Tag Archives: Malta

The line between being world famous and being forgotten is thin and random

Sir Keith Park defended London

I had never heard of Sir Keith Park, who saved London

Like most people, I know a lot about what happened during my parent’s generation’s time.

So I grew up knowing a lot about the Second World War.

But, until I visited the RAF Museum in Hendon yesterday, I had never heard of Sir Keith Park.

A New Zealander, he was in operational command of the defence of London during the Battle of Britain in World War Two and, later in the War, in charge of the defence of Malta.

I had, of course, heard of British national hero ‘Bomber’ Harris, who is now partially discredited because of his bombing of Dresden but I had never heard of Sir Keith Park.

The dividing line between being remembered and being forgotten by history is thin and random.

When I woke up this morning, the Google.com homepage was celebrating the 197th birthday of Augusta Ada King, countess of Lovelace – aka Ada Lovelance.

I had never heard of her but, in 1843, she first published the idea of inputting punch cards to Charles Babbage’s ‘Analytic Machine’.

Charles Babbage, of whom I had heard, designed his Analytic Machine purely as a powerful calculator but is remembered as the father of computing. The less-remembered (and, by me, totally unknown) Ada is, according to Google, considered by some “the world’s first computer programmer, as well as a visionary of the computing age”.

The dividing line between being remembered and being forgotten by history really is random.

John Logie Baird and his 'Televisor' c 1925

John Logie Baird and his misguided ‘Televisor’ in around 1925

Everyone knows John Logie Baird invented television.

Except, of course, he did not. He had the wrong system.

My favourite author, George Eliot, is usually credited with the quote “It is never too late to be what you might have been” and it sounds, indeed, very much like her. But it seems to have actually been an urban myth type variation on a quote from the novel John Halifax, Gentleman by the almost totally forgotten Dinah Mulock Craik.

The original quote is the unmemorable: “You mean, Mr. Halifax, what I might have been. Now it is too late.”

That has pretty much the opposite meaning to the more famous remembered quote “It is never too late to be what you might have been,” which seems to have been conjured out of nowhere by generations of misquotation.

Who is remembered and why and for what is fairly random.

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings

Sic transit gloria. 

Ars longa vita brevis.

They all seem to cover it.

But I, perhaps not surprisingly, prefer to remember a quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel set partly in the post-War US, partly during the bombing of Dresden by Bomber Harris’ planes and partly on the fictional planet of Tralfamadore:

“Now when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘so it goes’.”

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Filed under Fame, Inventions, Philosophy

Lies, damned lies and Census statistics: there are too many foreign immigrants here in Britain…

I wrote a blog a couple of months ago about how Britain is full of immigrants.

Well, last night, I filled in my Census form.

I didn’t mind doing it, but a friend of mine was more incensed than Censused because her father was in the British Armed Forces and they lived in a variety of other countries around the world as well as the UK, employed by Her Majesty’s Government.

My friend was born in Malta. Her brother was born in West Germany.

The Census form, which partly aims to get figures for immigration and to see how many non-Britons are living in the UK, has buggered it up good and proper and the figures on which the government bases its future social policies will be wrong.

The form asks Were you born abroad? There’s no category for British citizens born abroad, let alone the children of British Forces born abroad while their fathers and/or mothers were  sometimes risking their lives for Britain. So an Italian born in Rome will appear in the statistics on an equal footing with a British passport holder born abroad – both will count as foreigners who entered this country to stay here.

The form also asks, in effect, when you first moved to the UK full-time. My friend’s father’s last posting abroad was in West Germany, so the answer to this question might be 1973. Or it might be 1958, a couple of years after she was born and first came ‘home’ from Malta; but that was not permanent residence.

As far as the Census figures will show, she (born in Malta) and her brother (born in Germany) will be two non-British people who became foreign immigrants into the UK.

In fact, by anyone’s standards, they were two British people – technically “Forces’ dependents” – returning to Britain.

And don’t get my friend talking about other ways in which the children of Forces’ personnel are disadvantaged – “I feel like a stranger in my own land,” she says. “Always have done. Probably always will.”

She once applied for a clerical job with a defence industry company in the UK but was turned down – after at first being accepted – because the company said it could only employ people born in the UK.

She presumably counted as a security risk because she was not “British”, despite the fact her British father served in the British Armed Forces and she was born in a British military base.

So these bloody foreigners have been coming over here, stealing our jobs and getting free healthcare for years, haven’t they? Not just children of the British Armed Forces but all those bloody Indian immigrants  – like Cliff Richard (born in Lucknow) and Joanna Lumley (Srinagar).

It’s been going on for years. The place has been inundated by Indian immigrants – There’s that one who starred in Gone With The Wind – Vivien Leigh (born in Darjeeling, lived in Calcutta), comedian Spike Milligan (born in Ahmednagar and he became so pissed-off with not being considered “British” by Whitehall bureaucrats because of his birthplace that he eventually took Irish citizenship)… and then there’s that bloody foreigner LibDem MP Paddy Ashdown (born New Delhi).

They should all have been sent packing back to where they came from. Back to… err… erm…

And let’s not even mention that dodgy cross-dressing comedian bloke from terrorist-friendly Yemen – Eddie Izzard (born in Aden)

Or William Makepeace Thackeray (Calcutta).

So who is British?

Now there’s a question.

One that the Census won’t adequately answer.

In fact, one that the Census figures will mis-represent.

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Filed under History, immigration, Politics, Travel