Monday, 29 February 2016

Shake it all about

Boris Johnson came out in support of Brexit earlier this week.  So what?  Why should anyone care what this half witted, mop headed old Etonian sleaze bag thinks?  I don't even believe his opinion is genuine.  I think he is more interested in positioning himself to take over as leader of the Tory party should the vote go against Cameron and he is forced to resign.  I genuinely believe Johnson's proclamation is motivated by self interest rather than what is best for the country.

I don't really know if Britain should be in or out but I do think the EU should be given a big shake about.
I don't understand the financial implications of being in or out of the EU.  Unfortunately our politicians just spew rhetoric and our media just screams hysteria.  No one presents facts.

If breaking away from the EU means we become more closely allied to the USA then I am fearful, especially with the ominous figure of Trump looming.  Imagine that, Johnson leading on this side of the Atlantic and Trump on the other.  It doesn't bare thinking about.

I'm sure I've said it on these pages before but western Europe has enjoyed over seventy years of peace, following on from centuries of war.  To be trading partners with our former enemies has to be a good thing?

Great Britain has just about the worst workers rights in the whole of the EU, this situation is hardly going to improve if we leave.

I do believe Great Britain needs to regain control of its borders.  This is not, as some would have it, a racist viewpoint.  If immigration was controlled then the British people would be more welcoming towards genuine asylum seekers.
Will coming out of the EU make the British people any better or worse off?  I doubt it will make much difference.

On balance I think I like things the way they are.  I believe the EU definitely needs to be reformed but on balance, at this moment in time, I think we are better off staying in.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Harper Lee

Harper Lee wrote one of my favourite books.  Published in 1960, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is widely regarded as a classic and rightly so.  I first read it at school as a teenager, it moved my ignorant self back then and it was every bit as wonderful when I read it again last year.

For some reason Harper Lee never followed Mockingbird with another book, apparently saying she'd said all she had to say in her debut novel.  Perhaps she feared ruining the legacy of this book either by accident or design?  However last year we finally saw the release of "Go Set a Watchman", a sequel to Mockingbird.

Scout is now known by her given name, Jean Louise.  She is a graduate now living in New York and has reached the ripe old age of 26 years old.  The story begins with her returning to Maycomb, Alabama to visit her home and family.  We reacquaint ourselves with this familiar town and many much loved characters.  Atticus is unchanged in character but affected by age, he will always be Gregory Peck in my minds eye.  There is a shock when we discover one major character is no longer part of the story.

The civil rights movement is in its early days of making headlines and what the south would term trouble.  This is the world that Jean Louise is re-entering, she is struggling to come to terms with her home town which if anything seems more racist and divided than ever.

Large passages of the book flash back to the more innocent times when Scout, Jem and Dill would rum amok in childish fantasy.  We also learn a little about Scout growing up and becoming Jean Louise.  It seems the novel is padded out by this a little but this is welcome.  Returning to the books present, the story is very much about racism and the older Jean Louise seeing her little home town through enlightened, adult eyes.

Towards the end of the story it threatens to shatter the world of Mockingbird forever and as a reader I am fearful of this.  Reading the final pages I literally choked back tears.  Go set a Watchman will never rival Mockingbird but it is a very good book in its own right.

I was half way through reading when I heard that Harper Lee had passed away at the age of 89.  Her place in literary history is assured.  Watchman has an open ending and I wonder if there will be another, posthumous installment of the Finch story?  I hope so.

Sunday, 14 February 2016


I've read a few of James Elroy's books and enjoyed them but it took me a while to get round to reading "Perfidia".  This is story is set in Los Angeles in December 1941 at the moment when Japan bombs Pearl Harbour and USA enters the war.  It begins with a murder and spirals into chaos, corruption, violence, politics and racism.
At over 700 pages this is a long book but it is entertaining and easy to read but I struggled to keep up with all the characters and everything that was going on.  I usually find the whole sex, drugs, violence thing entertaining in fiction but in Perfidia there's just too much.  For me it is over the top and unconvincing.  I wonder if LA really was that corrupt back then?  Maybe it still is.  Page after page of short stark sentences don't make an easy read if not a pleasurable one. Perfidia is OK but not great.

Another long book is "Matterhorn" by Karl Marlantes.  Set in the Vietnam war it is written by a veteran so feels authentic.  It tells the story of  Mellas, a young, naive lieutenant and his comrades in Bravo company who are thrown into thick, deep shit of this most ridiculous of conflicts.   This war finished over forty years ago and many people won't be aware of what a pointless bloodbath it was, like Iraq/Afghanistan only much worse.  Like these more recent wars it saw politicians trading innocent lives for corrupt political ideals.

From start to finish it is completely believable, the scenes are vivid and the reader can almost feel the heat of the jungle.  The battle scenes are exhilarating and heart thumping, I really cared about the characters and at times the fictional deaths were very sad.  When out in the wilds every minute of the marines life was dangerous, if the NVA didn't get them then the jungle itself might.  The madness of war is captured too with career officers putting higher stall on their own advancement than the lives of the troops they command.

Matterhorn is over 600 pages long but I could happily have read another 600, it really is an excellent book.  When the story finishes Mellas' tour is not even halfway through so maybe we will get to read a sequel some time in the future?  I hope so.

The ODI series between England and South Africa has been pretty epic too.  England began with two good wins inspired by Joss Buttler then SA came back with a good win of their own.  The fourth match looked like it was going England's way which would have sealed the series but poor fielding and good batting from Morris snatched the win away for the Saffers leaving the series squared at 2-2 with one to play.  The final match was an anti climax, with the exception of Alex Hales, England batted poorly, didn't get enough runs and South Africa won at a canter.
England will be disappointed they didn't win this series as they will feel they are the better team.  We can take encouragement from the fact that this squad is very much a work in progress and could go on to great things.