The Second World War

I’m quite interested in military history, as I find understanding the conflicts of the past helps unlock the motivations of the present. Add to this, a love of maps and strategy and I’ve suddenly turned into an armchair general.  The ultimate focus of these lines of inquiry are the 20th century’s major conflicts and specifically,  the Second World War, with Winston Churchill’s writings on this subject being the start point.

Churchill published an acclaimed history of the World War II, in six volumes. The Second World War is an abridged version of these books.

This work rightly stands out as a scholarly, strategic record of the key events of the war, written by the man who directed Britain’s foreign policy, home defence and ultimately led the country to victory.

A difficult topic to summarise within a thousand pages, but Churchill does this with ease, making the complex subject matter digestible to the casual reader, explaining decisions, political manoeuvring and military actions, succinctly. However, the most compelling aspect of the book is the man himself. Calm, authoritative and a superlative leader.

A massive, but rewarding history lesson from the man in the eye of the storm.

In these dark days, reading of his unfailing belief in the people of “the Island” and is infectious and inspiring.

A recommended read.


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Fabulous Falmouth

This week Team DG are in Falmouth. As usual, the rain’s coming down, but frankly, who cares? It’s good to be here.

Two months on from a (hopefully) successful heart operation and about to start a new job, there’s a faint whiff of optimism wafting through the DG household.

First stop in town, the National Maritime Museum. Always good value for money, with it’s beautifully designed interior exhibition space, informative displays and for the more venal, it’s A1 gift shop, packed with all sorts of gorgeous nautical knick-knacks and other dust collectors. Current headline exhibitions include the much touted Tatoo: British Tatoo Art Revealed and Captain Bligh: Myth, Man and Mutiny.  Not something I expected to see, but as I learnt something from both of them, then it’s all to the good.

Having a good lunch is also an essential part of learning, so whilst the freaky racks of tattooed arms from the museum exhibition left me feeling slightly less hungry than I’d expected, the bustling, warm welcome from Rick Stein’s posh, family-friendly restaurant across the other side of Discovery Quay soon changed my mind. An understandably popular foody destination, Mr. Stein’s savvy kitchen have wisely included some non-fish dishes in their offering. Good for us, as our party included the notoriously fickle Offspring who announced that “… the smell of fish makes me sick …”, as we walked through the door.

One excellent fish curry later, we’re back in the car, climbing the road up to Pendennis Castle. The viewing points around here are great, especially, if like me you enjoy a) staring at the large ships in port, or b) watching the weather coming in over the extensive sea-sky horizon.

Back at the cottage, time to eat chocolate, before getting the wellies on for an evening stroll on beautiful Maenporth Beach.


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Purple Means Death

By Aurelia Ray
Sea Life Journal (Phoenicia)

“My name’s Valentine and I’m a Venus Comb Murex. That’s my picture that you can see there. Pretty good, huh? I’m part of a big family of sea snails that like to hang out in the Mediterranean. We are carniverous, so don’t come too close, especially if you’re a shrimp.

Here in the year 42BC, life’s pretty good. Plenty to eat, plenty of clear, clean water. But last night, I was sitting on rocks by the waterline and I overheard two fisherman talking. They said the Emperor, Julius Caesar, will be holding special games in Rome and they think he’ll be needing new clothes.

I don’t know whether to believe them or not, but if it’s true, me and my family need to start getting away from here as fast as we can. They say the last time Caesar needed new clothes, thousands of my kind perished. The remains of their shells were dumped out in the bay in mass un-marked graves. It’s our glands, you see. Humans learnt that they could produce a purple coloured fabric dye from them and the Emperor loves purple.

I’m really sorry, but I’ve got to go now, I’ve got packing to do and I need to see if I can book a ride on the first turtle out of here, tomorrow.

We’re praying for a saviour. A wise eel told me that he will come eventually, but for now, purple means death.”

“Those are the words of one worried Murex resident tonight, here in Sidon, Phoenicia. All the indications are that a mass round up of citizens will be taking place, potentially as early as tomorrow night. Local fishermen have been seen collecting equipment and nets and assembling them on the quayside. Reactions from the Murex community are mixed, but a rising tide of panic and hysteria is evident.”

[With apologies to readers, historians and zoologists, alike.
Valentine’s saviour did appear, nearly 2,000 years later, in 1856, when the first organic chemical dye (‘Perkins’ mauve’) was produced.]

[The Daily Post challenge. 27 March, 2017; “Purple”]

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Some years ago, I used to work in London and, as I lived on the South Coast, I spent a lot of time on trains. Which was very annoying. On the plus side, it did mean that I had a lot of time for reading.

One morning, having got my bottom on to ‘my seat’ (and yes, the price I paid for that season ticket every year meant that it was my seat, my carriage and my train, in fact), I opened up the newspaper and came across something which changed my perspective on life.

The article in question was a review of South, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s account of his 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition. Written right at the end of what is often termed the Golden Age of Polar Exploration, the book details an amazing story of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, as expedition objectives are abandoned and the fight for survival begins.

The book is concerned with the events which befell the Weddell Sea party who suffered the loss of the expedition ship and a long stay on the inhospitable Elephant Island, whilst Shackleton led a small team on an epic journey to South Georgia, to get help.

Fortunately, many of the expedition photographs survived the events described in the book and, whilst the bulk of Frank Hurley’s pictures are intended to be a record of ship and shore life, there are many beautiful images of the Endurance taken at night as she lies, loaded with ice, in the grip of the pack.

Best read in one sitting, South provides an interesting perspective on leadership, psychology and the impact of isolation, as well as being a rollocking good tale.

Want to find out more?
Scott Polar Research Institute

Antarctic Heritage Trust

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Well, having looked at my blog, I see I haven’t written a sausage, a bean or even a word since 2015. This is not good, but boy, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then.

It looks like it’s time to blow the dust of the typewriter, put a cat on my lap and get the brain cells to start stringing words together again.

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Horse Ownership

The red lady gets a treat.

Will the “Red Lady” be joining Team DG?

Horse ownership. This topic pops up like unwanted dandelions in a pristine lawn – frequently, persistently and, like the dandelions, resists all strategies to eradicate it. Brutal put downs on the grounds of cost viability have no effect. Zero purchasing of horsey related mags, just forces continued equine hunting activities further on to the internet and every argument is counted by the Offspring’s wailing “Nearly everyone we know has a horse, why can’t we get one?”. Hmm.

The poor Offspring’s position is made much worse, of course, by the fact that she routinely rides someone else’s pony. She loves him and he’s not for sale.

Oddly, the potential solution to all this, may be strikingly simple – loan a school horse, keep it on working livery and boost our hours in the saddle at a more cost effective rate.

This needs a lot more thought, a very clear loan agreement (first stop would be the BHS’s suggested model contract) and acceptance from the Offspring that this would have to be a share.

The target for this arrangement would probably be my dear old Tosca. Bombproof, on the generous side (overweight) and willing to pop a few small fences, she might just fit the bill.

So, next week, I get to ride the Offspring’s speedy show pony and she takes the portly red lady out for a spin. Then we’ll see. The school could say “No”, the Offspring might not like her, who knows?

In the mean time, I’ll just keep buying the lottery tickets.

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Wild Parenting

imageAs any parent knows, the worst thing you can say to a child is “If you do X, I will buy Y”, because at some point you have to make good on your promises.

Having indulged in this mad behaviour, my comeuppance came when the Offspring received an offer of a place at her preferred school.

The trade off? Buy a python.

OK. Right. A python. This takes some thinking about. We already have geckos, I reasoned, what’s the prob. with a snake?

Well for one thing, it’s a snake.

Geckos are cute, sweet and have amazing feet. A snake, well it’s scary and how about the food? Dead mice. Yuck!

So, in spite of many, many objections we now own a Royal Python.

Official name: Ra’s Al Ghul
Pet name: Razzy

He’s only 7 months old but he’s handsome, amazing, sweet tempered, curious…

…And we all love him.

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