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

Saturday, July 31, 2021

WEEKENDER: An Olympic Year Story, by Wiggia


I wrote a piece about the involvement of the Regent Street Polytechnic, now Westminster University, in the 1908 Olympics some years back, but the piece has disappeared and the print version I have somewhere can’t at this moment be unearthed; probably buried with much else when we moved house a few months ago, so I thought it appropriate to re-write it.

The 1908 games were hastily put together by Britain after the original site in Rome for the original 1906 games was considered unviable following the volcanic eruption in Naples and the fact the Italians had more on their plate than worrying about an Olympics. It was also suggested they didn’t have the money to put the games on in the first place and the volcanic eruption was a timely intervention; we, and it wouldn’t be the last time, stepped into the breach.

The Regent Street Polytechnic had a proud record as many of its sports clubs were among the finest in the country. The Polytechnic Harriers produced numerous Olympic medallists over the years and had their own sports ground at Chiswick. Many of the other sports clubs and associations also had individuals and teams competing at the highest level plus the organisational skills to run big events. This made them the obvious choice to turn to in helping put on the 1908 games; politics with the IOC means that very little, in fact nothing on that matter is admitted or recorded by that organisation today and you would be hard pushed to find a mention in any IOC history - there is none - of the help that ensured the games went ahead.

I have a personal interest in all this as I was a member of the Polytechnic Cycling Club, at the time the foremost track club in the country with many national champions in various disciplines. As a club it must have had the most celebrated club house in the country in London’s Regent Street. Though the club had just one small room to call its own it did have the run of all the facilities available there: swimming pool, snooker room, gym and educational facilities should you require them.

On entry as today the marble hall is very imposing and the history of sports success could be seen everywhere: a marble slab with the Polytechnic's own sports person of the year above the grand staircase read like a Who’s Who of sport at the time, and various glass cases in the corridors contained club trophies that outshone anything I had ever seen; one of these became subject to a row over ownership after the Polytechnic ceased to be and all the sports clubs were disbanded then or a little later as it changed to a university in ‘86, so no longer a Polytechnic with a history of success in so many fields, now a dubious change for the better with a uni that is famous only for being a hotbed of lefty thinking and no sports association.

Obviously the security barriers were not there in my time and the annual best sportsman names were inscribed in marble behind the centre welcome above the door, if it is still there.

I must also mention the late Lord Hailsham, Quintin Hogg, who was very much involved in the Poly and would respond in longhand to requests on things like law that would affect members.

This gives a summary of the lead up to those Olympics and the Poly’s involvement:

The Polytechnic Harriers and the Olympics

In 1908, when the Olympic Games came to the White City Stadium, the opening and closing ceremonies and the Marathon race were all organized by the Regent Street Polytechnic. This institution had been created by the vision of Quintin Hogg (1845-1903), a man who believed in the education of ‘mind, body and spirit’. In 1891 it became the model for applied education across London. Visiting athletes from abroad were invited to become honorary Polytechnic members and to use the sports and social facilities at 309 Regent St.

Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and the President of France visited the White City Stadium on May 26th, three weeks before the Games began. The Polytechnic staged the events, which included a parade of athletes and a gymnastic display. A series of postcards were produced to mark the occasion.

The Polytechnic Harriers Club organized the Trial Olympic Marathon race which was reintroduced as an event in the modern Games. The race was run from Windsor Great Park to the stadium and established the international distance which was fixed by the Games Organising Committee at 26 miles and 385 yards, enabling the runners to finish in front of the Royal Box. 

Twenty-three Polytechnic members were selected for the British Olympic team. Charles Bartlett of the Polytechnic Cycling Club won a gold medal, and the Poly won a further four silver and bronze medals in boxing, cycling and track events.”

The Polytechnic Harriers have played a major role in the destiny of world athletics.

The club was entrusted with organising the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1908 Olympic Games at the newly-built White City Stadium in London, which were lauded by the athletes and media alike. Athletes became honorary members of the Polytechnic and, in the absence of an Olympic village, used the organisation’s Regent Street headquarters for training and lodging.

There was also a 'rehearsal' held at Chiswick – as described by The Times – when members of the Poly competed against the athletes in a variety of events.

In the official report on the 1908 games the Polytechnic is thanked by the Council of London for its assistance in so many areas.

Two things emerge from this:

  • Without the help of the Poly the games could never have taken place, or would have struggled severely; it was the only sporting organisation with the size and knowledge to have helped out in the task; and
  • The marathon distance was fixed by the route chosen, for all time: the Polytechnic marathon which followed on from the games was the oldest established race over the distance in Europe and for decades the most prestigious.

“At the time of its demise in 1996, the Poly was Europe's oldest regular marathon. It had seen more world records and had been run over 42.195 kilometres (26.219 miles) more often than any other marathon.“

It also had a magnificent trophy awarded to it by the Sporting Life and the Poly marathon had a status as the most prestigious marathon in the world after the Olympic version.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Brasher_Sporting_Life_Trophy

The link doesn’t tell the whole story as there was a legal dispute over ownership of the trophy: it had been gifted to the Poly for their race but the Mirror group which owned the Sporting Life refused to return it and the rest is history. What those who claimed it, rightly or wrongly would have done with it is doubtful as the club no longer had a race or a winner to present it to.

Images for some reason of the trophy have completely disappeared, but in this Movietone clip of the race won by the great Ron Hill the trophy can be clearly seen.

The marathon was not without controversy. Pietri Dorando was the first man into the stadium but was suffering from extreme fatigue and did not look as though he would make the line and so was helped, and then disqualified. Such was the public sympathy for Dorando that the Queen awarded him a gold cup the next day as a consolation prize. In this old postcard of the event Dorando can be seen running through Harlesden, accompanied, as were all the runners, by a cyclist supplied by - you guessed it - the Polytechnic Harriers and cycling club.


Back to the Olympics. Having stepped in to save the Games we only had two years to prepare for the event. The challenge of preparing London for the 1908 Games with such little notice was taken up by Lord Desborough (1855-1945), chairman of the British Olympic Association. This formidable aristocrat had climbed the Matterhorn, rowed in the Boat Race for Oxford and swum across the base of Niagara Falls, so organizing the Olympic Games was not an especially intimidating prospect. He persuaded the organizers of the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 to build the stadium, at their own expense, to accommodate an athletics ground. In return they would receive a proportion of gate receipts. Soon named ‘White City’ after its ugly concrete structures, the stadium was completed in ten months by George Wimpey and included a swimming pool and cycle track as well as facilities for track and field athletics. It was designed to accommodate 66,000 spectators but could hold as many as 130,000 standing on terraces.

It is difficult to imagine such an undertaking being completed in that time today; oh, and it made a small profit !

For the only time the British team won the most medals, 146 including 56 gold medals. The White City stadium survived, later mainly as the home of greyhound racing, until it was demolished in 1986 to be replaced by a 'white elephant', the BBC television centre, itself now gone.

The velodrome/cycle track was never really used after the 1908 games and further grandstanding was built on it to increase capacity.

The games had one other first: women were allowed to compete in a small number of sports for the first time.

The games suffered from appalling weather and were extended to finish all the events: they actually lasted for six months. This photo of the track cycling gives an idea of the weather; for safety reasons, track cycling is never held in the rain, but the program got so behind they changed the rules.


So despite the IOC erasing every detail about the Polytechnic involvement in the 1908 games, it can be safely said they would not have gone ahead without that institution's involvement. 

_________________________________________-
Some sources / suggestions for further reading:

Friday, July 30, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Gram Parsons, by JD

Gram Parsons is probably unknown to most people but he was a member of one of the iconic groups of the sixties, The Byrds. He was not one of the original five members but the band went through many, many personnel changes over the years and Parsons joined them in early 1968 and was a major influence on the musical style of that year's album 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo,' a record which more or less invented 'country rock' a coming together of Country music and the 'easy' lyrical rock and roll of previous Byrds records. As it says in Wiki, Parsons made Country music fashionable again.


A note on the first video here: it is often stated that the song is a premonition of Parsons' own early death but that is not so. The song is about another band member, the guitarist Clarence White. After a show one night White was helping to load equipment into a car when he was knocked down and killed by a drunk driver. 

About Parsons' own death there is rather a lot of controversy about what happened and why. I make no comment but fellow band member Chris Hillman is in no doubt and expresses his views forcefully and bitterly in a YT video which you can find if you wish. I prefer to remember the music.









Thursday, July 29, 2021

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 29 July 1961

In at #5 this week - we've heard the first four - is Billy Fury:



Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):

24 July: Wilfred Roman Oquendo, a Cuban-born American citizen, hijacks Eastern Airlines Flight 202 at pistol point in Miami and forces the pilot to take him to Cuba. 'Skyjacking' has been developed by Fidel Castro's brother Raul, initially targeting the planes of Cubana de Aviación; in the US it is not technically illegal until September 1961:

25 July: President Kennedy makes a televised address announcing that the US will defend West Berlin against the Soviets at any cost including nuclear war. 
[Video below gives soundtrack, audio-visual recording is on the JFK Library website here: https://www.jfklibrary.org/asset-viewer/archives/TNC/TNC-258/TNC-258 .]

26 July: In the African sub-Saharan continent, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) votes in a constitutional referendum to allow some representation for black people, in the Rhodesian Parliament. 
    Although technically non-racial, there are two electoral rolls: on the 'A' list 50 constituencies are largely inhabited by whites; the 15 on the 'B' list are almost entirely black. The 'B' roll therefore has c. 23% of the seats in Parliament. 
    At this time the European population is estimated to number 225,000 (out of a total c. 3.75 million in 1960); that is, whites represent about 6% of the population but have 77% of the seats. Nevertheless this new proposed constitution is broadly welcomed in the UK House of Commons as a first step towards a non-racial society, as the debate there some weeks before, on 22 June, shows:
    'It may be that many of us would like to see rather more, but, even a year ago, the most liberal-minded Southern Rhodesian that I have met would hardly have looked forward to being able to have 15 so quickly, and many were hoping to get only two, three or four after the next election' -
-  Frederic Bennett, Conservative MP for Torquay.
    Later, as other African countries gain sovereignty, Southern Rhodesia wishes to follow suit, but is refused UK permission on the grounds that it has not yet moved to majority rule; this leads in 1965 to the colony's 'unilateral declaration of independence', not recognised internationally or by the United Nations. Following internal conflict and a period of direct rule from Britain, Zimbabwe gains its independence at last in 1980.

UK chart hits, week ending 29 July 1961

Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation https://www.sixtiescity.net/charts/61chart.htm

1

Temptation

The Everly Brothers

Warner Brothers

2

Well I Ask You

Eden Kane

Decca

3

Hello Mary Lou / Travellin' Man

Ricky Nelson

London

4

Runaway

Del Shannon

London

5

Halfway To Paradise

Billy Fury

Decca

6

A Girl Like You

Cliff Richard and The Shadows

Columbia

7

You Don't Know

Helen Shapiro

Columbia

8

Pasadena

The Temperance Seven

Parlophone

9

You Always Hurt The One You Love

Clarence 'Frogman' Henry

Pye

10

Romeo

Petula Clark

Pye

11

Time

Craig Douglas

Top Rank

12

Don't You Know It

Adam Faith

Parlophone

13

Baby I Don't Care / Valley Of Tears

Buddy Holly

Coral

14

Surrender

Elvis Presley

RCA

15

Weekend

Eddie Cochran

London

16

But I Do

Clarence 'Frogman' Henry

Pye

17

Runnin' Scared

Roy Orbison

London

18

Quarter To Three

The U.S. Bonds

Top Rank

19

Old Smokie / High Voltage

Johnny and The Hurricanes

London

20=

More Than I Can Say

Bobby Vee

London

20=

That's My Home

Acker Bilk

Columbia


Saturday, July 24, 2021

WEEKENDER: Still Not at Peak Wokery? by Wiggia


Some things today would be quite funny if they were not so numerous, tedious and in some cases dangerous. It is not unlike that old habit of when someone says ‘in my day all we had (insert favourite phrase)', someone else would trump it with 'nothing like as bad as ...), only this time it is in reverse: wokery for some has become a means of staying in the limelight, of having their fifteen minutes of fame by being total twats, there can be no other rational reason for much of what we see today.

And then when the embedded troops of woke progressives use their platforms, whether uni, social media, print, whatever to push for change in areas that really no one gives a jot about, you are met with this daily tsunami of irrelevant word soup.

Institutions from the NHS, National Trust, Police, government, building regulations and down are all immersed in this nonsense, and it is nonsense. Even our local town council are proudly pictured with a bench that has a rainbow theme across it; why? What will it achieve other than for those councillors to somehow feel they have done their bit to keep up with the lunacy?

The entrance roads to our main hospital have signs in the road thanking NHS workers on a rainbow banner. Is the NHS run by LBGT++++ staff only? They also fly a rainbow flag on the main building, that they say is to show how inclusive they are. Inclusive? They are there to treat sick people. Will flying a rainbow flag shorten waiting lists, improve treatment, build more hospitals? That is all the general public care about with the NHS, not flags or right-on statements.

Shell are getting in on the act with the ‘diversity is our strength’ meme: four petrol stations are to follow four in the Netherlands with the rainbow stripes all round the canopy of the service stations. If they have been successfully using people from the LGBT community in their business, fine; why would someone going to fill their car up with what Shell sell be needed to be told what is company policy. Just stick to selling petrol, while you still can.

I honestly believe that the sheer amount of trans posts on social media is a sign of the mentally inept. None of this existed until a few years ago. When did you ever see one of these stupid tattooed, pierced, clown-dressed people in real life? Now if the number on social media are to go by there is one on every street corner; only there isn’t. It is a way for many to be recognised, a sort of alternative to the perfect teeth, plastic boob, suntanned abs brigade on Love Island: can’t aspire to that, so let's pretend we are something else and wear nonsense clothing and bugger our bodies up with bad artwork, then we can be unemployable and spend our time on Tik Tok making ‘controversial’ videos. There are dozens of them, all pathetic people clamouring for their fifteen minutes or less of fame; you have probably seen some but I include one below.

Despite the apparent flood of these types of people there is nothing new in it. Narcissism has been around since the beginning of time, it just has more outlets for those who suffer from it to parade it.

Is this a snobbish attitude? Not in any way: there is nothing wrong in being different; it is why you are different that matters, not following some false construct of society.

My own early life was very different. Post war, there was very little money going round; you made do with what you had, there was no real place for anything outside of getting by.

In the Sixties things changed: we had money, jobs were easy to come by and we enjoyed ourselves riding on the crest of a music revolution. It was - but we didn’t know it - the best of times. We had people who would qualify for TOWIE or Love Island then, the young men were called poseurs and the young women who believed just being would attract a like soul and played it hard were called East End Queens, both were generally ignored; today they are admired. Plus ça change...

This one contains all the affectations that many others do, apart from the look. This is quite mild, you have the orchestrated speech and the hand movements that so many of them display, and oh how clever they are, many hours in front of a mirror for a few seconds of rubbish on Tik Tok.

https://twitter.com/libsoftiktok/status/1415344096487657478

And convince me these two are for real; quite gross:

https://twitter.com/libsoftiktok/status/1414692846213505030

Back on planet Earth, the push for change for no other reason than those pushing live in a closed environment with like minded souls, produces nonsense like this…..

They are now running out of things to hang a racist slur on - I shouldn’t say that as it tempts providence, but Anna Sewell's ‘Black Bess’ must be in the firing line; and the Lloyds Bank black horse ad must be for the chop, far too provocative; and how long can Black Pudding escape censure?

Inevitably Enid Blyton, the second most successful author in history with 6,000 million sales, ‘lacks literary merit’. The little black doll has sealed her fate for good; even the fact all her works are written in a different age does not save her from being cancelled or well on the way to be, I am amazed her old home hasn’t been razed to the ground or at least the equivalent of a yellow star painted on the door.

With the National Trust now putting up explanatory notices next to any object that could have even the slightest connections to slavery, I fully expect the next time I visit Rome to see the same in the Forum and Coliseum, or not; totally bonkers.

In America wokeness has reached new levels, since insisting that the military have trans and LGBT+++ people in front line units and pregnant women flying fighter planes. Now the CIA have started their march to full wokeness with this video for recruitment; more nonsense, more word salad:


Many on the Liberal and progressive Left have taken on the role of apologists for the white race for actually being in existence at all. 'White supremacy' like 'racist' has lost its meaning and has no validity in how it is used, tagged on to the end of countless sentences as a means of finality in any discussion on any subject on race that happens to occur. It means that having used the aforementioned there is nothing else to say, they have won.

Big corporations everywhere are joining in. Some have backed the wrong horse in order to appear progressive. Coke in the USA said this about the voter legislation regarding voter fraud in Georgia:

“We want to be crystal clear and state unambiguously that we are disappointed in the outcome of the Georgia voting legislation.”

Putting their oar in and basically coming down on the side of the Democrats is not something any company should do, whatever the party. The backlash was huge and they backed down two weeks later with this:

“We believe the best way to make progress now is for everyone to come together to listen respectfully, share concerns and collaborate on a path forward. We remain open to productive conversations with advocacy groups and lawmakers who may have differing views,” the company said. “It’s time to find common ground. In the end, we all want the same thing – free and fair elections, the cornerstone of our democracy.”

So why get involved in the first place. It serves no purpose and has absolutely nothing to do with a commercial enterprise. What they do privately donation-wise is something between them and the shareholders; the rest, butt out.

They are one of a whole phalanx of companies that feel making woke statements is the way forward, or their business strategists suggest they should not be left behind by those already on the ladder to peak wokeness.

This nonsense from IKEA:

“Swedish-founded giant IKEA is the latest company to announce it has stopped advertising on the newly-founded GB News following outrage from left-wing activists threatening to boycott if they don’t suspend advertising on the channel.

A statement from the company suggested the channel was not aligned with its “humanistic values”, despite it only being on air for a total of two days.”

So IKEA caved in to a small group of vociferous lefty activists who declare that GB News is a far-right news organisation despite the fact they could not have watched any of it. What have IKEA to fear? It would not make one iota of difference if they had simply ignored the activists, but it seems these days  no one can resist being seen to be on the side of the progressives.

Education meanwhile on both sides of the pond carries on regardless of what anyone outside of the institutions thinks. Here we are mimicking what has been going on in the States for some time, with what used to be standard methods of learning being outed as racist; such things as basic English, doing your allotted homework and even maths are now seen as white man's privilege and no longer required in the learning process for black students. How this non-learning and the subsequent awarding of diplomas without actually doing the graft will be viewed in the workplace is itself now open to question as again certain institutions are going along with this, which makes a university course and grades all a bit pointless.

https://twitter.com/GBNEWS/status/1409623890276585472

As I said above, we are not that far behind and 150 dons are threatening to down tools unless Oriel College do something about that pesky Rhodes statue that has resisted being removed so far. After all, wherever the money came from it was he who made the college possible and Rhodes scholars from Africa have benefited, though today even those who are benefiting would rather not, despite none of them going home in protest.

The instigator of this is said to be one Dr Kate Tunstall, a French literature expert  known as Red Kate and interim provost at the self-styled ‘People’s Republic of Worcester College’. After sending an email out she has garnered the support of 150 dons who believe that they will not teach until the Rhodes statue is removed; the rest of the illuminati backing Red Kate can be seen here, no surprises at all.

What is surprising in its scale is the support: 150 dons! If ever there was an indication of how far the long march through the institutions has managed to progress, this is it. In reality they should all be told 'either teach or be sacked'. This type of person should never be teaching anyone, it should be that simple; but again there is no fight back, instead there are accommodating statements. The lack of moral fibre at the top is frightening and damning.   

https://eminetra.co.uk/the-strident-left-wing-oxford-professor-red-kate-leading-boycott/522976/

https://insiderpaper.com/math-is-racist-white-supremacy-bill-gates/

That ultimate institution of wokery the UCLA has now got a problem with soap dispensers, the automatic variety: evidently they don’t recognise dark pigment in skin and black pupils have to show their palms, which are lighter, to make them work. The fact that you dispense soap into the palm of your hand and not anywhere else escapes them: they think all soap dispensers of this type are a product of white supremacy and are naturally racist. Having inanimate objects saddled with human frailties is a new one but then they have only just started in this area.

All this is enough to make you want to join a protest or even riot in objection to the sheer stupidity of it all, but wait, you can’t even do that without having th term 'racist' attached to the riot. We are truly living in a dystopian world, or at least one set of people think we are; the rest of us think it is all nuts:

https://www.zerohedge.com/political/npr-claims-calling-riot-riot-racist

Thursday, July 22, 2021

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 22 July 1961

A new #2 this week from Eden Kane, while 'Temptation' still leads:



Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):


18 July: on the 25th anniversary of Spain's dictator Francisco Franco's rise to power, Basque separatist and Marxist group ETA (brief history above) attempts to derail a train carrying military veterans. Franco's response is large-scale arrests and trials of the activists, who in turn escalate their campaign. In 1973 ETA assassinates his Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco who had been tipped to succeed Franco in due course. After Franco dies in 1975 Spain begins its transition to democracy; such support as exists domestically and in France for ETA declines.

(Image source) Europa, representing the ideal of Continental unity (and holding a lead to the bull - Zeus in disguise - that abducted her in Greek mythology), is told to 'be patient, everything takes time.'
EWG stands for 'Europäische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft', German for 'European Economic Community.'
The sapling that will grow to support the other end of Europa's hammock is 'Political Co-operation.'
18 July: at a meeting in Bad Godesderg, Bonn (capital of what was then West Germany), the leaders of the six nations making up the European Economic Community since the Treaty of Rome in 1957 agree the Bonn Declaration committing the group to further integration and enlargement. 
   It was not only trade that united them: Euratom was also agreed in 1957, to share resources on atomic energy; and in July 1961 De Gaulle was already envisioning a common defence policy: “There can be no European unity if Europe does not constitute a political entity distinct from other entities. A personality. But there can be no European personality if Europe does not have control over the defense of its personality. Defense is always the basis of politics.” (See here, page 101, or 109 online.)
   These developments aroused concern in the British Prime Minister, "Harold Macmillan, alarmed not least of all by the danger of an autonomous foreign and defense policy organization of the Six, announced in the House of Commons on 31 July that he would seek to negotiate Britain’s entry into the EEC." (Ibid., page 105, or 113 online.)

Liberty Bell 7 too heavy, had to be ditched
21 July: Astronaut Gus Grissom nearly drowns. The capsule door opens prematurely and seawater floods in; Grissom gets out and swims, but water is getting in through his suit's inlet valve and air being forced out through his neck dam. He is rescued just in time and winched up, but the capsule now weighs too much for the helicopter to take it away; it is eventually recovered by ship in 1999.

UK chart hits, week ending 22 July 1961

Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation https://www.sixtiescity.net/charts/61chart.htm

1

Temptation

The Everly Brothers

Warner Brothers

2

Well I Ask You

Eden Kane

Decca

3

Hello Mary Lou / Travellin' Man

Ricky Nelson

London

4

Runaway

Del Shannon

London

5

Halfway To Paradise

Billy Fury

Decca

6

A Girl Like You

Cliff Richard and The Shadows

Columbia

7

You Don't Know

Helen Shapiro

Columbia

8

Pasadena

The Temperance Seven

Parlophone

9

You Always Hurt The One You Love

Clarence 'Frogman' Henry

Pye

10

Romeo

Petula Clark

Pye

11

Time

Craig Douglas

Top Rank

12

Don't You Know It

Adam Faith

Parlophone

13

Baby I Don't Care / Valley Of Tears

Buddy Holly

Coral

14

Surrender

Elvis Presley

RCA

15

Weekend

Eddie Cochran

London

16

But I Do

Clarence 'Frogman' Henry

Pye

17

Runnin' Scared

Roy Orbison

London

18

Quarter To Three

The U.S. Bonds

Top Rank

19

Old Smokie / High Voltage

Johnny and The Hurricanes

London

20

More Than I Can Say

Bobby Vee

London