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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

'Black, black, Bible ...

black' ... or whatever the Dylan Thomas quotation is. I must say, I tend to agree with the late A.J.P.Taylor's assessment of how Thomas wrote his poetry - that he wrote the stuff out in 'normal' English then just randomly threw in odd words. Mind you, A.J.P.Taylor's wife was on more than friendly terms with the Welsh bard/drunk, and Thomas had a better claim to membership of the proletariat than did the Oxford don, which probably irked him more than his wife's enthusiasm for the old soak. But, for me, the black, black this evening is:

This is a nice bit of scenery from 'Hovels' that has been sitting around in this black undercoated state since April. I don't what it is about it, but every time I put it on the painting table, I lose heart. I've painted up the two, very nice northern European gabled houses that I was given at the same time, but this stable... black, black... a bit like Churchill's black dog, in resin form.

So instead of actually doing something this evening, I broke into two of the Minitanks boxes and took out:

the Stug III, and the 

Mobelwagen. The Stug is the better realised of the two models, but I am taken by the look and feel of these small vehicles - quite taken with them.

If you are in the UK, you might have seen the initial reports regarding our ten yearly national census - the 2011 one. The stunningly rapid changes that England, in particular, has had to contend with in the last couple of decades show no signs of abating. Most interesting is the finding that, in 2011, the 'White British' (that's a standard classification here, though I prefer being able to self-describe) now form the minority (at 45%) of the nearly 8,500,000 people who live in London, the capital of the UK, and, still, the capital of England (although I would prefer Winchester or York). I doubt if many people, English or from any other group, think other than this is the future for the whole country. It may be a good thing, it may be a bad thing, it may be not much at all, but, to paraphrase Christopher Caldwell's question, in his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, 'can England be the same with different people in it?', I think the answer is, probably, no. Depressingly, there are, as some Israelis are wont to say, 'facts on the ground'. But there is G K Chesterton's quip that 'whoever says you can't turn the clock back doesn't know much about clocks', yet there is the history of Austria-Hungary, and the fact that there is a great deal of space in the USA but very little in England. As for London, that strange 'other England' from that which many English people live in, one could imagine, I suppose, a sort of Napoleon of Notting Hill scenario - but even that ended in tears.


  1. As a lad, I had quite a few Minitanks. For some reason, the Cold War stuff always seemed to be far more plentiful than the WWII items (at least in Australia). The exception being the Flak vehicles - I seem to remember having just about every variant with a quad Flak on it, including the Mobelwagen. In fact I don't think I have ever seen a ROCO StuG in the flesh. I know they put out some figures but imagine how well this range could have gone if other figs manufacturers had picked up the scale, for as you say they are very nice little models.

    Cheers, Dave

    1. They were very rare in my bit of the world in the early 1970s, and I doubt if I could have afforded them anyway. The only lad I knew had some was a bank manager's son! They are very sharp, but they look unusual/exotic/odd when you're used to the usual 1/76 and 1/72.

  2. Its the wheels. and the compact size and that the work is all done. But especially the wheels. Say what you will about modern kits, could can't roll'em across a battlefield.

    I suppose retreating to Wales and building a dyke to keep out newcomers has been tried already? Where is Arthur these days anyway?

    1. The wheels are the business - except that the Stug nearly came to grief, plunging off m'table. I do have Welsh roots, but I don't think the Welsh need any more English only speakers!

  3. Love the hovel building and delighted to read you hav enjoyed the feel of the minitanks.
    Much to ponder upon in the census too.
    Ross McF has put temptation in my path again by his latested blog entry and the info it contains...

    1. Aha! Yes, the bonny Highlander without a head! Resist!

  4. 'The terrain piece that would not be painted' ... has a sense of E.A. Poe about it. ;-)

    As for the shifting balance of population, it's nether a good thing or a bad thing, just a thing. We can bemoan the changes in English culture or whatever, but 'Englishness' is a shifting thing anyway. What Shakespeare thought of as 'Englishness' would be very different to that of Dickens and that of Dickens less so than a view from the 1930's, 1950's, 1970's or today, the latter four being periods of mass immigration and migration.

    I'd argue that English culture has been more threatened by American culture since the 1950s than by any other factor to be honest. Look at youth fashions, the bulk of TV programming and the interest in the US elections (in comparison to our own election's turnout). We have a mass of pensioners who routinely wear jeans and think music hasn't been the same since Buddy Holly died.

    Oddly a common complaint from settled minorities (and we are not talking just one group after all), is the erosion of 'their culture' in favour of 'British' culture (whatever that is).

    Mr Chesterton's 'clock' can be wound back as often as you like, but is the effort involved in effectively making time stand still worth it? As soon as you let go, it will start moving forwards again. Every generation from the Norman Conquest on (and probably before) has looked back at supposed 'good old days' that never were and then bemoan the current state of affairs.

    I'm not one for borrowing fascist slogans, but 'Cara al sol' (or at least the lightest coloured cloud, which is effectively the same thing in the UK).

    1. Yes, I agree with most of this, Jim, which is why I wrote 'It may be a good thing, it may be a bad thing, it may be not much at all'. Neither do I think that GKC meant that - he was just irritating the people who trot out nonsense like 'you can't turn the clock back' rather than developing an argument, or a coherent train of thought. I certainly agree about US culture, and, but even moreso, the vacuous 'culture' that pours over the population from various medias. I suppose the personal issue for me is that I have, for as long as I can remember, been infected by a sense of the past (my grandparents were very old, very traditional working class and much focused on the past). More particularly, the census figures confirm what we knew - that there has been an unprecedented transformation in the social, demographic and cultural makeup of England (and I mean England). There has never been a change like this in the history of England. The nearest such revolution that I can think of is the social and economic one that was the first and second waves of the Industrial Revolution, from around 1770 to, say, 1851. That, too, brought tremendous, unsettling, disruptive change that took another 50 years before a new consensus was (sort of) reached. When this sort of deep, sudden change occurs, at a time when our democratic institutions are grossly lacking (inability to tackle global business and finance, far too much power in the fundamentally anti-democratic EU, and even the lopsided devolution within the UK), also when the world economy creaks, then there isn't a problem in questioning yet another undemocratic aspects of England's life. Erm, finally, I'm not too sure about 'Cara al sol' - don't the first few lines warble on about embracing death?

    2. Yes... Cara al sol is a bit depressing, but I was just trying to stick to the title and concept, rather than the content.

      I do see where you're coming from. The current position will bring a level of change and I would agree that probably it will be the most dramatic since the English first arrived on these shores. I just don't feel that it will be as bad as the Daily Mail and the Express make out.

      I'm actually for a united Europe, but how it's turned out is nothing like I imagined it should be... too many 'national egos' at play and as you say, it's undemocratic. A United States of Europe will never happen and that was going to be the only way it would ever have worked.

    3. Hi,Jim. Yes, I agree on the Europe front. Back in the early and mid 1980s I was an enthusiast for European union. Indeed, I was a member of the Young European Movement when I was a student. Not long ago I found out that the YEM was, in fact, secretly funded by the CIA ! All part of the anti-Soviet effort you see. And, of course, now that's gone, and Germany has not only been reunited (I spent a lot of time studying the 'Eastern Question' as part of my studies 30 years ago), but is emerging, finally, from the shadow of the past (whatever crass demonstrators in Greece might think). And now I am far more concerned about the erosion of democracy (such as it is) by the remote and powerful institutions and laws of the EU, which operate on a no repeal, ratchet basis, all governed by a technocratic model of government that has never been part of the British model, even at the high point of Wilsonian tri-partism.

  5. Couldn't agree with Jim Hale more Britain is was and always has been a mongel nation-celts, romans, saxons Norse, Normans Hugenots Jews..... etc etc. It is what has always beeen our strength and the core of our character. On the more historical questions surrounding the internment without trial of the British Union of fascists- given the involvement of French Fascists in the 5th Column action in the 1940 invasion of France (not a myth check out Sebag Montefiore Dunkirk)the internment was entirely justified and had the boot been on the other foot internment or 'Concentration' would have been the least of what happened
    To close and comment on responses to the census findings I would also like to draw on the Spanish Civil War and say "Danger! To arms!" (Dolores Ibarruri) as the Fascists appear to be at the gate again and last time they were allowed any space we needed a world waar to get rid of them- although without it we would have a lot less to play games with

    1. Hi Dave. I'll have to answer your comment in 2 parts 'cos of word limits. I take your point about the various mixtures in England (this blog is, after all, and despite its numerous ties to Caledonia, the ramblings of a little Englander). I myself am largely made up of people from Cheshire, Lancashire, Wales, and Durham, with, in all probability, a chunk of Scot or Irish thrown in. However, I am not talking about bloodlines, or 'race'. What I feel is that there is an historical and cultural entity that can be classed as 'England', and that continuity is as big a part of England's story and existence as is change. In addition, with the exception of the sudden shock of 1066 and the resulting decapitation of the English ruling elite, that change has largely taken an organic form. Change has certainly speeded up since the late 18th century, but continuity remains strong - for example, I speak English, I am an Anglican, I went to a 350 year old school, I can (could, until a vicar changed the graveyard) find some of my ancestors' graves dating back to the 17th century, and my home town would be familiar, though changed, to anyone from the last few centuries. In other words to use Orwell's metaphor, it is like the photograph of ourselves as five year olds that our mother keeps - what is the link, except that it is the same person. What is different now, and vastly different, is the sudden, stunning transformation of many parts of the country. There has been immigration in the past, but not, remotely, on this scale. Take the Huguenots, which you mention. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, things got pretty sticky for them, and by the end of the century, some 40,000 had settled in England. At that time, England's population was around five and a half million, so the influx of Huguenots represented around 0.72% of England's population. Similarly, the bestial cruelty that drove Jews out of Eastern Europe in the last few decades of the 19th century pushed the Jewish population in England up to 250,000 by 1919. At that time the English population was around 35 million, so the the entire Jewish population (new arrivals and 'Anglo-Jews') made up about 0.7% of the population. Those two immigrations are the biggest prior to the 1960s, and at each point they represent less than 1% of the population. Do you see the difference with the last 10 years?


    2. On the Fifth Column and the BUF issue, I'm not quite sure what you are getting at. I've written about this issue in a few places, but nowhere, I think, do I say that internment wasn't an understandable reaction. What I do say, is that the move to intern refugees (the much large number), and the politicals (BUF, nazis, some communists and IRA) was a complex process that saw a meshing of viewpoints, and agendas - not least on the part of the security services which was at odds with the Home Office (more keen on civil liberties than MI5). In my book on the Home Guard and the defence of the UK, you can see that I identify a number of occasions in the early summer of 1940 (notably on 17th May and the 15th July) that the government acknowledged, to itself, in private, that there was no organised Fifth Column threat. You can buy a copy of m'book and see for yourself - pp.27/33, and, on the impact on Jewish internees, pp.108/112. As for the French fascists and a Fifth Column, the same was the case for some Belgian commnists - the Comintern line, you see, was that Hitler was Stalin's best mate and that the war was a nasty international capitalist plot (same sort of thing the Nazis' said, except they added 'Judeo-Masonic' into the mix). Oddly, of course, one of France's most decorated soldiers in 1939/40 (Darnand) went on to be one of the biggest collaborators, while it was a socialist dominated National Assembly that ratified Petain as Head of State.
      I'm not sure that I'd want to cite the bloodthirsty La Pasionaria with any degree of enthusiasm, and I would be interested to hear who the 'Fascists' are that are at which gate in England. Let me know, and I'll pop along and tell them to go away.

    3. While in overall percentages the figures look small, the bulk of immigration in the past has impacted heavily on the areas where they settled. Immigrants traditionally form whole communities in an area, for a variety of reasons, not least socially, culturally and for protection. It's not like every street in the UK had one immigrant family in it, they were concentrated in particular areas.

      So in parts of London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester (and obviously other places), we have had Chinatowns, Little Italies, Little Warsaws, Jewish and other communities, who have had a major effect on the 'Englishness' of an area, but less so elsewhere. Over time these have largely dissipated however, although a smaller core usually remains, it is often then crowded out by other new incoming waves who settle in these areas.

      I can't imagine at what point immigration would be a threat to the overall continuity of English culture, but I think we are still a long way off. I still think its biggest threat is through the 'vacuous media' as Stephen describes it.

      As for fascist internment, I feel that in some cases it was necessary, but in the main, of all the things you can accuse them of, being unpatriotic wasn't one. I've never looked into it in any depth, but as far as I'm aware, many rank and file fascists fought against Germany and Italy with no reservations. I'm even certain that despite his opposition to the War before its beginning, Mosley himself would have been aggressive and vocal in its prosecution.

      The fear of a fifth column appears to have been far more successful than any such organisation in actuality.

      Dave is right though. There is a growth in neo-fascism, albeit somewhat less extreme than its parent. While yes, we can look at them as a joke, they do have a groundswell of theoretic support amongst various portions of the UK population. If they are able to harness that support through intelligent policies, rather than just their current mantras, then we might have a problem.

      As it stands though, I'm predicting the development of UKIP into the 'English Party' and its incorporation of fascism-lite elements... but the one to cause most 'fear and loathing in Westminster' will be the neo-Marxists... watch this space!

    4. Ah, two interesting things in your comment Jim. Firstly, it's difficult to see UKIP as 'fascist' in any shape or form - they are free marketeers, liberal economy, free trade types, who wish to see the strengthening of Parliament: none of those things sounds remotely 'fascist'. I wonder, too, whether UKIP could be the 'English Party' in the near future. They do not support the idea of an English Parliament for one thing. It might be different if (and I think that it is a big if) the Scots vote for independence (though it beats me how one can imagine that leaving the small union of the UK, where Scotland and Scots have quite disproportionate influence, and [re]joining/staying in [depends who you listen to] the enormous EU equates to independence) then UKIP might, by default, become an 'English Party'. But, much more interesting is your final comment re 'neo-Marxists' - tell me more!

  6. I was a bit lax in my use of terms. I don't think for a minute that UKIP is intentionally fascist, but I see it attracting those old school conservatives, Mail and Express readers and others, for who the BNP are too far to the right and the Conservatives too focused on big business... the sort of people who thought that the EDL was a good idea to begin with, Colonel Blimp types and your average M&S shopper. People who would likely send a strongly worded letter, rather than set up concentration camps.

    Neo-Marxism appears to be an amorphous entity right now, it's been alluded to in a small number of articles, but has yet to take any meaningful form, as far as I'm aware at least. We're talking old style, classic Marxism though, not the Soviet-Communist spectre that dominated the BCP and SWP. This is combined with 'pink' ideologies around social inequalities, the failure of capitalism and elements of the 'big society' concept.

    Essentially it's less about bloody revolution and more about progressive change and a rolling back of privatisation, and the realisation that some things just can't be run as a business; education, the NHS, possibly the criminal justice system and public transport. I could be wrong, but I see it as bringing us back to 1945 and the concept of a 'Welfare State', along with some more recent 'bells and whistles' and the possibility of some tree-hugging being involved.