Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Herman Cain is one of the many Republican candidates for the American presidency.  Somewhat unsurprisingly a woman has come forward claiming to have had a 13 year long affair with him. I say 'unsurprisingly' as it appears every other candidate is found out by his dallying with a woman of some kind at some time. In'the land of the free' some things are not 'free' after all.  

There is something worrying about all this. Apart from the loose living candidates, not to mention their women who appear always to be the 'innocent' parties, at least when they appear on television talk shows, in the press and in magazine articles for months and years to come, apart from all this there is a hypocrisy in requiring high standards from leaders while not living in similar manner ourselves.  American presidents must be married, to one wife, no girlfriends, no sexual perversions, nothing 'immoral' must be found upon him.  However this is a nation in which many demand the absurdity of 'gay marriage,' in which millions are aborted annually, millions on the welfare schemes, and those who have resist strongly sharing their wealth with those who have not, especially the sick or old!  Surely something is amiss?  The UK is of course no better.  We demand from leaders that which we allow elsewhere, especially where we are concerned.  

An individual, whether king or peasant, ought to have a private life, and we can see with the inquiry into the UK media just how little privacy anyone actually has, yet we demand from them a moral stability that we can respect. Surely the first thing that matters must be their ability, not the faults they share with us all?  Lord Palmerston had many women at his beck and call, and often they were involved in other nations governments, and this helped him, and them, no end. he lasted until he was 81 in high office, although Victoria would not allow him into Buckingham Palace as he was 'not respectable.' Today he would be hounded out. Churchill drank and was called a drunk, although in fact he was never a drunk in any way, JFK had his women and at that time it was ignored, he would not be seen as a hero today by many.  How many leaders of ability were 'moral?'  Few if any.  The very job makes straight forward moral decisions difficult.  The US requires a leader with the ability to do the job in front of him, his peccadilloes may tell us much about him but must not be the predominant factor.  If they are many good leaders from the past would never have got there.        


Monday, 28 November 2011

Late Afternoon

Wandering about on a fruitless search for work I dragged my weary body through the streets.  Nothing happened. That sums up the excitement for today and reveals the staggering joy of my life at the moment.  Now that winter has arrived bringing cold temperatures, wind which cut through the thin layers of my coat, and make me wander about outside as it is warmer there than inside my palatial palace, I may find dragging my body harder work, wearing all those old anoraks like......  Nothing of any interest happened this morning again, I did not expect it would. The weariness from that bug still hangs around and it takes ages to do anything unless pushed into it.  I did struggle through the aches to begin some of my duties, but not many.  Still I am not one to complain.....

There is a growing number of inflatable snowmen standing outside folks doors these days.  Plastic reindeer's, Santa's climbing up walls, lights strung up alongside houses and a pitiful few decorate the centre of town.  Christmas trees drop their needles on many a carpet and 'It is tidings of comfort and joy,' everywhere.  You can see it in the happy smiling faces of the people as they blow their car horns loudly at one another and growl meaningfully at passers-by. Those carrying trees or rolls of wrapping paper are happy to share their joy by shoving them into your back in their hurry to get home to share their joy and happiness.  Shops increase the price of their cards, toys and paper as they inflict Chrismassy tunes on the shoppers to get them 'in the mood.'  It certainly creates a mood in me all right but not one that ought to arise at Christmas, or any other time come that.  In the 70's the boss of the Cash & Carry where I worked put Christmas tunes on the Tannoy.  It took minutes before we all wandered around tight lipped and fuming at the music on offer, several days later we were word perfect on they tunes but some chose to change the words and insert others referring to the boss himself.  He may not have been pleased had he heard them. 

Mid winter celebrations are a must for us here in the cold, wet, northern hemisphere, and it is rather sad that Christmas is abused at this time.  Much better to follow the Scots way and celebrate new year.  The idea of covering up a pagan celebration with a Christian one was understandable but a slight misjudgment there I reckon. Jesus birth ought to be celebrated properly and a drunken commercial event does not do this.  However I will accept cards and gifts, reluctantly, if proffered!   

Does this car belong to anyone you know.....?

I thought the owner of this number plate would have a better car.....


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sunday Night

Sunday night entertainment was spent crawling through the ever darkening streets attempting to find a spot where I could picture the sunset and feature the large crescent moon.  By the time I found a spot it was quite dark and the moon itself looks awfully small in this pic, but it is there!  Wonderful sky tonight, the colours are hard to beat as the sun sinks below the distant horizon (there must be hundreds of them there, one goes down there every night!).  In spite of the beauty of the skies above I noticed that few appeared to notice.  How we miss so much by looking no further than our nose!  

The football world was upset today by the news of Gary Speeds death. He was found hanged at home early this morning. Police state that no suspicious circumstances were involved. Forty two year old Speed was manager of the Welsh football team and had a good reputation within football.  Only yesterday he had appeared on a TV football programme and had spoken to one or two of his friends and appeared outwardly to be happy enough.  Both TV and radio have been filled with stunned friends and colleagues sharing their shock at his death.

The reason for his suicide is not yet known but several articles end with reference to the Samaritans and stress the importance of 'talking to someone' if a man has problems.  This is a wise precaution as many men feel despair at their various situations yet will not talk about it to anyone.  Some feel weak if they talk, others embarrassed.  The Samaritans, as well as doctors and other agencies have seen it all before and are well able to offer a non judgmental listening ear, and able to direct individuals to the help they require.  No man needs to suffer in silence!  


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Saturday Night Out

So I decided after the dubious replies this morning that I needed a night on the tiles.  I intended to seek the bright lights of the town centre (paid for by credit card) and eat at the 'Thai Curry House and Takeaway Massage' where I have, er 'friends.'  Then head for the 'Independent Bar' where the landlord assures me there are no drugs allowed on his premises. When I pointed out to him when I met him in the street yesterday that a chap flung a brick at the head of another in his bar he replied, "Yes he did, but drugs were not involved. Just needless violence."  I couldn't argue with that.  However it may be better I reckoned that I went to the 'Nags Head,' or whatever it is called now.  There again I hesitate, what with the doormen, sorry 'entrance control officers' and the 'incident,' I must reconsider.  'The Bull' has stood in the market place for well over a hundred years, serving the public and being well recommended by one and all. Once it was filled with farmers and their ilk as the market pens were opposite the entrance. Cattle, sheep, and servants would be bought and sold in between 'refreshment in the 'Bull.'  I think it is a legal 'must' that every market town or village in England has a pub in the centre called 'The Bull!'  Today there are few farmers there watching the football on one of the may screens, few young males watch it in the early evening as young females wearing pelmets arrive and distract them. Hmmm that might affect my heart too much so I am not sure about that one. There is of course the ancient 'Boars Head,' and the other place next door, a third watering hole down the road full of rich trendy folks (they think) stoned out of their head, all of which can give one like me an evening of fun and jollity (laughing at them).  Pubs restaurants, happy young people, loud music, wine, dancing......hold on, wait a minute, it's raining!  Well forget it, I canny go out.  I have a hole in both my shoes and I am not squelching about in my condition.  Now, what's on TV instead....?     


Friday, 25 November 2011

Friday Night Entertainment

There was a time when I couldn't wait for the No 17 bus to arrive.  At 7:30 on the dot, except when it was late as it was most Friday nights, I would clamber aboard and head for the bright city lights.  Usually this meant a pub in Edinburgh's  Rose Street called the 'Goblet.'  There we would carouse along with other citizens as we wasted our money and lives on lager at one shilling and elevenpence a pint. Oh that was living!  Actually no it wasn't but there you are.  Gordon Brown was one of the residents of the lounge, although we didn't know he was Gordon brown until many years later.  He was just one of the student oiks who sat behind the door. Nice blokes but clearly students as they had more to drink than we could afford!  Friday nights around the world remains the same for many. Seeking the life of adventure, company, friends, entertainment and jollity they crowd the city centres, the pubs and clubs and other places of 'entertainment.' Once I could not wait to get out and join the happy throng and not be trapped in the house. Friday, and Saturdays for that matter, meant I had to do something 'out there, I could not be inside while 'life' happened and I missed it  My life needed to be where it was all at, even if it wasn't actually, but at least I was there when life didn't happen.

I was cogitating on this earlier tonight as I happily browsed the 48 page 'Tesco Big Price Drop' brochure,  selecting bargains with which to fill my kitchen cupboards. Rejecting the page full of '£1 OFF' vouchers as the products so reduced were not worth having even if free I checked the prices of a wide variety of special offers, all of which are way over the cost of the 'Own Brand' versions, even when reduced. Comparing the price on the 'Jacobs CLUB' with the price of 'Raisin and Lemon Pancakes' I suddenly realised that I was an old woman.  I ought to have known this as it is something that has been pointed out to me quite often before. By 'quite often' I actually mean daily since around 1960.  Before that I was just 'stupid brat!'  In spite of all the evidence to the contrary I have continued to ignore this rather obvious revelation even though I now have a collection of Supermarket 'Special Offers' leaflets going back to 2001. Doesn't everyone keep theirs....? Man how prices have changed!  So here I am no longer concerned with the bright lights nor the drink that makes them brighter, the attractions of the world appear to me to be empty, worthless and stupidly expensive.  Yet I am happier in many ways now than I was then.  Life is strange, innit....?

 Oops, 8:45 pm, almost time for the cocoa.......        


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Old Photos

This is Paris 9111 by Alfred Stieglitz. I like this, especially enlarged.  This is not a great subject but it is real life and I like that sort of thing.  Photographic fashion changes over the years, possibly reflecting society, possibly reflecting the photographer, possibly just folks playing around with the camera.  Stieglitz didn't 'play around,' and produced some interesting pictures in his day. Born in New Jersey in 1864 he was presenting his first pictures by the 1880's. Considering the bulkiness of the cameras and the difficulty of developing and printing in those early days it is amazing how quickly photography caught on. Alfred was a man at the centre of the American photographic world until his death in 1946.

Henri Cartier - Bresson 1908-2004 came later and was the master of the candid picture. He was not however keen of being photographed himself which is a bit unfair.  Considered one of the greatest of his time he was aided by the invention just before the Great War of the Leica Camera. The compact nature and quiet workings enabled him to pry on people take candid snaps.

Bert Hardy 1913-1995 came to fame as a Picture Post cameraman. This magazine combined news stories with good quality pictures and was popular until the days of television took away the public. Bert's pictures combined gritty reality of life in Britain before and after the Second World War. Whatever the subject Hardy gave realism a human edge, these were real people and readers of the magazine could easily identify with them. He is without doubt one of the great British photographers. 


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Music Comparison

CCR are a group that have been around for many years.  I like this type of thing now and again and today I found them on YouTube  Not the most intellectual group, they are from the south after all, but I do like a stomping band every so often and they fit the bill.

On the other hand I like this also. (No not because of the cover which I suspect was designed by a man)  While CCR records last about three minutes 'A Winged Victory For The Sullen,' lasts over seven minutes of deep thought and cogitation. A mellow sound very different from CCR.  I like both.

What thinkest thou....?


Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Foggy Day

Just visible in this pic is the hazy mist that has hung about all day.  Behind me, but difficult to picture, the mist was thicker in the lower lying ground.  Until midday the mist was very thick and ideal for clever photographers to make the most of the opportunities.  One amateur was either in his kip or stuffing his face to much to make the effort to go out however and that football does not watch itself.  More of this tomorrow as autumn takes hold of us and winter begins to lower the temperature before it arrives.


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Nothing Happened Today

Nothing happened today.  I got up, wandered about, spoke to a Labrador, made a mince stew, bought tomatoes, and took this picture.  The football was uninteresting, the energy nil, the mince was mince, and now I am wandering through YouTube to find relaxing Jazz, like this.....

This is no bad either.....

Music for Saturday night,all American and no cowboys to be seen!


Friday, 18 November 2011


Rising just before six am I retrieved my aching hulk from the bundle of rags, filled the cavernous stomach with stale bread, checked the papers online, peered through the curtains to see if the sun was working and then headed into the fray. By eight I had done the weekly shop and was free to picture the early sun doddering into the sky in the far distance. (The sun has to be in the far distance otherwise things could be a bit awkward.) Then, having put the east wing of the salubrious residence back into some sort of order, cleaned it, opened the windows to let freshish air in, I then sat down for a tea break.
I died!
I recall working in the Hospital at Maida Vale when we ran about all day non stop. It was a constant movement with always something to do, oxygen cylinders, patients, cars, nurses throwing themselves at us, the usual.  However on a Sunday, especially when doing a twelve hour shift it was impossible to motivate the lithe body I then had to do the three trips upstairs with the dinner trolleys!  The demand for an oxygen cylinder caused much resentment and meant movement!     
Having done all the important physically demanding things the energy disappeared!
There were things to be done on the PC but I had not got the impetus to do them.  Had I to lift and carry I could do it but with no such demand the adrenalin ran away and left me. Rather like most women I know (what did you say?).  The rest of the day has seen me limp around, doze, and generally waste away.  The PC stuff is still not done, as indeed are the dishes - again, and I am looking forward to my bed.
Oh how I live the high life...... 


Thursday, 17 November 2011


Sepp Blatter the chief suit at FIFA is in trouble again. Speaking in English he rather made light of racism in football, suggesting that comments made could be dealt with by a 'handshake' afterwards. Whether using English made his meaning unclear or not he walked into one of those lynch mobs that gather so easily these days, especially when 'race' is concerned. 'Outrage' and 'fury' fill the media and an England international has become embroiled in a 'Twitter' exchange with Blatter over this. It seems to me his meaning was not clear but in the UK racist comments at football matches have been more or less removed.  Such is not the case in some other places, eastern Europe for instance gives black players a very hard time, and comments like Blatters brings out the 'easily offended' almost immediately.  Similar response was seen the other day when a sacked 'caddy' of Tiger Woods referred to Woods as a 'black arsehole.'  The media jumped at the chance! Not only was this 'Tiger,' a big name in the world (and one they themselves had roundly abused not that long ago on pages etc) but the caddy used the word 'black.'  'Racism' loudly cried the democratic free world that believes in free speech! (It's not fascism when we do it by the way!) shock, horror, disgraceful!  Both situations produced media outcries, both fill space and allow some to appear disgruntled on television and both were way over the top in my view.  

Blatter is a 'suit,' the president of the major football organisation, one renown for the corruption within and around. I doubt he would ever encourage racism in any form, but as a political operator has clearly not done enough to bring it to an end where it does still show.  The caddy, who's name escapes me as he was such an important fellow, had a grudge against his former boss, for whom he worked for many years successfully.  He has a right to be upset, his comment, like Blatters, may have been daft but neither were they racist. Both were small incidents and an apology could have ended it all within minutes.  The media however require a 'storm!' 

  I indicated to some on an English paper today an item of English racism that constantly arises and is never made into a major fuss by the media.  This time King James the VI & I was described, as he always is in the English press, as King James I.  Clearly had they followed the Guardian take and referred correctly to him as 'King James I of England, their Scottish monarch,' it would have been acceptable.  However this was ignorant English racism that claims him as English and Scotland as part of 'Greater England.'  It is an unconscious thing mostly, but it treats Scotland with contempt and no media ever claims this as wrong!  Indeed the response was arrogant insults, as always! It appears some wrongs are worth shouting about just because the popular mood says so, even if they are minor, other wrongs can be ignored.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Happy Smile Club

One club we all enthusiastically joined whether we like it or not was the 'Happy Smile Club.'  The entire primary school accepted membership to encourage us to clean our teeth morning or night. The success of this club is shown in the many fillings I have since obtained, although seven of these arrived by my insistence on eating cheap chewing gum! While in London cheerful Australian dentists working their way across Europe helpfully removed more, and took some of the nerves with them, and asked me to answer questions while my mouth was frozen solid. These memories ran through my addled brain this morning while I mused upon the trip across the road to Dr Sanei. A lovely man he may be but he is a dentist!  As such he is armed with a lovely smile, a blonde (I note they are always blonde) dental nurse and a dirty big drill. He smiled, the nurse smiled, the receptionist smiled, and the drill stared.....   However he did nothing but 'give them a clean' with what appeared to be a 'Back and Decker' power drill. Then threw me out onto the street unwanted for another year.  The daylight looked a lot brighter when I emerged I can tell you.

As I sauntered through the market I cogitated on why dentists are usually depressed, well they are always looking down in the mouth aren't they? Anyway then it was back home to paint once again.  Half the room done in an afternoon and stopped only because of failing light.  It was impossible to differentiate what I had done from what had gone before, so I gave up. 
It is a strange sight when clearing things away to note paint on the shirt, the carpet, the door and ask yourself "Why is there Magnolia footprints walking down the stairs.....?"   I am reminded of the sight of bright emerald green ladies barefoot prints making their way into the Royal Free Hospital in the early eighties. Who had been on the end of them and how they got their I never discovered.  Possibly this was one of the medical student pranks that occasionally happened there. One year one or two thought it a laugh to race through the main entrance in a Mini Car and spin round and drive out again.  Medical students have always been in my mind the daftest of all students.  Possibly because once a doctor that straight laced bedside manner has to constantly be on call.  

All this effort is killing me, I have been a scrounger (@ 'Daily Mail reader) for so long that working half a day, shifting this, lifting that, going out for this and that, tote that barge, lift that bale, and then painting and putting it all back again is wearing me out.  To think I once worked hard lifting and carrying, sometimes things and at other times people, and now the slightest effort makes me long for my bed, an object which lies somewhere under that junk piled upon it when painting.  

It's a good job I am not one to complain, that's all I can say....    


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Morning Crow

This is the morning crow, I rarely see him later in the day.  He and his mates gather to feed on the brats leftovers lying around, and rarely in, the abundant bins provided.  These crows are powerful birds and very confident in their strength at that.  Passing seagulls often land to help themselves and one crow will descend and chase the lot away.  They do not like it and circle screeching but rarely attempt to take on these boys.  
Not long ago I was up the road and noticed a dozen or so pigeons flocking together somewhat nervously.  Thy raced this way and that, keeping a tight formation and over my head passed a large hunting bird, a Kestrel or Hawk of some kind.  He ignored them and flew on at a steady pace to another area, probably because  a few feet behind him, and slightly to his right, followed  a crow, gently escorting him, like a Spitfire chasing a Heinkel, out off the area. A few years back, in London, the church opposite had a pecking order on the roof.  The pigeons lined up along the main part of the building, wood pigeons took to the tree, and the crows, lots of them, dominated the square tower overlooking everyone. On occasions a crow would sweep down and chase everyone away, just to show who was boss, but otherwise folks just got along well. That is until a Kestrel, which belonged to a nearby church tower, decided to land on this one and have seat in the afternoon sun. Boy was he unpopular!  The pigeons decided to move elsewhere and all the crows gathered to yell at the stranger.  The noise was terrific but he just sat there on the corner shouting back.  After a while he flew off and was escorted out by a crowd of screaming banshees and never returned.  I'm not surprised!

I feel the need to do something physical.  So I said to the landlord's manager, "I will paint the hall for you," as they worked on the flat next door. So Friday, late on, I done a few 'edges' and on Saturday I spent a while (2hours in the morning and three in the afternoon) painting.  Yesterday I had to run into Colchester because the dole have put me on a 'work' programme.  This meant getting up at the crack of dawn to get the ten o'clock train. A huge queue was grumbling there as the 'chip and pin' 'Visa' card system was not issuing tickets and they were having much trouble getting through the folk.  The train was due and normally all would have been well. not today! As I eventually got to the hole in the wall I decided not to use the card as the train was about to leave  and offered money (where did I get that?) and the train doors closed.  He threw the tickets at me and shouted to the rest "Pay on the train!" We charged the doors and got on just!  I then had almost an hour in the boring part of Colchester to wait for my appointment which took 20 minutes and got nowhere.  While waiting to be paid my fares (the best bit off the day) meant a long queue behind one man who was chancing his arm enquiring as to how he could make more out of it, I mean get paid also.  I then had another hour wandering around before my train was due.  I arrived home knackered, it was almost as if I had worked! This morning I finished the painting and stood back and understood why I never became a decorator.  There was more on the carpet and on me than on the wall, and the dust sheet was sticking a bit also. Still I might get a bit of work helping out as there is too much for the two bodgers to do themselves. Oh me back!  Now I have to do my bedroom with left over paint also. is there no end to this? I had forgotten working was so tiring,  I'm off to bed... 


Monday, 14 November 2011

Sunday, 13 November 2011


I attended the Remembrance ceremony at the local memorial this afternoon and was somewhat surprised by the turn out. I expected a few dozen and possibly a thousand or two were there. As expected the local dignitaries, mayor, leading men, armed forces representatives and British Legion personnel attended, prayers were said, and wreaths laid.  A march to the church followed and we all went home. A few individual servicemen were there and I wondered what they thought of such memorials?  After all one day they might appear on them?  Perfect respect was made by the people, and as I glanced at the ages of civilian men wearing medals from recent actions I wondered how many were remembering comrades who have died and remain real to them today.  The vicar gave a few words, and I found it somewhat grating when he talked of the men fighting for 'righteousness,' that may well have been for some but not for all. There appears to be an unwillingness to talk honestly at such services, platitudes appear to be the thing to do.  Behind him are the names of around 200 men who fell in the Great War he could at least have mentioned one or two by name.  False religion does not convey truth to the people and I was disappointed with this.

Remembrance like this began with the loss of 750,000 lives during the Great War, around 300,000 still missing after all these years. Humans require a place to mourn their dead and the Cenotaph in London and the Stone of Remembrance in Edinburgh became places for mourning, both private and official.  Within ten years memorials were to be found throughout the UK and well attended each Armistice Day. No 'jingoism' is found here, and today many remember enemies as well as friends during such meetings. Whether those who fought the 'taliban' feel this way is open to debate, but that will come in time. Predominately we mourn or commemorate our own but all war dead, worldwide, can be remembered at times like these. War will always occur, and peace is not possible for humanity but we can do our best to avoid war and if not we can at least remember those who fall.

Those who fell are often known to have sacrificed themselves for others.  The pilots who kept an aircraft in the air why the crew bail out, the few who hold to the last man a position to allow their comrades to withdraw, the small escort sloop which turns towards an enemy battleship to protect a convoy are said to have  'laid down their life for their friends.' Such self sacrifice is not uncommon in war, and not always from those we would expect to be 'hero's.'  Most are just men, young men at that, who respond to a situation and give themselves for others.  No wonder we remember such men, even if they receive no official reward. What sort of man lays down his life for another?  Duty, comradeship, are at least to reasons and I suspect those who act this way do not do so because they have planned such an end.  Jesus at least knew his end when he offered his life for his friends.  Duty and pure love made him lay down his life for us all, and we were, and still are some of us, all enemies of him, yet he gave himself anyway.  This thought always comes to me at such remembrances.  It is easy to die for comrades some would say but it is another thing altogether to love your enemies and give yourself for them.  That is worth remembering.


Friday, 11 November 2011

Other Wars, Large and Small

I have never come across this medal before.  It is a copy of the medal presented to those who served in the 'Forgotten War,' Korea, between 1950 and 1953. This short sharp war cast many lives and reflects the USA and Russia's first attempt to dominate the world without resorting to Atomic War! By fighting in South East Asia, Africa and Central & South America nuclear devastation was kept at bay for sixty years. The devastation and after effects may well have cost over fifty million lives but none occurred in the west, so that's all right then!  Several nations were involved in the fight in Korea, The US, Britain & Australia amongst them. Remembrance today must include these men along with those who served in the major wars before 1950.  These men suffered similar traumas and you can read about two such men on this short memorial to them, 'A Hill in Korea.'  Another who served there, aged 18 and conscripted like it or not, was Sir Michael Caine the actor. He saw service there as well as in many movies, where at least he knew how to look like a soldier.  Michael Caine, Royal Fusilier.

Korea was only one of many wars and battles fought, especially during the 'end of empire' that saw Britain loose the many colonies around the world. India, Israel, the middle east, Malaysia, Kenya where the Mau Mau rebellion lasted several years, Cyprus and Aden all saw British troops in action.  1958 was the only year in which British forces saw no action.  Of course we also think of Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, the Falklands and Oman, a war in which the SAS worked silently for many years.  Wandering through town today I passed an ageing army lorry festooned with poppies, rifles and tommy guns, a German  steel helmet of WW2 vintage, without the German inside, and a group of stout ex-servicemen bedecked with medals, some from the Second War. On Sunday they will assemble again at one of the memorials and their remembrance will be more poignant than any of ours. They do not remember names and old photographs, they will remember the memories, and they will remember the person who did not return.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Bomber Command

From 1939 until the success of D-Day on June the 6th 1944 the only real tactic the British had to hand that could hurt the German enemy in Europe was Bomber Command.  Early results showed that the safest and most effective tactic for the RAF was to fly at night, aircraft well spaced out, and bomb the targets. For the majority of raids this was to be the procedure followed. When the Americans joined in during 1942 they decided to fly in tight group formations and flew during the day.  Both suffered heavy losses. RAF aircrews endured a tour of 30 operations, only one in six expected to survive their first tour! Some flew huge numbers of sorties, Guy Gibson VC the leader of the 'Dambusters Raid,' flew with several types of aircraft and managed at least 175 sorties. Even so the RAF bomber crews had a life expectancy worse than that of junior officers during the first world war.  By wars end these crews had served in every theatre of war and suffered 55,573 crewmen killed, 8,403 wounded and 9,838 becoming prisoners of war. This out of a total crew number of 125,000!  Most of these airmen were aged between 19 - 25, Guy Gibson was a mere 26 when he died, probably from 'friendly fire.'  RAF crews also contained many from Australia, Canada and New Zealand and the West Indies who shared the suffering of the British crews. Bombing caused major casualties on the ground and many today wish to see Bomber Command as a war crime!  It is fair to say that the majority of those who say this never actually lived under the threat of German bombing themselves, maybe if they did they may feel differently.  It has also to be said many who endured the Luftwaffe hated the effect of bombing on those on the ground in Germany also.  However if you 'sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.' Remember those young men who courageously flew off into the freezing dark night, in danger from enemy fighters, effective anti aircraft fire and the knowledge that if they did manage to return for breakfast some at least would not.  Each night RAF airfields heard the roar of Rolls Royce engines as aircraft of many types took to the skies as the nation slept, safe in their beds, more or less.  

Lie in the Dark and Listen


Noel Coward

Lie in the dark and listen, 
It's clear tonight so they're flying high 
Hundreds of them, thousands perhaps, 
Riding the icy, moonlight sky. 
Men, materials, bombs and maps 
Altimeters and guns and charts 
Coffee, sandwiches, fleece-lined boots 
Bones and muscles and minds and hearts 
English saplings with English roots
Deep in the earth they've left below 
Lie in the dark and let them go 
Lie in the dark and listen.
Lie in the dark and listen

They're going over in waves and waves
High above villages, hills and streams
Country churches and little graves
And little citizen's worried dreams.
Very soon they'll have reached the sea
And far below them will lie the bays
And coves and sands where they used to be
Taken for summer holidays.
Lie in the dark and let them go
Lie in the dark and listen.

Lie in the dark and listen 
City magnates and steel contractors, 
Factory workers and politicians 
Soft hysterical little actors Ballet dancers,
'reserved' musicians, 
Safe in your warm civilian beds 
Count your profits and count your sheep
Life is flying above your heads 
Just turn over and try to sleep. 
Lie in the dark and let them go 
Theirs is a world you'll never know 
Lie in the dark and listen.


Poppy Wearing

I begin to worry about those who wear the 'Poppy.  This small plastic emblem is worn throughout the UK as an act of remembrance for those who fell while serving with the armed services.  This covers two major wars and those many smaller yet violent conflicts of recent years, any serviceman wherever he fell. Money collected goes towards the Royal British Legion to support ex-servicemen. However I worry about the pressure that hangs around the nation concerning the wearing of this emblem.

The poppy was the brainchild of an American lass called Moina Michael while working for the YMCA in New York.  She had read John McCrae's poem 'In Flanders Fields' and was inspired by the line 'We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.'  Poppies of course were abundant in the battlefields of France and Flanders.  They grow easily and the blood red colour stood out among the often brown dreary landscape all around. She was inspired to do something to remember the fallen and when gifted $10 she decided to buy poppies with the money. Those whom she worked amongst, many servicemen about to leave for France, were delighted with the poppy idea and wanted to buy them from her as an act of remembrance, and all this on the 9th of November, two days before the Armistice came into force. For the next year or two Moina attempted to get the poppy adopted by the USA but few were interested. Eventually the American Legion adopted the poppy in 1920.  A fellow YMCA worker, a Frenchwoman called Anna Guerin took the idea to France with the intention of raising funds for children and others bereft after the war.  Soon she and Moina took the poppy to London and Moina convinced Earl Haig, the President of the British Legion, that the poppy could be used to raise funds for ex-servicemen. The first red poppies were sold for remembrance day 1921 in the UK. In 1922 a small factory employing five men was established to make poppies, by the early thirties the factory was in large premises in  Richmond and today produces 40 million a year!  Lady Haig opened a similar factory in Edinburgh, Haigs birthplace, in 1926 and employed ex-servicemen making poppies.  They produce four million a year from her factory. The symbol spread to most nations involved in the Great War.      

During the fifties the memory of the second world war was still strong and it was natural for the nation to come to a standstill for two minutes on Remembrance Sunday and attend memorial services at war memorials up and down the land. By the sixties we young folks were less interested in war.  Anything military was to be opposed rather than stressed and the 'spirit of the air' led us into 'making love not war,' even though there was more tea made near me I must say.  The nation rebelled against uniforms and discipline and became free in many good ways and it took a couple of decades before we began to realise that 'discipline' and armed services were not dirty words. The British army endured much during the Irish troubles, and an appreciation of the army began to grow.  With the Falklands Conflict, and the historically inaccurate 'patriotism' engendered by Thatcher again an appreciation of the worth and ability of the British armed Services grew.  With two Iraq adventures, Afghanistan and not forgetting Bosnia and Liberia, and the sight of dead soldiers coming home the poppy has once more come into its own.

Those of us who have read a great deal about war can be pleased to see such men are not forgotten by their nation, I however fear that now this has tipped over and pressure is on one and all to 'join in and remember,'   and those who defer are seen as enemies. One place where this attitude can be seen is in Edinburgh with the Heart of Midlothian football team. In November 1914, when volunteering for the army was slackening and an outcry regarding 'young men playing sport while the Hun is at hand' was reaching a crescendo many players of this club enlisted in Sir George McLean's 16th Battalion of the Royal Scots. Those crying had ignored other players who were already serving as reservists or members of the Territorial Army.  Seven of these men did not return, others were severely injured and never played again. A memorial to them was erected in Edinburgh's Haymarket and a service of remembrance is held there each year. Since Jack Alexanders excellent book, 'McCrae's Battalion' was published a few years ago an upsurge in remembrance has affected the fans of this club. Many contributed to a memorial built at Contalmaison in France, buy replica remembrance shirts, and attend the memorial.  However I am well aware that a great many would be much less keen had our local rivals been the team involved.  Their support is for their football team rather than for the men who served.  McCrae's was of course built on the Hearts players but the majority were members of the public and as such the battalion is an Edinburgh Battalion, not a Hearts one, and many refuse to accept this. 

On television it is impossible to note any live broadcast where each person wears a poppy. TV stations will pin them on and few have the courage to refuse. This however is not the freedom men died for is it? A recent fuss regarding wearing poppies on international football team shirts has hit the headlines. FIFA, the ruling body, refuses any political, religious discriminatory message on such shirts and saw the poppy as political.  It can be seen this way but today represents remembrance for most of us, and remembrance of all war dead, even the enemies.  The Prime Minister had his PR stunt in parliament claiming this ' a disgrace,' the media shouted and hollered, and Prince William (who?) has contacted FIFA to object. Now players from Scotland, Wales and England will wear black armbands with poppies emblazoned upon them to mark their respects at this weekend games. I wonder still about the reasons they are worn.  Many indeed respect the memory today, tomorrow much of the nation will come to a standstill at eleven o' clock on the morning of the eleventh month for two minutes, in shops, factories and in offices throughout the land, most will respect the moment some will not. Too many on TV and the football field follow public pressure and wear these emblems.  Too few really comprehend the deeper meaning.  The day after remembrance Sunday it will all be forgotten for another year!  Not so for servicemen who have lost limbs in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Northern Ireland, Aden, Cyprus, Israel, or who have suffered dreams and terrors since 1945, for such the war has never ended. They and their relatives live with the effects each day. Let us not forget them, whether friend or foe, for it is those who have endured war who most often oppose it.  Remembrance helps us to prevent wars, let us not 'remember' just because we are told to do so.  

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

USA Road Trip in 5 Minutes

An interesting, and cheap way to see much of the USA.  At this speed we can also avoid having to speak to any Yanks or Rebels that we may come across!  And you know what they are like!


Early on the morning of the seventh of December 1941 the Japanese attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbour.  While relations between the two nations were in a state of high tension a state of war was not to be expected outside of an official 'opening' of hostilities. In an effort, vain as it happened, to destroy the US aircraft carrier fleet and as many battleships and major infrastructure as possible the Japanese followed the plan developed by Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto. His plan was a copy of the Royal Naval attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto  on November 1940. As military attache he was in Italy at the time he was able to view the success of the 'Stringbag' 'Fairey Swordfish aircraft disable the Italian fleet with one attack. The intention was to prevent the United States Navy interfering in Japanese efforts to dominate south east Asia and grab all the natural resources for themselves and remove the British, Dutch and French colonial forces there. The attack was totally unexpected, two waves comprising over three hundred and fifty planes sunk four battleships, damaging four others.  Three cruisers were sunk or damaged, one minelayer, one anti aircraft training ship and three destroyers were also damaged along with one hundred and eighty eight aircraft. Almost two and a half thousand Americans were killed and well over a thousand wounded.  A mere twenty nine aircraft and five midget Japanese submarines were destroyed along with sixty five men killed.  One midget submariner was captured, to his eternal shame.  The shock of the nature of the attack brought the United States into the war,and almost immediately Germany and Italy declared war on America also, siding with the Japanese in a failed alliance and sealed their own doom, Hitler having already attacked the Soviet Union in May of that year. Four long and hard fought years later, on the decks of the USS Missouri General Douglas MacArthur declared these proceedings to be, 'closed.'    

These two photographs were taken during the raid on a 
small Kodak Box Camera. The camera was discovered with the 
film still inside and when developed a dozen or so pictures 
of the raid appeared.  
The were published in a newspaper and stupidly I cannot find the link!
There fore I am not sure what happened to the photographer or 
why they lay so long undiscovered.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Remember if you will the men of Great Britain's fledgling air force who flew across the short distance from Dover to Boulogne and on deep into France.  Initially some 60 machines entered service, many of them frail Avro 504's pictured above, and began work observing enemy maneuvers.  This was not always appreciated.  As the British second Corps made its way to the small mining town of Mons the pilot of one such aircraft stopped to inform Field Marshall John French, head of the British force, of the vast numbers of German infantry approaching. He was not believed!  Instead French wished to discuss his aircraft with him and refused to accept his news.  He soon realised his mistake.  The British II Corps numbered around 40,000 men, the Germany army approaching numbered around 600,000.  The defence of the canal above Mons was a resounding success and after a days hard fighting the enemy was stopped in his tracks with vast casualties and the 'contemptible little army' was considering advancing to chase them back home.  However to their right the French army had also met a complete, and efficient, German foe and began to withdraw, with the French 'not bothering' to inform the British of their intentions. Aircraft spotted not only the French withdrawal but also a third army marching around the left flank.  Thus began the famous long 'retreat to the Marne' in hot summer weather. Had those slow Royal Flying Corps surveillance aircraft not flown over Mons half the British army could have been engulfed! 
From observation these aircraft turned to photography, and fighting and then bombing.  Each few months saw advances in the power and killing properties of the machines, and while they flew higher and higher the comfort of the pilots was of no consideration. No parachutes meant a fire at 16,000 feet led to certain death, survival meant lack of oxygen affected the pilots abilities, cold cut deep into them, the stress of war led to mistakes and accidents, and the average life expectancy was around three weeks!  These early young men, rarely above their early twenties, often failing to reach twenty years of age before their death, were the beginning of the air force which today uses the Typhoon fighter, a plane so powerful that computers are required to enable the pilot to control the plane, no human brain can cope!  
Remember these men.