Thursday, 21 January 2021

Herry's Journal Index

What is Poetry?
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam 
Favourite Poetry - The Four Quartets
Favourite Poetry - The North Ship
Favourite Poetry - Akhmatova
Favourite Poetry - Pablo Neruda
Edna St Vincent Millay - Love is not All
Edna St Vincent Millay - Eight Sonnets V
Edna St Vincent Millay - Dirge Without Music
Favourite Poetry - Poesie Mondaine, Bestemmia 619
Favourite Poetry - John Henry Newman's 'Dream of Gerontius'
Favourite Poems - Heine - A Young Man Loves a Maiden 
Favourite Poetry - Wind
Favourite Poetry - October
Favourite Poems - Ithaca
Favourite Poems - Kindness
Favourite Poems - Beloved Earth
Favourite Poems - C9th Chinese Poem on Old Age
Favourite Poems - Heraclitus
Favourite Poems - Beloved Earth 
Favourite Poems - Animals
Favourite Poems - Stag's Leap
Favourite Poems - The Wilderness
Favourite Poems - No Man Is An Island
Favourite Poems - The Wound in Time
Favourite Poems - A Shropshire Lad
John Keats - On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer
The Patience of Ordinary Things
Kei's Poetry - Ego Sum
Kei's Poetry - The Dressing Table
Kei's Poetry - For Obachan
Favourite Carols
Favourite Songs - Kathleen Ferrier 'Land of Hope and Glory'
Favourite Music - Dame Janet Baker

The Story of the Fox (The Little Prince) 
Favourite Writings - Big Wolf Little Wolf
Favourite Writings - Louis 1, King of the Sheep
Favourite Writings - Beyond Euphrates
Favourite Writings: Jalaluddin Al-Rumi
The Dazzling Fluidity of Days
Favourite Writings - The Lycian Shore
Favourite Writings - More Freya Stark
Favourite Books - 'Wait For Me' by Debo Devonshire
Favourite Bedtime Books
100 Books Famous in Children's Literature
100 Books Famous in Children's Literature - the List
Favourite Writings - Jalaluddin al-Rumi
Favourite Writings - Bruno Schultz 'August' 
Favourite Writings - Desiderata
Do You Understand Climate Change?
Blithe Moment
Jane Austen
Edith Wharton
The Song of the Weather
The Snow Country
The Forms of Love
The Scientist and the Universe
The Scientist and the Universe II
Ruskin on Pugin's Conversion to Roman Catholicism
Vogue's Book of Houses, Gardens and People
A Study of History
Hannah Arendt on Lies and Propoganda
A History of Intimacy
Wise Advice - Sally Brampton
More Wise Advice - Sally Brampton
Life by Biance Sparacino
The Five Signs of Lack of Intelligence
Cognitive Biases
The Book of Kells
Watching The English
De Profundis - Oscar Wilde
Isaiah Berlin
Favourite Quotes - John Ruskin
Bertrand Russell's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
Favourite Writings - Ecclesiastes
Favourite Writings - Friendship
Favourite Writings - Love Undetectable by Andrew Sullivan
Favourite Writings - The Tao Te Ching
Favourite Writings - Seneca - We Are All Chained to Fortune
Thoughts of Others on Social Distancing and Lockdown
A Brief History of Plagues
Nicky Boyle 1946 - 1997
Rosie Jenks 1943 - 2005
Gopika Fraser 1965 - 2009
Cmdr Colin Balfour RN 1924 - 2009 
Norman Buckingham 1918 - 2010
The Rev Hamilton Lloyd 1919 - 2011
Suzanne Lloyd 1923 - 2011
Sally Macpherson 1940 - 2012
Nick Duke 1945 - 2013
Richard Shaw 1940 - 2013
S Venkiteswaran 1941 - 2013
Joanne Louise Taylor (Jo Johns) 1939 - 2014
Ernie Stiles - 1941 - 1914
Lucie Skipwith 1942 - 2014
Annie May Spawton 1944 - 2014
Kate O'Brien 1953 - 2017
Bill Birch Reynardson 1923 - 2017
John Kay 1936 - 2019
Penny Lawford 1944 - 2019
Lucy Luxmoore 1953 - 2019
Beryl Williams 1949 - 2020

Herry's 70th Birthday Party July 2015
Lawford Lunch at the Drapers' Hall 2014
Winchester College 50 Years On Dinner 2014
Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair at the Drapers' Hall 2016
Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair at the Drapers' Hall 2014
Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair at the Drapers' Hall 2013
Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair at the Drapers' Hall 2012
Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair at the Drapers' Hall 2011
Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair at the Drapers' Hall 2010
Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair at the Drapers' Hall 2009
The Royal Hospital Carol Service 2009
The Royal Hospital Carol Service 2010
The Royal Hospital Carol Service 2011
The Royal Hospital Chelsea Dinner 2010
Fine Cell at the V&A
Fine Cell at the Drapers' Hall
Fine Cell at the Leathersellers' Hall 2009
Fine Cell at the Leathersellers' Hall 2009
Fine Cell at the Glaziers' Hall
The Drapers' Almshouses
The Drapers' Almshouse Outing to Winchester 2009
The Drapers' Almshouse Teaparty 2007
The Drapers' Almshouse Teaparty 2008
The Drapers' New Year's Service
Thomas Miller Carol Service 2008
Thomas Miller Carol Service 2009
Thomas Miller Carol Service 2010
Thomas Miller Carol Service 2011
Thomas Miller Carol Service 2013
Thomas Miller Carol Service 2018 and the City
The Mission to Seafarers Carol Concert 2008
The Mission to Seafarers Carol Concert 2009
The Mission to Seafarers Carol Concert 2010
Stockbridge Christmas Evening Shopping 2014
Remembrance Sunday at Litchfield
Christmas at Blenheim 2016
Winchester Cathedral Carol Service 2016
Winchester Portrait Exhibition 2017
Dedication of 'Ascension' for the SAS at Hereford Cathedral
Litchfield Flower Festival 2019
UK Club's 125th Anniversary 1994
UK Club's 150th Anniversary Dinner

Travel and Places
My Travelling Life
Memories of the Taj
Timeless India
India - the Cradle of Language, Astronomy and Science
Favourite Cities - Beirut
Russia - The Wild East
Favourite Places - Palace Hotel, Tokyo
Favourite Places - Winchester Cathedral
Favourite Places - Wells Cathedra
Favourite Places in Autumn - Japan
Favourite Places - Landmark Trust Castles
Hampshire Views - Stocks Farm and Old Winchester Hill
Favourite Places - Stockbridge

Office Life 1967 - 2006 

These entries can also be found under Sir Alfred Herbert
The Rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral
Sir Alfred Herbert and Town Thorns Residential School, Easenhall
Sir Alfred Herbert and the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital
Sir Alfred Herbert's Memorial Service in Coventry Cathedral 1957

Sir Alfred Herbert and St Barbara's Church, Earlsdon
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry Reopening 2008
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry
Favourite Places - Coventry Cathedral
Coventry's Awe-Inspiring Cathedral
Coventry's Awe-Inspiring Cathedral II
Coventry Cathedral - the Sutherland Tapestry
Rediscovering Coventry's Medieval Stained Glass
Coventry Cathedral Carol Concert 2013
Coventry Cathedral Golden Jubilee
Sir Alfred Herbert's Induction into Coventry's Walk of Fame 2017

Gardens and Flowers
Favourite Gardens - The Buildings in Autumn 
Favourite Gardens - The Buildings, Broughton
Favourite Gardens - The Buildings August 2018
Favourite Gardens - the last of The Buildings, October 2018
Favourite Gardens - the Laskett Gardens
Favourite Gardens - Terstan
Favourite Gardens - Ashtall Manor
on form at Ashtall Manor
Favourite Gardens - Bere Mill in Spring
Favourite Gardens - Adwell
Favourite Gardens - Hinton Ampner
Favourite Gardens - Stockbridge Town Gardens
Favourite Gardens - Wherwell Village Gardens
Favourite Gardens - Bramdean House
Favourite Gardens - Dean House
Favourite Gardens - A Secret Garden
Favourite Gardens - West Green
Favourite Gardens - Mottisfont Abbey
Favourite Gardens - Rotherfield Park
Stockbridge Gardens Open for the Church 2020
The Secret Gardens of Spitalfields
Autumn Colours in Kyoto
Autumn Beeches
The Orangery in Winter
Snow in April
Favourite Views - Koko at The Orangery
Favourite Views - Fields of Barley
The Therapeutic Power Of Gardens - Oliver Sacks
Old Swan House Garden 2012
Making the Garden at Old Swan House
Old Swan House Gardens Open for the NGS 2015
Old Swan House Garden Video in June 2014
Old Swan House Garden in Summer and Autumn
Old Swan House Garden in June 2014
Old Swan House Garden in July 2015
Old Swan House Garden in August 2016
Old Swan House Garden in September 2016
Old Swan House Garden Late 2016
Old Swan House Garden Video April 2018
Old Swan House Garden in June 2018
Old Swan House Garden in July 2018
Old Swan House Garden in August 2018
Old Swan House Garden in March 2019
Old Swan House Garden in April 2019
Old Swan House Garden Changes in 2019
Old Swan House Garden Open for the NGS June 2019
Old Swan House Garden in Spring 2020
Hampton Court Flower Show 2018
Garden Design - Vaux le Vicomte
Mottisfont Rose Garden June 2013
Mottisfont Rose Garden June 2015
Mottisfont Rose Garden June 2017
Mottisfont Rose Garden June 2018
Hilliers Evening Tour for the NGS June 2018

Paintings and Photographs
Art and What it Means to Me
St Laurent and Pierre Berge Collection
Saatchi Gallery - New Art from India
Saatchi Gallery - New Art from China
Saatchi Gallery - New Art from the Middle East
Emily Patrick Exhibition in Spitalfields 2008
Anish Kapoor's Exhibition
Anish Kapoor in Kensington Gardens 2010
Horst at the V&A - Photographer of Style
Van Gogh at the Royal Academy 2010
An Inland Voyage at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum
Ibrahim El-Salahi at the Tate Modern
Gaugin at the Tate Modern
Francis Bacon Exhibition at the Tate
The Tate Modern's 10th Anniversary
Picasso Exhibition at the National Gallery
Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy 2009
Art Gallery of New South Wales - Frieda Kahlo
Lines of Thought - Isabel Seligman
How to Draw
The Garden Gallery Exhibition at the Grange
Turner - Painting With Light
Emily Patrick and Patience of Ordinary Things

Why Conspiracy Theories Survive the Failure of their Prophecies

QAnon sticker available from Amazon

John F. Kennedy Jr. is dead and has been dead for some time. In July 1999, the small plane he was traveling in crashed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, killing him and two others. The bodies of Kennedy and his fellow passengers were found five days later in the Atlantic Ocean. This is the version of events most people know to be true. But, in the world of QAnon, things happened a bit differently: JFK Jr. survived an attempt on his life by the so-called “Deep State” and will soon return to exact revenge and help Donald Trump fight back against a globally active cabal of satanic pedophile elites that’s responsible for all the evil in the world.

The QAnon worldview is particularly prone to these sorts of predictions, and many adherents eagerly anticipate earth-shattering future events that will completely change the world, from “the Storm” (a near future apocalyptic realization when members of this evil cabal will be arrested) to the “Great Awakening” (a time when the general population will come to realize that they’ve been lied to for decades). Years of research into millennial movements and how they survive the often-inevitable failures of these prophetic pronouncements make clear that most movements, as we outline below, can survive these failures as long as certain conditions are in place. QAnon is no different. 

The fact that JFK Jr. didn’t come back on Saturday October 17th at a Trump rally, is only one of many QAnon “prophecies” that haven’t come to fruition: Hillary Clinton has not been arrested, high profile elites have not been killed or sent to Guantanamo Bay, the hundred thousand sealed indictments were not released, and the promised Golden Age has not been delivered. And yet, the movement continues.

Surviving the failure of prophecy

Many researchers read these stories and point to a classic work by social psychologists Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter published in 1956: When Prophecy Fails. In the book, Festinger and his colleagues provide readers with an account of a small religious group they call “the Seekers,” whose leader, Marion Keech (a pseudonym), predicted the destruction of the entire United States in a great flood on December 21, 1955. 

The Seekers, though, would be saved from this destruction by aliens who were communicating with Keech telepathically. On December 21, as midnight came and went with no spacecraft, many of the members wept and sat in disbelief. Then Keech received a message from the aliens: the apocalypse had been called off. As Festinger and colleagues write, “This little group, sitting all night long, has spread so much goodness and light that the God of the Universe spared the Earth from destruction.”

This final message was just what the group needed. While common sense may suggest that in the face of such an obvious prophetic failure, the group would have crumbled and the leader abandoned and ridiculed, this is not what happened. The final message communicated to Keech convinced the Seekers that all their work was not in vain; rather, it was precisely their preparations and commitment that saved humankind from cataclysm.  

From this case study of the Seekers, Festinger developed what he called the theory of cognitive dissonance. Put simply, the theory asserts that people are uncomfortable holding inconsistent beliefs and ideas at the same time and are driven to reduce this discomfort. It should be noted that Festinger is not stating that reducing this discomfort is a preference. It isn’t something we wish to be the case; it’s a drive that will happen. As Joel Cooper put it, “people do not just prefer eating over starving; we are driven to eat.” 

One of the things that the Seekers did after December 21 was also something counter-intuitive: they began to proselytize. Once the initial cognitive dissonance had been reduced by the idea that their actions had saved the world, they sought to solidify this new sense of consistency by seeking validation from the outside world. 

When Prophecy Fails has faced some criticism for its methodology, but as Lorne Dawson points out, “on the whole the record shows that Festinger et al. were right to predict that many groups will survive the failure of prophecy. Why they survive is another matter. The reasons are much more complicated than When Prophecy Fails implies.” Festinger and his colleagues placed a lot of emphasis on proselytization as a key mechanism by which cognitive dissonance is reduced following prophetic failure. But research over the last several decades has added at least two more strategies: rationalization and reaffirmation. 

Rationalization is now seen by researchers as the most important factor in whether a group survives prophetic failure. Groups can do this in at least four ways:

  1. Spiritualization: the group states that what was initially thought of as a visible, real-world occurrence did happen, but it was something that took place in the spiritual realm.
  2. Test of Faith: the group states that the prophecy was never going to happen, but is in fact a test of faith: a way for the “divine” to weed out true believers from those unworthy. 
  3. Human Error: the group argues that it’s not the case that the prophecy was wrong, but that followers had read the signs incorrectly.
  4. Blame others: the group argues that they themselves never stated that the prophecy was going to happen, but that this was how outsiders interpreted their statements.

The third strategy—reaffirmation—is also one used by several groups discussed in previous research. In this approach, the group brushes aside the failure of prophecy and reaffirms the value of the group, the benefits of membership, and doubles down on the importance of their journey on the path of truth. 

According to Lorne Dawson, the body of research on failure of prophecy notes that these three strategies are most successful when at least six conditions are present:

  1. In-group social support: the need to move on beyond the failure of prophecy is valiantly supported by others in the group. 
  2. Decisive leadership: the leader does not “pause in confusion in the face of failure” but provides a confident and coordinated path forward. 
  3. Sophistication of ideology: the prophecy is robust enough that the failure of one prophecy does not dismantle the entire edifice.
  4. Vagueness of prophecy: the predictions are vague enough to be rationalized away.
  5. Ritual framing: rituals are used to not only rationalize the failure but also purify the believers and reaffirm the value of the group.
  6. Organizational factors: different kinds of organizations or networks will be impacted differently by prophetic failure.

Below, we use the JFK Jr. case study to elucidate how QAnon followers have dealt with this failure of prophecy and point out that similar mechanics may be deployed by followers as other anticipated events in the future similarly fail. These insights will also be important for understanding how followers react to the potential electoral defeat of President Donald Trump, whom they consider to be a savior in the White House.

When JFK Jr. didn’t come back

Screenshot of Qdrop 1082, from the 8kun board where “Q” posts (the string of numbers are Q’s previous messages he is replying to) , hinting at a link between JFK Jr.’s plane crash in 1999 and Hillary Clinton’s run for Senate in 2000.

In 2018, QAnon adherents became convinced that Q, whose identity remains a mystery, was JFK Jr. This conspiracy theory began in April 2018 following Qdrop 1082 [image left], which is a reference to the Clinton body count conspiracy. This was then followed by another Qdrop containing a 1956 memo from the CIA’s public website. The CIA document had nothing to do with the Kennedys but contained a reference to “guided missiles.” For QAnon adherents, this was a hint from “Q” that JFK Jr’s plane was shot down with a guided missile to make way for Hillary Clinton’s political career, which started with a U.S. Senate run the year after the plane crash.

While this theory makes no logical sense, considering JFK Jr. was not a politician and never seriously considered becoming one, for QAnon adherents the Clintons and the ‘Deep State’ considered him a great enough threat that he was worth killing to make way for Hillary Clinton’s political career.

Screenshot of Qdrop 1697, from a Qdrop aggregator Where “Q” repudiates “R.”

The JFK Jr. conspiracy theory picked up steam in July 2018, during Q’s first long lull in posting. Mike Rains, who hosts the Adventures in HellwQrld podcast, told us that in the 20-day gap between Q posts, “an Anon who called themselves R took up the slack of posting about the great struggle between the Patriots and the Deep State. R made it clear that JFK Jr. was working with Trump to defeat the Deep State.” Q never engaged R on these claims, but when Q engaged in an 8Chan Q&A on July 25, 2018, they flatly denied that JFK Jr. was alive [image right]. 

According to Rains, this caused a lot of division in the QAnon community. The influential QAnon documentary, “The Fall of the Cabal” even ends with the claim that JFK Jr. is still alive, and that Q is merely using disinformation as a tool to protect him. Although two more Qdrops have appeared insisting that Q is not JFK Jr. and that JFK Jr. is dead, it’s had little impact on some QAnon adherents. 

So why has this conspiracy stuck with QAnon adherents who usually hold Q’s word as gospel? Travis View, conspiracy theory researcher and co-host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, told us: 

“The belief that JFK Jr. is alive and will reveal himself soon is typically an extension of the belief that his father President Kennedy was assassinated by the deep state. This is seen in the claims from some QAnon followers that JFK Jr. is returning to avenge his father’s death. QAnon promises followers ultimate justice for those who have been harmed by the secret puppet masters of conspiracy theory lore. Those who believe that JFK Jr. lives simply assume that this promise extends to the tragic and traumatic deaths of JFK Jr and JFK. On top of that, these QAnon followers seem irresistibly drawn to the classic trope of a son reappearing to avenge his father’s death.”

In QAnon Telegram chats, after JFK Jr. did not return as predicted on October 17, 2020, the response was varied, but largely fell into the  “human error” and “blame others” categories discussed above.

QAnon adherents stated that the JFK Jr. conspiracy theory was a deep state plot that was put in motion to discredit QAnon and the work they’re doing. As one post noted: 

“Anons have gone way off base and they’re using it to make us look stupid. I personally prefer to stick with 3 years worth of hard evidence of government corruption and malfeasance on every level…things we CAN prove.” 

Another post made a similar point, noting: 

“Q spells it out very clear…stick to info in the drops…They cannot attack the information, because it’s all correct.. But they can attack Anons who stray from the dropped content…then they use the faulty and unsubstantiated claims by Anons to discredit Q…”

Screenshots from QAnon Telegram Channels reacting to the failure of the JFK Jr. prophecy.

In other words, adherents argued that some followers had strayed from the path of truth and were now dabbling in ideas that were hurting the cause. This argument was used to rally the true believers and reaffirm their commitment to Q and the “authentic” Qdrops. This is what QAnon adherents perceive as gospel, built upon three years of “evidence.”

It was also argued in some cases that those QAnon followers that were amplifying the JFK Jr. conspiracy theory might have been plants by the deep state. All in all, there was a real push for a reaffirmation of the movement, the cause, and a call for a return to the original source of insight: the Qdrops. 

The future of QAnon

One of the main questions that QAnon researchers continue to wrestle with is how the movement will carry on after the election. With President Trump being seen as the savior of the republic in the White House, one who’s poised to usher in the collapse of the deep state, his defeat in the election could very well be seen as the ultimate failure of prophecy. As such, the theoretical framework presented above is important to keep in mind once the election is decided. 

If Trump loses the election, we foresee potentially three responses from QAnon followers: 

First, there could be instances of violence, as followers undertake an urgent campaign to bring about the arrest of supposed corrupt elites, celebrities, and the deep state as a whole. The defeat of Trump could be interpreted as a major lost opportunity to save enslaved children and to save the country—one that cannot be abandoned without a fight. 

Second, we may see factionalism in the movement, with some followers being siphoned off into other movements and groups and continuing their activism in ways that become only loosely tied to QAnon. 

Third, we may see the movement carry on as if nothing has changed. Many of these followers may instead be rejuvenated in their quest, arguing that, as their ally in the White House has been defeated, they need to come together and fight harder than ever before; that the movement is older and bigger than Trump himself, and it’s now up to them to carry the torch. 

The path forward for QAnon followers is unclear. Their rise to mainstream visibility depended heavily on the current political climate, with the President of the United States amplifying their message and refusing to denounce them in public. If Trump is defeated at the polls, and adherents lose this megaphone, we can only hope that these baseless and ridiculous ideas don’t continue to taint our public discourse in the new year. If they do—as we expect them to, in some form at least—you’ll have an answer for the pundits who will repeatedly ask why they still believe even after the prophecies failed to come true. 


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Favourite Gardens - Redenham Park

Redenham Park

Redenham Park, west of Andover, is an C18th Georgian house built for the Pollen family (Richard Pollen, was an old friend from the Meon Valley) and was also home to the Hambro's until it was acquired by Sir John Clark, the industrialist, famous for his long battle with Sir Arnold Weinstock. His widow, Lady Olivia Clark has created a beautiful garden behind the house over the past 40 years, notably for its huge yew hedges and topiary  It's fortunately open for the National Gardens Scheme once or twice a year.  

Lady Olivia Clark

For more photos from 2019 click here 
For more photos from 2018 click here

Sunday, 10 January 2021

The Mystery of the Plaque and the Severed Head


The Mystery Plaque

This plaque, which stands on a table on the loggia at Old Swan House, lead to the following correspondence between Guy Boney, another friend and me in January 2021: 

'Guy, I trust that your ‘A' Ladder schooling is equal to the task of identifying this chap - and the remains of the chap who’s head he’s holding - both of whom whom rest on a bas relief cast on a plaque in my loggia. The main character appears to be a satyr - or might even be the great god Pan, judging by his hairy withers - but my ‘B’ Ladder and Graham Drew schooling fails me when it comes to identifying the allusion.  Perhaps the animal skins draped over his left arm are the key. Anyway, your thoughts are awaited with interest'.

To which Guy replied:

'Hm, v. interesting.  

The bloke with the hairy withers is undoubtedly Pan - Greek god of flocks, shepherds etc.indeed god of everything connected with the countryside and pastoral stuff, including hunting.   My long-unthumbed classical dictionary says he is usually represented as a sensual being with horns and goat’s feet, sometimes in the act of dancing - the lump in his forehead I think must be intended to represent a horn/antler, and he has something like a shepherd’s staff tucked away somewhere into his kit.   The tails of the cat(s) or whatever the headed animal is illustrate his interest in hunting, pastoral activities and so on.    All pretty clear so far.

I think the interesting bit is the identity of the apparently beheaded character.   I think the answer is Socrates, which is partly wild guess, partly a memory of having seen a bust of him (Roman, not Greek, so 4-500 years after his death) somewhere or other.   But his main characteristic (apart from a reputation for wisdom - put about in a big way by Plato in the Republic and the series of Socratic dialogues written by Plato, e.g. the Crito which we did exhaustively up to the head man) was of physical ugliness - “in features he is represented as having been singularly, even grotesquely, ugly with a flat nose, thick  lips and prominent eyes”, says my dictionary, and you can see he's hardly Greek god material as shown in your stoneware.   

He died in 399 BC at the age of about 70  i.e. right at the end of the Peloponnesian War and at the end of the golden fifth century which saw the building of the Parthenon (450 BC), the plays of Aeschylus and the comedies of Aristophanes.   Aristophanes, always good for a satirical laugh, took Socrates apart in The Clouds, in rather the same way as W.S.Gilbert took apart Oscar Wilde in Patience by caricaturing him as the poet Bunthorne (“…if you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in your medieval hand…And everyone will say as you walk your flowery way….”).

Poor old Socrates meanwhile was condemned after a trial in 399 to death  by drinking hemlock.   He had come badly unstuck by becoming involved in Athenian war politics and making an enemy of the wrong person (lucky he didn’t try his luck on Stockbridge Parish  Council, but the result wd probably have been the same).    He was charged with impiety and not worshipping the gods of the city (chief amongst whom was Athena - sounds like a stitch-up already), and with introducing new deities and also of being a corrupter of youth.  I don’t think, btw, that last bit implies the usual thing, i.e. he doesn’t seem to have been an enthusiastic shirt-lifter (and I can’t find the classical Greek for that), but he was friendly with one or two people who were, mainly a character called Alcibiades who brought a number of people down.

To get away from fascinating C4BC Athenian gossip and back to the main point, I think the clues to this are the identification of Pan (a slightly disreputable god in C4 Greek terms), and the fact that Pan is holding aloft the bust of Socrates in, perhaps, apparent veneration.   That would be a fine example of Socrates doing exactly what he was condemned to death for,  i.e. encouraging the worship of a new, unconventional and too-exciting, non- establishment god (Pan) and having an arguably corruptive influence on the young by doing so.

There is a fair amount of speculation in all that, but you did ask for my thoughts and it does more or less hang together.   An important factor of course is the origin of your piece of stoneware - is it ancient or modern?   It doesn’t strike me as being a standard-issue chunk of garden-centre central-casting classical sculpture - it seems too sophisticated for that because it  seems to betoken some degree of classical knowledge which nowadays no one has .   It may hark back to the C19 or possibly even a grand tour C18 handout.   Any ideas of where it came from?  Perhaps it’s an Eve Lane special!

Best,  Guy'

This was followed by this note to a friend with whom I was also discussing the plaque, and copied to Guy:

'I have at last heard from of our local classical scholar with his considered views on that rather ugly piece in my loggia, and fortunately it seems that our own education isn’t found completely wanting in that it’s 
a) not something that every snotty schoolchild has doodled in his Kennedy’s Primer since Remove; and 
b) might even said to be a bit of a conundrum to those who read Greek and Latin up to the head man at school (the one who was more remembered for his pretty daughter Polly than his magisterial translation of Plato’s Republic). So, 

a) honour is intact, and 

b) the game is still on to prove or disprove Guy’s current theory involving Pan and his veneration of Socrates.

I support his theory, tempered only by the fact that Socrates died from being made to drink hemlock, the C4th BC equivalent of a gallon of retsina, rather than being beheaded, but I will allow that this could just be a good example of artistic licence. After all, a prone body would hardly fit the design required tempt a C18th traveller - which is what I think we have here.

The piece was actually bought from a Jewish antique-dealer friend called Kuka Steiner, from whom we acquired quite a few of the more unusual pieces you can find dotted around the house, including the zebra skin that you will have almost tripped on more than once and which will probably be the death of me. He lives in France and Spain but is still a friend and in fact he was in touch over Christmas, so there it may be worth asking him to come clean about its provenance and which ancient collection he ‘acquired’ it from. As I say, my guess is that it’s the equivalent of a tourist trophy brought back by someone who took an obligatory C18th Grand Tour and was sold something more portable than the Elgin Marbles just to show his long-suffering parents that he hadn’t spent all his time among the flesh-pots of Paris, and had it mounted.

In fact, there is more - a reverse side - the design of which to my mind supports the Socrates theory as it seems to me to depict the owner of the severed head on the other side - who could be Socrates in full declamation mode - with what looks like a representation of the cave in which he was imprisoned - a curious chamber hewn out of the rock close to the Acropolis, as I recall from this photo taken when I was supposed to be doing some work down there'.

Socrates's cave in Athens 

Guy's response:

'The sight of the flip side of your hunk of antiquity from the Acropolis sent me scurrying back to the classical Dicker (a favourite subversive Badcockism on A ladder aimed at Gerry Dicker whom he loathed, as in “hand me the dicker, Boney”) and I agree the full passage there confirms the Socrates identification, because you will notice the old geezer appears to be barefoot, to the point where you can actually see his toenail (at least I think it is; it can’t be anything else).  The full passage which refers to his ugliness and grotesque appearance reads:

“…His physical constitution was robust and wonderfully enduring.   He went barefoot in all seasons of the year, even during the winter campaign in Potidaea, under the severe frosts of Thrace; and the same homely clothing sufficed for him in winter as well as in summer…..”,and there follows the  bit about him being grotesquely ugly.  He certainly appears dressed for the outdoors, a feature to which the sculptor seems keen to draw attention. 

I have tried to trace some reference to the hockey stick thing crowned with a kind of fleur-de-lys which he has in his left hand, because in classical sculpture these things when included are always there to make a nudge-nudge point.   For example, all the sculptures/images depicting  Hercules/Heracles always have him clutching or wearing a lionskin, I think from memory because one of his twelve labours involved him in sorting out an animal called the Nemean lion, presumably because it was giving a hard time to the people in Nemea (wherever that is).   

So the hockey stick is likely to have significance, and the fact that the dicker is silent on its significance to Socrates is a point suggesting that the image may not be Socrates after all. I will continue researches, and your dealer friend’s recollection of where it came from would be interesting. The c18 grand tour is the most likely source but it may in the end be worth consulting the antiquities department at Sothebys - but only if its provenance is squeaky-clean. They can be a bit twitchy about that sort of thing these days.'

Best, Guy

Since these exchanges, another friend, an art historian of some note, has opined that the figure we think is Pan, might instead be his son, Silenus. We will never know.

And there, for the moment, the. matter rests.