E is for Europe.

There are two Europes. One is a malignant Political leviathan aping the old USSR, despite the lessons its failure taught, the other is a wonderfully varied place, full of fantastic peoples, and worthy of extended visits, and getting to know more about.

A full ten percent of this fair isles residents never leave. There are the wilds of Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons, the Mountains of Scotland, the Cornish Riviera, Historic Cities, from Bath to York, and all places in between, and over 4000 miles of coast. There is a lot to do and see here.

Some, like their ancestors, rarely travel more than ten miles from point of birth.

We do have a slight disadvantage, being an island, we have to cross the Channel to get to the rest of Europe.

Fun fact. My dear Wife and I had to attend an early morning  appointment in Greater London last year. Return rail ticket cost about £120. My eldest and I went to Berlin later in the year. Return flights for us were under £100. Brighton to Berlin, about 700 miles. Brighton to London, about 60 miles.

So Europe is accessible, go see it for yourself.

The other Europe is a bit darker.

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First, the History bit.  Over the last 1000 or so years, probably longer but 1000 years is long enough, the Europeans main hobby was War. It started in 1002 with a scrap between what we know today as Germany and Poland. The last big one ended in 1945, involving the same two Nations, and most of the rest of the world. You would think after best part of a 1000 years practice they would be really good at War, but this last conflict left both in ruins. Makes you wonder if that was a hint from the rest of the world.  

After the last big one, the winners devised a cunning plan to force peace on the Europeans, well, most of them, and this plan has morphed into the European Union.

Everyone was convinced they would rebuild, rearm and go back to war, once the next crop of soliders had grown up. The plan worked. By the clock, someone should have created a drama, and invaded someone else by about 1970. Have the Europeans broken the habit?

By forcing trade and cooperation on all the previous belligerents, war has become too inconvenient. Instead of ruthless armies of occupation, we have a ponderous army of bureaucrats meddling in  our day to day affairs. Instead of a slightly mad class of Aristocrats governing our lives, we have a European Commission, of slightly mad politicians.

If you ignore the huge financial mismanagement, the petty attempts at macro management, and the feather nesting, it basically works, because we are at least two big wars behind what historical precedent suggested.

It would be very easy for me to list a ton of things the European Union has done, and talks about doing, that would perpetuate the often polarised view folk hold. I like basic broad brush strokes. It was necessary for world peace that Europe be united. The old communist USSR was cast as the bogeyman, the USA and then NATO as the defender. Unified under a common threat. This ebbs and flows, time moves on.

Now we live in interesting times. War in Western Europe is unlikely. It’s good for the Arms industry, but that is not dominant. We have a businessman as President in USA. UK is leaving the European Union, Italy might do, Spain is starting to crack over regions. Greece has been financially ruined. Immigration of unskilled persons is at record levels.

It’s the age of soundbite politics, trial by media, twitter and 24/7 media. It’s the age of new generation, and they are generally disappointed. Every new generation feels the same way. This lot have the tools to tell everyone how they feel, and have been brought up with the dangerous message of entitlement, and other false promises.

Have to see where it goes from here….

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U is for UNIMOG

The Unimog. Germany’s post war recovery vehicle. It has many parallels with the UK’s Land Rover.

Both were designed and built within a few years of the end of the second world war.

Both were shaped by the the lack of resources both nations faced once they stopped making military consumables, and began to transition from war to peace.

Both were aimed at the agricultural industry, war played havoc with food production.

Combatants of necessity strove to stay alive, and in the hundreds of thousands of contacts between Allied and Axis individuals, neither would have been overly concerned about collateral damage to crops, livestock, barns, or other agricultural infrastructure. Being a child of the 1960’s, I had a choice of not joining the military, unlike those children of the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. Thus, I have no direct experience of war, and to be frank, no desire too. I have this choice by accident of birth, and share an immense sense of gratitude to those who made my world the relatively peaceful place it is today.

Once the fighting stopped, the surviving or newly appointed governments must have had a collective “Oh Shit“ moment, when it was apparent that while the war might be over, the fight was not.

The fight now though was to rebuild, and the immediate need was to produce or get sufficient food to keep your population not just alive, but to thrive, to give them the strength to rebuild.

What was left of industry was called upon to help, and this rather simplistic, over generalised, and probably inaccurate summary, leads to the Unimog.

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This was mine when I was a little boy in the early 1970’s. Given I lived in six different houses with my Parents, and a further seven since then, its rather surprising I still have it, and was able to find it. It was clearly a favorite, and is best described as well used…..

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Image from Google search for royalty free image.

The real thing was, like the Land Rover, designed with agriculture in mind. The first batch even had a track width specifically designed to fit between two rows of potatoes. Our German cousins reputation for efficiency is well deserved. Not only could it help cultivate the crop, it could transport it to market. It was incredibly versatile, and was adapted for many rolls in a variety of industries. Like the Land Rover, it is still in production, some seventy years later, albeit significantly modernised.

Like the Land Rover, the Unimog is also used with success in Rally competitions.

Both are extensively used by contemporary civilian services and the military.  

Not the sort of thing the average chap would want as a daily driver, but if I do ever get the chance to drive one, I will be jumping at it.

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Image from Google search for royalty free image

Be awesome…..