200 Years of Conflict: A Very British Century 1910-2010

To celebrate the end of the year, I have been researching the history of the British at war in the last century, the living memory of my country.

  • According to my findings, in the last 100 years the British have been at war in every year bar 17. 
  • That’s 83 years of conflict
  • And in each of those 17 years of ‘peace’ we have been the occupying power in one or more countries. 
  • During those 100 years, we have been involved in at least 34 conflicts, lasting a total of around 200 years.

Here’s a list of those conflicts, divided by decade, with casualty estimates in brackets:

1910-1920

1914-1918 World War I (39 million dead)
1916-1916 Easter Rising (Ireland, 400 dead)
1918-1922 Russian Civil War
1919-1919 Third Anglo-Afghan War (3,000 dead)
1919-1921 Anglo-Irish War (2,000 dead)
1919-1923 Turkish War of Independence

1920-1930

1924-1935 Peace? Ongoing British occupation of Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and India, among others.

1930-1940

1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine (5,000 dead)
1937-1945 The Pacific War
1938-1948 British-Zionist Conflict (Palestine, at least 1,000 dead)
1939-1945 World War II (73 million dead)

1940-1950

1941-1941 Anglo-Iraqi War (600 dead)
1941-1949 Greek Civil War (16,000 dead)
1948-1960 Malayan Emergency (10,000 dead)

1950-1960

1950-1953 Korean War (2.3 million dead)
1952-1960 Mau Mau Uprising (Kenya, 14,000 dead)
1955-1959 Cyprus Emergency (400 dead)
1956-1957 Suez Crisis (3,000 dead)
1958-1958 First Cod War (Iceland)

1960-1970

1961-1961 Peace? Kuwait and Tanganyika win their independence from British rule.
1962-1962 Brunei Revolt
1962-1966 Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation (800 dead)
1962-1975 Dhofar Rebellion (Oman)
1963-1967 Aden Emergency (Yemen)
1968-1998 Northern Ireland Troubles (3,500 dead)

1970-1980

1972-1973 Second Cod War (Iceland)
1975-1976 Third Cod War (Iceland)

1980-1990

1982-1982 Falklands War (Argentina, 1,000 dead)

1990-2000

1990-1991 First Gulf War (Iraq, at least 25,000 dead)
1995-1996 Bosnian War (100,000 dead)
1998-1998 Operation Desert Fox (Iraq, at least 600 dead)
1998-1999 Kosovo War (Yugoslavia, 10,000 dead)

2000-2010

2000-2002 Sierra Leone Civil War
2001-???? Global War on Terror
2001-???? Afghanistan War (50,000 dead and counting)
2003-2009 Iraq War and Iraqi Insurgency (at least 60,000 dead)

I am certain that I have excluded many conflicts that you may consider suitable for this list. I have been unable to source a list of British combat casualties for the last 100 years myself, but John Pilger, a journalist and documentary film-maker, reports that 16,000 British service men and women have died in action since 1948.

That is quite remarkable for a country that has not been under any military threat in the sixty-five years since the end of World War II.

I hope that this information has the effect on others that it had on me: shock and awe. How dare I hope to live in a civilised society, when that society is so intimate with war and slaughter?

Touring with Dinosaurs

This is a list of the top grossing worldwide ‘tours’ of 2010, according to Pollstar.

1. Bon Jovi

  • Gross Takings: $201.1m (£130.7m) 
  • Average Ticket Price: $105.35
  • Number of Shows: 80
  • Gross Takings per Show: $2.5m
  • Got Famous: 1980s
  • Age Now: 48

2. AC/DC

  • Gross Takings: $177m (£115m)
  • Average Ticket Price: $97.21
  • Number of Shows: 40
  • Gross Takings per Show: $4.4m
  • Got Famous: 1980s
  • Age Now: 57

3. U2

  • Gross Takings: $160.9m (£104.6m)
  • Average Ticket Price: $100.17
  • Number of Shows: 32
  • Gross Takings per Show: $5m
  • Got Famous: 1980s
  • Age Now: 50

4. Lady Gaga

  • Gross Takings: $133.6m (£86.8m) 
  • Average Ticket Price: $88.22
  • Number of Shows: 138
  • Gross Takings per Show: 0.97m
  • Got Famous: 2000s
  • Age Now: 24

5. Metallica

  • Gross Takings: $110.1m (£71.5m)
  • Average Ticket Price: $98.72
  • Number of Shows: 60
  • Gross Takings per Show: $1.8m
  • Got Famous: 1980s
  • Age Now: 47

6. Michael Buble

  • Gross Takings: $104.2m (£67.7m)
  • Average Ticket Price: $83.81
  • Number of Shows: 111
  • Gross Takings per Show: $0.94m
  • Got Famous: 2000s
  • Age Now: 35

7. Walking with Dinosaurs

  • Gross Takings: $104.1m (£67.7m)
  • Average Ticket Price: $50.56
  • Number of Shows: 485
  • Gross Takings per Show: $0.21m
  • Got Famous: Late Triassic Period
  • Age Now: 230m years

8. Paul McCartney

  • Gross Takings: $93m (£60m)
  • Average Ticket Price: $138.35
  • Number of Shows: 31
  • Gross Takings per Show: $3m
  • Got Famous: 1960s
  • Age Now: 68

9. Eagles

  • Gross Takings: $92.3m (£59.9m)
  • Average Ticket Price: $121.85
  • Number of Shows: 54
  • Gross Takings per Show: $1.7m
  • Got Famous: 1970s
  • Age Now: 62

10. Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd)

  • Gross Takings: $89.5m (£58.1m) 
  • Average Ticket Price: $126.14
  • Number of Shows: 56
  • Gross Takings per Show: $1.6m
  • Got Famous: 1970s
  • Age Now: 67

Dinosaurs

With the exception of Lady Gaga and Michael Bublé, I would contend that none of the things touring actually exist any more. Or shouldn’t.

It is highly appropriate that the show ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ is at number 7. Arguably Dinosaurs fill most of the other spots as well.

Bands that were big in the 60s, 70s and 80s should not still be massive today. It goes against all the impulses of Rock – and against the very definition of Pop.

The old Rock ‘n’ Roll attitude of ‘live fast, die young’ has been forgotten (or at least part of it) – and from the looks of those box office takings it seems these guys (note: all men) prefer filling their pensionable pockets to dying.

Fair enough – I suppose it’s not their fault that healthcare has advanced to the point where even rockers living fast can still survive to a ripe old age.

And I suppose it’s not their fault that they are top of these charts: it’s just that their fans are the ones with the money, baby-boomers all grown up, cashing in their own pensions.

And why not?

Well you’ve got to ask why the money in music is still with acts that hit the big time thirty years ago? What does that mean for the industry? What does that mean for innovation and new music? Do we really have to wait until we’re retired before we can afford to go and see top-line shows? What price nostalgia?

I guess you can make a parallel with books. On the Road by Jack Kerouac is still wildly popular with young kids looking for their first taste of freedom, just as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s our job, writing today, to be better than that.

Otherwise, why bother at all?

Why Diets Don’t Work (or How to Stop Judging Obese People)

The Obesity Epidemic

Obesity has doubled since the seventies. The ruling hypothesis to explain this is that the rise is due to more calories consumed and less exercise performed.

But, according to food consumption statistics, our diet has ‘improved’. We eat less fat and saturated fat now than we did in the seventies. And we do more exercise now as well. Believe it or not, exercise was seen as potentially unhealthy in the 1960s. The only things that we are eating more of now compared to the seventies and earlier are carbohydrates.

Furthermore, obesity is linked to poverty, not to the excess food that comes from wealth. In very poor families, the men are very fat – and the women are even fatter, even though they do most of the work. Why would it be linked to poverty? The mass production and distribution of carbohydrates like rice, sugar and wheat means that these are cheap food products compared to the relatively expensive meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables. There is no ‘thrifty gene’ that tells our bodies to store fat when times are good or when we know that food will be scarce.

The storage of fat is an evolutionary adaptation, not a response to environmental circumstances. For example, squirrels will put fat on in winter, whatever you do. You can keep them from hibernating, you can starve them, you can even perform surgery to remove their winter fat – but their bodies will still put the weight on, and lose it again in the spring. That’s just what happens: it’s nothing to do with their diet and nothing to do with the reduction in exercise during hibernation.

It’s Nothing To Do With Diet or Exercise

(Of course, diet and exercise are vitally important in many other aspects of health. I am talking here purely about obesity.)

Starvation diets don’t work. You lose a bit, then put it back on with interest when you go off the diet. (This has nothing to do with the health benefits of eating slightly less than you want, see my earlier post.) Often the obese eat less than the lean. Gluttony and sloth are not to blame, they are just ways of making fat people feel guilty and of making thin people feel good about their superior morals.

Positive and negative caloric balance, eating more or less than you need, does not affect weight. Our body finds balance no matter what we do. If we eat more than we need, our metabolism will speed up and burn the excess calories off. If we eat less than we need, our metabolism will slow down and conserve calories (and we might live longer…).

Forced over-eating

There was an experiment where volunteers were fed 4000 calories a day. The subjects gained a few pounds and then their weight stabilised, so the researchers decided to increase the calories:

  • First to 5000 calories a day.
  • Then to 7000 calories a day.
  • Then to 10000 calories a day – all while remaining sedentary!

The researchers noted that there were, ‘marked differences between individuals in ability to gain weight.’ One person gained just 9lbs after 30 weeks of this regimen. Afterwards, everyone lost weight with the speed that they had gained it.

Calorific balance tends to 0, whether you are on a 1000 calorie diet or a 10000 calorie diet.

Exercise

Nor does exercise affect weight. If we exercise more, we eat more. Hence the phrase, ‘work up an appetite’. Exercise only burns a fraction of the calories we consume. You would have to walk up 20 flights of stairs to burn off the caloric input of 4 pieces of bread.

Danish researchers trained previously sedentary people to run marathons. After 18 months of intensive training:

  • The 18 men lost an average of 5lbs (2.25kg) of fat.
  • The 9 females lost nothing at all.

There are even studies that show people getting fatter with exercise, just as dieting regimes can do.

Genetics

Weight gain varies ten-fold between different people, indicating that it is genetic. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to us: we breed cattle for high fat yield using genetic principles. The difference in the size of cows is not put down to over-eating or sedentary behaviour, so why do we do that for fat humans?

We are born with a genetically influenced body shape. The proportion of fat on your body will not change even if you lose or gain weight. There are three basic types of body morphology:

  • Mesomorphs: wedge-shaped power houses.
  • Ectomorphs: thin as a rake.
  • Endomorphs: pear shaped.
Of course, most people have elements of one and aspects of another, but the general principle is clear: your shape is genetically influenced.

Size is a Class Issue

There is also a class issue here. McDonald’s is blamed, but Starbucks is not, even though a large frappacino with cream has just as many calories as a Big Mac. People who watch TV are called couch potatoes and lazy, but people who stay sitting at their desk reading books are not.

Finally: if our environment was toxic, then why aren’t we all fat? It is not down to will-power or moral rectitude, as some people would like.


This article is based on the information found in The Diet Delusion by Gary Taubes (p233 onwards)

Walking Home for Christmas: Maps & Pictures

In 2010, I walked home for Christmas: trudging every single one of the gloriously snowy 38 miles from London to Cholsey. You can read more on why I walked home for Christmas and also read the minute-by-minute Twitter updates I wrote about the journey. But here are the pictures and, due to my upsetting Google a few years ago, only the first map.

Heathrow Terminal 5 to White Waltham

15 miles on B roads (AKA ‘The Boring Bit’).

White Waltham to Henley-on-Thames

About 9 miles cross-country.

Henley-on-Thames to Cholsey

16 miles cross-country. In the dark.

Yep: the day after my walk, I drove back to London to pick up my sister… Same journey, in reverse, 2 hours. 😉

Walking Home for Christmas: The Updates

In 2010, I walked home for Christmas: trudging every single one of the gloriously snowy 38 miles from London to Cholsey. You can read more on why I walked home for Christmas and see some of the pictures I took of the journey. And for those of you who didn’t follow my progress on Twitter (shame on you!), here are all my updates, recorded for posterity. Yes that first one does say 5:39…

From New Cross to the M4

Here we go! Leaving New Cross- I’ll be taking spreadbets on how far I’ll get- 0-38 miles. Any takers?
5:39 Dec 23rd via txt

Phase 1 complete. At Heathrow terminal 5- the walking starts here. First task: get out of the terminal…
7:18 Dec 23rd via txt

First sighting of pseudo-countryside, two horses in a paddock and a few trees near Horton…
8:18 Dec 23rd via txt

Arrived in Datchet- and arrived onto my map! Cholsey only an arm-length away! Time for some pizza.
8:53 Dec 23rd via txt

Got my first walkers’ “Morning!” – London is definitely over.
9:07 Dec 23rd via txt

Crossing the Thames at Royal Windsor- good day ma’am!
9:36 Dec 23rd via txt

Oakley Green! That was a pretty boring walk through Windsor- but here come the footpaths- yeah!
10:37 Dec 23rd via txt

I’m on the M4! Well, I’m over the M4- nice spot for lunch…
12:08 Dec 23rd via txt

From the M4, through Henley-on-Thames and on into the Darkness

Walking down a snow-bound lane towards Knowle Hill, delivery vans out in force today-Christmas presents I guess…
12:52 Dec 23rd via txt

Crazies Hill! Named after me (probably) – on the descent now though, through a snow-capped wood with crows overhead…
14:02 Dec 23rd via txt

And halfway too- 19 miles to go!
14:11 Dec 23rd via txt

Nothing hurts more than back-tracking…lucky it was only a couple of hundred yards…but here’s Henley!
14:44 Dec 23rd via txt

Right- back on the path after a nice cup of tea and a cake in Henley. Note to forecasters: you have 30 minutes to provide the sunny interval you promised me …
15:33 Dec 23rd via txt

Got lost, got found. Just me and snow and wooded hillsides. And birds. I saw a fox earlier too- and got chased by a dog…
16:05 Dec 23rd via txt

Through the Darkness

No idea where I am, but Nettlebed 3 miles can’t be all wrong…
16:44 Dec 23rd via txt

Following the tracks of some kind of heffalump in a field in the middle of somewhere. Couldn’t be better.
17:03 Dec 23rd via txt

Witheridge Hill! Not withering yet – I almost know where I am…
17:34 Dec 23rd via txt

Having a bite to eat at the Maharajah’s Well. Pizza’s still delish, body’s still holding together…
17:57 Dec 23rd via txt

Couple of cars skidded off the road near Wellplace Zoo- drama! They’re fine. I’m fine- got snow chains for these shoes…
18:37 Dec 23rd via txt

Just nailed a totally pointless hill in ankle deep snow. Not easy after nearly 12 hours walking… Now walking down the hill…
19:03 Dec 23rd via txt

12 hours walking and I’m still not home. I only popped out for a pint of milk…
19:29 Dec 23rd via txt

The Thames Path to Cholsey

Calling Cholsey, calling Cholsey- prepare to recieve- ETA 1 hour, repeat 1 hour…
20:05 Dec 23rd via txt

I’m so close I can almost reach out and touch it- no, wait, I can touch it- I’M HOME! THE SEASONAL HAS LANDED!!
20:55 Dec 23rd via txt