Category Archives: Racists

How socially-prejudiced is that?

Yesterday our local political discourse was enhanced by an otherwise-unremarkable Tory back-bencher [*]

A Conservative MP has been suspended from the party after it emerged she used a racist expression during a public discussion about Brexit.

Anne Marie Morris, the MP for Newton Abbot, used the phrase at an event in London to describe the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

She told the BBC: “The comment was totally unintentional. I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.”

The Conservative Party later confirmed she had had the whip withdrawn.

Announcing the suspension, Theresa May said she was “shocked” by the “completely unacceptable” language.

“I immediately asked the chief whip to suspend the party whip,” she said in a statement.

I was much taken by Stephen Bush (of the New Statesman) instantly producing a 26-point check-list, notably this bit:

10. How on earth do you become an MP while being so stupid as to use the N-word at a public event?
11. I mean, surely, even if you are an honest-to-God, white sheet-wearing KKK racist, your basic self-preservation instinct kicks in and goes “Hmm. Wait a second. I wonder if this might possibly backfire?”
12. I mean, come on, aren’t these the same people who go on about political correctness gone mad?
13. Anne Marie Morris presumably had to defeat at least one other person to be selected as the Conservative candidate.
14.Imagine how rubbish you must be to lose to someone who uses the word “n****r” at a meeting in 2017.
15. Anne Marie Morris is 60.

Some of the follow-ups have come close to that. There was Paul Waugh’s Waugh Zone for HuffPo, which deserves repetition:

Given the damage done, it’s hard to see how Morris can regain the Tory whip, no matter what the ‘investigation’ by Tory campaigns HQ concludes. Which raises the issue of whether she will be booted out for good, and whether she would quit to trigger a by-election. Her majority in her west country seat is 17,000.  But as this year has taught everyone, electoral norms can be upended.

Morris had already been forced to distance herself from her electoral agent and partner Roger Kendrick last month, after he claimed “that the crisis in education was due entirely to non-British born immigrants and their high birth rates’.” Kemi Badenoch, the Tory MP for Saffron Walden, told the Telegraph she spoke to the Chief Whip “to express my dismay, and I am pleased that decisive action has been taken”. Maidstone MP Helen Grant said she was “so ashamed” that a fellow Tory could use the phrase without knowing its history (and it’s an awful history) or impact.

[*] Lest we forget, Matt Chorley, for The Times Red Box categorised the lady:

Anne Marie Morris – who until this point was best known in the Commons for waving a sling around while wearing Deirdre Barlow’s glasses – used the n-word yesterday at a public meeting.

All of which stirred the Redfellow Hippocampus to two thoughts:

1. How far we have come in my lifetime.

I became politically active in the 1960s — by which I mean I discarded the political attitudes I inherited, and adopted an alternative set. Whether that also means I “started to think for myself” is more debatable.

What did shock was what happened in the 1964 General Election for the Smethwick constituency. It wasn’t that the Tory — against the national swing — took the previously Labour seat. It was how it was achieved. There have been any number of re-drafts of that bit of unpleasantness. At the time it was generally accepted that

  • there was effectively a colour-bar being operated for social housing in the borough, in pubs, youth clubs and social centres;
  • that, officially or not, the Tory campaign was sustained by propaganda such as the leaflet (right) — note that it comes without the “imprint” required by electoral law;
  • that Harold Wilson was entirely justified in declaring the elected Tory a parliamentary leper. Many Tories were deeply uncomfortable about the elected MP as a fellow: even Enoch Powell (whose “rivers of blood” speech came two years later) refused to campaign with him.
  • that the local Trade Union branches and whatever were not beyond reproach.

In our innocence, we — and I include myself explicitly — believed such horrors had gone away. As if …

2. Just how racist is our language?

Put the woodpile (above) aside.

We could quibble about “nitty-gritty” (and many have done). Indeed, almost any use of “black” and “white” could be construed as a racist offence, if one was so determined.

And then there is (sharp intake of breath) “calling a spade a spade”. However that one dates from 1542, and Nicholas Udall translating Erasmus Apophthegmes ii. f. 167:

Philippus aunswered, yt the Macedonians wer feloes of no fyne witte in their termes but altogether grosse, clubbyshe, and rusticall, as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade by any other name then a spade.

Erasmus, in turn, was translating Plutarch’s Greek into Latin, and hesitated over a literal rendering of to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough, which some ascribe to Aristophanes. His hesitation might plausibly because “fig”, as the Oxford English Dictionary has as the second meaning:

Obs.
A contemptuous gesture which consisted in thrusting the thumb between two of the closed fingers or into the mouth. Also, fig of Spain, and to give (a person) the fig.

Which Shakespeare puts in the mouth of Pistol (Henry V, Act III, scene vi):

Pistol: Die and be damn’d! and figo for thy friendship!
Fluellen: It is well.
Pistol: The fig of Spain!
Exit

Preferring the epicene, Udall goes for the horticultural reference. The racial slur dates only from the 1920s, and apparently from New York, and specifically Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem (1927).

And one more to finish

What about “beyond the Pale”?

Note the capital “P’. Any delineated space could be a “pale”. In Ireland it had a specific connotation:

The area of Ireland under English jurisdiction (varying in extent at different times between the late 12th and 16th centuries, but including parts of modern Dublin, Louth, Meath, and Kildare).

By implication, anything “beyond the Pale” would be among the wild Irish. As one who has frequently been called a “West Brit”, I know we have our archipelagic variant of Crow Jim.  Now consider all those places with a district “Irishtown” or even “Irish Street”. Without exception, they will be less favoured, and more down-market. In medieval Dublin, Irishtown was the bit outside the city walls, down to the slob-lands of the River Dodder. Only last week, the Irish Times had this:

A plague of flies of “biblical proportions” has descended upon the Dublin 4 suburbs of Sandymount, Ringsend and Irishtown, according to residents and local businesspeople.

Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys said he had received “hundreds” of complaints from locals in recent days over the fly infestation, which has forced people to keep their windows shut and resulted in the closure of some businesses.

Tony “Deke” McDonald, who runs Deke’s Diner at the Sean Moore Road roundabout in Ringsend, said the infestation was the worst he had ever seen.

“It started around four or five days ago with a swarm of biblical proportions. People would be used to flies in the summer, but I’ve been running the diner 17 years next week, and I’m 30 odd years in the area, and I’ve never seen the like of it. There [were] hundreds of them.”

It didn’t take more than moments for Dublin wit to crack in, saying Ringsend and Irishtown deserved all they got, for social-climbing and pretension to post-code D4.

Then there’s Louis MacNeice describing:

…. Smoky Carrick in County Antrim
Where the bottle-neck harbour collects the mud which jams

The little boats beneath the Norman castle,
   The pier shining with lumps of crystal salt;
The Scots Quarter was a line of residential houses
   But the Irish Quarter was a slum for the blind and halt. […]

I was the rector’s son, born to the anglican order,
   Banned for ever from the candles of the Irish poor;
The Chichesters knelt in marble at the end of a transept
   With ruffs about their necks, their portion sure.

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Filed under Belfast, bigotry, Britain, Conservative family values, culture, Dublin., Ireland, Irish Times, New Statesman, Northern Ireland, Paul Waugh, politics, prejudice, Quotations, Racists, Tories., underclass

A stirr’d turd stinks (2)

Back to Twitter.

A certain  (who is a declared enthusiast for Donald Trump as leader of the free world!)  took offence at — of all liberal souls — The Guardian‘s Michael White. Mr Lawrie essential grief was:

slavery always illegal Scotland. Unlike England who enslaved & murdered millions.

This was repeated several times, never with any justification, and lead on to other excesses:

  • slaves in confederate states higher standard living than British working class.
  • Scotland has an elite; called the British establishment.
  • slavery illegal under scots law. Why no slaves landed in scots ports. Not so England.
  • not troll. Is fact. Scotland never had mass slave trade. Unlike England. Accept truth here.
  • not one African slave was landed in Scotland. Because it was illegal under scots law.
  • slavery was illegal in Scotland under scots law. Doesn’t contradict
  • scaremongering self loathing rubbish as though Indy scot would unleash 4th reich.
  • The SNP did not have Nazi sympathisers. You’re promoting an offensive lie.

Those may not be in the correct order

Not to forget — a gem among gems — that somehow the US Declaration of Independence sprang from the Declaration of Arbroath.

In all that there are three items worth considering:

  1. Scotland and slavery (which what I address in this post);
  2. the uncomfortable historic link between Fascism and Scottish Nationalism;
  3. that thing about the Declaration of Arbroath.

Scotland and slavery

The Battle of Dunbar (1650) lumbered Cromwell with 10,000 (his own count) Scottish Covenanters and Royalists as prisoners. He reported he had discharge half that number as “starved, sick or wounded”. The Royalist Sir Edward Walker reckoned on 6,000 prisoners, of whom 1,000 were dismissed.

Either way, that leaves 5,000 to be route-marched south. About 3,000 were alive to be incarcerated by Arthur Heslerig at Durham Cathedral. Further deaths (the bodies were found post-WW2 in a trench on the north side of the Cathedral) reduced that to just 1,4oo.  In 1651 these were despatched as indentured labour to the American colonies.

In 1666 the City worthies of Edinburgh took Cromwell’s example, and employed Captain James Gibson. With his ship, the Phoenix of Leith, Gibson contracted to take beggars, vagabonds and others not fitt to stay in the kingdome to Virginia.

Few of these transports would have survived the seven-year indenture in the plantations. The few who did became the overseers for the cheaper, more durable, black slaves. Here, then, is one reason for all those Scottish names among the descendants of the slaves.

The Royal African Company, founded in London in 1672, soon had this new trade in humans organised. The Scots merchants, like those of Bristol and Liverpool, found themselves outside the loop. In November 1692 the Leith magistrates consigned 50 lewd women, and a further 30 street-walkers by ship to (ahem!) Virginia. In 1706 Two Brothers of Leith reported a profit on a slaving voyage.

We don’t know how many slaving voyages originated from the Clyde: the Port Books before 1742 are lost, so Scots moralists can claim barely a dozen such voyages start from Scotland. What is unquestionable is that slave-produced raw cotton, sugar, and tobacco were being imported to Greenock. By no coincidence, Abram Lyle, as in Tate & Lyle, was a Greenock man. By the start of the 19th century, a third of the Jamaican sugar plantations were Scottish owned. By the 1730s Ricard Oswald, son of the Dunnet, Caithness, manse was the factor for his cousins’ trade in tobacco, sugar and wine, and traveling the American south and Caribbean. He became a government-contractor and war-profiteer (first a small killing in the War of the Austrian Succession, then £125,000 from the Seven Years’ War), and with this bought 1,566 acres of four Caribbean plantations, and 30,000 acres in East Florida.

Hard lives and (progressively) harder decisions

The comings-and-goings of Scottish traders meant some brought back their black servants: some seventy are recorded in Scotland during the 18th century. Therein Mr Lawrie’s defence of Scottish innocence totally collapses. Several cases came before Scottish courts where black servants had to plead for release from their servitude:

  • Robert Shedden brought “Shanker” to Scotland, to apprentice him to  joiner, and so improve his price back in Virginia. In April 1756, at Beith, “Shanker’ had himself baptised as James Montgomery. Shodden took the hump, and dragged him back to Port Glasgow to be sent back to Virginia. Montgomery escaped to Edinburgh, and sought his freedom. He was clapped in gaol while the magistrates had extended deliberations, and died before a decision.
  • Dr David Dalrymple brought “Black Tom”, a slave, born in West Africa,  from Grenada to Methyl in Fife. In September 1769 “Black Tom” was baptised as David Spens at Wemyss. Spend now told his former master “I am now by the Christian Religion liberate and set at freedom from my yoke, bondage, and slavery”. Dalrymple had him arrested, and local lawyers  — financed by collections from miners and salters (more of that in a while) — issued writs for wrongful arrest. Before the case could be decided, Dalrymple died.

Next: the Somerset Case. An English matter, but this is in all the schoolbooks as the definitive one: after this no slaves in England. Nope: another example of how textbooks systematically simplify to the point of lies.

  • Charles Stewart had brought the enslaved James Somerset from Boston. Somerset made a break for it, was recaptured, and consigned back to Jamaica. Three witnesses approached the Lord Chief Justice, who ordered Somerset be kept while the case was heard.  The LCJ’s judgement walked the narrowest of lines between common law and the interests of the traders. His ambiguous ruling was: no master was allowed to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he had deserted his service or for any other reason whatever. Read it carefully: it doesn’t make slavery illegal: it did, however, give runaways pretext to take charge of their own future.
  • Joseph Knight was an enslaved African, the possession of Sir John Wedderburn in Perthshire. Inspired by the Somerset decision, Knight demanded his service become paid. Wedderburn refused. Knight absconded, and was arrested. The abolitionists, including Dr Johnson and James Boswell, interceded. In 1778 the case came to court at Perth, and was appealed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh — in both the judgement was that the law of Scotland did not allow slavery.

Salters and miners

Both essential industries, and a law of 1606 put coalyers, coal-bearers and salters in a state of perpetual bondage to their employer. Breaking the bond put the said Coalyears, Coal-bearers and Salters to be esteemed, reput and halded as theives, and punished in their bodies. Moreover, all maisters and awners of Coal-heughs and pannes, were empowered to apprehend all vagabounds and sturdie beggers to be put to labour. So: serfdom and press-ganging.

This persisted until 1775 Act. Let there be no doubt, as the Act said:

many Colliers, Coal-bearers, and Salters are in a state of slavery or bondage, bound to the Collieries and Salt-works where they work for life, transferable with the Collieries and Salt-works, when their original masters have no further use for them.

Even then there were conditions attached. It took until 1799 before all salters and colliers were free from the bond (but, even then, only when an apprenticeship had been served, or ten years’ service registered.

 

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Pick and choose our standards?

Nor can we ourselves pick and choose where and in what parts of the world we shall use this or that kind of standard. We cannot say, “We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home.” We have not that choice to make. We must be consistent with ourselves everywhere. All Government, all influence of man upon man, rests upon opinion. What we can do in Africa, where we still govern and where we no longer govern, depends upon the opinion which is entertained of the way in which this country acts and the way in which Englishmen act. We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places, fall below our own highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility.

An expert ear hears the classical, Ciceronian style and intuits the speaker. It’s Enoch Powell. Yes … him. 27th July 1959, and a late night debate on the Report of the Hola Camp massacre.

Hola Camp was a detention centre out in the wilds of Kenya. It was to hold the hard core of the Mau Mau, and brutal to the point where in a single incident eleven detainees were beaten to death, and a further two dozen were hospitalised.

I was entering the sixth-form, at Dublin’s High School, by that stage. The Irish press did not tread lightly on British susceptibilities. When the report came to debate, I also read the accounts of Powell’s speech (and those of others) in the Daily Telegraph — in those days a paper of clout, second only to “Bill” Haley‘s The Times. If there was a single event that sparked my commitment to politics, it was Hola.

First as horror, then as worse?

We’ve come a long way since Alan Lennox-Boyd ran the Colonial Office and Evelyn Baring ran his satrapies in East Africa. Thanks be.

Our standards ought to be higher.

Then we come across

Shaw

Near 350 pages addressing the national scandal that is “Immigration Removal Centres”. There are — to my bestaggerment —

11 designated Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs), four designated Residential and Short Term Holding Facilities and one Non Residential Short Term Holding Facility. Four of the IRCs are managed by the Prison Service and the others are outsourced to private companies including MitieGEO GroupG4S and Serco

How convenient for the Home Office to delegate the immediate responsibility and “answerability” to “service-providers”.

I guess you didn’t come across too many media reports of the Shaw Report: The Guardian had Alan Travis on the case, but — hey! — what ya expect?

Full credit, then, to Ian Dunt at politics.co.uk. His conclusion is worth repeating:

The Home Office has been quietly putting the brakes on the expansion of the detention estate for months now. One centre was recently closed while another had its expansion cancelled. Campaigners suspect that the top of the department has become alarmed at the stories coming out the detention centres and the escalating costs of maintaining them. A series of internal reviews were commissioned. And then today’s report came out.

The government response is encouraging – which isn’t something you say very often when it comes to detention. It says it accepts “the broad thrust of [Shaw’s] recommendations”. It lists a series of reforms (the devil will be in the details) and then concludes:

“The government expects these reforms… to lead to a reduction in the number of those detained.”

It is a sentence anti-detention campaigners have waited a long time for. The government is now explicitly aiming to detain fewer people.

It’s not a total victory. There is nothing in the report – or the government response – about a time limit. And the managed decline of the detention estate will undoubtedly be done in the usual haphazard manner which the Home Office does everything. But the ship has started to turn.

Shaw may have spared the home secretary’s blushes, but his report could be a turning point in the secret world of Britain’s detention centres.

Leave the qualms about escalating costs aside: for the record, we are talking of 3,000 detainees at around £100 a day, each (so — allowing for departmental dissimulations, plus/minus £110 million a year, minimum).

More important, the moral dimension.

If the stories coming out the detention centres have alarmed the Home Office, then it needs public awareness, leading to public pressure to sort out these institutions.

Opposition MPs (more kudos to Catherine West) are on the case. What we need are more Tories to speak out, as potently as Enoch Powell did.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Guardian, History, politics, Racists, Tories.

Getting the boot

To celebrate the England football team’s performance at the World Cup, the BBC web-site has a feature by slang lexicographer Jonathon Green:

Mullered and 61 other words for beaten at sport

BoasWish I’d thought of it first.

The cliché has it that the Inuit have 52 words for “snow”. That originates from a 1911 book by Franz Boas. However, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca disputes this, and suggests a proper count is nearer just ten. Just as the Inuit may know the right (and wrong) types of snow, so the English should know precise terms for levels of defeat suffered in any sport which they claim to have invented.

I believe that the first international sporting fixture may well have been played at Leith in 1682. The Duke of York (later James II) and  John Paterstone represented Scotland against two English milords, and trounced them (trounce being the 63rd word Green should have found). SO the English sportsman should be inured to set-backs.

How to segue from that to the next thought?

Ummm …

Well, we might ponder on the English addiction to irony and self-mockery. It is, for sure, expiating our inner prejudices and guilts. Through the likes of George Macdonald Fraser’s magnificent gargoyle, Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC KCB KCIE. he was fun, and only as the joke soured did the political-correctors get in on the act (Fraser did a piece on just how this developed). By the same token, we have just had a small susurration about the sexism of the Samantha redouble-entendres in I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue (check some choice examples here).

51x7GmbKYFL._So, for the antidote to political correctness, in a sporting context, allow me to reintroduce you to Peter Tinniswood’s Brigadier, and the very first chapter in his first outing:

Root’s Boot

During the course of a long and arduous career in the service of King and country I have had the honour in the name of freedom and natural justice to slaughter and maim men (and women) of countless creeds and races.

Fuzzy wuzzies, Boers, Chinamen, Zulus, Pathans, Huns, Berbers, Turks, Japs, Gypos, Dagos, Wops and the odd Frog or two — all of them, no doubt, decent chaps ‘in their own way’.

Who is to say, for example, that the Fuzzy Wuzzies don’t have their equivalent don’t have their equivalent of our own dear John Inman and the delicious Delia Smith, mother of the two Essex cricketing cousins, Ray and Peter?

I have no doubt that the Dagos have their counterpart of our Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, and I am perfectly certain that the Wops, just like us, have lady wives with hairy legs, loud voices and too many relations.

Indeed it is my firm opinion that all the victims of this carnage and slaughter were just like you and I — apart from their disgusting table manners and their revolting appearance.Poor chaps, they had only two failings – they were foreigners and they were on the wrong side.

Now as I approach the twilight of my life I look back with pleasure and with pride on those campaigns which have brought me so much comfort and fulfilment — crushing the Boers at Aboukir Bay, biffing the living daylights out of the Turk at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, massacring the Aussies at The Oval in 1938.

But of all these battles one remains vividly in my mind to this very day — the Battle of Root’s Boot.

The incidents pertaining to this conflict occurred in 1914 during the MCC’s first and only tour to the Belgian Congo.

Who on earth had the crass stupidity to give the Congo to the Belgians in the first place is quite beyond me.

I am bound to say that I consider the Belgians to be the most revolting shower of people ever to tread God’s earth.

Eaters of horse flesh, they let us down in two world wars. They’re hopeless at golf. They drive on the wrong side of the road, and they’re forever yodelling about their blasted fiords and their loathsome fretwork egg-timers.

Is it any wonder they made such a confounded mess of running the Congo?

When we went there in 1914, there was not one decent wicket the length and breadth of the country, and the facilities for nets were totally inadequate.

And, if that weren’t enough, during our matches there were at least two outbreaks of cannibalism among spectators, which I found totally unacceptable, and which I am convinced were responsible for the loss of our most promising young leg spinner, M.M. Rudman-
Stott.

He was sent out to field at deep third man in the match against an Arab Slavers’ Country Eleven, and all we found of him after the tea interval was the peak of his Harlequins cap and half an indelible pencil.

But of these setbacks we were blissfully unaware as in high good spirits we set off from Liverpool in April 1914 aboard the steamship, SS Duleepsinjhi.

The party was skippered by the Rev. Thurston Salthouse-Bryden, a former chaplain to Madame Tussauds and a forceful if erratic opening bat who distinguished himself in 1927 playing for the Convocation of Canterbury by scoring a century before matins in the match against a Coptic Martyrs Eleven.

TyldesleyI had the honour to be vice captain and OC ablutions, and among the notable players in our midst were the Staffordshire opening bowler, Thunderton-Cartwright, who was later to become rugby league correspondent for The Lancet, and the number three bat and occasional seamer, Ashton, F., who was later responsible for the choreography of the Royal Ballet’s highly acclaimed production of Wisden’s Almanack, 1929, featuring Alicia Markova as Ernest Tyldesley.

Of all the players in the party, though, the one who made the profoundest impression on all who met him (and some who didn’t) was the all-rounder, Arthur Root, a distant cousin of the Derbyshire, Worcestershire and England player, Fred Root, of the same name.

Root was what we in the ‘summer game’ call ‘a natural’.

During the voyage he kept us constantly entertained with his reading in Derbyshire dialect of the works of Colette, and his rendition on spoons and stirrup pumps of the later tone poems of Frederick Delius.

Root had charm, wit, erudition and the largest pair of feet it has ever been my privilege to encounter.

Indeed on the outward voyage they were directly responsible for saving the life of a Goanese steward who fell overboard seven nautical miles sou’ sou’ east of Ushant.

The poor wretch was applying linseed oil to the Rev. Salthouse-Bryden’s self-righting lectern when a freak giant wave washed him overboard.

With the lifebelts being in use for a rumbustious game of deck quoits, Root with great presence of mind threw the only object available to him into the sea — to wit, his right boot.

The dusky Indian steward clambered into the pedicular container and was instantly hauled aboard by the boot laces.

Little did we realize then how vital that boot was to be to our safety and well-being many many months later.

We disembarked without incident at Matadi and set off forthwith for the interior.

What a noble sight our native bearers made as they trudged along the primitive jungle trails carrying on their woolly heads the essential paraphernalia of our expedition — sight screens, portable scorebox and heavy roller.

The capital city, Leopoldvilie, was reached in three weeks.

How strange it was to our English eyes — no tram conductors, no Bedlington terriers, no Ordnance Survey bench marks.

Our only consolation came when Root discovered the local branch of Gunn and Moore’s where we bought leopard-skin cricket bags, scorebooks bound in genuine okapi hide, and the Rev. Salthouse-Bryden purchased an object warranted as a Bantu baptismal love token, but which to my untutored eyes looked more like H. M. Stanley’s left testicle.

We won each of our four matches in Leopoldville by an innings and ‘a substantial margin’, the Belgians ground fielding, as we had anticipated, being of a typically abysmal level.

A nation of congenital butterfingers, the Belgians.

We then set out for what was to be the most difficult and dangerous opposition of our entire tour — three unofficial Test matches against the Pygmies.

We left Leopoldville on a sultry August morning and did not reach our destination until late November 1914.
During the long and onerous trek we had the misfortune to lose three members of our party:

Evans-Pritchard, E. E.: stung by scorpion.

Leakey, L. S. B.: trampled by buffalo.

Attenborough, D.: retired hurt.

It was a nuisance to lose two wicket-keepers and a ‘more than adequate’ middle order batsman in that fashion, but nonetheless our party was in good spirits, when we arrived at Potto Potto to be greeted by officials of the Pygmy Board of Cricket Control.

The chairman, a gnarled, wizened little creature, who, incidentally, bore a marked resemblance to the distinguished light comedy actor and chanteuse, Mr John Inman, made us most welcome, offering us victuals and a choice of his most beautiful wives.

‘Just like playing for Derby against Notts at Worksop,’ said Root, and one and all joined in his hearty and innocent laughter.

On the advice of the Rev. Salthouse-Bryden we declined the feminine offerings but accepted the victuals which were served in the great adobe, thatched pavilion by elderly matrons of the tribe.

It was during the subsequent revelries that the first hitch in the proceedings occurred.
By prior arrangement we were to provide the balls to be used in the match, and, as a matter of courtesy, our baggage master, Swanton, presented a box of same to be examined by the Pygmy officials.

Imagine our horror when the minute, dark-skinned fraternity passed the balls from hand to hand, sniffed them, shook them and, with expressions of sublime delight, ate them.

Worse was to follow when the severely truncated tinted gents offered us the balls they wished to use — row upon row of small spherical objects, gnarled, matted, wrinkled and pitted.

For a moment we gazed at them in stunned silence.

Then the Rev. Salthouse-Bryden exclaimed:

‘Saints preserve us — they are shrunken heads.’

What could have been the very severest of fraught situations was saved by our ever-genial giant, Root.

Picking up one of the heads in his massive fist, he examined it briefly and then said:
‘Don’t worry, skipper. We’ll use this ‘un. It should be just right for seaming after lunch.’

The day of the first unofficial test dawned bright and clear.

The Pygmies won the toss and elected to bat.

PillingThe two Pygmy openers made their way to the wicket to the accompaniment of the howling of monkeys and the screeching of gaudily feathered parakeets, and as I watched them take the crease from my vantage point at deep extra cover, it was for all the world like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars at a dusky wee George Wood and an extremely sunburned Mr Harry Pilling.

Our opening bowler, Thunderton-Cartwright, came bounding to the wicket to deliver the first ball of this historic match.

It whistled from his hand at ferocious pace.

But all to no avail.

On the puddingy and unresponsive pitch the ball thudded mutely into the turf and rose no more than six inches from the ground.

‘Bouncer,’ yelled the Pygmy opener.

It was a cry taken up in unison by the masses of minuscule spectators packed in dense masses in what was, I believe, their equivalent of the Warner Stand.

An ugly incident seemed certain to ensue.

But at that moment, totally unexpected, came the crackle of small arms fire, and across the distant river burst a column of native Askaris.

As the Askaris waded across the river, firing indiscriminately from the hip, the Pygmies fled as if by magic.

As bullets whistled past our ears we flung ourselves to the ground, only to hear the following words which plunged an icy dagger to the depths of our hearts.

‘On your feet, Englische Schweinhunds!’

We looked up to see three white men, dressed in khaki drill, with shaven heads and leering duelling scars upon their cheeks.

‘Huns,’ we cried in unison.

Indeed they were.

Why hadn’t MCC informed us that war had been declared?

Why hadn’t the Test and County Cricket Board notified us that marauding parties of German colonial troops were rampaging through the territory?

Why was there no news in The Cricketer of the conflagration that was to rewrite the map of Europe and suspend for four years all Test matches between England and Australia?

Such thoughts flashed through my mind as we were bound by the straps of our cricket pads to the portable scoreboard, and the Askaris lined themselves in front of us in firing squad formation.

It was then, as death stared us in the face, that we were addressed by our skipper, the Rev. Salthouse-Brvden.

‘Oh, Lord,’ he said. Thou hast in Thy wisdom decreed that our innings shall be closed.

‘It is pleasing to Thine eye that in that great score-book in the sky it shall be written of our party, “Death stopped play”.

‘So, Lord, give us the strength to face the long walk back the celestial pavilion like men and members of the MCC, or whichever is more appropriate.’

It was at that moment that I noticed that Root was improperly dressed for the occasion.

His right boot was missing.

Before I could speak he motioned with his eyes towards the distant river.

An amazing sight met my eyes.

Floating silently in the current was a large right cricket boot.

And in it, paddling silently, was a war party of our erstwhile Pygmy opponents.

The Huns and Askaris, totally unaware of the approaching sporting footwear, paused to gloat over their triumph.

It waas to be their undoing, for in an instant the boot touched the river bank, the Pygmies sprang out through the lace holes and, screaming like dervishes, unloosed their poisoned arrows against them.

It was all over in seconds.

The Askaris and their vile Teutonic masters lay dead at our feet.

The match was resumed the following morning.

We had the good fortune to win, when Root took the last three Pygmy wickets with the last three balls of the match.

Years later he was to maintain that this was only possible owing to the slight inconsistency in the second new ball, which caused him to produce prodigious variations in swing and bounce.

And with a smile and a gentle nod of his genial head he would say:

‘I reckon it were the duelling scar in the seam what done it.’

 That may require foot-notes for the younger fellows.

 

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We’re Morocco Bound

The total shambles that apparently was the UKIP “carnival” in Croydon must delight all connoisseur of political disarray.

I quite liked the Daily Mail‘s first thoughts, but the cherry-on-the-sundae (which fell on a Tuesday this week) was the unsolicited window-licker comment:

We're Morocco bound

Check out Mr Dutton’s declared locality.

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The worst of Times

There’s a letter, indeed the featured one, bold type ‘n’ all, in today’s Times.

On-line (though not in print) the correspondence is sub-headed:

The metropolitan liberal elite show contempt for the population of rural England and the democratic choice some of them have made

It is all a response to a piece by David Aaronovitch. As far as Malcolm’s comprehension goes, Aaronovitch was presenting the “modernist” case, particularly in one respect:

Prime Minister’s Questions … had begun with a warning about the almost imminent collapse of A&E services in England and bad unemployment figures across the UK. Yet of the six Conservative MPs who stood to ask questions, no less than five were talking about when to have a referendum on Europe. They might as well have been in Caracas.

But they are all MPs and all honourable men, I thought, so this difference in perception is probably mutual. Where they sit for in Essex, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire or Wiltshire, the EU may indeed be more important than it is to me in London. On questions such as immigration, perhaps my metropolitan attitude seems as peculiar to them as their parochialism does to me.

And it suddenly occurred to me that this difference in perception helps to explain the divided nature of Boris Johnson. When he is being touted (as periodically he is) by right-wing Tories as an acceptable successor to the backsliding Cameron, Boris can appear something of a shire hero. But when he’s actually talking seriously about the future of Britain, he’s a full member of the metropolitan elite.

Yes, Malcolm thinks he has a grasp on that.

So here comes Michael Patterson of Swineshead, Lincs:

Sir, David Aaronovitch seems shocked by the realisation that, outside London and the great cities and university towns, there exists an England that does not buy into the cosy liberal certainties of “an outward-looking, open-minded polity” (“Unshackle London from the backward shires”, Opinion, May 16).

He cites Boston, Lincolnshire, where the immigrant population — virtually all from EU countries — is now about 10 per cent. An unremarkable proportion in a capital city perhaps, but in this traditional market town a change that has come about within ten years, putting enormous pressure on housing, schools, the NHS and policing.

Mr Patterson suggests whom to blame:

[Aaronovitch] is largely right to suggest that these immigrants are filling agricultural jobs that locals are no longer willing to do. He seems to view the latter’s interests as unimportant in comparison with an immigration policy that is bringing about a radical change in the character of British society without the explicit support of the people.

Hold your horse, Mike!

That’s not the whole story, at all, at all.

The essential fault, if there is one, lies with agribusiness, and — at one remove — its unwholesome dependency on the big supermarket chains. Which makes us consumers and our demand for cheap food — at two removes — also culpable.

The economics mean that the whole food-chain relies on the gang-masters. Let’s hat-tip another Tory, worthy in one respect: the MP for Boston and Skegness is Mark Simmonds, Mr Patterson’s elected representative. Simmonds may feel a hunted man with the UKIP surge on his patch; but he deserves respect for his extended campaign to make gang-masters fully responsible.

Lincolnshire immigrants

Malcolm feels a letter to The Times coming on. Like all his other great thoughts, it will likely go unpublished.

He would wish to express sympathy to Lincolnshire folk threatened by alien incursions.

In his North Norfolk youth he recalls similar griefs being expressed.

Even after thirty years in the neighbourhood, one particular social out-cast was regularly denounced as a “furrener” [Sc. “foreigner”]. He was a yeller-belly, an incomer from Lincolnshire, one of the scab-labourers brought in by the local farmers to break the farm-workers’ strike of April 1923.

What goes around, comes around.

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Trusted truths

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Psalm 146, a chorister’s favourite (it has just ten verses — and that could be one of few verifiable truths in this post).

And so, by a natural progression, to Anthony Wells at ukpollingreport.co.uk.

Wells had spotted an oddity in the ICM/Guardian poll:

More unexpectedly the ICM poll also found a jump in support for the BNP, up to 4%, the highest any poll has had then at for years. This is strange. The BNP have certainly not had any great publicity boost, at the local elections they seemed essentially moribund. It may just be an odd sample, or perhaps as Tom Clark suggests it is just a case of confusion amongst respondents, with some people getting the names of the BNP and UKIP mixed up.

ICM also asked about voting intention in an EU referendum, finding voting intention fairly evenly balanced – 40% would vote to stay in (22% definitely, 18% probably), 43% would vote to leave (32% definitely, 11% probably).

UPDATE: ICM tabs are up here. Topline figures without reallocation of don’t knows would have been CON 27%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 19%, BNP 5%.

That strange boost of support for the BNP is almost wholly amongst women, almost wholly amongst C2s, almost wholly amongst over 65s and almost wholly in Wales. The unweighted number of 2010 BNP voters in the sample was 1, increased to 18 by weighting. What that strongly suggests to me is that there was one little old C2 BNP-voting Welsh lady who got a very high weighting factor, and probably makes up almost all of that 4%! Such things happen sometimes, but it means the BNP blip is probably just a data artifact that can be ignored.

A euphemism newly minted

Now, there’s a nice one: “just a data artifact”. Try typing that, and most spell-check utilities flag up an error. That’s because the preferred version is subtly different, another form of “truth”.

It’s also a prime example of word-drift. Once upon a  time there was:

artefact: An object made or modified by human workmanship, as opposed to one formed by natural processes.

At some point the alternative spelling seemed to be the norm for an alternative signification:

artifact: Science. A spurious result, effect, or finding in a scientific experiment or investigation, esp. one created by the experimental technique or procedure itself. Also as a mass noun: such effects collectively.

As a point of fact, Mr Chairman, the entire public opinion polling business is based on such “data artifacts”. Notice, even in what Wells says there, how an eight-point Labour lead (35-27) is manipulated down to just six points (34-28) for a headline figure.

Today there are two types of truth …

That’s the start of page 40 of the current Private Eye (#1340, 17th-30th May, so verifiable, if not a “truth”). It becomes an exposé of a criminal Yorkshire property developer who is running the usual rings around the Serious Fraud Office, but begins with a telling generalisation:

Today there are two types of truth. Electronic truth — provided via the ever expanding knowledge universes of the internet. And historic truth — provided by those facts not yet or no longer recorded on easily searchable internet databases.

An American truth

There is a poem by the American romantic, Professor John Russell Lowell, which Malcolm has always assumed to be essentially anti-slavery and pro-“freedom”. Its best-known snippet is the eighth stanza:

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

A bit too theist for Malcolm, but he appreciates the sense and sensibility.

[For the record, Lowell was President Chester Arthur’s appointee as US Ambassador in London. Here he was a literary lion, running Henry James around the Bloomsbury salons, and becoming Virginia Woolf’s god-father.]

Trussed truths

Electronic “truth” contains too many “data artifacts” for comfort. Pseudo-statistics (those perpetrated by serial-offending politicians as much as by their natural allies, the opinion-pollsters) are just one source of this creeping corruption.

Psalm 146, of course, prefers the eternal (and unprovable, and frequently controvertible) truths:

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:
Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:
The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

Therein you may find your “truth”. If so, it is where you find all you need to know about:

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