The eminent and rebel historian Andrew Lownie is fighting the UK Government, and effectively the royal family, to get the release of Lord Louis Mountbatten’s diaries, so far without success.

They were bought for the nation by Southampton University in 2010 for £2.8 million. Lownie wanted to see the diaries prior to the publication of his book, The Mountbattens: Their Lives And Loves. He was refused. He took his case to the Information Commissioner and won, but the Cabinet Office blocked the release.

While there was conceivably a case that the official diaries concerning Mountbatten’s period as Viceroy and Governor General of India, where the oversaw the partition of the country, might be sensitive, his personal ones, which he kept separate, cannot possibly be.

Mountbatten was the favourite relative of Prince Charles until he was killed by the IRA in 1979 and was a mentor, and Lownie suspects Charles is behind the blocking. An earlier book of Lownie’s, Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor claimed, with lashings of evidence, that the duke was an active Nazi who conspired against Britain. It wasn’t exactly book of the month in Buck House.

The Mountbattens, as we now know thanks to Lownie, had an open relationship and a series of lovers of both sexes. Louis’ perhaps salacious account of serial bed-hopping is clearly not what Charles and the rest of the royals want piled onto their present difficulties concerning the allegations against Andrew.

Brexit or bust

Radio and TV, the entire media on Friday, were urging people not to panic-buy petrol, as queues lengthened and pumps ran out, thus raising the level of panic and leading to more motorists rushing to the pumps. I guess that the Brexit bus with the £350 million a week to the NHS promise has run out of diesel now.

Whisper it but I took a quick visit to Tesco to stock up on toilet paper – I don’t want to be caught out like last time – and pasta. My energy supplier, People’s Energy, went bust during the week so I may have to start burning books or ripping up the wood flooring.

And I suppose I’ll have to add candles to the next shopping list.

I called a friend in France, where the energy comes from the majority state-owned EDF, who confirmed that the lights were still on, the supermarkets shelves were stuffed, and there were no queues for petrol. “But we didn’t do Brexit,” she said.

What’s up docs?

Every morning, before 9am, I receive a text from my GP surgery telling me the practice has reached capacity for the day. It’s not that I have asked for an appointment, it’s just the routine message that I couldn’t get one even if I did. Is this common?

Hospital waiting lists have grown in Scotland, with more than 100,000 still not had their first diagnostic test – 20 per cent higher than a year ago – many for what could be cancer. There are also 400,000 waiting to see a specialist, with almost half having already waited for more than the guaranteed 12 weeks for an appointment.

I’m waiting on the result of a biopsy, and have been for more than two months, but this is not personal, nor is it political.

The NHS is in crisis and is being stealthily privatised. It’s the greatest social achievement of our country, introduced by Nye Bevan and Labour, but don’t expect anything at all radical to come out of their conference this weekend.

Or the succession of dunderheids in Holyrood to get to grips with it.

Temper flares up

LEIGH Griffiths, the Celtic loanee at Dundee, has been charged with “culpable and reckless conduct” after he allegedly kicked a flare that had been thrown at him, back into the St Johnstone fans. I don’t know about 30 goals a season but he’ll certainly rack up 30 spectators.

An Epic court battle

I KNOW that Fortnite is a video game. I don’t know why they can’t spell the title properly but it’s now been banned from Apple’s App Store. Which means any new iPhone buyer – that’s 7.5 million a year – won’t have access and those who have it on their smartphones now won’t be able to update it, thereby alienating the 10 million a day who play the game.

It may seem that this comes into the “so what” category. But, in fact, it’s a battle over the future – software against technology – with not just Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, lining up against Apple but Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and Spotify, who are railing against the 30% commission, or the “Apple tax”, the world’s richest company takes from developers.

The Apple v Epic battle is grinding through the US courts and could take years to resolve. It’s ironic because Apple has been trying to move away from reliance on technology – the iPhone provides 55% of its revenue – to software and services.

In 2019, the profit margin on devices was 32% and falling, whereas services, including software, was 64% and rising.

iPhones, computers and tablets are complex to make, with expensive materials and manufacturers spread across several countries.

The extended supply chain also makes it subject to delay and disruption. Chuck in Covid and US/China tensions and you can see why the launch of the latest iPhone iteration was put back.

Ancient Americans

THE Bering Land Bridge was a strip of ice which once connected Asia with Alaska until it turned to mush in the Ice Age and separated the continents. Until recently, scientists believed that the first humans to set foot in North America did so 16,500 years ago.

But now a team from Bournemouth University – no, I didn’t know there was as uni there either – has proved that homo sapiens settled thousands of years earlier.

Fossil footprints and seeds discovered in New Mexico have been carbon dated and conclude that the barefoots were stamping around at least 23,000 years ago, which I guess is important to know because it gives further indicators of the genetic composition of indigenous Americans.

But it wasn’t one-way traffic. Much later, in 1926, a 30-year-old Polish immigrant living in New York decided she wanted to go back home but couldn’t afford the steamer fare. So Lillian Alling decided to walk, what else, up through the country to

Alaska, and somehow cross the Bering Strait.

She walked to Buffalo and then crossed into Canada on Christmas Eve in 1926. She was walking 30 miles a day. By September 1927, she had reached Hazelton, on the western edge of Canada, and at the mouth of the 1,000-mile-long Yukon Telegraph Trail into the far north.

She was locked up for vagrancy in Hazelton by a local constable, not through malice or because she broke the law, but because she was insisting on continuing and he, JA Wyman, knew she would perish in the harsh winter. When she was released two months later she worked in a Vancouver restaurant saving up money and she set out again.

The last sighting of her was outside Teller in Alaska in 1929 when she had walked at least 5,000 miles. It isn’t known for sure whether she crossed the Strait and into Russia.

But one believable story tells of a group of officials in Provideniya, across the Bering Strait from Alaska, interrogating three eskimos and a Caucasian woman on a beach where they had arrived by boat. There was a 2019 fictionalised Austrian film based on this, but set in the present day, called Lillian. I don’t know how it ends, but like the real-life character, I hope she got across.