There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner

My new personal theme tune:

They’re out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent,
They’re dull in Hull
And the Isle of Mull
Is seething with discontent,
They’re nervous in Northumberland
And Devon is down the drain,
They’re filled with wrath
On the firth of Forth
And sullen on Salisbury Plain,
In Dublin they’re depressed, lads,
Maybe because they’re Celts
For Drake is going West, lads,
And so is everyone else.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Misery’s here to stay.
There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it’s no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won’t roll by,
With a scowl and a frown
We’ll keep our peckers down
And prepare for depression and doom and dread,
We’re going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag
And wait until we drop down dead.
From Portland Bill to Scarborough
They’re querulous and subdued
And Shropshire lads
Have behaved like cads
From Berwick-on-Tweed to Bude,
They’re mad at Market Harborough
And livid at Leigh-on-Sea,
In Tunbridge Wells
You can hear the yells
Of woe-begone bourgeoisie.
We all get bitched about, lads,
Whoever our vote elects,
We know we’re up the spout, lads.
And that’s what England expects.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Trouble is on the way.
There are bad times just around the corner,
The horizon’s gloomy as can be,
There are black birds over
The grayish cliffs of Dover
And the rats are preparing to leave the BBC
We’re an unhappy breed
And very bored indeed
When reminded of something that Nelson said.
While the press and the politicians nag nag nag
We’ll wait until we drop down dead.
From Colwyn Bay to Kettering
They’re sobbing themselves to sleep,
The shrieks and wails
In the Yorkshire dales
Have even depressed the sheep.
In rather vulgar lettering
A very disgruntled group
Have posted bills
On the Cotswold Hills
To prove that we’re in the soup.
While begging Kipling’s pardon
There’s one thing we know for sure
If England is a garden
We ought to have more manure.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Suffering and dismay.
There are bad times just around the corner
And the outlook’s absolutely vile,
There are Home Fires smoking
From Windermere to Woking
And we’re not going to tighten our belts and smile, smile, smile,
At the sound of a shot
We’d just as soon as not
Take a hot water bottle and go to bed,
We’re going to un-tense our muscles till they sag sag sag
And wait until we drop down dead.
There are bad times just around the corner,
We can all look forward to despair,
It’s as clear as crystal
From Bridlington to Bristol
That we can’t save democracy and we don’t much care
If the Reds and the Pinks
Believe that England stinks
And that world revolution is bound to spread,
We’d better all learn the lyrics of the old ‘Red Flag’
And wait until we drop down dead.
A likely story
Land of Hope and Glory,
Wait until we drop down dead.

There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner

On not rejoining Facebook at Easter

For the last couple of years I’ve taken a Lenten break from Facebook and Twitter to clear my head for a while.

Life is certainly more peaceful without them but I do miss things too: breaking news on Twitter; chit chat on Facebook, with those little glimpses of someone’s life that gives you a comfortable sense of a connection sustained.

Every Easter I wonder whether to reinstall the apps and, so far, I have. Its not that I haven’t known that an account on Facebook is a deal with the devil, but, believing myself to be savvy enough to recognise the advertising, the echo chambers, the nudges one way or another, I’ve thought, what’s the harm in
a joke shared, or an anecdote? It’s not as if I would ever publish something really sensitive or private.

I now know that its not as simple as that. We need to take account of something called ‘surveillance capitalism’:

‘Surveillance capitalism’ was the term coined in 2015 by Harvard academic Shoshanna Zuboff to describe this large-scale surveillance and modification of human behaviour for profit. It involves predictive analysis of big datasets describing the lives and behaviours of tens or hundreds of millions of people, allowing correlations and patterns to be identified, information about individuals inferred, and future behaviour to be predicted. Attempts are then made to influence this behaviour through personalised and dynamic targeted advertising. This is refined by testing numerous variations of adverts on different demographics to see what works best. Every time you use the internet you are likely the unwitting subject of dozens of experiments trying to figure out how to most effectively extract money from you.

This is from an excellent article in Open Democracy by Jennifer Cobbe. It’s well worth looking up.

As is the Talking Politics podcast that referenced it – an illuminating discussion about ‘what Facebook is doing to us and can anything make it stop?

As Janet Cobbe writes:

We’ve ended up with an internet built not for us – but for corporations, political parties, and the state’s increasingly nebulous ‘security’ demands. We need to better understand this problem so that we can challenge it.

Maybe this is the year I let lent last a little longer.

down digit

Later that same day…

I’ve just come across a very useful article in the Guardian with all the links you need to find out just what Facebook and Google know about you. Its worth checking. Google is an extraordinary tool for mass surveillance:

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/28/all-the-data-facebook-google-has-on-you-privacy

On not rejoining Facebook at Easter

The tale of Callard and Bowser

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Time was when a pack of Callard and Bowser’s butterscotch was a very special treat. C and I were reminiscing about it recently, sharing a memory of the packet, the square lozenges wrapped in gold foil, the sense of beyond-pocket-money luxury the sweet commanded.

I was left wondering what had happened to the sweet and the brand. Mooching around on the internet I came across this site called Let’s Look Again – a history of branded Britain. It’s a fascinating trawl through the familiar and the nostalgic. Those names – Walls, Huntley and Palmers, Vesta Curries (for heaven’s sake) have a real tug, whether you liked the product or not.

I thought the story of Callard and Bowser somehow emblematic of so much that has happened to brands that were once so distinctively ours. I take up the story just a after Mr Callard bought out Mr Bowser:

Daniel Callard received the 80th trademark issued in Britain in 1876. The thistle logo would adorn his butterscotch into the twentieth century.

Control of the business had passed to Daniel’s son, James Percival Callard (1859 – 1940) by 1891. Expansion had seen the business move to Euston by 1894. Daniel James Callard died in 1903 with an estate valued at £99,570 (around £11 million in 2015).

[…]

Guinness hired a Major Allnatt to build up a confectionery subsidiary in 1951. Allnatt acquired an 80 percent stake in Callard & Bowser and William Nuttall of Doncaster, best known for its Mintoes boiled sweet. The remaining 20 percent stake was purchased in 1957. Allnatt also added Rileys of Halifax (best known for their Toffee Rolls) and Lavells, a confectionery store chain.

A factory on Silverdale Road at Hayes in Middlesex was acquired in 1956. Guinness acquired Rolls Confectionery of Greenford, Middlesex from J Lyons & Co in 1961. The confectionery subsidiary took on the Callard & Bowser name but had its headquarters in Halifax.

By the early 1960s, Edward Sharp & Sons, J A & P Holland, Callard & Bowser and Mackintosh controlled over half of the British toffee market.

The Park Royal factory closed in the 1970s. In 1981 the Nuttall factory in Doncaster was closed down and production was transferred to Halifax. Following the closure C&B employed 1,186 people.

In 1981 the company had sales of £17 million.

Guinness sold Callard & Bowser to Beatrice Foods of Chicago for £4 million in 1982, as part of a drive to focus on its core brewing operation. Beatrice owned the Smith Kendon confectionery group of Bridgend in Wales, and it became a subsidiary of Callard & Bowser.

High business rates and an ageing factory saw the Hayes site closed down in 1983, with the loss of 500 jobs.

The South Wales site had opened in 1974, but in 1984 it was thoroughly modernised and re-opened by Princess Diana.

Callard & Bowser claimed 25 percent of the UK toffee market by 1985. In 1987 combined sales totalled just under £24 million (about £59 million in 2014). Around half of all production was exported to 65 different countries.

In 1988, in an attempt to reduce debt, Beatrice sold Callard & Bowser to United Biscuits for £21.5 million in cash (about £50.4 million in 2014). By this time there were only two manufacturing plants remaining, Halifax and Bridgend. They employed 240 white collar staff and just over 400 hourly paid employees. The Times reported that UB had acquired “one of the best-known and most traditional names in confectionery, famed for its butterscotch”.

Callard & Bowser was fully integrated with United Biscuits’s own Terry’s confectionery company to form the Terrys Group. The combined group had 3 percent of the British sugar confectionery market. In 1991 C&B claimed 33 percent of the UK toffee market. Confectionery production ended at Halifax in 1992. In 1993 UB sold its confectionery operations to Kraft of Chicago.

From the late 1980s, the company had a major success in exporting its Altoids Curiously Strong Mints to America. Packaged in distinctive metal boxes, by 1997 40 million tins were produced every year. Riley’s Toffee Rolls were discontinued in the mid-1990s in favour of increased Altoids production. Cream Line toffees were discontinued in 2001.

In 2004 Kraft sold Callard & Bowser, along with its Lifesavers mint brand, to Wrigley of Chicago for $1.48 billion. By this time Bridgend was shipping 8,000 tonnes of Altoids to America every year.

In 2005 Wrigley closed down the Bridgend plant with the loss of 173 jobs. Wrigley explained the 90 percent of production was being exported to the US, so it was more economical to transfer production there. With the exception of Altoids, the Callard & Bowser and Nuttall’s brands were discontinued.

Wrigley inform me that Callard & Bowser branded Altoids are still sold in Tesco and Morrison’s in Britain, but they are now manufactured in America.

And so it goes

The tale of Callard and Bowser

Choosing Logres

Jeremy Corbyn has been stuck like a fishbone in the craw of the Labour Party almost since he was first elected back in the eighties.

Irritating but immovable, the party learned to overlook him – along with the smaller band of refuseniks who sat with him on the backbenches resolute in their – deeply unfashionable – principles.

Fashion, though, has a way of coming full circle. Just as we can be certain that mullets and bell bottoms will one day return to triumph – so Corbyn triumphs now. It’s biblical: remember Psalm 118 v22:

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

So, with socialism back on the table, we have a choice on Thursday. It is political of course, but I wonder if it isn’t deeper than that too. Here’s something I read years ago in CS Lewis’ strange novel, That Hideous Strength. One of his characters, Dimble, asks if we had noticed:

“How something we may call Britain is always haunted by something we may call Logres. Haven’t you noticed that we are two countries? After every Arthur, a Mordred; behind every Milton, a Cromwell: a nation of poets, a nation of shopkeepers; the home of Sidney–and of Cecil Rhodes. Is it any wonder they call us hypocrites? But what they mistake for hypocrisy is really the struggle between Logres and Britain.”

It crops up in Howards End too as the contrast between the life of the mind – and heart – and the world of ‘telegrams and anger.’ Margaret Schlegel, here:

The truth is that there is a great outer life that you and I have never touched–a life in which telegrams and anger count. Personal relations, that we think supreme, are not supreme there. There, love means marriage settlements, death, death duties. So far I’m clear. But here’s my difficulty. This outer life, though obviously horrid, often seems the real one–there’s grit in it. It does breed character.”

Margaret’s wisdom is to see that you have to have the grit of the outer world as well as the world of ‘personal relations’ – but it shouldn’t be all about those ‘telegrams and anger’. In Lewis’ terms Logres and Britain will always need each other.

The problem today is that, for the last forty years ‘Britain’ has been in the ascendant. The voice of the practical woman and man has been supreme in the land. Some things have improved, but a great deal of what we most value – children and families, health, the environment, has been – is being – threatened. We need to redress the balance, bring back some of those other qualities – where people matter, where the heart has value, and where what counts is not merely money.

Corbyn – for all his many faults (he’s no King Arthur) does represent something different. Maybe Thursday is the time to give Logres its chance.

Choosing Logres

Who to trust?

Jeremy Hunt says that the junior doctors are misled; that weekend survival rates are lower than weekday and that stroke treatment is less available, and that extending junior doctors’ working weeks will improve the situation. He says that without inflating the budget or employing more doctors there can be more staff on at the weekend and it won’t mean lower pay or longer hours.

The doctors disagree with him on every point.

Both sides want us to believe and you have to expect that there will be an element of PR and spin – so it boils down to who do you trust most to be telling the truth?

Jeremy? Or the doctors?

Who to trust?