Bolshevik Roots

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In an earlier generation, during the grouse season the final Earl of Sefton was having lunch in the Jockey Club rooms in Newmarket. Cold grouse was on the menu. His Lordship ordered one. ‘Terribly sorry, m’Lord, there are none left.’ ‘But it’s barely one o’clock.’ ‘Yes, m’Lord, but the Duke of Norfolk is giving luncheon to the Queen and her party in the private dining room. There were only a dozen grouse, and he’s taken them all.’ Sefton banged the table. ‘That sort of thing breeds bolshevikism”
Courtesy of The Spectator Nov 27 2020

Pinocchio Effect

Most of us learned from the adventures of Pinocchio not to utter falsehoods, because if we did, our actions would betray us and  we would be found out lickety split
Whilst we are all aware of the dangers of untruths, many people decide to chance their luck and see what they can get away with.
Hence my interest in the East Anglia Daily Times of the 16th which contained a letter from Mr. John Bailey of Stanton who indicated that the U.K. does not have a single trade deal in place for when we leave the EU.
As I was pleased to point out in today’s EADT, we signed a trade deal with Japan earlier this month and there are 23 other trade deals signed.
So what prompted Mr Bailey to go forward with his Bremainer falsehood.
I would like to think that it was just ignorance and a feeling of being hard done by.  I suspect, though, that it is from the Bremainer bubble for whom nothing about Brexit can be good and any assertion, truthful or otherwise denigrating Brexit is welcomed.
Whatever the origins of Mr Bailey’s opinion, we would all do well to remember what happened to Pinocchio when crossing the line between truth and otherwise.
The exchange of correspondence is attached.

Darwin Award Nomination

It’s never too late too late to nominate someone for a Darwin Award.
Earlier this month the Sun reported that last May, Lee Williams, a hospital patient in University Hospital of Wales removed his oxygen mask and lit a cigarette.
Thirty eight patients had to be evacuated during the ensuing explosion and fire. A doctor and two nurses were treated for smoke inhalation and shock.
The explosion closed the hospital for two weeks. Damage was assessed at £50,000.
Williams ended up in intensive care and almost died.
Currently our man is enjoying the Queen’s hospitality having received a five year sentence, which hopefully will be long enough to protect the rest of us, whilst he appreciates the dangers and evils of smoking.

Connectivity

Today, the 15th August commemorates the 75th anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) day. My own family tree has three uncles, a father in law and at least one cousin who served in the Pacific.
They were quite reticent about their services. So, instead of celebrating my late near relatives I would like to recollect Ray Dunningham who lived in Raydon, Suffolk and who was taken a prisoner of war in Singapore in 1942. With the end of the war he was repatriated to England and because many of the FEPOWs’ physical condition was so atrocious they were sent home via the Pacific and the United States so that they could be “fattened up” before they reached England.
They crossed the U.S. by rail and every evening they were looked after by the residents of the towns.
One evening Ray’s host asked him where he came from.
“From England” – “I know that but where?”
“You wouldn’t know it, but it was near Colchester” – “But where?”
“You wouldn’t know it, it was a small village” – “But where?”
“You wouldn’t know it, it is very small – I’m from Raydon” –
“I know it, you have a very fine airfield there.”
“Ain’t no airfield in Raydon!” – “There is now, because I built it!”
Such was the connectivity of the world and the changes it wrought even to the small communities of Suffolk
Even now the village has a population of less than a thousand. The village wasn’t helped by the closure of the railway station and railway.
Ray’s memory lives on in his legacy to the Masonic Lodges in Hadleigh which provided for the Master’s & Senior Warden’s chairs.
And the purpose of this anecdote?
To highlight the debt we all owe to all to those who participated in the theatres of war. Like our hero, many of them came from yeoman stock salt of the earth families and their worlds like ours were changed for ever.

Another Fine Mess

Sometimes you just have to admire someone, even though you know it may encourage them to pursue otherwise questionable activities.
One such person is Glyndwr Wyn Richards of Aberystwyth who was recently convicted in Aberystwyth Magistrates Court of using a vehicle in a way likely to cause danger or injury.
Which is a pity as Mr Richards apparently took reasonable steps to avoid any such danger or injury.
He needed to move his non-functioning Skoda and what could be more appropriate and efficient than to hoist it on top of his VW Passat, tie it down as securely as possible, drive slowly and be supervised/escorted at all times by a man on foot who could and did give warning when the load shifted.
There were various comments by people who gave a knee jerk reaction to something that definitely is not on the list for a Darwin Award. The best comment came from Dyfed-Powys Police who said “That’s no way to move a second vehicle.”
So, raise a toast to Mr Richards.
Faced with an insurmountable problem he marshalled his resources and harnessed his brain cells to provide a viable solution. His activity did not injure anyone and he brightened our day.

Hahoter Hatov השוטר הטוב

If you need a break from Trump, Brexit, Boris, Hunt, Iran and so on I cannot recommend more highly the Israeli police series Hashoter Hatov (Good Cop)  It’s available on Netflix and ticks all the boxes:

  • It’s cross cultural.
  • It’s intellectual (foreign language with subtitles), but occasionally risqué.
  • It’s family centered from the police station to the actual families.
  • It’s only 30 minutes for each episode so you can binge-watch without guilt.
  • The humour and situations range from the real to the bizarre into the surreal but always credible.
  • Finally, it let’s you laugh at other people’s problems without excessive schadenfreude.

It’s my find of the month!

 

The Call of the Dinner Plate

There’s always room for a good political joke. I heard this (disparaging) remark about a politician I admire and thought it worthwhile repeating for cleverness and appropriateness for using against someone else.
“…spends his time trawling through the calendars of each village and town council to see when their next village fete or open day is so that he can fill his face at the trough. I’ve never known a man turn up to so many free lunches. He’d attend the opening of a letter if there was a sandwich in it for him!”

Hessel Street, London – an Appreciation

On Sunday 16th December I attended a late Chanukah party at the Triangle Jewish Genealogical Society, just up the road from Raleigh, North Carolina.
One of the features of the afternoon was a Kvel & Tell and I delivered the following introduction to the film “The Vanishing Street” which focusses on Hessel Street in London’s East End.

“Ladies & gentlemen and Debbie, very many thanks for inviting me here today to Kvell and Tell about the film, “The Vanishing Street” (which is showing behind me – but with the sound switched off) which tells of Hessel Street in London’s East End.
We are going to deal with Hessel Street’s place in East End social history and its place in my family history and in my wife’s family wanderings.
What qualifications do I have for being here today?
First my great grandparents lived in Hessel Street in 1883 when it was called Morgan Street. In 1901 Alice’s grandfather stayed in the adjacent Christian Street when he was a jobbing tailor en route to the United States from Roumania.
Hessel Street is famous as a Jewish Street Market.
Eric Levene, author of Feinstein’s Theory of Relatives writes of Hessel Street, much in the manner of Damon Runyon with his ability to place people and events in time and geographical location

“In the beginning, there were no Jews.
But by the 1920’s, Hessel Street market, in the heart of London’s East End was full of them. There were butchers, bakers and chicken soup makers, costermongers and a host of wheeler-dealers and luckless shpielers.
A 200 yard long and maybe 10 yard wide sardine tin, crammed full of vibrant Jewish life and, as nature would have it on occasion, death. They came from all over. There were Poles & Russians, Latvians and Lithuanians, Moldovans, Ukrainians, Rumanians and Georgians, plus a multitude of others who had escaped the pogroms that had been raging across Eastern Europe.
And remarkably, they all got along with each other without the need to argue; unless they needed to”.

Anyone of a certain age with an East London connection will be aware of Hessel Street and its place in social and mercantile Jewish East End and many more will have heard tales of it from parents and grandparents. There is a Facebook Group of Hessellters and they meet and hold informal lunches in Westcliff, Essex near the mouth of the Thames.
The Vanishing Street is a wonderful 20-minute documentary film and is readily findable on Youtube. It was made in 1961 as the bulldozers moved in to demolish the street’s decrepit old buildings.
By then the market was almost a relic.
This film purports to show a typical day in the life of the street, and its declining but still vibrant Jewish community
The film begins with a smartly dressed surveyor with his theodolite, measuring up the street for demolition as the market stalls are being set up and the locals, meet, chat and go about their business
We see old men with black hats and long beards, sizeable ladies with loud voices, Wurst and viennas, fish (including I think a conger eel), pots and pans, dresses and toys, a barber’s shop and a dress factory with dozens of women at their Singer sewing machines.
By 1961 the market was almost a relic. The London Docks were moving to Tilbury and people were being decanted out of the area into nice new more sanitary housing in the new towns of Harlow and Basildon.
There were still many Jews in the East End but nothing compared with a few decades earlier.
Economic progress and the Blitz had moved them on.
The joke was always that Stepney Borough Council always saw its purpose as demolishing the buildings which the Luftwaffe had missed.
In the early 20th century Hessel Street was the East End’s main Jewish market, open every day except Saturdays
The narrow street was filled with small shops and stalls
Chickens and other poultry were kept in cages; buyers selected one, had it killed according to kosher ritual and dressed while they shopped elsewhere
There were also many wet fish stalls, and general shops
Possibly it was the last of London’s ghetto markets
I have a cousin in London who recalls that her mother always bought her chickens from the “Jews Market” because of the freshness and the quality – even though the Watney Street market had cheaper chickens and was closer to her home.
In Hessel Street, and in much of the East End, Jewish life has been replaced by Bangladeshi life – and there are hints of this in the film.
The kosher poulterer has been replaced by the Halal butcher.
Jewish market stalls have been replaced by Bangladeshi stalls, selling very similar things
Jewish poverty has been replaced by Sub-Continental poverty and Jewish striving by their striving
What is said today about the people fighting their way into Europe absolutely echoes what was said about Jews between 1880 and 1905 when millions fled from Russia and Poland
Then as now there were people traffickers.
Then as now people were fleeing desperate circumstances
Then as now there were the unchanging complaints about immigrants and their strange ways of life
In 1871, before Jewish immigration, the average occupancy of a Whitechapel house was just over nine people, in 1901 it was close to 14
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 120,000 Jews in the East End
Now there are very few. As the years passed, people moved away to more comfortable places.
Where there were over 100 synagogues – today there are only three
Seen today, The Vanishing Street is a nostalgic film but not a sad one
The East End was somewhere to flee to and somewhere to escape from.
Thus we see in the film, the continuing dynamic of street life and everyday life because as we all know “For things to remain the same, everything must change”
And that concludes my Kvell and Tell on The Vanishing Street.
Thank you for your patience and attention”.

It went down well and there was a lively Q&A afterwards. The East End diaspora is everywhere!

How the West was Won

I have occasionally blogged on the joys of Aberystwyth and its place as a University town in the far west of Wales. The story is that its railway line escaped axing in the Beeching era, not because the line was profitable but because it ran through five Labour held parliamentary constituencies.
It is a nice place to visit, not just because we have family there but because of its indomitable spirit of activism despite the efforts of the City fathers.
This spirit is exemplified by the sign I saw in a car window.

Does it mean that Aber is overrun by ravening hordes who will smash a car window in search of stale (or otherwise) food. No, it means that if due to idiosyncrasies in the licensing laws, the pie shops close before throwing out time at the local bars, then there is no profit to be found scavenging in the parked vehicles looking for left over sea gull food.

Steroids & Caffeine

JeremiahFrom time to time I read one of the lessons at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh. The first reading on July 22nd is from Jeremiah. Normally I like to avoid Jeremiah and Job as they are not the most cheerful of prophets and I prefer to enjoy the more declamatory words of Isiah, Ezekiel or Nathan.
The reading on the 22nd is about the negligent “shepherds” of the people who deserved better leadership.
Much of Jeremiah’s work was in Judah’s capital Jerusalem. He tried to keep several kings faithful to their stewardship  amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing. Jeremiah was blunt about what was right and what was not, and he suffered at the hands of the powerful because of his outspokenness. At the time of his prophecy, a good king in Judah had just been replaced by a king who put the country in thrall to Egypt. Jeremiah raged against this policy.
The reading is Jeremiah’s response to the negligent leaders. I first read the passage as a reproachful piece but looking at the readers’ notes I was encouraged to see that it is proclamatory and that I should not let Jeremiah sound like he’s on Valium. If anything, he should sound as if he is on steroids and caffeine.
He was a vigorous, courageous, outspoken man. He thunders on behalf of a God outraged at the powerful people’s neglect of their responsibility to the poor. “I gave you the privileges of a shepherd, you mislead and scatter the flock!”
Any linkage between the events and characters of 200 B.C. and the present day are purely unintentional and coincidental.
On the other hand, I think I’ve known some readers for whom Valium is the default mode when tackling the readings. But for me, for this week at least it’s a case of onwards with the steroids and caffeine!