Saturday, 30 June 2012

Serenade for a Lost World

Thinking of the Sunset Concert, which was wonderful, and the music of the Neolithic age that built the dolmen at Grantez, I wrote this short poem:

Serenade for a Lost World
The blues are beating loud and strong
And notes are dancing through the trees
Here the crowds enjoy the sunset song
And sit around, and take their ease.
The pipes are playing loud and strong
Around the sacred stone, we dance
A time so distant, heard our song
We move around, within a trance
Now winds are rising, blowing, strong
And night is fallen; and crowds depart
But I remain, have been times long
Before the songs, my beating heart
I am a ghost of pasts, and here belong
And in a silent night, I sing my song

Friday, 29 June 2012

Doctor Who in Jersey

In Jon Pertwee's book "Moon Boots and Dinner Suits", the actor - best known for playing "Doctor Who" in the 1970s - describes how his early acting career took him to Jersey. This was to be a part in  J. Baxter-Somerville's Repertory Players at the Springfield Theatre in Jersey, on the salary of three pounds per week. It was short lived because of the practical jokes he played while there, which led to his dismissal. He stayed sharing digs in a dairy - these were the days before the Jersey Milk Marketting Board, which was only later established by the States of Jersey under the provision of the Milk Marketing Scheme (Approval) (Jersey) Act 1954.

Our landlady, Mrs Le Mesurier (pronounced Ler Measurer) owned the dairy, and tipped the scales at some eighteen stone. One day in a fit of tactless exuberance, I asked her how she came to be so fat, and she replied, 'By laughing, my dear, just by laughing so much.' What a wondrous sight it was, to see all those 250 pounds of her shaking and quaking and shivering and quivering with uncontrollable mirth. Mrs Le Mesurier's theory of laughter causing fatness may well have been true in her case, but with me, it was a resounding failure. I laughed a lot but ended up looking like a beardless Don Quixote.

Also of interest is that it was while in Jersey that he decided to alter the spelling of his name from John Pertwee to Jon Pertwee after it was misprinted this way on a play bill.

Here is the story of his dismissal and the practical jokes he played in Jersey.

Jon Pertwee in Jersey

I'm afraid to say that I didn't last very long with Mr J. Baxter-Somerville's Company, due to a slight coolness that developed between me and the leading man Mr Peter Glenville, son of the famous principal boy Dorothy Ward, and now an eminent stage and film Director. We were performing a Dorothy Sayers 'Peter Wimsey' play, with Peter as Lord Peter and myself as the Vicar. In one scene I had to enter downstage left and warmly shake the hand of Mr Glenville.

It occurred to me that it might be rather droll to have a raw egg in my hand on the first night. I, therefore, with a fresh brown one obtained from Mrs Le M's dairy secreted in my palm, shook Lord Peter's hand and chuckled merrily to myself when the yolk went up his sleeve and the white went down his trousers. The audience roared but Mr Glenville didn't, and thought it to be a very thin piece of fun. Trembling with anger, and without my knowledge, he at once phoned Mr J. Baxter-Somerville in England, and informed him that he would not remain any longer in a Company where he was expected to perform with buffoons.

'J. B.' taking his life into his hands straightway took a flight in a ten-seater twin-engined de Havilland from Croydon Airport, and landed perilously on the sands of St Helier. This was not an error of judgement on the pilot's part, but before the airport was built the beach was the only way of getting in.

That night, quite unbeknown to me, J. B. sat at the back of the Dress Circle to observe unobserved the threatened misbehaviour of this tiresome young man. He and Peter Glenville had been hugely unamused by the raw egg 'business', and were to be amused even less by what was to follow.

On summing up the case at the end of the last act, Lord Peter Glenville demonstrated that the murder had been committed in a most unusual manner. A hanging brass flower-pot containing an aspidistra, and suspended from the ceiling by a long chain, had been pulled back by the murderer and released at the precise moment his victim was passing the bottom of the stairs, the heavy pot swinging across and crushing the skull of the unsuspecting murderee. To prove his point, Lord Peter made a dummy of the victim by use of a large Victorian plant stand for a body and a cabbage for a head. Once released, he said, the brass flower pot would swing fast across the stage and to the horror of all assembled would strike the cabbage head such a blow that it would fly from its 'body'.

To achieve this splendid piece of Theatricalia, it was necessary for the long chain of the flower pot to be tied off in a perfect 'dead'. An inch out on either side and the pot would miss striking the dummy head entirely. That was precisely what I intended it to do. An hour before the show, when no-one was about, I shifted the 'dead'.

'And this, my friends, is how that swine killed poor Mr Arbuthnot,' explained  Lord Peter with panache, and releasing the flower pot, was given the treat of watching it zoom down, missing the 'victim's' head completely and continue swinging backwards and forwards like the giant pendulum in Edgar Allen Poe's classic story. The laughter in the audience was tremendous.

But, as could have been expected, there was no laughter in the dressing room after, only censure and disapprobation. To no-one's surprise, including my own, I was once again summarily dismissed.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Chamber Lunch - Plans for Tax and Spending

Philip Ozouf was the speaker at the Chamber Lunch speaking on taxation and the state of Jersey's finances.

An opening introduction by David Warr put the very good point that what sound finances look like from within government may look very different from the private sector. An increase in GST may ensure that the States spending is kept in the black, but on the high street, may lead to reduced revenues, reduced spending by employees, a slow down in the economy, and hence less revenue. It's a good example of what Popper noted in "The Poverty of Historicism" - how planning can have unforeseen side effects that were not planned.

The general presentation by Philip Ozouf was how good the States finances were in, considering the global economy, and the way in which most countries in the Eurozone had deficits. He didn't see that we were out of the woods yet, because the markets are still volatile and fragile.

"Did the predicted fall in income from zero / ten happen? Yes. Was the economic downturn bad - Yes. But was it as bad as we had planned for? No. Have we implemented the tax measures? Yes. Have we delivered all the
savings? Partially."

One notable element is that the budget is now being drawn up on a three year basis with States spending organised looking from 2013 to 2015, so that it is a longer term, rather than year by year. The proposals are being released in July, much as previous years, but this time the debate will take place in November, rather than when the States resume sitting on September, so that there will be more time for questions and conferring.

I have always considered the previous arrangements, when the information was handed out just before the summer recess, as one of the worst decisions, as it meant an extremely short time, with States members often away and unavailable, during the time it was supposed to be considered.

In the first episode of "Better Steps to Better Management", which I have just been watching, the case is considered of a boss who had a practice of handing out pay slips with rises and bonuses just before his holidays, so that no discussion could take place. That's old style management, which the series suggests is not good practice - and the States tended towards that in previous years.

This also means that a new States, either in 2014 or 2015 - if the term is made 4 years, or kept at 3 years - would not arrive and have to decide on the budget measures and amendments; they'd have a year to decide which way the States would go. It also means there shouldn't be a repeat of the disgraceful position where the budget was rushed though by the old States and the time between elections and the new States being sworn in was increased to 4 weeks - a decision which has still to be reversed, as it forms part of the States of Jersey Law. A back-bench proposition may be needed.

"For the first time we will be setting Budgets for all States Departments 3 years ahead - moving away from short term decisions. With the flexibility of 3 year budgets comes the responsibility of delivering the savings programme. I believe this is a huge step forward in delivering efficiencies and moving to longer term planning for the benefit of the Island. The hard work is underway and we are now in the final stages of setting planning the cash limits for the next 3 years."
Of course, the trouble with longer term plans comes when the unexpected pops up and derails matters, but it does mean that spending can be allocated over longer terms, which will hopefully prevent the old-fashioned mentality which seeks to use an annual budget in case next years is reduced. A higher one off cost occurring one year can be spread over a larger period.

The prudential planning for the deficits by way of the Stability Fund meant the States could put money into the economy during the worst of the recession, bringing forward capital projects. What Philip Ozouf didn't mention was that the Stability fund tended to be focused on helping the building trade, rather than the high street, and that States departments were also able to make their own bids for tenders on projects, thus gaining extra funding surplus to their budgets.

"In the years in which we had a budget surplus we built up a reserve in the form of a Stabilisation Fund. The green bars show the years in which we had a surplus and the red bars show the years in which we had a deficit. We then managed the 3 years of deficit by using The Stabilisation Fund and at the same time delivering savings so as to balance the budget for the longer term."

The subject of pensions was skated over, with Philip saying that the changes for old age regarding health care and home security ("the core scheme") were deferred to 2015 because of the weight of taxes on the individuals with GST and 20-20. He didn't address the matter in detail of final salary pensions in the public sector, and whether they were sustainable in the long run, but Jersey seems to be keeping an eye on the UK regarding this one, to follow where they go. There is a pre-1987 debt, relating to the restructuring of the Public Employees (Contributory Retirement Scheme):

"An agreement was reached to repay it over 82 years, we now plan to repay it faster and reduce the long term financing cost. Secondly we need to change the employee pension schemes so as to make the schemes affordable, fair and sustainable for the long term. We are likely to follow the UK and move to a CARE scheme by January 2015."

For someone who says we don't borrow, a debt repayable over 82 years seems a little inconsistent, and shows a talent for creative accountancy!

There was a lot of the usual kind of vague talk about digital Jersey being the way forward for Jersey to move its economy, but that was rather spoilt by a later answer to questions on the high cost of broadband - the reply was that Jersey couldn't compete with subsidies on the cost of Jersey Telecoms broadband compared with larger jurisdictions.

"The new body - Digital Jersey (which we have funded) - will attract new businesses at a time when job creation is one of our most important tasks."

In Question Time, David Warr asked on behalf of a member what was being done to help the high street, and received very little in the way of answers, just a repeat of the mantra that "Our new Economic Growth and Diversity Strategy makes it clear that we are committed to supporting existing businesses, like those of Chamber members". There was also a bit of praise for Alan Maclean: "The new organisation Jersey Business will support the development of new and existing businesses - this is a great example of a private/public partnership which will take support for local business to the next level." And there was also this wonderful piece of a vague Yes Minister Statement: "We in Government can help by removing red tape."

There's not a huge amount of fine detail here, and the empty shops in the high street suggest that the next level may well be bankruptcy or liquidation for a number of retailers.

What red tape is going to be removed is not at all clear, and there's also no mention of the failure of Alan Maclean and EDD to act proactively to negotiate with the UK rather than burying their heads in the sand over the fulfilment industry - a settlement might have been negotiated to allow locally produced fulfilment goods, such as flowers, to continue, if only too little had not been done too late.

Other questions seemed to come from disgruntled developers, fed up with delays in the Planning Department. Quite what they had to do with tax and spending is debatable, and at times, as question followed question, it seemed that Rob Duhamel was coming in for a bashing, and wasn't really defended at all by Philip Ozouf at all. All the developers wanted was a free hand to get on with making new homes. And there was also a gripe about having to provide social housing as part of the deal.

It sounds as if they were being held up unfairly by some of that red tape, but they didn't mention, of course, the need for a timescale so that members of the public could review plans and lodge any objections; to hear them speak, you would have thought there were no problems at all with developments.

What also hasn't been considered is how far without States projects the current number of builders is sustainable with a downturn in the economy, and a slump in private property sales.

There is a promise of no more taxes, but of course we all know that "charges", otherwise known as "stealth taxes", under the guise of "users pays" are increasing and rising. To claw back money from the public directly rather than be funded indirectly by taxation - which is supposed to be for those services anyway - is likely to be the next trend as departments seek to balance their budgets. But a user pays charge, like a poll tax, payable by someone who uses a stretch of road, is still effectively a tax - it's more targeted at particular groups, which may or may not be fair. A debate on the principles of when user pays is fair, or excessive, or should not be in place, is long overdue.

It was an interesting talk, with pie charts and figures along the way, but it did suffer from time to time - despite all those figures - from an underlying vagueness and tendency to cliché. Here are some of the better ones:

"From a Government perspective we have now got a more normalised mixture of funding sources from income tax, company tax, consumption tax and duties. This is much more sustainable for the future."

What in heaven's name is a "normalised mixture" in this context? Looking it up, it seems the first time a politician has used this term, and way outside its technical context in statistics.

And here is "maximise", "potential", "opportunities", and the old favourite "world beating".  These are examples of vagueness, lack of precision,  blurred meaning:

"This fund will offer businesses - both new and existing ones - the chance to maximise their potential."

"Jersey has strong public finances and we are well placed to maximise the coming opportunities for growth."

"Fibre optic technology is the future and will put Jersey in a world beating position."

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Rogue Politician

After the publishing of Sir Philip Bailhache's statement, the story went fairly widespread across the UK:

Jersey calls for 'independence' - ITV News
Jersey 'independence' call over tax - Belfast News
Jersey threatens to break with UK over tax backlash
Jersey 'independence' call over tax - Braintree and Witham Times
Jersey 'independence' call over tax (From York Press)
Jersey 'independence' call over tax (From Wiltshire Business Online)

This is what the Guardian said:

A barrage of regulatory clampdowns and political attacks on the Channel Islands' controversial financial industry has prompted one of Jersey's most senior politicians to call for preparations to be made to break the "thrall of Whitehall" and declare independence from the UK. Sir Philip Bailhache, the island's assistant chief minister, said: "I feel that we get a raw deal. I feel it's not fair . I think that the duty of Jersey politicians now is to try to explain what the island is doing and not to take things lying down. The island should be prepared to stand up for itself and should be ready to become independent if it were necessary in Jersey's interest to do so."

In a Guardian interview, he said strained relations with the UK over the past five years had made it "very plain" that Jersey's interests were not
always aligned with those of Britain. "I hope that the constitutional relationship with the UK will continue. But if it becomes plain that our
interests in fact lie in being independent it doesn't seem to be that we should bury our head in the sand and say we're not going to do that." (1)

This is the same Sir Philip Bailhache who just before the election last year said that: "I do not advocate, and have never in fact advocated independence. What I have suggested is that the Island should be prepared for independence if that were the best way of preserving our autonomy and way of life." That remark has been described by one of my correspondence is Clintonesque; it is so beset with qualifications that no one really knew what Sir Philip thought then - which clearly was a good strategy for election, as it might have lost him votes. Now that it doesn't matter, he has decided that enough is enough, and sounded off on the public stage. The time for slippery words is over.

Now I'm sure that Sir Philip's statement will be very popular among Jersey people, who often are ordinary people working far away from the convoluted tax schemes such as K2. But does this really go down well in the UK? If I was hearing this in England, having heard about Jimmy Carr, and Geoff Cook popping up with the well worn cliché - "well regulated finance industry" - the message I would be hearing is that if the UK tries to interfere with tax arrangements like K2, then we won't play that game. We'll take our ball and play elsewhere where K2 can continue. I know Sir Philip hasn't said that - but that is, I fear, how my UK friends will perceive his outburst. It's the voice of a small child trying to sound big, and throwing a tantrum because other people have been saying nasty things about him. As Business Insider puts it:

Sir Bailhache's anger seems to come from the recent furore in the UK about the role the isle played in a prominent British comedian's tax avoidance scheme that was later branded "morally wrong" by British Prime Minister David Cameron. (4)

I would also note the following statement before the last election:

When ministerial government was introduced a number of mistakes were made. The Chief Minister should be allowed to choose his ministers so that they can work together as a team.

And also from Sir Philip, this statement:

In 2005 we changed to a system of ministerial government, but when that was done I think that a number of mistakes were made. People were understandably anxious about putting too much power in the hands of individual ministers, but what we have done is to create a system where no one is really in charge.

So the message from this is that the statesman is or should be a team player, who doesn't go off and do his own thing without the courtesy of consulting other members of the team. The flaw in the first phase of Ministerial government was that - according to Sir Philip - Ministers could go their own way, do their own thing. I know that Sir Philip mentioned on BBC Radio Jersey that other members of the Council of Ministers agreed with his line, but that is not the same as a proper consultation before sounding off.

What this is most like is a form of attention seeking behaviour. Raymond Saner notes that this can be disruptive to teams:

Perhaps the most common manifestation in this category is attention-seeking behaviour. The individual is then no longer concerned with the process at hand, but with the need for personal appreciation. The energy this takes up is lost to the problem-solving activities of the team. (2)

and he notes how a team should work well together:

The longer the team works together, the less significant personal power needs become. The team maintains its productivity while consciously
cultivating its smooth functioning. The members' behaviour is oriented above all towards the task at hand, while any socio-emotional problems that may arise are not suppressed or brushed aside as without importance, but are consistently dealt with through group-orientated intervention.(2)

Kelly Blidook also notes this kind of aberrant behaviour where individuals pursue their own agenda without consultation with their team:

It feeds upon attention and attachment. Hence it always seeks attention and is a master in attention seeking behaviour. This can show up in a
million forms from flashy possession to drama-laden behaviour. It also attaches itself to ideas and systems of thought and totally abhors change and alternative viewpoints.

It can be spotted in: Self-centred behaviour, attention-seeking behaviour, the need to be right, showy behaviour, the need to be praised,
gossiping, etc. (3)

I have sympathy with Sir Philip Bailhache's annoyance at the reputation damage Jersey has suffered of late. Ian Gorst, in giving a strong message to the finance industry that they need to consider very carefully the importance of reputation when assessing schemes has made a strong start, and a break from his predecessors, who usually followed the Geoff Cook cliché - "well regulated financial centre", which is now becoming something of a joke, and should have a moratorium placed on it. I would like to see a circular to finance businesses, and a note on any new company forms noting this kind of message very strongly.

But what concerns me is that this intervention by Sir Philip, without consulting either with the Council of Ministers, or seeking advice from the States communications unit, may make matters worse. Jersey will be seen as the naughty kid who says he'll take his ball away when he gets told off - in other words, the tantrum of a spoilt child. That's how I fear it will appear on the world stage. The headline for business insider put it this way:

Jersey Is So Mad About David Cameron Calling Tax Avoidance 'Morally Wrong' That It Might Break Ties With The UK

There's also a matter of courtesy involved. Sir Philip seems to be completely forgetting that Ian Gorst is Chief Minister, and it might be proper to discuss the matter jointly first. It's the behaviour of someone who seems used to getting his own way, and ploughing his own furrow. For someone who said that what is needed is to "work together as a team", there seems to have been precious little formal communication with team members.

Then there is the external relations group set up with Guernsey to examine the whole question of the constitutional arrangements with the UK. The External Relations Group (ERG) was set up so that the Channel Islands can work together. Deputy Roger Perrot said: "It is of fundamental importance that Jersey and Guernsey speak with one voice." And that too means consultation as a matter of respect. There are more people who need to be involved. Sir Philip seems to sometimes forget that "no man is an Island".

(2) The Expert Negotiator: Strategy, Tactics, Motivation, Behaviour, Leadership. by Raymond Saner, 2005
(3) Symbol vs. Substance: Theatre, Political Career Paths, and Parliamentary Behaviour in Canada by Kelly Blidook

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

States Reform: An Opinion


I have sought in this paper to establish first principles, and then consider the results in terms of the kind of constituency which flow from those principles.

The one assumption I am making is that the Senators will be removed from the States, and the Deputies and Constables will remain. The reasons for the retention of the Constables is probably the one on which I will find myself at most loggerheads with other people, but the principle there is one of balance between the central government and the parishes, and that follows from the treatment of the Deputies.


1) Voter Parity.
The ratio of elected members per voter should be broadly equivalent, with a small degree of leeway. This cannot be done with keeping Deputies within existing Parish districts - St Mary just will not fit. While not quite a "rotten borough" (to use a term prior to the UK 1832 Reform Act), it has disproportionate voting balance for its population. I therefore suggest that Parishes should be clustered so that you have 5/6 Deputies in larger electoral districts.
In terms of an existing model for that kind of grouping of different Parishes working together, this could be termed "The West Show" solution. That shows, incidentally, that different Parishes can work together on a joint project, with unified representation of several Parishes together. Incidentally, there is nothing to stop Deputies who live in a Parish taking part in specific events such as the Battle of Flowers - just the same way as a Senator who lives in St Brelade was very involved in St Brelade's Jubilee fete.
This also has the advantage that any demographic shifts will be less likely to upset the balance, and if required, one district can gain a deputy, one can lose one; in this respect, there should also be an independent electoral boundary commission to examine the population in each district every ten years (the statistics can be made available via the census without much extra work) and ensure that parity is maintained.
2) Voter Equivalence
As Bob Le Sueur has pointed out in the JEP - and reading a recent submission, Pierre Horsfall - has also pointed out - at present, we can vote for a number of Senators, a number of Deputies, and a Constable. To reduce the number that the voter can vote for is surely to impoverish their voting capacity, and would be a retrograde step. Larger districts mean that each district can have 6-7 people to vote for, and hence voter equivalence is maintained. If the Senators are to be removed from the States, voter equivalence should be taken seriously as a consideration. It is a way of maintaining the voter's choice of candidate. It is the answer to those who want to retain the Senators in the States.
In this respect, the Clothier report was seriously deficient, as it did not address the principle of Voter Equivalence, and had to stretch voter parity - with St Mary - to its limit, reducing it to one seat.
Professor Adrian Lee has also noted that in Guernsey, where larger districts is the case, this removes the possibility of tactical voting, and leads to a fairer representation. It is not quite proportional representation, but - like the Senatorial elections - it goes some way towards that, without the underlying complexity of such a system.
3) Constables - Balancing needs of Locality and Centrality
The Constables should remain in the States for the foreseeable future on two grounds.
Firstly, the move of the Deputies to larger districts means that their direct Parish link is no longer the same (and will no doubt be resisted by some Deputies because of that), so that retaining the Constables ensures that the Parish link is maintained, and a balance between the centre and districts is kept - so that, for example, the States cannot just impose legislation on the Parishes in the way that central Government in the UK can do so on County Councils. Likewise, the Constables can bring Parish issues which relate to central government to the States. 
Secondly, the removal of Senators, and making of larger districts is a big step, and it is important to implement change piecemeal where possible so that any unforeseen consequences do not have too large an impact - for instance, funding Constables from the rates if they are removed from the States.

There may come a time when a future electorate and States decides to remove the Constables, but in the meantime, they provide a degree of continuity between the old system and the new - evolution, rather than revolution, should be the guiding principle. After all, the post-war revision which led to the removal of the Jurats and Rectors from the States maintained the Deputies and Constables by way of continuity.
Moreover, the same day election has meant that the election for Constable has itself been evolving to encourage voter participation. Previously, elections for Constables tended to be random affairs, based on the date the last Constable retired, which did not make for a good focus for contested elections. While there are not many contested elections for Constables, that is probably in part because there are currently 3 elections on one day, and the focus of electors is on Deputies and Senators.
4) Terms of Office and Sundry Matters
Three years means one year for any new member to get to grips with the States, one year to participate actively, and one year partly taken up with seeking re-election. I think that six years would be too long a period, and four years - as in Guernsey - would probably be the best compromise. Six years means that the electorate feel powerless and disenfranchised, unable to change matters; three years is too short a period to govern.
The removal of Senators, and the choosing of a Chief Minister from other States members mean that some electors may not have the opportunity to remove a Chief Minister. Therefore, as a precautionary principle, the Chief Minister should be allowed two terms of office before having to pass the reigns of power to another member. This is a widespread practice in other jurisdictions, and even within some local societies - the Société Jersiaise, for example, has restrictions on the President holding a term of office  - this ensures that the voter does not feel wholly disempowered when they cannot vote for or against a Chief Minister.
Although not directly related, the transparent voting for Chief Minister and Ministers should also remain. Without knowledge of how elected offices are chosen, there can be no accountability of members to the electorate, and backroom deals will almost certainly play a larger role. Anyone who doesn't believe such deals exist does not understand how politics works - they should read some political diaries! In a larger jurisdiction, such as the UK, that would not be the case, because the numbers preclude significant shifts in voting patterns though backroom deals. In a smaller jurisdiction, it is a necessity. To guard against that, votes must be open. Members, it is hoped, are mature enough not to hold grudges against those who did not vote for them.

How many States members there should be

The removal of the Senators, and the clustering of Deputies means that the number of States members can be reduced. If the principle of equivalence is adhered to, this means around 30-36 Deputies in 5 districts (5-6 Deputies per district), along with 12 Constables, making around 42 - 48 members.

Whether we should we have Senators, Deputies and Constables:

I have assumed that the Senatorial mandate will be lost, but this means increasing the area covered by the Deputies - districts or clustered Parishes.

What their mandates should be
What their constituencies should look like; and

The Deputies will represent a district - a cluster of Parishes.
The Constables will represent their Parish

How long there should be between elections.

Four years - three is too short, six is too long. A too long period before change can lead to voter disillusionment; a too short period can lead to too much grandstanding with an eye on the electorate.

Monday, 25 June 2012

June - The Diary of a Country Parson

This year I'm looking at some of the entries in the "The Diary of a Country Parson". This was a diary kept by an English clergyman, James Woodforde (1740-1803). Woodforde lived in Somerset and Norfolk, and kept a diary for 45 years recording all kind of ordinary incidents which paint a picture of the routines and concerns of what Ian Hislop terms "the middling folk" of 18th century rural England.

A few notes on the text:

Some of these entries pre-date his taking up a Parish, from his study for a degree at Oxford. At Oxford, Woodforde read "Hutchinson's Moral Philosophy", which must surely have shaped his thinking in a more liberal direction, as far as his religious views went.

Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) was born in Ulster, and became Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow and an instigator of the Scottish Enlightenment. He was described by Adam Smith as ""he never to be forgotten Dr Hutcheson" - and he was Smith's professor at Glasgow University from 1737 to 1740. He was a deist whose thinking led him into trouble in Glasgow where there was an attempt to prosecute him for heresy in 1738. A student-published "Vindication of Dr Hutcheson", perhaps by Smith, explained that his alleged offence was to have taught that 'we have a notion of moral goodness prior in the order of knowledge to any notion of the will or law of God'.

We count God morally Good, on this account, that we justly conclude, he has essential Dispositions to communicate Happiness and Perfection to his creatures. we must have another notion of moral Goodness, prior to any Relation to Law, or Will.. Otherways, when we say God's Laws are Good, we make no valuable Encomium on them; and only say, God's Laws are conformable to his Laws or, his Will is conformable to his Will.. So, when we say God is morally good or excellent, we would only mean, he is conformable to himself; which would be no Praise unless he were previously known to be good. (Vindication 1738, p.7).

He mentions that he travelled by horse to Stow, where his friends travelled by Phaeton, by Buggy, or like him on horseback. What was a Phaeton?

Phaeton is the early 19th-century term for a sporty open carriage drawn by a single horse or a pair, typically with four extravagantly large wheels, very lightly sprung, with a minimal body, fast and dangerous. It usually had no sidepieces in front of the seats. The rather self-consciously classicizing name refers to the disastrous ride of mythical Phaëton, son of Helios, who nearly set the earth on fire while attempting to drive the chariot of the sun.

A "pocket pistol" would have been a small  flintlock pistol, kept for safety, against the threat of highwaymen. These were effective at short range, and fitted in their pockets.

The earliest and most common type of pocket pistol, the 'Queen Anne', was available throughout most of the eighteenth century. Its main disadvantage was the exposed lock and trigger, which could easily catch in the lining of the pocket. Some were modified with a folding trigger that lay flush with the underside of the pistol until it was cocked; and a few even had spring bayonets fitted to them, as a further line of defence in the event of a misfire.

There's a lot of food in the diary entries, which makes this reader rather hungry. I'll pick just one item mentioned - "Hashed Goose".  Here is a vintage recipe, dating perhaps to around the time that Woodforde was writing:

remains of cold roast goose
2 onions
2 ounces of butter
1 pint of boiling water
1 dessertspoonful of flour
pepper and salt to taste
1 tablespoonful of port wine
2 tablespoonfuls of mushroom ketchup

Cut up the goose into pieces of the size required; the inferior joints, trimmings, etc., put into a stewpan to make the gravy; slice and fry the onions in the butter of a very pale brown; add these to the trimmings, and pour over about a pint of boiling water; stew these gently for 3/4 hour, then skim and strain the liquor. Thicken it with flour, and flavour with port wine and ketchup, in the above proportion; add a seasoning of pepper and salt, and put in the pieces of goose; let these get thoroughly hot through, but do not allow them to boil, and serve with sippets of toasted bread. Time: Altogether, rather more than 1 hour.

Job's daughters are mentioned in the Christening of a child - this is Job 42:14 - "The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch." In the England, the name Kezia is now unusual, but in Victorian times, as late as 1890, the births of 137 children named Kezia were registered in England; in 1990, only 40 were - and it has also become a unisex name, used for boys as well. The etymology is uncertain - it may come from Hebrew for Cassia, from the name for the spice tree.

June - The Diary of a Country Parson

JUNE 14. . . . Hearst, Bell and myself, being in Beer, went under Whitmore's window, and abused him very much, as being Dean, he came down, and sent us to our Proper Rooms, and then we Huzza'd him again and again. We are to wait on him to-morrow.
JUNE 15. We waited on Whitmore this morning and he read to us a Statute or two and says he shall not mention again provided the Senr. People do not. I am to read the three first Books of Hutchinson's Moral Philosophy, and I am to give a summary account of them when I am examined for my Degree.
JUNE 15. Went this morning early to Berkeley, where old Mrs. Prowse lives, about two miles beyond Froom, and about sixteen miles from hence: I carried over with me three Mourning Rings that my Father gave me last night; to deliver one to old Mrs. Prowse, one to her son the Major, and one to ye Major's wife, in Remembrance of my late Uncle, the Treasurer, which were left them by a Particular Desire of my late Uncle the Treasurer [his Great Uncle Robert Woodforde, 1675-1762, for many years a country parson in Cornwall and Somerset, and later Canon and Treasurer of Wells]. . . . N.B. Old Mrs. Prowse of Berkeley, and my late Uncle the Treasurer, were very Intimate, and corresponded, when my good Uncle was living. Major Prowse is son to old Mrs. Prowse.
JUNE 28. Went upon the grey horse this morning for Oxford by myself.
JUNE 1. I took my B.A. Degree this morning. . . . Reynels, myself, Lucas, Peckham and Webber treated (as is usual) the B.C.R. after dinner with Wine, and after Supper with Wine and Punch all the evening. We had 27 People in the B.C.R. this evening. . . . I sat up in the B.C.R. this evening till after twelve o'clock, and then went to bed, and at three in the morning, had my outward doors broken open, my glass door broke, and pulled out of bed, and brought into the B.C.R. where I was obliged to drink and smoak, but not without a good many words. Peckham broke my doors, being very drunk, although they were open, which I do not relish of Peckham much.
JUNE 2. Several of our Fellows went at four o'clock in the morning, for Stow, and all drunk; some in a Phaeton, some in a Buggy, and some on Horse back. I went as far as Weston on the Green with them upon my Grey, and then returned home, and was home by nine o'clock this morning, and breakfasted in my room.
JUNE. 4. Dined in Hall; and after dinner went with Cotton to Newton-Purcell, my Curacy, and which I am to serve to-morrow. Supp'd and spent the evening, at Cotton's Mother's, with Cotton and his Brother, and his Mother and his four Sisters. Cotton's Sisters are very agreeable Ladies. Laid at Cotton's Mother's at Newton-Purcell. Cotton's Mother's House and Furniture is rather bad; they are going out of the House soon.
JUNE 5. Breakfasted at Cotton's Mother's, with Cotton and his Brother and his four Sisters. At eleven o'clock went to my Church, and read Prayers and preached my first Sermon. Cotton's Family and about twenty more People were all that were at Church. Did Duty again at two o'clock; and then dined at Cotton's Mother's with Mrs. Cotton, and her four Daughters, and her youngest son; the eldest son was out preaching and reading prayers. Set out this afternoon for Oxford, and got home about eight o'clock. . . . Gave Cotton's maid being the only Servant 0. 1. 0.
JUNE 6. Had a Letter from Fitch, with a Promise from his Father of my taking the Curacy of his at Thurloxton near Taunton.
JUNE 25th. . . . Oglander Junr. and myself tryed this evening some of our Strong Beer in the B.C.R. and it is pretty good, but I am afraid it will never be better. It is some of Whitmore's brewing when he was Bursar. . . .
JUNE 29. . . . For a Pocket Pistol alias a dram bottle to carry in one's pocket, it being necessary on a Journey or so, at Nicholl's pd 0. 1. 0.
JUNE 27. . . . This very day I am thirty years of age. -- 'Lord make me truly thankful for thy great goodness as on this day shewed me by bringing me into this world, and for preserving me to this day from the many and great dangers which frail mortality is every day exposed to; grant me O Lord the continuance of thy divine goodness to me, that thy Holy Spirit may direct me in all my doings and that the remaining part of my days may be more spent to thy Honour and Glory than those already past.'. . .
JUNE 24. I read Prayers this morning at Cary being Midsummer Day. After Prayers I made a little visit to Mrs. Melliar where I met Mr. Frank Woodforde and told him, before Mrs. Melliar, Miss Melliar and Miss Barton what great obligations I was under to him for his not offering me to hold his Livings for him instead of Mr. Dolton and Mr. Gatehouse. From such base actions and dishonest men O Lord, deliver me.
JUNE 5. [He had gone to Norwich the day before.] I breakfasted at the Kings Head -- and after being shaved I walked to Mr Francis's -- then to Priests to taste some Port Wine and there bespoke a Qr of a Pipe. Called at Beales in the Fish Markett and bought 3 Pairs of fine Soals -- 2 Crabbs -- and a Lobster -- Pd him for the above and for some Fish I had before of him 0. 8. 4. About 11 o'clock sent Will home with the Fish to have for Dinner as I have Company to dine with me to-day.
JUNE 13. . . . Mr. Custance's 3 little Boys with 2 'Nurse' Maids came here this Afternoon and stayed here till 8 at night. I gave the little Boys for their
Supper some Strawberries and milk with which they were highly delighted. They came here on foot but went back in the Coach. Mrs. Alldis the Housekeeper called here in the Afternoon and she drank Tea with the Nurse Maids and ours in Kitchen.
JUNE 16. . . . I walked to Forsters this morning between 11 and 12 and read Prayers and administered the H. Sacrament to Mrs. Forster who is something better to day -- Her Mother was with her and received the Sacrament also with her. After I came down Stairs from Mrs. Forster I saw Forster and Herring of Ringland -- Mr. Forster was very sorry for what he had said and if I would forgive him, he wd beg my Pardon -- which I did and he promised never to affiont me more -- so that all matters are made up. 1 To Mr. Cary for things from Norwich &c. pd. 0. 6. 8. Of Ditto -- for 7 Pints of Butter at 7d recd 0. 4. 1. To Goody Doughty for 3 Lemons pd 0. 0. 6. I privately baptised a Child of Billy Bidewells this morning at my House -- by name William. Mr. Custance sent us some beans and a Colliflower this Even'.
JUNE 25. . . . Very uncommon Lazy and hot Weather. The Sun very red at setting. To a poor old crazy Woman this morn' gave 0. 0. 6. Nancy and myself dined and spent part of the afternoon at Weston House with Mr. and Mrs. Custance -- Mr. Rawlins dined also with us -- whilst we were at Dinner Mrs. Custance was obliged to go from Table about 4 o'clock labour Pains coming on fast upon her. We went home soon after dinner on the Occasion -- as we came in the Coach. We had for Dinner some Beans and Bacon, a Chine of Mutton rosted, Giblett Pye, Hashed Goose, a Rabbit rosted and some young Peas, -- Tarts, Pudding and Jellies. We got home between 5 and 6 o'clock. After Supper we sent up to Mr. Custances to enquire after Mrs. Custance who was brought to bed of a fine girl about 7 o'clock and as well as could be expected.
JUNE 27. . . . After breakfast Nancy and self dressed ourselves and walked to Hungate Lodge to make the first visit to Mr. and Mrs. Micklewaite who were both at home and appear to be tolerable agreeable People -- He is very young. She is much older and appears rather high. We stayed about half an Hour with them and then returned.
JUNE 30. . . . I privately named a Child this morning of Dinah Bushell's by name Keziah One of Job's Daughters Names.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Philosophical Investigations: Pantheism

Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele.  Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson.  But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi..  To St. Francis Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.
(G.K. Chesterton)

Pantheism is the idea that the universe embodies God, and that, as the Stanford Encyclopedia puts it, ""God is everything and everything is God ". The Western tradition of pantheism goes back to the Stoics, who took the analogy of the human being as both body and soul. God is the soul of the Universe, the universe the body of God in the Stoic tradition. As this conceived of neither existing without the other, the two are essentially identical: God is the universe; the universe is God.

In many ways, this is an experiential belief - looking at the beauty of the natural world, and experiencing a sense of wonder and joy. But not all of the natural world is so beautiful. It is that which attracts us, but it is not the whole picture.

The idea of a God who created the world in Creationism is subject to a critique, which is well expressed by David Attenborough when he says:

My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that's going to make him blind. And [I ask them], 'Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child's eyeball? Because that doesn't seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy'

The Victorian natural theologians who sought, after Paley, evidence of the design of God in the natural world, also came up against the ichneumon, a particular kind of wasp. As Stephen Gould notes:

Among ectoparasites, however, many females lay their eggs directly upon the host's body. Since an active host would easily dislodge the egg, the ichneumon mother often simultaneously injects a toxin that paralyzes the caterpillar or other victim. The paralyzes may be permanent, and the caterpillar lies, alive but immobile, with the agent of its future destruction secure on its belly. The egg hatches, the helpless caterpillar twitches, the wasp larvae pierces and begins its grisly feast.

Darwin was well aware of the problem, and made plain his thoughts in a 1860 letter to Asa Gray:

I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

But that is also a critique which applies to pantheism. If everything is God, then what do matters like these or - for that matter natural disasters - tell us about the nature of God?

If we take nature and everything natural as divine, and remove any moral judgement from the equation, then we have the classic pantheist defence:

 "If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God."

Yet this is just as crippling an answer - it suggests a god that is so alienated and detached from human concerns that we must accept the cruelty and suffering as somehow part of life, rather than fighting against it, or railing "against the dying of the light". It is the kind of notion of god that C.S. Lewis attacked in a Grief Observed:

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand. The conclusion is not "So there's no God, after all" but "So this is what God is really like, the Cosmic Sadist. The spiteful imbecile?"

To say that we must remove all attribution of judgement on nature makes the notion of nature as god a very strange one indeed. The divine nature gives us the worship of an impersonal mystery, carelessness, or cruelty. Is that really a conception of divinity that is worthy of respect? As the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said:

Taking an unprejudiced view of the world as it is, no one would dream of regarding it as a god. It must be a very ill-advised god who knows no better way of diverting himself than by turning into such a world as ours, such a mean, shabby world, there to take the form of innumerable millions who live indeed, but are fretted and tormented, and who manage to exist a while together, only by preying on one another; to bear misery, need and death, without measure and without object, in the form, for instance, of millions of negro slaves, or of the three million weavers in Europe who, in hunger and care, lead a miserable existence in damp rooms or the cheerless halls of a factory.

And of course the argument that we need to change to focus of our perspective, and then we will see that nature is divine, and bracket out the matter of suffering is the same kind of argument that we could levy at anything that goes on in the world. Why should we look to judge the actions of human beings, when they are just simply the outworking of the divine in nature? The Jewish holocaust, for instance, becomes just a random act, an outworking of the divine, because we have not got the right perspective.

It might be argued that is not the case because we are moral creatures, capable of making judgements on right and wrong in our own behaviour. But from the pantheism point of view, this is surely incoherent.

If we remove human beings from the domain of nature as divine, and set them apart, then not all of nature can be divine. We cannot exclude ourselves if the whole of nature is divine, because we are part of nature. But if we include ourselves as part of nature, then human behaviour is no more reprehensible than that of the  ichneumon. As the writer Saul Bellow said:

But make nature your God, elevate creatureliness, and you can count on gross results.

Of course, we can judge that we possess the ability to engage in moral discourse, but then that means we have a nature to which we attribute divinity which is unable to engage in any moral discourse. Isn't it strange that we have abilities that most of what is considered divine is unable to do so?

John Macquarrie looked at how pantheism worked out in practice:

It is sometimes said that in pantheism, God is supposed to be equally present in every part of the physical universe. This may be an implication of the literal meaning of pantheism, that everything is God or God is everything. In practice, however, some things are accepted as more fully manifesting the presence of God than others.

I think that in practice, like the Paley argument for design in nature, and the wonders of nature that pantheism - in its Western forms - is very much in the tradition of natural theology. An external deity has been removed from the equation, so that all that remains is in fact a romantic idolising of nature; it is no surprise that the rise of pantheism as an alternative to Christianity comes in with the romantic movement back to nature; the backlash of the psyche against the increased urbanisation and alienation from the countryside that was wrought by the Industrial revolution.

That is why for example, in a modern example, nature worship takes the form of posting very beautiful pictures on the internet. Facebook users who tend to pantheism do not, as a rule, post photos of the ichneumon, or of the kind of ugliness in nature that is depicted in abstract forms by the artist Francis Bacon. They don't show a creature savagely attacking another creature, or a decaying carcass riddles with maggots and post the caption "Wonderful Nature". Dead bodies cast ashore by a tsunami do not feature as something to be contemplated as part of the divine in nature.

Clearly while there is a philosophical defense against the ugly side of nature, in practice that is ignored. Western pantheists are selective pantheists in practice, and they don't dwell on the more unpleasant aspects of nature, and certainly they don't often extol them as examples of divinity manifest, which of course logic suggests that they should.

Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't feel awe or joy at the beauty in nature, or that people are wrong to do so. On the contrary, I think that's a very appropriate response. The response we have to the beautiful, to the intricate patterns of the natural world, is a very important one.

But what pantheism does is to take that response one stage further, and attribute divinity to the natural world. It is an attempt to make sense and order out of a response, but because it goes beyond that response, and tries to make a philosophy about it, it ends up as an incoherent muddle which faces just as many problems as monotheism. We should enjoy the beauty of the natural world, the wonders of the solar system, but we should not worship them:

Physical nature must not be made the direct object of obedience; it must be enjoyed not worshipped. Stars and mountains must not be taken seriously. If they are, we end where the pagan nature worship ended.  Because the earth is kind, we can imitate all her cruelties. (Chesterton)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Pan Pipes

Having watched the movie "Spirit of Albion" last night, here is a suitable themed poem related to that, and the Midsummer just past...

Pan Pipes
The sacred grove, wind in the tree:
Sea shells marking out the land;
Deiseil we walk, round times three,
Setting forth out the time so planned
The sacred grove, wind in the tree:
Small fire is burning in the heart;
Priestess welcomes, you and me;
Open the corners, play our part
The sacred grove, wind in the tree:
Old gods come, blessings bring,
Breeze on face, so free, so free!
Now the sacred melody sing
The sacred grove, wind in the tree:
Only the eyes of faith can see

Friday, 22 June 2012

Moon Boots and Dinner Suits

There are two autobiographies by Jon Pertwee. One, entitled "I am the Doctor", was co-written by David Howe, and largely covers the actor's time as Doctor Who, along with some mention of other parts, notably Worzel Gummidge. It's a good book, full of background detail and incident.

But in 1984, an earlier book, written by Pertwee alone, and called "Moon Boots and Dinner Suits" was published. It has a sheer vitality that is missing from the later book, good though that is. It doesn't deal with Doctor Who at all, but instead is the tale of his early childhood and acting career, his time in the Royal Navy, narrowly escaping being sunk on the Hood. It is a memoir full of incident and humour, rather than of anecdotes that were sometimes tired from repetition at Doctor Who conventions.

Here is a brief piece from the introduction, which illustrates what I mean. My son Jon (who changed the spelling of the name after his Doctor Who hero!) also couldn't pronounce the Pertwee name right; for years he would speak of "Jon Peewee"!

The Name Pertwee
(from Moon Boots and Dinner Suits, by Jon Pertwee)

The Pertwee is of French Huguenot extraction. According to our family tree, researched by a French Priest, one Abbé Jean Perthuis de Laillevault and my cousin the late Captain Guy Pertwee RN, the original family of Perthuis de Laillevault were directly descended from the Emperor Charlemagne, who ruled France in 800 A.D., and the line continues unbroken until the present day. The head of the family is Comte Bernard de Perthuis de Laillevault who fought with the RAF during the last war and is now a celebrated painter of murals.

After the Huguenot purge of 1685, the refugees fled to many countries including England where they settled mainly in Suffolk and Essex.Norman Pertwee, the veteran tennis player and head of the Pertwee Flour and Flower Company in Frinton, is a direct descendant of the original Huguenot settlers,  as am I.

Due to the inability of the English to pronounce the name Perthuis any other way than Pertwiss, it was subsequently changed to Pertwee. This proved a pointless exercise as over the years, even in England, I have been subjected to the following interpretations of my name, the veracity of which I will swear to, having avidly filed them away over the years : -

Tom Peetweet
Jon Peterwee
Jon Peartree
Mr Twee
Saniel Pertwee (A strange amalgam of my son and daughter, Sean and Dariel)
Mr Pardney
Mr Bert Wee
John Peewee (School, of course)
Newton Pertwee (Scientist?)
Mr Pickwick
Miss Jane Partwee
Master J. Peewit
Mr Pertweek
Joan Pestwick
J Pertinee
John Between
Mr and Mrs Jon Perkee

And the most recent addition, from a gentleman in Zimbabwe, assuming presumably that I am a "brother". . . J. Parpertwuwe

In the United States of America, however, I found that if you have a complicated, almost unpronounceable name of Lithuanian, German, Bulgarian, Russian, Czech, Japanese, Polish or Hungarian descent - a name Pztyltz for example - they will get it in one! But, if you happened to have a simple, honest-to-God name like Pertwee, they are utterly confounded!

I was playing on Broadway in There's a Girl in my Soup when our ancient name received its final indignity. The stage door keeper of The Music-Box Theatre was sitting, cigar in face, guarding the keys, when I entered the stage door.

"Hey Jan!"

As my Christian name is Jon, and as I was being proudly reminded of that fact by the regular sight of it emblazoned in letters of light on the Marquee above the Theatre, it was a natural assumption that the cigar-chewing voice was addressing somebody else!

The summons came again this time molto forte.

"Hey! Jan"

With puzzled expression and finger pointing at my chest, I turned, asking, "Who? - Me?"

"Yes! You! Jan Putrid! There's a letter for you!"

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Midsummer Oak

A Midsummer Oak
The red squirrel jumped from tree to tree, then leapt onto the ground. Here was food, nuts in plenty, time for a feast. But the acorn was buried deep, and it remained untouched. The squirrel left to seek other trees, other nuts.
I am the acorn.
I am the seed, fallen into the ground, buried beneath the earth, lost to the sunlight. Down, down into the deep soil, I descend. It is a death, yet I am alive. I will be transformed by water and light. I will break apart, and rise. Green shoots will rise in the darkness, and break through the soil. I arise.
I am the acorn. I am the future hope after death.
I danced beneath the stars, the canopy of night
The seedling rooted, green; I am born of light
A dryad as a young girl, I wonder at the land
Beauty of the earth, wisdom surely planned
I danced beneath the stars, the canopy of night
To be so young, such promise, such delight
A dryad as a young girl, I wonder at the land
I stand by my tree; come and take my hand.
I am the sapling.
The longbows needed arrows of oak. Hard fine wood, flying through the air towards a target. Death came swiftly in an arrow. So much bloodshed, so much needless waste. Young men marching to war, the great adventure. How little they knew; how few would return, broken, never the same.
I am young bark, soft bark, barely washed by the winter rain. The autumn winds blew strong, and many of my brothers snapped in the gales, broken before their time. I bend, but I do not break. But I will emerge changed, because I have come through the storm; it has not left me untouched.
I am the sapling. I am the promise of youth.
I danced beneath the planets, messengers of fate
Mars in the heavens, and opening death's gate
A dryad as a maiden, I wonder at the night
Weep at young soldiers, going off to fight
I danced beneath the planets, messengers of fate
The portents of hope, of the lovers who wait
A dryad as a maiden, I wonder at the night
Homecoming will dawn with such delight.
Mighty Oak
I am the mighty oak.
Oaken timbers creak in the sea, but they hold firm. Here is the heart of oak, on the rising waves, crossing the oceans; sails wind blown, on the great adventure; here are the great ships, the voyages of discovery, of strange new lands, of colonies branching out across the globe. And here is the ship's prow, painted in fine gold and green, and great sails unfurl to catch the wind, and moonrakers open up to catch the slightest breeze.
I am the mature bark, seasoned by the years, firm and strong. My branches spread out across the land, green leaves shading the earth, and fresh shoots rising into the air, reaching upwards into the sun. I am deep roots in the ground, drinking from the spring rain. Leaves blow in the wind, branches sway, but I stand firm my ground.
I am the mighty oak. I am fulfilment.
I danced beneath the moon, shining in the sky
Pulling the oceans, and now the tide is high
A dryad as a mother, I wonder at the stream
Flowing past the oak, flowing waters gleam
I danced beneath the moon, shining in the sky
Watching over forest, safe beneath my eye
A dryad as a mother, I wonder at the stream
Flowing ever onwards, like a magic dream.
Great Oak
I am the Great Oak.
The noble Roman Pliny told of how mistletoe entwined around the oak tree was sacred to the druids. When the time is right, when Midsummer had come, they come to take it from the tree for healing. A priest arrayed in white vestments climbs the tree and, with a golden sickle, cuts down the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak. They may also cut off and a burn portion of Oak in the Midsummer fires.
I am the bearer of wisdom, of ages past. I have seen the generations of mankind pass me by. They are born, they live but a short span, and they die. Children, adults, old people. Ashes to Ashes. And the seasons come and go, the years pass by, and I remain, more rings of growth deep within my bark. I bide my time, and wait to impart my blessing.
I am the Great Oak. I am the World Tree.
I danced beneath the sun, so full of heat and fire
With passion for the oak, I sing of my desire
A dryad now immortal, I wear a robe of green
A garland crown of flowers, as befits a queen
I danced beneath the sun, so full of heat and fire
Passing by the mortals, let my touch inspire
A dryad now immortal, I wear a robe of green
And I cast my spell, as I wander here unseen
I hear the soft footsteps of the dryads, dancing in the sacred grove, unseen to mortals, but these are my kindred, who have grown old with me. I take the light and send forth shoots, and I give light and wisdom to the sister of the oak, the mistletoe. And when it is Midsummer, the children of earth come in white robes, with golden sickle in hand, and I impart to them a fraction of my wisdom, a gleaning of the sun and night, the moon and stars.
This is my Midsummer gift.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Taxing Times

"Why is everyone acting as though @JimmyCarr has killed a baby?! Because babies die in underfunded hospitals". (Comedian John Robins, on Twitter)

'As bad as benefits cheats': Minister attacks Jersey tax avoidance scheme that Jimmy Carr 'has £3.3m in'
Comedian Carr is 'largest beneficiary' of scheme which shelters £168m a year from taxman Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, says rich tax dodgers are 'moral equivalent of benefit cheats' He warns Government is 'coming to get them' (1)

Those are the headlines in the Daily Mail, although it was in fact the Times which broke the story. And once more, it is Jersey that is at the centre of the tax scheme, termed K2:

K2 works by transferring salaries into a Jersey-based trust, which lends investors back the money. As the loan can technically be recalled, it is not subject to income tax .(1)

Of course, technically, the scheme is a legitimate loophole, so Jimmy Carr is breaking no laws. And before the moral crusaders start wagging their fingers, just see what David Cameron has sent as a message to French taxpayers, who are looking at the possibility of a hike to 75% tax rate over there:

British prime minister David Cameron slammed French tax plans saying that French businesses fleeing high tax rates at home are welcome in the UK.  While speaking at a business forum held on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Mexico on Wednesday, Cameron said  "If the French go ahead with 75 top rate of tax, we [the UK] will roll out the red carpet and welcome more French businesses to Britain and they can pay taxes in Britain and that can pay for our health service and our schools and everything else. Every country must set its own tax rates but I think in a world of global capital, in a world where we are competing with each other, in a world where we want to send a message that we want people to build businesses, grow businesses and invest, I think it is wrong to have completely uncompetitive top rates of tax," he said. (2)

So apparently it is right for high earners to avoid paying tax - although in this case, the method used is to relocate to the UK. But there is a total inconsistency at the heart of this policy.

If it is fine for people to use such means as they can to legitimately reduce their tax bill, then where does that leave the likes of Jimmy Carr? He hasn't relocated, because he has found a means to reduce his tax bill without being so. And the reason for this is that the rates in Britain are punitive for the high earner. At what point do they become legitimately too punitive? That's a question we should ask because clearly David Cameron is sending out a strong message that a 75% tax rate is too high. But isn't 50% - when the scheme was devised - also too punitive.

Perhaps if you are a Chief Executive, earning millions, packing away bonuses, with a generous pension scheme, you should be paying the top rate, but a comedian, after all, might be earning a lot today, and drop off the radar tomorrow. There doesn't seem to be a way to consider the tax rate for people whose salary might be - if averaged out over 10 years - the equivalent of paying perhaps 30% or lower - but because they have big peaks and then deep troughs - get hit excessively more than someone earning the same amount over that timescale.

In the meantime, the Telegraph reports that:

HMRC have confirmed the K2 scheme is under investigation and have vowed to "challenge it in every way available to them", saying "Government does not intend anyone, no matter who they are, to get away with paying less than they should." (3)

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, is having a full scale rant about tax:

These mercenaries - people, for example, such as the all-too-clever comedian Jimmy Carr, exposed as ruthlessly exploiting a highly aggressive but legal scheme to minimise his tax payments - use financial and legal wizards who specialise in tax avoidance and operate below the radar. (4)

Could this be the same Daily Mail, which some years ago was trying to relocate itself to the Neverlands:

The facts of the Daily Mail case concerned the transfer of the Daily Mail's central management (real seat) to the Netherlands as a tax avoidance measure. The Daily Mail's application to the UK's Treasury for its consent to the move had been refused and so the company appealed to the High Court which referred the matter as a preliminary question to the ECJ in the following terms: whether EC Treaty arts 43 and 48 precluded a Member State from requiring that its prior consent is granted to a company wishing to transfer its Head Office to another Member State given that the transfer constituted a transfer of residence in order to avoid tax liability. (5)

Surely the Daily Mail couldn't have been engaged in trying to ruthlessly exploit a legal scheme to minimise their tax payments? - this is something not mentioned in the Daily Mail, and very much an operation which falls "below the radar". What they wanted to do was firstly to allow - under both UK and Dutch law - the intended transfer of Daily Mails' centre of administration to the Netherlands whilst retaining its legal personality and continuing to be subject to UK company law. The case concerned the UK Treasury's right to refuse to allow Daily Mail to transfer its tax residence without paying accumulated tax in the UK.

The judgement of the courts at the time was that in the context of a tax avoidance scheme such as the one at stake in Daily Mail, a company should not be allowed to invoke the community right of establishment to avoid having to settle its tax situation in the UK before transferring its head-office to another Member State. Yes - a sordid tax avoidance scheme - that's what the very moral Daily Mail was trying to do!

Meanwhile, Jimmy Carr has broken his silence:

Comedian Jimmy Carr has broken his silence over claims that he dodged tax, insisting: "I pay what I have to and not a penny more."(6)

What has happened though - is that in the eyes of millions of people in the UK - Jersey has suffered reputational damage as a result of this whole affair. It may be legal, but it doesn't seem morally right - and there seems to be a total inability to address the subject of moral indignation - the call for fairness. Geoff Cook has defended Jersey:

Jersey Finance's Geoff Cook said the position on tax evasion was clear.  "Tax evasion is illegal in Jersey and it is a criminal offence to facilitate or engage in it," he said. He added: "Jersey is, and remains, one of the best regulated international finance centres in the world. Mr Cook said: "In our view, conflation between illegal tax evasion and legal tax avoidance, or tax planning, is unhelpful in moving any wider debate forward and the articles in today's edition of The Times raise some important points in this area."

I am sure that Shylock in the Merchant of Venice ran a well regulated business, and he broke no laws, all he wanted was his legitimate pound of flesh. That's how people outside tend to see Jersey with this kind of story, and while not every merchant in Venice was like Shylock, it was his actions which tainted the very honest people who also lived and worked there.

That's an issue which we really need to address, and making claims that nothing is criminal here really doesn't address the matter, and it is unfair to all the other people here who do simply make an honest living. Because when Geoff Cook says "tax evasion is illegal in Jersey", what the outside world often hears is a reply which does not address the moral issues in any substantial depth - and that's what we need.

Of course there is nothing illegal in the scheme. But remember the words of Shylock: "It doth appear you are a worthy judge; You know the law, your exposition hath been most sound".


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Power to the People

Jersey is running on back-up generators after a major power failure overnight. Chris Ambler, from Jersey Electricity, said connections with both submarine cables to France had been lost. He said engineers had been working to restore supplies and find the cause of the power cut.  Mr Ambler said some off peak electricity and heating supplies were disabled after the power cut which affected thousands of islanders at about 23:30 BST. "Supplies are rather tight in the island, we are bringing in more generation in order to fulfil that demand," he said. "What we are saying to customers is just as a precautionary measure just to give us a little bit more headroom we have taken the decision to disable some of the off peak tariffs and off peak heating." (1)

ISLANDERS were this morning being asked to use electricity wisely after a major power cut plunged Jersey into darkness overnight. The power cut, which was caused by faults in the two undersea cable links with France, happened at around 11 pm and lasted up to three hours for some customers. This morning all of Jersey's power was being generated in the Island at La Collette but some of the generators were not expected to be up to full power until later this afternoon. As a result Jersey Electricity suspended its off-peak water and heating supplies and asked Islanders to limit their non-essential use until supplies are at full capacity. (2)

It is fortunate that the Jersey Electricity Company has maintained a system capable of local power generation. What must be considered, however, is how much capacity this has, and the time that it takes to bring every part of it online. Clearly, at times, the short-term capacity balance between expected electricity supply and electricity use was strained while the slower systems came on line, and that's in June, where the use of electricity is not great.

In winter time, the demand would be considerably greater, and there might be a longer hiatus before being able to establish full supplies. Heating is important in winter. In cold weather, residential buildings quickly lose their heat after an outage in the heat supply.

When the outdoor temperature is close to -5C, it takes about 48 hours for the temperature in the average 1970s home to drop from 20C to 5C. Jersey does not have that often have that degree of cold weather, but near freezing conditions were experienced this year, and while the time would be longer for the temperature drop, it would still occur.

The last reports on the Jersey Electricity Website are a few years out of date, but there is a note in the 2009 report that:

The highest load in Jersey this year was 153.1MW in January 2009, just slightly less than our largest ever peak of 156.8MW, which occurred in December 2007.

This puts us more or less on a par with Gotland, which also imports power via a cable link - a recent report that:

The backup power capacity is excellent, and consists of gas turbines and diesel units. The capacity of the gas turbines equals the maximum load on the electricity network, 160 MW.

The Gotland site also notes that:

The availability of sustainable backup power is limited, but GEAB keeps enough fuel in stock for four days' backup power which is estimated to be more than enough with the world in its present state.

This brings me neatly to several questions about the current situation in Jersey:

1) What is the maximum load that the network can support from backup power?
2) Has this even been exceeded while on the French link, especially in winter?
3) How close are we to reaching the limit? The increasing population, of course, has an increasing energy requirement.
4) How many days can Jersey run on backup resources?

The Gotland linkage to the mainland of Sweden, by the way, uses what is known as a HVDC transmission due to the long distance (90 km) across the sea.  This is an acronym for "high-voltage, direct current" - it is an electric power transmission system which uses direct current for the bulk transmission of electrical power, in contrast with the more common alternating current systems. For long-distance transmission, HVDC systems may be less expensive and suffer lower electrical losses. For underwater power cables, HVDC avoids the heavy currents required by the cable capacitance.

It would be interesting to know if Jersey uses that, as the total distances of cables are not far off. On the technical side, if you have ever wondered exactly how the cables are laid down and protected etc, this report from ABB gives the details:

In 1998 ABB was awarded the Channel Islands Electricity Grid Project, which reinforces the power supply from France to Jersey and, for the first time, connects Guernsey to the European mainland grid. The submarine part of this project was completed in July 2000. The main components delivered for the project were:

- Submarine cables between France and Jersey and between Jersey and Guernsey (approx 70 km)
- Underground cables on Jersey and Guernsey
- GIS substations
- New transformers and reactors

The two submarine cables are of the same basic design, i.e. three-core, separate lead-sheathed, and with tripleextruded XLPE insulation. Each has a fiber optic cable with 24 fibers integrated in it for system communication and inter-tripping. The cables have double wire armor (ie, an inner layer of tensile armor and an outer, so-called rock armor) to protect them from damage that could be caused by tidal currents and fishing. The cables have a diameter of approximately 250 mm and weigh about 85 kg/m in air. Both cables were delivered by the factory in their full lengths . Because of the risks posed by fishing activities, the cables between Jersey and Guernsey and the fiber optic cables between Jersey and France were jetted into the seabed for extra protection.

Jersey is underway for a third link to France. As the JEC website mentions:

We continue to make progress with the third interconnector between Jersey and France, which we aim to bring into service in 2013. This cable is necessary for three reasons. Firstly, the first interconnector is now 25 years old and our specialist advisors suggest it is approaching the end of its life.

Secondly, there are widely predicted shortages in the availability of heavy fuel oil and the specialist ships needed for safe docking in the Channel Islands, which could reduce the dependability of almost half our standby generation facilities that use this fuel.

Thirdly, we are currently unable to supply the Island's full requirements with low carbon, imported electricity
from the competitive European markets during the winter peak.

The third point is somewhat worrying, and is rather ambiguous. Does it mean that the winter demands may exceed capacity?

Incidentally, Gotland has now an infrastructure which includes electricity from wind farms. They have developed what are called "smart grids" to balance the demands and loads. Here is some background:

During the past years, there has been a considerable increase in wind power production. It started in 1984 and reached 15 MW by 1994. Today there are 48 MW installed producing about 100 GWh. On the southern part of the island, where the peak load is only about 17 MW, there is approximately 37 MW of wind power installed. The infrastructure built for existing consumption cannot receive the increasing production. The system is presently used to its limits at full wind power production.

Wind power production does not conform to consumption. The network must be dimensioned to withstand the transmission of production when the load is low, i.e., about 25% of the peak load. The electrical system is built for existing distribution and not for large distributed generation .

Wind power production of this size results in considerable consumption of reactive power, which ought to be compensated in a reasonable way to retain voltage quality while minimizing net losses. Production varies randomly, which puts considerable demands on voltage regulation. For the successful expansion of wind power, the electrical system must be adjusted so that it can regulate and retain voltage quality in regard to reactive and active power, and other phenomena that that arise in an electrical system with wind power production.

With the call for Jersey to look at wind generation from offshore wind farms, it is helpful to note that Gotland has been developing Gotland HVDC Light technology to allow for the variations in power from wind. Jersey is unlikely ever to have the winds that Gotland does, and it is a much smaller Island, but there may still be techniques and technology available that we can appropriate to improve our electricity generation in the long term.

(4) /$File/ciredgot.pdf

Monday, 18 June 2012

A History of A Power Cut in 50 Tweets

Daleks: We will get our power. We will get our power. We will get our power. We will get our power. We will get our power. We will get our power.
First Dalek: Turn back the power supply.
(Dr Who, Power of the Daleks)

Here's a timeline of tweets.... amusingly, Judith Curry pops up talking about economic and security impacts - just when our power was off. And Lauren on Big Brother was saying how wonderful Jersey was - but of course, hardly anybody would have been able to watch her! By the way, I've removed the identification of the Twitters, apart from official organisations.

Jean: Well we can't all swan about ordering toast. Some of us have personal problems.
Jane: I know we do! But we don't bring them to work! I lost 8 tropical fish last week in a power cut!

One thing that never crossed my mind when the lights went out was to call the police. I looked out the window, and ascertained that no other lights could be seen, apart from a dull glow of night pollution to the south  where La Moye Prison was - and presumably on reserve generators. No Great Escape there! Why on earth call the police? The psychology of the panic stricken Islander is sometimes beyond my comprehension.

Scientist: [After a power cut] Oh no... Its probably those Anomalous Materials people again. Always pushing their equipment too hard, dabbling in who-knows-what. I'd be surprised if there's one good brain among them
(Half Life)

What am I doing up? You may well ask. I have a dimmer switch on my light, with on and off just by pressing it in or out, so you can't tell if it was on or off. I couldn't remember, and thought it was off. Until suddenly, bright lights came on and woke me! Off to bed now!

@channelonline power back on in trinity

Power gone again at esplanade!

Jersey Electricity ‏@electricjersey
Power is already coming back on in parts of the island, we are expecting to be able to restore all power later this evening #powercutjersey

Jersey Electricity ‏@electricjersey
JE is experiencing problems with submarine cables to France. Engineers r working to restore supplies using local generation #powercutjersey

Jersey Electricity ‏@electricjersey
Power is already coming back on in parts of the island, we are expecting to be able to restore all power later this evening #powercutjersey

RT @electricjersey: Please tell Jersey Tweeters to follow @electricjersey or #powercutjersey for latest news on power supply problems...

@channelonline still no power at Five Oaks!!

@channelonline guess I need a few more hamsters for the ups on my servers as power still out in aubin lane #powercutjersey

@channelonline yep I'm in St Brelades with no power. Can see the airport & the genny is on

@channelonline @electricjersey St Saviour/Trinity 1st cut an hour ago 2nd cut 35mins ago and still in the #dark #powercutJersey

Oscar Puffin ‏@oscarpuffin
If the weather wasn't bad enough, power to the puffin hot tub has gone. My plumage is in a right old state. :>\

@CJChateau @channelonline @electricjersey Hurrah St Saviour/Trinity lights are on! #powercutJersey

@channelonline longueville still down and I-phone running on vapor for golf.

@channelonline No power still at St.Brelade lucky i have 3G from JT and fully charged devices

Jersey Electricity ‏@electricjersey
A reminder: We've had a problem with our cables to France. Engineers are firing up generators at La Collette. #powercutjersey

Judith Curry ‏@JudithCurry
Economic and security impacts of climate change in the Arctic

bbcjersey ‏@bbcjersey
It's just gone half past midnight & the latest we have is parts of the island are still affected by the latest #powercutjersey more ASAP

Jersey Electricity ‏@electricjersey
@kevinpamplin @electricjersey is Jersey Electricity's official account and will keep islanders up-to-date with any JE news #powercutjersey

@bbcjersey Still in the dark & not happy out here at Corbiere #powercutjersey but TY for updates :-)

@bbcjersey Still no power in St Clement

@bbcjersey still off in St Peters @electricjersey #powercutjersey

@bbcjersey Still off in St Brelade. Would normally just go to sleep but school uniform in tumble dryer! Still wet!

@bbcjersey @electricjersey power's back on for sometime now round the general hospital area..thank goodness :)

@bbcjersey @electricjersey Let The Force Be with You Tonight #powercutjersey

Power back on @PommedOrHotel area been back for while now

St Ouen still out... Fridge and tropical fish not happy @bbcjersey

bbcjersey ‏@bbcjersey
Thank you for your tweets from around the island during the latest #powercutjersey @kevinpamplin will be LIVE at 6am on 88.8fm with updates!

Channel Television ‏@channelonline
Power appears to have come back on in some parts of Jersey. But it's still off in places like st brelades. Are you affected? Let us know.

bbcjersey ‏@bbcjersey
@channelonline @DunellsWines Ha who said anything about bed! Sleep is for wimps! And we are on air from 6am with LIVE update from JE #coffee

We're back baby... Electricity on in St. Clement... Thank you JEC... @electricjersey @channelonline

@bbcjersey #powercutjersey we have the power... JCG/Mont Millais area. #timetoputtheguitarawayandputoutthecampfire

bbcjersey ‏@bbcjersey
RT from @electricjersey Engineers continue to bring power supplies back up to full output. All island supplies expected back overnight.

@channelonline hamsters alive and kicking here around Aubin lane. Ie. Power is back :-)

@channelonline still dark in St Peters! @electricjersey

@channelonline yes we have been stuck in darkness while at work now send all home leaving big mess for tomorrow

Big Brother Live ‏@BBUKLive
1.18am: Lauren is rhapsodising about Jersey life. She makes it sound so lovely. Channel Island Tourist Board - sign her up. #bbuklive

@channelonline totally feeling left out here! No power cut in St Lawrence...

Channel Television ‏@channelonline
Can't believe we're writing this, but do not call the police because the power is out!! See next tweet.

States of Jsy Police ‏@JerseyPolice
@electricjersey Hi any news on how long this powercut is going to last please? We are being inundated with calls. Thanks

Kevin Pamplin ‏@kevinpamplin
@JerseyPolice @electricjersey I will be on air on @bbcjersey from 6am with LIVE updates 88.8fm & online #jerseypowercut

bbcjersey ‏@bbcjersey
RT @DunellsWines We're back on in St. Brelade!!! Thank you #jerseypowercut thank goodness for your washing! Sleep well!

@bbcjersey power back, St Brelade

0153 hrs Power just restored in St Mary. Daughter, who hates power cuts, and knackered Daddy very grateful. Goodnight peeps #fb

We've left some lights on @cafebreakwater just so we can see if we get another #powercutjersey! Thank you @electricjersey for allthe updates

Power back La Moye, St Brelade, at 2.00am

Sunday, 17 June 2012

And so to bed...

I like to finish each day by posting a memorable quote on Facebook. This has to be something a bit different, something that, I hope, gives a fresh insight into our world. It's not especially religious, and it's not a quick sound-bite platitude either. But it is often poetic, though it is not poetry. And it may be something unusual from a well known author, best known for other writings and subjects. I've posted one selection on my blog before - here's a second selection to enjoy.


Dennis Potter, from the last interview he gave when he was dying of cancer, and knew he had only weeks to live:

. . . at this season, the blossom is out in full now, there in the west early. It's a plum tree, it looks like apple blossom but it's white, and looking at it, instead of saying "Oh that's nice blossom" ... last week looking at it through the window when I'm writing, I see it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it.

Things are both more trivial than they ever were, and more important than they ever were, and the difference between the trivial and the important doesn't seem to matter. But the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, and if people could see that, you know.


"The image of a wood has appeared often enough in English verse. It has indeed appeared so often that it has gathered a good deal of verse into itself; so that it has become a great forest where, with long leagues of changing green between them, strange episodes of poetry have taken place.

Thus in one part there are lovers of a midsummer night, or by day a duke and his followers, and in another men behind branches so that the wood seems moving, and in another a girl separated from her two lordly young brothers, and in another a poet listening to a nightingale but rather dreaming richly of the grand art than there exploring it, and there are other inhabitants, belonging even more closely to the wood, dryads, fairies, an enchanter's rout.

The forest itself has different names in different tongues- Westermain, Arden, Birnam, Broceliande; and in places there are separate trees named, such as that on the outskirts against which a young Northern poet saw a spectral wanderer leaning, or, in the unexplored centre of which only rumours reach even poetry, Igdrasil of one myth, or the Trees of Knowledge and Life of another. So that indeed the whole earth seems to become this one enormous forest, and our longest and most stable civilizations are only clearings in the midst of it."


"To show a child what has once delighted you, to find the child's delight added to your own, so that there is now a double delight seen in the glow of trust and affection, this is happiness."


"The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them,and what came through them was longing. These things-the beauty, the memory of our own past-are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."


And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back - if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day?

And I say also this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes.


I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days - quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapor, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil - historically considered.

But the historic version is, of course, not the only one. All things and all deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their "causes" and "effects." No man can estimate what is really happening sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labors with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.


One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.

And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew open. The windows flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer's ancient green lawns.

Rocket summer. The words passed among the people in the open, airing houses. Rocket summer. The warm desert air changing the frost patterns on the windows, erasing the art work. The skis and sleds suddenly useless. The snow, falling from the cold sky upon the town, turned to a hot rain before it touched the ground.

Rocket summer. People leaned from their dripping porches and watched the reddening sky.

The rocket lay on the launching field, blowing out pink clouds of fire and oven heat. The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. The rocket made climates, and summer lay for a brief moment upon the land....


The street they threaded was so narrow and shut in by shadows that when they came out unexpectedly into the void common and vast sky they were startled to find the evening still so light and clear. A perfect dome of peacock-green sank into gold amid the blackening trees and the dark violet distances. The glowing green tint was just deep enough to pick out in points of crystal one or two stars. All that was left of the daylight lay in a golden glitter across the edge of Hampstead and that popular hollow which is called the Vale of Health. The holiday makers who roam this region had not wholly dispersed; a few couples sat shapelessly on benches; and here and there a distant girl still shrieked in one of the swings.


Gypsy, if this horrid, cold mist-bringing East wind goes on much longer, I shall be very angry.

"Oh," cries the wind, "I love to blow from the East, I'm like the ram-horns of Genghis Khan sounding - I'm like the shouting Celtic tribes wave after wave, all war-cries" Oh, I could blow for ever!"

That foolish wind, little does it know that it curdles the marrow in the bones of man and cat and makes us quite ill . . . Especially delicate creatures like you and me . . .

Whereas, when it blows from the West - which is after all, the airt it loves best - it brings music and magic to us, seal songs and the breath of mermaids and the merry splurge and dance of whales. And more, it brings aromas of the magic isle in the west, that people have known was there for thousands of years. The Gaelic-speakers called it Tir-nan-Og (which means 'the land of the young'). Once we're there, believe me, Gypsy, we'll never be old and sick and weary - for pussies there'll be a silver fish on a plate every day, and a nice stone - emerald or lapis lazuli - to sit on always in the sun, and no dogs and no bad-tempered householders who 'shoo' pussies off their doorsteps.

There, in Tir-nan-Og, even the East wind is gentle and full of scents and sweet sounds. But you have to be good to get there.