11 November 2018
Today we have been remembering all the people who died or were damaged for life in the war that officially ended on 11 November a century ago. I didn’t know until quite recently that Germany had made a peace offer in December 1916 but its proposals were considered unacceptable and it proved impossible to negotiate an armistice so hundreds of thousands more people died and suffered on, in and under the sea, on the ground, in primitive aeroplanes, and drowning with their horses in mud-filled craters before peace was declared two years later. (Even today, the war is still killing people as farmers and builders uncover unexploded ordnance.)
It seems fitting that the most senior representatives of Germany and France embraced this week and people all over the world stood in silence for two minutes today as a mark of respect but what use is remembering if we don’t learn from the experience. We can only regret that the war to end all wars didn’t.
It was sad, but entirely in character, that the American president changed his mind about visiting an American war cemetery at Belleau because it was raining and it might spoil his haircut (and, possibly, because the orange dye he uses on his face might have washed off and run down onto his shirt). However, to be fair to the man, we must remember this was at the end of a week in which he had hailed his loss of control of the House of Representatives as a “complete victory” and later lost his temper at a press conference so the White House was forced to use a faked video to justify his outburst. Who was it said that, if you’re in the right, you don’t need to lose your temper and, if you’re in the wrong, you can’t afford to?
Friday’s Guardian’s reported Trump’s hissy fit under the headline “Who touched who?” The Guardian certainly has a style guide but perhaps ‘whom’ is considered unnecessarily pedantic. This was two days after the first sentence of the main article on the front page of The Sun read “A boy of 16 became the year’s 250th UK knife death victim – as it was revealed yesterday 75 per cent of police call-outs are not crime-related”. Why the em dash? Wouldn’t the sentence have worked just as well without it? I wonder if The Sun knows what a style guide is?
But to the good news: Moneysupermarket has analysed car thefts in the UK and discovered that Exeter and Truro are the cities in which you’re least likely to get your car stolen; the towns you’re most likely to get it stolen are Romford and Ilford so, if you need to go to Essex, park in Exeter and take the train. Actually, Truro and Exeter aren’t the places with the fewest car thefts because none at all were reported in offshore communities such as Shetland, the Western Isles and the Channel Islands but these are islands and, as a cousin once asked me as I was locking a car in Shetland because I didn’t want it stolen, “Where would they take it?”
More joy as Ryanair’s shares fall 30% this year and Jeff Fairburn is sacked by Persimmon after unremitting outrage over his bonus. Two down, several more to go, Philip Green to start with perhaps? (Why does Arron Banks’s deviousness remind me so vividly of Robert Maxwell?)
So it’s been a good week generally speaking with other benefits: our Brexit Secretary has suddenly discovered that the Dover-Calais link is quite important to Britain (better late than never), another Minister has resigned and a huge portrait of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia holding a feather duster is going on display at Buckingham Palace having been stored for 80 years in a cupboard which was entirely dust-free.