Angelique Richardson

21 December 2023

Hardy’s Christmas Ghost

Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘A Christmas Ghost-Story’ was published in the Westminster Gazette in December 1899, two months after the start of the Second Anglo-Boer War. The ghost is that of a soldier, and the poem emphasises his unknown nationality.

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24 January 2023

Crying Shells

The Sinhala word for hunger is badagini. It means ‘fire in the belly’. According to UNICEF, 2.3 million children in Sri Lanka are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 56,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition. The World Food Programme warns that 6.3 million people – 28 per cent of the population – face acute food insecurity. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under five and people with disabilities are among the worst affected. The country is deep in an economic, political and humanitarian crisis.

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4 November 2022

Breeding for Britain

According to a recent article in the Sun on Sunday, an unnamed Tory minister is of the view that ‘we need to have more children. The rate keeps falling. Look at Hungary – they cut taxes for mothers who have more children.’ As Zoe Williams pointed out in the Guardian, the article appeared on the same day that Nadhim Zahawi (then the Cabinet Office minister, now the Tory party chairman) and Suella Braverman (then and now the home secretary) had discussed a plan to tackle ‘bad migration’ by capping the number of children foreign students can bring to the UK. The phrase ‘bad immigration’ crops up perennially in Parliament.

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4 October 2021

Reading Sentences

On 31 August at Leicester Crown Court, Judge Timothy Spencer handed down a two-year suspended sentence to Ben John, a 21-year-old student, for possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist. He had downloaded bomb-making instructions along with 67,788 documents containing white supremacist and antisemitic material. Judge Spencer ordered John to read Dickens, Austen and Shakespeare, and also to think about Hardy and Trollope, returning to court every four months to be tested on his reading. For one commenter on the Mail Online, it was ‘worse than a prison sentence!’

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18 August 2021

Marta Krawiec 1980-2021

On Wednesday, 4 August, Marta Krawiec left Tufnell Park to cycle to work at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital. She never made it. She died in a collision with a lorry at the junction of Theobald’s Road and Southampton Row.

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5 February 2021

On Profiteering

‘Profiteer’ was coined as a verb during the Napoleonic Wars and a noun in the First World War, when ‘illegal profiteering’ by opportunist ‘unscrupulous dealers’, the Times reported, proliferated in ‘aggravated form’. A Royal Proclamation of 31 August 1917 prohibited the import of bacon, butter, hams and lard except under government licence. Profiteering Acts were passed in 1919 and 1920, and newspapers reported on the plans of housewives’ unions to ‘beat the profiteering tradesman’.

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3 December 2020

Pencils Instead of Bayonets

‘The elections in the United States have been watched with an interest rarely felt in the domestic concerns of a distant country,’ Walter Bagehot and Richard Holt Hutton’s National Review declared in 1857. ‘Not for the first time – perhaps for the last – the terrible problem of Slavery, long the secret haunt, has become the open battle-field of American politics.’ The 1856 presidential election had ‘emphatically declared in favour of extension of slavery’, with ‘disregard of positive engagements both national and international’. Armed bands in Kansas had carried the polling booths ‘at the point of the bowie knife’ and laws had been enacted ‘on behalf of slavery’, ‘suppressing all liberty of speech, of the press, or of political action’. The review feared that Europe (where slavery had come from) was unaware of the gravity of the situation: ‘this very hour’, a special committee was reporting on the ‘reopening of the African slave trade’.

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20 October 2020

‘No Coloureds’

My mother recalls seeing the ‘no coloureds’ notices as a child in newsagents and sweet shops. Often they were written on the backs of envelopes; sometimes they were placed on removable boards outside. She used to read them when she was queueing with her sister for sherbet lemons in the postwar sugar rush. They didn’t deter her, on the brink of the 1960s, from marrying my Sri Lankan father. He docked at Tilbury in June 1953, when he was 22. He saw the ads not in sweet shops but at railway stations, on the noticeboards next to the telephones and ticket offices at Greenford, Ealing Broadway and West Ruislip, where British Rail gave him his first job as a ticket collector. One landlady, he told me, asked him to describe the precise colour of his skin: how did it compare to a cup of coffee, for example? She was pleased to establish he was ‘not black but brown’, someone who could be accommodated as part of a wider system of exclusion.

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7 September 2020

‘How could you bear it yourself?’

By March 2019, at least sixty councils had obtained the power to issue £100 fines for rough sleeping, begging and loitering. If you don’t pay the fine, imposed for asking for money you don’t have, you risk a £1000 penalty. What happens then? If you get a criminal behaviour order for asking for money on the streets and you ask again, you can go to prison for five years. ‘How could you bear it yourself?’ William Morris asked in 1883.

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20 August 2020

Elbowed off the Pavement

‘It’s ominous,’ a colleague at a post-92 university told me. ‘Some smaller, newer universities may go bust. This will leave working-class students with nowhere to go. Some of them cannot afford to study away from home, some have caring responsibilities.’

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