Lords of the Pod

Today the House of Lords launched a new podcast, hosted by internal communications officer Amy Green and head of research services Matt Purvis.

The first episode focused on the way in which the house had reorganised itself due to the pandemic. The hosts began by talking among themselves to get novice listeners up to speed on the basics, as well as plugging the House of Lords Library. The Lord Speaker was then interviewed about his role and that of the institution more generally in scrutinising government and amending laws.

The Baroness Penn, currently Baby of the House, was appointed a Baroness-in-Waiting and Government Whip on 9 March, told of how her first speech in that capacity was made not from the despatch box in the chamber but from her own kitchen.

The Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall, a deputy speaker, spoke of the difficulties of adjusting at short notice to the new working conditions, with some of the woolsack team not being able to physically attend and others having to be hurriedly trained in the new system without ever having learned the old one.

The Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, Chair of the Public Services Committee, talks about Britain’s ill-preparedness for the pandemic due to lack of prior action on issues such as poverty and obesity, which otherwise might have softened the effects of the virus.

The next episode is due a month from now. The topic has not yet been announced.

Tower Talk At Haven Arms

Simon Tower

Tonight my father gave a presentation at the Haven Arms in Hedon concerning the ongoing restoration work at Paull Holme Tower, attended by the Hedon Viewfinders photography club and some extended family.

My father acquired the tower in the early 1990s, when it was little more than a pile of old bricks. My childhood was sprinkled with the occasional visit to this mysterious ruin, with its decaying castellations, its perilous stairs and its grass-covered roofline.

In this decade my father stepped up his efforts to effect a restoration, including opening the tower to members of the public. I was roped in to produce visual aids and, on occasion, dig out decades of dung from the ground floor.

In 2015 my father began efforts to produce a documentary series about the restoration, often enlisting me as cameraman. In 2017 we met with Estuary TV and secured a broadcast deal. At tonight’s presentation we were shown extensive clips from upcoming episodes.

The moment of triumph came late in 2016, when Historic England gave us a grant for the restoration work. Even so, the process of rebuilding took a long time to commence, due to seasonal weather difficulties, the need to produce a very specific type of brick, and unpleasantness from neighbours. The most significant changes have occurred since last summer, which annoyingly means that I was not around to see them. The tower now stands noticeably taller than it did for most of my life, for there is at last a roof as well as restored castellations. We also have a new entrance gate and gravel driveway for ease of access.

After the main presentation, attendees showed off their own photographs of the tower, some dating back centuries. There was even a brief discussion about my pet topic of heraldry, as historians tried to date the tower by the display of the Holme-Wastney arms surrounded by Tudor roses.

Though there has been much dithering with authorities, my father still intends to open the tower again once work is complete. No doubt I will be roped in to film that as well.

USEFUL LINKS

 

A Temp’s Lament

An old woman with thick white hair sits in a sunny garden with a cup of tea.
I am a temp,
I’ve no desk of my own.
When you’re on holiday
I answer your phone.
If I am lucky
You’ve left me your key,
But many a time
You couldn’t forsee
You wouldn’t be there
And they’d phone to Charlotte;
Help! we need a temp,
Please you have you got?
I’m having a bath
Or cleaning a floor,
But I drop everything
And I dash out the door.
I arrive at your desk
But can’t open the drawers.
With what do they think
I can do all my chores?
But I am a temp
And I have a large bag.
Its certainly heavy
And that is the snag
But in it I keep
All the tools of my trade,
Pens, pencils and rulers,
No typewriter I’m afraid.
For that is one thing
I’d love of my own.
Two months on a QWERTY
Now AZERTY – don’t moan.
For I am a temp
With you only a while
And whatever the problem
It’s done with a smile.
Written 15th June 1982
by Pauline Taylor (1927-2018)

Long To Reign Over Us

A dark-haired woman of 19 in a military uniform stands in from of a green truck with a large red cross on the right face.

HRH The Princess Elizabeth in April 1945.

Not many people, even among royalty, make it to the age of ninety years. George III and Victoria both expired at 81, while the first Elizabeth was a source of amazement for living to 69. Indeed, many a sovereign has died rather young – Henry V died at 36, Richard II at 33, Mary II at 32 and two Tudor monarchs (Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey) never reached adulthood. Edward V did not manage to reach his teens.

All the more impressive it then is for our diamond nonagenarian to reign as she does today. More so, it is a significant accomplishment that today’s birthday girl can still appear in public for her celebrations, whereas few others of her age could claim likewise. By the time that George III reached his final year he was bald, blind, and utterly insane. Among his many descendants he had outlived three of his children and three of his grandchildren. His wife, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg, tightly predeceased him as well.

Victoria had her own share of tragedies: having been one of few monarchs to truly marry for love, she spent thirty-nine years in mourning for her lost Prince Consort. Again, several princes could not outlive the Queen – Alice, Alfred (of Edinburgh), Leopold, Frederick, Sigismund, Waldemar, Albert Victor, Alexander John, Friedrich, Marie, Alfred (of Saxe-Coburg), Christian Victor, Harald, and two unnamed stillbirths.

Lilibet, by contrast, has her litter, and theirs, intact. Though she has lost her younger sister, the only death so far in the generation below her was Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 (and she, by that point, was not actually a relative anymore). In that decade it was lamented that, in the family supposed to represent the bulwark of British integrity, three of her four children had divorced. Now, though, two have happily remarried while the third has seemingly reconciled with his former spouse.

Furthermore, the institution she represents has generally been stable – whereas Charles

Having been head of state in so many countries for so many years (with the result of featuring on so many coins, notes and stamps), Her Majesty has the most reproduced face in all of human history.

Reflections on Year 12

Fifty-four weeks after commencing my previous reflections, the time has arrived to write on the subject of another year which has passed me by. Whereas before I could comment on the unconventional way in which the term petered out, this time the process reverted to the manner which was typical for the majority of years before. That is not to say, however, that elements introduced in Year Eleven were entirely absent in Year Twelve, in fact this year featured a hybrid structure of the conventional and the special which ultimately proved far stranger than the special alone might be.

Least conventional was the way this academic year began: On the first day of September we were assembled in the Sixth-Form block to formally sign on to our AS-Level courses. At all prior corresponding points in life, movement from one academic year to the next had been automatic, but this time we had to deliberately choose to return. As never before there was a brief but distinct purdah between the announcement of GCSE results and the commencement of Sixth-Form. The two meetings were temporally very close, yet they outlined the vital shift in the state of affairs we occupied. On results day it was near the end of a very long holiday and several months had passed since we last had engaged in the normal operations of school life, yet legally we were still Year Elevens. One week later we were Year Twelves. Never before was this dissolution of circumstance so clearly pinpointed.

For some considerable time before we began this term, teachers and elder pupils had repeatedly told us that A-Level was to be radically different to GCSE. The term “step-up” continued to be used countless times over the course of this year. However, in many ways the change from Year 11 to Year 12 was much smaller than I had been expecting…

In fact I would go so far as to say that much of Year 12 felt like something of a re-run of Year 11, combined with a rehearsal for Year 13, with all of the stresses and dangers of both, but the rewards and privileges of neither.