+A few more words on my bibliophilia. I am sitting on 20 years’ worth of Hansard—the official record of House of Commons debates, questions, statements and such and such. MPs could opt to receive the hard copy of these in nicely bound green volumes, and I did. On top of that, I inherited the entire collection of Hansards from my predecessor, John Gunnell. This enabled me to set up a display in my constituency office which would have made a country solicitor proud, should he or she for example want to impress clients with a good set of Halsbury’s Laws behind their desk. What better way of demonstrating your gravitas? But the internet has irrevocably changed the usefulness of these books. A Google search will take you to all the pearls of wisdom your MP dispenses faster than a physical search of volume after volume of physical record. I seem to recall some years ago the usual media suspects questioning the cost of producing these bound volumes--given for nowt to vain MPs (shock!).
But it begs the question why print anything these days? Thankfully, the evidence suggests that people like books. It seems more independent bookshops are opening, and reading on such gadgets as Kindle has plateaued. The book has not died, and in some cases the publication of a new book in its essentially centuries old form can be widely anticipated, as with—to choose one at random--Spare, by somebody called Prince Harry. For some reason, the publication of a physical book has more value than a release on the net. This is surely a good thing, since a book can have a second, third and forth life whereas anything on the net can be taken away by persons or corporations unknown at the flick of a switch. On the internet you don’t need a Farenhiet 451 just a delete button.
Also on my selves is a full set of Encyclopedia Britannicas from 1953, the year of my birth. These were bought in instalments by my parents as an investment in me and my brothers' education, so cannot be disposed of even if they are 70 years out of date—it would be sacrilegious. I once had a set (minus the volume for everything beginning with N) that was even more out of date, bought in a library sale for £10. This edition was published around 1931, so Hitler’s one paragraph entry had him down as an insignificant regional politician. If only the record had stopped there! Just occasionally it’s good to pull a volume out at random, open it at random, and see what you come up with, a similar serendipitous experience one could have delving into a library’s card index system back in the day. So, here at random I’ve picked out volume 5, Castir to Cole of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and once again randomly alighted on page 612. Here’s an interesting and somewhat topical entry:
CHMIELNICKI, BOGDAN (c.1593-1657), hetman of the Cossacks, but a Pole by descent, was born near Chigrin in the Ukraine. After serving with the Cossacks in the Ukraine campaign in 1646 against the Turks, he suffered Polish persecution as a royalist and a Cossack, and he fled to the Cossack settlements of the Lower Dneiper. On April 11, 1648, at an assembly of the Zaporozhians (see POLAND: History), he declared his intention of fighting the Poles and was elected ataman. As a result of his victory at Zheltnaya Vodui and Kruta Balka in May the serfs rose. Throughout the Ukraine Polish gentry and the Jesuits were hunted down and slain. The rebels swarmed over the palatinates to Volhnia and Podolia, and Chmielnicki routed the Poles at Pildawa (Sept. 23) In June 1649 he entered Kiev, where he permitted the committal of atrocities on the Jews and Roman Catholics. . . .[and the article goes on in a similar vein until] . . At Betersteczko (July 1, 1651) Chmielnicki was defeated. In 1652 he sent an embassy to the Tsar asking Russia’s alliance, and in 1654 he took an oath of allegiance to him.
I wonder if Tsar Putin has read this?
The last entry on p.612 is ‘Chocolate,’ which has a somewhat less contested history.
+I always felt there was something familiar about our Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. I’ve now tracked down the origin of this feeling: he used to play ‘Blakie’ in On The Buses—with the same goofy smile, the same perky incompetence (see below).