Tinker, Tailor ... and the rest: Just in case you missed the film, it's on Channel 4 tonight at 21.00. And, yes, I know the advert interruptions will drive you mad but stick with it. Also, I suspect, sadly, that it might only appeal to a certain generation of Brits, like me, who were raised during the war and grew to adulthood during the cold war. But it is more than just a chronicle of those times. Like the very greatest books/plays/films it is a study in character. Gary Oldman will never perform better than in his portrayal of the melancholy but ruthlessly determined George Smiley. Just watch closely the very last shot in the film when, having triumphed, the camera moves in slowly to a close up of his normally impassive face - is there just the tiniest hint of triumph? The director, Tomas Alfredson, is a Swede and I amazed at his ability to disect the British society of that era with such uncanny accuracy.
The FIRST Battle of Britain: That is the title of one of my military history talks and refers, of course, to the Battle of Jutland, 1916. I give it that somewhat grandiose title because it's true, the fate of Britain hung on its outcome. The fact that it was, in 'footie' terms, a score draw with the Germans having the run of play merely proves the infinitely subtle truth that sometimes in warfare it is not necessary to win, only absolutely critical not to lose! For the outside observer this battle has everything, huge stakes hanging on the outcome, the fascinating characters of the commanders involved, the bewildering speed of changes in new technology and the imagined thrill of riding in one of those monster battleships at absolutely top speed surrounded at only a few hundred yards distance by dozens of similar monsters all of which have to turn and manouvre together like a giant, metallic corps de ballet. Anyway, as you guessed, I am giving this talk next Tuesday so I am immersed in re-reading my notes. Jutland, of course, is still mired in controversy with naval types split acrimoniously between'Jellico-ites' and Beatty-ites'. If you want a mercilessly forensic examination of all concerned look no further than The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command by Andrew Gordon.
Hurrah for Max Hastings: On the subject of WWI allow me to raise a cheer for one current commentator who has the infinite good sense to agree with me! I am fed up with the current soppiness over WWI and the notion that it was all a terrible mistake for us to be involved and a gross waste of blood and treasure. It was nothing of the sort! The only difference between the Germany of WWI and the Germany of WWII was a matter of slight degree. The Kaiser and his henchmen were as mad and deluded as Hitler, and he and they had to be defeated in our own self interest. I am delighted, too, that Hastings takes a swipe at the WWI poets, something I have been doing for years to the horror of participants at various dinner parties when the subject has arisen - yes, you're right, think twice before inviting me! I am second to none in my admiration of the war poets not just for their bravery but for their magnificent poetry. However, their understandable belief that it was all for nothing was, and remains, tosh! Read Hastings, unsurprisingly he says it all much better than me. You need to scroll down to the bottom to the subsidiary piece attached to his main article.
The rise and belly flop of Strictly Come Dancing: Last night I watched television. Well, it was Saturday night and, you know, even at my age I like a good time on a Saturday night but, alas, the possibilities are somewhat limited these days! Sad, isn't it? I came late to 'Strictly', I think it was the second series and much to my surprise I rather enjoyed it. It was a fairly straightforward format with various 'slebs' attempting to dance with professional partners in a knock-out competition and as a hopelessly inept dancer myself I was filled with admiration at their efforts. It helped that I actually recognised about half of the 'slebs' concerned. But - yes, there's always a 'but' - gradually and inexorably it has deteriorated as it has 'growed and growed like Topsy'. Today I fail to recognise more than one or two of the 'slebs', and the professional dancers who used to behave with the polite and reserved demeanour of Edwardian 'below stairs' servants now lord it as 'slebs' in their own right - shockin', shockin'! And, needless to say, the brayin' and whoopin' and hollerin' and screechin' from the audience drove me from the room, much to the relief of the 'Memsahib' who was growing increasingly irritable at my non-stop harrumphing!
The circus in the White House just isn't funny: I am, by nature, a fairly phlegmatic character not easily given to panic attacks but I am becoming increasingly uneasy at the clown-like prat-falls taking place in and around the White House. Clarice Feldman sums it up in an excoriating analysis at the American Thinker site. Well worth a read but not if you are of a nervous disposition!
A personal message to Ms. Catherine Zeta-Jones: Oi! What are you doing reading this - it's personal, innit?! Sorry for the interruption, Catherine, fy nghalon darling - that's proper Welsh, that is! - but I must confess that I was delighted to read of your, er, difficulties with that absolute rotter, Michael Douglas. You see, you have been and remain fy hoff merch Cymru, my favourite Welsh girl, and I think that at long last our moment has come. You have realised that Michael Douglas is not for you whilst, 'over here', the 'Memsahib (whom I only married because she took advantage of me when I was a young innocent soldier-laddie serving Her Maj) is getting rather fed up with me - or to be precise, she isn't getting fed up enough because - and I find this incredible to believe - my cooking is not to her taste. She reckons bacon 'sarnies' three days in a row is not good enough - honestly, there's no satisfying some people! Anyway, do get in touch, we have so much in common, including, of course, our thespian activities. May I say with all due modesty that my last performance as the executioner in Measure for Measure is still spoken of in hushed whispers - the Bard will never be the same, I heard one person say. I wait impatiently for you to tweet, er, or twerk me, Catherine, fy nghariad, my love, and I shall be yours.
'Comrade' Picasso still has them foxed: I have never been an admirer of Picasso's work for one simple reason - I don't like the look of it! I continue to maintain, in the face of many learn-ed and subtle arguments, that one's response to art is visceral, or, to put it in American, it either rings your bell, baby, or it don't, and Picasso don't - for me, anyway! However, that does nothing to counter the fervent admiration his work raises in others although quite how they reconcile their feelings with his own confession, reported by me over five years ago, that he churned out daubs simply because prats paid zillions for them, I do not know. Of course, the cynical - moi, naturellement - might have the slight suspicion - well, not slight really, more like definite - that it was Picasso's alleged Marxist beliefs that swayed what passes for their judgment. It comes as no surprise to me that a recent article reported on at 'The Staggers' by Jonathan Vernon indicates that such Marxist principles as Picasso possessed were no deeper than his paint. Apparently, in the '50s, he was all set to kiss and make up with Franco - quelle horreure or perhaps that should be Lo horreure! Whatever, it made me giggle.
No more rumbles today