Back in the summer I thought I would take a little break from the Blog. It turned out to be a longer break than I anticipated. Not many people noticed but then I have always written for my own entertainment and as a matter of record rather than for an audience. Anyway, Crumble is back and let’s get the engines turning over again with this wonderful clip of a two year metalwork project by a Jedi of the Forge called Seth Gould. The result of his craftsmanship is a genuine piece of inspired crafted beauty. I am beside myself with admiration, envy and respect.
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." T.E. Lawrence; Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Glancing down the sidebar at the archives I am reminded that the blog is seven years old this month. My repository for random thoughts, ideas and occasional middle aged rants has become something of a good companion. Certainly, writing now and again has proved to be somewhat more cathartic than shouting at the dogs when no one else will listen which, understandably, is most of the time. To write a successful blog it should be regularly updated, (best done at specific times daily), and the more specialised it is the more likely it is to harvest a strong and loyal readership. I do none of those things, preferring an eclectic and individual approach about things that mostly interest, concern or amuse me. As a result, the number of hits vary enormously with some posts receiving many thousands of hits while others immediately sink without trace. Attempting to analyse the readership is simply baffling with the most unlikely posts spiking in popularity without obvious reason. The post on dialects for example remains the best read post on the blog of all time.
So, to mark our seventh birthday, and to prove just how shallow your correspondent really is, I happily represent one of the early posts from 2010 and shall stare at the skies all weekend with an air of hope and optimism. Just to demonstrate the equal opportunity blogger that you know I am, here's one for the girls.
A 49 page parliamentary report from the Foreign Affairs Committee published today draws some pretty damming conclusions on David Cameron's ill advised and poorly planned and executed foray into Libya in 2011.
Drawing all the critical strands together in the report we can neatly summarise them with the technical phrase which is often used on these occasions, it was a clusterfxck.
The failure of the half hearted enterprise was hard coded in it's very inception. We had no business being there and the policy of doing so at minimum political and military risk with no thought to nation building at the conclusion of the operation was either naive or simply stupid. Perhaps it was both.
Now, Crumble is no Kissinger and I hate to say I told you so....... but I told you so. In what I thought at the time were some pretty good posts, I repeatedly articulated what was plain to any passing bystander but not to the genius's in Whitehall who failed to soak in any lessons from other recent interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and seemed oblivious to events in the rest of the Middle East. Sometimes I think you could hammer six inch nails into their foreheads and it wouldn't make any difference to their ability to reason.
Just for the record, here are the posts from February to August 2011,
Unrest in Libya and Haslemere February 22nd, 2011
Libya; The Wrong Issue For Britain March 4th 2011
Libya; Who's The Nutty One? March 31st 2011
Libya; Straight Talking At Last April 4th 2011
Another Fine Mess......... April 14th 2011
Libya; Coalition Fragments July 15th 2011
Bless August 23rd 2011
What is to be done then to assist the Prime Minister of the day in making a balanced foreign policy decision thereby avoiding reckless interventions such as Libya. We can't go on leaving entire countries in a bigger mess than they were before we turned up uninvited. In my view, the Prime Minister needs a sanity check mechanism in his decision making process. One that is unencumbered with domestic political or career mindsets and definitely no policy wonks straight from the PPE course at Oxford. What I have in mind is a panel of six or eight clever folk who have an expertise in looking at problems in four dimensions, obliquely and from the inside out. They could be specialists in given fields but it isn't a hard requirement. Their task on being given a briefing paper would simply be to figure out the unintended consequences if the paper became policy. Their job would be to ask the 'what if's?' that others are either too timid, too inexperienced or too stupid to ask. Their input might just assist the Prime Minister and his or her Cabinet in coming to better judged decisions, or at least be more conversant with risk. The team could work from a basement in Whitehall or from their home locations. All they need is the highest security clearance, be politically agnostic and without any career ambition in government. You could say that I've just described MI6 but that hasn't worked out so well over the past twenty years has it?
Back to the blog in 2011 and this post, Libya, The Black Watch & Spike was my favourite, mostly because of this concluding line from Spike Milligan, 'How long was I in the Army?...... Five foot eleven!'
With the current plethora of Great War documentaries on television it would be easy to become a Great War Grief Groupie, cheek set firmly over to one shoulder and immersed in a constant slaughter / innocents / sad / epoch, social changing loop of evocative “wave the boys goodbye,” nostalgic and theatrical emotional for a lost generation that none of us ever knew but one that we choose to believe we know so well, as if the average Pals Regiment recruit came from next door. It’s true that not a family in the land was left untouched by the Great War and actually, it’s just fantastic to witness the resurgence in interest across all ages in matters historical pertaining to the conflict.
I’ve enjoyed a lifelong interest in the subject and all its geopolitical and social derivatives. The more I learn, the less I realise I really understand. Just for now though, I would like to share just one wee small part of the massive canvas that is the Great War that utterly fascinates me. That is, the way people talked.
In a time when people could identify one another, their backgrounds, exactly where they came from, (by village, not just general region), by their accents, intonations and slang the sheer richness and depth of speech to me is an utter wonder. What might it have been like to be at Waterloo station as the trains departed for France with the general hubbub all-around of impenetrable fast Buckie voices, deep Hampshire burrs, fast witted cockney, lazy drawling Norfolk………….? For us, the fantastic diversity of our counties has long been homogenised into approximate North East / North West / South West etc regional groups and as each year passes we lose more of our spoken heritage.
One of the wonders for me then, in watching the Great War documentaries, is to listen to the real voices of Edwardian days. We can though, do better than snatches in a television documentary.
In 1916, an Austrian academic called Alois Brandl made recordings of British prisoners-of-war and their regional accents. By a miracle, they survived the bombing of Berlin in the Second World War while being stored at the Humbolt University and were ultimately tracked down by a linguistics academic called John Adams. Well played John. Treat yourself and take a peek into history by listening to some of these magical recordings.
In fact, the British Library website has literally, a door into another world with various projects such as the Millennium Memory Bank and their survey of English Dialects.
So what can we do? We’re hardly going to adopt an “accent of the week,” and pretend to be Devonshire farmhands from 1912 are we? No we’re not. The BBC are utterly rubbish. Their idea of diversification in being a national broadcaster is to grab the three nearest northerners hanging around their shiny new headquarters in Salford and stick them on the telly but its not really exploiting the breadth that we’re looking for in our wonderful country. ITV though are even worse. They give us bloody Downton Abbey which very much sounds to me as if its cast comes straight from inner-circle-middle-class Fulham in 2014............... well, that's actually what they are but aren't they supposed to be acting as other people? Idle script, idle direction and idle acting. I'd rather spend an hour kissing someone with the Ebola virus than I would watching that drivel.
Crumble then, is here to help.
You can’t get more diverse than the beautifully soft and melodic accent from Stornaway and that is exactly the sort of thing we need to hear more of to calm us after a stressful day at the office and the bloody awful commute home. Fortunately Anne Lundon, who at present is criminally wasted on BBC Scotland and urgently needs to be brought to the attention of the nation, is waiting for the head honcho’s at the Beep to hear the clarion call from the people.
Let’s celebrate the who and what we are as a country. Come on down Anne, West Sussex is calling.
One of the really cool things about this summer, and the unusually hot weather, is the way our girls have thrown themselves into the current fashion for all things Sixties with unbridled enthusiasm. I'm observing from afar with similar unbridled enthusiasm, for the Sixties that I remember growing up in as a child was just about all in black and white in my memory........... I kid you not. Even so, as a five year old the last thing I was interested in was what clothes girls were wearing. I lived in a world of lace up leather shoes that hurt like buggery for the first three months, shorts, balaclava's and two-sizes-too-big duffel coats and avoiding the big boys in 4b.
But, and I'm just putting it out there, the Fashionista's weren't the first to generate this revival, no Sir. May I draw your attention to the epic 2011 "Ken & Barbie," Haslemere Rugby Club rugby tour to Gloucestershire and the proud winner of the Best Dressed Tourist Award, (my first sporting award and quite fairly awarded I thought because I took a change of dress for the evening).
Quick tip for the girls here loves; the high heel thing doesn't really work with short skirts, well not unless you have legs like Cyd Charisse. Follow my lead and stick to flats as I'm demonstrating above.
Where Crumble goes, the fashion world follows.
It's been a while with some interruptions from work and elsewhere that have precluded my full attention. Never mind, I've enjoyed driving myself witless trying to re engineer this wretched page and I've ended up with a worse version than the last, (Thanks Squarespace, this new version 6 reminds me of trying to make sense of Microsoft Vista with instructions in Swahili tabulated in Braille). Much more work required but we all need to start somewhere I suppose.
Still, not much has changed. The Government remain utterly clueless and are driving the ship hard toward the iceberg marked, "debt implosion," in a land fit for wind turbines and £80bn railways to nowhere. Bloody Downton Abbey is coming back and we're finishing one war but warming up for another. What's more the bins still are being emptied only once a fortnight and South West Trains and the public school system continue to send me into penury.
Still, we all make our own choices in life and we can enjoy trying to make sense of it all with a bit of stoic humour and common sense. There will be something more of a financial tilt to the blog going forward; I simply feel that the financial car crash that we're hurtling toward needs a broader airing and unless the passing reader knows where to look he may remain blissfully unaware of the structural problems out there. Perhaps thats the best way to be.