Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Narrative - The Poison in the Honey

Back to blogging it seems after a long absence. Doubtless you all noticed. And I promise not to inflict anymore Felix Fabri on you anymore. It wasn't working, despite the attention from my German fans and the wikipedia entry I got on their language version. The internet is a great meritocracy, and what is not good enough is ignored. Combine that with having a lot on at work, and sunny days, and its enough to make anyone give up.

But this is all besides the point, because the anger and disillusionment at this world in which we live still persists, and I've just got to write about it. But I've also been doing my best to read up, so I've kept a good idea at what's being going on in Blogland, even if I haven't been writing. The reason for this blog entry is that I've been reading something that I really feel I've got to share with you all, especially against the background of everything that's been going on in the UK and what we've been putting up with for far too long. So with the help of my girlfriend's greasy recipe book holder, I'm going to type out the relevant passage.

The book behind this post is Peter Oborne's "The Rise of Political Lying." I'd like to share a section with you that made me mutter a long "Jeesssuuusss" as I read it. The book is excellent and I really recommend you read it. (I'm hoping that a plug for the book will make up for my quoting a chunk.) Even if you think you are as cynical as its possible to be, you'll be shocked at the sheer balls of everything that is New Labour all over again.

The theme for this is one of New Labour's favourite words. NARRATIVE. Think about how many times you hear it. We've even had an official narrative of the 7th July bombings, instead of a public inquiry. I'd like you to bear that in mind as you read this. New Labour are very careful about choosing their words. There is seldom a key word used that has not been carefully planned and its meaning is always the most negative and mendacious possible.

I'm quoting from Pg 142 to Pg148, from the chapter entitled "The Construction of the Truth."

"This is an elementary exercise to carry out, greatly helped by the search engine on the Hansard website and the easy availability of newspaper databases. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word narrative has no less than three meanings. There is a strict legal usage, dating back centuries: "that part of a deed or document which contains a statement of the relevant or essential facts." There is a literary usage: "an account or narration; a history, a tale, a story, recital (of facts etc.)" It can also be used to describe "the practice or act of narrating; something to narrate."

Nowhere does the OED refer to the kind of use made of the word "narrative" by postmodern theorists. That is not surprising. This usage, while prevalent in philosophical schools and university English faculties for two decades, did not start to enter more general circulation until the early 1990's. The evidence suggests that this was a direct result of the emergence of New Labour.

The first case I have found of the word being given its novel meaning, but used outside its academic birthplace, comes in spring 1994. The agent of this act of liberation was none other than the New Labour intellectual Geoff Mulgan, founder of the Demos thinktank from whichTony Blair pillaged so many of his ideas, and later to hold powerful jobs in Downing Street and Whitehall. He was writing shortly before the death of John Smith. "But now under John Smith," complained Mulgan, "all sense of narrative seems to drown in a morass of platitudes about social justice and economic efficiency." The Mulgan article appeared at the very end of the two-year period between the resignation of Neil Kinnock and the death of John Smith when the New Labour clique - Peter Mandelson, Philip Gould, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair - were out of sympathy with the leadership and played the role of an internal opposition. Mulgan supported this faction and frequently articulated its concerns. It is highly significant that this very early New Labour use of the term "narrative" in its postmodern mode should crop up in the context of an attack on Smith, scornful as he was of the modernisers and an old-fashioned social democrat politician.

Mulgan seems to have concluded that the word, with all the weight placed on it by postmodern thinkers, was far too good to be wasted upon academics. The following July, the month that Tony Blair was crowned Party Leader, Mulgan temed up with another New Labour intellectual, Charles Leadbeater, to write: "Politics is essentially about communicating ideas, choices and decisions between the governed and the governors. It is about constructing narratives that make sense to people: stories that encompass their identities, aspirations and fears, and the policies that reflect them. Yet it is in these central tasks that politicians seem at times to be most deficient." (The inventive Leadbeater at this stage was an assistant editor of the Independent newspaper where, the same year, with the author Helen Fielding, he dreamed up the Bridget Jones's Diary column.)

Will Hutton, then a fashionable economics commentator friendly to Tony Blair, was swift to spot and make use of the neologism. He lamented in the Guardian on 9 July 1995 that the Labour Party's policy commissions "have not been organised into a strong political narrative and sold hard." Hutton soon embraced the term as if it were his own. The following year he once again scornfully blamed the traditional Left for failure to organise a "strong political narrative." He said that "the Old Labour left still hankers for more traditional responses." Once again the postmodern concept of narrative is being used to express the concerns of the New Labour faction around Tony Blair, and undermine the traditional methods of the Labour Party.

Peter Mandelson, the foremost New Labour strategist, understood the thinking, or at any rate employed the language, of postmodernism. He entertained the proposition that truth is independent from reality with an alarming enthusiasm, announcing to an interviewer in August 1997 that he pleaded guilty to the charge of trying to create the truth. "If you're accusing me of getting the truth across about what the Government has decided to do, that I'm putting the very best face or gloss on the Government's policies, that I'm trying to avoid gaffes or setbacks and that I'm trying to create the truth - if that's news management, I plead guilty." I e-mailed Mandelson some years later to ask him exactly what he meant. He claimed he had meant something else. His full reply as follows: "In haste: the quote (of which I have no memory) reads a bit like a stream of Mandelson consciousness. I was not weighing every word (or so it seems to me). If I am quoted accurately - I cannot verify - its seems fine that I would have meant "establish" rather than "create". You cannot create truth although you can create an understanding of truth."
Purists are entitled to object that there was a Stainist as well as postmodern undertone in this Mandelson remark - a thoroughgoing postmodernist would have said that "I'm trying to create a truth."

As far as I can discern, the first MP of any party to give the word "narrative" its postmodern meaning in parliament was the modernising Labour MP Patricia Hewitt, soon to accelerate through the ranks of the Blair government, when taking evidence on the Social Security Committee in June 1998. She declared that "for these measures to mean something they have to reflect a story, there has to be a narrative in here." To be sure the old uses of the word persisted. The Labour MP Joyce Quin, not a member of the Blairite vanguard, attempted to stem the tide when she used the word in its increasingly quaint dictionary sense, referring to the "narrative report accompanying the expenditure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office." Lord Donoughue, a Downing Street aide during the long-lost days of the Harold Wilson government, nostalgically informed the House of Lords that "the Victorian County Histories include the narrative and analysis and [are] a key part of our national heritage." Doubtless all this was the case. But resistance was useless. By the start of 2000. the new usage had become commonplace in Parliament. Even comparatively obscure Labour MPs like Angela Eagle were thoughtlessly adopting the postmodern idiom. "We shall be extremely interested to ascertain whether we can establish an effective narrative on rights and responsibilities." Soon it was being let loose on television studios. Ace Labour strategist Douglas Alexander told Newsnight in March 2002 that "we face a challenge of explaining not just policy changes but the political narrative that accompanies it."

Towards the end of 2000 the word starts to crop up in lobby briefings by Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's official spokesman,(PMOS.) In September that year he was telling journalist that "the Prime Minister and Chancellor were absolutely clear that we had an under-invested country and we had to take the decisions necessary to modernise it for the long term. This was the narrative of this Government for this Parliament and it was not going to change."
In December the PMOS pronounced that, "As the Prime Minister had said on Friday there was a clear narrative to this Parliament. We believed the economic foundations that had been laid were strengthening."
The following month the PMOS declared that "we had always recognised there would be an economic narrative to this Parliament" that "there was a narrative for our public services which was unfolding" that " clearly there was an overall narrative to the Government's public service reform agenda" and that "there was a clear narrative for our public services."

Political commentators and, very shortly afterwards, modernising Tories anxious to ape Tony Blair's success, were all at it. The postmodern use of the narrative, released from its thralldom to academia by Geoff Mulgan, had become what the grammarian H.W. Fowler deprecated as a Vogue Word. This is Fowler's definition:

Every now and then a word emerges from obscurity, or even from nothingness, or merely a potential and not actual existence, into sudden popularity. It is often, but not necessarily, one that by no means explains itself to the average man, who has to find out its meanings as best he can. his wrestlings with it have usually some effect upon it; it does not mean quite what it ought to, but to make up for that it means some things that it ought not to, by the time he has done with it."

In a House of Lords debate on 31 October 2000 the political scientist Lord Dahrendorf noted the derivation, and significance, of the new usage. Talking about the so called "Third Way," and ineffable doctrine conjured up by New Labour thinkers eager to lend coherence to the Blair government, Dahrendorf observed: "The Third Way was never actually a programme. It was intended to be what in postmodern language - not mine really - would be called a narrative." He went on:

"It is a narrative in the sense that it was intended to provide a big story which pulled together the necessary varied and diverse strands of the policy of a government. Such big stories are rare. I am not talking about the very big stories of communism and facism, I am talking about the next level - the national big stories.
There were two big stories, whatever one feels about them. There was the Attlee story of extended citizenship rights for all and everything that goes with the extension of citizenship rights, not least as a response to the experience of the nation during the war.
There was the big story which one might call the Thatcher story of rolling back the state, and perhaps curtailing private power within the country in the interest of a more open economy and society.
If one does not have a narrative of this major kind, one is left with a list of achievements. That is fine. But it marks the difference between great governments and good governments. New Labour at a certain point hoped to have such a narrative."

Lord Dahrendorf's remarks help explain how New Labour appropriated the idea of "narrative" to illuminate its presence in government, and create an explanatory framework that would define the political landscape in its own terms. It is noteworthy that it has its origins in a school of philosophy that holds that standards of truth and falsehood are determined by power and experience. The prime minister has often spoken of his desire to "modernise" Britain. But it is rather more accurate to assert that he and is New Labour co-conspirators set out to postmodernise British political debate. As Tony Blair and his New Labour faction seized power in the Labour Party, they set about - to use their own private language, purloined from French postmodern philosophical salons - the "construction of the truth.""

The rest of the book ably builds on what has gone before. Like I said earlier, I was cynical of this government, but I am beyond even that now if that is possible. If you would like to read the book yourself, and I really do recommend that you do, you can find it here.

Conscious as I am that I am using someone else's writing on my blog rather than my own, I want to finish with this. I really want to commit this to heart.

"Lying has many of the characteristics of an assault, which is why Machiavelli urged it as an alternative to war. It strips the victims of the ability to make a soundly based judgement, treats them as children, converts them into instruments, removes their humanity and turns them into dupes." (Pg 233, The Rise of Political Lying.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Day 30 - 12th May 1483

"On the 12th, which is the day of the martyrs Nereus, Achilles, and Pancratius, we went by water to the church of St. Zacharias, and attended Mass there. After Mass we sent a message to the Abbess of the monastery which joins the church, asking to have the relics shown us. These nuns are rich and noble, and are very, lax in their rule, which is that of St. Bene't. They opened for us a tomb in which lay the bodies of the three martyrs whose feast day it was, to wit, Saints Nereus, Achilles, and Pancratius. In another tomb, made of silver, we saw the entire body of St. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, with his mouth open, and by his side the body of St. Gregory Nazianzen, and the body of St. Theodore the confessor, and the body of St. Sabina, virgin and martyr. I was astonished at the wealth of this church in relics, and was told that the daughter of some Emperor was once Abbess thereof, and that he, out of love for his daughter, brought these bodies thither. So after we had seen and kissed the relics we returned to our own place."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Day 29 - 11th May 1483

"On the 11th day, which was the Sunday within the octave of the Ascension, we heard Mass in the nearest church, which was over against our inn, and after dinner went by water to the church which is called the Church of the Castle, where the Patriarch of Venice dwells, and where every Sunday plenary indulgences are to be had. We obtained these indulgences and viewed the place. The church is large and ancient, and we found therein a brother of the order of Preaching Friars, who was preaching, though we could not understand his sermon. When the sermon was over we returned home."

Day 28 - 10th May 1483

"On the 10th, which was Saturday, we went by water to the church which is called St. Mary of Grace, and heard Mass; and thence we rowed to St. Mary of Miracles, where they are building a church of wondrous beauty with a very fine monastery. At the time of my first pilgrimage folk began to flock to that place, and at that time there was no chapel there, but merely a portrait of the Blessed Virgin on a panel affixed to a wall, and it was said that miracles were wrought there. And such a concourse of people came thither, and so many offerings were made, that a costly church now stands on the spot, and is called St. Mary of Miracles."

Day 27 - 9th May 1483

"On the 9th day we rowed to the monastery which is called after the Crutched Friars, and after hearing Mass there we were shown the body of St. Barbara, with many other relics, which we reverently kissed, and returned to our inn. The same day we all went together to a house wherein stood an elephant, a huge and terrible animal, which we viewed, and were astonished to see so ungainly a creature so well taught, for he did wondrous things before our eyes at a sign from his keeper. This man had bought the beast for five thousand ducats, and from Venice he took him into Germany, and made much money, for he would not let anyone see him without paying for it. Afterwards he took him to Britain, and there being at sea in a storm, he was cast overboard by the mariners and so perished."

Day 26 - 8th May 1483

"On the 8th day, which was the feast of our Lord's Ascension, we went up to the church of St. Mark, both to attend service there and to see the grand sight, for countless folk flock thither together on that day. When they are all gathered together the Patriarch with his clergy and the religious from all the convents, and the Doge with the Senate and all the guilds of Echevinseach in their appointed order, and wearing their peculiar badges, with banners, torches, reliquaries, and crosses, walk in procession from the church of St. Mark to the sea, and there embark upon ships which are prepared for them. The Patriarch with the Doge and Senate go on board of the Bucentaur (in Latin Bucephalus, so named after the horse of Alexander the Great), which is a great ship fashioned like a tabernacle painted, covered, with gilding, and shrouded with silken hangings; and all this takes place with pompous ceremonial, with the ringing of all the bells in the city, the braying of trumpets, and the singing of various hymns by the clergy. When the Bucentaur is moved away from the shore by the stroke of its oars, which number more than three hundred, it is accompanied by above five thousand vessels. They sail as far as the castles which form the harbour of Venice, and when all the ships have passed outside the harbour into the sea, the Patriarch blesses the sea, just as it is customary in many places to bless the waters on that day. When the ceremony of blessing is over, the Doge takes a gold ring from his finger and throws the ring into the sea, thereby espousing the sea to Venice. After the ceremony of the ring many strip and dive to the bottom to seek that ring. He who finds it keeps it for his own, and, moreover, dwells for that whole year in the city free from all the burdens to which the dwellers in that republic are subject. While all this is being done all the ships crowd round the Centaur with great press and jostling, and make such a noise with the cannons which they fire off, trumpets, drums, shouting and singing, that they seem to shake the very sea. We were present at this sight in our own hired boat. After the blessing and espousal of the sea is over they row the Bucentaur towards the monastery of St. Nicholas on the Lido, and on reaching the shore there all disembark from all the ships and enter the church, which not a hundredth part of the people is able to enter, though it is a great church; and in all that multitude there is not one single woman, but the whole ceremony is performed by men alone. When the Patriarch, dressed in his pontifical robes, and the Doge, with all his retinue, are walking towards that church, the Abbot of the monastery, wearing his mitre, and all his monks dressed in their sacred vestments, comes out to meet the multitude, takes the Patriarch and Doge by the hand, and leads them into the choir of the church, where they hold the service for the day with great solemnity. After this they return to their ships, and each man sails home to his own place to dinner. Throughout the entire octave of the Ascension a fair is held, and there are wondrous shows in that week."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Power Inquiry Conferece - Cedalion Wuz 'Ere

The Power Inquiry Conference was held yesterday. I took notes and have finally got around to writing them up. So here is my subjective report of the Conference. I've outlined it around the main speakers and the gist of what they had to say. I've also included their answers to questions asked. Unfortunately I didn't put down the questions, which is a pity, as there were a few loony outbursts that made for some comedy and squirming. How about you play a game of "Thats the answer, whats the question?" Before I get kicked into this, just a quick hi to Davide, Nick and Amy whom I met at event.

Helena Kennedy
Widespread cynicism over elections prompted Inquiry.
There was a good response to Inquiry.
The Inquiry didn't hold back from making radical proposals even if it would prove to be uncomfortable for the politicians.
This has proved to have been the biggest consultation ever in UK.
The biggest factor is Alienation not Apathy.
The problem is systemic as a result of a 19th Century framework in a 21st Century society.
More engagement, more involvement, less deference from the electorate.
End of unquestioning loyalty to main parties.
Need to rebalance power for the 21st Century.
To do so:
Redistribute power from Executive to Legislative.
Re-establish the importance of the Cabinet.
Redistribute power from Central Government to Local Government.
Need to bring in Concordat to replace unwritten constitution – create a flexible spine around which we can build our 21st Century political system.
Reform the Lords – the need for this is demonstrated by the scandal of the Loans for Peerages.
Electoral Reform – cap on donations, state funding nominated by voters but solely for use by the parties to work with local communities, not to pay for Spin Merchants.
MP's need to have an AGM in their constituency.
We urgently need to revitalise Democracy!

Ferdinand Mount

Why does this Inquiry matter? Because the legitimacy of democracy is called into question by the critically low turnout.
We are going to get more unrepresentative MP's due to smaller pool of candidates due to lower membership of Parties.
Disillusionment and disaffection amongst the most disadvantaged. Those who suffer the most complain the least.
IPPR report is completely wrong - NO COMPULSORY VOTING!
Engage the young, otherwise run the risk of losing them forever.
We need a real say in who represents us – open lists for selection of candidates, in fact what we really need is open list proportional representation.
Direct participatory democracy vital. The Electorate need more say than once every 5 years
Disillusionment feeds extremism as witnessed by BNP gains.
Make our political establishment the envy of the world again!

David Cameron

You have to recognise that something is wrong before you can put it right. (Love the pop psychology Dave, it was only a matter of time after uttering this that he came out with MP's being in denial.)
Identifies alienation as the problem
This is not universally recognised in Westminster by MP's
There is complacency from those in power
People feel they have little or no control

Bogus Arguments
This is a tide of apathy – look at the activities that the electorate get involved in from community work to charities to single issue causes.
Politics is too similar – glad to see the end of Cold War divisions. Consensus is good. As long as genuine differences are not concealed. (Self serving bullshit under a very glossy veneer.)

Bogus Solutions
Compulsory voting – State should be the servant not the master. Like making everyone turn up to your birthday party and then declaring yourself to really popular. (I liked this, except that I think that this was actually one of his childhood anecdotes.)
Changing trappings – upgrading the traditions of Parliament, e.g. Getting rid of wigs, changing the name of visitors so that it isn't “strangers” is superficial. You need to get to the real roots of the problem.

Proposed solutions
There needs to be Institutional changes – rebalancing of power and its distribution
From Executive to Legislature, (he explicitly avoids Europe here.)
More free votes for MP's as against whipping.
Standing committees, which Thatcher brought in, should be made more powerful
This government introduces too much legislation, too quickly, too little time to scrutinise
Remove power of Executive to ride roughshod over Parliament
Deal with Royal Prerogative, especially the power to go to war without consulting Parliament.
Reform Lords – they are good at scrutiny, but they need legitimacy and therefore need an elected element.
1. Sleaze needs to be addressed – the Ministerial Code needs to be given teeth
2. There needs to be a bonfire of Whitehall Central control mechanisms to return local rule to local councils
Reverse regional assemblies, all of which are little more than needless bureaucracies, give more power to local government and communities.
Police authorities report directly to Central government which is a problem. The Chief Constables should all be directly elected by the local areas. (Not sure how I feel about this, but prepared to keep an open mind.)
Speaking as someone whose party is discriminated against by the FPTP system, he does not agree with the PR system.
FPTP provides a direct link between MP and constituency
Problem with electoral system is a lack of say. He will open the candidate lists and establish Primaries.
He wants behavioural change in Parliament, there is no point in bickering for the sake of bickering. (As long as he gets to be Punch, and Judy is restrained, I think is the idea judging from his past performance.)
He says he is going to make a series of speeches about what really affects Joe Bloggs, rather than seeing the Electorate's needs through Departments such as the NHS. (JOY! Dave is going to come down to our level and see the world through our eyes!)
The People must be trusted and given responsibility. (I wholeheartedly agree.)
There must be an Empowering state rather than an Overpowering state. (Nice soundbite, although I was quite concerned by the disappearance of one of his hands and strange jerking movements from behind the podium.)
Society is more complex. (Give the man a banana.)
Insert guff here about analogue and digital analogy.
Sharing responsibility between governed and government.
Politician must realise that we can no longer do it all ourselves, we have to share power.

Questions and Answers
Closed lists have no place in today's democracy.
No top-down model for participatory democracy should be imposed on local councils.
Politicians need to combine robust debate with politeness and reason.
Need robust competition in media The internet is challenging big newspapers as people could now publish their own newspapers. (They're called Blogs David.)
Need to allow people the control of things at an individual level. Brings in vigilantism on Balsall Heath. Wonderful thing that people can do to remedy prostitution and Drug dealers. (Says nothing about where these miscreants moved to, nor gives the slightest thought to the ethics of the local vigilantism that he is cheering on. This worries me greatly, it might as well be Blair up there.)
There needs to be caps on funding, but in return there needs to be some state funding.
Today, we have a society of more sophisticated consumers that want better choices.
Labour are “ineffectual authoritarians.
Getting involved in politics means taking part in community institutions.
AGM's a good idea? Yes, but not enforced as it will lead to calls for extra funding. He reckons he can cut the costs of MP's.
Powers of Select Committees should be reviewed and increased.
Asked by Emma B how he can guarantee he will carry out his promises if he gains power. He replies that Key Reforms must be made at the start of government. For him, the top priority is the review of Royal Prerogative.

Overall, I listened with great interest to what Dave had to say. He is a very polished performer, and obviously a smart man. But you really had to look for what he wasn't saying. I have an awful feeling that this man will be worse than Blair because he is so adept at mixing the Honey with Poison.

Breakout Session – Reviving Political Parties for Democracy
Run by Demos
Tom Bentley (Demos)
John Craig (Demos)
Ed Miliband MP (Labour Party)
John Craig immediately wants to frame the debate. He starts using market analogies. Imagine Parties as washing powder. What is everyday democracy and how to connect the parties to this?
He wants us to be active listeners. Please consider 3 points throughout the discussion
How can we invest in renewing Political Parties?
What can you learn from non-political institutions such as Tesco?
How to involve Parties in the community?
Tom Bentley then addresses us. It becomes rapidly clear that he is only there to address Ed Miliband. I have recorded the first bit of his spiel then refused to take any of his other poncy shit seriously, if anything out of respect for myself and the rest of the audience who were obviously just there to decorate the room.

"My father is a vicar. Religion and mass parties are unique in that they are both open and accessible forms of association. But both have lost their place in our lives.
Politics has dissembled across all of our lives Can all these opportunities be brought back into institutional frameworks? Parties have to work vertically and horizontally. Most politics takes place outside of institutionalised political space.
Need much more transparent practices for candidate selections
Parties need to learn how to connect issues to make collective campaigns."

Ed Miliband then gave us his spiel:
Politics is an increasingly minority sport
Should we care if people don't join Parties?
Why have people stopped joining Parties?
What can be done to encourage it?
1. Weak parties are not necessarily a good thing. Look at America and their Congress. All too individual. Keep the Whips. Parties are bad at education. Can't we have a Lefty book club? How do you hold MP's to account?
2. Why the decline?
a. Decline of class and greater prosperity
b. Convergence of Parties on the main issues
c. Political parties are unreformed and too hierarchical
d. Parties offer a package deal which is no longer appealing
The individualism and consumer society means that Parties are finding it difficult to engage as everybody wants different things.
3. What can be done?
The Party allows for a voice, but more can be done.
Community advocates?
Engagement is in danger of being one way, just listening. Politicians need to engage people honestly.
Parties should provide a social network – how to integrate people's different needs and interests.
There needs to be a sense of mission – a new narrative:
a. What are the Party's interests? Who are they for?
b. How we relate to each other? Individuality vs. collectivity
c. How do we relate to the wider world?

Answers to Questions
I need to point out that a lot of the questions were more statements, some of which had nothing to do with the theme, but hardly any to do with Demo's agenda. I would like to thank the old man at the back with really thick glasses who loudly exclaimed that all politicians were University wankers. Made me feel right at home there.

Important for local people to have a voice, NIMBYism is hard to combat. Not sure how to make sure how to get neighbouring communities to work together when both are lobbying to keep their hospital open at the risk of the other one closing.
Resolutions not universally attractive. He wants flexibility for government while giving members a say. (In response to a question from Peter Kenyon, very eager to point out the need to have a written record of everything that goes on in a Party.)
Education for Party members needs to be better. State funding being looked into.
Political Parties react to recent past. After the '80's blood-letting the Labour Party was more disciplined at the expense of debate.
Councils and other forms of local Government can indeed look like “Chequebook organisations” (in context of fraud and financial impropriety and the reluctance of local government to be transparent.) But the real question is how do you find a place to build social capital?
Warning of Deane organisation is that it has evaporated. Democrats lack permanent campaign structure.

Menzies Campbell

The Power Inquiry Report should worry every elected official in the country.
Dysfunctional system in which disaffection has reached critical levels.
Roadblocks still remain:
Electoral reform
House of Lords
Local Government needs Renaissance.
Empower people as citizens not as subjects.
People feel that Government does not trust them with information.
Trivial Media patronises the Electorate.
Without written constitution, the system can be manipulated to the advantage of Executive
Parliament is now managed, not engaged.
We face the situation now that a party may get into power which does not have the most votes.
Politics itself has failed when it has failed its purpose of representing those who need it the most.
Less than 3% of UK voters have a fair vote.
62% of citizens did not choose this government.
Need restraint on Executive urgently.
Need a written constitution. Concordat is only a first step.
Flexibility in the hands of an authoritarian government can be abused.
We need an examination of the Royal Prerogative.
A Wars Act is needed.
Treaty making needs reviewed. For example – Extradition Treaty with USA where Congress has not ratified its side of the deal, yet we are honouring our side, a one sided treaty.
Reform of the House of Lords – Cannot be considered independently of Party Funding and Prime Ministerial patronage.
House of Commons no longer represents the UK electorate.
Need Electoral Reform.
Sever Central Party control of funding.
New working group citizenship to be set-up by the LibDems.
Supports Citizen initiated petitions and inquiries.
Reinventing Democratic institutions needs public involvement.
Reassert sovereignty over Parliament.
Use new technology to bring people into the debate.
Virtual conference to encourage debate hosted by LibDems will be set up in the next few months. Everyone welcome to take part.

Individualism is discouraged in Parliament. Any kind of deviation is treated by the media as a weakness. Ambition discourages individualism. PR would allow for a far higher degree of independence. It allows the election of rebels, e.g. Scotland.
Sam Younger of the Electoral Commission should not resign over the Postal Ballots fraud scandal. Blame the Government as it declined amendments.
Possible place for Museum of Democracy proposed to be built in London to run alongside the Olympics, as long as its on the understanding that Democracy is alive and well around us.
Sovereigns do not give away privileges they have to be taken, and once lost, they are very difficult to retrieve.
Parties are the problem. Vested Interests must be broken down up.
Why a written constitution? Look at the US constitution, but be careful with the power of judges.
David Cameron is wrong, you can throw out governments with PR. Would be willing to break MP-constituency link if more people would vote and Parliament was more representative.

As you might have guessed from the lack of my sniping, I have a great deal of respect for Ming. He came across as the politician who had the most substance, while lacking Dave's style. For me anyway, I think he was on the money everytime and handled himself with great dignity. I've been wondering for a very long time which Party I could support, if any at all. He's clinched it. I'm nailing my colours to the mast as a Lib Dem supporter. (Which party inside the Lib Dems is another question for another day.)

Question Time
PT Peter Tatchell
EM Ed Miliband
SK Saira Khan
NB Nick Boles

Should we have a Presidential style election for Prime Minister?
EM Against a Presidential style direct election of Prime Minister.
SK Should be able to throw out ministers that do not perform, as in business.
NB Return it to the proper parliamentary system.

If you could take just one recommendation from the Power Inquiry report, which one would it be?
PT Fair Electoral system.
EM Royal Prerogative.
NB House of Lords reform.
SK Public inquiries.

Can an MP serve two masters, his constituents and the Whips? (My question so I should be able to remember it.)
EM Need whip system
PT More free votes as we need to reflect the electorates wishes
NB You should remember the 3rd master, the conscience
SK Ask the People

Are you in favour of giving more power to the House of Lords after reform?
PT Strengthen the House of Lords after reform. Greater scrutiny need to be had for EU legislation.
EM Worry about the downgrading of legitimacy of the House of Commons blocks House of Lords reform.
NB Need a written constitution. Need it elected on different basis. House of Lords needs to be done for PR
SK Need referendum on ID cards. Government needs to trust people. Politicians don't want to share power.

Should voters be given financial incentives to vote?
NB Hates the idea of financial incentives. Wants compulsory voting, none of the above box, its the price for a free society.
SK Need to give people a reason to vote. People have lost interest, how do politicians get back to voters?
PT Saira is right
EM Not in favour of compulsory voting/have to find ways to combat underlying Antisocial Behaviour. How do you combine representative and participatory democracy, can't have populism.

How can you recommend referenda when they are just used to beat governments on other issues?
SK Referenda work, trust the people
NB Saira is right, and referenda should be used more often

The Government generalises about my life, thinks it knows best, why?
EM Generalisation is inherent to government thinking isn't great.
MP's are only good after looking after those with needs.

MP's only do half a week, are on holiday most of the time, and have too many perks when they're not voting themselves a payrise
NB MP's actually work really hard
PT I didn't want my snout in the trough

Should there be less whipping?
NB More free votes
EM More rebellions since 1997 than ever before

NB Localism and devolution is incredibly important. Devolve to English councils, powers and taxation, solution to West Lothian problem
SK Politics is broken. Bickering turns people off. Who are they to tell us what to do? People aren't engaged because they can't relate. Need to share power locally.
PT Democratic deficit, Gender deficit, Ethnic Deficit.
Two member constituencies. Males and females candidates must be both put forward
In areas with 30% ethnicity, there should be at least one ethic candidate.
Is the Nation-State no longer relevant? Why can't we devolve all power down to county level?
Needs to be change, how do we take this forward? How do we make the politicians listen? We have to make our voices heard, we need a second Chartist movement.
EM We need to give more power to Local Government. We need to promote Citizenship and a dialogue needs to be built. Politicians need to have humility and admit that they can't do everything. This is a real challenge in a consumer society who want everything and want it now.

Helena Kennedy
This is as far as the Power Inquiry can go, its now up to you. We need a serious campaign to make the politicians listen and commit to change.

I know that I haven't quite got everything down, and there may be places where others who were there may quibble with what I have down. Why not pop over to Davide's blog and check his account? Between the two of us, we should have got most of it. Other than that, it was a really interesting event, very diverse group of people attending, some of it very entertaining, very few bits boring. Helena Kennedy is a real character and it was impossible not to warm to her quickly. And she's right, we need to get together and push the agenda or this will all be for nought!

Day 25 - 7th May 1483

"On the 7th, which is the feast of the translation of St. Peter Martyr, we went in a boat out of Venice to the island of Murano, and heard the Dominican service in the church of St Peter Martyr there. After we had seen the convent and the brethren there, we roved to the parish church, wherein the parish priest showed us the entire bodies of many of the Holy Innocents, all lying in one tomb, which we kissed, and then crossed over to the furnaces of the glass-workers, in which glass vessels of divers forms are wrought with the most exquisite art-for there are no such workers in glass anywhere else in the world. They make there costly vases of crystal, and other wondrous things are to be seen there. After we had seen all these we went back in our boat to our inn at Venice."

Day 24 - 6th May 1483

"On the 6th we rowed to St. Lucia's, and there, after hearing Mass, we saw and kissed the body of that virgin, which is kept in a tomb there with great honour. On the same day we went to the market and bought all that we should need on our galley for the voyage out-cushions, mattresses, pillows, sheets, coverlets, mats, jars, and so forth, for each berth. I bade them buy a mattress for me stuffed with cows' hair, and I had brought woollen blankets with me from Ulm, that I might sleep on board the galley just as I did in my cell, for I thought it unbecoming for me to lie softer on board a galley than in my own cell."

Day 23 - 5th May 1483

"On the 5th day we went by water to the island of St. Helena the Empress, and there I read Mass to my lords. After Mass the monks opened the tomb of St. Helena for us, and we saw her entire body, with many other relics, and after kissing them and touching them with our jewels, we returned home. After dinner we went in a boat to the galley which we had hired, and found that the captain had caused planks to be put along the lower part of our berths, so that some of them came just by our feet, where we wanted to put our shoes and chamber-pots. We therefore told the men in charge of the galley that, unless on the morrow they took down those planks, we should hold our contract void, seeing that their doing this was contrary to article nine. Upon this there arose a dispute between the pilgrims and the captain. Howbeit, if he wanted to keep us, he was bound to destroy the work which he had put up. So, having thus arranged our berths, we returned to our inn."

Day 22 - 4th May 1483

"On the 4th, which was the Sunday called ' Vocem jucunditatis,' and was the feast of the most holy virgin, St. Catharine of Siena, we crossed from the penitentiary of St. Dominic to the church of St. John and St. Paul, and there saw a solemn procession and attended divine service. The whole church was crowded with people, and many women were there habited as Beguines. When service was over, I went to the cloister of the brethren, and there I found a brother of my own order who was staying there on his way. He bore the badges of a pilgrim to the Holy Land, and came from the country of France, and from the convent of our order in the Isle of France, and intended to sail with us. I therefore made his acquaintance, and we agreed to bear one another company. Howbeit, he did not embark on board of my galley, but on the other; yet at Jerusalem he often visited me, and I often visited him there, and we bore one, another company. After dinner I went away alone by boat to St. Dominic's to see the fathers there, and they showed me an entire hand of the most blessed virgin, St. Catharine of Siena, very large and beauteous, with all its flesh and bones, which hand I kissed many times. In the same convent I found another brother of my order who came from Naples, and bore the badges of a pilgrim. But he also did not sail in my galley. After this I rowed back to my inn."

Day 21 - 3rd May 1483

"On the 3rd, which is the feast of the Invention of the Cross, we rowed to the church of St. Cross, and after hearing service there, we saw and kissed the body of St. Athanasius, which rests there; and we touched it with our jewels, as has been described in the account of the day before. This saint, a most mighty champion of the faith, wrote for the confusion of heretics the creed: ' Whosoever will be saved,' etc. After this we returned to our inn for dinner. After dinner we went by water to the greater convent of Minorites, and saw the buildings, which are very grand. In a chapel attached to the church stood a horse, built together with wondrous art. The Venetians, imitating the customs of the heathen nations, once determined to reward one of their captains who had fought bravely for the republic, and gained much new territory for it by his velour, by setting up an everlasting memorial of him, and placing a brazen statue of a horse and his rider in one of the streets or squares of the city. In order that this might be done as splendidly as possible, they sought out sculptors throughout their country, and ordered each of them to make a horse of any material he chose, and they would then choose one out of the three best horses, and have a horse cast in brass on the model of that one. Besides the price of his statue, they proposed to bestow especial honours upon the artist who made the best-shaped horse.

So three sculptors met together at Venice, and one of them made a horse of wood, covered with black leather, which is the horse which stands in the aforesaid chapel; and so life-like is this figure, that unless its unwonted size and want of motion betrayed that the horse was artificially made, a man would think that it was a real living horse. Another sculptor made a horse of clay, and baked it in a furnace; it is admirably formed, and of a red colour. The third moulded an exquisitely-shaped horse out of wax. The Venetians chose this latter, as being the most cunningly wrought, and rewarded the artist. But as for what will be done about casting it I have not heard; perhaps they will give the matter up. So, after we had seen this convent and the aforesaid things, we returned to our own place."

Day 20 - 2nd May 1483

"On the 2nd of May we went in the morning to St. Mark's, and attended Masses in the great church of St. Mark. When the Masses were over, we went into the palace of the Doge of Venice, to wait upon the Doge himself with the letter which the most illustrious Sigismund, Archduke of Austria, had entrusted to my lords for them to present to him, as aforesaid, in my account of the 17th April. So we went up the stone stairs from the court of the palace to the portico, and standing outside the hall of judgment, we asked to be admitted to an audience of the senate. We were at once admitted into the place of the consuls, and placed in the presence of the Doge and the senate. Now, the Lord John, Baron van Cymbern, holding aloft the letter of the Archduke of Austria, walked forward in a most gallant fashion into the midst of the hall, went up to the Doge, presented the letter to him with a courtly reverence, and retired. The Doge looked at the seal, and on recognising it, kissed it, and handed it to the senators who sat with him, that they also might kiss it. He then caused the letter to be read in the hearing of all present. When he had heard it, the Doge arose, and through an interpreter offered his services to the pilgrims, and calling each of them to him severally, gave his hand to each man, drew him towards him, and kissed him in the Italian fashion. After this my lords begged for letters commendatory to the Captain-general of the Sea, and to the governors of the islands, in order that, if need were, they might invoke the protection of these persons aforesaid. This request was straightway granted, and the letters were written and delivered to us."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Day 19 - 1st May 1483

"THE delightful and joyous month of May offers for our devout worship on its first day the holy Apostles St. Philip and St. James. Wherefore, very early in the morning, when the lords and the rest of our company had risen and were making themselves ready for going to church and hearing Mass, they asked me in which church we should hear divine service to-day. I replied, 'Lo, now, my lords, we have set out upon a pilgrimage in the name of God, and it is not fitting that a pilgrim should stand idle. Now we must remain in this city for a whole month longer. And seeing that we are set about on every side by waters, we cannot solace ourselves and pass our time by visits to flowery gardens or smiling plains, to shady woods, green meadows, or delightful plantations of trees and flowers, roses and lilies; nor can we employ our leisure in hunting, while it would not befit us to attend tournaments or dances; therefore my advice is that, while we remain here, we should every day make a pilgrimage to some church, and visit the bodies and relics of the saints, whereof there is a great multitude in this city, and that thus throughout this month of May we may be plucking flowers, the roses and lilies of virtues, of graces and indulgences.' When they heard this, my advice was approved by all, and it was unanimously agreed that we should row or walk every day to one of the churches; and if not all of us together, that at least some of our company should do so, that they might afterwards tell the rest what they had seen. So on that first day of May we hired a boat and rowed to the church of the holy Apostles St. Philip and St. James, and attended service there. After service we went up to the altar and kissed the holy head of St. Philip, which is kept there, and the holy arm of St. James. There was a great crush of people to see and kiss the holy relics. When service was over the people went away, but we waited until we could have a better view of the relics without being jostled, and could touch them with our jewellery. For pilgrims to the Holy Land are wont to carry with them to the holy places choice rings of gold or silver, and beads of precious stones for 'paternosters' or rosaries, or the rosaries themselves, little gold or silver crosses, or any of the like precious and easily carried trinklets, which are entrusted to them by their parents or friends, or which they buy at Venice or in parts beyond the sea for presents to those who are dear to them; and whenever they meet with any relics, or come to any holy place, they take those jewels and touch the relics or the holy place with them, that they may perchance derive some sanctity from the touch; and thus they are returned to the friends of the pilgrims dearer and more valuable than before.

I myself was the least of all, and the poorest of all our company, yet had I many precious jewels which had been lent me by my friends, patrons and patronesses, in order that I might touch with them the relics and holy places to which I came, and bring them back to them, receiving a reward for so doing. Among others, his worship, Master John Echinger, at that time Mayor of Ulm, entrusted me with his most cherished ring, which ring his father, James Echinger, had drawn from his thumb in his last moments and given to his son, even as he himself had received it from his father before him: I verily believe it was of more value to him than a hundred ducats, and that now he values it at more than two hundred. So, after the people had retired, we drew near and, as I have described, touched the relics of the holy Apostles. It was my duty to take all the jewels belonging to the secular pilgrims at holy places, or places where relics were kept, and with my hands I touched the holy things with each of them, and then gave them back to their owners. But some of the nobles left their jewels in my hands throughout the pilgrimage. Thus we did at all the holy places and with all the relics which we found during our whole pilgrimage, beginning with the holy child Simeon at Trent. So when we had done all this we went home to our inn for dinner."

Day 18 - 30th April 1483

"On the 30th and last day of April we heard Mass in our inn, because a great lord from Austria, not a pilgrim, was lodging there, and his chaplain said Mass in the house. After Mass we twelve all assembled together to consider with which of the two shipmasters we should sail, and what terms we should make with them. My lords decided that they would go with Master Peter Lando in his treble-banked galley. For my own part I should have liked the other shipmaster, Augustine, better; but I shrank from his double-banked galley, because of the great hardships which I had endured on board of her. We decided therefore to go with Master Peter; moreover, we drew up twenty articles by which we defined the limits of our contract, and stated what the captain was bound to do for us.

First Article.-That the captain shall take us pilgrims from Venice to Joppa, a port in the Holy Land, and shall bring us back again from thence to Venice, for which purpose he shall be ready in fourteen days at the outside, and shall not stay here more than fourteen days after this day.

Second.-That he shall well and properly provide a galley with experienced mariners who understand the art of sailing with whatever wind may blow, and shall have on board a sufficient armament for the defence of the galley from the attacks of pirates and enemies, if need be.

Third.-That the captain beware of putting into unusual or strange ports on his way, but that he shall touch only at those in which he is wont to obtain provision for his galley, and that as far as may be he shall avoid putting into harbours, but shall go on his way. We especially desire him to avoid the kingdom of Cyprus, and not to touch there, or if he does so, not to remain in harbour there for more than three days, because we have a traditional belief that the air of Cyprus is unwholesome for Germans. If, however, any of our company should desire to pay his respects to the Queen of Cyprus and wait on her at Nichosia and receive from her the ensigns of her Order, the captain shall be bound to wait for his return, seeing that this was an ancient custom among all noblemen as long as there was a king in that kingdom.

Fourth.-That the captain shall give the pilgrims two meals of food and drink every day without fail. If for any reason any one of us shall not wish to attend the captain's table, or to come to supper in the evening, or if all of us choose to stay in our own berths, nevertheless the captain shall be bound to send food and drink to us without making any dispute.

Fifth.-That the captain shall be bound to provide the pilgrims, during their voyage from Venice to the Holy Land, and from thence back to Venice, with a sufficiency of good bread and biscuit, good wine and sweet water, freshly put on board, with meat, eggs, and other eatables of the same sort.

Sixth.-That every morning before we eat our food he shall give to each of us a bicker or small glass of Malvoisie wine, as is the custom on shipboard.

Seventh.-If the pilgrims shall ask to be put ashore at any port near which the galley may be, but which it does not desire to enter, for any reasonable purpose, such as to obtain water, or medicines, or other necessaries, the captain shall be bound to give us a boat and boat's crew to carry us into that port.

Eighth.-If the captain shall touch at any uninhabited harbour, where the pilgrims will not be able to obtain necessaries for themselves, he shall be bound to supply them with food just as though they were not in harbour; on the other hand, if he shall put into a good port, then they shall be bound to provide their own meals.

Ninth.-The captain shall be bound to protect the pilgrims, both in the galley and out of it, from being attacked or ill-used by the galley-slaves, or from being thrown off the galley-slaves' benches, should the pilgrims wish to sit upon them with the slaves. He shall also be bound to prevent the slaves from molesting them on land, as far as he is able, and he shall not place any article in the pilgrims' berths.

Tenth.-The captain shall let the pilgrims remain in the Holy Land for the due length of time, and shall not hurry them through it too fast, and shall lead them to the usual places and go with them in person. We especially wish him to raise no objections to leading them to the Jordan, which pilgrims always find a difficulty in doing, and he shall save them from all troubles with the infidels.

Eleventh.-All dues, all money for safe-conducts, and for asses and other expenses, in whatever names they may be charged, or in whatever place they have to be paid, shall be paid in full by the captain alone on behalf of all the pilgrims without their being charged anything, and he shall likewise pay the great fees; the smaller fees we will see to ourselves.

Twelfth.-In return for all these expenses to be incurred and things to be done by the captain, each pilgrim shall be bound to pay him forty ducats of the kind called de Recta, that is, newly minted. On condition, however, that the pilgrim shall pay one-half of this sum in Venice, and the remainder at Joppa.

Thirteenth.-Should any one of the pilgrims happen to die, the captain shall in no wise interfere with the goods which he leaves, but shall leave them all untouched in the possession of that person or persons to whom the deceased left them by will.

Fourteenth.-Should any one of the pilgrims die before reaching the Holy Land the captain shall be bound to restore one-half of the money which he had previously received, to be dealt with by the executors according to the instructions of the deceased.

Fifteenth.-Should any pilgrim die on board the galley, the captain shall not straightway order his body to be cast into the sea, but shall cause it to be taken ashore and buried in some graveyard. If, however, the galley be at a distance from the land, then the body of the deceased may be kept on board until either some port is reached or the comrades of the deceased agree to have it cast into the sea.

Sixteenth.-If any of the pilgrims wish to go to St. Catharine's, on Mount Sinai, the captain shall be bound to deliver over to every person expressing such a wish ten ducats of the money previously paid to him.

Seventeenth.-That the captain before leaving Jerusalem with the pilgrims shall loyally help those pilgrims who are setting out to St. Catharine's, and shall draw up a friendly agreement between them and their dragoman.

Eighteenth-That the captain shall assign to the pilgrims some convenient place on board of the galley for keeping chickens or fowls, and that his cooks shall permit the pilgrims' cook to use their fire for cooking for the pilgrims at their pleasure.

Nineteenth.-Should any pilgrim on board of the galley happen to fall so ill as not to be able to remain in the stench of the cabin, the captain shall be bound to give such a person some place to rest in on the upper deck, either in the castle, the poop, or one of the rowers' benches.

Twentieth.-That if in this instrument of contract anything has been left out or insufficiently expressed and provided for, which, nevertheless, by law and custom it is the captain's duty to do, then it shall be held to be expressed in this instrument, and shall be held to have been written down therein.

Having drawn up these articles and written them out, we sent for Master Peter the captain to wait upon us in the inn, and read to him the articles as thus drawn up, telling him that if he was willing to act towards us in the spirit of them, and would swear an oath to do so, we were ready to enter into a contract and agreement with him as aforesaid. On hearing this, the captain took the schedule of articles and read them over one by one with great attention. As to the first article, he said that as far as the first clause went he was willing to accept it, and would take us to Joppa and bring us back again; but that as for the second part of the article, he could not agree to it, and alleged many reasons on account of which it is impossible to sail during the month of May. Therefore he could not set out with us in fourteen days, nor yet in twenty-six days; but when twenty-six days were past, he would start at any hour when he had a fair wind. With regard to the twelfth article, he said that he would not take less than forty-five ducats for each pilgrim, for which he alleged many reasons. With regard to the fifteenth article, he said that he was willing to suffer a dead man to remain on board the galley, but he declared that the sea would not allow it, and that it would hinder our voyage. But the reader may see how much truth there is in this later. With all the other articles he declared himself content, So at last, after a long talk, we made a contract with him. When we had made our contract, he took us all to St. Mark's, to the Doge's palace, and brought us before the protonotaries of the city, who, when they heard the reason for which we were presented to them, wrote down our names and stations in life in a great book, on which my name had been written before, when I went on my former pilgrimage; and so our contract and agreement was ratified. When this was done, we went in a boat with the captain to the galley, and chose a space for twelve persons on the lefthand side, which space the captain divided into twelve berths or cots, and wrote each man's name upon his berth with chalk, so that no one else should take those places. In this I had a stroke of good luck, and got a better berth or cot than any one of our company. A berth or cot is a place for one man, reaching in length from his head to his feet, which is assigned to him for sleeping, sitting, and living in, whether he be sick or well. So, having arranged these matters, we rowed home to our inn, very well satisfied with everything, except that we should be obliged to stay so much longer and so many more days in Venice, which was very grievous to us.

Here endeth the first chapter."

Day 17 - 29th April 1483

"On the 29th, which is the feast of St. Peter Martyr, of the Order of Preaching Friars, I took my lords to the church of St. John and St Paul, where there is a great and exceeding stately convent of Preaching Friars, and there we heard service, which was performed with great solemnity. There is an exceeding great rush of people on that day to the church of these friars, because there is a festival there, and people are crowded together even up to the horns of the altar. The people run thither from the whole city to hear service, to kiss the relics of the holy martyr, and to drink the water of St. Peter, which water, after being blessed in the name of God, and touched by the relics of the holy martyr, is believed to be of value as well for the body as for the soul. Wherefore in most parts of the world the faithful take this water of St. Peter, and give it to women in their time of peril to drink, and they are saved from their peril. It is likewise given to those sick of a fever, that they may be made whole. Mariners also carry it to their ships and pour a little of it into the vessels wherein water is kept, and by its virtue the other water is preserved from becoming foul, and however old the water may be, it does not stink or become corrupt if some of this be poured upon it. This mariners learn by daily experience to be true. So after we had heard service, and kissed the relics of the saint, and tasted a draught of his life-giving water, we returned to our inn for a meal. After dinner we took a boat and rowed through the streets of the town as far as St. Mark's, and there we rode to the palace of the Doges of Venice on the Grand Canal, whereon lay the galleys of both captains, in order that we might see [34 a] them both. So first we rowed to the galley of Master Peter de Lando, climbed on board the galley out of our boat, and at first sight both their lordships and I were pleased with the appearance of the vessel, for it was a three-banked galley, large and broad, and besides this new and clean. While we were walking about the galley Master Peter Lando, the captain, came on board in a boat, and welcomed us with great respect, and set out a collation on the poop of the vessel, where he offered us Cretan wine, and comfits from Alexandria, and in all respects treated us as persons whom he would wish to take with him as passengers. After this he led us down some steps into the cabin to the place where the pilgrims were installed, and put so large a space in the cabin at our disposal that we might choose berths for twelve persons on whichever side we pleased. Having inspected this galley, we told the captain that we would let him know on the morrow whether we meant to sail with him or with anyone else, and so got into our boat again, and rowed away to the other galley, that of Master Augustine Contarini, whom we found sitting on board of it. He received us with great humility, and led us round his galley, and gave us our choice of a place for twelve people, and also gave us a collation of wine and sweetmeats, and assured us that he would deal loyally with us. He knew me well, and referred to me as a witness to his good faith and honesty, saying, 'Lo, here is Brother Felix, your chaplain, who knows how I deal with pilgrims; I beg of him that he speak the truth, and you will make up your minds to stay with me.' We looked all through the galley, and she did not please us as much as the other, for she was only double-banked, and less roomy, and withal old and stinking, as I knew from having myself crossed the sea on board of her and suffered many hardships in her. After viewing this galley we returned in the boat to our inn."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Day 16 - 28th April 1483

"On the 28th we went out of our inn in the morning through the streets of the merchants and went to St. Mark's to hear service there. When service was over, we walked about the open square in front of the Doge's palace. In this square, before the great door of St. Mark's Church, there stood two costly banners, raised aloft on tall spears, white, and ensigned with a red cross, and they were the banners of pilgrim to the Holy Land. By these banners we understood that two galleys had been appointed for the transport of pilgrims; for when the lords of Venice beheld a number of pilgrims flocking together there, they chose two nobles from among their senators, and entrusted the care of the pilgrims to them. The names of these were, of the first, Master Peter de Lando, and of the second, Master Augustine Contarini. The servants of these two noblemen stood beside the banners, and each invited the pilgrims to sail with their master, and they endeavoured to lead the pilgrims, the one party to the galley of Augustine, the other to that of Peter; the one party praised Augustine and abused Peter, the other did the reverse. Hence it followed that these two lords, Augustine and Peter, had become deadly enemies, and each abused the other and defamed him to their worships the pilgrims, and each tried to make the other odious to the pilgrims, and suborned men to do so. From this there began to grow another evil, namely, that the pilgrims themselves had, as it were, taken sides with the factions of these two captains, and each of them were zealous for their own captain and master. So my lords were at a loss, not knowing to which of these captains they had better entrust themselves, since they heard such different accounts of each. I myself approved of Master Augustine Contarini, whom I knew to be a wise and trusty man, because in my former pilgrimage I had crossed the sea on board of his ship; but others abused him and praised the other. So for peace's sake I did not interfere in the matter, but declared that they were both good pilots if they would take us quickly to the port for which we were bound, adding that if I knew which of the two would be the quickest and soonest ready to sail, that would be the one whom I should recommend pilgrims to choose. Both, however, promised that they would begin their voyage directly, which I knew to be a lie."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Day 15 - 27th April 1483

"It should be noted that I have described the places between Feltre and Innspruck because when we came home again I did not travel along that road to Innspruck, but came another way, as will be told in its proper place. Beyond this place I shall not describe any place during our journey out, but shall describe all the places at which I stayed during our journey home. Therefore I shall reserve my description of Treviso and the other cities until I come to my return. For I am now pressing forward to Jerusalem, towards which I have steadfastly set my face, nor will I rest until I again see that most famous and desirable city.

On the 27th, which was the Sunday called 'Centate,' we heard Mass at Treviso and dined. After dinner we hired some of the horses which they call 'Martyrs' to carry ourselves and our baggage to the sea, and we set out towards the seashore. We arrived at the town of Mestre, desiring to proceed further, to Malghera, which stands on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Howbeit, in the former town we were met by a German who inquired whether we were of the company of the Lord John, Baron van Cymbern. When he heard that we were, he took us into an inn, and showed us a table already spread with food and drink, and told us that the Lord John van Cymbern had ordered this for us. He also took us into the garden of the house, and showed us a large boat in the river, which there runs down from the mountains to the sea, which boat had been sent to Mestre from Venice by the Lord Baron van Cymbern, that we might sail thither down the river. On beholding this we were cheered in spirit, and we sat down and ate and drank what had been made ready for us. Afterwards we carried all their lordships' baggage on board the vessel, and all of us got on board of her, which loaded her pretty heavily, for there were many of us, and the baggage of their lordships and their servants was of no small amount. So we bade farewell to the land, and committed ourselves to the waters, and, having embarked, sailed down the river for about a mile towards the sea. When we were come to the place where the river glides into the jaws of the Mediterranean, at the edge and border of the sea, and sailed into the bitter salt water, we began in loud and cheerful tones to sing the pilgrims' hymn, which those who are journeying to the Sepulchre of our Lord are wont to sing: 'In Gottes Namen fahren win; Seiner Genaden begehren wir: Nu helff uns die Gottliche Kraft, und das heylige Grab: Kyrie eleyson,' which, in the Latin tongue, would be ' In God's name we are sailing; His grace we need: may His power shield us and the Holy Sepulchre protect us: Kyrie eleeson.'

Meanwhile we had come near to the castle of Malghera, and were passing the tower which is called the Torre de Malghera, when we met a boat which some strong young men were rowing very furiously towards Margerum, which ran into our boat, so that the bows of the two boats clashed together, and our boat was driven to one side by the shock, and struck upon a post which stood in the water, so as to threaten to overset; and it did very nearly overset with all the people and things in it, so that we were sore afraid. The sailors of each ship abused those of the other, and so we went on our way. After awhile there met us another boat with people on board, one of whom asked us what inn we meant to put up at in Venice. When we told him St. George's, where Lord John van Cyrnbern had taken rooms for us, he began to abuse that inn and its landlord, and stood on the prow of his boat, trying to prevent our going there, and pointing out some other inn to us. As he stood there and noisily tried to persuade us, he suddenly met with an accident, and fell from the prow of his boat into the sea, from which he was with much trouble dragged out by his comrades and saved from death. He was dressed in new silk clothes, which received baptism together with him, which caused great laughter on board of our boat. As we sailed further on, we found before our eyes the famous, great, wealthy and noble city of Venice, the mistress of the Mediterranean, standing in wondrous fashion in the midst of the waters, with lofty towers, great churches, splendid houses and palaces. We were astonished to see such weighty and such tall structures with their foundations in the water. Presently we sailed into the city, and went along the Grand Canal as far as the Rialto, where on each side of us we saw buildings of wonderful height and beauty. Below the Rialto we turned out of the Grand Canal into another canal, on the right bank of which stands the Fondaco de' Tedeschi, by which we proceeded among the houses right up to the door of our inn, which was called the inn of St. George, and in German commonly known as 'Zu der Fleuten.' Here we disembarked, walked up about sixty stone steps from the sea to the rooms which were prepared for us, and carried all our things into them. Here Master John, the landlord, and Mistress Margaret, the landlady, received us with great good humour, and greeted me with especial friendliness, because I was the only one of us whom they knew, through my former pilgrimage, during which I had been a guest in their house for many days. The rest of the household also met us, greeting us and showing their eagerness to wait upon us. The entire household, the landlord and landlady, and all the manservants and maidservants, were of the German nation and speech, and no word of Italian was to be heard in the house, which was a very great comfort to us; for it is very distressing to live with people without being able to converse with them. Last of all, as we entered, the dog who guards the house came to meet us, a big black dog, who showed how pleased he was by wagging his tail, and jumped upon us as dogs are wont to do upon those whom they know. This dog receives all Germans with the like joy, from whatever part of Germany they come; but when Italians or Lombards, Gauls, Frenchmen, Slavonians, Greeks, or men of any country except Germany, come into the house, he becomes so angry that you would think that he was gone mad, runs at them, barking loudly, leaps furiously upon them, and will not cease from troubling them till someone quiets him. He has not grown accustomed even to the Italians who dwell in the neighbouring houses, but rages against them as though they were strangers, and obstinately remains their implacable foe. Moreover, he will not on any terms allow their dogs to enter the house, but he does not meddle with German dogs. He does not attack German beggars who come asking for alms, but falls upon poor Italians who wish to come in to beg for charity, and drives them away. I have often rescued poor men from this dog's teeth. The Germans say that this dog is a proof that as he is the implacable foe of the Italians, so German men can never agree with Italians from the bottom of their hearts, nor Italians with us, because each nation has hatred of the other rooted in its very nature. The animal being irrational, and governed only by its passions, quarrels with the Italians because its nature bids it do so; but human beings restrain their feelings by the aid of reason, and keep down the feeling of hatred which is engrained in their nature. We found in the inn many noblemen from various parts of Germany, and some from Hungary, all of whom were bound by the same vow as ourselves, and intended to cross the sea to the most Holy Sepulchre of our Lord Jesus at Jerusalem. In other inns were more Germans, and they had all formed themselves into companies, some large and some small. Now, in our company there were twelve pilgrims altogether, counting both nobles and serving-men, whose names are here set forth:

The Lord John Wernher, Baron van Cymbern, a man handsome and wise, remarkable for the grace of his manners, and learned in the Latin tongue.

The Lord Henry von Stoeffel, Baron of the Holy Empire, a strong and active man, of a manly character, as a true Suabian nobleman should be.

The Lord John Truchsess van Waldpurg, a nobleman of tall stature, a man of respectable and lofty character, serious, and deeply concerned about the salvation of his soul.

The Lord Ber (Ursus) von Rechberg, a noble of the Hohenrechberg family, who was the youngest of them all, and the liveliest, bravest, tallest, most cheerful, kind and liberal of the party.

These four noble lords had with them their attendants in waiting on them, whose names, together with their offices and duties, are here set forth, to wit:

Balthazar Buchler, a sensible man of great experience, by whose advice all their lordships were guided and governed, and whom they regarded as their father.

Artus, their lordships' barber, a man who could play so sweetly and so well on musical instruments, that one cannot believe that his like could anywhere be found.

John, surnamed Schmidhans, a man-at-arms who had fought in many wars, and who came on this pilgrimage as servant to their lordships.

Conrad Beck, a respectable and sensible man, a citizen of Merengen, who was their lordships' manciple and steward.

Peter, a good simple fellow, patient under hardships, who came from the town of Waldsee, and who was cook for their lordships and for the entire company.

Ulric van Rafensburg, who once had been to sea as a galley-slave, and had undergone much misery, who was by profession a trader, and was their lordships' interpreter.

John, a man of peace, eager to serve their lordships, who was a teacher of boys and schoolmaster in Babenhusen.

Brother Felix, priest of the Order of Preaching Friars at Ulm, a pilgrim for the second time to the Holy Land, chaplain to their lordships and to all the others aforesaid.

These twelve held together inseparably, and lived at the common expense of the four lords aforementioned. Wherefore the four lords called the host to them and made an arrangement with him for their lodging, their table, and all the other things of his of which they made use. When this arrangement had been made before us all, I thought of another plan for myself, and without the knowledge of my lords, I went in a boat to the convent of St. Dominic, and asked the prior of the convent to receive me as a guest until the pilgrims' galleys should leave the port, which, after much importunity, I prevailed upon him to do. For it was unpleasant for me, and very distracting to my thoughts, to live entirely among secular persons. So I returned to my inn and packed up my baggage, and then waited on my lords and told them of my intention.

Howbeit, this proposal did not please them; indeed, it displeased them much, nor would they on any terms consent to my leaving them. So, in order that I might be more willing to remain with them, they made arrangements with the landlord, and he let me have a cell of my own, wherein I could be quite alone, and could sleep, pray, read and write, and escape from all the noise of the inn as well as if I were in my own cell at Ulm. So I remained with the rest of our party all the time that we were at Venice; but I often, indeed, almost once a day, used to visit the convent of the brethren of our order."