‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Friday, April 30, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Jazz-ish, by JD

A musical miscellany which might or might not be jazz. Does it matter if it doesn't fit neatly and tidily into a particular genre?








Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Six-monthly reviews of our loss of freedom are not enough

Following my 21 April article on unacceptably long intervals between Parliamentary reviews of anti-Covid strategy, I have taken my own advice and written to my Member of Parliament as follows - the text below is taken from my post yesterday in The Conservative Woman
_________________________________________________

Dear Xxx

Request for urgent questions in Parliament re HMG’s coronavirus strategy

As one of your constituents I request that you ask questions in Parliament – and encourage colleagues to do so – about the frequency of Parliamentary reviews of arrangements to deal with the Covid outbreak.

As you know, the country has suffered the most enormous and costly disruption to normal life for over a year and yet reviews are scheduled at six-monthly intervals, the last having taken place on March 25. I hope you will agree that the Opposition needs to do much more to challenge the Government, since information is changing all the time about the virus, measures to combat it and most especially the associated human and financial costs.

This may be of particular interest to yourself because of the long and hard work you have done promoting the interests of less-advantaged women and their families, both as an MP and prior to that as a local councillor. People like these have been among the hardest hit by school closures, restrictions on movement and association with others etc.

In case you have not seen it, I enclose an excellent article by Professor Simon Wood of the University of Edinburgh, on the cost per life saved of governmental measures against Covid. His rough estimate is that these work out at some six to nine times the ceiling cost per Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY) set by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Relevant to your political priorities is his point that poorer people have much less life expectancy and quality of health than richer people, and the cost of governmental Covid strategy would be repaid far more by addressing these inequalities.

This is why I urge you to press the Government to much more frequent and thorough reviews – in Parliament, skilfully challenged – of its coronavirus strategy. Had, for example, the Government chosen to use its powers under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, these reviews would be held at 30-day intervals (at the longest), with Parliament empowered to modify or cancel measures at any time.

I hope that this might be raised in Questions to the Prime Minister and the issues also aired by your Party wherever possible in the media.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: Ginger biscuits, by JD

As we pass into a second year of lockdown, JD has an alternative to banana bread.


These ginger biscuits are better than anything I have found in any shop - they are softer than the concrete hard shop bought ones and if you dunk them for too long they are laible to dissolve into a gingery flavoured tea which is not necessarily a design fault!

I grew up in a household where my mother was an expert cook who would produce a seemingly endless supply of scones, cakes, biscuits, sundry pastries etc.

Cookery programmes on TV have been popular for a long time so why are ready meals and home delivered fast foods so prevalent? Is it laziness or is cookery now a spectator sport with TV having turned it into a competitive activity. No matter, Richard Ingrams was right all those years ago with his quip that fast food was called that because it was not worth waiting for.

My natural curiosity and desire to have a go at various activities led me naturally to try biscuit making and not only was I rather good at it but there is something very satisfying about conjuring up tasty biscuits and then dunking them in a cuppa char!

So herewith my mother's recipe for ginger biscuits. Cheap and cheerful and easy to make!

Ingredients

4 oz. margarine (you can use butter if you wish for a richer taste)
3 oz. sugar
2 generous tablespoons syrup (usually Tate&Lyle golden syrup)
6 oz. self-raising flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
a pinch of bicarbonate

Directions
  • Melt margarine and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat; add the syrup.
  • Sieve the flour, ginger and bicarb in a bowl, then add the melted mix of syrup etc.
  • Mix well until stiff (the mixture stiffens as it cools) then form into small balls, about 1" or so in diameter. Place these on a greased baking tray and leave a good space between them.
  • Bake at gas mark 5 for 12-15 mins., or until the required shade of ginger.
- Eat and enjoy!

__________________________________________________________________

Ed.: for those who prefer French Revolutionary units here are the ingredients in metric:

113 grammes margarine/butter
85 grammes sugar
c. 30 millilitres syrup
170 grammes self-raising flour
7.5 millilitres ground ginger
un pinch de bicarbonate

Saturday, April 24, 2021

THE WEEKENDER: Old English Sheepdog, by Wiggia

A Disappearing Breed


Away from Covid, Climate Change and the ridiculous state of affairs in the USA, life goes on as normal, well not normal but other matters still come to light. This one was of interest to me as I was an owner of three of these fabulous dogs and the article came out of the blue, though it is not something that was unexpected.
                                                                                                                              
I read in the Times an article stating that the Old English Sheepdog (OES) is in serious decline as a breed: only 226 puppies were registered with the Kennel Club last year, the lowest number since 1960.
I am not surprised, I cannot remember when I last saw one in a park or street, they were never numerous but you did come across them.

As with all pedigree dogs fashion has a stake in how popular they are. The current league leaders were in most cases themselves a rarity a few decades ago, but the quest for smaller dogs was not something I thought I would see in this country. The French had cornered the market in what I called restaurant dogs, dogs that would appear at the table with their owners, horrible habit but I could always pass that off as a French idiosyncrasy.

No, we always had proper dogs, Not any more it seems, it's now a toss up between Pit Bulls for the chavs and something you can carry in a handbag; neither can be called proper dogs, both are at extreme ends of the canine spectrum and serve two very different needs of their owners.

The current trend to be different shows with celebs talking about their cross bred dogs such as cockerpoos or such, and the silly prices they fetch; why a mongrel should fetch the ridiculous sums they do is beyond me though it isn’t my money so I have no skin in the game as they say. It is as though there is a race to have the most stupid cross as a badge of honour  - Great Dane x Dachshund, the mind boggles but I am sure they are working on it!

My first OES was purchased soon after my marriage. We had always had dogs in the family as had my wife's parents so owning one was not the problem, but what to go for? We both wanted a decent size dog with firstly a good temperament, and would have gone for a German Shepherd, but in the early Seventies the breed was suffering from some bad breeding resulting in hip problems and temperament issues, so that was out. Other larger breeds were either what I called, unfairly, draught excluders - Labs or mad such as Red Setters; Golden Retrievers were also going through a time of bad hips and entropion when an eyelid turns in against the eye itself so another crossed off the list. There were other breeds but unlike today in this fashion-driven world you rarely saw them, so we had little knowledge of their ways.

Knowing we were putting a lot on our plate with looking after one we decided on an OES. Again, the only problem I had was that although you did see them around they were not in big numbers and my knowledge of breeders unlike later was scarce (and the truth about the one we used only came to light later.) Anyway, home he came and soon settled in, but as he matured a problem arose: when taking him out to socialise him, it became apparent he was frightened of his own shadow. Walking along a street he would leap across in front of me at the sound of a gate opening and a lot of similar things spooked him, something as a puppy had happened which made him this way but I never discovered what.

Talking to a fellow dog walker one day in the park we spoke of my problems and he said why don’t you go to the local Dog Training Club. Little did I realise what it would lead to further down the line.  
Nearly all dog training clubs have a beginners' class or a course for dogs to make them more socially acceptable. The truth is - and I doubt it has changed - these courses pay the hall hire and the rest of the more advanced handlers and dogs benefit from the facilities; that may be an over generalisation but it certainly applied in those days.

As an aside for a pet dog you only need certain basic rules, and all can be imprinted and taught at quite an early age: to learn that no means no, to walk by your side without pulling you all over the place, to come when called (the most difficult to instil in a dog), to stay and to drop on command. The rest is not needed for a pet dog but many dog clubs insist on trying to train pet dogs before they can even get acclimatised to the new surroundings. The only thing a dog club is really good for in puppy training is socialising with other dogs, the rest is common sense.

Oh and sending a dog away to be trained is pointless if you are not trained yourself; the owner/handler needs training first.

As I soon learned with a dog that that is easily distracted, towing him around a hall full of dogs that have no idea why they are there nor the handlers is not the way forward. All initial puppy training should be in a quiet situation and kept as simple as possible for those first steps in obedience training, something I soon learned and acted upon, but progress was slow and he was still spooked by all manner of things and it wasn’t getting any better.

A talk by a very good trainer got me to buy a book that I followed through on. It was an American publication that had a method of training that would be frowned upon, even banned today: it basically made the dog more afraid of you than any outside influences and though I look back in and say never again, all else had failed totally and this was the last resort and it worked, he came on leaps and bounds and the initial hard approach was slowly dropped as he responded.

That old adage ‘you have to be cruel to be kind’ was never more apt, though the experience was not a pleasant one,  but it was a different time, not as enlightened as today, nevertheless all else had had absolutely no effect and I had nowhere to go other than forget it all and put up with a dog I could never take off a lead.

So much work had gone into getting to that stage I could walk him down the road without events happening that I took it further. People must have thought I was mad as I tied him to zebra crossing posts and made him stay so as to get him to accept traffic; I would take him to Romford station and wait for trains to come in etc. etc. He was not put in harm's way but it all paid off as he went everywhere with me and after all that was never other than the dog I would want to own.

The training went on and I entered him for a competition at an open show of obedience more out of curiosity than anything else. You start in a beginners' class; much to my amazement he won, beating forty other dogs first time out. That started a journey that ended with him being the first of his breed ever to get a place in a Championship class against the usual suspects of Border Collies and German Shepherds. For a dog with his background it was a hell of an achievement, and he was genuinely unlucky not to win a Championship (the judge harshly marked him out of a win for a minor infringement, bit like a disputed off side decision that goes the wrong way) in the biggest class ever held in a Championship - 97 dogs in total ran that day, and the rules were changed soon afterwards so that no judge would have to oversee more than fifty in a class.

My second OES did even better and with a better handler would have won championships I am sure. I suffered from nerves at those vital moments and dogs sense that and it got through to him when it mattered, but he got two reserve tickets, second places and was chosen to represent the South of England in the first team competition at Crufts.

But that is enough of the training side. The breed attracts attention and the Dulux advert was a God send for breeders, but not quite so good for the breed: I would be asked where to go to buy one, and there were plenty of poor breed kennels in this breed as there are in all the others, but my initial response was to put people off buying one: unless they have actually owned one, no one can contemplate the work involved to keep them in good condition. The weekly grooming alone is not something to be taken lightly: the muddy paws that have to be washed every time out in rainy weather, the washing of the nether regions which get caked if you don't wash and the cutting away of the hair round the privates for the same reason and the same with hair between the toes that would go solid with mud if you fail to do that. Many owners tie the facial hair up away from the eyes because they have obviously difficulty seeing through that thick fringe, but we cut it away, neater and easier and the dog doesn’t look like a big girl's blouse, and as they weren’t show dogs it didn’t matter. These are all tasks that cannot be neglected, for if you do the task is a chore and a long one plus it is not comfortable for the dog; hairy ears also have to plucked and cleaned weekly.

Much of all this is because as with so many breeds the original reason for their existence is long gone.The OES was a droving dog, it was smaller than today's version and had much less of a coat, the current coats are not exactly what a shepherd would want to have to bother with; the old photo below gives an idea of what they originally looked like.


And this one from 1899. Already, showing them was beginning to make changes to the breed that became ever more pronounced over the years.


When I started looking for my second dog I had heard that there were actually a few still working on farms, but tracking them down turned out be a dead end. In desperation I turned to Florence Tilley, then the owner of the most famous OES kennels in the world down in Shepton Mallett. Shepton was her Kennel Club prefix and the history of her kennel went back to around the early 1900s with her father, but I knew she had an encyclopedic mind as regards the breed, so we went down and visited her.
At first she wanted to sell me a show dog; it was only when I explained about my first OES and wanted if possible one with some working background she changed her tack and said leave it with her and she would ring.

I expected nothing and carried on looking, fruitlessly, myself, and then nearly six months later I got a call: she had three, and was I interested? We went down that weekend and the story was told. These dogs were not bred by her but came from an old friend, a farmer, this was the last litter he'd bred as he was 90 and he brought the pups over in his Rolls Royce which he had had from new in 1937 I believe, but what was important was he still had a couple working on his farm and these were from that stock; one stood out and he came home with us the same day.

And the rest is history. He romped through the lower qualifying classes and qualified for the Championship class; as I said, no other OES has got anywhere near the heights he did; plus his film with Bernard Cribbins and a stellar cast - he played Bernard's dog in the original Dangerous Davies film about a hapless detective played by Cribbins. He was a special dog and a wonderful friend to us as all were.

The Kennel Club and others have a lot to be ashamed of in the way that breeds have become distorted in looks, size etc. To conform with the winning trends in show dogs many are so far removed from what was originally intended it has become a joke. Most breeds were bred to to have a useful working life, the working group; today's OES would look ridiculous on a farm and would be totally impractical.
Even the KC breed standards by which all breeds are judged have become elastic to accommodate what becomes a winning fashion, and in so doing does not ‘improve’ the breed but in many cases creates long-term physical problems. 

A good example of how dogs change for the show ring as opposed to a working strain can be seen in Springer Spaniels. Springers as gun dogs are selected for working traits, not how they look; the two side by side are totally different breeds but only one is true to type, whatever the breeders say. Even breeds like the German Sheperd is having fashion thrust upon it, the breed is a guard dog but many of the fashion changes that are now required for winning in the show arena are against the standard set in its homeland; only one can be right and that is the German version. Many other breeds have suffered the same fate - the Bull breeds have become so accentuated in their looks they have trouble breathing as have other pug faced dogs, but still fashion prevails.

I should imagine today anyone looking for an OES like my second one with a working background would be laughed at. He must have been almost the last of a type though even he resembled the modern version as can be seen in the header photo. He is the one on the left, the other was my last OES; he came from show stock, and did remarkably well in obedience up to a point, he simply could not take the pressure of training after a certain point and I retired him and myself from competition.

I had done my bit. The competition at the top level was becoming a one breed event for Border Collies, quite natural that people would want the most intelligent and biddable breed to train and they are without peer, but a lot of the fun had gone out of it and for me it had run its course.


I don’t think the breed will die out. It may have had its zenith in the days when celebrities owned one like Kevin Keegan and Paul McCartney with his ‘Martha.’ It is almost a national symbol after the Bulldog and no doubt fashion will swing back towards real dogs again, in time.

Friday, April 23, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Sun Ra, by JD

Another musician who defies categorisation is Sun Ra with his fabulous Arkestra(sic), who claimed to have been born on the planet Saturn and took his inspiration from Ancient Egypt! 

He was a jazz composer and keyboard player who led a free jazz big band known for its innovative instrumentation and the theatricality of its performances. Listening to his music it is hard to believe he was hired by Fletcher Henderson as pianist and arranger in the late 1940s! Whether you love or hate his music, it is impossible to ignore him or his influence on American music.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Ra
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/283238.Space_is_the_Place
https://www.discogs.com/artist/35328-Sun-Ra














Thursday, April 22, 2021

Newsnight: See Emily Play

BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis tries on the idea that Israel is discriminating against Palestinians re Covid vaccinations:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000vcc8/newsnight-20042021 - from 35:00 in...

Maitlis appears not to distinguish between Palestinians domiciled in Israel who will have been offered the jab like all other citizens, and those who are in the disputed territories where the Palestinian Authority has determined to make its own arrangements using the Russian vaccine.

She also tries to nail the Ambassador on failing to accept a two-state solution but is reminded that it's a solution ruled out by the Palestinian side. 

Melanie Phillips unpicks Emily's attack here:

https://melaniephillips.substack.com/p/rattling-israels-bbc-tormentors

Emily tries, but misunderstands
She's often inclined to borrow somebody's dreams till tomorrow

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Covid regulations: Parliamentary opposition needs an MOT

The role of Parliament is not to pass laws but to challenge them. When the major parties are agreed, the dissident voices will have to be heard outside, instead. Labour’s answer to the Government’s Covid strategy has been along the lines of ‘we would have done much the same, but earlier and worse.’ So it should not have come as a surprise to Sir Keir Starmer when he went for a walkabout in Bath the other day, to encounter not an adoring public but a furious publican https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-56805144 .

When the Opposition forgets its duty to oppose – the Spectator’s editorial on 10 April called it a ‘collapse of democratic scrutiny’ - HMG is unlikely to be suitably hard on itself. On the contrary, in the panic to ‘do something’ it drove through the Coronavirus Act in a single day in each House, worded so as to give itself not only wide powers to restrict our movements (Schedules 21 and 22) but also a shockingly relaxed six months between Parliamentary reviews, the last having taken place on 25 March in the space of a mere 3 ½ hours https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-03-25/debates/9701394F-FF53-4364-85E1-F017B13CE921/Coronavirus .

As Lord Sumption noted in his October lecture ‘Government by Decree’ https://resources.law.cam.ac.uk/privatelaw/Freshfields_Lecture_2020_Government_by_Decree.pdf and as reconfirmed by the Health Secretary in the 25 March debate, the Government is basing its measures on the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which is worded in a dangerously woolly way. Lord Sumption commented: ‘It is a basic constitutional principle that general words are not to be read as authorizing the infringement of fundamental rights,’ and contrasted that 1984 Act with one the Government might have chosen to use instead, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/36/contents .

Like the 1984 Act the 2004 Act allows the Government carte blanche, but recognising the perils of such power it also requires, says the noble Lord:

‘a high degree of Parliamentary scrutiny… Emergency regulations under the Civil Contingencies Act must be laid before Parliament in draft before they are made. If the case is too urgent for that, they must be laid before Parliament within seven days or they will lapse. If necessary, Parliament must be recalled. Even if the regulations are approved, the regulations can remain in force for only 30 days unless they are renewed and reapproved. Unusually, Parliament is authorised to amend or revoke them at any time.’

The Government’s information and strategies may or may not be correct in every detail, but it should not be left to the news and social media, demonstration and riot to provide that scrutiny and opposition.

Perhaps our long involvement with the European imperial project and its masses of secondary legislation has led us to forget how our own system works. Westminster resembles a vintage car put up on bricks while the owner was abroad, and now it has to be serviced to make it roadworthy again. Before the law machine roars into life and straight for the nearest tree, we need the brakes and steering provided by the committees, the Opposition and the House of Lords.

My suggestion, which I hope you will accept, is that we should pick up on Lord Sumption’s observations and ask our MPs to press the Government to re-base its extraordinary power grab on the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 so that an equally extraordinary degree of scrutiny can be applied. If that had happened on 25 March, the 30-day review would be due this week, rather than next September.

MPs will only respond to their own constituents, so please find your representative and contact them as per the information on TheyWorkForYou https://www.theyworkforyou.com/ .

Sunday, April 18, 2021

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: South America in paint, by JD

 Pacific coast road, Concón, Chile

This is somewhere on the coast road to the north of Valparaiso*. I wasn’t sure of the exact location so I searched Google maps and found it and borrowed a couple of screen shots. (see below)


This painting is 8" x 8" and is acrylic on canvas. I did a watercolour (15" x 15") ages ago which has been hanging on the wall for the past twenty years or so. The second Google maps image below shows the view from within the painting looking out over the Pacific. The cliff top at left is where I stood to take a few photographs which I have used as the basis for the paintings. That original painting was a composite of the photographs.

A very spectacular location, I’m sure you will agree. In fact the whole coastline is spectacular. A few changes since I was there. They have some street lights now and the roadside caff looks as though it has been abandoned (blue in my pic but a sort of dereliction cream in the Google view)



*The place is known as the Roca Oceanica - here is a photographic view from above:


- and more photos and information from a travel website:
_________________________________________________________________

*An earlier version of this post originally appeared at Nourishing Obscurity on 25/10/2014; that original post has been lost in NO's technical problems.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

THE WEEKENDER: Mighty Meaty Matey, by Wiggia

I came across whilst rummaging through the detritus one carries with one when you move house - why we do this is a subject for another day - but anyway, looking for some papers I came across an old menu from the Seventies from Berni Inns. Easy to laugh at such places now, yet going by the menu it offered better fare than many fast food outlets today, and you could get an alcoholic drink - no skinny lattes then, thank God.

So as one does I started delving into archives of old menus, from the cafe restaurants of our youth and before to those early fine dining establishments that we went to if we had the cash for a special occasion.

We soon forget, yet some things are very obvious in those periods, how the posh restaurants insisted in printing menus in French which hardly anyone understood and resulted in calling the waiter over and stabbing a finger at what one thought was a dessert to be snootily told it was a vegetable and then having to cringingly ask for advice on what was available in that section, only then for the waiter to, still snootily, repeat the offerings in French with an English translation for the proles.

When they started to put English translations underneath the French version it was the last throw of the dice in pretentiousness.

I remember well the first time I took my to be wife for our first proper meal, lunch at Rules, London's oldest (1794) restaurant:                                                                                                                                                                        

Having done my ‘homework’ I ordered the Châteaubriand and settled back on the banquette to peruse the wine list. I knew very little about wine in those days apart from my initiation into the intricacies of German wine labels, so when the wine waiter came calling I ordered the Rudersheimer Rosengarten and the wine waiter said ‘good choice’; a kindly man under the circumstances because it was anything but.

In those days fine dining was for the other people. We had the first signs of chain restaurants in the likes of Bernie Inns and others, it made a change from the plastic cheese roll under a glass dome cooking quietly on the pub counter.

I remember Woolworth had a rather good cafe, it was only when researching this I discovered just how comprehensive their pre-war menu was:


Apart from an early attempt at the bottom of the menu to garner feedback, the other item of note is the amount of meat products on the menu and ‘lobster salad’, in Woolworths!

Higher up the scale, this menu from Wheelers The Ivy gives another insight into how the other half ate in the Fifties, still clinging to the French language and a preponderance of meat and fish dishes. Good to see the old favourites up there, the potted shrimps and prawn cocktail, so derided since but making a comeback now:                                                                                                                                                                             

Menus from other posh eateries abound and none are posher than Buck House. A Queen's menu from 1906 shows nine courses and again plenty of protein; naturally at this moment in time the menu is again in French. Magnums, quite rightly, of champagne for Derby Day: they must have had a tip.


The great ocean liners that dominated transatlantic travel and vied for national pride with elegance and speed for those first class passengers and made sure they never went without during their voyage.
Eight courses at the Captain's table, I bet that went down well - I’ll get my coat...
                                                               

All things are relative to the age but sometimes there are surprises on these menus in that what are considered delicacies today and have a price to match, were not so in days gone by. Oysters and foie gras were cheap and plentiful, as two examples; lobster as on the Woolworth's menu was available almost everywhere as were ortolans; today you struggle to find decent whelks.

The one below I actually remember. Although the fare is similar to the others a couple of items stand out: tripe and onions, and marrow bones; long time since I saw those two on a menu.


Today we are used to buying products that are cheaper than in the past because of modern big farming techniques and international trade, but not everything works that way. This wine list from a Cunard liner in 1927 shows the price for a bottle of Chateau Latour at 12/6; £1 then equates roughly to £44 today, making that bottle in today's money around £27 and that is a restaurant price; today a bottle of Latour retail would set you back in the region (depending on vintage) of £400-600 a bottle. You really could drink yourself to death in style for very little money then.


With all of the menus you can see there is an awful lot of meat, fish and game on offer. In today's world full of fatties and those same fatties being urged to do away with meat as are the rest of us, you do wonder why so few in those days were fat and yet today fatties are everywhere, and I don’t care if using that word offends, it should because there is absolutely no need to get in that state. 

Maybe McDonalds have to share some guilt in today's fattism: ‘buy them by the sackful’ is not very helpful when wanting to lose weight!


And when did you last see a seafood menu like this one? - and while you are perusing the menu, do not play with the candelabres:


But today those whole plates of steak have disappeared, we are presented with artistically arranged plates of very little for very much. At least the Argentinians know how to cook and present a steak - all vegans look away now…



Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm !

Friday, April 16, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Josquin des Prez, by JD

 Josquin des Prez (French: c. 1450/1455 – 27 August 1521), often referred to simply as Josquin, was a French composer of the Renaissance. His original name is sometimes given as Josquin Lebloitte and his later name is given under a wide variety of spellings in French, Italian, and Latin, including Iosquinus Pratensis and Iodocus a Prato. His motet Illibata Dei Virgo Nutrix includes an acrostic of his name, where he spelled it "Josquin des Prez". 

He was the most famous European composer between Guillaume Dufay and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and is usually considered to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School. Josquin is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime.






Thursday, April 15, 2021

Like a hot knife through PLO jibberjabber

Following Sunday's piece about disinformation re Israel, here's a stunning (literally - see the faces!) speech to the UN by the son of a Hamas founder, dynamiting the 'PLO good, Israel bad' narrative:

'Who the h*ll let this b*st*rd off the reservation?'

'If Israel did not exist, you would have no-one to blame,' says Musab Hassan Yousef.

Monday, April 12, 2021

GREEN ENERGY: It's a chill wind, by Wiggia

During the Covid crisis (?) there has been an undercurrent of activity around Boris’s ‘green deal’, not surprising really as without the distraction of the virus more of this would have made it into the news, in what form is another matter.

The Telegraph has put together a decent summary of all the snippets that have been leaked in the last twelve months, though it still leaves out other extra costs should this push to be carbon neutral by 2050 goes ahead as the Climate Change Committee insists it does.
 
Whether any of this is feasible is doubtful even if all the requirements could be met.
 
The DT had an article that for once was not blind to the pitfalls and obstacles in the way of achievement. It doesn’t go nearly far enough though, the costings of full implementation for the average household are enormous, and it's not clear how many of those people who are all for saving the planet realise how much they will have to pay; not many I would bet, and for what exactly? As with Covid we are only told what they want us to hear.
 
A good example of that is the news that we have today on the BBC website seen below.
 
Great Britain's electricity system was the greenest it had ever been at lunchtime on Easter Bank Holiday Monday, its operator has said.

Sunny and windy weather, coupled with low demand for power, led to a surge in renewable sources of energy, National Grid Electricity System Operator said.

It meant low-carbon energy sources made up almost 80% of Britain's power.

There was no coal generation on the grid and just 10% of power was from gas plants, the operator added.

The caveat is in there: sunny and windy weather. Without those there is no renewable energy produced; as on earlier days this month when Gridwatch showed wind producing just 0.5% on one day, that is a statistic you never see in a headline from those pushing the agenda.

Roger Harrabin the BBCs resident envoy for CC then says….”That will need much more energy storage than is currently available”. There is no storage available and no sign again of any means to capture energy that amounts to anything meaningful now or in the future as it stands.

I am not going to say any more about the failure to ensure sufficient base load for the future predicted needs, it has been well trailed with the National Grid predicting if all the proposals come into being there will be a need for a 60% hike in the base load available to fulfil the demand.

And there is no sign of anything that will make that possible on the horizon. Doubling the number of windmills doubles the amount of energy needed from elsewhere when the wind doesn’t blow, it is that simple.
 
Among the items in the DT article that have been aired are many of the obvious ones, this is the third article in the DT since October last year that has an air of disbelief that any of this can be achieved and still it is far too kind, but at least a querying voice is being raised along with doubts from the CC commmittee.

The image below shows what is being asked of the average householder; maybe not everything but the heat pumps are central to the Government's thinking.
 

What you can add to that is any property that needs these extensive works will also have to pay for all the usual home comforts that will be destroyed putting all this in: decoration, carpets, new electric instead of gas hobs, and the bigger radiatorss that are not included here as the heat pumps work at a lower temperature and to maintain today's comfort zone bigger rads will be needed.

Needless to say the official answer to lower temperatures is that it is good for our health and the air quality will improve. The next step will be living in a tent where the air quality will be even better, but you will have nowhere to hang a radiator; perhaps that is the end goal and all this is just flim flam, who knows any more.

Heat pumps have a big drawback: they work at lower temperatures, they can work at higher ones but become very expensive. With the high cost of electricity against that of gas it is going to make heat pumps a luxury, many will not switch and many will not be able to stand the cost of switching. Electricity is four times the cost of gas because of the costs passed on to the consumer from environmental programmes and social measures such as the Warm Homes Discount which gives some households cheaper energy bills. These extra costs are not added to gas bills.

Naturally some in government would like to see gas loaded with extra costs to ‘incentivise’ switching, which shows how much they live in a bubble: charge extra to get people to switch to something they will have to pay even more for!

The government's published plan to tackle climate change wants 600,000 heat pumps a year installed every year by 2028, but who wants them? Certainly no one who has thought it through; some eco zealots with deep pockets - remember, the government has withdrawn its grant scheme.

Ah, they say, the real costs as production of heat pumps increases will come down; by how much? They are so much dearer than gas boilers so they are never going to compete on price, and in that case who would be mug enough to pay for one now? Average gas boilers including fitting currently run in the £1000 bracket, depending on size and make.

Are the government's friends and backers in the building industry behind all this? Are they installing heat pumps, underfloor heating, triple glazing in the shoe boxes they call homes these days. Of course not: the building industry is there to make as much money as possible while spending as little as it can.

For decades, we have lagged behind many in Europe with our building regulations as to insulation, glazing etc. which means a large majority of the housing stock is below par in energy efficiency because successive governments have allowed it to be. Now the same government wants the general public to pay for that lack of foresight, though with the building industry the big builders have been quite happy to go along with sub-par regs as it means more for less.

In effect, the public are being asked to pay substantially more for housing. The government's response to that fact is that we should take out longer mortgages or extend current ones to pay for the upgrades; if I was in the last couple of years of a 35 year mortgage I know what my answer would be, and with average wages 20% down in real terms from 2008 who has the extra cash anyway?

People who can claim up to £240k in expenses from the public purse have no right to expect the public to pay for their fantasies, the same tax-paying public in the private sector that will also be paying for the billions required to upgrade social housing; or are the printing presses just going to keep on running?

I find it extraordinary that people like Bill Gates can lecture the world on how it should behave so as to save the planet when they themselves live a high maintenance lifestyle and don’t even justify why there should be a difference for them.

Bill Gates is not alone in being a total hypocrite but for the record he owns four private jets, a seaplane and a ‘collection’ of helicopters; he also collects Porsche cars and has the usual Mercedes and BMWs plus limousines. Recently he ordered the building of a yacht, the one omission he had in the billionaire class.

His various very large homes are supplemented by being the biggest private land owner in the USA. He currently owns 242,000 acres of prime farmland, why? He has never shown any interest in farming. It has all to do with power: land owners on that scale have always had power; it is also suggested that it is a tax avoidance scheme and probably is. Also, he was recently involved in the bid to be the largest private jet base operator; this comes as commercial jet operation slumps in the wake of the Corona virus and private jets take up the slack, for some, flying to destinations no longer being used by commercial airlines. Has any of this got anything to do with saving the planet. No, of course it hasn’t, yet, and I use Gates as a prime example, governments are in league with him and others of a similar ilk. It is nothing to do with climate change, it is about money.

Many of the big institutions and oil companies have seen the light: they are taking the easy way out of their’ dirty’ business. They see that governments and people of influence want to follow the climate change agenda, they see drilling licenses being withheld, oil exploration becoming uneconomic, so they diversify into sustainable energy. Why not? There are big subsidies awaiting them there and they spread out into energy supply and anything else that sees a government grant.

With banks and financial institutions now going green and refusing to support fossil fuel extraction the circle is almost complete.

All that is needed is enough celebs to tell us what is good for us, and we got it, a hundred signed a pledge, including Jude Law, Mel B, Cumberbatch et al and stated…

‘Like you...we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and, without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm.’

‘Our lifestyles’: shurely shome mishtake!

There are hundreds of examples of double standards, this one by Elizabeth Warrenwho also has a problem with her ancestry takes some beating….


The one thing that comes out of all this is the fact that no one has voted for future impoverishment, no one has been asked their views as to the way forward or not on anything to do with climate change. It is all driven by vested interests, green lobbyists who only represent a small section of the population and front persons such as Gates and the doom goblin; all chant the same 'we are doomed, at the tipping point, we have only x years' and so on, it has all been heard before and nothing has come to pass, yet still billions are poured into something that we almost certainly cannot change if it does happen.

The predictions are all based on projections from the same sort of sources that projected the world was about to die from Covid, and like Professor Ferguson for reasons unexplained the same people, wrong before, are still getting a platform to spout the same garbage.

We are not getting the truth. Any dissenting views are from ‘deniers’ who are cancelled, sidelined or ridiculed for having a different view, for there can only be one way forward.

Unless some common sense is brought into the climate change debate we are all doomed, to a life of restrictions and deteriorating living standards, all at great cost. Our current economic situation says no to all this as it is not affordable even if it was necessary or desirable. Like many I am not holding my breath on this, there is something amiss and we are not getting the truth, and no one is demanding it.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

BUNG EYE: Fake News Is Real, In Palestine


Bung Eye is an occasional series focusing on
unconscious-to-deliberate misrepresentation
by the news media and other influencers.

Today we look at an extraordinary book alleging systematic antisemitism among news media, 'information centres', NGOs etc dealing with Israel and the surrounding occupied territories.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Tuvia Tenenbom, a USA-based writer who was brought up in an ultra-Orthodox (religious study only) family in Israel but rebelled, has written a number of books exploring hidden antisemitism in different countries (including, most recently, the UK.)

He is either the biggest liar and best fiction writer I have ever read, or he is telling the truth, in 'Catch the Jew!' (2015), his exploration of issues in Israel and the 'occupied territories.' If it's the truth the charivari of characters he meets is almost surreal; read and see for yourself. 

He is able to go where few other Jews can, because he happens to be a chubby Western-looking blond and can masquerade as 'Toby the German' when among the Palestinians and Bedouin - they love Germans and some tell him that the latter showed how to deal with Jews.

This attitude is hardly new. According to Mark Steyn, when mass-murderer Adolf Eichmann was captured in 1960 and brought to trial in Israel, a Saudi newspaper headline read 'Arrest of Eichmann, Who Had the Honour of Killing Six Million Jews.'

The most disturbing aspect of Tenenbom's forays is that they reveal not only merely the continuing vehement hostility towards Israel of her neighbours, but the foreign support for the latter that includes bias, misrepresentation and fakery by supposedly impartial observers.

Journalists?

Here is an example of the British Press at work, when interviewing a Druze villager in the Golan Heights at a time when it is feared a conflict with Syria may lead to the use of chemical weapons:

Do you have gas masks? - No.
Did the Israeli authorities supply you with gas masks? - No.
But in general, Israeli authorities supply Israeli citizens with gas masks, right? - Yes, I think so.
They give masks to their citizens but not to you. Right? - I think that they do.
The Jews get it but you don't. Interesting. - I don't know.
They didn't offer you any mask, did they? - No. I think they distribute masks only in the big cities, like Tel Aviv or Jersualem.
But do they or don't they distribute them to the locals here, the other people, the Jews? - Maybe. I don't know.
Is it possible that they distribute masks to 'them' but not to you? - Could be.
So they offer the masks to Jews but not the Druze. Really interesting!

At this point [says Tenenbom] the villager is totally confused. lights up a cigarette, and talks to another villager sitting by him. As for the journalist, he watches me looking at him and his face turns angry. He gives me a spiteful look and moves away. (pp. 233-4)

Diplomats? 

It seems they are not above pulling stunts, either. In September 2013,  a French diplomat called Marion Fesneau-Castaing was in a party delivering aid including tents to Bedouin in Khirbet al-Makhoul in the West Bank. Supposedly this is an example of Israelis brutally demolishing Arab homes, though Tenenbom sees no facilities there and the remains of the building look ramshackle and temporary; when he asks them where they live they indicate the surrounding hills. Fesneau-Castaing alleges that she was forced to the ground from her vehicle and says, 'This is how international law is being respected here.'

This followed an attempt at assistance earlier that week by the Red Cross. A spokesperson for the ICRC, Nadia Dibsy, says she was there at the Frenchwoman's incident and 'saw her being beaten with her own eyes.' When pressed, Dibsy changes her story and says 'I was not there on Friday.' 

An Israeli military officer tells Tenenbom that there is 'an "old custom" of European diplomats who join up with leftist actvists of all kinds on a regular basis and that they plan and plot their next moves together.' Tenenbom calls the French Embassy for official comment; they promise to call back within the hour; they never do. (The diplomat, filmed pushing an Israeli soldier in the incident, is later expelled 'without harming Franco-Israeli ties.')

Local officials?

On a later occasion Tenenbom asks a Palestinian official who oversees such matters about the incident. He is told that the soldiers punched Fesneau-Castaing first, she fell down and then punched them back when she got up. Pointing at his computer, the official says 'he can show me all this right now, since he has it all on video.' Unlike other journalists, Tenenbom goes further and asks to see the evidence; the Palestinian replies, 'We are out of time' and that he must leave right now.

Tenenbom finds an Iranian news site on his iPad and checks their edited version of the video:

'In it I see Marion in the driver's seat, cut to Marion on the ground, and then cut to Marion punching a soldier. How Marion got to the ground is not shown, which suggests that she might have gotten there on her own for the purposes of picture taking. In the image provide by the Iranian news site even the soldiers around her seem to be surprised to see her on the ground. Interestingly, in the BBC photo the face of the soldiers were cut from the frame. Great work of journalism.'

Eye witnesses and victims?

The writer goes to the village of Burin, where allegedly the Israeli army comes 'every second day' to burn houses and throw bombs. There is one smoke-blackened room in the house he visits, but when he asks to see other burnt houses the answer is no. Tenenbom asks for evidence rather than stories; the lady of the house says she took pictures of the event on her cellphone. It can all be proven! He asks to see the pictures; she comes back with the phone. Can he see the pictures? Well not exactly, reports the writer: 'The pix are gone. The phone, how sad, has broken.'

Film and documentary makers?

The theme of image-making leads Tenenbom to meet someone from the Israel Film Fund. In the previous ten years, the man tells him, there have been at least 25 movie co-productions between Germany and Israel, 60 per cent of which have to do with politics; none right-leaning.

Tenenbom goes to the New Fund for Cinema and TV to check funding for non-fiction documentaries. In their spokesman's estimation, '80 per cent of Israeli-made documentary films that are political are co-produced with Europeans, and when I say "European" I mean mainly the Germans, who on average fund 40 per cent of the cost per film.'

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)?

We've already seen a shifty assertion by a local ICRC spokesperson in the diplomat-punching episode above. There is also some question of being selective in their targets: the International Committee of the Red Cross - exclusively Swiss board members - has declared Gaza (from which the Israelis withdrew their forces in 2005) still to be an 'occupied territory,' but when Tenenbom asks them whether this is also their position on Cyprus and Tibet, they promise to reply later; in follow-up correspondence, they tell him that their legal reading is communicated confidentially to the conflicting parties but 'the ICRC could later communicate its classification publicly.'

Similar suspicions of bias arise, Tenenbom reports, with The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). One estimate of the number of Arab refugees from Israeli-occupied territory in 1948 is 700,000, but UNRWA appears to have turned to including in the numbers descendants not born there, bringing the total up to five or even eleven million; however, UNWRA say they don't have the figure for 1948.

There are swarms of NGOs involving themselves in the region. An Israeli army officer tells Tuvia that there are 300 organisations in the West Bank, excluding Gaza where there are a further 100. Israeli NGOs - mostly foreign-financed - number merely about a dozen. Money is pouring in from abroad, the main sources being first, the USA and second, Germany [as at the time of Tenenbom's writing this book.] The undercover visits Tenenbom makes to Palestinians and Bedouin do not suppport the narrative of miserable slum living - the houses he sees are generally very nice, inside if not always outside, and there seem to be many communal facilities being built and paid for by foreigners.

Now one may say that you find what you look for, and clearly Tenenbom's mission is to uncover the disinformation and foreign interference within and without Israel. I don't think he tells any untruths, but he's not concerned to go into details about the ways in which Israel defends itself from its neighbours.

Nevertheless one could argue that the outside world is being bamboozled by pro-Arab (if not anti-Jewish) PR, and the sums of money thrown into the area in this way are in effect providing aid and comfort to the anti-Zionists, possibly including terrorist organizations (as, it is said by some, Noraid for the IRA.) Also, has Israel been targeted for this pot-stirring because it is a small country and easier to subvert than Turkey or China?

US foreign policy is highly important in all this. Several previous US Presidents had promised to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and not done so; in 2017, Trump actually did it, and what a fuss that caused at the United Nations! Now, apparently determined to undo everything President Trump did, whether good or bad, the new incumbent (or his administration) is proposing to resume funding Palestinians directly and indirectly to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tenenbom does not show to us a dislike for the Arabs he meets -  his disapproval is reserved for the 'self-hating' elements among the Jewish/Israeli left and their supporters. He concludes his book by saying that since Israel is divided internally on political issues, whereas her enemies are of one mind towards her and have powerful Western friends, then the country is unlikely to survive for much longer. Perhaps Trump's actions since this book was written have bought some time; whether that changes the final result remains to be seen.

One wonders what would happen if, magically, all the Israelis were suddenly transported to some other territory thousands of miles away. Would this actually be the answer to Arab prayers? If their foreign aid then dried up completely, and the American military-industrial establishment could refrain from bombing and subversion in the region, would this usher in an era of permanent peace and brotherly love on the Arab Street? Between Iran and Iraq, between Sunni and Shi'a?

Or is Israel not rather a convenient enemy?

Would there be more chance of a stable peace, albeit an uncomfortable one, if outsiders could stop building public perception and influencing international policy on a foundation of lies?

Saturday, April 10, 2021

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: Steam Planes, by JD

John Hartford, Tony Rice Vassar Clements "Steam Powered Aereoplane" ( sorry about the poor quality but it is the only live performance I can find):


When I first heard this I thought it was another typical piece of whimsy from John Hartford.

Steam trains, steam rollers, steam ships I knew about. Even a few steam cars in the early days of motoring and, more recently, I’ve heard of steam bicycles but a steam plane? It seemed highly unlikely; how would it carry enough water for example? Water is rather heavy and it would need a very powerful aircraft to lift such a weight off the ground but then I came across these two stories:

http://blog.modernmechanix.com/worlds-first-steam-driven-airplane/

http://www.rexresearch.com/besler/beslerst.htm

"On 20th April 1933 William Besler took off from Oakland Airport, California in a steam driven aircraft which he and his brother George had designed andbuilt. It was the result of three years of work and secret experimentation in a machine shop in Emeryville, California.

“This blue machine, with William Besler at the controls, sped down the runway and climbed into the air without a sound except the low whine of the propeller and the hum of wind through the wires. Swinging back over the field at 200 feet, the pilot shouted ‘Hello!’ and heard the answering calls from spectators below.”

I had never heard of a steam plane before I came across that page on the web So I wondered if there might be film of it somewhere and I found some here (no sound):

https://youtu.be/2TtHOkgwrk8

There is also this promotional film made by the Besler Corporation which features the steam driven vehicles made by the company. I had heard of the Stanley Steamer motor car but as far as I know it could not reach the 85mph claimed for Besler's car!

https://archive.org/details/BeslerCo1932

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* An earlier version of this post originally appeared at Nourishing Obscurity on 27/9/2011; that original post has been lost in NO's technical problems.

Friday, April 09, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Lonnie Donegan, by JD

Lonnie Donegan was known as 'the king of skiffle' The name 'skiffle' was suggested by trumpeter Ken Colyer's brother Bill after the Dan Burley Skiffle Group of the 1930s. Donegan played, along with Chris barber, in Ken Colyer's Jazzmen during the early 1950s.

Colyer left the band in 1954 after which then became the Chris Barber Jazz band. During the intervals of their shows Donegan with Barber on double bass and Beryl Brydon playing a washboard, the trio would play American folk and blues songs by the likes of Woody Guthrie or Leadbelly, as they had done previously with Colyer's jazzmen.

Barber's first recording included the skiffle trio's version of Leadbelly's Rock Island Line which was later released as a single and became a huge success eventuall selling three million copies!

The rest, as they say, is history and Donegan was a major influence on virtually all of the rock or blues musicians who came to prominence in the 1960s.
https://www.allmusic.com/artist/lonnie-donegan-mn0000277549/biography









Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Holey knickers: Portugal's answer to Covid

 A friend living in central Portugal tells us how coronavirus restrictions are operating there.

Cafes are closed except for take-out, so the workmen in the nearby town buy their coffees and sit with their mates on the wall like swallows on a telephone wire, gassing happily at each other. Unlike in the UK, there seem to be no police swooping down on them in supercharged Vauxhall Astras; this is Europe, where the authorities make crazy rules and private individuals cheerfully ignore them.

Shops are sitting ducks for officialdom, though, so they have to comply. Our friend was asked for donations for a children's charity and tried to buy supplies in the supermarket. 'Non-essential' items are screened off - you can buy food there, and disposable nappies, but baby clothes: no.

Same for women's lingerie, and adult clothes generally. Our friend is now ashamed to hang her pyjamas on the line because of the holes in them. 

Speaking of washing, she ordered a supply of eco washing powder by post from abroad; the cost was c.€35 but the import duty €48.The Portuguese have form when it comes to rapacious imposts. Back in 2018 someone there showed me a second-hand Triumph Stag that he imported; the Government wanted €58,000 to let him register the vehicle. It's illegal under EU rules, but my acquaintance explained that Portugal is happy to pay the fine every year, because the swindle is so lucrative.

So, naked babies, holes in your underwear and robbery by post: good going, Senhores.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Compare and contrast: how coppers take on God

So it's not only the Germans who let power go to their heads.

Balham, UK, on Good Friday, part of the most important festival in the Christian calendar:


Standing at the altar was a nice touch, don't you think? The cherry on top of the cupcake. What next - occupying the aron hakodesh in a synagogue, or the mihrab of a mosque? 

I think we've come a long way from Dixon of Dock Green. Btw who snitched on these worshippers?

A representative of Polish Catholic Mission Balham, which runs the church, added worshippers "obeyed" the police "without objection".

"We believe, however, that the police have brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason," the spokesman added.

"We regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important day for every believer, and that our worship has been profaned."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-56623839

... 'Profaned': the precise term.

And here, in Canada, SIX police are needed to barge into a church - this time, without a warrant (see how the overreach begins so quickly?)

Even more astonishing is their slowness to leave, when they know exactly that they have no leg to stand on, legally. The pastor is driven to ask them if they are capable of understanding English. Should he have called the police?

What an irony, that a faith for which many have been prepared to accept martyrdom should be crimped by uniformed bullies 'saving' them from a tiny risk to their health.



There's a good piece here on legal protections for freedom to worship: