2007年8月30日 星期四

collects royalties for music artists

The U.K. society that collects royalties for music artists is licensing more than 10 million pieces of music to Google's YouTube for use on the British version of the Web site.

2007年8月28日 星期二


By Vanessa Houlder
Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Almost a third of the UK's 700 biggest businesses paid no corporation tax in the 2005-06 financial year while another 30 per cent paid less than £10m each, an official study has found.

Of the tax paid by these businesses, two-thirds came from just three industries – banking, insurance and oil and gas – while the alcohol, tobacco, car and real estate sectors contributed only a few hundred million pounds.

Altogether, these large public and private companies paid £24.4bn in 2005-06, or just more than half of all the corporation tax paid, according to a National Audit Office analysis of the tax raised from the 700 companies handled by the large business service of Revenue & Customs.

2007年8月27日 星期一

British Cuisine, Reborn

London: Stylish Space for British Cuisine, Reborn


Food from Roast

The menu at Roast, located above London's Borough Market, highlights local produce, meats, seafood, cheeses and breads. Roast

NPR.org, August 23, 2007 · Since curry is now the British national dish, it seems only right that the resurrection of British cooking should be led by the son of Bangladeshi immigrants.

Iqbal Wahhib has dug deep into British culinary traditions and come up with Roast, a restaurant that celebrates the fact that British cuisine is no longer a contradiction in terms.

Roast is located in a cavernous, modern upstairs space above Borough Market, the ultimate farmers market for inner-city foodies just 100 yards south of the River Thames at London Bridge.

The indoor market, which dates back to 1756, is pleasantly off the pace of central London, but still within easy reach. Ask for a table in the upper section, with views across the river to St. Paul's Cathedral. You can watch the trains come into London Bridge station, too.

The food is served in a straightforward, shut-up-and-eat kind of way. For starters, choose from black pudding hash with spiced applesauce, lobster broth or cauliflower tart with Stilton and watercress.

Entrees include Gressingham duck, steak and ox kidney pudding cooked in Guinness, Cornish squid, roast pheasant with pearl barley and Craggenmore whisky, or parsnip cake with Wensleydale cheese for the veggie brigade.

Like the rest of London, the food at Roast doesn't come cheap, but the restaurant has a variety of eye-popping cocktails available and a good wine list to ease the pain. You can also enjoy a great weekend brunch at Roast, after wandering around the market stalls down below.

So no more jokes about British food, please. They may not do fusion in Yorkshire, but Roast is showing the way for a whole new generation of good, honest, unreconstructed British food, without the smoky pub setting and the warm English beer.

Roast — The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, London, SE1 1TL, England. Telephone: 44-20-7940-1300. Web site: http://www.roast-restaurant.com/.

2007年8月26日 星期日

John Lobb Bootmaker

F. A. Herbig{費里尼自傳:夢是唯一的現實}Ichi, Fellini, 1994)台北:遠流出版,1996285-6 所說的"Lobb 鞋子"沒注釋:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Lobb Bootmaker's logo

John Lobb Bootmaker is a company which manufactures and retails a very exclusive luxury brand of shoes and boots mainly for men, but also for women. It is based near St James's Palace, London. Founded in 1849, Lobb is one of England's oldest makers of bench-made shoes, worn by clients such as King Edward VII, famous 20th century opera tenor Enrico Caruso or actor Daniel Day Lewis. At Lobb, special care is taken to select the fine leather skins - with crocodile skin shoes for about USD 8000 at the top of the range.

Hermès acquired John Lobb in 1976. It took over all operations except for the original John Lobb shoe shop in London. The original, family-owned Lobb still handmakes shoes one pair at a time, while Hermès broadened the reach of the John Lobb brandname through its ready-to-wear line. The production of each pair of John Lobb shoes is so time-consuming that only about 100 pairs of shoes are finished per day.

Hermès' John Lobb shoes are available in both ready-to-wear and made-to-measure. Its motto is "The Bare Maximum for a Man".

Hermès' John Lobb shoes are sold in its own boutiques or in luxury department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Neiman Marcus and Lane Crawford.

A pair of made-to-measure leather shoes costs over £2000.

[edit] External links

2007年8月25日 星期六

英国人享受数码新生活 (BBC)

英国人享受数码新生活 (BBC)

















Foreclosures Force Britons to Ponder Shift to Fixed Rates

Foreclosures Force Britons to Ponder Shift to Fixed Rates

Jonathan Player for The New York Times

Foreclosures are at an eight-year high in Britain, and lenders have repossessed a record 14,000 properties in 2007.

Published: August 24, 2007

LONDON, Aug. 22 — Susan Whittaker was desperate. Four years ago, she purchased her first apartment in the town of Rochester, less than two hours east of London. But then interest rates started to rise, and the income from the small shop she ran with her partner no longer covered their adjustable-rate mortgage.

Skip to next paragraph
Jonathan Player for The New York Times

In British society, “we encourage people to take on debt,” said Frances Walker, a debt adviser.

Facing foreclosure, and determined to avoid moving in with her mother, Ms. Whittaker found a way out in an increasingly popular arrangement here known as a “sale and rent back.”

A private company bought her home, allowing her to avoid foreclosure; then the company rented the house back to Ms. Whittaker and her partner and they did not even have to move.

The catch is that the company paid the couple less than the value of their apartment.

Such deals are uncommon in the United States, and mortgage brokers say they discourage them because of the possibility of unscrupulous and dishonest lenders exploiting distressed homeowners.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. While Americans fear an epidemic of foreclosures, brought on by the subprime mortgage meltdown, Britain is already suffering one.

Foreclosures here are at an eight-year high; lenders have repossessed a record 14,000 properties in 2007, 30 percent more than at the same time last year, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. An additional 125,100 households are behind in their mortgage payments.

And personal bankruptcies are at an all-time record, caused largely by a crushing increase in mortgage debt. The situation has grown so dire — as has the threat of desperate homeowners being exploited — that the newly installed government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown is trying to change the fundamentals of the mortgage system.

Whether they can is an open question, especially given Britons’ attachment to home ownership, adjustable-rate mortgages and personal debt. British consumers are the most indebted citizens of any Group of 7 nation, and television shows devoted to real estate and debt advice are among the most popular programs in the country.

“We live in a society where we encourage people to take on debt, and there is lots of pressure to get your foot on the housing ladder, which has proven quite a fruitful investment for some,” said Frances Walker of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a debt adviser, in London.

Currently, only 5 percent of British home buyers take out fixed-rate mortgages. The norm here is a mortgage with a fixed rate for the first two years, and then a floating rate for the duration of the mortgage.

But the rate on adjustable mortgages has skyrocketed as the Bank of England ratcheted up interest rates — five times over the last 12 months to 5.75 percent, their highest level since 2001.

Add the rising costs of necessities, like food and utilities, and British homeowners find themselves increasingly squeezed. Real estate experts here say that is why more and more homeowners are turning to the practice of sale and rent back.

The mushrooming of the unregulated market has worried regulators and lawmakers concerned that homeowners were giving up their houses for as little as 75 percent of market value, with no guarantee they would be allowed to stay in their former property after six months, the minimum lease period here.

Lawmakers are now trying to figure out how to encourage more homeowners to take fixed-rate loans, but that will not help those already facing foreclosure, or prevent the threat of predatory lending.

If there is a silver lining in Britain, it is that, unlike in the United States, home prices are still rising, for now, after more than tripling since 1997. Recent interest rate increases have yet to reverse the trend. In fact, the National Housing Federation recently predicted prices would rise 40 percent in the next five years, elevating the average price of a home, which already costs about 11 times the average British salary, to £302,400, or $618,000.

As long as home prices rise, distressed property owners can still sell their home and receive enough money to repay their mortgage debt — in theory. In reality, selling a property here can take several months, and by the time many owners are facing foreclosure, they often do not have that kind of time.

Higher prices may push some prospective buyers out of the market, but others will simply take out larger mortgages. Owning a home is so entrenched in the British psyche that most consumers would rather take on additional debt than rent, even if they can’t afford it, say real estate experts.

Some debt advisers have warned that higher demand for borrowing could result in an increase in lax lending practices and plunge more people into personal bankruptcy, which in turn could hurt consumer spending and slow economic growth.

Recognizing that, Mr. Brown’s new government has come up with two initiatives intended to make sure Britain’s housing boom does not turn into a bust. The measures aim to build 240,000 homes a year by 2016 to provide more affordable housing, and to encourage lenders to sell more 25-year fixed-rate mortgages.

Mortgage experts estimate that about two million mortgages will adjust to a higher rate in the next 18 months as their short-term fixed rates expire.

Longer-term fixed-rate mortgages would limit the risk of such interest rate increases, but short-term thinking among British borrowers and the lack of an established covered-bond market in Britain has kept fixed-rate mortgages from ever taking off here.

The United States mortgage market is financed through capital markets — hence some of the problems currently buffeting the markets — but Britain has always been a retail-led mortgage market, financed through bank savings deposits.

Now Alistair Darling, chancellor of the Exchequer, is studying plans to create a legal framework to allow banks and other lenders to issue covered bonds, and to make them attractive to investors, in order to help lenders create capital pools that would finance longer fixed mortgages.

Yet that task could become markedly more difficult now given the current problems with the United States mortgage market. The liberalization of the British mortgage market in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher’s government removed some credit controls, admitting new lenders who offered mortgages with ever more competitive short-term fixed rates. Longer-term fixed-rate mortgages became even more unpopular in the 1990s when interest rates peaked at 15 percent.

In March, Nationwide, Britain’s third-largest mortgage lender after HBOS and Abbey, became the first large lender to offer a 25-year fixed-rate mortgage after government lobbying and a positive development of the yield curve. “If this deal is ever going to be attractive, now is the time,” Stuart Bernau, Nationwide’s chief executive, said at the time.

Some analysts remain skeptical. “People don’t feel comfortable tying themselves in for that long, and they get turned off by the penalties” of paying off early, said James Cotton, a mortgage adviser at London & Country Mortgages. Early payment fees can reach as much as £300,000 in Britain.

But if the government cannot persuade Britons to change their borrowing habits, experts warn that the country may face its own subprime mortgage crisis, as consumers with tarnished credit find that only subprime lenders are willing to work with them.

“That’s where the real problems will start, and we could easily see what happened in the U.S. repeated over here, ” said Steve Grail, managing director at Grosvenor Trust & Savings, an independent financial adviser in London.

None of this matters to Susan Whittaker. The experience of having to sell her home and rent it back has made any type of loan out of the question. “We won’t get a mortgage again,” said Ms. Whittaker, speaking on the phone from her Rochester home. “The whole episode has put us off.”

2007年8月20日 星期一

a pi-jaw and Those Holy Fields

“Well, Hall, expecting a pi-jaw, eh?”

'I don't know, Sir - Mr Abrahams's given me one with :Those Holy Fields".....

喂 霍爾 你以為會得到一通說教吧 嗯
我不知道 老師 亞伯拉罕老師在說教之後給了我一幅"聖野"畫.....

Maurice by E. M. Foster 莫瑞斯著 文潔若譯

'pi jaw' "To give moral advice to; admonish"; school and university slang from the I880s (Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and ...

'pi jaw' "To give moral advice to; admonish"; school and university slang from the I880s (Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 8th edn. [New York, Macmillan, 1984]).

fields 聖城野外諸景也.....

Manning, Rev. Samuel. Those Holy Fields. Palestine Illustrated by Pen and Pencil.
London The Religious Tract Society [c 1873] 223 pp. Illustrated throughout in b&w. Quarto. Richly tooled green leather, a.e.g.

Source: Those Holy Fields, p. 49.

Bethlehem from the East

Soon Bethlehem, comes into view—a white-walled village of about three thousand inhabitants, all professedly Christians. They are, however, a turbulent, quarrelsome set, ever fighting amongst themselves or with their neighbours. In the disturbances which take place so frequently at Jerusalem, it is said that the ringleaders are commonly found to be Bethlehemites. The women are remarkable for personal beauty. I saw more handsome faces here in a few hours than elsewhere in the East in many days. . . . The men are strong, lithe, well-built fellows, and I saw several young shepherds, who were models of manly vigour. Here, as elsewhere in the East, the pastoral pipe is in constant use. . . . Bethlehem stands on the crest of a ridge of Jurassic limestone. As it is surrounded by higher hills, however, the view from it is not very extensive. Jerusalem, though only six miles distant, is hidden by an intervening height; but through the valleys stretching away eastward to the Dead Sea, fine views are gained of the mountains of Moab, and from the flat roof of the Latin Convent part of the Dead Sea itself is visible. (Source: Those Holy Fields, pp. 42-43.)


"有一回我到倫敦洽公,隨後要轉巴黎。他正好在巴黎看望女兒。當時英法海底隧道剛剛啟用,他打電話建議我搭「歐洲之星」走一趟隧道,我說我飛機票都訂好了, 隧道以後再說吧。第二天我離開旅館要去機場時,赫然發現他等在櫃台前:為了要我搭歐洲之星,他老遠從巴黎趕到倫敦來陪我過海一趟。乍見有點覺得此人無厘 頭,但當英法海峽兩端早春的平疇原野在車窗外迤邐開展,我終於體會出他的理由。"


2007年8月19日 星期日

李有成  在北海邊(人間20070820)

這篇文章有許多英國文化的key words 所以全文照錄 希望以後能詳注

Wikipedia article "King's Lynn".

■ 李有成  在北海邊 (人間 20070820)

朋友知道我要到倫敦來,一定要我到京斯林(King’s Lynn)他新購的小屋看看。我這裏說的小屋,朋友用的英文是cottage。少年時代初識英國小說,每次看到cottage一字,我就先入為主認定那是已有年代的小屋,數十年來對cottage的印象始終未改。離開台北前我接到朋友的電郵,他說已經幫我在京斯林的行庫之屋(The Bank House) 訂了客房,還約好見面的時間和地點,一起搭火車到京斯林去。

京斯林位於倫敦東北方的諾福克(Norfolk),從倫敦國王十字火車站 出發,車程約一小時四十分鐘,途中經過的較著名的城鎮要數劍橋和伊里(Ily)──劍橋大概位於倫敦和京斯林中間。我沒到過京斯林,但到過劍橋和伊里,劍橋更因不同緣由去過幾次,沿途的景致大概還有些印象。我向來喜歡搭乘英國火車,尤其享受火車在小鎮農村穿梭奔馳的情形。離開了倫敦,窗外所見多是田野和荒地。這時正值夏末秋初,秋收已過,田野所見多半是枯黃的草枺或新翻的泥土,但荒地中綠樹野花仍然生氣盎然。英國較少高山,以前文人貴族為了體驗高山的險峻雄偉,還必須橫渡英吉利海峽,到歐洲大陸去。雖然少了高山峻嶺,英國卻不缺田野和荒地,多少名著就是以田野和荒地為背景。


當然伊里還有旅客必遊的伊里大教堂。教堂初建於一○八三年,至一三五一年才告完工,也算得上千年古剎了。教堂的建築主體呈十字架形,長一百七十二公尺,僅中間殿堂部分就長達七十五公尺,因其佔地寬長,且為伊里最高的建築物,所以當地人將大教堂暱稱為濕地之艦(the ship of the Fens)。朋友告訴我說,從劍橋經伊里,往北到京斯林,再到京斯林西南方的彼得鎮一帶,綿延有百萬英畝的黑土平原和沼澤地,被稱為濕地(the Fens),是許多野生動物棲身之家,同時也蔓生著蘆葦和種類繁多的野草。


京斯林直譯應作王潭──Lynn一字在塞爾特語中有池塘、水潭、湖泊之意。十二世紀時,此鎮原為諾瑞治(Norwich)主教的轄地,因此原名主教之潭(Bishop’s Lynn)。一五三三年,亨利八世為了娶安妮波玲(Anne Boleyn)──即伊莉莎白一世的媽媽──而向羅馬教會申請離婚被拒,惱羞成怒,與羅馬教會決裂,並在一五三六年之後收回所有教會轄地,納為皇產,英國從此變成新教國家,主教之潭也從此成為國王之潭。




我們折回河岸,在堤防上坐下來歇腳。朋友遙指著寬闊的河口說,那就是被稱作沖刷地(The Wash) 的著名出海口,再過去就是北海。沖刷地其實是一處大海灣,兩側與海岸幾成直角,位於京斯林這一部分已屬南端。沖刷地有幾條深水溝,其他部分水位極淺,退潮時還會冒出若干沙洲。此處也是許多貝類如海扇、淡菜,以及蝦、蟹繁殖之地;也許因為食物充足,許多禽鳥也選擇在這裏棲息或過冬。據說每年平均有三十萬隻候鳥在沖刷地渡過冬天,歐洲聯盟因此將沖刷地劃定為特別保護區。

京斯林位依北海,在英國早期的航海業曾經佔一席之地,十七世紀時更以輸出農產品聞名。有一位叫喬治溫哥華(George Vancouver)的本地人,曾經在一七五七年擔任京斯林的副稅務官,後來追隨庫克船長學習航海,數年後升任船長。一七九一年四月一日,他奉命率「發現號」(Discovery)和「占丹號」(Chatham)自發爾茅斯(Falmouth)出發,經好望角、澳大利亞、紐西蘭、大溪地及夏威夷,次年四月抵達北美洲西岸,與西班牙駐墨西哥的指揮官瓜德拉(Juan Francisco de la BodegayQuadra)會面,就兩國的海上利益談判。兩人後來變成莫逆,並連袂沿著加利福尼亞向北航行,還把一座島嶼稱作瓜德拉與溫哥華之島(Quadra and Vancouver’s Island),即日後一般人所稱的溫哥華島,而島上後來開發的城市就叫溫哥華。京斯林舊稅關後方站立著喬治溫哥華的全身塑像,永遠凝望著當年帶他出海的大烏慈河。

河堤風大,朋友建議我先住進行庫之屋,晚上再共進晚餐。行庫之屋其實是間民宿,離河岸約五十公尺,原為創於十八世紀的格尼銀行(Gurney’s Bank)一八九六年併入今天的巴克萊銀行(Barclays Bank)──行址,剛重新整修裝潢,營業還不滿一個月。此民宿建築樓高二層,一樓為會客室、櫃台、 餐廳、廚房等,客房在二樓,只有五間,設計和選材皆不俗,可以看出所費不貲。民宿主人為中年夫婦,男主人為英國人,原為執業律師,因為夢想有一間民宿,竟然捨棄律師的高薪作,將所有積蓄花在這間民宿上,並當起主人兼侍者。女主人則為新加坡華人,久居英國,英語已無新加坡人口音。我們聊起新馬一帶的食物,談興不減。

朋友約好在河岸邊新開張的一家餐廳吃晚餐。餐廳兼營酒吧,座無虛席,我們在樓下喝餐前酒,一個小時後侍者才招呼我們到樓上入座。京斯林因為靠海,海產豐富,當地人也嗜食海鮮。我的主菜是香煎鱒魚,但我不敢確定鱒魚是否為此地所產。一般人常譏笑英國菜不登大雅之堂,印象大概主要來自炸魚和薯條 之類的速食。其實英國各地都有地方食物,遊客匆匆路過,自己不容易嘗到當地的佳餚。這一餐我和朋友倒是吃得相當盡興,餐後一客約克郡布丁和一杯咖啡,為這一天的旅途勞頓劃下美好的句點。我們七點鐘到餐廳,離開時已經過了十點,這頓飯足足吃了三個多鐘頭。餐廳樓下,酒客仍多,這是倫敦酒館的普遍現象,尤其在周末的時候,想不到地處北海邊的古老小鎮也是如此。餐廳外,風吹得緊,微有涼意,大烏慈河上剛好有汽艇駛過,寂靜的夜裏馬達聲特別清晰。


cot·tage (kŏt'ĭj) n.
A small, single-storied house, especially in the country.
A small vacation house.
[Middle English cotage, from Anglo-Norman, from Medieval Latin cotāgium, of Germanic origin.]

Origin of the term
Originally in the Middle Ages, cottages housed agricultural workers and their families. The term cottage denoted the dwelling of a cotter. Thus, cottages were smaller peasant units (larger peasant units being called "messuages"). In that early period, a documentary reference to a cottage would most often mean, not a small stand-alone dwelling as today, but a complete farmhouse and yard (albeit a small one). Thus in the Middle-Ages, the word cottage (Lat. "cotagium") seems to have meant not just a dwelling, but have included at least a dwelling (domus) and a barn (grangia), as well as, usually, a fenced yard or piece of land enclosed by a gate (portum)
Examples of this may be found in 15th Century manor court rolls. The house of the cottage bore the Latin name: "domum dicti cotagii", while the barn of the cottage was termed "grangia dicti cotagii".
Later on, a cottage might also have denoted a smallholding comprising houses, outbuildings, and supporting farmland or woods. A cottage, in this sense, would typically include just a few acres of tilled land.
Much later (from around the 18th Century onwards), the development of industry led to the development of weavers' cottages and miners' cottages.

This lakefront cottage located in Muskoka, Ontario is typical of those in Canada

Cottages in North America
In North America, most buildings known as cottages are used for weekend or summer getaways by city dwellers. It is also not uncommon for the owners of cottages to rent their properties to tourists as a source of revenue.
Canadian cottages are generally located near lakes or the ocean in wilderness areas and are utilized as a place to go fishing, hiking, and sailing. There are also many notable summer colonies.
Cottage vacationing is one of the most popular tourist draws in Ontario, Canada, in a region that has come to be known as cottage country.

n. - 農舍, 小屋, 別墅, 單幢住所v. intr. - 住別墅
cottage cheese 軟乾酪, 鬆軟的白乾酪
cottage industry 家庭工業
cottage loaf 農家麵包
cottage pie 農家餡餅

日本語 (Japanese) n. - 小さな家, 小屋, 小別荘, 別荘, 一戸建て住宅
cottage cheese カテージチーズ
cottage industry 家内工業, 零細産業
cottage loaf 重ねパン
cottage pie シェパードパイ

Lead (uk) and the practices of the 'Big Four'

Lead, the killer we give to children (uk)

政府的監管部門"競爭委員會"(Competition Commission)指出,有關電郵包含了威脅性用詞。

Farmers complain of 'ruthless buyers'

By James Hall and Roya Nikkhah, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:56am BST 19/08/2007

Threatening and abusive emails from Britain's biggest supermarkets, bullying farmers and food suppliers into cutting prices, have been uncovered by investigators.

The watchdog is investigating The messages were allegedly sent by Tesco and Asda, warning suppliers to reduce the price at which they sell their food to the retailers - or face being axed.

The emails, understood to contain threatening and aggressive language, have been unearthed by the Government's monopolies watchdog, the Competition Commission. They emerged as the watchdog investigated the practices of the "Big Four" chains - Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons - as part of a two-year inquiry into their national dominance.

The commission believes it has found a smoking gun and has now ordered Tesco and Asda to submit all emails, letters and taped phone calls between them and their suppliers from a five-week period this summer when they initiated a £520 million round of price cuts.
The email traffic between the two chains and their suppliers was uncovered by investigators as they focused on the period in June and July.

The big supermarkets, who enjoy combined annual sales of £95 billion, have faced growing accusations from shoppers and consumer groups that their retail dominance has left householders with little choice over where they shop and the range of products they can buy.
The stores argue that they are under pressure to keep prices low from customers whose household budgets are increasingly squeezed.

Suppliers have become concerned over the retail chains demanding ever-lower prices, threatening the viability of their businesses and putting some - especially farmers - on the brink of ruin.

Tesco, in particular, has faced a public backlash from MPs and pressure groups, who accuse it of railroading through planning guidelines, and being responsible for the closure of an increasing number of small shops and traditional high-street businesses.

Tesco now controls almost a third of the UK grocery market, and one pound in every seven spent in all British shops goes through its tills. The retailer, which made profits last year of £2.6 billion, has been accused of creating "Tesco towns", where it has almost total dominance.

Critics say at least 25 "corner" shops close every week as a result of big supermarket dominance. Over the past year, more than 1,300 independent stores closed.

Stephen Alambritis, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "We believe that this kind of intimidation by the big supermarkets is widespread and are glad that the Competition Commission seems to have unearthed evidence of this as smaller suppliers are so often reluctant to speak out.

"Consumers need to be made aware that when they are buying goods on the cheap, it is often on the back of bullying tactics which force smaller businesses to fold."

Anthony Gibson, of the National Farmers' Union, said: "Whenever supermarkets get involved in price wars, it is always the supplier - the weakest player in the food chain - who ultimately pays."

He added: "Farmers are making huge losses at the moment, and if the supermarkets carry on the way they are, they will have no supply chain left."

A farming industry source said: "You are dealing with some of the most sophisticated, powerful retailers in the world. They are peopled by individuals who have targets to improve their year-on-year profit margins. They are remarkably ruthless buyers."

Mark Prisk, the shadow minister for business and enterprise, said: "It is critical that the big supermarkets understand that all business must be conducted in a free and fair way, and that abuse of the system, particularly against the smaller suppliers, is completely unacceptable and must be challenged."

The retail chains argue they are under pressure to keep prices low. With household spending budgets being squeezed by rising interest rates, the chains have slashed prices in an effort to entice shoppers through their doors. Figures last week showed that inflation fell in July largely because of supermarket price cuts.

Tesco and Asda argue that they provide shoppers with conveniently located stores and cheap prices that simply did not exist years ago.

A Tesco spokeswoman said the retailer had "nothing to hide and will comply fully with the request". An Asda spokeswoman said the company was co-operating with the investigation.

A spokesman for the commission confirmed that it had demanded all correspondence from Tesco and Asda to their suppliers over an unspecified period earlier this summer.

Toilet Humour Draws The Crowds At The Edinburgh Festival

The Edinburgh Festival is the world's largest arts festival, and over three weeks every August, it attracts a huge range of performers and musicians from around the world. The Edinburgh Fringe in particular - part of the Edinburgh Festival - showcases experimental works that would never have the chance of appearing at other, more formal festivals....like ?The Umbrella Birds'. Emily, Kate, Kerry and Susanna are four comedians from London. And they're setting Edinburgh alight with their daily show...that's about women's toilets, and is performed in women's toilets. The Umbrella Birds say their show explores the darker side of female relationships, by parodying the extraordinary conversations women have with each other in public loos. EuroVox speaks to Emily Watson Howes about The Umbrella Girls' very British humour, and asks what it's like performing in a portaloo at Edinburgh's world famous festival.

Portable toilet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The word Portaloo is legally a trademark of Portakabin, Ltd., but has been genericized to refer to any make of portable toilet, at least ...

2007年8月16日 星期四

Let the rich go forth and multiply



作者:英国《金融时报》克莱夫•克鲁克(Clive Crook)
2007年8月17日 星期五

《枪炮、病菌与钢铁》(Guns, Germs, and Steel)一 书中,贾德•戴蒙(Jared Diamond)对长期发展提出了一个令人惊诧却又可能立刻让人认同的论点。西方走向繁荣,而其它地区未能做到,原因在于地理环境。由于它们(得天独厚) 的地理位置,欧洲和它的美国分支拥有易于驯养和栽培的动植物、较轻的疾病负担以及有利于工业化的自然资源。工业革命发端于英国,随后蔓延到欧洲大陆和美 国,都是因为运气好。

将于下月出版的一本新书辩称,戴蒙完全搞错了。格雷戈里•克拉克 (Gregory Clark)的《告别施舍:世界经济简史》(Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World)与戴蒙那本非凡的畅销书一样,是一本引人入胜、令人难忘、文笔优美的好书,也同样应当赢得广泛的读者。

克 拉克辩称,造成差异的并非地理学和生物学方面的因素,或是像物权与民主等制度方面的因素,而是文化。富人变得更加富有,是因为他们推动了有利于经济现代化 的思想发展;穷人继续贫穷,也是因为他们没能做到这点。克拉克是加州大学戴维斯分校(University of California, Davis)一位经济历史学家,他搜集了众多精妙的论据和论点,来支持自己的论断,而且在做出一些骇人听闻的推论方面毫不退缩。

他 在书中写道,在19世纪初期,世界陷入了一个马尔萨斯陷阱(这是以英国经济学家托马斯•马尔萨斯(Thomas Malthus)命名的,他认为人口增长会导致这个世界出现食物与其它资源的匮乏)。知识方面的缓慢进步没能提高收入;反而是刺激了人口的增长。在18世 纪,大多数英国人还忍受着和石器时代大体相当的生活水准。富裕生活被自动抵消:就经济规律而言,人和动物没有什么区别。


为 什么这始自英国?肯定不是因为这个国家缺少“坏脾气的河马和斑马”。这个原因“不是煤炭、不是殖民地、不是新教改革、不是启蒙运动”。而是逾500年的社 会安定与相对较高的富人生育率结合所导致的结果。当克拉克谈到“演变”出一个有利于现代化的社会环境时,他指的就是字面含义。在英国,富人大量增多。这导 致了向下流动性的喷涌,富人的孩子们渗透到了低一些的社会阶层。通过这种方式,资产阶级价值观植根于更广泛的文化之中。挑战马尔萨斯理论的文化条件也在其 它地方形成。但这一进程在英国走得最远,所以英国成为了发源地。

克拉克驳斥了工业革命的“突变”论,即寻找各种各样的外部冲击。收入只是在 1800年后才开始急剧上升,但早在此之前,生产力已经开始了一个逐渐上升的形态。对于很多人来说, 1800年英国的物质条件并不比1200年强多少——但尽管如此,社会已经发生了转变。其间的几个世纪,为现代经济打下了知识和文化方面的基础。


提 高平均寿命的举措,结果是降低了收入——英国早先的优势正好相反,当时恶劣的卫生条件导致了低平均寿命和相对较高的收入。(根据马尔萨斯的逻辑,如果你改 善人们依靠低收入生存的能力,维持最低生活的收入水平将下降——克拉克指出,这就非洲目前的情况。)此外,如果现代化的关键是拥有资产阶级价值观的劳动 力,而我们又不知道如何去传播资产阶级价值观,那我们对于提升贫穷国家的收入水平就无能为力了。



但 如果这些落后的看法真如他所言,是无法根除的,那又如何解释印度自90年代初开放以来的(经济)增长呢?这样的增长奇迹是文化悲观主义所不能解释的。他们 声称,正确的激励能够迅速激发正确的态度。一些来自贫穷国家的经济移民在到达到富裕国家后所获得的巨大成功,也说明了这一点。相比于克拉克,我相信,好坏 姑且不论,文化具有更大的可塑性。




阅读本文章英文,请点击 Let the rich go forth and multiply

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond made a surprising yet instantly plausible argument about long-term development. The west grew rich and the rest did not because of geography. Thanks to where they were, Europe and its North American offshoots had plants and animals that were easy to domesticate, a low burden of disease, and natural resources that supported industrialisation. The Industrial Revolution began in England and spread to continental Europe and the United States because of luck.

A new book, to be published next month, argues that Mr Diamond got it all wrong. Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World* is fully as absorbing, as memorable and as well written as Mr Diamond's remarkable bestseller. It deserves to be as widely read.

Mr Clark argues that what made the difference was not geography or biology, or for that matter institutions such as property rights and democracy, but culture. The rich grew rich because they evolved attitudes that supported economic modernisation; the poor stayed poor because they failed to do the same. Mr Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, has gathered a wealth of intriguing evidence and argument in support of this claim, and does not flinch from drawing some disturbing inferences.

Until the early 19th century, he writes, the world was caught in a Malthusian trap (after the English economist Thomas Malthus, who argued that population growth would starve the world of food and other resources). Slow advances in knowledge failed to drive incomes up; they spurred growth in population instead. Most people in 18th century England endured a standard of living roughly equivalent to that of the stone age. Abundance was self- cancelling: so far as economic laws were concerned, humans and animals were much alike.

Starting in England, two things happened to let the west escape this trap. Economic efficiency began to rise faster, and fertility declined. As a result, for the first time, accelerating improvements in productivity fed through to living standards. Instead of an endless supply of impoverished people, growth caused an amazing improvement in incomes per person.

Why did it begin in England? Certainly not because the country lacked “bad-tempered hippos and zebras”. And the reason was “not coal, not colonies, not the Protestant Reformation, not the Enlightenment”. It was the combination of social stability stretching back more than 500 years, and the relative fecundity of the materially successful. When Mr Clark talks of “evolving” a social environment conducive to modernisation, he means it literally. In England, the rich went forth and multiplied – much more so than ordinary folk. This caused a cascade of downward mobility, as the children of the rich spilled over into lower social stations. In this way, bourgeois values were embedded into the wider culture. The cultural conditions for defying Malthus were taking shape elsewhere too. But the process had moved farthest in England, so England was first.

Mr Clark rejects “abrupt change” theories of the Industrial Revolution, which look for external shocks of one kind or another. Incomes surged only after 1800, but productivity had moved on to a gradual upward arc long before. For most, material conditions in England may have been no better in 1800 than in 1200 – but society was nonetheless transformed. The intervening centuries had laid the intellectual and cultural foundations for the modern economy.

This view has some gloomy implications. The poorest countries are still caught in the Malthusian trap, Mr Clark argues, and in that world, virtue and vice in public policy can seem reversed.

The consequence of measures to improve life expectancy is to drive down incomes – the converse of England's earlier advantage in having appalling standards of hygiene, which kept lifespans short and incomes comparatively high. (According to Malthusian logic, if you improve people's ability to subsist on low incomes, the subsistence income falls – as it has in Africa, Mr Clark points out.) Moreover, if the key to modernisation is a workforce with bourgeois values, and if we do not know how to spread bourgeois values, there is nothing we can do to raise incomes in poor countries.

The book's tone is by no means as bleak as you might suppose (or maybe as it should be): Mr Clark writes with disarming wit. But is he right?

Much as I recommend this brilliant book, I cannot say I am convinced. One problem is India, about which Mr Clark appears to know a lot. The book explains in some detail why it failed to industrialise – mainly, Mr Clark says, because Indian workers were culturally unprepared to work with modern technology.

But if these backward attitudes were, as he believes, bred in the bone, how does one account for India's growth since it liberalised in the early 1990s? Growth miracles such as that confound cultural pessimism. They suggest that the right incentives can summon the right attitudes rather quickly. The striking success of economic migrants once they move from poor countries to rich points the same way. I believe that culture is much more malleable, for good or ill, than Mr Clark allows.

But any book that is as bold, as fascinating, as conscientiously argued and as politically incorrect as this one demands to be read.

*Princeton University Press


作者:英国《金融时报》克莱夫•克鲁克(Clive Crook)
2007年8月17日 星期五

《枪炮、病菌与钢铁》(Guns, Germs, and Steel)一 书中,贾德•戴蒙(Jared Diamond)对长期发展提出了一个令人惊诧却又可能立刻让人认同的论点。西方走向繁荣,而其它地区未能做到,原因在于地理环境。由于它们(得天独厚) 的地理位置,欧洲和它的美国分支拥有易于驯养和栽培的动植物、较轻的疾病负担以及有利于工业化的自然资源。工业革命发端于英国,随后蔓延到欧洲大陆和美 国,都是因为运气好。

将于下月出版的一本新书辩称,戴蒙完全搞错了。格雷戈里•克拉克 (Gregory Clark)的《告别施舍:世界经济简史》(Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World)与戴蒙那本非凡的畅销书一样,是一本引人入胜、令人难忘、文笔优美的好书,也同样应当赢得广泛的读者。

克 拉克辩称,造成差异的并非地理学和生物学方面的因素,或是像物权与民主等制度方面的因素,而是文化。富人变得更加富有,是因为他们推动了有利于经济现代化 的思想发展;穷人继续贫穷,也是因为他们没能做到这点。克拉克是加州大学戴维斯分校(University of California, Davis)一位经济历史学家,他搜集了众多精妙的论据和论点,来支持自己的论断,而且在做出一些骇人听闻的推论方面毫不退缩。

2007年8月14日 星期二

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) warned students not to take part in gap-year aid projects

gap year noun [C] UK
a year between leaving school and starting university which is usually spent travelling or working:
I didn't take a gap year. Did you?

(from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

英國大學生在進大學之前可能有休學年(gap year)。他們愈來愈流行到發展中國家當義工。

《泰晤士報》作一相關的報導:引述慈善組織"海外義務工作"(VSO)說,一些公司向學生徵收高昂費用,安排他們到非洲、南美洲或亞洲的貧窮地區,參與的"義務服務計劃"對當地人沒有什麼益處。 VSO將編寫義務工作指引,提醒學生如何選擇義務服務計劃,如何避免受騙。


Read more on Gap Travel and voluntourism in our specialist travel section

One of Britain’s leading charities has warned students not to take part in gap-year aid projects overseas which cost thousands of pounds and do nothing to help developing countries.

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) said that gap-year volunteering, highlighted by Princes William and Harry, has spawned a new industry in which students pay thousands of pounds for prepackaged schemes to teach English or help to build wells in developing countries with little evidence that it benefits local communities.

It said that “voluntourism” was often badly planned and spurious projects were springing up across Africa, Asia and Latin America to satisfy the demands of the students rather than the needs of locals. Young people would be better off simply travelling the world and enjoying themselves, it added.

Judith Brodie, the director of VSO UK, said: “While there are many good gap-year providers, we are increasingly concerned about the number of badly planned and supported schemes that are spurious - ultimately benefiting no one apart from the travel companies that organise them.”

VSO is drawing up a code of good practice to help gapyear students to find genuine voluntary work abroad.

The charity cited the case of a volunteer teacher in Africa who was surprised to be shunned by her fellow teachers, then discovered that her placement had led to a colleague being made redundant.

In another case, a volunteer in Mexico who thought that she would be working on a rural conservation project spent six months behind a desk in an office inputting data onto spreadsheets.

Another volunteer was asked to survey endangered coral reef in the Indian Ocean and dicovered that it had been surveyed countless times before by previous volunteers.

Taking a gap year used to be the preserve of only the wealthiest students, but it is now big business. Up to 200,000 people do it every year, including 130,000 school-leavers. The average gapyear traveller spends £4,800, and numerous companies have sprung up to get a slice of the market by offering prepackaged trips to projects for just two weeks at a time.

Gapyear.com, one of the biggest players, is offering places on dozens of voluntary projects, including work on a South African horse safari for £2,400 or two months observing coral and marine life in Borneo for £1,895. Another firm, i-to-i, is offering work with orphans in Argentina for £1,095.

In most cases the price does not cover the flight, but in-country travel, accommodation and an orientation session on arrival is included.

Ms Brodie urged students to go backpacking instead. “Young people want to make a difference, but they would be better off travelling and experiencing different cultures, rather than wasting time on projects that have no impact and can leave a big hole in their wallet,” she said.

Prince William went to Chile with Raleigh International in 2000 to help to build schools. The charity said that his work had sparked “a lot more interest” in its projects. Prince Harry worked with orphans in Lesotho.

Tom Griffiths, founder of gapyear.com, defended his business. “Some companies raise the expectations of students to unrealistic levels and make them think they will change the world. When they get there they discover they are only small players in the project and feel disappointed,” he said.

A spokeswoman for i-to-i defended its short-term voluntary breaks and said it made sure that all the projects were sustainable. “Not everyone has a year or two years to go off and do voluntary work,” she said.

Raleigh International backed VSO’s call for caution. “Students should be very careful about the voluntary work they choose,” a spokeswoman said.

2007年8月13日 星期一

Rail firm’s legal threat to silence passenger watchdog (The Times)



監管組織London TravelWatch去信主管鐵路事務的官員,質疑鐵路公司First Great Western未有履行協議,因為該公司泰晤士河谷地區的火車服務幾乎有三分之一遲到。


當FGW未有改善其服務後,London TravelWatch去信政府提出投訴。

但FGW竟然委托律師警告London TravelWatch,要求收回有關信函。

August 13, 2007

Rail firm’s legal threat to silence passenger watchdog

Britain’s worst-performing train company tried to silence the official passenger watchdog by threatening to sue it for libel for making a complaint about its poor performance.

London TravelWatch had written to Tom Harris, the railways minister, to ask whether First Great Western (FGW) was in breach of its franchise agreement because almost a third of its commuter trains in the Thames Valley were late.

FGW has a target in its contract of 92 per cent of trains on time but managed only 68.3 per cent on its peak services. Its long-distance services are also the least punctual in the industry, with only 75.6 per cent on time compared with a national average of 85.2 per cent.

The letter stated that the number of complaints from passengers received by the watchdog had more than doubled and that overcrowding was more than twice as bad as for the average operator in London and the South East.

Brian Cooke, chairman of London TravelWatch, held a series of meetings over several months with FGW to discuss its performance and had repeatedly urged it to take action to improve its service.

When the situation failed to improve, Mr Cooke wrote to the minister setting out the problems and telling him that the watchdog’s board had unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Department for Transport (DfT) to “consider terminating the franchise”.

Mr Cooke gave a copy of the letter to The Times and also sent one to Moir Lockhead, the chief executive of First Group, FGW’s parent company.

Mr Lockhead passed it to the company’s lawyers, Slaughter & May. They wrote to London TravelWatch demanding that it withdraw the letter, which they described as “defamatory”. They also ordered Mr Cooke to reveal the names of everyone who had received a copy.

When Mr Cooke refused to back down, Slaughter & May wrote again, saying: “Your continued failure to address and remedy the damage being caused by your defamatory remarks is plainly unacceptable . . . Our client feels compelled to reserve its position against you.”

The Government knew about First Great Western’s attempt to silence the watchdog, but took no action. Mr Harris has acknowledged Mr Cooke’s letter but has yet to answer any of the questions that it contains despite receiving it more than three weeks ago.

First Group, Britain’s biggest bus and train operator, has formed close links with senior Labour figures. It employs Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spokesman, to advise on “strategic communications” and has engaged David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, to chair a commission that is expected to give strong backing to the company’s yellow school buses. First Group has refused to say how much the two are paid.

The Government’s rail budget is highly dependent on First making almost £2 billion in payments over the next ten years for the right to operate two franchises, FGW and First Capital Connect. The DfT can take enforcement action against train companies that breach their franchise agreements by failing to deliver minimum service levels. But it is unclear exactly what would constitute a breach.

Mr Cooke’s letter said: “If a breach has occurred, appropriate sanctions should be applied, and this should be stated publicly. If it has not, then the travelling public at least deserves a clear explanation of how much worse things will be allowed to become before the operator feels any pain.”

Mr Cooke told The Times that London TravelWatch had a duty to alert the Government to potential franchise breaches. “It was outrageous to threaten to sue us in order to keep us silent when we were only performing our statutory duty in reporting these matters to the Secretary of State,” he said.

“We were surprised that the DfT did not attempt to dissuade First from bullying the public watchdog.”

Yesterday a First Group spokesman said: “We had made clear to London Travelwatch repeatedly that certain things they were saying had no basis. We are within our rights to defend our reputation.”

A DfT spokesman said: “FGW’s performance has not been satisfactory for the passenger. Joint action plans are in place between Network Rail and FGW to address this.”

Worst Group's performance is in fact much worse than they declare. To inflate performance figures trains aren't "cancelled" any more - they are "revised". So we see gems like Penzance - Paddington trains being "revised" to start from Exeter, Worcester - Paddington trains being "revised" to start from Oxford, even Paddington - Reading all sations stoppers being "revised" to omit all the stops!

George W, Reading, UK

Given a story with the elements of a rail franchisee close to this Labour government and one of the biggest law firms in London you could conclude, without reading it, that there would be no good news for passengers who are also the taxpayers who pay the subsidies. That this government would take no action when a passenger watchdog is threatened should not evoke surprise; that should be reserved for the phenomenon of their huge lead in the opinion polls - we get the politicians we deserve.

Graham McKean, Sevenoaks, UK

i am very pleased to see that the times has not been intimidatedby this ridiculous threat atwhich any competant lawyer would simply laugh

peter codner, devizes, england

Ah yes, the wonderful reputation of first great western...Friday before last my FGW train was so late I missed the equally FGW connection...the next FGW train broke down in the station and had to wait even longer for the next one, which likewise arrived late....the next train was a virgin one and although horribly crowded, actually got there on time..and in this way my perfectly simple 3 and a half hour journey took six hours.
again - what reputation?

Meg, Pembs,

"First" group are a collection of bus-operating spivs who have got hold of trains.

Their public relations go from bad to worse, and their treatment of passengers is disgraceful.

They should have all their franchises taken away from them.

Come to that, the government should stop trying to hide behind the TOC's, and start giving us a decent train service, similar to that in other European countries.

G. Tingey, London,

FGW excel in only 1 thing, apologising. A constant stream of apologies for late trains, cancelled trains, slow running, faulty toilets, suspended buffet service due to staff shortages, no trolley service to First Class, faulty air conditioning in windowless carriages, the list is endless, and the staff are clearly highly trained in delivering these endless apologies. It is a great shame they do not direct their efforts at eradicating these constant service failures, rather than becoming expert apologists

Mike S, Reading, Berks

Exactly what reputation are First Group seeking to defend?

Ken.H, Harrow,

2007年8月12日 星期日

Dietrich Schwanitz 眼中的英國人

《中華副刊 2007/08/08》

作者 :迪特瑞希.史汪尼玆( Dietrich Schwanitz) 譯者:劉銳、劉雨生
Dietrich Schwanitz is a Professor of English at the University of Hamburg. Among his recent publications are Systemtheorie und Literatur, ...



  首先,英國歷史悠久,所以什麼都注重傳統,因此有些非理性。比如名稱,我們通常會說 England(英格蘭),指的就是大不列顛,然而這種習慣應避免。 因為如果你在一個威爾斯人、蘇格蘭人、北愛爾蘭人面前稱他們是英格蘭人,他們會生氣。類似情況適用於大不列顛島上另一群帶有凱爾特族印記的人:威爾斯、曼 島( Isle of Man,說曼島語)、北愛爾蘭和康瓦爾( Cornwall,說一種快要絕跡的康瓦爾語)。

 英國社會分化為不同的階層 --其實就是「階級」一個比較好聽的代名詞。與美國完全相反,英國其實是一個階級社會,畫分的標誌則是語言和口音。

 上流社會的人說的是牛津英語或「女王英語」( Queen's English),大約就是標準英語; BBC的新聞播報員說的基本上是標準英語。

在 英國,只有通過兩種途徑才能學習這種英語:一是從有文化、有教養父母身上,二是就讀公學。與美國的公立學校相反,英國的公學是私立的住宿制學校。孩子們在 公學中,除了學習傳統的學科之外,還要學習如何像紳士淑女一樣進行社交。英國人是通過言談舉止來顯示自己身分的。紳士與淑女的舉止對他們的事業與社交起著 至關重要的作用。儘管金錢也很重要,但是一個人的社會地位更多時候是由他們的言談舉止,而不是由錢財來決定的。所以教育在英國是非常重要的。經典的成功之 路就是通過上知名的私立公學與大學來實現。因此,英國的教育系統有時會給人一種很神祕的印象,彷彿在密謀什麼似的。


  因此,在大不列顛,人們不是表現得很酷,就是像在演戲一樣。無論如何,絕對不能控制不住自己。這裡有一個鐵則--保持低調,不誇張,懂得藏拙,尤其是涉及 到自身時,如自己的成績、自己的痛苦、自己的天賦、自己的感受、自己的偉大等,只輕描淡寫一下,讓別人相信,這些根本就不值得一提。例如,他們會說:「由 於評審委員的失誤,我不小心獲得了諾貝爾獎」;「感謝跑道長度測量方面的誤差,讓我獲得了馬拉松比賽的勝利」;「也許是由於名字的混淆,我得到貴族的頭 銜」等等。另一條規則是:文明人要懂得幽默。幽默是一種能力,也就是會委婉地講話,拿自己開開小玩笑。它是避免自大、保持低調的一種手段。



  對德國人來說,英國人總是抱著陳年舊事不放,精心地維護那塵封於歷史中的記憶。因此,他們解決事情有時候會重傳統輕現實。對於英國人來說,兩次世界大戰是 大不列顛的英雄史詩(英國是兩次大戰中唯一沒有被征服的歐洲國家,所以英國人特別願意提起這些戰爭,以顯示其卓爾不群)。當然,他們念念不忘的還有手下敗 將,被視為野蠻人的條頓對手(指德國)。柴契爾夫人的作風就因為帶有條頓的威權色彩,所以英國人送給她「母雞阿提拉」( Attila the Hen) 的綽號(源於匈奴阿提拉〔 Attila the Hun〕,阿提拉是匈奴人的王)。



《2007/08/08 15:38》

作者 :迪特瑞希.史汪尼玆( Dietrich Schwanitz) 譯者:劉銳、劉雨生

 教養是一種經過鍛鍊、柔韌的精神, 它形成於,一下子知道所有事情,但一下子又全部忘記。正如德國物理學家、作家利希頓貝格( Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)所 說:「儘管大部分讀過的東西,我都會忘記,但心志卻逐漸趨於成熟,正如吃飯一樣,身體也是仰賴這種方式不斷地汲取營養。」
 環顧一下社會現實,就 不難發現:教養不僅是理想、過程與狀態的複合體,也是一種社會遊戲。遊戲的目標很簡單,就是表現出有教養的樣子,而不是沒教養。遊戲的規則就蘊藏於文化之 中。如果不是從小就參與這種遊戲,不斷練習,長大之後是很難適應這些規則的。為什麼呢?因為要先了解規則,才能按規則進行練習。也就是說,這個教養俱樂部 只讓那些掌握遊戲規則的人入會,想要成為遊戲高手就必須在俱樂部中練習,與他人過招,精益求精。


  但是,如果你想在義大利和英國朋友面前表現得風度翩翩、魅力四射,讓他們覺得與你往來如沐春風,那麼你必須懂得轉換立場,以對方的角度看事情,也就是說你 要能想像,這個世界在義大利人、英國人的眼中是什麼模樣;你必須知道,在英國人的觀念中,何謂文明、有涵養、有教養的人;你已培養出一種直覺,能揣摩義大 利人的自我形象是什麼,了解他們小時候讀過什麼樣的神話,並且看得到他們腦海中的偏見與期望;而且你至少也有概念,外國人士是如何看待那些在你的國家中習 以為常的事物。


2007年8月11日 星期六

London's Big Ben fell silent

11 Aug 2007

The world famous bongs* of London's Big Ben fell silent this morning so that routine maintenance can be carried out.

*bong PhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhonetic Phonetic PhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhonetic Hide phonetics
noun [C]
a musical noise made especially by a large clock:
I heard the bong of the grandfather clock.

(from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)
The Great Clock will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2009 and on 11 August 2007 the ‘bongs’ of Big Ben will be heard for the last time until September as maintenance work is carried out on the mechanism.

In pictures: The Great Westminster Clock

The Great Westminster Clock overlooks the Palace of Westminster in London. Built by Edward Dent, the clock has been fully operational since 1859 and the clock tower is often mistakenly named Big Ben, which is in fact the name of the clock’s hour bell.

The clock mechanism sits in a room underneath the bell and is maintained by a team of three men.

工人們用繩索滑到大笨鐘前為期(sic 其) 洗澡











建於1859年的大笨鐘的正式名稱是"大鐘"(Great Clock),但因其13.5噸的大鐘而得名大笨鐘(Big Ben)。

民視:世界知名的地標、英國倫敦大笨鐘,難得在今天完全停擺。不過它並沒有故障,只是為了後年的鐘塔一百五十週年慶,進行保養工作。預計四到六個星 期,就會完成。聳立在倫敦市中心的西敏寺鐘塔,已經服務超過一個世紀。不過在十一號這天,大笨鐘卻沒有在整點響起。很快的,時針和分針回到十二點,工程師 拋下繩索,在離地六十公尺的高空中降落現在直徑七公尺的鐘面上。原來,這是每五年就得進行一次的例行性保養工作。專家必須將三百一十二片玻璃擦拭乾淨,同 時更換老舊零件,確保機件運作順利。為了迎接大笨鐘落成一百五十週年,今年的維修工作比以往耗時更久,需要四到六個星期。換句話說,倫敦本地人和觀光客得 等到九月,才會再次聽見熟悉的大笨鐘。

The pendulum is 3.9m long, weighs 300kg and beats every two seconds. Balanced on it are a number of pre-decimal pennies which help it keep time. Adding one penny would cause the clock to gain two-fifths of a second in 24 hours.

Big Ben is the name of the bell used to strike the hour and weighs 13.5 metric tons. The first blow indicates the correct time and is joined by four quarter bells that weigh between one and four tons.

The hammer which strikes the bell weighs 200kg. The first bell was cast in 1856 but a crack soon appeared and a new one was cast.

The four 7m-wide clock faces each contain 312 separate pieces of opal glass.

Each face is illuminated with 28 energy efficient light bulbs that have a life of around 66,000 hours.


底下這篇紐約時報 書(Hallow )評
說出的英國東西 可以寫成書
或許 我有空的時候多努力查些背景資料
來補充說明其中的英國 文 史 社會

The Boy Who Lived

Published: August 12, 2007

In March 1940, in the “midnight of the century” that marked the depth of the Hitler-Stalin pact (or in other words, at a time when civilization was menaced by an alliance between two Voldemorts or “You-Know-Whos”), George Orwell took the time to examine the state of affairs in fantasy fiction for young people. And what he found (in an essay called “Boys’ Weeklies” 這篇是本文背景知識 所以我作此連結 下文說的 Greyfriars and St. Jim’s 似乎是1940年代"校園幻想小說"中的學院名稱) was an extraordinary level of addiction to the form of story that was set in English boarding schools. Every week, boys (and girls) from the poorer quarters of industrial towns and from the outer edges of the English-speaking Empire would invest some part of their pocket-money to keep up with the adventures of Billy Bunter, Harry Wharton, Bob Cherry, Jack Blake and the other blazer-wearing denizens of Greyfriars and St. Jim’s. As he wrote:

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Christian Northeast


By J. K. Rowling. Illustrated by Mary GrandPré.

759 pp. Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. $34.99.


Complete Coverage of the Harry Potter Series
Reviews of all the books and movies, along with multimedia and off-site links.

A Round Table
Writers (including Lois Lowry and Orson Scott Card), librarians, bloggers and kids on Harry Potter.

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Christian Northeast

“It is quite clear that there are tens and scores of thousands of people to whom every detail of life at a ‘posh’ public school is wildly thrilling and romantic. They happen to be outside that mystic world of quadrangles and house-colors, but they can yearn after it, daydream about it, live mentally in it for hours at a stretch. The question is, Who are these people?”

at a stretch MAINLY UK
continuously or without any interruptions:
There's no way I could work for ten hours at a stretch.

(from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

St Cyprian's School was an expensive and exclusive preparatory school for boys, founded in 1899, which operated in the early 20th century in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England. Like similar preparatory schools, its purpose was to train pupils to do well enough in the examinations (usually taken around the age of 12) to gain admission to Eton, Harrow, and other leading "public schools" (as the most exclusive private secondary schools are known in England).

I wish that the morose veteran of Eton and St. Cyprian’s had been able to join me on the publication night of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” when I went to a bookstore in Stanford, Calif., to collect my embargoed copy on behalf of the Book Review. Never mind the stall that said “Get Your House Colors Here” and was dealing with customers wise in the lore of Ravenclaw and Slytherin. On the floor of the shop, largely transformed into the Gryffindor common room for the occasion, sat dozens of small children listening raptly to a reading from a massively plausible Hagrid. Of the 2,000 or so people in the forecourt, perhaps one-third had taken the trouble to wear prefect gowns and other Hogwarts or quidditch impedimenta. Many wore a lightning-flash on their foreheads: Orwell would have recoiled at seeing the symbol of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists on otherwise unblemished brows, even if the emblem was tamed by its new white-magic associations. And this was a sideshow to the circus, all across the English-speaking and even non-English world, as the countdown to the witching hour began.

I would give a lot to understand this phenomenon better. Part of it must have to do with the extreme banality and conformity of school life as it is experienced today, with everything oriented toward safety on the one hand and correctness on the other. But this on its own would not explain my youngest daughter a few years ago, sitting for hours on end with her tiny elbow flattening the pages of a fat book, and occasionally laughing out loud at the appearance of Scabbers the rat. (One hears that not all children retain the affection for reading that the Harry Potter books have inculcated: this isn’t true in my house at least.)

Scabbers turns out to mutate into something a bit worse than a rat, and the ancient charm of metamorphosis is one that J. K. Rowling has exploited to the uttermost. Another well-tested appeal, that of the orphan hero, has also been given an intensive workout with the Copperfield-like privations of the eponymous hero. For Orwell, the English school story from Tom Brown to Kipling’s Stalky and Co. was intimately bound up with dreams of wealth and class and snobbery, yet Rowling has succeeded in unmooring it from these considerations and giving us a world of youthful democracy and diversity, in which the humble leading figure has a name that — though it was given to a Shakespearean martial hero and king — could as well belong to an English labor union official. Perhaps Anglophilia continues to play its part, but if I were one of the few surviving teachers of Anglo-Saxon I would rejoice at the way in which such terms as muggle and Wizengamot, and such names as Godric, Wulfric and Dumbledore, had become common currency. At this rate, the teaching of “Beowulf” could be revived. The many Latin incantations and imprecations could also help rekindle interest in the study of a “dead” language.

(Page 2 of 2)

In other respects, too, one recognizes the school story formula. If a French or German or other “foreign” character appears in the Harry Potter novels, it is always as a cliché: Fleur and Krum both speak as if to be from “the Continent” is a joke in itself. The ban on sexual matters is also observed fairly pedantically, though as time has elapsed Rowling has probably acquired male readers who find themselves having vaguely impure thoughts about Hermione Granger (if not, because the thing seems somehow impossible, about Ginny Weasley). Most interesting of all, perhaps, and as noted by Orwell, “religion is also taboo.” The schoolchildren appear to know nothing of Christianity; in this latest novel Harry and even Hermione are ignorant of two well-known biblical verses encountered in a churchyard. That the main characters nonetheless have a strong moral code and a solid ethical commitment will be a mystery to some — like his holiness the pope and other clerical authorities who have denounced the series — while seeming unexceptionable to many others. As Hermione phrases it, sounding convincingly Kantian or even Russellian about something called the Resurrection Stone:

“How can I possibly prove it doesn’t exist? Do you expect me to get hold of — of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean, you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist.”

For all this apparently staunch secularism, it is ontology that ultimately slackens the tension that ought to have kept these tales vivid and alive. Theologians have never been able to answer the challenge that contrasts God’s claims to simultaneous omnipotence and benevolence: whence then cometh evil? The question is the same if inverted in a Manichean form: how can Voldemort and his wicked forces have such power and yet be unable to destroy a mild-mannered and rather disorganized schoolboy? In a short story this discrepancy might be handled and also swiftly resolved in favor of one outcome or another, but over the course of seven full-length books the mystery, at least for this reader, loses its ability to compel, and in this culminating episode the enterprise actually becomes tedious. Is there really no Death Eater or dementor who is able to grasp the simple advantage of surprise?

The repeated tactic of deus ex machina (without a deus) has a deplorable effect on both the plot and the dialogue. The need for Rowling to play catch-up with her many convolutions infects her characters as well. Here is Harry trying to straighten things out with a servile house-elf:

“ ‘I don’t understand you, Kreacher,’ he said finally. ‘Voldemort tried to kill you, Regulus died to bring Voldemort down, but you were still happy to betray Sirius to Voldemort? You were happy to go to Narcissa and Bellatrix, and pass information to Voldemort through them ...’ ”

Yes, well, one sees why he is confused. The exchange takes place during an abysmally long period during which the threesome of Harry, Hermione and Ron are flung together, with weeks of time to spend camping invisibly and only a few inexplicable escapes from death to alleviate the narrative. The grand context of Hogwarts School is removed, at least until the closing scenes, and Rowling also keeps forgetting that things are either magical or they are not: Hermione’s family surely can’t be any safer from the Dark Lord by moving to Australia, and Hagrid’s corporeal bulk cannot make any difference to his ability, or otherwise, to mount a broomstick. A boring subtext, about the wisdom or otherwise of actually uttering Voldemort’s name, meanwhile robs the apotropaic device of its force.

For some time now the novels have been attempting a kind of secular dramatization of the battle between good and evil. The Ministry of Magic (one of Rowling’s better inventions) has been seeking to impose a version of the Nuremberg Laws on England, classifying its subjects according to blood and maintaining its own Gestapo as well as its own Azkaban gulag. But again, over time and over many, many pages this scenario fails to chill: most of the “muggle” population goes about its ordinary existence, and every time the secret police close in, our heroes are able to “disapparate” — a term that always makes me think of an attempt at English by George W. Bush. The prejudice against bank-monopoly goblins is modeled more or less on anti-Semitism and the foul treatment of elves is meant to put us in mind of slavery, but the overall effect of this is somewhat thin and derivative, and subject to diminishing returns.

In this final volume there is a good deal of loose-end gathering to be done. Which side was Snape really on? Can Neville Longbottom rise above himself? Are the Malfoys as black as they have been painted? Unfortunately — and with the solid exception of Neville, whose gallantry is well evoked — these resolutions prove to possess all the excitement of an old-style Perry Mason-type summing-up, prompted by a stock character who says, “There’s just one thing I don’t understand. ...” Most of all this is true of Voldemort himself, who becomes more tiresome than an Ian Fleming villain, or the vicious but verbose Nicolae Carpathia in the Left Behind series, as he offers boastful explanations that are at once grandiose and vacuous. This bad and pedantic habit persists until the final duel, which at least sees us back in the old school precincts once again. “We must not let in daylight upon magic,” as Walter Bagehot remarked in another connection, and the wish to have everything clarified is eventually self-defeating in its own terms. In her correct determination to bring down the curtain decisively, Rowling has gone further than she should, and given us not so much a happy ending as an ending which suggests that evil has actually been defeated (you should forgive the expression) for good.

Greater authors — Arthur Conan Doyle most notably — have been in the same dilemma when seeking closure. And, like Conan Doyle, Rowling has won imperishable renown for giving us an identifiable hero and a fine caricature of a villain, and for making a fictional bit of King’s Cross station as luminous as a certain address on nearby Baker Street. It is given to few authors to create a world apart, and to populate it as well as illustrate it in the mind. As one who actually did once go to boarding school by steam train, at 8, I enjoyed reading aloud to children and coming across Diagon Alley and Grimmauld Place, and also shuddering at the memory of the sarcastic schoolmasters (and Privet Drives) I have known.

The distinctly slushy close of the story may seem to hold out the faint promise of a sequel, but I honestly think and sincerely hope that this will not occur. The toys have been put firmly back in the box, the wand has been folded up, and the conjuror is discreetly accepting payment while the children clamor for fresh entertainments. (I recommend that they graduate to Philip Pullman, whose daemon scheme is finer than any patronus.) It’s achievement enough that “19 years later,” as the last chapter-heading has it, and quite probably for many decades after that, there will still be millions of adults who recall their initiation to literature as a little touch of Harry in the night.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”