18 Sep 2017

Only Connect

“Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.” E.M. Forster

7 Sep 2017

Tonio Kröger

Just read an old school report from my VI form German teacher who said I was a bit like Tonio Kröger when I was 17. Tonio who?

4 Sep 2017

Alliston: prosecution of cyclist for furious or wanton driving

In 2016 more than 400 pedestrians were killed on UK roads. One of these casualties, Kim Briggs, died following a collision with a teenaged cyclist, Charlie Alliston, on 12th February 2016. This is a very rare occurrence and has received much publicity. We are inured to the 400 or so pedestrian deaths linked to motorised traffic but not to the vanishingly rare occasions that are linked to bicycles. Alliston has just been convicted of 'furious or wanton driving'. The best blog on the subject is at The Cycling Lawyer: The Alliston trial and here is a link to a good summary in the guardian.

20 Aug 2017

anti-Israel is not anti-Jewish

I'm outraged by Israel's treatment of the people of Gaza and the other Palestinian territories it occupies. I'm almost as vexed by the special status given to Israel by the West, which results from its position as the USA's outpost in western Asia, from which the USA can try to control the region's oil resources for its realpolitik ends.

14 Jul 2017

13 Jul 2017

urban myth of devils interval banned by church

Is it an urban myth that the so-called 'devil's interval' was banned by the Catholic church in the middle ages? (It is also called the diminished fifth tritone and it's the distinctive interval in Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze.)

26 Jun 2017

Gerald Priestland The Future of Violence

Comments on Gerald Priestland's The Future of Violence, Hamish Hamilton, 1974.

My main problem with this book is that Priestland does not really consider ‘structural’ violence. He dismisses it as ‘injustice’ that does not count as violence because it is not ‘physical’ (page 10-11). On the contrary, economic and social forces can be just as effective as physical forces in perpetrating violence. This is for at least two reasons. Firstly, economic and social forces can starve people into submission or death just as effectively as physical violence. Secondly, they can be - and often are - backed, beneath a thin veneer of civilisation, by physical violence from the same powers as carry out the structural violence.

There are countless examples of structural violence:
  • benefit sanctions and unemployment that starve people into submission;
  • the soft cops of social services that remove people’s children (and will call in the police if the parents resist)
  • schools that punish pupils in all sorts of ways short of coproral punishment. 
And so on.

Priestland is also mistaken about the role of the media in manufacturing consent. He thinks ‘the media have tried to cultivate sympathy for the Biafrans, the Bengalis, Uganda Asians, gipsies, Ulster Catholics and inner-city coloured people’ (page 12). But contrast this with the history of racism towards foreigners in the British media. In the 1930s there was the hatred towards migrants shown by the Daily Mail when it campaigned against allowing Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany into Britain. Most of the media had racist stereotypes of black people in the 1960s and 70s as muggers, druggies and sexual predators. The media today, especially the Daily Mail, are equally vitriolic about Muslims, asylum seekers and EU migrants. The targets may vary, but the racism of the media remains the same. Against that background it is hard to believe that there was a golden age of tolerance to foreigners in 1974 when Priestland wrote ‘The Future of Violence’.

23 Jun 2017

Know Your Rights at Age 14

Age 14? Welcome to the world of work!

Hans Christian Andersen - The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep - silhouette The general rule is that you can get a part-time job from age 14 - but it can only be in what is considered ‘light work’. This means you cannot do any job that could affect your health and safety or get in the way of your education. Examples of work which you can do are:
  • Delivering newspapers and leaflets
  • Shop work, including shelf stacking
  • Office work
  • Hairdressing
  • Working in a café or restaurant, but not in the kitchen
  • Work in hotels and other places offering accommodation
It’s worth checking with your Local Authority before taking on unusual work to be sure it doesn’t contravene local regulations and bylaws

How long can you work?

  • You can work for a maximum of two hours on a school day and only between the hours of 7am and 8am and 5pm and 7pm.
  • You can work on Sundays between 7am and 7pm but, again, only up to two hours.
  • You can work up to five hours on a Saturday between 7am and 7pm.
  • During school holidays you can work five hours a day from Monday to Saturday but, again, only up to two hours on Sundays.
  • You must have a break from work of at least 2 weeks a year.
  • You must have a rest break of 1 hour for every 4 hours worked.

How much pay can you get?

If you are under the compulsory school age of 16 you are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage and you do not have to pay National Insurance.

FountainSoda.jpg Other rights and responsibilities

  • You can go into a bar and order soft drinks.
  • If convicted of a serious criminal offence (in a Youth Court), you can be held in secure accommodation for up to 24 months or get a fine up to £1,000.
  • Wearing a seatbelt is considered your own personal responsibility, so buckle up.
  • Your parents can be granted a justices’ licence which will let you take part in public performances abroad. This can include singing, playing, performing, being exhibited for profit, taking part in a sport or working as a model. (Children and Young Persons Act 1933, section 25.)

Useless factoid

Wedding Bells (1921) - 4
Under a nearly 80-year-old law in New York state, children as young as 14 were allowed to marry if they obtained permission from both their parents and the court. The law was abolished yesterday so now you can only get married in New York state if you are 17 or over and young people aged 17 to 18 will need parental and court approval.

More info

See www.lawstuff.org.uk/at-what-age-can-i (published by the renowned Coram Children's Legal Centre, based in Colchester, Essex)

14 Jun 2017


Yes. I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

Warum in die Ferne schweifen?

Warum in die Ferne schweifen,
Wenn das Gute liegt so nah?
Lerne nur das Glück ergreifen.
Denn das Glück ist immer da.

(Goethe, "Erinnerung")

11 Feb 2017

Great Man Theory of History

The Great Man Theory of History is that history can be largely explained by the impact of "great men" and the occasional "great woman". Examples would be that Hitler caused the Second World War and that Rosa Parks sparked off the Civil Rights movement by sitting on a bus.

12 Jan 2017

equinox and solstice

Great resource by Greenwich Royal Observatory at equinoxes-and-solstices. A year on Earth can be split into four as we orbit the Sun. Each fourth is marked by an equinox or solstice.

2 Jan 2017

Nicol Spence

Obituary in Higher, royalholloway.ac.uk alumni magazine:
Professor Nicol Spence (1924-2015)

Violence in the Bible

Violence in the Old Testament is mainly real and warlike physical aggression, consisting largely of Moses and others smiting their enemies, whereas violence in the New Testament is largely imaginary.