Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

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DensleyBlair

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Good God, man! How can I ever trust you after this?

i did rather fear this effect on people’s good
of me.

As someone who's had their fair share of experience with the civil service, I would say Yes, Minister is incredibly accurate in some ways, and very much a couple decades out of date in others (partially due to the effect the show itself had on the public consciousness and the very institutions it portrayed). However, it is still very, very good and, if you want the recent history of Whitehall in comedy form, do watch Yes, Minister, Yes, Prime Minister, The Thick of It, and In The Loop.

As someone who reached something like the first stage of political awareness during the coalition years, The Thick of It and In the Loop were obviously a big part of my 14 year old comedy diet.

Will now have to rectify my Yes Minister deficiency. I did spen enough time buried in Thatcher era civil service memoranda for my diss research last year so will be a nice counterpoint.

Hey, if the snooker got good, the snooker got good. No need to apologise.

Ronnie’s gunna Ronnie, what can I say.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Will have to give it a watch on that recommendation. I do seem to remember once being shown the 'who reads the newspapers' scene during a year 8 English lesson for some reason. Now there's a good bit of writing.

It's one of those programs that changed the landscape of its topic and its audience. Before it, politicians did 180s and no one knew why. After, no one in the country trusted the civil service, politicians began being seriously pinned down by the media and the public, and a lot of how the state system worked became translucent for the first time ever.

It isn't strictly accurate now, but back then it was so blisteringly on the nose that they had a love audience in so the BBC couldn't edit it too much, had spies in parliment and the civil service feeding them stories to write about, and got the attention of everyone in Westminster, to the point where Thatcher tried to ingratiate herself with the show by writing her own episode.

Some things are a little hard to watch (getting women into the civil service etc) but their explanation and takedown of the idea of nuclear deterents (Yes Prime Minister, second episode) is masterful even today. In fact, pretty much anything they talk about is at least relatable to today, especially Yes Prime Minister which is more about dealing with cabinet and the various forgien governments (the Soviets date it of course but surpsingly not that much considering Russian action today).

It isn't for everyone (its two or three men in a room talking about administrators) but a very good show in my opinion.
 

DensleyBlair

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to the point where Thatcher tried to ingratiate herself with the show by writing her own episode.

…is this …is this available to read? :oops:

their explanation and takedown of the idea of nuclear deterents (Yes Prime Minister, second episode) is masterful even today.

For research purposes I was listening back to the Beyond the Fringe nuclear deterrent sketch earlier today, which is obviously pretty pretty good. I’ll be interested to compare them.

It isn't for everyone (its two or three men in a room talking about administrators) but a very good show in my opinion.

Seems to me like if there were ever a place where it might find an audience, this would be it. We are communally responsible for a treatment for an Allo Allo parody about the gold standard, after all.
 
The Boothby Letter

DensleyBlair

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



THE BOOTHBY LETTER

“MOSLEY: TWENTY YEARS ON”
TALKING POINT, 1981



A special episode of Talking Point was aired in 1981 to mark twenty years since Oswald Mosley left office. Instead of the usual format, in which a handful of expert guests would sit at a desk and debate each other on an issue moderated by a chair, this episode was notable for dispensing with the formality and having its numerous commentators hold a loose conversation within a mock living room. Starting after the ten o’clock news, the episode also broke with convention in lasting for four hours, not finishing until after two o’clock on Sunday morning. Guests included figures from the media, the arts, the unions, as well as Ken Granby-Jones, whose insights as a former employee at the Office for Economic Planning proved mildly scandalous on a number of occasions throughout the evening.


One of Granby-Jones’s more colourful passages related to his account of the so-called ‘Boothby Letter’, an episode of Commonwealth politics up until that point little known outside of government circles. The text of this account has been reproduced below.



1980%20TALKING%20POINT%20BOOTHBY%20LETTER.jpg


GRANBY-JONES: In the years since Oswald Mosley’s exit from political office, there have been no shortage of events put forward as being the singular catalyst that sparked his final downfall. We have heard a number of suggestions already this evening.


A common answer to the question is the retirement of Stafford Cripps, which set in motion the chain of events that ultimately led to the splitting of the Popular Front and the end of Mosley’s majority government. Others contend that this telling does not give sufficient credit to extra-parliamentary forces, and instead locate the kernel of Mosley’s end somewhere within the emergence of serious underground opposition movements towards the middle of the 1950s. Cynics, not without reason, protest that the Mosley regime was doomed from the start; from the day that he snatched the fruits of the workers’ victory in 1934 and put them to work on his own behalf, Mosley’s days of secure government were well and truly numbered.


I would like to propose an alternative option, often overlooked. While I do not rule out the importance of any of the factors already mentioned, I am also convinced by the vital role played by one seldom-discussed episode in bringing about the downfall of Mosleyite Britain. In fact, I am quite certain that, outside of small circles within the government, very few people know of its having taken place. I refer to the incident of the Boothby Letter.


Now before I get into the details, I will say this: simply framed, it is perhaps not evident how the delivery of one letter could put Mosley on the path to ruination. True enough – and, as I say, I do not credit the letter alone with ending Mosley’s formidable career. But if you bear with me, I believe you may come to see some of the central importance that I attach to this peculiar episode in the events of the years that followed.


Today, if we were to talk about the decriminalisation of homosexual relations between men in Britain, we would probably think of David Lewis, and the reforms he enacted in the first half of Chairman Bevan’s term. At the time, it seemed to many observers as if Bevan and Lewis chose to deal with the, might I say, appalling treatment of gay men at the hands of the former state as a useful way of proving the enlightenment of the new post-Mosleyite government, and returning some air of liberalism to the Party of Action – or the Labour–Action Party, as it became under Bevan. This was an air of liberalism which, it could be persuasively argued, the Action Party in its various guises never possessed. Nevertheless—


while this assessment is correct enough, it does not take into account the fact that the issue had a much older history within the Commonwealth government. Bob Boothby, Chairman Mosley’s most famous lieutenant whom you will all certainly recall, had long believed that sexual relations between men should be decriminalised. This was not an idea that held great currency in the 1950s, but nonetheless: Boothby held it. Boothby himself may well have been bisexual. He was certainly intimately acquainted with a number of prominent gay and bisexual men, and had the British press been in more of a position to express hostility towards the government in the middle of the century he would have likely found himself at the centre of more than a few tabloid scandals. But whatever his motive, to his credit Boothby was an advocate of decriminalisation.


This isn’t to say that by modern standards Boothby was especially liberal. He favoured, as was then fashionable – and unfortunately as remains fashionable in certain quarters – treating homosexuality as a psychological disorder, to be cured rather than persecuted. A vital step in this path to reform was for gay men not to feel as if the state were their enemy, which at that time it usually was.


Previously, Boothby’s conviction on this subject had been treated almost as an eccentricity. I have no idea whether he ever brought it up with Mosley before 1954; I suspect he did not. Mosley, while never explicitly speaking out against homosexuality – or for that matter persecuting gay men with any greater vigour than his predecessors in government – was clear in his vision of Britain as a muscular, dynamic society. By implication, it would not be unfair to say, this vision did not include queer conceptions of masculinity—


CAIT McMANUS (Journalist): —which you can see evidence for, for example, in the embarrassment Mosley suffered over Oliver Baldwin’s reception in Washington in 1945, during the talks over European involvement in Indochina.


GRANBY-JONES: Yes, exactly so. 1945 was an embarrassment for Mosley because the Americans could not conceal their bemusement at being sent Oliver Baldwin, a quiet man who was openly gay, as the Commonwealth’s international secretary and chief diplomat. And in the American context, this was only a few years before the so-called “Lavender Scare” began in earnest.


Of course, Baldwin remained at the Bureau of International Relations until 1949, so if Mosley was angry over the affair he did at least manage to refrain from taking it out on the man himself.


But returning to the matter at hand, suffice to say that decriminalisation was not on Mosley’s agenda at any point during his premiership.


So, in September 1954 when Bob Boothby wrote to the new Domestic Secretary Nye Bevan urging that he consider the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between men, it was something of a bolt from the blue. Bevan was highly receptive to Boothby’s suggestion, and the pair resolved to bring the matter to the next meeting of the Executive Council.



1960%20BOOTHBY%20TV.jpg

Bob
Boothby on French television during his term as Chairman of the Eurosyn Executive Council, 1960.


CECIL GARVEY (Union organiser): It seems pretty characteristic of Bevan to be so bullish in his support, but surely his position at this point was somewhat tenuous? Did he think that an alliance with Boothby on this issue might secure his position back at the top table of the Executive Committee?


GRANBY-JONES: It’s possible, certainly. On the few occasions I met Bevan, I was never struck by him as being a particularly canny politician in that sense – he was not a politician in the way that Oswald Mosley doubtless had a great talent for politics. But I’m sure it wouldn’t have been lost on him, the chance to get one over his rival.


This is important, of course, because Boothby siding with Bevan and not Mosley represents a shift in the balance of power right at the top of government. Which is very much the key aspect here, and I’ll return to it in a little bit.


In the meantime, it will come as no surprise that Boothby’s proposal was rejected almost out of hand by the Executive Committee. Decriminalisation found the support of Oliver Baldwin, who was still in government at this point as the Healthcare Secretary, but it failed to excite a majority and, importantly, Mosley refused to touch it. I think he was frankly a little surprised that Boothby felt it worth bringing up at all, particularly in 1954; this was, after all, the moment when Mosley and Boothby’s economic strategy heavily involved dazzling the rest of the world with what Chairman Bevan would later call the “white heat of British technology”. Not a time, then, to risk any blemish upon the dynamic, masculine image of Mosley’s Commonwealth.


Nobly, Bevan used his position as Director of the Domestic Bureau to effectively suspend the prosecution of men targeted for enjoying homosexual relations. Thus for a short period between 1954–57, coinciding with Bevan’s time at the Domestic Bureau, and before Boothby’s sort-of exile to the Eurosyn chairmanship, male homosexuality was effectively decriminalised in Britain.


Whether Mosley was aware of this underhand campaign, I cannot say. Personally, I don’t think it would’ve made any difference either way: by this point, having realised that Bevan had not been pacified after finally being given the Domestic job, from 1954 onwards Mosley grew increasingly concerned that after twenty years his grip on power was slipping. The fact that Boothby, his most dependable ally after 1945, had gone against him in the matter did not help things; Mosley had planned for Boothby to succeed him as chairman, hoping to keep rival Bevan away from the top job, but this mild rebellion had spooked him. Following two testy years after the fallout over decriminalisation, Mosley took the opportunity to cement his control with the inauguration of the European Syndicate in 1957. Bob Boothby became the first chairman of the Eurosyn Executive Council, which was a promotion but handily removed him as a threat on the home front. At the same time, Bevan was similarly “promoted” to the Presidency of the Commonwealth, which Mosley himself had occupied since his wife’s death in 1945, with an accompanying responsibility for the Bureau of Coal and Steel. Thus Bevan was kept busy and similarly out of the way.


VIV STANSHALL (Musician): So you’re saying the idea of decriminalising homosexuality spooked Mosley so much that he inadvertently ended up sowing the seeds of his own downfall?


GRANBY-JONES: Yes, you could say that. It’s not the whole picture, of course. For one thing, you have to look at the shifting make-up of the legislative opposition in building up a power base for Bevan in the late Fifties. And this also completely ignores the drop in popularity Mosley himself experienced towards the end of his time in office, particularly after the fire at Windscale in October 1957. But I think the Boothby Letter had profound consequences, and without it I could imagine a scenario in which Mosley stays in power until he could hand over to Boothby after he left Eurosyn in 1962 – or maybe Boothby never goes to Eurosyn at all.


How that would change the 1960s, of course, is anyone’s guess. As it went, I don’t think the issues Bevan faced were unique to his government. My suspicion is that by the time Bevan acceded to the chairmanship in 1961, Britain had grown pretty tired of Mosleyite rule in general. For all of his many admirable qualities, by that point not even Bevan could stem that particular tide.
 
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BigBadBob

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As @TheButterflyComposer said, it changed the way the public understood the civil service and changed the way the civil service works (which I alluded to, but failed to elaborate on). There's been upsides and downsides; Sir Humphreys no longer block good ideas - for fear of being seen to be Sir Humphrey - but it also undermined the concept of impartial advice, as anything that doesn't agree with the minister is now in danger of being painted as simply 'Sir Humphrey.' The civil service are now expected to act like Tennyson's Light Brigade; Ours not to reason policy. Ours to but to deliver impossibility.

Thatcher's episode to me seemed less like an attempt at ingratiation from the creators, as it did someone who didn't have the self-awareness to realise Yes, Minister was mocking the politicians just as much as the bureaucrats, which they and the actors played along with. The video of them acting out her - essentially - fanfic looks so much like two guys who don't want to offend the PM, but can tell the script, even when it's technically semi-competent, really doesn't get the point.

It's not just available to read. You can find video of Mrs Thatcher herself acting it out with with Messrs Hawthorne and Eddington.

Seems to me like if there were ever a place where it might find an audience, this would be it. We are communally responsible for an Allo Allo parody about the gold standard, after all.

Are you implying we're nerds? I'll have you know, I once had a dream where United rejected me for their youth squad, so I'm basically a cool kid.

EDITING AS THE UPDATE ARRIVED WHILE I WROTE THIS POST:

Good stuff.

To horrifically butcher and misappropriate a song title; Pride (In the Name of Bringing Down Oswald Mosley).
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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…is this …is this available to read?

Yes. And watch, with the original cast, live on stage.

She found out they were getting an award, hijacked it so she was presenting it to them and forced them to act her self-insert fanfic out with her as the fictional PM. Live on air.

It is...something, let me tell you.

For research purposes I was listening back to the Beyond the Fringe nuclear deterrent sketch earlier today, which is obviously pretty pretty good. I’ll be interested to compare them.

The lead up is fantastic too.

"Sir Humphrey doesn't rate the Cheif Scientific Adivsor. He feels he isn't one of us."
"He's been cleared, hasn't he?"
"Oh yes, Cambridge graduate, various hons etc. But that doesn't make up for an Austrian accent."

Then PM Hacker gets torn to shreds by Adolf for a few minutes on why conventional forces beat the nukes. Hacker's actor insisted on it, in fact, as he was a strong unilateralist.

As for todays episode, I must say its ironic that Mosely found his end because of the gays. And very amusing that this led to an internarional movement breaking out also. Lavender scare indeed.
 

DensleyBlair

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UPDATE ABOVE! (Just in case it gets swallowed by the Yes Minister talk)

It's not just available to read. You can find video of Mrs Thatcher herself acting it out with with Messrs Hawthorne and Eddington.

Oh Lordy. That I will have to dig out.

Are you implying we're nerds? I'll have you know, I once had a dream where United rejected me for their youth squad, so I'm basically a cool kid.

Not even accepted for trials? Good lord back yourself lad!

Good stuff.

To horrifically butcher and misappropriate a song title; Pride (In the Name of Bringing Down Oswald Mosley).

Good stuff. Alternatively: That’s what my heart yearns for now (an end to the Mosleyite regime)

Yes. And watch, with the original cast, live on stage.

She found out they were getting an award, hijacked it so she was presenting it to them and forced them to act her self-insert fanfic out with her as the fictional PM. Live on air.

It is...something, let me tell you.

Okay now I have to see it.

The lead up is fantastic too.

"Sir Humphrey doesn't rate the Cheif Scientific Adivsor. He feels he isn't one of us."
"He's been cleared, hasn't he?"
"Oh yes, Cambridge graduate, various hons etc. But that doesn't make up for an Austrian accent."

It hurts because it’s true.

Then PM Hacker gets torn to shreds by Adolf for a few minutes on why conventional forces beat the nukes. Hacker's actor insisted on it, in fact, as he was a strong unilateralist.

This I like.

As for todays episode, I must say its ironic that Mosely found his end because of the gays. And very amusing that this led to an internarional movement breaking out also. Lavender scare indeed.

Excellent opportunity for all sorts of quips about the dangers of self-repression for the psyche.

The direct implications of this episode are more understated, but Bevan is a damn sight more sympathetic than Maxwell Fyfe so there is at least some improvement on OTL. (Without wishing to put too fine a point on it, one nice butterfly to come out of this period specifically is that Turing isn’t induced to kill himself.)
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Without wishing to put too fine a point on it, one nice butterfly to come out of this period specifically is that Turing isn’t induced to kill himself

We butterflying it so he and Tommy flowers do end up starting that computer company and bulldozing a path to the electronic age?

Yes Minister is a really good show for education because they made up a department all about administering the rest of goverment (so they could do topics on anything). You hate the civil service on principle, until they suddenly are the only ones thinking long term and have to fight a dangerous (popular) poltical decision for the sake of the country (or at least the goverment).

Yes Prime Minister is a really good (depressing) show on the reality of politics and goverment. How he got the job in the first place is some first class party games (and worthy of a double length Christmas special) but following the high of that, things get pretty bleak pretty quickly behind the jokes. Not just because there is a greater sense of peaking behind the curtain and seeing the awful truth of things but because by that time, Hacker is actually pretty damn good at fighting the Civil Service and shows how much of a bastard you have to be to both stay PM and get things done.
 

DensleyBlair

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We butterflying it so he and Tommy flowers do end up starting that computer company and bulldozing a path to the electronic age?

Maybe not that neatly exactly, but the experimental computing lab at Manchester has been receiving state funds since 1948, so we’re probably ahead of schedule in that Flowers isn’t necessarily scrambling around for bank loans to make new Colossus models. I’m also very likely going to do something with Stafford Beer when the time comes.
 

stnylan

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Have to shock/disappoint/disillusion a lot of people here and reveal I've actually never seen any of Yes Minister.

I've also been massively distracted by the snooker so update delayed a little. Looking like it will be a late night special.
That is a not unreasonable distraction.

But Yes Minister ... you would get a lot of out of Yes Minister.

A little dated, as the other say, but only in the detail. The themes ... the themes I am pretty sure are eternal. I have no doubt there were Humphreys and Bernards (and Hackers) in in the temple complexes of Sumeria
 
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DensleyBlair

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That is a not unreasonable distraction.

Two phenomenal semi finals yesterday. If there were ever going to be something to prize me away from the Commonwealth, it would be Ronnie in full flow.

But Yes Minister ... you would get a lot of out of Yes Minister.

I will have to find it sharpish by the sounds of it.

A little dated, as the other say, but only in the detail. The themes ... the themes I am pretty sure are eternal. I have no doubt there were Humphreys and Bernards (and Hackers) in in the temple complexes of Sumeria

Perhaps with names like, say, Mithras? :p
 
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Yes. And watch, with the original cast, live on stage.

She found out they were getting an award, hijacked it so she was presenting it to them and forced them to act her self-insert fanfic out with her as the fictional PM. Live on air.

It is...something, let me tell you.

I just watched this after taking in the first Yes Minister, and (having first taken the necessary time to recover spiritually from what I just saw) now I'm imagining a similar scenario with an ageing Bob Boothby hijacking the filming of Redadder. The joys of hispol AARland, eh?

Yes Minister I thought was very good. Nigel Hawthorne is always very good value.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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They certain,y grow on you, and I remember still the firs time I watched the first episode, knowing that I was watching something great as Sir Humphrey enters for the first time. Hacker is a bit of a boob in the first series but fairly likeable, and there are hints already of potential within him, whereas Appleby springs fully formed as the modern classic of a magnificent bastard. Add Bernard in for relief and a gobetween and they were onto a winner from the off. Truly they were fortunate to get a man who could say a lot of speeches very well, and a man who could respond without speaking at all.
 

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They certain,y grow on you, and I remember still the firs time I watched the first episode, knowing that I was watching something great as Sir Humphrey enters for the first time. Hacker is a bit of a boob in the first series but fairly likeable, and there are hints already of potential within him, whereas Appleby springs fully formed as the modern classic of a magnificent bastard. Add Bernard in for relief and a gobetween and they were onto a winner from the off. Truly they were fortunate to get a man who could say a lot of speeches very well, and a man who could respond without speaking at all.

I was watching Hawthorne in the Madness of King George the other week, and he is very very good. Had never realised he was Sir Humphrey. Loveable boob is a good way of characterising Hacker as I've seen him so far.


Just looking over my scheduling and we're only two updates away from the end of Part Three (not that the parts have particularly mattered that much so far). On the past two occasions I've had sort of overview chapters after each part to remind people what's gone on over the last few months, and as a way to mark the shift into a new period. As it stands I've got nothing written for the 45–56 overview, although it is slated and I will probably do it at some stage. Does anyone particularly have an urge to read something like that, or if I get it out whenever I get around to writing it and slot it in post facto would that do?

Would be particularly interested to hear from anyone out there who might've read the longer overviews to help get into the timeline, which is sort of what they were intended for. If no one's actually using them for that purpose I might just add them in later for completism's sake. (Far more interesting to write about the mid Sixities than go back over the post-war years at this point.)
 

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Fell a little behind, but looks like I’m back in the saddle just in time to see it all fall apart for old Oswald!

Interesting to see homosexuality ending up causing such grief for the Eternal Chairman - and all more or less behind closed doors as well. Looking forward to seeing how it all ends :D.
 

DensleyBlair

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Fell a little behind, but looks like I’m back in the saddle just in time to see it all fall apart for old Oswald!

Interesting to see homosexuality ending up causing such grief for the Eternal Chairman - and all more or less behind closed doors as well. Looking forward to seeing how it all ends :D.

Glad to have you all caught up, Tommy! We are indeed edging ever closer to the post-Mosley world. We’re maybe about six weeks away from the final showdown? So hope you’re all enjoying the ride. :D

Shifting the focus to behind closed doors allows us to see how firm Mosley’s grip on the cabinet actually is. Not a good time for the Chairman for Life when his allies start thinking freely…

Bob Boothby was very much a larger than life character (to put it euphemistically) so thought it would be a shame not to include some aspects of his personality beyond a preference for planned economies.

__________________

I’ve written up to about 1965, so the way things are going I’ll hopefully have all the writing done by the end of September. At the least there are probably still something like 4-5 months to go posting wise, though, so plenty of track left. As I say, hope you’re all still ok with the scenic route.

Have been working out some foreign affairs stuff for the Sixties recently with the ultimate aim of setting things up for “book two”. With any luck that can start being written this autumn, but I also have a couple of other projects I’d like to make some headway on so we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, it’s all downhill from here for Chairman Mosley.

Next update takes a look at the situation in Kenya. It will likely be up once we hit the next page of the thread (not to hold you all to ransom, or owt. We just keep making it tantalisingly close to the bottom of the page at the moment.)
 
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With family until Tuesday and internet is patchy, so update will be pushed back until the middle of next week. I’ll probably then do another next weekend to speed things up a little. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.
 
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With family until Tuesday and internet is patchy, so update will be pushed back until the middle of next week. I’ll probably then do another next weekend to speed things up a little. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.
Enjoy your family time :)
 

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  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
Enjoy your family time :)

Thank you :)

As it turns out I'm now stormbound (fellow Brits may be likewise) so my family stay is going to be extended by a few days. The plus side (of a sort) is that with the horrendous weather will no doubt come an opportunity to get the update out anyway. Something to look forward to as the coming storm plays out summer to a sopping anticlimax.

Stay safe all. Check back in a couple of days for the Kenya update.