Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Postcard of the Day No. 72 – Egyptian Military Band

Last week’s trip to Egypt was not an undiluted triumph for Vladimir Putin. Whether by accident or design, he was welcomed by an Egyptian Military Band playing a blissfully off-key version of the Russian National Anthem, a performance that would not have disgraced the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Putin’s poker face is a minor masterpiece of restraint, only let down by the tiniest of facial tremors as the tune reaches its bathetic climax. It’s an excuse to display this fine postcard of another Egyptian Military Band on the march in all its finery, captioned as “Returning to Barracks after the departure of Lord Cromer”. The Egyptian people enjoyed the bracing company of Lord Cromer (Evelyn Baring) for 30 years from 1877 to 1907. As Consul-General and not known for a selfless devotion to the welfare of those less fortunate than himself, Over-Baring (as he was known to his subordinates) was the undisputed ruler of Egypt and earned a reputation for ruthless suppression of nationalist activity. He gave full expression to his contempt for the indigenous population whom he regarded as totally unworthy of governing their own affairs, revealing a singular indifference to the monuments and artefacts of the civilisation of the Pharaohs that must have been easily visible to him. It might have been a considerable relief to see the back of Lord Cromer though there was little cause for celebration as British interference in Egyptian affairs would continue in one form or another until the final withdrawal of troops in 1954. The marching bandsmen register an air of weary resignation as if they already know that they will be old men before their country is fully independent. Back in England, with typical generosity of spirit, Cromer would devote most of his twilight years to the unworthy cause of opposing female suffrage. 

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