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The Soviet Red Army seldom gets the credit in the West it deserves for its part in winning the Second World War. The Soviets took on the vast bulk of the Germany Army and defeated it. Part of the reason for the lack of credit was down to Western historians having little access to Soviet records. But another factor was self- serving German Generals who succeeded in convincing their new American masters that they had consistently outfought and outthought the Red Army throughout the war but had been overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers. And even then, they would still have won but for Hitler's interference. The Americans quickly realised that the next major war after 1945 was likely to be against the Soviet Union and were keen to pick brains of men who had fought against the Red Army. The German Generals were hardly going to admit they were ever out- foxed by the Soviets; they loved being feted by the Yanks and wooed too much. And in some cases their supposed usefulness was all that stood between them and the hangman's noose for war crimes. This led to a dangerous under-estimation of the Soviet Generals which could have costed NATO dearly if there had actually been war.

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Recently I was listening to Germany's English- language international service and was informed that people were "protesting the efficiency" of the railway service. So, were they complaining that the local railway was too efficient? Or perhaps they were angry about inefficiency? But why should I have to scratch my head? A big part of the problem  is North American usage. People do not protest in favour or against something. They simply protest and you have to guess whether they are for or against whatever they are protesting about. Sadly, it's not just the Germans who employ Americans or people who learned their English from Americans. I've heard some BBC people in their monkey-see monkey-do way talking about people protesting something. Using the word "demonstrate" without a for or against doesn't help much either. Something should be done.

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I recently came across a pile of letters. It would appear that I used to ask newspaper editors for feedback after an unsuccessful job interview with them. A surprising number gave it. Some of what the editors said was valid and in a number of cases there was something I could do to remedy the shortcoming they highlighted. In other cases the criticism was unjustified but the fault lay with me because I had failed to dispel whatever reservation the editor had. And in a couple of cases the editor was obviously barking mad and I could comfort myself with the realisation that I'd just had a close escape. 

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I spent a morning down at the local park last weekend. It has two football fields and there seemed to be some kind of schoolgirl training session going on. Here in Canada, football, or "soccer" as they call it, is more of a girls' game. Anyway, what struck me was how many repetitive drills the girls had to do. At least two thirds of the training session was taken up by these drills. Now, Canadian sports teams love their drills. But I couldn't help wondering if actually playing the game might not be a better vehicle for skills development. And there is little point being able to chest the ball directly onto your boot if you have no sense of player positioning. I would also suggest that playing is more fun than repetitive drills.

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Years ago I walked along the Scottish-English border with a pal from school. Years later that pal 's only son was kidnapped and murdered by a known sex offender, but that's another story. I know our border walk began at Coldstream and we finished up at Jedburgh but I can't remember much about our route. What I do remember were the accents of the farmers we met. Right on the border line we were left in no doubt which country the farmer identified with. Further back from the border the accents were less pronounced though still identifiably Scottish or Northumbrian. There must be a PhD waiting for whoever can explain why the accents were so broad along the boundary. 

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When I was about 10 years old my grandad offered to teach me to play cards. I wasn't much interested. Most card games were boring. An older person now, I realise what he was really offering was to teach me how to cheat at cards. I suspect that the reason he made the offer when I was ten was that he knew he was already losing the dexterity in his fingers necessary to manipulate the cards. He certainly knew his way his way around a pack of cards. He'd spent more than decade in the British Army between the world wars and soldiers played a lot of cards in those years. What he wanted me to learn would have set me up for life, providing I didn't get caught. 

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Apparently, at the close of the First World War of the British officers demobilised something like 40% of them were judged to be working or lower middle class. I wonder if in our supposedly more meritocratic age whether the present officer corps shows the same level of job opportunity. I doubt if it even comes close. In 1918 there was a war on. There was a real job to do and not getting it done could have proved very costly. So, merit rather than parental wealth became an a very important criteria. But the British Army breathed a sigh of relief in  1918 and got back to "proper soldiering". It believed it had nothing at all to learn from the conflict. It therefore took until late 1942, and many would argue even later, before the army was fit for purpose. The Germans on the other hand not only learned from their experience during the First World War but from the victorious British Empire forces. The result was a very close run thing in 1940. 

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You don't meet many people who are satisfied with how their lives are turning out. I guess that's the price of progress. If banging rocks together had made people ecstatically happy, music as we know it now would not exist. But I think I have met some people who are truly happy. The most noticeable thing about nearly all of them is that they have little or no sense of humour. I guess humour must be a coping mechanism and the genuinely happy simply do not need it. 

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I was recently subjected to a series of divisive and muddle-headed lectures by an "award winning" journalist and writer. I was left wondering how anyone who produced such dross could win an award. But then I realised that no-one had said which award the speaker had won. There are many awards out there but few count for much. I'm an award winner but I'd hate to have my name mentioned in the same breath as some of the other winners - different judging panel, different winner. There are many groups out there who have an interest in promoting themselves and their whackey world view by sponsoring an award. So, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that this truly dreadful dross monger has bagged an award or two. 

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I can't help feeling that too many people misuse the word "literally". A couple of Sundays ago I heard a much respected Scottish writer on the radio say that something had happened "literally 18 months ago". It either happened 18 months previously or it didn't. What did the word "literally" add to what she was saying? Nothing. To me, and I suspect I'm now in a minority, the word is intended to avoid confusion between metaphor and real events. In metaphor skating on thin ice is behaviour that may result in disaster. Literally skating on thin ice involves putting bladed boots and actually venturing onto a frozen body of water. But if a woman regarded by some as Britain's greatest living writer is correct I may have to literally eat my words. Or not.  

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One of things that impressed me about Canada were the newspaper boxes. People were trusted not to only take one paper from the box after they'd put their money in. I thought something like that wouldn't last 10 minutes in Britain before someone scooped all the papers out and threw them all over the street. But it turns out that in the late  1970s,in London at least, people were trusted to put their money into a cash box and take one copy of the Evening Standard from the rack at an unmanned newspaper stand.  I would have remained ignorant of this if I hadn't succumbed recently to borrowing the final series of the Sweeney on DVD from the local library. And there was the character played by Dennis Waterman using one of these unmanned stands. I was impressed.

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Let's face it family trees aren't worth the paper they are drawn on. Very very few of us are actually descended from the supposed ancestors whose surnames we bear. At a guess I'd say it's highly unlikely that the true male line goes back to more than a great great grandfather. It's just the way human beings are. On the radio this morning I heard a pensioner who recently found out his biological father was in fact a family neighbour and not the man he called "Dad" for more than half a century. With no disrespect to any of the women in my family tree, I'd be surprised if I am related to several of my more distant male ancestors listed at the Scottish Records Office. But being more inclined to believe that nurture counts more than nature when it comes to how a person turns out, I don't think that really matters. And the biggest health worry based on DNA, that I know of, comes through the female line and that's way less prone to error when it comes to family trees.

 

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I heard a radio documentary recently about media coverage of the Flapper craze in the years after the First World War. A lot of it was typical scare sensationalism along the lines that Flappers' short skirts would make them infertile or their short hair would make them prone to sunstroke, etc. The documentary makers argued that nothing the media reported could be true because Western Society did not collapse. This ignores the fact that while the Flappers were highly visible, there were not really that many of them. For the vast majority of women in Europe and North America life was poor and filled with drudgery. The documentary makers were obviously from the chattering classes which provided the bulk of the Flapper population. These are the same people who celebrated the Sufferagettes for the British 1918 Election Act which enfranchised some women. No mention of the women who laboured in the factories throughout the First World War as contributors to gaining the vote or that the same act gave a large number of previously non-enfranchised men the vote too. Nor was there much of a look at whether the Sufferagettes with their terrorist campaign, it wasn't their fault that they failed to kill anyone one, may have actually set the campaign for female enfranchisement back by several years. No Government likes to be seen to be giving in to terrorists. 

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Sometimes a person can't decide between two courses of action. The answer is to toss a coin, maybe, perhaps. Sometimes there is clue, either conscious or unconscious, as to the best course of action. That's when after the first flip, the tosser, or is that tossee, decides to make it the best of three. That suggests the first flip did not yield the option the flipper really favoured.

 

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Why do North Americans insist on pronouncing the name of the capital of Scotland as "Edin-boro"? Is this some ancient pronunciation  that the Scots have forgotten but through an accident of history the Americans have retained? I always thought the pronunciation was something along the lines of "Edin-burra" . I've even heard "Em-bra". I could understand the American, and sadly many Canadians make the same mistake, confusion if the name was spelled Edinborough. But it's not.

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I just heard something on a radio that made me very nervous. It was an item about the dearth of non-whites in Canadian university sports leadership roles. Certainly, something that needs sorting out there, but will take time. I would hope the present incumbents can't be fired simply for being white. But what appalled me was that a female basketball coach was being lauded for only hiring non-whites as her assistants. Now, as so many of the best women basketball players are not white, it would be only reasonable to find that perhaps a majority of the coaches would be non caucasian too. But this woman said she had the power to hire only non-whites and that was what she was doing, 100%. That's not "reverse racism", that's Blatant Racism. The solution to discrimmination is not more discrimmination. And why is what she is doing dangerous for all of us? A person only has to look at the election of Donald Trump in the USA to see that at least part of it was due to a backlash against so-called  Affirmative Hiring and other such well intentioned stupidities. All Racism is corrosive to the soul and very harmful to society.

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I sometimes hear when people are discussing how dangerous something they dismiss the threat by remarking  "more people are killed on the roads every year". What does that mean? I'll tell you, it means motor vehicles are very very dangerous. As far back as the 1920s or 30s British commentators were sounding alarm bells about the killing carnage on the nation's roads. And that was in the days when only the rich could afford to drive and cars were a rare sight. It would be interesting to know why society tolerates this carnage. I've seen the police manning speed traps ignore cars shooting through zebra crossings nearby while people are using them. In fact, I was almost hit by a police car on a zebra crossing. The cop  ignored two lanes of cars which had already stopped and gave me the Vs as he sped past. If even the cops don’t take pedestrian safety seriously……

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I was disappointed to learn from Canada's state broadcaster that Britain re- opened its pubs on Saturday. Disappointed because it wasn't true. Pubs in England and Northern Ireland were allowed to re-open. The same is not true for bars in Scotland or Wales. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation advertises itself at the moment as a reliable source for Covid related news. But that's not true. The report that the whole of the UK had allowed pubs to reopen gave ammunition to those in Canada echoing their US cousins demands for an end to any Covid lockdown. That argument would have been derailed if the CBC had correctly reported that two out of four parts of the UK had decided not to follow England's controversial lead. But what can a person expect from a publicly owned broadcaster that used to insist only only accepting competition entries submitted via Facebook? 

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Years ago I remember spotting a beautifully bound set of Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples at a friend's house. I'd just finished reading a set I'd got at a remainder bookshop. I asked her what she'd thought of the books. It turned out she hadn't read any of them and had no plans to. The books were simply interior decoration. I think that was my first inkling that there can be a snobbery connected to books and reading. To me, books are for reading and that's all they are for. I can't remember when I couldn't read and I can't remember when I couldn't swim. Both are important lifeskills and neither a matter for snobbish pride.

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When I was a young newspaper reporter to have your name printed at the top of an article, a byline, was the mark of a job unusually well done. Later unbylined stories became scarce as the world entered its "everyone gets a sweetie" phase. But in the days I'm referring to bylines were still something in which to take some pride. However, sometimes for reasons of space there was no room for the byline. Applications for the next job on the slippery pole were often helped along by samples of previous articles in the cuttings book. There was reporter on the Evening Chronicle who swooped on unbylined but strong stories and passed them off as his own work to potential employers. A variation of this involved the various Young Journalist of the Year Awards. It was a real feather in a newspaper's cap if one of their reporters won one of these. So sometimes a senior editor came up with an idea which was then assigned to a young reporter. This reporter was then "guided" through the information gathering process by a more experienced journalist and the article re-written by the best sub-editor on the paper. Basically, the young journalist's contribution was use of his or her name.

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