Thursday, September 29, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Set a task to improve buses and trains,
We sat around and wracked our brains
It was a conference on these and other things.
Teams were appointed and spokesmen too
Sadly that was what I had to do,
While my inner self had taken wings.
As each group nutted out their task
The CEO and minions sat back to bask
Observing us as though they were kings.
Then each group made their presentation
None had caused much sensation
The boss nodded sadly as the bell rings.
Up I get and give my team’s submission
But concerned with a certain frisson
That the CEO gets up and swings,
His gavel and stops me in my tracks
And moans at everything it lacks
Despite that delegates were me supporting.
After a break to eat refreshments foul
We were assembled to see him scowl
As his idea for a plan B was unfolding.
Later that evening after a drink or two
He gathered us together and without ado
Gave a presentation of his plan to fans adoring...
Except me that is.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Mr. Chamberlain brings us the good news from Munich 1938.
I can honestly say that despite my tender years I was aware of the Second World War. My war was however coloured somewhat by the daily dose of propaganda on the radio or wireless as we knew it then and the daily papers. This information or misinformation had been served up to the masses daily from well before the war began. Quite by chance some sixty or more years later I had given me a British weekly magazine called Picture Post. It was the edition that celebrated the return from Munich of Mr. Chamberlain the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who had achieved what he thought was meaningful negotiations with Herr Hitler the Chancellor of Germany, over the Czechoslovakia problem. Czechoslovakia was a small, made up nation formed at the end of the First World War in 1919 from part of the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Chunks of the losing nations were joined together to create a composite of nationalities in the border region between Germany and Hungary. There were Czechs and Slovaks of course, but within the boundaries there were minorities of other peoples. I won’t use the term ‘race’ in case you think me racist. There were Poles and Magyars and Gypsies (or Romany) and not the least, Germans.
Czechoslovakia was an excellent example of peaceful coexistence of differing nationalities. It was comparatively rich in minerals and had a well developed industry. The Skoda motor works being a case in point.
Happiness and contentment are all very well in themselves but never let anyone know you feel this way. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he looked around Europe to see if anyone was happy and he noticed that the Czech people were looking pretty pleased with themselves. So he thought he would put a stop to that by demanding that the happy Germans living in Czechoslovakia should have the right to be happy Germans in Germany, so long as they stayed where they were and where they lived became part of Germany.
These thoughts of Hitler’s clearly became a crisis in the minds of those ‘good’ nations such as Britain and France that wanted to keep everything in Europe and the world for that matter just as it was. They needed to discuss the problem with Hitler. So the leaders of France and Britain decided the fate of little Czechoslovakia at a meeting in Munich and agreed to slices of that country being handed to Germany. This was the Sudetenland.
Incidentally no one invited the Czech prime minister to the talks but those that did take part emerged with smiles on their faces. The Czech government wisely accepted that they had no control over their own country. War had been averted. In hindsight this was patent nonsense. It had given Hitler a chance to assess the resolve of the Western powers and they proved to be lacking in this regard. Hitler marched into the Sudetenland and occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia in a very short time to the silence of the Western ‘powers’.
I was blissfully unaware of this crisis, as my advisors had left me woefully ill-informed. Like the rest of Europe, except for the Czechs that is, I slept peacefully in my cot and was mindless of the dragon that had been unleashed.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Me and Mrs. Wallace Simpson
Now there isn’t a lot I can say about King Edward Eighth and the love of his life Mrs. Wallace Simpson. The problem being that almost no one knew what was going on. People in those days did not have the suspicious minds that we have today. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse as the saying goes. The British press were obliged to keep their traps shut about the romance, whilst the foreign press had a field day. There was honour amongst the press barons then. Not that we should give them any applause. In late 1936 when the story just had to come out because the King chose abdication “for the woman I love,” the British papers had for several years systematically censored out all reference to the future king’s affair.
Truth it is said is the first casualty of war. So the British people of which I was one, albeit only a few months old, were kept in the dark. Everybody of course had an opinion after the event. This was particularly the case because King Edward was a lovable man. He was the Brad Pitt come Princess Diana of the day. He visited depressed areas, talked to the unemployed and promised something would be done. People loved him for that despite the fact that he could in fact do nothing. The only thing to alleviate unemployment and poverty at that time was to have another war. And that wasn’t too far around the corner. Edward was a weak, misled and gullible fool and clearly none of his lady friends up to that time had the ability to make him think he was the opposite. When Wallace Simpson came on the scene she had that peculiar drive and ambition of an American, to be able to persuade him, incorrectly as it turned out, to assert himself and make his own decisions. The British had centuries before decided to behead kings who made up their own minds. Parliament was in charge through the elected government and the lovers soon found this out to their cost. Nowadays nobody gives a toss and who is sleeping with who, that is quite is immaterial. The sin was that he was king and as such had to marry a suitable person, with the right pedigree. Wallace Simpson had had two previous husbands, the last of which had been a house guest of the future king a few years previous. To embark on a marriage with her would have been making a morganatic marriage which was not good for the monarchy and the belief that kings of Britain were defenders of the faith, chosen by God and many other things besides, which made the populace love and adore them. So he went and lived a life of idle loneliness with his lover and performed no useful function for the rest of his life.
One sidelight to this sorry affair was the decision to have the coronation for his brother Albert (Bertie) on the same day regardless of the crisis and furore that was taking place. Thus on the 12th May 1937, I received, being a one year old at that time, a silver spoon to commemorate the event. The new king took the name George presumably because Albert the name of his revered great grand-father (at least by Queen Victoria) was too sacred to be recycled. Luckily the spoon had the right king’s portrait on it together with the word ‘Farnham’ my birthplace, engraved in the spoon itself. For years this was a treasured possession of mine and I even added it to the family silver when Maureen and I were married. It has disappeared now of course. Three children all needing to have spoons to dig in the garden over a number of years meant that it is probably laying buried awaiting archaeological discovery centuries hence. But I doubt if it will tell of my relationship with Mrs. Simpson.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Sunday, September 4, 2011
What did you do in the war Daddy?
This was once an appeal to the not so patriotic to do their duty when the country was in peril. The child’s simple question would be answered by the parent feeling guilty or responsible and would thus be persuaded to do their bit for King and Country.
I thought it might be amusing to ask the question of myself or at least very similar ones, to determine what I was doing at momentous times, and how I can now account for my actions or lack of action at the time. Clearly it may be necessary for me to be economical with the truth, and bend facts and dates and events to suit my own personal history. That is the history that I remember.
Was I there? Well if not I was pretty damned close!
Having been born on the 4th May 1936, the Spanish Civil was raging at this time. Looking back, had I had my current political inclinations as I emerged from the womb, no doubt I too would have been marching off, in my nappies to join the International Brigade, in order to defend the fledgling democracy that was too far left politically for it’s own good, in a country which unhappily nursed the Inquisition a few centuries previously to force the populace to conform to the unreasonable demands of the Catholic Church of the time. Well I can say that now but in truth I have always tried to avoid conflict particularly when a stranger you don’t know wants to put you in uniform and carry a rifle while he sits at home drinking his scotch while contemplating your next move. You move all right because you are a puppet on a string, with a stupid smile on your face because it has been painted there by propaganda.
History shows us time and time again that good does not prevail, so General Franco won in Spain, hundreds of foreign volunteers were blacklisted and his dictatorship lasted over thirty years. History also shows us that good does get a chance every now and again but good by its nature is weak, because it is reasonable, benevolent, considerate and anxious to please everyone. Bad, or the forces of evil, on the other hand is the opposite and by its unreasonableness, inhumanity, blindness and desire to please only those in control will be in power more often that not.
So what did I do at the time?
I cried. But my parents thought that I only had a dirty nappy.