Vague ramblings

At the going down of the sun

Posted in Musing, Personal stuff by Ian Cundell on 12 August, 2014

Earlier this evening my Great Uncle George’s name was read out at the Tower of London, along with 179 other casualties of Word War 1.

A variety of irritants meant that I could not be there to hear it, but that is not the point. Today, 98 years after his death, he was remembered, for just a moment. Learn a bit about him and the many other Georges here: The Known Soldier

Here is George, at number 161

A kind soul had his camera phone:

World War 1: putting heat under the cauldron – literally

Posted in Musing, Reason by Ian Cundell on 5 August, 2014
NASA GISS: GLOBAL Land-Ocean Temperature Index - Jan-Dec : 10yr moving average

NASA GISS: GLOBAL Land-Ocean Temperature Index – Jan-Dec : 10yr moving average (Click to enlarge)

This chart plots Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies Global Land-Ocean Temperate Index data, with a 10 year moving average applied to smooth out the random lumps and bumps(1).

It shows very clearly the truth of global warming – over the course of the data, around a 0.9deg C increase in global temperatures since this record began.  That is a lot and the reason there is so much concern about climate change.

But that is not what caught my interest in this, of all weeks. Look at the run of data in the early years and see that the anomaly seemed to be falling. Despite the unfolding industrial revolution, the world economy was still, by and large, steam and sail driven. All of the parts – from Dreadnoughts to internal combustion engines – were available, but they were far from ubiquitous.

There is nothing like a war to drive the adoption of technology. From the front line, to the marshalling areas and the skies above and across the seas, the First World War was the first truly mechanised war and it was a lot more mechanised in 1918 than in 1914. In just 4 years aircraft went from small and rickety to sophisticated and large, horses gave way to tanks and trucks and entire economies were committed to the war effort. It shows up with shocking clarity in the data.

The trend continued through to the end of the Second World War as arms races drove industry and industry drove arms races, all spilling out into the wider economy. The anomaly never fell back and by the end of the 1970s – despite an oil price shock – the developing world began to play catch-up with the developed world. The results are not even slightly surprising.

But the cauldron was placed on the fire in the fields and in the skies of Flanders.


1. Specifically, it measures the temperature “anomaly” against a base period of 1951-1980. The nice thing about proper climate scientists is that they make all of their data available for anyone to inspect.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori…

Posted in Life by Ian Cundell on 4 August, 2014

….is a lie, of course, as Wilfred Owen knew.

But that is no reason to forget.

More images of the achingly beautiful installation of 888,246 red ceramic poppies entitled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘ at The Tower of London here. Some background information here.

Edit: Carol Ann Duffy’s excellent Last Post, with Gillian Clarke’s The Plumber

Letter to an Unknown Soldier

Posted in Life, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 4 July, 2014

Letter to an Unknown Soldier is partly an arts project, but mostly a memorial for the fallen of World War One. “A new kind of memorial made by thousands of people” as its home page says. As of this writing more than 7,000 contributions have been published and the range of moods and styles is striking.

If you think you have something to say, then why not say it in a letter?

Check it out: 14-18 NOW Letter to an Unknown Soldier

This is mine: Letter to George

Tagged with: ,

The Parapet

Posted in Fiction by Ian Cundell on 11 November, 2012


The Parapet


Ian Cundell

I didn’t see it coming. Didn’t have a chance to avoid it.

I popped my head above the makeshift parapet, and searing, shocking pain exploded in my right eye. I rolled back underneath the blackboard and someone shouted “Tom! Are you OK?” I was lucky I didn’t lose the eye, I suppose. Who would have thought a catapult made of a rubber band and some folded paper could be so painful? God, it hurt like hell.

I didn’t cry of course. The boys would have done me in if I had. And my black eye didn’t get me out of the caning we all got for making the common room into a battlefield. I didn’t cry then, either.

Old Nurse Kitchen wasn’t sympathetic. “You needn’t think you’re getting out of PT, Atkins” she said. “Perhaps you’ll be more careful in future.”

How could I be more careful? I didn’t see it coming.

Still, I bragged on it for days, and got plenty of attention for my ‘war wound’, although I was pretty cross that whoever did it never owned up. But now… well, I reckon maybe he didn’t know what he’d done, was just firing blindly.

Heh. I’m used to that now.

So here I am. The Pals are back together again, the three-oh-threes are ready, bayonets fixed. Tin hats on. The boys are lined up, all pursed lips and silent prayers.

B-Company! One Step Forward!”

Time to stick my head over the parapet again. There’s nothing makeshift about this one.

Good luck, lads. And don’t look so nervous.

You won’t see it coming.



(c) Ian Cundell, 2012. All rights reserved.



%d bloggers like this: