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June 2014

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Image from Wikimedia CommonsFriday last saw the close of the summer term at the School and the culmination of yet another academic year. It did not do so – from our point of view at least – by winding down gracefully and coming gently to rest, but rather with a pyrotechnic shell-burst followed by a shower of smouldering embers.

Now it could simply be that advancing years have rendered me less capable than before of dealing with the stresses and strains of the work environment (though it could also – of course – be that I am in truth wishing that I were somewhere else!). I do get the clear impression – however – that over these past two years the job has become more intense and difficult just as I have become concomitantly less in control of it.

Oh well!

The Kickass Canada Girl and I spent much of the weekend essaying a recovery from the rigours of recent weeks – and I should admit that a modest therapeutic element of the retail variety was involved. We also took the opportunity – over a relaxing lunch – to try to penetrate some of the fogs of uncertainly that surround our near future.

There are – of course – still many variables and possibilities and it is difficult to be definite as to exactly how our forthcoming migration to Canada will pan out. On one thing at least – however – we are clear. Whatever happens, this next year will be our last at work here in the UK. The Girl’s exact path is yet to be decided but mine – through the constraints of the academic year – is somewhat clearer.

At this point a year from now (should it not already have happened by that juncture) I will be working my notice.

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Uneven_scalesWhat started out as a single post has now miraculously morphed into a series of four!

This eclectic assemblage of ramblings has thus far encompassed cricket, the demise of socialism and sun-worship.

What can it all mean?

Time to wrap it up…

My theme is – of course – inequality. I have addressed the topic a number of times before (here, here, here and here) and the gentle reader will doubtless have deduced by now that it is a subject that exercises me greatly.

Simply put – excessive and increasing inequality in any society is a bad thing and can only – in the long run – lead to disaster.

The free market is a valuable tool. It generates wealth, encourages competition and promotes progress. It is also – however – a completely amoral device. It is not of itself a good – even though good can come from it. For the benefits that can accrue thereby to be put to good purpose – the advance of society as a whole and the elimination of those evils of deprivation – lack of education – poor living standards – low life expectancy and unfulfilled promise – it is essential that the tool be managed, purposed, regulated and generally focused on the overall good. The market cannot achieve these aims unassisted.

Those who insist on the market being given its head – on its being allowed to exercise untrammeled influence on all areas of society – are in effect proposing an order entirely free from moral compass. This way madness lies. Events demonstrate time and time again that venality and criminality are not confined to the ‘lower orders’. When the powerful succumb to corruption they frequently do so absolutely. Human nature being what it is, the mere accumulation of wealth is no guarantee of altruistic or even acceptable behaviour.

By way of justification of their imperfect belief system those on the right may point to the fact that – in a period in which the rich have become the mega-rich, then the hyper-rich and ultimately the ultra-rich – living standards of those at the bottom of the pile have also risen marginally. It matters not – they protest – that the 1% own an ever increasing percentage of global wealth – just as long as everybody else’s living standards have also crept up.

Well – they are wrong… and it is just not good enough!

History teaches us that the the ultimate outcome of ever increasing inequality is revolution. That the West has not in recent decades experienced a greater degree of rebellious unrest can be attributed to three facts:

  • living standards for even the poorest segment are higher than they once were
  • in a globalised economy it is considerably more difficult to identify and locate the guilty parties
  • many in the West subscribe to the lottery mentality, by which – however long the odds – they still believe that they can hit the ‘wealth’ jackpot and join the 1%

The bad news for the ultra-rich is that it is all just a matter of degree. We don’t yet know where the tipping point will be, but be it will.

And at that point things will turn nasty!


OK – enough of this now…

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Photo by Luc Viatour on Wikimedia.orgWith the despatch of Socialism to the sidelines of history (see my previous post) and the resultant almost inevitable hegemony of the market, one could be forgiven for thinking that – for those with a social conscience – the game was up. Rabid marketeers and their fellow travelers on the right did what all good ideologues do when in a similarly victorious position – they plunged the knife in and twisted the blade!

These people would have us believe that there is no power – no authority – but the market. They are not to be trusted. Any notion that the market represents the ultimate form of democracy just doesn’t stack up. True democracy requires universal suffrage – something that the market can never provide, the rich holding the equivalent of a block vote.

Time for an allegory!

Those who worship the sun (and I refer here not just to those with a vitamin D addiction!) do so because they see the incalescent orb as the source of all life on earth and the origin of all power – which must be honoured accordingly. The Aztecs for example – as is well known – believed that regular human sacrifices were necessary to ensure that the sun repeat its transit of the heavens each new day – turning its face the while beneficently upon the earth.

It must be remembered though that not all that the the brightest star provides is propitious. The sun can burn and otherwise mutilate unprotected flesh – it can scorch the earth – it can bring the drought – can deliquesce the insubstantial. Nor are its favours bestowed equally upon all. This all-powerful sun-god must be appeased – apotheosized. Those who make the biggest sacrifice – or erect the most lavish temple – may expect to reap what they sew as the god smiles upon their endeavors. Those who do not – or cannot – must expect just to burn… burn… burn…

Adherents of Social Darwinism – and those who are in fact so even should they reject the term – have much in common with these heliolatrists. They might protest that their belief in the need for us to earn our rewards  – coupled with an avowed espousal of philanthropy – stands them firmly on the moral high ground. Unfortunately – as inequality continues its dizzying increase – the evidence suggests otherwise. Are these high achievers really working harder than ever before, whilst the remainder of us get lazier and lazier? And how much of that hard work actually just goes into the blackmailing of institutions such as the banks to hand over ever larger bonuses?

In fact the fine sentiments of those enthusiasts for market freedom ring as hollow as do those that they despise from the opposite end of the spectrum – from the social engineers. The truth is that human nature makes fools of us all just as soon as ever we try to codify our preferred social science.

There is an alternative…

Time for a different allegory!

Regarding fire-worship Wikipedia informs us thus:

Although the term “fire-worshippers” is primarily associated with Zoroastrians, the idea that Zoroastrians worship fire is originally from anti-Zoroastrian polemic. Instead, fire — even in a Fire temple (the Zoroastrian terms are more prosaic and simply mean “house of fire”) — is considered to be an agent of purity and as a symbol of righteousness and truth. In the present day this is explained to be because fire burns ever-upwards and cannot itself be polluted.

The Zoroastrians’ ‘agent of purity’ is indeed a powerful tool and bestows many benefits on humankind. The Promethean gift is also capable – of course – of bringing calamity but – unlike the sun – can and indeed must be controlled and contained.

Treated with respect fire is thus clearly in the service of man and not the other way around!

Here surely is a better model for the market – a tool for the benefit of all humanity rather than a Mammonian god that must be served.

This is where we now draw the battle lines…

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Photo by Violetta on PixabayIt would be a brave man – or indeed woman – who would attempt to argue the continued existence of Socialism in any nation state on this delicate blue/green planet.

We can discount – I think – any of those one-party (or one-man!) ‘dictatorships’ that have done their utmost to appropriate the philosophy – or even a pretense of it – just as we can any suggestion of a tenuous link with those well-meaning social democrats, who – when all is said and done – just don’t go for the whole ‘social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy’ thing.

The use of the term itself as an insult by those on the right wing of American politics when referring to anyone marginally to the left of their own position would be laughable – were it not actually somewhat scary. That such occurs is – sadly – all too redolent of the offensively patronising tone taken by the majority of those who practice politics just about anywhere on the globe these days, and helps to explain why they are – in so many parts of the world – held in such low esteem.

No – Socialism is dead! In much the same way that democracy – famously said by Churchill to be “the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried” (mind you – he also said “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter”!) – has come to be accepted by the majority of nation states as the fairest form of political organisation, so Capitalism has won the battle against all other forms of economic organisation. Most – even – of those nations that had once believed fervently in what the British Labour Party particularised in the fourth clause of its constitution had – by the end of the last century – reluctantly reached the conclusion that Capitalism in some form – along with its essential tool, the market – was the only game in town.

Was this – as posited by Francis Fukuyama in his 1992 book – ‘The End of History’?

As it turns out – it was not!

In British politics the decade whose culmination was marked by the fall of the Berlin wall and the vaporescence of Communism also saw the belated realisation by the majority of those on the left of the political spectrum that to remain true to their erstwhile ardently held beliefs was to render them effectively unelectable – quite possible ad infinitum! The fall from power of the rebarbative Margaret Thatcher was – as a result – rapidly followed by an unseemly scramble to appropriate the central tenets of her political philosophy, whilst at the same time abhorring the inevitable outcomes thereof. The centre ground was becoming a particularly crowded space.

What followed over the subsequent decade and a half – culminating in the world’s worst financial crisis for the greater part of a century – has already been widely documented. Those of us in the UK are not alone in the struggle to come to terms with the after-effects thereof and it will take much study and deep thought before a clearer picture of the future landscape will emerge. There is much to be done indeed if the political systems of the rainbow nations are ever to be rehabilitated.

A battle has been lost (or won – depending on your point of view!) – there is still a war to be fought.


And the title of this post? All will become clear…

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unequal-147925_640“No person, I think, ever saw a herd of buffalo, of which a few were fat and the great majority lean. No person ever saw a flock of birds, of which two or three were swimming in grease, and the others all skin and bone.”

Henry George

A few years back – in the days when I still regularly turned out for my local village cricket team – I underwent the following experience the which might just stand as an allegory – albeit not a particularly elegant one. I will endeavor not to blind too much with cricketing jargon – though I feel sure that the gentle reader will in any case get the point.

The village team – being composed chiefly of a blend of those of advancing years and those still wet behind the ears – plays only friendly fixtures, with the earnest intention of avoiding the over-competitiveness of league cricket. On occasion the opposition will drop out at a fairly late stage for the usual reasons – can’t raise a team… had a better offer… etc, etc – and the squad finds itself at a loose end on some sunny Sunday. There exists – fortunately – a sort of ‘fixture exchange’ mechanism by which teams that find themselves in such a position can pick up an alternative game at even quite a late stage – with some other club that has been similarly let down.

This had indeed occured on the occasion that is the subject of this parable. We thus found ourselves travelling a considerable distance to a ground with which we were not familiar, to take on a Sunday social side that we did not know.

Following our arrival it became rapidly apparent that the opposing side – although broadly akin to our own – had been augmented for our benefit by a couple of first-team players from the club’s Saturday league side – eager for a bit of practice. These guys were definitely a cut above.

We were put in to bat first and slowly and untidily attempted to accumulate a score. The problem was that we also lost wickets at regular intervals and by the time we were all out after around 30 overs we had amassed (something of an exaggeration in this case!) the pitiful total of 118 runs.

This was clearly not going to be enough, but we took to the field determined that our ragged bowling attack should give as good an account of itself as possible.

In such situations in village cricket the team batting second has a choice. The preferred option is to try to make a game of it – and to keep everybody happy in the process. This is done by promoting some of the lesser players up the batting order, secure in the knowledge that not only will more of those who have turned out get a crack with the bat, but that the match will doubtless still be won comfortably in any case.

In this instance however – and to the obvious displeasure of the remainder of their colleagues – the two league players decided instead that they would open proceedings themselves. In the ensuing carnage they knocked off the 119 runs required to win within 6 overs! This is a rate of nearly 20 runs an over – such as would be considered extraordinary even in the modern professional 20/20 game which trades on just this sort of outrageous pugilism. We spent a highly unpleasant 45 minutes clambering over barbed wire fences, struggling through bramble thickets and braving the nettle beds to retrieve the ball from the adjacent fields whence it had yet again been propelled. All the while our tormentors leant on their bats and engaged in smug conversation.

Consider this…

At the culmination of this abbreviated fixture we drove away sulkily, swearing by all the cricketing gods that we would never again play this bunch of lowlifes, and cursing that we had travelled all this way just to have our day ruined. Nine of the opposition players doubtless huddled irritably in their bar, ruminating on the fact that not only had their day’s enjoyment been hijacked by two of their own, but that there was also now no-one to stand them a round of drinks after the game – as is the custom.

And what of the terrible two? Well – any smug satisfaction that they might have gained from demonstrating their superiority must surely have been tempered by the knowledge that, a) given the difference in ability they had only done what was inevitable anyway, and b) we had not provided a sufficient test to have given them useful practice. Comes to mind the memory of the chess-swot at school who – because no-one else would play him – took to offering me a queen and two rooks start, and then still beating me in five moves!

There is – of course – a moral to this tale. That – however – can wait for another post…


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Flaming_June,_by_Fredrick_Lord_Leighton_(1830-1896)“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days”

 James Russell Lowell

Gentle readers of the regular variety will doubtless already be aware of my predilection for this season above all others.

I have waxed lyrical on more than one occasion concerning the joys – the virtues – the delights of the sumptuous months of May and June. The first fresh flowerings of summer – the crisp munchy greens of the new foliage – the delirious aroma of fresh cut grass – the scarce-remembered warmth of the sun on one’s shoulders – the caring caress of the balmy breeze – the drowsy hum of a somnolent afternoon…

…and so on…

…and so forth…

It matters scarcely a jot that in reality ‘Flaming June’ tends as often as not nowadays to the chill – the vaporous – the tenebrous… What counts are the possibilities – the promise!

And so as each day dawns we know that the sun will shine, that we will venture forth with a song in our hearts, and that all will indeed be for the best in the best of all possible worlds!

Or it would be – were it not for the fact that we have to go to work!!!

For those of us in academia these last few frantic weeks of the summer term are seldom restful. The days are ever filled with stresses and strains as a million and one things must be signed off before everyone else rushes off for a (well deserved!) long summer break.

This is just one of the many things that I eagerly – nay, hungrily – anticipate in my impending retirement…

I am looking forward to getting back my Junes!

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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon – ‘For the Fallen’


Today is – you will not need to be reminded – the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944.

This major anniversary is rendered more poignant by almost certainly being the last such on which any number of those involved on the day itself will still be alive. This pivotal event from our recent history will slip increasingly quickly into the mists of the past, to become – as has the subject of the other major anniversary this year, the start of the Great War – an event that is now only revealed to us through the history books and to which we can no longer discern a direct connection.

I was born in 1954 – a mere ten years after the events being commemorated today. At that point the memories for my parents’ generation were still razor sharp and the now familiar process of ‘reassessment’ had not yet commenced. So much has changed throughout the world since that day.

No matter how vivid are the accounts that we read – or how searingly accurate the computer-generated movie images with which we are assailed – it is now simply impossible for us to truly comprehend what it must have been like for those who were actually involved. I – for one – am most grateful that I have never been called upon to make such choices – such sacrifices.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThere is a connection with the School. Montgomery was an old boy – and when the community decamped to leafy Berkshire to ride out the Blitz the school buildings were requisitioned by the military. The Board Room was used for much of the planning of the British part of the invasion and the final conference at which the decision was taken to launch the attack was held there.

The buildings that housed the School in 1944 no longer exist – the School having moved across the river in the late 60s – but the map used by Monty and the commemorative plaques installed after the war are still extant in the current equivalent space.

These artifacts provide a lasting reminder – lest we forget…

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOn the threshold of any wholly new and momentous devoted enterprise, the thousand ulterior intricacies and emperilings to which it must conduct; these, at the outset, are mostly withheld from sight.

Herman Melville

It is a little over two years now since I first started the process of applying for Permanent Residence status for Canada, with a view to retiring to British Columbia just as soon as could feasibly be arranged. Those who have alighted on this blog in even the most transitory of fashions will doubtless be only too aware that – as a result of a series of unfortunate circumstances – the entire operation ground to a halt in the autumn of 2012 and remained in a state of hiatus until earlier this year – when the process was finally booted back into life.

I re-applied for my Police Certificate – I underwent another medical – the Kickass Canada Girl and I re-filled many, many forms – we researched and compiled yet more supporting documentation – and we paid our application processing fees online.

Well – here we are – six weeks later – and the event that I began to doubt would ever happen has finally taken place.

Today I posted my application for Canadian Permanent Residence!!



I will – naturally – keep you updated regarding progress as it happens. For now though – here is a breakdown of what we had to submit:

For the Sponsor (the Girl):

  • 1 x completed form – IMM 1344 – Application to Sponsor, Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking
  • 1 x completed form – IMM 5481 – Sponsorship Evaluation
  • 1 x completed form – IMM 5540 – Sponsor Questionnaire
  • 1 x completed form – IMM 5491 – Document Checklist – Sponsor

Supporting Documentation for form IMM 5540

  • Additional information on previous spouses
  • Details of current relationship

Receipts for fees

  • 1 x copy of the receipt for the Sponsor’s fee
  • 1 x copy of the receipt for the Principal Applicant’s processing fee

Travel Documents and Passports

  • 1 x copy of Canadian Passport.

Identity and Civil Status Documents

  • 2 x copy of previous divorce certificates
  • 1 x copy of P60 End of Year Tax Certificate
  • 1 x copy of a letter from the Girl’s employer stating salary

Intention to Re-establish in Canada Documents

  • 1 x statement of Intention to Re-establish in Canada
  • 1 x statement detailing Canadian RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans)
  • 1 x pension projection for my defined benefit pension plans
  • 1 x letter detailing mortgage on the Girl’s son’s condo in Victoria
  • 2 x copies of Property Tax Notices on Canadian properties
  • 1 x copy of estate agent’s (realtor’s) details regarding the sale of our UK property
  • 1 x copy of statement of Canadian savings accounts

For the Principal Applicant (me!):

  • 1 x completed form – IMM 008 – General Application Form for Canada
  • 1 x completed form – IMM 5669 – Schedule A – Background/Declaration
  • 1 x completed form – IMM 5406 – Additional Family Information
  • 1 x completed form – IMM 5490 – Sponsored Spouse/Partner Questionnaire

Identity and Civil Status Documents

  • 1 x copy of birth certificate
  • 1 x copy of driving license
  • 1 x copy of marriage certificate
  • 1 x copy of previous divorce certificate

Travel Documents and Passports

  • 1 x copy of passport

Proof of Relationship to Sponsor

  • 19 x copies of photographs of the two of us taken on holidays and at other events over the past 9 years
  • 6 x copies of photographs of our wedding and reception in Victoria
  • 2 x copies of photographs taken on our honeymoon
  • 6 x copies of photographs taken at our wedding blessing ceremony in the UK
  • 1 x copy of our wedding invitation
  • 1 x copy of our wedding blessing ceremony invitation
  • 1 x copy of our wedding ‘thank you’ card
  • 1 x copy of a screen-capture showing a small number of the 4000+ emails we have exchanged over the last 9 years

Police Certificates and Clearances

  • 1 x Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) – Police Certificate

Proof of Medical Examination

  • 1 x E-Medical Information Sheet completed by the clinic


  • 8 x photographs to the specification in IMM 3901 Sponsorship of a Spouse, Common-law Partner,Conjugal Partner or Dependant Child Living Outside Canada – Part 3 – Country Specific Instruction (Western Europe) – Appendix B: Photo Specifications


Amen to that – and ‘bon voyage’!

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