James Miller


Friday, December 19, 2003


A Bad Week

This week I went to the Thanksgiving Service of one friend and found out that two others had died. None were that old.

Neal Crowe was a larger than life character, who lived life to the full. He had a heart attack and died completely out of the blue. It was his funeral on Tuesday.

We first met Neal through his wife, Angela, who Celia met when she was having our youngest, George. Angela had a double-sized project in mind, the twins, Hannah and Elspeth.

The one image that sticks in my mind is of Neal in his underpants dismantling a bed at a party at our previous house at Debach. Not for him an apple pie!

The other memory is a story that must be told.

Neal had worked on leaving University for AEI, who were subsequently taken only by GEC. I don't think it would be an understatement to say that those from AEI did not like the new regime.

One day, Neal, the representative from AEI New Zealand and the landlord from the Masons Arms in Great Portland Street decided they were going to celebrate the demise of their company in London. They spent a great deal of money on drink and food and Neal duly presented his expenses.

Lord Weinstock's assistant didn't like the cost and queried the expenses with Neal. But he had the trump card. Somehow he had the personal number of the New Zealand High Commissioner and suggested that as he was the guest, that he be phoned and the story checked.

Neal got his money!

Gai Evans was my business partner, Richard Evans', wife. He had known her for fifty years and been married to her for most of it!

When we started Metier, she was one of the unseen who allowed us all to indulge in our fantasies. Luckily, for all of us, they came true!

We all owe Gai a great debt!

Dick Wilkinson was someone we met through eventing. He died of Alzheimer's in November. What a cruel disease.

Let's hope that 2004 is better!


The Beagle is Landing

Fingers crossed!

This is perhaps the most exciting event this Christmas and I shall be up at four to find out if the follower in the great British tradition of doing things on a shoestring succeeds.

But then to paraphrase Wellington. "It'll be a close run thing!"

Remember that only one in three probes has got through to Mars and if I was to quote odds, the only thing that is in Beagle 2's favour is it's weight. Just as children and small people can fall better and do less damage to themselves, then let's hope the rules apply to space-probes.

Fingers crossed till Christmas Day.


It's Official - Smokers are Slobs, Inarticulate and Downmarket

A wonderful little article in the FT, which draws on research by Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco shows how they describe people who use their products.

Quoting from Lisa Urquhart's article.

"In an apparent corporate suicide, a report prepared for Gallaher described smokers of Special Filter and Club brands as downmarket people "particularly found in Scotland and the Midlans/Anglia" and slobs, because they made little effort to keep themselves informed and had a "low concern with their appearance".

Imperial's female smokers were called "rough, unfocused, insecure, brazen"."

Well there you have it!

If you want to smoke remember that you will be the loser and cruel capitalists will be the winner.

Monday, December 15, 2003


Eats Shoots and Leaves

Lynn Truss’ admirable book has raised a lot of interesting comment. One commentator said that in the last few years we have started using more and different punctuation such as the tilda (~) and the ellipsis (…).

My late father was a printer and a stickler for punctuation and grammar, but perhaps more importantly he taught me as a child in the 1950’s to compose using moveable type.

One of the nightmares of this system, especially with the smaller faces is punctuation. Try telling the difference between a full stop and a comma, a colon and a semi-colon, or a numeric one and a shriek (exclamation mark)! And then there was the problem of finding some of the more unusual characters, which tended to be limited in number and hidden at the outer fringes of either the upper or lower case. On the other hand all compositors loved the chunky ellipsis!

So it was no wonder that punctuation tended to get simplified!

Now all typesetting is keyboard based, then anything is possible.

Let’s start a campaign for the return of the diphthong! My father would have been loved that!

Sunday, December 14, 2003


Why Saddam Hussein Should Not Be Executed

Call me soft, weak, a woolly liberal, appeaser or whatever! But Saddam Hussein should not be executed!

The Iraqi people may feel that if he is executed, that this will mean he will never be released to haunt them again. But we are not thinking of just the Iraqis, most of whom are intelligent, kind, thinking and caring people, but of the whole world and any other cruel dictator, who may want to oppress a country, a region or even all of us!

Try him under the finest standards of International law in the full glare of publicity, not in some hidden court in a closed Caribbean naval base. We should show him and the whole world the underlying principles of a justice that should be at the heart of all civilisations.

If he is found guilty, then make sure he serves an appropriate sentence in a prison from which he can never escape to be an ogre to anybody again. We should not gloat on his punishment, as this demeans ourselves and most others, who want no truck with violence, oppression and war.

He would then be a constant reminder and example to all those dictators, despots and countries, who kill, maim, abuse and oppress their own people. They would remember him as the bully found as the filthy, shabby, blabbering coward hiding in the hole in the ground at Tikrit, who then suffered a fair and just punishment, but never hurt anybody ever again!

Not as a Martyr!

Monday, December 01, 2003


Master and Commander

There has been a lot of publicity about the film of the book by Patrick O’Brian called Master and Commander.

But have you read the book about the real-life Captain Jack Aubrey?

Like Frederick Marryat’s Captain Savage and Forester’s Hornblower he was based on Captain Thomas Cochrane, who was probably Britain’s greatest sea-captain, a Radical MP, defender of the oppressed and a prodigious inventor. He was also a Lord in his own right, liberated South America from the Spanish and played a major role in the Greek war of independence.

If they wrote what he did as fiction no-one would believe it!

The book is called Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Caption by Robert Harvey.