Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Went to Bluewater Shopping Thingy yesterday and, as usual, whilst Mrs. Snopper was busying herself buying essential household supplies I spent a while in Waterstones bookshop.   Now a while ago I did the same and on that occasion I saw three books that caught my fancy but I thought it would go against my natural feelings of guilt if I allowed myself the self indulgence of buying them.

But time had moved on from then and yesterday I went in search of the same books again on the assumption that it is very unlikely that anyone would buy them for me for Christmas and, in any case, I have now reached the `Why Not?` stage of life. So I decided to try to overcome my guilt complex and buy them anyway.  Well, why not?

The three books in question were

- Henning Mankell`s new Wallander `An Event in Autumn;`

- `Touched by Greatness`, a biography of Tom Graveney;

- and a newly published study of National Service by Richard Vinen. 

The first was simply because I enjoy the Wallander novels and their images of life and death in a small town in Sweden.   The second was a genuine desire to find out more about another of my boyhood cricketing heroes and the third was to recapture and investigate those events half a century ago which changed my life forever.

The sad thing was that I couldn`t find the book about Tom Graveney which had been published back in February.  I enquired only to be told that Waterstones only ever had one copy and that had been sold so I guess I`ll have to look elsewhere. (Christmas is coming?) But I did manage to buy the other two, neither of which I have begun to read of course.   But I am looking forward to getting my teeth into the 600-page National Service study as it will not only be an extended trip down memory lane but also, I hope, finally put my experience into a wider context and hopefully justify the 731 days of conscription that I experienced.  

The signs look promising.  The flysheet suggests that "more than two million conscripts - most (like me) paid just over one pound a week - underwent national service.  Britain has a curious blind spot about this aspect of its recent past, generally regarding it as a comic interlude, notable for inspiring the first ever Carry On film.  Yet its impact was huge.  It cut across the lives of an entire generation in a time which now seems impossibly remote" when we pale, nervous young men turned up every two weeks at military camps to embark on life changing experiences which still resonate, even today.

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