The Highest Level of Special

The 45th President’s state visit to the United Kingdom may have been controversial to many but it was convenient to some. Mixed in with the usual bizarre behaviour and the inevitable pomp and circumstance, the true agenda was never far from the surface.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

Trump’s visit has conicided with a time of unique chaos and uncertainty in the UK. The Tory Party (and therefore the government) is still tearing itself apart, essentially leaderless and directionless. Parliament is fragmented, unable to find a way through the minefield that Brexit has become, new political parties rise and fall before our eyes, but at the very centre of every discussion, every debate and every argument lies one thing that Donald Trump likes to portray as his own. The art of the deal.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

For a nation with an uncertain future, still on the brink of crashing out of the EU without a deal these are dangerous times and the delagation from America didn’t hold back in making their position clear, everything (and they meant everything) will be on the table.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

The US-UK ‘special relationship’ has had some notable lows over the decades and some would dispute it’s even a relationship at all, so despite the backpedaling, many remain concerned about the obvious power imbalance in this situation. All the rhetoric about barmy Brussels bureaucrats aside, many British people have concerns about the impact of an American model on British society. American attitudes to food standards, animal welfare, climate change, gun control, women’s rights, human rights, race, religion, and of course health (to name a few) differ in many ways.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

Concerns that the NHS is under threat have been exacerbated by recent events. Often seen as symbolic of what is great about Britain, the health service has long been eyed up by its openents as a potential gold mine and the austerity driven Conservative administrations of Cameron and May have frequently alluded to this. Few have summed it up better than John Major, one of their own, when he said in 2016 that “the NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

The future of the UK could be potentially very different from way that most people expected it look post Brexit. The proponents of the no deal scenario tell us the future is bright and there are many great deals to be had in this brave new world and Donald Trump seems to agree


All content and photographs are Copyright © 2019  Michael-K.
All Rights Reserved.

70 Days: How Did We Get Here?

The nature of politics and protest in the UK has changed beyond all recognition in recent years.

The sweeping austerity measures presided over by David Cameron altered the face of the country and some might argue reinvigorated the left. Protests against the state of the nation became more commonplace and Cameron’s entitled background became a favourite target of his critics. As divisive as his time in office may have been, Cameron’s legacy is an even more deeply divided nation.

David Cameron (Allegedly)

In 2016 David Cameron lost the EU Referendum. A few hours later he resigned as PM, a few months later he stood down as an MP. It has since been revealed that Cameron refused to allow the Civil Service to plan for Brexit. The political and social turmoil he left in his wake will take years to resolve and it seems the future looks uncertain to all sides of the debate.

No More Excuses

London has seen some of the largest political demonstrations in decades on its streets in the last couple of years. The surprise election and popularity of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has enlivened the protest movement, but this seems to be only a part of the picture.

London Remains

Globally other groups, movements and ideologies are on the rise, but in the UK the homegrown Windrush Scandal and Theresa May’s previously stated aim to create a “hostile environment for illegal immigrants” has takenit’s toll on British society. The far right seems to be ascendent and Tommy Robinson is openly working with UKIP following his most recent prison spell.

Don't Let the Racists Divide Us

The summer of 2017 was particularly chaotic. Following her leadership victory, Theresa May called a suprise general election losing her majority and forcing her to make a controversial deal with the DUP. Less than a week later the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower killed 72 men, women and children highlighting the cracks in British society running through the faultlines of race and class for all to see.

Grenfell

There were demonstrations on the streets almost every weekend. The tragedy of Grenfell brought the community together but the role of government and industry was seen by many as wanton. On a visit to a relief centre the Prime Minister had to be protected from angry residents who shouted “coward,” “murderer” and “shame on you,” as she was ushered quickly into her waiting car.

Cosiderate Constructors Secure Everyone's Safety

The following summer Donald Trump visited the UK for the first time as president. He was met with protest wherever he went, a 20ft tall balloon depicting him as a baby wearing a nappy and carrying a mobile phone hung over Parliament Square and thousands marched against him.

Trump Stinks

The carnival atmosphere came with a serious message. People across the UK remain deeply concerned about the Trump administration and wanted the message to heard around the world.

Yes We Care

Despite this, many people still feel vulnerable. Race, immigration, poverty, cuts to benefits and public services continue to be amongst the most important issues of the day. consensus politics is distant memory.

We Need Nationalism

With just 70 days to go Theresa May is barely hanging on to her job, the Tory Party is riven, the government in crisis and the country on the brink of crashing out of the EU with no deal. Few people seem to have a clear idea of where we are headed and many will be asking if any of this was actually worth it or if we have made a terrible mistake.

Is it Worth it?


All content and photographs are Copyright © 2019  Michael-K.
All Rights Reserved.

Beacon Hill and it’s Environs.

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill near Kimble, Buckinghamshire has long been a place of interest for me. On the edge of the Chequers estate, skirted by the ancient Ridgeway, it is surrounded by sites and monuments from the more recent past, as well as those that predate history.

Chequers has been a Prime Ministerial retreat since 1921, but the house has a long history. Lady Mary Grey (sister of Lady Jane Grey) spent two years under house arrest here at the the behest of Elizabeth I. Later the house fell into the hands of Oliver Cromwell’s grandson, John Russell. The house is said to contain a large collection of Cromwellian memorabilia, but what this might consist of I do not know.

From the top of Beacon Hill Chequers is not visible, but in the opposite direction it offers views across the Vale of Aylesbury and deep into Oxfordshire. Observed from different angles and locations it takes on radically different shapes and sizes, some are quite striking and can be seen from various locations across the vale.

Viewed up close from the nearby village of Ellesborough (as above) it appears as a gentle rolling mound, but viewed across the fields from the Lower Icknield Way (as below) it looks like a miniature Table Mountain, flat topped and imposing with almost symmetrical sloping escarpments.

Beacon Hill

This whole area of the Chilterns must have had special significance to the ancients as it is littered with Iron Age, Bronze Age and Neolithic remains. It’s proximity to the start of the Ridgeway at nearby Ivinghoe Beacon is surely no coincidence to this. In fact Beacon Hill itself has a number of it’s own points of interest, unfortunately there seems to be a lot of confusion about which is which, but I have done my best to try and make sense of it.

A bowl barrow on the brow of Beacon Hill gazes across the vale. An excavation of the barrow in 1855-6 unearthed fragments of a ceramic urn, charcoal, bone and a horse’s tooth. To my mind who ever was buried in this commanding place must have been pretty special, not everyone gets a spot like this to spend eternity.

Beacon Hill Bowl Barrow

Earthworks can be seen around the hill, many of them cross dykes and the wider area contains many more barrows, hill forts (notably Pulpit Hill) and the Whiteleaf Cross, which may (or may not) have prehistoric origins.

Cross Dyke

At the foot of the hill a large flat area of land is said to be the site of Cymbeline’s Castle. Shakespeare’s Cymbeline was inspired by the ancient king Cunobeline, described by Suetonius as Britannorum Rex, King of the Britons. The name Kimble is said to have derived from Cunobeline but the association is probably apocryphal. There once was a motte-and-bailey castle on the site and evidence of an Iron Age presence has been unearthed.

Cymbaline's Castle

In real life Cunobeline and his kin played a significant role in the Roman invasion of Britain. As king of the Catuvellauni, his tribe led the resistance to Julius Caesar’s first expedition to Britain in 54 BC, but Cunobeline himself appears to have been something of a collaborator and evidence suggests he had strong links to Rome. These were eventually the undoing of his people. Shortly before his death he exiled his son Adminius who took refuge with the Emperor Caligula. Caligula is said to have seen this as an act of  submission to Rome and used it as pretext for his aborted invasion.

Following the death of Cunobeline, another of his sons, Caratacus overthrew the neighboring King Verica of the Atrebates, a client of the Roman Empire. This time it was Claudius who was inspired to invade Britain and of course managed to achieve his ambitions.

Caratacus was vehemently anti-Rome and led a ten year guerrilla campaign against the occupiers. He was ultimately captured, but spared from execution by Claudius following an eloquent speech to the Senate. He seems to have lived out his days in Rome, exiled from his people and marvelling at the achievements of the Empire. “And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them, covet our poor tents?” Cassius Dio quotes him as saying.

The more things change.

I like to think of him and his people up on Beacon Hill two thousand years ago, but who ever lived there they undoubtedly knew of his exploits and his struggle against Rome.

Beacon Hill


All content and photographs are Copyright © 2018  Michael-K.
All Rights Reserved.