Friday, 28 June 2013

A Little Bit of History.....

Really pleased to get a couple of days in London this week to take care of some business and meet up with some old friends.

Unusually, I found myself staying in Bloomsbury, mainly due to the fact that my usual club now seemingly opens its doors to anybody who has ever seen a movie about WW2. Not exactly what it was established for, and real veterans are finding it increasingly difficult to book a room. I'm glad I got that off my chest!

Actually, one of my more highly esteemed ancestors lived in Bloomsbury for some years, eventually ending his days there in 1824. Major John Cartwright lived from 1819 until his death at 37 Burton Crescent. Many years later, Burton Crescent was renamed Cartwright Gardens, and a statue of 'The Major' as he was known stands there to this day.

Number 37 is now gone, and that whole side of the road has been replaced by student dorms and other buildings associated with University College London (UCL). However, I will share a little family secret here.

If you position yourself on the pavement opposite the statue and maneuvre so you are looking into his eyes, then you are standing directly on the spot below the bedroom in which he passed away.

A great pamphleteer and letter writer, on his deathbed he received a letter from Thomas Jefferson. It ended with the words  "Your age of eighty-four and mine of eighty-one years, ensure us a speedy meeting. We may then commune at leisure, and more fully, on the good and evil, which, in the course of our long lives, we have both witnessed; and in the mean time, I pray you to accept assurances of my high veneration and esteem for your person and character".

Interestingly, Jane Randolph, Jefferson's mother was born in Shadwell in east London, and was associated with St Paul's Church, where many of my own family are buried. Our last association with the church, however, was in 1903 when my great-grandparents were married there.

On moving to the US she married Peter Jefferson. He owned most of what is now Albemarle County in Virginia, and he actually founded a town which he named Shadwell, presumably to make her feel at home. And that is why there is a Shadwell in Virginia!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Hypocritical politicians? Surely not?

I was certainly not the only one left shaking his head in disbelief last Friday when a certain politician, who often rails against Tax Havens, was outed as having an offshore fund himself. I actually knew about this a long time ago, it is all perfectly legal, but there were other aspects, smaller details, about the story that did surprise me.

Another politician, a close aquaintance, (not British), is also having a very rough time at the moment over what I can only describe as an act of unfathomable recklessness.

What is it that leads people to believe that they are immune from the rules? Who do they think they are, Metropolitan Police officers?

The real losers in all this, of course, are the electorate.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Miserable Gits....

You simply could not make this up. A good mate of mine, a former Company Commander with the Irish Infantry, a man with combat experience in a humanitarian peace-keeping context, has recently been subjected to harsh justice indeed... He has been banned from the local sweet shop. His crime was to suggest that the proprietor, a gentleman not known for his social skills might have been a wee bit rude to him. (I know the shopkeeper in question very well, and he really is a miserable git).

What is happening to us as a society?

We are living through times that should see us preparing for a post-materialist society. And yet we still stamp on one another's feet, and we get snarled at by shopkeepers.

And a chap who stuck his neck on the block voluntarily in order to protect the vulnerable is treated with disrespect by somebody who could never understand....

We have a long way to go, apparently.

Monday, 10 June 2013


One of the most unfathomable incidents I have ever come across was at a school in South East London about 12 years ago. Some money had been found to update playground equipment in the school's nursery playground. It was a project that went smoothly, and the youngsters were delighted with their new stuff, especially the wooden ship.

Then a little while later I got an interesting phone call. The school traditionally had a problem with vandalism during evenings and weekends, and several people had been arrested for smashing up the new equipment. The kids were heartbroken, and we were left feeling frustrated.

This is where it gets unbelievable.

One of those arrested was a man whose own daughter attended the nursery. 

Now I read about a woman who has been up in front of the beak for racially abusing her own children, and threatening to break their legs.

What on earth is wrong with these people? OK, a glance at look at the photo tells me a fair bit, and you have got to feel sorry for these kids for having this apology for a mother inflicted on them by fate. I wish them well, but the long-term prognosis is not good, is it? And what is this ASBO thing about? It is hard to imagine what a proper sentence would be in this case, but an ASBO?

Threatening and abusing children, smashing their toys out of spite, I cannot work out why any human being would want to do that. And I'm very glad that I can't.