Friday, February 08, 2008

It Should Have Been Me ...

1976 ? The Queens Hotel, Bradford. No relation at all to that posh place in Leeds.

It was a jukebox favourite ... "Somebody call the Po-lice! That woman down there is a doggone thief!"

Hmmm ...

One never quite knows what to make of something like this. After all, an ill-intentioned person or persons could in principle spread the word to create a kind of Googlebomb effect.

He's madder than ever

Rasputin's really gorn and done it now. When even liberals like Ruth Gledhill wonder if you've gone crackers you know you're in trouble.

Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?

Forgive the stark clarity of my headline, but sometimes when writing about the Archbishop of Canterbury, clarity is what is needed. I ask this of readers here, because this is the question put to me time after time this afternoon by incredulous commentators of every variety, stunned into blunt expression by the Archbishop of Canterbury's uncharacteristically clear comments on Sharia in Britain. The Archbishop believes adopting aspects of sharia law into British law would help maintain social cohesion.

The funny thing is that only a few days ago this 'liberal' Archbishop was calling for "thoughtless and, even if unintentionally, cruel styles of speaking and acting” to be made a criminal offence.

Now we may all have an idea of what that would mean in practice. But you can't get much more thoughtless than the Mad Monk's latest. Even John Humphrys might not be too keen on Sharia, though the extra wives might come in handy. What's Hebrew for "chutzpah" again ?

UPDATE - I'm sorry to say that Rasputin is an alumnus of my mother's old school, Dynevor - as was Spencer Davis (this video marking the first recorded appearance of the fuzzbox) - whose mum I think worked in the Lewis Lewis department store. By strange chance, the last I heard of very wonderful singer Steve Winwood - what a voice for a teenager - he was playing the church organ on Sundays not so very far from where I live.

She's At It Again

Yazza in the Evening Standard on Dewsbury MP Sadiq Khan's visit to "his childhood mate and constituent Babar Ahmad" - a visit which turned out to be recorded by the authorities, breaking a convention which has applied since Harold Wilson's time that MPs are non-buggable.

Considering that, I find it hard to believe that the murderous duo of Adams and McGuinness weren't bugged. I certainly hope they were.

Yazza does have an unfortunate way of expressing her conviction that her co-religionists are peaceful, just-like-us-but-without-the-binge-drinking types. It always seems to end with the threat of what will happen if we don't believe her.

"People comfortable in their bicultural skin, like Khan, hold the key to a peaceful future. To his credit Brown has brought in young blood and ministers such as Hazel Blears and David Miliband, who, thankfully, have no problem with assertive Muslims. They actively seek creative, intelligent ideas to break the hold of the fundamentalists.

But after this scandal, they had better do right by Sadiq Khan, otherwise trust will be shaken, suspicion stirred once again that in this land the most upstanding Muslim is still only ever a potential terrorist. And imagine what that could mean for the security of our nation."

(see also the remarkable statement from the secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain).

UPDATE - Brian mails to point out that the Sinn Fein Two failed to take the Oath of Allegiance and so never actually became Members of Parliament.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

She's living in a Hibernian World ..

I've written a couple of small pieces on the major changes in Ireland over the last 20 years.

"Strange times in the Irish Republic. The boom years have been on for 20-odd years now, the country's becoming much more secular, immigration and asylum levels are high, the youth/dance/drug culture is widespread - it's starting to feel much more like degenerate, decadent England."
In fact, given their smallish population, immigration is massive - and it's pretty much all been in the last ten years. According to the BBC, one in seven - about 14% - of the Republic's population - were born abroad - the sort of demographic shift that took thirty-five years in the UK crammed into ten.

Ironic really. Traditionally all the problems of Ireland have been seen as the fault of the perfidious English. Murderous republicans have killed English toddlers in Warrington or Pakistani shopkeepers at Canary Wharf, but have avoided blowing up Dundee or Wrexham. Only in the North have they been happy to slaughter people of Scots descent whose forebears emigrated to Ulster 400 years back - and who, ironically, were of Ulster stock.

So while Sinn Fein pledge a rebel's stand against "England's sons with their long-barreled guns", the country is filling up behind them. If one in seven of the Republic's residents were English you can be sure that the petrol bombs now burning Orange halls across the North would be toasting the joists of English-owned homes in the South. Instead Sinn Fein call for immigrants to be welcomed "with open arms" - on the grounds that the nasty Brits gave us such a hard time when we went over there, and we don't want to be like them, do we ?

Some people in Ireland aren't completely happy about what's happening.

Hibernia Girl is one. She's your one-stop shop for all Irish immigration-related news. Very much worth watching, as the changes really are massive. I don't think Ireland yet has the UK's demographic disaster as well - as far as I know they're still having babies - but I'd be grateful if she'd keep an eye on that, too.

She also nominated me as an "Excellent blog", so thanks muchly.

(It's still ironic though. Even on HGs site there are plenty of commenters who think England's the big problem. As they say at the panto "Behind you !")

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Small Postette

At Biased BBC.

James Barlow

Peter Hitchens at his Mail blog is urging his admirers to read Malcolm Bradbury's 'The History Man' - a thinly fictionalised eye-witness account of the cultural revolution at an early 70s university.

One writer who saw it all coming was the thriller writer James Barlow, who attacked the sixties ethos pretty much from the word go - in fact he was attacking it in his first (1956) novel The Protagonists, when it was still struggling to be born.

He wrote pretty much a novel a year through the 60s - The Patriots is probably his best. While I wouldn't call him a great writer, I enjoy his work. Favourite targets of attack were trendy bishops, TV talking heads and chat show hosts - people whose currency was words. I'm sure as an author he appreciated the irony.

He emigrated to New Zealand in the early 70s, leaving with "Goodbye England" - his disgusted (non-fiction) valediction, featuring a much-mocked paragraph about topless girls walking through London with dust and bus-tickets adhering to their mammaries. I must get hold of a copy, as I've never read it.

There's very little about him on the Web and no site devoted to him. If anyone has any information about him I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Maths, the Maths

Around 140 people voted in the Normblog novelists poll. You chose 10 novelists, number 1 being worth 4 points, number 2, 3 points, 3, 2 points and 4-10 only got one.

Here's the Top Ten :

01 (151) - Jane Austen
02 (113) - Charles Dickens
03 (64) - Philip Roth
04 (61) - George Eliot
05 (54) - Evelyn Waugh
06 (48) - Ian McEwan
07 (38) - Graham Greene
08 (37) - P.G. Wodehouse
09 (35) - Vladimir Nabokov
10 (32) - Charlotte Bronte

If only I knew statistics. But one thing stands out - there must have been a huge spread of novelists in the entries. No fewer than 205 novelists only got one point - I'd love to know who they all were.

FYI, Laban's selection. Not the subject of serious reflection, although #1 was a given. I've probably forgotten a favourite or two.

1. Thomas Hardy - self-taught, flawed master. Am I the only person to find Alec D'Urberville a much more sympathetic character than Angel Clare ? At least Alec knew what he wanted - the most desirable heroine in the history of the known universe.
2. Wodehouse
3. Solzhenitsyn
4. Zola
5. HP Lovecraft - dreadful yet strangely compelling
6. W.E. Johns
7. James Barlow - sixties reactionary who saw it all coming
8. A.G. MacDonnell - only one novel of note - but what a novel !
9. Chandler
10. Enid Blyton. Awful style, but her imagination more than compensates. "Magic Faraway Tree" enchanted me as a child and enchanted my kids in their turn.

Creative Defence Lawyer of the Year

I don't know who's defending Mark Dixie, accused of murdering and raping Sally Ann Bowman, but his defence in the face of the DNA evidence - that someone else murdered her and that his client, chancing upon her bloodied corpse in the street, 'took advantage of the situation', shows him to be a pretty optimistic, glass-half-full sort of guy.

UPDATE - how very apt. His name is Anthony Glass.

UPDATE2 - why is Mark Dixie's face pixellated out in all the UK photos ? Not so elsewhere, as the delightfully named Serial Killer Central (a tasteful place with some pretty sick users) shows us.

Note the comments on the Mark Dixie story. The way we live now.

"remember my girlfriend staying over at his house in croydon and she had said to me that mark and Stacy his then girlfriend were having a big argument over who was going to take the last line of coke."

Not a gentleman then.

UPDATE3 - the Aussies may also want a quiet word with the accused.

Primark Pandemonium

I remember the IKEA riot, but I missed this more peaceful event - the opening of Primark's Oxford Street store. Lordy. Talk about the barbarians at the gates - it's worse than the Scout jumble sale.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Let Freedom Ring !

Today Sri Lankans celebrate 60 years of freedom from the colonial Hush Puppy.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic country, with a population of 18m people. It is an ancient centre of Buddhism. It also has a significant number of Hindus, Christians and Muslims. There are also a number of smaller communities such as the Burghers and the Veddas.

The civil war has killed about 64,000 people, displaced one million and held back the island's growth and economic development.

The origins of the current violence go back to the island's independence from Britain in 1948.

Although the years immediately following the end of colonial rule were largely peaceful, from the outset there were tensions between the majority Sinhalese community - who are mostly Buddhist - and the Tamil community who are mostly either Hindu or Roman Catholic.

The communities speak different languages - Sinhala and Tamil - and both claim their ancestors were original settlers on the island.

A Victorian Victim of "Moral Panic"

An early exponent of the "crime as class warfare" school of criminology - who, as befits a wealthy, fox-hunting scion of the manufacturing classes, doesn't seem to realise that crime above all impacts the poor and vulnerable.

Friedrich Engels, "The Condition of the Working Class In England".

"with the extension of the proletariat, crime has increased in England, and the British nation has become the most criminal in the world. From the annual criminal tables of the Home Secretary, it is evident that the increase of crime in England has proceeded with incomprehensible rapidity. The numbers of arrests for criminal offences reached in the years: 1805, 4,605, 1810, 5,146; 1815, 7,818; 1820, 13,710; 1825, 14,457; 1830, 18,107; 1835, 20,731; 1840, 27,187; 1841, 27,760; 1842, 31,309 in England and Wales alone. That is to say, they increased sevenfold in thirty-seven years.

... These facts are certainly more than sufficient to bring any one even a bourgeois, to pause and reflect upon the consequences of such a state of things. If demoralisation and crime multiply twenty years longer in this proportion (and if English manufacture in these twenty years should be less prosperous than heretofore, the progressive multiplication of crime can only continue the more rapidly), what will the result be? Society is already in a state of visible dissolution; it is impossible to pick up a newspaper without seeing the most striking evidence of the giving way of all social ties.

I look at random into a heap of English journals lying before me; there is the Manchester Guardian for October 30, 1844, which reports for three days. It no longer takes the trouble to give exact details as to Manchester, and merely relates the most interesting cases: that the workers in a mill have struck for higher wages without giving notice, and been condemned by a Justice of the Peace to resume work; that in Salford a couple of boys had been caught stealing, and a bankrupt tradesman tried to cheat his creditors.

From the neighbouring towns the reports are more detailed: in Ashton, two thefts, one burglary, one suicide; in Bury one theft; in Bolton, two thefts, one revenue fraud; in Leigh, one theft; in Oldham, one strike for wages, one theft, one fight between Irish women, one non-Union hatter assaulted by Union men, one mother beaten by her son, one attack upon the police, one robbery of a church; in Stockport, discontent of working-men with wages, one theft, one fraud, one fight, one wife beaten by her husband; in Warrington, one theft, one fight; in Wigan, one theft, and one robbery of a church.

The reports of the London papers are much worse; frauds, thefts, assaults, family quarrels crowd one another. A Times of September 12, 1844, falls into my hand, which gives a report of a single day, including a theft, an attack upon the police, a sentence upon a father requiring him to support his illegitimate son, the abandonment of a child by its parents, and the poisoning of a man by his wife.

Similar reports are to be found in all the English papers. In this country, social war is under full headway, every one stands for himself, and fights for himself against all comers, and whether or not he shall injure all the others who are his declared foes, depends upon a cynical calculation as to what is most advantageous for himself. It no longer occurs to any one to come to a peaceful understanding with his fellow-man; all differences are settled by threats, violence, or in a law-court. In short, every one sees in his neighbour an enemy to be got out of the way, or, at best, a tool to be used for his own advantage.

And this war grows from year to year, as the criminal tables show, more violent, passionate, irreconcilable. The enemies are dividing gradually into two great camps -- the bourgeoisie on the one hand, the workers on the other. This war of each against all, of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, need cause us no surprise, for it is only the logical sequel of the principle involved in free competition. But it may very well surprise us that the bourgeoisie remains so quiet and composed in the face of the rapidly gathering storm-clouds, that it can read all these things daily in the papers without, we will not say indignation at such a social condition, but fear of its consequences, of a universal outburst of that which manifests itself symptomatically from day to day in the form of crime."

Engels was concerned about 31,000 arrests in 1842. Arrests for 2005/6 stand at 1,429,800.

The stuff that he was horrified by, and that seemed to presage open class warfare, would hardly make a local paper now. The Manchester Guardian in 1844 was far more of a local paper than today. I invite commenters to take a look at the Manchester Evening News a, and see what kind of crimes are now being reported. I think it unlikely that "a couple of boys caught stealing" will feature.

Hat-tip - Norman Dennis.