I very much enjoyed watching the BBC’s recreation of Jane Austen’s Netherfield Ball from Pride & Prejudice - Party like it’s 1813. The amount of detail and effort which went into the recreation was astonishing. Experts in the field of dress, lighting, food and drink, etiquette, dance and music were all employed to ensure that the ball was as exact a replica as possible of the pivotal Netherfield Ball , which occurs at the heart and middle of the novel.
The aim was to provide access to contemporary details now oblivious to modern readers but which would have been matter of course for her contemporary audience. While an hour and a half is clearly not enough time to elucidate a modern reader fully, I was able to note the following points of interest:
Social distinctions, while evident in dress and location at the dining table, extended also to lighting, namely the type and length of candles. As so often in life, the longer the better.
The food provided was close enough to modern dishes as to look entirely delicious.
Ice cream, even if flavoured with parmesan cheese also looked tasty.
The multi-course dinner, served all at once, encouraged much interaction, as diners had to help themselves and pass dishes to others. It was far less formal than I expected.
Women, although having many layers of undergarments, employed crotchless versions.
Gentlemen, often used the long tails of their shirts as underwear.
Printing was expensive, so that even the rich Mr. Bingley would have used pre-printed invitations for his guests, although an invitation in person to a private ball was prized: “Mrs. Bennet chose to consider it as given in compliment to her eldest daughter, and was particularly flattered by receiving the invitation from Mr. Bingley himself, instead of a ceremonious card.”
The dancing, even for young, healthy members of the ball was strenuous exercise, there being a great deal of jigging, skipping and bouncing. I’d be standing with Jane, by the fireplace, chatting and drinking. But…
Then as now, an inability or unwillingness to dance, decreases the chance of finding a marriage partner – although “every savage can dance.”
Neither Thatcher, her party nor her policies were voted in or generally supported in Scotland. Geographical distinctions in reactions to the news of her death are noteworthy. Some may argue that we’re one UK and that in a general election the will of the majority counts. Of course.
But if you remember back, the resentment and hostility to Thatcherite policies due to their effects on traditional industries was intensified by her lack of electoral support. Using Scotland as a test lab for the hated Poll Tax in 89/90 was seen as the final proof that she did not listen to the Scottish people and treated them with a certain amount of contempt.
I’m not a fan of Alex Salmond but he’s right to have said that 10 years and more of Tory government enhanced the desire for devolution. Who knows where that will lead?
As you can, Scotland joined in the post winter of discontent vote with a swing to the right but not even the S. Atlantic campaign (so useful those foreign wars at distracting attention from a difficult home front) could redress the Tory’s inevitable decline since the 79 general election.
So from my perspective the news of her demise and the extravagance of her funeral has been met with a mixture of indifference, outrage and some puzzlement at the complete waste of money.
Even at the height of the Victorian era, when a quarter of the globe was painted red we were bemoaning our “national decline.” Then it might have taken the form of too many Irish navvies, the poor drinking excessively, the theory of evolution and scientific progress undermining the moral fabric of society, slum over-crowding, disease and internationally the latest military loss or the rise of Germany.
Often for those on the right, things always seen to be getting worse. This is an essential component of the conservative (large and small C) outlook, and is often shared with some religious folk who see this world as a mess, hoping it will soon end so their messiah can arrive to institute a new, better world.
As an example here’s Livy writing about Rome in 25BC or thereabouts; “The Roman people used to have great sprits and few faults. We used to think of our duties and were always praising the glory of the war. But now, we have much leisure, and many of us are avaricious. And we can tolerate neither our fault nor remedy.” He was writing some at a time when the Roman Empire had about another 400 years of existence.
I also think that a pessimistic mindset creeps up on one as one becomes older. Just because one believes something, it doesn’t actually make it so. Compared to the whole history of mankind, we’ve never had it so good.
This is exemplified “par excellence” in the fraternal dichotomy between Peter and Christopher Hitchens. The difference, if I may simplify it somewhat, “Peter Hitchens, he’s the Arnold Judas Rimmer to his late brother Christopher’s “Ace.”
After many years of using and enjoying Ubuntu as my main desktop OS, I’ve reluctantly been forced to choose another Linux distribution for use at work and home.
My desktop of choice was Ubuntu 10.04.4 LTS (Lucid Lynx) which has just passed beyond Canonical’s support point. This is a shame, as it’s a fast, stable, good looking OS with plenty of familiar options, works well with my graphics card and ageing hardware. Above all it uses GNOME 2 as the desktop manager. Newer versions of Ubuntu have either offered Canonical’s Unity desktop or GNOME 3, the GNOME shell. There are many Linux users out there who have despaired with both of these options, as they move away from the desktop metaphor, which has been used in every desktop OS since…. er… forever! Whenever I’ve installed GNOME 3 or Unity on spare HDs, their speed performance has been very far from stellar. Additional concerns about Canonical’s commercial tie ins and creating an OS based on mobile devices, meant I began a search for my new desktop OS.
My core requirements were straightforward: a GNOME 2 desktop if possible, speed, the ability to run GNUCash, LibreOffice, WINE for PokerStars and Chrome.
My old favourite Slackware was not even considered, since long ago it ditched GNOME and while XFCE is better than the hideous KDE 4 it’s not what I wanted.
SuSE Linux has never been much cop and while RedHat / Fedora is respected, I’m now definitely used to working on the Debian/Ubuntu deb side of the package divide.
I’ve always liked Debian and as its stable variant uses GNOME 2, I tried it on a spare HD. It was good, if behind the curve and once all the post install tasks were completed. But once I had ”upgraded” to Debian Testing, I was disappointed to see a GNOME 3 desktop. Installing GNOME 2 got the look I wanted but not the speed I was used to in Ubuntu 10.04.
So Linux Mint, which is primarily based on Ubuntu, was my next candidate. I’ve timed my search for a new OS extremely well, as Mint had just released a version of their OS based on the revered Debian. I also read that this was available with a port of GNOME 2 called MATE.
Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) is based on Debian Testing instead of Ubuntu. The purpose of LMDE is to look identical to the main edition and to provide the same functionality while using Debian as a base. LMDE is available with the MATE and Cinnamon desktop environments. LMDE has a semi-rolling release (partially rolling) development model; the difference is that, unlike Debian Testing constantly receiving updates, Linux Mint periodically introduces “Update Packs” which are tested snapshots of Debian Testing. Linux Mint Debian Edition does not use Debian package repository, but has its own.
What a perfect fit! All I needed to do was to test it, to see if the speed was there and the apps I needed would work. The answer is a resounding yes.
It took about 20 minutes to install on my work laptop and as usual there were some post installation tasks. These included, installing Chrome, removing some apps, installing my preferred version of Firefox, adding some NetWare file system utilities, and a number of other apps to ensure that I could work as efficiently as before. An hour later, I was fully minted.
This weekend will see me install LMDE on my home workstation. I will be retain Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on server, as there’s no desktop manager bloat to worry about.