28 July 2013

Well, the world has gone mad! One could be forgiven for thinking that the new royal prince was the second coming to listen to the walls of media coverage we’ve had to endure. In fact, it’s just a young couple having a baby. We’re all pleased for them, I’m sure but isn’t the non-stop, 24/7 media onslaught just a bit much, or am I being cynical?

Media Circus Media Circus

Private Eye summed it up well on their front cover this week.

Private Eye Cover

And if, like us, you find the whole coverage quite nauseating, there are some souvenir accessories which might help.

Royal Baby Sick Bag

Or, if you want to see the funny side of it all, you can have a look at some of the funnier #RoyalBaby “tweets” as collated by the Huffington Post.

I guess the one good bit of Royalbabynonsense is the occasionally amusing article outlining the procedure followed during previous royal births and/or listing a number of “interesting” facts about royal births. For example, previous royal births required an audience to ensure that the royal baby did actually emerge from the royal loins and was not a substitute smuggled into the royal bedchamber in a warming tray.

Throughout history, royal births have been anything but private and no one suffered more than Mary of Modena, the wife of King James II.

When she gave birth to her son James in 1688, rumours were rife that she was not pregnant and that a baby had been smuggled into her bed.

To put paid to the gossip, 70 of the most eminent figures in the land attended the birth in St James’s Palace so that their testimonies could be published.

This custom continued right up until the 20th century!

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London and the home secretary of the day were expected to witness the birth, and while the idea of bishops being present died out at the turn of the century, home secretaries witnessed the birth of the Queen and Princess Margaret.

When the Queen was born in 1926 Sir William Joynson-Hicks broke off from his ministerial duties to attend the birth, and his successor John Robert Clynes was detained in Scotland for two weeks in 1930 while he waited for the overdue arrival of Princess Margaret at Glamis Castle.

The Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra, was the last royal baby born with a Home Secretary as a witness.

Ironically, the baby’s father would not necessarily have been among the multitude of witnesses at previous royal births, particularly if they were the king. The presence of fathers at births is a thoroughly modern idea – when the Prince of Wales was born in 1948 the Duke of Edinburgh was playing squash.

The Express web site had this article on the Top 25 Facts about Royal Babies. Did you know, for example, that when Henry VIII was a baby he had two official cradle rockers – Frideswide Puttenham and Margaret Draughton were paid £3 a year each to carry out their duties. Henry’s wet nurse Anne Oxenbridge received £10 a year. It’s also worth noting that Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born on a kitchen table in Corfu.

I have to say, I’m somewhat disappointed that the tradition of having an audience at royal births has died out. Think of what could be done with modern technology and social media. Instead of having a crusty old Home Secretary attend the birth, we could web-cast it live to the world. Heck, we pay for this circus, why shouldn’t we at least enjoy a bit of the show.

We enjoyed a lovely barbeque with Dave & Sue Walton and their girls last Saturday evening. Our friends Sue & Stuart were there along with neighbours from across the road, Helen & Ian. It was a grand evening – the weather was superb – and it was especially nice to be able to congratulate Ellen on her First Class Honours degree from Bath. The food was plentiful to say the least as well as being delicious. My contribution was a selection of the World’s Greatest Hamburgers which were well received (well, at least they all went so that’s all right).

Frog in the RainThe weather has continued to be very nice through most of the week although we had some late evening/morning thunder storms on Tuesday which are always good fun. Torrential downpours of monsoon proportions, streaks of lightning and claps of thunder make for a fun show as long as the power stays on and we don’t find any more new leaks.

We went to dinner at Nick & Lucy’s on Tuesday evening which is always a treat although our favourite granddaughter was asleep before we arrived. Nick was wanting some guinea pigs to  try out some of the items he plans to produce at XCstravaganza in a few weeks’ time. I won’t give any secrets away but just let me say “Mmmmmmm, good!”

Then, on Wednesday evening, we went to another BBQ with remnants of the old Oxfordshire ICT team which I used to lead. This is Gove and Osborne’s madness writ large as the occasion was to mark the final demise of the team. The remaining three colleagues (already down from ten or more due to Osborne’s previous rounds of cuts) face redundancy from September and schools will then have no convenient and independent source of ICT advice and support on hand. Of course, schools can still buy their expertise as independent consultants (with reduced budgets, of course – we’re all in this together, remember) but at an increased cost due to the loss of all the economies of scale.

I just don’t get it – there are so many advantages to having a collaborative approach to teaching and learning where colleagues share expertise and cascade good curriculum development, not to mention the economies of scale which enable school budgets to go further. Gove, in contrast, wants every school to become an independent and isolated island.

We ran across yet another example of government ministers making statements unsupported by the evidence. Last week we had Iain Duncan Smith, the minister responsible for pensions and benefits, ignoring a reprimand for making a statement unsupported by the evidence by claiming that, in spite of what the evidence does or does not show, he nevertheless believes his statement to be true. This week we have a response to the gaggle of government ministers who have made the claim that the current government is investing more in the UK railways than at any time since the Victorian period.

David Cameron, 26 July 2012: “We’re making the biggest investment in our rail network since the Victorian era.”

Nick Clegg, 16 July 2012 : “This is the biggest expansion in railways in over 150 years, with more than £9bn of investment across the country. ”

George Osborne, 16 July 2012 “This government is making more funds available to invest in rail projects than at any time since the Victorian era.”

Justine Greening, then transport secretary, 16 July 2012: “This is the largest investment since Victorian times and it shows we are committed to the railways, not just now, but in the long term.”

Patrick McLoughlin, her successor, 8 February 2013: “We’ve now got the biggest investment programme since the Victorian era.”

Norman Baker, transport minister, 12 January 2012: “Our commitment marks the biggest rail investment programme since Victorian times.”

Shame it’s not true.

In response to an enquiry from Tristram Hunt, an MP and historian, the civil service has admitted that repeated claims by the Cabinet that the government is investing more in the railways than at any time since Victorian era are in fact as inventive as the Victorian period itself.

This is increasingly a faith-based government rather than an evidence-based one. Not content with inventing statistics, the government is intent on reinventing the past. For Danny Alexander to think he can be mentioned in the same breath as Isambard Kingdom Brunel shows an audacity of hope. Moreover, the Victorians invested consistently right across the country rather than just pump priming the south-east.

Still, presumably they believe it in spite of the evidence so that’s all right then!

Lake George

Finally, for those of you who care about such things, the next edition of the Befouled News will be posted from the shores of beautiful Lake George in upstate New York. Ms Playchute and I are off for yet another Stragnell Family Reunion, this one in celebration of my father’s 90th birthday. At the height of the gathering there should be about forty Stragnellians ranging from my father at age 90 to my folks’ newest great grandchild at age about four months. We’re also looking forward to having our three boys in one place at the same time – the last time we were all together was the summer of 2011 in Tuscany when we celebrated my 60th birthday. That’s a round about way of saying that next week’s edition may be later (or earlier) than you might otherwise expect it or, if you’re lucky, it could be completely non-existent. If it doesn’t appear, that probably means we’re having too much fun.

Love to you all,





2 thoughts on “28 July 2013”

  1. Does anyone besides those who will be in residence read this thing? Ok besides Wendy, Bunny, J, Chip… who have I forgotten?
    Can’t wait!

    1. The Befouled Weakly News has an international readership, I’ll have you know. Our circulation numbers are regularly well above 10!

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