Monday, May 31, 2021

Doctor who?

When is the last time you got a house call from your doctor?

If you’re old enough, you’ve seen it on TV – e.g. Peak Practice (Dr Jack: ‘I’ll just pop over the moor and see how Mrs Bassenthwaite’s headache is doing’) or even Dr Finlay’s Casebook (Dr F: ‘And while I’m here I may as well take a look at your cat.’)

Now, not only does the GP not come to you, it’s getting hard to contact the GP for an appointment.

A couple of days ago, a doctor advised my wife (via telephone, of course) to have this and that checked. So she called the group practice, and a recorded message said that there were no appointments left for that day and – well, that was that.

So she went online and found the practice website. There was a long rigmarole (mustn’t scream, mustn’t throw laptop) of registering, plus password and memorable check-word. Finally, she was shepherded through to a page promisingly called Patient Access. This asked what the patient wanted, and the enquiry box wouldn’t recognise the various messages she typed in; but there was also a list below of available services, which if you were incautious you might request – but which were private and mostly fee-charging. How does an NHS GP practice lead to this? How many patients, some elderly, some perhaps not good readers or speaking English as a second language, might walk into this spider’s web?

All we wanted was an appointment with the GP or practice nurse! You can phone/email your dentist (at least, we can – in fact, just got a same-day morning slot today!*) – but not your doctor?

Okay, frustration threshold crossed, time for ‘action directe’; she went next morning in person to the Centre. After standing in line behind someone with a complicated query, she got to the front and was told ‘you can’t come in to book an appointment, you have to do it online.’ (Because Covid? There were only a few people in the waiting room and she was wearing a mask.) Oh, and what if you don’t have a smartphone or a working computer?

There are, of course, no email addresses to reach the practice manager, admin staff or individual doctors.

Back to Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and internet grief. Somehow the practice site led us onto a different link, Engage Consult aka, and by dint of not answering most of the questions and ignoring hints to call 999 or 111 we got to the point where we could ask for a call-back; which came by text the following day, with an appointment - for 10 days hence.

Why all this complication and delay? Even now, the average GP has fewer than 2,100 patients , as compared with MPs who have on average 73,000-plus constituents, though admittedly the latter manage by ignoring many of us altogether. Also, where MPs are paid c. £82,000 plus expenses, the average GP in England and Wales earns £98,000 ; I make that £1.12 per constituent p.a. versus £47 p.a. per patient.

Is it, perhaps, something to do with the way that doctors, like police and politicians, have gone from a bottom-up model of working, to top-down? Modern GP work is a business (it always was, but more consciously so now) and patients are profit centres who can be made more productive by having mass screenings and vaccinations rolled out to them, like the aorta scan (part of a large program) they made me have some years ago. For this kind of thing, you get contacted by letter, email, telephone; you get assigned provisional dates and venues; you get reminders.

‘Contact your personal physician’ – really, that’s so last century. It’s not personal any more; not ‘your doctor.’


* i.e. last Friday

Sunday, May 30, 2021

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: Ras Prince Monolulu, by JD

'I gotta horse !'

The death of racehorse trainer and legendary gambler Barney Curley last week reminded me that racing has always been peopled by larger than life characters like him (as well as others of a more dubious provenance.)

Curley's death marks one more sad step towards the uniformity of blandness that is one of the curses of modern life.

British racecourses are one of the few areas where the upper class and the working class meet on more or less equal terms. The middle class could never come to terms with racing and in fact The Guardian would not cover it until quite recently.

It wasn't always like that and one of the most famous and colourful characters was the man shown on the extreme right of this photograph who styled himself Ras Prince Monolulu. His real name was Peter Carl Mackay (1881-1965) and rather than being a chief of the Falasha tribe of Abyssinia as he claimed to be, he came from the Caribbean island of St Croix.

His father and brothers were horse breeders and trainers on St Croix and that is undoubtedly how he knew how to spot a winner in the racing world.

He made a living as a racing tipster and on racecourses up and down the country he would stand with a clutch of small brown envelopes in his hand and talk endlessly to attract punters.

I gotta horse
I gotta horse
God made the bees
The bees make honey
The soldiers do the dirty work
The bookies take all the money.

He became famous after tipping the horse Spion Kop to win the 1920 Derby, which came in at the long odds of 100-6, and from which he personally made some £8,500 (a huge amount of money at the time) and also gifts from grateful punters who had followed his advice.

And always the non stop yarns:

I know an outsider with four legs, one leg at each corner, this one will cross the winning post and the others will be arrested for loitering!

He wrote his memoirs in a book entitled "I Gotta Horse" but whether those memoirs are reliable or not is open to question since he did talk a lot and did contradict himself a lot; all part of his showmanship of course.

His death in 1965 added another myth to the story of his life. Jeffrey Bernard, another colourful character who wrote the Low Life column in the Spectator and also worked as a racing journalist, visited Monolulu in the Middlesex Hospital to interview him. Bernard had brought with him a box of 'Black Magic' chocolates and offered Monolulu a 'strawberry cream'. Monolulu subsequently choked to death on it and Bernard bade him farewell. He later declared that the story was untrue but it does add to the legend.

To add a personal note: this photo was taken by my father on his old Box Brownie and has the date June 1950 on the back. When I was old enough (i.e. still in my pram) I would go with my family to the races. And when I was a bit older I met Prince Monolulu and to a small boy he was a fascinating sight and sound. A very large black man with coloured ostrich feathers in his hair. 

I don't know if my father ever bought one of those mysterious small brown envelopes but I remember on occasions he would say "right, I'm playing with the bookie's money now" as he folded some notes and put them into his pocket. I blame my father and Prince Monolulu for my everlasting devotion to the semi-anarchical world of the turf.

To get some idea of his 'style' here he is with Groucho Marx on the US show 'You Bet Your Life' and for once Groucho is lost for words! (from 15:56 onwards )

He made a second appearance with Groucho Marx the following week and talked more about his life (from 3:55 onwards)

And more, this time from Wiggia -

This has several pages about Prince Monolulu and his life, a lot of his tales are the ones he told Groucho in the second clip above. They may or may not be true but if just half of them are loosely based on the truth then he certainly had a colourful life!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

WEEKENDER: Max Moseley, by Wiggia

MAX MOSLEY 1940-2021


It would be disingenuous of me to claim I knew the man; I didn’t, yet I first saw him briefly in East London in 1962 with his father Sir Oswald Mosley at the latter's last appearance at a rally in the East End.

The publicity that naturally surrounded such an event drew the usual anti-fascists of the time and inevitably trouble broke out and the meeting was abandoned. Max was seen fighting to protect his father from being attacked and that was the end of it; well, not quite, he was arrested and charged with threatening behaviour but was released without charge after claiming he was protecting his father. Soon after, Max got out of politics.

For young people like me at the time Mosley's Black Shirts belonged to a pre-war era so this meeting was a ‘novelty’ in many ways, one which drew a few of us to go and see what it was all about. The police knew that trouble was on hand and had cordoned off Mosley’s truck from which he would give a speech from the back of with a megaphone, if my memory serves me correctly.

But not long into his speech, after a delay the trouble started and the meeting was abandoned, after which we went home none the wiser and Oswald Mosley disappeared from the limelight to live in France.

That wasn't quite the end of his political association with his father. A last-ditch rally in the East End in Brick Lane in ‘65 saw Max again in his father's company: 

Photo: Daily Mail (see link below)

This is a picture I took at the time of the meeting in ‘62 taken on my trusty Rollieflex, of the thin blue line separating the factions at the meeting before it went off. Notice: no fat policemen, no midgets and no endless aids to controlling people.  

Max then went into law and studied as a barrister, qualifying in ‘64, specialising in patent and trademark law which was to become useful when he later took the reins at the helm of F1.

His family background is interesting to say the least and it is worth a read

My brief and very expensive encounter with motor racing ended in ‘66 and I sold up what was left after a series of disastrous mechanical failures. Among the items advertised for sale was 'selected Ford engine block'; these were not easy to come by and I had a few offers, one was from a Max Mosley who had started racing in clubman's class in a Lotus 7 - these were full race cars not the road versions and nearly all had Ford Cosworth engines.

He later graduated to F2 before deciding he was not going to make it as a driver and going into race car production with MARCH engineering and later into running the constructors' association of F1 and then to the top as President of FISA.

But my little story is of when he came down, from Northampton I believe, to look at the engine block. He didn’t buy it but it sold anyway. What was interesting about him was coming from the background he had and visiting me still living at home on a council estate in east London there was absolutely no side to him; after deciding not to buy the engine block we sat on a wall outside the estate and talked for what must have been about 45 minutes about motor racing: naturally, his thoughts about what he wanted to do which he wasn’t set on at that time, and inevitably his family and his father.

I mentioned the ‘62 meeting in Dalston were he was charged but released over assault and he just smiled. He said he saw little of his father now his parents were living in France, but not once did he malign his father in any way. My impression of him from that meeting was of someone with a lot of charm and a quick mind. We shook hands and he left; that was it, a small moment in life that left a very favourable impression, despite all that went before and later, that I always remembered.

And like so many other things it is difficult to believe all this happened nearly sixty years ago. Where has it all gone ?

Friday, May 28, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Dead Can Dance, by JD

Dead Can Dance is an Australian music duo from Melbourne. Currently composed of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, the group formed in 1981 and relocated to London the following year. 

Australian music historian Ian McFarlane described Dead Can Dance's style as "constructed soundscapes of mesmerising grandeur and solemn beauty; African polyrhythms, Gaelic folk, Gregorian chant, Middle Eastern music, mantras, and art rock."

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

They work for us... oh, yeah?

Last Friday, a number of areas in England saw new anti-virus restrictions . The guidance was published online, without a public announcement; the slide into ‘Simon says’ whimsicality is bound to happen when you only have to report to the House of Commons every six months. Parliament is failing to safeguard our liberty, and this shines a spotlight on MPs’ responsiveness to constituents.

A month has passed since I wrote to my MP asking her to put a question in the Debating Chamber, urging more frequent reviews of pandemic rules. Conscious that newspapers and politicians scorn those who write to them as being generally ill-educated and semi-lunatic, I added a touch of humour, scribbling on the back of the envelope, ‘This communication is also available in green felt tip.’ Even so, no reply; and we know that the law does not insist that there should be one .

It’s bad enough when your MP ignores you, but sometimes it’s worse when they don’t. Like Peter Hitchens, who worried about it in this week’s MoS , I have been concerned for a long time about the destruction of our savings by inflation.

The Con-LibDem coalition took over on 11 May 2010; Cameron’s PPS wrote to Cabinet Ministers that ‘The Prime Minister wants to ensure that the Government as a whole is giving the highest priority to addressing the cost of living’ ;  yet on 19 July 2010 NS&I stopped issuing Index-Linked Savings Certificates (ILSC) for the first time since 1975. The latter were briefly made available again in May 2011 and the window re-closed in September.

So I emailed my then MP, asking him to raise the matter in Parliament. Instead, he promised to write to the Treasury and got a response from its Commercial Secretary Lord Sassoon that was a two-page tissue of irrelevancies. My question was about the duty to protect savers who shouldn’t have to gamble on the stock market to keep pace with price rises (note that today the FTSE is still bumping around the 7,000 mark it reached in 2000, and that it approximately halved twice in the intervening period – 2003 and 2009.) The noble Lord wittered on about inflation coming down, fuel duty increases being deferred, incentives to save via ISAs and pensions, the Money Advice Service etc. Apparently NS&I had to withdraw ILSC because there was so much demand (er, a message from the public there?) and in any case the scheme was to help government finance (not ours, it seems.)

I emailed my MP in March 2013 to register my dissatisfaction with that reply and to ask for an oral question at PMQs or Questions to Ministers, noting:

·         the British Government creditworthiness has been downgraded by Moody's,and

·         the pound has dropped, and

·         inflation looks set to rise further, especially for imports…


May I also draw your attention to two passages in Hansard from 1975 (esp. Michael Neubert MP and Lords Lee and Jacques ) that make it perfectly clear that Government recognises the moral obligation to protect the value of savers' money?

The MP replied:

‘I tend not to do Oral questions. They don't have any real effect on government policy and it is a lottery as to whether you have the opportunity to ask one.’

So much for PMQs in general, then. Or is it relevant that the MP’s party (LibDem) was then sharing power with the Tories, and so a pointed question had the potential to embarrass one’s friends?

Still, he invited me to work with his researcher to frame a question. Having given the latter more information and background to explain why the issue mattered, I received a massive waffly draft question of 157 words offering maximal wriggle-room for the Minister. I can’t think an MP’s researcher is stupid, so I suppose he thought I was.

Quixotically, I persisted, and got a written answer from Sajid Javid MP (8 July 2013):

‘National Savings and Investments (NS&I) purpose is to provide cost-effective debt financing to the Government by issuing and selling retail savings and investment products to the public.

‘In meeting this objective NS&I follow a policy balancing the interests of their customers, the taxpayer and the stability of the wider financial services market. In line with this remit NS&I do not anticipate new sales of Index-Linked Savings Certificates this year.’

I submit to readers that the ‘balance’ here is like that between two thieves and their victim.

I asked a second question about the threat of bank bail-ins and the reply from Greg Clark MP made reference to the FSCS £85,00 insurance limit for depositors, without addressing the point that in the Cyprus bank crisis of 2012-13 the latter originally faced partial loss of even their insured deposits.

My MP was kind enough to explain it all to me:

‘What they are basically saying is that they don't want to issue any more index linked debt at the moment. They are also saying the 85K is safe.’

And I was kind enough to respond:

‘I understand that. Please don't think that you're the only grammar-school-educated boy in South Birmingham. I also have a degree in English from Oxford.’

With pushing, a further reply from him, with a request to give him the 1975 Hansard references (again):

‘I accept that there are issues about access from time to time. I will write to the minister about this. The table office are very picky about how questions are put to ministers and normally edit them.’

Poor, sensitive table office! On receipt of the links, he then said:

‘I will ask [my researcher] to put these points to the minister with the suggestion that a small number of index linked bonds should be made available with a limit as to how much any one person can hold.’

Why he took it upon himself to qualify with ‘small’ and ‘limit’, I don’t know. So grudging! Not that even this got an official response; if it was sent at all. So, after more than a year, I got… nowhere. *crickets singing*…

They work for us, do they? 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Vote for war

Outside St Mary’s Church in Totnes stands a rough stone war memorial. At the foot of the cross are named over 100 men killed in the Great War, including three men from one family and two from another, in a town of fewer than 6,000 souls.

Who voted for the slaughter to begin? Nobody. The electorate comprised 5.2 million men (some 60% of all adult males, and no women at all), but they were not consulted. Instead, the order was given by King George V at a Privy Council meeting in Buckingham Palace attended by only two court officials and Lord Beauchamp. As historian AJP Taylor explained , this reflected ‘a general view that war was an act of state, if not of prerogative, with which ordinary citizens had little to do.’

By 1918, after nearly a million British servicemen had died (with another c. two million permanently disabled) , it was thought that the people might be entitled to more of a voice. The Home Secretary introduced the Representation of the People Act saying that the war

‘has made it, I think, impossible that ever again, at all events in the lifetime of the present generation, there should be a revival of the old class feeling which was responsible for so much, and, among other things, for the exclusion for a period, of so many of our population from the class of electors.’

Nevertheless, while the Act extended the vote to all men only some women qualified - about 40% of them. The rest had to wait until 1928 to be included. Universal adult suffrage in Britain has yet to celebrate its centenary.

Even modernised democracy didn’t stop the repeat use of the royal war-making prerogative in 1939; and it remains to this day the constitutional position for the United Kingdom . While we complain about minor infringements of our personal freedom, the government reserves the right to kill us (and the people of other nations) wholesale, so long as some pretext can be found that circumvents Nuremberg principles. ‘Gandalf’ bounced us into war with Iraq, and ‘Dodgy Dave’ only desisted from bombing Syria because he chose to ‘respect’ a Commons majority opposing it.

The US Constitution attempted to restrain the Executive with a specification that it should be Congress that declares a war. Despite the country being almost continuously involved in armed foreign conflicts since its foundation, that declaration has been made only eleven times, the last in 1942 . The use of the notion of ‘authorisation’ has allowed this power, like so many others, to drift towards the Chief Executive, and in any case the next Big One may happen so suddenly that there will be no need for a call-up before a general incineration begins.

The US President’s nuclear football is ever at hand; Britain is now stocking up with more atomic weapons ; the winds blow around the old granite cross. And we have the vote.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Dirty women (and men)

 'She's so deliciously low — so horribly dirty.'
Professor Henry Higgins, talking about the Cockney flower-seller Eliza Doolittle in Shaw's play "Pygmalion" (1913)

'What you thinking of, goin' with a bloody woman? You're gettin' soft. Don't you know that women smell and give you diseases?'
Gangster and homosexual Ronnie Kray, scolding his brother Reggie in 1957 for womanising when they had set up a successful nightclub in London's East End. Quoted in John Pearson's 'The Profession Of Violence' (1972, Collins revised edition 2015)

'Women simply are not clean - absolutely filthy, the whole lot of them. Englishwomen simply do not wash and scrub enough.'
Prolific lover Ian Fleming, interviewed for the Evening Standard in April 1960. Quoted in John Pearson's 'The life of Ian Fleming' (1966)

The real and fictional East End women will have had plenty of excuse for not attaining twenty-first century standards of hygiene. Even public baths came late to Britain - for example, the Moseley Road Baths in Birmingham were built in 1907 (the men's were divided into first and second class) and it would be a long time before most working-class people's houses had indoor lavatories, let alone baths and showers. Besides, Ronnie Kray's sexual orientation may have conditioned him into an instinctive dislike of female hormones.

What excuse Fleming's posher lovers had, I don't know. Or maybe, as with Ronnie, it was merely his perception, having spent his formative years at a boys-only public school, Eton College; it seems not to have put him off women, though he never spent the whole night with them when he was a single man. His creation James Bond is struck by the superior cleanliness in the USA (in, I think, 'Thunderball') when he sees the seat of the lavatory in his hotel room has a strip of paper across it confirming that it has been 'sanitised.'

How like the English, though, to look down their noses at their social inferiors and refer to them as 'the great unwashed,' as though it was the latter's choice to be shabby and unclean. George Orwell in 'The road to Wigan Pier' (1937) noted how hard it was for a miner to wash all over, where there were no pit-head baths:

'Probably a large majority of miners are completely black from the waist down for at least six days a week. It is almost impossible for them to wash all over in their own homes. Every drop of water has got to be heated up, and in a tiny living-room which contains, apart from the kitchen range and a quantity of furniture, a wife, some children, and probably a dog, there is simply not room to have a proper bath. Even with a basin one is bound to splash the furniture. Middle-class people are fond of saying that the miners would not wash themselves properly even if they could, but this is nonsense, as is shown by the fact that where pithead baths exist practically all the men use them.'

I knew an Englishwoman who went to marry a Cypriot after WWII and on the voyage there she met a Levantine man who explained, ' I do not wash. I perfume.' Today we have much better plumbing.

Bertrand Russell exploded the way that some romanticise the working class as a compensation - a cheaper one than alleviating their conditions - for their misfortune, in his essay 'The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed' (1937):

'If it were indeed the case that bad nourishment, little education, lack of air and sunshine, unhealthy housing conditions, and overwork produce better people than are produced by good nourishment, open air, adequate education and housing, and a reasonable amount of leisure, the whole case for economic reconstruction would collapse, and we could rejoice that such a large percentage of the population enjoys the conditions that make for virtue.'

There's still work to do.

Sunday, May 23, 2021


This is a painting I have called The Cherry Pie Tree and is just sitting there on the easel shortly after I had finished it.

 When I took it to the Frame Shop Mick, the framer, looked at it and said "That looks like Flodden. Is it Flodden?" Indeed it is and he recognised the road/path and tree because he had spent a few weekends there helping with an archeological dig.

I was prompted to paint the tree when I saw a photograph on the blog "Cherie's Place" (below):

I told her via the comments that I was going to 'steal' it and paint it and when she saw the finished and framed picture she loved it so it is now hanging on her wall somewhere at home down south.

Historical note: Flodden is the site of a famous battle between the English and Scots in 1513: (Ed.)

Cherry's tree photograph above was taken in 2009; below is another shot from 2018, plus JD's closeup of his finished painting (thanks to Cherry -

Saturday, May 22, 2021

WEEKENDER: Are you queer? by Wiggia

Amazingly a word that was outlawed not that many years ago by the  LGBTXXXXX brigade a few years back is back in favour. At this rate 'faggot' and 'poofta' will be acceptable soon. such is the rate of change.

In real terms I don’t give a stuff what people get up to in their own homes. Why should I be concerned after all these years when no one ever complained about selfgendering and pronouns? I doubt the majority if confronted over the pronoun issue would have a clue what was being spoken about and that is how it should have remained.

Which all makes this announcement from ARUP  and the Westminster University aka the old Regent Street Polytechnic and now sadly a woke outpost, even more ridiculous.

The Regent Street Polytechnic was a grand old Victorian philanthropic organisation set up in 1837. Its mantra was: 

 “an institution where the Public, at little expense, may acquire practical knowledge of the various arts and branches of science connected with manufacturers, mining operations and rural economy. “

It was acquired by Quintin Hogg, the father of the late Lord Hailsham, who was very hands on with the institute, and was the first Polytechnic in London.

A previous article I wrote about the Poly and its central role in ensuring the 1908 Olympics went ahead has been lost though I do have a paper copy somewhere. Back to today: this once august institution seems to spend a lot of time now as a hot bed of lefty Marxist groups rather than anything constructive such as turning out people who are useful to society, but this latest announcement comes from the top and its alliance with ARUP, the architects designer planning consultant group. 

Does anyone really know what that headline means? In this time of diversity and inclusiveness any excuse is as good as another to change things that supposedly allow minorities to enjoy the fruits of life as do the rest of us; the only problem with that analogy is there is nothing to stop them now, and hasn’t been for decades. The ‘problem’ is a purely invented one.

It is worth reading the entire article:

The announcement from ARUP follows the same theme.

But what does it actually say? The bulk of it is verbal diarrhoea, it says nothing, it just fills a page with gobbledegook. This passage is a classic: 

"They also said that inclusive design should contribute to the desistance of hate crime and promote the inclusion of marginalised and disempowered groups in public space. Professor Catterall and Dr Azzouz suggest attention to the scale and mass of buildings, lighting features, colours and facades and the addition of curvilinear aspects are amongst the design techniques that can help achieve this objective."

'Marginalised, disempowered, hate crime,' it is all in there - and apparently the size of buildings can make a difference! How, is not defined.

The ARUP version incorporates a review jointly produced by themselves and the Westminster University, here:

What I do not understand is why, after telling us they have what have become ‘gayborhoods’ or queer enclaves, is there a necessity to have them spread out into the general areas. They have the ability to do that now, no one is stopping them, these days minorities rule, so what is the problem? 

For everyone else the constant bombardment with rainbow flags, crossings etc is wearing. Like all progressive movements there is a limit that when crossed creates a divide, which was not the original purpose.

Many from the gay community have spoken out about all this. Wokery on their behalf is not wanted, they are quite happy to continue with their lives as is. Those extroverts that seem to infest gay pride parades with their extreme agenda are a small part of the gay community. If 'queering places' means this is the next step I suggest they stay in gayborhoods.

The AJ (Architects Journal) has a broader, more practical approach to the report, yet still talks as if there is a problem. Is there really a problem? The AJ refers to safe spaces in universities for minority groups and wants to incorporate this theme in outside areas; I ask why? Putting rainbow flags everywhere doesn’t automatically give a safe space, it indicates what that place represents and could give a reverse signal to anyone so inclined to want to make trouble; but aren’t we past  the days of the Naked Civil Servant? Isn’t all this a complete overkill to suit one minority, and do they really want it?

When I grew up in the East End of London many of our haunts were gay pubs. Why? Because they provided the best entertainment, nothing more nothing less. The customers that frequented these places went there mainly for the entertainment, there was never an ulterior motive. Now, gay pubs are for gays only; is that really progress? 

Has everyone become such wimps in life that they have to demand protection from everything, hurty words, demanding to be called this and wondering why they get the wrong answer? Isn’t it all getting totally out of hand. Can’t all minorities just get on with their lives like the rest of us without having to need a crutch for every perceived slight?

Oh, and I have probably just committed a hate crime.

On top of the above Sutton council in south London have just unveiled their first trans road crossing; this they believe will lead to more inclusivity? They already have a permanent rainbow crossing; if they carry on with all the genders it will be interesting to see the first time someone is knocked down on one of these crossing because the driver had not a clue what it was. There is the usual waffle from the councillors who you would have thought had more pressing items in the borough, though of course if you appoint a “lead member for Equalities” I suppose you have to give him something to do:

As with nearly all articles on subjects like this, you finish reading and say ’so what’ ? It is such infantile stuff. How anyone can take this seriously is amazing. I should say that, with days for almost everything, from causes to groups and individuals being created all the time, we must eventually run out of things to celebrate. Perhaps we can declare the whole year a bank holiday, or have we just had that, and all buildings to have mandatory flags, from trans groups to 'save Palestine' month, Black History month, clapping for the NHS, anti-slavery week, LGBQT  history month (see below, and do they really need a month?) and on and on.

(This is a mental hospital, by the way.)

In closing, I have to ask how can these random crossings be legal? We have zebra crossings which are the legal black-and-white ones; how many others are in the official traffic regulations?

And if they are to be made legal, can we have some decent ones? ...

Having taken all this in we need a rest, and naturally there is a rainbow answer to ease your aching mind:                                   

Friday, May 21, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Peter Frampton, by JD

 A couple of weeks ago SKY Arts showed Eric Clapton's 'Crossroads' guitar festival from 2019 in Dallas, Texas.

The highlight, for me, was a friendly 'duel' between Clapton and Peter Frampton playing George Harrison's song While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I had forgotten how good a guitarist Frampton was and still is. 

He is now 71 and has been diagnosed with 'inclusion body myostitis' an autimmine disease which will eventually prevent him from playing the guitar so here is a selection of his music including the aforementioned 'duel' with Clapton which they both clearly enjoyed enormously; Frampton is one of the few performers who smiles on stage as if he really enjoyed his craft!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Coming soon, the 55 United States of America?


Following the Biden administration's proposal to turn Washington DC into another US state...

1. A number of counties in Oregon are exploring the possibility to join Idaho instead:

2. My brother comments:

"The only state that is free to do something similar is Texas. In the agreement which brought them into the Union, they can break up into up to 5 states. 

"The problem for the power hungry GOP in the state is at least twofold. Firstly, they would no longer be one of the biggest states, and secondly, the state is actually becoming more liberal in the areas near the big cities. [His son] thinks that this will accelerate with things like the recent power grid debacle."

... would that make Texas the 'Five Star State'?

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

MIDWEEK MARVEL: Fractal art, by JD

 ... aka Mandelbrot (and similar) sets

A few colourful digital designs created with ChaosPro fractal generator - Every image started like this: << pic 000 >>

Monday, May 17, 2021

START THE WEEK: Green, Broke and Cold - by Wiggia

                        or... TO 2030 AND BEYOND: THE ROAD TO NOWHERE


The nudge unit is going to have to work overtime on the Green Deal as more and more facts are released or found on the total impracticality of it, all the ridiculous costs involved and the restrictions that will by necessity be imposed on citizens to even begin to make it all work.

I had an example today of the other side of the argument. We have just had a new gas boiler installed in our new house; I spoke to the engineer and asked why, if gas boilers are to be banned from being fitted in new homes from 2025 and phased out in the early thirties, are the likes of British Gas advertising deals on new ‘efficient’ gas boilers.

He said: it is simply not going to happen. The new boilers in the pipeline will be made to be able to change to hydrogen when and if that occurs, otherwise gas boilers will simply carry on being used.

Once again heat pumps were explained as being only useful in new efficient houses and with underfloor heating; it is simply not practical to upgrade older houses enough to make heat pumps viable - radiator sizes alone would have to be increased by 50% because the heat pumps work at a lower temperature.

We have spoken of all this before. The costs to change for the average householder are ridiculously expensive and I agree it is not going to happen and why would anyone sane change with all that expense to a system that is going to cost you a lot lot more to run? 

With more and more fact-based opposition to the Green Deal emerging from reliable sources, I cannot believe  that Boris is ploughing on with all this and the whole CC emissions carbon zero nonsense. There can never be carbon zero; they are just words, an unachievable goal for the eco loons who never explain how it can be achieved other than by impoverishing the population.

The video in the link below shows the rank stupidity of much of the ban everything argument. It starts with the news that seals are losing their young because of lack of ice and then shows a large broken away iceberg; this is enough for those who believe to shut down all things fossil fuelled.

The headline for this video is ‘Gas boilers should be banned’; it takes a big leap to connect dead seal pups and a broken-off large piece of ice with gas boilers.

And that is the part I do not get. The cyclical nature of weather of the millennia has resulted in cold areas becoming hot, hot areas returning to the ice age and everything in between. Not once have I heard an explanation for how all these events that happened long before Man could be because of us, and even now the ‘science’ has difficulty separating the two.

We have come a long way from the industrial revolution and those dark satanic mills; it is now history, the virtual slave labour of those days is gone, yet is replicated in countries that supply the minerals for the clean new world that is to be founded on battery power; the hypocrisy was never more evident, 'battery power means less of a carbon footprint', that myth is being unpicked on a weekly basis, yet even that is not enough, we now have reports that the eco fascists are not really satisfied with EVs as apparently their tyres give off far too much toxic dust and so do the brake pads. It really is never enough for these b******s, and why do they gain traction? No one votes for them and the background to nearly all of these organisations is always a lot more than just a quest for clean air: it is about changing the way we are governed and making us live how they consider we should.

Naturally none of this will cost them anything. They rarely work unless it is for the same organisations, they are an army of protesting eco mercenaries who have far too much time on their hands; governments listen to their tosh, but they are banging at an already open door - it can only be for the advantage of big business, it is certainly not for the general population, who will be paying for all this for decades.

In our local paper the Eastern Daily Press, there was this week what could be only be called a puff piece by a Swedish company building the latest windmill farm off the coast here. A Dr Catrin Ellis Jones from Vattenfall, a Swedish firm that is building 300 windmills of the coast near here, is asking the people of Norfolk how a multi-million pound fund should be spent in the area supporting our transition over the next three decades to low carbon living.

The company has appointed several ‘ambassadors’ to connect with the local population, ie propagandists.

Two things: first, no one has been asked if we want to go this route in the first place, for all the obvious reasons laid out multiple times; and secondly, where has this money come from? Certainly not from any philanthropic arm of Vattenfall; it almost certainly comes from the huge subsidies given to the wind farm industry - our money!

The UEA professor in sustainable energy chips in: ‘This is an exciting opportunity for all of us in the Norfolk community to say what we love about living here ( what has that got to do with windmills?) and start thinking about the energy and climate future we want for our area.’ What we want has already been decided by the powers that be and it’s more windmills. It sounds as though the old nudge unit has been wheeled out again; we have no say in any of this, it has all been decided that this is the way forward.

Once again in this long drawn out winter we have had more than a few days when energy from wind has been at abysmal levels. Only the interlockers keep the lights on; there is never any mention of this from the pushers of the green movement or anyone else, about this fact that when we need power on cold, dark and often windless days it is not going to come from windmills, yet in mid-summer with low demand and adequate wind the whole industry jumps up and makes headlines about how over 50% of our energy was supplied by the same sustainable? source - even that is not strictly true as they include imported nuclear power not our nuclear power.

It is very difficult, even if you wanted to believe in what is laid out for the future of this country in the climate change debate. This committee, headed up by the industry subsidised Lord Deben (aka Gummer of the beef roll incident), gives a road map of what is required to reach net zero, a figure that means very little but will cost billions over many years to even attempt to achieve.

The whole thing should be dumped. We are quite capable of improving living conditions without this nonsense and without adding to our enormous current debt. It could be of course that it will never happen as the money simply isn’t there on this scale; hobbling the country with energy costs is already hurting Germany which is building, yes it really is, new coal-fired power stations after the disaster of closing down all their nuclear ones. Does Boris actually believe he knows better than all the failed green energy schemes around the world? If he does, we have a big problem. 

Worldwide the West is suffering from leftie governments, and that includes our current one who would have us consume what they believe and want us to consume, whereas we buy what we want to consume. The only way they can change that is to ban or make what we consume too expensive and then replace it with an equally or more expensive poor substitute; that is happening now in many areas under the guise of health, climate change, and the altering of thought processes with duress as in so called hate crime or the pronoun wars; all cobblers but still making progress. 

None of this is good and yet 'bread and circuses' is winning at the moment.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: Persian Carpets, by JD

Mashad, as well as being one of the holiest cities in Iran, is one of the main centres of carpet production. Situated in the north east of Iran, in the province of Khorasan, the carpet manufacturing is extensive and produces mostly large carpets which are also sold under the name Meshed. The wool from Khorasan is recognized by its softness

An oriental (Persian) carpet, when it first comes off the loom, has a very raw and rough appearance and before it can be sold it needs to be washed so as to remove the fragments and small pieces of wool which have remained amidst the weft and warp of the carpet after it has been clipped. This operation gives lustre and shine to the fibres of the wool, and causes the pile to take its natural smooth direction.

Washing brings additional colours out of the skeins of wool giving a pleasant shade to the carpet. Many techniques are used in different countries, from simply dipping the carpet in a Persian brook and hanging it in the sun to dry, to complex chemical processing carried out in modern factories in Europe or the USA.

Alternatively, twenty or thirty years of use in an Eastern home will do the trick: there, all the loose hairs in the wool will gradually come out and the gentle traffic of feet without shoes in a room with little or no furniture will cause the fibres to begin to glow with a natural lustre.

I have a couple of the smaller carpets at home and they seem to be unwearoutable. As well as being silky smooth after all these years they have retained their colours very well.

* An earlier version of this post originally appeared at Nourishing Obscurity on 24/3/2011; that original post has been lost in Nourishing Obscurity's technical problems.

Friday, May 14, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Angels of Venice, by JD

Harpist Carol Tatum, cellist Irena Chirkova and vocalist Christina Limhardt are, or were, Angels of Venice. There have been several changes of personnel over the years but the music revolves around Tatum as de facto leader of the ensemble.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Parliamentary democracy: belling(ham) the cat, by Sackerson

When two honest men met in Parliament, one was shot and the other hanged. Though two centuries old, the story sheds light on current issues of democracy and government.

The date was May 11, 1812 and Prime Minister Spencer Perceval had arrived to take part in a debate. In the lobby, John Bellingham stepped forward and shot him at close range with a half-inch pistol ball; Perceval staggered back, took a couple of steps forward and died immediately.

Rather than run, Bellingham identified himself as the ‘unfortunate’ perpetrator and sat down quietly, awaiting a trial that he expected to exonerate him, for, as he later explained to the court, he had spent five years as a victim of injustice in Russian jails while British officials had done nothing to assist him; and on his return to England his subsequent petitions for redress had been refused or ignored. Latterly, Perceval himself had told Bellingham (incorrectly, it seems) that the time limit for petitions had passed. Perhaps the fatal moment of decision came when a civil servant at the Treasury had said ‘that I had nothing to expect, and that I was at liberty to take such steps as I thought fit,’ which he interpreted as ‘a carte blanche from the British government to right myself in any way I might be able to discover.’

It wasn’t even a personal grudge against Perceval. Bellingham said that as a gentleman he had the right to exact satisfaction from any member of the Government, as sharing collective responsibility, and would have preferred shooting the Ambassador to Russia who had been the first to deny him help. However, the murder was seen by others as a wider political act – there was rejoicing in Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield where many people saw Perceval as a reactionary fighting against radical demands for reform. Also, a Frenchman who witnessed Bellingham’s inevitable execution wrote four years later that the crowd’s mindset was ‘Farewell poor man, you owe satisfaction to the offended laws of your country, but God bless you! you have rendered an important service to your country, you have taught ministers that they should do justice, and grant audience when it is asked of them,’ and noted that the public subscribed handsomely to support the financially ruined man’s widow and children.

 For their part, Parliament voted a large sum to provide for Perceval’s family; unlike so many holders of public office past and present, the Prime Minister had neglected to monetise his position and influence and had barely more than £100 at the bank when he died. He seems to have been a principled man in public life and a loving husband and father. In person, he could hardly have made a more unsuitable target for Bellingham’s revenge.

Yet the question remains, whom should the Government serve, and how?

The long British struggle with the autocratic power of the Crown, leading to the rebellious barons’ Magna Carta in several versions in the thirteenth century, then bursting out in civil war in the sixteenth as absolutist Scots monarchy overstepped the mark, and again in the seventeenth in fear of pan-European Catholic authoritarianism, ended with the current model of the ‘Crown in Parliament’; but although that cat had finally been belled, its power passed down to the office of the Prime Minister and the other Cabinet Ministers past and present, all automatically members of the monarch’s Privy Council. We have seen how fast the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Council can override the customary liberties of the subject – the late Tony Benn warned that it could abolish our civil rights in an afternoon, and so it has proved.

Ironically, the instrument used was not the terrifying Civil Contingencies Act 2004 that as Lord Sumption has noted is hedged about by stringent and frequent Parliamentary reviews (despite which, we must be thankful that the Constitutionally inventive Mr Blair had no opportunity to use it), but an older health Act whose provisions have been so generously reinterpreted as to accommodate every whim of the Minister for Health. When he issues an ukase, we must obey, and the police who used to be our local guardians of the law have become almost a national militia to enforce (and even gold-plate) his centralised directives.

The ease with which this happened sets a dangerous precedent for some possible future administration with a much more radical and potentially oppressive agenda - let us look across the Atlantic for an example of Constitutional tinkering seemingly aimed at enabling a power-grab by the Executive. Here, now, we have another cat that needs a bell, and it is a matter for the deepest regret that the Opposition has failed to act adequately in probing and challenging the wielders of power. So many in Parliament, including the present Labour leader himself, are lawyers; have they forgotten how to cross-examine?

For whom do our MPs work?

Edmund Burke told his constituents that he represented their interests rather than their opinions, and we see from the bitter squabbling on social media and elsewhere how divisive an Athenian-style direct democracy could be.  The representative model suited a time when much of the economy was local and regional and it took days to ride to Westminster; other forms of communication were similarly slow and piecemeal.

Now, we have mass media yet are better able to judge and vote the winner of a television talent contest than who is to be our Mayor or Police and Crime Commissioner. In the latest elections I read the statements by the local PCC candidates and while they all seemed to be against crime (rather than for releasing all prisoners and sacking the entire police force) there was precious little to convince me as to who would do the job most effectively; TV seemed little interested in informing me about them, rather than about singers and dancers.

There is also the issue of voter numbers. Before the 1832 Reform Act few people had the franchise: on average, about 1,200 per constituency - famously, the pocket borough of Old Sarum had only seven electors, themselves nominated by the landowner since the houses where people had once lived no longer existed. It was therefore likely that a voter would recognise the Member of Parliament and be able to speak to him.

The average modern British constituency has over 73,000 voters (as at the 2019 General Election.) If the Parliamentary candidate wished to address (and listen to) them all at the same time, he/she would have to book a football stadium; and if we reduced Parliamentary seats by 50 to 600 (as Mr Cameron and others wished) that average would rise to over 79,000 – only Twickenham or Wembley could cope. Even now, 16 English constituencies have more than the 90,000 voters that Wembley might accommodate (headed by the Isle of Wight at over 110,000.) How could we make our individual voice heard in that size of crowd?

The answer is that we can’t. Rather than standing for us in Parliament, some MPs seem to think it is their duty to represent their Party to us. Once voted in, the successful MP need not do very much (although, to be fair, many try) to keep us contented. Disciplinary feedback is via the Party leader’s office, unless the MP is a Minister . A 2009 court ruling said that there is no legal remedy if your MP ignores you. There are of course various Codes of Conduct and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards can help to bring pressure, but strictly speaking Statute law will not stand with you when you have a complaint. . Worse still, the Party system has become so strong that even an excellent, very hard-working and independent-minded MP can lose his seat if he/she loses the Party’s support, as we saw with Frank (now, deservedly, Lord) Field,_Baron_Field_of_Birkenhead#Resignation_of_the_Labour_whip .

The new wine of integrated economics and modern communications threatens to burst the old skin of the political system. There is much work to do, to make the Mother of Parliaments fit for use.