Archives » Events dear boy. Events

Dame Judy?

No not Judi.

They were hyping it as the World Cup of tennis – and Great Britain won it for the first time in 79 years this afternoon.

Well I say Great Britain….

I don’t wish to minimise the efforts and input of team coach Leon Smith and the other players who contributed to elevating GB to the highest level of team tennis but in reality this was a triumph for a small town in Scotland (Dunblane beats the world!) – and more especially for one family.

I know some would say the very best players apart from one A. Murray had sat this year out and that it was only Belgium who stood in the way today but Belgium had made it to the final and had home advantage. Anyway as the old football cliché has it you can only beat what’s in front of you.

Really though, a win for the first time in 79 years speaks for itself.

Arguably the lioness’s share of the glory belongs to one woman, Judy Murray. Dame Judy, anyone?

Your Boys

I missed Andrew Neil’s rant against Daesh (Isis/Isil) on the BBC’s This Week last night as I was on the computer but the good lady didn’t and told me about it.

It is however available on You Tube and so I have now been able to hear it:-

Neil is certainly right in his assessment of civilisation as against nihilism and on the achievements of French culture but I think he is probably out by at least a factor of ten in his statement that in a thousand years Daesh will be dust. I suspect that will happen in many less than one hundred.

The curious echo that struck me on hearing Neil’s rant, though, was of a certain similarity to Norwegian football commentator Bjørge Lillelien’s famous list:-

Making and Keeping the Peace

I hadn’t meant to return to this subject but today’s G2 in The Guardian had an article by Paul Mason which more or less articulated my views. Except he put it better than I could.

Any action that does not take account of what the world – and especially the Middle East – will look like after the resolution of the conflict (and it is undoubtedly a conflict) is worse than useless, may in fact only stir up more trouble.

Keep Calm and Carry On

My posts of the past two days were scheduled in advance and so had no possibility of taking account of the events in Paris.

My sympathies and condolences are with the families and friends of the dead and injured.

It’s difficult to comprehend why people would commit such acts – or to see what utility they might have in the perpetrators’ own eyes. Do they really think it will change the policies of European governments, or that of the US? If they were under the influence – or part – of Daesh (as that organisation doesn’t like to be called) surely the motivation can not be desperation. As I understand it, despite some successes against them by Kurdish forces, their territorial gains have not been badly reversed so far.

I greatly fear that the intent was to provoke us into over-reaction – something that worked very well when Al Qaida flew those aeroplanes into the twin towers.

There is an undercurrent in the British news that the question of bombing targets in Syria will come before Parliament again. Mr Irresponsible is reported to be all in favour of this. All I would say to this is that – with one possible exception (and even that is by no means a given) bombing has never resolved a conflict. All that what we in Britain called the Blitz accomplished was to stiffen the resolve of the British public not to give in to Germany. Bomber Command’s operations over Germany similarly failed to affect civilian morale to any great extent. Or to bring about an end to that war. Only boots on the ground did that.

Is the British public (is David Cameron/) prepared to send troops to Syria? More importantly; if they are, is there a plan to hand over to someone (or group) competent as soon as possible after a successful end? Is there someone competent to hand over to?

I am sure there will be calls for greater powers to monitor personal communications over and above the ones recently promulgated – already increased recruitment to the security services and GCHQ has been announced. Might it just be possible this is one of the things the Paris attacks were planned to accomplish?

If our governments become more authoritarian as a result of wanting to be seen to be doing something then what precisely would we be defending ourselves against? Would we not then have become what we are fighting, if a bit more woolly around the edges.

Short of supplying those troops on the ground and an effective plan for post-conflict resolution in Syria – plus something along the lines of the Marshall Plan for economic regeneration – it is probably too late now for a similar endeavour in Iraq to bear much fruit – I do not think Britain can do anything to affect the situation in Syria materially.

The best thing may be to do nothing. Continue on our daily business. Go to gigs. Go to football matches. Go to restaurants. Do not change our actions in any way at all.

As those never issued WW2 posters had it, Keep Calm and Carry On.

Denis Healey

One of the last of the big political beasts of my (relative) youth has now departed.

He held office as Defence Secretary for 6 years but was more famous as a Chancellor of the Exchequer excoriated by the left for his adoption of wage controls in 1976 and immortalised in a song – to the tune of What a Friend We Have in Jesus – about the Callaghan Government which contained the line, “All the bad was done by Healey, all the good by Tony Benn.” But Healey in a deaperate bind. There had been an oil price rise of 400%. Imagine today’s politicians coping with that.

His obituaries on the television skipped over his war record to concentrate on his political career. But one of the most striking things I ever heard about him was that he was the Beachmaster (for the British sector) at the Anzio Landings a job of no small responsibility. He’s worth an obituary for that alone.

Denis Winston Healey: 30/8/1917–3/10/2015. So it goes.

Drone Killings

The Prime Minister, David Cameron – known to this blog as Mr Irresponsible – has stated that the recent killing by RAF drone strike of two UK citizens in Syria is lawful as it was an act of self-defence and there was no alternative.

So. Let me get this clear. It is illegal for agents of the UK government to execute people convicted in the UK courts for murder, treason (or even arson in Her Majesty’s Dockyards) since the death penalty for such crimes has been abolished; but it is legal to do so to someone outside the UK’s legal jurisdiction, someone who has not been so convicted, or even put on trial?

How is that exactly?

(And what is to stop the government declaring anyone so guilty and despatching a drone to get rid of them?)

I thought we (the so-called civilised law-abiding nations) were supposed to be better than them (the likes of ISIS, ISIL or, the description I believe they themselves abhor, Daesh.)

We have been here before, of course. The major difference is that Gibraltar is British sovereign territory and Syria is not.

Mind you. Abolition of the death penalty in the UK has been a dead duck since the Iranian Embassy siege.

2015 Hugo Awards

Old news now I suppose. The results are here.

The Hugo Awards are, or at least have been, arguably the most prestigious in Science Fiction.

This year is notable for “No Award” coming first in five of the categories: thus equalling the total of “No Award” for all previous winners in the entire history of the Hugos. This would therefore be an odd phenomenon.

The explanation, for those who are unaware of the stushie, is that two groups of fans calling themselves Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies tried to game the system by creating lists of recommendations in the various categories and asking those of like mind to nominate these and vote for them in the final ballot. All of which is perfectly within the rules.

The beef of the puppies appears to be (I summarise) that they think the Hugos have in recent years been taken over by political correctness with people of colour, other minorities and women being (in their view) disproportionately represented on award lists. One faction of the puppies ascribes this as due to the actions of what they call “Social Justice Warriors.”

Another viewpoint is that since they failed to win in previous years the Puppies are just bad losers.

An overview of the controversy is here.

The Puppies claim that the stories which have been winning have been unreadable. This is certainly not true of last year’s novel winner Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I have this year’s novel winner The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Cixin Liu sitting on my bed-side cabinet awaiting reading for review in Interzone. I understand that had another nominee, put on the Puppies’ list without the author’s agreement, not withdrawn from the contest The Three-Body Problem would not have made it to the final ballot. This looks ironic given the Puppies’ view of minorities. (In Hugo terms a Chinese author is definitely a member of a minority.)

To counter the Puppy strategy some people had advocated voting “No Award” in every category in this year’s ballot. Quickly scanning the results it seems to me that the voters have taken their responsibilities seriously. The nuclear option of blanket “No Award” has been eschewed. Instead “No Award” seems to have been used in the sense for which it was intended; that if the voters considered no nominee merited the award they placed “No Award” first, otherwise they placed it after nominations considered worthy.

It may be, though, that the Hugo Awards are now damaged beyond repair.

George Cole RIP

I was sorry to hear about the death of actor George Cole today. Anothe rfigure from my youth (and not so youth) gone. Mind you at 90 he’d had a good innings.

In his two most famous roles, Flash Harry in the St Trinian’s films and Arthur Daley in Minder Cole was always intensely watchable.

He had the advantage of learning at the feet of a master. The clip from St Trinian’s I saw on today’s News had Flash Harry in dialogue with the headmistress, played by Alastair Sim (who in real life more or less adopted him,) and I couldn’t resist a giggle.

According to a piece on the radio Cole was well liked by film crews as he behaved like a gentleman to them. Courtesy is never a hindrance.

It struck me on listening to the eulogies that the character of Arthur Daley – in which incarnation Cole delivered the immortal line, “What is occurring, Terence?” as something unforeseen went on – might have been an inspiration for Del Boy of Only Fools and Horses.

George Edward Cole: 22/4/1925 – 5/8/2015. So it goes.

Not Friday On My Mind 35: RIP Cilla Black

I know it’s not good form to speak ill of the dead but I’m afraid I can’t share the “National Treasure” stuff surrounding the passing of Cilla Black. She was undoubtedly a substantial entertainment figure of the 1960s though, with several big hits and many smaller ones. Yet to my mind her singing voice became too harsh when she upped the volume. In softer tones she could be quite effective though.

As to her later incarnation as a television presenter, I saw Blind Date once. It wasn’t for me. I never watched Surprise, Surprise.

I went off her completely when she was introducing some awards ceremony or other and mentioned Margaret Thatcher, at which the audience booed. Cilla then protested (against all reason) “But she’s put the great back in Great Britain.” Maybe for successful entertainers, but not for those left behind.

This was Cilla in her 1960s pomp, in a clip from Top of the Pops:-

Cilla Black: Surround Yourself With Sorrow

And here she is in her softer register. (Interesting that in the intervening almost forty years since I first heard her perform this song, to reflect our modern sensibilities the lyric has been changed from “ye’ll gerra belt from yer da’,” to “Ye’ll get told off by your da’.”)

Cilla Black: Liverpool Lullaby

Priscilla Maria Veronica White (Cilla Black): 27/5/1943-1/8/2015. So it goes.

Local Libraries Threat

As part of cost-cutting measures a proposal has been put forward to close 16 libraries in Fife. Three of these I have used and one of them has a very good stock indeed.

I have mentioned before how many libraries are within a few miles of Son of the Rock Acres. Most of these serve distinct communities. Not all of them are under threat but I would be sad to see any of them go. However, two of them are the ones I use most often.

As a result of this proposal the good lady and I have recently been borrowing a few more books than we would have previously in order to boost “footfall”. This means the books already unread on our shelves will have to remain there for a while.

Apparently the plans have been halted temporarily to allow for “consultation” – as is mentioned in this article where there is also a link to a petition to keep the libraries open.

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