Thursday, January 31, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
One of the first actions of the new regime has been to publish a new Employee Handbook which sets out corporate core values and workplace rules. During a previous life, I would spend long and painful hours ploughing through such documents within the NHS. As Human Resources departments became more powerful such policies would expand in both coverage and complexity like a field of blooming jellyfish. It is therefore with outright joy that I read about the new employee handbook in an article in yesterday's Washington Post.
That's it. That is the one hard and fast rule. Unless a serious mistake was made when you were hired, you have pretty good judgement"
Other gems include the following:
4.2 : Working at Tribune means accepting that sometimes you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use. You might experience an attitude that you don't share. You might hear a joke that you might not consider funny. That is because a loose, fun, nonlinear atmosphere is important to the creative process.
4.3 : This should be understood, should not be a surprise and is not considered harassment".
Thursday, January 17, 2008
If anyone has ever undertaken the task of sorting, digitising and cataloguing family photographs (and if you haven't done it yet, you should do it now before it is too late), they will know the importance of those scribbled words on the back of a photograph : they are worth their weight in printing ink (if you have recently bought a new ink cartridge for your printer you will appreciate the scale of this claim). If you are the type of person who adds witty subtitles to your everyday snaps - power to your elbow. In a hundred years time someone will no doubt give thanks for your scrawling. The worry is, of course, that as fewer and fewer digital images are actually printed off, there is no canvass for such historical doodlers to perform on.
Anyway, the little photograph reproduced here was small, tatty, scratched and bent. Such imperfections can easily be overcome with the help of Photoshop. The real treasure, however, was the description on the reverse :
"10/8/47 : Edie and Mother. She wanted to get dressed up but we told her it didn't matter for snaps"
The Edie will be Isobel's mother Edith. The mother will be her mother-in-law, Sarah Shaw. The reporter, no doubt, will be Isobel's father Raymond. Small-scale social history at its best.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
A "cart" was something that was vary popular amongst my friends in the 1950s. Invariably home-made, such carts consisted of a central wooden spine to which were attached four old pram wheels. A wider board would be attached to the rear of the central spine for the driver to sit on - or during more sporting occasions - lie flat on. Carts were self-propelled, exciting, adventurous, fun and offered a form of childhood transport that could take you to strange lands such as Shibden, Hipperholme and Shelf. To my parents carts were dangerous, silly, dirty and something people living in Oaklands Avenue just did not have. Once again, in the battle of perspectives, it was no contest. Once again I could dream.
Eventually the dream subsided, to be replaced by other, more complex, teenage dreams. But the degree of longing I invested in that childhood picture has remained with me throughout my life as a kind of acquisitive yardstick. Yes, a flat screen telly would be nice - I tell myself as I walk around Dixons - but do I want one as much as I wanted a dog and a cart.
All this came back to me yesterday as I took my dog Amy a walk in the January rain. We turned a corner and there, in front of me was an old broken cart. The wheels were spreadeagled and the wooden spine was broken. But still it sent a thrill down my old spine. I wanted to patch it up, fix the wheels, oil the axles, hitch Amy up to the front and fly home. Send the flat-screen back, trade in the digital camera, pawn the new computer. The boy had his dog and his cart at last.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Someone has come along and dug a big hole in the Crematorium. I don't know why they have done this - it would seem like a bit of a contradiction in terms. Anyway, it gives me a rare insight into what I am walking over each day. It's kind of fascinating, all those layers of different coloured earth. All of which must have their meaning. Perhaps I should take a sample and send it to JGC (she is an adept digger after all). But it is wet and muddy, so I walk on and hope that the analysis can be undertaken from photographic records.
The maddening thing is that the BBC has been concentrating on the development of their blasted iPlayer at the expense of almost everything else. Their podcasts are still disappointingly few and far between - although now you can catch up with what is happening in Ambridge whilst you walk the concrete urban sidewalks. They also seem to have adopted a path-of-least resistance in relation to the copyright problems that surround the new media. Why, for example, can't you "listed again" to Desert Island Disks - "for rights reasons" - whilst you can "listen again" to any number of Radio 2 programmes? And what is the point in turning a programme like Jazz Library into a podcast when you limit yourself to playing a 30 second bite (more like a sound bit) from each of the records discussed? It's like the audio equivalent of a prick-teaser.
Most annoying of all, why does the BBC limit the availability of its back-catalogue of radio programmes to just 7 days? If I can turn on my Cable TV station and access "television on demand" why can't I access "radio on demand"? It can't be storage - you could store a weeks' radio broadcasts in the space it takes to store one Eastenders episode. I apologise for starting the week with a moan but there are good reasons. The current BBC "Book At Bedtime" is a ten-part serialisation of a book by Betty Macdonald called "The Egg and I". I was not familiar with the book and came across it by chance whilst paging through the BBC website. I will not waste time summarising the plot - suffice it to say it is very funny and extremely well written. Go to the BBC website straight away and catch-up with the episodes you might have missed. It started last Monday, so the daft BBC seven-day rule means that you have until this evening to listen to the first episode. Catch it quick - it's worth it.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The crowning piece of evidence was in the 1891 census records. By now Alice is 16 and her occupation is listed as being a "Milliner Apprentice". We therefore have a possible solution - the hats were stock in trade, borrowed for the big day from the brides' workplace. Whatever the explanation, it does seem likely that it was the wedding of Abraham and Alice which took place in the Spring of 1900. So, a little late in the day, we can finally publish the picture, and the report :
"The wedding took place on Saturday 23rd April 1900 of Abraham, son of Smith and Margaret Moore of Percy Street, Horton, Bradford and Alice, eldest daughter of Thomas and Lydia Rotheray of Smiddles Lane Bowling, Bradford. The bride wore a dress of starched white silk ....."
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Grayson was born in Liverpool, the son of a carpenter, in 1881. Like many great orators, he had a bad stammer as a child, but overcame this and became active in the nineteenth century trade union and socialist movement. In January 1907 the Colne Valley Branch of the Independent Labour Party - more than likely meeting in the very room in Marsden where his picture now hangs - adopted him as their candidate for the forthcoming elections. The leadership of the Labour Party tried to pressure the local ILP branch to drop their support for his candidacy (there was an informal electoral pact with the Liberal Party) but they refused and against all the odds, Grayson was elected. Politically, he stood on the extreme left wing of the Party and openly preached the need for revolution and the overthrow of capitalism. Angry at their opposition to his candidacy, Grayson refused to join the official Labour Group in Parliament, and sat as an independent socialist. He quickly fell foul of the rules and conventions of Parliament and was removed from the House on several occasions.
However, just as frequently, he removed himself from the House. He attended few debates, preferring to concentrate on lecture tours and increasingly frequent bouts of heavy drinking. Stories of his drunkenness and luxurious lifestyle quickly spread and in the 1910 election he lost his parliamentary seat. In the years that followed, there were episodes of heavy drinking and several attempts to re-launch his political career, all of which failed. He surprised many of his socialist supporters by becoming a ardent supporter of the First World War. In 1915 he left Britain to go to New Zealand, but immediately joined the New Zealand army and returned to the Western Front where, in 1917, he was badly wounded.
After the war he returned to Britain where he became involved in a bitter campaign against the then Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. He claimed to have proof that Lloyd George was involved in selling political honours and the involvement of an MI5 agent, Arthur Maundy Gregory, in this corrupt practice. In September 1920, Grayson was beaten up in The Strand. He claimed that it was an attempt to silence him and stop him naming the "monocled dandy" (Gregory) as a key player in the sale of honours. A few days later he received a telephone call whilst out drinking with friends. He told his friends that he would be back shortly and left them. Later that evening he was seen entering a house down by the River Thames. After that, he was never seen again.
So many aspects of the story have a contemporary feel about them. I would have happily sat down with Grayson for an hour or two and attempted to find out what he knew and why he vanished. But Victor Grayson wasn't talking. He was just looking at me from his spot on the wall in the upstairs committee room. Smiling knowingly.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Monday, January 07, 2008
Limiting myself to just the front page, here is a quick analysis of the stories that made the headlines in the San Francisco Call of the 7th January 1908:
* The start of the second trial of wealthy coal and railroad heir Harry K Thaw for the murder of the New York architect Stanford White. The article contains a sensational description of the opening of the trial - at which Thaw pleads insanity - and the part played by his wife, Evelyn Nesbit. The illustration is of the good lady herself who - it is said - testified on behalf of her husband in return for a divorce and a $1 million settlement.
* A developing row between the US President - Theodore Roosevelt - and the head of the Navy personnel department, Rear Admiral Willard Herbert Brownson. Brownson resigned following the decision by the President to appoint medical officers to be in charge of hospital ships, which was seen as an insult to the US Navy. The headline - "President Puts Navy In Uproar Over Brownson" - has a nice contemporary feel about it.
* The report of an "incident" in which a noted San Francisco capitalist - George Whittell - is accused of pushing the son of the President of Guatemala down a flight of stairs. The dictators' son - D Cabrera - bruised his bottom and his pride and demanded $50,000 in compensation. The incident occurred after Cabrera had been out on the town with Whittell's son and, it would appear - led him into bad ways.
* Other choice bits include a report of how the Navy has decided to encourage its sailors to take exercise and has therefore agreed to pay the bill for a Navy rating's broken jaw which he received in a football game. The re-arrest of a businessman who faces charges or perjury and corruption with regard to the purchase of public land. It appears that he was sentenced to 24 hours in jail but was released at tea-time, his sentence having been halved for "good behaviour"! A competition in which you can win yourself $5 by writing a witty and original answer to the question "why do women kiss when they meet?"
So, there we have it. A political scandel including the President, a sensational murder trial, a society scandel resulting from a drunken night out on the town, a corrupt businessman getting a few hours in jail; ..... very little has changed in 100 years,
One of the great advantages of reading newspapers which are 100 years old is that you know how the story ends. Thaw was convicted or murder and found insane. He spent some time in an asylum but his money bought him a degree of freedom and he went on to commit further crimes before dying, aged 76, in 1947. His partly-fictionalised story forms the basis of the current best-seller "An Interpretation of Murder". Roosevelt survived his row with Rear Admiral Brownson and went on to have a century of stuffed bears named after him. Brownson had two battleships named after him. I have been unable to discover whether Whittell ever paid Cabrera's son the $50,000 in compensation. Cabrera senior - a nasty piece of work by all accounts - went on to rule Guatemala until 1920 when he was forced out of office. Something of an eccentric he tried to get the cult of Minerva adopted as the official religion of Guatemala and built several Temples to Minerva.
It would be quite nice if we knew how the various stories that populate the newspapers of the 7th January 2008 ended. But there again, perhaps we are better off not knowing.
Friday, January 04, 2008
Thursday, January 03, 2008
You could teach an entire term's social history course based on that press cutting alone. At least, you can avoid a little bit of work by reading it.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008