Month: September 2016

Harry’s Worth – Len Deighton’s 60s Novels

Joe Williamks, Going Postal

‘The grey stones of the Cenotaph shone in the hard wintry sunlight as I surrendered my Home Office pass and stepped into Whitehall…The red-cloaked Horse Guards sat motionless clutching their sabres and thinking of metal polish and sex.’ Funeral in Berlin

One distant summer afternoon, I wandered into a library & noticed a hardback with a striking monochrome cover. A smeared War Office canteen cup & saucer, a Gauloise stub, paper clips, bullets, & a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson. Bureaucracy laced with violence & intrigue. The Ipcress File/A novel by Len Deighton. Secret File No. 1. I was hooked. Le Carré, the Hampstead spysmith, has always been the beeboids’ darling, but a BBC production of Deighton’s SS-GB is on the way, so a glance at his earlier novels may be of interest.

Deighton burst onto the literary scene in 1962, with The Ipcress File. The 60s were gearing up at a time when nuclear devastation seemed a possibility; it was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, & a monstrous wall was a recent addition to Berlin’s architecture. This is the world that Deighton’s sardonic, chippy, anti-hero inhabits, groping his way through the double-crossing, surreal labyrinth of the Cold War & high-level criminal scams. Little wonder he is paranoid & keeps his ‘escape package’ close. His life is, by necessity, lonely; much time spent waiting for contacts in seedy hotel rooms. Friends are few. People that know what he does avoid him; others think he’s a dull cog in the Civil Service.

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Playing Duplicate Bridge –with Phil the Test Manager

Following on from learning about 5’ and 3’s from the estimable Coloniescross ( ). I thought I would share my passion, which is Bridge.

Many will think this is a posh, stuck-up game played by lols (little old ladies) and retired generals.   Nothing could be further from the truth, apart from actually having some lols and retired generals!
Bridge is a game of cards where you play with a partner, against another pair, who are partners.  A good partner is one who is at the same standard, or slightly better than you.  When you find this person, they become just as valuable as a loving wife/husband.  Tip: you can learn to play with your husband/wife/girlfriend/mistress etc., but don’t, unless you want to tempt divorce.

After the usual pleasantries, hello, good evening, welcome, it then descends into WW3, though always being polite.  You do need to have that “killer instinct”, we all play for fun and enjoyment, but we want to win, but only in a fair and pleasant way.

With a teacher, you can probably learn the basics over a weekend.  Then, like games such as Chess, it takes a while to get better.

A strange thing happened to me in the night

JWP, Going Postal

A strange thing happened to me in the night. As I slumbered within my house of strong walls I metamorphosed into somebody else. When I awoke I was no longer me; I was Theresa May. Showering and shaving were interesting and Mrs JWP was most amused to see me descend the stairs wrapped in a leopard skin and tangerine two-piece with matching pill box hat. However, with all the fluidity of Duckhams 20w50 I soon settled into my new identity and after a hearty breakfast of tea and cigarettes I took my place behind my desk to take in hand the meaty matters of the day.

As I glanced out of the lead lights at the garden lawn, bedecked with morning dew and only the occasional trace of dog a thought entered my mind. We are, we truly are in a moment of golden opportunity.

There has been much talk of a snap General Election. Should I call one? Would it be seen as naked opportunism? What about the fixed term Parliament thingy? Well, I mused to myself that there are times in life when it seems a higher power is working with you and for you and it is somewhat perverse to go against the flow. This, I thought is one such moment.

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A Cult of Thugs

Rorschach, Going Postal

David had just returned from work when the men from Momentum came for him. Emerging menacingly from the shadows, the two skinheads approached him wearing red T-shirts with Momentum in white writing David as a Jewish man had come to know and fear. A chill instantly went through him. He knew escaping into his home was impossible – the thugs would stop him before he took a single step.

David eventually found the words to ask the two scary looking men what they wanted, his voice faltering. “We’ve got a message from Jeremy”, one of them snarled as a response in a tone that was full of disgust. He took in a deep snort and gobbed on David’s face.

Raising a shaking arm to wipe away the spit, the man growled at him to leave it. David’s eyes then fixed on the terrifying sight that was the thick black Swastika tattoo that was prominent on the man’s neck. It was the last thing he remembered seeing before the vicious, unprovoked attack on him began.

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Weaponising Campanology

PastMySellByDate, Going Postal

Bells have been rung since time immemorial, but full circle bell ringing only began a few hundred years ago in this country. Bells on the continent are rung in various ways either mechanical or manual. Without full circle ringing, i.e. where the bell turns through 360°, the timing of the strike cannot be changed much as it is dictated by the physics of the bell and given that they weigh anything up to 80 cwt or 4 tons (Liverpool Cathedral Tenor Bell), that is a lot of physics.

Control is only achievable when the bell is at or near equilibrium: in other words, it is upside-down and just short of going all the way over (bad and potentially expensive and limb-threatening, see below). In this state, the bell can be accelerated by pulling earlier on the Sally or the tail, or slowed down by holding the bell at the balance for a little longer. Given the weight and momentum of even the lightest bells, unless they are at or near the balance point, there is no hope whatsoever of controlling them.

There is only one other place in the world where full circle bell ringing developed and that is in the Veneto region of Italy. Although there are differences in the design and way the bells are rung, English ringers can ring Venetian bells with a little training and vice-versa. Everywhere else (apart from the former colonies which use the English system), the bells are chimed manually or mechanically/electrically. The latter systems are known as Carillons or large cuckoo clocks.

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Northern man, Going Postal

How does negotiation work?

So, we are about to enter probably the most important negotiation that will happen for many lifetimes the exiting of the UK from the EU and the detaching of that institute’s tentacles from all aspects of our lives.

But what is negotiation?  How does it work?  I am not a full-time negotiator, but I do negotiate contracts as part of my job (biggest one was just over #1bn for a ten-year deal) and thought I would share my thoughts on this with you all.

One dictionary definition of negotiation is discussion aimed at reaching an agreement .  By that definition you could argue that negotiation is part of human nature.  Anyone with children knows that they start negotiating from the age of four or five ( Do I have to go to bed now?  Can I just watch one more episode? ).  In many cultures people negotiate every time they buy something (we look down our noses at this and call it haggling ).

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