Wednesday, 30 May 2012
I have something of an interest in how the Victorians came to terms with the past especially pre-recorded history. By the start of the 19th century the old beliefs about the beginning of mankind were unravelling. This applies this to those early geologists and archaeologists that examined the landscape of the Peak District. The sense of curiosity extended to those who saw in the countryside possibilities for discovering more about the lives of the earliest inhabitants of the Staffordshire Moorlands. By the 1840s the interest in early man was showing itself in the excavation of many of the ancient monuments. The science of archaeology had been established years before. Rev William Buckland who had discovered in 1823 the Red Lady of Paviland in South Wales, the first human fossil of its kind ever to be found in the world. The bones were later found not to be female at all and are still the earliest remains ever to be found in the UK at 33,000 years old.
One of the earliest local archaeologists was Thomas Bateman of Middleton in Youlgrave who in one year 1845 excavated 38 barrows and tumuli in Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Amongst then was one near Wetton in June 1845 in which early pottery and the skeleton of a girl were discovered. The site had lain undiscovered for 4,000 years. Bateman was an amateur and the archaeology bug seem to have bitten others. Mr Charlesworth of Heath House near Longnor who was interested in a mound of earth close by. According to the Derby Mercury of May 1847 he opened the barrow and as the account follows discovered bones and charcoal a few feet from the surface. " In the centre of the barrow was a body fixed in an upright position. The bones were presented to Mr Goodwin of Longnor Cottage"
. I am sure that the techniques that were used by these early rooters into the distant past would make a modern day archaeologist wince. I am equally certain that they made mistakes, but I recognise that they were the pioneers trying to reconstruct the distant past, a fascination that continues up to the present day.
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
I am getting rather tired of the very wealthy placing the burden of the cuts and a reduction of living standards on the backs of the low paid, insecure worker. I am firmly of the opinion that many big companies are keeping their profits nice and high and bonuses for Chief Executives nice and fat. Recently the pay of the leaders of the top FTSE companies was reported by 47% at a time when the wages of many are at stand still or are being eroded.
The present crisis and our inability to get out of the greatest economic depression for over a century is not because minimal employment rights improved in the last decade or because a very basic minimum wage was established initially at £3.60.
Monday, 21 May 2012
Having read articles on benefit fraudsters such as Sandra Edwards who defrauded taxpayers of £11,000 is all very well, but there are bigger fish who have cost the exchequer multiples of £11,000.
The national media over months has highlighted the huge waste of public money in a number of projects by the Labour Government. In ascending order we had the £500 million wasted on the reorganisation of the national call centres in the fire service. But this is peanuts compared to the £12 billion lost on the national computer scheme for the NHS, the folly of which has been known about for nearly a decade. But top of the heap of malfeasance and waste is the Private Finance Initiative started under the Tories but fully exploited by Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The cost of new NHS private- financed schemes will stay with future generations of taxpayers up to 2049. Hospitals that would have cost £11 billion under the old Treasury arrangements of financing public projects such as hospitals will now cost £75 billion. An absolute disgrace which dwarfs the £11,000 stolen by Edwards. If Edwards deserves jail what fate should be in store for the politicians and civil servants that sanctioned this grand larceny?
Of course there are other projects funded through PFI including City schools. I hear horror stories of local schools been charged astronomic amounts for even minor repairs or maintenance. The whole PFI sorry saga requires more scrutiny then it has so far generated.
Sunday, 20 May 2012
One reason for resisting the onward march of Amazon is the company’s disregard for workers rights for those employees who work for the company. A friend of mine worked at the new distribution centre at Rugeley in Staffordshire and for a few weeks before Christmas was able to witness firsthand their 19th century attitudes to employment rights. This was mostly clearly demonstrated in its view of trade unions which according to management " had no place in Amazon’s business plan". Workers at the Midlands centre, were hired by a temping agency, had their productivity tracked by a scanner database minute by minute, routinely had their picking and packing quotas doubled, were constantly harassed and were paid the minimum legal rate.
This Sentinel letter is important for another reason. We have to nail the belief that is out there that unemployment is a personal failing. Its your fault. The Sentinel play this game with the article on clothing and the unemployed. Believe me trying to struggle on the pitiful Job Seekers Allowance is not easy. The argument that unemployment is the fault of the unemployed suits the Government and the agencies behind the Work Programme. I have a friend who has been out of work since November 2010. He like the man mentioned in the letter is in his 40s and Mrs Bailey of Sneyd Green is absolutely correct the prospect of landing a job after 40 is slight. Anyway my friend has now been allocated an into work adviser courtesy of Leek CVS. Tom- not his real name- calls jokingly this man who he has to see at the Nicholson Institute his Probation Officer. Tom has to fill in forms in duplicate that this not particularly helpful individual can scrutinise. Tom feels that he will be electronically tagged next. My point is that the Work Programme also works on the premise that its your fault and your continued worklessness is down to a character defect and not down to the bleedin obvious reason of the shortage of jobs.
What happens to people like Mrs Bailey's son. Well we can leave him to rot with the prospect of hopelessness and the prospect of depressive illness or we try to do something to change the situation
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
When I was a child I lived on the Abbey Hulton council estate in Stoke which was named after the medieval monastery built in the 13th century. The stones of the Cistercian abbey were in the grounds of the high school I attended so they served as a marker on the past. There were always stories of ghostly monks and the like. One legend persisted. It was the sort of story, which always attaches itself to ancient buildings. It was claimed that underneath the abbey there existed a complex tunnels that stretched off in all directions included a passage that connected Hulton Abbey with Stoke Parish Church some 4 miles away, a journey, if true, that would take it under the river bed of the Trent. Even then it seemed to me implausible that the builders of the monastery should have gone to the trouble to cut a tunnel through the clay and rock to such a great distance but this did not seem to have an impact upon the rumourmongers
A similar tale exists about passages that lie under Leek either under the market place or under the parish church one of which leads off in the direction of Dieulacres Abbey. The existence of a tunnel and an event that I relate during the ghost walk is linked to Dieulacres, which is only a short distance away from the town.
The existence of tunnels and passages is a commonly held belief in folklore. Stories often crop up of there existence although exploration often only proves that the tunnel was a cellars or drains. Sometimes the story of tunnels might refer to a historical fact. Houses that belonged to Catholics had secret passages and hiding places. Moseley Old Hall in the south of the county had a priest hole, which was used by the fugitive King Charles II in his escape from the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
To bring the mystery that surrounds tunnels up to date the 70s saw the creation of Subterranea Britannica; a society devoted the study and investigation of man-made underground places from the Second War onwards. Their website for Staffordshire includes a wartime structure in Station Road, Cheddleton- no doubt structures like these will add to the myths in the future.
She later wrote in her autobiography "Testament of Youth"
When Vera Brittain took the exam in Leek in July 1914 Europe was descended into the carnage of the First World War. In the previous month the Archduke Franz Ferdinand the heir to the throne of the Austrian crown was shot dead by a Serbian nationalist. On the day that a doubtful Vera left Leek Austria declared war on Serbia whom it blamed for harbouring the terrorists who had assassinated the Archduke. On August 4th Britain fulfilling a treaty obligation of century earlier to defend Belgian neutrality against aggression declared war on Germany.
The Technical College in Leek that Vera Brittain was so dismissive about was part of the complex within the Nicholson Institute, founded in 1892 as part of a national drive to improve the technical expertise of the nation. Classes that were run from the college included practical classes on cookery, handicrafts and silk manufacturer. Possibly some of the smelly 16 year olds that Vera complained about were completing some of these courses.