Wednesday, 10 June 2009


Time is a majority verdict. If a thousand clocks struck twelve it would be a bold watch which insisted it was 3 pm. It was not always thus. Differentvillages used to operate on different times. The coming of the railways united time since one could hardly have the Flying Scotsman arriving in Edinburgh before it left Crewe.Very much the same can be said of events. They vary by the position in which one views them.
This startling thought came to me in, of all places, that little gem of aGreek temple, the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight on Merseyside. The gallery boasts a collection of the paintings by Holman Hunt including one of the saddest images in the whole history of art. It is the "Scapegoat", a rather sorry looking animal which has the woebegone look much worn by our luckless Prime Minister in these difficult times. It depicts the goat that on the Day of Judgement is goaded and beaten and driven from the Temple carrying all the sins of the congregation. How similar, I thought, to the political life of our own dear Mr Brown.I am apolitical but I cannot see that Mr Brown is any worse than many of his predecessors. I except Mrs Thatcher. The only thing I have against her is that, in a drunken evening at the British Embassy in Paris, she agreed to the creation of the Channel Tunnel. Her apart, they have been a sorry lot.Callaghan, Wilson, Major, Blair. As grey a bunch of second-raters as you could shake a stick at.
I cannot for the life of me see what Brown has done wrong apart from selling our gold. Of course he wouldn't call an election he was pretty well bound to lose. Who can blame him?He had just got the job he had been lusting after for ten long years.
He was the only leader who had a plan to prevent the world from going bankrupt. He handled the last foot and mouth crisis with despatch and I believe he is trying to disentangle us in Iraq and Afghanistan, to which he is sending a token force rather than the massed battalions the Americans sought.He has been blamed for Labour's defeat in recent elections. The turn out in European and Local Government elections is always low and in this election there has been a reaction from rural areas for all the punishing laws in which country folk are drowning. And a reaction against the pettifogging new laws which every three quarters of an hour pour forth from Brussels.
Above all there has been the glaring evidence from the European andWestminster communities that our MPs are every bit as idle, as corrupt andas incompetent as the rest of us. Their sin is that they are blocking our way to the trough.So out into the desert limps this woebegone Presbyterian Scotsman, goaded by a congregation anxious to escape .blame.
I think, like the late lamented Douglas Home, the main reason we don't likehim is that he does not look good on TV. The Media is the other can attached to the goat's tail. The daily attempts to whip up a story are a pathetic attempt to match exclusives that have been pouring out ofthe Daily Telegraph in recent weeks.
Let me make it clear. I am not a fan of Brown. I cannot respect anyone who would bring to his cabinet Hain, Sugar or Lady Kinnock.and who longs for thecompany of Balls.


I was angry to hear the phrase "carry the can" used in connection with the parliamentary shenanigans. "Carry the can" is the property of my family,coined by my Great Uncle Jeremy, for thirty years the Earl of Dudley's principal mining engineer, and the phrase may only be exported under licence.
Uncle Jeremy was called to give evidence in a court case at Stourbridge,Worcestershire. A lady was prosecuted for selling beer without a licence after a boy was seen carrying beer away from her premises. Her defence was that she brewed it for her son, the charter-master at a neighbouring pit who gave a daily allowance of beer to his men. Uncle Jeremy confirmed the boy was carrying cans of beer because it was the practice of employers to give every miner in South Staffordshire a quart of beer a day.It was usually the youngest boy who had the job of "carrying the can".Older boys ambushed them and drank from the cans which resulted in can boys getting their ears cuffed by the miners who got short measure. "Carrying the can" became synonymous with punishment.
The Birmingham Post of 9 November 1889 poured scorn on the notion of pit beer:"Are we to believe," it demanded, "that day after day, at the same hour, the spirit of loving kindness swells the breast of every coalmaster and contractor in the district and fills him with the same spontaneous desire to give a quart of beer to every man he employs? Preposterous."

From the sixteenth century onwards there were so many Skidmores round Stourbridge they were identified in the Welsh way. Prurient friends might envy my ancestor Ben Skidmore o' the Bonk. Unnecessary. In this case bonk was the dialect form of bank.
Indeed,so many Skidmores were there that they became the stuff of legend.
It was said the devil started out with a big bag of Skidmores intending to drop one here and there as he jogged along. St Kenelm saw him and pursued him with a bottle of holy water. When he saw the saint was gaining, the devil dropped his bag near Stourbridge and all the Skidmores wriggled out. Nice to be so well thought of by one's neighbours.

Another ancestor invented the phrase "Scotch Mist." but more of that anon.