Showing posts with label London/UK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label London/UK. Show all posts

Friday, August 02, 2013

Public Meetings, Tortured Confessions, Truth, And Endings

Public Meetings
 One of Thomas Cromwell's scribes is talking about rumors he heard.

 "[Wriothesley] says, 'I hear that in council the king declared he will see to marry Lady Mary to a subject.'
Surely that's not what the meeting concluded?  In a moment, he feels like himself again:  hears himself laughing and saying,  'Oh for Christ's sake . . .Who told you that?  Sometimes,' he says, 'I think it would save time and work if all the interested parties came to the council, including foreign ambassadors.  The proceedings leak out anyway, and to save them mishearing and misconstruing they might as well hear everything first hand.'"
I've finished Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies, her second award winning book on Thomas Cromwell.   It takes place between the Fall of 1535 and Summer 1536. These are works of fiction written today, so there is danger in thinking these are lessons from another era.  While Mantel has done a great deal of research and has attempted to think as Cromwell thought, she is a modern woman and that consciously or unconsciously affects how she interprets Cromwell.  Nevertheless,   these topics are timely and worth considering and she writes well.  So I offer them as food for thought and perhaps to entice a few to read the books (Wolf Hall was the first one.)  Variety, among others, reports that the BBC and HBO are working on a six part mini-series of the two books.

Getting Confessions Through Torture

Cromwell is attempting to get Mark Smeaton, one of the queen's courtiers, to confess to adultery.
"Tell us now about your adultery with the queen and what you know of her dealings with other men, and then if your confession is prompt and full, clear and unsparing, it is possible that the king will show mercy.'
Mark is hardly hearing hi.  His limbs are trembling and his breathing is short, he is beginning to cry and to stumble over his words.  Simplicity is best now, brisk questions requiring easy answers.  Richard [Cromwell's nephew] asks him, "You see this person here?" Christophe points to himself, in cae Mark is in doubt.  'Do you take him for a pleasant fellow?' Richard asks.  'Would you like to spend ten minutes alone with him?'
'Five would do it,' Christophe predicts.
He [Cromwell[  says, "I explained to you, Mark, that Mr. Wriothesley will write down what you say.  But he will not necessarily write down what we do.  You follow me?  That will be just between us.'
Mark says, "Mother Mary, help me.'
Mr. Wriothesley says, 'We can take you to the Tower where there is a rack.'
'Wriothesley, may I have a word with you aside?'  He waves [Wriothesley] out of the room and on the threshold speaks in an undertone.  'It is better not to specify the nature of the pain.  As Juvenal says, the mind is its own best torturer.  Besides, you should not make empty threats.  I will not rack him.  I do not want him carried to his trial in a chair.  And if I needed to rack a sad little fellow like this  . . . what next?  Stamping on dormice?'
'I am reproved,' Mr. Wriothesley says.
He puts his hand on Wriothesley's arm.  'Never Mind.  You are doing very well.'

This is a business that tries the most experienced.  He remembers that day in the forge when a hot iron had seared his skin.  There was no choice of resisting the pain.  His mouth dropped open and a scream flew out and hit the wall.  His father ran to hm and said 'Cross your hands,' and helped him to water and to salve, but afterwards Walter said to him, 'It's happened to us all.  It's how you learn.  You learn to do things the way your father taught you, and not by some foolish method you hit upon yourself half and hour ago.'
He thinks of ths:  re-entering the room, he asks Mark, "Do you know you can learn from pain?'

But, he explains, the circumstances must be right.  To learn you must have a future:  what if someone has chosen this pain for you and they are going to inflict it for as long as they like, and only stop once you're dead?  You can make sense of your suffering, perhaps.  You can offer it up for the struggling souls in Purgatory, if you believe in Purgatory.  That might work for saints, whose souls are shining white.  But not for Mark Smeaton, who is in mortal sin, a self confessed adulterer.  He says, "No one wants your pain, Mark.  It's no good to anyone, no one's interested in it.  Not even God himself and certainly not me.  I have no use for your screams.  I want words that make sense.  Words I can transcribe.  You have already spoken them and it will be easy enough to speak them again.  So now what you do is your choice.  It is your responsibility.  You have done enough, by your own account, to damn you.  Do not make sinners of us all.

It may, even now, be necessary to impress on the boy's imagination the stageson the route ahead:  the walk from the room of confinement to the place of suffering:  the wait, as the rope is uncoiled or the guiltless iron is set to heat.  In that space, every thought that occupies the mind is taken out and replaced by blind terror.   .  .

It continues discussing the relationship between the victims mind and the terror.

But Mark will be spared this;  for now he looks up:  'Master Secretary, will you tell me again what my confession must be? 

What Makes A Good Man?

Wriothesley is a young man who works for Cromwell.  But Cromwell also assumes that he is also a spy for Cromwell's enemy Stephen Gardiner, whom Cromwell has had sent to France on errands for the King.  Cromwell tolerates Wriothesley for several reasons.  It seems that one is he thinks he might bring him over to his side.  He also knows he's in contact with Gardiner.
 "One can never be sure what Wriothesley is reporting to Gardiner.  Hopefully, matter that will cause Gardiner to scratch his head in puzzlement, and quiver in alarm."
In this passage, Wriothesley is trying to understand why Cromwell is trying to protect Thomas Wyatt, one of the courtiers around Anne Boleyn and King Henry VII, while he's setting up the other courtiers for execution.

"It is not easy to explain to a young man like Wriothesley why he values Wyatt.  He wants to say, because, good fellows though you are, he is not like you or Richard Riche.  He does not talk simply to hear his own voice, or pick arguments just to win them.  He is not like George Boleyn:  he does not write verses to sexi women in the hope of bundling one of them into a dark corner where he can slip his cock into her.  He writes to warn and to chastise, and not to confess his need but to conceal it.  He understands honour but does not boast of his own.  He is perfectly equipped as a courtier, but he knows the small value of that.  He has studied the world without despising it.  He understands the world without rejecting it.  He has no illusions but he has hopes.  He does not sleepwalk through his life.  His eyes are open, and his ears for sounds others miss." (p. 476*)

This immediately follows the paragraph above:

"But he decides to give Wriothesley an explanation he can follow.  'It is not Wyatt,' he says, 'who stands in my way with the king.  It is not Wyatt who turns me out of the privy chamber when I need the king's signature.  It is not he who is continually dropping slander against me like poison into Henry's ear.'
Mr. Wriothesley looks at him speculatively.  'I see. It is not so much, who is guilty, as whose guilt is of service to you.'  He smiles.  'I admire you, sir.  You are deft in these matters, and without false compunction.'
He is not sure he wants Wriothesley to admire him.  Not on those grounds.  He says, ' It may be that any of these gentlemen who are named could disarm suspicion.  Or if suspicion remained, they could by some appeal stay the king's hand.  [Wriothelsey], we are not priests.  We don't want their sort of confession  We are lawyers.  We want the truth little by little and only those parts of it we can use." (pp. 476-7*)

There Are No Endings

Here are the last four sentences of the book:
"There are no endings.  If you think so you are deceived as to their nature.  They are all beginnings.  This is one."

The first book, Wolf Hall, ended as they were on the road to Wolf Hall.  They were never there in the book.  The second book, Bring Up The Bodies, begins in Wolf Hall.  It's not until page 605* of the book's 673 pages, that we read:
"The order goes to the Tower, 'Bring up the bodies.'  Deliver, that is, the accused men, by name Weston, Brereton, Smeaton and Norris, to Westminster Hall for trial."
A third novel is in the works.  One in which, presumably, it will be Cromwell's turn to lose his head.  

*I have the large print copy from the library so the pages will be different from the regular print versions.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

If I Had Time For A Post Today, What All Would I Write About?

I'm on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle visiting my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter and other family members.  J has already been here several days (while I went to LA).  My son and his wife arrive tomorrow to celebrate some birthdays.

I was on the phone today with the accountant on how to do the payroll taxes for my mom's caregiver.  There are too many things like this I'm dealing with.  But I'm not complaining, really.  I'm just glad we can afford a caregiver.  But there are other things I'd prefer to do,
like play with Z who turned 6 months last week and is sitting up and grabbing everything in reach with her active fingers.  She has two teeth partway in already.

And the birth of the British royal baby yesterday had extra meaning as I get toward the end of Bring Up The Bodies which is about Henry VIII's inability to produce sons (except for one with someone not his wife) leading to getting rid of Katherine and now Anne Boleyn is in the Tower of London.  It's truly ironic now that they changed the rules to allow a female royal equality that they had a boy.  And what is it about the fascination about this royal that costs the English people a fair amount of money, has minimal actual power, though lots of symbolic power?  I still believe that hierarchy is part of our genetic code. 

I haven't mentioned Syria.  Too, too much to think about.  We've put ourselves (the US) into this position of being the world dominant country, which gives other countries the freedom to back out of their responsibilities and defer to us to take care of any problem anywhere.  How do you deal with the displacement of millions of people and the deaths of hundreds of thousands?  If the rebels hadn't rebelled, Asad will tell you, then none of this would have happened.  But at what point in the curtailment of universal human rights, are a people justified to rebel?  Can we get to a point in world history where, when that point is reached, the rest of the world steps in and bloodlessly allows more freedom?  We act as though the world is more civilized today than in the past, but the sheer number of people suffering from hunger and war is probably greater than any time in history.  It's true that more people have swimming pools and SUV's and flat screen TVs than ever before too, but wouldn't you trade those things in for everyone having peace and enough food?  I'm afraid that a lot of people would say 'no.'  Depressing.

There's more redistricting news - court filings challenging the new plan.  But I haven't seen the documents so I don't know enough to write about, but meanwhile you can check on the Fairbanks NewsMiner editorial on the Fairbanks challenge.

There's lots more, but you get the point.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Can Astrology Explain The Strange Events The Last Few Days?

 Thursday, there were several stories in the paper that were so unexpected that I finally checked an astrology page for Wednesday (July 25) to see if there was some sort of strange star alignment.  From Cosmic Life Coach:
Intellectual Mercury in creative Leo is forming a 120-degree trine to Uranus in self-expressive Aries (9:27 am EDT). Uranus is considered the higher octave of Mercury and is linked with our more brilliant or genius impulses and also our intuition. Mercury-Uranus tends to quicken our mental activity, in addition to helping to showcase our original perceptions. It can also suddenly ignite our intuition, or the voice of our spirit. Accordingly, today may be an excellent day for brainstorming, trying new approaches to old problems, making discoveries, and for tuning into that “still, small voice within” for wisdom and guidance. [emphasis added]

Trying new approaches to old problems?  Is that what explains why Sandy Weill, the man everyone is crediting with shattering the Glass-Steagall Act, was now saying he was wrong and that the wall between banks and investment companies should be rebuilt?

Then there are the Republicans, led by Senator John McCain and Rep. John Boehner, who have publicly disawowed Rep. Bachmann for her unsupported anti-Muslim slurs against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff.

Don Young's campaign ad endorsing Representative Mazie Hirono in the Hawaii Democratic primary isn't quite as shocking.  After being repeatedly elected to Congress since 1973, he seems to feel he can say or do whatever he wants without worrying about  reelection.  Plus, Alaskan and Hawaiian members of Congress have a history of reaching out across the aisle to protect their common interests.  But prominent national Republicans don't normally endorse Democrats these days, particularly not in television ads.

And while I was checking the star alignments, I thought I might see whether Mitt Romney's horoscope (he was born March 12) for July 26 might have warned him to be nice in London yesterday.   Possibly, except there was no agreement. And most it was  ambiguous.

Here are some examples:


February 19-March 20
Remain stable, strong and straightforward in the duties you must perform today. However, remain receptive to the advice an experienced and knowledgeable female friend will offer you regarding a particular money matter.    Lucky Number:  401   Financial Outlook:   very good   Compatible Sign:   Scorpio  (Star Telegram)
I imagine Romney's financial outloook is always 'very good.'  Strong and straightforward probably wasn't good advice.  And whatever female friend warned him, financial matters weren't the problem. 

Read more here:

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20). You’ll be in the position to choose your focus. Look at the moral implications, and let them weigh heavily on your decision-making process. Enjoying what you do is not a sufficient reason for doing it. (Philstar) [emphasis added]
His problem (the ones we know about anyway) was more in the realm of etiquette than morality.  Perhaps the last line is the one he should have paid attention to.  

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20) • • • • Reach out for more information. You might be more perplexed than you realize and could be thinking on a different level from many other people.  (The Spokesman)
Looks like Mitt should have read this Spokane newspaper - get more info. . .perplexed . . . thinking on a different level from other people.  He should cut this one out and read it every day.

PISCES. (Feb. 18 - March 18): This is an auspicious time for dusting off an old project or aspiration. See where it stands. You may find it's more doable than ever.  (SF Chronicle)
Well, he is revisiting the Olympics, isn't he?  Maybe the folks in London are going to show him how doable it is.  What did the Prime Minister say?  "it's easy to run an Olympics in 'the middle of nowhere.'"  Ouch.  Not exactly the good host either.  (The mayor of Salt Lake City has since invited Cameron to 'the middle of nowhere.')

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
If you’re travelling, just go with the flow today and tomorrow. If you’re not travelling, the next two days are a poor time to book a reservation somewhere. There’s a goofy element at loose in the world. It is what it is.  (National Post)
This Canadian newspaper seems to have been telling him to chill the first couple of days and it did warn him about a 'goofy element.'  It just didn't say he was the goofy element.

PISCES (Feb. 20 - Mar. 20):
The pressure has been cranking up for quite some time and over the next few days it may even become intolerable. But you are tougher than you look and will rise to the challenge. Give as good as you get. (Globe and Mail)
Is this one suggesting a turnaround for Mitt in the next couple of days?  Will Mitt seem smarter and the Brits look dumb if something goes really wrong during the Olympics?   Does being right override being a polite guest?  Except that Mitt has since said he "expects a highly successful Olympics."

The Independent (Ireland) didn't gave me their July 26 horoscope.  I got July 27 instead and I couldn't help but feel they wrote this especially for Mitt, with the knowledge of his first day in London:
Pisces: Be disciplined and careful not to alienate people with your powerful feelings. This will make life less intense and you will find it easier to cope. Watch out for your need to control events and circumstances just now. You will feel much more relaxed if you do not try so hard. Love will find a way.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Romney retroactively cancels visit to London" and other tweets about the Republican Candidate

I don't have a Twitter account, but I saw at Immoral Minority that Mitt Romney had done so badly on his first day in London that someone started a new Twitter RomneyShambles hash tag.  Here are just a few of the tweets about England's response to Mitt.

Mitt Romney retroactively cancels visit to London.
You can tell 's doing badly when he starts getting booed by rich white people
Mitt Romney is now, officially, an international embarrassment. Our policy of containment has failed.
Romney couldn't possibly offend England right before the . Oh, he did
RT : Next up: Driving around London with the queen's corgis on the roof.
I've rounded up Romney's gaffes, all in one place. It's been quite a day
Americans: This Mitt person is some sort of American Borat, right?
Dear Great Britain: Yeah. We know. Sorry. Welcome to our world. --Signed, America.

This is not my usual style of post, but then you don't want me to be predictable do you?

[UPDATE July 27:  While Romneyshambles might be cute for Americans, it appears for people in the UK it has a special ring.  The term omnishambles is already in use in the UK.  The R gives an already good word even more spin.  From an article called "The Omnishambles and the Power of Political Language" in the Daily Telegraph:
"Omnishambles is a hybrid too, and the words “shambles” has come to mean simply a mess or muddle, and has more or less lost its more vivid meaning of a fleshmarket, slaughterhouse, or place of carnage. But omnishambles is OK. It says neatly what most of us think of most governments. The only wonder is that Ed Miliband dares to use it, thus inviting the suggestion that he should look in the mirror."   (There's more at the link.)]

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wolf Hall: Words and Silence

I've been reading Wolf Hall, the 2009 Man Booker Prize Winner by Hilary Mantel, since early December.  I finished it this afternoon.  I've been tempted to put up quotes now and then while I was reading it - the prose is so incredible, and so different.  Sparse.  Present tense, though set 400 years ago.

The impetus for finally getting it done - it's one of those books I didn't want to end - is that the book club meets tonight.  And it's a good thing I finished it, because only in the last line, as Thomas Cromwell is looking over the travel plans to catch up with King Henry VIII who's out of London for a bit do we even get close to Wolf Hall:
Before "Bromham," he makes a dot in the margin, and draws a long arrow across the page.  "Now, here, before we go to Winchester, we have time to spare, and what I think is, Rafe, we shall visit the Seymours."

He writes it down.

Early September. Five days.  Wolf Hall. 

But I'll focus here on some exchanges between Cromwell - the commoner, the blacksmith's son, who, through his physical presence, his way with words (in any number of languages), his incredible memory and administrative skills has become Henry VIII's Chief Minister, Master of the Crown Jewels - you can see all the many positions he held at Wikipedia - and Thomas More who is a prisoner in the Tower of London awaiting trial and execution because he will not acknowledge Henry's right to split from the Church in Rome and take over as head of the Church in England.  You get a sense of Cromwell's
Tower of London last summer
with the King in this exchange where Cromwell - who in this telling of the story does not want to force Thomas More's hand and is willing to let him sit in the Tower rather than execute him - argues that
". . . No one is in doubt of his loyalty to Rome and his hatred of Your Majesty's title as head of the church.  Legally, however, our case is slender, and More will use every legal, every procedural device open to him.  This is not going to be easy."

Henry stirs into life.  "Do I retain you for what is easy?  Jesus pity my simplicity.  I have promoted you to a place in this kingdom that no one, no one of your breeding has ever held in the whole of the history of this realm."  He drops his voice.  "Do you think it is for your personal beauty?  The charm of your presence?  I keep you, Master Cromwell, because you are as cunning as a bag of serpents.  But do not be a viper in my bosom.  You know my decision.  Execute it."
But that is background for the discussions between More and Cromwell.  And I'll do only a little part of that - that focuses on words and silence.

Cromwell is finishing a long soliloquy about the possibility of improving the world, being corrupted, the constant fight between ignorance and learning, the weather's impact on one's will (it's been raining all summer), and the need to maintain order and justice even if not perfectly. 

". . .  Last week the people were rioting in York.  Why would they not, with wheat so scarce, and twice the price of last year?  I must stir up the justices to make examples, I suppose, otherwise the whole of the north will be out with billhooks and pikes, and who will they slaughter but each other? 
(Is this what Mubarak is thinking?)
I truly believe I should be a better man if the weather were better. I should be a better man if I lived in a commonwealth where the sun shone and the citizens were rich and free.  If only that were true, Master More, you wouldn't have to pray for me nearly as hard as you do."

"How you can talk, "  More says.  Words, words, just words.  "I do, of course, pray for you.  I pray with all my heart that you will see that you are misled.  When we meet in Heaven, as I hope we will, all our differences will be forgot.  But for now, we cannot wish them away.  Your task is to kill me.  Mine is to keep alive.  It is my role and my duty.  All I own is the ground I stand on, and that ground is Thomas More.  If you want it you will have to take it from me.  You cannot reasonably believe I will yield it."
(Is this what Egyptians are thinking as the government tells them to go home and they stay out on the square?)
"You will want pen and paper to write out your defense.  I will grant you that."

"You never give up trying, do you?  No, Master Secretary, my defense is up here,"  he taps his forehead, "where it will stay safe from you."
 Cromwell looks around the empty and dark room and calls the guard to bring a candle.

Martin brings a pricket candle.  "Anything else?"  They pause while he sets it down.  When he is gone, they still pause:  the prisoner sits hunched over, looking into the flame.  How does he know if More has begun on a silence, or on a preparation for a speech? There is a silence which precedes speech, there is a silence which is instead of speech.  One need not break it with a statement, one can break it with a hesitation:  if . . . as it may be  . . . if it were possible  . . . He says, "I would have left you, you know.  To live out your life.  To repent of your butcheries.  If I were king."

Seven pages later, after More's trial and execution:

He [in this book 'he' almost always means Cromwell] says, this silence of More's, it was never really silence, was it?  It was loud with his treason;  it was quibbling as far as quibbles would serve him, it was demurs and cavils, suave ambiguities.  It was fear of plain words, or the assertion that  plain words pervert themselves;  More's dictionary, against our dictionary.  You can have a silence full of words.  A lute retains, in its bowl, the notes it has played.  The viol, in its strings, holds a concord.  A shriveled petal can hold its scent, a prayer can rattle with curses; an empty house, when the owners have gone out, can still be loud with ghosts.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ambassador for Hugs

Back on May 1, 2007 I posted a Youtube video on the Free Hugs movement.  When we were in London, on May 2, 2010 I saw a man with a free hugs sign near the speakers' corner in Hyde Park.  It was cold and windy.  So, now that we're home, I'm trying to catch up on some of the backlogged pictures from the trip.  Here's a short video with Stuart McElwaine whose business card says he's an "Ambassador for Hugs."

You can get more information about free hugs at 
[That doesn't seem to be working now when I'm setting this up.  Try this one instead.]

[Update 5/30/2010:  I just found these other pictures I took at Hyde Park]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

St. Peters on-the-wall Essex

I'm taking advantage of a gray day and internet access to do some catching up on places and events I didn't have to time to post on the trip.  Of course, technically, we're still on the trip here in DC. 

But here's a lovely spot Doug took us to in Bradwell on the coast of Essex, UK. 

I've made this bigger so it's easier to read.  But you can get a lot more information at the Bradwell Chapel website.  Here's a short snippet that tells how it got its name:

654     Cedd founded a Celtic style community at Othona, built his Cathedral of St Peters on the foundations of the Roman fort and was consecrated Bishop of Essex. In fact Cedd's Cathedral was built where the gatehouse of the fort had been - so it was built on the wall of the fort - hence the name - Saint Peter-on-the-Wall.

The yellow flowers are rape seed and I'm hoping to do another post just on that eventually. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Russian Model and Other English Signs

At Burnham-on-Crouch club for Conservatives.

Going out to visit an old church.

An old alms-house in Rochester.

Near Piccadilly Circus in London. 

Update: I forgot this one from Cambridge.   It took me a while to figure out what it meant.

British Elections Update - Brown Steps Down

I guess I got hooked into finding out what is going to happen, so even from Brussels, I'm checking up on the British elections.

It seems that

1.  Gordon Brown, Labour's leader and the Prime Minister, is resigning.  That should solve a lot of problems.

2.  The Lib Dem negotiations with the Conservatives haven't been productive even though the Conservatives have offered to have a referendum on proportional representation. (Originally they were willing to study the issue.)

3.  With Gordon Brown out of the Labour leadership position, there's a much better chance for Labour and the Lib Dems to form a coalition.  Especially if it's true that Labour has offered to implement Proportional Representation without a referendum. [Update:  As Doug points out in the comments Labour plus the Lib Dems is not enough for a majority.]

For additional information (it seems some of the more accessible reports come from afar where they give you the main points and leave out the details.)

New Zealand Channel 3 News  
Portland Mercury

Monday, May 10, 2010

England to Brussels

Doug was a great host taking us here and there to see things we wouldn't have seen on our own.  AND, taking us to catch the 6:37 am Eurostar train at Ebbsfleet.  Thanks Doug!!!

Approaching Brussels.  The train went fast and was very quiet.  About 100 minutes from Ebbsfleet Station to Brussels. 

Getting ready to get off the train. 

My cousin had a therapy session, so we had lunch at the hospital.  I've never seen a restaurant quite like this one in a hospital. 

View from our hotel.  It's still gray, bur a bit warmer than UK.

View from my cousin's flat. 

After dinner, some cars had moved, leaving that one on the left sitting way out there by itself.  It's been a long day, so the pictures will have to suffice. 

Sunday, May 09, 2010

What's Happening with the British Election?

Results:  Election seats/Percent of Parliament/Percent of Vote  (From BBC)

Conservative seats:  306 (47%)-  36% of Vote

Labour seats:  258 (29%)  - 29% of vote

Lib Dem seats:  57 (9%)   - 23% of vote

Other parties:   28  (4%)  - 12%

There is one seat still undecided because of a death that pushed the election back.

Voter turnout is pegged at 65%, up 4% from the 2005 election.

As best as I can figure this out, here's what's happening:

1.  No party has a majority.  The Conservatives got the most votes, but not enough to form a majority government.

2  They can either work out a coalition with another party(ies) that would give them collectively a majority or try to form a minority government.  A minority government would seem to run into problems and there would be a likelihood of a new election within a year. 

3.  The two other main parties, Labour and Liberal Democrats, are ideologically closer together than either is to the Conservatives and if the Conservatives can't form a coalition, Labour and the Lib Dems could, conceivably, form a majority government.

4.  However, the leader of the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, doesn't like leader of Labour, Gordon Brown, and has even said in the campaign that he couldn't work with Brown.  On the radio today they are talking about a heated phone conversation Friday between Clegg and Brown, which they deny.  Brown does seem to have been a serious problem for many people who might otherwise have voted Labour.

5.  There seem to be some attempts by the Conservatives to work out an agreement with the Lib Dems.  But they have serious ideological differences including integration with Europe (Conservatives against, Lib Dems for) and electoral reform (Conservatives against, Lib Dems for.) 

6.  A major issue for the Lib Dems is proportional representation. You can see why the Lib Dem Party is so strongly for proportional voting  from the numbers at the top.  While they got 27% of the vote, they only got 9% of the seats.   I'll address this issue below. 

7.  Splits seem to be coming out into the open in all the parties.  Conservatives are angry with their leadership for failing to win a majority.  Lib Dems are concerned about their leader making an agreement with the Conservatives.  One Labour MP has called for Gordon Brown to step down.

8.  The first Green Party MP was elected Thursday.

9.  Meanwhile, the Constitution allows the sitting Prime Minister to continue as head of the government until a new government is formed.  So, despite Conservatives calling for him to step down because so many Labour seats have gone to the Conservatives (about 95), Brown is holding his position and looking for ways to work with the Lib Dems.

What about Proportional Representation? 

The Observer has an article on this but I can't find it online.  In the US, primary elections tend to narrow the race to two main parties with minor party candidates who tend not to get many votes.  Here, there are a number of parties and so it can happen that a party like the Lib Dems can get a lot of votes in many districts, but mostly come in second or third.  Conversely, the Conservatives were able to win a lot of seats, but with less than 50% of the vote.  So there are four options that the Observer listed today that are on the table for electoral reform.  Basically they involve more complicated ranking schemes - you vote for more than one candidate ranking them 1, 2, 3, etc.  Then if there is no majority, the bottom candidate is dropped and the second choice for those voters is calculated.   The four options the Observer lists are:
1.  First past the post - the current system.  Each district picks an MP and the MP's pick the Prime Minister.

2.  Alternative vote (AV)  - Rank the candidates

3.  Alternative vote (AV+) - Same as two, with the addition of a list of party candidates.  I don't totally understand this one.

4.  Single transferable vote (STV)  - Bigger constituencies with more than one MP.  Again, this one isn't really clear to me. 

Here's a website that lists these options and a couple more if you want to see more detail.

What's next?  It seems to me, that if Labour got rid of Brown at the top, then there would be a greater chance of forming an alliance with the Lib Dems. 

London Tube 11:30pm Friday Night

From Woodlands Jr. School:
London comprises the City of London, and the 32 boroughs, of which 13 are in Inner London and 19 are in Outer London. It is a growing city spreading out and 'swallowing' many villages and towns in the south east of England. Because of this, there are many conflicting definitions of London and Greater London and the population of London varies accordingly.
London, the capital of England and the UK, occupies over 620 square miles and is the most populous city in the European Union, with over 7 million residents. London’s population is heavily concentrated (at about 4,539 people per sq km/11,568 per sq mi)
2001 Census
London's population was 7,172,000 on the latest Census Day of April 2001. This is 14.6 per cent of the total population of Britain. The population in 2005 was thought to have been about 7,518,000.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Canterbury Cathedral

It rained on and off today as we went Kent, the next county south of Essex, and visited Rochester - a place where Dickens lived - and then Canterbury to see the famous cathedral.

From the Cathedral's website:
St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived on the coast of Kent as a missionary to England in 597 AD. He came from Rome, sent by Pope Gregory the Great. It is said that Gregory had been struck by the beauty of Angle slaves he saw for sale in the city market and despatched Augustine and some monks to convert them to Christianity.  [I know it was a different time and people thought about slaves differently, but it still sounds bizarre to me.]
Augustine's original building lies beneath the floor of the nave– it was extensively rebuilt and enlarged by the Saxons, and the Cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. There have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, but parts of the quire and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.
By 1077, Archbishop Lanfranc had rebuilt it as a Norman church, described as "nearly perfect". A staircase and parts of the North Wall - in the area of the North West transept also called the Martyrdom - remain from that building.

Again from the Cathedral website:

The Nave
The Romanesque Nave was replaced in the 14th century by the one we see today. Its tall columns rise to meet in delicate vaulted arches and gilt roof bosses high over our heads. It is one of the most magnificent surviving examples of English Perpendicular Gothic, designed by Henry Yevele, the King’s Master mason.

The Quire
The Quire was rebuilt and extended after a disastrous fire in 1174 destroyed the earlier structure. Thomas Becket's shrine was placed in the Trinity Chapel in 1220, until it was destroyed in 1538 during the Reformation by order of Henry VIII. The Corona, built as a separate shrine for the a piece of Becket's skull, completes the eastern exterior of the Cathedral in a unique fashion.  Beautiful stained glass windows illustrate miracles and stories associated with St Thomas.