2013: Books

Right, sorry, where was I?

Oh yes, that’s right. Last year’s books.

I’ll start with my favourite, by a favourite: Tony Benn’s The Last Diaries: A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine, released in October.

If outside the UK, you might know Tony Benn best as the elderly English gentleman from Michael Moore’s Sicko, where he spoke with great passion, as he always does, and asked the question: Why is there always money for war, but not for health?

Poignant and inspiring with delightful gems of humour and humility that anyone who has read this prolific diarist will be all too familiar with, the book – as a diary, at least – regrettably ends at the close of July 2009. The short final chapter reads more as a letter or memoir, all too briefly covering events and observations from then up to 2013. This includes a hospital stay, leaving the family home and moving to a warden-controlled flat, hence the diary’s premature ending, as well as the making of the film of his life, Will and Testament, and is terribly sad. That his tremendous, contagious enthusiasm for life appears absent from these final, mostly sombre 17 pages should not surprise. How many nearing the age of ninety still have fire raging in their bellies? This man has earned the right to slow down and reflect in fewer words than his admirers might wish he’d used. That as it may be, it still pains me because how the world needs people like him to share their thoughts with the rest of us.

A moment to remember Pete Seeger, who died last week, if you would be so kind. At the age of 92, in 2011, he was part of the Occupy Wall Street protests. A lovely photo from this time is used to accompany Richard Williams’ equally lovely words. Will we ever see his like again?

Focusing on the first six chapters of diary extracts, throughout which readiness for death is a frequently recurring theme, for all his good- and sometimes bad-natured acceptance of creeping old age and failing health, and while still mourning his beloved wife of 51 years who passed away in 2000, Tony Benn still packed an awful lot into his days, certainly enough to make younger folk flush with shame. That a man in his eighth decade still worked tirelessly for peace and human rights, for social justice, keeping abreast of new technology and using it to engage with so many different people, from so many walks of life, is way beyond admirable. President of the Stop the War Coalition for the last decade, few entries fail to include a rally, march, gala or public-speaking event which required an early start, considerable travel on public transport, not a lot of time to eat, and a late night. His previous diaries, covering 2001 to 2007, were entitled More Time for Politics; that is to say, he believed he would have more time for politics once he had retired from politics. He wasn’t wrong about that.

I love Tony Benn for many reasons: for renouncing his hereditary peerage; for encouraging stamps that would not feature the Queen’s portrait; for supporting the mining and printing unions in their unsuccessful strikes; for being the leading figure of the British opposition to the war in Iraq; for challenging the BBC’s refusal to publicise a humanitarian aid appeal for the people of Gaza; for his criticism of Tony Blair (‘the man is such a menace!’) and denunciation of ‘Thatcherite’ New Labour; for basically having time for everybody who wished to engage him in conversation and genuine interest in them (something you’ll notice throughout the diary, as it seems he can’t attend a hospital appointment or even ring his mobile phone provider without finding out a little about the background of the person assisting him).

There is always warmth, grace and vulnerability in his words, such love for friends and family. Whether sharing tales of smoking his pipe where it is forbidden to do so, being powerless to fix the leaking roof, or hobnobbing with Kofi Annan or Jimmy Carter, you can’t help but find yourself sharing his frustrations and sensing your mood rising and falling with his. His dislike for very few individuals is carefully muted (well, except for certain ‘Establishment’ journalists: ‘I can’t say I’m very interested in them, except as exhibits in a zoo’).

The moderniser whose radicalism made him a hero to the Left, an easy target for the Right, and at one time ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’, Labour’s longest-serving MP remains a great character in British politics and a reminder that there were once staunch socialists in the Labour Party. He has robustly defended all that’s best about Britain whilst attacking everything that’s bad, and does so throughout this journal. If only we had more like him. His Last Diaries, I’m going to miss his joyful, often slightly mischievous curiosity about just about everything that’s going on around him.

The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honour and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century was published in May. Also a diary, of sorts, this is Joel F. Harrington’s interpretation of the somewhat terse journal kept by Frantz Schmidt throughout his long career as a professional executioner in Germany during the height of public executions, from 1573, when he was just nineteen, to his retirement in 1618. During this time, he executed 394 people, 187 by the sword (of these a second stroke was required only four times, if you were wondering), as well as inflicting tremendous suffering through floggings, amputations and various other gruesome punishments of the day, to extract confessions, to avenge victims and to act as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

The 621 entries in his journal chronicle both capital and corporal punishments administered in Bamberg and later Nuremberg.

Macabre but extremely insightful, this is a remarkable chronicle of the life of a pious and professional man who was socially shunned, as all executioners were, as well as being an examination of the type of society that demanded the services of such a man to administer justice on behalf of the community. Execution was a highly skilled and regulated craft, deemed necessary in a lawless and brutal society, one of robber bands and highwaymen who roamed the countryside looting, killing and tormenting the villagers. Such men often believed that chopping off newborn babies’ hands brought them luck and invisibility in a time of spells and curses (and don’t forget, the hysteria whipped up by witch-finders across Europe between 1550 and 1650 resulted in at least 60,000 executions).

This is an excellently researched book. Gory, yes, but not gratuitously so. It is an insight to medieval life during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries when public executions were great civic events publicised by broadsheets and performed before audiences of hundreds. The descriptions are sometimes vivid and detailed, but this is above all a story of redemption: the executor’s was a reviled profession handed down from generation to generation, one that had been forced upon Schmidt’s father under threat of death thus forever tainting the family name. Schmidt was essentially a pariah living a life he had not chosen. Indeed, his true vocation was as a healer, rather than inflicter, of wounds; he acted as the town doctor, through which as much as half his annual income came. He treated more than three hundred patients a year, at least ten times as many as he tortured or killed. This was still not enough to make his family honourable in a society deeply conscious of status, class and reputation.

He would, upon his retirement in 1618, whilst continuing to apply his medical knowledge, petition the emperor Ferdinand II to restore his family’s good name. I won’t spoil the ending.

Also in May, George Monbiot, who you might remember from The Important Stuff, presented his book, Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding.

Here’s a quick video: rewilding made simple.

Researching it ‘felt like stepping through the back of the wardrobe’, he said. Reading it felt a bit like that at times, too.

If you’re a farmer, you might want to look away now.

Monbiot puts forth a case for new, wild, indigenous forests to replace the overgrazed and now bare uplands that have been ruined, mainly by sheep; for the reintroduction to the UK of ‘keystone species’ that would radically change their environment, such as the moose, otter and beaver, and even large predators such as lynx and wolves in order to control deer numbers, which are at an all-time high and are preventing natural forest regeneration; for the creation of marine reserves and enforcement of ‘no fish zones’. All of which, he maintains, would have long-term economic benefits far greater over time than the initial cost outlay. Just look at what other countries are doing. His case is very convincing. Who doesn’t want to restore biodiversity and where’s Meister Frantz and his breaking wheel when you need him?

Just kidding.

I thought the book was the perfect blend of science, nature and poetry, almost, so vivid are his descriptions. I enjoyed his personal observations and while I winced and grimaced on more than one occasion, never imagining myself grappling with a mackerel or carrying a heavy carcass over my shoulder, it’s high time that we stood up to the vested interests of farmers and landowners – those happy to take taxpayers’ money to farm unproductive marginal land, those who would rather continue to profit handsomely from their well-to-do chums who wish to shoot grouse and deer – and bloody-well force incentivise them to instead make changes to restore the natural ecology of the countryside. We should re-direct subsidies and get our priorities straight. There is undoubtedly a suppression of serious debate around the subject of land use and productivity and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why that is. Just look at the land-owning, fox-hunting, badger-culling oafs who make up our (unelected) government of millionaires. Shake your fist at them, if it helps calm you.

I have to admit, though; I don’t feel the need to ‘rewild’ my own life. Just knowing that people are leaving nature alone would do me and I’d happily keep away from wherever Mr Monbiot says should be fenced off. I’d be even happier if people stopped spreading everywhere like a bad smell and if the stupidest ones were made to keep well away from wherever nature needs most protection.

Some of the UK’s land, in biodiversity terms, is almost sterile, so where’s the harm in reforesting the less fertile areas? If you’re presently affected by flooding in the UK, now’s the ideal time to consider letting nature manage our countryside. Sponge-like uplands and trees on the hills would do a better job of keeping rainwater from ruining your carpets than any bare, compacted soil ever will. The sheep up there are having a profound effect on water retention and run-off. And the extra trees would also act as a carbon sink.

The dangers to people are few and the benefits are many. The book is a detailed and comprehensive review of all the benefits and risks.

Perhaps the best thing we can do to conserve, once sensible attempts have been made to reverse some of the damage we have caused, that is – by awarding grants for planting trees and creating bogs and wetlands, not for clearing the land of essential vegetation – is to stop meddling in nature conservation and allow nature to reclaim, restore and re-naturalise. Makes sense to me. But then, I’m not a landowner and I don’t eat lamb or shoot living things for kicks.

I’m not sure how the withdrawal of human influence on a grand scale would be possible without halting population growth, though. I wish more high-profile writers would have the courage to say that this is precisely what we need. Maybe that can be his next book.

Another stunning and timely historical work is Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, by Christopher Clark.

Brilliantly researched, highly detailed and quite hard going at times if you’re not taking notes, Clark does not share the traditional, long-held British view that German ambitions alone caused this hellish conflict.

Controversial, yet compelling, it takes the reader back to the brutal (seriously, it was brutal) assassination of King Alexander I of Serbia, in 1903, and then documents the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, which saw Serbia nearly double in size, in an attempt to reconsider the hows, rather than whys, of the First World War.

How France, determined to regain the two provinces of Alsace and Lorraine lost to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, encouraged and provided financial backing to Russia.

How Britain’s fear of Russia, not Germany, specifically of Russian interests in Persia and Afghanistan (which looked likely to threaten the security of British India and thus unsettle the sacred British Empire), caused Britain to enter into alliance with France and Russia against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

How Italy’s seizure of the Ottoman province of Libya, from Turkey in 1911, led to Bulgaria, Greece and mainly Serbia – with Russian backing – all following Italy’s lead and helping themselves to Turkish territory in Macedonia and Albania, which in turn inspired Serbian nationalists to provoke Austria-Hungary in order to seize Bosnia, which they regarded as theirs by historical right (Bosnia-Herzegovina having been formally annexed in 1908).

Cue fanatical Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip, whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo in late-June 1914, every student of history knows, sparked the fuse that would set off a tragic chain reaction thirty-seven days later when war was declared.

Blame clearly should be shared around Europe for this avoidable horror, rather than laid all too conveniently at Germany’s door – as it had been at Versailles, the trigger for another world war. ‘The Germans were not the only imperialists and not the only ones to succumb to paranoia,’ after all. Not that the author is looking to apportion blame here, hence the title: the major players of 1914 were directionless sleepwalkers – ‘watchful but unseeing’ – not warmongers.

And to think that it was all supposed to be over by Christmas 1914.

Throughout the coming year there will be much written and said about this global catastrophe that began one hundred years ago, much of it idealised and romanticised tosh, much with understandable political and national bias, so it’s more important than ever to question the facts and reconsider the intentions of all involved. Fascinating, if heavy, reading and definitely relevant to the modern day.

I’ll spare you a condensed review of Captive: The Story of the Cleveland Abductions, by Allan Hall, and Sorry! The English and Their Manners, by Henry Hitchings, because will you just look at how long this post has got already? However, I will apologise to football/soccer fans for not yet reading Red or Dead, David Peace’s critically-acclaimed novel about Bill Shankly. Nor a certain Manchester United manager’s (desperate?) autobiography. One of these days.

Do let us know what you recommend from 2013’s many new publications – and if you read them on paper or a screen.

The chatroom will be open tomorrow from 1pm (UK), if you want to help me turn it into a book club. Bring your own biscuits.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

30 thoughts on “2013: Books”

  1. Sorry fellow bloggers but I’m not sure I have read anything that deserves a review such as Fed has treated us to … I am nibbling my way through “Catastophe – Europe goes to War 1914” (Max Hastings – Tory but respectable) in the spirit of WWI remembrance … (as this is primarily a food blog I am also nibbling chocolate hobnobs)

    …I heartily echo Feds thoughts – this year of remembrance is a great opportunity to consider a lot of issues beyond the (fairly) familiar tale of slaughter and futility on the Western Front … and may I say the BBC has got off to a flying start with Paxman’s inciteful TV social history and much discussion on the role of social revolutionary power of war viz a viz women in the workplace, the eventual extension of Universal Suffrage, the questioning of social hierarchy and the presumption of the Upper classes to rule (competently), the need to address urban poverty that was raised by the substandard quality of the cannon-fodder. A good A level subject … “War as an engine of social change. Discuss”.

    Apart from that (I am a slow reader as my lips don’t move fast) I have chiseled through Fergie’s latest “autobiography” (no not her, and no not her either) which is a rushed, missed opportunity of a book and stands poor comparison to Tony Benn. That’s a fine tribute to the man Fed .. I am afraid he was successfully marginalised and we will not see his likes again.

    I’m very interested in “The Faithful Executioner” which had completely passed me by …. that’s on the list … other than that I find, as with music” that there is a MASSIVE backlog in literature that will keep me reading (if I can learn to stop falling asleep after 5 pages) for a few Millennia yet …

    1. Paxman’s Britain’s Great War series has been excellent viewing, hasn’t it? (I haven’t read the book, but it’s on my list, along with Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British, now that it’s available in paperback. His earlier book, The English: A Portrait of a People, was a great read.) He’s in hot water for calling some of the more extreme conscientious objectors “cranks” in the latest episode, though. Shame. It seems a fair enough comment to make; I’m sure there were cranks, both fighting and refusing to fight. People are so sensitive these days.

      Speaking of missed opportunities, the book about the Cleveland abductions was definitely one of those. Hurried to cash in on the moment, perhaps as Sir Alex Ferguson’s was? I am going to read that eventually, though. What was serialised in the papers was quite tasty, but I guess I’ve now read all the most sensational bits.

      Hope you find The Faithful Executioner of interest.

  2. Wow. I bet History was your subject at University. Or at least it’s your passion. 🙂

    History isn’t my subject and I’m feeling incompetent and unconfident to take part in any discussion about the causes of WW2, but I just think that Hitler (and the Nazis, I don’t say ‘Germany’) has been solely responsible for the Holocaust, for example, and all the atrocities committed during WW2. Despite being Austrian (I think), he had very strong views on Germany being the master race and thought that Germany was far superior to any other country. He wanted world domination. I think that one way or another, he would have found a way to achieve his foolish dream. The Treaty of Versailles didn’t ‘create’ Hitler. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles left Germany with nothing but debts and humiliation, so the treaty just created the right conditions to allow a man like him to come to power. Sorry, it’s probably too simple a view, not a deep analysis.

    Books of 2013?

    World overpopulation is a major problem, don’t you think?

    If you want to know about a drastic way to stop overpopulation, then read ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown… 😉

    Now, isn’t overconsumption a bigger problem than overpopulation?

    1. I think you’re right about the debt and humiliation creating the right conditions for radicalism to prosper, but Versailles was pure Allied spite. Even in a Hall of Mirrors, I’m amazed that the victors could bear to look at themselves. The equivalent of around 100,000 tonnes of gold originally? Can’t say I can blame Hitler for refusing to keep up his repayments when he came to power.

    2. OK. I don’t know about the “100,000 tonnes of gold originally” required by the Treaty of Versailles, but let’s not forget that France paid its war reparations imposed after the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war – in full and ahead of schedule. We had no Hitler at home for refusing to keep up his repayments. 😉

      I’m not at all an expert in History, but I read this: “The cost of reparations [imposed by the Treaty of Versailles] was announced: £6.6 billion. The figure shocked and angered Germans who conveniently forgot that Germany had demanded an even greater sum from a defeated France following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.” – Maybe you could tell me if it’s true?

      Anyway, that’s history, behind us now. Let’s forget about it.

      On a lighter note, I loved your allusion to la Galerie des Glaces du Château de Versailles. Very clever.

    3. I had also never picked up on the Franco-Prussian reparations … that’s the trouble with History, there’s so darned much of it …

  3. Hi Fed

    Not a topic for me, I do not read too many books. I do read a lot on the www though. And just to remind one and all that Saturday the 8th of February is DAVE Day and you all know what that means, heehee.

    Kind regards
    Damian.

    Hope the mention above does not affect my first refusal for any future Mr Gilmour gigs.

  4. Well it’s that day today, and I have no intention of upsetting David. I think I did that on a grand scale back in 1994, and still reeling when I think back, shouting across a packed room to him. Just nerves.

    Damian

    1. I was flicking channels and was pleasantly surprised to come across this. It was part way through the Delicate Sound of Thunder film. 🙂 Well worth a watch.

      I haven’t played much Floyd or Gilmour music for a while. Look, I’ve been listening for over 40 years so you have to stop, let it fade from memory then it’s fabulous all over again when you hear it again.

      What was really nice about coming across this film, was that discovery, again. 😀 Wasn’t the start to Run Like Hell incredible? I’d forgotten what David does with a guitar!!!

      I have always loved A Momentary Lapse of Reason. I love the ‘dark’ parts, lyrics and musical, in particular.

      I hope David has some of this sort of thing on his new album, but no matter what’s there, I know I’m gonna love it.

      ash

  5. Off topic, again, because of the end of one of my fave US late night shows, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, here is a link of David performing there in 2007. I know that many here have been there, like Susan.

  6. “Fall of Giants” and “Winter of the World” are great historical/fiction reading by Ken Follett. Jefferey Archer’s Sins of the Father trilogy also. Seems to be the theme for authors lately.

    Our Prime Minister has written “A Great Game” which depicts the origin of hockey and the Stanley Cup, and the battle of Amateurism vs. Professionalism.

  7. I haven’t read Monbiot’s book, but given how you’ve described it Fed (extremely eloquent, I wish I had your gift to express), I am in favour of re-wilding. (Maybe. I read an interesting article which I will describe later.)

    You mentioned the sheep Fed, I’ve read that there are over 300,000 deer also eating everything in sight and new forests can not get established. Wolves used to be the natural predator of deer and kept numbers in check.

    I’ve also read about a wealthy land owner, in Scotland, who has introduced wolves to his land and forests and I think he also wanted to introduce bears.

    It’s a huge job to try to make a habitat suitable for wolves, re-wilding would mean first of all the replanting of forests (remember the deer and sheep). However, I think I’ve also read that the soil that used to support forests has been washed away when it was exposed by de-forestation.

    I’ve said before, I’d love for everyone to be planting more trees. I’d make a contribution to the replanting of our forests. Provide (preserve) the habitat and we safeguard all the animals in that habitat.

    I’ve also said before that human activity has displaced or destroyed habitats.

    There are things to be hopeful about though. 😀

    ash

    1. I read an article – here – just a couple of weeks ago. It made me think in a different way. I’m now much more hopeful about animal and plant life previously damaged by human activity. It’s like flipping a switch, you just look at it in another way. I’m sorry you can’t read the entire article without subscribing but honestly, if you can get to read it (libraries usually have a subscription and you can can read it there) and you are passionate and worried about the loss of ecosystems caused by humans, this article will give you a lift. 😀

      Chris Thomas says that the changes may drive some species to extinction but the process will also provide ecological opportunities for existing species and for new forms of life to evolve and exploit these new environments.

      He says that some people say we are in the throes of the sixth great extinction, as big as the asteroid hit that wiped out the dinosaurs. However the extinction of dinosaurs made space for the evolution of mammals.

      He goes on, diversity is already happening, we are seeing that hybridisation between species is much more common than was previously thought. Hybridisation opens up evolutionary opportunities.

      He explains that there have always been extinction events with evolutionary explosions following. Of course this is on vast timescales.

      He does not advocate just letting nature take its course, he thinks we should try to minimise habitat loss and climate change but not every change can or should be resisted. He says we should not confuse change with damage. That things are happening so fast, that we are seeing big ecological changes in our individual lifetimes, that it is human nature to worry about changes (look at what we are seeing today, in UK, land possibly ruined for farming by floods, do we take the King Canute view or do we move people away?).

      He says that “a narrow preservationist agenda” will reduce the capacity of nature to respond to environmental change. Species are going to have to move to survive. (So will people.) He reminded us that when the last great ice age ended, trees moved back to the northern areas of the planet but it was different species of trees and to different places.

      I’m sorry, I haven’t been able to explain everything he said and don’t know if I hit the main points. What I’ve tried to say is that we should not feel completely hopeless and give up on our ideals of limiting man made damage to our planet. I’ve tried to point out that all is not lost when humans (inadvertently, people struggling to make a living by logging for example don’t realise it may harm the ecosystem) cause the collapse of an ecosystem, new colonists are waiting in the wings.

      Sorry I’m not a better writer and able to paraphrase well.

      ash

      1. (look at what we are seeing today, in UK, land possibly ruined for farming by floods, do we take the King Canute view or do we move people away?).

        It’s a delicate situation, the sight of people being escorted from their homes in dinghies is uncomfortable to watch, and your heart goes out to everybody affected. But, and I hate to repeat it because it doesn’t lessen anybody’s loss, some suggest that some of the people whose homes and businesses are now flooded bought their houses, possibly cheaply, possibly knowing that there was a flood risk, and now, understandably, they want rivers dredged. I’m in the camp with those who absolutely don’t want rivers dredged and didn’t want their houses built there in the first place and who don’t believe houses should ever be built on flood plains.

        Not that any of this helps the poor sods knee-deep in water.

        On the bright side, as its affecting people around the Thames, I’m sure firm action will now finally be taken. Hey, there are even calls to divert some of the UK’s foreign aid budget to help flood victims, because it’s not like people in, say, Syria have such nice carpeting that needs saving.

        (I don’t remember this blanket coverage screaming “Crisis!” at all hours when the north, mainly, was hit by floods in 2007, even when there were several deaths. Odd, that.)

        But anyway, as this is supposed to be a time for finding solutions, I hope the powers that be can see beyond ‘dredging’, even when farmers are the ones most loudly demanding it. And I hope everyone believes in global warming now.

    2. Climate change but also over/uncontrolled/anarchic urbanisation increases the risk of flood. At least here in France.

      1. Climate change but also over/uncontrolled/anarchic urbanisation increases the risk of flood. At least here in France.

        Indeed. The result of overpopulation.

    3. Someone suggested re-routing rivers, so as they meander more and slow the flow. I think the sheer volume of water the country is having dumped on it, may negate such rivers though.

      I agree, the flood plains should never have been built on. I remember reading something a while back about the effects blockpaving on driveways and gardens were having on rain run off or absorption by the ground.

      The cumulative effect of the loss of gardens was affecting ground water levels and overwhelming drainage systems (not forgetting loss of habitat for birds, small mammals, flowers for bees, amphibians and on and on).

      All the little things add up.

      I really do think that either people are very stupid or they don’t care. I think big business and the politicians who sanctioned their actions by allowing building on flood plains, have a lot to answer for. The government is in for a rough ride on this, no doubt they’ll eventually blame previous Labour governments! (Not any of the Tory ones that sold off the public utility companies.)

      I too feel very sorry for the people who have been affected so badly, especially the ones who’ve been flooded since before Christmas.

      ash

    4. The result of overpopulation.

      No. Uncontrolled/anarchic urbanisation isn’t directly the result of overpopulation but the result of human stupidity, greed, power of builders’ lobbies, corruption, and all that. In one word: money, easy money.

      1. But ultimately the need for more housing is due to a growing population, due to births as well as immigration. Goodness knows upon which (unsuitable? unsafe?) green space the next housing estates are to be built.

        I’d rather keep the green space.

        I’m afraid I’m a complete NIMBY on this, and not just in defence of my back yard but everybody else’s back yards, too.

    5. Well, man is a part of nature, whether you like it or not.

      YOU are a part of nature and YOU live in a house which – I suppose (unless you live in a cave 😉 ) – was built upon a wild/green space. So do your dogs. And that’s fine by me.

      1. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to keep building on it, though, does it? We are able to cheaply and easily control the size of our families now. We weren’t when my house was built, in fairness.

  8. As you say above Fed, money is no option when in Middle England, I think he will eat those words later. No one can stop the flooding, but they are too scared to admit it.

    Maybe we can benefit from this global warming, we could collect all the water and sell it to drought ridden California.

    Damian.

    1. Yes – so money is no obstacle to making a Prime Minister look “effective” but it sure is an obstacle to helping thousands of (long term) homeless people to have any sort of a roof over their head.

      Funny that (but I’m not laughing).

      Oh and Ash, you’d better plant another tree for me because one just blew down outside our house and blocked the road …. I’m ditching “Global Warming” … it’s “Global Climate Chaos” we can look forward to and I suspect there’s not a damn thing we can do about it … although it’s nice to see Soldiers filling sandbags outside the war zone for a change.

      Talking of History, did anyone see today’s Guardian which (optimistically?) predicts that 2015 will be the first year in over 100 that Great Britain is not actually engaged in fighting a war with anybody else … although to be perfectly honest we probably ought to be fighting somebody in Syria because I’m not finding the sight of the World Community standing by and watching continual slaughter of innocents by all sides very edifying either …

      Boy am I a sour puss today.

    2. Talking of History, did anyone see today’s Guardian which (optimistically?) predicts that 2015 will be the first year in over 100 that Great Britain is not actually engaged in fighting a war with anybody else.

      Isn’t that a horrible, shameful statistic, especially when you consider that the First World War, supposedly the war to end all wars, started 100 years ago this year? So much bloodshed since.

      I hope they’re right and I like to think that Tony Benn will be well enough to comment in his usual style; he’s seriously ill in hospital at the moment, sadly.

  9. I just realised, that I not only buy old records (OK, CDs with old content) and movies, but also old books. What does this tell of me??

    Anyway, in case someone is interested, I have some suggestions. Among others (mostly English and a few German novels) I bought and enjoyed these:

    1) The 48 Laws Of Power by Robert Greene, a book that anyone should read in order to understand how managers think and function.

    2) Call for the Dead by John le Carré, nice to read as all his books.

    3) Once You Break a Knuckle by D. W. Wilson, a collection of short stories that take place in the Europe of Americas: Canada, he!

    4) The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo M. Cipolla, which explains a lot. 🙂

    5) A Dictionary of Idiocy: Stephen Bayley by, Stephen Bayley, a book about idiots, using that word with its original meaning.

    6) MAD’s Greatest Artists: Dave Berg: Five Decades of The Lighter Side, no comment necessary, I hope.

    7) “Yellow Kid” Weil: The Autobiography of America’s Master Swindler (Nabat) by Weil, J. R., a great book to read, please buy it.

    8) The Big Con by David Maurer, more about con artists, a species that is always present…

    As you can see history isn’t in my preferences: I find it too depressing having proved over and over again that humans are not adaptive at all. The nearest I come to it is when I read about some witty persons as Yellow Kid or Sir Winston Churchill for example.

    Off-topic: I read that the rain will go on until the weekend. Your PM said that money doesn’t matter, but I’m afraid that this will help only a few of them who really need it. Why are people so lightheaded to build their home in flood plains? We had exactly the same situation when massive rain fell in east parts of Germany last year.

    Taki

    1. 4) The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo M. Cipolla, which explains a lot. 🙂

      That’s the first one I’m googling… 😉

      Thanks, Taki. Great list. I’ll be sure to look for a few of those.

  10. “If we can find money to kill people, we can find money to help people” – Tony Benn.

    I heard that, sadly, he died today – on anniversary of the death of Karl Marx. I read here that, to his mind, Marxism was for those who could not understand why there should be people without homes when builders are out of work…

    And yes, he seemed to be such a good and gentle man, believing in a ‘socialism of humanity’.

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