Friday, December 30, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas

Currently in the middle of the long Christmas holiday that for most people (but not retail workers) will last until 3rd January.

In many ways this long period of rest is an approximate return to the medieval Twelve Days of Christmas which was first recognised and enforced as a holiday in the law code of Alfred the Great.

In medieval times this was also the period when the wassail bowl came into prominence (there is a fine example of one of these bowls in Swansea museum). 

The Nine Ladies Dancing in the carol the Twelve Days of Christmas is supposed to refer to the arrival of the wassail bowls at a Christmas feast.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Atkinson Grimshaw exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery



















I went to see the Atkinson Grimshaw exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery (it's on until 15th January).

Although it is a good show, it should really be four or five times larger to do justice to such an original artist.

The genius of Atkinson Grimshaw was to paint conventional scenes by moonlight, achieving an entirely new way of looking at the world (Simon Marsden does this today with his use of infra-red photography).  The result is a heightened sense of awareness - everything is the same and yet simultaneously totally different.  Not sure I am explaining this very well.

Atkinson Grimshaw was wildly popular in his day.  Councils asked him to paint landscapes to encourage tourism.  Newspapers used to review his individual paintings (can't think of any artist who gets that treatment today).

Moonlight, Wharfedale - capturing the ethereal transition of twilight.

Waterloo Lake, Leeds - fabulously still lakes - limpid pools is not a cliche.

The Port Light, 1890s - serene combination of water and sky.

On Strike, Leeds 1879 - even an industrial landscape appears romantic and full of sympathy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

















The shops are all shut now, there is hardly any traffic on the roads.

Everything is closing down for Christmas (except the churches).

Dateline London was still going earlier today (did the journalist from Le Monde really mean to describe Germany and its Eurozone alliances as the "Axis" powers? - as Abdul Bari Atwan said, this is back to the 1930s).

Probably there will be no posts on this blog until about Tuesday.

"It's the wrong person leaving" - the past two weeks at work


















Above:  the Christmas tree in New Palace Yard seen from the path into Westminster Hall (the lights of Portcullis House in the background).  I have a new job (starting in the New Year) working for an Institute.  My role is mostly research (which is basically the focus of the entire Institute - researching various areas and coming up with suggestions and ideas).  My first official "work" for the Institute was to help with an presentation to MPs held at Westminster a couple of weeks ago.  The Institute is supposedly non-party, but only (a few) MPs from just one of the political parties turned up.  Not sure if I will blog about my new job - I have a strong suspician that one or two senior people at the Institute know about this blog so presumably they are happy about the kind of things I say.

Monday 12th December

Still dark when I got up.  I was at the office by 7.30 and once again found PR Officer Josie S there before me.  I suspect she gets in early for the same reason I do - it means less exposure to the more unpleasant people at the NGO.

Josie and I worked on PR for most of the day.  As arranged a journalist doing a feature on the NGO arrived and we set up a continuous sequence of interviews for her.  Probably a two-page piece will result (but there is never any guarantee of this, you just have to hope they are not exaggerating their importance and the Editor is not going to reduce it to 300 words and a picture).

We also did a post-conference evaluation report.  Positive comments and e-mails are still coming in, so we were able to arrange these into an Anecdotal Comments section.  Josie was very helpful with this report, Marketing Officer Ron J less so.

Work on the Business Plan for 2012 - it is so pointless for me to do this, as I will be gone at the end of next week.  Who is going to deliver this plan?  What is going to happen when the office reassembles on the 3rd of January?

In the afternoon Operations Director Ryan M came down to cancel a meeting we were due to have to discuss his marketing plans for 2012.  He sounded less confident than usual, taking a great deal of time apologising although I told him it was no problem (standing close over me and whispering so that his breath was on my face, a smell of cherry cough sweets).  Josie, his former lover, sat absolutely still in the desk opposite listening to every word.

Tuesday 13th December

With the help of temp Catherine (disabled and walks with a pronounced limp, shortish, very pleasant personality) most of the marketing section of the NGO's 2012 Business Plan was done.

In the afternoon Ryan M came down to sit beside me to talk through his part of the plan.  I am someone who likes to maintain personal space so I found his tactile closeness off-putting (for such a short slight man he has big thighs which spilled over the edge of his chair and kept pushing against my leg, rolling his chair closer every time I moved my chair away - he was like a dog that has to sit absolutely adjacent to its owner).  Once again Josie S seemed to go into a trance, and while talking to me Ryan M would often direct deliberate looks in her direction so that I wondered if there were things going on that I was not aware of.

I left early to go to a city radio station to give an short interview.  They were only in a couple of rooms, a lively noisy atmosphere.  I was aware that I was floundering at the end of sentences.

Wednesday 14th December

A day off, using up my holiday.

Thursday 15th December

All of the day I was on my own, the rest of the Communications team being in a training course.  I had rashly said I would set up the NGO's stand at an exhibition in a town about thirty miles away.  Long drive there, and a struggle to put the various things up (I had never had to do this before - I had to ring Josie S to ask how it all fits together).

Back at the NGO I felt at a loose end.  First Thursday afternoon for ages that I have not played golf (it gets dark too early).  I deleted hundreds of e-mails, mainly for the pleasure I got from pressing the Delete button.

Friday 16th December

Josie S away at the exhibition.  A meeting with Research Officer Jane and Ron J to discuss various projects.  Tom D was out so we held the meeting in his office ("I would like to know what exactly Tom does" said Jane defiantly). 

The afternoon grew progressively busy, so that I had to start turning things down.

After work I gave Felix S (formerly Research Manager, now an Operations Manager) a lift home as his car is out of action. He has an apartment in a big Victorian villa in a built-up village. His wife's BMW was outside but there was no sign of her. The apartment was cold. Cups of coffee and then he gave me a glass of scotch. The apartment was self-consciously Provencal in decor (self-conscious in the sense that it seemed contrived). We talked about Tom D (my boss and his former boss) and we laughed at his snobbish love of Elgar. Felix put some Elgar music on and we laughed even more, recalling Tom D's pretentious speculations about the mystery person in the Enigma Variations. I was there for hours and got home very late.


Monday 19th December

My last week at the NGO.  I was the second person to arrive at the offices, followed by Josie S and Ryan M (they walked in together, although they arrived in separate cars).  At my desk I made a rough plan of how I wanted the week to go.

A meeting of the Working Group.  I took Josie S into the meeting with me, so that she can carry on with the project after I have left.  As the plans are now fairly advanced the rest of the Group suggested making a presentation to all of the NGO's staff on Friday morning.  I was asked to give this presentation, but I said it would be better if Josie delivered it with my help.  I thought that this would give her an opportunity to raise her profile in the NGO.  The rest of the meeting was dreary.  A date for the next meeting was set, and it was poignant to think it would happen without me.

Lunchtime I went with my team (Josie, Ron, Jane) to the pub, drinking lager in front of the open wood fire. 

In the afternoon a "leaving interview" with my boss Tom D.  He praised my hard work over the last year and then talked about the team and how he was going to make changes (the Information Team made redundant, Josie and Ron "evaluated" etc).  He was obviously telling me so that I would tell the people concerned and they would have a chance to get over their anger before he informed them officially.

I left the meeting thinking how despicable and dishonest Tom D was.

In the evening with Josie S to a restaurant in the city to see various young people presented with their certificates; photographs in front of a big Christmas tree lit up with lights; a buffet meal afterwards.

Tuesday 20th December

At my desk this morning I thought about yesterday's meeting with Tom D and decided to make a formal complaint to CEO Alec Pressberg about Tom D's incompetence.  I knew that Tom and Alec were friends and that no real action would be taken, but if I copied it to the HR manager at least it would be recorded.  Coward that I am, I sent the complaint by e-mail instead of delivering it personally.

Cheery appearance of Ryan M, with a campaign for the Operations department that had been prepared for him by Josie S.

"How do you want to take this forward?" he asked me.

"It's up to you really" I said.

"I'll file it" he said off-handedly, going back through the door to the stairwell, leaving Josie S looking crestfallen.

A lot of the day I spent signing off invoices as I know Tom D will not do so after I have left.

It was a relief to get away from the office at 5pm, and I will not miss the place when I am gone.

Wednesday 21st December

Christmas cards on my desk when I arrived this morning.  Do I just give Christmas cards to people who give cards to me, or do I give cards to everyone, or do I give cards to no-one?  It's always a quandary.

The scale of the outstanding work concerns me, especially as I see no prospect of any of it getting done after I leave.

An air of chaos developed due to the unreasonable demands of the Training & Direction department.  I had left Josie and Ron to deal with this, so that they would get used to doing things on their own.  However they were not very good working together - I suspect they do not like each other much.

Thursday 22nd December

As soon as I arrived in the office Jane and Josie wanted to talk to me.  They complained about my deputy Meryl P, saying that she bossed them around and was always being nasty to them.  I told them not to be so stupid (I actually used the phrase "She is not your enemy").

Everyone seemed to be winding down for the Christmas holiday.

Josie S rehearsed the Working Group presentation she is to give on Friday morning.

"It's your chance to shine" I told her.

"It's my chance to really screw things up" she said.

Felix S asked for a lift home again (it's on my route so no trouble).  Once again he asked me in for a drink and we sat around for about two hours laughing about work in a very cynical way.  He said how nice the people in Marketing seem to be, which surprised me as all I see is the bickering.

Friday 23rd December

My last day at the NGO and last day for all staff before the long holiday.  The offices were to close at 2pm with everyone going early.  I was expecting a quiet day.

However I was puzzled that there was a meeting of the Senior Management Team (the directors) occurring when I arrived at 9am.

Up to the Board Room to help Josie set up the projector for her presentation.  She ran through the slides again and it all looked good.  People began to arrive and take their seats, mince pies on the table.

I went downstairs briefly to collect my mobile phone which I had left charging.  Tom D appeared and briskly asked for Josie S.  I told him she was about to give a presentation in the Board Room.  I could tell this information affected him as he faltered then said she must come down to his office immediately.  I told him this was impossible and she would come down after the presentation in about an hour.  Then I just walked away from him.

Up in the Board Room all the NGO's staff were crammed in, some people sat at the table the rest standing around the sides.  About forty people in all (a lot of staff had taken the day off).  Josie's presentation was excellent, and she was confident and sincere.  She also handled the questions very well.  Lots of applause when she finished.  I noticed Ryan M sitting at the table looking fixedly away.

After the presentation I went back downstairs.  Tom D called Josie into his office and I could see through the glass partition that HR manager Yasmin S was also in the meeting.  After a few minutes Josie came out to get a notepad and pen from her desk and said to me "I'm being paid off".  On impulse I asked if she wanted me to sit in on the meeting with her, and she said yes.  In Tom's office I said I was in the meeting as Josie's staff representative (which is allowed).  It was a long and acrimonious meeting, and very confused.  No reason was being given for Josie's dismissal.  At one point Tom D said she was being made redundant, but Yasmin S corrected him and said it was not a redundancy.

Eventually the meeting came to an end and Josie was given her cheque and various documents.  She hinted she might appeal to a tribunal.  Then she packed up the things from her desk, said goodbye to Jane, Ron and myself, and walked out the door.

As the news circulated there was a wave of sympathy for her ("I feel sick" said Carol, "I'm bloody annoyed" said Danielle, "It's the wrong person leaving" said Jan, hinting it should be Tom D getting the sack).

The last couple of hours of my time at the NGO were without incident.  Everyone in the Training & Direction department came round to shake my hand.  There was a little presentation from the Communications department who gave me a present, and then I slipped away.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Criminal charges against England Captain John Terry are disquieting

The criminal charges against England Captain John Terry are disquieting for three reasons:

1. The huge media coverage makes it appear impossible that he should receive a fair trial. In this country you are supposed to be innocent until proved guilty and yet many journalists are talking (in newspapers and on the BBC) as if he had already been found guilty and routinely bracketing his name with Luis Suarez who has already been found guilty of a similar offence (thus creating guilt by association, which is undermining to the principles of justice). Which makes me ask whether the Guardian’s treatment of John Terry is any different from the Sun’s hounding of Christopher Jefferies?

2. I don’t like the idea of trial-by-YouTube where candid moments are edited for dramatic content and presented before tens of millions of people for their titillation and comment. This seems uncomfortably Orwellian to me. I think you could film anyone (including Guardian journalists) in a moment of passion and they would say things that might be interpreted as technically illegal.

3. The complainant in the John Terry case is described variously as “a fan” and “a member of the public”. Did this person witness the incident personally or just watch it on YouTube? What motives does this person have in making this complaint (for instance, do they hope to gain a competitive advantage against Chelsea Football Club by knocking out their captain)? It is mandatory for the police to investigate all accusations of racial abuse, no matter how frivolous they may appear (for instance if someone were to complain about Greg Dyke calling the BBC “hideously white”, the police would be legally obliged to investigate whether Greg Dyke intended to describe white people as hideous), therefore it is not clear whether this case would ordinarily have come to court. It does seem ridiculous in several ways. Is it really desirable for the law to regulate the interactions of football players in the course of a football match?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beowulf















Above:  screenprint from the movie.

I saw Beowulf on DVD at the weekend (I missed it when it came out on the big screen in 2007).  The film is an animation, with considerable visual impact.  Director is Robert Zemeckis.















Above:  I first read Beowulf in a children's translation when I was about fourteen.  On Monday I got this original version of the epic from my local library.  It is a facsimile of the Cotton manuscript VITELLIUS A. XV in the British Library.

Above:  I thought it might be heavy going, but actually you can get the sense of it quite well.  The facsimile has a transcription opposite and although many of the words are unfamiliar you can sense the poetry (especially if you read it aloud).  You can also look up difficult words on Google.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Post-Modernism exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum



















Recently I went to see the Post-Modernism exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum.


It's on until 15th January 2012.

On the whole I was disappointed by the exhibition. Going around the galleries I felt the interpretation was confused, although at the time I couldn't exactly analyse why. Later it occurred to me that the curators didn't have any real sympathy for post-modernism. They seemed to think that post-modernism was everything that wasn't modernism. Post-modernism was examined in a patronising way that assumed it was merely anti-modernism. Above all there was no attempt to capture the romance of the style (post-modernism was a return to the romantic tradition).

Also the exhibition was too ambitious for the space (and presumably money) it had available.

Considering how close in time the 1980s is to us, there should have been no difficulty in obtaining hundreds (perhaps thousands) of exhibits and creating a more densley textured and nuanced show.

I felt the stuff from the 1960s and 1970s didn't really fit.

I liked the quote "After Modernism there will only be a choice between Versailles and Las Vegas" but this wasn't developed in any way or tested for veracity.

Only when I walked through the columns of Strada Novissima and saw the screens showing Blade Runner (the 1980s was the era of video installations!) did I feel that the exhibition had any impact.

Vivienne Westwood cardigan. Alessandro Mondini redesign of Michelangelo's Madonna and Child rondo. Various impractical arty designer gadgets (was this the period when "gadgets" became desirable objects in their own right other than merely utilitarian devices?).

My favourite item was a blue aluminium desk by Garry Knox Bennett.

Costume for the Blade Runner character Rachel by Charles Knade and Michael Kaplan (all black, the shoulders fetishised and exaggerated).

Laurie Anderson.

Louis XIV by Jeff Koons (with a mirror behind it so that I could see myself looking at the exhibit).

Large number of teapots (these teapots had been jeered at on the Review Show). Was there something about the post-modernist style that was connected to tea drinking? In films and books of the period does tea-drinking take place?

Sequence from the film Koyaanisqatsi with music by Philip Glass.

Huge photograph of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (this was the period when Japan nearly overtook the USA as the world's biggest economy.

Doesn't reflect very creditably on either the Guardian or Mansfield College Oxford












Misleading article by David Marquand in today's Guardian, telling us that only England is sceptical about the European Union.

Hardly any facts in the piece, but David Marquand does say that the Conservative Party only represents England, and that Euroscepticism will break up the United Kingdom with Scotland and Wales staying in the EU and England leaving.

This is such a stupid argument it hardly warrants refuting.

However David Marquand is a clever person (Principal of an Oxford college no less) so he must be aware that in Wales the Conservatives are the second largest political party, polling three times as many votes as the Plaid Cymru nationalists in the 2010 election; also that in the most recent poll on the EU a majority of Scottish people wanted to leave the EU.

He must be aware of these facts and yet he chooses to tell us (through the Guardian) the opposite - doesn't say very much for his integrity and doesn't reflect very creditably on either the Guardian or Mansfield College Oxford (which was mentioned in the by-line, giving David Marquand added gravitas).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

All of today I have spent writing Christmas cards and wrapping presents ready to be posted.

No time for blogging.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

All you need to know about the British and French economies








The recent anti-British invective spouted by French politicians is comical more than anything else.

Especially amusing is the idea that Nick Clegg is some kind of "honest broker" (when everyone knows where his sympathies lie).

To hear the various French politicians talk, you might think they were unaware that there are hundreds of thousands of French economic migrants living in London.

There are of course many English people living in France.

But whereas English people go to France to retire and sit in the sun, French people come to England to work.

I think that tells you all you need to know about the British and French economies.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Guardian television guide said Rev (a comedy on BBC2) was at 9.30.

But when I switched on at 9.30 I found I had missed it - it had been broadcast at 9pm.

This is really annoying.

Especially as I have a lot of sympathy for the "Nigel" character - there are many Nigels in the Church of England.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, on the Today programme

Evan Davis interviewed Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, on the Today programme this morning.

Steve Wozniak talked at length about how "counter culture" environments create innovation more easily than formal hierarchical societies.  Up to a point I agree with him, relaxed cultures are more open to new ideas.  But I do not agree that there is any correlation with wearing t-shirts and trainers and building world-class companies (and I would guess that in the Apple corporation wearing t-shirts and trainers has itself become a normal "uniform" and anyone who does not conform to this is probably informally ostracised as "not one of us").

During the interview Steve Wozniak made an outrageous attack on the culture and society of Singapore (the BBC broadcast of these remarks probably breaks United Kingdom discrimination legislation which bans denigrating people according to national origin - Evan Davis should have challenged these statements as soon as they were made).

And I was annoyed that Evan Davis failed (once again) to ask the obvious question:  if formal hierarchical societies are incapable of innovation how does Steve Wozniak explain Japan?  Japan was utterly destroyed during the Second World War and yet within a generation emerged as an economic superpower mainly through applying the principles of Dr W. Edwards Deming who espoused a philosophy of continuous innovation and improvement (which the Japanese later developed as "Kaizen").  Japan has done this by remaining a very conservative and formal society (and pictures of Dr Deming himself look fairly conventional!).

Also it is worth remembering that Japan has remained a great trading nation and a world economic power without being part of any trans-national bloc like the EU.  No-one goes on about Japan being "isolated" in Asia.  No-one calls Japan a "pygmy" nation of no significance, sidelined and marginalised, floating aimlessly in "mid-Pacific".

For forty years the EU elites bullied, frightened and cajoled member states into "ever closer union".  David Cameron has courageously shot that fox.  He has set the ordinary people free.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

He must not move



















David Cameron is coming under a lot of pressure to reverse the veto he exercised on ever-closer European union.

He must not move from his original position - the majority of the people are with him (as John Harris points out in today's Guardian, including a majority of the people in Scotland).

He need not worry about Nicolas Sarkozy as he is likely to be gone in a few months.

He need not worry about the Liberal Democrats as if they pull out of the Coalition there will have to be an election and on this issue the Conservatives will be returned with an outright majority (especially as the Liberal Democrats will collapse, and this will mostly benefit the Conservatives, not Labour).

He should take a hard line with the 26 European states and tell them to set up their own Eurozone institutions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

100th anniversary of the 1911 Durbar in Delhi


















Today is the 100th anniversary of the 1911 Durbar in Delhi, supposedly marking the zenith of British imperial power (although in terms of territorial extent the greatest land area under imperial control came in 1921 - but by that time the signs of decline were already evident).

Nothing in today's Guardian, nothing on the BBC, nothing on the Indian government's website.

For various reasons I think that the experience of imperialism was bad for Britain (and obviously pretty bad for the subject nations).  But I find this selective amnesia about a major historical event distasteful.  And I am not sure that British imperialism in 1911 was any worse than Indian imperialism today - or Chinese imperialism, or Iranian imperialism, or Russian imperialism etc (or indeed EU imperialism over its member states).

Is it perhaps the rise of India as a new economic power that is making everyone careful not to notice the 100th anniversary of the Durbar?  Are we all politely looking the other way?  Are we afraid that modern Indians would somehow be offended to be reminded that there was a time a hundred years ago when their traditional rulers (all of them great potentates in their own right) were required to get down on their hands and knees in front of the symbols of British power?

India has been an independent country for over sixty years.  India is a vast sub-continental territory with a population of a billion inventive and ingenious people and huge natural resources.  And yet despite running their affairs for sixty years their economy is barely equal to the United Kingdom's (and this on a day when Nick Clegg described Britain as a pygmy nation!).

By any standards the economic performance of India vis-a-vis the United Kingdom must be described as pathetic.

There is no pleasure in saying this as the human waste over those sixty years is staggering.  And obviously (as the Indians keep reminding us) they are going to overtake us "soon".  But sixty years of the Indian giant spent catching up with a tiny "pygmy nation" must be acknowledged as pathetic.

Part of the problem is that Indian politicians continually blame "colonialism" for all their woes.  After sixty years this excuse is wearing a bit thin.  It is time they stopped the victim culture of blaming others for their own mistakes, and in this context they need to face up to their history - and "owning" the significance of the 1911 Durbar might be a good place to start.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Odd sort of situation - the past week at work

Monday

I had spent the weekend putting my URGENT folder into order so that when I arrived at the office this morning I felt in control.  Although I am leaving at the end of next week there is still a major conference to organise, plus several projects to hand-over.  It was a busy day with lots of interruptions (which made me feel irritable).

In the afternoon I took the whole Communications team (including the eight Information Officers) up to the Board Room where we spent three hours going through every detail of the conference on Thursday.

Tuesday

Incoherent meeting with Operations director Ryan M. 

More conference planning.

Wednesday

Odd sort of situation today.  I have lots to do, but because I am waiting for others to respond I can't get on with any of it.  I met with my boss Tom D and "handed over" various projects - he tried to resist but I was insistent.

I completed various evaluation reports, and was lavish in my praise of others.

In the afternoon a meeting with a small external team that has lost its funding and now has to raise money from commercial sponsors.  They wanted my advice on how to go about this.  I was as sympathetic as I could be, but I can't see any way they will be able to raise the money they need.

Thursday

Day of the social leaders' conference.  I was at the office by 7.30, where all the Communications team were gathered.  In four cars we drove to the Conference venue, a large hotel in a small town north of London.

I was surprised at how smoothly things ran.  The hotel's conference staff did most of the work, allowing us to just walk around checking everything was in place.  The Chairman of the conference (a leading academic) arrived, and also a former television presenter hired to run the Questions session.

Then all of the Communications team ran the conference reception desk, checking people as they arrived and giving them badges and directions to the coffee room.  I had been keen for my team to do this task as it looked as if we were in charge of the whole event.  There had been a lot of criticism in the NGO that a conference of this kind so close to Christmas would not be well attended, but actually the hall was full with about 350 attendees (all "leaders of society" in various capacities). 

By the time the lunch (a big formal meal with toasts) was over it was clear that the conference had been an outstanding success. 

In the afternoon the attendees went into various different workshops.  By this point there was little for the Communications team to do, so I told most of them to go home.  Because of the early start I was beginning to feel tired, and I slipped away at 5, leaving PR Officer Josie S in charge of the clear-up (with instructions to ring me if any problems arose).

Friday

A meeting with my boss Tom D.  I was amazed at how jovial he was, and this immediately made me feel suspicious.  It is like dealing with a madman.
On Fox & Friends this afternoon the presenter was interviewing a sports celebrity (Robert Griffin III) and used the phrase "academic all American".  This mystified me (are there non-academic all Americans?  are there academic partial-Americans?  are there non-academic partial-Americans?).  Looking on Wikipedia is no help, it just refers to something called a "recognition program".

Later the word "romneyesque" was used to describe a monogrammed shirt.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The right to say no
















Above:  very interesting and perceptive article by Simon Heffer in today's Daily Mail.  I don't normally read the Daily Mail, but Agnes Poirier was so outraged by the newspaper on Dateline London earlier that I thought it would be worth buying.  Agnes Poirier cultivates a sort of pantomime-villain style of offensiveness (rather like a French female Jeremy Clarkson) and presumably the BBC includes her in various broadcasts because they knew her rudeness will get attention.

The symbolism of yesterday's veto of the European treaty continues to fascinate me.  Since its inception the EU has progressed inexorably towards "ever closer political union" with no-one brave enough to say no.  David Cameron's veto not only stopped that process dead, it has also made it a lot easier for other politicians, of all nationalities, to exercise the right to say no.

On the whole I do not think David Cameron was acting to "protect the City" (which as several commentators have pointed out was not at risk anyway).  I think the veto was ideological, and came from his convictions (which presumably is why Merkel and Sarkozy find it so inexplicable).  Coalition policy in any case is to reduce dependence on the City.

In another of its bizarre front page articles the New York Times today describes the United Kingdom as a "big loser" without actually saying what Britain is supposed to have lost.  Is it possible that the New York Times is being disingenuous in its coverage of the Eurozone negotiations?  Is it possible the New York Times wanted the United Kingdom fully integrated into the new treaty set up so that when the City of London was trashed a lot of the financial services would migrate to New York?

Interesting article in the New Statesman by Owen Jones looks at the veto from the perspective of the Left.

Reading the Daily Mail has been a revelation (for which I must thank Agnes Poirier).  Normally I don't pay any attention to accusations of "bias" in the BBC, but an article by Sam Greenhill in today's newspaper about pro-Euro reporting has made me wonder how many staff in the BBC have been on Common Purpose training courses?  A Freedom of Information request to see the details of the BBC's training expenditure would presumably reveal whether Common Purpose has an undue influence in the Corporation.

Friday, December 09, 2011

What a great leader David Cameron is proving to be

Driving to work this morning listening to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 I felt in a euphoric mood at the news from Brussels.

What a great leader David Cameron is proving to be.

It would have been so easy to have gone along with the majority, to have fudged things, to have used the small print of various Treatys to bamboozle the people.

Instead he has looked at the Eurozone proposition and said "no thanks" and walked away.

The front page of the New York Times is describing this as a "defeat".  How little they know about the mood of the British people.  It is a great victory for the fundamental principles of freedom and democracy.

Inevitably a chorus has arisen warning of economic doom and gloom but personally I don't believe it.  And in any case, if a certain amount of economic difficulty is necessary then so be it ("we must go into the storm and through the storm").  Economic comforts bought at the price of the surrender of sovereighty and freedom are not worth having (as the members of the Eurozone will soon begin to realise).

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ignorant front page article for the New York Times



















Staggeringly ignorant front page article for the New York Times today.

Stephen Castle and Sarah Lyell seem to think the Euro crisis is all about economics.  They have no idea what they are talking about.  Have just heard an American economist (I think he was with the World Bank) on the Radio 4 PM show refer to the New York Times front page and tell us it is better to be a bystander in this crisis (we could hear them all laughing in the PM studio at the ineptitude of the New York Times).

Personally I think nothing can save the Euro.  Merkel and Sarkozy are both going to be ejected by their electorates.  Therefore there is nothing to lose (NOTHING to lose) if David Cameron goes into the negotiations vetoing everything in sight until every possible concession is given to the United Kingdom (although ultimately we need to leave the EU - and now is possibly the best time to do it).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"These differentials are really important..."















Debate on the economy.  Three eminent economists, one from each of the main economic faculties in the United Kingdom.  In the chair a former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Professor 1 (an authority on the American housing market):

"Look at the decline in US saving rates... look at the integrated data on the growth of credit, money and asset prices... look at falling IT costs..." (not sure why we were supposed to look at falling IT costs - did he mean that historically falling IT costs have accelerated the rate of electronic financial transactions?).

"Look at the political pressure to extend credit to the poor... consumers are not rational optimisers... look at the impact of housing wealth on consumption... high debt is bad for consumption... rising market panic on the feedback of shrinking credit supply undermining the solvency of governments and the banking sector..."

"German brinkmanship may lead to Eurozone disintegration... stagnation in the US and policy paralysis... China hits the buffers - Chinese government income is not based on taxation but is based on land sales for property development - a China slowdown would hit Germany hard as it exports to China but would reduce oil and commodity prices and for the UK this would be a big plus..."

Professor 2 (formerly with the Central Bank of Iran and formerly Professor of Economics at UCLA):

"Compare cumulative inflation deviations in Europe and the US... look at the inflation of the Euro economies relative to German inflation... these differentials are really important... compare with inflation in all the states of the US where there is much more convergence... look at purchase power parity and uncovered interest parity... link long-term interest rates to inflation differentials... there is more quantitative easing on the way... we need to put a cap on interest rates and print money as much as possible to hold the cap... the UK financial position is better than other countries so could expand construction to create employment... need to spend more on high-tech education and training..."

Professor 3 (member of the World Economic Forum):

"Germany has succeeded by exporting to China and developing Asia... Germany has redesigned its economy to look east... Germany is being asked to pay more than 5% of its GDP to the Eurozone periphery and the Germans will not stand for this... the UK needs to engage fully with the emerging economies... the UK needs to unleash its creative industries... the UK needs to work hard and save for the future..."

At the end each of the professors was asked about the future of the Eurozone:

Professor 1 - "The Eurozone will survive in a truncated form".

Professor 2 - "The Eurozone will evolve - remember it is politicians who are pushing for the Euro, not economists".

Professor 3 - "The Eurozone will not survive".

Prime Minister's Questions, 7th December 2011

Have just watched this week's PMQs.

Ed Miliband asked why the government was so slow in taxing private jets - I thought the Prime Minister was very quick-witted in responding to this (referring to former Labour prime ministers use of private jets).

John Baron MP called for a fundamental renegotiation of the United Kingdom's relationship with the EU.

Tory grandee Sir Peter Tapsell referred to the Eurozone and said "fiscal union will pose a great threat to the liberty of Europe" (by creating an undemocratic power bloc within the EU).  In reply the Prime Minister praised Sir Peter's "great knowledge, wisdom and foresight".  But he didn't really answer the question.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Incompetent, lazy and dishonest research

Have at last got round to reading yesterday's Guardian.

Several pages of analysis about the causes of the August riots, relying on a study carried out by the Guardian and the London School of Economics.

However the methodology of the study appears to be flawed.

In seeking to understand the reasons why the interviewees rioted the researchers seem to have just recorded the first answer they were given.

This is incompetent, lazy and dishonest research.

Anyone who is concerned with human motivation will know that you have to ask the same questions four or five different times, using different wording, before you will get an understanding of the REAL motivation for a certain type of behaviour.

For instance, it is extremely unlikely the rioters are going to say they rioted "because I was racially motivated" or "because I like stealing" or "because I enjoy being violent".  And yet those may well be the reasons they joined in the riots.  It is not good enough to simply record the first answer given (especially after months in which the respondent has rationalised their behaviour, perhaps even to themselves, in socially-acceptable terms).

Also in the Guardian Gary Younge compared the August riots with the uprising in Tunisia - laughable stuff.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Newsnight now looking at the Eurozone.

Not sure Paul Mason has any credibility as an economic commentator.

Everyone knows he is a Marxist.

He is never going to give an impartial view.

And can the BBC find a different person to interview than Agnes Poirier - she is one of the most irritating and irrelevant commentators.

The report on the riots has made me feel very angry and fed up with all of "the left".
David Lammy is going on again about "policing with consent".

"Policing with consent" was the problem in the first place.

"Policing with consent" was the reason the police held back on the first day (and we saw on television after the Tottenham riots David Lammy not giving his consent to policing, thus giving the rioters a signal to continue breaking the law).
David Lammy MP is a disgrace.

Completely unfit for public office.

On the first day he failed to back to police, thus giving moral support to the rioters.
One after another of the interviewees is saying they have a problem with the police.

I want to put on record that I fully support the police and if the rioters have a problem with the police they also have a problem with me.

(But I do think the police held back on the first day through misguided political correctness).
Currently watching Newsnight and an analysis of the August riots.

All the anger I felt when I saw the riots has returned.

The majority of interviewees (appearing in silhouette) seem to be Afro-Carribbean.

What the riots show is the complete FAILURE of Afro-Carribbean immigration into the United Kingdom - perhaps they would feel happier and more "respected" back in the West Indies?

The Russian elections

Report on the Today programme this morning about the Russian elections and how the United Russia party had done relatively badly.  Analysis by Edward Lucas from The Economist.  At least it shows that Russia is a democracy (or does it?).

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Ancient Monuments Society

Still don't feel entirely well, so after lunch I sat in front of the fire all afternoon and watched the last hour and a half of Fox & Friends, then read the Observer (Dalya Alberge on the latest discoveries at Flag Fen) and then looked through the new Newsletter of the Ancient Monuments Society.

Points of interest in the AMS:



















Kenwood House (where you can see Vermeer's The Guitar Player) has received a restoration grant of £3.4 million.

An appeal has been launched to buy the house and studio of Victorian painter GF Watts.

Wrest Park in Bedfordshire is now open to the public - it opened in August so not sure how I missed that (Wrest Park features in Lily Allen's video The Fear, festooned with balloons).















Tredegar House (where I got locked in the garden after closing time and had to climb over the wall) has now been taken over by the National Trust.

Casts of the Elgin Marbles have been incorporated into the athletes' accommodation in the new Olympic Village.

The British Archaeological Association has published Coventry: Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology.  The destroyed city of Coventry fascinates me.  I don't understand why more effort isn't being put into its restoration.

Also some advance notice of the Pugin 2012 celebrations.
Back in 1997 when Gordon Brown made his raid on private pension funds were there any protests from union leaders?

Or were they happy to see the private sector looted to pay to expand the private sector?

It is not good to see the private sector pitched against the public sector, but we need to understand why this has happened.

In part it is because the public sector has been so thoroughly politicised and identified with the Labour party.
On Fox & Friends earlier today there was an interview with Peter Schweizer, author of Throw Them All Out.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Just filling in time

Monday

My cold has mostly gone, but I have been left with a hacking cough.  This cough goes away for a while, but then comes back again.  Especially when the wind blows - which has been frequently this week.

I arrived in the office about 8am, at the same time as my deputy Meryl P (who is moving to another department).  She made coffee for both us and we spent the next hour chatting.  She shares my view that the entire Communications department is going to be dismembered in the next round of economies.

Operations director Ryan M came in and paused to talk to us.  Not for the first time I thought what an inadequate little man he is.  How he has got to a senior position in the NGO is a mystery.

It was an odd sort of day.  I couldn't seem to settle to anything.  Ron J, Marketing Officer (who is disabled) does not do anything unless I specifically ask him to do it.

PR Officer Josie S, who recently received a warning about her work, has become frantic in her production of press releases, showing an inventiveness that is very impressive.  However this late flurry of work is unlikely to save her.  I fear she is marked (not by me) for dismissal.

Tuesday

Although my work has been scaled down (I am leaving at the end of the year) I am still involved in planning the Conference for society "leaders".  This morning I was in a meeting in the Board Room with several partners of the NGO who are helping to fund and organise the event.  I left at noon to go into the tea room to watch the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

More evidence of unprofessional conduct by Josie S.  She was responsible for editing a guide to the NGO's Operations department, and although this was an entirely functional booklet she had put a full-page casual portrait of Ryan M, her former lover, on the inside front cover.  The portrait makes him look like a pop star.  Ryan M was furious about this as almost everyone who saw it started laughing at him.  A complaint was made by Ryan M to the NGO's CEO Alec Pressberg.  He complained to Communications Director Tom D (my boss). 

Tom D called me into his office and blamed me for not proof-reading the document (I had no idea it had gone to the printers otherwise I would have stopped it).  Josie S was called into the meeting, but instead of referring to the booklet Tom D talked to her like a father, asking about how she was getting on, and how her life was outside of work.  This sounded very ominous - I am extremely wary of Tom D when he is in this avuncular mood, and I wondered whether Josie was about to be sacked. 

Ryan M appeared at the internal glass window to the office and motioned to Tom D that he wanted to talk to him.  Tom D went out and I saw the two of them muttering.  Then Tom D came back into the meeting and Ryan M went off after loudly and unnecessarily shouting "See yer Andrew" through the window.

Tom D ended the meeting without anything actually being resolved.  It occurred to me that they don't know what to do with Josie S.  Perhaps they are afraid she is going to do something "stupid" while still employed by the NGO.

Wednesday

Day of the public sector strike.  Although the NGO's employees are not directly employed by the government there is enough of an overlap for some of the staff not to come in today.  No-one seemed to notice their absence.

A meeting in the morning to plan the launch of an NGO initiative.  CEO Alec Pressberg was there and seemed very hostile towards me.  Not for the first time, I felt glad I was leaving.

Another meeting in the afternoon.

Thursday

As I am still using up my holiday, I only went into work this morning.  I discussed Ron J's training schedule with HR Manager Yasmin S.  Then a meeting with Preston from the Innovation department.

In the afternoon more golf with Felix S and Ryan M.  First some putting practice then round the course, stopping when it got too dark.  I declined to go for a drink in the clubhouse.

Friday

Slow sluggish sort of day.  I have the feeling I am just filling in time until I leave.  Also the unsettling thought that I have not achieved anything of value in my time at the NGO.

The NGO was being "inspected" today, which added a serious atmosphere to the day.
Jeremy Clarkson even mentioned on Dateline London earlier today.

More evidence of dumbing down?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Very interesting comment on last night's Question Time about the need to trade more with Africa.

This would create a much more balanced trading pattern instead of the current heavy reliance on trading with the EU countries (the incompetence of the Eurozone economy is a threat to our economy - it represents a failure of the "European vision" that so many politicians have been going on about for decades).

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Starbucks is opening three hundred new branches in the United Kingdom

On the Today programme this morning there was the news that Starbucks is opening three hundred new branches in the United Kingdom creating five thousand jobs.

When you consider that high-price cups of frothy flavoured coffee are an entirely discretionary purchase does this indicate an increase in consumer optimism?  Presumably Starbucks did some market research before commencing this programme of expansion.  Starbucks sales are not just about coffee - they also relate to consumer confidence, consumer leisure time, the ever-changing rituals with which modern urban individuals regulate their lives etc.

And wasn't it Howard Schultz, Chief Executive of Starbucks, who helpfully told the world back in February 2009 that the United Kingdom was "finished" and no-one should invest here - has he now changed his mind?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave the ten past eight interview on the Today programme this morning.

It was an impressive performance.

At no point did he wobble, hesitate or get caught out.

Either the interviewer (Evan Davis) had failed to prepare properly, or George Osborne gave a genuinely flawless performance.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Heseltine is currently talking on Newsnight.

He is such a pompous idiot.

He told us he is in charge of regional growth fund - what idiot gave him that job?

When I see Heseltine I seriously start to question whether I will vote Conservative again.

Elephant & Castle



















Above:  the Observer last Sunday thought that the Autumn Statement might refer to the redevelopment of Elephant & Castle district.  Although several major spending projects were announced, Elephant & Castle was not among them.  The area is already so blighted by modernist architecture that it is difficult to see how it can recover.

















Above:  an example of the intellectual arrogance that has divorced public design from popular appreciation is the Faraday monument in the middle of the roundabout at Elephant & Castle.  Obviously the idea of a monument to Faraday in the form of a Faraday Box is very clever.  But how many of the thousands of people who pass by this roundabout each day get the joke?

George Osborne's Autumn Statement

At lunchtime I watched Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement to the House of Commons, broadcast live on BBC2.

"Live within your means" was one of his opening remarks (with the unspoken Thatcherite rebuke: if you can't afford it you can't have it).

He told us the United Kingdom was the only major western economy whose credit rating has improved recently (and is still triple A).

He said that yesterday we were even able to borrow from the money markets at a cheaper rate than Germany (which presumably implies the money markets regard the United Kingdom as a safer place to put their money than even the sober, boring, excessively-hardworking Germans).



















Personally I am not impressed with the view that Germany is responsible, prudent and restrained in their spending.

The PIG countries (PIG = Portugal, Ireland, Greece) are condemned as spendthrift wastrel nations, splurging on things they could never realistically afford, paying for it all with borrowed money, and now trying to default on the loans.

But the Germans have also been extravagant in their national spending, buying vanity projects at enormous cost and making (implied) promises to pay that they could never hope to keep.

The difference is that instead of pouring their money into sub-prime mortgages for very low income social groups (like the Americans) or a bloated public sector to soak up the unemployed (like the Greeks) or vast number of silly consumer goods that no-one really wants (like the Irish) the Germans wasted their financial reputation on a white elephant called the Eurozone.

They would like you to think that the Eurozone is simply a rational currency system set up by agreement with the rest of the EU.  In reality it is a vanity project, of no more practical value than the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London (beautiful to look at, of immense symbolic significance, but of no real value unless you break them up and sell the component parts).  The Eurozone is the German equivalent of the Millennium Dome or the Athens Olympics or the new city of Naypyidaw.

Of course the Germans have been very careful not to actually commit themselves to paying for the Eurozone project.  But everyone knows that the Euro would never have got underway unless backed by theoretical access to German financial assets.  And sooner or later they will have to either back the Eurozone debts or share in the defaults (for if the Eurozone goes down German credibility in the field of financial planning will evaporate).

Monday, November 28, 2011

An image of Peterborough cathedral tattooed onto his arm



















Above:  picture from the Daily Mail website.  Not sure why the camera flash is reflecting off the arm.  It makes it look as if the skin has been covered with some kind of gloss varnish.

According to the Daily Mail Aston Merrygold has had an image of Peterborough cathedral tattooed onto his arm.  Aston Merrygold is an X-Factor finalist (winner? participant? bore? not sure how you would describe these people).  Yet another example of the X-Factor sub-culture forcing itself into the media you might think.

But this story attracted my attention for several reasons.

Firstly because the west front of Peterborough cathedral is one of the glories of world architecture, and yet hardly anyone knows about it.

Secondly because references to Peterborough cathedral in popular culture are rare.  Betjeman mentions it in his 1929 short story Lord Mount Prospect.  Erasure's Andy Bell (himself a former resident of Peterborough) might be referring to it in the 1991 song Am I right? ("I can see the old cathedral. But I have to play it down").

But otherwise Peterborough cathedral is unknown.

The third reason is that I know the building extremely well.  After I left university I worked in Peterborough for two years and every working day would have to go into the centre of the city (we had a very demanding client).  The city is an unbelievably ugly place, with no redeeming features of any kind, except for the cathedral. 

Whenever I walked along Bridge Street (which was virtually every day) I would always turn right through the medieval gateway into the cathedral close and walk around for a few minutes (sometimes going into the great church itself, sometimes looking at the remains of the monastic ranges, picturesquely incorporated into later styles of architecture). 

I must have walked around the cathedral close several hundred times and can still picture every part of it.

What I most liked was the surreal sense of going from the ugly modern world into a half-hidden paradise.

I suppose that is also what I like about this story - that someone from the X-Factor (which is a fairly ugly and intrusive TV show) should permanently honour one of our national artistic treasures.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Egypt
















Above:  because I have been ill this weekend I was not able to go to the seminar yesterday organised by the Egypt Exploration Society.  The seminar was about the excavations at Naukratis in the Nile delta.  Naukritis is important as it was a centre of Greek culture and influence in Egypt (supposedly this influence goes back to pre-Minoan times).















Above:  the Review Show on BBC 2 on Friday looked at the refurbished Egyptian galleries at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.  One of the panellists, Sarfraz Manzoor, told us in all seriousness that the new galleries showed the influence ancient Egypt had on surrounding civilizations.  This sounded suspiciously as if he was advancing the discredited "Black Athena" theory (described by Professor Lefkowitz as incompetent). 



















Above:  a few weeks ago I went round the Petrie Museum of Egyptology at University College London.  They currently have an exhibition of Flinders Petrie's work analyzing foreign influences in ancient Egypt.  Far from being some kind of "pure" well-spring of civilisation, it appears that ancient Egyptian society was a beneficiary of multiculturalism.















Above:  sculptured heads of different ethnic groups.  One of the things I love about the Petrie Museum is the way everything is crammed into a few small rooms so that you are intimately pushed up against this ancient culture.  Also the labels are either typed (on a real typewriter) or handwritten, adding to the "authentic" experience.



















Above:  the famous "Hebrew head" is tiny, and you almost stumble across it.  In any other museum it would be given a room to itself, with acres of explanatory blurb and security guards warning you not to touch the cabinet.  Not sure how long the Petrie Museum is going to survive without a "makeover" - you should go and see it while it is still untouched.



















Above:  the Greco-Romano mummy portraits discovered by Petrie were an influence on the painter Alma-Tadema.  You can see similar portraits at the British Museum.  They are important because not a great deal of ancient Greek painting survives (these are clearly examples of Greek culture, whatever Sarfraz Manzoor might tell you).



















Above:  "identity politics" has blighted archaeological research in recent decades.  Bonnie Greer (who is a trustee of the British Museum and ought to know better than to make political statements) has publicly and provocatively told us that there are no indigenous inhabitants of the British Isles.  What the Petrie exhibition demonstrates is that there are no indigenous people anywhere if Ms Greer's strictly pedantic interpretation is to be applied. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I wondered whether everyone was going to be swept away - the past week at work

Monday

All this week I suffered from a cold, which made sleeping difficult.  As soon as I laid down in bed I struggled to breath, and after about an hour of this torture I would get up and go downstairs to sleep in an armchair, covered by a blanket.  On average I had about five hours sleep per night over the week.

When I arrived at the office PR Officer Josie S was already there.  She told me that she had a premonition that something unpleasant was going to happen to her.  I just told her she was imagining things.

Boring day at work, and I created a reason to go and see a local government agency just so that I could get out of the office in the afternoon.

Tuesday

All of today I was at a training course for the NGO's managers about the media.  Very little I didn't already know, although the other managers seemed fascinated by it.  We had to interview each other on radio in the morning and then television in the afternoon.

Very poor lunch, and afterwards I had three whiskies at the bar. 

Wednesday

One month from today will be my last day at the NGO (I am on a fixed term contract which is not being renewed supposedly due to lack of funding, although who knows the real reason).  I have hardly anything to do, and fill in my time at the office by a number of self-imposed tasks.  If I stopped working entirely no-one would notice.

After months of stalling by the Finance department I was finally given a budget to buy an office camera.  I immediately drove to a local town and bought a Nikon D5100.  Back at the office I showed it to Josie S and Marketing Officer Ron J and we spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures of each other.

Thursday

During the morning I held a team meeting with Josie S, Ron J and Research Officer Jane B.  We discussed a marketing project for the Innovation department.  We generated a lot of good ideas and soon had a strategy in place.

Half day holiday in the afternoon, and despite my cold I joined Felix S and Ryan M (Operations Director) for another golf session.  The course we go to has a resident trainer and he gave us half an hour tuition in chipping and putting, and then we played nine holes.  During the game Ryan M took me aside and said that Josie S had been "stalking" him in the office (they had an affair earlier this year, which Ryan M ended).  Stalking is a gross exaggeration, but I knew that she had been hanging around the Operations department and finding excuses to talk to Ryan M when he clearly could not be bothered with her.  At first I had tried to dissuade her from doing this, but nothing I could say would influence her (you cannot help someone who does not want to be helped).  Ryan M has complained to CEO Alec Pressberg who has agreed she should go.

I wish he had not told me this as it means I now have to pretend I don't know.

Friday

Nothing to do today.  My cold, which had been getting better, is now a lot worse.  So few tasks are being given to the Marketing department that I wondered whether everyone was going to be swept away in the new round of economies (I am going anyway).

Fox & Friends

Not sure whether I have a cold or 'flu.  I know it's easy to inflate the common cold into influenza to get more sympathy from people, but usually I resist doing this.  But after a difficult night I finally got to sleep about 4am and didn't wake again until 11am.

Feeling very weak, it took me nearly an hour to get washed and dressed and go downstairs to an armchair in the sitting room, with the electric fire on full. 

Didn't really want any lunch, so I just had cups of tea, one after another.

I watched Dateline London and then drifted through the channels to Fox & Friends, which is an American morning television news show. 

Reports of the sales in America, including frantic scenes at various branches of Walmart and an overhead film of hysteria at one particular store showing a large woman's trousers falling down in the melee (the commentator, who I think is Alisyn Camerota, told us "consumer spending seems to be robust").

Most interesting item on the show was a Gallop poll that revealed 81% of respondents wanting a third party Presidential candidate (independent of the Democrats or the Republicans) - this does not seem to have been picked up by the BBC.

There are three presenters to Fox & Friends each of them talking loudly and very fast.  Of the three Dave Briggs is the most compelling.  Whatever the subject he manages to speak with sincerity which creates trust in what he is saying (which is a valuable asset for a news presenter).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Clegg was interviewed on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning in the prestigious ten past eight slot.

His performance was weird - haltering and stuttering and repetitive.

At one point the interviewer told him "you've made that point many times".

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Newsnight (the first half), then Question Time, and now I am watching This Week.

Thanksgiving - a national holiday in America and part of the American ritual year


















Above:  today is Thanksgiving - a national holiday in America and part of the American ritual year.  Obviously it is an American event, but since New England was an English creation the day has made me wonder if there are any corresponding influences on England we can trace (I'm talking about the specific New England cultural identity rather than the more general influence of American culture).   There is certainly evidence of absence - the original colonists left behind memories, preserved in local traditions.















Above:  the Pilgrim Fathers memorial on the east coast.  I took this photograph just as the sun was coming up.  Hardly any American tourists come to look at this pillar, probably because it is so remote.














Above:  a few yards away is the salt water creek where the Pilgrim Fathers planned to set sail. Bleak but also beautiful.  Lots of place names in the area have correspondences in New England.




















Above:  Sweet England is a folk song about a family emigrating to America and everything going wrong and how they long to come back again.  I listen to this CD all the time in the car.  Shirley Collins has an amazing voice.















Above:  I never watch X-Factor so all the performers that everyone else seems to know about are usually a mystery to me.  But usually once a week I watch the top 10 videos on MTV and this week One Direction suddenly appeared at No 1 (or No 3 depending on the chart).  Although the band is British the look is unmistakeably New England, set in one of the small colleges the area is renowned for (I know Lake Placid is technically New York state but it was in the old Dominion of New England).















Above:  I am not sure who the director is (a Google search produces nothing).  Ostensibly simple, the video has a subtle brooding quality.  If I had to guess I would say the video was directed by John Urbano (who did the band's previous video), written by John Knowles (author of A Separate Peace) and based on a poem by Thomas Parke D'Invilliers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvfejaHz-o0

Stephen Fry is to be the voice of the Olympic mascot

Above:  at the top of my In Box this morning was an e-mail telling me that Stephen Fry is to be the voice of the Olympic mascot.  Why Stephen Fry?  Are we so bereft of talent in this country that Stephen Fry has to appear in EVERYTHING?

Or was he just the safe option chosen because every other creative director chooses him for every other voice-over?

"Approval of what is approved of, is as false as a well-kept vow" (Betjeman quoting Oscar Wilde).

Above:  the first thing visitors from Paris see when they arrive in London by Eurostar are these giant Olympic rings.  Personally I am already bored by the Olympics, especially as all the tickets have gone (I did try to buy some for the boxing).  For me it is just going to be a television event.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Time to own your own history



















Starting with the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning and continuing throughout the day the news has been dominated by a report produced by the Equality & Human Rights Commission absolutely damning about home care services for the elderly.

Commentators on the report have been so shocked that I can hardly add anything to the outrage already expressed except to say that I am also shocked beyond belief.

However I hope I can be forgiven, in this unimportant little blog that hardly anyone reads, for pointing out that we have been continually lectured about how the care services "would collapse" in the United Kingdom without large scale immigration, particularly from the Indian sub-continent and the West Indies.  We are endlessly told, whenever anyone attempts to discuss immigration, that "we wouldn't have any carers in this country if it wasn't for the hard-working immigrants".  Therefore if the apologists for large-scale immigration are claiming the care profession as a triumph of "hard working immigrants" presumably they must also share responsibility for the evil behaviour that has taken place.

This is not to construct some tenuous connection that doesn't exist.  The local council caring professions have already been claimed by the pro-immigration lobby.  To quote Gary Younge, it's time to own your own history.

And doesn't this episode illustrate just why large scale immigration is so pernicious?  Carers need to be well-paid, well-motivated and well-supported (as they largely were in the 1950s).  Instead, the importation of cheap labour willing to do "the dirty jobs" for next to nothing has allowed councils to shirk their responsibilities, cut local taxes, and at the same time sanctimoniously praise the imported carers as a model to be emulated by the lazy work-shy indigenous population (and if anyone tries to protest they are called "rascist").

Difficult to see what can be reclaimed from this mess.  But perhaps next time immigration is discussed in a serious context possibly we can do without the lectures about the caring professions "collapsing" if it wasn't for immigration.  The caring professions have already collapsed if this report is to be believed.

Hugh Muir, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Darcus Howe etc - time to own your own history.

Stuffed chine















Plate of stuffed chine which is a great delicacy in the county.

Pork shoulder cured, then stuffed with various herbs including onions, parsley, thyme, celery, borage, lemonbalm, applemint, dandelion leaves and whatever other herbs happened to be in season (the taste varying with the seasons).

A famous farmhouse kitchen dish, it is best when freshly made - which is probably why you do not find it in supermarkets.

Usually served as a cold meat with salad and boiled potatos (buttered).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Channel 4 film about Alan Turing Britain's Greatest Codebreaker













Last night I watched the Channel 4 film about Alan Turing Britain's Greatest Codebreaker.  Really interesting piece of work, with even the dramatisations done sensitively (for once).  Not sure however that Alan Turing would want to be remembered for his sexuality (which seemed to be one of the subtexts).

Almost by accident I have been carrying out an informal study of British intelligence activity during the Second World War.  My brother gave me the David Garnett book on the PWE - a comprehensive and conscientious piece of historical writing.  Also very familiar for anyone working in PR today, especially the in-fighting, office politics and monomaniacal empire building. 

I also have a desire to visit Bletchley Park to see for myself where much of this secret work took place.

















Above:  not sure why I keep press cuttings.  Usually I tuck them into books I have on related subjects.  This obituary appeared in The Times on 25th July 2008 and is about the capture of the Enigma machine in 1940.
The Scottish National Party has been given a million pounds donation by a Lottery winner.

It somehow seems appropriate since that party appears to be made up of political chancers promising get rich quick policies.
Interesting article in today's Guardian about the Sami people of northern Scandinavia.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Mahler by Norman Lebrecht














Above:  Why Mahler by Norman Lebrecht - how one man and ten symphonies changed the world.

The challenging complexities of classical music… a world of feeling and ideas… Nikolai Korndorf wrote the 1990 Hymn in Honour of Gustav Mahler  Thomas Mann did not expect anyone to recognize Mahler as Aschenbach in Death in Venice  Ken Russell's film Mahler (1974)...  Mahler’s music is a fast track to deep-core emotion and a way of connection with true self…  Mahler offers depth and breadth to the thought process…  the Mahler fortress becomes a private refuge…  the symphonies are dauntingly long and the songs are in German…  The Vienna of Freud, Mahler, Mach, Wittgenstein, Schnitzler, Herzl, Trotsky forged the world we know today - a meeting point of individualism and collectivism, of egotism and idealism, the erotic and the ascetic, the elevated and the debased...  the most popular and influential symphonist of our age...