Monthly Archives: February 2016

A fluid correction

Anyone from the era when we had to bash typewriters will have had a small bottle to hand. If you were as bad a typist as I am, you needed it in industrial quantities.

Tippex

That’s the brand I remember, because that was the product my college bought (and I could thieve from the cupboard). And — strewth! — didn’t over-indulgence (i.e. mine) clog up any typewriter.

So, one Friday evening, recovering from a hard week at the chalk face, I was into my second, or even third pint of Courage Directors (not yet a Charlie Wells brew). My location was the John Baird, Muswell Hill. Now, three pints at 4.6% ABV ought to have some effect, especially when imbibed against the clock (the Lady in my Life would be doing Sainsbury’s shop down the road). If you like, this was my six-o’clock swill.

Suddenly the side door from Prince’s Avenue opens to admit a bevy of very buxom belles (doubtless chosen for the parts). The white tee-shirts all boost the slogan: Sno-pake covers all your boobs.

Somehow that sticks in my mind.

Then this happens:

Correcting fluid

Apologies to all concerned. But forty years on —

Girls, you still warm an old man’s cockles.

 

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Filed under Beer, blogging, Muswell Hill, pubs

Educational Siphonaptera

A long while back I began a blog-post thus:

How Jonathan Swift well understood right-wing bloggers.

The vermin only teaze and pinch
Their foes superior by an inch.
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.

Somehow, some when, that was contracted down to:

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

In truth, the slim-line version was courtesy of Augustus de Morgan, the twice-coined professor of mathematics at the newly-minted London University: a great man who was ineligible for Oxbridge tenure because of his atheism — though he went the same way as Willie Yeats, seduced into spiritualism by the love for a good woman. Correction there: since the Yeatsian seduction was via that Surrey minx, Edith Maud Gonne, and de Morgan married Sophia Frend, that should read “the love for a better woman”

Critics may observe I entitled that post “Syphonaptera”. Homer nodded. However, it allows me to use the correct spelling above. And I cannot bring myself to forgo the dig at WB Yeats.

Today the Department for Education has “updated” (a late twentieth-century expressed in British English — so much more efficient and concise than “brought up-to-date” or “modified” or “changed” ) an important document:

DfE

Work-load is going to be reduced — wait for it! it’s a good’un! — by setting up three review groups, to consider the “workload challenge”. As a further result there will be:

  • tracking teacher workload by running a large-scale survey every 2 years – in February 2016, we invited a representative sample of schools to take part in the first survey, which will run from 29 February 2016

So, dear Ms Bloggs, we know you’re already frazzled by the burdens our bureaucracy imposes on you, but we ask you to postpone any relaxation while we go through a check-list with you. Will 4 p.m. on Friday do?

It all reminds me that I once complained at a senior staff meeting of the proliferation of hateful meetings. All seemed to require an extended Powerpoint presentation (much more trendy and ego-inflating than circulating a memo), breaking up into groups to discuss it, and then reassembling for a “plenary”.

The result was:

  • a meeting to discuss whether we were having too many meetings;
  • a further meeting to schedule further meetings …

I guess my early retirement intervened around then, so the process may yet be replicating itself.

Here’s a question for Mrs Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, one of her six under-strapper ministers, her three SpAds, or her fourteen “board members”, her 45 “communications staff” (i.e. PR types) and 3840 other staff:

How many review groups are needed to change a light-bulb?

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Filed under Conservative family values, education, human waste, politics, schools, Tories.

Conundrum of the day.

This was all kicked off by Steve Baker accusing Europe Minister, David Lidlington (who always strikes me as a bit herbivorous):

Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): This in-at-all-costs deal looks and smells funny. It might be superficially shiny on the outside, but poke it and it is soft in the middle. Will my right hon. Friend admit to the House that he has been reduced to polishing poo?

Mr Lidington: No, and I rather suspect that, whatever kind of statement or response to a question that I or any of my colleagues delivered from the Dispatch Box, my hon. Friend was polishing that particular question many days ago.

Baker must have refined his cloacal knowledge in the RAF training scheme, in Lehman Brothers, or in the St Cross College for unattached mature students. One suspects, though, the expression was sweated to fly as close to Erskine May as possible.

Yet, “poo” is just so naff.

So I approved Paul Waugh, this morning:

Steve Baker caught the headlines with his ‘poo’ jibe yesterday. I’m not sure why is ‘poo’ was deemed Parliamentary language but ‘turd’ — the original line is ‘you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter’ — isn’t. No matter, the leading backbench Euroscep summed up the main case of many of the PM’s critics: that this not the great deal Cameron claims.

Waugh managed to pack “manure to be lobbed” and “the poo won’t stick” into proximity.

Where I differ is I’m not convinced “you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter” is “the original line”. It certainly appears here:

I reckon the conceit goes far further back, in the Glaswegian expression “a polished jobbie”.

quite_ugly_UK_pb_200Look what just happened there!

This opinionated Mac predictive-spellcheck “corrected” to bobbie.

Which is instructive, in a way, because I was reckoning to find “polished jobbie” (did it again! and again!) in the works of Christopher Brookmyre. I thought I remembered it from the first chapter of his Quite Ugly One Morning, which I rate as one of the best, and funniest openers in any ‘teccie.

Wrong, Malcolm!

boiling_frog_UK_hb_200You’ll find it in Boiling a Frog (at least three times, including):

there was only so much that news management could achieve, and brainwashing wasn’t part of it. People had to be receptive to a certain point of view in the first place: otherwise you weren’t so much spinning as polishing a jobbie.

Your memory misled you from the back end of Chapter 1 of Quite Ugly One Morning.

Inspector McGregor has arrived at the puke-skating scene of the crime:

There was dried and drying sick all over the hot radiator and down the wall behind it, which went some way towards explaining the overpowering stench that filled the room. But as pyjama man was only a few hours cold, his decay couldn’t be responsible for the other eye-watering odour that permeated the atmosphere.
McGregor gripped the mantelpiece and was leaning over to offer Callaghan a hand up over the upturned chair when he saw it, just edging the outskirts of his peripheral vision. He turned his head very slowly until he found himself three inches away from it at eye level, and hoped his discovery was demonstrative enough to prevent anyone from remarking on it.
Too late.
‘Heh, there’s a big keech on the mantelpiece, sir,’ announced Skinner joyfully, having wandered up to the doorway.
For Gow it was just one human waste-product too many. As the chaotic room swam dizzily before him, he fleetingly considered that he wouldn’t complain about policing the Huns’ next visit if this particular chalice could be taken from his hands. McGregor caught his appealing and slightly scared look and glanced irritably at the door by way of excusing him, the Inspector reckoning that an alimentary contribution from the constabulary was pretty far down the list of things this situation needed right now.
They watched their white-faced colleague make an unsteady but fleet-footed exit and returned their gazes to the fireplace.
The turd was enormous. An unhealthy, evil black colour like a huge rum truffle with too much cocoa powder in the mixture. It sat proudly in the middle of the mantelpiece like a favourite ornament, an appropriate monarch of what it surveyed. Now that they had seen it, it seemed incredible that they could all have missed it at first, but in mitigation there were a few distractions about the place.
‘Jesus, it’s some size of loaf right enough,’ remarked Callaghan, in tones that Dalziel found just the wrong side of admiring.
‘Aye, it must have been a wrench for the proud father to leave it behind,’ she said acidly.
‘I suppose we’ll need a sample,’ Callaghan observed. ‘There’s a lab up at the RVI that can tell all sorts of stuff from just a wee lump of shite.’
‘Maybe we should send Skinner there then,’ muttered Dalziel. ‘See what they can tell from him.’
‘I heard that.’
‘Naw, seriously,’ Callaghan went on. ‘They could even tell you what he had to eat.’
‘We can tell what he had to eat from your sleeve,’ Skinner observed.
‘But we don’t know which one’s sick this is,’ Callaghan retorted.
‘We don’t know which one’s keech it is either.’
‘Well I’d hardly imagine the deid bloke was in the habit of shiting on his own mantelpiece.’
‘That’s enough,’ said McGregor, holding a hand up. ‘We will need to get it examined. And the sick.’
‘Bags not breaking this one to forensics,’ said Dalziel.
‘It’ll be my pleasure,’ said the Inspector, delighted at the thought of seeing someone else’s day ruined as well.
‘Forensics can lift the sample then,’ said Callaghan.
‘No, no,’ said McGregor, smiling grimly to himself. ‘I think a specimen as magnificent as this one should be preserved intact. Skinner,’ he barked, turning round. ‘This jobbie is state evidence and is officially under the jurisdiction of Lothian and Borders Police. Remove it, bag it and tag it.’

To conclude:

Frans Boas is the source for the (arguable) belief that the Inuit have fifty words for snow. From my (excessive?) study of modern Scottish fiction, I begin to feel Glaswegians can manage similar  for “taking a dump”.

Mr Steve Baker needs to up his game.

 

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Filed under Christopher Brookmyre, Conservative family values, Detective fiction, EU referendum, politics, Quotations, reading, Scotland, Tories.

Class-y MPs (and MSPs?)

This was prompted (once again) by James Kelly’s scotgoespop blog.

He argues, and — coming from such a factional source — understandably: it’s important to have an overall SNP majority, and not just a pro-independence majority.

Except I remembered, and have managed to dig out, a piece by John McDermott for the Financial Times: What are the new SNP candidates like?

In “The British General Election of 2010”, edited by Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley, the academic Byron Criddle analysed the primary occupations of MPs before they entered parliament. Mr Criddle estimated that a quarter of MPs from the three biggest parties worked in “business”, a field including finance workers, company executives and management consultants. Viewed this way, about one-quarter of the SNP cohort has a business background, a higher share than the 2010 Liberal Democrat (19 per cent) and Labour MPs (8 per cent), but a smaller fraction than for the Conservatives (41 per cent).

Those SNP candidates are now, of course, all but two of Scotland’s entire Westminster cohort.

When “anonymous” (there are several of them) comments Scottish independence is all about socialism, I can only respond: would that it were so.

The SNP describes itself as a “left of centre, social democratic and progressive party”. I cannot see “socialist” or “socialism” featuring as a #SNP self-description. Alex Salmond’s “social democratic” credentials were honed in the Scottish Office’s Ag&Fish section, and then a long stint at RBS. Nicola Sturgeon’s brief brush (all of about four years) with time as a trainee and then as a solicitor seems to be a mere bread-butterer while she prepared for a career of professional politics.

There were many things not-quite-proper about Scottish Labour (and things still to be corrected), but it did mean that many of its elected representatives came from “working-class” backgrounds, and had experience of grime and grease under the finger-nails.

My theses here:

  • It’s A-OK for the SNP to brag that “46 per cent [of the 2016 Holyrood nominees] are female”. That doesn’t necessarily suggest a balanced slate.
  • The 2015 SNP MPs elected to Westminster clearly lacked proper “due diligence” in selection. Two already have gang aglay. A third experienced a near-miss. A couple more have had close squeaks. Despite a rigorous insistence on zipped mouths, too many dodgy utterances still escape.
  • Scotland may not be quite the “one-party state” some critics claim, but the SNP is far too uniform a tendency to be healthy.

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Filed under blogging, Scotland, Scottish Parliament, SNP, social class

Further matter arising: 1320 — 1776

No, I hadn’t forgotten (see previous). Small crises (stinky drain, untidy kitchen, laundry, etc) delaying not-s0-great thoughts. And we’ll come to him (below) in due course.

David_Hume (by Alan Ramsay)

It’s another ScotNat fantasy, maintained in a weekend tweet from  (after his Trump-for-Prez declaration, he has subsequently shown his Dover street-cred on “immigration”). Allegedly, as they say, in the best circles, and this Mr Lawrie maintains, the American Declaration of Independence was inspired by the Declaration of Arbroath.

Of the two Declarations, we’ve all heard of the former, but the latter is a bit less well-known. In fact, like Magna Carta before it was re-discovered and re-invented by Sir Edward Coke (and which I considered a while back), the Declaration has had a Lazarus-like resuscitation. Since William Wallace was executed in 1305,  scriptwriter Randall Wallace couldn’t quite stick words from the Declaration into Mel Gibson’s mouth. He just went as close as he could.

Compare and contrast Braveheart with the key bit of the Declaration, now an incantation among Scot Nats of my acquaintance.

… quamdiu Centum ex nobis viui remanserint, nuncquam Anglorum dominio aliquatenus volumus subiugari. Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit.

Sorry! That gets gussied up and dumbed down as:

… as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

So, who is making this ringing pledge?

The pen was possibly in the hand of Abbot Bernard of Kilwinning, Chancellor of Scotland, though more convincingly the drafting was by Alexander de Kininmund (a more seasoned church diplomat, with experience of the papal court).

The primary context was not “independence”, but clouds of excommunication, hanging over Robert Brus for killing of John Comyn on holy ground. Brus was rounding up all the support he could muster (this was his third appeal). I doubt if the hard-headed feudal nobility of lowland Scotland expected any miraculous help from Avignon, but papal endorsement does little harm (Cf: Stadtholder Willem at the Boyne).

The Pope addressed by the Arbroath Declaration was Jacques Duèze, John XXII, second of the Avignon popes, a creature of Philip V of France, provoker (in large part) of the  Guelph and Ghibelline civil wars, an efficient administrator who filled those Avignon cellars with specie.

Then we come to the signatories of this document:

Duncan, Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and of Annandale, Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise, Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, William, Earl of Ross, Magnus, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William, Earl of Sutherland; Walter, Steward of Scotland, William Soules, Butler of Scotland, James, Lord of Douglas, Roger Mowbray, David, Lord of Brechin, David Graham, Ingram Umfraville, John Menteith, guardian of the earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gilbert Hay, Constable of Scotland, Robert Keith, Marischal of Scotland, Henry Sinclair, John Graham, David Lindsay, William Oliphant, Patrick Graham, John Fenton, William Abernethy, David Wemyss, William Mushet, Fergus of Ardrossan, Eustace Maxwell, William Ramsay, William Mowat, Alan Murray, Donald Campbell, John Cameron, Reginald Cheyne, Alexander Seton, Andrew Leslie and Alexander Straiton, and the other barons and freeholders …

Spot there a peasant, a serf,  of the whole community of the realm of Scotland, in whose name these grandees felt free to speak. Note, too, the Anglo-Norman names, and the titles imported by Dauíd mac Maíl Choluim (David I) to shore up his feudal imposition. And all in the name of “freedom”?

The American connection?

NTD2013_banner4

As far as I can see, this comes from Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi (at the third attempt), reading into the Senate record his motion for U.S. Senate Resolution 155 to inaugurate “National Tartan Day”:

Whereas April 6 has a special significance for all Americans, and especially those Americans of Scottish descent, because the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, was signed on April 6, 1320 and the American Declaration of Independence was modelled on that inspirational document…

This historic event therefore goes all the way back to … 1998.

It is fair enough to make a link from the foundation of the American nation-state to Scots. It goes slightly awry when the Resolution propounds:

almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent … Governors of nine of the original thirteen States were of Scottish ancestry

That would be less impressive were we deduct the “Scotch-Irish”, whose connection is more with Ulster.

A better connection

Set aside the Declaration of Arbroath.

Scottish influence on the 1776 Declaration was more recent, more immediate, more philosophical, more potent.

It was the philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment, and in particular of the titan that was David Hume.

Read, mark and inwardly digest The Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth (1752).

It’s all there.

And it’s a far prouder claim that any nonsense dredged from the early fourteenth-century.

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Filed under History, Scotland, SNP, United States, US politics