Radio 4 Working Poor discussion in Speenhamland, Newbury

The Clock House, Newbury

The Clock House, Newbury

Available on BBC iPlayer until 2099, Radio Four’s The Long View comes from Speenhamland, Newbury. It’s a fascinating discussion, starting at the Clock House in the Broadway, and then continuing in Newbury Museum. Well done BBC!

Here’s the programme write-up from iPlayer:

Jonathan Freedland presents the programme which looks at the past behind the present.
Although there’s unease in the air and many caveats included in any reports on the subject it would seem that the British economy is now strengthening. And yet a new challenge is growing, the growing number of people in work who are also facing poverty.
That’s the story today with a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showing that the number of working families in poverty has now outstripped those without employment.
And it was also the story in the late 18th century where farm labourers, particularly in the South of England, found that their wages were being outstripped by the rising price of bread. It was an inflation made worse by a series of bad harvests and the disruption to food imports from war torn France.
But when Magistrates met at Speenhamland near Newbury to try and resolve the issue they may well have been concerned not merely by the conditions of local workers but by the upheavals of the French Revolution. Something had to be done.
IN this programme Jonathan and his guests tell the story of the Speenhamland system which encouraged local employers to improve their wages but also obliged Parish councils to support labourers with bread to make up for their straightened circumstances.
The Speenhamland system spread very quickly but it was roundly criticised as a way of creating a dependency culture and trapping people in poverty and the situation was eventually resolved by the Poor Law amendment act of 1834 and the institution of the Workhouse.
How much can we learn from Speenhamland today when the language of poverty appears to be very similar with notions of the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ poor familiar in the news headlines.
That’s the Long View of the Working Poor.

Producer: Tom Alban.

Michael Portillo in Newbury – Great British Railway journeys

imageThere are 13 days left to watch Series 5 Episode 13 of Great British Railway Journeys on BBC iPlayer, when Michael Portillo goes from Wokingham to Bradford-on-Avon, via Newbury.

Wearing his mauve corduroy jacket, Michael Portillo talks to local historian, David Peacock about Jack O’Newbury, amid extensive nice shots of Newbury. He then repairs to the Hare and Hounds at Speen for a nightcap of West Berkshire Ale.

Cold and soft food after a tooth extraction

imageAfter many months of x-rays and waiting, yesterday I finally had one of my back molars extracted by a very nice man from Portsmouth hospital.

“Only eat or drink cold and soft things for the rest of today” he advised.

After a google, this justified a full-on shopping expedition to Sainsburys. In the end, I concocted a very nice meal for myself.

Potato, carrot and swede mash, mixed up with smoked salmon trimmings and cut up ocean sticks. French mustard and mayonaise added. Served with egg mayonaise deli filler.

For afters, ripe mango with sliced banana with custard and single cream.

All cold. And delicious!

Photo: License Some rights reserved by Kevin H

Republican candidate: Obama "should be hanged"

obamaFlorida House candidate Joshua Black (R) has been quoted by the Tampa Bay Times tweeting that President Obama “should be hanged”:

I’m past impeachment. It’s time to arrest and hang him high

This was said on Martin Luther King day, reportedly.

The Tampa Bay Times report goes on:

Hours after the tweet, Black defended his comment. Obama should be held responsible for ordering a drone strike that killed a U.S. citizen overseas, he said.

“He should be executed for treason,” Black said. “I think the appropriate punishment is death. They killed Benedict Arnold. (Obama) shouldn’t be allowed to kill Americans without a trial.

Looking at the tweet (above) it looks as though Mr Black was agreeing to someone else’s tweet, which he retweeted with the word “agreed” after it. But he then reiterated the point, expanding on it, on his Facebook page, according to the Tampa Bay Times report.

I think Mr Black can expect some close scrutiny from some gym-fit women and men wearing sunglasses, smart suits with bulges under the left armpit and those curly see-through wires coming out of their ears.

Hat-tip: Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

The vast volume of water flowing in the River Kennet

imageVirtually everyday I walk past the River Kennet. I often stop and wonder about the vast volume of water running down it.

Recently, it has been overflowing. There has been a vast torrent going along it, morning, noon and night. It is very dramatic.

I stand by the side of it, usually with our dog Charlie, and just wonder at the huge amount of water in it.

If you just imagine freezing the river and then cutting out the small section in front of you, as you stand by it, that’s a vast volume of water in itself. But then you multiply that by hundreds of thousands of times to cover the 24 hour flow down it.

It is just a mind-blowing amount of water. (And please let me know if I am getting over-obsessed about this)

I’ve often wondered where all this water comes from. I’ve looked it up on a contour map. The River Kennet basin is roughly 250 square miles in area. The length is about 25-30 miles and the breadth is about 10 miles. It starts at Swallowhead Spring near Avebury. Basically, the water which flows in the River Kennet drains off the land from East Wiltshire and the western half of West Berkshire.

Photo: License Some rights reserved by Preoccupations

I am embarrassed on behalf of my party

Liberal Democrat PosterReading Lord Rennard’s candid statement today, I was embarrassed on behalf of my party, the Liberal Democrats.

That Chris was put in a position where he felt he had to make candid admissions about depression, illness etc is, frankly, appalling. He shouldn’t have had to do it.

The women affected have been through severe stress and anxiety for several years, as well as going through the pain involved during, and immediately after, the actual events.

The party really has made the most almighty balls-up of this whole affair from the word go.

I have found myself agreeing with Chris and Lord Carlile in so far as the basic operation of natural justice goes.

At the same time, I trust Alistair Webster when he said the evidence he received was “credible”. I do not believe anyone is lying or dissembling here. I see how this issue has become totemic in terms of diversity in the workplace, which I truly support, being a husband, the father of a daughter, a workplace manager in a global corporation, an enthusiastic and active supporter of a woman PPC and a member of Women Liberal Democrats. It is shameful that this controversy has been portrayed as a battle between two extremes, old and young, men and women. Well, hey, hello! There are a lot of us staggering around bewildered in the middle, like me, who deeply and passionately believe in diversity and equality in the workplace but also believe in the operation of natural justice. We haven’t seen the details of all this and, quite frankly, don’t know what the hell is going on.

Having sat through or read interminable discussions and documents about due process in the Liberal Democrats, who are punctilious about procedure, it is just unbelievable that we are here. The party of process has well and truly screwed up. Big time.

But screwing up in terms of delaying some committee report or action is one thing. But when you screw up people’s lives in the process then that really is profoundly shameful. (And by “people” I mean everyone affected by the situation, including the women involved, Chris and Ann).

This whole thing should have been resolved through mediation years ago. Instinctively, I feel Chris should apologise. I have told him this. But I understand his reasons not to. He has been virtually destroyed by this. I do not seek to diminish by one iota the very serious importance of proper workplace behaviour. The women involved have been in long-term torment and had their lives turned upside down by all this.

But we shouldn’t be here. There should have been proper resolution through the disciplinary processes. It is crazy. To use a modern phrase: It is “bat shit crazy”.

I’ve supported the Liberal party and the Liberal Democrat party since I was ten years old in 1970. I’ve been a member for around 24 years. I intend to remain one until I die and have “The Land” sung lustily at my funeral, hopefully in a long time, God willing.

I still love my party and think the world of it and everyone in it.

But I have to say that this episode has demonstrated very clearly that, collectively, there are isolated occasions when we couldn’t organise the proverbial piss-up in a brewery, even if our lives depended on it.

Amended 25th January

Photo: License Some rights reserved by divinenephron