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You would think that government had something better to do. However, Deal Town Council in Kent has discovered that the coat of arms which they thought they had inherited from the Borough of Deal when the latter was disbanded is illegal. All notepaper, signs, and the shirts of the local soccer/football team must be changed at a relatively high cost.

The College of Arms says that there is nothing they can do.
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On the 6'o clock news this evening the newsreader, Charlotte Green, said,

We reported yesterday that many people, citing the ancient Mayan calendar, believed that the world would end at 11 o'clock this morning. It didn't.
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In the Church Times this morning I read an ad for a vicar's post in Hereford Diocese. The headline reads:

When Jesus returns, he will come first to Acton Beauchamp


Oh. I see. It's accompanied by a QR code which goes to the vacancy in question, where I discover that it's for:

Vicar Of Acton Beauchamp and Evesbatch with Stanford Bishop, Bishop's Frome with Castle Frome and Fromes Hill, Much Cowarne, Ocle Pychard

Now who wouldn't want to be that? I am especially curious about Ocle Pychard.
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The esteemed organ Private Eye often takes the mickey out of various national characteristics. When Princess Diana died they ran a column called Dianaballs chronicling all the silly references to her in the media. They run one on sports stupidities called Colemanballs. Well, they're (of course) now running one called Jubileeballs about the hype around Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on the throne.

Now I have an entry, I think. Was it necessary for Tesco at the Elephant and Castle shopping centre to play, on an endless loop, God Save the Queen? It's not that I find it difficult to sing; it's not that I disagree with the sentiments. It's that hearing it continuously for 10 minutes as I browsed the aisles for Fairy™ Liquid and Hellmann's™ Mayonnaise made me want to stuff spring onions in my ears to block out the sound.

At the till I made a mistake in punching in my PIN code because I was in such a hurry to leave. The poor staff, however, are prisoners. They will have to hear it all day and into the evening.

To their credit, they didn't just play the first verse. They played the third and fourth verses as well, skipping the second and fifth. But I hope I don't hear it again today. And you may read of a zombie apocalypse at the Elephant if they do it for the entire four-day weekend.

1. God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen
God save the Queen
Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen

2. O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall
Confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks
On Thee our hopes we fix
God save us all

3. Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour
Long may she reign
May she defend our laws
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

4. Not in this land alone
But be God's mercies known
From shore to shore
Lord make the nations see
That men should brothers be
And form one family
The wide world over

5. From every latent foe
From the assassins blow
God save the Queen
O'er her thine arm extend
For Britain's sake defend
Our mother, prince, and friend
God save the Queen
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As is my wont, I began reading the Church Times, that notorious organ of the Church by law Established, from the back, looking at the advertisements for parishes and dioceses, then the Gazette, which is where movements of clergy in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland Anglican churches are chronicled. I came across this entry:

CROSSLEY. The Revd Jeremy Cross­ley, Rector of St Margaret Lothbury and St Stephen Coleman Street with St Christopher-le-Stocks, St Bartho­lew-by-the-Exchange, St Olave Old Jewry, St Martin Pomeroy, St Mil­dred Poultry and St Mary Cole­church, Director of Post-Ordination Training, and Diocesan Director of Ordinands, to be also Priest-in-Charge of St Edmund the King and St Mary Woolnoth with St Nicholas Acons, All Hallows Lombard Street, St Benet Gracechurch, St Leonard Eastcheap, St Dionis Backchurch and St Mary Woolchurch, Haw, London (London).

The Rev'd Mr. Crossley must be a very busy man indeed, running between all those churches to take services. I do hope he has a few curates or priests with Permission To Officiate to help him, or even a Reader or ten. He is in my prayers.
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Debbie Murden rides her carriage pulled by Dago the Welsh cob stallion on highways, and often stops along the way for a bite to eat. However, a McDonald's in Darbyshire says that it is too dangerous to serve her and refused to let her use the drive-up window.

She got her meal, but instead of 2 all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame-seed bun, she got the Colonel's best. The KFC across the street was happy to serve her. McDonald's has refused to comment.

Perhaps McDonald's should get Mayor McCheese to clarify the ordinances about horses and drive-up windows.
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For those who are a bit unclear on where I live and what it's part of, this video is for you. If by the end of it you are not able to name the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, those countries which recognise the Queen as head of state, the Crown Dependencies, the British Overseas Territories, and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all, you were not listening.

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Topiary is not the subject that comes top-of-mind when you're weeding your garden or clipping the hedge, but for Cantabridgian Ian Ashmeade one of his bushes was growing remarkably like a phallus. So he decided to help it along.

Of course, in England there is always some officious humourless jobsworth whose only pleasure in life is removing everyone else's joy. So the police have ordered Ashmeade to clip his cock or be fined (news story with picture is here).

As Ashmeade is the world pea-shooting champion, he has reshaped his cock into a pea-shooter. Apt.
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The National Catholic Reporter, a generally liberal Roman Catholic newspaper published in the US but with a worldwide circulation via the Internet, published a column today by a professor named Eugene Cullen Kennedy. The column deals with the meeting between Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI. In this column was the paragraph:

For the queen, who once publicly admitted to having an anus horribilis -- a really bad year -- has seen the traditions of the royal family disrupted by more problems with love, estrangement, and loss than Shakespeare ever piled into a play. It is difficult for the queen to be a symbol of stability when she knows that her ‘sceptred isle’ may on any given day ripple with the aftershocks of royal misbehavior.

The bolded words, of course, would indicate perhaps that Her Majesty had difficulty in sitting down for a year; one is much much too refained to actually translate what the column says. However, confusion between anus and annus in Latin and their equivalents in some modern Romance languages is a genuine source of amusement for many and of embarrassment for a few.

I do hope that the column is corrected soon, as one would expect that a column written by a Roman Catholic in a Roman Catholic publication would ensure that Latin quotations were correct.
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Saturday night was the Last Night of the Proms. This is a more than 100-year-old tradition of closing the BBC Proms with an evening of some edgy new music, followed by patriotic songs of yesteryear, closed by the National Anthem.

As a transplanted USan, I can think of no national event in America that rivals the Last Night of the Proms. Imagine the Royal Albert Hall full of a mixture of revelers and people in formal evening dress. Many of them carry flags on poles to be waved during the last few pieces of the night: Union Flags, of course, but flags of nations and regions all over the world: English, Scottish, Ulster, Welsh, Pink Union Flags (for the gay contingent), Australian, New Zealand, Cornish, even a couple of US and European Union flags were seen. No vuvuzelas, thank God, but a few air horns that might be let off at suitable intervals. Then the (American) soprano, dressed as Britannia in a headdress and magnificent gown, emerges and sings Rule, Britannia, while the (Czech) conductor wields the baton. Unfortunately, she only sings the first two verses; I here reproduce all six verses of the original:

When Britain first, at Heaven's command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
"Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
"Britons never will be slaves."

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful, from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies,
Serves but to root thy native oak.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame:
All their attempts to bend thee down,
Will but arouse thy generous flame;
But work their woe, and thy renown.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine:
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles thine.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coast repair;
Blest Isle! With matchless beauty crown'd,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves. "

No one today would hold that any of this patriotic song any longer has validity in our current national life. We no longer rule the waves: we are about to cancel a £5 billion program to build two aircraft carriers after more than £1 billion of contracts have already been let. The ships were to be built in Scotland, which is no-go territory for the Conservatives. Thus, £4 billion will be saved by scrapping the ships.

In addition, after all the nibblings away of our liberty by Labour, the line that "Britons never will be slaves" has a very hollow ring to it indeed.

After that, we have Jerusalem, the Parry setting of Blake's poem:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green
And was the holy lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills

Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spears o'clouds unfold
Bring me my chariot of fire
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
'Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land

Now the terse answer to the first stanza is "No, they didn't, no, he wasn't, no, it didn't, and no, it wasn't." The Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev'd Colin Slee, has banned the singing of Jerusalem in Southwark Cathedral on the premise that it has become an anthem for the far right British nationalists. But reading the poem does make one think that there is something that can be done with our society if only we get the tools to do it. We can build a city of peace—even a country of peace; what we need is the will and the tools with which to do it. That is something that we may all do, together, as a country. So I love to hear and sing Jerusalem, His Reverence the Dean notwithstanding.

Then, we have Land of Hope and Glory—a more triumphal patriotic hymn one could hardly ever sing:

Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still, and wider, shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet!

Truth and Right and Freedom, each a holy gem,
Stars of solemn brightness, weave thy diadem.
Tho' thy way be darkened, still in splendour drest,
As the star that trembles o'er the liquid West.

Throned amid the billows, throned inviolate,
Thou hast reigned victorious, thou has smiled at fate.
Land of Hope and Glory, fortress of the Free,
How may we extol thee, praise thee, honour thee?

Hark, a mighty nation maketh glad reply;
Lo, our lips are thankful, lo, our hearts are high!
Hearts in hope uplifted, loyal lips that sing;
Strong in faith and freedom, we have crowned our King!

So God made us mighty, and we ask God to make us mightier yet? Hubris, I reckon. The days when the United Kingdom was mighty have, I'm afraid, long passed. This hymn was premiered at the Proms of (I think) 1905, and Elgar was extremely proud of the music. You have probably heard it at a high school or university graduation as it's formally called Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, and was suggested to Elgar as a good fit for the coronation by King Edward VII. Of course, the second line is quite inappropriate nowadays, as many British citizens are not "born of thee" but are Brits by naturalisation or adoption.

Land of Hope and Glory regularly vies with Jerusalem when the question of a National Anthem for England comes up.

Now why have I gone through all of this? The philosophical idea of patriotism implies exclusivity; that is, when you are patriotic you can be patriotic only to one country. But I am a citizen of two countries (though I live in England), and patriotism in the United States is on an entirely different scale than patriotism here. Normally we have a quiet sort of patriotism, with minimal flag-waving, very little singing of patriotic songs, and only a little kerfuffle on St. George's Day, the feast-day of the Patron Saint of England. There is no patron saint of the United Kingdom: each of the constituent countries has its own patron saint: Dafydd in Cymru (David in Wales, I mean), Andrew in Scotland, Patrick in Ireland, and George in England. Nationhood in the UK is confused with separatism and is somewhat suspect.

When I listen to The Last Night of the Proms, for some reason, I feel stirring in my heart the sentiment that, for good or ill, I have cast my lot in with the United Kingdom and her rich history and traditions. Jerusalem, in particular, puts me in mind of a better, brighter United Kingdom that is just out of our reach, but which we can grasp and make a reality with teamwork, and effort, and trust in ourselves and in God.

The National Anthem ends the Last Night of the Proms. There is no official National Anthem of the United Kingdom; as is the case of much of our constitutional arrangements, it's simply the convention that God Save the Queen is our National Anthem:

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

Nor on this land alone,
But be God's mercies known
From shore to shore:
Lord make the nations see
That men should brothers be,
And form one family
The wide world o'er

The second verse is not sung very much these days. The fourth verse is often sung instead of the second to conclude the anthem. I think that it's a beautiful sentiment, and perhaps needs more currency than it now gets.

Brits often express surprise that I know the words to God Save the Queen. I would no sooner forget the lyrics of my adopted nation's anthem than I would forget the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner.
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The Grauniad's obituaries yesterday had a set of double-facing noble obituaries. On the right-hand page is the obituary of Lord McIntosh of Haringey, mhose main claim to fame was his loss of the leadership of the Greater London Council to the hard-left Labourite "Red" Ken Livingstone, whom many of you will recognise as later the first Mayor of London.

Among Lord McIntosh's characteristics was the fact that he was a humanist and atheist. The last paragraph of the section of the obituary written by Jeremy Isaacs is the one that caused me to collapse into helpless laughter at the breakfast table, astonishing HWMBO, who wondered what was so funny about an obituary. Lord McIntosh had months to prepare for his own death, seeing friends and generally enjoying himself. The section ends thus:

An atheist to the last, (McIntosh) reviewed the engagements, most in Europe, he would not now keep, glad to escape an audience with the pope in Rome.

A lucky escape indeed.
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Yesterday's Grauniad had an obituary for John Aris, a computer analyst who participated in the first team that applied computing to business objectives: the LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) system, for J. Lyons, then a major food business in the United Kingdom.

Aris began his academic study in mathematics in secondary school, but decided that classics (the study of Latin and Greek) was more interesting and pursued that subject through Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated with a degree.

In 1958, when he was recruited to the LEO project, the prevailing wisdom was that only mathematicians were fit to program and operate computers. This opinion was the prevailing one through the mid-1970's—when I attended Columbia University, the Computer Studies Department only accepted people from the mathematics and philosophy departments (philosophy because logic was taught as part of that discipline).

What attracts me to Aris is this quotation:

At the time, the prevailing view was that work with computers required a trained mathematician. The Leo management thought otherwise and recruited using an aptitude test. John, an Oxford classics graduate, passed with flying colours, noting that "the great advantage of studying classics is that it does not fit you for anything specific".

I have found in my life as a Latin and Greek graduate of Columbia, that truer words have rarely been spoken. Aris went on to other major posts in computer companies and retired from active work in 2000. But he should be remembered not only for his participation in LEO, but for explaining why an education in the classics is uniquely fitting for life in the modern world. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
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My favourite English comedian has to be Kenneth Williams. Not only an erudite autodidact, but a master of innuendo, the saucy laugh ("Ooooh, Matron!" he would giggle at Hattie Jacques), and the pun ("Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!").

I had never come across this video before. "Oh, what a beauty!" is an old music hall song that manages to be extremely smutty without actually ever using profanity or sexual language at all. It's all how you sings it, Matron...

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In one of the email lists I have the pleasure of participating in, I was asked the question:

1. Before the Brits revised their currency to a decimal system, we were forced to try to learn to use arcane divisions of the English pound: guineas, sovereigns,shillings, pence, ha'pennies, etc. It is clearly impossible for someone who is not born a Brit to get comfortable with this Byzantine system and it allowed crafty Brits to victimize us in even the simplest financial transactions. By the way, what is a Pound? A pound of what? Gold, porridge, or what?

I answered thus:

A pound sterling, as its full name might suggest, was originally a pound of sterling silver (.925 pure). Successive monarchs debased the currency until one of them had the bright idea of printing "One Pound" on pieces of paper thus allowing him to keep all the silver for himself. The note said that you could exchange it for one pound sterling at the Cashier's Window of the Bank of England, but if you went there and tried to exchange a pound note for one pound sterling they'd just give you another pound note which said exactly the same thing. The cashier was trained to continue to do this until you got tired of asking and went away.

So what's so difficult about 12 pence to the shilling, 20 shillings (bob) to the pound, 21 shillings to the guinea, 1/2 a penny to a ha'penny, 1/4 penny to the farthing, three pennies to the thruppenny bit, 2s 6d to the half crown, 5s to the crown, sixpence to the tanner, 2 shillings to the florin?

Here's a maths problem which even a first form child could have solved. If Featherstonehaugh (pronounced "Freestonhew") has a pound note which his mother has given him to get the groceries, and she wanted:

1 packet of Twiglets (8d)
1 packet of Woodbines (2s)
1 box of Swan Vestas (to light the Woodbines) (1s 5d)
1 pint of milk (2s 7d)
1 loaf of bread (2s 3-1/4d)
2 bacon butties for his and his mum's tea (1s 11d each)
1 potato for Dad's (the Old Man's) dinner ( 5d )
1 slice of gammon (ditto the dinner) (2s 6-1/2d)
1 bottle of Bass (ditto ditto) (3s 3-1/4d)

and on his way home with the groceries Featherstonehaugh encounters the neighbourhood bully, who demands a tanner for sweets and threatens to beat him up if he doesn't give it him, then why on the next day did Featherstonehaugh fail his history O-levels exam?

Answers on a postcard, please. My answer is below under a cut.

Snip to diversion (cue the travelling music, played by the maestro on the old joanna:)

"The ragazzo of the Elephant and Castle, that's me." Ya got me there, Chris. Am completely gobsmacked. What does it mean? Inquiring minds wanna know!

I live in the area of Souf Lunnon referred to as the Elephant and Castle, probably named after the heraldic device of someone connected to the area of an elephant with a castle on its back, and not after the Infanta del Castile or some such piffle. It is known for its historic pub named, er, the Elephant and Castle, and for Newington Butts, so named after the area where the local yeomen were required to do their archery practice when the King or Queen wanted to conquer someplace or hold off someone's army while the Navy kicked them in the bum on the high seas. Ragazzo is, I believe, Italian for "boy".

Anyone interested in the answer to the maths problem I set above (questions on exams here are "set", rather than "given" or "asked" or "administered").?

The answer is simple indeed, and is behind the cut )
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A Paraolympian whose wheelchair and artificial legs were taken when his car was stolen earlier this month had lost all hope of walking his sister down the aisle on her wedding day today. But for the heroic efforts of a group of artisans who stepped in to help, he would have had to wheel her down the aisle in his borrowed wheelchair.

We often hear of English jobsworths in government positions. They are said not to exert themselves unduly except to boil the kettle for another cup of tea, and would not extend a finger to help their own grannies in some essential task. The team who helped out in this case are entirely unlike that and are examples of the best of British skill and heart. The amputee, who walked his sister down the aisle, and those who stayed in Friday night to help, are my "Bricks of the Day" (pace Fr. Madpriest).

Now let's see if he gets his car and the gear inside back.

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