The Socialist countess
I bought ‘The socialist countess’ by Horace W.C. Newte (Mills & Boon, 1911) for £1.50 for the hell of it last year (2005) in Michael Moon’s amazing warren of a bookshop in Whitehaven – thought it would be amusing at least – and I’ve only just got round to reading it. They don’t publish novels like this anymore, or at least, not straight. Michael Palin’s ‘Ripping yarns’ spring to mind; PC hardly enters into it. There are some truly hideous passages – one reacts with disbelief to the passages mentioning ‘Hebrews’ in the East End. But although it is basically a romantic novel it is also a vehicle for political and social discussion with, in places, more than a hint of Dickens and the social novels of H.G.Wells. While the lower classes often function as a source of comedy, alongside the hilarious snobbery there is also an occasional compassionate exploration of hard lives and conditions born with a variety of dignities, a recognition that there is a problem to be addressed, and quite an astute grasp of, and meditation on, the nuances of class and status within and between the upper, middle and working class and the stratas within them. In these he sees problems for the establishing of socialism (he’s agin it, mind, can only lead to people getting ideas above their station), not forgetting the problem of some of the socialists themselves (some things don’t change). The romantic denouement is a disappointment – a complete cop out, with no transcending of the social barriers. Fascinating social document though. Here, read these sample passages for light relief.
(April 10, 2006)
The wit & wisdom of
These gems date from the days before Celtic …
Reporter: Gordon, Do you think James Beattie deserves to be in the England squad?
Strachan: I don’t care, I’m Scottish.
Reporter: Gordon, can we have a quick word please?
Reporter: Gordon, you must be delighted with that result?
Strachan: You’re spot on! You can read me like a book.
Reporter: [a question about an under-performing player]
Strachan: I’ve got more important things to think about. I’ve got a yogurt to finish by today, the expiry date is today.
Reporter: This might sound like a daft question, but you’ll be happy to get your first win under your belt, won’t you?
Strachan: You’re right. It is a daft question. I’m not even going to bother answering that one. It is a daft question, you’re spot on there.
Reporter: Bang, there goes your unbeaten run. Can you take it?
Strachan: No, I’m just going to crumble like a wreck. I’ll go home, become an alcoholic and maybe jump of a bridge. Umm, I think I can take it, yeah.
Reporter: You don’t take losing lightly, do you Gordon?
Strachan: I don’t take stupid comments lightly either.
Reporter: “What is your impression of Jermaine Pennant?”
Strachan: “I don’t do impressions.”
Reporter: So Gordon, any changes then?
Strachan: Naw, still 5ft 6, ginger and a big nose!
Reporter: So, Gordon, in what areas do you think Middlesbrough were better than you today?
Strachan: What areas? Mainly that big green one out there….
Is there a Santa Claus?
1. No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
2. There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn’t (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total – 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.
3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc. This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second; a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that “flying reindeer” (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal anoint, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload – not even counting the weight of the sleigh – to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison – this is four times the weight of the cruise ship QE II.
5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
In conclusion – If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead now.
Based on the research of SPY magazine, January 1990.