Tuesday, May 17, 2022

IQ and racism

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

Research involving human behaviour is tricky.

For example, a famous postwar study of London Transport workers was thought to have shown that people in sedentary jobs, such as bus drivers, were more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those whose work involved more vigorous physical activity, such as bus conductors (in the days when a human went round collecting fares from passengers.)

Much later, my GP friend told me, a flaw was discovered: it could be the case that those who intuitively felt their health less robust would choose sedentary roles. So it was possible that despite the large sample of people in the study and the fact that they had the same field of employment in common, like was still not being compared with like.

The notion that IQ is the most important element in success may also have its weaknesses. When the self-styled ‘Masters of the Universe’ bank traders have finally destroyed the economy and are dangling from lampposts like Il Duce the scorecard may read differently. During the Great Financial Crisis one broker is reported to have bought a flock of sheep from a local farmer in order to ensure his family’s survival. Your own imagination will supply a hundred practical difficulties and dangers that could follow from this decision. If he was that clever, why hadn’t he foreseen the crisis and planned for it well ahead of time?

Some maintain that IQ is heritable and that the average level varies according to ethnicity. As to the first bit, Sir Cyril Burt’s research on twins proved it - so people thought, until it was re-examined after his death and judged fraudulent; his notes and records were no help, as it turned out that they had all been burnt. Nevertheless, other studies appear to support the hypothesis.

As for the second assertion, the link just given says ‘The scientific consensus is that there is no evidence for a genetic component behind IQ differences between racial groups.’

This doesn’t stop some people from trying to show otherwise; historian Simon Webb recently released a vlog citing the indirect evidence of a spatial aptitude test applied to applicants to the Royal Air Force. In this white British scored - on average - higher than Afro-Caribbeans and black Africans, but - oh dear - not so well as Chinese. Those of mixed b/w ethnicity scored - on average - in between b&w.

Remember the London Transport study and look for flaws: were the applicants all aiming for the same roles in the RAF? With the same long-term career ambitions? Why did they apply, but not others of their peer group? Who was advising them on career options? Did they (as seems very unlikely) all come from the same kind of family upbringing and expectations, go to the same kind of school?

It may be possible to improve your IQ; though there may also be a ceiling to that, just as you may train to run faster without ever achieving Olympian standards.

But more significant may be factors that permanently lower the individual’s IQ ceiling: ‘poor prenatal environment, malnutrition and disease are known to have lifelong deleterious effects,’ says Wiki. Poor nurture in early years may also hobble the child, which needs both sensory and mental stimulation to foster its development.

Poverty - or relative poverty, inequality - may well be a meta-factor behind many of these factors.

Then there’s the social environment and the development of one’s self-image, but that’s for another day.

Monday, May 16, 2022

IQ - a right-wing issue?

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

Cartoon: two mammoths are lumbering along together. One has just stepped on a caveman, squashing him flat, spear and all. The first mammoth says to his mate, ‘Take it from me, brains are overrated.’

There is a theme of IQ threading through right-wing comment on immigration and ethnicity, implying that society is weakened by allowing less intelligent people into the country, or letting them have much of a say in how it runs.

This opens a can of worms, as the saying goes.

Let’s take just one of these worms: the usefulness - or otherwise - of high academic ability.

I’ll give an illustration from somewhere I once taught, an outstanding British comprehensive (all-ability) secondary school. One day, a local businessman phoned the headteacher and said, ‘I want one of your school-leavers to work for me. But he must have an O-level in maths.’ The old Ordinary-level examination was aimed at the top 20 percent of ability.

‘I’m happy to recommend someone for you,’ said the Head, ‘but why is the O-level necessary?’

‘He’ll be working in the storeroom, checking stock levels.’

‘You don’t need an O-level to do that.’

‘No, I really must insist, I won’t have someone who can’t count.’

‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do,’ said the Head. ‘I’ll send you a copy of an O-level maths paper and you tell me if that’s the level of skill you need for the job.’ This he did.

Next day the businessman was back on the phone. ‘I looked at that paper you sent me and I couldn’t understand the first two questions. I’ll go by what you say.’

So the Head recommended a youngster from the C band - the bottom quarter of the school, which then streamed children by broad ability. This lad was perfectly able to do something as simple as counting, but even more importantly he had a perfect record for attendance and punctuality, and was always smartly turned out, affable and obedient.

It was a perfect match, and got secure employment for someone who might easily have been overlooked because of daft selection criteria. Someone much brighter would have been climbing the walls in frustration and boredom after only a few weeks in the job.

The rat-race wind-up slogan says "Aptitude plus attitude equals altitude"; this misses the point that not everybody can, or should aim for the top.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Warning signs

There are intermittent shortages of foodstuffs in supermarkets; now I hear from more than one source that they have noticed the sell-by dates on fresh fruit and veg have gotten much shorter and the perishables are looking less than pristine; presumably stocks are running low.

We already know that the harvest in Ukraine is likely to be badly affected by the war there. This post outlines some of the other problems upcoming:https://www.bournbrookmag.com/home/disaster-in-the-rye

Gonzalo Lira is predicting economic collapse and hyperinflation (25%- 35% in Europe 'minimum').

P.S. The Prime Minister has deferred the banning of 'Buy one, get one free' offers in supermarkets, citing the difficulties of poor families. The middle-class finger-waggers are protesting that BOGOF is linked to obesity. 

On the other hand a friend told us the other night he has seen mothers bringing used clothes into a shop in exchange for money so their children can buy lunch in school.

Perhaps it is time for overprivileged lifestyle lecturers to get their tanks off poor people's lawns. If the Goodies want people to be slim and healthy they should campaign for better terms of international trade so that the lower classes can earn a decent living.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

WEEKENDER: The WHO, by Wiggia

                                           Or maybe we will………...

It appears our Churchill look alike! PM is about to sign up to the World Health Organisation’s proposal published in March for a global mandated response to any new pandemic…

If he does agree to sign or has done so already, this is another instance of a sovereign country giving powers to a world-wide organisation that the people of this country have no say in or any connection with. There has been no discussion in Parliament has been forthcoming, the health secretary has been mute on the subject, and putting the notion to the people is obviously not considered to be necessary. There is not little point in leaving the EU if you jump back in with someone else proposing blanket controls we have no say in.

You can guarantee it will involve large sums of cash, but Bojo is good at handing out our money to all and sundry. As someone succinctly put it:

“The gibbering Buffoon says we can't spend our way out of trouble, he made a good job of spending our way into trouble. “

One would like to think there would be a more cautious response to any future pandemic being handled in the same way as the world wide failures in combatting Covid. The one-eyed, tunnel vision official version of the scientific view that prevailed in that case proved not to be very effective other than in bankrupting nations. It is also very hard to ignore the less costly response in monetary and human terms of the Swedes and the States in the USA that did as well or better by not taking the lockdown route, 

Normally the official reply is ‘lessons have been learned’ but even that damage-limiting utterance has not been heard about the last two years, for good reason: the enormous waste of taxpayers' money on failed Track and Trace, poor PPE, huge sums given to companies with no manufacturing experience at all in the production of PPE, and the fraud that will never be clawed back. The last thing we need is a global organisation applying a one-size-fits-all solution across the world.

It beggars belief that the Swedes have agreed to sign up to this after their own way proved so much less catastrophic, not just in monetary terms but with the ability to maintain general healthcare and avoid the mental illness caused by lockdowns, plus keeping their schools open most of the time; unlike the experience of ourselves and others.

After the very obvious flaws in the way this pandemic was handled, why would any country want to put itself in a straitjacket treaty that prevents any straying from the chosen route? Something here is not right.

With the WEF meeting again in Davos in a couple of weeks with its “young global leaders” such as Trudeau and Macron on board, we are heading for New World Order lite, to be followed (if it carries on this way) by the full Monty. This is would have been sneered at two years ago as simply another conspiracy theory, yet it is becoming more credible as little by little the truth is revealed.

Even members of SAGE are backtracking in the light of damning new contrary evidence now coming to light…

So why would we suppose that the WHO would do any better? The WHO also has Bill Gates on board with enormous funding and ever more say in the WHO's health strategies; he is unaccountable, unelected and yet through his wealth is at the table with world leaders influencing future vaccine programs among other things. Our own Boris has given millions to the Gates foundation. It is wrong, yet this seems to be a universal trend. I have no desire to have my health dictated to by such a person. It should stop now, but he gains legitimacy through the WHO and builds a bigger stage for himself.
He is not a scientist yet is invited to speak on scientific health matters; why?

Here he states that natural immunity with Omicron did the job ahead of any vaccines but he still wants to jab the world endlessly. He is, I repeat, not a scientist - and we have had some pretty rubbish scientists float to the top during this pandemic.

Why has no politician flagged for discussion the prospect of this country signing up to something like this? Nor has or any section of the mainstrean news media; yet they have plenty of time for cake and the Ginger Growler.

Friday, May 13, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Nanci Griffith, by JD

 Nanci Griffith 1953 - 2021.

"Nanci Griffith, the Texan “folkabilly” singer-songwriter, died in August last year at the age of 68, after fighting two different cancers for 25 years. In my decades of writing about contemporary folk music, I’d venture to say there were no performers who possessed more talent than Griffith in the 1980s and early ’90s, when she was at her remarkable best."

Greatly admired by her fellow artists and a devoted army of fans, Nanci Griffith, exemplified a style of musical storytelling with a literary flavour, focusing on the small details of the lives of her characters. Songs such as Love at the Five and Dime and Gulf Coast Highway have become permanent fixtures in the folk-country canon (Griffith described her music as “folkabilly”), and the Grammy award she won for her album Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1994 seemed a long overdue reward for her carefully crafted body of work.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Not that I'm prescient: the US proxy war against Russia

JD has kindly drawn my attention to what I said here nearly 4 years ago:

Is Ukraine to be the new Guernica?

Pic: South China Morning Post

Last Friday (31.08.18) Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the "Donetsk People's Republic" (in eastern Ukraine) was killed in a bomb blast, along with his bodyguard. It is claimed that the killers, who are still being hunted, work for the Ukrainian security service.

Unlike in the western part of Ukraine, the population of Donetsk is predominantly Russian-speaking and/or of Russian descent. The breakaway state declared its independence four years ago, but so far has only been formally recognised by South Ossetia.

Under the 2015 Minsk II agreement, Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany brokered a ceasefire and progressive demilitarisation. But the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has now cancelled ongoing treaty negotiations, claiming that the assassination is "an open provocation aimed at hindering implementation of the Minsk agreements" and linking it to the recent increase in US sanctions against Russia (announced 8 August) in the wake of the Skripal poisoning case in Britain, which has been blamed on Russia (denied by the latter and not yet forensically proven.)

The Kiev administration has failed to implement Minsk II and last year the United States was saying that the US did not wish to be limited by the agreement and suggested that Kiev should seek an accommodation directly with Moscow. Now the US special envoy for Ukraine has said that Washington could increase arms supplies to Kiev to buttress the country’s naval and air defence forces.

There is some evidence to suggest that the Ukraine has become a testing ground for Western weaponry. A "Ukraine based" firm called LimpidArmor has just announced the extension of a battlefield sensor system from fighter planes to tank warfare:

"The Land Platform Modernization Kit uses four cameras positioned strategically around the tank to create a seamless display of the environment surrounding the vehicle. Crew members wearing the HoloLens headgear would then be able to look around their environment without being hampered by the tank’s heavy armor while also not having to potentially expose themselves to enemy fire."

Although run by a Ukrainian, Mikhail Grechukhin, and conducting its research and development in Kiev, LimpidArmor's headquarters are in Walnut Creek, California. And in March this year the Ukrainian Defence Minister said that the US' supply of anti-tank missiles "opened the door for closer military cooperation in the face of Russian aggression."

Anti-Russian rhetoric was a major feature of Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign in 2016, to the extent that Russians were getting nervous. When Trump won, it appeared to be a chance to normalise relations and shortly afterwards he was tweeting "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad!" But since then the US President has seemed to row back, perhaps in response to the sustained campaign by the Democrats to paint Russia as in collusion with Trump to get him his election victory.

Doubtless there is a deep geopolitical game being played, but aside from Mrs Clinton's disappointed hopes one has to wonder what the real motivation may be. Is it really a cold, then a hot war with Russia - now no longer a Communist country, thanks to its people who have every reason not to wish the return of the Reds?

Or is it to rehearse weapons and tactics for war - perhaps by proxy - against another, still Communist, mightier and clearly expansionist potential foe: China? If so, the increasing sophistication of China's defence capabilities ought to give the three-dimensional chess players of Washington pause for thought - see for example this article on the PRC's development of next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles.

Could the "military-industrial complex" (as Eisenhower called it) be endangering us with its hubris?



  • https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/2162391/ukraine-peace-plan-ice-after-pro-russian-rebel-leader-killed-cafe
  • https://sputniknews.com/world/201809011067667072-rusia-us-sanctions-dialogue/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minsk_II
  • https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-ukraine-idUSKBN19H19M
  • https://thenewsrep.com/107709/ukrainian-company-testing-f-35-style-helmet-to-see-through-tanks-in-combat/
  • https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=uk&u=https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/LimpidArmor&prev=search
  • https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-defence/ukraine-says-weapons-decision-heralds-new-era-of-cooperation-with-u-s-idUSKCN1GE27X
  • https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/09/07/the-kremlin-really-believes-that-hillary-clinton-will-start-a-war-with-russia-donald-trump-vladimir-putin/
  • http://thesaker.is/chinas-dark-sword-uav-program/

Monday, May 09, 2022

Gaming democracy

 Can universal-franchise democracy actually work?

In the vlog below, Demirep/Granniopteryx looks at the results of the 5 May UK local elections in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. There the mayoral election of 2014 was declared void and the victor, Lutfur Rahman, banned for five years because of corrupt and illegal practices; Rahman has now stood again under a new political banner - the Aspire Party - and regained his mayoral office.

'Granniopteryx' discusses the potential for gaming the vote by the use of proxy and postal voting in a community where the head of the household can use his traditional authority in the family to influence the casting of votes. She makes the point that this does not happen only with Asians but also, for example, among Greeks. The ability to get together and elect one of your own gives you the chance to go along and ask for favours. (Labour's mayoral candidate was a non-Asian - perhaps a Party blunder, under the circumstances.)

Why are postal votes needed, except for the significantly disabled? It is so easy to vote in person. Voter participation can be affected by the distance to the nearest polling place - 

'The largest impact occurred in lower-salience European elections, with voter drop-off occurring after 500 metres from the polling station; this occurred at 600 metres for local elections. Distance travelled had very little influence on turnout to Parliamentary elections.'
https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpolcon/writev/1463/1463.pdf (p.8)

- but it is not difficult to get to one in Tower Hamlets. Geographically the borough is smaller than 20 square kilometres yet in 2019 there were 110 polling places - i.e. 5.5 per square kilometre.

Participation in local elections tends to be much lower than for General Elections: in my own constituency - another densely-populated urban one, in Birmingham - the 5 May turnout was only 27%. Yet in this Tower Hamlets it was 42% (and in 2014, almost 48%.) Perhaps the size of the Tower Hamlets mayoral election turnout is because it was not merely for local councillors but for the Big Man running the borough, the Man who can grant your wishes; insinuations of procedural jiggery-pokery may not be necessary to account for it.

By contrast, in the US, I read, some places deliberately make it difficult to vote by setting up polling stations far from population centres and perhaps not even easily reachable by public transport. Those Americans who suspect that the 2020 Presidential election was 'stolen' by late or fake postal votes should, if their concern is that participation should be fair, look at other solutions to accessibility issues.

But even if polls are fairly conducted, what about how those votes are canvassed? The system is set up to make the aspiring politician focus on what voters think (or can be made to think) matters, rather than systemic problems. The tail is wagging the dog; instead of the people calling their leaders to account, political parties have learned how to cultivate the vote. Billions are spent on psephological analysis, focus groups, opinion polling, advertising, lobbying etc - how can good long-term governance arise out of this mess? 

One method currently used to divert the public's attention from domestic policy challenges and cloud their minds with emotion is to wage wars and proxy wars on foreigners. America and Britain are like Lewis Carroll's Walrus and Carpenter, happily prepared to eat Ukrainian Oysters until the last is gone. Such a useful distraction from what Americans need; and so good for the arms industry. Instead of a welfare state, the US has opted for a warfare state.

Yes, the US has a welfare system at the moment, but the GOP is pressing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.) For their part the Democrats' plan seems to be to encourage the 'undocumented' immigration of relatively poor people, who may look to the Dems for financial benefits of various kinds. There is no plan either from the Republicans or from the Democrats, to help the indigenous lower classes thrive by protecting their work and wages. 

The people are waking up to this, when not mesmerised by other 'woke' issues or military drum-banging. Was it not the slow-dawning realisation that in the US Red v Blue has become a 'uniparty' scam that led to the election of the unprofessional maverick Trump (with all his faults)? But the Establishment did everything it could to hamper him in office, and does everything it can to bury him in lawfare now. The uniparty wants Business As Usual until the machine breaks down.

Similarly, here in the UK, although the Northern 'Red (socialist) Wall' collapsed in 2019, Granniopteryx notes that it still far from being rebuilt, despite the Conservatives' difficulties in the last couple of years. We are in a wider political crisis in which Labour has failed to make itself credible but as Peter Hitchens says, 'You need something better than the Tories, and soon.'

We must hope that there will be replacements for both parties before it is too late; but how can they possibly replace themselves, and alternatively, how could we do it, without a revolt?

Sunday, May 08, 2022

EMAIL FROM AMERICA (11): Work avoidance and worker exploitation

 America has interesting and rather diverse views on physical labour.

While there is loud praise of the Protestant Work Ethic, an awful lot of the culture is devoted to 'get rich quick' schemes and various forms of confidence tricksters, whose scams generally feed off greed. And it seems that this has been the case for a very long time, from the gold rushes in California, South Dakota and Alaska to gambling on the stock market in the 'bucket shops' of the 1890's, and more speculation in the events leading up to the crashes of 1929 and 2008. Not to mention the lottery, the illegal 'numbers games', Florida swampland swindles, evangelists, multi-level marketing schemes, Ponzi schemes, telephone 'psychics' and so much more.

It is almost as if most people were trying to avoid 'good, honest work' and always have.

The Jamestown colony in Virginia was established in 1607 by a group of 'adventurers' (read junior sons of nobility who wouldn't inherit) to make money, yet they had no skills or tools, and eventually had to import Polish workmen to actually build things. Interestingly, this led to the first American strike, when the colonists decided to set up a democratic system, without giving those workers a vote.

The famous Plymouth colony, founded in 1620, consisted of very pious individuals, who came with no tools or skills other than firearms. They would have died, and almost did, had it not been for the local tribes making alliances with them, and a few sailors electing to stay, with their tools and practical skills.

And who did the bulk of the dirty work to build the country for the next 200 years? In the Northeast, it was indentured servants and other poor immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland. In the South, it was enslaved African-Americans and Native Americans. In the West, it was poor Mexicans and imported Chinese, who were then quite badly mistreated by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

The rapid industrialization of the late 1800's demanded a concentration of workers, who then started to think about unionization. This led to cries of 'socialism' and 'anarchy' from the wealthy, who used every power of the government to stop them.

In 1920, efforts to unionize coal mines in West Virginia led to the Stone Mountain Coal Company hiring the Baldwin-Felts agency to evict the families of striking miners from the company-owned housing. In the course of their actions, the agents claimed to have a warrant (which turned out to be fake) to arrest the Chief of Police Hatfield in Matewan, which in turn led to a gunfight known as the Matewan massacre. This inflamed the miners, who embarked on a campaign of sabotage and harassment.

In the midst of this, Chief Hatfield went to an adjacent county in 1921 to stand trial on a count of sabotage. As he walked up the courthouse steps, Hatfield and his friend were murdered by Baldwin-Felts agents.

This event made things even worse, and the violence increased. This culminated in the Battle of Blair Mountain, where a force comprised of volunteers and members of the West Virginia National Guard and State Police met thousands of angry miners, resulting in several hundred deaths. The former used leftover bombs and poison gas from World War I in the course of the battle.

Once federal troops arrived, the miners, many veterans, refused to fire on US troops, and returned home.

After the subsequent arrests and trials, union membership in the United Mine Workers dropped from 50,000 to 10,000 and stayed low until the depths of the Depression in 1935.

It was not until the mid-1950s that unions became respected and the hard physical jobs well-paid. And that only lasted for 20 years or so, after which the Reagan administration tried to copy the model of Margaret Thatcher and reduce their power.

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: Cañón del Río Lobos, by JD

Travel writers sometimes tell us to step back from the Costas and seek out something different but usually they direct us to the big cities where we can spend even more money.

There is an alternative, a hidden Spain, well off the beaten track but you need a guide and if you are with somebody who knows then there are some beautiful places hidden away “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.”

One such place is the Cañón del Río Lobos in the province of Soria (Castilla y León) and this really is in the heart of Spain a long way from the usual tourist trails.

After parking the car, we set off following the course of the river along the pathway among the trees. We exchange greetings with a shepherd and step to one side for him as he moves his flock of about 200 or so raggedy looking sheep (not bred for their wool by the look of them.)

And on we walked for about a mile or maybe more, still following the river, watching eagles and vultures flying above the walls of the canyon. Then we came into a large clearing….

….and in the distance the San Bartolomé Hermitage. A small chapel, literally miles from anywhere, which is all that remains of the monastery said to have been built by the Templars in the 13th century.

To the right of the picture is la Cueva Grande, the largest of many caves in the valley and this one has a few rock carvings and cave paintings showing evidence of occupation of this area dating back to the bronze age.

This next picture is also from Google Maps. It is not a painting. It really does look like that, blue and gold striation. Very psychedelic, especially in the sunshine.

And YouTube has a number of videos worth seeing although their commentary is in Spanish, obviously, but the videos do convey some of the atmosphere of the place.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

WEEKENDER: The English vineyard, by Wiggia

 I was asked to contribute recently to a paper on aspects of horticulture, mainly because I still retain a decent library of old tomes and modern ones on the subject.

This is a small part of that cut and pasted from the whole, and re-arranged for putting up on here.

Whilst the fact that the Romans planted vines with varying degrees of success even in the north and did make wine is taken for granted, we have little or no knowledge of what that wine would have been or the vines used. Naturally they would have been imported, and they certainly imported wine as amphora discovered in large amounts testifies to that fact, so the actual amount that was made here could have been quite small. However there is evidence of some vine planting with the discovery at sites of grape seeds and stalks, and aerial surveys show vineyards in the Nene Valley area that were for wine production.

The fossilised remains of Vinus vinifera sub sylvestris have been found growing in the Hoxnian period,  an interglacial time when it was again warmer than today, though this was some 400,000 years ago when mainland Britain was still joined to continental Europe. It is the second sub species Vitis Vinifera sub vinifera that is the base for all the cultivated vines, some 8-10,000 up till today.

Of interest re the Romans is that they introduced the Elm to Britain or the Atinian clone of it, sadly now all but wiped out. Why did they import a tree species? It is believed they used it to grow vines on, a method widely used then and even into the 19th century.

One aspect that crops up over the time since the Romans planted vines is the climate that has been through several phases of hot and cold periods. The time span for each has been variable such as the big freeze in 1963 when we had three months of snow; in past times the Thames would freeze and frost fairs were held on the ice, especially between the early 17th and early 19th centuries when we were in what is now known as the Little Ice Age.

Most frost fairs were held on the upper reaches where the tide was least likely to interfere with the freezing, but the removal of the old multi-pier London Bridge helped the tidal flow and further finished the freezing effect as we came out of the Little Ice Age. This is one of the many indicators as to weather over the centuries that affected the way we lived.

We also had warm periods during this time and before: the Roman period of 2000 years ago was warmer than now and very warm between 21 and 50AD and continued and tapered to around 300AD,  so it is not surprising they grew grapes and made wine here.

The medieval warm period lasted even longer, from circa 950AD to 1250 AD. Despite no continuing Roman influence it is surprising to find that the Doomsday book records around 40 + vineyards in the south of the country, so somehow the growing of vines and the knowledge of how to had been retained. Or was it? Details of these vineyards is scarce as the Doomsday book is not exactly proficient with detail.

This period falls within the time of Norman Conquest and the expertise of the monks in wine-making and the monasteries that made wine is all well recorded. The Conquest also coincided with the warm period so wine-making was not a difficult task for the experts from France.

It would be nice to think that some vineyards had survived since Roman times until the second warm period, but it is highly unlikely that any grape growing was going on after the Romans left; what was left behind would have soon been lost without their expertise.

The second warm period also came in very quickly at a time of no industry, so man-made climate change can be ruled out of that one.

Records at Evesham, a monastic establishment in the twelfth century, show that five servants of the monastic staff were employed in the vineyard. In the thirteenth century the Archbishopric of Canterbury was supplied by just two vineyards at Northfleet and Teynham in Kent; Teynham was considered to be the parent of all fruit orchards in the land.

However, over time increasing trade with Europe and especially France and Spain made making our own wine became a lost cause and it diminished, finally disappearing after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536; besides, the ending of the warm period put paid to the practical side of grape production.

Not entirely though, there are always exceptions to the rule: Tudor times saw the first real interest in gardens and gardening after the Renaissance fed its cultural changes into all of Europe. Everyone wanted to be part of this movement and early horticulture was part of it.

It has to be said that early Tudor times saw little merit in the design or construction of gardens and gardeners were hardly recorded in logs of the time and had little status in the general employment of the time. Yet one entry during the reign of Henry V111 does show that a certain Lovell was retained to supply the King's table with ‘damsons, grapes, filberts, peaches, apples and other fruits, and flowers, roses and other sweet waters’; it is as far as can be ascertained the only mention of gardening, which consisted of food production as the main component, at that time. It wasn’t until late Tudor times that gardening took on any importance.

Again documents show that there were over 130 vineyards in the country when Henry came to the throne. Nearly all would have been in monastic hands and we all know what happened to them

The building of Hatfield House in 1607 is recorded in many detailed documents still existing. The enormous undertaking of the renovation by Robert Cecil the Earl of Salisbury of the old episcopal palace which the King had persuaded Cecil to exchange for his then property Theobalds, included large garden works and it included a vineyard. 30,000 French vines, varieties not recorded, were presented to the Cecils by the wife of the French minister, Mme de la Boderie.

We really have to jump to Jacobean times to start to see references to grapes in a broader sense. A well-known correspondent of the time John Chamberlain who partook in ‘week ending’ country house visiting, mentions visiting, not for the first time, Ware Park in Hertfordshire in 1619, where he speaks of the “ the best and the fairest melons and grapes”; this was after a long dry summer. And again at Lord Savage's house at Long Melford, Suffolk, where the mention of actual wine production is recorded: “ here you have your Bon Christian pear and Bergamot to perfection, your Muscadell grapes in full plenty, that there are some bottles of wine sent each year to the king.”

By the mid-1600s in the reign of Charles 11 gardening had become more mainstream and much improved and the influence of the French in growing choice fruits was permeating across the Channel. Sir Ralph Verny at Claydon in Buckinghamshire after a trip to France spoke of the abundance and quality of the fruit and vegetables, he himself had planted “good eating grapes of several sorts.”

Alexander Pope had a property on the Thames between Hampton Court and the London Road; there is a detailed drawing of the layout and it shows a vineyard within the grounds.

The mention of grape growing is scarce to say the least until market gardening to supply the increasing population of London gets mentioned in the 1700s. By the middle of that century London ‘kitchen gardeners’ or market gardeners today had become highly skilled in the art of fruit production. Fertile Thames side districts such as Westminster, Fulham and Chelsea are mentioned and it is assumed that this skill was being employed elsewhere. The use of hot beds, cloches and inter-row cropping was yielding produce all year round and it is amazing to think we were exporting to the Continent. The range of fruit for instance was astounding for the time: in cultivation during this period were forty-five types of pear, twenty-eight plum, twenty-three apple, fifteen of peaches!, fourteen of cherries, twelve different grapes, seven of apricots, five nectarines and three figs. Some private gardeners offered more: one Rev Hanbury of south Leicestershire offered for sale nearly forty types of vine among his other fruits, quite an astounding range.

This expertise was further advanced during the next century when a seven mile stretch along the north bank of the Thames was all market gardens. They further advanced the stretching of the seasons not by using glass but by building south-facing embankments to grow less hardy produce out of season; it is suggested that this technique was copied from the pictures and accounts of steeply sloping continental vineyards - there is no documented proof of this but by then knowledge of the methods would have spread widely.

Of course it is not easy to tell what and how much of the vine growing resulted in actual wine but one nursery does record the fact. It was called the Vineyard and was a walled area at Hammersmith; it was producing wine in the 1600s under the title ‘Burgundy wine’ though there is no evidence it continued the early seventeen hundreds. The site is now under the Olympia exhibition centre, and again there are no surviving documents of the type of grape being used.

Several of the new rich and landed gentry of the 18th and 19th centuries had vineyards as part of the new 'lanskip', all part of having the most and the best of plants design, and doable by the sheer wealth of the landowners. Most of these vineyards did not survive.

So we come to modern times. Not until after the Second World War was there an effort to research the type of grape needed to produce wine in this climate.

Ray Barrington Brock was a research chemist who set up a private research agenda to find the most suitable grapes to grow in England. His mistake was to assume that the hybrid crosses that the Germans had produced to combat colder climes were the answer; sadly it transpired they were not. Yes they grew, but they produced insipid wines in this land: who today goes looking for Seyval-Blanc, Muller Thurgau,  Huxelrebe, Ortega etc? The thinking was that as they were early ripening that would solve the climate issues, but what was forgotten, or ignored, was that these varieties were not really intended for anything other than the bulk white wine trade in bad vintages or for blending in poor harvest conditions; most of these varieties are in decline in their homeland and now here, but it set the ball rolling.

So from between the two world wars when apart from a few hobby vineyards there was not one in commercial activity, we have moved to a period of growth with 700 vineyards of all sizes recorded across the UK.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Those Mariupol refugees

We're getting coverage of people released from the steelworks at Mariupol, plus affecting accounts of what it's like to be in a shelter when the area is being shelled.

Naturally the narrative we're encouraged to adopt is the relentless wickedness of the Russians, and first-person witness accounts load emotion in so that we can be distracted from a cooler look at the bigger picture.

But if I were a civilian and knew that the enemy was focusing on a strategic objective like the steelworks, why would I choose to shelter there?

An alternative interpretation I can offer - perhaps we will know the truth one day - is that the besieged Ukrainian fighters have seized non-combatant hostages as a human shield; and that the siege has caused food supplies to run low so the fighters have released a number to extend their own holdout period.

I read from various sources that the military trapped in the steelworks have been told to resist to the end; that they are likely to include elements of the extremist Azov battalion, whom the Russians are determined to kill immediately, or otherwise put on trial and sentence to death, as fascists, so these will see no point in surrendering; and that there may also be some foreign military with them, perhaps American and/or British special forces.

Meanwhile our grandstanding Prime Minister has delivered a sub-Churchillian speech to the parliament of Ukraine and agreed a £300 million package of military 'support.' With similar subventions from other foreign sources this will of course prolong and intensify the losses and suffering on both of the sides that are actively involved in the conflict.

One cynical remark I have read says that America is determined to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.

I fear that in the event of a long stalemate we may eventually see the use of battlefield nuclear weapons.

FRIDAY MUSIC: John Dowland, by JD

John Dowland was an English composer of the Renaissance period.

Due to lack of historical archives, there is very little that is known about Dowland’s early life.

Some historians claim that he was born in 1563 somewhere near Dublin, as is claimed by the Irish Historian, Grattan Flood. Another historian, Thomas Fuller, claims that he was born in Westminster; however, no evidence has been found as to where he was born exactly, or as to where he spent his childhood. 

The accounts of his life begin in the year 1580, when he was sent to Paris to serve the ambassador to the French Court, Sir Henry Cobham. Dowland also served Sir Cobham’s successor, Sir Edward Stafford. 

After a period of four years, Dowland moved to England to pursue his love interest. It was in 1588 that Dowland was admitted to the Bachelors in Music program at Christ Church, Oxford.

You will notice Gordon Sumner aka 'Sting' in there. He recorded an album of Dowland songs in 2006.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Julian Assange: a letter to the Home Secretary


The Rt Hon Priti Patel, Home Secretary
The Home Office, 2 Marsham Street
Thursday 05 May 2022
Dear Home Secretary

Request to refuse the extradition to the United States of Mr Julian Assange
I ask you to refuse the extradition of Mr Assange, on three grounds:

  1. The request for his extradition is almost universally seen not as a criminal matter but as a political persecution of a journalist for embarrassing the United States by revealing the wrong acts of some of its servants. As such it is an assault on the Press, that vital part of democratic government which even the US Constitution’s First Amendment was written to protect.
  1. The extradition of Mr Assange in these circumstances would give comfort to those who would like to equate us morally with other foreign regimes that oppress dissidents and whistle-blowers, at a time when the very principles of liberal democracy are at stake.
  1. You yourself are well known for your ‘Euroscepticism’ and commitment to British sovereignty. Consistent with that assertion of national independence is the ability to say no to an ally when he wishes something whose grant would be to his as well as our discredit.
 With best wishes for your continued success, I remain, yours sincerely

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Will you be voting tomorrow?

For the first time in my adult life (I think) I may decide not to vote.

We live in what used to be a 'safe' constituency for Labour, so much so that in national elections it was reserved for absentee-landlord stooges like the former deputy leader of the Parliamentary party. Naturally they made no effort to canvass...

... until a boundary redrawing took place. We then got a LibDem for one term - an arrogant Europhile who spent the best part of two years resisting my attempts to get him to put a question in Parliament about making NS&I Index-Linked Savings Certificates available again - and see how topical that is now!

Tomorrow, in the local elections, the choice will be LibDem or Lab (Con are defeated before they start and haven't even bothered to push a leaflet through the door.) 

As far as I can tell, the LibDems say one thing locally and another nationally e.g. on housing policy.

Labour under Sir Keir Starmer appears to have ditched Corbynites and the working person's socialism, and their idea of Opposition to agree with the Tories (to the point of not even insisting on a vote when the draconian Covid regulations were up for renewal) but say they'd have done even worse things even sooner. Oh, and make a fuss about Downing Street lockdown cake and champers at a time when their own mouths were full of beer and curry.

In short, the LibDems are all things to all men and Labour nothing to anybody. As for the Conservatives, I have yet to see what they have conserved in this country.

By voting I would only be validating a system that doesn't represent me or I think most people.

Are we approaching a crisis of political legitimation?

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Internet infowars - foreseen half a century ago


From Stafford Beer's 'Designing Freedom' (1974)

The genius Stafford Beer foresaw our present dilemma almost 50 years ago, some years before the spread of home computing and 15 years before the birth of the World Wide Web. 

On the right of the above cartoon (click to enlarge) is a person surfing the Net for information, to store his own data, to connect with a friend etc - and especially, demanding to keep his activity private.

On the left is the threat posed by an 'electronic mafia' that gathers and correlates volumes of data on the individual and uses it not only to sell more goods and services, but to change his behaviour and beliefs.

Where we are now is a combination of the two, because the 'electronic mafia' have reached out to the surfer on the right through his telescreens, suppressing enhancing inventing and distorting his understanding of reality.

'Who controls the past controls the future,' said Orwell in '1984', so that e.g. the citizens are told the chocolate ration has increased when it has been cut. Evidence to the contrary is put into the 'memory hole', i.e. binned.

There's a host of other reality-twisting techniques now, as you will know. Some of them are currently at work in the Western coverage of the war in Ukraine - the one that has been going on not since February this year but since 2014.

But there is a more radical restructuring of consciousness going on; censorship, lies and distortion not only in current affairs and historical information but also in fiction. Two recent short videos touching on a laudable anti-racial-discrimination policy illustrate this. 

The first, by author and historian Simon Webb, makes the point that the history of Britain is being taught in a way that heavily over-emphasises the multiracial nature of this country before WWII. Individuals are being shown to us as if they represent a multitude when in fact they were clearly exceptions:

The second, by 'Demirep/Granniopteryx', discusses how from the same praiseworthy motive a dramatisation of Anne Boleyn casts her as a black woman; and another drama, even more absurdly, has the earl/jarl of a Viking horde cast doubly against type, both in race and gender.

There is an understandable temptation to provide people with bad reasons for believing good things, and 'pious frauds' are not new. For example there was the 16th century 'Rood of Grace', a secretly steampunk-animatronic figure of the Crucified Christ designed to increase the religious faith of the gullible as well as raise funds for the Church.

But there is a danger in messing with people's memory and reason in this way. Apart from the risk of collective madness founded on engineered ignorance, the process of propaganda can be used negatively as well as positively: it can foster positive feelings towards minorities of various kinds, but can also be exploited to demonise - as we now see e.g. with President Putin and all things Russian. 

Principles may be debated and negotiated, but facts - as far as we can ascertain them - must remain sacred; especially when mass media can now hit the masses with overwhelming force.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Putin the bastard

We all know that Putin is a bastard warmonger, but as the conflict goes on we need to strengthen our dislike by a closer familiarity with other aspects of his awful behaviour.

Winning the last presidential election in a landslide several years ago has emboldened Putin to oppress his political opponents, the media and even the judiciary.

Putin shut down four TV channels before the invasion, plus a couple more in April. He has even signed a decree obliging all Russian channels to broadcast a single telethon, presenting only one pro-governmental view on the war.

To shore up his populist support, Putin launched the unconstitutional process of extrajudicial sanctions against his political opponents, imposed by the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC). These sanctions involved the extrajudicial seizure of property without any evidence of illegal activities of the relevant individuals and legal entities. 

Among the first to be sanctioned by the NSDC in February last year were two opposition parliamentary deputies - one was later arrested and shown on TV with his face beaten up after interrogation, and the other managed to escape from Russia - as well as members of their families. 

The process accelerated. In June 2021 alone, Putin put into effect an NSDC decision to impose sanctions against 538 individuals and 540 companies.

In March 2022, 11 opposition parties were banned. 

The decisions to ban opposition parties and sanction opposition leaders were taken by the NSDC but they were put into effect by presidential decrees.

After the head of Russia’s Constitutional Court called Putin's unconstitutional reforms a 'coup,' Putin simply relied on the NSDC to push forward his unpopular policies. As for the 'dissident' judge, Putin signed a decree cancelling his appointment as a judge of the court -  another act in violation of the Russian Constitution.

A nationalist website was set up some years ago by an adviser to the Ministry of the Interior; it is part of the general strategy of intimidating opponents. It names 'enemies of the people' and helps would-be killers track them down; among the victims are a famous journalist, and an opposition deputy who was murdered in his own house. Also identified on this website, and later arrested, are a newpaper editor and the editor of a YouTube channel. Some others who have been named have managed to flee Russia. The government has not shut down this site, even after an international scandal when the website published the personal data of well-known foreign politicians.

Right-wingers control the political process in Russia through violence against those who dare confront their nationalistic and supremacist agendas. One of the most popular bloggers in Russia living in exile is a good example to illustrate this point. Not only does he, along with his family members, permanently receive death threats, radicals constantly intimidate the activists of his party (banned by Putin in March 2022), beating and humiliating them. This is what Russian radicals call 'political safari.'

The current military conflict can hardly lead to any diplomatic resolution as Putin permanently repeats that the forces of good are attacked by the forces of evil, saying 'you are either with us or with terrorists.' Clearly, there can be no political solution for such an Armageddon. 

Asked by a French reporter on the tenth day of the invasion how his life had changed with the beginning of the war, Putin replied with a smile of delight: 'Today, my life is beautiful. I believe that I am needed. I feel it is the most important meaning in life – to be needed. To feel that you are not just an emptiness that is just breathing, walking, and eating something. You live.'

How can one adequately describe such a man?

Through some ghastly error, the wrong names have been used throughout the above piece. For all uses of the word 'Russia' please substitute 'Ukraine', and replace all references to 'Putin' with 'Zelenskyy.'

For more detail, please read this interview with academic and author Olga Baysha, on which the above post has been based:


Bonus apology

Sorry to give you this interview with an award-winning journalist who does more than report from a hotel bar in Kiev:

In case there is any interference with this video link, here is the address:

A fishy deal called Rwanda

On 13 April, PM Johnson announced a plan to send asylum seekers to the central African country of Rwanda to have their applications considered. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/rwanda-offshore-asylum-seekers-boris-johnson-priti-patel-b2057541.html

The controversial proposals address a growing problem. The numbers crossing the Channel by boat soared from 299 in 2018 to 28,526 last year. Border Force staff were told to plan for 60,000 this year but that was before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. https://news.sky.com/story/nearly-60-000-people-set-to-cross-english-channel-in-2022-as-home-office-agrees-234-000-spend-on-charter-boat-12557219

90% of the arrivals are male (including children). 51% of the total are not from Africa but come from Iran or Iraq. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/irregular-migration-to-the-uk-year-ending-december-2021/irregular-migration-to-the-uk-year-ending-december-2021 .

From London Heathrow to Rwanda’s Kigali airport is 4,095 miles https://www.airmilescalculator.com/distance/lhr-to-kgl/ . It looks like an extraordinary scheme, but seems inspired by a 2019 scheme by the UNHCR to use Rwanda to safeguard refugees from Libya. https://au.int/en/articles/au-government-rwanda-and-unhcr-joint-rescue-asylum-seekers-and-refugees-libya

Will it work for us? Concerns have already been voiced in Parliament about human rights, not only of those redirected from Britain but also those who may have been told to vacate their hostel to make room for the new arrivals. https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-04-26/debates/3FCB40EE-081B-4745-9D72-4B0F7938F4D9/RwandaHumanRights The plans cater primarily for adults, not children, and ‘families could be relocated there together in exceptional circumstances.’ https://news.sky.com/story/where-is-rwanda-why-are-migrants-being-sent-there-and-how-will-it-work-12589831 It looks as though there will be many cases for human rights lawyers to bring to the British courts about this deal, which is ‘widely criticised as inhumane, expensive for the UK, unworkable and contrary to international law’ (applicants may have to stay there for up to five years) and initially set to cost the UK a £120 million ‘investment in Rwanda's economic development’ https://issafrica.org/iss-today/rwandauk-deal-degrades-refugee-conventions-and-africas-approach

Another aspect of the agreement, less publicised so far, has been raised by a Youtuber https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6UhNGwBEtw : section 16 of the Memorandum of Understanding https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/memorandum-of-understanding-mou-between-the-uk-and-rwanda/memorandum-of-understanding-between-the-government-of-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland-and-the-government-of-the-republic-of-r#part-1--transfer-arrangments says –

‘The Participants will make arrangements for the United Kingdom to resettle a portion of Rwanda’s most vulnerable refugees in the United Kingdom, recognising both Participants’ commitment towards providing better international protection for refugees.’

This paragraph is very vague and ‘the devil is in the detail,’ as they say:

  • ·       Rwanda’s existing refugee population – mostly women and children – numbers some 126,000, about 61% Congolese and 39% Burundians; a ‘portion’ could mean a great many.
  • ·       The ‘portion’ could be anything, from 1% to 99%
  • ·       ‘Most vulnerable’ might possibly be a pointer to persons with mental and physical special needs and disabilities, severe malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections; the Rwandan government presumably has less resources to help these than does the UK. https://reporting.unhcr.org/document/1273

The UK’s ‘boat people’ have all left the shores of a safe European country and instead of intercepting them in the world’s busiest waterway and returning them to their coastal departure point, we are taking them to British hotels and a beanfeast of taxpayer-funded legal wrangling. This latest twist seems set to exacerbate media controversy and the human rights argy-bargy, and commit us to accepting an unspecified number of refugees, some of whom may be even more costly to assist and care for.

It looks like another ill-considered ‘eye-catching initiative’ destined to have worse results in every way.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

EMAIL FROM AMERICA (10): Hedge fund managers run riot

Tracking the chaos...

A confluence of events in the early 1980's combined to produce an interesting result in the finance sector.

One was technological, in that the innovation in satellites and computers suddenly meant that assets could be moved around the world, virtually instantly. This reduced loyalty to any country or entity.

A second facet was an after-effect of the oil embargoes of the 1970's, which helped to drive up inflation. In those far-off halcyon days, it was common for workers to receive 'cost of living' adjustments annually. For many who were not hit as hard by inflation, this often meant a lot more disposable income, and lots of encouragement to invest that money.

A third was the decline of the unions, which took with them a lot of pension plans. Companies then copied this and replaced many white collar pension plans with 'portable' 401k plans.

Combined, these opened the niche market of investment to a whole new generation of hedge fund and mutual fund managers.

These fund managers (and their managers) have creamed off many of the gains of increased productivity in the past 40 years, to the point where they and their clients in the top 1% gain 60% of the passive gains in the economy, in what the economists call 'rent seeking'.

That group is in a position to completely dominate the economy. Thanks to their rented politicians, those passive income gains are taxed at a much lower rate than regular income. Notably, if the Republicans gain the majority, they have promised to try to eliminate those taxes entirely, as well as estate taxes, thus cementing the wealth into certain families for generations.

The wealthiest managers also have the power to effectively mint money. In a recent case, one of them bought rather a lot of stock in a certain fruit-memed tech company, and used that influence to force stock buybacks and layoffs, doubling their investment, but cutting the company's plans for innovation.

In short, there is a very small set of very rich people who have so much money on paper that they cannot spend it without crashing the market. So, what many are doing is buying massive numbers of assets using those stocks as collateral. The bad part is that they seem to expect those assets to produce income at the same rate as the stock market, which means that they are being pushed to destruction. Purchases include:
  • pharmaceutical companies (resulting in huge price increases in many drugs, including insulin)
  • restaurant chains such as Wendy's hamburgers
  • medical testing facilities
  • hospital systems
  • medical groups (whose doctors are then reimbursed less and pushed for more 'output')
  • dental groups (many of which are 'encouraged' to do things such as unnecessary root canal work)
  • trailer parks (where many of the poorest live. They cannot move their trailers, so can be easily subjected to higher rents and maintenance fees)
  • homes, especially in the Sun Belt (many are bought sight-unseen the instant that they go on the market, often for tens of thousands more than the asking price, then becoming very expensive rentals)
And the list goes on. All in all, it reminds me of the aristocracy in France and Spain up through the 19th century, for whom things did not turn out so well.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

WEEKENDER: Doctors in Distress, by Wiggia

The last couple of weeks or so have seen the NHS pushing back on the fact its services are falling further and further down the quality ladder that we who pay for it have the right to expect.

We have had the GP on television defending the almost non-existent service by blaming overwork and burnout as being a big part of the problem; for a branch of the medical profession that has had two years of near holiday you have to have some gall to come up with that one.

And only this morning, the 29th, Dr Hilary Jones on GMB was talking about doctors saying 1 in 4 were suicidal or that they all knew someone in the profession that felt that way. I would suggest if that many doctors are genuinely considering suicide they are in the wrong profession. Dr Jones spoke of how they all love their jobs etc. etc. despite himself not practising medicine in any meaningful way since 1989, being permanently on television and spouting the government guidelines and spreading misinformation for the last two years, especially about numbers in hospital that had Covid and were unvaccinated.

Since returning to normal, i.e. the poor service before Covid, for many it has deteriorated further, yes there are (if you are lucky) still surgeries operating in a manner that benefits the patient but increasingly they are not, and one has to ask how come those can perform at a near normal level as opposed to the majority that can’t or wont.

The government statement that two-thirds of GPs are working just three days a week, confirms what many of us have observed; though there is no mention of those working just one or two days a week, and I do actually know of one of the single day variety, not every week but most: she and her husband, a surgeon, spent the best part of two years not working or just turning up now and again, and now normal service means he is away working while she does a day a week. My own designated doctor is now doing two days a week at the surgery, as against the previous one.

The same surgery has eight doctors on its books yet on the infrequent visits there by me and others only two plus a duty doctor can be physically seen to be there at any one time. The large waiting area with just three or four waiting gives lie to the phrase we are back to normal: pre Covid you could not get an appointment easily but the majority of doctors, not all, were in attendance and the waiting area full.

The same goes for nursing staff. Pre Covid they had two nurse practitioners and four nurses on duty most days; now, a visit for a blood test my wife has to have on a regular basis was with the only one on duty or working - she said it was because of Easter! And they now have no nurse practitioners.
Last time the staff were not seeing people for blood tests, health checks etc. they were out helping to give jabs to people for extra income…

We now have the BMA proposing that surgeries will only be open from Monday to Friday between 9 and 5. Ours is only open those hours now with a lunch break, so what is new?

Another doctor interviewed on TV used the 'burnout' phrase to defend the slating many GPs are now getting. When asked how that could be if they are only working three days he referred to 12 hour working days as the problem; that is still only a thirty-six hour week if true and hardly likely to create burnoout.

This all goes back to before the pandemic. Many GP surgeries, for lack of a better explanation, have used the pandemic as an excuse to cut back their activities further. Yes, we are lacking GPs on a ratio of doctors per thousand people as compared to our European neighbours; that is not the fault of the patient who still pays for an ever-diminishing service: governments are at fault for that.

You cannot have an ever increasing population without catering for it and successive governments have failed to do anything about recruitment and training of extra doctors for decades, and everything else; now that fact is coming home to roost.

But that does not give the current protectors of the infirm (!) the right to cut their hours as they already have and receive the same salaries courtesy of the same patients and tax payers. Much of this goes back to the contract that they got from Blair who just gave them everything they asked for without any questions asked or consequences.

With that in mind and the fact they are in the top flight of pay compared with their European neighbours what is the problem? It's not pay or hours any more. Being paid for patients on the books should be scrapped; our surgery with the same number of GPs on its books has an increase in patients over ten years of roughly 50% The complaint that patients waste appointment time with trivial problems or no problems is valid, but the doctors who complain of this have never pushed for an appointment fee that would weed out that particular problem; a fee like that is normal almost  everywhere else in the world and there are no problems getting an appointment.

The NHS gives the impression that it has no will to change in any way that will help the patient. It  continually blames underfunding which has been dealt with in previous articles by many who know more about it than I do. If there is no change in the areas that are continually highlighted it will simply disappear, or will it? Remember the 1.3 million who work for it.

So how about our elected representatives getting their collective fingers out of their backsides and doing something about it? Vague promises of more doctors in ten years' time does nothing for the poor sod waiting three years in agony for a knee replacement as in this area and not being in a position to afford to go private and have the operation performed by the same burnt-out doctor; at this moment in time there is something completely immoral about that.

Over the last few years I have  been able to give stories of incompetence at all levels in the NHS. The bureaucracy has increased at the expense of patient care and unneeded positions are still being advertised and filled, the money for which could be better spent. I have spelled out that side of things before, and so have many others.

The latest tale of woe came last week from a close friend of the wife who lives in north London where she has resided for over forty years. She never had a problem getting to see a GP at her local surgery until four years ago when they amalgamated with two other surgeries to create a ‘medical centre’ (oh, the familiarity!) since when she has to get through the gatekeepers in the morning and failing, try the following morning, ad infinitum.

She has been suffering from shooting pains in her back whenever she moves and can hardly walk. It has not gone away and after three weeks of this persevered on the phone and got a telephone appointment.
The doctor phones and she gives an account of the problem, he immediately says it’s arthritis; she replies I don’t have arthritis; he says oh, it is common in people who are getting old and suggests she rest, which because she can hardly move is what she has been doing anyway; and that was that, really.
No sending for examination or an x-ray which without even seeing someone in person would be the only way one could say that arthritis was the problem. This dismissive flippant dismissal with phone consultations is anecdotally becoming more common, making the process completely pointless.

Footnote to this: the pain did not go away, she went private for a consultation and was sent for an x-ray: no arthritis - a suspected trapped nerve, collapsed disc, but a scan will tell. This is the second friend who because of a useless GP has had to go private at that level to discover the truth about a problem. Not only is it not good enough and a disgrace but we who pay should be able to claim back the costs from the NHS for failing to do the job they get paid for in the first place. Once again in that same situation in many other countries they can claim because they have an insurance input; here we have to put up with whatever is deemed good enough at the time, which now is not much.

And can anyone tell me why the surgeries are still carrying on with all this mask insistence when my own experience at the local hospital and others shows many medical staff are not wearing them? We now, because of the media and endless NHS mandates, have a substantial percentage of the population that will be wearing masks forever. These same people actually believe that not wearing a mask is risking everyone else's health despite being triple/quadruple vaccinated.

Mark Steyn’s blistering opener on the results of booster jabs is worth watching. Several medical professionals and a statistician have attempted to query aspects of what he said but the essence of what he shows stands up.

And just why are young children being urged to get a jab for something that doesn’t affect them in any meaningful way with something that has no long term testing results and won't for some time?

On the same theme,  this has to be one of the scariest videos by a total waddock that I have seen, and there are plenty of them. He and the grinning selected nodding donkeys on with him are a total disgrace. This has to be one of the most insidious propaganda videos of recent times. We haven’t quite reached that level here but not from lack of trying; I have seen quite a few of our medical professionals even at the fag end of this pandemic still urging jabbing every three months into the future and mask wearing the same.

So once again the NHS rightly claims it needs more front line staff while refusing to reduce the over bloated bureaucratic areas, or consider any reforms. What with the country saddled with enormous debt and inflation now a major problem it could be that the NHS becomes unaffordable in its current form. A paring back to basic healthcare may be the only way it can survive and have any relevance to people, because in its current form it is rapidly becoming an irrelevant behemoth that still devours huge quantities of taxpayer money.