The Plastic Hippo

October 22, 2013

The Fighting Temeraire

Filed under: Environment,History,Politics,Rights,Society — theplastichippo @ 3:52 am
Image via nationalgallery. org.uk

Image via nationalgallery. org.uk

After 208 years you might be forgiven in thinking Nelson`s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar was pretty conclusive but more recent events might result in Napoleon Bonaparte and Admiral Villeneuve rising from their graves to demand a steward`s inquiry.

As a relative stranger to the concept of electricity (Michael Faraday had just turned 14 at the time of Trafalgar and Georg Ohm was only 16), Nelson was probably aware of electric fish and the funny smell that is produced when lightning strikes a ship at sea. He could not, however, have imagined that a novelty experiment would, one day, become a basic human necessity and that pillaging the treasure of colonial rivals would be replaced by pillaging the pockets of his own countrymen. Similarly, if the musket round to his shoulder hadn`t finished him off, the very idea that steam would replace sail would have seen him descending to Davy Jones` Locker faster than a Liberal Democrat thrown overboard at an election.

For all his achievements and sacrifice, we might also wish to remember Nelson for inventing the tweet. His penultimate “England expects” signal to the fighting men aboard the ships of the line originally read “England confides that every man will do his duty”. His flag officer, an expert in the code “Telegraphic Signals of Marine Vocabulary” devised by Rear Admiral Popham, suggested that “expects” would be a better word to use because “confides” would need to be spelt out letter by letter and would require more flags. Nelson had run out of characters and so a modified tweet was run up the mizzen mast and the rest, as they say, is history.

We will never know of the relationship between Horatio and the then Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger but after Nelson`s death, Pitt described the Admiral as “the Saviour of Europe” and added “I return you many thanks for the honour you have done me; but Europe is not to be saved by any single man. England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example”. The current First Lord of the Treasury expresses similar jingoism but this time dressed in a French EDF boiler suit welcoming “investment” from China. Cameron opposes state ownership of state utilities but is happy to have an overseas state owned company build a nuclear reactor using money from Communist China. What could possibly go wrong? Perhaps the people best placed, or maybe displaced, to answer that question are the former residents of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. The current government believe that state control of production is a very bad thing but as long as it is controlled by another state, Communist money is not dirty money as long as it makes a profit for a price fixing cartel. In terms of patriotism and the general good of the population, it would be futile to ask Ralph Miliband or Horatio Nelson for their opinions because they are sadly no longer with us.

At least the freezing population will be spared the blight of renewable energy and the wretched wind farms that so disrupt the grouse shooting season. We will take comfort in knowing that Hinckley Point C will be keeping us warm long after we are dead. It is comforting to know that energy security will definitely not be compromised by a bit of Brie or some Dim Sum accidentally dropped into the fusion reactor and it is unlikely that the resultant radioactive waste will be buried in France or China. We can only hope that there are a lot of concrete mixers in Somerset.

The energy cartel that blames bulk prices, crumbling infrastructure and stupid initiatives to promote a reduction in the use of power is, of course, delighted at the prospect of more profit. Having set the price for bulk power and not investing profits into infrastructure, they now tell us that initiatives in energy savings will reduce energy bills by the time that a Marxist funded nuclear facility becomes an online reality in 2020 or possibly a bit later than that. First Lord of the Treasury Cameron dismisses a 20 month freeze on domestic energy bills as a gimmick but has frozen a 35 year bill on wholesale energy at twice the current price for the benefit of shareholders and state investors who do not work as hard as their money. Cameron has a problem in selling this to his core support. The Telegraph and Mail reader might just about accept taking money from Chinese Marxists, but supporting the Socialist French might result in mutiny.

Some 33 years after the Battle of Trafalgar, J.M.W Turner painted “The Fighting Temeraire”, once described as the nation`s favourite piece of art. HMS Temeraire and her crew fought valiantly at Trafalgar and she is credited with turning the tide of the battle. Turner depicted her being taken by a steam tug to a scrap yard in Rotherhithe to be scrapped. It seems that the artist wanted to convey the end of the old order of sail and the rise of industrialisation. She appears as a ghost ship and the sun is setting in the east. The full title of the painting is; “The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838”. The same could be said for British industry only now it is 2013.

The anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar is duly celebrated as a crucial moment in British, European and world history. But there is another anniversary that those of us of a certain age might wish to recall as evidence of our greed for energy and power. In October 1966, just a couple of hours before the start of half-term, a slurry of rock, shale and water inundated a junior school killing 116 children and 28 adults. The National Coal Board, a state owned corporation desperate to make profit over safety, were at fault. Lord Robens, a Labour peer in charge of the NCB and a director of the Bank of England and Times Newspapers and the Director of the Vickers group of arms manufacturers died in 1999.

The village has never recovered; it`s called Aberfan.

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