Sunday, 28 November 2010

Bustling over large balls

For at least seven hundred years efforts have been made to stop people playing football. Sadly, this noble cause has never had much success.

In 1314 the Mayor of London issued the following proclamation on behalf of King Edward II:
For as much as there is great noise in the city caused by bustling over large balls...from which many evils might arise which God forbid: We command and forbid on behalf of the king, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in future.

In 1349, Edward III sent a letter of complaint to the sheriffs of London declaring that "the skill of shooting with arrows was almost totally laid aside for the purpose of useless and unlawful games such as football."  The danger attending the pastime occasioned King James I of England, in the rules drawn up by himself for the recreations of his son Henry Prince of Wales, to give the following instructions:
From this court I debarre all rough and violent exercises, as the foote-ball. meeter for laming than making able the users thereof; but the exercises I would have you to use, although but moderately, not making a craft of them, are running, leaping, wrestling, fencing, dancing, and playing at the caitch, or tennise, archerie, palle-malle and suchlike other fair and pleasant field-games.

Richard II in 1389 and Henry IV in 1401 tried again to little avail.

In 1424, under James I of Scotland, an Act of Parliament was passed outlawing the game:
It is statute, and the king forbiddis. that na man play at the fute-ball under the paine of fiftie schillings, to be raised to the lord of the land als oft as he be tainted. or to the scheriffe of the lands or his ministers if the lords will not punish sik trespassours.

(On the other hand, in 1526 Henry VIII ordered a pair of football boots of leather, handstitched by the Royal Cordwainer; they cost four shillings. But perhaps he was more serious about footwear than football: at the same time he ordererd seventy-seven other pairs of boots, buskins, shoes and slippers.)

It is regrettable that our later sovereigns did not attempt to continue this salutary if fruitless campaign, and it seems unlikely that the Windsors will ever renew it.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Yin, yang and qi in the workshop

In a post headed Karma Kanic the blogger Crispian Jago gives an account of the New Age Vehicle Well-Running Centre, which applies entirely new procedures to car maintenance. It is summarised as follows:
Unlike mainstream mechanics who seem to have little time for their customers and focus on the specific faults of your car, alternative mechanics will take a holistic approach to your car's well-running by using traditional and natural repair techniques that enhance your vehicle's whole engine, body and petroleum spirit.

The technical leaflet he reprints is a little difficult to read unless you enlarge it, but here are the headings to some of the notes detailing the various procedures used:

Drive shaft Manipulation; Torsion Healing; Ayurvedic Mechanics; Tyreology; Exhaust Candling; Wax & Polish Therapy; Anti Service.

The last item refers to the fact that the regular servicing of your car simply pumps it full of toxic oil and brake fluid and feeds the profit of conventional garages. Some studies have shown a link between new car servicing and incorrect valve clearance.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

When This Lousy War is Over

This song was not sung during any of the recent remembrance ceremonies.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Soldiers of the King, Part Three

Continued from  HERE . 
We stopped in Malta for a night and luxuriated in a fine drizzle, the first rain I had seen for more than a year. On landing in England we were deposited in Tottenham Court Road underground station which was being used as a rather cosy holding camp.

There we heard the news that Lilibet had replaced Bertie, which  meant that I had become a Soldier of the Queen. This made me feel rather Victorian; I imagined myself and my men, bayonets fixed, red jackets with brass buttons gleaming in the African sun, advancing fearlessly under a shower of assegais, ready to give the Matabele horde a real pasting. But, of course, I would have been no use at that sort of thing.

The War Office Selection Board was not too difficult for me; my fellow candidates were mostly rather callow youths so although I lacked the aristocratic background of most of them my advanced age, deep tan and camel flashes gave me some kind of cachet which enabled me to compete. Anyway, I passed.

Then, finally, I found myself at last where I had been trying to get to for most of my military career, Mons Officer Cadet School, where I became one of the 40,000 cadets who passed through the hands of the legendary Regimental Sergeant-Major R Brittain, MBE, Coldstream Guards, a fearsome but basically kindly man. He had become the best-known soldier in the country, having appeared in a number of films, some in a character part and some as himself; he was very proud of this and if he saw eyes straying as he strolled down the ranks standing to attention he would bark "Don't look at me! If you want to see me, go to the pictures".

We spent a lot of time standing to attention and I still remember the mantra which tells you exactly how to assume the position:

It is worrying to think that there are now two generations of young and not-so-young men who have no idea how to do this; lacking this skill and some others, they will be absolutely nonplussed if they are ever called up to defend us from Mongol hordes, or a nuclear-armed rogue state, or whoever.

I enjoyed the fourteen weeks at Mons and after it was over not only was I able at last to put on the hat I had coveted for so long (I lashed out and had one made to measure; it cost me a weeks' pay) and the little stick, and at the passing-out parade I got to carry a (blunt) sword and give the order to fix bayonets.

But my pleasure in such glories was short-lived: the only really remarkable thing about my two years' National Service was that after all the messing about on the Suez Canal only ten weeks elapsed between gaining a commission and being demobbed.

[*I have just seen in newsreel film of Cameron's visit to Beijing a shot of the Guard of Honour in their very pretty uniforms, being inspected. They do not keep their eyes to the front at all, but turn their heads Mexican-wave fashion as he passes. This is impressive but slightly creepy.] 

Monday, 8 November 2010

Così Fan Tutte, or most of them

In my last post I described a little test I made to see if it was true that women are more superstitious than men. Knowing that among my readers are a number of otherwise sensible women who would find it totally unacceptable that I should consider the suggestion valid, I fully expected that one or more of them would take issue with me.

But none have done so. On the contrary, one comment came from an irresponsible barfly friend of mine called Grumio, who treated the project with typical flippancy, and another from Outeast, one of OMF's wise and percipient regular readers who has taken the trouble to conduct some more serious research to confirm or disprove my point. He used a datafile from the American 1972-2008 General Social Survey, a very useful tool for this kind of research, though he points out that the data relates only to men and women in the USA, so it may be that any conclusion drawn from it 'reflects primarily a cultural construct rather than anything innate', and he makes a couple of other caveats.

My own conclusion seems to be well supported: Women believe in weird things more than men do.

[I know nothing of Outeast's background, as he has always refused to reveal anything at all about himself. He is probably male but for all I know may be a Harvard Professor of Philosophy or possibly a Uyghur herdsman. Anyway, I am grateful both to him and to Grumio: they have cheered me up after a week of bad news from the U.S.]

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

So you're a Scorpio? Wow!

Some time ago ago I carried out a little survey to try to establish whether or not women, in general, taking it by and large, on the whole and with reservations, might be thought to be—or tend to be—more, perhaps marginally, superstitious than men. This was a frivolous exercise, and I did not imagine anyone would consider it tendentious or even take it seriously.

But I was wrong. My conclusion ("Yes, possibly") evidently festered in the mind of an acquaintance of mine until she could rein in her contempt no longer, and now, four years later, she has sent me an email expressing the view that what I had written was monstrously unreasonable, bigoted, mendacious and shameful, though supplying no evidence to support her contention that my conclusion was wrong.

This attack has hurt me deeply. While I am prepared to admit that such strictures could be applied with some truth to much of the content of OMF, I do not believe they can be levelled at the post in question, so over the past few days during which I had few major commitments (any fewer, and there would have been no need for me to get up in the mornings), I have gone to the trouble of repeating the enquiry using a larger sample.

It was based on the same premise as the earlier survey: that the desire to reveal your astrological sign to the world by noting it in your blog profile indicates a belief that this information says something interesting about you. There is no reason to believe this unless you think that there is something in astrology and that it is not just silly rubbish; in other words you have at least one superstitious belief.

So I looked at a hundred blogs which feature a personal profile, fifty written by women and fifty by men. Of these, 11 (22%) of the men and 36 (72%) of the women list their astrological sign.

This does not prove that women are more than three times as likely as men to be superstitious, of course: such a conclusion would be quite unwarranted.