Saturday, 31 December 2011

My Top Ranking Posts of 2011

My last posting of 2011 looks at the top stories on my blog, as given by "Google Stats".

Top of the list is "Lionel Logue and the King's Speech" with (according to Google) 1,121 page views! This is my review of the film, and also some of the background that I discovered researching Lionel Logue. I'd recommend the film if you haven't seen it,

Next on the list is "Tweedledum and Tweedledee", a pre-election post summing up the achievements - or as I saw it lack of achievement - of two Jersey politicians who almost always voted the same way on significant matters. Unlike some bloggers, I regard "the power of the blog" as marginal compared to other media, but it was curious that both of them came more or less bottom in the October elections. The reason, of course, isn't really the blog posting, it's the fact that other voters were not oblivious to the near Trappist lifestyle of those States Members.

"There's No Place Like Home", a transcript of James Thurber's brilliant article, which I posted when taking a break from "News from Nowhere" in the summer. It languished off the scale, then about a month ago, shot to the top, and is still getting hits, Word of mouth is clearly getting out. If you haven't read it, it is a look at a traveler's phrase book - well, the English parts. I defy anyone to read it with a straight face. I wish I could be half as funny as Thurber - he set a high standard. Here's a taster:

Trouble really starts in the canto called `In the Customs Shed.' Here we have: `I cannot open my case.' `I have lost my keys.' `Help me to close this case." I did not know that I had to pay." I don't want to pay so much." I cannot find my porter.' `Have you seen porter 153 ?' That last query is a little master stroke of writing, I think, for in those few words we have a graphic picture of a tourist lost in a jumble of thousands of bags and scores of customs men, looking frantically for one of at least a hundred and fifty-three porters. We feel that the tourist will not find porter 153, and the note of frustration has been struck.

From 2010, "Jersey's Sex Offenders Register - Why the Delay?"  comes next. This was a proposition launched in 19th August 2009, carried unanimously on 08 October 2009, and still not in place when I was writing in November 2010. Thankfully we now have the law in place, and it would be interesting to know if some of the suggested costs materialised. There seem not to have been any court challenges, for example, by those on the list. Also while Jersey was putting its own law into place, the UK was moving on with pilot schemes on "Sarah's Law" after the murder of Sarah Payne, which allows significantly at risk members of the public such as single parents to check that they are not entering into a relationship with a listed sex offender. This is now being rolled out across the UK. Jersey, as usual, seems to be lagging behind in this area, and something that should be taken up with the new Council of Ministers.

An example: A single mother meets a man who she likes but is worried that she does not know enough about his background to allow him fully into her family's life. She telephones the local police and requests information about the man. "If the mother is given the information, she will be asked to keep it confidential - and could face civil or criminal action if she does not" The police will check the background of the man because the request has come from a mother - someone who is directly responsible for children. Officers will carry out two checks - a priority check within 24 hours, followed by a more thorough risk assessment which takes longer because it will delve into someone's history. If there is a criminal record, the pilot constabularies say they would use special child protection measures, jointly run by police and probation officers, to work out how best to deal with the suspect.  If there is a serious risk, police may also pass on some of this information to the mother - but only if they are convinced that it is necessary and proportionate to protect the children. If the mother is given the information, she will be asked to keep it confidential - and could face civil or criminal action if she does not. If the investigation does not find any record of sexual offences, but does find other worrying behaviour, such as a conviction for domestic violence or intelligence of worrying behaviour, the mother may still be given information to help her protect her family.

Note that scenario could not - at present - happen in Jersey. I think it should.

"Independent Advisory Group - A Comment" - again from 2010, this highlights problems with the chronology of complaints made by the group with regard to Haut de La Garenne investigations.

But on a lighter note, "How to Entertain Without A Maid" looks back on some of the advice given in a cookery book which I obtained second hand. No recipes, I'm afraid, but a window into a past that really seems rather amusing in the way it is written!

John Mbiti's "The Concept of God in Africa" features next. There is a general lack of information about African beliefs, and people have all kinds of vague notions about "primitive religion". This attempts to address the balance. It's from 2007, but is still getting hits.

"RIP: Bob Tilling" has some general information, and some personal memories about Bob Tilling as well as more on his music than was given in local obituaries, and a chance to read one of his music reviews.

"Jersey General Election - Results and Comment" - this one speaks for itself.

"Philip Bailhache and the Roger Holland Affair" deals with the mishaps and general ineptitude that led to a paedophile becoming a member of the honorary police, and remaining so - even after evidence of previous convictions had taken place. It is worth reading, as a warning against complacency which I hope will never happen again.

And that's it - the top listed postings by Google Stats. I'll be doing a retrospective of the year next week, but for now, this is my last blog posting of 2011.

Have a happy New Year!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Funny Old World 6

Health Warning: what follows is not news, any more than the middle section of Private Eye is news, or The Impressionist is news, or Spitting Image was news. It is a light hearted spin on the real news, which can be found on genuine news sites, such as BBC Jersey. Other news sites are available. This is not one of them. None of the individuals mentioned have ever said anything quite like the words attributed to them. Which is perhaps a pity.

Jersey police officers having to deal with a worrying number of agitated suspects armed with knives should be equipped with phasers, according to the police chief.  Mr Bowron said: 'I am pretty confident that we will get there. It has been a long trek. They've had phasers on Star Trek since the 1960s, and no one has complained. We must be enterprising." It is understood that some of the increase in incidents has been due to recent immigrants to Jersey, most notably the Klingons.

Finance news - a Jersey company has become the parent of another giant Russian metals business to list on the London stock exchange to list on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. Vladimir Putin International plc is the Jersey holding company created as part of the listing process for Russia's largest silver producer on the FTSE 100. Corporate partner Karl Marx said: 'It is highly encouraging that major Russian companies are comfortable using Jersey for listing in London."

Tidal energy could be used to power homes in Jersey, Guernsey and Sark in the next 20 years. If successful, it will pave the way for the world's largest tidal energy station, capable of powering up to 4,000 light bulbs. Chris Ambler, the head of Jersey Electricity, said "We've noticed how people at Christmas swims come out of the water shivering, and a brisk rub down with a towel heats them up. Imagine that on an Islandwide scale." However, he said that it was too expensive at the moment, because of the need for special micro-fibre towels to generate the heat required.

Jersey politician, Constable Dan Murphy, chairs the Tidal Towel Power Commission and said the islands would co-operate to harness the power of the sea. He said: "It will hopefully save us quite a lot of money and speed us up a bit because if we're doing something and Guernsey are doing the same thing it's absolutely pointless, we're wasting money. Together, we can bulk buy the towels needed to generate the heat which can be turned into electricity and make savings."
Jersey fishermen hope the results of a study into lobster stocks will help conservation efforts. A French marine biologist will give the findings from the first two years of work into the migration and growth rates of the lobsters around Jersey. The old laws on lobsters have changed recently. Previously immigrant lobsters had to swim around Jersey waters for six years before they would get qualifications to take up residence in their own lobster pot, but now they will be part of the new work permit scheme, which is designed to keep out French, Polish, and Irish lobsters so that only accredited Jersey lobsters will end up visiting the local Seafood festival.

There are plans for an international beach polo event in Jersey. The States is being asked to relax the rules on horses on the island's beach to allow it to go ahead. The economic development minister, Senator Alan Maclean, says that  "A polo event could make a mint for the Island."  The States of Jersey will debate whether to allow the rules to be relaxed at the sitting on 31 January 2012. Odds on whether "a major horse event" will be passed by the States are currently running at 3:2 with Alan Maclean the top favourite to win his proposition.

A cavalcade of old cars took to Jersey's roads for the traditional Boxing Day Jersey Old Motor Club 12 Churches Cavalcade. In all a line up of 93 vehicles - representing the best efforts of manufacturers from 1904 to 1950 - toured the island. For passers-by there was a chance to see some amazing living history with as Terry Le Main chugged passed in a vintage second hand car, and Terry Le Sueur went by on a 1934 Merryweather Fire Engine. A spokesman said "He was in regular service up until 2011, and was fully restored ten years ago."

Revealing controversial golden handshake payments to departing States employees would be 'an unwarranted invasion of their privacy', according to the Chief Minister's department. They have refused to reveal details of pay-outs, which have been rumoured to reach £500,000. "These people may have taken the Island for a ride, but it is all legal and above board", said the Department, "and we want to start the new year with a clean slate." It is understood the slate had the salaries and payoffs written in chalk until it was wiped out shortly after the October elections.

And finally, a 29-year-old man from Madeira has been remanded on bail in connection with a break in at a Jersey shop. He is accused of theft from the Owl and Pussycat shop in St Helier, in the early hours of Boxing Day. Items reported stolen were a beautiful pea green boat, some honey, and plenty of money wrapped up in a £5 note.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Death and Burial, Part 6

Another an extract today from Gypsies of Britain by Brian Vesey-Fitgerald (1900-1981). His book on gypsies is especially interesting because it is based on both research and first hand knowledge, and also was written in 1944, reflecting a good deal of the pre-war culture.

This section is about placing items with the body of the deceased in the coffin, which as he notes is a Romany custom, but not uniquely so, and would appear to be very ancient indeed. Within Jersey, we have the practice in the Neolithic sites, of placing "grave goods" such as stone amulets, shells, pottery etc with the partial bones of the dead. But it is more difficult to discern the purpose of those, as not everyone was buried within Neolithic tombs; indeed while they seemed to have been a hinterland between the world of the living and the world beyond, they were also as much places of worship as burial sites - in that respect they are more like ancient Parish churches, where some people are buried within the building, reflecting in part the beliefs of the day, but not being the main function of the building as such.

In the 6th century, we find lavish burials, such as that in the Middle Rhine, of an adult male buried at Planig, where the "grave goods" included included a golden helm decorated with Christian symbols; other sixth-century grave-goods were decorated with crosses. The introduction of Christianity into the extensive Frankish regions, which included Neustria, much of which formed Normandy, meant that pagan grave goods were re-defined within Christianity:

The Merovingian church made no attempt to stamp out the practice of burial with grave-goods; indeed, it used grave-goods to help define the power of saints and churchmen. The spectacular finds recently unearthed at Frankfurt demonstrate how the church had no reservations about turning the use of grave-goods to its own advantage. Underneath the Carolingian palace complex, a series of inhumation burials beneath a stone church of the late seventh century have been found. These burials include that of a girl of four or five with fabulously rich grave-goods, interred in a tunic embroidered, in gold, with a cross, but also with amulets near her head and pots containing burned animal flesh. Here, the spectacular display of wealth and power through the deposition of lavish grave-goods helped establish the standing of the new church in a local idiom with strong syncretic elements (1)

Regarding a hammer, Danish sites from Viking times until at least the 10th century included "Thor's Hammer", and the Roman Catholic custom is also mentioned, along with a gypsy funeral, in Bertram Puckle's survey of funeral customs:

The hammer has thus been mentioned as one of the objects commonly buried with primitive man, and we find this custom continued under another guise, namely, that the dead may use it to announce their arrival by "knocking with it on the gates of Purgatory."' This quaint belief is still to be met with in Ireland. At the funeral of Zachariah Smith, a gipsy who was buried in Yorkshire a few years ago, in the traditional manner of his tribe, the following articles accompanied him for his convenience in the future state: An extra suit of clothes, his watch and chain, four pocket-handkerchiefs, a hammer and a candle. (2)

from Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald's "Gypsies of Britain" (1944)

Money is frequently buried with the body. Leland, on the authority of one of the Deightons, says that £3,000 was buried with one of the Chilcotts, which is, I think, improbable. The sums are usually small. Twopence was buried with Zachariah Smith, " a copper or two " with Kenza Smith, a penny each with Supplista Smith, Noah Holland and Thomas Penfold. Some of the Boswells were apparently buried with a pound or two, for the Derby branch of this family used to put' in the coffin any money the deceased had about him when he died or had handled just before he died. The largest sum that I have knowledge of is the sovereign thrown on to the coffin of Alice Barney.

The custom of burying money with the dead is not confined to Gypsies, of course. The Prussians used to put money in the coffin so that the deceased could buy refreshment on the way, and the custom is not yet dead in Germany and Austria, and I believe is still followed in parts of the Balkans. Thompson records that. at the funeral of James Hedges, one of a half-blood family that travels chiefly in Essex, a friend dropped half-a-crown into the open grave, saying as he did so : " Here, Jimmy : here's something for a drink on the way." The old Irish tinkers used to drop a coin into the grave and, when the grave was filled in, spill some liquor on the soil.

The inclusion of a coin in the coffin was not unknown in gorgio funerals, particularly, it is said, among Roman Catholics, though it is generally strenuously denied by them.

Some details of this may be found in Notes and Queries (1879, 1880) : " Cuthbert Bede," writing about the burial of a Roman Catholic lady of title not then very long dead, states that tenantry and others saw her in her coffin and, according to " two or three cottagers," a hammer rested in her right hand and a gold coin in her left : " with the hammer she was to knock at the gate of heaven, and with the coin to pay St. Peter for admittance." He discredits these statements and suggests that a crucifix and a reliquary were mistaken for the secular objects named. Then follows some correspondence during which one " C. B." thought that the " hammer " must have been a crucifix and suggested that the " coin " was a medal, perhaps granted by some religious order. He denied that it was a Roman Catholic practice to furnish the dead with a hammer and a coin, but added : " I have heard of such equipments for a corpse spoken of among Montgomeryshire peasantry."

Next comes R. H. Hampton Roberts, who said that once he had been told by some aged Welsh people of the burial with Roman Catholics of a candle to light the way, a loaf of bread for refreshment on the journey, a hammer to knock at the door of heaven and a coin to pay St. Peter for opening it. Lastly, J. W. Smith wrote to say that a similar story, with the addition sometimes of a billhook or hatchet to clear obstructions from the road, and a tinder-box, flint and steel to strike a light, was current in Essex. He declared this to be an absurd Protestant idea arising from ignorance of Roman Catholic usages. If so, as Thompson points out, it is odd that an Irish Roman Catholic of the late Mr. Hall's acquaintance should have told him that he had witnessed the putting of a hammer, a candle and one or two pennies into the coffin at gorgio funerals and for the purposes mentioned, even supposing he did not imply priestly sanctions or tolerance of the practice.

Both candles and hammers have been placed in Gypsy coffins. I know of no recent inclusions of candles, but a hammer was placed in the coffin of Caroline Penfold in 1926, and there are records of this as far back as 1864. Whether it is Gypsy custom that was copied by some gorgios or vice versa is a nice point. Myself, I incline to the latter view.

(1) State and Society in the Early Middle Ages: The Middle Rhine Valley, 400-1000. Matthew Innes, 2000
(2) Funeral Customs, Bertram Puckle, 1926

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Odds and ends

‎"The White Witch? Who is she?
"Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It's she that makes
it always winter and never Christmas; think of that!"
"How awful!" said Lucy.
(CS Lewis, The Lion the witch and the Wardrobe)

The day after Christmas day and Boxing day is not a day for long well constructed pieces. Instead it is a case of nibbling on leftovers. Here are a few of mine.

Richard Dawkins

Catching up on Richard Dawkin's New Statesman issue. He does go over the top on the literary merits of the King James Bible. Some of the passages in letters of Paul are horrible translations, almost undecipherable as English. And it inconsistently translates "pneuma" according to its own whim - Coverdale was much better there.

How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
(Romans 4:10, KJV)

Yep, clear as mud.

In his New Statesman editorial, Dawkin's hates the term "Christian children" and says it is like saying "Post-Modernist children", which he says it would be absurd to say. But actually, I think "post-modernist children" would be a very good way of describing the belief systems of most children today. If he wonders why many of them are as skeptical of science as traditional religion, but go for New Age eclecticism, "post modernist children" would be a good short-hand way of describing the situation.


Finished Elizabeth Lemarchant's Alibi for A Corpse. Nice to have some gentle but good detective story to read over the Christmas break. Reading too much non-fiction of late, mainly because I can read 10 (or more) non-fiction books at once, but only one fiction book at a time. Now onto "Pictures in the Dark" by Gillian Cross.

Non-fiction includes "Druids: A very Short Introduction" (just finished), "Royalty" by Jeremely Paxman, "Ancient egypt: A Very Short Introduction", ""Cults of Unreason" by Christopher Evans, "Patrick Troughton", a biography by Michael Troughton, "Gypsies and Fairies: Evidence for a Theory" by Robert Dawson, "The Science and Humanism of Stepehn Jay Gould" by Richard York and Brett Clark, "J.B. Priestley" by Judith Cook.

TV Watched:

The Mentalist: A very downbeat Mentalist last week. There was a degree of ambiguity as to whether the San Joaquin killer really was who Patrick Jane thought he was, and he deliberately goaded the chap into deriding Red John on air - a recipe for suicide if ever there was one.

The Rev: An excellent story that just almost went off the rails, then came back with a gloriously warm finale.

Dr Who Christmas special. A splendid Christmas story, full of that special seasonal feel, snow, trees, very special aliens (I'm not going to give a spoiler),  and mothers everywhere will love it. Or their children certainly will. I did. It was wonderful. Warm, Christmassy, without being derivative, had a Narnia feel about the snow and trees, and a wonderful story. Sadness and comedy both there. Brilliant acting too by all concerned.

The Borrowers. It's always difficult when something is updated to the present day, but this version of the Borrowers worked wonderfully. Christopher Ecclestone, of course, made Pod so very real, and Aisling Loftus's Arriety was wonderful, with her emerging skills and intuition as a borrower beautifully done. Victoria Wood, of course, was excellent as the gran, and as the boy, Charles Hiscock was brilliant - gone are the days when child actors "acted" - here was a naturalism that was wonderful. The other characters were brilliant, and Stephen Fry was fortunately reined back more than in the Little Shop of Stuff, and someone had to be the villain you want to fail! Songs suitable to the mood also made this a very special treat for Christmas.

Poirot: The Clocks. An excellent production, with only slight changes made to the plot, which was nice to see, ITV's Marple has a terrible record of massive changes -here Poirot actually goes out and interviews the suspects, which was clearly needed dramatically. But good characters, Suchet's Poirot moving towards the right age for Curtain, Geoffrey Palmer pops up again in a smaller part (he seems to be everywhere this Christmas), and a narrative that flows nicely with suspense, twists, and some humour on the way - Poirot asking for "the cocktails" in what is clearly a very British pub! The convoluted nature of the plot was actually needed, a very clever touch!

A Few Short Snippets Read

An enterprising Australian has used nanotechnology to create the world's first fart-proof underpants. Gilbert Huynh claims his pants eliminate not only the smell of body gas, but the sound too. "I've suffered for years from the emissions of my family", he said, "and one cannot keep blaming these things on the dog".

An American man was arrested after calling the police to complain that his crack dealer had short-changed him. Dexter White dialled 911 to report that he'd paid for $60 worth of the drug but only received $20 worth. Police in South Carolina immediately despatched a patrol car to arrest him.

A Swedish man was arrested this year for trying to split the atom - in his kitchen! Amateur scientist Richard Handl, 31, acquired uranium, radium and americium and cooked them on his stove. He was hoping to create nuclear fission, but only managed a small explosion that messed up the hob!

A 15 year old ginger cat has become a local celebrity in Bridport, dorset, for taking regular rides on the town buses. He likes to sit on passengers laps or on the warmth of newly vacated seats. The drivers love him, welcome him on board, bring him treats, and make sure he always gets off at his stop!

Statistics of the year: Dog owners walk an average of 23,739 miles with their pet over its lifetime. The average Briton says sorry eight times a day. That's 204,536 times in three-score years and ten. One in ten British pets has its own Facebook page, Twitter profile, or YouTube channel!

Private Eye

From Private Eye (still on sale, it's brilliant - and it is still only £1.50) comes this Christmas advert (among many funny ones):

Auto-Tweet. The world's first fully automated random tweet generator take the toil out of tiresome twittering by tweeting for you twenty-four-seven!! Tweets include "I'm having a cup of tea" "Watching Downton Abbey now" "Going to the toilet" and many, many more. The amazing auto-tweet keeps the world posted whilst freeing up your valuable time so you can meet friends, talk to them, have a life, etc. Only £7,634 per annum.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Feast of Stephen

Boxing day is also called "the feast of Stephen", after the death of Stephen by stoning. Here is a poem about it...

The Feast of Stephen

It was a hot day, the dust rising in the air,
The sun so bright, so sharp the glare;
And the face of the man, standing now:
Can't he see the crowd? Their one avow?
Men take off their robes, strip to the waist;
Clothes cannot be soiled, or so debased,
And this will be a day of wrath, of fire;
I see the anger, their fury, all their desire,
And the sweat trickles down their back,
As they lift stones, stumble on their track'
They cry out, baying for blood this day,
And the young man still goads, still to say:
Talks of stiff necked people, deaf with pride;
Can he see that there is no place to hide?
The face of an angel, some said of him,
But the mob is enraged, such faces grim;
And I just minded their clothes, sat there,
I too was angry, and I did not care;
And I let them stone him, heard the thud,
As stones rained down, an unleashed flood
Of fury; heard groans of pain, then no more;
It was as if he slept, opened heaven's door,
And the stones still hit him, piling high,
But his breath long departed with a sigh;
And why should I recall him, now long ago,
A man I barely had seen, and didn't know?
Called Stephen, so I was told, in later time,
And I sat and did nothing, my only crime:
Thinking the time of prophets is long past,
Until on a dusty road, I saw a light, at last.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Sacred Time

Up to a certain specific instant you are feeling ordinary and sad; for it is only Wednesday. At the next moment your heart leaps up and your soul and body dance together like lovers; for in one burst and blaze it has become Thursday. I am assuming (of course) that you are a worshipper of Thor, and that you celebrate his day once a week, possibly with human sacrifice. (G.K. Chesterton)

Merry Christmas.
Or Happy Hanukah.
Or Yuletide Greetings.
Or Blessed Winter Solstice.

However this time of year is celebrated, it is celebrated as a special time, whether it is the birth of Christ, the Jewish festival of lights, or the Pagan celebration at the shortest day of the year, the turning point when days lengthen.

Probably the earliest marking of time as special is the astrological one, the solstice. The modern distinction between astrology and astronomy simply didn't apply in the ancient world. If a time was significant, it was also sacred, and would be marked out in such a ritual manner as to make it special.

The marking of points of time as sacred is a very ancient one, and it is something that is quite distinct to human beings. While geese and other creatures might migrate at particular times of the year, they simply go; there is no rite of preparation before the long and perhaps dangerous journey. Only human beings mark out time as special.

We do it with birthdays as well, of course, and Christmas itself is the celebration of a birthday of a special kind. Again that is something human beings do - cats and dogs don't celebrate the day they are born.

With all this goes an awareness of time, and the marking out of periods of time, and celebrating some times as special. The rationalists of the French revolution would have just have segments of time like any other, and the capitalist wanting to have Sunday as a shopping day like any other are both running counter to this need of human beings to mark out time as special.

It is noteworthy that when the Jacobins of the French Revolution promoted their "cult of reason", some of the strongest rebellion came from Brittany, where the ancient Celtic culture had seeped into the ballads and poems (later collected by Théodore La Villemarqué ), and the rhythm of time as special was in direct contradiction to the atheism of the revolutionaries. In the end, the rationalist programme broke down; unlike other creatures, we need to mark time as special, and locate significance and meaning in our lives.

Martin Marty notes that:

While different religious communities view and practice observance of sacred time differently, all share in this concept and find in sacred time a connection to the eternal.  Sacred time recalls significant moments of the past, and looks to the future with religious hope; it collects into the present moment both past and future in a celebration of the eternal.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
A festive poem for St. Breladiase

(This was written by me for the Parish of St Brelade magazine, La Baguette, which has since come out, so I'm re-using it here as my Saturday poem)

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through St Brelade
Not a creature was stirring, from house to boatyard
The double decker had gone, the final bus fare
Long gone were shoppers from Quennevais Square

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
And the allotments were quiet, no light in their sheds
Now St Aubin's was sleeping, with no geese in a flap
And beach shops had closed for a long winter's nap.

When in Reg's Garden, there arose such a clatter
He sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Glimpsed a red sleigh there, which went in a flash
Not speeding past 30, but still making a dash

Santa was coming, from La Haule to Corbiere
And his red sleigh sped by, with the tiny reindeer
Bouan Noue, he cried, as it passed every house
Where no creature was stirring, not even a mouse

And in the morning, while church bells rang out
The children exclaimed, with glee and a shout
As they saw presents, by the Christmas tree light
And the stockings of toys, that came in the night.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Funny Old World 5

Health Warning: what follows is not news, any more than the middle section of Private Eye is news, or The Impressionist is news, or Spitting Image was news. It is a light hearted spin on the real news, which can be found on genuine news sites, such as BBC Jersey. Other news sites are available. This is not one of them. None of the individuals mentioned have ever said anything quite like the words attributed to them. Which is perhaps a pity.

Jersey assistant chief minister, Senator Sir Philip Bailhache, will meet Guernsey chief minister Deputy Lyndon Trott. Issues for discussion include international taxation, the Commonwealth and the European Union. "Our islands work well together, as... established earlier this year in the dispute over fishing limits," Senator Bailhache said.

A press briefing announced that: "It is important that politicians from Jersey and Guernsey continue to maintain a positive dialogue, and provide a lot of good photogenic news stories to hide the fact that they ignore each other when settling fishing limits or taking separate court cases to England about low consignment tax relief, and we look forward to each playing our own part in that relationship."

Meanwhile, Sir Philip sees the main problem ahead as being the Island's dealings with Brussels. "All kinds of law sprouts from Brussels, and we need a common agricultural policy to deal with it", he said.

News reaches us that Ministers are taking the UK government to court to save the threatened online mail order industry and protect up to 2,000 Island jobs. Up to 1,000 packers and sorters jobs could be saved as well as 1,000 lawyers and legal advisors who with this guarantee of work are ensured a bright start to 2012 and little fear of job losses. Twin legal challenges from Jersey and Guernsey would be made and that the Jersey's Economics Development Minister has written to the UK Treasury to inform them of the move, enclosing a Christmas Card together with a voucher.

There's good news for those of us who enjoy a walk in the park - or a green space in this case. Reg's Garden - the popular island attraction - won't close in 2013 as planned but instead parts will be allowed to grow wild, including Reg. "I will be the wild man of the wild garden," said Reg, "and I won't be serving cups of tea, but instead jumping out of the undergrowth to surprise visitors with wild bushy beard and a Tarzan style yodel."

'One of our biggest and earliest ever TV campaigns'. That is how Jersey Tourism is describing its 2012 advert, which will hit our screens on Boxing Day. Marketing Manager Simon Le Huray told Channel 103 that's to draw in people thinking about where to holiday in 2012. He says from about 4pm on Christmas Day, they noticed internet searches for holiday rocket.

'We want to put Jersey there so that when people do start thinking about where they are going to go the place they type into their search engine "holiday rocket" and get Jersey.' Getting to the Island by rocket will be faster than boat or conventional aircraft. It is thought that Richard Curtis has been involved in the promotional film, entitled, "The Island that rocketed". The film will also promote fresh Jersey produce, rocket salads specially grown as a film tie-in.

The 'Meet the locals' advert features tour guide Neil Armstrong, artist  Buzz Aldrin and Oyster Farmer Michael Collins alongside singer Yuri Gagarin. It is estimated between seven and eight million people will see the advert.

Heritage pay £11,000 to return ancient ring. A Neolithic stone ring will be returned to the Island after Jersey Heritage paid more than £11,000 for it at an auction in America. Former Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur is said to be delighted that an object he well remembers as a boy will once again be displayed in its rightful home.

And finally, one of the worlds largest mega yachts is paying Jersey a visit today. Vibrant Curiosity pulled into the islands port earlier this afternoon. She is owned by billionaire Anne Summers and is larger than the Condor Vitesse. Summers is number 93 on The Forbes rich list and has made her money manufacturing screws. It can sleep 18 guests and 26 crew very comfortably.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Apple Cart

I've been reading the preface and the text of "The Apple Cart", which is George Bernard Shaw's play, written around 1930, about a constitutional crisis where a popular monarch intervenes politically against an unpopular and remote government, triggering a crisis which leads to his abdication.

Some of the preface could almost be written about today's bankers, who expect to be bailed out, and are already returning to "business as usual" with bonuses for risky investments:

Money talks: money prints: money broadcasts: money reigns; and kings and labor leaders alike have toregister its decrees, and even, by a staggering paradox, to financeits enterprises and guarantee its profits.  Democracy is no longer bought: it is bilked.

Shaw is also extremely sharp at pointing out the profligate wastefulness of the consumer society:

Our solution of the economic problem is the Capitalist system, which achieves miracles in production, but fails so ludicrously and disastrously to distribute its products rationally, or to produce in the order of social need, that it is always complaining of being paralysed by its "overproduction" of things of which millions of us stand in desperate want.

Of course, the "planned bureaucracy" of Stalin's Russia was in fact no better about distribution, with queues for even the most basic of foodstuffs, but that doesn't mean there is something rotten about a system in which food is chucked out by the truckload in the West, while people are starving in Africa.

There's also a remarkably cynical or astute comment on elections - you take your pick depending on your point of view!

As it is, the voters have no real choice of candidates: they have to take what they can get and make the best of it according to their lights, which is often the worst of it by the light of heaven.  By chance rather than by judgment they find themselves represented in parliament by a fortunate proportion of reasonably honest and public spirited persons who happen to be also successful public speakers.  The rest are in parliament because they can afford it and have a fancy for it or an interest in it.

Politics, once the centre of attraction for ability, public spirit, and ambition, has now become the refuge of a few
fanciers of public speaking and party intrigue who find all the other avenues to distinction closed to them either by their lack of practical ability, their comparative poverty and lack of education, or, let me hasten to add, their hatred of oppression and injustice, and their contempt for the chicaneries and false pretences of commercialized professionalism.  History tells us of a gentleman-statesman who declared that such people were not fit to govern. Within a year it was discovered that they could govern at least as well as anyone else who could be persuaded to take on the job.

And Shaw has a wonderful picture of elections, and how they don't really often change much. Listening to lots of comments, mostly by people who either didn't vote, or who were singularly depressed by some of the results in October's election, I think his picture of a balloon - and I love the "hot air" keeping it afloat - has some merit as an accurate representation:

I am going to ask you to begin our study of Democracy by considering it first as a big balloon, filled with gas or hot air, and sent up so that you shall be kept looking up at the sky whilst other people are picking your pockets.  When the balloon comes down to earth every five years or so you are invited to get into the basket if you can throw out one of the people who are sitting tightly in it; but as you can afford neither the time nor the money, and there are forty millions of you and hardly room for six hundred in the basket, the balloon goes up again with much the same lot in it and leaves you where you were before.  I think you will admit that the balloon as an image of Democracy corresponds to the parliamentary facts.

And Shaw has another comment to make about democratic choice, and the way in which the Chief Officials often are the tail wagging the politician's dog. Certainly the regime presided over by at least one Chief officer in recent years seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to Shaw's example:

Let me invent a primitive example of democratic choice.  It is always best to take imaginary examples: they offend nobody. Imagine then that we are the inhabitants of a village.  We have to elect somebody for the office of postman.  There are several candidates; but one stands out conspicuously, because he has frequently treated us at the public-house, has subscribed a shilling to our little flower show, has a kind word for the children when he passes, and is a victim of oppression by the squire because his late father was one of our most successful poachers.  We elect him triumphantly; and he is duly installed, uniformed, provided with a red bicycle, and given a batch of letters to deliver.  As his motive in seeking the post has been pure ambition, he has not thought much beforehand about his duties; and it now occurs to him for the first time that he cannot read. So he hires a boy to come round with him and read the addresses. The boy conceals himself in the lane whilst the postman delivers the letters at the house, takes the Christmas boxes, and gets the whole credit of the transaction.  In course of time he dies with a high reputation for efficiency in the discharge of his duties; and we elect another equally illiterate successor on similar grounds. But by this time the boy has grown up and become an institution. He presents himself to the new postman as an established and indispensable feature of the postal system, and finally becomes recognized and paid by the village as such.

Here you have the perfect image of a popularly elected Cabinet Minister and the Civil Service department over which he presides. It may work very well; for our postman, though illiterate, may be a very capable fellow; and the boy who reads the addresses for him may be quite incapable of doing anything more.  But this does not always happen.  Whether it happens or not, the system is not a democratic reality: it is a democratic illusion.  The boy, when he has ability to take advantage of the situation, is the master of the man.  The person elected to do the work is not really doing it: he is a popular humbug who is merely doing what a permanent official tells him to do.

The Prime Minister in Shaw's play is a grey man, someone who simply has ended up as Prime Minister without really striving for it, and who is really not very competent, just letting matters drift, he is "good for nothing else". It would be invidious to mention local names, but I suggest that most people can probably think of one!

PROTEUS.  I am not a wonderful man.  There is not a man or woman here whose job I could do as well as they do it.  I am Prime Minister for the same reason that all Prime Ministers have been Prime Ministers: because I am good for nothing else.  But I can keep to the point--when it suits me.  And I can keep you to the point, sir, whether it suits you or not.

The Press also come in for come criticism. The King, Magnus, tells the Prime Minister that the press are in the hands of business men who make sure that the media line is that which is in their own financial interests:

MAGNUS.  You know that I have no control of the Press.  The Press is in the hands of men much richer than I, who would not insert a single paragraph against their own interests even if it were signed by my own hand and sent to them with a royal command.

And another of the lines makes me think very much of outsourcing, and sweat shops in other countries producing cheap goods for cheap labour at long hours, much like Victorian industrial factories did. This seems remarkably prescient for its time:

MAGNUS.  No: we have not abolished poverty and hardship.  Our big business men have abolished them.  But how?  By sending our capital abroad to places where poverty and hardship still exist: in other words, where labor is cheap.  We live in comfort on the imported profits of that capital.  We are all ladies and gentlemen now.

"The Apple Cart" has rather fallen out of favour, and to tell the truth, it has some very long wordy speeches in it which really are Shaw using characters as a mouthpiece for a conflict of ideas. But it has, I think, some rather good nuggets buried amidst the lengthy monologues, and in its preface.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Corners of the Earth

This short meditation draws upon Eleanor Farjeon's "People of the East" for inspiration, but develops it for all the compass points.

The third section (the South) is inspired by J.V. Taylor's "The Primal Vision". Regarding Hypatia's age ( the Eastern segment of the narrative), I'm drawing on the fairly recent (and probably best work) - Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska, who put her age at around 60, rather than the rather glamorised earlier accounts (e.g Charles Kinglsey!) - some of the sources do suggest an older account, and Dzielska also argues that it would have been unlikely that she would have been at the same age as Synesius of Cyrene, whom she taught. Dzielska also deals with the Neoplatonism that she taught (e.g the Chaldean Oracles), and I've also been reading the fascinating study by A.J. Bregman -  "Synesius of Cyrene, Philosopher-Bishop" and how Synesius reconciled Christianity with Neoplatonism to his own satisfaction.

The different coloured robes of the four men are taken from Celtic traditions, the woman in blue is, of course, borrowed from George MacDonald's At The Back of the North Wind, while the hill fort is based on Weathertop.
The Corners of the Earth
(A Meditation for the Solstice)
I am asleep, and in my dream, I see a mist. It clears, and I see the stone and earth banks; I know that I am standing in an ancient hill fort, lit with four flaming torches, and there are four entrances to the fort, and in its midst, a woman in a blue robe, with long dark hair flowing down her back, and intense green eyes. I sit upon the ground, cross-legged, and look up at her. She is looking beyond me towards the North.
A figure appears in the North, an old man in a black robe, with grey hair and a white beard. He walks in and stands in front of the lady.
"What have you to tell of the North, brother?" she asks. And he begins.
I was born in a land of fire and ice, and I left and traversed the sea until I came into harbour within the sweeping fiords of Norway. I crossed the snowy mountains of Sweden, and came to the land of the Danes.
I saw a fierce race, heading forth in long ships, ready to take what rich pickings they could from weaker lands to the south. They prized honour above all else, and feasted in great halls, singing the praises of Odin the Mighty, of Thor the God of Thunder, and the other mighty denizens of Asgard.
But came a time when they were swept away like the tide by time. On that day, the time of the gods will come to an end, and the banquet hall will lie in ruins. There will be a final battle, and Ragnarok will come, and this will be the twilight of the gods.
Then there will be silence, and the silence will be over the land from the fiords to the frozen ice sheets of the North. This is our time, a still point in the year, the darkest night, the time of silence brooding over the tundra. Fire will be lit in homes at night, to keep out the cold, and keep at bay the darkness that settles within the soul, the sadness felt at the waning of the light.
But alas for those who live alone, and have no neighbours to bring cheer in the chill days and nights.
But above the silent lands will come light, a shimmering curtain of green and blue, as the Northern lights shine forth in all their glory, blazing and incandescent, a tumult of sheer light. And the wind will sing to the people of the land:
People, look North. The time is near
Time to cast off your doubt and fear
Look out for those that cannot cope
Reach out a hand, and bring them hope
People, look North and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.
Now lady turns to face the west. A figure appears, a middle aged man, in a grey robe, with a tonsure, and a short neatly trimmed beard. He walks in and stands in front of the lady.
"What have you to tell of the West, brother?", she asks. And he begins.
I was born in the land covered with ice, and it thawed and became thick with a green forest, a wild wood that covered the land. And a people came to me from across the sea, and settled on the shores of my land.
I watched over the land, and they grew into a wise people, who settled and farmed the land, and in time there came to be the Five Kingdoms of the land, of Leinster, Ulster, Munster, Connacht and Meath. They worked metals, making fine tools and ornaments of bronze and iron and gold. And the druids arose amongst them, wise men, dispensers of wisdom and justice, keepers of sacred laws, and seekers of signs in the stars.
I saw the tribes and they came together at the shortest day, for a time of fire and feasting, and merry meet on the Hill of Tara, beside the stone of destiny, to sing songs and dance to the pipes. And when the fire had burned down, and smouldered red ashes, they circled, and leapt over the last of the flame.
I saw the Grey King reach out from under the Mountain, and a chill mist descended on the land; I saw wars, and invading peoples, and a land under an alien yoke. And who would now sing of Tara, and walk swiftly along Ossian's way?
And I saw the chains of the Grey King broken, and the people set free, the bonfires blazing, beacons across the hills of the land, and sweet the sound of the harp, as the peoples gathered to rejoice and feel the warmth of the flames. And the wind will sing to the people of the land:
People, look West. The time is near
Time to cast off your doubt and fear
Look out for strength in soil and earth
Plant now the seed that gives rebirth
People, look West and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.
Now lady turns to face the south. A figure appears, a dark skinned man in a white robe, with a turban on his head; he is clean-shaven. He walks in and stands in front of the lady.
"What have you to tell of the South, brother?", she asks. And he begins.
I was born in a land of desert plains, and great rivers, in the dawning of mankind, tribes came hunting and gathering from the far south and they settled in my land, and tilled the soil, watered their crops, and herded their sheep and cattle.
They lived in small villages, in simple huts, and they came together to eat simple fare, meat and vegetables stewed in large pots over the charcoal fire, and break the freshly baked bread and share it among themselves, and eat the broiled fish.
And the women sang songs and danced, and the drums began, and they wakened the spirit of the earth with the beating of the drum, the songs of the soil, the rhythms of the seasons.
But this is an ancient land, and kings arose, and priests, and the peoples were enslaved, and mighty empires rose and fell. And the sun god looked down with displeasure, and the land became a desert, a place of heat and dust; it became a dry land with no water, and the crops grew sickly though lack of water, and famine came to the south. This is a dark age, a time of dying light.
Yet I saw the people take hope, and come across the dry land, to the ancient ruins of their ancestors, and may their drums beat, and awaken once more the primal vision, and heal the land.
But alas, for those who flee the times of war, and whose bellies are swollen with hunger, and who suck greedily at every small drop of the brackish water that is all there is to assuage their thirst.
Here is the riddle of the sphinx, for our age, how can this land be born again when it is old? How can the dry places run once more with flowing water. Let the south be so born again in hope from the ashes, that the spirit of compassion can reach out from lands far distant, to touch a starving child. Like an eagle, the spirit of compassion will rise again, with wings of hope, a sign for the world to see as it unfolds its wings and soars into the sky. A new day will dawn. And the wind will sing to the people of the land:
People, look South. The time is near
Time to cast off your doubt and fear
Look out for those with hunger pain
And do not let them die in vain
People, look South and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.
Now the lady turns to face the east. A figure appears, a man in a red robe, with an ancient wrinkled face, and a sharp nose. He walks in and stands in front of the lady.
"What have you to tell of the East, brother?", she asks. And he begins.
I was born in the East, not the distant east, but on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. A great port was built, and a lighthouse shone, a blazing beacon in the night, a wonder of the world. Mine was a land of the scholar, of the greatest of libraries, and the wisdom of the philosophers who studied and mapped the heavens; here also, they meditated upon the paths of wisdom in the Chaldean oracles, on the source of being, of that which is one and infinite.
But darkness came upon our land, the flame of knowledge was extinguished, and the oracle was silenced. I saw the last of the keepers of wisdom, Hypatia, the daughter of Theon, meet her doom. She who had mapped the heavens with her astrolabe, and imparted wisdom to Christian and Pagan alike, was taken by the darkness in her sixtieth year.
I saw her speaking in the square to many people, speaking about the one source of being, of that which is infinite, and they were listening to her in silence  But a fanatic horde came upon her, their minds clouded with jealousy and hate, and they tore her clothes, and dragged her to the Church of Christ, and there they cut her down, and she died on the floor of the temple, and I wept bitterly.
And I too fled the land, under the shadow of a darkening cloud. I went further east, to the lands where lived the Magi; here we studied the signs and portents in the sky, and pondered the music of the spheres, the dance of the planets.
There we kept the watch, and looked deep into the reflected waters for conjunctions in the night sky, that a meeting of three signs in one may come. For we know that the dawn will come, and the longest night will end. And the wind will sing to the people of the land:
People, look East. The time is near
Time to cast off your doubt and fear
Wars will end, and fights will cease
The coming sign, the star of peace
People, look East and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.
Then the lady in the blue robe turned clockwise to each of the four corners of the earth, to north, to west, to south, to east. And she bowed to each of the four men, and they bowed to her. And she said:
Go now, to watch the lands you know
Plant seeds of hope that they may grow
And keep the faith, then meet once more
When shortest day, come each his door
And light will lengthen now each day
And love, the lord, is on the way.
Stand at the crossroads and look.
Ask for the ancient paths, seek the merry way.
Walk in it and you will find rest for your soul.
Now as the Lady spoke, her voice became fainter and fainter, and a mist came over my eyes so that I could not see, and the dream faded into grey. And I awoke in a cold room, seated in my armchair beside a black and empty grate, the clock striking three, and the wind howling outside.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Does Jersey administer VAT collection for the UK?

Not surprisingly, because other jurisdictions outside the EU are exempt, Jersey and Guernsey are looking at the legal issue of the loss of LVCR. As the Telegraph reported a few days ago:

Jersey's economic development minister Senator Alan Maclean was reported to have said that the UK appeared to be "discriminating against the Channel Islands" for scrapping Low Value Consignment Relief in their territory but not in other non-EU jurisdictions. The Jersey government is currently seeking legal advice to as to whether the UK government has a case to answer. Jersey stands to lose more than six hundred jobs as the industry responsible for sending cheap internet mail order goods like CDs, DVDs and contact lenses to the UK loses its right to sell at VAT-exempt prices. Companies located in Switzerland, Cyprus and Hong Kong, however, are still believed to be reaping the benefits of the same VAT exemption, known as Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR). (1)

Today's Jersey Evening Post reports that a legal challenge will now be forthcoming.

But what would happen if LVCR disappeared? Then all goods currently shipping would need to have VAT prepaid on them by fulfilment companies. This does happen if the item is greater than £18 anyway. The Jersey website tells us the following:

I am a Jersey trader. Can I ship goods by post to customers in the UK without delays on arrival? Special arrangements have been made for the collection of VAT that would be due on goods sent from Jersey to the UK by post.  These arrangements have been agreed with UK Customs and Jersey Post and include:

- accounting for UK import VAT on commercial consignments (excluding alcohol, tobacco and tobacco products) with a value exceeding £18 but not exceeding £2,000, and all perfumes and toilet waters not exceeding £2,000, that would otherwise be chargeable on the goods on importation into the UK

- the import of commercial consignments (excluding goods liable to excise duty) with a value not exceeding £18 into the UK

- using agreed postal routes other than those through an office of exchange (a post office which is manned by UK Customs)

Traders wishing to be authorised to dispatch goods from Jersey to the UK under the scheme should in the first instance contact Customer Services at Jersey Post.

But who administers this? This comes, as the HM Revenue and Customs site tells us, from Jersey:(

"3.4 Pre-payment of import VAT on goods purchased on the internet

For goods purchased on the internet UK Customs have special arrangements that allow some overseas traders to charge, collect and pay over to us the import VAT that would normally be chargeable at the time the goods are imported. These arrangements operate under Memoranda of Understanding signed with the overseas countries customs and postal authorities, and traders wanting to use this procedure must be authorised to do so by these authorities. Once authorised they are issued with a unique authorisation number, which should be shown on the customs declaration or packaging. Also they will include the statement 'Import VAT Pre-paid'. Where these arrangements are used you will not be charged import VAT or a Royal Mail handling fee when you receive your package."

This means that Jersey - it is not clear whether it is Jersey customs or Jersey Post - are acting as unpaid administrators for the UK customs authorities. They are collecting the VAT from the Jersey traders, putting a stamp to say "prepaid VAT" on the package, and this then goes through without waiting for the VAT to be paid at the other end, which in the case of perishable goods, would pretty well destroy the export industry. The Jersey collectors then pay the UK customs with the VAT, and presumably also send them supporting paperwork to confirm that.

What is not so clear is (a) who administers this scheme in Jersey? (b) how many people does it involve? (c) what cost is involved in running the scheme (in terms of salaries paid to staff in Jersey)? (d) Is this administrative cost recouped in any way - after all, Jersey would be acting as an unpaid tax collector for the UK customs otherwise?

To this can be added (e) how much extra cost would be incurred if even small items of under £18 were also included in the scheme, so that volume of parcels might increase?


Monday, 19 December 2011

Birthday - 1863 Style

This is another extract from Whitnash Parish Magazine, from December 1863. It is perhaps not surprising that in cultured circles, some kind of sophisticated entertainment should take place, but what is interesting is the influence of German culture permeating this kind of celebration, in a way that would have probably not been possible after the Great War.

The Song of the Bell (German: "Das Lied von der Glocke") is a poem that the German poet Friedrich Schiller published in 1798. It is one of the most famous poems of German literature and with 430 lines also one of the longest. In it, Schiller combines a knowledgeable technical description of a bell founding with points of view and comments on human life, its possibilities and risks. (Wikipedia)

The musical version here is that of Andreas Romberg - "Das Lied von der Glocke". Romberg was a colleague of Beethoven, who had also set to music Schiller's ode An die Freude (Ode to Joy).  It is likely therefore that the version sung was in German, and not a translation of the poem - yet another example of the facility with German enjoyed by the Whitnash Rector's family, and this is certainly corroborated by the poem which followed.

I've not been able to find precisely what was meant by "grand kinder-symphonic" with which the celebration ended, but it was probably Romberg's Toy Symphony (Kinder-Sinfonie) for Piano (or 2 Violins and Bass) with 7 Toy Instruments.

The "Living Pictures" were also called "Tableau vivants"  which means still images. The term describes a striking group of suitably costumed people carefully posed. Throughout the duration of the display, the people shown do not speak or move.

Before radio, film and television, tableaux vivants were popular forms of entertainment. Before the age of colour reproduction of images the tableau vivant (often abbreviated simply to tableau) was sometimes used to recreate paintings "on stage", based on an etching or sketch of the painting. This could be done as an amateur venture in a drawing room, or as a more professionally produced series of tableaux presented on a theatre stage, one following another, usually to tell a story without requiring all the usual trappings of a "live" theatre performance. They thus 'educated' their audience to understand the form taken by later Victorian and Edwardian era magic lantern shows, and perhaps also sequential narrative comic strips (which first appeared in modern form in the late 1890s). (Wikipedia)

It is an interesting glimpse into "home entertainment" from days gone by!

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION. (from Whitnash Parish Magazine, December 1863)

On Monday, November 2nd, the Rector's birthday was celebrated by his family in a very pleasing manner. The music, vocal and instrumental, of Schiller's Lay of the Bell, composed by A. Romberg, was performed by various members of the Rector's family, and the scenes of that poem were represented by living pictures, including -The Cradle. The Meeting. The Bride. The Home. The Fire. The Parting. The Harvest. Discord, and Concord. These scenes were very prettily designed and executed by the members of the Rector's family and their friends, and they were introduced by the following prologue, written by the Rev. R. E. Brown, and spoken by Miss Ruth Young -:

Another link upon the chain of human life,
With smiles and tears, with joy and sorrow rife;
Another step upon the path that upward tends
Through doubt to certainty that never ends.
Another stroke upon the bell that deeper rings
As each new year this festal season brings.
List to its sound ? oh, listen well and learn
That which one mastermind did 'erst discern,
The living pictures here before you see
The history of a bell from earliest infancy,
Till when uplifted to its sacred home,
Pregnant with fate, it speaks for years to come
Thus where the giant mind of Schiller led,
Let not our pigmy footsteps vainly tread,
Where our skill fails, let zeal fill up the rest,
And love, not science, be the critic's test;
Not at the world's approval here we aim,
or seek the uncertainties of public fame,
One smile alone, one look of happy joy,
For this our every effort we employ,
Father and friend with your approval blest,
Successful must our efforts be confessed.
Enough the countrymen of Shakespeare long,
To fill the air with Deutchland's Schiller's song,
Aid us, ye muses, loving Avon's waters,
While German verse is sung by English sons and

At the conclusion of the Tableaux, the Whitnash Rectory band performed a grand kinder-symphonic, composed by Bernhard Romberg.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Rosewindow No 106

Having been laid low with flu, and having to let the world pass by with inactivity, I came across this "Rosewindow" article from The Winchester Churchman by John V Taylor, who was then Bishop of Winchester. In a world of incessant activity, when the pace of life seems ever more frantic and frenetic, John Taylor's writing strikes quite a different note. As he notes, the infant and the geriatric are literally in other peoples hands; and so too, are those who are ill, who have to rest and let others help them.

Limitation and helplessness are not how people tend to think of God. John Taylor, however, shows how such a counter-intuitive view can provide far more depth and resonance with our human condition than Olympian images of power.

Rosewindow No 106: December 1983
by John V Taylor

Christmas Presents

Of all the various presents that may be given to any of us, at Christmas or any other time, the ones that mean most are those which have actually belonged to the person who gives them. It may be an heirloom from a godmother's jewellery box or a favourite dinky car from a small boy's collection: the fact of its having been owned and loved by the giver adds a value that money cannot buy. There is a difference between giving and handing over.

Most of our presents could come to us on order straight from the shop. They say much more when they have been personally wrapped by the friend who chose them. But something quite different is being offered when the gift actually changes owners and changes hands.

Christ "handed over" in Birth

It was just such a handing over as this that took place in the Incarnation. "He that spared not his own Son but delivered him up, or handed him over, for us all how shall he not also with him freely give us all things, how can he fail to lavish upon us all he has to give" In the birth of Jesus that which was most precious to God, his only-begotten Son, his very self, changed hands and was given up.

Christ "handed over" in His Passion

The handing over of the Son of God is a central theme of the Gospels and a turning point in the story. "The Son of Man", says Jesus in St. Mark, "shall be handed over, delivered up, to the chief priests and scribes and they shall condemn him and shall hand him over to the Gentiles." And later in the same Gospel St. Mark tells how they bound Jesus and handed him over to Pilate, and Pilate, when he had scourged him, handed him over to be crucified. Tied up like a parcel and passed from hand to cruel hand - that is what it meant to be handed over. Christ knew what he was talking about when he said to Peter after the Resurrection, "When you were young you fastened your belt and walked where you chose but when you are old a stranger will bind you fast and carry you where you have no wish to go."

The men who wrote the Gospels used this word `handed over' so often in their story of the passion of Jesus that it clearly had for them a strong theological significance. We too use it at every Eucharist to introduce the solemn words of institution:, "In the same night in which he was handed over, he took bread." It means something far wider and more mysterious than the betrayal by Judas Iscariot; that was on the beginning of a complete transposition of Jesus out of his own freedom and initiative and intense activity, and into the grasp and compulsion and will of others. "'God spared not his own Son but handed him over for us all."

Why am I speaking of the passion - the passivity - of Christ at this Christmas season? Because the very beginning of any human life has this in common with the very end - you are carried. Things are done to you. The infant and the geriatric are literally in other people's hands. So Christmas night may also be described as "the same night in which he was handed over." This is the paradox of the Incarnation: that the Maker of all things is constricted in a crib, the Eternal Word has not yet learned to talk, and he who holds us in existence must be carried and kept safe.

Here too we see the transfer of the Son of God from pure freedom to constraint, from creative energy to passivity, from initiative to waiting. "God spared not his own Son but handed him over for us all."

Jesus' Sonship

But what does it mean, this talk about God's own Son? We distort the true faith and miss the point if we allow ourselves to imagine anything like three Gods. Whatever we say about the Son of God we are saying it about God. The Son of God is God being obedient to his own nature. The Son of God is God under the constraints he has set for himself. The Son of God is God eternally tying his own hands with love and handing himself over for us all. The handing over of the Son of God was not a brief unique incident lasting from about 5 B.C. to 30 A.D. It is an eternal truth about God, but we should never have guessed it if we had not seen his overwhelming glory in the helplessness of Bethlehem and the helplessness of the judgement hall and the cross.

Passing from Power to Dependence

The living God passes our understanding and stretches like a horizon beyond our newest, clearest thought of him. But this we know: he is like an artist and he is like a lover, and both are bound and handed over.

W. H. Vanstone, whose book, "The Stature of Waiting", throws so much light on this theme, has pointed out in a further unpublished paper that the artist, in choosing to express himself in something that is not himself, but stone or sound or colour, has committed himself to an activity which cannot be the smooth unfolding of a pre-meditated plan but must inevitably involve coming to terms with the materials he has chosen, getting things right as he goes along, and an inexhaustible patience and resourcefulness, struggle and cost. The lover, unless his love is false, has by the act of loving, given to some other being the power to disappoint him infinitely. Both the lover and the artist have tied their own hands. They have passed over from power to dependence, from doing to being done to, from achievement to waiting. And precisely by letting that happen to them their true nature, their glory, is revealed. As artist or as lover they have handed themselves over, made a present of themselves and let the most essential, precious thing that is theirs change hands.

That is what God has been doing from before the foundation of the world. "He that spared not his own Son, his own self, but handed himself over for us all, how can he fail to lavish upon us all he has to give?"

Man's Response

No. he cannot help but give and give again, and wait and wait for our response. And what is that response to be when we have at last understood? Not a busy programme of service and achievement. Why should our agenda be so different from his? He who is waiting for the world's response asks above all else that we share the waiting. "Could you not watch with me one hour?" He who entered into his glory when he passed from splendid doing into shameful being-done-to calls us to stand by him in his silence and inaction. If we do so we shall find ourselves in a large company today.

And our prayer will grow more like the spontaneous movements of those who watch a sculptor at work and tense their own muscles in sympathy with his concentration, or like those who hold their breath to see whether the mail includes the letter their friend has been waiting for. "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done" is that kind of prayer.

So, during these last weeks before Christmas, the best present we can prepare to hand over to him, the one that most evidently belongs to us and is typical of us, is the unfulfilled but even invincible longing that we share with him. So many of the familiar carols express it: "O that we were there?" Let us stay, then, in the posture of Advent, waiting upon the eternally patient God with the love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Hermit

The Hermit

The Hermit bows his head in thought
In contemplation of all and nought
In appearance seeming aged and infirm
And yet he belies this, standing firm
Upon the mountain peak above
Silence looks down on mortal love
Past the seven ages of mankind
And holds a light to heal the blind
Within the star is shining bright
Over the earth, it casts warm light
Calls to follow in rising from below
Saying where I am, you may be also.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Funny Old World 4

Health Warning: what follows is not news, any more than the middle section of Private Eye is news, or The Impressionist is news, or Spitting Image was news. It is a light hearted spin on the real news, which can be found on genuine news sites, such as BBC Jersey. Other news sites are available. This is not one of them. None of the individuals mentioned have ever said anything quite like the words attributed to them. Which is perhaps a pity.

The States have released more information from the census and it shows that 50% of the people living in Jersey were born there. The other half is made up of British people, but also 7% from Portugal or Madeira, 3% from Poland, and the rest from elsewhere. This makes a total population of around 110%, according to States statistician Duncan Gibault. "People say the figures don't add up," he said, "but the census is a headcount, and it proves that some people have two heads".

Environmental campaigner Dr Mark Forskitt warned that the situation could only get worse. "We've heard rumours of radiation leaks from nearby Cap de La Hague causing mutations, especially in St Ouen," he said, "and here is the proof in official figures of two headed people living in Jersey, and possibly some politicians with two faces as well."

A States survey on speed limits was 'seriously flawed' and the results extremely misleading, a Scrutiny report has revealed. The methodology and interpretation of the survey was wrong and the results were 'wholly unrepresentative', the Environment Scrutiny panel found. The survey came to the following conclusions:

- There should be special election limits of 75 mph for speeding prospective candidates on motor bikes.
- Hedley Le Maistre would like his tractor to be able to go at 25 mph along the Five Mile Road
- Green lanes of 15 mph were very slow, and should have more signs warning the public like "slow moving heavy plant ahead". In future, bushes and shrubs should have to grow at a reasonable speed.
- People speed a lot in cars. Sometimes they crash. Jeremy Clarkson is probably to blame.

The Prince of Whales is to visit Jersey next year as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Buckingham Palace has announced. Following the protests this year outside the Hotel de France, Prince Charles, a keen environmentalist, is looking to further the cause of Whales in the Channel Islands. He may also speak to a slow moving heavy plant along the Green lanes.

The White House - was painted green in January as part of the National Trust for Jersey's efforts to promote environmental sustainability. This tactic has been also successfully deployed by several States departments in 2011 to demonstrate their commitment to environmental matters.

Earlier in the year the sea around La Collette was temporarily stained green and Andrew Green became Minister for Education also on a temporary basis. A building on Green Street having become a red herring has been repainted in 'Lime Grove', a shade that the Treasury Minister is thought not to be keen on. However the former green shade of the airport which became more prominently sandy this year will be getting a completely new colour scheme - but what that might be remains undecided at the present time. A spokesman for Maclean Paints said they would be happy to mix any colour the States required and would formulate it to ensure a complete cover-up and protection against vandalism.

There could be a 'silver lining' for Jersey from the financial crisis gripping the Eurozone.  Experts say that vulture funds may flee the EU and relocate to the Island. Meanwhile, local banks are already gearing up to handle multiple currencies as the potential for a break-up of the single currency zone looms large. It has long been rumoured that hidden in bunkers and old German tunnels are a secret cache of Reichmarks  which may be made available to the German government if required.  

A repeat of the 'flying banana' controversy has been avoided after a last-minute intervention by the new Chief Minister. Senator Ian Gorst stepped in to stop taxpayers' money being spent employing private design company Baldrick Limited to create a flying turnip. "With the ending of low value consignment relief there would be no savings on exporting flying flowers, flying bananas or flying turnips", said a Treasury spokesman.

The Jersey Chamber of Commerce has put forward proposals that it believes should be adopted to try and make the Island more competitive. It says that the 'Plan B' is necessary as the States is not achieving cost-cutting targets and seems to be prepared to increase taxes at a time when businesses are struggling. Islanders can view the proposals in a special film presentation at Cineworld, called "Plan B from Outer Space",

Plan B from Outer Space starring....

The late Bela Lugosi as a Vulture Fund
Hedley Le Maistre as a Jersey Bean
David Warr as a Coffee Bean
Peter Body as "The Businessman"
Jeremy Macon as Best Boy
A Snoring States Member as A Zombie

Special Economic Effects by Maclean Light Industrial Magic
Musical accompaniment by Geoff Cook and the Chamber Orchestra
Produced and directed by Ed Wood

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Morris Dance Mythology

To see a strange outlandish fowle,
A quaint baboon, an ape, an owl,
A dancing bear, a giant's bone,
A foolish engine move alone,
A morris-dance, a puppet play,
Mad Tom to sing a roundelay,
A woman dancing on a rope,
Bull-baiting also at the Hope;
A rhymer's jests, a juggler's cheats,
Or players acting on the stage.
(Henry Farley, 1616)

I was watching Tom Holland's recent documentary on the mythology surrounding dinosaur bones. The ancients interpreted such bones within the framework of their understanding, and saw fabulous creatures like griffins (possibly derived from protoceratops), dragons, and titans or giants. It was not until the use of comparative anatomy that the modern reconstruction of the dinosaurs began; before that, they were fitted into a mythological history, in which they had been wiped out in a global catastrophe such as the Biblical flood.

Mythological histories play a large part in our understanding of our own past even today. Virtually everyone, including Morris dancers, will tell you that the dance embodies pagan fertility symbolism, and it is certainly understood in those terms. And yet that is almost certainly an early modern attribution, and very far from the truth, just as monuments of the Neolithic age were once enfolded in the same terms as druid's temples.

Stephen D. Corrsin, writing in Folklore noted how: "At the end of the nineteenth century and in the first decades of the twentieth century, the ideas and terminology of rites, rituals, and pagan religious ceremonies pervaded English writing on performance practices such as morris dances and sword dances, and mumming and pace-egging." (1)

Part of the problem lies in the re-invention of history. The early studies of folklore and mythology, which we find in Frazer's Golden Bough or Lady Raglan's work, tend to start with an idea and select evidence to confirm that idea, often turning speculations into cast-iron facts, when of course, they are very far from that. It is like a join the dots puzzle where some of the dots can be fitted to make one picture, if one ignores some of the others, or brush them aside.

So what is the history of morris? The first reference to the English Morris dance is 1458:

when Alice de Wetehalle, a widow with property in London and Suffolk, left to her heirs a silver cup 'sculpted with moreys dauns'. At about the same time the English translation of a Norman French romance, The Knight of the Swan, included 'morishes'. They appeared at court in 1492, when Henry VII paid for the first of what became a favourite royal entertainment. Market towns were taking the morris up from the 1500s. During the late fifteenth century its cast of characters, the Lady, the Fool, and the set of dancers, became a common motif for artists all over western and central Europe. The plot of their action was the wooing of the lady by all the others, and the winning of her hand by the Fool. The dance which they performed was distinguished by its exceptional vigour, with much capering and rapid arm movements. But although it was clearly a very widespread phenomenon, none of the European appearances seem to be earlier than Alice de Wetehalle's bequest.(2)

The morris seems to have begun as a dance in the court, which then became popular outside the court. This transmission of popularity by Royal patronage can also be seen in the Christmas Tree, which became a popular part of Christmas after Prince Albert had made it part of the Royal celebration of Christmas in Victorian England. We can even see traces of the same today in naming of children over members of the Royal family. The Royal touch lends a mystique and popularity that should not be underestimated.

In the courts, there were masques which were orderly dances and entertainments, but which were preceded by anti-masques.

The anti-masque is a spectacle of disorder which usually starts or precedes the masque itself. It is characterized by impropriety and is transformed by the masque into goodness, propriety, and order, typically by the King's presence alone. It was also contrasted with the masque by the use of the lower class as characters. This then was supposed to harmonize with the king and the higher class.(3)

The antimasque was performed was performed entirely by professional actors and dancers, and provided the contrast before the stately masque which followed. Actors were often skilled dancers at the time. The printer Thomas Platter mentions seeing the actors dancing "marvellously and gracefully" after a production of Julius Caesar in 1599. But the courtiers who danced in the main masque were not actors, and there was a distinctive difference in expression between antimasque dancing and the masque which followed:

A great deal of music was performed during the presentation of a masque at court. When the king entered the masquing room and took his seat on the chair of state, loud music -- a wind consort -- was heard. The performance which followed usually fell into two parts: an antimasque and a main masque. The grotesque or comic antimasque always contained at least one dance and sometimes included singing. When this world of misrule or vulgarity vanished (at a visually spectacular moment known as the transformation scene), more loud music was heard. The masquers (courtiers, and not professional actors and dancers like the performers in the antimasque) were revealed and came forward to music. (4)

The morris dance then was unmistakably antimasque material, designed to be vulgar and brash to point up the contrast which followed the transformation scene. Antimasques were dances which did not derive from the peasantry, but which depicted the courtly idea of the peasantry, and provided social stratification in dancing. The morris itself seems to have been a craze sweeping the courts of Western Europe which  were notoriously fashion conscious, much as crazes and fashions sweep across our own society without apparent rhyme or reason.
Shakespeare also takes a morris dance and places it in Two Noble Kinsmen, but this is to play up to the Queen:

Consider the morris dance in Two Noble Kinsmen. Far from being genuinely rustic, it was borrowed directly from Beaumont's masque for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and the Elector Palatine. Moreover, the court received these plays favorably. The Winter's Tale and The Tempest were performed at court in 1611; both were also performed, along with twelve other plays, as part of the wedding festivities for Princess Elizabeth and the Elector Palatine in 1612. (5)

But by Elizabeth's time, the morris dance was already well established, and considered an ancient dance. We must be careful not to read too much into that supposition. There is no evidence of the dance before 19 May 1448, "when Moryssh daunsers were paid 7s (35p) for their services."  As Ronald Hutton observes:

The earlier performances before royalty may have been by people with faces darkened to resemble the 'Moors' or Arabs after whom the morris is possibly named. At Shrovetide 1509 Henry VIII had torchbearers 'apparelled in crimson satin and green like Moriskoes, their faces black'. But by Christmas 1515 the 'moresk' dancers at court certainly appeared something like the modern morris sides: six people wearing white and green jackets with hanging sleeves, tiny dangling pieces of copper, and a large number (348 between them) of small bells. They were accompanied by a fool in a yellow silk coat and two ladies in satin representing Beauty and Venus. A gold cup owned by the king was decorated with five morrismen and a lady, while the Christmas revels of the princess Mary, in 1522, included nine dancers in coats and bells. At Kingston the coats and bells had already appeared in 1507. By 1520 the former were specified as being of spangled twilled cotton and the latter were apparently strung on garters as they were later in the century, and have been ever since. There were always six in the troupe. 86 So the costume of the morris, if not the number of performers, was becoming standardized. But we have no record of the steps.(2)

Hutton suggests that it might have developed out of earlier English leaping dances, called routs and reyes, "because those terms vanish as the morris appears", and he observes that:

by now the point ought to have been substantiated that although some of the rituals and customs carried on in early Tudor communities were very old, many had been either introduced or embellished only a few generations before or even within living memory. The churchwardens' accounts from the years around 1400 show few of them compared with those from the period around 1500, and the fourteenth-century household accounts likewise refer to them much less than those of the early sixteenth century. Literary evidence and the edicts of churchmen suggest that some earlier customs had died away by the later middle ages, to be replaced by others. (2)

The most complete study of the morris was by John Forrest in "The History of Morris Dancing, 1458-1750". He lays to rest completely the notion of a pagan dance at its origin, and comes to the following conclusions:

* morris has no single origin point
* morris is not and never has been a single or simple phenomenon
* morris has evolved continuously throughout its documented history
* morris is not especially "folk" or rural
* styles of morris from different contexts have had a constant evolutionary influence on one another (pp. 26-7

Forrest discerns three basic types of Morris in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: the solo jig, the processional, and the 'Lady' Morris. Most records from this early period refer to the latter, in which a woman stands in the middle of a group of male dancers. The woman (and later a man dressed as a woman, probably because the part was felt to be demeaning to a woman), was said to be the 'Lady' or 'Maid Marian'. Lowe speculates that the original Lady was supplanted by the Maid Marian, the latter being part of the Robin Hood May-Game which was commonly enacted on the same occasions that Morris was danced.

In 1575, Robert Langham reported on a courtly Morris at Kenilworth, "Well, sir, after these horsemen, a lively Morris dance, according to the ancient manner: six dancers, Maid Marian and the Fool." (8)

But as time went on, and the dance spread, it evolved and changed. Probably as it moved out from the warmth of the courts, and into the open streets and fields, it moved from Christmas to the warmer times of the year. Morris dancing outside, in snow or hail, on a bitter freezing night, may keep the dancers warm, but there will be few spectators. In the warmer months, it could attach itself and form part of the traditional country pastimes like fairs.

Courtly morris of the fifteenth century was a Christmas-tide entertainment involving a group of men with bells on their legs, dancing frenetically in an attempt to woo a lady. After this display of male vitality she, in fine fickle, gave her heart to a fool. Not only did this little scenario find favour in the palaces of England, soon it was spreading among the common people. First along the Thames to nearby towns and then, by the sixteenth century, throughout England. Along the way it became less a feature of Christmas than of the Maytime or summer games.(9)

The origins of the term itself are obscure. Here are two explanations:

The term morris probably developed from the French word morisque (meaning a dance, the dance), which became morisch in Flemish , and then the English moryssh, moris and finally morris. (5)

Most sources agree that the English morris dance derives its name from the Spanish moresca, or "Moorish dance." In Spain the dance is supposed to represent the encounter between Moors and Christians, and it retains this theme in its name (Moros y Cristianos); (6)

What is clear is that morris dancing has evolved over the centuries, and in its current form, it may have been influenced by the folklorists who saw a pagan origin, and who thereby incorporated motifs into the dance as a kind of reconstruction.

Most notably, this was the work of Sir Edmund Chambers in 1903 in his popular book "The Mediaeval Stage" where, intoxicated by the work of James Frazer, he stated that it must have been an ancient fertility dance.  While modern day researchers find little of Frazer's work holds up to scrutiny, his opinions were accepted almost without question for about 60 years.

The musician Cecil Sharp was inspired by this to collect 150 examples of morris which by then was dying out, and revived it at the new centre of a folk movement. He clashed with Mary Neal, who was teaching morris to a girls club, and had first asked Sharp to collect examples of it, as Sharp propagated the idea that in its "original purity" the dance had only been performed by men, and henceforth women should be excluded. This was in fact relying heavily on Chambers, who was very much a biased source, and not a professional historian. When Barbara Lowe's 1957 study showed that this history was mistaken, this was largely ignored - by then, the status quo, and the supporting fabricated history had been well established.

So if you are a woman, and you ask to put on the morris dancers hat, don't assume you will get pregnant, which is the modern folk-belief. Mind you, I know of one woman who did, and she did give birth later in the year!

(1) Folklore, Vol. 115, 2004, Stephen D. Corrsin
(2) The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year, 1400-1700, Ronald Hutton, 1994
(3) Wikipedia
(4) Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640. Peter Walls, 1996
(5) Moorish Dancing in the Two Noble Kinsmen. Sujata Iyengar, Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, 2007
(7) The History of Morris Dancing, 1458-1750,

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Days of the Doily

One from the back catalogue today, from "Household Hints", an article which appeared in "Thinks!" back in the 1980s when I was assistant editor.

Incidentally, the same book cover graces a modern revamp -"Classic Household Hints: Over 500 Old and New Tips for a Happier Home" which is currently selling on Amazon. I imagine they've modernised some of the recipes, and almost certainly will not have the details below for afternoon tea.

A lace mat - as mentioned below - was often termed a doily (or doilie). These were ornamental mats, originally the name of a fabric made by Doiley, a 17th-century London draper. Often these would be crocheted and sometimes knitted out of cotton or linen, but lace doilies were also manufactured, and can still be found for sale today on ebay.

I love the precision of the afternoon tea

Arrange cups on their respective saucers with handles at right angles to the rim of the tray.

This was clearly intended for middle class people, of the kind described in Miss Marple books, where a maid comes round to help each day to homes in Mary St Mead. One can imagine the same lady doing afternoon tea as that described by Cecil Parkinson in his book "Parkinson's Law":

It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and despatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.

So if you are retired, have plenty of time on your hands, and neighbours to invite round, here are a few tips...


Our Puzzle-setter, Tony, is something of a "book-browser" and second hand book shops have a fatal fascination for him. One of the treasures he discovered recently was a pre-war edition of "Household Hints". Here is an extract to bore you - amuse you - or bring back happy memories, depending on your age.

Afternoon Tea

1 All preparations must be completed beofre your guests arrive.-

2. In Autumn or Winter, draw the curtains and light the room with candles.

3. Have an adequate supply of little tables.

4. Cover each table with a lace cloth laid cornerways.

5. Place lace mats on tables to receive plates.

6.  Your tray should be oblong, though oval shows off a service well. Silver is most attractive, copper next, then lacquer. Failing this a carved wooden tray of polished mahogany.

7. Arrange cups on their respective saucers with handles at right angles to the rim of the tray.

8. Arrange plates in a pile with lace serviettes,folded triangularly, beside them. As you pour out, lift plate, lay serviette on it, place cup and saucer on top, and pass to your guest.

9. Tea Service should consist of silver spoons, tea knives, pastry forks and tongs and a lemon knife
- always have a dish of lemon slices ready for those who prefer lemon to cream.

10. Serve China as well as Indian tea. Fresh tea must be brewed when two cups have been served for
your guests.

The bad old days?

Some further and quite informative snippets:-


To make floury:- Add a teaspoon full of vinegar for each pint of water in which old potatoes are cooked,
after they have been boiling for 15 minutes

To mash lightly:- Add a pinch of baking powder when mashing. Beat well.

To bake quickly:- Stand potatoes in hot water for 15 minutes before baking.

Potato water:- Use when making bread dough. The bread will stay fresh longer. Use instead of water
for making gravy or stock.

Potato peelings:- These are to be dried and used for kindling.

Incidentally the price of this fascinating tome was originally 2/6, or 12 1/2p in today's money - the price of a bag of crisps! What Tony paid for it second hand, he's not telling. However it really is a treasure house of information.