Monthly Archives: April 2012

Dawn, 25th April

The Pert Young Piece won’t be around Redfellow Hovel this week. She’s temporarily flown the coop.

As of now she should be meeting up with a party of dubious antipodeans in Istanbul and environs.

On Tuesday night the party camps out near North Beach at Anzac Cove, ready for the annual dawn service of remembrance.

It’s not just because she’s a history buff. It’s not just for the dubious pleasure of being with Australians and similar low-lifes. Or even the inevitable consumption of Efes Pilsener. It’s because Great-great-uncle Nevil was there before her.

So she’s carrying, and may suitably deposit, a small acknowledgement:



94874 Bombardier Nevil Pigot and his comrades of B Battery, 68th Brigade, RFA

Deepcut Barracks, 1915

— 0 —

Bombardier Nevil Pigot, B. By., 68th Bde, RFA, received the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) in the London Gazette of 21 June 1916 for conspicuous gallantry when repeatedly repairing telephone wires under continuous shrapnel fire.

Bombardier Nevil Pigot, B. By., 68th Bde, RFA, received the Serbian Cross of Karageorge, 2nd Class, with Swords, in the London Gazette of 21 April 1917.

Bombardier Nevil Pigot, RFA, mentioned in despatches in the London Gazette of 13 July 1916 for distinguished and gallant services rendered during the period of General Sir Charles Monro’s Command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

— 0 —

Also the elder brother of Nevil Pigot

 125573 Gunner Edward Wilson Pigot, Royal Garrison Artillery

Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension N°2 (Somme, France)


Filed under Australia, Beer, Britain, Europe, History

Deep-rooted prejudice in Muswell Hill

Malcolm has just spent half-an-hour with a putty knife, committing herbicide.

The victims were Taraxacum official, the common and — in this case — garden dandelion.

So why is it that the daisies in Malcolm’s lawn get away with it, but the dandelions are persecuted ruthlessly? After all, dandelion could appear in your salad: the plant allegedly has medicinal properties. The daisy, by contrast, is merely a parasite.

Yet it has the Good Chaucerian Seal of Approval:

… when that the month of May
Is comen, and I hear the fowles sing,
And that the flowers ginnen for to spring,
Farewell my book and my devotion!
Now have I then such a condition,
That, above all the flowers in the mead,
Then love I most these flowers white and red,
Such that men calle Day’s-eyes in our town;
To them have I so great affectioun,
As I said erst, when comen is the May,
That in my bed there dawneth me no day
That I n’am up, and walking in the mead,
To see this flow’r against the sunne spread,
When it upriseth early by the morrow …

Let you into an open secret, Geoff: it’s called “daisy” in pretty well every town.

Chaucer thereupon thunders into an extensive analogy, which Sheila Delany expounded into a vehicle for positions on sex, gender, religion, politics, history, interpretation, and writingIn these degenerate latter days literature is hag-ridden (nice bit of gynophobia there, Malcolm) by lit-critting socio-linguists: writer beware! Be sure your Freudian sub-text will find thee out.

Compared to the modest, chaste daisy, the dandelion is so boisterous, blowsy, and advertises itself so blatantly. It needed a James Russell Lowell, in the mid-19th century, to celebrate this noxious polluter of Malcolm’s lawn:

Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May,
Which children pluck, and, full of pride uphold,
High-hearted buccaneers, o’erjoyed that they
An Eldorado in the grass have found,
Which not the rich earth’s ample round
May match in wealth, thou art more dear to me
Than all the prouder summer-blooms may be.

Harmless? Not in Malcolm’s eyes. So he takes the putty-knife to the root of the matter.

It is, of course, a fruitless and frustrating task. Two days on, and they’ll be back.

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Filed under culture, Literature, London, Muswell Hill, prejudice, reading

Boris not-good-enough

It began with a thread on Slugger O’Toole, where Northern Ireland shows the world how to blog.

Despite the best efforts of a couple of committed enthusiasts, because the London Mayoral election doesn’t involve vast residues of sectarian prejudice, and despite a nice introductory piece by Turgon-the-Wise, it hasn’t been a particularly busy exchange of views.

So much so that one commenter described it as Malcolm Redfellow’s numerous monologues.

It was late on Saturday night, Sunday morning. Malcolm had spent some post-prandial quality time with his professorial little brother and Charlie Wells’s Bombardier in the Famous Royal Oak. That might have some moment in what ensued.

Malcolm became quite baleful, and the outpouring went like this:

I’m fairly close to the action here in Norf Lunnun. I’ve actively been electorally involved in out-going and in-coming ordure (originally in Dublin, now over here) since the 1960s. I am thinking I have never seen anything like the orchestrated media campaign that has been waged against Livingstone.

We need to bear in mind that BoJo is, to all intents and purposes, currently the creature of the corporate lobbyists CTF Partners, a pseudopod of Crosby|Textor (don’t forget the vertical bar).

¶ C = Lynton Crosby, the Australian analogue of Dubya’s Karl Gove, and regularly employed as the Tory “dark arts” operator;
¶ T = Mark Textor, an Australian pollster;
¶ F = Mark Fullbrook, a political slime ball from the darkest recesses of Tory Central.

My present guess is that the Mayorality will run quite close, especially when the second preferences engage. If BoJo wins, it will be a grotesque manipulation, through hysterics, of the electoral process: who would have thought that Boris “picaninnies” Johnson could smear anyone on race and religion?

Remember, too, that Johnson was sacked from the Tory front bench for being outed as a blatant liar. Let us cherish Tory leader Michael Howard’s great definition of Tory morality: Howard said the sacking was because Johnson had lied over a messy affair with Petronella Wyatt. It had nothing to do with morality.

So, you can get offed by the Tory machine.

  • Not for agreeing that a journo who had annoyed BoJo’s criminal best man, Darius Guppy, should now be done over with a dose of GBH.
  • Not for hiding a quarter-million of campaign donations.
  • Not for exploiting the assassination of Ken Begley to impugn the people of Liverpool.
  • Not for impregnating Petsy Wyatt, promising (bigamously?) to marry her, persuading her to at least one abortion, and then dumping her (BoJo’s alleged chat-up line “I limit myself to one mistress per annum. How would you like to be Miss 2009?”).

No: for peddling porkies.

And London may fall for it, again.

And that, folks,amounts to an Irish joke: one an Englishman laughs at.

Malcolm stands by that: much of which has been previously rehearsed here.

Milder, but only by a degree, is Sonia Purnell of the Independent stable, but — perhaps more significantly — author of the unauthorised biog. of BoJo:

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, is notoriously difficult for Londoners to get close to. He is the most highly protected and stage-managed politician in Britain, and his minders allow access to only the most reliably sympathetic or adulatory journalists. As the author of an unauthorised biography, Just Boris, it was therefore with some concern that I set off, unannounced, to join him on the campaign trail in Romford, east London, yesterday. It was only with what I felt to be pretty gritty determination – and the presence of a reassuringly burly photographer – that I managed to sidle up to him at all. His minders are known for their ferocious handling of dissenters, and I was apprehensive of being “dealt with” myself.

“Dealt with” is an uncomfortable echo of that telephone call between fraudster, Darius Guppy, and rising hack, Boris Johnson. The full horror of that was a topic  for a Channel 4 Dispatches programme in 2009. Get the actualité here.

Of course, all this makes Malcolm another Livingstone dupe, doesn’t it?

Err … no.

Malcolm is torn between using his vote in the only effective way to stop BoJo (and, yes, that means a second preference for Livingstone) and supporting who seems the really principled and sanest candidate here (and that means a first preference for Siobhan Benita).

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, Channel 4 News, Elections, Ken Livingstone, London, Muswell Hill, pubs, Tories.

Wells, Wells, Wells

Someone must have been this way before; and probably did it better. So, if you know of a better source, with more information, please get in touch.

 A tale of two cities

 Between 1633 and 1643, some 200 from the Norfolk village of Hingham migrated across to the Massachusetts Bay (including, of course, an apprentice weaver by the name of Samuel Lincoln) to settle at their new Hingham, Mass.

Back in 1963 Sumner Chilton Powell’s Puritan Villager, the Formation of a New England Town, showed direct links between Sudbury, Suffolk, and Sudbury, Mass. In Chapter IV we find a comment on:

 … the rural parishes and towns of East Anglia. This area, which contributed so many town names to New England, has generally been considered by historians to be the source of New England institutions, and a recent study has traced at least 1877 emigrants from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. The names given to such early Massachusetts settlements as Ipswich and Dedham make it evident that East Anglians wished to carry some of their local heritage into their New Canaan.

The link between the earliest colonists and East Anglia is then well-established. However, Wikipedia says that Wells ME’s name derives from the Cathedral City of Wells, Somerset:

In 1653, Wells was incorporated, the third town in Maine to do so, and named after Wells, England, a small cathedral city in the county of Somerset.

Wikipedia helpfully suggests a total of ten “Place names of Somerset origin in the United States”. Two are to the county name. A further six involve “Bridgewater”, which seems as likely to be just descriptive (a bridge over water, troubled or not) as any local heritage into their New Canaan. That leaves Bath ME (so named in 1781) and Taunton MA (founded 1637, this last one with an explicit settler connection to the “mother” town).

 Is there a Somerset connection?

Any connection between Wells ME and Wells, Somerset, might be adduced through Sir Ferdinando Gorges, whom Wikipedia has:

 born in Ashton Phillips, Somerset.

There may be the sniff of a small rodent there, if only because one would be hard pressed to find “Ashton Phillips” — though there is a location, really no more than a by-road going by the name of Ashton Grove, a few miles west of Wells, Somerset.

 The Dictionary of National Biography [DNB hereafter] differs, and makes Gorges:

the second son of Edward Gorges (d. 1568) and Cicely Lygon of Wraxall, Somerset. The year of his birth was estimated for some time at 1566, but it appears to be reasonably certain that he was born between 31 May and 23 July 1568 at the family’s suburban London home in Clerkenwell, where his father died shortly afterward. Little is known of his early upbringing, though there is some evidence that he may have attended as a youth in Elizabeth’s court.

By the way, that image (right) is merely Ernest Board inventing, as late as 1930. Accept any imitation.

There seems little in Gorges’ biography to make rural Somerset his chosen bliss-on-earth; and he was in the colony for so brief a time he hardly had a chance to be nostalgic. Even if the place-name somehow honours Gorges’ nephew and “factor” in the New World, Sir Thomas Gorges, who also originates in Wraxall, we are even further from the Cathedral City of Wells. Thomas Gorges, too, was no long-term resident of the colonies; and his “home” was Heavitree, now a suburb of Exeter.

Quite frankly, Wells, Somerset, an inland town, doesn’t match the topography of Wells, ME, a seaside location on an exposed coast, behind salt marshes and sand spits. Wells, Norfolk, on the contrary is just that kind of geography.

Consider map extracts:

Here is a sheet, dated 1838, from the First Edition of the UK Ordnance Survey:

Add a bit of colour for the the 1945  “Popular” edition of the Ordnance Survey, and those marshes are even more evident:

For comparison, here is the 1891 survey of Maine:

Quite how extensive the coastal marshes were, in either Wells, back in the Seventeenth Century, we can only assume. That they were there in both locations is undeniable.

 So, to the Wells, Norfolk, connection.

Let’s start with a bit of numerology.

Wikipedia here seems a trifle thin: the corresponding page on Place names of Norfolk origin in the United States amounts to just the one: Hingham MA:

The first significant European settlement was established in 1635 when the Rev. Peter Hobart arrived with his followers from Hingham, England. In that same year, they renamed the town, Hingham, and it was incorporated as the 12th town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

In Massachusetts alone, among the earliest colonial settlements, we can add Attleboro(ugh), Lynn, Needham, Walpole, Wayland, and Yarmouth. Maine gives us another Yarmouth and Wells. If we include transplanted names from the other East Anglian counties, the list extends enormously.

Wells settlement

Then there’s this:

Long before Wells incorporation in 1653, as the third town in Maine, temporary residences were built on the beaches by traders and fishermen. Edmund Littlefield, the father of Wells, established a permanent home, sawmill and gristmill as early as 1640-41 at the falls of the Webhannet River. Reverend John Wheelwright soon followed and by 1642 was attempting to provide religious freedom here for himself and his followers. He established the first church and claimed several tracts of land for himself. During his brief three or four year stay, he also served as one of the agents appointed to survey and allot lands of Gorges grant to Wells settlers.

Traders and fishermen … looks alike, sounds alike. We can see from seventeenth century records that Wells, Norfolk, was a minor, but thriving port, with an active trade (with contraband on the side) to the Low Countries. Wells is several times listed with the other East Anglian ports, complaining to the government about interference with business.

Edmund Littlefield (abt 1592 to 11 Dec 1661) , mentioned there, is discussed at length by several family genealogical sites, as here. His origins are in Titchfield, Hampshire, but the Littlefield family, and Edmund’s wife come from Devon. The Littlefields were n the cloth trade, and this Edmund seems to have arrived in New England about 1636, and is setting up a saw-mill beside the Webhannet Falls by 1640 or 1641, which is commemorated by a plaque.

The Rev Mr Wheelwright 

From the DNB:

Wheelwright, John (1592?–1679), minister in America, was probably born in Saleby, Lincolnshire, in the early part of 1592, the son of Robert Wheelwright (d. c.1612) and his wife, Katherine… He married his first wife, Marie Storre, daughter of the vicar of Bilsby, Lincolnshire, on 8 November 1621. After his father-in-law’s death Wheelwright was inducted as vicar of Bilsby on 9 April 1623. Marie was buried on 18 May 1629 and shortly thereafter he married Mary Hutchinson from Alford, Lincolnshire.

We are at least, from Malcolm’s point of view, the proper side of England here, and a significant distance across the Wash (i.e. the estuary of the rivers Great Ouse, Nene and Welland), which was still unreclaimed marshland at that time. Malcolm can assure all and sundry that, as late as the middle of the twentieth century, any originating from across the Fens was a “furrener”. Especially the farm labourers imported to break the agricultural workers strikes of 1923 and 1926. On the other hand, the port of Boston (Lincolnshire) is directly across the Wash from North Norfolk and Wells.

Then there was a Puritan preacher, of some local distinction, in Norfolk:

The Reverend John Yates (fl.1612-61) was in the thick of the Puritan struggles of East Anglia. A bachelor of divinity of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he lived most of his life around Norwich, first as a town lecturer, then as minister of St Andrew’s, and finally as rector of Stiffkey …

Stiffkey (whose more famed rector, Harold Davidson, came along three centuries later) is the next sea-side village, under an hour’s walk east of Wells.

Yes, Yates has a DNB entry:

Yates, John (d. 1657), Church of England clergyman and philosopher, was admitted as a sizar to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, at Easter 1604 and was subsequently elected a scholar. He graduated BA in 1608, and proceeded MA and became a fellow in 1611. In September that year he was appointed master of Dedham grammar school, but he left within a term, apparently foregoing payment. He was ordained deacon and priest on 4 and 5 September 1614. The following year he published, at Cambridge, God’s Arraignement of Hypocrites, a defence of Calvin and an attack on Arminius. At Emmanuel he fell under the Ramist influence of the master, Laurence Chaderton, later becoming, with William Ames, Thomas Hooker, and Charles Chauncy, one of the students boarding at Alexander Richardson’s private seminary at Barking, Essex, and chaplain to Sir William Ayloffe, bt, chief justice of the liberties of Havering Bow. With Richardson and Ames he added technometria to Ramism, setting each art or discipline in the context of the entire field of knowledge.

In 1616 Yates resigned his fellowship and on 7 May married Mary Fening (d. 1650) at Saffron Walden, Essex. She had been baptized there in November 1590, the daughter of Jonas Fening, an influential glover of the town, and his wife, Agnes Meade. Also in 1616 Yates began a six-year ministry at the civic church of St Andrew the Apostle, Norwich, first as one of the corporation lecturers, then as incumbent. He quickly became the most prominent preacher in Norfolk, with a large following of influential city fathers. To the mayor and chief inhabitants of Norwich he dedicated in 1622 his Ramist treatise A modell of divinitie, catechistically composed, wherein is delivered the matter and methode of religion according to the creed, ten commandments, Lord’s prayer, and the sacraments. Bishop Samuel Harsnett, no admirer of puritans, did his best to inhibit Yates’s preaching, banning Sunday morning sermons, so Yates was glad when in October 1622 Sir Nathaniel Bacon, the most eminent puritan layman in the county, presented him to the joint rectories of St Mary with St John at Stiffkey on the north Norfolk coast. However, Bacon and his eldest daughter, Anne (who brought the property to the Townshends), died as he was moving; both were buried at Stiffkey on 7 November. Yates soon established himself with Sir Roger and Lady Townshend, presenting them with copies of his Modell, which, he complained in the accompanying letter, had been censored before publication and again afterwards by the archbishop’s chaplain, Dr Goad, who removed two pages from copies before they were sold.

Malcolm has — ahem! —  somehow “fails to recall” what this Ramist stuff is all about, so let’s leap on:

Not much is known about Yates’s local ministry, save that in 1629 he was licensed to practise medicine, giving him the cure of bodies as well as souls. His wife was buried at Stiffkey on 6 April 1650, having borne her husband ten children, four of whom were living when he wrote his will in 1656, ordering ‘neither strife nor varyance after my decease’. He died and was buried with his wife at Stiffkey on 12 November 1657, leaving his eldest son, John (1617–1659) MD of Great Yarmouth, his sole executor and main beneficiary. Dr Yates’s Latin epitaph laments that he who so often knew how to cure others was powerless in his own case. A daughter, Hannah, was married to Richard Briggs, incumbent of Warham St Mary, adjoining Stiffkey.

Norfolk puritan divines

While Not much is known about Yates’s local ministry, it is clear he was of the same Cambridge-educated Puritan cloth as Robert Peck and Peter Hobart, who led the exodus from Hingham. And they were a peripatetic lot, happily traipsing across England, modern Holland and the west German ports, across the Atlantic, wherever there were fellow spirits in need of their guidance and teaching.

Norfolk had been a hot-bed of puritanism for half-a-century previous to the main emigration:

  • Richard Gawton, the minister at Snoring (barely half-a-dozen miles south of Wells), had been arraigned for nonconformity before his Dean in 1576.
  • Richard Sedgwick, a Peterhouse Cambridge student who went on to minister in London and Hamburg, came from East Dereham, Norfolk.
  • John Rogers,  who succeeded Lawrence Faircloth as minister at Haverhill, Suffolk, in 1603, and then moved — surely significantly — to Dedham, had started his ministry at Hevingham, in the Norfolk Broadland  in 1592.
  • The Rev. George Philips, who went to New England with Winthrop in 1630 was born at Roudham, near Thetford, Norfolk.
  • The highly-important Puritan theologian, Dr William Ames, had grown up, an orphan, at Boxford, Suffolk, but was a Norfolkman by birth. He had to take refuge at the English Church of The Hague, was hounded out of there by the English Ambassador, on the instigation of Archbishop Abbot, went on to be professor of theology at Leiden for a dozen years. He, too, had intended to make the New England trip; but died of asthma on the eve of his voyage at Rotterdam in 1633, leaving his wife, Anne, and children to carry his library to the colony.

This is a list which could be extended.

So, to conclude, there are more than prima facie links between Wells, Norfolk, and Wells, Maine. The most obvious catalyst for any emigration between the two, at that moment in time, catalyst is the Rev. Mr Yates.

Optical evidence

, it is open to anyone compares the topography of the two towns. To Malcolm’s eye, eliminated the New England architecture, the Norfolk flint-and-brick, and the similarities are striking. Try it for yourself on Flickr.

However, sadly, Wells, Norfolk, has long since lost its railway connection.

One last thing

Ann Wells, aged 15, (the surname might indicate something: she was the daughter of John Wells of Ringstead, Norfolk, a score of miles along the coast west of Wells) left London aboard The Planter in 1635. She was in the company of a clutch of Tuttles. The main centre of the Tuttle surname is and was that corner of Norfolk.


Filed under History, Norfolk, reading, Religious division, travel, United States, Wells ME, Wells-next-the-Sea

May be, or maybe not

Here’s a couple of starters:

From Robert A. Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France (page 195):

The radical press was particularly savage, aiming its invective directly at the man whose policies it so despised… Le Radical held that “France will forget everything except ridicule; what it pardons leasts of all are retreats.”

Not just the “radical press. Not just a “man” it despises. Here is Matthew Pritchett’s, as so often, skewering Telegraph pocket cartoon:

Meanwhile, the Times was having a go:

You’re not look’ yer best, luv!

It’s just as well we didn’t look at the pinko rags, what?

In fact, similar images, variously cropped, appeared on the front pages of The Guardian and the Telegraph. Not nice.

A sexist musing:

Ridicule, of one kind or another goes with the territory in British politics: Dave “Flashman” Cameron and Ed “Grommit”  Miliband are par for the course. It is somewhat different for female politicos, though.

Margaret Thatcher’s handbag was totemic was potent and totemic, while Julian Critchley’s lexicon of insults, most famously “the great she-elephant”, never caught on outside a charmed acquaintance. The inner-circle Tory novelist, Michael Dobbs, wrote an article about just that:

A “handbagging” became the term we used for those occasions when it felt as if it had been swung and used in violence against us. Every time it appeared it screamed at us – never forget she knows more than you, that she is a woman, that she is “The Boss”.

She was known by many other names that reflected her authority – the Leaderene, the Great She Elephant, Attila the Hen – yet there were times when the mask of invincibility slipped, when the pressures and pains of office would catch up with her, when in private the ice-blue eyes would redden and the tears gather. Sometimes they were tears of frustration and rage at the antics of political opponents, some insult or obstruction that usually led back to Ted Heath. Often it was because of terrible news, such as the murder of her great friend Airey Neave by Irish terrorists. On those occasions the handbag would provide tissues to dry the eye and dab at the damp nose and a little mirror to inspect the repair work, knowing that in a few moments she would have to face the world.

And Theresa May? Her version is footwear:

Ever since she stepped out in a pair of leopard-print kitten heels at the Tory party conference in 2002, Theresa May’s feet have been a focus for fashionistas.

For years many have assumed she puts on fancy footwear to capture the limelight.

Even that little gimmick was, this week, used against her:

Theresa May put on a pair of her famously colourful shoes and went out on the town on Tuesday night, no doubt believing she had earned the right to have a drink or two.

Three weeks back, Mrs May popped up on BBC morning television to big up a proposal for minimum pricing of alcohol. She was asked about her own intake, and was … a bit off-piste, or pissed off. Get it here, courtesy of HuffPo.

Oh, and that “a drink or two” is no mere formula of words, as the Telegraph noted:

The Home Secretary was pictured with her husband at the V&A museum, smiling broadly as she enjoyed the lavish birthday party of a celebrity PR agent.

It was the end of a long day on which she had appeared to seize the initiative in the battle to kick out Abu Qatada, the radical preacher detained without trial in this country for almost a decade.

The whole woman-in-political-shambles problem was discussed by Tony Harnden, again for the Telegraph, in relation to those walking, talking, pouting and preening disasters,

Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin – ‘two girls’ walking a sexism tightrope

Gender works both ways. “Because they’re female, Bachmann and Palin have been able to say things that men can no longer get away with,” John Feehery, a Republican consultant, told me. “Their rhetoric, the lashings they give Obama, is extraordinarily tough.

“They are in many ways putting on the pants, which is emblematic of what’s going on in American society. The unemployment rate among women is fairly low compared to the unemployment rate among men.”

But there is also a heightened danger for women candidates that they can be defined as extreme or stupid, which could be the kiss of death in a general election against Mr Obama. While the “mud wrestling” comment was accurate, it hardly furthered Mrs Bachmann’s aim of proving her seriousness.

As the leading republican strategist Rich Galen told me last week: “In American politics, you can come back from anything except ridicule.”

Not only in America, it seems.

Which leaves two remaining questions?

Why did Mrs May go so blatantly public so prematurely, and why?

There seem to be two explanations out there.

One is that, yet again, she was being wheeled out as the photogenic bomb shelter, in this case for the continuing disaster that is the Osborne budget last month.

The other is that is was some pre-emptive strike on the Brighton summit the Cameroonies have cobbled together to get the Council of Europe to reconsider the European Court of Human Rights. Yuman Rites, at least as understood by the neanderthaler Tory right-wingers, is one of the issues capable of dissolving the ConDem coalition.

Either which way, it all went deliciously pear-shaped. No reflection on the shape or physique of the former Ms Brazier.

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Filed under Britain, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, Gender, politics, Theresa May, Times, Tories., US politics

Lost in translation

Hugh Muir, back doing the day-job on The Guardian Diary, today encounters a linguistic problem. In full:

… it has fallen to Northern Ireland assembly Speaker Willie Hay to rule that the term “village idiot” is not acceptable for use within the chamber, after health minister Edwin Poots said his political rival Kieran McCarthy was acting like one. This appears to overturn precedent. Lord Alderdice, a previous Speaker, judged “eejit” to be OK. The key seems to be pronunciation. Fewer problems in the Republic, where there is a list of words banned in the Dáil, including chancer, coward, guttersnipe, rat, scumbag and fascist. But then they had reason to act after one former representative shouted “Fuck you, Deputy Stagg, fuck you!” Seemed better to have some rules.

Two points of clarification, there, Ceann Comhairle:

First, the loose mouth

Emmet Stagg (brother of the more famous, loopier, and more defunct Frank) can look after himself, and needs no defence. Anyway, as a Labour man with a TCD connexion, he gets respected here.

However, Paul Gogarty deserved all he got, and has a track-record for staging similar stunts — Babygate, Callely, numerous “celebrity” outings for RTÉ (not that the bar for celeb-status is that much lower in Dublin). He won the soggy biscuit when he denounced Free Education for Everyone protestors as “muppets” and supported the physical intervention of the Gardai — doubtless in retaliation for FEE previously taking over his office. How Green! What a brave civic activist!

The electors of Dublin Mid-West had Gogarty’s number, all right: in the 2011 General Election, he lost his seat ignominiously. He took all of 3.5 % of First Preferences, limping in eighth of the fourteen runners. The previous outing he had taken 10.8%, and finished second after transfers.

After Gogarty’s excursion in English guttersnipery, it involved a change in Irish parliamentary proceedings:

CHANGES ARE likely to be made to the document dictating acceptable parliamentary language in the Dáil and Seanad after Green Party TD Paul Gogarty’s defence of his use of an expletive in the Dáil last week.

The 18-member Dáil committee on procedure and privileges, which meets tomorrow, will deal with Mr Gogarty’s use of the “f-word”, directed against Labour party whip Emmet Stagg.

Second, a cultural chasm

Anyone familiar with Hibernicisms knows that “eejit” and “idiot”are no way near synonyms.

You’d take a drink with an “eejit”, even a “mad eejit”, and even respect him. You take a swing at an idiot, and be cheered for doing so and laying him out. Gogarty, for example, belongs in this latter category.

Believe it or not (number 94)

There really is an academic study on what is acceptable in a parliamentary exchange. The key “finding” goes this way:

Parliamentary insults are offensive rhetorical acts performed in a highly competitive institutional setting. They are deliberate in the sense that they are intended to be perceived and recognised as such by the person targeted. Unparliamentary language uses can provide important clues about moral and social standards, prejudices, taboos, as well as value judgements of different social and political groups in a community. Because they underlie culturally defined negative values and norms, insults are meant to reduce the targeted person, group or institution (and what they stand for) to stereotypically undesirable or detestable attributes. Cross-cultural studies are particularly enlightening in this respect, since it can safely be assumed that the forms and functions of insults and their respective feedbacks vary in different cultures and institutional settings.

Enjoy that? Then your sociology degree must be showing.

Compare and contrast:

1. David Cameron, 6th December 2005:

… we need to change, and we will change, the way we behave. I’m fed up with the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster, the name calling, backbiting, point scoring, finger pointing.

2. David Cameron, 18th April 2012:

The right hon. Gentleman will not take any lectures on the fuel strike because he is in the pockets of the people who called the fuel strike. That’s right. They vote for his policies, they sponsor his Members of Parliament, they got him elected. Absolutely irresponsible—that is what we have heard once again from the right hon. Gentleman. Not good enough to run the Opposition, not good enough to run the country.

Of which Ann Treneman said in her Parliamentary Sketch for The Times [£]:

Dave did his usual Flashman, refusing to answer the questions, changing the subject to Ken Livingstone’s taxes, playing to the gallery. He was sneery, insulting, preening. When you seeDave like this, you just know he deserves to end up in panto.

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Filed under Ann Treneman, culture, David Cameron, Guardian, Irish Labour, Irish politics, Irish Times, reading, Times, Tories.

Two strikes, and we take notice

A borrowed anecdote:

After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, the happy couple climbed into the carriage (amid rice sprinkling on them) and the horse trotted off, taking them to their farm home from the church.

The horse carried then up and down the foothills towards their homestead. On a steep hill, the horse stumbled and caused the couple to be uncomfortably jolted in their seats.

The farmer calmly stopped the horse. Got off the wagon, he walked up to the horse, grabbed it by the harness, looked it in the eyes, and said in a loud voice, “That’s once”.

The farmer got back in the wagon and the horse plodded off. Again, they were going over a particularly difficult portion of the road when the horse stumbled and jolted the couple in the wagon.

The farmer again got out of the wagon, walked up to the horse, stared it in the eye, and said, “That’s twice”. The new wife was perplexed by all this; but did not even know how to begin to ask what he was doing. They travelled further down the road, and the horse stumbled a third time, jolting the couple.

The farmer got out of the wagon, went to the back of the wagon, took his gun, and promptly shot the horse in the head, leaving it lying in the middle of the road. Dead.

The new wife gaped in astonishment at her husband. she said, “What the hell did you do that for,
horses are very expensive, and how the hell do you expect me to get to the farm now?  I cannot believe you did that!”

The farmer walked up to the wife, looked her in the eye and said, “That’s once”.

On which basis, 

Unscramble the logic of this:

Ministers today announced a major U-turn on the controversial Legal Aid Bill by announcing amendments to make it easier for domestic violence victims to receive financial assistance.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke told the House that women would receive legal aid if their ex-partners had received police cautions for violence against them, or if their GP had written a note on the subject. He said: “We have moved a lot on domestic violence.”

Seems to me, ol’ son, you need to kill the bitch first time. Or else …

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Filed under Britain, Conservative family values, Gender, Law, Tories.

A bad review

Malcolm had just caught up with another review of Keith Lowe’s Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II.

Malcolm was aware of Lowe’s impressive previous outing, Inferno, on the carpet-bombing of Hamburg:

a sad, straightforward, well-researched book that gives an account of the bombing of Hamburg in the summer of 1943 from the point of view both of the bombers, English and American, and the Germans who endured it, experiencing the worst fire storm ever produced. More people were killed than at Nagasaki.

Malcolm was on the point of ordering this new book for his shelves. He had already seen:


Reaching for the credit card …

Malcolm hit on the “review” (sorry about the inverted commas, but that’s the way it feels) in The Spectator by … Paul Johnson.

OK, OK, it’s only three weeks back. Yes, Malcolm needs to get out of bed in the morning …

The larger part of what Johnson rehearses is simply a recycling of his old prejudices: two legs good, four legs bad. And who’s to say he cannot invert the numbering once again?

Since this is written for The Spectator crowd, it has to conclude with the spoonful of sugar:

As for Britain, we have the record for decency, despite all the temptations of the war and the postwar chaos. It should never be forgotten that Clement Attlee diverted food ships from Britain to starving Europe in 1946, which meant we had to endure bread rationing, something we had avoided in wartime… We were a big loser from the war, but at least we emerged with our honour intact — Dresden excepted.

That should be applauded by one hand clapping.

But that’s not the sickener. Here it comes, in a single sentence:

Spain benefited enormously by Franco’s victory, which kept it out of the war, and it prospered for half a century afterwards until the European Union dragged it down.

“Benefited”? “Prospered”?

Since Malcolm has just polished off Paul Preston’s The Spanish Holocaust, he takes a more caustic view.


Filed under Daily Telegraph, Europe, Guardian, Independent, The Spectator, World War 2

The price and the value

The British Library has bought the St Cuthbert Gospel for £9 million. 1,300 years old, and still in good working order. Here, for example is St John’s Gospel, starting at the latter part of 3:20:

That would buy … oh! … a bit more than a tenth of a Eurofighter. Or one banker’s bonus for one year.

It’s all a matter of priorities. And values.

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Filed under BBC, Britain, Ethical Man, Literature

Electronic Pollution

All is far from well, good and dandy at Redfellow Hovel.

For reasons closely connected with the Lady in Malcolm’s Life demanding spring-clean tidiness, Malcolm’s command position has been evicted. He now has to retreat to a distant corner, the farthest point in the Hovel from his wi-fi source.

That works, up to a point. Then the Pert Young Piece signed herself up for on-demand movies, delivered, of course, through wi-fi.

Worse still: the Lady in Malcolm’s Life has just acquired a new Mac Mini, and a 22-inch monitor. Very nice, too. Except that this requires long hours of “catching up” with numerous TV dramas, all delivered to the Point of her Presence by … that same cable modem and wi-fi link.

Since the Hovel currently houses two Mac set-ups, three lap-tops, three iPads (one each of those latter two disappear transAtlantic this weekend) even a 60Mb Virginmedia link is a bit stretched.

The matter is further complicated by the way the Norf Lunnun bourgeoises have all discovered wi-fi. As Malcolm sits here he can count at least a dozen other wi-fi set-ups intruding onto his personal space.

Result: at some points of the day reception deteriorates through the intolerable to the impossible, from the frustrating to the futile.


There’s yet more grief.

Why is it that the Bluetooth signal from next door shows up as “not connected” while the trackpad, inches from the Mac, doesn’t raise even a peep?

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Filed under blogging, London, Mac, Uncategorized