Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Only in English

Posted in Uncategorized on September 20, 2015 by telescoper

Taking a break from work this weekend today I’ve been reading the latest edition of The Oldie magazine, and doing the crossword therein.

I noticed a reader’s letter about the importance of correct positioning of the word “only” in an English sentence, illustrated with the following example:

“The bishop gave the bun to the baboon”.

The point is that you can put the word “only” anywhere in this sentence (at the beginning, at the end, or between any two consecutive words) and the result each time is grammatically correct, but each choice yields a different meaning..

It’s a funny language, English!

Beard Liberation Front official statement on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership victory

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2015 by telescoper

Originally posted on Kmflett's Blog:

Beard Liberation Front

Press release 12TH September

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266



The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has welcomed the Age of the Beard with the news that Jeremy Corbyn has been elected Labour leader

Jeremy Corbyn is five times winner of the Parliamentary Beard of the Year Award and was the winner of the original award in 2001 and while his beard may be a little more restrained these days, it has been a consistent presence on the Parliamentary backbenches for over 30 years.

The campaigners say that Corbyn has faced many comments about his beard and informal appearance during the Leadership campaign but his victory underlines the growing disenchantment that there is with clean shaven politicians in suits

The 2015 Parliamentary Beard of the Year Award poll will open on…

View original 106 more words

Fish, Chips and Immigration

Posted in History, Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 10, 2015 by telescoper

I’m not the biggest fan of Simon Jenkins, especially when he goes off on one of his childish anti-science rants, but there’s a powerful piece by him in today’s Guardian  with which I agree totally. Reading the article on the bus, and especially the passage about the arrival of Huguenot refugees from France in the 18th Century, I decided to repost the content of an item from about 5 years ago, to demonstrate the importance of immigration to Britain’s culture and traditions, sometimes in very surprising ways.

Have you ever wondered where and when the traditional “British” dish of fish and chips originated? The answer is fascinating, and a little bit controversial too.

The practice of eating fried fish in batter started to appear in England during the fifteenth century; it was derived from the  Pescado Frito cooked by Portuguese Sephardic Jews – Marranos – who had moved to Britain to escape persecution in their homeland. By the Victorian era “Fish Fried in the Jewish Fashion” was extremely popular in the working class districts of London, particularly in the East End. Dickens refers to a “fried fish warehouse” in Oliver Twist, which was first published in 1837. It seems to have become available in large quantities with the rapid development of trawler fishing in the mid 19th century.

Incidentally, there is a prominent relic  of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who settled in the East End right next to Queen Mary, University of London in Mile End (see left). The burial ground has, I think, recently been moved but it neverthless provides a timely reminder that immigration is by no means a new phenomenon as far as the East End is concerned.

The traditional way of frying the fish involved oil and I don’t know precisely when the practice of using lard – which is what is used in many modern shops – came on the scene, but it clearly would not have met with Jewish approval and must have been a more recent development.

The origin of chips is more controversial. The first occurence of this usage of the word chip according to the Oxford English Dictionary appears in Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities, dated 1859, in the phrase

Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil

Some say the practice of frying potatoes like this originated in Belgium or France, and that chips are a British version of pommes frites or french fries. This style of cooking potatoes could have been brought to London by the Huguenots (French Protestants who settled in the East End of London after being forced out of their homeland). However, there is some controversy about how and why chips became so popular throughout Britain. Some claim the practice of eating fried potatoes was already established in the North of England before 1859. It also seems that fried chipped potatoes were served in working class eating establishments throughout Victorian London. Many working people – especially single men living in lodging houses – lacked the facilities or the ability to cook anything substantial at home, so preferred to buy their food ready made. At an Irish Ordinary you could get a filling meal of beer, meat and fried potatoes for about tuppence (in old money). Such establishments proliferated all over London during the 19th Century as the number of navvies and other itinerant Irish labourers  grew in response to the demand for manual workers across the country.

I think it was most likely the presence of a nearby Irish Ordinary that led a Jewish londoner called Joseph Malin to hit upon the idea of combining fried fish with chipped potatoes. At any rate it’s reasonably well established that the very first commercial Fish-and-Chip Shop was opened by him in 1860 in Cleveland Street and business was so good that it was followed by many others across the East End of London and beyond.

There’s something rather inspiring about rediscovering that Britain is nation whose traditions and institutions have always been so reliant on foreign immigrants. Even Fish and Chips turns out to be from somewhere else. This is actually what makes me proud to be British.

Sono arrivato a Castiglioncello

Posted in Uncategorized on August 31, 2015 by telescoper

Well, made it to Castiglioncello on schedule but was too early to check into my hotel so I went directly to the first session and thence to the welcoming cocktail party and accompanying sunset.



Which was nice. When I did get to the hotel however I found the WIFI isn’t working so I had to post this via my mobile at not inconsiderable expense. I was hoping to download a few things for my talk tomorrow too.

That grumble aside it seems a nice place. And it’s sunny!

PS. Apologies for the grammatical error in the title of the original version of this post!

My Nobel Prize

Posted in Uncategorized on August 7, 2015 by telescoper

Too busy to post tonight, after a long day travelling and working. I thought I’d share this picture of my Nobel Prize Medal…


I have had this for almost ten years now. I suppose the chocolate has probably gone off by now..

An Oldie on Social Media

Posted in Uncategorized on August 6, 2015 by telescoper

Despite obviously being far too young (ahem) I am a regular reader of The Oldie magazine. Here’s a brilliant letter I found in the August Edition:


Nursery Rhymes For Modern Times, No. 23

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2015 by telescoper

There was a crooked man
Who walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence
Beside a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat
Who caught a crooked mouse
And they all lived together
In FIFA Headquarters.


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