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Monday, June 6, 2011

Dragged kicking and screaming into the Eighteenth Century

After setting it up a couple of years ago but never quite taking the plunge, I've started using my Twitter account. Hopefully it'll be a good way to interact with readers, and my initial intention is to use it as something of a running commentary on the process of writing - especially as I'm about to get under way properly on the fourth Quinton novel, The Lion of Midnight. But it's clearly an interesting time to be getting more au fait with the twitterverse. While I have absolutely no intention of discussing the nocturnal activities of ageing unshaven nonentities with hyperactive libidos who happen to get paid vast amounts for kicking a ball for 90 minutes on Saturdays, it'll be good to get some first hand knowledge of the pros and cons of something which seems capable of bringing down governments and slaughtering some of the sacred cows of the British legal system!

Meanwhile, it's Seafarers Awareness Week, one of the most important campaigns attempting to counteract the rampant 'sea blindness' in modern Britain, and View from the Lair is happy to do its bit for the cause. Their website carries the results of a survey which suggests that a quarter of children think Captain Jack Sparrow is the country's most famous seaman. I'm probably more relaxed about this than some of my colleagues: the fact that 75% of children presumably named a real seaman, despite the best efforts of the National Curriculum in schools to pretend that the country never had a naval and maritime history, actually strikes me as quite encouraging, especially in the light of the many far more dire surveys of the state of historical knowledge among young people. (Here's a particularly cracking example from a few years ago.) Moreover, the sea has probably never had so much exposure on TV (e.g. the new series of Coast following hard on the heels of Britain's Secret Seas), the National Maritime Museum is the country's 6th most visited museum and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is in the top 15 of most visited historic sites, and if the population really is so 'sea blind', how did Turner's Fighting Temeraire get to be voted the country's favourite painting? I reckon the reality is that the country isn't so much 'sea blind' as 'navy blind'. That's due in part to ignorant politicians - of all persuasions - whose thinking about defence extends no further than having enough soldiers who can be sent out to invade and get killed in assorted deserts; but a lot of it also has to be the fault of the navy itself, thanks to years of complacency, incompetent leadership and utterly crass PR. Come to think of it, those might be themes to return to on Twitter...

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