Friday, September 28, 2007
I do not know who might win a November election.
But Gordon Brown will not gain anything worth having.
Except, perhaps, 2 1/2 more years in power (in 2 1/2 years time) than he is guaranteed anyway.
There is no issue on which to vote. Especially now Blair has gone. Brown seems to be doing OK(ish). Not sure about Cameron.
All we will get will be political anoraks playing their tedious war games all over the airwaves.
So there will be a record low turnout, even if the weather is reasonably good
This, of necessity, means a greater variance around the national average swing. Greater unpredictability of outcome. Idiosyncratic local factors having proportionately greater effect. A hospital closure here, there a sitting MP who has got up too many local noses, an attractive new candidate over yon
So even if GB wins, no one except a political anorak will believe he has a mandate for anything very much at all, really
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Should we prescribe oestrogen for young males aged 15 to 24?
Their mortality rate is 3 times the rate for females in the same age group
A lot of this excess mortality is due to accidents caused by the daft things young men do when fuelled by too much testosterone
So calm them down with HRT
If this is a silly solution to a silly question - why is that so? How does it differ from much of the health advice with which we are daily bombarded?
I cant work out whether the way one contrail seems to loop over the other is just an optical illusion, caused by the angle of view
Or something due to atmospheric conditions?
Or was it a near-miss?
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Irishman, in the ads of those days, was code. Code for: I dont want single, Irish men as tenants. Probably here as temporary or seasonal migrants, employment insecure & uncertain so not a reliable payer of rent. Likely to do a moonlight flit. Probably working as a navvy, so bringing a lot of mud into the house. And over fond of a drink.
A nasty stereotype. But being Irish, as such, did not necessarily make life so difficult. I doubt a young Irish barrister would find it more difficult than his English equivalent to find somewhere to live
Unlike the pin-striped, plummy-voiced, Oxbridge-educated barrister in Two Gentlemen Sharing, who, when it came to finding somewhere to live was 'Hopelessly black, madam, hopelessly'
The differences between these categories illustrates the subtlety of discrimination, the differences between the remedies needed, & their likely success in practice.
To formalise anti-discrimination legislation is to risk encouraging competitive victimhood - My problems are worse than your problems. Adjudicating, holding the ring between all the claims, requires the patience of Job & the judgement of Solomon, & the tact to not alienate those who feel that their problems are undervalued & ignored because they cannot be attributed to membership of a particular group.
I wish the new overarching Equality Commission all the best
The first is the nature of rented housing in those days. All those grand houses in the crescents of Notting Hill, all those smart Fulham terraces would, in those days, have been houses in multiple occupation. Tenants occupying one or more rooms, with minimal, if any, structural conversion to give them a self contained space behind their own front door.
Often sharing cooking facilities. And bathrooms - if they were lucky & there was one on a half landing. Otherwise it was a weekly trip to the Municipal Slipper Baths. Just check out the Census statistics &, if you can get hold of a copy, the Enumerators Instructions for the 1971 Census of England & Wales.
The landlord - often a widow - was quite likely to be sharing the house too.
Wouldnt you want some say over who lived with you in such hugger-mugger fashion?
Friday, September 21, 2007
The myth is that newsagents windows used to carry cards advertising accommodation which said:
NO BLACKS, NO DOGS, NO IRISH
The report also claimed these cards were still common 30 years ago. 1977? That surprises me - I thought they were illegal by then.
What I can say (having been excluded on 2 of the 3 counts) is that in the 1960s such cards used to say:
NO COLOUREDS, NO IRISH, NO CHILDREN
Cathy Come Home is such an iconic piece of tv - doesnt anyone remember what it was actually about?
Older viewers may also remember a tv comedy series - Marriage Lines - starring a very young Prunella Scales & Richard Briers. Particularly the hilarious episodes where, in order to avoid eviction, they tried to conceal her pregnancy from the landlord.
I prefer not to think about why dogs rather than children now seem more plausible equivalents of Black & Irish
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
For years now THEY have been telling us that we are, financially, an ignorant lot
More likely to get divorced than to move our bank account
We ought to check regularly, move to take advantage of the best deal
Odd how often best is assumed to need judging purely in terms of immediate direct financial costs
No account taken of the opportunity costs of all that time needed to check which terms & conditions apply
Or the indirect costs – all that time needed to travel further or in the wrong direction to find a branch. Or hours spent on the phone to India. Or buying, checking & installing all the security needed now that your home computer might otherwise provide an open invitation to pass through the door to your bank account.
All those new account details to be remembered, along with the PINS. Though not, of course, to be written down anywhere, ever
And do keep up. Try to remember who you are banking with this week
Not all that many years ago I was approached in Cross Street in Manchester by someone looking for the Midland Bank. Its here somewhere, I said, casting round. No, she said, Ive walked all the way along twice & cant find it.
Oh, I said, Well I know Ive seen it, but I cant remember where exactly. Youll just have to ask someone else.
Esprit d’escalier – a few yards further along I was passing HSBC. Of course, that’s the new name for … But the seeker had disappeared from view
Financial ignoramuses also ought of course to know that the one time you ought not to change your bank account is when there seems to be a chance that your money might disappear completely in a puff of electrons on a hard disk or through some other mysterious means.
We should know that that will only make things worse
Monday, September 17, 2007
Max Delbruck had reached the stage of his career where he should apply for a permanent university post. By then all formal correspondence of that kind should be signed off with 'Heil Hitler'
Delbruck (from an upper class Protestant family) was reluctant to do this. He consulted a friend.
How would you normally expect to sign? asked the friend
Oh um - Yours very respectfully said Delbruck
You wouldnt mean that either said the friend
Delbruck signed the letter
Saturday, September 15, 2007
She lived in a house where help was not hired.
Her last words on earth were: "Dear friends, I am going
Where washing ain't done, nor sweeping, nor sewing:
But everything there is exact to my wishes;
But, having no voice, I'll be clear of the singing.
Don't mourn for me now; don't mourn for me never -
I'm going to do nothing for ever and ever."
Shame to have ousted your betters thus,
Friday, September 14, 2007
I got a shock when I read it to my own daughter for the first time. What an awful thing to tell a child - Mummy disappearing like that! But she seemed unconcerned, just as I had been at her age
I think its because it catches that delicious small-child imperious self-importance. Dont go out without consulting ME. Plus its just the kind of thing they like to make up when they first start telling their own stories: And then a great Big Bear came & ATE THEM ALL UP!
Weatherby George Dupree
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he;
"You must never go downto the end of the town, if you don't go down with me."
Put up a notice,
"LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED!
JAMES JAMES MORRISON'S MOTHER
SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.
QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD,
SHE TRIED TO GET DOWNTO THE END OF THE TOWN -
FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!"
James James Morrison's mother
Hasn't been heard of since.
King John said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
(Now then, very softly)
Took great c/0 his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J.J. said to his M*****
"M*****," he said, said he:
Thursday, September 13, 2007
No one so much as you
Now I think about it, it is indicative of something about the times we live in that Blogger Profiles do not provide automatic space for a list of favourite poems. Perhaps because singer-songwriters have taken over
This poem by Thomas Hardy is one of my favourites. It conjures up so much about the life of the couple. With its powerful cadence & slightly laboured hesitant rhythm it reminds me of the harmonium in one of the chapels I was taken to as a child. A bit asthmatic & wheezy, but valiantly pedalled by a lady probably almost as old as the one in the poem
A Church Romance
She turned in the high pew, until her sight
Swept the west gallery, and caught its row
Of music-men with viol, book and bow
Against the sinking sad tower-window light.
She turned again; and in her pride's despair
One strenuous viol's inspirer seemed to throw
A message from his string to her below,
Which said: "I claim thee as my own forthright!!
Thus their heart's bond began, in due time signed,
And long years thence, when Age had scared Romance,
At some old attitude of his or glance
That gallery-scene would break upon her mind,
With him as minstrel, ardent, young and trim,
Bowing "New Sabbath" or "Mount Ephraim."
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Or one which omitted to give details of the title of the book or release dates of the film?
So why is this a perfectly normal, in fact the usual form used for scientific, technical or other forms of news?
Today we are told about claims by "medical researchers" about the safety of the Pill. Who are these people? Where do I find the report so that I can evaluate the claims for myself?
One thing is for sure. Theres no point relying on journalists for this. Unless they are very specialist they dont have a clue; they pride themselves in being no good at sums, fail even to ask the basic questions of who, when, how, where & why
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
One thing that comforts me is the strong belief that even just thinking can in some way (not exactly morphic resonance) help shift the accepted ways of the world
And small things send out ripple effects. like ripples in a pond
It depends on the liver!
C'est une question de foie!
Look after the liver & life will take care of itself!
It is better to be a good liver than to have one - Mike Costello
Monday, September 10, 2007
I was reminded of this by the following: She argued that "opening the black box" that the topic of responsibility has largely been in reflection about justice, reveals unsuspected problems for the luck-neutralisation understanding of the basis for egalitarianism
Which just confirms my own conviction that in this country at least academic philosophy long ago disappeared up its own fundament.
This comes, not from a collection of academic papers, but from an obituary in The Times. I am surprised that the editors should approve of the quote marks, the double use of 'that', never mind jargon such as luck-neutralisation
Yesterday I heard someone on the radio say that Politicians in this government think if theyve announced something, it has happened
I often fear that lawyers have the same sanguine point of view. Last week an Appeal Court Judge said that all should be on the national DNA database - including all 100 million annual visitors to the UK. I thought he might just be being provocative, to make a point. Reductio ad absurdum. But then I heard him being challenged about practicalities & he said But it will happen because it must. So Im not sure now
So much easier just to blame effete civil servants for the failure to deliver. I once heard a very new New Labour apparatchik say that civil servants thought they had delivered the policy on one piece of fruit a day to every school child once they had sent out a circular. No they didnt, but what exactly did the adviser have in mind? A fleet of white vans & early morning trips to Nine Elms?
As a beauty Im not a great star
There are others more handsome by far,
But my face, I dont mind it,
Because Im behind it -
Tis the folks in the front that I jar
Possibly by Miles n'Gopleen?
Saturday, September 08, 2007
I know exactly what that means
I can feel it, see it, as I hold it up, arm outstretched, & let it unfold - it stops short about a foot from the floor
Whether its a soft wool, polyester jersey, lumpy linen, bog standard cotton, or gorgeous beaded brocade
I know exactly what sort of garment it could make. How it will feel when I wear it. Where it will fit, touch or not touch, my body
We are talking textiles & home dress making
I know, even though I cant remember when I last made myself anything to wear, or even when I last got the sewing machine out
Im making the point that theres an awful lot more to learning than just reading writing & calculating. You learn with your whole body & all senses - just like a baby on a bus
I will never understand metric measurement of cloth in this way
And I am saying that education fails badly if it does not take account of this. Not by dividing children into those who learn best in one way & those who learn best in another way. We all need to learn in all possible ways
A young man approached & asked me if I was going far. I didnt know him at all so we fenced a bit - me not prepared to give anything away till I knew what he was after
Turned out he had a Zig Zag to sell - that is, the local version of an all-day bus ticket
Hasnt he heard of the elderly persons bus pass? or did he just think I dont look old enough?
I was surprised. Not by the enterprise as such - common for years in the city - but by the fact that it had arrived in the village
But then, since the last fare increase, a Zig Zag is now cheaper than the standard return fare for even a simple there & back trip to town. For those who have to pay, that is. So anyone who has completed their return journey has a potentially saleable commodity on their hands
I regret now that I said no straight away. I should have found out the price
The Dictionary of National Biography confines her to the entry under her husbands name: As a widow, she gave an impression of pious seclusion, declining the mistress-ship of Girton College, Cambridge, in 1884. And for a long time I simply called her by the shorthand form of Lady Fred in my research notes
Light dawned one day however & I realised that the Cambridge college must be named after her.
A talk she gave about education is also available
Lord Lytteltons Daughters by Sheila Fletcher, published in 1997, tells the story of Lucy & her sisters, making use of all their diaries
Friday, September 07, 2007
A writer ought to feel he was damned; any kind of success was suspect, & I used to wonder if the very fact of writing something didnt imply failure: only the silence of Valerys M Teste seemed to me to express with dignity humanitys absolute despair
I started a vast novel; the heroine was to live through all my own experiences: she was to be awakened to the meaning of 'the true life', enter into conflict with her environment, then be disillusioned by everything: action, love, knowledge
I didnt even want to write anymore; the horrible vanity of all things had me by the throat again; but I had had enough of suffering & weeping in the past year; I built a new hope for myself
In momets of perfect detachment when the universe seems to be reduced to a set of illusions & in which my own ego was abolished, something took their place; something indestructible, eternal; it seemed to me that my indifference was a negative manifestation of a presence which it was perhaps not impossible to get in touch with
No lunar eclipse this time, though the weather is very similar - warm & mostly clear with high pressure sitting just to the west. Is that what does for the ionosphere?
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Her mother died, from complications of the birth of her 12th child, when Lucy was 16
Lucy married, in what was clearly a love match, Lord Frederick Cavendish, a younger son of the Duke of Devonshire. Before her marriage she had been a maid of honour to Queen Victoria
Her mothers only sister, Aunt Catherine, was the wife of William Gladstone
So she was well placed to observe mid-Victorian society & politics at the highest level
She was not overawed - except by her father-in-law, the formidable 7th Duke - & wrote about it all with wit & liveliness, & with charm, in her private diaries
Her father, who had suffered frequently from bouts of depression, died by throwing himself over the balustrade at his London home & falling to his death 2 floors below
To their great sadness, Lucy & Frederick had no children, but they remained very close
In 1882 Gladstone asked Frederick to join the government of Ireland in an emergency Cabinet reshuffle
Lord Frederick was murdered while taking a stroll in Phoenix Park in Dublin on the afternoon he arrived in the city
Lucy was left a widow at the age of 40
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Dr Jenner … horrified me with his ugliness which is something suggestive to me of Voltaire
8 April 1864: … Garibaldi is in England, which fact makes everyone stand on their heads; & I suppose all young ladies will shortly appear in red shirts, which, to my disgust, have come into fashion
Rome 27 November 1867: The wretched Fenians have been condemned to death; & out of the 5, 3 have been executed. It is very sad & terrible, as they are the first who have been executed for a political offence; but it seemed inevitable. There have been deputations & demonstrations against the sentence in London. Foreigners think England must be in danger; somehow one can't feel that a bit. Never did I take in better the immense strength we have in our fearless freedom of press, opinion & discussion, than now, when there are anxieties & disturbances & an impending revolution in national power
There were Dickens & Landseer; neither very pleasant to look at, though one saw wit & genius in Dickens odd eyes
5 May 1864: … a long pull at Mill On Liberty which shakes & bewilders nearly all my opinions, leaving my head in a bag
4 May 1865: Pre-Raphaelism seems, like homeopathy, to be becoming less a school apart & more infused into schools than it was … still some tinny, paper mache, gaudy skies, solid green seas, ugly red haired pink faced women in all colours of the rainbow & cotton velvet grass
The underground from S Kensington to Portland Rd was charming & wonderful & far less underground than I had expected
18 March 1869
… a nice new house near Longstone … [with] some Rosettis, very clever & with wonderful colour, but rather hateful, I think, from self-consciousness & a sort of sensuousness; & I cant see why all his unfortunate damsels should be in such haggard & wasted ill health
… a pretty villa [in Italy] where Morris the decorator-poets wife & daughters are. Mrs Morris might have stept [sic] out of any of Burne-Jones pictures & is in fact the original of the favourite PB [sic] lady (having sat to Rosetti) - haggard & wistful eyed with a heavy bush of black hair penthouse-style over the forehead; certainly handsome
Kathryn Hughes: The Victorian Governess
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Actually I have long thought that the best way to instil respect for patients into medical students would be for them to have to conduct full physical examinations on the Dean, the professors & the consultants
Interesting, cos I am otherwise the only Blogger who has chosen the book
Perhaps the interest will grow & we can get a new edition published
Summed up perfectly in both the title & the content of the book
Male romanticism consists in
- being brave
- fighting evil
- rescuing damsels in distress
There may be faintly, in the background, an awareness that rescuing fair maiden may - aw shucks - bring reward
Oh - & dont forget the magic of machines
Also pretty well summed up, now that I think of it, in the Cadburys Milk Tray ads of a few years back
For girls, the romance lay in the box of chocolates
For boys, romance lay in abseiling down the mountain
And it is a sad but true fact, that boys can sometimes make the same mistake as the hunter tom who proudly lays a dead field mouse or shrew at your feet. In the expectation or receiving your gratitude & admiration for his prowess
Monday, September 03, 2007
Its amazing how much less space is taken up now that we can recycle plastic bottles & cardboard
Turned out that plastic food trays & pots were the main remaining culprits. You cant stack them one inside the other because of the varying shapes & sizes. They are hard to squash - naturally. Their job is to protect the contents from damage in transit, no use if they collapse at the slightest knock
You can squash even the strongest upmarket trays from Waitrose or M&S if you apply pressure at the right points. Problem is, they tend to spring back again, even after youve jammed them in the bin
The solution came as a surprise to me. I was squashing a ready-meal tray, grungy with gravy, so I used a sheet of newspaper to protect my fingers & just folded it into a parcel. It stayed folded, no sticky-back plastic or knotted string required. The technique works on the strongest trays & on round pots
So my puzzle is - how can something as weak as a single sheet of newspaper keep those forces in check?
One clue is in the voice when they are being interviewed. It starts tight & rises higher. Especially if female, they start to sound on the verge of tears. Our premisses are so obviously ones with which all sane people will agree, our logic is impeccable, it is incomprehensible that some people still refuse to stop smoking NOW. Why do you just not get it?
And now, just like animal rights protestors, theyre going to show us nasty pictures. Only not just on street stalls, in their own time, set up by bands of like-minded folk
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Systems fail under the weight of their own contradictions
How long can the NHS continue? Post code lottery v local decision making? Personal treatment choices v target survival rates?
Saturday, September 01, 2007
This is prompted by the reactions to the reports that Arthur Miller placed his son into care 40 years ago. And he used to describe him as a mongoloid! How could he?
Well lots of good people thought that way. And I dont believe it happened in the Miller case but there were plenty of medical professionals who believed it unkind to let a mother even see a handicapped baby
It was also perfectly normal to restrict visits to children in hospital to one a week, & to keep you out of the consulting room while a child received treatment - the mothers distress conveys itself to the child, you know. Margaret Drabbles book, The Millstone, conveys some of this very powerfully.
Such a condemnatory attitude towards Miller seems to me particularly ill-behoved in a generation whose medical advisers take it for granted that one of the aims of ante-natal care should be to seek & destroy any foetus suffering from Downs Syndrome
Some current favourites for what our descendants may say about us:
- surgery: You mean to say they used to cut people open?
- fat: They used to think that eating fat was bad for you
- education: They used to herd all children into special buildings where they had to sit down all day & were only allowed to mix with others who were born in the same year as they were