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May 24, 2005

Irish Disagreements Part 1 – The Home Rule Movement Is Born

Yeah yeah, with that title this entry could be about anything really. We are a test case in how to breed a race which values indignation as a moajor character trait. Hell, I'm a wonderful distillation, half Irish half Scouse. Everything makes me indignant, my high horse is so high if I were to fall I'd flatten major cities such would be my velocity when I hit the ground*. And with that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, I am presenting to you…

Ireland Between 1880 and 1914.

Trust me, you'll be crying with frustration very shortly.

In 1800 the British had one of their periodic bright ideas of unity and stuff, and decided to make Ireland a part of Britain itself, rather than an argumentative self-governing place. In part this was because of the rebellions. The other part was, of course, the rebellions. Ireand was made up of Catholics and Protestants. Britain told them to shut up and behave. Life would be easier if they had.

So for a while this was fine because the rule in Ireland is that the indignation must be allowed to grow.

By the 1860s the Catholics were really quite indignant. They wanted to be ruled from Dublin. This does not mean they wanted to be independent. They just wanted to be ruled from an Irish city but still under the British monarchy. A group dedicated to getting home rule was formed and it called itself the Home Government Association. Catchy. It was formed by a man called Butt in 1870. Jokes ahoy!

Naturally some of the Protestants didn't like this. But then again the Protestants didn't like a lot of things, like the Catholics. And in turn the Catholics were not always keen on the Protestants, although to be fair the Protestants had come from a foreign country and taken over much of the land. Centuries earlier. The Irish have long memories.

Anyway, the British had done their usual trick of completely ignoring what was going on until the 1874 general election when Butt's party obliterated both Liberal and Tory at the polls. Then they paid attention.

But Butt (hahaha) didn't have much time to do stuff and become a hero because he soon lost his job. He mimsied around and not a lot happened, so a member of his party called Charles Stuart Parnell decided to take inspiration from a seven-year-old child and refuse to let parliament play pass any laws until there was Home Rule. It is an indictment of politics that Butt's vague but gentlemanly fannying around got no where but Parnell's stroppiness got him into power in the Home Rule party.

Parnell was, like Butt, another Protestant. The Home Rule movement was not just Catholics. But there was a pattern. It was popular in parts of Ireland which weren't Ulster.

Ominous rumble of thunder representing the impending approach of history.

Oh god, now this entry is getting melodramatic.

In 1880 Gladstone got back into power. Parnell made himself popular by abandoning his obstructiveness and attaching the Home Rule movement to those who were calling for reform of the land in Ireland which was owned by a small number of people. This was a result of the famine, as was the desire amongst the poor to own some of this land.

Things were hotting up. Gladstone wasn't allergic to Home Rule like Disraeli's Conservatives were. Parnell was charismatic and popular and didn't have a name that school boys could snigger at easily. The Conservatives jumped on the Home Rule bandwagon. It was all going well.

Remember what we said earlier about the rules of Irish history. If it's going well now, give it five minutes and it will all fall apart. And it did.

Part 2 coming soon.

*If any scientists post anything about terminal velocity and the inaccuracy of my rhetoric I will a) get indignant and b) find you and rub salad on your face. Rough salad.

May 19, 2005

The Irish Potato Famine

Spuds. Tatties. Taters. Mash. Roasties. Crisps. Chips. SmashTM. Is it really any wonder why I don't like baked potatos, can't stomach mashed potatos, run a mile from boiled potatos, and need my roasties roasted till you can barely classify them as spuds? Oh I get the same comment so often, "Holly, how can you claim to be of Irish blood when you hate potatos so much?" Would you like them if they wiped out thousands of your countrymen? Or did they? Uh-oh, here comes the history again…

Disclaimer: The author of this piece is half English, half Irish and will probably refer to both nations in the first person. Apologies, I blame the parents.

The Irish Potato Famine.

All Irish history follows the same principle with only minor variations. That principle is this:

  • Things aren't going too bad.
  • Something terrible happens. Normally this invovles people dying.
  • The authorities act slowly, stupidly and with no positive effect.
  • Somehow, despite this, things seem to be getting better.
  • The authorities react to this improvement by really fucking things up.
  • Situation spirals out of control. Lots of people die.
  • Situation dies down. People get used to new level of normality.
  • Things aren't going too bad. Ad infinitum.


  • Things aren't going too bad.

The Potato Famine has very little to do with potatos. Seriously, it is purely the background to know that in 1845 the blight appeared in Ireland. Where it comes from and what it is/was aren't very important for historians. After all we now have a cure for it. And the Irish diet is no longer spudflakes for breakfast, spud for lunch and spud de l'orange for dinner. What matters is what the people did. And it's enough to make you wonder why people bother…

Ill potato with blight.

  • Something terrible happens. Normally this invovles people dying.

1845, the crop partially fails. Little impact as the economy could cope with this. That's common sense. After all, even the most primitive of systems usually adapt to some level. Come on, put those 'stupid Paddy' stereotypes to one side for a moment. We gave you Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and the gimpy looking one out of Westlife (isn't that all of them?). What more do you want… oh, you want us to take Westlife back? Erm, no. Seriously, we were smart enough to export and you were dumb enough to import, ha ha ha.

Anyway, minor crop failure in 1845 = some hardship in 1846. The government is led by Peel who knows some stuff about Ireland, like where it is, what it do that and who? Not many English people knew much about Ireland at the time. This is because they owned a huge empire and it's hard to know what to know, y'know? You know how we slag the Americans off for not knowing anything about the world today? Yeah, that was us 150 years ago. Not so smug now are we?

  • The authorities act slowly, stupidly and with no positive effect.

Peel tries to help. He gives the Irish some food. "Well duh!" I hear you cry. He also sets up schemes so the poor can work and earn money to buy food, and the work will result in new roads and such. Ok, so this seems quite good. Not great. Obviously people don't really want to be building roads for pennies to buy gruel. But it's better than nothing. Naturally the English don't really notice.

  • Somehow, despite this, things seem to be getting better.

I hate this bit. It always happens. It's just something about Ireland that it has to tantalise its people with the taste of the possibility that maybe things won't be so bad. Heard of the phrase "luck of the Irish"? It's bad luck people! Why don't the English and Americans get that?

Potato dressed as a nineteenth century politician.

  • The authorities react to this improvement by really fucking things up.

Peel tries to help. The British respond by throwing his party out of office. That was a bad idea but when you've looked at as much Irish history as I have then all you can do is sigh and say "here we go again". Instead Britain was now ruled by Russell and the Whigs, and they had a simple belief system:
– If we help the Irish by giving them food we might hurt local business.
– And make the natives lazy.
– And damage our beloved laissez-faire trading attitudes.
See why we don't operate on Whiggish principals these days? Anyway, they weren't trying to deliberately wipe the Irish out, as some hysterical people will tell you, but they weren't really thinking, were they? So they tried to get the Irish to help themselves, which they couldn't because there was a distinct lack of food. And the British government asked the Irish to pay for it themselves. Which they didn't want to… and so the slippery slope gets slippier…

History student potato crying in frustration at the grim inevitability of it all.

  • Situation spirals out of control. Lots of people die.

Chaos. Poor lose land. Landlords evict people. Workhouses. Death. This is what people mean when they say history is depressing. This is why history students are so misanthropic. Humanity is crap. The only problem is individual people are frequently lovely. Why oh why is this so? Do you nice bastards not realise how hard you're making it for us to wallow in our despair at the futility of mankind? Damn you all. Damn those landlords who did what they could to help their tenants even as they lost their own lands. Damn those Quakers for feeding people as much as they could, no strings attached.

  • Situation dies down. People get used to new level of normality.

And so it ended and left the entire country really really pissed off. And I apologise if this entry isn't as funny as some of you were hoping. Future ones get funnier. But I'm telling you, even the Irish, those legends of the sense of humour, would find it hard to get a laugh from this. I know someone who once told a famine joke whilst doing standup. She's alive today but only just.

I'd like a 2:1 please. It's the best I can hope for.

May 16, 2005

Spanish History

I've suffered for this essay. Now it is done and I want everyone else to suffer to. Don't care about Spanish history? Tough shit! Here's stuff I've had to learn. Had to learn. No choice! Nooooooooooooooo…

Isabella I (1451–1504) and Ferdinand II (1452–1516).

Hello. We are Isabella and Ferdinand. We are the Catholic monarchs. We are very Catholic. If you asked us how Catholic we were on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being Martin Luther dressed as Neitzsche listening to Marilyn Manson and 10 being the pope in a cathedral feeling guilty) we'd have to be modest and say 11. And a half.

We got married and as a wedding present we got Spain. Isabella used to rule the bit called Castile which has lots of flat bits in it as well as Real Madrid who win lots of things and buy lots of players. Ferdinand used to rule Aragon which doesn't have Real Madrid, or even Athletico Madrid, but does have more calamares. And sunburnt English people.

Despite being responsible for Spain we didn't really do much that was cool. Neither of us ever slew a dragon or conquered Doncaster or invented museli. We were very Catholic though. More Catholic than a nun on a consecrated bicycle.

We also threw the Jews out of Spain which was not very nice. This got us a bad reputation with people in the future but at the time no one could stop us because we got the Inquisition and they didn't. We also met this man who kept telling us there was a quick way to the East Indies. In the end we gave him some money and told him to fuck off and sail off the edge of the world (which is flat). But he came back. His name was Chris. He wasn't as Catholic as us.

We had some children but they were rubbish so we passed on Spain to our grandson Charles who was less rubbish. And less Catholic. Unlike us. Did we mention we were very Catholic?

Charles V or I (1500–1558, reigned 1516–1556)

Hello, I'm Charles V or I depending on who you ask. I don't really care because I like riding around on my horse. I'll ride for ages and sometimes I'll have no idea where I am except what I do know is I own it. I own most of Europe. That bit of Europe you're standing on? Mine. And that bit your mum is standing on? Mine.

The Spaniards weren't that keen on me because I was a bit foreign. But my horse was bigger than theirs so I ruled. I also fought lots of wars because wars are cool and as you can see I am a man. I have a beard and a horse and most of Europe. I am also emperor of the Holy Roman Empire which is just a big excuse to ride around on my horse.

Lots of people revolted against me when I was king. The Spanish revolted in 1521. This was called the Comuneros though not by me because I speak French which might have been part of why they were pissed off. Also my German subjects revolted a few years later. All this meant I got to ride around Europe on my horse a lot.

Eventually I became convinced I was crap and quit. I retired to a monastry because I had gout and was too fat to ride a horse anymore. In the end I did the sensible thing and died.


Philip II (1527–1598, reigned 1556–1598)


Hello, my name is Philip. I am the son of Charles and inherited the cool bits of his empire but not Germany which was full of people questioning Catholicism, becoming Protestant and reserving all the sunloungers with towels.

If I was alive today I would be considered a geek. Or a nerd. Or a geeknerd. I liked to sit in my office reading documents and not getting hurt in wars and stuff. I like paper, except when it gives you paper cuts but only Protestant paper does that and I at least tried to stop heretics from making evil paper cut paper.

In my reign we lost the Netherlands after a war. We also didn't capture England despite being married to its queen (Mary I) for a bit, and then creating a fuck-off huge Armada of boats to get it. We called it the 'Invincible Armada' but it wasn't and it sank. Therefore as all we did was talk big and lose when we should have won (but not so much that we were ever in any real danger ourselves) we were the Tottenham Hotspur of history. Unfortunately this makes France Arsenal and they were starting to get quite powerful. In 1598 I solved the problem by dying.



Philip III (1578–1621, reigned 1598–1621)


Hello, I'm Philip III of Spain. I was a lazy sod and my dad was one of many who thought I'd be crap… and they were right! I did very little except to trust most of my actual king-ing to the Duke of Lerma. This would have been a good idea if he hadn't been crap.

In my reign we decided to go one better than the Catholic monarchs (because I am very pious as well, despite all the opulent parties at court) and threw out the Moors. This was a bit like throwing out the Jews but with Muslims. Apparently in the future this is considered to be a bit nasty. As it turns out the Moors were quite important in other parts of Spain and I became unpopular as a result.

I'd tell you more but I can't be bothered…




Philip IV (1605–1665, reigned 1621–1665)


Unlike my dad I tried. I really did. But it was no use. Spain was buggered and there really was nothing I could do.


People say I was a miserable bastard. Well you'd be miserable too when you realised you'd inherited a country with no money, a cack handed army that couldn't punch its way out of a wet paper bag (or Holland as we sometimes call it here in Spain), no bloody trade because our South American colonies are broken, and, the icing on the cake, I had a stupid moustache.


Yes, by this point it was obvious I didn't have the required Catholicism or manliness or even plain old big fuck-off boats to do anything exciting. Therefore all I get remembered for is for being around when Spain was falling apart. Oh well, at least I got thorugh a whole load of immorality at court which was nice. Then, in accordance to the precedent set by the rest of my family, I died.

Charles II (1661–1700, reigned 1665–1700)


Alas, here the Habsburgs in Spain end with me, the perfect example of why monarchies should, y'know, get out more and meet people. My parents were uncle and niece and my grandparents on one side were uncle and niece, and I can tell you, when your family tree ain't got many branches it ain't gonna grow good fruit.

Annoyingly this meant I was a perfect physical manifestation of the crappy, broken Spain that I was put in charge of. Me! I could barely hold a conversation I was that inbred. Seriously. My jaw jutted out way too far and I was slow and epileptic and everyone in Spain, in Europe, where ever, spent my entire life wondering when I would die!

How bloody rude!

So I didn't. Ha! I lasted ages longer than they thought. And y'know what? It felt good. It felt like finally I was sticking two fingers up at tha haterz. "No necesito esta mierda", that's what I said. Just when it's all over we finally showed some spirit.


I'd have up there giving them grief if I was capable. Which I wasn't. Oh well… nevermind that I went loopy at the end, nevermind that I was an invalid and a drooly one at that, nevermind that really, for all the prestige on our family name, the Habsburgs weren't very good at their jobs. Nevermind. We had our revenge. We became part of History and then poor children in the future had to write essays about us. Especially English, Dutch and French children because their ancestors caused us all that grief. That'll learn ya!

Carlos II signing out! I'm off for a ciggy and a pizza…

May 12, 2005

Irrelevant Degree Related Crap I

I've just noticed I have no PDP category on my blog and nor does most of the people from the beta testing group (check the links to Coach Stu and Group IV to see what I mean). How odd.

Anyway, I've a sort-of PDP entry here but I'm not creating a PDP category for myself because I'm a contrary sod and like to be different. It explains my trousers.


I've managed to finish one apocalyptic, 4500 word essay tonight, including the strangely calming process of footnote writing. Suffice it to say I have one more essay which needs another 500 words and a little bit of historical feng shui to get it to answer the question. Or make sense. After that, three history exams and one Spanish exam, and that's it. I apologise to all science students if they think that's an easy ride. It isn't. You bugger up one of your exams and you've probably lost a few marks in a 12 CAT module. I've got 30 CATS riding on one three hour paper. It's not quantity but quality, as usual.

So what's with the total air of calm?

This time around I'm organised. See, the finished essay isn't due in for a week, I am going to get it proof-read and it's sorted. Plus there's time to sort out the other one. This is all, of course, utterly unprecedented. My usual style is the panicked, week before desperation which guarantees lost nights out, brain mulching migraines and erratic marks. I have no idea what my tutors think of me as I hurtle around pretty much the entire 2:1 range of marks with total abandon. So far I think the only one I've failed to get in two years is 61. There's something not to aim for.

Whatever, I'd bore you with details but you wouldn't thank me. No one needs to know about politcal parties between 1702 and 1714, not even me. Just imagine I wrote a really good essay on something you're interested in and then imagine that I've written an interesting post about that, not this waffley crap.

I'll be found, nervous twitching from an overdose of Red Bull (I have low tolerance of caffiene from not drinking it except as Red Bull during exam periods) and hoping that the scary library fascists don't find me. I'm not doing anything wrong usually, but I'm sure they are after me.

Oh god, I've got library fever. And it was sunny outside…

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