Saturday, 31 August 2013

More Yanks!

As I began my second breakfast earlier this morning Julie rang in the usual panic from the Museum. Encouragingly all the volunteers are falling like flies, the plague is removing them steadily and my bulk was required.  Just as well I was around as there was only she and I to deal with the visitors.  The usual crowd of eager kids passed through, one or two enquiries, and another party of Yanks.  Julie is the woman running the shop, arranging workshops and chatting to people, she is not the woman to answer historical questions.  I am not sure if she knows who won the war, I would enquire but she might ask "Who came second?"  So she dumps such things on me to seek information.  Luckily I read about the 'Lyon,' a wee while ago and luckily once again we had a descendant of one who sailed from here, this time in 1640.  A glance at the wee blue book revealed a man with the right name and this couple were delighted to find information re their man.  That made my day!   Apparently he has been doing the web search thing and was delighted to be here in this backwater.  All his life, well much of his adult life, he has wondered about the area his kin came from, now he can go home, with a bag full of books, and send years reading about them.  
We get two kinds of Yanks.  The type seeking their ancestors, it appears around eight million descend from the puritans who sailed away from here on those boats, nothing else to do I suppose, or the type who once occupied the many airfields around here, and are now returning the wife they bought then!  


President Obama, the man that made the USA acceptable after the insane years of George W Bush, has taken on the mantle handed down to him by the position the USA finds itself in as the 'major power.'  Major Powers have been here before.  They may not have had nuclear weapons, submarines or aircraft, but the need to patrol the world and get involved everywhere for reasons of 'self defence' or 'strategic interests,' does not vary.  On occasion this can lead to destruction. Had the major Empires refused to act after the Archduke was shot in 1914 the war may never have happened, the world would be a different place and the empires might exist yet.  Obama insists that for moral reasons the USA must send missiles (pronounced 'missiles) into a foreign power.  Since Thursday when we knew some 250 deaths has occurred the USA have managed to get their friends in the media to believe that in fact well over a thousand have died this way, yet still without offering proof.  Evidence that would stand up in court has not been shown, the main question being if such weapons are in use, who uses them?  We know Assad has the capability, so does the CIA!  We also know the Turks have found Al Queda with Sarin in their border, and they were none too pleased about this.  There is no doubt some vile happening occur in Syria but the rule of thumb in the middle east is it's not 'who is the good guy, both are bad!' 

We cannot avoid the terrible things done here, but who started this conflict?  Rebels fighting Assad, pad for bu Sunni Saudi and Quater.  Who backs them?  Us and UK etc.  Why did this begin?  To get at Iran through the back door and we care nought for the Arabs that die!  No wonder young Muslims are confused!  Why demand action when Chemical Weapons are used yet no action when 100,000 die from 'normal' weapons?  Why worry about Syria when thousand sare dying in Darfur and we have forgotten that war.  30,000 have crossed into Chad recently but little is said on the news here, why?  

I am chortling at the thought that America's 'oldest ally,' France, the home of the cheese eating surrender monkeys, is now the most important part of the US allies, even though they don't want your films because they are not in French.  The willing President Hollande, who has a lower popularity rating than Cameron, is now offering his men to the Americans.  Jolly good show old bean!  He will not go himself obviously, one of his concubines might want him.  The 'special relationship' that the media hark on about, that only existed between Roosevelt and Churchill, and then Roosevelt dumped him for Stalin, has never been that important.  Britain's place in the world is not lessened by France become the er, poodle of the US, the opposite in fact.  The UK can hold its head high.  Something the dogs ensure you cannot do on Paris streets I am informed.

Another Saturday, this meant rushing from the museum to get home in time to watch Dundee United v Celtic.  Gladly I watched this as the stream I picked up had no commentators, once someone pushed the pug in and Ian (I support the OF) Crocker began to spout I considered the game less worthy.  At three I lay on my bed listening to the Heart of Midlothian playing up at Inverness, as always making a worthy attempt against a team top of the league.  We lost but I am not downhearted.  Now I am choosing to watch Mother well v Killie or maybe the Aberdeen v St Johnstone game, all this in a days work. 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Whither Now Mush?

Incredible shock!  Parliament stood up for the nation last night and blew away the Tony Blair fantasist's plans.  Slapped down by a number of his own men as well as the opposition David Cameron failed to get the House to agree to go to war, some say this has not happened to a Prime Minister since 1792!  On that occasion it ended the war against American independence, so it is somewhat ironic that Cameron has failed to be poodle to the USA.  While few at this moment are intriguing against him, their are few alternatives making noises as yet, clearly a PM who cannot convince his party that his intentions were correct is seriously weakened.  Lets face it, we are all pleased about this are we not?   Interestingly the newspapers, including the 'Daily Mail,' screamed about his failure, also quite interestingly I noted 'The Sun' headline was 'Douglas confesses affair,' instead.  Rupert doing his best for his man.  Rupert known for his loyalty to his staff.

What now for Cameron?

The fall out for this decision is also quite interesting.  While the majority of the British public acknowledge their members of parliament, congratulating them on their victory, the USA has been somewhat put out.  When you have been used to working with the UK for so many years, and since Thatchers infatuation with the dementia ridden Reagan the US has looked on the UK as a mere puppet, it is quite difficult to accept the poodle has changed its mind.  The reaction from Washington reveals the intention to attack come what may has been in their minds for many years, and the reason is clear.  Iran threatens Israel, the US does whatever Israel wishes, so Iran must be dealt with.  Now I support Israel also, but not when they do wrong, and Iran under the Mullahs may well be dangerous, but other nations with nuclear missiles are also dangerous, Pakistan for instance.  The desire to attack Syria comes from the attempt to weaken Iran.  A dangerous ploy as this could set the whole region ablaze, and the US, with aid from the cheese eating surrender monkeys, will continue their build up to kill more Arabs, it doesn't matter which, and the type of situation we have seen since the late seventies will continue.

I could go on, I won't but sadly this situation will.  


Thursday, 29 August 2013

Troubled Thursday

How sad to see the tree surgeons in the park again today.  The powers that be have been around checking the state of the trees that have dwelt here for over a hundred and what years.  The report was not good.  Several have become diseased and have to be removed.  Sadly these are amongst the best of the trees.  Whoever planned the gardens in the eighteen somethings really have a good eye for the future.  The trees he planted have survived the family, the school that later occupied the building, two wars, droughts and have now succumbed to disease.  Nothing to do but stand clear as the chap way up top drops the branches to the ground and await the new saplings that hopefully will be planted to replace the fallen.  

Yes the debate continues as we speak, although the outcome has been predetermined by arrangement between the leading men.  The arguments have been put forward on all sides, the members who wish the leaders of their party to notice them ensuring they say exactly what the leaders wish them to say, the 'mavericks,' making sure the leaders on all sides hear their point of view also.  It matters not.  The decision to bomb to Assad to stop him using his chemical weapons (a phrase used repeatedly by Cameron et al to ensure you heard) has already been taken long, long ago of course.  The plans are laid, RAF jets have moved to Cyprus, once again doing the hard work F16's can't manage, and concern for the 250 or so dead in the recent outrage fills the governing classes.  As people in Damascus point out "did they not care for the 100,000 already dead then?"  
Two links worth reading, from one of the UK's better journalists.

Troubled days.  Not only are we heading for a long Iraq 2 but the trees in the park are failing.  On top of this I see people known to me via the media all my life dying off, Cliff Morgan the Welsh sportsman died the other day, aged 83.  The shortness of life suddenly clings and I have not done what I wish I had done.  So many things to change for the better, so many things wrong.  I happened to look at a nearby town on Google Maps the other day and found myself on the road at the edge of town.  The fields spread away into the distance and the view from the neat rows of bungalows would be most enjoyable, had they not all placed net curtains at them!  What do they do this for?  It struck me most of these were retired folks and I realised many of them were just waiting to die, slowly and possibly alone, but many with no purpose any more.  It all seemed so sad as it doesn't have to be like that!  No doubt many are happy enough and Syria does not bother them much.  It will when Cameron taxes their pension to pay for the Tornados and Typhoons he is sending to Syria.

Still, there is yet another football match, tucked away of ITV4 tonight, and having that in the background keeps life ticking over.   

This strange looking (eastern europe maybe) car was in the car park today.  No idea what is was and he appears to be having trouble winding up the rubber band.  I thought at first it was a 'trabant,' but those tough little cars were modelled on old Fiats.  This is a new one on me, but as noisy, though less smokey, than any Trabant I have come across.  I would have spoken to him but he might have wanted a push, so I went for breakfast instead.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Here we go.Iraq 2 about to start.  This time we will see something very different.  This time we will suffer badly.  For several years the US has led the 'allies' in undermining the Syrian regime, and whistleblowers around the world have helped us to realise just how much of this activity has been going on for the past few years.  Now our war mongering prime minister, with little realisation of his deeds, and considerably less understanding of the Middle East, wants to become Tony Blair 2 and play puppy dog to the US.
He has no idea what he is doing, does Obama?  Who is leading this attempt to destabilise Syria just to weaken Iran, the US?  The military machine?  Israel?  One thing is clear the debate in the House of Commons tomorrow is already decided, party managers have seen to this, and our depleted forces will be used to do someones bidding, but who's?  For what?  No-one knows.

Chemical weapons?  Call them WMD and you know where you stand. 


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Her Privates We, Frederick Manning

Normally I am not one for novels.  Story books tend to find themselves flung out the door quickly while I look for something worthwhile.  With regard to the Great War I find a great many people writing novels depicting, they say, the situation one man or more went through.  I dismiss them myself.  However when a man who has served in the trenches writes of the war I am more inclined to hear what he has to say and see his description of his war.  The men who served are the men to listen to!  Frederick Manning spent months on the Somme with the 7th Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, a 'Kitchener Battalion,' and claims all the situations recorded in his book occurred to someone, often he himself.   

Manning was born in Australia in 1882 and moved to Lincolnshire in 1903 to live with a family friend who had become vicar at Edenham.  Here he read widely in classics, studied philosophy, and produced a book, 'The Virgil of Brunhild,' others followed but while literary circles admired his writing mass circulation was not to be expected.  In spite of his asthma Manning continued to smok to much, he also spent a lot of time in local public houses an exercise that would lead to troubled times in the future. 
His poor health did not stop him attempting to enlist in 1914.  In spite of London life, where he became regarded as a minor poet and literary critic mixing with some important people from that world, he shared the desire to join the army like so many others of his day.  He was rejected several times until in October 1915 he was accepted by the Shropshires, numbered private 19022. His educated background led him to being selected for a commission, which he failed, he joined his regiment in France during 1916.  The 7th attacked Bazentin Ridge on the 14th of July, the wire was uncut and the second wave were hit by their own barrage, 200 men and 8 officers being lost.  Manning was promoted to lance corporal, possibly after this battle.  In November the battalion attacked the well defended Serre, on the Somme, another trying time. 
Manning received a commission in 1917 as a second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Regiment. This did not suit either he nor the British Army.  Being a bit of a loner, drinking heavily, and failing to adhere to the army way off life he soon found trouble with superiors.  His regard for the men as distinct from officers and his dislike of much military thinking and its effects on the 'poor bloody infantry,' increased his revulsion of much concerning army life.  The effects of trench life were said to be responsible for his drinking and attitude but the commission was resigned in 1918.  He had continued to write, poems, items in magazines and by 1923 Manning took a commission to write the life of Sir William White.  White had been a leading man in the admiralty late in the 19th century.  
Ten years after a war men's minds begin to demand they tell the world what they have endured. Life has, for most, returned to some sort of normality but the experiences have never healed, indeed they never do.  Manning was encouraged to write about his experiences and take advantage of the emotion of the day as books were beginning to fall off the shelves and typewriters were melting under the desperation to publish memoirs   He produced his work quite quickly and published in a limited number as 'The Middle Parts of Fortune.'  The introverted Manning takes the reader inside the hearts of men in battle, and quite unlike any other book we see something of the mind of a real everyday soldier.  The 'soldiers language' was considered too strong for the time and an expurgated version was published as, 'Her Privates We,' the title a quote from Shakespeare. 

Unlike many war books this one contains comparatively little war action even though it begins as an action is ending.  We read instead much of the emotions of a soldier in battle, the relationship of officers to men and vice versa at the time, the attitudes and responsibilities of NCO's, the men who really run an army, and as they withdraw out of the line the scene changes to the dull monotonous routine of army life.  This however is not the somewhat sentimental emotions seen is American movies, here we are confronted with the everyday man.  After the return from the line the men spend a few days settling their nerves, dwelling, without much exchange of confidences, on the stirred emotions within, helped, though they may not think it, by the routine of life.  The dead are an ever present reality for the soldier, one day he may join them. 
As is the way companies break down into two or three men getting together to make their life bearable.  The hero of the book, named Bourne after a small town Manning once stayed in, speaks French tolerably and is used by many to get help from local women regarding obtaining food and wine and having these prepared for them.  One causes Bourne much laughter when lady of the house misunderstands a soldiers use of the word, 'cushy.'  This was a common army word from the Hindi for 'comfortable.'  The woman instead hears 'coucher,' a word which has a differing meaning and results with her fetching the language ignorant solder a slap round the head.  Manning himself 'liked to drink,' as they say and soldiers often while away what is left of their lives in making merry. 'Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,' means more to a soldier in such a war than it can ever mean to another.  
The action, if this is action, continues with Bourne posted to the orderly office. Here again the 'office politics' of army life is centre stage.  It isn't good. Nervous adjutants, greasy sergeant majors, and the strange feeling that a soldier prefers the real army with his pals rather than this 'cushy' number.  At least he avoids all those hard fatigues men at rest are lumbered with.  However army parades continue, seen as needless by many but insisted upon by an officer core with reasons of their own.  One such is interrupted by two shells which take out several men, much to the battalions disgust.  An aircraft is blamed but it soon becomes obvious that it is British shells falling short, a not uncommon occurrence.  Men sent on raids or to the line on fatigues when to all minds such is not possible is made worse when casualties, often popular officers, are injured.  The regiment returns to the line and Bourne and his mates act as runners, suffering the delight of a German bombardment while doing so.  Again this is used to describe both Bournes reaction and that of his companions.  They then return to prepare for yet another chance to go 'over the top.'

What we read in these glimpses of army life is not so much the action but the reality seen from deep within the authors mind.  The mist or fog is described almost as if it is alive, the countryside, even in the dark, allows us to know that men in war are touched by their surroundings like everyone else.  We also note the attitudes in the towns behind the lines, and the class difference that results in unfair treatment of the men. This impersonal, dangerous army, becomes a family for the men, a man once part of a regiment, sharing the dangers, has a kinship, a clan, that outsiders can never enter.  Indeed many men today with more recent experience of warfare understand Bournes mind and recognise their thoughts and emotions as identical to the men of 1916.   Some form close bonds, but many avoid this as men disappear without trace and never heard of again as injury, death or confusion reign in war. Frederick Manning attempts to tell the inner soldier, himself, while contemplating the men around him.  He seeks their unspoken thoughts, he describes their unsaid words, he reveals men as they are.  War books are often full of dangerous action, sometimes sugary, sometimes unbelievable.  This one is the real deal. War is impersonal, men go 'over the top' together but fight alone.  Men work as a unit, for one another, but fight and die individually.  

This is the best book on the war I have ever read!  It does not give all those little details we often seek, but provides sufficient to understand the sights and sounds, the pleasures and daily trials of army routine for the common soldier. Instead in the midst of a great conflict we see the individual whose name appears on the local, unnoticed, war memorial.  On each memorial is a Bourne, a Martlow his young friend, or his pal Shem the Jew, there we find the many sergeants and officers who ordered their lives and led them to destruction.   

This is a great book!  This book gives us the men and their hearts as it really was during their time on the Somme.  

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Listening to the Wireless

I have spent some time today listening to Radio 4 Extra Factual.  One of the programmes that has held some attention was Tony Hawks and his tale of travelling around Ireland with a fridge. Naturally this particular adventure is not one I, or indeed any sensible person would normally wish to undertake, but for a drunken bet and the possibility of winning £100 Mr Hawks set off! Clearly he had fun and the Irish took him, as they would any other such eejit, to their hearts. Sad to say no trip I have ever taken has been so beneficial. The trip in itself is not one I identify with but the idea of hitchhiking, or some similar adventure is one we all have indulged in or wished we had attempted, when young. 

Around the time I started secondary school I took to jumping on the green SMT buses, the ones that went out of town to far distant lands, and had a day trip to exotic places like North Berwick or Burntisland, even reaching Leven on one occasion.  My folks did not object, although I never told them about the problems or acts of stupidity in which I indulged when out.  This reasonable activity stopped when I took to following the Heart of Midlothian around Scotland.  The hour and a half on the bus journeying in the days before motorways enabled me to see something of the country as we headed to a rain soaked defeat in Dundee, Motherwell or Paisley.  Being out of town was sometimes, well often at that time, more enjoyable than sitting with the sleet in the face singing 'We shall overcome,' which we did, thirty years later.  

On a few occasions I hitchhiked up the A1 in an attempt to reach Edinburgh on the cheap.  So the story told by Mr Hawks of standing in the rain as cars race past, and I without a fridge remember, rang a bell.  The drizzle on the face, the strange whining sound of the tyres, the silence between the bursts of traffic all added to the atmosphere, an atmosphere that got a bit wearing after a while.  If only I copied the chap at the beginning of the M1 near London's 'Staples Corner.'  he stood there with a large notice reading, 'Glasgow - or Else!'  When I think about it the strange attire of the times, floppy hippy hat, long greasy hair, unwashed bar the rain, ill fitting trendy charity shop overcoat, it was little surprise no decent sort wished to stop.  There were however those who did.  One man, well travelled in this world, took me all the way near Baldock, wherever that is, and from there I made my way back towards the north.  As rain descended a traveller on his way to line his pockets selling things nobody really needs gave a lift to myself and one other.  We travelled up the A1(M) at an enormous speed in heavy driving rain until a gentleman from the law held us up and demanded to know why he had picked us up on a 'Throughway.'  Satisfied, the custodian allowed Shumacher to continue his attempt to kill us all.  My companion and I proffered our thanks, took a note of his number (blue Vauxhall Viva EFD 456) and celebrated living.  

Dressing in such a mess manner as 20 years are want to do did not always provide the best of taxi provision.  Apart from the non stopping decent sorts, the lorries with uncaring drivers who only stopped for pretty girls and the rain which appeared only to fall on the spots I chose to frequent, weirdo's were an occupational hazard.  The young man, a trendy who refused to fit into this world's ways, and now probably has become a millionaire by ripping off his workers after realising the middle class hippy dream did not pay, did at least take me almost all the way into Edinburgh, via the old Roman road over the Cheviots.  Not a road I recommend in a Mini Minor.  Dreamer he may have been, a dreamer who allowed me to pay for his breakfast, but he was not the worst.  While I stood at the side of the road, brushing the water from my glasses, my head was filled with daydreams of buxom young women desperate for a prat healthy, almost, young man in the manner off those grubby films shown at the cheap cinemas.  The nearest I got was a builder, a self made man, with a Geordie accent, south of Newcastle late at night. His gleaming new Rover, a good car at that time, reflected his success in life.  His suggestion, worth £5, indicated all was not as it seemed!  He kept his fiver and I made my excuses and left, not easy at 50 miles an hour I can tell you.  

Years later, cycling from Edinburgh to London on the bike worth £18 I again hoped for high adventure and found lots of rain and wind against me and fifty miles of slog a day.  Stopping unhappily in YMCA buildings until I changed to happier pubs or B&B's did not bring much excitement but did allow me to see life in odd places.  The face presented by any town does not reflect what goes on round the back.  Not only do most High Streets look the same, all the plastic shopsfronts deflect from the old buildings in which they are housed, but I suspect today the places I passed through have more charity shops among our wealth and large out of town shopping centres also.  No ageing gayboys, weirdos or well travelled folks on that trip, just sensible people who thought I was weird for cycling all that way but remained friendly just the same.  Mild beer became popular with me then also.  I even had one of my panniers returned by the constabulary after it fell off unnoticed, and a small bottle of the 'water of life,' winged its way in return.  

What an adventure for him, finding my dirty laundry! 


Saturday, 24 August 2013


Feeling rough, send nurse.....


Friday, 23 August 2013


I have spent much of today in northern Israel fighting the 1918 Battle of Megiddo.  Now naturally I realise I must indicate to the less intelligent among the congregation that I was not actually participating in the fighting myself, I was merely reading about it.  I was trailing the advance of the 5th Essex Battalion after the battle of Jaffa and discovered the part they played in this major 'Mother of all Battles.'  Actually while here can I remind those mentioned previously that the 'Jaffa' in question being battled over is in fact NOT an orange, or indeed an orchard of that succulent citrus fruit, it was the town after which those fruits were named that I meant.   Also I suppose I must indicate that I failed to find much depth in what the 5th achieved in this advance as the reports tended to concentrate on the Cavalry taking major targets, the RAF bombing the communications centre and lesser regiments taking all the credit.  Tsk!  
This is a wee job I began some time ago and returning to it I discovered just how illiterate I am! What appeared to be acceptable at the time turns out to be meaningless drivel!  Now I realise what sub editors, or critics if you prefer, are for.  It didn't help that I had lost my place in all the books, mags and websites I had been using and have to spend hours attempting to find them all again.  Bah! 
For some the Great War was spent in France and Flanders, usually bored, often cold, damp and shot at.  For the 5th the war was spent in the delight of Gallipoli, Egypt and 120 degrees of heat in the Sinai as they approached Gaza.  After three attempts and a new commander they finally passed that historic town and ventured north to Jaffa, not for oranges remember.  I have yet to find out if any of the original 649 men and 29 officers made it to the end.  As they left Gallipoli only 6 officers and 100 men had survived that escapade.  As the war progressed the losses were made up with replacements from Britain, often no longer Essex men alone merely anyone who was available.  A quick calculation shows the 5th battalion lost a total of 332 men dead by wars end.  Around three others would be wounded, often more than once, and no count can ever be made of those who died from their exertions during the next forty years, often long before the next war came to be.  


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Sorry, No it doesn't work!

Sorry, no it doesn't work!  Women are not made to present football!  
Two games tonight on ITV4 in the Europa League and leading the chat from two failed numpties in the studio, rambling on about how good English clubs are we find a femal form.  Certainly they are pontificating tonight, in spite of both being filled with foreign Johnnies and Swansea actually being Welsh.  One pundit I suddenly realise is South American. 
The politically correct idea of having a woman present the discussion is not good. Who is she?  I know not as I canny find her name anywhere, or indeed her phone number.  This I say is totally wrong, not failing to find the number or name I mean her being there.  Usually such lassies are provided for one of two reasons, the first being entirely voyeuristic (Yes SKY SPORTS I mean you!), the second being PC TV people. The best example of that was ITV dumping the Yorath woman as she was not very good but the BBC immediately employed her.  She then went on to make programmes about sexism, enlisting Karen Brady (she of the 'Daily Sport,' a deceased paper filled with sex that made the 'Sun' look like 'news') to aid her opinion!  
Tonight we have a nice wee lass with a high pitched voice, ideal for those meaningless early morning 'news' programmes, but WRONG for football!  It may well be that ITV male presenters have the personality of a dead rabbit, and indeed less than half of the intellect, it may well be this girl understands some aspects of the game, but in the end it does not work!  The BBC once allowed a woman to commentate on a match during 'Match of the Day,' it flopped, the voice is wrong!  It doesn't work!  Dogs everywhere barked their opinion I remember.
Let the lass sit on my knee by all means, let her do my ironing, let her indeed become a nuclear physicist or a train driver if she so wishes but do not let her participate in football coverage which just requires someone to fill in between the adverts.  That is a job for men, not girlies!


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Syria Again

Once again we hear of shelling and people killed.  The Egyptian squabbles have kept the Syrian ones from us for a week or two making us forget there were people dying there as TV pictures ignored them.  Only one major story at a time please.  The added stunt this time is those chemical weapons once more.  Several points are made here.
Chemical Weapons inspectors are in Syria at this moment, why would Assad use such weapons now?  We all know he has them.
Assad does not need to use such weapons, he is if anything once more getting the upper hand as far as can be said.
Did the 'rebels' use the weapons themselves, yet experts tell us they do not have the capabilities to use nerves gas.
The effects appear to be from such gas.
Did an ally of the 'rebels' use this gas to blacken Assad? 
The UK and the USA both condemn this action.
The UK and the USA both wish to aid the Islamist rebels yet not aid the army against Islamists in Egypt.  Do they know what they are doing? 

Lots of questions but no answers in this mucky propaganda war, and the people keep on dying.

The media for the most part is still full of emptiness however, deaths in a country of which we know little do not sell papers at this time of year, do they?


Tuesday, 20 August 2013


Museum, 'On the Beach,' 3,000,000 children, Bouncy Castle, Children, 'Fish for Ducks' and get prizes, more children, 'Knock the Cans for lollipop, lots more children, 'Punch and Judy,' return children to Mums,  clean up, crawl home, sleeeeep......    


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Warmed up Leftovers

Ah!The open road, the sunshine, the fields, the people left at the bus stops because the driver was talking on her mobile to her friends!  How lovely to travel, on an empty bus!  How lovely to have a bus pass also! 

The clock has adorned the tower of St Peter's since 1866 and if you look closely you will see the words 'Redeem the time.' Also above these are the two keys, usually associated with Peter as he was given the keys of Heaven and Hell.  The Roman Catholic Pope of course has usurped this and claimed descent from Peter, no matter that Peter was never Pope!  This of course is an Anglo Catholic church so it is no surprise to see this thereon.  In 1692, long before you were born, this area suffered an earthquake. This upset the steeplejacks who were working on the tower when this event occurred.  Their first reaction was not recorded but they did inform the world that an opening large enough to put your hand in appeared in the tower.  Little real damage was done, although a chimney pot was lost in one house, and no doubt a more willing attendance at church on the following Sunday!  Such events do occur occasionally in the UK, usually most people sleep through them as these are minor events, but on occasion people notice.  

Can you read it now?

Essex churches are a good way to reflect history.  The buildings themselves are amended during different periods, sometimes on government authority, the memorials reflect those who attended and often considered themselves important in the Parish, and the cemetery itself reveals much about the locals of times past.  In prominent place here at St Leonard's in Lexden stands an impressive Great War memorial.  Today we find the phrase used on these memorials, 'Our Glorious Dead,' somewhat embarrassing, however for those who lost relatives, and middle class areas such as this would lose many officers during the war, a great desire to see their loss as worthy appeared.  With the vast numbers who died it was imperative to see their deaths as required and not wasted, people argue about that still.  There are 38 Great War names on the memorial and somewhat surprisingly 32 from the Second World War. Usually the Great War numbers far outweigh the second.  What does that tell us I wonder?
The church began here in the 12th century when, and I kid you not, 'Eudes the sewer,' promised to two thirds of the tithes to St John's Abbey in Colchester.  In those days the church was keen on those who offered cash!  By the 1400's when they were offering the Gospel the church authorities were less keen however.  The Lexden church was one of the richest 'livings,' for many years. This reflects just how wealthy the land around this area could be.  Crops and cattle predominated in early days but sheep appeared around the 16th century. A surprise this as Suffolk, just up the road, became rich on the wool trade in the early medieval days.  During the days of Reformation the usual infighting occurred between various sides of the debate and by the time all this has settled down the building itself was becoming somewhat careworn.  In 1822 a new building was erected and a new chancel added in 1892.  The buildings around this are comprise not just many from medieval days but a large number indicating the wealthy Victorians found this town to their liking.  The road from here into Colchester proper is lined with what can only be called mansions and these were added to in the early years of the 20th century.  A great deal of money was around this town!   Some of these can be glimpsed on Google Maps.

Glimpsed as the bus crawled home behind a queue of traffic, probably that tractor from yesterday still heading for his field, we see the harvest gathered, the hay bales rolled out, and all this from one machine completed in one day. Thomas Hardy would not understand farms today just as I never understood nor read much of his boring books. From the Open University days I recall his story concerning a threshing machine, based on a report of the time regarding a threshing machine.  The engineer who came with this machine came from the north, probably Yorkshire, and sounded a rough, sour bloke.  Going from farm to farm he aided their work and made few friends.  There were umpteen hands to deal with the threshing then, one combine today!

A place I must take my wee camera to lies five miles down the road, depending on which road sign you read.  This large village has many medieval and on houses, a great deal of money also as antique shops used to dominate here. The TV series about a flash antique dealer in the 1990's was filmed around these parts, what was that single word name?  I admit I never watch that sort of thing but would look just to recognise the background.  Maybe if the sun shines this week I will get the bus pass out again.  The clock tower?  No, I don't know either!

OK, class dismiss.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Other Big Town Trip.

From the window of the five past eight bus this morning I snapped as well as I could the sun shining on the local harvest.  One problem city dwellers (Known as 'Townies') fail to comprehend is the delay caused by a tractor wending its merry way to the next field along.  While farmer Jones is contemplating his profit, added to by the generous EU, CAP which is why he is merry, the vehicles behind are filled with smouldering folks who were not in a hurry when they set out.  The trail behind a vehicle dropping lumps of mud from his giant tyres can stretch for several miles. Today I smiled benignly at the people in just that position as they were headed in the opposite direction to my bus.  They however did not respond kindly.  There is little to beat sitting upstairs on a near empty bus in the early morning as I am sure you know.  Had I ventured out an hour or so later a bus full of chatting women and screaming brats may well have been my lot.  I also noted that according to my timetable a bus left here every twenty minutes, however a returning bus only departed every thirty minutes!  Three go out and only two return, a mystery indeed. Could there be a depot somewhere with dozens of buses waiting around for their drivers to return I wonder?  This reminds me of the No 8 London bus rescheduling in the late 70's.  The drivers pointed out that had they followed the timetable ALL the buses would be travelling in the same direction at one time!  Tsk!     

The bells of St Peter's well ringing loud as I passed, a peal that went on for quite some time. Possibly they do this regularly as this is one of the Anglo Catholic churches that likes to be part of the town.  The not quite musty interior is lit only by the large window at the far end.  The dim light is sufficient for individuals needs, allowing some privacy in a busy town.  The bells were only heard dimly in this ancient church, which has its own mention in the 'Domesday Book,' would you believe!  The picture may indicate the interior was slightly lighter than it may have been to my eyes.  I find this quiet spot strangely attractive myself.

With a camera in the hand it is important to always look up when in town.   The horrid tardy shop fronts and entrances of today could hide past architectural delights.  Above the dingy entrance I noticed that this once was the 'Grand Theatre,' no doubt home to many great stars, and a few bum ones also, of the past.  Today it appears to be one of those 'clubs' young folks take delight in, although I myself canny remember why.  

Adjoining this theatre is another pub, this time however an interesting looking building that stands on the ground that since the 18th century bore the name 'Lamb Hotel,' although this has been changed many times in recent years.  I suppose there must have been a market nearby and farmers would gather for lunch here.  This present building dates from 1905 and the present owners have not defaced the building thankfully.  Sadly the High Street is a mucky place, not helped by traffic that has to pass through, there is little else that can be done to move it.  This pic does show what lies unseen above our heads.  Look up when out, but look down and ahead first! 

On the other side of the street stands the Red Lion Hotel, still operating as such, and with a history dating back to 1495.  The mock Tudor front dates back about 20 years however and quite a lot of pubs do themselves up this way to make themselves look older.  This I suggest is to attract the customer who likes his old buildings to look like his imagination tells him it ought to look!  Ah the teaching of History cannot defeat the wishful thinking of the individual!

On either side of the entrance stands these two gentlemen.  The one on the left appears to be wearing a crown (Henry VII would be King in 1495 followed by Henry VIII) but the other is less discernible.  Maybe he represents one of the town worthies, maybe a traveller, maybe the first or later owner.  I am unclear and find nothing to aid me.

I had to laugh at this sign.  The A120 is the straight road home, called 'Stane Street' after the Romans worked on it some time back, and normal weekly traffic numbers are very high.  The fact that the warning of advance works end with the words, 'Delays Possible,' did make me laugh!

Well might you ask what such dereliction is doing here.  This is a once busy car park at one of those 'out of town' shopping centres.  There are still several major businesses working there but so many have gone that this large car park has become disused and is dying slowly.  What are the chances of the Tories upsurge in the economy of bringing this back to life soon I wonder?  All around this area lies the beginning of development which has ceased since 2008.  I am not sure whether I prefer the wide open acres filled with beasties to the modern empty office blocks that ought to be arising there.  The economy requires it but we need open spaces.  Just passing by these fields, the ancient houses and wondering what life was like for the souls found there in days of yore does take away from the shopping experience that saw all charity shops visited and two books and a handful of birthday cards bought, still no jacket......  

What?  You have had enough?  OK, I will bore you with more later.....

Friday, 16 August 2013

The 'Lyon.'

The magnificent model of the one hundred ton ship the 'Lyon' is housed in the museum in a brightly lit glass case.  This is because in 1632 a large group of individuals from this area with 'Puritan' sympathies joined this ship for a crossing to the New World.  
This afternoon a young couple from somewhere in the USA wandered shyly around the museum, when I enquired as to their opinion the man informed us one of his ancestors had originated in this area.  I indicated a small book which contained names of those who travelled and left them to peruse this.  He discovered two mentions of what turns out to be an illustrious ancestor indeed! How about that!  Here we were confronted with a descendant of and East Anglian who had emigrated 382 years before.  A strange but enjoyable sensation that history lovers will understand.  
Naturally he wished to buy the inexpensive book, well two actually as we are good salesmen and the folks back home in the USA need to read about this man!  Of such small occurrences does life become worthwhile.  Especially as the two girls on duty had no idea about the 'Lyon,' being mostly concerned with the shop side of things.  This is what makes it worthwhile for me.

Stephen hart, their ancestor, sailed indeed on the 'Lyon,' but not in 1632.  His journey began on August the 23rd 1631 with the experienced Ships Master, William Pierce in command.  Pierce had made this journey several times in his ship, a very good ship at that, and had sympathies with the Puritans types aboard.  The voyage across the Atlantic, late in the year, took 72 days, arriving in Nantasket on November the 2nd 1631.  How glad were they to touch land?     
The ship carried 'about' 60 passengers, most on the list headed for a place called 'Cambridge.' However passenger lists appear to mention only half this number.  It is possible only the 'important' people were listed, or the list concerned only those from Essex.  It could also be that servants names were not listed, which shows how egalitarian some Puritans could be!     

The trip could indeed be hazardous and uncomfortable.  The 'Lyon' was a better ship than many and quite a few of those on these trips could afford any cabins or luxury on offer.  All to often however hard tack biscuits and salt beef, if it was beef, was all that was available.  As the current may well send you further back at the end of the day than you were at the beginning and winds tend to make their own minds up passage could be tedious and physically wearing. Water was taken aboard but could lose its benefits after a while due to the containers so most people probably drank beer instead.  Cooking, by braziers, was often dangerous and so cold lunch was the order of the day, not really enjoyable on a mobile ship in October.  Of course any storms tossing the ship about would not encourage hunger but let's not bring that up here.  Sickness was a problem, in a crowded vessel any illness would spread through the ship, both passengers and crew suffering.  
However once on land home awaited.  That is if you could get to it wherever it was.  If food was available, transport, probably walking, and once settled in the winter snows would welcome the weary traveller with freezing cold, storms and more sickness.  It is not a surprise to discover so many did not survive.  
At least you could worship as you desired, unless the others disagreed and you had to move on.......

As for Stephen, he survived the voyage, most appear to have done on that trip, and settled in what was a colony of England at that time, loyal to the King.  His story has been researched Here or Here


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Big Town and Wildebeests.

In my desperate search through all the charity shops in the big town, oops! Big City now of course, I hold certain truths to be self evident.  The first being that shops are filled with wildebeests, hundreds of whom appear desirous of deliberately getting in my way, that they block aisles, noisily fill the streets and on occasion serve behind the counters of shops.   On reflection I am now wondering whether that bus driver is related to one also.  Of course it could just be me couldn't it?.  
It is also in my opinion a self evident truth that charity shops stock jackets that are just what I am looking for but in the wrong size or dreadfully wrong colour.  I can understand why some of these have been donated, but whether the owner knows his wife has donated them is another thing.  Mentioning this to the staff of such shops does not bring much of a caring response I noted.  
Another self evident truth is that men are responsible for the layout of department stores.  This is proved by the clear and deliberate carefully thought out policy of placing all lingerie departments next to Menswear!  It took me half an hour, and with the aid of one quite unhelpful security officer, to find my way to the (reduced price) jackets in one shop.  I suppose privatised security services have their place but they ought to be more choosy regarding the women they employ, I will have a bruise there in the morning!  
To escape the stampeding throng I wandered along the canal pathway only to find it also bore the stampeding masses.  Families were being taught by attentive parents how to walk in front of people, talk loudly and generally get in the way of those attempting to make a photograph on a gray day.  How lucky Scots are today, their schools have gone back!

Some folks found that by hiding themselves in the abundant wilderness they remained generally undisturbed by those passing by.  Whether he caught much I doubt, a quick glance in the water showed only small fry lurking and not many of them.  Still it is a place to relax and allow the stresses of life to desist for a period and the mind can refresh itself with the flora and fauna around.  Strange they way we respond to people.  Had I sat there for an hour or so some folks would have thought I a bit crazy or a bit dangerous, single men being regarded this way because they are alone for some reason.  There again a single woman may not be regarded as 'dangerous' but how would people see her I wonder?  Anyway stick a fishing rod in the hands and the man becomes safe as he is just fishing and for the most part will be ignored.   Of course this man may just be hiding the fact he shoved his wife in earlier.....

On the way to meet up again with the cheery bus driver and hopefully none of the men loudly telling one another of their hip replacements and other injuries I perused the main library and decided I need to spend time there soon as I noticed it has some interesting, relevant books I would like to investigate.  All those things I wish to do yet little gets done.  I have a list a mile long of things to do, things I wish to do, things I must do and things that probably will need doing, but I canny be bothered.  
Today for instance I get two calls asking me into the museum to replace sick folks and there l am acting as zoo keeper miles away.  I will be in there tomorrow afternoon although the walking today did my knees no good at all and I would rather just lie about for a while.  Hopefully I can just sit there dealing with the often unusual and interesting questions that people bring.  There was a time I would walk around for hours, now an hour or so and the postman's knees play up and that is a real sickner.
As I crossed the road from the library, having obtained my dinner from the cheap butcher next door to the barbers, one Mr Todd I think the name above read, my eye caught sight of this emblem on the wall.  Once the entry to who knows what, probably the old town hall and offices, now the back end of a car park, the wall carries the county emblem ending its days in some degree of obscurity.  All behind has been demolished and the car park might remain or become part of whatever development is being erected there.  Hopefully this wall will be retained as the emblem looks good and ought to be carefully refurbished.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Monday, 12 August 2013

PR Stunts and Emptiness.

Cameron is at it again I see.  With UKIP folk making a fool of themselves in 'Bongo Bongo land' the PR man has spent much of his holiday in PR stunts attempting to win back the favour of his lost voters.  The Conservative Party has apparently shed thousands of members during his time. He has turned up in the paper almost daily spouting 'vows' and 'promises,' each one assuring that 'he will...' or that 'something is done.'  Lies, all lies.  He is very into 'Fracking' today so I suspect he is suffering 'dropsy' of some sort, a terrible disease.  Asking people in the south of England to think of the 'good of the country,' and accept his friends 'fracking' is pushing it I say. I understand the councillors who allowed this project in the south to go ahead may have connections with the company involved, allegedly.  Cameron of course lives in the Cotswolds, far away from the work.  
Those phone in programmes dominated  by the lonely, the desperate and members of parliament seeking attention have also drawn him in.  He has called in to earnestly support gays in Russia, yet would not withdraw from the athletics there obviously, rebuke Spain and spout about any subject of the day.   Did it make a difference?  Only to his party members, or at least to those in his office. The Norwegian PM took to driving a taxi to meet the people, I canny see Dave following suit, he would get a fair idea of what the public really think.  I suspect they would be less genteel than the friendly Norwegians!  Today the PR was attacking the weakest once again.  Ian Duncan Smith, that cretinous worm of a man, once again wishes to point out that all the welfare budget goes on scroungers!  He does this by finding 4000 who he claims are earning £23, 000 a year from handouts and he will end this, his figures are of course disputable.  Total baloney but the Daily mail reader is happy enough.  He claims his policies have saved million from the welfare budget but does not show how, nothing new for IDS that.  He still claims all the expenses he can doesn't he?  IDS once claimed a £39 breakfast on expenses, and a £9 cocktail while still in opposition. Sadly this was rejected!
All this is to win back the Tories ready to defect to UKIP, the party the Tories claim is full of 'swivel eyed loons.'  While they are not wrong they are not really in a position to criticise are they?  I suppose it stops questions arising re tax dodging friends and the latest news that the recession (is it called this?) will last at least three more years or until 750,000 are taken from the dole queues.  Fabulous!  By the time so many have got jobs or retired there will be a million more on the dole, the futures bright eh?
Where are the opposition while this is going on?  Not to be seen anywhere!  One Labour female, who got her job because of her sex, waffled on about something the other day but I cannot remember what she said.  She will go far in the Labour Party.  Ed Milliband is writing his speech for the conference which follows the holidays.  It is make or break time for him. If he fails to deliver he may well be ejected, and that will be no loss, but what will replace him?  There is nothing left in Labour's box, merely a collection of middle class Oxbridge types with less idea of what the world requires than Cameron has.  The future is indeed bright, but not here.  What a mess we are in and no-one knows what to do.  The truth however, is out there!


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Happy Sunday

Racing along against the wind at four miles an hour I passed through this village long before the world was awake.  The roads round here all possess the normal road signs but English towns and villages always have a signpost informing you of the village name and indicating what the place is all about. There is not a lot of anything but agriculture in this area and the sign indicates a tractor to reflect this.  In fact a dirty great combine machine was being led along the roads as I passed indicating harvest is here for someone.  The land in this area probably saw hunter gatherers and stone age farmers and has been farmed continually for around five thousand years.  The small church reflects the population has never been huge, the church itself replacing a Saxon one most likely built on a pagan spot, and the huge tithe barn (one of two) shown in the top left was erected during the 13th century by the Knights Templar.  A ten percent tithe had to be given to the church and was collected in such barns, the money raised supporting the Crusades. The church of those times being full of politically powerful men, and the occasional Christian.  A similar, slightly smaller barn sits in Coggeshall a few miles down the road near where a Priory once stood.  Some strange rules concerning ancient church law still exists in English Law and occasionally people complain that a tax must be paid towards upkeep of church buildings they do not use.  The wheat and barley that once filled the barns are still grown in abundance but rarely are animals seen near here, at least not since the Foot and Mouth outbreak of a few years ago.  I did however attempt to photograph a Hare that came close, but he left too quickly for me, and the crows hovering around and the Swifts on the wire were too far away for my wee camera.  Such fauna and flora seen today would have been, mostly, common in the days of the Templars (or Hospitallers who replaced them).  However the servants would not have had the time to observe them I suspect.  One morning I will sit and wait for the wildlife, unless I get lifted of course.   

There is a Victoria Cross in the middle of the sign and I am sure there is a man in the graveyard who obtained one during the 19th century.  So far I have failed to discover anything about him!  I canny even remember his name!

Not all signs are as well made as the town one but these road signs must go back many years.  I suspect these were erected in the twenties or thirties when car driving became more widespread, certainly among the middle classes. Morris, Austin and others produced cars aplenty and these were happily acquired by those able to move out of the centre of big cities into the three bedroomed detached or semi-detached homes that burgeoned during that time. The signs were removed during the war to confuse any enemy that invaded but probably confused the indigenous population more. The commuters between the wars would travel to work by train into the city centre and at weekends roam the country in the 'Baby Austin,' at least that was the idea.  Mind you there were more people killed on the roads in those days than there are now, which tells you something!

The cats expression tells you he is not sure about this photography business. He is not one to venture near people, this one keeps his own counsel, but insists on spending all day wandering about the area around his home, usually disdainfully keeping clear of all comers.  As I got home I found him soaking up the sun and he is none to pleased about this.  His owner, if you own cats that is, takes her two small dogs to the park early in the morning and this brute hates to be left behind.  He will trail slowly up the road behind them, occasionally crossing the road to the park itself.  This gives the poor woman the collywobbles naturally enough, and the only time the cat has let me touch it was when I attempted to stop her following them over the road.  The cat just wants to be with the dogs but one day that road might make an end of her/him/it.  

Having risen early to cycle around to enable the bulk to develop physique, health and energy I was fast asleep within an hour of returning.  However I woke in time to watch the youthful, inexperienced, enthusiastic, talented and good looking Heart of Midlothian defeat the experienced, dull, inept, ugly, aged Hibernian side.  For some reason this victory was unexpected by the media, who wanted to talk about the sinister Glasgow sides instead and yet each and every intelligent viewer of the game knew this would be a victory for the Hearts.  The Heart of Midlothian have so many victories over the 'wee team' that by winning all the next games it will take them thirty or more years to catch up, and that's not going to happen is it?  It's been a good day today.