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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Signing up

October 18, 2017 17 comments

I missed conscription by about one year – although as a university entrant I would probably have deferred my ‘national service’ for four years. A work colleague who had done that in the early ’50s found himself actively involved in the Suez Crisis in ’56. Frying pans and fires come to mind. Neither of us could be dubbed macho or a natural warrior and his tales of derring-do were mostly ironic; although duty had to be done and he like millions of others might have died doing it.

But a career in the the professional military is a whole nuther thing than that, ain’t it? It involves a willing acceptance of the conditions and probabilities – a choice not available to the conscript. That is particularly true, I imagine, of special forces activities – even if I have only Hollywwood and the telly for evidence.

So for once, Don the One has a point. The soldier who died in Niger this month did know what he’d signed up for; but as so often Trump’s sense of occasion and timing (let alone respect) leaves much to be desired. His own alleged avoidance of the Draft suggests his duty genes are also flawed.

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Nostalgia

October 12, 2017 7 comments

I noticed today that access to Oxford centre will be restricted to electric vehicles by 2020. Great idea, close to my heart. Read more…

Self-determination

October 6, 2017 26 comments

Sam’s the man!

September 19, 2017 8 comments

My reader may have noticed on his/her cyber-trek that Google has just celebrated the anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s 308th birthday. He was undoubtedly its predecessor – lexicographically speaking – before the more modern encyclopedias appeared. And his dictionary reflected his character as a poet, wit and literary compiler. Read more…

Brave new world or……

September 11, 2017 22 comments

I’m fascinated by Sky’s article today about developments in education.

http://news.sky.com/story/ai-machines-will-replace-teachers-claims-wellington-college-head-11029135 Read more…

Categories: History, Techo stuff

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.

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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.