Five huge Embarrassments from History

Theresa May and the UK Conservative party continue to make my country and most of its citizens deeply embarrassed by their conduct over the negotiation of Brexit. It is now increasingly being described as a Catastrophe or even a Catastofuck which helps us visualise a situation where the word catastrophe just isn’t enough. An example is #brexitcatastrofuck, which seems to get a bit closer to the disaster the UK currently faces. Then again ‘Disaster’ doesn’t quite capture the nation’s current sense of betrayal because of gross incompetence. They said we would ”take back control” whereas in reality Prime Minister Theresa May was locked out of a room full of other EU leaders as they decided the future of the UK with just a week to go until Brexit day. What a total and utter embarrassment for our once great nation.

TMay Art Piece
Photo by muffinn

Believe it or not there have been bigger and more embarrassing catastrofuck’s with bigger repercussions in the past. So in no particular order here’s a list of 5 big embarrassments from history. Although Brexit could yet make a dash for the top spot because the torturous process continues of course… as if anyone could ever forget.

Number 1 Decca Records turn down the Beatles

On New Year’s Eve 1961, the Beatles drove in a snowstorm from Liverpool to London. The next day, they cranked out about 15 tracks at Decca Studios, which were a mixture of the rock, R&B, rocked-up standards and originals they played. However, Dick Rowe, the A&R man trying out the group, was unimpressed and famously told manager Brian Epstein that “guitar groups are on their way out.” Five months later, the Beatles signed with George Martin at Parlophone, an offshoot of EMI, which led to the most successful artist-producer collaboration in history.

To a lesser extent the 12 book companies who passed on J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter series collectively had to live with a similar sense of embarrassment at their lost opportunity

Number 2 Leaving a back door open in Constantinople.

After successfully crossing the Bosphorus from Asia to Europe in 1453 Sultan Mehmet II of the Ottoman Turks turned his attention to the ultimate prize in Byzantium: Constantinople, then one of the most heavily fortified cities in the world. But after a 50 day siege the city was defended by less than 10,000 men. The Turks had between 100,000 and 150,000 men on their side and used huge cannon to destroy the walls and warships were used to the cut the city’s sea defence.

Attack after attack had been successfully repulsed by the Byzantine Christian army. Then one May morning at 1:00 a.m. The Turks attacked the weakest point in the walls but the Byzantines were once again ready for them as they entered the city and by dawn had massacred much of the attacking army. After this initial disaster was called off a few of the retreating soldiers said they had noticed one of the small seaward doors to the city had been left unlocked and unguarded in the chaos. Mehmet immediately launched an attack and managed to secure the gate before pushing through and finally taking his prize and claiming the great city of Constantinople, once the centre of the holy roman empire, for Islam and renaming it Istanbul.

Number 3 Russia sells Alaska to America for 2 cents an Acre

In 1867 the Czar, who feared that Britain would seize Alaska after it defeated Russia in the Crimean war, offered the vast territory of mountains and tundra to America. Many politicians called it a waste of money as Alaska’s main use until then had been a dwindling supply of otter and beaver pelts that fed the fur trade.

Old map of Alaska
Photo by U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK)

Many called president Andrew Johnson an idiot after signing the treaty with Russia that purchased Alaska for 2 cents an acre ($7 million) on March 30. But little did Russia know, they were giving up countless future gold mines and other natural resources hidden in the tundra.

Number 2 In 1788, the Austrian army went to war… against itself.

Another time when the Ottoman army got really lucky was in 1788. The Austrians were fighting the Ottoman Empire and locked in a battle for the Danube River. A 30,000-strong-force had set up camp near the village of Karansebes and sent out a group of scouts across the river, to look for signs of the Ottoman soldiers. They didn’t find any enemies but did manage to find a band of gypsies. Gypsies loaded with a lot of alcohol.

As the scouts enjoyed the effects of their newly purchased beverages, some more soldiers from the army crossed the river and upon hearing the merry making, decided to invite themselves to the party. However, when the scouts refused to share, a heated argument broke out until one of the soldiers fired a shot and some idiot shouted that the Turks had arrived. Most soldiers fled the scene but others grabbed their guns and began firing. The confusion was so exacerbated by the fact that the Austrian army consisted of Serbs, Croats, Poles and Austrians who couldn’t understand each other that very soon a full scale battle was underway.

When the Turks finally did arrive a few days later expecting a battle, they were shocked to discover that Karansebes was completely unoccupied, but for 10,000 dead or wounded Austrian soldiers from what must surely be the biggest ‘friendly fire’ incident in history.

Number 5 The Election of Donald Trump

Unlike the previous 4 events this is a story that is still as hot and relevant as the Brexit debacle. Trump clearly the choice of America’s biggest adversary was put there through Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. As a classic narcissist and racist Trump, to the delight of Putin has gone on to reap havoc with the world order and not in a good way. He has used his position to not only enrich himself and his friends and family and perhaps even tipping them off about his erratic and unpredictable trade decisions in advance so they might take stock positions. Trump has also skewed America’s tax system far in favour of the wealthiest 1% to the determent of the poor and needy.

Putin an Trump doors
Photo by IoSonoUnaFotoCamera

While most of the above comes down to personal enrichment it is his vandalism in other areas of international affairs that is causing much more damage to the very health and sustainability of the planet. George W Bush famously denied global warming after he came to power nearly 20 years ago so he could line the pockets of his buddies in the fossil fuel sectors like oil, gas and coal. He got away with it then because the science wasn’t quite as robust in showing that unchecked global warming threatens the future of every species on this planet. And yet Trump was still allowed to unilaterally pull out of the hard won Paris accord on Climate change with virtually no objection from Republican lawmakers.

Then he withdrew from the Iran Nuclear deal which made the middle east a safer place. Only last week his lapdog of a Secretary of State Mike Pompeo come out with the deranged statement that ‘God sent Trump to save Israel’(presumably from Iran?). I could list other incidents where Trump, who is caught in a lie almost every day has wrecked treaties and accords simply because he felt like it or in a churlish and childish wish to overturn the many achievements of his much more stable and honest predecessor Barack Obama. However, the worst thing that has happened is it may have herald in the classic dystopian future for all of us.

The dystopian future
Photo by Revan Jinn

We have all seen it in the movies where government soldiers chase an endless insurgency from the last proponents of liberty and freedom living in the wreck of destroyed towns and cities. With governments always controlled by some nutter President whose personal business interests rather than the welfare and happiness of the country’s citizens take priority .

If the American people don’t act to prevent it in future Trump’s main legacy will have been to throw the door wide open to allow any corporation or even bad foreign actor with enough money and a willingness to lie and cheat to make their puppet of a candidate become the most powerful and dangerous person in the world.


NOT an end of year round-up

What a year – I promise this is not just another end of year round-up. Although admittedly I may be forced to recall certain events but will steer clear of an almanac style list in date order.

January… that was a joke by the way (insert polite titter here)

Some years go by with barely a ripple of great excitement, disappointment or unexpected adventure. Often years meld into 2, 3, 5 and before you know it you have lived half a decade or more of unremarkable life events but with the usual roll-call of births, weddings and funerals; such is the usual circle of life. Our years may be garnished with a little or a lot of things like new jobs, travel and maybe even be infused with a little bit of romance. By its very nature romance is often associated with earlier unhappy or muted endings that may eventually lead into happier beginnings with someone else. Yes some years go by with barely a ripple but some just start crazy and get even crazier for one reason or another. This last year was one such year for me.

A bad situation

But this isn’t about me… Wars that people had began to forget about just rumbled on with most victims, as usual, innocent civilians. Syria, Yemen, the endless war inside the British Conservative party, which all got so much bloodier and pointless. Brexit is now so dead in the water that it has begun to sink headlong into the oceanic abyss, where it was going to drag the rest of us until it eventually lands on the murky bottom to be devoured by the ravenous carrion crabs that wait down there for dead and dying things. The other 27 Euro leaders have scented the blood of Theresa May and all of the other clowns who driven by self interest and downright racism and ignorance have started to scuttle back into the woodwork where they came from. The EU will, quite rightly, not give another inch – or should I say centimetre – to help May sell her dead dog of a deal to Parliament. It is my hope and the hope of the vast majority of people in the UK that by this time next year Brexit, with all of its associated chaos and staggering waste of energy and money will be a distant memory, a stern lesson learned from the humiliating reality check we are now living through. A thing only referred to in hushed tones.

I built a boat – a beautiful big canal boat that ended up costing me a more comfortable summer because I had to fit it out in London in the unusual extreme heat of 2018. Imagine working inside a steel hulled boat in 35C! But now it sits completed, majestic in its winter mooring waiting for me to take it on its first cruise in the coming spring. I do love my boat but Never again!

new boat

Trump continues to confound predictions of an imminent departure because of impeachment or a direct indictment from the special counsel Robert Mueller. Despite Donald being as bent as the proverbial 9 bob note and continuing to display the IQ and temperament of a petulant 9th Grade school boy, somehow his ‘base’ or ‘the deplorable’ as they have come to be know still managed to help him hang onto one of the houses of power in the November midterms. He as usual declared it as a massive victory , as if he had gained seats instead of losing so many he lost control of Congress. But I wonder how he will review his victory once impeachment proceedings against him get underway and most of his family and business associates begin to fear the approaching knock at the door from the Police.

Trump - Prison in a Year

In October I became a Grandfather for the first time – a title that gradually gets easier to slip from the tongue. It dates me of course, but I am now of an age when vanity begins to take a back seat to more important events in one’s life. Sadly the premature death of a dear friend also coloured much of last Autumn and resulted in not just grief but an all too familiar situation, when a blood relative (who shall remain nameless) decided greed and her own needs were more important than her dead daughters wishes for the stable future of the granddaughter she professed to love. These were important wishes that she said she was happy to help fulfil right up until the moment she discovered a large insurance payout.

Money talks

So if this post carries one message it is this: Make sure you have a will, a written and appropriately witnesses Last Will and Testament that people will find when you are gone. But most importantly if you want something special or some protection or guardianship of your children to be assigned to someone else, someone other than your next of kin then PUT IT IN WRITING in a document that will stand up in court. My friend could not have expected to die in her 30’s and although she was suspicious enough of one particular relative to at least record her wishes in conversations and emails with myself and others until she could get around tosigning a notarised document – because she didn’t do this the whole sorry thing quickly descended into an unnecessary nightmare, that few of us who were touched by it will quickly recover from.

Anyway, although this wasn’t my annual round-up – let’s make some promises for next year:

Let’s talk more but chat less
Let’s call more and text less
Let’s meet more but Skype less
and Let’s get out more and vegetate in front of the TV less.

I hope you had a good one and wish you all good luck for a happier, healthier and yes let’s hope a quieter New Year for 2019.