Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

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Saturday, November 29, 2003
Learning by minor suffering. Talking of anarchism, I totally failed my libertarian parent badge yesterday. Offspring A wants to go to a certain secondary school. Said school gives percentage of places to those who pass an aptitude test. School claims that aptitude test cannot be prepared for. "Disbelieving Expletive B," says Mother C (me) when presented with this claim. "That's just to discourage pushy middle class parents like yours, my sweet, from doing what I am about to do and coaching you for the test to within an inch of your life." And so I did, way beyond the point when Offspring A was sick of it and me. Did it work? I won't know for weeks. My guesses as to what the test would involve seem to have been quite accurate. Was it a good idea in the long term? I won't know for years.

The problem was that Offspring wanted to have been prepared for the test, but not to prepare for it then and there. But then and there were where we were. Time had slipped by, like the sneaky little so-and-so it is.

I do have a lot of respect for Alice Bachini's philosophy of learning without coercion. The statement "I have respect for opinion X" is almost always accompanied by a coda saying that said respect doesn't actually extend to implementation, and I suppose I've demonstrated that by my actions.

Enough of the guilt already! On from the personal to the political - always a relief, I find.

One of the ways human beings learn is by suffering reverses and disappointments. Your clay pot has a crack: you should have dried it more slowly. You miss the bus: you should have left the house earlier. What should happen is that one gets the opportunity to fail in small doses as one grows up, so that you really internalise the idea that actions have consequences. It's a dangerous thing to reach adulthood and still think that someone will always make it OK. My habit of procrastination stems from not being able to bring myself to believe that bad things would happen to me - to me, the star of my show - if I didn't speed up. I've known one or two people who have been fired from their jobs; they have all said that to some extent they saw the axe falling but didn't quite believe it would ever land.

[Pause. Goes away from computer for a bit. Comes back later. ]

You know, I've lost track of where this post was heading. It was all the fault of schools and welfare somehow. And coercion. Like I just did. Oh well, worse things happen at sea.

ADDED SUNDAY: As luck would have it, Alice linked specifically to two websites with which she was involved on the subject of non-coercive parenting today and I've had a rare moment of sympathy with pro-Communist intellectuals of the forties and fifties.

Yes, you read that right. The two halves of the previous sentence are linked despite appearances to the contrary. The link arises because I've just realised what I am: a "fellow traveller"; a non-coercive parenting/education fellow traveller. I don't really believe in it myself, but I'm curious about it and I wish it well. My moment of sympathy with the communist fellow-travellers arises because I had always assumed that when they said they were not communists themselves they were simply lying on the orders of their master, Stalin. OK, so now I know from my own experience that such an attitude is possible. That ends the moment of sympathy. They were still cosying up to a mass-murderer.

It's been a blugger bomming recently... Sorry, I'll say that again. It's been a bummer blogging recently. And I'm not at Perry's Blogger bash due to circumstances unforseen. So wah. However my mood was lightened by this post from Andy Duncan. There is something mood-lightening about discovering a new idea that ought to have been obvious but wasn't. Have you ever wanted to see a libertarian society in action? You can. Every Saturday.

Monday, November 24, 2003
Free Unread E-mail Guilt Available Here. I have a guilt surplus and will happily send some of mine to anyone who asks. Limited supplies of Missed Opportunity Paranoia also available.

Let's have higher crime figures for ethnic minorities! That seems to be the thinking behind the decision by the Welsh authorities, specifically the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), whoever they might be, to launch a new War on Ethnic Food Without A License. When Welsh farmers start a new line catering for West Africans' desire for a taste of home you'd think they'd get a nice write-up in the local paper praising their enterprise and multi-cultural awareness, wouldn't you? But the BBC seems to regard it as a problem - indeed, a whole new category of crime, "meat crime":
Mafia-like criminal gangs are making huge profits from the illegal meat trade with little risk of being caught and punished.
Could the huge profits be because of the illegality and the smallness of the risk be because nobody but a few busybodies cares?
Wales is becoming the centre for the illegal production of so-called smokies - a delicacy made from carcasses which are primitively blow-torched.
Mmm, smokies sound pretty tasty to me, and I don't see what's so primitive about the carcasses being blowtorched; a thoroughly modern culinary technique if ever there was one. (How exactly does one blowtorch meat sophisticatedly, anyway?) It is odd to see the BBC, usually so careful to avoid any association of Africa with primitiveness, throwing in the word merely as insult, and illogical insult at that.

The final horror is yet to come:

Julie Barratt, CIEH director for Wales, said people resorted to meat crime - in particular producing smokies - as a means of "supplementing their incomes".
Evil, evil. We must put a stop to that immediately.

We're not sad, just organised.

Me: "Why, O husband, are you dissassembling that old central heating pump on the kitchen floor, seeing as it is old and destined for the dustbin and is, moreover, exceedingly dirty?"

Husband: "I'm getting the screws out."

Me: "O Light of My Life, is it not the case that in yonder garage you have screws of every possible thread and pitch, both of the normal and the Phillips head, even unto the number of several million?"

Husband: "These aren't just any screws. They're cap-headed. Extra strong. There's 50p's worth of screws here."

Me: "Oh... right. You'll want something to keep them in, then. Fortunately I've got just the thing in my plastic bag collection. "

How To Be Kulchured: close mind, open mouth. ARC writes:
...we sometimes watch the BBC's 'The Big Read', in which 3 books each evening are defended by afficionados and viewer votes gradually determine a supposed top twenty one ('The Lord of the Rings' and 'Pride and Prejudice' currently occupy slots one and two). Last night we heard David Dimbleby and Alan Tichmarsh defend 'Great Expectations' and 'Rebecca', after which there was an amusing display of pride (or arrogance) and prejudice (or sheer asinine stupidity) from Jo Brand on '1984'. The little I've heard of her previously suggests she is not very funny when trying to be, but she was richly unconsciously comic last night. While the others talked mostly of their book, she divided her 15 minutes more evenly between the book, some events in her past, and her current political concerns, chiefly the Iraq war. Now, I can imagine someone claiming that although Saddam's regime had certain resemblances to that in '1984', and although Orwell damned the 'flabby pacifism' of the left of his day in telling phrases, yet his approval of using war to end totalitarian regimes would not have extended to the Iraq war; it would be a difficult argument but perhaps an honest opponent of the war could make something of it. She, however, gave a very convincing impression of someone to whom this elementary thought had simply never occurred. In an amusing example of double-think, she appeared to have avoided, but without ever letting herself be consciously aware of it, the thought that some in her audience might perceive more resemblances between the '1984' regime and Saddam's than between it and George Bush's. I was reminded of those intellectuals who were angered by Reagan's 'evil empire' remark, the fact that the Soviet Union was an empire, and by historical standards an evil one, never having been allowed entrance to their minds.
Forgive me for quoting myself, but I was immediately reminded of this post from June 11, about an American anti-war writer by the name of Joyce Marcel who had blithely quoted Shelley's Ozymandias in support of her position:
Shelley wrote about an absolute ruler... who once ruled over a desert country of the east and caused its enslaved people to raise monuments to his own glory... who called himself by vainglorious titles designed to show his might and power... whose statue was cast down... whose fate serves as a warning to tyrants everywhere.

The poets know how difficult it can be to break out of an obsession, but perhaps if she [Marcel] really, really concentrates she might think of someone in the news recently who fits that profile better than George W. Bush.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Nothing. (As my mother used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, say nothing.")

Apart from the fact that I can't find my staple gun, I seem to be having a particularly productive, busy and happy time at the moment. Which is one reason why I'm finding it hard to blog. My supplies of rancour, bile, disdain and fury are running low - not even preening teenage demonstrators can get my teeth gnashing like they used to. (Poor little chicks, so many fewer little friends along to play than they were promised.) Whither blogging, if this lasts, eh? And whither my staple gun?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. How unbelievably ghastly. The latest government plan for saving the education system is for every child to go to summer camp courtesy of the taxpayer. A pilot scheme was successful and so they are all convinced that a burst of wholesome exercise and outdoor living will send the young lads and lasses home flushed and happy for some reason other than the usual Ecstasy tablet / successful shoplifting expedition / fornication.

So we're back to ten mile runs and outdoor living, eh? What's the betting that next year's miracle cure is the long-neglected educational virtue of cold showers.

These poor deluded innoncents never seem to figure out that experimental pilot schemes frequently succeed because they are pilot schemes; i.e. new and not offered to everybody. Remember Home-School Contracts? When some head teacher first thought up that wheeze it probably did work well. Gosh, thought the kids and the parents, a contract, we better take this seriously. But once every child in the country gets one in his school bag at at the end of the first day back it becomes just another bit of paper to sign.

(Incidentally, aren't the lyrics to Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah dire? You really need to do the voice for it to work.)

"France vows to fight hate crime" - after the firebombing of a Jewish school. Can I resist saying, "About time too"? No.

I must apologise to my readers for a disgraceful lapse in the post below. To my embarrassment I neglected to include the ritual mention of female superiority. Not once in the entire post did I mention something I can do better than my husband. I really don't know how I came to make such a dreadful mistake. Please do be assured, male readers, that using only the merest smidgeon of my mighty physical and mental powers I could boil your puny male carcasses into their component atoms. Thank you.

Saturday, November 15, 2003
I can't. Sorry, Brian, but I just can't oblige.

There are two reasons for this: (a) I've blanked it out. I can't even remember if the problem to do with the header tank and the problem to do with the ballcock stop valve were connected, physically or metaphorically. The header tank is either full or empty, whichever it should be, but nonetheless the central heating heateth not and we still can't use the lavatory.¹

Never mind - literally in my case. My mind never can seem to hold onto details about plumbing or building or electricity.² The only reason I know that the ballcock stop valve isn't called the ballstop cock valve is that even plumbers of the sort who leave us to freeze while callously earning thousands retro-fitting some rich git's bathroom to resemble a boarding school shower room circa 1950 wouldn't stoop that low. My highly evolved brain steers all thoughts of stallpock bop valves to the back door almost as soon as they come in through the front. Our household would not pass the sexism check in a modern textbook: although my husband can cook with the best³ and I can wield a rifle or a cordless drill with the, er, respectable third or fourth best, basically it still comes down to Man Stuff and Wifely Duties. Speaking Unto Plumbers is not a Wifely Duty. If I were to give segments of my brain independent commands the sad, passed-over one-star General in charge of plumbing, new garage roofs and the like would have the title NoToDoWiNat.

Where was I? Oh, (b). I gave you an (a) earlier and for every (a) there has to be a (b), which would be a good Cole Porter line. In fact (b) is that the collapse of the garage roof was lot less dramatic than I have made out. Know the awful truth: this blog lies for laughs. Long neglected-multiple leaks causing chunks of sodden chipboard to fall from ceiling just didn't hack it dramatically. And I traduced the plumber; he didn't actually forbid us with menaces to call another plumber, only inertia and a masochistic British pleasure in wood fires and hot water bottles stop us doing so. The bit about the 1950s school shower room is also pure invention. Although people really do do that; I've seen it in house magazines. Futile, really, since Matron must be 90 by now.

However the good news, if you can believe it given my record of mendacity, is that now we have a pitched garage roof. Let us consider for a moment the entire sweep of European and world architectural history over the last twenty thousand years. Buildings have been raised in stone, wood, reeds, wattle and daub, concrete and brick. The purposes of these edifices were equally varied: home, barn, church or temple, workplace or fort. What principles can they possibly have had in common?4; I'll tell you one: if it's rainy where you live, mate, make the bleedin' roof slope. So of course our house just had to be built in the thirty years when architects had decided that Essex was Yucatan and flat was the new slopy. Anyway, three excellent chaps came, jointly we drank tea and sneered at the EU and safety harnesses, and severally I sewed and they built roof. Then I signed cheque. Wifely Duties stretch that far.

Oh, poot. The whole point of this post was "I can't describe my domestic miseries" and now I just have.

¹Do not think sad thoughts. We have other lavatories, any number of 'em as Toad said of his children while pretending to be a washerwoman. But all the working lavatories have cold lino floors and, as I may have mentioned, the central heating is centrally kaput.

² Or, come to think of it, anything else. I felt an instant sympathy with the historian who confessed in a magazine article that once her books were safely with the publisher she invariably forgot half the dates and details in which she had been a world expert while still writing. I'd like to link to her article but I have, of course, forgotten who she was.

³ He went into a sort of male-bonding ecstasy when he read Jonathan Gewirtz's comment to Instapundit that "Dude, I've got two favorite tools: my Glock and my Cuisinart." I'm with you on the Glock, Jonathan.

4Besides the fact that unexpected complications have caused them to run over budget.

Thursday, November 13, 2003
Whew. I'm sorry that a combination of circumstances has kept me away from the computer for several days. Would you like to hear about the pump on our boiler, our header tank and the partial collapse of our garage roof? No, thought not.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Laban Tall covered the same Scottish terror kid story I did and then went and found some seriously weird links. The one I linked to doesn't have sapphists in it. Or bagpipes.

UPDATE: Russians have a sense of humour, sense of humour, sense of humour. I don't know if there's some Russian-language pun I'm missing, but Pravda's treatment of the story seems tickled to death (sorry) by the aromatherapy angle.

In any case, if it was the Scottish national liberation army, it was a success in the awful action. Now it is going to be popular all over the world. Scotland Yard has faced a complex task of neutralizing the terrorists, otherwise the British prime minister will be cured to death with aroma therapy.

What made them boo, the adultery or the colour of the co-respondent? (Do we still have "co-respondents"? There used to be such things as co-respondent shoes, which presumably were particularly flash.) I'm not citing Kwame Kwei-Armah's column in the Guardian yesterday to disagree with it, exactly, although he does seem to miss the point somewhat. He, like me, thinks this is a sad story:
A smiling and proud Bernie [Grant] walked on to the stage. But instead of being greeted with the love and affection one would have expected, particularly from this crowd of "conscious black folk", (conscious being the term used to describe one who has awaken from the slumber of political apathy) he was met by a barrage of boos and hisses. It didn't stop until he got to the end of his two-minute speech. Even from the back where I was seated one could see the pain in his eyes. Here was a man who had dedicated his life to this community, thus consigning his political career to the margins of the then Labour party. The reason for the booing? Bernie had just left his wife of 20 years or so and was now living with his secretary. He was booed for that? Of course what I omitted to mention was that Bernie's wife was black and the woman he had moved in with was white, a highly treasonable offence to the assembled crowd.
That seems to make it clear that Grant's offence in the crowd's eyes was not his abandonment of his wife - I would have some sympathy for their boos if it were - but that he shacked up with a white woman. Racism, in other words. Imagine if Robin Cook's sometime mistress and now second wife had been black, and those who upbraided him had done so on grounds of miscegenation rather than adultery! Kwei-Armah says that the reaction of the crowd made his heart retreat to a place of great sadness. I sypmathise. Then he loses the plot. In the next paragraph he goes on to say:
This was not really an issue of black and white but one of perceived notions of right and wrong. To them, he had betrayed a fundamental principle, and on the surface, yes I can see that. But to me some things are too important, too fundamental to the essence of our being to be denied. Love is one, your children's education is the other. It would have been all too easy for Bernie to have cancelled his appearance that night, but he didn't. He didn't because in my opinion he saw the bigger picture. The fact that Bernie remained married to "his secretary" until he died is testament to that.
The talk of "perceived notions of right and wrong" and "he had betrayed a fundamental principle" now seems seems to be saying that it's the adultery that was the problem. Kwame Kwei-Armah can't be saying that yes, he can see that not shagging white women is a fundamental principle, can he? The rest of the article then expounds his view that love, like your children's education, should override all other principles. For myself I think that, unlike Grant or Cook, Diane Abbott could make all well by announcing that in the light of personal experience she has changed her principles and is sorry for unfair remarks she made in her previous state of error.

Sunday, November 02, 2003
And let's not forget it's also happy blogiversary to them.

So it's happy blogiversary to me... As Iain Murray has pointed out, I am two today, blogivistically speaking. And as Kris Murray has pointed out in the post above, Iain is twenty-one-and-a-bit today as well. I think it may be time for a re-enactment of the sign-off line from The Two Ronnies... and Happy Birthday to him.

Saturday, November 01, 2003
Scottish terror kid gets three years. Hope this isn't a harbinger of things to come.
Smith also admitted sending packages containing a substance which claimed to be a eucalyptus aromatherapy oil, along with instructions to rub the substance onto the face and hands.

It was actually caustic soda, which can burn the skin and damage the throat and stomach lining if inhaled.

Packages were sent to the prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair, and to Margaret Ashcroft, an aide to Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles. No-one was injured.

Edgar Prais QC, defending, said his client had been ordered to send the packages by the head of an anti-English Scottish terrorist organisation, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

He argued that Smith had been "naive, gullible and immature" but not "callous".

I know it's a defence barrister's job to, well, defend his client but the caustic soda bit sounds fairly callous to me.

I probably haven't read your email. I probaby will read your email eventually. I've been busy carving pumpkins, cooking Evil Chocolate Spider Biscuits and Blood Rice and making a costume for a wraith of the underworld.

Do you get angry when your country is insulted? I do. I suspect that it is an under-reported but very real motive for supporting the war in Iraq and related causes. This post by Paul Marks is ostensibly about reasons not to admire Halifax's conduct prior to WWII, but then veers off into interesting and honest self-examination.
I do not like socialist dictators (such as the ex-dictator of Iraq) - I dislike their torturing and killing of the local population and (if I am to be honest) I, at gut level, dislike their insulting Britain and the United States at least as much as I dislike their 'human rights abuses'. People I do not know torturing and killing other people I do not know is something I condemn (even if I suspect that the people who are being tortured and killed would also be torturers and killers, if they had the chance) - but people insulting Britain or the United States or the West generally is what really makes me angry.

Surely, anger at insults should not be one's primary motive - but is it defensible? I can't decide. Creditable or not, it is the way people are.