Friday, January 29, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Sant Andreu Jazz Band, by JD

As well as an artist in his own right, the superb Spanish multi-instrumentalist Joan Chamorro, is the founder and director of the incredible Sant Andreu Jazz Band, a Jazz youth band based in Barcelona. But this is no ordinary youth band. The band have toured the world, playing festivals and events to packed out houses, recorded many albums and given birth to some stars, such as Andrea Motis. Having dedicated himself to the band for the past 14 years, it is very clear that the magic behind the band is Joan. The work he does is exciting, inspirational, innovative and he is exactly what the world needs right now.

JC describes his 'mission' in life as follows -

"The Sant Andreu jazz band started at a municipal music school in 2006. In 2012 the project grew a lot and we had to leave the School. Since that year, we are now a totally independent project. We do not receive any kind of help and the musicians who are members of the project (more than 60 young people between the ages of 6 and 22 have already passed) do not pay anything for the classes, or for the recordings, trips or anything. We can continue with everything we do because we have concerts that allow us to continue doing what we do (new arrangements, inviting international musicians, recordings, videos, my small salary, etc etc.)

"My passion is music and life in general. I like to believe that things can be done differently, with enthusiasm and with a lot of love. Of course, with a lot of work and dedication. Seeing how young boys and girls fall in love with this music and dedicate their time to it, achieving the result they achieve, it fills me with happiness and gives me the energy to continue working tirelessly on it."

Monday, January 25, 2021


 Burns Night tonight - but any suppers will be clandestine affairs! However we can enjoy a selection of his songs as compensation accompanied by a wee dram of course.

As you can see from the list here he wrote a lot of songs!

(Just a note about the song "My heart's in the highlands" The poem is included in English language curriculum in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus hence all the comments in Russian to that particular video.)

Sunday, January 24, 2021


Vaccine salvation...

I wasn’t going to do a post for a while as we are embroiled in moving house or maybe moving house soon and there is a mega post in the not too distant future about the farce, and often a very expensive one, that constitutes the act of moving.

No, this about getting a vaccine jab. Since we are defined as extremely vulnerable, whatever that means these days, we got the call that we were being given a slot to receive our first jab, and were given times of 3.45 and 3.50 respectively, I naturally assumed it was to be like the normal flu jab, in and out at the chosen time in five minutes; how wrong I was.

No comment from me on the efficacy of the vaccine or any long term effects or whether we should be taking it at all; that bit has been done to death on social media blogs; even the MSM have had a small bite at it. The only reason I went along was because my wife wanted it and I have to drive her to the venue - difficult to just leave her there - and as it turned out, just as well.

When I received the phone call with our appointment I naturally assumed it was to be given at our large two-storey medical centre. As it has been and still is grossly underused it seemed the ideal place, but no, the authorities in their wisdom have decided we will have regional ‘hubs’. Buzz words abound since the pandemic arrived and are used in an attempt to confuse and amaze us at every opportunity, after all this time I have no idea what a ‘support bubble’ is and frankly don’t care, the whole thing has become rather amateurish, plain English has been sidelined in favour of woke phrases.

Anyway, the hub is not far from us and is itself another medical centre which adjoins a supermarket car park used by both and I assume is the reason for the choice.

On arrival we find a space and wander towards the medical centre or 'surgery' in old-speak, only to see an enormous queue stretching out from the entrance past the island flower beds, round the same and up to the walls of the supermarket. This can’t be right, I say, we have a dedicated slot and will never get in at that time despite being ten minutes early.

Alas dear reader the queue was indeed full of people with dedicated slots; it appears that they only give you a time to spread arrivals. Still it did appear to be moving and it was a lovely sunny winter's afternoon.

The queue of course was full of elderly people up to the age of eighty including my good self who is nudging in that direction far too quickly. Some were in wheelchairs, walking sticks were on parade and chairs, an ominous sign, were spread out along the queue line for those with ‘problems’.

It took over an hour in rapidly falling temperatures to reach the door, and even once inside the queue continued to snake round the entrance foyer until eventually the sliding door opened and you were given a ticket and ushered in to register, given a sheet of paper printed with yes/no questions on, 'have you recently been or are you susceptible to' etc. And then told to sit sit in a chair until called to one of the half a dozen desks to be assessed and signed off for the jab.

By now those outside were in the dark and plunging temperatures. What would have happened if it was pouring with rain or snowing as well, as it has been, I have no idea and nor do the people who think this is a good way to achieve their aim I suspect, a classic British fudge. No, it isn’t easy but during that shuffling hour outside, taking advantage of the scattered chairs because standing still is about the worst thing I can do with my arthritic hips, I had plenty of time to think of several ways this process could have been speeded up and improved; but who am I to complain, it’s free! And we are stoic and British.

The queue by the way was entirely white and if it had been viewed by the authorities I am sure they would have bussed in some BAME people to make it more representative and diverse and they could have sent them to the front of the queue to show grateful and humble we are as a nation.

We got talking to a lone lady in front of us who was a sharp as a tack. She was now on her own having lost her husband a couple of years back and has been suffering from cataracts; as is the norm now they won't even refer you until you are nearly blind and she was referred earlier this year. Still waiting, she is going private in a couple of weeks as the sight is so bad. What a nation, that can dump all ailments and diseases, many fatal if not treated, in favour of a flu virus. Something is very wrong indeed whereby that can be deemed acceptable in order to save the NHS, the same NHS that is in crisis every single winter.

Back inside we are called to the screening station which has a large poster of a hypodermic above the desk just to let you know why you are here, in case by that time hyperthermia had set in and you really didn’t care any more.

We passed scrutiny and a female doctor came read the paperwork and signed it releasing us for the next phase.

All the while as we shifted along some poor sod had to wipe the chairs with medicated wipes after we got up and moved. This applied to every person there and every time someone got up and was replaced; someone in the wipes manufacturing industry is making a fortune.

The lady doctor in charge of signing everyone off was working her backside off. She was literally running this arrival area alone. As I stood up to go to the jab area my bad hip almost gave way and she supported me as it looked like I was going to fall over; it was not that bad but something struck me as we spoke: she was the only person in the whole place not wearing a mask!

She was tireless and every now and then would go outside to the queue to see if any one needed to brought inside; several did.

The mask-wearing was interesting. In the outside queue I didn’t wear a mask but everyone else did, apart from one other rebel I spied some way back; people, especially the elderly. have been scared stiff by this incapable government and it increasingly shows.

Onto another wait area with numbers on seats. You are given a seat, eventually called and the seat is wiped again for the next recipient. Jab at last! Not quite: another small queue on a seat just wiped outside the jab area.

At last we were called in. Another young lady doctor received us, she was a rare thing in this day and age, ‘old school’, a sense of humour and a work ethic were evident. I asked out of curiosity why our medical centre was not being used to spread the load; she said the decision for regional hubs had come from above and anyway the doctors at our place would not want to interrupt their coffee break to help - 'refreshingly candid', I filed that under.

We replaced our coats and outside we had to wait for fifteen minutes in case of any reaction. Yes, you guessed it, more seat wiping before and after we left.

Making our way out into the dark you could just make out the queue in the glow of a couple of small street lights: it was as long as when we arrived. When we got back in the car the screen had frozen and the temperature gauge showed just over zero; by the time we got home it was minus one. That queue was in danger of giving people frost bite, utterly ridiculous - and we have to return for a second jab in twelve weeks.

Reaction to the jab: a bit woosy when I got home for about half an hour and a non stop streaming nose this morning. Was it all worthwhile? Not a clue.

One last thing about the regional hu:, my wife spoke to a lady who had come from a seaside town forty miles away for her jab, despite there being two regional hospitals nearby. Others had obviously travelled a distance also, as two mini buses drew up and disgorged their elderly passengers to join the long snake; they had addresses from far out villages. I would imagine some would find the journey a strain never mind a shuffling queue taking an hour to reach the door in the freezing temperatures and a total of two hours before leaving.

I am pretty sure Mr Hancock or his advisors will not be required to wait for their jabs under such circumstances so why should he think it is OK for the elderly to endure it? There is absolutely no sound reason our underused GP surgeries could not help out and spread the vaccination process; a bit more thought about the logistics is all that is required. Yet instead of that there is talk of bringing pharmacies into the process; now, since the pharmacist as it stands in this mad world is the only one regulated to give jabs. what will happen to all the medication dished out by the same pharmacist? The phrase 'run by idiots' comes to mind.

Not sure if they are jabbing today, but it is freezing and has been snowing, can’t think of a better way to bump off some more elderly people - perhaps that is the plan? They have been doing quite well in that area up to now; a final push!

The answer to the mystery of the single hub is that they are using the Pfizer vaccine. Because of the abnormal low temperatures it has to be stored at, this venue was decided on as the most suitable (?) Hence the people coming from far and wide for a jab.

As the Pfizer vaccine costs three times the AstraZeneca one and the latter can be used and stored normally, thereby lending itself to be used in many more locations, perhaps further purchases of the Pfizer one should be stopped; we could always use up the Pfizer one on politicians!

Friday, January 22, 2021

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Debate: Does inequality matter? - by Sackerson and Paddington


Today sees the inauguration of the 46th President of the US, Joe Biden. Bien-pensant media crapheads are rejoicing: a piece by Tom Leonard and Daniel Bates in the print edition of todays' Daily Mail begins 'Donald Trump will leave office today as officially the worst US President in history.' Already nonsense in the first sentence: there is no such official ranking. Elsewhere, in the online edition, Leonard is much more nuanced

The satirical Private Eye magazine's cover this week shows a still from the post-apocalyptic sci-fi film Planet Of The Apes, the Statue of Liberty mostly submerged in sand and speech-bubbling 'You can take over now, Mr Biden.' 

Oh, how we laughed. They know so much better, our media mavens and Press pundits.

As a foreign observer with no dog in the fight, it seems to me that the last four years have been little better than a bullfight, Trump being ragged by the Democrats but also very selectively supported by the Republicans that one would expect to be on his side. Some of the things Trump tried to get done, such as the Wall, couldn't be completed even though in 2016 he had Party majorities in both House and Senate; other things, especially tax cuts for the rich, have been Republican themes for decades.

The unpleasant atmosphere at the end of Trump's term in office seems to me the natural result of a prolonged bipartisan campaign to make America unworkable, at least as far as the long-term interests of the majority are concerned. British politics often echoes the American and the professional representatives on both sides, Left and Right, have appeared content to preside over the hollowing of the economy and the consequent.destabilisation of society. Perhaps over there, as here, they really believe that the system cannot be broken, no matter how much they jump up and down on the bed.

Trump's hick-brash, unapologetic personality has been a gift to his enemies and frenemies; focusing on the man ('Isn't he awful?') is a great way to bury what is really going on, and has been going on for a generation or two. The postwar crossparty consensus has broken down, as income inequality has soared back to pre-Wall Street Crash levels:


The Democrat Party is, of course, definitively good - or is it? Some of the voters they have taken for granted have started to see things differently: for example poc's like Professor Thomas Sowell, or Candace Owens (initially anti-Trump) whose recent book 'Blackout' is a call for black people to detach themselves from the Democrats. There is a perception on both sides of the Atlantic that just as the Right is cold and mercenary, the official Left is happy to buy its own supporters with modest financial and service benefits without ever letting them free of their dependency.

Given those options, why else would so many people have voted in 2016 for a non-professional like Donald Trump? Long before Trump started to run, acerbic entertainer George Carlin gave us a clue. Back in 2005 he said the political system gave only the illusion of choice, and the audience's emphatic reactions to the last part of this clip must give us some idea of the groundswell of angry disillusion that was developing, even before the Global Financial Crisis of 2008/9:

For a while, I suppose, the media will support Biden, just as they puppy-followed Blair in 1997, all the way to Downing Street and the fake People's Celebration in the gated area outside Number Ten.

I fear that the four-year-long (and continuing) Two Minutes' Hate groupthink around Trump will blind the good-hearted, right-thinking commentariat to Biden's flaws and errors for some time yet, just as we move into a very dangerous phase in international relations and the world's fracturing economic system.

But let's start by tearing our eyes away from the great orange-haired narcissist and refocusing on the kind of people who now infest the establishment Republican Party. Paddington gives below a few scraps to indicate their Scrooge-like avarice and callous mean-heartedness.



Mitch McConnell, then the Senate Majority leader, blocked a $2000 payment to Americans of average income during the COVID pandemic because he was “worried that someone might get the check who doesn't need it”. Meanwhile, the 2017 tax bill which he helped ram through gave a $1.3 billion tax break to the Koch family, who are worth $113 billion.

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law, was put in charge of the national distribution of PPE and other supplies. He reportedly decided that those supplies shouldn't go to the big cities, since most of the victims would be poor Democrats. When Democratic governors secured those supplies themselves at great cost, mysterious government agents often swooped in and seized them. Later reports indicate that many were then sold abroad.

Mitch McConnell also blocked support for the falling tax revenues that states and cities are experiencing, in the hope that this would cause all of the public pension systems to fail, especially in Democratic states.

Social Security is funded through a separate income tax, even though the revenues are thrown into the same pool. Up until 2018, the system brought in more money than it spent, every year. A simple increase in the ceiling of income subject to the tax, from $125,000 to $250,000 would keep it solvent for decades after the anticipated shortfall in around 2030. A couple of years ago, Mitch McConnell declared that Social Security was the cause of the huge deficits, and the Senate would look into cutting it.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner refused to allow members of their Secret Service detail to use any of the 6 bathrooms in their house, requiring the government to pay $3,000 per month to rent a local house so that the agents could take a shit.

Governor Walker of Wisconsin, based on his personal record of becoming a rich businessman without a college degree, declared that education was useless. He slashed funding for all education, including the state's previously outstanding university system. He also made other changes, such as not requiring college degrees for substitute teachers, and not requiring any education certification for regular teachers.

In Virginia in 2018, faced with an incoming Democratic governor, the Republican legislature stripped the governor of most of the power of the office.


'The notion of "useless eaters" must be implemented within the United States' current social values and political system. Under the logic of neoliberalism (in which human worth is reduced to a person's value in terms of economic activity), American conservatives deems the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, people on Social Security, those who need help from programs such as food stamps and ultimately anyone who is not "economically self-sufficient," that is rich, to be expendable.'


For further discussion: 

Does the fact that some people are extremely rich, matter?
What is to become of the poorer element?
Can the welfare systems of the West survive a prolonged global depression?

Sunday, January 17, 2021

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Sounds Incorporated (motorcycle roars), by Wiggia

Backing group to the stars of the time.

Nothing to do with the sixties rock band above of the same name, this is about the ‘Golden Age’ of racing motorcycles which ended with the end of that era.

Just before I  married I dragged the future wife to Brands Hatch on an early October day in 1967 for the Race of the South, a race meeting that was to be the swan song for so many of the motorcycles racing there that day as a universal agreement had been agreed with all the major manufacturers and the governing body to cut costs and simplify racing motorcycles from that year on.

For many of those manufacturers there was a break until ‘69 when the new rules limiting number of cylinders, gears etc. came into force, although you could under certain circumstances have more cylinders - restrictions or penalties in the premier class made that almost impossible.

The reason the FIM gave for those restrictions was a gulf between motorcycles raced and those used on the road. That was disingenuous, it was really because the Japanese had totally obliterated their European competition and the changes were an attempt to redress the balance.

Racing motorcycles had always been prototypes in the world championships, such amazing machines such as the earlier Moto Guzzi V8 gave lie to what the FIM said as the reason for change.

In 1966 Honda won every single world championship class and a total of 138 wins in all classes since starting in 1960.

It had been an incredible period, all the manufacturers had been in a non stop race to develop ever more powerful and exotic machines in an attempt to stay on top of the world championships.

Most were Japanese and most, unlike today, entered works machines in all or several of the championship classes, 50cc, 125cc, 250cc 350cc and the premier class 500cc. The R&D departmens required to develop those machines year in year out were enormous, Honda at one time employed I believe 10,000 people in their R&D department, many in the race division.

I mention Honda because they stuck to four stroke engines even when the two strokes were the obvious route to go down, and later dominated all classes of motorcycle racing, but their philosophy was that at that point they didn’t make any two stroke motorcycles and that meant there was no connection with their road bikes with two stroke engineering; they did later relent when they had no choice.

But it resulted in some of the most sophisticated engines being produced in their efforts to keep the two strokes at bay.

The two strokes themselves were some of the most complicated engines ever produced, for what is a simpler layout. Much was copied from the pioneering work of MZ in East Germany and indeed their top rider and development engineer Ernst Degner defected to Japan in the middle of a race in Finland; such was his input that the Japanese soon dominated with their versions of that two stroke design ‘stolen‘ from the Soviet block.

The 50cc class was in its early days somewhat derided, despite many riders starting off in the class. The late Bill Ivy, future 250cc world champion, started on one he took in a sidecar to race meetings. When it became a world championship class things began to change rapidly. The first to really stretch what was considered a kiddy class for motorcycles was the German firm Kriedler who made a range of very successful mopeds. Their race bikes were something else, as with all two strokes revs were important as a ratio to power and as the power went up the rev band diminished requiring ever more gears to keep the engines in that optimum rev range.

The final iteration of the early Kriedlers had a four speed gearbox with a hand-controlled three speed overdrive=twelve gears; but they were handicapped by being based on road bike engines, whereas the Japanese were not - the Hondas, still four strokes were twin cylinders and the Suzuki was a three cylinder revving to 20,000rpm with a 14 speed gearbox; the Honda with nine speed gearbox revved to 22,500rpm.

The Suzuki sadly never raced as the regulation changes meant the factory could not see the point in just one season with it.

This photograph of the Suzuki gearbox innards show how complicated they became. The little Honda even had bicycle brakes fitted to save weight; they tried the same on a 125cc race bike but the rims got so hot the tyres started to melt.

The 125s and 250s were where things started to get interesting. In the case of the two strokes from Yamaha and Suzuki they were to a degree mirror images of each other apart from the engine size and the framework to care for the extra power of the 250s.

It is difficult to find many videos of these bikes and most are for petrol heads, but here we have the 125cc and 250cc V4 Yamahas that were ridden to world titles by Phil Read and Bill Ivy and you get a flavour of that screaming sound for a moment at least. Phil Read is actually on the 250. these bikes if I remember rightly have nine speed gearboxes and I remember them well at Brands that October day.

During this early period of the 1960s there was an intruder in the GP ranks. Dr Joe Ehrlich came from his native Austria and was employed at Queens University Belfast. He developed under the name EMC a racing two stroke based loosely with his own modifications on the East German MZ, and this rare photo of it without fairing shows how these two strokes were brothers under the skin so to speak and this was an early version of what the Japanese took a lot further. The whole science of expansion chamber exhausts and disc valve carburettor can be spotted here.

De Havilland had a hand in the building of the EMC.

At the start it lacked a top flight rider for the GPs though it still fared well against the full works outfits, but in ‘62 Mike Hailwood rode to fifth place in the 125cc championship.

The two stroke development continued apace and by ‘67 this Suzuki was typical of the progress made, but it was the last throw of the dice before the FIM banned the prototypes in favour of twin cylinders and six gear maximum machines.

Sadly there is not a single video I could find with the bike being raced.

As an aside, there is much made about who is the GOAT, the greatest of all time in many sports especially motor sports. It is impossible to ever say x was best but Hailwood would be my choice, simply because he would ride anything anywhere: two stroke, four stroke, 125 – 500cc, all at the same meeting and sometimes all different makes on circuits that today would all be banned on grounds of safety. I had a picture of him some time back riding in the wet on ‘cobbles during the Czech GP, not something we will ever see again for obvious reasons but that does not diminish a rider who took on everything; as with all these things it was a different age.

Back to the bikes. Honda and their quest to stay on top of the emerging two strokes produced some of the most iconic racing motorcycles of all time, those multi cylinder machines transformed GP racing at the time and the sound of them is still music to those aficionados of the sport that can remember those days.

There early entries into racing were twin cylinder affairs, but it is the fours and more where it got interesting and noisy, the push for ever more power resulted in more cylinders and higher revs and the five cylinder 125cc was the final say of the four stroke in that class, ridden by Luigi Taveri a lightweight specialist, it was a wonder of Japanese design, details of it are here…..

It won the ‘66 world title and passed into history as the last of the four stroke title winners in that class.

There are no videos of this machine actually racing that I could find, in fact this era has little to dig up regarding all of these amazing machines, but just for the sound there is this at Goodwood in 2002, a rare airing of a very expensive motorcycle.

And this even earlier 1961  TT film shows the then Honda twins dominating, but includes briefly the MZ and EMC - even the early twins had a sound of their own.

And then briefly at the end the start of the multi cylinder era with the 250cc Honda fours in 1962.

The machine that nearly everyone calls the finest racing motorcycle of all time was the six cylinder 250cc Honda. It first appeared in ‘65 at the end of the season to combat the Yamaha four cylinder disc valve two strokes ridden by Phil Read and Bill Ivy; the following year (1966) it won every race in the 250cc class with Mike Hailwood on board.

There was also a 300cc version that Hailwood rode in the 350cc class, winning all but one championship race in the 350cc class in ‘67. This machine was also Hailwood’s favourite bike, and he rode it to victory on that October day at Brands Hatch beating everything including Agostini on the lovely three cylinder 500cc MV Augusta.

There are virtually no racing videos that convey the sound of the six cylinder Honda but this short clip gives you a fair idea about what was described as the loudest racing motorcycle ever, but what a sound and what a magnificent machine it was!

The Japanese did not totally have the field to themselves regarding iconic sounds. The late fifties had the amazing Moto Guzzi V8. Guzzi, then in their prime, had machines ranging from single cylinder to the V8 racing at the same time, the theory being that it was horses for courses and the single suited some more than the V8 which was still in experimental days.

The commentary in this short clip gives the history of the V8 and how it was so far ahead of its time.

The MVs and Gileras of the same period as the Guzzi are well documented for their four cylinder engines and how they dominated that period of motorcycle racing. In truth, fabulous machines though they were they had little competition in the big 500c class for many years. In many ways the achievement of the later three cylinder 500ccc of MV was greater as it was pitched up against the might of the Japanese factories.

The link below gives the history of the three cylinder bike and contains a small sound bite.

The last photo shows the rear of the Honda six with Hailwood onboard, this was the view every other rider had of that bike in ‘66.

And this is what it really sounded like.

EAR PLUGS IN……………………………………………….

Plus a few other sound only clips... this is the 250cc four two stroke of Phil Read:

Suzuki 125cc four cylinder two stroke:

Suzuki 50cc 1967:

From Italy, the Benelli 250cc four. Benelli are the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the world, they finally won the 250cc world title with Kel Carruthers on board, known as Mr Speed in his native Australia, in 1969:

Finally, from slightly earlier, our own John Surtees on the MV four in 1958:

Sadly there's no mp3 for the perfume of petrol, sights and sounds will have to do for now!

What is 'Farmer' Bill Gates telling us?

UPDATE: It may be to do with modelling a sustainable approach to agriculture:

In January 2020, The Land Report announced the launch of a sustainability standard that was developed by US farmland owners and operators. Called Leading Harvest, the organization’s goal is to create a sustainability standard thatcan be implemented across the greatest swath of agricultural acreage. Currently, more than 2 million acres in 22 states and an additional 2 million acres in seven countries are represented. Among the participants in the 13-member Sustainable Agriculture Working Group are Ceres Partners, Hancock Natural Resources Group, The Rohaytn Group, and UBS Farmland Investors.

Not surprisingly, one of Leading Harvest’s other inaugural members is a Cascade entity called Cottonwood Ag Management. Committing the resources to launch this all-important standard validates the assertion that Cascade supports sustainable strategies that advance resiliency and efficiency, retain talent, and reduce regulatory burdens.

Although the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has no ties whatsoever to Cascade or its investments, it also has a farmland initiative: Gates Ag One, which has established its headquarters in the Greater St. Louis area. According to the St. Louis Business Journal, Gates Ag One will focus on research that helps “smallholder farmers adapt to climate change and make food production in low- and middle-income countries more productive, resilient, and sustainable.”

- htp: JD

Paul Joseph Watson stitches this story of billionaire agricultural land acquisition into the narrative of The Great Reset, but does it have more to do with:
  • a feared stockmarket collapse?
  • hope of grants and tax reliefs from the next US Goverment as it seeks to support farmers?
Similarly, Warren Buffett has been investing in railways for years - he took over the BNSF Railway Company over a decade ago. - a long-term buy for when roads become less economical? An investment in land because as Will Rogers said, they're not making any more of it?

Friday, January 15, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Apollo's Fire, part two, by JD

This time a selection of music and dance from America's folk music roots. I found three versions of "Down in the river to Pray" which is, according to Wiki, " a traditional American song variously described as a Christian folk hymn, an African-American spiritual, an Appalachian song, and a southern gospel song. The exact origin of the song is unknown. Research suggests that it was composed by an African-American slave."

The one I have used here was, for me, one of the the most moving renditions I have ever heard.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Adventure: two approaches, plus a third - by Sackerson

In 1909 E. L. Grant Watson sailed to Australia* to work with social anthropologists studying aboriginals in Western Australia, and noted two kinds of migrant that he met on board, and again later.

One had very little money but started off with a stint of sheep-shearing:

'After a short time at the coffee-palace [in Perth] he had applied at the exchange for a bush job. Could he shear a sheep? Yes, he answered boldy and mendaciously. He was sent with a lot of other men to the head of the line beyond Cue, then by wagon to a remote station. There he had to shear sheep. He was thoroughly cursed for his ignorance, but he couldn't be sent back. He was taught how to shear sheep, and for many months he did nothing else. Now he had more than doubled his original fifty pounds. He was applying for a fencing job. In this way he was learning how to do the jobs of a farm, at someone else's expense, he said laughingly. By the time he had learnt all the jobs he might have enough money to buy a little place of his own. He looked as though he would succeed, and he had kept himself all the time he had been in Western Australia.'

The other turned up at Sydney docks, 'dejected and hungry':

'He had been, he told me, in the damned country far longer than he wished, and had lost every penny that was to start him as a farmer. Now he had just been trying to arrange with a ship's steward to work his way home as a scullery man. He had had no success, and mentioned that he was hungry. I asked him to a meal, and heard his story, how he'd been cheated here, and bamboozled there. He was quite a pleasant fellow, and I felt truly sorry for him. After our meal we parted, and I wished him luck, though I did not feel he was going to have very much.'

The author also met two Scots navvies, hopelessly drunk and broke:

'I was assured by a hard-boiled young Australian, with whom I had struck up a passing acquaintanceship, that they would get on all right. Drunks could always find employment. Drunks were self-made slaves, and were safe to employ as such, little chance of their ever rising and thnking themselves as good as their masters.'

The last reminds me that our grandfather, a gentleman farmer in East Prussia, employed a man who was drunk most of the time on methylated spirits. The reason was, that hand did more work in three days sober than others could in a week.

Or there's living on your wits:

*Recounted in his autobiography, 'But To What Purpose' (Cresset Press, 1946)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Covid Craziness, by JD

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” - often attributed to Einstein but the quote first appeared in a pamphlet by Narcotics Anonymous in 1981

On 23rd March 2020, the Prime Minister announced the first 'lockdown' of the UK in order to prevent the spread of Covid19. This was to be for three weeks and the slogan he used to validate this unprecedented measure was "Stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives."

There was a second 'lockdown' announced in October but trying to establish exact dates for these first two 'lockdowns' has become increasingly difficult, the announcements together with the applicable rules have been extremely vague and they have usually been couched in emotional language.

Fortunately the MailOnline has been keeping score and today (11th January) is day 294 of that original three weeks or to put it another way, we have completed the 42nd week of those original three weeks!

And now we have another 'lockdown' which may or may not last for three months. Because this is the third such restriction on the population and seemingly more strict than the others, it is safe to assume that the first two did not produce the required result; protect the NHS and save lives.

In accordance with the definition at the head of this page, is it safe to assume that our politicians and their advisers are insane?

If they are not insane then it is obvious that they have no idea what to do next to 'get the virus under control' (their words not mine) but that in itself is a clear denial of the reality of the nature of viruses. Repeating the lockdown and the other restrictive measure is not going to achieve anything and so it is time for the advisers to stand down and to allow other medical specialists to bring some fresh thinking and fresh ideas in order to end the perpetual failures we have endured so far.

Here is a headline from the Daily Mail dated 27th February 2018: "Killer flu outbreak is to blame for a 42% spike in deaths"

"Government figures reveal 64,157 people died in January - significantly higher than the death toll of 45,141 recorded in December.

"It is the highest number since records began in 2006 - and only the second time it has breached 60,000.
'Circulating influenza' was blamed in the report, released today and compiled using data of deaths from each region."

The article goes on to say that 2015 and 2010 also produced an excess of deaths from influenza compared to the average. What we have with the current covid crisis should not be seen as something unprecedented especially as the figures being announced are not exactly reliable. [see below] Apparently all deaths are covid related these days and flu deaths have disappeared!

So in the winter of 2017/18 there were 109,298 deaths as recorded above plus those which would have occurred in February and possibly in the months on either side of the 'winter' months.

If Covid19 is a 'deadly killer virus' as is declared repeatedly by the politicians and their main 'expert' advisers then how would they describe the influenza of 2017/18?

The hyperbole reached peak insanity in June last year when the Inter Parliamentary Union (no I had never heard of them previously either) boldly declared "The COVID-19 pandemic represents the greatest threat to humanity since World War II" and that phrase has been repeated by politicians and 'experts' on many occasions.

One of the reasons being given for the recent 'lockdown' is to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. That is not a very convincing reason because the NHS is overwhelmed every winter!

Covid19 deaths interactive map:

I have checked the map for my area and it tells me there have been 5 deaths, four in March and one in November. Difficult to find exact population because the ONS map as shown is not the same as the actual boundaries but I believe the population is around 7000 so the fatality rate is 0.07%.

I checked also the adjacent boroughs and the percentages were similar with the majority of fatalities occurring in March and April.

On the evidence of the map from the Office Of National Statistics the covid virus had more or less died out by May or June of 2020.

Why have the media headlines and Government announcements not reflected that? Why are the media continuing to press the panic button in what looks like a histrionic attempt to prolong this 'pandemic'?

Why is the Government and its advisers continuing to play 'mind games' with the public?

They are questions without answers until you remember the famous (or should that be infamous?) Milgram Experiment.

"In the 1960s, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram famously carried out a series of experiments that forever changed our perceptions of morality and free will. The subjects-or "teachers"-were instructed to administer electroshocks to a human "learner," with the shocks becoming progressively more powerful and painful. 

"Controversial but now strongly vindicated by the scientific community, these experiments attempted to determine to what extent people will obey orders from authority figures regardless of consequences."

Milgram's conclusions were summarised in his book 'Obedience to Authority'

We know from newspaper headlines and the results of opinion polls that a majority of people are now demanding more and harsher lockdowns. The behavioural psychologists among the members of the SAGE committee would or should have known about Milgram and must have known what the result would be from the scare stories of daily death tolls and overwhelmed hospitals. The population or a large part of the population is now in a constant state of fear, or so it seems from all the letters to the press etc. Was that an unforeseen consequence of the Government's handling of the 'crisis' or was it a deliberat attempt to subjugate the people?

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.” - Albert Camus

I was reading yesterday Michael Bentine's opinions on how TV and cinema are powerful propaganda tools and can be and have been used to manipulate people.

The continuing propaganda about covid is undoubtedly having a debilitating effect on people's immune systems, the 'worried well' are inducing psychosomatic illness in what were previously healthy bodies.

I said to my chiropractor last year "why doesn't the NHS encourage 'psychosomatic wellness'? and he replied almost instantly "There's no money in it!"

The Government inspired propaganda is a very dangerous thing to do and, in the context of Bentine's book, are these people evil or just insane?

Wiggia adds this from Godfrey Bloom:

'Let me start with the main statistic, the most important of all yet barely ever mentioned in MSM which like government is obsessed with case numbers, a monstrous irrelevance. The Office of National  Statistics confirms the numbers of deaths from covid19 of people with no previous health issues is circa 2000.'

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Darling Buds of Freedom, by Sackerson

UPDATE: Now published on The Conservative Woman, minus (I thought they would) the bit about feet and Ma expecting a third go...


Last month ITV announced a planned remake of H E Bates’ ‘The Darling Buds Of May’, the series to be called ‘The Larkins’. As it happens, we’re reading the fifth Larkin book, ‘A Little Of What You Fancy’ (1970) and what Bates says there, a generation after the War and shortly before our entry into the Common Market, is relevant historically and to our times also, especially now that we are, to some extent and after years of struggle, Out.

The latest Penguin edition quotes the Spectator on the front cover: ‘A wistful daydream about innocence and happiness.’ Bates is nothing so twee. He is a poet of Eros, a great writer and, through his work, a great teacher.

Pop Larkin is an illiterate wheeler-dealer with a deep love of his large family and his ‘perfick Paradise’ in Kent, reflecting the joy in Nature that Bates’ grandfather taught him in Northamptonshire. Ma is a fertility goddess, shaped like the Willendorf Venus (vital statistics 55-55-55) and, as big women can be, very sensual. The book opens with the two having drink-fuelled morning sex, Ma caressing Pa’s flanks with the soles of her feet, and it’s as she is urging Pop to a third go that he has a heart attack.

What helps him recover is the need to defend the country he loves. The most immediate threat is from developers who are planning a new road right through his property, as part of the preparations of the Channel Tunnel, a project first agreed between the UK and France in 1964 but still in the studies-and-negotiation stage at the time Bates was writing.  

The wider menace is the Common Market. The two elderly Misses Barnwell who have brought the news have views that caused one Amazon reviewer to steam with internationalist indignation but which resonate with Pa, his down-at-heel neighbour the retired Brigadier, Pa’s posh and gorgeous admirer Angela Snow (Ma keeps Pop on a loose leash for the sake of ‘variety’) and others:

‘Do you wish to be swallowed by the Continent? We have been an island for all time, haven’t we? Hasn’t it served us well? Isn’t it our strength, our salvation? Wasn’t it that that saved us during the war? The sea is our defence, isn’t it? Do you want to see it destroyed? […] Do you want us to lose sovereignty?’

We may not have wanted it, but thanks to the dictatorial oddball Ted Heath we got it in 1973, and we stayed in thanks to the pushmi-pullyu Harold Wilson, who led opposition to membership while in Opposition but persuaded us to confirm it by referendum when he was in power two years later, threatening us with shortages of ‘FOOD and MONEY and JOBS’.

Like Bates, from whose Kentish barn conversion he witnessed the aerial express trains of Goering’s bombers heading for London, the tiny but tough Barnwells looked defiantly across the Channel during the war: ‘There was often an artillery bombardment going on and often a battle in the air and sometimes it was terrific fun.’

Bates earned the right to his feelings more directly, as a Flying Officer directed to live with and write about the fighter and bomber squadrons, with their terrible losses and the premature ageing of the young men. He also, in a still-unpublished but superb HMSO pamphlet, told the story of the second and even more desperate night-time Battle of Britain, one that might have finished us had Hitler not turned East. Then there were the doodlebugs – he heard the crash as one destroyed his local church at Little Chart – and the V2 rockets (he wrote about them, too).

Even after victory, there were losses. Britain was bust, and Pop’s older genteel neighbours are all ‘kippers and curtains’, depending on Supplementary Benefit to eke out their microscopic pensions. It’s worth remembering that when Field-Marshal Montgomery came home he turned down the millions that Parliament was offering to vote him, because the country needed the money more – despite Monty himself having no home but a couple of caravans. Pop’s Australian nurse likes the old, shabbily-dressed Brigadier: ‘He was a bit of the real old, vanishing England, a relic of the old imperial.’

On the other hand, there was new money coming in.  In an earlier book, a City financier buys a country mansion close to Pop, who tells him there is no shortage of potential household staff (but doesn’t say they will be hop- and fruit-picking all summer); now others are jaunting into the countryside to shoot pheasant, so Pop has started to breed birds for their target practice. Another newcomer is an unfriendly Communist professor of physics who has bought a holiday cottage next door to poor Edith Pilchester; while the latter is baking for Church bazaars and sewing cushions for unmarried mothers, the former’s love of humanity is abstract and he opines that ‘there are few innocents left. And no poor.’ No need for charity.

The Welfare State is spoiling the next generation: at the village shop (the sight of a man buying ice creams for his truckload of children in the 1950s was what inspired Bates’ Larkin series), Edith is counting her pennies for her purchases while a slatternly young woman is loading her basket with food from all countries – in 1946 she’d have found bread on ration, thanks to President Truman’s abruptly turning off our national credit – and complaining bitterly about the lack of Roquefort and escargots, when not smacking her little boy and buying him off with crisps.

This isn’t simple snobbery from the author. Bates began with nothing and was destined for a long, ill-paid and hardworking life in Northampton’s boot and shoe industry, but escaped thanks to an inspirational, war-wounded teacher and his own iron will to become a professional writer, at whatever cost.

The first Larkin book was a shout for joy in life, against the misery and privations of war, and a libertarian attitude to fleshly matters which was not cold-hearted and louche but an acceptance of human nature and impulses, refusing to make a fuss about things such as teenage pregnancy when so much more important, tragic things had happened. Bates defied the mean-spirited and hypocritical; he was an English romantic without rose-tinted lenses, and with an intuitive passion for the land and its people, showing how their hearts could be. Innocent, but not ignorant.

Now we are Out, mostly, with the hope that in time we will be altogether free. What shall we do with our country?

Sunday, January 10, 2021

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Useless and collected, by Wiggia

This was in some ways a follow up to my last post about robots, but you will have to indulge me as I got carried away with the task. Initially it was about useless items we collect and hoard, something that has again come to light in the Wiggiatlarge household on the pretence of moving house again; the ultimate reasons never to move or try to move unless it is imperative will be documented at a future date.

It started where else but in the shed, then gravitated to the garage and finally the loft, but during the compilation items still for sale that stood the test of time in the useless or ridiculous stakes became too good not to include .

We can all remember? those newspapers that had ads in the back pages at weekends with badly drawn images of aids for the incontinent, bath aids, loo seat height devices, torches on headbands so we could all play at being jewellers and sundry other pseudo medical aids that kept us amused on a wet Sunday morning - I have managed not to include any of the latter here, though modern versions of similar items keep the flag flying, so what you have below is a melange, lovely word, of the best and worst of both worlds.

The shed should be a good starting point for most people, not so much for me as garden tools and equipment have all had professional use and I really only purchased high quality items as the old maxim ‘you get what you pay for’ is a pretty good one to stand by. Nonetheless a couple of gems remained...

A bulb planter. Had it for years, only attempted to use it once: useless, they gum up with soil and it takes longer to clean them than it does to plant fifty bulbs using a spade, but I still have it and cannot for the life of me remember actually buying it!

A lawn edger with a split blade. Why do I keep it? It belonged to my grandfather who was a keen gardener and when he died my mother thought it would be nice if I took some of his gardening tools. Why this one survived I have no idea, put your foot on it and it bends, what's the point?

Items I came across but do not own include weed extractors, various that simply don’t work, and a long-lived and still useless item: the spiked lawn aerating sandals that pull off when you lift your foot; yet they still find buyers.

The garage yielded items of note: a box containing cogged belts from sixties Ford race engines; a box of various solid tubes of sealants, these must be one of the most wasteful items known to man, unless you are a builder you never finish the tube and sometimes hardly start, only to find the next time if ever you go back they have gone solid. Add to that various foams that have dispensers you can never clean.  

And another item that we all have but never work, the adjustable wrench; I found three. All do the same: after the first turn they work loose on the nut, you tighten then repeat, so I then exchange for a proper spanner!

In among the dozens of paint brushes, knife strippers and all the painting paraphernalia, two really useless items emerged, and again they are still there: the paint edgers, one a metal plate and one of foam; the metal one allows paint to seep underneath and the foam one leaves a smudged edge you have to touch up with a paint brush! In the bin they went.

There were also several complete sets of screwdriver bits of which 70% were never used but you keep in case, and - a good one this - a used-once-only 100mm core drill for a 100mm hose vent that of course needed a 105mm core drill to create a hole it could pass through.

Below another good idea at the time, about forty years ago, was the auto dent puller, guaranteed to remove all small dents as long as the surface is perfectly flat or the suction will not work - and none of us have car bodies with perfectly flat panels; so there it sits still pristine in its little box, such joy.

Also for the bin was the electric tile cutter, unused for so long the motor had rusted solid. This shared a box with an electric paint spray system that I used in our first house when I renovated it, there was the opportunity to remove all the doors and spray them which I did with much success and it hasn’t seen daylight since 1968; please...

Indoors the usual boxes of computer cabling that will come in useful but never does as they keep changing the connectors; oh and a CD printer attachment from a long dead printer - does anyone actually ever use these?

Three solid suitcase that have been round the world from the days when you could actually take luggage with you and being solid no one wants any more; skip.

No joy in the kitchen as the wife, boringly, keeps a tight ship, so no little gems as seen below that I have included after a quick rummage through the Lakeland catalogue that always seems to be in the news rack but from which the wife only buys foil and more foil.

This I had to include: the banana slicer. Slower than a knife but not nearly as much fun, and the knife lacks the innuendo that this picture provides, it makes your eyes water, here being used to show its dual role as a sausage slicer!

You can add other slicers to the mix that will never make a knife redundant: avocado, onion, apple etc. And you can add those auto potato and fruit peelers.

A twirling spaghetti fork puts in an appearance for those who cannot twirl and it even gives the direction of the twirl, which is nice.

To keep you amused while concentrating on other things, the Potty Putter solves that problem and brightens up a rather dull room in the house.

This is a good old perennial favourite: the head torch, it's always been such a good idea going back to the days when the meter ran out and you needed a torch, preferably on the head, to put money in the slot. There's no longer a need for that, nor - as in the picture - a use for one on a dark night under the bonnet of the car, as cars today are not repairable by ordinary mortals and you just look silly. Mind you I did come across one last year one night as a cyclist coming towards me had one on his head and as it moved around nearly blinded me, such is the advance of LED lighting; the old batteries and bulb would most likely have gone out by then.

Still, they might still come in useful if you take up home jewellery assembly; or potholing.

Two personal aids to finish with. Firstly the electric ear dryer; this one gives itself away when you read the notes on how to use: ‘first remove excess water with a towel’ hmmmmm...

And finally for the man who has everything other than hair, I leave you with this:


Saturday, January 09, 2021

Sackerson's latest on The Conservative Woman: is abortion advice impartial?

THREE days after a couple of billion Christians worldwide celebrate the official birthday of their Saviour comes the Feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorating the young children killed by Herod as he tried unsuccessfully to eliminate the baby he thought of as his future rival. This is an appropriate time to reflect on the modern killing of the unborn, which in 2019 in England and Wales was conducted on a scale unprecedented since it was legalised in 1967. The total was 209,519.

It is difficult to be objective on this issue. There are so many conflicting ethical and religious viewpoints, complicated by a tendency to choose a start date for human life that suits the conclusion one wishes to reach. That said, it is odd that the number of terminations should be so high when childbirth is so safe, no family however large in our country is threatened by starvation and the social prejudice against unmarried mothers has virtually vanished.

Who to turn to for advice? Is that advice likely to be impartial, or influenced by money?

In 2011, as Parliament considered Conservative MP Nadine Dorries’s proposed amendments to the Abortion Act, the Guardian’s Polly Curtis attempted a ‘reality check’. I don’t especially wish to criticise Curtis’s journalism per se, but her article is still one of the first to appear in a Google search on the matter, so it’s a good starting point.

Curtis reported pensions campaigner Frank Field’s view: ‘It is a general principle that advice and services should be separate. I have no evidence of that [biased advice]. But we had no evidence of mis-selling of pensions until people investigated.’

Boldly (in my opinion, which is moderately sceptical of ‘fact-checkers’, self-appointed independent judges and their like), Curtis offered a ‘Verdict’: ‘The private abortion services are charities that reinvest their profits into their services. There is no evidence that they are motivated to encourage women to have abortions because they will financially benefit.’

Bias has more possible motives and forms than the merely financial. It’s been over twenty years since Sir William Macpherson accused the Metropolitan Police of ‘institutional racism’ and lately people have been exploring the notion of ‘unconscious bias’, something already spawning an industry for corporate consultancy.

Taking the latter first, Sartre remarked to someone who sought his guidance that the enquirer had in a manner already decided what he wished to hear, in making his choice of adviser – he could have gone to a priest if he’d wanted a different view. Similarly, when a woman who is pregnant approaches the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS), she may be at least part way towards a decision to abort, even before she’s crossed the office’s threshold.

As to the institution itself, would anyone who felt strongly that abortion was morally wrong try to join BPAS? Even if they did, could the organisation, knowing their opinion, sensibly accept them as an employee, whose viewpoint would be slanted and potentially subversive of the charity’s work?

Now let’s return to the money. Does running as a charity mean that financial considerations are irrelevant? One needs to drill a bit deeper. It may not be set up to make a profit, but it certainly provides lots of paid work for advisers, medical staff etc, and some at the top are very well-remunerated – BPAS’s 2019 accounts show that ten senior people earned over £100,000 per year, excluding pension contributions. (see p.27)

Years ago I noted a shop in Birmingham’s Bull Ring styling itself the ‘Solid Fuel Advisory Service’; I hardly think its advice to customers was going to be ‘get a gas fire, mate.’ BPAS’s raison d’être is advice on contraception, abortion, vasectomy and sterilisation, plus some related mental health support; so its standard line is unlikely to be ‘have the kid, and the more the merrier!’

It may not be possible to have utterly impartial abortion advice (or even seek it with a completely open mind); but perhaps separating advice from ‘sales’ would help. I think Frank Field (his unseating was such a loss to Parliament, and us) was right.

Friday, January 08, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Apollo's Fire, by JD

Named for the classical god of music, healing and the sun, Apollo’s Fire is a GRAMMY®-winning ensemble. The period-instrument orchestra was founded by award-winning harpsichordist and conductor Jeannette Sorrell, and is dedicated to the baroque ideal that music should evoke the various Affekts or passions in the listeners. Apollo’s Fire is a collection of creative artists who share Sorrell’s passion for drama and rhetoric.

Although they describe themselves as a baroque ensemble it does not mean that they confine themselves to 'baroque' music. They also perform traditional Appalachian music which is descended from the music of Scottish and Irish immigrants to the New World. And they are equally at home with the music of the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain after La Reconquista.

The first video here is their introduction to who and what they are which includes excerpts from their varied programme.