Monthly Archives: December 2008

Wessex casts a clout


Running strap-line from BBC News web-site:

LATEST: RSPCA says it is looking at claims Prince Edward may have struck Labrador with walking stick in Norfolk.


  • Painful part of the anatomy, Norfolk?
  • Or, a long-distance, ineffective pre-emptive strike on our Canadian allies?

And, believe it or not, this while the Israelis are carving out mayhem in Gaza and taking advantage of the last throes of the Washington lame duck, the effete Earl of Wessex’s canine conflict has accumulated over 220 news items (according to Google).

Oh, and the Daily Excess credited its version of the story to — wait for it! adopt Scouse accent! — Laura Clout.

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Filed under human waste, Norfolk, Republicanism, social class

Bishops (but no crooks)

chessThe Christmas season is made for non-stories. For example, The Times had to rediscover, yet again, that the diplomatic service is somewhat cavalier with its collection of art-works. The paper then had the decency to file that one under “entertainment” rather than real news: a sure guarantee that it had been sitting round, unnoticed and unloved, waiting its turn to become page-filler.

The prize turkey, though, was cooked up by the Sunday Telegraph:

Bishops deliver damning verdict on Britain under Labour rule
g bishops in the Church of England have launched a withering attack on the Government questioning the morality of its policies.


  • Is there such a being as a “following” Bishop?
  • Are attacks in the Press ever any less than “withering”?
  • Would the preposition “under” ever appear in the Torygraph in connection with “Tory rule”?
  • What, indeed, does that broadsheet, the fiefdom — successively — of fraudster Conrad Black and the bullying Barclays, know of “morality”?

These are imponderables, but suggest the piece was an off-the-cuff effort.

Even Tim Montgomerie’s band of bruvvers were not wholly sold on it: at least the acerbic (and usually entertaining, if misguided) Cranmer wasn’t:

The bishops’ comments may ‘coincide’ with those of David Cameron because they have been ‘coordinated’ by a higher power – be it God or the Barclay brothers.

So, to the parson’s nose

Malcolm admits to encountering the occasional bishop over the last half-century or so. He finds they seem to fall into two categories: the quiet, effective pastor and the barking-mad, verbose, would-be politician.

Each of the four Bishops cited here has a track record. Malcolm admits surprise that nobody in his recent reading has pursued that line. Perhaps it’s because the serious journos are de-toxing somewhere, far away from their desks. Or, perhaps, because the general view is that this is a non-story.

Malcolm would like to help them with a few clues.

Stephen Lowe, the junior of the team, is a mere suffragan in the diocese of bishop-of-hulmeManchester; but one of just two suffragans in the House of Lords. He clearly is staking a more-conservative claim to the territory once decently and honourably occupied by David Sheppard. Lowe’s Faithful City is a pale imitation and clear homage to Sheppard’s Faith in the City.

Early this year, Lowe was robustly defending Rowan Williams over the Sharia law kerfuffle. It went something like this:

I’m fed up with politicians who shoot their mouths off about someone as intelligent as Rowan, without even thinking about what he said. This reaction just stirs up bad feeling between communities and plays into the hands of racists.

Lowe is strong on the racist thing: on a previous outing he was arguing for the deletion from the hymnal (on grounds of heresy, racism, and xenophobia) of I vow to thee, my country:

… it echoes Hitler’s Germany and is “heretical”…

He compares the hymn – which was sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales – with right-wing attitudes…

He added he was raising the issue in the wider context of the “vilification” of foreigners in the media and had noticed it was being sung at “various national occasions”.

Malcolm’s view is the music alone, Holst adapting his own melody, justifies its continued inclusion. He leaves the theology to others, while noting that the Bishop might not wholly object to the last verse:

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Now to bigger fish and some stronger meat.

Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, is a product of the independent sector obishop-of-manchesterf education (Liverpool College and Selwyn, Cambridge; Cuddesdon). His main contributions to western civilisation include a voiced objection to the Playstation game, Resistance, Fall of Man (not for its quite appalling and mindless violence, but because—allegedly—it digitalises the interior of Manchester Cathedral).

He is the first Bishop to ordain his spouse. To be fair, he is the pick of this bunch and does not fall under section 2 of the Mental Health Act.

Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, is a real ecclesiastic grandee: bishop-of-winchesterPrelate of the Order of the Garter, no less. One persistent topic of bitchery among Anglicans is the surprise of Williams being preferred over Scott-Joynt for Canterbury (rumour has it that Scott-Joynt is also of this view). His choicest offering could be his Christmas, 2001, address, reflecting on 9/11, Afghanistan, Palestine and more:

Would we be in this situation, if western – north American and European – electorates, all with deep Christian pedigrees, had not encouraged, supported or at least allowed our governments, over so many decades, to develop our standard of living at the expense of millions in the southern hemisphere? And if we had not sold their rulers armaments on such favorable terms, and with so little forethought? Cruelly evil though they were, I find that I have to understand the events of September 11 as a judgment upon us…

Despite his confusion over planetary geography [the 9/11 terrorists = southern hemisphere?], he seems intent on reopening hostilities with the American colonies over women bishops. He is a High Anglican (Cuddesdon, again) and an outspoken critic of gay-rights.

Finally, at the other end of the Anglican spectrum is the Rt Rev Graham Dow, p27_graham-dow1jpg1Bishop of Carlisle. He should be celebrated above all other follies for his hot-line to the Almighty as the Summer 2007 floods still washed around the knees of his flock:

… laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless…

“This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way,” he said. “We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.”

“We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate,” he said.

“In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as ‘the beast’, which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want,” he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.

Now, we can’t allow any nonsense about people … free to act as they want, can we?

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Filed under 9-11, Labour Party, leftist politics., Times, Tories.

Thanks, Father of mine


One of the mysteries that Malcolm will now never be able to solve is his own father’s politics.

Malcolm’s father’s father, Tommy, was a Yorkshire miner. He named his last daughter “Minima” because she was born in 1912, while the miners were on strike for a “minimum wage”. The outrageous demand was 12/6 a week (spell it out: fifty-two and a half pence). Meanwhile, the coal-owners and landlords were making millions a year.

On his own death-bed, Malcolm’s father (let’s call him “Jack”, for that was his only forename) harked back to when he was thirteen years old, and the end of an intelligent man’s education:

“I came home from school. The house was quiet, so I knew my Dad was dead. Next day I went to work.”

Then it was called miner’s lung: the fancy name is pneumoconiosis. Either way, it’s a killer.

Yet, throughout his life, Jack diligently read the Daily Express, invariably starting from the back. To be fair, that was the Beaverbrook rag edited by the great Arthur Christiansen, and his immediate successors. Jack’s death came soon after the pornographer Desmond bought the title.

So Jack was a Tory? Which would neatly give a Freudian explanation of Malcolm’s swing to the left? No: it wasn’t that simple.

Jack was anti-authoritarian, a suppressed renegade . It’s in the genes: the family was represented in 1792 on the fourth Fleet to Australia, and later among the rebels at Pentrich. So Jack superficially disapproved, but curiously condoned his son’s political deviance. In later life, as a junior civil-servant in the Ministry of Defence, Jack may have found Malcolm a trial:

“What were you up to last week-end?”
“What business is that of yours?”
“You were on a demonstration, right?
“OK, OK. I was on the CND demo at Holy Loch.”
“I knew it! I knew it!”
“How could you?”
“I had another security check done on me on Tuesday. So you owe me the next pint.”

The fisting of Lamont

Jack’s last election was 2001. By then he had switched any voting allegiance to Phil Willis in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

Malcolm recalls the 1997 arrival of the postal vote:

I can’t stand that Lamont.”
“Well, it’s your choice.”
“You think I should vote for your Labour man, don’t you. Hasn’t got a hope. I’m not going to vote.”
“No. That Willis chap seems OK. What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s the Liberal, yes?”
[Jack never quite got the notion of the LibDems.]
“Yeah. Are you coming up to the Club for a pint?”

And so a vote was canvassed and counter-signed. And Norman Lamont went down, badly.

It’s not “on topic” here, but the Tory campaign in that election, at least in Harrogate, was a disaster. Malcolm spent an hour of one Saturday mid-day in a pub a couple of hundred yards from the Tory Club, watching Norman Lamont (14 years a Minister, a former Chancellor) sitting alone during a “campaign” for what ought (then) to be a Tory seat. The Tory show of strength amounted to fly-posting (using an anonymous purple and a very passing mention of party allegiance).

So, what brings all this to mind, Malcolm?

Sometime in the early hours, Malcolm felt restless, stirred and rose. Came downstairs, make a cup of tea. Sat and read a couple of pages of the Times Literary Supplement. Then he became involved in the Christmas acrostic puzzle.

A while later, the curtains of heaven drew apart (no: Blake is not one of the solutions), and Malcolm’s memory was hearing an annual recitation from a paternal voice:

It was Christmas Day in the workhouse,
That season of good cheer,
The paupers hearts were merry,
Their bellies full of beer . . .

Which would, inevitably, be the moment when the maternal voice would intervene:

“Jack! That’s more than enough!”

There’s a clue in there, somewhere.

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Filed under democracy, underclass, Wells-next-the-Sea, working class

Logging and blogging


The death of Malcolm’s beech tree left a hole in his garden, but a pile of wood to be turned into logs.

Yesterday, a nice winter’s day in London, seemed as good a time as any.

There is something destructively creative, or creatively destructive about splitting logs.

First, it’s the age-old contest between human and nature: find the weak spot, exploit the natural cracks.

Then it’s the hard sweat and the instant gratification. Insert the wedge. Hammer like hell for an indefinite period. Wait for the creak and the the crack. Heave the segment onto the growing pile. Repeat.

There’s the moment of surprise. The wedge seems to be getting nowhere. Break off. A cup of tea or two later, return to the task to find the log has neatly split in your absence.

There’s the marvel of seeing into the colours and grain of the wood, intruding into the secret places where the fungus but no human eye has penetrated before.

And the opportunity for the mind to wander into parallel avenues of thought and recollection.


So, at one point Malcolm’s memory went back over fifty years, to the barn of the Reverend Donald Evans Brown, rector of St Nicholas, Wells-next-the-Sea. The sea-scouts were cutting wood, and splitting logs, for distribution at Christmas to the elderly of the parish.

Perhaps a score of youths, many barely into teenage years, armed with hatchets, axes, wedges, hammers, full cross-cut saws, shovels and rakes and implements of destruction.

All under the most nugatory of supervision.

And not a “risk assessment” in sight.

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Filed under Norfolk, Wells-next-the-Sea

Back on the train

93064624_3b7901cc8bMalcolm’s delighted five minutes with the time-lapse camera (see previous post) stirred him to note that the story of Deutsche Bahn buying into Channel Tunnel passenger services keeps going the rounds. [The image (left) is ripped shamelessly from one of many by eisenrah at Flickr.]

It popped up again last Friday under Ben Webster’s by-line, in the Times business pages:

Germany is seeking to buy Britain’s share of Eurostar in a move that would leave the high-speed international train service entirely under foreign control. Passengers could benefit from direct services between London and several new continental destinations, including Cologne, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

Deutsche Bahn (DB), Germany’s state-owned railway, may also use Eurostar trains to operate a rival service through the Channel Tunnel, with competition resulting in cheaper tickets to Paris and Brussels. But the Government, which is preparing to sell the third of Eurostar that it controls, would lose the ability to influence the development of the rail link to the Continent.

Webster reminds us that the Germans are already here, owning Chiltern Railways and EWS, and with strong and growing interests in London Overground.

And good show, says Malcolm.25_11_6-german-ice-train-at-munich_web1

Just last week he was on the newly-upgraded line between Munich and Nuremberg. At full belt, and if the trip’s on expenses, the gorgeous ICE trains do it in under an hour and a quarter. The Regional Expresses (stopping trains) for ordinary mortals are scheduled for half-an-hour longer: this can include an extended wait at Ingolstadt while the ICE goes through.

It was a tale of two journeys.

Malcolm arrived at Munich airport, and took the S-bahn into town. Ample time for the interchange, and then RE4012 out of Munich at 1.05pm, due into Nuremberg at 2.47pm. All went well until well past Ingolstadt, and after passing the immaculate white Audi plant.

A slack through one of the new tunnels, and a long halt at Kinding.

Now, if it wasn’t for the adjacent autobahn, Kinding (Altmühltal) could qualify as the Baverian counterpart of Adlestrop:

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was…

… well, early December actually. But the air-con was set quite high.

There were frequent announcements,

in  German (natch),
which Malcolm could not quite catch
(“a poet,
and he doesn’t know it”).

With the help of others, Malcolm learned there was a problem “in the Nuremberg area”, that they would return to Ingolstadt and transfer onto the other (older) line.

So it happened. Malcolm twice crossed the Danube, once heading north, then back south. After half-an-hour standing on Ingolstadt station, another train pulled in. A double-decker, no less (the lady in Malcolm’s life had demanded no less).

Eventually, turning west, the caravanserai set off again (with no apologies to the blessed Joni):

He’s looked at Audi from both sides now,
From North and south, and still somehow
Its cloud allusions he recalls,
He really doesn’t know Audi at all.

As darkness closed in, it became a rural route, stopping at every eine-pferde town. Eventually, at going-past-six-o’clock, the train made Nuremberg. Over three hours late.

Even Homer can nod.

Even Deutsche Bahn can have problems.

And coming back?

The RE4011 “taglich” out of Nuremberg at 11.10, into Munich at 12.52. Both right to the minute.



The bottom line

What is missing there is that Malcolm’s expedition (three adults: himself, his lady, his sister-in-law) from Munich airport, into the centre of town, the onward journey to Nuremberg, and any forward journey by the local transport, was covered by a single Bayernticket (other Länder operate parallel schemes):

  • Price: €27, available in numerous languages from any automated machine. Don’t let the helpful DB guy at the ticket-machines at Munich airport tell you you want a local transport ticket (about €18 for a small party for a day): if you’re heading out of Munich you want the real thing (it’s a button down the right-hand side of the machine).
  • It’s €19 for a solitary passenger.
  • Valid for any public transport inside the province for a day. Bavaria is pretty generous in its interpretation of how far the ticket can work: it certainly includes Ulm, which is in Baden-Württemburg, and even down to Salzberg.
  • And for up to five adults at a time. So, look for the day-tripping groups of pensioners and back-packers, and prepare to be included in a beer and Würst party.
  • The DB website is a delight. Schedules across Europe are exemplary. It even tells which platform the service runs from and to. It sells tickets, but not Ländertickets.

Now there are ideas DB could usefully bring to the UK.

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Today’s best moment

London to Glasgow in five minutes.

Nearly as good as the real thing.

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A Sarky comment

Did we really need proof positive that the Barclay brothers are a nasty pair?

Surely, the electors of Sark more likely to submit to the Barclay cosh were just those employees and dependents who have now been sacked.

Consider the owners of the Tory press: a pornographer, these two bully boys (who bought the Telegraph from a disgraced fraudster) — and Murdoch. A pretty bunch. It makes Dacre at the Mail, a foul-mouthed xenophobe, seem almost cuddly.

Yet, they all believe they have bought the right and duty to ordain the next Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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Filed under Racists, sleaze., smut peddlers, Tories.