Albert Dock, Liverpool

This was where the ITV programme This Morning used to be broadcast from. There was a weather map floating on the dock’s surface.

Weather Map photo (from Wikipedia) taken by Mike Pennington:-

This Morning weather map

Many years after its weather presenter spent his mornings leaping from Britain to Ireland and back again he was prosecuted for child abuse, found guilty and jailed. Liverpool is most likely glad ITV moved from there some time ago.

Albert Dock, Liverpool:-

Albert Dock, Liverpool

The dock is now home to a variety of pleasure boats while the old warehouses on the docks are filled with shops and eateries.

Boat in Albert Dock:-

Boat in Albert Dock, Liverpool

View of and from Albert Dock, Liverpool with Museum of Liverpool, Cunard Building and Royal Liver Building in the background:-

View of and from Albert Dock, Liverpool

Dare to Call it Treason

There was an interesting article in Friday’s Guardian about the thought processes that led to some people – English people – seeing the EU as a domineering menace. Written by Fintan O’Toole, it was headlined The Paranoid Fantasy Behind Brexit with a subheading saying, “In the dark imaginations of English reactionaries, Britain is always a defeated nation – and the EU is the imaginary invader.” It’s well worth reading.

O’Toole argues the misguided logic of the Brexiteer mindset seems to be that Britain somehow actually lost the Second World War (or both World Wars if you will) as the European countries did much better than us economically after it. Thus it is that Brexiters come to make comparisons of the EU with Hitler as the EU is conjured to be a dark, disguised continuation of a project to subdue the UK, a delusion in which they revel. Invasion fantasies such as Len Deighton’s SS GB and Thomas Harris’s Fatherland (even though that was set in Germany) can also be seen as manifestations of the idea.

The piece reminded me of an article in The New European from January last year which states that the English aren’t team players; they just don’t like having to take other poeple’s views into account. Insouciant dismissals of the imminent Irish border problem on Brexit are only confirmation of that sort of attitude as is the Westminster Government’s lack of acknowledgement of the concerns of the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland.

The avid Brexiters like to characterise those who have views differing from theirs as traitors and enemies of the people.

They have it arse-backwards.* They are the real traitors, they who are the real personification of treason as their prescriptions and nostrums are neither in the interests nor the well-being of the country. They it is who have cultivated the seeds of dissension, stoked anger and proposed an entirely spurious remedy for the ills which beset the UK; a remedy which will only exacerbate those problems and, far from increasing Britain’s influence and standing in the world, will only lead to their diminution – a process which is now well under way. And their fantasy of a minimally regulated polity would be nothing but a complete disaster for those they claim to be championing.

(*Shouldn’t that phrase actually be arse-forwards? As in arse-about-face. Surely an arse already points backwards?)

Serious Sweet by A L Kennedy

Vintage, 2017, 525 p.

Serious Sweet focuses on the activities of London dwelling Jon Sigurdson, a civil servant who has come to hate his work, and Meg Williams, bankrupt accountant and recovering alcoholic, over the course of one day in which they do not come together till late on. The book tends to follow each in turn with their actions and encounters in normal text and their inner thoughts rendered in italics. Smaller snippets, snapshots of daily life in London, intersperse the time denoted incidents of their day. It all makes for a rather dense reading experience.

Jon is divorced after his wife had a series of affairs but loves his daughter Rebecca. Meg has just had an all-clear appointment at the gynaecologist, after treatment for cancer of the womb, which has nevertheless left her sad at the loss of the possibility of having children.

Jon had previously had a wheeze of inviting women, via an advertisement, to pay him to write them letters expressing kind thoughts. They may write back to him but the idea is that they never meet. (It is hinted that on Jon’s part this may be an elaborate cover to reveal government secrets in letters to someone called Lucy though this is not fully explored.) Meg took up his offer and they met when she tracked him to the PO Box where he picks his letters up. But they do not have a formal relationship. A series of everyday obstacles – and a crisis meeting – prevent their planned dinner date but they do eventually get together late in the day.

Through Jon, Kennedy provides a commentary on the indifference – almost savagery – of the prevailing attitudes of those in power, “Suffering no longer indicates hardship, it indicates bad character and celestial punishment. And if God has seen fit to punish – well that invites further loss,” is followed by, “Tell the average mug punter to put ten quid in the communal tin, wake him up the following morning and he’ll accept without hesitation that asking for ten pence back because he needs it would be a sin.” The mantra is “Opinions Not Facts. These are our watchwords.” Its effect is that people are forced to fail and then they are blamed for that failure. The strategy is to, “Advise them badly, advise them misleadingly and issue threats.” Which only compounds their – and society’s – problems.

Jon says to a colleague, “‘We’ve had more than ten years of being told about the undeserving poor. If you’re poor enough to need benefits you must be doing something wrong – you must be something wrong and undeserving. Want shouldn’t get – that’s our departmental motto. Our national credo – we all love royal babies and hate the poor.’”

The reply he gets is that, “‘Conservatives know you can’t change human nature and therefore the suffering … have brought their pain upon themselves. They could only be forgiven if they thrived …. and no longer need any help. And if you can’t change human nature, you don’t need government …. except for those posts occupied by those who believe you can’t change human nature.
‘And progressives believe that you can change human nature and therefore the great plunging herd of voters must be restrained and managed at all times.’”

(That “knowledge” which conservatives have, though, is merely a belief. Thriving is no signifier of virtue, nor even of effort. Not thriving is certainly not an indication of lack of either. It might simply be bad luck or lack of opportunity. Human nature may be a given but human behaviour isn’t, or else why are there laws to influence it?)

That this is embedded in a narrative which tends to meander takes off its edge somewhat. The book is not one that rewards light reading. Persevere though and it has its moments.

Pedant’s corner:- “to not speak” (I suppose there may be a gradation of meaning with “not to speak”,) shtum, “The he leans in” (Then he leans in,) on-board (why the hyphen? On board is fine,) “a mass of individuals undergo” (a mass undergoes,) “‘I though you were’” (thought,) he is trying make sure (trying to make sure.)

Something Changed 16: Common People

If ever a song struck a chord with people this was it. If Pulp had never recorded anything else of significance this would still have been a magnificent contribution to popular culture.

I had been familiar with Pulp before the release of the album from which this was taken, Different Class, as my eldest son (despite being then still of a relatively tender age) had discovered them a few years earlier. I had not paid very much attention – well, children don’t want their parents muscling in on their music tastes do they? Common People really woke me up to the band. Odd to think it’s over twenty years since this burst onto the world.

This is the longer album version.

Pulp: Common People

Meanwhile Back

The Beatles song about Penny Lane in Liverpool makes it sound quite urban but at the end where the famous street sign is it’s leafy. (That’s our tour bus parked at the side of the road):-

Penny Lane

Street name sign. (Not original. They keep getting nicked):-

Penny Lane sign

More leafiness but beginnng to get built-up:-

Penny Lane, Liverpool

Still more buildings:-

More of Penny Lane, Liverpool

Mostly residential but a few workplaces. Some of the workers wave at the tour bus:-

Penny Lane

There’s a barber shop in this one (but I didn’t see a banker waiting for a trim):-

Barber Shop, Penny Lane, Liverpool

End of Penny Lane. The white-painted building is the Penny Lane Hotel:-

Penny Lane Continuation, Liverpool

Not Penny Lane but instead the road where Paul McCartney was brought up. (The bus isn’t allowed to go along it as there’s no suitable turning place):-

McCartney's Road

The Beatles: Penny Lane

Another Cubic Asteroid

This one is 101955 Bennu as featured in Astronomy Picture of the Day for 13/11/2018 and photographed by the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer aka (OSIRIS-REx) on its mission to map the asteroid’s surface.

The video collapses Bernnu’s 4.25 hour day into 7 seconds:-

Let Me Take You Down ….

…. because I’ve been to Strawberry Fields. (Or more correctly it seems Strawberry Field.):-

Strawberry Fields, Liverpool

Behind these gates was apparently a children’s home and though Wikipedia has John Lennon climbing into the place to play with them the guide on the bus tour our friends had booked said he would play truant from his own school hoping to catch a glimpse of girls beyond the trees behind the gates.

The present gates are replicas:-

Strawberry Fields

When Lennon’s parents’ marriage fell apart he was taken in by his Aunt Mimi.

This is her house. They had a reasonably comfortable existence here you’d think:-

John Lennon's Aunt Mimi's House Liverpool

Note the notice on the gate post and the blue plaque on the house:-

Aunt Mimi's house

In Liverpool reminders of the Beatles are never far away. Sgt Pepper flower bed:-

Sergeant Pepper Flower Bed, Liverpool

Memorial plaque:-

Beatles Memorial Plaque

The Beatles: Strawberry Fields Forever

Mr Alfred M.A. by George Friel

Canongate Classics, 1987, 181 p, plus v p Introduction by Douglas Gifford. First published in 1972. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

Mr Alfred is an ageing teacher of English unable to make connections with the pupils at the school where he teaches – a comprehensive in a rough area. Never married, his sense of failure is compounded by the lack of success his poetry collection found. His only solace is to habituate the local and not so local pubs. Not even ladies of the night hold any attraction for him. Strangely – the practice was not followed in the schools I attended as a pupil at much the same time as this book is set – the classes in Mr Alfred’s school are segregated by sex; until halfway through the book he has never taught girls.

Alfred is particularly irritated by the habitual misbehaviour, in and out of school, of Gerald Provan, a child whose mother indulges and cossets him, perhaps as a counterbalance for the absence of his father – though it was not uncommon for mothers of that generation to favour sons unduly. Gerald’s younger sister, Senga, is under no illusions as to Gerald’s unpleasantness as she has to bear its brunt at home. Mr Alfred’s mistake in striking Gerald in class becomes the source of the abiding resentment of and animosity towards Alfred of both son and mother.

A particular example of Scottish perceptions lies in the incidental exchange, “‘How is she qualified to improve anybody?’ Mr Alfred asked.
“I told you,’ said Mr Dale. ‘She’s English,’” which speaks volumes.

We also have, “Scotch reserve looked askance on kissing even between kin.”

An odd interpolation comes with the passages concerning the doomed relationship between relatively well-to-do Graeme Roy and the working class Martha Weipers, whose respective parents disapprove of the liaison. Both go on to University but while Martha does well Graeme fails his first year exams. Neither was taught by Mr Alfred but Martha’s sister, Rose, is in his first girls’ class and he forms too close an attachment to her, sending her to buy his lunch, rewarding her with pocket money, inviting her to his classroom at lunchtime. While he is aware such relationships can overstep the boundaries of decent behaviour he shies away from the thought – or act – of exploiting theirs in any sexual way. His conduct is nevertheless highly unprofessional and it provides the two Provans with the perfect excuse to accuse him. He is forced out to another, rougher, school – a Primary – and his descent accelerates.

Much of the latter part of the book sees Mr Alfred wandering the streets at night pondering the writing on the wall, a host of graffiti asserting different gang allegiances, each name followed by the words YA BASS. This sense of societal breakdown had been presaged by Gerald Provan’s encouragement of after-school fights in the Weavers Lane, the casual psychological cruelty he and his cohorts visit on Granny Lyons, their baiting of and petty theft from Italian shopkeeper Mr Ianello, and is accentuated when Mr Alfred witnesses encounters between gangs in broad daylight. Alfred even takes up chalk himself to reproduce that original writing on the wall, MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN, in a cri-de-coeur against Philistinism. This protest is only too redolent of Alfred’s estrangement from the world he inhabits, an estrangement mirrored in the text by Friel’s use of uncommon words – kyphosis, pandiculating, messan, raniform, poplitic, ophidian, invulting, claudication, lycorexia, perlustration, battology, nuchal, diplopia, prosthodontia, pyknophrasia, and indeed by the untranslated reference to Belshazzar’s Feast above. Alfred’s subsequent arrest leads to a psychologist pronouncing him to be suffering from a whole list of phobias.

While the book is rooted in Scottishness – or at least in the experiences of the Glasgow conurbation – Alfred’s feeling of dissatisfaction with the world as it turned out has a more universal resonance.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Introduction: “she borde the kitchen” (the book’s text had borded.) Otherwise; “she borded the kitchen sink (bordered?) “you hands” (your hands,) comming up (coming up,) invulting (I can’t find a definition of this,) lushus (of a blonde, but why not luscious?) Mr Briggs’ (Mr Briggs’s,) “so remoted from the world’s slow stain,” (is an awkward way to phrase it. Was it perhaps meant to be so removed from the world?) broadshouldered (not one word surely? Or at least hyphenated,) the Garelochhead (Garelochhead is a village/town, it does not require a ‘the’ before it,) apotrapaic (apotropaic,) Mr Brigg’s (Mr Briggs’s,) Pythagoras’ theorem (Pythagoras’s,) a missing full stop.

Age Shall Not Weary Them

As an addendum to yesterday’s busy day we watched the film They Shall Not Grow Old shown on BBC2 last night.

The colourisation of the archive black and white footage brought an immediacy to some familiar images, a more visceral appreciation of the conditions the war was fought under, a greater humanisation of its participants; bringing it home that they were exactly like us, even at a distance of one hundred years.

I only wish though, that the film’s title did not embody a misquotation of Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen.

He of course did not write, “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old,” but rather “they shall grow not old,” a more poetic rendering but also one that implies a different sort of growth, that the remembering would increase as time passed.

(I note in passing that the Lord Lieutenant of Fife made the same misquotation at Fife’s one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice Remembrance Service in Dunfermline Abbey on Friday 9th.)

Binyon’s poem is also almost always misquoted in its next line as “nor the years condemn.” He in fact wrote, “nor the years contemn,” a stronger meaning – and one borne out by the commemorations occurring during the last four years.

Busy Day

I had a busy day yesterday.

Firstly I had the great honour of laying a wreath on behalf of the Community Council at the local War Memorial.

Then in the afternoon it was off to Cellardyke (where we have not-quite-yet relatives) for the Quiet Citizen’s Walk round the town past the houses of the fallen from the Great War poutsid eof which present residents were standing before joining the procession.

The walk ended up at Cellardyke Town Hall where a short talk was given on Cellardyke’s war dead. Unlike in the rest of the country most fishing town’s servicemen enlisted – or were conscripted into in the navy, their boats converted to minesweeping and anti-submarine duties and many sunk as a consequence. So it was with Cellardyke.

Actor Clive Russell who loives in the town recited Ewart Alan Mackintosh’s poem In Memoriam.

Then, in what was a moving detail, a succession of townsfolk who had been allocated a dog-tag with the name one of the dead came on to the stage to give the name and surrender the dog-tag to a total of 62.

There followed another walk to the Cellardyke (Kilrenny) War Memorial for the laying of wreaths and a piper’s lament.

Is it just me being Scottish or is there something more universal about the fittingness of the sound of the bagpipes played in memoriam?

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