Sunday, 28 August 2011

I had not thought death had undone so many

In an irony T S Eliot might himself have appreciated, and perhaps incorporated into one of his earlier poems, it is proposed to build 3700 houses in the fields next to East Coker, home of Eliot's ancestors, resting place of his own mortal remains and inspiration for the second of his Four Quartets - and, to its enduring misfortune, near neighbour of Yeovil.

A council spokesman said: "We absolutely acknowledge their concerns and we will look at each and every one of the comments that we have received."

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.

It is difficult to judge what the later Eliot would really have thought of it. There would be no doubt with John Betjeman, but perhaps that means he was the surer, but less weighty poet. Eliot's poetry is still, in some sense, the touchstone of the 'modern', although it almost suggests, at times, a place in Private Eye, and the occasion of his writing is nearly a century in the past.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

In a statement, Ric Pallister (perhaps he could drop the 't' by deed poll), leader of the Liberal Democrat-run South Somerset District Council, said it was "very definitely not in our interests to destroy East Coker or its setting".
He added, as he measured out his life in planning policies, a fate from which Eric Pickles, as immortalised in his new vision of England known as The Waste Land, is shortly to release him: "The proposals, which are still a work in progress in themselves, so far suggest that the general area to the south of Yeovil could be the best direction for growth, but there are no proposals to develop East Coker village."

Perhaps he should seek the advice of Ezra Pound, Il miglior fabbro. He'd cut out a thing or two. Come to think of it, what would Pound have done with the Four Quartets?

The young Pound

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part
The older Pound, by Gaudier Brzeska

Gaudier Brzeska: not to be confused with the above
 Sophie Brzeska met Henri Gaudier-Brzeska in Paris in 1910 and they were together until he left for the Front in France.

Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska died intestate in the Gloucestershire Mental hospital at Barnwood in March 1925. H.S.Ede acquired her estate in 1927 from the Treasury Solicitor, it included not only her writings, but also the estate of Henri Gaudier, with many of his works and papers. Ede drew extensively on the letters written by Gaudier to Sophie and her writings and other material when he published ‘A Life of Gaudier-Brzeska’ in 1930.

Sophie Brzeska

Jim Ede

Friday, 26 August 2011


Fairness again

A large number of non-travelling traveller families are about to be evicted from ex-scrap-yard green (not brown) belt land where they have been living without planning permission near Basildon for some years.

Whether or not travellers want still to be travelling I do not know. I would guess they mostly do not, but, since the government some time ago removed the obligation (never fulfilled) on local authorities to provide pitches for travellers, it has not been practically possible within the law. In the semi-settled state that travellers now maybe prefer to exist, both encouraged by the seductions of our mainstream society and constrained by its regulations, they may be less acceptable to settled society than if they were still moving on.

I have no direct knowledge or experience of this realm of life: I might be as rabidly anti-traveller as some of the burgers of Basildon if they were camped outside my front door. What caught my eye was David Cameron's use of that word - as he expressed support in the Commons for the Basildon council's eviction plan, using a particularly notorious firm of bailiffs, courting the condemnation of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Commission for Racial Equality, and costing the tax-payer up to £18 million (couldn't one buy each family a nice terraced house for that sum, or the one square mile that it is estimated would accommodate all the travelling families in the UK? - call for a 'pathfinder' project here) - his use of that word - "fairness" (or rather "unfairness"):

“My honourable friend has persistently raised this case and this issue in the Commons. I know he speaks for many people about the sense of unfairness that one law applies to everybody else and, on too many occasions, another law applies to Travellers.”

So here again that idea of "fairness" is used to justify the imposition of suffering on some segment of our society. I have protested against the political mobilisation of this idea before. I agree that fairness is a wonderful thing, but have we not all, as parents, had, in the practical world as it is, to deal with the childish whine, "It's not fair!"? We must strive to treat people fairly, but sometimes generosity of spirit has to accept that the idea can be used to justify pettiness and selfishness.

As Anatole France put it, "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." He could have said "fairness forbids".

It all depends how you look at it:

"But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."

Which hole did we leave the money in?

Knighted for services to digging

Sir’ Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, the world’s largest advertising/publicity/media conglomerate, which he is perpetually promising to return to a UK tax base (returning the compliment of his knighthood), but not just yet (like the uncle who rewraps your Christmas present each year), has announced yet another bumper set of financial results. He points out that western corporations are sitting on several trillion dollars worth of ‘largely unleveraged’ assets, and that, by way of quaint illustration, Apple recently boasted greater assets than the US Treasury. Rather than invest in productive capacity (guess why), according to Sir Martin, those corporations are reinforcing their brands, thus accounting for WPP’s current success.

So western business have no faith that economies are set to grow but are spending to try to hijack business from their competitors and ensure that their brands are the last to drop off the public’s shrinking shopping list.

Sir Martin, however, still backs the UK government’s economic policy of cutting the deficit ahead of all else. It’s just as you do with any company, he explained, you get the balance sheet right first… Some may find it depressing that not only so many businessmen but also so many politicians profess to believe that the principles for running a national economy are indistinguishable from those for running a private company, or even a household budget.

Meanwhile banks, despite their plunging share values (and who holds bank shares apart from other banks and financial/ investment corporations?) have some largish amounts of money too (albeit not large enough). ‘The US banks are not lending but not because they don't have the money. The Big US banks have $1.7 trillion on overnight deposit in the NY FED. Most of that is QE money. It is doing nothing for anyone except the banks. US tax payers 'gave' it to them and the banks are now being paid interest on it ... by the tax payer.’

The only show, or hole, in town
‘Hopes that the Bank of England could unleash a new round of quantitative easing to rescue the ailing economy were boosted on Thursday when a member of its monetary policy committee said there was "undoubtedly scope" to restart the recession-busting policy if necessary.’ The member in question is said not yet to think it is necessary but today in the US and elsewhere all eyes are turned to Jackson Hole, former beaver trapping location, in the hope that Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, is about to announce the third round of US quantitative easing. Opinion is by no means unanimous that QE3 is either desirable or possible but ‘David Blanchflower, economics professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and a former member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, believes that QE3 is the "only show in town" for the Fed.’

It has been pointed out that, with the fantastic concentration not only of wealth but of influence and financial decision-making in a very few hands, western economies are becoming effectively not ‘free-market’ but planned and directed economies, essentially similar in structure to the Soviet economy before the collapse of communism.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


St Mary's church, Whitby was built in the twelfth century but has aisles, galleries (mostly accessed by outside stairways), lanterns (more nautical than ecclesiastical) and box pews, all cobbled together in a strange, makeshift, seafaring sort of way in the eighteenth century, with the result that the altar is effectively shunted away, off centre, and attention focusses on the three-decker pulpit. Arched windows have been replaced with big Georgian fenestration and it is easy to imagine the church packed with the anxious families of seafaring men, with their eyes half on the weather outside as they listen to the sermon.

Inside, amongst the sea of box pews, is a strange muddle of columns: Georgian wooden supports for the galleries, rather crudely done out in painted marbling and older, presumably stone structural columns painted over in best buff gloss paint, for all the world like ship's stanchions repeatedly painted over against the sea-born rust. In the late eighteenth century Whitby was the third most important ship-building town in England, after London and Newcastle.

One of the box pews (not one of those marked 'For strangers only') has a neat canvass cover stretched right across the top and a notice explains:

In times past it was the duty of our Church Maid to cover every privately owned or rented pew after the Service each Sunday. This was to prevent the chimney smuts from the cottages below the Church settling in the pews and spoiling the occupants' best Sunday Clothes.

There is a Church Maid still, but smuts are no longer much in evidencen and, even if they were, I doubt many of the congregation still attend in capitalised best Sunday Clothes.

Whitby, and its then newly founded but already flourishing abbey (now standing ruined a little distance from the church), was the site of the Synod of 664 which settled such matters as calculating the date of Easter and the correct form of monkish tonsures, and, in perhaps a historically ill-informed view, reconciled the Celtic and Roman traditions and practices within the British church.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Mamon in the pulpit


Markets sink. It is said to be a reaction to the lack of political and governmental grip on the economic situation.

Markets are always said to dislike instability but are also intensely opposed to what they see as governmental interference, including 'over-regilation'. Neither seems exactly true. They surely like an underlying stability (which only governments can, in part, provide) and then the freedom to speculate and manipulate trades against that background. One needs something to bet against. No-one makes quick profits out of complete stability, when change is slow, gradual and foreseeable by everyone.

A shambles is literally a slaughterhouse. It later became applied to warrens of city streets where artisans and traders lived and conducted their businesses. Now it means an incompetent mess. Markets are as scared as the rest of us.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

New commonwealth

Continuing my thoughts from the previous post, I was struck by another phenomenon of present-day government and social-political thought, not parallel, not even tributary, but somewhere in the same river system.

There is considerable renewed debate about slums, now of course vaster and more intractable than anything in history. New ideas are developing as to how they should be dealt with. There are still old-fashioned slum clearance schemes, in the Philippines, for example, slums are being razed and their inhabitants relocated in neat rows of concrete boxes well away from water supplies or sources of work.

That might fit closer to the habits of forcible state intervention that I deplore and yet there is perhaps a closer relationship with the new modern ideas of the positive value of slums and slum communities. Slum dwellers are recognised for their resourcefulness and social cohesion, and also for their utility to the more privileged classes whose rubbish they recycle and lawns they water (with fresher and more bountiful supplies than they themselves have to drink). There is even a suggestion (only in part deliberately provocative) that what London needs for its better functioning is an inner-city slum.

We are approaching here an advocacy of a social equilibrium of conflict and dependence, a muted version of the state policies of Israel and apartheid South Africa. It is perhaps not a new phenomenon, but it signals the end of that active hope of state directed universal social amelioration that was born (in our country) of Victorian civic pride, responsibility and benevolence and found its last flowering in the post-war welfare state, now crumbling, unloved and vilified alike by those who pay for it and those who benefit from it.

That model may not have been totally different from the eighteenth-century idea of the lady from the big house going down to the farm labourers' cottages with a basket of bread and religious tracts, but it was often driven by individuals who themselves came from the poorer layers of society but had risen to be safely distanced from them (but still enmeshed) by commercial or political advancement. They may or may not have envisaged a radical transformation of society but their benevolence did reach to educational improvement (through mechanics' institutes, libraries, galleries and schools) as well as material relief.

It worked for a while, and perhaps only faltered as the beneficiaries increasingly became the 'middle classes' who exercised a finer personal cost-benefit calculus than their predecessors. And took to reading the Daily Mail.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Club card government

In a 'rare intervention' into the domestic political arena, from which he has triumphantly ascended, Tony Blair has advised us that the recent riots (predicted incidentally by Nick Clegg before the election, when he was campaigning against, not in tandem with the Conservatives) were not the result (as David Cameron says) of a general moral decline in society, nor (as Blair's successors in the Labour Party suggest) the result of the coalition government's policies and cuts. According to Blair, the rioters are a distinct and discrete canker - the great bulk of society has nothing in common with the rioters.

It is probably true that there are, among the rioters, people from whom most of us would feel deeply alienated and with whom we would find it almost impossible to forge any relationship. Yet one has only to follow the reporting of the riots and of the court appearances since to see that also amongst them were many who were far from being hard-bitten social disfunctionals and who were either almost surprised at what they had done, or whose alienation was almost trivial; people that is who were responding to a social and cultural development rather than creating it through the force of their malign personalities.

Tony Blair's remedy is 'early intervention' - special state 'support' targetted at distinct individuals and families, preferably identified before they actually offend by information gathered against a range of theoretical or statistical indicators. Blair began this in his final years in office; Brown abandonned it; but, Blair now says, "the papers and the work are still there" handily lying in government offices waiting for Cameron to pick up, once he sees the light.

I find there is always something chilling about Blair's approach. Social institutions and relationships are not at fault or in need of adjustment; rather it is malfunctioning individuals who are to receive the specific ministrations of the state to ensure that they fit the social model. It is not that I think people cannot be deeply influenced and changed by encounters with others, but when the interaction is part of an organised programme conducted by a state or social body, one is in different territory. Perhaps there is something of Blair's churchly inclinations here, but it also makes me think of a different model - the supermarkets, those new Jesuits of the consumer society. Our habits and doings are monitored by government data-gathering, like the supermarket 'club card' (this is a club we are "all in together"), but, unlike Tesco amending its stocking and marketing to fit demand, the government moulds the recalcitrant individual to fit society.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Whitby gravestone

At the top of the almost 200 steps leading up to Whitby church, as one enters the churchyard, one is faced with a gravestone directly exposed to the northern winds. The gravestone has long since been weathered to a gently undulating, scoured surface, devoid of all inscription except for the bottom few lines, which through the years have been sheltered from the elements by a low-lying grave in front. There, after puzzling as to whether she died aged 51 or 61 or maybe younger, one can make out the final sentence of the inscription:

She found in Christ that happiness which the world cannot give.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Peak oil

Indisputable evidence that it has arrived.

Friday, 19 August 2011


We seem to the walking calmly to our execution. Stock markets are tumbling, lead by a collapse in bank shares. Société Générale's share price has fallen by almost a half over the past month. Americans are losing confidence in European banks and suspect they have hidden their nastiest risks in their US branches. Everywhere things are slowing and confidence declining. National authorities seem not to know whether to co-operate or compete in rescue efforts.

Meanwhile, we have a little rioting in the streets but nothing that some wise words and stiff sentences won't deal with; the Murdochs move towards their nemesis; politicians return to their interrupted holidays.

August must end sometime.

All-terrain ices

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Rats cleared

Recent analysis of archaeological and documentary evidence suggests that the 1348-49 Black Death cannot have been spread by rats and fleas. It is not even clear that it was bubonic plague.

The spread of the disease was too rapid for rats to have been the carriers (and there were probably not enough of them anyway). It is estimated that between half and two-thirds of London's population of 60,000 died. Less than ten years later London merchants claimed that a third of all property in the city was empty.

Panicked people rushed to make their wills; as many were being made in a week as in a normal year. It is likely that the rich died as much as the poor, because they lived and worked so closely packed together - as still they did in Dickens's London.

At least some things have finally improved.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

He counted them all out...

According to Max Hastings in the Daily Mail, the rioters “are essentially wild beasts. They respond only to instinctive animal impulses – to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others. Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no-one even shot them for it… At the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. They do not have what most of us would call ‘lives’. They simply exist. Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything least of all Britain or their community. They do not watch royal weddings or notice test matches or take pride in being Londoners or Scousers or Brummies. Not only do they know nothing of Britain’s past, they care nothing for its present. They have their being only in video games and street fights, casual drug use and crime, sometimes petty, sometimes serious. The notions of doing a nine to five job, marrying and sticking with a wife and kids, taking up DIY or learning to read properly, are beyond their imaginations.”

Mr Hastings has presumably no more direct personal acquaintance with any individuals in this class of “wild beasts” than I have with individuals in the privileged financial classes, and it does not occur to him that the latter could equally be said to “respond only to instinctive animal impulses – to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others”, except that the latter do it on a grander and more ‘elegant’ scale. Or that the financial classes who have laid our economy low make an explicit bargaining point of the fact that they do not “feel any allegiance to anything least of all Britain” – and in their case it has often, but vainly, been suggested to them that they should, after receiving more public subvention than the rioters could dream of.

The idea of Mr Bob Diamond watching the royal wedding on his telly before pottering off to do a little DIY around his oh-so-affordable house is delightful in the extreme and will no doubt do much in coming weeks to re-cement our society.

People will notice that in his list of the deprivations endured by the rioters (“no skills, education, values or aspirations”) Max Hastings curiously omits “jobs” – only to refer to them later as something these people might take up if they only wished, like DIY or literacy lessons.

With Mr Hastings lamenting that the rioters cannot be shot, like polar bears who have, through no fault of their own, got into the wrong place, and with Melanie Phillips, in the same Daily Mail, telling us that it is all the result of a “three-decade liberal experiment which tore up virtually every basic social value. The married two-parent family, educational meritocracy, punishment of criminals, national identity, enforcement of drugs laws, and many other fundamental conventions were all smashed by a liberal intelligentsia hell bent on a revolutionary transformation of society” – with people like this bending the ears and understanding of middle England, hope is low indeed.

Banks to go

Société Générale
Bank of America

Monday, 15 August 2011


"For me the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing that I have spoken about for years. It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to feel that the world owes them something, that their rights outweign their responsibilities and that their actions do not have consequences."

The Prime Minister was talking about (tick one only):

A. International bankers
B. English rioters
C. The 1922 Committee
D. Presidents of the IMF

Now complete the following sentence in not more than 144 alpha-numeric characters (additional credit will be given for numeric characters, especially those with a negative value):

"The best way to mend the broken society is by..."

Send your entry on a postcard (entries submitted by social networking services will be ignored) to:

The Rt Hon. David Cameron PC MP
House of Commons
London WC1

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Old deal; new deal: a Modesto proposal

Modesto Post Office, California - any offers?

In the 1930s, as the United States struggled with depression and widespread poverty, one of the government measures was to implement a widespread programme of public works, providing facilities and infrastructure of public benefit and lasting quality.

Amongst these was a series of Post Office buildings. ‘In less than a decade, the Roosevelt administration built over 1,100 post offices, distinguished by fine architecture, materials and detailing, as well as by a lavish programme of public art that, for the first time, reflected back to patrons and workers their regional identity.’

Eight decades later, as the United States struggles with a new depression and public corporations and services face declining budgets and mounting debts, one of the solutions proposed is to sell off to private bidders those buildings erected for public benefit and the economic, social and cultural stimulation of ordinary people.

Meanwhile it is reported:
The US Postal Service "has announced radical plans to cut one in five jobs, reduce services and water down [that is, ask Congress to legislate to release them from legally binding agreements with unions] staff retirement and healthcare deals as the government agency struggles to keep costs in line with plunging demand."


I hope people anxious to understand what is going on day by day in the economy and the 'markets' and how to interpret their newspaper headlines (UK "bank shares rally", "US stocks soare,") are following golem XIV thoughts, the insider's outsider.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Memo to PM

"...the look of many city centres has improved beyond all recognition as a direct result of urban regeneration policies. Yet it still only takes five minutes to walk from the sparkling Liverpool One shopping complex to the first block of boarded-up flats. The shopping centre provides low-paying jobs in an environment that encourages high spending, and does nothing to stimulate the local economies of nearby areas.
"We can't ignore what geographers such as Danny Dorling have been stating for years. Polarisation between rich and poor areas, as much as between rich and poor people, has been increasing since the 70s, in large part because regeneration projects have not been able to make good the simple fact that wages and employment prospects at the bottom have collapsed while those at the top have gone through the roof."

As I walk through the streets and parks of poor areas of London I can only feel that their state betokens a kind of contempt among the 'enabled' classes for their residents, and that  the rescuing of these environments must be beyond their residents' capacities. I can only wonder what they feel when they travel to the well manicured environs of Kensington or Notting Hill.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Man overboard!

It's remarkable how keen voyagers become to throw their fellow passengers to the sharks once the boat gets leaky.

It's time for straight talking among nations. Of course it's open season on the USA now, post Standard and Poors, with India climbing into the pulpit, and China warning that the US needs to cure itself of its 'debt addiction' (a little like your drug dealer advising you to lay off the hard stuff) and to do away with its 'bloated social security spending'. (Chinese style of welfare for the US - that should appeal to the Tea Party.) Oh, and of course China recommends defence cuts. Maybe axing patent protection efforts could come nest.

Elsewhere Saudi Arabia, that bastion of human rights, is telling Syria it really has gone beyond the pale. And the Iranian police have contacted London's Metropolitan Police advising them to show restraint in dealing with rioters.

There's always someone available to put you right.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The weather in the streets

When, as we are seeing now in London and in other cities in the UK, public disorder develops to a degree of violence that is directed against not only symbols of authority and privilege, but against the lives and livelihoods of ordinary, unassuming people, the tendency is for the reaction to switch to pure moral disapproval. That of course is justified, but, in terms of public policy, not really helpful. (About as helpful as saying the devil is abroad tonight.) Normally people, however much greed and violence may lurk somewhere within them (and it will always lurk somewhere), do not behave in this way. They are restrained by accepted social order and social values. The question is, what has happened in our society for those restraints to have broken down and how can it be remedied.

The sight of politicians belatedly flying back from their holidays to issue stern statements of disapproval and bolster riot control measures does not inspire confidence that they have any real awareness of what is happening within our society.

"We're all in this together." Cameron says, "People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain's streets and make them safe for the law-abiding." Just as they are doing "everything necessary" to save the economy. When a politician says he or she is "doing everything necessary" you can be sure they do not know what to do.

Yet, when politicians are out of policy bullets for dealing with economic or social collapse (no more talk from Cameron now about our 'broken society'), they can always turn to real, plastic ones. There is public demand now for firm policing against rioters. Water canon and plastic bullets may be deployed. If they are we will soon see them used against violence in political demonstrations. And if one thing is certain it is that there will be, in this country, soon, more violent political demonstrations.

As one policewoman said guarding the burned out shell of a derelict building set on fire on Brunswick Road: "It's madness. No-one can understand it." 

And this is Gloucester, a cathedral city in the south-west with a population of less than 150,000.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Israelis march for lower living costs.

What happens when the US has to start cutting its aid?

Monday, 8 August 2011

The port of his Quality

At the dawn of the eighteenth century in England there were certainties and proprieties that we can only dream of. John Digby died without issue (despite his second wife’s having ‘possessed his affections entire’) and his titles became extinct, but we may be assured that his qualities survived him and flourished.

Perhaps also we should take heart that more may survive from that golden age than at first appears: great men who achieve little in the holding of public office, and the condescension of the worthy to their inferiors.

Lord John was briefly Member of Parliament (Tory) for Dorset 1675-77, Lord Lieutenant of Dorset 1679-98 and Vice-Admiral of Poole, but he fails to rank an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, and I fancy Rachel, who survived him, was the true office holder. It seems that so busy was she with the utmost proofs of the reality of her late husband’s perfect friendship and confidence, that she had not even the time to look up the exact date of his first wife’s death.

Here Lyes John Lord Digby Baron Digby of Sherborne and Earl of Bristol

Titles to which ye merit of his Grandfather first gave lustre.
And which he himself laid down unsully’d.

He was naturally enclined to avoid the Hurry of a publick Life,
Yet carefull to keep up the port of his Quality.
Was willing to be at ease but scorned obscurity;
And therefore never made his Retirement a pretence to draw
Himself within a narrower compass or to shun such expence
As Charity, Hospitality, & his Honour call’d for.
His Religion was that which by LAW is Established;
And the Conduct of his life shew’d the power of it in his Heart.

His distinction from others never made him forget himself or them.
He was kind & obliging to his Neighbours, generous & condescending
to his inferiors, and just to all Mankind.
Nor had the temptations of honour & pleasure in this world
Strength enough to withdraw his Eyes from that great
Object of his hope, which we reasonably assure ourselves
he now enjoy’s.

He Dyed Sept XII: Ann: Dom: MDCICVIII.

His first wife was ALICE, the daughter and Heir of ROBERT BOURN of BLAKE-HALL in the COUNTY of ESSEX Esquire
She was Marry’d the 26th of May 1656
DY’d in May 1658

His second wife was RACHEL ye Daughter and one of the Coheirs of Sr. HUGH WINDHAM of SILTON in ye COUNTY of DORSET KNIGHT.
Who possess’d his Affection entire.
With whom he lived in perfect friendship and Confidence and to whom he left the utmost proofs of theire reality.
She Dy’d the 16th of Feb. 1708.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

War zone

The fire next time

North London, 6 August 2011
Is this simply explained as a reaction to a fatal police shooting and alleged cover-up?

A local resident reported, "The police seem very frightened at the moment, people are unstoppable. They've broken into various businesses, jewellery shops, bookies, it's absolutely crazy. They've beaten up a man for talking to the fire brigade."

People do not behave like this unless they are seriously alienated from authority and wider society.

James Baldwin’s book was published in 1963 and was about the position of black Americans, but its observations apply to many alienated communities within western societies still.

“…the white man’s profound desire not to be judged by those who are not white, not to be seen as he is.”

“We are controlled by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels. Privately, we cannot stand our lives and dare not examine them; domestically, we take no responsibility for (and no pride in) what goes on in our country; and, internationally for many millions of people, we are an unmitigated disaster.”

“How can one respect, let alone adopt, the values of a people who do not, on any level whatever, live the way they say they do, or the way they say they should? “

“The Negroes of this country may never be able to rise to power, but they are very well placed indeed to precipitate chaos and bring down the curtain on the American dream.”

“I know that what I'm asking is impossible. But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand—and one is, after all, emboldened by the spectacle of human history in general, and American Negro history in particular, for it testifies to nothing less than the perpetual achievement of the impossible.”

Baldwin’s title comes from the negro spiritual, ‘Mary, don’t you weep’, "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water the fire next time."

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A poorer standard

Standard and Poors’ downgrading the USA’s credit rating seems to me a little like saying, ‘We don’t think oxygen is so good for breathing anymore; suggest you try something else.’

Some day we are going to have to recognise that oxygen is all we’ve got, even if it is a little less magic than some people once suggested.

As far as I can understand it, the banks created a whole lot (well, more than that) of money, as debt, attached to things that weren’t actually worth all that much. As that became apparent, they persuaded others to take the near-worthless things onto their books – greater investment fools (including many of their fellow banks) and, ultimately, governments (ie ordinary people).

So began the great merry-go-round, with the people who think they own the stuff, and who therefore think they are wealthy (let’s call them the bondholders), periodically getting worried that those responsible for paying back the debt to them (at some point) may perhaps be unable to do it. So the debt has to be shuffled off onto someone else, who currently looks a little more bright and shining – a bigger, better bank, a government, an international body. Ah! – that looks better. For a while. But it’s still the same old debt, backed by the same old overvalued asset. So the relief doesn’t last long.

It won’t get better until they realise it’s only air.

Meanwhile the trick may be to ensure that the fetid parcel is in the hands of common people when the music stops, but the fly in the ointment is that common people, even if they are to be economically wiped out, do not have the resources to support the currently inflated aspirations to wealth of the privileged classes. It is going to be dog eat dog, and no quarter given.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Street games

It seems we can no longer play that game of our innocent childhood, ‘kicking the can down the road’. The game now is 'lengthening the fuse on the bomb', a new kind of 'chicken'.

A commentary on the agreement among political factions in the USA for raising the debt ceiling, carried by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, attacked the "madcap farce of brinksmanship" and warned that the deal "failed to defuse Washington's debt bomb for good, only delaying an immediate detonation by making the fuse an inch longer".

No doubt the Financial Health and Safety Agency will be on to this dangerous practice soon. Meanwhile the Chinese are trying to take their own precautions.

‘China is the world's second largest economy and the largest holder of US debt. It has more than $1tr of treasuries in its foreign exchange holdings, valued at around $3tr.’

Zhou Xiaochuan, ‘Chinese economist, banker, reformist, bureaucrat and governor of the People's Bank of China since December 2002’, added ‘that China would continue seeking to diversify its reserves. The challenge it faces is finding suitable alternatives.’

To the uninitiated that sounds remarkably close to saying that the Chinese have woken up to find that their wealth is in fact worthless and they can see nothing else of value to buy instead.

Xinhua 'added that "runaway debt addiction...[could] jeopardise the well-being of hundreds of millions of families within and beyond the US borders".'

'Some Chinese economists warned spending cuts could affect China's growth by slowing the US recovery. "US consumption will be definitely hurt a lot by the austerity deal and we can no longer count on the once-biggest foreign market in the future," said Ding Yifan, a researcher at the Development Research Centre under the State Council.'

You can tell it is serious because Barclays head honcho, Mr ‘Spare a Bob’ Diamond has wheeled himself out of the counting house to warn us all that if this country were to get up to such shenanigans it would be curtains for us, and maybe even him, though his curtains are more heavily braided and bomb-proof than most of us can afford. So keep up the good work, Mr Osborne (scion of those well-known curtain-traders to the gentry, Osborne and Little).

Monday, 1 August 2011


Bill Gates has sold another 5 million Microsoft shares raising about $137,950,000 to fund further his charitable foundation. According to the Guardian, "The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is making $42m available for eight universities to develop a toilet that does not need a sewer connection, water or electricity to operate. The aim is to improve people's health in parts of the world where there are few if any flushable toilets."

Perhaps someone should mention to him Henry Moule's dry earth closet, first patented in 1873 and adopted in private houses, in rural districts, in military camps, in many hospitals, and extensively in the British Raj - and also by Thomas Hardy's family, which was related to him. An early example can be seen in an outhouse at Thomas Hardy's cottage.

Moule, educated at Marlborough College and St John's College Cambridge, spent his life as an Anglican curate and then vicar in Dorset. During the cholera epidemics of 1849 and 1854 his exertions were unwearied. Impressed by the insalubrity of the houses, especially in the summer of 1858 (the Great Stink) he turned his attention to sanitary science, and invented what is called the dry earth system. In partnership with James Bannehr, he took out a patent for the process (No. 1316, dated 28 May 1860). Among his works bearing on the subject were: ‘The Advantages of the Dry Earth System,’ 1868; ‘The Impossibility overcome: or the Inoffensive, Safe, and Economical Disposal of the Refuse of Towns and Villages,’ 1870; ‘The Dry Earth System,’ 1871; ‘Town Refuse, the Remedy for Local Taxation,’ 1872, and ‘National Health and Wealth promoted by the general adoption of the Dry Earth System,’ 1873.