Does Thanet need a Birgitte Nyborg?

418ZXJ3SX5LMac had thought that the local blog associating the 1950 James Stewart film “Harvey”  with one of the Thanet Council team was very funny. He was three at the time it was released, possibly showing at the Dreamland cinema, but caught up with it later in life, hoping that it was another of Stewart’s westerns like ‘Winchester 73’ or one of those Russ Meyer films like ‘Chesty 69’. It was said to be one of James Stewart’s finest. Then he began to reflect that the blog was probably quite unfair. The six foot rabbit that only Elwood P Dowd can see, normally during sessions at his local bar, is actually a pooka. Pookas are creatures from Scandinavian and Celtic mythology, aren’t actually that benign and can assume a variety of forms. They mostly appear in animal form, but also as goblins, and are very obstructive. In fact they can cause havoc wherever they go, creating harm and mischief. In Ireland only the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, was ever able to tame and ride a pooka, by using three hairs from its tail. Elwood must have just been very lucky to have met this particular Harvey when it was on its best behaviour, drinking Martinis and spending long sessions with him in the pub.  So the comparison that is being made between the two Harvey’s is grossly unfair.  One is largely invisible, spends much of his time being obstructive and can cause untold damage. Enough said.

Of course Dr Sanderson in the film, having locked Elwood away in the sanatorium, eventually injects him with a serum to stop him “seeing the rabbit”. Mac only wishes that some of that had been around when he used to spend his formative years in Dreamland, although he seems to remember using a different terminology. Lord George Sanger might have referred to it as “seeing the elephant”. Before they split, the Sanger Brothers put on a series of spectacular shows in London, their pantomime at the Agricultural Hall in London, Aladdin, featuring eleven elephants. They also had one of the largest circuses in England, with a stud of two hundred horses, but eventually Barnum bought much of their equipment and props for use in the States. Not sure Lord George would have appreciated them, but it was fascinating to see cult4the video footage of all the scooters on display at Dreamland recently. Whitsun 1964 of course was the march of the Mods, dozens of them down from South London, outnumbering the Rockers with their Triumphs and Nortons. Seemed significant at the time, but a bit pathetic when you look back at the actual television footage. The master draftsman Giles in the Daily Express based a cartoon on the riots. Mind you, the Mods didn’t burn down embassies just because he had drawn a cartoon of them but hey, different culture. I can’t explain, talking about my generation.


Birgitte Nyborg

One of the other rather eloquent bloggers wrote of his belief that “Thanet is still living in some dreadful eighties, tribal politics drama, where many local councillors and their supporters are involved. We can’t move on because quite simply, a number of our elected representatives have a deficit in imagination, are unwilling to leave the past behind or the personal differences built-up over thirty years”. Mind you, he then followed that in his next piece with a shot from  Dad’s Army and a derogatory remark about that nice Captain Mainwaring. Mac says he has no doubt that had the Germans invaded St Mildred’s Bay, that the good Captain would have actually have been stood by Pav’s Cafe firing his revolver out to sea. Never lacked courage did our trusty bank manager, whatever else his failings. But the point is worth making and you wonder if Thanet could learn anything from ‘Borgen’ and the wonderful Birgitte Nyborg. And no, this is not an argument for parts of Thanet to consider communicating with sub-titles, however appropriate. Is there room for a party of New Democrats, coming together possibly in Dane Park to create a spirit of togetherness, putting behind them the petty politics and tribal drama? What odds do you think Paddy Power would give? Don’t hold your breath.

Actually this blogger also mentions the miners’ strike. It is perhaps worth remembering that in 1965 Margate hosted the National Union of Miners conference, the lower orders. They were welcomed warmly at the time by all parties, despite the cloth caps and heavy boots. Kent then had its own mining traditions to maintain. No batons and riot shields required from the police in those days. They were reserved for the Mods on all those scooters. Bloody nuisance the Mods were, actually, so the odd bit of truncheon waving was often much appreciated. Mac says that most people will be aware that until very recently Thanet, like the rest of the South East, was solidly Conservative.

Billy having the future foretold..?

Billy having the future foretold..?

The longest-serving MP, Billy was also a war hero, having lost his arm in the war, with the Welsh Guards. He had been a cricket blue at Cambridge before that, so even if he struggled to read spin as a batsmen, he sure could deliver it and he had become a barrister. Topically he was said to be the first MP to raise the alarm about Profumo and poor Stephen Ward (Lloyd Webber musical imminent).

There were lots of rumours about Rees Davies. Google him now and you will find only reference to his ‘louche’ chambers. An odd choice of word, ‘louche’, signifying questionable morals. Further on you will find reference to a man who was described as garrulous, a maverick, a man about town. He had close contact with the criminal fraternity, too close some said, defending the indefensible. Yet he was a pillar of our establishment, a barrister and our MP for over thirty years, although many in the area were uncomfortable with him. The strange thing is that the public like characters and celebrities, often without substance, and you might have noted that the Mayor of Toronto, who is currently in the news, actually increased his ratings after confessing to taking crack cocaine. There was, however, at the time, a feeling that the men and women serving the country, however wealthy or eccentric, had been through the war and at least understood society. They had fought, suffered, known personal tragedy and generally came into politics to improve things. More importantly, many of them had experience outside of politics.

Posh boys

Posh boys

Now the perception is that we just have so-called ‘posh’ boys and political geeks leading our parties. While most of us were outside in the fresh air, they were becoming political careerists, research assistants and advisors, studying the small print, sat in committees in darkened rooms. Career politicians. Normal folk wouldn’t touch it, but it is nice work if you can exploit your contacts, make a fast buck from your information. Oppose any motion or anything that is not your initiative, no matter whether it will be successful or not and always ask a price. That’s the problem. Confrontational politics. The Thanet Standards Committee notes that, “the Council is held in low regard by the public … a local suspicion of secrecy, corruption … a siege mentality”. Listen boys and girls, it’s the same the world over now. Just read yesterday’s interview in one of the nationals with veteran actor Donald Sutherland (who plays President Snow in The Hunger Games – Catching Fire), wanting to see a youth-led uprising against injustice in the States. It’s always ever just about power and what people have done with it when given the opportunity. You’ve just drawn a particularly bad hand. In addition the standards in society have changed. No-one takes responsibility or seems to be accountable. No-one wants to resign, largely waiting for yet another contractual pay-out or an opportunity to sue.

Who are those guys?

Who are those guys?

That’s what has changed. We have a bullying culture in the NHS (finally spotted by parliament) and in the Civil Service. We have been screwed by the bankers, who in their turn had their accounts signed off by the giant accounting and auditing firms. Tax evasion has become a fine art and everywhere is being bought up by the Chinese or foreign developers, sometimes with money from dubious sources. On top of that many people now can’t afford to heat their homes and some argue that the lights might well go out in future years. And what do we get from our politicians in return? All too often we get grown men and women standing in chambers, national and local, shouting at each other, yah-boohing. Mac says that when he has had briefings from local council officials they will largely tell you the truth off the record, but when you ask them why they can’t challenge the garbage, they always say that dissension will cost them their jobs. There seems very little room for common sense. Using your discretion to change things that are clearly wrong seems to be ruthlessly punished and will get you fired. Just who is setting these rules, these standards? As Butch and Sundance said, “Who are those guys?”

So by all means call for a new beginning, maybe a new coalition to put the interests of the public and the area before party politics and self-interest. We would surely all follow a Birgitte if she emerged, wherever we lived. But get the culture right first.  Many of us who were brought up in the area and come back regularly to visit family or drink with  friends would love for the old place to be restored to part of its former glory. Some people are really trying to do that and that at least should be above party politics. Committing to high standards takes real leadership and re-training won’t work unless everyone embraces the principles of respect and integrity. Many residents may well be praying for a change of hart, (Editor’s note – we think this is a spelling error but too late to correct), but just  one small suggestion. If anyone really wishes to spread concord and unity between different parties, a new democracy, become the new Birgitte, then it is probably best not to refer to the ‘glory days’ of Margaret Thatcher. That’s just part of the tribal politics. If they persist with that line of argument, then they might need to learn from Harvey the art of being invisible in the high street. For many people Margaret Thatcher is one pooka too many.

One pooka too many

One pooka too many


10 thoughts on “Does Thanet need a Birgitte Nyborg?

  1. Dear Mac

    Well, I’ve come to – I must have dropped off reading your exchanges with Card2.

    What’s all this pookah? I thought race relations were better these days. But anyway, Mac, I haven’t been well, so I haven’t been reading your blog for some weeks. I’m sitting in our lock-up now, because you know my hubbie doesn’t understand me blogging.

    So I’ll be quick. I wanted to tell you who those lads in your picture are! The ones you asked about. I am really surprised you didn’t recognise them; and even Card2 didn’t mention them (surely he would know!).

    It’s Butch Cassidy and The Sunshine Kid! They were famous outlaws in Florida who robbed banks and rode around in women’s clothing! When the police got wind of what they were up to they fled to South America and then they made a film about them which we went to see years ago at The Curzon in Mayfair in posh seats – even then!

    Must go.

    • Thank you Mrs K. I like to send Mac to his history books. Last time it was over his suspicion that I made up the story about colour blind Airey Neave fashioning his own version of a German uniform in which he made his first attempt to escape from Colditz. He was duly marched back to captivity in his pea green outfit.

      On this occasion it was more Robert Graves, Arthurian Legend, Masonic Allegory and that catchy song about the King being in the all together. Goodbye to all that.

      Escaping in woman’s clothing ? Mayfair Cinemas. Zulu Michael Caine. Did you know that a Welsh soldier, with the 24th South Warwickshire Regt of Foot (It became the South Wales Borderers 2 years after the battle) later put in an application for a war pension ? For injuries sustained when deserting Rorkes Drift dressed as a woman in the course of which he was trampled in a Zulu charge. Save the googling Mac it’s true.

      In the film (even the version shown in Mayfair) this escaping Taff is depicted as the Mission God Botherer daughter (May her Pooka go with her) being despatched in a Surrey with a Fringe on Top to safety. The South African mounted police types are shown riding away to desert the mission. In fact the Army Commisariat chap (Retired Light Infantry NCO who actually arranged the defence because the officers were paralysed with fear) had despatched the old Boers to positions where they could snipe the Zulus.

      The problem for the escaping Taff was when Ivor Emanuel led a rousing chorus of a Tom Jones hit from the defences and the only bass voice available to the Welsh was busily wiggling away towards the horizon with her parasol aloft and inadvertently joined in.

      The Zulus had a problem too. Rorke had been an Irishman who set up the mission and the Zulu Chief loved to drink with Rorke. So no one wanted to go back and tell the Boss that they had burned down the late Rorke’s gaff. They hatched up a story that Michael Caine set it alight to illuminate the area to defend against a night attack. “You are only supposed to light the bloody beacons”

      Oddly enough there was a Thanet connection. Not mentioned in the military records possibly because the Buffs did rather well.

      Years later ex Colour Sgt Bourne (Cos he was there cos he was there) gave the 1930s BBC a true account of the battle. Never broadcast.

      What a strange deja vu weekend ? The All Blacks repeating exactly what the NZ Rugny League team had done the day before. Equalizing try final seconds followed by winning conversion kick.

      The Rugby Pooka sent a sign.

      • I fear it is always dangerous to reply to one of your e-mails, but I am pretty good on Rorke’s Drift and am happy to wash any spears that you might have in your collection. However I hadn’t heard the story about the soldier deserting the post dressed as a woman, but was aware that one of the surviving soldiers later toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. The latter does have a Thanet connection because it was Buffalo Bill who sued Lord Sanger for passing off and I also had the questionable good fortune to see and meet Sheriff Danny Arnold when he used to perform at the Golden Garter saloon. His wife, who I believe was from near Manchester, played the only Indian in the cast.

        I did by the way switch over to the Rugby League with 15 minutes to go and was thus fairly depressed until Cardiff scored an equaliser later in the day against Man United. As I was out yesterday exercising the pacemaker, I missed the Ireland game but will hopefully read the sports section in a few minutes. I normally attend to these things early in the day, lest I nod off, but have been detained for some time replying to some fairly challenging correspondence. Rather like the depiction in Zulu and Butch Cassidy etc, you are obviously fully aware that scriptwriters and blog commentators tend to use a great deal of poetic licence, eg in real life Butch Cassidy actually survived the shoot-out and lived to a senior age. However they still remain fine films, even when raindrops keep falling on your head.
        the very best to you

    • Dear Mrs K
      You have no idea what you have now unleashed!

      I thought that that nice Mr Putin might have stopped you e-mailing (you are somewhere near the Ukraine, I believe) unless that’s why you’re in the lock-up to avoid the metdata being detected. I suspect you are too old for any sort of Pussy Riot and if my brief experience of Eastern European peasant women is an accurate reflection of the genre, then best not to do the full FEMEN bit in case you scare the horses.

      The reference, by the way, “Who are those guys” was not intended to be some sort of quiz. I know it is the sort of thing that we more cultured nations might participate in, perhaps on holiday in some Italian villa, where the company is polenta-like, but we don’t expect you rougher nations to play along. However I can tell you that your correct answer has on this occasion won first prize, which is actually an opportunity to claim housing benefit from the UK government for your hovel, however meagre, and child benefit for the 79 children I believe you previously referred to. Perchance you have read that our nice Mr Cameron has been deliberating over the weekend to see whether he can block your passage or those of your numerous relatives, but I will be writing to him separately to explain your special circumstances. By the way the prize can only be claimed next week at The Grapes in Limehouse on the Thursday.

      By then I hope you will be fully attuned in South African history. You might like to engage Card2 with some of the tales that your grandmother told you about when that Goethe visited, after he had escaped from Colditz.
      Fond regards

  2. Yes it would be a wise move to ask a fellow to keep schtum in exchange for a generous carrot ration. Except if the contract is to conceal knowledge of crime which would be a criminal offence under the 1967 act. If I were to write to TDC leader Hart about this my crystal ball says that his secretary will send an acknowledgment followed by Harvey replying, on his leader’s authority, saying that Harvey does no wrong.

    Off to the history books ? It is my opinion that three Labour repeals had a profound effect on the UK constitutional monarchy way of life. Misprision of Felony, Unlawful Societies Act 1799 and Unlawful Drilling Act 1819.

    Harvey’s gagging order is a Don’t rabbit rabbit contract.

  3. The year after the MODs’ recce in force to Margate Harold Wilson did something or rather he undid something. The Common Law of Misprision of Felony. From 1967 statute gave folks a right to be silent about knowledge of crime unless their silence had been bought. (It is a crime to be silent about knowledge of crime if you are paid to be silent)

    Of course it also created the society you describe. In which people keep silent for fear of losing their jobs and yet still feel virtuous.

    The wellbeing of the land thus relies on “Whistleblowers”. A very tenuous situation.

    What if Harvey, on leaving the warren, takes a payment agreeing to be silent about warren activity? A gagging order plan hutched up.

    How might Harvey ensure that he has avoided knowledge of any evidence of crime ? By refusing to conduct records searches to disclose to Standards perchance ? The funny bunny keeping it civil Mac.

    • Richard
      I am learning that a comment from you will now result in me rushing off to the bookshelf or googling desperately to read up on matters of which I clearly less than well informed.I suspect that you might be able to trace the Card family back to some form of early association with pookas. However that’s a pretty shrewd observation that James Stewart probably asked Harvey to sign a confidentially agreement in return for a year’s salary and a small extra settlement of carrots. History will undoubtedly repeat itself. Mind you the reports of the recent activities in the council chambers just beggar belief. I think the nativity plays in Thanet are going to be short of wise men this year.

      • There is a suspicion that Arnold Bennet’s “Card” was a composite character. One part being a local Staffordshire confectioner and market trader who traded on Sundays and paid a weekly fine at the local Justices for breaching Sunday trading laws.

        Whatever this market trader was up to he could afford private education for his son and daughter. The son could do square roots long hand by the age of 7 Yet still ended up as a coalminer. Strange how he still clung to the belief that education sets you up for life. He should have been a bit of a rogue like his dad. You get rich and breathe clean air every day.

        Of course Cardinal, Cardiac, Card and Carty etc derive of the name of a pre Christian Goddess whose twin sons were Bel and Bran. To Christianise England the Goddess was masculinised as Car Dea and the pre Christian trinity adapted into Christian mythology as father, son and holy ghost. Bel and Bran were the twin sons Gods of Waxing and Waning Year with their shift changes at the spring and autumn now Easter and Guys Fawkes. At Easter the man of eggs (Oestre or Oesus) would clock off by disappearning into his cave if that sounds like a familar tale at all.

        Literally the Goddess was Guardian of the Door now represented in a masonic lodge by the Tyler.

        Religion being a mass belief in a Pooka ?.

      • Thank you for your two rather erudite comments. I apologise for thinking that the Cards had anything to do with Pookas and have now found the family link to ‘hinge’, presumably as in ‘Hinge and Brackett’. In the process I have worked my way wearily and religiously through Roman town construction and military camp design and also through the works of Arnold Bennett. Sadly I realise that I have never read any of his books, but I have eaten one of his omelettes at Carlucci’s. The Bel and Bran reference was lost on me for a while but I now realise that the many residents of Thanet would love any God who rendered people ‘voiceless’. Perhaps he could be an integral part of the Council re-training exercise. My urologist has also quite recently explained the theory of ‘waxing and waving’, so I might buy a couple of candles to light at their particular altar. Enough of these ‘Old Wives Tales’. I wish you a happy and fulfilling weekend and am now off to take some paracetamol.

      • I hope your studies didn’t cause you to miss the England v New Zealand Rugby League. They proved that the Grand Pookah of Rugby is on their side. A try in the last seven seconds to steal England’s lead.

        I look forward to Harvey doing his bunny hop.

        Your experience of public servants finding a voice but only “In confidence” mirrors my own experience of Kent Police officers. They have said “Put it this way I am down here and they are up there if I say something I will be out of a job”.

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