Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Covid and Power, by Sackerson

Here we are in Week 40, the first of the 2020/2021 winter flu season. After all we’ve been through so far, there are still revisionists downplaying the threat of coronavirus, so let’s review the situation.

The first UK cases where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate occurred in Week 11 (ending Friday, 13th March). This week’s data (as usual, a fortnight in arrears) bring us up to Week 38 (18 September).

In total, the excess of deaths from all causes over the previous 5-year average for the same period is 53,663 so far. Deaths where Covid-19 was referenced total 52,056 so apparently it was a factor (not the only one, but surely contributory) in 97% of the bulge. Maybe doctors don’t deliberately misdiagnose causes of death, after all.

Minimisers compare the scale of CV-19 deaths with the big killers: ischaemic heart disease, cancer and dementia/Alzheimer’s; but these are already included in the orange line above.  A different yardstick might be UK civilian deaths in World War Two: 70,000 over six years then, versus 52,000 in only six months now, with indications of a second wave starting across Europe - cases rather than deaths, but we’ll soon see whether there is a significant uptick in mortality. Like influenza, with which it has similarities, Covid-19 may spread more easily in cooler, damper weather.

Can we agree that a) Covid is real, b) it is more contagious than flu and c) it is more lethal than flu? We are under attack, from germs rather than Germans this time. What are our options?

1. Do nothing

2. Lock down and close off the whole country

3. Work out a packet of measures to save lives while sustaining the economy as best we can

1. Some point to Sweden as an exemplar of splendid inaction, but they are comparing apples and oranges. Sweden has a population density of 59/square mile as opposed to the UK’s 725; and (I suggest) the cool Swedes are more cleanly, less back-slappy and not so rebellious against their authorities’ detailed guidelines (yes, they have them) even though they hide their heads in the sand on other issues: in Malmö, for example, I would be more worried about stray bullets. 

Here in Britain, what would have been the result of standing back and letting the disease rip? We are developing an understanding of who is more vulnerable, and it’s not good news that 28.7% of us are clinically obese, and nearly 4 million are diabetic; as regards the age factor, we have some 1.8 million people aged 85 and over. Just how ruthless are we prepared to be – shall we simply cull the old, fat and sick? Maybe Monty Python was prescient (clip Bloggerbanned but use link!): 

2. We can’t copy Tonga, either. Tonga declared a state of emergency on March 20th that will last until at least March next year; inbound international flights are banned to foreigners, and thousands of Tongans have been stranded abroad since the declaration, with the first repatriations starting only in August, from New Zealand. Consequently, to date, there have been no coronavirus cases in Tonga; this is a very good thing, since 69% of Tongans are obese and 18% diabetic  – letting in the virus could lead to a lethal scouring like the flu-related ones we have long accepted (or ignored) in our British ‘care’ homes. 

Inevitably, the lockout has a financial implication, but (e.g.) the money Pacific Islanders send home annually from seasonal work in Australia (A$8,000 each – around three years’ worth of on-island earnings) helps keep the pot boiling. As an aside, we need to look at the bigger picture of global relations: the Chinese are lending money around the world (Tonga asked them for debt restructuring in July) and the West should think about increasing foreign aid to Pacific nations in terms of enlightened self-interest.

However, the UK simply cannot follow Tonga’s suit: we are an open, trading nation that imports half our food. The virus has found out our economic vulnerability and, to quote Chinua Achebe in a different context, it ‘has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.’ It’s going to cost us to keep going.

3. That leaves us with compromise. We chafe against restrictions and what some characterise as the curtailment of civil liberties – but that wouldn’t be the first time. Consider the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939 that was rushed through Parliament (and subsequently renewed and extended, to consistent protests by Robert Boothby at the Commons’ ‘apathy’), and the 1940 invention of a new crime of ‘treachery’ to make it easier for us to shoot enemy agents. 

The current emergency has highlighted once again the need to address the huge, arbitrary power of the office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council (did Blair teach us nothing?) – otherwise all that Dunning’s 1780 motion to curtail the power of King George has achieved is to move tyranny down one step to the Executive, as Lord Cormack has recently observed.

There is certainly scope for revising our strategies; and especially the means by which they are enforced, as our editor (at The Conservative Woman) personally witnessed a few days ago in the bully-boy tactics of the police against middle-class softies. It’s not just the Germans who go crazy when given a uniform and powers – remember the special needs teacher Blair Peach’s death at the hands of the SPG? We don’t do fascism half as efficiently as our Continental cousins used to; we British are more amenable to being led than ordered about; we need persuasive leadership, and a vigilant and loyal Opposition; a Parliament, in fact.

For Something Happened, and may well happen again, and Something Must Be Done, but wisely, and with every effort to gain our voluntary support.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Scrooge's Children, by Wiggia

Watching yet again Alistair Sim’s wonderful version of Ebenezer Scrooge and his miserly callousness made me reflect on people I have known with tendencies to be of the 'short arms, deep pockets' variety.

I cannot give reasons for this what is a very apparent affliction in some people as I am not a psychiatrist, it is only that there is no apparent pattern in why people behave like that and we have all met them.

This is in no way a reflection on people who are down on their luck and have to reign in their spending to suit the occasion, we have mostly all had experience of that at some time in our lives; no. this is about those unexplained traits people show when it comes to actually parting with the green stuff or the ‘laughing lettuce’ as an old friend once called it.

Just sometimes you can see why previous experiences influence this reluctance to part with the aforesaid moolah: people brought up in poor households often find it difficult in later life to change when the circumstances they live under change for the good, it is as if it is engrained in them from those years of little to continue life in that vein even when there is no longer a need to do so.

But how does that explain the child, and I have a cousin who was and is exactly like this, who would have a bag of sweets in his pocket, leave the room to put one in his mouth and return, never ever offering anyone else one, something he has retained all his life despite being never anywhere near penury at any time, never a round of drinks, nothing but collecting items for his own presumed pleasure to be locked away somewhere; the vulture when a family member dies, I am sure we can all relate to those.

The there is the one in a group who never buys a round in the pub on a Sunday morning, or any other time come to that, who will as it approaches his turn find a timely excuse to leave or make a prolonged visit to the toilet, always long enough for everyone else to say sod it waiting and get another round; or the friend who would take a drink but not reciprocate, saying he only had one so was not buying a round as he doesn’t drink despite taking that first one purchased by someone else - you have to have some brass neck to do that but again I know someone who did exactly that and on more than one occasion.

Life would be extremely boring if we were all the same, it is the differences that make the world the interesting place it is, yet there is no doubt that some traits or more than a little puzzling and on occasions annoying to put it mildly.

The ones above all that interest me are the ones that have no real reason for this miserly conduct. I had a neighbour who was also a friend. He sold out a car retailing business after an offer he couldn’t refuse was made; until that time he spent money, had a Rolls Royce, liked clubbing in town, even sponsored a boxer and promoted him.

He wasn’t married but had a long time girlfriend who contracted cancer and died; before she died they married. At that time he lived in a big house with six acres of grounds and part was a mini industrial estate bringing in more income, so he was not what you call short of a bob or two, yet that moment apparently changed his whole view on life despite no obvious reason for the change.

He became obsessed with having what he called a 'result' with everything he bought, spent a lot of time polishing an old wedding car he used to hire out in the belief it was worth a lot more than it was (this from a successful car dealer), drove around a Ford Escort that had seen better days and took great delight in telling me where I could buy socks like his at only a pound for three pairs although that is exactly what they looked; he even put in a nonsense offer for my house when a sale fell through, saying he thought he was doing me a favour. He was totally obsessed with not spending money despite being a millionaire.

After remarrying he and his wife went on honeymoon. The house they were in when we were neighbours was up for sale and had been for some time because he insisted it was worth more than anyone who valued it, and had no viewers, but as luck would have it while away a buyer made an offer as it reminded them of the house they currently lived in and he would be near the football team he supported; my neighbour cut short his honeymoon to come back and seal the deal. There was no need but that instinct meant he couldn’t help himself; he has never changed, but why did he become like that in the first place?

The late J Paul Getty was renowned for his miserly stunts; that was not so much because he was a miser but rather a show of power over people, e.g. the pay phone in the hall for his guests at Sutton Place in Surrey. I also know for a fact that a typical stunt would be to arrange a business lunch, invite those guests who would inevitably be wanting some of his money for projects and then get up before the final dish and simply disappear, leaving the ‘guests to pay.’ Would any complain? Of course not! How do I know this? Simple: a friend at the time actually attended one of these lunches.

He is often slammed as being a miserly jerk, but that comes mainly from people who wanted something from him and didn’t get it, though in his latter days distinguishing life from art was not easy as reports of his appearance in crumpled suits and the rumours that he washed his own underwear started to filter through. Perhaps the life part took over from the acting; so many stories that have been embellished over the years make it difficult to sort the truth.

I also had a very rich client who shall remain nameless who started to serve half bottles of wine at dinners with business people in case consuming whole bottles would cloud his actions. Was that sensible or just mean? It’s a rarefied world there at the top; mind you it was Château Lafite - I saw the empties.

I now have another neighbour who openly admits he is tight; again his parents struggled when he was young and he blames this as the reason. In his case though it is like a dual personality disorder: he cannot say no to his family and even friends have been helped financially, yet he buys a £40k car after years of running around in bangers but gets the bus into town because he won't pay the multi-storey parking fees. His excuse is that he has a bus pass, but even when he does take the car in he stops short, parks in a side road and gets the bus the rest of the way.

Again, his lovely old house - it was the village pub - doesn't have a piece of furniture that was not picked up in sale or handed down from deceased family members; and new clothes? - don’t be silly. Amazing how someone can switch from philanthropy to refusing to part with money when buying for themselves; everything has to be a 'result' - where have I heard that before?

The wearing of the same old clothes is a recurring theme among the stingy it appears, as is the use of cheap supermarkets even if it means visiting several to get the whole shop and travelling miles to do it. If they tell me Aldi do a very cheap coq au vin but I have to travel 10 miles to get each way, it is not being thrifty, but that 'less' sign goes a long way to expunge any common sense. 

In the same way, being shown a packet of white rolls for 45p that look like 45p rolls does not inspire me to make the trip: they could be like the ones below and probably are. We stayed in an hotel on Lake Como years ago where the rolls were indeed as pictured. We were friendly with a German couple who also had noticed these empty rolls and we waited for the surprised looks as new guests would put a knife through one for the first time to see their reaction. We never complained as the reactions were worth putting up with the air rolls during the stay; it should have been on Candid Camera.

The funniest story regarding miserly conduct was not about someone I knew but a neighbour of my oldest friend in Australia. The Australians use their sprinklers liberally in hot summers  to save the grass from dying; in this particularly hot summer a neighbour told him he was not paying for the extra water, they have a fixed fee and you then pay above a certain usage, and tso he turned off the sprinklers. What then happened was that the ground shrank and the newly added extension to his bungalow started to part company with the house; as my friend said, you don’t turn off the sprinklers if you use them on a regular basis as those sort of problems are not unknown there, and he added ‘He always was a tight bastard’; Karma indeed.

We all have within us a bit of this reticence to spend. It shows in different way. It’s a bit like getting insurance quotes that leave out the extras you always need; one becomes very reluctant to pay for the extras and some people won't on principle. Naturally we look for the cheapest option only to discover it is inferior and then moan; we eschew certain brands and retailers believing the same (they are too expensive) then buy rubbish that has to be replaced far too early in its claimed life span and again moan about it. That is not meanness though, that is greed: 'something for nothing / BOGOF.'

Every now and again though you are surprised by the Scrooge effect. Some time ago, someone I knew well used to get by mistake two copies of a trade mag that interested me so he said he would mail the spare one to me, which he did. After several months it stopped arriving; when I spoke to him again I asked what had happened. He replied, 'I used to write your name over mine [I hadn’t noticed] and reposted it, they must have noticed and stopped sending the mag,' and then he said he wasn’t going to put a stamp on it - this from someone in business I spent thousands with. Sometimes these tight bastards can’t help themselves.

Still Christmas is coming, with the usual suspects who have declared they won't be sending cards any more and give to charity instead: a lie, of course, because they are too mean to send a card once a year. Now they will now be getting the same treatment from me after years of resisting the temptation to copy them: we can all be Scrooges when we want to.

Friday, September 25, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Original 'Girl Power', by JD

 The Wikipedia entry for 'Girl Power' asserts that it began in the 1990s and is associated with female vocal groups of that decade.

Sorry to disappoint you, editors and compilers at Wiki, but the golden age of musical girl power was long before that: The 1950s and the 1960s were undoubtedly the high point of popular music's 'girl groups' with more than a few solo artists added for good measure.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The National Trust Guide for rioters who like to torch buildings with style

Dominic Sandbrook pours scorn on the National Trust's breast-beating booklet about some of their properties' (often very tangential) connections with colonialism and slavery (Wordsworth is bad because his brother captained a ship for the East India Company!)

Keep the NT but abolish the finger-wagging rubbish. I offer a list below for you to print out and keep, either to tick off your visits or as a hit list for arson, vandalism etc.



Remember that Great Britain abolished slavery in 1838 and then fought against it across the globe

NT’s List of Shame:

Visit checklist (“Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”):


East of England:

Anglesey Abbey

Blicking Hall

Felbrigg Hall

Hatfield Forest Shell House


Oxburgh Hall

Peckover House

Wimpole Hall


London and the South East:


Ashdown House

Basildon Park


Bodiam Castle

Carlyle’s House


Clandon Park



Greys Court

Ham House

Hatchlands Park

Hinton Ampner

Hughenden Manor


Leith Hill Tower and Countryside

Morden Hall Park

Osterley Park and House



Polesden Lacey

Sheffield Park and Garden


Sutton House

West Wycombe Park



Belton House

Berrington Hall

Calke Abbey

Charlecote Park

Coughton Court

Croft Castle

Croome Court


Hardwick Hall

Kedleston Hall



Sudbury Hall

Tattershall Castle


Northern Ireland:

Mount Stewart


North of England:

Allan Bank


Dunham Massey

Fountains Abbey

Studley Royal

Hare Hill


Nunnington Hall

Quarry Bank Mill

Rufford Old Hall

Seaton Delaval Hall

Speke Hall

Wallington Hall

Washington Old Hall

Wentworth Castle Gardens


South West:

Barrington Court

Bath Assembly Rooms

Buckland Abbey

Castle Drogo

Clevedon Court

Compton Castle



Dyrham Park

Glastonbury Tor


Kingston Lacy

Corfe Castle

Lacock Abbey



Newark Park


Sherborne Park Estate

Shute Barton

Snowshill Manor


Trengwainton Garden


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Scots Warriors: The Black Douglas, by JD

Image: The Scotsman newspaper

Herewith the tale of 'Guid' Sir James...  a tale from Scottish history with a surprising legacy:

It is the story of Sir James Douglas (c. 1286 – 25 August 1330) also known as Guid Sir James in Scotland and the Black Douglas in England. He was one of the chief commanders during the wars of Scottish Independence and indirectly was the inspiration for the song Flower of Scotland - "and stood against him, proud Edward's army and sent him homeward to think again" Following the Battle of Bannockburn it was Douglas and a party of knights who pursued Edward's army, a task carried out with such relentless vigour that the fugitives, according to Barbour, "had not even leisure to make water" Eventually Edward took refuge in Dunbar Castle which is approximately 70 miles from Stirling. That was a long chase!

(John Barbour (1320-1395) was a Scottish poet whose principal work was the historical verse romance, The Brus (The Bruce) which included the story of the Battle of Bannockburn.)

Upon his death (7th June 1329) King Robert Bruce assembled his captains and tasked Douglas to bear his heart on crusade to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, possibly as posthumous repentance for Bruce’s murder of his rival for the crown, John Comyn, at the High Kirk in Dumfries in 1306 and the suffering he inflicted on his own people with his ‘scorched earth’ tactics. When Bruce was dead, his heart was cut from his body and placed in a silver and enamelled casket which Sir James placed around his neck.

Around this time, King Alfonso XI of Spain was engaged in La Reconquista to drive the Moors out of Spain. The word was sent to Christian Nobles and Knights throughout Europe to assemble at Alfonso’s headquarters in Cordoba. Sir James Douglas as history shows was one such Knight who responded to the call. Jean de Bel in his Chronicles tells that Bruce wanted his heart taken to the Holy Land and presented to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, while the poet John Barbour says that Bruce wished his heart be carried into battle against God’s foes. 

Whatever the true specific request, the call to arms by King Alfonso fitted in with Sir James Douglas’ mission. In the Spring of 1330 Sir James Douglas armed with ‘a safe conduct’ from Edward III of England and ‘a letter of recommendation’ to King Alfonso, left Berwick to sail for Sluys in Flanders. Jean de Bel said that Douglas was accompanied by one Knight Banneret, six ordinary Knights and twenty Esquires. Douglas and his party remained in Sluys for 12 days and then departed by ship for Spain, finally embarking at Seville. There he presented his credentials to King Alfonso.

Sir James and his fellow Scottish knights joined Alfonso's army as they set out to reclaim the Moorish stronghold of the Castle of the Star (Castilla de la Estrella) which is near the village of Teba in what is now the province of Malaga.

There are several conflicting accounts of the Battle of Teba which is not surprising because this was 690 years ago and stories come down to us now through translation and with added 'colour' such as the tale of how Douglas, after attempting to rescue another comrade who had become separated, was surrounded by a rallying cluster of Moors. He tossed the silver casket and heart into the thick of the battle and shouted: ‘Now pass thou onward before us, as thou wast wont, and I will follow thee or die.’ The story of the thrown heart is a literary invention from C15th that evolved through various stages till the one shaped by Sr Walter Scott and published in 'Tales of A Grandfather' in 1827.

Sir James died in the battle as did his fellow knights Sir William de St.Clair and the brothers Sir Robert Logan and Sir Walter Logan. All of the accounts tell how the bodies were recovered from the field and were later returned along with Bruce's heart to Scotland. The bones of Sir James now rest in St. Bride's church in Douglas, Lothian and Bruce's heart is preserved in Melrose Abbey.

And so we come to the aforementioned surprising legacy. Several years ago a historian at Malaga University was researching the expulsion of the Moors and uncovered papers which shed some light on the battle. The story as handed down tells of how the Moors did not recognise the colours carried by the Scottish knights and were unaware of their high status. The Moors had been familiar with the colours worn by English or French knights but had thought the Scots were of lesser rank.

This is how la Cronica de Alfonso XI desribes the death of Sir James -

"Douglas, y casi todos sus hombres resultaron muertos en la batalla, incluyendo a William St. Clair de Rosslyn y Robert Logan de Restalrig. Su cuerpo y el relicario conteniendo el corazón embalsamado de Bruce se encontraron juntos en el campo y cuando Muhammed IV supo que pertenecía al rey escocés, envió los cuerpos de Douglas y sus hombres a Alfonso XI con una guardia de honor. Fueron llevados a Escocia por los escoceses supervivientes, William Keith de Galston, y Simon Lockhart."

The Moors under the command of Uthman ibn Abi al-ula knew whom they had slain in the battle and so the bodies were gathered up and taken, flanked by a guard of honour, to the camp of Alfonso. Chivalry is not exclusive to the European ideal of knightly gallantry, it is a universal code among the warrior caste throughout the world.

In the spring of 1988, Douglas Mackintosh who is a direct descendant of Sir James, arrived in Teba with a one ton slab of sand stone sculpted by Hew Lorimer.

Diario SUR published a piece entitled "The descendants of a Scottish national hero will erect a monument to his memory in Teba." The text, signed by the journalist Mabel Moya, explains how the residents of Teba had ignored their relationship with the figure of the knight until recently. They were unaware of the relevance and admiration that this historical figure arouses among the Scottish people, and received with amazement the visit of a family from the United Kingdom, direct descendants of Sir James Douglas.

On this visit, they brought with them "a slab, weighing about one tonne," which "succinctly tells the story of Douglas," designed by sculptor Hew Lorimer and sourced from Creetown in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. “Its price is estimated at about 8,000 pounds (around 1,680,000 pesetas) and its anchoring in the ground will amount to about 3,000 pounds (630,000 pesetas), an amount that is being paid with donations from people interested in making this project a reality.

The stone slab was kept in a warehouse until its location was decided, the Plaza de España. On August 25, 1989 , a grand opening ceremony was held attended by the mayor of Teba and George Nigel Douglas-Hamilton, Count Selkirk.

During the ceremony there was "an Anglican-Catholic ecumenical religious service", carried out by the priest of the Parish of Teba and the Vicar of the Anglican Church of San Jorge de Málaga, in addition to a military offering with the notes of the hymns of Andalusia and Scotland of the music band and bagpipes in the background.

Both Count Selkirk and the then mayor of Teba, Francisco González, made two speeches in which they expressed the desire to carry out a true twinning from which "exchanges of young people, schoolchildren, the elderly, sports, folkloric events, language learning and practice, integration of immigrants, commercial relationships, exchange of experiences in municipal management and administration ”, as recorded in the archive of the Teba City Council.

The stone itself is inscribed in English on one side and in Spanish on the other.

The Spanish love their fiestas and many town and villages have an annual Fiesta de Cristinos y Moros in celebration of La Reconquista. Teba City Council, now with the memorial stone in place decided that they too would have their own Cristianos y Moros but with a Scottish flavour. Every year on Aug. 25, the village celebrates the day of El Douglas. A pipe band from Scotland performs and there is a ceremony between the Teba mayor and other grandees and the visitors from Scotland. The square is also known as the Plaza Douglas.



Sunday, September 20, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: A tale of excess, by Wiggia

All of us of a certain age have got involved in conversations about what we had as kids as opposed to today, the usual hard luck stories would emerge and then people would make jokes that reduced their own level of receiving to something like, and at the time I thought it funny, “all I got for Christmas was a quire of old newspapers and a packet of crayons” - the fact that 'quire' was in the sentence dates it but you get the drift.

 And it is true we certainly never got the items today's kids do or adults come to that. What did we get? Well, virtually nothing other than on birthdays or Christmas. I was quite fortunate in getting a Hornby train set one Christmas and how I cherished it, it really meant something and was played with for years; other notables were some nice Dinky toys and a wonderful large scale clockwork Foden truck that I kept well into my late teens and simply lost track of it - where it went I do not know, quite valuable today.

 In general, though, apart from a couple of pennies to go and get some flying saucers or a giant gobstopper that changed colour over hours and your tongue with it, all presents or gifts were reserved for the two occasions above. I was unfortunate in this regard as my birthday is three days after Christmas so I got combined presents, hmmmm!

 Why have I come up with this? Well, it was something that I could not help notice in recent weeks whilst house hunting (yes we COULD finally be moving after the longest running saga since the Forsyte one.)

 It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen sights like this before; it was seeing so many and so much. Almost every family house we viewed with children had rooms absolutely stuffed with soft toys, games, toy soldiers, expensive electric items and all in the case of the girls in very pink rooms and in the boys autographed footballers prints on the wall and the child's name emblazoned above the bed – “Thabita” said one, no Mary or Ann these days. 

Thabita had a lot more than this, I saw it all.

But it didn’t stop there. In the last house we viewed, not the one we hope to move to, the garden was an obstacle course of children's apparatus: the now obligatory caged trampoline, a climbing frame, a full sized slide, two different sized paddling pools (one in the shape of an alligator – no, me neither) and numerous other objects I could not put a handle to. It was like the children's play area in the local park; why so much? 

The worst case of excess I have seen was with a client of mine whom I worked for on and off over eighteen years with his four acre garden, very nice people and he a very successful business man for a world-wide company. They only had one child, a boy, who I saw grow up over those years. What was lavished on him had to be seen to be believed: as a kid he had every single piece of Action Man and would be given every new piece as it became available, he had three different battery powered kiddy cars, when he started to kick a football he was kitted with dozens of shirts, some obtained from the company’s foreign offices where the CEO would send for instance a Brazilian official team shirt signed by Zico or someone, and the same with Inter Milan and many others now forgotten. He even had his own small fridge in the playroom he had, stuffed full of his favourite ice lollies he could help himself to at any time.

Whether all this as a child had an effect I don’t really know but he grew up to be an obnoxious teen who at private school despite having private coaching and a bowling machine installed on the family tennis court still could not make the first team. There was a lot more I saw over the years but you get the drift: every day was Christmas.

This was more like it…

Now few parents have the wherewithal to give on that scale, yet what I have observed in these last few weeks means they all think the same but on a different scale of expense. The sentiment is the same: to give on demand, or not even wait for that request.

There is nothing wrong with parents wanting to help their children or give what they can to their kids but the scale is obscene in many cases and not that small a percentage if what I saw is to go by.

So yes, things have changed since my child hood. Obviously my parents did not have the resources to shower me with toys after the war, nor did the majority of parents. Given the living standard of today would they have replicated the excesses I have observed? We will never know of course but I doubt many would, it was a different mindset then and the parenting was very different as well, the ‘do what they like’ approach had not yet started. It is indeed a very different world.

And yes, I have seen more than one like this

Running parallel to what the kids have was the the stuffed garage. It seems few use a garage any more for keeping a car in, so many I viewed were stuffed to the gunwales with dead gym equipment, bicycles, more electronic equipment, an amazing amount of discarded musical instruments like electric pianos, drum kits, various outdoor cooking ranges and barbecues, boxes full of clothes, boxes full of toys, boxes full of you name it, a wonderful example of the consumerist society we now are.

Now we all have too much stuff but I can get in my garage and park the car there and I think I have too much stuff; obviously not. I must make a bid on that exercise bike I saw on eBay, I am sure it is the missing piece in the jigsaw of my life.

Friday, September 18, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Cathars, by JD

"Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" ( "Kill 'em all, God will know his own.")
- Arnaud Amaury, Abbot of Cîteaux.

First a potted history of the Papal Crusade, followed by some music:


There is a painting by Velazquez of Pope Innocent X in the Prado and he has a face of pure evil and yet he told Velazquez he was more than pleased with the representation. You have to stand in front of the painting to see and feel the malevolence of the man; chilling.

That Pope was about 400 years after Innocent III who ordered the Crusade against the Cathars. The only depictions of the latter are stylised being before the Renaissance invention of perspective so it is impossible to tell what he may have been like but his deeds speak volumes. 

Why were medieval Popes so bloodthirsty? Not very Christian, were they!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Biden and Pelosi: butt out of Northern Ireland!

Interesting that Joe Biden should echo  Nancy Pelosi’s dogwhistle references to the threat of reigniting Irish terrorism  mere days after Americans commemorated 9/11; clearly, unlike for Tony Stark , irony is not his strong suit. Unless it was a joke: I guess he’s a riot in the right company - though he has been a little slow to dissociate himself from the wrong company .

Or maybe it was the memory thing; for a month after the Twin Towers bombing, Joe was ruffling feathers  with his remarks about Afghanistan and the Muslim world’s perception of America as a ‘bully’ that thinks ‘we can do whatever we want to do’. Subsequent events showed that the US does often behave like a man looking for a gas leak with a lit match, and this latest attempt to interfere in our internal affairs continues the pattern; perhaps Joe’s new enthusiasm for interventionism is a bending with the wind.

On the other hand, Pelosi is consistent: she was making the same minatory noises in her address to the Dublin Parliament last year, and lamenting ‘our late friend, the extraordinary Martin McGuinness.’ Only the coronavirus cancelled the annual green-dyeing of the Chicago River - American political paddywackery is still fertile ground for American audiences, catering to illusions about ‘a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.’

For the rest of us, the porter-beer-and-Noraid sentimentality is dangerous. I remember (anyone got the videoclip?) Gerry Adams on Gay Byrne’s Late Late Show in Dublin on RTÉ in 1994, where an audience member called Adams a ‘murderer’ and received a lethally restrained lecture from him on politeness; marginally a better reaction, I suppose, than GA telling Peter Hitchens he should be ‘decommissioned’ . Still, as long as the bangs are far away from New York and Oklahoma, Washington is happy to light the fuses.

For what, though? 1997 excluded the moderates to get a deal like that between Chicago gangster fiefdoms. The successors of the ‘Chuckle Brothers’ are unlikely to throw it all up for the sake of cross-border management that is much more technically doable now than when Ireland and the UK entered the EU simultaneously in 1973 to circumvent the practical difficulties.

Is it just to save money on the phone bill? Supposedly, Henry Kissinger asked (not so, according to the FT ) ‘Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?’; the answer in 2009 was Cathy ‘gosh’ Ashton. Now, the US Secretary of State will have to replace the handset and redial +44-(0)71… for a second discussion. How inconvenient.

The Daily Express puts it succinctly: ‘Butt out, Pelosi!’ and ‘Stay out of it, Joe!’ .

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

My post now on 'The Conservative Woman' - "EU Withdrawal Agreement? It's a gas!"

Saturday's post on the UK's revison of the Northern Ireland protocol has been republished today on The Conservative Woman, only omitting my sideswipe at Nancy Pelosi and the US's selective approach to international law and peace*. Click the link to see the usual catfights in the comments:

*Which the Daily Express has done anyway, as I found out when I Googled 'Nancy Pelosi Noraid':

And I have to put this up: George Galloway melting Senator Norm Coleman at the hearings of the U.S Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations relating to the Oil-for-Food Program. I know Galloway is a 'colourful' character but in this performance (May 2005) he is Cicero reborn. Magnificent. We need more such orators to check the corrupt power-seekers.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The 2016 Referendum was NOT 'advisory' - my letter to The Spectator

Sent today, in response to last week's letter from Tim Ambler at the Adam Smith Institute:


Notwithstanding post facto revisionism from some elements of the political and legal establishment, I beg to differ with Tim Ambler ('Referendum Risk', Letters, 12 September) when he says 'the Brexit referendum was advisory.'

I accept that it may have been conceived as such at the beginning of the campaign, but its nature changed when politicians of all stripes assured the voters orally that they would consider the result as final, and then the Government itself did so in writing, under its own imprimatur*: 'This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.' As part of what was effectively a contract between the Government and the people, that clarifying explanation formed part of the agreement and turned the vote into a binding plebiscite.

I leave aside consideration of whether we were ever legally part of a European Union into which we were led by falsehoods, subterfuge and legal ambiguities; but this decision was open and clear, and must stand.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: A Load Of Rubbish, by Wiggia

I mentioned in an earlier piece how despite all that was going on the climate fraud has continued to be promoted, this time on the back of the Coronavirus; it has become a tidal wave of statements, articles, tweets etc. from the ‘woke’ climate activists and all those celebrities that believe they know what is good for the rest of us.

We also have had the first results of the ‘Citizens' Assembly’ - 108 people from all walks of life selected to give their insight into how we should tackle climate change. It was said when they set this assembly up that it would represent us and the results prove it is just a seal of approval for what the ‘experts’ wanted in the first plac:, the only people who put themselves forward were the woke.

It comes in various forms, either collective - 'the world has to change', the clarion call of the Greens and XR (the latter have another agenda, though) - or individual initiatives, some well meaning, some naive and some downright stupid.

Yet all will agree with one another regardless of political undercurrents because it is the right thing to do and from this they never deviate in their pronouncements as to the way forward.

I have never disagreed with the obvious intentions about cleaning up the planet and our own back yard, that should be a given in anyone's book, but the zeal in which even our eating habits for example are attacked takes for me away any suggestion I could ever get behind any of the movements that wish to change our lifestyles simply because ‘they’ believe we should all follow their diktat.

I came across this little video the other day in which there is nothing said that is not true or you could sanely disagree with….

When you look around these days you conclude that anyone who claims they wish to save the planet should really get on with cleaning up our own back yard.

I remember when I first started to venture abroad in the mid-Sixties finding places on continental Europe that resembled rubbish tips by the roadside and not believing what I saw (especially in Italy where local mafia ran rubbish collecting and had turned it into an art form in moving people's waste to beauty spots where it became, err people's waste) and thinking, 'thank God we are not like that.'

But times change and as the video describes other factors have come into play, not the least immigration and different cultures who don’t see rubbish as any sort as a problem and I include in those groups ‘travellers’ who do as they like where they like, something that has never ever been stamped on despite words being uttered in Parliament.

In this case at least there was a sense of justified retribution, a rare event.

I recall visiting my old mum a few years ago in north London. Because of traffic problems I came in  to town via Cricklewood, never an inspiring area but typical suburbia. I had not been to that part for several years before that but the change was not one anyone would want: every house it seemed had piles of plastic rubbish bags outside, many split open and the contents strewn across the walk way. Whole streets were like this. Why, I asked myself, and the answer was there before me: the whole area was now like somewhere in the Third World - no sense of communal responsibility.

I originally lived in Essex not far from the notorious - or is it infamous? - Dale Farm camp site, near enough to see and hear what went on but fortunately not near enough to be affected. I also lived near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk where the travelling ‘community' twice trashed the purpose built site provided for them and then complained of not enough official sites and that is why they camped where they did!

Going briefly off topic I see that an advert had been placed in the local paper advertising static caravans at Dale Farm for rent; you really couldn’t make it up.

That is in the past but they as a group like the other groups or cultures have grown since then by significant amounts. The area round where I live now has ongoing battles with illegal camp sites or  invasions of private property, yet they never result in criminal charges, for reasons we have all become inured to.

A recent trip down the nearby A47 a couple of days ago saw at one end of a field caravans that had not for the first time come straight off the dual carriageway through an entrance for tractors and harvesters and just set up camp as they do; but at the other end by pure coincidence there was an enormous pile of waste including white goods and everything else that must have been 12 feet high and forty feet long.

It is common knowledge that a mile of the same stretch of road is regularly strewn with rubbish, some in bags, some loose, and it is always on a Monday morning that you see it. This is not crisp packets thrown out of a car, it is wholesale dumping of rubbish and yet nobody has ever been caught, even on this major A road.

The rate of prosecutions is very low nationwide, around 0.3% against the number of reported incidents of fly tipping, so it is still easy money for those involved, and those who don’t care have little need to worry about getting caught, another of those laws that are sensible on paper but almost impossible to enforce.

Various reasons are put up for the rise in dumping rubbish. Council tip charges are one, and it is a valid point for many of the councils most affected by this blight are those that have the highest charges; the same councils will spend a lot more than the lost charges clearing up the illegal waste, but fail to see the connection.

My own council were very good in taking rubbish from our homes. Anything that could go in a bin was accepted and very reasonable token charges were made for items left at the gate to be picked up, things that many people would find impossible to get to the recycling centre because of the size; but that changed, and there are queues at the tip now and you have to book a slot in advance, are only allowed a certain amount of items and cannot return within two weeks. In a society where immediacy is the norm that is a very short-sighted approach to the problem, but it is normal for councils now in the majority of areas they run.

Though mine is nowhere near the worst of councils, ‘austerity’ means they now charge more, meaning people can’t be bothered and dump, so the cycle of fly-tipping, clearing-up and recycling continues and increases, for which we pay through our taxes.

The dumping of commercial waste is a whole different ball game, yet you can see by the prosecution figures above they are no more likely to get caught than the casual disposer of waste.

None of the above excuses the appalling amount of general waste just left on the pavement, thrown out of car windows or left on footpaths and country lanes. The recent return to normality showed we really had returned with this example of the state of the beach at Brighton, ironically the home of the Greens, when the crowds went home:

Why anyone would want to stay on a beach like that is beyond me. Rightly, much is made of the amount of plastic dumped, much of which sadly gets washed into the sea, a worldwide problem. I suppose the only difference from years ago is that it was broken bottles then, not plastic, that would slice through your foot if you trod on one hidden in the sand, so one small advantage today.

So in reality it is still human beings who are the problem. We have become lazy and the don’t care attitude to so many things today manifests itself in the rubbish that is discarded. There used to be a Keep Britain Tidy campaign in an effort to make us dispose of rubbish respectfully; was it a success? It seems not.

An example of the sheer laziness now prevalent was after the recent storm. I had a fence panel partially blow out on a side of my property that has a footpath alongside. We have a gate onto the footpath and I went out to do the repair. I am not going to exaggerate and claim I was knee deep in detritus but there were about ten items discarded in that stretch from the gate to where the the fence problem was: crisp packets, coffee cups, plastic tops and sweet wrappers. Why? There is a rubbish bin at the entrance to the footpath twenty feet away that is regularly emptied.

Even attempts to cut back on plastic bags usage, by selling 'bags for life', has foundered as anyone spending a weekly shop of say £100 soon got used to an extra 10p and treated bags for life in the same way as the free ones. Again in the past I remember being sent to the grocer's with a wicker carrier and all the veg and fruit going into the same bag; no one died!

Same with wine carriers, now abandoned as no one ever used them more than once - did they ever think anyone would. The only good thing some supermarkets have done in that area is let you use the empty wine boxes, which at least means they have been used twice.

We live in a throw away society. Much of this problem is blamed on rampant consumerism and our contempt for the landscape etc. Not really; that may be a small part for sure, but the major issue is we have just become a nation of people who to large extent don’t give a monkey's about throwing rubbish anywhere, that is the real problem.

As with so many issues today, apathy wins.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

EU Withdrawal Agreement? It's a gas!

I've read that you can't reason someone out of a position that reason didn't get them into; but I submit that at least you can annoy the heck out of them with your own sweet reasonableness.

So: the British proposal to renege on that part of the Withdrawal Agreement that applies to Northern Ireland has galvanised the complacent EU negotiators, not to mention the treacherous element among Tory grandees; rather like the gas that finally forced the Alien from his hiding-place in Sigourney Weaver's escape capsule.

There's spluttering about international law and the implications for the Good Friday Peace Agreement, and Nancy Pelosi is bloviating about endangering a future US-UK trade agreement. I wish that America had been similarly concerned about its threats to peace in the Middle East, its waging of aggressive wars that should have resulted in trials at The Hague, and the destabilising of the Arab Street that has pushed millions of refugees in Europe's direction. So much for international law. However, I note that President Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; this must bring him into additional conflict with the Bomb Party that thinks it has a divine right to rule America in its own interest.

I would also note that the proposed WA alteration is not to an existing state of affairs, but to one that was going to apply after the Withdrawal Agreement was finalised. As a groundling, it seems to me that the EU used Northern Ireland to create as much inconvenience as possible and that modern technology is perfectly capable of sorting out customs and excise issues without the need for Checkpoint Charlie.

Further, to the extent that the agreement hastily and foolishly entered into by our bluff, attention-limited PM qualifies our complete break with the power of the European Union, I would argue that it is ultra vires in the context of the people's decision - the binding plebiscite - of 2016. Parliament does not have the competence to surrender our country's sovereignty, as such eminent people as Lord Justice Laws and the late Tony Benn MP have observed.

M. Barnier has spent much of the last four years pushing at an open door, so it is no surprise that his negotiating muscles have atrophied; but he must now wake up to the reality of a Government that, if it does not mean what it says, may soon fall at the foot of the Northern Red Wall that to the surprise of the commentariat temporarily loaned the Conservatives a crucial margin of political legitimation.

Finally, for those who babble about Little England (not knowing the original meaning of that term), a medicinal spoonful of fact to break their delirium: I give below a list of sovereign countries that are not EU member states and have smaller populations than ours. Is it proposed that some competing empires should gobble up all of them?

Rank           Country                                                             Population
                      United Kingdom                                           66,796,807
1                    Thailand                                                           66,550,992
2                    South Africa                                                   59,622,350
3                    Tanzania                                                          57,637,628
4                    Myanmar                                                        54,817,919
5                    South Korea                                                   51,780,579
6                    Colombia                                                         50,372,424
7                    Kenya                                                               47,564,296
8                    Argentina                                                        45,376,763
9                    Algeria                                                              43,900,000
10                  Sudan                                                               42,817,375
11                  Ukraine                                                            41,762,138
12                  Uganda                                                            41,583,600
13                  Iraq                                                                    40,150,200
14                  Canada                                                             38,167,415
15                  Morocco                                                          36,011,955
16                  Uzbekistan                                                     34,403,054
17                  Saudi Arabia                                                   34,218,169
18                  Afghanistan                                                    32,890,171
19                  Malaysia                                                          32,683,570
20                  Peru                                                                  32,625,948
21                  Angola                                                              31,127,674
22                  Ghana                                                               30,955,202
23                  Mozambique                                                 30,066,648
24                  Nepal                                                                29,996,478
25                  Yemen                                                              29,825,968
26                  Venezuela                                                      28,435,943
27                  Ivory Coast                                                      26,453,542
28                  Madagascar                                                    26,251,309
29                  Australia                                                          25,661,448
30                  North Korea                                                   25,550,000
31                  Cameroon                                                       24,348,251
32                  Niger                                                                 23,196,002
33                  Sri Lanka                                                          21,803,000
34                  Burkina Faso                                                  21,510,181
35                  Mali                                                                   20,250,833
36                  Chile                                                                  19,458,310
37                  Malawi                                                             19,129,952
38                  Kazakhstan                                                     18,773,648
39                  Zambia                                                             17,885,422
40                  Ecuador                                                            17,565,560
41                  Syria                                                                  17,500,657
42                  Guatemala                                                      16,858,333
43                  Senegal                                                            16,705,608
44                  Chad                                                                  16,244,513
45                  Somalia                                                            15,893,219
46                  Zimbabwe                                                       15,473,818
47                  Cambodia                                                        15,288,489
48                  South Sudan                                                  13,249,924
49                  Rwanda                                                            12,663,116
50                  Guinea                                                             12,559,623
51                  Benin                                                                12,114,193
52                  Haiti                                                                   11,743,017
53                  Tunisia                                                              11,708,370
54                  Bolivia                                                               11,633,371
55                  Burundi                                                            11,215,578
56                  Cuba                                                                  11,193,470
57                  Jordan                                                              10,765,960
58                  Dominican Republic                                    10,448,499
59                  Azerbaijan                                                      10,095,900
60                  United Arab Emirates                                 9,890,400
61                  Belarus                                                             9,408,400
62                  Tajikistan                                                         9,313,800
63                  Honduras                                                        9,304,380
64                  Israel                                                                 9,249,225
65                  Papua New Guinea                                     8,935,000
66                  Switzerland                                                    8,619,259
67                  Sierra Leone                                                   8,100,318
68                  Togo                                                                  7,706,000
69                  Paraguay                                                         7,252,672
70                  Laos                                                                   7,231,210
71                  Serbia                                                               6,926,705
72                  Libya                                                                  6,871,287
73                  Lebanon                                                          6,825,442
74                  El Salvador                                                      6,765,753
75                  Kyrgyzstan                                                      6,578,400
76                  Nicaragua                                                        6,527,691
77                  Turkmenistan                                                6,031,187
78                  Singapore                                                        5,703,600
79                  Central African Republic                            5,633,412
80                  Congo                                                               5,518,092
81                  Norway                                                            5,374,807
82                  Costa Rica                                                        5,111,238
83                  Palestine                                                         5,101,152
84                  New Zealand                                                  5,030,847
85                  Liberia                                                               4,568,298
86                  Oman                                                                4,527,934
87                  Kuwait                                                              4,464,521
88                  Panama                                                            4,278,500
89                  Mauritania                                                      4,173,077
90                  Georgia                                                            3,716,858
91                  Eritrea                                                               3,546,000
92                  Uruguay                                                           3,530,912
93                  Mongolia                                                         3,336,978
94                  Bosnia and Herzegovina                            3,281,000
95                  Armenia                                                           2,963,000
96                  Albania                                                             2,845,955
97                  Qatar                                                                 2,749,215
98                  Jamaica                                                            2,726,667
99                  Moldova[s]                                                     2,640,438
100               Namibia                                                           2,504,498
101               Gambia                                                            2,417,000
102               Botswana                                                        2,374,698
103               Gabon                                                              2,226,000
104               North Macedonia                                        2,076,255
105               Lesotho                                                            2,007,201
106               Guinea-Bissau                                               1,624,945
107               Bahrain                                                             1,592,000
108               Equatorial Guinea                                        1,454,789
109               Trinidad and Tobago                                   1,363,985
110               East Timor                                                       1,299,412
111               Mauritius                                                         1,265,475
112               Djibouti                                                            1,108,567
113               Eswatini                                                           1,093,238
114               Fiji                                                                      889,327
115               Guyana                                                            787,000
116               Comoros                                                          758,316
117               Bhutan                                                             748,931
118               Solomon Islands                                           694,619
119               Montenegro                                                  621,873
120               Suriname                                                         587,000
121               Cape Verde                                                    556,857
122               Brunei                                                               459,500
123               Belize                                                                419,199
124               Bahamas                                                          389,410
125               Maldives                                                          383,135
126               Iceland                                                             366,700
127               Vanuatu                                                           304,500
128               Barbados                                                         287,025
129               São Tomé and Príncipe                              210,240
130               Samoa                                                              202,506
131               Saint Lucia                                                       178,696
132               Kiribati                                                              120,100
133               Grenada                                                          112,003
134               Saint Vincent and the Grenadines        110,696
135               F.S. Micronesia                                             104,650
136               Tonga                                                                100,651
137               Seychelles                                                       98,055
138               Antigua and Barbuda                                  97,895
139               Andorra                                                           77,543
140               Dominica                                                         71,808
141               Marshall Islands                                           55,500
142               Saint Kitts and Nevis                                   52,823
143               Liechtenstein                                                 38,749
144               Monaco                                                           38,100
145               San Marino                                                     33,607
146               Palau                                                                 17,900
147               Nauru                                                               11,000
148               Tuvalu                                                               10,200
149               Vatican City                                                    825