Academies, Academy status, ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Social Justice, The Hearthlands of Darkness

Council closed libraries to cut costs, then spent more to guard them

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A council that temporarily closed two libraries just before the exam revision season as a supposed money-saving measure has spent up to three times as much per day on private guards to secure the buildings as it would have cost to keep them open, it has emerged.

Details of the security costs at the libraries, run by Lambeth council in south London, were given to the Guardian following a freedom of information request.

The money spent on guards at one of the libraries was inflated as it was occupied for 10 days by local people protesting at the temporary closure plans. However, the figures show that even at another library not similarly targeted, the money paid for private security was almost twice the usual running costs.

'Due to cutbacks, we've removed the last 20 pages from every mystery novel.'

‘Due to cutbacks, we’ve removed the last 20 pages from every mystery novel.’

The two sites – the Carnegie library in Herne Hill, south-east London, and the Minet library nearby – closed their doors on 31 March before planned works to turn each one into a “community hub”, a combination of a largely unstaffed library and a private gym. The Labour-run council said this was the only option to keep both libraries open amid massive central government cuts to local authority budgets.

When the libraries were closed no work was scheduled to begin for months. Opponents of the plans questioned why the sites could not remain open for longer, allowing students to use them for revision for summer exams. At the time the Lambeth cabinet member whose brief covers libraries, Jane Edbrooke, said this was impossible because the council needed to save money before the start of the new financial year.

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The freedom of information response shows that from 31 March, when the libraries closed, until 15 April, when the request was made, Lambeth spent £35,392.68 on guards to secure both sites, a fraction over £2,212 a day. In contrast, the council’s 2014-15 budget gives a combined running cost for both of £874 a day. This excludes spending on books and computer services, but those are paid for centrally for all of Lambeth’s 10 libraries, and the council has said it has no plans to cut them.

Of the security costs, just under £25,000 was spent at the Carnegie, a figure made bigger by the occupation by several dozen local residents, which lasted from 31 March to 9 April. But even when this was over, the average daily security cost at the library was £1,382, nearly three times the daily running costs.

At the Minet library, which was not occupied, security costs averaged £677 a day over the 16-day period, almost double the £386 daily running costs.

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The Guardian contacted Lambeth council on Friday morning to seek its reaction, and to ask about current security costs at the libraries. The council has yet to provide its promised response.

Laura Swaffield, chair of the Friends of Lambeth Libraries, which opposes the library-gym hybrid model, said the group had long predicted the early closure would not save any money.

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“It has been apparent from the very start that wrecking the library service would cost more than preserving it,” she said. “Now all the flaws in their plan are showing up, the council is panicking. It seems prepared to spend any amount of money trying to make this turkey fly.”

Under the plans, sections of both libraries are being handed to the social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Limited so they can be turned into private gyms. The council is promising that both libraries will reopen in early 2017, but building work has yet to begin at either.

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(Excerpt from ‘The Guardian Newspaper’)

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Glorious Luminaries & Songs of Loss

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T’was a Mid-Summer’s Eve at the Molten Tussock Industrial Academy, but the glorious dawn has long since made it’s escape;and now a purgatorial twilight has stolen over that unhappy place. To the outsider t’would seem as if the vast and shadowy grounds of the school had been abandoned, as if the inhabitants were asleep.

But t’is not so,come closer dear reader, and behold the undulating waves of incense carried from the windows of the Goveen Chapel, on a gentle breeze. Behold the flames of crimson and violet that swirl around the grounds as the sun sets on the horizon! And the smoke! For the iron smelting furnaces belch such an abundance of flame as t’would cause Hephaestus, that blacksmith to the gods to leap and dance. See there in the distance cowelled heads bowed in deep contemplation and little feet walking in single file to chapel. And at the vast oaken doors thrown wide for their admittance, stands one whose burning gaze sweeps over them all with grim satisfaction. Father Tout-Puissant,who having satisfied himself that all are safely ensconsed within the chapel pauses only to glance skyward at the Iron Slitting Tower (where sits imprisoned one errant schools inspector) before slamming the doors shut.

But whilst the novitiates of the Iron Slitting Mill sit pondering the sweet testimonies of their deity, one in error, has slipped away from the tender path of enlightenment. One , who, having grown disgruntled with the unceasing prayer, undaunting praise and Iron-Slitting, has determined to overthrow the regime of Father Tout-Puissant come hell or high water. And so, disguised as a tender serving wench from the master’s household he has slipped into the the Iron Slitting Tower; seeking the aid and succour of Master Parnham. He, who having first fled into the tower in a frantic and terrified bid to save life and limb; is now pondering the malignant storms of life that have seen him tossed from spiked pillar to post, and then back again.

“I have been buried here for how long?”

I can’t tell sir, almost eighteen days I think

“Shall I let you out sir?”

“Is it secret, is it safe?”

Out in the courtyard? Yes sir, but I can’t say for how long”

“Where have they gone?”

“To chapel sir t’is choir practice sir!”

And indeed t’was as the child had whispered, for the sweet, simple, strains of young melodious voices could be heard midst the churning racket and bellowing smoke of the Iron Slitting Mill. “Oh every time I feel the plumb-line moving on my breast I pray!” the mill apprentices uttered each note of the Goveen hymnal with such melodic yearning, that it made his flesh crawl.

“Sweet Mother of God! I had abandoned all hope of getting free! Choir practice?!”

“Each evening sir, after Father Tout Puissant has cried out to Sweet Gove on our behalf, we utter such songs of praise and thanksgiving as would cause the saints themselves to weep if they heard it”.

“Such as would cause your mothers to weep if they could hear it! I’ve heard ye sing aye, and seen ye sway maniacally to and fro, with nowt but pitch forks in one hand and a hunk of bread in the other!”.

“T’was ever the Molten Tussock way sir, we donts welcome strangers easily”

“What? Not even your own mothers?”

“Father Tout Puissant says they are heretics sir, back sliders from the Goveen path, cunningly cloaked denizens of hell and as such, have no share in the pleasures of Sweet Gove”.

“And those pleasures would be?”

“To move fervently from goodness to greatness by trusting the good and the great! To avert our gaze from the visceral horrors of blobbish decay and embrace subservient matyrdom to his great name!”

“Whose great name?”

“Sweet Gove!”

“Dear me!The Creed of Gove spread under our very noses! The Bow and Bromley Education Board shall know of this! I must escape! Is there no way out of here?”

A sly look has crept over the face of the mill apprentice, for like any shrewd and cunning soul he knows that once Master Parnham has escaped it may be some time before he returns and in that time any number of undescribable horrors might commence.

“There is a way…”

And now Master Parnham glances at the grimy child clad cunningly in bonnet and apron, barely five years old, though with his sooty, stiffened hair and raddled face, looking considerably older. He stares and stares at him until it dawns upon him with horror that some negotiation might be required. And when he sees the yearning hope growing in the child’s face he cannot help but to reel back in horror.

“No, child! You can’t ask that of me! You can’t!”

“Nowt but you can save us sir! We’re for them Iron Slitting Mills at Grodden Parnock unless you free us!Slitting and shaving iron day in and day out, no rest but for the creeds of Gove uttered in chapel till the early morn and the constant singing!I cannot bare it sir! None of us can!”

Clambering up onto the window sill the little boy leaned out of the window in such a way as to cause misgiving to rise in the breast of Master Parnham, who taking hold of the grimy child and clasping him firmly to his bosom, asked,

“Child what is thy name?”

“Obed Plum sir” came the muffled reply,

“Then come Obed!” cried Master Parnham valiantly, clenching his wizened fists,

“Let us to chapel!”

To be continued…

oyster-shuckers

Holy Thursday

Is this a holy thing to see,

In a rich and fruitful land,

Babes reduced to misery,

Fed with cold and usurous hand?

Is that trembling cry a song?

Can it be a song of joy?

And so many children poor?

It is a land of poverty!

And their sun does never shine.

And their fields are bleak & bare.

And their ways are fill’d with thorns.

It is eternal winter there.

For where-e’er the sun does shine,

And where-e’er the rain does fall:

Babe can never hunger there,

Nor poverty the mind appall.

William Blake

 

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Ignoramus et Ignorabimus or the Antonio Gramsci Academy of Excellence

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This post is dedicated to a well loved 19th century novel though, alas, the subject matter has been strongly influenced by American’isms.

Mrs Anabelle Hutchens is at home, a widowed mother of one she should by rights be attending to her son’s education, but he is a Lord and she a mere commoner. And so, having been lured abroad by the promise of an ‘allowance’, she now unhappily resides at Elderberry Cottage. Whilst her son (recently returned from Eton) takes up residence at Font-Le-Noy Castle with his Grand-Pa-Pa Lord Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy.

“You must, I suppose, accompany his Lordship on the hunt, though I would advise you to keep a discrete distance. His Lordship is not overly fond of Americans, even if they have had a hand in siring the next heir to the Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy Estate.”

Mrs Annabelle Hutchens is at home though she wishes she wasn’t, she has seen next to nothing of her son since they first arrived in England and the last thing on her mind is a fox hunt. “To hunt a fox across field and forest and dell it seems so unconscionably cruel!”.

Lord Clare chuckles at this,”Foxes?” he replies, “Fox hunting? A mundane practice! Oh no my dear we will not be culling foxes! Lord Elderberry eschews the traditional hunt, as do I. Nevertheless since it is his wish that you attend (and at a distance) it would be very bad form for you not to.” Attending a hunt but not of foxes? Examining Lord Clare’s fatherly, affable, moustachioed demeanour Mrs Annabelle Hutchens feels certain that whatever the nature of the hunt she is in safe hands.

And so it is that on a warm crisp Sunday morn she leaves her little cottage appropriately attired, mounts her horse and gallops gently across the meadow to the outer perimeter of the great house. It is here that she is met by none other than Lord Clare handsomely dressed in riding jacket and velveteen breeches, his glossy black boots gleaming most alluringly. Accompanying him are relatives of the Wessex bred Ruckle-Smoot-Frangeres, curious to behold the American widow duped into marrying a Hesketh-Elderberry.

“I present to you Mrs Annabelle Hutchens mother of little Cedric”

“Charming simply adorable! Little Cedric has a Mater? Well, well, the last one declared itself an orphan did it not Bertie?” the Marchioness is all avid curiosity but a warning glance from her husband forbids her from saying more.

“The last one? There is another Lord Font-Le-Noy?” Lord Clare smiles brightly at this query,”Oh quite a few. Lord Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy is a man steeped in halcyon tradition. And so it is not enough to be termed a Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy, one must be acknowledged a Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy, but I digress, onwards to the hunt!”. Galloping towards the edge of the Elderberry Woods at such a fast pace that Mrs Hutchens (dimpled cheeks a-flush) finds herself quite caught up in the thrill of the pursuit, they are soon close by the main hunting party led by Lord Hesketh-Elderberry. From this distance it is possible to see something pale and ghostly white darting about in the undergrowth, it is possible to hear it too.

“Ah!I’ll have at yer! Yer Gombeen! Make a hearth rug outta me will ye? I’ll slit your throat from ear to ear so I will! Walta! Walta! To my right! To me my lad! Bring the pike! Ah! You cursed Gombeen! I’ll tear your fatty heart out of you whilst it’s still beating! Walta! Walta! where’s the pike?!”

And at this violently ejaculated exclamation Annnabelle Hutchens is aghast with horror, for that is indeed no fox they are hunting. Alas, dear reader, it is a member of the tribe of Adam and a pitiful specimen at that. Another such specimen still more terrible for its stunning ferocity sits astride a horse looming over the tall ,thin, man stood defiantly in the midst of the undergrowth, “Lord Hesketh iz e being serious? E is clearly squatting your land, can I shoot the bugger?”. Flushed of countenance with a bull whip gripped firmly in his clenched fist, his Lordship is too busy whipping the hide off another young man attempting to wriggle out of his grasp to answer.

“Dear God!” shrieks Mrs Hutchens paling visibly, “What parlous state of affairs is this?”

“A population explosion of Fenians m’dear, it’s regrettable but this needs to be done, tally-ho!” and off Lord Clare gallops eager to participate in this clearing of Irish Gypsies from the woodlands of Elderberry. On the ground are two Irish women their grimy faces etched with misery attempting to make their escape, each with a child tied to her back.

Annabelle Hutchens fancies herself decidedly faint for all of the ten seconds it takes her to realise what is about to happen. And then something else kicks in, could it be that ferocious pioneering spirit that caused her forebears to toss crate after crate of East India Company tea into the stormy waters of Boston Harbour? Heaven forfend! With a “Yeehaaa!” and a quick flip of her wrist she unseats the crazed Boer warrior bearing down on the two women. And leaping quickly out of the saddle she scoops up his rifle aiming it at the crazed aristocratic horde seemingly intent upon slaughtering the two unfortunates.

“So far and no further or by heavens I’ll blast you all to smithereens!” she cries, now,in saner circumstances an uncomfortable silence would ensue but, Annabel’s untimely intervention has worked in the squatters’ favour. Armed to the teeth with pikes and blunderbusses they commence a harrying such as has never been seen outside of the more obscure annals of British history.”Shoot me would you? Ye godless warmongering Boer devil! Take that! An that!” cries an enraged Irish squatter discarding his blunderbuss and gripping a red faced huntsman by the throat. Not to be out done the huntsman twists himself sideways grabbing the squatter by his legs and tugging on them hard. “Aargh! Ye bugger!” cries another, this time a huntsman attempting to aim his rifle at a teenager who rips it out of his grasp hitting him over the head with it.

Unarmed combat has commenced and from where Annabel sits all are so mired in the dirt that t’is impossible to tell who is Irish and who British. Still one thing is certain, the young man seated alongside her in his right mind and, looking equally horrified is none other than her Cedric, who looking up at the mother he has hardly seen since he lit upon England’s shores has only one thing to say, “Maw can we go home?”

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Of Ionian Enchantments

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“Obsculta! O fili, praecepta magistri,et inclina aurem cordis tui,et admonitiem pii patris libenter excipe et efficaiter comple!”

“Listen! O my son, to the teachings of your master, and turn to them with the ear of your heart, willingly accept the advice of a devoted father, indeed act upon it!”

“ut ad eum per oboedientiae laborum redeas a quo per inoboedientiae decidiam recesseras! “

“Thus you will return by the labour of obedience to the one from whom you drifted through the inertia of disobedience, St. Gove be praised!”

“Sweet Gove!”

T’is Spring and Father Anacletus thinks that the vast metropolis that is London, seems so much darker, pungent and, putrid,so much more depraved than is normally the case. The Brotherhood of St Gove Imperator Angelorum, has convened for the service of Compline, at the newly annexed parish church of St Tobias-in-the-North. A new Chaplain has been installed,and with the aid and succour of members of the order of St. Gove,they have funded the construction of  another Imperator Angelorum Industrial School. Five hundred supplicants alone are immersed in the testimonies of Gove and the virtues of labour for labour’s sake. And their numbers are growing, soon, all of London will embrace the Industrial School revolution, the beneficent gift of the Goveen Brotherhood.

Lifting up his work worn hands and raising his heavy lids towards the rafters of the humble chapel, Father Anacletus offers up the following prayer.”Sanctify, oh sanctify us, to thy purposes Lord Gove. As we restore unto this empire the very days of thy perfection, when man frolicked midst the gardens of paradise, wherein all knew their place in the scheme of things. Oh Lord Gove, in thy flawless altruism, grant us an unblemished revelation of thy ways. And grant us, pray grant us fresh and bounteous visions of thy intent. Hear this, my prayer St.Gove!”

Father Anacletus slowly lowers his hands to his sides and turning his palms downwards proffers a blessing on the gathered congregation. He scrutinises the monks and priests who stand before him, all deep in prayer and all with their eyes upturned toward the statue of St.Gove. All except the Reverend Arthur Farquar who is looking deeply troubled. Turning his palm upwards Father Anacletus catches his eye and beckons him forward. The Reverend Farquar pales, but since none dare decline an order of the sainted Father, he tiptoes hesitantly down the aisle.”Go my brothers” the sainted father chants in a sing-song voice.”Go my brothers! And may joy surround you, as you teach the testimonies of sweet Gove!”

The humble chapel like most places graced by the presence of the Goveen Brotherhood has taken on a much lighter aspect. The marble altar sparkles and glitters in the cold morning light. The new installed stained glass windows shower the grey stone columns with a kaleidoscope of bright colours. There is an air of freshness, of newness which that place has not seen in centuries. And yet even Arthur is disturbed by what has most recently transpired.”Speak my son speak” urges the gentle father once the very last of his supplicants has departed the chapel,”What ails you?”.

“T’is the appointment of the Reverend Farthengrodden Father, I am most perturbed by it”.

“Why pray tell?” asks the sainted father with a smile,

“T’is not my place to vaunt corrupting gossip, but, he has been suspected  of murder Father!”

“But, he has been acquitted Reverend” replies the sainted father calmly.

“I know father, but he has been most recently brought before the Bow Street Magistrate, for the embezzlement of work house funds”.

Father Anacletes smiles benignly and makes his reply,”He was acquitted of that also my son. Do you doubt the wisdom of the Goveen Brotherhood in appointing him Principal of the new industrial school?” placing a warm hand on the sleeve of Arthur Farquar’s robes he looks up into his face wise owl that he is and smiles.” My dear child, his family have been great benefactors to our cause for many, many, years. Pray tell, is thy old headmaster still resident at Bethlem Asylum?”

The Reverend Farquar blushes and nods, Father Anacletes continues,”And Master Parnham, how is he?” now Arthur’s face grows pale for t’is well known that since the burning down of Ravens Industrial School and the murder of his daughter, Master Parnham has fallen (direly) to drink.

“Whereas you dear Arthur go from strength to strength a giant amongst maggots! The Reverend Farthengrodden has fallen down before the feet of the brotherhood, confessed his sins and bitterly repented of them. He has left off all profane associations and now resides at the Imperatur Angelorum Monastery. He is a brand plucked from the burning, you need have no worries so far as he is concerned.”

Arthur Farquar is mortified, is the burning stench of Raven’s Industrial School never to leave him? “Tell me how goes it with your congregation? I’ve heard tell they struggle to embrace the ways of Gove”. Heard tell? Who could possibly have tiptoed off and told him? Reverend Farquar pales even further, he looks as though he might faint,”I am told that you have had considerable difficulty reining in Master Liquorish’s taste for the old religion“.

“M-m-my lord!” still smiling the sainted father waves a be-ringed hand before him dismissively.”No matter,Master Liquorish has fallen ill”

“Indeed?” Reverend Farquar strives desperately to affect an air of outward serenity. “T’is feared he may never leave his bed, in fact it is rumoured that he has had the last rites read over him, by the former priest of this parish naturally”.  

Having his competency queried the Reverend Farquar lacks the confidence to suggest a replacement for the dying man and so he asks timidly,”Who is to take his place as church warden and treasurer?”

“Why who else?” responds the sainted father with a triumphant smile,”Reverend Farthengrodden!”

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Equal Protection Under The Law (Roughly)

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Robert Farthengrodden considered himself to be the pampered minion of misfortune; he was restrained in youth choosing not to frequent the various dens of ill-repute that his contemporaries did. Fastidiously avoiding the highways and by-ways of sin, adhering abstemiously to the tenets of Gove and entering full service therein with his Aunt, Lady Farthingrodden’s blessing. He might have continued thus, an ordained reverend,adjuring his flock to cling religiously  to the well-lit paths of sweet Gove and smiting the unrighteous into line with his shepherd’s crook, were it not for the angelic appearance of sweet Mary Parnham. Miss Parnham, second child of the infamous Master Parnham lately of Raven’s Industrial Academy, drew the eye of the ill-fated Farthengrodden and kept it.  A’swoon with licentious craving, the Reverend Farthengrodden threw off the shackles of conubial bliss escaping with that misguided maid to Spitalfields, a pretty distance from the resplendent and noble country estate he had previously called home.

Embracing wholeheartedly a depredatory existence, he took up residence with sweet Mary in a string of disreputable boarding houses (for even these dens of iniquity have their standards), eventually winding up disinherited by his grieving Aunt, and wholly dependent upon what he termed an inadequate allowance, bequeathed to him by his impoverished (though genteel) mater.

Lucinda Bedelia-Farthengrodden sought audience with her husband (which was granted) and throwing herself at his feet, beseeched him to repent and return unto the bosom of his suffering family. “She is and always had been a model of feminine probity, my sainted companion before the throne of Gove and mother of my children, what was I to do?” Indeed, what was he to do with sweet Mary clinging to him so desperately, “like a barnacle to the hull of a wayward ship” as one of the detective police put it. “The dear partner of his sorrows, was dear no more once he realised he’d have to enjoy ‘er without his inheritance!” said that same officer of the law chuckling.

All may weigh the soundness or unsoundness of his conclusions, for on the 10th of January, on a cold, crisp Monday morn, Mary was found strangled. And upon the alerting of the detective police t’was discovered that whoever had ‘done’ away with sweet Mary had also attempted to hide the evidence of his misdeed by setting fire, unsuccessfully, to the bed. ” There was no doubt he’d done it! T’was an open and shut case I would have thought” murmured that same detective of the police. And so thought His Worship Judge Peepey, that is, until his clerk bethought him to pay close scrutiny, to which barrister would be mounting the reverend’s defence in this particular open and closed case of murder, “T’is ‘im agin your worship” he muttered, misery sat squarely upon his face. His Worship groaned, he clutched his stomach, “What?! Tobias Kinsella QC? Again?” Judge Peepey remembered well his last ferocious skirmish with Kinsella which had seen justice most indubitably done, but had forced him to take to his bed for a week. “And what of the counsel for the prosecution?” here the judge’s clerk rolled his eyes,”Jeremy Fitzgibbon funded in all good consciense by the state”

“Fitzgibbons? Dear God!”

His Honour considering whether it might not be best to hand the case on to some other more learned friend, and learned from his grim faced clerk that there were none more learned, or more stolid in their suffering than himself; he must attend to the case.

On the day the trial opened the public gallery was so crammed with onlookers that it was impossible not to concede that this was (almost) the most infamous trial of the year,if not the century. The charge? That the Reverend Fathengrodden had done away with Mary Parnham in order that he might return to the family seat (and his wealth) unencumbered by her. “In short that he ‘ad murdered the misguided wench so as he could ave his cake and eat it!” the detective police chuckles quietly to himself as if for all the world he were discussing some light hearted topic or other. Leaning in closer to his confidant he murmured the following,

“You may ask what the defence is? Sonambulism!Sonambulism! That’s sleepwalking to you and I! An as far down the road of depredatory existence as he has travelled I doubt not there’ll be a whole string of ruffians ready to testify as to his sonambulisitic cavortings! He’ll get off! T’is beyond reckoning! For who you may ask prosecutes him? Fitzgibbons the drunk! And who defends him? Queens Counsel Kinsella! Ha!”

Ha! Indeed, for Kinsella is well known at the Bailey for causing many an ailing case to spring suddenly to life, filling the public galleries to bursting with his eloquent oratory, and causing all who enlist his help to escape the noose of justice. A feared ‘physician of the Old Bailey’ he is the scourge of most sober prosecutory types. Take the case (or cases if you wish) of the infamous Moll Wetland, acquitted several times of offences the detective police were adamant she had committed, “She and er gang have scandalized Spitalfields for years’an that’s sayin something! Does she go down for running sneak thieves and buttock twanging? Does she ever! Acquitted time after time by Kinsella!” our detective police pauses for a nip of sherry and continues,” ‘ouse robberies,pick-pocketing, sneak thievery,gonophing, you name it she ‘ad a hand in it! We gets hold of ‘er and she’s bound for the Bailey, Kinsella gets hold of her and she’s acquitted and up to her old tricks again!”.

I am told that eventually the problem of Moll Wetland was satisfactorily resolved in Ireland, where upon having been taken and convicted of sneak-thieving, she was transported from thence to New South Wales. “Ireland! I ask yer! On one offence they did for ‘er in a way we couldn’t! Kinsella will get Farthengrodden orf I tell yer! You see if he don’t!” the detective police is indignant, his calm has all but departed from him and as he lights a cigar he sighs heartily. For indeed who would not? T’is a parlous state of affairs indeed, when, for want of a little money and a worthy and skilled barrister, justice is not seen to be done.

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Scandalum Magnatum

Augustus_Clifford_Vanity_Fair_11_October_1873“Tally ho! Tally ho! To hounds! To hounds!” the roar of the huntsman’s bugle echoes off the ancient walls of Westminster Hall, whilst the hunters careen, wheel, and gallop after the fox who having leapt down the stairs ahead of them is now bounding frantically towards the Member’s Lobby. “To hounds!” Lords Ruckle-Smoot, Clare and Elderberry rear resplendent in the saddle folllowed closely by the Reverend Unctuous of St Paul’s and his esteemed pater, Sir William Unctuous of Bacchanalia . Their highly polished boots reflect the terrified faces of anxious civil servants and outraged porters, “What does they thinks they is doing?” complains one, “What they always does” murmurs another pausing to dive behind the statue of Lord Gordon of Umbongo Bongo, “Flaunting the rules and trampling on us wot wants merely to be of service! Well this time I ain’t avin it, fetch the gentleman Black Rod!”

The cobble stones tremble beneath the spark and clatter of iron hooves and the Hunt Master’s eyes gleam psychotically as he scents the earthy smell of terrified fox close by. “Is he near Master Brandt?”  hisses Lord Unctuous, Master Brandt raises himself up in the saddle and sniffs the air, his muscular thighs tightly gripping the taut flanks of his hysterical stallion, “Ja, e’ is near, veree near! The bugger is be ‘aynd them curtains!” the roaring gallop slows to a sneaky canter through the member’s lobby as the feral peers sniff out their prey. Little do they know it but they have been out foxed for their terrified victim has bounded into the arms of a little house maid, a country girl widely renowned for her fierce defense of woodland creatures and she in turn has indignantly approached Black Rod (fox in arms). The venerable Black Rod, (Usher-in-Chief, Personal Attendant of the Sovereign and Representative of the Administration and Works committee), lends a sympathetic ear and then, with mace in hand, gleefully strides forth to encounter the galloping lords as they canter through the sacred realm of the Members’ Lobby.

“A good day to you gentlemen! Pray tell, what misguided practice is this? What dearth of industriousness prompted you to desport yourselves here? My Lords have you forgotten where it is you ride? T’is mean’t to be the very seat of democracy, t’is the place from which her majesty extends her scepter toward the entire empire! T’is a disgrace! Nay an outrage to see you attired thus! T’is a scandal gentlemen!” Monsieur Black Rod is exultant for as the overseer of all security pertaining to the Palace of the Westminster, he knows that this breach of ettiquette is a grievous one. Long has he dreamt of the departure of Lord Elderberry, but he will settle for a suspension next term of the entire hunt (Chief Whip permitting). “What does e say?” asks Brandt the Hunt-Master casting a crazed look upon the gentleman Rod,

“We can’t hunt here is what I think he’s saying” replies Lord Elderberry. His bottom lip is trembling and his face has taken on a petulant look, such as was apt to give his Mama disabling migraines many a time and led to her confinement within St Bacchanalia’s asylum (eventually).”I’ll do whatever I ruddy likes Black Rod! Tally Ho!” but Black Rod is not to be nay sayed,”Westminster Porters to me!” as if from nowhere a legion of servants of the palace step forward, taking up position with the various implements of service used by them to maintain the house. A more muscular, purposeful, eagle eyed set of men have yet to be found in any other place in the realm, it is an impressive display and to anyone with half a whit’s worth of sense it would signal an end to the festivities.

But, a’las, his Lordships labour in their delusions of profligate entitlement, and incensed by this plebeian interference in their fun, they attempt to ride down the opposition laying about them with unfurled bull whips as they do so. Black Rod smiles grimly, for the stories of Lord Elderberry’s fondness for the whip have reached him and with mace aloft in one hand he strides forward, a porter who last worked as an Ostler by his side,”You shall not pass!” he shrieks black breeched legs akimbo. Distracted, indignant, outraged, Lord Elderberry raises his whip once more for he is determined to flay the hide of the Brigand Rod, but his act is pre-empted by his swift unseating. One by one the porters stride forward and one by one they unseat the profligate peers, determined as they are to exercise their right to keep the sacred corridors of Westminster pure from debauched entitlement.

“To your feet gentlemen! Porters escort them to the doors!” His glittering eyes seem  closely to resemble those of a rattlesnake as his gaze moves swiftly from one reddened face to another,”The Chief Whip shall here of this! Yes! Indeed he shall! And he will not be pleased!Five peers and six commoners treating the most esteemed, the most revered seat of the realm as if it were a bawd’s establishment! What the emminent politician will have to say I can only conjecture” Black Rod smiles thinly, for it has now become common knowledge that said gentleman is desperately ill and is to be replaced by the more severe Lord Smarsby, a porter coughs politely,

“Begging your pardon sir, which set of doors should we escort them out of?” a sweet smile graces the thin, severe lips of Black Rod and striding to and fro with one thin finger pressed upon them he ponders and makes his decision. “The rear ones! As well away from the front of house as possible, I will not have them defame this house with their profligate dress! Fox hunting in the palace! Whsst!” Striding off briskly a spring in his step and without so much as a backward glance, the gentleman Black Rod is gone. For there are other more pressing affairs to attend, to such as the need to notify her majesty of the debauchery of five of her lords.

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Academies, Academy status, ACCESSIBILITY

An Invention of Thomas Crapper Comes to Kings Free

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T’was a once in a lifetime experience; a thing wondrously invented and for many weeks to come we did wonder, nay, marvel at the lavatorium which the Reverend Robert Bruce had erected in the midst of our rugby playing fields. “What the deuce is it doing there?!” muttered Reggie La Grande, stepson of the Viceroy of Umbongo Bongo, “Damned if I know” replied Turpin Sleath, the Latin Master, “It’s going to be ruddy hard trying to organise a scrum around that thing! What the devil was the Reverend Bruce thinking?!” that he should have so publicly aired his views augured ill, for him. Still there was much touching and caressing of the lavatorium; with its ebony wood cabinet and gleaming bronze toilet seat. The toilet bowl beneath the seat we were told, had been hand-painted by at least a dozen craftsmen, who had festooned the hollow, ceramic interior of the toilet with roses on intertwined stems, held aloft by winged cherubs with little feathery white wings and plump, rosy red, cheeks. “How much did E’ pay for that?!” shrieked Monsieur De La Faux Chien

“Six hundred pounds” murmured Master Turple-Sleath tapping the dregs of his pipe into the lavatorium, “the window panes of the main school hall barely remain in their rotted frames, the kitchens serve up nought but pickled bloaters on toast, and I cannot recall the last time the school room fireplaces had fuel in them” Monsieur De La Faux Chien refrained from commenting, after all, at King’s Free even the air had ears and he wished to keep his job. “Why do I teach here Faux Chien? The pupils are apt to turn up to class without quills, quills with which their aristocratic families can well afford to furnish them, and yet, which the Right Reverend Indolent! Would have me supply out of the limited stipend he pays me,what am I doing here Faux Chien?”

T’was only a week later, (the day after Master De La Faux Chien had been forced to tender his resignation by the Headmaster), that I could be espied taking a stroll through the grounds of Kings Free with the most reverend,reverend, ” Smarsbee walk with me sir! Walk with me!” exclaimed Reverend Robert Bruce, hands clasped tightly behind the back of his elegant jet black frock coat, “Tell me, what do you think of her eh? What do you think of her?”

“Of who sir?” I politely replied, “Of the crapper! Sir!” he exclaimed, “What think you of the crapper!”

I coughed politely into my hand,”Of what sir?”

“Damn it Smarsbee you’re one of our brightest scholars! The Crapper child!” he gestured violently towards the water closet, now relocated by order of the Headmaster in the middle of the gym,” This work of unbridled genius! Designed and built by Master Verkritable, a close friend of the original inventor, Dr Thomas Crapper, what a work of genius eh? A work of genius my lad!”

I pomdered his words as I slowly scratched my head,”But it’s too tall to leap over, though Master Foster does make us try” the Headmaster frowned, and I giggled inwardly, this was sure to mean that like Master Turple-Sleath, Master Foster’s days at the school would soon be cut short. Opening the door to the privy the Headmaster ushered me inside, I gasped for new brass fittings had been added,”Sir” I asked wonderingly, “Is that an elastic-valve closet? Such as Lord Grid-Iron is rumoured to have had in his home?” Reverend Robert Bruce bristled with pride, “The very same Smarsbee! In fact it is not at all dissimilar to the lavatorium constructed for the boys at Eton, albeit our fittings and fixtures are moulded from brass and not gold!”

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On Sunday morning, prior to Matins, George and I decided to engage in a minor perambulation through the English Hall of Master Brooks. There it now stood, the privy, in all it’s ostentatious glory, “I say!” exclaimed George, “It’s moved again!”

“‘Wots he fussing over where it’s placed? It’s only a jake after all” a weedling voice complained, this complaint was accompanied by much occasional and occasionally frantic hammering “T’is a ruddy marvel this Jake!” the caretaker muttered sarcastically,” A spanking brand new one too! And where it hasn’t been deconstructed and reconstructed in these halls over the last week I ruddy don’t know!And I wouldn’t dare ask!”

Victorian Toilet Paper Holders

T’was tuck shop day and as George and I wended our way down the hill from our lodgings we could not help but to espie the lavatorium which had now been placed beside the math’s block. ” I say George this is going too far!” I opined having observed the many woodland creatures that had fallen comatose around the perimeter of the lavatorium, George espied the privy too and shook his head, “ten masters have objected and been made to pack their bags, the servants are up in arms over having to clean that thing, and yet that privy is all the Headmaster can think about!”

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