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December 31, 2010

Happy New Year to freedom lovers

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A neighbour's horses in Twyford

December 30, 2010

Hogmanay

The Wall Street Journal -

Thought to be derived either from ancient Norse or Gaelic dialect, or from the nation's Auld Alliance with France, "Hogmanay" is Scotland's unique word not only for the last day of the year, but also for the varied entertainment it provides on that date. Whether your preference is for a constellation of fireworks, torch-lit parades and ceilidh dancing, or some mellow reflection beside a peat fire with a single-cask malt whisky. . .or for celebrating with 500,000 revellers in Edinburgh. . .

WWII hero Charlie Boyce

Told to seize an important bridge at Kulverborstel, Germany, under fire, with men falling all around him, and British guns going silent, Charlie Boyce got the guns firing again and ran to his wounded men -

Seeing that one had a shattered leg, he improvised a stretcher from a gate, his considerable strength enabling him to drag it, with the man aboard, for 300 yards until they reached safety. Boyce then returned, carrying the gate, to the second wounded man, again using it as a stretcher to carry the victim to safety, all the while under fire.

He has died at 95, "liked by all".

Ave atque Vale.

Christmas in England

The redoubtable Cranmer describes the omission of Christmas from the latest EU calendar for children. Said calendar includes the religious holidays of Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, but not Christians.

If true, we're shocked, but not surprised.

However, we're glad to report that we attended a Christmas Eve service in Winchester Cathedral and a Christmas Day service in Christ Church, Winchester. Both were packed to overflowing with families and children and full of joy.

December 27, 2010

A happy end to the Hampshire Hunt on Boxing Day

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On Boxing Day, hundreds of men, women, children and dogs gathered at the Butts in Alton, an ancient Anglo-Saxon town, for the Hampshire Hunt.

This was a breakthrough.

As the name suggests, the Butts was used in medieval and Tudor times for the weekly archery practice required of all men, who were expected to be able to defend their country. In recent years, the local council in its lesser wisdom closed this common land against the hunt and its followers. Parliament, which contains even less wisdom than the typical county council, had legislated against any hunts with two or more hounds.

Walk out with two of your dogs, and you will be breaking the law if they chase a hare.

But now, for the first time in recent years, the Alton council has reopened the Butts to the hunt.

This is only fair, since it is common land and owned by all the people. The Hampshire Hunt has been careful to obey the law when riders and hounds head out into the country.

A big crowd showed up, and the French Horn, a nearby inn, served sherry.

There was only one problem.

The recent snow and ice were too dangerous for the horses, so no one was riding with the Hampshire Hunt, or many other hunts, on this Boxing Day.

However, the hounds made an entrance. Off lead, of course, and in their usual good spirits.

They are lovely - relaxed, amiable, gentle with children, and completely obedient to the horn of their huntsman.

After meeting all the other dogs on the common and all the hunt followers, the hounds were summoned by their huntsman and swept eagerly up the road to the local community hospital.

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There they greeted a 98-year-old hunt supporter, confined to her wheelchair, and made her very happy.

December 24, 2010

Have a merry and happy Christmas

We're listening to Handel's Messiah on BBC. Martin Handley is conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Not surprisingly the Enlightenment never produced music with the exultation and beauty created by Handel's Christian faith. But never mind. You can listen live to the Orchestra's 2008 Messiah.

Or to Sir Colin Davis conducting For unto us a child is born -

And the Hallelujah Chorus -

Handel was a fantastic person. He was drawn to England because he could freely write music and make a living here.

The wonderful Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, can be heard on BBC 3 at 2pm.

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British Christmas traditions

As the Lord said, Be of good heart.


December 22, 2010

Books

A dozen to read over Christmas.

December 21, 2010

Alison Balsom's warm and golden trumpet

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Image: Alison Balsom

Before you reach the ice age musings below, listen to Alison Balsom's music. I heard her on BBC 3 this morning, playing Vivaldi's Violin concerto in A Minor, which she had transcribed for the trumpet. She warmed up the snow.

There's a mini Ice Age coming? Piers Corbyn's prophecy

In the middle of a cold, snowy 2008 winter, the year before the cold, snowy 2009 winter, in a place (Portland, Oregon) which usually experiences the mild, wet winters forecast by the Met Office for Britain, I stood outside, watching the icy wind hurl snow at the oak tree, and thought, an ice age is a very unpleasant thing and one may be coming. This was about the time we had posted Sun's low magnetic activity may portend an ice age, so there was some reason behind the thought, but I could easily be wrong. I'm no expert. Piers Corbyn, on the other hand, may be right.

Boris Johnson writes -

Allow me to introduce readers to Piers Corbyn, meteorologist and brother of my old chum, bearded leftie MP Jeremy. Piers Corbyn works in an undistinguished office in Borough High Street. He has no telescope or supercomputer. Armed only with a laptop, huge quantities of publicly available data and a first-class degree in astrophysics, he gets it right again and again.

Back in November, when the Met Office was still doing its "mild winter" schtick, Corbyn said it would be the coldest for 100 years. Indeed, it was back in May that he first predicted a snowy December, and he put his own money on a white Christmas about a month before the Met Office made any such forecast. He said that the Met Office would be wrong about last year's mythical "barbecue summer", and he was vindicated. He was closer to the truth about last winter, too.

He seems to get it right about 85 per cent of the time and serious business people - notably in farming - are starting to invest in his forecasts. . .How on earth does he do it? He studies the Sun.

Corbyn thinks that the last three winters could be the harbinger of a mini ice age.

He Is in the great tradition of British amateur scientists, but we hope he is wrong.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

December 20, 2010

Sledges, snowmen and snowballs are back

And so is science.

You recall that the Royal Society, 350 years old this year, was famously founded by men whose motto was "Nullius in verba". Take nobody's word for it. And you remember that a colloquium of geniuses founded 'the Invisible College'.

It was November 28th 1660. Christopher Wren, usually more preoccupied by the design of buildings, had given a talk on astronomy. Afterwards a small group of amateur scientists, who had been discussing the college for some time, decided to found what became the Royal Society, the oldest continuously operating scientific organisation in the world. The first curator of experiments was Robert Hooke. Fellows were elected according to somewhat vague, but efficient, criteria. One of the first Fellows was Isaac Newton.

Ruthlessly dedicated to scientific knowledge based on experiment and mathematical proofs, critical and supportive of each other, they met weekly. They did not belong to and were not paid by universities, companies or government.

The Society suffered a lapse when, in this decade, it took the word and the spurious statistics of global warming alarmists. That appeared to be changing in May.

However, not fast enough as in September the Society was advised that its calculations that carbon dioxide would remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years were dead wrong. Some of the best mathematicians in the world had flunked math.

More hopefully, the senior members of the Society mounted "a climate skeptic 'rebellion'" and forced the Society "to revise their guide 'Climate change: a summary of the science' (30 September 2010)".

Scientists are returning to the source of their strength - cold-eyed Truth.

Those experiencing the icy delights of global warming may be pleased.

December 18, 2010

The countryman and the carol

The countryman was right - patches of lingering snow would see more snow. In the bleak midwinter, snow had fallen, snow on snow. . .

Thursday night, as the last patches disappeared, snow fell on the hills. This morning at half past six the ground was bare. At half past seven half an inch of snow had fallen. The air is thick with snow. . .

December 17, 2010

Winter Festival, Christ Church Spitalfields

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Nicholas Hawksmoor, a Nottinghamshire-born architect, designed Christ Church early in the 18th century. He had worked with Sir Christopher Wren since his late teens. Christ Church was his masterpiece. Image: LondonTown

Ivan Hewett writes - The Spitalfields Winter Festival offers uplift and calm – and warmth (this is one church that isn’t draughty). You can slip into the lovely, creamy-white glow of Christ Church Spitalfields, enjoy an hour of music – this year focused on Monteverdi madrigals – and be home for a late dinner.

Lovely. The Festival ends with Christmastide on January 7th.

Judi Dench voted greatest stage actor

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Image: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Of all time reads the headline, though it must be difficult to compare any actor today with stage actors long dead? But setting aside this carping comment and a few others, we are glad to see Dame Judi admired.

One photo in the Telegraph gallery of stage shots documenting her career shows her with a young woman, each of them in 18th century dress with the same elaborately coiffed red-gold hair. They are facing and clasping each other - almost as if the older Judi held an image of her younger stage self in her arms.

Revealing a lovely side of Dame Judi are quotes from fellow actors and friends.

An Anglo-American tea party

The fat-stuffed, earmark dripping US Omnibus bill failed in the US Congress yesterday on the 237th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. It failed due to the concerted opposition of contemporary tea party activists.

The first tea party in 1773 was put together by British subjects who later became American citizens.

Today's tea party supporters do not want their country to go further into debt, and they do not want the government spending their money on wasteful and unnecessary projects and on bailing out big business.

He's a turkey

In my enthusiasm I hit the post button twice on the Anglo-American tea party. I've replaced this tea post with a Bean video.

Americans have an expression which could be applied to many of their politicians - he's a turkey. Since American elections and the Thanksgiving turkey both fall in November, there's an underlying off-with-their-heads theme.

Here's Mr Bean at Christmas, carrying the idea to extremes.

You have to love a country that produced Jane Austen and Mr Bean.

Link thanks to Maggie's Farm.

December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jane

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Looking across the fields to St Nicholas Church, Chawton. Once Jane walked across these fields.

The women characters Jane liked best take long walks in the country.

Jane identified with Elizabeth and her hike across muddy fields in Pride and Prejudice. When Jane was a girl she loved rolling down grassy hills with her father's male students.

Perhaps in her own quiet way she was a rebel?

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Jane Austen portrayed by Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane (2007).

Jane Austen understood why happy marriages worked. Before the usual conclusion of her novels - a wedding - Jane has shown us enough married couples along the way - the Bennets, the Collinses, Admiral and Mrs Croft, the elder Musgroves, the Gardiners - to give us a fair idea of the characters who create enduring happiness, and those who don't. That's interesting to anybody who cares about human relationships, even people with no intention of marrying.

Kindness, broad-mindedness, respect for your spouse and personal self-mastery, shared core values, adventurousness, fortitude and humour - Jane suggests these are some of the keys to married happiness.

Jane received support and encouragement from her brothers, who helped her to get published. She may hold the record for books turned into movie scripts.

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Image: Chawton House, Hampshire, home to Chawton House Library's collection of literature and its fellowship programme. The Elizabethan manor house once belonged to Jane Austen's brother, Edward Austen Knight.

Today Chawton House Library houses a collection of books and manuscripts by women writing from 1600 to 1830.

Raise a glass to Jane Austen.

We usually edit this post every December 16th.

The Beowulf Manuscript

John J Miller writes -

For the English major: Harvard University Press has just published The Beowulf Manuscript, the first facing-page translation of the Beowulf poem plus the four texts that appeared with it in the original document once owned by Sir Robert Cotton. A good companion volume is The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation, a forthcoming book that includes pieces by Seamus Heaney, Robert Pinsky, and other contemporary poets.

London update

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Not riots but restaurants and hotels. In G O O P, Gwyneth Paltrow highlights some of her favourites, including the charming and affordable broom closet, which may remind my co-editor of a place he stayed on Sark; the Anchor and Hope - "The menu bursts with rustic and delicious traditional Brit food. Lentils with pheasant, roast leg of lamb for the table – everything is delicious"; and St John Bread and Wine - "The smoked mackerel left a big impact; it was served looking all gold and very special. The pork belly with crackling just melts in your mouth".

December 15, 2010

Runnymede Messenger

The Runnymede Messenger is a new Pro Constitution, Anti EU Newsletter which aims to inform email subscribers of the latest developments and campaigns on behalf of the Constitution and freedom.

If you have not subscribed, you can read part of the Messenger here.

Email subscribers receive the whole message of the Runnymede Messenger in a number of attachments.

One campaign which the Messenger describes is the Magna Carta Letter to The Queen. The deadline for the letter, which reminds The Queen that her responsibility to the British people is to defend their freedom and independence, is December 17th.

At this stage in the game it may seem hopeless to affirm and defend the cause of British independence and freedom, but all the great freedom campaigns took years of patient work- and communication between the campaigners - to see results.

December 14, 2010

The Brit behind Christmas Cards

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Christmas card in the collection of the British Library, which will help you email your greetings.

Somehow you just knew a Brit was behind Christmas cards.

Was there something in the air? In 1843, the same year that Dickens published A Christmas Carol, a Brit invented the printed Christmas card. The first in the world, the card showed a happy family raising a festive glass, while side scenes showed the family clothing and feeding the poor.

The man who commissioned it was Sir Henry Cole, the founder of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The painter was John Calcott Horsely, a member of the Royal Academy, who was known as "Clothes-Horsely" because he did not care to paint women nude. Printed in black and white and then colored by hand, 1,000 cards were produced for "Old King" Cole.

The tradition did not really take off until the Christmas of 1862 when printer Charles Goodall produced a simple card with the words "A Merry Christmas". Robins were added later, followed by holly, jolly depictions of St Nick and beautiful images of the Holy Family. Features like the "trick card", with a surprise generated by moving a tab, proved popular with some.

It was also around this time that the last-minute rush to the post office became a seasonal feature.

This post has been republished.

British Social Attitude report finds people less supportive of the welfare state than in the 1980s

The Guardian calls this being 'more Thatcherite'.

The working taxpayer might call it 'we're taxed enough; welfare claimants should get a job and take some responsibility for themselves'.

Thanks to Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds for the link.

December 13, 2010

Oprah and Charles Dickens

Oprah has selected two novels by Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations - for her book club.

The Wall Street Journal discusses this unexpected choice and Dickens's treatment of class issues.

I will go out on a limb and say that I don't think class issues are of any interest to any reader I know. I think that every reader, no matter how poor, identifies with and loves the characters of his choice completely free of class. The reader is part of the "great democracy of the mind". Match stick girls identify with princesses, and perhaps more radically, with princes or, in A Tale of Two Cities, with Sidney Carton.

Oprah gets that, I suspect.

I have been told by serious people that class certainly exists in Britain and by equally serious people that it does not. I've sometimes wondered if the classes assiduously caricatured by novelists weren't a fictional creation. The notion that the Victorians were entirely obsessed by class seems to overlook, probably intentionally, that the Victorians were equally focused on God, exploring the globe (and ruling much of it), and inventing the modern world. None of these subjects is of much interest to novelists unless, when the subject is God, they are Russian.

Dickens is a wonderful example of a writer who never lost his boyhood hatred of injustice. Entertainer that he was, he would have enjoyed being on Oprah's show.

Student fee 'savings' will be thrown away

Christopher Booker on how the money taken from students in the form of higher university fees will be thrown away on windmills in Africa. The windmills will provide a small and unreliable source of energy, just what Africans need, and the students will be proud to make this useless sacrifice.

Someone will make a profit. Who might that be?

Mark Steyn on multiculturalism and Britain's contribution to the world

Mark Steyn is on a roll as he talks about multiculturalism - a unicultural phenomenon found only in the West - no one else believes in it. Multiculturalism is an elusive enemy with just one meaning - our core value is that we have no core values.

"Snooty Europhiles should be forced to crawl in penitence"

The English men and women who opposed monetary union were right all along, says Boris Johnson.

December 11, 2010

In the bleak midwinter

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Wales / Image: © Bernard Wellings, Wales Directory

The other day a countryman told me that the snow still icily patching the ground was a sign of more snow to come. We shall see.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) reflected this idea in her poem 'In the Bleak Midwinter'. Simultaneously she evoked one winter long ago and the years and centuries since, snow falling 'snow on snow'.

Placing us in the cold midwinter that we know creates a bridge to the long ago wintertide stable. (For the scientifically inclined, Bethlehem temperatures are 6 degrees Celsius (42 F) today with hail showers expected tomorrow.)

We stand in the cold of the stable. Around us are the quiet, ruminating animals. Before us is the tired, blissful mother. Gazing at us is the child. His gentle command to love is guiding shepherds, wise men and generations of men and women.

Inevitably men and women fail sometimes to love. Wonderfully we also succeed.

There are many paradoxes at the heart of Christ's teaching, and they frighten some people. "Lose your life to save it" might be the most frightening. That it is also true cannot be known except in the doing.

Rossetti understood the paradoxes at the heart of Christ's teaching. In her poem, you and I are poor, and the only thing we can give is our heart. She makes it seem easy and right. She does not need to add that by giving our heart, we will be immeasurably enriched.

In the Bleak Midwinter has become one of our favourite carols. Here it is sung at Gloucester Cathedral.

The music is by Gustav Holst. The carol was later set to music by Harold Darke. Kings College Choir, Cambridge, sings the Darke version here.

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay.
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubin and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But his mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.

Charming plus formidable equals 'Debo' Mitford

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Deborah Mitford, who became the Duchess of Devonshire, could have faced down Henry VIII. She survived the Great Depression, the loss of her best friends and brother to war, a wandering husband and the deaths of three babies. Her memoir gazes back at 90 years, and attests to her unbreakable spirit.

Charles Moore reviews her memoir. She is also known for battling tax agents to save Chatsworth and for becoming one of Britain's successful entrepreneurs.

Her memories of childhood in the country are intense -

"As one who becomes hopelessly addicted to sticks and stones, gateways with their ruts and puddles, anthills, thrushes, freshwater springs, kingcups, dog roses in May (soon to be hips and haws), wood anemones under oaks, silent woods in August, milk-white walnuts in autumn, the smell of new creosote on chicken houses, saddle soap and horse manure – having to abandon all these made leaving Swinbrook, 'the land of lost content', hard to bear."

Perhaps all we need to know about Debo is that she had tea with Adolf Hitler in 1937, but, asked whether she would rather have met Hitler or Elvis Presley, she immediately answered: "Well, Elvis of course! What an extraordinary question."

December 10, 2010

Prince Charles responds bravely

With his car attacked by violent street protestors, the Prince acted calmly and courageously.

We are not surprised.

Christmas Crackers - filed under news you can't use

Along with "Father Christmas" and mince pies, crackers are a holiday staple throughout the Commonwealth. A cracker resembles an oversized wrapped candy, and when two people pull on either end, it splits with a bang produced by a card strip similar to that used in a cap gun. All manner of cheap goodies—paper crowns, trinkets, and jokes written on scraps of paper—spill out onto the dinner table. . .

So you may be surprised to learn that -

Britain has classified crackers as explosives since 1875, not long after Tom Smith of London invented them in 1847. The story goes that he added the "crack" element on the inspiration of a crackling log on a fire. Today crackers rank as Category 1 fireworks in Britain, meaning they can't be sold to anyone under the age of 16.

Sounds like just the silly sort of idea the government would think of today. But no, they prefer to generate real explosions among the young by raising tuition fees.

Don't the young demonstrators know that they are helping to make the world a better place by paying for the EU's budget increases with their higher school fees?

December 09, 2010

The Army moves in

To clear away snow in what may be the coldest December in 100 years. The Mail article includes a blizzard of photos.

"What makes a great Lear?"

A production with Sir Derek Jacobi may have it.

December 08, 2010

Bryn Terfel and Patrick Stewart reflect on crossovers and emotion in music and theatre

This morning I walked into the kitchen, and heard Libby Purves conduct an interview with Klaus Kruse, Bryn Terfel, Sir Patrick Stewart and Becky Unthank on BBC 4.

Libby must be one of the most empathetic interviewers ever, and she's also deeply and gracefully informed.

I can't say much about Kruse's Cart Macabre, staged in The Old Vic Tunnels, and I could not stay to hear the interview with Northumbrian folk singer and clog dancer Becky Unthank, one of the Unthank Sisters, but I was fascinated by what Bryn Terfel and Patrick Stewart had to say.

Stewart humorously noted that his years playing Shakespearean monarchs and sitting on thrones in tights was good preparation for playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard, in a space suit without pockets, on the Enterprise. He didn't seek the role. He was assisting a professor at UCLA in a Shakespeare seminar when a producer spotted him.

Stewart thought there was a certain noble tragedy to the series, and the language suggested Shakespeare. It seems more evocative of Tennyson to me - to go where no one has gone before, etc.

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Most serious theatre people thought Stewart was slumming in space, and he was terrified he wouldn't have a career when he left the deck of the spaceship, but he has. So there is one crossover.

Stewart has been playing Macbeth on stage. His performance will appear on television this Sunday. Libby found the production horrifying and unnerving. Stewart talked about expressing anger on stage, and how emotionally difficult it was for him because it returned him to the thrall of his father. He was afraid that he would be overcome by hatred. With self-command and technique he has won past these fears.

Recently Bryn Terfel has been touring the world singing Das Rheingold, Der Meistersinger and Tosca. His roles in these operas are demanding emotionally and musically.

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Raising claims he is "slumming" in the snow, Bryn has just released Carols and Christmas Songs

I can't say I really like Bryn's duet with Bing Crosby in White Christmas. Bing's voice seems overpowered by his. But I do love his version of In the Bleak Midwinter and the Welsh carol which Libby played.

Terfel, who has missed the births of two of his children because he was performing, and many other wonderful father-son occasions - for instance, glorious football goals - has been stung by accusations that he has ducked out of musical engagements. When travelling away from home, he says, "I take solace in a good story and a good meal and a good bottle of wine". He is also known to play golf.

More interesting, he refused to say he was an actor as well as a singer. "I cannot say I am an actor." Many who have seen him on stage might disagree, and the disagreement might stem from two different views of what acting is. Terfel believes he finds 'emotion and movement' within the music, and simply expresses that. Well, simply means years of unswerving dedication to technique.

The interview is worth listening to.

Words from a piper

As a piper, I play many gigs. Some of them are very strange. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so was to be buried in a pauper's cemetery in the Scottish Highlands. I didn't know the area, and got hopelessly lost. I finally arrived over an hour late. The funeral director had evidently gone, and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left, and they were eating lunch. I felt bad, and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down. The bottom was already covered with earth, so, as I didn't know what else to do, I started to play. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather round. I played my heart and soul out for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man. And as I finally played 'Amazing Grace', the workers began to weep. They wept. I wept. We all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and walked quietly to my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door, I heard one of the workers say, "I've nae ever seen NOTHIN' like that afore. . .
Greg Lance-Watkins

How science works

You probably heard about the arsenic-based life-form last week. Was it a new form of life? The sort of life we might be finding on other planets. Alien life? Speculation was rife.

Scientists see fatal flaws in the NASA study of arsenic-based life

By Carl Zimmer
On Thursday, Dec. 2, Rosie Redfield sat down to read a new paper called, "A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus." Despite its innocuous title, the paper had great ambitions. Every living thing that scientists have ever studied uses phosphorus to build the backbone of its DNA. In the new paper, NASA-funded scientists described a microbe that could use arsenic instead. If the authors of the paper were right, we would have to expand our notions of what forms life can take.

Redfield, a microbiology professor at the University of British Columbia, had been hearing rumors about the papers for days beforehand.

. . .As soon Redfield started to read the paper, she was shocked. "I was outraged at how bad the science was," she told me.

Redfield blogged a scathing attack on Saturday.

Other scientists have also examined the experiment carefully. Their conclusion: The experiment was flawed. They meticulously detailed the flaws.

What makes the arsenic experience different from the global warming brouhaha?

Scientists were the primary agents and they acted as investigators rather than mouthpieces. Politicians and profiteers were not backing a preordained hype-thesis nailed into public consciousness with large government grants.

Link thanks to Instapundit.

December 06, 2010

Wing Commander 'Butch' Barton

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"Small and slight in stature, in no way a heroic figure and unassuming almost to a fault, he was a wonderful leader and one of the best fighter pilots it would be my good fortune to meet," wrote a fellow Battle of Britain ace. He was that, and something else. Perhaps we can see it in his face. Beyond skill and determination, Barton possessed a transformative quality described at the end of this post.

Wing Commander 'Butch' Barton, who has died aged 94, "became a fighter ace during the Battle of Britain and went on to lead his squadron with distinction during the fierce air battles over Malta".

He was born in Kamloops, British Columbia. He died in October. We are late to pay tribute to him. Here is part of the Telegraph Obituary -

Barton was flight commander of the Hurricane-equipped No 249 Squadron based in Yorkshire when it was transferred to Boscombe Down on August 14 1940; the aim was to reinforce the hard-pressed fighter squadrons in the south. He was immediately in action, and the following day shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter and damaged a second.

Over the next three weeks, Barton's successes mounted. On September 3, now flying from North Weald in Essex, his Hurricane was hit by return fire from a Dornier bomber and he was forced to bale out. On his return to the squadron later in the day he was ribbed by his colleagues for allowing himself to be shot down by a bomber.

When his CO was wounded, Barton led the squadron into battle during the most hectic phase of the Luftwaffe's onslaught, sometimes flying four times in a single day. On September 15, the day of the greatest air battle, he shot down a Dornier bomber over the Thames Estuary and damaged a second.
By the end of the Battle of Britain on October 31, Barton had accounted for two more enemy fighters and damaged two others. He was awarded a DFC for his "outstanding leadership".

After retiring from the RAF in 1959, he returned to Canada with his ill wife (they had married in 1939) and cared for her and their son.

Here is the quality I love, which transforms even enemies. The Telegraph writes, "During his career he had always tried to maintain the highest standards of chivalry", rescuing enemy airmen he had shot down.

"His ashes were scattered on his favourite lake in British Columbia on the morning of September 15th, Battle of Britain Day."

Ave atque Vale.

Why is Greenland so rich these days?

Many of us are so busy we don't have time to notice what the politicians are doing to us.

Greenlanders did notice. They were cold, they were poor and their staying alive depended on being able to catch and export fish. This focused their thoughts.

In 1985 they voted to leave the EU, to leave EU red tape, to leave the EU Destruction of Common Fisheries policy.

The result: The average income of the Greenlanders today is higher than those of us living in Britain, Germany and France.

Alex Singleton has the story. Judith Hitchen of the Runnymede Messenger sent it to us.

St Gilbert of Fleet Street

Paul Johnson writes an ode to Chesterton.

December 05, 2010

Hallelujah!

Don't miss the Food Court Choir!

Link thanks to Christopher Booker.

December 04, 2010

Pamela Stephenson having fun on the dance floor

For a change of pace: Never mind the collapsing euro. Pamela Stephenson, the 61-year-old New Zealand-born clinical psychologist, author and grandmother married to Billy Connolly works hard to learn her dance steps during the week then smiles exuberantly and sweeps her Strictly Come Dancing judges off their feet.

OO7 has returned - as a computer worm

"Stuxnet. Shaken, not stirred." You can find the fascinating story here.

Oh! If only we could say thank you! Or as the Bard put it, Thanks and thanks and ever thanks.

Sunlit Uplands - a new blog

Daniel J. Cassidy, who lives in South Carolina, and has had a notable career with the George HW Bush and George W Bush administrations and in education reform and school choice, has started a new blog with the wonderful title Sunlit Uplands, a phrase used by Winston Churchill when he called on the Anglo-American world to defend civilization from the Nazis. Cassidy writes -

My blog is dedicated to a defense of Western Christian culture, particularly through a vibrant, organic cultural, social, and spiritual union of the English-speaking peoples, as envisioned by Sir Winston Churchill. Of course, my blog's title is from the great man's "Finest Hour" speech.

I include regular posts on Britain, annually post Her Majesty's Christmas Day Broadcast, and among the choral music that I post on Sundays are many videos from various British cathedrals and colleges. I include regular stories and tributes to Sir Winston Churchill, and enjoy reciprocal linking with such sites as The Monarchist, Piddingworth, Gates of Vienna, the Anglosphere Consortium, and the New English Review.

A few posts you may find interesting:

America Betrays Britain in Her Hour of Need

The Anglosphere: New Attention to an Old Idea - inspiring quotations from poets and Chuchill in this post

There'll Always Be An England - by the brilliant Mark Steyn

Happy Saint George's Day!

John O'Sullivan on Margaret Thatcher: A Legacy of Freedom

Rockford Institute Announces 13th Annual Summer School will Study the Anglo-Saxons

I post daily, so not every post directly pertains to things British, but I explained the underlying theme once as follows:

It is the idea that there is a natural, organic unity of the English-speaking peoples throughout the world based on their history, language and culture. They share a belief in "fair play," a dedication to individualism, have a strong sense of justice, and a willingness to stand up for the "little guy" and those who have been unfairly treated. These cultural qualities are the foundation for the great hallmarks of the English-speaking world - Magna Carta, habeas corpus, trial by jury, freedom of speech, common law and America's own Bill of Rights.

And because I believe Sir Winston Churchill stands as the greatest proponent of those ideals, I wanted the title of my blog to be associated with him.

Cassidy's blog Sunlit Uplands is full of energy, beauty and interest. His most recent post has video of British historian Andrew Roberts speaking about the Anglosphere.

If we can stand up for freedom, "the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands".

Churchill on socialism, millionaires and the foundation of our liberties

Years later, Churchill’s warnings about socialism have been realized. But we had not read his opinion about millionaires.

Some find it horribly frustrating that millionaires are good for a free people and a free economy (in contrast to the slaves of a mafia economy). Churchill saw the practical utility of the millionaire -

“far from depriving ordinary people of their earnings, [the millionaire] launches enterprise and carries it through, raises values, and he expands that credit without which on a vast scale no fuller economic life can be opened to the millions. . .”

Successful entrepreneurs - millionaires - good for millions of people - all those who have jobs due to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Richard Branson. . .Odd that intellectuals can't grasp this idea.

We recommend the following statement by Churchill about liberty, because we think it carries an important message to those interested in the British Constitution -

“The Declaration [of Independence] is not only an American document. It follows on the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as the third great title deed on which the liberties of the English-speaking peoples are founded.”

Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

December 01, 2010

Snow!

Several inches have fallen at Shawford, and snow is still falling. And though we know that this snow is but weather, we suspect that shares of global warming are falling, too.

Snow pictures from around Britain here.

UPDATE:

Six inches at 6 am in this southern corner of England, three miles outside Winchester.

"What is the sense of being against a man simply because of his birth? How can any man help how he is born?"

I love this story about Churchill, who was born on November 30th 1874. The story comes via Powerline, which has more details -

In 1932 Churchill's research on the Marlborough biography took him to the European battlefields on which his ancestor had staked his claim to greatness. Churchill continued to Munich and a possible meeting with Adolf Hitler. Martin Gilbert tells the story. . .

When in November 1932, shortly before Hitler came to power, and Churchill was in Munich doing some historical research about the First Duke of Marlborough, . . .an intermediary tried to get him to meet Hitler, who was in Munich at the time and had high hopes of coming to power within months. Churchill agreed to meet Hitler, who was going to come to see him in his hotel in Munich, and said to the intermediary: "There are a few questions you might like to put to him, which can be the basis of our discussion when we meet." Among them was the following question: "What is the sense of being against a man simply because of his birth? How can any man help how he is born?"

Gilbert comments:

This may seem a simple sentiment to us now, but how many people, distinguished people from Britain, the United States and other countries, who met or might have met Hitler, raised that question with him? So surprised, and possibly angered, was Hitler by this question that he declined to come to the hotel and see Churchill. . .

POWERLINE FOOTNOTE: My friend Glenn Ellmers reminds me of the best part of the story. In The Gathering Storm Churchill remarks: "Thus Hitler lost his only chance of meeting me."

AN IDEA ABROAD IN THE WORLD

By Jim Hodge

SHARE THE INHERITANCE is a small book, but when you pick it up, it is unexpectedly heavy. On closer examination, it has a sturdy cover - full of text and color, and inside, the pages are glossy and heavy. It is reminiscent of American coins of the 1950s: heavier because made of nobler stuff.

Inside, the pages shimmer with color pictures illustrating the text, which rolls down the page like a highway. The margin is taken up by a bicycle path of pictures, notes and thoughts that bear on the text of that page, but do not fit easily into the flow of the narrative.

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It is the size of a child's first reading book, and bears some similarities - it is bright-eyed, unabashed, sentimental and proud. It is not the story of a nation or an empire; nations and empires can as easily make great mistakes or accomplish wonderful things. It is the history of an idea which sprouted and grew in this tiny plot of land to send its shoots out into the world.

It may seem presumptuous to claim an idea which has lived in other forms and in other places, like Iceland and Greece. But the democracy claimed in this book is the one that lives in the world today. And this is attested as recently as November 23, 2010 by no less a person than the CEO of the mammoth publishing enterprise, Springer Verlag.

In an editorial examining the condition of democracy in Germany, he writes these two sentences, loosely translated from the German: "The individualistic ideal, in which the person takes his own fate in his hands through free will is the model first and foremost of Anglo-Saxon democracies. It is abroad today most of all in America, Canada, Great Britain - basically, however, in the whole Western World."

The story told in SHARE THE INHERITANCE begins beyond our view of the past, and traces the inklings of the idea through invasion, resistance, rebellion, assimilation, until the end result includes the genes of Welsh, Scot and Anglo-Saxon, of Danish Vikings and the French progeny of Vikings, and the distillation is a people who refuse to be conquered even when conquered.

Radiating from every page is not so much the triumphal joy of a Disney tale, but the pain and sacrifice of those who accepted the risk of standing for human rights in a sense far deeper than the tawdry use that is made of that phrase today:

The executioner who would not execute Alban, so the Romans executed both of them.

Boudicaa, the fearsome Celtic queen who made the Romans and their allies pay dearly for the rape of her daughters.

Alfred, the only king ever called the Great, because he held the idea of a nation together even in the fever-haunted swamps and insisted that a citizen should have access to great thoughts of Boethius, Augustine and others, as well as access to the Common Law.

William Marshal, the "CEO with a sword," who would not bend to threats against his family and property, and Stephen Langton, the re-discoverer of the Charter of Liberties, who would not bend even to the Pope.

The bachelor knights, who were willing to become The Dispossessed.

John Lilburne, who withstood prison for his beliefs and answered boldly in the Star Chamber. (What and where are the "star chambers" of today, and who are the judges?)

George Washington whose tribulations with his men are the stuff of legend.

Ernest Shackleton, whose epic return with his men exemplified the sacrifice required by the driving curiosity to know and discover.

Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell, who faced danger, discomfort and death in service to others.

Again and again, rulers are held accountable for their actions, and the governed affirm the right to "alter or abolish" the government.

Men and women of thought and science are also honoured: "Ockham's Razor has remained sharp all these years." The thought of Francis Bacon accompanies us to the present day. He understood the traps that lie in wait for pseudo-scientific minds - the three cascades: the cascade of availability, the cascade of information, the cascade of reputation. How neatly this explains the rise of Global Warming, and the difficult but necessary task of pushing hard fact through a cloud of assumption.

This book is a meticulous labor of love - a paean of praise to the idea of true liberty. Like a dwarf star, it exerts a gravity far beyond its size.

Thank you, Jim. Thank you on behalf of the idea and all those who love it.

Share the Inheritance is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

COPYRIGHT