A link

Another rough day, I’m afraid, so not a lot here.

But something there, with a couple of quotes from a book about Beethoven. But quotes not about Beethoven. About war.

Norman Lebrecht has a go at Barenboim (and Igor Levit is not a God either)

I actually don’t think that the things Norman Lebrecht quotes star classical pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim saying about the nature of the Covid ordeal now being suffered by him and his fellow musicians and performers are really that terrible. Barenboim was trying to get across the all-embracing inescapability of the thing. He compared it to World War 2, pointing out that there were places in the world where you could escape from that war. True, he might had been wise to add a phrase like “if you were lucky”. Because as Lebrecht then argues, millions were not so lucky, could not escape World War 2 and suffered horrors and deaths way worse that anything now being endured by all but the most unlucky of the Covid generation.

Concludes Lebrecht:

This is a really unwise statement.

Maybe, but personally I doubt it. I would say that, for once, that this is a case where “clarification” is really all that should be needed, and maybe not even that. It was clear enough what Barenboim was at least trying to say.

But what I do relish about Lebrecht is his willingness to disagree in public with classical music’s various star performers when they express what he considers to be foolish opinions outside of their core competence. And in general, when he reckons they are not doing their jobs well enough to justify their often stonkingly unequal remuneration.

Especially when you consider the kind of power that people like Barenboim wield from their perches at the top of the musical world, often without even realising it.

And, when you consider the crawling reverence with which these people are now mostly treated by such broadcasting organisations as the BBC.

I have a recording from off the radio of a Proms performance of Beethoven’s third piano concerto (which is one of my very favourite pieces), in which rising star pianist Igor Levit was the soloist. And very well he played it. (I happen greatly to prefer Levit’s way with this concerto to how Barenboim is in the habit of playing it.) But the spoken BBC intro, particularly as perpetrated by the BBC’s Petroc Trelawney, was some of the most grovellingly ridiculous verbiage I have recently heard on a serious radio station. Based on how Levit plays this concerto, and having heard him play Bach and Beethoven solo piano music that I happen also to own on CD, I think Levit is a fine pianist. But Trelawney spoke about Levit’s trick, to take a particularly ridiculous example, of bringing a bar of chocolate with him to fortify him during a hard evening of piano playing as if this were evidence that Levit is some sort of Higher Being, far above us mortals. It was embarrassing.

Norman Lebrecht, I think, often grabs hold of whatever stick he happens to be shaking at the wrong end. He is a man of impulse, and I think this often leads him astray. But he is right that this kind of grovelling to the big beasts of classical music should stop.

More sport thoughts

Sport has filled the gap in society left by major wars between great powers. In general, as the world gets more peaceful, so too does it get more sports mad.

Earlier this year, a fascinating sporting experiment was conducted. In order to stop The Plague spreading, they stopped Big Sport dead. And all hell broke loose. Politics and political demonstrating, the nearest thing to actual war when there is no war, went berserk. Remember when some guy in American got killed by the US cops, and there were demos all over the world about it? I was out and about in London a few times during all that, and I bumped into all sorts of weird looking characters who ought to have been screaming dementedly at football matches, not wandering about in London, picking fights with total strangers like me. The world’s governments learned their lesson. Screwing with people’s weddings and funerals and Christmas get-togethers is fine. But Big Sport has been bribed and begged to keep going. And as if by magic, the idiot demos have stopped. Poof! All gone. And because of Sport now being allowed, they’ve stayed gone. A big old dog that was barking like hell is now silent. Only freaks with opinions about such things like me are even noticing all this.

So, sport as a whole, very significant. Significant in the same kinds of ways that the Roman Amphitheatres were an important part of the Rome story. Or in the way that things like tourism, pop music, and now social media, are other big parts of the story of the world now.

But the actual results of particular sporting events don’t really bother me that much. I like it that the team I favour is currently top of the Premier League. But if Spurs were seventh or eleventh or even seventeenth, I could live with that. I’d just pay attention to something else. I am not, in short, a Real Football Fan.

But favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k is a Real Football Fan and I really feel for him when things aren’t going his way. And boy, are they, now, not going his way. This time last year, Spurs and Sheffield United were leapfrogging one another towards the top of the Premier League. Now? Well put it this way, one of the more interesting stats you can seek out at any particular Premier League moment is what and where the biggest gap is. Remember when the gap between Man City and Liverpool at the top, and all the rest, was something like twenty points, the biggest gap by far? I do, although I don’t recall exactly when this was because I’m not a Real Football Fan. So, what and where is the biggest gap in the Premier League now? Answer: 5 points. And: It is between the bottom team and the second to bottom team. And Sheffield United are, that’s right, bottom.

To cheer himself up, 6k is now reduced to saying things like this:

Each defeat now makes up a smaller percentage of the overall misery, and so it doesn’t hurt quite as much as before.

Another stat: Looking at the current Premier League again, there are only two teams which have won even four of their last five games. Man U and, would you believe, West Ham? They are just two of about a dozen teams any one of whom could yet win this thing. Only eight points separates the top thirteen teams. It’s like one of those long distance races, with a big leading bunch. You know who is not going to win, but not who will win from among that front bunch.

But if nobody has five wins from their last five games, does anyone have a complete set of five losses in their last five? Yes, and no prize for saying who. And given that for week after week they’ve had just the one point, it’s been going on for a lot longer than that.

That’s the trouble with arriving in the Premier League after a tough promotion battle and then having a good season and staying up. Your reward is: You have to do it all over again.

I’m now in such a second-hand state about this that I’d now swap a couple of Spurs wins for Sheff U wins, except that there’s no such soccer deity able to arrange this.

What chance does some lowlife American who gets himself killed, in what turned out to be tediously inscrutable and complicated circumstances, have against all that?

Democracy is war by other means – so do not trash it and especially not in the world’s most powerful democracy

This is all good, but this is particularly good:

Before we settled into peaceful, democratic nations, power was decided by Kings, swords, and armies. Power rested with bloody battle and bloody victory. Democratic politics replaced battle and war in the West, but it has always been understood that democratic politics is war by other means and that if democracy is removed from politics then we can only go back to bloody battle and bloody war.

Read it all.

Deep thanks to Stephen Green of Instapundit, for Instalaunching it.

Maybe you don’t agree with the Brit who wrote the piece I’m linking to, and with me, that the Democrats are now attempting an in-your-face coup d’etat. But about half of America does now believe this. If they are trampled over, rather than a decent chunk of them being genuinely persuaded … Well, like I say, read it all.

Antony Beevor omits any reference to the forecast for June 19th 1944

I did a posting here a while back about the weather-forecasting for D-Day (June 6th 1944), and also about the weather-forecasting for the day that would have been D-Day (June 19th) if Actual D-Day (June 6th) had been postponed, quoting from this book by Peter Caddick-Adams.

In that posting, I surmised that real D-Day experts would surely be familiar with the tale that Caddick-Adams told, about how, had the forecast weather for June 6th not been good enough, as it so nearly wasn’t, the attempt to do D-Day would have then happened on the 19th, and would have been a catastrophic failure.

Later, it occurred to me to delve into another D-Day book that I also possess, but have also only been dipping into. And on page 216 of D-Day: The Battle For Normandy by Antony Beevor, we read this:

The storm continued until the evening of Thursday, 22 June. The destruction on the beaches defied belief. More ships and materiel had been lost than during the invasion itself. Yet those involved in the planning of D-Day could not help remembering with grateful relief the decision to go ahead taken on 5 June. If the invasion had been postponed for two weeks, as had been feared, the fleet would have sailed into one of the worst storms in Channel history. Eisenhower, after he had seen the damage on the beaches, took the time to write a note to Group Captain Stagg: ‘I thank the gods of war we went when we did.’

Caddick-Adams makes no mention of this note, so score one to Beevor for that.

However, I searched before and after the above passage for any reference to what Beevor says the weather forecast had been for the 19th, and found nothing. Caddick-Adams quotes one of Stagg’s forecasters saying that all the forecasters had in fact forecast, very wrongly indeed, good weather for the 19th. Beevor, unless I am badly mistaken, makes no reference to this later and wrong forecast. He only needed to include about one more sentence to do this, but no such sentence is to be found.

Had the forecasters foreseen the dreadful storms of June 19th-22nd, D-Day (had they been contemplating it then) would surely have been postponed yet again, no matter what inconvenience and frustration that would have caused. But, they did in fact miss this storm, and would have missed it. So it’s a crucial detail.

So, I would say that in this particular engagement between historians, Caddick-Adams edges it.

WW1 ends and immediately the birds start shouting at each other again

Here.

I’m afraid this posting says it all for me, about birds and their incessant “singing”.

LATER: Plus, these owls don’t think they’re being cute at all.

Peter Caddick-Adams: If D-Day had been postponed it would have been a catastrophe

I have been reading the recently published book by Peter Caddick-Adams about D-Day, entiled Sand and Steel: A New History of D-Day, the follow-up to Snow and Steel, which was about the Battle of the Bulge. James Holland, quoted on the cover of Sand and Steel, calls it “Magisterial”, which is his way of saying that it is a huge book, with a huge amount of judiciously presented detail. The book is, I’m afraid, too “magisterial” for me now to be ploughing through it from start to finish. What I am now doing is feeling my way into it by looking up, in the index of Sand and Steel, people involved in D-Day whom I already know a little about, and then seeing what Caddick-Adams has to say about them.

I already know, for instance, a bit about Captain James Stagg, the one who supplied Eisenhower with that famous weather forecast, of a break in the bad weather on June 6th 1944, which enabled Ike to say: Go.

Caddick-Adams disapproves of how a little too much honour for this has been heaped only upon Stagg. Stagg was not himself a professional weather forecaster. He did summarise and pass on to Ike what the real forecasters, half a dozen of them, were telling him. That is honour enough for Stagg, but the real hero was the elaborate system that gathered together all the relevant information. Also, the German forecasters told pretty much the same weather story to their superiors, contrary to what Stagg-fans like me had been assuming.

Caddick-Adams is very good about somewhat misleading tales of this sort. His passion for detail, and for tracking down absolutely everyone and anyone who could tell him those details, is all mixed up with him wanting to know what really happened, as opposed to the stories that some people have been in the habit of telling one another, in movies for instance. This great generation of warriors, you can hear Caddick-Adams insisting, deserves nothing less than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That being why his books are typically so long. The whole truth of something like D-Day can’t be told in a hundred and fifty pages. Sand and Steel is one thousand and twenty five pages long.

Of a lot more interest, to me, than who exactly we should be praising for that most famous and famously accurate of weather forecasts, is what Caddick-Adams says about what might have happened if the weather on June 6th not been so favourable, and if Ike had consequently been forced to say: No. Not yet. Or for that matter if, given the forecasts he did get, Ike had simply said no anyway.

To know this, you have to know what range of dates the Allies considered suitable for the D-Day landings, weather permitting, and why. The relevant passage from Sand and Steel goes thus (pp, 346-347):

Given the specific moon and tidal requirements for the landing, Hogben recalled …

… Hogben being one of Stagg’s weather forecasters …

… they had just six possible days to invade in June: 5th-7th and 19th-21st. ‘We worked out the odds on the weather on any one of those four days conforming to our needs as being 13-1 against. So meteorologically, D-Day was bound to be a gamble against the odds.’ Admiral Alan G. Kirk, commanding the Western Task Force, recorded the factors that needed to come together for the invasion: ‘The night before D-Day had to be reasonably light so that convoys could keep station with ships darkened: he wrote. ‘Airborne operations also required this, necessitating a night with a full moon, or nearly so.’ Next, Kirk identified that ‘H-Hour needed one hour of daylight before the initial landings to enable bombarding ships to neutralise German batteries and drench the landing beaches’, but it needed to be ‘sufficiently before high water for the demolition parties to remove beach obstacles while still dry’.

However, it also had to be ‘sufficiently after low water in order to permit the landing on certain British beaches where sand bars prevented an assault until two or three hours later’. Ideally, the day would be fixed to ensure ‘a second high water in daylight to permit maximum unloading’. In conclusion, wrote Kirk, ‘the only dates on which all these factors were available were 21-23 May; 5-7 and 19-21 June, or 3-5 July’, though Stagg later observed that if they waited for the perfect set ‘it would take 140 years’.

So, if June 6th had not been the right day to be D-Day, what day would have been?

Here is what Hogben said about that (p. 351):

In speculating what would have happened if the poor weather had persisted on 6 June, leading to postponement until the nineteenth, the New Zealander Hogben stated, ‘As it happened, on 17 June, all six of us produced a forecast for the nineteenth for almost perfect conditions – the invasion would definitely have gone ahead, and would have been an utter catastrophe. Complete failure – for on 19 June the biggest storm of the twentieth century lashed the Channel and I doubt many landing craft would have even made it to the beaches. They would all have been swamped with the high winds. It does not bear thinking about.’

Says Caddick-Adams:

Recent statistical analysis supports this. The storm was a ‘once in forty years’ event, a tempest of slightly less ferocity having lashed the Calvados coast in February 1905, emphasising how lucky Eisenhower was to have opted to go on 6 June. …

Under a photo from his own (presumably vast) collection, of a huge wave crashing over the sea wall at Arromanches-Les-Bains, Caddick-Adams hammers home the same point (also p. 351):

The Overlord meteorologists were aware that violent storms often blew in from the Atlantic to batter the Normandy coast. Much documented was the hurricane of February 1905, which threw huge columns of water at the future invasion beaches and sites for the two artificial harbours. In June 1944, the Allied weathermen spotted a lull in the bad weather, but the tempest that began on 19 June replicated the violence of 1905. Postponing the invasion from 6 June to the nineteenth would thus have been disastrous for D-Day and the landings would have failed.

The point being, although the Allied forecasters got their forecast for June 6th right, they got the forecast for June 19th totally wrong, and unanimously so. They would definitely have said: Go. Ike would surely have concurred. And, it would have been a disaster.

The USSR conquering a whole lot more of Europe than it did. No President Eisenhower. Maybe the atom bomb being ready before the end of the war in Europe? The alternative history ramifications are endless.

Maybe D-Day buffs have long known about this June 19th aspect of the D-Day story, but it was all completely new to me.

Remembrance photos – 2020 and 2018

On that walk, a week ago now, I photoed the Remembrance preparations being made outside Westminster Abbey. Of course I did:

That was the first of them, and with a bit of cropping it is showable, but the rest were … Put it this way, I had to lean over the railings to photo anything, and I find that little crosses and dead leaves photo better if you get properly close to them.

Like this:

More Remembrance, of photos as well as of masses of young men dying. I photoed that on November 10th 2018, and showed it and other similar photos at my old blog on November 11th 2018, which was the exact one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War 1.

This particular bit of Remembrance doesn’t seem to change much from year to year. I suppose it doesn’t need to. What else is there to say, and how else could you say it any better?

Bartle Frere

Often, when out-and-abouting, I go down Victoria Street and across Westminster Bridge, before turning left and walking downstream along the south bank of the river. But last Wednesday, instead of going over the bridge, I turned left at the Boudicca Statue and walked along the north side of the River. That takes you past more statues, slightly off-the-beaten-track of the best known history. Parliament Square has Mandela, Gandhi and Churchill, to name three particularly well-known historical celebs. On the North Bank, as you walk towards Embankment Tube, you encounter: Tyndale, the first translator of the Bible into English. You see Charles Portal, who was Chief of the Air Staff during WW2, without ever doing anything that caught the popular imagination, as they say, in the manner of Dowding or Guy Gibson or Douglas Bader. There is Gordon of Khartoum, who got himself killed in Khartoum and who was a huge celeb in his own time, but is now fading into the history books.

And, just before you get to Embankment Tube, there is this handsome looking grandee:

This, proclaims the plinth under him, is “Bartle Frere”.

Even for me, with all that time and money that was spent teaching me what is now decidedly ancient history, Bartle Frere is only a name. But now, in the age of the Internet, questions like “Who on earth was Bartle Frere?” are easily answered. And it turns out that Bartle Frere, or, to give him his full name, Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere was a late nineteenth century colonial administrator of a sort who cannot now be discussed without extreme embarrassment and censure. He first had an impact in India, following the Indian Mutiny, generally cracking the whip and centralising British power there. And then they sent him to South Africa, to do the same there. Wars followed, against the Zulus, and eventually the Boer War. He seemed to have a genius for pissing people off, so much so that even at the time, people became rather doubtful about him.

You might think that, during the recent little moment of statue-complaining that came and went a few months ago, Bartle Frere would have more than qualified for public condemnation and possible toppling. Trouble is, he is just not known about or cared about. Nobody now says: “What we now need is another Bartle Frere.” “If only politicians nowadays had the moral stature of Bartle Frere.” They say this kind of thing about Mandela, Gandhi and Churchill, so if the wokists can find something unwoke to complain about with one of those guys, iconoclasm can at least be threatened, and a rise can be got out of all the people who respond by saying: Hey, leave Gandhi alone! Hands off Churchill! But nobody cares about Bartle Frere.

Iconoclasm only works if there is an actual icon to be clasmed, or clasmatised, or whatever the word is. Bartle Frere is not an icon, not now. He is now a nobody. So, his statue stood and stands tall and proud and utterly ignored by all but weirdos like me, and the woke mob never laid a finger on him.

At no point, a few months back when all the statue toppling was going on, was it felt necessary to put Bartle Frere in a box.

A lion with a strange shaped face

Here are a couple of photos of one of my favourite local London Things. It’s the Crimea and Indian Mutiny memorial, outside Westminster Abbey:

On the left, I lined it up with the twin towers of the Abbey. And on the right we are looking back up Victoria Street. On the right, the cranes that are finishing the building of The Broadway.

Around the base of this memorial are four lions, which all look like this:

At least, I presume they are lions. I am no sort of expert on how lions look. But I know that there are other lion statues in London, such as the ones in Trafalgar Square, and such as the one at the south end of Westminster Bridge, which have faces on them that look quite different from the above lion. They have heads that are a completely different shape to this Crimea lion, which to my never-seen-a-real-lion-in-my-life-or-not-that-I-recall eye, look more like some brand of monkey, or even like a dog.

I photoed these photos last Wednesday, and I have yet to recover from that expedition, having been suffering lately from aches and pains which this walk was supposed to help but didn’t. Now that Lockdown has locked down again, I’ll probably be showing photos from that day here for about the next month, on and off. There have already been this and these. So expect more, but not today.