Snowflake Soldiers?

This is what the fuss is about

Another week passes and one with yet another silly story about Defence. Following the spurious, ‘Queen Elizabeth Sprung A Leak,’ tale we had the '£1 per head for Christmas in Afghanistan,’ then the ‘Be The Best,’  slogan being scrapped nonsense and now we have the over-the-top criticism of the Army’s new inclusive recruiting campaign which has driven retired officers to pen letters and columns for newspapers in apoplectic rage.  We will be hearing more stories like this as more and more people become restless as the growing budgetary penny pinching bites harder. What all of this disguises though, is a real honest and open debate about the threat, what the government wants the Army to do, how it is going to man and equip it and how the Army will shape itself to meet its commitments. Quite frankly, I very much doubt if many in Whitehall can sensibly address that whether they be in uniform or not.

% of BAME recruits 2015-2017

% of BAME recruits 2015-2017

This though, is another storm in a teacup, just like the telephone answering thing last week that started up a whole convoy of Outrage Buses. My understanding is that the last 'Belonging' campaign is rated a success within the Army, (applications +34%). Capita, to whom the recruiting process is contracted, obviously, are not. The process is so designed, or ill designed, to present the potential recruit with so many obstacles most simply give up long before they enter any training depot. The scandal with Capita is that the situation does not appear to be improving year on year. Notwithstanding that, any effort to broaden the Army's appeal throughout society has to be a good thing given the pitiful representation of some ethnic groups. I discussed recruiting issues, and some modest suggestions in previous posts here and here.

breakdown, by Service, of the numbers of Armed Forces personnel by self-declared religion as of 1st April 2017, (Simple addition evidently leaves something to be desired at the MOD).

breakdown, by Service, of the numbers of Armed Forces personnel by self-declared religion as of 1st April 2017, (Simple addition evidently leaves something to be desired at the MOD).

Moreover, and this may come as a newsflash to some of my fellow retired brethren, the MOD has a Prime Ministerial, (David Cameron), target that 10% of all recruits to the Armed Forces should be from a Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) background by 2020. The Army meets this target, (as at April 2017), probably because of the Commonwealth intake; the other services fall well short. Additionally, the MOD has a further target of 15% of the services to be female by 2020 with women eligible for infantry and armoured roles from this year in a further crackpot farewell decision from Mr Cameron.

% of female recruits 2015-17

% of female recruits 2015-17

The armed forces face numerous headwinds, most of which we have previously discussed but in essence, may be summarised as follows,

  • Near record employment (currently the unemployment rate in the UK is 4.3%, the lowest since 1975). The drop in unemployment in the 18-24 year old bracket is especially dramatic.
  • Demographic change. The UK has an ageing population with those of military age declining as a proportion of the total. In addition, the proportion of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) members of the population is rising, a segment of the community which has, hitherto, shown a low propensity to apply for military service.
  • The ending of the deployment to Afghanistan in 2014 has removed the “recruiting sergeant” of active land warfare operations, a factor which has traditionally helped to maintain interest among young recruits, who have regularly seen footage of British troops involved in overseas conflicts relayed into their homes.
  • A shrinking military footprint. The MOD’s estate has been downsized in recent years, partly in order to meet other policy objectives, such as provision of land for housing. This has led to a situation where in many towns around the United Kingdom the only remaining military presence is provided by cadet units. 
  • These trends are exacerbated by other factors such as an increase in obesity in the United Kingdom in the past two decades plus an increase in post 16 year olds staying on in education (a factor which has particularly affected recruiting in the Army). The UK has the highest proportion of obesity of 27% in Europe, i.e. a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30. A further 36% are overweight (BMI of between 25 and 30).
  • Medical screening by Capita is bureaucratic, inflexible and has long time lines. 90% of individuals who are failed when attempting to join the Armed Forces do so on medical grounds.According to a “snapshot analysis” taken from the Army Recruiting Review in February 2017 over a twelve month period 14,269 applicants (both Regular and Reserve) were failed on medical grounds; as opposed to 575 who were failed for prominent tattoos; 262 for residency requirements and 182 for having unacceptable criminal records.
  • The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010 (SDSR 2010) led to four rounds of redundancy in the Army and two in the Royal Navy, plus reductions in the Royal Air Force. This drawdowns have tainted the recruitment picture, with the Armed Forces still attempting to recruit new (younger) personnel whilst making more experienced personnel redundant. This created a perception that the Armed Forces were no longer “open for business”.
  • In 2013 the waiver of the 5 year residency requirement for Commonwealth Troops was terminated. This has led to a significant reduction in the number of Commonwealth recruits. In 2016, with Home Office agreement, a limited exception was made for 200 in restricted trades. Currently there have been over 13,000 applications for these places – the window for applying has been closed for the next two years as a consequence. Given the competition for places, the successful applicants are some of our physically fittest recruits but the resultant gap of over 500 recruits has had to be filled elsewhere.

Lower retention than expected and a failure to achieve recruiting targets means under-manning is deteriorating. The Royal Navy and the RAF are now running at around 10% short of their annual recruitment target, whilst for the Army the shortfall is over 30%.

The imaginative among you will already have figured out a variety quick fixes to the immediate manning problem which might include for example lifting barriers to entry for the Commonwealth and that traditional source of fine fighting soldiers for the British Army, Ireland. Capita also need to be gripped, low and hard. I hear and read much anecdotal evidence of their shortcomings but the systems failures are known and documented. A paragraph from the 2017 Tri Service External Scrutiny Report (published in July 2017) bears repeating at length, as it acts as a very good summary of the problems inherent in the current system. Although this relates to the Reserves, the problems are very similar for the Regulars as well.

“It is commonplace on every unit to hear that default referrals have been based on instances such as nonrecurring childhood ailments (brief use of an inhaler or a very minor fracture); precautionary prescriptions that were then never used; or emotional stability because of stress/counselling in the wake of, say, a family bereavement. Medical deferrals also receive a bad press from recruits, especially in the case of manifestly athletic candidates (in at least one case playing at national level) to whom a rigid Body Mass Index has been applied. As we say earlier, we acknowledge the grounds for a specific medical standard but it does seem clear to us that in too many instances it is being applied without adequate background knowledge or common sense. We are also told that the medical opinion being applied differs widely between locations. One unit which initially experienced a near 100% referral rate, went to the lengths of making their local Capita assessing GP an honorary unit member to address the problem – which it did. As medical assessments are now conducted under civilian contracts it is reasonable to assume that the assessing GPs and their staff have little Service background. If they are to deliver this Service effectively, they need better instruction/direction and we sense there needs to be better quality control across the regions. The single Services should review their recruiting medical contracts to ensure assessments are carried out with a greater degree of consistency and common sense.” 
evry picture.........

evry picture.........

Capita took responsibility for recruiting in 2012. They should hang their heads in shame at their performance. Regular solider applications, which were c70,000 in 11/12, fell to c45000 12/13 and has remained broadly at around that level ever since. Regular solider enlistments fell from c10,000 in 12/13 to 6,500 – 7,500 from 13/14 onwards.

Many of the comments following last weeks furore which I have read in the press and on social media show a lack of appreciation for the way in which life for the average student at school has changed over the years. Given the shrinking size of the UK’s Armed Forces since World War II and also the shrinking footprint of military installations around the country, unless they have served in a cadet unit, or already come from a military family, most people leaving school have very little, if any, experience of or exposure to the Armed Forces. Something which I have highlighted since the inception of this blog. Decision makers probably overestimate the degree to which young people understand the military and its ethos and in fact some surveys have shown that they have very little understanding at all. The annual PWC Forces for Change survey found that 18-34 year olds were less aware of the job opportunities provided by the armed forces with only 75% of respondents believing the Armed Forces were important to the UK economy in offering jobs and employment opportunities compared to the national average of 81%. 

Things though, are not quite as bleak as they might appear. While the institutional historical memory may be dimming, and the lights may have gone out altogether for the retired cohort, the Army has been here before. 

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I joined in 1978 which was not a particularly good time for the Armed Forces. Money was short. Training, ammunition, clothing and supplies were all rationed, (unless units were heading to NI). Recruitment was challenging and it wasn't at all unusual for battalions to do an operational tour with a platoon seconded from another regiment to bring it up to strength. Indeed, my CO at the time offered £20 a head to anyone who brought new recruits to the regiment. Observers fretted about 'society going down the tubes,' with the advent of punk rockers and political instability saw soldiers clearing up rubbish in the streets and on fire duty in place of those then on strike who anyway were paid more than the soldiers brought in to do their work. It all changed when Mrs T was elected the following year. For my part, and those around me, we didn't enjoy our soldiering any less and it did have it's lighter moments. On arriving at the QM Stores to exchange my well worn plimsolls on one occasion I was sent off at the high port by the QM with the classic, 'bugger off ya chancer; there's another 3,000 miles in they gutties.'

3 SCOTS deploying to Iraq last week on Op Shader.... not a snowflake in sight.

It is of course entirely normal for one generation of soldiers to look out of the window and think things have changed for the worse. It was ever thus. Back in 1980, after many hours waiting on standby in some side streets in Lurgan during the Hunger Strike riots, we got the order to move in and take over from the RUC who were taking a bit of a battering. As we moved forward a more experienced Corporal turned to me and said, 'Dinnea sweat it, this is nothing like as bad as the Ardoyne in '72.' I thought to myself, 'well a brick in the face or a sucking chest wound probably feel just as bad whichever postcode and time you happen to be in.'  That Corporal, 'Annie' Oakley, was incidentally, one of the best infantry soldiers I ever came across. He moved like a cat and had a natural understanding and affinity for his environment, whether on the streets or in rural areas. 

Moreover, I have been deeply impressed with those of the current senior NCO cadre in the Army who I have met. If the Army has that right then it has grounds for optimism. The years spent in Afghanistan should and are yielding significant rewards in the quality of training output. The training itself may be a shade less 'gritty,' but it appears to me, with my limited knowledge, to be more thorough. The past aggression and 'grittiness,' of training has anyway been overplayed by critics over the past week. Even at the Scottish Infantry Depot in 1978, which was no lay-up, NCO's were ordered not to swear at recruits. This was a challenge for many of them given few could complete a word never mind a sentence in normal conversation without inserting some slice of profanity.

Frank - Army advert from 1992 containing two of the things you rarely see as an infanteer; helicopters when you need them and pretty girls.

In summary, the MOD is doing what it has been mandated to do to address BAME recruitment. With limited manpower, budgets and real estate the Army is constrained in its outreach to its traditional recruiting base which is filling with young men and women who don't actually know much about the services, don't come into contact with them and who enjoy higher career aspirations and education attainment than perhaps did previous generations. The recruitment process is a complete clusterfxck and acts as deterrent to recruitment which should be timely, transparent, informed and engaged. The two scary aspects to the entire debate is a seeming absence of political will to confront and solve what are hardly intractable challenges. The lack of interest from the Prime Minister herself is worrying. The second, as I alluded to earlier, is a complete vacuum in the mainstream press with regard to the higher level defence debate. It is 2018 but in that regard we could easily be in 1938. In respect of those currently serving, I think we can have every confidence that they meet or exceed any standard laid down by their predecessors. We just need more of them.

British Army; Faces - It takes all sorts....

A Good Man

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I note from posts on the Facebook that one of the great heroes of the Falklands War, Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly has passed away. 

Rick Jolly arrived in the Falklands in May 1982 where he was Officer Commanding Medical Squadron of the Commando Logistic Regiment Royal Marines. As such he was Senior Medical Officer of 3 Commando Brigade RM and commanded the field hospital at Ajax Bay. Jolly wore the green beret, having passed the Royal Marine Commando course and while offered a weapon, chose not to carry one on the basis he was there to save lives. At the hastily set up ‘MASH” style field hospital, in a disused slaughterhouse in Ajax Bay, he did just that. 

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The hospital was situated next to an ammunition dump, as those were the only roofed buildings available of any size fit for purpose. Therefore, due to its position, Brigadier Julian Thompson ordered they were not to paint a Red Cross on the buildings to highlight the hospital due to the terms of the Geneva Convention. At the height of the battle of Goose Green four bombs were dropped in the area, killing five people as the hospital was swamped with severely injured soldiers. Two of the bombs actually got stuck in the ­hospital roof, but failed to ­detonate. Yet Dr Jolly and his team continued to operate despite fears that they could have gone off at any moment. “Then the casualties from Goose Green started streaming in. We treated 47 casualties, some with terrible injuries, but they all survived. After most had been treated I said, ‘By the way, we’ve got two unexploded bombs in the back. They could be on 37-hour timers, but we’re on 46 hours now so we’re all right’. Everybody roared with laughter.” Should you feel some frustration next time you find yourself sitting waiting in the local A&E for four hours you may care to reflect on that story. 

Rick Jolly interviewed

The conditions in the field hospital were poor and despite the dirt, poor lighting, air attacks and the presence of two unexploded bombs, only 3 of the 580 British soldiers and marines wounded in action were to die of their wounds and none while under the care of Dr Jolly. Days after it opened an Argentine Sky Hawk aircraft scored a direct hit with two bombs, which failed to go off and remained partially exposed in the building throughout his time there. To save lives the 120 military medical staff at the field hospital knew they had to act fast, cleaning wounds, amputating limbs, treating dreadful burns, removing bullets and patching up the walking wounded before they were transferred to a hospital ship, the SS Uganda. After the Sir Galahad was hit, killing 48 soldiers and crewmen, the tiny field hospital was deluged with more than 120 injured men.

“I was very proud to work with a great team I had trained," said Commander Jolly. “We lifted morale among the fighting soldiers because we were their friends and they knew it. Word got around that if they arrived alive at the field hospital they would leave alive. We had some brilliant successes. We treated many Argentine special forces as well and we even persuaded Argentinian soldiers to give blood to help us save their injured."

Casualties coming ashore from Sir Galahad

Casualties coming ashore from Sir Galahad

Jolly wrote the book 'The Red and Green Life Machine' about his experiences, later republished as 'Doctor for Friend and Foe: Britain's Frontline Medic in the Fight for the Falklands.'  He was awarded an OBE by the Queen in 1983 in the South Atlantic Honours List and was given the Orden de Mayo (Order of May) by Argentina, 17 years after the conflict, in recognition of the treatment given to the country’s wounded soldiers. Being a foreign decoration, Jolly had to write to Her Majesty the Queen for permission to wear his Order of May award with his other medals, to which she personally authorised him to wear the award "on all occasions" on behalf of the three hundred British Naval, Royal Marines and Army medics involved in the war. However, he has been nominated for this award for co-founding the South Atlantic Medal Association, a vital organisation for Task Force members who put their lives on the line or were part of the huge support operation for the conflict.

At a subsequent lecture after the war he described being invited to the Pentagon to speak to the heads of the medical branches of each of the US armed forces. He described telling the Americans that each soldier had a syrette of morphine, issued because British forces weren't numerous enough to stop and give first aid to their wounded comrades. There was a stunned silence among the Americans. One of them pointed out that, had morphine syrettes been issued to US troops, there would have been none left by the time the troops landed.....

I recall that both during and after the war, the achievements of Rick Jolly and his team were rightly, a source of great national pride embraced by all. Good people, led by a very good man.

CrumbleCoin

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Bitcoin, and the rest of the cryptocurrency universe, continues to enthral and entertain some while befuddling and bewildering others. No prizes for guesses which camp I am in. Here in the UK it’s all a bit of a fairground sideshow with few other than true apostles taking it seriously. That is beginning to change and like all central banks, the Bank of England is alert to the young upstarts and is taking steps to increase its institutional knowledge of this digital phenomenon which has gripped the attention of markets, entrepreneurs, organised crime and law enforcement across the world, (although the extreme volatility is likely to deter criminals from trusting it).  Expect growing regulatory interest in cryptocurrencies to be a theme for 2018. Cryptocurrencies are the Wild West of the investment universe with zero regulatory oversight, high cyber risk, no deposit insurance and no central clearing body. Notwithstanding the fact that criminals have the potential to run rings around money laundering legislation

It is said that about 40% of Bitcoin is owned by around 1,000 people, most of whom live in the San Francisco Bay area. But, the dominant forces in Bitcoin are in Asia. In Japan for example, there are roughly 1 million Bitcoin day-traders and somewhere in the region of 300,000 shops who accept Bitcoin for payment. South Korea, Asia’s fourth largest economy, which until this week accounted for 20% of daily volume in Bitcoin, has three of the largest Bitcoin exchanges but has recently banned trading in Bitcoin futures. The justice ministry there is considering banning Bitcoin completely. Expect more regulators to toughen their stance.

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Examples of the ‘Madness of Crowds,’ are not hard to find. In December Long Island Iced Tea Corp, a soft drinks maker, changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp. Its shares rocked 350% higher in three days. Then, the company announced it would sell shares to raise $7.74m saying in its filing that “it was shifting its primary corporate focus towards the exploration of and investment in opportunities that leverage the benefits of blockchain technology.” Moving quickly the company then announced it had entered into a purchase agreement to acquire 1,000 ‘mining rigs,’ to be used to ‘mine bitcoin, bitcoin cash and any other cash using SHA256 algorithim,’ for $4.2m. So, in two weeks the soft drinks company which incidentally intends to continue to manufacture soft drinks has changed its name, raised an improbable amount of cash and now ‘is focused on developing and investing in globally scalable blockchain technology solutions. It is dedicated to becoming a significant participant in the evolution of blockchain technology that creates long term value for its shareholders and the global community by investing in and developing businesses that are “on-chain.”

LBCC though, is in the nursery compared to others out there. How about UBI Blockchain Internet who filed with the SEC to sell 72.2m shares owned by management? Back in 2016 it acquired a shell company called JA Energy and changed its name. In the December mania the shares rocketed 1,100% in just 6 days from $7.20 to $87 giving it a market cap of $8bn. 3 days later the shares plummeted 67% to $29. Still though giving it a market cap of $3.6bn, not bad for a company with no revenues and an operating loss of $1.83m in 2017 and a disconnected telephone number in its filing. Proceeds from the share sale were destined to go to management, not the company. Unsurprisingly, the SEC suspended the shares on Monday.

Oh there is more, much more. Longfin listed in December in the US. In its filing it said it had revenues of $298,000 last year and $75 in cash. Two days after listing the shares soared 2,700% giving it a market cap of $7bn after making an announcement with the word ‘blockchain,’ in it. The shares have more than halved since but still sit at a numbing $45.65 with a market cap of >$4bn.

Digital Power, which makes power supplies for computers, saw the afterburners light up behind its share price when it announced it would aim its services at cryptocurrency miners. That was worth a near 900% share price rally. The shares subsequently lost about half of the rally but have still massively benefited from just one announcement mentioning cryptocurrencies.

So, what is blockchain and what is bitcoin?

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Blockchain is the clever bit. Simply put, it is an ever growing record of all the transactions ever done in bitcoin. It is the grand (digital) ledger which cannot be retrospectively altered. There are though, thousands of copies of the grand ledger, all of which are updated when a transaction takes place checking for consistency to confirm you have the bitcoins you claim to have. When it all checks out the new transaction is added to all the ledgers simultaneously. Because all the ledgers have to reconcile to confirm someone’s ownership  no central entity, (like a bank), is needed. The problem, or the advantage, with blockchain, is that it is free.

While there is a limit to the number of bitcoins that can be created there is no limit to the number of cryptocurrencies that can be created. Yep, just a cute name and a few hours at the PC with some moderate skills and you too could be off and away. Something not lost on the creators of Dogecoin. It was started as a spoof (Doge-coin) and now has a market cap of $1bn, one of more than 1,365 crypto coins out there.

OK kid, you win this time.

OK kid, you win this time.

Some, including Goldman, Citi and indeed one of the Crumble kids believe that cryptocurrencies are viable as an alternative to traditional stores of value. Perhaps they will be but certainly not until government enforcement through regulation dampens their volatility.

The coins though have no intrinsic value. Bitcoin itself is simply an electronic receipt listing a line of transactions and is backed by fresh air…… and there are another 1,364 in a growing list of other coins out there. Of course, it has market value, for the moment but that is simply a supply and demand equation that can evaporate with fickle fashion driven users as quickly as it arrived. The valuable asset is blockchain technology but you are not buying that technology when you buy bitcoin. Blockchain is free, absolutely free which is why the barriers to new coin entrants is non-existent. It is also where the value lies. When the coin mania subsides, and a bunch of people are counting their losses and a smaller number their winnings, new ways to use blockchain with positive social and economic utility will emerge, some of which will properly benefit our daily lives.  

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Before that happens, I am joining the party. The launch of CrumbleCoin is just around the corner.  

Internet Irritation & Rail Rants

I was especially pleased with Mad, Bad, Axe and Wax being of course, a devoted student of the 3-Letter Kowtowsky-Liebstein Variant of the popular board game. 

I was especially pleased with Mad, Bad, Axe and Wax being of course, a devoted student of the 3-Letter Kowtowsky-Liebstein Variant of the popular board game. 

I fear I was alone in the family for the ten days over the holidays during which we had a complete internet outage in finding it somewhat liberating. No one seemed to share my sense of emancipation from digital shackles which was something of a shame really. My aspiration for special family bonding time, 'just like the power cuts when I was a boy,' met with fixed stares and the words 'fix it Dad,' and the heartening uplift in family games only led to sequential heavy defeats across the board-game spectrum ranging from Scrabble, Monopoly, Bastard Boggle and most disappointingly Backgammon, (incidentally, if someone ever suggests you play a game called Cards Against Humanity then run hard, run fast and don't look back).

Notwithstanding the 'Internet Incident of 2017,' as it will no doubt be remembered, what started as a slow momentum festive season seemed to reach something of a transitional pivot point round about the 22nd from when things seemed to go into top gear and stayed that way until last week. It was a runaway train I was happy to jump off. Sometimes, you really can have too much fun. So, into the cold and sober month of January when the taps are turned off. I'll probably crack on again for another couple of months this year after January - there is no way I'm turning up to watch a commissioning parade looking like a tub of lard. So, three months of goodness and virtue, water and green tea. How difficult really, can it be?

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Most of the country didn't bother turning up to work last week and in fact this is the first full week for most businesses. I was then, slightly surprised when, arriving at Petersfield Station yesterday, there was no sign of my friends motor car, (he almost always is parked in the very first spot). I pinged a text to him to enquire if he was on holiday. He replied that he was not.... but I had evidently lit a fuse. He went on to text...

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That's because after a year of faithful train commuting for the princely sum if £12k including car park, petrol, season ticket and before the odd taxi and cost of renting films to watch on the journey I have gone back to biking in as I have a space under the building to park for free and leave my kit on the bike This works in winter as London is completely devoid of hooray Henrys and ex pat suicidal Italians on bald tyred Vespa's as they only come out in summer and there are a huge amount less of crack-pot lycra-clad cyclists who seem on an endless mission to end their own lives prematurely by jumping red lights and undertaking lorries in the blind spots etc

Moreover, no 3 days go by without disruption since SWR took over 3 months ago and the system to refund the days when you are delayed has been designed by the direct decendants of the enigma code encryption designers. Just check out their website.

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You know it's not going to be good when a bloke uses more than three words in a text. Perhaps he was having a bad day. There are very few South Western commuters though, who will not empathise.

 

 

 

 

Birthday Blues

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Another birthday rolled around this weekend. I continue to get older and whilst spiritually feel much the same as I did thirty years ago the body is operating off a different script. Everything is still there, just not functioning with the same mechanical fluidity which once it enjoyed. My knees feel like they are clogged up with rust and I’m pretty certain they’ll be giving me a new hip at some point although we’ll leave that for as long as possible. Time is though, a bastard. Heaven knows where this year has gone; the seasons have spun around with what feels like accelerating momentum. It is as if someone has messed with the Space Time Continuum and a second, an hour, a day have speeded up and just don't seem to last as long as once they did. That, is ominous. The only gadget I need for my birthday is a bloody Tardis. Indeed, when I look back on 2017 and my impressive list of intended New Year resolutions, I have to report that I am no closer to starting, never mind finishing, items 1-5. The world then will have to wait another year for my first book which is still stuck on the opening paragraph and I’m no closer to learning to code than I am to learning ancient Aramaic. In fact the only resolution which I have robustly maintained was the one, ’to make a stranger smile every day.’ Funny how a small bit of kindness or humour has genuine efficacy. Makes me feel better about the world anyway and perhaps the world feel better about me.

Go for it boys!

Go for it boys!

In keeping with the approach of most men, birthdays are treated as low a key events as is possible and dinner with close friends on Saturday was about as extrovert as I would wish to get, (and good fun it was too). I do though miss the fun parties we conjured up in the past when the kids were younger. What could be more fun than inflating 250 balloons of different colours and telling 3 teams of 7 year olds to let rip and burst all the balloons of their team’s colour? The game only lasted 3 minutes but it was a hoot. Or the Dodgeball game for 11 year olds with water-bombs instead of a ball, the survival weekend in the woods, the 'build a catapult and fire an egg over the house game,’ or indeed the Round Robin with Command Tasks and Argocat driving.  Fun times….. perhaps I should organise similar for grown-up friends. Now that would be fun. 

Grateful thanks incidentally for the kind birthday wishes sent by various digital means. A big part of me doesn’t need the reminder but actually, they are nice to receive so thank you.

It's A Dad's Lot

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So, today I have one boy serving in the Army, one boy who has decided to go on a pre Christmas trip travelling around the Ukraine of all places and a daughter who, for unknown reasons best known to herself, has decided to go to a football match of all things.

Who should I worry about most?

I have in the meantime, in a sole effort, successfully erected the Christmas tree this afternoon...... not that anyone is here to share the moment this year.... perhaps next weekend!

 

Update

I looked at my notebook and saw I have a queue of some 22 items I have scribbled a note about and many of which are half written, which at some point, will become 22 blog posts. That is a weak way of saying, 'haven't posted in a wee while but boy, have I got some really important, witty, emotional... blah blah things to say.....!' I will get round to it. In the meantime, and in the the interests of simply putting something up there, let's check out some of the latest Snapchatty messages from the family which, I must say, have been somewhat scant in frequency of late. Could it be because Dad sticks the odd one on his blog? Anyway, (few 'in' family jokes here but they're out there for posterity now), these made me smile...(click to move).

World Class Letter

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While not wishing to detract from Lt Col Ewen Southby-Tailyours world class letter to the Telegraph, he obviously hasn't read my recent post, 'Different Armies, Same Problem.' In summary, it is becoming more difficult, and expensive, to recruit men and women to the Armed Forces for a variety of reasons and most come from the same backgrounds that they always have. Moreover, the aspiration to have Armed Forces that reflect society is not new. Indeed the Prince of Wales many years ago let it be known that he would like to see more diversity in the Household Division where in-roads have since been made. Nonetheless, the Colonel's point is made and accepted. We do though, really need to see a broader representation of citizens serving, even in the Royal Marines.