A Great Night Out

Getting on for thirty years ago, one of my plumbers Roger told me that he and a group of his friends had nurtured a dream for some years. They’d formed their own “Entertainment Group” playing and singing in pubs and clubs all over London. He invited my wife and I to his next gig at a Loughton night club. Apparently he’d also invited several others from our workforce in Hackney to be there. I took the name of the road that the club was in and assured Roger that we would be there.

Jan, my wife, had some little trepidation at meeting the blokes I worked with every day. But I knew she was more than up to that sort of challenge. We went to Loughton by car. About an hour later we walked into the club. I was shocked to see Roger, because I was used to him wearing overalls over his jeans and a sweatshirt, but there he was on stage in a blue tuxedo with patent black leather shoes. His group were dressed the same. This was their ‘working clothes’ when they were doing a gig. He looked every bit a star as he was genuinely good looking, broad in the shoulders etc. It was an excellent night as not only most of my plumbers were there, with their partners but also our Supervisor Bob Patmore and his wife. Despite the bar prices being quite steep, we quickly arranged that one of us, Gordon Springate, would hold the whip money and take responsibility for ordering the drinks. We were all enjoying Roger’s singing he had a truly great voice and a vast repertoire on which to call upon. Even his group were all proper musicians who could harmonise with Roger on several of the songs.

Towards the end of the evening, when we were all pleasantly merry Roger asked the audience if they had any specific requests. I thought that would be a significant challenge as almost certainly, neither Roger or his group would know both the words and music of every, or any tune named. Whether it was good fortune or pre-planned they easily got through most of the modern ballads that were popular in the day. Until well after eleven that night one bright spark shouted out “Ring of Pears, by Glen Miller”, all those around him quickly told to stop being stupid and anyway, some asked – who was Glen Miller?

It was nearer twelve before we left that night to drive home and Jan who had been on lemonade all evening suggested it would make sense if she drove! Whilst just chatting, were saying what a great night it had been and we would definitely go to another gig put on by Roger and his group. I think we did indeed attend one more gig somewhere in South London, but then Roger became more and more popular and within a next year, he gave in his notice, to follow his dream.


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Don’t trust a parrot who prays

A religious woman bought a parrot and took it home. Once home the bird hopped into its new cage, shouting, “I’m a whore! I’m a whore!” Obviously embarrassed she consulted her minister about her foul-mouthed bird.

The minister told her, “I’ve a well-behaved male parrot who sits in his cage and prays constantly. Let’s put your bird in with mine. He’ll show her a better lifestyle and she’ll become pious.”

The next day, the woman took her parrot to the minister’s house and put her bird in with the praying parrot. After a few seconds, her parrot started shouting, “I’m a whore! I’m a whore!”

The priest’s parrot replied, “Come on in honey you’re what I’ve been praying for!”


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Hedonism and marriage

Hedonists devote their lives to pleasure so their choices are predetermined. If it isn’t pleasurable: avoid. Choices can be imprecise. Are known bachelor pleasures better than future pleasures in marriage? Marriage is a gamble. Many marriages end unhappily and divorcees are poorer than both married people and singletons. Divorce brings emotional pain and corrosive pettiness – who gets the 65 inch TV? Successful marriages bring happiness through sharing a life well lived.


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Time might be changing

Some can remember their Father’s Father and their Mother’s Father
A few know of older generations from stories and photographs
So although we all had relatives, back to the beginning of time
The longer back we look, the further is the gap between fact and reality.

Very few, perhaps except for those of royal dynasty
Might look back with happiness and fond memories
For ordinary folk mostly, those times were hard
Those now called millenniums, might still suffer hardship.

Poverty still exists in this modern twenty-first century
But that has been deliberately caused by politicians
Austerity was deliberately created by Conservatives
Unremitting gut cringingly hard, Ministerial malevolent decisions.

It is shameful how the referendum has split the country
A binary decision, with no realistic realisation of its consequences
A pathetic buffoon leading the country further into poverty
Another, the decision to stay neutral in order to appease the North.

Voters will see the shambles, brexit will cause in their lifetime
England a once proud world leading country, will suffer
Yet more deterioration to the poorest and least able to maintain
Even a basic living standard of food shelter, water, and warmth.

How long before will we see the return of work-houses for the needy
Children put to work in factories and the wholesale return of slavery
Whilst the rich snigger at the inequality of “crumbs given from the rich man’s table”
To the poor and destitute, that they created through greed?

Might it be fanciful to say, that perhaps one day, greed will not flourish
That jealousy will not punish the deluded who see wealth as their an idol
That the bridle of poverty, be carried in stoicism, not revenge
And civil war be averted by wisdom.

Let it be


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Overconfidence, though, can be hugely damaging. Daniel Kahneman has called it the most dangerous of all cognitive biases. The three worst decisions in the UK in the last 20 years – Blair’s war in Iraq, RBS’s takeover of ABM Amro and Cameron’s calling a Brexit referendum having created the conditions in which he might lose one – were all motivated in large part by overconfidence.



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American Anti-Semitism in 1936

An example of a ‘hostile environment’

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An Unforeseen Consequence of the Dissolution of the Monasteries

England was shattered by the dissolution of the Roman Catholic church in the 1530s. One unforeseen consequence was the destruction of provision for the poor. The monasteries had a religious duty towards them. Those who were entirely incapable of surviving without charity were given a decent standard of life, which included housing and clothing. The able bodied poor were provided with work. Vagrants and vagabonds got short shrift from monasteries, regardless of Thomas Cromwell’s1 claims that monasteries were a soft touch.

A religious duty2 is a powerful motivator, which extended to all religious foundations and the laity. Many laity made bequests in their wills, providing for the poor through the monasteries. Bequests had an eternal life. They gave benefits to the benefactor throughout eternity as well as fulfilling the objective of providing an income for the monasteries to spend on the poor. The permanence of monasteries seemed incontestable. Pre-sixteenth century people had no reason to believe the Roman Catholic church, which had held prime position in England for the millennia, would cease to exist.3 The Reformation was a bolt from the blue, impossible to predict prior to the 1530s.4 The effect of centuries of bequests meant monasteries were very wealthy and that, plus the European religious revolution, drew Henry VIII and Cromwell towards dissolution and plunder.

The destruction of religious certainties dissolved socio-religious duties. Provision for the poor became a personal responsibility. Charity is an insecure method of financing social problems. Charity is a matter of taste fluctuating whimsically. Funnelling charity through monasteries was a social expectation willingly undertaken as a self-imposed ‘tax’. ‘God’s children’ were regarded as a burden who deserved their misfortune. Hostility to the poor affected charitable donations-

Though showing Christian charity to those unfortunates who could not help themselves, the goodmen and goodwives and worshipful of St Bartholomew’s are unlikely to have had very much sympathy…. in a city marauded by vagrants, they would have said, the idle got what they deserved… Citizens worried about disease, disorder and the amount of parish charity that was being consumed by the begging poor. The wealth of decent citizens, after all, would stretch only so far. 5

Dividing the poor into ‘worthy and undeserving’ transformed a religious duty into an economic decision. The division was a fine judgement filled with ambiguity. Was this able-bodied man poor because of an economic downturn or was he work-shy? A complex question, the answer to which was coloured by personal bias. Parish overseers intent on reducing parish rates denied relief. The provision of relief for the poor ceased to be religious, despite decision-makers being church based. Nevertheless the provisions for parish almsgiving and poor-box remained, as did the requirement for local officials to find work for the able-bodied unemployed.6 This meant that there were great variations between wealthy towns and poorer rural regions.

Cromwell’s assertion that monasteries didn’t provide for the poor, was a self-serving justification for dissolution. Two scholars stated, Monastic relief was by no means negligible; its loss must have been a great hardship for those who had come to rely on it.7 The unforeseen consequence of the dissolution of the monasteries was hardship for very large numbers of the poor. Cromwell’s religious revolution led to the Elizabethan national Poor Laws sixty years later.

1 The architect of the dissolution see MacCulloch, Diarmaid Thomas Cromwell: A Life 2017

2 A religious duty is multi-layered. There is the obvious and immediate benefit of providing for the poor but in addition there is the kudos of good works, which was especially important for those who believed in purgatory. Bequests also confirmed social status, which enhanced the deceased families position.

3 https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/05/10/beckery-chapel-the-oldest-monastery-in-the-british-isles/

4 Economists call this a ‘black swan’ event.

5 Alford, Stephen. London’s Triumph p. 201 and p 210

6 MacCulloch, ibid p. 323.

7 Rushton, Neil S., and Wendy Sigle-Rushton. “Monastic Poor Relief in Sixteenth-Century England.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 32, no. 2, 2001, pp. 193–216. See p216

See also “It has been estimated that the monasteries alone provided £6,500 a year in alms before 1537; and that sum was not made good by private benefactions after 1580.” p194

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