The book I read to research this post was Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson which is a very witty look at the development of languages with English being predominant. It is an excellent book and I bought it at a car boot sale. This book is only around 250 pages so is reasonably short but is well researched and very readable. English apparently comes from the Indo-European ¬†languages and has a common source language which these languages have descended from. Interestingly many of the Indian languages are descended from these as well. India has more languages within it’s country than any other country with an estimate of around 1,600 languages. There are around 2,700 languages in the world. In many countries that have multiple languages and no predominant language, English is often used as a linking language. In China Volkswagon opened a factory and there was a shortage of Germans who spoke Chinese and Chinese who spoke German so they use English to communicate. English is being learnt by more Chinese than the entire population of the United States. Many words in English can mean multiple things and there is a diverse amount of phrases often sounding very similar but meaning completely different things. A lot of the problem is English is spoken in lots of countries who have all made adaptions. It is a very hard language to become fluent in. In many countries even ones where English isn’t the official language you will often see signs and advertisements in English. In the United States, Spanish is very much becoming a second official language to what some see as the extent that many Spanish speakers and immigrants see little point in learning English. This is particularly a hot potato in many of the Southern States. Many schools have to employ interpreters for Parent’s Nights when they have to give a report on children to their parents. I really enjoyed this book which is bristling with lots of facts. I think I would recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was An Account Of 150 Years Of Policing Birmingham by John Reilly which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. Actually this book was published in 1989 so 150 years is a bit misleading. It was written by a Chief Inspector in the police force. The police force in Birmingham along the lines we know it started in 1819 and was part of the Warwickshire Constabulary. Prior to that there was a constable and his assistant to keep law and order and they used a people’s militia as and when needed. The constable was also responsible for fighting fires along with the fire brigade and any time the law was broken they could be called out even if off duty to uphold the law. In the 19th Century Birmingham faced huge expansion only becoming a city in 1900 and had a population of 187,000 in 1841 and nowadays has over a million inhabitants. Patrol cars with 2 way radios didn’t happen until 1942 and during World War 2 several police stations were hit by bombs and several police men were killed. In World War 1 Germany bombed Britain with airships which because there was no air defences at that time could roam freely. The airships were useless when air defences were built as they were huge, slow and filled by hydrogen which was apt to explode. I did really enjoy this book although it a little short at around 220 pages. It’s interesting nonetheless.

The book I read to research this post was Rejoice, Rejoice, Britain In The 80’s by Alwayn W Turner which is an excellent book that I bought from kindle. This book is quite a substantial length and even though I lived through the 80’s there was a lot here I didn’t know about. In Britain of course one of the main things about the 80’s was Margaret Thatcher was prime minister throughout the decade. Many of use and I was only 9 when she came to power couldn’t really remember there being another leader and she remained in power for 11 1/2 years. There was also the Falklands War and the title of the book comes from a quote from Thatcher when the British forces regained South Georgia. South Georgia had little strategic value in the war with Argentina and it was mostly a public relations exercise. It was regained without any fatalities. Goose Green a small village in the south of the Falklands similarly had little strategic significance. They could have bypassed it and continued on their way to the capital Port Stanley. Despite it being a very bloody battle with the British Parachute Regiment being outnumbered 4 to 1. Battles like Tumbledown & Mount Longdon were more important to the campaign. Most people hadn’t a clue where the Falkland’s Islands were until the war. It was also quite a greedy period with affluent young people called Yuppies at one end of the spectrum and much unemployment which we hadn’t seen anything like since the Great Depression in the 30’s. Margaret was determined to get British borrowing under control and slashed public spending. This wasn’t all together a bad thing and under the previous Labour government Britain had been close to bankruptcy with them nationalizing ¬†key industries which consequently weren’t run efficiently. A lot of the changes that did happen probably weren’t intentional by the Conservative Party & Margaret Thatcher but happened anyway. It was important as a time when members of the public could invest in things like shares and many of the public utilities that had formerly been nationalized were sold in the form of shares mostly at bargain prices. I enjoyed this book and think it particularly appeals to people who lived in Britain in the 80’s but is very educational in its own right.

The book I read to research this post was The Ely And St Ives Railway by Peter Paye which is an excellent book that I bought from Amazon. Peter lives in the Eastern Britain area and had a high ranking job with British Rail so is quite an expert on these old railway lines and has written quite a lot of books about it. I have reviewed some of his books which with out exception are always really good. This particular which at first went from Ely in the Fens of Britain to Sutton & Hunstanton and was later extended to St Ives. There is a more famous St Ives in Cornwall which is a holiday resort. Anyway this railway like a lot of the branchlines in Eastern Britain was primarily a goods service for farmers produce. Passenger traffic was a sideline and with pressure from road transport was discontinued quite early on. Many of the photos of trains on this route are goods trains for this reason. Perishable produce was often put in open wooden wagons with a tarpaulin on top to protect it from the rain. When there was a passenger most people went to St Ives on a monday when there was a market and the early morning service was a bit too early for people going to the market. The evening service was too late for market traders to take advantage as the market finished at 3pm. There was only a limited service. It did eventually get incorporated into the GER or Great Eastern Railway. Many people travelling on this route often complained the endless farms and what tended to be flat land was monotonous. This area used to be marsh with islands which in some cases rise to over 100 feet. Ely Cathedral is built on one of these former islands. There was a direct goods train from St Ives to Cambridge once a day. There is lots of photos in the book and it is a decent length for a book of this type being around 160 pages. I found it really interesting and an enjoyable read. Finally you might be interested to know I have done a post on Norfolk And Suffolk at http://oldscratbag.com .It is a post about tourism though.

 

I am reviewing the book A Street Cat Named Bob that is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book was hugely successful in Britain a while back and is an autobiographical work about the author a recovering drug addict that adopted a street cat and how it helped turn his life around. He had to take because he used to have a heroin addiction. When he found Bob he appeared badly injured and abused and at first he thought someone must own him. When he saw him at the same spot the next day the person who he assumed was the owner didn’t in fact own him so he adopted him. He was only poor and scraped a living from illegal busking in London and had to get help from the RSPCA to get the cat well and neutered. The cat wasn’t even house trained and he assumed someone had dumped the cat a long way from home to try and get rid of him. The cat was very affectionate and he found if he took the cat and later selling the Big Issue magazine they attracted a crowd which of course resulted in more money. He did get prosecuted for illegal busking and later got in trouble for being on someone’s elses pitch for selling the Big Issue and people giving him money although not necessarily buying the magazine which broke their rules. The cat inspired him to turn his life around and even come off methadone cold turkey style. His mother’s family lived in Australia and he saved up enough to visit. It is a really inspiring story that is probably more about the owner than the cat. I really enjoyed it. I think the main thing is he found a purpose in life.

The book I read to research this post was The British Empire A Very Short Introduction by Ashley Jackson that is a very good book which I bought from kindle. The British Empire comprised a 1/4 of the world’s land mass and over 500 million people. If you include countries Britain occupied for shorter periods and countries where Britain installed compliant governments or rulers the it is around 1/3 of the world’s countries. Many have left the commonwealth subsequently and one thing not many realize is the British Empire was less cruel than other empires and in a lot of cases it was about money where as money as the goods and supplies rolled in Britain would often leave the rulers to their own devices. Uprisings were a different matter with Britain crushing them ruthlessly and often putting the leaders in exile. World War 2 is an excellent example of how when Britain went to war she could mobilize huge numbers of commonwealth troops. Even nowadays there are the Ghurkas a left over from Britain’s colonial days in India who are a part of the British Army and fought for example in The Falkland’s War. Nowadays much of the Commonwealth has either gone independent or like in the case of Hong Kong been handed over to another country with a stronger claim over it. The British Army in peacetime has rarely numbered more than 200,000 and is relatively small considering Britain’s population. They have maintained bases in key positions like Gibraltar and Cyprus. One thing is that at one time freight from Commonwealth countries at one time could only be carried by British Merchant ships giving us the biggest fleet in the world and this meant a ready supply of sailors and ships in times of war. More recently the armed forces have become more a rapid deployment force if there is trouble in other countries than an anti-invasion force which they feel isn’t necessary. One controversial aspect has been that when Britain has taken a country they have often brought unwelcome diseases like smallpox and syphillus and often populations have been decimated and replaced with white people. Also often they haven’t kept local names for locations and given them British names, often names from places in Great Britain. I really enjoyed this book which is well written and very educational.

The book I read to research this post was Obstruction Danger by Adrian Vaughan which is a very good book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. This book is a kind of history of railway from 1890 – 1986 and looks at over 30 railway accidents and their causes with in this period. The book was published in 1989 and the start point 1890 is significant because there was a major accident in Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1889 caused by a runaway train without air brakes that couldn’t stop. It caused a public outcry and an act of parliament was passed forcing the various railway companies to adopt safety measures like airbrakes on the coaches and wagons, interlocking signals which nowadays are electrically powered and the token system on portions of single track. This act was the most significant event in the history of British railways until they were amalgamated in to major groups in 1921. The railway companies had a very difficult time incorporating these measures into their networks. There was a shortage of companies and trained workers capable of building interlocking signals. They had to meet a deadline which even if they could train people and get them to do the jobs would mean laying off many of these people once the job was done. Interlocking signals are signal levers that are dependent on each other and will only let you pull them in a certain order. This was very advanced technology at the time. Another factor was the cost of implementing all these measures at a time when most railway companies weren’t making a lot of money and felt they could maybe do it gradually but doing it to a deadline was out of the question. I really enjoyed reading this book and it’s amazing how something that can seem trivial like the signalmen not logging twice in the logbook when a train passes through can contribute to accidents. A lot of more recent accidents were caused by insufficient training and experience. At one time signal men spent years doing one job and knew it inside out. There was an incident where a signalmen had a weeks instruction on working signals and then left to do it. I would recommend this book and if you see it for sale cheap could be a good buy.