Reintroducing the bear and wolf to Britain: valuable for our ecosystem or too dangerous to be attempted?

This morning while watching the news, it was mentioned that across Europe (although particularly in the Eastern countries) we are seeing a variety of long lost animal’s being reintroduced into their old habitats. This has revived somewhat the debate in Britain as to if animals once at the top of the food chain here, such as the brown bear or wolves, should be reintroduced.

Now, I remember reading up on the topic a few years ago when it was (I think) last brought up at a National Level (rather than for just the Scottish highlands) and I was stringently against the idea for reasons I’ll come on to, and this recent debate hasn’t changed my mind.

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The Brown Bear was last seen in Britain probably around 1000 years ago. Despite their occasionally cuddly appearance  there should be no doubts as to how immensely powerful they are in the flesh.

I mean the effort to introduce animals such as the beaver and lynx as well as those such as the bear and the wolf will undoubtedly have positive effects on our natural eco-systems. I was reading research done by Nature England which stated that beavers could reduce the risk of flooding which would be excellent, and also we have a rather large deer problem in Britain which would be helped a lot by introducing creatures such as the Lynx and Wolf who would begin to hunt them (preventing the need to cull herds). On the other hand, the modern landscape of Britain must be taken into account on such an issue; and the general consensus among experts is that we do not have a sustainable environment for these creatures to live in without significant risk to either people or their livelihoods. As much as people may say that highland farming is not important or ‘too small’ to be significant clearly don’t understand that for their new eco-system to work it’s got to build upon what we have now and not what they want to have.

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The Wolf; last seen in Britain around the beginning of the 18th Century. Powerful beasts with a pack mentality, close control would need to be kept to avoid groups of them demolishing herds or even people who venture into the lovely British countryside.

Organisations such as humansandwolves.org argue that these species have considerably more positive than negative effects on our society, our economy, and indeed, on our eco-systems. However, I don’t think the extra £300 (rising from £500 to £800) in income for deer estates has as much influence on anything meaningful to the majority of people as the supporters are suggesting.

I have read a few different articles on the topic, and I find most commentators saying that such animals pose a threat to humans in argument against the supporters of the reintroduction who state that properly educated humans will have no fear from the animals in their natural habitat. However, and I think this is something to be stressed, what about when the animals venture out of their natural habitat? Let’s take an example of the common fox; over the last couple of decades we have seen an explosion in the levels of ‘urbanised’ foxes moving out of their natural homes in the countryside and setting up shop in cities, towns and urban areas. Not only this, but the competition for food has meant foxes being in the news for breaking into houses, stealing food, terrorising people and even attacking humans; most shockingly, the young. Now, I don’t have any expert opinions backing up the idea that given 20 years wolves or even bears may have lost their fear of the urban environment, however in the modern environment with suitable habitats shrinking it means its ever more likely that these creatures could very well move ‘out of the wild and into civilisation’. It may not even be cities, but towns or villages. Situated much closer to their habitats in the countryside and with a much less imposing human presence, as the animals become ever more confident attacks will, I would say, rise dramatically.
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The urban fox has developed into just as much a menace to city-goers as to country bumpkins (such as myself!) 

Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly don’t want to see any of these species go extinct, or anything like that, but I most certainly don’t want to see them suffer by being forced into an area too insufficient for them to the point where they are forced into conflict with humans. Because if that does happen, it’s not a fight that’s going to turn out well for the creatures, the supporters of reintroduction or the attitudes of the public towards sustainability and creation/cultivation of clean eco-systems.

Post Script; All images courtesy of Google.

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Another attempt at a CountryBall Cartoon

CountryBall cartoon: Attempt 3 – The Anglo-Franco Battle for North America
Despite being an abysmal artist, I decided I’d have a go and make another cartoon myself.

If I had had the time and the artistic skill, this would have been a huge cartoon in which the too-ing and fro-ing of the Battle for the North American continent between France and Britain would have been laid out.

Unfortunately, you have to deal with this

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A brief history of: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich

A brief history of: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich

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John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was born on November 13th, 1718 and he died April 30th, 1792. He was a British Statesman who held various different military and political offices throughout his life, such as being British first lord of the Admiralty, however he is arguably most recognisable as being the man after whom the sandwich was named.

 

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The Early Years
As a child, Sandwich studied at both Eton and Cambridge while inheriting his title from his grandfather at the young age of 11. Upon leaving education, he travelled around Europe (taking the ‘Grand Tour’ as it was known in the upper classes).

On his return to England in 1739, he took up his seat in the House of Lords.  Like many of his other Parliamentarians, Lord Sandwich was strongly opposed the deployment of British troops on the European Continent to protect it. He gained attention for his speeches in parliament which earned him a reputation for clearly setting out his argument.

The Politician, the Administrator and the Military Man
It was in 1774 that Sandwich was to gain his first military experience and received a place in the administration of the Navy under the Duke of Bedford (whom Sandwich supported in the House of Lords). Despite having a somewhat successful spell in the Admiralty, Sandwich was moved not long later into a position in the Army (which was small by most other European standards); it was in this position that he would catch a fever, become seriously ill and almost die.

Sandwich also spent time in diplomatic circles, and he represented Britain in the Congress of Breda 1746-48 (where he would utilise the British Secret Service to get one over on the French) and he would also be made British Ambassador to The Dutch Republic at the same time.

In 1748 Sandwich was granted the position as First Lord of The Admiralty, however by 1451 the leading politician of the time, The Duke of Newcastle, had become distrustful of Sandwich and had him dismissed from duty. This provoked the Duke of Bedford (a close political ally of Sandwich and rival for Newcastle’s power) into resigning in protest. Despite spending the next few years in solitude on his estate far from politics, upon the new Government forming in 1763, Sandwich was reinstated as Lord of the Admiralty by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute.

From 1763 to 1765 and 1770 to 1771, he also served as Secretary of State for the Northern Department. In this capacity he took a leading part in the prosecution of John Wilkes (1763), the radical British politician and agitator.

Sandwich then served for a third time as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord North’s administration from 1771 to 1782. During this period, his critics accused him of using the office to obtain bribes and to distribute political jobs, however although he was frequently attacked for corruption, his administrative ability was been recognized by his earlier successes. Despite the early administrative success in the role however, during the American Revolutionary War (1775 to 1781) Sandwich insisted upon keeping much of the British fleet in European waters because of the possibility of French attack, and he was subjected to considerable criticism for insufficient naval preparedness. Sandwich was accused of not only having too few ships prepared for an ‘inevitable’ war with France (which began in 1778 when France declared war), but his tactics were also criticised, as well as his ability to counteract both French and Spanish attacks when Spain entered the war on the side of France. Despite criticism however, a planned French-Spanish invasion of Cornwall in 1779 was foiled, perhaps as a result of the primary British ships being in Europe.

The Later Days
Sandwich retired from public duty in 1782, and lived another ten years in retirement; he married Dorothy Fane, daughter of the 1st Viscount Fane, by whom he had one son, John, Viscount Hinchingbrooke (1743 – 1814), who succeeded him as the 5th Earl.

Lord Sandwich was also great supporter of Captain James Cook. As First Lord of the Admiralty, Sandwich approved Admiralty funds for the purchase and fit-out of the Resolution, Adventure and Discovery for Cook’s second and third expeditions of exploration in the Pacific Ocean. As a result of his interest in naval affairs and his promotion of exploration and in honour of Sandwich, Captain Cook named the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) after him, as well as Montague Island off the south east coast of Australia, the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean and Montague Island in the Gulf of Alaska.

The origin of the Sandwich

sandwich-1The modern sandwich is named after Lord Sandwich, but the exact reasons and causes of its invention and original use are still uncertain. One rumour that formed was the popular myth that bread and meat sustained Lord Sandwich at the gambling table. A very dedicated gambler, Lord Sandwich did not take the time to have a meal during his long hours playing at the card table. As such, he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread; a habit well known among his gambling friends. Because John Montague was the Earl of Sandwich others began to order “the same as Sandwich!” and hence the ‘sandwich’ was born.

Another alternative is provided by Sandwich’s biographer, N. A. M. Rodger, who suggests Sandwich’s commitments to the navy, to politics and the arts mean the first sandwich was more likely to have been consumed at his work desk.

Either way, while these do show that the sandwich does indeed get its name from The 4th Earl, the fact remains that Arabs had already started stuffing meat inside pita bread centuries before the Earl was even born!

The 12th Doctor Revealed!

So there we have it; the 12th Doctor is Peter Capaldi!

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Capaldi in (I believe) his first and only promo shot as the 12th Doctor

Best known for his role as foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in ‘The Thick of It’, Capaldi has had a successful and varied career over the last 30 years.

As of this minute, its not completely clear when we are going to see the 12th Doctor in full form, most sources say the regeneration will happen in the christmas special, however a few doubt this and feel he will appear in the 50th Anniversary Special on November 23rd. All I can say is as much as I have enjoyed Matt Smith’s incarnation, I am very interested in seeing where the show takes this new incarnation. At 55 years old he is only a few months younger than William Hartnell was when he took the role as the 1st Doctor making him the second oldest actor to portray The Doctor (or he is at the moment anyway – we’ll have to see where John Hurt comes into that equation later).

I think that one of the great things about this choice for the 12th Doctor is his clear love of the show. I mean, just watch the clip – how can anyone not see that this guy is a true fan of the show!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Zim8zL3Q5k

Capaldi

Doctor Who is now such a large earner for the BBC that they even felt to announce Capaldi as the 12th Doctor with a special 30 minute long episode on prime-time Sunday TV (despite him being the bookies favourite for some time). The show featured testimony from characters old and new as well as fans of the show (And I couldn’t help but feel very sorry for Rufus Hound mucking up pretty much every time he spoke – in front of an audience, camera’s and Bernard Cribbins!). However, while Capaldi’s introduction in the special BBC program answered who was portraying the 12 Doctor, it revealed nothing as to what his personality or mannerisms may be. Will he speak with his Scottish accent (unlike David Tennant)? Will the TARDIS change? Will it be a return to the bad-tempered nature of the 1st Doctor? (The picture below certainly seems to suggest so!).

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I know that there has been a fallout to the choice though. As when Matt Smith was chosen, there have been their naysayers. For instance, I read an article the other day of the opinion that an actor aged 55 is too old for the role. I say poppycock – if anything, it could add a whole new perspective to the show allowing the writers to create a character unlike what we have seen since the 2005 revival. There are also mutterings about the fact Capaldi has been in the ‘Whoniverse’ before (he portrayed Lucius Caecilius Iucundus in “The Fires of Pompeii” and John Frobisher in Torchwood’s Children of Earth story line) must not have seen Arc of Infinity (featuring Colin Baker prior to becoming the 6th Doctor) or Doomsday (with Freema Agyeman before she was cast as Martha Jones); all of these roles were explained away and ignored – because they matter very little in the grand scheme of things!Another complaint has been made from those, generally of a younger generation (which I’m slightly ashamed to say I belong to, but disagree with inherently), is that he doesn’t look ‘right’ (meaning too old) and they will stop watching the show because he doesn’t have the ‘physical appeal’ of either Tennant or Smith. Personally, I say good-riddance to these people!

Overall, I am more than happy with this choice. Of course, thats with very very little to go on – no clips, no personality, no anything. We know absolutely nothing about what Capaldi is going to do with the character, although if his love of the show is anything to go by, I daresay its going to be good.

The ‘Winston’: Our new £5 note

So! The Bank of England has announced that Sir Winston Churchill is planned to appear on the new design for a £5 note which will enter circulation in 2016.

A wide range of historical characters appears on the reverse of Bank of England banknotes. The current face of the £5 note is social reformer Elizabeth Fry, the only woman besides the Queen on any British banknote.

The design will include a portrait of the former prime minister, adapted from a photograph taken by Yousuf Karsh on 30 December 1941. The image is one of his more famous, and his glum expression was due to his cigar being forcibly removed moments before it was taken. He is the only politician from the modern era to feature on a banknote.

The artwork will also include Churchill’s declaration “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat” which came in a speech in the Commons on 13 May 1940 as well as a view of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower (or Big Ben) from the South Bank. The Great Clock will show three o’clock – (the approximate time of the Commons speech) and it will also feature a background image of the Nobel Prize for literature, which Churchill was awarded in 1953.

Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England (until later this year when he is replaced by the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr Mark Carney) has stated;

“Our banknotes acknowledge the life and work of great Britons. Sir Winston Churchill was a truly great British leader, orator and writer. Above that, he remains a hero of the entire free world. His energy, courage, eloquence, wit and public service are an inspiration to us all.”

Personally, I have absolutely no problem with Sir Winston Churchill being placed on the back of a £5 note. I think that he performed admirably as a war-time Prime Minister and was an incredibly strong asset to upholding British morale.

However, I can also see the reasoning from people who don’t support the change. I have seen forums where people have despaired against his love of the British Empire but dislike of its subjects, and his abrasive personality doesn’t seem to have earned him any favours. However I equally don’t think it’s fair to compare someone who lived the prime of his life nearly 100 years ago to the modern day; his ideals and grasp of the world was deeply different from our own and I doubt that any other historical figurehead would be different. I am also tentative about a political figure being used and I hope that this doesn’t open the floodgates up to other Prime Ministers being placed on Bank notes undeservedly.

I think that the people who feature on our currency should also be easily recognisable as British icons. I mean, I looked at the backs of £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes just before writing this post and could only name Charles Darwin from the back of the £10. I’d never heard of Elizabeth Fry (£5), Adam Smith (£20) or of Matthew Boulton (£50) and although I know of James Watt (also £50), I couldn’t pick him out from his picture.

Putting someone like Churchill on the back of the notes fits the exact purpose of having the funny little pictures; it promotes British History and culture. People will see it and think, look at the grumpy old British bulldog. If only we all still had his fighting spirit.

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Post Script:
I also think its quite funny to imagine the new note as being nicknamed a ‘Winston’. I mean, how quintessentially British can you get?

Post-Post Script 03/05/13:
I have just came accross a book entitled : ‘Churchill Style: The Art of Being Winston Churchill’.
I have a burning desire to acquire said book and store it on a shelf where I can admire its name for decades to come.

Empire Total War

For those that don’t know, Empire Total War is a turn based strategy game which puts you in command of one of the leading Empire’s of the 1700’s (Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, Spain, The Maratha Confederacy ect ect). You then get to expand through Trade, Technology and often War in order to ‘win’ the campaign.

Now, in my latest play-through of the game (I’ve spent over 252 hours playing it – thats about 10 and a half days) I was just minding my own business, expanding the size of British India and building up the newly won colonies of North America when Prussia decides they are going to declare war on me. This shocked myself and a number of members of the British Government as Prussia had been a long time ally of ours and we hadn’t actually come into contact with them since the beginning of the game. So, as a courtesy, I decided to pay them off with a peice of relatively insignificant technology and hope we’d go back to being friends. This did not work. After declaring war on me a further three times, sending their rather pitiful navy to be destroyed by my own, I decided that I was no longer going to pay them off and promptly took over three of their stronger cities and two small ones. Austria tried to get involved but after one crushing defeat decided to leave me to it.

This is what my foreign relations currently looks like (although I have taken all but one of Prussia’s cities and I have also taken Austria’s main city). Something is telling me Britain is not very popular.

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Sometime in the future I’ll do an actual review of the game. Its fantastic. Also expect news on my current play-through for Europe Universallis 3 – its a steep learning curve that’s for sure!