Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Pottery Cottage murders

Not far from yesterday's Beeley Moor walk is Eastmoor, where the Pottery Cottage murders took place in 1977.

The Glasgow Herald April 28th 1977

Four shots were fired by police marksmen at an escaped rapist, William Hughes, before he stopped a frenzied axe attack on his hostage Mrs Gill Moran, and collapsed dead an inquest was told yesterday.

The shootings occurred after a car chase through Derbyshire and Cheshire, which ended when Hughes crashed at a police roadblock.

The Chesterfield inquest was on Hughes who escaped while being taken from Leicester Prison to Chesterfield Court. And on Richard Moran aged 36, his daughter, Sarah, and Mrs Moran's parents, Mr Arthur Minton, aged 72, and Mrs Amy Minton, aged 70.

The four members of the family were found by police in their home at Pottery Cottage, Eastmoor, where they had been killed by Hughes...

...Hughes suddenly cried, "Your time is up" and raised an axe above his head. Inspector Pell said he fired at Hughes's heat [sic] but Hughes began to attack Mrs Moran. Two more shots did not stop Hughes. Detective Constable Nicholls then fired one shot and Hughes collapsed. 

The jury returned unanimous verdicts of murder in the case of the Morans and the Mintons, and justifiable homicide in the case of Hughes.

So given the tragic circumstances, as good a result as could have been expected - Billy Hughes shot dead. Had he survived he could still be alive today as capital punishment was long gone.  

Yet Moors murderer Ian Brady is still alive, the man and his grotesque crimes still festering on in the public memory. In my view this is a worse outcome than in the Hughes case. How can that be? 

I think there are cases where certain crimes are so appalling that they must be given a decent burial. I know the arguments, we all know them, but there are cases where the only thing to do is consign them to the past. 

One cannot do that for surviving friends and relatives, but the crime itself can consigned to the dismal history of human wickedness. If that means burying the perpetrator then so be it. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The road to Sheffield

Had a fine walk across Beeley Moor today. We reached the moor via the adjoining and delightfully named Gibbet Moor above Chatsworth. Imagine trudging across high moorland on a bitter November afternoon only to have a moorland gibbet cheer you on your way.

Beeley moor is like that even though the gibbets are long gone. At least I think they are. The moor is attractive in summer but even then there is something a little grim about the place. An extraordinarily atmospheric area even on a clear day. I love it.

Today the heather was out in force and the views excellent with very good visibility. Not easily captured on a photograph though - the superb expanse of it under a vast sky.

The moor is steeped in history from Hob Hurst's House to a number of old guide stoops such as this one directing travellers towards Sheffield. 

These stone guideposts, or 'stoops', were set at intersections of packhorse routes, were required by an Act of 1697. Beeley Moor is particularly rich in examples. They fell into disuse in the second half of the 18th Century as Turnpike roads superseded the old packhorse routes.

Is that a local hand I wonder - with three fingers?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Islam and the youth bulge

I suppose by now we’ve all read as much as we choose to read about the beheading of James Foley. Horrible of course and as far as one can tell Mr Foley accepted his appalling fate with a dignity his murderers perhaps did not perceive.

As for the wider message, I’m not sure there is one apart from a certain resigned acceptance that this is something the world has to deal with without itself falling in love with extreme violence.

There is however a strong temptation to condemn Islam as a whole and a corresponding temptation to regret that it ever took root in this country. As an atheist, these are temptations I am less and less inclined to resist.

When I see the faces of those young men sucked in by the insane rhetoric of older men, I’m reminded of the theory of the youth bulge. Certainly the pattern fits. If sound, then we may presume that Muslim violence is something which will decline due to demographic change. An excess of stupidly frustrated testosterone will have drained away. Maybe time will tell.

As for the present, I get no sense of fear in the wider population. No sense that terrorism actually manages to terrorise anyone but those in the direct firing line. Instead I get a sense that traditional Islam is failing to deal with an increasingly materialistic and secular world where women are not chattels and ancient books are merely ancient books. Failing because it has no orthodox response to these trends.

This inevitable failure plus the crazy young men and the evil-minded old men have come together in a particularly ghastly way. So it will continue, but not forever.

In which case, Mr Foley did not die in vain. His death was even heroic because it represents progress. Any failure of naked barbarism is progress. The world is changing and his death reminds us that his murderers belong to the past. A savage past but not frightening – simply because it is the past.

It may well point to a future where, within a couple of generations, the Islamic extremes we see today are gone. The old men have passed away; the crazy young men are now old - those who contrived to survive their own stupidity at least.

If so, there is not much to be gained by accommodation or appeasement. It won’t work and may even delay the slowly grinding wheels of social change.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Bomb the Ban

From Wikipedia. Sort of.

We saw a group of fancy dress hippies today but they didn't quite look the part. 

Crikey I've added a link to the word "hippies" just in case.

But their clothes weren't quite right, they weren't quite right and there wasn't a hint of that round-shouldered scraggy look I still remember so well. The main giveaway was their CND flag. 

It was upside down.

Friday, 22 August 2014

A sense of community

From Wikipedia

Here's an interesting quote many folk will have come across at one time or another.

He could not see, it was not born in him to see, that the highest good of the community as it stands is no longer the highest good of even the average individual. He thought that, because the community represents millions of people, therefore it must be millions of times more important than any individual, forgetting that the community is an abstraction from the many, and is not the many themselves. 

Now when the statement of the abstract good for the community has become a formula lacking in all inspiration or value to the average intelligence, then the “common good” becomes a general nuisance, representing the vulgar, conservative materialism at a low level.
D.H. Lawrence - The Rainbow (1915)

Such a common word isn't it? Community. What could be nicer than to be part of a community? Yet a community binds us together in a way which may be benign or oppressive, but is too often merely political. 

Community. A community facility. A community resource. A community organiser. Wasn't Obama a community organiser? Or maybe a community organizer. Sounds grim to me. Not a job I'd relish. 

Unfortunately Lawrence was right. The idea of community has become a formula lacking in all inspiration or value to the average intelligence.

We've forgotten that bit haven't we - the inspiration? We've sucked the human juice out of a useful notion and made it dull, mechanical and more than a little unhealthy.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Climate and the bourgeoisie

An early low-carbon bourgeois
From Wikipedia

To my mind the orthodox climate narrative is obviously political, not a scientific discovery about the future. Equally obvious - it was designed for maximum bourgeois appeal. So what is the attraction of such a superficially alarming narrative?

As we all know, the orthodox climate narrative is wrapped around an apparent threat to bourgeois comforts via drought, floods, rising sea levels and many other catastrophes. Sounds scary, but the mitigation part of the narrative holds out a juicy promise of unlimited future comforts via sustainable energy.

Admittedly one would have to be gullible to swallow the sustainable energy guff, but that is what feed-in tariffs are for - to create a misleading sense of familiarity with wind and solar. Familiarity is half the battle. Add in a green badge for saving the planet and the job’s mostly done.

Saving the planet by developing clean, everlasting energy sources. What else offers more appeal to the bourgeois sense of entitlement? What else offers such balm to the uneasy modern conscience?

The up-front demands are minimal. A spot of recycling, some curly light bulbs and a Toyota Prius on the drive. No neighbour can beat it for quietly sanctimonious swank.

Not only that, but the potential rewards are enormous – nothing less than a life of permanent comfort. Because it’s sustainable isn’t it? That’s the carrot. Beneath the sanctimonious shroud-waving, the climate narrative has a deeply selfish appeal – deferred gratification on a humongous scale.

No wonder the Guardian and the BBC push it with such sanctimonious relish. No wonder they react with such swivel-eyed malice towards anyone who might threaten the dream.

Many climate sceptics seem both angry and confused at the casual dumping of scientific integrity by the climate narrative. I think this is because the rewards so covertly offered to the climate faithful are hugely underestimated. Apart from five centuries of scientific progress the sacrifice is not excessive for those able to afford their energy bills without undue stress. Yet the supposed gains are disproportionately colossal.

Seth Pecksniff is alive and well. These days he recycles his Waitrose wine bottles, pops his old trousers in the charity bag and drives a Toyota Prius on mileage allowance.

The attempt has been made, and wrongly, to make a class of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie is simply the contented portion of the people. The bourgeois is the man who now has time to sit down. A chair is not a caste. But through a desire to sit down too soon, one may arrest the very march of the human race.

Victor Hugo - Les Misérables (1862)