Saturday, 19 September 2009


The Queen of Sheba asked Solomon for a ring inscription which would always be true whatever the circumstances. He offered: “This Too Shall Pass”.
That hilarious physical cartoon which is the nearest we have to a Defence Secretary tells us he has a dilemma - and I must say he looks it.
The generals are telling him he must increase the defence budget, whereas his constituents want him to cut it. The inscription I would offer him is equally simple: “We Can No Longer Afford Aggressive Warfare”.
I am currently reading “Danger Close; Commanding 3 Para in Afghanistan” by its former C.O. Stuart Tootal DSO. He warns that we will be in Afghanistan for decades. Why?
Mr Brown said in December: "Three-quarters of the most serious plots investigated by the British authorities have links to al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Our aim must be to work together to do everything in our power to cut off terrorism."
No one showed him an atlas so he could see that for the second time we had invaded the wrong country. Predictably, his claim angered Pakistanis because he was on a goodwill visit to Pakistan at the time.
A senior diplomat there said that in seven plots no Pakistani person was involved. “True, a Briton of Pakistani origin, but a third-generation, born and bought up in Britain. We don't agree with Brown's claims that three-quarters of these plots originate in Pakistan. We don't have a magic wand to turn these people into extremists. These people were born in Britain, taught there, bred there."
The terrorists who planned to blow up airliners were all British. It would appear we need our soldiers nearer home. The idea that we should invade a foreign country in order to protect the homeland is risible.

“Attack State Red”, the story of the Anglian Regiment in Afghanistan, is probably the greatest book on war I have ever read. It is so obviously true and written in such detail, and indeed with such controlled passion, readers should automatically qualify for a campaign medal. It's so real I could not finish it. Those magnificent young men with such qualities of bravery and loyalty to each other remind one of the Spartans at Thermopylae, who were, according to a tablet there, "a shining example of belief and dedication to duty and higher moral values and ideals."

Their memorial on the battlefield by the poet Simonides reads: "Go tell the Spartans, passerby/ That here by Spartan law we lie."

Ruskin thought them the noblest words ever uttered by man and they also apply to those Anglian soldiers.

I keep thinking how desperately we need such men to grow old in their service to their country. Not blown to bits in a squalid post-colonial adventure, the stated aim of which is to keep in power a corrupt government. That is a new aim because the original one was “to rid the country of al-Qaeda” (which is next door in Pakistan) and to rid the country of its opium (when the sensible aim would be to pay a higher price for the poppy juice, purchasing the entire crop and using it for medicine). Further aims, we are told, are to bring democracy and establish equal rights for women (in direct defiance of an age old corrupt culture run by War Lords, who, anyway, we are bribing). And in that endeavour our young men risk capture and being skinned, as has happened to scores of Russians, the skin from their stomachs being pulled over their heads.

Not in my name.

One other thing. There is no disciplined army called al-Qaeda. That is spin. The enemy is the Wahabi, a desert tribe recruited by Ibn Saud to win his new kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Wahabi price was that he adopted their perverted interpretation of the Koran as the national religion of the kingdom which was foreign to the mainstream Arab thought. It was Wahabi warriors who were partly responsible for the Indian Mutiny and for fermenting anti-West behaviour ever since. I assume the reason they are not identified springs from a reluctance to offend the Saudi Royals.
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I think we have much to fear from our mis-government which is clearly not on our side. Look at us in Our Land of Hope and Glory, groping our way in the half light thrown by those EC bulbs, desperate for a cigarette, no doubt bumping our knees on the slop bucket which by law we will be required to keep in the kitchen. Fingers numb with cold because we cannot turn the heating up, we sort through our other rubbish to make sure it is in the right bin; terrified of taking the dog for a walk in case it chases a rabbit; faced with a £5,000 fine if we take next door's kids to the shops; and watching powerless as the banks we have just bailed out with £60 billion of our hard earned money refuse us an overdraft whilst awarding themselves bonuses, despite bringing the World Economy to near collapse.

We Unhappy Few are ruled by a government that sells Rover cars for £10,000 to a group of men who award themselves millions and give another million to a girl friend. They won't get away with it, of course. Lord Meddlesome sternly hopes they will apologise and promise not to do it again.
If our island home is Mother of the Free, then I, for one, want to get adopted.

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Were you to ask, I would describe myself as an elderly gentleman of quiet pursuits, academic leaning and pleasing contours. Why tailors do not share this view is beyond me.

When I ordered a cashmere duffel coat from Thailand, the tailor telephoned me at enormous expense from Bangkok because he didn't believe my measurements. A Scottish tailor, who was making me Highland dress for my grand-daughter's wedding, refused to believe I was 55 inches both round the chest and what I laughingly call my waist. “Have you never heard of all round reporters?” I asked witheringly.
Many years ago in Doncaster when I was still 10 stone I was being measured for one of those fashionable Edwardian suits with the drainpipe trousers, the cuffs on the five button jacket and the velvet collar, a style later stolen by the Hoi Polloi.
“I don't believe it,” said the tailor. “Your measurements. Amazing. Would you mind if I called in my colleague from next door?”
When the other tailor came in, he too was invited to measure me. He was astounded. “One shoulder higher than the other, the legs are different sizes and so are the feet.”
I have since learned that 99 per cent of us have a slightly lower right shoulder and most of us have different foot measurements. But by then the damage had been done.
This week I suffered the final indignities.
I want to have a tweed sports jacket built. My own man in March can only get the duller tweeds. Because of the credit squeeze, and the action of a millionaire who has bought the Harris mill on the Isle of Harris, only four dull weaves are being offered. Eventually I found a tailor in Ross on Wye with the sort of tweeds that would stun a bookmaker. I explained my situation to him and had my man in March measure me so there could be no error. When the new tailor read the measurements he emailed me, querying them and offering to sell the tweed direct to my own man, so that he could build the jacket.
Spotting a vintage velvet smoking jacket on E Bay, I sent off my measurements to the seller. I got a one word reply. It was:
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THE END IS NIGH.....................................