Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Weather

Our garden in Handsworth
Wet and windy August. A visit to Winchester to see Mark at SEEMP to discuss joint work on scrutiny. We sat in a snug in a pleasant pub with decent bitter and roast beef with horseradish sauce in a baguette, and pondered the Coalition's plans for the future of local government, in particular the prospects for overview and scrutiny. It feels like making the best of it, with nothing decided and the economy likely to get worse as the year progresses, and public sector cuts go deeper meaning less money for businesses in the private sector, especially those used to relying on government contracts and the consuming habits - until recently - of public employees. The Prime Minister talks of localism and 'The Big Society', wet Tory visions that don't fit comfortably with dry Tory yearning to shrink the state. (I like my colleague Tony Bovaird's YouTube comments on this). There's an above normal amount of fog. No one Party has been able, to do the post-election usual and hit the ground running. The current cuts would also - with variations - have been imposed by Labour if they'd won in May. The Liberals who've not known so much power since the 1900s will surrender the bulk of their manifesto to stay part of a government in which their Leader admits they're a 'junior partner'.
Before catching my train I went to the Cathedral which I visited first with my great grandmother when I was very young. She, along with many other volunteers, had embroidered a kneeler for the cathedral. I remember her showing it to me - the crest of Winchester School with its motto "Manners makyth man". I sat near the doors at the back of the great nave. The choir was practising far away invisible but for few pinpoints of light enclosed by pillars and a great wood carved screen - singing and organ music between vexed coaxing from the choirmaster. No-one sought an entrance fee. Although there were quite a few visitors I slipped into a chapel nestled in the north transept, across the aisle from the choir and stayed there through evensong, returning to gaze down, with others, on Jane Austen's black stone slab grave in the north aisle.
My train left at 1831 and took me comfortably through to New Street, reading and snoozing.
The weather here - and there
Charles, our neighbour, who is usually first to ring me with any local bad news, told me that St.Mary's Church had just been vandalised. It doesn't seem as if anyone got inside the building. Once normal these raids on public space including the park and its surroundings, have become much rarer, but with the cuts including investment in security, especially night patrols in the area, the church may again become vulnerable.
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While pondering how to resolve the NPOV dispute on Sir Henry Maine's Wikipedia entry, I noticed that a new book had been added to the article's references. It came out this year and is by Karuna Mantena under the title Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism, Princeton 2010:
Dear Dr Mantena. Excuse me writing to you out of the blue. I am the great great grandson of Sir Henry Maine, and my mother, his great granddaughter, is still alive - at 93 - and knew Lady Maine who died much later than her husband. A rewrite of the context of his work is long overdue and so I'm delighted to discover your book which I've ordered. On a small matter this means that I can move on from the Victorian language of his Wikipedia entry which has been lifted almost whole from the 1911 Britannica. I look forward to reading your book. Kindest regards, Simon Baddeley
Her swift reply:
Dear Simon Baddeley. Thank for very much for your kind and encouraging note. What a humbling and extraordinary thing to feel connected to Maine in this way! Please allow me to send you and/or your family a copy of the book. It has also appeared in a South Asia edition, which I can send since you may already have the UK/USA edition. If ever I can make a visit to Birmingham, I will be sure to be in touch. all my best, Karuna. Karuna Mantena, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University
Dear Karuna, I've mentioned your book which has just arrived at my home on Facebook and when I've really got into it will have a go at revising the Maine article in Wiki in the light of your analysis of Imperial alibis - now and then. I think this is going to be a powerful lesson, but I wonder what Maine would have said. He seems to have been generous and sharp in debate at the same time. I attach a picture, that hangs in our house, of Lady Maine. It's family folklore that Maine refused a peerage because being an academic without great means he was already struggling to support Jane's preferred life style. I often pass by their houses in Kensington when cycling in London - now divided into apartments and with S.E.Asian landlords. How amazingly 'our' empire imploded bringing us immeasurable benefit in neighbours and friends, and a state I don't quite understand in which alibis seem to have almost dissolved. I know that can never be the case, we being human. I hope I haven't been tactless in these rather long emails. No need to reply though I might near mid-winter presume to ask you some questions about the book. (Oh and by the way should you visit Birmingham - or Greece - you would be most welcome, though the person that I would be most moved for you to meet would be my mother in the Highlands, from Scotland, as you know the country from which Maine came south.)
Reply:
Dear Simon. It would be my pleasure to send a signed book for your mother. I do hope we can meet one day soon. And certainly if I make it up to the Highlands, I would so delighted to meet your mother. Yes, the book tracks a change from a more liberal-utilitarian moment of imperial civilizers to one more interested in cultural protection and integrity. Maine was at the cusp of that change, and incredible intelligent and perceptive in the debate (others in his camp were more strategically oriented). Indeed, he has had a long reputation in Indian as a friend and defender of Indian village communities. Gandhi was a great admirer of Maine's on this account. And since then a whole host of Indian legal historians have found Maine's work on the impact of English law in India to be especially illuminating. It is wonderful to hear from you, so there is nothing to apologize for. all my best, Karuna
I emailed Sharon and asked here to print out this exchange for mum, who, when I phoned her this evening was intrigued; very keen to learn more about Dr.Mantegna's work, as am I, now my copy of her book has arrived.
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I'm intrigued by an entry that Paul Peacock has posted on the Internet Gardener about creating a potager rather than growing things in straight lines.

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