE and become a don there.

As so many others have done, I ask, why grammar schools? Why not abolish private schools, if he was so intent on eradicating privilege?

Or was there some subtler plan? Was it to kick away the ladder of opportunity for talented working-class children like Lovelock, so that their resentments would fester and burst out when the chance of Revolution came?

Perhaps it was not so bad as that. Maybe the aim was more to blur the social boundaries by sending all secondary school children to comprehensives.

The first comprehensive I taught at - then the largest school in Birmingham - was ferociously disciplined and high-achieving in the late 70s/80s, under a whisky-drinking workaholic martinet who didn't live to pick up his pension; but he was exceptional and had turned the school around from earlier underperformance.

I was told that when the school was first "comprehensivised" in the Sixties it had enjoyed the support of the sort of parents who previously would have sent their children to grammar or private schools. Over time, as they perceived that great experiment was turning out a failure, many of them took their offspring elsewhere.

Part of the turnaround was to sort the c. 400-a-year new intake into streams and sets, with annual exams and re-setting children as appropriate. This certainly suited the many aspirant working-class parents - but I'm pretty sure that it had attitudinal consequences for those classed as being varying degrees of "failure". High - and sometime physical - discipline and staff coordination maintained order and made even unacademic children sought after by employers in the area, who wanted smartly-dressed regular attenders used to taking instructions.

But there were lots of other schools not run by overworking heads with first-class brains. Lovelock is right - there needs to be somewhere for "swots" to develop their minds, without having their heads forced into the lavatory by chippy thugs.

And we all need those grammar school children. Ironmonger's son General Bill Slim was one (iii), and without him the Japanese might have overrun not only Burma but India.

Today, as Britain continues (as it has done for decades) to be undermined by the Left and sold off piecemeal by the Right, we need to lead in science and technology again if we are to feed our overpopulated nation. Agricultural self-sufficiency is not an option.

Grammar schools; and a belated defence of our industrial base.



Friday, September 08, 2017


The BBC Promenade Concerts are always good value and have become more varied in scope during recent years. There is now a regular evening of big band jazz but this year's offering was rather lacklustre as Wiggia pointed out in his post the other day. The whole evening was rescued with the appearance of Hiromi who gave a very hyperactive and barnstorming performance. Absolutely magnificent!

She has the spirit and the exuberance of Dorothy Donegan who featured here in January of this year-

But Hiromi is not just a brilliant jazz pianist, she plays classical music equally well having started at the age of five: from her Wiki profile:

"Hiromi started learning classical piano at age five, and was later introduced to jazz by her piano teacher Noriko Hikida. At 14, she played with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. When she was 17, she met Chick Corea by chance in Tokyo, and was invited to play with him at his concert the next day. After being a jingle writer for a few years for Japanese companies such as Nissan, she enrolled to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. There, she was mentored by Ahmad Jamal and had already signed with jazz label Telarc before her graduation."

Her natural talent is self-evident in the videos below but especially so in the first one, an inspired version of the famous Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel. Beginning with a metallic damping of the strings to make the piano sound rather like a harpsichord, she then weaves in and around the melody but at no point does she lose the tempo or deviate from the chord structure of the piece. This is pure genius!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

The Old Boy Network

December 1970: we meet up with an older school acquaintance for a drink the night before our Oxbridge interviews. In the Turf Tavern and by the warm light of candles (power cuts, again) we sup delicious, fruity cider - hardly like alcohol at all. Which come first light violently disagrees with me, repeatedly.

After breakfast - dry cornflakes that nevertheless trampoline back up - the dons ask me whether Shakespeare's plays had to be based on real experience. White-faced, which doubtless they take for nerves, I say no. And don't elaborate. Next I have to meet the Principal, crossing his deep pile white carpet determined not to decorate it in a way that will never come out. Since my family are in Cyprus, he asks me if I know the Governor. Honestly and bovinely, I say no.

Somehow they didn't hold it against me.

Not so for lion-hearted Monty Modlyn in the 1940s:

You know, it's terribly difficult for an ordinary bloke who's been to an elementary school to get a job in life with any position in some big organisations. I remember applying for a job as an outside broadcast reporter for radio with the BBC, and being invited to attend an interview in Portland Place.

The Chairman of the Board was a very tall, slim gentleman, and even when he was sitting down he seemed about 6 feet tall. His name was Lotbiniere but he pronounced it Lowbinyare.(i) I had to go in front of him and two or three other people who were nearly as high, and he said. “Why do you want this job?” And I said, well, I think I've got the dash I'm able to chat, I like meeting people. At this time there were very few reporters on the BBC, just after the war.

Then he said to me, “May we ask you, what school did you go to?” When I filled in the application form I'd put down Westminster School, you see, so he said, “You went to Westminster School?” and I said, “Yes, Westminster Bridge Road Elementary LCC School.”

Well, the poor man nearly had an apoplectic fit. I thought he was going to drop down dead, and the three other people with him seemed nearly as bad. I felt that I wanted to rush forward and give them water from the jug which was on the table. “Westminster Bridge Road Elementary LCC school!” It was enough to give anyone in his position a nasty shock.

I discovered of course afterwards that he was an old Etonian, this Mr Lotbiniere, a very fine gentleman, well spoken, with a very distinguished position in BBC radio and later in television. I believe his sons are there now;(ii) it's a kind of tradition there, that there's always a Lotbiniere, or Lowbinyare if you pronounce it correctly.

I told the story to a producer many years afterwards, when he asked me why I never had a regular job with the BBC, but always had to get free-lance work. He was a fellow who worked for many years as a producer on the BBC. He told me that when he had to go before a board and was asked what school he went to, he'd been more on the ball than me and said he went to Canterbury School. There's a very big public school at Canterbury, and they all assumed he been there, but actually he went to a very ordinary school in Canterbury. When the Chairman of the Board said to him, “Did you know Mr So-and-So?” he said “Oh yes, very well.” “What a charming man,” said the Chairman of the Board. “Yes, isn't he just,” said my friend. “Right, now. Yes, the job’s yours,” said the Chairman.

Until this very day, my friend told me, they still don't realise that he never went to that famous Canterbury school. Very much the old tradition. (iii)

But just perhaps, they did indeed realise. Here is Northcote Parkinson who, having explained the traditional British method of candidate selection by family connection, goes on to discuss the Navy version:

The Board of Admirals  were unimpressed by titled relatives as such. What they sought to establish was a service connection. The ideal candidate would reply to the second question ["To whom then are you related?"], “Yes, Admiral Parker is my uncle. My father is Captain Foley, my grandfather Commodore Foley. My mother's father was Admiral Hardy. Commander Hardy is my uncle. My eldest brother is a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines, my next brother is a cadet at Dartmouth and my younger brother wears a sailor suit. “Ah!” the senior Admiral would say. “And what made you think of joining the Navy?” The answer to this question, however, would scarcely matter, the clerk present having already noted the candidate as acceptable. Given a choice between two candidates, both equally acceptable by birth, a member of the Board would ask suddenly, “What was the number of the taxi you came in?” The candidate who said “I came by bus” was then thrown out. The candidate who said, truthfully, “I don't know,” was rejected and the candidate who said “Number 2351” (lying) was promptly admitted to the service as a boy with initiative. This method often produced excellent results. (iv)

Was there really a "So-and-So" at Canterbury? One wonders...

A major reason why such an approach could be useful, apart from the ability to draw on a well-developed network of social links, is that in the days before Welfare, kinship and friendship had iron rules and responsibilities - think how Lydia's foolishness in "Pride and Prejudice" risks social ruin for all the Bennets. A man from an old Navy family would be prepared to die horribly rather than dishonour his own people.

But I'm glad to have had that chance to be one of what, some years later, a fellow boarding-house guest scornfully referred to as "Lord Nuffield's thousands" - something that a generation before, pre the expansion of tertiary education, would have been almost unthinkable.

(ii) not excatly:
(iii) Monty Modlyn, “Pardon My Cheek” (Hutchinson,1973), pp. 51-52
(iv) C Northcote Parkinson, "Parkinson's Law" (1957), chap. 5

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Modern Jazz: A Japanese Thing ! - by Wiggia

I know JD is doing a piece on the Japanese pianist Hiromi, who saved a dire BBC Proms big band night after the band leaders decided to indulge themselves in their favorite instruments to such excess as to be boring - over two hours of mainly trumpet and asst brass is an indulgence too far. I only watched it because my nephew was playing in one of the bands; to feature one sax solo in that time from him who was voted by his peers this year as the best saxophonist in the country is a real waste of talent. But this is not about that. Having got it off my chest, it is about the impact Hiromi had that night and everywhere she plays, it is a talent extraordinaire.

What she did do is draw attention to the fact that modern jazz is very popular in Japan. Much of the music is original and they do seem to have more females playing in the genre than anywhere else.

It appears that jazz started to be played in Japan in and around 1910. The reason it filtered back there was that the ocean liners that plied their trade into the States at that time had bands/orchestras on board and when docking in places like San Francisco the musicians would go to see the local jazz bands and buy sheet music and records that they took home with them. Some also played in hotel lobby orchestras while in town.

With the advent of popular music in the late twenties Japan became exposed to American music in films. Much of the music had jazz overtones and the hip guys and girls of the period became in effect flappers and dandies in the dance halls.

It was after WW11 that the floodgates opened, Many American soldiers who were stationed in Japan after the war were musicians and formed dance bands to play locally, but to fill the numbers they recruited Japanese musicians.

In the fifties and sixties Japanese musicians started to make an impression in their own right, the most famous being Toshiko Akiyoshi the pianist, an uncompromising lady from the start who would play be bop and insist to the clubs that she played there would be no vocalist, just her and her band playing be bop; not always the popular choice amongst club owners.

By this time they were being recognised abroad especially in the States but not necessarily treated as equals, there being a comparative tone to the reviews of their music, rather like Matt Munro was referred to as the English Perry Como rather than just Matt Munro.

The Japanese started to go their own way as simply being an outpost for American music was a dead end, so they experimented with various set ups and incorporated Japanese music in their jazz, especially when playing abroad, for obvious reasons: playing Count Basie when Basie was still alive was pointless in America.

Today the music is seen as hip and sophisticated, a culture of its own. In popular terms it is on a par with the same music in say the UK: not much exposure on the radio or TV but it has a fan base, and it has made its mark abroad with now Hiromi and the sax player Takuya Kuroda who landed a Blue Note contract which in itself is an accolade.

I am not going to put up anything by Hiromi as JD is going to do an extensive post on her. I have drawn the short straw and have had to ferret through unknown territories to come up with the weird and the hopefully wonderful.

Toshiko Akiyoshi is an international star as a pianist and a bandleader, plus she won the Best Composer and Arranger award in the reader's poll in Downbeat, the first woman to do so. Here she is with her trio in 1958:

And here playing the Village at her 60th anniversary concert:

and here conducting her big band with Long Yellow Road:

and finally at the Monterrey jazz festival in ‘75 with Clark Terry on trumpet:

Takuya Kuroda playing RSBD now on Concord records; this from 2016:

and here with "Everybody Loves the Sunshine":

The Swing Girls - First and Last concert !

In Tokyo, the Teikyo High School Band, the Swinging Honey Bees:

Another of many talented lady Japanese pianists, Junko Onishi with her trio:

and the last of these, Senri Kawaguchi (the drummer) has a blast with her all-girl group and "Lover Come Back to Me":

- follow that!

Nice !

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Strong Men And Food

A man in the Berwick garrison, in 1597, when times were hard and inflation had increased rapidly, got a daily ration of a twelve-ounce loaf, three pints of beer, one-and-a-half pounds of beef, three-quarters of a pound of cheese, and a quarter of a pound of butter – this was a considerable reduction in what his ration had been some years earlier.[i]

In the old days, you needed more calories.

And more muscle. There’s a lovely moment in Michael Crichton’s “Timeline”, a novel about a group of time travellers who go back to fourteenth century France to test their historical understanding. One of them, a fit young fellow, gets challenged to a joust. The squire assigned to help our horonaut into his armour looks at the American’s gym-buffed physique and enquires politely, “You have had a fever?”

For today’s soft life, a man needs c. 2,500 calories a day[ii] but many eat much more.[iii] However in wartime it’s a different story – in the cold, sodden trenches of WWI “it was the stated aim of the British Army that each soldier should consume 4,000 calories a day”.[iv]

In WWII, the Japanese – then a smaller-bodied people because of a shortage of protein in the national diet – were issued less in the way of rations, but supplemented it with local foods and vitamin pills.[v] American field rations varied from the 2,830-calorie “K” (short duration; overuse could lead to malnourishment) to 4,000 calories for jungle warfare and 4,800 for mountain missions.[vi]

In 1970s civvy Britain, it was lino floors, no central heating and much walking. Maybe that’s where I’ve gone wrong. I could save a fortune if I turned off the CH and garaged the car; but would the cost of a high protein diet wipe out the advantage? Still, I’d be fitter…

Mine’s a double quarterpounder with cheese – Cheddar, not that yellow plastic stuff.

[i] George MacDonald Fraser, “The Steel Bonnets” (1971) - Collins Harvill edn, p.55

Monday, September 04, 2017

Music and prophecies of war

I'm not a musician, but some pieces thrill and intrigue. I was listening last Thursday to Debussy's String Quartet on Radio 3 and was planning to buy it when I found I already had it.

Debussy's work was followed ten years later (1903) by Ravel's - adapted by Stephen Edwards (at the age of 20!) for the BBC's 1992 serialisation of Mary Wesley's "The Camomile Lawn", an explosive story of reckless sexual relations in the context of WWII. The whole opus but especially the pizzicato in the second movement communicate an intense love of life, enhanced by a consciousness of its fragility. It has one near tears.

Partly this intensity may be because Ravel was 28 at the time he composed it, an age when the senses still burn; maybe also, like some other art and music (think of Stravinsky's brash Rite of Spring) it was a canary in the mine, warning of great wars to come; as they did, starting very soon after with Japan against Russia in 1904 and all that followed.

Both works are on the Deutsche Grammophon CD of the Melos Quartett, which I have; but there is another version of each online as below:

Sunday, September 03, 2017

UK: The Clock Tower

Photo: SAS Regimental Association

The clock pictured above stands at Stirling Lines, Hereford, the headquarters of 22 Special Air Services Regiment, part of UK Special Forces. It is a memorial, bearing on it the names of those who died on active service. Also inscribed there is a quotation from James Elroy Flecker:

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further...

I came across a passing reference to this in Chris Ryan's 2005 thriller "Blackout" (one with half an eye to younger readers, a trend now being developed more systematically by his former SAS Bravo Two Zero teammate Andy McNab). 

The lines are taken from Flecker's 1913 play "Hassan: The Story of Hassan of Baghdad and How He Came to Make the Golden Journey to Samarkand."

Some poetry makes your throat tighten: here is a little more of that scene...

 But who are ye in rags and rotten shoes,
You dirty-bearded, blocking up the way?

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further; it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,
White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lies a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (421)

From the comments to my post here of a couple of days ago...

Like most of our age, I can remember the introduction of poll tax. At the time council tax (rates) was going through the roof and had no bearing on demands or ability to pay.

Sadly the poll tax was equally badly implemented, yet if it had been implemented fairly it would have been a much fairer alternative and much better understood. The poor implementation and the "poll tax riots" by all those who never paid bugger all for the services they received scuppered the tax.

We are now faced with council tax that now that the brakes have been taken off go the same way as rates. What is basically wrong with council tax/rates is that only roughly 38% - and that was from the chief accountant in Suffolk twenty years ago - actually pay the tax; the reasons are all there to see but too long-winded to go into now, but in essence there was nothing wrong with the poll tax if it had been properly administered. After all this current tax is to pay for services enjoyed by all but less than half contribute!

The second half is incorrect. I don't know what the collection rates for Council Tax were twenty years ago, but unsurprisingly, collection rates are actually close to 100% and jsut about every home is liable for Council Tax.

He defeats his own argument in favour of a Poll Tax by saying that Domestic Rates had "no bearing on demands or ability to pay". A Poll Tax would have even less correlation with ability to pay. Most low income people own or rent lower value homes and smaller households own or rent smaller homes (or at least could choose to do so), so under Domestic Rates/LVT, the tax payable is nearly always affordable.

As we well know, riots aside, Poll Taxes are very difficult to enforce and collect, there's no way you can "implement it properly", let alone fairly. And they are antithetical to having a welfare system, before we try and collect a separate tax from low income people, it's much easier just to reduce their benefits/old age pension.

But the fundamental misconception is the idea that the government should charge for services provided to 'people' generally, especially if people are compelled to use those services or compelled to pay for something which they might not use. So charging individuals who choose to apply for a passport = OK. But if we had compulsory ID cards, then charging for them = not OK or charging people a fraction of the cost of upkeep of a local park (which they might or might not use) = not OK.


The government (or 'the state' or 'society') is the ultimate arbiter on who owns which bits of land and provides the framework within which rents can arise in the first place. So it should charge for benefits accruing to land (or landowners). Who generates the rental value? Everybody and nobody, so to whom does it belong? Everybody and nobody, but short of throwing the proceeds into the North Sea, the government might as well spend it on things which benefit everybody (welfare payments, health, education, whatever), or which benefit the economy in general (education, roads, legal system etc).

It's impossible to spend money in a way which benefits everybody equally because a lot of the benefits of 'good' government spending or action lead to higher rental values (roads benefit or burden some bits of land and leave most others unaffected). But that doesn't matter because that extra value can be recycled back into the system (and the owners of the burdened land get a tax cut to compensate them).

Use Of Gender Neutral Pronouns Discriminates Against First Nation Canadians

The Nuxalk people of British Columbia have no letter "Z" in their language and are therefore unable to confuse each other with gender neutral pronouns such as "zie" and "zir".

Their version of Scrabble has 212 tiles, but not the letters B, D, E, F, G, J, O, R, V and Z:

  • 1 pointA ×25, S ×20, T ×12, I ×10, K ×10, LH ×9, M ×9, TS ×8, U ×8
  • 2 pointsL ×7, N ×7, Q ×6,  ×6, Y ×6, TLʼ ×5, X ×5
  • 3 pointsAA ×4, C ×4, CW ×4,  ×4, KW ×4, P ×4,  ×4, TSʼ ×4, XW ×4
  • 4 pointsKWʼ ×4, W ×4, QW ×3, UU ×2
  • 5 pointsQWʼ ×3, II ×2
  • 7 points ×2
  • 9 pointsH ×2
  • 11 points7 ×2

It is difficult to describe the agony this has caused them. They must content themselves with the far less zingy alternatives: "sie, hir, hir, hirs, hirself" - omitting the letter "e", of course. Oh, and "r" and "f".

Uck, as doubtless they would say if they were aware of the issue.

Poor things.

And they have the nerve to call their language Bella Coola!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Gender Neutral Frenchm*n

ZIE (Charles Aznavour)

May be the face I can't forget
A trace of pleasure or regret
May be my treasure or the price I have to pay
Zie may be the song that summer sings
May be the chill that autumn brings
May be a hundred tearful things
Within the measure of the day.

May be the beauty or the beast
May be the famine or the feast
May turn each day into heaven or a hell
Zie may be the mirror of my dreams
A smile reflected in a stream
Zie may not be what Zie may seem
Inside a shell

Who always seems so happy in a crowd
Whose eyes can be so private and so proud
No one's allowed to see them when they cry
Zie may be the love that can and hope to last
May come to me from shadows of the past
That I remember till the day I die

May be the reason I survive
The why and where for I'm alive
The one I'll care for through the rough and rainy years
Me I'll take zir laughter and zir tears
And make them all my souvenirs
For where zie goes I got to be
The meaning of my life is

Zie, zie, zie

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Gender Neutral Love Story

Now that we are in an age when the past must be reshaped to our temporary modern prejudices, it is time to hurl ourselves* sword a-whirling into the ranks of English** poets.

See how the application of gender-neutral pronouns improves William Barnes, for instance:

WOAK HILL, by William Barnes

When sycamore leaves wer a-spreadèn
Green-ruddy in hedges,
Bezide the red doust o' the ridges,
A-dried at Woak Hill;

I packed up my goods all a sheenèn
Wi' long years o' handlèn,
On dousty red wheel ov a waggon,
To ride at Woak Hill.

The brown thatchen ruf o' the dwellèn,
I then wer a-le{'a}vèn,
Had shelter'd the sleek head o' Me{'a}ry,
My bride at Woak Hill.

But now vor zome years, zir light voot-vall
'S a-lost vrom the vloorèn.
Too soon vor my ja{'y} an' my childern,
Zie died at Woak Hill.

But still I do think that, in soul,
Zie do hover about us;
To ho vor zir motherless childern,
Zir pride at Woak Hill.

Zoo--lest zie should tell me hereafter
I stole off 'ithout zir,
An' left zir, uncall'd at house-riddèn,
To bide at Woak Hill--

I call'd zir so fondly, wi' lippèns
All soundless to others,
An' took zir wi' a{'i}r-reachèn hand,
To my zide at Woak Hill.

On the road I did look round, a-talkèn
To light at my shoulder,
An' then led zir in at the doorway,
Miles wide vrom Woak Hill.

An' that's why vo'k thought, vor a season,
My mind wer a-wandrèn
Wi' sorrow, when I wer so sorely
A-tried at Woak Hill.

But no; that my Me{'a}ry mid never
Behold zirzelf slighted,
I wanted to think that I guided
My guide vrom Woak Hill. 

- adapted from the text found at


* But why do we distinguish between self and other? Another fruitful field for the university Bowdlerisers, perhaps.

** And then there's nationality! 

Surely we are in the prigs' Promised Land. 

Or California. maybe:

"California's New Transgender Regulations: What Employers Need to Know" -

I think it's all San Andrea's fault.

Sandra is calm and seems fine

According to trustedreviews  the latest rumour is that Apple’s iPhone 8 launch event will take place on September 12. Two weeks to go to the big day.

A few months ago Jordan Kahn of 9TO5Mac speculated about the new phone's potential for fun and games with augmented reality. Among various possibilities the above image surely sets a few hares running. 

Perhaps Sandra is calm because she views the future with equanimity. One day she may benefit from augmented equanimity. Or is that what these gadgets are all about anyway - a spurious sense of control?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Where’s The Food? by Wiggia

If only you could click your portion
 to enlarge it...

It would be easy to join the teeth-gnashers and write something about the inability of any government at this moment in time to do anything constructive about the important and very pressing matters that are threatening this nation and others at this time, so this time I won't.

This also is not the first time I have commented on this matter and so have others, but still it persists and apparently is spreading: my original item was called The Decorated Plate and the jibe still stands as more and more restaurants present what is in many cases laughingly called food in a manner that confounds many of us who expect something to actually eat.

I like food, but the advent of "nouvelle cuisine" some 35 years ago has meant that the intervening years have seen a push back against it, yet in fact it never went away: it was too good a wheeze to discard. It has managed with almost total success to convince the patrons of said restaurants and the majority of food critics, who should be an endangered species, that elaborate confections for the eyes not the stomach are the way forward. The recent additions of foamed sauces and the use of liquid nitrogen for the effects they give rather than any actual enhancement to the food does nothing to dissuade me that nouvelle cuisine is alive and doing rather well.

The cynic in me thought many years ago that what a very grounded chef said at the time was not far from the truth: the bottom line is all that matters. Much of that thinking stemmed from the rightful cutting back of lengthy menus to shorter ones to include a lot more fresh produce, as it is impossible to cater that way with a huge menu; fine, but cutting the portions down to minimalist levels is not a justifiable extension of that route.

You could call it great British Take On, but sadly it is almost universal in most of Europe these days. I am going away in a few weeks to the Basque country and the Rioja region, where else? you cry, and as usual I like to have a few good meals in the area I am staying in. The Basque country has a reputation for good restaurants similar to the Lyon area in France, many of the restaurants have Michelin stars and chefs to match. My digging did not go well: restaurant web sites showed that ever more suffered from the big plate, small portion syndrome; this in an area renowned for its culinary skills. The city centre restaurants seemingly all fall into line. I have found some good bets but the overall feeling from the initial digging was one of sadness if that is what has happened.

In the provinces as in France it is better. Luckily, unlike here in UK, those unassuming local restaurants are still serving delicious three course meals cooked with pride from local produce. The good local trattoria in Italy will also do the same thing. In England, especially outside the centre of London, it is extremely difficult, nay almost impossible to find English food offered this way; often the local pub is a better bet.

But why is all this happening? Not forgetting what I have said above, are we to be condemned to a land of fast food and everything contaminated with chilli? We do wonderful cheese in this country but the majority of supermarkets show strange coloured “cheeses” impregnated with lumps of foreign objects and looking like nougat.

Sauces, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli were all originally put in or on food to preserve or disguise the meat, fish and whatever that had a very limited shelf life in pre-refrigerated days, not as a food source on their own merit. Yet in this country even the humble crisp is pre-salted to such a degree the crisp might as well not exist.

I think it is in those upper echelons of fine dining that Michelin has a lot to answer to. I used Michelin a lot in the past for eating out in Europe and found it to be reliable, but the goalposts have moved. The prestige and consequently the clientele that a Michelin star brings makes more restaurants follow what is after all just fashion, so the decorated concoctions and the slavish following of trends is applied across the board, which while the word is fresh brings me to another pet hate: food served on a board slate or anything else without the means to stop your food ending on the floor; eating with that fear in mind is not pleasant dining.

The Michelin requisites for awarding stars are supposedly a secret known only to them. Apart from those gastronomic extravaganzas such as the George Cinq, it was for the most part quite rightly based on the food offered. With increasing demand for stars it has changed: the “dining experience” is now as important as the food and all struggle to attain the required ambience, room service decor and of course the latest culinary trend; the latter of course does not involve much actual food - food has become, as for people who buy fast cars and never drive them, something to look at, not eat. It’s nonsense and I no longer play.

I will finish with something that irks me even more because I do still “play”; again it’s an item I have mentioned before. A recent meeting with someone like myself who takes more than a small interest in wine asked me to taste a wine he had purchased that had recently been given a “gold” award at one of our major wine events. I did not know this wine so had no preconceived standard to go to in the memory banks to find, but it was fine, nothing special and not something I would go out of my way for to buy.

He then told me of its award and said the same as me, so how did it get such a high award? Granted that our opinion is no more valid than anyone else's, nevertheless this is apparently happening on a regular basis,  - what is going on? The two big wine tasting events in this country are the Wine Challenge and the Decanter wine awards, now I believe the biggest of their type in the world; the awards, like Michelin stars, bring kudos and sales to the makers.

The wine tasting is done blind by experts in their field who judge in groups so no one person's taste will dominate. So how come, I ask, does the same wine entered in both competitions come out with a gold award from one and as I have actually seen - with both stickers on the bottle - a recommended from the other. Even allowing for some discretion that is bonkers. With individual wine experts' ratings on wine (the figures can be seen in magazines etc) some judges always give higher marks than others and vice versa; in the same way that some experts can be seen to favour certain styles and even individual Chateau, that is individual taste and can be factored out as applicable, but not the big events.

Within this there is still the suspicion that in some cases - and I use the word "some" for discretion - what is in the consumer's bottle may not be the same as that put forward for competition. I can hear the howls of protest at that suggestion, yet the often-quoted case of the Sainsbury's own label gold-winning Champagne years ago comes back to haunt them, or should: it turned out after complaints to have been a substituted wine, as the supplier simply could not cope with the demand and sourced an inferior wine . The case went to trading standards and the product was for reasons unknown to man or beast allowed to stay, as were the award-winning labels on the bottle.

Having got away with that once there is no reason to doubt that others may well have followed that route knowing there is little consequence for their actions. An obvious rebuff would be to claim that these award winning wines are then tasted randomly after they go on sale in retailers; I have yet to see that proven - the logistics with so many wines winning awards today is probably not on - but of course, again that makes it much easier to commit what is fraud.

Wine still likes to try and have a mystique about it. The way it is presented to the public suits the whole wine-making ethos: the hugely expensive “grand crus” are like Ferraris to the general public - out of reach but much talked about. It gives wine an edge. With so many grape varieties, so many countries vying for your purchase money, so many different aspects of wine can never be fully understood even by the experts as it is constantly shifting in style, taste and the variance of climate both regional and seasonal, so that it is impossible to know if what is in the bottle is that which you assumed you were buying.

After all even the experts have been fooled - as in the art world experts have said this was that when it was a fake, so it is in wine, as fraudsters get ever more resourceful. The auction houses are now employing experts who can determine which labels are the real thing and not facsimiles.

Naturally what I have said applies to a relatively small section of wines but an important one. Many people use the awards as a buying tool: if you know little of wine, a gold award should be a safe bet for a good wine. Sadly again, those with little knowledge will purchase on the strength of the award and still be pleased even if they have been duped.

In all perhaps the slavish adherence to Michelin Guides and wine awards should be watered down. Perhaps the best days for both are behind them; maybe we should go back to the old word of mouth, the trial and error method when sampling food and wine, and forget fashion. Fashion is there for one reason: to make whoever can change fashion very rich.