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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Back to the future

August 11, 2017 5 comments

I have an awful feeling of dèja vu when I scan the headlines today. The so-called Cuban missile crisis in 1962 was similar, but in several key respects different.

First of all, the context was the Cold War, when fear and suspicion were the background to every international event. 2017 has been relatively calm diplomatically. Second, the protagonists were schooled in the politics of the time: fear and suspicion! Third, the media and even, one suspects, the leaders of the USA and the USSR were dependent on relatively primitive intelligence-gathering. Nothing was certain.

Lastly, the current leaders might both be classified as mentally defective. Both rely on a supreme sense of superiority and power, neither, it seems, relying on the support of their people.

I can only hope a peaceful solution can be found this time, as it was in 1962.

 

Life ain’t easy

August 6, 2017 11 comments

Prince Philip’s dignified withdrawal from public life last week is not mirrored by his counterpart in Denmark, for whom the rôle of second fiddle has long been a bone of contention with his Queen, Margrethe.

Charles+Camilla+visit+Queen+Denmark+-sm0NZ-x0THm

Prince Henrik (whose name was modified from the French, Henri) performed his duties as consort for several decades until 15 years ago when his son, Crown Prince Frederik, became first reserve whenever the Queen was unable to turn up. Henri saw it as a slight. More recently he made it known, rather forlornly, that he should be promoted to King; and only last week he announced his burial place would not be alongside his Queen in Roskilde, the traditional resting place of Danish monarchs. He no longer participates in royal events at all. (The above meeting was in March this year.)

Perhaps, if pressed, he would point out that his predicament could never happen to a female consort – witness his son’s Tasmanian spouse: eventually to be Queen Mary (not Maria!) when Frederik accedes. All I can say is, life ain’t easy, Henri.

A royal dilemma?

July 28, 2017 24 comments

The anniversary of Diana’s demise has prompted public outpourings of emotion across the meeja and (for me surprisingly) from her family. Once again the Windsors find themselves dragged into a world where emotions are worn proudly on the sleeve while they continue to demand privacy and special treatment whenever it suits them. The Princes themselves were certainly the victims of the misconceived funeral display – but should they continue to parade their grief? Was their family less revered while Margaret’s tribulations were more discreetly exposed?

The cost of education

July 5, 2017 35 comments

Higher education in Britain has changed radically since I were a lad. Just so you know, in 1961 I went ‘up’ for four years, with the promise of free tuition and two contributions towards my annual living costs; they were a £100 ‘state scholarship’, awarded for A-level results and a £70 college scholarship, awarded after exams at the college. Total: £170 p.a., equivalent to £3,500 today. In case you’re wondering, my parents ‘kept’ me in the vacations – which amounted to more than half the year; and I did vac. jobs too. (I did not of course have a laptop/smart phone/ipad to pay for!)

Obviously today’s university students face a different future financially. On average they borrow £50,000 by the time they graduate and no doubt many, if not most, supplement their loans by working. So it is understandable that Corbyn can promise a brave new world of gubmint support for students and gain their approval. But the utopia I enjoyed will not return.

Categories: History, Politics

The spare

June 26, 2017 19 comments

One’s children cannot all have the Big Job. Since the cradle the Heir’s siblings have known they would be onlookers in history – although George VI had to step in from the bleachers when his brother succumbed to his flaws. And George was not a classic example of the more extravert, younger upstart – yet another of Fate’s ironies. Perhaps that epithet fits Margaret and Andrew better. And Harry, who clearly wishes to kick over the traces and feels frustrated by his obligations.

To misquote the NT: the royal family is in the world but not of it. But since WWII they have gradually accepted and even sought a more public rõle, to try to keep in step with other changes: the weakening class divisions, global travel, television, the internet, social media……and the cult of celebrity, with their total exposure and lack of privacy. And the Spares have naturally claimed more freedom to roam, attracted more media attention for their trouble and agonised over the ambiguity of it all.

No novelist could have invented Harry’s story. He ticks every psychological and social box and will probably continue to keep us enthralled. It’s what spares do.

 

One of those voices

June 23, 2017 27 comments

Entertainment in the ’50s and ’60s was all about sound, not so much about images. The wireless played a leading rõle in family life, with the morning pips reminding us we were already late, the evening news gathering us together at 6 o’clock and favourite programmes on weekdays and at weekends. And in our house the cricket coverage was eagerly awaited, especially the voice of John Arlott.

So it was probably my generation of listeners who first welcomed what is now known as TMS; a sporting institution. Down the years Brian Johnston (sans the ‘e’) and his younger pupils have bemused and amused us every year.

But Henry Blofeld has been a star in the firmament, with erudition and wit we should hardly expect from a mere sport programme. And now he too is going to retire.

Thank you, Bloers!

Time for others

June 7, 2017 7 comments

By coincidence, after I’d seen many reports of people going the extra mile during the latest terrorist outrages, I saw an article in the Beeb’s travel pages about a Greek word nobody, even Greeks, can translate satisfactorily. It’s ‘philotimo’ (from the ancient Greek φιλοτιμία which appears in Homer and Pindar). Down the centuries the meaning segued from ‘ambition to impress’ to ‘altruism’ and ‘doing the right thing’ and these days seems to hover somewhere in between those apparently contradictory concepts.

Did the ancients see a connection there, I wonder. Did they reckon acts of kindness might be motivated, perhaps subconsciously, by a desire to appear virtuous, a wish to deserve praise?

Anyway, see what you think! Just askin’.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170605-the-greek-word-that-cant-be-translated

Categories: History, Nature, Techo stuff

Foiled again *

May 17, 2017 19 comments

I have a soft spot for Kit Kat, having cut my marketing teeth in the Rowntree KK team in York in the ’60s. It was already a veteran, 30 years old and making its first £1 million contribution to profits while I was there. The trademark battle then was about the tag line, ‘have a break’, which Cadbury and others were trying to dilute with their own snacks promotion. They lost. And now, another 50 years on, the ‘four-finger shape mark’ is the focus and in the UK (but not everywhere) Cadbury are successfully opposing it. I can’t guess what profits the old guy makes now but Nestlè clearly intends to protect them.

  • headline courtesy the Grauniad

A handbag?

May 13, 2017 15 comments

There’s a plan to honour Maggie with a statue in Parliament Square. And why not? The Iron Lady was responsible for so much that needed to be done in the ’80s. Even the Poll Tax, her downfall, was well-intentioned. Is there a fairer, less discriminatory way to tax a population? Scargill and his ilk were bankrupting British industry. And Argentina needed a good slap, even when the Americas couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to agree.

Her daughter, Carol wants her image to carry her iconic handbag, but this new work omits it. It certainly epitomises Maggie’s approach to Europe.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/plans-lodged-for-10ft-statue-of-margaret-thatcher-handbag-not-included-a3537761.html

Turn left?

May 11, 2017 9 comments

Where to start with the new socialist manifesto, leaked (or was it launched?) by Corbyn’s Labour party? Read more…