In politics nothing is contemptible

This morning we heard of the re-interment in St. Petersburg of the mortal remains of the last Tsar’s mother Empress Maria Fyodorovna, who died in exile in Denmark.

Few weeks back, came across my copy of The Summers Day is Done by an author named Robert Tyler Stevens. I first read it about thirty years ago, but it was as fresh and as good as the day I first read it! The novel is based around the friendship and love between an English Intelligence agent and the eldest daughter of the Tsar Nicholas of Russia. The theme is of a man held back by traditions of class, status and position from declaring his love for the daughter of the most powerful man in Russia, but is also a total denunciation of the barbarous depths into which the revolution of the Russian people was driven! A popular cause was subverted by the Bolsheviks, and the slaughter of the whole Imperial Family, the direct result of the seizure of power by such as Lenin, Trotsky and of course, Stalin, was the straw which ended the war between the White and Red armies, as the figureheads for the White forces had been murdered!

The one passage which always stays with me comes near the end of the book, where the Englishman and his Cossack allies learn of the murders, and goes:-

“The lesson to be learned, but which we refuse to learn, is that they are all the same, heroes of revolutions. The fact that we refuse to learn, that there are always some of us who will give help, comfort and bread to the violent ones, means that the children of Nicholas died in vain!”

When the so-called Good Friday agreement was signed, the more thoughtful newspapers forecast that it was not enough, but the politicians, headed of course by Blair, brushed the objections aside; the murderers were freed, and the terrorists entered into Government! I hold no admiration for the Rev. Ian Paisley, for he is the epitome of everything which is intransigent and one-sided within the Northern Irish equation, but the man spoke the truth, in that until the IRA was disarmed, and all weapons held by that evil organisation were taken up, they did not deserve to sit in the halls of democracy! The cease-fire still holds, the devolved Assembly remains suspended, but the killers are still sitting ready, with their Semtex and Armalites within easy reach. The one thing which this Labour Government forgot is that if you treat with terrorists, you must always remember who you are talking to, and any idea that things can be sorted out after the event should have been discarded about two seconds after the idea was born!

The flesh-eaters gather for the feast!

The Indian sect known as Parsees, have a ritual in death, in that they used to routinely expose their dead on a open space so that the vultures would feed and devour the corpse in a matter of hours, leaving nothing at all! Problem is, due to the routine dosing of cattle with a powerful drug named Diclenofac, which is anti-inflammatory and also a veterinary pain-killer, the vultures have been dying off in their thousands, and so sending the Parsee community in urgent search for an alternative drug.

To gain some idea of the effect of these huge flesh-eating birds gathering for the feast, below is a good photograph of such a gathering! N.B. The vultures are all to the rear!

The long and the Short of it…..

I visit an American military blogging site regularly, and the best post for a while is linked to this:-

Most Surreal Moment – Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. I had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels!

Book and Author review

We in this United Kingdom are particularly close to the source of all reading material, both from a technical viewpoint, and from an imaginative outlook as well! William Caxton didn’t invent the printing press, but published the first printed book in English, ‘Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres’, and we hold some of the finest authors and lyricists in the entire world as primarily British. From the first country song summer is a-cummin in, through the glories of Shakespeare, Bacon and Marlowe, the finely drawn family portraits of Austen, the social commentaries of Dickens to the multitude of writers extant today, we have a veritable harvest from which to inform or relax within, for there are few things better than a good book to rest both mind and body!

Writing from my own aspect, I would like to draw your mind’s eye towards some of my own favourites such as the political and social writer Howard Spring, and his commentary on ambition named ‘Fame is the Spur; the Yorkshire industrial and mining chronicles of Thomas Armstrong, the modern political/action epics of Tom Clancy, the naval ‘Hornblower’ classics of C.S. Forrester, the action novels of Gerald Seymour , inclusive of possibly the best detailed novel about a long-range sniper ever written, the early books of Alastair Mclean, ( the later ones were rubbish!); three novels by an American named Ellis K Meacham, in the spirit of ‘how not to do things’ Jeffrey Archer, the novel, “The Killer Angels, from Michael Shaara, an American novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner; and finally, my own literary hero, the books of Nevil Shute. The last named, to my mind was truly the modern giant of literature, but largely forgotten these days in favour of contemporary writers with less than one percent of his talent. His was the magic of painting, in a few sparse lines and paragraphs, a growing picture of a story which would reside in the reader’s mind, to carry that same reader along the path which was painted, and to conclude that story and painting in such a way as to ensure that the reader was always wanting more! I make no apology for my liking for this Englishman, as his writings gave me the spur to try and produce my own. His early training as an aeronautical engineer, so vividly described in “Slide Rule” gave him the grounding from which sprang his masterpieces such as “Round the Bend” and “Trustee from the Toolroom”, and the world is the lesser place for his passing in 1960.

Whichever book you pluck from the shelves, whether to buy or borrow, be it a new book from a new author, or an old favourite to be re-visited, is always an adventure in mind and memory! Please note that I specifically do not say that my choices are those which everyone should follow, or use, or even adhere to; simply that the printed word is truly vast, and to read is to enhance your very being!

There’s many a slip……..

The first seven years after my twenty-first birthday were spent as an engineer officer in the British Merchant Navy. Those were the days when we had more than five ferries and a yacht on the register. (but I digress) As with just about every ship which has ever sailed after the introduction of steampower, the engineer complement worked hard, played harder, and always moaned about their lot, and our specific moan was about the service provided by the cooks and stewards on board our medium-sized rust heap. They, in our opinion, were the laziest bunch ever to ship out on any ship in the fleet, and they continued to cultivate this image.

The holiest time on board any ship is ‘‘Smoko’’, which translates as twenty minutes up from the engine-room up to the duty messroom for coffee, biscuits, smokes and gossip. Dirty overalls and boots were allowed in the duty mess, whereas uniforms only were required in the mess. With our Second Engineer to work with, no ‘‘smoko; was extended, nor was any attempt made to do so, as he was a hard man, and brooked no dissent. The arrangement was therefore made that I would be allowed up five minutes early, so as to ensure that the galley crew had done their bit, and the coffee etc. was ready for consumption.

I duly arrived up top, poked my head through the galley door, and asked the galley boy, busy washing up, “Coffee ready?”

“There’’s a pot heating up on the back range plate,” came the reply. I waltzed across, grabbed the full silver-plated pot and brought it back through to the duty mess, then got the cups, saucers, sugar, milk, biscuits, all out and ready to go, then sat back, lit up a smoke and contemplated our run ashore that evening. As we were docked in Piraeus, Athens port, it was going to be, as ever, liquid. I poured out a cup of coffee, added milk, and sugar and idly stirred it as the other lads came charging up from the engine room for the blessed ‘‘smoko’’ rest time. Simply because I knew it would be hot, I took a cautious sip from my cup, and was immediately aware of the vilest taste possible on my tongue. I spat out the few drops I had sipped, shouted, “”Don’’t drink that coffee, it’’s awful,”” pushed past all the lads who were trying to pile into the duty mess, rushed in to the galley and washed my mouth out at least ten times before that horrible taste subsided.

The second cook watched this frantic activity with interest, “”Whassamatter, Leccy?””

“That bloody coffee is ’’effing awful, Harry, you gotta do better than that!” I replied, through the mouth washing.

“We haven’’t put the coffee out yet, Leccy!” came the calm reply.

“Course you have, the pot was on the back range. The galley boy pointed it out.”

“Er, no, Leccy; We were cleaning that pot out because it was badly stained and starting to ruin the coffee. Hope you didn’t swallow any of that, That was Caustic Soda! “