Monday, 13 October 2014

john terraine on mons - part one

Here are some of the things I learned from reading John Terraine's book on Mons (the first major battle sequence of WWI), in the Pan British Battles series, this summer. (It was very good; don't know if any of the analysis etc has been superseded since it was published in 1960.)

- '[one can see] in the terrifying success of the Blitzkrieg simply the belated fulfilment of a plan which had failed a quarter of a century earlier, and which, in all its fundamentals, had been devised in 1905. What Hitler had done was, in effect, simply to supply, through mechanical power, the force which was never available in 1914 to consummate the famous Schlieffen Plan.' [pxii]

- the Schlieffen Plan was based on Hannibal's triumph at Cannae in 216BC. [pxiii]

- in the years leading up to WWI, the perceived primary purpose of the British Army was 'To fight beside the French Army in the event of German aggression', and the position in France that the British Army would take up on the left flank of the Frency Army had also been planned. [pxviii]

- [on the BEF preparing for war in August 1914] There was no hatred of Germany, says one of the regimental officers, 'but in the true mercenary spirit we would equally readily have fought the French. Our motto was, "We'll do it. What is it?"' In those days all foreigners were much alike to Englishmen; it had been a different matter, even for 'mercenaries', back in March, when it was a question of coercing Ulster. ... Lieutenant B L Montgomery, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, records that it was laid down in the very detailed instructions on mobilization procedure 'that all officers' swords were to go to the armourers' shop on the third day of mobilization to be sharpened. It was not clear to me why, since I had never used my sword except for saluting, But of course I obeyed the order and my sword was made sharp for war.' [p4]

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

morag henriksen's bra

Morag Henriksen's bra appears in a short story [of her own] along with Portree legend John the Caley, and there won't be too many times when I can write that in the same sentence. The story is true, and was based on a chance encounter with a sheep-worrying young dog along the shoreline, a mile from the nearest house, when a younger version of the writer was in need of a leash with which to control the animal. The solution, witnessed by John the Caley, was unorthodox.
Having returned the dog to its rightful owner, Morag then submitted a claim to Toravaig Grazings Committee and was rewarded with £25 - 'enough to buy several bras'. Session chair Cailean Maclean confirmed that the Grazings Committee accounts did indeed contain an entry 'For Morag Henriksen's bra'.
- WHFP, 12 September, report of Skye Book Festival

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

private eye cartoon

5 September, in the Forgotten Moments in Music History cartoon, a courtroom scene with lawyer addressing large lady in the dock: 'Yet you said, did you not, "All the leaves are brown"? I put it to you Ms Cass, that these events occurred on an *autumn* day.'

Sunday, 5 October 2014

catriona knox

As I've probably mentioned in a Morris-related post, I saw comedian Catriona Knox on Tuesday 2 July at the Hope and Anchor in Islington, doing an Edinburgh preview. She was doing character-based sketches, which were more hit than miss. I was only there because I didn't know she'd been booked there and so displaced the Morris choir from their upstairs rehearsal room. (Morris weren't there much longer before their being-messed-around culminated in being moved out altogether; the room is now being used as a small theatre, linked with the King's Head Theatre.)

Catriona was more hit than miss. There was a degree of audience interaction, which was tough as there were only seven or eight of us there, and I think I was the only person there who didn't know her. (I don't think it was widely publicised.) I didn't mind staying for it (it was free, also); you've got to embrace the serendipities of London. As I said to people, perhaps when she's famous I'll be able to tell people I saw her in a room with half a dozen people, but I won't let on I was there by accident.

(Long ago we saw two Edinburgh try-outs in small rooms at the Riverside Studios, I think in the same season; one was Al Murray Pub Landlord, who was not obscure then, but not as well-known; one was a Lee Mack show, ditto for Lee, but his helpers were unknown then I think - Catherine Tate and Dan Topolski.)

Here's her website (she's in the Boom Jennies too, who I heard subsequently on R4). As well as coverage of her show at this year's festival, there are some reviews of last year's: Spectator sounds fair (Grenfell a familiar comparison, I think); The New Current (her comic performing talent outstripping her comic writing ability, also said by more than one); The List; One4Review; and here's a review from this February, with some of the same characters it sounds like, from the Evening Standard.

despicable me 2

We saw Despicable Me 2 on Friday 28 June 2013, the day it opened, the six pm show, at the Apollo Victoria. We all enjoyed it. (Of course now we own it on DVD.) It was cheaper to buy a family ticket - two adults and two children - rather than separate tickets for two adults and a child, so we took a friend. We usually go to cheaper showings on Saturday mornings, which are usually of any vintage up to a couple of months old, so going to a new release, at a full price, is a bit of a novelty. Though we have recently discovered the Genesis cinema in Whitechapel, whose Saturday morning cheap showings include current release films.

sherlock holmes at the scoop

On Friday 14 June 2013 we went to The Scoop to see a free theatre production of Sherlock Holmes by the Pantaloons theatre company. We've seen good things at The Scoop, in their free summer seasons, and this was good too. We've always got in to the theatre productions; Bethan's been turned away from at least one film showing; and we've had a film and a theatre cancelled for weather.

I wonder if I'll find any reviews for it (not just time delay, but I don't think the Scoop things generally get reviewed). Here's one on Something Like Reviews blog. Here's the page for the production on the Pantaloons website.

brian cox on religion

Some use religion to make the vastness bearable. Not Cox, who says he is neither atheist nor agnostic and 'only thinks about religion when people ask him about it'. He rejects Richard Dawkins's view that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible - except for fundamentalists. 'Obviously you can't be a young Earth creationist and a scientist. It's not possible because the Earth isn't 6,000 years old.
'But Biblical literalism isn't what I take to be religion. Religion's a more complex response than that. In the spirit of Gottfried Leibniz [a 17th-century German mathematiciian who philosophised about the existence of God], you can say, "Well, I don't accept that something can come into existence without a cause". You're allowed to say that; it's not illogical. So if you want to think there's an eternal presence that causes things to happen; that's not illogical. I don't happen to think that - I almost don't have an opinion on it.'
- Interview-based article on Professor Brian Cox in Radio Times, 4 October 2014