It Takes a Queen

The Wall Street JournalHalf Farthing 1843 on October 6th carried a review by Judith Flanders of the book “Behind the Throne” by Adrian Tinniswood.
The review contained a fairly detailed report on the royal employees/servants. Queen Elizabeth for example has 1,200 people looking after her and her households.
Medals are given for long service in lieu of what are known to be extremely poor salaries. The royal households of previous centuries did little better. Under Queen Victoria, reforms to a chaotic private Buckingham Palace lowered the wages of the maids by almost two-thirds, to as low as £12 a year, while leaving unchanged the salary of the queen’s hereditary grand falconer (a position held by an aristocrat) at £1,200 per annum. Never mind that the she had no falcons, nor any intention of ever acquiring them.
At this point I have to express a personal interest in this story. My great grandmother worked in Queen Victoria’s Windsor Castle laundry. I suspect that the wages were less than a £1 a month and I can understand why it was not a long term career path nor a stepping stone on to greater things.
With such arbitrary penny pinching it is no wonder the Royals feared the revolutions which swept Europe and the United States in the late eighteenth century.
And perhaps the wonder is how the Royal Family managed to survive and prosper to the present day with such attitudes.

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 At the time of his prophecy, a good king in Judah had just been replaced by a king who put the country in thrall to Egypt.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!

On this day – 4th May

Readers of my blog may recall that on the 4th May I regularly raise a glass of Guinness or a G&T in memory of my late grandmother (Alice Luck) who was born on 4th May 1891.
I am currently reading Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland and he gives a brief account of Padraig Pearse’s life which ended as Pearse was executed on 4th May 1916 for being one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Uprising.
There is the story that as Padraig and his brother Willie set off from home to begin the Uprising, their mother told them not to do anything rash.
Grandmothers and mothers are always like that!
Sláinte mhaith to all

Perfidious Little Belgium

The New York Times in its review of The Darkest Hour refers to the film makers’ sham populism which is at its most evident when showing Churchill riding the London Underground and meeting The People (a motley mass of stiff upper lips and misty eyes).
Charles Moore writing in the Spectator opined that the film indicates when Churchill left Downing Street for the House of Commons to make his ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech he did so without knowing what he would say. (In the film) dear, patriotic citizens weepily beg Churchill to declare that we will fight on, so he decides that is what he will say in Parliament.
Obviously, in drama, one must not succumb to ‘the tyranny of fact’, but if you know that Churchill did not travel by tube, that he had thoroughly decided what he would say, that he always prepared his parliamentary speeches pretty much word for word, and that only a madman would go from Downing Street via St James’s Park station to get to Westminster, you cannot suspend your disbelief in the cinema.
The speech contains memorable lines – not just the We shall fight them phrases. In his speech Churchill outlined the immediate history which lead up to the British Expeditionary Force debacle and the Dunkirk evacuation. He highlighted but did not overdramatize the role of the Belgians:
“The king of the Belgians had called upon us to come to his aid. Had not this ruler and his government severed themselves from the allies, who rescued their country from extinction in the late war, and had they not sought refuge in what was proved to be a fatal neutrality, the French and British armies might well at the outset have saved not only Belgium but perhaps even Poland. Yet at the last moment, when Belgium was already invaded, King Leopold called upon us to come to his aid, and even at the last moment we came. He and his brave, efficient army, nearly half a million strong, guarded our left flank and thus kept open our only line of retreat to the sea. Suddenly, without prior consultation, with the least possible notice, without the advice of his ministers and upon his own personal act, he sent a plenipotentiary to the German Command, surrendered his army, and exposed our whole flank and means of retreat.”
Thus, we were betrayed by the Belgian royals and if there ever was a case for a full blooded republican coup, this must be it.
And yet the Treaty of Brussels was signed on 17 March 1948 which established a Western Union Defense Organization which in turn lead to the 1951 European Coal & Steel Community, European Economic Community (predecessor to the European Economic Community and the European Union) all of which would be headquartered in Brussels
Supranationalism does not have to be Socialist and Statist but you can see the advantages to the Belgians (like their Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak), it let their country punch above its weight and (hopefully) expunge the memory of their 1940 perfidy.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/apr/20/greatspeeches1

Blessed with Politicians

Larry PittmanIn North Carolina we are blessed with some of the most creative thinkers in the political landscape.
Take for example N.C. State Representative Larry Pittman
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, Americans were asking why would someone do something so terrible?
Experts say it’s often a combination of mental illness, adversity in the shooter’s life – and access to guns. Larry Pittman took the speculation a step further.
He speculated on Facebook that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had political motivations and suggested the Florida shooter was part of a conspiracy to push for gun control so they (the communist Democrats) could more easily take over the country.
Larry is well known for his ahead-of-the-curve thinking. Last year, he proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow North Carolina voters to repeal that part of the North Carolina Constitution, which declares that “This State shall ever remain a member of the American Union; the people thereof are part of the American nation,” and prohibits the state from seceding from the United States of America; The amendment is currently languishing with that committee which runs the Legislature’s timetable.
Larry has been a registered Republican since 1972, when he was 17. He posts that he is proud of the fact that without his votes Jesse Helms would have never won elections to the US Senate, nor Ronald Reagan’s  elections as President.
We are truly “blessed”.

For more information please see http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article200807499.html

Limits to Brussels

Recently Leicestershire Council was caught recommending that residents not eat more than six sprouts with their Christmas dinner.
Quite rightly this has provoked mocking comment across the board. Some comments embracing the spirit of the bureaucrat e.g., what size should the sprouts be? Are sprouts fungible? Can they be transferred within the family? And so on.
Others are focused on the waste of money in having this idea and thinking it worthwhile of being broadcast, when there are so many other issues requiring attention such as education, potholes etc.
Margaret Thatcher was advised the government is about the three S’s – Streets, Schools and Security.
Tweeting about Brussel sprout consumption does not comply with this template. The tweet raises questions about the spending and governing habits of Leicestershire Council. How many of these soft-focus jobs are there, which do not address the hard questions of how we get better value for money for the residents and tax payers? Who had the bright idea in the first place and what was the approval chain which permitted its publication?
There was no scientific justification for the limit suggestion and subsequent explanations suggest that the tweet was aimed at food waste. Yet, most food waste takes place in food manufacturing and its retail. That is where the tweeter should take his/herself in his/her white coat, hairnet and wellingtons and properly focus on waste.
Meanwhile the Department of You Couldn’t Make It Up continues to expand and flourish.

Every Child’s Right

I am always coming across relatively small charities which make a big impact for what they do. I once contributed to a clothing bank for street youth who had been arrested for being idle and who were destined to receive harsher sentences compared to those who seemed respectably turned out.
I experienced a similar epiphany last week when the Diaper Bank of NC came to my attention.
There is a serious shortage of diapers and other personal sanitary items among the poor in North Carolina. Diapers can cost as much as $100 a month per child and are not covered by SNAP (also known as food stamps) or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – better known as the WIC Program).
A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics found that women in need of diapers reported more difficulty with stress management, depression, and coping with trauma—which negatively affects their child’s health.
Another study conducted by Feeding America, called In Short Supply: American Families Struggle to Secure Everyday Essentials, found that 48% of families who cannot afford basic household necessities delay changing a child’s diaper to make their diaper supply last longer.
All across North Carolina, there are stories of families who are struggling to provide diapers for their children to keep them dry, clean, and healthy. It is not just infants who are affected. Tears come to the eyes when you hear of young girls who cannot afford personal sanitary items and so stay away from school rather than be shamed.
The Diaper Bank of NC is a 501c3 organization. No goods or services are exchanged for donations, which are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.