The English

Propaganda and King Arthur

So we\’ve a number of Froggies telling us that Arthur is simply English propaganda, changed and fitted up from the original very sketchy stories to suit whatever happens to be the cultural and political needs of Perfidious Albion over the years.

Even if a character who vaguely resembled the fabled leader did exist, he would probably have been a Welshman with strong connections to Brittany and whose sworn enemies were the Anglo-Saxons, they said.

The organisers of a conference and exhibition to be held at Rennes university in northern France next month said they will provide ample evidence that the Arthurian legend has continually been updated, often as a sop to English nationalists attempting to revive the Age of Chivalry.

The event, "King Arthur: A Legend in the Making", will highlight the argument that historians were joined by artists and writers in creating the "fiction" of the legend.

My word, gosh, you don\’t say? So unlike the Frogs and Roland at Roncevaux, don\’t you think?

Polly\’s Paradise

You know how Polly T keeps going on about how Sweden is so wonderful, the Nordics are the people we should be emulating?

The birthday party case takes state intervention to a new level. Before the beginning of lessons the boy had cheerfully threaded his way through the class handing out invitations. When the teacher spotted that two children had not received one he confiscated the invitations.

“One of the children had not invited my son to his own birthday party,” explained the father of the boy, who lodged an official complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman. “The other one had been bad to my son for six months. You do not invite your antagonists.”

That was not convincing enough for the headmaster or government deputies. “I believe the staff acted correctly, in a model way,” said Lars Hansson, of the Swedish Liberal party, one of the four ruling coalition partners in the country.

“It is their duty to reject any forms of insulting behaviour. To eliminate individual children from parties is not acceptable.”

Yup, they\’re so communitarian that the invite list to an 8 year old\’s birthday party is a matter for the State.

Somehow I just don\’t see that quite catching on here: perhaps, contrary to Polly\’s desires, we\’re just not a social democratic nation?


We who grew up in Britain in the second half of the 20th century have been spoilt bloody rotten.

We are more privileged in every respect than almost any group of people in human history. We have lived through a period of unexampled domestic peace. We have a temperate climate and effective anaesthetics.

Our supermarkets groan with blemishless produce flown from all over the world, and we have more entertainments, and more entertaining entertainments, than any society since the invention of boredom.

We do not choke in pea-souper fogs. We are not tortured to death over our beliefs regarding the holiness or otherwise of the Blessed Virgin. Female circumcision is rare.

We seldom have to cart the bodies of our children off in tumbrils because the Black Death is back in town.

It says much about our decadence, then, that so extensive is our cult of grievance that anyone who suggests we, as a society, count our blessings is deemed to be "insensitive".

Not Sure I Believe These Figures

There\’s a problem here, at least for me.

Living in East Dorset gives you the best chance of growing into old age, with almost eight in ten residents expected to reach 75.

That problem is encapsulated in a saying from a few decades ago. Retired Indian Army colonels go to Cheltenham to die and when they do their wives move to Eastbourne to die and when they get there forget why they went.

Given that the South West (and East Dorset in particular) is indeed a destination for pensioners how much of this effect is simply survivor bias?

Defining Britishness

Well, it\’s not everyone\’s cup of tea, it would certainly be strage to a great number of Britons, but this is indeed very British.

Which is rather why attempts to define "Britishness" are going to come a cropper.

Eating English Food

Well, yes, sorta.

But these seasons slip by unnoticed, while we gorge on a monolithic diet of white bread, potatoes and red meat. We steadfastly ignore the real beauty of the alimentary calendar. The unique landscape and growing conditions found in each UK region should allow a recognisable distinctiveness that local people can not only take pride in but also work to their advantage.

Why not attract a large crowd to the opening of the mackerel season in Newlyn? Or celebrate the onset of gooseberry season in Evesham with a well-publicised race to get the first punnet to London – as is done with Beaujolais nouveau?

Most wromantic but logically wrong. For we are here agreeing that there is to be trade in food across regions in the UK. Fine, excellent, nothing wrong with that.

But once you\’ve accepted the principle of trade, once even two adjoining households are to swap their surplus production, all you have left to argue about is the boundaries of that trade area. And why on earth should said boundary be anything less than the entire globe?

Something which, of course, means that the eating seasonally here proposed is somewhat redundant for of course everything is in season somewhere.

Regional Inequality

More figures about regional inequality from the ONS. This time it\’s Gross Disposable Household Income.

The total represents the cash left after that person has paid his or her mortgage interest payments, taxes, including council tax, rent, insurance and pension contributions.

So we\’ve already stripped housing costs out of this, which is possibly the largest regional variation in costs. But we\’re still, as with the earlier figures, looking at incomes without adjusting for variations in regional costs.

The ONS said the average resident of west inner London had disposable income of £25,700 in 2006……The equivalent worker in Nottingham, Kingston-upon-Hull and Blackburn earned just over £10,000 after these non-discretionary payments.

So we\’ve got here a measure of income inequality across regions,. which again seems to bolster my thought that the high levels of inequality seen across the country are based, at least in part, on such regional factors. But to find the differences in consumption inequality, we\’d need regional price levels, and as Matthew has said, good luck with finding those numbers on the ONS site.

Bullingdon Club

Which all sounds great. So where do I sign up? This is a difficult one. Even among exclusive all-male drinking clubs, the Bullingdon is a notably exclusive all-male drinking club. A quick survey of known recent members reveals that around 60% are Old Etonians; the rest simply went to really posh public schools. Osborne is said to have been ragged by fellow Bullers over having attended St Paul\’s, the top London day school, which is, apparently, not posh enough. A good school, then, but this in itself isn\’t sufficient. You\’ve got to have a certain standing. An impressive lineage helps. As does a degree of jaunty charisma, either as a titled clown with a good line in drunken buffoonery, or as – someone with whom it might be handy to have an "in" when it\’s all over.

Prospective new members are proposed by a current member and then subjected to a club vote. This is all done in secret. You can be "put up" and blackballed and never be any the wiser. The first a new bug knows about it is when his rooms are invaded (ideally, via the window) and ceremonially trashed by way of initiation ("they overturned some of my flower pots," recalls my source).

So, what this enquiring little mind would like to know is, has anyone ever been put up, voted in and then said, "Bugger off, wankers"?*


*Or words to that effect.

Hmm, Fuel for my Thought

I\’ve muttered about this before and this seems to confirm at least part of it.

It found that workers in the capital and the Home Counties generate a third of the nation\’s wealth, producing £375 billion a year in goods and services, out of the nation\’s total output of £1,155 billion. London alone produces £218 billion.

Londoners turn out £29,000 worth of goods and services each year per head, compared with £14,396 in Wales, the least-productive part of the country. Northern Ireland and the North East are not far ahead, each region generating £15,200 per head.

OK, that bit we know.

The North-South divide on income continues to grow, the report found. Average weekly incomes in the North East stood at only £455 in 2006, more than a third lower than London, which enjoys weekly incomes of £766.

The earnings gap of £311 is significantly higher than the £282 gap recorded in 2004.

That\’s the bit I find most interesting. We\’re told endlessly that we have more inequality in the UK than do most other countries. But our possible reaction to that inequality (on the assumption that we have any at all) rather depends on how it comes about. If it\’s great inequality within each and every unit of the country then that\’s rather different than there being inequality across regions. Two reasons for that:

1) If it is regional inequality then presumably it can be solved by people moving. That they don\’t shows that they don\’t particularly mind it. Sure, some large percentage (possibly even 100%) of those making the average £455 in the NE would prefer to be making the £766 average in London, if they could stay in the NE, but not if they had to move to London to get it. Thus they prefer the inequality in incomes to the actions necessary to remove it.

2) We\’ve also got large variations in regional living costs. Living in the NE (most especially housing costs, but also in food and many other things…check the price of a pint for example) requires a great deal less cash income than living in London. Another way of saying the same thing is that you can have a higher standard of living on the same cash income in the NE than you can in London. So consumption inequality is a great deal lower than income inequality.

So, now we come to the point. We are told that we have much higher levels on inequality in the UK than other EU countries do, and I\’ve no doubt that is true: but I\’m also certain that at least part of this is due to the regional variations in wages. And I think I\’m right in saying that we have greater variations in regional wages than most other EU countries. And further, that we have greater variations in regional prices.

So, by measuring inequality on a national basis, by incomes, we are grossly overstating the actual inequality, most certainly on a consumption basis, when we take the regional varations in prices into account.

Now,. nearly all of that I am certain of. What I don\’t know is how much that contributes to the stated inequality figures: I\’ve asked around and apparently no one has ever worked it out and I certainly don\’t have the skills to do so.

But it would be fascinating to know the answer, wouldn\’t it?

For example, white collar female jobs in the NE pay 60% less than the same jobs in London. We would thus, if our economy consisted of only those two groups, be saying that (because we measure poverty as being less than 60% of median income) everyone working in female white collar jobs for the average wage there in the NE was poor….which isn\’t really quite what we mean by poverty is it?

The English

Anyone recognise this?

"But it\’s also a country of animal-loving, tea-drinking, charity donors, where queuing remains a national pastime and bastions of civilisation, such as Radio 4, are jealously protected."

Or is this more accurate?

The guide says: "As a glance at the tabloid newspapers will confirm, England is a nation of overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts."

Or are both?


We Have a Competitor

Seamus thinks that the seal raping the pengiun story will be the top one for the year:

Why am I troubling you with this prurient bestiophilic drivel? Just because I am pretty much certain that at the end of the year this will prove to have been the most-viewed, emailed, Dugg or by any other metric popular story on the BBC News site and I wanted you to hear it here first.

Maybe, although we\’ve got a contender here:

Doe-eyed Cindy would have been left all alone in the world were it not for the strong paternal instincts of the Great Dane, who is as protective of her as he is his puppies.

The 9st dog towers over his spotted companion, who he gently nuzzles and accompanies on daily walks, ever watchful.

The two-week-old fawn returns the affection by rushing over to her trusted friend whenever she is in need of reassurance.

OK, so it doesn\’t have weird sex in it but it does have sentimentality and animals. And Bambi!

Be intteresting to see at year end which wins with the Great British Public: prurience or pathos.

St George\’s Day Parade

Maybe they were right, maybe not, but this?

They offered them a shorter route that avoided two streets at the centre of the race riots in 2001, and an alternative date for the event on July 1.

As I say, maybe there really were safety fears, but to offer an alternative date for a march on the national Saint\’s day does seem a little odd. Bonfire Night on Dec 15th anyone?

Although, perhaps they\’re just practising for the 2013 Olympics?


Gordon Brown is one of the least talented people in Britain, along with Heather Mills and Kerry Katona, according to a new poll.

Sadly though, they all still do quite well: so what does that tell us about Britain?

Froggie Sex Machines

A startling revelation: the Frogs are trying to spice up their sex lives and in doing so they\’re buying up British designed sex toys.

One possible explanation is that the Brits (as George Mikes pointed out, the Continentals have sex lives, the British have hot water bottles) needed technological assistance and thus developed the technology to aid them. Necessity being the Mother of Invention and all that.

Another is that the Frogs have rather changed the nature of their relationships in recent years. Anecdotally at least, the normal method of dealing with a boring sex life there was to take another partner, wasn\’t it?

Or possibly both are true, the latter change meaning they are now taking advantage of the British Industrial Revolution and lead in technology.



Jerusalem, one of the country\’s best-loved hymns and the favourite of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has been banned from services at one of Britain\’s foremost churches.

The verses, which were written by William Blake more than two centuries ago, cannot be sung by choirs or congregations at Southwark Cathedral because the words do not praise God and are too nationalistic, according to senior clergy.

No, really, quite wonderful!

It\’s nationalistic, check, it\’s not religious, so any Englishman, of whatever religion, can sing it with gusto.

So we can make it he English national anthem, no problems!