Beware the fury of a patient country

On 18 Jun 1812, The United States of America declared war on Canada and decided to invade. The Americans had a bee in their bonnet about something or other with the British and since England was so far away they thought they give Canada a good thrashing.

2 years later in September 1814, Canada had had enough. They marched on Washington, destroying everything in their path and set the White House on fire.

Shit's on fire, yo.

Shit's on fire, yo.

It has been the only time since the Revolutionary War that a foreign power has captured and occupied the US Capital. Unless you count Obama.

I guess it has worked because this war is also the origin of the lines about “the rockets’ red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air” from the US national anthem. Notice that America has never declared war on Canada since?

Stirling Moss in a 1959 Cooper Climax T51

Here’s a video from 1986 of Stirling Moss in a Cooper T51. Cooper had the engine behind the driver and in front of the back axle, a Formula One design that hasn’t changed for over 50 years. It’s an historic car that probably doesn’t get as much kudos as it deserves. Also, my dad knew Stirling Moss from his own racing days.


Sir Jack Brabham had his first win at the 1959 Monaco GP in the Cooper Climax T51, which was a big deal at the time as it was the first race of the season and everybody was watching. He went on to become the ’59 and ’60 World Driver’s Champion.

How to play both sides like an expert

Joan Pujol Garcia

Joan Pujol Garcia

Meet Joan Pujol Garcia. He was a WW2 spy. Actually, he was a double agent during the Second World War. The British knew him by his codename of Garbo; the Germans knew him as Arabel. As Arabel, he was paid $340,000 to support his network of agents, which at one point totaled 27 fabricated characters supplying complete misinformation to the Germans. For his efforts in aid of the Allies Garbo received an MBE from the British. In an ironic twist of fate, following the war he ended up encountering one of his German handlers, who gave him the Iron Cross for his contribution to the German war effort, an award normally reserved for front-line fighting men; the Nazis never realised that Garbo had fooled them, and thus he earned the distinction of being one of the few people during World War II to receive decorations from both sides.


How do you explain Sep 11 to young kids?

Promos for shows from different networks marking the 10 year anniversary of the Sep-11 attacks have started appearing on TV recently. This has led to my kids, who are under ten, asking questions.

What happened on Sep 11? Well, a bunch of bad guys hijacked some planes and crashed them into some buildings in America to try and kill as many people as they could.

This was ten years ago? Where were you? Yep, it was 10 years ago, a bit before you were born. Me and mum were getting ready to go to bed while it was actually happening. See, while it was early morning in the Eastern US, it was close to bedtime here. I remember seeing a news ticker on the bottom of the TV screen about a plane crash, but we shut the TV off to get an early night. This was when me and mum both worked at the same place. We didn’t see any of it until we woke up the next day. The clock radio went off at the appointed time, and they were talking about a plane crash. “Must have been the news from last night”, we thought. “Let’s turn on the news after breakfast before we go to work”. When we turned on the TV, it seemed every channel was carrying the same story. Two planes had crashed into the tallest buildings in New York called the World Trade Centre, and another into the Pentagon. And the World Trade Centre buildings had actually fallen down! Later we learned there was a fourth plane crash too.

Why did they try and kill those people? (OK, here we go…) You’ll soon start hearing a lot of people talking about this, and about related events that have happened in the 10 years following Sep 11. The short truth of the matter is that there are two reasons.

  1. They wanted American soldiers out of their Holy Lands, particularly military bases near Mecca and Medina which are Holy Cities.
  2. They wanted the American government to stop giving military support to Israel.
But why didn’t they just ask? I’m sure they did ask, and a number of times.They decided they only way that the Americans would listen was to do something like this; very spectacular and large.

When you say “they”, you mean Muslims?
 Well, yes. The guys who organised it and the guys who did it were all from a religion called Islam. People who follow Islam are called Muslims.

So, do Muslims try and kill people all the time?
No, not at all. Most of the world’s billion or so Muslims are regular people like you and me trying to live the best life they can. But some decided to do something really evil and kill a bunch of people. They aren’t the Muslim leaders, and they don’t represent the rest of the Muslims.

Why did they choose those buildings?
 The name of the guy who organised the attacks was Osama bin Laden. Osama had tried to destroy the World Trade Centre before, by getting a guy to drive a truck loaded with explosives into the basement underneath one of the buildings. The hope was that the bomb would go off, and push one tower into the other and bring them both down. That didn’t work, but he really wanted to bring those buildings down because they were a symbol of American economic power. Two towers took two planes.  A third plane was crashed into the Pentagon, which is a military base and symbol of American military power. Remember the fourth plane I mentioned? It was likely that this was supposed to crash into the White House which is where the President lives, and is a symbol of American politics and America itself. The fourth plane didn’t make it because the passengers fought back against the bad guys and the plane crashed into an empty field. They saved a lot of lives.

Then what happened?
Well over the last ten years America has started wars with Afghanistan and Iraq as well as a bunch of other countries. Don’t ask me to explain all that right now. Maybe another time. I spent a few months in America the next year, just before you were born and because they used planes to crash into buildings and kill people it meant more security and longer lines waiting to get onto flights. My dad took a flight on Sep 11 2002 and was the only passenger on the plane! In May, they guy who organised the attacks was tracked down and killed in a town in Pakistan.

So it’s all over, right? They can stop the wars?
Oh, I wish you were world leaders.

How have you explained Sep 11 to your young families? Leave a comment!

The Earth is blue. How wonderful. It is amazing.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of of the first manned space flight by Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, Soviet pilot, cosmonaut and hero.

This article is a good biography on Gagarin, giving some insight into his childhood, his upbringing and his motivations.

During the course of training, Gagarin had shown that he was the most flexible and adaptable to command — and to surrounding circumstances. He knew how to fit in – yet stand out. He had a chameleon-like ability to adapt physically and mentally to every situation – and to maintain lines of communication with the parallel structures. He was quick on the uptake, capable of improvising the proper response and meeting people’s expectations.