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Well, the day many of you have been awaiting with bated breath, not, has arrived. The 2023 Book of the Year has been announced. Most years the short list is four or five books. That works out at maybe one book every three months. And that's from a field of 52 books in a year. It's been decided not to name and shame the worst book of the year. But regular readers of Book Briefing will know 2023 was not without its stinkers. The things I do for you. Anyway, check out Book of the Year to find out this year's winner. The book reviews part of the website can be viewed at Book Briefing.

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I don't know what the latest medical orthodoxy is but it used to be said that a glass of wine or a beer in the evening were part of a healthy lifestyle. A little relaxer. But I often wondered if the advice was based on surveys of the lifestyles of folk who reached an advanced age. Perhaps it wasn't the modest daily alcohol intake that was contributing to longevity. Maybe it was moderation itself. Moderation in all things.

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When I was around 10 years old we used to live on what was basically a building site. Our house was one of the first to be completed on a pretty substantial new housing estate. It was being built, by the way, by a company that had originally made its money running whaling ships out of Leith. Anyway, there wasn't a lot, apart from playing football at The Atlas Park, for kids to do. But there were a lot of empty oil drums on the building site. So, guess what we did? Yep, we used to cram ourselves inside old oil drums and roll down the hill until we hit the wall of a house under construction at the bottom. Do kids still do that kind of thing? Or are they too busy on their smart phones?

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The fellah in the poster’s standing there pipe in hand and his two mates are warming themselves by a roaring fireplace. What’s he selling? Why, a life in the Australian Army. The selling point is Comradeship. I reckon from the battledress that the three are wearing that the recruiting campaign must have been in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The poster is a bit different from most. They tend to feature The Missing Man, or What Did You Do in the War Daddy?, or A Square Meal and Plenty of Time Playing Football with Training for a Civilian Skilled Trade , or Be Part of A Proud Tradition, or Travel and Adventure. Roaring log fires and pipe smoking at the hearth and a promise what the Aussies these days I think call Mateship is an interesting approach to recruitment.

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If chattering classes dominated radio is to be believed then the most pressing issue in Afghanistan today is female education. Nope. The average Afghan father is way too poor to send his daughters to high school or university and not being able to do so is the least of his worries. And, anyway, education for most boys doesn't go much beyond learning to recite the Koran by heart. No, only the urban elite could afford to send their daughters to university. But that is who our western media identify so strongly with. Diversity in newsrooms is thought of only in terms of skin tone or sexual preference. But a Home Counties Pony Club lesbian whose parents come from overseas is indistinguishable on the radio from one whose ancestors have lived in Hampshire for centuries. By the way, the Taliban strongly identified girls' education with the western military. I seem to recall that the prime reason, almost the only one, given to the public as to why Canadian and British youngsters were being killed and maimed in Afghanistan was girls' education. So, perhaps no surprise the Taliban regime has curtailed it so drastically.

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