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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted -  11/01/2009  :  06:04
New Year, new topic. If you want to see the old one do a forum search for same title but 2008.


Stanley Challenger Graham




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stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk
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Tizer
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5150 Posts
Posted - 15/11/2009 : 12:13
Tripps, I'm glad to hear you have got a Lovelock book to read. A bit of background...he invented the Electron Capture Detector which allowe scientists to measure amounts of chemicals at levels thousands of times lower that previously. This suddenly meant they could study the composition of the earth's atmosphere and it transformed that area of science and allowed them to discover the importance of ozone and CFCs. He did a lot of work for NASA developing instruments for their space probes. As this went on he became increasingly convinced that the earth had elaborate feedback mechanisms which kept it in a relatively stable state and helped maintain the conditions for life. From this developed his Gaia theory, named after the Greek earth godess.

His scientific work brought him much admiration from the science world but his Gaia theory upset a lot of sceintists. This is partly because they interpreted it too literally (perhaps he shouldn't have named it after a Greek god) and partly due to most scientists being logical animals who can't cope with anything that sounds mystical (most scientists are ordinary guys and gals doing boring routine work, only a tiny number are balls of creative fire). The Gaia thing also made him attractive to some of the more hippy camp followers.

Regardless of all that, he found the Gaia hypothesis a useful way of explaining the feedback mechanisms and the sensitivity of the earth when trying to get it over to non-scientists (so don't take it too literally!). He showed early on that he was seriously concerned about sea level rise by buying a small farmhouse in a sheltered valley as high on dartmoor as he could get and making his own independent lab in a barn there.... Enjoy the book!

Edited by - Tizer on 15/11/2009 12:16:09


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 16/11/2009 : 06:09
David, egregious is good, describes the man who gave mr the 'brutal public mauling'. (By the way, I've decided not to respond to the letter, I'll leave it for others to judge. Do I really need to defend myself?) My all time favourite word is still 'lurk'!

Peter, I shame to say I have never read Lovelock. Perhaps he should be on my reading list. Only problem is that whilst living on a hill, or as in the case of Barlick, on a watershed, may save you from the immediate effects of flooding but can't protect us from the wider consequences. We can run but we can't hide. 


Stanley Challenger Graham




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stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk Go to Top of Page
Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 06/12/2009 : 06:24
I see the question of social class has raised its head again. I heard someone discussing it yesterday who stated that class didn't exist any more. I don't know what planet they come from but it certainly isn't mine. I think part of the problem is that most people's definition of class is rooted in the concept of lords and peasants. I prefer to think about heirarchy. I can't think of a single system from the Establishment to concentration camps that doesn't have multiple herarchies within it. I favour independence of thought and action and have been lucky enough to preserve this throughout my working life but even so I recognise and favour some heirarchies. My criterion is whether the heirachy is based on worth, inividual effort  and ability. My hatred is reserved for those which are based on privilege and I suppose this includes parts of the common definition. Privilege gained by birth, wealth and education is corrosive. Rank obtained by years of appication and effort is worthy and to be encouraged.

Rather than attack the playing fields of Eton we should be reserving our efforts to the everyday inequalities such as earning power, routes to advancement like education and a guaranteed  start in meaningful employment at school-leaving. Like it or not, comparitive poverty and sub-standard education in life skills has wasted hundreds of thousands of lives. That is the 'class' problem that should be attacked by every politician because eventually it defines us a nation.


Stanley Challenger Graham




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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 19/12/2009 : 06:39

A COLD MORNING IN BARLICK

It’s –12C outside as I write this early in the morning, I was up early as usual and find that my brain works so well in the quiet hours before dawn while the rest of the world sleeps. We have snow on the ground and today is the last Saturday before Christmas, the main shopping day of the year. I doubt if the cold and lying snow will deter the heroes who are trying to drag our economy back into the black but perhaps they ought to rein back a bit, things may not be as good as they think.

Two things triggered me off this morning, the latest figures on personal debt (I forget the figure but it is one of the highest in the world, something like £1Trillion) and the estimate that about 3 million people haven’t finished paying for last year’s Christmas shopping yet. Amazing and well beyond my comprehension.

It is often said that my generation, reared during WW2 on a meagre but well-balanced diet and before the advent of antibiotics is possibly the last healthy generation. I think you all know my views on this, the rush to plentiful food after 1950 instead of maintenance of quality did irreparable damage to diet and the ‘Western Disease’ is probably a direct consequence. It may be that we are also the last economically sensible generation as well because we grew up in austerity, without mass media advertising and never got into the habit of conspicuous consumption. I certainly don’t regard shopping as therapy, more an unwelcome necessity because it means spending money. The strange thing is that this Micawberish predilection is seen these days as miserly and yet I definitely do not feel deprived. In fact I shall feel exactly the opposite when I go into the bank this week and ensure that my one credit card is clear of debt before New Year, an old Scottish custom which makes for a very serene transition as the clocks strike midnight.

The economists tell us that this attitude is dangerous and does the economy no good at all. They assure us that retail consumption is one of the foundation stones of a ‘modern economy’ as it ensures employment and investment of capital in industry. This is undoubtedly true if applied to their model of the economy but this raises the question of whether they have it right.

These same economists assured us that the amazing twenty year economic boom we ‘enjoyed’ fuelled by easy credit heralded the ‘new economics’. Bankers gambled our money on three-legged horses while claiming to be the lords of the universe and deserving their immense annual earnings because they were the driving force behind our unprecedented prosperity. Pause for a very hollow laugh!

There is just an outside chance that old-fashioned Micawbers like me who spend only what we can afford, repair things in the workshop when they break and regard shopping as a necessary but unwelcome evil are the last remnants of the ‘old economy’ which, while it was not perfect had the merit of being balanced and supportable.

There is of course no prospect of this old model being embraced. Sixty years of progress have produced a country addicted to cheap food and credit, allergic to self-help and home cooking and doomed to stress themselves into trouble with debt. They are massaged by politicians who hide the uncomfortable truth that under the best economic circumstances it will take twenty years to climb out of the dept we now labour under. Notice that this is if all goes well, does anyone imagine that there are going to be no adverse economic circumstances? Look at the list, climate change (whether man-made or natural), energy and food security and most worrying of all, the increase in world population. (there are three times more people in the world than when I was born)

There is a temporary fix, technology may come to our rescue and alleviate some of the inevitable pressures we will be under but this will not do anything to change the universal human compulsions that govern our political processes. We have just seen the world’s leaders fail at Copenhagen to devise a common strategy to reduce pollution in the face of overwhelming evidence that whether we believe in man-made climate change or not, we are in serious trouble. Enormous stocks of wealth are destroyed and millions of people killed in pursuit of theories of global security formulated on suspect evidence and paranoid thinking. When someone like me advocates spending on aid instead of war as I did almost twenty years ago we are dismissed as unworldly altruists. This may well be true but it is obvious that the principle is right.

During my life I have seen probably something in the region of 100,000,000 deaths from avoidable causes. This does nothing to make me optimistic about the next seventy years. It may well be that we ain’t seen nothing yet.

So, my bottom line is that whist I am not optimistic, I am hopeful. I shall continue to operate my old economy, speak out against what I see as injustice and stupidity and hope that in the end the pen might be mightier than the stampeding herd. I commend this course to all of you.

SCG/19 December 2009


Stanley Challenger Graham




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stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk Go to Top of Page

Tizer
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5150 Posts
Posted - 20/12/2009 : 12:38
Well said! I remember some months ago looking at a photo of Canary Wharf taken from a helicopter, showing those tall shiny buildings that house the so-called masters of the universe. I thought of these men (and sometimes women) in their plush offices on the top floor looking out above London and it struck me how dissociated they are from the real world. No wonder they are so arrogant, they see themselves as the new monarchy, untouchable in their palaces. How strange to think we once feared that the government might become Big Brother controlling and monitoring us.


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 20/12/2009 : 17:15
I saw an interview with the CEO of Barclay's Bank in his office, the backdrop was the view from his window over the river and London and it struck me that the phrase 'Ivory Tower' was completely applicable.


Stanley Challenger Graham




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stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk Go to Top of Page
Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 24/12/2009 : 09:44
Here's a smug NOP for you.....

NEAR XMAS NOP

Despite the pressures of your busy lives you may remember that a couple of months ago I decided to find out what the Narnia Code was (Planet Narnia by Michael Ward) I forget where the suggestion came from but I was told it would be helpful to read The Forgotten Image by C S Lewis so I got hold of a copy. As soon as I started to read this I realised that I was in what for me is completely unknown territory but that it was going to be very useful in improving my perception of the medieval world view and perhaps answering some of the questions that puzzle me from time to time. Just the small things you understand like the Crusades and the belligerent attitudes of the church and particularly the Cistercians. I was getting a long way from Narnia, or so I thought.

I realised I had to put Narnia aside for a while and do some catching up on God. So, Karen Armstrong, A History of God was the next book (Steve reassured me it was on the reading list for the course on Comparative Theology at Lancaster so I was on firm ground). While I was absorbing this lot of new information I happened to hear of a new book by Diarmid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity which seemed a logical next step. Brilliant book, wonderful scholarship and I finished it this week. I was ready for Michael Ward.

I started on Planet Narnia yesterday and soon realised that if I hadn’t done my homework I would be out of my depth. I have to tell you that while I am making sense of it I am only just keeping my head above water. I find I am plumbing the depths (or scaling the heights?) of serious literary research. Actually, as long as I take my time and make sure I am absorbing it, it is fascinating. One thing that struck me yesterday was Lewis’s opinion that new research which disproves an old theory shouldn’t mean that the old is totally disregarded because he attaches as much weight to the beauty of a theory as to its factual accuracy. He gives the example of Astrology being downgraded as opposed to Astronomy once Copernican theories displaced the Ptolemaic cosmos. This is pertinent to Narnia of course because Ward is arguing that the older version of the Seven Planets is the hidden idea at the root of the Narnia books. The code if you like by which they can be fully understood.

I always wondered why the metaphysical poets seemed so impenetrable and I am beginning to see the light! But there is a depressing side to all this. Just when you think you are old enough and wise enough to get a handle on life, the universe and everything someone like Lewis throws a hand grenade into your head and you realise that not only are their many fields of which you are totally ignorant but there are certain fundamental omissions in your toolbox which, until they are repaired, means that you can never fully understand. Further, having found one missing key it dawns on you that there must be many others! Oh dear…..

So, I’m persisting with Mr Ward but yesterday I ordered a second-hand copy of Beevor on the Spanish Civil War for light entertainment. Meanwhile I get practical examples of how my new key can calm my mind. I always liked the Gaia Theory, it seems so sensible and complete. Recently of course we are assaulted with the ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’ of current climate research. Thanks to Lewis I can ignore these simply on the grounds that Gaia’s beauty is sufficient reason for accepting it.

So, the bottom line is that although I am sure that you all knew all about this, there may be keys to the universe you don’t know about yet and the really important key is to retire and get round to reading all those books you should have read thirty years ago! End of smug lecture. Have a good holiday and start work on the exit strategy. (Given Lord Sleaze’s latest pronouncements, Steve has got his timetable just about right I think. Congratulations!)

Love, S.   


Stanley Challenger Graham




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Tizer
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Posted - 26/12/2009 : 11:09
The one further `key to the universe' that I would add is `stop rushing about' and start observing the world. I've been reading a book about a small village, Stoke St Gregory, a few miles from where I live in Somerset. It was written in the 1980s by a man who was in old age then and remembered village life in great detail, having been born and lived his life there as a farmer. There was one bus a day to the nearest town, Taunton, but if you missed it "you didn't go to Taunton". Nobody ever "ran to catch the bus" - you either caught it or missed it. He relates how on his first visit to London he was amazed because there were buses every five minutes, yet people ran to catch them. Fancy that. How strange!

He also noted that people always made fun of country folk, especially Somerset folk, because "they spend their time leaning on the farm gate staring into a field". But this was how they assessed the state of their crop or the health of their animals day by day. Changes in colour or form of the crop,or differences in behaviour and appearance of the stock animals, where all important and had to be observed and thought about and decisions made on action to be taken and how to proceed.

The farmer was doing his equivalent of what the factory engineer now calls 'condition monitoring', defined as "the process of monitoring a parameter of condition in machinery, such that a significant change is indicative of a developing failure. It is a major component of predictive maintenance. The use of conditional monitoring allows maintenance to be scheduled, or other actions to be taken to avoid the consequences of failure, before the failure occurs." The old farmer was using his condition monitoring instruments - eyes and brain.


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 26/12/2009 : 16:20
Like I did when I sat in the engine house chair with my eyes closed. That's the reason I enjoy William Atkinson's Old Barlick and took the trouble to puiblish it. Genuine local history through observation.


Stanley Challenger Graham




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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 28/12/2009 : 06:21

NECESSITY

I think most of you are aware of my deep suspicion of the motives behind the ‘War on Terror’. This isn’t really something I would have expected to come to my mind at this season of the year as I get messages and pics from the kids showing them all warm and well and enjoying Xmas but I came across a quotation yesterday and it triggered me off.

I was reading Ward’s book on the Narnia code and he quoted C S Lewis as saying ‘Necessity is the argument of tyrants’. Being a good academic he gave four references going back as far as Livy in 1400BCE. The one that grabbed me was Pitt the Younger in a speech on the India Bill in 1783; “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants” So nothing new under the sun.

Of course we all knew this but isn’t it wonderful how a well-turned phrase can sharpen a point? Lewis expanded the assertion by saying that the trick when making the assessment is to distinguish between the claim of necessity and the actual need for it. That’s the bit that puzzles me and I think this is where motive enters the frame.

I don’t see the decision cooked up by Bush and Blair when they sat on the sofa and decided to attack Iraq as being clean, ie. being informed solely by the facts. I think this was true of Bush in the immediate reaction to 9/11 but that it was soon seen by neo-conservative elements as an opportunity. Whatever the truth behind my thinking I think we can all agree that the result has been Pitt’s “infringement of freedom”.

Looking forward into 2010 ( by the way, if the last years have been the ‘noughties’ are we entering the ‘teenies’?) with all the doom-laden possibilities from the economy, energy and climate change, this erosion of freedom is the thing that exercises me most. We have got used to surveillance, changes in court procedures, excessive legislation and an increased perception that we are all guilty unless proven innocent. My message is that we should be aware of what is happening and take every opportunity to bring our disquiet into the public arena.

I have no objection to the security services using every tool at their disposal to confront threats when needed, what I want to be sure of is that they bear in mind that the claim of necessity isn’t always the actual need. I don’t see how this can be legislated for, it depends on the quality and motives of the operators. We have to trust them but it won’t do any harm to quote Pitt the Younger every now and again!

SCG/28 December 2009


Stanley Challenger Graham




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belle
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Posted - 01/01/2010 : 23:36
Tizer you highlight a very important side to life that is almost lost in this busy world. We lived next door to an elderly farmer in Cumbria..when my husband took up a job selling he had to drive to the borders twice a day, one evening he happened to be out in the garden when out neighbour was passing and they struck up a conversation that went something like this "Where you been today then?" said the farmer " Up to lockerbie, then back up to Dumfries" replied my husband " Nay, that's futher than I've been in my life!" said the farmer, and added "I've been to Keswick once!" (a reference to the Keswick  conference that all good God fearing folk from those parts had taken family  to on a yearly outing ) but he knew where every badger lived for miles around, which violets came out when on the high grassy banks of the lawnings, where mushrooms and nuts and sloes and damsons could be harvested.. to name but a few snippets of the info he had...that's a kind of riches many scorn these days.. but like Wordsworth if you are ever confined to a sick bed, to close your eyes and remember the sight and smell and feel of these things, is so much more restorative than remembering a run down the M6 or what your bank account statement looks like!


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 02/01/2010 : 05:31
Belle that has always been my argument in defence of local history. The more we observe and learn about our own patch the richer our lives are in our head. Screen culture deadens the ability to observe as opposed to 'see'. The images aren't there lomg enough to be studied and memorised and anyway they have been edited to convey only one item of information or emotional bias.


Stanley Challenger Graham




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Tizer
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5150 Posts
Posted - 02/01/2010 : 11:55
A lovely story Belle. As children we start out with endless imagination and a capacity to find pleasure in the simplest things and the smallest details, but then as we grow up most of us lose much of that treasure. The secret is to re-discover it but unfortunately that often only happens as in my case when health begins to limit travel and experience. My big journey now is the trip once or twice a year from Somerset to Cornwall for a holiday. But I probably get more out of it and probably have more to remember than most people who go to the likes of Thailand or Mexico.

By the way, we have just had a `blue moon'  - I wonder how many people knew that? Farmers would know.


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Stanley
Local Historian & Old Fart


36804 Posts
Posted - 03/01/2010 : 07:02
Have you noticed how, when taxed with a difficult or critical question spokespersons automatically attempt to disarm criticism by stating the obvious? In the case of war it is 'our brave lads', in the case of  road gritting it is 'our grit wagon drivers working round the clock'. I hate it and wonder if we'll ever get back to truth and clarity in public matters.


Stanley Challenger Graham




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stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk Go to Top of Page
Tizer
VIP Member


5150 Posts
Posted - 03/01/2010 : 12:24
They go on training courses to learn to speak like that. Even without a course they pick it up from each other. I guess it's derived from marketing people ultimately. It's cynical out there! Another trick is when something goes wrong in your company, e.g. running trains late, you commiserate as if you are one of the customers. "Yes, it's terrible isn't, something needs doing to put it right". Before the poor customer realises it they are agreeing with the company man. It's like the old salesman's trick, get them saying "yes" and they'll eat out of your hand.

We need to fight back! Nil carborundum...


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