Tag Archives: British history

Fings ain’t wot they used to be

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It’s a terrible affliction, and one which I find myself suffering more as I get older. That feeling when, perhaps, you’re listening to a favourite album and it suddenly smacks you between the eyes that you bought it for the first time 35 years ago. You’re suddenly transported back to those days, and you can’t help feeling things were better then than they are now…

See? How can things be worse now than three decades ago? Ridiculous! Look around you! Look at how marvellous our world is.

How marvellous our world was, perhaps. My species is rapidly outgrowing its home planet, with precious little thought to what happens when the resources run out. “Someone else will sort that out for us,” seems to be the consensus. “Someone clever will solve all our problems, so we don’t need to worry about it now.” We carry on being told to consume all we can, and so we do.


For more in this vein, perhaps you might cheer yourself up with some previous posts:
Have we peaked?
Everything seems a bit shit these days


For the first half of the 20th century, life for ordinary people was tough. If you were lucky, you had a job, your health, and enough money put by that you could perhaps consider a short holiday by the seaside once a year. You couldn’t hope to own your own house, or a car. If you were unlucky, you struggled to survive, reliant perhaps on charity to get by until something turned up.

Further afield, the world in general was not a happy place, with conflict and things to generally make life harsh and short for most people. If you were wealthy, however, the world was your oyster. Some had managed to make a large fortune for themselves and their offspring, mainly by exploiting the labour of the poorer members of society.

In some countries, men came to power that promised to make life better for all. They blamed all of society’s ills on ethnic minorities, or anyone who wasn’t “like us”. People believed in their special kind of message, and so the world turned. Eventually, things went too far, and the poor and disadvantaged were plunged once more into a conflict not of their making.

In 1945, after this particularly savage global conflict had finally ended, the returning soldiers, sailors and airmen decided they wanted a world that would be better for everyone and not just those that could afford it. What is now known as the post-war consensus was formed. Many industries were taken into government hands and run for the benefit of all. A universal healthcare and welfare system was set up to ensure no-one would suffer unduly from ill health, and there was something there to catch you and help you get back on your feet if things went wrong. New social housing was built, slums were cleared, education was improved, the world began to look bright and hopeful.

By the 1970s, things weren’t looking quite so bright. Industrial strife gave nationalised industries a bad name, and some politicians began to point to a brave new world where privatised and deregulated businesses could solve all the ills of our world. Slowly but surely, everything the returning servicemen and women from the Second World War had built was taken away again. It’s taken four decades, but even the sacred cow of the National Health Service is being slowly devoured, sliced and diced to the highest bidder.

It struck me today that the calibre of those who built our post-war society was much higher than those who think they should run things today. In the 1940s and 1950s, I suppose the founders of the new Britain hoped their children would learn to run things well, and so it proved for a while. Where things have taken a wrong turn is difficult to say, but perhaps the so-called Baby Boomershad it so good” and really did think it would last forever. They didn’t teach their offspring as well as they might, it seems, and the result is we’ve got a bunch of career politicians who don’t have a clue about much.

Disaffection with the political classes, the intense feeling that former industrial areas are wilfully ignored by the elites in Westminster, has led to a collapse in our political system. We see the rise of the far right—across Europe and beyond, it has to be said—and such political organisations tap into the general dissatisfaction. It’s all the fault of the “others”, those ethnic minorities, the “immigrants” and “migrants”.


An interesting read over at The Guardian about Brexit and the revolt against liberalism.
Nationalism: Nasty or Nice?
Oh, what have you done?


Supposedly sensible people—like me, for example—tend to want to make fun of the new species of demagogue that is arising in the world. The Nigel Farages and Donald Trumps of this world won’t ever amount to much, we tell ourselves. They’re fringe politicians, their followers are not the mainstream of political thought.

Then the Farages and Trumps begin to win.

“There’s no way Trump could win the Republican Party nomination.”

“We won’t vote to leave the European Union.”

“But there’s no way Trump can win the presidential election.”

I find myself thinking, after everything else that’s happened so far in 2016, that we had better prepare ourselves for a Donald Trump presidency. The world, it seems, has turned almost a full circle. Where it will end, I don’t know. I’d like to be optimistic about things, but I rather think it won’t end well. You don’t need to guess who will suffer the most, whatever the outcome.


Ticket To The Moon
ELO, Time, 1981

Words and music by Jeff Lynne

Remember the good old Nineteen Eighties,
When things were so uncomplicated,
I wish I could go back there again
And everything could be the same.

I’ve got a ticket to the moon
I’ll be leaving here any day soon
Yeah, I’ve got a ticket to the moon
But I’d rather see the sunrise, in your eyes.

Got a ticket to the moon
I’ll be rising high above the earth so soon
And the tears I cry might turn into the rain
That gently falls upon your window
You’ll never know.

Ticket to the moon
Fly, fly through a troubled sky
Up to a new world shining bright.

Flying high above,
Soaring madly through the mysteries that come,
Wondering sadly if the ways that led me here,
Could turn around and I would see you there,
Standing there

Ticket to the moon
Flight leaves here today from Satellite 2
As the minutes go by, what shall I do,
I paid the fare, what more can I say,
It’s just one way.

Ticket to the moon.

Read more:  Electric Light Orchestra – Ticket To The Moon Lyrics | MetroLyrics

A week later!

Telford was an excellent exhibition, a credit to the organisers and managing crew. I spent the weekend talking, buying, and ending up tired out! I handed finished models to clients, and collected some new commissioned work. I think it was a good show.

Lots of nice textures and colours were about. I wonder if all the cast plates were made on the site?

As is now our habit, we stayed in the Telford area for a couple of days after the exhibition. Our plans were flexible, with museums and the Severn Valley Railway high on the agenda. Monday saw us visit the Blists Hill Victorian Town. The link explains what the place is all about, and it proved a pleasant afternoon of wandering about. I spent much of the time cursing my DSLR, which is really cursing myself for being thick. I really need to get out with the beast more often and learn how to drive it properly again.

It would have been lovely to have seen more activity around the town. It was rather as if the inhabitants had all gone on a charabanc trip to the seaside and left everything unlocked.

Our last day we went to Bridgnorth and visited the SVR. We took the digital sound recording gear, in the hopes of more excellent recordings such as we had last year. Sadly, I hadn’t slept at all well the previous night, so our visit was somewhat curtailed. I still haven’t had a chance to edit the recordings we made. In fact, I’ve not even listened back to them, which is quite telling on what I think about them.

So, that’s the Big Exhibition over for another year. Back at home, I spent the rest of the week nursing a toothache and setting out plans for the year ahead. I have, it seems, a lot of work to be getting on with!

An MP calls Commons staff ‘servants’ – what a pantomime our parliament is | Ally Fogg | CiF | guardian.co.uk

The governance of our nation is conducted through a time tunnel from a rarefied ancient era. The Palace of Westminster still presents itself as one part Downton Abbey to three parts Hogwarts. We should probably be grateful that Chope didn’t refer to the house elves before deciding his place in the division lobby by donning the Sorting Hat. The physical environment was constructed in the 19th century, according to the designs of the late middle ages. Our democracy has 650 members of parliament and enough seats on the benches for 427. The oppositional arrangement cannot naturally accommodate more than two parties. In purely practical terms, the building is entirely unfit for purpose, but actually this is the least of our problems.

via An MP calls Commons staff ‘servants’ – what a pantomime our parliament is | Ally Fogg | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Only the other week I forced myself not to rant about the bizarre way that MPs can be allowed to resign their seat. Essentially, they’re not allowed to resign their seat. Instead, there is some arcane system whereby they become a steward and bailiff of some non-existent manor while a bye-election is arranged. The other arcane method used is stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

While I think tradition is a good thing, there is a time and a place. The adherence to mediaeval “traditions” in a so-called modern democracy is no longer that place. Time to look at replacing the whole thing, from monarch down, with a proper democratic republic.

Breakthrough in bid to save HMS Caroline, says heritage boss – Local – Portsmouth News

THE First World War cruiser HMS Caroline will be saved, the man in charge of securing the ship’s future said last night.

Professor Dominic Tweddle spoke to The News as the deadline passed for heritage bids to be submitted to the Ministry of Defence yesterday.

He said: ‘We’ll save the ship, I don’t think that’s now in doubt.’

But Prof Tweddle, who is director-general of the Portsmouth-based National Museum of the Royal Navy, remained coy on whether HMS Caroline will remain in Belfast or come to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

That’s encouraging.

Jubilee

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My parents recently celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They married in March 1962, almost a decade to the month after Elizabeth II ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth in 1952.

It’s easy to pretend people like my parents lived in more deferential times. After all, everyone went to church on Sundays, everyone stood for the national anthem at the end of a film showing at the flicks, everyone adored the Royal Family and so on.

My mother tells a slightly different tale, however. In her younger days she was an usherette at a local cinema. It was the norm for the auditorium exit doors to be opened wide as the credits rolled, and for the staff to stand well clear to avoid the stampede as everyone made a quick exit before the national anthem was played. To many it was a matter of pride to be out of the building and heading home before you got caught and had to stand while the anthem staggered to a close.

I was a naïve thirteen year old at the time of the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977. We all got caught up in the pomp and glamour, made fancy dress and organised bunting and so on. I don’t think we had a street party, but I’m sure there was a do of some kind in the village hall. I still have my commemorative crown coin, worthless though it is. Like most people, my family were monarchist. They were proud of having a monarchy, proud of the traditions and all the flummery that accompanied it. It was something that was just there, like the sky, and you felt it was part of your identity.

That sense of pride I think stemmed from the Queen’s father, George VI, who had led the country through the dark years of the Second World War. He had done much to rebuild the family firm after his older brother had abdicated in 1936, and Elizabeth carried on the tradition. A beautiful young woman, with a young family, seemed to hold much promise for the future. In many ways, it was a fairytale affair.

As I get older, I find I have become a republican. I find the notion of a hereditary post of head of state out of step with the modern world. Why should who holds a position of power be down to an accident of birth? I find all the tradition—much of which was invented in more recent times than many realise—very much a hangover from less enlightened times. I also find there is an active and growing republican movement in the UK. 

Today, as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is marked by a drizzle-sodden motley selection of boats floating down the Thames, and the media goes into a union flag-bedecked frenzy about everything royal, a few dissenting voices can be heard. Take Jack of Kent, for example. He wrote “A Jubilee Letter from a Republican” this morning, and I found it chimed with my overall feelings exactly:

 

Sixty years of public service is something to be celebrated.  And the way the queen has done it also should be cheered: her self-control and lack of personal showiness is a model of what a monarch should be like, if we are to have a monarchy at all.

There are somethings to be said for the crown in domestic politics and law.

First, it is less important for the power it has than for the power it prevents others having.

Second, it provides the most general concept of the state we have in (at least) English law – almost all executive, legislative and judicial power is exercised in the name of the crown, one way or another.

And third, it provides a superficial sense of continuity from medieval times (if one ignores that in 1640, 1660, 1688, 1714, and 1936, the fate of the crown was determined by others).

All that said, there is a basic principle: supreme executive power in any modern polity really should be in the hands of someone who is accountable and capable of removal by some formal process.

 

 

The thing is, I don’t hold any particular malice towards the Royal Family. It can be argued that Elizabeth didn’t really have any choice in taking on the rôle, and she has carried the burden well for six decades. What sticks in my craw is being told I must celebrate such things, that if I wish to gainsay the “jollity” I am committing some kind of treason. 

I went out for a photographic location scouting mission earlier today, partly to get away from the hoo-hah. As I drove around various villages and towns of north Kent, the numbers of houses and buildings with bunting and flags could be counted on the fingers of one hand. It struck me that the national mood being portrayed by our media wasn’t quite matching up to the reality I was seeing. A long weekend, yes, but not one of marked celebration that I could see.

I choose not to celebrate the jubilee. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as I am not forced to take part. I do happen to think it’s time we, as a country, began to rationally discuss the alternatives to a hereditary monarchy as head of state. I fully realise I may never see a Republic of Great Britain in my lifetime, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be grown-up enough to talk about it.

 

Avebury – a set on Flickr

A set of photos from my first ever visit to Avebury. I must go back one day. It’s a place that really needs to be lived in or near for a while so you can learn its moods. A couple of hours dodging other tourists is not the best way to understand something so large and so ancient, in my opinion.

What’s Avebury? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avebury

Link to Flickr for those not blighted by Flash.

There it is!

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Lurking amid the detritus of my workbench, and taking about as long to emerge from its cocoon as the real thing, is TSR-2 serial XR219. 

Did you know the real aircraft, if they had gone into production and squadron service with the RAF were to be called Eagle? TSR, incidentally, stands for Tactical Strike Reconnaisance, being the key roles for the aircraft in service.

More upbeat, please

The real world seems to be heading ever further through the looking glass, and the temptation to blog about and comment on all the lunacy going on is a hard one to overcome. I had intended this year to be one where I wrote more about happier things, so let’s see if I can redress the balance a little.

As you may be aware, I enjoy most forms of transport. I love the history, the stories, the tales of human endeavour to go ever bigger, faster and higher. Having had a run of railway models I have been working on for clients and friends, I decided my modelling bench needed something a little more high tech. While my aerial interests tend to be firmly planted around 1940 for the most part, I do have the occasional flirt with things a little more recent—if you can call the mid-1960s “recent”, that is! It is easy to forget now, but in the 1950s and 1960s, Britain’s aircraft industry was world-beating.

Currently on my workbench, and not in a particularly photogenic state right now, is a 1/72nd scale BAC TSR-2. I am trying to go to town with this model. Thanks to various after-market manufacturers, the model has authentic cockpit interiors, the correct ejector seats, lifted canopies, wheels that are suitably bulged to give the impression of weight, more accurate engine details and crew access ladders. I have added extra detailing to the wheel wells, given an impression of the hydraulic pipework around the undercarriage, and generally pimped the whole thing. It is currently in bits going through several coats of paint before the decals are applied. 

I am never quite content to simply build a model in isolation. What I plan on doing with this bit of British aerospace history is to place it some kind of context. If you watch the following video (part of a four-part upload to YouTube), and head for around the six-and-a-half minute mark, you’ll see the only example of the TSR-2 to ever fly, serial XR219, surrounded by all kinds of ancillary equipment and vehicles on the apron at Boscombe Down. I plan to create a diorama to show the aircraft in just this situation—or near to it.

(Incidentally, if you can spare an hour and this kind of thing interests you, it is worth viewing the whole set of videos. It puts the story of the TSR-2 project in its historical context. The elderly chap in the glasses is Roland Beamont, who was the test pilot on the project and also a Battle of Britain fighter pilot.)

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Amazingly, most of the vehicles and bits are available in kit form from BW Models. At one point, I reckoned I could spend over £100 from that source alone! I have reined back a little, and while I save my pennies and wait for paint to dry I am working out the best way to create the concrete apron.

I am not trying to recreate the exact scene in the grab above. I am sort of aiming for something that may have occurred a few minutes before the film was shot. The aircraft will have been towed into position, and I plan to have the tow bar and tractor having just unhitched. The protective covers over the engine intakes and exhausts will be in the process of being removed. The oxygen and power generator trolleys are being positioned. The refueller and the CO2 truck will be there, too, and probably a Land Rover or similar.

Now, quite what I am going to do with this diorama—which will probably be almost a metre square—remains to be seen. Once I’ve photographed everything, the vehicles and aircraft will end up in the display cabinet, but the rest will end up in storage. Perhaps one of the museums might like it for display…

Another might-have-been of the British aircraft industry was the Fairey Rotodyne. I have a kit for one of those stashed away somewhere. Current ideas revolve around the “what if” had the RAF adopted the aircraft as originally envisaged in the late 1950s.

Forgotten, but not gone

With the news the Cutty Sark restoration has been completed and the ship is to reopen to the public later this week, I wondered what had happened to another restoration project that has been ongoing since the 1980s. 

I mean the restoration of the Dunkirk “Little Ship” Medway Queen. Earlier this year, the project was in some doubt due to problems with the funding, as I linked and blogged about at the time. Happily, the problems have been resolved and work has resumed on the ship.

April 2012. 

It seems that the EU funding suspension for our project as at long last been lifted by the EU commission, not after causing many money worries re paying apprentices and their training staff. Hopefully all unpaid back payments as well as funds due will now be paid to the society!

In the time being work still carries on at Bristol, albeit rather slow of late, the bow section is basically complete, but the aft end seems to drag on, reluctance to rivet plate maybe because most will have to be done by old method by hand, as their “auto riveters” will possibly not reach most angles it seems!

http://www.medwayqueen.com/

The story of the rescue and restoration of this humble paddle steamer is one of tenacity and heartache. Reading through the captions accompanying the gallery on the Society’s unofficial web site, it really does beggar belief that it has taken so long and so much voluntary hard work to save part of the UK’s maritime heritage. 

Here’s a link to the official Medway Queen Preservation Society web site.

http://www.medwayqueen.co.uk/