General Ramblings on my A Level Results

For my A Levels, I took Law, History, Use of Mathematics and (for AS) Business Studies. History, followed swiftly by Law, being my favourite with Use of Mathematics rather further behind (I enjoy maths, I’m just poor at it). I ended up with B’s in Law, History and General Studies and C’s in Use of Mathematics and AS Business Studies. I was about 2 marks off an A in Law and about 4 off a B in UoM.

Now, not to make excuses or anything, but that Law grade isn’t my fault; my Year 12 teacher mucked up dreadfully but I’m still bitter about that and don’t really want to rant about it. I thoroughly enjoyed my Year 13 Law class even though about 4 of the 6 students in the class didn’t really understand, or want to understand, the work – the teacher made concessions and worked for the best of everyone – the slowest and the quickest learners. History was also excellent; The Tudors, Vietnam, British Raj and the rise of Totalitarian Regimes (1900-35-ish) are all fascinating topics to cover and with the help of engaging teachers it made the classes immensely fun to go to. Use of Mathematics was another small class but equally with a passionate teacher who helped out a lot; I just wish I’d managed that extra few marks to get a B. I just never really ‘got’ Business Studies.

Anyhow, sometimes I look at my results and wonder what they could have been had I not spent the majority of the time playing Countdown and Risk on a SMART board in between card games….Then I realise the Countdown number rounds were probably more useful for developing numeracy skills than Use of Mathematics. After all, I can’t really remember how to differentiate or integrate, but I can remember how to add, takeaway, multiply and divide (and that was more than a slight dig at the British Comprehensive Education System).

I suppose what I want to say is that A Levels are not the end of the world. I was quite disappointed with my results I’m not going to lie. And I feel like they aren’t just impacting badly on myself from a personal point of view, but Law firms also use them to ‘cut the wheat from the chaff’ so to speak, and I lie on the edge. And that worries me. But, remember A Level students. you can always resit. You can always retake a year; you’ll have plenty more for working, one more won’t hurt. Make sure you get them right. 

Unless you’re a law student. In which case, please just give up. Competition’s hard enough as it is.

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A brief history of: Henry Kissinger

henry-kissinger-speaking-to-senateName: Henry Alfred Kissinger
Occupation: Statesman and Diplomat
Birth date: May 27th 1923
Time in Government: 1969 to 1977
Political party: Republican
Religious Views: Judaism

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Henry Kissinger is a German-born American statesman who was born on May 27, 1923. A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, he served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. During this period, he strengthened the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, organised the opening of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and was a major player in the Nixon Administration’s Vietnam policy.

(Should you come accross vocabulary you don’t understand, it may well be in a small glossary at the end of the page).

The Early Years
As a child, Kissinger encountered anti-Semitism daily. An avid soccer fan, he defied laws banning Jews from professional sporting events to attend matches, receiving several beatings at the hands of the stadium guards. These experiences made a lasting impression on Kissinger.

He excelled at the local Jewish school and had hoped to attend a prestigious state-run high school. However, by the time he was old enough to apply, the school had stopped accepting Jews. Sensing the impending tragedy of the Holocaust, aged only 15, Kissinger and his family decided to flee Nazi Germany.

On August 20, 1938, the Kissingers set sail for New York City by way of London. His family was extremely poor upon arrival in the United States, and Kissinger immediately went to work because of it. However at the same time, Kissinger enrolled at New York’s George Washington High School, where he learned impeccable English and excelled in almost all areas of study. He graduated from high school in 1940 and continued on to the City College of New York, where he studied to become an accountant.

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Even at this early stage, Henry Kissinger had a reputation for being a tough negotiator with a very high intelligence

World War 2

In early 1943 Kissinger was drafted into the US army, and in June 1943 he was officially naturalized as a US citizen. Because of his fluency in German and his intellect Kissinger was swiftly moved into military intelligence. During the American push into Germany, Kissinger was given the role as administrator of a City (despite only being a Private at the time) and he swiftly organised a civilian council. Following his administrative successes, Kissinger was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star for hunting officers of the Gestapo.

Harvard
It was during the war that Kissinger decided he did not want to follow Accountancy and instead wished to study the Political Sciences and as such, when he returned to the US in 1947 he enrolled at Harvard. He graduated with his degree in 1950, however he stayed at Harvard to complete both a Masters (1952) and Doctorate (1954) before taking up a teaching position at the same institution. While he was focusing on Academia, he also rose to fame by publishing several books on US foreign policy (particularity regarding Nuclear Weapons) and was a special adviser to both President’s Kennedy and Johnson. Kissinger’s term with Harvard finished however in 1969 when he took the position of National Security Adviser to President Nixon.

Time in Government
Kissinger held two positions in the United States Government: as National Security Adviser from 1969-75, and then as Secretary of State from 1973-77 (and in the process becoming the first person ever to do so who was born outside of the US). A stringent supporter of Foreign Policy always promoting US Interests, throughout the Nixon Administration, Kissinger had three main priorities: creating more amiable relations between the United States and The Soviet Union, the creation of formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and a US victory in Vietnam.

imagesThe first two priorities could be done almost simultaneously as Kissinger planned to put pressure on the Soviet Union to lower hostilities by showing the US thawing relations with China (which I wanted to do anyway, even if it hadn’t had the same result on Russia). Kissinger brought about the closer relationship with China through two groundbreaking meetings between President Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong (in 1971 and 1972) while at the same time he was getting the Soviet Union to sign two pacts limiting the use and creation of Strategic Arms. While Kissinger’s policy regarding China and Russia was arguably a success, diplomatic relations were overshadowed by the Watergate Scandal in the later years of the Nixon Administration. (See Nixon and Kissinger pictured).

The greatest problem which Kissinger faced while in Government was the situation in Vietnam. By the time that Nixon and Kissinger were both deciding policy, the war in Vietnam was already very unpopular, expensive and out of control. In implementing Nixon’s promise to gain ‘Peace with Honour’, Kissinger implemented the large scale bombing of Vietnam and eventually Cambodia while also playing a key part in the creation of Vietnamization. He attempted to mediate negotiations between the US and North Vietnamese for some time before finally being able to issue a ceasefire and withdrawal order to the US troops in Vietnam after the 1973 Paris Peace Talks (however US troops didn’t actually fully leave until 1975 when the North Vietnamese overthrew the South and pushed the US out).

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It was because of the apparent peace that Kissinger and Le Duc Tho (The North Vietnamese Negotiator) were jointly offered the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. Kissinger accepted, while Le Duc Tho refused.

Pictured left: Kissinger celebrates being named jointly Time’s ‘Men of the Year’ with President Nixon in 1972

Following Vietnam, Kissinger also helped resume diplomatic relations between the US and Egypt and he remained in office under President Gerald Ford after Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Kissinger’s role as a main player in the US Government however ended when President Carter beat Ford in the 1977 election.

 The Later Years
Following his role in Government, Kissinger was offered a position at the University of Colombia, however this was met by such strong student opposition that they were forced to cancel the offer. Despite this, the University of Georgetown offered Kissinger a job in their Centre for International Studies which he then accepted. He also continued under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush to serve on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board as well as supporting the Government on various international commissions and investigations.

As well as returning to Academia, Kissinger continues to participate in policy groups, such as the Trilateral Commission, and to maintain political consulting, speaking, and writing engagements.

Only rarely in history do statesmen find an environment in which all factors are so malleable; before us, I thought, was the chance to shape events, to build a new world, harnessing the energy and dreams of the American people and mankind’s hopes.

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Glossary:
Detente: The thawing of foreign relations with another power.
Gestapo: The Nazi Military Police.
Peace with Honour: The idea that the US could back out of Vietnam without losing its international credability.
Vietnamization: The process of training up the ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) to take over from US troops.

PS; Special thanks to Google for the images!

A brief history of: The Yorkshire Pudding

Despite having its origins in Yorkshire, the history of the Yorkshire Pudding, a staple part of any British persons diet, is shrouded in mystery to most.

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The first ever recorded recipe appears in a book, ‘The Whole Duty of a Woman’ in 1737 and it was recorded as A Dripping Pudding – the dripping coming from spit-roast meat.

The next recorded recipe took the pudding from local delicacy to become a nation-wide phenomenon following the publication of ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ by Hannah Glasse in 1747. As one of the most prolific food writers of the time, the popularity of the book allowed the recipe to reach every corner of the British Isles. It was in this incarnation that the ‘Dripping Pudding’ which had been consumed in Yorkshire for centuries was renamed and became more recognisable as what we know and love today (although it was still rather flat).

Going on, the Yorkshire Pudding survived both World Wars and the rationing of the 40’s and 50’s. However, as more woman worked, cooking in the home started to fall. The rise of ‘fast’ foods and ready meals has seen the invention of the first commercially produced Yorkshire puddings with the launch of the Yorkshire based Aunt Bessie’s brand in 1995.

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Who doesn’t love a good ‘Toad in the hole’?!

In 2007, Vale of York MP Anne McIntosh, campaigned for Yorkshire puddings to be given the same protected status as French champagne, Cornish Pasties or Greek feta cheese, “The people of Yorkshire are rightly and fiercely proud of the Yorkshire pudding,” she said “it is something which has been cherished and perfected for centuries in Yorkshire.” Despite this, the term ‘Yorkshire Pudding’ was seen as too generic, however businesses in the area continue to hold the pudding in high regard.

Then in 2008, the Royal Society of Chemistry got involved when it declared that “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall.”

Just why this simple combination of flour, eggs, milk and salt became such an symbolic culinary icon is a mystery. The Yorkshire Pudding is up there with the Cornish Pasty, English Breakfast, even Fish and Chips! It is because of its popularity that I have no qualms in saying that there are very few more prestigious foods in the whole British Isles.

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Post Script: All images are courtesy of Google. My two attempts to actually make Yorkshire Puddings were rather flat and wholly unremarkable

A brief history of: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich

A brief history of: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich

392px-John_Montagu,_4th_Earl_of_Sandwich

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was born on November 13th, 1718 and he died April 30th, 1792. He was a British Statesman who held various different military and political offices throughout his life, such as being British first lord of the Admiralty, however he is arguably most recognisable as being the man after whom the sandwich was named.

 

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The Early Years
As a child, Sandwich studied at both Eton and Cambridge while inheriting his title from his grandfather at the young age of 11. Upon leaving education, he travelled around Europe (taking the ‘Grand Tour’ as it was known in the upper classes).

On his return to England in 1739, he took up his seat in the House of Lords.  Like many of his other Parliamentarians, Lord Sandwich was strongly opposed the deployment of British troops on the European Continent to protect it. He gained attention for his speeches in parliament which earned him a reputation for clearly setting out his argument.

The Politician, the Administrator and the Military Man
It was in 1774 that Sandwich was to gain his first military experience and received a place in the administration of the Navy under the Duke of Bedford (whom Sandwich supported in the House of Lords). Despite having a somewhat successful spell in the Admiralty, Sandwich was moved not long later into a position in the Army (which was small by most other European standards); it was in this position that he would catch a fever, become seriously ill and almost die.

Sandwich also spent time in diplomatic circles, and he represented Britain in the Congress of Breda 1746-48 (where he would utilise the British Secret Service to get one over on the French) and he would also be made British Ambassador to The Dutch Republic at the same time.

In 1748 Sandwich was granted the position as First Lord of The Admiralty, however by 1451 the leading politician of the time, The Duke of Newcastle, had become distrustful of Sandwich and had him dismissed from duty. This provoked the Duke of Bedford (a close political ally of Sandwich and rival for Newcastle’s power) into resigning in protest. Despite spending the next few years in solitude on his estate far from politics, upon the new Government forming in 1763, Sandwich was reinstated as Lord of the Admiralty by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute.

From 1763 to 1765 and 1770 to 1771, he also served as Secretary of State for the Northern Department. In this capacity he took a leading part in the prosecution of John Wilkes (1763), the radical British politician and agitator.

Sandwich then served for a third time as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord North’s administration from 1771 to 1782. During this period, his critics accused him of using the office to obtain bribes and to distribute political jobs, however although he was frequently attacked for corruption, his administrative ability was been recognized by his earlier successes. Despite the early administrative success in the role however, during the American Revolutionary War (1775 to 1781) Sandwich insisted upon keeping much of the British fleet in European waters because of the possibility of French attack, and he was subjected to considerable criticism for insufficient naval preparedness. Sandwich was accused of not only having too few ships prepared for an ‘inevitable’ war with France (which began in 1778 when France declared war), but his tactics were also criticised, as well as his ability to counteract both French and Spanish attacks when Spain entered the war on the side of France. Despite criticism however, a planned French-Spanish invasion of Cornwall in 1779 was foiled, perhaps as a result of the primary British ships being in Europe.

The Later Days
Sandwich retired from public duty in 1782, and lived another ten years in retirement; he married Dorothy Fane, daughter of the 1st Viscount Fane, by whom he had one son, John, Viscount Hinchingbrooke (1743 – 1814), who succeeded him as the 5th Earl.

Lord Sandwich was also great supporter of Captain James Cook. As First Lord of the Admiralty, Sandwich approved Admiralty funds for the purchase and fit-out of the Resolution, Adventure and Discovery for Cook’s second and third expeditions of exploration in the Pacific Ocean. As a result of his interest in naval affairs and his promotion of exploration and in honour of Sandwich, Captain Cook named the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) after him, as well as Montague Island off the south east coast of Australia, the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean and Montague Island in the Gulf of Alaska.

The origin of the Sandwich

sandwich-1The modern sandwich is named after Lord Sandwich, but the exact reasons and causes of its invention and original use are still uncertain. One rumour that formed was the popular myth that bread and meat sustained Lord Sandwich at the gambling table. A very dedicated gambler, Lord Sandwich did not take the time to have a meal during his long hours playing at the card table. As such, he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread; a habit well known among his gambling friends. Because John Montague was the Earl of Sandwich others began to order “the same as Sandwich!” and hence the ‘sandwich’ was born.

Another alternative is provided by Sandwich’s biographer, N. A. M. Rodger, who suggests Sandwich’s commitments to the navy, to politics and the arts mean the first sandwich was more likely to have been consumed at his work desk.

Either way, while these do show that the sandwich does indeed get its name from The 4th Earl, the fact remains that Arabs had already started stuffing meat inside pita bread centuries before the Earl was even born!

The ‘Winston’: Our new £5 note

So! The Bank of England has announced that Sir Winston Churchill is planned to appear on the new design for a £5 note which will enter circulation in 2016.

A wide range of historical characters appears on the reverse of Bank of England banknotes. The current face of the £5 note is social reformer Elizabeth Fry, the only woman besides the Queen on any British banknote.

The design will include a portrait of the former prime minister, adapted from a photograph taken by Yousuf Karsh on 30 December 1941. The image is one of his more famous, and his glum expression was due to his cigar being forcibly removed moments before it was taken. He is the only politician from the modern era to feature on a banknote.

The artwork will also include Churchill’s declaration “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat” which came in a speech in the Commons on 13 May 1940 as well as a view of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower (or Big Ben) from the South Bank. The Great Clock will show three o’clock – (the approximate time of the Commons speech) and it will also feature a background image of the Nobel Prize for literature, which Churchill was awarded in 1953.

Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England (until later this year when he is replaced by the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr Mark Carney) has stated;

“Our banknotes acknowledge the life and work of great Britons. Sir Winston Churchill was a truly great British leader, orator and writer. Above that, he remains a hero of the entire free world. His energy, courage, eloquence, wit and public service are an inspiration to us all.”

Personally, I have absolutely no problem with Sir Winston Churchill being placed on the back of a £5 note. I think that he performed admirably as a war-time Prime Minister and was an incredibly strong asset to upholding British morale.

However, I can also see the reasoning from people who don’t support the change. I have seen forums where people have despaired against his love of the British Empire but dislike of its subjects, and his abrasive personality doesn’t seem to have earned him any favours. However I equally don’t think it’s fair to compare someone who lived the prime of his life nearly 100 years ago to the modern day; his ideals and grasp of the world was deeply different from our own and I doubt that any other historical figurehead would be different. I am also tentative about a political figure being used and I hope that this doesn’t open the floodgates up to other Prime Ministers being placed on Bank notes undeservedly.

I think that the people who feature on our currency should also be easily recognisable as British icons. I mean, I looked at the backs of £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes just before writing this post and could only name Charles Darwin from the back of the £10. I’d never heard of Elizabeth Fry (£5), Adam Smith (£20) or of Matthew Boulton (£50) and although I know of James Watt (also £50), I couldn’t pick him out from his picture.

Putting someone like Churchill on the back of the notes fits the exact purpose of having the funny little pictures; it promotes British History and culture. People will see it and think, look at the grumpy old British bulldog. If only we all still had his fighting spirit.

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Post Script:
I also think its quite funny to imagine the new note as being nicknamed a ‘Winston’. I mean, how quintessentially British can you get?

Post-Post Script 03/05/13:
I have just came accross a book entitled : ‘Churchill Style: The Art of Being Winston Churchill’.
I have a burning desire to acquire said book and store it on a shelf where I can admire its name for decades to come.

Europa Universallis 3: England 1399 to 1589

Is it just me, or are games based on Alternative Histories just brilliant?

Let’s take Europa Universallis 3. In my current campaign, starting at 1395, its been about 155 years and England has used Colonialism to conquer most of the Northern and Western Africa as well as a chunk of Eastern South America. I also control parts of Northern France (Brittany and Calais). It’s funny the way things work out. The English Empire is growing larger than it ever actually did.
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Here be England – you’ll see I’ve left Scotland alone to the North, but for political reasons I have also been forced to leave parts of Ireland unconquered. 

Unfortunately, Portugal beat me to most of the available areas on the coast of eastern North America, but using my place in South America, I’m going to try and take the area where Mexico would be and dominate the southern hemisphere. I don’t fancy a war with one of the largest nations in the world which has been a loyal ally for over a century and a half, so I’ll leave Portugal be as long as possible. In a couple more years, I should be able to integrate the Spanish Crown into my own and combine our Empires – makes me wish I hadn’t blocked Spanish expansion in the Americas.

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Here are my few possessions in Continental Europe. Luckily, France isn’t too bothered about Brittany or its Western Coast. But by God they don’t half want Calais back.

So, what’s my diplomacy looking like you might ask? Well I am allied to Spain, Portugal and a couple smaller nations across Europe. France hates us, the African nations don’t trust us and most of Europe don’t care about us. Brittany keeps demanding the ‘return’ of Calais, even though four successive wars over it have failed. Scotland is proving to be something of an oddity. They quite like us, and we have a Royal Marriage, however they refuse to accept any closer diplomatic relations. The only way I will be able to form Great Britain is by taking them over through war, however they are allied to France and I think another nation in Europe – I’d rather not lose my foothold in France just yet, which would most likely happen if I started a war on two fronts.

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As you can see, I also hold pretty much the entirety of the African West Coast. I also hold the tip of the South, and parts of Madagascar. I’m planning on using it as a jumping point between myself and Asia, but don’t tell them!

Financially and technologically we aren’t doing too well. Our tech is lacking behind the other leading European Nations by a few levels which could be important should we ever go to war. The English treasury isn’t exactly low, but it’s weak and could be considerably increased if I didn’t need to fund such a large empire for the time period. I think my lack of decent tech is the reason I’ve only been making minimal increases in Northern Europe – if we were equal, I have little doubt Burgundy would now be within my grasp.

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I’m also a majority shareholder in South America. This means not only to I have the monopoly on slaves from Africa, but also tobacco, gold and sugar cane!

Next step troubles?
France and Burgandy – I have a feeling Calais is going to cause more strife in the later half of the 16th Century. I am also in a predicament in I don’t know if I should integrate Spain, or risk it and hope I eventually inherit the entire country. As it is, I am going to try and avoid war for as long as possible – I am technologically outmatched and as such I think its far more profitable for me to keep investing in a large colonial Empire. South-North America is under my control, Portuguese expansion is slowing and I hold more of South America and Africa than any other state.

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And here is the jewel of my Empire. My very large North American colonies. Sure, they kick up a fuss every few decades, and wheat (their primary product) isn’t too useful, but it gives a huge base of operations in the West. Okay, it’s not that useful. I just want to make sure 1776 never happens. Pity Portugal got in there and snapped up the 13 colonies before I even knew what was happening.

Overall, I’d say the future looks bright for the English. And this is a bloody good game.

Post Script:
I should get around to actually reviewing this game soon. Its somewhere on the list anyway.