Category Archives: human waste

Dear, damn’d distracting town, farewell!

Early Georgian town gossip and scandal!

Opening stanza of Alexander Pope’s Farewell to London:

Dear, damn’d distracting town, farewell!
Thy fools no more I’ll tease:
This year in peace, ye critics, dwell,
Ye harlots, sleep at ease!

What gets lost there is the annex to the title, In the Year 1715. As Bonamy Dobrée‘s appendix VI:Individual Authors (see p664) adds (not published till 1775).

In that previous post I used Dunbar for two main reasons:

  • to avoid the most obvious, Wordsworth — because the image was way down river from Westminster Bridge, and that would be so obvious a reference;
  • I like Dunbar, and feel he deserves a run in the sun.

Pope’s little ditty is more of a problem: it is stuffed with references. Some of the edits are easier than others. Take the second stanza:

Soft B– and rough C[ragg]s adieu,
Earl Warwick made your moan,
The lively H[inchenbrook] and you
May knock up whores alone.

OK, I’ve got James Craggs, who has an entry in wikipedia. Lord Warwick was Edward Rich, 7th Earl of Warwick, who seems to have been a bit of a lad. The Viscount Hinchenbrooke was Edward Montague, heir to the Sandwich title. But B__ defeats me: presumably a pun to go with ‘soft’, and contrast with ‘rough crag’. It would be nice were that a misprint for H__, which would lead us to Trevor Hill, member both of parliament (for Hillsborough, and — yes — same place as that in County Down) and of the notorious Duke of Wharton’s Club.

The fifth stanza amused me:

Lintot, farewell! thy bard must go;
Farewell, unhappy Tonson!
Heaven gives thee for thy loss of Rowe,
Lean Philips, and fat Johnson.

Bernard Lintot and Jacob Tonson were rival London printers, both of whom published Pope. Nicholas Rowe had a prodigious output of plays, and was an early editor of Shakespeare: by the time of Pope’s verse, he was very much a courtier, and therefore distracted from providing material to the printers. The poet John Philips had died in 1709, and his works published posthumously in 1712, or — more likely — that could be Ambrose Philips, who was closely associated with Tonson, but was a butt of Pope’s mockery. But ‘fat Johnson’ isn’t the obvious: Samuel (born 1709) was barely breached at the time of Pope writing. Yet, in that stanza we have a neat echo of Alan Bennett’s Mrs Dorothy Lintott, as in The History Boys, and her gems such as:

History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.

Is Pope’s Farewell a fitting tribute to literary London? There are more heroic, but it works for me.

Adieu to all but Gay alone,
Whose soul sincere and free,
Loves all mankind, but flatters none,
And so may starve with me.

John Gay was a follower of Pope, and at this moment was losing his royal patronage (solicited by Jonathan Swift) on the death of Queen Anne. He survived on his wits — his work was admired by James Craggs (see above), for example, who presented him with South Sea stock, and encouraged Gay to invest heavily, just as the whole South Sea Bubble burst, leaving Gay destitute. Out of which would come The Beggar’s Opera.

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Filed under Alan Bennett, History, human waste, Literature, London, Theatre

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:


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.


195I4361_-4430_30I like David Crystal’s The Story of English in 100 Words.

Chapter 15 discusses the use of Arse.

I’d suggest this is an essential shibboleth.

First, you don’t get very far in (British) English without appreciating its many applications. Crystal has that one:


Lard-arse, which has displaced heavy arse in British common usage, seems to have crept in from Australia (the OED has its first citation from the Sydney Morning Herald of 27 August 1988). Having noted that, there’s lard-arsed in Thomas Heggen’s 1946 novel, Mister Roberts. My recollection has it that, ten years on, filmed by John Ford, with Henry Fonda and James Cagney, Frank Nugent’s script bowdlerising it to “lazy”.

We might wonder how the word became Obs. in polite use (as the OED has it): Crystal suggests:

It was inevitable that, as the word began to be used for the human posterior, the association with animals and with excrement would turn it into a ‘dirty word’.

Second, it illustrates what Bertrand Russell argued for the Saturday Evening Post, back in 1944:

It is a misfortune for Anglo-American friendship that the two countries are supposed to have a common language.

In passing, that’s the most likely candidate for the truism often blamed on George Bernard Shaw:

The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.

However, as far as I know, nobody has located that expression in any of Shaw’s works.

Crystal considers how we have evolved two variants: the British arse, and the very-different American ass. Obviously another form of bowdlerising. That prompts two thoughts:content

  • There was the convincing US bumper sticker: Democrats are hot! Ever hear of a fine piece of elephant!
  • My American son-in-law was squeamish about his first-born being introduced to Walter the Farting Dog, until The New York Times had it on their best-seller list.

All that’s left for this post is:

  • Are you an ass-man, or an arse-man?
  • Right arse and righter arse: is Kelvin MacKenzie a bigger arse than Richard Littlejohn? Or are they just two cheeks of the same one?

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Filed under films, History, human waste, Quotations, reading

The brick of aspiration

Saw this (H/T Twitter) , and had a memory:



The school was having an extension built.

The reinforced glazing (yes: it was that sort of area) [❉]  had been installed, but there were still loose bricks about the site.

One evening a passing youth wanted to show his enthusiasm for state-financed education. He took a sand-faced fletton, as thus —


and chucked it at one of the windows.

Sadly, the youth must have missed the class on “angle of incidence” equals “angle of reflection”.


Our hero was straight-on to his target.

The window promptly pinged the fletton straight back.

It laid him out.

The real laugh was when the youth’s aggrieved mother tried to sue.

I can’t help wondering if that’s not a parable for the whole “Free School” business.


[❉] This is a well-constructed narrative. And here we see an example of “fore-shadowing”.

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Filed under blogging, Conservative Party policy., education, human waste, schools, social class

Monstering 1

We need a definition here, so let’s hear it from one who was there:

Hack AttackA monstering from Murdoch’s droogs is a terrible experience. If the damage they did were physical — visible — courts could jail them for years. As it is, they inflict grievous emotional harm, the kind of injury from which some victims simply never recover. Indeed, there are some who have been left suicidal by the experience. It can come out of nowhere, picking on some off-the-cuff statement or some tiny detail which has caught nobody else’s eye, least of all the victim’s, and suddenly the violence begins. It can be completely arbitrary in its choice of target. If Miss Muffet abandons her tuffet because of the approaching spider, the droogs can choose to attack her for cowardice; or to attack the spider for indecency and threatening behaviour.

Once it starts, the monstering cannot be stopped by the victim. If the spider says he meant no harm, he was simply looking for somewhere to sit, then ‘an unrepentant spider last night threatened to spread his regime of fear’. Apologising will not work — ‘a humiliating climbdown’. Nor will refusing to apologise — ‘an increasingly isolated spider’. There is no end to the potential angles. The droogs will call everybody who ever sat next to the spider until they find somebody else who didn’t like him. They will comb through arachnophobes everywhere, in search of alarmist quotes and calls for action. They can keep it going for days. A little distortion here, some fabrication there. The fact of the focus is itself a distortion: the relentless return to the same victim, the desire to destroy that corrupts normal editorial judgement. Often, other newspapers and broadcast bulletins will join in, so that simple commercial competition encourages the hunt for a new angle. The spider is helpless — if he speaks out, he fuels the story; if he stays quiet, the story tramples him.

Eventually, the monstering stops, usually because some new target has arrived; or because the target has been destroyed. Sometimes, even destruction is not enough. In his diary, Alastair Campbell recalls the ferocious monstering which was given to the then Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, in the spring of 2002, which continued even after he had resigned: ‘It’s like they get a corpse but then are disappointed there is nothing left to try and kill, so they kill the dead body too.’

And the fear of this monstering generates power far beyond the relatively small number of victims who are attacked. All those in the power elite are prone to fear Murdoch because none can be sure that they will not be next to be kicked by the tabloid boot. They all saw what happened to the former Labour minister Clare Short. Several times she criticised the Sun‘s use of topless women to sell the paper and found herself denounced to millions as ‘killjoy Clare. . . fat .. . jealous .. . ugly … Short on looks … Short on brains’. At various points, the paper offered readers  free car stickers (‘Stop Crazy Clare’); sent half-naked women to her home; and ran a beauty contest to ask their readers whether they would prefer to see her face or the back of a bus. Separately, the News of the World ran two bogus stories suggesting she was involved with pornography; tried to buy old photographs of her as a twenty-year-old in a nightdress; and published a smear story which attempted to link her to a West Indian gangster.

Pages 172-173 of Nick Davies’ Hack Attack, which has been my bedside, and gruesome, reading these last couple of evenings.

On to Monstering 2

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Filed under Britain, human waste, Murdoch, politics, sleaze.

“A flawed, toxic figure”

Rebekah Brooks walked on air from the Old Bailey:

An emotional Rebekah Brooks has given her first statement since she was acquitted of all phone-hacking charges, declaring she was “vindicated” by the unanimous verdicts of the jury.

With her husband, Charlie, by her side, and her voice breaking, Brooks tried to strike a note of contrition as she said she hoped she had learned some “valuable lessons” from the long trial.

OK: vox populi, vox Dei, etc.

Paul Hoggart (son of, brother of, father of) had it aright for me:

The not guilty verdict will leave many scratching their heads. How could a woman of such intelligence and astuteness rise to the top in a male-dominated cutthroat industry and yet be so naïve or incurious not to want to discover how her underlings were sourcing their juiciest stories? Did she never ask, as any good editor would ask, where did this come from? Brooks repeatedly told the court she knew little about phone hacking, claiming she was not aware of the fact that a private investigator was being paid more than many of her senior reporters to illegally access cell phone voice mails. To be so ignorant of the criminal ruse that put her newspaper so consistently ahead of its rivals would seem to be beyond belief.

That’s not-too-far from where we find the huffing Heffer this morning:

Cameron knew perfectly well that during the time when Coulson edited the News of the World, the paper had become a criminal enterprise, hacking people’s phones, and that he had been forced to resign after one of his senior staff was jailed.

The day after Coulson’s astonishing appointment as Tory press spokesman in 2007, I wrote about Coulson’s claim that he had been unaware his staff had been paying more than £100,000 a year to a man to hack phones. I suggested this proved that either he was spectacularly incompetent, or spectacularly dishonest.

Though, perhaps, that needs a grain-or-two of salt: wasn’t Heffer’s name in the frame for Coulson’s job with Cameron? Doesn’t Heffer (self-proclaimed purloiner inventor of “Essex Man”) perchance resent Coulson as the onlie-true begetter of all things Essex and prole?

Let us press Heffer’s argument a stage further: the News of the Screws didn’t invent phone-hacking, and the worst examples of its use happened before Coulson was editorially enstooled in Brooks’s place. Yet Brooks maintained in Court she had no knowledge of the operations, or of it practioners. So, by Heffer’s definition, she too must be spectacularly incompetent, or spectacularly dishonest.

Paul Hoggart puts it as succinctly as anyone:

Brooks became a victim of her own tabloid methods. Although technically exonerated, she remains a flawed, toxic figure who at the very least allowed the company she was managing to suffer a profound public relations disaster which forced it to split in half and from which its press division may never recover.

Now to Tom Watson on LabourList, who lists Nine Remarkable Revelations From the Hacking Trial. These include much unfinished business, not least:

While being edited by Brooks, The Sun paid a defence official for exclusive stories about the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan, military scandals and titillating examples of indiscipline in the ranks. In all the Sun paid £100,000 paid to Bettina Jordan Barber, a mid-ranking official at Ministry of Defence who liaised with the MoD’s press bureau, between 2004 and 2012. The resulting headlines included: “Mucky major’s a sex swinger,” “Major feels privates’ privates” and “The Lust Post.”.

Hmmm … bribery, suborning, corruption — take your pick.

Cost/benefit analysis

The Hacking Trial may have cost the public purse some £35 million, in Roy Greenslade’s accounting:

The real cost of the trial to the taxpayer is not £110m

Let’s deal with the money first. The total includes the massive defence fund provided by Rupert Murdoch. It is estimated that the cost to taxpayers will be £35m.

Anyway, the police and the prosecuting authorities were taking on a powerful international company that had, for years, deliberately denied the existence of hacking and later defied attempts by the police to investigate it.

The investigation proved to be complex, involving many, many hours of painstaking research into computer files. It was bound to cost money. Can anyone imagine how the rest of the press would have howled if the police had simply thrown up their hands and said it was too expensive to carry on?

Draining the swamp” is, in another context, the phrase of the moment. I happen to think £35 million (perhaps just one-tenth of what Murdoch’s Sky TV annual ad costs are) is good value for essential public hygiene and sanitation.

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Filed under advertising., crime, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, human waste, LabourList, leftist politics., Murdoch, sleaze., smut peddlers, Tom Watson MP

A shameless attempt to up statporn

A couple of terms crop up repeatedly, and somewhat unexpectedly, on my:

Search Engine Terms

These are terms people used to find your site.

One suggests there are many, many decent folk out there who cherish a memory of Nena and 99 Red Balloons.

Mentioning it again will further confuse them.

But the one that is inexplicable (except — surely not — as a selfie) involves an obscure SpAd at the Department for Communities and Local Government. So for that person’s especial benefit, here it comes:

Sheridan Westlake

Sheridan Westlake

Sheridan Westlake

Glad to make someone happy.

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Filed under blogging, human waste, Tories.