Saturday 22 July 2023

Uxbridge clarity?


Our existential threat is from climate change.  This summer’s areas of extreme heat and of ice sheet melting make it feel as if we have already passed a tipping point.

But our Government does not see electoral advantage in carrying through truly radical policies.  Such policies are certainly not on the list of priorities it repeats ad nauseam.  Its most radical recent new legislation has been to suppress protests about this.  This week’s successful by-election campaign focussed on opposing a specific environmental policy. 

It is actually impossible really to quantify the last of these.  This is for the usual reason that reduced turnout and protest and tactical voting makes a distorting mirror of any by-election.  It is also for the unique reason that the last General Election was won by a showman with a single issue slogan which raised his party’s support to 29% of registered voters, and it was he who was elected here then. 

I suspect that the active opposition to the extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (as opposed to the wider spread passive resentment of it) wasn’t as large as all that. 

How many people actually voted Conservative in Uxbridge because they were already committed to supporting the Government?  How many more did so because they wanted to oppose the Zone extension?

The number of registered voters who voted Conservative was 21% (compared with 12% in Frome and 15% in Selby).  So, a wild guess would be, the core Conservative vote was about 10% and the extra anti-ULEZ vote was about 10% - whilst four-fifths of the registered voters didn’t vote Conservative at all.

But the 10% mattered – it mattered because the seat would have been lost without it – and it matters now as the source of the calls today to halt the Zone extension (despite the estimated 4000 London annual excess deaths attributed to air pollution) and row back on green policies generally (despite the evidence beneath our noses of the existential threat).

And, to be up front myself, I type here while conflicted about the approaching dates which will outlaw my gas boiler and petrol car. 

The thirty year old boiler failed here at the end of last year and my superficial effort to identify an affordable alternative to replacing it failed (although the installer of my new gas boiler reassured me that its much greater efficiency makes a significant difference).

I keep thinking about replacing or even doing without the twelve year old car but fail to act because I’m equally mesmerised by the cost and infrastructure problems of doing so (although I’ve sharply reduced my use of it by walking and taking public transport, and we did avoid flying when we went to Sicily in 2019).

Tuesday 11 July 2023

St Andrew's, Little Steeping


Just two highlights from a hugely rewarding trip yesterday  to Little Steeping Church on the edge of a village near Spilsby not far from where Wold meets Fen.  The pictures seem to have gone up in the reverse order I intended; the memorial is just about readable if you click on it to bring it up bigger.

The Fourteeth Century effigy is of Thomas of Reading, the Rector who had the present church built.  It is in such good condition because at some point it was turned upside down and used as the chancel step.  A Victorian restoration discovered it free from the wear and vandalism it might otherwise have suffered in previous centuries.

Thomas is at the bottom right in the 1913 east window, a memorial to Edward Steere, the Rector who was initiator of that restoration, and later the Bishop of Zanzibar who personally supervised the building of the Anglican Cathedral there omn the site of the disused Slave Market.  It was his memorial I had gone to see.  His linguistic and printing skills in particular brought Swahili scripture into being.   

The detail at the bottom centre of the window is his ordaining John Swedi deacon (it says the first such Anglican ordination in Africa, but I think west Africa got in there first).  The striking choice is to have the Seventh Century Abbot Hadrian of Canterbury, an African scholar, pictured on the left as if watching the ordination.

Saturday 1 July 2023



The previous Bredwardine and Tintern pictures were not the result of a literary pilgrimage but part of a short tour aimed at taking in the Herefordshire border country from which my finally identified genetic ancestors came, a grandfather born in Pencoyd and his father and grandparents born in Garway.

I hadn’t realised the extent to which (in the same way that the Anglo-Scottish border has ‘debatable lands’) the Anglo-Welsh border was not fully defined.  The Welsh sounding name Pencoyd (and the neighbouring Llanwern) is one hint.  The history on the wall inside Garway church was another hint: the Bishop of Hereford received complaints in the Fourteenth Century that their parish priest could not be understood by the majority of his parishioners because he only spoke English.

The next bit of the border country to the north is the old March of Ewyas, parts of whose lands were allocated across both Welsh and English shires in the Sixteenth Century, and a number of whose parishes on the present English side were only transferred from the diocese of St David’s to that of Hereford in the Ninteenth Century.

Garway Church (among the 1000 best in the country according to Sir Simon Jenkins) here is a Templar foundation and the photo does not really catch how substantial their tower was, with a circular nave next to it since replaced by the present church.