Pro-Test Protest

I dropped in on the Oxford demo earlier today, and caught a bit of my Magdalen colleague John Stein’s speech, followed by a bit of Evan Harris, the local MP. Not quite as big as I thought it was going to be, but good to see it happening, nevertheless.

But what really caught my attention were the police-horses. Usually I don’t like seeing police-horses on the streets of central Oxford. They’re too big, they crap everywhere that my bike tyres are likely to go, and I’m not quite sure why they’re supposed to be necessary for whatever goes on in the middle of the town. But since they’ve started appearing in the news, I’ve been paying a bit more attention, and what struck me today is that they go round in colour-coordinated groups. On the one hand, there are the big brown horses, kitted out in the kind of borderline-luminous yellow stuff that cyclists sometimes wear after dark, including natty yellow ankle bands. And on the other hand, there are the big cream or white horses, which have dark socks and big kneepads. So what’s the difference here? Is one lot for cavalry charges and the other lot for crowd control? Or something else? And is this a general phenomenon, or just confined to Oxford?

UPDATE [4pm]: Thames Valley Police has an FAQ page about its horses, but the Qs I’m interested in aren’t asked sufficiently F to make the cut. And there’s a picture of an Oxford horse with the natty ankle bands here (though this isn’t a pic from either of today’s demos).

The Grocer’s Daughter

My friend Ewen’s book about Mrs Thatcher has finally come out, so trot along to your local bookshop to buy it; it’s only £12.99. The most striking moment in the opening pages of the book is this one:

“As [John] Campbell points out, the fact that neither of her twins has any strong memories of their grandfather, who died shortly before their seventeenth birthdays, indicates that neither Grantham – nor indeed the Roberts family – loomed very large on Margaret Thatcher’s post-1951 horizon. Perhaps most telling of all in this context is an interview Thatcher gave to Brian Walden at Downing Street in January 1981. She spoke about the influence of her father upon her views and Walden asked her when he had died. Thatcher was flummoxed and asked one of the staff at No 10 to check for her. She was ‘reminded’ by this assistant that her father had died in 1970, at which point Thatcher declared that ‘He died when I was Secretary of State for Education… and a member of the Cabinet’, and she recalled his pride about this development in her career. This indicated a significant lapse of memory, for Alfred Roberts had died at the end of February 1970, which was nearly four months before Thatcher entered the Cabinet.”

— E. H. H. Green, Thatcher, p.17.

Variations on a Theme

Here’s Jean Meslier (1664-1729):

“Je voudrais, et ce sera le dernier et le plus ardent de mes souhaits, je voudrais que le dernier des rois fût étranglé avec les boyaux du dernier prêtre.”

Alternatively, in English:

“I would like, and this would be the last and most ardent of my wishes, I would like the last of the kings to be strangled with the guts of the last priest.”

Perhaps better known in a variant often attributed to Denis Diderot in something like these words:

“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

Here’s the Paris 1968 graffiti variant:

“When the last sociologist has been strangled with the guts of the last bureaucrat, will we still have ‘problems’?”

And here’s the Scottish variant by Tom Nairn that I unaccountably hadn’t come across until earlier this week:

“Scotland will only be free when the last Church of Scotland Minister has been strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post.”

Long-Legged Guitar-Pickin’ Man

Three of us enjoyed Walk the Line last night. Lots of problems with the biopic genre, or so it seems to me, but I thought Joaquin Phoenix was astonishingly good in the title role .

(Maybe more later.)

UPDATE [11.2.2006]: I don’t think I’ll add much more, except to point out to people that when Cash first auditioned at Sun records, the song that grabbed Sam Phillips’ attention wasn’t “Folsom Prison Blues” but the rather different, “Hey, Porter”, which was his first single (with “Cry, Cry, Cr” as the B-side, not the A-side, as the film suggests)..

Really Rather Good

Google Earth is now available for Mac.

One of the reasons I didn’t post much on the blog over the last few days is that what time I was spending with the computer was being spent admiring different bits of the surface of the earth, rather than wittering over here.

Someone needs to fly low over Oxford, though, and get some better snaps. It’s a pity that I can see the back porch of the Cambridge, MA flat I used to live in, and can scrutinise Cambridge, UK, on a quad-by-quad basis, only to have Oxford in general and Jericho in particular appear as a bit of a blur.

(For Jericho-from-the-air, go here.)