Sometimes Pompous Sometimes Not.

Some passing thoughts from 2019 are offered, many of which failed to impress Newspaper Editors so I am absolutely confident that they will remain widely unread………………………………………………….

Neither Liberal Nor Democrat.   A recent example of Brexit unpleasantness is offered by the posting of a photograph of Nigel Farage within the cross hairs of a rifle’s telescopic sight with the accompanying question: “As a patriot, do you squeeze the trigger?” I note that the author of such an unpleasant post was a Liberal Democrat Council Candidate although it occurs to me that his contribution to the debate is neither liberal nor democratic.

Royal Artillery (RA) Health and Safety (H&S). Even back in the 1970s when the widespread imposition of H&S was but a glint in the eye of enthusiastic bureaucrats, the seeds were already being sown…..Inside the lines of 22 Battery RA lay, and maybe still lies, the large chimney of the central boiler house for all the Garrison’s needs. One day it occurred to the incumbent Battery Commander (BC) that to affix a large

22

sign onto said chimney might be a good wheeze; accordingly over the week-end a team of soldiers roped up the edifice and deployed the 22. The following Monday, on seeing this addition to the chimney the horrified DOE ‘man’ ordered that the 22 should be removed forthwith on H&S grounds. So, in order to comply with H&S needs the same soldiers roped up the chimney and removed the 22 (the DOE did not seem to see the irony of demanding high risk remedial work in the interests of H&S). The BC was then invited to submit a Work Service so that the 22 could be ‘legally’ deployed; a few months later, at considerable expense, scaffolding was erected around the chimney and 22 was safely nailed into the brickwork. Money well spent!!

Expensive Money.  A light bulb moment? For those who care not about the Nation-State, freedom of speech and democracy while only being concerned with short term economic prosperity within an uncompetitive protectionist cabal, resolving the Brexit ‘challenge is simple: The UK should accept her role as an Arrondissement of the Franco/German Axis/EU and demand a bail out. That said, should we take note of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thought that “Money often costs too much”?  Discuss.

Taxpayers’ Money. I am far from being an expert which is why I confess to being confused………on 28 November 2010, the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), colloquially called the European Troika, agreed with the Irish government in a three-year financial aid programme. British taxpayers funded Ireland’s £14bn bail-out. Does Mr Varadkar really have such a short term memory or does he just enjoy kicking the UK (backed, of course, by the might of the Franco/German Axis aka the EU)?

Forever Q&A.  Q: How long is forever?  A: A dreary after dinner speech when my bladder is full.

Armed Forces in Public. Now the Armed Forces have been so savagely cut by both Governing Parties over many years, sighting a Service person in uniform in public is a rarity. As a result of that, many think we are from another planet; indeed a few years ago a stranger did not believe me when I claimed to be in the Army and he said: “Are you sure you are in the Army? You seem quite normal to me.” Personally flattering but bodes ill for the understanding of the military. Meanwhile in Germany the Defence Secretary is encouraging Service personnel to travel in uniform by offering them free travel on public transport. Our direction of travel is not encouraging but the signs were there during the London Olympics when Service folk were attacked on the Underground and the instruction not to wear uniform was issued.

School Discipline.  It is ironic that the received wisdom is that corporal punishment leads to violence and was accordingly banned in 1986; now there is talk of calling in the police because some schools are too violent! While not advocating the return of such punishment the question should perhaps be asked: Where have we gone wrong? Could such factors as these be relevant: Failure to understand that the young need boundaries and being a ‘mate’ is not the role of a teacher; the campaign in the latter half of 20th Century to discredit the value of competitiveness; disinterested parents who consider school to be a childcare facility and do not help to motivate their children; and trendy teaching methods that lead to ‘group think’ rather than individual development.

UK Needs To Double Number of Trees Planted Annually (The Committee on Climate Change). Where?  The South of England is one massive building site yet we still have over 1 million second homes and thousands of empty High Street shops. There’s either a complete absence of coordinated thinking or an acceptance that developers can make a lot more profit building on green-field sites. There is, of course, a third possibility: The Tories hope to win the next GE by building houses quickly so that they reap the benefit in time (incidentally, with a total disregard for the need to enhance the infrastructure but the problems that arise will not be manifest until after the Election!).

Political Correctness (PC). Many of us find it so hard to keep up with the PC world making it simpler not to say anything; that being so, one of the spin-offs of the PC crusade is a reduction in the freedom of speech. PC decisions can make our lives unnecessarily complicated – consider the example of a Actors. The prevailing convention seems to be that we are no longer allowed to refer to “actresses” since, regardless of sex, all who participate in acting are “actors”. What a great leap forward! So, Radio 4 Woman’s Hour can now refer to “female actors”; after all why use one word to describe something accurately when two will do.

What Is It With Showers? In the ‘good old days’ showers were simple to operate via a hot tap and a cold tap which were clearly labelled as such. Nowadays every shower unit is different and many are unnecessarily complicated. The challenge of delivering the water to one’s body at a suitable temperature can occupy many frustrating minutes during which time the water temperature can range from boiling hot to near freezing. Of course, setting the right temperature, with or without the help a hotel Receptionist, is the tip of the iceberg of problems.

First, because the lip on the base unit is regularly too low, water cascades onto the floor of the general bathroom area. Second, rather than having the soap dishes inset into the wall out of harm’s way, large plastic or metal dishes protrude into the shower’s space with the result that one is repeatedly banging into them, dislodging the soap and then having to bend down to recover it. Third and the greatest challenge of all, is how best to wash one’s feet when bending down requires serious decision-making thought before taking the risk (the alternative of standing on one leg and raising the other foot is a dangerous strategy at my age).

All these challenges were uniquely met in the shower at the RAC of Australia by: Hot and cold taps – simply labelled; a lip on the base some 8 inches high; a soap dish inset into the wall; and, the most user-friendly attribute of all – a foot rest inset into the wall to facilitate washing the most remote part of the body. As ever, my views may not garner huge support but I really am looking forward to having a bath again.

Let’s Build More Houses. Where? The South of England is one massive building site yet we still have over 1 million second homes and thousands of empty High Street shops. There’s either a complete absence of coordinated thinking or an acceptance that developers can make a lot more profit building on green-field sites. There is, of course, a third possibility: The Tories hope to win the next GE by building houses quickly so that they reap the benefit in time (incidentally, with a total disregard for the need to enhance the infrastructure but the problems that arise will not be manifest until after the Election!).

Rees-Mogg’s Communication Protocols. Not being a grammarian it is a high risk strategy for me to enter the Rees-Mogg debate but I am accepting the challenge as a means of letting off some steam. First, like many others I suspect, the amateur status of my grammar has blunted my ability to learn a foreign language. Second, there are many words in current use that are either misused or misspelt and some examples are offered: Appraise when apprise is the intention; using Fulsome as compliment which it is not; compliment rather than complement (much favoured in Estate Agents’ particulars); Principal versus principle (it is staggering how many LinkedIn members claim to be a company Principle); and those who claim to be proffessional when offering a service. Enough steam has been released but allow me to offer one final thought: As a general rule written communication should be kept simple rather than as a shallow means of displaying knowledge; for example why say peruse when read is fine?

Chains-of-Command. The military functions within a single chain-of-command; introducing a Trade Union into the mix will merely confuse the Command and Control process and be detrimental to operational effectiveness. As St Luke put it: “You cannot serve two masters at the same time”.

Mr Lineker. Other than involving himself in the Brexit debate does Mr Lineker perform any other role than fronting BBC 1s Match of the Day? If not why is he paid so much for a part time job?

Houses. Two letters in your paper (2nd July) clearly identified two important issues relating to the headlong rush into house building. First, in its determination to win the next election this cynical Government is convinced it can do a ‘Harold Macmillan’ by speedily throwing up houses, regardless of the attendant infrastructural needs. Since the Tories are in such a rush to claim a house building triumph, green field sites are the preferred option resulting in swathes of countryside being concreted over. Second, with over a million second homes and in excess of twenty thousand empty High Street shops both rural and urban areas have become lifeless. Why is it that both these assets do not form part of the Government’s plans to meet the alleged housing requirement?

Garlic. Ron Kirby (ST 30th June) expresses concern about the widespread use of Garlic in British restaurants. Accepting that additives to food are a matter of taste, my concerns focus on the ubiquity of Coriander and Peppers of all hues. Rather than complement a dish the former dominates it and the latter is merely a wheeze to bulk out a dish thereby cutting costs by reducing the need for the more expensive main ingredient such as meat.

Transport For London (TfL). Where development swallows up existing car parking spaces, Robin Tarsnane quotes a TfL spokesman thus: “We’re not in the business of running car parks”. Such thinking is reflected in developments nation-wide where scant regard is given to enhancing the infrastructure to cope with increased demands on roads, schools, hospitals and GPs. Is the prevailing lack of joined-up thinking an inevitable consequence of Central Government’s belief that simply building houses, regardless of the consequences, wins elections?

Bright at Day.  Your Editorial talks of the dangers of being dazzled at night by inconsiderate oncoming motorists who fail to dip their lights. As the owner of a small car that is ‘low in the water’ I experience blindness from the many high rise Chelsea Tractors regardless of whether their lights are dipped or on main beam. More dangerous however are cars that drive around narrow lanes in broad daylight with headlights blazing since, unlike at night, oncoming traffic receives no warning until being dazzled as they round a bend or crest a hill. Daylight driving when facing a constant stream of oncoming headlights is also hazardous, not least because it strains the eyes. Why do modern motorists feel impelled to have their car lights on at all times despite the fact that, in some cases, it increases fuel consumption by up to 12%?

Military Schools. Penny Mordaunt rightly praises the value of military schools. A sad consequence of the Options For Change of the 1990s was the savage cuts to the number of the Army’s Junior Leader Regiments (JLR). Prior to the tragic Raising of School Leaving Age (ROSLA) the Army took in young men of 15 years, many of whom were not prospering in schools, and turned them into educated and trained soldiers who formed the leadership backbone of the Army. Even after ROSLA reduced the JLR training to one year, high calibre young men joined their Regiments as future leaders. A much underrated result of the JLR approach was a high level of social mobility since many of those young men became Commissioned Officers.

Compromise?  There was widespread vilification of Mrs May in Saturday’s DT with, curiously, the most trenchant criticism emanating from female contributors. I imagine few would gainsay the accuracy of the discontent expressed but, bearing in mind Disraeli’s dictum that ‘it is easier to be critical than to be correct’, it might be useful to identify the key failures so that future politicians do not fall into the same Heffalump pits. First, although she is not alone, Mrs May did not seem to have any core belief. If anyone doubts the need for such a belief they should consider the success of the Brexit Party. Like him or loath him, Mr Farage demonstrates a consistency of belief that resonates with an electorate that is frustrated with shallow short-term thinking and broken promises; put simply he is a conviction politician. Second, it seems likely that she confused compromise with words that are not generally associated with successful negotiations such as concession and appeasement; Farage identified it is an impossible task to please everybody – as Aesop postulated “Please all and you will please none”. Third, leadership is a team activity and within that subordinate selection is a crucial component. Mrs May seemed to have chosen unwisely in the cases of Messrs Timothy and Robbins who were probably the two key influential appointments in the context of a woeful General Election campaign and a disastrous Withdrawal Agreement respectively.

Political Terms. Many are likely to agree that the term Right Wing is widely deployed in a pejorative sense however this is not a recent phenomenon. Those of my advanced years will recall General Sir Walter Walker’s organisation of the 1970s which started life as Anti-Communist Unison group (later renamed to Civil Assistance) which, at its height, sported a membership of 100,000; in response the then Labour Defence Secretary, Roy Mason, declared that the organisation represented a “near fascist groundswell”. In general it is probably fair to say that one person’s patriotism is another’s fascism and the exchange of emotive terms is a feature of our increasingly intolerant so called democracy. For my money the political scene would be clarified if the Right Wing was re-classified The Common-sense Party or failing that the – I am right you are wrong Party.
Field Marshall (sic). I am old enough to remember when the DT employed a competent Defence Correspondent. However, today the paper seems incapable of accepting that Marshal (as in Field Marshal) only has one L (see Page 7).

Changing Times. That fine actress Suranne Jones reveals that, as a straight woman, she has been heavily criticised for having the temerity to play the role of a Lesbian. It is perhaps ironic that her revelation appears in juxtaposition with Doris Day’s Obituary that talks of her money-spinner films in which she co-starred with the gay Rock Hudson; I do not recall any contemporaneous protest from straight actors back then. It is surely the case that a talented actor should be able to play any part with conviction. PS. Some might complain about Jodie Foster’s leading lady roles!

Her. No doubt some will claim to be outraged at your reference to Le Champlain cruise ship as ‘her’. They may also be confused bearing in mind the vessel was named after a male explorer. I rather hope the commonsense majority will be neither outraged nor confused.

Driver Distractions. William Johnson (DT 3rd April) rightly highlights the potential dangers of touchscreen controls. There is, however, a host of other distractions on the dashboards of modern cars the most fatuous of which is a large digital display of an aerial view of a car with a capital D atop; the garage advises that the display is informing me that I am driving a car.

Valued Advice – Ho Ho. Theresa May’s key adviser for her disastrous 2016 General Election, Nick Timothy, is now dishing out advice to Members of Parliament (DT 12 March). I wonder if many will follow it!

Teaching Mathematics. In suggesting that “the best mathematicians do not make the best teachers” Fiona Wild (DT 18 March) is partly correct – in fact they usually the worst teachers. In my day the fundamental problem was that the clever mathematician could not understand that many of us simply did not understand the logic of mathematics. Further, our comprehension of the subject was not aided by their inclination to plaster the blackboard with complex formulae at presto pace. Another consequence of the clever approach was that mathematics became an isolated intellectual exercise disconnected from reality; in other words the ‘big picture’ was never explained and it is almost impossible to motivate a student where an activity appears to offer no end-product. My views are spawned from bitter experience since, for some inexplicable reason, I was planted in the top maths set but within three Terms found myself in the bottom set and the subject has remained a complete mystery to me.

Unlucky Bin Bag Widow. You report that Mary Jane Cowan was made the “principle beneficiary” in her husband’s Will (ST 17th March). However, in taking her case to Court to release yet more money from said Will, she must have been disappointed not to have been accorded the more relevant appellation of “principal beneficiary”.

Leave a Comment