One of the more depressing aspects of the climate-change issue, is that there remain a number of high-profile people who refuse to believe that it exists and is either substantially or significantly a result of human activity. Some of these people even get angry when accused of being climate-change deniers, claiming that they are just being ‘open-minded’.
Deniers are usually free-market enthusiasts, almost always well to the right of centre; Nigel Lawson is one, the author of a rather grubby little book on the subject. They insist that the computer models are flawed, there is very little real evidence (and there is no consensus among experts), and the undeniable global warming that is taking place could be the result of purely natural processes. They claim also that the costs of stopping or reversing warming are so astronomical, that surely we need more firm evidence before committing the countries of the world to an expense that may, in the end, make no difference. And in any case, if the world is warming, will it really be that bad?
The real question these people should ponder is this: if there is credible evidence of climate change and the catastrophic effect it will have on the planet and the six or so billion people living on it, can we really afford not to spend money now to prevent it?
Well, allow me to add my twopenn’orth of evidence on the subject. In the early 1970s I lived for a while in the picturesque village of Wivenhoe on the River Colne not far from Colchester. Just over the road from our house was a woodyard receiving deliveries from Polish freighters coming up the river at high tide. Every now and then one of them would get ‘neaped’ – when it went aground near a spring high tide and had to wait two weeks for the next high water to float it off. This grounding was assisted, it was rumoured darkly, by 80% proof Polish vodka, some of which even found its way into the hands of the local villagers…
We had some very good times there and it was a fun place to live, so I was alarmed some years ago to see that a barrier had been built across the river to protect Colchester from tidal surges and the rising sea level. Sea levels are rising at the rate of around 3 mm in a year as the sea warms up – that’s more than five inches since I lived there. And for Essex it is worse, because the land is also sinking … The Environmental Agency spent £14.5M on the barrier, and I now know why. I have been unable to find out what the actual sea-level increase has been at Wivenhoe, but this week I had first hand evidence of its consequences.
Taking advantage of some late September good weather, I took the boat up the Colne from Brightlingsea and moored up on the Wivenhoe Sailing Club pontoons for lunch. The locals told me the Black Buoy was best for food and so it proved to be.
As I walked to the pub I noticed a large puddle in the road which puzzled me, since there had not been any rain for several days. Soon, however, the reason for the puddle was clear. The first picture shows the view from the window of the Black Buoy – the puddle is evident. The second picture shows what caused it …
As the tide came in it lapped the houses at the bottom of the street effectively cutting it off from that direction – although an intrepid white-van-man did drive through it at one point. The flood-barrier was not closed on this occasion, but it has been closed already several times this year.
This is the reality of global warming and the terrifying prospect of climate change. Admittedly, being close to the Autumnal equinox, the tides are particularly high at the moment, but I never remember the water lapping the houses during my time at Wivenhoe, and we lived very close to the quay.
So there is no need to visit the Pacific Islands, the Antarctic ice-shelf, the Greenland glaciers or indeed the now navigable northwest passage to see the evidence of climate change first hand. Come to rural Essex during the spring tides, but do bring a pair of wellingtons …
This was a sight to make any booklover’s blood run cold – a fire engine outside the British Library, with sprinklers in the upper storeys triggered.
The library is an oasis of civilization in a world gone mad. Obviously it is a place to go to use the books and other resources, but it is also so stimulating and calming just being there.
So when, yesterday, I was in one of the reading rooms and the fire-alarm went off, my heart sank. The staff very efficiently ushered us out on to the square in front of the library where the picture was taken.
I had visions of the great Library of Alexandria going up in flames … I said to the person next to me that I hoped it was a false alarm, particularly since my jacket and bag, complete with a ticket for that evening’s Prom Concert, was in a locker inside the building. With horror, I saw that some sprinklers high above us were showering water on to one of the roofs; it was also starting to rain …
But the gods smiled; there had been a malfunction of some sort, the fire-engine departed, and a few minutes later we were allowed back into the building.
Was it, I thought, a metaphor for what is happening to this country? I would like to think that the current situation with the government and parliament is a malfunction, which the big boys will come along and fix, assure us that everything is ok, and allow us back into the real world.
I had always thought that ‘Tosspot’ was a masturbatory term of abuse, when suddenly I came across the word in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Thomas Hardy’s novels were liberal in matters of sex, but I couldn’t see that word getting past the obscenity laws.
A little thought, and reference to that fount of all knowledge, Google, confirmed that the term refers to a habitual drinker.
I shall now have to come up with another description adequately to describe the First Lord of the Treasury …
A comment in the Sunday Times today, reminds us of another well-known, newly appointed populist European leader of recent times, who promptly closed down his parliament – one A. Hitler. He suspended the Reichstag only to see it burn down a few days later … Hmm. Isn’t the House of Westminster due to be closed shortly for major renovations?
Talk of this reminds me of an amusing incident that occurred when I was a post-graduate student at Essex University in the early 1970s. The university was a hotbed of revolutionary socialism in those days, with several strikes and sit-ins happening during my time there.
During one such sit-in, a barrier of lockers was erected – with my office and the student union TV room inside the barrier. I was obliged to crawl through a tunnel to access my desk … My soon-to-be wife was visiting at the time, and I had found out that Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will) was to be shown on BBC 2 at 9 pm. This was a famous NAZI propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl that chronicled the 1934 Nürnberg rally. The film was fascinating and terrifying considering what was to come, but I could not see any politically correct reason for not watching it if challenged.
We crawled through the tunnel, and at 9 o’clock, surrounded by revolutionaries and no-one being much interested in the TV, I changed the channel to watch the film. Notwithstanding the content, it was electrifying, and we managed to see 20 minutes or so before anyone noticed all the swastika flags and recognised some of the ‘players’. Then someone did, and they commented that Albert Sloman was probably in there somewhere (he was the university Vice-Chancellor, the Antichrist and universal hate-figure among the students); we were obliged to turn it off.
Triumph of the Will should be watched by everyone. Right-wing populist political leaders are gaining power in more and more countries around the world. We need constantly to be reminded of how easy it is for apparently laudable aims – full employment, economic prosperity etc – to be subverted into misery, terror and death.
What is he on about now, you ask? Well, put simply, the healing power of music… The Aurora Orchestra, playing Beethoven, Bruch – solo violin Nicola Benedetti – and Berlioz, all conducted by Nicholas Collon.
I experienced a profound and healing catharsis from this concert at Snape on Thursday night. The very first chord of Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus started it. My wife glanced at me disapprovingly thinking I was laughing at something. I was actually trying to suppress a violent emotional reaction; a feeling of coming safely home after a long and distressing period away.
The effect continued through the Bruch violin concerto, superbly played by a very glamorous Nicola Benedetti in a long orange dress. But the climax – in all senses of the word – was Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique.
The Aurora Orchestra specialise in playing pieces from memory, and this they did with the Berlioz. Most of the musicians, with the exception of the cellos, double-basses, harps, and tubas, were able to stand, and in standing could better express themselves in moving as the music took them. The whole process was wonderfully visual; theatrical almost. This was heightened by the two harps being brought forward during the second movement and placed either side of the conductor’s podium. During the third movement, the four bassoons occupied the same position, with two military looking side drums either side of the stage for the subsequent ‘March to the Scaffold’.
Other details entertained as the music progressed. One of the lady violinists, also very glamorous, was wearing (as I learned later) Christian Louboutin shoes – with bright red soles and very high heels (at £400 a pop). I noticed with amusement, that she surreptitiously removed them as the harps were being brought forward, playing the rest of the piece in bare feet … One of the cellists was enjoying the music so much that he had a broad grin on his face for much of the time. The conductor, with long wavy hair, bounced and bobbed, and the the principal clarinettist really jazzed up his solo in the last movement. And they were all so young … in contradistinction with the audience, overwhelmingly of the ‘third age’.
It really was a ‘fantastique’ climax to the concert. As the applause died down, the various members of the orchestra hugged each other in the joy of having produced such a truly wonderful and uplifting performance. And I was moved.
Oh so that’s what it means! A man with a casual disregard for the truth is voted in to power by 0.2% of the electorate. He is given to making wild, extravagant, and empty statements - two weeks ago: “The chances of no deal are a million to one!” This week: “A deal is touch and go …”
He heads a minority government, and closes down parliament to prevent debate on the issue of Europe while denying that that is the reason for doing so. How stupid of me not to have understood before!
Still, his favourite book is The Iliad – or is it The Odyssey? Anyway, whichever it is, it's nearly three thousand years old and he reads it in Greek so he must be ok … Wait a minute, didn’t they say that about Enoch Powell?
Beam me up Scotty …
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that there is no limit to human stupidity.
When I was a student ‘doing’ the Greek Islands in the summer of 1970, I met a man who insisted that air travel was magic. “How else”, he said, “could an aircraft, made of metal and weighing more than 300 tons possibly get off the ground?” I was studying physics at the time, but I decided not to go over the simple principles of aeronautics with him, concluding that he was happy enough in his delusion; his disbelief in the reality of flight was harming no-one but himself, and that hardly at all.
The ‘Flat-Earthers’ I’m guessing that most people would, likewise, dismiss as harmless lunatics. The Neo-Creationists are somewhat more problematic. ‘Answers in Genesis’ is a website devoted to the belief in the literal truth of the Book of Genesis, that the universe was created in 4004 BC, and man and dinosaurs co-existed on Earth. These people become dangerous when their beliefs subvert the teachings of cosmology, evolution and geology in our schools. Fortunately, they are generally only found in the southern states of the US of A.
But what really worries me, really worries me, is the determination of our new Prime Minister to take this country out of the EU deal or no deal. Even Gove, Blow-Job’s attack-dog, admits, after the revelations in the Sunday Times today, that a ‘No-Deal’ will be a ‘bumpy ride’ … Really?
I take a number of pills for my health, one of which, is to control my blood-pressure. If there are shortages of this medication after a ‘No-Deal B*****’ and I die as a result, will my family be able to sue the British Government for gross incompetence? Are they (the government) really determined to risk the lives and livelihoods of the more than 60 million people in this country for this madness?
Leave the bloody EU by all means; the people voted for it (although the vote was only advisory), but I am a democrat and I will not resist. But risk shortages of food, fuel and medicine? Really? Are they actually prepared to do that? This is stupidity of a level that will make future generations catch their breaths in utter amazement.
How many times have we heard it? “In any negotiation you must be prepared to walk away, otherwise the other side will not believe you are serious.” This is 24 carat, weapons-grade bollocks.
For many years I was responsible for bringing home mainly export sales contracts for a very profitable manufacturing division employing more than 100 people. If I had walked away from a large customer it would have left a gaping hole in our manufacturing schedule, people would have been laid off, profits would have slumped, and I would have been fired.
When it’s serious grown-up business and livelihoods are involved, an agreement must be reached.
A major book clear out has revealed many books I never knew I had, including a number by John Mortimer. These include some excellent interviews of the great and the good (and not so good), and of course a number of Rumpoles.
John Mortimer was a practicing barrister and QC, and famously acted for the defence in several obscenity trials. I recall seeing a clip some years back of a debate at the Oxford Union on the question of the law on obscenity. Mortimer spoke against, and I think Michael Howard spoke in favour; he was certainly present.
Mortimer, demonstrating the arbitrariness of the law, was reviewing the methods by which a particular piece of literature was deemed obscene. The job, he said, used to fall to the Lord Chamberlain, who would read the offending passage and judge the level of obscenity by the size of his erection. “But, of course,” continued Mortimer, “As the Lord Chamberlain grew older …” The union erupted into laughter …
I have fond memories of watching Screaming Lord Such and the Savages performing at Eel Pie Island in the early 1960s. Their music comprised good old fashioned Rock ‘n Roll classics, spiced up with a few spectacular stage effects. Such would rise up out of a coffin, and flick his long hair through the flames from a burning cauldron of petrol …
Lord Such became known to the public at large as a result of fighting various parliamentary by-elections, where he stood as a candidate for the Monster Raving Loony Party; according to Wikipedia he fought more than 40 elections, rarely polling more than 500 votes.
David Edward Such was gathered to his ancestors 20 years ago, but his legacy lives on. It seems entirely appropriate in these days of high political farce, that ‘Lady Lily the Pink’, standing as a candidate in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, beat the UKIP candidate into sixth place.
The one song I positively remember Lord Such doing was "My Babe", recorded originally by Little Walter in 1955. The lyrics:
"My baby don't stand no cheatin', my babe
Oh yeah she don't stand no cheatin', my babe
Oh yeah she don't stand no cheatin',
She don't stand none of that midnight creepin'" etc
After the first verse, in Such's version, the words became: "My baby she don't stand no ..." The music stopped, and the piano player, in mute and obscene pantomime, indicated with his fingers and mouth what "His baby" did not stand. Entirely unsuited for the "Me too" generation.
But it was a classic rock number, and I also played it with various bands many times. Ironically, I never knew that it was recorded by Little Walter until I looked it up for this post; I'm not sure I ever even heard of Little Walter ... The original can be listened to on You Tube and is rather good.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs