Thursday, 29 May 2014

The woman who wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare

Shakespeares dark lady - Amelia Bassano Lanier: the woman behind by the Shakespeares palys  John Hudson ISBN 978 1-4456-2160-9

A thought provoking book on the theory that Amelia Bassano Lanier was the author of the plays of Shakespeare. I started off unconvinced but by the end, I was very open to the idea.

Unfortunately I am not enough of a scholar of Shakespeare and his/her plays to say whether the theory is sound.  I would recommend everyone to read it.

Opinion polls in Lib Dem held seats

Lord Oakeshott commissioned opinion polls in the constituencies of 5 Liberal Democrat MPs - it is alleged by Nick Clegg and other that he did this to deliberately damage the party.

That is utter nonsense.   Lord Oakeshott was first asked by someone else to commission a poll in Vince Cable's constituency.  This he did and it showed the Lib Dems in second place - worrying you would think as Mr Cable had a majority of 12,140 or 20% of the vote.

Most people - me included would have it in our list of dead cert Lib Dem holds at the next general election.

It can't be stressed strongly enough the opinion polls are opinions polls - if they had shown that the Lib Dems were set to romp home in Twickenham - then how on earth would that damage the party.
If on the other hand the polls showed the Lib Dems doing badly, they ought to act as a warning to the Lib Dems not to be complacent.

The weird reaction to the polls is unfortunate - because one only has to look at the local election results in Twickenham (part of the London Borough of Richmond) to know the Lib Dems are in trouble, and the polls confirm they apply to the parliamentary seat.  Vince Cable was elected in 1997, if any Lib Dem is going to have an incumbency factor where years of hard work and high name recognition are going to help them keep a seat, it is surely someone like Vince Cable. As the Lib Dem general election strategy is based on such an approach, it is just as well to know now it is not likely to work.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The suffragettes in pictures

The suffragettes in pictures by Diane Atkinson.

An amazing book and quite traumatic to read.

The  book is full of photos of the suffragettes - a fascinating insight into their campaign. The organisational achievements are truly impressive and the inventiveness of the campaign inspiring. the massive rallies before the use of public address systems and loud speakers is astonishing.

The text doesn't hold back from high lighting the splits that hit the movement and the change from militant tactics to arson attacks on houses, letter boxes and other places that served mainly to alienate support for the cause of votes for women.  It is dreadful to think of the suffering endured by women who endured hunger strikes and force feeding often shortening their lives and giving them permanent injuries and health problems. More dreadful still to think of the apathy towards voting expressed by some women today.

It is quite melancholy feeling to see how they plainly had right on their side but were essentially unsuccessful in their aims until the first world war undermined most of the arguments against women suffrage and more importantly changed attitudes towards women.

The whole episode was a shameful chapter in the history of the Liberal Party - and Asquith in particular with his opposition to woman's suffrage caused immense long-term harm to the Liberal Party.  In their defence - of perhaps which more in another post - it is often forgotten that plenty of men did not have the vote and the Liberals didn't have a majority in the House of Commons. let alone the House of Lords to secure  votes for women.  The political tactics of the suffragettes also seem somewhat counter productive - harassing Cabinet Ministers although understandable is perhaps poor psychology if you wish to win people over. Also supporting Conservatives in by-elections who opposed votes for women even if the Liberal candidate supported votes for women didn't make much political sense.

After votes for some women was achieved in 1918 - it seems people forgot what the fuss was about and it was soon extended to all women over 21 in 1928. The leading suffragettes all went separate ways - some like Emmeline Pankhurst became Conservative candidates for Parliament, some Labour some gave up politics, and some just suffered from ill health and went to an early grave.

I'm european, and british and english and human

One of the worst ever party political broadcasts (and there has been a lot of competition) is surely the mind numbingly awful English Democrats.

I've never had much truck with mindless nationalism and xenophobia - I love being English, I feel very privileged, but I don't imagine for one moment that I was offered a choice of nationalities before  was born.  I feel English, I feel British, I feel European and I feel like a citizen of the world.

The English Democrats do not  - in fact so strongly do they feel that they are no European, not British but English, they keep repeating it in their 5 minute long party political broadcast.

Oddly, or rather typically for a party promoting mindless nationalism they seem to have very little idea about their country.  There broadcast was full of unEnglish things they were proud of:
Boadicea - well, she rule a tribe in ancient Britain, in 61AD she led a revolt against Roman rulers.   England was  takes its name from the Angles one of the Germanic tribes who settled during the 5th and 6th centuries AD.  England didn't become a state until 927 AD at the earliest and really only from the time of Edward the Confessor 100 years later.  So Boadicea missed out on being English by, oooh, almost 1000 years !

The English Democrat song played in the background told us to be proud of England - from Lands End to Hadrian's Wall - ah yes, we ought to be proud of Hadrian Wall, built by the Romans and lets not mention the Cornish Nationalists while discussing Lands End.

The English Democrats love Nelson  (British definitely, Britain was formed by the act of Union in 1707, Horatio Nelson was born in 1758 )  Winston Churchill (Half American) and Enoch Powell (who sat as an MP for North Ireland - which isn't in England)

And England is of course the land of Saint George (probably born to a Greek Christian noble family in Lydda in Palestine,  between about 275 AD and 285 AD) who didn't become patron Saint of England till about 1350 and was largely forgotten by about 1800.

And they couldn't end the broadcast without mentioning that well known English City - Jerusalem !

All in all as bout as English as a kangaroo.

the best party political this year

Almost makes me want to live in Northern Ireland

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

the wooden horse

The film the wooden horse was show the other day.

It is quite amazing to think that the men who tunnelled out of a prisoner of war camp in the escape known as the "wooden horse" managed to tunnel 100 feet in three months. Only the shaft had wooden shoring meaning the rest of the tunnel carried a high risk of collapse.   The three men who escaped made it back to re-join the war effort. It makes me wonder about their bravery and whether their return made any difference to the war.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Remaking Hancocks Half Hour

What a pleasure to be in the company of Kevin McNally and Neil Pearson.

Kevin is playing the part of Tony Hancock in the remakes of 5 Hancock Half Hours radio episodes that were made but were wiped from the BBC archive. Neil Pearson is the producer.

The first thing to say is that Kevin McNally has been a  massive Hancock Fan for 50 years and the second thing to say is he is absolutely brilliant.  Superb people like Richard Briars and Alfred Molina
have played the part of Hancock but no one has done it better than Kevin McNally.

Things we learnt.
1. The scripts are played using the more fully developed Hancock character/performance from series three onwards
2. It is hoped that the other 15 missing radio episodes will be remade and perhaps even the missing TV episodes adapted for radio.
3. The OTT Kenneth Williams like mannerisms and performance of actor playing Kenneth Williams (Robin Sebastian) started to get on the nerves of the actor playing Hancock - an echo perhaps of real life
4.  The actor playing Bill Kerr (Kevin Eldon) was so good "It was like having Bill Kerr in the studio
5. The cast were all the first choice to play the parts - an advantage of radio's short time demands.
6. The cast had one day of getting to know each other and then 2 days for rehearsals /  recordings
7. Prior to the recording, the studio audience were given modern day equivalents to think of when contemporary figures from the 1950's were mentioned in the script.
Questions - Will the recording be released on CD or download.

500 million people voting - wheres the democracy in that

500 million people are entitled to vote for their representative in the European Parliament.

In April in 2014 more than a billion people were eligible to vote in a sudden flurry of national elections in some of the world's largest – and newest democracies. 800 million  In India, another 190 million have the right to vote in Indonesian.  Algeria 21 million could vote to decide on 17 April about whether to give President Abdelaziz Bouteflika a fourth term. And smaller electorates in Hungary, Macedonia and Guinea-Bissau were also be able to exercise their democratic right last month.

Of course democracy is more than about voting - but without voting it is not democracy.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Pam Ayres - Perfectly Pitched

Pam Ayres 2 hour show (plus interval) was brilliant.  Years of performing meant a finely honed performance and it was clear that Pam works hard to keep the show new and fresh whilst not disappointing old fans.

She even joked that doing "I wish I'd looked after my teeth" was like Frank Sinatra having to do my way.

Pam thrived on the appreciative audience - a couple of times even laughing at the laughter she provoked and she revealed at the end of the show she was getting over a but had been lifted by the warmth of the reception.

A mixture of poems, stories and reading from her memoirs had the audience in stitches. Describing the dull pubs in her village in the 1950's she would hear some old codger say "it's dead in here tonight"   long pause before someone else would chime in with "that's a fact" - thank heavens it was or Pam might never had had the feeling that there must be more to life than that nightly ritual.

Just because Pam poetry is usually comic, it is sometimes sniffed at, but writing a funny comic poem, especially one that bears repeating is no easy task.   To keep a packed concert hall entertained with nothing on stage apart from a small table, a few books and a glass of water is quite marvellous.

Pam once said a woman approached her and said "Aren't you pam Ayres ? Didn't you used to write limericks. To which she replied, yes that's right, but what she thought was "Poems and I am better than ever."  Pam your right, your poems are better than ever and being comic doesn't stop you being profound.

UKIP - lacking the courage of their convictions

Why do UKIP want a referendum ? Why not say vote UKIP and the UK will leave the EU. Then if people wanted to leave the EU, they have a mechanism to achieve it. The Farage referendum is no better than Camerons. Neither actually tells us what a post referendum UK relationship with the EU would be like. Funny how the people suggesting the UK will play hardball with Scotland if it votes to leave seem to think the EU will have a happy divorce from the UK, instead of a bitter and destructive one. I think the EU would mind taking a few hits on its own short-term finances and trade with the UK if it sets an example to others. UKIP says it has a whole range of policies on other issues - which again begs the question - why not have a policy on the EU, a referendum is not a policy, it's not even British its a dreadful European device that undermines the parliamentary system.