Archive for the ‘Population’ Category


I have always been the patriotic sort, I love my home, my Englishness. I have worn and adorned my motorcycle with the cross of St George, the flag of England. My daughter challenged me, ‘Why have you got a racist flag on your bike?’

I explained patiently that the cross is more than an emblem of English thugishness, that it was the proud declaration of English heritage, Henry V and all that. Empire and two world wars, well maybe these are examples of English Thugishness in themselves. Scientific achievements, Art and great engineering. The flag was something to be proud of. 

I have now succumbed. After the Euro 2016 debacle, the Brexit vote which took all Englishness away from the emblem. Let me explain why.

In about 8000 BC Mesolithic hunter gatherers walked from Europe across the land bridge of Doggerland. The ice continued to melt eventually stranding the continental tribes people in what has become Britain. It seems, so far as has thus been proved via archaeology, that there was no settled population at the time of the severing of physical links with the continent. So, forgetting the evidence that every single one of us come from Africa, more recently we were all sausage eaters, garlic crunchers or whatever other disrespectful epithet comes to mind.


I am also aware of the arrival of the ‘Beaker People’ in these Islands. One, the Amesbury Archer, at least was so well thought of by ‘locals’ that they buried him close to Stonehenge. Another foreigner accepted by these Islands, and respected.
‘The latest tests on the Amesbury Archer, whose grave astonished archaeologists last year with the richness of its contents, show he was originally from the Alps region, probably Switzerland, Austria or Germany. The tests also show that the gold hair tresses found in the grave are the earliest gold objects found in Britain.’ (Wessex Archaeology Online)

In the years around 75 BC it seems that my home county was taken over by the Atrebates, a tribe of Celtic and German stock arriving from the continent.

55BC the first Roman Invasion, which would have undertaken by peoples from across the Roman Empire as soldiers, tradesmen, slaves, families and visitors. At this time the DNA of Britain must have contained traces of every other country in the then known world. 

Just after the end of the first Roman incursion a Celtic tribe, the Regnenses arrived on these shores under the leadership of Commius. His grandson Cogidubnus is probably the person who had the Palace at Fishbourne built and was an ally of Rome and welcomed them for the second ‘Invasion’.


Fishbourne Palace

Following the departure of Rome for the second time, the Picts became a problem, the Angles and Saxons were invited to settle and assist the country. There appears to have been no violent takeover by the Angles and Saxons, more a peaceful co-existence and development of a merging culture.


Then Vikings, Danes and ultimately French Normans (who were Vikings really). 


By 1066 therefore this country could not claim to be made up of one peoples. Truly the British were mongrels. A mix of stock from across Europe, the Mediterranean and beyond.

Further waves of French, Dutch then arrived with others from Europe. The Romani originiating in South Asia arrived in the 16th Century.

Peoples of the Indian sub continent began arriving as a result of the exploitation of the East India Company (founded in 1600). Many of those arriving from India way settled and took local wives. The first London Indian Restaurant was founded in 1810 by Sake Dean Mahomed a captain of the East India Company. His restaurant was called the Hindoostane Coffee House and he is also credited as the person introducing shampoo and therapeutic massage to Britain.


Sake Dean Mohamed

The 18th Century saw the continued migration of peoples to and from the UK. Africans, Indians and others. Following the war of independence 1100 black loyalist soldiers came to Britain, they were badly treated by those they had fought to protect / assist.


‘Thomas Peters: slave, millwright, soldier…and politician. His voyage from slavery to freedom began when he was kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery; at the onset of the American revolution, he seized the opportunity to reclaim his freedom fighting with British forces. A talented craftsman, he became a leader of men on the fields of battle. The war’s conclusion found him traveling once again, hoping to redeem the British promise of freedom in Nova Scotia. In the 1780s and 1790s, the former sergeant found himself fighting in unfamiliar territory: the world of British politics. From New Brunswick to London, he tirelessly pursued freedom and justice for his community. He would help found the country Sierra Leone.’

The 19th century saw a substantial population of Germans arrive on these shores, then Russian Jews.

I find it strange that a land of mongrels, who in the past have welcomed ‘jonny foreigner’ and provided comfort and succour in times of need, has turned it’s back on the nations of their forefathers. 

So where am I left with my Englishness? I had thought, King Alfred and Wessex, that’s an answer. I will display Alfreds wyvern. I looked on line, the red Dragon is Celtic apparently. There is a discussion in some places as to whether Alfred used a gold or white wyvern. The white wyvern has been taken to the heart of WASPish organisations.


 I am left, I think looking for an emblem used by Commius (was he a red under the bed?) or the flag of Sussex. Of course the golden martletts on a blue field is a relatively new invention having been first used in 1622 by John Speed in his atlas, Theatrum Imperii Maganae Britanniae. 

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On the 8th May 1945 the war in Europe came to an end. VJ day was celebrated in August of that year. I have no first-hand knowledge of these events not being born until 1957. I was born three years after rationing ended in Britain although the effects of the war continued well into the 80’s so far as the dairy industry were concerned.Britain joined the European Community in 1973. At the time I was living at home with my parents and brother. We were a small family, living in a small home. Times were tough, there was little money to support the family even though both of my parents worked hard. But I felt loved and safe and cared for.

My memories of life, pre 1973, are smoky coal fires, a coke hot water boiler, the winter of 1962-63, shortages of everything, dark days, even in milder winters scraping ice from the inside of my bedroom window. Grey men in grey clothing happy but poor. Support from neighbours, even for the old and cantankerous Mrs White who lived next door.

Produce was scarce, fruit and veg poor quality unless it was home grown. Cheap cuts like Oxtail from the butcher. Local shops of questionable cleanliness selling bread, greengrocery, butchery and sweets. Sweets, but not as they would be recognised today.

Things did not improve overnight. But slowly, incrementally, my family’s lot improved. Wages rose, the family became better off. There was more to eat both in quantity and variety. Little luxuries became affordable. We were able to buy a car to go with the van my father used for work, we even got a telephone. We all learned to answer the telephone, ‘Horsham 61618’. As a family we had entered the modern era.

By 1975, the time of the referendum, I was a soldier. I was serving in Germany as part of the occupying British Army of the Rhine. I felt no animosity from our German cousins. I also served in Belgium and France with trips to Holland. Nothing from the population but friendly intercourse. Convivial sharing of food, wine, stories. Things seemed, to me at least, to be normal. Normal that is except for the ever present threat of annihilation from the Communist Block, which really meant the Soviet Union. We all lived under this threat. Some people chose to ignore what the potential was, this was not an option for me and my comrades.

When I returned home after my discharge, things were so much improved in these United Kingdoms. I accept that I am a soft Southerner. I have no links to t’North save by Marriage. I have no knowledge of the hardships of pit life, working in cotton mills, hill farming and the like. I do have experience of factory working, building work, small holding and small business life. It is true that our close connection caused ‘issues’. Increased paperwork blamed by the UK government on Europe. The disappearance of bent cucumbers and bananas. But life was good.

From a personal point of view, there was increased opportunity for me, if I was prepared to work I could be what I wanted to be. My father always saw this as a betrayal of his way of life I think. Certainly when I was born, when I left school, there could have been no thought of university. No thought of a gap year. No thought of travel. No thought of any kind of trade except building. There was no social mobility. I felt like Ronnie Corbett in the famous TW3 sketch with Ronnie Barker and John Cleese. Stuck in a rut. The only difference being I was not satisfied to accept my lot.

I have seen my parents and friends standard of living grow. Friends from school who stayed in trade, seized their opportunities and live a fulfilling life of a higher standard than any of us had any right to hope for. There were some who fell by the wayside. I met the brother of a boy I was at school with. ‘Paddy’ was always a person I shied away from. However, from living in the poorest part of town, coming from a troubled family, in his late 20’s he had done well for himself. Sadly Cancer took him but even weeks before his death he was fulfilling his stand up bookings. I saw him in an Indian restaurant he was joking and a pleasure to spend time with.

Paddy’s brother, that I was at school with, was a painter and decorator. He was less well off than Paddy, he made money but drank it away. My point is that people do have choices. Those people from my past that I remain in contact with have largely seized their opportunities. They have made a good life and have a standard of living that could not have been dreamed of in 1970. Some fell by the wayside but they were handicapped, not by their upbringing or their neighbours but by their own deficiencies.

My own immediate family, all working class people, born into a time of social stagnation, were released by the opportunities created by this country within a broader Europe. I have witnessed the breakdown of rigid social order which I admit began in the sixties, but was assisted greatly by the introduction of a more European way of thinking. Both of my children are successful in different ways. I am proud of my son, he chose not to indulge in further education and has made a good life for himself. My daughter is an academic, she is able to make her own choices. I honestly believe without the influence of Europe she would not be able to live the life she does.

I have always thought of myself as English first and European second. I have revelled in the company of a variety of people from a number of backgrounds. The cross pollination of ideas and beliefs is stimulating and enriching. My friend Salim said to me the day after the referendum, that he was scared. He said that our country is the only country where people are free to practice their own beliefs, religion and are able to express their sexuality without fear. He wondered if this would change.

I too have concerns. Concerns that this country may descend once more to the xenophobic land of the late sixties early seventies. Gangs of WASP’s rampaging the streets fighting anybody they thought might not be pure bred English. That in itself is an oxymoron. We are all out of Africa, by way of the Middle East and Europe.

I have always felt at home in Belgium and Germany. As this country plummets toward isolation my thoughts turn to whether a small flat in Berlin might be a nice place to spend my latter years. A little place in Brugge perhaps, or Dieppe or Lake Garda.

 

 


It has been proposed that the UK should have a cross party commission to plan for proper infrastructure investment and implementation. The idea seems to be to have an overall plan to ensure the renewal and improvement of infrastructure. In addition plans would be considered for new technology to be used for the benefit of the population and to ensure that the countries infrastructure does not wear out.

It seems that the Victorians were the last people to seriously plan in this way. What a sensible idea one might think. If the countries infrastructure is overseen by a cross party commission general elections would have no effect on the continuity of thinking. No need to start from scratch every four years or so. There will be implications from every election of course but the strategic overview would be in the hands of people who are involved for the long haul. People who could leave a lasting legacy to the future generations.

This sounds too good to be true. That’s because it is. Instead of seeing the grander picture the Tories immediately tried to score petty political points by blaming labour for the current state of the country. Now that may or may not be true, who knows. But is it not better to look forward rather than harking back to Mr Brown, or whoever. What is done is done. Parliament should be able to rise above squabbling about the past and plan to resolve the problems of tomorrow. Mistakes have been made on both sides of the house, they continue to be made on both sides of the house. Is it not better to try and resolve the big issues together?

Children will always want to chant ‘My team is better than yours’ but can this not be saved for the little arguments, not matters that effect the entire population? Of course, such common sense is unlikely to bear fruit. Infrastructure is not sexy, no names to be made just the quiet satisfaction of serving ones country. The Victorians would see this as reward enough but today the only desire appears to be for fame, publicity and as much money as can be garnered in a lifetime.

Put aside petty politics all you servants of the people in Westminster, actually come together and serve the country rather than your own self interest. There is no real difference between your parties just varying shades of grey. Accept this and work for a brighter future for this nation, not the US or any other part of the planet. When this broken land is restored to health then can we hold our head up and help those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

I am not a religious man, but our leaders purport to be. They feel the need to be seen at church and supporting the Christian myth. They should remember the actions of Jesus in the Temple when he confronted the traders and moneylenders. His attitude to wealth would be a lesson for our leaders. They should not forget that charity begins at home.


The silence weeps oozing into the days
Stretching out into weeks and months
The frackers come, smug, oily hands rub
The expectation of profit flows from there very pores
The nature recoils, trees sigh with sadness
The earth made to heave itself skywards
In shafts of despair

A yellow flowering on the trees and fences
A splash of joy and hope unleashed
Strange people garbed in hues both bright and somber
A gathering of ordinary minds joined as one
One purpose many minds power exponentially multiplied
The pawns of the state used to suppress freedom
A bad law misapplied a legacy of Thatcher

A week or two pass our masters gaze distracted
The people remain with their black clad chaperone
Cameron is diverted he smells oil in the air
Petty politics rises with votes to beat him
His cabinet wail at lost trips oe’er the pond
They have no clue of plebeian muses
Mutterings in corners not seen by the great

The drones are restless things fall apart
Money is worthless life beyond our means
The devil strides the world disguised corporate
Gekko the model, greed is the king
You fanfare destruction our green earth is dying
Small steps derided economy ignored
The way forward is spend buy and store.


I see that we, (as a collective species) once again reached out to the universe. We, well NASA, have managed to overcome many complex problems requiring brains larger than Marvin the Paranoid Android to solve and landed on Mars.

I look forward in the coming weeks / months / years to receiving periodic updates as to how well / badly things are going with the Curiosity Rover. What an exciting time of exploration we all live in. I have added the link to the BBC coverage so that we may all share in the wonder that is this fantastic event.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19159382

Of course, …

Now you wouldn’t expect me to be enthusiastic for long would you. The mission is reported to cost £1.6Bn. (For any non Brits $2.5Bn US) Oh there’s another topic in itself, why is everything always quoted in $US?

Anyway, £1.6bn is an awful lot of money. The World Food Programme states it would take $3.2 billion a year to feed 66 million hungry school children. So, in context the whole space programme to send Curiosity to Mars is less than it would take to feed all the starving kids in the world for a year, sounds like a good deal?

My personal viewpoint, and this is NOT political but humanitarian (for any rubber heelers watching), is that we, as a species have not earned the right to visit other planets, stars, lumps of rock or whatever. We have in the span of our existence raped and pillaged mother earth. We denude her of all her resources, we pay her back by polluting her air and water, the dump filth on her land and overpopulate with our kind in the absence of natural predators. We abandon junk in the sky even beyond the atmosphere of out planet and leave rubbish everywhere we go. The moon is still littered with US and Russian garbage. Not a monument to the ingenuity of man, but as a monument to paranoia.

If the total spend of the space programmes of the world, coupled with all the money spent on arms research and production were totalled there would be enough to feed the poor, set up sustainable food programmes based on permaculture principles, meaning food for life for everyone. )Even allowing for the kick backs that would have to be paid to the great and not so good).

The one bitter pill which is even more difficult to swallow is population control. Even if we could have every country to agree on the funding of projects in the way suggested, there will still be too many people.

As Fraser said, ‘We’re all doomed.’