Saturday, 11 September 2010


You are 18 and so fit your body squeaks. Your muscles ripple under taut skin; you are a crack shot and you can carry 100lbs of kit for miles; your eyes shine with purpose. A grateful country gladly spends one million pounds bringing you to your peak. You have a loving family, or perhaps no family at all, but you are not lonely. You have your regiment, your ship or your squadron. Truly a band of brothers who would die for each other and too often do.

Thanks to the finest medical skills, you know that there is a greater chance than in any previous war that you will be brought back from the gates of death. You do not mind when your government sends you to war for reasons that would hardly provoke arguments between neighbours. You hardly allow yourself to imagine mutilation but even here there is room for hope. Your GOC has ruled that however badly you are wounded the armed services will be your home. It is little remarked in civilian circles but in the services it is possibly the most humane action in history.

After the Armada had been defeated, the navy reduced its fleets and hundreds of sailors were thrown on the street. I had an ancestor who was a Marine Corporal on HMS Arab at Trafalgar. He was killed and so was spared the empty years as a beggar when most of the navy's ships were mothballed after the war. Charles II is the only monarch who has appreciated the needs of old servicemen. He founded the Chelsea Pensioners which replicates the uniformed service life that is so important for their self esteem.

With the GOC's decision we sought to emulate this humane act. The Service, the wounded thought, would still be home when the sticks of dynamite exploded at the roadside. Even though muscles are shattered, limbs disintegrate and the pain that will be there for the rest of life is all too evident, life begins its daily routine.

Sadly, despite its promises, the government sees the wounded in the cushy jobs units have invented for them. It sees the millions that the public has given to Help the Heroes and the British Legion and it has a brilliant idea.

It will kick out the maimed to be cared for in the future by those noble charities.

A leaked document, Management of Army Personnel who are Medically Unfit for Service, says five per cent of the Army is no longer fit for combat. It says the least able 1,500 will go first, with another 750 a year following.

Read more:

I was ready to welcome a Coalition Government because I believe in coalitions. I do not care if Parliament houses more representatives of the third sex than there are daisies in a meadow. The simple truth is that a goverment which betrays its young loses the right for respect.

This government is happy to spend millions on a referendum about voting, though understandably fewer of us than ever vote. More millions are ring fenced so that we can go on helping foreigners. Fifty million will be spent on Trident. For a fraction of that cost it could increase the military establishment, thus ensuring its wounded heroes would keep their homes and be protected from the horrors of civilian life.

I will continue to give a quarter of my pension to charities because I will not be a party to this shabby device and I will certainly post this blog to my MP. May I suggest you contact yours whilst this infamous suggestion is still in the "try it on" stage?

It may be wise to point out that the Sultan of Dubai (a state which is on the verge of bankruptcy and will no doubt soon qualify for aid) is locked in mortal combat with a Russian oligarch to own the biggest multi-million private yacht. The Sultan proposes to add a private beach to the stern of his yacht. The £300,000 million Oligarch's Yacht is already the size of two football pitches.


My attitude to people who buy bottles of water for purposes other than calming whisky can be judged by spelling Evian backwards.

I had great difficulty in becoming a teetotaller. Perhaps that is why I tire of reading those articles by recovering alcoholics which fill the Sunday papers. A recovering alcoholic in my book is someone who is getting over a hangover. I have spilt more drink down my shirt than most of these pious people have swallowed. The chap for me is he who takes antabuse tablets to see how many he can swallow before drink makes him sick.

I remember an interview I had with a Dr Madden of the Deva Clinic in Chester. He was one of Britain’s great authorities on the sauce and its abuse.

“What do you drink?” he said.

“What have you got?” I asked

“How much do you drink?” he demanded.

“How much have you got?” I countered cunningly.

“Do you find you reach for a drink in moments of stress?”

“ No,” I replied firmly.

“A good sign,“ he remarked.

“Not really. I have usually already got one in my hand,” I said.

“I have just described to you the classic pattern of the alcoholic,“ he told me.

“You have just described everyone I know,” I said.

The best head waiter in history was my friend Jimmy Godwin who left the Blossoms Hotel in Chester in high dudgeon when he was asked to slice a Stilton cheese . As everyone but a barbarian knows, Stilton should be scooped.

Jimmy had a heart attack and when the doctor asked him what he drank he said gin and tonic. "That's what's doing it," said the doctor. So Jimmy gave it up. He changed to whisky and tonic and had another heart attack. “I know what’s doing it,“ he told the doctor. “It’s the tonic!”

Us drunks all know that you can choose not to drink if you don’t want to, whatever proselitising alcoholics tell you. I preferred being drunk to being sober, though I was only an alcoholic between 6 pm and 8 pm.

The advantages of sobriety? I have just emerged blinking from a depression that turned the world into grey mist. Vast quantities of whisky dulled the pain when I was dropped by BBC Wales for the crime of being English; sorrows were eased when I was forced to sell my dogs, my library with its collection of 18th century first editions and my paintings, gifts from leading Welsh artists. It even eased the pain when my favourite dog, Amy, my bloodhound, died of a stress related disease.

In my life I have been in a military prison, unhappily married (the second one has been a joy, but we've only been together for forty years so it may be a mite early to say). I have been sacked more times than a potato harvest.

A contemporary tells me he is depressed to realise how few Christmases he has left. With me, that knowledge acts as a consolation. At the end of the month a new lump is being examined. My doctor puts a third cancer as an even bet. I think about it a lot and I think of Damon Runyon's column "Why me?" when he was diagnosed with throat cancer and I approve of his conclusion "Why Not?".

The Daily Mail’s take on the Wayne Rooney affair:
Miss Wood, 23, a university lecturer’s daughter, and Miss Thompson, 21, the privately-educated child of a wealthy oil company executive, have turned out to be flag-bearers for the celebrity-mad, lascivious culture that has consumed the nation.
And at the bottom of the piece?
Have you got a story on a celebrity? Call the Daily Mail showbusiness desk on 0207 938 6364 or 0207 938 6683.