Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Remove all party funding except subscriptions

It's not often I agree with Owen Jones, but he has identified a genuine issue in his piece for the Fabian Society http://owenjones.org/2012/02/19/fabian-society-a-new-class-politics/

Owen Jones writes:  Above all, the case has to be made about representation. Less than one in twenty MPs hail from an unskilled background; more than two-thirds come from a professional background. The issues facing working people as they are made to pay for a crisis not of their own making will be not be addressed unless the middle-class closed shop of Westminster is cracked open.

However his solution, to rely on the Trade Unions to get more working class people into the House of Commons, is flawed.

The Trade Union leadership is part of the elite and no longer represents the ordinary members.  By the time someone gets to a senior position in a trade union they have become so thoroughly politicised that they no longer care (very much) about ordinary people.  The trade union leaders are part of the problem not the solution.

The way to ensure Members of Parliament become genuinely representative is to remove all party funding except subscriptions from ordinary party members with a maximum subscription of £20 per member.

That way parties will be forced to build large grass-roots memberships or cease to exist (and obviously large memberships will make MPs more accountable).

Another helpful move would be to legally prevent political media advertising except for manifestos.  The emphasis should be on requiring all prospective MPs to completely canvass their constituencies, preferably on an on-going basis.  That way they cannot help but become accountable to the ordinary people and have to explain their voting record.

And I think the ASA should be asked to look at statements made by politicians in manifestos, social media etc and evaluate whether they are legal, honest truthful and decent.
We live in a remote area and never usually hear any aircraft.

But the last three weeks or so there have been droning aircraft overhead two or three times every evening.

The only place they could come from are the RAF bases in the centre of the county.

Are they getting ready to bomb Iran?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Take On Me cafe

















Above:  while I was in Wandsworth Road on Sunday I walked along to have a look at the Savoy Cafe.  As Kim's Cafe this was the location for the 1985 A-ha video Take On Me directed by Steve Barron.  Being a Sunday the cafe was shut.

















Above:  (screenprint) few cultural artifacts evoke the 1980s as powerfully as the Take On Me video.  Innovative use of animation combined with highly stylised production and a theme of escapism from the mundane world.  It is also highly romantic in narrative and visual treatment.



















Above:  (screenprint) the Take On Me cafe has even received attention from serious artists.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Article in the Observer by Rowan Moore














Above:  Sunday morning I read this article in the Observer by Rowan Moore arguing that modernist social housing did not fail society, society failed modernist social housing.  Looking at the example of the Pruitt-Igoe estate in St Louis (in America) Rowan Moore listed the all the external factors that led to the decline of the Pruitt-Igoe estate.  It was a well-written piece but ultimately unconvincing.
















Above:  Sunday afternoon I was in Lambeth and I paused to look at the Westbury Estate (Durrington Tower in the foreground, Amesbury Tower just visible behind).  Someone moving from a substandard property into one of these flats in the early 1960s would initially experience a feeling of relief, but for most people this relief would turn to feelings of alienation.  It's not hard to see why.  The towers are obviously alienated from their surroundings and from the cultural-historical continuum that most people inhabit (either consciously or unconsciously).  Putting people into this disconnected environment made many of them react in a number of negative ways - depression, flight (for those who could afford it), rejection.  At it's most extreme limit rejection took the form of anti-social activity and vandalism.
















Above:  a few streets away is the Larkhall estate - social housing constructed in the late 1920s.  This Neo-Georgian estate has all the features that modernists would abhor - reddish-brown brick laid in English bond, stucco surrounds, weatherboarded spandrels, casement dormers, chimneystacks, sash windows, a little Gothick tracery, relief sculpture panels, iron railings etc.  Although modernists deride this construction as worthless pastiche Larkhall gives its residents a sense of dignity, status and identity that is callously denied the residents of the Westbury estate (I use the word callous, as the architects of the Westbury towers have placed their professional egos above the feelings of the people who have to live in their designs).

I would be surprised if the real cost of building the Westbury estate towers was any cheaper than the real cost of building Larkhall.




















Above:  debased classical capitals on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum.  In my opinion including classical motifs in social housing projects will reassure the residents of their social worth and social status, and help them move towards self-actualisation within society.  Modernism ultimately failed because it is based on breaking the cultural-historical continuum and placing residents in a "year zero" that few of them are psychologically-equipped to cope with.

"Full of airheads" - the past week at work

Monday

Planning my work for the week took nearly two hours (I did other things as I organised my tasks for the days ahead).  Director Vijay Singh has been critical about the amount of time marketing projects are taking, so I am careful to involve him in the planning so he can see the lack of co-operation from the other managers in the Institute.  Especially the backsliding by Campaign Manager Keith Chandler.

The latest campaigns are targeting professional associations.  We are not really looking for a response.  It is enough that the material is tacitly accepted (which involves labour-intensive personalisation).

Lunch with a friend at the Sycamore Hotel. 

I had to work late to clear outstanding tasks.  When I left the office the business estate was absolutely silent.  The award-winning buildings standing like model exhibits in an architectural show.

Tuesday

Vijay Singh warned me that tomorrow's joint marketing meeting would be "rough".  Apparently opposition has been building to the demands I have been making on the other managers.  As these demands are in response to Vijay Singh's initiatives it is disappointing that he is not giving me more backing.

In the afternoon a fatuous meeting with a delegation from Sweden.

Wednesday

A big feature of my working day is the sudden request for information.  I was wrong-footed a number of times in the first weeks.  Now I have learned to anticipate what sort of questions are going to be asked.

The joint marketing meeting was held in the afternoon starting at 1pm.  We sat round the table in Vijay Singh's long office - Campaign Managers Keith Chandler and Callum Smith, prissy Alec Nussbaum from the Institute's "sister organisation", and Peter Whitgift from the Birmingham office (aged late fifties, grey-haired, thin lined face, black-rimmed glasses, black suit sprinkled with cigarette ash, wary eyes).  It was not a good-tempered meeting and I defended myself as best I could.

6.30pm by the time we finished.

Thursday

During the morning a meeting with Vijay Singh.  He wanted to know what I thought of the joint marketing meeting and the people involved.  I get the impression that he doesn't really know how to control the management team.

Friday

To the "sister organisation" in London for a series of briefing meetings with various departments.

Vijay Singh had warned me that the organisation was "full of airheads" but we needed to keep them on our side as they provide so much of the Institute's funding.

The offices are in a utilitarian 1970s block among red brick Victorian terraces in Earls Court.  Quite a performance to enter the building through "security".  Head of Publications came down to collect me, and I followed her up several floors, numerous security doors opened with an electronic pass.  Each floor held about fifty people, crammed into little cubicles.  The workforce overwhelmingly female (but the senior managers mostly male).  The female employees are either young and professional or middle-aged and do not need to work (this was said to me several times).

After talking to Head of Publications I went into a meeting with the Editor of the organisation's magazine.  She was in her late forties yet seemed to be clinging to her teenage years with peroxide hair, improbable clothes, laboured use of teenage argot.  She had a Mancunian accent and all the time we talked she fidgeted with a packet of cigarettes - she was entirely caught up in her own world and did not seem interested in anything I had to say.

Finally to the Head of Policy & Research, an elderly American woman with a New England accent and a surface geniality and amiability that masked an absolute refusal to co-operate in any way.  We discussed in a desultory fashion various possible research projects, although it was made clear to me that none of them would get off the ground.  As the meeting came to a close she gave me, with unmistakable malice, a huge heap of research data.

Night had fallen by the time I got home - bright slither of moon in the clear midnight blue of the starry sky.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Joseph Roth talk at Jewish Book Week
















Last Sunday I went to the Joseph Roth talk at Jewish Book Week, held at Kings Place.  Dennis Marks talked to Michael Hoffman.  I made notes:

The Austrian end of empire has warnings for the end of the British Empire.


With Roth there are always two versions of everything.


Roth's Austria was always in retrospect, in hindsight.


His imagined Austria was his homeland.


Galicia produced Hassidic Judaism in the eighteenth-century.


He was a compulsive falsifier or liar - there is more freedom if people cannot categorise you.


He said that no-one in the world was as superfluous as he was.


Roth hated national states and loved the monarchy which was his home.


(Michael Hoffman):  The EU has a lack of soul and aesthetics, and is largely money-driven.



















Above:  poor photograph of Dennis Marks on the left and Michael Hoffman on the right.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When I think of Somalia the images that come to mind are:

The film Black Hawk Down.
News reports of pirates in the Indian Ocean.
The loyal retainer in Out of Africa by Karen Blixen.
Very interested to hear on the Today programme about the summit on Somalia being held in London today (the Somali Prime Minister was interviewed).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stuart Emmrich writing in the New York Times

London Fashion Week - Stuart Emmrich writing in the New York Times:

http://runway.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/in-london-more-to-see-than-just-clothes/?hpw


"It was a beautiful, contemplative space, and for the next half hour, I sat there in blissful solitude..." - I plan to go to this place and experience this for myself.

In a decline?

Is the Guardian / Observer in a decline?




















Above:  The Guardian last Saturday had a front page article about the scandal of migrant children held at adult detention centres.  It was only after you had turned the page and read the continuation that it became clear that the events referred to 2004 and were the responsibility of the previous (Labour) government.  To misrepresent the facts in such a way is not a good sign of editorial integrity.




















Above:  The Observer last Sunday had a front page dominated by a non-story about how the Olympic games would interfere with ambulances taking sick people to hospital.  On Broadcasting House on Radio 4 Sunday morning they were openly laughing about this ridiculous front page (former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair was particularly scathing).  Does the Observer have such contempt for its readers that they think they can publish any old rubbish and have it accepted?




















Above:  last week Marina Hyde wrote in The Guardian about Rupert Murdoch and his plans to launch The Sun on Sunday.  Marina Hyde is usually never knowingly nice about anyone, but her piece about Rupert Murdoch was of such gubernatorialy-focused unctuousness that I wondered whether she was covertly asking for a job at the new publication.  A good editor should have struck this piece out.

In any case, I think it is going to be difficult for The Sun on Sunday to replace the disgraced News of the World.   The brands are totally different, and Rupert Murdoch is essentially launching a "me too" product (and as we know, me-too products seldom do well).  The News of the World built up its brand over 163 years, representing a huge investment in terms of brand awareness.

Just as QD Stores is struggling to replace Woolworths so I think The Sun on Sunday will struggle to replace the News of the World (unless Murdoch spends a fortune on television advertising).
I managed to watch Daily Politics at lunchtime.  Another discussion about youth unemployment without a single mention of the impact of migration.  There are a million unemployed young people and a million (recently arrived) eastern Europeans in the United Kingdom.  Various "experts" will tell you that the two facts have no relation to each other, and that the Poles and other assorted Europeans are not directly taking jobs that would otherwise have gone to young people.  However this argument ignores the displacement effect - the migrants take jobs that would otherwise have gone to British job seekers and these jobseekers then take jobs that would otherwise have gone to young people.  The effect is the same.

The impact of migration is not mentioned in debates on youth unemployment because the politicians have no answers to the problem.  They prefer to hide behind weasel words that "prove" migration is not really a problem.  The British government needs to negotiate directly with the the Polish and Latvian governments and tell them to stop exporting their unemployment.

What will happen when the restrictions on the movement of Romanians are lifted?  Conditions in Romania are so bad we can expect a significant portion of the Romanian population to move West.  Are the politicans just going to wait until this happens?

Certainly Damian Green needs to go - he is not capable of controlling the situation.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"I feel a lot better about my targets" - the past week at work

Monday

Director Vijay Singh returned from holiday and called a meeting of the managers in which we had to update him on everything that had happened while he had been away - the meeting took up the whole day and finished late.

Tuesday

I was one of the first in. 

All of the morning I worked on the Communication Plan for Private Individuals.  I was pleased with the way it fell into shape.  In the late afternoon a meeting with Vijay Singh and Surveys Manager Abi Reed to discuss the plan.  We were in the meeting four hours, and all my suggestions were accepted.  "I feel a lot better about my targets now we have this plan" said Abi Reed.  7.29 by the time I got home.

Wednesday

A lot of the day spent consolidating notes made at various meetings and translating them into action points on my To Do list (which is vast).

In the afternoon admin assistant Denise Cavandish retired.  The send off performed by Vijay Singh with various presents.  Denise Cavandish cackled her mirthless laugh and made snide comments right to the last.

Thursday

Most of the morning talking to list brokers about various databases we may purchase - areas of the population the Institute wants to research.

Friday

Another of the presentations - this time not entailing an overnight stay.

Looking back over the week it seems so banal that it is hardly worth keeping up this work diary.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tescos is advertising vacancies for no payment (other than JSA and expenses)

I was shocked beyond belief that Tescos is advertising vacancies for no payment (other than JSA and expenses).

This was reported on Newsnight yesterday, and when I switched over to Question Time the Tescos recruitment policy was being denounced by Owen Jones in his usual gobby style (with former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott wading in).

However I hope that this scandal is not going to be blamed on the Coalition government (which rather seems the angle John Harris is taking http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/16/work-free-tesco-job-advert ).

Tescos rose to a position of unassailable hegemony during the New Labour era and I recall that Gordon Brown chose to launch the 2010 Labour election campaign in a Tesco store.

I also recall that Left-wing think tank Demos once proposed a Tesco store on every council estate as a way of driving forward regeneration.

And as usual no acknowledgement that excess labour supply via migration is causing the problem (you get called a "bigot" if you even try to suggest this).

So perhaps we should remind John Harris, Owen Jones, John Prescott etc that it's "time to own your own history" (as Gary Younge is fond of saying).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alex Salmond is shooting his mouth off about the viability of Celtic FC

Reports that Alex Salmond is shooting his mouth off about the viability of Celtic FC if Rangers FC goes under (not that there is a serious possibility of this happening).

Presumably Alex Salmond is afraid Celtic will apply to play in the English League.

Would he ban this?

Landon Thomas Jr must be some kind of idiot

Rubbishy article in the New York Times about youth unemployment in London.  The journalist, Landon Thomas Jr, manages to write 1,400 words without mentioning that ONE MILLION Poles have moved to the United Kingdom over the last few years and have taken all the starter jobs that would normally go to young people (the "NEETS" Landon Thomas Jr mentions).  Employers prefer to employ Poles because they are desperate to work however low the wage, do not complain and do not know their employment rights.

Effectively employers, with the connivance of politicians, have imported a class of Polish serfs.

This has happened without any democratic mandate from the United Kingdom population.

Presumably Landon Thomas Jr must be some kind of idiot not to notice this.

Also I am not happy about the generally hostile tone of the New York Times coverage of the United Kingdom - they always find a negative sneering angle, no matter how distorted this makes the article.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/16/business/global/for-london-youth-down-and-out-is-way-of-life.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hp

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Investment in agricultural research and innovation shapes the type of food we eat




















Interesting article by Tom MacMillan in the latest issue of Living Earth (the magazine of the Soil Association).

He argues that investment in agricultural research and innovation shapes the type of food we eat.

The government should be investing more in organic solutions instead of always backing the big vested interests.

Today is St Valentine's Day


















Above:  Vivienne Westwood has designed a box of chocolates for the special St Valentine's Day catalogue for London store Fortnum & Mason.

Today is St Valentine's Day.  This year the day seems to be used in marketing campaigns more than ever, including a full page ad for Liberty in today's Guardian.  Possibly this is the most commercial St Valentine's Day yet.

Is this just the relentless onward march of commercialism?

Or is there are more subtle trend at work?

Professor Ronald Hutton, in his great work The Ritual Year, noticed that there is a tendency for the great public celebrations of the past (Christmas, Easter etc) to become absorbed into household life and become private family events, celebrating specific sections of the family (in the case of St Valentine's Day young lovers are being celebrated).  As "Society" jettisons the religious observances of the past it seems that individuals and families are taking up responsibility to mark the ritual days of the year (assisted by commercial goods and services).  Are they doing this consciously and willingly or unconsciously and instinctively?

Moody's is worried about the lack of growth in the United Kingdom economy

Credit rating agency Moody's says there is a possibility that the United Kingdom might lose its triple A rating (apparently not a strong possibility, but it might happen).

Moody's is worried about the lack of growth in the United Kingdom economy.

I am not economist.  I listen to all those clever people appearing on the media talking about "kick starting", "pump priming" and all that stuff about Keynes versus Hayek and it all seems just noise.  But I do know about public moods and public sentiments and public opinions.

Therefore I can tell Moodys:

There will be little internal recovery and growth until the ordinary people "feel good".  They will feel good when they have paid off their private debts (mostly credit cards, but some mortgage reduction) and saved a modest amount (£3K?) in case of calamities such as losing their job.  When that happens they will "feel good" about the future and start spending money and sustained significant growth will happen.

The good news it that a lot of this is already happening.  My guess is that we are probably close to a tipping point already (but I am not an economist).  Small businesses are supposed to be expanding, which is always a good sign.

The pound has fallen against the Euro which should help exports (although I am not happy about the way the politicians have tied us into the EU economy with all its record of lying governments, political interference and economic incompetence).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Organised crime gang

Currently watching Newsnight discussing the arrests at The Sun newspaper.

On the whole, from my perspective as an ordinary member of the public, I think "organised crime gang" is a reasonably fair description of that publication.

When I looked at Marina Hyde's biography on Wikipedia I noticed that she was a former Sun journalist.  The reason I point this out is that her writing (now for The Guardian) has a spiteful vituperative tone that is consistent with the output of The Sun.  Is it unfair to ask whether Marina Hyde, when working at The Sun, had any place within the "organised crime gang" and the "swamp that needs to be drained"?.




Sunday, February 12, 2012

Templar cross on a continental shield




















I have been away for a couple of days and returned feeling exhausted.

Staying at a large country house hotel, I had some free time Friday afternoon and walked through the snow to look at the village.

The church was open and I had a look round and found this heraldic carving.

As you can see, it shows a Templar cross on a continental shield (although the carving was English and included English text) with the crescent device that indicates it was used by a second son.

The shield is between the wide-open legs of a naked woman, indicating the origin of the family's bloodline.

Below the shield is a chalice.

On the scrolls at the side are what appear to be numbers.

Very mysterious.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Currently watching a discussion on Newsnight about low wages in the retail sector.

No-one is mentioning the obvious factor - so long as there is unlimited supply of labour coming into the country evil employers like Tesco will continue to drive down wages and expect the state to subsdise employees they could EASILY afford to pay correctly.

Close the import of labour and supermarkets will have to compete to attract labour.


Marina Hyde only has about three articles which she endlessly recycles.

Her acticle in today's Guardian was so over-familiar that even skim-reading it was a bore.

Looking at her biography her background is comfortable family wealth, public school, Oxbridge - and as usual with such people she can't resist telling the working classes what to do.
Following the Capello resignation, if John Terry is found innocent the whole FA board will have to resign.

And Hugh Robertson MP should learn to keep his mouth shut (I thought the Tory party was going to get rid of people with his kind of grossly privileged life record? - public scool, army officer, high finance and now Tory MP and he still finds time to claim £23k in second home expenses despite being within commuting distance of Westminster).

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

What do "Planners" do all day?

When I first started work at a London ad agency as a trainee copywriter I had only a hazy idea of how all the departments fitted together. New Business and Accounts were fairly obvious, but "Traffic", "Account Handling" and "Studio" were more nebulous. Especially I did not understand "Planning".

What do "Planners" do all day? You might think they have a master strategic role planning all the work of the agency, but you would be wrong. Planners actually seem to have no real power, and no defined area of responsibility.

One day a very senior director explained to me why agencies (the good ones) have Planning departments.

In the old days, by which he meant the 1960s and early 1970s, most of the clients were Sales directors. They were people with lots of authority to take decisions, were usually risk-takers, and wanted big campaigns to stimulate sales.

Dealing with these clients was easy.

Then from about the mid-70s onwards clients developed marketing departments. As well as the Sales director there was also a Marketing manager sitting in on client meetings. Agencies began to meet resistance to the big simple campaign ideas and an increasing emphasis on customer research, customer attitudes, even customer complaints about the product.

Therefore agencies developed Planning departments. The role of the Planners was to match the marketing people for each client, try to understand how they looked at the world, and to overcome any objections they might have to the agency's pitches. This often meant doing the client's marketing work better than the Marketing manager concerned.

From the late 1980s onwards the position changed again. Human nature being what it is the Marketing managers got lazy and often expected the agencies to do most of the marketing work and come up with most of the marketing ideas (which they then claimed the credit for when internally reselling to their boards). The best use of Planners was to integrate them into the account handling process so that the clients became dependent on them and could not easily switch agencies without experiencing a significant loss of marketing expertise.

But this is just one agency. Every agency is different. Planning is no doubt a continuously evolving process.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012




















Above:  from today's Huffington Post.

It is difficult to think of any PR stunt more ridiculous - does the Argentine football league want the world to laugh at them?

Labour is not coming back any time soon

What a bad-tempered bitter article by George Monbiot in the Guardian today!

He is basically saying that the British electorate is "too stupid" to vote for the right kind of representatives (ie ones that agree with George Monbiot).

The reason the electorate did not support the Labour party at the 2010 election and does not support it now is because of the record of the last Labour government.  Far from being too stupid to vote Labour, the electorate is too wise to trust a party that consistently, over thirteen years, betrayed our trust.  I cannot see Labour winning the next election in 2015, which is why Ed Miliband is right to plan for the long-term (the 2020 election).

Presumably George Monbiot's anger is because he also realises that Labour is not coming back any time soon.

All the tainted generation of Labour "big names" needs to pass away (in the Lords as well as the Commons) before the party will be re-electable.  And then it will depend on having innovative new policies.  Plus a positive outlook (negative campaigning will just backfire).

After one of Margaret Thatcher's election victories in the 1980s (I think it must have been 1987) Labour MP Tony Benn was so enraged he said the Left would "take to the streets".  Commentators responded to this revolutionary call with laughter.  For the good of democracy I think we need to laugh at George Monbiot now - for all his intelligence and public-school education (and comfy family wealth which allowed him the luxury of being a "writer") the man is a fool.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/06/right-stupidity-spreads-enabled-polite-left
In a funny sort of way the recent snow has made the house warmer - think because all the small gaps that usually let in draughts have frozen up.

Monday, February 06, 2012

If Fabio Capello believes John Terry should captain England he should ignore the FA and make him captain.

The whole country would support him.

The FA's behaviour has been so unreasonable that I am surprised it has not been challenged in the courts.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

One of the creators of the National Trust















Above:  have just finished reading this volume of the diaries of James Lee-Milne, one of the creators of the National Trust (as we know it today).  James Lees-Milne, as revealed by these diaries, was not a particularly nice person (selfish, snobbish, two-faced) but his diaries are important because of the details he records.  Especially interesting are his comments about lesser country houses (manor houses) - I made notes as I read and later looked the places up on Google.

The diaries demonstrate how a relatively small clique of people, mostly intermarried, controlled society in the first half of the twentieth-century.  This still goes on today - look at the media, Parliament (all parties), the institutions etc all are controlled by public school Oxbridge people.  And on the rare occasions when the elite responds to criticism of nepotism they recruit someone right out of the ordinary to act as a token (for instance how does Bonnie Greer get to be a trustee of the British Museum?). 

Ordinary working class people don't get a look in, no matter how talented and qualified they might be. 

Anyway, to get back to James Lees-Milne, it is clear from the diaries that the National Trust effectively operates through artifice.  A few of the properties are preserved exactly as they were at the moment of acquisition, but most are a Lees-Milne vision of how a historic house ought to look.  Particularly shocking is the way furnishings and objects are taken from one property to help furnish another.















Above:  Lees-Milne often refers to Charlecote, a National Trust property in Warwickshire.  Last year I read this history of Charlecote by Alice Fairfax-Lucy, and I visited the house twice.  Although the house is interesting it illustrates the enigmatic nature of the country house myth (the tenuous Shakespeare connection, the Victorian re-imagining of the architecture, the Lees-Milne recreation etc).















Above:  on my second visit I took this photograph of the the front of Charlecote.  The man in the doorway is one of the guides.  I waited for ages for him to go inside but he wouldn't budge.

Entrance hall - paintings familiar from the Alice Fairfax-Lucy history; heraldic glass with many impalings; beautiful intaglio table.

Dining room - silver table centre of palms and turbaned characters; beautiful Sevres dessert service; hideous large black French clock.

Library - two globes of the world that I coveted; portraits of royalty interspersed with portraits of the Lucy family; inlaid faux Tudor chairs (made in India).

Billiard room - Chinese porcelain pagoda; portraits of unpleasant-looking Edwardian people; scintillating blue and gold vases (Chinese 1800).

Drawing room - gold-orange satin wall coverings; a pair of marble and gold candelabras (acquired 1843); Indian dress sword captured at Lucknow.



















Above:  in a display in the gatehouse was this model of the house, obviously a children's toy.  The house with its accretions of various myths (or fakery if you prefer) is now mediated as a toy presumably for the education of children.  How did they play with this toy I wonder? (Gentry and peasants as opposed to Cowboys and Indians?).

Saturday, February 04, 2012

I hope I am not going to be bored - the past week at work

Monday

I was at my desk early - I am always one of the first to arrive.

When Campaign Manager Keith Chandler arrive there was a sudden demand to produce some factsheets which took up most of the morning.

In the afternoon I worked on the communication plan for individuals.  This meant going down to the archive on the ground floor, a big windowless room with racking that contains every report ever produced by the Institute, including all the contents of the old library which were just dumped in the room when the move out of London took place about ten years previously.  The archive has a staff of three, but the only person down there was Gary, aged about twenty, not terribly bright, slim build, jeans and white shirt (no tie), amiable disposition, fair hair thinning and combed over a small patch (which he is very sensitive about).

I sat at the reading table and asked for various items which Gary fetched for me.

Tuesday

I spent the morning in the archive.  Yesterday evening Gary had had his hair completely cut off but you could still tell where the bald patch was.  The accounts staff laughed at him over this.

Half-way through the morning there was a visitor from the Institute's "sister organisation".  Apparently there are lots of these visitors who just go to the archive and then go back to London without ever going upstairs to the offices.  This visitor was a typical researcher, black trousers and houndstooth jacket, barking out commands to Gary.

Meetings cancelled because of "sickness" - I am inclined to think the Institute's staff are lazy.

Wednesday

All the morning taken up with discussing a new brochure with Campaign Manager Callum Smith.

A meeting with the Manger of the Telephone Surveys section - she was excited about some research she had done.

Thursday

All of the day I worked on the communication plan for private individuals.  Progress was slow, mainly because my mind kept wandering.  I hope I am not going to be bored in this new job.
 
Friday

I asked admin assistant what happened to the previous Director of the Institute.  She launched into a bitter account of the office politics that drove her out.  The offices may seem enervated, but they obviously house deep passions.

In the afternoon I joined the Telephone Survey team for a couple of hours.  There are three permanent staff (including Manager  Abi Reed) supplemented by part-time staff.  They all work in a tiny room on the ground floor, just big enough for a table and six chairs (once everyone is sat down you can't move without considerable disruption).  You have a choice of using headphones or a handset.  All calls are recorded.  I listened in to the calls as they were made - very interesting.

The last hour of the afternoon spent sorting out print quotes.

John Terry



















By a process and logic I do not understand John Terry has lost the England captaincy.

The decision was taken by the Football Association, which routinely makes stupid decisions (David Bernstein being particularly stupid, venal and ignorant).

Nevertheless one has to ask why John Terry has lost his public position for unproven racial abuse (and one complaint to the police) whereas Diane Abbott MP kept her public position after obvious and flagrant racial abuse that is wholly in the public domain and resulted in forty or so complaints to the police.

It would appear that the police and Crown Prosecution Service are afraid to prosecute Dianne Abbott and afraid not to prosecute John Terry, despite obvious absurdities in both cases.

Therefore one has to assume that the ideology of multiculturalism (with its vested interests and well organised claque) has corrupted the administration of the law.

A bad law administered corruptly.










One person is punished despite "apologising" another person gets off because she "apologised" (actually ordered, on camera and while giving an interview to Sky News, to apologise).

Where is the logic?

John Terry is being hounded to appease a lobby that is unappeasable (because it is politically driven and does not care who is damaged in pursuit of its political objectives).

Who in government and the media is going to stand up to this lobby?

Friday, February 03, 2012

The report on the Today programme this morning was unbalanced

In a report on the Today programme this morning about trade with India the reporter failed to mention Indian protectionism as an inhibiting factor on British trade with India (for instance the recent resistence to British supermarkets expanding into India).  He also made no reference to the covert Indian practice of requiring multiple bribes with every major contract entered into with the Indian government (every time you look at the ND channel it is reporting accusations of corruption against Indian politicians).  Without these two factors the report on the Today programme this morning was unbalanced.

Lazy journalism on the Today programme.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

After the mildest winter anyone can remember we now have a light fall of snow.

In the garden there are white Iceberg hybrid tea roses in full flower (a survival from summer) against a background of pink camellias in full flower (early for Spring) with white powdery snow on the ground and on the glossy green leaves.

This summer-in-the-middle-of-winter is like something from the Mabinogion.




The cruelty she is responsible for

Watched Daily Politics at lunchtime which featured Emma Harrison, founder of A4E - an organisation which is supposed to help the long-term unemployed into work.

Talking to some of the helpless people that fall into the clutches of A4E they had to turn up each day for a "course" which involved them sitting in a room from 9 to 5 (or 10 to 4, I can't remember exactly) week after week doing nothing (there was no "training" they just had to sit there).  Bored out of their minds and depressed by the pointless nothingness of their daily existence the unemployed people would sign themselves off benefits rather than go back to that room.  A4E then counts this as a "success" and claims a fee from the government for getting people off benefits.

This happened under the last Labour administration, a couple of years ago.

Today I looked at Emma Harrison on television laughing and joking with the other guests, who were presumably unaware of the cruelty she is responsible for.

The Daily Politics studio is close to the Embankment, and it would have been entirely understandable if some of the long-term unemployed should grab Emma Harrison as she emerged from the building and tip the frightful woman into the Thames.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Jonathan Meades On France

I am currently watching Jonathan Meades On France.

The untouched:  "...a vague fey love of nature..."

"This is the country that ate a zoo..."

"All cities are artifices..."

"Undemonstrative facade after undemonstrative facade... modesty is often arrogant..."

"The bourgeoisie does not admit it is bourgeois..."

"Ghettos which are hardly hidden, but are off the map... imported impoverished cultures..."

"It is planning not architecture which is culpable..."

"Roots are what vegetables have..."

"Landscape is routinely sacrificed to profit..."

"The sapping horrors of bucolic life..."

"The creepy malignant socialist Francois Mitterand..."

"Charles de Gaulle came to power by employing the tactics of a protection racketeer... the threat of armed coup had been averted by a bloodless coup..."

"It is not until fashions have gone out of fashion that their preposterousness becomes apparent..."
Eyeworks churns out an endless line of rubbish television for the United Kingdom market but for the Netherlands they produce quality drama like Nova Zembla.

Presumably Paul Jackson is responsible for the UK content.
I am struggling to find an ethical source of eggs.

Even the boxes they sell in Sainsburys with the blue and white cruelty-free logo come from producers that practice live male chick maceration.

Keeping chickens myself is not really practical - I don't have the time to look after them.

I am waiting to hear from a local farm that keeps chickens.

At least if I give up eating eggs it should reduce my cholesterol level.

Shirley Williams on the Today programme

Interesting to hear Shirley Williams on the Today programme talking about the Health & Social Care Bill currently going through Parliament.

I agree with her that the NHS as currently constituted provides a very high standard of health care throughout the population.

It is not the top 25% (by income) that we need to be concerned about.  They will always get the best service because of their greater purchasing power and lobbying skills.  It is the bottom 25% that needs to have completely free access to the best healthcare.