April 06, 2009

The Duchess – sacrificed on the altar of political correctness

DVD front cover
Title:
The Duchess [DVD] [2008]
ASIN:
B001JK6P18
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

I am very fond of the Regency period and looked forward to watching this film. I was aware of the deliberate link to the Diana back story – the tag line ‘there were three people in her marriage’ kind of gave that one away – which I assumed would be some sort of hook to the Diana-philes seeking confirmation of the injustice their Princess experienced. So I settled down to enjoy a bit of a period romp.

What I didn’t expect was for the story to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. There is a very interesting story to be told about a woman enjoying Regency life here – especially as women enjoyed substantially greater freedoms in this period than they were to through the Victorian era – but, instead, the story chosen was one of male brutality and sexual repression, which is certainly not my understanding of the Duchess’s life.

She was certainly not the ingenue as portrayed by Keira Knightley. She was one of the most famous – if not the most famous – hostesses of the era as well as being a regular participant in society. She had two, not one, children out of wedlock with Earl Grey which makes a mockery of the denouement of the film and most likely also had an affair with the Prince Regent, amongst other eminent men. She also ran up enormous gambling debts (in today’s money of around £5 million) regularly which her husband happily paid off over and over again.

She was most certainly not the angel that the film made her out to be. As with most upper class women of the age, she provided the heir to the Duke of Devonshire and then proceeded to enjoy herself. In today’s terms, she would have been something of an It girl, though expected not to bare quite so much to the newspapers.

We often view the Regency era in modern terms instead of considering it in its own context. But to butcher it in order to make it conform to modern politically correct sensibilities is, in my view, a heinous crime.


April 01, 2009

Did we just party too much and this is the big hangover?

It was meant to be the end of history…

The West had ‘won’ the Cold War and the term, “New World Order”, was on everyone’s lips. It was a time of unbridled optimism for world peace and resurgent, everlasting prosperity. After all what was there to worry about now?

Did we just take our eye off the ball and celebrate too much?


March 24, 2009

A smallholder's lot is not a happy one…

There was a massacre of the innocents in my garden yesterday at lunchtime. Three of our five chickens became a takeaway lunch for one of the local foxes and its young family. Foxes get brave at this time of year, they have young families to feed so they will wander around the local farms and gardens looking for food that’s easier to come by than digging for worms in the fields.

I lost one of my chickens a year ago to a fox, and that seemed a reasonable price to pay for the pleasure of owning them and the eggs they produce, but losing three in one go is harder. And a difficult lesson for the kids, too.

The chickens were roaming the garden quite freely, but unprotected. It seems cruel to keep them locked up for their entire lives in a box 6 feet by two feet so they were allowed to roam most days. It is a question of balance between giving them a decent quality of life and something approaching a natural life for a ‘wild’ chicken or keeping them alive simply for the eggs they produce for us. The foxes won’t come in the garden when humans are around but the chickens are a walking lunch box for them that they will wait for…


March 10, 2009

Funny? Well, I thought so…

A duck walks into a bar and says to the bar man: Have you got any bread?

The bar man replies: No we don’t serve bread

So the duck asks again;: Have you got any bread?

The bar man replies: I just told you we don’t serve bread

So the duck asks again: Have you got any bread?

The bar man, getting angry now replies: No, and if you ask again I’m going to nail your beak to the table

So the duck asks: Have you got any nails?

The bar man replies: No I don’t have any nails

So the duck asks: Have you got any bread?

------------------------------------

A guy went on vacation to the islands. When he got off the boat he heard the drummers playing an island rhythm. He found it fascinating, however, after several hours, the sound became an annoyance, so at dinner he asked the waiter “When do the drums stop?”

The waiter went pale and stammered, “No. No. drums not stop. Very bad when drums stop”.

After tossing and turning through the night, he called the front desk at 2am to ask when the drums would stop.

“No. No. Drums not stop. Very bad when drums stop”.

After a sleepless night he was waiting at the front desk for the manager. He asked once again, “When do the drums stop?”

Again came the reply, “No. No. Drums not stop. Very bad when drums stop”.

Grabbing the manager by his shirt, the man screams, “What happens that’s so bad when the drums stop?”

“Trombone solo” came the reply.


March 06, 2009

Finding the Good Life up a chicken's backside

I’ll bet Richard Briers never found himself having to do this sort of thing on The Good Life. Though they did film something similar in the James Heriot series, It Shouldn’t Happen To A Vet. But, in that case, the prop was somewhat larger.

I keep chickens. Well, bantams. And they lay eggs every now and again. About every 30 hours or so when it’s laying season which is about 8 months of the year. So I have my own supply of eggs though with all the expense of feeding and housing the animals, I think it would be much cheaper to just buy them from the supermarket.

They’re a lot of fun, really. They have their own distinct personality. As long as they are far enough from the house and can’t see the sun, they don’t crow at 5 o’clock in the morning, either. And they normally put themselves to bed when it gets dark, though sometimes that is up a tree…

But one of them recently had a prolapsed cloaca. For the non chicken experts amongst you, that’s the bit the egg comes out of. Well, for a chicken, the plumbing is rather badly arranged so that everything comes out of there which is why you’ll get the occasional egg from a shop with a bit of chicken poo on it.

Right, a prolapsed cloaca looks like a dark brown sac hanging out the back of the chicken. Along with a bit of blood and egg yolk (seeing as this particular chicken thought it was trying to lay an egg that wasn’t ready). And the first aid approach to this particular problem is… to push it back in and hope the animal doesn’t push it out again…. so you use a finger.

I never ever thought I would ever have my finger up the back end of a chicken…

Life is full of surprises…


March 05, 2009

Cutting interest rates was never going to work

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7925620.stm

The Bank of England has, as expected, cut interest rates again by half of one per cent.

I’m no economics expert but I was never convinced that the repeated cutting of rates was ever going to work. Try it once, by all means, and on a small scale but this repeated chopping in my opinion has done no one any good.

The original idea was to make it cheaper for the main banks to borrow money from each other and on the surface the rate cut would reopen the gates of liquidity. The unintended consequence of this, however, was the swift flight of overseas money to more lucrative havens overseas. The clear indicator of this has been the plummet in the value of sterling as the investors have dumped the currency.

The effect of this has been twofold. First of all, there is less money than ever moving around the City but, secondly, the remaining industrial base of the nation has been hit by the rise in its export prices thus making it less competitive than ever and then to increase the price of oil in this country which had been dropping in recent months and and, well, have at least softened the blow had it not then been made to rise by the falling value of sterling.

The medicine has not gone down well. I wonder whether cutting the rates was ever going to work and whether a small increase of a quarter of a per cent at that point would actually have worked better. While other countries dropped their rates, overseas capital would have flooded in to the UK giving the central banks something to lend, thus increasing the liquidity in the market. And, assuming that Government went ahead with its ideas for forcing the banks to lend to industry and small businesses had still gone ahead, these businesses could still have been kept afloat. Additionally, we probably wouldn’t have seen taxpayers money being used in quite the same amounts had the banks had overseas money instead to invest (more wisely this time around, one hopes) and trade through their losses.

Had my idea not worked, then they could still have tried cutting the rates. In other words, they would have had somewhere to go. As it is, they have to print more money. Give it a fancy name if you want, but that’s basically what it comes too. And losing control of one’s currency has never been a good idea when it comes to stability.

Just ask the Romans. Or, more recently, the Argentinians.


January 20, 2009

Mis–marketing Obama

I’m intrigued by the way that Barack Obama is being heralded as the new John F Kennedy and I wonder if the JFK star is not the one that anyone really would want to be hitched to.

Kennedy won the 1960 election by being better looking and a better orator than his opponent, Richard Nixon. But once in office, it seems that he achieved… well, not a huge amount really. True, he gave some great speeches: the inaugural “ask not what your country…”, “ich bin ein Berliner” and “we go to the moon” but perhaps we should be slapping his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, on the back instead.

Kennedy wasn’t a great one for domestic legislation. Look at what his successor, Lyndon B Johnson achieved in his term in building his Great Society.

Nor was he a great one for foreign policy achievements. The Bay of Pigs was quietly swept under the carpet and the Cuban crisis could be said to have been resolved by his going public with the information. Kruschev’s fait accompli wasn’t and a quick bit of horse trading over some obsolete missiles in Turkey and the crisis was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Both superpowers could claim victory and get on with life as before: it wasn’t about nuclear brinkmanship, but managing expectations. And Nixon possibly achieved more in his time as President in terms of foreign policy than Kennedy did.

Maybe JFK’s greatest achievement was in getting America to the moon. Whatever the merits of the manned space program it was a very tangible achievement.

So Kennedy was a great orator and so is Obama. But I, for one, have higher hopes of him achieving more in his time than Kennedy did! Of course, Obama’s party controls both houses of Congress so I imagine it will be easy for him to get busy in the first couple of years, at least!

So, why pick out the name of Ted Sorensen? Well, there is a story that six months after JFK’s inauguration following the incredibly close 1960 election, Richard Nixon ran into Sorensen and the two men got talking. Nixon said, ‘There were things in that speech I wish I’d said.’ Sorensen said, ‘You mean, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?” ’ And Nixon said, ‘No, I was thinking more of, “I hereby solemnly swear. . . ’ ”


January 14, 2009

Should a man assist a woman on her own?

Which man would be willing to give a woman on her own a lift in a rain storm?

A little while back a train service I was using stopped short of its destination and a bus was laid on to get us to its final station. A pregnant woman complained to the coach at large that she had missed her bus connection and so was stranded, not being able to afford a taxi. Now the weather turned nasty and, as I went to pull out of the car park, I saw this woman on her own at the (unsheltered) bus stop looking completely miserable so I asked if she wanted a lift home.

She got in the car and I took her home – well, nearly, she didn’t actually tell me where she lived, just gave me directions, left, right and so on, until suddenly she asked me to pull over and she ran off down a passageway between some houses.

Now, I thought I had behaved correctly, making small talk, following her directions to the letter… you know, just being a fully paid up human. She looked like she thought it was just a matter of time until I jumped on her and raped or killed her. To be honest I was glad to get her out of the car as she was making me feel very uncomfortable. And afterwards, on reflection I wondered if I really shouldn’t have bothered.

Women are always advised these days by caring friends and parents to never get into a car with a man they don’t know. And what good advice that is, too. But how human are we – forget about such niceties as to what constitutes gentlemanly behaviour, these are enlightened times… How human are we if we just abandon people who are in need of assistance that we are able to give because we are afraid of the potential threat our charity carries.

What would you do in such a situation?


October 15, 2008

James Bond and the global economic crisis

Possibly not a title that Ian Fleming remembers…

It occurs to me that there are a number of similarities between what is happening now in the global economy and the plot of Casino Royale…

In the big plot set piece, James Bond has to gamble some money to try to win some from other people. In this, he fails. He therefore goes to his principal backer and asks for some more money. Because he has to get his money back somehow or the plot fails he gets given a lump sum from the government to gamble with again. He wins big, of course, and all is well (despite momentarily considering keeping the money for himself).

Quite apart from the fact that having flushed away the first tranche of money and therefore he would in real life not be given any more, because he’s clearly not as good at cards as he made himself out to be… the film is one of the modern trend of movies in that if we only have faith in someone, it will all come good in the end.

And right now it seems we have to have faith in the banking system that they will, despite (or because of) being the people who said that “past performance does not guarantee future returns” – never a more disingenuous statement was said!!! – we have to have faith that bankers will learn the error of their ways and not be so naughty ever again!


October 01, 2008

If you can't take a joke this winter….

I read that the Met Office have predicted that this winter will be mild and dry. Mainly because the last eight out of ten winters were mild and dry and the Met Office is probably hoping that the dice have a memory.

My (slightly tongue in cheek) prediction is that it will be a terrible winter, on a par with those in 1947/48 and 1962/63.

Here’s why:

Fate has a vicious sense of humour…

The economic downturn will cause increased poverty – historically recessions have followed bad winters. Well, we are beginning the recessive cycle right now;

Increased fuel prices have also historically caused bad winters, though possibly this is more to do with increasing energy costs causing recessions, but that might be getting in the way of a good argument;

Oversea military commitments have also caused bad winters; eg the 1947/48 freeze during the post world war occupation of Central Europe;

So…

With the national resources (and personal!) being stretched pretty thin right now, the situation is ripe for Fate to stick her oar in and give us a right rotten winter! And, if a half inch of snow these days is sufficient for the media to dig out the severe weather headlines, what sort of a disaster would be a few feet?


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