As one of the Thirty Books I wanted to read before I reach the dreaded milestone of 30 years of age, you can guess that Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King was something I was dying to get my teeth into. And you’d be right. The Story itself originally published in 1888 is both a scathing look at colonialist tendency and also a rich satire mocking the English sense of entitlement regarding foreign land, and also pokes fun at the notion that Freemasons actually run the world.
The story centres around two soldiers of fortune turned con men who decide that life in India is not working out for them, and after failing in a scheme to blackmail a local Rajah decide to set themselves up as kings in the backwater nation of Kafiristan (northern Afghanistan) after swearing off women and liquor, they set off with a bunch of guns and manage to unite all the warring tribes of the region together through knowledge of Freemasonry,then acting as gods they rule the country benevolently until they are are brought low.
Kipling, in a short space of words, manages to set the scene of the British Raj and the inhospitable climes of Afghanistan, and offers up a fair summation of the contemporary political climate of warfare that was rampant in the Afghan provinces of the time (much like today) and also captures perfectly the attitude of the common Englishman of the time, that the world was theirs for the taking and damn anyone who got in the way. Its also a work about friendship and the perils that blind devotion to ones friends can bring. Spolier warning I did cry at the end, which is odd because having seen the classic film adaptation featuring Michael Cane and Sean Connery I knew how the book was going to end, and it says a lot about Kipling’s writing that it brought a tear to my eye.
I never miss an opportunity to plug the good work of Cwmbran Community Council and am very happy to announce that the council have won the award for best annual report in Wales by One Voice Wales (The collective body of Town, Parish and Community Councils in Wales) at their Larger Councils and Innovative Practice Awards on the 5th of July.
It comes from a report highlighting the successes of the council in several areas, which are
Promoting A Prosperous Cwmbran
Promoting A Resilient Cwmbran
Promoting A Healthier Cwmbran
Promoting A More Equal Cwmbran
Promoting A Cwmbran of Cohesive Communities
Promoting A Cwmbran Of Vibrant Culture and promoting a thriving use of the welsh language
Promoting A Globally Responsible Cwmbran
Promoting A Competent Council
The report was heralded as one of the finest examples of large community council (Cwmbran being the fourth largest town in Wales) implementing the Well Being of Future Generations act 2015, and it really is a testament to the hard work of officers, members and staff in making Cwmbran an award winning council.
Today was the Wales Velothon a, 140 km (87 mile) cycle ride beginning in Cardiff and going through the counties of Caerphilly, Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Newport before finishing back in Cardiff town centre.
As the route goes through Torfaen, The Mayor and by extension I as her consort were invited to attend the race at the start/ finish line in the VIP section, and as I love going to the VIP and fancy civic functions I was more than happy to attend.
Aside from the massive heat it was fantastic to spend a day doing something out of the ordinary and get to be present at an event that means a lot for my country, and sees people from all over the world come to take part, with people coming from as far as Trinidad to compete. And I must say that in the VIP tent was one of the nicest buffets I’ve had since starting as Mayor’s Consort (not that I keep score. Honest.)
It has been a long day today, this morning we went to the Mayor of Caerphilly’s Civic Service, A civic service is a church service in which the new mayor is blessed and god is asked to bless the works of the council, its officers and its Mayor, they are often a fancy to do with the good and great of the neighbouring counties in attendance. Jessica’s will be next Sunday, however today’s was a lovely affair taking place at St Sannan’s Church in Bedwellty and unlike some of the civic services I’ve attended was upbeat with a very positive message. After the service there was a reception at Caerphilly Council’s swanky new office outside Ystrad Mynach, however we had to leave after a very short time to head to the next thing.
After we picked up Marianna from her grandmother’s house we headed to Pontypool for their big “Party In The Park”, after handing out some stickers to the participants of the costume parade and coaxing Marianna away from all the stalls and entertainment we were off again, but this time headed to Henllys Village Fete.
While we were there, in spite of the heat, we had a lovely time, Marianna was spoilt rotten, getting her face painted with glitter, a new ball, a handbag, a custom made headband. After a refreshing drink and a sit down we came home to some Chinese take out and a nice relaxing chill out on the sofa.
I took part in a pick and plant with Northville Community Group yesterday, along with some of my fellow councillors, which basically means we went out and picked up some litter and replanted some strawberries.
However I am going to take this opportunity to praise the work of the Northville Community Group, it really is a pleasure to represent people that care so deeply about their community, and work so hard to make it a nice place to live and to raise a family, I only wish I was able to attend all of their events, as meetings, civic duties and family commitments often preclude me from attending everything, but seeing the good work the community group does, maybe having their Community Councillor bumbling about all the time I might just be in the way.
A little while ago I came up with a list of books that I wanted to read before the time I become ancient (30) first on the list was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a prolific American writer most well know as the creator of Tarzan. A princess of Mars is the first novel to feature his second most well known creation John Carter of Mars.
The novel itself is fairly short and is a prime example of the general pulp science fiction that was popularised in early twentieth century America and without giving away the plot does stick rather closely to the formula for pulp, of man from Earth winds up on alien planet, fights and then joins with the natives, rescues a princess and then saves the day. As an early example of the sort of pulp (originally serialised in 1912) that was floating about the market place in those days you can forgive it for seeming a little done to death over 100 years later, because you realise it was one of the first to do it.
The writing style feels a little disjointed as it is written in the form of memoir, so Edgar Rice Burroughs has written it in the manner of memoir penned by Captain John Carter, who has a tendency to go off on tangents mid explanation, which does spoil the narrative, however I feel this may have been a conscious choice by Burroughs, as it lends a certain verisimilitude to the work, and it shows that only a really great writer would be able to write from the point of view of an amateur, that is to say terrible, writer.
My only main criticism is that whilst the world of Barsoom is a rich and vibrant world the secondary characters ring a little flat, and whilst the protagonist and his circle are explored the villains of the piece such as Tal Hajus and Sarkoja are lacking in any real depth and seem to be there mainly as plot accelerators more than as real characters.
Overall it was an enjoyable distraction I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 and pick up some the other books that make up the Barsoom series to find out the fates of Deja Thoris and John Carter of Mars.