A Midwinter Moment


I must apologise to the loyal readership of Country Squire Magazine for my recent inclement humour and brief period of absence. I came recently and unexpectedly upon a grief that I had not anticipated reacquainting myself with; and a sudden loneliness that I shall not trouble you to bear. Suffice it to say I am indebted to my friends for their indulgence. In my defence it appears that I am not alone in being touched by this particular midwinter.

Our more acute acquaintances and fellow travellers cannot have failed to notice the strange mist that has alighted upon the world. It is almost as if Brexit has taken on a significance that it is now unable to shake. Thousands of years of credit and debt appear to be up for negotiation. Theories abound as to how long this may take and whether it is even possible. Time will tell.

As every bomb drops on the city of Aleppo, the shudder of souls holding the line against immense cruelty echoes with a tumultuous force. Bashir Al Assad, unknowingly and believing in the virtue of his endeavour, appears to by inviting Syria to become a permanent bar fight where the world’s craziness can be given full expression.

Earthquakes rock both the physical and the emotional planes. We are in the midst of a great reassessment and, understandably, those who feel that their lot was well cast are resistant to another throw of the dice. The unthinkable has become commonplace.

Despite the enormous cost in terms of both finances and pride that funding a reconciliation effort in Northern Ireland required, it would appear that the men of violence, having been given immunity against a reckoning on earth, are still determined to prosecute our armed forces for playing by their rules.

Even more frighteningly, given the essential nature of our military covenant, Marine A, Sgt Al Blackman, sits in prison waiting for one of the greatest legal minds in the country, Mr David Perry QC, to discover what the Crown’s position is on allowing him bail to spend Christmas with his family.  If putting a mortally wounded enemy combatant out of his misery in a place of extreme danger is a crime, then I pray, were I ever to be in the same situation, it would be a crime that I’d have the courage to commit.

Praise must go to the Welsh Government for showing the moral bravery to refuse to ban the ancient British tradition of circus folk glamorising dumbstruck children with their mastery over wild animals. It is good to see that my old nemesis, Professor Stephen Harris, was not able to pull the wool over the assembly’s eyes. More troublingly, the campanologists of York Minster have decided to strike over an issue that appears to relate more to child protection than bell ringing.

Striking has once again become fashionable as the aggrieved, wealthy union bosses feel it is time to punish the public for voting the wrong way. The whole of the South of England is paralysed by the RMT who feel it is both essential for ‘health and safety’ reasons to have a person paid to close doors, as if automation was still a distant dream; and who believe railways should be re-nationalised.

As a young man travelling on British Rail I was often aware, if I managed to find myself alone in a carriage on a train up to town, that should I open a door I would fall, unnoticed to my death. I was even more acutely aware, when I was lucky enough to share a lonely carriage with a warm friend, that those who wish for safety often miss out on the fleeting victories that only risk can bring.

Behind the ludicrousness of train drivers and postal workers deciding to postpone Christmas like grinches with a grudge, the smiling spectre of Corbyn lurks. He is essentially a political version of a historical re-enactment society, determined to recreate a pastiche of the winter of discontent. The knowing left is grumbling. Lisa Nandy’s star appears to be in the ascendancy, although I would have thought Jess Phillips has a certain charm that might appeal to a wider constituency.

Radio 4 Woman’s hour power list of the 7 most influential women who affected the lives of other women during the last 70 years was topped by Margaret Thatcher. While I applaud this unexpected result and concur that the Iron Lady was a powerful influence on all of our lives, I can’t help thinking that Her Majesty has touched more of us than one of her ministers ever could.

All in all we live in uncertain but exciting times. Winter is apparently coming. Take joy with those close to you where you can and have a remarkable Christmas.  The New Year may yet prove to be more mundane.


9 thoughts on “A Midwinter Moment

  1. Where you in Afghanistan? I think that unless we walked in his boots and lived the stress they were under I would certainly hesitate to condemn his actions. If he had walked into an Afghan house and killed an unarmed family maybe, but what happens on a battlefield has always been bloody right through the centuries. I personally am sad that he was not granted bail in order to spend Christmas with his family and also frightened for his safety when he does return home. I agree with Jamie and I’m sick and tired of the PC brigade….not getting at you Beau 🙂 Happy Christmas All X

  2. Nonsense. The law of armed conflict applied to ‘Marine A’ because the UK is signatory to the treaties underpinning it; whether one’s opponent is signatory is beside the point. The uniform quibble is also irrelevant; if your argument is that, as the man was not wearing a uniform he was an unlawful combatant, the law of armed conflict did not apply and he could therefore be shot out of hand (wrong in itself), you still cannot escape the fact that ‘Marine A’ was also subject at all times to UK law, which outlaws murder. The footage of ‘Marine A’ and his men calmly standing around the wounded man, who obviously poses no threat to them, precludes a self-defence argument. I’m a soldier myself and inclined to sympathy in this sort of issue, but the fact is the guy is a murderer and is where he belongs – in prison.

  3. Marine A cited in the recording of the shooting of the nearly dead terrorist the “Geneva Convention” in this case the Geneva Convention does not apply as the terrorist combatant was not in a recognised uniform of the enemy, enemy not in uniform can be shot, the terrorists were not / had not signed up to the GC so Marine A committed no crime.

  4. Almost elegiac Jamie. Trust matters have resumed an even keel.
    But do keep them coming.

  5. You are dead wrong on ‘Marine A’, Mr Foster. This man knowingly and deliberately broke the law, as he pointed out himself at the time, and executed a man classed as a protected person under the law of armed conflict. This was no act of mercy or symptomatic of some kind of combat stress. He a murdered a defenceless man in cold blood, brought the name of our armed forces into disrepute and has potentially made life more dangerous for soldiers like me. Portrayal of this man as a victim of anything more than his own stupidity and callousness is just perverse.

  6. Hope that you enjoy a festive and epicurean Xmas. Sorry to learn that you have had morale draining recent experiences. Admire you for the fact that unlike so many twit terers and facebookers you value your privacy and do not feel the need to broadcast that experience and the cause of it all over social media. “Wealthy” Union bosses; often wonder what a poll of twitter users would establish as being the optimum salary for a “union boss”, remind me how much is “Surfer” Dave earning on the lecture circuit, and I must have read somewhere about how “Breuxit” is apparently not punishing the coffers of George Osborne. My smoother elder bro Sir Roger Moore (LOL) has made loadsa money, he is wealthy, a trade union boss is not. Recall a Tory sans humour who twit targeted me, sub tweeting a reference to the fact that I, whom he knew to be a “public sector worker” had retired at 62, problem is that he made an ASSumption, my early retirement and financial comfort provided for by interest in a successful family Small business. Pleased that you appreciate Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips, agree with your assessment, and to be fair there are some relative newcomers in the Tory ranks who strike chords with my pragmatic leftiness. Prefer not to comment upon the Blackman case, other than to say, so very many will escape justice for far, far more cynical, cruel and barbaric crimes in conflict zones such as Aleppo. Striking at Xmas or thereabouts. I once spent 6 weeks commuting from my birth place home town in Bedfordshire to Euston in the mid 1970s, that experience made me realise that I am so fortunate to live on Tyneside, where during a 40 year career, I was never inconvenienced by lengthy debilitating commutes, and can recall no strikes. My memories of Southern Rail are pleasant and rose tinted coloured whilst a teenager travelled from Bramber to Brighton during those constantly sunny school holidays of the late 1950s. Used to earn a crust at Xmas working as a temporary “postie”, never a whisper of strike action that I can recall back in the late 1960’s, always enjoyed “station duty” an opportunity to meet girls travelling into and from town as I recall. Happy Xmas and New Year to CS writers, particularly JF, readers and followers, Tory supporters make a New Year Resolution to listen to us pragmatic “lefties” we are not “potty”, “loons” or even “morons”, o how we miss the twitterings of @screwlabour and his gang of followers!

  7. Jamie, sorry to hear about your unexpected grief and loneliness. It would have been no trouble at all for this reader to bear. I hope things are better now. Have a happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year. Kind regards, Andrew

  8. Thatcher topping the most influential women list is right I’d say. She had to fight tooth and nail to get there whereas Her Majesty had her power rather dumped in her lap. Both remarkable women no doubt.

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