Monday, 19 January 2015

Robert E. Lee

Today, January 19th, marks the 208th anniversary of the birth of arguably one of the greatest of  all American soldiers, Robert E. Lee.

Volumes have been written about his exploits, and it is not possible to condense even a fraction of his achievements into one blog post. Suffice to say that despite facing overwhelming odds, and with poorly equipped Confederate armies, he inflicted painful and humiliating defeats upon the Union forces facing him during the American Civil War (or the Northern Aggression, as many Virginians still like to refer to it).

At various times he saw off the armies of McLellan, Pope, and even the legendary Ulysses S. Grant, despite being outnumbered and outgunned. It was to Grant, however, that he was to surrender, effectively bringing an end to the war. Lee had supported Breckinridge, Johnston, and Beauregard in trying to persuade Jefferson Davis to end the war honourably, and to prevent further loss of life. As such he is recognised today not just in the South, but across the US not only as a great soldier, but as a man of great honour.

I could write on this subject endlessly.....

Incidentally, if you ever visit Arlington National Cemetery, that big white mansion you will see was Lee's home.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bob Montgomery has passed away....

Bob Montgomery & Buddy Holly
I was saddened to learn of the death of Bob Montgomery, just a few days ago, at the age of 77.

Montgomery was a childhood friend and schoolmate of a certain Charles Hardin Holley - best known to the world as 'Buddy' Holly. A self taught guitarist, and a budding songwriter/composer, he was to establish a partnership with Holly that was to shape popular music for decades, even after  Holly's death in February 1959.

They formed a duo - Buddy and Bob - performing in and around Lubbock Texas, in a then popular style known as 'Western & Bop'. Bass player Larry Welborn soon joined them, and radio appearances followed, with a regular spot on KDAV. It was 'Hi Pockets' Duncan at KDAV who first spotted the potential, and became their manager. . Buddy Holly now had his first trio. In those days, Montgomery general sang lead, but on the few recordings that survive, it is generally Holly we hear. (Possibly that is why they have survived).

Holly went on to form the Crickets, was signed to Decca, and the rest is musical history.

Montgomery did not fade into obscurity however, he continued to write with Holly, and I guess that the songwriter's royalties from tracks such as 'Heartbeat', 'Wishing', and the much covered 'Love's Made A Fool Of You' would run into substantial figures.

He also wrote for many other leading artistes - he penned 'Honey', which was a million seller for Bobby Goldsboro.

He was also a successful businessman, and at one point was vice-President of CBS records.

The album 'Buddy and Bob - Western & Bop' comprising early demos, recorded in Holly's garage in 1954-55, was released, I think in about 1979. I remember buying it at the time, and I still have it to this day. It is primitive, but exciting nonetheless. It also shows that even as a very young man, Holly could write beautiful ballads.

In the late 70's, Rockabilly venues were springing up all over London, and there was one particular track from the Buddy & Bob album that always caused a stir. And I found it on You Tube.

I know - Holly purists prefer undubbed versions, but I genuinely prefer the overdubbed version in this case. Maybe that is because I remember how as a teenager I put this on the turntable, and it was the first track I heard. Enjoy -



 

Larry Welborn, by the way, is still with us. The last photos I see of him were about 2 years ago, and he looked great. He lives in Oklahama, where for some time he ran his own recording studio, and I believe that he still performs with his own band.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Last Javelin...

I learn today that the world's last surviving Gloster Javelin is to be transferred to an aircraft museum. It is a beautiful looking aircraft.

I should point out here that the Javelin was a bit before my time - well almost....

There was an example at RAF Cosford when I did my training there, rather a long time ago. It was really basic stuff we did with it, like learning how to approach an aircraft on the flight line, basic safety procedures, and stuff like that. We had all sorts of stuff to pore over at Cosford, because as well as being a major training station it is home to a museum. It is always to a major indoor athletics facility.

However, that giant of English politics, Norman Tebbit, now Baron Tebbit of Chingford, actually flew the Javelin. I once spent a lovely afternoon with him in the House of Lords talking politics, Europe, and of course the RAF.

A lot of these old aircraft types survived for many years as 'gate guards' at RAF stations around the world. They were generally little more than shells, exposed to the elements for decades, but lovingly looked after. They cannot survive for ever though, and at least this last Javelin has found a safe home.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Constantin Meunier- Belgian Realist

Yesterday was a real highlight. My charming friend Inna and I visited the Constantin Meunier exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels.
I looked forward to this visit for some time. Meunier was a realist sculptor and painter who lived just across the road from me. To be honest, he passed away in 1905, but I live in an old quarter of Brussels, and if you are ever passing by, then I can show you his house.

The expo was wonderful.

Meunier was a classicist, and his early works owed a lot to Rodin. There was also a strong Catholic influence in his early days, that was to underpin his work throughout his life. He moved on, but those early influences never left him. He spent some time, as a young artist, in Spain. ....and then he really emerged, as he became more cosmopolitan.

Meunier captured the lives of working folk at the end of the 19th century, more than any other European artist (in my opinion). In the steel mills and the coal mines, he saw everything, and he portrayed the trials and tribulations of the working classes.

Van Gogh wrote about Meunier "He is my superior in every way"

I love his realist style - I am grateful to him for capturing on canvas, and in bronze - the suffering, and the pride, of the working classes.

I could write forever about his art, and about his influences, and about his legacy - within walking distance of my home there is an academy and a museum, both named after him. But I leave it to you, dear reader, to make up your own mind....



Details of the expo are here....

http://eutoday.net/news/retrospective-exhibition-constantin-meunier-1831-1905

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Farage: Legacy of Der Stormer

UKIP, increasingly, are full of shit.

This, however, is my favourite. Apparently Nigel Farage failed to turn up to speak at a meeting because "immigration" caused heavy traffic on the M4.

Who built much of our motorway infrastructure? Ahhh.... that would be Irish immigrant labour. Was it their fault that you were late, Nigel?

My grandfather was an Irish immigrant who served in the British Army in the Second World War. Was it his fault you were late, Nigel? Did you serve in the British Army, Nigel?

The mother of my children is an immigrant. Is it her fault that you were late, Nigel?

My children have Jewish blood from both parents. Is it the fault of the Jews, Nigel? It usually is. According to people like you.

Your own wife, Nigel, is an immigrant. Was it her fault that you were late? Or are you selective about which categories of immigrants that you blame?


One out, all out!

Yesterday we had a major strike in Brussels. All public transport was shut down, and the school dinner ladies had a well deserved long weekend.

The Eurocrats have bought into this, unofficially, as well.

The European Parliament was a quieter place than usual as a result.

One of my friends took the day off, as he could not get in on the train.

He usually drives to work, but coincidentally his car was "in for servicing" yesterday. He lives near me, and I walk to the parliament - it takes me about 20 minutes! Funnily enough, he made it to the pub at lunchtime - the pub in question being outside the parliament!

Incidentally, the cost of this trade union inspired strike equates to 2,000 public sector jobs.

I often wonder, "how stupid are trade union members, to listen to their highly paid union leaders who lose no pay at all on a strike day?" Very stupid, apparently.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Beauty of Ukraine

At an early age I realised that I was not blessed with artistic or musical talent, which is a cruel blow. I compensate by organising events - mostly classical music events, and art expos.

But this week was a highlight. After some uncertainty, lost sleep, but great fun, we opened 'The Beauty of Ukraine', in Brussels.

A Christmas exhibition, featuring the work of my good friend Alona Pylgun, originally from Kyiv, but now living in Belgium.

It was a lovely evening. I was very pleased by the numbers, and delighted that Alona was interviewed by both Belgian and Ukrainian television crews.

The works will be on display until January 15th.

The venue is the newly opened restaurant GOURMAND, at Rue de Treves 4, Brussels 1050. (It is opposite Gare du Luxembourg), and I strongly recommend it if you want a superb lunch.




Many thanks to Randall at euspectator for the video 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What to do....

A terror suspect was considering an indiscriminate Mumbai-style attack and had an address for Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, the Old Bailey has heard.

Well the address is not that hard to find. It is in Connaught Square, W2.

I used to live in Connaught Square, at number 23, right on the corner. That was in the days before anybody outside of CND or MI5 ever heard of Tony Blair....

But I suspect when they see this post, 5 will be frantically checking the records. Tossers.

Blair is, of course, the 'man' who launched us into a record number of wars. You might notice that his son and heir has never served in the Armed Forces. We have a name for such people......


Monday, 13 October 2014

I generally do not approve of capital punishment, but at times like this do I wonder why the security services are issued with firearms.... That this piece of vermin should be released and allowed to walk among Human Beings is a disgrace.

Brighton bomber Patrick Magee has returned to the town 30 years after his deadly device ripped through the Grand Hotel killing five people.
The Republican, who was handed eight life sentences in 1986, planted the bomb that targeted Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Cabinet during their annual conference in 1984.
Magee was back in the city to take part in a panel discussion following a screening of documentary Beyond Right & Wrong at The Old Market in Hove.
The programme follows the story of Jo Berry, whose father Sir Anthony Berry was killed in the explosion, and her reconciliatory journey with Magee.
He previously returned to Brighton in 2004 to take part in a panel discussion with Ms Berry. But Lord Tebbit, who was trade and industry secretary at the time, said he could not forgive the bomber.
The former minister was severely injured in the blast and his wife Margaret was left paralysed from the neck down and needing 24-hour care.
Writing for The Telegraph, he said: “I am often asked if I can find it in my heart to forgive the creature, Patrick Magee, who planted the bomb.
“That, of course, is not possible, for Magee has never repented.”
Staff at the hotel held a minute’s silence to mark the 30th anniversary of the outrage, which killed five seriously injured 34 others.
Magee was released in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement – having served 13 years for the crime.


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Fat Cats...

“The whole of British politics has been shaken up in a way that the complacent Westminster class could never even have contemplated,” Nigel Farage said as Duncan Carswell was re-elected to Westminster. “Something big is happening here. People want change. They have had enough of career politicians in three parties who don’t even understand the problems they face in their everyday lives. People want real change."

Yes, Nigel, the nation has had enough of 'career politicians' it is true.
And what have you done for a living since 1999, Mr Farage? Ahhh.... you have been a career politician. 
You also employed your wife, contrary to your own undertakings, at taxpayer's expense. Even now, she is employed as an an assistant by a certain Ray Finch, who in the last parliament was himself employed by you as an assistant. That looks a bit dodgy, doesn't it?
And there was a story in the Sunday Times, a few years ago, alleging that one of your sons was on the payroll too....
Yes Nigel, those career politicians are milking the taxpayer for everything they can get... 

Thursday, 9 October 2014




I really do despair about the state of the English language media.

The following is from today's Telegraph (Oct 9th 2014).

"Mr Cameron has previously suggested that migrants from poor countries that join the European Union should be banned from moving to Britain, David Cameron has suggested."

I understand that commercial pressures have led to the redundancy of most of the real journalists, and that most copy, even in such journals as the Telegraph, is apparently sourced by interns from the wires. 

But can they not find one that actually reads that which they cut and paste?

It's no wonder the country is going to the dogs....

Monday, 6 October 2014

How the other half live....

I had to visit the Commune (Town Hall) today, to get a piece of paper stamped. Don't ask me what it was, I couldn't give a stuff, getting bits of paper stamped is an everyday part of life here in Belgium.

I live in that part of town where most of the embassies are, and it is a nice 15 minute walk to the Commune, so I don't get too stressed about it. I had a really nice stroll, stopped off at my local shop to pass a few minutes with my Sri Lankan chums, talked about cricket, and generally enjoyed the start to my day.

For the first time ever, I noticed the embassy of Madagascar in Avenue de Tervueren. It is very big. Very big, and very grand. There were a number of Mercedes outside - the kind you don't see in the showrooms- big limos with blacked out windows and diplomatic plates. Very impressive.

And all that for a bunch of cartoon animals.