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

Clown Aid

The Government is proposing a temporary cut in overseas aid. It should be seen not as a problem caused by our Covid difficulties but as an opportunity to reconsider our aid priorities. Aid should perhaps be focussed on poverty relief, education, governance and sustainability.
The current system is fraught with waste and abuse.
It is reported that the EU have been ‘acting like clowns’ after splurging £23million of overseas aid on more than 400 circus related acts. The British contribution to these bread and circuses was £3million.
The money was spent between 2014 and 2019.
The circus grants included £182,000 teaching tightrope-walking in Belgium, Ireland and Romania. Two troupes in Palestine got £138,000 in 2016 to help “foster unity and diversity”. Another in Ethiopia got £280,000 the same year, using some for a new big top.
Britain’s circuses received £721,000 which may have been for touring overseas rather than U.K. based education and entertainment.
The revelations have prompted circus jokes such as from German MEP Nicolaus Fest: “Many of my colleagues act like clowns, but I never thought they would actually fund the circus”.
“Taxpayers deserve better than to have their hard-earned money squandered on such extravagant comedy.”
And that is the tragedy. It cannot be too difficult for better uses to be found for the monies – either as aid promoting self-sufficiency or as benefits in our own territories where we have asylum seekers and our own people who need to be levelled up.

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!

The Rain Makes All Things Beautiful

The full verse continues Flowers and Grasses too. And, I like to think that it also makes houses beautiful.
Our house is now listed on the Weichert Luxury Homes site and as the sun comes out it can only look better in real life than it does in the photographs
The winter in Raleigh has been quite brutal from time to time. Not so bad as in the North East of the country but occasionally quite harsh with overnight temperatures in the lower twenties Fahrenheit.
So, today I was quite pleased to see that the beautyberry has survived in its exposed position and is showing some small tentative green shoots. The Hypericum is looking set to flourish and the early Azealia’s are acting as though Spring has finally sprung. On the other hand, the Crepe Myrtles and the Dogwood are evidencing distinct signs of remaining under the duvet until it is absolutely safe to come out.

Avoiding Disaster – the Message from a Stained Glass Window

I was recently idling in the Sacred Heart Church in Raleigh when I happened upon one of the stained glass windows depicting the early life of Christ.
At first sight it appears to be an idyllic happy family get together. Mary watchfully spinning, Joseph standing guard over the infant Jesus and the infant Jesus himself with a hammer and chisel in his hand working his will on a piece of wood.
But where is the Judean Department of Occupational & Safety, where is the Nazareth Child Protection Agency?
The child is not wearing safety goggles nor is he wearing protective gloves.
It’s all very well saying that the child has his own protective guardian angels, and perhaps they will stop the chisels going blunt or other damage occurring to the craftsman’s tools. And why is Joseph holding an axe and looking vaguely lost?
Overall, it’s a picture which asks more questions than it answers.
And perhaps the real message is that unless you have the angels on your side, whatever you are doing, you had better wear appropriate (protective) clothing.

Procrastination – the Thief of Time?

Recently the Harvard Business Review published an article by Chris Bailey on Research Based Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination. The premise of such articles is that procrastination is a bad idea. Whereas there is often a very good case to be made for not making decisions until an appropriate time.
Quite often the answer to many difficult situations which seem to require immediate action is to “Stand and Wait”. The problem might go away. The situation might change. The immediate answer might not be available but may appear after a night’s sleep. As always one should make haste slowly.
Innovation expert Daniel Burrus suggests that to get more done in less time, we should slow down. It may sound counter-intuitive, but doing so allows us to identify issues before they become problems, avoid tunnel vision, and embrace the bigger picture. Attention to the immediate moment can blind us to almost everything else.