Thursday, January 21, 2016

Off My Chest

It seems I haven't blogged for a month.  Not sure why, perhaps a sense of impending doom - certainly I'm not looking forward to the Assembly elections or the Euro vote.  What a choice we have with the Euro vote. Brexit means more Nato, more TTIP but then so does staying in EU.  My preference would be an independent Wales outside both of these organisations, but no-one's campaigning for that.  On balance Brexit at least allows the possibility of extracting Wales from the union.  After all Scotland was allowed a referendum.  If you think that Brussels would ever permit the emergence of new states then you're deluded.  I think Plaid supporters are also deluding themselves if they think that this year's Assembly election will prove be a breakthrough.

Foyles on the Wye

It shows how out of touch I am with local affairs that I only recently learnt - from Jacothenorth's admirable blog - that the Maesllwch Arms has, with the help of public money, been rebranded as Foyles of Glasbury.  The old pub took its name from the nearby gentry house, originally occupied by a branch of the Vaughan family but which passed through many hands before being purchased in 1772 by Walter Wilkins of Brecon; a man who had made his fortune in India where he was governor of Chittagong.  In the 19C the house was rebuilt as Maesllwch Castle and the Wilkins family itself adopted the surname De Winton - they never felt the need to rename their seat though.

I can't say I'm much vexed by this rebranding, the Welsh Government's investment might even prove worthwhile in terms of local employment.  It's interesting that of the 19 living-in servants at the Castle in 1871 only 4 were locals, so any improvement on that would be a bonus.  These minor symptoms of anglicisation mask a deeper malaise - a national party that's afraid to offend the liberal wing of imperialism springs to for example.

Back in the early 70s I would occasionally frequent a then cluttered Foyles bookshop, a look at my book case shows some slim volumes of Anglo-Welsh poetry purchased there along with a Soviet book on the National Question.  I never purchased an expensive and heavy four volume facsimile set of the Poor Man's Guardian although I was sorely tempted on each visit.  Interestingly radicalism is so out of fashion nowadays those four books are relatively cheap on the second-hand market, certainly my Welsh language rock albums seem to have proved a far better investment.

I can never say I felt comfortable at Foyles, much the same feeling as I experience in the bookshops of Hay - it's all far too foreign.  Foyles of Glasbury should do well if it attracts the same clientele.

The Markets

There was a time when a poor man could make a small living by playing the markets.  You bought Investors Chronicle and checked out the expected results for the week ahead.  Then you got up at the crack of dawn, looked for a company that had exceeded expectations and instructed your broker to buy.  Later in the day the big boys would move in and the following day's papers would drag in smaller buyers.  This was the sign to sell and the beauty of the settlement date in those days meant you didn't even have to touch your bank account - instead your broker would send you a cheque.

You could even reassure yourself that you were performing a  socially useful function by providing liquidity to the market. The stock market itself resolved the contradiction between the borrower who wanted long term funds at the lowest possible cost and the investor who desired immediate access to their money combined with historically high returns.  In the same way the options and futures markets provided a degree of certainty to the real economy with the help of speculators.  That was then.  Today the speculators have taken over at the expense of the real economy and the tax-payer who foots the bill for their gambles.  These people should have been burnt a decade ago (another argument in favour of capitalism was that the stupid should go to the wall) but instead they were bailed out.

Eleanor Bull

While checking out that Foyles of Glasbury nonsense I came across Eleanor Bull, in whose house the playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe was killed.  Of course Wikipedia describes her as an English woman although Clifford where she was born was a Welsh speaking parish in the 16C.  Was she the niece or great niece of Queen Elizabeth's confidante Blanche Parry?  If her mother was Sybil Parry as the article says then she was a niece.  Eleanor's family background, the Whitneys, the Parrys, the Vaughans were all bardic patrons.  Her grandmother/great grandmother Alice Milbourne was an exception being described by the bard Hywel Dafi as a tall, aging girl of Rowena's seed, advising her future husband to chose a slim 20 year old Welsh girl rather than the daughter of the Englishman of the Shire.  The late John Davies described the Herefordshire borderlands as being a Welsh irredenta, it deserves more attention.