Tuesday, September 28, 2010

As soon as Ed Miliband falters



Above: self-criticism is a crucial part of any cultural revolution.

I have been following the Labour leadership contest with interest.

The difficulty Ed Miliband faces is that he only got the support of one tranche of the party (and not the parliamentary MPs, who are arguably the most important part).

This will not matter if things go well.

However, the House of Commons is filled (all parties) with ego-centric ultra-competitive narcissistic fuhrer-embryos. As soon as Ed Miliband falters it is the nature of these people to want to take his place. They will tell us (even perhaps tell themselves) that this is their duty, but really they can't help themselves - like terriers furiously chasing a rabbit they will not be able to stop.

Only when the Labour reaches the slough of electoral despondency will the plotters give up (and then only because the prize will no longer be worth having).

Uneasy the head that wears the crown (Henry VI part 2).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday evenings

I have been enjoying Monday evenings for the past few months. In the half-hour before Newsnight there was Rev for six weeks, followed by Grandma's House for six weeks (both of these were of a very high standard). I did hope that we would see a succession of short-series comedy dramas, one following the other, but tonight we are back to "alternative" comedy, audience participation and celebrity guests (boring, boring, boring).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"...worn to shreds underneath"

In the afternoon I drove to the south eastern corner of the county. The hills are formed out of a workable stone that comprises the chief building material of the area. The weather mild but overcast, with a constant blustery wind and showers of rain.



Above: signs of autumn everywhere, including acorns on the oak trees (the area is noted for its oaks).



Above: little roadside stalls selling autumn produce.



Above: a big field of pumpkins being harvested. Pumpkins are hardly ever used for food in the United Kingdom. Almost all this crop will be kept for the observance of All Hallows Eve (the vegetable is hollowed out and carved with a crude face that is illuminated by candles - before pumpkins were brought from the new world turnips were used).



Above: the Norman door to the church.

Stopping at one of the villages I had a walk around looking at the farm buildings. Then I went over to the church which had an interesting Norman south door. It was locked.

In the churchyard was an old man aged in his seventies, cutting the grass. I asked him if he had a key and he pointed to a corner cottage opposite where the keyholder lived. Having obtained the key (a huge heavy item, about a foot long) I returned to the church and the old man accompanied me inside, acting as a guide.

He had lived in the village for most of his life having married into the local gentry when he was about twenty. His new in-laws had not been very welcoming, and he had a sort of second-class existence for about forty years until his wife finally succeeded to what was left of the estate (all sold off by then, except for one small apartment in the old manor house). We talked about the local farming families, and then about the church. He described the recent visit of an American professor who had stayed in the building over six hours sketching, taking photographs, making measurements. We talked about his wife's family and he told me their history. I asked about the manor house and he invited me to have a look round.

The house was about half a mile away. Despite stone being the area's main building material the house was built of red brick. Three stories high, square in shape, five bays along each side.

Split into flats and sold off in the 1980s, the man and his wife had the ground floor along one side. Small entrance hall painted yellow, ornate fireplace, big alcove filled with a dinner service of hideous china (Indian tree pattern).

"Everything had to be sold" the old man said, "we went to the auction and tried to buy back different pieces but most of them were out of our price range".

Living room, rather untidy. Large grubby oil painting of Raphael's Battle of Ponte Milvio ("It's only a copy"). Huge fitted bookcase filled with eighteenth-century volumes - Whitaker's History of Richmondshire, Walter Scott's Poetical Works, Forsythe's Treatise on the culture and management of fruit trees etc.

I was introduced to his wife and we had a cup of tea. The sofas were covered in very durable green loose covers ("they're worn to shreds underneath"). We sat there for about an hour talking and drinking tea.

The last room I was shown was a narrow chamber that was sealed at one end by a false wall. Completely empty apart from two very good life-size marble statues that had formerly been garden ornaments but were too valuable to be left outside. The walls were covered with family portraits - oil paintings, sketches, photographs ("all of them are here from the past two hundred years - my parents-in-law are over there in the corner...").

Saturday, September 25, 2010

They preferred the fiction to reality - the past week at work

Monday

Last week I accepted the job offer from the agency in a small town just north of London (I will call it Walkers, which might give you a clue to the real name). As soon as I posted the acceptance I regretted doing so. I start tomorrow, so had an easy day today effectively doing nothing.

Tuesday

Up early this morning. The train journey did not take any more time than my last commute, although I have to change twice. A cup of coffee as I waited for the "loop" train, the air cool as I stood on the platform.

My first day at Walker Communications. I was surprised at how familiar the offices seemed - I suppose agencies do not vary by much. After an hour I felt completely at home.

This sense of equanimity did not last. A meeting with Directer Villy "to set some parameters" revealed that Account Exec Sara (pleasant woman aged about twenty-one, with blonde straight hair and an Essex accent) was going to be "eased out" to make room for me. I was appalled that someone was going to be sacked so that I could take her place. Villy also told me confidentially that he was going to get rid of morose Art Director Tranter. We talked about various clients I am to handle, and Villy asked me to write to my former clients to see if they would follow me to Walkers (some of them I would hate to see again!). Villy also revealed that he had worked with Yvette in the past ("she ran the business into the ground").

Later Sara talked through some of the clients I am to take over. She is oblivious of the fact that Villy is going to get rid of her (I wondered whether I should warn her). She talked about various people in the agency ("Tranter has a very dry sense of humour whereas Villy thinks everything is hilarious - when it suits him").

Later I worked on a new business presentation.

Dreadful train journey home.

Wednesday

In a funny sort of way I enjoy the new journey to work and the melancholy autumnal feel of waiting on empty platforms.

During the morning I talked to Account Executive Maery about some of her clients that are to be transferred to me.

She asked me: "Is Yvette as bad as people say she is?"

"Worse than you can imagine" I told her.

Maery and I drove about ten miles to give a presentation to a potential new client (quite a big one). The meeting went very well and heavy hints were given that we had got the campaign. Back at the agency Villy was impressed with our efforts - he had been after the client for some time.

Thursday

Some PR work - they had been saving it up for me since no-one at Walkers can do PR. The brief was so bad I had to make up a lot of the text, expecting the client to replace the fiction with real case studies. When the copy came back it had been approved without a word being changed (they preferred the fiction to reality).

Friday

More PR work. Life at Walkers has settled into a routine. But in the post when I got home were three more invitations to interviews, and I keep wondering whether I should pursue them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Story of England on BBC 4

Last night I watched the The Story of England on BBC 4 (first in a six-part series).

I had very mixed feelings about the production. Ever since the launch in the 1990s of Tony Robinson's Time Team, documentaries of this kind seem to fall into a high-camp archaeological-dig-as-panto parody. It's reached the point where you can't take anything they say seriously.

All the stock elements were included.

Thus you had the brightly-striped knitwear (in a scarf around Michael Wood's neck); a sinister character in a pentangle t-shirt identifying with absolute certainty tiny flakes of potsherds; various hairy diggers interacting with Tory blue-rinse lady gardeners etc.

Presenter Michael Wood (whom I used to respect) adopted the Cillit Bang style of narration, shouting at the camera.

Some parts of the programme were very dodgy - twice someone said "my guess is" and the programme went on to accept the guess as complete truth.

At least there was a proper consideration of placename evidence.

Anyone who has been on an archaeological dig will know that they are tedious, inconclusive and open to all sorts of bias and interpretations (the reports, if the excavation ever gets written up, will usually display the veiled prejudices of the writer).

This programme was entertaining, but not to be taken seriously. It was as sexed-up as an Iraqi dossier. And perhaps just as dishonest (or am I being unfair?).

Mayavision made the series.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/leicester/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_9024000/9024160.stm

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Anciens combattants



Above: interesting article in The Times (on 7th September) by Rachel Sylvester. Quoting Bryan Gould saying that New Labour originally wanted to target "the people who listened to Duran Duran rather than Red Wedge". Although Rachel Sylvester cannot be called an impartial commentator she is always worth reading and puts forward her arguments pursuasively.

The Labour leadership contest closes in a few hours, with the result announced at the weekend.

With the exception of Diane Abbott all the candidates are anciens combattants* who are accorded respect not because of their vision for the future but because of their record with the previous regime. They carry significant political weight within the Labour Party but are unlikely to appeal to the sort of people who listen to Lady Gaga or The Wanted. If you assume that the winner is probably going to offer shadow cabinet positions to the other four, it is possible that the anciens combattants will impose a deadening influence for a generation until they are shaken off.

My choice in order of preference (not that I have a vote) is: Andy Burnham, Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, David Miliband. I make the choices on the grounds of interesting people who are likely to do surprising things. The actual result will almost certainly be the reverse of my selection.

None of the candidates know what to do about the Coalition government which has fused anti-modern Conservative romanticism (using the word in a political sense) with a progressive technological mediation (economic, environmental, educational etc).

The pedagogical utopia that was New Labour is unlikely to offer any new solutions to the current political situation.

*the anciens combattants were a class of unimaginative political leaders who crushed political life in France after the First World War. Because of their status as war heroes they could not be questioned. Eventually they led their country into defeat, humilation and collaboration.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mermaids

Recently I've been thinking a lot about mermaids.



Above: mermaids used as heraldic supporters.

Mermaids are mythological creatures that feature in the folklore of the south of the county. Once you start looking for evidence you see portrayals of them everywhere. Sightings of mermaids have occurred regularly since the 14th century, although there is no hard evidence that they exist (and I should put on record that I do not believe in their existence).

Therefore we need to ask: why are people claiming to see these human-fish hybrids?

Are they fantasists and liars? Are they mistaken? Or is there a deeper anthropological need that is satisfied by repeating traditional mermaid folktails?



Above: the mermaid pub is some miles inland from the coast, but alongside a deep freshwater creek. The building is older than it looks, and has for centuries been a centre for the singing of sea shanties and the exchange of drunken stories. Did the mermaid legends result from inebriated boasting of the most salacious kind (the mermaids are always beautiful sirens with flowing golden hair and well-developed breasts).



Above: the folklore provides a good brand identity for this fish and chip shop. There is always a queue in this shop, and the chips are delicious. The Greenland halibut is incredibly good.



Above: representations of mermaids feature regularly in local fetes and pageants. This mermaid effigy has a brassiere of green shells. The creatures are always female.



Above: I was looking round this small remote church last year, which is inland but associated with the placename Seabrook. As you can see, the building contained an impressive set of ornate oil lamps. No-one could explain how old the lamps were, or who put them there (I would guess they were seventeenth-century).



Above: if you look closely at the lamps (you might have to click on the image to enlarge it) you can see that the design includes little mermaids. What are these half-naked mythological figures doing in a Christian church? When you consider how prudish the Victorians were, you would expect them to have been covered up in some way.



Above: probably the mermaid legends in the south of the county are related to the presence of seals along the county's coasts. Foundation myths associate the local people with these beautiful mammals, and anthropomorphic projections would have led (over time) to creation-stories that placed the coastal villages under the protection of hybrid human-seal/fish denizens of the sea. It is also quite likely that local sailors, drunk on rum and spending days without female company, could see these animals and fantasise they were women.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

These wild plants are under threat



In the afternoon I went for a walk and everywhere I saw the signs of autumn.

Including these seeds on bank, displaying all the incredible diversity of the natural world.

These wild plants are under threat from the incessant pressure to introduce GM agriculture into the county. This must never happen. Instead of making food supply more secure it would mean handing control of the countryside over to mega-corporations (and we know how short-term and incompetent they can be).

No seasonal variety, no wildlife, no landscapes worthy of the name. Endless monoculture and dependence on a few frankenstein crops. And Monsanto able to blackmail us any time they choose.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I drove home and felt very unsettled - the past week not at work

Monday

Dressing in a suit I drove off for yet another interview. The "agency" was no more than a desk in the general office of a printing company. They have a handful of clients who have asked them to do their ad campaigns as well as print work.

"We are looking for someone who will run it as their own business, become a Director..."

I left feeling that I would have to be desperate before I took such a position.

Tuesday

I was woken this morning at 8am by a car in the lane announcing (via loudspeaker) that the water would be turned off for five hours. Blearily I went downstairs and filled kettles, bowls and buckets with water. I thought about getting up properly, but I felt so tired that I lay down on top of my bed wearing pyjamas and dressing gown and when I next woke it was 12.30.

Later in the afternoon a second interview at the agency in a small town to the north of London (I drove there and got confused at South Mimms). I was not looking forward to the interview, mainly because I feared I was going to be offered the job and would then have to make a decision. This time the meeting was with two women - Barbara and Maery.

When the interview finished they left the room and after about ten minutes Director Villy came into the room and offered me the job.

"It was a unanimous decision" he said.

My immediate thought was to avoid making a firm commitment. We are supposedly in a tough economic situation where jobs are scarce, so common sense tells me to take the offer. But my job search is going so well that I do not want to just take the first thing that comes along.

Especially as there is something about the atmosphere in the agency that warns me to proceed with caution.

I asked if I could have a week to think about the offer.

I drove home and felt very unsettled the rest of the day. At ten o'clock in the evening I went for a walk for half an hour. There was a bright half-moon which made the landscape staggeringly beautiful.

Wednesday

I telephoned a recruitment professional and asked what I should do about the job offer.

She told me: "The market is telling people take the job that's offered".

Late afternoon and a journey to the west of London for a second interview with the old buffer I had met in Mayfair last week. The offices were smart, but the client list was lacklustre and the whole enterprise seemed to lack vitality. The old bloke admitted that an Account Director had recently walked off with some of his best clients.

As I drove home I realised that the commute would be a nightmare unless I moved to London during the week (there are several people with spare rooms I could stay with).

Thursday

In the morning an interview at an agency in Clerkenwell. I could tell immediately that I was not being taken seriously ("we like to see what's out there"). I was tempted to call them time-wasters, but restrained myself.

When I got home the post had arrived, with the formal offer letter from Villy.

Friday

Second interview at the agency in a north London suburb. I was tense about this meeting, mainly because the company seems such a nice place to work (nice clients, nice offices, nice people). I had to keep telling myself that it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't get the job.

Quite a long wait in Reception when I arrived. Everyone was smiling and seemed to know who I was. One of the account handlers paused to talk to me.

The interview was with the agency owner and the PR Director. The signals they gave were all positive, so that my hopes began to rise. The interview lasted an hour and a half.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Voting behaviour of Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom



Interesting article on the Demos blog about the voting behaviour of Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom: http://www.demos.co.uk/blog/puttingacrossontheballot

In the blogpost Tom Gregory tells us "British Catholics overwhelmingly vote Labour". This is a disturbing assertion to make. For the first time (that I have seen) a left-leaning think tank is stating that there is a correlation between ethnic and religious identity (in this case Irish) and support for the Labour Party.

This would seem to endorse the BNP's argument that Labour attracts the bloc votes of minority groups (specifically accusing Labour of bribing minority groups with preferential access to welfare resources).

However I think Tom Gregory exaggerates his argument.

There are examples of Unionist MPs in Northern Ireland who statistically could not have won their seats without substantial support from Roman Catholics in their constituencies. Nineteen of the current list of Conservative MPs are Roman Catholics. Conservative social policy is much closer to Roman Catholic teaching than Labour's.

On the whole I think Tom Gregory's line of reasoning is unproven.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI



Pope Benedict XVI begins a state visit to the United Kingdom tomorrow.

The coverage in the media has so far been nasty, vicious and misleading - misleading because although a percentage of Roman Catholic priests have committed terrible crimes against children, that percentage is more or less the same as any other occupational group in society (including no doubt journalists, and including all the attendant denials and cover-ups) and yet the media is choosing to portray this as some kind of "Roman Catholic crime".

Other groups (the humanists, the feminists, Peter Tatchell etc) have been rushing in to abuse the Pope, including a highly partisan and distasteful Thought For The Day on Radio 4 this morning.

When you think of all the genuinely criminal heads of state who have been paraded through London over the years this onslaught on the leader of a major religion is appalling.

For the first time in my life I feel ashamed of my own country.



Above: during the Pope's visit he will canonise Cardinal Newman (1801-1890). I am not a Roman Catholic, but I regard the creation of an English saint as a great honour. I don't understand why this is not being reported properly.

Correction - have just learned on Newsnight that Cardinal Newman is being beatified not canonised.



Above: Cardinal Newman also wrote poetry, and I am intrigued by the elevation to sainthood of a major poet. Very seldom are poets honoured by any institution (whether religious, political or social). If you take all the articles written by all the journalists who have covered the papal visit, the combined total of their efforts will have less value than Newman's Dream of Gerontius.



Above: I am not a Roman Catholic, and have no intention of becoming a Roman Catholic, but I have to say that every time I have been in a Roman Catholic church I have felt at home.

The Pope's visit has affected me in ways I did not expect. I seems as if in the maelstrom of invective that is swirling around we are being forced to take sides. And I have to assert that if this is the case then I am on the side of the Roman Catholics.

Public professions of faith are difficult.

Personally I find the loud militant "witnessing" of evangelicals embarrassing (and perhaps some of those individuals should be reminded that there is a sin of spiritual pride).

All I can say is that if God has ever spoken to you, however quietly, it will be unmistakable and unforgettable.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Foraging

As summer draws to a close the hedgerows are full of wild produce. It is a reminder of how important foraging used to be for the county's population. In the pre-industrial period food came from three distinct sectors - cereal cultivation, livestock husbandry, and hunting.

Each village tended to focus on one of these three activities, combined with subsidiary contributions from the other two (so for instance, the men of one village might be predominently growers of wheat but also carry out occasional hunting expeditions). The social and cultural aspects of food production contributed to the identity of lineage groups (hunters were very different people from livestock keepers in terms of physical characteristics, attitudes to risk, lay-out of settlements etc). All these groups regarded seasonal foraging as important.

"Foraging" tends to imply wandering the countryside helping yourself to the fruits and nuts growing wild. In reality almost every copse, hedgerow, even individual trees would be held in common ownership by a particular village. Pillaging, although widespread, would be punished by retaliatory raids.

Looking around the countryside I have found the following:



Above: sloes or prunus spinosa. Used for pies, jams and tarts. Also made into an alcoholic drink.



Above: elderberries or sambucus. Used to make cordials and marmalades. Also of value as a primitive treatment for influenza.



Above: dog rose hips or rosa canina. Vaulable source of vitamin C, traditionally made into jelly. Also fed to horses (improves coat condition).



Above: hawthorn berries or crataegus laevigata. Used throughout the county as a flavouring for traditional breads (including St Edith's bread). Also used for centuries as a treatment for heart conditions.



Above: wild apples. Not sure if this is a crab apple tree or a domesticated apple that has grown wild. Apples if stored correctly will last over the winter.



Above: foraging from commonly-owned resources eventually led to the development of micro-environmental specialists who were responsible for little orchards and fruit gardens. This tradition persists to this day in small-scale production of fruits that have no commercial potential. On the local market I saw these blackberries for sale, and also some small plums that are supposed to be specific to the south east of the county.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The interview went well - the past week not at work

Monday

Two rejection letters in the post this morning (I had sent my CV out to various potential employers last week).

In the afternoon I drove about twenty miles to a small town where I had been asked to attend an interview. The advertising agency was located in a three-story Victorian villa near the station. I was asked to wait in a grey-carpeted downstairs room which was completely empty apart from a single chair and lots of packaged products (which I guessed were products waiting to be photographed).

The interview went well. The agency looked attractive. The people seemed friendly.

I drove home and made myself some tea. Just as I sat down my mobile 'phone rang. It was a communications company in a city about forty miles away.

They wanted me to attend an interview. "I wanted to talk to you before anyone else does" the person on the 'phone said. We arranged to meet on Friday.

Tuesday

In the post two rejection letters, three letters suggesting meetings, and a letter from EGJ.

Interestingly, none of the on-line job applications I have made have got anywhere, but the postal CVs I have sent out are getting a good response (perhaps because no-one sends out paper CVs anymore, so there is no competition?).

Wednesday

North London, where it spills over into the Home Counties. In a straggling High Street I attended an interview at a marketing agency. The interview lasted nearly two hours ("We seem to think along the same lines").

I left feeling it was a place I very much wanted to work.

Thursday

Small town just north of London (well into the Green Belt). Being early I walked around the streets looking at the shops. I felt a bit hot in my suit.

Then into an advertising agency for an interview with the Director ("Call me Villy"). I was not terribly impressed with the company which has a hotch-potch of clients. The interview lasted an hour and a half.

Then into central London to a hotel bar in Mayfair. Very expensive drinks. I met the owner of a small advertising agency and he informally interviewed me as we sat on sofas. The meeting went well, although I suspect he might be a bit of a crook. We talked for an hour and twenty minutes. At the end he said a second interview would be useful - a more formal one at his offices.

At Kings Cross I ran into someone I used to know about ten years ago. We talked about old times. He remembered my name easily, but I couldn't remember his.

Friday

To the new town city for an interview at a communications agency. The place was difficult to find, and when I got there I couldn't find a parking place.

Impressed by the stylish interiors - on the wall of the MD's office was an original Eduardo Paolozzi. They had some very good names on their client list. The opening they had was for a copywriter. I was left in a room for half an hour and asked to write five hundred words promoting the city (which makes me suspect the city council is one of their clients). I was asked back for a second interview. "Let us know if anyone makes you an offer in the meantime" the MD said as I left.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tattoos

Recently I have been thinking about tattoos - what they mean historically, anthropologically, and in contemporary culture.



Above: It started when I went to the Skin exhibition at the Wellcome Institute in the Euston Road. I have to force myself to take an interest in scientific and medical issues, otherwise I would never look outside the liberal arts. The Skin exhibition I found interesting but also a bit grisly (one of the cabinets had displays of tattooed human skin).



Above: the exhibition was also reviewed in the Guardian (or is this the Observer?). If you click on the image you should be able to read the text. The newspaper has put this under the heading "Anthropology" but I have not seen any other reports by the newspapers Anthropology Editor.



Above: body art has a considerable antiquity in the British Isles. Painting the body with dyes made from woad dates back to at least Neolithic times. This (public library) book by Jamieson Hurry is a fascinating description of everything you need to know about the plant.



Above: Woad is a fascinating and versatile plant and traces of its former cultivation can be found almost everywhere, marked by place names. There are several thousand Woad Farms in England. The use of woad as an ink for tattooing is not very efficient (the shading is erratic) and so it is almost never used now.



Above: close-up of the pub sign. Thanks to the malign influence of the trashy film Braveheart, painting with woad is wrongly associated with primitive life in medieval Scotland. However it was found in all regions of the British Isles and all levels of society (the Anglo-Saxon king Harold II was identified by his tattoos after being killed at the Battle of Hastings).



Above: probably the practice of marking the body in blue relates to the prehistoric identification of family clans (groups of extended and inter-connected families of up to six thousand in number) with specific animals - bears, eagles, white stags etc. Symbols related to these auspicious animals were marked on the bodies of qualifying members of a particular community. It is possible the origins of heraldry can be traced to the symbolic language of these daubings with paint and skin incisions with blue ink.



Above: it is difficult to assess the influence David Beckham has had on the uptake of tattoos. Is he a fashion leader or a fashion follower? Here you can see David Beckham in an unusual pose that reveals the famous tattoo on his lower back.



Above: the lower back tattoo of David Beckham quickly became adopted as an expression of identity by White Van Man. The popularity of tattoos among other celebrities over the past twenty years has meant the practice has moved from being a fashion to being a convention. For young people today having a tattoo is now a very conservative act.



Above: are tattoos intimidating? Are they designed to intimidate? I saw this group walking across a beach, and everyone got out of their way.



Above: what will happen next? Will tattoos continue to grow in popularity and influence? Or will the practice come to an end as new generations reject the cultural fashions of their parents?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sir Ian Blair

Disappointed that the Today programme did not ask fomer Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Ian Blair about the 'phone hacking scandal when they interviewed him this morning.
 
Sir Ian Blair was a highly-politicised Commissioner and must have been aware of the reasons why the police decided not to prosecute News International.
 
This was a time when the Labour Party was still hoping for News International support during the forthcoming general election - perhaps I have a suspicious mind, but it occurs to me that the then government could have pressured the police not to prosecute as part of a courting approach to News International.
 
I would like to see a much wider official enquiry into News International links with the previous government.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Worth making the effort

Village in the northern half of the county, at the northern edge of the central hills. All the villages in this area are related culturally. Traditionally they are descended from a devastated population that took refuge in the hills during the Viking incursions, and when returning to the valley split into several communities.



Above: the church was thoroughly restored by Blomfield in 1872, but he is supposed to have faithfully reproduced the Saxon windows in the tower. From the exterior you might think this was an entirely Victorian building and drive past without taking a closer look. Especially as it is on a sharp bend and you have to turn off the road to find somewhere to park.

But it was worth making the effort - inside there was lots to see.

Two attendant ladies offered tea to all comers (served from an urn), gave out portions of home-made cake (only 10p a slice), and guided people through the exhibits.



Above: there was further evidence of Saxon settlement, including this Saxon grave marker (it would have stood upright, the right-hand part above the earth).



Above: the font is Norman and was found by Blomfield buried under the floor.



Above: there were hundreds of artefacts from various periods dug up in the surrounding fields - here you can see a 17th century candle and a medieval key and nail.



Above: There was a photographic exhibition of village history. Here you can see a farmer's wife feeding chickens. The life of a farmer's wife was physically hard but when you talk to elderly ladies about their mothers and grandmothers there is considerable affection for the old way of life.



Above: there was formerly a blacksmith in the village, now long gone. Smiths held an important position in pre-industrial society as a knowledge of iron technology was of crucial importance for the making of weapons for both hunting and defence/offence. More work needs to be done on the social relationships between blacksmiths and hunters (they were often linked in fraternities).



Above: making of corn dollies in preparation for the harvest celebrations. Many schools in the county produce these items during craft classes. In all the fields this weekend the farmers have been taking advantage of the fine weather to bring in the crops.



Above: a cornucopia - a long-standing symbol of "plenty".

Saturday, September 04, 2010

No-one knows where I am - the past week not at work

Monday

Bank holiday. For lunch cold chicken, boiled potatos, fresh peas. I have a sort of flu at the moment, so all I want to do is rest.

Tuesday

I sent my CV to sixteen ad agencies where I know someone (although in a couple of cases they were only really acquaintances).

Wednesday

Went to Watford to see Kate (an old work colleague). She may have some freelance projects I can work on. Although the agency (which I used to work for) was in new offices it seemed exactly the same with Ian, Alan, bad-tempered Angela etc.

Thursday

Being unemployed, there is a luxury to waking in the morning, realising there is no requirement to get up, sleeping again, waking again, sleeping.

It's a relief not to have to make an appearance anywhere.

It's a relief that no-one knows where I am.

Also it's surprising how much I have to do now I don't have to go to work.

Friday

A call from a provincial marketing agency asking me to an interview on Monday afternoon.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Still sells

England play Bulgaria at Wembley today (7.30pm).

It is the first international match for the England team since ejection from the World Cup.

You would think that after a less than successful performance in the World Cup everyone would have been keen to forget about the competition.

But World Cup 2010 lingers on in the national consciousness:



Above: in the weeks following the end of the World Cup you could still send off for this Limited Edition Official England Glass. Which I duly did. My brother drinks Stella from it.



Above: even a month after the Final you could buy these England USB drives. And strangely, I was motivated to make a purchase, even though I work in marketing and know that the link between these objects and the England football team is tenuous in the extreme. It was almost as if I had an out-of-body experience and could watch myself falling for the marketing hype.



Above: only two weeks ago I passed the Churchill pub still flying the England flag and with a big sign up saying it was the home of the World Cup.



Above: and on Monday of this week I noticed that White Van Man still had a big flag up on the side of his house.

What is going on here? Why this romantic nostalgia for an episode that was undeniably a failure (Marina Hyde describing it in such exaggerated gotterdammerung terms that you would think she was referring to the fall of Singapore in 1942)? Obviously England's World Cup 2010 campaign still sells over two months after England lost to Germany on 27th June.

Probably it represents the power of myth and fantasy over reality. Even in defeat the England team is a powerful cultural and psychological phenomenon (like artists in France, in England footballers are the "cherished children of the nation"). Few other psychological machines can harness the collective emotional energy of the masses in quite the same way.

As Zervos said: "It is impossible to deny that the collective is satisfied with opiate ideas".