Perspective, And Numbers

I read in some article in the Dead Tree Telegraph this morning about how the BritGov (thanks to the foul Tony Blair’s NuLabour governance) has been spending £4 for every £3 it collected.

Yeah, we can all do the ratio on that one. But how much more effective would it have been to use the same ratio, only with actual proportions, i.e. “The Government has been spending £400 billion for every £300 billion it collects in taxes.” Same ratio, far more effective; and if I may say, also more truthful.

I don’t wanna ask what the USGov’s ratio has been, under Urkel Obama’s stewardship.

Holes In The Ground

Last October, The Englishman and Mr. Free Market had planned a joint visit to the U.S., but only Mr. Free Market made it over The Pond. The Englishman’s excuse for not making it was that he was going to be looking in a hole in the ground. (Mr. FM’s acid comment: “Nothing wrong with looking at holes in the ground, as long as there are dead Socialists at the bottom.”)

Well, this is the hole that The Englishman was talking about:

…and he took me there earlier today, after a liquid lunch [he added unnecessarily]. Here are my pics, taken at ground level:

The trapezoidal outline is the “inner wall” that was probably the outer wall of the barrow — basically, a wooden structure covered with earth and turf, wherein, the newspaper article runs, the dead were buried.

Here are a couple pics of some of the people excavating the site:

Actually, as The Englishman pointed out to me, the “burial ground” thing could be a load of nonsense, for the simple reason that as of today, no human remains have yet been found. The structure could equally have been a communal living area or shelter — but as the digging progresses, there may well be prehistoric bodies discovered further down.

It makes sense that it’s a burial site, by the way; in Neolithic times, dwellings were generally placed closer to rivers or lakes, and this barrow is at least a quarter-mile up from the nearest stream. Also, the dirt mound which surrounded the barrow had the trench on the inside, and not the outside (which would have made it a defensive fortification around the barrow).

I have to say that generally speaking, this kind of stuff holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever. I like history (i.e. written accounts of events and people) and not prehistory (which has no such accounts). The problem is that I love listening to experts talk about their area of expertise — it can be a glassblower, a gunmaker, a liquor distiller or someone who’s spent forty years studying Shakespeare’s sonnets — and along with The Englishman, who is very knowledgeable about all this prehistory stuff, I also met Jim Leary and Amanda Clarke (see the article) who are heading up both this dig and a nearby one (which we visited too). It’s impossible not to be excited when people like these talk about finds they’ve made which could completely change our understanding of this hitherto-unknown time.

Of course, all this was made still more enthralling for me when we passed this building on the way home — a Saxon church built around the time of Alfred The Great:

It’s long since been converted into a house, and I just hope that the owners appreciate its heritage.

And on the right is The Englishman’s Land Rover Defender (full pic below):

Of course, we’re not allowed to own such exquisite vehicles because of OSHA (no “side-protection”, or some such nanny-state bollocks), but don’t get me started on that tangent.

As with so many days I’ve spent here, it was perfect — and I’m going to do it again, somewhere else.

Oh, and of course, I’ve been remiss in not showing the place from which we started off the day’s activities, The King’s Arms in the village of All Cannings:

This is an historic site for me, because it’s where I was first introduced to Wadworth’s 6X Ale.

No Frigging Rules, Except For

As much as I love my job Over Here, reporting from behind enemy lines, there are certain things which drive me nuts. Chief among them is pronunciation, because while there are some rules, there are almost as many exceptions. Should any of my Loyal Readers find themselves in Britishland, here are a few tips which may prevent you from sounding like a mawkish ‘Murkin. Most are place names.

The town of Cirencester is pronounced “Siren-sister”, but the town of Bicester is not Bye-sister, but “Bister”, like mister. Similarly, Worcester is pronounced “Wusster” (like wussy), which makes the almost unpronounceable Worcestershire (the county) quite simple: “Wusster-shirr” (and not Wor-sester-shyre, as most Americans mispronounce it).

Now pay careful attention. A “shire” (pronounced “shyre”) is a name for county*, but when it comes at the end of a word, e.g. Lincolnshire, it’s pronounced “Linconn-shirr”. The shire is named after the county seat, e.g. the aforementioned Worcester (“Wusster”) becomes Worcestershire (“Wuss-ter-shirr”) and Leicester (“Less-ter”) becomes Leicestershire (“Less-ter-shirr”). Unless it’s the town of Chester, where the county is named Cheshire (“Chesh-shirr”) and not Chester-shirr. Also Lancaster becomes Lancashire (“Lanca-shirr”), not Lancaster-shirr, and Wilton begat Wiltshire (“Wilt-shirr”). Wilton is not the county seat; Salisbury is. Got all that?

*Actually, “shire” is the term for a noble estate, e.g. the Duke of Bedford’s estate was called Bedfordshire, which later became a county; ditto Buckingham(-shire) and so on, except in southern England, where the Old Saxon term held sway, and the estate of the Earl of Essex became “Essex” and not Essex-shire, which would have been confusing, not to say unpronounceable. Ditto Sussex, Middlesex and Wessex. Also, the “-sexes” were once kingdoms and not estates. And in the northeast of England are places named East Anglia (after the Angles settled there) and Northumbria (ditto), which isn’t a county but an area (once a kingdom), now encompassing as it does Yorkshire and the Scottish county Lothian — which I’m not going to explain further because I’m starting to bore myself.

And all rules of pronunciation go out the window when it comes to Northumbrian accents like Geordie (in Newcastle-On-Tyne) anyway, because the Geordies are incomprehensible even to the Scots, which just goes to show you.

Now here’s where it gets really confusing.

Villages used to be called “hamlets” (still are, in some places), so a village might be called Chesham (pronounced “Chezz’m” and not Chesh-ham), unless it’s the town of Horsham, which is pronounced “Whore-sh’m” (not whore-sham). In fact, Chesham might be an anomaly, because most villages where the name ends with an “s” create an “sh” dipthong — e.g. the lady in Great Expectations who’s called, Miss “Haver-sham” and not Havers-ham. Also, the “-sham” is pronounced “-sh’m” (or “-shim”), but let me not confuse you here.

The letter “l” inside a word is almost always silent. Palm and calm are pronounced “pahm,” and “cahm”, so the village of Calne is pronounced “Cahn” and not Cal-nee or Cal-nuh — similarly, the village of Rowde is pronounced “Rowd” (like crowd) and not RoadieRowdee or Rowd-uh.

Oh, and to end this thing: people are often confused by Welsh place names such as:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch

…but you needn’t worry. It’s just that the Welsh, like the Germans, run several words (and even phrases) together into a single word. The name of the above town, which is on the Isle of Anglesey, simply means “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio of the red cave”. It used to be called by a much shorter name, Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll (“The Mary church by the pool near the white hazels”), but that wasn’t confusing enough to the English and Scots, and the Welsh do love to take the mickey, so in 1850 the town was given its full name.

The rest of Britain got their revenge with the invention of computers, where the (English) programmers were not going to create a 50-character field just to accommodate the Welsh, so the place is now known as “Llanfair” (or “Llanfair PG”, to differentiate it from all the other places called “Llanfair” in Wales).

 

Over There

Tonight I’m flying off for my “sabbatical” in Britishland, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be Over There until about mid-September.

Because I don’t know what kind of Internet connectivity will be available in Thomas Hardy country, I’ve taken the liberty of plundering my archives of some interesting articles and essays, and will be posting said pieces for the next few days or so until I’ve figured the situation out. Regular blogging will then resume, only consider them as coming from behind enemy lines, so to speak. There will also be pics and such from various places such as Edinburgh, Lord’s and perhaps even from Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea F.C. (of whom I’ve been a loyal fan since 1972). I’m not going to see my trip through a camera lens — I’m not Japanese, after all — but there will be shots of pubs and other places of interest so you’ll be able to see the locations of my several misadventures. (Evil Kim is stirring…)

Of course, the timing of the posts will generally be askew because of the time difference between the UK and the US. Also because hung over. But there will be at least some golden oldies from previous blogs to fill the void when my brain is full of bitter ale rather than creative juices.

What has amazed me in re-reading my old stuff is how many of these pieces have stood the test of time. There are of course some obvious anachronistic exceptions: for example, Tony “Scum” Blair is no longer PM of Great Britain, thank goodness, nor is Arnold Schwarzenegger governor of Gollyfornia (ditto). But the substance of what I wrote well over a decade ago is still current. The issues haven’t changed, only some minor circumstances and the dramatis personae.

Anyway, here I go. Wish me luck with the boarding process… or watch the news for the ruckus. (“At DFW Airport today, an angry passenger was arrested after inviting a TSA official to perform a sex act on himself…”)

Oh, let’s just have a sing-along:

~~~~~~“The Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming and we won’t be back until it’s over, Over There.”~~~~~~~~~~

Signs Of Life

So it  appears that British gun owners (yes, they have a few) may be “allowed” to defend themselves with deadly force if they are threatened by a terrorist attack. Well, that’s the theory, anyway.

Homeowners with gun licences could be encouraged to defend their communities in the event of a terror attack, according to a leading police chief. Alison Hernandez, police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, said shoot-to-kill powers could be granted in the event of ‘extreme circumstances’. Her comments suggest that farmers, firearms dealers and other licence holders could be used to defend remote areas from an attack by marauding gunmen. There have been concerns that large parts of rural Britain are vulnerable to a terror attack due to a national shortage of elite police marksmen. Last year, John Apter, head of the Hampshire Police Federation, said the nearest armed response team could be up to 70 miles away from some parts of the countryside.

As I read it, you must first be attacked by terrorists, and only then can you be granted the right to defend yourself? Note the weasel phrase “extreme circumstances”, because guess what? in Britishland,  you don’t get to decide what constitutes “extreme”; only the government can do that. And even then:

She said she would raise the idea with her force’s chief constable but admitted the legal implications were complex.

In other words, fuck all is going to get done, because once the lawyers are involved…

I should know better. Sorry; carry on, nothing to see here.