Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
Carolyn Mohr on The ups and downs of English
Michael Jennings on Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
priscila on The ups and downs of English
Simon Gibbs on Wedding photography (4): Preparations
6000 on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Darren on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Michael Jennings on Wedding photography (2): Signs
MarkR on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
MNB Achari on Google Nexus 4 photos
Most recent entries
- Cats without tails are not scary
- Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
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Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
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Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
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My Boyfriend Is A Twat
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Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Family
Yesterday I visited Englefield Green, where my home was for my first twenty years of my life. Whenever I go back there, I still think of myself as going “home”. But our house there will soon - possible very soon - be sold and demolished. When I now return to Englefield Green, I am starting to see it with the eyes of the outsider that I will soon definitely be.
It was with my outsider’s eyes that I first looked, really looked, at one of the pubs in Englefield Green:
What a very unfashionable name that is.
I’m guessing the flags are there because of the wedding. The Holly Tree, just up the road, also has flags out, presumably for the same reason. Is there any significance to the fact that the flags outside the Holly Tree are Union Jacks, i.e a celebration of Britishness, while those outside the Armstrong Gun are specifically English?
Recently I filled in the Census, after I had been politely but firmly reminded of my legal obligation to do this by a man who rang my buzzer. (I had been intending to ignore it, but an actual fight with a real life public official is not something I relish.) And I realised, after I had posted it, that I had described myself as English, rather than British.
Here’s a birthday card you don’t send very often:
Which is why I photoed it before sending it.
It’s for a semi-relative, a sibling’s mother-in-law to be a bit less vague about it, and I posted it by something called Guaranteed Delivery (£5.05), which means they really, really will deliver it. The reason I am so keen to be sure that this gets to its destination on time is that I am sending this more on behalf of my brother, who is, it so happens, closer to the centenarian in question than I am. But elder brother is in hospital, having bust his hip joint. So he said could I organise it? Glad to.
Elder brother suffered his mishap on his sixty fifth birthday. Yes, rotten luck, and very painful, apparently. But the good news is that replacing bust hip joints is now routine, and he is recovering nicely. Which is all part of why people now quite often live to be a hundred. Imagine a bust hip you just had to put up with from then on. You’d be very lucky to make it to a hundred after a few mishaps like that.
I was recently reading a book about the Industrial Revolution, which said that longevity is connected to prosperity, but in a way that (although surely extremely obvious to many others) I personally hadn’t thought of until now. Obviously prosperity feeds people better and cares for people better, and people accordingly live longer. But also, people who live longer are more determined and patient savers. Ergo more capital to invest, in such things as industrialisation. It’s a positive feedback loop.
Which suggests that if life expectancy continues to grow, economic development will get a lot more developed, so to speak. Imagine what serious life extension, to something like a time when you get “200” on birthday cards as often as you get 100 now, would do for saving.
There may be a flaw there, because obviously people who live longer also consume more. I may be jumping from one obvious effect to assuming that there are no other effects of consequence, commonly done when you think about economics. Even so, longevity clearly changes the shape of the economy, in ways that are not all obvious.
Then there’s all that theorising that concerns how economic cycles are linked to the human lifespan. Bad times recur every seventy odd years, because every seventy odd years everyone has forgotten the previous bad times, and all the idiocy that precipitated them. Longer life spans change all that too.
This is my favourite recent photo, despite its technical imperfections. It would never make it to the short list in any photography competition, I realise that. But here it is anyway:
Click to get it bigger, but frankly, not a lot better.
So yes, that was taken from Englefield Green, which is about twenty miles away from the centre of London, and up on a bit of a hill. The family house, which is still in the process of being sold, is a few dozen yards further up the hill from there. But despite having lived there all of my early life and having gone back to visit numerous times since, I only discovered this view last Sunday. I was back to say hello to the younger of my two elder brothers, who is caretaking for us. We were walking back down to Egham station, me to get to the station and him to keep me company. The weather, having been very fitful earlier in the day, was perfect, not a cloud in the sky. And there it was, between a couple of the little suburban bungalows set back from the road. At first I wasn’t entirely sure, my eyesight being only what it is. But there is no mistaking that shape, is there? Taking the shot involved a spot of mild trespassing in someone’s forecourt, to get past nearer obstacles, but through the big front windows it looked like no one was in, so, what the eye didn’t see ... And yes, the focussing is not all it might be. Maybe I’ll go back and try again, although I doubt I’ll ever get better weather for it.
I have several times photoed this view, although never even this clearly, from the also quite nearby Air Forces Memorial which you can climb to the top of and look out from, over nearby Runnymede (of Magna Carta fame) and beyond that all along the Thames valley from Windsor Castle on the left to Heathrow centre right and beyond it to London on the right to far right, very far right just before the view stops being where the Gherkin is just about visible. But I never knew until now that you can see any of London from even nearer to home, which is how I still think of it and will continue to think of it until the developers smash it up.
And I dare say that some of my readers will regard these two topics as a lot more closely connected than I do.
After the Scott Styris volcano erupted, Surrey became demoralised and suffered a string of t20 losses. I even got an eyewitness account from Michael J of their demeanour when losing to Middlesex at Lords. Very bad body language, said Michael J. They didn’t seem to be trying, said Michael J. My understanding of “body language” is not that they weren’t trying, but that they weren’t succeeding which is rather different, but however you account for it, Surrey were definitely doing very badly.
But a few days ago, they bounced back and beat Sussex. Nobody saw that coming. Surrey were on a bad losing streak. Sussex were top of the table, and still are. Perhaps that’s why Surrey won. Everybody involved just assumed they’d lose. Surrey relaxed and played well again. Sussex relaxed and played badly, most particularly their hitherto all-conquering top order:
1 2nb . . W . 1 | . . . 1 1 1wd W | 1 W . . 1 4 | 1 . 1 1 4 W |
4 1 . 1 1 . | . 4 . 4 4 . | 1 W . . . . | . . 1 . . . |
. 1 1 1 1 4 | 1 . 1 1 6 . | 1 . W 1 . 1 | . . 2 . 1 1 |
. 1 . 1 1 . | 1 . 1 1 1 1 | W . 1 1 1wd 1 1 | 1 . . 1 1wd 1 1 |
. 2 4 1 1 1 | 4 2 1 1 . 4 | 1 2 1 1 W 1 | 1 1 2 . 1wd 2 4
That was the entire Sussex innings, which Surrey were able to surpass with some ease. As you can all obviously see, Sussex slumped to 8-3, and, perhaps because so totally unprepared for such a circumstance, never really recovered. I knew you’d be excited.
Actually, quite a few people were a bit excited about this game, which happened in Sussex, because the start was delayed by what was described as “crowd congestion”. No doubt this congested crowd was likewise attracted by the certain prospect of watching Sussex crush their visitors. Arf arf.
The only way I could know the above numerical details of this game is if I copied and pasted them into a text file as they happened. Which I did. This takes me right back to my childhood when I used to score cricket matches in a score book. My elder brother, when small, used to have entire cricket matches going on inside his head. He would sit in a corner of his room, twiddling a dice, and all manner of cricket dramas would unfold, in, as I say, the secret chamber of his brain. Which is still a somewhat strange place.
As I get older this blog will get more and more weird, eventually culminating in the blogged version of senile dementia. If that happens, this won’t be the only blog thus afflicted. There will be numerous online versions of old gits and gitesses gibbering madly in the street to nobody, in fact I presume there already are. Although, actually, my family seems to consist mostly of people whose brains work perfectly (or as perfectly as they ever did), right up to the bit where they ... don’t. Which is good, I think.
One of the symptoms of Grumpy Old Manness is that you start to find socialising a bit of an effort. But, it is still an effort worth making. Not socialising at all is worse even that quite bad socialising, and quite bad socialising can usually be improved greatly ... if I make the effort.
My Dad was also like this. He also, as he got older, had to make a conscious effort to have a good time in company. In the hours before a social effort was required, he tended to be particularly unsociable. During that time, he was carefully charging up his limited reserves of bonhomie, and was determined not to eat into any of those reserves beforehand. Those in his vicinity as such times knew to keep clear of him, or if near him to expect a wall of grumpiness.
I greatly enjoyed the last three or four bits of socialising I have done. Before each, I very deliberately told myself to ... make the effort. And it worked. I don’t mean that I sparkled in the eyes of others, although that’s not impossible also. I merely mean that I had a good time. I learned things. Others sparkled in my eyes.
Why make the effort of being there, if you don’t then make the effort (if further effort is needed) to enjoy being there, and as a result instead just sit there waiting for it to end? That’s no way to live.
First, I have to be up very early tomorrow morning to attend a family meeting in Guildford. Very early. The journey is hideous, so rising tomorrow morning must be hideously early. The only way that could work was for me was to get up rather hideously early today and be so tired by early this evening that I actually get some sleep, instead of lying awake worrying about not getting enough sleep and about not waking up in time. And then, worse, far worse, actually not waking up in time. Luckily, going to bed rather late and getting up quite early doesn’t make me tired right now and want to go back to bed, the way going to bed very late and getting up hideously early does. It will, I hope, make me tired quite early this evening, but won’t stop me being lucid in the meantime. So, I have more blogging time at my disposal today.
Second, there seem to be a lot of incoming emails that require to be blogged about. Plus quite a few things I have wanted to blog about but have been neglecting. Plus also there is this, which I can’t allow to pass unnoticed
So, I’ve decided to put aside everything else and make a real blogging day of it, although as always when I say things like that, I promise nothing.
It helps that the weather is dreary and not good for photography, so although I do have to go out at some point during the day (partly to sort out that hideous journey), that expedition will probably not find itself being photographically prolonged. But it is quite warm, which means I can finally open all my windows, a let some of the dust out of this dump and let in some fresh air.
I will probably start by doing an easy blog posting rather than a significant one. (As in significant to me. None of them will be of any great significance to anyone else.) This is always the trick when confronting a pile of stuff to do. Don’t start with the most important bit. Start with an easily doable bit, to get a bit of momentum going. (Then, having done that, flop back in amazed delight, celebrate, and forget everything else, including everything important. I hope that doesn’t happen to me today.)
Later: Oh dear. Meetings have a way of generating lots of discussion beforehand, and that may be happening to this one. So, we shall see if any of the above actually materialises.
Johnathan Pearce has just done a good Samizdata piece about the phenomenon of first generation money being politically sensible, but the descendents of that money being political idiots, who don’t just waste that money, but wreck the political and legal framework that made the making of that money in the first place possible. Capitalists breed socialists, and finance them, in other words.
I am quite proud of the comment I have just added to this, and will now record it in this, which is (among other things) my personal diary:
I am exactly the kind of descendant of a rich entrepreneur type that you describe. And one of the reasons I have worked so hard to spread libertarianism is that it presents the views of “granddad”, and argues for the legal framework that made his achievements possible, in a way that might actually appeal to his relatively ignorant and unworldly grandsons. It has the intellectual content of pro-capitalism, but psychologically it has quite a lot of the look and feel socialism, and answers all the complaints from socialists in terms of alleged socialist ambitions, for the poor especially. Therefore, it may, at least somewhat, displace socialism in the intellectual and political landscape, in a way that a political movement launched by granddad never could. It will thus keep the spirit of granddad alive.
Both my father’s and my mother’s families made big fortunes, although it happened a lot longer ago than at the time of my own grandfathers. Dad’s family did it with coal, in the north of England, in the early nineteenth century I think. And Mum’s family had a most fascinating ancestor, of an even earlier vintage, who was some kind of big dealing trader in the Middle East. The resulting smallish (compared to some) but still quite stately home is still in the family, just.
I recently posted a piece here about sushi, in which I mentioned “my niece the diet expert”. This should have read, and now does read: ”my niece the diet expert”. Her name is Roz Watkins, and yes, she has a blog.
And since this is Friday, let me also draw your attention to a video which Roz recently performed in, with her cat Alfie as co-star. In this, Alfie is asked to compare regular cream with something called “Elmlea”.
Spoiler alert! Don’t read this next bit if you want to be surprised by the video.
Because, of course, Alfie can tell the difference between regular cream and Elmlea, and while happy to consume the cream, wants nothing to do with the Elmlea. Now, the fact that a cat likes one thing and not another is not a proof that what the cat doesn’t like is even bad for cats, let alone bad for humans. Nevertheless it is interesting, and it does dramatise in a very watchable way the fact that there might be something very wrong with Elmlea.
Roz’s blog posting on the subject says what that very wrong thing is. Elmlea contains “hydrogenated fats”, and, judging by what she also says in the video, in startlingly large quantities:
Oils are “hydrogenated” to turn an oil which is naturally liquid at room temperature into a fat which is solid at room temperature. Food manufacturers love them because they give food a nice texture and they last forever (there’s a message in there somewhere!).
Unfortunately the hydrogenation process causes some of the fats to turn into “trans fats”, which have a chemical structure not found in any quantity in nature. These trans fats have been shown to make you put on weight (especially around the middle) EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT CONSUMING EXCESSIVE CALORIES! So, if you are trying to lose weight they are really not your friend. They have also been linked to type 2 diabetes and heart attacks, among other lovely things.
And here is what Roz says about hydrogenated fats towards the end of the video:
One thing about nutritional people, scientists and so forth, they never agree on anything, and the one thing they all agree on is that hydrogenated fats - because, basically, they turn into trans fats - are really, really bad for you.
See also this follow-up posting by Roz, mentioning some other products, including slimming products, which also contain this stuff.
All of which is quite new to me, and what do I know? But, my congratulations to Roz, for a most creative use of the internet to dramatise something important, and also to dramatise the service that she is providing, concerning which I have heard other things also, all good, one (which I may eventually get around to writing about) spectacularly good. Based on what I know both of her character and of her skills, I confidently recommend her services to help you get slimmer, if slimmer is what you want to get.
I know, I know. Roz is family and I would say that. But then again, I might just have said nothing at all. I can think of plenty of things that friends and family have done over the years that I would never criticise in something like a blog posting, but would never have recommended in a blog posting either. Had I been pressed on such a subject, there might have been one of those eloquent silences of the sort that my late mother, Roz’s grandmother, used to specialise in. But concerning Roz’s weight loss expertise there is plenty more I can say by way of recommendation, and do say, as a number of friends of mine already know.
When it comes to taking fat out of food and putting other stuff in, I have always been somewhat suspicious. I have never liked “diet” things. I have long preferred coke to diet coke, yogurt to fat-free yogurt, cheese to “healthy eating” cheese, soup to slim-a-soup, and so on. Basically, I prefer the taste of the regular stuff. I have always suspected that fat of the usual sort is, in moderation, positively necessary, and that the things that they put in food instead of fat may be far worse. What Roz says here suggests that I have been doing the right thing all along, as well as just the nice thing.
Picture purrfection and a rather good Clive James piece
Talking with Toby Baxendale
Philippa Micklethwait - the Eulogy
It brightened up just enough
Thames river boats
It could be a rather small funeral
Some family education blogging
The shadow of Shipman – and forgetting things
Philippa Micklethwait (1914-2009)
My parents and my uncle and two aunts
Samizdata piece about caring for Mum
Englefield Green Xmas decor
When the carer needs to be cared for
More Englefield Green strangeness
On autobiographical ruthlessness
I have not been living beyond my means
The uses of Jesus
Quota photo of focussed flower with blurry background
Fred joins in with the pilates demonstration
Why it helps to be exposed to the lower classes and to dogs when you are young
Paying a visit to Mum
The return of Friday cat-blogging
Billion Monkey lady relative photos Christmas Day sunset!
Billion Monkey madness and a proper picture
Christmas day sunset
Here it is Merry Christmas
Just making conversation
Evening sun over Egham
Christmas and New Year’s Eve
My computer is improved - plus some London towers
Young People models for Old People
My mum’s tame blackbird