A story for our (Sunday) Times

There used to be an anthology we used in lower-school English classes.

It included this, by Jules Thurber:

The Little Girl and the Wolf

One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. “Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?” asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.

When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother’s house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.

(Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.)

Problem: one would have to explain “Calvin Coolidge” — arguably, the most buttoned-up American President of all time:

Of whom there were more anecdotes than he deserved. But, I’m sure, if the class was dragging, I’d have woven in a few.

Repeat:

Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.

On which note, there’s this advice to all sweet young things venturing on a  career in politics:

 

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Filed under New Yorker, Quotations, Sunday Times, US politics

Five hundred years …

… and it comes down to this:

 

and this:

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The MLA, the paramilitaries and the DUP leader

In the broadest terms, who to blame?

What follows is partial, and therefore biased. Anyone in a Northern Irish context comes with denominational and familial connections. At the thug end, both sides are up to the gunnels in drug-dealing, extortion — and worse. It doesn’t end there, or stay in the grossest communities: it persists through each and every conurbation across the Six Counties. And it has ramifications further afield.

Except when there’s an atrocity, it doesn’t obtrude into the wider British and Irish attention-spans. Yet, in regard to what follows her, it should. For, to maintain her government “strong and stable’ in Westminster, that daughter of the parsonage, Theresa May, has pledged a cool billion to keep her and their shows on the road. Your average British tax-renderer is footing the bill.

As the Prince concludes, in the finale of Romeo and Juliet:

See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I, for winking at your discords too,
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish’d.

Provided both sides in the great divide of Northern Ireland see some of that filthy lucre glistening in their separate troughs, a degree of “peace” may prevail.

So, to exemplify:

Only when it featured in The S(c)um did this make waves:

WRONG TUNE DUP politician says he thought terrorist meeting he attended was actually a flute band event
Whistle-blower from banned group UDA claims councillor Wesley Irvine attended one of their meetings to hand out voter registration forms ahead of June general election

There is, as a matter of helpful fact, a better version on the Inews site:

The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) member – who said that if his name was revealed he would be killed – told BBC Northern Ireland’s respected Spotlight investigative programme that the banned terrorist group had an increasingly close relationship with the DUP over recent years.

The man told Spotlight that a month before the General Election DUP councillor Wesley Irvine attended a meeting of the UDA’s North Down ‘battalion’ in Bangor, with the meeting chaired by the man alleged to be the group’s commander, Dee Stitt.

He claimed that the former Mayor of North Down was there looking for voters and that prior to the meeting beginning all the women left and those present were asked to leave their phones outside the room.

He said that “the first item of business was for Wesley Irvine to run around the room handing out voter registration forms and DUP election material to chants of ‘DUP’ from Dee Stitt”.

That should take us back to the BBC exposé from which this all derives

A look at how and why the DUP and Sinn Fein allowed community groups linked to loyalist paramilitaries to benefit from Stormont’s Social Investment Fund.

We can, thanks to another BBC item, draw a direct line from aforesaid Dee Stitt (far right, if not so here) and Arlene Foster (even further right in this image), as here:

 

El Stitt runs Charter NI,  which sits on a nice little earner with £1.7 million — yes, you did read that correctly — leached from the £80 million total of the Social Investment Fund. Out of the same kitty comes near on a million for the Kilcooley Sports Forum — got that, almost a million for a local footie field? — and (oh, you’ve guessed it!) said Stitt is a Big Wheel in that operation, too. Altogether the East Belfast affiliates of the criminal-gang that is the UDA have had the disposition of over £5 million of public money over a couple of years.

Names in the frame include:

It’s worth traipsing round the web-sites and publicity for the number of occasions when we see these heavies, and their acolytes, cuddling up with “respectable” politicians, local councillors, mayors, MLAs and worthies.

That’s a nice little, tight little set-up you’ve got there, Arlene.

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Second-hand signings

I brushed past John Rentoul’s recent Top Ten:

This list started when Laura McInerney‏ asked: “Has there ever been a transport secretary who once worked in transport?” I said that John Prescott, Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions 1997-2001, had been a steward in the Merchant Navy. Mr Memory added that Harry Gosling, Labour’s first Transport Minister in 1924, had been a waterman. 

Down at number 4 was:

James Callaghan, Chancellor 1964-67, was an Inland Revenue tax inspector. Thanks to Jon Clarke. Norman Lamont, 1990-93, is one of only two chancellors who had an economics degree (no, PPE doesn’t count). The other was Hugh Dalton, 1945-47, who lectured in economics at the London School of Economics. Hugh Gaitskell, 1950-51, lectured in economics at UCL, although his own degree was in PPE.

Years ago I set about collecting Left Book Club editions, and similar stuff that mainly came out of Gollancz.

For all of a few pre-decimal pence I thereby acquired Hugh Dalton’s signature. So he would be in my personal Top Ten, around me here on these shelves. In at number 8 of John Rentoul’s list is:

Alan Johnson, Trade and Industry Secretary 2005-06, which included the Royal Mail in its responsibilities, was a postman.

Since I have the complete (to date) Johnson memoirs, signed by the author, they must qualify. Johnson, though, is a prolific signer — so, in due course, like Ted Heath, the unsigned copies may be the ones that retain any value.

My copy of Michael Foot’s The Pen and the Sword (an original edition from 1957, at that) had a small history: it is signed by a distinguished industrial correspondent for the Daily Express (at a time when Beaverbrook’s Express was still a newspaper and a power in the land) who would have worked alongside the journalist Michael Foot. It came to me, not quite directly from him, at a time (late ’60s) I was putting myself around in Bury St Edmunds Labour Party.

Many of these inscriptions and declarations of ownership are enigmatic:

Philip Williams’ biography of Hugh Gaitskell came my way a few months back. The inscription is “To Jack. Happy Memories and our very best wishes for the future. Ben and Sheila December , 1979”. Since the book was only recently published then, I might assume somewhere in there are decent socialists. (Philip Williams was a follower of Gaitskell and the Campaign for Democratic Socialism, had dealings with Tony Crosland, and was involved in the creation of the SDP.)

Many are worth the decoding.

Just this week York’s Oxfam Books threw up David C Douglas, The Norman Achievementbut in an American edition, published by the University of California, yet “Printed in Great Britain”, and a dead ringer for the Eyre and Spottiswoode UK edition. Consider the former owner “Elizabeth Muir Tyler”, who monikered the book “June 30, 1987 Philadelphia”. Professor (another “no less”) Elizabeth Muir Tyler ended up as  a considerable ornament to literature and history at the University of York . Did Professor Tyler have it already second-hand from the (stamped) “Library of Georgianna Ziegler”? For Georgianna Ziegler was Curator at the Horace Howard Furness Shakespeare Library, University of Pennsylvania, and then a major figure at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Another one is a grandiose book-plate in That Great Lucifer, A Portrait of Sir Walter Ralegh (see right). A quick google turns up an obituary of:

Former consultant psychiatrist Manchester (b Todmorden 1912; q Manchester 1937; MA, DPM, FRCPsych), d 7 January 2003.

Northage Mather was of a generation whose careers were interrupted by war service. He was a medical officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve before taking the Diploma in Psychological Medicine in 1946. He was soon appointed consultant psychiatrist at Crumpsall Hospital, Manchester (now North Manchester General Hospital), and remained there for 30 years, building up a well known department. He had a special interest in forensic psychiatry, was involved in more than 300 murder trials, and was later a member of the Parole Board. A man of wide interests, including music and literature, he leaves a wife, Mabel, and two children.

He “was involved in more than 300 murder trials”. Say no more.

 

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The Archimedes principle

Compare and contrast:

1. Wart meets Archimedes (The Sword in the Stone):

Merlyn took off his pointed hat when he came into this chamber, because it was too high for the roof, and immediately there was a scamper in one of the dark corners and a flap of soft wings, and a tawny owl sitting on the black skull—cap which protected the top of his head.

‘Oh, what a lovely owl!’ cried the Wart.

But when he went up to it and held out his hand, the owl grew half as tall again, stood up as stiff as a poker, closed its eyes so that there was only the smallest slit to peep through – as you are in the habit of doing when told to shut your eyes at hide—and—seek – and said in a doubtful voice:

‘There is no owl.’

Then it shut its eyes entirely and looked the other way.

‘It is only a boy,’ said Merlyn.

‘There is no boy,’ said the owl hopefully, without turning round.

2. Rafael Behr (a.k.a. “Contributor Namy”) in today’s Guardian:

The heckles in the House of Commons can be as revealing as the speeches. When the prime minister was taking questions about her Brexit plans on Monday, Anna Soubry, Conservative MP for Broxtowe, asked about the no-deal scenario – whether the UK would “jump off the cliff”. At which point a male voice, dripping with derision, chimed in: “There is no cliff!”

Behr’s article is worth the trip, for illuminating us on the desiderata of the Tory head-bangers:

Interrogate the Brexit no-dealers on detail and they concede that their plan hinges on a doctrine of pain for gain. They advocate the abandonment of tariffs, inviting the world’s exporters to flood Britain with their wares. Thus would a beacon of free trade be lit on Albion’s shores, inspiring others to repent of their protectionist tendencies. This might bring cheap produce to supermarket shelves (consumer gain) but sabotage UK farmers, who would be undercut by an influx of American and Antipodean meat (producer pain).

Manufacturers would suffer too, but that is an intended consequence of opening the doors to invigorating winds of competition. The whole point is to sweep away inefficiency and blow down zombie businesses while fanning the flames of innovation. In this model, the UK economy is a vast pre-Thatcher coalfield that refuses to accept its obsolescence and must be made to confront it by force. If the timid will not jump into the future, they must be pushed.

Sadly that would take down the Irish economy with that of the UK. In the small matter of €1.3 billion of Irish exports to the UK each month, a fair chunk is essential chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

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Filed under Comment is Free, Conservative Party policy., EU referendum, Europe, fiction, films, Guardian, politics, Tories.

Hammond organ

Whatever I do this day must start with a sigh of gratitude.

I wake. I reach for the iPad (to see if the orange-haired one has gone thermo-nuclear yet) and expect to find the e-mail morning briefings, which invariably come with tortuously-punned headlines.

Much of the time Stephen Bush, for the New Statesman, delivers the most groan-worthy. Paul Waugh, batting for HuffPo’s Waugh Zone, is always a worthy contender, and seems lately to have upped his always-fine game.

Today, though, Waugh rescued me (don’t even try, Fontella!) from a continued irritant-verging-on-agony. Hence the gratitude.

The story starts here:

As I became progressively hard-of-hearing, I compensated with internalised sound. That and ever-more-expensive headphones (currently a pair of Sony MD-R noise-cancellers).

By Monday morning I had a severe dose of the ever-threatening ear-worm. This was Cast Your Fate to the Wind.

That was OK by me in itself. Except I kept trying to keep on the proper channel to the authentic Vince Guaraldi original:

When I go, I wanna go like … well, if not Elsie, at least like Vince, or Monk, or Joe and Cannonball or whoever is titillating the ossicles at that terminus ad Queen.

However much I tried to keep on track with Guaraldi, it kept jumping to that soft-core version, done in a London studio by studio musicians, and — even then — far, far too good for the pop market:

Desperate measures needed. So I tried to switch to Quincy Jones having a bash:

That almost worked, until I arrived at the insistent Dum-Dum-Dum riff. Unless it is done as subtly as Guaraldi did, I hear morse-code Dah-dah-dah (the letter “O”) — and I’m back with Sounds Orchestral.

Ta-rah! Waugh to the rescue!

There matters rested, repetitively until this Wednesday morning. Here comes Paul Waugh’s opener: he’s speculating on PMQs, and a possible response to the Chancellor:

Philip Hammond’s new Times article in which the Chancellor warns Brexiteers he won’t necessarily dole out huge sums on ‘no deal’ preparations. “We will only spend it when it’s responsible to do so,” he says. No.10 sees this as a statement of typical Treasury caution ahead of a Budget, but others see Hammond smacking down Cabinet colleagues who told the Sun yesterday they wanted billions to spend on things like new port facilities at Dover. Boris allies will want to know why Hammond’s been allowed to stir things up again, while their man is sat on.

That didn’t sort out the acoustics, until Waugh cracked it:

Hammond sounds like he’s egging on the PM to face down the no-dealers, while simultaneously offering them the illusion of preparations. Indeed, Brexit sometimes reminds me of the Beatles’ song ‘Yesterday’, the melody of which appeared to Paul McCartney one night in a dream. He had no lyrics, so came up with the working opening of ‘Scrambled eggs/Oh my baby how I love your legs/’. Brexit is currently a tune without lyrics. But the words are going to have be written soon if it’s to become an enduring British classic.

Which has caused the new ear-worm problem.

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Filed under Jazz, Music, Paul Waugh, politics

Just Perkin about

The following was totally irrelevant to a running thread on politics.ie.

A poor thing, but mine own (with the usual inputs).

  • Now look here: don’t you go making insinuations about Corkonians!
  • For me, the dirt on “Perkin Warbeck” was first dished by Bram Stoker. [Cries of “not a lot of people know that” but hardly © Michael Caine.]
  • I feel the need for a frolic, and to add a bit of totally irrelevant info — after all, there’s a whole menagerie of “types” in this story, and it was good enough for Bram Stoker. So here goes…

Two worthies from that fine city (former mayor John Atwater and English exile John Taylor) had Pierrechon de Werbecque (oh — work it out for yourselves) impersonate Richard Plantagenet, duke of York.

In his forced “confession”, “Warbeck” declared himself properly to be son of John Osbek, comptroller of the town of Tournai, and Kataryn de Far. We can identify these as Jehan de Werbecque and Nicaise Farou (English orthography and decoding of foreign names didn’t improve much until the 18th century — even if then).

“Warbeck” apprenticed in the Flemish wool-trade, which brought him into the service of Lady Margaret Beaumont, wife of the Anglo-Portuguese trader (and convert from Judaism) Sir Edward Brampton, Duarte Brandão. “Warbeck” came to Cork via the Portuguese Court, where he had fallen in with, first the royal councillor and explorer Pero Vaz de Cunha, and in 1488 with a Breton merchant, Pregent Meno. Meno arrived at Cork in December 1491 with silk to sell — which must say something about the prosperity of Cork in the late 15th century.

Malcolmian aside 1:

There’s several “de Cunha” names around at this time. All seem to have connections to Portuguese expansion and trade in India. In which case, I’m wondering about a family connection, which still appears on the Atlantic map as “Tristan da Cunha“.

Taylor deserves more attention than he has regularly received. He had come to Cork as an agent of  Charles VIII Valois l’Affable, whose interest was to divert Henry VII Tudor from ambitions in Britanny. Taylor induced Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Desmond, to patronise “Warbeck”, but it was Taylor who carried “Warbeck” to Harfleur. When Charles VIII came to terms with Henry Tudor (November 1492), “Warbeck” was rendered redundant, and made a break for Mechelen where he won over the dowager Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret of York, who “recognised” her long-lost nephew.

Malcolmian aside 2:

I was puzzled by the white roses in the glass of Flemish churches: it’s down to the marriage of Margaret of York at 5am on 3 July 1468 to Charles of Burgundy.

By early 1493 former-Yorkist members of the English court were appending themselves to what was a developing plot: Lord John Fitzwalter, Sir Robert Clifford (watch him!), Dean William Worsley of St Paul’s, and even the chamberlain of the king’s household, Sir William Stanley. Henry VII Tudor was already responding by cracking down on dissent in Ireland, and threatening trade sanctions (i.e. suspending the wool trade) against the Flemings. The Flemish sent “Warbeck” to Vienna, to secure the support of Maximilian Hapsburg, king of the Romans, who was married to a daughter of Charles of Burgundy by his first wife.

Malcolmian aside 3:

It might seem remarkable how often Portuguese connections show up in this story: the Burgundy/York marriage; Maximilian’s mother was a Portuguese princess. That’s a reflection of the passing importance of Portugal as a European power. And reminds me to read Roger Crowley’s book.

All was going swimmingly: “Warbeck” was an honoured guest of Maximilian when Philip the Fair was installed as ruler of the Flemish lands. Whereupon the wheels came off. Clifford (see above) defected back to Henry Tudor, and implicated the Yorkist courtiers. There was something of an Irish rebellion by the Desmonds. An attempted invasion of England, financed by Maximilian, was thwarted at the beach at Deal by Kentish levies. “Warbeck” then tried it on, with some success, at the court of James IV Stewart of Scotland. James Stewart married “Warbeck” to Lady Catherine Gordon (daughter of the Earl of Huntley, and a minor royal), provided “Warbeck” with Falkland Palace as a base, and prepared for an invasion of England. James Stewart had no intention of putting “Warbeck” on the English throne: the reward would be the burgh of Berwick.

James Stewart and “Warbeck” marched the Scots force across the border (21 September 1496), but “Warbeck” was soon aware he would have no support, and he retired. James Stewart bashed about a few border castles, and he too retreated.

Meanwhile Henry VII Tudor’s taxation provoked a rising in Cornwall, and more generally across the South-West. The rebels issued an invitation for “Warbeck” to lead them. The rebels took a trouncing at Blackheath (17 June 1497) and retreated to Cornwall, and “Warbeck” duly arrived at Whitesand Bay, via Ireland, on 7 September. Ireland, by the way, had been pacified by Gearóid Mór, the Earl of Kildare. “Warbeck” had attracted as many as 8,000 when he attempted a strike on Exeter (17 September 1497), to be sent packing by the Earl of Devon’s garrison. By the time “Warbeck” retreated to Taunton, his support was dissipating rapidly. By 21 September the rebellion was over, and “Warbeck” and his closest supporters fled.

“Warbeck” and three others holed up at Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire, were recognized and surrendered on promise of pardon. Henry Tudor held a kangaroo court at Taunton (5 October), where “Warbeck” confessed his imposture.

Malcolmian aside 4:

“Warbeck”‘s wife — and soon to be widow — received considerations from the Tudors. During the next reign, that of Henry VIII Tudor, she had three successive further marriages.

On the principle of keeping his enemies closer, Henry Tudor traipsed “Warbeck” around in his train until 9 June 1498 when “Warbeck” engineered an escape to Sheen, where he was recaptured and condemned to the Tower in shackles for life. I’d have to raise an eyebrow here: the back-end of “Warbeck”‘s career seems a trifle too convenient for Henry VII Tudor.

Somehow “Warbeck” became involved in one final plot, an attempt to break the Earl of Warwick and “Warbeck” from the Tower. This, too, was remarkably convenient for Henry Tudor in flushing out the last of the Yorkists (so, join the dots). A job lot of Henry’s enemies (including Taylor and Atwater — see my third paragraph of this post — neatly recovered respectively from France and Ireland) went on trial at the Palace of Westminster, en route for terminal “wet jobs“. “Warbeck” made a final “confession” before being hanged at Tyburn (23 November 1499).

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