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I recently heard the BBC World Service refer to Richard III, who died in 1485, as a British monarch. I hold to the belief that James VI of Scotland became the first authenticated British monarch when he succeeded Elizabeth I of England in 1603. The BBC was just reflecting the difficulty many English people have in differentiating English from British. The Scots, Welsh, and a chunk of Irish folk are also British. I was truly appalled during the Scottish Independence referendum by the coverage carried out by the BBC's so-called National correspondents. They hadn't a clue about what was going on in Scotland. Their ignorance was mind-numbing. Yes, the English do make up the vast bulk of the British population. But there is a significant proportion of it who are not English. Organisations such as the BBC often confuse English with national. That is not a mistake the Scots, Irish, and Welsh make very often. The Scots and Northern Irish have English laws and procedures rammed down their throats daily by the so-called national media. Scots, brought up on a constant diet of English courtroom drama, are astonished to find fifteen of them are required for a jury in their own country. The Northern Irish, Welsh and Scots often have to be aware of two systems of government, the English and their own. Many English people, through no real fault of their own, know little of life beyond their own borders. I respectfully submit that unless National means English, then the BBC should be looking only to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland for journalists qualified to cover British affairs. 

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So, why are people so surprised that Burmese politician Aung San Suu Ky isn’t planning to lift a finger to stop the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar? She basically told a BBC interviewer a year ago that there were no votes in helping the Rohingya Muslim minority, so she wasn't interested. And there must be a suspicion that she actually approves of the mistreatment of a group of people many of her fellow countrymen and women regard as illegal immigrants. She is after all pretty much a chip off the old block when it comes to military dictators, her political career is built on her turncoat general of father being one of the founders of present-day Myanmar. Possibly the only reason why she was not a member of the military dictatorship which supposedly recently bowed to democracy was that she was born a girlie and couldn’t be a general. Some argue that she is unable to control the military which is leading civilian mobs in murdering and raping Rohingyas before burning down their villages. She claims this is all “fake news”. The use of that term gives us a measure of the woman. If she genuinely does not have the power to stop the ethnic cleansing then she should have the guts to stand-down and show what a sham democracy Myanmar is. Instead she is acting as a fig leaf and apologist for her fathers’ old chums and their successors. But in one thing she is correct – there is now an armed Rohingya insurgency. And the Burmese military is playing right into their hands by grossly over-reacting to their provocations. Classic mistake.

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Good Grief, has it really been two decades since Lady Di died? With days to go before I left Staffordshire to start a new job in Canada I got a call from my about-to-be employer asking me to gauge local reaction to the death of the former consort to the heir to the throne in a Paris car crash. To be frank, no-one was rending their clothes and tearing their hair out. The mass media had still not managed to guilt the population into feeling that they must be monsters if they did not weep publicly at the death of a woman who it was busy elevating to latter day English sainthood. I sort of regretted that I'd thrown away an old photo of Lady Di and I. It was taken during a royal visit to Shetland. This was in the days when the media were not allowed to speak to royalty and coverage consisted of asking people what the royals had said them during walk-abouts. The exchanges seldom even reached the heights of banality; though Prince Phillip might say something crass under the impression he was being funny. So, I never spoke to Lady Di or her husband. But, I was photographed trailing the obligatory 12 feet behind the couple. A trick of the camera lens made it look as though I was standing at Lady Di's shoulder and she was sharing a joke or a comment with me. A year or so later, when I was leaving Shetland to return to Inverness, I found the photo while clearing my desk. It went into the chuck-it-out pile rather than the "keep" folder. How was I to know she would become famous again almost a decade later? 

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I was recently reading an account by a senior British commander of his time in either Iraq and Afghanistan. One of things he said was that he and his colleagues had failed to properly take tribal dynamics into account. Earlier this week I was reading the text of some British lectures written on the subject on Frontier warfare. There was no date on them but the campaign most referred to took place in 1897. As there is no mention of aircraft, my guess is that the lectures written sometime before the First World War. One of the things stressed in the very first lecture was the need to study and get a firm grip on tribal dynamics. So, it's a little bit of a puzzle as to why more than 100 years later that British commanders failed to properly take them into account. Did no-one from the British Army go to the Ministry of Defence archives, the National Archives or onto the internet to see what previous campaigners had found out through bitter, and bloody, experience? A careful reading of what recent senior British officers had to say about their time in Iraq or Afghanistan strongly suggests that they hadn't even digested the lessons of Northern Ireland. Of course there are many differences between Armagh and Helmand, but there were also common threads running through the conflicts in both.

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It used to be that public libraries were places of quiet. That is certainly no longer true when it comes to my local branch. In an effort to be more "family friendly" young children are now allowed to rampage around screaming their little heads off. Now, I'm all for children being encouraged to visit libraries and have no wish to see them cowed into total silence- I'm not a fan of "children should be seen but not heard". But I seem to remember that when I was a child, under the older quieter no-screaming regime, that we were actually learning something useful. That was that there were other people than ourselves and our families in this world and they were entitled to some consideration. Nowadays, children behave the same way no matter where they are and who they are with. It's apparently all part of the everyone-gets-a-sweetie, there's-no-such-thing-as-wrong, approach to child-rearing. More than 20 years ago I was surprised at the selfish inconsiderate way a horde of young kids on a Canadian ferry across Halifax Harbour ran amok. But I thought, hey, they get out of their system and turn into decent human beings. But I was wrong. That age group rioted a couple of years back in Edmonton on the annual celebrations to mark the foundation of modern Canada. It turned out that little self-obsessed inconsiderate brats turn into big self-obsessed inconsiderate brats. And as they are now the parents, which chance do the little children have of growing into decent considerate members of society? 

 

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