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January 31, 2011

British history and a historic court decision on Obamacare

Dramatic news: Federal Judge Roger Vinson has just issued a ruling declaring the full scope of ObamaCare unconstitutional.

"It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” [Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only. Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended."

What they intended came from their careful reading of British history - what was bad and what was very, very good. ("The British Constitution is the greatest fabric of invention in history." - John Adams, later US President)

Some people hate America, but there is no doubt that America has helped millions of people from all over the world to live free, creative, prosperous and happy lives. She has done this by trying to stay true to Constitutional ideals and by making drastic improvements (ending slavery and discrimination).

Those constitutional ideals are fundamentally opposed to the soft tyranny of the nanny state - in Britain or America.

Update: More about the decision here.

Composer John Barry - Out of Africa, Bond, the Lion in Winter, Born Free


John Barry OBE at the Royal Albert Hall / Image: Wikimedia Commons

John Barry OBE wrote hundreds of scores, and some of them seemed to capture the essence of a movie - Out of Africa, Dances with Wolves, a score of James Bonds, Petulia, The Lion in Winter, Cry, the Beloved Country, and Enigma.

Born in York, Barry was brought up in cinemas (his father began work as a projectionist and ended up owning a chain) so he was inhaling movie music when he was young. He never attended university, but he learned to read and write music and to play the trumpet. He started his own band in the Fifties, and began composing and arranging. He had his breakthrough with James Bond.

He loved to “create a poetic universe”.

One of his last works was the score for Enigma. It sounds a farewell.

Egypt: What a pity

The Mubarak family has British connections. President Mubarak is married to Suzanne, whose mother was Welsh. Their son Gamal is an Anglophile with a house in London. His two greatest heroes are Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

You would think that the Mubaraks could have figured out that establishing the rule of just law and free trade, as the British did in Hong Kong, they could have protected the Egyptian people from corruption and their combined creative energies would have created a prosperous Egypt. Instead, corruption is rife, and partly as a result, unemployment is sky high - a tragedy for the countless young men and women who cannot find jobs. All too soon it will be a tragedy for their children.

The only cases where the masses have escaped from grinding poverty. . .the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. . .There is no alternative way of improving the lot of the ordinary person that can hold a candle to the productive activities of the free-enterprise system. . .(Milton Friedman)

Just law and incorruptible officials is part of that equation.

Under Sir John Cowperthwaite’s administration, Hong Kong became a city with six million prosperous and largely peaceful citizens under a non-interventionist government whose foundation was British common law. it was also knit together with the institutions, charities, trusts, schools, associations and societies which help people to help each other.

Were the Mubaraks greedy or ignorant?

Then again, the British aren't being taught about the free economy and rule of law they created.

January 28, 2011

A little fun

A cold day in Shawford, but sunny, with snowdrops blooming on the island, so despite my best intentions to stick online, I dug a bed in the garden. Now, with many online tasks still lying ahead of me, here is a post for fans of fun, which I'm sure includes all of us.

Brother Roger gave us Iain Hollingshead's second collection of Unpublished Letters to The Daily Telegraph, I Could Go On. . .

It follows in the witty, temporal vein of the first collection, Am I Alone in Thinking? A sampling -

When I'm 70

"SIR - I read your article on a local council giving older people advice on the safe fitting of slippers with great interest. As a 67-year-old motorcyclist I am wondering if my local council might offer me advice on how to put my boots on safely - at taxpayers' expense, naturally."

Martin Hands, Ilkeston, Derbyshire

"SIR - Despite being 70 I still often cover the back of my envelopes with 'Burma' (Be undressed ready, my Angel) and 'Norwich' (Knickers off ready when I come home), albeit without much response."

Dick Kemp, Greenhithe, Kent

Views on the EU

"SIR - It seems to me that while Britain remains in the EU, the only bit of our sovereignty we are likely to retain is our sovereign debt."

Mike Bridgeman, Market Lavington, Wiltshire

"SIR - I have a Swiss friend to whom I once mentioned that Switzerland had not joined the EU.

'Ah, no', she said. 'We may be small, but we are not stupid. . .'"

Patrick J. Ellis, Eggesford, Devon

A pun for Americans struggling with blizzards

"SIR - In light of the current weather is the Al Goreithm for global warming wrong?"

A. Grant, Epsom, Surrey

No discrimination at airport check-ins

"SIR - This is a brilliant and simple solution to the controversy over racial profiling. All passengers will be required to step into a booth that scans for explosive devices and automatically detonates any device found. Harmless individuals will be released immediately after being scanned. Muffled explosions, contained within the booth, will be followed by an announcement that a seat has become available for standby passengers.

It's a win-win for everyone."

Robert Readman, Bouremouth, Dorset

Why not more letters from women?

You may have wondered that, too. Are British men cornucopias of humour?

"SIR - . . .Do men possess better communication skills, write in a manner which is more likely to appeal to your editor, or is it possible that they have more time to hone their missives?

Yours, in haste, between cooking and washing up supper,"
Gillian Ellis, Oakwood, West Sussex

Remembrances of Time Lost: School reports

"When the workers of the world unite it would be presumptuous of Dewhurst to include himself among their number."

"Unlike the poor, Graham is seldom with us."

"The improvement in his handwriting has revealed his inability to spell."

The Telegraph's small book contains hundreds such epistles.

I Could Go On... by Iain Hollingshead (Aurum Press) is available from Telegraph Books for £9.99 plus 99p postage and packing. Please call 0844 871 1514 or go to

January 27, 2011

UK engineer develops own life-saving implant

This is a story to warm the cockles of the heart. You're dying of heart disease, and there's no solution except death or complicated open heart surgery, a mechanical valve, and blood-thinning drugs which may not work. But you're an engineer so you engineer your own solution.

Engineers are rarely portrayed as heroes, but they have the 'right stuff', as a glance at the website of the Royal Engineers suggests.

Told in 2000 that the aortic root in his heart was in danger of splitting, and working against deadline, British engineer Tal Golesworthy used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer-aided design (CAD) with rapid prototyping (RP) techniques to manufacture "a tailor-made support that would act as an internal bandage to keep his aorta in place". It was not a straightforward task, and Golesworthy couldn't have done it without an element crucial to the best in British history - teamwork.

Golesworthy enlisted the help of Prof Tom Treasure, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Guy’s Hospital, and Prof John Pepper, a surgeon from the Royal Brompton Hospital. In 2004 Golesworthy "became the first recipient of his own invention after undergoing surgery at the Royal Brompton Hospital", followed by 23 others.

The Engineer - who else? has the details here. Link thanks again to the inestimable Instapundit.

January 26, 2011

Happy Australia Day


An amazing nation of people. Their ancestors, who came as political prisoners and criminals, brought British traditions of justice and representative government with them. In the last one hundred years, Australians have sacrificed much to defend freedom. Their team spirit helps them to survive and live in some harmony with a beautiful but hostile landscape. . .

Oscar nominations for British artists

The King's Speech received 12 Oscar nominations. Well done.

And there are other British actors and directors (scroll down) who are contenders for an Oscar. They include London-born director Lucy Walker for the Wasteland.

Blocking rogue cancer gene could stop disease

British scientists have discovered a "rogue gene" which helps cancer spread around the body and say blocking it with the right kind of drugs could stop many types of the disease in their tracks.

"The challenge now is to identify a potent drug that will get inside cancer cells and destroy the activity of the rogue gene," said Andrew Chantry of UEA's school of biological sciences, who led the research.

The report comes from the University of East Anglia. We're hopeful that their cancer researchers have higher standards than EAU climatologists. Their work is based on decades of major British discoveries into genes.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

January 25, 2011

Climategate redux

We were surprised when various learned committees gave Climategate a clean bill of health. The signs of illness were too grave to be overlooked.

Today, having reviewed the earlier reports, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that the University of East Anglia’s Climategate inquiries were not sufficiently transparent and they failed to properly investigate key issues. In a word: they were dim.

Unfortunately it's not clear to us how the latest doctors intend to save the patient known as SI (Scientific Integrity).

Another thank you to Instapundit for the link.

Quantum Entanglement Could Stretch Across Time

Wired reports -

In the weird world of quantum physics, two linked particles can share a single fate, even when they’re miles apart.

Now, two Australian physicists have mathematically described how this spooky effect, called entanglement, could also bind particles across time.

. . .Physicists have figured out how to use entanglement to encrypt messages in uncrackable codes and build ultrafast computers. Entanglement can also help transmit encyclopedias’ worth of information from one place to another using only a few atoms, a protocol called quantum teleportation.

In a new paper posted on the physics preprint website, S. Jay Olson and Queensland colleague Timothy Ralph perform the math to show how these same tricks can send quantum messages not only from place to place, but from the past to the future.

. . .'You get to skip the intervening time.'

That could be nice.

Link thanks to Instapundit.

Robert 'Rabbie' Burns


Robert Burns's poems and songs are widely loved and quoted around Burns suppers, held tonight on every continent to celebrate the anniversary of his birth. (The British Antarctic Survey wouldn't miss it.) The haggis arrives, and by good fortune is met by the whisky, which renders it harmless. Speeches in Burns’s honour are made, and his poetry and songs - poems and songs of justice and brotherhood, warmth, humour, love and lament - are recited and sung.

Born on January 25th 1759 in Alloway, Burns was deeply affected by Scottish folk songs, classical, biblical, and English literature. Their strengths and beauties appear in his poems and songs. His voice, uniquely his and Scotland's, now belongs to everyone.

Burns's song A man's a man for a' that has become an anthem of defiance for all those who feel crushed by cruelty, indifference or tyranny. Two Scottish songwriters - Jim Malcolm and Paolo Nutrini - cover it here and here.

Is there for honest Poverty

That hings his head, an' a' that;

The coward slave-we pass him by,

We dare be poor for a' that!

For a' that, an' a' that,

Our toils obscure an' a' that,

The rank is but the guinea's stamp,

The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a cuif for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Professor David Purdie suggests that Burns inspired Abraham Lincoln -"The Bible lay on the bedside table every night that Lincoln spent in the White House, but it was not alone. Beside it lay his copy of the collected works of Robert Burns, many of which Lincoln knew by heart, having learned them as a child in the family log cabin in Missouri.

"And that is what the poet says to me. That great lyric poetry with its graphic imagery and verbal firepower, as in Burns's The Slave's Lament, may cross oceans and yet still penetrate to the innermost labyrinth of the human heart."

Burns was a many-faceted artist. We love his affection for a little, frightened mouse, and we and many others have shared his fear as he looked backwards and forwards down the years. (Hannah Gordon's reading of To A Mouse is a gem.)

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,

O, what panic's in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

Wi' bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,

Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Like us, Burns had experienced the bittersweet farewell. Here Eddi Reader sings Burns's Ae Fond Kiss as we lift the cup of kindness and share our affection for Burns and for our readers -

Thine be ilka joy and treasure, 

Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure. 

This post, first published in 2009, has been edited.

Bobby Boyle

Born today about one hundred years apart, Bobby Burns is the more famous, but Bobby Boyle (we are taking liberties with his name) has affected our lives as deeply.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Born in 1627, the son of the Earl of Cork, Robert Boyle went to Eton when he was eight and travelled in Europe in his early teens. In Florence he studied the "paradoxes of the great star-gazer" Galileo Galilei, who died in 1642.

Boyle grew up to be a devout Christian and a scientist who based all his work on experiment and proof. He assembled a research group, performed controlled experiments, and published descriptions of his procedures, apparatus, and observations. Unusually for a scientist, he described his failures as well as his successes.

With Robert Hooke’s help, he constructed an improved air pump to create a vacuum, and proved that air is necessary for sound, fire, and life. He went on to explain the inverse relationship between the volume of a gas and its pressure in Boyle’s Law.

The first scientist to develop a method of chemical analysis, Boyle is one of the founders of chemistry, the science concerned with the composition, structure, and properties of matter, the changes it undergoes during chemical reactions and the transfer of energy between substances. Understanding these will be crucial to efficiently heating our homes and to developing medical drugs and all our electronic gadgets.

Boyle was passionate about understanding the world. He never married, and left his wealth to charity and science.

January 22, 2011

TS Eliot Prize attracts a cloud of poets

The poetry collections of ten poets are in competition for The TS Eliot prize, which honours the year's outstanding collection with an award to the poet of £15,000. The prize is donated by TS Eliot's widow, Valerie Eliot, who presents it.

Last year's reading of poetry was so popular, it has been moved to a larger hall. Nine of the ten poets will take the stage tomorrow at Southbank's Royal Festival Hall.

The poets include Seamus Heaney with his collection Human Chain; Simon Armitage with Seeing Stars; Annie Freud with The Mirabelles; John Haynes with You; Pascale Petit with What the Water Gave Me; Robin Robertson with The Wrecking Light; Fiona Sampson with Rough Music; Brian Turner with Phantom Noise; Sam Willetts with New Light for the Old Dark; and Derek Walcott with White Egrets.

'If I were able to cross your threshold, and speak to you myself. . .'

'If I were able to cross your threshold, and speak to you myself. . .' King George VI speaks to the British people at the beginning of World War II.

We are not responsible for Islamic violence

For the first time ever, I agree with Tony Blair, who said the West was not to blame for Islamic extremism.

We have described the history of violent Islamists. They would certainly qualify for our 'dim' category.

January 21, 2011

The cold feast day

The Eve of St. Agnes was last night, and it was cold and moonlit. This morning the grass was frozen and the wind was bitter. Our hands turned numb and stung, though we were gloved as we dug the garden. Fog descended, and freezing cold rose out of the ground.

Keats captures the weather well in his Eve of St Agnes, which he finished in January 1819. Global warming had not yet set in so Keats wrote -

ST. AGNES’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold: . . .

Keats's poem tells a supernatural story. I'm not fond of this type of tale, and I'm too tired to explain what I'm about to say, but having experienced silvery frosts, wild deer apparently reassured by my voice, sunsets of transparent green, flights of bells, shadowy moonlit fields and the delicate radiance of morning shimmering, I am here to say there are things in Britain that are in this world but not of it.

The coldness of my hands and the pale and opalescent sea flints that litter the soil I dig speak of this world, but I am aware I stand on an ancient world once buried under the sea.

The misty light, doubtless explained by marine clouds, solar radiance at the 57th parallel and the Gulf Stream, creates a sense of eternity, as if we moved backwards and forwards through time as readily as a rider crosses a beach.

But once looked at, noticed, observed, examined, commented on - it vanishes!

January 20, 2011

Remembering Montfort and the bachelor knights


Kenilworth Castle, where they made their last stand.

They died to defend honest government and the first Parliament, established on this day in 1265. Those who survived became the Dispossessed. But that was not the end of their story or ours.

The full story appears in Share the Inheritance, which you can purchase at AMAZON UK or

January 19, 2011

'Am I my brother's keeper?'

Jordan Rice: Save my brother first.

Terrific British men

Since I moved to Shawford six months ago, I have met some terrific British men.

These men tend to be highly motivated, self-reliant, and no-nonsense. They return my phone calls immediately, and are always polite.

They drink tea with milk but without sugar. They are physically fit, drive vans or 4WDs and are never obsequious.

They like to do a job well and they like the sterling to compensate them doing it. They are skilled at what they do, and have certainly spent far more than ten thousand hours honing their skills.

At the sound of my American accent, they usually mention they have travelled to America, or they intend to. Their idea of vacation is America or the Amazon - some far-flung place.

They bear the vicissitudes of government interference and taxation in ways which are stoical and imaginative.

They love land - green fields, woods and streams - and if they can they will buy it.

Each one of them is distinctly different from the other - you would never confuse any one of them or their trades - electrician, floor layer, plumber, chimney sweep, mechanic. Still, they seem to share some admirable characteristics.

Admittedly this is a small statistical sampling.

I respect them.

'With vulnerability and fortitude'

Golden Globe winner Colin Firth has some lovely and profound things to say about acting, suffering and George VI.

Floods bring out Australian teamwork

Rain or shine, Australians have always been good at teamwork.


Rockhampton, Queensland / Image: Skippy Aus

In Warracknabeal, west of Kerang, a four-mile-long levee bank built mostly by residents seemed to have saved the town from a record inundation after it experienced half its annual rainfall in just a week.

But the threat had not entirely passed as the levee was leaking and 177 homes were still at risk of flooding.

The tsunamis of water which have hit Queensland will see Aussies all over the country pitching in to rebuild.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd confidently predicted that 'Everyone will roll up their sleeves'.

We expect no less. We wish them the best.

January 17, 2011

John Gross - the best-read man in Britain


John Gross / Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Telegraph writes -

John Gross, who has died, was encouraged by the security and happiness he experienced as he grew up in wartime England. Before the bombs began to fall on the East End, his father sent John, his mother and baby brother to Sussex, and then Egham in Surrey, where he attended Mrs Gittins's private school, then Egham Grammar School, and imbibed 'a certain idea of England' which included fair play, the King's English, trial by jury, the Magna Carta – and virtues that would lead South American traders 'to seal their bargains on the word of an Englishman'.

He did not experience anti-Semitism in England.

From City of London School, Gross won a scholarship, aged 17, to read English Literature at Wadham College, Oxford. He went on to an extraordinary career as the Literary Editor of the New Statesman and TLS, senior book editor and book critic of The New York Times, and a regular contributor to the Spectator, the New York Review of Books, Commentary and The New Criterion. He seemed to know everything there was to know about English literature, and had real sympathy for 'the more obscure toilers at the literary coal face'.

He wrote The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters: English Literary Life since 1800 (1969); Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of A Legend (1993); and A Double Thread: A childhood in Mile End – and beyond (2001). He edited After Shakespeare (2002), 'a superb anthology of writings about and inspired by Shakespeare' and the 'Oxford' books - the Oxford Book of Aphorisms (1983); Comic Verse (1996); English Prose (1998); Essays (2002); Literary Anecdotes (2006); and Parodies (2010).

John Updike wrote about the Oxford Book of English Prose - 'I wonder if there has ever been an anthology quite like it – with so vast a field – the virtually infinite expanse of English-language prose – for the anthologist to roam. . .I have been rapturously rolling around in John Gross's amazing book for days'.

John Gross often criticised 'the hypocrisies and damaging policies of the bien pensant Left'. He was a person of erudition, sense and 'transparent integrity'.

Ave atque Vale.

Letter from a correspondent at Liverpool and Port Sunlight

Howard Maunders of Beautiful Britain writes -

We have just returned from a few days in Liverpool. I remember that I sent you a picture some time ago of on-going development at the Albert Dock, which is a World Heritage Site. I thought that as work developed the project might start to look better, but no. . .it doesn’t.

It’s hard to understand how Liverpool Council could ever have granted planning permission for the monstrous development of the black boxes that virtually obscure the historic Liver Building in the background.


The developer says that the buildings are “already adding to the quality and diversity of the waterfront’s architecture." No, I don’t think so, but when I checked out various web forums, some Liverpudlians seem to like them. Each to his own, I suppose.

[So the old gives way to the new. In Howard's image, the building to the left looks like a ship about to slide into the water. -Cat]

The Liverpool Maritime Museum had a magnificent exhibition from Shackleton’s Antarctic voyages. The black and white photographs were excellent, a testament to the ship’s photographe, Frank Hurley.

The Slavery Museum outlined a darker side to Liverpool’s past.

We also visited Liverpool’s two cathedrals. We last visited the Roman Catholic cathedral in the late 1960s, shortly after it opened. As a building, I love it, just as I enjoy Coventry Cathedral, so it’s not that I have an aversion to all new architecture! The Roman Catholic Cathedral is welcoming and intimate, whereas the Anglican Cathedral is rather austere and is a traditional cathedral. It was completed in 1978 but looks hundreds of years old.

Photography was allowed in the Roman Catholic Cathedral, but I switched off the flash so as not to destroy the ambience. No photography is permitted in the Anglican Cathedral but that did not discourage the visitors from overseas and no-one challenged them, or asked them to switch off the flash feature, so I sneaked a couple of (non-flash) photos of the live size Nativity figures in readiness for Picture of the Moment - Christmas 2011. As Baden-Powell said, ‘Be Prepared'.

The crème de la crème was a return visit to Port Sunlight, a ‘garden village’ created by the ‘Soap King’, William Hesketh Lever for his workers. It has over 900 Grade II listed buildings and the 2nd largest war memorial, after the Cenotaph at Whitehall. The Lady Lever Art Gallery was truly impressive. Apparently Lord Lever commissioned 30 architects to build his village. Maybe Liverpool should have done the same when they decided to ‘improve’ the waterside development?

Temperatures are currently much warmer now than just before Christmas. It’s 10 degrees C today in Whitworth, whereas in mid-December it was minus 16.5 degrees Centigrade (which converts to 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit). Brrr, that is very cold, even for Lancashire.

You may remember that we bought a copy of ‘Share the Inheritance’. We gave it to a relative as a Christmas present. He read it from cover to cover and enjoyed it so much that he vowed to buy one for a friend.


[We used this stunning photograph by Howard in our book. The Langdales in the Lake District look as they probably did 10,000 years ago. - Cat]

We may have to curtail our roaming holidays if fuel costs continue to escalate, but we get 60 mpg on long journeys, which is much more than on short runs. If I was a politician I could argue that it’s more cost effective to travel even greater distances as my mpg is so much higher. As Disraeli reputedly said - 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'

[We are all recently familiar with the truth of that remark. According to Wikipedia, "The term was popularised in the United States by Mark Twain (among others), who attributed it to the 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881). . . However, the phrase is not found in any of Disraeli's works and the earliest known appearances were years after his death. Other coiners have therefore been proposed. The most plausible, given current evidence, is Englishman Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke (1843–1911)."]

Thank you, Howard. Hope we see those cathedral pictures sometime.

For more on Antarctic journeys in this website, see Extreme Journeys & the Men Who Made Them.


You can purchase Share the Inheritance at AMAZON UK

January 14, 2011

The bravery of women


The bravery of women begins when they are girls. Image from Share the Inheritance.

Faced with a gunman who was shooting and killing men, women and children all around her in a Phoenix parking lot last week, bystander Patricia Maisch had the nerve to snatch his loaded magazine when he stopped to reload. The gunman was then tackled by wounded 74-year-old retired colonel Bill Badger, and the killer was further subdued by Patricia and other bystanders.

The other day I saw an essay about women during the English Civil War. I knew next to nothing about them, and was impressed (but not surprised) by their energy and bravery.


Corfe Castle was held for six weeks by Lady Mary Bankes, assisted by her daughters, her serving women and no more than five soldiers. When she finally surrendered, Parliamentary troops wrecked the castle. Her home was in ruins, but that was not the end of the story for Lady Mary Bankes. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In Britain in the 17th century, Charles I declared that he ruled as he liked by divine right. Parliament defended the constitutional principle that the king could not govern without Parliament's consent. The argument turned into Civil War (1642-1651), involving thousands of men and women. The women fought for both sides - and for peace.

Like the men, the women were very brave -

. . .Numerous women, particularly in England, took active parts in the struggle. Queen Henrietta Maria was seen as the strong will behind the vacillating indecision of her husband, King Charles, and showed indomitable spirit in travelling abroad to raise money and supplies, which she brought back to Yorkshire in 1643 - landing at Bridlington under fire from Parliamentarian warships - after which she led an army for a while as a 'generalissima' (her own expression). At the other end of the social scale, during the siege of Worcester, 400 'ordinary sort of women out of every ward' worked daily, often during bombardments, on the defences, and suffered casualties accordingly. At Bristol, a woman [felicitously] named Dorothy Hazard and her friends won admiration for rushing to seal a breach in the wall with sandbags, and at the siege of Lyme, in Dorset, women acted as firefighters, guards, sappers, loaders and snipers.

In the last stages of the struggle, Jane Lane won lasting fame by helping Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester" (Pitkin Civil War Guide).

A number of women -

"took command of garrisons and defended besieged fortresses. . .Lady Brilliana Harley successfully held off the Royalists for three months at Brampton Castle. . .The most notable of all such chatelaines was the Countess of Derby, who twice stood siege at Lathom House, Lancashire. These were struggles on an epic scale, in which both sides suffered dreadfully from artillery fire, hand-to-hand fighting, famine and disease - but the indomitable Countess held out to the end, and survived the war undefeated" (Pitkin)

Women for peace

In 1648, women protested the increasingly horrible Civil War and the taxes levied to pay for it. In one of the first peace protests in history, hundreds of women crowded into Westminster to present a petition to end the war. Katherine Chidley, a preacher, described how starving children hung upon their mothers, "crying out for bread" but their mothers had nothing to feed them. Parliamentary troopers rode the mothers down.

f_kingston_lacy_NTPL:Richard Pink.jpg

Kingston Lacy House / Image: National Trust / Richard Pink

Kingston Lacy House, built after the restoration of Charles II in 1663-5, was a rather fine thank you gift to Mary Bankes for holding Corfe Castle.

Constitutional rule was also restored, and was reinforced in the Glorious Revolution a few decades later. One of the reasons the Revolution was called glorious was there was no bloodshed.

The brilliantly produced PITKIN Guides are published just up the road in Andover, Hampshire.

January 13, 2011

Thomas Tallis -the sound of many voices

Ivan Hewett writes in the Telegraph -

Take a look at Classic FM’s Hall of Fame, and there among the poll of listeners’ favourite classical pieces you’ll find a surprise. Coming in at number 89, just ahead of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and only just behind Albinoni’s Adagio, is Thomas Tallis’s sacred vocal work Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui – “I have no other hope (than God)”.

Why should an immensely complex piece in a dead language have struck such a chord? Part of the reason is the current vogue for spiritual music, which has sent CDs of chants by Spanish monks and The Priests soaring up the album charts. But there is something extraordinary about this particular piece. It’s like an ocean of sound, where individual voices are glimpsed for a few seconds before they vanish back into the mass.


. . .It’s thought the piece may have been premiered in 1570 in the octagonal banqueting hall of the Duke’s country residence of Nonsuch Palace, with the choirs dispersed on the galleries above the audience. This would give the music an added spatial dimension, sometimes appearing to ricochet back and forth, sometimes rotating around the listeners’ heads. . .

January 12, 2011

Riding the seas of prosperity

History shows that the freest countries with the fairest laws were and are the most prosperous. But don't let that trouble your pretty little heads, Chavez, Obama and Putin.

The cause and effect relationship between freedom and prosperity will mean little to politicians who are, essentially, on the dole, not so much earning a living as milking the public. It will mean a great deal to John and Mary Q Public who want their country to be prosperous so that they and their children can find jobs.

Mary and John Q may be interested in the drily titled 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, released by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. The Index measures "10 categories of economic freedom: fiscal soundness and openness to trade and investment, government size, business and labor regulation, property rights, corruption, monetary stability and financial competition".

The Index shows that six of the top nine countries had British origins and took the lessons of freedom to heart. Unfortunately for poor John and Mary Q, the US ranking has fallen to 9, and the United Kingdom ranking has fallen to 16. Their slide is the result of interfering and costly government policies.

The 2011 Index

1 Hong Kong
2 Singapore
3 Australia
4 New Zealand
5 Switzerland
6 Canada
7 Ireland
8 Denmark
9 United States
10 Bahrain
11 Chile
12 Mauritius
13 Luxembourg
14 Estonia
15 The Netherlands
16 The United Kingdom

Basing his studies on poor and statist Europe and prosperous and free market Britain, Adam Smith explained how it all worked some time ago.

"The plot thickens" - Met Office predictions and the Government

Met Office forecasts have been viewed as less than dazzling since its predictions for a "barbecue summer" were met by three sodden months.

Of course, it's possible the Met just had the wrong year. Last summer was a beauty.

Now we learn that the coalition Government may have forced the Met Office to withhold its prediction of a hard, cold winter. If so, the Tories and Lib-Dims may enter an exceedingly dim period of their own confidence-wise.

Of course, it's possible the Government just wanted to protect us from bad news.

The BBC has now made a Freedom of Information request demanding to know the truth.

The BBC has its own dim history of claiming that global warming was a given and ascribing every weather change to it.

Of course it's just possible that the BBC's move north has altered its balmy views.

We await developments on our barometer with bated breath.

Link thanks to Instapundit.

January 11, 2011

Working hard, defended by SAS

A dairy farm in Arnside, Lancashire. Image: Howard Maunders, Beautiful Britain

Farmers in Britain work hard to make a living and put food on the tables of the British people. They would like to think their MPs are representing them, not fiddling expenses. Fortunately they have a retired major from the SAS to defend them (see below).

Whistleblower from SAS helps to put corrupt MP behind bars

MP David Chaytor has gone to prison for stealing from the British people. Chaytor was convicted in court of making bogus expense claims.

John Wick is the former SAS major who helped break the corrupt expenses story.

Major Wick helped to leak more than a million expense claims by MPs to the Daily Telegraph. Many of the claims were dubious. Some were flagrantly false.

Wick noted it was a sad day for the MP who was jailed, but "a damn good day for democracy."

Wick's flame has singed several other members of Parliament, who also will be tried for corruption.

"The names of those members of the SAS who have died on duty are inscribed on the regimental clock tower at Sterling lines. Inscribed on the base of the clock is a verse from the The Golden Road to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker":

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: It may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
Across that angry or that glimmering sea. . .

January 10, 2011

200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four

The King's stammer and selflessness

When Colin Firth received the Desert Palm actor achievement award for his performance as George VI from Helen Mirren, who had received an Academy Award for her performance as The Queen, his daughter, he charmingly bowed.

Today in the Telegraph Charles Moore explains how George VI overcame his stammer.

The British people's love for the King came from his selflessness.

You might say this selflessness was part of the King's character. Or you might say it was part of his Coronation Oath, described in Share the Inheritance (see far column on this page).

January 07, 2011

England's Ashes


Image The Telegraph

When they are good, they are very, very good.

England's Ashes win attributed to professionalism and unity.

Eat locally

You do, of course. If you're in Devon, you eat locally because you can hardly be eating in Barcelona while sitting in Saunton.

The latest dioxin cancer scare from Germany suggests that this is a good idea. Buying from local farms is best.

For the local economy and for your health for a local farmer will be accountable to you.

And looking at these lovely, brown Devon eggs, why on earth would I want to buy eggs from Germany?

That would be dim.

January 06, 2011

Twelfth Night's epiphany


A roe fawn experiencing snow for the first time.

Twelfth Night, the twelfth day of Christmas, the end of Christmastide and the eve of Epiphany, is traditionally a time for things which have been concealed to be revealed.

Shakespeare knew this. In his play Twelfth Night, there is confusion and dismay before everyone's disguise finally falls to the stage. Those who have been concealed are revealed, and they become greater than anything they feared in a joyous epiphany.

Alfred the Great had the beginning of a momentous epiphany on Twelfth Night when Vikings attacked his court and he was driven out into the snow, fleeing for his life with his wife and small children. His epiphany could have ended there, in disaster. But he was open to further revelations.


Alfred's life was brilliant with epiphanies. His willingness to learn from them and his courage in meeting disaster transformed his country and our lives.


Lundy on January 6th 2011

In Shakespeare's Tempest, the passengers of Alonso's ship absorb new insights after they are shipwrecked on Prospero's island. In responding to the epiphanies which accompany crisis, each is challenged, and some find moral and intellectual renewal.

At the end of the Tempest, Miranda cries,

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in 't!

O, wonder! That Shakespeare, who had written about so many villains, should remain so positive about us in his last play.

We live in a world which has managed to taint even the phrase brave new world.

Yet I believe that each of you reading this hopes to see people as Miranda and Shakespeare did. And seeing Earth's 'goodly creatures', you want to cherish them.

That is an epiphany worth having any night.

This post has been edited and republished.

The Runnymede Messenger January 2011

Judith Hitchin has excelled her previous effort. The January Runnymede Messenger is up and full of valuable information for freedom-loving readers. Judith has included historical information provided by Graham Wood about political parties and the corruption of Parliament. It's a revelation.

January 05, 2011

Kathryn Gray discovers a supernova


Kathryn Gray / Image: Blastr

Kathryn is Canadian and ten years old.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) confirmed the discovery.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

On a Devon walk, remembering the Countryside March

We had a wonderful, wild walk through rain up through woods, out and over the high green pastures of the Downs and skirted the stormy Atlantic on high cliffs. We saw working farms, horses in hedged fields and ewes on the high hills big with the lambs they were carrying.

In 1997 it was from places such as these that three-quarters of a million people came to London from rural England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to march in defence of field sports and to defend their way of life.

They were hunters and hunt followers, foresters, gardeners, farriers, river bailiffs, gamekeepers, fishermen, farmers, "dukes and drainers" and artists. Deborah Devonshire described them in Wait for Me. She and her daughter collected a badge from David Hockney that read, 'END BOSSINESS SOON', which sounds about right.

Rural Britain has no interest in bossing others. Why are MPs so keen to boss them?

Sports is one of the world's best ways for people to meet happily, get to know each other and unite. But fox-hunting had purpose, too. If you had seen the misery in a farmer's face as he described the foxes waiting for the ewe to give birth and stealing her lamb before she could even rise to her feet to defend her young, you might feel less sympathy for the fox.

We understand that perhaps 5% of the people who supported the ban have not eaten lamb.

The countryside people marched "right into Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall where for centuries groups of demonstrators from every conceivable minority have marched for justice or recognition" (Wait for Me). They protested at No. 10 Downing Street, but Mr Blair "had gone to ground".

The country people have not received justice yet. We trust their time is coming.

Terence Rattigan's 100th

Sir Terence Mervyn Rattigan CBE (10 June 1911 – 30 November 1977) was "one of England's most popular 20th century dramatists. . .an expert choreographer of emotion, and an anatomist of human emotional pain."

Celebrity came early with the play French without Tears. He lived luxuriously on the profits of a string of theatrical successes, including The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea, and Separate Tables.

Then, after John Osborne's Look Back in Anger exploded on stage, Rattigan was suddenly pronounced old-fashioned and put out with the rubbish.

His work is experiencing a revival on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

His play on the last days of Lord Nelson, A Bequest to the Nation, has already been revived.

We said a few days ago that we were going to post about dumb dim things, hopefully without being too dim ourselves.

One of the dim things, in my opinion, is publishing the sexual preferences of artists who have tried to be discreet and private and have broken no laws. The modern fascination with this seems intrusive, excessive and pathetic.

The claim is made that we gain insights into an artist's work by knowing what he or she had wished to keep private. Really?

January 03, 2011

A very smart man - one of the few who took down the Shark - Richard Pendered

Richard Pendered, who has died aged 89, was one of the small team of Bletchley Park codebreakers who broke the “Shark” Enigma cipher used by Nazi German U-boats during the Second World War; his work also led directly to the sinking of the battlecruiser Scharnhorst.

He was just 18 when he joined the Government Code and Cipher School (GC&CS) after a year spent reading Mathematics at Magdalene College, Cambridge. It was 1940.

By November 1942, with the wolf packs sinking ever increasing numbers of Allied ships and the codebreakers working night and day to try to find a solution, tempers became frayed. The Admiralty sent Hut 8 a tersely written memorandum, urging it to pay “a little more attention” to Shark and complaining that the Battle of the Atlantic was the only area where Bletchley was having no impact. Then a “pinch” of two “short signal” codebooks, captured by the Royal Navy destroyer Petard off Egypt, allowed the codebreakers back in. It was a vital breakthrough, to which Pendered contributed with what Hugh Alexander called “notable individual feats”.
The Telegraph has the details.

We owe Richard Pendered a great deal.

He was "a generous and patient man".

Ave et Vale.

A dumb dim light bulb

In 2011, we've turned over a new leaf.

We are going to post about dumb dim things.

Here is the first, the eco-light-bulb that costs triple the old bulb, is a toxic mess to dispose of and casts a gloom so crepuscular you'll be buying candles to light your rooms. (We've tried them. We do not exaggerate.) The light cast by the new bulb may also trigger epileptic attacks and migraines.

Thank you EU and British politicians.

This was not well thought-out, except for those lighting companies poised to make a bonanza.

But oh, yes, energy costs for the new bulbs will be lower until the government raises them.

Link thanks to Instapundit.

"Spotting and plotting" National Coastwatch is on the job


Image: National Coastwatch Mablethorpe, the latest station to open.

Hannah Finch has a terrific article in the Western Morning News about the National Coastwatch Institute, which has more than 40 stations round the country, manned by women and men volunteers, many of them young, who are the "eyes" of the Coastguard. They stepped in when the government in its greater wisdom decided to save money by closing coastguard stations.

Led by Jon Gifford, now 81, the 2,000 mariners, naval officers and sailors watch for life-or-death incidents along the coast, and are trained to deal with them.

Bless them.

January 01, 2011

Fantastic fireworks and incandescent Book

The London New Year fireworks blazed round the Eye and Big Ben.


2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, which was created with remarkable team effort, and blazed the Gospel into the hearts of men and women around the world - wherever the British carried it.

In 1605, James I, that small, awkward king who was graceful on horseback but so crippled he could barely walk, sat down four score scholars and told them to produce an English translation of the Bible that would be acceptable to all Christians. It had already been done by the brave Tyndale almost a century earlier, and various others, but it would be done again in an unforgettable way and by a method that might appeal to you.

The teachers and scholars, all but one of them ordained priests, were the sons of sailors and butchers, ministers and lords. They met in six companies for six years, each individually translating the Biblical book he was assigned. He (yes, all men) then passed the finished text to the others in his company. Together they reviewed each other's work, hammering out what would stand.

Then they passed their text to the members of all the other companies for amending so every translator reviewed the entire Bible, which then went before a General Committee of Review.

They based the King James Bible on their reading of the original Hebrew and Greek and on a review of all previous translations by Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, and Rogers, Jerome, Erasmus, and Luther, as well as less known translations in French, Spanish, and Italian, Chaldean, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon.

They were particularly inspired by William Tyndale, whose voice is heard throughout.

Some mistakes made by earlier scribes remained uncorrected; a few mistakes were grievous, like translating the Greek word for children, τεκνα, not as the children of God, but the sons of God.

Still the Bible in English had a profound effect because it carried the word that God loves justice and that freedom is God's gift to every person.

And those translators created music with the breath of the Spirit. Many who face injustice and death, go to the King James translation of the 23rd Psalm for strength and consolation and feel that Spirit -

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Or they go to John 1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The creative force of the Word - an incandescent subject for the New Year.