Wednesday, 30 November 2016

What Really Happened?

When we are considering History how should we regard it? Cue many thousands of words citing learned historians, philosophers, theologians, scientists and others down the ages. Their aim will have been to make it explicable, perhaps logical and often related to some form of coherent human activity.

On the other hand, some have suggested the conspiracy and cock-up basis for much of it. But I would enlarge this by the BEAMS approach. B is for botch, bungle; E is for error; A is for accident; M is for mistakes and misunderstandings; and S for stupidity.

Cock-ups and conspiracies are intertwined, the one breeds the other. But they both have elements of BEAMS at their heart. This is not a "what if" approach, that is another matter. It is about taking a good hard look something and the detail to find just what really happened.

Again, I have pointed to the difference between what we do know and what we don't. We do have written records, up to a point. They may not be reliable or truthful.   But there are many written records lost. We do have calendars that are a help.

What we do not know because they are unrecorded are the conversations, discussions and rest between this person and that. We will have many reports of these at second or third hand but the further you get from time and place and original the more doubt there is.

One factor in history are the relevant records, where they are, how they might be accessed and how easy or difficult they are to read. For me the newly digitised records that are indexed of so many sources means that all that time and expense of travel etc. can be avoided for many records.

Also, gone are all those scribbled notes in boxes or files that are piled up that are easy to forget or rather later find. Also gone is the heaving, getting and ploughing through hefty volumes with a good chance of missing or not registering significant detail.

Rewriting the course of history or changing history has become so much easier. There could soon be a lot of it about. The great house of history might well be found to have a lot more "beams" than expected.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Can You Have Equal Equality?

The web site "Conservative Women" had an item "You won't find many feminists at the coal face" as a comment on the limited ambitions of Equality campaigners. In fact, much of our dirty heavy manual work now is left to others.

The picture above is of female coal miners in Wales in the 1890's. In the past it was normal for females to be employed in heavy and dirty jobs on a level with men, if for lower wages whether or not they were the breadwinner. The fish trade ashore was one. I remember on the railways it was unwise to upset the ladies in the carriage sheds.

During the two world wars women and anyone available would be doing the work usually done by adult men. After these wars the losses and the readjustments of men meant a good many remained in such jobs especially as conscription and large armed forces removed large numbers from the labour force.

This was compounded by a much lower expectation of life for men in the heavy manual work with a higher accident rate than at the present. So the past is more complicated than it seems and the nature and extent of women's work more varied. In the last half century the labour force has been affected by rather longer education imposed on the young.

In the first quarter of the 21st Century we intend to correct the occupational and career imbalances of the previous three generations. One effect is to remove from the labour force a high proportion of the older and less educated and qualified. Another is to reduce the amount of heavy work and factories etc. and other places reliant on manual labour.

At the same time new recruitment and promotions etc. means that past imbalances are to be eliminated and hiring policies will enable a different balance to be achieved soon. However this is being done within one generation at a time of rapid economic and structural change. This will create other distortions that will be troublesome to correct.

What could be the political and social consequences?

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Who Do You Think You Were?

There are times when watching the TV when I sigh a deep sigh. Often it is to mutter, why do they not go into the detail of demographic statistics, variability and analysis? Possibly, because they have a storyline to tell that they want people to watch.

The papers have covered the story of the first episode of the latest run of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on BBC1. It dealt with Danny Dyer, the actor prominent in the series "East Enders" who is an East Ender playing an alpha ultra East Ender who turns out to have Royal ancestry.

It began with the personal story emphasising his working class London background. The first part went back several generations in London and was said to have a hint of French ancestry, aha, the Huguenots and religious persecution and migration, but that was not chosen.

There was a marriage to an ordinary lady of East Anglian ancestry, who was the "gateway". A few generations earlier in the 17th Century her forebear had been a Royalist landowner busted by the Puritans. Further back there was a marriage, another marriage and then a Seymour, the same ones that King Henry VIII married into.

Then before there was Lionel of Antwerp, a younger son of King Edward III and away you go. Who would have thought it, how could it have been possible, how unique is Danny? The answer to that is that he is far from unique. Out there is a huge number of people, who are among his distant cousins.

Good for Danny and his family, he was lucky enough to have a team of experts and historians do the job for him. It made up for the sad case of a convicted lady who had suffered serious poverty.

But I bet I have more convicts that he has.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Fidel Castro

When Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba at the beginning of 1959 I was just finishing a spell of manual labour, one that involved night shifts, on British Railways. I had more on my mind than Latin American politics. It was another coup, another dictator and probably another team of looters who were now in power in Cuba.

What I knew about Cuba was hazy recollections of scenes from Hollywood movies, such as "Guys And Dolls" which had put a fun time easy going gloss on the way of life. That Castro and Co. were socialists claiming to be Marxist Leninist told me what their screen play and script was but perhaps they wouldn't last long. A few wrong moves and Washington DC would make other arrangements.

The surprise was that they had not done so already. But in 1958 President Eisenhower had a lot on his desk. Moreover, his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles was a very sick man at the turn of the year and did not recover dying shortly after. Meanwhile, Neil McElroy, Secretary for Defense was playing out time before returning to Proctor and Gamble. There were too many great matters to deal with and a scuffle in the USA's back yard was a very low priority.

By the time Washington DC realised what was up in Cuba the Castro team had been able to establish themselves and to begin to wipe out the opposition and any disaffected elements. Not only did they have the weapons they had a creed. That the creed was intended to persuade the masses of poor gave them the advantage. That they soon controlled the military ensured their power.

Over in Europe, the ideas of nationalising companies and of central control over economic planning and development was common currency. Those of us employed on British Railways just accepted it and that the idea of returning rail travel and goods to the private sector seemed impossible given all that needed to be done. We were lucky that we had done this by voting and not by the need to overthrow dictators by violence.

For those on the further Left, Castro became something of a folk hero, achieving change by a Leninist type of power, we thought, of revolution and creating The New Age by a combination of force and unquestioned authority. Later in 1959 when offered a choice between You Have Never Had It So Good Conservatism under Macmillan and a divided Labour Party, part Gaitskell the Leader and most of their voters and part of the hard Left, the activists the electorate plumped for Macmillan and Butler with policies nicknamed "Butskellism".

Perhaps that is how we saw Castro. What nobody could have predicted was that Castro would hold on, and on, and on. In effect Cuba became a Communist Monarchy with a Castro Royal Family, but without a religious creed. They had a modern creed, or their own variant, of Marxist-Leninist or what was said to be Marx and Lenin's thinking. This creed can be very elastic in its applications. What does send a shiver through the mind is Corbyn and friends howling their grief, all hail the power of Castro's name.

They began as a vicious group of terrorists, achieved power by force, held on to power by ruthless authoritarian means and created a poor nation without hope or a future.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Back To 1975 With Helen And Parky

Those watching the sport may have missed the revival of one of our ancient customs; the debate between Ms. Helen Mirren, actress, and Mr. Michael Parkinson, a tame Yorkshireman, camera friendly and bossy who was picked out to be a major BBC interviewer one of whose "guests" was Helen.

Parky comes from Cudworth, a mining village by Barnsley town and close to the brewery which made the Barnsley Bitter, one of the old vintage bitter beers. As you entered Cudworth on the main road you would see a large advert' painted on the side of a factory for Parkinson's Boiled Sweets. This was a Doncaster firm which may or may not be connected.

Mirren is a southerner with a rich mixture of Eastern Europe and Londoner and working class as well as impoverished aristocrats. She too was a grammar school girl made good. During the 60's I saw her perform at the RSC Stratford a couple of times and she could act. Quite why Parky should do a "take down" interview is a puzzle. Perhaps he was only obeying orders.

The row is the allegation of 1975 MCP prejudice by Parkinson against Ms. Mirren, who is concerned with Feminism and the way women were treated and regarded by TV and the media in the past. The 1975 interview with her concentrated on her physicality rather than her stage work with the RSC and the extent of TV appearances.

She is an attractive lady and I suspect that some producers and directors were not shy of demanding that this quality might add to performances and filling the house. The Parkinson interviews, late night Saturdays commonly dealt with celebrity 1970's life and times and his plebian Yorkshireman routine was supposed to engage us.

The reality was that it was about audience figures in the three channel days when the BBC was in bitter rivalry with ITV. The commercial channel needed the viewers to up the advertising income and the BBC needed them to persuade the politicians to carry on up the licence fee.

Something  crucial is missing from the debate is that on 9 May 1975 the BBC screened a film it had made starring Robert Hardy and Helen Mirren called "Caesar And Claretta" lasting only fifty minutes. It was a fictional and arty piece about the last night that Benito Mussolini, the defeated dictator Duce of Italy, and Claretta Petacci, his mistress, spent together before the Italian Partisans who had captured them carried out the executions.

The storyline was that stress had affected Benito so much that all he wanted to do was sleep whereas Claretta wanted to have a last fling and on top. It was very ripe and naked and afterwards the BBC had a lot of publicity about how raw it was, which suited their suits as it put the BBC among the forward thinking of the time.

Was the Parkinson interview with Mirren before or after the film was screened? If it was before was the BBC telling Parkinson to wind it up to boost viewing numbers later for what might have seemed to viewers to be low level WW2 history? If it was after then it would have been the BBC trading off a juicy bit of TV with the publicity that it attracted in the 1970's.

It is odd in context given the deferential treatment others were often given. But with only three TV channels and limited drama prospects a thespian doing an interview show had to put up with what the presenter and his hirers wanted in that they could be made or broken in the space of a few minutes.

What mattered was the ratings first, second and third and nobody knew that better than Parky. Helen did not matter.

Drains Before Trains?

The previous post had an insert from the press of 1858. This was a year of many events, notably "The Big Stink" when the foul air of the filthy sewage filled River Thames covered London to the distress and sickness of many. This was the unintended consequence of an earlier badly needed reform.

This was to enforce the provision of proper sewage in streets and parts of London which had become overwhelming as London had grown and become urban. These works took the sewage to The Thames where it was assumed it would flow readily to the sea.

But a great deal of the time it did not and the river became a slow moving nasty cess pit of all that was foul. During one of those periods of weather when there is little rain and stillness of the air it become a solid mass of sewage, hence the Big Stink.

The man to deal with it was Joseph Bazalgette one of the leading engineers of the day. In 1851 he had been listed as resident in Piccadilly, along with Poulett Somerset, many nobility and bankers etc. Also in Apsley House in 1851 at the end of the street was The Duke of Wellington (died 1852) a couple of doors away from Lionel Rothschild (1808-1879).

Did the Duke I wonder ever knock on the back door of Lionel's because he was a bit short and needed the then form of payday loan? It was Lionel's father etc. who had bankrolled much of the war against Napoleon, notably in The Peninsula where the money had supported the logistics and supply etc. that were critical to Wellington's strategy.

After 1858 the money was soon found to let Bazalgette loose with an army of workmen to put in place the great Thames sewer downstream where it could be released in tidal waters to rid London of both its sewage and the stink. Again there would be an unintended consequence.

In that year Dr. John Snow (1813-1858) died. It was he who did the studies in Soho and had concluded that the cholera that seemed to be endemic there came from the water supply. His early death possibly meant this his thesis that the agents of epidemics were not carried by air but by water or other means, which ran counter to the beliefs at the time, was left to others to pursue.

One consequence that helped to bring about change was that after Bazalgette's works into the 1860's and the changes that sewage disposal had brought about saw a major reduction not only in cholera, but other dangerous diseases such as typhoid and typhus.

In that period public health was at the forefront of political debate and provision. In all the proposals and hectoring of the public by politicians today we are told of all the wonders of the infrastructure vanity projects they propose to the benefit of their friends and financial experts.

There is little mention of public health or the need to maintain, modernise and improve our existing systems. We could have a heavy price to pay for that.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Taking A Charge

The debate about The Charge of the Light Brigade of 25 October 1854 during The Crimean War went on for over a century as academics, military men and others argued about who to blame, Lord Raglan, the Commander, General Airey, Lord Lucan, Lord Cardigan who commanded The Light Brigade, or Captain Nolan, the messenger. There was a 1960's film, studded with stars and very costly, that gave a poplar version, if free with the facts.

Had the shell piece that struck down Captain Nolan felled the Earl of Cardigan all this may not have happened. It is possible that the retreat may have been sounded but if the debacle did occur, one to add to a long list, then a deceased Earl of Cardigan no doubt would have borne the blame alone.

It is an accident that I have had a look at this again. Trawling Census Returns of 1851 for Piccadilly for one thing, another caught my eye. It was a Mrs. Somerset who gave her occupation as "Idleness". Entries of this kind are unusual, especially among the aristocracy. But her husband, perhaps long suffering, was Poulett Somerset a Captain in The Coldstream Guards.

A few clicks later it was clear he was a grandson of a Duke of Beaufort, more to the point, he was a nephew of Lord Raglan, a son of that Duke and was with Raglan as one of his Aide's De Camp during the Crimean War. His wife was Barbara Augusta Mytton, daughter of John Mytton of Shropshire; Mad Jack Mytton himself, the noted hunter, horseman, rake and spendthrift bankrupt of The Regency Age.

This is a rich mixture but the question in my mind is that when Raglan and Airey sent their message to Lucan and Cardigan why did they not send Somerset, then a Colonel, a man with the rank and the personal clout to deal with them rather than a junior officer and of a lower order who they despised as a "professional"? Nolan was a famous horseman but Somerset was also in the highest class.

Having been with Generals when they were in discussion with staff officers when in the field on war games I know what was in writing, but this was only a part of what went on discussion of the options and issues. This applies to much of life as we know it. What we do not know and cannot be certain about is who said what to whom and to what effect?

So we cannot be certain that when Russians were seen taking guns whether Somerset was in favour of "doing something" and sending Nolan or doing nothing, in that sending cavalry chasing off after a few lost guns when a major battle might have been impending was unwise. As a huntsman he would have known that when the chase is up once gone they are impossible to recall. Also, perhaps Raglan needed him by his side.

Later, in a period when The Times newspaper was the gutter press of its day it was prone to attacking people on the basis of tip offs from anyone with a pencil and access to paper. One of their regulars called himself "Medidjee" and he had a swipe at Somerset in 1858 but short on facts.

Below is a response in The Morning Post of 10 March 1858 signed "A Civilian" which apparently the Editor felt had to included on the front page. This suggests it came from a very high placed source. This is a jpeg item which can he increased in size.

Men of the time had strong opinions which are strange to us and seem to defy explanation. We should accept that what was logical and sensible to them may be difficult to understand now and with hindsight we know to be wrong but that is the way of the world. Somerset had clear ideas about what was best in cavalry training.

It was fox hunting as this piece from the Leicester Journal of 27 February 1863 tells us on the occasion when he was dined out of his spell in Gibraltar by the officers, again jpeg.

Also, a leading author at the time George Whyte-Melville had been in The Coldstream's with Somerset between 1846 and 1849. He was an avid hunting man and died in the field when he fell off his horse and broke his neck.

To return to The Charge, one thing that impressed it on the mind and opinions of the public was the emotive poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the poet of the day written and published very soon after the news broke in Britain.

He lived on the Isle of Wight which might have seemed remote at that time but where Osborne House was, the much loved country home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Also, just along the road at Arreton on the Island was the aunt of one of the prominent ladies of the court, one of a family with strong cavalry and military connections and a sister of this aunt was personally connected to Colonel Charles Grey, Private Secretary to Prince Albert.

There is more to the row over where the blame might really lie for The Charge of The Light Brigade than we know or ever can know. What we do know is that during the 19th Century as well as heroic victories and great achievements there were a good many debacles and disasters.

And we need to learn from both.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Army Will Advance

Just as the DVD remake is on the market of the famed Abel Gance classic film, "Napoleon" from 1927, renewed with full score and careful retouching, the EU has announced its long flagged, if that is the right word, Euro Army.

What the Euro Army is for is not certain. How much use it will be for combating the terrorism that is the threat is a question. Is it a plan by France to recover her lost Empire in the Middle East and North Africa? Who will make the ultimate command decisions?

The most likely purpose is to have a means of holding on to the lands of Eastern Europe that were gulled into linking with the EU. Given the choice between dictated to by Brussels or Moscow it  is not surprising that many of the peoples there prefer Moscow.

Also in the news is the problem that The Brigade of Guards has in recruiting. This leading part of the British Army is the one the provides much of the ceremonial as well as security role of The Army in London.

If they become too short of men, sorry, persons, then real changes will have to considered.

Perhaps the EU could provide us with a regiment of Zouaves, see Wikipedia, to take over Chelsea Barracks and do the job?

Monday, 21 November 2016

Germany Calling

Angie Merkel who did not ask,
Hit her voters fourth term whacks.

What she sees what she will have done,
She'll hit them with another one.


Insincere apologies to Ogden Nash for his great work on Lizzie Borden.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

All Change

With both Buckingham Palace that houses the Royal Family and a lot of hangers on and the Palace of Westminster which houses Parliament, with many more hangers on both needing major maintenance and reconstruction work at vast cost and all too likely to go way way over budget, it is time for some lateral thinking.

Why in the 21st Century do the head of state and our national assembly in one or two parts need to be separated and why are they not all in a new, well equipped, alcohol free, economic, easy to run, easy to clean and a secure structure that is meant for their work and not as antique showpieces?

Surely, given the capabilities of modern builders it would be far better to put up buildings that are functional, far more comfortable and more accessible? Buckingham Palace, a barn of a place of no great architectural interest other than it has been there for a long while, could be knocked down.

The Palace of Westminster, a dreadful warning of what can happen if you give the builder a free hand, must go as well and what could the space be used for? Perhaps a brand new major building for The London School of Economics fit for purpose rather than the collection of old and new that muddles their thinking at present.

One possibility is that it would enable a major new railway station complex to be created that would merge both Euston and Waterloo into a central rail centre that would bring together the south and north of England. The 1890's dream of a direct Dover to Bradford service would be realised.

This could be whether the HS2 was built or not. Of course a few other old tatty run down redundant buildings would go as well, say The Foreign Office and Downing Street. The former could be housed in Brussels, perhaps Stalin Avenue on the patch there named Stalingrad. It would save on the postage and staffing if they took their orders direct.

The latter could be fixed up in one of those new towers by The City to be closer to their friends and family and those who really have the power. Also, they could be closer to God for his instructions if the Wi Fi was good enough. But where would the Head of State and our central assemblies go?

There are plenty of open spaces in and around London that could be used. Up at Hendon for example, close to Metropolitan Police facilities, or Alexandra Park if media proximity was preferred. This blog has suggested Tamworth in the past, but Stanley Park in Liverpool would be handy for the football.

Time for change as the politicians keep telling us. If so, then let them lead the way.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Hope Or No Hope?

Now that a onetime no-hoper is being installed in The White House and there is no chance of any latter day Robert Ross or Arthur Brooke (see 1814) sorting it out we might think about other no-hopers who might take heart from this.

One is Jeremy Corbyn and I am sorry if the idea that he might become Prime Minister, or failing that President of the European Commission is disliked by or offends anyone but I have history to remind us of people of the past.

Down the years I wonder if how many of our Prime Ministers at one time were regarded earlier in their careers as men, or women, who while they might climb some way up the ladder, would either fall off or never reach the top? We could start with Robert Walpole (above) in the early 18th Century.

Skipping the long story about his career, go to Wikipedia, it was the accident of Royal descent that led to King George I becoming King, preferring to spend his time in Hanover, not understanding much English let alone the nation he had inherited, that meant Walpole became top man in government and hence the first Prime Minister.

Going down the years, there might be Spencer Perceval, who was not a peer but an industrious man. He was shot by John Bellingham, a merchant banker of his time who had been imprisoned by the Russians and had suffered losses. He expected a bail out but did not get one. How things change.

Another might be the Duke of Wellington, who had ascended to the heights of power already but who did not want the job and did not like it. He soon became fed up with politicians always arguing about things and then failing to follow orders.

One major no-hoper was Benjamin Disraeli at first seen as a dandy playboy and of Jewish origins yet who managed to become Prime Minister and confound everyone. I only wish he had avoided becoming involved in Egypt and the Suez Canal which he thought vital for the coaling stations of the Royal Navy.

Later, who would have thought that Lloyd George, the erratic Welshman of middling origins could displace the Liberal elite of his period and became a war leader? He was followed by Ramsay Macdonald, once leader of a minority party thought to have no chance of power.

There was Churchill, the 1930's wild man of the Tory back benches, an imperialist and ready for war who became Prime Minister in 1940 after the men of peace had lost their way. There was Attlee, the Labour stop-gap who became a key man in the War Cabinet and then trusted by many of the electorate in 1945.

In the 1960's we suddenly had a peer who disclaimed to become Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home, who given another few months might have turned the Tory party round.

Later, there was Mrs. Thatcher regarded by many in the party at "That Something Woman", another stop-gap who won the 1979 Election. How could she have beaten Jim Callaghan, a politician to his finger tips?

Who at one time would have bet on John Major, the former local councillor from Lambeth who seemed to be a good party hack and useful in junior ministerial office?

In a way Jeremy Corbyn could be seen as the Labour Party's either John Major or from an American example, Richard Nixon.

There, that will keep you awake at night.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

What's In A Name?

One of the stock reactions among persons of some beliefs to proposals or suggestions that they dislike is to invoke the name of Hitler, that is Herr Adolf Hitler, perhaps Schicklgruber, dictator of Germany who died in 1945. Not only is this a long time ago what was happening then is not identical to the now.

I have my own views on Hitler. He tried to kill me and my family, friends and neighbours and gave me a childhood short of food, warmth and many other things. He did kill one uncle, injured other relatives, and caused the deaths of many millions. Several years later during my time in the Army Belsen-Bergen was in our area.

If we are looking for examples of authoritarian rulers who either do not have or ignore democracy and who have certain ideas on many things that some of us do not like, history has no shortage of other examples. Written history takes us back some three thousand years across the world and there is what might have been where there is little or no written history.

Even in England there are candidates. King Edward I, ancestor to myself and most of the present population of the UK, is a choice example. Please take your pick of other Kings, major figures and prelates. I fear that some of the equivalents of Irish, Scottish and Welsh history could be on the list, again in our ancestries.

From elsewhere in the world picking out a ruler or caste to cite as an example to avoid at all costs unluckily means that not many people will know about them. Also, in some cases the person involved may now be held to be one of the great names of their history. Don't mention King Louis XIV in front of the French.

Picking out the letter "M" we have the Maya, Mughals and Mongols, I could go on for a few thousand words or maybe three volumes. For the EU which example to use is a puzzle. The recent lurch towards a Euro Army tempts a European example, perhaps from ancient Rome but it seems to share the characteristics of some ancient Chinese Emperors.

To return to the Hitler matter, its use is intended as a means of closing a debate in a way that has no answer, which is convenient to those who make it. This suggests that a matter has either become complicated in a way that makes analysis difficult or because they have opinions that are challenged by close inspection or query of an actual situation or the facts available.

One reason why this ploy is used so often at present is that the world is becoming an ever more complicated place and the problems are piling up and interacting in ways that create severe stresses for populations, governments and politicians who struggle to understand or to cope with.

As it has become necessary for ambitious politicians to use the shortest simplest words in media sound bites to attract most of those will be actually vote so this has invited equally short responses reduced to levels of meaning which avoid the difficulties of rational explanation.

Personally, I am taken by the idea of using the Emperor Shah Jahan as my shut out or shut up example. The picture above is from the Agra Fort which he made a palace and at which he died.

The man in the tomb is one of grandma's cousins.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Changing Lines

Ode to Ms Nicola Sturgeon on the expression of her devotion to the hegemony of the EU.

Oh! Mr. Juncker,
I'm in a mess,
I want to be with Brussels,
But I'm stuck with Inverness.

Take me back to Greenock,
As quickly as you can,
Oh! Mr. Juncker,

What a Euro fan I am!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Things Change

My birth was at a time when there was a British Empire in all its pomp, although the glory was becoming a little tattered. There were other Empires, notably the French. The Dutch and Italians  still had something of an empire as did the Portuguese. The Americans were still wedded to the idea of isolation.

My parents came into a world which had in addition to those above a German Empire, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, Chinese were on the map and the Japanese had begun to compete with them. These developed from the time of that of my grandparents when Germany and Italy were new states.

It is all a little more complicated than that but during all those times there were expectations among rulers and ruled that they had arrived at the future and from then on things would more or less stay the same. As for example, in the ancient Roman and Greek empires, although that never happened.

In the 21st Century we are going into another phase of extensive change and typically do not know how it will turn out. We do know that there are corporations and mega rich individuals who might create surprising and unwanted changes but these might not be as intended or planned.

Going back much further this Science Daily item suggests that the humans owed more to their Neanderthal predecessors than we have thought. Since them peoples have come and gone and the captains and kings departed. Again, as well as the accidents of history and movement of peoples there are the errors and mistakes.

Christopher Columbus thought he had reached the East Indies and was close to China. If only he had accepted current thinking that the Earth was flat and gone the other way. When Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was in London if only he had taken a good job at one of the language colleges and settled down in Islington.

What next?

Friday, 11 November 2016

A Reminder From History

The more things change, the more they remain the same. In November 1860 a new President was elected in the USA. Below is an article from the Hampshire Gazette, the English one, on the subject.

The unexpected victory of Abraham Lincoln was expected to bring about change, but the nature of this bitterly divided the nation and set the Democratic Party in many states on the road to Civil War.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

That Sinking Feeling

The Trump victory has that little extra spice in the fact that it seems that Hillary polled more votes, not many, but enough to add to the fuss. Next up is whether President Obama may hand out a pardon to the Clinton's for being imaginative with the money.

Personally, I hope he does. The prospect of years of media stuff on the litigation and the rest is dreadful. I doubt if either of them would actually finish up in gaol and the risk that many might come to sympathise with them is high. Especially, if either he or her, already ageing, have the coup de vieux that is possible.

While there is much anguish about what Trump has said we really should be wondering about what he has not said. Also thought might be given to what may be found in the Obama basement that we have not been told about. There could be some unwelcome surprises.

Then there is the future unknown. Trump is of MacLeod descent and one of the fine regiments of the line in the British Army was the MacLeod Highlanders, the 73rd, in 1882 embodied in The Highland Light Infantry. As well as their military victories the regiment was known for one of the great heroic events in history.

On 26 February 1852 the Royal Naval ship "HMS Birkenhead" struck an uncharted rock off the South African coast and began to stink. The 73rd were aboard and when mustered on deck stood firm and in ranks whilst the women and children took to the few boats able to get off safely. A great many men were lost.

The naval commander was a Captain Robert Salmond, a surname that often turns up in disasters and going full steam in uncharted waters. Trump already owns bits of Scotland and he may well take the opportunity to buy more of it so his policy and ideas for the future of Scotland will be of interest.

We should all hope that in an uncertain world his Presidency does not hit the rocks, because this time round I suspect nobody will stand firm to allow the women and children to go first.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Will They Add Up?

If Ronald Reagan plus Margaret Thatcher gave us the collapse of The Soviet Bloc and communism what might Donald Trump plus Theresa May lead to?

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Hitting The Remote

It is the time of the year for me to go into Mr. Grumpy mode again. You will guess why.

The media is in a tizzy over what the usual Christmas commercials will be like, in that vast amounts of money have been thrown at them and the press needs the knock on advertising spend to survive.

Mercifully these days it is possible to "box" a programme and skip the advert's by having the remote in your lap and hitting the buttons.

This one minute TV advert' from the USA, around 1960, says it all.

It really is all balls.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Pop Goes The Gunnery

Main battle tanks are in the news again; the Russians are coming with a new model, the Armato (tomato?) state of the art high tech' and allegedly way ahead of ours or anybody else's. Perhaps it is not surprising this being the centenary year of the Battle of Cambrai in 1916.

Much admired at the time, there are historians who question their success. My grandfather who was in attendance among the infantry had his opinions, blunter and with short words.

It had been near sixty years since The Charge of the Light Brigade in The Crimea when the cavalry rediscovered the cost of charging artillery. After some famed cavalry charges in the colonies and later chasing the Boers of South Africa on horses etc. early in World War One the cavalry had to relearn the lessons of The Crimea.

These Pathe News clips from the 1930's tell us that the romantic notion of horsed cavalry was still in the public mind and in the media. The first, less than one minute, rejoices that the Royal Scots Greys will not be mechanised. This is November1937 and the Secretary of State For War was Leslie Hore-Belisha, see Wikipedia, a politician to his finger tips. He and the Generals did not get on well.

The next clip from 1930 is a couple of minutes of fancy horse display, musical riding once a useful form of training for movement in antique battle. A hard act to follow, largely because of the expense, it needed the taxpayer to pay for that one.

Sixty odd years ago I had dealings with tanks. Their officers were still attracted to horses, the training manoeuvres had to be timed to fit in with the various point to point fixtures. I think many of them still thought that we would be better off using horses against the Third Soviet Shock Army.

But they may have been right. Our old Centurion tanks were in poor condition, I handled the returns on tank states sent to the War Box. The new Conqueror ones we were being given were shockers. Over weight for power and tracks, under gunned death traps their drivers alleged that they broke down when any of the crew broke wind, a common feature of life in the tanks.

What is consistent through time is the support cost of both horses and tanks, especially the tanks. You do not see this in the public domain, it is there but overshadowed by the image of the machine and what they can do. Keeping them going and being able to function demands major back-up, repair, immediate spares and parts availability and a horde of highly trained mechanics with top grade management systems.

But just as tanks have been modernised and equipped to keep up to date so has anti-tank artillery, also now with modern systems and in our 21st Century world devices such as  drones. This means that tanks may be valuable against low grade opposition that is without such weaponry but against high grade opponents they could be more of a liability than an asset.

It is possible that a proper cost benefit analysis might well find that they are not a good option, in fact the age of the tanks and cavalry in wars between major powers is over.

Where might Russia's tanks be best used in that case?

Perhaps The Crimea?

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Voting With Tradition

As the great or perhaps not so great day of the Presidential Election approaches people everywhere are digging into this or that about the candidates. We know something of Trump's in Germany and with a mother named Mary Macleod of Scotland it might be best to be polite, very polite, the sort of politeness that my Mary Macleod expected.

For Hillary Rodham Clinton the Rodham is of English origin and apparently like Theresa May and Ken Loach she has family in coal mining, in her case County Durham. This is a part of England where being impolite to the locals would necessitate an urgent visit to the dentist, who would probably simply shake his head.

The possibilities are various but just two Rodham's are chosen to illustrate their capabilities.  There is the George Rodham, a Durham man who served with the senior line infantry regiment of the British Army, the 1st Regiment of Foot (The Royal Scots) and was discharged in 1810 with a pension after injury.

The Royal Scots were notable in the defence of Canada helping to protect the Loyalists to The Crown from the depredations and atrocities of the rebels and republicans from the south, or United States. They gave as good as they got, and more.

Another possible is the Hall Rodham, also discharged after injury in 1807. He was a seaman who served on HMS "Emerald", a frigate launched in 1795 that had distinguished service in the Caribbean cracking down on French and American piracy and taking prizes. See the film "Master And Commander" from the novels of Patrick O'Brian.

Perhaps Hillary hopes to follow in this great tradition by giving the Yankees a hard time and making them suffer.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Judge Ye Not

If you had not noticed there has been a fuss in the media about three old lawyers locked in the judiciary who state that the government cannot do what it wanted to, or rather what the electorate told it was wanted about the UK disengaging from the EU.

Given that the House of Commons has very many lawyers in its ranks, as does the Government and the House of Lords this had made the issue of even greater importance. There are large fees in the offing. Among other things, preferment being one of them.

It was said that during the time when Anthony Blair, Prime Minister and a lawyer and married to a practising lawyer, Cherie, who became a judge (Gilbert and Sullivan chorus from "Trial By Jury" "And a good judge too..." which we once saw performed at the Courts of Justice), Downing Street took a close interest in who was elevated to the bench and who was not.

It was around fifteen years ago when enjoying a musical evening at the Temple Church; I was rather hoping that that this would bring up the spirit of Oliver Goldsmith to clear up some history questions about Arnold Nesbitt, when I overheard a conversation. It was about a recent appointment to the bench where the person referred to was called "One of Cherie's little darlings". I think it was sarcasm but you never know with lawyers.

A long time ago, a playwright and actor lodged in the area who would have encountered many lawyers in his trade. He made his feelings clear about the profession. See William Shakespeare, "King Henry VI, Part 2", Act Four, Scene Two, Line 73. Dick the Butcher speaks to Jack Cade.

"First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." I wonder how many effigies of judges we might see on the bonfires tonight?