Snow, Snow, Snow

I love the snow, my heart leaps as soon as a speck of white is spotted in the distance. I wish for it to settle, turn the place into a winter wonderland.

Blacksmiths Lane Dog Walkers Flower Holly LaneSnow close up

In fact, I love winter as a whole. I suppose the miserable wet days are no fun, but you do get those all year round. As soon as the frost bites and hats, gloves and scarves come out I feel the need to make a hot chocolate (perhaps with a splash of Baileys in the evenings); drink soup; make steak pie followed by treacle sponge and custard. I want to buy jumpers, snuggle up in front of the fire on the sofa in a cardigan with a good book or film.

Snow TreesSnow
Unicorn Inn
Trees (2)Pots

Everyone hustles into the house and whacks the heating up so high you’d think it was mid-summer. No, I prefer to layer up the jumpers and wear my cosy slipper boots. Much more satisfying – especially with that bailey-spiked hot chocolate 😀

Red leafTrees

Berry

The photos where taken on a day where literally everything was white – ground, buildings, roofs, trees and sky – so some may not be as good as the could be despite my efforts in altering them on the computer 😀

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Gun Madness

I know I’ve posted something similar about gun crime/control before but this appeared on facebook the other day and I thought I’d share it.

USA madness

I really think that says it all.

Why do Americans protect their right to own guns so forcibly? I mean keeping an old pistol or rifle for sentimental reasons or perhaps historical is fine. Just like farmers might want to own some sort of fire arm for practical reasons. But why would anyone want a machine gun? They’re weapons of war, not simple keepsakes or even useful in the life of  an ordinary person.

What surprised me was Wayne LaPierre’s (vice president of the NRA) response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”

Armed guards outside schools is NOT the answer. If kids see people with guns on a regular basis they will start to consider it normal and a world with such a casual attitude to killing machines is not one I want to experience. Even ignoring the obsession with guns you  have to ask, who is going to pay for it? In a recession with police budgets being cut (no idea if this is happening America as well as the UK) where is the extra cash going to come from.

Wayne LaPierre lives in a war-torn fantasy land. Where innocent kids fear going to school and money grows on trees.

On Gay Marriage

Currently in the UK the big debate is over gay couples getting married in religious institutions. Earlier this winter the proposal for women bishops was defeated by a measly six votes so it would be nice for the church and other religions to catch up with the modern world and support equality and tolerance.

One argument against gay marriage is that historically marriage was between heterosexual couples. This argument is invalid.

  • Historically women couldn’t vote
  • Historically men under 30 couldn’t vote
  • Historically British people had to pay for healthcare
  • Historically you had to come from a wealthy, respectable, well-bred family to get anywhere in life (although it could be said this still holds true)

It doesn’t mean it’s right or should remain the same.

Gay marriage will not undermine the traditional institution, in fact it might strengthen it. The divorce rate is steadily increasing, single parent families are becoming more common so why shouldn’t two men or two women marry and raise a family? Surely that is both more stable and beneficial for the children than a heterosexual married couple who argue all the time.

Why can’t someone choose to be both gay and Christian? Or lesbian and Hindi? and be faithful to their religion by marrying in the eyes of the church/temple etc? I don’t claim to be an expert on the Bible but surely they advocate tolerance and equality? That seems to be the moral thing to do. It’s time to enter the modern world and start creating   harmony instead rifts.

De-opinionated Education

It’s often commented that sometimes my articles lack personal input, they are perhaps a distant, out-of-body experience. It can be quite an effort to inject opinion into writing which tackles issues or history, whether this shows or not, I don’t know.

Some people will be thinking how could you not have your own thoughts on the matter? They silently wonder does the writer feel or indeed think for themselves at all?

I do feel; and I do think.

Writing however, has become separated from opinion. It is second nature to think one thing while writing the opposite or to purposefully hold back. Education asks you to devoid yourself of emotion; you write the facts, memorise the dates and quote the sources. No personal thought allowed. If it doesn’t come from a scholarly source, it’s not important.

Examiners force students to abandon thinking in favour of memorisation. It may not be rote learning but the effect is the same.

Surely this stunts development? Its no wonder young people enter the workplace with little or no initiative. Its been taught that if it wasn’t written down and published it’s not right. Thinking for yourself is a talent schools suppress by repeatedly dictating that what the individual student considers important is irrelevant.

Opinion and creativity are vital, discussions and debates allow information and understanding to be carried beyond exams. Memorisation is not help in the real world if it is cast aside once pens are set aside and the holidays begin. Like anything children’s thoughts, understanding and opinions need to mature if they are to flourish as individuals, this is only achieved through encouragement, intelligent conversation and recognition.

Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%

We are the 99% – London

The Occupy Movement originated in New York as people banded together to protest against the banks, large corporate companies and selfish institutions who command the majority of the worlds’ wealth despite only making up 1% of the population. The Movement claims to represent the 99% of disenchanted, frustrated citizens. The Movement spread worldwide with protests breaking out on the streets with varying effects. The Arab Spring revolutions aimed to over throw tyrants and dictators in order for the people to claim back their country and their rights. Over here in Britain the protests had a very different feel, almost unrecognisable as connected to the violence breaking out in the Arab world.

In November 2010 British students paraded in London, protesting against the tuition fees rise and cuts in Education spending. Although most remained peaceful there were sporadic outbursts of violence and vandalism resulting in the injuries of both protesters and police. At one point the car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla was attacked. Demonstrations also took place in Cardiff, York, Cambridge, Brighton, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bath, Scunthorpe, Edinburgh and Liverpool. Events also happened in Universities as buildings were occupied in Oxford, Birmingham, Nottingham and York. There were more protests a year later but with an increase in policing and the threat of plastic bullets things remained more civilised and controlled.

Police clash with protesters in London

In 2011 the Occupy London Movement realised a statement declaring their intentions to refuse to accept public sector cuts, pay for the banks crisis and protect against pollution. To see the full statement click here.

In 2008 the UK Zeitgeist Movement was founded, which claims the problems of corruption, poverty, war, starvation and homelessness are ‘symptoms’ of an outdated social structure rather than the fault of political policy or institutional corruption or a flaw in human nature. This slightly different view claims to not belong to any particular strand of political thought; it sees the world as a single system and all human beings as a single family. It recognises that all countries must disarm, share resources and ideas and accept one another if we are to survive.

To me the Zeitgeist Movement is very optimistic and not at all realistic. For all countries to essentially become ‘friends’ a miracle in needed. Even after wars end and countries have been rebuilt and new alliances made the thought is always there, niggling at the back of peoples’ minds. For instance, despite WW2 ending in 1945 many of the British population feel the need to shout out to the Germans “two world wars and one world cup”. WW2 was a couple of generations ago; the people who are still holding grudges and sneering at the supposed ‘opposition’ have no right to do so. I’m sure there are similar feelings all over the world in relation to bygone eras. If two countries that get along cannot disperse these racist sentiments how can we expect countries in the midst of war, terrorist attacks and general uncertainty to make peace and drop all weapons?

As for protesting, which the majority of the Occupy Movement is about, do they really work? As we can see with the student demonstrations (an issue close to me), it made no difference. The tuition fees went up and first year students starting this year are going to leave education with higher debts than ever before. Equally, strike action has not seemed to influence government decisions, public sector cuts still happened, large parts of the NHS are being reformed and citizens are more disillusioned than ever.

London protests against budget cuts

The big question asked up and down the country, symbolised by the Occupy Movement, is why are we suffering for something which is not our fault and mostly out of our control? Sure many people got into debt but it was the banks who continued lending money to those they surely knew wouldn’t be able to pay it back. The banks essentially gambled their money, a risk that didn’t pay off, and now the public are paying increased taxes so they can receive huge bonuses and retire knowing someone else will come in and sort out their mess.

You can argue governments don’t have a choice but to bail out banks and resort to taxes in order for the economy to stabilise but shouldn’t they at least hold the bankers and business men accountable? No, they don’t. And why? Because they don’t want to cut off the votes and financial support of the wealthy, powerful 1%. What does the other 99% matter when they only command little influence?

Twenty five years ago the top 12% controlled 33% of wealth, now it is the top 1% controlling 40%. The incomes of the top 1% have increased by 18% over the past decade whereas the middle have seen a fall in income. The more divided a society becomes in relation to wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t rely on the government for medicine, education, security or healthy environments such as parks, they have the means to purchase these for themselves. As riches increase the top 1% become paranoid and will fight against the formation of a strong government who will redistribute their wealth into the majority of the population. A government which is gridlocked will not raise top-rate taxes or decrease bonuses.

Those of a more conservative view will argue the top deserve to be at the top, they worked hard to get there in a meritocratic society. And sure they have examples at the ready, Sir Alan Sugar for one, David Beckham etc. But, by increasing inequality they are also shrinking opportunities and as a result, undermining efficient productivity. With a lack of social mobility society will stagnate and eventually crumble. It really is ‘of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%’.

To make matters worse the globalised marketplace allows for corporations to use cheaper, overseas labour thus denying their countrymen jobs. In July 2011 Government ministers handed over a train building contract to a German company rather than keeping it the UK with Britain’s last train-maker, Bombardier. After years of proud work on British railways and trains many lost their jobs due to the Governments actions. Bombardier, in Derby, had been around for 170 years and at it’s peak produced 200 wagons a week for railways all over the world, but now that legacy has come to an abrupt end to the detriment of many British workers as well as the manufacturing industry.

So the occupy movements have the right idea but can protests really help? Even ignoring the violent clashes that Governments are unwilling to respond to it doesn’t seem like they listen to demonstrations and parades, after all 3 million people didn’t stop Blair from going to war in Iraq what chance do we have this time?

‘Stop the War’ march in February 2003

Links

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2011332/Bombardier-Ministers-hand-Germans-3bn-train-deal-costing-1-400-British-jobs.html

http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

http://occupylondon.org.uk/about/statements/initial-statement

http://www.thezeitgeistmovementuk.com/about

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-15646709

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_UK_student_protests

(Images from google)

Henry VIII – Liz’s Historical Blogging Challenge

For full challenge click here.

Henry VIII

Everyone studies Henry the eighth in school (well I’m sure they do in England at any rate), yet it is surprising how little I actually remember. I know he had six wives and they were:

  1. Divorced
  2. Beheaded
  3. Died
  4. Divorced
  5. Beheaded
  6. Survived

However, I can never remember which wife was which and who met what fate. A couple of years ago a series started on the BBC about Henry the eighth and I started watching, expecting a more or less accurate account of his life – if slightly exaggerated and dramatised for  TV audiences. Unfortunately, despite great acting and an interesting, well-written script, it just seemed to go on forever. I think the series is still running though I have no idea which wife they’re on at the moment. I stayed with it up until wife number 2 was beheaded but it was starting to drag. So for ec.cen.tric’s blogging challenge to write a report on a historical event or person I decided to clear up my hazy knowledge once and for all.

Although many well-known pictures present Henry VIII as a portly figure, he was a well-built athletic young man who enjoyed hunting and jousting. I believe it was only later on in life he succumbed to his wealthy life style and, for lack of a better expression, pigged out. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon had been married to Henry’s older brother for a short while until his death; however, she claimed the marriage had never been consummated. Due to her previous marriage there was a lot of drama and the pope had to be consulted as to whether it was proper for Henry to take on his brothers’ widow. Although this was finally resolved Henry was slow in completing the long-awaited marriage and they were only united after Henry became King in 1509. A couple of years later a son was born, who died only two months later. In order to console himself Henry went to war in France (surely there were easy ways to get over it? Must be a man thing).

Mary Tudor

Catherine miscarried another child and had a son who died soon after birth before giving Henry a daughter, Mary, who lived. For Henry this wasn’t good enough, he needed a male heir. Looking for religious reasons that declared if a man takes his brothers’ wife they shall remain childless (at this point Catherine was too old to conceive). He petitioned the pope for an annulment, however Catherine wouldn’t go without a fight and appealed. The ensuing political and legal debate lasted six years until Anne Boleyn became pregnant in 1532. Henry’s solution to his problem was to reject the pope’s power and have Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, grant his annulment. Catherine thus became the Princess Dowager of Wales and was separated from her daughter as she was forced to leave court.

Evidently the ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’ is an old attitude since history tells us Anne Boleyn denied Henry any sexual favours until around 1532, after which her pregnancy caused the King to rush into action. The couple married secretly since Henry’s first marriage had yet to be dissolved, however in his mind it never existed. The Archbishop declared Catherine and Henry’s marriage to be invalid in May of 1533. Anne was pronounced Queen in an elaborate ceremony and preparations were made for the birth of her child, with everyone assuming it to be a boy. In September of 1533 Anne gave birth to Princess Elizabeth. She later lost two more children as either miscarriages or still births and quickly realised her life depended on producing a male heir.

Elizabeth I

Anne’s enemies at court started to plot against her, using the Kings liking for Jane Seymour as a catalyst. Cromwell convinced the King to authorise an investigation which eventually saw the arrest of a Musician friend of the Queens, her own brother and Lord Rochford. There were a few other arrests and at least four men were charged with treason and were hung, drawn and quartered. Queen Anne was placed on trial with her brother on charges of adultery, incest and plotting to kill the King. Both were executed, as were the others whose gory deaths were downgraded to a mere execution. The marriage between Anne and the King was declared invalid and the question of how she could have committed adultery considering they hadn’t technically been married was ignored, as was all other evidence in defence of Anne Boleyn.

Edward VI

King Henry would have met Jane Seymour in 1535 when he stayed with her family but it wasn’t until 1536 that he began to develop feelings for her. There are debates as to whether Jane realised she was being used by her family or whether she merely formed a mask to hide her fear at being the Kings latest object of desire. It is not evident how she really felt, although she did play her role perfectly and actively sought out the Kings affections even in front of Anne whilst she was alive. Within 24 hours of Anne’s execution Henry and Jane were formally engaged and were married soon after. Jane never received a coronation; it is wondered if Henry wished for her to give him a son first. Jane fell pregnant in 1537 and was doted upon by the King who considered her to be his one and only ‘true’ wife. She gave birth to a baby boy who was christened Edward; Henry’s two daughters played a role in the ceremony. Unfortunately Jane died only two weeks after the birth and was buried in Henry’s tomb as he had been preparing it at the time; she became the only one of Henry’s six wives to be buried with him.

Henry remained single for two years after Jane’s death giving the impression he really did mourn for her, however, it has also be suggested Cromwell began to search for a foreign bride for the King shortly after Jane’s death. Henry sent painters to bring images of the women who were considered great matches for an alliance. In 1539 Hans Holbein, a Tudor painter, was sent to the court of the Duke of Cleves, who had two sisters. The family was seen as an important ally. Henry decided to draw up a contract between him and Anne of Cleves, however, due to political and personal reasons Henry was already looking for a way out before the marriage even took place in January of 1540. It is said Henry did not find her to be attractive and had taken a liking to Kathryn Howard, also Anne was not suited to life in an English court. Her life in Cleves focused on domestic skills and not the music and literature so favoured in Henry’s court. Anne was smart enough to realise nothing good would come of protesting against an annulment so she declared the marriage had never been consummated and that her previous engagement hadn’t been properly broken. She accepted the honorary title of the Kings sister in July 1540 and was given the former home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle.

Kathryn Howard caught the Kings attentions when she came to court at age 19 as Anne of Cleves lady in waiting. She was a lively spirited young girl and it is believed her Uncle encouraged her to respond to the King so he could increase his own influence. Sixteen days after he was separated from Anne, Henry married Kathryn. By this time Henry was 49 and gaining in weight, Kathryn brought back his lust for life. A year after their marriage rumours of her infidelity began; eventually the Archbishop had enough evidence to present to the King. At first he didn’t believe the accusations but allowed for an investigation, evidence came to light that she had probably been promiscuous before and after her wedding. She was executed in 1542 and buried next to Anne Boleyn, her first cousin.

Katherine Parr’s mother was in court at the beginning of Henry’s reign and named her daughter after Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Katherine Parr’s first husband died only a few years after they married. She married again and became a step-mother for the first time, her second husband died when she was 31 in 1543. It was around this time that the King noticed her, along with Thomas Seymour, Jane Seymour’s brother. Although Katherine expressed a desire to marry Thomas she felt it was her duty to accept the Kings hand, they were married in July 1543.

Katherine supported the reformed faith, giving her many enemies from the Conservative side of Henry’s court. In 1546 there was a plot to get rid of her and enough evidence was gathered to issue an arrest warrant. By sheer luck the warrant was dropped and consequently picked up by someone loyal to the Queen. Katherine, having learnt of the warrant, claimed to be very ill. This may have been caused by fear or as a stalling tactic. When Henry approached her and chastised her she played up to his ego and was thus forgiven.

Katherine was close to all three of her step-children and organised the education of the two youngest, Elizabeth and Edward. Henry died in January 1547 and Katherine probably expected to have some role in the nine-year-old King Edwards regency, however this did not happen. Soon after Henry’s death Katherine secretly married Thomas Seymour which subsequently caused a scandal. Katherine fell pregnant at the age of 36 and gave birth to a daughter, Mary in August 1548. Unfortunately Katherine became very ill and died of puerperal fever in September of the same year.

So, there we go. Henry’s six wives in brief. I wonder why any of them married him, especially after the beheading of Anne Boleyn, who really didn’t actually do anything wrong, it was all fabricated. I hope now you can all think of Henry VIII as an athletic, if fickle, young man rather than the fat King he is most commonly portrayed as.