Heroes

Why I Like Private Eye (one reason, anyway)

Arkell v. Pressdram (1971) [unreported]
Solicitor (Goodman Derrick & Co.):

We act for Mr Arkell who is Retail Credit Manager of Granada TV Rental Ltd. His attention has been drawn to an article appearing in the issue of Private Eye dated 9th April 1971 on page 4. The statements made about Mr Arkell are entirely untrue and clearly highly defamatory. We are therefore instructed to require from you immediately your proposals for dealing with the matter. Mr Arkell’s first concern is that there should be a full retraction at the earliest possible date in Private Eye and he will also want his costs paid. His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.

Private Eye:

We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.

[No further reply]

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Such a Disappointment for a Young Boy

I had a very interesting few hours the other day. I was watching David Lee Roth rehearse for an upcoming tour, and really enjoying the action – the man still knows how to throw himself around in that rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse style we’ve all come to know, and even spent time on a gantry some thirty feet in the air. The high kicks are still there, along with the wristbands, that Burt Lancaster grin, and the infectious idea that EVERYTHING is AWESOME! What can I say – he takes my breath away (in a purely non-homoerotic sense, you understand… I think).

Afterwards, we sipped cappuccinos and communed. Here’s a little secret for you that came totally out of the blue – it turns out he’s afraid of heights! As well as career highlights and lowlights, we talked about much of the usual things two grown men sipping cappuccino discuss – life, love and regrets – and a recent interview he did for Rolling Stone, in which he lamented the loss of probing journalism. I have to confess that it was all pretty epic.

We finished our chat, and he got up to leave. I noticed he’d left a scarf on the table, and as I bent down to pick it up and was busy tormenting myself with the idea that I might want to keep it, I only went and woke up!

The heartfelt disappointment set the tone for the entire day…

The Loss of Today’s Discontent

I was pretty miserable this morning – I’d just missed out on a pretty reasonable job opportunity, and I’m generally a humbug about Christmas anyway – when I sat with my lunch and a larger than healthy (my size of choice) glass of red to watch “The Heroes of Biggin Hill” on Yesterday. Whilst hearing about stories of bravery in the face of almost certain death, I suddenly realised that I actually have a lot to be thankful for: a woman who loves me (still – despite what sometimes must seem to be my best efforts to wreck it), friends, family, my health, and the fact that I’m actually quite some way from the bread line.

One item in particular on the program I was watching made me chuckle – one of the WRAFs, who had just been bombed out in the control room, was propping herself up to take a break from the digging and clearing up when a Warrant Officer came up to her and told to stop leaning on the item it was she was leaning upon. It was an unexploded 500lb bomb!

And then I was reminded of the article I read on the BBC news site yesterday. A British soldier in Afghanistan decided to not return fire upon a talib as he (the talib) was sheltering behind a young girl. He knew that he could easily make the shot (some 300 yds!) but decided not to, “just in case”. He was then shot in the head by the sheltering talib. Luckily, his helmet stopped the round, and saved his life. Please read this article (tell me you don’t find his account of “disco legs” funny – I dare you!) and remember that we have a wealth of honourable people around us that suffer hardships and danger gladly on a daily basis.

At the risk of breaking my “humbug” duck, I wish all our men and women serving overseas a happy, and safe, Christmas. Bless you all.

Repatriation

I went to pay my respects at yesterday’s repatriation in Wootton Bassett. I’ve wanted to go, felt a certain push from within, for a while, and either I haven’t been able to make the time, or have looked for one only to find that it was ‘yesterday’.

I don’t know if yesterday’s was any different from the many others, not having anything to compare it to, but it was a sombre and dignified affair, attended by soldiers – old and new – and civilians alike, marred only by the presence of so many news wagons. I understand that it’s newsworthy, I agree that it must be reported, but by all the networks? There was a lovely ‘up yours, vulture’ moment, when a cameraman, eager for the shot, stepped into the road, and was immediately asked to step back by a policeman. Apparently someone was blocking his shot and wouldn’t move. The policeman said ‘tough’ (or perhaps something a little more diplomatic, if only as sympathetic). The obstructive gentleman in question, as the cameraman increased the height of his tripod, stood on his tiptoes from time to time – much to the cameraman’s annoyance (he actually went to speak to the policeman – again, the policeman was appropriately sympathetic).

Why did I go? I’m not sure. I was in the service, albeit briefly, and I suppose I’ve always felt an affinity for all things military – ever since I was a child growing up on military bases; or perhaps I just wanted to stand up and be counted amongst those that recognise the sacrifice these boys have made. In any case, it just felt like the right thing to do.

I was surprised, oddly, to see how many old soldiers there were (an indication of how many there are), and it was interesting to see the way that the old soldiers mixed with the new – only the age gave away the separation, or perhaps it’s that age is the only separation – with the bonds forged in service comes the adage “once a soldier, always a soldier”. Of course, there was a large contingency of Grenadiers, and to see them, and others with them, snap to attention and salute their fallen comrades brought more than a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. The sharpness with which they did it made me come to attention myself, and it’s been a while. I know I will go again – we should continue to honour the fallen, our war dead.

Yesterday I saw many soldiers, many medals, many salutes, and more than a few tears.