Yanny or Laurel – the death of the spoken word?

Geschichte / Deutschland / 19. Jh. / Wilhelm I.  / Deutsch-französischer Krieg 1870-71 / Emser Depesche

Bismark cleverly manipulated the words. He altered the Ems Telegram sent originally by Heinrich Abeken…

On 16 May 2018, the BBC television news finished with an unusual item. Perhaps, the producer was fed up with stories about the antics of Donald Trump, or the atrocities wrought on innocent populations by ISIS or the perennial BREXIT machinations by the British political elites. So Auntie or the Beeb, (or 2LO London calling, for older listeners) played a short sound clip and asked the viewers to identify it. The screen went white as the sound was played accompanied by a digital signature, a series of bars above and below a single line like some crazy barcoded xylophone.

It caught my attention and I listened ears back and alert for the sound. I heard the single word ‘Yearly.’ Continue reading “Yanny or Laurel – the death of the spoken word?”

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Double Standards

double standards 2

Natalie Portman or Sarah Lane?

It’s all about perception, so they say.

We installed French windows in the downstairs lounge below our bedroom.  But each morning, since early April, we have been awoken by loud tapping noises. What was it? The cat demanding that we should feed him now that the sun had risen. Someone throwing stones at our windows? Or was I hearing things? The repeated tapping annoyed and disturbed me and, worse, my wife. I couldn’t ignore it. Reluctantly, for now in retirement I am never one to rise early, I knew I had to find out the reason and that would involve getting up. At first, I was confused and could not understand what was happening. I got up and put on my dressing gown in a semi-comatose state without a clear or definite idea of how to solve the problem. I had a vague idea that somehow I must stop that damn noise. No sooner had I opened the door to the lounge than the explanation was clear. It was a case of double standards. Continue reading “Double Standards”

The Supreme Battery Mystery

Sugarmill

Peter saw the windmill from afar. It stuck up like a fat thumb. Its giant sails turned slowly.

Introduction.

Peter Cuthbert is 24, and completing his training at Battex, an international battery company. He is sent to Barbados urgently when the local General Manager, Mark Ramlogan, disappears. Set in 1970’s Barbados, Peter has the task of sorting out the battery factory but he becomes inexorably drawn into the case of Mark Ramlogan’s disappearance. He discovers Mark was not the straightforward electrical engineer he had claimed to be. Fast-paced action across the colourful isle of Barbados yields surprising results.

Chapter 1 Bridgetown, Barbados.

In January 1972, Mark Ramlogan felt pleased with himself. He had landed the position of General Manager of the Supreme Battery Company. His lively and confident personality convinced both his interviewers he could lead the company and his electrical engineering degree from Cave Hill University helped considerably. It testified to his serious engineering attributes. Coming from the same school as Grant, one of the interviewers, did not hinder him either. There was the briefest of discussions on salary. Mark accepted readily. His new salary and car allowance marked him out as one the better off Bajans. He had the island at his feet. He was twenty seven. Continue reading “The Supreme Battery Mystery”

Statutes of Lenin and the Disappearance of Trotsky.

 

Lenin's_speech

Trotsky was effaced, in photos…

Paris Lenin

…. exiled in Paris, Lenin met the beautiful Inès Armand…

The recent poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and the murder, using radioactive polonium in his tea, of Alexander Litvinenko are stark reminders of the reach of the Russian state. In 2006, the British media had heart-wrenching pictures of the young handsome but bald Russian defector and former officer of the Russian FSB secret service lying in his bed connected by tubes and wires to machines which ultimately proved to be useless. Russia is a violent place with scant regard for democratic principles. The old USSR was born in the violence of peasant revolt and the devastating war with Germany in October 1917. Two charismatic leaders and orators, Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin charmed and cajoled supporters and risked their lives to achieve a stupendous transformation of a centuries old empire into an egalitarian state. However, it was not without much bloodletting and subsequent events and history has not been equally kind to them.

Continue reading “Statutes of Lenin and the Disappearance of Trotsky.”

Can We Keep Growing?

plastic pollution

 

 

Our seas are filled with plastic which degrades so slowly it is ingested into the marine food chain

 

 

 

500 years ago, Martin Luther demanded changes from the Catholic Church when he hammered his ninety-five theses onto the doors of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.

300 years ago, grand, but distant from the people, diplomacy formed the quadruple alliance of powers (The Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, and the Kingdom of France) and launched the War of the Quadruple Alliance against Spain

100 years ago women won the right to vote.

Significant events. The long-established church was challenged. The grand powers moved armies and navies like pieces on a chessboard without reference to the people, and all the people are heard through the ballot box.

Power, which was centralised in the hands of the church and in grand governments, has descended to the everyone. In 2018 how should we use it? Continue reading “Can We Keep Growing?”

A Carillon for Carillion

Carillion

(With thanks to Thomas Gray)

The curfew tolls the knell of coming dread, 
The lowing management wind slowly to their ends, 
And homeward plod, their weary tread, 
To leave the company to darkness and thee, my friends. 

Now fades the glimm'ring sites of outsourcery, 
And all directors a solemn silence hold, 
Save where their money should be paid, tax free, 
And drowsy workers face winter's fiercest cold.

A breezy call of "Will you help?" from PM Cameron 
Meant Chairman Green became an advisor,
An 'industry czar', to plug the theme and hammer on 
That private enterprise works, the eulogiser.

But yonder Philip (not BHS) who saw it coming.
Arrived at Number Ten but who would listen?
So he jumped ship before succumbing 
To the push of May, newly elected, and on a mission.
Beneath those rugged oaks of commerce,
The outsourcing board their costs did tighten.
Worker's wages fell, while to directors honours
And extra cash were showered - viz Baroness Huyton.

The shares slid down, the market aflutter.
Investors lost savings, their nest eggs in ruin 
But Howson laughed, oh, no life in the gutter,
A contract's a contract and if not I'm suing.
If only workers could say, “Enough 
Of free enterprise, it doesn't always apply.”
As commuters on Southern Rail, who have it tough, 
Or weary East Coast travellers will testify.

The problem is the Tories - yesterday's men,
and women, and ethnic minorities - who seem to think
our daily life and sole concern is money, Amen.
The country heads down a darkening path to the brink.

Come on, Jezza, save our wearisome nation
And lighten our loads with fairness and money. 
Help the old and the poor and infirm rise up from their station
And lead us to the land of flowing milk and honey.

The Teesdale Affair

teesdales2

‘From nowhere, Special Constables arrived…

Chapter One

An Easter Day in London

Early in 1907, a month after my seventh birthday, our new coalman asked my mother, Matilda Morton, to walk out with him. She was no beauty. Drudgery had worn that out of her and given her a hardness totally in keeping with the battle she waged to keep our family afloat. Washing, ironing, and folding, day in day out, a penny here, penny hap’ney there. But it all added up, and she kept going through thick and thin, for poverty stalked us, waiting for any mishap.

Throughout the winter, the widower John Sutcliff flattered Mum. He was persistent. Twice, I heard him ask her out after sliding a bag of clunky black coal noisily into the bunker in the backyard. On one occasion, Mum, with her arms deep in the copper wringing out the washing, her black hair awry beneath her plain brown headscarf, told him, ‘Be off with you John Sutcliff, can’t you see I’m busy.’

One night, lying in bed, I heard Gran and Mum talking downstairs. Continue reading “The Teesdale Affair”