Friday, 24 July 2015

SOS - Save Our Sundays

The UK government is determined to make Sunday just the same as any other day of the week. Generations of trades unionists and philanthropists fought to get the right to a work-free Sunday recognized in law, but now those who don't appreciate its wisdom want to throw all that away.
Anna Soubry, our latest Minister for Small Business, said that Sunday was awful anyway and we should all be glad to see it go. "We are of that generation where Sunday, truthfully, was the most miserable day of the week. The only thing to look forward to was Sing Something Simple on the radio. Goodness me, if that didn't sum up a miserable Sunday."  What an utterly crass thing to say and what shallowness it reveals. She seems to think that people have nothing to do in this material world of ours than work, then rush off with the percentage left to us after rapacious taxation, to exercise our consumer right to sharp, sharp, sharp till we drarp. Nothing is worth doing except acquiring more consumer goods, waving our credit cards and carrying home the latest acquisitions in carrier bags with the names of posh shops on them. 
   For millions of people, Ms Soubry, Sunday has never been boring. It has been, at the very least, a day to enjoy a lie-in and the company of your family or your friends. Sunday has always been the only day of the week when you could enjoy a leisurely lunch with all the family present. It has been a day of relative quiet on city streets and a day when you could phone a friend in the middle of the afternoon and be likely to find them in  - at least in winter. In summer they might be outside doing their garden or their allotment. Sunday was free from the dull chore of shopping, done on Saturdays, and of housework, as far as possible. For those lucky enough to be brought up in the Church of England, Sunday was a day for discovering the wonderful language of Cranmer and the Authorized Version of the Bible. It was a day for singing in a choir, and listening to the fascinating sermons of our vicar, a graduate of King's College Cambridge, with a pronounced taste for Shakespeare, George Herbert and Thomas Hardy. 
    Sunday was also a day when you could just sit and read your library books instead of being a slave to homework; I was fortunate to live just opposite a public library and treated it almost like an extension of home. If not reading you could play music or listen to the radio or gramophone. You could go for a walk or a bike ride without having to go anywhere in particular. My family liked to walk around the nearby lake. You could pursue whatever hobby you fancied. Only a very dull person finds leisure boring.
     On Sunday evenings there used to be a tradition of offering some classic drama on TV, such as the Three Musketeers with Jeremy Brett as d'Artagnan, or the Count of Monte Cristo with Alan Badel in the title role. And people would play board-games, and card games, which was at least a chance to meet your own parents before you grew up. If Ms Soubry's family couldn't find anything better to do on a Sunday than listen to "Sing Something Simple" they must have been very boring people. 
    So the shops were shut  - so what? If you ran out of something, you didn't die. You just waited till Monday, or asked a neighbour to help. I still don't shop on Sundays if I can help it. Only badly organised people need to do that.
    While certain professions, nursing in particular, have traditionally sacrificed their Sunday for the benefit of others, that is an exception, and the majority of people in non-vocational jobs should not be forced to work on any day of the week. We need one day off and why not make that Sunday?  In France they have more or less adopted the strange religion of closing on Mondays, which unless you worship the moon is a pointless variant from Sunday. If Ms Soubry is supposed to be encouraging small businesses, she should know that with limited staff, they need Sunday off, and will be at a greater disavantage if Sunday trading is made a universal norm.
   Sunday is more valuable than people realise. You don't know what you've got until it's gone. Write to your MP and protest at the destruction of a civilised tradition by philistines who don't understand its value.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Mr Derek Crawford Munn Wants to Kill Off Free Speech

Mr Derek Crawford Munn is campaigning on his Facebook page to ban the march of the Orange Order in Glasgow, because they are in his view "bigots". Have they ever committed or advocated any crime or been guilty of any offence? Only that of differing from the opinions of homo-fascist Mr Derek Crawford Munn. Do they get any public subsidy? No.

Mr D. Munn, who likes D-Munn-izing other people.

He is not concerned that the annual Gay Pride in London held on the same day, July 4th, was a sickening display of every possible form of obscene and deranged behaviour. It blocked the centre of the city for hours on end, preventing decent people from getting access, and left Trafalgar Square knee-deep in dirt and litter. Observers who were there saw participants in fetishistic gear shouting obscene slogans, advocating paedophilia and urinating in the street. Curiously enough, the organizers were handing out health leaflets, although we all know that they are completely unnecessary!!! To offer them might suggest there were health risks in a "gay" lifestyle...
Boris Johnson gives them £100,000 of public money to carry out this degradation of our capital, and that does not include the costs of policing or of cleaning up the mess afterwards. One marcher told a Christian observer, in Waterloo Place, "You've got no right to be here. If you come back next year I will pour petrol over you and burn you alive." The police took no action against him.
Mr Derek Crawford Munn's Facebook page features a lot of pictures of his friends. Here are some of them.

Mr D. Munn with a telephone.

Mr D. Munn in a cowboy hat.
Mr Derek Crawford as a young Munn.

Mr Derek Crawford as an old Munn,

Mr D. Munn in a jumper.

Mr D.C. Munn with an earring (just what he won't give to anyone else's opinions).

Mr Munn being terribly funny in a wig.

Munn with a Vunn.

Mr D.C. Munn leaning sideways.

Mr D. Crawford Munn in a boat.

                                    Mr Munn with a gun.

And here is his friend Derek in full colour. If they all sign the petition it will reach its target very soon.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

How Oxfordshire County Council Can Improve Transport for Headington

Oxfordshire County Council is inviting the public to offer comments and ideas for improving transport in Headington and Marston. It has announced that it has a budget of £12.5 million for doing so. The money comes in part from a government local development fund and in part from local developers, who are required to contribute in exchange for planning permission.
I would like to suggest that they spend the £12.5 million undoing all the stupid, obstructive and exasperating "improvements" they have carried out in recent years.

Image result for Headington London Road

It would be nice if they would remove the forest of ugly 20 mph signs that now deface the townscape. There may come a day when even a county councillor may need to drive at 60 mph to get a child or loved-one to a hospital, and their life may depend on it. Then it would be nice if they removed all the ridiculous speed bumps that they have constructed everywhere, in perverse negation of centuries of advance in road-building. The drivers of the local bus all agree that the speed bumps at the corner of Margaret Road and Wharton Road are lethal. The passengers need to be issued with sea-sickness pills to survive the effects.
Next, what about removing most of the traffic lights along the London Road? Thirty years ago you could drive or take a bus up from the city centre in ten minutes, Now it takes all day. Each set of traffic lights costs a fortune to operate, causing (if you care) immense CO2 emissions, and while traffic is loitering at each successive obstruction it pours out pollution into the atmosphere. There are examples of cities where, for an experiment, they have shut down all the traffic lights, and the result has been no rise in the number of accidents.

And if people need to cross the London Road, what about using this money to put back the pedestrian subway that was so stupidly, perversely destroyed as part of the County Council's last major road "improvements"? I will never forget Mick Haines patiently canvassing thousands and thousands of signatures in favour of keeping that safe crossing, signatures that were blatantly ignored by the idiots who run the County Council.  They pushed on with their famous road-widening scheme that did not, in the end, make the road any wider, and poured tons of rubble into the underpass.

It would cost far more than £12.5 million to get rid of all the County Council's stupid ideas for transport all over Oxford  - the bloody silly pavement extensions that jut out into the road just to impede vehicles, the irritating little mini-roundabouts, the bollards everywhere, and the pedestrianised centre that means it always takes longer than it should to get from one side of the town to the other.
Ideally they would uninstall the whole lot, then collectively resign and abolish their own jobs so that no one could take up where they left off.

There is some information on Oxfordshire County Council's website:

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Oldest Ally, Lost Twin

On the edge of the continent of Europe is a small country that once had a massive empire, including large parts of the American continent. It was so powerful that its monarchs called themselves Emperors, not just kings and queens. It was a maritime nation that produced great explorers and navigators. The patron saint of this country is Saint George. 

Its capital is a city whose name begins with L, has six letters and ends in O, N. It stands on a river whose name begins with T and ends with S. It is a port and was built on an appropriately grand scale for the capital of a global empire. Nowadays its sprawling suburbs are noticeably cosmopolitan, as so many immigrants from the former colonies have come to settle there. 
In the streets you can post letters in scarlet pillar-boxes, each one adorned with a crown. It sets its clocks to Greenwich Mean Time in the winter and British Summer Time in the summer. 
This proud little country was attacked by Napoleon but resisted and repelled all attempts at invasion. Unlike France and Spain it has no Salic law and has often been ruled by a woman. In the nineteenth century it was ruled by a young Queen who married a German prince of the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. 
There were once a lot of monasteries in this country but they were all suppressed by a royal decree. In its mountainous, northern area people play the bagpipes.

A relative late-comer in the European Union, this small country with a big past is now suffering economic depression, has overwhelming debts, and is finding that "austerity" is a nasty medicine that does not even seem to work. The government is imposing severe cuts on pensions, and all public services. There is high unemployment, and prominent political voices are calling for the country to leave the euro-zone and return to its old currency, the escudo. 

I am talking, of course, about Portugal. Its capital, Lisbon, stands on the river Tagus, whose estuary is the perfect sheltering spot for large seagoing vessels. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it was, like England, a great maritime nation. Its colonies included the massive area of Brazil, and its royal family assumed the title of Emperors of Brazil. It was allied with Britain against Napoleon, and in the nineteenth century its Queen Maria II married Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, a cousin of England's Prince Consort, Albert. The Dissolution of the Monasteries took place in Portugal in 1834. Saint George has always been Portugal's national patron Saint. There are no rules against saints moonlighting, and anyway these days St George in England has a zero-hours contract.

And the Portuguese time-zone, of Western Europe, is no different from that of Britain. If you fly to France or Holland, you have to adjust your watch, but not if you go to Portugal. 

When Portugal lost its empire, it had to find itself a new role and a new identity in the world. When I went there last month there were many signs in the capital of discontent and political controversy. Marches, demonstrations and banners all made it clear that Portugal has an opposition party that is getting increasingly vociferous.
 Another very British thing I noticed about Portugal  - inside its cathedrals you find none of the ostentation and gaudiness of a Spanish or Italian church. Magnificent on the outside, they are often restrained and chaste inside like an Anglican cathedral. 

In Rossio Square the statue of King Pedro IV stands on top of a tall column, surrounded by fountains, and behind it is the grand classical facade of the opera house, all very reminiscent of Trafalgar Square.

Pra├ža de D. Pedro IV.jpg

A few miles along the estuary from Lisbon is the monastery of San Jeronimo at Belem. Built with the wealth of Portugal's empire in a late Gothic, early Renaissance blend of styles they call Manueline, it has a magnificent church and cloister that reminds one of Christ Church in Oxford and King's College, Cambridge, built at around the same period. 

What a wonderful college it would make now! Surely there must be a better use for it than just to shunt tourists around it. 

But perhaps one day it will be used as a monastery again. Who knows what the future of Europe may hold?