Philosophy and History

Plato_Silanion_Musei_Capitolini_MC1377

By Copy of Silanion, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7831217.

I went to a U3A meeting yesterday at St Neots, they had a number of different displays around the room from different interest groups one was by the Philosophy Group.

Although there are a number of definitions of Philosophy they seem to distil down to what I understand Philosophy to be, the study of wisdom. I have felt for some time that along with History it should be a core subject within the education system. Philosophy should replace Religious Education in my view. Teaching people how to think, would help them make sounder judgements, rationalise and avoid knee jerk reactions to untested statements. It would make us all more questioning and rational less willing to take statements of fact at face value.

Why then history too?

This quote in its various forms is probably the most persuasive argument for the teaching of history:

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill

(by Dallon Christensen White board Business Partners website)

The commonly used expression, “Those who ignore history are bound (or doomed) to repeat it” is actually a misquotation of the original text written by George Santayana (1863-1952), who, in his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1, wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Stanford University online also provides an outstanding and much more detailed background on this important and profound philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist.

Santayana’s quotation, in turn, was a slight modification of an Edmund Burke (1729-1797) statement, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Burke was a British Statesman and Philosopher who is generally viewed as the philosophical founder of modern political conservatism.

(Answers.com)

I was talking to a history teacher of a secondary school a few years ago, when I said I thought history was a very important subject she asked me why I thought it was important?

I replied, that “History teaches us not only about the past but informs us about the present and helps predict the future”.

If we do not know history we have no option than to continue to repeat it as we have nothing to learn from.

England’s Lost Lake a Review

 

 

Englands Lost Lake

England’s Lost Lake, The story of Whittlesea Mere.

 

 

The fen country was for centuries, millennia even, a vast expanse of open water fen and bog that stretched from the Wash inland to the higher ground to the North and West. It has been described as a vast sump soaking up and holding the water flows from those surrounding counties on higher ground. A map of Huntingdonshire dated 1645 shows towns and villages as islands amongst the bogs fens and open water. Although drainage had been started in Roman times it was not until the seventeenth century that the serious work began with Van Vermuyden as the chief engineer. Eventually the last mere left undrained was Whittlesea Mere; Paul Middleton’s  England’s Lost Lake tells the story of that nineteenth-century project updating an earlier work produced by the WEA in 1986.

It is an interesting read, detailing not only the draining of the Mere itself and the methodology but also describing some of the players involved. The way of life of those that had earned a living from the mere is explored too. We learn of the Reed Cutters, Wild Fowlers and those that fished the Mere. We are informed of how the different seasons provided other means of earning a living for those whose livelihood depended on this vast lake. Details are given of the wildlife, insects, flora and fauna that occupied the area. The species that have survived and those that were lost, some completely unique to the area.

One is left with the feeling that the project was not the overwhelming success envisaged and returning a good proportion of the fen to its past state was partly an act of expediency. This though is purely my own personal view. Whatever the reasons the Great Fen Project is something that those of us that love this landscape, welcome, a view I share with the author.

If you have an interest in the Fens and its history this is a book you should own.

One last point Paul if you are reading this can you tell me about the Shelerode?

This book was sponsored by the Fenland Trust.

 

 

The Great Fen project and Fen Ague

Fenland sky 

The Great Fen Project is an attempt to restore and return some of our natural fen heritage to an earlier state. The objective is to facilitate the regeneration of an ecosystem encouraging the return of greater wildlife diversity and habitat.

Having the oppportunity to watch flocks of waterfowl as they return to roost in a panoramic Fenland sunset is something I look forward to. Even aged 67, after spending my life in the fens, the limitless skies, the beauty of spectacular sunsets and sunrises, on a grand scale continue to fill me with awe.

One aspect of the regeneration of the fens seemingly neglected concerns me. Fen Ague or The Ague was a form of malaria once prevalent in the fens. Those that survived the infection were often revisited with its symptoms. Samuel Pepys was a famous sufferer as was Oliver Cromwell. He died at the relatively young age of 59 from Tertian Ague.

Starting with the seventeenth century and since large scale drainage has removed the stagnant pools of water – the breeding grounds for the mosquito disease carriers. Records were kept during the nineteenth century by county of the incidence of Ague or Malaria. Records have been correlated together with rainfall and temperature variation  Rates of Malaria infection were found to have fluctuated with temperature and rainfall. Warmer and wetter summer weather coincided with increases in the number of recorded cases. (1.)

Since the referenced article’s publication in 2003, evidence for climate change has become even stronger.  The assumption is that as a consequence the UK will become wetter and warmer. As the Great Fen Project develops, pools of stagnant water will grow in size and number.

Greater numbers of people from the UK are visiting areas abroad where Malaria is prevalent. This increases the probability that some travellers may return infected with the disease. These factors: increasing climate temperature and more abundent mosquito breeding grounds could see a return of a disease that had left these shores. Another concern is that warm air flows could bring mosquitoes infected with the parasite into the fens. I have expressed concerns about Fen Ague to those setting up the Great Fen Project.

Rex Sly on his blog post “Malaria in the Fens” (October 2007) believes that the extinction in the fens of the disease has been comprehensive.  He states that the disease-carrying mosquito species responsible has become extinct and there would need to be a pool of infection existing within the local human population. These factors he feels sure should be sufficient to prevent re-emergence of Malaria. Hopefully, Rex is right but the areas of concern I have outlined may outweigh this optimism. Increased international travel, disease evolution, larger bodies of stagnant water and a warmer climate could in the none-too-distant future provide a means for Malaria to return to these shores.

Hopefully, Malaria or Fen Ague is gone for good. However, at the very least, contingency plans to deal with the problem, should it arise, ought to be in place. The guardians of our welfare should, in my view, give this matter serious consideration.  Often in the past, the unthinkable and unexpected, have found us as a nation unprepared, even though, many timely warnings were given.

 

(1) 2003 article. (Malaria in Britain: Past, Present and Future, 2003. Katrin Gaardbo Kuhn, Diarmid  Campbell-Lendrum, Ben Armstrong and Clive R Davies).

 

All the Colours in Between

all the colours in between

Book cover of All the Colours in Between

All the Colours in Between 

Written by Eva Jordan

Lizzie Lemalf is an author, a mum, a step mum and daughter of ageing parents.

Her parents, children, husband, ex-husband and those she cares for jostle for her time as she pursues her writing career. A career embarked on later in life. Her success and growing recognition as an author are balanced by the trials, pressures and joys of family life.

The reader becomes immersed in lives of the finely drawn characters inhabiting this novel’s pages. All the Colours In Between gives us the opportunity to share the pleasures, triumphs and emotions of Lizzie and her family; making their way not only in the world but through life.

The story deals with the contemporary difficult issues that affect many of us, our families, friends and those we care for. Eva’s observations are keen, incisive and informative.

It is a long time, a very long time indeed that I have experienced the empathy or shared the feelings  I felt for Lizzie and her family. Eva has highlighted the permanent nature of parenthood. She explores the complex emotional nature of relationships, doing so with great insight, skill and eloquence.

All the Colours in Between is an exceptionally well-written book. I could pile superlative, after superlative on top of that sentence but those few words sum it up: It is for me at least, truly exceptional.

This is one of the very best books I have read.

I Daniel Blake

Poster for the film I Daniel Blake

Advertising poster for the film I Daniel Blake

I watched the Ken Loach directed film “I Daniel Blake” Saturday evening.

Its first airing on BBC television. Probably one of the best British films ever made. Although the characters are fictional, their stories aren’t, the evidence haunts our streets. Our fellow citizens sitting on pavements, begging, hungry children at school and shopping trolleys in supermarkets collecting donations for food banks.

When I was an apprentice, my foreman, a Geordie told me of his family’s struggle to survive during the thirties, he was an apprentice himself then, having left school at fourteen. He told me about the visit by the “Means Test Man”, who forced the family to sell what few possessions they still had.

During my apprenticeship I attended Technical College one day a week, our English teacher gave another insight into the thirties. This man an old Etonian, an Oxford graduate and an economist, also taught economics to an evening class I attended. He was responsible for my wife and I being able to buy our own house. At the start of the college year in 1971, he walked into our English class, the first one of the new college year. Asking if any of us were thinking of getting married and buying a house? I replied I was thinking of it.

“Buy a house now”,  he said, “by this time next year they will have doubled in price”.

I asked if he was sure, he said he was absolutely certain, my girlfriend and I went out that weekend found a house under construction affordable for us we thought, the foundations were in. We secured it with a £25 plot deposit then struggled to get a mortgage, the cost of the house was £4150 in 1971, when we moved into our first home a year later the price was over £8000.

This English teacher told me of his in-laws a married couple; during the thirties, they were forced to live apart by the government. Made to work in different parts of the country as domestic servants.

He was probably one of the most left-wing people I have met also one of the most caring.

About this time Monetarism was being touted as an economic policy, he explained why it wouldn’t work and why its forerunner hadn’t worked in the thirties.

We all now know for most of us, the homeless and disadvantaged in particular that it doesn’t work.

To quote Glenda Jackson (Tribute speech to Margaret Thatcher), “greed has now become a virtue.”

Having known about the thirties and how it affected those suffering from the policies of a callous government, I had no desire to see the same horrors revisited.

I Daniel Blake is a commentary of what has happened to our society fictional only in its characters. A proper caring society should not accept the treatment of our fellow human beings meted out by an uncaring government, we the people are better than this even if our government isn’t.

 

A few thoughts on retirement

Grandad with the garden cup

My granddad with his prize-winning garden around about the time I was born

When I was younger I never thought that retirement could be a full time job, I should have done, my Granddad had warned me.

Most Sundays when I was a young lad I would call round to see Granddad and my Grandmother. One Sunday, Granddad was in the lean-to green house on the back of his large shed. His shed had been his workshop before he retired. As he stooped down to pick up a watering can I asked him,

“What’s  it like being retired Granddad?”

He turned to me and said,

“Son, I don’t know how I used to find the time to go to work.”

The last few months have been pretty much full with publishing our writing group’s  first book, an interesting experience. Amongst all that I had a trip to the Royal Institution in London and a train ride pulled by the Flying Scotsman, a brilliant birthday present from my wife.

Walking my son and girlfriend’s dog twice a day occupies a good chunk of time, cycling once or twice a week makes a big inroad too.

I am trying to unblock my writers block that has lodged itself in my novel. I need a clear mind and fresh thinking, possibly, a cycle ride on my own will work its magic.

A point of view

Reflections

Reflections at the end of the day

Book Reviews.

Probably the biggest disappointment regarding a book review I had was reading a particular Booker Prize winning novel,. It was an acclaimed comedy, the trade reviews were ecstatic. I wasn’t able to buy it when first published so was over the moon after finding a copy in a charity shop a year or two back.

I should have been warned, just short of halfway into the book was a train ticket, used as a bookmark it seemed. The train travelling reader had apparently not finished the book, not even it seemed reached the halfway stage. Undeterred  I started on this worthy tome; my word was it hard work. They say that some comedy is elusive, after reading the whole book, I can honestly say that I have never encountered such elusive comedy. Wherever it is lurking it certainly isn’t within the pages of that book. I freely admit that some of the prose was good, excellent in places, though never outstanding. There are probably more copies of this book in charity shops with train tickets lodged within the pages than laughs that have been extracted from them.

I am someone who writes but not yet an author.

I take heart from the fact that I can write better comedy than a Booker Prize winning author, not only do I find my own stuff funny, other people do to.

The best comment I had was from a lady who said, “I nearly wet myself laughing when I read your story”.

Was it a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes with the Booker judging panel ? Because someone said it was funny, did they feel it was their own inadequacy that stopped them seeing the jokes and felt they had to pretend it was funny even vote for it?

Many other readers of the same book share my opinion, judging by their comments, “it isn’t funny.”

All judgement is subjective, reviews are only the opinion of the person writing it and are only that, an opinion.

On the plus side my copy only cost me 50p.

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