Monday 27 June 2016

What I Don't Miss About the 50s 4

And we had to wear these...

The 50s? I STILL don't want to go back there.

Cafés weren’t obliged to provide toilets, so most of them didn’t. Could a lady go into a pub and ask to use the loo, without buying anything? She might embarrass her friends. Bodily functions were spoken of in hushed tones, if at all.

A wartime writer blames “the lower middle classes” for “keeping themselves to themselves”. In the 50s, they conversed in whispers in public places, brought their own sandwiches and thermos flasks, and ate furtively. It wasn’t the “done thing” to speak to strangers. According to my mother, during the War “everybody talked to everybody”, but afterwards things went back to normal.

I think we’re almost back to “everybody talks to everybody” – but being a silver-haired old lady may help. 1960s London was a lonely and unfriendly place. If people talked to you at all it was to tease or laugh at you. Sarcasm was the default, and it was supposed to be funny. You couldn’t point out that it was cruel.

Problems were addressed by not talking about them, and not letting anybody else talk about them. If anyone raised a forbidden topic, you gazed at the horizon, changed the subject, and acted as if nobody had spoken.

Adults were routinely nasty, abusive, cruel and sarcastic to children. Parents and teachers (not mine) smacked and hit children. No wonder abused children didn’t dare tell anybody.

In fact cruelty was normalised and explained away (“She’s got an unfortunate manner”, “He’s in pain from a bad back”). But it was more common to pretend it hadn’t happened – or if it had, it wasn’t cruelty but something else.

If someone you knew was discovered to be abusing children, nobody wanted to report him, because “He’s one of us”, and besides “He does such a lot of good work, and people look up to him”. Did I mention that it was an authoritarian and hierarchical society?

More here, and links to the rest.

Brexit Euphemism Bingo

Multiculturalism run riot

control our own borders
culture change
floods of migrants
sweeping into the country
I want things back the way they were
London isn't English any more
make Britain great again
political correctness
take back control of our borders
we aren't being listened to
British human rights
faceless bureaucrats
change, too-rapid change
red tape
common sense
experts (who give us the wrong answers)
establishment elite (who never listen to us)
I'm undecided (I'm voting Leave)
I want my country back
metropolitan elite
Multiculturalism isn't working
the PC brigade
real answers
they're not giving us the facts
smoke and mirrors
talk sense
They'll have to start listening to us now...

More euphemisms here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Inspirational Quotes 83

It's perfectly fine to be single – but you can't become leader of the Labour Party. And you can't go to the cinema when anyone might see you.

Liz Kendall has little hope of leading Labour when she doesn’t have a boyfriend,
let alone any media-friendly kids... Can we imagine a single woman running the country? (Janice Turner, Times 2015)

She’s 28 – why isn’t she married? (Ruth Rendell, Wolf to the Slaughter)

If people have got kids and no partners all they worry about is how to put food on the table. (Woman on BBC Breakfast)

Participants enjoyed a solo visit to an art gallery much more than they expected, even though the building’s glass walls meant they could be seen on their lonesome from the street... For participants contemplating a cinema visit on their own, Sunday was preferable, at least partly because they felt they would be seen by fewer people on the quieter night. (BPS Digest)

People are not going to resign just because some dinosaurs believe they can stop the meteorite striking the earth by wittering on about lavatories. (Garrick member re the vote to admit women, Guardian July 2015)

I am never quite sure of the etiquette when someone makes a point and when asked for evidence says “You find it!”. (JP)

Smile at a party and people are more likely to remember seeing your face there. (BPS Research Digest)

When “openness to new experiences” goes dreadfully wrong. (@StuartJRitchie)

Freedom of speech is not freedom to intimidate, bully, or persecute. Those shrieking loudest about free speech are usually those abusing it. (@MsJackMonroe)

And maybe some of [them] were just looking for somewhere to place their anger at their problems, their sense of powerlessness, and their discomfort at social change. They found a scapegoat in black America. (Margaret Biser,

I don’t believe for a moment that people genuinely enjoy frantic atonal jazz funk. (@paulwhitelaw)

Banner at Streatham Jobcentre protest:

Jobcentre therapists: unethical mystifiers
Compulsory therapy is an ineffectual con job
Puberty is going to happen whether parents like it or not. (Judy Blume)

Some people just don’t understand the mechanics of business. There are people who think they are learning but they don’t learn. (Deborah Meaden, paraphrase)

It eventually dawned on her that there was something a little wrong with Archie: he was unapologetically self-serving. She quotes him saying, “I hate it when people are ill or unhappy—it sort of spoils everything for me.” (New Yorker on Agatha Christie)

He sat down and cleared his mind and tried to live in the present moment, to see what it would feel like. It couldn’t be done. (Enchantment, Monica Dickens)

Meet men, get rid of them or be dropped, meet new men with persistent hope, hang on to one or two drearies so as not to be at home too many evenings. (Dear Dr Lily, Monica Dickens)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 16 June 2016

The Prisoner in the Opal

The Prisoner in the Opal is a 1928 mystery by AEW Mason, part of a series starring Inspector Hanaud of the Surété and his friend, retired City man Mr Ricardo.

Ricardo attends a dinner party to find that a young American friend, Joyce Whipple, is among those present. After dinner, she beckons him to sit beside her. She confides that she is worried about an acquaintance, Diana Tasborough, who is staying in the South of France at the family chateau. Joyce knows that Mr Ricardo will spend the summer nearby as he always goes on a tour of the vineyards to avoid being invited to go grouse shooting. (Apparently the entire British upper class spent their summers shooting grouse. Surely in 1928 they had discovered swimming and sunbathing?)

Joyce says that Diana's letters worry her. And besides, why is she not shooting birds like a sensible person? ("Diana fished a river in Scotland and hunted in the Midlands... Deauville and Dinard had known them.") Joyce has nothing to go on – she just says that when she looks at the letters she sees horribly grimacing visages. And Diana has chucked her fiancé.

Mr Ricardo sets off to the South of France, where he has an invite to stay from the Vicomte Cassandre de Mirandol. He sits in his hotel room trying to intuit whether Diana is really in any trouble and opens his eyes to find his friend Inspector Hanaud in the room. I have to say I find Hanaud an utter bore. He is, like Poirot, a stage foreigner who gets English idioms wrong. ("We must gum ourselves to our cannons!") Such characters must have been popular – on the stage, perhaps? In Mason's hands, the humour is leaden and you wish that Hanaud would just get on with solving the mystery.

Except that there is no mystery - yet. Mr Ricardo receives a letter from Diana Tasborough explaining that the Vicomte is unable to accommodate him, and would he be so kind as to come and stay with her instead? He accepts.

At the chateau, he meets Diana and her aunt; another guest, Evelyn Devenish; the local priest; and the estate's manager, Robin Webster - a striking man with prematurely white hair. Among those present is the Vicomte: "A heavy, gross man with a rubicund childish face... a mouth much too small for him... a high, piping voice." He also finds Joyce Whipple – she hasn't gone home to the States as intended.

The evening and night become more and more bizarre. Everybody seems on edge, and inimical glances and cryptic remarks are exchanged. Mason describes the scene as if on the stage – there's more emoting and exclaiming than actual dialogue. In fact, there is a sad lack of ordinary dialogue: the characters move about and occupy their time without the usual chat. They communicate with gasps, groans, ohs and ahs and significant looks – which are then deconstructed. The proceedings seem wooden and uninvolving. (You can have too much "Show don't tell".)

The party disperses, but Mr Ricardo can't sleep. He goes down to look for a book and several other guests seem to be creeping about in the dark. Meanwhile the Vicomte's house across the river shows brightly lit windows at 2am.

Next morning, Evelyn and Joyce still haven't appeared at lunchtime. Their beds have not been slept in. Then Inspector Hanaud arrives with some disturbing news, and he and Mr Ricardo (who has a useful Rolls plus chauffeur) set off to look for the missing girls.

As the investigation proceeds, several of the characters turn out to have recent, mysterious hand injuries. And why is the Vicomte painting his own garden door – and library? Large, obvious signposts point to Satanic rites, with the nobleman as the head of the coven, but revelations of the diabolic goings-on are held just out of reach. Hanaud bumbles about, always concealing his intentions from his Watson, Mr Ricardo.

The Vicomte, apart from being a dead ringer for Aleister Crowley, has very little personality and is not brought on stage often enough. Mr R could be an attractive character, but we discover too little about him. He doesn't have his own narrative voice. In fact everybody speaks as if they were painstakingly translating themselves from French. The action is of a Henry James slowness. There is very little genuine humour. There are dramatic scenes, but they are oddly unvivid – that is, when they don't happen off-stage. "He heard a heavy door slam and felt it shake the house. He saw Hanaud leap." Why not: "The slam of a heavy door shook the house – Hanaud leapt"?

Eventually we get the spicy details of the society Satanists (popular in books since the real-life goings on of Aleister Crowley and friends in the early 20th century). Yes, yes, yes, just as we suspected.

Why "The Prisoner in the Opal"? It refers to Mr Ricardo's Blavatskyan world-view that we are in the opal of mundane reality, but that sometimes it cracks and intimations reach us from the realm beyond the veil – or something. This book may be clunky and laborious, and written with a knife and fork, but I am tempted to read an early novel in which Mason pokes fun at the Spiritualists of his day.

There is plenty of the snobbery that Golden Age mystery writers are frequently accused of, but no racism. There are some nasty remarks, though, about the captain of a boat that plays a part in the plot. "He had his full share of the peasant's compassion for himself... not only the self-pity of his kind but its avarice too."

Crowley's sadly short-lived eldest daughter was called Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith. Lola Zaza and Astarte Lulu Panthea made it into their 80s (Astarte called herself Louise, had many colourfully named children, and became a naturalist). Alexandra David-Neel, pictured, is also worth looking up.

More mystery here.

And here.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Bathos 5

Barmy? You?

Bathos: it always lets you down.

Adomnán's Life of Columba is the greatest work of early Hiberno-Latin hagiography. (And Psychomania is the best zombie biker movie starring Beryl Reid you'll see this year.)

Well I've never seen a better collection of Irish Spoon Worms. (@DrMatthewSweet)

Almost certainly the best video of a chicken with a stuck on dinosaur tail walking you'll see all day. (@markprigg)

Are there any words in the english language less likely to make the heart sing than "non-dairy creamer"? (@sumit)

The internet: Perfect for deconstructing every last Oscars non-moment. (Carolina A. Miranda ‏@cmonstah)

Forecasting is difficult, especially about the future.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Also, though, popping out to the chemist's. (Lee Jackson ‏@VictorianLondon)

Someone should be paying me for these gems. Or to go away, whichever is easier. (writer Lee Jackson ‏@VictorianLondon)

Rare and technically accomplished photo of all four of my guinea pigs galloping majestically across the plains. (@TalkingDogGenre)

On 14 October 1968, Euston station was reopened with a cordial grimace by the Queen. (

The room was full of the cigarette smoke that is kind to your throat and nearly always leaves you with one good lung. (Raymond Chandler)

Learn to laugh at yourself – we certainly have!

window mistreatments

A Wheaton prof helpfully complicates what you think you know about the college community's engagement with Muslims. (writer Jeff Chu)

Philo Vance, accompanied by his prize-losing Scottish terrier, investigates the locked-room murder of a prominent and much-hated collector whose broken Chinese vase provides an important clue. (

Is there no beginning to this man’s talents? (Koen Smets on Boris playing the guitar and singing)

Remember when PG Tips introduced 'instant tea granules'? I often wonder who thought that up and where they were deported to. (writer Dean Burnett@garwboy)

Don't be afraid to do something just because you're scared of what people are going to say about you. People will judge you no matter what. (@madfactz)

We shall not read his like again. With any luck. (Adam Mars-Jones on Henry James)

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's probably really clingy and needy. Let it go again. (@SummerRay)

Man is rated the highest animal, at least among all animals who returned the questionnaire. (Robert Brault)

I have the heart of a lion and a lifetime ban from the Toronto zoo. (Molly Money ‏@probablymolly)

Of all the plays I've seen so far in 2015, this one is without a doubt the most recent. 2* (drama critic Ian Shuttleworth)

Bit of a struggle up Box Hill today on the bike, still it was worth it for the view you could literally see for metres around #fog. (weatherman Alex Deakin)

UK prisons in chaos due to cuts, staff shortages and right wing dogma – and that's just according to official reports. (Anindya Bhattacharya @bat020)

Of course I was normal before it went mainstream. (Anindya Bhattacharya @bat020)

Our chances are slim to non-existent!
Really? As good as that?

Vote UKIP! It’s a no-brainer! (Twitter joke)

It has taken us two days of really hard work to totally cock this up. (Time Team)

Opening this box will result in Death by Electrocution and a £20 Fine.

You only need to floss those teeth you want to keep. (A. Dentist)

I started out with nothing and still have a lot of it left. (Groucho Marx)

Egomaniacs with a thin shell of grandiosity. (Wall Street Journal April 2014)

At age 13 they enrolled her in a convent school in San Antonio, Texas, in an effort to curb her rebellious ways. This worked as well as one might expect. (

Cherie singing Like a Virgin in a Gaultier basque? Come on, you want it as much as I do. (Rupert Smith, G December 8, 2005)

The [revolting local delicacy] was as delicious as it sounds.

Celebrities are pouring money into startups—and it's going about how you'd expect. (Christopher Mims ‏@mims)

The UK's first giant vending machine is very British. Every village should avoid them. (@chrisromerlee)

The secret of success is to get up early, work late and strike oil. (John D. Rockefeller)

There was about her the romantic air of High Street, Kensington. (Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage)

All the world's a stage, and some of us are stagehands.
Life is not Hollywood, life is Cricklewood.
(Alan Coren)

Nice couple of beers at the Betjeman Arms and Parcel Yard. Station pubs just ain't what they used to be, thank God. (‏@SELondoner)

Abuse of power should come as no surprise. (Jenny Holzer)

If I had wings, I'd be on a table in a research lab. (Christian ‏@Lacdael)

Petronius was a courtier who kept his head while telling Caligula the truth. Claudius used the same strategy.

Caligula: Am I mad?
Claudius: Never. Never! The idea is preposterous. You set the standard of sanity for the whole world!

When they asked the great Arab satirist Al-Jahiz what he thought of [circular] Baghdad, he replied 'I have never seen a rounder city'. (Karl Sharro ‏@KarlreMarks)

And a certain product "Cleans as well as the leading brand".

Nuclear fusion: the energy of tomorrow and always will be!

I reckon any scammer would have to get up before he went to bed in order to steal a march on you.
(S to P)

No man is an island so I'll make myself a boat.
(Christian ‏@Lacdael)

Radio 3's difficulty seems to me that it has no idea what it wants to be, and it will never be satisfied until it achieves this. (WW)

“How do I get to Letterkenny?” “If I wanted to go there I wouldn’t start from here.” (Traditional)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 10 June 2016

Reasons to Be Cheerful 15

I don't miss the Good Old Days. Society is more democratic, less hierarchical, less top-down now. People are less sarcastic. In fact they are much, much politer. And I can open a bank account without getting a man's signature.

We've advanced from the days when chattel slavery was considered normal and the absolute rule of monarchs was considered a product of divine creation. (Mike Ballard)

She helped found the Oxford Women’s Dramatic Society, but was sent down for breaking the ban on male and female students acting together. (Martin Edwards)

SCOTUS rules for Obamacare; GOP leaders ditching Confederate flag; US cleaning up FIFA. What's going on? Gay marriage in most states. Legalized pot. Period of remarkable social, legal and legislative change in the US. And it has kind of snuck up. (Simon Robinson ‏@iron_emu)

Racist abuse is illegal. Homophobic abuse is illegal. Sexist abuse and ableist abuse? Neither illegal. Cant see case for why latter 2 arent. (Jen Izaakson ‏@Izaakson)

Until 1863, the punishment for leaving the Church of Sweden was banishment from the country. (Andrew Brown)

Bristol NHS Homeopathic Hospital to be privatised as The Portland Clinic. On dwindling referrals, how will it survive? (Andy Lewis ‏@lecanardnoir)

My favourite acts: NHS Act 1948 Equal Pay Act 1970 Race Relations Act 1974 Child Benefit Act 1975 Minimum Wage 1998 More favourite laws: From the 1965 Race Relations Act and the 1970 Equal Pay Act, to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976, through to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and more recently the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 and Equality Act 2010. (Sophia Cannon ‏@UndercoverMutha)

Worldwide, illiteracy halved between 1970 and 2005 and four fifths of the world’s population have now attended a school. Life expectancy rose from 48 in 1950 to 71.4 now. In the 25 years to last year, child mortality halved. GDP4per head has roughly tripled in the past half century. We in Britain have been getting, on average, steadily richer, holidaying more, driving more safely and living longer... We’ve grown more tolerant of each other, too. (Matthew Parris, Times June 4 2016)

The first black president celebrating the victory of same-sex marriage = what you got instead of a jet pack. (@LOLGOP)

I’ve lived long enough to see “women with so-called period pains are all neurotic/exaggerating” become “period pains are as bad as a heart attack and should be taken seriously”.

Doctors don’t tell middle aged women “It’s your age, dear” any more. It’s easy to take a buggy or wheelchair on the bus. The cost of solar power has fallen by 80%. Medical schools no longer have a quota system for women, and prestigious schools in the US no longer have a quota system for Jews. London’s historic buildings are clean. Holloway Jail is going to close. Lawyers have stopped defending violent clients by saying “Women really like being beaten up”.

Nobody makes golliwogs any more, and Robinsons dropped their mascot after public pressure. Many institutions are removing racist and gendered language from their written output. Racist and abusive language is forbidden by law in the UK.

Leftards 1, Libertarians 0. (Insert “metropolitan elites”, “luvvies” at will.)

When did it cease to be legal for pub landlords to refuse to serve women if they were on their own? When were women allowed to join the Kennel Club? When did primary schools stop segregating pupils into GIRLS and BOYS?

The Code of Hammurabi gave women more rights than 19th century UK law: "If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: "You are not congenial to me," the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father's house."

1545 Charles Estienne is the first writer to identify the clitoris in a work based on dissection

1801 First parliamentary divorce brought by a woman, Jane Campbell
1872 1872 Susan B Anthony is beaten up, arrested and put on trial for attempting to vote. She was fined for registering.

1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act Forced the Bar – the last professional holdout – to accept women (It also meant they could serve as magistrates or jurors, even if married.)
1922 Women in Chicago arrested for wearing one-piece bathing suits
1920s-1930s Nancy Astor, the UK’s first serving woman MP, raises the drinking age from 14 to 18

1930s Edith Picton-Turbervill MP introduces the Sentence of Death (Expectant Mothers) Bill

1944 French women get the vote
1945 Family allowances to be paid directly to women (after a long campaign starting in 1918)
1948 Cambridge University gives women full degrees

1951 "It is becoming customary for women to have their own banking accounts.” Lloyds Bank ad
1955 First woman newsreader on TV
1958-61 First woman newsreader on the BBC

1960s Marlborough College abolishes fagging and opens sixth form to girls

1970 Annie Nightingale becomes the first woman Radio 1 DJ
1970s Work pension schemes begin to include women
1971 The FA allows women to play on the pitches of affiliated clubs
1971 Women get the vote in federal elections in Switzerland. One canton held out until 1990 for local elections.
1972 Men no longer automatically get custody of children on divorce. (Before that, a special court order had to be made to give the mother custody.)
1973 The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of Conservative Judaism votes to count men and women equally as members of a minyan
1975 Angela Rippon becomes the BBC’s second woman newsreader.
1975 The women of Iceland strike for equal rights and the country shuts down

1980s It became OK for a woman to order drinks at a bar (It was probably illegal for publicans to refuse to serve women – but why did they in the first place?)
1987 Diane Abbott becomes UK’s first black woman MP. The first non-white MP in UK parliament was Dadabhai Naoroji in 1892. Abbot was the fourth non-white MP, and first black MP of either sex.
1988 Practice of dedicating young girls to Hindu temples outlawed on human-rights grounds

1990s Tall girls are no longer treated with sex hormones (a practice that began in the 50s). (Social Science & Medicine  In China many women have their legs lengthened in agonising surgical procedures. Many jobs have height requirements. Guardian 2003)

1991 Baroness Scotland becomes the first black woman to be appointed a QC
1991 Scouting Movement becomes co-ed
1997 The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra accepts women to permanent membership (about time too)
1999 The “right” of a defendant in a rape case to cross-examine the victim is removed. (Michael Howard started the process in 1996.)

2010 Israel enacts a bill allowing civil marriage registration, enabling citizens lacking a religious denomination to marry
2010 Prof Dame Sally Davies became Britain’s first woman Chief Medical Officer

2014 Forced marriage now a crime punishable by up to seven years in jail
2015 Female genital mutilation banned in Nigeria
2015 The Gambia bans FGM

2015 Coercive Control becomes a crime under the Serious Crimes Act
2015 Saudi women are promised their own ID cards, and greater legal powers for divorced women and widows. In December Saudi women vote, and stand for office, for the first time.

2015 China announces end to one-child policy (Some claim the one-child policy had some good results: parents treat their single daughter as a son, and many more women go to university.)

2015 Oxford University nominates Prof Louise Richardson as its first female vice-chancellor

2015 Peers call for legal changes to give Muslim women rights when in Sharia “marriages” or polygamous relationships. (Lady Cox outlined a bill to address the position of couples living in Islamic marriages not registered under UK laws. (Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill.) If passed, would it apply to non-Islamic threesomes and more, and mistresses?)

2016 Victims of forced marriage to receive lifelong anonymity
2016 Avielah Barclay becomes the first female Torah scribe for 250 years
2016 A UK university wipes out gender pay gap with a salary hike (June 4)

2016 The BBC will be forced to pay men and women stars/presenters the same
2016 The Italian Senate passes civil unions by 173-71.
2016 British Airways allows all cabin crew to wear trousers

2016 In June St Peter’s College in Oxford unveils first portraits of women in its Hall
2016 The Stationers’ Company has appointed its first female master in 612 years
2016 Women WWII pilots can be buried in Arlington Cemetery

2016-06-08 Hillary Clinton becomes first woman presidential candidate in the US

Changes the Catholic Church resisted in Ireland:

1944 Tampons
1950 Mother and Child scheme (Free healthcare for mothers and children under 16. The Church thought it was the responsibility of the parents, and didn't like the idea of women getting gynaecological care from the wrong kind of doctor.)

1970 Catholics studying at Trinity College
1973 Married women in Civil Service
1985 Contraception
1986 Divorce
1993 Decriminalisation of same-sex activity
2005 Ferns report into child abuse
2010 Civil partnerships
2013 Abortions if mother’s life at risk, risk of suicide
2015 Equal marriage
And it lost every single battle.

The Catholic Church has lost the battle against gay unions everywhere else in Europe, leaving Italy as a last stronghold it will do anything to defend. (Gustav Hofer, Italian filmmaker It lost this one too.)

1650 Cromwell prescribes the death penalty for adultery (repealed under Charles II).
1685 Last witch legally executed in the UK. A suspected witch was lynched in 1705 in Scotland. The last witch convicted in the UK was Jane Wenham in 1712.

1789 The French National Assembly issues its Declaration of the Rights of Man, proclaiming that ‘all men are born, and remain, free and equal in rights’.
1791 The French Assembly votes almost unanimously for total Jewish emancipation. It also abolished the privileges of the nobility, the special obligations of the peasants and the immunities of the clergy.

1801 George III gives up British monarchs’ claim to be King of France, and Great Britain and Ireland join to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (The UK is 215 – count them – years old.)
1844 Factory Act restricts women textile workers to a 12-hour day and children aged 9-13 to a 9-hour day

1915 Le gouvernement français interdit la fabrication et la vente de la liqueur d'absinthe

1930 Poor Law repealed (It compelled tramps to walk to the next “casual ward” for food and lodging. George Orwell wrote A Day in the Life of a Tramp in 1929.)
1937 Final edition of Dress Worn at Court (it included knee breeches)

1950 Bastards can be ordained

1960 Betting and Gaming Act repeals Act requiring British men to practice the longbow for two hours a week
1967 Torres Strait islanders gain Australian citizenship, but many lacking a birth certificate struggle to “obtain a passport or driver’s license, open a bank account, access social security, or obtain a tax file number. Some parents have even struggled to enrol their children in school.” ( You have to buy a birth certificate, and being illiterate doesn’t help with the bureaucracy.
1969 Skeffington Report recommends more genuine public involvement in city planning (Why are we wai-ting?)

1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act requires police interviews with suspects to be recorded
1998 The Scotland Act enshrines human rights in Scotland – they cannot be removed by Westminster

2003 Licensing Act makes it illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk
2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act abolishes the common-law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales

2015 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to uphold the availability of tax subsidies related to President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, the 2010 Affordable Care Act better known as Obamacare

2015 Liverpool homes saved as council gives up on Pathfinder II (headline)
2015 Tesco will donate unsold food to charity

2016 Scotland has banned fracking (I think)
2016 British National Party (BNP) removed from the register of GB political parties
2016 Church of England says religious robes are no longer compulsory. (Lawyers, please copy.)

2016 The Pope suggests contraception may be used in the Zika crisis (Come on Pope.)
2016 Polio could be gone in 12 months, says WHO
2016 Government says all schools shall become academies – then U-turns and says it won’t make this law. Government refuses to accept 3,000 lone refugee children – then changes tune.
2017 US to ban microbeads in toiletries

2015 Australian doctors told not to prescribe homeopathy, pharmacists ordered to strip their shelves
2015: NHS Halton CCG confirms it will no longer fund homeopathic treatments, and the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital will cease offering homeopathic treatments from October 2015
2015: NHS Dorset CCG confirmed that they will no longer be funding homeopathic treatments.
2015 South Africa no longer recommends beetroot and garlic to treat AIDS, but supplies anti-retroviral drugs
2015 UKIP suggests 24-hour drinking should end

In the US, slavery was abolished, but Jim Crow laws progressively restricted the lives of black people. Citizens of colour were progressively enfranchised, but voting is still made difficult for them – polls close early, there are long queues and waits of several hours, registration is difficult. (Onwards and upwards?)
529 Emperor Justinian shuts down the Neoplatonic Academy
1686 Roman Inquisition condemns the slave trade
1780 The Gordon Riots – around 250 are killed by police in riots over Catholics being given rights
1840s-50s Slavery abolished in Moldavia (now Moldova, with former territories now in Romania, Ukraine). Most of the slaves were Roma or Tartar.

1917 The Tsar is overthrown, and all legal discrimination against Jews is repealed
1919 Paris Peace Conference adopts the principle of equal rights for all religions and ethnic minorities in the newly created states

1950 Some Native Canadian children allowed to enter the school system (instead of being educated separately)

1967 Supreme Court brands Virginia's anti-miscegenation law unconstitutional, legalising inter-racial marriage. Until the Supreme Court ruling it was illegal in 16 US states to enter into an inter-racial sexual relationship or marriage.

1976 End of White Australia policy
1978 Indian Religious Freedom Act protects native peoples in the US

1980s End to “scoop” programme in Canada, started in the 60s, in which Native Canadian children were taken from their parents and adopted or fostered by white families
1981 Mauritania abolishes slavery (but apparently it still goes on)
1986 Equal pay for aboriginals in Australia

1990s The duty of councils to provide sites for Travellers is “scrapped” in the early 90s.
1996 Last federally operated residential school for indigenous Canadians closes

2002 Ugandan-born Bishop Sentamu becomes the first black bishop in the UK to take charge of an Anglican diocese.
2016 UAE Cabinet approves national tolerance programme

And when Turgenev’s mother died, he liberated all her serfs.

20 years ago America introduced a domestic violence law. Domestic violence is down 67%, murders down 35%. UK discussing a similar law, Jan 2014.
1215 Pope Innocent III bans priestly cooperation in trials by fire and water

“Sir Samuel Romilly, speaking to the House of Commons on capital punishment in 1810, declared that "...(there is) no country on the face of the earth in which there [have] been so many different offences according to law to be punished with death as in England."[citation needed] Known as the "Bloody Code", at its height the criminal law included some 220 crimes punishable by death, including "being in the company of Gypsies for one month", "strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age" and "blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime". Many of these offences had been introduced to protect the property of the wealthy classes that emerged during the first half of the 18th century, a notable example being the Black Act of 1723, which created 50 capital offences for various acts of theft and poaching.” (Wikipedia)

1540-1640 48 people tortured at the Tower. It was not officially part of English law and was usually used in interrogation. (Dan Snow)

1826 The practice of burying a suicide’s corpse at a crossroads with a stake through its heart is banned

1907 Romanian Peasants’ Revolt is put down by the army, resulting in many deaths

1970s “Crime passionel” no longer a defence for murder in France.

1997 UK bans handguns
1998 Crime and Disorder Act outlaws racially/religiously motivated violence, harassment, intimidation

2009 “Provocation” no longer a defence for murder in the UK (abolished by the Coroners and Justice Act)

2010 The President of Brazil puts forward a bill to make smacking children illegal.
2012 In Iran people will no longer be condemned to die by stoning, minors will no longer have death sentences passed on them. (But watch this space.)
2015 Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill passed into law

2013 The UN committee against torture said the UK must prohibit all techniques designed to inflict pain on children. (Letter to the Guardian, Aug 2014)
2014 Egypt outlaws sexual violence and harassment for the first time
2014 Alcohol prices rise - binge drinking lessens - injuries due to violence fall. Lowest for 10 years, say police.

2015 Support for the death penalty in the US is falling. Europe refuses to supply drugs for lethal injection
2016 Nebraska abolishes the death penalty (First traditionally conservative state to do so since North Dakota in 1973. Washington DC and 18 other states ban the death penalty. “Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since a 1997 electrocution.” AP)

2016 President Obama promises he’ll use his executive powers to bring in gun control

In France, hate speech is only illegal if it directly incites violence, according to cartoonist Garry Trudeau.
Twelve children die from violence every hour (says UNICEF).
Every 30 seconds, the UK police receive a call about domestic violence.
There are still men who think that all domestic violence is the fault of the woman.
Smacking is legal in the UK.
Bullying is legal in the UK.
Boarding schools are legal in the UK.
There are about 400 single-sex schools in the UK – down from 2,500. (via Steve Beach)


The most conspicuous indication that something is changing came in 2013 while Obergefell v. Hodges was still working its way up to the court. Alan Chambers, the president of the “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International, apologized to LGBT people for causing them “pain and hurt” and shut down his organization. (NYT Feb 2016)

1973 Homosexuality ceased to be classified as a mental disorder with the 1973 revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A compromise diagnosis termed ego-dystonic homosexuality persisted despite heavy criticism until finally being removed in a 1987 version of the DSM.

1979 In Sweden Homosexuality was legal, but still classified as a mental illness. This was changed after a peaceful protest. 

1981 Medicare stopped funding gender reassignment (It started again in 2014.)

1990, 17 May The General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) removes homosexuality from their list of mental disorders.
1992 Gay men and women can become intelligence agents
1993 Homosexuality legalised in Ireland

2003 14 US States legalise homosexuality. (Legal in Italy since 1870, England 1967, Scotland 1980, Northern Ireland 1982, Isle of Man 1992, Tasmania 1997.  (Dan Snow)
2010 The US military police of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed, though Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice still forbids homosexuality. However, any prosecution would clash with Supreme Court rulings.
2015 Jersey passes law protecting LGBT and intersex people from discrimination
2015 Nepal supreme court rules that equal rights apply to LGBT citizens
2015 Mozambique scraps colonial-era anti-gay law
Same-gender marriage is now legal in all 50 US states.

1970s The US forcibly sterilises Puerto Rican women, and moves some of the population to slums on the mainland, to make room for military bases.

1981 Last forcible sterilisation in the US. Many US states proposed and enacted sterilisation laws from the late 19th century. “The Oregon Board of Eugenics, later renamed the Board of Social Protection, existed until 1983, with the last forcible sterilisation occurring in 1981.” Wikipedia

In the 60s, a deaf child was allowed into a mainstream school “as long as she didn’t need any help”.

Birth control was illegal in the U.S. until 1965 (for married couples) and 1972 (for single people).

In the mid-1970s some banks still refused to let women use the prefix "Ms" on cheque books. Women wanting to open an account were asked for authorisation from father or husband.

There are still faith schools in the UK. There are still “honour killings” in the UK. Worldwide, 30 million people are living as slaves. You can be fired for being gay in 27 US states. Black students and those from poorer backgrounds are less likely to be offered a place at university (or a job). And can we ban vast cruise ships?

1692 Maryland enacted a law which punished white women who had children by slaves by selling them as servants for seven years and binding their children to serve until the age of 21 if they were married to the slave, and till 31 if they were not married.

1658 Adulterers in UK were whipped and forced “to weare two Capital letters namely A D cut out in cloth & sowed on theire uppermost Garments"

1776-1967 Interracial marriage illegal in the United States
1949-1985 Interracial marriage illegal in South Africa
1900-20 Canada discourages black people from immigrating because “they won’t be able to stand the cold”.
1924 US Racial Integrity Act of 1924 bans any white person marrying any non-white person (depended on the state).

2015 The Garrick Club votes to continue all-male membership
2015 Pitt Club in Cambridge will admit women during daylight hours, and for Sunday lunch
2016 Muirfield Golf Club does the same, excluding itself from the Open
2016 Some Cotswold Morris teams won’t allow women even as musicians.

2016 Women graduates still face £8,000 gender pay gap. (Telegraph Dec 2015)
2016 Voter registration is publically available. (Great for stalkers, murderous exes, identity thieves etc.)
2016 Nigeria rejects a gender equality bill
2016 France opts for the “Swedish model” of prostitution law (criminalises punters)

2016 People are making money charging thousands to ship people from war zones across the Mediterranean in leaky dinghies
2016 People are making money renting out third world women’s bodies to carry children for parents in the first world
2106 Turkey's President Erdogan calls women who work “half persons”

The old days have a habit of lingering on. (Michael Wood, LRB 2004)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 4 June 2016

Malaprops and Portmanteaus 5

Only a ucalaly and Lionel Blair

Malaprops are creative mistakes; portmanteaus are "two meanings packed up in one word".


Why are you getting rid of your antiques?
We’re downloading, like everybody else!

We must defiantly stay in Europe!
It has a certain je ne sais pas!

I wanted to have a space to show my own work and found a little shop front that happened to be in the trendy town of Shortage. ( means Shoreditch)

cognitive dissidence (When people say "cognitive dissonance" they usually mean the mental gymnastics to try and avoid it.)

it with a thick coat of E45.
l’esprit de l’espalier
Chaise Guevarawould-be pop idle
human themours (femurs)

Bit of a barista of fire for Tim Peake for his first space walk! (Helen Dearnley ‏@Blackbird1976 Think she means “baptism”.)

I've seen some unnecessarily cruel things on TV, but locking this family in a bomb shelter with only a Ucalaly and Lionel Blair is inexcusable. (michael baggott ‏@baggottsilver)

Gotta love the internet philosophers taking the passivist route... (pacifist)

They are willing to pay exuberant amounts [for property in Brixton]. (BBC Breakfast)

light an incest stick (Daniel Hopwood’s mum)

interior design for ulterior motive
pengulino for pendolino

But I don't think bitching at them about their poor taste in windows helps, it just makes people hate historic perseveration. (Sara E. Palmer ‏@anqatisara)

Lambeth Council (who else) sent a letter to tenants about clearing up "dog theses". (@UnexpectedBag)

And somebody made a biological cake representing the moment of "cell decision".

Everything’s popsicle! (American sports commentator)

The bourbon of proof is on you! (Twitter)


This is a horideous moment for the Labour Party. (Andrew Marr Not a fluff, he meant it.)

pretendian (those white people descended from a “native American princess”)
tantouring (contouring with fake tan)

Does Kind Hearts and Coronets on the 21st tickle your fancy then? I suppose it's a melodramedy! (Irish Film Institute)

Chinese duplitectureridicuzarre (Nancy Friedman)
treescrapers (

brutifulwoebegotten (woebegone plus misbegotten)
kept in enforced certitude (BBC - servitude)

longlivity (Martin on Autumnwatch)

trowelblazer: pioneering early female archaeologist
presstitutes (Do they mean us?)

selectorate (Danny Finkelstein)
investibule (Ian Martin)

(Rupert G)

martyrbate (science blog check)
yarnbombitecture (Hugh Pearman)

Lamestream media, randiproles etc.

(online activism)
leftard (Sarah Vine)
fauxminism (Louise Mensch)
actorvistRemainiacs v Brexiteers

On the other side we have:

(Rebecca Solnit)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 3 June 2016

Josephine Tey's The Man in the Queue

Have you seen this man?

The Man in the Queue
is Josephine Tey's first detective story, written in 1929. It starts colourfully with a London theatre queue inching slowly towards the box office, while a stream of buskers (singers, escapologists) attempts to entertain them. A pale young man reaches the head of the line only to collapse as the person in front of him moves on into the theatre – he has been stabbed in the back with a curiously wrought Italian stiletto!

Scotland Yard, in the person of Alan Grant and his Watson, Williams, are called in. Nobody in the queue claims the dead man – in fact the woman standing behind him, Mrs Ratcliffe, who was so distressed to find a corpse falling at her feet, claims she never even noticed him. All marks have been removed from his clothes, and he carried no wallet, letters – not even a bus ticket. They eventually identify him through his rather flashy tie, and establish that he was a bookie. Grant finds his partner, an olive-skinned fellow whom Grant dubs "the dago", and chases him on foot, but the young man manages to lose him. Grant finds the pair's office, and breaks in with the help of a scruffy artist, but they find nobody at home but a cat.

The "dago" is the prime suspect – as an obvious Spaniard, Frenchman, Italian or Greek a stiletto is his natural weapon. This is not exactly scientific detection, though it reflects the times. Throughout his career, Grant assumes that you can tell a lot about a person by the shape of their chin, or the colour of their eyes. In later editions, the "dago" is changed throughout to "Levantine". "Dago" is pejorative, but the editors probably didn't realise that in the 20s and 30s "Levantine" could be code for "Jew".

Back then, if you were olive-skinned and black-haired you needed a handy story to explain it away, as this colouring was assumed to be unBritish. “Shipwrecked sailors from the Spanish Armada” were usually pointed to, or “Phoenician traders”. (Our family cited "Huguenots fleeing persecution".) When we meet "the dago", Lamont, he seems like a nice young man, with a devoted Scottish landlady. He confesses to an Italian grandmother – but does that make him a murderer?

Grant interviews "Ray Marcable", the star of the show who is setting off to Hollywood, and decides that – though charming in person – her upstaging of her male costar proves that she is cold-hearted and unfeminine. There's an entertaining interlude while some undercover cops pose as door-to-door salesmen.

Grant runs doggedly after the elusive Lamont, ending up in the Scottish highlands. We are obviously supposed to love Grant, and Tey writes as if he was a real person whom she knows quite well. He would rather be riding a horse or gazing into a clear trout stream than solving crimes in grimy old London. He is obviously a gent, you see, unlike these seedy race track types. The trip to Scotland is an excuse for a lot of maundering about the mirrored surface of the loch etc.

We also stumble over more racist attitudes as the characters discuss whether it is better to be “mixed race”, meaning a mixture of Highland and Lowland, or Scots and English. Despite the rhapsodizing about the landscape, the indigenous Scots are made fun of – their language sounds like hens screeching, and their praising the Lord sounds dreary. (It's wild and wonderful.) Grant, once he has got his man, is aided by jolly decent toffs wearing tweeds, and a likeably down-to-earth nurse. She joins Grant at a seaside resort to try and surprise some suspects into betraying recognition of a hat brooch.

It's written as "Gordon Daviot", her play-writing pseudonym, which may explain the guff about trout streams. The women are feisty and in control, apart from the fainting Mrs Ratcliffe (I shall have to read it again to work out if she's just a red herring).

I enjoyed the book: it's dated, but what do you expect from 1929? Silly ideas like reading character from facial features were floating about, though probably not at Scotland Yard. Or at least, not since the 19th century. Another 1929 characteristic is a reliance on long words and classical allusions for humour, like a Victorian journalist. A chauffeur is called a "Jehu" – Victorian slang for a coachman (Jehu was a Biblical charioteer). In later books Tey was less reliant on words like "apotheosis", "embonpoint" and "recrudesce". (There is a flapper in Patrick Hamilton's Rope who talks like this.)

Did Lamont really do it? Did he have a good reason? Will he marry the practical Miss Dinmont? Read it and find out.

More mysteries here.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

What I Don't Miss About the 50s 3

"We'll never be able to put England back the way it was", wailed an elderly Brexiteer recently. I sincerely hope not. Do you really want to go back to this? Don't you remember:


We were told that a windbreak is more effective if erected down wind, thin clothes and blankets keep you warmer than thick ones and string vests keep you warmer than wool ones because they trap warm air in the holes. (A story put about after WWII when there was a string surplus.) Loose light layers keep you warmer than one thick, tight layer. You shouldn’t use a blanket with a duvet. Don’t go out warm. Don’t wear your coat indoors or when you go out you won’t feel the benefit. If you are cold, don’t sit right over a fire – it will make you colder. Don't warm your feet at a heat source. Hot baths are bad for you. Sleep with a window open. When did we stop peddling this nonsense?

We wore Wellington boots in the snow, with ordinary socks, and got chilblains.

I dimly remember having to eat a piece of bread and butter before being allowed cake and biscuits, but that was surely on the Yorkshire pudding principle - eat something dull, and you won't be so hungry for the interesting (expensive) stuff. Also, you were supposed to leave the bit you liked best to last, when you weren't hungry any more. Biscuits and cakes, and toast and marmalade were the only pleasant food we ever got. Meanwhile in other households people were eating ridiculous things like perdrix au choux and soufflé surprise.

It was assumed that disabled people, like many others, would not have a sex life. They were supposed to “sublimate” their sexuality and go in for good works. And if anyone suggested good works to you, you knew you’d been written off. It was assumed that sexuality was something you could turn on and off at will. Young people were not supposed to have a sex life until they left boarding school at 18. See Pears Cyclopedia on the female orgasm (if you don’t have them, just stop worrying about it, it’s not important).

This went on until the 70s: if you were a shy, plain reject, it was assumed that you would be good at looking after others in the same boat. In fact, you should all get together and befriend each other and remove yourselves from the company of the successful, attractive, fun, glamorous and partnered. People with quite severe problems were shoved together. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t help them.

We were told: don’t pick a baby up when it cries, put it in a pram in the garden for hours and let it cry, send it to boarding school at 7, don’t hug your children. If on a kibbutz, see your children for two hours a day. Don’t visit your child in hospital, it will become “unsettled”. Why? Didn’t they want people to love each other? Could you only be affectionate with your husband/wife/girlfriend/ boyfriend – but never in public? What was the point of it all?

Little Red Bull
Little Drummer Boy
That’s My Weakness Now
I Am a Mole and I Live in a Hole
Herb Alpert’s Spanish Flea
Mexican Hat Dance
A Walk in the Black Forest
Suku Suku the beat is crazy
There's a Moose Loose about this Hoose
Would You Like to Swing on a Star
They Swam and they Swam Right Over the Dam

More here, and links to the rest.