Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Last night I took the dogs upstairs, and then went down again for the usual final walk through the ground floor switching off lights and checking locks.

In the dining room I noticed the two cats sitting facing the dresser (we have a very old-fashioned dining room).  Getting the torch I looked in the narrow space under the dresser and saw a young rat, light brown in colour, ears and whiskers twitching.  Probably the younger cat had brought it in through the back door cat flap.

There then commenced about half an hour of chasing the rat around the dining room and inner kitchen.

Eventually the older (and lazier) cat trapped it in a corner and I heard the rat shriek with fear, three high-pitched gasps of terror - who it was crying to was not clear.

Catching the rat with a plastic flowerpot I scooped it up (using an old magazine to keep it from jumping out) and took it out into the garden where I ejected it onto the side lawn.

It ran off into a flowerbed of tree peonies and lush newly-emerged fritillaria imperialis (a flowerbed of peonies, fritillarias and weeds actually).

Monday, April 29, 2013

"UKIP if you want to, the Conservative Party's not for kipping"

Interesting article in the Daily Telegraph by Dan Hodges about UKIP:  http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danhodges/100214388/ukip-dont-like-it-up-em/

Is it not the case that if you take the BNP percentage of support in 2010 and add it to the UKIP percentage of support in 2010 you get the UKIP percentage of support in 2013? (roughly, and and with a certain degree of extrapolation)?

Far from UKIP gaining new support they are mainly picking up support resulting from the implosion of the BNP.

As few people would admit publicly to being former BNP voters these new supporters are showing up in surveys as ex-Conservative or ex-Labour.

Europe and immigration are important issues, but they need to be addressed by rational policies not intemperate flouncing and grandstanding - in that respect UKIP is harming the argument for immigration restraint and European reform, not helping.

"UKIP if you want to, the Conservative Party's not for kipping" as an astringent Conservative agent recently told a semi-public meeting.

We are fated to live in uninteresting times

No news on the Today programme this morning.

They actually filled a large part of the programme with a very extended item about how long a drip of bitumen takes to fall (the item seemed to go on and on, with some Aussi academic making very ponderous attempts at humour).

I suppose on one level we should be grateful that life in the United Kingdom is so safe that people are more likely to die of boredom than violent crime.

We are fated to live in uninteresting times (to adapt the Chinese curse).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Out of all the Sunday Politics programme I like the panel best.

And yet it is always rushed and right at the end.

They could cut back on all the local stuff (yawn) and give the panel more time.


For at least twenty-five years nightingales have been arriving at this time of year, sitting in this hawthorn tree and singing for a week, and then moving on.

Where they come from and where they go to I could not tell you (they cannot be moving much further north as we are at the limit of nightingale territory).

But they are as steady as the seasons and never miss a year.

The hawthorn tree is on a boundary, so I am not sure if it belongs to me or the farmer.

He burns rubbish under it, and once (several years ago) set fire to the tree by accident.

Only one nightingale sings, although it cannot be the same bird year after year.

You can hear the song in the mornings as well as at dusk.

Sometimes the nightingale sits up in the great chestnut tree, but mostly it sits in this hawthorn tree.

Strengthen the family

The video for Iggy Azalea's Work shows her in am American "trailer trash" community:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zR6ROjoOX0

This is despite the fact that Iggy Azalea is Australian and comes from a middle class family, so her pose as American trailer trash is an example of social tourism.

But the refrain of Work "no money, no family" makes the important point that without money or family you are lost.

Which is why we should be welcoming all moves to strengthen the family as an institution.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Visit to a stately home:

Exterior austere to the point of ugliness.

Entrance hall of vast echoing marble, half-way between a museum and a railway terminus.

Severe but very beautiful dining room, cold and uncomfortable but everything displayed to the best advantage.

Sculpture gallery like a gigantic vitrine.

Drawing room flocked and gilded with a coffered ceiling, the red walls displaying French and Italian old masters.

State bedroom canopied and esconsed in tapestries.

State Sitting Room so formal that sitting in the space must have had the still performance of a tableau.

Library the only habitable room, the books humanising the majestic apartment.

The chapel marble lined (again) but the lamps giving the chamber a warm brown-gold tinge (like stewed tea).

Against the deep blue of a clear sky the sun caught the buds on the ash trees, so that it look as if the tips of the branches had been gilded.

A cool breeze blew from the north.

The air was fresh and exhilarating.
In 1621 Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice, ruled that:  "the liberties, franchises, privileges and jurisdictions of Parliament are the undoubted birthright and inheritance of the subjects of England".

This is interesting in that it refers to freedom and legal protection being transmitted by birth and inheritance, not acquired in any other way and certainly not dispensed by the Executive (nor indeed withdrawn by the Executive).

Article: The Death of a Class Warrior – Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

On 8th April 2013 Tom Mills (New Left Project) wrote an interminable article about Margaret Thatcher and her place in history.

As you might expect, it is not a flattering analysis.  Tom Mills does not have a single good word for her.  But hey, not everyone sees things in the same way.

Lefties are entitled to write history from a socialist perspective.

What they are not entitled to do is falsify that history.

In a telling paragraph Tom Mills writes:

"...her government turned to the newly fashionable theory of monetarism, according to which the ‘money supply’ was the key to controlling economic growth and inflation.  The Labour leadership had already shifted somewhat towards ‘monetarist’ thinking in 1976, coerced by the IMF and influenced by James Callaghan’s son-in-law Peter Jay, but the Thatcherites now embraced a rather crude version – later referred to by Thatcher’s second Chancellor Nigel Lawson as ‘unreconstructed parochial monetarism’ – with characteristic zeal."

You might think from this that the Callaghan government had monetarism reluctantly and undemocratically imposed on them.

Actually however, James Callaghan and Denis Healey adopted monetarism in a secret meeting (secret even from other members of the cabinet) in late 1977.

This is reported by former Labour MP Brian Sedgemore in his 1980 book The Secret Constitution.

Therefore we see that the Labour government voluntarily adopted monetarism in an undemocratic and secretive way, whereas Margaret Thatcher sought a mandate for her monetarist policies, won a landslide election and subsequently validated her policies in two subsequent elections.

Rather than admit this, Tom Mills chooses to put a highly selective spin on the sequence of events suggesting coercion. 

And Tom Mills is an aspiring academic.

And ironically he is also contributor to an organisation called Spinwatch.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Jason Cowley (New Statesman) very impassioned about Syria on Press Preview this evening.

Personally I think balkanisation might be the best solution to the problem.

Newsnight tells us that Winston Churchill is to appear on our bank notes, which is cheering.

Perhaps not everyone regards our history as a faded reality.

I have always had a weakness for creme de menthe turkish delight.

But I eat far too much sugar.

Is it, I wonder, a subliminal and symbolic choice I am making?

Is there an ideological basis to all this confectionery?

Does it symbolise the sweetness of life under a Conservative-led government?

Architect Zaha Hadid

It was depressing, but perhaps not surprising, to see architect Zaha Hadid lauded by the Guardian newspaper.

How on earth can they call her work "egalitarian"?  Her oeuvre represents many things, not all of them nice.  But no-one could seriously call her designs anything other than elitist, uncompromising and totalitarian.

I am currently reading Museum Without Walls by Jonathan Meades.  It is a collation of his writings on architecture and is very enjoyable (although his writing style contains far too many lists).  In the chapter on Zaha Hadid he writes:

"Accessibility merely means lowest common denominator populism, commercial opportunism, the subjugation of the creator by market researchers and of originality by second-guessing what the 'people' will find acceptable.  Zaha has been fighting all her professional life against the architecture of the market place, struggling to assert the paramountcy of the artist, ie of herself, of an uncompromised vision."

As I said, elitist and totalitarian.

It is perhaps predictable that the Zaha Hadid London Aquatics Centre was commissioned under the New Labour government and paid for by public money.

Earlier today left-wing writer Aaron Peters described the Olympic site as reminiscent of the former DDR.

Despite being a leftie his articles are very readable:  http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/aaron-peters
I'm afraid that when I see Owen Jones attacking David Cameron as a restaurant-trasher I rather conclude he has lost the argument and is just resorting to blustering abuse to hide the fact that he has run out of things to say.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Self-immolations are also "unacceptable"

The Bulgarian ambassador Konstantin Dimitrov was interviewed on the Today programme this morning.

I was disappointed that Sarah Montague did not ask him about the self-immolations in Bulgaria.

The situation in that country is so bad and the conditions so intolerable that individuals are choosing to burn themselves alive rather than tolerate what they must presumably regard as a living death.

And yet Sarah Montague and the Today team did not think it a suitable subject to raise with Konstantin Dimitrov.

During the interview Konstantin Dimitrov lectured us that various comments made by Nigel Farage were "unacceptable".  I have no time for Nigel Farage, nor Paul Nuttall.  But perhaps I can tell Konstantin Dimitrov that self-immolations are also "unacceptable". 

Is it not the case Mr Dimitrov that you represent a gangster administration that is looting the national finances of Bulgaria and oppressing anyone who tries to protest against this?  Is it not also the case that ordinary life in Bulgaria is so awful that most people would escape if they could?  As a European partner in the great European family of nations (sic) do you not owe us an explanation as to why our fellow Europeans are setting fire to themselves?

For some reason the BBC is choosing not to report these self-immolations in the mainstream news reports (unlike the Prague self-immolations they reported in the late 1960s).


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thursday 11th April 2013 - part of the last two weeks at work

I had brought my alarm clock with me and set it for 7am (I am always wary of relying on hotel morning calls after a disaster in Germany).  Reluctant to get up, but by force of will I was washed and dressed and downstairs to breakfast by 7.30.  This was in the restaurant, smoked glass walls, tiny tables, lots of staff milling around.  No other Institute people seemed up, and no members that I recognised, just the a large party of young men, talking loudly about a wedding to be held in the old part of the hotel on Saturday.  I had a fried breakfast, two of everything, with toast and tea.  
Alec Nussbaum’s secretary appeared at the restaurant entrance, hovered a few seconds looking around, and then came over to my table and sat down.  She had a very small breakfast, and exhibited an incredibly dainty way of eating a croissant.  She was wearing glasses, which made her appear short-sighted to the point of being blind.   
Gary then appeared and sat at the table next to us, just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, his limbs appearing spindly despite all his visits to the gym.  I suspect he is besotted with Alec Nussbaum's secretary as he keeps looking in her direction and also has started sighing a lot.  But he does not say anything to her (which is sooo typical).
I then went to the upper hall for a last-minute check of the Institute’s stand.  Other stands were going up (a bookstall, a “Friends of” society, and incongruously, a stall selling fine wines).
When the banners had been put up and the literature laid out on the stand I left Gary in charge (he had changed into a suit but no tie) and went down to the reception area.  Waves of members were arriving, about two thirds of them women.  I had to rush to put flyers out on the chairs in the hall before people sat down, wishing I had done this the previous night. 
On the stage the top table filled up with the Institute’s Council plus Vijay Singh and Alec Nussbaum. 
Ten minutes late the first session began, with about a hundred people in the hall and late-comers arriving every couple of minutes (shutting the door quietly behind them and looking around for a vacant chair, and either creating a commotion getting to it or squatting down on the floor).
New members came forward and stood in front of the platform facing the Council and made their pledges (and on the wall behind the Council was the big portrait image, my idea so that it looked as if the new members were directly addressing the portrait).  The new members collectively read their affirmations from little cards they had been given.  Then they were grouped together for a photo and everyone clapped.
The loyal address to the Queen was made (do they actually send it to her?).
The President’s address followed.  The President was aged about 60, bushy-bearded, glasses, fat, jolly and pedantic.  I wondered how he had been chosen (I know for a fact there are no elections).
Then it was coffee break.  I was delayed by various people, so by the time I got back upstairs the hall was packed and Gary was beleaguered on the stand, the Institute’s give-aways fast running out.  Marcia Walsh (Deputy Director) none too pleased when I asked her to help.
The second session was the formal EGM of the Institute.  Nothing controversial was in any of the motions.  To my surprise the proposal to merge the Institute with “Head Office” was deferred.  It was also announced that Vijay Singh had resigned and Alec Nussbaum was now acting Director.  Both these announcements were a complete surprise to me and came out of the blue, although in retrospect they explained Vijay Singh’s listless behaviour and hands-off attitude the last couple of weeks.  For a little while I felt stunned.
During the lunch break I was so occupied on the stand that by the time I got to the little private dining room for Institute staff all the food had gone except for one sandwich and some biscuits.  Marcia Walsh was in the room, and I suspected her of hiding (talking to the members can be hard work – many of them are fanatics, and a few seem positively mad).  Marcia and I agreed that Alec Nussbaum had outwitted everyone, and had won the game even before the EGM took place.  But for some reason it seems likely the Institute will go on.  “He likes the idea of a confidential agency solely reporting to him" Marcia said, "with no public footprint, no trails that can be followed, and no smoking guns".  
After lunch was the special “members speak” session that had been hurriedly arranged and just consisted of one member after another standing up and giving encomiums, usually in the form of very long anecdotes.
The verbal dithyrambics, spontaneous praise-singing, and heart-felt panegyric homages eventually came to an end and we then had the afternoon tea.  However I didn't get to drink any tea as I was fully occupied by Kirsty from Head Office PR section.  We spent the whole hour drafting an article for the Head Office website (she was very anxious not to say anything indiscreet).
The afternoon was the first practical session of the day with the launch of three new initiatives.  Alec Nussbaum went through each of them, with lots of positive feedback from the floor.  “Andrew’s done all the work” he told the members, but in a slightly patronising way as if he was just being modest.
Formal end to the day’s proceedings, just as the special guest arrived.  The whole atmosphere of the Conference changed and the members appeared to be starstruck at the appearance of the great man.  The loathsome Tony C appeared, promoting himself as usual and wanting an introduction.
The New Members' drinks reception was held in the upper hall between 5 and 6 (so I had to be on the stand again – am I the only person working?).
From 7.30 pm everyone gathered in the main restaurant for the formal dinner and the special guest made his speech (which was exactly the same as the first time I heard it).  The food not good and the service once again slow.  After the dinner various social things had been arranged for the members (a quiz night, a film, even a policy forum) but I avoided all of this and just slipped away to my room.
The weather very warm today.

Hot sunshine.

As soon as I got up I took the dogs out into the garden.

And as I stood on the lawn drinking a cup of coffee I felt gentle raindrops falling on me, barely perceptible, evaporating almost as soon as they hit me.

Far above me in the blue sky I could see cumulus clouds, innocent-looking, all pure and white - and it seemed impossible that such tiny drops of moisture could have fallen from such a height.

As a performance it was magnificent, greatly cheering the left

Because the last two weeks have been so frenetic I have not been able to pay much attention to the very considerable media coverage of Margaret Thatcher and her place in history. Consequently I have a back-log of articles to read and programmes to watch. I realise that few people are going to be interested in yesterday’s opinions of professional commentators, so please disregard any Thatcher-themed analysis you see on this blog – I am really trying to organise my thoughts.

One item I did see on the news was the anti-eulogy by Glenda Jackson MP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDtClJYJBj8

This might have been more impressive had Glenda Jackson been speaking from a solid base of achievement over the twenty years she has sat in the House of Commons. However her parliamentary career resembles that of the 19th century MP who sat in the Commons for over fifty years and spoke only twice – once to ask the Speaker if a window could be opened and once to ask why the clock had stopped. Therefore it is tempting to disregard the Jackson diatribe as a political swansong, a last attempt to intrude herself into the national record before oblivion (which inevitably must come to us all) descends.

Looked at as a text, one cannot take the actual words seriously. By no means do they do form a coherent argument. Hissy-fit histrionics, RADA radicalism, thespian showing-off.

Rather than a rational argument, I think it is as a theatrical performance that we should assess the Glenda Jackson contribution. And as a performance it was magnificent, greatly cheering the left in what must have been an awful two weeks for them. And was it not also a textbook demonstration of how to steal the limelight – a relatively minor member of the cast (perhaps not even that, perhaps just one of the “extras”) elbowing aside the leading lady for a few minutes giggle in a scene everyone knows will end up on the cutting room floor.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Almost-full moon tonight.

A creamy-yellow moon in a pearlescent grey-blue sky.

The Beaker Folk

In an otherwise interesting article about an archaeological discovery in Berkshire printed in the Guardian today Maev Kennedy tells us about "the Beaker Folk, new arrivals in Britain from the continent..."

This statement is so inaccurate as to be an untruth.

All we know about the Beaker Folk is that they used "beakers" that are found elsewhere in Europe.  Whether the "folk" were immigrants who brought the beakers with them, or whether they were indigenous "folk" who simply imported the beakers from abroad no-one knows.  Maybe we will know the truth about the Beaker Folk at some time in the future, but for the time being the evidence just isn't there.

I can understand the eagerness of the left to "prove" that everyone is an immigrant and therefore the modern occurrence of unrestricted unregulated unauthorised immigration is no big deal.

But they will not help their case by falsifying the archaeological record.

Maev Kennedy is herself an immigrant, and so presumably has a vested interest in promoting a pro-immigrant agenda.

She is the author of the Hamlyn History of Archaeology (her unproven claim today makes me question the veracity of that book, but generally it is highly thought of).


Bonnie Greer feels the need to sneer

On St George's Day Bonnie Greer feels the need to sneer at St George as "Born in Turkey but a Greek mum from Palestine".

There is a lot wrong with this statement of course.  The legendary birthplace of St George was not Turkey but the Byzantine province of Cappodocia in the area of land that later became Turkey (the Turks did not arrive in the area until a thousand years later).  Palestine did not exist at the time either, it was the Greco-Roman colony of Palaestina (the area did not become "Arab" until the 7th century).

And in any case in the British Isles only the Anglicans regard St George as a valid saint, therefore he can be regarded as conceptually English and Anglican and saintly as his predecessor St Edward the Confessor or indeed (to pick a name at random) Dr Cosmo Gordon Lang - we the English Anglicans will choose which "saints" to honour, not Bonnie Greer or Daniel Trilling or Lee Jasper.

There was a lot of tittering yesterday at the ignorence of EDL supporters in thinking that the Brighton Pavilion was a mosque.

Is not Bonnie Greer's display of ignorence at least equally as bad?

And while the EDL supporters probably have the excuse of being failed by a dumbed-down state education system what excuse does Bonnie Greer have?  This is a person who has been made a Trustee of the British Museum with high-level access to any amount of historical experts.  Her ignorence is presumably entirely voluntary.

But there is a more important point to be made. 

If asked Bonnie Greer would tell you she is just trying to shake English people out of their monocultural complacency. 

In reality she is trying to make people doubt themselves.

Most people will just shrug this off.

But for vulnerable people, those who have no assets other than the communal assets of cultural identity, this is a rotten thing to do.  It will make them feel anxious and unsure about who they are.  It will make them think that even their identity is being taken away from them.

What a spiteful person Bonnie Greer is.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The fabled green shoots of economic activity

These are undoubtedly green shoots.

But are they the fabled green shoots of economic activity?

It is a truism that economic revival is too slight to notice until it is too substantial to ignore.


Would it be bad manners to ask how many Chechens have been allowed into the United Kingdom over the last fifteen years or so?

And what their current status is?

And whether any assessment has been made on whether they are a threat to national security?

Or are we just going to let the situation drift and hope for the best?

Wednesday 10th April 2013 - part of the last two weeks at work

In the morning I just idled my time away at home, getting up at 9 and drinking tea and reading newspapers.

At noon I had some lunch - bread rolls, custard slices, another cup of tea.

I had allocated the morning to go over my role at the Conference, but the usual inertia descended, and I just drifted listlessly about the house doing nothing.

Packing took much longer than I anticipated as I worked my way through a list of things to take.

A thumbs-up from a migrant field worker (Pedro) loitering in the next-door farmyard as I took everything out to my car.

Then to the Co-Op to use the cash machine.

Then to the local town to go through the car wash.

So all in all I was very late in starting my journey.

One hundred and thirty-five miles across country, through four major urban areas, and I arrived at the Conference venue after night had fallen.  The venue is effectively two hotels - a hideous Victorian mansion at the front (used for weddings), and a rather soulless modern Conference centre behind.  Long erratic corridors link the two buildings.

Initially I parked at the front.  The black silhouette of the building towered ominously above me, the facade lit up by windows of orange light, the whole like a composition by Atkinson Grimshaw.  Walking up the main steps to the building I was in tandem with a senior Council member who had also just arrived, and we made polite conversation (of course, there was only one topic of conversation).

Having registered my arrival I drove my car round to the Conference centre which had its own entrance and reception.  Immediately I saw Gary from the Institute library and he helped me unload everything from my car and take it up to the big circulating room on the first floor.  The couriered boxes had also arrived (mostly literature) and we took those upstairs as well.  Setting up the stand was relatively easy.  I noticed that Head Office also had a stand, running the whole length of one wall.  No-one else was about.

Finally I checked into my room which was modern, comfortable and bland.

Gary was unsure what to do about his meals so I told him to go into the brasserie and keep the receipt and I would sign off his expenses (I had no authority to do this, but in the absence of a line manager he was in a limbo).

I went down to the main dining room where a place had been booked for me on the Council table - about thirty people most of whom I had never met before.  I was at one end of the table with Alec Nussbaum nearby ("Andrew does all the work" he said generously when I was being introduced to people). The food was reasonable, but the service was excessively slow.

An hour after the meal had started a large elderly woman arrived and asked for a place to be laid for her right on the end of the table, requiring me and the person opposite me to shuffle up to make room for her.  She had long straggly grey hair, wore no make-up, and sat throughout the meal in her beige raincoat.  She talked about her farm on the south coast and her two children and garden.

When she left the table briefly there was a buzz of enquiries among the other diners as to her identity.  No-one seemed to know who she was.  There was an indeterminate theory that she may have been President of the Council about twenty years ago.

I was so tired I declined to go to the bar after the dinner. 

Midnight by the time I got to bed.

These self-immolations have not been reported in the British media

On the Today programme this morning there was a report about a recent survey carried out on behalf of Newsnight looking at likely emigration rates from Bulgaria and Romania (the survey can be seen here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22221841 ).

The New Statesman has already seized on this survey as "evidence" that migration from the two Balkan countries will not get out of control - see this article by George Eaton http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/04/how-fears-over-romanian-and-bulgarian-immigration-have-been-exaggerated .  Why is the New Statesman so keen to underplay the risk of uncontrolled migration from Bulgaria and Romania?  They do not say, but there is a suspicion that they see this as a way of replicating the electoral success of the Democrat party in America - so that eventually the combined "minorities" vote for left of centre candidates out-numbers the indigenous vote for right of centre candidates (in many marginals only an influx of a few thousand migrants will be enough to tip the balance in Labour's favour - EU migrants can vote in local elections, Commonwealth migrants can vote in both local and general elections). 

Neither the Newsnight survey survey nor the New Statesman article look at the issue of motivation.

Both Balkan countries have failed economies and alarming levels of corruption.

In Bulgaria the position is so helpless that there have been self-immolations by individuals protesting about the economic situation and the hopelessness that many people feel.

These self-immolations have not been reported in the British media.  Neither the BBC nor the New Statesman seem interested in the Bulgarian self-immolations.  But surely if the economic outlook in Bulgaria is so bad that people are setting fire to themselves this might give us a clue as to whether there will be a rush to emigrate?

Die Spiegel reports the self-immolations, so why not the BBC? http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/man-dies-in-sixth-bulgarian-self-immolation-in-less-than-a-month-a-890444.html

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I was puzzled when I first saw these two heads in the north wall of the nave.  Now I learn that they are fragments of recumbent effigies, both 14th century.  The top one is a priest, the lower is a landowner (censing angels in the two corners of his trefoil arch).

For over six hundred years those stone eyes have looked at visitors to the church.  For six hundred years those ossified lips have muttered petrified prayers.  For six hundred years the angelic incense has been calcified in the air.

Biography of Iris Origo by Caroline Moorhead

Have just finished reading a biography of Iris Origo by Caroline Moorhead.

I can't remember what made me buy this book.  Iris Origo's War in the Val d'Orcia is on my list of books to read.  Also in the biography I found a tiny clipping from the Guardian in which Hilary Spurling recommends it as one of the best reads of the year.

Actually the book is very dull and I was bored by it almost all the way through.

Iris Origo's mother Sybil was the model for Aldous Huxley's Mrs Aldwinkle in Those Barren Leaves, and there are hints of her frightfulness in the biography.  But Caroline Moorhead has been so discreet in this biography that it is impenetrable.  Perhaps Caroline Moorehead was afraid of offending people.

We are told that Iris Origo was a good conversationalist, a perceptive thinker, an apparent paragon of virtue.  But we are just told these things and no examples are given.  From the evidence we are presented with it is impossible to avoid the suspicion that these were just rich people who were idle to the point of laziness (there is a person called Elsa who spends her life sitting in an armchair, mystifyingly lauded for her qualities of "friendship").

Even allowing for Caroline Moorhead's tact and decorum these were awful people, selfish and self-obsessed and blighted by wealth.

Above:  Hilary Spurling bigging-up the work of Caroline Moorhead in one of those formulaic best books of the last year fillers that get stuck into the review sections of newspapers every December (don't trust these micro reviews, they are just authors helping out their friends - at your expense).

Above:  the best part of the Iris Origo biography is the last page.  In these two paragraphs Caroline Moorehead has dropped all her sense of reverential tact and is describing things she can see.  The book would have been much better if she had not been in so much awe of its subject.

Tuesday 9th April - part of the last two weeks at work

I was at my desk an hour earlier this morning, apprehensive about all the work that needs to be done before Thursday.
My main concern was the publications list.  I laid them all out, twenty-one booklets in all, and went through them with Vijay Singh.  Only one has content that is not appropriate, and we decided to just drop that publication instead of attempting to rewrite ten thousand words.
The others have content that does not need changing, although the covers are now inappropriate (doubly so given the new theme of the conference).  A print rep arrived and gave us the welcome news that the covers can be removed and replaced – both for perfect-bound and stitched booklets.  Because the print runs are so small (250 quantity for each one) this can be done by hand relatively quickly.
Therefore all I have to do is commission twenty new covers and have them reattached to the booklets and the copies couriered up to me at the venue for Thursday (I have to go up there in advance).
Joey (graphic designer) arrived and I briefed him on the twenty new covers.  He promised to have them done by about 7pm this evening.  Of course we are paying rush charges all over the place.

Define who the diverse people are

Keith Vaz MP has just announced that the Home Affairs Select Committee will "explore with (former Chief Constable) Mike Fuller and (Chief Superintendent) Dal Babu Diversity in the police".  Perhaps Keith Vaz could also define who the diverse people are?  How exactly does one define BME people? (if I self-define myself as BME is that good enough?).

Or is it a case of "I know BME people when I see them"?


The Review section of the Observer very disappointing today.  Only five pages on books, and uniformly boring (hot air ballooning? pah; Maya Angelou's mother? beyond parody, even for the Observer; and oh look there's Rowan Moore banging on about modernism yet again while the rest of us yawn our way through the post-lunch Sunday afternoon).  The Saturday Guardian books pages yesterday were just as bad.

I want to see reviews of new books by young writers, historians, people with serious ideas - above all I want to see more emphasis upon literary style.

I want reviews written by professional critics, not other writers or odd ball famous people or hack journalists from elsewhere in the publication.

I am fed up with awards and do not care what the collective view of a literary panel is.

Nor am I interested in the "best writers" of the current era as - guess what - they are not best writers, they are just writers who are approved of by the establishment.

The degeneration of the Sunday newspaper books pages is perhaps symbolic of the cultural tiredness we are currently experiencing in this country - I gave up on the Sunday Telegraph because it became so formulaic, now the Observer has gone the same way I will have to go back to the Times Literary Supplement.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Monday 8th April - part of the last two weeks at work

Arriving at the office things were as mundane and routine as you can possibly imagine.  I look back on that morning with a sort of awe as to how complacent we all were.  Bright morning outside as I drank instant coffee and replied to unimportant e-mails and prepared for the weekly planning meeting.
The news came to the Institute about midday, and within a few minutes everyone seemed to know.  Initially I felt a sort of superfluousness, as if everything I was doing had lost its importance.  Alec Nussbaum said “I will have to make some calls” and went into Vijay Singh’s office and closed the door. 
Mechanically I continued with the various plans for the weekend Conference, fully expecting the event to be cancelled.  I listed everything that is to go up by courier on Wednesday.  I had a final read through of the Programme proof before sending it off.
The Admin Team, who sit close to my desk, carried on talking to each other in a strained sort of way, and made cups of tea as if by repeating the ordinary routines they could make life ordinary again.
Alec Nussbaum and Vijay Singh appeared and stood by Reception and everyone was called together, even the Library staff (Gary looking confused, Matthew looking bored).
Alec Nussbaum made a haltering announcement of what we all already knew.  A slightly gasping and self-aware delivery as he told us anecdotes of years gone by.  This went on for some time with various people chipping in.
He then told us there is no need to cancel the Conference as it’s not a public event and so going ahead will not offend anyone.  He addressed the Admin team and told them to immediately contact everyone by phone so they know the Conference is going ahead.  He addressed me, saying that the Conference needed to be re-themed - all the publications will have to be redone, the poster graphics changed, the programme rewritten. 
To Gary and Matthew:  "I want you to find the ephemera, the juvenilia, and the memorabilia.  I know they are down there somewhere as I packed the boxes myself when the Library moved from London.  I want it all put on show at the Conference, preferably in the room we are using for the coffee breaks."
After everyone had dispersed a silence fell on the whole floor.
I went over to the line of windows on my side of the office and lowed the Venetian blinds so that they were half closed.

An awakening

Finally the eight-month winter came to an end, the wind blew from the south instead of the north, and the air became warm.

On Thursday I took this photo of a field of daffodils suddenly in flower - it was like an awakening (the flowers had been closed that morning).  The warm blustery wind was blowing, and the scent of the daffodils was almost overpowering.  Because they are grown as a field crop hardly any local gardens have daffodils in them.

The farmhouse you can see was mentioned by Pevsner for some reason.
Getting up at 4am is definitely traumatic.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Article: What is Thatcher's Legacy to Black and Ethnic Minority People in the UK?

Author is Claudia Tomlinson (a writer for the Huffington Post on the issues of health, education, and social care).


A disappointing piece of work. Claudia Tomlinson writes with considerable passion and commitment, but fails to prove her case. It is fine to make polemical statements, but if the polemics are not backed by supporting evidence and do not even seem logical within the terms of her own argument then one is tempted to dismiss this as just foamy froth from the mouth of yet another lefty suffering dyspeptic reflux from contemplating “Thatcher’s Legacy”.

For instance, it is possible that the 1970s were a period of widespread overt racism in which BME people were brutally attacked by extremist organizations, society in general, and a “rampant” police keen to make the situation worse. But Claudia Tomlinson gives no examples, we are just expected to take this analysis on trust. And if you stop to consider the claims they are clearly nonsensical – if society had been so mired in racism how do we account for the ever-rising rate of immigration by BME into the United Kingdom? (we would expect BME people to be leaving the country, with perhaps kindertransport organized to help the oppressed escape the attentions of the rampant racist police).

Margaret Thatcher’s duty in 1978 was to reflect the views of the majority and to implement the will of the majority. In a democracy this is the duty of ALL politicians. Is it possible that following her 1978 speech on immigration “her popularity soared” because the electorate recognized that at last they had a political leader who would not allow continuing social change against the wishes of the majority? (at no point in her article does Ms Tomlinson acknowledge the principle of no fundamental social change without informed consent of the people being “changed”).

What is the connection that Claudia Tomlinson is making between the election of Margaret Thatcher and the inner city riots two years later? I have not seen this claim made by any serious commentator, and the Huffington Post should be ashamed to publish such a slur. It is perhaps not surprising that these wilder (one can almost say crazed) claims are being made in respectable publications only after Margaret Thatcher’s death.

What possible motivation would the police of the 1980s have in “coercive policing”? She makes it sound as if the police were just motivated by prejudice. Were there no legitimate grounds for police scrutiny and intervention towards BME communities?

One sentence in the article is new to me, and is of interest: “She wanted to prevent any Asian immigrants being given access to council housing, ahead of white people”. There is a suspicion that Labour were (and perhaps still are) deliberately encouraging BME immigration because they saw it as a source of votes for their party. Commonwealth immigrants are immediately able to vote in British elections, with no qualifying period. In a Newsnight debate last year on immigration a BME person said “the first thing we were told was vote Labour”. We assume that the sale of council housing was to extend the concept of a “property-owning democracy”. Is it possible that the council housing stock was also sold off to prevent Labour gerrymandering and the buying of BME votes with public assets?

Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher

Very shocked to hear of the death of Margaret Thatcher.

Everyone seems shocked.

She was very elderly and had been ill for a long period.

But still everyone seems shocked and (not an exaggeration) bereft.

Such an inspiration, such a dependable rock, such a demonstration that one person can change the world.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Elgin Marbles

Every time I go to the British Museum I try to see the Elgin Marbles.

There is something about this work of art that exudes heroism, as if the sculptor (Phidias) had created an abstract of heroism.

How many people has this inspired in the centuries it has been in the British Museum?

One Morning Like a Bird by Andrew Miller

Have just finished reading One Morning Like a Bird by Andrew Miller.

It is a very absorbing novel about a dilettante would-be poet in pre-war Japan and the increasing responses he is obliged to make to the claims made by an increasingly totalitarian society.

"Then less comfortably comes the thought that he might, if he is not careful, end up as nothing, a being with no convincing identity at all, a stranger among strangers..."

In Search of Classical Greece, travel drawings of Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi

Fabulous exhibition at the British Museum - In Search of Classical Greece, travel drawings of Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi 1805 - 1806.

You will have to search for it as it is hidden away in an upper gallery right at the back of the museum.

Can you imagine the excitement which these new images would have created when they first arrived in London and began to circulate and influence people.

Cave of Pan at Vari - gloomy, smashed-up, melancholic.

Temple at the port of Aegina - two columns in coloured paint emerging from a background of sketches and grids.

Temple of Poseidon at Sunium - bulky colossol columns of a roofless temple, but the skill of the artist has made the marble shimmer as if weightless.

Warrior with shield from the frieze over the east proch of the Hephaisteion - limbless, headless, asexual, the grey tones of the muscles incredible.

Lion Gate at Mycene - romantic, awe-inspiring, desolate.

Bathy Town and harbour Ithaca - the young Greeks listless, purposeless and lethagic from the loss of their Greek identity.

Dr Michael Scott's three-part series

Very impressed by Dr Michael Scott's three-part series Jesus the Rise to Power on National Geographic channel earlier today.

His style is very accessible, and he can explain complex concepts without dumbing down.

He also does not labour points, which creates multiple levels of narration (you might recognise St George's monastery in the Wadi Kelt, but if you do not it does not detract from the narration).



Saturday, April 06, 2013

An interesting and creative person

Reading about the tragic death of Lee Halpin, he seems to have been an interesting and creative person - I hope his work will not be completely lost.

I am slightly concerned that Channel 4 asks applicants to carry out "fearless" tasks before they can get a contract.

Fearless implies danger.

Most of my work for the conference is under control - the past week at work


Despite the Bank Holiday the management team had to go into the office from 10 until 4 for a "run through" of the plans for the EGM.  Everyone wore casual clothes, Alec Nussbaum in beige cords, a baggy cardigan and a bow tie.  Lunch was supposed to be provided but Marcia Walsh (Deputy Director) had forgotten to arrange this so we all went to Pizzahut (noisy children, slovenly staff, doubtful hygiene). 


As the EGM and conference approaches everyone seems much more stressed.  Alec Nussbaum is at the Institute every day and has completely eclipsed Director Vijay Singh in giving orders and authorising expenditure.  Perhaps Vijay Singh has just given up?

Most of my work for the conference is under control, but I still experience a slight feeling of panic when I think of how close we are to the event.

Assistant Librarian Gary complaining to the Admin Team about Assistant Librarian Matthew ("That's what he's like, he was in tears once...").

A discussion over photography and Alec Nussbaum sided with me and gave me a reasonable budget.


A demanding schedule of tasks I had set myself.

I have cleared away all my ordinary work and am just concentrating on conference stuff.

Alec Nussbaum has a habit of calling meetings at 5pm, so that most people end up working at least an hour extra in the evenings.


For some reason I felt very lethargic today.

Unable to make much progress with things.

Occasionally I talked idly to temp Wilma.

Librarian Stan D (manager of the Reading Room) left today and was given presents and a card.


Big general meeting to discuss the sessions at the conference.  Alec Nussbaum complaining about "froth" and wanting more in the way of practical initiatives.  Tim Watts pedestrian and Abi Reed belligerent so that the meeting (which went on all day) was very hard work.

Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen seems to be a poet in the Pam Ayres tradition of rubbishy old doggerels masquerading as literature.



It's good to see that the swans have survived the winter (which has been harsh by any standards).

David Aaronovitch repeated the lie

On Dateline London earlier today Times columnist David Aaronovitch repeated the lie that "migrants are coming here to do the jobs British people don't want to do".

Oversupply of unskilled and semi-skilled labour has led to plummeting pay and conditions so that the wages are now well below the levels necessary to sustain a normal life in the United Kingdom.

If the jobs were available at the rate of pay David Aaronovitch receives then I guarantee there will be no shortage of applicants.

Unrestricted migration is a gigantic ponzi scheme - it relies on ever-increasing recruitment of desperate and impoverished migrants willing to undercut the workers already doing the jobs (and who will be undercut in turn by newer, even-poorer migrants). 

The only ones who benefit are the people at the top of the pyramid (the employers).


Friday, April 05, 2013

Migrants from Bulgaria and Romania

Article by Alan Travis in today's Guardian about a National Institute of Economic and Social Research report on possible Bulgarian and Romanian migration.


The report was commissioned by the Foreign Office - a government department which has an idiosyncratic attitude towards democracy and the obligation of civil servants to implement the democratic will of the people ("we are the mandarins of the civil service, there is no need to bother with democratic consent we will make wise decisions on your behalf based on what we think you ought to have").

Anyway, the report says that the Bulgarians and Romanians are not going to come here (probably).

Which presumably means it doesn't matter what barriers we put up against them.

They are not coming here right?

Therefore we can go full steam ahead with comprehensive and effective barriers to migrants from Bulgaria and Romania.  The NIESR report says the migrants are not coming here, so it doesn't matter how draconian we make the barriers (and personally, I want to see a completely closed door) no-one is going to be affected as none of the migrants are coming here.  Problem solved and everybody happy!

As far as the sluice

Now that the clocks have gone forward I can go for a walk in the evenings after work.

This evening I stopped half-way on the drive home, parked in the Sainsburys car park, and walked two miles along the river as far as the sluice.

Bright sun, but strong bitterly cold north wind causing ripples on the sluice (the No Swimming sign is superfluous as no-one would dive into that freezing water).

But when the wind occasionally dropped for a minute or so the air suddenly became wonderfully warm.

Beyond the sluice the water channel stretched out towards the coast, greys and slate blues in the sky and the water.  My face was almost numb from the cold north wind.  But I felt exhilarated.


Muddled thinking by Alice Hood (among many others) over the "privatisation" of the NHS.


The left opposes "privatisation" on the ideological grounds that private providers have no place in the delivery of NHS services.

On an ideological basis this is flawed.

The NHS already has hundreds of thousands of private providers - anyone who has an NHS contract of employment is a private provider selling their services on a contractual basis to the NHS.

In principle there is no difference between an individual cleaner selling cleaning services to the NHS and a commercial company selling cleaning services - it is just a matter of scale. 

Ah, but commercial companies have more clout you might argue, they will conspire to get the most profit for themselves and private profit is wrong.

Do not individual suppliers of NHS services (aka employees) also agitate to get the best profit for themselves?  Is not part of the difficulty with the NHS the issue of vested interests resisting anything that affects their individual profit?  Did not Tony Blair complain of having the scars of public service reform on his back? (a phrase that raises the disgusting image of Blair's naked back covered with welts and bleeding scars like some initiate of Opus Dei). 

So please let us have a little less ideological squeamishness about private involvement in the NHS.

In any case, I am more interested in the way that the EU might be influencing NHS privatisation (that really would be ideological interference).  Is it a co-incidence that Sweden and Spain have also privatised their health services?  There is no EU directive insisting on privatisation, but a national health service run by a member state is antithetical to EU obligations, and it is likely that both Labour and Conservatives (and Lib Dems for what they are worth) realise they have to go down the privatisation route, which is why it keeps happening whatever the general population thinks.

Public attitudes to the welfare state

Very cogent article by Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times about public attitudes to the welfare state.


For the record, I completely support the idea in principle of the welfare state.

And I am also deeply mistrustful of the Financial Times, which is a libertarian publication more than a conservative one (libertarians are not conservatives, still less Conservatives although libertarians may vote Conservative in the same way that Marxists might vote Labour).

However it is the last paragraph of Janan Ganesh's article that should cause most concern to the Labour party:  "The welfare state is shrinking because the public do not believe in it very much..."

Labour (under Wilson, Callaghan, Blair and Brown, and especially under Labour councils throughout the country) has so corrupted the welfare system by manipulating who gets benefits that most people no longer think the welfare state is relevant to them or will help them if they are in need.

This should bother all of us, but it should especially bother Labour.

They need to start asking themselves why the public no longer believe in welfare.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Are Sloane Rangers to be added to the Manchester Police list of "sub-cultures"

The Today programme this morning reported on Manchester Police and their decision to add "sub-cultures" to victims of "hate crime".

Are Sloane Rangers to be added to the Manchester Police list of "sub-cultures" that are now a protected species?

They are certainly definable (Peter York has done this) and they are certainly hated by lefties.

Are High Anglicans to be protected from the bile of anabaptists?

Are Beliebers and Directioners and the Barbara Streisand fan club also going to get specific named protection?

Or is this a clever ruse by Manchester Police to destroy the silliness of "diversity awareness" by making it ever more silly so that it collapses into a nexus of its own silliness?


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Barbara Roche's article on immigration on the Progress website

Flawed arguments in Barbara Roche's article on immigration on the Progress website.: http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2013/04/02/the-inconvenient-truth-about-migration/

She makes the incredible statement:  "migrants tend to be younger, contributing more in tax revenue than they consume in public services and the majority leave before they get older when they would become more reliant on public services."

The majority leave before they get older?

If she is referring to the waves of migration since the Second World War the majority have demonstrably not left but have become and are continuing to become pensioners.

If she is referring to the eastern European migration over the last five years or so how on earth can she predict what these people will do when they get older?  "Getting older" for these people will occur several decades in the future.  Unless Barbara Roche is claiming clairvoyant powers, how can she say that the majority will permanent depart before reaching the age of 65?

She also suggests that the demographic change of an ageing population can only be solved by more immigration.  I would suggest that demographic change without immigration will result in increased competition for care service personnel (and other services) and a consequent increase in wages and status for this currently under-rewarded sector.  This is a good thing - I look forward to the day when care service personnel have the same financial rewards and status as Barbara Roche (and the money will be available to pay for it because pensioners as a sector hold a large amount of the nation's wealth by virtue of being baby boomers in receipt of final salary pensions and also largely being home-owners). 

Barbara Roche in this article has produced a blend of asinine economics, deliberate manipulation of the facts, and outright pro-immigration propaganda.

The galumphing sound of lefties jumping onto this bandwagon

Never underestimate the ability of the left to dumb-down complex political arguments into yah-boo abuse and shallow stereotypes.

Latest in this sequence is the so-called "petition", led by George Monbiot and others, to "shame" a Cabinet Minister into living as a benefits claimant.

One is almost deafened by the galumphing sound of lefties jumping onto this bandwagon:

In the Guardian

In the New Statesman

In the Independent

I am so familiar with the shallow cliched things that Kevin Maguire is going to say on this subject that I could almost write his Daily Mirror column for him.

If I were advising the Conservatives on PR I would call the lefties' bluff.  I would indeed purchase a former council flat (perhaps in Woodberry Down estate) and not only have cabinet ministers living there for a week on benefits-level budgets, but also have it continuously occupied on a weekly rota by backbench MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.  A week at a time is not very onerous, and such a practical exercise would reveal all sorts of ammunition and anecdotes the Tories could then use against the Opposition (especially as the Shadow Cabinet is just as divorced from ordinary people as any other elite political group).

The individual is responsible, not the social class

"Condemn the guilty person, not an entire class" says the Independent newspaper, quoting from an article today by Owen Jones.

Essentially he is saying that the individual is responsible, not the social class.

Is it possible that he is really saying:  there is no such thing as society, only individuals and families?


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Jigme Gyatso

Credit where it is due.

China has done the right thing by releasing Jigme Gyatso.


The best way to neutralise opposition is to engage with it - to understand all is to forgive all.

A television channel focused entirely on high culture

In an interview on the Today programme this morning Michael Grade said that there was not enough differentiation between BBC2 and BBC4.

Personally I would like to see a television channel focused entirely on high culture, and specifically the high culture of the Western Canon.

It would be a continuous reminder of who we are and where we have come from (and also a pointer of where we should be going).

Football is fascist in the most profound sense

Frenzied responses across the political spectrum to the "di Canio is a fascist" furore. 

Sundar Katwala is typical, although there are many thousands of other examples of weedy lefty intellectuals bigging-up their masculine man-of-the-people credentials by expressing an over-the-top interest in football (although curiously Alastair Campbell has yet to make a statement).

Kevin Maguire has written a huffing and puffing article in the Daily Mirror expressing outrage but not saying much else:  http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/paolo-di-canio-fascism-row-1797425

What no-one has yet done is to point to the obvious correlations between football and fascism.

Football is fascist in the most profound sense of the word:  the myth of an all-conquering all-powerful master elite; the cult of an all-knowing leader who can work miracles; the insistence on complete obedience to the leader; the celebration of hardness and toughness and (let's be honest) brutalism; the idea of the physical perfectibility of humanity and the rejection of anyone injured or disabled; the culture of masculinity with (straight) men as the only ones who matter and women reduced to adoring spectators; the populist excitement of the masses and their simultaneous impotence in decision-making; the hatred (not an exaggeration) of the masses for rivals and competitors; the commitment to the idea of unending perpetual struggle that will never be resolved...

I could go on.

I am surprised that Zoe Williams or Marina Hyde or Julie Bindel has not already rushed to print with a feminist rejection of the fascist way in which football dominates society (and dominates politics if the enthusiasm of Sundar Katwala, Alastair Campbell, Damian McBride et al is to be taken seriously).

Monday, April 01, 2013

The newspapers today

Reading the newspapers today I can recommend:

Graham Harvey in The Times with a very intelligent argument about the need to return to labour-intensive agriculture  http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3727826.ece

Tim Montgomerie in The Times with a cogent argument on the need to strengthen the institution of the family http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/timmontgomerie/article3727837.ece

John Harris in The Guardian about the need to get real with public attitudes to Labour's client state http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/31/we-have-to-talk-why-some-want-benefit-cuts

Malahide Castle just outside Dublin

April Fool's joke by BMW.  Quite an expensive joke as the media space is half-page four-colour in national newspapers.  Presumably they are aiming at brand awareness.

But what caught my eye was the castle in the background.

This is Malahide Castle just outside Dublin.  It is owned by the Republic of Ireland government.  Therefore it is extremely unlikely they would fly British flags (which look dropped in).

The account exec on this job was not paying attention.