UK COVID-19 Deaths

The sad fact that the UK is now the 5th worst country in the world for deaths from COVID-19, sadly comes as no surprise to me. Today, we learn that there have been over 100,000 deaths where COVID-19 is mentioned on the Death Certificate. I take no pleasure in telling you that I predicted this, early last year. Below are the facts as I see them:

The prime minister did not even attend the first five COBRA meetings (that’s Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms and crisis management centre.

As an island nation, it should have been easier for us to keep the virus out, compared to many other places. However, there were long delays in installing lock-downs, and they were stopped before the should have been. Apparently it was ok to go on “Business Trips”! I wasn’t aware that the virus differentiates between business and other travellers. I’ve successfully bought from Australia, but I’ve never been there. I suspect most of those trips were ill-advised and unnecessary (not to mention helping to damage the climate). If lock-downs are necessary, why not announce them “as from now”, rather than encouraging people to have last minute parties and meetings? It’s taken a year to try and finally do something properly about stopping visitors, and I am not sure how well it is being implemented or policed. This is in marked contrast to other countries, where there has been much less incidence of the virus (and the new variants).

The prime minister claimed they were fighting a war on an “Unknown Virus”. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East. Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). In 2019, UK ministers were warned of risks of coronavirus pandemic. A NSRA (National Security Risk Assessment) stated that we must have a robust plan to deal with a pandemic virus and its potentially catastrophic social and economic consequences in a confidential Cabinet Office briefing. According to this article in The Guardian: “The recommendations within it included the need to stockpile PPE (personal protective equipment), organise advanced purchase agreements for other essential kit, establish procedures for disease surveillance and contact tracing, and draw up plans to manage a surge in excess deaths”.

Incidentally, the prime minister’s continual references to “war” unhelpfully encouraged senseless panic buying and stockpiling.

The PPE shortages have caused no end of problems and deaths. I suspect an accountant, and not a clinician, recommended Just In Time buying of PPE for a cash-starved NHS -which is why stocks were so low in hospitals when the outbreak started.

Actions speak louder than words. The first COVID-19 death in the UK had already occurred in February 2020. On the 3 March 2020, the day that scientific advice was NOT to shake hands, the prime minister said he was “shaking hands with everyone”, even including those in COVID affected hospitals!

I am baffled as to why the Six Nations Rugby Championship was allowed to proceed during the outbreak. Worse still, the prime minister took his current pregnant girlfriend along to endorse it. The Jockey Club’s Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival was allowed to go ahead. Later on their Board Member, Baroness Dido Harding, was rewarded by being put in charge of the infamously bad Track and Trace service – despite having no relevant experience that I could see.

On the day the World Health Organisation declared a Global Pandemic, we permitted 3,000 Atlético fans to travel to watch their team in Liverpool, when their own stadium was closed to prevent the spread of the virus.

The government seemed hell-bent on trying a dangerous Herd Immunity experiment. Bizarrely the government stopped mass testing in March 2020.

Quite a few ministers seemed to break the rules. The Dominic Cummings affair had been well documented. What you permit, you promote comes to mind. Robert Jenrick travelled from his residence in London to a “second home” in Herefordshire during the lockdown . He then visited his parent’s house, a further 40 miles away. Even now, when we ought to be avoiding unnecessary journeys, the prime minister appears all over the place (pretending he’s Churchill on a battle field).

I was amazed how the House of Commons continued to operate, through most of the pandemic. What a stupid idea, bring people together from all over the country and packing them together in central London. The luddites in the house have failed to embrace video and web conferencing, and prefer to lay on pantomime performances in Wesminster. The House of Commons is not a vital part of democracy – the building can’t even house all its members. Watching MPs queuing for hours to vote just reminded me of silly school kids on an outing.

It is sad that the virus seems to have been spread by the rich, on business trips and skiing holidays etc. but it’s been the poor who have taken the brunt. When you look why, it is not surprising. If you live in poor cramped housing with many generations, it is more likely to spread. If you have a zero hours contract, and no savings, what do you do when your boss tells you to come to work in an unsafe factory?

The elderly are more susceptible to the virus. So why did the government permit the discharge of patients with coronavirus from hospitals to old people’s homes, where the inspection spread very rapidly (ironically filling the hospitals that they were trying to relieve)? A few years ago many old people were kept in council run homes, which have been closed down and the residents put in homes run by the private sector. These homes have struggled to cope. It would have been much easier to monitor matters, and distribute PPE etc. with large numbers in council care. Worst of all, some of these private care home employ staff on zero hours contracts. Some of these workers would go to two or three different care home (to make ends meet) and would be a reason for the virus spreading between homes.

The government continually claimed that they were “Following the Science”. I could see little evidence of that. The UK government has not listened to the recommendations of the World Health Organization for a long time. Ignoring the science and extending the gap between first and second vaccines may increase variants developing, we simply do not know. The government seem to be gambling, rather than following the science.

Prime Minister’s Question Time is particularly embarrassing. The prime minister rarely answers any questions, and seems to asks more opposition questions than he answers. I am not interested in party politics, and for the prime minister to keep unprofessionally referring to the leader of the opposition as “Captain Hindsight”, when that patently refers to himself, is bizarre. I suspect that Sir Keir Starmer has encountered many lying, blustering fools in his previous work as Director of Publications. He is, however, far too professional to call the prime minister “Major Disaster”.

I have found the televised briefing especially irritating. Again, why do we have to see MPs walking in with medial officers etc? It could all be done as a video conference. When Matt Hancock was telling us that there was no shortage of PPE, my friends (who are front line NHS workers) were telling me that that simply was not true. I suppose the briefings were a way to learn who the new cabinet was – “oh, that’s the one that his predecessor sacked” etc. etc.

I notice that the Prime Minister tends to do them when he perceives he has some good news to deliver. I have also noted that the carefully collected questions from “members of the public” never so much as have a note of censure. This is in marked contrast to the comments that I read at the same time on Social Media. These briefings are more like a party political broadcast. It was interesting to see how certain graphs were dropped when they failed to tell a good story and the way of measuring deaths was changed to get lower figures. The government clearly pander older voters (who are most likely to vote for them). The vaccination programme is impressive, but I resent them saying x,000 people have been vaccinated, when they have only had part of the dose.

Much emphasis was placed on the “R Rate”. This is the expected number of cases directly generated by one case in a population. If it’s above 1, the disease is growing exponentially. I do not believe it had significantly dropped below 1 when the first lock-down was ended.

Boris Johnson was keen to accuse the opposition of wanting to “Cancel Christmas”, and foolishly permitted households to meet up on Christmas Day. This will no doubt have helped to cause the huge rise in outbreaks in January, although the government is keen to park all the blame on new variants of the virus.

Opening schools after Christmas was another stupid idea. Opening for one day achieved little, apart from spreading the infection. If teachers had been given more notice, they could have made better plans for home learning.

The Oak National Academy is particularly poor. It seems to be various teachers doing a “death by PowerPoint”. I’ve watched a few, the teacher tells you to pause the presentation, and write the answer down, and then tells you there answer! Pupils will soon learn this, and not even better to pause the presentation. In this day and age, I would expect E-Learning to be interactive. Ask a question, and then provide feedback – depending on the answer given (“the reason why that answer is wrong is because” and “look at this, and contact me if you don’t understand”). More importantly it should be gamified and made into engaging fun (e.g. “here’s a problem, how are you going to solve it?”). Sadly I saw little evidence of that. It is ironical that this government would like to get rid of the BBC, BBC Bitesize is much better than the Oak Academy.

The National Health Service has been starved of cash for years . The United Kingdom, has far fewer physicians per population unit than many other countries. Countries like Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Slovenia all have more nurses per head of population than the UK. Significantly, the problem is getting worse as overseas staff have left the NHS following concerns about Brexit.

The government is very keen to boast about how much they are spending on the NHS. This is not surprising, we have an increasingly elderly population, being kept alive on expensive medication. However, as the NHS is quietly being privatised, more and more money seems to be going on administrators etc. rather than front line healthcare professionals. Hospitals built on the PFI initiatives have exasperated the problem, as increasing amounts of money is being diverted from the front line to pay for them.

I note that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, followed by Economics at Cambridge. Possibly not the best background for someone trying to control a pandemic, but helps to explain why the government has acted the way it has. Ironically, there are 10 members of parliament who are also doctors or medicine. We’ve heard very little from them…..

Just in case you think this government is sincere in its “Protect the NHS” message, having underfunded it for years, please watch the Sell Off film. It is a scandal how this has happened, without most of us even realising it.

In my opinion, we currently have the worst government in over sixty years. The Prime Minister, a man who in a previous job had been sacked for lying, seems rather keen to give his own (and in my view distorted) version of events. I am not surprised that he is anxious to postpone any inquiry. The deaths from COVID-19 were not inevitable, and many of them were preventable. Not to mention all the other deaths from untreated cancers etc. etc.

The Civil Service

Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Over the years, I’ve had in a wide variety of jobs. As well as being self employed, I’ve worked for a sole trader, for partnerships, for limited companies, in education and charities, as well as for multinational companies.

However, for 17 years of my life, I worked as a Civil Servant. I can’t say too much about this, as I have had to sign the Official Secrets Act! However, in my opinion, it was the best job that I have ever had.

It’s very easy to take make a joke about the Civil Service. Lazy, pen pushers, with no initiative? When I left studying Agriculture at university, in the absence of a family farm, I decided that I would become an Agricultural Adviser. I had a choice between working for the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) and ADAS (the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service) – an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF. The Milk Marketing Board offered their graduate employees a brand new car (an enticing offer, and something that 40 years on I have never had). However, I opted for a job in the Civil Service, no car, but possibly a better pension in 40 years time…

I very quickly found that I had made the right decision. The Civil Service is one of the most professional organisations that I have ever worked for. Their training was second to none (and, in my opinion, much better than what I later receive working for educational establishments).

As Civil Servants, we weren’t supposed to have political opinions. I once went onto a farm, and the farmer complained that I had two arms! He was fed up of advisers that said “well, on the one hand…”, “but on the other…”. However, I liked to present people with the facts, and then let them make up their own minds.

In the 1980’s, Yes Minister became a popular comedy. The joke was that the country was being run by the Civil Service, and the politicians only thought that they were in control!

But is this such a bad thing? Government ministers bounce around different departments, and can’t possibly be acquainted with all the facts, for all the departments that they happen to walk into. As a Civil Servant, I was occasionally asked for facts, by a government minister. I always had to be very careful that facts is what I gave them, and not my opinion.

However you can always get a cheap laugh, by knocking Civil Servants! In my opinion, the vast majority are not lazy skivers, but work hard (for a not particularly high wage), making this country a better place to live in.

 This year, one senior civil servant, after another, is being forced out. I find this deeply worrying, as the politicians that are doing this have only a shred of the integrity of most Civil Servants…

Black Lives Matter

I think I should share my views on #BlackLivesMatter. Like many people my age (the wrong side of 60) I was about to say “All Lives Matter”, but was glad that I didn’t – as that rather misses the point.

As a young boy, I was brought up in a predominantly white environment. I remember my parents discussing Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech. They thought he was correct. They weren’t the only ones, 75% of the population shared his view!

However I also remember my dad (who was in the army, out in Africa, during World War Two) speaking very highly of African (and Indian) people who were there serving alongside him.

The more I learn about our history, the more I learn how we’ve used and abused other people. I recently watched Michael Portillo’s Empire Journey. In every episode, I found that I was embarrassed about the UK’s part in world history.

In South Africa, Britain exploited native people. We used the native black population to labour in the highly dangerous South African gold mines. We stole land from the country’s indigenous people, and created barbaric wars and divided the country along racial lines.

In Jamaica, there was the horrible triangular trade, with slaves being shipped from Africa to work sugar plantations. The money, and the sugar (ironically helping us to become obese) came back to Britain. we’d then sell brandy, and guns to Africa to buy more slaves…

In case you think this was a minor bit of history, this site tells us at least 12 million Africans were taken to the Americas as slaves between 1532 and 1832 and at least a third of them in British ships.

I simply can’t imagine how I’d fell, if they were my ancestors… Many of the Stately homes that I’ve enjoyed visiting over the years, were built from the profits from this obnoxious human trafficking…

So whilst I felt uneasy about law and disorder aspects, when Edward Colston’s statue spectacularly ended up in Bristol Harbour, I now think that this was a pivotal moment. I’ve enjoyed visiting Bristol, like many ports it’s the home of a fantastic multi-cultural community. But the point is, even though I may well have walked past Colston’s statue, or numerous other places bearing his name, I’d no idea about his horrible history.

I’ve also enjoyed visiting Edinburgh. However, you can’t really miss the statue of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville. He used his influence to delay the abolition of slave trade a further 15 years. The move forced around 630,000 slaves to wait more than a decade for their freedom. There’s numerous reminders about Henry Dundas, throughout Edinburgh. I find his history so embarrassing, that I’d like to forget it – but don’t think that I should..

As a youth, I used to go to Moss Side in Manchester, to buy cheap jeans. It was a real multi cultural community (not without its problems), but I was always amazed how pleasant, and cheerful, the Afro Caribbeans that served me were.

More recently I visited Soho House in Birmingham. As I walked though the nearby streets I got the impression that everyone was looking at me. I suspect that that was because I was the only white person, on that occasion, in that part of Birmingham. To be honest, I did feel a little uncomfortable – but then it made me consider how uncomfortable immigrants must have felt who ended up here (through our Commonwealth obligations etc.). They helped make our Empire great, but when they came here were faced with prejudice and abuse.

My grandfather had a corner shop (see here). It was long hours and hard work. Today, most of our population regard that sort of work beneath them. However they’re happy to visit corner shops (frequently run by immigrants) when they’ve run out of that “essential” ingredient late on a Sunday night, or forgotten to buy a battery for a toy on Christmas Day…

Recently, in the press, there’s been a lot of stories about how people, who just happen to be black, are disproportionately stopped by the police. I’m afraid that, ignoring racism in the police, that it’s a sad fact of life that deprived inner city youths are more likely to have committed a crime. But, the far more important point is, why should this be the case? I don’t believe that babies are born naughty. However, if I’d been raised in a deprived background – where I was worried where the next meal was coming from, and faced prejudice on a daily basis, I may well have turned to crime.

I believe that we have to own up to our past, and deal with the problems we face today, by tackling the route causes.

And I’m more than happy to say Black Lives Matter.

Eyam the Plague Village – a lesson from history…

Plague Cottages, Eyam

As a small boy, I lived in Manchester. However both my parents came from Woodhouse (Sheffield), so we regularly went through Derbyshire to visit them. Occasionally we’d stop, in this beautiful county, to visit various sites of interest. One of those places, that has tuck in my mind, was the beautiful village of Eyam.

In 1665, Eyam villagers knew that London was to be avoided – because the plague was raging there. On one day in 1665, cloth arrived from London to a tailor (George Vicars) in Eyam. Fleas (on the cloth) bit George, and he died a few days later (from the plague).

The plague swept through the village. 260 villagers died of the plague – nearly a third of the population. The villagers, instead of getting as far away as possible from the plague, chose a self imposed quarantine.

Nine people lived at Rose cottage – they all died.

The village suffered VERY heavy casualties.

Jane Hawksworth lost 25 relatives.

However, thanks to their policy of self containment, the plague never spread throughout Derbyshire. Villagers would buy things form neighbouring villagers – but money was left in a bowl containing vinegar to avoid infecting others.

Riley Graves, Eyam

These six gravestones and tomb, are the graves of all the Hancock family. They all died of the plague in Eyam, and are buried here in Riley’s Field.

I’m full of admiration for these Derbyshire villagers. It would have been very easy for them to have left the village, to Buxton and beyond, taking the plague with them. They didn’t – and the plague didn’t spread outside the village.

Compare, and contrast, this disease with Coronavirus in 2020. Every statement I’ve heard from the government is as much about the economy as about containing the disease. There has been no bans on public meetings or travel etc. etc.

I’ve got a small amount invested in shares, and don’t especially want their value to drop. However, I’d rather that happen, than be dead in a box! Have we learned nothing from history?

Who’s to Father Me?

Whilst researching workhouse history, I stumbled across this article from the 7th February, 1857 in The Westmorland Gazette and Kendal Advertiser. It’s reproduced from an article in the Hampshire Independent. It provides a fascinating (but appalling) insight into attitudes to illegitimate children at that time..     

A singular incident occurred here on Saturday evening, affording a new reading of the old dramatic afterpiece. Soon after dusk a remarkably fine infant, abandoned by its parent, was deposited in the area of the house of Mr. Keele, surgeon, of Sussex-place, in this town. Great was the consternation in the household of the medical gentlemen, and various were surmises. The cook “blessed it’s pretty little heart”, but utterly repudiated the mysterious stranger. The housemaid indulged in similar feelings, and in ecstasy pronounced it “quite a love of a baby.” Mrs Keele naturally enough pitied the baby, examined the baby at all points, but had not a spare place for it in the nursery. The little innocent was consequently sent to the poorhouse, where, being very handsome, and altogether a curiosity in its way, it was treated with much attention, and strange hints and conjectures were made as to who was the papa. A sort of jury of matrons was constituted, who, after due deliberation, reported it as their sage opinion that “its nose was much like that of another medical gentlemen, and that it had been mistakably left in the wrong area.” At the Board of Guardians, on Monday, the master reported the admission of the nameless child, and stated laughingly the conclusion at which the female jury had arrived. Mr Mackay, surgeon, said that it had been kept very clean and had been well wrapped up in good articles of clothing. The infant was duly examined by the members of the board, who poked their fun at the expense of certain absent practitioners; but they came to the unanimous conclusion that it was not at all like Mr Mackay. It was ultimately suggested that the board, at some future time, when the features were more fully developed, should make another careful examination. All agreed that the child was a fine specimen of humanity, and Mister Mackay said he would see it was well looked after. He really had his doubt, whether if it had been dropped in his area, he should not have adopted it. The master applied to know what name should be given, and the board decided upon “Augusta Sussex,” in order that, when the Papa is discovered, he may not complain of the child not having an aristocratic name. There is another child in the poorhouse, under similar circumstances called “Richard Notknown,” not half so good a hit as that made in reference to little Pillgarlick, with the expressive high-sounding name.


The term “Pillgarlick” is a variation of Pilgarlick – which comes from peeled garlic. It was often used to describe a bald person – but in this article I think it just means pitiable.

I think the town is Southampton, as there was place called Sussex Place in Southampton. I’m afraid this story doesn’t have a happy ending – according to Find My Past there was an Augusta Sussex who died in Southampton in 1857, the year of this story…  

Sussex Place was destroyed in the blitz in 1940. You can see a picture of what it used to look like here:


Picture of Monopoly board game

I think the game of Monopoly teaches you a lot about business, and life. As a small child, I loved this game. I would play with my sister, who is two years older than me. Being older, and wiser, she could usually beat me at most games.

However Monopoly was different. I’d turn on the charm and offer to buy one of her properties. I’d point out that I was offering double the price on the board and therefore my offer was exceptionally generous! Once she’d been persuaded to sell, things would change rapidly. My sister hadn’t realised that I’d completed the set – and that I’d soon become a big property magnate.

Ironically it was the rent my sister paid me, that later paid for the hotels that my sister would unwittingly landed on. Her pleas for rent reductions were scorned at, and I enjoyed hopping around the board, landing rent free on her mortgaged properties – knowing that it was just a matter of time before the inevitable end.

So when I eventually learnt about monopolies in school, I thought the teacher would say they were evil and bad for everyone (apart from the owners of the monopolies). I learnt about duopolies and oligopolies. The teacher used radio as an example of how monopolies could be good.

In the early days of radio in the UK, the BBC effectively had a monopoly. The first station was the Home Service (now called Radio 4) offering a mixture of news, drama and discussion. The next station was called the Light Programme (now called Radio 2). In contrast to the Home Service, the light Programme offered popular music and entertainment. The Third Programme (now called Radio 3) offered classical music. The monopoly broadcaster had effectively more or less covered all tastes with just three channels.

Our teacher then asked what would happen if it was different commercial companies running each of the stations? If 10% of the population preferred classical music, and assuming the stations all had equal abilities etc., then we would need ten different stations before it made commercial sense for one of them to broadcast something that only appealed to 10% of the potential listeners.

I realise that the teachers model was simplistic. For instance Classic FM listeners may be more likely to drive Bentley’s and attract high value advertisers. However it helped to make the point that sometimes monopolies can be good.

I don’t like is coercive monopolies, where companies can raise prices without risk of competition arising to draw away their customers. I don’t understand why I pay far more for my water, when I use less than relatives – who use more water than me and live in a more rural area (presumably with more costs)? Presumably their water supply company is more efficient (or makes less money) than mine?

Every year now I waste hours deciding who I should get my electricity, gas, water, phone and internet services from. The competition is supposed to bring efficiency. I don’t understand how companies can provide large profits to their shareholders and at the same time be more efficient than the previous state services. In any event there’s only one set of pipes and cables to my house – so it’s not genuine competition.

The people who suffer of course are the vulnerable. The elderly, who may not be able to use the Internet, are probably still getting their gas from British Gas – and paying through the nose. The poorest are on meters – and that’s the dearest way to get fuel. In the old days I paid three months in arrears. Now, despite the fact they know far more about my fuel usage, my account often ends up with them having my money before I’ve even used it!

Some would argue competition in the energy markets allows me to make more selective choices. My view is that if, for instance, green renewable energy is a good thing, shouldn’t everyone be having it. I’m very much in favour of renewable energy – but don’t see why someone else should go elsewhere to save money. I’ll get their extra pollution.

Transport is interesting. At one stage there were four different bus companies operating between Crewe and Nantwich. In theory this should be good. However return tickets are only marginally dearer than single tickets – and they would never accept another company’s tickets. So I’d be at Crewe, seeing a bus going to my destination and I’d have a choice. Pay twice, or have an unnecessary wait. When the competition was intense, there was loads of buses competing at peak times, but not at other times.

Nantwich railway station is currently run by Transport for Wales. Effectively it’s a take it or leave it choice. If I get a ticket to Manchester, an any operator ticket (which is prominent on their ticket machine) is dearer than the Transport for Wales only ticket!

The supermarkets have done a good job portraying themselves as people who drive down prices. Often this is at the expense of their suppliers. If their mission was to provide cheap food for all, why do they charge more for the same items in convenience stores? Again the vulnerable end up paying more.

Mobile phone services are operated by a few massive companies. Where I live is borderline reception for some operators, but where my mother-in-law lives is also borderline reception – but for different operators! So do I get two different phones? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the operators amalgamated their provision for phones and Internet to give everyone the best coverage everywhere? Of course, where competition exists, that’s unlikely to happen.

All these different service providers have costs. These include the costs of marketing department and adverts, and the costs for dealing with customers wishing to switch. Who do you think pays for all of this? We, the consumers, do!

My Internet contract is coming up for renewal. Over the years I’ve tried loads of different companies. However it’s always coming down the same wires – and I’m too far away from fibre connections to get a really good service. I resent the time that I will spend finding out who will be cheapest. If I change I have to spend ages altering the settings on all the different devises we have which use WiFi. I don’t think this is a good use of my time.

So is competition good? In theory yes. Or at least Perfect Competition can be when we have Perfect Information. Sadly that’s often not the case….

Oswald Mosley

Benito Mussolini and Oswald Mosley in 1936

I’d never heard of Oswald Mosley (or Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley of Ancoats, 6th Baronet to give him his full name and title) until I was a young teenager. I’d bought myself a black shirt in the vague/vain idea that it would make me look cool. My usually calm father seemed angry and kept mentioning The Blackshirts. I’d never heard of them, or the British Union of Fascists, but quickly abandoned my black shirt (mainly because I found it exaggerated any dandruff I may have had at the time)!

I’m older, and hopefully wiser now. My interest in Oswald Mosley was recently renewed whilst researching the history of Brookfield House for Nantwich Museum.

An elderly resident of Nantwich (who’s 99 years old) lived next door to Brookfield, and thought that Oswald Mosley was a resident or certainly visitor there. I thought that this could be an interesting story and spent a lot of time looking for evidence.

I managed to get hold (from my local library) a copy of My Life – an auto biography by Oswald Mosley. I also got Rules of the Game & Beyond the Pale, Memoirs of Sir Oswald Mosley and Family which was written by Nicholas Mosley (his first son). The third book I got was Diana Mosley which is a biography of his second wife by Anne De Courcy.

As a result I know a lot more about Oswald Mosley. If you would like to learn more, I would particularly recommend the book by Anne De Courcy. The other two books are interesting in that they confirm facts, and show that Oswald Mosley (and his wives) would never accept that he was wrong.

Mosley was born into a privileged family, and had a public school education. He was a convincing speaker, and had a curious career in politics. He was a Conservative MP for Harrow from 1918 to 1924. He then became a Labour MP for Smethwick in 1926, but became disillusioned and in 1931 started the New Party and became increasingly Fascist.

His personal life is fascinating – and appalling. He first married Lady Cynthia Curzon (who’s father George Nathaniel Curzon became 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston), but had numerous affairs. His policy at the time was “Vote Labour: sleep Tory”!

After his first wife (known as Cimmie) became suspicious of his affairs, Mosley gave her a list of all his women he’d been involved with. She burst into tears and said ‘but they’re all my best friends’. A friend (Bob Boothby) asked why Cimmie was upset and Tom said ‘I’ve told her about all the women I’ve been to bed with since we’ve been married.’ Bob Boothby said ‘All, Tom?’ and Tom said ‘Well, well all except her stepmother and her sister.’

After Cimmie died he married Diana, who was one of the people he was having affairs with. Diana was one of the Mitford girls – but was married to wealthy heir Bryan Guinness when the affair started. Mosley’s wedding to Diana took place in secret on 6 October 1936 in Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels’ drawing room. Adolf Hitler was one of the guests. Diana was remarkably faithful to Oswald Mosley – even though this wasn’t reciprocated.

Mosley would lie, or at least be economical with the truth. In my opinion he was anti-Semitic (although curiously he always denied this). He would frequently provoke people – and as a result violence would happen. You can read more about Mosley’s political views elsewhere, and I suggest you do. In today’s political climate I fear that similar people are coming to the fore.

Did Oswald Mosley have a connection with Nantwich? In 1936 they moved to Wootton Lodge, over 40 miles away, in Staffordshire. I’ve searched for evidence that he was in Nantwich in local papers for that period, and in other sources, but have found no evidence that he was ever in Nantwich. However in 1941 Michael Grange Moseley (note the different spelling of the surname) was at Brookfield. Michael Moseley’s father in law was an Oswald Moseley – but from Agden Hall, and not (as far as I am aware) connected in any way with Sir Oswald Mosley. So the stories about parties every night at Brookfield (with all the lights on during the blackouts) to guide the Nazi bombers looking for Crewe may not have any connection with Sir Oswald Mosley. But never let the truth get in the way of a good story….

Making a pig’s ear of it?

A picture of a pig's head and other parts for saleIt’s interesting how many of our common phrases come from pigs! Making a pig’s ear of things generally means making a mess of things, and is possibly connected with making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (when things have gone horribly wrong! Living Cheek by jowl can refer to rather crowded conditions, but do you know where a jowl is? It’s part of a pig. Worryingly you may have eaten pig’s jowls, without even knowing it.

What’s in a sausage?

It’s surprisingly hard to know exactly what’s in sausages – thanks to some of the food industry who are keen to disguise what they’re doing.  The Products Containing Meat etc. (England) Regulations 2014 tell us that the minimum meat content is 42% (less than half) for pork sausage.  When it doesn’t say pork you can get away with 32% (less than a third) meat content.

When you look at what’s in the meat in some sausages (especially the cheaper ones), you may be relieved that the meat content is so low. It’s fairly obvious what pigs’ cheeks are. As the phrase “cheek by jowl” implies, the jowl isn’t far away from the cheeks in  a pig. Food journalist Felicity Lawrence, in an article called Sausage Factory in the Guardian, tells us “the jowl is the bit of the pig from the ear hole to the end of the snout, which is cut off, deboned, skinned and block frozen”.

Water, fat and rusk are cheap ingredients commonly used in sausages. I looked at the ingredients for Richmond “proud to be the nations favourite” sausages :

Unspecified cuts of Pork (42%), Water, Pork Fat (10%), Rusk (Wheat), Potato Starch, Soya Protein Concentrate, Salt, Flavourings, Stabilisers: Diphosphates, Guar Gum; Antioxidants: E300 & E307; Preservative: Sodium Metabisulphite, Colour: Cochineal.

The casings of these Pork sausages are made from Beef collagen. Collagen occurs in many places throughout the body, it doesn’t state which part of the their collagen comes from. Cow hides for instance are used in sausage manufacture.

I’m beginning to understand how Tescos can (at the time of writing) sell these sausages at £ 1.00/lb (£2.21/kg).

Pig meat frequently comes from the continent, where standards are different to the UK. Last year press reports told us that Public Health England confirmed that the UK’s biggest retailer (Tescos) had been identified in a study as the potential source of Hepatitis E virus in the UK. You don’t expect to get hepatitis through eating pork!

I’ve not even mentioned animal welfare. So I would definitely think twice before buying cheap sausages…..



Alleged street betting at Nantwich

This report appeared in the Northwich Guardian on Tuesday 27th September, 1910. I’ve missed out what happened for the time being – as I’m interested to know if you think the defendant is guilty or not?

At the Nantwich Petty Sessions on Monday, Joseph Stephenson, butcher of Wrenbury, was summoned for having on August 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 27th, 30th and31st and on September 2nd and 6th frequented Welch-row for the purpose of betting. Mr. J. P. Whittingham defended.

P. C. Lawrence said at 12.30 on July 27th he saw the defendant riding a bicycle up and down Welch-row and he saw him stop and have a short conversation with various men. At 12.50pm he saw the defendant standing at Wood Street and the two men passed and gave him pieces of paper. On August 23rd he saw defendant going up and down Welch-row on his cycle between the hours of 12.10 p.m. and 12.50 p.m. Defendant would ride his bicycle a short distance and would then get off and hold a conversation with men and something would pass between them. On August 24th he saw the defendant riding his bicycle in Welch-row, and at l2.40 he saw him at Wood Street end. He saw men pass along the street and hand to him of slip of paper, and the defendant’s bicycle stood on the opposite side of the street. At 12.15 on August 27th he saw the defendant ride off the square, and stop and speak to several men. The defendant left bicycle outside the gas office and at 12.50p.m. he saw him standing at the end of Red Lion-lane. He again saw men pass the defendant and hand to him pieces of paper which the defendant placed in his jacket pocket. On August 30th. between 11.30 and 12.15, he saw the defendant walking up and down Welch-row with his bicycle, and on that occasion he held conversations with different men, and saw slips of paper pass between them on the river bridge. At 11.30a.m.on the 31st of August, he saw the defendant ride off the Square and he was going in the direction of Welch-row. He stopped to talk with different men, and something passed between them.  Defendant eventually went down second Wood Street. On September 2nd at 12.30pm he saw the defendant leave the Black Lion lnn, go to the bridge and converse with men there, and something passed between them. Defendant then went down the street. mounted his bicycle outside the Gas Works, and rode away in the direction of High-street. On September 6th, at 12.15 pm , he saw the defendant riding his bicycle in Welch-row and he rode a short distances, then dismounted, and spoke to different men. At one p.m., he saw him standing at the end of Wood-street, when witness saw three men pass and hand him slips of paper. Defendant  then went across the street and entered the Black Lion Inn. As he left a few minutes later witness said to him “I want you.” Defendant said “What for ?” and witness replied “I will tell you when we get to the police station. He  said “Well, you will find nothing on me.” At the police station he found on defendant £9 1s. 6d and the coupon (produced relating to football betting. The money consisted £7 in gold, £2 1s and 6d. in silver and 6d. in coppers. Of the gold £5 was in a belt which the defendant wore round his body The other money was in his pocket. After the defendant had been searched said “You can prove nothing me, only verbally.” He charged him with frequenting Welch-row for the purpose of betting in the various dates mentioned and defendant replied “I am not guilty.”

Mr. Whittingham (cross-examining): Have you got here any of the numerous men whom you say you saw handing slips to the defendant? – Witness: No.

Further examined, witness had been at Nantwich for some years. He knew most of the men, and one of them he  saw on July 27th was Thomas Tilley. – Cross-examined as to the other men whom he saw on July 27th witness was asked to say where was when he saw them. Witness said he would write the information down for the magistrates but he would not disclose his whereabouts publicly as had pledged his word of honour not divulge – The Clerk said it had been held such information need not be given. – Continuing to answer of questions of cross-examination, defendant said he did not know the man whom he saw pass slips of paper to the defendant on the 23rd of August. On August 24th from his place observation in Welch-row he saw Thomas Page, one of the men whom he saw, pass a piece paper to the defendant The people who stood usually at the end of Wood-street could see what passed if they looked. On August 27th he saw Page and a man named Scragg hand a paper to the defendant as they passed him. On August he saw two men, one like a factory hand and the other like a stable man hand slips of paper to the defendant on the River bridge. On the occasion when the defendant left the Black Lion Inn and went on the River bridge he did not know the men defendant spoke to.

When you put your hand upon him, did you say “I  want you a minute”? I said “I want you.” Did he say “what for” – He did.

Did you say to him “The boss will tell you what for?” – l did not.

Did he say to you as you walked along “What is your idea today, Lawrence?” – No.

Continuing, witness said he did not ask defendant to account for money found on him, nor did defendant say the money belonged to his master. He believed that from the time he left the street and went into the Black Lion the slips were disposed of. He did not tell him the name of a single man whom he had seen passing slips to him. At the Police Court, the Superintendent had to go away, and witness called for Sergeant Piercey and after talking to him they asked him to go in the office.

Why did you ask this man take his shoes off? – For the reason that I had seen men hand defendant slips of paper and I thought as I could not find them they might be in his boots.

Superintendent Farnworth: having seen slips passed the defendant on several dates and particularly on that morning you expected when you brought him to find these slips and when you did not find them you  considered it right to go deeper into the search? – I thought it necessary to remove his boots and search in his stockings.

To your knowledge was I on leave of absence that day?  I do not know. – Did your hear me give instructions  for Sergeant Piercey to be sent for? Yes.

Superintendent Farnworth said he was on annual leave absence this day but did not go away until later in the day. After ordering the man to be searched he asked him what was employed at. He said “l am out of employment at present.” He said when he was employed was doing a bit of buying and selling. He said he had been out of work for some time – for about nine weeks. He bought for Mr. Cliffe, his cousin, of Wrenbury. He also said he had not bought anything lately. Witness gave instructions to the man to be admitted to bail.

Sergeant Morgan said he had ascertained that the defendant last worked Gilberts’ boot factory,  Nantwich. He was discharged from there and since that time witnesses had had him under observation. He  found that he did not work and that he was in the habit of leaving the house of his cousin Richard Cliffe, with whom he resided soon after nine o’clock in the morning. He had seen him go on his bicycle to Wrenbury village, Wrenbury Canal Wharf and occasionally he had gone to the station at Wrenbury.   Then he would depart towards Nantwich. This practice had been going on for the last four months and he had never seen the defendant buying or selling.

Pence wise, pounds foolish?

Daily graph of glucose levels from Freestyle Libre sensor

I’ve had Type One Diabetes for most of my life. As I’ve stated earlier here,  one of the biggest things I’ve discovered to help people with diabetes is the Freestyle Libre glucose monitor.  So I was delighted to hear last year that this item could be available on prescription from the 1st November 2017.

I contacted my GP to arrange getting this on prescription.  He suggested I speak to a nurse who specialises in diabetes. She said I should speak to a doctor in the New Year, as a decision (I think by the clinical commissioning group in Cheshire) hasn’t been made. I’m still waiting to get this on prescription…

So why is this important? The reader cost me nearly £50, but it’s the sensors that cost me about £3.80 a day that are the real issue. Since these devices became available to me, in the summer of 2015, I’ve spent nearly £4,000 on them.  As my salary is around the living wage, this is quite a significant cost.

Why do I spend all this money, and why should I expect the NHS to buy this for me? The consequences of badly controlled diabetes are horrendous. A significant proportion of the NHS budget for England and Wales is already spent on diabetes. This site estimated that the cost in 2012 was £14 billion pounds a year, or over £25,000 being spent on diabetes every minute!

As a person with diabetes, if I don’t control the disease, I am more at risk of complications. For instance, I am potentially more at risk of having kidney failure. The average cost of dialysis is £30,800 per patient per year. I am potentially more at risk of heart disease.  Cardiovascular disease is estimated cost the UK economy (including premature death, disability and informal costs) £19 billion each year. I am more at risk of many other serious complications, like needing amputations and going blind.

If my blood sugars go too low I can quickly go into a coma, potentially requiring an ambulance. If my blood sugars are too high, I can also go into a different sort of coma, and I’d be wrecking my own body. Since using these monitors, I now have a much better idea of what different foods are doing to my blood sugars. I now have 24 hours a day surveillance of my blood sugars, and know whether they are going up or down, and can hopefully avoid problems.

The total cost of diabetes to the country is far higher than what I’ve hinted above – when other costs, like absenteeism, early retirement and social benefits, are added. So I regard the cost of these sensors is a small price for the NHS to pay to try and avoid far more expensive complications. Far more is spent on dealing with the complications than treating the disease – so I consider not making these devices available on prescription is penny wise, but pounds foolish.

I note that Theresa May, who also has diabetes, uses this device. This site suggests her salary is over £150,000, but that’s only a tiny fraction of the total perks she gets. So I suspect the cost of another sensor for Theresa May is probably not a major consideration for her, whilst others go without completely….