Friday, 20 May 2011


It was a funny sort of birthday. Celia painfully pulled a muscle either leaning backwards over a basin at the hairdresser or heavy duty gardening. The dog broke his leg in several places for no apparent reason but perversity. Minimal fee for physiotherapy for the Head Ferret. The dog?
We spent the day ferrying him between vets and specialist clinic. Our vet had him in for two days to take X-rays; said we had three options euthanasia, amputation or send to a specialist vet. For that, and little else, he charged us £400. The specialist was in Newmarket and deals with costly racehorses. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the clinic had four receptionists and a glossy brochure on the desk in its palatial premises.
Estimated bill £2,500 to £3,500, plus VAT, with the possibility of additional fees. I have to say from the point of view of the dog it is a bargain. Chicken lightly broiled and a phone call three times a day to tell us how he is enjoying himself
His glance has become so imperious I am practising coming to heel on his whistle and it is a good job we take the Independent. I cannot see him fetching the Daily Mirror and its like. I wouldn't be surprised to hear he was getting up a party for Ascot. I will be taking part time work to pay his fees. Not that I am complaining. I remember what my chum lifeboat cox Dick Evans said to the man he rescued from a watery grave. The man asked what he owed. Dick explained there was no charge because the RNLI was a voluntary service. The man insisted. “Very well,” said Dick, “pay me what you would have given me two minutes before I pulled you out of the water.”
When I heard Taz howling with pain I would have given half my pitiful kingdom, and the leg was so badly smashed it was a long and complex operation.
Having said that, I am concerned that vets are becoming the Dick Turpins of our day. On degree day they wear a black mask with their gowns and mortar boards. Compared to Vets the Great Train Robbers were a Hospital Saturday Fund.
As I write, Taz is convalescing with his new mates, aristocratic racehorses, and nibbling caviare blinis, washed down with Louis Roederer Crystal Brut. One of the legions of nurses who are there to do his bidding tells us he will have permanent limp.
He always was a master of the martyr's glance and the eloquent whimper. Now he is going to be unbearable limping like a latter day Long John Silver. But we cannot wait for tea time to-day to resume our roles as hand maidens.

One good thing happened on my birthday. Revel Barker Publishing brought out a magnificent new edition of my biography of Sir Kyffin Williams, RA.
“The Man Who Painted in Welsh” replaces and extends an earlier edition, “A Figure in a Welsh Landscape”, produced by another publisher, which had so many errors as to be virtually unreadable .
Kyffin's views on modern art were sulphuric. How he would have relished this from the new “i” newspaper;
“Until the late 20th century art was unfairly dominated by people who could draw, paint and sculpt well. Tracey Emin's success demolishes the elitist notion that only the technically able should attempt a professional artistic career............................”

Andre Maurois once said that if in the eyes of an Irishman there is anything more ridiculous than an Englishman, it is an Englishman who loves Ireland.
Yet, once again, Our Gracious has been sent, poor lady, to lie abroad for her country. To placate our troublesome neighbours, she has been required to lay a wreath at the memorial in Dublin to that country's martyrs, ignoring the fact that most were executed for murder. Then it was off to take the blame for the Croke Park massacre.
That bloodstained former unemployed plasterer and pederast's brother, Gerry Adams, subsidised his IRA past with unemployment benefits and now lives comfortably bolstered by parliamentary pensions. But he retains the ill manners of his back street birth. He calls the Queen's visit insensitive - and he should know. He is one with that undistinguished cabal of former terrorists who gnawed at the hand that fed them. Archbishop Makarios brought blood to the streets of Cyprus; Yitzhak Shamir was operations officer of the Stern Gang which murdered Lord Moyne and Count Bernadotte; and his predecessor as Israeli prime minister Mr Begin was leader of the Irgun Gang, which had the massacres of the Palestinian villagers of Deir Yassin and the occupants of the King David Hotel on its battle honours.
As so often the case, it is the sainted Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent who tells the true story:

“There's a wonderful book about Bloody Sunday by Michael T Foy, 'Michael Collins's Intelligence War' (Sutton), that I sincerely recommend, from which most of the following details are taken.
A Captain Newbury was staying with his wife at a ground-floor flat at 92 Pembroke Street that morning, when two IRA volunteers arrived at the front door. Still in his pyjamas, he fled to the back window, where a third volunteer was waiting: the three men cut him down in a ferocious volley of shots, while his wife screamed beside him.
After throwing a blanket on her husband's corpse, she collapsed, and gave birth to a stillborn baby. Some days later she herself died. Michael Foy thinks that Captain Newbury was not an intelligence officer. Of the 13 defenceless men murdered in their bedrooms that morning, Foy reckons eight were intelligence officers: the other five were 'unlucky'.
These included two Irish Catholics, an RAF officer (and cousin of Oscar Wilde) Lt L E Wilde, and Captain Patrick McCormack, an army vet, who were both murdered in their beds in the Gresham Hotel.
It could have been far, far worse: many decent IRA men simply ignored their orders, and shot no one.
In the aftermath of this slaughter, Dublin Castle correctly sensed that many soldiers and RIC Auxiliaries would be thirsting for revenge, and confined as many as possible to barracks. Alas, some Auxiliaries, aided by untrained recruits from the Depot at Phoenix Park, arrived at Croke Park, and perpetrated the infamous and legendary slaughter.
But according to Michael Foy -- and I am inclined to believe him -- these RIC men were out of control. They were not following orders, nor were they implementing policy of any kind.
Six of the Croke Park dead were buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, along with the bodies of the innocent Wilde and McCormack.
These evil events now exist largely in a realm of legend, which states that the British secret service was crippled in one brilliantly organised stroke, and so the cruel British army got its revenge with a massacre of the innocents of Croke Park.
But no soldiers opened fire at Croke Park, just policemen -- and most of the recruits doing the shooting were Irish. And if the British intelligence was so crippled by the assassinations, how come the terms of the Treaty 13 months later so comprehensively favoured Britain's strategic interests?
Queen Elizabeth was not born when Bloody Sunday occurred, and neither she nor any of her family had any association with it. This cannot be said of the Irish State, of which the third Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, was involved in the shooting of an unarmed army officer that morning -- the one-legged Captain Baggalay, who was not involved in intelligence, but in civil administration.
His murder was an atrocious affair, but no intelligent person would seek an apology for such a deed in the middle of a very dirty war so long ago.
For the queen to offer a one-sided sorry for Bloody Sunday would merely give a fresh and needless lift to the wings of nationalist mythology; while for the poor dead Newburys in their pitiful Pembroke Street flat, no one either knows or cares.”
- Kevin Myers
Irish Independent