Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Call of the Pipes

We're a bit strapped for cash, like so many families, so alas we pulled the mooted summer trip to Iceland, a place I've always wanted to visit and which is still pretty expensive - what must prices have been like before the crisis ? Instead we're going somewhere else I've never been, the Asturias region of northern Spain.

It was Cornwall for the last two years and Gower the year before - Susan insisted we get off the island this year. My suggestion of Arran alas was howled down.

The Spanish probably need what little dosh we have more than the Icelanders anyway. Iceland pulled the plug on its banks, took a big hit on its housing market and currency, but is now recovering rather well. The UK hosed its banks with taxpayer cash, propped up our insane property values, and we're in for a lost decade of stagflation.

Our young people are unemployed or under-employed, graduates are still living at home on £14,000 a year jobs at the age of 28. At the other end of the employment spectrum, fifty-something former project managers have been sat at home for three years, firing off ten CVs a day. Comment in today's Telegraph :

"I don’t know any extended family not supporting a distressed, disillusioned, despairing young person - often with a degree or good qualifications. And maybe sympathising with an older person, desperately jobseeking after redundancy.”
Our children, bar a fortunate few, will not be able to own the roof over their heads, something my and my parents generation could take for granted. We're going back to the days of my grandmother, who lived in rented accommodation all her life.

But compared with the Spanish, we have minor problems. 43% youth unemployment ! When you consider Spain isn't exactly flush with youths since the demographic collapse post-Franco, that's quite an achievement for Mr Zapatero's Socialists aka "the most loathsome government in Europe".

I really am surprised there's not mass civil disobedience. Their 1930s forebears - right or left - wouldn't have stood for it.

Where was I ? Dunno. But in solidarity with the young unemployed of Spain (sort of), we’ve booked a house this summer near the magnificently named Villaviciosa, famed as one of the very last towns to surrender to Franco’s forces, as well as being the birthplace of bagpipe maestro José Ángel Hevia Velasco. Be interesting to test the political waters.

Here's the man himself. Very Celtic - didn't realise the influences in that part of Spain - and it's cider country, too. The massed pipers at the end could be the Men of Lonach. You get a feel for the forebears of the Native Brits, making their way North from the Iberian Refuge as the last Ice Age glaciers retreated before them.


Sam Tarran said...

I know it's not really the point of the post, but what s the current academic consensus (assuming there is one) on the ethnic origins of the English? I recall reading some time ago that there was a theory that there was not so much a wide removal and replacement of the Britons by the Anglo-Saxons as once thought, but more of an assimilation?

Anonymous said...

Sam - Cheddar Man. 9,000 years ago still has direct descendants living nearby. So, unless that part of Sommerset has somehow kept itself to itself and had a freakish amount of inbreeding we can say that much of British population has been here a hell of a long time. That Celts, Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans etc represent changes in the rulers, the culture, the language but that the population, physically remained largely the same.

Single acts of tyranny said...

I understand your post but take issue with one point

"will not be able to own the roof over their heads, something my and my parents generation could take for granted"

It was far from certain that people would own their own homes even as recently as straight after WW2. Renting was common and even as late as the 1970's mortgages were hard to come by and you needed a savings record in the building society.

Now I am not saying it is easy today by any means, BUT the past wasn't either

Laban said...

Sam - I'm not sure there IS a current consensus - it's still widely debated - but the theses of geneticists like Stephen Oppenheimer ("the Origins of the British") and Bryan Sykes ("Blood of the Isles") is if I understand it that

a) the majority (70%?) of Native Brits share the same basic ancestry - Iberians who moved north after the Ice Age some 16,000 years back

b) the Saxon invasion was not a total ethnic cleansing of England in that Belgic tribes who spoke a similar language were already established in southern Roman Britain, which devalues the linguistic evidence (absence of Celtic place-names) for total ethnic cleansing - Sykes and Oppenheimer reckon "only" 20-30% of English ancestry is Saxon or Viking - which is still a hefty invasion, but not a complete wipeout of natives.

My problem is that I need to read a decent genetics primer. Talk of the R1b haplogroup means zilch to me, and I don't understand genetic distance maps, so I have to take what they say on trust, as I don't understand the evidence. And when they disagree I'm lost. I know that there's y-chromosome DNA, passed directly father to son, and mitochondrial DNA, passed directly mother to daughter (and sons, but they don't pass it on), but that's it.

If you're doing history it may be worth getting a human genetics primer and/or attending some of Bryan Sykes introductory lectures, if he does them (he's at Oxford, and also runs a DNA-analysis company called Oxford Ancestors), as this stuff will IMHO impact on that area where history meets archaeology. And as many arts students are scientific illiterates, you'd be ahead of the game !

Laban said...

SAOT - "It was far from certain that people would own their own homes even as recently as straight after WW2. Renting was common and even as late as the 1970's mortgages were hard to come by and you needed a savings record in the building society."

Renting was still the norm before WW2 so not surprisingly that didn't suddenly change after it. But buying was possible. You lived at home after you started work, and saved with the local BS for a few years. And living at home, you didn't expect to go out on a Friday, blow a lot of cash and stagger in at 4 next day. Parents wouldn't stand for it, and places shut at 11. So you did save.

I knew a lot of people in council houses, and in those days most had good jobs in industry - better paid than my teacher mother. They could have afforded to buy but didn't want to. They had modern 3-bedroom semis and we had a 2-up 2-down cottage - I was about 5 or 6 before we had an indoor bathroom or an immersion heater. But we owned it and moved to a semi about eight years later.

Anonymous said...

My father bought his first flat in 1959 at age 28 - no mortgage, cash down, no help from my grandparents. He'd left school at 14, trained as an apprentice for 5 years, then worked for 10 years as an engineer on a Shell tanker, saving all the while.

Anonymous said...

Laban - I mentioned Cheddar Man because that avoids having to know about all the DNA gubbins.

In a similar way one hardly needs to know about genetics to see that the liberal axiom - that genetic variation within racial groups is greater than variation between them is nonsense. What they are trying to imply is that any random white person is as likely to be related to, or even more related to, any given african for example. ie despite the evidence of my lying eyes.

Absolute nonsense and you dont need to know about genetics to see it.

dearieme said...

"the Saxon invasion was not a total ethnic cleansing of England in that Belgic tribes who spoke a similar language were already established in southern Roman Britain" - so Oppenheimer argued, but if you look at the map of ancient placename evidence in that chapter, you'll see that it contradicts his argument. Be that as it may, his %ages for Ancient Britishness were approximately: Scotland & England 70%, Wales 80%, Ireland 90%.

I look forward to methods good enough to tell which of the Oirish are descended from the ancient Gaels and which from the ancient Cruithne - assuming that the Gaels didn't eat all the Cruithne, of course.

Bessie said...

Laban: I'm in much the same boat as you with regard to genetics. However, I'm on slightly firmer ground with linguistics. Many interpretations by geneticists or archaeologists concerning the British Dark Ages rest on the assumption that a major population replacement must have occurred in the 5th/6th centuries because otherwise we would be unable to account for language shift. But sociolinguists do not claim that language shift is necessarily caused by population replacement.

Dearieme: The problem with maps of ancient placenames is that they are only as good as their sources. One of the chief sources for ancient British placenames is the Antonine Itinerary, a document that tells us that the Gallic diocese of the Roman Empire was sprinkled with multiple examples of identikit names such as Cambodunum, Mediolanum and Noviomagus, implying that the people of the Pyrenees and the Pennines spoke exactly the same language and dialect. But this is not particularly likely over such a vast distance. If we were to ask a French citizen to write a list of the major towns in Belgium and Switzerland, perhaps we would get similarly unreliable data!

Single acts of tyranny said...

Laban, You are right enough, I recall being about 10 before we had central heating and about 7 before we had a phone (party line), double glazing came in my late teens.

Right again, if there is one thing that really kills me, it is kids with an ipad and designer clothes saying they can't afford to buy anywhere, and I'm thinking "So how much have you saved in the last ten years?"

Foxy Brown said...

Interesting thread. I'm definitely out of my depth here, but I recall seeing a Channel 4 documentary which used dendrochronology to posit the theory that there was a natural disaster which resulted in some sort of natural disaster in the 6th century. The time frame coincides with movement from the Continent to the British Isles. Does it have a factor in socio-linguistic change?

Daily Telegraph Archive

(What did scientifically-illiterate arts grads like me, do in the days before Google?)

Anonymous said...

Foxy - see this

and this

dearieme said...

It is no coincidence that in yer cold spells Germans and Scandowegians come, and in yer warm spells yer Romans, Froggies and Somalis.

Yaffle said...

Some years ago I did some conservation work in the mountains of Asturias - for the benefit of its few remaining bears. A magical place, but the depopulation was quite evident. We stayed in a small primary school that was built in the 1950s but had closed by 1990 as there were no kids.

A fun thing to do is to hire bikes and go tootling along the old coal truck paths that weave around (and through) the *picos*, while vultures soar overhead.

Sgt Troy said...

Well I think the genetics can be taken as read

Meanwhile good to see that a stand is being made!

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"...quite an achievement for Mr Zapatero's Socialists..."

Not sure if it's entirely their doing. Don't the Gnomes of Brussels actually have the overall responsibility?

But I suppose the Spanish government joined the wretched EU and then the wretched Euro, so they are the ones to pin the blame on. Especially as there's no way of getting back at the EU head honchos - elections are not for them, are they?

Weekend Yachtsman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Weekend Yachtsman said...

Central heating was for pansies back in the 50's and 60's.

At the risk of provoking a few "four Yorkshiremen" quotes, I can say that I really do remember putting warmed pennies on the windows to melt a little circle of ice so that we could see out...

otoh you can't blame young people now for not saving. What's the interest rate? What's the inflation rate? Yeah, so why bother...