​Martians have invaded Earth!

You hadn't heard? Then you're probably relying on the BBC for your news. Despite having reporters all over the world, the BBC's news programs don't really extend beyond, sport, 'celebrities' and Salford-related incidents. So if the Martians invaded Salford that would probably make the news. But what if they invaded New York, Washington, Beijing, London? Nah. Unless, of course, one of them was a footballer or played a few rounds of golf on the moon on the way here. The Martians' best chance of making the news headlines would be if they were what the BBC (and, to be fair, other broadcasting companies) consider a celebrity.

You might think that invading Earth in itself would make you a celebrity but you'd be wrong. Being a super-bimbo who's been chucked out of Big Brother – that's a celebrity. Even so, being a celebrity in the BBC sense of the word is indeed the Martians' best chance for news coverage because, from what I've seen of Celebrity This and Celebrity That, a celebrity is someone you've never heard of. That's the Martians' secret publicity weapon – no-one has heard of them.

Phew! That's alright, then. If the Martians really invaded Earth, I'd know, right? Possibly, but what if Putin decided to invade a few Baltic states or ISIS landed in Pevensey? Putin might squeeze in because he's into martial arts so that ticks the sports box. But those ISIS lot aren't sporty sorts of guys and I wouldn't mind betting none of them have been on Big Brother or even Strictly Come Dancing. And Pevensey is a long way from Salford.

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Caravan Cooking now in iBookstore

Faith Hancock's Caravan Cooking: The Versatile Vegetarian is now available in  Apple's iBookstore

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Dumb and Dumber: the Law of Unintended Consequences

British politicians tend to get worked up about the European Court of Human Rights, and not without reason as it seems to prevent the UK from deporting terrorists, rapists, paedophiles and others because it would infringe on their human rights. Somehow, it never seems to prevent other countries doing the same thing.

However, less attention is given to the European Court of Justice. If the European Court of Human Rights is dumb (and, according the the recently retired Lord Chief Justice, has exceeded its powers and at least one other judge agrees), the European Court of Justice is dumber. The witless office-holders of this intellectually and morally bankrupt organisation have issued a series of judgements which have demonstrated an inability to foresee the consequences of their decisions.

In March 2011, in the Test-Achats case, the ECJ determined that gender-based pricing of annuities was illegal. Because, on average, women live longer than men, men had previously got a rather better annuity than women. Very nice for women, but does it really make sense? On the other hand, the ECJ has also decreed that gender-discrimination is also unacceptable in the insurance industry. Women are safer drivers than men (sorry, guys, it's a fact) so they used to get cheaper insurance. Not any longer, thanks to the ECJ.

The most worrying case I know about is the recent decision by the ECJ to allow individuals to seek the removal of search engine results to pages which embarrass them under a 'right to be forgotten' rule. Google and others are supposed to self-regulate this law, which is possibly the most worrying aspect. Not only does  the law apply to non-libelous statements, but decisions are made behind closed doors. The person whose web page is not longer searchable in the EU does not know why this has happened, has no representation and no way to appeal the decision – except, I suppose, by going to the ECJ! Robert Preston, the respected BBC journalist has recently fallen foul of this ruling as is reported on the BBC website. This is a sinister and pernicious piece of law-making which destroys freedom of speech at one stroke. Many fraudsters, sex offenders, despots and thugs will now be able to sleep easy in their beds.

Britain and the Slave Trade

Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray

A new film, Belle, is released on 13 June. It was inspired by the very lovely and well-known portrait of Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle. I'm not sure that I have much hope it will be a good film, and I get the impression that it takes liberties with the facts. However, it will certainly look stunning and will no doubt benefit from the presence of Tom Wilkinson as Lord Mansfield.

Dido Belle played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Dido was the daughter of a young Royal Navy officer, John Lindsay, and a slave. Lindsay asked his extended family to look after her and she grew up in Kenwood House, the home of Lord Mansfield. What makes it interesting was that Lord Mansfield, as Lord Chief Justice, declared in Somersett v. Stewart in 1772 that slavery had no legal basis in English law. It is more than likely that he was influenced by his niece Dido. Sadly, this did not lead to the immediate abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire, something which (with a few exceptions) was only achieved in 1833. However, it was certainly a turning-point in Britain's attitude to slavery. Indeed, the Royal Navy formed a West African Squadron to suppress the slave trade in 1808.

Ironically, Britain, which had benefited so much from the obscene inhumanity of the slave trade, became the moving force in its abolition throughout the world. Here is a picture, not as far as I know ever published before, of freed slaves (mostly young children) and Jack Tars on the deck of HMS Flying Fish in 1875. My great-grandfather was the navigating Lieutenant onboard when she intercepted a slave-trading vessel off the coast of Zanzibar (which was to remain an island devoted to the slave trade until the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896).

The Mischief-Maker by Julia Lacey-Brooke

Coming on 12 June: http://tigerofthestripe.co.uk/mischief-maker.html

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Terre et Toi Vegetarian B&B in France

I've recently updated the Terre et Toi website for sara Daniels author of the forthcoming Recipes from the Straw Bale House.

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Chelsea Flower Show

Some things never change. The Chelsea Flower Show was crowded and there was, to my way of thinking, too much emphasis on hard landscaping rather than plants. Refreshments are priced just right if you're a sheikh or a Russian oligarch. The gardens look much smaller than they do on the television.

As ever, though, there were plenty of attractive plants and gardens. I hate to think that gardening is subject to fashion but it is. This year, the fashion seems to be for foxgloves. Well, I certainly won't complain about that! They're such beautiful flowers and very attractive to bees. In fact, one of the most noticeable things about Chelsea was the large number of bees – and no wonder, with all those foxgloves, thistles and lavender.

If the Meteorological Office had got things right for once, we'd have been drenched yesterday evening. Fortunately for the bees and us, they got it wrong.

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Trivago – Feeble Ads and Bad English

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Senate House Shakespeare Folios

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The Mischief-Maker by Julia Lacey-Brooke

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Botched Update of Armadillo CMS

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A Major Drawback of Rapidweaver

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Victorian London


Here is a rather remarkable Victorian steel engraving of London. I'm afraid my photograph doesn't do it justice.

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The Difficulties of Finding a Job

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Senate House Library to Sell Shakespeare Folios

I was disgusted to learn that the Senate House Library is planning to sell of copies of the first four folios, donated to them on condition that they were to remain permanently in the Library. As well as being unethical, it will deter any future donations. Please sign a petition against this. and also contact the Director of Senate House Libraries Christopher Pressler – christopher.pressler@london.ac.uk

Here is <a href="https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/senate-house-library-university-of-london-reconsider-the-proposed-sale-of-its-first-four-shakespeare-folios"> the petition</a>.
Fortunately, the outcry had the desired effect. However, it seems to me that if the University authorities has learnt anything from this it is simply to improve their PR. There seems to be a complete lack of morality in their stance.
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