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And lo did The Weary Traveler arrive in the Scepter’d Isle, whereupon the fiend Mr. Free Market did take him straight unto a drinking place called The Something Or Other, and did ply this jette-lagged scribe with full many a pint of ale:
…and in vain did your Humble Narrator protest that this was too much, and that he would pay for this loathsome excess in the morn; but his protests avail’d him nought, for his so-called friend simply prevailed upon the publican to bring yet more of the same to the counter, and from good manners did he imbibe all that was put in front of him, yeah until foul drunkennesse did descend upon his poor brayne.
And all that The Weary Traveler could later recall was loud laughter, good tymes, fysshe & chippes, and perhaps pinching the bottom of Mrs. Free Market, for which he hopes she will forgive him. Or maybe ’twas the bottom of Mr. Free Market — the memory be vague ‘pon this point — in which case he got what he deserved, the bugger.
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Tonight I’m flying off for my “sabbatical” in Britishland, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be Over There until about mid-September.
Because I don’t know what kind of Internet connectivity will be available in Thomas Hardy country, I’ve taken the liberty of plundering my archives of some interesting articles and essays, and will be posting said pieces for the next few days or so until I’ve figured the situation out. Regular blogging will then resume, only consider them as coming from behind enemy lines, so to speak. There will also be pics and such from various places such as Edinburgh, Lord’s and perhaps even from Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea F.C. (of whom I’ve been a loyal fan since 1972). I’m not going to see my trip through a camera lens — I’m not Japanese, after all — but there will be shots of pubs and other places of interest so you’ll be able to see the locations of my several misadventures. (Evil Kim is stirring…)
Of course, the timing of the posts will generally be askew because of the time difference between the UK and the US. Also because hung over. But there will be at least some golden oldies from previous blogs to fill the void when my brain is full of bitter ale rather than creative juices.
What has amazed me in re-reading my old stuff is how many of these pieces have stood the test of time. There are of course some obvious anachronistic exceptions: for example, Tony “Scum” Blair is no longer PM of Great Britain, thank goodness, nor is Arnold Schwarzenegger governor of Gollyfornia (ditto). But the substance of what I wrote well over a decade ago is still current. The issues haven’t changed, only some minor circumstances and the dramatis personae.
Anyway, here I go. Wish me luck with the boarding process… or watch the news for the ruckus. (“At DFW Airport today, an angry passenger was arrested after inviting a TSA official to perform a sex act on himself…”)
Oh, let’s just have a sing-along:
~~~~~~“The Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming and we won’t be back until it’s over, Over There.”~~~~~~~~~~
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This phenomenon doesn’t really occur in the United States because schoolboys don’t wear ties. Okay, I joke: it’s because school affiliation in the U.S. happens at university rather than in high school (but they still don’t wear ties).
Here’s how the thing works among the private school set, and it’s true in Britain and all its former colonies (in Britain, they’re called “public” schools, which is massively confusing to non-Britons so I’ll just use “private”, to be consistent). To be sent to an exclusive private school was a sign of both wealth and breeding (the latter more so in Britain than in the colonies, of course). The bonds one formed at school, in an age when a university degree was not a prerequisite for employment, would help one through life in no uncertain terms, because one always tried to help a fellow private schoolboy (called an “Old Boy”) where one could.
The reason for this was quite simple, and understandable. If a manager, an Old Boy from St. John’s, say, discovered that a prospective employee had been to Michaelhouse or Bishop’s, the applicant would automatically get a more favorable review than someone not wearing the old school tie: Old Boys were essentially a known quantity, having been through pretty much the same grinder that all the others had. As any employer will tell you, a known quantity is almost always better than an unknown one — a former U.S. Marine will favor another Marine for precisely the same reason, and it has to do with character rather than anything else. One of my former classmates owns a highly-successful tech company, for example. and it came as no surprise to me when I learned that his CFO was yet another of our classmates. No chance of financial skulduggery there, I bet. Unthinkable.
I once got a job because the H.R. manager saw my Old Boy’s tie and after chatting about the school for a while, she sent me off for a final interview with my future manager with barely a question. (She gave me a sealed envelope for him, and he showed it to me much later. It read simply, “Hire this man — he’s exactly what we’re looking for.”) It turned out that the H.R. manager’s young son was at St. John’s Preparatory, so she knew exactly what kind of man I was, because she wanted her son to become the same kind of man. My First from St. John’s College. along with a couple of other notable schoolboy achievements, were all she needed.
This causes all sorts of problems in today’s oh-so egalitarian society, but if we’ve learned nothing else over the years, it’s that when it comes to leadership, character matters. By the middle of the First World War, St. John’s had graduated just over one hundred and twenty boys in its history; twenty-two ended up killed on the Western Front, and one (Oswald Reid) won the Victoria Cross (posthumously). The death toll among Old Etonians, Old Harrovians and their like was equally appalling, because it was from the private schools that most of the officers were drawn. Yes, it was part of the class system; but it was also true that leadership was one of the virtues taught and encouraged — and it had been duly noted by the Duke of Wellington in a much earlier war, who said that “the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”
And he was right. Character matters, and it seems to be that because of the harsh regimen of private school education in the past, it was inculcated as much as Latin, Greek or the Classics — and possibly even more so, because up to my time, one of the worst insults you could bestow in someone was that they were a “swot”, someone who worked hard at their studies. A “gentleman’s C” was highly regarded because it meant that one had achieved a passing grade without working too hard at it. (I should also point out that academic standards were far higher then than they are today, and a “C” back then would today equate to a B+ or even A-, depending on the subject.) I remember winning some award in a magazine for an essay I’d written, and there was considerable amusement when it was discovered that my English teacher had given me a grade of 68% (27/40) for that same essay. When he was asked about it, he shrugged and said, “His conclusion wasn’t that good.” Nobody got an A in his class, ever, so strict were his standards. What that meant was that we were forced to sweat blood to get a decent overall grade; but when we wrote our finals (graded by other teachers), most of us in his English class got distinctions for our essays.
I have mentioned that sports was a compulsory activity in all private boys’ schools of the time, and we produced our share of decent sportsmen. But when we were up against the local state (“government”) schools, we would usually get thrashed — much as, say, Harvard’s football team would fare against Michigan or Alabama — because our two senior classes of about a hundred boys stood no chance against the same pool of a thousand boys from the much-larger King Edward’s School down the road. It didn’t matter, though; as a cheer from St. Stithian’s College went, whenever they were beaten by a government school: “Your dads work for our dads!”
We at St. John’s would never have been so crass, but then St. Stithian’s was a Methodist school, after all.
But even being crap at sports against other schools was instructive: learning how to lose with grace meant that we won with equal grace; and in its turn, sportsmanship was not only welcomed, but treasured. Good sportsmanship, by the way, means following not just the letter but the spirit of the rules — which is why I’m always hammering on that something may be legal, but that doesn’t make it right. (A no-class boor like Bill Clinton would never understand that, which is why he and his equally-classless wife are such terrible people. Former BritPM and Old Etonian David Cameron, while an appalling politician, is actually quite a decent man, especially when compared to the horrible Gordon Brown. The same is true of the equally-inept but privately-schooled and very likeable George W. Bush when compared to the awful Bernie Sanders.)
The Old School Tie goes deeper than that. As a rule, our dating pool was the local girls’ private schools: Roedean, St. Andrew’s, Kingsmead and St. Mary’s Schools for Girls. (I think I first seriously dated a government-school girl when I was twenty-four, and my experience was not uncommon.) Once again, it was because the girls were a known quantity: of good / wealthy families, well brought up, with ladylike and genteel manners. (Yeah, they were bitchy and obnoxious because teenagers, but it was a very ladylike obnoxiousness.) It also worked for the good. One of the Old Boys date-raped one of the Old Girls one night; word got out, and he never dated in our circle again — he ended up marrying some tart from Cape Town who didn’t know his story. The last I heard, he was miserably unhappy because he was savagely cut from the group and lost all his friends. To be called “a nasty piece of work” was pretty much a death sentence, socially speaking, and he was. The very tightness of the circle thus gave security against nonsense like that, just as it would almost guarantee that my tech-company owner friend would be inured against financial impropriety by his CFO.
So there it is: the Old School Tie, the Old Boys’ Club; call it what you may, sneer at it all you like, but the fact of the matter is that without the efforts of this tiny group of men and women over the past few centuries, society and civilization would be much the poorer.
Your opinion may vary, of course, but we don’t really care.
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If there’s any modern trend I hate, it’s the one where a guy makes a marriage proposal to his girlfriend in as public a manner as possible, supposedly to “show the world his devotion to her”. Here’s an excellent example of this nonsense.
Regardless of how any public marriage proposal is presented, it’s really nothing more than moral blackmail. When presented with a marriage proposal in front of hundreds of people, of course the hapless girl is going to say “yes”, if for no other reason than to spare her lovestruck swain considerable embarrassment and humiliation.
And yet that’s precisely what the conniving little shit deserves. On principle, every girl who gets a proposal via the stadium jumbotron screen should not only turn the proposal down, but walk out on the relationship for good — slap in the face is optional — because trust me, this manipulative behavior will not end there.
When I see this compilation, though, I feel better immediately. (#3 is my absolute favorite, by the way.)
A marriage proposal is probably the most important decision a couple can make in their entire life — certainly, it’s one of the most intimate — and therefore it should not be stuck out in the public eye.
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From this blog comes the following piece of idiocy from the NRA’s Carry Guard program:
*NOTE: NRA Carry Guard Level One is designed for training with a semi-automatic handgun (Glock 19/17, Sig P226/P228 or equivalent). We will not allow revolvers or 1911s as your primary firearm in this class. [my emphasis]
Guess I won’t bother taking that class, then. Or maybe I will — only I’ll bring a Browning High Power as my primary, and my 1911 as a backup.
For those who are unaware of the irony (and there may be one or two), I should point out that both the Colt Government 1911A1 (1911) and the Browning High Power (BHP) were designed by the same man, John Moses Browning, and are functionally identical but for chambering (.45 ACP vs. 9mm Para respectively), magazine capacity (7-10 for the 1911, 12-15 for the BHP) and disassembly routine (which is irrelevant in this case). Other than that, both are single-action semi-automatic handguns, and I love both of them almost equally (because BHP = 9mm, a marginal self-defense cartridge).
I have no idea what the NRA was thinking (or if they were thinking at all), but the 1911 is one of America’s favorite carry pieces and to exclude this wonderful gun from a “carry” class is doing a huge disservice to a large number of gun owners.
On second thoughts, I won’t be taking the stupid class at all, because no doubt the NRA weasels would take issue with the way I carry my 1911 anyway.
But that’s a topic for another time, when I discuss handgun carry. Watch this space.
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