Saturday, July 21, 2007


Noon yesterday at the client site, the gutters overflowing and giving us a neat water feature to enjoy from our desks. Not even the news from a customer in the Thames Valley that the office was being evacuated due to floods disturbed us.

Phone. Susan.

"The house is becoming surrounded by water - it's about three inches below the doors".

"I'll get home"

"OK - I'm going to get our daughter from school"

Start of a long day. I was pretty much the first to leave - Lord knows how many colleagues made it.

Outside a different world. Lots of water on roundabouts and junctions where never seen before. The direct route home was already clogged with traffic - which wasn't moving. A fair few cars were turning round.

I know. I'll turn round and whip along the back roads.

Big mistake.

Two hours later I was 200 feet higher in the Cotswolds, forced inexorably higher by water the like of which I have never seen. Village streets were rivers. Streams were rivers. Still trying to get home by a wider and wider arc.

My state of mind not helped by the phone calls.

Wife/daughter : "We've had to abandon the car and we're walking back"

Son : "It's two inches below the door !"

"When mum gets back tell her there's an electric pump and tubing in the garage - on the right in the corner. If that fails dig a trench in the lawn to a lower part of the garden"

So one son is alone in the house which is about to be flooded. The new extension, Susan's new kitchen, the flooring, the electrics ...

Wife and daughter have a two mile wade through flooded roads. Are they being swept away ?

Another son is at work. How's he going to get home ? All the roads are closing.

Another son texts - he's at a schoolmates house and staying there.

And I'm trying one road after another.

Son : "It's an inch below the door !"

By now I'm running out of options. One road is four feet deep. We all turn round. Next road the same. I remember a pub I passed in a village a few miles back. But first let's just try this way.

4x4s only. I can see the abandoned cars that didn't make it through.

Wife : "We've used the pump - it's lowered the level but then it stopped working. I'm digging a trench and it's just keeping it below the sill".

Curses. But thank God they're home. Is the pump clogged or is it what happens when you buy pumps from Lidl ?

"Is the trench working ?"

"Seems to be - the water's running over the lawn and away to the field"

"Dig it a bit deeper and longer then. I don't think I'm going to make it home."

Back towards the pub. I've been through so much scary-depth water, slipping the clutch and keeping the revs high for when the exhaust is under water, that a mere six inches is easy to navigate.

I pick up a guy who's abandoned his car - he lives in the village where the pub is. I go to drop him off - and his garden is two feet under. A river is coming down the hill and through the new estate. The houses are terraced one above the other, like rocks in a mountain stream, which flows round - and through - each in turn.

I've got nothing else to do and I keep thinking about my own house - so a wet and muddy hour follows as we wade through the gardens, putting boards held with concrete slabs across the front doors. All we're doing is lowering the level inside to five inches rather than two feet, but I guess it helps a bit. The back doors are open to drain the house and people are taking fence panels out to lower the level in the rear gardens - which of course means it gets to the next, lower, front gardens faster.

Further down the road dips into a lake and rises on the other side. It must be ten feet deep. Tarmac is lifted in the road and water is bubbling up from beneath. Everywhere drains are spouting water.

I'm soaking wet and covered in mud - time for the pub.

The landlord's lit a fire and I can wring out my socks and put my shoes by the fire. The pub is filling up with stranded people - a businessman from Macclesfield, some Radio 3 sound crew who were meant to be recording Schoenberg in a Cheltenham church that night, a couple of pig farmers from Berkshire, half a dozen nurses in uniform. Later the guy who's been flooded out and his neighbours arrive.

The news from home is good. Susan's heroics with a spade have saved the house, the eldest son has (foolishly IMHO) attempted to wade home seven miles with no jacket or waterproofs and been picked up after three, probably with mild hypothermia, by a Good Samaritan in a Land Rover. Middle son is at a friends house with two other stranded kids.

A few hours, a few pints and a good meal later the rain has stopped and I take a stroll in the dusk. There's a pretty B&B down the road offering a reduced rate due to the river in the front garden and the lack of electricity (all the B&Bs in the village are fully booked - but none of the people have turned up). Most of my fellow strandees are sleeping on the bar floor, which I would have done 10 years ago. Getting old. I sit by candlelight in front of a coal fire at the B&B and turn in early.

This morning most of the floods have gone, though abandoned cars are everywhere. I get home without any major problems. Middle son's back and car retrieved. Lordy.

It's raining again. I think I'm going to make the trench bigger.

Friday, July 20, 2007

"Europe is still living off its religious heritage"

Robert Putnam - the chap who believes that mass immigration is a good thing and whose research shows that "the higher the diversity in a neighbourhood, the lower the levels of trust, political participation and happiness between and within the ethnic groups", in the Grauniad.

"Diversity is a social construction that can be deconstructed and reconstructed - you can erase a line and draw a new line [to define identity] and we do it all the time," says Putnam, who adds that there has been much more response to his research in the UK than in the US.

"Some critics [in the UK] on the right say that's all hogwash. What gets the conservatives irritated is that I say the task is not to 'make them like us' but to create a new 'we' - a new, more encompassing identity. They say: 'Why should we? We don't want a new we, we like the old we.' But in the US, we don't have that problem because we have changed in the past," he says.

America IS a nation of immigrants. Britain has not been - the 'nation of immigrants' nonsense is a liberal myth used to justify mass immigration.

Up until 7/7 our new liberal rulers didn't care about integration. The USP of immigrants was precisely the fact that they 'weren't like us' i.e. the natives. What they actually were like was unimportant.

Now they've seen the writing on the wall in Tavistock Square.

So integration seems like a good idea after all.

The trouble is that the destruction of British culture was a prerequisite for mass immigration - a self-confident nation would either not have allowed it or would have ensured integration was a priority - which was what happened in America until very recently.

The continuing effort to reinvent a national identity should at least provide sour amusement for a few decades.

Back to Mr Putnam. The key driver for the British cultural revolution - and the Britain we see today - was the decline of Christianity.

He credits religion with a vital role in spurring on progressive change in the US over the past 150 years - contrary to popular European wisdom, religion has predominantly been a force for good in America and its current use by the political right is an aberration from its history, he argues.

"Religious revival has been an essential ingredient of every progressive movement: the abolition of slavery came out of the second great awakening; the progressive era of 1900-15 when the US first passed labour and environment legislation came out of the social gospel movement," says Putnam, who is a convert to Judaism.

Much of his book will be devoted to analysing how that progressive potential in religion was lured to the Republican right. It is easy to see how his interest in social capital and religion fit together, but he is quick to acknowledge that religion can also have detrimental consequences, and it is possible to have social capital that has no religious underpinning.

He strikes a warning on the secularisation of Europe, which he describes as the first large-scale effort to see whether secular progressive countries can reproduce themselves and successfully pass on the values on which they were built. "I believe they can," he says, "but the evidence is not yet in. Europe is still living off its religious heritage."

Christianity may be dying in Euruope, but Nature abhors a spiritual vacuum. I notice a continual drip of British Muslim converts. They may be misguided, but they are generally intelligent, well-meaning young men and women. The canaries in the coal mine ?

"I am a white, middle-class left-wing atheist, who embraced Islam, and I see it has having the solutions to all the social ills of British society (poverty, drug abuse, gambling addictions, robbery, individualism, depression and terrorism, amongst many others"

I'll pass on whether there are no poor people in Muslim countries - but for the rest, you could say much the same of the Christianity that was - before the churches turned into a branch of Social Services.

Maybe the Sixties cultural revolutionaries who are dying off, the George Melly's, won't see their new Utopia.

"And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

See No Evil


Concerns about possible racist attacks led to police pulling out of a TV appeal in their search for a sex attack suspect, it has emerged. Officers want to trace former Exeter taxi driver Noorullah Seddiqi, 34, originally from Afghanistan.

Police were planning to put a reconstruction on ITV's Manhunt crime show, but a spokesman said "community concerns" led to a rethink. Mr Seddiqi is wanted for questioning after failing to answer bail. He was arrested in November last year in connection with an investigation into a rape and a series of sexual assaults on women.

It's victims poker again. The potential victims of racist attack are more important than the actual victims of rape and sexual assault.

Oh Lordy ...

You just know that this is going to be a terrible story.

UPDATE - well blow me down - it's (allegedly) the Poles again. Is the number of reported crimes with (allegedly) Polish perpetrators a function of the large numbers or of something else ? Alas the stats are not there. It looks like not every Polish cleaner's up there with the lovely Anna.

Magna Mater Appeal

Way back in the 1970s and early 80s, Melanie Phillips was the Guardian's social affairs correspondent and as 'right-on' (PC wasn't invented then) as you could possibly wish for.

The photo on her byline showed her with an Afro in the style of Marsha Hunt or Angela Davis. I bet she wore fingerless gloves and raggedy-witch skirts, too.

Has anybody got an image of it ? Or any snaps of the Great Goddess in her youthful prime ?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hmm ...

"You don't have to take a Hobbesian view of the world" writes Natalie Bennett in another plea to protect "sex workers".

I guess that depends on whether congress with the object of desire - or indeed the object her/him/itself - is nasty, brutish and short !

Fight ! Fight ! Fight !

Faisal Bodi has a post at Comment Is Free.

So does Sunny Hundal.

Faisal comments on Sunny's piece. It's now deleted, but according to this response :

"Coconut by name, coconut by nature. Why does it take a white columnist to echo your views for you to feel vindicated? That inferiority complex just won't go away, will it Sunny?"

Boom ! Boom ! Georgina Henry picks off Faisal's comment with one barrel and with the other takes out his CiF piece.

Faisal Bodi's comment about Sunny Hundal has been deleted from this thread. We have enough problems with commenters who breach the talk policy, let alone the bloggers themselves. That's why his post has also been taken down.

Ms Henry then devoted a longish post to justifying her decision, which has since been removed so thoroughly that "its body is buried as though it has never been". I'll try and find it in the cache.

But its main theme was outrage at the 'racist' coconut slur (i.e. he's brown outside but white inside - see also Bounty Bar). To Georgina, as to most guilty white liberals, there's no worse accusation than calling someone white. If the recipient IS a white person, then it's rude to point out their deformity - if they're black, brown or yellow than it's a deadly insult. Ms Henry's not a big William Blake fan.


My son started his summer employment today - a near-to-the-minimum-wage service sector job.

"There are eight of us on the induction course, and four of them are Polish - a husband and wife and two lads. When they went for their lunch break, they knew half the staff."


The Dumb One spots a small contradiction :

As I understand it, we can't build our way out of the prison crisis, we've got to cut the numbers going to prison in the first place.

On the other hand, we can build our way out of the housing crisis, with no other measures required.
The contradiction king is of course Snafu, whose small but perfectly formed posts at Not Proud of Britain are one huge contradictions resource. A most valuable blog.

PR Men

Is it true that both Labour and Tory Sedgefield candidates work in Public Relations ?

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

(and I didn't know leftie blogger Stephen Newton was one of that sort as well. Not a surprise. What with the 'urban regeneration consultant' the candidates seem to reflect the core Labour demographic rather well.)

"Ply Well The Knives For Hussain's Sake"

I've always been wary of people who deliberately harm themselves. From self to others doesn't seem a terribly long step. I disagreed strongly with the decision to allow Abas Amini to stay in the UK, after Mr Amini sewed up his eyelids, lips and ears in protest at a government decision to appeal against his asylum status. Do we really want people capable of such acts walking the streets of Britain ? If he'll do that to himself, what of others with whom he may come into conflict ?

I was reminded of this by a remarkable series of photographs. I've posted before about the Ashura processions.

During Moharram Shias mourn the killing of the Prophet's grandsons Hussein and Hassan, which led to the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

In Ashura commemorations the faithful carry tazias, replicas of the tombs of the martyrs, through the streets, just as Spanish Catholics carry statues of the Virgin Mary in procession during Holy Week.

The Ashura processions are described in Kipling's "On the City Wall".

"All the processions—there were two-and-twenty of them—were now well within the City walls. The drums were beating afresh, the crowd were howling ‘Ya Hasan! Ya Hussain!’ and beating their breasts, the brass bands were playing their loudest, and at every corner where space allowed, Mohammedan preachers were telling the lamentable story of the death of the Martyrs."

I hadn't realised that as well as the breast-beating (maatam - great singing on this video) some devotees like to perform maatam by scourging themselves with blades (zanjeer) or even cutting their heads with swords (tatbir). I also hadn't realised that we've got a fair number of devotees in the UK.

Brazilian photographer Eduardo Martino seems like a hip young dude - work for the Guardian and BBC features prominently on his cv.

One of his projects is a pictorial record of UK Shia Muslims, from which I venture to show a few images. (All photographs are the property of Mr Martino. You can see all his photos of UK Shia life here and here. Notice the odd native convert here and there.)

Here we see a zanjeer - a chain with blades attached.

Followed by "before" :

And "after" :

I'm a little concerned that this is happening in Manchester, rather than say Bombay. By the look of these guys there seems to be a lot of it about. As for this - well, isn't he a little young to be doing that sort of thing ?

While the mullahs of Iran aren't too cut up about the practice, I think I'm with the office of Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq on this one :

As far as mourning is concerned and getting attention of entire world, then it should be done very nicely with "beating chests and heads with hands" and with complete discipline in procession. All the people should participate with fully dressed in black cloths. Then definitely it will impress the entire world and will force them to accept us as a peace loving people. On the other hand people fear from Shiites when they see them doing Zanjeer Zani crazily and from head to toe covered with blood.

Spot on - couldn't put it better myself. One can't resist the thought that if they're prepared to do this to themselves in the name of religion, what might they be prepared to do to others in that same cause ? Remember the sacrifices the Iranian basij were prepared to make during the First Gulf War - such devotion is awesome, but fearsome too.

These Bradford Shiites seem a much more sober crowd - even showing respect for the Shearbridge Hotel of (to me) blessed memory and mediocre beer. Admittedly they're outdoors - but so are these Lancashire lads.

While I respect the wish to show devotion, and admire the piety of the believers, England has always avoided excessive self-harm in the name of religion. When the flagellants were touring Europe during the Black Death, the English refused to beat themselves up about it. It never caught on here.

Whoe’er to save his soul is fain
Must pay and render back again.
His safety so shall he consult
Help us, good lord, to this result
Ply well the scourge for Jesus’ sake
And God through Christ your sins shall take
Woe! Usurer though thy wealth abound
For every ounce thou makest, a pound
Shall sink thee to the hell profound
Ye murderers and ye robbers all,
The wrath of God on you shall fall.
Mercy ye ne’er to others show,
None shall ye find, but endless woe.
Had it not been for our contrition
All Christendom had met perdition

One other unfortunate historical resonance. Flagellant processions in Europe would frequently end with an attack on any available Jews.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"As Long As It Takes"

Jones, a former chair of Acpo's counter-terrorism committee, said: 'We are now arguing for judicially supervised detention for as long as it takes. We are up against the buffers on the 28-day limit. We understand people will be concerned and nervous, but we need to create a system with sufficient judicial checks and balances which holds people, but no longer than a day [more than] necessary.

'We need to go there [unlimited detention] and I think that politicians of all parties and the public have great faith in the judiciary to make sure that's used in the most proportionate way possible.'

As I've argued before, anyone tempted to think these powers would 'only' be used on brown-skinned chaps with extreme religious views should think again. It might start there (and it would be wrong), but it would not end there.

"This short-lived legislature left behind it a monument. It passed a Habeas Corpus Act which confirmed and strengthened the freedom of the individual against arbitrary arrest by the executive government. No Englishman, however great or however humble, could be imprisoned for more than a few days without grounds being shown against him in open court according to the settled law of the land... wherever the English language is spoken in any part of the world, wherever the authority of the British Imperial Crown or of the Government of the United States prevails, all law-abiding men breathe freely.

The descent into despotism which has engulfed so many leading nations in the present age has made the virtue of this enactment, sprung from English political genius, apparent even to the most thoughtless, the most ignorant, the most base."

Churchill, in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, on the 1679 Parliament.

Coming Over Here To Do The Jobs We Won't Do

Sex offenders are entering the UK after borders to migrants from eastern Europe were opened, a police chief has warned. Terry Grange, the Dyfed-Powys chief constable and Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on child protection, said people may be at risk. He told BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye there was not a level playing field with the open borders policy.

He said other countries did not have Britain's sophisticated policy of monitoring sex offenders. In comments supported by representatives of the Polish community in Wales, Mr Grange said some offenders would be leaving those countries bound for the UK, without appearing on any register. "There will be people coming into this country with criminal records and sex offenders too - guaranteed," he said.

Like Wojciech Ciesla ?

A psychopathic burglar who strangled a mother in front of her 15-month-old son after she rejected his advances was jailed for life today (Fri). Polish national Wojciech Ciesla, 49, killed Juline Chambers in a bungled robbery in front of the child. He then fled leaving the baby in his cot next to his dead mother.

What Are The Tories For ?

A couple of weeks ago Peter Hitchens was wielding the whips and scorpions :

The Tories are an unleadable party based on a hopeless, seething coalition of people who hate each other and have nothing in common to enforce unity in their ranks ... this means that the urgent task is to replace the Tories with a movement that can beat New Labour and which believes in something, and to do this we must bulldoze the wreckage of the Tories out of the way.

Hitchens basic thesis is that the Tories' continued existence is vital to the Left, soaking up the votes and energies of those who want to leave the European Union, those who don't want mass immigration and those who think that criminals should be punished - while not actually doing anything about these issues. This view is IMHO not exactly fair to the Blessed Michael Howard, who implemented pro-prison initiatives in the face of Home Office resistance.

Libertarian Dr Sean Gabb feels pretty much the same way. In his excellent (doesn't mean I agree with all of it mind you) publication CULTURAL REVOLUTION, CULTURE WAR, subtitled "How Conservatives Lost England and How To Get It Back" he writes :

For as long as I have been alive — and for some while before — the Conservative Party has been a gigantic fraud on the people of this country. Its true function has not been to articulate, but to neutralise discontent. The only threat to the hegemony of the ruling class has been the deeply conservative prejudices of the English people. Any conservatism would be a threat, because it means an adherence to values not fully controlled by the ruling class. English conservatism, though, is an especially dangerous threat. Its values are those of a roughly libertarian past — of self-reliance, of patriotism, of a vague belief that while government may often be useful, it is not fundamentally necessary, and is never wholly to be trusted.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"the determination that no one who dies shall go unmourned ... "

Thus Kenneth Tynan on the original production of 'Look Back In Anger'.

There's a gap in the market for a blog which just reports UK homicides. They run at about 1,100 a year - 3.3 a day - for the whole UK. Not an unreportable number. Yet they're not all reported. Why ?

I don't understand how the BBC find room on the Web for this :

A man was taken to hospital after being struck by a bus in Bristol, it has emerged. The pedestrian was hit on Hotwells Road in the city centre at about 2200 BST on Saturday.
The man, aged 21, suffered minor head injuries.

Yet not this :

A murder hunt is under way after a builder beaten up in a busy Hoxton park lost his fight for life. James Houliston, 44, of Regan Way, was left with a fractured skill when he was attacked in Shoreditch Park three weeks ago. His life support machine was turned off at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel last Thursday.

Police have launched a murder inquiry and have made an urgent appeal for witnesses to come forward. "I believe the man who assaulted Mr Houliston is a local man and is likely to have been a regular visitor to the park," said Det Chief Insp Carl Mehta, who is leading the investigation.

Mr Houliston, a builder with two grown-up sons, was walking through the park at about 7.30pm on Tuesday, June 12. He was near the Mintern Street entrance when he became involved in an argument with another person. Mr Houliston was punched in the face and fell to the ground, crashing his head on the pavement. He was taken to the hospital in a serious condition and never regained consciousness. A postmortem carried out at Poplar mortuary on Friday found he died of head injuries.

Police are keen to trace a dark-skinned Asian man in his late teens, who is about 5ft 11ins tall and has an athletic build. He was wearing light-coloured shorts and was wearing or holding a white T-shirt. It is believed he was with a group of about six Asian and black youths in their late teens, as well as a white girl with blonde or bleached hair. The incident room can be contacted on 020 8345 3734, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

It can't just be racism, can it ?

The Golden Age That Never Was

... the social system was at least as authoritarian as the political system. It was shocking for an unmarried couple to sleep together and a disgrace to have a baby out of wedlock. A homosexual act incurred a jail sentence. Divorcées would not be considered for the honours list or the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. Procuring an abortion was a criminal offence. Violent young criminals were birched, older ones were flogged, and murderers were hanged. Two years' National Service was compulsory for 18-year-olds. Small children sat in rows in the classroom and were caned if they misbehaved. Drugs were confined to the surgery (and the aristocracy). The bobby on the beat made sure the streets were safe at night. And for an England cricket captain to miss a Test Match by flying home to be present at the birth of his child would have ruled him out of serious consideration not just as a cricketer but as a man.

So what happened ? How did we get from there to here ?

Anthony Jay is of course describing Britain under the 1945-51 Labour Government.

Non-racist racists make for bad TV

As the BBC fraudulent trailer row rumbles on, a little Observer aside about RDF, purveyor of dodgy trailers and class reality programming.

Wife Swap, C4, 2003 -
In 2003 a show about a racist white couple paired with a black couple went unaired. The couples said the makers, RDF, dropped the episode because the families got along.