Monday, 31 July 2017

Orwell on Dunkirk

Orwell on Dunkirk

As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and Allied forces in Europe from 26 May to 4 June 1940.

George Orwell’s diaries on the fall of Dunkirk are interesting because he can clearly see the situation as it developed with a fair degree of accuracy.

30th May 1940

The B.E.F. are falling back on Dunkirk. Impossible not only to guess how many may get away, but how many are there. Last night a talk on the radio by a colonel who had come back from Belgium, which unfortunately I did not hear, but which from E’s. account of it contained interpolations put in by the broadcaster himself to let the public know the army had been let down (a) by the French (not counterattacking), and (b) by the military authorities at home, by equipping them badly. No word anywhere in the press of recriminations against the French, and Duff-Cooper’s broadcast of two nights ago especially warned against this… Today’s map looks as if the French contingent in Belgium are sacrificing themselves to let the B.E.F. get away.

It is certainly true that the British army had been whittled down in the pre-war years. Successive governments had decided that maintaining and equipping a standing army was a waste of resources which could be better deployed elsewhere. The BEF was also undermanned.

No lessons seem to have been learned. When the Falklands war began, it was because Margaret Thatcher’s government had been scaling back the naval deployment across the world, and the Argentinian government thought they were ill-prepared for battle. As it turned out, they were not, but the damage done by reducing the navy costs lives dearly, and no member of the government took responsibility for that failure, while they were all happy to bask in the glow of victory.

Again in the Gulf War, in Afganistan, we hear of troops inadequately provisioned with equipment, and the navy had for some years no aircraft carrier at all [Fortunately this has now changed and two new ones have been built]. It is pattern which again sends out the wrong signals, and a further Argentine encroachment might not be improbable.

Orwell also was right in spotting that the French contingent were sacrificing themselves, but there were also British soldiers doing so. At Calais, for example, 16,000 French and 3,500 British were taken prisoner after it fell, fighting to delay the German advance to Dunkirk.

Still no evidence of any interest in the war. Yet the by-elections, responses to appeals for men, etc., show what people’s feelings are. It is seemingly quite impossible for them to grasp that they are in danger, although there is good reason to think that the invasion of England may be attempted within a few days, and all the papers are saying this. They will grasp nothing until the bombs are dropping. Connolly says they will then panic, but I don’t think so.

Again Orwell was right. The “phony war” was a curious time with preparations but no real knowledge of what it would be like. But when the Blitz descended on England, there was no mass panic.

2nd June 1940

Impossible to tell how many men of the B.E.F. have really been repatriated, but statements appearing in various papers suggest that it is about 150,000 and that the number that originally advanced into Belgium was about 300,000. No indication as to how many French troops were with them. There are hints in several papers that it may be intended to hang onto Dunkirk instead of evacuating it completely. This would seem quite impossible without tying down a great number of aeroplanes to that one spot.

It is interesting that with two days to go before the final evacuation, the numbers were still known. And the papers also seem to have been unclear, giving out what Orwell correctly sees as quite an unrealistic strategy.

6th June 1940

Borkenau considers that the Dunkirk business has proved once for all that aeroplanes cannot defeat warships if the latter have planes of their own.

The figures given out were 6 destroyers and about 25 boats of other kinds lost in the evacuation of nearly 350,000 men. The number of men evacuated is presumably truthful, and even if one doubled the number of ships lost it would not be a great loss for such a large undertaking, considering that the circumstances were about as favourable to the aeroplanes as they could well be.

The figures were 6 destroyers, 1 sloop, 18 steamers, 17 trawlers, 5 minesweepers, 1 hospital ship and 188 other vessels sunk. And the number of men was around 330,000.


“Private Eye” has a feature in which advertisers grab hold of any newsworthy story and use it as a means to sell products which have nothing to do with the story. As Orwell shows, this is nothing new! Here we can see an American company turning someone else’s disaster to clean profit!

But Orwell sees that this is not widespread:

Of 9 food and drink adverts, 6 are for unnecessary luxuries. Of 29 adverts for medicines, 19 are for things which are either fraudulent (baldness cured etc.), more or less deleterious (Kruschen Salts, Bile Beans etc.), or of the blackmail type (“Your child’s stomach needs magnesia”). Benefit of doubt has been allowed in the case of a few medicines. Of 14 miscellaneous adverts, 4 are soap, 1 for cosmetics, 1 for a holiday resort and 2 are government advertisements, including a large one for national savings. Only 3 adverts in all classes are cashing in on the war

And finally..

Borkenau thinks Hitler’s plan is to knock out France and demand the French fleet as part of the peace terms. After the invasion of England with sea-borne troops might be feasible.

And as it turns out, this was more or less right. France was defeated but the French fleet in Toulon was scuttled on 27 November 1942 to avoid capture by Nazi German forces.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Why Wedding Rings?

Roman silver wedding ring. Ca. 2nd-4th century A.D.

From "The Pilot", 1966, comes this, an interesting historical ramble.

Some Church Customs Explained
By S.G. Thicknesse

Why Wedding Rings?

SAMUEL JOHNSON'S dictionary defines a ring as `a circular instrument placed upon the noses of hogs and the fingers of women to restrain them and bring them into subjection'.

Moreover, none of the laws of the realm or of the Church enjoins the wearing of a wedding ring by a married woman or man, or by anybody else. If the Puritans had had their way in the seventeenth century the wedding ring, along with other `symbols of superstition', would have been dropped even from the marriage service, where indeed it had not had, as centuries go, a very long or a very certain place.

For the use of a ring, historically, belongs to betrothal not to marriage; and was not general for betrothal until the second century A.D. in the Roman Empire. Before and long after that, the wearing of rings was more closely tied up with social standing (especially in the case of gold rings) and with magic and taboo.

A gold ring on the hand of a sower was believed to promise a golden harvest (there are still echoes of this in Bavaria); a cow milked through a ring could be freed from having her milk stolen by witches; a ring was a mark among primitive tribes of initiation into a new life; a ring holds the spirit from escaping and prevents the entrance of demons.

Partly, perhaps, because of such associations, rings were not worn among conservative Christians in the time of Tertullian (d. A.D. 220) and it was not until the eleventh century that there was any form for the blessing of rings.

In the pre-Reformation Sarum use there is this prayer: `Bless, O Lord, this ring which we hallow in thy holy Name, that whosoever she be that shall wear it may be steadfast in thy peace, and abide in thy will, and live, increase, and grow old in thy love, and that the length of her days be multiplied'.

In the eleventh century it was still the ring of betrothal, which was customarily given either with money endowment by the bridegroom to the bride, or was itself a token of dowry, gold rings being themselves acceptable currency during many centuries.

Yet if the betrothed were poor, St. Augustine had ruled that no priest should hesitate to pronounce a blessing if he were asked to, `for the offering is a matter of decorum, not of necessity'.

In early centuries the marriage followed some time after the betrothal, and was, like the betrothal, equally valid in the eyes of the Church (until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century), whether it was performed before civil or religious authority.

Marriage was originally the festival of the veiling of the bride, of her being given to the bridegroom by her family, of the crowning of bride and bridegroom, and of the taking of the bride to her husband's house. It was only gradually that betrothal and marriage became merged in a formal church service and the ring became attached in the general view to marriage.

In the Anglican service there is still a vestige of the ancient distinction: the first part of the service, with the giving of the ring, takes place in the body of the church, and the concluding prayers and benediction at the altar.

In the Anglican, as in the old Sarum, form, the ring is placed by the bridegroom on the fourth finger of the bride's left hand. Only the Sarum words, however, echo the pre-Christian reason. After directing that the bridegroom put the ring on the thumb of the bride saying, `In the Name of the Father (on the first finger) and of the Son (on the second finger) and of the Holy Ghost (on the third finger),' the rubric continued, `and there let him leave it, because in that finger there is a certain vein which reaches to the heart '

As long ago as the fourth century A.D. the Roman Macronius, a pagan, heard this piece of information from an Egyptian doctor.

But if the ring was put on the fourth finger of a woman's hand at the betrothal which gradually became confused into the marriage service, it was by no means always kept on that finger afterwards, even in England, if it continued to be worn at all. In the time of George I, for example, wedding rings were commonly worn on the thumb.

In various centuries they have been worn on the index or little finger, as pictures and portraits show; in northern Germany they are worn by men and women on the right hand. They are still not generally worn among peasant peoples; in some cases, as sometimes in Ireland, they are simply borrowed for the wedding.

Nor have wedding rings always been of gold. But in whatever metal they have been made - in iron, in silver, or in gold - the general custom has always been that they should be plain. This may well go back behind Fuller's seventeenth-century gloss in The Holly and Profane States - `marriage with a diamond ring foreboded evil, because the interruption of the circle augured that the reciprocal regard of the spouse might not be perpetual' - to the ancient magic, when knotted things were spell-bound and unbroken circles wholesome.

Saturday, 29 July 2017


This poem is about death, and how it tears family and friends apart. I think of a friend, mourning the loss of a father at this time, of the parents of the poor baby dying, of the toddler cut down by a van reserving, of those lost in the fire at the tower block, and those who drown far from home trying to find a safer world. And of my own beloved Annie.

There is much death in this world, and grief has many names.


Tear your clothes in grief, weep, weep
Sorrow has no secrets left to keep
But reveals all; it is like a heavy rain
It pounds the dry earth, brings pain
Beneath the damp earth lie the bones
Above, names engraved on gravestones
Marking that year, that month, that day
When that fourth horseman came to slay
Black armour, visor down, that Fell knight
That rides this way, snuffs out the light
The candle splutters and dies, burnt out
And the mourning bells now ring out
Dust on our heads, crying, broken heart
As our fellowship is cruelly ripped apart
The arrows fly, death seeking out a mark
Each grain of dust in sunlight very stark

Friday, 28 July 2017

Beautiful Britain - Guernsey - Part 1

My history for the next few weeks will come from “The Channel Islands” by Joseph E Morris, B.A., published by London, Adam and Charles Black, 1911. It is fascinating because, firstly, it is a guidebook from 1911, depicting a Guernsey before the Great War erupted across Europe, and secondly because it is very much an outsider looking in, and making very personal observations mingled with the history.

Beautiful Britain - Guernsey - Part 1

Jersey, with larger acreage and a bigger population, is content to form a kingdom by itself; Guernsey is fain to ally itself with its immediate neighbour, Sark, and even seek bonds of union with Alderney, twenty miles away. The diversity maintained jealously in these little islands, which an Englishman is too hastily accustomed to regard in a lump, is complex and even amusing. Just a few trivial details must suffice. In Guernsey the toad is altogether unknown, except for some few stuffed specimens in the Guille-Alles Museum; whereas Jersey exhibits an exaggerated species that is supposed to be quite peculiar to itself.

The mole, again, though common in Jersey and Alderney, is unknown in Guernsey, though the last has a field-vole of its own. Guernsey, in fact, is supposed to have become an island at least 4,000 years ago, whilst Jersey was torn asunder from France not more than 3,000 years before Christ.

Guernsey thus received only the Continental fauna that flourished at the period of its final insulation. All the islands, like Iceland, are exempt from poisonous snakes.

In domestic animals, again, the distinction is strongly marked. Jersey has a picturesque cow of its own, mottled white and yellow, placid, and rather big. Guernsey, on the other hand, has a smaller breed of cattle, much more wiry in movement, and a kind of tawny red. Beasts from Guernsey and Alderney are allowed to inter-breed, but the Jersey cattle are looked on as undesirable aliens, and sternly prohibited from the sister State.

In all three instances the cattle are tethered when at pasture, as happens also in some parts of France. The animal, thus driven to forage in a circle, perhaps crops the ground more closely than when free to range at will.

Guernsey, whatever were its merits half-a-hundred years ago, will now, perhaps, be found the dullest of the Channel Islands. Owing to the frenzy for intensive cultivation, the inland parts of the island are now literally covered with glass. Acre after acre of ugly rows of hot-houses have displaced over most of the interior what once were pleasant fields.

Attached to each such settlement is an ugly concrete house, and each has a skeleton iron windmill, for pumping up water, that completes the repellent aspect of the scene.

The writer has travelled over most of the island on foot to explore its twelve old churches, and investigate its coast. Frankly, he is driven to put on record that he found it a dismal task. Features, of course, remain of interest and beauty, if one is willing to walk about in blinkers, and seldom raise one's eyes above the ground.

The old, granite-built farmhouses, standing back, as a rule, but a little from the road, are uncommon, and extremely picturesque. Inland Guernsey, again, possesses one single glory that is almost unknown in Jersey.

Everywhere in the island, commencing even with the very suburbs of St. Peter Port itself, the low, green, sod walls that divide the little fields are covered with millions of saffron primroses. Such a wealth of primroses I have never seen elsewhere-not even in the remotest lanes of the Surrey or Sussex Wealds. How the primrose has survived in such excessive fertility, with so huge a population, and with such bitter cultivation, is a problem easily stated, but not very easily solved. Whether it is likely long to survive is a question one fears to ask.

In Sark, again, the primrose-though here it is no marvel -carpets the ground like daisies on a “wet bird-haunted English lawn "; like daisies, too, in Switzerland, the stalks of the Sark primrose grow to remarkable length. But as soon as we cross to Jersey-and when the writer noted this strong contrast, he crossed directly from Guernsey to Jersey, and almost directly from Jersey to Sark -the primrose is seen no more by thousands in the hedge-side. The only spot where I have noticed it growing in profusion in the larger island was on the prehistoric “Hougue " at Prince's Tower.

St. Peter Port

Guernsey, however, though thus irritatingly spoilt in its interior-for the visitor comes to see beautiful scenery, and not to assist at a horticultural triumph-still possesses in its south coast a feature of distinction that neither recklessness nor greed of money has so far been able to spoil.

It also possesses in St. Peter Port a capital so pleasant, and withal so picturesque, that it makes one desiderate all the more keenly the beautiful environment in which it was once set. Approaching this port in the early morning light, the colour and grouping of the little town seem almost fantastically correct. Surely this more resembles an imaginary sketch than a city actually realized in this commonplace, workaday world.

St. Peter's Church, in the middle of the picture, has just the required outline, and is set in just the right place. The tall, brown houses behind it, with their mellow red roofs, are of just the right colour, and in just the right number. The new church of St. Barnabas is just rightly designed, and is built just exactly where it ought to be built. And lastly, the wooded amphitheatre behind all, with its sprinkling of white villas, is just neither more nor less than such a background ought to be. A composition like this on the drop-scene of a theatre would scarcely surprise us, but here we rub our eyes.

We land ; and the cheerful anticipation of the sea view is hardly hurt at all by contact with actual fact. A pleasanter little town than this, or more full of bustling happiness, is not :readily conceived. Darker aspects no doubt are there, but they do not obtrude on the casual view.

The Parish Church

Castle Cornet, immediately on our left as we approach the harbour, holds much the same position to St. Peter Port as Elizabeth Castle holds to St. Helier. Castle Cornet, indeed, is connected with the mainland by a causeway ; but as a building it is equally uninteresting.

In fact, the only object of antiquarian interest in St. Peter Port is the old parish church, so conspicuous on the quay. This has a central tower, with a good leaded spire, that is luckily not twisted like the leaded spire at Chesterfield. At the side is a small cote for the Sanctus bell, exactly as at Barnstaple, in Devonshire. More frequently these cotes were placed on the east gable of the nave, whilst at Oxenton, in Gloucestershire, the Sanctus bell swings to the present day in a curious little opening high up on the south face of the fifteenth-century tower.

It is possible, too, or even probable, that the curious "low-side" windows-once absurdly called " leper windows "-which generally occur, when they occur at all, towards the south-west corner of the chancel, were used to enable the sanctus bell to be rung through their opening by hand. On the ringing of this bell the passer-by would bow his head in reverential awe, just as the peasants in Millet's picture bow their heads at the ringing of the Angelus. Inside, the chief feature of St. Peter's Church is the strangeness of the nave arcades, the arches of which spring from piers that are only two or three feet high. Notice also the Flamboyant tracery of the windows, so typical of the Channel Islands, and the very striking piscina in the south aisle of the choir.

Victor Hugo's House

Historically the chief interest of Guernsey is comparatively recent, and centres round the residence here of Victor Hugo. After the Coup d'Etat Hugo settled first in Jersey, where he occupied a house in Marine Terrace. But the English Government, which maintained friendly relations with the new French Imperialism, pleased him little better than that of his native land. His conduct, indeed, was as wantonly tactless as that of an earlier fellow-poet.

If Shelley flaunted his tract on the Necessity of Atheism in the face of grave clerical dons at Oxford, Hugo and his comrades were equally reckless when they imagined that la justice or la verite were wronged. Encore un pas," cried this enthusiast bravely, " et l'Angleterre sera une annexe de l'Empire francais, et Jersey un canton de l'arrondissement de Coutances."

The occasion of this outbreak was the banishment of three of his compatriots from the island in 1855. “Et maintenant," thundered the poet in retort, " expulsez nous." " Whether he intended it or not, he was taken at his word. The protest was written on October 17, 1855, and Friday, November 2, 1855, saw the expulsion of the whole band, 33, who had signed the defiant document."

Hugo at once removed to St. Peter Port, and established himself there in Hauteville House. Here he resided from 1855 to 1870, when Sedan rendered possible his return to France, and the house still belongs to his family. To the Guernsey visitor it is now a place of pious pilgrimage, not less than that other old house, in Paris, in the charming Place des Vosges. Much of the furniture and fittings remains almost exactly as he left them fifty years ago, and much is of real historic interest.

Thus a table in the Red Dining-room once belonged to Charles II. of England; whilst a fire-screen was worked by Madame Pompadour, and some bead-work belonged to Queen Christina of Sweden. From the upper windows it is possible to enjoy the same lovely view towards Sark, with Jethou and Herm in the middle distance, that is got from all the upper parts of St. Peter Port-as, for instance, from the grounds of the Priaulx Library, or from the gardens of the Old Government House. Hotel.

It is pleasanter to picture Victor Hugo at Guernsey, writing here his novel, Les Travailleurs de la Mer-the scene of which is laid at Torteval, in the extreme south-west corner of the island-and always looking longingly towards the invisible shores of France, than to dwell on certain other episodes in the history of the island, which, however disagreeable, cannot lightly be put aside.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

And so to bed...

I usually finish my day by putting up a quotation on Facebook, prefixed by the phrase used by Samuel Pepys in his diaries, "and so to bed...". Here is a selection of recent ones.

And so to bed...

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Cormac McCarthy :

Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from George Gordon Byron:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Emma Restall Orr:

Like shifting sands, assumptions that underlie a culture change as it moves through time. The change can happen so slowly it is hard to perceive, in individual minds adjusting, children accepting and rejecting their parents’ paradigms, understanding and disseminating ideas and assumptions, a sand dune moving grain by grain in the winds of change. After a while, if we are able to compare the present with past horizons, we can see the contours of the landscape are entirely rent.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Frédéric Gros:

When you walk, the world has neither present nor future: nothing but the cycle of mornings and evenings. Always the same thing to do all day: walk. But the walker who marvels while walking (the blue of the rocks in a July evening light, the silvery green of olive leaves at noon, the violet morning hills) has no past, no plans, no experience. He has within him the eternal child. While walking I am but a simple gaze.

And so to bed.. quote for tonight is from John Lennon:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Kamand Kojouri:

Come, friends.
Come with your grief.
Come with your loss.
Carry all the pieces of your heart
and come sit with us.
Bring your disappointments
and your failures.
Bring your betrayals
and your masks.
We welcome you no matter
where you come from
and what you bring.
Come and join us
at the intersection of
acceptance and forgiveness
where you will find our
house of love.

Bring your empty cups
and we will have a feast.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Dante Alighieri

And he began, "What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?"
"Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way," I answered, "in a valley,
before I'd reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home."
"Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port," he said to me”

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Political Trivia

Favourite quote from the last States sitting:

Senator Ian Gorst: “I may look like I have got a wallet in my pocket but the gentleman with the wallet is sitting in front of me.”

Evidently Senator Maclean is the States member with “the wallet”, which holds all the States finances together. Let us hope he does not get a hole in his pocket! Is it the left pocket or the right pocket. I can see other politicians lining up to pick it!

Personally, I think Senator Gorst was secretly hinting that he wanted Senator Maclean to buy the first round in the Peirson when the States adjourned for lunch. I was tempted to send in a Freedom of Information request, but then realised it would breach the Data Protection Law, as Senator Gorst’s choice of tipple is surely highly sensitive personal data.

Susie Pinel rather made a gaffe about understanding Income Support and the rental component, when she said: “I think the Assistant Minister for Treasury and Resources and I do have a vague understanding of this.”

It is always nice to see that politicians have a firm grasp of the Department they are supposed to be Minister of! Vagueness translates as: I don’t really have a clue, but this will buy me some time and with any luck I won’t have to answer the question at all. She gets the “Jim Hacker Award” for the last session of the States before the summer recess.

When Philip Ozouf suggested AirBnB should be welcomed, Senator Lyndon Farnham said that “It is happening now and I would hope a new Tourism Law could be in place sometime in 2018.”

There is an terrible lot of vagueness about deadlines with politicians, but when they are sucking up to the UK authorities, with the Beneficial Owners Register, they were happy enough to give a deadline of 30 June for all limited companies registered in Jersey to comply with.

While Ministers have shifting goalposts, the rest of us have to live with promised deadlines to the UK. Did they consult the business community first? No. Did they consult the JFSC, itself in the process and mid-way with revamping a legacy system? No. The deadline was 30th June. A date was given.

But ask them to give a date, and it recedes into never-never land, like the extension of Freedom of Information requests to States Quangos like Port of Jersey or Andium Homes; the time scales of that extension was extremely elastic.

Meanwhile, Senator Lyndon Farnham was saying something about the “Economic Productivity Growth Drawdown Provision Fund”, which if you put it into a paragraph or two, consumes most of the time for answering questions. Who on earth invents preposterous names like this? Is it a civil servant in a backroom, brainstorming suitable candidates that will sound both pretentious and absurd.

The oddest reply to a question was about staffing levels at the hospital and for mental health. Apparently we have places for 4.1 psychologists, but only 3.5 are in posts, and there is 0.6 of a psychologist vacant! If you see someone in a white coat with a blank look, only one arm, a wooden leg, and an eye patch, it’s that vacant 0.6 of a psychologist. I imagine he was the one who came up with the “Economic Productivity Growth Drawdown Provision Fund”.

And finally, my favourite gaffe of the month:

Andrea Leadsom on leading female figures, speaking in the House of Commons, showed she has lost none of her ability to unerringly put her foot in it:

“I would just add one other great lady to that lovely list, who I am delighted to join in celebrating, and that’s that of Jane Austen, who will feature on the new £10 note, which I think is one of our greatest living authors.”

Waterstones tweeted: "We are currently moving all our Jane Austen stock from Classics into Greatest Living Authors. Thanks Andrea Leadsom for the heads up." and later added: "Anyone know who Jane Austen's agent is? We'd love to book her for an event"

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Breastfeeding: Separating Myths from Facts

Breastfeeding: Separating Myths from Facts

BBC Radio Jersey says:

“Jersey's Home Affairs Minister Kristina Moore has been appointed the island's breastfeeding champion. The recently published Health and Nutrition strategy highlighted breastfeeding as an important way of preventing obesity in children.”

But actually the evidence is very uncertain on any direct link. This is because of a problem in statistics known as “confounding”. Attempts have been made to try and bypass the problems in studies, but there is no clear way of showing that they do.

The website Pmean explains exactly what confounding means in statistics:

“Residual confounding occurs when a confounding variable is measured imperfectly or with some error and the adjustment using this imperfect measure does not completely remove the effect of the confounding variable. An example appears in Chen et al (1999). It turns out that women who smoke during pregnancy have a decreased risk of having a Down syndrome birth. This is puzzling, as smoking is not often thought of as a good thing to do. Should we ask women to start smoking during pregnancy?”

“It turns out that there is a relationship between age and smoking during pregnancy, with younger women being more likely to indulge in this bad habit. Younger women are also less likely to give birth to a child with Down syndrome. When you adjust the model relating smoking and Down syndrome for the important covariate of age, then the effect of smoking disappears. But when you make the adjustment using a binary variable (age<35 age="" years="">=35 years), the protective effect of smoking appears to remain. This is an example of residual confounding.”

The effects of confounding of this nature is most clearly stated in the WHO publication “Long-term effects of breastfeeding: A Systematic Review” by Bernardo L. Horta, MD, PhD and Cesar G. Victora, MD, PhD.

“Residual confounding is another issue that should be addressed, because most studies were carried out in high-income countries where breastfeeding tends to be more common among the better off and more educated mothers. In these societies, overweight and obesity tend to be more prevalent among the poor, and even studies that adjusted for several socioeconomic variables may still be affected by residual confounding.”

“Attempting to elucidate this possibility, Brion et al compared the effects of breastfeeding on body mass index in two settings with different socioeconomic confounding structures. In England, a developed country setting, breastfeeding was protective against overweight, but in Brazil, where breastfeeding does not show a clear social gradient, no such effect was evident.”

“This was confirmed by the negative findings of the COHORTS collaboration from low and middle-income countries . Therefore, residual confounding by socioeconomic status is an issue that should be taken into consideration in the assessment of causality. By the same token, we observed that studies with tighter control of confounding (socioeconomic factors, birth weight or gestational age, and parental anthropometry) reported smaller benefits of breastfeeding.

“Our conclusion is that the meta-analysis of higher-quality studies suggests a small reduction, of about 10%, in the prevalence of overweight or obesity in children exposed to longer durations of breastfeeding.”

“Nevertheless, it is not possible to completely rule out residual confounding because in most study settings breastfeeding duration was higher in families where the parents were more educated and had higher income levels.”

Another source of “proof” is by what are called “meta-analyses” which seek to try an collate all the publications and data published on a subject such as breast-feed. Meta-analysis is the statistical procedure which combines data from multiple studies. This has been used also to link breastfeeding with obesity, but it also contains problems. The Journal on Nutrition notes that there are several drawbacks that limit the validity of meta-analyses of observational studies on associations of breastfeeding and body composition in childhood:

1) Publication bias: Studies with significant results may be more likely to be published than studies without significant results. This may also bias the results from meta-analyses.

2) Potential heterogeneity between studies: Individual studies may differ largely from each other with respect to the study population or confounders considered, which complicates approaches to provide a summary estimate.

3) Residual confounding: Breastfeeding is associated with other factors that can influence a child's weight status, such as maternal BMI, maternal education, smoking during pregnancy, or other habits that may not be able to be comprehensively assessed in epidemiologic studies. However, a failure to adjust for these factors may result in spurious associations, which may also contribute to a bias in meta-analyses.

It concludes that:

“Observational studies (and related meta-analyses) may suffer from a publication bias or residual confounding. Interventional studies that randomly assign breastfeeding itself are not feasible, whereas interventional studies that randomly assign a breastfeeding promotion would require enormously large sample sizes.”

And notes that:

“Whether or not breastfeeding also has a weak positive effect on body composition may be an interesting question, but this does not necessarily need to be answered to recommend breastfeeding to mothers of newborns. With respect to the avoidance of childhood overweight, strategies aimed at eating or activity habits may be more promising than a breastfeeding promotion.”

Mainly Personal

If there was a causal mechanism linking breastmilk with obesity, what could it be?

Feldman-Winter says it may be that both breastfeeding — with the baby attached to mom’s breast — and the breast milk that may be important in influencing babies’ weight. In suckling, it’s the baby that dictates how much he drinks, whereas with bottle-feeding, whether it’s breast milk or formula, it’s mom that tends to determine when baby has had enough. “A baby who is breastfeeding at the breast will suckle, and some of that time will be spent in nutritive suckling and some of that time in getting nourishment, but a lot of the time babies are suckling at the breast in a non-nutritive way and really self regulating the amount of calories they take in,” she says.

“Breast milk provides your baby with food that is easy to digest and very nutritious, and your child helps decide how much to eat and when to eat it. Both the breast milk itself and the way your baby feeds help him or her to develop healthy eating patterns. Breastfed babies seem to be better able to regulate their food intake and thus are at lower risk for obesity.”

That’s very interesting because in the case of one of my sons, he was unable to take milk from breastfeeding, and was noted down as potential having a “failure to thrive”. A bottle regime, where the amount consumed along with date and time was suggested by the resident hospital head paediatrician, Dr Spratt, as the average could be carefully noted, along with the total amount consumed. So in this case, the determination of how much to drink did not work, and a bottle was the sufficient remedy. Part of the problem is with “failure to thrive” is that the mother may well feel that her child was satisfied with the feedings.

Having looked at this, I notice some other cases, not many, but still significant, in which this has happened. With my son, the preventative measures were in place early, but this is not always the case.

One mother reported that:

“My fourth baby ended up hospitalized for failure to thrive and required a nasogastric tube to feed her. Despite constant breastfeeding, excellent milk supply and milk transfer, she never gained enough weight and then began losing weight. She was born weighing 8 pounds and when admitted to the hospital she weighed 9 pounds, 5 ounces.”

“I worked in labor and delivery and postpartum units as a tech and then a registered nurse for 6 years at a BFHI designated hospital and I was so indoctrinated by “Breast is Best” that I truly believed “a hungry baby wouldn’t starve” and every mother can exclusively breastfeed, including me.

“Elena’s doctors ordered her to begin feedings with a 24 calorie formula for the first creecy2months and then she was fed a 22 calorie formula to help her gain enough catch-up weight. We were able to remove her feeding tube after a month when she began to gain weight and thrive and eventually she was transitioned to a regular 20 calorie formula.”

As Dr.Shannon Kelleher, a human milk researcher (“Biological underpinnings of breastfeeding challenges: the role of genetics, diet, and environment on lactation physiology”, 2016) noted:

“If you think about it, when you’re breastfeeding you have no idea how much milk you are producing or if the composition is optimal and as long as your baby isn’t overtly ill, you assume that everything is working well. But is it?”

“It is estimated that the prevalence of women who overtly fail to produce enough milk may be as high as 10–15%  and can quickly lead to hypernatremia (high blood sodium levels)  nutritional deficiencies, or failure to thrive;”

“It is estimated that approximately 10-15% of women suffer from overt lactation failure. This is different from what I consider ‘breast milk insufficiency’. When I talk about ‘breast milk insufficiency’” I’m referring to the inability to make enough milk of optimal quality to feed the baby.”

“A woman’s genetics is very important to providing enough zinc to breast milk. Others have shown that genetic variation in the vitamin D receptor affects milk calcium levels, and that genetic variation in genes that produce fatty acids, alter the fatty acid composition of human milk.”

Monday, 24 July 2017

Brown Study

My very occasional look at the speeches of Gordon Brown, and in this one, he addresses the issue of the way in which Britain is divided into a poor North and a rich South.

Extracts from Gordon Brown’s speech to the Fabian Society, delivered on 3 November 2016:

I want to suggest today that there is now an overwhelming case for a UK-wide people’s constitutional convention, mandated with setting a roadmap towards a more federal constitution that empowers all of the nations and regions.

The convention would focus on the areas of concern to people right across the country – jobs, the economy and standards of living – and then ask what constitutional settlement can best meet their needs and aspirations.

We need wholesale reform because today the United Kingdom appears united in name only.

Politically, the strains of Brexit are already showing, as different nations, regions, sectors and companies desperately seek their own opt-outs from a hard Brexit and call for their own à la carte version of Brexit.

Economically, the vote on June 23 revealed that Britain is becoming two nations divided – a highly-prosperous South East and a permanently struggling North – with London effectively decoupling from the economy of the rest of the UK.

Lying behind the popular revolt are huge structural inequalities that the current Government has failed to address.

Sadly, the post-referendum optimism felt by Leave voters in the North whose rebellion gave Leave a majority will be short-lived. The reality is that the North is more dependent on trade with Europe than the South – for example, 58 per cent of goods exports in the North East go to the EU compared to 39 per cent of London’s goods exports – and we could see discontent turn into anger as standards of living fall faster and jobs start to go.

It is clear that the UK, in its present form, is not working for everyone. To prevent the harmful divisions that now exist from deepening, we need to reimagine the United Kingdom for new times.

Two Nations Divided

The referendum on June 23 entailed a revolt of Britain’s regions – driven by deep-seated resentments based on very real inequalities they suffer.

Northern unemployment rates – 6.8 per cent in the North East – are almost twice as high as in the South – 3.7 per cent in the South East.

Last year, the number of workforce jobs in the North East fell by 40,000 and rose by only 1,000 in the North West. In comparison, London and the South East saw an increase of 277,000 jobs.

Since 2010, the North East with four per cent of the population and three per cent of the country’s Gross Value Added secured only two per cent of the new jobs. The North West with 11 per cent of the population and nine per cent of the GVA secured only seven per cent of the new jobs. And Yorkshire and Humberside with eight per cent of the population and 6.5 per cent of the GVA secured only six per cent of the new jobs. By contrast, London and the South East with 26.8 per cent of the population has 37.7 per cent of the GVA and secured 39 per cent of the new jobs. In fact, half of the new jobs created since 2010 went to London, the South East and the East.

According to a recent path-breaking study by Professor Philip McCann, UK regional inequalities in income are now amongst the largest in Europe. Professor McCann shows that the average household adjusted disposable income is almost 60 per cent higher in Greater London than in many regions of England as well as Wales and Northern Ireland. In fact, gross disposable household incomes per head in the North of England, Wales and Northern Ireland hover at around £15,000 – almost unchanged since 2010 – while in inner London it is £23,600, as inter regional inequalities rise.

According to the most recent data, published in December 2015, more than half of the UK population live in regions whose GVA per capita averaged below £22,335. Meanwhile there are areas of London – Inner London, West – which, with a GVA per head of £135,000, are richer than any comparable part of mainland Europe. In comparison, GVA per head in Tees Valley and Durham is £17,055 and in West Wales and the Valleys it is £15,745. Digging further down, we can see that GVA per head in the Gwent Valley, at £13,417, is 54 per cent of the UK average and 10 per cent of Inner London, West.

The North of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to the latest OECD data, have GDP per capita levels lower than Mississippi and West Virginia, two states seen to have long-term intractable economic difficulties. The latest Eurostat data, published in February, 2016, shows that the Welsh Valleys and Tees Valleys have GDP per capita levels, expressed in Purchasing Power Standard, which are 75 per cent of the EU average: respectively 69 per cent and 74 per cent. This places these two UK areas below Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia – as well as parts of Poland, southern Italy and the former East Germany – in terms of GDP (PPS) per capita levels. The greatest variation in GDP per inhabitant in Europe is to be found in the UK.

These economic and social inequalities which distort the UK not only reflect an increased polarisation between the core of the UK – London and South East – and the periphery, but also something much more fundamentally problematic from a governance perspective. Professor McCann argues that London’s economy has virtually decoupled from that of the rest of the UK. This is not just because it is primarily a financial services capital focused on its global role, but because few benefits other than tax revenues flow to the regions from London’s success. Professor McCann shows there is little spill-over, from London, in jobs, in the diffusion of technology, in businesses relocating or in Northern businesses servicing the wealthier South-East economy. In other words, policy actions which enhance London’s economy do little or nothing to strengthen the economies of the rest of the UK.

The divide has not only grown – it is growing and it will continue to grow. Yet there is nothing in current government policy that will narrow that divide or even stem its rise. The Northern Powerhouse has obscured a cut in regional aid from £3.3billion a year over the period 2000-10 to two-thirds of this level over the past six years. This is despite the fact that the Regional Development Agencies established by the Labour Government delivered a regional GVA increase by £4.50 for every £1 spent and job creation in areas that traditionally trailed behind, such as Yorkshire and Wales, outperformed the national average. As much as 76 per cent of Government and Research Council research and development spending is in the southern third of the country and only seven per cent in the North of England. And historic gaps in infrastructure spending are only set to widen over the next few years: transport infrastructure spending per head is £1,900 per annum in London between now and 2020-21 but less than £300 in the North East.

We know also that regional inequalities will only worsen if we continue to centralise decision-making on the basis of a hub and spoke approach – with everything from transport to infrastructure centralised in and flowing out of London in the hope that London’s benefits will eventually come to the regions.

The Case for a UK-Wide Constitutional Convention

The centralist constitution that evolved during the first Industrial Revolution, which was led from the North and served the UK in the days of Empire, does not suit the new world. Quite simply the British constitution can no longer meet the needs and aspirations of all of the British people in a world where the regions and nations need to have the power, status and resources to realise their potential.

But a rewriting of the constitution will help London, too. A London-centric view of the United Kingdom no longer works even for the capital – as it struggles with congestion, overheating, high house prices and poor housing supply, while the regions face depopulation, forced emigration, high structural unemployment and deprivation. A balanced approach to regional economic development is in the interests of not just the North and the regions but London and the whole country.

A people’s convention is the starting point if we are to give fairness, hope and opportunity to the regions. The convention is also needed if we are to satisfactorily resolve the question of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’s role in the UK. Yet there is another conclusive reason why the Convention is needed. When Brussels repatriates its powers to Westminster and Whitehall, Britain will become an even more centralised country. Instead of repatriating powers over regional policy, agriculture, fisheries and social funds to London, we should instead devolve them to the regions and nations of the UK.

The regions and nations need the power to innovate, to form partnerships and to co-ordinate activities between regional borders. In short, to get the balance right between the autonomy that communities desire and the co-operation and sharing they need. The convention should consider placing bottom-up economic power in the hands of the regions, including the devolution of regional policy from London. And there is also a case for reforming the House of Lords into a Senate of the Nations and Regions.

Seven proposals for a post-Brexit UK Constitution

Today I want to outline seven potential reforms that should be examined by the constitutional convention.

First, the constitutional convention should consider the repatriation of powers from Brussels not to Whitehall or Westminster but to the regions and nations of the United Kingdom. Specifically, we should devolve powers over regional policy, agriculture, fisheries and social funds to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, the new City Mayors and local authorities.

Second, we should consider the case for devolving further powers from the UK to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in light of the Brexit vote. For instance, as the UK will no longer be part of the EU Social Chapter – and the Tories threaten to abandon workers’ rights – employment law could come within the ambit of the Scottish Parliament.

Third, there is an argument for creating areas of co-decision making between the four nations on a number of fundamental issues. This would ensure that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could not be forced out of the European Convention on Human Rights against their will. We should agree that if England wishes to leave the ECHR, Scotland should have the ability either to veto that decision or to remain part of it. This would involve recognition that some policy areas should be considered neither fully devolved nor fully reserved, but in fact shared between central and devolved government.

Fourth, the constitutional convention should examine the merits of giving Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions the power to directly negotiate with the EU and to determine what type of presence they will have in Brussels. In the case of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, negotiations could cover the Erasmus program; access to EU research funding for universities; and co-operation on policing, such as the European Arrest Warrant.

Fifth, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions should have new powers to develop an international presence in respect of their devolved powers. This would enable the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies to sign up to agreements with international bodies where their responsibilities are affected.

Sixth, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions need a new financial settlement arising from Brexit. This would not obviate the Barnett Formula for the nations and would also mean new money for the regions. The new financial settlement could potentially devolve £2-3billion of the £4billion spent annually by the European Union in the UK.

Seventh – and finally – there is a strong case for the convention going further and codifying the division of powers between the centre of UK and Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions. It should also consider replacing the unelected House of Lords with an elected Senate of the Nations and Regions.

But the starting point – and the initiative I am personally putting forward today in the hope my party will support it – is to secure a UK-wide constitutional convention.

The government should be asked by the Labour opposition to sponsor a convention. If they fail to respond – as happened in Scotland in 1989 – then Labour and the other political parties should come behind a convention with a remit to engage people outside traditional political parties.

The constitutional convention presents an opportunity for Scotland

Scottish politics is now nothing more than a battleground. And as the stalemate between the extremes of the SNP and the Tories continues, Scotland risks not just a groundhog day but a groundhog decade.

The SNP Government in Edinburgh wants our country to be in Europe but not in Britain, while the Conservative Government at Westminster wants us to be in Britain but not in Europe.

In the 2014 independence referendum, the SNP proposed to break the political union but made a virtue of keeping most of the economic union. They favoured being part of the UK single market and the UK single currency, with Alex Salmond even suggesting he would agree a fiscal pact with the UK. Now they are preparing to abandon the UK single market, despite the fact it takes 64 per cent of our exports, preferring the European single market which takes only 15 per cent of our exports. They are prepared to put at risk Scotland’s £48.5billion of trade with the UK, which helps create one million Scottish jobs, and risk a hard border with England, focusing on trade less important – the £11.6billion with mainland Europe and worth only a quarter the number of jobs.

The Conservatives also embrace a more extreme position. Their Scottish leadership is simply toeing the hardline Theresa May policy that would simply exclude Scotland from European single market membership without any plan to repatriate powers now held in Brussels to Scotland or to give the Scottish Parliament some form of international presence in Europe. The Conservatives should be arguing for new thinking on powers over agriculture, fisheries, regional policy and environmental policy and even potentially powers over VAT being devolved from Brussels to Edinburgh, but instead they would take powers now held in Brussels to London and centralise more decision making in Whitehall.

I believe the time has come to reframe the debate and show that there IS an option for Scotland that is far more in tune with meeting our need for jobs, better public services, more fairness and more security and one that is capable of commanding the support of around 80 per cent of the Scottish people.

This means understanding what can unite Yes and No voters in both ideals and objectives – and seeing whether and how these ideals and objectives can be reflected in a fresh post-Brexit constitutional settlement. And I believe the Scottish people can find common purpose in shaping a structure of government that advances social justice.

There is in my view a fairer, more positive and more federal way forward that the overwhelming majority of Scots can support.


The United Kingdom needs new answers for a new age of globalisation.

If we are to meet and master the global challenges ahead we need to get the balance right between the autonomy people desire and the cooperation we need.

We should begin with a constitution that empowers the UK’s nations and regions. Instead of frustrating their potential, we should help the nations and regions realise it and give them the power to do so.

The alternative is a Britain that looks in on itself without the means to bridge its divisions and to bring people together.It is time to build a fairer, more federal Britain – a Britain we can all believe in.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Why a Ring for Bishops.?

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

Some Church Customs Explained

By S.G. Thicknesse

Why a Ring for Bishops?

Among the collection of ancient and mediaeval rings in Room 29 of the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a strange gold one as long as a brooch, with diamond-shaped alternating with circular panels, and each panel stamped with a letter. It is the ring of Alhstan, Bishop of Sherborne, 824-867, and bears his name.

In the first two or three centuries strict Christians seem not to have worn rings; but gradually, as the bishops began to be men of importance, they began to wear signet rings, as did men of note in the Roman Empire. This was partly because an increasing number of things needed to be marked with a recognizable and authoritative seal.

By the seventh century the ring of a bishop had assumed a dual importance, as a king's ring also had. It was at once (with the pastoral staff) the sign of his office, with which he had been invested at his consecration, and his official seal, which he set to the business of his diocese and the affairs of his growing estates. By the tenth century the bishop had become a magnate, a lord at once spiritual and temporal.

For two hundred years ecclesiastical and lay powers-popes and kings-were to struggle over the right to give the bishop his ring. The Pope claimed that the ring was the seal of a bishop's spiritual office for which he was chosen and consecrated by the Church. The king claimed that since the bishop was also a great lay lord, often a royal official, he must be chosen first by him, and receive the ring as a token of royal investiture and loyalty.

In the twelfth century a compromise was reached (in England between Henry I and Archbishop Anselm) and the ring was blessed and put by the Church on the finger of the bishop-elect whom the Church had accepted and the king had nominated.

In the centuries after this shadow victory, mystical importance began to be attached to the bishop's ring, which was often made of very costly and elaborate materials. This made it an object of attack by Reformers and Puritans, and though a ring is now worn by most of the bishops, there is no mention of it in the `Form for the Ordering of Bishops' in the Elizabethan Prayer Book.

The ring had become the symbol of the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit. It was worn on the index finger of the right hand, the middle of the three fingers a bishop raised in blessing, `the finger of God' and the finger of discretion and silence, a symbol of the episcopal claim to reveal or seal up the mysteries of God. 

Or it was worn on the fourth finger of the right hand, as a sign of spiritual marriage with the Church, or, alternatively, as a sign that the bishop was the representative of Christ, whose spouse and Body the Church was. But thirteenth-century critics thought it necessary to remind the bishop that he was not himself Lord, but shepherd.

Saturday, 22 July 2017


This week is a poem from my "back catalogue", written on 9th June 2005. The tragedy is that the world it describes could be the world today. Over ten years have passed since I wrote those lines, and we seem no nearer to finding any solutions to the misery and suffering which human beings inflict upon fellow human beings.


Just glimpses and fragments here
Of a wounded world, of despair
And time ticks on, it is not fair. 

Just for a moment, the building
Jagged edges, windows broken,
And time ticks on, alarms ring. 

Just for a second, images floated
Walls covered grey, dust coated
And time ticks on, ending noted. 

Just a warning, of empty shells
Once the way we built our hells
And time ticks on, to final bells. 

Just for a moment, this is to be
Will it be always? we shall see.
And time ticks on, none can flee.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 5

My history for the next few weeks will come from “The Channel Islands” by Joseph E Morris, B.A., published by London, Adam and Charles Black, 1911. It is fascinating because, firstly, it is a guidebook from 1911, depicting a Jersey before the Great War erupted across Europe, and secondly because it is very much an outsider looking in, and making very personal observations mingled with the history.

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 5

Other Antiquities

The walk across the south coast of Jersey, from Mont Orgueil to the Corbiere, taking the train for the four dull miles, where there is nothing to see, between St. Helier and St. Aubin, will probably almost exhaust, except for the archeologist of the Dry-as-Dust school, the artificial attractions of the island of Jersey.

Of course, there are other antiquities to see : St. Ouen's Manor, for example, now recently restored, and the ancient house of the Carterets ; the cromlechs at Gorey and the Couperon ; and the seven old churches that we have not yet visited.

But when we have seen the wall-paintings at St. Brelade's and St. Clement's ; have inspected Elizabeth Castle, and the curious font at Prince's Tower ; and, above all, have made every stick and stone of Mont Orgueil our own treasured possession, it will be time for most of us to turn our attention, less to the artificial attractions of Jersey, than to its wonderful natural beauties.

The North Coast of Jersey

It is lucky that these lie mostly on the north coast, which is well out of reach of St. Helier. It would be sad indeed if this silent succession of bays, stretching in stern sublimity from Grosnez Point to the long useless breakwater on the south of Fliquet Bay, were infested with tea-gardens, and boarding-houses, and villas.

For this twelve miles of coast is both wholly unspoilt, and one of the loveliest imaginable. Brakes, no doubt, in the season, with their hordes of jolly trippers, invade for a few hours the sacred silences of Greve de Lecq and Rozel Bay. These, however, are limited to definite times and places; nor will it be hard for the quiet lover of Nature to evade their unwelcome gaieties.

Every inch of this glorious stretch of coast should be walked over, if possible ; should often be revisited ; and should be lingered over lovingly. Where else have these rose-red cliffs a counterpart, jutting out into the bluest, or most emerald, of seas, and haunted by myriads of clanging sea-fowl, unless it be on the borders of lost Lyonesse ? Waters that rest on a granite bed are always of amazing translucency -

Pleased to watch the waters sleep,
Round Iona green and deep

and those that never rest round the igneous cliffs of Jersey are no exception to this beautiful rule.

Here and there, of course, the explorer will come across some special point of interest, though the coast, to be enjoyed at its best, must always be enjoyed as a whole. At Greve de Lecq is a cave to visit which thoroughly entails some very rough scrambling, and some rather giddy climbing up an almost vertical cliff.

Less than two miles to the east, as the crow flies-it adds to the distance enormously to follow all the sinuosities of this deeply indented coast-is the Creux-du-Vis, or Devil's Hole - one of those strange, roofless caverns, connecting with the sea by a tunnel through which the tide ebbs and flows, but set back some little distance from the margin of the cliff, that are found again in Sark, in the Creux Derrible and Pot.

In many respects they resemble the famous " pot-holes " that occur in the mountain limestone of the Craven district in North-West Yorkshire, though their origin, it is clear, is wholly different.

Creux, of course, is connected with the French creuser, to dig ; and " derrible," which has nothing whatever to do with " terrible," is an old Norman word, unknown to modern French, that really expresses the same idea

“Cavite d'un rocher formee par un eboulement de terre, attenant a un precipice."

Creux is used again of artificial cromlechs. East of the Creux-du-Vis is the Mouriers Waterfall, where a little stream leaps down the rocks into the sea. The path along the cliff is rather giddy, and those who take it must remember that a slip may be followed by fatal consequences, like the accident that happened to Mrs. Guille, in 1871, at the Gouffre, in Guernsey.

The steep grass slopes in spring are plentifully sprinkled with the dainty yellow blossoms of the little wild narcissus.

Beyond Sorel Point comes suddenly the deep hollow of La Houle, guarded by granite cliffs of sheer sublimity; and beyond this, in long succession, round innumerable intervening points, come Mourier, and Bonne Nuit, and Giffard, and Bouley, and Rozel, and Fliquet Bays.

A week may well be spent, and more than a week, in leisurely exploration of this gloriously broken coast. Or the visitor who has less energy, or is weary of much scrambling, may sit here day after day in the sunshine, on promontory or cliff, watching the blind wave " at its never-ending business of feeling round its ocean hall."

There are less pleasant ways than this of spending a summer holiday for those whose brains are fagged by weeks of dull work in London. And always across the water, far-seen on the dim horizon, are the faint grey lines of the Cotentin, and the cliffs of fairy-like Sark.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

And so to bed...

I usually finish my day by putting up a quotation on Facebook, prefixed by the phrase used by Samuel Pepys in his diaries, "and so to bed...". Here is a selection of recent ones.

And so to bed...

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from John Clare:

July the month of summers prime
Again resumes her busy time
Scythes tinkle in each grassy dell
Where solitude was wont to dwell
And meadows they are mad with noise
Of laughing maids and shouting boys
Making up the withering hay
With merry hearts as light as play

And so to bed.. quote for tonight is from Eugene Field:

All good and true book-lovers practice the pleasing and improving avocation of reading in bed ... No book can be appreciated until it has been slept with and dreamed over.

And so to bed.. quote for tonight is from Terry Pratchet:

What have I always believed?

That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Alex Haditaghi:

Truth is like a bright full moon in a dark country sky. Powerful, bright and undeniable. Lies are like clouds that continually try to cover that moon. Sometimes they might be able to cover the moon, but only temporarily. The truth will always outshine the clouds.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Fyodor Dostoyevsky:

Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Krista Tippett:

Truth can be told in an instant, forgiveness can be offered spontaneously, but reconciliation is the work of lifetimes and generation

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Christopher Hitchens:

“Nihil humanum a me alienum puto, said the Roman poet Terence: 'Nothing human is alien to me.' The slogan of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service could have been the reverse: To us, no aliens are human.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Jackson Burnett:

A thousand years from now nobody is going to know that you or I ever lived. The cynic is right, but lazy. He says ‘You live, you die and nothing you do will ever make a difference.’ But as long as I live, I’m going to be like Beethoven and shake my fist at fate and try to do something for those who live here now and who knows how far into the future that will go. If I accomplish nothing more than making my arm sore, at least I will be satisfied that I have lived.

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

Death lurks in the shadows, just out of view.

Those who know Death take the knowledge of his shadowed face with them to wherever it is he leads our dearly departed by the hand. All who are left behind must wait their turn to glance into the eyes of the one who will close our mouths forever.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Tahereh Mafi:

The moon is a loyal companion.

It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.

Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Air Pollution and Sunken Roads

Air Pollution and Sunken Roads

Ryan Morrison, BBC News Online, reports on a recent study on the tunnel under Fort Regent:

“Pedestrians and cyclists should limit how much time they spend in Jersey's tunnel and drivers should keep their windows closed, that's the advice from Jersey's environment department. It comes after an air quality test found the quality at peak time was poor with the amount of pollution up to seven times higher than nearby Snow Hill.”

But the Waterfront Masterplan, as originally devised back in 2008, contains the following statement: “If we can lower the road the town will seamlessly integrate with the Waterfront ”. As anyone can see, traffic still  moves along the Esplanade, to Sand Street, to Conway Street, and the plans never addressed this fissure in the so-called "seamless integration". 

Alan Maclean, back in 2008 before the Senatorial elections, waxed lyrical about this:

"The practical and economic case for sinking the road will join the Waterfront to the town and produce the funds to regenerate St Helier."

Paul Routier also bought into the fantasy of a sunken road:

"The current plans have raised the bar to a high level in that they have a real feel of quality and vision. The sinking of the road does make sense, both practically and financially, because it creates greater accessability across the whole Waterfront and optimises the available space. "

Peter Troy was more cautious:

"I have no objection to sinking the road, but we must ensure air extractors with filters remove carbon monoxide build-up. Why TTS have never fitted extractors to the Tunnel is mystifying, as its air quality is appalling."

Ian le Marquand, also a candidate for Senator in late 2008, expressed doubts about this:

"The sinking of the main road is estimated to cost £45 million, which is a lot of money. I doubt whether the States would have agreed to this cost if it had not been packaged as part of the overall deal with Harcourt, which gives the States £50 million.”

But what I always could see from the start was problem with air quality. The underpass, as anyone notices at rush hour, is full of slow moving traffic, but the fumes dissipate in the air. If there is a large segment of road underground, what on earth will the air quality be like there?

Some move towards an answer came in a reply by the Minister for Planning and Environment, Senator Freddie Cohen, in a question asked in the States on 16 April 2008 by Constable Phil Rondel, partly at my instigation.

Question: With regard to the proposed sunken road at the Esplanade Quarter, would the Minister advise whether the annual maintenance and running cost of the fume extraction equipment is budgeted for within the suggested £500,000 annual spend, and would he further advise whether the fumes will be filtered before release into the atmosphere and, if so, the annual cost of so doing? Would the Minister further advise precisely where, and what height, the fumes will be released?

Answer: The estimated energy and routine maintenance costs for the tunnel ventilation plant are included in the suggested figure of £500,000 per annum for the total operating costs for the tunnel. There are no plans to filter the air exhausted from the tunnel. The pollution extract system will move the air through the tunnel prior to it being discharged at the tunnel portals. The air will not be filtered prior to discharge.

The sunken road, however, seems to have vanished from the Waterfront, which seems to have been taken on board by WEB and then SOJDC more as a vague guide, to be discarded at will.

As Brian McCarthy noted in 2015

“The Masterplan that was approved by the States in 2008 provides for 388 residential units, 65 self-catering apartments, a substantial winter garden, a boutique hotel, 54,000 sq. ft. of retail space, public open spaces and a new underground road. How and why are these aspects now missing from the Jersey International Finance Centre proposals?”

“The new two-way vehicular access road, from the back of the cinema building to the existing car park runs directly across the route of the Masterplan’s sunken road / roundabout and the proposals would therefore appear to conflict with each other. Can the plans for the underground proposals, their delivery and their cost be fully explained?”

It is clear from the air quality reports regarding the tunnel that the air quality fume extraction system posited for the sunken road would have to be exceptionally good, and yet no technical specifications have ever existed of this wonderful and remarkable system.

And the cost of £500,000 per annum, probably in today’s terms, £750,000, is a cost the Island just cannot afford.

Isn’t it about time to be honest and admit the new development bears little or no resemblance to that originally passed by the States in 2008, and scrap the sunken road?

Is the Council of Ministers so scared of halting the Finance Centre development that as an act of collective cowardice, collective irresponsibility, they will not revisit the plans and take out what was even in the heyday of 2008, a fantasy conjured up by Hopkins Architects, which should never have seen the light of day? 

And how will they manage to sink the road with office blocks already in place? The original plans had the road at the start, because you build over it, and there are no issues with subsidence caused by heavy buildings already in place.

It is time to sink the notion of a sunken road once and for all!