Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Rat Pack

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Peter Lawford who - with Sammy Davis Jnr and Joey Bishop - comprised The Rat Pack
This photo comes from a website for 'cool' iconic images - the kind that has lots of Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper shots - but is possibly one of the images that most defines a whole era of 'cool'.  It's black and white of course, and the men are beautifully dressed and look totally at ease, just swinging along towards the next party. Notable is the absence of Sammy Davis Jnr - but in that era, although he joined them on stage, he wasn't able to socialise with them in public. Joey Bishop was also a member and wrote much of their on-stage material.

There is an excellent film about the Rat Pack on YouTube here 

See Herry's Archives for some details of Peter Lawford's link to the family

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Friday, 19 August 2016

Post EU Referendum Blues

I avoided writing anything about the EU Referendum here as I, along with the majority of voters, hardly credited the possibility of Leave winning, and hoped that after it was over we could get back to managing significantly better (though still not out of the 2008 recession) than the rest of the EU and continuing to attract the foreign investment which has created many of the better jobs in recent years on the basis of our access to the whole of the EU market and our relatively light regulations.

That Leave won at all was a catastrophe, which has simultaneously unleashed some of the most unpleasant bigotry and racism that has been seen in this country in years and thrown us collectively into a state of utter confusion. As the Irishman, when asked how to get to a certain destination, put it, "Well, I would't start from here'. That Leave won by the slim margin of 4% points to the disgraceful negligence of the government in not setting a constitution-altering referendum margin at the normal 60 - 66%. And that on top of the sheer idiocy of putting the country's future into the hands of a population that had been fed a diet of anti-EU propaganda and misinformation by the majority of high-circulation newspapers for years.

The result has caused us to look at friends with mixture of bafflement and fury equivalent to discovering that they are Roundheads when you thought that they were Cavaliers, and to cause hostility even in families, particularly between the young and the old. And the problem cannot just be wished away, as it is with us constantly. I was talking yesterday to a young German gardener who fortunately had not experienced any of the hostility reported by many in some parts of the country, but who seemed unaware that she was actually now a pawn in the Brexit negotiations and could in theory be asked to leave her adopted country - as could the millions of Britons who now reside in EU countries overseas - and seem unaware that they too are 'immigrants' to those countries and similarly pawns in this appalling situation.

I have of course written to the Prime Minister as well as my MP, but beyond that, there is little anyone can do except watch in horror as the dire consequences unfold and the path forward remains almost totally unmapped.

I could write more, but have said enough. However, today I read a piece in the FT that puts the situation very well indeed and deserves to be repeated.

"It is utterly disgraceful, in a modern democracy, that we are left in a situation where a majority of Remain voters (for which read trade experts, economists, negotiators and civil servants, who are, for obvious reasons, more likely to be Remainers) are left to work out the detail of providing the evidence, strategy and implementation of a post-Brexit reality that exists solely in the heads of Leavers and has utterly no substance in reality.
There is no evidence, on paper, in research, economics, statistics or even common sense, to support anything less than a sub-optimal post-EU reality for Britian, regardless of which 'plan' it chooses. Moreover any misconception that any country could have any say, or ability to shape its place as a global power outside of bloc alliances shows a fundamental lack of any appreciation of the mechanics of the UK's role in the world, its geopolitics, strategy, security and prosperity.

It beggars belief any modern country can find itself in a position where a mass delusion becomes an accepted norm, which the entire substance and infrastructure of its state subordinates itself to a phenomenal act of self-mutilation, where any effort to debate or apply the usual legal, parliamentary democratic and liberal values, architecture, rights principle and function of a representative democracy with freedom of speech is met with - and let's not beat about the bush - a patently moronic mantra of 'Brexit is happening, so accept it', and which assumes that Parliament and the normal democratic process should have no say in the future regulation, implementation and structure of the Post-Brexit plan, because any plan would be so utterly sub-optimal that it could never, under any circumstances, make it past the common sense gatekeepers of Parliament or due process.

This is not just the EU we are leaving. We are leaving the modern world and entering a terrifying alternative reality of post-rationalism, the undermining of the UK's democratic architecture and potential fracturing of the very substance of the British state."

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Old Swan House Garden in August 2016

Looking down the garden from under the hazel with the grasses 'calling you' (Gillian Pugh)
The grasses in August
Peroskia and pheasant grass seen through verbena
Stachys, lavender and crocosmia

The summerhouse
The garden is now pretty mature, having first been planted in the autumn of 2013 and the spring of 2014. The yew hedge is about four feet tall - and over five in places - and will be topped at about five feet as a screen for the drive. I made a plant list for the garden openings this year and surprised myself when I found that it ran to seven pages. Some of the plants are named (and some forgotten) in this video of a walk around the garden (be warned, it takes over 30 minutes!)

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Favourite Places - Stockbridge

The view over Stockbridge and the Test Valley towards Stockbridge Down on a summer evening