Sunday, 24 July 2011

An Englishman for Franco

As promised previously these are my thoughts on Peter Kemp's memoirs "The Thorns of Memory".

Peter Kemp died in 1993. and you can find various obituaries on line (check out the one from the Independent, which was written by MRD Foot, the well known historian of the secret services). By all accounts he was a real boy's own hero, constantly seeking action despite the opening statement that he doesn't like being shot at. Aside from his service in various pro-fascist forces under Franco he also served in the SOE and fought in Vietnam after the war. The book covers all of these and more as he was a freelance journalist who seems to have constantly sought out trouble.

I'm mainly interested in the Spanish Civil War portion of the book, and that is principally where I'll target my remarks.

I think that anyone who has an interest in the SCW should read the Spain section of this book. There. Can't say it clearer than that. It is an important book, with real colour and "feel" to it. However, I have one strong caveat. It is book to be treated with caution, - if it was the only book you read on the subject you would come away with a very lopsided view of what went on. It is a book written in the style of the Daily Mail in many ways. It it massively one-eyed and prejudiced yet it presents itself as even handed. I have read memoirs by the most unreconstructed Marxist-Stalinists who fought in the SCW but at no point do they pretend that they are anything other than biased. Kemp's attempt to show himself as a reasonable man presenting a balanced view does him no favours. In a petty way I'm glad that I bought the book second hand and so did not end up putting cash into metaphorical pocket of a man who couldn't see anything wrong with Franco's conduct during the war or afterwards.

Right, I've got that out of the way. So what is good about the book? Kemp fought in a Carlist cavalry unit, a Carlist infantry unit and also in the Spanish Foreign Legion. He was wounded in action a couple of times. He took part in attacks and defences. He fought against regular Spanish forces and also International Brigades. He was attacked by aircraft (his own and Republican) and he was shelled again by both sides. He was attacked by tanks and attacked supported by tanks. He commanded infantry and MG companies.

How much more do you want? He's very good on what it was like to be in an SCW battle, and what it was like to be in some of the iconic units. There are several strong impressions I'll take away from this book. Most battles seem to be fought either side of a ridge line and mostly in olive groves. SFL MG companies include a light mortar platoon. The level of detail is priceless.

So why should you treat these memoirs with care? Whilst Kemp claims to have no regrets and does not feel he needs to apologise for what he did these memoirs provide his justification. Now I know he was there and I was not but there are factual errors and oversights.

Firstly you would be hard pressed to identify that the Germans or Italians played a major role in Franco's victory (and the tacit support provided by American oil companies is totally ignored). The only foreign intervention of any importance (and also the first intervention according to Kemp) is the presence of the International Brigades. This ignores completely the airlift of the SFL by German planes. Without a doubt that was the most significant intervention of the whole war.

His personal justification that he was fighting Communism is also coloured by full 20:20 hindsight. At the outbreak of the war the Communists were a minor force. The government Kemp was volunteering to overthrow was a democratically elected democratic socialist government. He would be more honest to admit that at that point, like so many people of his background and class, he was not a big believer in democracy and he was not totally opposed to the ideas of the Nazis and Fascists. His excuse, that he was a Tory at University and most Tories felt the same, is a fairly pathetic excuse. Ted Heath became a Tory leader and Prime Minister and he was opposed to Franco and supported the Republic.

Finally in this section we have to consider his views on Guernica. I have written about the evidence on Guernica before on this blog - see  In this book, written in 1990, he peddles some of the same myths, - including the old one that Guernica was burnt down by the Republicans. His evidence for this is the account of the Daily Mail's reporter Harold Cardoza who was a known Franco sympathiser. This is of a piece with his other accounts of the people he meets. With one exception they are all honourable, decent, people, all of whom have a justification for the barbaric acts they commit.His previously controversial account of the execution of an Irish IB deserter in his book "Mine were of trouble" is changed here to heap all the blame on one individual. The others previously implicated in the incident are now exonerated as discussions with them in 1986, post the death of Franco, has lead them to clarify that they did all in their power to prevent the execution. Clearly a massive surprise there that when asked "Did you commit a war crime?" the answer was no.

SOE, - a most secret organisation. My reading of memoirs of those who fought in the IBs is that they were mostly treated in exactly the opposite way. Many, despite the fact they signed up to fight against fascism in Spain were denied the chance to do the same for their own country.

I have to say that made me fairly cross, to say the least.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Recent Acquisitions

The thing about CoW is that you get to meet an interesting range of people, many of whom actually know what they’re talking about and aren’t just repeating what they read on the Flames of War website. In this instance I was able to spare some time with Bob Cordery, author of “La Ultima Cruzada” - the wargamer’s guide to the Spanish Civil War published by Partisan Press. I’d come to the end of my current supply of books on the SCW, so was looking for some tips on what to read next. Based on this conversation and some other research I came home and ordered a number of books from Amazon and Abebooks (all second hand, but not all cheap). Hopefully this post might provide some useful pointers for those stumbling across this war because of the 75th anniversary.

First up is Antony Beevor’s “Battle for Spain”. As regular followers will know it was Beevor’s book from the early 80’s that got me into my current predicament, which is namely finding out how little I know, getting increasingly annoyed about historical events I can do nothing about, and realising that I am set on the track of buying more figures than I’ll ever be able to use (Don’t have any Requetes yet, and they have such nice berets).

Anyhow, I wasn't going to buy BfS on the grounds that I had the other book. Bob suggested I should reconsider this as, in his view, the book was completely different. This was for two main reasons,- firstly after the first book many people wrote or contacted him with extra information (the more cruel would say “to point out his errors”). Secondly, with the fall of the Soviet Union the archives on Soviet activity in Spain became open which enabled a lot more information to be made public or verified. Both of these seemed to me to be good reasons, so I sought out an inexpensive copy through Abebooks. This has since arrived and is very pleasingly a hardback in excellent condition.

Secondly we have Hugh Thomas' seminal “Spanish Civil War”. This has seen numerous editions all with amendments as Thomas' views evolve. I've not bought this book on several occasions and last year in Hay on Wye I passed up a first edition. Admittedly at that point I didn't know it was seminal. Bob didn't advise me to buy any particular edition, so I went for the Penguin paperback  from 1990 with the UGT poster on the cover because it looked bright & jolly and was also inexpensive. I would quibble with the sellers description of “very good” but it is perfectly adequate to read from, although at over 1,000 pages I expect it'll fall apart readily enough.

I've then acquired a ocuple of memoirs written by some people who fought for the Fascists. Books written by International Brigaders or other volunteers fighting for the Republic are more common (George Orwell, anyone?), but I was keen to obtain something from the other side to balance my perspective.

I've been looking for Peter Kemp's "Mine Were of Trouble" for a while. He fought in both Carlist units and the Spanish Foreign Legion. This book had one imprint in the 1950s and is very hard to get and prohibitively expensive. Luckily he wrote a second set of memoirs called "The Thorns of Memory" in 1990, which covers not just the SCW but also his time in the SOE and other clandestine operations since. The SCW section seems to be an updating of "MWoT" so that's off thel ist to buy. I'll write more about this book in a future post as it is very interesting, but not to be read by the unwary. It has a pretence to being "fair and balanced" and is about as "fair and balanced" as Fox News in the US. Let me just say now that he fought for Franco, was aware he was on the same side as Hitler and Mussolini and still thought that was okay. I got this second hand gain for £10+ postage, which looking at other prices quoted was a bargain. It was an ex-library copy but is in immaculate condition and the shelf label just peeled off.

Lastly in this batch we have "Brother Against Brother" by Frank Thomas, which is written by a Welshman who fought in the SFL as well. The book also includes a brief diary by another Welshman called Sid Hamm who fought as a Communist in the IBs. I came across this book by chance so I have little else to say on it at the moment. My copy looks brand new and I got it at a considerable discount to the cover price.

That's a fair bit of reading for me to catch up on over the next month or two, but I'm looking forward to some rewarding reading.

And also painting some Requetes. "Send Not To Know" still has a lot of mileage in it.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Real Life - part 16 (I think)

As I wrote about last month I have a problem that comes back to haunt me every 5 – 10 years. I get kidney stones. Mostly they’re not fatal, and don’t do a lot of harm. However they are extremely painful and debilitating. I’ve currently got three of the little darlings lodged variously in my kidneys and I’m waiting for an appointment to be shot with sound waves to make their passage easier. Or something like that.

This time round, however, not content with blasting me with a sonic attack laser the consultant wants to get to the “underlying pathology” (what he means is he wants to find out why I get them).

So I have been referred to a consultant pathologist. Before she can see me she needs to do some tests, so she needs some samples. The usual fluids, - blood and urine.

The blood is straight forward, - just a syringe full. The urine is another matter. I am required  to provide three 24 hour urine samples. That is collect for three separate 24 hour periods all of my urine in three separate receptacles.

I didn't quite believe it at first so I phoned the consultant's secretary for clarification. She confirmed my understanding was correct. I asked how I was to deal with storage and transportation. She put my mind at rest, - these are good, sturdy, sizeable containers like those you get lots of anti-freeze in during the winter. The one to use first has a preservative in it (hydrochloric acid, so careful not to spill it when in use), and when they are taken back they are to be transported in discrete black plastic bags.

So I went down to the path lab to pick up the containers. Sure enough they are as described, and they do come in black plastic zip-lock carrier bags.

Which are very discrete. The only way you'd know what was in them is because they have “24 HOUR URINE SAMPLE” printed on the side in big bold letters. If you don't believe me I'll post a picture sometime.

Fortunately they don't have to be filled on consecutive days, so I don't need to take a day off work just to p*ss in a bottle. But I will have to use up two weekends.

Someone, somewhere is having a good laugh.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Spanish Civil War - 75th Anniversary

Today is the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Or yesterday was, depending on where you count from. Like everything to do with this conflict it isn’t clear and straight forward. In this case you have two choices, - the rising in Morocco that took place on the 17th, or the rising on the mainland that took place on the 18th.

Franco's Mausoleum.
Large & tasteless.
Like Franco, if he wasn't a midget
The BBC’s Today programme this morning went for the latter and put up a piece about Franco’s mausoleum and what should be done with it. I don’t know what the answer is, but I suspect a good start would be for the Roman Catholic Church to stop celebrating mass every day in the Basilica he had built next to it, no doubt intended to speed his soul out of Purgatory. It’s unlikely, I know, seeing as the church was probably biggest beneficiary of Franco’s rule.

Those of a more right wing persuasion would probably put the outbreak earlier when the people of Spain had the temerity to elect a government opposed to the status quo of absentee landlords and an oppressive church that absorbed most of the national income. However, 75 years it is according to the BBC, and that’s good enough for me.

I’m obviously not attuned to these things, as despite spending the last 10 months or more reading about the war I hadn’t twigged that 2011 minus 1936 was 75. I suppose in some ways my view is that anniversaries don’t change a thing and their only importance is to draw the attention of those who don’t have an interest in a subject to something important. It can also mean that an effort is made to produce tie-in information so stuff becomes more available. For example see this link to a selection of pictures from the Getty Library Some of these are well known, but I like the one of the militiamen on the improvised armoured vehicle.

We get in to the habit of 5/10 year anniversaries for significant events in the First & Second World Wars. In 3 years time it’ll be the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War but whilst that may provoke some new material these fields have been ploughed fairly thoroughly in the last 20 years.

The last anniversary that really made a difference to what we have access to was 1988 and the outpouring of material on the Spanish Armada. I gorged myself that year, and have a good stretch of bookshelf with the results, including that really good Osprey book by John Tincey. It wasn’t so much that I was interested in the Armada as Elizabeth’s army of the time (although the best book on that is still Charles Cruickshank’s.)

When I was at university I recall one of my medievalist lecturers referring to 1966 as “the year of plenty” for Anglo Norman scholars. I suspect in that year, 900 years on from the Conquest, in many history departments the World Cup was completely overlooked.

However no evidence of an outpouring in this country on this particular anniversary, even though there are some rare books that could do with a republishing. If it has any effect all it’ll do is push up the price of the second hand copies that are floating around. Luckily for me I’ve picked up some choice volumes at reasonable prices recently, about which more in a subsequent blog.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Writing for CoW

So, nearly a week since the end of CoW. The understanding if you attend CoW is that you will write up your experiences of the various sessions you attend for WD's newsletter "The Nugget". I'm not sure that everybody does, which is a shame, as the idea of WD is that everybody can contribute. Also as someone who tries to put on something each year getting feedback from a knowledgeable audience that you don't play with every week is helpful.

Some, if not all, of my best wargaming memories are from CoW. On the other hand I have played in some half baked stuff as well, but that is only to be expected. Getting the tone right for a report can sometimes be awkward as can be the content. It is easy to describe the game mechanisms in detail, but the session organiser should be doing that. Then you need to avoid the simple "this was the greatest game I ever played" type of report as that doesn't really help the reader or the designer unless you can explain why it was.

I think it is important to try to pick out two or three salient points from the game, either good or bad, and explain why you feel they're important. It's also important to write them whilst it's all still fresh in your mind.

So I'd better stop blogging and go off and write a few reports. This weeks hasn't been the smoothest what with Master T going back up North to prepare for graduation and issues with my parents that involved us having to go and see them to shampoo one of their carpets. Real Life can get in the way of what's important, can't it.

At least I've managed to unpack my boxes of stuff I took to CoW.

Monday, 11 July 2011

CoW 2011- Saturday Evening & Sunday photo report

Don't seem to have taken a lot of pictures on Saturday evening, so here's my final batch all at once.

John Curry playing "Greyhounds in the Slips", the other half of the "Domino Double Header". People do love those big toy soldiers!

Tim Gow's "Rollbahn Ost!", - the eastern front in 12 minutes, with 3 tanks, and handful of figures, a pack of cards and a page torn off a flip-chart. Impressive.

Tom Mouat's "SWAB" (Scuppers Were Awash with Blood!) Napoleonic naval game. Each player commands one ship and has a display board showing sail configuration and other playing aids (see below). This is the British squadron. We all sat round the map on the floor where the umpire moved those little press-out ships about.

The British approach in line astern, top left. The French are trying to head for open water, against an on-shore breeze. That's my command board in the bottom of the picture, indicating I'm moving 3 squares then turning to Port.

A picture of my ship control board. The yellow dice indicate crew deployment. As you can see I want to move fairly fast, then expect to fire to Port.

Chris James' traditional style ECW battle "We are all Englishmen"

Players musing over Bob Cordery's "Portable Wargame"

Group photo of the Japanese planning committee for the Sen Toku game (look it up in Wikipedia). We are looking pleased with ourselves as we have just worked out how to attack New York and Washington DC with secret weapons.

Some of the playing aids when planning Sen Tuko.

The four submarines and their deadly cargoes set sail.
These pictures only give a brief taste of what goes on at CoW. Another brilliant conference. already planning for next year!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

CoW 2011 - Saturday Afternoon Photo Report

The afternoon session was when I got to run my game of Send Not To Know. Not a lot to say on it (except I'm pleased with how it went). A strong force of Nationalists made up mostly of the Legion & Moroccans is driving towards Madrid. To hold them up the Republicans have rapidly assembled what ever forces they can (Asaltos, Militia, International Brigades, and the Peninsula Army and deployed them in and around a village on the main road. They are waiting for the arrival of the new Russian T-26s to help them out.

Let the photos tell the story.

General view of the table. Republicans to the left, Nationalists to the right (naturally)

One of the Nationalist Colonels assembles his flanking for of Legion and Moroccans around the windmill, which is also the site of their artillery support.

The central village. Held by Internationalists, with Peninsula Army in reserve.

A Nationalist tactical conference.

The Nationalists swarm down from their vantage point. The artillery has kindly drwan all of the artillery fire.

The IBs in the village take an artillery barrage.

Moroccans halted by a few shells from the Republican armour.

The Legion has drawn up on the Republican's right flank, but the brave Anarchist militia are lining the hedge/sunken road waiting for them. Note the T-26 lurking in the background

I see I didn't take as many pictures as I should. Shortly after this point the Anarchists and the tank close assaulted the Legion and routed them utterly. alas events elsewhere meant that the game was up for the Republicans whose army started to stream away to the rear.

All six players professed their enjoyment, for which I am grateful, and I did get a few ideas from them as well. We got a few passing visitors checking up on what we were doing, but I'm not really a fan of this room at Knuston. It is large, and soulless and away from the main building. It is idea for grand gesture games - such as the Fletecher Pratt Naval Game which needs and uses the space - but I find it a bit impersonal for table top wargames. On the plus side it is next to the car park, so not very far to take your books of toys & terrain!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

CoW 2011 - Saturday Morning Photo Report

Not much need for words. This is what I saw and did this morning.

Battle of San Juan Hill - US invasion of Cuba, 1898, presented by Wayne Thomas  General overview of battle field 

The rear of the US position. Observers in place.

The final phase of the battle. Colonel "Trebian" Wickoff's brigade storm the last Spanish entrenchment and cut the road. A famous victory.
Jim Wallman's game of officer's careers in the 18th century. At this point one of the players is trying to get married in order to avoid a scandal.
John Curry presents Flethcher-Pratt naval game WITH AIRCRAFT RULES!!!!
Ian Drury's "Fatal Glory" AWI game - Battle of Knuston Courthouse. Lots of tress and loads of confusion.

Conference of Wargamers 2011 - 1

So, the highlight of my wargaming year, - Wargame Developments' annual residentail conference at Knuston Hall.

As trailed last weekend we started off with a small select band meeting up on the way in order to visit Naseby field. We met in the old Red Lion at Clipston (recommended for both beer and food) for some lively discussion, lunch and a briefing before dividing up into a small group of cars and heading off.

And then it rained. And rained a bit more, before finally raining. So compared to last weekend's visit it wasn't quite as successful as we could easily have done more if we were either more hardy or more stupid. However I think that we managed to get a decent feel of the layout and the challenges both sides had to deal with before retreating to the Old Red Lion in preference to being struck by lightning.

(I'm serious. It was very, very  wet. I didn't take any pictures as I was under a golf umbrella with a copy of Streeter's map in my other hand most of the time).

Then off to good old Knuston, by which point the rain had lifted.

Knuston is such a lovely venue, - a country house converted into an adult education centre set in rolling Northamptonshire countryside. It provides decent levels of comfort and satisafactory catering, bordering on the excellent. It also has excellent facilities for wargaming with rooms of varying sizes and enough tables of the correct type.

The weekend starts with the traditional viewing of the programme in the main lounge. This involves the shuffling of sessions for those who find they've got their games in at the wrong times, and the signing up process to register the comnmitment to play in one's chosen games.

After dinner the conference proper starts with the "Plenary Game", which involves all participants. This can be anything but is often quite silly. Its main function is to break the ice and get everybody in the mood to enjoy themselves. This year's was towards the silly end of the spectrum, being the re-enactment of famous battles of history through the medium of interprative dance. Despite employing tactical voting skills that would have shamed "Come Dine With Me" I'm afraid the dance troop of which I was a member came last by a considerable margin.

After that brief interlude the evening games began. I took myself off to the Beech Room (actually a mobile classroom) to partake of Jim Roche's "Ne Obliviscaris", a game of the varying fortunes of the officers of the various battalions of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the Second World War. Alas only a small turnout (mainly due to Jim's late arrival after most people had signed up for other games), but I think we triumphed with quality over quantity.

The game started with the construction of the glengarry you were required to wear throughout the game. I think you'll agree mine looks pretty fine.

We then chose our battalions and I showed my lamentable lack of knowledge of the history of this fine regiment by choosing the 2nd battalion (or the 93rd regiment if you prefer). Then before taking up our postings we posed for the obligatory photograph.

In turn one I was posted together with the battalion from India to Singapore (yes, you can see this is unlikely to end well). Jim had researched the history of all of the battalions in a fair amount of detail and each six monthly turn saw us not only serve guard duties, but undertake training of various types (I excelled in jungle combat, for all the good it did me), court young ladies, engage in eightsome reels and celebrate Hogmanay to the skirl of the pipes.

Whilst other players earned their stripes defending the Orkneys before fighting across Italy or France I got marched off to a prisoner of war camp and helped to build the Burma railway. It was a period of cat and mouse with the guards where small victories such as winning extra rice rations counted for a lot for my men and me. On one notable Hogmanay we celebrated by marching round the camp to the tune of our pipes which we had cunningly concealed.

During this time I discovered my personal saviour which lead to me surviving the war by the grace of God and becoming a church minister once back in civvy street. My experiences enabled me to appreciate every minute of my long life before I recently died at the age of 92.

And I got quite a few medals along the way, but alas never married.

An excellent game, although it would have been good to have actually done a bit more fighting.

After that we retired to the main building and the bar before I ran a session of The Elephant in the Room.

All of which ignores the other joy of the conference which is the opportunity to sit and chew the fat with a group of well informed and imaginative wargamers.

More later, I hope. I'm running Send Not To Know, my Spanish Civil War game this afternoon. wish me luck.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

CoW Preparation

I seem to be in a rather odd position. It looks like I might have got everything ready for this weekend's wargaming conference and it's only Wednesday. Normally I'm printing, painting, cutting and gluing up to the last minute. I've clearly forgotten something.

Of course I've got one more playtest so I may still have a lot to do!

Phil & I did a bit of extra preparation on Sunday. As Mrs T was totally engrossed in the Wimbledon final I nipped off to have a look at Naseby field with him. It has become a pre-CoW tradition to have a battlefield type visit on the Friday as people make their way to Knuston Hall. Last year we looked at the battlefield of Northampton (650th anniversary), this year Naseby (366th anniversary). So, a significant date.

There's been a lot of work done on Naseby over recent years. The field itself isn't that badly damaged, - there's no housing built on it, not has it been wrecked by a golf course. The major changes are the enclosures and general land improvement of the 18th century and the farms. We were lucky enough to go up the weekend after the opening of a new viewing platform at the corner of Sulby Hedges where Okey's dragoons fired at Rupert's cavalry.

The Battlefield Trust website and the Naseby appeal websites are both sources of excellent information to take on your visit (although the downloadable mp3s are a bit dodgy). We visited not just the Sulby viewing point, but also what's known as Fairfax's viewpoint and Broadmoor itself. The Battlefield Trust have had flag poles erected to mark important places so it helps when trying to pick up the various locations.

Our conclusion was that it's a good visit to do and manageable in the time we have. It'll help if people take field glasses and if the weather is as wet as it seems it is going to be then shoes that cope with mud might be a good idea.

I came away from the trip realising also that you need a proper map and also a copy of Streeter's famous perspective drawing. So I've printed off a few of those and laminated them.

Now I'm really looking forward to the weekend. I've even gone through the programme and worked out what sessions I want to do.


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Storage & SNTK & Other stuff

Today we will cover:

1) The last stage of the Trebian Toy Soldier Storage System
2) The last game of "Send Not To Know"
3) The Government cuts

So, some pretty serious stuff in there.

First up the final stage of the storage system. This is what the inside of a box looks like once labelled up:

The interior of a Trebian Toy Soldier Storage Box

As you can see it is clear how many bases go in each section, what the unit is, the colour of the back of its base, and the flag it carries, if any. The plain scetions are for artillery and tanks. They don't need to have such a level of organisation as they're easy to find.

And here's a picture of the labels on the top, side and edge of the box. Labelled this way you can usually see what's in it from pretty much any angle.

 The latest Send Not to Know playtest enabled the Nationalists to get out their howitzers for the first time. These are Irregular RUGs, - 122m Schneiders, I think - and were mildly succesful until they got pinned by some counterbattery fire as you can see. You can also see in the photo that the card backs might be a shade on the jaunty side for such a grim subject as the Spanish Civil war, but I'm afraid you use what you can get. Have you tried to get 30mm x 40mm playing cards anywhere?
 The Republic was able to field quite a lartge armoured force. There's an armoured car, 3 T-26s and a BT-5 in the picture, all under heavy bombardment and if you look closely they also have an air attack marker on them (it's a Heinkel 51 if you look closely enough). Armour so far has been the almost super weapon. The armoured thrusts always start with such promise then get disrupted or grind to a halt or some such. In this case the artillery strike looks worse than it is. Each of those markers ends up being an attmept to roll a 6 in order to get a vehicle attack, so they're not likely to get more than one or two pops at them.

The village in the centre of the board was well held ny a battalion of Regular Army.  Again, it took a pounding from some artillery but held out becuase the armour got driven off (see above)
 The other village was hotly contested by both Regular & Popular Army and I think a batallion of IBs. The Republicans won in the end despite two abortive close assaults as the Nationalists took the new "It toll for thee" test, and decided that indeed the bell did toll for them and they fled the table.

As in most week's playtests I got a few changes to make but the basic structure is holding up well.

Finally Government cuts. I now that it is bad enough that roads aren't to be repaired, that teachers' pensions are being cut and youth clubs for the variously discriminated against are being terminated but this is beyond the pale. Unable to buy a copy of a rare book of Fascist volunteer memoirs on the internet I went to the local library to see if I could get it on loan. There's no copy in the county but I could get one through inter-library loan from outside the county. This service is no longer subsidised, and the fee is now £10.12. Yes, TEN WHOLE POUNDS AND TWELVE PENCE. This is an outraegeous assault on my civic rights and also, I would suggest, the start of the collapse of western civilization.

I await your views with interest.