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Heart shaped wire in scrapyard

Multiculturalism, regardless of what German Chancellor Angela “Ja! Ja! Ja! Mein Gott! Dein Schwanz in meinem Arsch!” Merkel thinks, is not an end in itself. It is rather a consequence of the simple fact that people move around the world, and this has grown exponentially as communication and transportation has become easier and cheaper. It is unlikely ever to diminish.

Where individuals move, there is a tendency for them to absorb at least some of the culture they occupy. Where groups move, the resistance is greater, such as the behaviour of the British in the former empire. Orwell’s “Burmese Days” has a brilliant image of the traditional English garden, resolutely cultivated despite the searing heat of a Myanmarese summer, and by turns either wilting away or erupting into exotic life.

So the question is really the extent to which individuals and groups should surrender their cultures when they move abroad. This however runs counter to the worldwide growth in the perceived value of localised cultures (itself a reaction to the Americanisation of the world). In the UK the most obvious manifestation of this has been the Welsh and Gaelic languages, which are now actively sponsored where before they simply lived or died on their own terms.

So rather than fretting over multiculturalism per se, do we think that it is a good thing to support diversity, or do we think the ideal would be everybody being pretty much the same, and other cultures should only be viewed as relics in a museum or mere curiosities to be mocked and distrusted?

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

In many parts of England you may see a badger burrow. But, unless you are lucky, you may never catch sight of the badger itself, for it is a timid animal and rarely comes out, except at night. Even if you should surprise one away from its burrow, you might never notice it because of the extraordinary broadness and flatness of its clumsy body. When alarmed it will often flatten against the ground “like a doormat or a turtle”; and the animal might be mistaken for a clod of earth or a stone. But beware of the badger when it is cornered, for it will put up a stiff fight. The jaws are so hinged that dislocation is practically impossible, and hence they maintain their hold with great tenacity.

Badgers are common in the northern parts of Europe, Asia, and America. The head is pointed at the snout and the feet are armed with long claws used in digging and for defence. The thick fur is valuable, and the hairs are used in the manufacture of artists’ brushes.

The common badger is about two-and-a-half feet long and greyish in colour with irregular black bands on the back. The head is white with a broad black mark on each side starting from near the muzzle and passing back over the eye and round the ear to the shoulder, a marking which gives the face a clown-like appearance. The throat, chest, legs, feet, and belly are black. With its strong claws the badger lays open the burrows of rabbits, field-mice, etc., feeding upon these animals and on birds, frogs, small snakes, lizards, bacon, eggs, toast, marmalade, grasshoppers and other insects.

Badgers belong to the weasel family (Mustelidæ), which includes skunks, otters, minks, martens, wolverines. Scientific name of the common badger, Meles taxus.

Notre Dame Cathedral Antwerp

The city of Antwerp, the metropolis of Belgium and one of the greatest seaports of Europe, has long played an important role in history because of its situation and its commercial importance. Located 50 miles from the open sea, on the right bank of the Scheldt River, which is here 2,200 feet wide, Antwerp possesses one of the finest harbours of the world, through which passes a huge volume of imports and exports. Besides its commerce Antwerp is important for its diamond-cutting, sugar-refining, brewing and distilling, and its manufacture of textiles.

Its commanding position was attained only after a long and troubled career. The city was founded some time in the 8th century and is said by some scholars to have acquired its name – Hand-werpen (“hand-throwing”) – from the gruesome practice of one of its robber chieftains who cut off the hands of his prisoners and threw them into the Scheldt. By the middle of the 16th century Antwerp had become one of the most prosperous cities in Europe and the world’s chief money-market, but in 1576 it was pillaged and burned for three days during the “Spanish Fury” because it had taken part in the revolt from Spain, which then ruled the Netherlands. The city was ruined and its inhabitants scattered.

Not until the days of Napoleon did it start again on the upward road, when it fell into the hands of France. Napoleon began the improvement of its harbour to make Antwerp a rival to London and a “revolver held at the heart of England”. With this impetus Antwerp continued to grow even after the downfall of Napoleon’s empire in 1814. Its commerce received another setback in 1830 when Belgium separated from Holland, for the latter country controlled both banks of the lower Scheldt and imposed heavy tolls on all vessels ascending or descending the river. This obstacle was not removed until 1863.

Antwerp suffered another heavy blow at the opening of the First World War in 1914. Although its fortifications had been strengthened after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, so that it was considered the strongest fortified city in Europe, it took the Germans only ten days to drive out the Belgian army. On October 8th, 1914, they occupied the town, which they had long coveted because of its strategic location, and did not give it up until their withdrawal from Belgium in 1918.

In spite of these disasters there still stand in Antwerp some of the old buildings. The most famous is the cathedral of Notre Dame, which was begun in 1352 and completed in 1616. With its lofty tower it is the most conspicuous building in the city, and in it are three of Rubens’ great paintings, The Descent from the Cross, The Elevation of the Cross, and The Assumption. Other important buildings are the richly decorated town-hall, built in the 16th century, and the gallery containing a priceless collection of Rubens’ and Van Dyck’s paintings. Boulevards mark the site of the old walls.

Not far from the cathedral stands the shop and home of Christophe Plantin, “the king of printers”. Setting up the establishment in 1549, the business was continued after his death by his descendants until 1867 – over three centuries. Not only did he work with all the strength of an active brain and an amazing physical energy, but the founder of a business that was destined to become the finest printing house in the world persuaded all his family to labour for him. His wife, five daughters and two sons-in-law toiled often enough from early morn until long after dewy eve. One of the most famous works produced by the Plantin Press was a Bible in several languages that filled eight volumes. The types, presses and other apparatus of this old 16th century printer are preserved as precious relics of a master craftsman. Population of Antwerp about 300,000.


(The Manchester Guardian, 3 March 1956)

The president of Scarborough Hotels Association, Mr. Harry Lund, is annoyed with people who praise foreign holidays at the expense of holidays at home, and he is also annoyed with the Government. At the association’s annual meeting last night he said:

“We appear to have two implacable enemies – the garlic and olive oil gang of the press and radio, and the Government. By the garlic and olive oil gang I mean those writers, usually women, who happily accept on the Continent the sort of carpetless room with iron bedstead, flock mattress and early Victorian which they would raise all hell about over here. Imagine what they would say if instead of bacon and eggs and the incomparable meats and vegetables of England we were to give them starch-loaded Continental breakfasts and main meals consisting of dollops of spaghetti with a little tomato sauce. If they are willing to put up with that sort of thing over there it’s their own look-out. What we do object to is that they should then be given good space in journals and valuable time on the air in which to drool about how much better and cheaper foreign holidays are than our own.”

Felix Mendelssohn writes to his mother, 19 July 1842, describing a screamingly funny morning spent with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Buckingham Palace:

I owe you further particulars of our time in London, after our trip to Manchester … Prince Albert had asked me to go to him on Saturday at two o’clock, so that I might try his organ before I left England. I found him all alone; and as we were talking away, the Queen came in, also quite alone, in a house dress. She said she was obliged to leave for Claremont in an hour. “But goodness! how it looks here,” she added, when she saw that the wind had littered the whole room, and even the pedals of the organ, with leaves of music from a large portfolio that lay open. As she spoke, she knelt down and began picking up the music; Prince Albert helped, and I too was not idle. Then Prince Albert proceeded to explain the stops to me, and while he was doing it, she said that she would put things straight alone.

But I begged that the Prince would first play me something; and thereupon he played me a chorale by heart, with pedals, so charmingly and clearly and correctly that many an organist could have learned something; and the Queen, having finished her work, sat beside him and listened, very pleased.

Then the Crown Prince of Gotha came in, and there was more conversation, and among other things the Queen asked if I had composed any new songs, and said that she was very fond of singing the published ones. “You should sing one to him,” said Prince Albert; and after a little begging she said she would try the “Fruehlingslied” in B-flat. “Yes, if it were still here, for all my music is packed up for Claremont.” Prince Albert went to look for it, but came back saying it was already packed. “Oh, perhaps it could be unpacked,” said I. So the bell was rung, and the servants were sent after it, but came back embarrassed; and then the Queen went herself, and whilst she was gone Prince Albert said to me “She begs you will accept this present as a remembrance” and gave me a case with a beautful ring, on which is engraved “V.R. 1842”. Then the Queen came back and said: “Lady N.N. (I did not catch the name) has left and has taken all my things with her. It really is most unseemly.” (You can’t thnk how that amused me.)

Later, after rummaging around in some music, Queen Victoria sang “Schoener und schoener” from Mendelssohn’s first set of songs, which he was forced to confess was in fact composed by his sister Fanny! How they laughed!

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F. B. Wheeler)

“A country which is not a country, but a longish strip of market garden” – this is Kipling’s description of Egypt.

Out of a total area of about 350,000 square miles, only 12,000 square miles, an area less than half that of Ireland, can be used for permanent habitation. This is chiefly in the Nile valley, a narrow strip of country hemmed in by the Arabian hills on the east and the Libyan mountains on the west, and varying in width from 2 to 120 miles.

Without the Nile, which for centuries has deposited a thin coating of rich mud upon the sand, Egypt would not be different from the rest of the Sahara desert.

In Upper Egypt you will meet people who have never seen rain. At Cairo, 100 miles from the sea, there are four or five showers a year, and even on the Mediterranean coast there is only one-fifth as much rain as you will find in the driest parts of England.

The Nile valley is not only a garden. It is a museum where one sees gathered the works of the oldest civilization and of the most recent. Before Abraham was, before Moses, before Ur of the Chaldees, before Christ or Caesar, Egypt was the seat of a civilization, mature and rich.

You may travel to-day quite luxuriously by sleeping-car and river steamer from the mouth of the Nile to Gondokoro near its source. Along the banks you will see the best of modern irrigation works, and you will still see the slender brown-skinned fellaheen (“ploughers”) irrigating their land by means of a shadoof, a primitive well-sweep. For 100 days in the summer they must swing their leather buckets into the Nile day and night, and thence by three lifts get the water up the banks to their fields.

Along the banks of the Nile you will find the oldest monuments in the world, among them great temples, the Pyramids, and the Sphinx. You will also find there some of the greatest works of modern masonry, the Nile dams and “barrages”.

Beyond the hills that sometimes come down to the very bank, leaving but a hand-breadth of level land, lies the desert. The hilly Arabian desert on the east rises in a series of step-like plateaus to lofty mountains bordering the Red Sea. Here dwell scattered groups of nomadic Bedouins, and here are the remains of mines from which the ancient Egyptians drew their wealth of gold.

Here and there are dry river beds known as wadis. In the rare thunderstorms these carry torrents which cast boulders about like pebbles. The wind sweeps over the desert so mercilessly that not even sand is left upon much of its rocky surface. In some districts of the Libyan desert, however, to the west of the Nile, are immense crescent-shaped sand dunes that creep onwards about 50 feet a year, burying everything in their path. The Bedouin fears these “dust devils”, though he knows so well how to protect himself by wrapping his head in his blanket and crouching behind his camel.

In the Libyan desert are five large oases, made fertile by abundant supplies of underground water. Kharge, the southernmost, is reached by a railway, and supports a population of 8,000 upon crops of dates, rice, and cereals.

The Fayum, one of the most fertile provinces of modern Egypt, also lies beyond the valley to the west. It is just south of Cairo and separated from the Nile valley by six miles of desert. The Fayum occupies a depression in the Libyan desert into which the engineers of the Pharaohs 4,000 years ago drew off the waters of the Nile in years of great flood. The Fayum to-day is a land of flowing streams, and abounds in oranges, peaches, pomegranates, olives, figs, and grapes, besides cotton, sugar, and cereal crops, and is famous for its roses.

The region thus far described is chiefly Lower Egypt and the territory near it. Let us now survey the Nile country from the Sudan to Cairo coming north down the river.

From Lake Albert to Wady Halfa, a distance of more than 1,600 miles, we pass through the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan – a vast region of more than 1,000,000 square miles, with a population of 5,912,000, conquered between 1896 and 1899 by the joint resources of the Egyptian Khedive and Great Britain. The word “Sudan” means “black man’s country”, and the Anglo-Egyptian part of this great belt across Africa is the chief source of the world’s supply of gum arabic and ivory. It produces also cotton, ostrich feathers, dates, sesame, hides, skins, gold, and, in the southern districts, rubber.

At Khartum, the scene of “Chinese” Gordon’s death and of Kitchener’s triumph, the White Nile meets the Blue Nile from Abyssinia. From Wady Halfa, the southern limit of Egypt proper, to Assuan, is a two nights’ river journey downstream, which will seem very delightful after the hot 24 hours in the train from Khartum. If you happen to be making it in February you will begin to notice strange things some time before you reach Assuan.

The river widens into a lake a mile wide with rocky islands showing here and there and palm trees are growing straight out of the water. This is the result of the great dam that has been built at Assuan, for the purpose of storing the Nile waters in flood time for use later on in the drought. The dam is a mile and a quarter high, higher than most church steeeples, and rivals most of the world’s masonry works – even the Pyramids themselves.

As you approach Cairo, the eastern cliffs turn sharply away to the east and the low hills of the Pyramid plateau – opposite Cairo – drop out of sight. You are suddenly in Lower Egypt, or the delta of the Nile. This last hundred miles before you reach the Mediterranean is watered by 300 miles of the Nile, which here flows in two main branches emptying into the sea at Rosetta on the west and Damietta on the east. Here you will see little villages of dark mud-brick huts and groves of graceful date palms. The landscape is carpeted with vivid green, and crossed by such a network of irrigation canals that in summer little water is left to reach the Mediterranean through the natural channels of the Nile.

More than 60% of the 13,000,000 inhabitants of Egypt are agricultural labourers (fellaheen). The Egyptian government is the ultimate proprietor of the land, getting a large proportion of its revenue from the land tax. Nearly 60% of the land under cultivation is in holdings of 50 acres or less, and more than 60% of the landowners get their entire living from an acre or less of land. This is made possible by the fact that regular irrigation is practised on something more than two-thirds of the 6,000,000 cultivated acres, and thus two or three crops are obtained every year.

The fellaheen live in close-packed villages. They do not waste their precious land for house building, and, besides, they like the outer gates that can be closed at night against wandering brigands. The wealth which their land is bringing them under scientific irrigation and the introduction of schools is gradually making their lot less miserable.

Few manufactures are carried on in Egypt, which is essentially an agricultural country; but the immense quantity of cotton that is raised gives rise to numerous mills where it is ginned, and the seeds are crushed for their oil. Calico and other coarse cotton cloths are made, and Egyptian hand-woven silk shawls and draperies are often very beautiful. The Egyptians have a process of tanning practised only by themselves, and produce an excellent quality of morocco leather.

However, the Egyptian is a lazy fellow and will take sleep at every opportunity. They are not to be trusted and tend towards drug dependency and alcoholism. Discipline the Egyptian very harshly and he may respect you for it.

Modern Egypt was nominally subject to Turkey until 1914. The English had really controlled it since 1882, after a period of joint financial control with the French. The nominal head was a Khedive with British advisers. After the World War began and Turkey joined Germany, the British took over Egypt for what it really was, a British protectorate under its own sultan. It is now an independent sovereign state, although Britain has various rights.

As usual, when it comes to the England football team’s piss poor performances, the best headline appeared on the front page of today’s Sun newspaper:

Sunny outlook in many areas but depression over Heathrow as shower drifts in from South Africa

The kindest thing we can do for these unfortunate millionaires is to ignore them, just as they have ignored each other for the last two weeks. Boys, no one cares about you any more.

Perhaps one positive thing can come out of England’s disastrous defeat against Germany: surely now the Football Association must introduce the technology which will allow match officials and players to understand what Fabio Capello is saying.

(Fabio Capello is on holiday.)

Can the highest paid footballers in the world beat Slovenia?

When you pay someone millions of pounds, they perform better than anyone else, right?

That is fuck you economics, and that is why the UK is fucked.

The England football team have visited an orphanage in a poor quarter of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

“It’s heartbreaking to see their sad little faces, without a trace of hope,” said Jamal, aged 10.


World Cup 2010: Fabio Capello says his England team can reach final

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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