Sunday, 31 October 2010

'Changing' the clocks is absolutely batty: it bugs me!

'Changing' the clocks is absolutely batty. There are so many hours of daylight - more in Summer, less in Winter - and that's it. As a farmer, I know that I and my farming friends are unaffected by the clock. We work as we can and as we need. What the clock 'says' is immaterial. What bugs me is the twice-yearly 'change': I suffer for about a week each time, rather in the manner of jet-lag.

Another British soldier shot dead in Afghanistan

"British soldier shot dead in Afghanistan" (Sunday Telegraph).

"A British soldier, from 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), has been shot dead in southern Afghanistan.
The soldier was killed by small arms fire in the Nahr-e Saraj North District of Helmand Province on Saturday morning.

He was serving with the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force and was attending the scene of a suspect device when he was killed.

His death takes the total number of UK military personnel fatalities since operations began in Afghanistan in 2001 to 342.

Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman, A spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: “It is my sad task to inform you that a soldier from the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force has died this morning.

“The soldier was part of a team responsible for clearing ground of explosive ordnance for coalition and Afghan forces, as well as ensuring the safety of the local Afghan people, when he was killed by small arms fire in the Nahr-e Saraj North District of Helmand Province.

“He sacrificed his life in the service of others, carrying out a hazardous but crucial task; he will live on in the memories of all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the soldier’s next of kin have been informed."

 Yet another loss on a pointless mission is in itself pointless. Bring all of our boys home now.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

At last, some splendid news from the ConDems!

I love trees. Everywhere I have been and have had the opportunity, I have planted trees. I have planted trees at Chalk Farm, Bottisham, Spring Hall, Bottisham, at the sides of the Swaffham Bulbeck Heath Road, at Manor Farm, Swaffham Prior, and where Sue and I live now - Chapel Farm, River Bank. Some of those trees have been planted for my enjoyment and, eventually, my profit. Some have been planted for public enjoyment and for nobody's profit. But I have never believed in state-owned trees, no more than in state-owned farms and farm land. Therefore, a report in the Sunday Telegraph to the effect that the ConDem government is planning to sell off part of the state-owned Forestry Commission's estates is splendid news. For once, I commend the ConDem government and the relevant Secretary of State, Ms. Caroline Spelman.

Here is the nicest portrait of Ms. Spelman that I could find.

And here is the link to the report -

I have left a comment on the Sunday Telegraph's website as follows:

"I'll believe this when it happens. But, if and when it happens, I'll be the first to praise Ms. Spelman. I have often said that a test for me is whether the government will authorise the privatization of the Forestry Commission, a darling of certain dyed-in-the-wool rural Tories, and/or whether County Councils will be ordered to sell, preferably to the farming tenants, their vast holdings of agricultural land. The latter will be resisted by the Liberals and by the self-same said dyed-in-the-wool rural Tories."

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Monday, 18 October 2010

"Angela Merkel: multicuturalism has failed"

The Daily Telegraph has reported a speech by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. I reproduce it here without comment because no comment is needed.

"Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany have "utterly failed".

Speaking at a meeting of young members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Merkel said it had not proven possible for people from different cultural backgrounds to simply live side by side in Germany, which is home to some four million Muslims.

"This (multicultural) approach has failed, utterly failed," Merkel told a meeting of young members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin.

"We should not be a country either which gives the impression to the outside world that those who don't speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here," she added.

"The demand for integration is one of our key tasks for the times to come. At the same time, it must be a trademark of Germany to be a country which gives people in our country an opportunity."

The debate comes against a backdrop of US and British concerns over the threat of terrorist attacks by militant Islamists living in Germany, with Berlin toning down such fears."

Here (below) is the link to the report and a video of Mrs Merkel's speech complete with English translation:

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Young soldier's name added to village's war memorial

The report below has appeared in the Cambridge News. Aside from my mentioning that the late Private Robbie Hayes was the 246th British serviceman to die in or as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan, the report appears here without further comment:

"Young soldier added to village's war memorial

[by] John Goode

A young soldier killed in Afghanistan has been honoured by having his name added to the war memorial in his home village.

The name of Private Robbie Hayes, who was the first British soldier to die in the conflict this year, has been carved on the memorial at Burwell, joining those of more than 100 other villagers who died in the First and Second World Wars, as well as other conflicts since then.

A special service of dedication was held at the memorial yesterday, which included representatives of the Royal Anglian Regiment, with whom Robbie, 19, was serving when he was killed by an improvised bomb on January 3. Family and friends of Robbie also attended the ceremony.

He had been in the Army for just a year when he died while on patrol in Helmand Province. It was Robbie’s dream to join the Army and he has been praised by senior officers and colleagues as a "hugely professional and talented soldier".

He has already been remembered by the dedication of a flagpole at Burwell Village College Primary School, which he attended as a child before moving on to Bottisham Village College.

The service was organised by the parish council with help from Paul Hawes, chairman of the Burwell Museum Trustees, who previously researched missing names from the memorial and campaigned for them to be added. Wreaths were laid by the parish council and the regiment during the service.

Robbie Hayes' mother Diane Baldwin (right) and Burwell Parish Council Chairman Pat Kilbey."

Sunday, 10 October 2010

"Wayward dreamers in charge and no true Fenman would support it" (Mr Tony Day, artist, of Wicken)

Tony Day, the great artist, writer and historian of Wicken, has had another good letter published in the Cambridge News:

"No Fenman can back 'Vision'

Last week I read a report on England's failure to safeguard its wildlife, accompanied by an idyllic photograph of Wicken Fen - or at least of a swan nestling by the water that could have been in many places.

This little bit of pictorial propaganda illustrates the wishful thinking behind the plan to extend the fen to no less than 53 sq km on a vulgar tide of money, destroying some of Britain's richest farmland. If Wicken fen now is an example to follow, I feel deeply for the endangered species that are meant to be attracted by this new scheme, for which a mountain of money has been put in place. Mr Ben Gibbs, envisaging employment for a long way ahead, claims government support for the scheme but I wonder how many ministers have taken it in.

And I wonder how they would respond to the present policy at Wicken Fen with its fun and games programme for many thousands of visitors every year, its ghost walks, its scarecrow competitions, its everything bar concern for the creatures that were meant to take refuge here free from invasion.

For this is a microcosm for the new plan for everything to please the hordes of visitors on foot, in cars, on bikes and ponies and in boats, carrying fishing tackle and nets. Everything but true concern for the protection of endangered species for which another huge sum has been put in place.

We have wildlife in our area today. The w retched Wicken Vision will send away more than it attracts, rob us of mountains of food while disrupting life for the residents.

It reeks of wayward dreamers in charge and no true fenman would support it.

Anthony Day
Pond Green

Saturday, 9 October 2010

"Rail plan is not up to speed so Y bother?"

A short but pithy report appeared in today's Daily Telegraph. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that one of our 'heavyweight' newspapers is taking an interest in what is potentially a huge and useless waste of public money - the so-called 'High Speed 2' - the plan by Tory Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to impose higher speed rail services on many areas that don't want them and, more importantly, won't use them. The expected cost is colossal. I battled along these lines during the election. I wish that the DT had cottoned on sooner. Here is the report:

"Rail plan is not up to speed so Y bother? 

Therapy comes in many guises. Over at the transport department, they’re trying art classes to take their minds off the spending cuts.

They involve drawing lines on a map of Britain and calling it the route for High Speed 2 – the £33bn rail link to zip passengers from London to Leeds and Manchester at 250mph.

This week, Tory Transport Secretary Philip Hammond came up with a stunning 'Y’ shape. Even allowing for the fun of blighting homes in the Sheffield constituency of LibDem leader Nick Clegg, you wonder Y he’s bothering.

The obvious question, given our £149bn deficit, is why would anyone want to go to Leeds or Manchester any faster?

Then there’s the cost. A taxi from London to Leeds costs £430. You could buy a lot of those for £33bn. High Speed 1 cost £5.7bn to build and is now being sold for about £2bn.

Such fun, this fantasy railway lark. Toot toot."

My own comment follows - and appears on-line at:

Do we need this project at all? As I understand it, the cost for the link from London to Birmingham alone is £17 billions. I also understand that a traveller from London to Birmingham can expect to get to Birmingham in half an hour less than at present. Is the expense and the disruption worth this trifling 'gain'? I think not. I also think that, excepting the putative traveller from London to Birmingham, there will be few in the remainder of the country who will either benefit or want to pick up the tab. I live in rural Cambridgeshire. If I want to go to Birmingham, I go by car. I would never in a million years go by train. It's time for us taxpayers to take an interest in this thing that was left over from Labour. There is nothing worthwhile in it for the vast majority of us. We must stop it altogether.

I have just found this and I am so pleased that somebody is taking action. I ask my friends to sign the petition, please. Here is the link:

And I have also found an anti-HS2 poster.

Monday, 4 October 2010

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!

I sent the following report to the local newspapers this morning:

"'We Shall Come Rejoicing!'

Over £400 for Charities from 'The Little Chapel in The Fen.'

The annual Harvest Service at 'The Little Chapel in The Fen,' near Upware, was held on Sunday afternoon and over £400 was raised for charities from the packed 'house' of about 90.

The charities supported were 'Help For Heroes' and the Swaffham Prior Scout Group, each of whom will receive £115. In addition, £170.55 was contributed for the Chapel's upkeep and maintenance.

This was the 126th Annual Harvest Service, the Chapel - a former Wesleyan Methodist place of worship in Swaffham Prior Fen - having been built and opened in 1884 to replace an earlier Chapel. 'The Little Chapel in The Fen' is now non-denominational and is kept going by a group of Trustees.

One of the Trustees, Mr Geoffrey Woollard, said that he was delighted with the outcome of this very special annual event where Fen people get together for a fine and joyful 'songs of praise' to celebrate the safe 'bringing in' of the harvest from the Fens.

The service was taken by Mr Peter Cockerton, of Little Thetford, who is another Trustee. Hymns sung were 'Shall we gather at the river?,' Come ye thankful people, come,' We plough the fields and scatter,' How great thou art!,' Great is thy faithfulness,' and 'Bringing in the sheaves.' The last lines of the latter include the following phrases:

'We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.' The words, 'We shall come rejoicing' are painted as a legend on the Chapel wall and a picture of this is above.

The produce was loaded this morning and all taken to the Burwell Day Centre, where one of the ladies was heard to exclaim, 'Christmas has come early!'"

I have found a pleasant rendition of 'Bringing in the sheaves' on YouTube. Here is the link:

Sunday, 3 October 2010

"At last, it’s Strawberry Hill for ever" - William Waldegrave, Provost of Eton College (The Times)

Lord (William) Waldegrave has written a splendid piece in The Times about Strawberry Hill, largely the creation of Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford (1717 - 1797). Walpole's portrait (below) was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1756.

The piece includes praise for John Major and his 'invention' of the National Lottery. I regard the latter as a social disaster and, as subscribers to The Times are permitted to add comments on line, I have added an appropriate comment.

"At last, it’s Strawberry Hill for ever.

Walpole’s Gothic villa is the beginning and end of the story of preserving our heritage

Strawberry Hill, the little villa in Twickenham that Horace Walpole converted into his fantastic Neo-Gothic “Castle of my Ancestors” between 1748 and 1790, reopens to the public today. It is the latest triumphant episode in a story that illustrates almost every aspect of the rollercoaster history of England’s heritage over the past two and a half centuries. To start at the end, it is yet another monument to the greatest of all Britain’s patrons of the arts in the late 20th century: John Major.

Without his invention of the National Lottery (and it was very personally his invention), there would have been no Heritage Lottery Fund to supply more than half of the £9 million needed for the restoration, brilliantly achieved by Peter Inskip and the builders Bowmans. It would just never have happened. The house would have continued its decline until some merciful accident of fire or tempest put it out of its agony.

To start at the beginning, there might not have been the heritage industry itself, engaged in making popular the saving of the past, without Walpole. Of course the credit is not his alone. But as Britain powered into the first of all the industrial revolutions he perhaps more than any other single person infected our national psyche with that creative antiquarianism that saw to it that the dark satanic mills did not pulverise everything from the past, as for example China’s industrial revolution is pulverising the ancient heritage of that great nation.

Walpole not only reinvented Gothic and wrote The Castle of Otranto to go with his wooden battlements and papier-mâché ceilings; he preserved old glass, collected coins, armour, miniatures and books and rescued historic objects that he bought in the equivalents of car boot sales.

Not all were quite what he thought they were: but no matter. He made people look at what was destroyed when they modernised a church or built a Palladian house, tearing down the ancient manor on the site as they did so. In all this he was leading the first campaign for the physical rescue of the past from the destruction of progressive modernity. He is the progenitor of all the heroic Betjemans and Lees-Milnes and Cornforths who came later.

He did it quite consciously: his 1784 Description of the house is part interior decorator’s catalogue, part museum curator’s guide. He wanted to popularise as well as record. The house was open from the beginning; from the beginning (although he thought carefully about its preservation) he took steps to ensure that even if the worst happened and his collection were dispersed and his house destroyed, it should be meticulously recorded. After all, he had watched his spendthrift brother sell off the great collection of his father, the Prime Minister Robert Walpole, from Houghton Hall, his Norfolk home. The pictures, he wrote, were “transported almost out of the sight of Europe”, to the court of Catherine the Great. If that happened to his objects they would at least have in his writings a “genealogy not so noble as those of the peerage, but on a par with race horses”.

In his day there was no National Trust, no Heritage Lottery Fund (although a one-off lottery did help to build the British Museum). His transmission mechanism for the house and collection was my own family — respectable, second-rank aristocrats with a good record, it must have seemed, of negotiating the hazards of English life throughout a good many dangerous centuries. But lest we fall into the sentimental trap of thinking that old families will always look after their inheritance, observe the behaviour of the Waldegrave family in its senior line between the Napoleonic War and the 1840s. Gambling. Lawsuits over legitimacy. Prison. A ménage à trois between two dissolute Waldegrave brothers and a young adventuress at Strawberry Hill, ending in the chaotic sale of 1842 that dispersed Horace’s collection to the four winds. Sir Simon Jenkins is quite right to try to install a family feel in National Trust houses, but he needs to pick and choose which periods of which families. Labradors, yes. Bailiffs and gamblers, drink and whores, perhaps not.

In the end, however, Horace’s own spirit is triumphant. The house has re-emerged like a butterfly from a chrysalis of neglect. The good Vincentian Fathers and their successors who, in another implausible twist, preserved the house through most of the 20th century, passed it on to the trust of which (making some small atonement for the past) I am a member, which has restored it. The result is stunning. Go and see it, not just because of its importance to the history of art, or even just to marvel at the skill with which this glittering little jewel of a house has been restored; but also because Horace Walpole invented the idea that preserving our heritage need not be a solemn affair: it could simply be fun. And Strawberry Hill is fun.

Lord Waldegrave of North Hill is Provost of Eton College."

William Waldegrave writes beautifully and eloquently and I can't wait to visit the newly-reopened Strawberry Hill, but there is another side to this piece. I believe that John Major's worst deed was his 'invention' of the National Lottery. I have never bought a ticket and I never will. But whether I buy a ticket or not is neither here nor there. What worries me enormously is that millions of ordinary people who might not be able to afford it - and have no idea that they might be supporting the likes of Strawberry Hill - are buying tickets in the hope that 'it' might be them this week or next week or whenever. I witness this every day when I collect my Times: those ahead of me at the checkout, especially on Saturdays, often spend £10 or £20 on lottery tickets and, sadly, they often give the appearance of - how shall we say? - being less well-off. The national lottery is a voluntary tax on the poor to enhance the interests of the rich and cultured few and to fill the pockets of those whose skill and expertise lies in obtaining grants from such as the 'Heritage Lottery Fund.' I wish that our country and its people had never had this iniquity inflicted upon them. (GW).