You cannot be Syriaous!

Guardian: Blow to Cameron's authority as MPs rule out British assault on Syria
David Cameron has definitively ruled out British involvement in any military action against Syria after the government lost a crucial vote in the House of Commons which was designed to help pave the way for a possible intervention.

Eton schoolboy error. He should have said he had a dossier.

Evacuee kids

From p.171 of Off the Record, the wartime diary of the author and journalist Charles Graves:

May 30th. [1941]

Took Peggy to H- on the 1.15 a.m. from Paddington. […]

H- has the best beach for about 100 miles in any direction, and is directly opposite Ireland. H-is full of evacuated children from Merseyside, Liverpool University students doing theses, various foreign refugees, and others who have skipped from danger areas, like London. The greens on the [golf] course were in good condition. Local regulations about showing lights are not very strict. This despite the fact that the German Bomber Command aircraft always go up Cardigan Bay to attack Liverpool, and thus get a “fix” on the naked lights visible in various parts of Merioneth, including H-. H- has had no bombs nor sirens. Found four evacuee kids at Erinfa—Leslie the blonde, Norman the brunette, David the red-head, and Edwin just mouse colour. As a test of observation for them I hid eight pennies, three sixpences and a shilling round the terrace of the house. Leslie the blonde found practically all of them. Played penny bridge, and went to bed to the hoot of the owls. Thank goodness there are none of that much over-praised bird the nightingale round here.

To explain:

  • Charles Graves was the younger brother of the poet and novelist Robert ‘I, Claudius’ Graves;
  • ‘H-’ stands for Harlech in North Wales;
  • Erinfa was the Graves' family home, where Charles's mother—a German—Amalie Elizabeth Sophie von Ranke, was doing her bit for the British war effort by taking on the four ‘evacuee kids’;
  • the blond evacuee, Leslie, is my Uncle Les (then aged 7);
  • the brunette evacuee, Norman, is my dad (then aged 6).

I managed to track down a second-hand copy of Off the Record a few months back, and, yesterday, left it as a surprise Christmas present at my dad's. By a strange coincidence, unaware of the present, Dad was reminiscing about his days as an evacuee over whisky on Sunday evening. He is planning to pump his older brother for more reminiscences over Christmas lunch at my sister's place this afternoon.

Norman and Leslie

Norman (L) and Les (R), inspecting the Open Golf Championship claret jug in 2006.

George Orwell fires a Sten gun

George Orwell's diary, 09-Aug-1942
Fired the Sten gun for the first time today. No kick, no vibration, very little noise, and reasonable accuracy. Out of about 2500 rounds fired, 2 stoppages, in each case due to a dud cartridge – treatment, simply to work the bolt by hand.

Clarifications:

  • Work the bolt by hand is not a euphemism;
  • Stense was not named after the Sten gun (nor vice versa).

Lest we forget

Yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice. I spent the night at my parents' house. We watched a documentary in which Rolf Harris visited the First World War battleground on which his father was injured and his uncle killed.

"They were very brave, weren't they, the Aztecs," observed mum.

She meant Anzacs.

Tactical warfare

I went for a walk on the moors yesterday. The grouse-shooters were out, so I took their photo. I don't think they were very pleased. They probably thought I was some sort of animal rights nutter.

Grouse shooters

Some grouse-shooters yesterday.

The tactics employed by grouse-shooters are tried and tested. They set themselves up in a line of little dugouts (the technical name is butts, but let's not go there), and employ people with sticks (the technical name is beaters, but let's not go there either) to walk through the heather, driving the grouse towards them. The low-flying grouse are literally sitting ducks. (I use the word literally in its non-literal sense.)

I had no desire to witness the impending blood-bath, so I continued my walk.

Then I got to thinking: what a shame our lads didn't employ similar tactics on the Somme. How many British lives might have been saved had our chaps in the trenches employed beaters with sticks to drive the Hun towards them? It really could have been all over by Christmas. Instead, there were to be another two years of mindless carnage.

It kind of makes you think.

Tony's invisible friend

Just in case you were in any doubt that the Prime Minister has lost touch with reality:

BBC: Blair 'prayed to God' over Iraq

Prime Minister Tony Blair says he prayed to God when deciding whether or not to send UK troops to Iraq.

Seems to me this God chap has some explaining to do. How come He wasn't called in front of the Hutton Enquiry?