Monthly Archives: April 2020

Ben McIntyre: The Spy And The Traitor


The Soviet sniffer dog had almost certainly never smelt anything like cheese and onion crisps before.  She offered a crisp to one of the dogs, which wolfed it down before being led away by the unsmiling handler. The other dog, however, was now sniffing at the boot of the Sierra.  Gordievsky could hear muffled Russian voices overhead.

As the dog circled the boot, Caroline Ascot reached for a weapon that had  never been deployed before in the Cold War or any other. She placed Florence on the car boot directly over the hidden spy and began changing her nappy – which the baby, with immaculate timing, had just filled. She then dropped the soiled and smelly diaper next to the inquisitive Alsatian. The dog duly slunk off, offended. Olfactory diversion had never been part of the plan . The nappy ruse had been completely spontaneous and highly effective. Continue reading Ben McIntyre: The Spy And The Traitor

Hillbilly Elegy- J.D.Vance


J D Vance dedicates his memoir thus, For Mamaw and Papaw, my very own hillbilly terminators. He was only thirty-one when his memoir was published in 2016, but he had come a long way from Jackson, Kentucky, the place he thought of as home. Here is his description,

Jackson is a small town of about six thousand in the heart of southeastern Kentucky’s coal country….Most of the people live in the mountains surrounding Kentucky Highway 15, in trailer parks, in government-subsidized housing, in small farmhouses, and in mountain homesteads like the one that served as the backdrop for the fondest memories of my childhood. Continue reading Hillbilly Elegy- J.D.Vance

Station Eleven- Emily St John Mandel

Emily St John Mandel wrote Station Eleven in 2014, eleven years post SARS, but well before our present pandemic. I read it a few weeks ago and hesitated to publish my comments, as it concerns a pandemic which has wiped out 99% of the population of the world. It is our current situation greatly multiplied, but still her key hopeful ideas remain true. That the arts and music keep society alive, as does remembering or somehow piecing together our history.  But above all it is the cooperation of the tribe that makes life start again and where meaning is generated. Continue reading Station Eleven- Emily St John Mandel