Friday, 14 August 2009


My chum Blaster Bates defined expert thus: “X is an unknown quantity and spurt is an uncontrollable drip.”
I thought of his dictum this week when I heard a panel of experts agree that war is inevitable. It isn't.
Indeed there are many signs that the taste for war is diminishing. People are rightly shocked at the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the combined losses in both wars amount to less than the deaths in a single battle of a battalion in world war one.
That war was far from inevitable. Had Churchill not refused an offer of alliance from the Ottoman Empire, hijacking two Turkish battleships which were being built in British yards, the Turks would not have gone on to form an alliance with Germany, thus encouraging the Kaiser to take on what was then Great Britain.
If Lloyd George, whose family firm of solicitors represented Christian Zionists, had not pushed through the Balfour Declaration, thus ruining negotiations that were going forward between the Zionists and new Arab kings, Feisal and Ibn Saud, for land in Palestine, the seeds would not have been planted of the Israeli/Arab wars. Nor would there be the visceral hatred of the West which dates from the day the Allies went back on their promise to return Arabia to the Arabs. Had the Allies not insisted on unconditional surrender, the First World War would have ended in 1917 and thousands of wasted lives would have been saved. The economy of Germany would not have been wrecked; nor would it, in consequence, have been possible for a corporal called Adolf Hitler to take over a fringe political party and turn a bankrupt country into the Nazi war machine.
It would be a bold strategist who claimed Iraq was inevitable or the campaign in the Afghan Tribal territories. At the time of the Falklands I pointed out that we were sending ships we no longer owned transporting troops to fight for a land owned by British Coalite against an enemy most of whose officer class we had trained. In this I was supported by the great Dr Johnson whose tri- centenary year this is. In1771 he wrote a pamphlet “On Falklands Islands”:
“Beyond this what have we acquired? What, but a bleak and gloomy solitude, an island, thrown aside from human use, stormy in winter, and barren in summer; an island, which not the southern savages have dignified with habitation; where a garrison must be kept in a state that contemplates with envy the exiles of Siberia; of which the expense will be perpetual, and the use only occasional; and which, if fortune smile upon our labours, may become a nest of smugglers in peace, and in war the refuge of future bucaniers. To all this the government has now given ample attestation, for the island has been since abandoned, and, perhaps, was kept only to quiet clamours, with an intention, not then wholly concealed, of quitting it in a short time.
“ ........With what coolness and indifference the greater part of mankind see war commenced. Those that hear of it at a distance, or read of it in books, but have never presented its evils to their minds, consider it as little more than a splendid game, a proclamation, an army, a battle, and a triumph. Some, indeed, must perish in the most successful field, but they die upon the bed of honour, resign their lives amidst the joys of conquest, and, filled with England's glory, smile in death."
Johnson went on to offer a reason that periodically mankind finds war, if not inevitable, then certainly irresistible.
“ The life of a modern soldier is ill represented by heroick fiction. .............. . If he that shared the danger enjoyed the profit, and, after bleeding in the battle, grew rich by the victory, he might show his gains without envy......... how are we recompensed for the death of multitudes, and the expense of millions, but by contemplating the sudden glories of paymasters and agents, contractors and commissaries, whose equipages shine like meteors, and whose palaces rise like exhalations!
“These are the men who, without virtue, labour, or hazard, are growing rich, as their country is impoverished; they rejoice, when obstinacy or ambition adds another year to slaughter and devastation; and laugh, from their desks, at bravery and science, while they are adding figure to figure, and cipher to cipher, hoping for a new contract from a new armament, and computing the profits of a siege or tempest.”
I can think of a number of other self induced wars to which Dr Johnson's wise words might apply.
One wonders what he would make of our present government and the choice we will presently have between Mandelson's malefactors and Cameron's car salesmen. He would be amused, I think, at the assertion of MPs that unless we show we love them, the brightest talents would not be willing to serve in the House of Ill Fame. Ignoring the fact that the Conservatives have a queue of 5,000 for any available seats and jobs in the top five per cent of salaries.
Among them is Rory Stewart. Eton and Oxford educated, he has been a tutor to royalty, an officer in the Black Watch, the deputy governor of an Iraqi province, has founded a charity in Afghanistan and has written two critically acclaimed books, as well as walking across Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal. A cert for High Office? Future Foreign Secretary? Not likely. He has dismayed his Tory bosses by saying publicly the Afghan war is unwinnable and we should get out.
Reticence and a TV profile might have helped Stewart to secure a Government post . The dazzling talent of Joan Bakewell for boring an audience has been harnessed to lead the Elderly to the Frequently Promised Land. Arlene Someonorother has become the first Ballroom Dancing Czar who aims to have us all doing Tai Che in the few parks which are not infested by the Feral Young.
Admittedly it will pass the time for the four million about-to-be unemployed.
To be fair, those ladies cannot make a bigger hash than the Government they join.. I have been looking over my files and the record of this misgovernment is a sorry one.
The Home Office lost its political antennae over 42-day detention without trial. Its immigration statistics are chaotic and a plan for three "titan" prisons was revealed as unfunded, suggesting a serious cabinet failure.
The health department lurched from overspend to underspend as it slid down Europe's hospital infection league table. Education built academy schools at five times the cost of equivalent local council schools, with no noticeable rise in standards. Transport is under lobbyist capture. Environment's most ambitious planning initiatives are in disarray. The Olympics project appears beyond budgetary control.
A survey in the Guardian rated Britain bottom of seven western governments in using computers - everything from procurement to "scrap rates" and negotiating weakness. Whitehall's response was to double spending on consultants by the Office of Government Commerce.
Costs on the ID card and NHS computer projects accelerated beyond the power of audit. And there is no sign of improvement. In areas such as child support, doctor recruitment, defence coordination, illegal immigration and farm subsidies, not millions, but billions of pounds are being wasted.
More recent mistakes have been even more spectacular. Difficult to see how a less talented future government could do worse. It might even curb executives in the City who claim that if bonuses are not paid the best talent will go overseas. In the light of the mess they have made of the economy, I would suggest earlier bonuses did not exactly attract dazzling talent and their mass emigration may be no bad thing. Iceland or Ireland anybody?

I SUPPOSE I SHOULD NOT COMPLAIN............................

It was the 7th of the 8th of 09 and a man in Car Phone Warehouse, who had just taken my camera phone for repair, noticed the date and said “lucky day.”
I did not think so. We had just come from a camera shop to which I had taken my Olympus in which the telescoping lens keeps going in and out. I was told Olympus would charge me a minimum of £120 for repairs or I could buy a new one for £80. In the end I bought a Panasonic FS25 because it was the easiest to operate. My lucky day had already cost me £180. I later sold the camera to my wife for £50 and then discovered that all it needed was a new battery.
We were late getting to the shop because the computer man, who two days ago charged me £80 to install a wireless computer (another £80), did not turn up to speed the machine which is slower now than it was before I got broadband.
I was already upset because I had spent an hour on the phone to India after the Broadband on the main computer rejected my password. I was given a new one but my mail rejected it. Even so, my day wasn't as bad as this one....................

My friend the opera singer Colin Hills, who finds amazing emails, sent it from Germany.

“Rob is a commercial saturation diver for Global Divers in Louisiana. He performs underwater repairs on offshore drilling rigs. Below is an E-mail he sent to his sister. She then sent it to a radio station in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, who was sponsoring a worst job experience contest. Needless to say, she won.

" Hi Sue, Just another note from your bottom-dwelling brother. Last week I had a bad day at the office. I know you've been feeling down lately at work, so I thought I would share my dilemma with you to make you realize it's not so bad after all. Before I can tell you what happened to me, I first must bore you with a few technicalities of my job. As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It's a wetsuit. This time of year the water is quite cool. So what we do to keep warm is this: We have a diesel-powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea, heats it to a delightful temperature, then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose which is taped to the air hose. Now this sounds like a darn good plan, and I've used it several times with no complaints. What I do, when I get to the bottom and start working, is take the hose and stuff it down the back of my wetsuit. This floods my whole suit with warm water. It's like working in a Jacuzzi. Everything was going well until all of a sudden, my bum started to itch. So, of course, I scratched it. This only made things worse. Within a few seconds my bum started to burn! I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened. The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit. Now, since I don't have any hair on my back, the jellyfish couldn't stick to it. However, the crack of my bum was not as fortunate. When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into the crack of my bum. I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemma over the communicator. His instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with five other divers, were all laughing hysterically. Needless to say I aborted the dive. I was instructed to make three agonizing in-water decompression stops totalling thirty-five minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression. When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet. As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my bum as soon as I got in the chamber. The cream put the fire out, but I couldn't poo for two days because my bum was swollen shut. So, next time you're having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your arse. Now repeat to yourself, I love my job, I love my job, I love my job. Remember whenever you have a bad day, ask yourself, is this a jellyfish bad day? May you NEVER have a jellyfish bad day!!!!!