Highs & Lows

Special, it was all a bit special.

That was a weekend of mixed emotions.

The Lions series ended yesterday leaving many of us with something of a forlorn and empty outlook on life. As one friend said as we watched the post match interviews, ‘what am I going to do now?’ It has been a fantastic six weeks of exhilarating, tense and good-to-watch rugby played by some of the Jedi Masters of the sport. As a shop window for sport in general and rugby in particular, nothing else comes close. The very idea of throwing together a squad from four nations and with only a few days training, packing them off to play the world champions in a three match series on the other side of the earth sound like Mission Impossible from the get-go. Many thought it would be. Perhaps they didn’t give enough credit to Warren Gatland’s mystical ways with coaching, or the manner in which players grow six inches when they put on that red shirt but the thrilling series that we have just enjoyed will live very long indeed in the memory. The downside of the hard fought drawn series is of course that there are some big and useful takeaways for the All Blacks in terms of their preparatory work for the World Cup in two years time from the perspective of competing against the Northern Hemisphere teams who have measurably improved since 2015.

There has though been some critical background noise about Lion’s tours, mostly coming from English clubs. The sounding off is less about the efficacy of the Lions from a sporting perspective but more a cynical and manipulative attempt to grab more money from the funds that the Lion’s tours generate. They can mostly bugger off. They have no support from rugby supporters of any hue and precious little from players, for whom being a Lion is a crowning sporting achievement beyond pounds, pence, PR and advertising. If the English clubs, and World Rugby for that matter, want to take us on then they are welcome to try. They will be disabused of their greedy and selfish motives pretty damm quickly. 

If those two had been around there would have no need for Hadrian to build a wall.

If those two had been around there would have no need for Hadrian to build a wall.



The rest of the weekend has been a bit hum-drum, mostly spent staring into the black rugby void with a bit of Test cricket on the box to jolly things along. With Mrs Flashbang away cycling Hadrian’s Wall and the kids all off doing what grown up kids do, it has also been a self-catering event. Yet again I met my nemesis and my nemesis yet again won. I hate dish-washers. There must be a smart engineer somewhere who can design a dishwasher that is easy to use, easy to load with controls that have some logic to them and one that doesn’t turn what’s left of our wedding presents into crystal dust. Having made a best-efforts go at loading the wretched thing I get to play hide-and -seek with wherever she’s hidden the little bloody washy things that go in the little slot. I gave up, emptied the machine and washed everything by hand which I much prefer to do anyway. I’ll master it one day though….. I will.

Bastard dog

Bastard dog

Happier days

Happier days

We end the weekend however with a bit of trauma. Actually, quite a lot of trauma. I loved my  Costa del Mar sunglasses. I really did. They have been everywhere with me for the best part of fifteen years. I’ve travelled with them, fished, driven, danced, watched cricket, barbecued, walked, worked, sailed, slept………….. everything. Just a moments inattention and they’ve been trashed. I swear I will swing for that bloody dog. I am not usually one for getting attached to, ‘stuff,’ but I’m genuinely a bit upset about my Costa’s. They’ve become part of me. Or they were. I think they are the best sunnies in the world. I don’t suppose they could be repaired? In the darkness, there is always light. I’ll be on the phone to Florida first thing; right about the same time I'll be registering my interest for the next Lions tour in South Africa in four years time..... 8,000 folk already have!

Wugby & Weddings

Happy Boys On Tour

I sat down, surrounded by a huddle of Kiwi’s, Irish and ‘the rest of us,’ to watch the bruising encounter between the Lion’s and the All Blacks in the 2nd test on Saturday morning, not in Wellington in New Zealand but in Bellmaclellan in the Galloway hills. With Guinness in hand and hopes high, I wasn’t disappointed. Nor were the 20 odd thousand Lions fans in the crowd at the game, including our intrepid tour party who have devoted themselves for the last two weeks to disproving all available medical advice that suggests 20 units of alcohol a week is a safe and proper level of consumption for adult men. It was though, as the great Duke himself said, ‘a close run thing.’ When Sonny Bill was sent off my Kiwi chum beside me dismissed the episode saying with laconic confidence, "13 would be a problem but 14; we can do 14." They so very nearly did. Had their goal kicking been in the same postcode as the posts they would have galloped away with a sensational win but the honours, for the match at least, were ours. 

Whilst we spectators were congratulating ourselves on a successful but gruelling 80 minutes in the armchair my Godson stood up and said, “Right, I’m off to get married.” And so he did.

The two things which give us all unrestricted joy and happiness are the birth of a newborn and a good wedding. That is, unless you are my Godson’s father who was in a state of some considerable shock when he announced over a beer when we were in Northern Ireland together thirty three years ago, ‘She could have told me she was planning this. I mean, telling me after the event on the phone; it’s hardly fair.” Having calmed him down and lured him into a place of manufactured comfort with another half dozen beers he pronounced me ‘Godfather-to-be,’ for the new arrival. I am so pleased he did. The wedding on Saturday was an epic event. 

We were almost a family at the wedding had not one of the Crumble Kids actually been at the match in Wellington. The rest of us enjoyed it though, arriving in typical family style; with individuality. It’s the old thing, ‘here’s a grid reference, be there at this time.’ Two arrived by plane, two by train, (with five minutes to spare), and I got to know the roadworks on the M6 really well. 

The father of the groom; just before the men in flapping white coats arrived........

The father of the groom; just before the men in flapping white coats arrived........

Just as a gentle hint of guidance my Godson has not even a passing acquaintance with convention or tradition. It was in fact the very first ‘low carbon footprint,’ wedding that I have ever attended but I am pleased to report that the wine and whisky at a ‘low carbon event,’ tastes very much as it does everywhere else. And you get to know a whole bunch of Corbynista's you never met before. The arrival of the bride and groom on a Dragon Boat being hefted in to a solemn drumbeat on the foredeck, with a lone piper on the shore giving them a navigational clue as to where to head in the stiff breeze, was an indication of what was to come. The humanist service by the lapping waves of Loch Ken was a sensitive, emotional and happy one. I loved the toast at the end of the service from the Quaich, filled with a symbolic mixture of Irish and English whisky for example, reflecting the backgrounds of both. A particular highlight was the Groom's speech, (isn’t it always?). It is the first speech I have heard to the accompaniment of 130 Kazoos which were handed out to us for a sort of crowd-driven supporting act to what was a very original speech. We all thought we did really rather well.

As seems to be the way these days, the old script of father of the bride, groom and best man speaking went straight out of the window and it was becoming a bit like Saturday Night At The Palladium as more and more souls had their moment which would have been tedious had they all not been so blisteringly entertaining. None more so than the bride's 92 year old Grandma who had us all in her hand, speaking with grace, wit and charm. I absolutely embrace rewriting the wedding thing. Dare to be different. The Ceilidh was brilliant fun, the fireworks on the loch sensational and the swing……………. well that was something else.

Apparently you don’t have to drink your own body weight in red wine to have a bash but I found it gave me some uncharacteristic courage both on the dance floor and on the swing. What is the swing? Well, it’s just another run of the mill thing conjured up by my chum that you can enjoy at a wedding at his Galloway Activity Centre. How else do you celebrate a Lion's win against the All Blacks and your Godson’s wedding? Some souls are apparently suffering from the onset of PTSD having witnessed me flying through the air in a kilt at night....... it isn't very likely to happen again; I promise.

Not My Turn

Four years ago a chum conjured up a cracking idea. “Let’s do the Lions tour to New Zealand!” he said. A bunch of us signed up for the Mid-Life Crisis trip of a lifetime to spend two weeks immersed in the best rugby on the planet with an eclectic collection of rugby lovers from all corners of these islands in the country most devoted to the sport. The brewing anticipation since then has been joyful. I have loved the innumerable lunches, pub outings and incessant debate in the Cardinal Vaughn Car Park at Twickenham about the tour. I’ve never seen grown men reduced to such animated and childlike excitement as I have with this tour as it has morphed from a dreamy ambition to reality. My own sense of adventure was heightened because I have never been to New Zealand but have always thought of it as the place I am spiritually at least, most close to. Indeed, if ever the Mad Marxists get a sniff of the levers of power here that is where I’m heading.

Crumble Kid with our Tour Leader. I had to send him, the shirt doesn't fit me so well anymore...............................

Crumble Kid with our Tour Leader. I had to send him, the shirt doesn't fit me so well anymore...............................

It was then, a tad disappointing to miss QF002 to Auckland via Dubai and Sydney last night. What we might describe as an unfortunate confluence of events have conspired against me and forced me to drop out just at the four year finishing line. It was though fantastic news for the youngest Crumble Kid who got the phone call of a lifetime, packed up his university accommodation in quick time and drove down at 3am yesterday. A quick turnaround from summer to winter gear at home and off to Terminal 3 where, after a quick goodbye, he found himself luxuriating in the BA Lounge with my chum. Kind of surreal turnaround.

We tend not to sink into self pity at home, it just isn’t our way. You move on and move fast. It is after all, not the biggest disappointment I have ever had with missed flights. No, that one is forever etched on my memory.

In the summer of 1981 I was sent from the Scottish Infantry Depot at Glencorse to join the Gordon Highlanders for a couple of months before starting at Sandhurst in the September intake. After two months in Belize I was ready to go. Any sane person would have felt the same. So it was with as much of a spring in my step that I could muster while doing foot drill that I marched into the CO’s office in Airport Camp to be told, “Well done Corporal Crumble, I hope you have enjoyed your time with us. I want to wish you good luck at Sandhurst and I look forward to meeting you again sometime.” That though, is not what he said. Not even close.

“Now look here Corporal Crumble, I know you must be looking forward to your flight tomorrow and starting at the Academy but there seems to have been a bit of a cock-up in the paperwork back at the Depot. You will now be starting at Sandhurst in January so will stay with the Battalion until we leave Belize in November. When we get back to Kirknewton you will stay with us and come up to the Mess and understudy a Platoon Commander until you start in January.”

That was kind of him. I had a fabulous time with the Gordons who were a decent and professional bunch and the time spent with the other officers in Kirknewton was indeed, good preparation for the Academy. But, at the time, standing in his office, the news was crushing. Another three months in that stinking, disease ridden country; most of it spent humping heavy kit around the jungle. Disappointed doesn’t touch it. In Belize they brew a beer called Belekin, (tastes like cheap perfume and did the same sort of damage to your gut), and distill a rum called One Barrel which tasted much like the issue mossie-rep we used in the jungle. I think I drank most of the available supplies in the country that night. I never touched the bloody stuff again. Looking back, it was a good thing. Had that bad news not have come my way then a whole lot of cards would have fallen differently and life very probably, would have meandered down a different path. 

As I said, we banish pity at home but I allowed myself just a hint of pathos when I sat down on return from the airport to watch the Woody Allen movie, Cafe Society. Like all Woody Allen films it received mixed reviews. I loved it and it fitted my reflective mood perfectly. The film is worth watching for Vittorio Storaro’s gorgeous cinematography alone and the soundtrack is full of my favourite music. It was a gentle and melancholic end to what was, a rather frantic day.

I guess then, it will have to be Japan in 2019.



The summer of '76

Crumble in another hot place, far away and a long time ago.

Crumble in another hot place, far away and a long time ago.

One of the more eclectic items on my CV is that of Jungle Warfare Instructor. This was quite useful in the jungles of Belize and Brunei and the memories of those happy days were front and centre in my mind when I started working outside earlier. I’ve stopped now. It’s hot, very hot; 1976 hot. 1976 was, at the time and since, the longest and sunniest summer in memory. The good news was beer was 25p a pint and it cost a fiver to fill the car up. The bad news was record unemployment, a sick economy without cure, riots in Notting Hill and the England cricket team getting hit out of the ground all summer by the storming West Indians. The major revelation that summer was that girls, in fact everyone, started to wear much, much less than we were ever used to in this country. It was quite an eye opener really and a great time to be a teenage boy. Perhaps that’s why, despite all the bad things during that period, we mostly look back on it with misty eyed fond nostalgia.

Today's forecast

A Nasty Piece of Work

John Martin McDonnell is a nasty piece of work. Some may view him as just dim and irresponsible, others as a sinister and manipulative individual. I am firmly in the latter camp. McDonnell has called for a million people to march in protest in London on July 1st. Is that clever when London is under persistent threat of terrorist attack? Will the Met welcome having to divert resources to police the event? There will be trouble. You can absolutely guarantee that. 

Veteran Corbyn agitator riles protesters at Kensington Town Hall, (picture from Guido)

McDonnell is urging people to protest to help destabilise the government, bring down the Prime Minister and force a second general election. His disrespectful contempt for democracy is outrageous and it is dangerous. The devious and calculating way that tragic events are being weaponised to stir up a hate campaign, which is full of false facts and disinformation and includes agitators appearing to protest in West Kensington while labelling themselves ‘locals', against the Prime Minister is an affront to decency and due process. 

What is happening is much, much more than mischief making. McDonnell and his henchmen are attempting to subvert our democratic process. In clear and open view the Labour party has allowed itself to be taken over by extreme left Marxists. This is not about housing in West London, those poor souls are being used as ladders for the cynical operators of Momentum to propel themselves into a position of total dominance of the Labour party and from there, the Government.  

Corbyn meanwhile is wandering around every new disaster like some latter day saint proclaiming love and hugs for all. His new found respect for anything with a blue light on it or the word ‘security,’ in it is especially dubious. Corbyn is the anti Christ. That so many Labour MP’s who previously treated his policies with disdain are now swooning in his shadow is cowardly and pathetic. They are first in line against the wall as they will discover when they are deselected one by one. That so many feeble-minded and dim witted fools can’t see the truth of what is happening in front of them is worrying. 


In another place, in another time there were also demonstrations against democratic election results. It did not end particularly well.

Did No-one Hear The Nonsense Alarm Ringing Long Before?

not in London in 2017... how?

not in London in 2017... how?

We woke this morning to another unimaginable tragedy, this time in West Kensington. We are going through one of those cycles of bad news upon bad news and we all wonder where it will end. For most of us the cycle will flatten out and we’ll move on but for the participants of last nights events there will be no end. A good friend of mine still suffers from flashbacks and smells the rich smell of AvGas whenever he sees a Salvation Army collector or band. They are one of the images imprinted on his mind from Lockerbie when they were handing out tea and sandwiches to soldiers and others tasked with their gruesome clean-up work. Indeed, looking at the pictures on television of what can only be termed a disaster one could be forgiven for thinking that the ghost of the tragedy visited on that Border town had risen last night in West London. 

There will be deep and extensive analysis of what conspired to cause an apparently small kitchen fire to rage out of control and reach the upper stories within, it is said, just 15 minutes. I am no expert in fire, fire prevention or fire fighting but still feel obliged to ask as a concerned citizen, just three questions,

Which genius thought it was a good idea to spend ten million pounds cladding the structure in wood, plastic and polyurethane with a cavity turning a run of the mill 1970’s tower block into one big chimney, or should I say crematorium. Did no-one, no-one at all hear the nonsense alarm going off? In the planning application for the building refurbishment more concern appears to have been extended to trees than to the external building fabric. You don’t have to be an architectural genius do work out the implicit fire risk. No, you could just think, or Google, because the information telling us that polymeric core materials will burn at temperatures well below that of developed fires is hardly difficult to find.  Here is an example,

The mechanisms of external fire spread are succinctly summarised by the author of UK Building Research Establishment (BRE) report BR 135 (see below):

“ The mechanisms by which fire can spread externally include combustible materials and cavities – either as part of a system, or those created by delamination of the system or material loss during the fire.  Once flames enter a cavity they have the potential to travel significant distances, giving rise to the risk of unseen fire spread within the cladding systems.” External Fire Spread – The testing of building cladding systems, Sarah Colwell, BRE

Nor is West Kensington the first example seen in the UK. There were at least 30 fires in the 1990’s in the UK involving composite panels and a series of well publicised fires in the Gulf and Asia in recent years. I won’t go into any more detail, the information is readily available for anyone who seeks it out, including the link above. Suffice to say, someone, or more likely some people should swing for what happened today. It so didn’t need to happen.

My second point is even simpler. Of course fireman did today the brave things that firemen do. It takes a special kind of courage to walk up flights of stairs in breathing apparatus in a smoke filled building of questionable structural integrity which is burning itself to a cinder, as the NY Fire Service can readily attest to. Why though were the London Fire Brigade as recently as last Saturday advising residents in the block that in the event of fire they should ‘stay put.’ It takes a special kind of imagination to believe that you can be safer on top of a burning building than attempting to make good your escape down the stairs. What were they thinking? Did they not look at the experience of 9/11 when many died because they were told to stay where they were rather than attempt to escape? Even easier, just watch Towering Inferno. Get out and get out quickly.

I think we pretty much know what is coming next and that will be a demonstration of prevarication rather than decisiveness from virtually all involved. There will be an inquiry and soothing words to allay fear. Actually, what the public should demand is action. We have a generational problem with our public bureaucrats and politicians in that not only do none of them want to take responsibility for their actions but none want to take any decisions which might lead to career risk. Moreover, any individuals in opposition seeking gain from this tragedy need to be put firmly in their place. Even a cursory look at the history of building regulations in this country and parliamentary reports scream that the lot of them are culpable.

Here’s a clue. The Government should immediately announce an inspection programme of every public and private building of more than five stories with cladding, to begin tomorrow. No if’s, but's or maybes. Anything sub standard must be ripped down and rebuilt. All new builds must have sprinklers and anything else that prolongs survivability in towers. The government will immediately review the veracity of smoke hoods and will quickly initiate a national programme to encourage the purchase of smoke hoods by householders if lives might be saved by their use. The Fire Service will immediately review it’s advice to householders in tower blocks and had better have a bloody good reason for telling them to stay in the middle of a fire if their review concludes that that particular advice is not suicidal bollocks. 

Concrete bollards that obstruct fire engines from getting to their deployment points on the scene. Seriously?

Finally, I save a special remark of contempt for the Channel 4 news reporter John Snow who elevated insensitivity to new levels today. In an interview, while bodies were being counted, he demanded that Nick Paget-Brown, the leader of Kensington & Chelsea council, promise the survivors that the smouldering burnt out shell behind them would not be turned into a new block of private luxury flats. It was a cheap and nasty thing to say to a man who had done the right thing and been available for interview all day and, whilst not condoning any errors of judgement in relation to planning that may have been made in the past, certainly didn’t deserve that. That though, is Channel 4 for you and that, is pretty much John Snow. 

Stranger In A Strange Land


Many will simply shake their head while muttering, 'the world has gone mad.' I know I did. We are where we are though. Westminster is trying to figure out how to make a seized up situation work while the rest of the country is going about its business with an air of, 'well that showed them.' The chickens though, whole squadrons of them, will at some point in the future be coming home to roost. In the piece that follows, my friend Tim Price of PriceValue Partners offers his take on events, past, present and future.

“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.” - Thomas Sowell.

It is difficult to know where to begin. That 262 British parliamentary seats fell to a party led by a self-confessed Socialist is bad enough. That said leader lacks the support of 172 of his own MPs is troubling. But that someone who has publicly supported the IRA, Hizbollah and Hamas could attract 12.9 million votes while the United Kingdom is under attack by terrorists simply beggars belief. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, points out that Jeremy Corbyn – who seeks the office of Prime Minister – would not be cleared to join either his former agency, or GCHQ, or MI5; and indeed would, 2 in the past, have been actively investigated by the latter. It is said that you get the politicians you deserve. So what on earth did we do to deserve this ?

Letter to the Financial Times, 8 June 2017, the day of the UK General Election.

Letter to the Financial Times, 8 June 2017, the day of the UK General Election.

Nor are we making a narrow party political point. As Clive Crook points out for Bloomberg, while Jeremy Corbyn offered the UK electorate the sort of swivel-eyed Trotskyism that ought to have died out in the 1970s along with flares and safari jackets, Theresa May was making her own lurch towards the left:

..instead of championing a solidly pro-market centrism, May adopted a semi-skimmed leftism heavy on industrial-policy meddling and other piecemeal dirigisme.

So a plague on both your houses.

Many investors today were forged in the crucible of the Global Financial Crisis. This was, no two ways about it, a crisis originating in debt. The plain numbers are stark. Simon Mikhailovich of Tocqueville Bullion Reserve reminds us of those numbers with a sobering tweet:

A bit of math. With the global debt / GDP ratio at 320% and the cost of average debt service at 2%, it takes 6.4% growth per annum just to service the debt. Not happening.

Our politics have gone mad, and our markets have gone mad with them. As Ronni Stoeferle and Mark Valek point out in their latest, magisterial study of the yellow metal, In Gold We Trust,

We live in an age of advanced monetary surrealism. In Q1 2017 alone, the largest central banks created the equivalent of almost $1,000 billion worth of central bank money ex nihilo. Naturally the fresh currency was not used to fund philanthropic projects but to purchase financial securities*. Although this ongoing liquidity supernova has temporarily created an uneasy calm in financial markets, we are strongly convinced that the real costs of this monetary madness will reveal themselves down the line.

*With that amount of money, one could purchase 20 Big Macs for every person on the planet. Notably in Switzerland – according to the Big Mac Index – the most expensive jurisdiction worldwide. Alternatively, one could also buy one 1/10th oz. gold coin for every person on the planet. We would recommend the latter.

Faced with universally expensive bonds and predominantly expensive stocks, there seems to be little point in low cost index tracking – at present, at least. This is an investment ‘strategy’ that Jim Mellon describes as “pass the parcel for investment morons”. The only sensible and credible responses to the investment challenge of our times can be to diversify broadly, and then invest selectively, and defensively. (Longstanding readers, along with our clients, will know that we put particular emphasis on Benjamin Graham-style value stocks, systematic trend-following funds, and gold.)

This is also a crisis of education. How, aside from craven bribery, could so many young Britons flock to the sirens of socialism ? How did so many millions manage to avoid any grasp of history (or choose to ignore it) ? Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute, however, is not defeatist. He quotes from the master, Hayek: 

We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is.. a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty.. and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal.. They must be.. willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realisation, however remote.

There is otherwise the very real likelihood of nasty intergenerational conflict. The Baby Boomers already ate most of the pies. The millennials and Generation Z are right to be angry. But last week this anger manifested itself in the form of some Corbyn supporters burning newspapers. To anyone with a sense of history, the UK today feels like a very strange, and disturbing, place.


The croft in the Highlands scenario just became a viable option

The croft in the Highlands scenario just became a viable option

The REME vehicle mechanics had been working on the engine pack throughout the night. As dawn rose through the mist on the North German Plain Bombardier Clark turned to me and said, ‘Well Sir, I reckon the things properly fxcking fxcked.’ Bombardier Clark had a way with words which I find difficult to better this morning as I survey the train wreck that is the election result. 

Tory passengers noticed before the driver did that something was awry

Tory passengers noticed before the driver did that something was awry

Despite all the opposition parties swaggering around the studios like winners there aren’t any really. Except for Jeremy Corbyn personally, house prices in Scotland and Ruth Davidson. The parliamentary Labour Party have just been handed their worst nightmare. New Labour is history and New Old Labour is here to stay given that Corbyn’s position is unassailable. Theresa May is on political life-support and will in all likelihood be gone by mid morning or will give notice to leave, (although the BBC are now signalling she intends to stay). I expect you could then say that Boris is a potential winner but he, or whoever the Tories elect, will be handed a chalice laced with political arsenic. One of the things I got right, and there weren’t many, was that Ruth Davidson would shine and she has with a genuinely robust set of wins in Scotland which has nobbled IndyRef 2. The SNP though will have more influence at Westminster than before. The Lib Dems went nowhere and UKIP did every bit as badly as we expected.  The Europeans meanwhile are not happy. They wanted a strong and unified set of negotiators on the other side of the table.

As an act of national collective madness this will take some beating. I look at the fact that so many misguided half-wits voted for a man who supported terrorists uninterrupted for 30 years with bewildering incredulity. The not so nice part of me thinks, ‘Stuff it. I hope you get your grand coalition. Your loans might go down but there will be no jobs for you at the end of it.’ The Conservatives have however, only themselves to blame as I explained in a previous post. They might have been hearing but they weren’t listening. That under 30’s, of all previous political hues and family backgrounds, lurched to Labour is an unforgivable dereliction of responsibility by the Tories. 

One thing is for sure and for certain; we will have another election this year. We’re turning into bloody Italy. This morning, the croft plan doesn't seem so silly. The only, and I do mean the only mitigation in staying up all night was Emily Maitlis in that red dress. I think Bombardier Clark would concur.


For the casualties; the Regimental Band of the Coldstream Guards and Pipes and Drums of the Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) play the beautiful Sands of Kuwait.

It’s Book Club night so the Coven are getting together elsewhere to stir their potions and compose some new spells against a backdrop of suitably windy and wet weather. The dogs are dozing and I am sitting in that lost space between finishing supper and waiting for the post 10pm exit poll for the first indications of how went the day. I can’t say I am too exited. The election campaign has been a missed opportunity for so many to present a challenging and interesting, vibrant and exciting platform for the future. Instead we have had slow-and-steady or being exulted to believe in fairies. Kind of like a choice between school dinners or blowing all your money in one mad night at the casino. Utterly forgettable the lot of them. If that is the best we can come up with as a country then something has truly warped and ruined our usually imaginative, if occasionally cranky, national DNA.

So, my mind has been wandering as it often does. I can’t help dwelling on the extraordinary courage and tenacity of a small number of individuals last Saturday night on London Bridge and in Borough market. The Aussie nurse who ran headlong into danger to help, the journalist who strode over to take on the terrorists, the London Transport police officer who stood in the shoes of so many before him, the bar manager who struggled to keep the doors of the bar closed against the attackers, the young Spaniard swinging his skateboard to defend others, the bloody minded Millwall fan who wasn’t having any of it. Brave, brave people who in an instant, were confronted with life threatening danger. Up close and personal and through instinctive self preservation, training, selfless courage, anger, belligerence, selflessness; who knows, something clicked in. They saved lives. In some cases at the cost of their own. Others amongst them suffered grevious wounds. We will remember that day for many reasons.

John Bamford GC. Awarded the George Cross in 1952 at the age of 15 after rescuing his two brothers from a house fire despite suffering terrible burns

John Bamford GC. Awarded the George Cross in 1952 at the age of 15 after rescuing his two brothers from a house fire despite suffering terrible burns

We don’t give awards for bravery away with Lucky Bags in this country. The starting premise, certainly for those in uniform, is that everyone does their bit. That is, you have to do something a bit special, above and beyond to be recognised. When recognition is due though, the system is usually unstinting in recognising it. There are occasional omissions. It has often been the case that acts of bravery have not been witnessed, some people have been better at writing citations up than have others but as a general rule, the right thing happens. The hurdles to recognition are unashamedly high. For example, as a rule of thumb, it is said that for the George Cross Committee of the Cabinet Office to recommend the award of a George Cross, (awarded to civilians and the equal of the Victoria Cross), there should have been a 90% probability of the recipient being killed. You can see some examples on the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association web site here. Members of Army Regiments and Corps mostly all know the names of their Regiments recipients of the Victoria Cross and all recruits are taught in their Regimental history lessons the stories of days when their forbears won multiple awards in the same action such as the Lancashire Fusiliers ‘Six VC’s before breakfast,’ at Gallipoli. 

I believe the actions of those brave individuals on Saturday night will, in time and after an appropriate period of mourning for the dead, be seen in that light. Their fighting spirit and sacrifice will come to have some meaning for us all and they will be remembered for a very, very long time, not just for their individual actions but for what collectively it signifies. A medal is not worth a life, it just isn’t. But embracing what they did, and remembering them, might save lives. I genuinely do believe we ought to start treating the dead and wounded of terrorist actions as war casualties and give the memory of their actions the dignity they earned.