7 Starlings – An Experiment in Community Self-Organisation

How do you get people to organise, when organising carries a heavy regulatory cost – data protection, health and safety, safeguarding and so on? Here is an experimental answer to this question, formed of some unlikely components – an ancient market town, a public library, complexity theory as applied to flocks of starlings and something […]

Trouble in Westminster: stay calm!

Thomas Paine wrote that the English constitution was “imperfect, subject to convulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise”. Two and a half centuries later it is reassuring that there are some things, besides death and taxes, that you can always depend upon: our constitution is on course to deliver a bumper crop […]

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

Bother! As Rutgers Bregman said at Davos, it’s all about taxes, taxes, taxes. (In case you have not seen it yet, here is the link to the now famous Davos panel session on inequality) We will all have to pay more tax. The richer we are, the more tax we will have to pay. Sorry […]

Lies, Damn Lies and Being Honest with Yourself.

I cannot think of a film trailer that has so upset me before. There on the computer screen was Kenneth Branagh, as William Shakespeare in his new film All is True. This is what he said. “If you are honest with yourself, whatever you write, all is true.” This sounds very cosy, but – apologies […]

Brexit: How to Move Forward

Dear Friends, According to the 18th December editorial in the Otago Daily Times[i] there is some bother back in Blighty to do with Brexit. From 18,926 kilometres away it all seems rather simple. As we (that is the editor of the ODT and I) see it, the issue was altered to the advantage of everyone […]

Grossriedenthal

This is a picture of the charming village of Grossriedenthal in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria, the northeasternmost state of the nine states of Austria) where we stayed last week. There is something rather interesting about it. Can you make out the bare, grassy mound to the left of the church spire? On a UK Ordnance Survey […]

Is it time to forget Remembrance Sunday?

This Sunday, the people of Shepton Mallet will assemble at our Cenotaph, as people all over the British Isles assemble at their local war memorials, to say some prayers, sing some hymns, mark the two minutes silence, then follow the Shepton Mallet silver band down the High Street to St Peter and St Paul’s church. […]

Saint Ronan the Airbus 330

According to Wikipedia, there are no less than twelve Irish saints called Ronan “…including St Ronan of Locronan, St Ronan of Iveagh, St Ronan of Iona, St Ronan of Ulster and St Ronan Finn”. Not mentioned in Wikipedia is St Ronan of Aer Lingus, pictured below at Boston Logan airport, just before it took us […]

Why we like TV Murder Mysteries

Why do we like TV murder mysteries so much? In England we have banned fox hunting on the grounds that it is death-based entertainment (in relation to the fox – nobody minds about the occasional hunter parting company with his or her horse). Yet every day millions of TV viewers derive pleasure from seeing, sometimes […]