Suspending belief

One of the most difficult judgements to make is what to believe in the absence of proof one way or the other.

The Scottish philosopher David Hume suggested that the way out of this dilemma is to fall back on experience to decide what is likely to be true.

For instance, if you were locked up in a light-proof room for 24 hours and on emerging everyone told you that the sun had failed to rise that day, you would have to weigh up which was more likely: that they were lying, or the sun had failed to rise.

As your lifetime experience probably contains more liars than sunrise failures the rational choice is the former.

The other trap to be avoided is believing things because you want to – swallowing the convenient lie rather than chewing on the unpalatable truth, as it were.

A few weeks ago I attended a presentation for Camp Valour – a community interest company promoting a scheme to renovate Hubberston Fort as a centre for helping ex-servicemen and women to make the sometimes difficult transition to civilian life.

A more worthy cause it is difficult to imagine.

We were given a glossy brochure setting out Camp Valour’s plans.

Under “Management” we read:

“The Director, Fabian Faversham-Pullen, served in the armed forces for a period of 25 years, serving in various conflicts around the world.

Upon leaving the military with the rank of Major, Fabian completed a law degree at Liverpool University.

Along with his business partner he then [my emphasis] helped to form a charity and became a trustee of D-DAY REVISITED, the charity’s aim was to assist Veterans of the Normandy campaign to return to the battlefields to take part in the annual commemorations.”

We also learn that, because of the dwindling numbers of D-Day survivors, this charity is now being wound up with assets of £1.2 million.

In another part of the business plan we are told that the CIC intends to convert the Victorian-era fort to accommodate 250 ex-service personnel and an unspecified number of staff and that it has access to funding of £2.75 million from sources such as Rolls Royce (£50,000) Airbus (£100,000) Heritage Lottery Fund (£250,000) Help4heroes (£500,000) as well as assistance in kind from such well known companies as JCB, Laing and Balfour Beatty.

It all seemed too good to be true and as so often with such schemes it probably is.

When I got home I checked out Major Faversham-Pullen on the web and discovered that he was born in 1974, which, as the mathematicians among you will already have worked out, makes him 45 years old this year.

I also looked up D-Day revisited and discovered it was formed in 2009.

So we have 25 years in the forces + three years law degree course before he “then” became involved with charity in 2009 – 38 years in all.

That would mean he was still in short pants when he signed on for his 25 years in the military.

Not wishing to think ill of the project or its promoters, I put this down to careless use of “then” and if you allow overlap between his involvement with the charity; his service career; and the time spent studying for a law degree it is possible to square the circle.

Less easy to explain is where room is to be found at Hubberston Fort for the 250 ex-service personnel + staff – some 15% of the adult population of the Hubberston ward.

Now I notice that the website Jac o’ the North is asking questions about Major Fabian Faversham-Pullen.

Jac claims that he was formerly Sean Keven Patrick Pullen and “emerged from his pupa in Milford Haven as the dazzling butterfly Fabian Sean Lucien Faversham-Pullen.”

And, right on cue, Grumpette, who is the councillor for Hubberston, has received an email from someone in the know with an account – derived from D-Day revisited’s entry on the charity commission’s website – of the Major’s metamorphosis over the past few years:

from Sean Pullen in 2013, to Fabien Faversham-Pullen in 2014, to Major Fabien Faversham-Pullen in 2015 to F. Faversham-Pullen in 2016.

As the motto of the Royal Society has it: “Nullius in verba”, which, for those deprived of the benefits of a classical education, roughly translates as “Don’t take anyone’s word for it”.

Or as the US space agency, NASA, puts it: “In God we trust, all others must bring data”.