Monthly Archives: December 2014

MRDA endures

Mandy Rice-Davies Applies

[This is a much-abbreviated rehash from a long-decayed earlier post.]

MandyAs an acronym. this is ever-useful, implies that someone (especially a politician) is lying to protect their own interests. The expression should be kept in good working order, both to remind us that politicians only lie when their lips move, and to memorialise a good working girl.

Famously (and much regurgitated in the obituaries of the last few days) during the trial of Stephen Ward (who was falsely charged with living off the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and Rice-Davies), the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied any involvement with her. Rice-Davies replied, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

Mandy Rice-Davis should remains a legend in her own bed-time for two things:

  • The technicians in at least one television news-studio expected a full drinks-round from any newscaster guilty of the predictable spoonerism: “Randy Mice-Davies”.
  • This bon-mot over the involvement with Lord Astor.

That would be John Jacob Astor, 3rd Viscount Astor of Hever. The present and 4th Viscount Astor is his son, William Waldorf Astor.

No, no! stick with it! It suddenly becomes interesting!

One thing to be guaranteed among Tories (apart from involvement with unsuitable young females — Miss Rice-Davis was all of just eighteen when she became an “acquaintance” of 55-year-old Astor) is serial monogamy.

So the present Lord Astor is not only a Tory in the House of Lords, he is Samantha Cameron’s stepfather.

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Filed under Conservative family values, culture, History, Tories.

Trumpton UKIP strikes again!

Oh, come on! You must admit this is so neat:


Also explains why Richard Desmond and the Express look like committing to the Kippers, but are reluctant to expose their full demographics.

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Filed under Daily Express, UKIP

Another gem from the piss-artist

This morning Paul Staines (the best-named by-name-and-by-nature in the political shadows until Roger Bird) excels in one-eyed ignorance:


Ghost_cover_scan_Well, there was a certain previous book (broad clue to the … err … right.

I have an immaculate first-edition on the shelves behind me, should anyone wish to make a substantial offer (though it’ll be cheaper and in bulk at your local Oxfam bookshop).

It was published by Hutchinson in September 2007. Harris is, of course, a featured writer for the Sunday Times (proprietor: Rupert Murdoch). He enjoys what seems a happy working relationship with the BBC, who have serialised his previous work. In 2010 the film version (titled, as the novel, The Ghost Writer outside the UK), directed by Roman Polanski, was awarded the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. The film came courtesy of 3.5 million DFFF funding from the German Government.

Of course, a film which barely-fictionalises the assassination of a living ex-Prime Minister requires certain warnings and ratings to be attached: Rated PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference.

By comparison the collection of Hilary Mantel short stories, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, which BBC Radio will put out late at night, to an eclectic audience, finally arrives at the title episode in the last paragraph of the last story. Even then, two hundred and fifty odd pages into a complex text, the act is suggested, rather than detailed:

High heels on the mossy path. Tippy-tap. Toddle on. She’s making efforts, but getting nowhere very fast. The bag on the arm, slung like a shield. The tailored suit just as I have foreseen, the pussy-cat bow, a long loop of pearls, and—a new touch—big goggle glasses. Shading her, no doubt, from the trials of the afternoon. Hand extended, she is moving along the line. Now that we are here at last, there is all the time in the world. The gunman kneels, easing into position. He sees what I see, the glittering helmet of hair. He sees it shine like a gold coin in a gutter, he sees it big as the full moon. On the sill the wasp hovers, suspends itself in still air. One easy wink of the world’s blind eye: “Rejoice,” he says. “Fucking rejoice.”

And that, folks, is what this synthetic fuss is all about.

But then Tories frothing-at-the-mouth rarely need any cause for their froth and self-aggrandisement.

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Filed under fiction, Guido Fawkes, politics

Eternal verities

A North Yorkshire mid-winter Sunday: recipe for sanity — Castle Howard and an extended pub lunch.

That’s what we did.


If you must have a country cottage, it helps if you own 20-odd square miles of prime countryside (with other bits around the nation), and can prevail upon that nice Sir John Vanbrugh to run you up something suitable. Your descendants will, of course, have to scrabble around to keep the tourists happy, to sell the simple ware, and pay for the utilities.

They do it well, however. And my main begrudging is that view to the north-west, across the Great Lake, toward the cleft in those eponymous “Howardian Hills”. Today, with a leaden sky, there was a luminous brightness in the far distance — which made it all the more magical.

Then, barely a mile down The Stray, turning east and left to Welburn, we were at the Crown and Cushion for an extended, leisurely, liquid lunch.

Let’s all agree not to tell anybody about this place, huh? It’s just too good to share.


Economic programme:

Had I — perish the thought — any handle on UK economic development, I would locate a couple of my key policy directors.

They would be told they were away on a jolly for the weekend. They would be railed to York, decanted into a limousine and whisked to Welburn (or one of a dozen similar joints scattered across North Yorkshire). After a short stroll in good, clean Yorkshire air, they would be sat down to just such a leisurely lunch.

Replete, and rested — their fair round bellies with good capon, or beef, or pork lined — I would deliver the punch-lines:

  • Here is a small, isolated village. It fosters a fine pub with a loyal clientele. That pub provides employment for — I guess — a dozen or more.
  • Across Britain, two-and-half dozen pubs close every week. Yet here we have one (of many in these parts) that seemingly flourishes, prospers and plays its part in local life.
  • So: how can we replicate that across the rest of the nation?

Somewhere in their erudite answers, I hope, would be acknowledgement of a good kitchen, a good cellar, and a passing mention of 5 Wold Rings Bitter from Driffield.


Seriously missing from the above is a nod to Provenance Inns. Not all PubCos are vast, faceless corporations.

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Filed under pubs, Yorkshire

How far from Earls Court to Trumpton?

One event the wikipedia entry on Earls Court somehow fails to mention happened on Sunday, 16th July 1939. Oswald Mosley harangued some 30,000 black-shirted fascists in what must count as Britain’s biggest indoor political huddle. When Mosley raised his arm to invite the fascist salutes of of adoring legions, a voice called out: “Yes, Oswald, you may leave the room!” — to be promptly set upon by unkindly, booted guardians-of-the-piece.

Whatever delights the horrid old hanger has offered since, for many of a certain age — a bit older than my aged self — that taints the spot. Even my visits to the Great British Beer Festival there didn’t wash away the taste. Then again, I was there for the 2001 Eagles concert; and that was less than uplifting.

So, despite the well-meant furore over Boris Johnson’s stitch-up to redevelop the site, and turn it into another barren waste of Qatari-owned flats, I’ll not greatly miss it. That Art-Deco façade deserved better, just possibly.

It’s all a long, long way and while since the Earl’s Court area was “Kangaroo Valley”, bed-sit land for passing (and soon passed-out) Australasian youths — with fag-shop accommodation ads infamously: “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish”, posted alongside assorted fly-blown “models”. At least Boris Johnson’s gift to the developers, and a new Asian ownership may lead to an upgrade in tart cards.

A chilling surprise

Cooking that gross of words, I went looking for a Youtube or similar illustration for Mosley. I was presented instead with this:


Thank you, DuckDuckGo, for that useful reminder of the workings of our surveillance and suspicious society.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones

We do indeed live in a connected world.

Out of Oswald Mosley’s gang sprang several post-war rightist groups, of varying unsavouriness. Similarly Archibald Ramsay’s secret Right Club (the subversive, aristocratic, anti-semitic, pro-fascist “patriotic society” of 1939) never really went away. His Red Book (which turned up, in code, after his death) supposedly itemised his Tory sympathisers.

It doesn’t do to scratch too hard at the MI5/MI6 nexus — types like Peter “Spycatcher” Wright and Chapman Pincher, his fellow-travelling journalist mouthpiece — to realise how weirdos festered in our securocrat demimonde.

Then there was the phenomenon that was Enoch Powell. It is difficult to credit that such a sophisticated intellect was ignorant of the consequences of his “Rivers of Blood” speech (20 April 1968) — equally difficult that it was entirely divorced from the 8 May 1968 gathering of Cecil King and Hugh Cudlipp of IPC (the newspaper operation),  Lord Mountbatten of Burma and Sir Solly Zuckerman, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser. Discussion point: a plot to overthow the elected Labour Government with a self-appointed cabal. Zukerman, to his eternal credit, told the others they were into “treason”, and walked out. Later that year, the Times editorial, written by its editor William Rees-Mogg (father of the even more effete Jacob), pressed for a “coalition” administration, with an agenda not too dissimilar to that of the loony King & co.

Yet, when Ted Heath sacked Powell from the Tory Front Bench, a thousand London dockers and meat-porters marched on Westminster to demand his restoration, and repatriation of “coloured” immigrants.

How far is all that from the UKIP phenomenon?

Well, none too far, should we believe the Daily Mail (which knows something about fascist tendencies):

Channel Four News broadcast comments from teachers at Dulwich College that the teenage Farage was a ‘fascist’ and a ‘racist’ when a pupil at the private London school in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

A letter from 1981 claims Mr Farage, now 49, was even heard ‘shouting Hitler Youth songs’. The claims did not prevent him being appointed as a prefect at the school.

The Ukip leader last night played down the significance of the claims, which he said were made by left-wing teachers who disliked his views. He denied singing Nazi songs.

Classic stuff, eh? With additional persecution-mania to boot (left-wing teachers at a fee-paying public school? — see also what’s next).

Then came the Telegraph‘s not-quite-earth-shattering revelations:

Few politicians had dared to praise [Enoch Powell] in public until 2008, when Mr Farage, who at the time had been leader of UK Independence Party for two years, named him as his political hero, saying: “While his language may seem out of date now, the principles remain good and true.”

Mr Farage added: “I would never say that Powell was racist in any way at all. Had we listened to him, we would have much better race relations now than we have got.” Then, in January this year, Mr Farage was read parts of the “Rivers of Blood” speech on Sky News’s Murnaghan programme and said he agreed with the “basic principle” of Mr Powell’s words.

Mr Farage has only ever admitted to two meetings with Powell, who died in 1998. In his autobiography, Fighting Bull, Mr Farage described how on meeting Powell as a teenager at Dulwich College, the MP “dazzled me for once into an awestruck silence”.

We have, by this stage made some direct connections:

The knee-twitch bone connected to the <sigh> bone,
The shoulder bone connected to the raised-arm bone,
The brass-neck bone connected to the brain-dead bone.

Which brings us back to small-town persecution-mania. And Mr David Coburn MEP. Who, is a very interesting MEP, indeed.

Obviously he so thoroughly impressed the UKIP selection team that they overlooked his Bexley background, to see in him an ideal nominee to head their Scottish Euro-parliamentary list (a proud Scotsman too proud to live and vote in Scotland). They overlooked, too, his Leeds University law degree (failed) — Kipper selection panels are very generous in interpreting CVs, as with Mrs Boulter. They overlooked a homophobic gayness about him [single-sex marriage is just for some queen who wants to dress up in a bridal frock and in a big moustache and dance up the aisle to the Village People].

However, Coburn — to the greater delight of all sensate beings — has excelled himself:

A parody Twitter account depicting Ukip’s members as characters in Trumpton, the setting of the 1960s children’s programme of the same name, has been denounced by one of the party’s MEPs. 

David Coburn did not see the funny side of @Trumpton_UKIP, which has fictionalised the small town’s politics since September. 

On the parody account, the town of Trumpton has come up against the influx of migration with a roll-call of firemen “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grudzinski . . . wait! what!???” and opposed CHS2, a high-speed train connecting the town with nearby Chigley, promising “vote #ukip Get Steam Trains!”

Mr Coburn has instructed his followers to report the account to the social media site’s regulators. The MEP has also announced plans to take legal action for a breach of copyright.

“Loser! Loser!”

As of the time of writing Mr Coburn has 9,155 Twitter followers. Trumpton_Ukip has 21 thousand.


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Filed under History, politics, prejudice, Scotland, sleaze., UKIP


The Dublin definition of sports:

Rugby is a game for gurriers, played by gentlemen.
Soccer is a game for gentlemen, played by gurriers.
Hurling is a game for gurriers, played by gurriers.

Which leaves only:

  1. Where do we locate women’s football?
  2. Why does this spell-check insist on replacing “gurriers” with “furriers”?
  3. Is the OED completely up-the-creek over defining and explaining “gurrier”?

In order:


Watching a grand-daughter,

  • playing in the traditional inside-left position, and
  • launching into a “robust” tackle (which would have involved a yellow card in the professional game),

raised questions about:

  • whether this was a sport or war-by-other means, and about
  • the standards of refereeing in New Jersey.

There is, by the way, a nice piece on the BBC web-site,  by Gemma Fay, outlining the history for women’s football.


Spell-checks are notorious.

First, one has to make sure the grotesque US-variants have been side-stepped. This has improved in recent years, but there are still serious difficulties with “ise”/”ize” endings.

Look, folks, it ought to be straightforward. “-ize” is for verbs derived from the Greek “-ιζω” ending. I fully appreciate that classical Greek is no longer a mainstream school subject, but you really need to get up to speed on this.

The spell-check, particularly with early versions of Microsoft Word, has ever been a useful guide (especially with typos), but a very poor master (especially with homophones).

Which provokes me further: what is the lexicon of a spell-check? 30,000 words (with plurals and variations for tenses)? If so, the one here on WordPress fails to comprehend my vocabulary.


Now this is the most interesting.

gurrier, n.

Pronunciation: Brit. ˈɡʌrɪə/ , U.S. ɡəriər

Etymology: Origin uncertain. Perhaps Irish English gur-cake, a mincemeat-filled pastry slice formerly associated with street urchins (of unknown origin), or perhaps French guerrier warrior. Perhaps compare Scottish English gurry (noun) brawl, dog-fight, bustle, (verb) to wrangle, dispute, to grumble, growl.

Originally: a Dublin street urchin. Now usually: a rough, aggressive young man; a lout, a hooligan. Also as a term of abuse.

So much for the OED. Try Wiktionary:

Etymology uncertain. Suggestions include:

  • alteration of gutter
  • from gurry, a brawl
  • related to gur cake, a cheap cake eaten by poor children
  • from French guerrier, a warrior

The word “gurrier” is a misspelling of a word used in the West of Ireland, “gorier” for a hatching hen. The Irish word for “hatch”, as used in reference to hatching birds, is “gor”. The translation of, “the hen is hatching” is “tá and cearc ar gor”. The word is pronounced, “gorrier”, with the “o” sounding as the “o” in the irish word, gorm (blue) or poll (hole). In view of its derivation, this would be a more appropriate spelling. The “u” spelling is the result of the Dublin working class, known as a “Dub” accent, which has a tendency to pronounce the “o” as a “u” sound, for example, world is pronounced wurld, working is pronounced wurking, etc. A rapid “Dub” accent interruption for an explanation would often consist of, whah, whah whah, whah’s thah, whah’s thah, and would sound like the bock, bock, sound of a hatching hen when disturbed.

At some point there, I think I detected urine being extracted.

Equally, “gurrier” can become a mark of pride in an anti-heroic, reverse-snobbery sort of way. Here comes an illuminating exchange from Dáil Éireann on 29 November, 1967. The participants are Minister of Finance Haughey and James Dillon of Fine Gael (both barristers):

Mr. Haughey: You are an “ould” fraud.

Mr. Dillon: What an edifying contribution to the discussion on the economic state of Ireland.

Mr. Haughey: What about yours?

Mr. Dillon: We have heard frequently of the general accents of the Dublin gurrier.

Mr. Haughey: This is very edifying.

Mr. Dillon: I was born and bred in North Great George’s Street and I regard myself not only as a Mayo man but a Dublin man too: a gurrier, no.

An Ceann Comhairle: I do not think the Deputy should refer to the Minister——

Mr. Dillon: Oh, I am not referring to the Minister as a gurrier. I am only expressing amazement that a resident of Clontarf, who has graduated to Portmarnock, should use the language of the gurrier.

Mr. Haughey: You are wrong on both counts and I do not resent the title “gurrier” at all.

Mr. Dillon: That shows you are not a native of Dublin. You are only an import. If you did understand its meaning, you would resent it bitterly. I want to emphasise that I never said the Minister was a gurrier because I know from whence he comes, but I resent his using the language of the gurrier for it is the language of the gutter.

Mr. Haughey: Do you mean you can call me a fraud and my actions fraudulent——

Mr. Dillon: I do not think I referred to the Minister as a fraud.

The notion of “Charlus” Haughey not being a fraud is too, too risible. However, the ambiguity of “gurrier” is there made clear.

Advanced students of Hibernicisms may now wish to attempt a definition of “cute hoor” (not, as the spellcheck would like to insist, “cute hour”)

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Filed under Dublin., Ireland, Irish politics, Oxford English Dictionary, Quotations, reading

Another season, no complaining

Having knocked off that previous post, on the festive magazine covers for Christmas 1939, it occurred to me to look at two years later.

December 1941 must have been frenetic for anyone in US magazine publication (not to say, horrendous for Americans and the World).

At 7.55 a.m, local time, the Japanese navy launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Within minutes nineteen U.S. warships were sunk or out-of-action, 140 aircraft destroyed, 2,300 servicemen dead, another 1,200 wounded.

The following day Roosevelt made his “day which will live in infamy” address to Congress. War on Japan was declared with a single dissenter. How that resolution came abouSenate 8 Dect is a story in itself (see right).

On December 11th Germany and Italy obliged by declaring war on the United States. By then American was in the European War for the long haul.

In the next couple of weeks the Philippines were invaded, Guam and Wake Island were occupied. The draft was extended to all in the ages of 20 to 44.

Willie Gillis and beyond

I apologise to nobody for liking Norman Rockwell. Deploring a commercial artist as “populist” must be one of the great sine-quibus-non of art criticism. Rockwell wasn’t illustrating America — though some of the stuff he did in his final phase —The problem we all live with — is searing social criticism. He gave his clients what they wanted: he was illustrating the America that middle-class Americans aspired to and thought they remembered.

I visited the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s 2011 import of the National Museum of American Illustration’s Rockwell exhibition. The tour concluded with all his Saturday Evening Post covers, from 20 May 1916 to 14 December 1963. That last was a black border around the Kennedy image used for 29 October 1960.

Out of that display I took two instructive points:

  • Taking the Kennedy image first: the assassination (22 November) imposed production problems to produce a striking cover for a publication date so near in the future. Re-employing the portrait from the 1960 Election campaign solved the problem. It also made me look again at the Rockwell Christmas cover for 1941 — which would have gone into the mail and on sale barely a fortnight after Pearl Harbor. I’ll come to that in a moment.
  • The other is Rockwell was anticipating war well before Pearl Harbor. He had already begun the series, eventually amounting to eleven, which took Willie Gillis from raw recruit (Saturday Evening Post Cover, 4 October 1941) to GI-Bill college (5 October 1946):


Every time I come across those Rockwell war-time images, I repeat the (anonymous?) comment about Micky Mouse and Donald Duck patriotic one-reelers: thank heaven they were on our side! And the greatest of those was Rockwell’s working of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (the 1941 State of the Union Address):


The post-war world, and our concepts of “human rights” start here, folks. St Paul, though, got the whole idea into three words: see 1 Corinthians, 13.

The News kiosk in the snow

Anyway, the point I have been working toward (and there is one) is the Saturday Evening Post Christmas cover for 1941.

How could Rockwell’s painstaking approach — studies leading to a meticulously completed oil — be accommodated into the frenzy of the first few days of a declared World War? Here it is:

Cover 1941

Unless my eyes deceive me, the clue is the difference between the main image and the reduced near-facsimiles around the window: Buy Defense Bonds.

The Turner scenario?

Mr TurnerI haven’t yet seen Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, an omission caused by a week in Italy and a busy life before the bathroom fitters arrive. The reviews tell me it includes the incident at the Royal Academy in 1832. Constable had spent a decade-and-half perfecting his The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, and was still titivating it on varnishing day. Turner arrived, saw his Helvoetsluys was hung alongside the Constable, and might, just might, appear a trifle dowdy by comparison. With a dab of red paint Helvoetsluys gained a new buoy, and a focal attraction.

I can imagine the art-department of the Post considering the draft Rockwell cover, perhaps in panic and despair. And with a small detailed addition the situation was remedied.

In this context, with that image, my inner Wells-next-the-Sea choirboy hears George Herbert:

A man that looks on glass, 
         On it may stay his eye; 
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass, 
         And then the heav’n espy.

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Filed under History, Literature, Norman Rockwell, United States, Wells-next-the-Sea