What’s it all about, Alfie?

It is alleged that whilst little Alfie ******* is definitely not the father of tiny Maisie, the reason why he was so definite about her parentage pre-DNA test was because he was not using the most modern form of contraception, namely ‘The Bucket’. 

As can be seen from previous photos, the tyke is only four foot tall, and when he was getting to grips with his much taller girlfriend, he was standing on a bucket.

The Contraceptive Device?

Simple, really; when his face goes red, she kicks the bucket out from under his feet!.

Charity….Definition…..To do Good works!

When we in Britain are asked to give generously to charitable causes, we assume almost without question that the Charity in question is above board; and in almost all cases, our trust has not been abused. But it is indeed a strange thieng to relate that the number of ‘Charities’ which have been exposed as fronts for, or furnishing funds to, Terror groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza and all the other cesspits where the writ of the Mullahs holds sway!

We read yet again of a so-called Charity which has a leader, Faisal Mostafa, now arrested in Bangladesh as part of a terror investigation into the madrassa or religious school his charity was funding. Items found included shotguns, small arms  –  about nine or 10 in total  –  plus equipment to make small arms, about 3,000 rounds of ammunition, two walkie-talkies, two remote control devices and four sets of army uniforms. 

Mostafa’s dad, quoted yesterday as saying  “‘This is all an exaggeration. ‘He just wants to help children. He is a British citizen and has been in this country since 1969.”

So there we have it, he was just training the kids in self-defence techniques, because Bangladesh is such a dangerous place!  Note the British citizen bit!  Har-Har-har!

Not all bad news in NHS!

 To the Ladies and Gentlemen of Ward 12.

 To all who work in what can only be described as the ultimate Service, that of helping your fellow men and women through difficult and sometimes painful times.

 To the attending Consultants, the energetic Doctors and their teams.

 To the Ward Sister, the Staff Nurses, the Nurses and the Orderlies, my thanks and salutations; but my best wishes to Staff Nurse Laura, who taught a crotchety elderly man who was at times in considerable pain that competence and proficiency can be coupled with compassion; and that a smile, while costing nothing, is worth millions to the recipient.

 Please enjoy this token of my appreciation, which is sent as a small ‘thank you’ from the owner of one of the larger scars in the business.

 Best Regards

 James Michael  ‘Mike’ Cunningham.

The letter copied above was delivered by myself to the staff of Ward 12, Freeman Hospital in Newcastle-on-Tyne just a few weeks after my major surgery. I reproduce it here because of the terrible indictment served to the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust for the running of it’s  Staffordshire General Hospital.  A base number of over 400 patients, possibly as high as 1200, are said to have died through a combination of poor treatment, ineptitude, lack of basic training and of trained staff. 

My own experience is somewhat different to the situation in Staffordshire, as I was checked out at a pre-entry consultation after a CAT-scan, booked in and advised of my operation date after a short but comprehensive discussion with the consultant and his registrar. The fact that my operation was cancelled the first time around was due to the theatre which was booked for my op. being the only one suitable for a liver transplant, so I was told another date. I wasn’t enchanted, but my op. wasn’t urgent, and the transplant was!

I checked in for the second time, was made ready, and the operation was completed. I won’t go into too many details, but suffice to say that I was relieved of approximately 8-odd pounds in weight when all was removed.

I had cause for three complaints during my recovery process.

  • I was given a combination of pain-relief pills which brought on the most frightening hallucinations; quickly resolved once I complained.

  • My wound was dressed the first time by a Scots staff nurse who was probably extremely competent, but had not the first clue about how to remove an adhesive dressing without ripping it off my stomach; as the scar was over two feet long and was barely commencing healing, you can possibly imagine what I went through, but after I stated in no uncertain terms that I refused to let her near me again, things grew brighter by the minute!

  • One of the other patients was a Newcastle United supporter, and he had access to the piped television screening of a game between Newcastle and another crowd of over-paid morons. For over ninety minutes, I was forced to listen and watch as he chanted, commented, cried, applauded, swore, and laughed as his favourite team went through whatever it is they do on a football pitch. It was awful! I couldn’t even get up and move to another room, as I still had various drips, tubes and monitors stuck all over my person! It was the nearest thing to suicide as I considered my options!

As you can see, I didn’t have a lot to worry about as regards my care, and the only thing which grated was the insistence that I repeat my name and date of birth each time I was given a selection of pills. Alright, alright: I know that this procedure eliminates the possibility of an incorrect medication being administered, but I have to moan at something!

The staff at the Freeman were helpful, attentive, able to explain why something was being done or even not done, which to an engineer is worth a great deal! I found the senior staff approachable, confident, always keen to give advice when required, and extremely competent in all the things which they do.

This is I believe the crux of the problem at the Staffordshire General Hospital. The Medical and Surgical Staff probably were competent as well, but they were ruled by Managerial people who were intent on only one thing; and that of course was the Sacred Cause of Targets. A target for the time of treatment in A & E, another Target for the other, the list goes on and on! Whilst the Hospitals in Newcastle and Durham seem to have sorted themselves out in most areas, they might want to check out the catering, as the food would be best described as just nutritious.

I was checked at five different times for MRSA bugs, and this was standard practice; a little expensive, some might quibble, but not me! I was happy that everyone who came in was checked, and for good reason, as MRSA can and does kill!

As an educated individual, I could appreciate where the money goes; all those millions you read about in the newspaper stories; and I am more than happy to relate that in my case, the result was a final check by a consultancy team member who grinned as he remarked, “You’ll probably outlive me!”

when in doubt, shut the f**k up


The British National Party is led by men with a fairly keen sense of what publicity is good for them (all) and so when yet another Westminster      fat-mouthed fool breaks silence and condemns them for their use of a former Prime Minister’s famous features on a political campaigning   leaflet, what is the end result? One hell of a number of people click their way onto the website of that party, and some may even stay!

I kind of admire, in the same sort of admiration one gives to a cobra as it rears up some twenty inches away from your body, the B.N.P.; mainly because they, alone of the Political Parties operating in Britain today, say exactly what they believe in up front, so there is no mistake or error in those who would support or vilify them.

   I really did like their famous Election video (Corporal Fox) because once again it hit the spot, it was merciless, and for the most part it was devastatingly accurate!

Nicholas Soames ought to grow up, shut up , and realise that to the B.N.P., interjections such as his are like rainfall in the Gobi Desert!

It’s only a game!!

I note with despair that the Indian cricketing supremos (the B.C.C.I.) have decided to move the Indian premier League out of India after security concerns over the Indian General Elections.

 “Due to the attitude of the government that it cannot provide security for the tournament, we are forced to take a decision to move the IPL out of India,” said the country’s cricket chief Shashank Manohar.

 Who decides to offer their fields? You’ve guessed it, the English!

If Luton is anything to go by, we’re gonna’ see a right ‘Summer of Discontent’

Take a letter……

The following is a copy letter to my own M.P.

Dear Roberta Blackman-Woods,

I write to enquire why the deportation hopes of the Home Secretary,
wherein she stated that she would deport all eleven terror suspects
back in Novemebr 2008, have not yet been realised?

If these men are as dangerous as she thinks, why are at least six not
behind bars, instead of out on bail? Are we so deficient in the correct
drafting of legal legislation as to consistently fail to lock these
people up, or are our efforts brought low by the requirements of
Brussels and E.U. legislation, which gives rights to terrorists, but
refuses to acknowledge that we have rights too?

Yours sincerely,

Mike Cunningham


And why indeed?

Snipetts on Saturday

Just for a change this fine Spring Saturday, I thought I’d pick out a few items which caught my ear or eye, and see what you as an audience thought of the ‘State of Play’ to use a sporting term.

• I listened this a.m. to a discussion between the Today interviewer and a representative of the Luton Mosques. The proposed march in support of the Royal Anglians having been transferred to London because of rumours of ‘Far-right Intervention’, the muslim spokesman condemned the tiny number of vociferous protesters whom, he said, did not represent the mainstream muslims of Luton. “All we wish to do,” he added, “is to be left to live our lives in peace!” Yer, well; I’d rather believe the evidence of my own eyes and ears regarding all they might wish to do!

• A second Today item was the sad decision by the Appeal Court to deny the parents of that gravely-ill child their appeal against the decision of the NHS Trust to remove treatment from their son. As I write this post, I read that tHE TINY SOUL HAS FLED THE CHAINS which bound him, and is now at rest. The very speed of this death brings but a sad conclusion that the medical people were correct, and he was only alive by that same medical intervention. As a father and now a grandfather, I can only hope that the pain is dulled by time for the grieving parents.

• Prince Charles’ Duchy Originals has found itself in opposition with the Medical Regulatory people over an online advert for their Duchy Herbals Echina-Relief Tincture and Duchy Herbals Hyperi-Lift Tincture. The Duchy’s advert apparently claimed that these items were ‘EFFECTIVE’ IN CURING OR RELIEVING  symptoms; of what and by what I do not know, nor really care, but it goes to show that even Charlie can fall foul of ‘Big Brother’ from time to time!

• The ‘Big Lottery’ fund has agreed to pick up the tab for some five hundred Normandy veterans who wish to attend THE 65TH ANNIVERSARY of those momentous days back in 1944. It would seem appropriate to ask the M.O.D., who originally flatly refused to fund the travel plans of these now really old men, if they have ever heard of the term ‘public relations’? As I lost one uncle on the second day of the invasion, and my own father served throughout the war, having volunteered the day the War broke out, I would think the investment in blood can be said to been fully subscribed; and we owe a debt of gratitude to those who served, fought and died so that I might write these lines, and you can read them!

• Scientists are warning that the Scilly Isles could be rendered ‘uninhabitable’ byADVANCING GLOBAL WARMING. The sea is predicted to rise by three feet, swamping Hugh Town and Old Town. A further prediction that the ‘Sky was Falling’ was discounted as Exaggeration!

• Lennon Poyser has been threatened with an ASBO for repeatedly kicking footballs over a seven foot fence. The official police letter, on headed notepaper stated ‘’Children from your address are involved in incidents of anti-social behaviour and nuisance problems. We have received a number of complaints over the past few weeks regarding these youths being abusive when asked to stop playing football in the street and there are also allegations regarding possible damage to property. It added that if the incidents did not ‘stop immediately’ then her council tenancy could be at risk.’ Trouble is, LENNON IS JUST TWO YEARS OLD, walks only with difficulty, and kicks a plastic ball which is blown back to him on the wind.

• A motorist had his dangerous driving conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal because the Judge wrote a note to the defence barrister stating that her defence could be described as the Six ‘P’s; referring to an old Army motto viz. ‘PRIOR PLANNING PREVENTS PISS POOR PERFORMANCE’. The grounds for appeal were that the female barrister lost confidence, and thus was not able to provide a proper defence. The office for Judicial Complaints was unable to confirm whether the Judge would receive any sanction!

• A pensioner was given a £75.00 fixed penalty for feeding birds in a park. The Italian immigrant, who has lived in Heckmondwike for over forty years, stated that she would rather go to prison than pay the fine. THE FIXED-PENALTY FINE WAS WITHDRAWN by the Council after protests commenced thundering down from all sides. It was not confirmed if the two council wardens were being re-educated, or even questioned as to whether they were educated at all!

• If you are convicted in your absence of a crime anywhere else within the European Union, you are now liable to arrest and deportation after JACK STRAW SURRENDERED TO PRESSURE from Brussels, and agreed to the changes to ‘further EU integration’. So if you get involved with a stroppy Roumanian, or hit a Lithuanian, or even pop a Parisian policeman, and the trial takes place in your absence, you don’t have any legal recourse, you are on the next plane out!

• Home secretary Jacqui Smith vowed last November to deport 11 terror suspects. As of this morning, NOT ONE HAS BEEN MOVED FROM OUR COUNTRY!

The Power And The Glory!


Watched an American Civil War film recently, and my comments were, to say the least, unfavourable!  Howver, all is not lost, because I can report that having purchased and watched the sequel, Gettysburg, I was rewarded with an engrossing, spectacular and historically-factual account of the pivotal battle of that tragic campaign.

As far as I am aware, the film  Gettysburg was made for television, and did not have a general film release, but may be wrong on that point. If it was not released, the film audience were denied a look into the very minds of the men behind the decisions which set the antagonists’ course towards the final defeat and victory.

We were told that religious belief played a great part behind the movements and actions of the great Southern strategist, but those beliefs were not hammered into our skulls, as within ‘Gods and Generals’! More emphasis was placed on how they reacted to events, and the reasons behind those reactions, gave  Gettysburg a ring of truth which of course was born within the fantastic ‘Killer Angels’, the novel upon which the film was based!

The leading characters were pared right back in numbers, but the result, which targeted the Southern leaders General Robert E. Lee, General James Longstreet and from the North, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Infantry was gratifying to say the least! The true pathos of the War was brought out in the short scenes with General Lew Armistead lamenting the fact he might have to fight his long-term friend General Hancock of the Northern Army.

The sweep of the movie was grand in design and execution, as could be read by the large number of Re’Enactment’ volunteers used during the filming of the final suicidal battle scenes of ‘Pickett’s Charge’ across an open mile against the Union defences. 

Gettysburg is worthy of the Five Pounds charged by Amazon for sale of this superb DVD, and it was, in retrospect, the best value I have received for sheer entertainment in a very long time!

Just press the needle into your vein!

Listening to a debate on  the merits of legislating for ‘Assisted Suicide’, and the one thing which is maybe patently obvious to me, possibly because I prefer to speak straight and not behind three curtains, is that the people who are pushing for a ‘Clarification’ are the ones who shouldn’t be listened to! I dismiss those such as Patricia Hewitt, partly because she was and is such a bad politician that her insincerity reeks, but also because she wants to get her name up in lights, instead of being remembered as the worst Health Secretary in living memory!  I also dismiss the calls of the relatives of those who wish to die, such as Debbie Purdy,  who face the possibility of prosecution upon their return to Great Britain, and her recent Appeal court case to clarify the law ended in failure.

This failure is to be applauded, because the law, as it stands, also allows for considerable leeway in how the authorities, in this case the director of Public Prosecutions, can proceed to either take action or to ignore, such activities as the relatives have undertaken in order to help their loved one die. To push for a ‘clarification’ is to remove this ‘leeway’ and I firmly believe that those people who are actually pushing are the ones with an ‘Agenda’. 

Don’t the protestors realise that not everyone has such clear and gentle motives as they? Is it not a possibility that greedy relatives could manipulate a dying reletive to die earlier to their financial advantage?  

No, the law is fine as it stands, and the siren voices for change must be resisted. The House of Lords has seen three Bills on this crash, there should not be another in the House of Commons, because that way, perhaps a long way down a twisty legal track, lies EUTHANASIA!

you throw it away, and you still want more?

Seems as thought the Obama money people still haven’t quite grasped how the term ‘bail-out’ actually works.

AIG, the broke and busted insurance giant which was given $170 Billion in Federal Aid, and still acted like Oliver Twist’s nephew by asking for more, also decided to pay huge bonuses to it’s senior staffers on the grounds that ‘if we don’t, they’ll be poached by our competitors’. The Obama kids, who all seem as though they’re still wet behind the ears or fresh out of diapers, hadn’t thought that this bunch of stupid greasy scumbags who started the rot in the first place, were due any bonuses at all, and thus hadn’t blocked any use of Fed. funds to pay out so-called ‘bonuses’ anyway.

So AIG insisted that they were legally due to pay out, including to people who had already left, and the reponse from Obama’s money folks was :-

“Well you can have most of the money, but we are witholding the amount of cash equal to the bonuses which we told you not to pay out but you did anyway, so yah-boo and sucks to you!”

I bet AIG, and the rest of the American financial people, really are quaking in their boots at the antics of this bunch of bloody amateurs!

Why is the Union Flag draped over that Container?

I read that the two soldiers who died in the terrorist ambush at the entrance to Massereene Barracks were given the ultimate insult by this shabby excuse for a Government.

Instead of their remains being transferred with full military honours from the place where they gave their lives back to the Mainland of Great Britain, their coffins were shoved inside a CARGO CONTAINER, wrapped in bubble-wrap plastic, and flown out by commercial cargo jet.

This was done because this craven excuse for a Government is hoping against hope that that their precious Peace Process is still intact, and they wanted to ship the dead out quietly with no fuss.

Well, I’ve got news for them, this disgraceful episode has reached the news, and the headlines, and they definitely will not be forgotten; not ever!

A Tale of Two Cities



Yesterday was, without doubt, one of the happiest and most satisfying days of my life. My wife and I had, under our roof at the same time, just about all of our family together, plus the next generation. My two sons together with my two grandsons and their Moms, and daughter, herself home on holiday from Australia. One of my two brothers was down, together with his wife, making it the most crowded extended living room in a long time. It was, for me, a time when I could hold both my grandsons at the same time, and gaze proudly upon my own and extended families together. 

We did not worry about what was happening outside, because we knew that all was, comparatively, well! We knew that criminals would be caught, not necessarily being too pleased at how they were treated within the justice system, which is leniently; but the police, on the whole, do the job for which we employ them, and for that, and that alone, we are quietly satisfied. If this excuse for a Government states that it is bringing in ever-more restrictive legislation, or if one of it’s advisers brings an opinion out on how he wishes to deal with THOSE WHO DRINK TOO MUCH, we shrug our shoulders, knowing that in this country, they only rule by our consent, and they will very likely be wiped-out at the next election, because we accept that we are a nation of laws, and those laws must be obeyed, no matter how disgusted we may be at the changes to our democratic way of life!

Not so in the unhappy Province where the deadly hand of the IRA, and it’s spawned organisations such as the Continuity IRA, or the Real IRA, hold sway. This is where we saw what has remained hidden, unacknowledged by just about all newspapers and television commentators, and warned about by only a few lone voices. We saw POLICEMEN PELTED WITH PETROL BOMBS, we saw the hooded gangsters throwing rocks; and for why? Because they know that, in the so-called peace process-ruled world of which the liberals are so proud, it bloody well works! They see their old terror godfathers, and yes, convicted murderers too, given cash, and cars, and places in government; they see the grinning McGuinness leaping off to America to meet with the President! They know that it has worked before, so why not again?

So while my family and I met in perfect harmony, with only a toddler’s tears to dry; we didn’t have to worry about whether our cars would be burnt, or whether one of my kids would be targeted because he dared to argue with a known terrorist in a bar, because we haven’t given in yet to the demands of terror; the same demands which were met by Blair, Brown, Westminster, Dublin and all the panoply which gave rise to the Peace Process! 

As I have maybe commented previously;

Some Peace, Some Process!


X-posted from A Tangled Web

No Surrender; at least to Terror!

Listening to this discussion between a BBC Today spokesman and the daughter of a victim of the IRA/SinnFein bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, when the aim of the bombing was the death of this country’s greatest Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, I finally realized the mindset of this person was so far from my own as to be in a different universe, never mind planet.

She said she’d met the bomber, and ‘could understand what he thought, and why he had done what he had done’!

To hell with this wishy-washy idea of Christian forgiveness, understanding, compromise and ‘all-togetherness!

The only thing which this gloating killer should be given is not forgiveness, is not understanding; no, it is a hangman’s noose, so he can face whoever claims him from the correct position, which is inside a cardboard (re-cyclable and therefore environmentally-friendly) coffin!

again, and again……..

I note with despair that our very own Mark One Incompetents, otherwise known as the Ministry of Defence, have masterminded yet another defence debacle!

Remember the eight chinooks which aren’t allowed to fly in any other weather than bright sunshine; costing us so far £480 Million?

Remember the Snatch Landrover saga, where the M.O.D.  placed vehicles with absolutely no armour whatsoever in combat situations with roadside bombs every four yards in Afghanistan?


Well, we now have a £1.1 billion pound Type 45 anti-aircraft destroyer which will have no anti-aircraft missiles, the main purpose for having these hugely-costly ships, until 2014! 

Beat That!

amazing in at least two ways!

I watched a film named ‘Gods and Generals’ on t.v. over the weekend,, then I read some of the statistics, and finally I read some of the critics’ take on this film, something I very rarely do, but this film was exceptional in so many ways. 

If you haven’t seen it, ‘Gods and Generals’ is about the first phase of the American Civil War, or as the South like to call it,  ‘The War between the States’. That way, they feel that the fact they got whupped is slightly less hurtful than it would be if they accepted that it was a Civil War. It was one of the most uncivil periods of any comparative history, where such mannerly activities such as ‘parole’was never given for prisoners, because it was so frequently abused.

However, I digress. The film is a look mostly at the Southern point of the War, and in particular the Generals in charge; Ropbert E Lee and General Stonewall Jackson; the huge loss of life on both sides, and the rank amateurism of a few of the Northern Generals. One failing of the film is the ludicrous soliloquys given the various major players before the start of battle; I could accept a prayer! I could even accept a short quotation; but a five-minute dissertation is a little much! The battle scenes are terrific, well up to the visual standards of say, Speilberg or Eastwood, and the history is always crackling in your ears; but I can perhaps understand why it cost nearly seventy million dollars to make, but only earn twelve million at the box office. The film was based on a book by Jeff Shaara, the son of Michael Shaara, the pulitzer prize winning author of ‘The Killer Angels’, itself the story of Gettysburg, the lynchpin battle of the whole War.

I have to admit, the critics were partly right, as this film could have been magnificent, with a sweep through America and how it was forged; with father fighting son, and neighbour killing neighbour. As an entertainment, I would give it seven out of ten, but all those points were earned by the direction, the photography and the technical expertise: the acting, very little indeed!”

My Country’s (and other) Finest Novelists

A meander through the mind of a book lover!               

The task was named “My Country’s Finest Novelists” but, being a iconoclast, decided to write instead of my favorite books and authors. My reasoning is simple, why limit oneself to the output of one country, when all the world’s pages are there for the reader to plunder? As a hopeful author myself (with five books finished and the sixth one under way; all unpublished, I need to add), I reckon I can tell if I’m going to like a book within the first three pages; if the author hasn’t gripped me by then, he never will!

We in the 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 Jane 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!

I would like to draw the reader’s mind’s eye towards some of my own favorites 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,  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 favor 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.

Came across a reference in a magazine to the works of Michael Shaara, an American novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner. The novel. The Killer Angels,  which won him the Pulitzer Prize, to my mind is one of the great narrative pieces of the Twentieth Century, giving as it does, the story of the Battle of Gettysburg in a fictionalized context. The protagonists on either side are well-defined and recognized, and the battle phases are both well explained and real. It is indeed a fact that the book itself almost disappeared within a very short space of time after publication, and it wasn’t a commercial success, and so the news that he had won the Pulitzer Prize for his writing came as a complete shock to the novelist.

His story was later filmed under the title “Gettysburg”, and was in fact re-released nineteen years after publication, but it was unfortunately once more a commercial failure! The book itself is the legacy of a writer whose life ended far too soon, mainly as a result of his lifestyle, and the world was robbed of the future work of a man who could bring to the printed page the terror, glory and carnage of the battle which turned the tide of the Civil War, and thus set on course the United States of America!

A few months back, I came across my copy of Summer’s 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 Czar 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!”

Some time back, re-read a novel entitled Westbound, Warbound by Alexander Fullerton, and once again realized how good a writer this man is. His writing career commenced with an autobiographical novel of his service with HM Submarines in the Far East towards the end of the Second World War, and the instant success of his first offering pushed him to write on a full-time basis. His ‘Everard’ novels, based as they were around a naval family in war were among his many polished offerings, but the novel ‘Westbound, Warbound’ is a one-off, telling as it does the story of a tramp steamer caught up firstly in the seas which embraced the final days of the pocket-battleship ‘Graf Spee’, and then to their travails whilst inching through a North Atlantic hurricane at the same time as being in constant danger of sinking! This book is about the men who brought Britain through the War by offering themselves as open targets for the U-boat menace, armed with a single six-pounder and a rationed number of shells! The men whose work, sacrifice, lives and deaths are forever remembered in the Merchant Seamen’s Memorial opposite the Tower of London have had very few books written of their deeds, partly, one supposes, that there isn’t much glamor in stories of drowning, or burning alive, or freezing to death within three minutes of your ship’s slowly sinking beneath the waves after enemy action!

The knowledge that pours off this author’s pen is from real life, from the visit to the murky Indian brothel to the descriptive passages telling of the hurricane’s onslaught in mid-Atlantic. His hero is a deck officer, doing the everyday things which are his calling, from taking a ‘star sight’ to advising an illiterate seaman about the benefit of learning how to read.  Fullerton has met men such as this young officer, and more than likely has killed very similar young men who sailed in the Japanese ships which his submarine sank in the shallow waters of Sumatra and Malaya! The novels which have been bought by the thousand telling of the fighting ships of the Allied forces sometimes forget that the slow, plodding freighters, tankers and liners have stories too, and they should also be remembered by an audience which unfortunately these days, doesn’t even know of the sacrifices which were made so that they can slouch down and watch  ‘The West Wing’ in warmth and comfort!

Casting through a pile of books brought down from the loft, I discovered a novel I hadn’t read in years, by a writer named Richard Powell. This man’s output, in literary terms, was varied and eclectic, and this particular novel, entitled “The Soldier” is typical of the man and his craft. Based in time around six months after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, he writes of a professional soldier; a major who has committed the unforgivable crime of literally following orders to the letter. The fact that if he had defied his orders, he would either be dead or captured by the invading Japanese is neither here nor there; he survived when everyone expected him dead, and he is now suffering the consequences of blind obedience.

The Soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel William Farallon, is traveling to a backwater combat zone, based in the mythical Lower Pacific Command Combat Zone, and he is under no illusions as to the manner of the treatment he shall receive upon arrival, and his worst fears are born out when he discovers that his immediate superior officer is a passed-over relic whom the Colonel ruled against during a critical point in staff college war-games, thus depriving the other officer of both promotion and command! He also discovers that the commanding general was the godfather of his executive officer in his last command, the general knows he was literally the last man off the island outpost, and Farallon is, once more, definitely not the flavour of the month!

Expected to fail, and credence given to the unstated fact of his cowardice, he commences his fight back both against the Japanese and the U.S. Army, with more problems coming at him from the American Army than the Japanese! His stolid acceptance of his fate, the receipt of unfair and dangerous orders without hesitation or complaint commence the battle back to the respect due an officer. This is the story of an old-fashioned military man, forged in the dull furnace of the peace-time American Army, where promotion did not depend on when the next shell landed, and his journey back from the limbo of silent accusations of cowardice and worse! This novel, long out-of-print, is heartily recommended by this reader; if you can find a copy, go for it, you will not regret the time spent in the search!

Had a wander around my bookshelves, and came across a couple of books by Alistair McLean. McLean started off as a total unknown, but his first novel, “H.M.S. Ulysses” was to catapult him into the supertax bracket in the space of six months, and after that he unfortunately never looked back. I say unfortunately because his best work was completed within the span of his next four books, and after that, as far as this reader is concerned, he was writing and selling on his name, and producing a yearly pile of indigestible rubbish which sold because it was ’the yearly McLean’ and for no other reason.H.M.S. Ulysses’ written on the experiences which he had lived through while serving on a cruiser, hit the bookshelves and was immediately recognized as a true best-seller, something which is foreign these days when the book dust jacket already proclaims the improbable facts of ‘best-seller’ status before the event.

His narrative of a doomed warship, with a semi-mutinous crew, leading a convoy towards the harbor of Murmansk in Northern Russia, battling not only the Nazi enemy but also the ferocious onslaught of the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean in mid-winter, rang so true that when the paragraphs spoke of the waves crashing over the bow, you instinctively flinched before the spray and spume. He wove a narrative which rang true, far deeper than fiction, and told the story of the men fought and died to guard the convoys, the convoys which so far have never been honored for their service and their sacrifice, except, strangely enough, by the Russians, who issued their Soviet Arctic Region Service medals, offered by the Russians to the veterans’ organizations, but permission to wear these decorations was refused by the British Government. This mean-minded and twisted logic, typical of the Blair regime, comes strangely from a Government and a Prime Minister who is normally only too keen to be photographed close to active-duty servicemen! McLean’s book, ’H.M.S. Ulysses’ still available in print, is worth a search, as it will grip the reader new to his work, and give an insight of brave men, long dead, who died so the others might live in freedom!

I honestly and openly admit that I am an avid reader of sea and naval stories, of sail, steam and turbine, because as another author writes, “the only true enemy is the sea”, and any writing which can give the reader an insight into the ways which a naval man thinks is to be devoured. The writing must be good, but if the author knows his craft and his audience, he’s already got a sale as far as this reader is concerned.

Caught a sight of an old book, read for the first time when I was younger; it was a book named “Fame is the Spur”, by an author named Howard Spring. Another of the literary giants who colored and guided my education in reading, Spring writes of a boy from what in these days would be termed a ‘deprived’ background, whose life is formed by the friends and acquaintances of his youth; whose ruthless charge for preferment, position and power knew no boundaries which might border or slow his pursuit of ‘the gilded star’. My first reading of this work gave me a worry, because I had to go back and immediately read it once again, knowing that I must have missed some of the inner workings of the author’s mind. It is a huge book, with a grand spread of the history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a backcloth, the birth of Socialism as a philosophy, together with it’s cousin, the infant Labour Party! Political giants have walk-on roles in this intricately-worked novel which spans from a fruit-and-veg stall in a Manchester suburb to the smooth salons of political London in the twenties and thirties. Winston Churchill occupies a cameo role, as do many of the British leaders whose names resounded from the headlines of seventy years’ newspapers in this story of a political chameleon,

The central figure holds beliefs and makes decisions only to renounce them when expedient, he moves his political belief base as he senses the chance of preferment, he even moves his mother into a new home, because he fears the awful disclosure that he has neglected her, and that his family came from humble beginnings. His closest friends see his compromises, but their warnings go unhindered, as their friend swerves from one side to another in his quest for political advancement. The central figure has a rhetorical power when he speaks; first discovered when he addresses a political meeting in a chapel, but abuses this power for political profit  when he speaks before a threatened miners’ strike, in order to quell the surge of unrest for which he would have fought for in the past! Allegedly based on an amalgam of three Socialist lawyers and politicians, this book, which I personally have read many times, gaining some further insight each time; is indeed worthy of a search, but don’t expect a quick and easy read, for this is a novel which demands concentration, but gives in return another view of the rise of the Unions, of the Labour Party, and in the author’s mind, of a flawed and ultimately vulnerable hero!

I’d like to tell you of a different type of book, different because it is fact, and based around the birth of the British Royal Navy. “The Habit of Victory” by Captain Peter Hore, might be described as a biography, but a biography of a Navy is not really possible, but the author has done his best to give the life story of an Institution, one which has successfully guarded the shores, interests and people of England and Great Britain for over five hundred years! The institution of the Navee, as it was first called in the times of the first Elizabeth, bringing the existing island sailing traditions together into a force which would attack the enemies of England, wherever they might be, brought forth the Tudor equivalent of modern sporting idols; but these older idols were not silly, spoilt, overpaid fools who despise all manners and courtesies! No, the Tudor idols, with names such as Howard, Hawke, Drake and Effingham, were military men who sailed in lightweight ships, men whose crews signed on because they knew that all would be equal in terms of the dangers faced, and the cause fought for was either victory, or annihilation! The names of the heroes which appear on the pages of “The Habit of Victory” ought still to be known and listed in our schoolrooms and textbooks, but in these days when it is politically incorrect, and almost a crime to be admiring naval and military victories, it is perhaps understandable that they are virtually unknown!

The path of this history of the Royal Navy, running as it does from the destruction of the Spanish Armada to the convoy battles to support and succour Malta during the Second World War, has but a short time to linger on the personalities of the men who strode the bridges, gun-decks and wardrooms of the Fleets which sailed through the mists of British history, singling out a few of the men whose sacrifice, blood and lives were laid down for Crown and Country. The one area which is not covered except in a brief outline is the story of “The Forgotten Fleet”, when a fleet of over six hundred Royal Navy ships and support craft fought alongside the Americans in the Pacific, fighting against a Japanese military machine which had to be destroyed, because it’s leaders could not imagine the thought of surrender!

To read the book is worth the effort, because it really does remind us that Britain is still an Island nation, and we depend upon the sea for trade, food and transport. We should never ever forget that nations which are supposedly firm allies now, were in the business of trying to kill us all just over fifty years ago, and that is but a stitch in the tapestry of history. Politicians might sign great pledges of friendship, but it might be a wiser move to remember the words of an anonymous deck officer of the British Navy in Napoleonic times, who said, “Treaties are fine, but seamanship and dry powder are better!”

Warfare, ancient and modern, has always been intensely personal. From the archers of Agincourt firing against the armored knights of mediæval France, from the seventeenth-century Chinese armorer engaged in the sighting, loading and firing of a cannon to the tank-gunner seated in an Abrams turbine-driven 69 tonne tank, aiming his 120mm. rifled, laser-aimed artillery piece whilst moving through the Iraqi desert at forty miles per hour; the weapons have always been the subject of design. How easy is it (the weapon) to hold or fire? Can it be made more accurate, can it be manufactured more quickly. In all of modern warfare, there has only been one weapon and one soldier which alone retains the ability to strike fear into not only the enemy, but also his own fellow soldiers; it is the long super-accurate rifle operated by the sniper. Brought into modern times during the trench warfare of the 1914-18 war, with the sniper teams worming their way into no-man’s-land before the break of day to gain that split-second advantage over their German foe, who was attempting exactly the same in reverse, the legends grew. They lived on in the wastes of Stalingrad, where Zaitsev stalked Thorwald through the tangles of the bombed and burnt-out factories; and they live on still in the pages of Gerald Seymour’s novel ‘Holding the Zero’!

This novel, which I have just read once again, produced a new hero, but a hero which cannot speak, except with a sharp ‘crack’, cannot move, except in the arms of the sniper, doesn’t breathe, but dominates the entire sweep of this fantastic novel about a promise made forty years before, and the fulfillment of that promise by the son of the man who made it! Seymour’s hero, a haulage company’s transport manager, who had never been involved with any military endeavor in his life, takes on the awesome responsibility of giving long range support to an Kurdish uprising against the armored might of Saddam Hussein. His hobby was the use and firing of breech-loading rifles, and he had won ‘spoons’ at the various shoots run by his Association. He gains access to an experimental rifle, he receives bush and sniper training from the best of the British Army, all unofficially; he travels towards his destiny by hitching lifts on his company’s trucks; all to answer the call made by a man whom he has never met, but knows intimately, because his father told him all about his friendship with a Kurdish warrior forty years previously. The band he helps is led by a charismatic girl, who shames the ‘peshmerga’ fighters into following a mere woman, and her battles are flushed forward by the rifle, and the sniper who wields it! The ending, which is a duel between two equals, is akin to a ballet but with words instead of music, with the Iraqi army gunner, pressing forward while knowing that he is doomed even if he succeeds in killing his adversary, and the English amateur sniper throwing all his chips on one throw of his deadly dice, comprises some of the best ‘action’ writing it has ever been my privilege to read!

Whichever book you pluck from the shelves, whether to buy or borrow, be it a new book from a new author, or an old favorite 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!

A Terrible Loss?

As David had posted on the loss of a pet, and the effect it has on family, I shall perhaps turn over a few lumps of grass and dig a little deeper when I also post on five deaths, and how they were treated so very differently by television, the main-stream newspapers, and of course Parliament!

The first death was of course Ivan, the six-year old son of David Cameron. Whilst understanding the terrible grief that the loss of a child can bring, and of course the extra burden of the child being doubly disabled, I wonder why Parliament was suspended, and Prime Minister’s Questions were cancelled, due to the death of one small child? However high in the parliamentary ranks his father may be, life does go on, and notwithstanding the grief of the family, I ask if the reaction was correct? We got the bulletins about how he had lived, how he had suffered and how he had so dramatically died. Was all that really necessary? In proportion to who he was, I question the suitability of the mourning!

I would now turn to the four other deaths; those being  Corporal Tom Gaden, Lance Corporal Paul Upton and Rifleman Jamie Gunn. The fourth was that of a Royal Marine, Michael Laski. As PETER HITCHENS QUERIES, I also query why all the sombre stuff for a small boy, but nothing, NOTHING,  other than a report that four British military lives were lost in Afghanistan.

Why do we never learn? We are going to rebuild a country! Rubbish! When a  country with the military might of Russia pulls out of Afghanistan, shouldn’t that serve as a kind of ‘post-it note’? One which says “We aren’t wanted here!”

Our soldiers and marines are being sent out in cheap imitations of military vehicles, so that when the roadside bombs hurl their force into the air, the occupants have no protection; no armour, no aid, no fast helicopter evacuation! Every MP should be forced into all night sittings to discuss every death in Afghanistan, and then they should be forced to go to the family, and explain the reasons why  their sons and daughters died. To bring democracy on the cheap to a muslim, drug-ridden, corrupt madhouse? 

Bah, a plague on their words of sorrow!

Better a decision to get out as quick as possible, with a warning that the next time some pale imitation of bin Laden speaks up, he’ll get a nuke down his chimney, and to hell with the collateral damage!


Cross-posted from A Tangled Web

another free book

As I have commenced writing once again after a long ‘block’, I have decided to put another of my stories up on t’Internet for all to peruse (read, you fool,; read!).


I completed American Cemetery some time back, but re-visited it some six months back and scribbled a little more.


Download if you like, have a look, and tell me what you reckon; either good, bad or (horrors!) indifferent!