Saturday, 22 January 2011

Literary Ability

I'm not sure who it was that said it, but someone did once say that everyone has at least one good book in them. The problem that I see with this is the definition of good. Some people would rave about Mills and Boon, whereas I would rather gouge out my eyes with a blunt rusty nail than subject them to one word of what I consider to be dross.

I am very envious of my friend Neil, the author of Speedbumps, as he is endeavouring to write a book about his time at school. I believe he has the self-discipline to achieve this goal, even if it does take ten years to complete.

I, on the other hand, seem to lack this sort of self-motivation, as evidenced by my year of CBA when it came to writing this, although there are occasions when I think that certain events would make a good book or could be included in a story. It’s just finding the time on top of everything else to sit down and do it.

However, I did make the time last weekend to write one important thing, a letter to Alec. I have heard from him a couple of times, and it was no surprise that he was somewhat tired. At the moment, he seems to be averaging 3-4 hours’ sleep a night, although that will improve as he gets further into the course.

I was not the only one to write, though, as his sister has also written and I know that he received that letter, because he told her when he telephoned her on her birthday on Thursday.

That's something that I find difficult to believe. It’s bad enough that my eldest child will be 20 this year, but my youngest is now a teenager. I can't help but wonder what has happened to the last thirteen years, and marvel at how quickly they have passed, taking my daughter from the baby floating in the birthing pool to the confident, independent-minded young lady that I now see.

For her birthday, I finally succumbed to her constant pleading and allowed her to have her ears pierced. The look on her face when the earring was fired through her ears made me wish that I'd got my camera with me.

It’s quite a busy time for birthdays, with Maggie's on Thursday, mine today and m'Julie's in two weeks. Again, it’s looking back at the speed with which time is passing, as it doesn't seem like 31 years since I was celebrating the birthday that she celebrated on Thursday, and it is incredible to remember all that has happened in that time.

One fairly significant event from my life was brought to the fore again this week with the resumption of the Iraq Inquiry, and Tony Blair (or B Liar as he's referred to on the Army Rumour Service) returning to answer further questions, although from what I can see, although he spoke a lot, he didn't actually say very much. Perhaps if the private correspondence between him and Bush had been released, then more light would have been shed on the whole business.

My take on the whole subject, as someone who found himself in Iraq in late-2003, is like so many others who were out there. Did the regime need to be replaced. Yes. Were the majority of the Iraqi people happy to see an end to the way in which their country was being run? Again, yes. Did the Iraqi regime have access to the claimed weapons of Mass destruction, and did Blair and Bush really believe that these weapons really existed. To both questions, I think that the answer has to be no. And, most importantly, had he and Bush and their advisors come up with a post-conflict plan to ensure that there would be stability in the region. No, of course they didn't, which is largely why Iraq degenerated into the mess it became.

So why did the British Prime Minister support US plans to invade. I guess that we'll never know, but I truly believe that he was not acting in the best interests of the country when he made the decision to do so. I suspect he was more concerned about his future career prospects, making sure that he had friends in high places. As for him finally expressing his regrets for the loss of life that resulted from his decisions eight years ago, I have to agree with the person in the public gallery who shouted "Too late!" I think it’s a pity that he seems to be walking away from this scot free.

However, at least not all corrupt politicians are getting away with things, all be it on a much smaller scale than Tony, as two weeks ago David Chaytor, the first of the MPs convicted as a result of the expenses scandal in 2009, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for fraudulently claiming £20,000. Again, it’s a pity that with the current policy on sentencing etc, this crook will probably be out of prison and cashing in on his criminal activity in the form of books and lecture tours in about six months.

Eric Illsley, another of these criminals has also finally resigned having been convicted, although he is still awaiting sentencing. Let’s just hope that all of these thieves end up serving custodial sentences, and not just getting slaps on the wrist.

So now I'm about to have my "birthday tea", and m'Julie's even making me a cake (she sold her first cake just before Christmas and is open for orders). Not helping with my efforts to lose weight so that I fit in my mess kit for the dinner in two weeks, but, not being Royalty, I only have one birthday a year, so I'm going to enjoy it.

It’s just a pity that No.1 Son is the only one not here to enjoy the food, although he has telephoned. He's still knackered, still being worked hard, and still enjoying it. And if he's reading this, no, there probably won't be any cake left over when he comes home in three weeks.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A New Beginning

Not for me, but for No. 1 Son. It’s odd, but he passed his Army Officer Selection Board nearly three years ago, and at the time it seemed that his going to Sandhurst was such a long time away, and now he's there!

He decided that he was going to have his last night out last Friday in Tunbridge Wells and invited lots of friends and all the family for a curry night and then he and the friends were going off clubbing. However, from the start, things did not go completely according to plan.

He had decided that he was having the night out some time ago, but the first spanner in the works was his mother, who had decided that as I was going to be there, she was not. I did find this a little selfish on her part in that she was unwilling to put her animosity to one side for the sake of her son, but ultimately that's her loss.

And, because he'd chosen an Indian restaurant to have the meal in, he inadvertently excluded m'Julie, as she doesn't do spicy food because it does not have a good effect on her.

I was also not at my best, having gone down with my third "bug" in almost as many weeks. A week before Christmas, I'd had a chest infection, and then, having recovered from that, I went down with a cold on Christmas Day, and then last Thursday had another cold, with gastrointestinal "extras". m'Julie was convinced that I had swine flu and did a runner to her mother's.

So it was in a somewhat subdued state that I picked up No. 2 Son and my Daughter and drove to the restaurant, where I ate not very much and left early with the kids.

No. 2 Son didn't ,mind too much as it gave him the opportunity to get home here and sort out which are his PS3 games to take home to his mother's now that he has his own PS3, bought from a friend last week.

The plan on Saturday was to collect No. 1 Son, make sure that he was all sorted and then make sure that he had an early night before the trip on Sunday. However, because he was a. Hungover and b. A bit disorganised, he was ready to move out until nearly 8pm! So much for the early night.

We got up quite late and at lunchtime, after Alec had said his goodbyes to the rest of the family, father and son set of for the uneventful journey to Surrey.
We made good time and so stopped off at the Camberley Tesco’s for a coffee and lunch. Alec successfully blended in with all the other smartly dressed young men and women looking very nervous.

After this very quick lunch we made the short trip to the Academy and joined the queue of traffic that was making its way to the parade square to park, Alec managing to get a couple of pictures of New College through the trees as we slowly drove.

Once we arrived, things happened very rapidly. I went off to have coffee whilst Alec was off filling in paperwork, then the families were taken to the chapel to be addressed by the Commandant and Old College Commander. Then it was back to the car to help Alec get all his kit into his room, prior to a quick goodbye and my heading home.

We'd been told during the talk that all of the new Officer Cadets would be kept busy and would be getting used to eighteen hour days during the next few weeks, and we could see that in the little time that we had to say goodbye.

So that's it now for five weeks, which is how long it is until he gets a weekend off. And clearly the long days have started as I was woken up by a text message at nearly 1am this morning telling me that he was just going to bed after a very long day that had probably started 20 hours previously.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Still alive!

Despite the fact that it has been more than a year since my last post, it’s nothing to do with my demise, untimely or otherwise. It is purely that, to quote my No.2 Son, I CBA. It just got to the stage where I couldn't bring myself to sit down and ramble, although the family will be able to vouch for the fact that I continued to do so at home.

It’s also not because nothing happened during 2010, because I did have quite a busy year. My real job kept me busy and even got me a trip to Portugal for the ERC Congress. I'd never been to Portugal before, in fact, I'd never been to the Iberian Peninsula before, and it was even better because it was all paid for by my department

However, we were lucky to get there, as we flew at the time that the UK was again grinding to a halt because of snow. The whole of the east of the UK was in chaos, including the M25 seeming to have been turned into a car park for lorries, but we flew from Heathrow, which was clear.

We were also lucky to get back, as the day that we were flying back was the same day that the Spanish air traffic controllers decided to go on strike. Fortunately, because we flew with TAP, we were able to get back, because unlike airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair, TAP didn't cancel all of their flights at the mention of a strike.

The city of Porto was very nice, from what I saw of it, as the Congress did interfere a little with the sight-seeing. However, courtesy of one of the medical companies, we did get to have a nice meal at, and a tour of, the Taylor's Port Lodge. Now, as I do like my port........... It’s definitely somewhere that I would revisit, hopefully next time with m'Julie.

The TA part of my life has also kept me quite busy, and in July I spent a week in Holland as part of the British Military Contingent providing support during the Nijmegen Marches, or Vierdaagse in Dutch. It was an interesting but tiring week, although we weren't as tired as those that were actually marching. Some of the blisters were horrendous, and I saw my first ever case of trench foot from a man who'd not looked after his feet properly.

And in September, although not as cosmopolitan, the camp was on the Isle of Wight, reached via landing craft, which was an interesting experience.

So now Christmas and New Year is over for another year and 2011 has the potential to be as busy as last year. The first of these is No.1 Son's "Last Meal" this Friday before I drive him to Sandhurst on Sunday to begin his Commissioning Course.

Watch this space!