Last Wish Fulfilled

Last Wish Fulfilled


The man faced the firing squad. In a few minutes it would all be over. Extinction,the end. Offered one last wish the man declined a cigarette or a drink but started to talk to the soldiers. Are you sure you know what you are doing, isn’t there another way. They got talking and the soldiers realised that he wasn’t a terrorist but a reasonable fellow. They put down their  arms and let the man free, as he left the stockade they cheered. A remarkable turn around.

Although they got less  votes,less seats Labour is that man. Instead of extinction the party is poised to win the next election. No wonder they are celebrating as if they won. The Tories like a side who missed an open goal, had a penalty saved but still scrapped through are the side in the deepest mourning and disarray.

As in sport so in politics, its rare for two sides to play well at the same time. And as in all contact activities one thing is for sure in political campaigns, whatever the plan,  events will force  a change. How you handle the inevitable stumbles are very much the test. May failed big time, but she still got the most votes.

Corbyn also is  a man who has spent his whole career in front of baying mobs. He knows how to handle himself, given the tabloid frenzy against him the fact he was human and well spoken came to many as a delightful  and attractive surprise. However although Labour is now very much back in the game it didn’t win, though it must feel the tide is now with it.

May felt all she had to do was get on the election express, roar around the country picking up votes and seats. After the Junker spat it all went wrong. The train broke down, started to go the wrong way and all the time May kept waving as if instead of being stuck in a siding she was still going full pelt up the  main line to a glorious victory.  She wasn’t.

In fact the figures tell most of the story. During the election May went from an approval rating of +36 to+ 6 while Corbyn went from -23 to +30. Comparisons have been with May and Clinton. Both ran lack lustre campaigns, underestimated their opposition and offered more of the same. Certainly, but although May got a bloody nose, she still won. Corbyn now must show that he can lead as well as campaign. There have already been two votes of no confidence by his MPs.

A week ago this was all most unlikely, although  for some weeks the poll momentum has been pointing to a Labour recovery. Britain once the most stable democracy now joins the pack of countries where there is  a mismatch between what the people want and what politicians can give. In some  countries the people just give up and say, go on be a dictator, it cant be worse.  At least the trains will run on time.

Supposing the Tories hang on for some time,maybe even five years, who knows what the post Brexit game will be then? Predicting politics is difficult, I lost £100 on the size of the Tory revival in Scotland. I said less than ten seats. Moral. Never bet against your own side. You can lose twice over

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Forgotten Hero

Forgotten Hero


The London Gazette June 12 1945


Acting Wing Commander Peter Livingstone CHILTON,

D.F.C., A.F.C. (33459), R.A.F., 149 Sqn.

Wing Commander Chilton was pilot and captain

of an aircraft detailed to lead a bomber force in

a daylight attack against Bremen in April 11945.

To ensure success, a high degree of accuracy was

essential owing .to the presence of our ground

forces in the vicinity. When passing over

Wilhemshaven, much anti-aircraft fire was

encountered. Wing Commander ChiltonJs aircraft

was hit. The starboard aileron was rendered almost

ineffective, the hydraulic system was made unserviceable

and petrol commenced to leak from the

tank in the starboard wing. Although the aircraft

became difficult to control, Wing Commander

Chilton maintained his position in the formation

and went on to execute a successful attack. He

afterwards flew the damaged aircraft safely back

to ‘base. This officer, who has completed many

sorties on his third tour of operational duty, set

. a splendid example of skill, courage and tenacity


Why is this especially interesting? Here is an excerpt from my old school magazine, the Clayesmorian 1932.

“With great regret and all good wishes we say goodbye to Chilton who goes to Uppingham next term. Chilton has been captain of football and vice captain of the prep school this term and has been an outstanding example of cheeriness and loyalty. He has been at Clayesmore since the tender age of seven and looks upon the school as a second home.”

At the time the school was based in Northwood Park,near Winchester(it moved to Iwerne in l933) and was 180 strong of which 46 were in the prep. While at the school Chilton appeared in plays, got his 1st X1 soccer colours and as a bowler got remarkable 4.13, 4.2 and 6.50 against Portsmouth Grammer,Bedales and Cathedral School.His father was an engineer with Vickers in India, he was an only child sent to stay with grandparents in the holidays.

Previous to Clayesmore his education was at home in India, a hill side cottage in Ooty,a smart bungalow in Simla? No wonder the school was his second home. In that era parents only came home every two years.After Uppingham he went to Cranwell in 1936.

A word about those three tours of duty. The overall casualty rate in Bomber Command was something like 55% , 12 % were shot down and  captured . Only 27% survived .First tour was forty sorties and only around 35% completed that tour. A six month gap was allowed and then a second tour of 20 sorties started.  Another figure states in 1943 only one in six survived the first tour and 1 in 40 two tours, A third tour was only open to volunteers. It was all about experience, crews were ten   times more likely to be shot down in their first five raids, after twenty raids the chances moved to evens.

The little lad who got 6 for 50 against Cathedral School was such a  volunteer-hero who did more than sixty operations.His eyes were open and he could see no other way. A school boy’s“cheeriness and loyalty “ became a man’s”a splendid example of skill, courage and tenacity”. Throughout the War Bremen had been bombed many times because of its submarine base.In 1942 the RAF launched one of its first 1000 bomber attacks on the city, it lost 48 planes.

After the war Chilton went to work for Aviation Fuel Services and died aged 57 in 1975. The school has no memorial to this hero. It should have.

(This was the  speech I gave  yesterday at the annual Beaujolais Lunch for  the OC Society) Part of my interest in this story was the fact that Chilton was a contemporary of my mother who was also sent from the childhood  paradise of The Raj to boarding school and spinster aunts aged seven. Its unlikely they ever met.

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More Tears To Come

More Tears to Come


We will never stop radicalised Muslims committing mass murders. Throughout the world for a variety of reasons senseless mayhem takes place. In Brazil there are 40,000 murders a year, in Mexico 25k,USA 12k and in the Uk 770.

In the USA  it is reckoned a mass shooting(4plus) takes place every two weeks. In 70 per cent of theses case the killer either commits suicide or is killed by the police. So even without radicalisation there are mainly young men who for greed, honour, as an expression of their hopelessness/revolt, hearing voices, conspiracy theories, cult beliefs will go out and kill and die. The reason is less important than the compulsion Simply wishing to dramatise their lives is a good enough reason suicide missions in any faith or cause.

The idea that people from another culture, faith, colour will totally integrate is fanciful. They may assimilate they may find ways of cooperating,they may get on, coexist,some will inter marry and boundaries may become blurred but not invisible. And  when you have the globalisation of certain communities where contact with the old country is never lost but actively pursued then the  confusion of identity and tension becomes even more likely. Against that,today, there is no way we can live in homogenous societies. In my nearly all white street I can count ten nationalities.

It is not difficult for some in the Middle East to talk of them and us. Throw in tensions between generations, the angst  and anxiety of young people every where, the legitimisation of despair by social networks, the need to blame which many feel and you have a  formula where it is surprising we do not have more incidents.

Maybe like  the anarchists in the 19th century “all victims are guilty” it will blow over. Unlike with the Basques or the IRA there is no way there can be a discussion between our society and those who want to impose extreme sharia law. We can huff and we can puff, we can stop and arrest many but some as we have seen will always get through. Some through error, some because of our liberal system, some because one morning they just  heard a voice.

PS On the election. As a working Tory Mrs  May has been profoundly disappointing as a leader, strategist and personality. Just as  Cameron’s appeal grew, May’s keeps going south.  The fact that she  is going to win big says how little campaigns count and how off the radar Labour has sunk.

PPS To cheer you up on this dismal day. In pure B&W, our Vera hams it up big. She is now 100.










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Pier Hunting -Great Yarmouth

Pier Hunting- Great Yarmouth

While the real world cleared the corpses, tended the wounded and bemoaned the Koran rancid, death wish, vampires  among us, I took the slow train (4 hours on maintenance Sunday) to Great Yarmouth. Escapism indeed.

First there was the unexpected pleasure of the  half hour trip from Norwich to the sea side resort. The two carriage train chugs across largely uninhabited reclaimed marsh land. The husbanded Broads. Rich in cattle, sheep, guarded by ancient windmills and well sluiced by ditches. A little gem. One of the four stops (Berney Arms) is  a request. Bless.

Sunday was glorious sunshine so a resort in its pomp. Cheap eats. Cheap booze. All day breakfast. Loads of it. Fun Fair. Fair Fun. None of that Fair Trade stuff ,this Fun for all the Family. Tattoos galore, bellies to match, what’s not to like, easy on the eye-you having a laugh. Donkey rides for the kids. Go on Grandad you can do it.

This week its vintage cars, next week its the Red Arrows. Greyhound racing Monday, Weds and Friday. Tuesday horse racing. Oh I do like to be by the seaside. Its not posh, its pure Brexit, bring it on. Sorry to hear whats happened in London, they don’t come here. They’ve never heard of the place, thank God.

Britannia pier is ugly. (see link)A prefab theatre with a bar and a funfair. 400 metres south Wellington pier although graced with a wonderful but now  not used glass housed roller rink, is yet another amusement arcade with a bowling alley  and bar on the end. Neither pier gets much further than the wide 100 metre wide beach .

Yet  for all its in your face the Britannia theatre is where many acts get some much needed life giving ozone, this summer sees Jim Davidson, Jasper Carrot, Jimmy Talbot and Marty Wilde all come back from the dead. And for those collectors of real treats there is  fortune teller Rosemary Petulengro who has read the palms of stars of stage and screen and will advise on  health, business and matrimonial matters.

But if Yarmouth piers are disappointing, ten miles down the road in Lowestoft they are worse. South Pier is not much more than a harbour wall with yet another amusement arcade at the end and Claremount the same with a redundant jetty which is  too unsafe for pleasure walking.

But in Lowestoft I learn of Sir Sam Peto , Victorian builder- entrepreneur. He built Trafalgar Square.He went bust trying to make Lowestoft an alternative Brighton.(You have to smile) Became an MP. Ending up promoting railways in Russia and Hungary. One off.

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The Election So Far

Election- What we have learnt

Neither side win management points. The Tories for whats in their Manifesto and Labour for their Manifesto launch.

Corbyn daily becomes less of a Mugwump and May much less the Great Leader

But as Trump and Macron show its not what you say but how you say it, what you pose and how you look. May the  grammar school educated,vicars daughter is far more the part  than Corbyn the life time left wing radical.

Labour are still hanging onto the old mantra of if it moves tax it,if it still moves regulate it,if it stops moving subsidise it. With many businessmen itchy because of Brexit, taxing them and their companies more will have predictable results. See Hollande when he did the same.

Tories seem to have forgotten its pro enterprise, pro business, balanced budget position.

Liberals as always come up with the best slogans-where’s Theresa- but so what. Remember I agree with Nick who eventually destroyed his party.

Greens as before.The mouse that roars. UKIP bye bye.

SNP as a ruling party now has to handle  any complaints. As all find, its easier to moan than to rule.

So where does that leave us? As with Milliband ,Labour come into the straight with increasing hopes. But who do the electorate prefer to see running the economy and will young Labour supporters vote? Tories by 50 seats.



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Should He Go Or

Should He Go Or

So Arsene Wenger stays at Arsenal  for another two years at  £8m a go. Once again he has done enough and over his 21 years has been a fantastically successful manager. But a lot of fans are fed up with not challenging  for the major trophies and they feel  a change could be the answer. Of course in most other clubs a new manager means more of the same or worse. (see Utd, City, Liverpool, Everton even on occasion Chelsea)

But why would Wenger want to stay? At 67 he is already a rich and successful man, a man who has made his mark. The next two years will either end in tears or be same as, same as.

Many see retirement as a kind of sacking. Not a phase    of life like being a student  but a sentence dished out by the market place. Something to be avoided. Many cannot bear the thought of a life without a management structure and an economic purpose. Without those ingrained realities they see little point in any activity. Depression  and worse can follow. Better to soldier on, at least that preserves occupational status and  social meaning.

All of which is exaggerated when you are a successful boss of a major football club. All of the above and you are the queen bee in a hive of emotion, power, shared dreams and  constant drama. Not to mention the money and incessant management games played on every level and dimension. Wenger we know is a football nerd, his favourite places in London are the Arsenal stadium and training ground. He  hasn’t got  Ferguson’s horses,or Hodgson’s books. He has the Arsenal.  Despite recognising the 24/7 nature of the job and its domestic effects, his twenty year relationship with the mother of his daughter broke down last year.

Understandably he didn’t want to be drummed out. If he was going it would be when and how he wanted. As far the money men at Highbury are concerned he is a good bet for he makes them what they count. The   value of Arsenal has doubled in the last two years. For the fans Glory and sport is what fuels their allegiance, the team has played badly too often and Glory has been on short rations .The Cup Final win gave Wenger a chance to go out on a high. He didn’t  take it.

Football is a funny(ha,ha) game. Arsenal won the Cup with wins against two non League sides,in the semi they could have been three down at half time,they won the Final with  an illegal goal. Lady Luck is a whore and Wenger doesn’t use them.

Watch the man blub

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Green and Blue

Green and Blue

A summer’s afternoon. Lazing with a favourite book(early Michael Chabon since you ask) in the long grass on the  crest of a gentle hill. Behind the Georgian church which commemorates many generations of the noble Coventry family. To the left the grand Palladian mansion. But in front this green and pleasant land rolls towards a river, a Chinese bridge and delightfully placed mature trees. All framed by graceful hills, rounded and slightly blue in complexion. It is a dream.

In fact it is Croome Park in Worcestershire, Capability Brown’s first major commission. (see link)The marsh was drained, the village moved, a new house built, the follies planned, the trees planted to make this English idyll come alive. Lancelot Brown got his name because he  always told his clients what the”capabilities” of their estates would be. The fifth son of a successful land agent by his early twenties he was head gardener at Stowe and from there his career went up a few gears. He got the Croome job when he was 36 and by his death in 1783,aged 67, he had created 170 estates, was earning in today’s money around £1m a year, had his own estate and left £5m. He charged £70k a pop for a make over.

His ultra natural look made bitchy Horace Walpole accuse him of being “Lady Nature’s second husband”,(this was before gay marriage!)others would write that they hoped to get to heaven before Brown had changed the place to his ultra Arcadian taste. Whatever, his view of rolling parkland, manicured clumps of trees, ornamental lakes, follies and animals grazing contentedly  is the English view of  a green and pleasant land.

Nowhere more than  at Croome. For those hills in the background are the Malvern Hills.

Houseman famously wrote of them in the Shropshire Lad” Into my heart an air that kills/From  yon far country blows:/What are those blue remembered hills?/What spires,what farms are those.” This view across the valley which I so innocently enjoyed is the dream ten thousand subalterns carried as they suffered   the nightmare and death on the Western Front 1914-18.

As I plunged  deeper into this reverie, a rose lipped maiden, my child bride  appeared, gently chiding and blocking out the sun. It was time for a cup of tea.







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