Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bampap

I don’t think the name Bampap is one that is used universally. In fact I’m pretty sure it was created and remained within the confines of my family. My mother, as a toddler, referred to her grandfather as “Bampap” – a young child’s attempt to say “granddad” perhaps – and the name kind of stuck. When I and my sisters were born 20 years later the title was passed onto us as if it were the norm. So our granddad, my mother’s father, was always known as Bampap. Not being a particularly observant child it was years before I realized that other families didn’t have a Bampap.

You may disagree but I think that they missed out.

Bampap
This first photo was taken in 1942. The place is obvious. My granddad – Bampap – and his mates are plainly on shore leave, a few precious days on land before returning to sea and the war. In the years before he died Bampap spoke almost wistfully of his war years. His memories of Cairo seemed to revolve around the street names where all the best whorehouses were and the advice given to all the men by the ship’s doctor. If you’ve been with one of the girls go and see a one of the city doctors before you come back to the ship – their medical supplies were extremely limited and if you came on board with the clap you were liable to be stuck with it for months until you struck land again.

He never said if he’d indulged and I didn’t ask. It wouldn’t have been the gentlemanly thing to do.

I apologize for the quality of the photo – but, hey, it is over 50 years old and the camera would have been rough and ready. Here is a blown up shot of my granddad. He’s the guy in the middle with the fabulous nose. He kept that nose and that body shape for all of his life. Always remaining trim and with a beak that somehow didn’t mar his looks.


Bampap
Years later in 1999 I made my own journey to Egypt and here is a photo of me standing in roughly the same place as my granddad over 50 years later. I don’t cut a dash in the same way, do I? I’m thankful that he was able to see this photo before macular degeneration robbed him of 90% of his eyesight a few years later.


Yours truly
My one regret is not writing down the names of Bampap’s war mates. He had many and there are lots of photos of them. Photos of young boys who look cheery, chirpy and cheeky despite being in the middle of a war. If you believe the mood of the photos they are on holiday; a foreign cruise; out on the pull. That so wasn’t the case. I think my granddad was the only one of his little group who made it home again. I once made the comment that I bet he knew who his mates were in those tough times. He only nodded and said “yes, and I lost them all.” There’s not much you can say to that.

This last photo was taken in 1975. And yes, the boy in the picture with the NHS glasses is me. The girl is my oldest sister. I have no idea where this photo was taken or by whom. It can’t have been my Nan because our heads are all in shot. She’d have cut them off or else chopped off our feet instead.


Bampap
This is how I like to remember him. The sharp beak which protruded from eyes that were always mischievous and kind. The smart blazer with the naval insignia he was so proud of sewn onto the breast pocket. The awkward love and protectiveness that he always exuded.

His presence always made us feel safe as kids. I think that comes over in the photo. Wherever we are, we’re more than happy to be there.

He’d have been 90 today.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Detective Sergeant Lite

Blue Nintendo DSAs a belated birthday treat for our eldest boy, Ben, we took him and 4 of his school mates to a well known pizza establishment yesterday lunchtime.

I must admit I’d been looking on it with a mixture of pre-event exhaustion and extreme trepidation ever since the plan was hatched and the invitations sent out. Ben on his own can be a hand[grenade]ful. But with 4 mates along as well? Plus our 2 and a half year old, Tom? Were we totally crazy?!

For the best part of a week I’ve been plagued with visions of food fights of National Lampoon’s Animal House proportions. Pizza’s flung like Frisbees. Lightsaber fights with the pepper mills. The disapproving looks from the other diners as the banter reaches atomic bomb sound levels.

But I had reckoned without modern technology. I had not taken into account the personality nullifier that is the Nintendo DS Lite.

When I was a kid a DS was a Detective Sergeant on The Sweeney. Nowadays it’s a portable electronic gagging device.

Our dining table consisted of the wife and I and Tom at one end, chatting quietly and enjoying the ambience. And the older boys at the other end; heads bowed to a man over their Nintendo DS’s. Ironically we had not allowed Ben to bring his, preferring him to make some attempt at playing the perfect host to his guests – you know the type of thing, making introductions, instigating polite conversation, ensuring all ran smoothly. Plainly the parents of his mates had decided we needed all the help we could get and so had issued their sons and heirs with various pacifiers that went by the names of My Sims, Sonic and Mario.

And it worked. They were as good as the proverbial gold. They even took turns sharing their DS’s with the birthday boy so he wouldn’t feel left out. Conversation seemed to revolve around stage levels and monsters and bosses.

Were they speaking in code? Were there bonds of loyalty being forged between the lines of game strategy and talk of power-ups? Their conversations seemed so unlike the ones I had with my mates as kid.

Or are they? What did I talk about but cartoons and Star Wars... realities as fake as those on those little electronic screens the boys held in their mitts for the duration of the meal.

But part of me can’t help thinking they were missing out.

It’s all very well having an electronic policeman in your pocket to keep your kids quiet in public places but isn’t it better for them to deal with the reality of their surroundings? To learn how to behave properly in the real world? Aside from the food I don’t think they were aware of their environment at all. We could have taken them absolutely anywhere – a landfill site – and it wouldn’t have made any difference to them.

Convenient in a way, I suppose.

But convenience sometimes short–circuits the learning of important lessons and life skills. Doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong; I was thankful it was all so easy.

It just didn’t feel right.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Fudge It

Budget briefcaseI don’t consider myself a political animal.

And hey, I’m proclaiming that like it’s something to be proud of; in today’s world I suspect it’s probably not. But it is the truth. Sure I have opinions and gripes and an all encompassing faith that all politicians – despite the idealism they cherish in their youth – are essentially self serving, hardnosed, money grabbing staticians who have little or no understanding of the true nature of the common man’s reality. But essentially my understanding of politics is limited to what I see on the telly (Mock The Week, etc).

So with this piebald worldview in mind I soaked up the new UK budget with the usual sense of sourness and then some.

Due to all the scaremongering in the newspapers (entirely deliberate, I’m sure) this budget had taken on a real “do or die” feel. Deal or no deal. Some fat banker calling the shots while Uncle Noel pretended to be concerned and on your side.

Would they lower the threshold on child tax credits? Would the money Karen and I rely on to keep Tom at nursery and therefore both of us out at work still be there or would we be looking at one of us having to become a stay at home parent and still not earning enough money to pay all the bills?

Yes and no. We got a reprieve but the reprieve, the more I think about it, is going to be short-lived. I don’t profess to understand all the ins and outs, all the pie-charts and venn diagrams of who has lost what fortune and gained what pittance... but it seems to me (and this is backed up by common consent) that the cuts over the next few years are going to be disastrous for a lot of people. And my sector of local government is liable to be one of the ones hardest hit.

As usual it seems to me that the people at the bottom of the heap or those that are at the end of their tether are the ones who have been smited the most.

On a personal note, I’m not surprised but certainly not happy about them raising the retirement age. It little affects me but my father is desperately awaiting a knee-cap replacement operation – however, they won’t operate until after he has retired. This is due to be next year. He’ll hopefully squeak under the bar before the retirement age is changed. Otherwise he might find an extra 12 months tacked onto the end of his – already painful – wait. There’s bound to be other people in a similar position. I’ve long reconciled myself to probably having to work until I was 70 – and for many people that is the ideal; staying active is far healthier for you. But you know what? It’s always nice to have the choice. I think the choices for us all are going to become more and more limited as the next few years roll out.

All this is small fry, I know. Cuts have to be made. The debt must be shared. But as others have pointed out, if you cut a tree back too much you risk stopping it growing altogether.

And it seems to me that the trouble with the Tory’s is they’ve always been a little too free with their machetes when faced with the prospect of other people’s trees.

Chop chop. Slash slash. Do you like our new army helicopters?

Hmm.

I’m now wondering whether it’s worth my while planting any acorns at all.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leamington Peace Festival: A Load Of Old Cock

You’d think with me working in the building that is situated right next to where Leamington’s Peace Festival is annually held I’d be a Peace Festival veteran. That I must surely go to it every year. That I must positively sweat scented joss sticks and have a Matrix style overcoat made entirely from hand-woven friendship bracelets.

You’d think that with the weather good for once plus the possibility of meeting a fellow blogger I’d make more of an effort to go this year.

Negative on all counts (sorry, Laura).

What with the eldest boy’s 9th birthday, Father’s Day and a top secret meeting at work that I had to take the minutes for but can’t talk about here my Peace Festival weekend was effectively kiboshed.

However, I must confess that even if all of the above hadn’t been hitting the fan this weekend it would have taken a wild horse indeed to get me to the Peace Festival (though I daresay a combination of my wife who is rather partial to the Peace Festival and the opportunity for a blogger meet on my very own doorstep may have dragged me there kicking and screaming. Not – and do quote me on this – that either my wife or Laura are horses).

So what is it that I don’t like about the Peace Festival?

a) Although I was never one of the cool people in my youth I was also never quite alternative enough to be alternative. I was the diet Coke of Goth. Not quite suicidal enough.

b) Despite a passing interest in Wicca, hippydom and all things “yeah man, let’s have a bong and talk about it (or rather slump onto our backs in a totally incommunicative state and not talk about anything),“ I soon grew out of it and started having baths again.

c) Crusty festival goers selling cheap tat annoy the bejasus out of me.

So to save myself an attack of the spleen I usually avoid the Peace Festival, immerse myself in my own cynicism and become rather jolly in my solitude.

This attitude has not changed with the passing of this year’s Peace Festival due to the Peace Festival residue that was spread around the building when I returned to work, bushy eyed and bright tailed, on Monday morning.

Some enterprising hippy had decided to dump a horribly chintzy yellow sofa in the skip that I had hired last week to offload some of the detritus that was clogging up the building’s storerooms. It’s horrible. Urine yellow and with horrible tassely bits furring the seams of the sofa cushions. It’s plainly obvious that on the hottest day of the year this example of 1970’s bad taste was not hoofed down from the outskirts of town. Instead some crusty stall holder had decided to free up some bong space in the back of his camper van by offloading his granny’s old divan into my skip. Git. Still, at least they put it into the skip and didn’t sail it down the river.

But worst of all – worst, worst of all – some moonfaced yoghurt weaver had obviously set up a stall selling chalk in order to encourage the kids to express themselves graphically on the paving stones right outside the building. Among the traditional icons of flowers and love hearts (I do hope Baz & Shaz will be happy together) there were 7 – count them – 7 depictions of cocks complete with monumentally hairy balls. Cocks of every different colour and persuasion. Most of a size so eye-watering that they cannoned their way across 5 or 6 paving slabs at a time.

Ah bless. A phallocentric mating ritual had evidently taken place outside the auspices of Leamington’s defunct Tourist Information Centre (yes, it is still closed).

These new additions to the world of pavement art meant that yours truly had to patrol the building with a bucket of water and a broom on a day when he had far too many other things to do in order to rid the town of its unwanted chalk cock-dom.

Give peace a chance?

Peace off!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Is Disqus Any Good? Discuss:

I’m a weird kind of tech-head. The type that is ever on the lookout for the latest gadget or widget but then gets cold feet about using them and breaking the clean lines of my blog.

Over the last few months I’ve noticed a great number of my favourite blogs switching their comment moderation over to Disqus.

Hmm.

Since then I’ve been eyeing it up. Trying to work our whether it has any advantages over Blogger’s own comment moderation. Is it quicker? Does it give you more options in terms of editing (being able to go back and correct typos rather than having to delete and type everything in again would be marvellous)?

Hmm. Or is it more complicated? An extra fuss in a world already stuffed to the gills with fuss and bothersomeness.

Because I have to say here (hand on heart) – and this is not meant to be a criticism at all on what other people do with their own blogs – I find I have a helluva lot of trouble trying to leave comments on blogs that utilize Disqus.

It seems to take ages to load the comment box. Sometimes it refuses to load at all. Sometimes it will load but only if I refresh the page 6 or 7 times. Then when it has loaded it is completely arbitrary as to whether it will allow me to log-in and publish a comment. Sometimes I have to try several times before, hello, my comment – my sparkling jewel of wisdom – is published.

Now as I said this is not meant to be a criticism or even a product review because my experience of using Disqus is purely from the front end as opposed to the back. If anything, those of you who use Disqus should now be basking in the knowledge that I love your blog so much that I am prepared to run this gamut of daily irritation every time I want to leave you a little bit of myself on your newest post.

Love is… accepting minor irritations with a fond heart. See, that should be on a T-shirt featuring those naked boy and girl cartoon characters from the 1970’s.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is just to say that, upon balance, Disqus is not selling itself to me. Am I missing something? What’s the deal?

Disqusion welcome.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Go And Flush Your Head Down The Loo, Yahoo!

So I’m checking my Yahoo email account and there it is staring me in the face. Right next to the “What are you doing right now?” text box is a flag. The English flag.

Yahoo, using its clever technological know-how, has taken it upon itself to assign me a team to support in the World Cup.

Now, some of you – if you’d read between the lines of my previous post – will have picked up on the fact that essentially I am a non-participant in the great national sport of watching the World Cup. Over the next few weeks it is my sole ambition to not watch a single match of the WC (oh how I love acronyms). I am supporting nobody. I don’t give a fig who wins and, more to the point, I couldn’t give a rat’s arse who loses.

Sod the lot of them (great overpaid, over pampered, over merchandized jessies, etc, etc).

So I am incandescent with transient irritation to have found myself forcibly allocated an England flag in my own sodding email box!

Oi, Yahoo – NO! Ask my permission please!

But it gets worse. You click an arrow next to the flag and you get a large drop-down pane that features all the flags of the teams currently running themselves ragged in the WC. I could choose Cameroon if I wanted. Or Uruguay. Or even Germany.

What I don’t have though is the option to opt out. For a flag that states “none of the above”. For a flag that says “I don’t have to play and I won’t play”.

Everybody – and I mean everybody – who has a Yahoo email account will either have to live with their default flag setting or give-in and deliberately choose a team; to throw their twopenneth-worth [virtually] into the WC.

Am I the only person who is offended by this massive assumption that everybody is happy to participate? That we are all willing to be WC fodder?

All I want is to keep my head out of the WC but the more I try to do that the more it is forced down there, my nose pressed right up close to the ball action.

And I don’t want it, people!

I want a WC free existence! I don’t want to be confronted with the WC every time I turn my head or open my mouth.

It stinks!

Yahoo, this is your mess; either mop it up or piss off.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ingland Expects

Cross of St. GeorgeI hereby announce that this blog is going to be a World Cup free zone. The World Cup is not going to be written about or discussed.

Except when I feel the need the moan about the World Cup.

See, what annoys me about the World Cup (apart from those stupid flags that everyone is prittsticking to the side windows of their cars - do read Rol's excellent It's Coming Home post to discover what to do about them) is this tacit expectation that everyone - especially if you're male - is going to be "into" the World Cup.

Suddenly it is the topic of conversation. And you're expected to have an opinion. You're expected to support a team. You're expected to care. You're even expected to face the "so are you watching the World Cup or are you going to be a World Cup free household?" question.

It has to be yes or no. Black or white. One or the other. The absence of the World Cup defined by its very existence.

But I don't care about the World Cup. I really don't. I don't even know the score of last night's match. I'm not bothered about knowing. I know it would be the easiest thing in the world to look it up online but I just can't be bothered. I'd rather be here writing about not caring to know. And please don't tell me the score. It's useless information. What am I going to do with it? Go outside and talk to someone about the match? I didn't watch it. Who won and who lost are so far outside my sphere of worries and concerns the match may as well have been played on Alpha Centauri. [If only.]

My world does not revolve around the World Cup. It is unimportant. It is a money-making, media blitzing, marketeer's wet-dream that benefits only the very few.

But that's fine. If you're into it, if you enjoy it, I'm pleased for you.

Just don't foist it onto me.

And, worse still, don't look at me like I'm a criminal / insane / deliberately perverse just because I'm not into it. There is nothing deliberate about my disinterest.

I have just never liked football. Not watching it or playing it. It doesn't make me unpatriotic just because I am not supporting England in the World Cup. I am supporting nobody in the World Cup. Nobody at all.

I don't care about any of them. Really.

Which is why this blog is going to be a World Cup free zone.

OK?


Friday, June 11, 2010

With Apologies To Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes

(Or "How To Deal With A Snotty Email".)

Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock HolmesEmotion mustn’t enter into this.

Refute base accusation in first paragraph with a stiff rejoinder. Rain down a quick succession of facts to head and face region. Body blow to chest containing the full weight of incontrovertible proof. Steel it with fine grammatical turns of phrase – iron fist in velvet glove.

Second phase. Duck and weave. Quick jabs to the ribs: times and dates of previous infractions. Keep sarcasm low – aim for diaphragm. But don’t overdo it. This must be controlled. Precision bombing not carpet. Follow through with patronizing elbow – crack third and fourth ribs. Warning: another infraction will not be tolerated.

Third. The calm before the storm. The false dawn. Offer the dog a bone. Something positive and offhand about matters relating. The fake handshake to confuse. Discombobulation.

Finally, the end game. Fait accompli. Haymaker to right jaw – copy in the big chiefs. Attach a hefty word document featuring full log of events. Finger jab to gizzard. Copy in recipient’s own boss. Right-hook to jaw – a single but well placed exclamation mark – hear satisfying crack as jaw dislocates. Lastly, heel kick to sternum – quote cost of recharging future mop-up operations to recipient’s own employer. Opponent reeling on the ropes; teetering on the edge of the abyss.

Calmly hit Send.

Result: opponent’s ability to piss down neck and tell me it’s raining... neutralized.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Poetry In Motion

So it’s home time (funny that I think of it as “home time” – like I’m still at school – rather than “clocking off time” from work). A glad escape from another miserable day at Fractious Towers. And I’m pounding the oven hot streets at the bottom end of town with of all things ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” tickling the upper register of my hearing on the good old trusty MP3 player. My spirits are slowly rising after a tough day but suddenly I can hear other unwholesome, unwelcome, extraneous noise.

Running down the avenue...

Oi! Go on then!

See how the sun shines brightly...

Na ha ha ha!

I turn my head slightly and notice a gang of lolloping, long armed, long legged (long goolied, given the gutter height crotches on their trousers) hoodies flapping their Nike’s over the pavement on the other side of the road. One of them, the one wearing a pale blue vest about 5 sizes too big for his cadaverous frame, is riding a chopper.

Now I haven’t seen one of those in years and I can almost forgive this stain of brash hoodiedom on my home patch for the brief glimpse of this most classic and characterful of all bikes. It catches the sunlight so evocatively as Mr Blue Vest (Oh Mr Blue Sky / Please tell us why / You had to hide away / For so long, so long...) peddles his merry little way the wrong way up the bike lane.

He meanders up and down the curbstones. He wheelies in and out of the shop fronts. He cuts up pedestrians with pushchairs. And all the time he’s giving it some jaw. I can’t hear what he’s saying because the choral bit at the end has kicked in and ELO are chugging their guitars with gusto but I can tell that it is inane, arrogant and annoying by the fact his mates think it’s hilarious and every other passerby is stifling a barely concealed sneer.

And then it happens. The inevitable veer into the middle of the road.

Someone in a black Peugeot has to pull wide and slow down. They roll past him slowly and must say something. Something not complimentary but something that I warrant is true.

Mr Blue Vest gives him the finger. Long and hard. His mates cheer. Emboldened he chances his other arm. Literally. The double fingered salute is proffered to the driver of the black Peugeot. The last symphonic notes of Mr Blue Sky die away...

...and Mr Blue Vest upends the bike onto his own arse and the non applause of the tar macadam.

Cue even louder cheers from his mates. Or are they indeed jeers? ‘Cos they’re showing their true colours now. Despite the rush hour traffic they sound almost disappointed that the car immediately behind their fallen comrade has slowed down with plenty of room to spare.

He gets up. Arms raised and chin held high in that what-the-hell-I-meant-to-do-that fashion that all social retards adopt when they want to brazen out their palpable and unmistakable public humiliation.

He gets back onto his chopper, back into the saddle and rides off more sedately – dare I suggest even chastened – in the midst of his mates. Hidden away and shielded by a thin wall of baseball caps and spotty chins. Away down the oven hot street they mooch, ignoring the smirks and knowing smiles that light up the faces of every single person that they pass. The drivers, the shopkeepers, the people going home, all these witnesses to one of life’s more poetic moments.

I nudge my MP3 player gently. You know, I just might listen to Mr Blue Sky again...


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Summertime Reds

Sunburnt to a crispAnother staycation this week but one when we have definitely not "stayed" in. For once (and this is a true rarity) we have had (a) good weather and (b) good health - usually one or more of the kids are ill or else Karen and I come down with some unnamed lurgy which prevents us capitalizing on our paid annual leave from Grindstone Inc. So. Lots of "day trips". Remember those? I did loads when I was a kid and looking back on them now I can see it was because my parents didn't have the money for a proper going away holiday. But you know what? They were just as enjoyable with the added advantage that the food was always decent and you got to sleep in your own bed at night.

So. Kenilworth Castle (twice). Chesterton Windmill (and a second visit lined up today, it being a favourite of Tom's). Out for a meal. A scamp around the park. And yesterday a day in Great Malvern introducing Tom to his first proper experience of hillwalking. He did well. We've had a few tantrums from him this week (and from the older boy as well but that's another story); as his language skills develop so does his capacity to try and exert his will upon all around him with varying degrees of success. That burgeoning personality is beginning to stamp itself all over the world like a mini Godzilla in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. Only much, much cuter.

But I digress. The subject for today's post is... Sun block. Sun Screen. Sun Tan Lotion. Factor 999. Whatever you want to call it. Karen and I both try and be sane and responsible about applying it. We want our boys to catch a few rays - 'cos a few are good for you and build up your skin's natural resistance / tolerance. But we do not want to go down the boiled lobster root. I'm probably more neurotic about it than Karen and reach for the Factor 30 spray shield as soon as the sun strikes its midday position. Arms, legs, neck, face - all get blurred in a fine mist of sun protection chemicals. Adults as well as children. I read a story in the paper the other week about a bloke who got sunburnt once - just once - playing cricket and within a year had developed skin cancer. Forget my neuroses; it just ain't worth the risk with my little chickadees.

Despite that, arms and faces had gone a nice gentle brown colour. We've all caught the sun but haven't been branded by it.

So we were aghast when nipping into Sainsbury's after one of our little day excursions to see two mum's chatting over their wonkily parked trolleys while two beetroot coloured youngsters in nothing more than swimming trunks played on the tiled floor at their feet. Their backs were varying shades of purple and red. Scorched. Braised. Chargrilled. Positively napalmed.

You could see that a whole welter of agony and crying was only a few hours away.

Now, I know it's none of my business but if Little Miss Let's-Toast-The-Kids can afford copies of Heat, Marie-Claire and Chav Scum magazine she can afford some decent sun block. Hell, even some cheap sun block. Protect your kids for God's sake woman! Now, I'm against a nanny interventionist state along with the best maverick renegade but, really, some people plainly need a few things spelt out to them.

M-e-l-o-n-o-m-a...

Wake up and smell the impromptu barbecue, you stupid cow!

Or am I just getting hot under the collar about nothing?


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Bad Boy

Atomic BombIt's not my intention to offend people with this post or start an e-war. I also fully recognize that for those military experts among you I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about. But hey, I can only think about this from a moral point of view. And I don't see why that should make my argument deficient.

I'm not sure why the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been on my mind. Possibly I caught the end of a documentary last week. Certainly my family has always had a brief (and admittedly tenuous) link with Hiroshima in that my mother used to have a penfriend there. Sadly, she died of leukemia some years ago. And yes, it was as a result of the bombings. I'm not sure of the state of play now but back when my mother was a teen in the 60's people were still dying as a result of illnesses caused by radiation and the fall-out (literally) from the bomb.

Now, I can remember talking to an old war horse about ten years ago who'd fought in WWII. Back then, just before I'd met him, well into his retirement, he had taken a trip to Japan and undertaken a tour of the islands that took in the old military installations. He came home totally convinced that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were absolutely justified. "They were completely dug in," was his evaluation, "There was no way we'd ever have got them out; the war would have dragged on for years and years with thousands of lives lost. The A bomb was the only way."

I kind of quashed my misgivings at the time and let it go. He'd fought in the war and lost friends; I hadn't. What the hell did I know? Was it for me to say he should have given more? More blood? More years?

Now though, isolated in my own thoughts and my own 21st century world I can look back on it and feel a little braver.

It was wrong. Totally wrong.

To bomb innocent civilians - women, children, babies, the poor, the rich, doctors, plumbers, thieves, dentists, whatever - was wrong. Their only misfortune was to be Japanese at a time when the allied forces were at war with Japan. They were as loyal to their country as our countrymen were to ours. There is no crime or blame in this.

To kill these civilians was unjustified. Just as the Blitz in the UK was wrong. Just as our firebombing of Germany was wrong. I can understand why it was done. But it was wrong. There is something truly heinous about bombing the very people that all those soldiers were fighting and dying to protect and preserve.

And don't we all agree now in this modern world of ours? Isn't that why we voice such outrage when terrorists target innocent civilians? Civilians who are as innocent as those who lived in Hiroshima, or Coventry, or Dresden? Isn't that why our militaries now have to be so damned careful in choosing only military targets to hit? Why they have to show footage of their bombing campaigns on TV to prove to us that, look, we're only hitting military installations, not civilians?

This isn't squeamishness. It's the modern world at last showing some signs of being answerable to a popular moral outlook even in the face of dirty, bloody war. Well, things don't suddenly become immoral. They either are or they're not. Period.

I don't doubt that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hastened an end to the war. I don't doubt that the soldiers at the time were relieved and thanking God for delivering them from a campaign that had become hell on earth. But - and I don't mean to sound callous when I say this - they were soldiers. They'd in some way agreed to fight. To partake in that hell. Civilians, by their very definition do not do that. They were just trying to live.

They should not have been used as political collateral.

It was wrong.