Monday, 31 March 2014

Someone on Twitter (Sorry, I can't remember who) said that this was the best opening paragraph on Wikipedia:

Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (5 May 1880 – 5 June 1963) was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He served in the Boer War, First World War and Second World War; was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a POW camp; and bit off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. Describing his experiences in World War I, he wrote, "Frankly I had enjoyed the war."

It's certainly a good one but it's a long entry and the pace doesn't really let up. For instance, after tunnelling out of the camp, Carton de Wiart evaded capture for eight days disguised as an Italian peasant (which is surprising considering that he was in northern Italy, couldn't speak Italian, and was 61 years old, with an eye patch, one empty sleeve and multiple injuries and scars). Later, he agrees to carry a message to England so long as the Italians don't dress him up like a gigolo. In fact, there is so much in his life that it's sort of incredible that there are two long periods where he retires to the country (in Poland between the wars and in Ireland after them) to hunt and fish.

What fact have I learned recently that really shocked me? It is that while Henry VIII was paying Holbein £30 a year, his Abraham tapestries (which are amazing) cost £2,000 each.

This is good and angry about politics in the 'neutral' City of London.

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