Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Death and Burial, Part 4

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.

After the last post, I received a lot of rather angry and fierce words from one single Romany (who lives in Jersey) on Facebook which suggested made two assertions: (1) that I should not be writing or posting anything about Romany culture anyway as I was not a Romany, and I would not like it if she wrote about Jersey history; (2) that I was posting information that was not accurate.

Taking the first point, I have to say that I find this nonsensical. Much good work done on Jersey history has been done by archeologists and historians who came from outside Jersey, and it would be, I think, totally absurd to say they couldn't write about Jersey history, language and customs because they came from outside the Island. To name a few names - Doug Ford, Tony Scott-Warren, Charles Cruickshank, Paul Sanders, Freddie Cohen, Mark Patton, Colin Platt, David Frazer, Warwick Rodwell - all of these are outsiders, not Jersey born, even if some of them have settled to live in the Island. That argument simply does not stand up.

On the other second matter, I have written to various Romany peoples in the USA and UK, and they have told me that probably the best Romany historian who is himself a Romany, is Professor Ian Hancock. I have in fact a copy of Hancock's book "We Are the Romani People" at home. He is the director of the Program of Romani Studies and the Romani Archives and Documentation Center at The University of Texas at Austin, where he has been a professor of English, linguistics and Asian studies since 1972. He has also has published more than 300 books and articles concerning the Romani people and language. These works analyze the Romani people not only through Romani linguistics but also through culture, history, anthropology, and genetics.

He is clearly of the opinion that misinformation is best stopped by putting out correct information, and has "Gypsies of Britian" on his suggested reading list.

I also contacted another Romany, who had no problems with me asking questions, or posting material, as long as it was accurate. On "Gypsies of Britain", they told me that "several well respected elders refer to it often. Ian also has it listed in suggesting reading. I tend to trust everything Ian has to say because his research is thorough and he tends to seek out and expose misinformation very quickly."

Another correspondent wrote saying that her daughter in law in the U.K. participated in the Romany burial rituals in Worcester, as her brother lived with them at the time, and the article from Vesey-Fitgerald was accurate.

And a reviewer in Nature, in 1945, noted that: "Now he has given us a most interesting book on the gipsies of Britain. For the accuracy of this book I can vouch, because in the course of a medical experience of more than fifty years I, too, have studied gipsies and doctored all who came my way, in all sorts of conditions, from the heaths of West Cornwall to the open fairs of East London."

The book is also listed in the bibliography of reliable sources in historian Angus Frazer's The Gypsies.

I am therefore, inclined to disregard the opinion of the local Romany, who it appears, from my correspondence with U.K. and U.S.A. Romanies, may be not entirely accurate herself in what she says about Romany culture, and in particular the way in which Romanies are supposed to practice Wiccan style esbats and sabbats, for which I can find no independent sources, and I have looked far and wide. Perhaps the outburst was because there might be a certain romanticism in how she describes her own background, and conflation of that with Wicca (which she practices), which other sources might expose as rather more singular than commonplace among the Romany peoples.

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

I have said that Gypsies have a strong aversion to handling a corpse and that the laying out is almost invariably done by gorgios. One might as well say " invariably," for Thompson, in all the long and careful research he has
done into Gypsy death and burial customs, has come across only one instance of a Gypsy assisting at the laying out of a corpse. This aversion to handling the body is sometimes accompanied by a strong objection to anyone else doing so. Sometimes on these occasions the normal preparations are very much curtailed. Thompson cites as examples two comparatively recent deaths at Birkenhead. Both were youngish men and both died fully, even carefully, dressed, though both had been ill for a considerable period. The only attention either received subsequently was to have his eyes and mouth closed, and his face sponged over very lightly and rapidly by his mother. " On each occasion the body was then laid on a strip of carpet at the back of
the tent, and covered with a white sheet. The undertakers were not allowed to make any measurements, and when they brought the coffin their instructions were to lift the corpse into it by taking hold of the carpet only." A similar procedure is said to have been followed in the case of earlier deaths at Birkenhead, notably in the case of Ambrose Smith's sister, Elizabeth, in 1883.

This custom of the Ambrose Smith family may be regarded as rather extreme, but the practice of dressing up for death was formerly quite common and I have known it to occur as recently as low or thereabouts.

When Louis Boswell was buried on January 26th, 1839, he was fully dressed and shod in buckle shoes. In his pockets were his watch, his pocket-knife and some money, beside him lay his walking-stick, his silver tankard and, perhaps, his fiddle. When his daughter Vashti was buried later in the same year she, too, was fully dressed and had on her buckle shoes. Round her waist was a broad belt ornamented with silver, and having concealed pockets in which money had been placed. There are other records of Gypsies being buried in shoes, notably Absolom Smith, who was buried at Twyford in Leicestershire in 1826 wearing shoes adorned with silver buckles each of which weighed half-a-pound. But the custom of being buried in shoes seems to
have been confined in the main to the midlands. Thompson only gives two examples outside the midlands, and says some Gypsies, including a Gray, a Heron and a Lee, have informed him that it is contrary to Gypsy custom.

Dressing up, however, is certainly not. It has been a common practice not only in England, but in Germany and throughout Eastern Europe. In England and Germany best clothes are worn, but they are always clothes that have been worn before. In Eastern Europe there seems to be a preference for new clothes. Covering the head does not seem ever to have been a common practice among English Gypsies. Eliza Heron was buried in Norfolk about 1887 in a scarlet bonnet, and this seems to be a unique record. There are two records of midland Gypsy women being buried with kerchiefs arranged in the usual manner on their heads. There is one similar record for a Norfolk Gypsy, Tom Brown, and Eliza Boss was buried with the hood of her cloak turned up. The practice seems to have been more prevalent among Scottish Gypsies, who were otherwise buried naked more often than not. Simson says that a paper cap was used and that paper was also put round the feet of the body. Otherwise the body was naked except that on the breast, opposite the heart, a small circle of red and blue ribbons was placed.

Burying a corpse naked is unknown among English Gypsies, and so is the use of paper or of ribbons of any colour to adorn the body. But the circle on the breast idea is not unknown, for instead of ribbons some English Gypsies have used, and perhaps still do, a round sod of turf. The exact purpose of this custom is not known. I find it impossible to take seriously the Smiths' explanation (the custom was commonest among Smiths), as quoted by Thompson, that it was to prevent swelling. It is, in any case, not entirely a Gypsy custom. It was formerly common among the peasantry of the lakeland counties, in Staffordshire, in Cornwall, and even occurred occasionally in Hampshire. It was known and practised by the northern potters. And related customs-the use of a few tufts of grass (which would certainly do nothing to prevent swelling) by midland Gypsies, of grasses or flowers by southern Gypsies, and of a pebble by Irish tinkers-are many. It
is curious to find no explanation in all the pages of Folk-Lore (if there is one I have missed it) and even Fraser is unhelpful. The same reason-prevention of swelling-has often been given for the placing of a saucer of salt on the breast. This is a generally accepted survival of saining ; so it looks, as Thompson points out, as if the motives that once prompted the adoption of these rites had been forgotten or had become confused.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Medicine Cabinet and What I Found There

Time once more to go through the medicine cabinet. It is the time of year for colds and coughs, and my son has already had a very nasty hacking cough, no doubt obtained from school; as school headmaster Seymour Utterthwaite said (in "Last of the Summer Wine"), a veritable breeding ground for germs.

At work, various people cough their way around the office, and germs are spreading, invisible to all, in the air. Isn't it a shame there isn't a kind of spray which would make them glow, or show up, so that you could avoid patches of "infected air"?

And so time to get some cough pastilles in the house, stock up with Night Nurse, and so on. Night Nurse sounds so promising, like one of those dream sequences in Dennis Potter's Singing Detective, where all the nurses in the hospital do a can-can. Instead, however, it is an evil green liquid, which doesn't taste quite as bad as fairy liquid, but almost as bad. I always think that after drinking such a horrible concoction, one should fall to the ground, making groaning noises, and rise up again as Mr Hyde. Regarding cough sweets, I'd recommend the Buttercup ones; sucked slowly, they act like an intravenous drip of the syrup down the throat.

If you don't want the Night Nurse, a warm Lemsip or Beacham's Powder (which sounds like a Victorian remedy) will do; if you haven't time, it's in a handy pill or capsule form. So there's more to stock up on.

And of course, along with the Night Nurse is Buttercup syrup, which actually does taste quite nice, in a kind of organic environmentally friendly way. Then there are the sore throat sweets, now almost always with an "anesthetic" action. In fact, if you have a sore throat almost any kind of boiled sweet or fruit pastille will help; it is the sucking and swallowing that does most of the work. But just in case the specialist sweet has "ingredient X", I buy these things. The old cough sweets become stickier over time, and are almost impossible to prize off the paper they are wrapped in. At school, of course, they were handy because you could have sweets in the classroom quite legitimately. I used to munch my way through packets of Zubes every winter term.

What happens is that as the winter goes on, colds and coughs hit everyone, and there is always something left over. A dreg of cough syrup, a cup of Night Nurse, a few cough sweets, and one or two strips with powders and tablets remaining.

On top of that will go all the summer medication, the allergy pills to remedy hay-fever, the antihistamine cream to soothe insect bites, and the pungent roll on or spray on "jungle" formula to keep away the mosquitoes. It is really so repulsive and strong that, alas, it will keep anything else at bay as well.

Then there are the Rennies, and the Gaviscon, and Settler's Tums, all inclined to be helpful when one has overindulged over the festive season, or any other time, for that matter. We each have our own favourite, which works well for us, so all three are in evidence. I myself tend to favour Gaviscon; I tried Rennies for many years, but a side-effect was incessant burping and a rumbling stomach. Annie always used to comment on that, and complain that it could keep her awake, and anyway, it was not nice to kiss someone who was burping in your face. I think she had a point.

The headache pills come in handy when you haven't got a cold, just a headache, or backache, or toothache, or indeed any number of aches and pains, including joints in the fingers. I'm sure those result from standing as "left back" on the football pitch as a boy, in freezing winter winds, clad in only a white shirt which became icy cold, and shorts. Could I sue the school? The warmer shirt was the brown one, but that was also prickly. Why do they make these things? Is it in inherent sadism in the clothing manufacturers, or is it part of the hearty Tom Brown's Schooldays masochism?

There is TCP. Indeed, there is always TCP, for dabbing on cuts, and giving a distinct odour that almost is as effective as the Jungle juice for keeping other people away. For milder treatments, and less anti-social ones, the well-stocked hypochondriac should also have Tea Tree Lotion and Savlon.

And now it is Winter again, and some of the stuff deep buried in the perma-layer of the medicine cabinet has been there for a few years; I've been lazy, and just stocked up with new stuff on top or in front of the summer stuff. So after a few years, it is time to go through the medicines, and also get rid of those odd antibiotics that you should have completed the course on, but didn't. Please don't tell my Doctor.

Spring cleaning is sprucing around the house to make it fresh for the summer; winter cleaning is removing ancient medication from the medicine cabinet to make that fresh for the winter.

Monday, 28 November 2011

BDO in the News

There are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless. (Bleak House)

In Dicken's Bleak House, the case in the Court of Chancery, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, about inheritance of an estate, rumbles on unceasingly, until finally it comes to an end - when the lawyers run out of money, and there is nothing left in the pot to pay them.

Reading the story about Farepak, I am inclined to see some similarities. Farepak had run a Christmas club and hamper business since 1968, and collapsed in 2006. Like a Thrift Club, it allowed people to spread the cost of Christmas food and presents over the cost of the year. When it when bust, about 116,000 people lost almost £37m in total. They were told in October 2011 that they will get back just 15p in the pound.

The latest report in the saga is that the cost to date of the winding up of the company stands at £8.2m.

The fees for dealing with the administration of Christmas hamper firm Farepak have exceeded any potential compensation for its victims. The potential money back comes to around £5.53m. But the cost to date of winding up the company now stands at £8.2m. As the Telegraph notes, the £8.2m has been

earned by lawyers, administrators, insurers and media relation executives during both the administration and liquidation of the company, according to fresh documents filed at Companies House. BDO, as administrator and now liquidator, has already earned fees equating to £3.8m, excluding VAT. (1)

On the local scene, it should be noted that the local branch of BDO Alto, when participating in a Scrutiny review, initially attempted to ask for money before being interviewed. As the Chairman, Trevor Pitman, noted:

I also feel that I must comment upon the company's unprecedented attempt (as far as I am aware) to bill Scrutiny for its participation in the review to the sum of approximately £14000 (discounted from £26000!). That included in this huge sum was a charge for attending a meeting set up by Scrutiny as a courtesy to the company to try and talk through and alleviate their initial concerns about the review only further compounds this feeling of disbelief.

BDO appear to have have what is termed, in the jargon, "a track record" for record fees. I wonder how much their review in the Jersey case of the financial management of the Historic Child Abuse enquiry represented "value for money"?

In the case of Dickens, it was the legal profession which remorselessly swallowed up money; in today's world, it seems it is just as likely to be a large accountancy practice.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Gods and Monsters: A Review

Dr. Pretorius: To a new world of gods and monsters! (The Movie Bride of Frankenstein (1935) )

Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. . . . Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time . . . renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption. (Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1812)

Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters on TV was the first on what might be called folk belief and folk customs. These are beliefs that may grow from a religious background, but are not part of that background, and may persist even after the soil in which they were planted has long gone. Of course, some of these persist to this day, for instance, in the belief that it is unlucky to walk under a ladder, or have thirteen at dinner, or to see only one magpie. But others were less related to individualistic notions of luck, and more linked to communal beliefs, and actually have their basis more in rational than magical thinking. And these are, as he notes, "Ideas that today seem unbelievable, but were seen as uncontroversial and hugely influential, with some having shaped our history as much as mainstream religion."

Robinson will be looking at three different kinds of belief over three episodes:

- The Undead
- Evil Spirits
- Disease

In this first episode, he conducted a very gruesome but effective investigation on dead, with both dramatic reconstructions and actual experiments - a pig that had been killed was buried in a shroud and later dug up.

People in the past believed that even in death a body retained some vital force, and that the dead could rise from the grave to cause havoc among the living. Why did they believe this? What powers did they believe the dead had? And what did they do about it?

I was amazed to discover that corpse mutilation persisted (and was abetted by local authorities) until the mid-1800s when it was legally outlawed - the archives contain a law which tells coroners that the dead body must never never be mutilated by a stake driven in it. Murderers and suicides would be ritually buried at crossroads, with a stake driven through the dead body.

This belief may be very ancient - Robinson took us to see some skeletons from Celtic times in which the head has been detached after death from the body before the body was buried. Ancient Rome also had concerns about dead bodies

The dead were separated from the living by a series of rituals which fulfilled emotional, spiritual and practical considerations. It was important to do the right thing by the deceased in order to send the soul on its journey to the next world, to placate restless spirits, to remove a potential source of infection and to reintegrate the survivors into the world of the living. (1)

Information from an inscription from Sarsina, probably dating to the first century BC, in which a Horatius Balbus donated burial plots for the town's inhabitant also shows similar preoccupations:

The inscription of Horatius Balbus also denied burial in the donated land to those who hanged themselves or who followed some immoral trade for profit.... For others it was not the activities and crimes of life that earned them non-burial but the means of death itself. Horatius Balbus singled out those who hanged themselves. The exclusion of suicides from the cemetery and normative rites would fit with other times and places. Although fundamental changes in belief, especially due to Christianity, need to be gauged, suicides have often been regarded as transgressing accepted boundaries. In Tudor and Stuart England, for example, suicide was a crime, and suicides were tried as self-murderers, their property was confiscated and their bodies were denied Christian burial. Until the early nineteenth century English suicides could be buried at a crossroads with a stake driven through their hearts (Macdonald and Murphy1990:15) (1)

But it is in the Middle Ages that this becomes recorded history. In the 12th century, William of Newburgh describes how a tale of a man of "evil conduct" who gets married in York, and - jealous of his bride - catches her in a passionate act of adultery by spying from the rafters. He accidentally falls in his rage, and is mortally wounded, dying a few days later. Newburgh, who was an early proto-historian recording these tales, notes that:

A Christian burial, indeed, he received, though unworthy of it; but it did not much benefit him: for issuing, by the handiwork of Satan, from his grave at night-time, and pursued by a pack of dogs with horrible barkings, he wandered through the courts and around the houses while all men made fast their doors, and did not dare to go abroad on any errand whatever from the beginning of the night until the sunrise, for fear of meeting and being beaten black and blue by this vagrant monster.

The plague had come to the town, and it was assumed because of the coincidence, that it was related to the dead body, animated, and poisoning the air. A number of the townspeople died, assumed to have been killed by the monster and so two brothers conducted an unofficial exhumation of the body:

Thereupon snatching up a spade of but indifferent sharpness of edge, and hastening to the cemetery, they began to dig; and whilst they were thinking that they would have to dig to a greater depth, they suddenly, before much of the earth had been removed, laid bare the corpse, swollen to an enormous corpulence, with its countenance beyond measure turgid and suffused with blood; while the napkin in which it had been wrapped appeared nearly torn to pieces. The young men, however, spurred on by wrath, feared not, and inflicted a wound upon the senseless carcass, out of which incontinently flowed such a stream of blood, that it might have been taken for a leech filled with the blood of many persons. Then, dragging it beyond the village, they speedily constructed a funeral pile; and upon one of them saying that the pestilential body would not burn unless its heart were torn out, the other laid open its side by repeated blows of the blunted spade, and, thrusting in his hand, dragged out the accursed heart. This being torn piecemeal, and the body now consigned to the flames....

What would they have seen, and how did it confirm their belief? Robinson places the notion of a dead body coming back to life in the Christianity of the Middle Ages, with the day of judgment seeing the dead bodies rising. In fact, there has long been a tradition against cremation for this very reason. He shows a fresco illustrating this. These seem to have been widespread in the culture of the day - The Fisherman's Chapel in Jersey has a wall painting showing the dead rising from coffins as the angel blows the last trump. So there was good reason to assume that the dead would rise up some day. Resurrection of the dead mean resurrection of the body, but in an extremely literal way, like the reanimation of a corpse.

The burial and exhumation of a pig showed other factors at work. The decay of a dead pig is close to that of human beings - in fact the closeness in physiology is why the ancient Greek Galen experimented on the anatomy using pigs. Full of gas from decomposition, the dead body might exhale, and it was alive with maggots, and air bubbled through blood at the nostrils. Hair would remain, but the shrinking of the skin against the body would give the impression that hair and finger nails had grown.

So it was a very rational belief, based not just upon religion, but also upon observation, that a dead body could come back. The English death customs, like those which persisted in Romany culture (described in the 1950s by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald), were geared to prevent the corpse being reanimation.

All Roma tribes have customs and rituals regarding death. The belief in the supernatural is fundamental, common to all Roma, and the extent to which they believe varies slightly from tribe to tribe. Spirits surround us all of the time. These must all be carefully guarded against, or combated by the use of spells and charms. For Roma, death is a senseless, unnatural occurrence that should anger those who die. At the approach of death, Roma are concerned not only with the pain and heartbreak of the final separation from a loved one. They are also worried about the possible revenge the dead, or muló, might seek against those who remain in the world of the living.

The Roma believe that the soul of the dead might be reincarnated in another man or animal. Most feared of all is the possible reappearance of the dead as a muló or "living dead." Unless strict precautions are taken, this muló might escape from the body and seek revenge on those who had harmed him when living or had caused his death. The mere sight of a muló, who can appear as a wolf, terrorizes Roma. It is a certain sign of bad luck.(3)

It was not stupid to believe this; he shows how with the best knowledge they had available, it was a perfectly rational belief given the way the corpse decomposed. The science of the time - observation of the dead body - all tended to confirm that the body remained alive in some fashion after the spirit had departed. In fact the notion that the hair and fingernails continue to grow persists to this day, again because observation suggests that this is happening.

A "good death", with confession, extreme unction, and a final Eucharist would ensure the body would not rise; a "bad death" such as a suicide, or a criminal's death, would not have this seal placed upon it, and the body might be reanimated by the dead spirit, to come back and wreak vengeance on the living. This idea of the "bad death" of a suicide or criminal persisted long after Catholicism was the dominant belief, surviving the English reformation.

It might be noted in passing as an aside that although the notion of taking one's own life is ancient, the word "suicide" to describe this is comparatively recent in origin, being first mentioned in Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici in 1642. In fact the word

suicidium was actually derived by combining the Latin pronoun for "self" and the verb "to kill." The word sounds deceptively Latin, but Henry Romilly Fedden, in his 1938 book Suicide, stated that the Romans described the act using Latin phrases, such as vim sibi inferre (to cause violence to oneself), sibi mortem consciscere (to procure one's own death), and sua manu cadere (to fall by one's own hand). Early English also used phrases, such as self-murder, self-destruction, and self-killer, all of which reflect the early association of the act with murder. (2)

But there was more to that. Blood was seen as holding "the life force" and we find this in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science of anatomy: but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body. . . . I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life. . . .

Later films drew on ideas of galvanism, of using electrical currents to stimulate muscles, as shown by Galvani with a battery and the leg of a dead frog, but there is nothing explicit in the book, which speaks that "I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet".

The book was written in 1818, but by the 1831 edition, Mary Shelley was acquainted with galvanism, as seen by the introduction where she notes that "Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated... galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth"

Tony Robinson then explores how the idea was also prevalent of consuming parts of the dead body. hadn't realised how prevalent (and among Royalty as well), the digestion of distilled parts of the corpse had been. The Key to Solomon, of course, is a Grimoire which uses parts of dead bodies, or material associated with them.

It is, of course, quite possible to secure the brain of a cock, and dissection with that object may perhaps be performed by deputy; the kitchen-maid or the poulterer's assistant would be easily secured. The dust from the grave of a dead man is the second ingredient of the process; but a visit to the nearest cemetery will not be sufficient, because it is useless to collect it on the surface; that which is next to the coffin will alone serve the purpose

But I'd assumed that this book - which probably dates from the 16th or 17th century (although as A.E. Waite notes, "is quite consistent with a literature which has done nothing but ascribe falsely") was a Hermetic tradition apart from popular culture.

But apparently the consumption of blood and brain, distilled into a fluid - this was, after all the age of the science and the Royal Society - and ingested was quite widespread, and would have medicinal and healing properties. Again, as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein shows, this was not in contradiction to early modern science, which seemed to support the ideas of a life force within the body. And Galvani had demonstrated that electricity could make an isolated frog leg twitch and cause the muscles of a recently dead corpse to jerk as if alive.

It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquires were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.

I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation up on lifeless matter.

A rational picture of the world, supported by early modern science, the "modern Prometheus", appeared to confirm ancient beliefs in the life force, and again we can see that this is not simply irrational superstition, but backed by observation which appeared to support the theories concerning "the life force". And again, even today, death appears mysterious, the loss of the animation of the body, some spark being missing and left.

The enlightenment notion that science swept away superstition is a misguided myth and a false history, because, on the contrary, early modern science seemed to support and confirm ancient notions about dead bodies. It was only much later that more accurate observation provided a better and more accurate picture of how a dead body decays, and deep down, primal fears about death still surface in popular culture with vampires and zombies.

(1) Death and Disease in the Ancient City, Valerie M.Hope and Eireann Marshall, 2000

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Dry Land

In keeping with the weather of late and warnings over water...

The Dry Land
Land cold and dry, no water flows
And we shall thirst, and thirsty be
Rain may come, but no one knows
A clear night sky, no cloud to see
Land cold and dry, no water flows
Parched be throat, and dry is skin
The wind is rising, cold she blows
Days grow short, the light is thin
Land cold and dry, no water flows
Ghosts of summer haunt us still
Trees are bare, no leaf now shows
And Winter brings a bitter chill
And we shall dance on moonlit night
And dance for rain to end the blight

Friday, 25 November 2011

Funny Old World

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 a pity.

Finding information on Jersey politicians 'is easier'

It will be easier to find out what proposals politician are bringing to the States according to the States Greffier. The States Assembly website has been re-designed to make it easier to keep track of politicians. A clever filter technique allows you to generate 600 blank pages, which represent all the "in Camera" secret debates over the last five years. These can be spooled to an Adobe file, or printed out to be read at leisure.

A GPS tracking device also allows you to track politicians via their laptops. Are they really in the States Chamber, or have they popped out for a coffee break, a smoke in the Royal Square, or even gone off to run a business elsewhere? It is now much easier to keep track of politicians.

The Greffier, Michael de La Haye said, "It has often been difficult getting politicians back in the Chamber, but as long as they are carrying their laptops around with them, we can locate them." He said they were also looking at whether to live stream webcams from the laptops in the Assembly site, so that you could scrutinise them, and see if the politicians had fallen asleep in the States Assembly.

Meanwhile a pan-Channel Islands forum will investigate blocking adult content on young people's mobile phones. John Curran, executive director of the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority, said he supported the move. There are currently are no restrictions in Jersey on what material someone under the age of 18 can access. It is thought that using the new States Assembly site, with its ability to generate thousands of pages of speeches from Hansard, mostly from a former Deputy of St Mary, Daniel Wimberley, could seriously damage the developing brains of youngsters with information overload. "We must ensure the phone companies are socially responsible," said Mr Curran, "and access to long Hansard debates could cause young, impressionable minds to become suicidal."

Public money is being used to pay for a private security firm to patrol Jersey's new Town Park at night. Concerns have been raised by local residents about anti-social behaviour at the St Helier park. "There are still all these diggers, and builders puffing away on cigarettes over the site" said one resident, Mrs Ena Sharples, "and we had the Minister for Transport here officially opening the site some three weeks ago. What are all these people doing digging it up and putting up scaffolding? It's antisocial vandalism!"

Deputies in charge of Guernsey's new waste strategy are coming under pressure to reveal more details. They have already told islanders they want to send some of their rubbish to Jersey's incinerator. "There are really too many politicians in the States, and sinecure pen-pushing civil servants," said an informed source, "and we could ship them off to Jersey, so dealing with all the extra waste and rubbish, with their incinerator". In Jersey it has sparked a whole host of questions, particularly how the ash from Guernsey's waste will be dealt with. The Transport and Technical Services Minister, explained that the ash could be sent back to Guernsey to dispose of, as if it was composed of surplus politicians and rubbish civil servants, it might be quite toxic.

And finally, Jersey Heritage are offering islanders a chance to win a two night stay at one of their spellbinding sites if you take part in an online questionnaire to help them improve their service. The organisation has already seen an increase in visitors this year with a revived interest in our heritage and the importance of preserving it. The most popular location to stay is the Hermitage Rock on Elizabeth Castle, although the axe-wielding re-enactment of the death of St Helier has meant that there are not a great many repeat bookings.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Lost Jersey

How many places in Jersey can you remember that have vanished, disappeared like smoke? Here are memories of a few shops and tourist sites.

One of the first shops I remember disappearing is the old Noel and Porter building, a general department store, which was knocked down. I can still recall a picture of the semi-destroyed building with the JEP caption "Little now remains of the site of the Noel and Porter building...". I remember that mainly because in those days I kept a scrap book of press cuttings, which had this one, and waves breaking over the pier at St Brelade's Bay on a stormy night. Sadly, I've lost the scrapbook, but the memory is still there.

Second hand bookshops have been vanishing steadily. Now there are lots of charity shops with book sections, but those only have the same kind of books, for variety, there is only the Guide Dogs for the Blind's Charity sale once a year.

I used to go to Thesaurus, originally in Sand Street, and then later in Burrard Street. I could browse three stories of books, with book cases even on stairs between levels. Most of my G.K. Chesterton collection came from that shop, as well as some very strange old books. Mr and Mrs Creaton looked after it, until his death, and the air was often thick with smoke; something you wouldn't find nowadays! There would also be the paperbacks, and I once had an almost complete collection of the Pan Books of Horror stories, compiled by Herbert van Thal, and Ghost Stories compiled by Cynthia Asquith.  I also remember posters for Jennifer Bridges in the window, when she was try to get elected; she had very long hair back then. The shop interior also featured briefly in one episode of Bergerac.

Hillgrove Books, where Mr Pipon was in charge,  had a second hand section, and old and new Jersey books. I got a copy of Balleine' Biographical Dictionary from there, and also the Cartulaire of Jersey, a bound volume of all kinds of odd texts in French and Latin over Island history. Second hand Société Jersiaise Bulletins were also available,  and I found Philip Ahier's Jersey Sea Stories, Sidney Bisson's Jersey Our Island, to name a few.

Elsewhere James Street Books, almost opposite the Church, had mostly paperbacks, and was the JDM book shop. Sometimes Norman Le Brocq manned the desk, and people would come in and out for advice. I used to get mostly detective books and science fiction from there - Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Conan Doyle, John Dickson Carr, and John Wyndham, Robert Heinlein, Robert Sheckley, Isaac Asimov and others. I also found quite by chance a second hand copy of "Simple Simon" by Ann Lovell, a story of an autistic boy. I'd heard about it, because my eldest son is quite profoundly autistic, and I had been reading up on books. This was one listed in a list of books, and I went into James Street Books, and there it was in front of my eyes! Apart from Norman Le Brocq, who wasn't that chatty to me, Stella Perkins would sometimes be at the desk, and we'd chat about Jersey politics. There was a collecting tin for CentrePoint, and if I had loose change from a purchase, it would go in the tin.

The SPCK was in Waterloo Street, and had a very wide variety of religious books, more so that the Central Market. Where else could you get a copy of "The Myth of God Incarnate", as I did. Or John A.T. Robinson's "Redating the New Testament". In the second hand section, I got hold of M.R. James Apocryphal New Testament in the second hand section.

In those days, there was no online second hand book sales, and it was very difficult to get out of print books, or even in print ones that hadn't made it to Jersey. Some, however, were specific to Jersey. In the UK, you could not get Spycatcher, but Jura Books sold copies. That was not a second hand bookshop, just an ordinary - but very good - bookshop, but it's gone now, along with De Gruchy's book section, and The Printed Word at West's Centre.

Woolworths of course, was a good one stop shop for everything; I always enjoyed getting Christmas presents there. DVDs, CDs, children's toys, children's clothes, paint, bedside lamps, light bulbs, headphones, pillow cases, cushions, towels, duvet covers, sheets, plates, crockery, pots and pans, cards, calendars, gift wrap - the list is not endless, but certainly very long. At one time or another, I bought all those from Woolworths; the only thing I actually didn't buy was the pick-n-mix!

There were lots of Toy shops too. Not just the recently departed 101 Toys, but there was Brigg's Toy shop on King Street, and in the West at Quennevais was Panicos, described in adverts as "The Toy Mecca in the West" - now that would probably lead to militant Muslims burning teddy bears and mechano sets! Panicos was run by a couple who really couldn't stand children, if they were unattended by adults, and would hover round, looking as if they expected shoplifting by every youngster.

At Red Houses, there was Mr News, the paper shop, where the Constable of St Peter, Mr Le Brocq would sometimes serve behind the counter, a chip shop, and "Old Friend", a Chinese takeaway, although after several rather dodgy meals from there, we renamed it "Old Fiend" after having upset stomachs. Le Riches at Red Houses - as well as food - also had a large toy area, a cafe upstairs, a dentist, a hairdresser, a travel agent, and a large record area - selling LPs mainly in those days, but also a few cassettes, the incoming replacement for records. Or so we thought!

Houguez Poole in Colomberie was an old fashioned sweet shop, where you could get sweets by the quarter from large jars behind the counter. Lemon Sherbets, Pineapple Chunks. They also sold Gobstobbers, Acid Drops, Sherbet Fountains, and Spangles. My gran used to take me and my sister there on the odd weekends when we slept over at hers, and I probably have most of the fillings in my mouth thanks to that sweet shop!

On the tourist trail, I recall The Cobweb in St Brelade's Bay - afternoon tea with home made cakes. Their lemon meringue was scrummy. And there was the Strawberry Farm - glass blowing, leather workers, craft goods as well as strawberries. In St Mary, or was it St John, was the Butterfly Farm, with the owner pictured on the front of the leaflet, in a bow tie, giving a talk on butterflies. Sadly neither he nor the talks were listed on any notices when I went there; the food was cafeteria style, and edible enough, but nothing special. Unlike the Boardwalk Cafe in St Brelade's Bay where the Crab Shack is now, where the food was cafeteria style fast food, and pretty dreadful. Also in St Brelade's Bay was the Post Office - the shop and letterbox are still there - and a nearby shop called "The Gay Window" which hastily renamed itself "The Bay Window" in the 1970s. We saved up pocket money and bought a china desert service for my mum with a very nice pattern for one guinea!

Do you remember guineas? One guinea was one pound and one shilling, in the days before decimalisation, with twenty shillings to the point, and twelve pence to the shilling, half-a-crown which was two shillings and sixpence, a sixpenny piece, a three penny piece, a half-penny, and a ten shilling note (in Jersey anyway).

Then there were all the small newspaper stalls, almost sheds. There was one in St Mark's road which sold TV Comic which my grandfather bought for me - probably lots else but that's what I remember! TV Comic had a William Hartnell Dr Who comic strip, so was an obvious hit for me. And another stall was along Queen's Road near to and facing Mont A L'Abbe school, near my Aunt's house. Myself and my cousins would get the odd sweets from there. And newsagents included Downer in St Aubin, where Len Downer, once a Constable of St Brelade, could be found.

In town there was Stones the Chemist, opposite West's Cinema, where I could supplement my chemistry set with all kind of goodies - tubs of sulphur, potassium permanganate, copper sulphate, iron filings - health and safety would have a fit if 14 year olds could buy that now!

I remember taking my children, when young, for a walk around the Shire Horse Farm, where there were only a few horses to see close, but the odd time, a baby lamb, and lots and lots of bantams of all varieties, and I think rabbits in cages. A season ticket meant there was a place for an outing when you wanted to show the kids some animals close up. Next to it was the Bird Tree Tea Garden, a cafe doing afternoon tea, and light snacks, with lots of cage birds outside in large cages, and a sign that said "we are free", to emphasis the fact that the discerning tourist wanting to save money might go there instead. It's all gone, all houses now.
There was the old El Tico, not the Art Deco style modern place, but place where the windows rattled in Winter storms, the old beachside cafe, which had excellent food, often home made, at very reasonable prices, and an outside toilet. I once was part of a party looking into computerising Time Jewelers, and Eric Young, the millionaire owner, said he would treat us to a meal, which we thought meant a post restaurant - instead it was a simple jacket potato, with butter, and salad, with ham, sitting outside, in the sun, the tide full of spray, on a warm summer's day. Frugal perhaps - how else did he keep his millions - but understandable, it was a perfect place to relax and eat. Now it's massively expensive in comparison, and not a beach cafe any more; that casual tone has been lost. Do the surfer's still eat there, I wonder?
The Sabrina in St Brelade's Bay, which became the Zanzibar, and then closed for good, was somewhere that usually had pretty good food. I say that despite the fact that Constance Brown, in her 80th year, chocked to death on a piece of Beef Wellington at the St Brelade's Bay Association Christmas meal. As the Zanzibar, it thrived for a while under the chef Steve, and then was finally closed. Below it was a small shop selling beach art and craft stuff, now boarded up, and the boards themselves rotting away.
At L'Etacq was the Marina Cafe, where we used to go for egg and chips when our parents wanted to give us a treat. And after the meal itself was the sumptuous desert - a giant knickerbocker glory, which used to take the best part of 15 minutes to eat. I've never come across any as good as those. Later it was revamped to try and survive in a more upmarket environment, but then closed; now the site is just beach side houses, granite faced, and attractive, but not the same.
Albert Ramsbottom, the Fish and Chip Restaurant, was by Wesley Grove Chapel, and used to serve excellent food, with the exception of the bread and butter, which was bread coated thinly with butter, just piece piled on piece and sticking together like a slab of dough.

And of course, Fort Regent Swimming Pool, which I remember going round when it first opened, before anyone was actually swimming there, and the public could look over it. Was it Deputy Farley responsible for that? I remember swimming with different coloured wrist bands, and they'd announce one arm band had to leave the pool. It always had a very strong smell of chlorine. I took my first girlfriend, Julie Pallot, there, and afterwards we had a warm cup of coffee and a snack at the cafe overlooking the pool. My autistic son, Martin, also competed in the Swimarathon, and I still have a photo of him in the water with the school helpers from Mont A L'Abbe.

The Lions Club were involved there, and they also had once year a Donkey Derby at Springfield Stadium. I also remember going to the buildings there for an Ideal Homes Exhibition, in which myself and my friend John Hallam rather aggressively attacked the "gee-whiz" style graph showing the benefits of loft insulation having digested Darrell Huff's "How to Lie with Statistics" earlier and keen to put it into action. My grandfather also took us round the fruit and vegetable displays for the agricultural shows there, where different classes would receive prizes, and there was a wonderful aroma of fruit and vegetables from each table. He lived in a house in St Mark's Road, and could almost literally go from his back garden gate into Springfield, which was very handy for his post as Secretary of the RJH&S.

Along Havre des Pas was the Les Pas Hotel, part of the Seymour Group, where we used to go with my parents, and the Binnington family, and the Miles family (who were friends and used to perform in the Samares Players) for New Year's Eve. There would be a pretty dire cabaret - bad impressionists, singers who couldn't sing, and so on, but it was still fun, and there would be good food, in a buffet with sculptures from butter or ice on display as centre pieces. At the end of the evening, everyone would join in the conga, and I still associate that with New Year's Eve. It's flats now, their skyline dominated by the large heap of the incinerator, and most other beachside hotels in the area also demolished or due to be knocked down. Only the Havre des Pas Swimming Pool remains, a reminder of tourism past.

In Roseville Street, there was the Merton Guest House, not to be confused with the Merton Hotel, run by the Carpenter family, and their son, Bruno, was at school with me - I believe he went into the catering trade later. I was always envious of the way in which he got all the small toys from cereal packets, because, of course, the guests went through those much more speedily than me and my sister at home.

In Gloucester Street, there was the Chelsea Hotel. We used to go there for meals with the Binningtons, Betty and Bernard, and their son Alan and daughter Anne. It was also the venue for the election night, when Bernard was trying for Deputy and later Senator, and we would wait avidly for the results to come through. It was exciting, and the first close contact with anyone in the States of Jersey. In the Winter months it would close, and reopen briefly in January (gleaning some extra income for the family) for all the road tax department who took up residence there, with officials to deal with the annual road tax, and stamp the old log books accordingly. Road tax went, replaced with extra duty on petrol, and the Chelsea Hotel was sold off, and became Spectrum Apartments.

And from childhood, the Old Pavilion, the "Pav", later refurbished and rebranded as "The Inn on the Park", but in those days, a place for parties, and it was even visited by Rolf Harris. Where are the venues like that, and the other nightclubs like Caesar's Palace now? Bergerac's Jersey was written in the 1980s, when John Nettles remembered the BBC team going to many of those shows, and it is now a historical record of what they were like, in the glory days of tourism.

It's amazing what has vanished over the course of my lifetime that I can actually remember. It's sad too, and while I know that nothing is still, everything changes, there seems to have been greater variety in the past than today. Perhaps the pressures of economics have brought about a move towards less diversity, with older businesses being squeezed out of the market, or seizing opportunities to gain more profit from developers, but my Jersey, as I compare the present to past, does feel diminished as a result.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Death and Burial - Part 3

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 deals with customs specifically related to the dead body before burial, and there are four distinct features:

- Fasting while the dead lie unburied (except for young children)
- Watching over the body - a continuous vigil for the dead
- Candles or lanterns lit over the dead until burial
- Dread of the returning ghost

The "corpse-candle" is also something which we find in that most rural of writers, T.F. Powys, in one of his Fables, but the other practices are quite different. This is a society in which death has not been sanitised, and brushed out of the way, and in contrast to the wake, there is the fasting beforehand.

I know that when, for whatever reason, there is a gap between a death and the burial, to allow relatives to travel to the funeral, there is a sense of a hiatus, a time when nothing is happening, a kind of emotional limbo for those who are mourning. Life goes on with its normal pattern, and yet the funeral - the ceremonial occasion for grief - is waiting ahead. By having ritual such as fasting and a vigil, the Romany peoples marked out that time, that hiatus, as different, and perhaps filling the time with these rituals meant that there was not the emotional limbo and disconnect that occurs in our society today.

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

Most bereaved Gypsies fast while their dead lie unburied.  In one family of Boswells there is a definite taboo against the eating of " red " meat at such a time and this taboo remained in force until the camping place had been deserted.  This family also abstained from preparing meals of any sort, and normally declined any cooked food offered them. The East Anglian Smiths and Browns, according to Thompson, neither cooked nor ate cooked food, contenting themselves as a rule with bread and water, and Bui Boswell and his many daughters neither ate nor smoked, and drank only water, whilst his wife, Savaina Lovell, was awaiting burial.  The same practice has been recorded for Herons and Grays and Smiths, Lees and Lovells and Loveridges, Bucklands and Burtons, Stanleys and Coopers.  I have known it in Ayres, Lees, Deightons, Pinfolds-indeed I have not yet come across any family in which this custom of fasting until the time of burial is not observed.

Normally fasting ends with the return of the mourners from the grave-side, and then sometimes a special meal is served.  Thompson records that this happened after the burial of Thomas Pinfold in 1912, when " tables placed on the moor were laden with provisions and wine."  This must be a very rare occurrence indeed-and is obviously an imitation of a common gorgio custom-for Thompson gives only the one occasion.  I have not myself ever come across it.

Children are not expected to share the fast, so far as I know, in any family, and Thompson bears this out.  All the same, while an Ayres was awaiting burial a year or so ago his grandchildren, aged fourteen, twelve and eleven, fasted as rigorously as their parents.

Frequently while the body is awaiting burial it is watched over by relatives.  This " vigil " is a very old established custom among Gypsies.  Thompson was told by aged members of the Derby gypsery that Vashti Carlin's body (Vashti was a Boswell who married a gorgio, persuading him to travel) was watched continually by two kinswomen from the time of death until burial and that her body was illuminated the while by candles at her head and feet.  Vashti was buried on April 10th, 1839.  Thompson then records similar vigils for Mary Buckland in 1909, when her two surviving sisters sat by the corpse without sleep until it was removed for burial, and for the wife of Oni Lee some ten years earlier, when her sister and a daughter performed the same feat. Giving examples of vigils during which the watchers were changed, he instances the death of Abraham Buckland at Gowley near Oxford in 1923, and quotes from Frank Cuttriss's account in Romany Life of a New Forest vigil. Cuttriss says : "The coffin was placed in a tent a short distance from the rest of the camp, by its side stood a tiny clock . . . the little chamber being lit by a lantern suspended from one of the tent rods. Two were keeping watch until midnight when they would arouse two others to take their places until dawn." Cuttriss does not give the name of the dead person, but I am pretty sure he was writing of the death of Sarah Churen in 1912.

His reference to a lantern is interesting, because the usual illumination is by candles, or more commonly I think by one candle at the head, and I know that a lantern was used at the death of Sarah Churen.  As a rule these illuminations continue day and night, but in some cases, as at the death of Abraham Buckland, they are lit only at night, which is a departure from normal Christian practice.  Another interesting point in Guttriss's account is the mention of the tent at a little distance from the rest of the camp.  The erection of a death-tent is not usual among English Gypsies,  As a general rule the body is left where death occurred, in the van or tent, and removed only when the procession to the grave is due to start.  The laying of Thomas Pinfold's coffin on the grass, so that people might view the body, is an exception to this, and Thompson records an instance in 1811 when a tent was erected over the coffin of a Boswell who died in Birmingham, an instance which he regards as altogether exceptional. Cuttriss's example was not, however, exceptional for New Forest Gypsies, nor did he regard it as such. 

I have not heard of a case recently, but it was certainly the common practice among the poorer New Forest Gypsies until quite recently and, a little further back, among those of purer blood.  As soon as death had taken place the body was removed from the tent, or van, carried to a little distance from the camp, laid upon a board or folded blankets, and an old tent or a rough, but rainproof, makeshift put up over it.  After the burial (and a light was kept burning until the burial was over) this tent and its contents were burnt.  There were, I think, two reasons for this departure from the normal practice : a desire to remove the dead body from the camp as some precaution against the return of the spirit (all Gypsies are mortally afraid of ghosts : but more of that later) and common or garden thrift, the desire not to destroy more than absolutely necessary.

The keeping of formal vigils is not confined to Gypsies, of course.  I have known it to occur among Hampshire peasantry; in fact, it occurred as recently as 1940 near Winchester, when, by the way, a single candle was kept alight at the head of the corpse.  It occurs among Irish tinkers, according to James Arigho, who maintains that the " wake " has never been a tinker custom.  It occurs among the northern potters who have a faint Gypsy strain in them.  These northern potters do not feast and drink in the presence of the dead as was once the custom among north-country or Scottish Gypsies, according to Simson, and Thompson records that there was no feasting at the death of George Miller, a potter, in 1909, although there was no fasting.

Scottish Gypsies had very different customs from those in use among English Gypsies, and while they may well have infected the Gypsies of the north country I find it hard to believe in view of the contacts the latter undoubtedly had with strict English families. The feasting among north-country Gypsies must, I think, have been among tinkers strayed over the border. Vigils also are kept among the Welsh Gypsies, and Thompson quotes from a letter written to him by a Mr. Alfred Jones from Llanelly in 1912: " Gypsies about here do not go to bed until after the funeral.  They sit in company round the fire, and now and then fall back dozing, but at least three must keep awake.  If there were only two, one of them might drop off to sleep, and that would leave one by himself.  Afraid of the ghost, they said ; that is why they sit in company and lie around the fire." The keeping of vigils is, nowadays, less common and seems to be commonest among south-country Gypsies and particularly amongst those in the New Forest.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Legacy of Terry Le Sueur

The matter of Vulture funds is something that Senator Terry Le Sueur said, in 2008, "would not be left to rest". Of course, like much of his time in office, there was a significant failure to live up to the promise; instead, that is precisely what happened; it was left to rest.

SENATOR Terry Le Sueur has promised a new era of consensus government after being elected as the next Chief Minister.

'If we are going to get the best results we are all going to have to work together as a team,' he said. 'At the moment there are polarised views - some Members think that ministers are too secretive, that they don't listen to Scrutiny, and some assistant ministers feel that they are out in the cold. We have not got an inclusive House. I have got to make sure that the team gets out and engage themselves with the rest of the States Members. I am determined that we have a government which puts the interests of the people first. And I want a States that listens, engages and talks.'(1)

Instead, as Chief Minister, he reappointed all the familiar faces, and ended with a Council of Ministers which was, if anything, more secretive than that of Frank Walker's regime. Sir Philip Bailhache had a trenchant criticism of both Frank Walker and Terry Le Sueur's inability to provide anything resembling consensus, speaking sharply of how "in the last 6 years where Ministers have felt free publicly to disagree with each other have not worked and have just spread discord to the rest of the Assembly.".

He sees the rot beginning at the top, and he notes that while Scrutiny may have been used for personal ends, it was aided and abetted by the attitude of Ministers, who "did not treat Scrutiny seriously and with respect", and having read the transcripts observed "sloppy behaviour by Ministers and their officials" where there was such a lackadaisical attitude they would "turn up without the proper documents and without properly preparing themselves". And of course, the lack of leadership particularly under Terry Le Sueur resulted in the resignation of a Health Minister who used foul language in the States Chamber. Standards were slipping, and there was no firm hand on the tiller.

There were also a small number of individuals - mostly the Council of Ministers alone - playing a role in policy development, and keeping others shut out until it was presented - invariably the Business Plan would be presented as a fait accompli with little or no prior consultation, leading to endless amendments which could have been easily avoided had a wider dialogue taken place; as Ian Gorst noted, what was needed as "a more inclusive approach to Government" and this, as he spelt it our, would mean "increasing the number of Members who play a role in policy development and subsequent implementation" That was another failure of the Le Sueur years.

One of the most notable failures was the absence of any control over the Chief Executive, Mr Bill Ogley, who both managed to negotiate a huge pay-off for his friend Mike Pollard, but also managed to secure a good early redundancy package for himself. No one seems to have bothered with doing more than rubber stamping those contracts, and the failure to do so must be, in part, at the Chief Minister's door. The word "sleaze" would probably be used by UK newspapers of these kind of self-service contracts, with apparently a complete lack of control by the Chief Minister.

There was also the strange case of Terry Le Main, who resigned as Housing Minister, and was subsequently given the mildest of reprimands, being told by Terry Le Sueur that he could return to office if he underwent a little training so he understood matters better. The political commentator for the JEP was aghast at this.

SO that's sorted then. In case anyone was in any doubt, it's essentially fine for a minister to pester the Law Officers to drop a prosecution against someone who has donated to his campaign costs for decades, and then to plead with the Royal Court to go easy when it comes to sentencing. And if this campaign contributor - not 'friend', dear me no - happens to have been caught breaking the law that the politician is meant to enforce as a minister, that's not a big deal either. These things are good to know. And it's probably good to know too that 'essentially fine' means that the rules were broken, but that it doesn't really matter - that the whole thing can be dealt with by a little 'training and education'. Try that one out next time you get a parking fine. Exactly what kind of 'training and education' Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur has in mind for his erstwhile Housing Minister Terry Le Main was left tantalisingly hanging in the report, released last week, into the whole sordid mess. Pointing out that the code of conduct exists might be a start. Or perhaps a slide show of some kind, or maybe using glove puppets to represent the distinction between the executive and judicial branches of government. Or possibly just sitting down in a little room while someone reads the ministerial code of conduct out loud. Very . slowly.'

And there was a broken promise from the Walker administration's time, to have an enquiry into the matter of child abuse in the Island, in the wake of the Haut de la Garenne court cases, which showed the kind of moral pragmatism which can cheerfully tear up any past commitments made by a previous Council of Ministers in which he was a member. In fact, having also promised he would liaise with Bob Hill on the related Napier report, he failed to do so, and the report was subject to endless delays "for legal reasons", which were resolved with the speed of light when it was apparent Bob Hill would release his copy to the public domain if matters where not expedited.

But there is even a legacy of failure from Terry Le Sueur dating from his time as Treasury Minister. In the rush to get the contract for the incinerator in the dying days of the Walker administration, there was a complete lack of oversight, so that Philip Ozouf, discovered, in his first day in office "that the euro contract for the incinerator had not been hedged." The signatories for that contract were Guy de Faye and Terry Le Sueur, and of course it was rushed extremely quickly in the gap between the Senatorial elections of 2008 and the Deputies elections.

And there was worse to come from Terry Le Sueur's time as Treasury Minister. As Philip Ozouf found out, in a matter of days, there were "revised estimates for public finances that showed a deficit, with no contingency." In fact, as he found out, matters had been left to drift, so that there was a "need to radically restructure the Treasury". If the Treasury was in such a mess, what had the previous incumbent - Terry Le Sueur - been doing during his time there?

So what can be seen as the legacy of the Le Sueur years? His final public act was to unveil a sculpture of a duck. I cannot help pondering whether the duck was lame. That would certainly have fitted his time in office.


Pagan Christ?

"The time of the Osirans is long past." (Dr Who, Pyramids of Mars)

I've been looking at "The Pagan Christ" by Tom Harpur, as I came across various people recommending it. I'm not impressed. Having read many of the books described in Evans "Cults of Unreason" or Colivito's "The cult of Alien Gods", the style, the form of argument, the rhetoric, and the presentation of the thesis as something new, controversial, likely to be criticised by academic historians (or even worse, ignored) is very similar to many of those books.

Harpur's thesis that Jesus is not historical, but is a mythic figure derived from Egyptian sources, and in particular the story of Horus. With the emphasis on the prevalent myths about a dying and rising god, this is really nothing new, but a modern revision of the Frazer's Sacred Bough, and he uses the same kind of techniques as Frazer - selecting those parts of sources which support his case, and ignoring others. But superficial similarities of a few features really don't make a case.

It's like the lumping of different fire rituals together because they have fire in common - which Frazer in fact also did. It is only as anthropologists have instead concentrated on the finer details of stories, and also the way in which those agree with the picture from archaeology, that the case Frazer built up just falls apart. It's what what Samuel Sandmel has called "parallelomania" – taking minor resemblances and using them selectively to make a case for essential similarities.

Here is an example of Harpur's reasoning - Anubis had to "make straight the paths to the upper realms of heaven". John the Baptist was Anubis to "prepare the way of the Lord" and to "make his paths straight.". Therefore John the Baptist must be Anubis!

Of course the verses about John derive from and can be seen to be quotes from Isaiah and Malachi., and are deliberately used to point up the Old Testament connection, they aren't derived from Egyptian, unless Harpur is suggesting that Isaiah is also somehow derived from Egyptian mythology, which seems unlikely given the books critique of idols and false gods. Are we to accept that the writer of Matthew, surely the most Jewish of the gospels, scoured the Old Testament for a suitable quotation that fitted the pattern of Anubis? Apparently, according to Harpur, this is precisely what he did.

I'm not saying, by the way, that the gospels are "straight history", but I do think that a supposed Egyptian connection involves a lot of special pleading, and suspect reasoning of the kind that Velikovsky made in Worlds in Collision, when he conflated hydrocarbons with carbohydrates, or Von Daniken made in Chariot of the Gods, or Lobsang Rampa with Tibet. It comes across as that kind of book in its treatment of documents and archaeology.

Here are a few more of Harpur's supposed "correlations" between the story of Horus and that of Jesus:

Like the "star in the east" of the Gospels, Sirius, the morning star in Egypt, heralded the birth of Horus. Horus was transfigured on a mountain; Jesus took Peter, James and John into a "high mountain" and was transfigured before them.

Stars before the birth of kings occur in many narratives, not just Egyptian. "Transfigured" in respect of Horus is pushing the texts to their extreme; again, like Frazer, there is a routine manipulation of texts to fit the thesis.

In fact, this kind of listing of story A against story B reminds me more than anything of the Lincoln / JFK coincidence stories; it's that kind of correlation, and when the fine detail - and what is cleverly left out - is considered, the "amazing coincidence" between Abraham Lincoln and J.F. Kennedy falls apart. Read Snopes for the details.

It is possible, of course, to make coincidence abound on the most unlikely places:

"He(God) is the primeval Potter who turned men and gods into being out of his hands." - Harpur's rendering of an ancient Egyptian text (let's just ignore the Egyptian pantheon of gods, by the way), and this: "Sirius became Harry's Potter's Godfather at his, Harry's, birth." So clearly JK Rowling was also influenced by Egyptian mythology?

This statement from Harpur could almost be lifted straight from Von Daniken. Notice the style of questions, the rhetorical gimmick question, which begs one answer alone. It's passages like this that make me think of Graham Hancock, and Von Daniken, and he seems to have the same selection for his own thesis approach.

Harpur backs his thesis with statements like this: ""The Ten Commandments, for example, are all anticipated in the teachings from the Hall of Judgment, where the soul was weighed in the balance at life's end. ", I really think he is skating on very thin ice. The prohibition on idolatry, and other gods against the Egyptian belief in a pantheon of gods? And I can't see the slightest mention of the soul being weighed in the balance in the Ten Commandments.

He says that "the entire course of Western history over the past eighteen hundred years would have been far different if a more spiritual understanding of the Christ and Christianity had prevailed at the outset." But Egypt, with its own mythology, had brutality, wars of conquest, a priest class which ruled over the ordinary person, and the divine kingship of the Pharaoh. Slaves toiled away to build the pyramids, monuments that are the wonders of the world, but also a tribute to a particularly unpleasant megalomania backed with the full power of the State. The idea that Egyptian religion represents ""the incarnation of the divine in the human" in its purest form displays a mind-boggling ability to tear apart the hierarchical and near-feudal society of ancient Egypt from the interpretation of texts.

In fact, Christianity, with its attribution of titles of "Lord", and "Saviour", "Son of God," and "Prince of Peace", while not directly challenging the Roman Empire, certainly challenged the legitimacy of that kind of megalomania. It is forgotten, perhaps, that those same titles which we see as peculiarly Christian were also, in the first century, the same titles used by and attributed to Caesar. There is a critique of power, which sadly was lost when Constantine made Christianity a State religion, and the Christians fell prey to the same abuses of power. But in the time of the formation of the New Testament writings, there is a strong counter-Imperial message, which challenges all kinds of secular power, especially when it seeks to become an idol; that is why the Christians were persecuted for a refusal to worship Caesar.

And we also have statements which are extraordinary - ‎"Horus was crucified between two thieves"? I thought he died from the sting of a scorpion in the stories, and then he is not "resurrected" as Harpur would have it, but resuscitated "By his words of power Thoth transferred the fluid of life of Ra, and as soon as this came upon the child's body the poison of the scorpion flowed out of him, and he once more breathed and lived.".

In fact, the full text is worth quoting, because it has nothing like the similarity with the gospel resurrection narratives, except if you assume (without any textual or historical evidence) that those narratives were somehow transformed from that below:

Then Isis cried out to heaven, and her voice reached the Boat of Millions of Years, and the Disk ceased to move onward, and came to a standstill. From the Boat Thoth descended, being equipped with words of power and spells of all kinds…Thoth, turning to Isis and Nephthys, bade them to fear not, and to have no anxiety about Horus, "For," said he, "I have come from heaven to heal the child for his mother." … By his words of power Thoth transferred the fluid of life of Ra, and as soon as this came upon the child's body the poison of the scorpion flowed out of him, and he once more breathed and lived.

Harpur says that the "broad scope" of his thesis is what matters, and not the "fine details". But that's really special pleading, an avoidance of evidence that does not fit. Paganism itself has moved towards critical thinking and away from, for example, the Margeret Murray thesis that the witch craze was to do with an underground pagan movement, and this thesis discredited largely because of a detailed and painstaking examination by historians of the minutiae of witch trials over a much larger sample, and less selectivity. What Harpur really can't do is make a statement like "establish beyond doubt" and then get annoyed about people who want to delve into the fine detail to test the thesis; he calls them "nit pickers" which is a strategy of evasion, not an answer. Of course, when people are totally emotionally wedded to a thesis, as he clearly is, it becomes extremely difficult for them to discuss it clearly.

Harpur also points up similarities between the story of Jesus and Zoroaster. But one problem with Harpur's taking texts about Zoroaster is that he doesn't mention that the earliest text we have is the Avesta, a collection of texts written down (presumably from an oral tradition) from the mid-4th century.

Now we can check how this kind of transmission works by looking at the Norse myths. What we know of Norse mythology comes from the Eddas and Sagas, and the poor correlation between those an archeology suggest considerable contamination of oral traditions by Christian motifs. The myths have rituals in Temples, the archaeology finds no temples, but instead rituals around sacred trees. It looks as if the Christian compilers of the Sagas have let their own traditions colour their writing down, much as the way in which fairly tales and folk tales were retold very loosely by the Victorians in order to comply with Victorian sensibilities.

That's the kind of critical historical problem which he should be addressing, but instead he takes the Zoroaster texts at face value. In fact, the situation is even worse in that while we know the original writing down of texts date to around the 4th century, the MSS date from around the 13th century. The New Testament, on the other hand, is in a complete form in 4th century manuscripts, with papyrus fragments going back to the 2nd century.

In his defense, Harpur says he does not address those problems because he is writing for a popular audience, but I would like to see a more academic tome to see if he can buttress his claims. His response on his website is evasive. As it stands, it seems to me very much of the same genre as Graham Hancock and others. Most of what I read by professional historians deals with sources, because it is that kind of minutae that enables (for example) teasing apart different sources in the Pentateuch, or assessing (another example) the probability that the "Sirius Mystery" is cultural contamination and biased reporting (it is both). Ronald Hutton produces a popular book "The Druids", but later published "Blood and Mistletoe" which is a more detailed and substantial and documented piece of work. That is lacking here.

Harpur makes a distinction between what he calls "literalists" who believed in a historical Jesus, and Gnostics, who believed only in a "Christ of faith", a mythological figure. This is surely an oversimplification - Bart D. Ehrman's "Lost Christianities" goes into much more detail of the complex diversity. But leaving that aside, Harpur argues that the "literalists" used their power, especially after Constantine to oppress the Gnostics.

But the situation is more complex that this. Before Constantine, when the Christians were being persecuted and killed for not doing homage to the Emperor as a God (how fascist can that be!), the Gnostics (for example Valentinius) said this didn't matter, that you could outwardly conform to Roman practices because that didn't really matter, and cheerfully offered sacrifices to the Emperor as God. When Christians inherited the Pax Romana, they also inherited its cruel methods of control, but the instruments of conformity were put in place by a Pagan Empire, who ruthlessly crushed any opposition, and made all kinds of propaganda war against its enemies as well - e.g. Carthage, Anglesey, Massada. The shame of the Christians is that they were seduced by the trappings of power provided to them, and have often, through history, shown no more sign of using power wisely than the Pagan rulers they replaced.

It is also true that Christianity as with Paganism could exist extremely well as societies which accepted slavery, and it took people of courage and real faith in equality of all peoples to stand up against the institution, some Christians, some free-thinkers. Before that the split between private faith and the public sphere meant that Christians were slave-owners (George Washington, to name one notable), and free-thinkers (John Locke owned slaves as well). There are still Christians today who don't see any of the wrongs of society, and who think it is perfectly fine to go to church while social injustice and suffering cries out. They'll give to charity, but as Orwell noted, sometimes people want a juster society rather than the indignity of hand-outs; they'll take the charity because they need to survive, but what they need is self-sufficiency, as EF Schumacher said.

Moreover "literalists" is not perhaps the best and most accurate portrayal of Christians who often used allegorical exegesis in their arguments! It seems rather an oversimplification. One of Irenaeus defense of the four gospels based on all kinds of numerological arguments to do with the number four, certainly wasn't literalist.

Pliny is quite clear on how to deal with Christians: "Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time,
threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished...An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ."

Pliny, of course, thinks there is nothing wrong with his position; he is a dutiful civil servant of the Roman Empire. He is in fact writing at a time when there was not organised campaign of persecution (e.g. Nero, Domitian, Diocletian) but just general persecution of anyone who could be seen as endangering the fabric of the Empire. As we know from the writings of the Gnostic Valentinius, his followers (of spiritual enlightenment of the kind that Harpur espouses) had no trouble with adopting a chameleon like approach and worshiping the gods and cursing Christ. that is certainly prudence, but it can also be seen as a lack of moral backbone. Certainly, the Valentinian gnosticism didn't make the same kinds of radical demands of standing up to the power of the Roman State; instead they were happy to collude with power.

Does it matter? The argument is often made that what matters is the teachings, not whether there was a real Jesus or not. This seems to me, looking at the matter not from any religious perspective as such, but a philosophical one, to be a remarkably cavalier attitude to truth. I happen to believe that historical truth, like scientific truth, matters. That's not to say I or anyone has a monopoly on truth, but as a guiding principle, yes, it does matter - truth, as Richard Robinson says (in "An Atheist's Values") is a "great good". It's not the only good, but it is a great good, and to say that history doesn't matter, or it doesn't really matter if Jesus existed or not, leads to a principle that runs completely against, for instance, the idea of whether it is important whether evolution or creationism is a true view of the history of the world.

I think that is a debate which does matter, and that the road to creationism would be one in which obscurantism and dogmatism would triumph, because creationism is argued as a position to support a belief, but because it is historically true; if the Bible had said something different, those same people would believe that instead. To apply this kind of post-modern history doesn't matter, is to say it isn't important whether evolution or creationism, two alternative histories, are true, all that matters is whether something is "true for me".

That seems to be the crux of the Harpur thesis - he is presenting a mythology that he can believe in, and this is a matter of belief, despite what the evidence might give. The self-critical examination seems to be lacking, and instead, we have a kind of pop-culture, which as always, defends itself by saying that academics won't give this "truth" a proper hearing, the strategy we find throughout Von Daniken.

In his Histories, Herodotus, the "father of history," (book 2:43:iv) explicitly says that the priests at Thebes told him (in the fifth century BCE) that the great gods of Egypt existed over 17,000 years earlier in the oral history. These deities included Iu-em-hetep, the coming bringer of peace. The name Iu is basic to the later name Yeshua/Jesus, as well as to Isaac, Isaiah, and many others.

Are we really to take this as a solid linguistic argument?

And here is Harpur's pop-message:

The vitalizing item of ancient knowledge was the prime datum that man is himself, in his real being, a spark of divine fire struck off like the flint flash from the Eternal Rock of Being, and buried in the flesh of body to support its existence with an unquenchable radiant energy. On this indestructible fire the organism and its functions were 'suspended,' as the Greek Orphic theology phrased it, and all their modes and activities were the expression of this ultimate divine principle of spiritual intelligence, energizing in matter."

No doubt this chimes extremely well with the modern New Age culture of "enlightenment", but I can't help notice there is a very Western style consumer image of an autonomous man reflected in Harpur's book; man as part of the cosmos, but in a vague, general way, that perhaps doesn't leave a clear message about social justice, a mirror image of our culture.

In fact, The Pagan Christ doesn't discuss the most notable aspect of the Gospel narratives, the Parables, perhaps because Horus didn't speak in Parables. But it is worth reflecting on them, and how they speak strongly as a challenge, and not perhaps of our personal self-enlightenment as the most significant matter:

"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."(Matthew 25:31-46)

Which message really is the challenge? And which leaves us with a more troubled conscience?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Whistle for the Wind

And for a windy day, perhaps the folk-belief that it was possible to whistle up the wind, and summon the spirits of the air and the ghosts of the ancestors...

Whistle for the Wind
The wind is rising along the beach,
Sand blows past the sea wall's breach;
Ahead, there is the half-ruined pier,
And some say there was buried here,
A whistle of strange design, carvings,
Of runic design, beneath the shifting
Coastline it was placed, perhaps lost,
In distant ages, beneath the permafrost,
Of colder clime, wrought from bone;
And meant perhaps for tomb of stone,
But left behind, forgotten, down deep,
Holding fast a secret power to keep;
Beware the stranger who comes across,
The whistle that called to the albatross,
With this, you would conjure the wind,
A mighty storm, not easy to rescind;
And more perhaps, O foolish man,
To call the note that sounds the clan,
O whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad,
A shadow semblance drives you mad.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Modern Treasury Minister

A candidate for Treasury Minister addresses the States.

For those who didn't hear it, here is his speech on BBC Radio, ghostwritten by the late William Gilbert and set to a tune by the late Arthur Sullivan....

I am the very model of a modern Treasury Minister
I've come across until this time as really rather sinister
I know I've made mistakes in past, but those are now historical
You can trust me, once again, I say that categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
It's only just a silly notion that I'm really quite fanatical
I'm very forceful and determined, and always in the news
You may not care that much for me, but I certainly have views
I'm very good at speaking, with gift of gab miraculous
I know I come across as someone rather fabulous
In short, although I may seem really rather sinister
I am the very model of a modern Treasury Minister
I know our mythic history, Frank Walker and Le Sueur
And I've no time for Le Fondre, that nastly little cur
I always have the last word, a disease called Trickygabalus,
I can U-turn with a swooping motion really quite parabolous;
I'm always moving very fast, and travel murky lanes
It's rather like a tragedy, as plays of Aristophanes
For I can fudge on pension schemes, and one and one is four
And when I cook the books, I can wear a pinafore.
For my economics knowledge, I am plucky and adventury,
Brought in hundred pound notes, won't be spent this century
In short, although I may seem really rather sinister
I am the very model of a modern Treasury Minister.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Halos in Art: A Brief Historical Note

Having been to a funeral today, I was reflecting on the way that the stained glass windows always depict saints in haloes around their head, and though I'd do a little research and write up a short note on the subject....We tend to associate haloes with Saints, but that's not in fact how they started, and they also occur in Eastern religions.

Haloes in Art

Haloes are a form of iconography, or stylised art. Historically, the art of the halo comes from Egypt.

It was the custom of the Egyptian and Syrian kings to have themselves represented with a rayed crown to indicate the status of demigods; this spread throughout the East and the West.

In Rome the halo was first used only for deceased emperors as a sign of celestial bliss, but afterwards living rulers also were given the rayed crown, and after the third century, although not first by Constantine, the simple rayed halo that we know today in religious art. Then it came to depict holiness.

Buddhism also has haloes, which are used in the stylised representations of its art, but in fact these are borrowings from Greek/Roman culture, and quite a late development. It was during the first century AD, the school Gandhara art gave form to Buddha for the very first time. The style is Graeco-Roman and the Buddhist iconography has no antecedence. There is no evidence of the halo in Indian art prior to Gandhara art. It was used to depict enlightenment.

Muslim culture in its very sparse use of art also uses the halo for kings or sultans, but in a much more discrete and subdues form. The 16th century "Institutes of Akbar" comment that the halo is "a light emanating from God, and a ray from the sun, the illuminator of the universe. It is communicated by God to kings without the intermediate assistance of anyone".

Internet References

Gandhara school of art

Cultural synthesis in the Buddhist art of China

The Contribution of Buddhism to the World of Art

Christian iconography

Artworld, Imaginary journeys, Islam

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

All the Chief Minister's Men

Here are my guesses as to Ian Gorst's line up - to be announced today, along with a friend who has also given me his opinions. We'll see who is closest!

Home Affairs - Bailhache (we both agree)

Treasury - Ian la Marquand or John Le Fondre (we both agree)

Economic Development - Lyndon Farnham or Patrick Ryan

He suggests that I should not discount Len Norman who is current Assistant Minister - though he  may now be wary of the 'Jackson Factor'

Social Security - Francis le Gresley (we both agree)

Housing - Paul Routier

He suggests that Andrew Green may want to retain this and Jackie Hilton may have a go for this one too.

Health - Sarah Ferguson or Anne Pryke (we agree)

Education - James Reed

He has a feeling this could be contested by John Le Fondre who may have a go at this if he fails Treasury either as Minister or Assistant Minister

Planning - Rob Duhamel or John Young?

He notes that Rob Duhamel has said he would like to retain - but he could well choose John Young as Assistant Minister but it is unlikely that another newbie will be offered the main role - not after Freddie Cohen.

TTS - No ideas at all. Philip Rondel is the only name I can think off, largely because of his concern with main drains! But he also has recycling experience.

He has a sneaky suspicion that Patrick Ryan may have a pop at this if he doesn't make Economic Development, Philip Rondel may be nominated but with the Michael Jackson experience in mind turn it down. That said, it's about time Alan Breckon stepped up to something.

PPC - Chairman - Alan Breckon or Roy le Hérissier

He hopes Roy gets it. He has however  been there before. He made a good job of it but Juliette Gallichan may well want to hang on to it. I do note that Juliette Gallichan did say in September that she wanted to step down.

So we'll see later today. In the meantime, if you have any guesses, post a comment here. I'll be commenting on the actual choices made tomorrow.