Friday, December 31, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Later in the month, I returned to London from Vienna, taking the sleeper from Vienna to Cologne. That train travels through the even more scenic and romantic Rhine valley. I arrived in Cologne with time for breakfast at the station cafe on the square in front of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, before traveling on to Brussels.
As usual I'd booked the cheapest tickets I could, following the excellent advice of the Man in Seat 61. I highly recommend both train journeys. They were the best part of my holiday, and very good value.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
What has made me hesitate is that saying I'm staying in the party is a kind of null blog entry, like saying I'm not going shopping this afternoon, or that after serious thought I've decided to eat dinner this evening.
I could explain at length why I think the people leaving the party, or wanting the party to leave the coalition, are wrong, but there are other people doing that far more cogently than I can. So, I'll just say this: I agree with him
Sunday, December 12, 2010
This article by Ottawa journalist Susan Riley takes a cool look at Ignatieff's strengths and weaknesses.
For my part, the biggest disappointment about Ignatieff is his complete implausibility on climate change, something he shares with the leaders of the other two parties. It is a huge volte face from the Liberals under Stéphane Dion.
The other off-putting thing about Ignatieff (which as a recent migrant from the UK, I'm probably more sensitive to than most) is that in his public appearances and statements he always seems to be trying to do a Tony Blair impression. If Blair is his model, it is not surprising that he is so often in agreement with the bushy Stephen Harper. Between the two of them they give Canadian politics a dated, cheesily stale air, which makes the Globe and Mail's current slogan: "Canada: Our Time to Lead" singularly inapt.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
I suspect my old friend's teenage daughter disapproves of me. She thinks I am a bad influence on her mother, who needs firm guidance. The three of us are in the car, OF driving, me in the front seat, and TD in the back.
OF stops at the roundabout. I point out a duck on the pavement, looking as if it is about to cross the road. We wait. A small queue grows behind us.
"You're not supposed to stop for ducks you know", exclaims TD, exasperated.
A car horn honks. The duck flies off.
Our journey recommences with OF reciting:
What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare?
So who really gives a .....
If we were waiting for a duck?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The opposition to tuition fees was not a significant factor in my joining the LD's. That had more to do with Iraq and civil liberties. But, I never questioned the policy, and certainly supported it until recently. My mind has been changed by the very persuasive articles by Peter Wilby in the Guardian, which among other things has reminded me that not only did the old system have considerable disadvantages, but that I experienced those disadvantages myself, and I also agree with Chris Rennard.
I do have some reservations, but nevertheless I accept that the no tuition fees policy was an error, and I think that Liberal Democrat MPs should vote for the bill.
I also want to say that the cock-up over the tuition fees pledge is the fault of the entire party, including people like me who didn't think very hard about an impractical policy, and I have a lot of sympathy for Nick Clegg who has been taking most of the flack.
Expect smelly bath-bombs for Christmas.
Monday, December 6, 2010
At least, I think it is an old chestnut. Is there any evidence for it? My gut feeling is that it is more myth than substance, and if it was once true, it is of historical interest now. If not, why haven't we still got a substantial stock of social housing, since uptake of the right-to-buy was such a failure? Why are levels of household debt so high? It seems to me that the British public of all classes have embraced debt with enthusiasm in the last few decades. That's one of the reasons we are in the mess we're in.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Firstly, far more young people have the opportunity to go to college. That was something only enjoyed by a minority of my generation. The lack of opportunity started long before you got to further education. In the London suburb where I lived there weren't enough grammar school places for all the girls who passed the 11+, so you only got a place at a grammar school on an interview and a reference from your head-teacher. That enabled the head at the grammar school I attended to weed out any children from council-estates, or who were black, or belonged to any other minority she despised.
Despite having la creme de la creme at the school, the number of girls who went on to further education was pitifully small. Each year consisted of 90 girls, and less than half went on to any form of further education, but only 15 or so to university, the rest to 2 year teacher training or nursing college.
Secondly, you could only get a grant for college if your parents were prepared to be means tested and sign a grant form. Mine refused. So, I left home and got married, which was not a good move, because when I applied for a grant a couple of years later, I was awarded a "married woman's grant" which was far less than I could live on.
If I'd been able to take out a student loan, that made me independent of my parents, and that I would not have to start repaying until I was in work and my income had reached a certain level, I'd have jumped at the chance. It would have seemed like heaven to me.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
After lengthy study of The Guardian's Comment is Free pages, I can add the following variations:
- In any online discussion of an English Parliament the probability of someone mentioning Edgar the Atheling approaches.
- In any online discussion of climate change the probability of someone mentioning the measurements he has been taking in his back yard approaches.
- In any discussion of the economy the probability of someone mentioning the coming crisis of capitalism approaches.
- In any discussion of Christianity the probability of someone mentioning Hypatia approaches.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
She points out that on the Decc's own figures, if the loan is taken out for solid-wall insulation, the annual payments for the loan will be more than the amount saved on fuel.
Jowit does not take into account the effect on the home's value of making the improvement. At the moment insulation may not increase the home's value very much, but as fuel bills rise, buyers are going to become more aware of the value of insulation and at the very least, insulation will make a home easier to sell. So, home-owners may choose to take out one of the loans on the basis that even if they end up paying a little more than they are saving on fuel, they will increase the amount of equity in their home.
It also seems likely that solid-wall insulation will become cheaper as the market for it grows.
Nevertheless, Jowitt has highlighted a major problem with the scheme. I'm fairly certain that most of the UK's housing stock is still pre-1930's and built with solid-wall construction.
Jowit also points out that a number of policies on climate change, for example the EU emissions trading, are driving up underlying energy bills, effectively amounting to a form of regressive taxation. Surely this is true of all green taxes? Even where the taxation is a tax on industry, as with the carbon trading scheme, the cost will ultimately be borne by the consumer. I don't see that this is a bad thing. Consumers need to be encouraged to reduce their use of fossil fuels and the easiest way to do this is to raise the price. The regressive effect can be ameliorated by using some or all of the revenue from green taxes for progressive tax allowances.
Friday, November 26, 2010
As someone who has been on many marches, and also organised peaceful demonstrations, I'm very concerned that British citizens can no longer exercise their lawful right to march safely, without risking police assault.
Can anybody seriously think that the British police are dealing with protest marches appropriately or even legally? Their current methods are clearly inflaming and inciting violence and making things worse.
I agree with David Cameron that protesters who commit acts of violence or vandalism should be prosecuted, but such people are always a small minority on any march and their actions do not alter the fact that there is an urgent need to review police methods for dealing with public order.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Today it's "Arctic Weather". Nothing to praise from where I'm standing Sunshine! The temperature outside at midday is a balmy -9°C, up from -24° first thing this morning. Yesterday it got down to below -25° and never got above -17°.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
But what of the two opposition parties, the Liberals and the NDP? If, following the next election, the Liberals were able to form a minority government with NDP support, would Canada start taking constructive steps to reduce its emissions? The recent performance of both parties does not augur well.
The last federal election in 2008 was fought on the issue of climate change. The Liberals,led by Stéphane Dion, put forward a radical and detailed "Green Shift" programme which would have used carbon taxes to force a shift of Canada's economy from carbon intensive industry to green technologies. The aim was to reduce Canada's emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. However, the Liberals lost the election, Dion resigned, Michael Ignatieff took over as leader; the green shift and carbon taxes were immediately forgotten.
The Liberal Party currently supports a cap and trade system to reduce emissions, but is vague about targets. Ignatieff has a habit of contradicting himself, and it is difficult to tell how sincere he is about this (or any other) issue. Prior to Dion's leadership, the Liberal Party's record on climate change has been described as "hot air", paying lip-service but doing nothing. The signs are that the Liberals are back to business as usual.
The NDP also supports a cap and trade system, but is against carbon taxes, and on that basis opposed the Green Shift. They want a 25% emissions reduction by 2020 and an 80% reduction of emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, but their road plan for getting there is no more substantial than the Liberals', and given that they don't support carbon taxes, the target is in the realm of fantasy.
The Climate Change Accountability Act was to embed the NDP targets into law. It was introduced by the NDP and passed with Liberal and Bloc Québécois support. The Act is a short read - little more than 2 pages - and that's only with the bilingual translation. It's a holiday brochure without a price list, an itinerary, a map, or a picture of the hotel. I've been told a lot of work went into it, in which case I'd like that job. The Act has just been killed by the Senate.
The problem with Canada adopting a target for 2020 which is actually more ambitious than the EU's is that whereas the EU had reduced its emissions by 8% from 1990 by 2005, Canada had increased its emissions by 10.54%. A lot of that growth has come from the tarsands, and although the NDP have called for a moratorium on new tarsands development (while Ignatieff has boasted about having enough oil for the USA for a hundred years), even the NDP has not suggested the tarsands should close down tomorrow.
The Senate rejection of the Act has enabled the opposition parties to complain about lack of democracy. The Act was never going to achieve much else, and cynical me suspects it was never intended to. I know a number of young people who are sincerely disappointed. Meanwhile the NDP is campaigning to abolish the Federal Sales Tax on home heating, one of the very few taxes on carbon in Canada.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
"succeed in delivering health services with greater choice and competition than our own, but also with better health outcomes and fairer access for lower income groups."
After we came to Canada it did not take long to decide that we would not stay here in old age, (partly because seeing homeless people freezing on the streets makes me cry). However, my first thought was not to go home, but plan for retirement in France, where as well as lovely countryside and nice food, there is a greater chance of surviving if you have a stroke. That plan was vetoed by my multi-lingual husband on the grounds that although he speaks several foreign languages, he refuses to die in one. So, England it is, and we will have to take the health service as we find it.
It follows that I am comforted by the report in today's Guardian that "the NHS fares better on free access to healthcare" out of 11 advanced industrialised nations, even though I think the report by the American Commonwealth Fund needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. There are a number of factors liable to skew the figures.
For example, it is usual for people in both France and Canada to have annual health check-ups with a full blood screen, which is fairly time consuming for the patient. I've currently got one routine screen outstanding from my annual check-up in August. It is not surprising that more people in both countries report skipping a test, treatment or follow-up than in the UK where there is far less screening. This has nothing to do with access to treatment being denied.
Nevertheless the report does suggest that the NHS is doing relatively better than I'd realised, and I am a little reassured.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Whereas the majority of the homeless are singles there are about 70 families. About half of these are absolutely homeless - that is sleeping on the streets, and they include sixty-two children. No you didn't read that wrong. There are sixty-two children sleeping on the streets, in a stairwell or in a tent, in this one, small, Canadian city.
The temperature this afternoon is -10°C, feels like -18°C with wind chill. Tonight it is expected to fall to -18°C (that's about the temperature of the inside of your freezer).
Monday, November 15, 2010
It makes for worrying reading.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The author makes some interesting points about the effect of rising fees in Canada, but, note that the average tuition fee in Ontario is currently $6,307 p.a, which is roughly comparable to the fees currently being paid in Britain. That means that the increased UK fees in two year's time are going to be two or three times what Canadian students are paying.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I'm sorry to spoil the fun, but the Act was actually repealed by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1969.
I was impressed by Tim Farron's piece in the Guardian. I'm glad I voted for him.
Today I'm making a Christmas cake, although I'm not sure this is a wise thing for me to do. I may end up eating most of it myself. As a rule, North Americans, including Canadians, do not like baked dried fruit, or the flavour of mixed spice. However, Ian has promised me that if I make a cake, pudding and mince pies, he will eat his share.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Someone has left their entire life story in comments.
A government left a comment. Admittedly it's only the government of Alberta, population one third the size of Greater London, but it's still a government.
I used to buy a red poppy in the UK, but I've been rather taken aback by the political stance taken by the RCL. That is not the role that I expect the Legion to play. I expect them to ensure the war dead are remembered with respect and to help veterans and their families. I don't expect them to assume a monopoly of the historic record or threaten legal action against pacifists. So I regret that yet again I won't be buying a poppy.
It's interesting to note the importance the Canadian and Albertan governments have attached to this visit, even though the EU is currently a very small market for Alberta's dirty oil. Federal minister Iris Evans even described it as "crucial". She stated that the fear is of the EU's influence on other states who might implement similar legislation.
Monday, November 1, 2010
There was one embarrassing moment when a dad carrying his tiny tot did not want candy, but asked for food for the food bank. We don't give to the food bank.
Food banks are a difficult issue for me. I feel very strongly that rich countries like the UK and Canada can afford for all their citizens to be adequately housed with enough income to feed themselves and provide a basic standard of living. I think that if people have to accept charity, particularly if it is in the form of goods rather than money, that is demeaning for the giver and the receiver alike. It is precisely what the welfare state was created to avoid.
I've stated several times on this blog -- and I can't state it often enough -- that Canada did not cut its deficit in the 90's without social cost. It did so by creating a permanent underclass of many thousands of homeless people in every city, dependent on charity to survive. It is not acceptable for that to happen in the UK.
Food banks fill some of the gap left by the welfare cuts, but they are not a good solution. The American experience shows that donations to food banks go down during a recession when the donors are themselves feeling the pinch, but when the banks are needed most. Much of the food donated by food producers is of poor quality or inappropriate to needs. One might hope that the existence of food banks would shame governments into increasing welfare payments, but in the USA and Canada, the opposite seems to be the case: food banks have become an accepted alternative to welfare payments, and in the USA they are funded by taxpayers' dollars as well as charitable donations.
A friend who works at a food bank in Toronto has argued with me that I should donate to food banks, whatever my reservations, because I can't deny people need the food. But I feel that if I do, I am implicitly accepting an ideology that prefers discretionary charity to welfare payments as of right, and what is more I am encouraging the decay of the welfare state by assisting in the growth of the alternative.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
As usual I'm in the bottom left hand quadrant with Mandela and the Dalai Lama, although over the years I seem to have been drifting away from the former and towards the latter. It's a bit lonely down here. I think it would help pass the time if one of us played a musical instrument. The top right hand quadrant on the other hand seems to have a party going on, though you'd want the music turned up loud to avoid having to engage in conversation with Stephen Harper or George Bush.
My position is also a long way from the placing of the Liberal Democrats for the general election this year who were put in the rarely used bottom right hand quadrant. The Greens on the other hand are down in the secular saints' corner with me.
Cobblers. I'm not a socialist. It's a crap, biased quiz.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
There are things to like and dislike about Kelly. Despite a disability and 4 kids she has done a degree and is doing a further training course. She wants to work. She's made the most of what is available and she has four presentable children. She's probably a good mother. On the negative side one wonders why a woman with an inheritable illness has had four kids and also why she chooses to be a useful fool for the Daily Mail. One also wonders where the fathers are and why they aren't paying maintenance (or are they actually paying child support direct to the CSA, which the Daily Mail has forgotten to mention?).
The Daily Mail article doesn't itemise Kelly's benefits to explain how they add up to £37,000, so I tried to estimate them using the government calculator. Incidentally, playing with the calculator will make you an instant fan of IDS's proposed simplification of the benefits system. I hadn't realised quite how Byzantine it had become.
I assumed that Kelly is paying the average rent for a 4 bedroom house in Chorley, which, using Rightmove, I estimate at £800 a month, and I also assumed that she is getting the maximum in disability benefits. Even so, I only reached a total of £34,836.88, more than £2,000 below the £37,000 she says she gets. The extra £2,000 could be because she is paying an above average rent, or because the training course she is doing is government sponsored, or she is simply taking into account the value of the benefits in kind such as free school meals for Liam and Daniel and her travel costs to hospital for NHS treatment.
So how can money be saved? The most obvious way is less expensive housing. Until Aaron is older she could manage with a 3 bed house, but it must be borne in mind that any property she is in must be adapted for her disability. It is probably cheaper to adapt 4 bed accommodation for her now, than to do it now for a 3 bed and later for a 4 bed house. Anyway, let's assume that Kelly is paying an above average rent for her accommodation and could save £2,000 a year by moving. That leaves her with an income of £35,000, still £9,000 above the £26,000 cap on benefits that is going to be imposed.
Next, could Kelly manage on less for child support? I calculate this at £10,279.36 in child tax credits and £3,146 in child benefit. Note that Kelly's child tax credits are higher because she has a child under one year old and will be going down in 6 months time. Now the really interesting thing about these benefits is that Kelly would not lose them if she started working. She keeps the child benefit as long as she is not paying a higher rate of tax. She keeps the child tax credit in full if on a low wage and it would be withdrawn in stages as her income went up. In other words the system is already designed to ensure that someone who has children is never better off not working. The rates are also already graded to take into account the economies of scale that can be made with a large family.
The final part of Kelly's income is the amount she gets for her own maintenance. I've assumed that she gets the highest rates of incapacity benefit of £4,752.80, disabled living allowance of £3,712.80 and mobility allowance of £2,592.2.
The long-term rate of incapacity benefit is significantly higher than income support. If Kelly was on income support she would only be getting £3,403.40 p.a. Whether you think that is justified depends on whether you think someone on incapacity benefit is a disabled person deserving sympathy or a work-shy scrounger. For the sake of argument we will assume that you are a Daily Mail reader and reduce Kelly's benefit by the difference of £1,349.4. But that still leaves Kelly with £33,650. We've still got to find £7,650 to dock off Kelly's income.
So shall we scrap Kelly's disability living allowance and mobility allowance completely, saving £6,305? Despite the fact that these are benefits that would not be withdrawn if she was working? Despite the fact that without them she would probably find it impossible to even look for work? I know someone in a wheelchair who has to pay £44 for a taxi every time she wants to go shopping, so Kelly's mobility allowance probably covers one shopping trip a week.
As far as I can estimate, the figure of £60,000, that Kelly says she needs to make it worth her while working, does not take into account the benefits she would continue to receive if she got a job.
So, in answer to the questions I posed earlier:
- Kelly gets such high benefits chiefly because of an unusual combination of a large family and physical disability. All 50.000 of the families affected by the benefit cap probably fit this profile.
- Can her benefits be reduced without causing her and her children undue hardship? Yes, but not to anywhere near the £26,000 level.
- Is such a high level of benefit a disincentive to work? Apparently not in Kelly's case, and since many of the benefits she gets would be retained if she was at work, this is a question to which the answer is no. However, I wonder why we think it important to get a disabled woman with four children, two of whom are under three, into work at all.
- Are working parents on a median wage actually worse off than Kelly? Since they have access to many of the benefits she has, I'd say probably not.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Gosh -- that's appalling isn't it? The gall of the woman. A single mother with four children living a comfortable lifestyle. What can we do about that? I know. Let's make them pick oakum.
Monday, October 25, 2010
So it seems my voluntary contributions were not pointless after all.
The shout caps read "Through innovation we've achieved a huge reduction in fresh water use. More solutions are within reach".
One hopes he is right. Take a look at this article in The Economist. In March the Pembina Institute did a report on the steam assisted method of extracting oil from the deeper sands, which is touted as less environmentally damaging than open pit mining. "Projects were judged on general environmental management, land use, air emissions, water use and impact on climate change, and then given an overall score." Guess what, Canadian Natural's project at Primrose scored the lowest at 25%. And, they scored poorly on commitment to regional environmental initiatives.
Nobody from Canadian Natural was available to comment. Maybe they were hanging out at the lake.
But, I'm one of the thousands of people who have paid voluntary payments to make up for the gap in their National Insurance record. That option, by the way, is open to anyone not paying NI compulsorily, such as a full-time mother, and it can be done later, when she is back at work. Furthermore, a lot of the women pensioners, who are not receiving full pensions, voluntarily elected to pay the lower NI "married woman's rate" when they were working, knowing that it would deprive them of a pension.
That's not to say that the present system is fair to women who are full-time carers, but the fact is that it is possible to get a full pension even if you have gaps in your employment, and there will be a lot of people who took care to cover those gaps feeling they might as well not have bothered.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
On the other hand I can't work out whether I'll get any of the Equitable Life compensation. I've always been confused by this issue, and I've probably made the wrong decisions. I had a small fund with a guaranteed endowment rate which does not mature until I'm 60. I lost the guaranteed annuity as a result of the collapse. I've read that anyone like me who invested before 1992 hasn't lost anything, but I don't see how that is the case. However, I also invested after 1992, so maybe I get some compensation for that. Apparently I should also have taken my fund out of Equitable Life and invested it elsewhere, but at the time there was such a whopping penalty for transferring my fund that I thought it best to leave it where it was. I suppose I should have consulted an IFA, but by that point I'd been given some very bad investment advice by an IFA that lost me thousands, so I'd decided to make my own investment decisions from that point on.
The fact is that market investments are too much of a gamble for people who are on small or medium incomes, but some of us have no choice but make our own provision if we are not in employment with a pension scheme. If I had to do it all again I would not take out a private pension policy at all, and do all my saving in building society accounts, or National Savings. Alternatively I'd just put all my money into buying a property. Despite the recent dip in property prices and the further fall we will probably have, property has been the best investment in my lifetime.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Overall, I'm relieved that it is not as bad as I feared.
The measures for schools which show definite LD input are the most satisfactory. My two oldest friends are teachers in inner-city schools, who voted LD for the first time this year. I've been wondering if they are still speaking to me ever since, but I think they are going to be pleased by this.
However, I'm very unhappy about the prioritisation of universal benefits over welfare. I fear that British society is going to increasingly look like Canada, with an underclass who are homeless and/or dependent on charitable handouts. I don't find that remotely acceptable.
I predict that the rise in the age threshold for housing benefit will result in a flood of homeless young people sleeping on the streets as we had when Thatcher removed benefits for young people. Expect tent-cities in London parks. There will be a reduction in sex-trafficked migrants smuggled into the UK because the pimps will find plenty of recruits among our homeless young women.
The time-limited invalidity benefit together with the cap on benefits for large families is going to have a disastrous affect on the lives of many vulnerable people. It will result in broken marriages, children going into care and single parents and disabled people who would benefit from the support of a relationship being forced to struggle on alone.
Protecting non means-tested fuel allowance while slashing welfare benefits is breathtakingly cynical, and of course exactly the kind of thing Brown would have done.
I'm also very conscious that were Ian and I still in the UK, the spending review would be a disaster for us personally. We are in Canada because Ian's an historian who was made redundant by his university in 2004, but if he'd kept his job he'd be facing redundancy now, and I'd be losing my incapacity benefit, leaving us subsisting on very inadequate pensions. I used to be a legal-aid family lawyer, so even if I'd still been working, I would be hurting now. There are a lot of measures in the review that look a lot more bearable from 4,000 miles away.
Ian and I are going to be affected by the rise in state pension age. I think all people in their fifties would like the details as soon as possible so that we can amend our plans for our retirement. This is going to be a big blow for many women. However, it is also something I accept as a necessary and fair economy.
My mum is likely to be affected by the changes to social care. I'm pleased by the localisation, but if the NHS had not been ring-fenced, social care would not need this level of cuts. Should we expect a log-jam of elderly people to taking up much needed hospital beds because there are no care places for them?
What is very clear is the Liberal Democrat input into the review. That is a boost for us. I can't pretend to be happy with the coalition economic policy. I would have preferred the deficit to be reduced over 2 government terms, not one, and although some regressive measures are inevitable with cuts of this size, I think the most deprived are being hit too hard. However, the Conservatives on their own would be far worse.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
As I went down to Dymchurch Wall,
I heard the South sing o'er the land
I saw the yellow sunlight fall
On knolls where Norman churches stand.
And ringing shrilly, taut and lithe,
Within the wind a core of sound,
The wire from Romney town to Hythe
Along its airy journey wound.
A veil of purple vapour flowed
And trailed its fringe along the Straits;
The upper air like sapphire glowed:
And roses filled Heaven's central gates.
Masts in the offing wagged their tops;
The swinging waves pealed on the shore;
The saffron beach, all diamond drops
And beads of surge, prolonged the roar.
As I came up from Dymchurch Wall,
I saw above the Downs' low crest
The crimson brands of sunset fall,
Flicker and fade from out the West.
Night sank: like flakes of silver fire
The stars in one great shower came down;
Shrill blew the wind; and shrill the wire
Rang out from Hythe to Romney town.
The darkly shining salt sea drops
Streamed as the waves clashed on the shore;
The beach, with all its organ stops
Pealing again, prolonged the roar.
Davidson was a Scotsman who abandoned a career as a teacher to write. He committed suicide aged 52 in 1909, by drowning himself at sea. When I was a small child my family spent summers on Romney Marsh, and as a London child, I loved the open space and freedom to roam there. When I was given this poem to read for a drama exam, it was the first time I'd read anything that echoed my own experience. I liked the truthfulness of including the pervasive sound of the wind in the telegraph wire in a nature poem.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
On the plus side, I've discovered the cheap classics sold by Amazon and am building up a huge library just because I can. So far I have the complete works of Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy and Edith Wharton. I'm disappointed that I can't find a complete Proust.
Karl Pyrdum, of Got Medieval is delighted by the Kindle screensaver from the Lindisfarne Gospels and may augment it with another 24 medieval images. I hope he does.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
I scored 100%, which apparently makes me more knowledgeable about religion than 89% of Americans, and that's despite my shameful ignorance about Cardinal Newman.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I attempted to answer the questionnaire for two reasons. Firstly I'm always in favour of people completing their doctorates, even in the field of cultural studies. There are far too many abandoned doctoral theses out there haunting their hapless progenitors' lives like the ghost of Jacob Marley. Secondly, I think that the popularity of family history research is an interesting cultural phenomenon and someone should be studying it.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
- He was a Roman Catholic cardinal.
- He was effeminate
- He had a very good friend, never got over his death and asked that they be buried together, which makes him the Heathcliff of repressed homosexual priests.
- I know a lot more about Paul Newman.