Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-06-21 - 9:01 p.m.

Met Francis this afternoon to talk about motrsport - he was on his way to London because he is going to No 10 tomorrow. After our discussion I drove to the M6 then east over the Coal Measures to Rugby where I stopped off at the Tescos. Then south through Dunchurch down the road to Southam to the Grand Union Canal where I stopped at the canal side pub for some Hook Norton. Then I tried as far as possible to follow the canal back to Leamington. On roads and lanes - Rob and I will do a walk round here in the next fortnight I suspect.

In this area there is a criss-cross of canals - the Oxford Canal gets through the Jurassic scarp at Fenny Compton and then swings east sticking to a contour on the scarp. The Grand Union Canal gets through the scap at the Watford Gap about twenty miles east and then runs west sticking to a countour. The two meet and share a course for a few miles.

Both sets of builders face the challenge of how to cross the Avon Valley. The Oxford Canal crosses the valley higher up which means it doesnít need so many locks. The Grand Union crosses at Leamington and makes its way to the valley of the Leam accordingly crossing the Fosse Way but to do this it has to cross one more ridge - the Blue Lias. There is even a pub on the canal called the Blue Lias. Dotted all the way along this ridge there are industrial undertakings - quarries and cement works. I think the Grand Union could have quite simply followed the Leam all the way to the Avon but I guess the builders wanted to go through the Lias ridge so that the canal could easily pick up the industrial products - cement and quarried stone.

The hills forced the main railways away from this area. The main west coast line goes via Rugby and the Watford Gap - and eventually another line was put through from Leamington and the Fenny Compton gap but this left a whole area without easy rail access to London. Some branch lines were put in but these have all gone. So in the between the M40 and the M1 and the M45 there are a lot of deserted villages - places which only exist as patterns in the ground visible from the air started in the early middle ages but left behind by the pattern of economic life. I have a book in Gfd on medieval England from the air and it devotes a lot of time to the landscape here.

Reading this I discovered another personal link to the history of the rabbit in the 13C - I may have mentioned that the earliest documentary reference is to the Guildford Park - on the hill behind my house. The next earliest is a reference by an earl to rabbit-theft in Isleworth - where I went to school.

Did some more work on programme management. Made a few connections with the train of thought I followed this weekend about the co-ordination of activity by symbols. I had reminded my self about Kantís transcendental deduction as I was sitting in the garden trying to keep cool. Then I moved onto a Habermas commentary - H wanted to do the same as Kant had done for the structure of relations between subject and object - but he realized that you had to start with subject - subject relations. H theorized that there is a utopian possibility in the necessary subject-subject relations needed to allow any kind of collective endeavour.

In putting forward this idea Habermas had to look at the process of rationalisation whereby sacred interpretations of the world have been more or less discarded. I realized that this takes him into the domain theorized by Mary Douglas. She follows Durkheim in believing that religious imagery is really driven by social models - but she also sees that this image cluster embraces bodily imagery eg concerning pollution. So the social image and the personal image of the body are linked. So in a desacralised world there is a problem of co-ordination by imagery - a tool which which we relied on for most of history. I suppose brands are one answer to that. A brand spans personal imagery - consumer identity - the relationship between the consumer personality and the brand personality - and the larger scale social world - production, distribution, retail etc. Brands command price premia - thatís their symbolic power becoming economic power.

The big problem in co-ordinating activity is in undertakings like motorsport - where there are diverse interests - in the absence of symbols you rely on the utopian possibility that Habermas has identified - but it depends a lot on where the various parties start how effective this will be.

Yesterday was the second leg of the Race Against Time cycle project from Lands End to John O Groats - see the link at the top of the page. Ciaran Doran and his 9 accomplices aim to get to John O Groats on Thursday evening

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