Jane Austen on the White Man’s Privilege

From Persuasion by Jane Austen. Captain Harville and Anne Elliot are discussing whether men or women are more constant:

“…Well, Miss Elliot,” (lowering his voice,) “as I was saying we shall never agree, I suppose, upon this point. No man and woman, would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you–all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

“Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”

Midlands and HS2 missing in the Manifesto

Earlier today, the Conservatives’ published their 2015 manifesto. They said that as part of their Northern Powerhouse plans, they would build HS2: no surprise there.

However as an alert supporter of Stop HS2 pointed out, there’s no mention of HS2 in their section on the Midlands as an Engine of Growth. This is especially odd, as most of the section is about transport.

We will make the Midlands an engine of growth

We will back business by investing a record £5.2 billion in better transport, upgrading the M1 and M6, and electrifying the Midland Main Line from St Pancras to Sheffield – putting the Midlands at the centre of a modern, inter-connected transport network for the UK. We will back the Midlands’ strength in advanced manufacturing, engineering and science with major projects such as the Energy Research Accelerator and support for innovation in the motor industry.

Copyright and exile to Iona

Celtic Cross Embroidery, photo take on Iona
The latest guidance issued by the UK Intellectual Property Office on copyright for sewing and knitting patterns will be of interest to some of my followers (or at least of interest to some of the people I follow) – see it here.

For people who want to use a knitting or sewing pattern to knit or sew, the guidance says:

  • you are allowed to make the item the pattern describes
  • under UK law, there may be restrictions on selling the item
  • you can make a working copy of the pattern for your own use, but you cannot sell/give away the original and keep the copy or vice versa.

It was somewhat co-incidental that before getting round to posting about the IPO notice, I came across an early fore-runner of a copy writing dispute in sixth century Ireland, between St Columba (also known as Colmcille) and St Finnian.

In essence, St Finnian had a rare copy of a Psalter: St Columba copied it without permission, but St Finnian thought as owner of the original, he should get to keep the copy as well. They went to the High King, Diarmait Mac Cerbhaill , who agreed with St Finnian, and ruled “To every cow her calf, and to every book its copy”.

St Columba was a bit annoyed about this and so went to war, and beat the King in the so called Battle of the Books. Because he won the battle, St Columba went into exile on Iona, which is where I took the photo of a made up item from a little kit I bought on holiday.

Yes, St Columba won the battle. Yes St Columba went into exile as result. No it is not an obvious outcome. You can read up more on these webpages, which is where I got most of my information:


Cracking on with the HS2 timetable?

With the news about the Euston HS2 plans being paused and the results of the Phase 2 consultation delayed until late next year (the Heathrow pause having been shoved under the carpet long ago), I thought I’d check the HS2 Ltd website to find the current official timetable. After all they used to have a lovely graphic!

The graphic and timetable is gone from their key-dates page (although it is still findable on their website if you do a google image search).

The key-dates page now claims

“We are also progressing with Phase Two of the project between the West Midlands to Leeds, Manchester and beyond.”

However if you hunt around you can still retrieve the old page.

The HS2 timeline from 2013 - now out of date

The HS2 timeline from 2013 – now out of date

2015 was supposed to be the year of the “preparation of the second hybrid bill”, following the announcement of the Phase Two decision in 2014. However with the HS2 Phase 2 route not announced yet, and the general election meaning that the Secretary of State may change in May, there must be at a huge amount of uncertainty for the HS2 designers.

Delaying the decision on the HS2 Phase 2 route announcement until a year from now, also means the preparation of the Hybrid Bill gets delayed. And if the Hybrid Bill gets delayed, that will save a chunk of cash out of the HS2 budget for the legal work needed for this coming year end.

Well, one person wants Ebola here

Yesterday, at Prime Minister’s Questions, and one person wanted Ebola….

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): The Prime Minister will be aware of the outstanding work done at Porton Down in my constituency to combat Ebola. However, Public Health England has refused to evaluate fully an option to create a UK centre for global response to infectious diseases at Porton and instead persists with its recommendation to move many key scientists elsewhere. Will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss that matter and ensure that the future of public health, the life sciences industry and the taxpayer are well served by the decision ultimately made for public health in England?

The Prime Minister: Let me, through my hon. Friend, thank everyone at Porton Down for the vital work they do on these sorts of diseases and indeed for the work they are doing on testing for Ebola, as it requires brave and courageous people to carry it out. On the meeting that he wants, the Health Secretary is sitting next to me and he says he is happy to meet him to discuss this issue in detail. We want to see life sciences and these areas succeed in Britain, and Porton Down has an important role to play.

Chaotic housekeeping, as described by Jane Austen

From Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: this description of Fanny Price’s mother would perhaps be entirely true-to-life of many harassed, hard-up mothers today.

“Mrs. Price was not unkind… Her days were spent in a kind of slow bustle; all was busy without getting on, always behindhand and lamenting it, without altering her ways; wishing to be an economist, without contrivance or regularity; dissatisfied with her servants, without skill to make them better, and whether helping, or reprimanding, or indulging them, without any power of engaging their respect.

“Of her two sisters, Mrs. Price very much more resembled Lady Bertram than Mrs. Norris. She was a manager by necessity, without any of Mrs. Norris’s inclination for it, or any of her activity. Her disposition was naturally easy and indolent, like Lady Bertram’s; and a situation of similar affluence and do-nothingness would have been much more suited to her capacity than the exertions and self-denials of the one which her imprudent marriage had placed her in. She might have made just as good a woman of consequence as Lady Bertram, but Mrs. Norris would have been a more respectable mother of nine children on a small income.

“Much of all this Fanny could not but be sensible of. She might scruple to make use of the words, but she must and did feel that her mother was a partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taught nor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagement and discomfort from beginning to end, and who had no talent, no conversation, no affection towards herself; no curiosity to know her better, no desire of her friendship, and no inclination for her company that could lessen her sense of such feelings.”

FWIW, one of the main themes of Mansfield Park is choosing the right spouse. Mrs Morris, Fanny’s aunt married a vicar and was comfortably well off, but had no children. As Austen suggests, had she married Mr Price, she would have risen to the challenge of a relatively small income, and her busy-body interference would have been used to the advantage of her children. I suspect that her eldest child may well have been brought up at Mansfield Park with Sir Thomas Bertram and wife, but with plenty of advice on how to better her situation.

She’s just had a baby, of course she’s got a bump!

Yesterday, when I saw the footage of Kate Middleton leaving hospital as a proud new mother, I was very pleased to see she still had a bump.  It is perfectly normal for new mothers to still have a definite bump, and it was great that hers was so visible.

I was therefore slightly incensed to read on Twitter that both Sky news and OK magazine (and no doubt other media as well) were wondering why she still looked pregnant.  She still looked pregnant, because she’s a real woman who had a baby yesterday.

Why back when I had little’uns, baby magazines all warned that you would still be wearing maternity clothes for a while after the birth: they suggested that you allow as long as it took to grow a baby before worrying about your figure. It would change whether you exercised or not.

At one point, I regularly went to a parent’n’toddler group, a playschool, and a primary school.  One day, for no particular reason, I can remember looking at the shapes of the women in the three different places.

At the Parent and Toddler group (children aged from 0 to 3) the overall impression was of ‘lumpy’ women.  Big bellies, wide hips, big boobs: these were women who had given birth relatively recently and their bodies showed it.

This contrasted with the women of the playschool, where the children were between three and five years old.  The women were rounded and perhaps a bit plumper than average, but their figures were less awkward then the new mothers of the toddler group.

By the time the mother’s children had reached primary school, the mothers’ figures looked normal.  Not lumpy, not particularly plump, just fairly normal.

Of course this was not a study to find how women’s bodies changed with time after pregnancy, just looking at a cross-section of normal women from one area of one normal town.  Although some of them may have embarked on years of dieting and exercise, others had just left their bodies to reshape naturally, but there was a definite progression.

Kate has now got a post-pregnancy body.  As an icon, she influences women and how they feel: and she has now shown the world that the mother’s of one-day old babies still have bumps.

It would be great if the media allow her to have a post-pregnancy body: it would be great if she doesn’t try to get it back to a pre-pregnancy flatness too quickly, to allow all the other women (and men) she influences to see that a post-pregnancy bump is normal.

And there is another good reason for her to want to stay a little rounder than normal for a little longer than the average celebrity. All the time she has a little bump, it will be harder for royal watchers to notice when or if baby number 2 is on the way…