Huts and History

Red Sky Shepherd’s Huts builds outbuildings. Among their sheds, one model offers “timber frame construction with tongue and groove interior pine walls. Each wall and floor are five layers deep (with) … a cavity filled with quality sheep’s wool insulation.” One specific hut of this type features “a corner-set wood-burning stove … (and) a pull-out double sofa bed.”

This particular hut connects the most historically disastrous British Prime Minister I can name to a really big personal dilemma. For in this hut, his publicists would have it at least, David Cameron has been writing his memoir, For the Record.

For the Record is published by Harper Collins, a subsidiary of News Corp, a Rupert Murdoch company. The book is available for pre-order just now on Amazon in the U.S. for $40.00.

I’d be interested to read Mr. Cameron’s version of events. The problem: paying a person who has done great harm. A couple of other books come to mind – those of the East German spy master Markus Wolf and O. J. Simpson.

Simpson’s 2006 If I Did It was to be published by ReganBooks, which is also an imprint of Murdoch’s HarperCollins, but universal disgust led to a court awarding royalties to the victim’s family. So that worked out okay, although it was an easy choice not to be stained by reading that book.

•••••

Cameron, for all his slack-jawed inattention, was no O.J. Simpson. To his credit, the New Statesman reports that

“Cameron is donating the £800,000 that the publisher HarperCollins paid for his book to charities for Alzheimer’s, veteran servicemen and childhood disability (his six-year-old son, Ivan, who suffered from severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy, died in 2009).

(Do not fret for the former Prime Minister. His fee for speeches about Brexit: £2000 per minute.)

Mr. Cameron’s long-delayed book drops next Thursday in the U.K., the following week in the United States. Suppose For the Record is a Brexit tell-all and a ripping good read. You reckon?

Amazon isn’t encouraging:

“In For the Record, he will explain how the governments he led transformed the UK economy while implementing a modern, compassionate agenda that included reforming education and welfare, legalizing gay marriage, honoring the UK’s commitment to overseas aid and spearheading environmental policies.”

Ehhh.

I imagine Cameron will claim to have been undermined by the current Prime Minister and Michael Gove, who is currently heading up planning for a crash out of the EU. If he does and he was, he will have been betrayed by dicey bedfellows. Dicey bedfellows who, as it happens, run the government just now.

Former P.M. Cameron will pursue a cautious book tour:

“The only events on the calendar are An Evening with David Cameron, at a yet-to-be-revealed central London location on 6 October, and an interview by the BBC’s Sophie Raworth at the Times-sponsored Cheltenham literature festival a day earlier.”

Meanwhile the U.K. parliament has been sent home by a Prime Minister eager for an unimpeded stomp across the political landscape through the upcoming weeks of party conferences. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost every parliamentary vote since he assumed office while withdrawing the whip (in American, that means he stripped the benefits of running on behalf of his party) from 21 party stalwarts, meaning they can’t stand as Tories in the next election, and as a result now commands a distinct minority.

You can see why Mr. Johnson might wish to send his parliamentary opponents back to the provinces. You can also see the peril to the British system of governance. The demons David Cameron unleashed with his 2016 Brexit referendum vote are circling their devilish roost.

Johnson’s boorish challenge to the parliament’s (unwritten) constitutional authority speeds up everything from the prospects for a new general election to the collapse of the confidence and supply agreement with Northern Ireland’s DUP to Scottish succession. History is revving up in the United Kingdom.

But about those memoirs: seems like the Trump tell-alls are shallow and cash-motivated. I’ve passed on them. Have I missed anything? Anyone? I’ve enjoyed two Brexit books, Tim Shipman’s All Out War and Craig Oliver’s Unleashing Demons. But what to do on Cameron’s book?

•••••

I had a dear German friend who spent her life, spanning the entire division of her country, in western Berlin. She would not countenance buying the East German spymaster Marcus Wolf’s 1999 memoir Man Without A Face (co-authored by Anne McElvoy). For Inge it was a bridge too far. Wouldn’t buy it, wouldn’t read it.

Still, conflicted, I just may enrich the bank accounts of Wolf’s estate, Cameron’s charities and Wolf’s and Cameron’s publishers, and in some kind of odd, backwards tribute to Inge, read both their memoirs together. I’ll bet Man Without a Face is not turgid. Place your bets on the Cameron book?

What to Do?

It’s not easy being David Cameron.

Seems like the Prime Minister has a knack for getting himself into tight spots. Sometimes it’s his own doing, like when he promises referenda on who might want to opt out of what entity or country, but this one’s not entirely of his own making. Tomorrow retired high court judge Sir Robert Owen will publish the results of the lengthy British inquiry into the death of former FSB agent turned MI6 operative turned dead man Alexander Litvinenko. The Prime Minister (who already has the report) will be required to decide what if any punishment to impose on the Russian involvement the report will presumably show in Litvinenko’s death. This comes at a delicate time in Russia/western relations, what with the attempted reconvening of Syria talks next week.

The Litvinenko case makes for riveting real-life-tales-of-international-intrigue reading, and it will be all the news tomorrow. Catch yourself up with this longish summary by Luke Harding in the Guardian. The book to read is Blowing Up Russia, written by Litvinenko. Since the report comes out tomorrow, might be best to download the electronic version instead of waiting for delivery of a hard copy.

In the book Litvinenko alleges FSB involvement in an aborted bombing of an apartment building in Ryazan, Russia in 1999, just months after Vladimir Putin assumed power from Boris Yeltsin. By extension, Litvinenko means to make the assertion that the FSB, and possibly Putin, was involved in a string of fatal bombings of Russian buildings in 1999, presumably as a pretext for the second Chechen war. (While Litvinenko is not the only one to make such allegations, Steven Lee Myers gives short shrift to these allegations in his absorbing new biography of Putin, The New Tsar.)

Allegations like that would make anyone radioactive in Moscow, so Litvinenko fled to London, where ultimately he became literally, and fatally so, dying at age 44 in 2006.

After presentation to parliament, tomorrow’s report will be published on the inquiry’s web site.

Friday Bits

– This week’s EU hand wringing surrounds David Cameron’s decision to oppose Jean-Claude Juncker for the EC Presidency, and whether with decisions like that Cameron can be trusted not to inadvertently see the UK out of the EU with his proposed referendum in 2017.

Not to worry. If Scotland opts out of the UK on 18 September, 2014 David Cameron will have to resign by 19 September, 2014. Crisis over.

– This summer’s historic demise of the Sykes Picot adventure in map-making frames the inalienable fact that the Saudi kingdom will collapse, some say sooner than we think. How, as a nanogenarian potentate, how do you delay it?

– On the opaque-for-most and largely-avoided-by-the-American-press Thai military coup, Sean Thomas may be right when he observes, “bluntly speaking, democracy looks unappealing if you think poor people are going to vote themselves welfare that the state cannot afford — a big fear of the Thai Yellows.”

Don’t know your Yellow Shirts from your Reds? Here’s a primer.

– Literacy in pre-WWI Serbia ranged from 27% to as low as 12% in the southeast, and the rabble was roused beginning with the Rubicon moment 100 years ago tomorrow. I have high hopes for this site, which advertises that it will share a pertinent historical document every day, starting tomorrow. Let’s see how that goes.

– Three observations from The Consolations of the Forest by Sylvain Tesson:

The art of civilization: Combining the most delicate pleasures with the constant presence of danger.

The essential thing is to live one’s life with a brave hand on the tiller.

And this:

[M]y water holes have frozen over. I attack the lake with the ice ax, spending an hour and a half chopping out a handsome basin a yard wide and four feet deep. Water gushes up suddenly and I dip into it with pleasure. This feeling of having earned one’s water. My arm muscles ache. Once upon a time, in the fields and forests, living kept us in shape.

Tesson spent half a year in a cabin in Siberia. If hermitdom helps you write like he does, put me down for that.

– And finally, from : “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. In many cases this will mean showing up to the interview in a pirate suit.”

Happy Friday.