Monthly Archives: November 2012

Heaven is just a …


Just a quicky. More later.

How about Graceland for the main attraction? Then eating burgers in downtown Memphis, with Neil Young on the PA?

Yeah, the Peabody ducks sneaked in there, too.


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Black Friday

Well, that’s the carbs of Thanksgiving out of the way. So now to a healthier diet.

The alternative to posting here (trying to use Facebook) has proved somewhat fraught.

So, a passing thought here (prompted by the New York Times front page): the US still allows HCFC-22 as a coolant. That puts it in 140 million central heating air units nationwide. This stuff is therefore present in every landfill — 0r rather was, and is leaking out. Bye bye troposphere.

And this in a country where your bar snack packet warns you it may contain nuts.

There are more nuts in the environmental destruction lobby.


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Normal service will be resumed …

Perhaps. One day.

Meanwhile Malcolm is off to the storm-battered State of Noo Joisey, in time for Thanksgiving.

A side-trip to Memphis and Nashville is on the cards. Expect — in the future — ignorances on the topics of the Blues, alt-country and how the Scots-Irish made good.

Meanwhile, thanks to the few who have frequented tho blog. Your interest and occasional feed-back has kept an old man (a) off the bottle (well …) and (b) exercising the odd brain-cell. Feel warm about your efforts at personal care in the community.

There are several posts in the ‘pending’ file (for example, Malcolm wants to have a go at the history of Doire before it became Stroke City). They may eventually see the light of cyber-day.

Who knows? You may find updates at



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O frabjous day!

Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy.

And why, for goodness’ sake, Malcolm?

Norwich City 1 Manchester United 0

Norwich recorded only their second win over Manchester United in 15 league matches thanks to a brilliant headed goal from Anthony Pilkington.

The ex-Huddersfield forward struck 30 minutes from time when he flicked in Javier Garrido’s cross from the left.

As in:

and many, many more.

Meanwhile, the ComRes monthly poll for the Sunday Mirror and the Sindie has:

  • Con 31% (-2),
  • Lab 43% (+2),
  • LibDem 10% (nc),
  • UKIP 8% (-1).

As Anthony Wells skims it:

The twelve point lead is the largest ComRes have shown this Parliament in either their online or their phone polls.

The fieldwork was done between Wednesday and Friday, so most of it would have been finished before the results of Thursday’s election. It is too early to expect any impact from them in the polls.

Short of Nadine Dorries providing a tasty snack for Crocodylus porous [below], can the weekend get any better?

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My enemy’s enemy is — not necessarily — my friend

When David Blackburn at the Speccie recommends a piece by George Eaton at the Staggers, in the bushes something stirs.

Both sides, in short, are evaluating what happens now the Lib Dem vote has collapsed. And whether the UKIP surge can continue. Either way, it is for Labour to exploit and the Tories to repulse  and repel (actually, they do that, en masse, quite well).

Eaton’s piece is the terser, but makes three points (which Malcolm glosses here) on the back of the Corby by-election:

  • The Labour vote increased proportionately by nearly 10%. Were that to be the norm at a future General Election — which, we must assume is still slated for 7th May 2015 — Labour would romp it. As it happens, Malcolm would not be surprised if — given the faintest glimmer of an economic silver lining in 2014 — the Coalition didn’t somehow collapse this ‘fixed’ (in any sense you choose) parliament. Indeed, Cameron may be able to achieve just that by his long-trailered, long-over-due ‘big’ speech on Europe — and some kind of pledge/promise/wishful thinking on a referendum (cue Tom Newton Dunn at The Sun — this is one topic where the Murdoch press are a ‘must read’).
  • If the Lib Dem decline persists, Labour stands to pick up those Tory/Labour marginals where the Lib Dem vote exceeds the present Tory majority (Eaton counts 37 of these). Several of those are seats (such as Clegg’s) with a large university student vote. The previous generation of those students (who will have passed on by 2015) were blinkered by the Lib Dem hypocrisy on fees, and by natural resentment at Labour’s involvement in US wars: go figure.
  • If the Lib Dems do a Lazarus, and/or if the incumbency factor works in the Lib Dem MP’s favour, the Tories also lose out — because, again on Eaton’s arithmetic, there are 38 Lib Dem seats where the Tories run second. What Eaton doesn’t include is the West Country factor, where the Lib Dems (in fact, unreconstructed Liberals) have deep roots, and should continue to blossom.

Blackburn attempts to put a good face on what was an appalling day for the Tories:

  • the rise of independents;
  • that it was all a profoundly anti-politics election, and low turnout is a long-term trend. Err … is it?

What is agreed by all-comers, is that Cameron is:

  • damned if he does — any concessions to the rabid Right and the UKIPpers alienates the centre, leaving that ground open to the Labour ‘One Nation’ ploy.


… there is plenty for the Conservative strategists to worry about. Whilst the BNP did rather poorly, particularly in Corby, UKIP on the whole did rather well. In the very low poll at Manchester, UKIP came within half a dozen votes of overtaking the Conservatives. At Corby, where the Conservative vote collapsed, UKIP scored a respectable 5,000-plus votes, triple that of the Lib Dems, and at Cardiff they marginally increased their vote.

In short, while Labour seems to have stemmed the loss of votes to BNP, the Tories are still losing support to UKIP; and even worse for Mr Cameron, UKIP is strengthening in advance of the 2014 European elections. The Tory cry that a vote for UKIP is a wasted vote may be wearing a bit thin.

All that is the prime focus on today’s editorial in The Independent:

Mr Cameron is caught in a difficult bind. He is facing a Labour Party showing tentative signs of recovery from its 2010 defeat, while to his right there is an anti-EU party attracting votes at a point when Europe soars up the political agenda. But if the Tory leader hardens his stance on the EU to appease Eurosceptics, he risks giving up an even greater share of the more moderate centre ground he once sought to occupy. And his departure from this electorally fertile terrain in other policy areas is one of the reasons his party struggled in the by-elections.

That’s without tangling too closely with the tar-baby (a dangerous metaphor, Malcolm fully appreciates, but one which he can happily defend on non-racist terms) of ‘localism’. ‘Localism’ may have been a good notion in happier times, but the centralisers of Tory policy (Gove, Shapps, Pickles …) have done for it, good and proper.

And another thing …

The North impinges further south each year.

The Tories are rapidly heading towards extinction north of the Trent and outside of the leafiest of shires. David Blackburn, in that piece noted above, cheerfully quotes himself from the previous day:

… the Tories’ woeful showing in South Yorkshire (beaten into 3rd by the English Democrats) and in Durham (finished a miserable 4th), to say nothing of the debacle in the Manchester Central by-election (where the party lost its deposit), should concern the party.

That is, not necessarily, even for socialist bigot like Malcolm, a good outcome.

‘Should concern the party’? Should concern the nation! For all its faults the Tory Party (indeed the two-party system) is essential to British democracy as we know it. Much as the Lib Dems might wish for a “three-party system”, that — as we have painfully discovered through this benighted ConDem coalition — arrives at sterility and even extremism (Gove, Shapps, Pickles … Duncan Smith, secret courts). Of course the whole system could — and arguably should — be given a whole new architecture, by devolution of real power to regions and localities and/or by proportional representation. For the time being, pending that day of universal liberation, we have to work within the parameters we have got.

Now we have the weekend commentariat to expect in the Sundays. That should be instructive, particularly if one or other of the ‘usuals’ comes up with a different, original interpretation. And, as Malcolm’s Dear Old Dad frequently opined: ‘It must be true: it’s in the papers’.

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How to distort “news”

The Daily Mail is a low-down, dishonest, corrupting Tory rag — and needs constantly to be exposed for that. Fortunately, the Mail itself does so on a daily basis. Its whole existence is predicated to the Big Lie:

… the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

Malcolm deliberately disguises the source of that quotation, lest it fall foul of Godwin’s Law.

Today’s front page is a magnificent example of the Big Lie:

The essence of the Mail piece is:

Prescott loses police commissioner poll in his own back yard of Hull to a TORY

Except the election wasn’t just for Hull: it was for the whole Humberside Constabulary area. Here is the difference:

The political complexion, as of 2010, of the parliamentary constituencies of Humberside looks very skewed:

Ten constituencies, five Tory, five Labour, which might seem an even balance. The County seats all Tory: the Borough seats tending Labour, as one might expect. A closer look at the numbers suggests the Humberside area is safe Tory country: David Davis’s Haltemprice and Howden is regarded as the second safest Tory constituency in Britain, and has never deviated from that loyalty since 1837.

Add up the 2010 results and we have 40.8% Tory, 34.2% Labour and 25% Lib Dem:

Now consider Thursday’s results of the Police and Crime Commissioner election (though Malcolm never did get the hang of how to ‘commission’ crime):

Accepting that Prescott lost on the Second Round (39,933 to 42,164 or a 48.6/51.4% two-party split), on that first count:

  • Prescott caned the Tory — it is, in crude terms, a four or five per cent swing (and it has to be accepted that the “county” types turned out far, far better than the urbanites);
  • the Tory vote went AWOL, barely squeaking in ahead of the independent — even the egregious Godfrey Bloom (surely one of the more disreputable and bizarre UKIP types, which itself is saying something) splitting off a sixth of the total poll;
  • the Tory candidate was only rescued — just — on that second round by rolling up the odds-and-sods vote: those 19,375 who did express a second preference split for the Tory 2:1;
  • the Lib Dems were totally creamed: even proportionately, more than a third of their vote evaporated.

For the record, Paul Davison — who ran that close third —  is an ex-Police Superintendent, and probably the best qualified of all the candidates.

The real determinant was tthe total failure of second preference transfers (which, as every aficionado of Irish politics knows, is key to the whole operation). Only 27% of the odds-and-sods ballots bothered to make a second preference. That is either a failure of voter education or a clear statement by a majority to vote “neither of the above”. 51,665 second preferences did not go for either the Labour or the Tory in the final run-off — which amounts to an absolute majority of those who turned out. We should not forget the “alternative vote” was the preferred option in the Great Constitutional Débâcle of 5th May 2011. If we needed concrete evidence that AV is a sham, and no substitute for proper proportional representation, here is the concrete evidence.

Yet the Daily Mail says it was all about Prescott, and the Daily Mail is a dishonourable rag.

And the Daily Mail says it was all about the city of Hull, and nothing to do with the other lands north and south of the estuary, and, for sure, the Daily Mail is a dishonourable lie-sheet.

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… and one Englishman to sink it.

The punchline, of course, to that bitter Belfast gybe about the building of the Titanic.

Factor one: a tradition

Belfast was building ships as early as 1663. By the mid-nineteenth century the business was big, and getting bigger. When Anvil Point was launched (1st April 2003) she was keel number 1742 (and last) of the vessels to come off the Harland and Woolf slips.

Yet only one gets popularly remembered — and she was probably the shortest-lived of the lot.

Factor two: an image (bad)

Belfast hasn’t had a lot positively going for the city these last few decades.

The Europa was, after all, not just the place where the world’s press bedded down. And rarely ventured forth. And talked. And broadcast therefrom. And drank each other under tables. It was also, famously, the most bombed hotel in the world. Which included Beirut. For the record: twenty-eight, and hopefully not counting. For that reason, NBC news includes the Europa in its Ten hotels that made history — so consider the others for comparison:

  • the Ritz, Paris: Diana Spenser Windsor’s nookie joint before Pillar Thirteen, but more worthily the resort of Ernest Hemingway;
  • the Crillon, Paris, notoriously the Gestapo’s favourite watering-hole in occupied Paris;
  • the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where James Earl Ray did for Martin Luther King;
  • the Greenbriar, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, which was the Congressional nuclear bunker and Cold War funk hole, a.k.a. ‘Project Greek Island’;
  • the Berchtesgaden Resort, built on the site of Hitler’s Bavarian pad;
  • etc., etc.

To be truthful, Belfast is, was and always will be a long, long way from being a ‘beautiful’ city. Nobody is likely to croon that they left their heart in Belfast City, though it has its television transmitter high on a hill, and The morning fog may chill the air (and on occasion, not clear all day) — admittedly the sea is rarely blue, but it can certainly be windy.

The place can certainly do with a golden sun to shine for anyone.

OK: it’s irrelevant to the main argument here; but let’s do it:


By the millennium the two main cities of Northern Ireland, Belfast and Derry (let’s leave the wasteland of ‘Craigavon’ out of this), were both in positions to exploit their considerable waterfront potentials. Both did so, though — as Northern Irish politics go — the main money stayed east of the Bann.

In Belfast, with the demise of Harland and Woolf, there was one of the largest inner-city brown sites in Europe: though London’s King’s Cross ought to have beaten it for  the funny moolah (but that industrial desert had been hanging around, unexploited, for decades). Some smartass promptly designated the old H&W acres the ‘Titanic Quarter’ — and a legend was born:

Gosh: how Mediterranean! All we need now is the little cable cars.

Bayeux Tapestry — phooey!

Yes, Malcolm has seen it. And preferred the booklet version with added colouring. Apart from anything else, the dog-Latin makes more sense when it’s highlighted and not faded into oblivion. Nor, last August, were Malcolm’s grandsons greatly impressed either. Once seen, noted, included in school projects, soon forgotten.

But this is different:

The most expensive piece of Titanic memorabilia sold at auction – the 33-feet long design plan – is coming back to Belfast.

The 100-year-old scale drawing was sold last year in England for almost a quarter of a million pounds, but the anonymous buyer has agreed for it to go on show at the new Titanic visitor centre in Belfast.

The huge plan, regarded as the Holy Grail of Titanic memorabilia, shows the intricate detail of the ship – from the location of the squash court, to the Turkish baths to the first-class lavatories.

That omits a few crucial details:

  • why is such an artefact worth only a couple of hundred grand at auction?
  • how was it abstracted from the H&W plans office, except to be an exhibit at the official enquiry (still has the chalk markings drawn on it in 1912 to show where the iceberg struck — which must surely be ‘Crown copyright)?
  • how genuine is the ‘provenance’ of ownership, and can we be told it, please?
  • why, for heaven’s sake, is such an object not in public ownership, one way or another?

If this major piece of naval architecture arrives back at the Drawing Office (there, to the left of the picture), overlooking the Thompson Graving Dock, and is put on public view (admission will of course be charged), we have a feature which, so far, has been seriously missing from the whole Titanic farrago.

Except …

One important element in the legend has already been returned to Belfast.

The three great behemoths — the Olympic, the Titanic and the Gigantic (rapidly renamed Britannic) — were too big to enter Cherbourg harbour. Cherbourg was a major port for accepting passengers, both of the haut-ton and those rough, but profitable steerage emigrants. So a pair of tenders was commissioned, also from H&W: the Nomadic for the quality, and the Traffic for the plebs. Now aren’t those evocative, telling names? As with everything else in the Titanic story, we are not all in this together:

When that ship left England it was making for the shore,
The rich refused to ‘sociate with the poor,
So they put the poor below,
They were the first to go.
It was sad when that great ship went down.

The Nomadic is the noble vestige of the great days of Belfast shipbuilding, and likely now to be a permanent resident.

She has a heroic history, serving in two World Wars: first as a minesweeper and a ferry for American dough-boys arriving at Brest, then — in the second Unpleasantness — evacuating refugees from Cherbourg in 1940, then requisitioned by the Royal Navy as a minelayer and general transport. Back in post-war France Nomadic was again a tender to the great liners,until air-travel made that a memory, then a Parisian floating restaurant and night-club.At her lowest ebb, she was seized for debts, and bound for the breakers, so in 2006 the Northern Irish  Department for Social Development divvied up €250,001 to bring her home to Belfast, where is being conserved and restored.

Perhaps the best is yet to come.

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