Tag: Churchill

Book of the Year 2018

Thursday, 27 December, 2018

Weighing in at 1.5 kilogrammes, Churchill: Walking with Destiny is a heavyweight. The index runs to 60 pages, the author’s notes to 37 and the bibliography to 23. But size alone isn’t everything so Churchill: Walking with Destiny is our Book of the Year for reasons other than sheer volume.

There have been more than 1,000 previous studies of Churchill’s life, the publisher helpfully warns readers, so anyone intending to add another tome to the heap had better have something original to offer readers. Andrew Roberts has. His access to and analysis of previously hidden materials is what makes the difference. Then, there’s his storytelling. This is from the pivotal year of 1939:

“Churchill dined with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Antibes in January. The Duke, wearing a kilt of the Stuart tartan, argued vigorously against Churchill’s recent articles opposing Franco and in favour of a Russia alliance. ‘We sat by the fireplace,’ recalled Maxine Elliott’s nephew-in-law Vincent Sheean, ‘Mr Churchill frowning with intentness at the floor in front of him, mincing no words… declaring flatly that the nation stood in the gravest danger in its long history.’ The Duke was eagerly interrupting whenever he could, contesting every point, but receiving — in terms of the utmost politeness so far as the words went — an object lesson in political wisdom and public spirit. The rest of us sat in silence: there was something dramatically final, irrevocable about the dispute. Churchill had discovered beyond doubt how fundamentally unsound the ex-King was about the Nazis. He remained respectful throughout this ‘prolonged argument’, but did point out to him that ‘When our kings are in conflict with our constitution, we change our kings.'”

Why did Churchill loathe the Nazis and their appeasers from the outset? According to Andrew Roberts, the young Winston had seen Islamic fundamentalism at work in India and Sudan and what he observed there was “a form of religious fanaticism that in many key features was not unlike the Nazism that he was to encounter forty years later. None of the three prime ministers of the 1930s — Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain — had seen true fanaticism in their personal lives, and they were slow to discern it in Nazi Germany. Churchill had fought against it in his youth and recognized its salient features earlier than anyone else.”

Churchill: Walking with Destiny

Job of the day: Corporate Historian at Ralph Lauren

Friday, 5 October, 2018

“Corporate Historian will lead archival efforts in documenting, preserving, cataloguing and promoting the company’s 50+ year history. The Historian will also leverage the company’s archive and history to work with internal and external partners to engage audiences with the story and heritage of Ralph Lauren.”

That’s the job. If you want it, bring some knowledge to the table. For example, knowledge of twentieth century American Fashion history and general knowledge of American and New York history. Helpful, too, a “working knowledge of library database, taxonomy, and metadata.” Photoshop, InDesign and Excel proficiency are pluses.

There’s a significant media component: “Pull and capture notable quotes by and about Ralph Lauren found in editorial, social media and advertising on a weekly basis,” and a legal one: “Lead ongoing vetting process by partnering with high-level executives in design, philanthropy, and legal departments.”

Naturally, there’s “storytelling” to be done: “Collaborate with Director of Rare & Historical Collection and Director of Marketing & Advertising Assets to promote the company’s history through storytelling in partnerships with internal departments as well as potential external partners in exhibitions, publishing projects, and new media.”

Ralph Lauren’s story deserves a historian as it’s a uniquely American one of rags to riches. And, as Churchill said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

Ralph Lauren

Gin of the week: Bulldog

Wednesday, 2 August, 2017 0 Comments

The expert’s nose will detect floral notes with hints of lavender, lime, orange and, of course, juniper, which is sourced from Tuscany, no less. The piney nature of that same juniper is pronounced on the palate and it’s complemented with an array of botanicals, including orris, cassia, liquorice and almonds. But so much for the ordinary. Bulldog adds the extraordinary in the form of the longan, a small fruit native to south-east Asia. It’s common in traditional medicine and in the soups of contemporary Asian cuisine.

This is an elegant gin. Global in structure, Bulldog is essentially British in substance. The subliminal connection with Churchill cannot be overlooked and Bulldog is an ideal base for a Churchill Martini. Ingredients: six parts Bulldog, one part dry vermouth. Method: Pour ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with an olive or two. Legend has it that Sir Winston liked his martinis served without vermouth, and he’s quoted as saying of the cocktail, “Glance at the vermouth bottle briefly while pouring the juniper distillate freely.”


Note: Bulldog is the fourth in a gin series that began with Blackwater No. 5, was followed by Friedrichs and continued with Dingle.

The Johnson Factor

Thursday, 14 July, 2016 1 Comment

The main point of The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is that one person can make all the difference. Snippet:

“Churchill decides from very early on that he will create a political position that is somehow above left and right, embodying the best points of both sides and thereby incarnating the will of the nation. He thinks of himself as a gigantic keystone in the arch, with all the lesser stones logically induced to support his position. He has a kind of semi-ideology to go with it — a leftish Toryism: imperialist, romantic, but on the side of the working man.”

Boris Johnson The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

The Churchill Factor

Islands divided: Northern Ireland, Northern Cyprus

Tuesday, 19 November, 2013 0 Comments

After the cataclysm of the First World War, Winston Churchill looked across the sea towards Ireland and noted, grimly: “The whole map of Europe has been changed … but as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again.” The steeples are still there, the dreariness persists and the hatred is tenacious.

Like Ireland, Cyrus is deeply divided. On 15 November 1983, the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash proclaimed the unilateral independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the resulting wound has scarred the island and its capital, Nicosia, ever since. At the weekend, the Famagusta Gazette stated: “The unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) proclaimed by the illegal regime in Turkish-occupied Cyprus is ‘null and void’, the Foreign Ministry stresses in a press release.” Reconciliation is not in sight and reunification is as unlikely as in Ireland.

In his video clip, “Nicosia — A timelapse”, Alex Cican presents the beauty and melancholy and energy of a divided island.

Gaitskell’s baths and Cameron’s jumpers

Thursday, 14 November, 2013 0 Comments

Brrrrr! There’s a nip in the air. Back in mid-October, the UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey said that he wears jumpers at home to keep his heating bills down. The next morning, Prime Minister Cameron’s spokesman was asked whether people should “wrap up warm” and wear jumpers. He said: “That’s not a question that I have asked him. Clearly, he is not going to prescribe necessarily the actions individuals should take about that but if people are giving that advice, that is something that people may wish to consider.” The Daily Mirror duly (mis)informed its readers: “David Cameron left sweating as voters hit out at ‘put a jumper on’ energy advice“. The insinuation being that the Prime Minister was a cold-hearted toff. But the dirty nature of what passes for British politics (and the reporting of such politics) is not exactly new as this diary entry by Hugh Gaitskell shows.

14 November 1947: “How easy it is to say the wrong thing! How easy it is not to recognise one has said the wrong thing!

About three weeks ago I made a speech at a municipal election meeting in Hastings, I was very tired when I got there but it was a good meeting. I tried to keep my speech fairly above party despite the coming election and inevitably referred to fuel economy in the course of it [he was Minister of Fuel and Power]. Then I let fall two fatal sentences:

‘It means getting up and going to bed in cold bedrooms. It may mean fewer baths. Personally, I have never had a great many baths myself and I can assure those who are in the habit of having a great many baths that it does not make a great deal of difference to their health if they have fewer. And as far as appearance — most of that is underneath and nobody sees it.’

warm jumper Of course the first sentence was said in a joking manner and the second was a pure joke, and the audience laughed and took it as such. It is the kind of thing I have said again and again at open air meetings to liven things up. After the meeting one of the local people who was driving me round referred to this, and said he would not be surprised if it was in the headlines the next day. Though he, himself, thought it a joke and took it as such. The press did pick it out though not very flamboyantly. However on Tuesday it so happened that Churchill was making his big speech against the Government and he made great play of these remarks of mine. I was not present at the time but everybody tells me that he was extremely funny at my expense. Since then I have become associated in the public mind with dirt, never having a bath, etc. I am told that at the [Royal] Command Performance no less than three jokes were made about this by music hall comedians, though they all seem to have been in quite a friendly manner.

First of all, I did not worry at all. It seemed inconceivable to me that anybody could believe that it was anything but a joke. However, I now consider I really made a mistake.”

Hugh Gaitskell (1906 — 1963)

Talking of baths and jokes, here’s one: What happened to the leopard who took a bath three times a day? After a week he was spotless!

When Churchill flirted with Basic English

Monday, 7 May, 2012

In the early 1920s, a rather eccentric Cambridge academic named C.K. Ogden came up with the idea of “Basic English“, which reduced the language to 850 words. One can imagine Winston Churchill, then in his mid-forties, having been shocked by such an idea, but circumstances change cases and, astonishingly, the great orator and author of […]

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