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Farmhouse Aches: Workhouse Pains
Farmhouse Aches: Workhouse Pains
by Gerald Green
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hopefully A Story Of The Past Not The Future, 17 Jan. 2011
The author's father (he, the author, was never legitimized) was a man who, at the age of 80+, lost his farm and all means of livelihood. As a result he and his family were cast into the local workhouse in Lincolnshire. This did not happen in the 19th Century of Dickens or Catherine Cookson bu the the 1930's. Incredibly, the ghastly workhouses, a mixture of Victorian public charity and equally Victorian censoriousness, existed until the social reforms of the Labour reforming government of 1945-1950. This fact was also in my mind because a recent BBC4 TV presentation about Cornish artists noted that one of them had, after a lifetime of honest toil in his own grocery shop and at his easel, fallen victim to circumstances and ended up in the place he feared most of all, the local workhouse.

The people who went to the workhouse were given very basic accomodation in barrack/dormitory style, basic food, very little actual money and had to wear uniform. They were not allowed pet animals or much freedom.

The book could have been better written in some ways, but what is important about it is that it reminds us that people are often poor or destitute without much or any of that being "their own fault", but a result of events, circumstances outside their own control (eg the 1930's Depression). At a time when a "government" of the UK currently seems to want to penalize people on what it now calls "welfare" (i.e. former "social security") and when we see internet Conservatives demanding the return of workhouses, chain gangs, work camps and intrusion into the lives of anyone who accepts public monies (except MPs, the Queen, foreign dictators etc...) this book is relevant as evidence as to what can happen in society if such ideas take hold.

As to the author himself, he eventually became a businessman in Birminham after wartime uniformed service (RAF flying officer), but never forgot his origins.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2013 12:38 AM GMT

Hitler's Holy Relics: A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race to Recover the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire
Hitler's Holy Relics: A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race to Recover the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire
by Sidney Kirkpatrick
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spear of Destiny?, 14 Jan. 2011
This book is well-written and concentrates on the history (especially 1933-1945) of the so-called "Reichskleinodien" or Imperial Regalia (the book has it as "Crown Jewels") of the Holy Roman Empire and, later, Austro-Hungarian Empire, particularly the --again, so-called-- "Spear of Destiny" more officially called the Holy Lance.

Previous books, such as the wayward but fascinating Spear of Destiny (Trevor Ravenscroft) have concentrated mainly on the esoteric aspects of these items and their connection with Adolf Hitler etc. This book does it the other way round, but cannot entirely ignore the spiritual or supernatural aspects.

The book revolved around a U.S. Army lieutentant called Horn, who was in fact a recently naturalized German (who left the Reich before the war started) and who indeed himself came from Nuremberg, where the items in question were taken after the Anschluss or Union with Austria in 1938 (and which the author misleadingly terms the "German invasion").

The book is very detailed in respect of the activities of Horn and how he not only found the items of regalia, but also says much about their storage. There is much about the spiritual ideas underpinning them.

The author details the strange way in which the American occupation of Nuremberg started, with the US military governor (an officer carring the low rank of captain, it seems) operating alongside a Jewish property speculator recently released (apparently not in bad health btw) from Mauthausen concentration camp where he had survived the war ungassed and not shot (quelle surprise). These two sat in a hotel bar turned into a kind of American officers' mess, the Jewish ex-prisoner playing the piano and making shady deals, the American drinking and giving orders, while the official Occupation offices remained unused!

I was also interested by the amount of bomb-explosive/incendiary dropped on what the author describes as a non-strategic and non-industrial city of the size of a London suburb (450,000 inhabitants in 1939, 150,000 by 1945). 18,000 TONS of bombs! This, it is implied, was to "punish" the supposedly most "Nazi" city. This war crime occurred via eleven Allied (mostly American) air raids in 1944-1945.

I myself have seen the items comprising the Reichskleinodien, on show at the Schatzkammer (Treasure Room) of the Hofburg in Vienna. When I was there, in the 1980's, I seemed to be the only visitor and, standing there, there came unbidden into my mind the Good Friday music from Parsifal, though that may have been simple auto-suggestion (I had read, years before, Ravenscroft's book, which says that Walter Johannes Stein, a later Anthroposophist, had a similar experience). It took me a while to locate the Spear, because I was looking for a long spear, whereas in fact the "Spear" is only the metal spearhead, about 15 inches long. I only realized when I read this book very recently that I must have been standing on the exact same spot where Adolf Hitler had stood (according to Ravenscroft, frequently, some time before the First World War). also gazing at the Spear.

An interesting book in many ways.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 26, 2014 2:36 PM BST

Spuds, Spam & Eating For Victory: Rationing in the Second World War
Spuds, Spam & Eating For Victory: Rationing in the Second World War
by Katherine Knight
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair Shares, 10 Jan. 2011
This book was a lot more interesting than I had anticipated. It tells the story of WW2 rationing in the UK, which in fact was mostly worse AFTER 1945 (because this terrible and in my view avoidable war bankrupted the UK to an extent not even dreamt of by the likes of Cameron and Osborne). Some rationing continued (clothing and other things like meat) until 1955, I believe. In the early 1950's even confetti for weddings was mostly unobtainable, though that is not in this book.

Not all foods were rationed (fresh fish, game, potato, carrot etc) if you could get hold of it at all. The best-off people were probably farmers and country landowners (and the latter at least might also have had cellars containing stocks of cognac or wine).

One aspect that interested me greatly was that for the poorest one-third of the population, the rationing system and price control meant they they were in fact BETTER-fed than before 1940. That did interest me a lot. It seems that, in general, the better-off you were (except some landowners perhaps) the more Spartan seemed the rationing system. In 1940, the Swiss Red Cross had noted the physical condition of soldiers from both sides (English, German) captured in France and still-available reports from the Red Cross contrast the generally healthy and fit condition of the German POWs, brought up under a system which provided food and care for the young, to the sunken-chested, rickets-afflicted state of many of the British private soldiers. That would seem to confirm the author's point.

Well worth reading.

Through Hitler's Back Door: SOE Operations in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria 1939-45
Through Hitler's Back Door: SOE Operations in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria 1939-45
by Alan Ogden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balkan Ventures, 8 Jan. 2011
This is a quality production in terms of both production and content. The author examines both the big picture of SOE operations in four countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia) and also tells certain individual stories of missions undertaken etc.

My interest was all the greater because of the fact that, in 2001, I spent nearly five months driving through and staying in all of those countries except Slovakia (three months of the trip was, however, spent in Turkey) and so encountered at first hand a lot of the places mentioned in the text (too many to list, though including Alexandroupoli, Kavala, Sofia, Vidin, Ternu Severin, Arad, Timisoara, Szeged) as they are now or recently. One of the fallen SOE men (killed during a robbery, not by enemy action though) is noted in the text particularly and is buried near the town of Ternu Severin in the Danubian area of Romania where that country, Serbia and Bulgaria meet with the Danube itself. I well recall how even today that area is very rural: the floating raft/ferry on whhich I crossed the river from Vidin had as company two trucks only.

The author gives some interesting statistics, such as that at end 1943, the Bulgarian (mostly Communist) partisans had only 2,000 men and about 900 weapons, mainly pistols and rifles, but by early Summer 1944 had 4,000 men and about 3,000 weapons including heavy machine-guns etc and by September were able to help the invading Soviet forces by seizing (by speed and stealth) Sofia itself. That has to be set against a Bulgarian Army strength in early 1944 of 800,000, plus large and well-equipped units of Gendarmerie and Police.

I have to say that I cannot share the author's belief that SOE made any sort of significant contribution to Axis defeat in this region, even supposing that one were to think that defeat overall a good thing, which I certainly do not.

The author did supply one fact that surprized me: that American bombers (101 Flying Fortresses) made a huge raid on the almost undefended civilian population of Sofia in 1944, with the object of frightening them into supporting the USA. In fact it had the opposite result. When the German forces left, they surrendered to Soviet forces.

There are a few obvious errors in the book: those that caught my attention particularly were:

# "Flossburg" for Flossenburg [concentration camp];

# "Kommandobeheehl" for Kommando Befehl [Commando Order], which is not only wrongly spelled but should be two words, though it would be correct to say that this well-known order (harsh measures for partisans captured by Reich forces; inapplicability of Geneva Convention to such persons) was a "Fuhrerbefehl" (i.e. one word), which is OK because it is a general type of order rather than one specific one;

""Security Agency" as translation for Sicherheitsdienst [SD], which would be better and is conventionally translated as "Security Service".

The author insists on referring, en passant, to the situation in France in 1940 as the "Petain-Laval treason", which seems too me to be a narrow viewpoint.

Overall, an erudite and interesting book in an area not much covered by Anglo-American publishers.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 26, 2011 3:06 PM BST

Madoff: The Man Who Stole $65 Billion
Madoff: The Man Who Stole $65 Billion
by Erin Arvedlund
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Born That Way, 7 Jan. 2011
This book might be described by some as a cautionary tale, though to me it seems that a thief on this scale has to be born rather than made. This is the story of Bernard Madoff, who moved in life from modest Jewish origins on Long Island to the status of being one of the richest in the world, before falling from grace. He is now serving one of those typically American incredibly long sentences (in this case, 150 years) in a Federal prison.

The incredible aspect to me and perhaps others is that Madoff actually had TWO businesses, a legitimate stockbroking one which was honest or at least lawful and the other one which he kept quiet and called "advisory" work, which meant people invested secretly with him and he guaranteed a regular annual payout of average 10-12%, not bad. Some people got payouts of anything up to 90% but the average was pretty much kept to. This guaranteed, despite the semi-secrecy, a lot of referrals. Madoff specialized in investing for tight-knit Jewish communities where, once leading citizens invested, others would be reassured and follow suit. An American Jewish body did a poll after the conviction and found that no less than 29% of all Jews in the USA at least knew someone affected by the Madoff scheme.

Madoff's legitimate business would itself have enabled him to live in millionaire luxury and would not have involved him spending the ending years of his life in Federal prison, the rupture of his family (his wife now having divorced him) and the suicide, recently, of his son. This story is in a sense a Jewish version of a Greek tragedy.

Madoff did not invent the "Ponzi" scheme idea (i.e. whereby new "investment" monies are applied in part to pay the dividends of those who invested ahead in time. Not even Ponzi did that. He did, however, bring it to heights and duration previously undreamt of.

Why did he do it? The author thinks that once it started (because he wanted extra capital funding) he found it impossible to stop. In fact the scheme ran so long that many did not overall lose money at all. A lot more, though, lost their life savings.

A book which makes one ponder over motivations and also, made me wonder whether Madoff pleaded guilty to protect not only his family but perhaps political high-ups too.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 26, 2014 2:34 PM BST

Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed
Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed
by Paul Mason
Edition: Paperback

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swept Away, 6 Jan. 2011
This is a superb piece of reportage and analysis. It must be the best single account of the economic travails of the world in the past few years and, equally important, looks forward a little to the near future.

I was glad to see that Mason covers the theories of two economists now dead but still relevant to the present problems: Kondratiev and Minsky.

I note that the author is economics editor for Newsnight, the British BBC2 TV show. On that show, he appears quite modest and almost anodyne compared to the strong and clear message written in this book. I wonder whether he is forced to tone down his views by BBC top management diktat. After all, this book would seem to indiicate that of the two main courses open to the UK government (and other governments, too)), meaning EITHER nationalize the errant banks, redistribute wealth and so give huge stimulus to the economy (cf. The Spirit Level, another superb recent book) OR to cut spending, social security ("welfare") payments, cut jobs, cut everything pretty much, THIS UK government has chosen what is plainly the wrong and wrongheaded option.

When one sees that the economy is so subject to political decision and one sees the qualifications of those making those decisions, the results are unsurprising (David Cameron: only pre-political job one achieved via family connections as a PR man; Nick Clegg: only pre-political job of note being an EU bureaucrat in the Brussels offcies of TACIS --a totally shambolic pointless gravytrain with which I had contact myself in London and Brussels in the 1990's-- a job he got via his family connnections, again; George Osborne, a multi-millionaire trustafarian who did not even study economics at Uni and whose only "real" job was filling in forms to do with vehicle licensing in a local council for a couple of months; Danny Alexander, main pre-political job a PR man for a national park. Scary.

Mason shows how people who might have done better, like the Governor of the Bank of England, did not foresee the crisis; neither did most of the "experts", usually City of London talking heads, seen on TV news broadcasts. What I find incredible is that these same people STILL pop up daily on satellite TV as "experts" even though they are almost always wrong! People are gullible. As for myself, though not by education or training an economist, I did foresee -- as did many others, of course -- some bursting of the bubble, because History itself teaches that that is what happens: see that fascinating and now republished 1930's work Great Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds.

Read this book.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 13, 2011 8:43 PM BST

A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem With Israel
A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem With Israel
by Robin Shepherd
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bitter Herbs, 4 Jan. 2011
The title of the book is of course a play on words, the Pale being that area of (western) Imperial Russia (now largely in what is now Belorus) where Jews before 1917 were, at least in theory, supposed to live; it is also of course a reference to Israel's status, increasingly and in much of the world, as a "pariah" or "rogue" state. The book itself is no balanced view but an urgent polemic which reminded me most of another book, which I read last about 30 years ago, Terrorism and Communism, by Trotsky (L.D. Bronstein).

The author is so eager to "prove" his points that he gives examples which are easily turned around. for example, we read that, at the time of the First Zionist Congress at Basel (Switzerland) in 1897, Palestine was "little more than an Ottoman backwater", which is true, but at that time its inhabitants, Arabs who were also mostly Muslims (with some being Christian) and whose ancestors had lived there for centuries if not millenia, were content enough to live peacefully in their backward quiet little country, growing citrus fruits etc. Then the Jews arrived and eventually swamped them, ethnically cleansing them and stealing or taking or cheating them of their land, a process which began in the 1920's and still continues.

Another example: we read that the Palestinian Arabs only suffer from Israel's "necessary measures" etc because of their own violence and unwillingness to live peacefully. In other words, turning around the author's Talmudic and hectoring reasoning, if only the Arabs were content to give up their land to the invading hordes of Zionist Jews and allow themselves to be dispossessed by force or fraud and then either to leave the Jews' "Eretz Israel" (i.e. present Israel, plus Sinai, plus West Bank and Gaza and a few other areas...) and live as exiles, or to live within Israel as economic or actual serfs on what had been their own land, then "peace" would break out. In fact even this last would not happen: Israelis are increasingly not even allowing Arabs to labour for peanuts on Israeli-held land, but importing coolie labour from South, South-East and East Asia to work it.

The author complains (and I do agree with him on this one point) that the swamping of Europe by prolifically-breeding Muslim populations has led to a situation where some authors, cartoonists etc feel under censorship or self-censorship, as in the Danish cartoons case etc. Yet look who is talking. The Jewish lobby has been trying to strangle free expression for decades in the UK, continental Europe and the USA, via criminalizing laws (eg "Holocaust" "denial" legislation), as well as the control of publishing houses and the distribution of books. David Irving's case was merely one well-known case where his failed libel action led to the pulping of much of the stock of his erudite and popular historical books such as "Churchill's War" and "Goering". There is a whole Zionist claque which swings into action when they see someone, even an "ordinary citizen" writing anything "anti-Semitic" (it even happened to me in October 2010 when the Jewish Chronicle et al tried to have my own reviews taken off Amazon: a number were removed because of this pressure, despite the fact that most people who voted on them approved of them: see Jewish Chronicle online, 6 October 2010). The author cites, in a long bibliography, the book The Israel Lobby And US Foreign Policy, which was one book I reviewed on Amazon, the review which was removed by Jewish pressure and which is now unavailable for readers on the amazon site, thanks to a Jew-Zionist attempt, in this case partially successful, to censor debate.

In fact, on the question of offensive cartoons, this is by no means a Muslim attitude alone: Julius Streicher [who was briefly Gauleiter of Franconia in the mid-1930's but who lost his official positions in 1938] was hanged at the Nuremberg show trial in 1945 precisely because his newspaper, Der Stuermer, had frequently carried cutting caricatures of so-called "Jewish types".

This is a major plus point inn respect of the Internet, both as a forum for debate and as a means of production and distribution of books: freedom from the control over publishing exercised by a narrow lobby or interest group.

One might also cite, in view of the author's insistence in this book that one form or aspect of anti-Semitism is based on the religious "you killed Christ!" viewpoint, the fact that Jewish-Zionist pressure succeeded, after decades of trying, to mutilate the Oberammergau Passion Play in the Bavarian Alps. This was done by the forced removal of that part of the New Testament where Pontius Pilate asks the Jews of ancient Roman-ruled Jerusalem whether they want to have pardoned either Barabbas (the equivalent of today's Zionist zealots) or Jesus Christ...the crowd shouts out for Barabbas and says (to Pilate's demurring at first) "let His blood be on us and on our children". That part of the Oberammergau play is now banned, thanks to the "lobby's" pressure.

I was interested by some of the polls and other statistics in the boook: the author says that, in Europe, the higher the intellectual/educational level of the people polled, the more anti-Israel and anti-Semitic they were.

In the end, this book is a diatribe against European values by someone who is unashamedly pro-Israel and pro-Zionist and pro-Jewish (he says they are or should be all the same, by the way). I looked him up on Wikipedia and it claims there that the author was sacked from his job at Chatham House because he was so totally one-sided and/or biased. He was born in the UK, brought up and educated in the UK, but his alllegiance seems to be with Israel/World Jewry first and then to the USA as a safe haven for Jews (he worries whether that will always be so).

There are some interesting facts in the book and I did find much of it an interesting read, so I give it 3 rather than 2 stars.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 5, 2011 2:55 PM BST

The Crabb Enigma
The Crabb Enigma
by Mike Welham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Groping Around In The Murky Dark, 4 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Crabb Enigma (Paperback)
This is an unusual book, an odd book and is partly very readable, while at the same time containing a huge number of spelling errors and which makes a number of largely or wholly unproven assertions about the fate of the enigmatic Crabb, who disappeared, famously, while trying to investigate the hull of a Soviet warship in 1956.

There was been a 1958 film made about Crabb (Laurence Harvey playing Crabb), covering his wartime years as a daring diver in Gibraltar. There have been also a nunber of books about him, including one I remember reading while at school (which book is cited in this work too). That book, from 1968, claimed that Crabb had been captured, "turned" (possibly before capture, if I remember aright what I read 40 years ago) and made into a Soviet naval officer. Personally, I find the claim impossible mainly because if the Soviet naval Spetsnaz forces found Crabb useful, he would have been used as a trainer of diving saboteurs, not (as the book claimed) serving in uniform on Soviet ships. There is also the point that Crabb was born 1909, so by the late 1950's he would be about 50, old for a diver, let alone a combat one. Then there is the Soviet suspicion about people, especially those with foreign origins or links. Also, by the late 1950's Soviet diving had moved on greatly from the zero-point it was in when Crabb was serving and fighting in and around Gibraltar (from 1941). Would they really have needed him?

This book does tend to follow in the footsteps of that 1968 book, i.e. that Crabb was still alive for years, indeed decades, after his disappearance and was in Soviet service. One cannot totally discount the theory, if only because it is odd that the British files on Crabb will not be released until 2057, but the evidence is slight.

This book brings up extraneous facts which do not seem relevant: Nazi gold buried in the mud of Swiss or Austrian lakes, the scandal of the Kincora Boys' Home in Northern Ireland and allegations that Mountbatten and others were involved; also in relation to the latter, allegations that Blunt, the spy, was involved with Kincora from the 1930's. There is little or no evidence provided as to these claims and no attempt to properly link them together or with the Crabb story as a whole. Indeed, a major problem with this book is the number of times quite startling or interesting claims are made without any corroborative evidence. There is no index though there is a bibliography of sorts.

As to errors of spelling, proofing etc, they are truly legion. A few which caught my eye:
# "Silitoe" for [Sir Percy] Sillitoe, one-time D-G of MI5;
# "Borovick" for Borovik;
# "Court Marshall" for court-martial;
# "Suverov" for [Viktor] Suvorov, the GRU defector and author;
# "Tedington" for Teddington and so on.

One or two translations from the Russian were not quite right, either.

I should like to have known something of the authors, a husband and wife. From one part of the text it appears that the husband was a commercial diver in the 1970's.

I did find the book quite a good read in quite a number of places, but this is not a work I would recommend.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2014 12:26 PM BST

The Light's On At Signpost
The Light's On At Signpost
by George MacDonald Fraser
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars We're Doooomed!, 31 Dec. 2010
This book, by a proudly Scottish Scotsman with strong opinions, is, as others have observed in their reviews on Amazon, two books, the autobiographical chapters interrupted by chapters entitled "Grumpy Old Man" (numbered 1-10). The latter are really socio-political rants of a mainly small "c" conservative/reactionary character and often go on for far too long and not very interestingly, frankly. I would not agree with many of them (eg, capital and corporal punishment, which he strongly supports), while others (eg the swamping of the UK by mass immigration) I can not only agree with, but have tried to express myself against for 40 years, swimming against the mass media and political correctness tide. Overall, I should say that if he has a particular contemporary British political party as an ideological home, then specifically ideologically speaking, it must be UKIP.

As to the other book he has written here, meaning the memoir proper, that is a very interesting read on the whole and keeps the interest pretty much throughout. He wrote the famous Flashman novels and was (perhaps is?) a scriptwriter on quite a number of famous films, such as Three Musketeers, Four Musketeers and others.

Some of the anecdotes he tells are truly amazing, such as that telling of how the fight atop a small plane in the film Octopussy was done with one stunt double not even carrying a parachute! The idea was that if he fell, the other would skydive down to him and grab him...Really scary, especially for those who, like me, do not really like heights, though I too have crawled out of the fuselage and under the wing of a small plane in flight (at 2,500 ft), though not entirely voluntarily and at least I had not one but two parachutes! Never again.

The memoir part would be a 4/5 star effort, the rant a 2-star one (even though I agree with some of it), so I am giving the book 3 stars as a composite.

Diplomatic Moves: A Wife in the Overseas Service
Diplomatic Moves: A Wife in the Overseas Service
by Sir Robin Butler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sent Abroad To Die Of Boredom For One's Country, 30 Dec. 2010
I thought that this book would be terribly dull, but in fact this series of selected letters home to family and friends from a lady whose husband joined the diplomatic world is quite fun and interesting most of the time.

The lady's husband was a master at Harrow before applying for either the FO or CRO (Commonwealth Relations Office) (in the alternative). The latter took him on and then the two were amalgamated. Before that time, the CRO, formerly the Colonial Office, had been much the poor relation. The FO men (almost all men in accredited posts then) were sent off to Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Washington, while the Colonial/Commonwealth people were despatched to places like Ghana and Grenada. It can be seen from this book that that system was still in fact adhered to for the most part in the period in question in this book (1963-1980's). The lady's husband starts off in New Zealand, goes to Guyana, then to Turkey (the only "FO" place he is en poste in) and then Ghana and Barbados.

I liked the description of the authoress' "first diplomatic gaffe" in Wellington, when, at a formal dinner, she excitedly describes her visit to a sheep-shearing. A distinguished NZ guest intervenes "surely one can see sheep-shearing in England?" to which she replies, unthinkingly, "oh yes, but in England there are so many other things to do!"...and a deathly Antipodean hush falls. Brilliant!

There are some serious times, especially in Ghana, where upheaval and coup d'etat is experienced, but not a lot of analysis of events beyond the surface here. She obviously does not want to say the obvious: that places like Guyana and Ghana were much better-administered under British rule. Still, interesting withal. I noticed that the lady seems obsessed with having packets of dried onions and dried Smash potato sent to her from England.

The couple did go to two places which came out of the colonial period and the aftermath of it in better shape: Singapore and Barbados.

I found the book interesting. Having seen the British diplomats in action in a few places, I fear that I feel that their usefulness lies halfway between the BBC World Service (v. useful) and the British Council (utterly useless) in terms of utility for the UK and its taxpayers.

Good, overall.

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