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celebratory portLadies and Gentlemen, believe it or not but TPSAYE turns a year old today.

If I may say so, happy birthday to me!

If WordPress is to be believed, over the past year your humble host has racked up 614 posts, 1971 comments and 118,968 views.   Granted, most of the views seem to be aimed at a pic of Sophia Loren that I put up last year, but hey – eyeballs are eyeballs.

So what can I say?  Not much, perhaps.  The whole genesis of TPSAYE is complicated and, because it’s late, I don’t have the energy to go into it.  Suffice to say that I have enjoyed blogging here in what Steve-O the Llama Butcher calls “Robbo’s Back Room” tremendously since I set things up.  Hopefully, the figgahs cited above demonstrate that some of you have enjoyed it to.

So thank you for all of your support!  And to mark the occassion, pray charge your glasses and let me fall back on TPSAYE’s signature line:  Bumpers all round and no heel taps!

I posted a week or two back that I was greedily devouring George MacDonald Fraser’s The Complete McAuslan, aMcAuslan collection of short stories nominally centered around what MacDonald refers to as “the Dirtiest Soldier in the World (alias the Tartan Caliban, or the Highland Division’s answer to the Pekin Man)” but is really a very thinly disguised account of MacDonald’s experience in North Africa and Scotland just after WWII as a young subaltern in the Gordan Highlanders.

Well, I’ve done now, and let me just say that seldom have I been so taken with such a set of stories.  For one thing, they’re filled with fascinating historickal detail.   For example, one story is devoted to the question of which tune Piper George Findlater actually played when, on October 20, 1897, having been shot through both legs, he nonetheless propped himself up against a rock and piped on to encourage the Gordons in their storming of a tough Afridi position on the Dargai Heights on India’s Northwest Frontier, thereby winning a Victoria Cross for himself.   Another story has to do with the narrator’s command of a train running from Cairo to Jerusalem in 1946 and the danger of sabotage by the Lehi, or Stern Gang, a group of Zionists so radical that in the early 40’s they offered to wage war against the British forces stationed in Palestine in exchange for Hitler sending thither all the Jews the Nazis rounded up in Europe.  (The Germans ignored the offer.)

For another, these stories are chock-a-block with trivia of the sort in which I positively delight.  For instance, in one story Fraser notes the popular tradition that the word “cabal” originated as an acronym of an influential group of Charles II’s ministers:  Sir Thomas Clifford, Lord Arlington, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Ashley and Lord Lauderdale.

For yet another, the stories are just so bloody well written.  One of them, “McCauslin in the Rough”, is a golf story as good as anything I’ve read in Wodehouse.  Another involves a battle of wits between a clan of Scots poachers and the Local Authorities, and reminds me a great deal of Somerville & Ross’s The Irish R.M

And finally, they’re just so obviously written out of love and respect, pride and nostalgia, that one cannot help being moved.

Quartered SafeNaturally, I had to move on from the McCauslin stories to Fraser’s autobiographical account of his time as an infantryman in Burma in WWII, Quartered Safe Out Here.  And as I read the introductory paragraphs to that work, I came across a paragraph that, at least to me, speaks volumes not only toward Fraser’s treatment of that great dirty Scot, Private McCauslin, but also toward his portrayal of Sir Harry Flashman, that Victorian rogue extraordinaire, in the Flashman Chronicles:

We were Fourteenth Army, the final echo of Kipling’s world, the very last British soldiers in the old imperial tradition.  I don’t say we were happy to be in Burma, because we weren’t, but we knew that [General] Slim was right when he said: “Some day, you’ll be proud to say, ‘I was there.'”

Mind you….we had to get out of the bloody place first. 

Pride.  Fraser was, first and foremost, proud of his service, and of his unit’s, and, more broadly, of that of the British Army in general and, if this quote is anything to go on, its Imperial record.  This confirms my long-held opinion that Fraser created Flashy – that paragon of cowardice, faithlessness and cynicism, as a sort of duck blind behind whom Fraser could express his admiration for the extraordinary men (and women) at the forefront of Empire during the Victorian Age in what he himself might have called a “slantendicular” way.  You will note in the series that Flashy always gives credit where it is due, and occasionally can’t help recognizing What Is Right himself, and even acting on it. 

I doubt seriously if any young English PhD candidate groping about for a dissertation topic has though of this but, oh mayun, if I were in that position I would jump on it with both feet.   And I wouldn’t give a single, solitary damn about what anyone thought of my research.  I’ve any idea that the pleasure of studying Fraser and his writing would be reward enough in and of itself.

Filming of the next installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has kicked off:

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” the third in the epic series of films based on the bestselling books by C.S. Lewis, will begin principal photography on location in Queensland, Australia, today – July 27, 2009. The production, a joint venture between Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Walden Media, continues the franchise which commenced with the spectacular, Oscar®-winning 2005 release, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and its 2008 follow-up, “Prince Caspian,” whose combined global boxoffice gross tops $1.2 billion.

This time around – Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their pesky cousin Eustace Scrubb – find themselves swallowed into a painting and on to a fantastic Narnian ship headed for the very edges of the world.

Joining forces once again with their royal friend Prince Caspian and the warrior mouse Reepicheep, they are whisked away on a mysterious mission to the Lone Islands, and beyond. On this bewitching voyage that will test their hearts and spirits, the trio will face magical Dufflepuds, sinister slave traders, roaring dragons and enchanted merfolk. Only an entirely uncharted journey to Aslan’s Country – a voyage of destiny and transformation for each of those aboard the Dawn Treader – can save Narnia, and all the astonishing creatures in it, from an unfathomable fate.

Emphasis mine.  Dawn Treader is one of my favorite books of the entire Narnia series, but I can tell you right here and now that I want nothing to do with the movie.  It seems quite apparent to me that the Narnia series is sliding steadily down the same slippery slope as did the Lord of the Rings franchise:  It’s not enough that the journey of the Treader toward the utmost East should be a thing of wonder for her crew and a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress for the toad Eustace.  No, instead the makers apparently feel compelled to punch it up by somehow tying the doom of Narnia itself to the voyage.  Perhaps Eustace will be required to throw Reepicheep into the Crack of Doom.  Or perhaps – a la George Lucas – there will be a heart-wrenching scene in which Caspian must confront his own Dark Side. 

Whatever the liberties taken, you can bet they’ll involve an awful lot of absolutely needless CGI…..

Feh.

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