Monthly Archives: June 2011

How much?

Here’s a question, one which nobody in the Tory press or among the Tory rentamouths seems capable of answering …

What is the surplus in the Teachers’ Pension Fund?

Strictly, of course, there isn’t one. That’s because the Treasury simply snaffles the deductions and trousers the contributions. It is a “notional” fund, which exists only on paper.

By way of an answer, the last time Malcolm looked, it was “notionally” well above £25,000,000,000. And increasing.

A more recent figure would, therefore, be welcome.

________________________________________

The wider issue is not that public sector pensions are outrageously good — say £6,000 a year for a civil servant or a female lecturer. It is that private sector pensions are disgracefully bad.

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Filed under economy, education, politics, Tories., Trade unions

Bought and paid for?

What David Cameron does to the traditional rules of debate in the Commons should be everybody’s business.

Earlier this month we had this in PMQs:

The Prime Minister: The best that can be said about this performance is that—quite rightly—the right hon. Gentleman [Ed Miliband] was not thinking about politics on his honeymoon. On waiting times, what actually matters is the time people wait and median waiting times are down. That is what has happened in the NHS, and that is something that he misled the House of Commons about a fortnight ago—

Mr Speaker: Order. I know that the Prime Minister will be a follower of parliamentary protocol, and he will not suggest that the Leader of the Opposition misled the House of Commons. I am sure that he will withdraw that remark.

The Prime Minister: What I meant was that the right hon. Gentleman gave an interesting use of facts on waiting times, which are down in the NHS. What we are seeing today is simply empty opposition and weak leadership. That is what we get from Labour.

Notice that Cameron did not, as instructed, “withdraw that remark”. He got away with it. So, an accusation of lying: were that to be proven, it would be automatic resignation.

Yesterday he had these two:

What the whole country will have noticed is that at a time when people are worried about strikes, the right hon. Gentleman cannot ask about strikes because he is in the pocket of the unions. What the whole country will have noticed is that at a time when Greece is facing huge problems over its deficit, he cannot talk about Greece because his plan is to make Britain like Greece. What the whole country will have noticed is that at a time when the economy is the key issue, he cannot talk about the economy because of his ludicrous plan for tax cuts. That is what we see, week after week. He has to talk about the micro because he cannot talk about the macro.

I note that we are 26 minutes into Question Time yet we have not heard a squeak from Labour Members about strikes, pensions or the need for reform. Because they are all paid for by the trade unions, they cannot talk about this issue.

The first is an arrogant rant. Both are accusations of corruption.

The Commons briefing on parliamentary language is tightly written:

Language and expressions used in the Chamber must conform to a number of rules. Erskine May states “good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language”. Objection has been taken both to individual words and to sentences and constructions – in the case of the former, to insulting, coarse, or abusive language (particularly as applied to other Members); and of the latter, to charges of lying or being drunk and misrepresentation of the words of another. Among the words to which Speakers have objected over the years have been blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor. The context in which a word is used is, of course, very important.

Cameron is playing fast-and-loose with the rules. he is being encouraged to do so by the Tory Ultras, who have issues with Speaker Bercow and seek to diminish him. The Tory press, having invested heavily in Project Cameron, are in on the act. There’s Tim Shipman in the Daily Mail:

Senior Tories vowed ‘revenge’ on Commons Speaker John Bercow yesterday after he slapped down David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions…

Tory MP Rob Wilson said: ‘There should be an election at the start of each Parliament so the Speaker has the backing of the House…”

There were audible gasps when the Speaker showed such disrespect to the Prime Minister. Many colleagues are very concerned that the Speaker uses Prime Minister’s Questions, which is shown around the world, to act in such a high-handed and disrespectful manner.

“Disrespect”? And then there’s Andrew Gimson in the Telegraph, reducing PMQs to bare-knuckle blood sports:

When one Englishman wishes to insult another, he treats him with supercilious politeness. The Speaker, John Bercow, silenced David Cameron with the words: “We’re very grateful.”

Mr Bercow was not, of course, in the slightest bit grateful. He thought the Prime Minister had wandered too far from the subject and gone on for too long, so he gave him a smack in the face.

Mr Cameron was furious. He sat down with exaggerated slowness and shook his head. For a moment his demeanour recalled that of Mr Darcy, in Pride and Prejudice, when confronted by behaviour of unspeakable oikishness.

But in the cruel world of Prime Minister’s questions, it never does to behave like a victim. Whatever else you do, you have to show you can stand up for yourself.

For Mr Darcy, read “Flashman”, whose younger version (by Thomas Hughes, rather than George Macdonald Fraser) seems to fit:

Flashman, be it said, was …  played well at all games where pluck wasn’t much wanted, and managed generally to keep up appearances where it was; and having a bluff, off-hand manner, which passed for heartiness, and considerable powers of being pleasant when he liked, went down with the school in general for a good fellow enough. Even in the School-house, by dint of his command of money, the constant supply of good things which he kept up, and his adroit toadyism, he had managed to make himself not only tolerated, but rather popular amongst his own contemporaries… But the wrong sort happened to be in the ascendant just now, and so Flashman was a formidable enemy … 

Meanwhile Anne Trenemann for The Times concurs with Cameron that he, and he alone, should dictate both questions and answers at PMQs:

Strike, strike and strike again. That was Dave at Prime Minister’s Questions…

Dave struck first. For once, he had a plan. The first question, planted, was from a Tory MP: “Will you condemn the strikes over and over in a very loud voice?” (I paraphrase). He would!..

As Ed sat down, riding the crest of frenzied Labour screams, Dave struck again, using his Absolutely Furious voice. “What the whole country will have noticed is that at a time when people are worried about strikes, you cannot ask about strikes because you are in the pocket of the unions!”

Strikes? The nasty party strikes again and again.

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Filed under Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, politics, prejudice, Times, Tories.

Turning turtle

The story about JFK’s turtles is getting a whale of coverage in the UK press. The authentic story, though, is from AP, via the WSJ or, dressed up with a little reportage by Andy Newman for the New York Times City Room blog:

Specialists from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey removed about 100 diamondback terrapins from the runway around 10 a.m., said John P. L. Kelly, a Port Authority spokesman.

Some flights were delayed for up to 30 minutes, said a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, Arlene Salac, but not too many: the runway is used relatively infrequently this time of year because of seasonal prevailing-wind patterns.

The runway becomes a turtle crossing every year around this time as the terrapins gear up to reproduce.

“They look for sandy spots to lay their eggs,” Mr. Kelly said, “and there is an ideal location on the other side of Runway 4L. They come out of the water and cross the runway to lay their eggs in the sand.”

Wildlife specialists for the Port Authority and the federal Agriculture Department relocated the turtles to an equally nestworthy area on airport property out of harm’s way, officials said.

“We just take them to a part of the airport where they can keep traveling west, but in a safe direction,” said Allen Gosser, assistant state director for New York wildlife service for the department.

Good to know there are “specialists” for such eventualities. Good, too, for the top Reader’s Comment to be:

The very definition of a slow news day.

That might be verified by the headline NY Times story today being by Sarah Lyall:

Public Workers Strike in Britain Over Pensions

Hundreds of thousands of teachers and public-sector workers across Britain walked off their jobs on Thursday to protest the government’s proposed changes to their pension plans. Union officials warned that this could be the beginning of a wave of strikes this summer and fall over pensions and public-sector budget cuts.

Too right.

As for the turtles, that’s a bit different to local experience.

The official reason for the closure of Nutt’s Corner as the airport for Belfast, and the short shift down the road to Aldergrove, was the tight descent and steep take-off. Popular legend, however, has it that pilots objected to umpteen hares’ eyes gleaming back from the landing lights. When the authorities closed Nutts Corner, the hares promptly debunked to Aldergrove. They remain one of the things Malcolm looks for, and the hares generally oblige, to make it a kind of home-from-home coming.

Now, anyone for crunching through the periodical cicadas?

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Filed under air travel., New York City, New York Times, Northern Ireland

Haven’t we met before?

While we’re with the current issue of What’s Brewing, there’s this ad on the front page:

That’s either Gino D’Achille or a demn’d good imitation. For example:

Which raises some awkward issues about traditional virtues and honesty, as this, also from the front page of What’s Brewing:

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Filed under Beer, CAMRA, Flashman

A Tidy comment

Bill Tidy truly is a National Treasure. His moustached, be-scarved and be-capped gents have been with us since the glory days of :

  • The Cloggies, that everyday story of clog-dancing folk, which featured, among memorable others, Reg Thrumper, the Blagdon amateur rapist;

and

Now the quota is down to Keg Buster (as above), who appears on the back page of the CAMRA monthly, What’s Brewing.

A Malcolmian aside:

When one Googles “CAMRA”, the Google map that comes up alongside features that well-known road between Barnet and the M25, the famous Trotter’s Bottom. Hmmmm….

So, where else could one find so pertinent a conflation of two recent political stories:

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Filed under CAMRA, culture, Guardian, policing, politics

Unbridled ambition

A short while back, Malcolm’s grandson (aged seven) returned from school, all fired up.

He had been chosen for the advanced language development group.

He informed his parents:

  • his ambition was to use the word perseverance ten times tomorrow!
  • he required a dictionary, encyclopedia and thesaurus beside his bed when he woke up!
And then there’s this as the headline story on Political Scrapbook:

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Filed under British Left, education, politics

That old gripe: et la lutte continue

Way, way back in November of last year, Malcolm got waxy with Haringey’s Planning Enforcement. In all this time he has not received as much as an acknowledgement.

So, out of devilment, here goes again:

[Email starts:]

Seven months ago (29 November 2010) I addressed the following to your planning Enforcement. I still await a reply: ___________________________________

A week ago you received the following:

Out of bloody-mindedness, Malcolm looked up The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007.

He is severely vexed;

He has a gripe;

He is otherwise not engaged; and

It is a wet, grey, miserable November day in Norf Lunnun.

Despite the usual impenetrable parliamentary draughtsmanship, this is what Malcolm thinks he learned:

Class 3A of the rules and regulations seems the key bit which refers to estate agents boards (which is his current hate);

A board can be displayed if a property is for sale or to let;

The board ought exceed half-a-square metre in size;

Only one board can be displayed for a single property, and the board must be on that property, not on the verge or on a communal area;

and, naturally, there are all kinds of other restrictions.

So:

Why are there scores of signs which boast a particular property has been sold or let?

Why do other boards exists for months, and in a couple of egregious cases for years (vide: above Sainsbury’s, Muswell Hill), advising that the property is “let and managed” by a particular firm?

Why does the local authority take no action?

To date you have not felt able to honour this with even an acknowledgement of receipt. Malcolm assumes, therefore, that either he has mistaken the regulations (and you are too polite to correct him) or they do not apply in the London Borough of Haringey.

In the course of today’s errands, Malcolm wandered from Muswell Hill Post Office to Sainsbury’s in Fortis Green Road.

To help you further in any efforts, he noted signboards declaring that the premises had been “let by” or “let and managed by” a particular firm. As far as Malcolm reads the regulations, all of these seem to be irregular:

two separate boards (i.e. four sides) above Sainsbury’s, 12-14 Fortis Green Road (these have been there for a considerable length of time, possibly years);

above Broadway Pet Stores, 6-8 Muswell Hill Broadway;

rear of Nicholas wine merchants, 91-93 Muswell Hill Broadway;

the former premises of Quicksilver, ?150 Muswell Hill Broadway (which may also be in breach because of size);

154-166 Muswell Hill Broadway;

above Rex café, 184 Muswell Hill Broadway;

188 Muswell Hill Broadway;

192-202 Muswell Hill Broadway;

280-282 Muswell Hill Broadway;

above Pizza Express, 290 Muswell Hill Broadway;

above Andrews locksmiths, 299 Muswell Hill Broadway;

339 Muswell Hill Broadway;

“I’m let”, above Oxfam Books, 378 Muswell Hill Broadway;

former dry cleaners, 438 Muswell Hill Broadway;

“Flat sold”, 442-448 Muswell Hill Broadway.

There are also the decaying remains of the wooden supporting structure for a board above Everbest, 388 Muswell Hill Broadway.

Should any of your officers venture down the residential Muswell Hill Road, a further rash of similar boards will be evident.

This is being posted at https://redfellow.wordpress.com and copied to the Ham & High.

___________________________________

This is again being posted at https://redfellow.wordpress.com and copied to the Ham & High.

[End of email]

Many, if not most of those boards listed above are still there. Plus other additions.

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Filed under Muswell Hill

The not-so-great and the not-so-good, no 23

Via Whitehall debauches to Sackville Street

Malcolm had the lawn mown before 9 a.m. coffee. This naturally induced a sense of well-being. To the venerable tune of Shrimp Boats (as from Jo Stafford, circa 1951) he found himself carolling:

Foxes is a-crapping,
Their turds are in sight,
Foxes come a-crapping,
Each and every night.
Why don’t they do goin’ home …

Not great stuff; but it was a stage in evolving this posting.

The Malcolmian thought-process from there:

A long way back Sam Jordison blogged on John Wilmot: the profane Pam Ayres of 17th-century poetry. Jordison had been pubbing (the Red Lion at East Adderbury, a commendable choice):

It was here – in Adderbury House, conveniently near the pub – that John Wilmot, the Secnd Earl of Rochester, had his country seat. All Shakespearean puns in that sentence are, I’m afraid, fully intended, since this was where the famous “profane wit” lodged his long-suffering wife. To her he wrote the sugared words:

When wearied with a world of woe,
To thy safe bosom I retire,
Where love and peace and truth does flow,
May I contented there expire.

But when he did bother to visit his wife in Adderbury, he had more pressing concerns than “peace and truth”. He had, for instance, to attend to the important business of dressing up as a tinker, trailing around the neighbouring villages offering to look at householders’ pots and pans – and then knocking out their bottoms. When in more self-reflective moods, he liked to dress up as a tramp, go out to meet other genuine hobos in the locality and encourage them to criticise the stinginess of the local aristo; namely, the second Earl of Rochester. As soon as he’d tricked them into insulting him, he’d reveal his true identity and then have them dunked into a barrel of beer as punishment.

Malcolm felt his bucolic effort was not much worse than Wilmot/Rochester at his most bathetic:

The Countesse of Falmouth, of whom People tell 
Her Footmen wear Shirts of a Guinea an Ell: 
Might Save the Expence, if she did but know 
How Lusty a Swinger is Signior Dildo.

And there is worse.

However, let’s leave Wilmot for another occasion.

A Windsor beauty

There actually was such a Countess of Falmouth, but she is not the “Elizabeth” wikipedia ambiguously suggests.

Mary Bagot, Countess of Falmouth and Dorset (1645-79) hangs in the Royal Collection. She is one of the ten “Windsor Beauties” that came off the Sir Peter Lely production line, to ornament Queen Catarina Henriqueta/Catherine of Braganza’s bedchamber (and presumably were also some of the notches on Charles II’s bed-head).

Pause for a Malcolmian aside, for there is a wrinkle here.

Mary Bagot’s parents, gentry greatly impoverished by supporting Charles I and the Cromwellian delinquency fines, were Hervey Bagot and Dorothy Arden  — she formerly of Pipe Hall, Curdworth, Warwickshire. Hello! Malcolm hears you mutter: Ardens! Warwickshire!

Yes indeed. We are in the process of hiting on two families (the Berkeleys and the Ardens) whom Burke’s Peerage (18th edition) reckon can be traced reliably back to pre-Conquest England — the only third are the Swintons.

And, yes indeed, also, this is Forest of Arden country.

Yet more yes indeed, that does make Miss Bagot’s mother a second cousin (or so) of Mary Arden, mother of one William Shakespeare. Small world, early modern Warwickshire — and that was very perceptive of you to spot the connection.

Mary Bagot

In a short life the erst-while Miss Bagot managed two well-connected, and both abbreviated, marriages.

At the age of nineteen, her first husband was the somewhat older, not-very-nice-but-frightfully-dim, Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth (right).

Berkeley’s father was Maurice Berkeley, 2nd Viscount Fitzhardinge of Berehaven — the elder brother, also Maurice, inherited that title. There seems no obvious irish connection for these Irish Barclay titles — if anywhere the Berkey interests were in Virginia — , except that Charles II was avoiding aggravating the Lord ,while keeping his favourites in the Commons (Charles Berkeley sat as MP for New Romney). Bishop George Berkeley came from another, distant, branch of the family.

We meet Charles Berkeley repeatedly in Pepys’s diaries, and never in a flattering light. For examples:

Monday 10th December, 1660, plotting against Anne Hyde:

After dinner [Colonel Robert Slingsby] came to me again and sat with me at my house, and among other discourse he told me that it is expected that the Duke [of York, the future James II] will marry the Lord Chancellor’s daughter [Anne Hyde} at last which is likely to be the ruin of Mr. Davis and my Lord Barkley, who have carried themselves so high against the Chancellor; Sir Chas. Barkley swearing that he and others had lain with her often, which all believe to be a lie.

Friday 17 October 1662, a severe Pepys dissing:

 Sir Charles Barkeley is made Privy Purse; a most vicious person, and one whom Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, to-day (at which I laugh to myself), did tell me that he offered his wife 300l. per annum to be his mistress. He also told me that none in Court hath more the King’s ear now than Sir Charles Barkeley, and Sir H. Bennet, and my Lady Castlemaine, whose interest is now as great as ever…

Monday 15th December 1662, some juicy gossip:

Dr. Clerke, who in discourse tells me, that Sir Charles Barkeley’s greatness is only his being pimp to the King, and to my Lady Castlemaine.

Sunday 8 February 1663, bed hopping:

… my Lady Castlemaine, a few days since, had Mrs. [Frances] Stuart to an entertainment, and at night began a frolique that they two must be married, and married they were, with ring and all other ceremonies of church service, and ribbands and a sack posset in bed, and flinging the stocking; but in the close, it is said that my Lady Castlemaine, who was the bridegroom, rose, and the King came and took her place with pretty Mrs. Stuart. This is said to be very true. Another story was how Captain Ferrers and W. Howe both have often, through my Lady Castlemaine’s window, seen her go to bed and Sir Charles Barkeley in the chamber all the while with her.

The last first proof

Mary Bagot’s first marriage lasted fewer than six months. The first (and last of this creation: the marriage produced only a daughter) Earl of Falmouth copped it with a Dutch cannon-ball off Lowestoft in June 1665. Pepys has this:

The Earl of Falmouth, Muskerry, and Mr. Richard Boyle killed on board the Duke [of York]’s ship, the Royall Charles, with one shot: their blood and brains flying in the Duke’s face; and the head of Mr. Boyle striking down the Duke, as some say…

The poet John Denham was equally unimpressed:

Falmouth was there, I know not what to act, 
Some say, ‘twas to grow duke too by contract; 
An untaught bullet, in his wanton scope, 
Dashes him all to pieces, and his hope: 
Such was his rise, such was his fall unpraised, 
A chance shot sooner took him than chance raised; 
His shattered head the fearless duke disdains, 
And gave the last first proof that he had brains.

The widowed Countess of Falmouth, lady-of-the-bedchamber to the Queen appears in the various lists of the King’s mistresses, though apparently not as one of the main contenders.

In 1674 the widow Mary remarried, in secret Charles Sackville (left), sixth earl of Dorset and fourth earl of Middlesex. The secrecy was somehow required because Sackville was taking legal actions against his parents over inheritances.

Here we have another reprobate, but one with a modicum of talent and wit.

At the age of nineteen Sackville was tried for the murder of a tanner in Newington (see Pepys for 22 February 1662), and needed a royal pardon. Later he would repay any compliment by surrendering his mistress, Nell Gwynne, to the King: according to Pepys, it was Sackville (then with the courtesy title of Lord Buckhurst) who:

hath got Nell away from the King’s house, lies with her, and gives her 100l. a year, so as she hath sent her parts to the house, and will act no more.

Sackville did a couple of diplomatic missions for Charles II, and was, in effect, the “minister for the arts”. He was a member of the Kit-Cat Club, translated Corneille, wrote verse, and was acknowledged as a critic by Dryden in Of Dramatic Poesy (1668). He was an early admirer of Paradise Lost.

This second marriage for Mary Bagot terminated after five years with her death in childbirth.

Sackville went on to remarry: this was the 17-year-old Lady Mary Compton, daughter of the Earl of Northamption. This produced three children, including the heir to the Dorset title, Lionel Cranfield Sackville, who in 1730-1737 became Walpole’s Lord Lieutenant in Ireland, and would give his name to Sackville Street, until that was re-named for Daniel O’Connell. So another Irish connection.

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Filed under Dublin., History, Ireland, sleaze.

Two fine bargains … and Home Rule for Norfolk!

Malcolm is feeling a wee bit chuffed, this fine evening, as Norf Lunnun awaits the promised thunderstorm.

1: Vino cheapo

The first transaction involved Sainsbury’s. For no accountable reason the supermarket was selling bottles of a decent-ish Sangiovese for £9.99 each: two for £10. A no-brainer.

It was only when the second bottle was broached the problem emerged. It was foul.

So Malcolm went back to remonstrate.

After nearly half-an-hour of practising to be invisible, a member of the staff chanced to note Malcolm had been occupying that part of the premises for a while, looking for help. Instantly things happened. The price of the bottle was refunded. Only when he checked the debit-card slip did Malcolm realise: the refund was for £9.99. That first decent bottle had cost £0.01.

2: Real literature

Also, a quick check through the local Oxfam bookshop.

Helloooo! J.B.Priestley: English Journey.

In an original Heinemann-Gollancz blue, gold-blocked title, binding.

It can’t be? Swift intake of breath … dear John Boynton! It is!

A 1934 first edition! And on the fly-sheet , for confirmation: H. Barsett, 23 July 1934. Drool.

This is not just a book. It is also an historical artefact. It is still cited in university lectures on English history in the 1930s. The students dutifully write down the reference; but rarely bother to indulge in the thing itself.

Once realised. Often imitated. Never excelled.

And for £2.99.

Norwich

Once home, able to relish his extravagant purchase, out of habit, Malcolm turned, instinctively, towards the end of Priestley’s peregrination, Chapter Eleven, to the account of 1930s Norwich:

We were no longer in Dutch England, but solidly in Norfolk, though that, of course, can be Dutch enough in places. I was not paying my first visit to Norwich, though I had never stayed there before.   But I must have lunched several times at the Maid’s Head, and then spent an hour looking at the antique shops in Tombland.  The last time we were there, I remembered, we had bought a John Sell Cotman and a pretty set of syllabub glasses. Now I drove straight to the Maid’s Head, a fantastically rambling but comfortable old place, and they gave me one of those Queen Elizabeth bedrooms you find in such hotels. It would have served as an excellent background in an illustration for Bamaby Rudge. But then, to my mind, Norwich has the most Dickensian atmosphere of any city I know, except perhaps Canterbury. And this is simply due to the look of the place and not to any strong associations with Dickens. It was dusk before I was able to go out, this afternoon, and I walked into a very gloomy old city — for this was half-day closing — the shops were shut, and Norwich is not brilliantly illuminated at any time. There were very few people about. Tombland was shuttered and deserted. In the narrow old streets running out of it, where the feeble light of occasional street lamps showed you ancient, gnarled and gnome-like houses and little shops, you expected to run into characters from Edwin Drood going muffled through the chill gloom. It was difficult to believe that behind those bowed and twisted fronts there did not live an assortment of misers, mad spinsters, saintly clergymen, eccentric comic clerks, and lunatic sextons. Impossible to believe that the telephone could find its way into this rather theatrical antiquity. You peered, in passing, through the lighted window of an estate office, where an elderly clerk was at work so true to type that he looked like a good character part, and you felt that in there you could buy or rent nothing but remote crazy manors. In Tombland the trams and buses came and went incredibly, like lumbering time machines. Between the Cathedral and the Castle, both hearts of darkness, I spent a spectral hour, roaming about somewhere on the boundaries of dissolution. I had only to stand a moment too long at one of those dim street corners and my car and wireless set and typewriter would be whisked away from me and I would be lost and gone in some dusty limbo. I bought a local evening newspaper and held on to it, to keep myself in present time. I managed to get back to the Maid’s Head, though this was a doubtful harbourage in such an hour, for it was so quiet and ancient and mazy, with not a Morris stirring in the rambling interior yard. Undoubtedly I was still in Norwich; but was I in the right one?

You got that, Malcolm trusts. The casual purchase of a J.S.Cotman.

That section ends, three or four pages on, somewhere after the cry:

Home Rule for East Anglia!

with this:

What a grand, higgledy-piggledy, sensible old place Norwich is! May it become once more a literary and publishing centre, the scat of a fine school of painters, a city in which foreigners exiled by intolerance may seek refuge and turn their sons into sturdy and cheerful East Anglians; and may I live to sec the senators of the Eastern Province, stout men who take mustard with their beef and beer with their mustard, march through Tombland to assemble in their capital.

Amen to that.

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Filed under Britain, History, Literature, Norfolk, Norwich

Graceless, voracious, crass

Despite what wikipedia is still saying (Malcolm will endeavour a correction when more pressing business has been dealt with) Hyndburn Council is now Labour controlled.

Most decent folk wouldn’t recognise “Hyndburn” if they fell into it. Mention “Accrington and District”, which is a far more sensible and accurate name, and there ought to be a knowing “Ahhh!”

The district includes that gloriously-named Oswaldtwistle, home of Councillor Peter Britcliffe, whom we shall be meeting in a moment. Oswaldtwistle is one of those north-of-England places, with good Anglo-Saxon names (“Oswald’s bend”) whose pronunciation defeats native speakers of Romance languages, for such cannot conceive how and why so many consonants could be run together (consider Hampsthwaite, which Malcolm believes is uniquely six successive consonants).

However, back to Hyndburn

Political Scrapbook has one of those cut-out-and-keep gems:

Defeated council leader so bitter he wouldn’t let successor use “his desk” 

A defeated council leader was apparently so bitter at losing the election that he tried to prevent his successor using his desk, Scrapbook has learned. The former leader of Hyndburn Borough Council, Peter Britcliffe, attempted to instruct bemused staff that a taxpayer-funded bureau was “his desk” and that it should be put in storage “for when he returns”.

After taking several weeks to move out of the office reserved for the council leader, the Tory councillor continued to shock staff at Hyndburn Borough Council with his increasingly bizarre demands. Insistent that he should continue working in the style to which he was accustomed, Britcliffe had his own group of Conservative councillors ejected from their quarters to accommodate his “personal office” after attempts to acquire the office of a council director were rejected.

Only the hardest of political hearts who suggest that Councillor Britcliffe has “form”. However, if the paranoia fits, someone should be wearing it:

A COUNCIL leader has accused his political opponents of spying in his office and using information from his personal computer.

Tory Coun Peter Britcliffe called on Hyndburn Council’s Labour leader to resign over the allegations – which have been denied.

But Coun Graham Jones responded by saying that Coun Britcliffe was “telling porky pies”, and accused him of “dirty political games” and “making stuff up.”

Nor should anyone deny that Councillor Britcliffe has original views on sharing the misery:

A TORY politician has snubbed calls to reduce his £43,000 allowance by a tiny amount – despite his hard-up authority’s need to save £179million.

As ruthless public sector cuts bite across the country, Councillor Peter Britcliffe said he was not prepared to share the pain of everyone else and scoffed: “I still have to live.”

Nor that he has the “image” of his town at heart and stomach:

A COUNCIL has been criticised for paying out a ‘staggering’ £5,500 for a personal appearance by celebrity chef Aldo Zilli.

It also cost Hyndburn Borough Council another £2,500 to hire his kitchen.

Mr Zilli, who is well known for taking part in TV shows Ready Steady Cook and Saturday Kitchen, was invited to host a series of demonstrations to launch six-day trading at Accrington Market Hall…

Mr Zilli was paid £5,500 for three 45-minute sessions while £2,530 was spent hiring a kitchen for the demonstrations.

Yesterday the council leader Peter Britcliffe defended the payment, saying the money had come from a Government grant which had to be spent on the promotion of the town.

What was it the late Christopher Shale was trying to say about his fellow Tories? —

‘Collectively, we are not always an appealing proposition.

‘Over the years we have come across as graceless, voracious, crass, always on the take.

‘People think we’ll beg and steal from them. And they’re right.’

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