Ain’t no cure for the summertime muse

This ‘relaxation’ thing…its quite neat, isn’t it? Must remember to try it again sometime.

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Sustenance and reward for writing words and things. Then deleting them and swearing a lot.
Napier has an establishment called the ‘Allergy Free Cafe’ – don’t get me wrong, it does good coffee, but I can’t help but think ‘surely, that depends what you’re allergic to’

Next door is the ‘Fat Latte Cafe’ which has to be a deliberate, firm, extended digit, to its neighbour. It’s also a lot more relaxed. The bods in the allergy free cafe all look uptight and very ill.

Oh, and the Fat Latte has a fantastic lambs fry and bacon.

Strongly recommend ‘The Ottoman Endgame’ (Sean McMeekin, Penguin, 2015)  for a host of reasons.

One – or rather, two, ‘cos they’re separate and they’re both important – is the historical context it lends to today. One of those contexts is the strategic one provided to New Zealand’s enduring Anzac legacy.

McMeekin provides a detailed and thoughtful analysis of just what the hell they were doing there, and also sets out what he sees as the biggest strategic blunder of the campaign – the option of landing in the part of the Ottoman Empire then called Alexandretta, now called İskenderun, was considered and rejected.

What attracted me to this book – apart from a few highly appreciative reviews from elsewhere – was a doco I saw last year on the Ottoman-Turkish winter battle in December 1914, which saw the Turks send an army over the mountains at the start of the winter, with most of the casualties coming from frostbite (a lot of the troops didn’t even have boots). They still gave the Russians a fright: a plan for a much more ambitious, and never attempted, invasion caused a Russian panic which led them to ask the Brits and the French for some sort of attack on the southern Turkish side.

Hence,  Gallipoli. The Russians were supposed to coordinate with the Gallipoli campaign, but they didn’t: they were more than happy to see the British, especially, batter themselves senseless in a stalemate and in any case the last thing they wanted was a British army in Constantinople, given the historic rivalry between the two powers in the entire region from Greece across to India.

The other insight is of course into today’s wars in the Middle East. McMeekin lays to rest a few myths around the “Sykes-Picot Agreement”, the perpetuation of which has a lot to do with the popularity of the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. It was really the Sakarov-Sykes-Picot agreement and was reached in 1916 with Russia calling the shots because Britain and France had had their backsides kicked by the Ottomans at Gallipoli and Basra.

The Ottomans were supposed to be backward and useless – “the sick man of Europe” and all that, but here they were beating the crap out of the Allies.

So Russia got the lion’s – or the bear’s – share of the Sakharov-Sykes-Picot agreement which carved up the Ottoman Empire. Trouble was, in 1917 the Russians had a revolution, then another one, and it was all off. The Brits and the French redrew the agreement.

There was quite a bit of squabbling with the new Turkish regime, post-war – well, one of McMeekin’s points is it might have been “post-war” the way we usually think of it but it wasn’t post war for the Turks and nor was it, really for the Brits and the French, at least in the Middle East.

But then, I suppose, since when has it ever been “post-war” in the Middle East? Not for a wee while, anyway.

Anyway, highly recommended. It’s an excellent, clear and readable history, as clear as any history can be of this fractured and fissiparous region.

I pitched camp..well, when I say ‘camp’ I mean I rented a farmhouse..in a valley in the Hawkes Bay, all the better to write a lot. It didn’t have decent internet connection, which for about 30 seconds I was worried about before concluding it was exactly what was needed. Wrote in the mornings, when I’m brighter anyway and before the sun got over the hills and turned the cottage into a broiler house. Then went walking in the afternoon.

Got a little more than 14,000 words done, probaimg_2175bly at least a third of which I’ll dump as being not up to scratch, but its certainly a base to work off.

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