Monthly Archives: January 2012

29 — and counting

But not pleading.

On Saturday (conveniently after the daily newspaperman’s working week) the police arrested four more of the Murdoch hordes. Not just any Wapping layabouts, but the Sun‘s brightest and best: the head of news, the chief crime reporter, the ex-managing editor and the deputy editor.

You would look hard in the Currant Bun to find any details.

As Nick Davies, the Guardian‘s rottweiler, notes:

This may be the moment when the scandal that closed the NoW finally started to pose a potential threat to at least one of Murdoch’s three other UK newspaper titles: the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.

Interesting that and the Sunday Times. Lest we forget, The Sunday Times hacked and blagged Gordon Brown, not for any “public interest”, but because it suited the Murdoch political agenda.


The four who were arrested on Saturday – like the 25 others before them – have not even been charged with any offence. But behind the scenes, something very significant has changed at News International.

Read that one again: the Murdoch empire is now shovelling the dirt on its former (and present) employees, and anyone else outside the charmed inner circle. That includes the Chipping Norton set. Which must make for a truly idyllic work-environment.

Hence Malcolm’s mental image:

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Filed under Conservative family values, crime, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Guardian, Independent, Murdoch, politics, sleaze., Sunday Times, Tories.

The image and the impression

This post is not, essentially, about art.

Except the art of political deceit.

Until he was faced with the actuality, Malcolm had not realised just how wonderful a Gustav Klimt landscape could be. And then, in Vienna, in the Belvedere,  it hit him. Like a sledge hammer.


Similarly some graphs take a while for the eye to distinguish wood from trees.

Here’s one, lifted from the Economist web-site:

Look carefully. It says more, a lot more, than you at first think.

Before the Great Depression of 2007-10 Britain hadn’t done too badly. Admittedly, it was lagging the “Up like a rocket, down like the stick” wonder economies, those who had “freed their markets“, the likes of which “Gids” Osborne were telling us to imitate. Even so, even though the UK hadn’t gone all the way down the road to the Tory notion of untrammelled, unregulated, free-market capitalism, the medicine was apparently working. As late as the second quarter of 2010, it looked as if the UK economy could outgrow its debt problems.

And then it stagnated. Only two of those economies (Ireland and Greece) suffered a worse turn-around. The real cost was, and continues to be when a small reduction in unemployment transforms into the kind of horror only exceeded in the PIGS.

Lies, damn lies, and twisted statistics

Repeatedly Cathy Newman at Channel 4 News has done her Fact Checks on David Cameron’s claims about unemployment, and found them totally fallacious. See entries for the 14 September 2011 all the way to 25 January 2012 (last week). In each case the conclusion is the same (as right).

For those who cannot be bothered to click the hot-link, here’s the pants-on-fire conclusion:

David Cameron’s claim that employment has risen since the General Election of May 2010 has always rested on one crucial quarter: April-May-June of 2010.

In this quarter, there was a huge net change in private sector jobs of +311,000 (against losses in the public sector).

As the Office for National Statistics (ONS) produces these headline figures on a quarterly basis, and as the election fell bang in the middle of this quarter, Cameron has been able to ignore the matter of the separate set of “experimental” ONS statistics. This data indicates that the bulk of the jobs growth came before the election. You can read our previous FactChecks on this here.

However, today Mr Cameron didn’t make the distinction between public and private sectors. He lumped everyone together, to claim that there are more people in work now than there were at the time of the election.

For this overall figure, the ONS does have official statistics – it provides rolling averages that straddle the crucial second quarter of 2010.

These show that total employment for full-time, part-time and temporary workers over May-July 2010 was 29,145,000.

Yet in the last update, that number had fallen to 29,119,000, for the months September-November 2011.

That’s a loss of 26,000 jobs from the time of the election.

Full-time jobs are actually up 43,000, while part-time jobs have dropped by 70,000.

But don’t let the full-time figure distract you. Why? Because the number of people entering the job market during this time has continued to grow. And ONS data shows that since the election, more people are searching for part-time work because they can’t find full time work.

The number of people citing the reason for searching for part-time work because they could not find a full-time job, has risen from 1.12m to 1.3m.

The number of people taking on temporary employment because they can’t find full-time work has also risen from 570,000 to 590,000.

When will the Great British Public, even the Cameroon cheer-leaders at the Sunday Times, distinguish wood from trees?

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Filed under Conservative Party policy., David Cameron, Economist, economy, Ed Miliband, Europe, George Osborne, Ireland, leisure travel, politics, Tories.

The not-so-great and the not-so-good, no. 27: more Fitzroving

Swiftly on to our next specimen.

Getting there may take more than a moment. This is, at first, a story of sex, power and connections, so let’s start by taking a step back.

Malcolm thinks he has the family-tree fettled. His intended target is in the second generation after the previous no.26, Anne Fitzpatrick.

In graphics it looks like this:

He was neither up nor down

We pass quickly on over  the Lord Charles Fitzroy, the second son of Augustus Henry Fitzroy (1735-1811) and his first wife, the flighty Anne Liddell.

Charles (1764-1829) was essentially an army officer, first in Flanders as bag-carrier to the Grand Old Duke of York (which is where the nursery rhyme originates), later running round after George III as aide-de-camp with the consolation prize of rank of Colonel. He was in Ireland as a major-general in the ’98. Safely back home, he was O.C. the Ipswich garrison, rising through the senior echelons to be a full General by the end of the Napoleonic Wars (though he seems never again to have needed to soil his dress uniform outside of the Home Counties).

He served two periods as MP for Bury St Edmunds, between 1787-96 and 1802-18, apparently never once making a speech; and spent his last two decades travelling between Northamptonshire and Berkeley Square.

His first, brief (1795-7) marriage was with Frances, the daughter of Edward Miller Munday, the Derbyshire Tory MP (now, he‘s a story), which produced one son, Charles Augustus. A second marriage, with Lady Frances Anne Stewart, eldest daughter of Robert Stewart, first marquess of Londonderry (nice choice!), engendered two more sons (the elder of whom is Malcolm’s coming topic) and a daughter.

Big stepbrother

Before we move onto the main item, let’s pause to acknowledge Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy  (1796-1858 — as left).

This one took a commission in the Horse Guards and was at Waterloo, which suggests that — unlike his Da — he saw a some real mud and blood.

After the wars:

  • he found himself on half-pay;
  • made a more-than-useful marriage to the daughter of the Duke of Richmond (whose mother was the daughter of the Duke of Gordon);
  • doubtless pulled strings — of which the family seem to have developed quite a few at the highest level;
  • then took up the white man ‘s burden to become a colonial governor, first in Prince Edward Island, then the Leeward Islands;
  • then a sticky job — in 1845 the colonial secretary, Lord Stanley, appointed him to succeed as governor of New South Wales Sir George Gipps the worst Governor New South Wales (thus, perhaps unfairly, the Sydney Morning Herald of 4 July 1846).

It gets down to serious stuff, and even admirable to a degree.

Australia had been transformed from a prison colony to a free, mainly pastoral society (the tipping-point was one of the problems that had plagued Gipps). Fitzroy, against much opposition from London, seems to have had a humane and independent-minded agenda. He benignly brought to an end the era of transportation, dealt with the start of the gold rush, and fostered moves to a new constitution for a federation of the Australian colonies. If Australia has an onlie begetter, he ought to be a contender. Between 1851-55 he was Australia’s first governor-general.

A fatal accident in 1847 killed his first wife, when he was driving her in a carriage. Fitzroy promptly set about earning a reputation as a womaniser, to the considerable excitement and distress of the presbyterian moralists (one of whom, Dr J. D. Lang, denounced him at the farewell ceremonies).

Back in London there were no further appointments for Fitzroy. He endured retirement, married again, and succumbed to fatal boredom.


Filed under Australia, Britain, Homophobia, London, politics, Presbyterian, Tories.

Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand

“Moby Dick” represents three things to Malcolm:

We are, here, concerned with the most epicene of those three.

Like the eponymous whale, the book is a ginormous thing; and it doesn’t take easily to pithy quotation. When we drive, at length, to Chapter 104 [of 135!]: The Fossil Whale, we get this:

One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals. Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.

And so to today’s [London — better put that in Malcolm, especially after yesterday’s effort] Times, which makes the connection in the obituary of John Chichester-Constable, “46th Lord Paramount of the Seigniory of Holderness”:

John Chichester-Constable was the heir to a Yorkshire estate which famously houses the remains of a 58½ft-long sperm whale that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

“Famously”, maybe; but it’s news to Malcolm. It shouldn’t have been for two good reasons:

1. (as that obit. notes) it’s actually in the book, in Chapter 102, A Bower in the Arsacides, to be precise:

There is a Leviathanic Museum, they tell me, in Hull, England, one of the whaling ports of that country, where they have some fine specimens of fin-backs and other whales. Likewise, I have heard that in the museum of Manchester, in New Hampshire, they have what the proprietors call “the only perfect specimen of a Greenland or River Whale in the United States.” Moreover, at a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton Constable by name, a certain Sir Clifford Constable has in his possession the skeleton of a Sperm Whale, but of moderate size… 

Sir Clifford’s whale has been articulated throughout; so that, like a great chest of drawers, you can open and shut him, in all his bony cavities—spread out his ribs like a gigantic fan—and swing all day upon his lower jaw. Locks are to be put upon some of his trap-doors and shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side. Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view from his forehead.

2. It also appeared in the Guardian obituary, complete with photographs, published nearly a month ago, which Malcolm overlooked:

John Chichester-Constable, who has died aged 84, was heir to Burton Constable, a splendid though crumbling pile in the flatlands of east Yorkshire. His greatest achievement was the restoration of this house, which is filled with extraordinary objects assembled by his ancestors – not least the skeleton of a sperm whale that was described in Herman Melville‘s Moby-Dick.

The largest house in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Burton Constable is a romantic compendium, substantially Elizabethan but remodelled in the 18th century, set not far from the fast-eroding coastline of the North Sea. It is over this bleak strand, from Flamborough to Spurn Point, that the Seigniory of Holderness, a title held by the owners of Burton Constable, extends an eccentric fiefdom: the right – elsewhere ceded to the monarch – to “royal fish”. Any whale, dolphin, sturgeon or porpoise cast up on these shores (which have a long history of cetacean strandings) becomes the property of the lord paramount – of which Chichester-Constable was the 46th.

Thus, when a 58ft male sperm whale was found on the beach at Tunstall in 1825, Sir Thomas Constable sent his steward, Richard Iveson, to claim it as a gigantic addition to his cabinet of curiosities. Relieved of its blubber, it was articulated on a metal stand in the grounds, alongside an avenue of trees. And there, over the decades, it slowly rotted and rusted into the earth, awaiting its rediscovery. 

About the only mystery is how both obits use a remarkably-similar photograph, without acknowledgement in either case —

Burton Constable Hall is, all that apart, a rather fine place.


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Filed under Britain, fiction, films, Guardian, leisure travel, Literature, London, reading, Times, Yorkshire

In gob-smacked admiration of …

… well, the Irish Times.

Malcolm is on record for his weekly indulgence in Fintan O’Toole’s A history of Ireland in 100 objects this week we were well into the the Fourteenth Century, with the Anglo-Norman period sliding gently into the time of the “Old English” (as they were in Malcolm’s school history books).

These wee mannikins (left) are one of the seventeen illustrations in the Waterford Charter Roll and are, O’Toole says they are:

the earliest image … of the medieval mayors of Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick.

Adding a neat analogy:

Eamonn McEneaney of Waterford City Museum calls the charter roll “the mediaeval equivalent of a PowerPoint presentation”, designed to “flatter the king, add weight to the legal arguments and keep those listening to the mayor’s presentation focused on the facts being elaborated”. As an exercise in verbal and visual persuasion, the roll is a brilliant early example of targeted advertising. It did the trick: the king restored Waterford’s shipping monopoly.

Extra kudos there for the “a” in what even the OED prefers as “medieval”. Doubles all round had the compositor managed “æ” (on a Mac key-board it’s option+apostrophe).

But that’s not all …

The daily dose of info-amusement comes on the main editorial page in the form of An Irishman’s Diary (except, of course, when it’s just as happily An Irishwoman’s Diary). This is always essential reading — Malcolm has a couple of acquaintances who start here, then knock off the Crosaire crossword, before proceeding to the “real” news.

Good as it consistently is, the Diary reaches a new level when Frank McNally has the by-line. As yesterday:

A History of Ireland in 100 Questions.

Here’s Malcolm’s 101, Q&A:

What are ye coin reading this tripe for?
Get ye onto that hotlink straightaway!

An’ sure enough, if ye had, ye’d have been enjoying something of a gentle brain-teaser as you tried to spot the source of many of them. Apart from the commonplaces, you’d have got:

23. Are ye right there, Michael?

25. Captain Boyle: An’ as it blowed an’ blowed, I ofen looked up at the sky an’ assed meself the question – what is the stars, what is the stars?

26. Joxer: Ah, that’s the question, that’s the question – what is the stars?

27. Boyle: An’ then, I’d have another look, an’ I’d ass meself – what is the moon?

28. Joxer: Ah, that’s the question – what is the moon, what is the moon?

As well as (by Malcolm’s quick count) three from Yeats, the same from De Valera, two from Percy French (you got the easier one above), one from Christy Brown (the predictable County Clare one) and many more. So, Frank, which version of How Are Things in Glocca Morra? runs in your head — Dick Haymes? the Broadway cast album? Petula Clark (the 1968 movie)? even Sonny Rollins (though that was pure instrumental genius)?

Ray Houghton’s goals feature strongly (and properly: UEFA 1988 — England 0, Ireland 1; 1994 World Cup — Ireland 1, Italy o). The Offaly goal in the dying seconds of the 1982 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship is there, too, if you know where to find it. For Malcolm, though, the gem is either:

24. Is it about a bicycle?


69. How do Jacobs get the figs into the fig-rolls?

Somewhere in between is the essence of Dublin, and of Malcolm’s addiction, into its sixth decade, to the Irish Times.

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Filed under Dublin., Fianna Fail, films, folk music, Frank McNally, History, Ireland, Irish politics, Irish Times, Literature, Mac, Percy French, Quotations, reading

Of boobs and bums

Prepare to be offended.

Is Malcolm entitled to be “conflicted” over the breast-implants saga? Since most of the “victims” are really victims of their own vanity, and some nasty selling techniques, a sneaky and unworthy voice at the back of the conscience whispers, “They deserve what they get”.

It’s also difficult not to see an unpleasant double-entendre in stuff like this (from the Press Association):

The implants were pulled from the market in several countries including the UK amid fears they could rupture and leak silicone into the body.

That apart, it is strongly to be hoped that M. Jean-Claude Mas, who ran the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese, gets his full deserts; and that his dupes/victims some relief and gratification:

According to estimates by national authorities, more than 42,000 women in Britain received the implants, over 30,000 in France, 9,000 in Australia and 4,000 in Italy. Nearly 25,000 of the implants were sold in Brazil.

Those numbers represent an awful lot of profiteering on human weakness.

Fatty (t)issue

In Florida, though, there seems to be a cruder sense of the ridiculous than even Malcolm can manage happily.

First there was Carl Hiaasen’s Skin Tight, which does the dirty on cosmetic surgery in the Sunshine State:

The same libertarian standards applied to rhinoplasties or hemorrhoidectomies or even brain surgery: Rudy Graveline was a licensed physician, and legally that meant he could try any damn thing he wanted.

He did not give two hoots about certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, or the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, or the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. What were a couple more snotty plaques on the wall? His patients could care less. They were rich and vain and impatient. In some exclusive South Florida circles, Rudy’s name carried the glossy imprimatur of a Gucci or a de La Renta. The lacquered old crones at La Gorce or the Biltmore would point at each other’s shiny chins and taut necks and sculpted eyelids and ask, not in a whisper but a haughty bray, “Is that a Graveline?”

Rudy was a designer surgeon. To have him suck your fat was an honor, a social plum, a mark (literally) of status. Only a boor, white trash or worse, would ever question the man’s techniques or complain about the results.

 Now there’s this story in today’s Miami Herald —

South Florida’s “Toxic Tush” case took another bizarre turn Wednesday night when the person accused of helping inject concoctions of “Fix-a-Flat” and Super Glue into women’s derrieres was attacked during a taping of a talk show by an audience member.

About 9:30 p.m., as Corey Eubank appeared on the Spanish-language television show hosted by Cristina Saralegui in the program’s Doral studio, he was attacked by the mother of one of the victims, Eubank told The Miami Herald afterward…

Eubank, 40, of Hollywood, is accused of being an assistant to Oneal Ron Morris, also known as “Duchess,” who police say duped women into paying for injections of a near-lethal chemical formula to enhance their butts, only to find themselves sick and disfigured.

Miami Gardens police said Morris performed the procedure, but that Eubank coordinated them and got a cut of the profits.

Eubank and Morris have both pleaded not guilty and are out on bail while their cases move forward…

Wednesday night, Eubank was on the stage, along with members of his legal team; on another part of the stage, he said, was Shaquanda Brown of North Miami, one of the women who said she was a victim.

Brown’s mother was in the front row. A table nearby had a syringe, for a demonstration later in the show.

Eubank told The Herald he went onto the show to clear his name.

Suddenly, he said, Brown’s mother ran to the stage, grabbed the syringe and lunged at him, scratching him across the forehead before security pulled her off.

“My face has a mark on it,” Eubank said afterward, “and my head is killing me.”

It was unclear Wednesday night whether any charges would be filed as a result of the scuffle.

Ah, diddums! Come to Mommy and she’ll kiss it better.

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Filed under Carl Hiaasen, crime, fiction, human waste, Miami Herald, reading

The not-so-great and the not-so-good, no. 26: Anne Fitzpatrick

We haven’t had one of these in a while. With luck, two may come along in close succession.

This prime specimen came under the ‘scope because of her grandson, who may well follow in this succession of oddities. She is a topic of interest in her own right, being at the centre of one of British high-society’s most spectacular sex-scandals.

A new Duchess

The lady was born in the early weeks of 1738, the only child of Sir Henry Liddell, a Durham coal-magnate, and Anne Delmé.

By the age of eighteen she was married to Augustus Henry FitzRoy, earl of Euston, who succeeded as third Duke of Grafton the following year. She claimed it was marriage for love: doubtless the coal royalties lubricated the stretched Grafton finances, while greasing the Liddells’ social climb. Joshua Reynolds did the full-length portrait (right) around 1757-9, and, among the formulaic stuff, catches something of a knowing look in her eye. More of that anon.

The marriage produced four children, one of whom had a son, therefore Anne Fitzpatrick’s grandson, who will duly appear shortly in this occasional series.

Anne enjoyed large social occasions, and expensive card games: the duke preferred to lose his money on horses. Strains began to show: that incorrigible old gossip , Horace Walpole, sensed there was something in the wind —The Graftons go abroad for the Duchess’s health. Another climate may mend that — I will not answer for more.

Another point of marital discord involved politics: she was involved in the Whiggish Bedford set, he was seeking preference from the Tory circle around the king.

Shenanigans in high society

Matters reached an impasse during the duchess’s fourth pregnancy, when the duke was taking consolation in the bed of Annabella “Nancy” Parsons.

Let pay a visit, courtesy of Heather Carroll, to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s delightful boudoir, and meet her Tart of the Week (below, left, another Reynolds):

… going by the name of Mrs Nancy Horton (widow), our heroine found herself completely penniless and out of luck. Praying wasn’t gonna help her put food in her stomach and find a place to live, Nancy had to act fast. She managed to find a series of men to take care of her in exchange for, ya know, the goods. One of these men just happened to be the newly separated Duke of Grafton who had had enough of his wife’s gambling. The Duke was head over heels for Nancy and the two were the example of the perfect couple for years. Nancy even acted as the incumbent wife, hosting dinners and such-all while the Duke was serving as Prime Minister. They saw each other as equals and the Duke was never adverse to seeking Nancy’s advice in political matters. The breakup came as quite a shock to everyone including Nancy. The press was quick to report that while the Duke wanted to keep things amiable, Nancy was too hurt. Soon afterward, the Duke remarried.


That has slightly re-ordered what seems to be yer ackshull actualité, as generally accepted. The dirt-dishers have it that when Grafton came to inspect his latest sprog, the duchess told him his fortune, added that she hated him, and was promptly expelled from the ducal presence and properties. A legal separation was complete by January 1765, with our Anne keeping her jewels (which were considerable) and an annuity of £3,000 p.a., on which basis she set up shop in Upper Grosvenor Street. Soon she had the Duke of Portland as a regular gentleman-caller. Portland, however, moved on to Lady Dorothy Cavendish, and proposing to her without as much as a by-your-leave to Anne (who remained his legal wife). This was a major social disgrace for Anne, added to which Grafton reclaimed both his sons.

Love and marriage …

Horace Walpole then fitted Anne up with John Fitzpatrick, earl of Upper Ossory, and they were lovers by late 1767 — Prime Minister Grafton had her stand down at a royal funeral, for she was showing signs of a further pregnancy. In June Anne sought seclusion in Surrey. In July Grafton reclaimed the last of their children. In August Anne’s child by Fitzpatrick (also Anne) was born. Grafton sued for adultery, buying off Anne’s counter-claim with £2,000 p.a.; and the divorce (which required a parliamentary act) was completed by 23rd March 1769. Three days later Anne became Countess of Upper Ossory, stopping only to reclaim her £40,000 dowry from Grafton.

Meanwhile Grafton had remarried — his choice fell upon Elizabeth Wrottesley, who was Ossory’s cousin (small world), whereupon Anne Fitzpatrick, as she now was, felt a good idea was retirement to the Ossory estates at Ampthill and Northamptonshire, returning to London only to act as a political hostess in the winter season.

The Ossory marriage seems to have gelled, though a second daughter died and twin sons miscarried. The base-born first daughter, Anne, was brought back and dignified as “Lady Anne Fitzpatrick”. A third daughter, Lady Gertrude, was born in 1774. About this time Ossory was going to be nominated as ambassador to Spain: a proposal that Grafton promptly squelched. The Countess Anne was up to that: she is thought to have had Ossory defect to the Opposition and support Burke over the American Colonies. She became something of a fan of Charles James Fox.

It was expected that her father’s death would bring her the Liddell coal revenues: this didn’t transpire, but she was reconciled to her mother (who had disapproved of the Ossory association and the divorce). There was some revenge for Anne Fitzpatrick when her son, Lord Euston, married her friend Walpole’s great niece.

Her relationship with Walpole, though, was changing: he was incapacitated by gout, she went travelling and corresponded with him until his death. She seems to have developed into something of a prude: on one occasion Walpole sent her a grotesque nude image, A Modern Venus (as right), which was all the vogue: she returned it, with suitable clothing.

She died in 1804. Ossory in 1818. Anne and Gertrude inherited the Fitzpatrick lands in Ireland. Neither married.

We are not finished with the Fitzroys …

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