Sunday, 25 January 2015

Burns, Britten And The Music Of Time

Having a group of ancestors in Ayr and district at the time of Burns, it is interesting to try to understand what lives they led and the nature of it.

Essentially, they were members of the Incorporation of Fleshers, with their place in The Kirk.  In short butchers with all that was entailed. I suspect the poet may not have had much liking for the Fleshers.

It is only in the last few months that I have found that another branch of the family were butchers to  the Britten's, ancestors of Benjamin Britten, as well as being family.

Inevitably, the idea that it is a pity that Ben never tried his hand at setting Robbie's verses to his own type of music comes to mind.  It could have made an interesting piece.  But not at all like the sounds of the late 18th Century.

Trying to capture the real sounds of the past is thought to be a hopeless chase.  But it is worth trying and at least you may get near it.  If you do it might then be possible to sense the poetry in terms of the cadences and subtleties of the music.

Here are Scots Airs played by the Palladian Ensemble.  I heard these at the Wigmore Hall near twenty years ago and have not forgotten them.

It is but a very small window into the past but at fifteen minutes only a little time to spend.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Wolf Hall, Cracking The Lice

We decided to give "Wolf Hall" a try, boxing it just in case I hit the ten minute "that's enough" barrier that often happens these days.  We lasted the hour; the fact that it was yet another Tudor item was a concern.

It is a world so far away from our own that it passeth all understanding, which is why much criticism can amount to nit picking.  Sadly, this is not  an awareness of the ubiquity of lice and fleas etc. at that time, but looking for minor errors and such.

There are some interesting touches.  When Richard late in the episode, son of Thomas Cromwell's elder sister Katharine of her marriage to Morgan Williams, asks if he might take the name Cromwell we know that the later Oliver Cromwell, Regicide and Protector, would be his great grandson.  This might emerge later.

Although much is made of the humble origins of some of the people, notably Wolsey. Cromwell and other, they may indeed have been "trade" but are rather more businessmen, aka merchants, who did very well, survived and married into families of higher degree.

I doubt if Cromwell's father did much shoeing of horses, if any, it looks more like one of those biting jokes they went in for those days when the sense of humour was more robust.  To take the Boleyn (Bullen) family, said to be lowly.  There was a triple whammy of marriages into the greatest in the land.

Look at the picture above and you will see some of the great magnates of the earlier century in the marriages.  The Hoo and the Welles failed in the male lines and serious money went down to the daughters as well as fine lineages.

Not only did all six of Henry's wives descend from King Edward I but so did his known mistresses as well.  He is portrayed as a serial womaniser, it may be that there were a number but he was fastidious in his choices.

If the series does command and hold a large audience one intriguing feature is the large numbers of them who have a connection to these major families of the Tudor era and are not aware of this part, if only a very small part, of their family history.  If you run the numbers then you can see how this might be possible.

There are two routes, one back through the generations and the other down from the relevant and related families of the period.  The period is around 15 to 20 generations back allowing for slippage between older and younger people in one or another.

Even allowing for the usual inter marriage among particular networks of families among classes or localities at four and a half centuries back at the time of King Henry VIII you will have thousands of ancestors alive at that time.

The numbers are such that they cannot be confined within limited groups either in terms of place, class, religion and others.  If you were able to trace them all you would be in for some surprises and not all ones that may suit you.

In the period in question there the Royals and near Royals, much given to mutual attrition.  But enmeshed were many minor aristocracy, higher gentry, lower gentry and a raft of rich persons in various fields.  The result is a number of family networks and these in turn connect.

Think younger sons of younger sons and younger daughters of younger daughters etc and the high rate of downward social mobility among them.  You need only one person, the "gateway", to take you into them.

Typically or statistically, by the time you get back to the early 18th or late 17th Centuries the chances of having one are increasing sharply.

This means inevitably that among the viewers seeing this strange and inexplicable Tudor world they are not looking at something apart from them, there is someone or more swinging through the branches of the family tree.  They may be in the field or kitchens or servants, but they might be at the high table.

It works the other way as well.  The late Queen Mother had some decidedly rough looking Derbyshire lead miners and other northern industrial families in her ancestry as well as Staffordshire and Lancashire gentry.

And follow the money.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Chilcot - The Liars Charter

Back in 2003, having published my opposition to the Iraq War and serious doubts about aspects of the relevant operation orders and logistics of the UK forces, I did a spoof piece that set out the reasons we were being given, only with a punch line at the end as a comment.



We are faced with a dictatorial regime, armed with nuclear weapons, with a large army determined to advance its own interests irrespective of the cause of humanity.

Its leader is an arrogant autocrat, unwilling to heed the warnings of others, bent on a policy of enforcing his personal will on a terrorised population.

His country has a long record of aggression, expansion, and using force to impose its will on others regardless of individual culture.

He hates the United States of America and any of its allies.

He is the representative of an elite that hates the USA and what it defines as Anglo-Saxon culture.

His government distorts and manipulates the media to prevent the truth emerging.

His efforts are designed to put his country at the centre of a client group of states governed by a central bureaucracy that is neither democratic nor just.

The rising rate of unemployment is forcing many of the country’s educated and ordinary people to flee to low paid jobs in service industries in the UK and elsewhere.

He will bring long cherished ideals of Western Civilisation to an end unless action is taken by freedom loving powers, now.

Chirac must be stopped and we have to declare war both on France and his lackeys, the Germans, whether or not the UN approves.


As Sir John Chilcot now tells us that his report on the Iraq War will not be published before the General Election and with the prospect of months even years before it might appear we are left to make up our own minds.

Given that when it does appear, what is "redacted", glossed over, heavily amended and quietly left out may be all the key matters we are most interested in, we must not expect too much.

So I am left with my assumptions, based on what I have seen in the past and the many examples from history when Parliament and the people were told one thing when it was quite another.

In my purely personal opinion, we were lied to, short changed and major efforts were made to cover the deceits, avoid criticism and deal with any opposition.  Since then those involved have evaded both truth and justice.

Our troops were sent in without the levels of support and equipment necessary.  They were asked to put their lives on the line for an exercise in arrogance and support for the corporate and financial advantage of a few.

We do not need any report because we can safely assume from the lack of it and the nature of it the worst.

How many have died?  Who now controls Iraq?

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Joy Of Policy

In today's "Telegraph" online, in the News section the following two headlines were next to each other:

"Nicola Sturgeon: SNP MPs will vote on English-only matters"

"Woman on top most dangerous sex position"

No comment.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Sun Has Got His Hat On

When asked if I buy  "The Sun" newspaper my usual response is that it is the sort of paper picked up on trains to see what the plebian orders are reading these days.  As my dress code is close to that of many of the vagrant classes the remark is intended to cause confusion.

 But this blog is often about connections and in this case it is that the undressed ladies of "The Sun" have been such a feature of their time, now abandoned,  whereas in the past the author GK Chesterton  was a staff writer for the old "Daily Herald".

Perhaps this is more of a disconnection  but "The Sun" for me will always be the "Daily Herald", 1912-1964, that went wrong in the 1950's.  It failed to follow the rapidly changing economy and social structure and tried to stick with a traditional readership that was disappearing one way or another.

Chesterton was a High Anglican who converted to the Roman Catholic Church, although many clergy were uneasy with him.  As an intellectual he was prone to asking questions to which they did not have a ready answer.

But he would have been very familiar with the works of Cardinal John Henry Newman and followers at the Oratory.  One was another convert from High Anglicanism, Fr. Edward Caswall who had a huge output of liturgical works and poems, widely published.

A cousin of his, Kate Sneyd, was a poster girl of her time, pictured above.  In 1852 she featured in a hot selling book of engravings by J. Hayter, "The Court Album of the Female Aristocracy".  Celebrity culture is nothing new, but perhaps lacking class these days.

The Full Work is here if you have a few hours to spare wading through the turgid and fawning prose.  However, what is does not say that on the return of her family from India, Kate was living on the same patch in Hampshire as her Caswall cousins, adjacent and on terms with the Duke of Wellington nearby.

She married George Glynn Petre in the British Embassy in Paris and one of her younger children, Walter Reginald Petre became a Rear Admiral who had a lot to do with the Australian navy and forces, notably during the First World War at Gallipoli.

At this time it is highly likely he came across an Australian journalist called Keith Murdoch, who had a son called Rupert.

It's a small world.

Monday, 19 January 2015

A Reminder From The Past

There is great deal of debate about the present nature of terrorism relating to Islam and what it means.  But we have been here before.

The item below was in the files, but the source unknown.


What Che Guevara Stood For

1.   Hatred.

Che wanted to see ‘Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine’.

He considered Americans to be ‘hyenas … fit only for extermination’.

2. Mass Murder.

Che wanted to launch a nuclear attack on New York City. He desired ‘atomic extermination’ of the ‘hyenas’ (read civilians) who lived there and in November 1962 he boasted to The London Daily Worker of the nuclear weapons, ‘We would have used them against the very heart of the US, including New York City’.

Even Che’s sympathetic interviewer from the Daily Worker considered him to be ‘crackers from the way he went on about the missiles’. It’s only thanks to the intervention of Nikita Khrushchev that Che’s plans came to nothing.

3. Terrorism.

With the nuclear attack plans shelved, Che instead attempted to launch a terrorist campaign in New York City. Had it have worked, Macy’s, Gimbels, Bloomingdales, and Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal would have been hit with a dozen incendiary devices and 500 kilos of TNT.

To give some perspective, the 2004 Madrid train bombings used 100 kilos of TNT and killed and maimed almost 2,000 people.

4. Sacrificing the people of Cuba.

At the First Latin American Youth Congress in July 1959, Che proudly claimed: ‘These people [of Cuba] you see today tell you that even if they should disappear from the face of the earth because an atomic war is unleashed in their names … they would feel completely happy and fulfilled’.

5. Executions without trial.

Che delighted in ordering and carrying out executions and considered the need to present a legal case and to give the accused the right to defend him or herself to be ‘archaic bourgeois details’.

‘I don’t need proof to execute a man, I only need proof that it’s necessary to execute him!’, Che declared in 1959.

6. Persecution of gay men.

In Che’s Cuba, ‘effeminate behaviour’ became a crime and gay men were consigned to forced labour camps with the words ‘Work Will Make Men Out of You’ posted over the entry gates.

7. Totalitarianism.

Che demanded that ‘individualism must disappear!’ Perhaps his greatest support for this principle is found in his relationship with the USSR. Indeed, according to KGB official Alexander Alexiev, ‘Che was practically the architect of the Soviet-Cuban relationship’.


There is something uncannily familiar about this.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

With A Huff And A Puff

With our politicians believing and telling us that the way to deal with the effects of the bust of the last housing bubble is to have a new one all bets are on as to where this one may lead us.

The experience of the USA is the subject of an article in the Mises Institute website by Ryan McMaken who asks the question of what was it all for?

More to the point what might have been achieved if all the wealth and activity devoted to the inflationary financing of existing property had gone into other fields of economic or social activity.

This sorry tale comes from The Mail and suggests that in 2007 figures at the top of the Labour Government  were aware of the dire situation developing and wanted a snap election before it really hit hard.

In that year some of us, believing that the government were a lot of clodhoppers who could not understand what was happening were making our own arrangements.

But if it is true that they did understand  then what exactly was going on?

More worrying is what is going on now?