Category Archives: New Jersey

Divided loyalties: being Hiberno-English

A long while since (5th September 2008, since you didn’t ask), Malcolm put up a post on being Anglo-Irish. For some reason, that still attracts a fair number of “hits”. This, then, may be the logical  counter-part.

J’ai deux amours

Josephine Baker famously had two loves:

J’ai deux amours
Mon pays et Paris.

If Freda McDonald — barely two generations from slavery — had a hard life, growing up in St Louis, she found fame, fortune and a distinguished personal history as Josephine Baker in her adopted France.

Therein lies the rub

In this 21st century, many of us have two identities: one on the birth certificate, and one in the life we live. There’s little particularly “new” in this:

  • Arthur Wellesley got himself born in what is now the Merrion Hotel, Dublin — but is the archetypal English Iron Duke;
  • David Lloyd-George arrived in the world in the Manchester suburbs, but is forever “the Welsh Wizard”;
  • Éamon de Valera originated in New York, but re-made an Ireland in his own image;

— and so on.

Malcolm’s eldest has a surfeit of air-miles and is quadri-lingual in English and American, Tottenham and Noo Joisey. Even daughter number 2, the Earth Mother, manages to switch effortlessly between south Saxon RP and narrow-vowelled Anglian North Yorkshire.

Your nationalism quiz




at its fullest fluffy Murdochian populism, was rattling on:

A new version of the Life in the United Kingdom handbook, published yesterday, aims to prepare would-be Britons for the citizenship test. The guide focuses on history, tradition and what it means to be British and has ditched more mundane sections on the practicalities of life in the UK …

The 180-page guide, costing £12.99 is unashamedly patriotic, with a red, white and blue cover and pictures of the Queen and of crowds waving the Union flag at the Last Night of the Proms and on the Mall. Sir Winston Churchill is pictured alongside quotes from his wartime speeches but only two post-war prime ministers receive separate biographies: Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher.

The new edition finds a place for Monty Python, Morcambe and Wise and Torvill and Dean, but migrants will also be expected to know about important figures of English literature including Sir Kingsley Amis, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and J.K.Rowling.

Pass the sick-bag, Alice.

On the other hand, the side-bar was a Commentary by Matthew Syed, and it went a way to re-entering normality. Syed refers back to background:

My father arrived on these shores in 1966 as a Muslim, Pakistani, and harbouring deep suspicions about British cultural assumptions. Almost half a century later, he is a monarchist, Radio 4 aficionado and just about the most patriotic Brit I know. With the exception of his Christianity, to which he converted, Britishness is perhaps the most important and cherished affiliation of his life.

My maternal grandfather, who died last week at 98, lived a very different life to my father. Born in the Rhondda Valley at the outset of the Great War, he worked down the pits from 14 then spent a lifetime serving others, first at a home for deprived children and then as warden of an old people’s home. the one thing he shared with dad was a deep love of nation, but he interpreted Britishness in a fundamentally different way.

Not deep. Not philosophical. But neither, reading between the lines of that Times piece, is Life in the United Kingdom [£12.99 at all good bookshops, or around £7.99 if you’re Brit enough to order on-line — a nationality test in itself]. Syed scores by being domestic, humane, direct, down to earth — even dignified, in the best sense. All the good things the official line seems to miss.

For an example, today’s Clare in the Community (Harry Venning’s unfailingly reliable weekly cartoon for the Guardian‘s Society section) is an instant education in ‘Britishness’, and — unlike the nostrums in Life in the United Kingdom — transcends the regional cultural divides that Syed glosses in that final phrase above:

Clare in the community cartoon

What are little boys made of?

Everyone differs: we are an unregimented, frequently-bolshie and mutually-incompatible lot, each with our peculiar passions. What is it that makes Malcolm’s academic and professorial Little Brother traipse out fortnightly to stand with perhaps 5,000 other stalwarts and watch Notts County? The heterogeneousness is an essential part of belonging anywhere on this archipelago.

Unlike Syed, Malcolm was denied personal knowledge of either of his grandfathers: one tends his plot eternally in Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No. 2; the other died of miner’s lung around the time the (first) Great Slump arrived. Did either of those have a deep love of nation, an overwhelming sense of being “British”?

As for the royalist thing, Malcolm recalls (and can date) 15th February, 1952. He doesn’t remember the funeral of George VI — apart from the oddest early-adopter, television hadn’t penetrated north Norfolk. He does know it was a day of national mourning, and so a Friday off school. Dear Old Dad spent much of the day double-digging the long vegetable garden, and none too chuffed. When pre-adolescent Malcolm murmured a triteness about it being “Sad about the King”, the parental snort was followed by “Why, what did he ever do for me?”

Was that the germ of a young republican?

Two loves? Well, two affections.

For Malcolm neither north Norfolk nor dirty Dublin quite amount to “‘loves”. The former has changed, not wholly for the better, over the years as the have-yotties and weekenders made the coast a transplant of Camden Town — Hampstead-by-the-Sea is further south, at Southwold. Dublin has changed even more, though there remain vestiges of the old scruffiness. West Cork has gone the way of the gentrified English coast. Once away from the “gold coast”, the rest of County Down is not wholly spoiled — but could one transplant and enjoy living there?

Despite all the confusions, that double pull recurs and endures. After all, when GCE English History and English Literature immediately leads into the Irish Leaving Certificate, a cultural trauma persists for life.

Par eux toujours,
Mon coeur est ravi.

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Filed under Britain, County Cork, Dublin, East Anglia, High School, History, Ireland, nationalism, New Jersey, Norfolk, Times, Wales, Wells-next-the-Sea, working class, Yorkshire

Windfall Big Apple

The Great Sandy Disaster happened across a whole swathe (good to hear that underused word coming from presidential lips) of the East Coast.

Yet in the first instance (though see codicil below) the UK press coverage confined Sandy’s main effect  to three Boroughs of New York: one got flooded, one got fired and one was deserted. Malcolm’s familial ties to Essex County, New Jersey, meant he was looking in that direction — most of what he found involved views of downtown Manhattan from Hoboken Terminal.

Oh, and there was the aerial shot of the dunked yellow taxis in their Hoboken lot and the tanker piled onto Staten Island.

And therein lies this tale.

It’s not just the London/British press. There’s something makes Manhattan the focal point of the whole world’s (including the US) media attention. A frequency chart of stories from and about the United States would come up as a dot-matrix of that famous Steinberg New Yorker cover.

All that is explicable for film and television. After all, it’s the sky-line, innit? A movie set in London, for international consumption, has to be located by reference to Tower Bridge and the Palace of Westminster> Similarly the spiky horizon behind Battery Park, or the classic view across the Brooklyn Bridge (always from the Brooklyn end) is new York, but natch.

All understandably so. After all, flying into Newark Liberty (as the Lady in his Life and Malcolm do in a few days time) is made worthwhile by:

  • it being the one New York airport that seems to work (although with inevitable delays);
  • its ease of access (particularly when Number One Daughter is waiting at the gate); and
  • the final approach in darkness, having that wall of high-rising lights to port. Even hardened travellers seem incapable of resisting this ocular cliché.

Which allows Malcolm chance to mention a particular favourite.

A while back (early 2011) Bernie Hou manufactured a magnificent, even iconic graphic, packing 91 New York movie locations into a single image.

Of the 91 Malcolm recognised perhaps a dozen.

Malcolmian aside

They say that half the scientists who have ever lived and worked in the history of the human race are alive, well and researching today.

The same must be true, to an even more remarkable fraction, about graphic artists. Across the digital globe, spotty geeks with pirated Photoshop and illicit Illustrator, all sitting at their high-definition video-screens, are pushing the envelope of the possible. Their mothers despair they will ever tidy their bedrooms.

The New York Central meme is a consequence of all the media operators having their bases within shoulder-rubbing distance of each other, and as close to Times Square as can be.

The corollary

And then the lights went out.

Remarkably the Sandy story then moved outwards, to where other tv studios were still operating. And that, folks, is how they make ‘news’ in the Big Apple.

And how the Big Apple is sauced for news.

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Filed under air travel., blogging, New Jersey, New York City, prejudice

Stormy weather

The Noo Joisey grand-kids are at home today: they may be among the few saying, “Thank you, Sandy!”

If she lives up to her billing, she will be a right big bitch.

And the Republicans, including Mitt Romney, think FEMA should be abolished. Bet that ‘pledge’ doesn’t get much traction for the next few hours.

Meanwhile (1):

There’s a terrific graphic on the Guardian website, tracking all the hurricanes over the last 160 years. The original is credited to John Nelson, UX Blog, using information from the NOAA:

Quite magical, quite mysterious. Most frightening.

Meanwhile (2):

In moments of stress and strain, cue the likes of Lena —

Quite magical, quite magnificent. Most memorable.

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Filed under blogging, Guardian, Music, New Jersey, New York City, United States, US Elections

Sandy moves in

To think that Malcolm had almost convinced the Lady in his Life that a few days, around now, at Cape May (right behind the A in Action below) would be a neat idea …


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Filed under New Jersey, weather

“Pretentious? Moi?”

Over the weekend there was a story that silver-tongued Andrew Mitchell, whose Ciceronian eloquence has fascinated us the last week, had a letter from a constituent:

I see you’ve been a banker, and now an MP. Do you intend to retrain as an estate agent?

So, from troubles of the world, we turn to realtors  — as Malcolm’s Noo Joisey resident daughter would insist: she’s trilingual in English, American, and, when necessary, Tottenham.

In particular this gem from Sowerbys:

A charming, three double bedroom link-detached cottage, situated in the fishermen’s quarter of the old part of Wells-next-the-Sea, just a short walk from the Quay.

Le quartier des pêcheurs

The fishermen’s quarter of the old part of Wells-next-the-Sea

O, my Dogger Lane, Wells, my Newfoundland, 
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann’d, 
My mine of precious stones, my empery ; 
How am I blest in thus discovering thee!

Now, when Malcolm wor’ bu’ a lad, and knew Dogger Lane rather better than these bijoux delighted second-home latter-days, it wasn’t quite the home of many fishermen. Exposed flints, rather than the wonders of Dulux, was the usual choice for external cladding — as it had been for centuries.

As he also recalls, “fishermen” was not the normal argot — in Wells they were more specialist, and the proud term was “whelkers”. And they congregated around East End, which is the far side of the Quay: many lived in the new estate around Northfield — which, paradoxically but normal for Norfolk, was again on the eastern extremity of town. In fact, before recent developments (the inspirationally-named “Mainsail Yard”, for example), Dogger Lane was where Freeman Street reached the end of its tether, and became Holkham Road.

Stop codding around!

Yet, “Dogger Lane” clearly has a sea-going connection. Any potential purchasers of the cottage will have fixed in their heads the Shipping Forecast:

Forth, Tyne, Forties, Dogger: Northeast 3 to 4. Occasional showers, Moderate.

Sadly “dogger” has fallen down the spice list: since the turn of the millennium (though the OED has a citation back to 1982) the word has gained an extra connotation:

a person who watches others engaging in sexual activity in a public place.

That may not (or just may — depending on one’s bent) improve the sales-potential of this cottage; but it clearly is not the origin of the name. So let’s investigate.

The Lowlands connection

A wander round any of these north Norfolk towns shows the Dutch influence. This is beautifully illustrated in Matthew Rice’s Building Norfolk. You are quite correct, devoted reader — Malcolm has been this way before.

It isn’t just the structures: even the bricks may have come from Holland. Even when home-cooked products became available the kilns were on the Dutch pattern (there’s one at Baines Road, King’s Lynn and another at Mundesley). Look at a map: the main seaway from East Anglia always has been across the narrow seas to the Lowlands. Chaucer’s Merchant had a wish:

He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.

Read that as Harwich to Vlissingen; and not a lot has changed in over 500 years.

The link is implicit in the culture, the landscape and the language.

Cod would be caught in bag-like nets — and Middle English and Dutch both indicate a link between the cod-fish (dogge) and the net used to catch them. As early as the thirteenth century we have doggedrave — the first root being that dog– bit, the second a variant of “draw”, “drag”. Dutch has doggher  as a sling, a small bag, a net. So a boat for catching cod would be a “dogger”. Dutch maps were identifying Doggerszand as early as 1659, and Doggersbank by 1782.

In the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, we come on a pencil-and-wash sketch, from about 1675, of A dogger at anchor by Willem van de Velde the Younger:

Malcolm would need expert guidance to tell the differences between that sturdy two-masted fishing vessel with bluff bows, resembling a ketch, formerly used for deep sea fishing in the North Sea (the OED definition), a Thames barge and a Norfolk wherry.

On a similar note … what makes a “town”?

By coincidence today’s Times [£] has its usual A Dream Home (the daily property porn spot) on the Daily Universal Register miscellany page.

We have moved just the odd mile or five down the road, to find Bedfords offering us, for the asking price of £345,000:

Burnham Overy Town, Norfolk

A two-bedroom cottage dating back to the 18th century …

That tells us a couple of things:

  • the halo-effect of “fashionable” Burnham Market has done wonders for house prices (or vendors’ expectations)  anywhere nearby;
  • we have a new geographical concept made for us by the estate-agents.

In the neighbourhood of Redfellow Hovel something similar happened. “Highgate” gained peripheries such as “Highgate borders” and “Highgate Spinney” to disguise the change from the prestige of the N6 post-code to the less-upmarket N8 of Crouch End.

But “Burnham Overy Town”?

Well, there’s Burnham Market itself, Burnham Thorpe, Burnham Overy, Overy Staithe, Burnham Deepdale, Burnham Norton. That should be enough for anyone to be getting on with. But “Burnham Overy Town“? And, yes indeed, Malcolm now sees this invention has reached Google Maps — and this is the entirety of it:

For the record, that advertised cottage faces onto the triangular road junction, where the B1155 bears east towards Wells: the cloud cover obscures the spot. You’d be convenient for the hourly (until Norfolk Green has to make further cuts) Coasthopper bus. The ever-useful (ahem!) Francis Frith has an image:

To be honest that’s about all there is to Burnham Overy “Town”.

In the 2001 Census the two villages of Overy and Overy Staithe amassed the grand population of 311. And most of those were in Overy Staithe.


Filed under advertising., History, House-prices, Muswell Hill, New Jersey, Norfolk, reading, Times, Wells-next-the-Sea

MRQ (Mall Rat Quotient)

So the Pert Young Piece and Malcolm were hanging over the balustrade, observing the Black Friday throngs at the Short Hills Mall, and waiting the return of the Lady in Malcolm’s life from her retail mission.

To pass the time a new system of mensuration was constructed.

The standard Mall Rat (sMR) is mid-teens and upwards, has straight hair below shoulder length, and wears skinny jeans with boots (see below, however). Invariably the sMR hunts in packs of two or three sMRs.

After that initial identification, we have to add plus points:

  • Ugg boots — in the prototype ratings, this was considered an essential, but on mature reflection and evaluation allowed as a bonus;
  • a Starbucks cup (one point)
  • cell-phone at the ready (one point), applied to ear (a further half-point), with yet another half-point for it being an iPhone, and ostentatiously so;
  • bags with store identifications, one point each to a maximum of six (though Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch obviously qualify for an additional half-point each.
  • gesturing with a credit-card, presumably Daddy’s, doubles the total.

Other sub-species of Mall Rat have been observed in the wild

  • The MRIT (Mall-Rat-in-Training): this is a young teen who hasn’t quite developed into the mature specimen;
  • The mMR (mini-Mall Rat), even younger still, and not yet sufficiently developed to have an individual consuming expenditure habit;

The mMR will of course be accompanied by a MMR (maternal Mall Rat), who has many characteristics of the sMR.

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Filed under New Jersey, social class

Would you like some cream with that, vicar?

Dearie me! Speaker Boehner is still having problems keeping his little dogies in the corral. The present issue is paying the disaster relief. Mark Warner was wielding the knife of brutal satire:

“The Senate is saying . . . why should we, in effect, rebuild schools in Iraq on the credit card but expect that rebuilding schools in Joplin, Missouri, at this moment in time have to be paid for in a way that has never been in any of the previous disaster assistance that we’ve put out before?” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He blamed the dispute on tea-party-affiliated Republicans in the House who demanded the spending cut.

Whatever Obama’s difficulties, in the polls or on the stump, he has ever-ready allies in the frothing Tea Party types.

As we watch Texas Governor Rick Perry’s rocket ascent in the Republican beauty ratings decine into scorched stick status, we can celebrate another triumph of Tea Party bone-headedness:

Texas Governor Rick Perry has jumped ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to claim clear frontrunner status in the Republican presidential race. Perry’s ascendancy in the polls has more to do with his swagger and style than with any specific policy positions. Indeed Perry’s more expansive views on immigration run counter to the restrictive attitudes of the tea party.

What this tells us is that voters who identify with the tea party may not agree with Perry on every subject, but they like his approach. He is a big personality, much more colorful than the buttoned-down Romney, and in states with closed primaries, where only registered Republicans can vote, it’s hard to see Romney getting much traction with Perry in the race. Romney comes across like a competent manager when the tea party, reveling in historical ignorance, is only looking for someone to shake things up.

Of course, if one is looking for big

No wonder as they scratch around for a credible candidate for 2012 the GOP elders are looking with interest at — of all people — Chris Christie of Noo Joisey. Here, more from Palash R. Ghosh:

In the unlikely event that Christie becomes a Republican candidate for president and actually gains the nomination, I feel that he has no chance of winning the election – and it has absolutely nothing to do with politics or his legislative expertise.

While I admire the governor very much — to put it bluntly (as Christie himself would), the governor is fat, some would say grossly obese – and there has never been an overweight president in my lifetime (and none since William Howard Taft, a 300+-pound behemoth in the early 1900s).

That picture of Christie (above), by the way, has more than once come with the caption:

Chris Christie blasts Obama’s “one-size-fits-all” health care plan.

That would be XXXL.

It was somewhat cruel, then, to find this on Christie’s official web-page:

Trenton, NJ – First Lady Mary Pat Christie announced today that on Monday, September 26, Drumthwacket will be illuminated in red and blue to celebrate Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children™. Mrs. Christie, honorary chair of Family Day in New Jersey, is encouraging families to take part in the national effort that serves as a reminder to parents of the importance of having dinner with their children as a way to prevent substance abuse. 

Only in the great US of A could sharing a meal with one’s children be brand-named and trade-marked. Or that it somehow be linked to “substance-abuse”.

Take another gander at Governor Chris — self-evidently a serious calorie abuser. Then, perhaps, remember Queen Salote of Tonga in the 1953 Coronation parade:

It rains heavily in Tonga, in the warm South Pacific. Thus it did not seem unusual to Tonga’s Queen Salote that it should be raining in London on coronation day. Instead of withdrawing into the shelter of her coach like most notables in the long procession from Westminster Abbey, Queen Salote sat in the drenching downpour, a massive (6 ft. 3 in., 280 Ibs.), broad-faced woman in red robes and a headdress from which two feathers stuck stiffly upright; she beamed, waved, mopped rain from her face with a handkerchief, beamed again. The soaked, footsore crowd who had waited interminable hours to see the procession instantly warmed to Queen Salote.

She — by all accounts, a well-educated and intelligent lady, and so probably unique, therefore, at that particular bun-fight — shared an open-top coach in the pouring rain with a diminutive and obscure Malaysian sultan. Allegedly the off-microphone exchange went:

Who’s that with Queen Salote?

Oh, that’s her lunch.

Similarly, one wonders if “lunch with Chris” might not — too easily — become lunch for Chris.

Still party time!

Malcolm’s attentive reader has been speculating how he’ll get back to that album cover at the head of this post.


An association crossed Malcolm’s butterfly mind. Back in October 1933 Benny Goodman’s Orchestra —Charlie Teagarden on trumpet, and big brother Jack, a.k.a. “Big T”, tromboning and vocalising —recorded Texas Tea Party:

Now, Mamma, Mamma, Mamma —
Where did you hide my tea?

Track 13, disc one, of that compilation above.

If anyone still hasn’t made the … err … connection, then refer to Kerouac, On The Road, section four:

… he cried in Spanish. “Dig that, Sal, I’m speaking Spanish.”
“Ask him if we can get any tea. Hey kid, you got ma-ree-wa-na?”
The kid nodded gravely. “Sho, onnytime, mon. Come with me.”

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Filed under advertising., Elections, health, History, Jazz, New Jersey, Quotations, US Elections, US politics