1968: Another Look

May 27, 2008

1968 is the 40th anniversary of that year of student violence.  I can’t say it’s something that has ever interested me too much, but it’s up there on my list of things to know about, along with another turbulent year, 1848.

My interest in this anniversary has just been stoked up by what may be the most perverted film that I have seen in a long time – “The Dreamers” by Bernardo Bertolucci.  It tells the story of a young Yank living in Paris who by dint of a passion for old cinema falls in love with a pair of twins, one played by the luscious Eva Green.  When I say in love with both of them, I mean both, as the twins were formerly conjoined at the shoulder and although physically separated, their minds seem to be as one.  Cue all kinds of ridiculous and I do mean ridiculous situations. It’s all very fucked up and they all get hurt.  The ’68 student riots are a backdrop to all of this for much of the film and in the end it destroys the three young people whom the film is centred on.  Very sad.


Revenge is Sweet

May 26, 2008

I was horrified a week ago at the news that Carlisle United, that great Cumberland Associated Football side, had lost on aggregate to upstart losers Leeds United.  After Carlisle’s up and down record this season, to be robbed of a final chance to get into the Champion’s League was VERY bitter.

But all was not lost.  I had hoped that Leeds would go into receivership again, but something better happened.  Yesterday Leeds lost to South Yorkshire side Doncaster, one-nil.  A ha!  Next year, Carlisle WILL be promoted, and Leeds will hopefully sink to something like the Pub Landlord’s Cup :).

Indiana Jones and the Trip Down Memory Lane

May 25, 2008

After a pleasant day out in Temple Newsam avec amis, I decided to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  I had heard two independent reviews from friends about the film who found it crap, but I just had to see it.  Considering that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out when I was only four years old, I just had to experience Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. on the big screen at least once.  So criticism be damned, I thought.

And two hours later, I have to say I was relatively impressed by the film.  It was ridiculously action-packed.  I haven’t seen so much senseless violence since Pirates of the Caribbean III.  Despite all the talk of the film “not” being special-effects driven, there was still a fair amount of good old Industrial Light and Magic work in their.

The plot itself?  I can’t complain about it too much, although the title is rather misleading – there’s very little “Kingdom” involved in it.  The only problem I had with it was their annoying manner of explaining away the absences of Marcus Brodie and Henry Jones, Sr., i.e. Denholm Elliott (who died 16 years ago!) and Sean Connery.  I knew things were going to be bad when they replaced Denholm Elliott with bloody Jim Broadbent.  Then I saw in the background of a scene an atrocious portrait in oils of “Marcus Brodie”, and then an atrociously executed statue of him.  What a shoddy manner of tieing up loose ends!  And Sean Connery’s absence was explained by his apparently dying.  Right…

Some may criticise the outlandishness of the plot, but compared to the other films it’s not all that bad.  John Hurt was shockingly under-used as a character – he might as well have been CGI-animated for most of it, he said so little.  Shia LaBoef’s (Shite Le Beef as I call him) character wasn’t as bad as I expected.  He came across as a cock rather well, so the natural order of the universe hasn’t been altered.  I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the film.  I can only hope to God that another sequel is in the offing.


May 3, 2008

What are the roots of anger I wonder? Or a more important and slightly more pertinent question, once that anger has been identified how does one deal with it, live with it. If I wasn’t so busy with politics, naval history and swanning about I could probably devote some serious thought to the subject, and who knows, it may even deflect some of the anger away. Or not…

Harley beats Lib Dems, loses to Labour

May 2, 2008

The Candidate for City & Hunslet campaigning with the Candidate for Kirkstall.Thanks to a friend, I was talked into standing as a councillor for the Ward of City & Hunslet in the Metropolitan Borough of Leeds. I realised at first that the Conservative Party had polled behind the BNP in 2007, but it wasn’t until my name was on the nomination papers that I was informed that we had polled behind RESPECT as well! Being behind the Labour councillor and the Liberal Democrats was naturally to be expected. I could live with that (barely).

So, it was with trepidation that I put on my tailored suit and my Indian-made shoes on Friday morning to attend the count. The night before had of course been election day, and of course I got absolutely wankered. In fact, I’d only woken up because I received a phone call from someone who was already on their way to Leeds Town Hall. Hungover like a fox, I made my way to the City & Hunslet count after much prodding from my Election Agent. I entered the room while Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn was lurking around, hardly an auspicious beginning.

As a candidate, I had to observe the dismissing of spoiled ballots. Unfortunately it seemed that a number of defaced votes would have been Conservative! There were two which I loved though. There was one person who in the voting booth had meticulously torn around the edges of the box with my name and party on, put an “X” next to it and then put it in the box! I lost a vote due to someone’s over-eagerness to screw the other parties.

But best of all was the person who turned his ballot paper into a tract, at the top writing a not so brief dissertation as to why they weren’t voting and then putting a pithy stereotype next to the name of each party. To wit, the best were;

*”The Conservative Party”; Big Business,
*”The Green party”; Big Green Business.

I’m happy to say the Green Party candidate and I had a laugh over that one. But the best news came with the result. I had noticed that the box of my returns was getting rather large, and considering that last time the Conservative Party had come fifth out of seven candidates, this time I was looking like I might get third or fourth. And then the man in charge of the count asked the candidates to assemble at the head of the table. The tallies were announced; Labour with 1697, Conservatives with 538, Lib Dems with 488…I had come second, naturally thrashing the BNP and the Respect-candidate-in-disguise!!
Gentlemanly (as if this were hard burden for me to bear), I instantly shook the hand of the Labour winner, who by some strange coincidence was next to me, then skipped ebulliently off…

I can only thank the 14.78 per cent of the good voters of City & Hunslet who voted for me. Obviously the majority felt that voting for Elizabeth Nash, the Labour candidate, was the right choice to make, and I can only agree with them. However, I trust that in two years time a strong conservative candidate can be found to take on the Labour machine and bring out the best of the people of South Leeds.


April 28, 2008

The late Mr. Brian Verrall.How easy it is to forget people and events from your past – only to have them jump back into the forefront of one’s thoughts. This was brought home to me yesterday at the Stafford Classic Bike Show – the largest of its kind in the world. Despite my often griping at having to shift motorcycles around, and my father’s spurious lies to the contrary, I have and always have had an abiding interest in all things mechanical. My father ought to know this, as when I was a lot younger he used to take me away to do autojumbles up and down the country at weekends – this when I could still curl up inside the footwell of our Mercedes van and go to sleep!

So it was with great sadness that I discovered that an acquaintance of my father, Brian Verrall, passed away on February 2nd. My father, and consequently me, travelled alot to London during the last years of the Thatcher government – business was good as people still had plenty of money to burn back then, but after doing deals my father would retire to “Verralls of Tooting”, the first and perhaps the most well-known seller of vintage cars and motorcycles. Like myself, my father has a great desire to learn and share information, and quite frankly what he doesn’t know about British motorcycles isn’t worth knowing. Brian Verrall (always “Mr. Verrall” to little 5 year-old me) was much the same, except his expertise stretched to automobiles as well.

He had started collecting motorcycles in the 1940s (such a long time ago now), and then in the 1960s he bought some shops in Tooting Bec and turned them into the world’s first vintage vehicle showroom. He’d already been there for nearly quarter of a century when we went to see him regularly. It’s been nearly twenty years for me now (!) but I can still remember the absolute thrill of sitting in the driver’s seat of a ridiculously rare, immaculate car from the dawn of the car. Such an amazing and varied collection, all drawn together by Mr. Verrall, who even then struck me as being an utter gentleman in every single way (I don’t such things too often, not that a man like him could possibly need my praise).

He moved from his London premises in 1991 to the countryside of West Sussex – far too rural for my liking but he still maintained a beautiful showroom. A few years ago, while on yet another tour of this great country of ours, the family popped in to the new “Verralls” showroom. By then I actually knew a teeny bit more about motorcycles and it was such a pleasure looking at all the lovely stuff as we were given the Grand Tour. And Mr. Verrall was still as kindly as ever – he unfortunately remembered me! And for no good reason whatsoever he gave my brother and I a tenner each – sheer kindness.

I often rail at my father to keep in better touch with his motorcycling world contacts, and I feel guilty that he didn’t do so with Mr. Verrall. The world has lost yet another gentleman, and I am left with yet more kodachrome memories.

When I’m 64…or Older

April 5, 2008

Admiral Walter Cowan.Like any sane person I do occasionally give thought as to what the hell I’ll do when I eventually retire – or rather whether I would be ABLE to do anything. Then I read about a chap today, which made me think “If he can do it, I sure as hell can!”

Admiral Walter Henry Cowan was born in 1871, joined the Royal Navy despite not attending school and while in his 20s took part in a few punitive expeditions against African tribes. Then he basically went AWOL and became chief-of-staff to Kitchener and Roberts during the Boer War, not bad for a sailor. Became an admiral during the First World War after an active period of sea-duty, and harassed the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War. Having been bumped up to Admiral in 1928, he retired like any sensible person at the age of 59.

Then World War II came along. His Comrade in arms Roger Keyes (getting on a bit himself) was made Chief of Combined Operations, with responsibility for the Commandos. Cowan begged a chance for action and was given a rank 4 times lower than the one he held, and became “Naval Liason” to the army commandos. And then, at the age of 70 he decided to go into action with them.

During the ridiculous see-saw fighting in North Africa the port of Tobruk fell to the Germans and Italians in 1942. Cowan was there, and started fighting with an Indian Army cavalry unit. Then the Germans advanced past him, and this 71 year old was left behind, and then decided to take on an armoured car armed with nothing but a revolver. Having shot down one of the enemy and been raked with machine gunfire, he fired his last bullet and walked out expecting to be shot. Instead he was captured, sent to Italy, repatriated in 1943 and was back on the front lines by the end of the year. For his services in the war, he was awarded a bar to his D.S.O., which for a septuagenarian is UTTERLY unique. And if you ask me quite awe-inspiring.

Why Universities have become irrelevent

February 12, 2008

I have to be honest, I despise universities in general. And also my own. Why? Because whatever supposed education I could get from here is worthless for any number of job descriptions. And due to my experiences with academics I am also convinced that the manner in which students are taught is deeply flawed and contributing to an idiotic mindset. This applies only to arts subjects – people doing actual sciences and languages are excluded, as their subjects are founded on a comprehensive technical understanding. So really this leaves history and politics, two of the most popular but slipshod subjects in the country.

Granted, one has to have a certain basic understanding of language to be able to properly frame a response to a question. However I didn’t get an “A” at History A-Level and 100 per cent in my politics GS exam because I wrote rubbish. I know for a fact that apart from certain people I’ve read more on just about everything. And despite the fact it has bugger all to do with my course I also know that I’m more knowledgable, better acquainted with different styles and therefore of much greater use to society. And I did NOT need a three year sojourn at university to be able to do that.

I mean for God’s sake, what does a History Degree or a Politics Degree prove you can do? That you can take inordinate amounts of shit on board and produce it in a manner acceptable to someone who was getting high in the 60s and 70s? For some reason it “proves” that you are adaptable to any number of accepted social constraints and have a work ethic. Bollocks. Having gone through more than a decade of life in proper educational institutions you have already proved that you can adapt to all kinds of rules, regulations and deadlines. And after university you are going to have to conform to them all over again. Which suggests that University really is a massive state subsidised piss-up.

One year of REAL “full time” Higher Education is what is really needed. The Labour Government did a good thing when it allowed the state-financed university sector grant shorter degrees – previously this had only been allowed in the case of the handful of private universities. Making university students do a condensed, serious year of study will show that they’ve earned their degree, decrease the burden upon the state and themselves which accrues after years of study, and set them up for the rest of life. Then when they’ve got a wage they can drink themselves silly. No doubt many people already did before even getting to university.

Battle of Jutland

January 29, 2008


As the header of the blog may suggest, I’m into naval history. And nothing annoys me more than books, articles or websites which produce lies. And the place where the crap accumulates most and is therefore most dangerous is Wikipedia;


I brought it to the attention of the community there that this page was a pile of rubbish despite being classified as the best Wikipedia had to offer. I specified multiple instances where the article was just plain wrong, and what kind of response do I get?

“…I actually thought this was a pretty good summary of the battle, possibly the most coherent and understandable narrative I have read…”

“…I would make the point that this article is mostly sound…”

Mostly sound, except that it gives a false reason why the Battle took place, which normally would render anything further pointless. Madness!

Confessions of a Hillary supporter

January 18, 2008

I’m proud of being an unconventional Tory. Yes I’m fiercely patriotic, despise Socialism and brook no tolerance for those who believe in it, but I’m also a supporter of not-naturally Tory ideas.

One which I was proud to be unique about was being a Male Englishman of moderate-right wing views who supports Hillary Clinton in her bid to be President of the United States of America. McCain would be a good president but Reagan proved what happens when old men are allowed to kick around.

But what did I read at the weekend? The Conservative Party is now ingratiating itself like mad with the Hillary Campaign, one Tory MP flying over to actually work on her campaign! I’m impressed, but it would have been nice if they’d started months ago instead of hedging their bets. For despite Obama’s lacklustre victory in South Carolina, the money is still on Hillary to win the Democratic nomination. And then only McCain or God in the form of Romnabee or Huckney can stop her.