Trolling through eBay, I came across a boat described as “relisted due to timewaster.” In the entire history of commerce, has branding somebody a timewaster ever encouraged a sale? I doubt it. At best the seller casts himself as short-tempered, and who wants to do business with Mr Angry? At worst, it raises the suspicion that the “timewaster” discovered something seriously wrong with the goods. Relisted due to rust-finder?
It may be, as a 25-year-old whistleblower claims, that confusion, bad decisions, a short-hours culture and staff working from home caused the Foreign Office to abandon loyal Afghan staff to the mercies of the Taliban as Kabul fell. Or it may be that 25-year-olds shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near the Afghanistan mess in the first place.
It takes older, wiser and more sceptical heads to begin to understand the tangled tapestry of Afghanistan. Corruption in the West-backed Kabul government was not a matter of occasional backhanders. It happened on an industrial scale. Some army battalions simply did not exist; their payroll was siphoned off by officials, their weapons found their way into Taliban armouries. How are bright young things, raised in today's snowflake culture of trust, respect and endless goodwill, expected to comprehend and deal with such depths of duplicity?
And how are these young people expected to understand how quickly a corrupt regime can simply melt away? While so-called experts were predicting that Kabul might hold out for 90 days, wiser and more experienced heads remembered the collapse of Saigon on a single day in April, 1975. There must, of course, be an inquiry into the foreign Office's performance as Kabul fell. It could start by establishing the average age of those on duty.
My recent piece on smogs of yesteryear reminds a reader of a morning in the 1960s when he and his brother set out on their usual mile-and-a-half walk to school. They were accustomed to dense fog. A favourite game was to find a thick patch in the middle of a field, spin around a few times and try to pick up their bearings.
But one morning, “even in those carefree days,” their parents ruled the fog was too dense and drove the lads to school instead. For the record, the boys were aged six and seven.