ZANE Blog

Toms Walk 2020

Day 12 Chadlington – Tom’s Walk 2020

September 18
Chadlington

Chadlington

A great day for walking and our company was blessed by some old friends and new.

We booked in to “The Chequers” in Churchill and what an excellent choice it turned out to be. Fresh, and an interesting menu of food.

As we walked, inevitably, we talked about Brexit.   

Sound and Fury

Are you still worried that devastation – on top of the damage already inflicted by Covid-19 – will wreck the UK when we finally leave the EU on 1 January 2021?

Do you recall Y2K? This was the “Millennium Bug”, the terror we believed would befall us at the beginning of the year 2000. It was thought that flawed computer software would send civilisation into chaos at midnight on 31 January 1999. Computers would be unable to recognise the new date, and not only would Cinderella forget to leave the ball, but planes would rocket from the sky, hospital computers would wheeze to a halt, boats would do a Titanic and Armageddon would fall upon us!

And what happened? Nothing: plain zero! It was the biggest non-event of the last 25 years.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Now to Brexit. We British are good at muddling through and muddle through we will. Of course, we all know now that the EU oligarchs will do everything they can to make our lives as difficult and as uncomfortable as possible, so I anticipate 2021 will be a bumpy year.

According to philanthropist Miles Morland, we are, along with the US, one of the two great post-industrial powers to dominate the great post industrial industries – the intellectual-intensive industries as opposed to the capital-intensive ones at which the Germans excel. And our negotiating hand is a strong one. The EU has its fair share of worries: the Garlic belt of “PIGS” (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) are facing bankruptcy due to suffering the effects of an overvalued euro. Germany prospers at the PIGS’ expense because for it, the euro is undervalued. This is unsustainable.

The euro is like trying to squeeze Kate Moss and Philip Green into the same pair of knickers. Meanwhile, poor old Macron’s plans to invent a new Europe lie in tatters. He has achieved the impossible by becoming even more unpopular than his predecessor, François Hollande.

The media is obsessed with trade agreements. But why are they so important? The countries that have exported over the last 50 years – China, Japan and Taiwan – have had few trade agreements with the countries to which they send most of their goods. The pluses and minuses of trade agreements tend to be more than offset by monthly currency movements. They are a red herring used to frighten the ignorant.

Brexit is the new YK2: full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing and soon forgotten.

Sinners and Saints

In a previous blog, I wrote about the marriage of Sir Peter Harding. I have since discovered another part to the saga, and as there is a moral to the tale that should be learned by all ZANE donors over 55, perhaps it’s worth repeating. I should add that this story is in the public domain, so I breach no confidences.

Air Marshall Sir Peter Harding had a glittering career. In 1992, he ended up as Chief of the Defence Staff. One fateful day, at an innocent lunch, he caught the eye of Lady Bienvenida Buck who placed her hand on his knee and indicated she fancied him.

A few weeks later, at around 4pm, flashlights exploded as the couple were caught staggering out of the Savoy after an afternoon of illicit passion.

The “lady” had sold the story for £100,000 to the News of the World using the services of the ghastly, now thankfully late, Max Clifford – who was later jailed for sexual assaults on underage girls and young women.

A humiliated Harding immediately resigned and told his wife, Sheila, his career was over – it was – and that the publicity would be horrendous – he was right. Then he braced himself to be kicked out of the house, his marriage over.

Sheila took off her wedding ring, laid it on the table, and then replaced it, gently saying, “Let’s start our marriage again!”

The next day Harding’s peers – disregarding the biblical story of the woman caught out in adultery and “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…” – sought to persuade the then Secretary of State for Defence, Malcolm Rifkind, to allow them to hold “disciplinary proceedings”. They wanted to publicly strip Harding of his rank.

Rifkind was astonished that Harding’s friends and colleagues wanted to give a broken man a good kicking. But the five-star officers – all retired marshals of the RAF – were insistent. “Harding has disgraced his profession. Only five-star officers can form the tribunal, for only five-star officers can judge other five-star officers”. I should add that these men did not have the support of the chief of the air staff or the chief of defence staff.

Rifkind is a QC and his legal training kicked in. He told the men they couldn’t proceed.

“Why?” they demanded hotly.

Rifkind replied, “It’s a firm principle of law that we are innocent until proven guilty. As you have clearly already decided Harding is guilty, your so called “tribunal” cannot take place.” The men were furious but had to accept the ruling.

Moral? If you’re a man, there are two. First, find a wife like Sheila Harding – a total star – and bind her to your soul with hoops of steel. Second, if you are over 50 and a lady places her hand on your knee and tells you she fancies your body, run for the hills. She is lying!

Tom Benyon

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