I am going to do a few blogs on things I believe. They are not things I know, because I don't know, beyond doubt. But I strongly suspect I’m right, because I have seen some evidence - and, because of that suspicion, I am prepared to make a stand. I am also more than willing to back away from the stand if I read any compelling evidence that contradicts my belief. I think that finally I am learning to understand and conquer my prejudices. And not before time.
Many polls are humbug, and are designed, I believe, to not merely mislead people, but to influence the way they think. I recently read a poll on an English news website that stated that polls indicated that 55% of all Brits believed that Tony Blair and his advisors lied when they made their justifications for going to war in Iraq. The tone of the article was that if a majority of people believed thusly, then it must be true.
Of course, this is not the case. It merely states that 55% of all Brits believe this to be true. Evidence of belief is not evidence of existence.
I think that it behooves us to be extraordinarily wary (Yea! Even unto the point of cynicism..) when reading poll results. We should be demanding to see the questions that were asked – to decide if they were leading the correspondent to make a particular statement – and to see a fair representation of the answers.
Political poll results are particularly troublesome, and can have far-reaching effects. People are –(and I include myself in this statement) fairly easily persuaded.. and if I continue hearing that the polls are suggesting such-and-such a result, then I may well be swayed against my own better inclinations. This is, of course, a function of great age and ditheriness.
READING: “Inferno”, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. In it, a science-fiction writer dies and goes to hell, waking up in the Vestibule of Hell… and finds (as he attempts to escape) that he must descend thropugh a number of layers of hell. Yes folks, it’s Dante’s Infernal Comedy, but made funny. Incidentally, Jenny’s reading the real thing. Incidentally - having finished the Deighton book "Fighter", I now understand why Parks is considered the hero that he was.
LISTENING TO: The world’s greatest Choral bits. FM! Astonishing! 18th century Rock n Roll!
WORD OF THE DAY: Choral. FM! FM is an abbreviation, the second word of which is “Me”.
“Reckon I could, Sergeant,” Arthur said, sealing his fate.
“Tell you what,” said Perry. “I’ve got a ten quid here says you couldn’t.”
“I’m not a betting man, Sergeant,” said Arthur. “And if I had ten quid, I’d probably find a better home for it.”
“Come on, boys,” said Tiny O'Hara, a great bear of a man. “I’ve heard that Arthur’s a crack shot. Always came home with a bit of meat for the pot. What do you reckon?” Tiny O’Hara had been a regular at Northridge’s Royal pub.
The twentyfive men didn’t need any encouragement. They whipped the cap around, and counted up the proceeding. Swain shot Arthur a grin, and said “Make it seven pound, Sargeant, and we’ll take your bet, ‘orright?”
Perry smiled, and said “OK. We’ll go to the range tomorrow.”
Arthur was, to say the least, alarmed. He’d be using a rifle he wasn’t used to – and he was going to be shooting to make some cash for his friends. Men to whom even a florin was a decent bit of cash.
“Look, Sarge, if it’s all right with you, let’s just change the subject, ‘orright?” He didn’t want the Army to know that he could shoot. But Perry was insistent. “Come on, Tomlinson. You can’t let your cobbers down. You’re not betting, and I appreciate a man’s got his morals, but think of your mates.”
The men cried a “huzzah” and cheered the Sergeant on.
Arthur backed down. “All right, then, Sergeant. But I’d appreciate it if I could put five rounds through the rifle before the bet starts. To get a feel for it. I ain't fired a rifle since I put on the khaki. Ain't my job.”
“Done,” cried the Sergeant. “Done, and bloody well done. Good man.”
It was set up for the next day, a half-hour after dawn. Both Arthur and Ken Swain were to fire twenty-five rounds each: the first five to get a feel for the weapon, the second five to be fired, kneeling, at 50 yards, then five prone at 100, and the fourth five sitting at one hundred yards, and the final five to be the real test: prone, 500 yards.
Arthur had taken the rifle, feeling the weight of it, liking the balance. With the box magazine loaded with just five rounds – half its capacity – the rifle weighed in at just over 8 and a half pounds. All the wood-work on the weapon was oak. The butt was hollowed, and carried all the tools necessary to maintain it: oil, pull-through, brush, rag, and a small screwdriver. A heavy brass plate covered the butt, and sealed the tools in, protecting them from the weather. The heavily blued barrel, made from the best Sheffield steel, was iron-strapped to the yellow-oak stock, the rigidity helping maintain accuracy. The wood had to be kept well oiled, otherwise it may swell with moisture, and twist the barrel in its mountings, throwing the aim off. An adequate rifleman would work the bolt with his right hand, reaching up to slide the bolt handle up, back, then forward, and then lock it, all the while holding the butt against his shoulder with his left hand. It was very similar to the Mauser bolt that Arthur was used to, but smoother and faster in action. A very good rifleman, or someone with large and strong hands, could operate the bolt with a flick of his thumb, maintaining his grip on the weapon.
Arthur was a very, very good rifle man – and his hands were large and strong.
The morning was cool, and there was a heavy dew on the firing range, slowly steaming and obscuring the targets. The air was moving in eddies, fitful and feverish. The early sun burnt at the back of Arthur’s neck. He breathed in, savouring the air: clean and crisp, with an overlay of hundreds of rounds fired. The smell of gunpowder and cordite had been pounded into the soil.
The platoon had all gathered: seven quid was a lot of money.
Even at this early hour, most of the butts were already occupied, and there was a steady rattle and crash of musketry. Arthur looked at the range, and went to where a man lay, preparing to fire. Arthur gently kicked the sole of the man’s boot, and said “Hold it, lad. You’re gunna bugger that shot up. Let me show you how it’s done.”
The boys put the safety on, and rolled over to look up at Arthur. “You’re the joker everyone’s all got a bob or two on, ain’t you?”
“What?” said Arthur, stunned. “There’s a bit of a bet going on with the second platoon, that’s all.”
“No, mate. I’m in the third, and we all heard about it. Apparently you’re some wizard with a rifle, an’ if half the tales I’ve heard about you is even half-true, I’d bet a bob or two on you myself.” The buy grunted as he got to his feet. “But I reckon most stories is just bullpucky, eh. So I’ve got five bob saying you can’t beat Ken Swain. He’s the best shot we’ve got in the whole bloody Company mate, no question. And you’re a Zambuck, mate. Not even a proper soldier.”