Friday, 31 December 2010

Honours and the New Year, as night follows day.

On the brink of another  New Year, and we are assaulted as per usual  by the honours list.  What a charade! Why do people, who ought to know better,  actually accept  these awards?
Their history dates back as far as Anglo Saxon times when the monarch honoured  his loyal subjects with rings and other symbols of favour. The Normans introduced knighthoods, and The Order of the Garter was created by Edward 111.
Each year approximately 2,600 people receive awards personally from the Queen. The ceremony for receiving these is at Buckingham Palace and follows a tradition begun in 1876, it's a complicated ritual that involves members of the Yeomen of the Guard who were created  in 1485. It is rare that anyone refuses the offer of a reward, though Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in 1919.
In 1925 when Prime Minister David Lloyd George was found to be selling honours  some reform was brought about . In 1976 during Harold Wilson's government  there was  another scandal named the  'Lavender List', then in 2006-2007 during Tony Blair's premiership the  'Cash for Honours'  scandal  came to light, this was to do with the connection between political donations and the award of Life Peerages.
Once upon a time Life Peerages were awarded to members of the landowning aristocracy and royal favourites, now a variety of people from all walks of life are given honours including this year a sheep farmer, a circus ringmaster, and a nun.
This year 979 honours have been given , these include 842 received at MBE and OBE level. The 'man in the street' who works for the poor and needy, gives his/her time to charity does it because he wants to, and never for a reward, so why give him one?  But these honours   to 'ordinary folk' do  give a pleasing gloss to  honours given to the undeserving at a much higher level.
Patronage is the insidious  way the powerful keep their hold over the people.  Unworthy names still slip through, - thank yous for  favours given to governments,  for keeping their mouths shut at the appropriate moment,  or for turning a blind eye at the appropriate moment. For example the City veteran  Roger Carr  is listed this year despite his involvement in the sale of Cadbury, he is also chairman of the energy giant Centrica responsible for  large gas price rises!    Martin Broughton, despite the problems at British Airways receives a knighthood! The list goes on and on.   Isn't it about time we threw off the shackles and stopped grovelling to  these ancient patronising rituals?

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Politicians are 'shite', pure 'shite'.

From a young age politicians  nostrils sense the odour of power.
Despite their protestations of being 'oh so benevolent', of going into politics 'to make a difference', of 'offering something to society', their only ambition is to gain power.
Margaret Thatcher built an organisation that had 'ideal ends' and therefore an excuse for the love of power. This inevitably produced a superiority, a ruthlessness and an  unscrupulousness. The Tories have at least got it written on the front of the tin. They want to privatise, we know that. That's what they do.
The Newlabour party (euphemism for Tory party) fooled the people because they thought Thatcher's wholesale privatisation of the utilities, the railways, telephones, sale of the council houses etc would be rolled back, and some of the excesses of her 'reign' would be rectified. The utilities etc would be returned to the people who owned them in the first place. But no such luck! The NHS was 'got at', privatisation by creep was the order of the day.
Politicians are like that, they promise the moon when they are asking for your vote, but renege as soon as they get it. Worst of all these Newlabour champagne so called 'socialists' live the high life, do the deals, work the room, collect their kickbacks, and their swollen expenses. The ex Newlabour Prime Minister Tony Blair, John Prescott, Peter Mandelson, the architects of Newlabour have a lot to answer for!
So the word shit/shite/schite, an ancient and beautiful Anglo-Saxon word perfectly describes all types of politicians whether from the left, right or centre.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Samuel Beckett, the writer who hated fame.

Samuel Beckett was born to an Irish middle class protestant family in 1906. His original family name Becquet was rumoured to be of Huguenot origin. He grew up in a large house in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock.
As a boy he was a natural athlete but was dogged by an intense sense of loneliness, in fact, as a teenager he regularly stayed in bed until mid afternoon he felt so depressed. He studied French, English, and Italian at Trinity College Dublin 1923 - 1927.
In 1928 he moved to Paris where he soon met James Joyce who became a great influence upon him. He then travelled extensively through Ireland, France, England, and Germany writing all the time his stories and poems while earning money from doing odd jobs. Beckett settled in Paris in 1937, and remained there during the 2nd World War, fighting for the Resistance until 1942 when he was forced to flee with his French-born wife Suzanne Descheveaux-Dumesnil to the unoccupied zone. He said he "preferred France at War to Ireland at peace".
In 1945 he returned to Paris becoming well-known around the Left Bank cafes regularly playing chess with Marcel Duchamp and Alberto Giacometti. This was a particularly prolific period for his writing when he produced masterpieces such as Molloy, End Game, Malone Dies , and Waiting for Godot which was premiered at the Theatre de Babylone. This play in which "nothing happens" became an instant success. All of Beckett's major works were originally written in French even though English was his native language.
Beckett creates a landscape of lonely inadequate people who struggle to express the inexpressible. His characters attempt to communicate, but in vain. Life means waiting, killing time, and clinging to the hope that relief may be around the corner overcome by a sense of lonely bewilderment. Beckett himself had "little talent for happiness". In 1969 Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He was buried alongside his wife in the Cimetiere de Montparnasse, and his directive for the gravestone was, "any colour so long as it's grey".

Monday, 27 December 2010

Samuel Barber/Menotti/Scotland, part two.

Samuel Barber's lifelong partner was the Italian/American composer Gian Carlo Menotti. Born in Italy 1911, the two met at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. After they both graduated they bought a house together in Mount Kisco New York which they named Capricorn, and which they shared for 40 years.
He collaborated with Samuel Barber on several operas including Barber's most famous opera Vanessa for which he wrote the libretto. His most successful works were composed in the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1958 Menotti founded the Spoleto Festival in Italy, and its companion festival in Charleston South Carolina in 1977. In 1986 he extended the Spoleto festival concept to Melbourne, and this has now become The Melbourne International Arts Festival. It was in the field of opera that he made his most notable contribution to American cultural life.
In 1974 Menotti adopted Francis Phelan, an American actor and figure skater, and in the same year purchased the fine Robert Adam mansion house in the village of Gifford, East Lothian, Scotland. Yester House is a 17th century grade A-listed house with c85 palatial rooms plus 500 acres, situated 30 minutes from Edinburgh. He bought it on a 10 year loan, and on the marriage of his adopted son Francis to Malinda in 1985 gave it to them as a wedding present.
Gian Carlo Menotti was a sincere and sensitive man, a great composer who wanted to popularise opera, his dream was to develop the disused stables of his grand house and open a music school there, and was disappointed that due to lack of funds he was not able to do this. He died aged 95 in Monte Carlo in 2007.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

From Samuel Barber to Scotland...... part one.

Unfortunately Samuel Barber's lovely music is not as well known, and not played as much as it should be.
Samuel Barber was born 1910 to a distinguished and well to do Irish-American family in Pennsylvania. His father was a doctor and his mother a pianist. He began composing seriously in his late teens, and it was during this time at the Curtis Institute that he met Gian Carlo Menotti who became his partner in life as well as in their shared profession. At the Institute he was a triple prodigy, in voice, composition, and piano. Many of his early compositions were commissioned by famous artists such as Vladimir Horowitz, Francis Poulenc, and D. Fischer-Dieskau. Toscanini remarked of his Adagio for Strings in 1938 that it was "semplice e bella".
He won the Pulitzer prize twice, in 1938 for his opera Vanessa, (for which his life-long partner Gian Carlo Menotti wrote the libretto), and in 1963 for his Concerto for piano and orchestra. Amongst his finest works are his 4 concertos 1939 - 1962. He was badly affected by the adverse criticism of his 3rd opera Antony and Cleopatra which had been written and premiered for the opening of the Metropolitan Opera House 1966, and spent many years thereafter in isolation suffering from depression. He continued to write music until his death in New York 1981.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Popery on the BBC

The BBC appear to have a religious, a catholic itch. This morning radio 4 couldn't stop talking about the impending 'thought of the day' talk by the Pope. Why do the BBC want to inflict this catholic religious mumbo jumbo on us?
Somebody at the top of the BBC must be secretly very religious to have succumbed to this catholic lobbying. Who is it? There was no mention of the thousands of people who must have 'phoned in to complain.
Priests in the catholic church have committed untold damage, and the hierarchy have consistently failed to take a firm stand against the paedophiles in their midst. The Pope is simply using the BBC to massage his and the catholic churches image.
Yuk! we don't all pay our licence fee to have our ears assaulted by religious fairy stories. We pride ourselves on living in a secular society. BBC take note!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Super Markets?...nasty business.

Panorama on BBC tv last night came up trumps with an almost in depth programme about the 4 biggest supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsburys. Quite a denouement!
The programme went into the various aspects of factory farming, cut prices (to the detriment of smaller farmers), land grab and the bribery involved in gaining planning permission, false labelling, etc etc. Probably the worst aspect of their businesses is their desire to dominate almost every area of shopping. They want, in fact, to set up new towns out of town, so that the original town with its small specialist shops is totally destroyed. These voracious supermarkets want to gobble up everything in sight, and go hang the rest!
Probably the most scary aspect of the way these businesses are run is their total disregard for the natural lives of animals. They consider animals are machines, - See November blogs 'Battle for the Sanity of our Cows....', 'Whatever next?...Cows factory farmed in Lincolnshire....'. These blogs give details of the proposed factory at Nocton in Lincolnshire where thousands of cows are to be locked up in sheds and literally milked to death. This proposal is an outrage and should be fought at all costs!
It is up to government and councils to stop taking bribes, keep these outrageous supermarket businesses in check, and cease giving planning permission for more.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Saint Vincent of Cable shows his true colours.

So Saint Vincent is not as much of a saint as everybody thought he was! Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, he was too good to be true, but not any more. He's only a politician in granddad's clothing after all!
If the British electorate hadn't been undecided in their voting decisions at the last election, Mr. Cable and the rest of the Liberal Democrats wouldn't have had any power any way. Liberal Democrats fail to take this into account when they throw their weight around, foolishly sounding off to their 'faux' constituents. Mr. Cable deserves to be taken down a peg or two, he's been taken in by his own hubris, pride, and arrogance, the girlie giggling in the background of the constituency meeting when he spills the beans says it all. Didn't take long did it?
Think you may have to brush up on the ballroom dancing Saint Vincent, because your political life is almost finished.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Interview J Assange and John Humphreys, ...... awful

Radio 4 Today programme sank to a new low this morning. John Humphreys interview with Julian Assange was outrageous! It was conducted in a prurient and intrusive manner. It was aggressive and suggestive, and not in the least balanced. Why doesn't John Humphreys take on a real villain? Tony Blair for instance, who has been responsible for the deaths of thousands, and I can think of many other criminals in public life who could be given a good grilling. Good old BBC, go for the soft sensationalist target! The guy is doing us all a service by lifting up stones so we can see what's underneath. If governments had nothing to hide (that's what the powers that be are always telling us when they want to bring in more authoritarian surveillance), then why should they worry? 'They do not like it up 'em,' do they? Sarah Montague sounds more like a cackling hyaena every day, is she on drugs?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Fewer aeroplanes? Hooray! Less pollution.

Aeroplanes create many types of pollution, when fuelling, at takeoff, when landing, and while in flight, and for those who live in their flight paths noise is injurious to health. The huge growth in aviation is inevitably doing serious damage to our planet. During emergencies and delays fuel is often dumped into the air, this is particularly noticeable around airports where it lands on crops, gardens, rivers and lakes. During fueling, revving up, and taxiing there is an increase in hydrocarbon emissions. Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases, but there is no tax on aviation fuel, no vat on purchase of planes and no vat on airline tickets. One jet emits as much pollution as 7,000 cars over same period.
So, apart from the small tragedy of lost holidays etc, it's a great thing for the environment if less aeroplanes will be flying! Let's look forward to a time when people stop flying at the drop of a hat, sometimes only to shop, and spend a weekend over a novelty coffee. Time to be more altruistic, and think more about our planet?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Robert Frost, a sensitive poet, and snow....

Robert Frost was born in California 1874, of Scottish descent on his mother's side, and English descent on his father's. He sold his first poem 'My Butterfly: An Elegy' in 1894.He prospered at Harvard, then for 9 years he worked on his grandfather's farm in New Hampshire. Ultimately this was not a success, so between 1906 and 1911 he returned to being an English teacher. In 1912 he sailed to Britain with his family, stayed first in Glasgow, then went to Beaconsfield outside London. He wrote some of his best work while in England including his first book of Poems A Boy's Will in 1913 and while there met up with Ezra Pound, Edward Thomas and T.E.Hulme. At the start of World War 1 in 1915 he returned to US and bought a farm in New Hampshire, and pursued a career in teaching, writing, and lecturing. This home is still maintained today as Frost Place, a museum and poetry conference site. Until 1963 Frost spent every Summer and Autumn at the Bread Loaf Writers conference at Vermont.
He died in Boston in 1963. His epitaph was - "I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
by Robert Frost (c1923).

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake,
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Janet Daley,......... who the hell does she think she is?

What a rude awakening this morning when Janet Daley, that monstrous opinionated American woman journalist shouted down John Pilger and Sara Montague the interviewer in a discussion about Wikileaks on Radio 4 Today programme!
As usual the BBC were incapable of conducting a civilised balanced interview, and Sara Montague allowed the conversation to get completely out of control.
The discussion was between John Pilger a renowned thoughtful journalist and Janet Daley, an American loud mouth journalist. The women behaved intolerably, and the discussion descended into a shouting match between them with John Pilger in the middle hardly getting a look in. Who cares about her partial American thoughts anyway?

Because, for the moment, the US is top dog, and has been bullying its way around the world for a long time there will be plenty of leaks about them and their undiplomatic diplomacy. There are plenty of other injustices Wikileaks has exposed but that old American fish- wife Ms Daley isn't in the slightest interested in these. Methinks she doth protest too much! Having lived in Britain since 1965 she thinks we care about what she thinks, just because she went to Berkeley in the 1960s doesn't give her carte blanche to shout everyone down at some unearthly hour in the morning, and in defence of the indefensible!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Less SHARKS at sea, more 'sharks' on land....

Sharks - (Superorder Selachimorpha) are a type of fish. The earliest sharks date from 420 million years ago, and they include 440 species ranging from 6'7" to 39'4" in size.
If there is one thing a human being is frightened of, it's a shark, even though only a few are dangerous to human beings. Only c4 out of c340 species have been involved in unprovoked or fatal attacks, and Peter Benchley (of the film Jaws fame) in his later years tried to dispel the image of sharks as man eating monsters.
The great White shark, the Hammerhead, and the Tiger shark are at the top of the food chain, their extraordinary skills as predators fascinate and frighten human beings even though their survival is under serious threat from fishing and other human activities. Sharks in general cruise at 5mph, and can reach speeds of 31mph when feeding or attacking. Most sharks are carnivores and are found in all seas.
It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed every year for commercial and recreational fishing, particularly in Japan and Australia. They are often killed for shark's fin soup when the fins are cut off and stored on board ship and the bodies of the sharks are then cruelly thrown back into the water. The majority of shark fisheries have little monitoring or management. China and Japan battle all attempts to extend the 'Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species'. 'The Shark Trust' campaigns to limit shark fishing, and the advocacy group 'Seafood Watch' directs American consumers not to eat sharks.
So much for the sharks that innocently live in our seas, what about the 'sharks' that increasingly inhabit our land? They prey on anything they choose, plunder, steal, destroy without a moment's thought of tomorrow. They ignore the natural world at their peril! One day when it is too late human beings will weep to see the devastation they have caused. for more on sharks read:

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Julian almost out.......abortion nearly in, a modicum of Winter cheer!

Julian Assange is ALMOST out on bail! fingers up to Sweden. His supporters are now planning a low tech onslaught of leaflets and posters for the streets on the 18th December - 'Project Paperstorm'. Trust it will be a great success.
The European Court of Justice has set the wheels turning, and after nearly 20 years of resistance to allowing abortions in Ireland, the Catholic Church may have to change its ways. Primitive Catholic laws prevent women from having abortions even if their lives might be put in danger from not having one. These laws were put in place by men -Priests, but many women have gladly supported them, such is the high standard of brain washing in the Catholic Church! Let's hope that this EU ruling will act as the foot in the door, the thin end of the wedge. The hypocrisy of the Catholic Church is mind blowing.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The NHS, what ever are they up to? .... again!

Our magnificent National Health Service was set up in 1948, when the weather was awful, food still rationed, there was a shortage of fuel, and a dollar crisis. After the cataclysm of war an opportunity was provided to organise a new system of health care, most people believing that access to health care was part of a civilised society. Beveridge wanted to slay 'Want, Disease, Squalor, Ignorance and Idleness'.
In the 19th century health care was sporadic, relying on hospital charities, and the benevolent. The Webbs (well known socialists) argued for a state system, then there was the idea of an insurance system when you paid in when well to provide care needed when sick. In 1920 Lord Dawson put forward a plan on how the health service could be organised, and in 1929 local authorities took over Poor Law hospitals which were then serving ratepayers but not paupers. The LCC and Middx were doing a excellent job, but not the rest. In 1939 with the experience of WW2, an emergency medical service was instantly created, and in 1945 after various plans had been put forward by both Conservatives and Labour, Bevan presented a radically different plan favouring nationalisation. So, in a society wearied by war, but accustomed to austerity the NHS was started. Now we take the NHS for granted, yet it is only just over 60 years ago that health care was considered a luxury.
Since those early days the NHS has been under constant change. Politicians choosing to tinker at their peril with the 'free for all at the point of service' ethos. Now it is under its greatest financial and social pressure.
In 1997 under Newlabour 10 strategic authorities were put in charge of 200 Primary Care Trusts, but their new systems of financial flow, payment by results, and a tariff system destabilised NHS finances. NICE a new body was set up to assess the cost effectiveness of drugs. Mistakes were made in negotiation of contracts, particularly to GPs and Consultants, and that led to a temporary financial crisis in the NHS. Under Newlabour Private Sector organisations came to build and operate hospitals, and PPs to run clinical services etc.
Andrew Lansley, the new kid on the block plans to bring in 'efficiency savings', and Primary Care Trusts are to be replaced by GP led Consortiums. Why can't the NHS just be let alone for a bit, be allowed to find its own feet and not have to suffer another massive upheaval? Mr. Lansley reckons he will be saving money, but reorganisation is never cost free. Mr Lansley will have his own secret agenda and under cover of his promise to stop mixed sex wards he will be, like Newlabour privatising like mad by the back door!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Luton, an unprepossessing town

Luton is an ancient English town with its roots going back to Paleolithic settlements made c250.000 years ago. From the Neolithic period onwards the area seems to have been populated. The first urban settlements were Roman remains of scattered farmhouses.Luton is recorded in the Domesday Book as Loitone or Lintone when agriculture dominated the local economy. In 1137 Robert 1st Earl of Gloucester completed work on St. Mary's Church. The castle built in 1139 was demolished in 1154 and is now the site of the Matalan Store! During the Middle Ages Luton had 6 windmills, Mill Street in the town centre takes its name from one of these. In 1240 the town is recorded as Leueton, and in 1336 it was totally destroyed by a great fire. An important brick industry was developed so that many of the older wooden houses were replaced and rebuilt in brick. The hat making industry was developed in the 17th century and this industry became synonymous with Luton, and dominated the town in the 18th century. Hats are still produced in Luton but on a small scale. In 1801 the population was c3.000, by 1850 it was over 10.000, and by 1901 it was 39.000. Now the population of Luton is c240.000. Utilities, railways, water, gas etc all came in the mid 19th century, and in 1885 the football club was founded. The hat trade went seriously into decline in the 20th century, but in 1905 Vauxhall Motors built the largest car plant in the United Kingdom there, and Electrolux built their household appliances plant in Luton. The original Town Hall was burnt down by the people in 1919 due to general dissatisfaction after the 1st World War and was rebuilt in 1938. The town suffered serious air raids by the Luftwaffe during the 2nd World War because they were involved in the building of the Churchill tank. Slum clearance continued after WW2, and sadly a large part of the ancient town was cleared to make way for the shopping Centre - The Arndal opened 1972. In 2000 Vauxhall announced the end of car production and the plant closed in 2002. At its peak Vauxhall employed 30.000 workers, but does at least continue to make light commercial vehicles. There is a major refurbishment of the town underway at the moment but Luton has become a largely service based economy with some light industry, it is a major location for the University of Bedfordshire.
Luton has had several waves of immigration. The Scottish and the Irish during the early part of the 20th century, followed by Afro-Caribbean and Asian immigrants, and more recently immigrants from Eastern Europe. Only 63% of the people are employed in Luton, and unfortunately Luton has now become renowned for its extreme polarisation of views. The English Defense League operate from Luton, and several terrorist incidents appear to have had their inception in the town.
This town from its apparently normal English beginnings has developed into a town now labelled 'a hot bed of terrorism.' How could it get that way, and who would have thought it?

Monday, 13 December 2010

All Thatcher's children? What an insult!

It 'appears' we are all now children of Thatcher!
Under Thatcher's dictatorship British society was taken by the scruff of its neck and moulded. Never mind if we wanted our country re-shaped or not, she pushed on "..this lady's not for turning" she brazenly stated. How true! She believed she was on a crusade and by strength of character would force society to go along with her. She gained confidence, and financed a lot of her changes with the money that poured in from Scottish oil. The miners' strike was an outrage, and she got away with it, then she hobbled the unions (they did need some regulation), she then went on a mass privatisation kick. Railways, water, gas, telephones, council houses, and the rest, all sold off. She seemed to have forgotten that all of them belonged to us. People were wooed by short term gain in the form of shares, but it was her cronies and big business that gained in the end.
When Newlabour arrived we all thought things would be different. Wrongs would be righted, utilities etc restored to state ownership,- they DID promise, but we were sadly and quickly disillusioned! Thatcher's children? that was Tony Blair and the rest of Newlabour, and they managed to take us on another even ghastlier journey!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Sunday Sunday!

Another Sunday morning! Oh god! 3 hours without radio 4 because it's wall to wall religion. Then it's a choice between Paddy O'Connell on radio 4 (slightly uplifting, but over in the blink of an eye), and Andrew Marr - (no great shakes) where this morning Ms Chakrabarti - (still hanging onto the coat-tails of Liberty) is on the red couch with Mr Parrish - (super soft fake 'posh' spoken right wing tory). Incongruous mix one might think, but their thoughts almost merged as one as they tiptoed through the pages of violent, hyped, and exaggerated news stories, finding almost nothing to say. She wasn't interested in Julian Assange but managed to squeeze in a strong plea for a Rebecca somebody who is a contestant in that vile show X Factor! Makes you want to cry. Chakrabarti should have been replaced as Director of Liberty years ago, and as for Parrish he's just an olden time joke , isn't he?
Two 'decent Johns' Denholm and Major strutted their stuff from the red tub chairs, then D Alexander without a bat of an eye defended the coalition and all it stood for as if he had drunk their mantra with his mother's milk.
But, on a higher level ........ the last of the dinosaurs the birds, still circle overhead. Small flocks of pigeons rush between the chimney pots, the odd huge seagull skids to a halt on the top of one, and rooks walk about the slates on their 'wooden legs' chatting and pecking and arguing in the gutters. They are a joy to behold!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Montaigne, Blair, Brown, Mandelson, the first, a man to be remembered, the rest forgotten!

Few men are valued these days for their depth of humanity, breadth of education, or delicacy of manner. These days a book is judged by its cover!
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne was born near Bordeaux France, in 1533, the same year as the future Queen Elizabeth I of England. An aristocrat - he was born in the family chateau that would be his lifelong home. He was sent, soon after his birth to live with a humble family in a nearby village where he must have become accustomed to the Perigord dialect, thus Montaigne at once had the feeling of being a peasant amongst peasants. He was 'restored' to his family home at one or two years old but here he was immediately brought up as a native Latin speaker. A German called Dr.Horst was employed, who spoke good Latin and virtually no French, and a tutor, who had near flawless Latin. Everyone in the household was banned from speaking French to the boy, so the entire staff including his mother and father had to learn the Latin basics so that they could communicate with him. By the age of six Montaigne had a command of technically perfect and beautiful Latin. This was the Renaissance, and new theories of education thought that learning should be pleasurable so Montaigne didn't have to suffer the indignity of corporal punishment either, his father did not believe in it. Thus he grew up in a world unto himself, always maintaining that the experiment in his education was a huge success. His greatness and subsequent fame was to blossom into the 107 Essays that he wrote over a c20 year period. These can be read and reread at all times because they act as stimulant, tonic, reassurance, and a real pleasure to the mind!

As for Messrs Blair, Brown, and Mandelson, - 'In His Own Words, 'A Journey', 'Beyond the Crash', and 'The third man,' these are books that will sicken, torture, and depress the mind. Their arrogance, egotism, desire to sweeten and spin the past, their lust for money, is breathtaking. Set them alongside Montaigne and you have a man from a different world. Unfortunately we have to live in this world when the hooks, crooks, and fakes rule, and have influence over our lives, when a book is only ever judged by its cover.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Students again, this time it's serious.....

There must be something in this country that stinks if such a large number of discontented youth have found it necessary to take to the streets. Students are merely half grown adults at the idealistic age when they suddenly realise that the world isn't exactly as they would like it to be.
This generation grew up mainly during the cossetted but corrupt Newlabour years when everything was promised, everything spent, nothing achieved, and their parents could have it all, and did. A golden horizon was rolled out before them, and not surprisingly they bought into this scenario. Sadly, in a way, for them, they have never experienced struggle, felt responsibility, or learnt the value of anything. They move into the adult world and learn for the first time that the structure of society is inequable. Huge remnants of the privileged ruling classes remain, and unfortunately these remnants are pretty well represented throughout the present government, throughout journalism, the judiciary etc.
We live in a multicultural society whether we like it or not, but the government, who were responsible for this have never made sufficient allowance for the fact, and now society is riven by the joint massive inequalities of education, money AND race.
Our leaders are so predictable, pronouncing vehemently against the students, (sorry, 'young thugs')- "we will clap them in irons, string them up, mow them down" they cry
as they hold hands with their best pals the police. Not a moments reflection on the reasons we got here in the first place, and the fact they are mainly to blame!
Extraordinarily into this melee sail Prince Charles in full evening dress and a bejewelled Camilla, lit up for all the world to see in their full on Bentley - or was it a Rolls Royce? A veritable 'Louis and his Antoinette' moment!
There is a hidden stink in this country. The students are merely the symptom, not the disease.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Sweden, Ikea, and Julian Assange

In Johann Stenebo's newly translated book 'The Truth about Ikea' the huge Swedish furniture store Ikea is rumbled, and dragged through the mud. Some of our worst fears are realised. When something is too good to be true like Ikea it IS too good to be true. Sweden's reputation takes a double whammy this week because of the strong suspicion that they have used a trumped up charge (on behalf of others unknown?!) to take Julian Assange into custody.
Sweden, that 'wonderful land' of tall healthy blond people, the land of the Nobel peace prize, of the goodness of socialism etc, has had its almost impeccable image besmirched.
British customers were so mad about Ikea in the 1990s, so in love with their yellow bags (that you feel desperate to fill up), their yellow arrows (that control one's every move herding you around like penned sheep), that their management decided to charge Brits more for their goods than other countries, and use the extra profits to expand and build up their network of branches. More fool us.
Cheap raw materials are the key to Ikea's low prices, 'instead of using the best, they use the cheapest' says Stenebo in his book. During the year a mere 13.1% tax was paid, and their green credentials are minimal despite their exaggerated claims.
All in all this has been a bad week for Sweden, let's hope they will take some positive steps to improve their image, drop the charges against Julian Assange, and make sure Ikea cleans up its act, and we should all make a New Years resolution to be more sceptical.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

John James Audubon, a bird man to admire

In 1785 John James Audubon (Jean Jacques), ornithologist, naturalist, hunter, and painter was born on his father's sugar plantation in Haiti. He was the illegitimate son of Lieutenant Jean Audubon, a French naval officer. He was raised in France until he was 18 when his father arranged a false passport for him so that he could travel to America, thus avoiding conscription into the Napoleonic Wars. Risking conscription again he returned to France in 1805 to meet his father and discuss family business plans. His father arranged a partnership in a business for his son at Mill Grove in Pennsylvania. He lived here with the tenants on this 284 acre homestead and considered it to be a paradise. It was here that he met Lucy Bakewell to whom he was married 5 years later. Subsequently he sold part of the Mill Grove Farm retaining some land for investment, and went to New York. Unfortunately his general store in Louisville Kentucky did not thrive, so he moved to Henderson Kentucky. Lucy his wife gave birth to 2 sons Victor Gifford and John Woodhouse.
Audubon gave up his French citizenship in 1812 to become an American Citizen. Unfortunately when he returned to Kentucky he found that rats had eaten his entire collection of 200 drawings. In 1819 he went bankrupt and was thrown in to jail. He had no joy in raising subscriptions in America for his book, so he travelled to Europe first to Liverpool where Lord Stanley became an early subscriber, then to Edinburgh where he met the fine printer William Lizars. Audubon insisted on the huge double elephant folio size for his book- (26.5" x 39"). The 4 volumes each weighed 50 lbs! Unfortunately Lizars only managed to complete 10 plates before his colourists went on strike. Audubon then went to London where he met Robert Havell junior a reputable animal engraver who was later responsible for the production of Birds of America. For the next 2 years Audubon travelled round Britain and went to Paris in search of subscriptions, on returning to America he still had no joy in obtaining subscribers, so he returned again in 1829 to Britain with his 2 sons. He became well known, but because subscribers didn't always keep up payments,Audubon was not rich. In America he was lionized as the 'American Woodsman.' He had great respect for the native American.
It took him 14 years of field observation to collect the 700 North American bird species. During the 1830s Audubon continued making expeditions in North America rising at 3am every day, drawing throughout the day before returning to the field in the evening.
Finally in 1839 having completed the Ornithological Biography Audubon returned to the US with his family. He bought an estate on the Hudson river (now Audubon Park) in 1842. In 1848 his health began to fail, and he died at home in Manhattan 1851. He prophetically warned of the dangers that threatened the huge flocks of birds of his time from over hunting and loss of habitat. Several of the species he recorded have now become extinct.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Morrissey and Marr (not Andrew), men with principles

Thank god for Morrissey! He was right to publish a 1,224 word attack on the Prime Minister for supporting foxhunting, shooting, and stag hunting, and at the same time support the Smiths. His ex guitarist Johnny Marr forbade David Cameron on twitter to 'like the Smiths'.
The gun happy establishment still find pleasure in shooting and hunting all manner of defenceless animals. Pheasants are artificially reared so that the rich can get their sadistic fix from shooting them down when they are artificially 'beaten' in to the sky. (pheasants are not naturally good fliers). This activity must help to make them feel like 'real men'. Rich landowners make pots of money from rearing the pheasants and conducting the shoots. It doesn't seem possible that this barbarous behaviour still happens in 2010!
The Royal family lead the way. The two boys, Wills and Harry, are never far from a gun, or a bottle or can of alcohol, and now the prospective new in-laws the Middletons have to prove their salt and learn how to handle a shot gun! Prince Charles, the oh so green and pure Charles of 'Duchy Originals' fame, well, he likes a 'good' killing too. Now we see a photograph of that despicable ugly red neck Sarah Palin clutching the horns on the raised head of a beautiful caribou that she has just shot. She has the nerve to say Julian Assange has blood on his hands!
Morrisey's songs sum it up to perfection, 'Meat is Murder', and 'The Queen is dead'!

Monday, 6 December 2010

BBC and Strictly awful!

BBC Prime time television is now dominated on Saturday, Sunday, and slots throughout the week by that cheap jack, utterly crass programme Strictly Come Dancing. Millions of sequins are sewn onto bad taste costumes, and that's just the men! Many of the over decorated dresses are virtually non-existent, and the beauty of being natural is never taken into consideration. Why are these women, and men, addicted to smothering themselves in that strange orange colour? Well, I suppose it hides a multitude of sins. So, thousands and thousands of £s of our hard earned licence fee is sqaundered on this obscenity of a programme. Don't the BBC understand that we aren't all in thrall to populist programmes that pander to the lowest common denominator? Strictly Come Dancing with its costs and time schedules means programmes of a higher quality don't get a look in. The gruesome panel of judges, drunk on their own power, make inane comments pretending all the time that SCD is a serious dancing programme! It is public entertainment stupid! I'm up my own ass and oh so camp Greville -- needs a good kicking, Len Goodman - he of the high and mighty patronising remarks will be feathering his own nest, Alesha-- gets stranger and stranger with each passing week, she thinks she's so beautiful, but she's all fake. Last but not least Bruno. He doesn't bother to hide his attraction toward male contestants, and shrieks and flaps about like a demented chicken about to lay an egg. Tess Daly, boringly glamorous, and that Juliet Greco lookalike Claudia W should be carted out and dumped somewhere. Not a word against Brucie (but why does he have to have so many hangers on? Give us the cost BBC! Under the Freedom of Information Act the BBC are obliged to tell us the total cost , and the ins and outs of the voting system. At the moment votes are cast but no one knows the numbers or how the judges' scores are counted in relation to the people's vote. The BBC are obliged to come clean particularly as a lot of money is riding on the results. Widdy and Anton, a joy to watch, are out. Ann gave the judges a run for their money. Well done Ann and well done Anton!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Cadbury eaten up by Kraft

Dairy Milk Crunchie and Twirl are to be handed over on a plate to the giant Kraft holding company in Switzerland, thus reducing their £125 tax bill by half. The iconic Crunchie and the Curly Wurly will be made in Poland.
After a huge public outcry in 2009 Kraft increased its offer for Cadburys from £10.5 million to £11 million, shareholders accepted the offer and Cadburys was effectively finished. Kraft closed the Cadburys Somerdale factory near Bristol with a loss of 400 jobs only weeks after it had stated it would not do this. Oh how the mighty have fallen!
The US company's chief executive Irene Rosenfeld has been reluctant to show her face in the UK, quite correctly surmising she would not be the flavour of the month! She sent instead junior members of staff to face the music. Incidentally she was paid a colossal £17.3 million last year. With Kraft's reputation in tatters Nick Bunker now president for UK and Ireland has been put on a charm offensive trying to restore the American food giant's damaged reputation. "The Cadbury brand will continue to thrive", he says, but as he worked for another British chocolate manufacturer Terrys of York when it was subsumed by Kraft in 1998, and the factory was closed in 2006, production moved to Poland, there is fat chance of that! He is based in Cheltenham, and was a car dealer in the Middle East before he rejoined Kraft in 2000. Well wouldn't you know?!
Kraft products can be easily identified:
Dairylea cheese, Philadelphia cream cheese, Maxwell House coffee, Kenco Coffee, Terry's chocolate, Ritz crackers, Toblerone chocolate, Capri Sun Juice drinks, Carte Noir coffee, Cote d'or chocolate, and a whole lot more brands around the world. So, as The Daily Mail so rightly says, "If you won't pay your taxes, we won't buy your cheese"! etc etc.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Less Football, less Blatter

£15 million poorer, the three wonder boys and their entourage return. They were shafted by 22 aging members of FIFA's executive committee. They were naive to think they stood a chance.
It wasn't Panorama or The Sunday Times that did for them, it was the endemic corruption that invariably swirls around large amounts of money.
Football has been totally undermined by its own financial success. Long gone are the days when fathers and sons supported their local club, and great footballers earned 30 bob a week. Now mindless over paid 'star' footballers shift about the world being bought and sold like slaves. Fans are milked and taken advantage of, too witless to realise the power they hold. The beautiful game has fallen into disrepute, and it's about time football put its house in order, before it's too late , - if it isn't already.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Corruption rules, ok?! They don't like it up 'em!

Wikileaks prises open the stinking world of so called diplomacy. They don't like it up 'em do they? Governments rush to hide their misdemeanours, explain their lies, cover up their corruption.
We have the unedifying spectacle of an expensive triumvirate including that vacuous darling of the football pitch David Beckham, David Cameron - old enough to know better, and the overgrown schoolboy Prince Wills sucking up to the FIFA, and the less said about them the better!
Russia is, apparently, a cesspool of evil, but governments gaily go about doing their business with them. Russia was probably better off with the Tsar!
Prince Andrew, a prominent member of the Royal household has close connections with the Kazakhstan elite, and apparently criticised the serious fraud squad for mounting anti-corruption inquiries.
It is revealed that David Miliband kowtowed to and colluded with the US by allowing them to keep banned cluster bombs in its bases in Diego Garcia. Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, but he deceived parliament. His protestations of innocence will be loud and clear! We learn from Ipsa that mps are still claiming for items banned in the wake of last year's expenses crisis. They have also submitted duplicate claims, and are exploiting another loophole to profit from second homes! Students would do better to get out on the streets and demonstrate for Wikileaks and against the hideous corruption that will, in the end, engulf us all.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Selfish students have nothing to say....

Students, despite the cold weather are out messing up the streets again. Born to a generation of spoilt parents, these students think the world and everything in it belongs to them. If they can't get what they want they're going to behave like the spoilt brats they are. Scweam and scweam, stamp their feet and scweam again for it. If only they were demonstrating for something worthwhile!
There ARE the most terrible injustices in this big bad world, plenty of injustices to demonstrate about, but it ain't student fees! Students demonstrate for themselves alone. They should start looking outside themselves, get things in perspective, look at the bigger picture, start caring and thinking about others who are really really suffering.