Saturday, 30 July 2011


Two quotations sum up marriage, good and bad. The first by Goethe was: “The Wedding March sounds to me like soldiers going into battle.” The second, by that splendid poet and dancing wit Anon, is more tender. “Marriage,” claims Anon, “is not two pairs of eyes looking at each other: it is two pairs of eyes looking in the same direction.”

Alas, in this brave new world there is an epidemic of squinting. Face to face rather than eye to eye and back to back rather than looking in the same direction. The embittered wife of a friend of mine who surprised us all by running off with an actress warned me that she would never speak to me again if I had anything to do with her husband. I had to tell her if I only socialised with those of my friends still living with their wives I would have no one to speak to.

That is not quite true. I only said it to cheer her up. In fact I was pleasantly surprised to discover how many of my friends are happily married. There are still some reasons for cheer. We have a decent champagne with Sunday lunch now that it's half price in the Co-op, and I suppose the fact you can buy champagne in the Co-op is a sign of progress.

Not everything has a bright side. I was horrified this week to read that in the US army there are women snipers.

My former RSM “Tibby” Britten, who put the fear of death into generations of soldiers, had charge of a training course of officer cadets, who, although they are not commissioned, are always called 'Sir'. He used to tell them, “ I will call you,sir and you will call me sir. The difference is you will mean it.“

The purpose of what is now called bullying in the army was simple. It was to make a soldier more afraid of his own NCOs than he was of the enemy. We are now told that this is disgraceful. That harsh discipline robs soldiers of their dignity. That we must be kinder to the young men who fight for us.

May I, as an old soldier, say that this is rubbish. The trade these young people have chosen to follow is war. I admire our fighting men but, though their reasons may be noble, war is the most disgraceful activity on the planet. It is persuading young men to dress in funny clothes and kill total strangers who have never done them a lick of harm. It has no dignity; and kindness in training is misplaced.Unfortunately the love of battle is hard wired into our youth.
You will find very little of kindness in the training of our elite fighting units.

Although I believe the Second World War was a just war, very few wars are necessary. The first world war was caused by the conceit of the Kaiser and I cannot think of any other war this century that wasn't the result of political mismanagement.

So given those views it must follow that I am totally opposed to women who are the givers of life being involved in taking it. It looks as though we are once again playing “Catchup”. The Ministry of Defence has a series of non-physical tests which women will find easier to pass.

I loved the army. If I hadn't been sent to prison I would have made it my career. But it takes part in institutionalised mass murder. And the complicity is shared by the front line soldier and even the girls working the computer that fires the guns.
This isn't equality. This is exploitation. The army has always has cocked things up. It has done so again. It is making thousands of soldiers redundant and now there are not enough left to let the politicians flex their muscles.

I read with horror that the government is still reviewing the extent to which women should be sent to the front line. Of course none of our leaders has ever been in a front line. Almost as terrible is an invention described once in the New Statesman. Luminous toothpaste designed so that motorists can see pedestrians at night by their luminous smile. Or what about the Hungarian condom which plays the Internationale “Arise ye Workers” at the appropriate moment? But it is the Darwin Awards which year by year produce the highest amazement quotient.

They often list spectacular deaths. Like Krystof Arzinsky, a polish farmer who was drinking with friends when it was suggested they strip naked and test their strengths. They clubbed each other with frozen swedes, then one man grabbed a chainsaw and cut off his foot. “That's nothing,” said Arzinsky, grabbed the saw and cut off his head.

Toughness contests are a traditional part of Polish life. Participants even wear a special toughness hat.

Then there was the year the Darwins included a court report of the murder trial of three friends. They began their contest by hammering nails into their own flesh. One dared another to chop his hand off. The other hacked at the hand and then put his head on a chopping block and challenged a friend to cut it off. He did. Alas, it was their singing of a folk song, “Roll the head of a giant”, which woke the neighbours and brought the contest to an end.

Speaking as a golf widower, I am alarmed by the number of people who die on a golf course. I was particularly struck by the man who was caught short on a golf course and relieved himself up a tree which was struck by lightning. The electricity travelled up the stream of urine and electrocuted him.


I yield to no one in my admiration for Kevin Myers who this week mused on the sad fact that the good never inspire us the way evil does:

And from Wales...

Church leaders have launched an investigation after a vicar burnt pages from the Bible. The Bishop of Bangor branded the actions of an old friend of mine, the Reverend Geraint ap Iorwerth, as “disrespectful”. Rev ap Iorwerth, of St Peter ad Vincula in Pennal, near Machynlleth, cut up pages from the King James' Bible to mark its 400th anniversary, but also to take out texts which he said revealed a “cruel and vile God”. He said he had received “incredible” support after unveiling the artwork last week. He said: “I find it highly offensive people would think I have given my life to serving that type of God and that I would regard the words of the King James Bible as sacred truth."

Yori believed God was a lady. He was certainly no gentleman