Bardiness

"..a bardy view!"

Alfred…A Great Guy!

Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterIn 1899 the Victorians marked the 1000th anniversary of the death of Alfred the Great as the founder of England and saviour of its Christian faith.

In the BBC Millennium Poll of 2000, Alfred didn’t make it into the top ten list of greatest Britons.

Sometime during those one hundred years the British lost favour with her most revered son.

Alfred wasn’t called “great” for nothing. He is the only British king with the title.

So what happened between then and now to change our views, or if not change them, merely ignore his achievements? Perhaps it’s just too long ago?

Alfred did however make it into the top 100, along with such luminaries as David Beckham, Tony Blair, Robbie Williams and even Boy George.

I’ll pause at this point to allow you a gasp of astonishment…..

Some sense prevailed in the top ten. Winston Churchill came out at number one, followed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Princess Diana, Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I, John Lennon, Horatio Nelson and, in 10th place, Oliver Cromwell.

Bearing in mind that the poll was conducted 16 years ago, it’s possible that the nation had an unhealthy dose of celebrity worship and collective amnesia.

It was only three years after the death of Diana; the country was still euphoric basking in the afterglow of a new labour victory, and the nation had yet to be embroiled in the war on terror.

Although Tony Blair didn’t make it into the top ten he did make it into the top 100. If the poll was taken today, it’s highly unlikely he (and many others) would get a look in. The highest ranked living person at the time was Margaret Thatcher, coming in at #16.

60 of the top 100 were alive during the 20th century. Hence the poll was severely flawed for it was indicative of contemporary individuals and populist history. Surely Alfred was greater than John Lennon? Indeed he was, but he died in the 9th century, and not the 20th; nor was he a famous singer/songwriter. Imagine that!

Twelve years after the poll, both Churchill and Brunel played prominent roles in the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics, and both coincidently topped the millennium poll of 2000, so perhaps there is some justice attached to it.

Back to Alfred the Great (those of you who have lost interest may leave now). Herewith follows a compact history lesson from a Bardy view:

When the Roman’s left Britain in AD 410, over 300 years of relative peace, stability and prosperity left along with them.

Her empire was under attack, Rome was in trouble and the legions needed to consolidate and attempt to fend off the vandals and barbarian hoards. For Britain, what followed was a period of substantial unrest, and is known today as the Dark Ages. It lasted for several hundred years, and England as we know it today did not exist. It became a place divided and ruled by feudal chiefs with a hotchpotch of kingdoms, the most powerful being Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex.

Wessex was the most powerful, and during the rules of Egbert (802-839) and Aethelwulf (839-858) it expanded to include most of the land south of the River Thames, although not the Mercian controlled area of London. It was
during these periods that England was under constant raiding parties from the Vikings and Norsemen of Scandinavia.

In 865 the Vikings landed with force and within ten years subjugated the kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia. Wessex was the next in line.By this time Alfred’s elder brother Ethelred was King of Wessex, and together they confronted the invasion of Wessex in 871. But they failed to prevent the advance and during the battle Ethelred was killed. Wessex was the last surviving Anglo-Saxon domain, and if it fell, then the land would be completely ruled by the Vikings.

Alfred took the throne, and through bravery and intelligence, through methods of tactics and guerrilla warfare, eventually prevailed.

He became an honourable and wise king, uniting the kingdoms, constructing the country’s first navy, instigating law and order, and promoting education, with particular emphasis on the English language, art, culture, and successfully creating – out of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora – the nation of England.

That’s why he is known as Alfred the Great.

Perhaps if a new poll is taken, he can take his rightful place along with Churchill, Elizabeth I, and Nelson as one of the nation’s top ten greatest Britons.

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Books, Education, Europe, History, London, Politics, Religion, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chewing the Cud over GMT and BST…..

CowVery soon I will give the hour back which I received 5 months ago. In seven months time I shall reclaim it.

I don’t know who is the beneficiary of my sixty minutes, nor do I know who returns it.

I do know that every year since the day I was born I have, with great philanthropy, parted with an essential essence of my life – my time – but comforted in the knowledge that I only permitted it’s borrowing on a short term loan.

I gave it free, without interest, yet if time was indeed money, I could have become very wealthy over the years had I charged for it.

After all, if I asked my bank manager for a loan he wouldn’t give it to me for free just because I promised to return it promptly after seven months. The difference of course is that my time is priceless, and although it is unique it has no monetary value.

I can invest it, I can spend it, I can save it and I can waste it. I cannot hold it. I cannot keep it. I cannot preserve it. It is gone in a moment – and lost in a memory.

I can think of nothing more valuable, more essential than time, yet it is not oil, not gold, not silver, not platinum. My time is more precious than metals and minerals, but it is all mine – every single second of it. It’s value is incalculable.

At 02.00 on the last Sunday of  March (as is always the case) I will say hello to British Summer Time, or on the last Sunday of October, return to the dark days of Greenwich Mean Time.

It’s an economic decision that I have no choice over. A few years ago the UK government considered the Daylight Savings Private Members Bill to abolish GMT and align the British Isles with CET (Central European Time), which would have meant more light at night and less light at morning. Longer summer evenings, and maybe an hour more light in winter resulting in longer darker mornings. It would have suited the more southern English, but not the northern Brits. In any event, the bill was rejected, and it’s not likely to reappear again for some time.

Any change in daylight saving policy won’t change the orbit of the earth, no more than it will stop the sun from rising and setting at inconvenient times for commerce and industry.

The cows in the fields will chew the cud regardless. The sheep will be fairly laid back and the pigs are unlikely to grunt in dissent. The cocks will continue to crow at dawn, and the chickens will lay their eggs without cracking up at the stupidity of it all.

The EU will be happy because everything will be standardised. But they tried that with the Euro and look what happened.

They can mess around with money. Surely we can’t allow them to mess around with the clocks as well?

I just don’t have the time for it.

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, General, History, Humour, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The New Queen of Scots………

SNP Party annual conference 2014Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalists, launched her party’s manifesto today. She says that another referendum of Scottish Independence is not on the agenda (yet) and she is committed to the abolition of Trident – the UK’s nuclear submarine defence system (or at the very least getting it out of her country). She’s also committed to the total impotence of the Conservative Party. Their march to power is real.

The population of Scotland is less than 5.5million with 4.2 million eligible voters. 100,000 of which are recent due to the voting age being lowered to 16. It wasn’t enough to get them success last year in the referendum, but it’s still a significant number.

No one in England and Wales are allowed to vote for the SNP, yet they could well hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament after May 7th. There are 42 million eligible voters in England and Wales, so how is it that this small country, with a small party, can influence the affairs of everyone else – all of whom cannot vote SNP even if they wanted to!

The Scots think big, and they are passionatly proud of their identity, but what right do they have to have a say over the rest of us? This is not democracy in action. But it is a perfect storm whereby the established parties have failed the public miserably, and people just don’t trust them anymore, and will cast their vote for others – such as UKIP, or the Green Party, and of course the LibDems.

The nation is in flux. Cameron and Miliband are failing to engage, and neither Conservative or Labour can barely be separated with a blade of grass.

Indeed neither of them have the qualities of statesmanship which deep down is what the British public seek.

I really do fear that our parliamentary democracy, the oldest in the world – the Mother of Parliaments – is under serious threat. For indeed, a Government must be formed within thirteen days of an election – appointed by the Queen, and she certainly doesn’t know what to expect, or who she will be dealing with, and no doubt this is focusing her mind.

She surely never had to deal with anything like this throughout her long reign, especially potentially dealing with a party (SNP) whose fundamental goal is to break the very union she represents!

We must be very grateful that we have a constitutional monarchy, with a woman of substance as it’s head, because if the shit hits the fan, we can at least rally around the Crown – and thank God that she – Elizabeth – is the one wearing it!

Furthermore, what’s the difference between UKIP and the SNP? UKIP wants to maintain the United Kingdom, keep Trident, but leave the European Union. The SNP wants to break up the United Kingdom, abolish Trident, and join a greater European Union. Do the Scots really want that? It’s a potentially disastrous scenario, and the crazy thing is the English, Welsh and Northern Irish haven’t got a single solitary say in the matter. Maybe it’s time they did!

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Current Affairs, Education, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Pragmatic View on the UK Election 2015

UK-Union-FlagPragmatism is the key to this UK General Election, yet by very nature of the word it can stifle change and continue the status quo. All of us like to think we are pragmatic. It implies we are sensible, realistic, grounded and practical. That’s why most of us who will vote on May 7th will favour the established political parties – Conservative or Labour. It’s the comfort factor – idealism is all very well, and whilst many of us will have high ideals, and may even strive for them – the fear of instability will override them. Such loyalty, although commendable, invariably reduces risk, and risk is a factor for those who want to live stable lives – regardless.

Families require security – they know that the Socialists will tax more to pay for essential services. By contrast they know that the Conservatives will reduce tax, but the spending power of the individual will be increased and therefore essential services will be paid through a a growing healthy economy. Both are in essence ideals – they just differ on the method of delivery.

A sensible electorate will vote for one or the other. Not because they are the only choices, but because they are the established safe choices. Yet, for the second time in five years, a majority government seems unlikely. It is the age of coalition, and until 2010 this had never happened before except during a time of war – World War II. Then it was the right thing to do – when political differences were set aside to fight a common enemy. Today we don’t have a common enemy, we just have common differences and in the mix are small parties with specific agendas, and anyone of them could play politics and hold the balance of power.

A minority Labour or Conservative government could function, but they would have difficulty implementing policy without doing deals with undesirable bedfellows. The Scottish Nationalist Party, who seek an independent Scotland within the EU (a party which recently forced a referendum to leave the UK and lost) could have influence in the very Parliament they wanted to leave. The United Kingdom Independence Party which wants to leave the European Union and have strict immigration policies could have influence likewise. The Liberal Democrats – the party which formed a coalition with the Tories in 2010 have achieved little, but believe they are the party to keep a balance on an all powerful government. The Green Party which may catch votes, are unlikely to have any significance. Then there is the Democratic Union Party who power-share the Northern Ireland Assembly with the Irish Republican party Sinn Féin. Then there is Plaid Cymru the Welsh Nationalist Party who seek an independent Wales within the EU. All will attract votes, yet all in their own way will render impotent a UK Government holding a minority.

So when Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP declares that “all bets are off” – he is quite right.

That’s why this election is probably the most significant in modern times. A minority Labour or Conservative victory will result in deals being done with the aforementioned. Labour will not contemplate leaving the EU unless it can change it from within. The Conservatives are committed to a referendum on EU membership in 2017. UKIP want categorical and unconditional removal from the EU. The SNP want Scottish Independence. The DUP wants greater control in Northern Ireland, and Plaid Cymru wants Welsh independence within the EU without influence from a UK parliament. Neither Labour or Conservative want a coalition with any, and for the next 38 days they will surely attempt to distance themselves from any potential scenario.

Meanwhile our country is being shoved and pulled in the world of international affairs. Our military is diminished, our economic power is questionable, our values are clouded, and our status in the world is opaque.

We are the repository of wealth from the global rich, yet our own people cannot afford to live in their own Capital. Our treasured jewel the National Health Service is under attack, our fundamental values which we imparted to the world of care for the elderly, sick, disabled and less fortunate have now – in a dramatic turnaround – become ideals, and our prided pragmatism is now seriously questionable.

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, General, History, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oyster – the World of Transport for London

Oyster1I took the car to the garage to have it's exhaust replaced, left it there and returned home by bus.

Upon entering I asked the driver (as I produced some strange metal objects from my pocket) how much to get to my stop?

He looked at me as if I'd just landed from Mars. "Are you paying cash?" he said astonished. I affirmed it. "That's £2.40" he replied, in what was clearly a state of shock. So I gave him £2.50. "Haven't you got the right money?" he grumbled.

"I only want 10p change" I said (I mean it wasn't as if I was giving him a fiver, which he would probably have rejected anyway). So he fumbled around in a little box and produced my 10 pence coin. I asked him if he'd ever heard of the concept of loose change. "Nobody pays by cash any more" he muttered. "Well, I don't get out much" I replied.

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January 14, 2014 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, General, History, London, Politics, United Kingdom | , , , | 1 Comment

Prince Philip in hot water over the Philippines

 

Prince Philip meets Filipina nurse

"Just put it there pal!"

Prince Philip has hit the headlines again in his own
inimitable style, with what some consider another of his famous gaffes.

 

Renowned
for his jokey persona he tends to dispel the restrictions of diplomatic speak
and just pops up with the first thing which enters his head.

And why not? He's 91 years old with a great sense of humour.

Some perceive his words as racist or insulting (not normally by those on the receiving end) and it's the media who run with them trying to make
a story out of nothing.

Philip is reported as saying to a Filipina nurse that he
thinks her country must be half empty as most are over here in the UK running the NHS (note he said "running"). I suspect he meant it as a compliment – after all, he spent a lot
of time in hospital since the Queen's Jubilee Pageant on the Thames where he
was getting soaked to the skin and having his royal bollocks frozen off, so he
probably saw first-hand the various nationalities employed as health care
staff, and clearly they made an impression on him.

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February 20, 2013 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, London, Politics, The Philippines, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Move down ladies and gents – Knife wielding incident at Buckingham Palace!

"They're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace; a man got
tasered and went down with malice"

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February 3, 2013 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Europe, Events, General, History, Humour, London, Photography, Politics, The Philippines, Travel, United Kingdom, USA | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Chinese Paralympic Paradox….

IPC_01_Institutional_RGB_210mmA nation which has little regard for human rights, which has limited disability legislation in place, which tends to hide it's less fortunate subjects away, and where the average able-bodied person ignores those less-abled who can often be found begging on the streets of Beijing, or forgotten in the rural communities where they have to fend for themselves, is walking away with gold medals at the London Paralympics.

Why is this? And does it show that the Chinese are embracing the disabled with equal rights?

Does it mean they are becoming a much more caring government?

Or does it mean that they just want to win – to be the best – at all costs?

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September 3, 2012 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, London, Olympic Games, Politics, Sport, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Olympic Closing Ceremony – how was it for you?

Closing ceremonyOlympic closing ceremonies are not designed to upstage the opening ones, and that’s why they are the least remembered.

Although the British contribution during the Beijing handover in 2008 was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Most notably the use of a London double-decker bus which opened out on the top looking remarkably similar to one destroyed during the city’s terrorist bombing in 2005.

The 2012 closing ceremony was meant to celebrate the nation’s arts and music, but even I, an adopted Londoner of over 35 years, was bemused if not confused by most of it.  

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August 13, 2012 Posted by | Arts, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, History, London, Music, Olympic Games, Sport, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Anglo-Aussie Olympic Game Changer……

Olympic cauldronHeatherwick Studio is the company responsible for the torch phenomena at the London Olympic Opening Ceremony.

As the days pass, the technical vision and skill of the display is being increasingly praised and recognised.

From his King's Cross studio in London, Thomas Heatherwick, the designer of the copper cauldron said “We were aware cauldrons had been getting bigger, higher, fatter as each Olympics happened and we felt we shouldn’t try to be even bigger than the last ones.”

The fantastic elegant design has been described as "imaginative and ambitious and the most complicated cauldron ever built."

Yet, credit should also be given to an Australian company called FCT Flames who contributed their knowledge to Heatherwick's concept (see how they did it at the end of this post).

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August 1, 2012 Posted by | Arts, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, London, Olympic Games, Science, Sport, United Kingdom | , , | 1 Comment

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