Thursday, 30 July 2020

Travelling from LHR to PSA in the midst of a global pandemic

Yesterday afternoon, myself, my wife and our 5 year old daughter arrived back home from a week in the Tuscan countryside. I realise how lucky we have been to have been able to travel at present, and I wanted to write a record of what European travel was like this summer.

When Italy was added to the list of countries from which visitors did not need to quarantine, we took the opportunity to book a country house hotel at which we had stayed last summer. When we were feeling uncertainly about travel, knowing exactly where we were going and what to expect made a very positive difference in our feeling comfortable about the visit.

Our BA Club Europe flight to Pisa left LHR at 8.30am on 22 July, so we decided to stay at the airport on the Tuesday night to save a very early start. I booked one of the Bath Road Holiday Inn's 'stay and park' packages, as none of the official Heathrow parking options was available. We arrived at Heathrow mid-afternoon on the Tuesday, and took the opportunity to have a drive round Terminals 2, 3 and 5 to see what it was like. Unsurprisingly, I have never seen Heathrow so quiet. There was no traffic, very few people, and only the occasional plane landing or taking off. The airport car parks along the perimeter road were empty, and the hotel car parks only had a smattering of cars in them too. Describing the area as a ghost town would be a cliché, but...

We arrived at the Holiday Inn to find our car park pretty much deserted too, and that the Holiday Inn was closed. Our stay had been transferred to the Staybridge Suites which shares the building. We were given one of the larger suites for the night, and had an early supper alongside nine other people in the hotel. Apart from the lack of guests, everything about the hotel was as you would normally expect. We left before breakfast on the Wednesday morning, so were unable to see how that was offered, but we were each provided with a packed breakfast to get us to the terminal.

Despite the offers of a £17 taxi to T5, we took the free 423 London Transport bus which is a service I have never had the need to use before, but certainly one I would be very happy to use again. The bus was fairly empty, and we were the only passengers with luggage. The entrance to T5 was very quiet, and when we entered the departures area, the space swallowed the passengers queuing to check-in.

We made our way to the Club check-in area, where there was no queue at all. As we entered the usual rope path, we were asked where we were travelling, and duly given three copies of a form to fill in for all people travelling to Italy. When we had wound our way through the ropes to the check-in desk, the first question was whether we had had our temperature taken. While the form-issuer had been holding a thermometer, he hadn't checked our temperatures. He was duly summoned to the check-in desk where he took our temperatures, and our boarding passes note the fact that we had been checked. 

There was no fast track security, but families were directed through what would normally be fast track, and the process took as long as usual.

Once through security, there were more people in one place than I have seen for some months, but nothing like what would usually be expected on a July morning. The usual banks of chairs had individual seats taped off to stop them being used, and the distancing markers that are now part of life everywhere adorned floors and walls.

The Galleries Lounge was, as BA had announced, all table service. In practice, this meant finding a table, scanning a QR code and ordering from a menu. This worked well until a window seat became available and we moved. If you do this, you need to log out from the app and start again, scanning the new QR code. We were clearly not the only people to have done this, and there was also a sense that lots of the staff did not necessarily know where all the tables were: presumably, as this is new to them and staff will be coming back from furlough, there are lots of new processes for them to get used to too. There were more cleaning staff moving around the lounge, but we were not given and did not see the red/blue cards to indicate that an area was finished with.

Our flight was leaving from gate A13 so our movement around the terminal was minimal. The major difference at this point was that the flight boarded from the back in groups of five rows at a time. For a single cabin plane this seems so sensible, and something which I would not be unhappy to see maintained going forwards. As we boarded, we had the three forms which we had had to complete for the Italian authorities with name, date of birth, passport number, permanent and temporary addresses, and contact details, collected. Being in row 1, we waited until last to board, and even though the flight was full, this felt much more relaxed than having boarded and then having everyone else pushing past or queuing through the aisle.

As we boarded the A320, we were each given a sachet of hand sanitiser and an antibacterial towel. The safety briefing included the instruction to remove face masks before putting an oxygen mask on in the event of the loss of cabin air pressure, and an exhortation to remain seated as much as possible, and to avoid queuing for the toilets or congregating the galley area.

There were no special (including children's) meals, and we were served the new BA Club Europe lunch box, shown in much more detail here. Everything else about the flight and service was just as it ever is.

On arrival, everyone was instructed to remain seated, and four rows at a time from the front were invited to stand up, collect hand luggage and leave the plane. This was - apparently - an instruction from the Italian government - but we also did this to disembark back at LHR. Again, like boarding, this reduced the pushing and desperation to get off the plane and would potentially be a good thing to maintain going forwards.

As we entered the terminal and before we got to Passport Control, each passenger had their temperature taken by a ceiling-mounted thermometer underneath which everyone had to stand individually. After this, the rest of the airport procedure was as always.

Outside the airport, the shuttle bus to the car rental area was not running, so people had to walk the 400m to the rental area. Some rental companies were seemingly closed completely, and others - like Avis with whom I had booked via BA - had their desks in the office closed and only a couple of members of staff available in the car pick up area. 

Avis never seems very fast when it comes to collecting cars, but having to queue to have my booking number and a mobile number taken for someone to call back from head office to arrange the contract (and attempt to do all the usual up-sells), for the contract to be emailed back to the office to be printed out and to be given the keys seemed a somewhat cumbersome process. In the end, it took just over an hour to get the car, and the number of other people sheltering from the sun in the make-shift tent indicated this was very much the new normal for now.

Having got the car, and got to our accommodation, the holiday was very much as we had anticipated. The strangest thing was - again - how quiet Pisa and Lucca were (there were no queues for the tourist attractions, although I did have my temperature taken as we entered the Cathedral in Lucca), and the absence of tourists from continents other than Europe was notable. 

Returning home yesterday, PSA was very quiet, with only one entrance available for departures. It transpired that this was because passengers had their temperature taken on entering the building and had to walk through some sort of disinfecting misting machine. As we checked in, those aged 6 or over were given forms to fill in with contact details and addresses, which were collected as we boarded; these were also for the Italian government. The lounge (which is always a shared, non-BA, lounge) was closed, but there was no offer of vouchers for food or drink from the terminal. Boarding was, again, from the back, and the flight was the same as the outward trip, and we disembarked in groups of rows again.

Heathrow Border Control was busy as - apparently - lots of staff are not being unfurloughed until August. Family groups (as always) are not able to use the eGates, so the queues were long. A member of Heathrow staff was very generously taking pity on families with young children and let them out of the queue early to a desk on the side. Apart from the hour's queue, we - like several other travellers - also made a mistake here. We were not told at any point that we needed to complete a Passenger Locator Form for the UK government. Yes, there had been small signs on the ropes of the queue (but there always are, and you never read them), and there was a line in the sixth paragraph of the pre-flight email from BA saying it needed completing (ditto). The electronic form is several sections long, and each adult needs to complete it. We were able to do it on our phones huddled in a corner, and duly sate the Border Control officer. I suppose I had assumed we would be specifically given something as we had been when we arrived at the airport, and then assumed the form we had filled in in Italy was the information that was needed, or that - as UK citizens - it was connected to our passports. Whichever, it was our mistake, but we were not the only people who had made it. It can be completed in advance, and you can download the form immediately to show it on your phone, but a copy is also emailed to the address provided. All adults have to do their own form, and children can be attached to one of the adult's forms.

Another nearly empty 423 back to Newport Road with no other travellers, and a still-empty car park at the Holiday Inn/Staybridge Suites greeted us before we headed home for the first decent cup of tea in a week.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Thursday, 14 May 2020

David Dew

When I was at school, David Dew was a member of English Department, and he was also a stalwart member of the school's choirs and of the CCF. His particular musical passion was the music of the Victorian era, and he tried - valiantly - to introduce me to some of the more obscure composers of the era. While I failed to appreciate them to the extent he did, I would acknowledge that he did make me more aware of the merit of Arthur Sullivan's work.

When sorting out my sheet music the other week, I came across some things which he had written and had passed copies to me. I remembered reading in the school news that he had died prematurely some years ago, and a quick Google revealed the details and provided a little more of his life in an obituary from his Oxford college.
Tony Lemon, Fellow in Geography, remembers David Dew (Mansfield, 1972-78) in the 2006 Autumn/Winter edition of 'Mansfield', the college's magazine.

David Dew, who died of cancer in March 2003, spent seven years at Mansfield College, Oxford, reading three degrees — first degrees in Law and English and a postgraduate degree in English — before going on to train as a teacher. He entered into all his academic work, and everything he did outside it, with gusto. 

David was a college institution: a fount of wisdom and a witty commentator who contributed to almost every aspect of college life. He was an intellectual whose appreciation of the classics once expressed itself in a Greek ballad that managed to include in its dramatis personae a significant proportion of both JCR and SCR members, carefully re-named but clearly recognisable! His passion for Victorian music was allowed to unleash itself upon a chapel congregation when one of his organ compositions was performed. With these distinctive interests he combined qualities one might less easily have guessed (reflecting determination as much as natural talent), rowing several times in successive College First Eights, some of which won blades.

David's whole teaching career was at Oundle School in Northamptonshire. His career choice was perfectly suited to his personality and talents. He was the quintessential public school master, devoted to the school and those in his care and taking a very active part in many aspects of school life, as he had at Mansfield. He was especially active in the school CCF (a school CCF prize now bears his name) and both the school's and the town's musical activities, taking part in four choirs including the local Gilbert and Sullivan Society: fittingly, Oundle marked the sad death of one of their most loyal and respected teachers with a performance of Verdi's Requiem.

Many generations of Mansfield students will remember David with affection and — if sensitive enough to his intellectual qualities or the barbs of his humour — some awe. 
I looked at his compositions for the first time in 25 years, and while his settings of the canticles may be cliche-riddled, I rather enjoyed them. The copies I had were old photocopies and difficult to read. I therefore took the trouble to typeset and edit them, correcting some errors and tweaking moments of awkward underlay, and as I have been unable to find any details of his family, I present them here for posterity, and for anyone who might enjoy wallowing in unashamed Victoriana. If anyone does have contact details for his family, please let me know.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Sous Vide Vanilla and Chocolate Ice Creams (and crème anglaise and chocolate sauce)

I have always preferred making my own ice cream (and love a home-made crème anglaise), but aspects of the method I use are possibly a little unconventional, as I use a chamber vacuum packer and water bath. As I always have to work out quantities, temperatures and times, I thought it was useful, if for no-one other than me, to make a note of my method.

Equipment Required (beyond basic kitchenware)
  • Liquidiser or blender
  • Chamber vacuum packer
  • Water bath
  • Ice cream machine

Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients (makes approximately 1 litre)
  • 200ml double cream (straight from fridge)
  • 200ml milk (straight from fridge)
  • 150g sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or 1 vanilla pod halved lengthways)
  • pinch of salt
  1. Heat the water bath up to 82°C.
  2. Blend all of the ingredients together in the blender. If using a vanilla pod, do not blend this, but put straight into the bag for the next step.
  3. Pour the mixture into a vacuum bag and seal. (It is important the mixture is as cold as possible to get a better vacuum on the bag, i.e., the contents will not boil so quickly under pressure.)
  4. Cook in the water bath for 20 minutes.
  5. Chill the cooked crème anglaise in an ice bath, and agitate the contents of the bag while it is cooling.
  6. Pour the custard into your ice cream maker and follow the instructions to freeze to ice cream.
This method also works to make a perfect crème anglaise which can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. The creme anglaise can either be used as a sauce during this time, or turned into ice cream.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients (makes approximately 1 litre)
  • 200ml double cream (straight from fridge)
  • 200ml milk (straight from fridge)
  • 150g sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 150g bitter chocolate (approximately 70% cocoa) broken into small pieces (callets work well)
  1. Heat the water bath up to 82°C.
  2. Blend all of the ingredients, except the chocolate together in the blender.
  3. Pour the mixture into a vacuum bag and seal. (It is important the mixture is as cold as possible to get a better vacuum on the bag, i.e., the contents will not boil so quickly under pressure.)
  4. Cook in the water bath for 20 minutes.
  5. Chill the cooked custard to approximately 38°C using an ice bath, and agitate the contents of the bag while it it chilling.
  6. Put the chocolate in a large (metal) bowl, and pour the warm custard over it stirring constantly to melt the chocolate. If the custard is too cold, gently warm the chocolate/custard mixture in a bain marie. However, make sure it does not get too hot, otherwise the chocolate will have a very gritty texture.
  7. Pour the chocolate sauce into your ice cream maker and follow the instructions to freeze to ice cream.

This method also works to make a perfect chocolate sauce which can be served cold, warmed up gently in a bain marie, or turned into ice cream. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

For me, the water bath method of cooking the custard (whether or not it ultimately becomes ice cream) proves to be a life-saver in terms of avoiding that horrible moment when you scramble the yolks when trying to make it in a pan. Not only is this method much less labour-intensive, it is much more reliable. The simplicity of the method also means my 5 year old daughter is able to help me make her own chocolate ice cream without risk of error. She just needs to learn to separate eggs now...

Thursday, 26 September 2019

'Reading Music with the Young Child' by H Trevor Shakeshaft (from 'Music Teacher', July 1983)

In these days of financial stringency, even those primary schools lucky enough to have their own music specialist often find that exigencies of timetabling preclude this specialist from covering more than a small number of classes, while class teachers are often expected to cover their own class’s music. In such cases, the music specialist is frequently called upon to act in an advisory capacity to his colleagues. This article aims to provide for such “advisory teachers” a simple music reading scheme which may easily be passed on to their non-specialist colleagues.

Fundamental to all music skills is an awareness of the pulse of music. Whenever small children move to music, they should be encouraged to move steadily, in time with the pulse. This often occurs naturally, but some children need help. “Use your hands to clap the sound of the soldiers’ marching feet while we listen to this march”, is a useful ploy. Children should use only two or three fingers to clap, while the teacher watches — 30-odd lusty clappers may be injurious to health!

At this point, depending on age, the children may be able to find and list other sounds and events which occur regularly. (Their pulses, a clock, windscreen wipers, police siren, etc.)

Again, if children are old enough, they can be asked to observe and classify differing speeds of such pulse-like sounds; the element of regularity must be stressed. Pulse in music, as in the body, varies in speed with the degree of activity of its subject. The slow movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique may be described as “sleepy”, as its pulse matches that of someone sleeping. The final section of Rossini‘s William Tell overture, with its fast pulse, is often used on television to accompany fast action (the Lone Ranger!) when the characters’ pulses would be racing.

The concept of rhythm can now be introduced, by clapping first the pulse of a known song, then its rhythm. Explain this by using part of the class as a singing group whilst the rest clap the pulse; everyone then claps “once for each word of the song”. It can then be shown that the two types of clap- ping, though different, fit together — the class may be divided again, part clapping the rhythm, the remainder the pulse. The two concepts are very important — it is worth spending a lot of time on this activity, using various songs and other music heard in school.

At this stage we may begin on notation. I have devised a system using “little men” cards. There are three types of card: No. 1 has on the front a very simple (I am no artist!) drawing of a “matchstick man” running from left to right and clapping; on the reverse of the card is a single vertical line (the astute will recognise this as a crotchet stem). No. 2 shows a similar matchstick man, but this time facing the front, with his arms raised in the traditional Western “hands up” attitude, and clearly stationary; on the reverse is a simplified version of a crotchet rest. Card No. 3 shows two smaller clapping men sitting on a see-saw, and on the reverse a pair of vertical lines connected by a cross-piece like a pair of goalposts (or, dare I suggest, quaver stems?). A convenient size for these cards is about ¼ of an A4 sheet, and eight of Card No. 1, with six of each of the others, are required. To display the cards, I use two sheets of hardboard, each 17" long by 6" high, hinged to allow the display of four or eight cards simultaneously. I normally use small “Bulldog”-type clips to fix the cards to the boards, but any method may, of course, be used.

To proceed to the use of the cards: This is first treated as a game. Four No. 1 cards are clipped to a board and shown. Young children can be asked to count the little men and describe what they are doing — clapping and running.

“Which way are they running? . . . That’s the same way that we read” — pointing — “beginning here. For each little man you clap once — how many claps altogether?”

The teacher then counts a steady “One — two —” and then points to the four cards in turn. The children respond — one hopes! — with four evenly spaced claps. Don’t worry if some children don’t get the idea at first, especially if very small; the concept is akin to reading words, and we don’t expect that to work immediately. As the children improve, one is sometimes tempted to use different numbers of cards. Don’t — the group of four or eight has proved best in practice.

Next, we introduce the “resting man” (Card 2). The children are asked what he is doing. A variety of answers will probably result. The important fact to establish is that he is not clapping. The new card replaces the fourth of the original set; the class is asked to respond at the appropriate point, by copying the action shown. (Note: It is advisable to keep the hands close to the head when performing this action — over-enthusiasm can cause neighbours’ noses to bleed!) After practice, the “rest” as we can now call the picture, can be moved to other positions in the set. A further group of four cards may now be introduced, and addition- al rests used. Next, produce the “see-saw” symbol (No. 3). This replaces the second card of a group, arranged as follows: 1 — 3 — 1 — 1. Explain that each see-saw stands for two claps. The best way I have found to prevent a class producing five evenly spaced claps is to get the children to say, in rhythm, “Clap — see- saw - clap — clap”, later fitting claps to their words.

From this point, the progression is natural. More complex rhythms are introduced, and then, after reversal of the cards, in the same order as their introduction, the use of abstract symbols. (Note: The “see-saw” may be replaced by “goalposts” — the word also fits the required rhythm.)

Children will often recognise the relationship between this notation and “real” music. If they don’t, it can easily be shown by ad- ding heads to the stems. The concept of melody can be introduced by playing (on one note) the rhythm of Baa, baa, black sheep, …  If you then ask the children what you have played, there are two possible responses — blank stares, or a correct answer. Either response helps — the first proves that a tune (explained as a series of different notes) is necessary to make a “proper” piece of music. The second can be shown to be only one of three correct answers — the rhythm also fits to All things bright and beautiful (Royal Oak), and Let us with a gladsome mind (Monkland). In each case the first line only will fit.

The time names “tea” and “coffee” are now introduced (a crotchet and a pair of quavers). The class can now sing, on one note, a simple rhythm from the blackboard. The rhythm symbols (now with heads) should be drawn with their heads below a single line. One of the notes should now be raised on to the line. The children are told that this new note is one step higher — a demonstration by the teacher follows, then they try. Much demonstration is necessary at this stage (it is infinitely better if the teacher has the confidence actually to sing the “exercises” rather than play them on piano or tuned percussion — for the keen, but not particularly pitch- sensitive teacher it is very possible to learn alongside the children).

Development is now along fairly obvious lines — increase the number of notes by adding a “new note” above the line (use step-wise tunes first then leaps — first from the note above the line to the “keynote” at the end); further lines may be added, until we have a total of five; the treble clef may be introduced at any stage, even with only a one-line stave, as giving the starting point for the naming of notes (which the children will have seen on pitched percussion instruments). Key signatures for simple keys will indicate which is the “home” note; ledger lines can be used to extend even the two- or three- line stave . . .  and so on.

Rhythmically, more complex patterns may be introduced, and new “drink names” devised by the children, with conventional notation being introduced in parallel. Various pulse-patterns (duple triple, even compound time) can be fairly easily assimilated if the children have a basic grasp of notation, and the whole field of musical notation can now be explored.

H. Trevor Shakeshaft is a Senior Peripatetic Class
Music Teacher for Warwickshire

reproduced from Music Teacher, July 1983

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Hogarth's Gin Lane and Beer Street

Although I had known about the horrors of drinking gin which William Hogarth presented in his 1751 print Gin Lane, I was not aware that it was paired with Beer Street which shows that beer is a much better alternative.

The two prints can be seen in the Internet Archive's scanned version of the 1875 volume, The Works of HogarthGin Lane and Beer Street, but - as I have acquired copies of the prints - I have reproduced the text which accompanies them:


The great artist conjured up to his imagination, in the picture now before us, a horrible and loathsome neighbourhood, the presiding genius of which is gin. No signs of health—no evidences of gladness are there: disease—wretchedness—and misery everywhere meet the view. All the houses, save one, are falling into ruins; and that one is the dwelling of the pawnbroker, who drives a thriving trade in that dreadful district. For gin is the deity worshipped there: to procure gin no means are left untried; the shocking predilection has fastened itself upon all the inhabitants; and every article of domestic comfort—every household necessary—even to the smallest and meanest portions of raiment, are carried to the pawnbroker, to obtain a few pence for the purchase of gin. Were gin the elixir of life, instead of the bane and the poison, men, women, and children could not display a greater eagerness to obtain a dram. The influence of the fire-water is everywhere apparent,—in the ruined dwellings—the thousand proofs of dire penury and abject wretchedness—and the sickly looks, emaciated frames, trembling limbs, pestiferous breath, carious teeth, livid lips, sunken eyes, and diseased bodies of the people. The countenance of the pawnbroker exhibits the grinding disposition which prompts him to examine well the articles brought by the depraved creatures to his establishment, lest he should lend too much upon them! The very children in that neighbourhood are habituated from their infancy to imbibe the fatal venom.
We behold in one place a boy fast asleep—completely stupefied with the alcoholic liquor, while over him creeps a snail—the emblem of the pawnbroker; and close by is another wretched, neglected, lost child, ravenous with hunger, and gnawing a bare bone, which a cur, equally the victim of famine in a district where gin is bought in preference to food, is endeavouring to snatch from him. Farther on a woman is seen pouring a dram down her infant’s throat—thus almost from the moment of its birth, impregnating its frail constitution with the seeds of disease! Even the very charity-children greedily swallow the burning fluid when they can obtain it—for the taste is acquired from their earliest infancy! One of the lost girls is supplying her mother with the alcoholic poison—thinking, poor ignorant creature! that she is performing a filial duty; while the woman is already in such a filthy state of intoxication, that it is found necessary to wheel her home in a barrow. There, where a house has fallen to ruins, the corpse of a hanging suicide is disclosed: here, seated on the steps of a gin vault, is an emaciated wretch, who has just expired through atrophy; and on the same stairs is a drunken beast in female shape, whose legs have broken out in loathsome ulcers, and who is taking snuff, regardless of her child slipping from her arms into the area of the gin vault. And it is gin—accursed gin, that has driven the man to suicide—that has caused the dead wretch to waste away into consumption and go off like the snuff of a candle—and that has degraded a being in the glorious form of woman to a level with the veriest beasts crawling on the earth’s surface. It is gin, too, that has killed the female whom we behold two men placing in a shell by order of the parish beadle; while the orphan child of the deceased is about to be carried off by that official to the workhouse. Maddening—maddening, too, as well as death-dealing, is gin; and we see a cripple fighting, and a rabid man dancing with a pair of bellows on his head and a spit in his hand. But—oh! frightful spectacle! The wretch, driven furiously insane by gin, has spitted a living child whom its mother has left alone while she visits the gin vault! The entire scene in hideous—horrible to contemplate! Let us suppose that some good genius could arise, and, pointing to that picture, thus address the drunkard:—
“Lost and degraded wretch, wherefore rush thus madly on the road to ruin? Has the vision before you no power to make you pause suddenly, and turn away aghast from the loathsome spectacle? Or will you pursue your career of dissipation, and become a conspicuous character in gin lane? If so, learn somewhat of the histories of those, alive or dead, whom you behold in your dream! And first of the man whom you see through the opening in the ruined wall, hanging to a beam. He was a barber, and an honest, industrious, worthy man. He married a young woman, gifted with great beauty; and his entire hope, his joy, his love, were centred in her. His toils were forgotten in the cheering influence of domestic comfort; and two children blessed the union, at first so auspicious! But his wife became a drunkard; and by that fall, all her poor—her loving—her unfortunate husband’s hopes were blasted: his house became a desert—his children were parentless. In vain did they look to their father—his heart was broken—his mind was in ruins. He had one consolation—an old mother, on whom the protection of his children seemed to rest. Even that was soon over. She could not survive the shame which had crept into her son’s household: she never raised her head—she became hearsed in his misfortunes; and he followed her funeral. Then he himself took to drinking gin, to drown his cares; and the climax of human misery was seen in that once happy home. Wife, parent, future prospects, happiness—all gone for ever! The mother to the tomb—the wife to the gin-shop—the children to the workhouse—and the husband to the halter and the beam!
“Next behold that loathsome woman seated upon the steps, and hear of her! fifteen years ago, when she herself was fifteen—for old and wretched as she seems, she is but thirty now—she was one of the fairest of God’s creatures, and the pride of honoured and doating parents. On a fatal evening she accompanied a young man to a tea-garden; and there she partook of the accursed draught. Gin gave her up as a victim to the seducer—and her parents died of broken hearts. A little while—and behold, every evening— sometimes twice, sometimes thrice—that young female entered the gin vault beneath those steps, to seek in stimulants the artificial gaiety and excitement which were denied by nature and by conscience to her crushed and ruined heart. Alas! poor girl—she was then only seventeen; but the woes of fifty winters were upon her mind! The cold blast of poverty— the searching mists of shame—the storm of an agitated existence—the torrent of reckless passions—the whirlwind of ever-varying emotions—and the eddies of heart-rending feelings, had in two short years all vented their rage upon the intellect, the soul, and the life of that hopeless girl! Oh! wherefore did so young a creature parade the streets in a land of charity and of chivalry, where the female form has held as a patent direct from the Divinity, bearing in its chaste and charmed helplessness the assurance of its strength and the amulet of its protection ? ’Twas gin that rendered the young creature thus abased—thus degraded: ’tis gin that has stripped her of her loveliness—hurried her on through all the varied phases of vice and infamy—until, prematurely old at the age of thirty, you behold her in all the squalor of rags and the loathsomeness of ugliness, seated in drunken apathy on those steps!
“And now contemplate that wasted form, from which crazy tenement the soul has just passed away: mark well that ghastly corpse seated at the bottom of the steps—the steps leading to the palace of Death! Ten times every day, down those steps had lately crawled that living skeleton—clothed in rags—emaciated—blear-eyed—toothless—haggard in countenance, trembling in limbs, shaking in his head, and stammering in his voice. He was but forty years old this day—and looked sixty; and he might still be walking erect, in the prime of life—happy—lively—robust—and hale, had not his whole life been devoted to gin. And yet this besotted wretch persisted to the last in declaring that drink never injured him—that it even did him good—and that he required it. Not injured him!—it consumed his property—it reduced him to rags—it heaped loathsome diseases of all kinds upon him—it made his bones visible through his skin—it pulled out his teeth—it dimmed the fire of his eyes—and it dug his grave at the age of forty!
“Those—those, wretched being, are the effects of gin! It is strong drink that destroys domestic peace, ruins female virtue, conducts the tradesman to ruin, opens the gates of the mad-house, throws chains around the criminal, inspires the wicked with courage to perpetrate crime, establishes workhouses, gilds the sign of the pawnbroker’s shop, and places a bar across the portals of the house of God. From the lips of the gin-glass have myriads drunk damnation: gin is the cause of blows, of strife, of domestic misery, of disease, of death! The anguish of neglected wives—the piteous cries of children famishing through want been of food—the last prayer of the malefactor upon the gibbet—the anathema of the felon whose chains clank in the prison-yard—the woes of an existence lingered out in the workhouse—the howls of lunatics—the dying murmurs of the suicide—the remorseful whisperings of the lost girl’s conscience—the wounds, the tears, the oaths, the shrieks, the screams, the wails,—all, all the tokens of human misery which now exist before you, and which have converted yon once thriving neighbourhood into a charnel-house of horrors—all, everything there depicted, may be traced to gin!”


The following description of this plate is somewhat abridged from the commentator Trussler’s account:—“We observe in the admirable plate before us, a complete cessation from all labour, and all parties enjoying themselves with a refreshing draught of the cheering liquor, beer. On the left side of the picture, we perceive a group of jolly taproom politicians, a butcher, a drayman, and a cooper. The drayman is evidently whispering soft things into the not-unwilling ear of a servant-maid, who seems to be all attention to what he is saying; a fact which is plainly apparent from the appearance of her eyes and hands, and the general disposition of her figure. From the house-door key in her hands she seems to have come out of some neighbouring house for a tankard of beer which the family is waiting for, and while her figure admirably fills in the foreground of the picture, her loitering by the way gives the artist an opportunity of showing up the idleness of the common order of servants, who neglect their duty and waste their employer’s time in profitless gossiping. The butcher is splitting his sides with laughter to see the girl so easily imposed on, and the cooper behind with a pipe in his mouth, a full pot in one hand, and a shoulder of mutton in the other, plainly shows that where good eating and drinking abound, there true happiness and jollity will be found also. On the right of the picture, is a city-porter who has just set down his load and is recruiting his strength with a draught of the refreshing beverage. The artist has humorously made the porter’s load to consist of trashy books on their way to the trunkmaker’s to be sold for waste paper. In the middle of the plate are seen two fish-women loaded with British herrings. Behind are some paviours at work; further back is a lady of quality in a sedan-chair going to Court; the flag is displayed on the steeple in the distance, denoting a royal birth-day; so corpulent is she, that her chairmen are not able to carry her, without the refreshing stimulus of a pot of porter on the way. Our author has not forgotten to ridicule the enormous size of the hoop in use in those days, which, when pulled up on each side closely resembled the wheels of a carriage. We next notice on the steps of a ladder a painter, ragged but happy, painting the sign of the Barley Mow, and at the top of a house a tailor’s work-shop, whose men within seem to partake of the general joy; the bricklayers on the roof of the next house, are no whit behindhand in expressing the most lively satisfaction at the arrival of the expected beer. This house is an ale house, the landlord of which is supposed to be repairing it, in opposition to his neighbour, Nicholas Pinch, the pawnbroker, who finds it hard to live for want of trade; the man’s house appears decayed, ready to fall in over his head, symptoms well marked by the sign, props, and rat-trap in the chamber; he is seen taking in a half-pint of beer through a hole in his door, not daring to open it, showing that such professions thrive only on the miseries of others, but starve when the public prospers. The general design of this print is to expose the pernicious custom of gin-drinking, whose awful effects are vividly depicted in the plate of Gin Lane, and to show mankind that, if they must have recourse to strong liquors, beer is by far the best and most wholesome stimulus to indulge in.”
Early in the year , the following advertisement was issued:—“On Friday next will be published, price one shilling each, Two large Prints, designed and etched by Mr. Hogarth, called Beer-street and Gin-lane. A number will be printed in a better manner for the curious at s. d. each. And on Thursday following will be published Four Prints on the subject of Cruelty. Price and size the same. n.b. As the subjects of these Prints are calculated to reform some reigning vices peculiar to the lower class of people, in hopes to render them of more extensive use, the author has published them in the cheapest manner possible. To be had at the Golden Head in Leicester-Fields, where may be had all his other Works.”
The following verses under these two Prints were written by the Reverend James Townley:


Beer, happy product of our Isle
        Can sinewy strength impart,
And, wearied with fatigue and toil,
        Can cheer each manly heart.

Labour and Art, upheld by thee,
        Successfully advance;
We quaff thy balmy juice with glee,
        And Water leave to France.

Genius of Health, thy grateful taste
        Rivals the cup of Jove,
And warms each English generous breast
        With Liberty and Love.


Gin, cursed fiend! with fury fraught,.
        Makes human race a prey;
It enters by a deadly draught,
        And steals our life away.

Virtue and Truth, driv’n to despair,
        Its rage compels to fly;
But cherishes, with hellish care,
        Theft, Murder, Perjury.

Damn’d cup! that on the vitals preys,
        That liquid lire contains,
Which madness to the heart conveys,
        And rolls it through the veins.

“It is probable,” says a writer of the period, “that Hogarth received the first idea for these two Prints from a pair of others by Peter Breugel which, exhibit a contrast of a similar kind. The one is entitled La grasse Cuisine (‘ the fat Kitchen’): the other La maigre Cuisine (‘the meagre Kitchen’). In the first, all the personages are well-fed and plump; in the second, they are starved and slender. The latter of them also exhibits the figures of an emaciated mother and child, sitting on a straw mat on the ground, whom I never saw without thinking on the female, &c., in Gin Lane. In Hogarth, the fat English blacksmith is insulting the gaunt Frenchman; and in Breugel, the plump cook is kicking the lean one out of doors.”
Of their intentions, Hogarth gives the following account:—“When these two Prints were designed and engraved, the dreadful consequence of gin-drinking appeared in every street. In Gin-lane, every circumstance of its horrid effects is brought to view in terrorum. Idleness, poverty, misery, and distress, which drive even to madness and death, are the only objects that are to be seen: and not a house in tolerable condition but the Pawnbroker’s and Gin-shop. Beer-street, its companion, was given as a contrast; where that invigorating liquor is recommended, in order to drive the other out of vogue. Here all is joyous, and thriving industry and jollity go hand in hand. In this happy place the Pawnbroker’s is the only house going to ruin; and even the small quantity of porter that he can procure is taken in at the wicket, for fear of farther distress.”

The opinion which Hogarth entertained of the writings of Dr. Hill, may be discovered in his Beer Street, where Hill’s critique upon the Royal Society is put into a basket directed to the Trunkmaker, in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

Friday, 25 May 2018

American Express + Starwood Preferred Guest = 34,000 Avios

Earlier this year, I noticed a post at Head for Points which flagged up the potential to earn 25,000 for signing up for two American Express credit cards and meeting a relatively low minimum spend target in 90 days.

Having just completed the process (there was a delay in starting as I was working towards a minimum Gold spend), I discovered that there were actually 34,000 Avios available. The following steps give the process for maximising this collection opportunity.

The process demands a couple with the same address to be working on this together. For the sake of argument, I have called them Rapunzel and Flynn to help get through this tangled process.

  1. Both Rapunzel and Flynn need to sign up for free Starwood Preferred Guest membership at Both accounts need to have the same home address. Make a note of the membership numbers as they are needed later.
  2. Rapunzel needs to sign up for an American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. Following this referral link earns an extra 1,000 SPG points when the minimum spend is hit. If she just signs up via the American Express website directly, she will miss out on this 1,000 points. As part of the application process, she will need to enter her SPG membership number. There is a £75 annual fee for this card which is refunded pro rata when it is cancelled.
  3. When Rapunzel's card arrives, she needs to spend £1,000 within the first 90 days. For this she earns the 1,000 points on the spend, and a bonus 10,000 for spending £1,000 within 90 days. (I use a combination of billhop and SumUp to ensure that the spend is as close to £1,000 as possible so as not to waste any odd points.)
  4. While she is spending her £1,000, Rapunzel needs to generate a referral code for Flynn via her online account.
  5. Flynn should then apply for his SPG card via the link he has received. Rapunzel will earn 5,000 points for having referred him.
  6. When Flynn's card arrives, he needs to spend £1,000 within the first 90 days. For this he earns the 1,000 points on the spend, and a bonus 10,000 for spending £1,000 within 90 days. Having been referred by Rapunzel, he also earns an additional bonus 1,000 points on the spend.
  7. When Rapunzel's 17,000 points have transferred to her SPG account and she has paid off her bill (which will have included the annual fee), she needs to cancel her Amex SPG card.
  8. When Flynn's 12,000 points have been transferred to his SPG account and he has paid off her bill (which will have included the annual fee), he needs to cancel his Amex SPG card.
  9. Flynn will then need to visit 'Pass the Starpoints, please' link when signed into his SPG account and transfer his 12,000 SPG points to Rapunzel's account.
  10. Finally, Rapunzel will need to transfer the combined 29,000 SPG points to her BA account via 'Transfer AirMiles' link when signed into her SPG account. As she is transferring over 20,000 points, she is awarded a bonus 5,000 Avios.
When you cancel an American Express card, you will receive a final statement which will have a credit balance for the pro rata refund of the annual fee. When this arrives, you will need to contact American Express and they will either arrange this to be returned to a bank account or credited to the balance of any other American Express card you may hold.

Having cancelled the Amex SPG cards, there is a minimum wait of six months from the date of cancellation before you will be entitled to earn any sign up bonuses on the cards again.

The original HfP post includes various other ways in which to use the amassed SPG points, but for Avios collectors, these are the 10 steps.