lördag 19 juli 2014

Liturgists and terrorists

NWE561 Sheffield Corporation Transport Department fleet no. 361 a 1952 built Leyland PD2/12 with rare Mann Egerton H56R bodywork

What is the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist. The quip seems to be used as a means of putting down people who prefer traditional liturgy, but it raises an important question. What is a liturgist? Who are liturgists?

I would suggest that those who favour a vernacular Mass with hymns drawn from the Protestant repertoire are no less deserving of the term than those who would rather attend Mass in Latin with Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony. In one way or another, every one has preferences. That feelings often run so strongly in either direction only confirms the truth of the quip.

It was not always so. The liturgy was a given, and one just got on with reading what was in the books using the music that went with the texts. There was not much to discuss or argue about and preferences did not come into it.

In this respect, going to Mass was much like travelling by public transport. You took it as it came, and you knew exactly what was coming. For much of the twentieth century, most British buses looked like the one in the picture. The driver sat in his own cab, separated from the passengers by a window. The engine was at the front to the left of the driver's cab. There was an open platform at the back where you stepped on and off, and a conductor took the fares one the passengers were on board and seated. It was an easy vehicle to use. You did not have to fumble for your change just as you were getting on the bus. The internal layout of the seats was simple, tidy and comprehensible. The design was inexpensive to build and maintain. With well-placed grab rails, good circulation space and no need to pay the driver, waiting time at stops was minimal. This style of vehicle was ubiquitous. It could be seen from Aberdeen in the north to Truro in the south-west, and all places in between, making it part of the shared landscape and personal space of everyone in the country.

For various reasons these vehicles began to be regarded as inadequate from the 1960s onwards. Standardisation fell apart. All sorts of configurations were tried, with engines, doorways and staircases in different places, in seemingly endless variation. None of these was particularly satisfactory, they were unpopular with the public. Just to get on to a bus became a disorientating experience. Journey times doubled due to the extra time spent standing at stops. This was undoubtedly a factor in the fall in the number of passengers travelling by bus. Eventually, London was the only place where they were in regular service and bus use remained high. These survivors were the famous and iconic Routemasters, which continued until 2005, by which time they were about 45 years old; the design was the inspiration for a new generation of London buses which started to come into service in 2012.

Given that the liturgy is, likewise a shared part of our mental landscapes, and that standardisation fell apart at roughly the same time as standardised bus design came to an end, it should not be surprising that everyone has a strong view on the subject. Thus we are all liturgists.

torsdag 17 juli 2014

Eyeless in Gaza

Yet again the Israelis are the baddies. It is easy to condemn from the security of Sevenoaks. However, if rockets were regularly fired in their direction, the residents of Sevenoaks would quickly demand that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

That said, there still enough Israelis who would be happy to see a deal done, if they were convinced that it would stick. If the Israelis were confident that the deal would hold, there is no reason why the militarily indefensible 1948 Armistice border would not be acceptable. And there's the rub.

The trouble is that the Palestinians have mishandled the situation since 1947. The state of Israel was declared on the basis of the 1947 UN award, which was territory that had mostly been purchased from landowners. It was then attacked by five of the neighbouring countries and when the armistice was agreed, that settled the border until 1967, with Jerusalem divided and no access by Jews to the traditional holy sites.

In the meantime, the Gaza strip was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank and half of Jerusalem by Jordan, both acting illegally. Throughout the period there were sporadic raids into Israel and regular firing from the Golan Heights, then part of Syria.

In 1967 Nasser asked the Swedish UN force to leave and assembled a huge invasion force and blockaded the port of Eilat. Israel launched a pre-emptive strike, whilst Jordan attacked, and the result of that was that Israel ended up in occupation of the entire West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza strip and the Sinai desert. At the time, the Israelis were anxious to get out of all the occupied territories but nobody on the Arab side would even sit down in the same room and negotiate.

Sinai was handed back to Egypt as part of a peace agreement after Anwar Sadat took a personal initiative which cost him his life. The Israelis withdrew from Gaza and forcibly removed the settlers. The inhabitants of the Golan Heights are Druze, supporters of Israel, and the younger generation are applying for Israeli citizenship and join the Israeli army.

The problem for the Palestinians is that they missed the window of opportunity of dealing with the Israelis during the long period when the government was left-of-centre social democratic. Eventually the mood changed and the Israeli government is composed of hard-liners. If things are to change, the Palestinians will have to make sustained and reassuring noises.

onsdag 2 juli 2014

The wicked Israelis

People have stolen WHOLE CONTINENTS from the previous inhabitants, but the Jews try to get their country back out of necessity, because of 2000 years of persecution, and then they get demonised when they are terrorised by their neighbours and don't take it quietly on the chin.

lördag 24 maj 2014

Recipe for English-style light ale

A classic English pale ale with a heavy hop content. Quantities are for 10 litres thus this has 2.5 times the normal hops. If you have brewed beer before these instructions give you enough information to give you a drinkable beer at the first attempt. If not, then research the subject more deeply if you do not want to be disappointed. If you want an even more bitter flavour then you might replace hops (A) with a high-alpha type such as Galaxy.

         1500 g    crushed malt grain
  200 g    crystal malt grain
    50 g    hops (Goldings A)
    25 g    hops (Goldings B)
    10 g    hops (Goldings C)
    10 g    hops (Goldings D)
      5 g    hops (Goldings E)

2 tsp gypsum
Copper finings (Irish moss)

Mix yeast with dilute malt solution and leave in warm place. If no activity after 3 hours add extra dried yeast pellets.

Boil seaweed gently until it becomes a jelly.

Fill bucket with cold water and place in freezer

Fill large pan with water sufficient to cover malt grains (do not add malt grains yet). Add gypsum and heat to 60°C. Remove from heat and add malt grains. Temperature should be 55°C.Then slowly warm to 65°C and remove from heat
Leave for 2 hours. Add boiling water until temperature is 67°C.Leave for a further 20 minutes, then bring temperature to 75°C to terminate the mash process. Leave for 10 minutes.

Prepare boiling water for sparging

Put grain residue in strainer and arrange to make a saucer-shaped filter bed. Then pour hot liquid through and collect the wort in a bucket.
Put the grain residue back in the mash pan, pour hot water on and re-filter. Repeat (3 or 4 times) until the filtrate is no longer sweet. Alternatively, use a boiling pan with a tap and a perforated false bottom made for the purpose.

Place the liquid into 11 L boiling pan (or boil down until the volume is sufficiently reduced). When volume is reduced to less than 8 litres, add hops A. Boil for a further 45 minutes.

Add copper finings and hops B and boil for a further 15 minutes, then hops C and boil for a further one minute, then and transfer to bucket.
Cool quickly by adding ice prepared previously.

When cool, siphon into fermentation vessel leaving residue behind. This should be done in such a way as to make as much splash as possible to get air into the wort, to enable the yeast to work effectively. Make up to 10 litres.

The fermentation vessel should be placed in the room where the fermentation will take place. If required, fit heating band round bucket (or aquarium heater) and plug in to electricity supply. Temperature must be at least 15°C and preferably less than 25°C

Check SG with hydrometer. It should be around 1.035, if lower, add 300g - 500g sugar. Add hops D in a net bag with something heavy in it so that it sinks to the bottom of the fermentation bucket.

When the temperature has fallen to 35°C the active yeast starter can be added “pitched” to the wort. A small quantity (a “splash”) of CocaCola can be added to provide necessary phosphorus for the fast-growing yeast. Check daily. Initial action will be very vigorous. When the yeast has formed a cake on the surface, skim off together with other debris, to prevent a bad flavour that can occur if the yeast cells start to decompose.

When activity has subsided, check the SG with hydrometer. It should be less than 1.020. Use syphon to transfer to a closed vessel fitted with an air lock, Add 50g sugar.

Add hops E in a small net bag. Allow to settle for at least 2 weeks, draw off into open container, then add gelatine finings, 60 g priming sugar, then transfer to container or bottles for final conditioning. The ale can be drunk about one month after bottling.

torsdag 24 april 2014

Carrot as well as stick

Riga Coal Dock

I watch with some dismay the hostile attitudes that are hardening in the relationship between Russia and the EU and USA. What is being ignored here is that there are genuine issues which ought to be conceded. The borders following the break-up of the Soviet Union do not correspond to linguistic and national borders. Adjustments and exchanges of territory (this goes in both directions), subject to referendum, could reduce dissatisfactions.

There is also a better need for economic development and collaboration. The Russian populations in the Baltic countries seem to have missed out quite badly. The EU could play a role here, in particular in relation to parts of Latvia and the Russian enclave which was formerly East Prussia, with joint infrastructure projects and other investments.

The economic dependencies are closer than is generally appreciated. For example, coal from the eastern Ukraine goes by train to Riga where it is shipped to.... Tilbury.

Carrot as well as stick.

söndag 13 april 2014

Forgotten cost of Scottish independence

One of the hidden costs of Scottish independence has never even been mentioned yet - haggis-proof fencing along the border. The vicious little beasts are both excellent climbers and burrowers. They can dig down a metre deep, which means that hundreds of miles of expensive fencing will have to be erected along the border. All vehicles will have to be carefully checked at crossing points to make sure that none of them escape, or are smuggled into England.

onsdag 9 april 2014

Scottish independence peril

Following a "yes" vote, the Loch Ness monster will awake from his slumber, opening a fiery fissure from Fort William to Inverness. A vast subterranean magma chamber will spew forth its contents and create a molten lava field which will eventually bury the whole of Great Britain in a layer six metres thick. Clouds of poison gas will spread all round the globe. A decade of summerless years will cause mass starvation and will be followed by an ice age which will go on for 100,000 years.