Sunday, 30 April 2017

Notes on the Calendar: April – Part 2












From the 1948 Pilot, as we approach the end of April, some more G.R. Balleine.

Notes on the Calendar: April – Part 2
By G.R. Balleine


The only Red Letter Saint commemorated this month is St. Mark [25 April], author of the earliest. of our four Gospels, the man who failed to stay the course, when he first started work for Christ, but later made good.

The Saint who left his comrades,
And turned back from the fight,
Behold, at last victorious
In God's prevailing might.

An unaccountable superstition arose about St. Mark's Eve. If you had courage to wait in the church porch till midnight, you would see passing into the church the ghosts of all who were to die that year.

Of this month's Black Letter Saints, Alphege was Archbishop of Canterbury (1006-1012) in days before the Norman Conquest. He was captured by Danish raiders, and pelted to death with bones of oxen they had eaten at a drunken feast, because he could not raise a £3,000 ransom From the poor tenants on his Canterbury estate.

The people honoured him as a martyr; but after the Norman Conquest it was questioned whether he could be accepted as a Saint as he had not died for his Religion. But Anselm decided “Christ is Truth and Justice. So he, who does for Truth or Justice, died for Christ”.

Anselm himself has his day on April 21st. Though a Burgundian, he was Archbishop of Canterbury (1093-1109). Driven into exile by William Rufus, he was recalled by Henry I but then again expelled.

He was the greatest philosopher and theologian of his age, but the qualities that won him his Sainthood were his guileless simplicity, spotless integrity, inflexible courage, and patient suffering for what he believed to be right.

Richard was a great English Scholar, Chancellor of Oxford University, who became Bishop of Chichester (1245-1253). He too fell out with his King. Henry III seized his house and lands, but, though penniless and homeless, he continued his work, trudging through Sussex on foot, sleeping in shepherds’ huts, and sharing labourers’ meals.

A strict disciplinarian, he purged his diocese, not only of Slothful or Scandalous Priests, but of “those whose articulation was hurried and those who wore dirty surplices." Today he is chiefly remembered by the prayer he taught his people:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For the pains and insults Thou hast- borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
And follow Thee more nearly.

Other April Saints are St. George, whose legend we told last month.

In the Middle Ages, all .Jersey flocked on St. George's Day to St. George's Chapel in Mont Orgueil, but in 1495 this pilgrimage was stopped. The Authorities grew nervous lest such a crowd might one day seize the Castle, and the King ordered the Governor “not to permit any of the said isle to come to the said Castle on St. George's Day, as hath been the custom”.

Ambrose, as Governor of Northern Italy. came to Milan to ensure order at the election of a new Bishop.

A child cried, “Ambrose for Bishop !" and the crowd took up the cry. He protested that he was not baptized, but this was over-ruled. He was baptized, ordained, and consecrated on the spot, and proved one of the strongest Bishops the Church ever had. He forced the Emperor to do public penance for a massacre that he had permitted. He overwhelmed by his oratory the arguments of, the Arian heretics. He introduced hymn singing into the Western Church, and himself wrote many hymns. Translations of nine of his are in hymns Ancient and Modern.

Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome ( 440-61), was another refuter of heresy. And by seeking out Attila the Hun in his camp he saved Rome from destruction.

Catherine of Sienna was a nun, who by sheer saintliness, exercised amazing influence in 14th century Italy. She persuaded the Pope to return to Rome, which six of his predecessors had abandoned. She made peace between Rome and Florence. She put an end to bitter political feuds that divided Italian cities. She quelled a revolt of the Roman populace. Her 400 letters to Kings, Popes, Bishops, and private persons form one of the greatest books of Italian literature, and show the theology of Mysticism at its very best.

Two other dates may be mentioned. April 1st both in England and France has for centuries been All Fools Day, a day for sending people on fruitless errands, e.g., to buy a guttering-peg or some elbow-grease or a Life of Adam’s Grandfather. In 1885 crowds flocked to the Tower of London with Tickets of Admission inviting them to see '` the annual ceremony of washing the lions”.

Those who fall into the trap are called in Yorkshire April noddies, in Cheshire April gobbies, in Scotland April gowks, in Cornwall April guckaws, and in Jersey paissons d'Avri.

Poor Robin in 1760 wrote :-

The first of April, so they say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know.

Inquirers are often referred for information to St. Matthew 29: 2. The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics say, : '' In whose honour this old Festival was held and what- religious rite underlay the fooling has yet to he traced." But the fact that in India also March 31st is a day for sending simpletons on impossible errands shows that the custom must date back to some primitive belief about the passing of March into April held by the Indo-European tribes before they separated.

One celebration we have no wish to introduce into Jersey. In Old England, April 30th was Mischief Night, when the lads of the village sallied forth to throw bricks down chimneys. pull gates off hinges, and fix mops left out of doors oil to the roof of barns. The warmest admirer of old customs will not wish to revive this one.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Day by Day















There is a wonderful song in Godspell which takes up the prayer of St. Richard of Chichester

Day by day, day by day,
O, dear Lord, three things I pray:
to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly,
follow thee more nearly, day by day.

This poem takes a different way of living day by day. It casts a critical eye over the society in which economic growth has become a dominant value, in which the principal role in which people are cast is that of consumer, and in which the poverty of the world is easily overlooked.

As John V. Taylor said: “The word ‘poverty’ has come to sound so negative and extreme in our ears that I prefer the word ‘simplicity’, because it puts the emphasis on the right points…Our enemy is not possessions but excess. Our battle-cry is not ‘nothing!’ but ‘enough!'”

Taylor in his great book "Enough is Enough", gave voice against the pursuit of perpetual material growth in a finite world; against the growing gap between rich and poor; and against unjust trading arrangements between nations.

How do we want to live our life? What is a good life?

Day by Day

Biding time, passing the hours
Count the time: day by day
Solomon’s glory: wild flowers
Now the sky is turning grey

Take each moment as it comes
Daily pursuits: just work and feed
Blind the eyes, don’t see the slums
Close the ears to cries of need

Consume, and buy, greed is good
Grow population, grow the wealth
Rotten the oak, hollow the wood
Fattened rich, we have no health

And when distraught, come and pray
And fear what justice now will day

Friday, 28 April 2017

Jersey In Colour - Part 1

Today is an extract from a 1960s Jarrold Guide to Jersey, entitled "Jersey In Colour". How beautiful the Island looked in the 1960s! Just look at the Weighbridge Gardens, which I myself remember well.

The text mentions "The New Park", which readers may puzzle over. This was St Andrew's Park. Also of note - the "fine grounds of Victoria College" are no longer open to the public.

Jersey in Colour - Part 1



















Jersey is the largest of that captivating group of islands which we call the Channel Islands. The name is undoubtedly of Norman origin J and most probably means the "island of grass", an apt title when we consider the famous strain of cattle which originated here. As an inhabited island Jersey has a very long history, dating from the cave-men of Old Stone Age times. Celts, Gauls and Romans have left traces of their presence here, and in Christian times Britons from Cornwall settled in the island, as they fled from the mainland to escape the Anglo-Saxon invasion.

It was, however, the Normans who became the most firmly established race in Jersey, and their stalwart qualities materially strengthened the prosperity of the island. Indeed, until quite recent times Norman French was still the language of the ordinary people, and even today the influence of the latter tongue has not entirely disappeared.

The system of government is quite unlike that of Britain, and in spite of the modifications introduced by the Reform Act of 1949, Jersey has retained a constitution of her own. Basically the system is founded on the old Frankish institution of the parish representatives, called Constables, who with the Senators, Deputies and the Bailiff make up the "States" or Parliament.

The Sovereign is represented by a Lieutenant-Governor who may speak in the States, but who has no vote. In practice he rarely exercises this privilege, though he has control of all matter affecting defence. Civil justice is under the jurisdiction of the Royal Court, while criminal cases are heard separately. One of the great attractions of Jersey as a place of residence is that taxation is less severe than in the other parts of the British Isles.

Geographically Jersey is linked to her neighbour France, and at several distant periods of history has actually formed part of the mainland of that country. The island is only 45 square miles in area and its greatest length is a bare 11 miles, but it is comparatively densely populated.

Farming has always been the principal occupation of Jersey folk. Every available patch of grass feeds the familiar Jersey cow, unsurpassed as a milk- and cream- producer, but it is arable crops which are the mainstay of Jersey's agriculture. Potatoes are by far the most important crop, although tomatoes- grown largely in the open-form a considerable export to British markets.

Like the other Channel Islands, Jersey was considered strategically indefensible during the Second World War, and for nearly six years was occupied by German forces. Those days are now over and today the island and her people once more extend their well-known hospitality to visitors, not only from England and France, but from many other lands as well.














St Helier, the capital of Jersey and the only sizeable town in the island, is situated on the shore of St. Aubin's Bay. About half the entire population of Jersey live in St. Helier, whose prosperity depends in no small measure on its harbour.

The original harbour has been considerably enlarged and today there are six miles of quays and ample facilities for the berthing of the many passenger and cargo vessels which use the port. In the view above may be seen a corner of the Albert Harbour and the Weighbridge Gardens.

The outer arms of the harbour are known as the Victoria and the Albert Piers in honour of the Queen's visit to the island in 1846. Fort Regent, which was built in Napoleonic times, crowns the hill overlooking the harbour, and from it there is an excellent view of the town.















The importance of the harbour to Jersey can scarcely be exaggerated, for it is Jersey's lifeline. However, it was not until the end of the eighteenth century that St. Helier had its first artificial harbour, enclosed by the old pier and the north pier.

The Old Harbour, together with two smaller basins called the French and the English Harbours, are used by fishing boats and other small craft.

A wide esplanade extends from the harbour to the causeway leading to Elizabeth Castle and con tinued by the Victoria Avenue promenade. The sandy beach, facing south, is within easy reach of the town and is therefore extremely popular.

Boats leave every few minutes from West Park slip for historic Elizabeth Castle, which is open to visitors and has many interesting features, including two tableaux showing famous events in the island's history. 














The Royal Square was the market-place of St. Helier until the end of the eighteenth century, when owing to the ever-increasing numbers of stallholders and customers the market was moved to a new site at Halket Place. 

At the market cross in Royal Square new laws were announced and public proclamations made. On the site of the cross a gilt statue of George II was erected in 1751. In the curious fashion of the time the king is depicted as a Roman Emperor, crowned with a laurel wreath. 

It was in Royal Square that the famous "Battle of Jersey" was fought in 1781, when Baron de Rullecourt, a French adventurer, took the town by surprise and fortified the square. The situation, however, was restored by the boldness of Major Peirson, who rallied the militia and attacked and defeated the French. 
















Jersey's principal government buildings are situated on the south side of Royal Square. Justice has been administered in the Royal Court House since the twelfth century, but the present building was constructed in the eighteenth and enlarged in the nineteenth century.

The silver-gilt mace, which is carried before the Bailiff, was presented to the island by Charles II, as a reward for the loyalty of the people to the Crown.

The Royal Court is flanked by the Public Library and Administration Buildings and by the STATES CHAMBER (Salle des Etats), the island's Parliament. The photograph below shows the small chamber, furnished in Jacobean style. The seats are arranged in three tiers around the two central "thrones". It will be noticed that the Bailiff's seat is slightly elevated above that of the Lieutenant-Governor. The standard on the canopy commemorates the visit of George V in 1921.















St. Helier has several charming public parks and gardens which are popular retreats with those who seek rest and relaxation. Among them may be mentioned New Park, presented to the town by Mr. Gervaise le Gros, where a small Neolithic dolmen is to be seen, Mount Bingham, the hill to the south of Fort Regent, which has been tastefully laid out with lawns and terraces; and HOWARD DAVIS PARK (above), a glorious sight in summer with its attractive flower-beds and green lawns. 

The Jersey Recreation Grounds lie a short distance inland and cater for many sports, while the fine grounds of Victoria College are open to the public. The college commemorates the Royal visit in 1846 and has a distinguished academic record. In the well-kept War Cemetery are the graves of Allied airmen and sailors killed in operations off the island during the last war.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Chandra X-Ray Telescope


















As part of a presentation on "Astronomy in the News", I collated some information on The Chandra X-Ray Telescope, from various sources, which I am also posting here for the benefit of my readers.

The Chandra X-Ray Telescope












In 1976 the Chandra X-ray Observatory (called AXAF at the time) was proposed to NASA by Riccardo Giacconi and Harvey Tananbaum.

Since cosmic X-ray radiation is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, space-based telescopes are needed for X-ray astronomy. Applying himself to this problem, Giacconi worked on the instrumentation for X-ray astronomy; from rocket-borne detectors in the late 1950s and early 1960s, to Uhuru, the first orbiting X-ray astronomy satellite, in the 1970s – pictured here.

Giacconi's pioneering research continued in 1978 with the Einstein Observatory, the first fully imaging X-ray telescope put into space, and later with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched in 1999 and is still in operation. 








X-ray astronomy is an observational branch of astronomy which deals with the study of X-ray observation and detection from astronomical objects.

X-rays are a form of light, but much more energetic than the light detected by our eyes. The energy of an X-ray photon (light particle) is ~1000 times that of a photon of visible light. They are part of the electromagnetic spectrum which includes visible light, radio waves, microwaves and infra red radiation.

What the picture shows is that X-rays are emitted from things that are really hot - millions of degrees. K stands for Kelvin - a temperature scale which has the same units as Celsius, but starts at absolute zero (-273o C). The shorter the wavelength (higher frequency) the higher the energy of the light.










X-ray missions produce a wide range data in many forms. The main three are discussed here; they all result from the type of detector used in X-ray telescopes and also from the fact that X-rays are very high energy. This means that they act as particles rather than waves and so it is easy to measure the energy of each individual photon. They can also record the time a photon hit the detector and also where it came from, to a very high accuracy in the case of CHANDRA.

Above we see Ttree different clusters as imaged by the CHANDRA satellite.

Images are the most easily accessible result from X-ray missions. The raw output of an X-ray detector is the "events" file - which shows how many photons hit each pixel of the detector. However the extra information, for example the energies of the photons, give a greater insight into what is going on in the object under study.















The CHANDRA X-ray Observatory was launched on the 23rd July 1999 by the Space Shuttle Columbia. It was designed to provide high resolution imaging of X-ray sources; as opposed to XMM-NEWTON which has better spectral resolution but worse imaging capabilities. It was the follow up to the EINSTEIN observatory which flew from November 1978 to April 1981and was far superior in all ways. CHANDRA was placed into an elliptical orbit so that it spent little time in the Earths radiation belts, and so allows up to 48hrs (172.8 ksec) of uninterrupted observing time.
















In January 2017, the Chandra X-ray Observatory revealed the as yet deepest X-ray image of the outer space which could contain more than a couple of thousands of black holes.

Most of the supermassive black holes revealed by Chandra are believed to be billions of years old. More exactly, they could be as old as the Big Bang. Their formation period was traced back as far as this cosmic event.

















Astronomers from the University of Durham’s Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy have confirmed the discovery of two supermassive black holes located close to the Milky Way. Working in conjunction with the Chandra observatory, the scientists were delighted to reveal the discovery to the scientific world.

They couldn’t directly observe the black holes as they are shielded by huge clouds of dust and gas, but deep X-ray imaging has allowed the scientists to confirm the discovery.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

And so to bed...

I finish each night with a quote on Facebook, and for those who have missed them, here are some recent picks. My rules for choosing them are that they must be short, but not one-liners, and must say something inspiring and joyful, or reflecting the sorrow and pain of the world.

Mainly I choose them because I like them, and I hope you, gentle reader, will like them too. On the blog I've also taken the opportunity to add a few extra pictures of the writers themselves as I think it is rather nice to see the authors as well as their quotes.

And so to bed...















And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Clifford D Simak:

The sun was setting, throwing a fog-like dusk across the stream and trees, and there was a coolness in the air. It was time, I knew, to be getting back to camp. But I did not want to move. For I had the feeling that this was a place, once seen, that could not be seen again.

If I left and then came back, it would not be the same; no matter how many times I might return to this particular spot the place and feeling would never be the same, something would be lost or something would be added, and there never would exist again, through all eternity, all the integrated factors that made it what it was in this magic moment.

















And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Rachel Barenblat, and is a poem called "God says yes".

I will keep
company with you
where you go
I will go
when bitter exile
narrows your horizon
your tight straits
will be mine too
let me lift you
from the ashes,
dress you in
nothing but light
like a new mother,
breasts over-full
I ache to spill
blessings for you
let me carry you
through foaming seas
come undone with me
on the far shore












And so to bed... quote for tonight is from E. Nesbit:

These gardens are green, because green is the color that most pleases and soothes men's eyes; and however you may shut people up between bars of yellow and mud color, and however hard you may make them work, and however little wage you may pay them for working, there will always be found among those people some men who are willing to work a little longer, and for no wages at all, so that they may have green things growing near them.


















And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Mary Baker Eddy:

When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts.


















And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Israelmore Ayivor:

To some people, you make life bright
When you decide to dim your light
Their lives will be full of darkness
Do shine your light in kindness
You’re on earth to do two things here
Wake up and do them now; this year
First, dare to grow and become better
Second, help others to also become greater
Never in any of the four seasons
Should you neglect your gifts for any reasons
The world needs you to make it a better place
Don’t pack out; run your race















And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Beth Gutcheon:

I don't suppose you have to believe in ghosts to know that we are all haunted, all of us, by things we can see and feel and guess at, and many more things that we can't.















And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Ursula Le Guin:

I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.











And so to bed... quote for tonight is from M. Scott Peck:

Life is complex. Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another...The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness.









And so to bed...quote for tonight is from S.L. Stacy:

Take us to the in-between,
Where earth meets sky, and wake meets dream.
And time rushes by, unseen.
Take us to the infinite night,
Where up is down, and left is right,
And dark vanquishes light.















And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Tove Jansson:

“I'm afraid we shall waste an awful lot of time."

"Don't worry," answered Snufkin, "we shall have wonderful dreams, and when we wake up it'll be spring.”












And so to bed... quote for tonight is from W.H. Auden:

Look, stranger, on this island now
The leaping light for your delight discovers,
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Term Time Absence from School: A Comment









The Jersey Evening Post reported that:

“PARENTS have reacted angrily after Jersey’s Chief Officer said that taking children out of school to go on holiday was ‘unacceptable’. In Saturday’s JEP, Justin Donovan said that such action was damaging pupils’ education. He spoke out after figures revealed that a fifth of pupil absences in the last year were due to parents taking their children on holiday. “

“Almost 100 people commented on the story on the JEP’s Facebook page, with many saying that parents should be given greater flexibility to take their children out of school. Some parents also suggested that the Education Department should shift school term-times, so parents can avoid price hikes associated with UK school holiday weeks.”

A Guardian article explains some of the rationale behind parents taking children away on holiday, and its history:

“Parents who wished to take advantage of cheaper, off-peak holiday rates used to be able to bend the rules a little, as head teachers at state schools in England were allowed to grant up to two weeks’ term-time holiday for pupils with good attendance. But in 2013 new regulations banning term-time absences were brought in.”

“Every single holiday cost more in August with the average holiday costing £905 more than in July and £1,310 more than in June while in one case the price of a holiday jumped by 126% between June and August, a £1,903 difference.”

So why is this an important issue, and are all the facts available? An article in the 2015 Times Educational Supplement said that:

“Research shows that children who miss school for just seven days a year damage their ‘life chances’, and only 31 per cent of children who missed more than 14 days of lessons over two years achieved good grades in the traditionally academic subjects. Yes, children do miss school owing to illness and it is reasonable to expect teachers to help them make up what they missed. It is not reasonable to expect teachers to do so for frivolous reasons.”

And these kinds of statistics are also mentioned by Leeds City Council on their website:

“Children who frequently miss school often fall behind. There is a strong link between good school attendance and achieving good results. For example, only 12% of pupils with below 80% school attendance achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and Maths, compared to 68% for pupils with attendance greater than 95%. “

“Requests for leave can only be granted by schools if there are exceptional circumstances, and holidays are not considered exceptional.”

A government report in 2016, based in 2013 and 2014 data, concluded that:

“Missing school for just a few days a year can damage pupils’ chances of gaining good GCSEs, according to a new report published by the Department for Education today (24 March 2016).”

The problem is that these research reports are cited without any details about their limitations. My mathematical hackles rise when I see bare figures being produced which seem to fly in the face of common sense.

For instance, because of sickness, it is almost inconceivable that any children have not lost a few days a year. Almost every child will be affected, and that is really too absurd to countenance. When I was at school, I certainly lost at least a few days because of illness, and that was before more the stringent regulations of today in which a child must stay at home for at least two days for anything like a vomiting bug.

A child who suffers a couple of weeks’ illness doesn’t suffer irreversible damage to its career, and anyone who believes that statistics show this need to have their head examined.

If I might cite a personal example, back in the 1960s, an outbreak of influenza both so devastated staff and teachers at my primary school for around three to four weeks so that formal lessons were largely revision, or on many occasions, we played chess throughout a lesson, or read books. Neither we not those who were off ill seem to have suffered in terms of academic attainment. One even became Greffier to the State for many years.

Fortunately, BBC’s More or Less examined the statistics behind the hyperbole in detail. Here’s a transcript of the relevant part of the programme.

From the today programme:

Nick Gibb [School Standards Minister]: Our data shows that just a week off per year as they’re leading up to GCSE courses can reduce the chances of that child getting good GCSEs by about a quarter…

Interviewer (interrupts): Regardless of what of they do?

Nick Gibb: Yes, it does, any absence, even if it’s illness actually, can damage the long term chances of a child achieving good GSCEs if they take just a week off a year. Now, you can’t do anything about illness – if a child is ill of course they can’t come to school – but we can do something about parents who decide to take their child on holiday simply because they want to save money. “

And here is a transcript of what More or Less made of the figures:

JM: Well, last February the Department for Education released some research looking at the relationship between absence and achievement. It looked at kids in the two years they are doing their GCSE courses and compare their results to their absence rates. The kids with a perfect attendance record would have gone to school for 283 days without missing a day and if you look at their results, surprise, surprise, they go for the best results.

TH: OK, so enough about these goodie-goodies, what about the children who took a week’s holiday?

JM: Well, the government doesn’t have any data on these kids. The data they focus on is the kids who miss between 5 and 6 days during their GCSE years.

TH: For any reason. And these children, they do 25% worse than the perfect kids?

JM: It depends on what measurements you use. The normal way people compare scores at GCSE level is 5 GCSEs including English and Maths. They do 8% worse. The governments’ report on this subject uses this measure but Nick Gibb uses a more obscure measurement: kids who got the English Baccalaureate.

TH: I see. He’s gone for whatever with make the figures look the most extreme? Hang on, English Baccalaureate, what is the English Baccalaureate? Is that different exams?

JM: Well, the be honest, that’s what I thought it was but it’s not, it’s a kind of conceptual qualification. If you got GCSEs in English, Maths, a foreign language, two sciences and in history or geography you’ve passed the English Baccalaureate.

TH: OK, so if you squint at the numbers in the right light you can get the 25% figure to stand up. But James, there’s a bigger question here, it might not be the precious teaching that’s making the difference, I mean the kind of kid who hardly misses a day is the kind of kid who does well in exams. So, or as the third rule of [ORS?] says, correlation is not necessarily causation.

JM: Well, exactly. Nick Gibbs is saying the absence is the thing which is causing the drop off in grades but the evidence doesn’t show this at all. In fact, even the DfE report acknowledges that factors other than attendance will have an impact on achievement and should be considered to give an accurate picture.

They then take a look at the work of Professor Stephen Gorard. On 6 April 2017, he posted this piece on the Durham University Website and takes a critical look at the Government’s case for fining parents who take their children out of school during term. It is entitled: "Does missing one week of school lead to lower grades?"

There is, as the DfE shows, a consistent and medium-strength correlation between pupil absence from school and subsequent lower attainment at Key Stage 2 (aged 11) and Key Stage 4 (aged 16). However, a more careful consideration shows several things.

The link may not be in one direction only. For example, our analysis shows that the best predictor of pupil absence in any key stage is not their background characteristics, their school, or their prior pattern of absence. It is their prior attainment.

Put simply, pupils who are already doing badly at school may be simply withdrawing further, so producing more missed sessions, rather than the missed sessions causing the later lower attainment.

The link between absence and attainment may be weaker than portrayed by DfE, or even not causal at all.

In the same way that attainment is correlated with pupil absence, attainment is correlated with many other things which are themselves correlated with absence. For example, as well as lower attaining pupils missing more school on average, there is greater average absence among more deprived children, in more deprived schools and areas.

There are also differences between boys and girls, some ethnic minorities, and so on. If attainment is predicted using all of these factors, the link with absence is greatly reduced.

We can estimate how much difference going to school makes in another way as well.

Every year, young children start school if they are born up to 31st August and wait a further year if they are born from 1st September onwards. Therefore, after one year, there are children of almost exactly the same age, half of whom have had a year of schooling and half have not. This, along with tests of literacy and numeracy, can be used to estimate how much each day of school makes to average attainment.

We know that much of the improvement comes solely with age. Schools can and do make an important difference, but less so than the damage being claimed by the DfE for each day missed through absence.

Something is not right. And the simplest explanation is that absence is less important for many pupils than has been widely portrayed.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the DfE conflate very different types of absence.

There are pupils who have chronic illness. Long-term absence from school for them could easily lead to lower qualifications in future years. There are pupils whose home life means that school is not the highest priority every morning – such as those with a caring role for younger siblings, for example. There are those who are suspended or excluded from school, those ‘bunking off’, and those who usually attend regularly but have taken a holiday in term-time.

None of these situations is desirable, but each has different solutions. To use data from the first example to combat the last situation does not make sense. The analysis needs to be more fine-grained than that. This is what we are doing at Durham and fuller results will be available in the summer.

In conclusion...

The main effect to the school of taking children out of school during term time is to disrupt timetables and planning. If every parent did this, this would cause chaos for the running of the school, and the curriculum.

However, there are in every school, in some years, what might be termed “slack times”, where the teachers are essentially filling in time in the last few days of school, most notably in the run up to Christmas, or at the end of the Summer term. In other words, every teaching day has not the same import.

There are a variety of reasons for taking children out in term time, especially at these slack times, and the case should not be automatic but weighed up according to the educational advantages to the child. It should not be automatic, not just because the parents want a cheap holiday.

If I can cite a personal case, I remember missing the final day of a spring term in order to catch flights to go on an educational cruise around the Mediterranean for two weeks on SS Nevasa; because of the logistics Jersey’s travel connections with the UK, this was the only option. The headmaster in question at the Primary School saw no problems with that, and indeed thought it would be an extremely good learning experience, as indeed it was.

That’s rather different from someone who just wants to visit a sunny beach resort at cheaper rates, largely more for the parents benefit than the children’s. There should be some kind of provision for exceptional circumstances as long as a good case can be made, and it is not a regular occurrence.

American schools often include: “Extraordinary educational opportunities preapproved by district administrators.” Perhaps that needs more consideration here. An example of an educational authority guideline says:

“From time to time, students encounter an exceptional opportunity for an experience of an educational nature. While these events may not be part of their schoolwork, they provide an excellent chance to further their education. Under certain circumstances, the days devoted to these opportunities can count as excused absences.”

“The content of the experience must be highly relevant to the student. While some opportunities will be relevant to all students, others will contain very specific content that would limit their relevance to a smaller group of students. For example, a trumpet lesson from jazz great Wynton Marsalis would be very relevant to students who play trumpet, but not to others who do not play trumpet.”

In Australia,  term-time holidays are discouraged, but laws vary from state to state. In Victoria, principals will often allow absences for family holidays if the school is notified in advance, and if a "Student Absence Learning Plan" is in place. In Queensland, absences of more than 10 consecutive days require an exemption. In New South Wales Parents wishing to travel will be obliged to submit itineraries, copies of plane tickets and justification for their trips on educational grounds.

The other matter which must be taken into account is that the statistics, as they stand, are either misrepresented as by Nick Gibb, or taken as applying to all children equally, without looking at causal factors

It is interesting that a study by Oregon looks at a month or more of school days missed per year defined as chronic absenteeism. Common sense suggests that this will impact on education, but they go into more granular detail in determining how to deal with the problem. Term time holidays do not feature, mainly because this is a study of chronic not slight absenteeism.

Holidays are not the only reason for absence, so we cannot use statistics on general absence for specific purposes, as More or Less notes.. Chronic health conditions, family economic and social problems, housing, bullying, truancy etc can also contribute to statistics on poor achievement and that is why I look forward to the fine-grained analysis by Professor Gorard.

A zero-tolerance policy on holidays also does not consider the educational impact of occasional holidays. In in America and Australia, there is a distinction between the frivolous and the educational, and this is important, and should be reflected in policy.

References
http://jerseyeveningpost.com/news/2017/04/24/parents-hit-back-over-term-time-holiday-comments/
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/datablog/2017/apr/07/holiday-prices-in-and-out-of-school-term-time-how-big-is-the-difference
http://www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/Regular-school-attendance.aspx
https://www.dur.ac.uk/research/news/thoughtleadership/?itemno=30314
http://www.attendanceworks.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Chronic-Absence-and-Health-Review-10.8.14-FINAL-REVISED.pdf
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/publications/guidelines_excused_and_unexcused_absences.pdf

Monday, 24 April 2017

Chief Minister: Term Limit













Early in 2012 I wrote that:

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.

and as part of my submission to the Electoral Commission, I noted:

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. 

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 societies - the Société Jersiaise, for example, has restrictions on 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.

I first emailed a number of States Members about limiting terms of office in 2007. These did not include Sarah Ferguson who I don't believe was in the States at that time. They included John Le Fondre, Roy Le Herrissier, and Mike Jackson. Not one of them brought a proposition. I gave up on the idea, so I am really pleased to see it back on the table. Well done, Sarah!

And now can we also have Rob Duhamel's suggestion that, like the UK, if a 2/3rds majority of States members vote for an early election, it can go ahead?











Sarah Ferguson's Proposition
THE STATES are asked to decide whether they are of opinion

(a) no person shall be elected to the office of Chief Minister more than twice; 

(b) no person who has been elected to the office of Chief Minister, or acted as Chief Minister, during an electoral term to which some other person was originally elected Chief Minister, shall be elected to the office of the Chief Minister on more than one subsequent occasion; and 

(c) to request the Privileges and Procedures Committee to bring forward amendments to the States of Jersey Law 2005, as well as any necessary Standing Orders changes, to give effect to this proposition before the end of 2017.

It should be noted that this is not a personal attack on anyone, least of all the current politicians. It is, however, a topic which should be discussed now rather than in the frenzied heat of the election period.

Many countries now place limits on the length of time individuals are permitted to hold the highest offices. This is a policy which appears to have been formalised by the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. George Washington set the precedent and it was followed by Adams, Jefferson and their successors. Management Consultants have discussed at length the ideal duration of a tour of duty as Chairman. 

If someone is a good leader then there is a tendency to encourage them to stay on but it is not often that there is an actual assessment of the performance of the Chairman in most companies. Can the election by the Public and by the States be considered to represent a genuine review of performance of a Chief Minister? 

In business there is a tendency to get a little stale during the second period of a contract and to lapse into burnout in a third period, a fact which does support the concept of a limited term. For example, the Comptroller and Auditor General is in post for 7 years only, and it is proposed that a limit of 9 years is placed on the Chairman of the Appointments Commission. Commissioners to the Jersey Financial Services Commission normally serve 2 terms only. The post of Lieutenant Governor is held for a period of 5 years only and it is an unwritten rule that there should be no second term. 

The American showman P.T. Barnum allegedly said: “Always leave them wanting more” – which must apply to high profile positions in politics as well as business and theatre. On this basis, and for the reasons given, it is advisable to limit the length of term of the Chief Minister to 2 terms only.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Why Kneel?

Elephant Misercord, Exeter Cathedral














From "The Pilot", 1968 comes this, an interesting historical ramble.

Some Church Customs Explained
By S.G. Thicknesse

Why Kneel?

All the possible attitudes have been used for worship down the centuries. Because kneeling is among the most helpless and uncomfortable it has been employed by all who have wanted especially to express before God their humility, their supplication, and their penitence.

So when Solomon had made an end of his great prayer that God would continue to bless and keep his people after the Ark of the Covenant had been brought into the new temple that he had built, `he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven' (I Kings viii. 54).

Christians seem to have knelt rather more than other people at their prayers, perhaps because their sense of sin and unworthiness was stronger. In the early days, however, as they particularly associated kneeling with humiliation and penitence, they stood for general public prayer.

This was the usual custom among the Jews, as it was among the Romans. In the story of the Pharisee and the publican, for example, Jesus has described how `the Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself ... and the publican, standing afar off . . . ' (St. Luke xviii. I r-13).

St. Mark also tells (ch. Xi. 25) how Jesus said to his disciples, `When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses'.

Early Christians when they stood praying often extended their arms: Tertullian says in the attitude of Christ crucified. There was, however, one group. of people in the early centuries which had to kneel almost continuously at worship. This group comprised the penitents, people who, unlike the outcast `mourners', had been allowed back at least into the church porch, but were dismissed by the bishop before the prayer of consecration, until such a time as their penance was complete.

They were, indeed, commonly called `kneelers' or `prostrators', as early Christians did not distinguish in language between full prostration or kneeling upright or bowed, all of which positions they described indifferently as `kneeling'.

Even when a seventh-century Council ruled that the faithful should not kneel at all on Sundays or between Easter and Whitsun, since these were joyful days, not days for remembering sin, the `kneelers' were especially excepted.

Despite this ruling, and the feeling that to kneel was especially to admit sin, some Christians took it upon themselves to kneel when they need not. Some of them became remarked for their holiness because of it, as did St. James the Just, whose knees, from his constant kneeling, became calloused like those of a camel.

As time passed, however, some people preferred kneeling to standing, and wished that the formal occasions for it were longer; others disliked it and continued to stand when they should have knelt. Among the first were monks and others who had to stand through long offices; when the time came to kneel they would some-times prop themselves on their arms or hands, or even lie prostrate, and be glad of the rest. It was as an act of mercy towards such people that many choir stalls were fitted with misericords from the thirteenth century.

 Beverley Minster


















These additions to the underside of the ordinary hinged-seat of the stall, jutted out unobtrusively, and so furnished a small ledge on which the monks or canons could prop themselves as soon as they had to stand and their hinged- seats had been folded up. There are some very spirited carved misericords in some English churches, as for example those in Beverley Minster.

Among the second group of people who preferred standing was the congregation of Bishop Caesarius of Arles in the sixth century, which gave him occasion to exclaim, `When I often, as I ought, and heedfully take notice, as the deacon cries, "Let us bend our knees," I see the greater part standing upright like columns!'

A thousand years later, in England, some upright and unbending people became known as Puritans. They held, as Lutherans and others still do, that they should stand and not kneel to pray. It was against this opinion that the Prayer Book rubrics reiterate the order that the congregation shall be meekly kneeling upon their knees, even on occasions when primitive Christians stood.

Jenny Geddes so much disliked the introduction of these rulings into Scotland, that on the 23rd of July, 1637, she threw a footstool at the head of the Bishop of Edinburgh in St. Giles's Church.


Saturday, 22 April 2017

The dry land















Jersey is in a time of drought, but there are other kinds of drought than the merely material. This poem explores drought across the world, both physical, and spiritual.

The dry land

Bare bones, a valley of the dead:
Famine, no breaking of the bread;
The wind came from south, so dry:
Clear skies above, no cloud to spy;
This is a dry land, the land of dust:
The migrant begging for a crust;
The sky is clear, blue, bright, cold:
Rich pickings for the wealth, gold
To plunder, everything has a price:
Geography is a lottery, throw of dice,
And some are lucky, having plenty,
Others starve, their bellies empty;
Dry earth: and there is no dew fall,
And no one hears the stranger's call;
Crops fail, famine across the lands:
Time trickles like wind-blown sands;
Palaces, riches, walls to keep out,
Build of arrogance, with no doubt;
The eleventh hour, almost too late:
The stranger calling at the gate:
Turned away, by folly, avarice, greed,
Hoarding of food in hour of need;
The sun is high: it is nearly midday
The people come, are turned away:
The starving children, farmers toil,
At failing crops, the empty soil,
While gluttons feast, the city strong,
Walls keep out all who do not belong;
Enough is enough! Shalom the way!
Take what is needed for the day,
And leave the gleanings in the field,
That poor might eat, world be healed;
Greed rules, fields ploughed, destroy,
No left over scraps for poor to enjoy;
Sun so bright, bones bleached white,
Dying in a world of plenty, their plight
Ignored, a deaf world, and blind eye:
The economy ruling all: that’s the lie!
Compassion needed more than ever:
Not cut off, like limbs to sever;
Military leaders, medals and sashes:
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes;
This is a last chance, a final endeavour:
Famine stalks the land, a grim spectre,
Reaching out, touching: a connector;
A choice to be made: we are all one:
All creatures beneath the rising sun;
Bleached bones: dig our own grave,
In economic domination: to enslave;
The dry land, drought, cracked soil:
Furrows of the dying, empty toil;
We need to pray for rain to come,
Join the dance, and beat the drum;
All hold hands, clasp palm in peace,
Pray that wars will someday cease;
Share the food, drink deep of wine,
Open the gates, let the light shine,
Down dark alleys, narrow streets
Let all come share, all come to eats
The hour is close, time draws near:
Reach out a hand, not draw back in fear;
The dry land, possess all you will:
Starvation looms, and it will kill;
The angel of death, across the sea:
No hiding place, no place to flee,
Time to mourn, sackcloth and ashes:
Take off the medals, burn the sashes
Lay down the weapons, kneel at pray:
Deliverance from drought: the rainy day;
Call for rain, a small cloud in distance,
Water, the necessity for existence:
And living water flows in streams,
I have a dream - no - many dreams,
Of walking together hand in hand,
Across the desert, bone-white sand;
The dry lands: wilderness, desert:
Warm air, dust blowing, dust, dirt;
The wind is coming from the east,
And welcomes beggars to the feast;
And when the wind turns to the west,
The rains shall come, all shall be blest.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Who was St Ouen - part 2












From a 1948 copy of "The Pilot" comes this piece by G.R. Balleine. When it comes to the names of our Parish churches some are recognisable from the gospels - St Peter, St Mary, St John - and some are other saints. 

The first posting (here) looks at the authentic history of St Ouen
http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2017/04/who-was-st-ouen-part-1.html

In this second half, Balleine looks at how the cult of St Ouen developed.

Who was St Ouen - part 2
by G.R. Balleine


When St. Ouen became recognized as a major Saint, a demand arose for Lives of him, from which extracts could he read as Lessons in church and in the refectories. At least a dozen Lives of this kind were produced. But a Saint's Life was dull reading, unless it was filled with miracles.

So now amazing stories began to be inserted: how as a baby, when his mother was going to bath him, she found the spring had run dry, but the infant struck the rock with a twig, and water gushed out ; how at Mass, a dove brought hint in its beak a prayer on a slip of parchment, which protected everyone who used it against lightning; how once St Ouen deputized for the Pope ; on one visit to Rome he convicted the Pope of unchastity, and sentenced hint to seven years' penance, and occupied the Papal Throne till the penance was completed : another Pope on his dying bed entrusted him with his ring, and ordered him to rule the Church, until God revealed to him who was to be his successor.

Another legend exalted St. Ouen. not only above Popes, but above St. Peter himself. It told how a lame man went to Rome to pray to the Apostle for healing, but St Peter told him in a vision that no one but St. Ouen could cure him. So he started for Rouen on his donkey.

On the way it was stolen by robbers but at last he reached the Archbishop's Shrine, and, as he kissed it, not only did his legs recover strength, but the lost donkey came galloping up the aisle to greet him !

We have thus two Lives of St. Ouen, the real life and the legendary one and this is instructive. In the case of St. Helier we had only the legendary lives; but St Ouen shows how widely a legendary life could stray from the real facts.

One disadvantage of being a Saint was that your bones were never allowed to rest in peace. When Vikings-overran Normandy in the ninth century, the monks hurried the Archbishop's bones from one refuge to another. till after seventy years they returned to Rouen, to be burnt eventually by Calvinists at the Reformation.

But meanwhile, wherever they rested on their wanderings, a fragment was left as a relic in return for hospitality. In this way they were divided and sub-divided, till fractions of them found their way to many different countries.

In the tenth century Canterbury possessed a portion of St. Ouen's skull, a rather terrifying relic. If you were worthy of healing, when you touched it, your diseases vanished ; but, if you were unworthy, you were hounded from the cathedral by visions of avenging angels.

Other fragments of the skull were at Malmesbury and Dublin. In this way probably our Jersey parish obtained its name. No altar in those days might be consecrated, unless it contained a relic.

So, when some early de Carteret built a little chapel on his Fief, he most likely secured from Normandy a splinter of one of the Archbishop's bones. Thus the altar became St. Ouen's altar, and so in time the church and parish became St. Ouen's.

For further particulars see Father Vacandard’s Vie de St. Ouen.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Who was St Ouen - part 1
















From a 1948 copy of "The Pilot" comes this piece by G.R. Balleine. When it comes to the names of our Parish churches some are recognisable from the gospels - St Peter, St Mary, St John - and some are other saints.

The material on those is often fragmentary. St Helier only exists in legendary accounts dating around 400-600 years after his lifetime, which are untrustworthy. St Brelade is mentioned in Bishop Grandisson's ordinate, circ. AD 1330. Grandisson was Bishop of Exeter. Confusingly he lists two saints of similar names:

St. Branwalethri, a martyr son of King Kenem.

SS. Branwalader and Mellenus, confessors and bishops. St. Branwalader is also commemorated in a Winchester calendar, and one at Treguies in Brittany. In the Exeter Litany, cited by Mabillon, there is also an invocation of him. On January 19, 905, King Athelstan translated the body of St. Branwalader to Milton. William of Worcester says before it reposed at Branston, eight miles from Axminster. His days were June 8, January 19, June 5.


But with St Ouen we are on terra firma, with solid history. In this first part, here is that history, and tomorrow will be the later embellishments.

Who was St Ouen - part 1
by G.R. Balleine

When Ruskin was asked “Which is the loveliest Church in Christendom? He answered: “the glorious Abbey of St Ouen at Rouen”.

All over Western Europe are churches bearing this Saint’s name. There was one in the City of London, another at Gloucester, another at Hereford, another at Bristol (though under the name St Ewen), another at Armagh in Ireland. In Spain the Cathedral of Vich is St Ouen. Near Naples, he has a shrine to which the deaf flock for healing.

In France there is hardly a Department that has not several towns or villages called St. Ouen-sur-this or St. Ouen-des-that. The Diocese of Rouen has thirteen churches dedicated in his honour. The Diocese of Coutances has ten. Who was this Saint, who left so deep an impression on the Western church?

He is not a Saint, out of Legend Land like St. Helier or St. Brelade, but a real character, whose life-story can lie verified from contemporary documents. He lived in the seventh century, in days when the Merovingian conquerors were ruling France.

His real name, a common name among the Francs, was Dado. Later, when he was made a Bishop, this was Latinized as Audoenus. In French the first syllable was dropped, and he became Ouen.

The Merovingian Kings kept round them a corps of lads of good family, who later would have been called pages. Admission to this corps was the first step toward a public career. Dado became one of these pages. King Dagobert was a typical barbarian chief, a drunken ruffian with three wives and a vast seraglio of concubines . but among his pages was a group of lads who even in these unsavoury surroundings were enthusiastic Christians.

Here Dado formed a lifelong friendship with the boy who later was fatuous as St. Eloi, and several other of his companions became well-known Bishops. Step by step he rose through various offices in the Household until, while still under thirty, he became Referendaire or Keeper of the King's Seal. All official documents had to be sealed by him, and charters survive, which bear his signature.

He was now a Chief Officer of State, a man of influence and wealth ; and he founded a monastery on his father's estate, and secured as its first Abbot an aged disciple of the  Irish missionary, St Columban.

 In 640 something happened which revolutionized Dado's life. The Archbishop of Rouen died. Bishops in those days were elected by the laity, and Dado was popular in Rouen, which he had often visited in the King's train.

The citizens crowded their cathedral to choose a new Archbishop, and someone proposed Dado, and, though he was a layman only just thirty, whose whole life had been spent in secular affairs, to his horror he was elected by acclamation. He tried to escape, but the people would not let him.

So, since no man might become a Bishop, till he had been a year a priest, he was ordained, and spent twelve months with a mission that was trying to convert the Spanish Arians to orthodox views of the Trinity. Then he returned to Rouen, and was consecrated Archbishop.

Rouen was the largest Diocese in North France. The young :Archbishop had about two hundred clergy under him, and all neighbouring Bishops, including the Bishop of Coutances, were his suffragans.

By all accounts Ouen. as we must now call him, was a hard working ecclesiastic who ruled his diocese vigorously for forty three years. France was nominally Christian, but in the north the country-folk were still semi-pagan.

They were baptized and attended Mass, but, if a cow fell sick, offerings were left on the broken altar of one of the old gods, and at certain seasons everyone dressed in animal skins and joined in orgiastic dances.

 St. Ouen set himself to suppress this. He visited every village; he increased the number and quality of the clergy ; he encouraged the foundation of monasteries in remote districts. According to his biographers he stamped out the. last vestige of heathenism. In statuary he is represented as crushing the head of a dragon.

Apart from this he seems to have done all that was expected of a Bishop. He attended the Council of Chalons. Though no longer an officer of the Household, he maintained his influence at Court, and from time to time intervened in the blood-stained politics of the period. On one occasion he negotiated peace between the Kingdom of Neustria and Austrasia.

But the mystery about him is how he gained his reputation as a Saint. He was no martyr or heroic missionary, for in his contest with Paganism he had the power of the State behind him. He was no John the Baptist sternly rebuking, the corruption of the Court. He was no great preacher or theologian (two writings were attributed to him later, the Salic Law and the Life of his friend, St. Eloi; but neither came from his pen). Nothing in his record suggests any exceptional level of holiness. He was just a man who did faithfully and well the work that was given him to do. Many Bishops must have been just as diligent and successful.

But there seems to have been something about him that history has failed to make clear. Almost immediately after his death, his contemporaries acclaimed him as a Saint. (here was in those days no formal canonization).


Five years after his burial his body was removed front its grave, and reburied behind the Right altar in the Abbey Church at Rouen, which henceforth was no longer called St. Peter's but St. Ouen's. And almost immediately other churches began to be dedicated in his name.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The UK Election















There can be no doubt that Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election is a masterly one. Her political career, to date, in the matter of Brexit has been one in which she consistently outflanked and outmanoeuvred her opponents. She has also been lucky, both in the failure of any coherent opposition to her strategy, and in the way she came to power.

When we look back to June last year and the Referendum, it is notable that while Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party led a very lacklustre campaign, her own light shone even more dimly,

Although she was nominally on the side of David Cameron and the Remain movement, her support was largely confined to private occasions, as was discovered by a later leak in which she addressed bankers including Goldman Sachs. But that only was revealed in October 2016, by which time she was in place as Prime Minister and wholly committed to Brexit.

When Cameron fell, she was close enough to the centre to be able to swing the other way and rebrand herself as committed to the people’s decision. Like Harold Wilson with his “white heat of the technological revolution”, she cast herself in the role of favourite for Prime Minister without saying anything substantial.

"The campaign was fought... and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door... Brexit means Brexit".

The first round saw off all but two candidates, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. Again luck played a part: Michael Gove had so brutally betrayed Boris Johnson that his chances of becoming Prime Minister were as slim as Judas being appointed Pope.

Andrea Leadsom, meanwhile, played the mother card, which spectacularly backfired in the implication that somehow motherhood made a woman better suited to the role of Prime Minister, and that May was deficient in this important regard. It also transpired that her CV may have been massaged to look better than it was.

Gove retired to the backbenches and the world of journalism, becoming a regular columnist for The Times, also contributing to many other papers, but managing to avoid the opprobrium heaped upon George Osborne.

So May took the crown, but did not hold a general election. Cleverly she appointed strong leave campaigners to high office - Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, David Davis as Brexit Secretary, and Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary.

She refused calls for a General Election, and pressed ahead with plans to trigger Article 50, first facing off a court battle which the government lost, which gave Parliament sovereign right to approve any Brexit bill. However, she swiftly recovered, presenting to the Commons and Lords a bill so devoid of substance that it again gave her a free hand.

It was at that point that a coalition of the SNP, of Labour, of Liberals and of Conservatives opposed to the bill could have made changes of substance in directing the post-Article 50 policy. That they did not was almost entirely because of Jeremy Corbyn who ordered his Party to vote in favour of the bill. If he had gone the other way, concessions could have been made, but he himself was also now openly committed to Brexit. It was left to the Lords to attempt to introduce some mitigating amendments to direct the shape of Brexit.

After that was complete, nothing could stop May from triggering Article 50, which she duly did, setting out a timetable for negotiations which was promptly derailed by the European leaders acting together, ensuring that trade talks come later rather than parallel, in negotiating.

That could have led to problems with her premiership, as some of the predictions of the remain camp appeared to be realised, but it was here that she pulled a masterstroke, and called a general election. To call it before triggering article 50 would have left that as a question on the election table for the electorate to reconsider, but by doing so after triggering article 50, she is in a much stronger position. What is more, she can be almost certain of a 2/3rds majority needed to gain an election, from her own party and from Labour.

The SNP’s call for independence will be weakened if they lose any seats, and having a high point where they have all but three seats in the Commons over Scotland, they are almost certain to lose to other parties.

Her own critics are also silenced, as they will have to fight an election on a mandate pro-Brexit, post-Article 50 where the best they can hope for is to stress the need for a softer Brexit in terms of trade, immigration and services. That is certainly also the position of the Liberal party.

Labour meanwhile is a mess, having managed to lose a bi-election to the Conservatives when it opposition, and in a seat formerly held by Labour. No one can unseat Corbyn, but it is unlikely that he will lead the party to victory; indeed labour may see the same degree of devastation that it did under Michael Foot’s leadership.

UKIP meanwhile, will almost certainly go for as hard a Brexit as possible. If they fail to achieve any real breakthrough, and their rag-tag party, riven by internal struggles, is not likely to do so, then they give May the opportunity to take that as a rejection by the country of a hard Brexit, should she so wish.

The only real question is whether she can keep up the momentum in the same way that Wilson did, and get to power before anyone realises that she still is being vague on details. Expect then a manifesto which sets out certain markers along the road to Brexit, but in such a way that diversions can be signposted if required.