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For today

An oddity of timing meant that close family – even of the correct generation – weren’t involved in the events of 80 years ago. One Grandpa was career RAF (and a distinguished pilot with it too) but by age spent the war running flight engineering depots (Colerne, for example). The other was a doctor and Home Guard Major – and GM.

Their varied children were all too young to be directly involved – Pops was career RN but joined in 1951 (?).

But one I’ve been told did go ashore this day being remembered.

Charles Baerman.

A great uncle. Posted to NI as part of the build up and met there Granny’s sister, Kathleen Murray. Their son, Paul, also a distinguished military career (Silver Star etc in Vietnam, would have gone much further if not for Type I diabetes).

Only met Charles the once (for a couple of days, they came to visit) and he was a very grumpy bastard by that point. Fairly too, already been operated on at least once for what was to kill him.

But, you know, this day ‘n’ all that. Thanks Charles, thank you very much.

Tony O’Reilly

A dimly recalled story.

So, recalled to Ireland colours at a late age (for a wing). He’d gained a bit of weight. Ask the captain, well skip, what do you want me to do. Skip looks at him and says “Just stand there and make the fucker run around you”.

To be really rather cruel

One former Guardian colleague remembered her as “a remarkable woman: prickly, but also magnificent, like a Bertie Wooster aunt — both imperious and vulnerable”. Another ex-colleague said: “You won’t appreciate Hella until you see her enter the briefing room in Brussels and six European foreign ministers rise and kiss her on the cheek.”

A former Guardian foreign editor recalled “her extraordinary presence in the newsroom, beautifully dressed in vivid colours (often bright red) with flashing jewellery, a magnificent figure amongst the dowdy mostly male and cardiganned staff. And that haughty toss of the head as she steamed past the subs on her way to the back bench.”

On the Kindertransport, diplomatic editor at The Guardian. Impressive woman.

Impressive in the way that Polly thinks she is but isn’t.

Which is cruel, unwarranted, but possibly true.

How times – The Times – change

The previous year her father-in-law, the 11th Duke of Argyll, had been involved in an infamous divorce case with his third wife, Margaret, who appeared in a Polaroid photograph wearing nothing but her signature triple string of pearls while fellating an unidentified “headless man”.

It’s long been obvious what was happening in the headless man piccie. But I tjink that’s the first time – in an august publication at least – that I’ve seen it spelt out directly.

O Tempora, eh?

Absolutely glorious

The court was told that he had wired instructions from a hotel in St Tropez to his City dealers to buy 1,000 tonnes of coca at a cost of £343,000, but the price fell and he had lost £36,000.

The Times subs might want to revist that. Entirely, and obviously, glorious though it is as a typo.

How, erm, traditional

The actor met Ms Hart while filming the Channel 4 series Longitude in 2000, and within a year he was introducing his girlfriend to fellow actors.

For two decades, the actor split his time between her and Lady Gambon, who was said to have initially been devastated by the news of his other relationship and moved out of the home they shared.

However, she then came to terms with the arrangement and moved back.

Eccentric but certainly some traditionality there. But even more traditional:

Sir Michael Gambon has bequeathed his £1.5 million estate to his wife but left nothing to his long-term girlfriend and mother of two of his sons.

The money stays with the legal arrangement, the scarlet woman gets nothing.

Not syaing I approve – or not – but it is all rather traditional….

Something about Barry John

Several of the clips they’re showing now have him talking about, obviously, having that something. But he goes on to say that a part of it is simply going with it. Shrug, well, I can just see. That way, it’ll work.

There are those who have this. OK, he was a rugby player, not the most important of all things in the world. But there really are people who just, in some or other aspect of life, just do see. To them it’s obvious, that’ll go.

McCartney in music say. Doesn’t mean that everything does actually work (Pipes of Peace!). Feynman in physics (and lockpicking but not bongos). Mozart in the words of the play – God’s conduit to this world.

But there’s a higher level to this too. And I’d say that Feynman and John both had it (however absurd we might think the comparison is, for me in this it works). An awful lot of those with this thing get confused that not everyone else can see it. It’s so obvious to them that, well, not getting it must mean that others are dim, or not paying attention or something. Can’t they see this, it’s obvious?

Having it and also understanding that others don’t and why – that the thing is given to very few – is that higher level of it.

Not sure I’ve made myself clear on this but it is something that I do feel v strongly. There are those out there with vast, superhuman, talent at one thing or another. Which is great, no, really. But the truly great among those are they who realise that it’s what they’ve got which is the unusual thing, not that everyone else is lesser.

Proper pendantry

Laurence Reginald Ward Johnson was born in 1927 in Hampstead, north London, and studied at the Royal College of Music, where his tutors included Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams. His first orchestral works were published while he was still a student. National Service took him into the Coldstream Guards, where he served for four years, playing the French horn in the regimental band on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

Hmm. You couldn’t be a bandsman on National Service.

From the same paper’s obituary of Julian Bream:

In 1952 he was called up for National Service, signing on as a regular soldier with the Pay Corps for three years because it was the only way to become an army musician.

The musical training in the Army is – or at least was – absolutely cracking. Partly because if you already had command of the instrument (pretty likely first step) it was four years of playing near all day every day. While being paid and fed – something a lot of starting out musicians don’t get. You may or may not come out as a great musician but you’ll certainly be a well practised and experienced one.

Now there’s some gongs

Major Michael Sadler MC MM

Both the Military Medal and the Military Cross.

Each means about the same thing. But, back then, one was for non-officers, one for officers. So, having both means having done the thing as a non-officer, become an officer, and done the thing again.

That’s, erm, impressive. And I’d doubt there are all that many who’ve achieved that double. Rather rarer than MC and bar I would have thought?


Like many successful hoteliers he had an obsession with getting the details right. A light shade could not be changed in a hotel room without his consent, nor marble laid in the bathroom unless the background colouring and patterns were near identical. Having learnt the complexities of hotel life at the Lausanne Hotel School, Oberoi would visit his properties regularly and work behind the concierge desk or on reception. On one such occasion he was addressed by a guest who said he knew Mr Oberoi well and would pass on his complaints. Oberoi listened patiently, then held out his hand and said: “I am so sorry, I seem to have forgotten meeting you.”

Not something I would advertise, really

A proud democratic socialist, she campaigned, in Britain and internationally, for justice and against poverty all her life.”

About Glenys.

A social democrat is a Polly, wanting us to be more like Sweden. A democratic socialist is a Leninist, running along Soviet or N Korean lines. I don;t make the rules here, that’s just what the phrases mean in English.

MacGowan’s gone

And as his obit makes clear, no one thought he’d last this long.

But here’s the big surprise:

Shane MacGowan, singer and songwriter, was born on December 25, 1957. He died of viral encephalitis on November 30, 2023, aged 65

The booze and the drugs won’t have helpe4d, obviously. But they didn’t get him – an infectious disease did, one that could get any one of us, any day.

As to Fairytale, yes, we’re all bored shitless of it, obviously. But it is an absolute masterpiece of a song.


Mosaval was one of the first black dancers to work with an international ballet company.

in his native South Africa.

They were Muslims of Malay descent,

A Cape Malay is described as being black? Even in the South African apartheid rules that wasn’t true.

Fair dos here

A steely resolve concealed warmth and generosity. He would see his more impecunious clients, typically elderly women, outside office hours so that he did not have to charge them.

Sir Matthew Farrer, solicitor,