I am feeling distinctly sad about the Thomas Cook saga. You will know that the famous old company - Britain's second biggest tour operator - is virtually broke. It has net debts of £1billion, is said to be spending £30million a month and its share price has collapsed. It has gained a day or two of breathing space by negotiating a £200 million loan from its banks, so the word is that it will get through the crucial January holiday booking period. But its mid and long term future looks shaky.
I am sorry not because I depend upon the company for getting me about the planet, but because it played a not insignificant part in Britain's imperial history about which, some of you may have noticed, I rather like to write.
When, in 1896 Kitchener was planning his invasion of the Sudan to attack the Dervishes in Khartoum, way up river in the south, it was to Thomas Cook that he turned to take his supplies down the Nile to feed his advancing army. Without Cook's famous river steamers he would not have been able to fight the Mahdi's army at Omdurman two years later.
Sad that such a once important company is struggling in these hard times. Lord Kitchener of Khartoum must be turning in his watery grave.