Desirable building land – apply Chancellor of the Exchequer

Green Park and Hyde Park, London

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Karl Marx as a journalist

The ethos of the [Russian Crimean] army was dominated by the eighteenth-century parade-ground culture of the tsarist court, in which promotion, to quote Karl Marx, was limited to ‘martinets, whose principal merit consists of stolid obedience and ready servility added to accuracy of eyesight in detecting a fault in the buttons and buttonholes of the uniform’. There was more emphasis on the drilling and appearance of the troops than on their battle worthiness.

Figes, Orlando. Crimea Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

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Book Review: Hilary Mantel ~ The Mirror and the Light (2020)

The scale of the success of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy is that it’s a 2112 page story about a Tudor civil servant. Cromwell’s speciality was as a courtier and sycophant endlessly grovelling to Henry VIII. He was also a ruthless opponent, a murderer, an administrative genius, utterly duplicitous and callous in the extreme. He was an essential part of the king’s inner circle. Cromwell ‘anticipated’ Henry’s wishes making himself indispensable.

Henry was a despot and sometimes had desires which were unobtainable. Needless to relate that didn’t stop Henry from blaming Cromwell if they weren’t met. Success however was extremely well rewarded and especially in a period of unprecedented looting and plunder through the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Those in pivotal positions gained enormously. Cromwell being one.

In the immortal phrase, ‘The lord giveth and the lord taketh away’, many courtiers had gold dust thrown at them but Henry was capricious. A courtier out of favour not only lost property but also their lives. Henry’s fear of civil war generated his famous search for a fertile wife and a healthy son. That he was diseased and infertile wasn’t mooted – it was too dangerous!

Although Cromwell was a genius and a pivotal figure at Henry’s court the centrifugal forces of the ancient nobility and a few miscalculations – creating enemies where it was unnecessary – led to his downfall.

This third part of the trilogy is too long, too self-indulgent and needed brisk editing. It didn’t get it because Mantel’s a super-star. Could it be she’s suffering from Cromwellian hubris?

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Black humour

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Heaven and Hell Defined

In heaven, the English are the policemen, the French are the chefs, the Germans the mechanics, the Italians are the lovers, and the Swiss organize everything.

In hell, the Germans are the policemen, the English are the chefs, the French the mechanics, the Swiss are the lovers, and the Italians organize everything.

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Failing Maths at Sir Philip Magnus school, 1958

In June 1958 our class was told about the annual mathematics examination. This didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. I feared exams and I especially hated maths. Our teacher, Mr Jones, a hard Welshman from the Rhonda, made the announcement with a certain finality in his voice. This meant: there would be no exceptions.

As he distributed a sheaf of examination papers, face down, he announced these were an example of a test grade paper given some years earlier. The mock examination was to get us ready for the real thing. Everything about this mock would be treated like the real thing. He emphasised the regulations, “No talking, under any circumstances.” If anyone did not understand a question, they could raise their hand and he’d help.

You’ll have exactly, One Hour, from when I tell you to turn over your paper”.

I had a mixture of feelings. I was pleased that this wasn’t the real exam, so I didn’t have to worry about getting the questions wrong! The test went OK. The actual examination was a different matter altogether.

Instead of taking the exam in our usual classroom, we went to the hall. Desks were spaced out in rows, much further apart than we’d seen before. The regulations were just as Mr Jones had said but with the addition of the ticking of the large hall clock.

Two hours!

You may now turn over the paper, in front of you. Don’t forget to print your name, and date, at the head of the paper.”

I’d worried about this ordeal a lot and the previous night it took a long time to get to sleep.

We were told to answer each question as fully as possible, as the teacher who was to mark our papers could not possibly know our thinking. The questions, on three sides of A5 paper were clearly numbered and we were told,

As it was important to answer as many questions as possible, if you don’t know, or understand a question, – leave it and go onto the next, you can then go back to the question/s you missed. If you have the time.”

My stomach was churning as my head was working me up to a frenzy of self-doubt and failure. I had yet to read any of the questions, but already I could feel my forehead beginning to sweat. Several deep breaths later, I managed to concentrate on the questions.

Just two questions remain with me because they were a nightmare

Question 3. Define what is meant by the term, “using Logarithms and anti-logarithms?

Question 8. In what sense is Algebra used in defining complex formula.

Some people find mathematics as easy as anything. Unfortunately I struggle at the simplest levels and failed.


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A J P Taylor on the Nuremberg Trials

Twenty years ago [1963] I published a book about the origins of the Second World War. At the time it was dismissed as wrong-headed and controversial. Now it has become the accepted version for most people. But there still lurks some trouble in the book, particularly the so-called Hossbach Protocol. I asserted that this document was a forgery, an assertion which caused much indignation. Now after many years a Berlin lawyer called Dankwart Kluge has taken another look at the Hossbach Protocol. His conclusions are startling. The Hossbach Protocol never existed as a formal document. Indeed it probably never existed in any form. Two documents were submitted to the Nuremberg Tribunal: one was an English translation, markedly longer than the alleged Protocol, the other a microfilm copy of a microfilm. However, the Tribunal accepted these documents. They were held to prove that Hitler was planning an aggressive war. On the strength of them, Goering was condemned to death and only escaped the hangman by taking poison. No evidence that Hitler planned aggressive war has ever been produced. Hossbach, who is alleged to have compiled the so-called protocol, was from the first an associate of the German generals who opposed Hitler’s policy or tried to. (my emphasis)

See also a 1984 analysis

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