Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Feedback .... And Out

It is that glorious time of the year when I need to take my leave of the Blog for a couple of weeks and head in search of the sun. As I think I mentioned some time ago, this year the Famous Five will be going mad in the Mediterranean. Based on my experience of snail-speed internet connections on board cruise ships, this year I will probably avoid logging-in to update the Blog whilst I am away and save an extended posting for when I return. But who knows : perhaps the craving to compose will set in and I will head for the Communications Room in order to get my regular fix.

Before setting sail, however, I would like to take this opportunity to thank people for their feedback. One of the great pleasures of a Blog is that most people do not approach the blog from a sequential or episodic standpoint, they discover random postings whilst doing a Google search for "fried halibut" or some such piece of exotica. Thus the feedback, when it does arrive, can be in relation to postings that were launched on the wide world months or even years ago. For such reasons the feedback can be even more welcome as it drags me back to a subject which was once dear to my heart. Anyway, here are a few messages of thanks. My apologies, as ever, if you have sent me messages and I haven't replied.

* To Kamel from North Africa : Thanks for your message, I am glad to hear that you bought the Crypto Peerless O'Matic Pie Moulder I mentioned in the Blog earlier this year. However, I regret that I am not conversant with the detailed operation of the machine, although inserting the pie steak into the mobile cylinder - as you describe in your message - seems the right approach. Good luck, and by all means feel free to send me one of the pies once you get the mechanics sorted.

* To Paul : Thanks for responding to my final plea in the "Connect Me To A Brewery" posting. It is excellent news that Barnard's momentous work is now available on CD, I will be sending for a copy as soon as I return from holidays.

* To (another) Paul : Thanks for the updated information about motorcycle funerals and for the latest images of the various hearses. You are quite right, it is as dignified a way of leaving this world as any other and I will ask my nearest and dearest to give it serious consideration when my time comes.

* To Jill : Thanks for updating my story about the Winstanley Babes. Although our own Babe has now passed away, it is good to hear that there are still many out there. Long may they tap and twirl.
So that's it .... I will be back in August.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Activating My DNA

It is 5.00am on a Sunday morning and I am feeling empty, lethargic and under the weather. The weather in question is a most unseasonable heavy cloud cover and being under it is enough to depress anyone's spirits. I need something to perk me up, something to regenerate me. I need my DNA activating!

I discovered DNA Activation whilst reading an article on "Selling Yourself Short" on a jolly little website called "Clover Coaching". The article was so tedious that I was tempted into following one of the links in the side-panel which took me to a section on DNA Activation (The motive power of boredom is mighty powerful and this is probably why side-panel links are so successful as I am sure you will discover shortly when you go off on your own trip down my side-panel). Anyway, back to DNA Activation : here was the therapy I had been searching for, the solution to all my cares, the salve for my troubled soul. But let me share this simple explanation of DNA Activation taken from the website in question.

DNA Activation
There are 12 strands of DNA. Each strand has layers that have different functions both in the body and in the quantum field. The average person has approximately 8-9% of their DNA activated; 2 strands instead of 12. DNA activation enhances your intuition and your capacity to connect at deeper levels. I activate DNA in a simple and elegant process, which can be done in person or by telephone. Changes in vibration and frequency levels will continue to occur for approximately 30 days after activation. Further activations and capacities are also enabled as you grow and evolve. This is like having further software updates automatically installed when the system is ready or as new capacities are enabled.

Here was a stunningly simple explanation of all my problems. Why had I not been able to update the Blog as frequently as I would like? Why had I been waking up at five in the morning suffering from negative thoughts? Why had the middle toenail on my left foot started to attack my own flesh with the forcefulness of a religious fundamentalist? Quite simple : I was not making use of the full potential of my DNA. I needed a new set of software updates installing and the good news was that this could be achieved by a "simple and elegant process" via the telephone. I am desperate to give it a try, but I it is still only 5.30am on a Sunday morning. Assuming that the therapist in question has fully activated their own DNA, I suppose that they are not suffering from early-morning wakening and therefore they would not welcome my early morning cry from the soul.

All I can do to pass the time before I can get my human software upgrade is to tell you why I was in search of articles on "selling short". The answer is Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke's splendid little song "I Can't Get Started". I am sure you remember the lyrics:

I've flown around the world in a plane
I've settled revolutions in Spain
The North Pole I have charted,
but I can't get started with you

Around the golf course I'm under par
And all the movies want me to star
I've got a house, a show place,
but I get no place with you

You're so supreme, lyrics I write of you
Scheme, just for a sight of you
Dream, both day and night of you
And what good does it do?

In 1929 I sold short
In England I'm presented at court
But you've got me downhearted,
cause I can't get started with you

It is that final verse which caught my eye (or to be exact, caught my ear). "In 1929 I sold short" is a peach of a line. Selling short is a clever little speculative devise used by traders who believe the market is heading for a fall. If you are selling short you sell a stock you don't actually own. The strategy is based on the belief that in a falling market you will be able to actually buy the stock at an even lower price before you have to actually deliver it (there, I said it was clever didn't I). The genius of Gershwin is the ability to take a somewhat complex economic concept and blend it perfectly into the song.

If you read the financial pages at the moment you will be aware that people are once again "selling short". The markets are falling and economic confidence is in retreat. We are undoubtedly heading for hard times. It's worrying, so worrying that I woke up at 5.00am this morning. Which is why I need my DNA activating.

Monday, July 07, 2008

It's A Dumb Man Who Doesn't Know A Dumb Steeple

It all started with a question at the Friday Night Rock Tavern Quiz : "Where is Dumb Steeple?" It was one of those annoying questions where you feel as if you should know the answer but for one reason or another, you don't. At the end of the day I put down some silly answer ("Newmarket Race Course") just for the sake of putting something down. And, of course, it was wrong. Very wrong. As my so-called friends delighted in telling me, I should have known as it brought together two of my great interests - local history and the labour movement.

Dumb Steeple is the name of a stone obelisk which stands alongside the main Huddersfield to Leeds Road at Cooper Bridge ("Cooper Bridge" being the required answer to the question). Nobody seems to know the origins of the monument - which is unmarked - nor how it got its name. However, it became famous as a rallying point for local agitators, particularly during the Luddite rising of the early nineteenth century. The story goes that in the early hours of Monday 12th April 1812 over 100 Luddites met at Dumb Steeple before marching off towards Rawfold near Cleckheaton to attack Cartwright's Mill where some of the new automated shearing machines had been installed. The plan was fated to disaster. The Mill Owner had been warned about the attack and troops were waiting at the mill. Two of the Luddites were killed and several others where arrested and hung at York a few months later. In all, seventeen men were hung in January 1813 for their part in the riots which originated at Dumb Steeple, the largest mass execution York ever saw.

Whilst searching for my facts about Dumb Steeple, I came across a reference to a proposed web site ( which was proposed a few years ago by the journalist Richard Donkin. The idea was that it would provide a forum for discussion of the impact of new technology on employment and work. Mr Donkin was seeking organisations to sponsor the website but it would appear that he failed as the domain name is once again available for purchase. At £17 for two years, I must admit I am tempted. It would seem a suitable penance for never having heard of the Dumb Steeple.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Confluence Of The Independent Labour Party

When you get a confluence of rivers you get two of more insignificant rivers joining together to become significant. When you get a confluence of ideas you often get a sea-change in science, technology, the arts, or some other field of human activity. But sometimes you just get a confluence of things - names, places, words, shapes - and we call it serendipity. And it's interesting. This week I have had a confluence of the Independent Labour Party.

It all started on Sunday when we called in on our old friends Kathy and Arthur and they gave me a photograph (which features me, amongst others, holding a framed portrait of Kier Hardie) taken some 35 years ago at an Independent Labour Party (ILP) gathering at Clarion House in Nelson. The photograph is reproduced on my Daily Photo Blog.

And then, a couple of days later and quite independently, I was sorting through some old papers and I came across a collection of three documents which date back to the 1914 Conference of the ILP which was held in Bradford. The three documents are illustrated here and they are a wonderful Souvenir Programme, a quite beautiful silk badge or bookmark, and a delegate's credential in the name of Mr J. S Middleton. For a moment I wondered how I had acquired these three quite rare artifacts, but the name of the delegate provided the necessary clue.

J. S ("Jim") Middleton (1878-1962) was the assistant to James Ramsey MacDonald, the first General Secretary of the British Labour Party. At the time the ILP was still an integral part of the Labour Party and therefore he would have been at the 1914 ILP Conference which was that organisation's "Coming of Age" Conference. Jim later went on to become General Secretary of the Labour Party, a position he held until the end of World War II.

I never met Jim - who had died before I got involved in politics - but in the 1970s I did know his widow, Lucy Middleton. Lucy herself had a long and outstanding career in the labour movement, serving as a MP in the 1945 Labour Government and later becoming the first Chair of "War on Want". I knew Lucy well and she encouraged me in my own involvement in the Labour Party. We shared a love of Labour History and it was her who gave me the three documents reproduced here.

The ILP cropped up a third time this week when I was reading Andrew Marr's "A History of Modern Britain". In the first chapter he discusses that tremendously influential 1945 Labour Government and looks at the background of several of its leaders such as the Prime Minister, Clement Atlee. Atlee was also active in the ILP having joined in 1908 and in 1913 he became a Lecturer at the London School of Economics. But, as yet, I have not been able to discover whether he was at the 1914 Bradford Conference, but no doubt someone will write in and tell me. If he was it would make the confluence almost perfect.

Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...