Derelict

Schooner

The boat that never sailed; by Alban Wall

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Down in the harbour of Broken Dreams

On the shores of Yesterday,

Her hull half-buried by sands of Time,

A schooner lies rotting away;

And her broken beams are the broken hopes

Of plans that have somehow failed –

And the tide drifts in and the tide drifts out

Past a boat that has never sailed.

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Her timbers were made of the finest wood

From the forests of Caribee;

Her sails were like wings of the albatross

That glide o’er the southern sea;

And her decks how they echoed her builder’s song

As he fashioned her, plank and nail –

Now only the seagull’s lonesome cry

Haunts the boat that has never set sail.

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She never answered the siren call

Of coaxing wind and tide;

She never breasted the Spanish Main

With the seas coming over her side;

And the pennant that hangs from her broken mast

Never shook in the lashing gale –

For the tides of Destiny waxed too full

And the schooner never set sail.

0

Somewhere there are men with snow-white hair

Who sit in life’s twilight years,

And often their thoughts drift wistfully back,

And often their eyes fill with tears

As they think of the dreams that have gone astray

And the plans that have somehow failed –

God, heal the hearts of the men who have built

The boats that have never sailed.

Armegeddon

Thutmoses

Har Megiddo or Tel Megiddo are names for the Megiddo city mound.  Har Megiddo gave us the word Armageddon, the supposed site of the end of world battle from the book of Revelations in the Bible.

A Tell or Tel, is the usual name for the structure.  What looks like a natural hill is in fact the remains of human occupation.  A town is built on the plain using mud brick.  Over time the bricks crumble and new houses are built on top of the old ones.  After centuries of occupation the town rises above the plain.

Megiddo was the site of the first reliably recorded battle in history on this day in 1457 BCE.  The Egyptians, led by Pharaoh Thutmose III defeated the Canaanite army led by the King of Kadesh.

It is the first battle to record a casualty list.  The first recorded use of the compound bow.  And the first recorded battle in the area that has recorded the greatest density of battles of any place in the world.

The land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and from Antioch in the North to the Sinai and Aqaba in the South.  This narrow corridor is the primary highway for land movements between Africa, Europe and Asia.  Anyone controlling this land can benefit from imports, exports and innovations of three continents.  They can strategically control access from continent to continent.

Amenhotep fought campaigns here.  The Israelites fought the Canaanites.  Ramses the Great fought the Hittites here in the huge chariot battle of Kadesh.  The Egyptians sacked Jerusalem in the reigns of Pharaoh Sheshonk and King Rehoboam.  Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jerusalem.  Alexander the Great besieged Tyre.  The Seleucids fought an elephant and phalanx battle against the Ptolomies at Raphia in the modern Gaza strip.  The Maccabees fought the Seleucids.

The Romans fought there, including emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Vespasian and Titus.  The Arabs drove out the Byzantines.  The Crusaders drove out the Arabs.  The Mamelukes drove out the Crusaders.  Napoleon fought the Mamelukes here.  Then the Turks drove out the Mamelukes.  The British drove out the Turks in World War 1.  They fought the Vichy French in World War 2.  The Israelis then drove out the British.  The Egyptians, the Syrians, the Jordanians, the Palestinians, the Iranians, the Iraqis and the Lebanese have all tried to drive out the Israelis.  They fought the war of 1948.  Then the British and the French invaded Suez.  This was followed by the six day war, the Yom Kippur war, the South Lebanon war, the Intifada, the second Intifada.

If you Google the name of a town in this area of the world with the words “Battle of” in front of it, Google will ask “Which Battle?”

The battles I have mentioned here are only the really famous ones.  There are many, many more.  Armageddon indeed!

Formigny

Formigny

Every Englishman knows about Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt.   These were the great victories of the English over the French in the 100 years war, where the English longbow made the difference between the sides.  The common Englishman was able to slay mounted French knights and steal the victory on the battlefield.

After the victory of Agincourt Henry V established the high watermark of English rule on the continent.  Edward VI was crowned king of both England and France in 1422 on the death of his father.  Edward was 9 months old.  From that high point it all went downhill.

The battle of Formigny ended the presence of England in Normandy with a resounding defeat.  After a successful and sustained campaign by the French to retake Normandy the complete destruction of the English army at Formigny signalled the end of Normandy as an English possession.  It left Calais as the only English foothold in France, which was held until the reign of Bloody Mary Tudor.

Formigny is interesting from a historical perspective, because it laid out the future pattern of battle up until the invention of the rifled musket in the mid-nineteenth century in the US Civil War.

The English at Formigny, three quarters of whom were archers, established a strong defensive position, protected by ditches and stakes.  The French, who had at last learned the lessons of Crécy and Agincourt, did not get drawn into a cavalry charge.

Instead they mounted only sufficient cavalry skirmishes against the flanks of the English to keep them bunched.  They brought up artillery pieces and began to pound the archers from a safe distance.

The English infantry knew that if they remained in position they would be slaughtered by cannon fire.  They presented an easy target in their defensive square.

If they broke formation to escape the cavalry would run them down and rout them in open country.

So they bravely launched a frontal attack on the French and captured the guns.

Before they could retreat and reform an organised defensive position a new force of Breton cavalry appeared on the English flank.  They were charged and in their loose formation became easy pickings for the French knights.

This choreography of defensive square, infantry marching column and firing line evolved over the following years to become the tactics of Napoleonic era armies.  Archers were gradually replaced by musketeers.  Static defensive positions protected by stakes were replaced by mobile pike squares.

As artillery became lighter and more manoeuvrable the defensive squares had to become more agile.  The pike was replaced by the bayonet, providing a far greater concentration of firepower in the squares.

All of this was ordained at Formigny.  But what English man would remember such a day?

Formigny, sounds a bit like Fontenoy!

Fontenoy; by Thomas Osborne Davis

Thrice, at the huts of Fontenoy, the English column failed,
And twice the lines of Saint Antoine the Dutch in vain assailed;
For town and slope were filled with fort and flanking battery,
And well they swept the English ranks and Dutch auxiliary.
As vainly, through De Barri’s wood, the British soldiers burst,
The French artillery drove them back, diminished, and dispersed.
The bloody Duke of Cumberland beheld with anxious eye,
And ordered up his last reserve, his latest chance to try,
On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, how fast his generals ride!
And mustering come his chosen troops, like clouds at eventide.

II.

Six thousand English veterans in stately column tread;
Their cannon blaze in front and flank, Lord Hay is at their head;
Steady they step a-down the slope–steady they climb the hill;
Steady they load–steady they fire, moving right onward still,
Betwixt the wood and Fontenoy, as through a furnace blast,
Through rampart, trench, and palisade, and bullets showering fast;
And on the open plain above they rose and kept their course,
With ready fire and grim resolve, that mocked at hostile force:
Past Fontenoy, past Fontenoy, while thinner grew their ranks–
They break, as broke the Zuyder Zee through Holland’s ocean banks.

III.

More idly than the summer flies, French tirailleurs rush round;
As stubble to the lava tide, French squadrons strew the ground;
Bomb-shell and grape and round-shot tore, still on they marched
and fired–
Fast from each volley grenadier and voltigeur retired.
‘Push on, my household cavalry!’ King Louis madly cried:
To death they rush, but rude their shock–not unavenged they died.
On through the camp the column trod–King Louis turns his rein:
‘Not yet, my liege,’ Saxe interposed, ‘the Irish troops remain.’
And Fontenoy, famed Fontenoy, had been a Waterloo
Were not these exiles ready then, fresh, vehement, and true.

IV.

‘Lord Clare,’ he says, ‘you have your wish; there are your Saxon foes!’
The Marshal almost smiles to see, so furiously he goes!
How fierce the look these exiles wear, who’re wont to be so gay,
The treasured wrongs of fifty years are in their hearts to-day–
The treaty broken, ere the ink wherewith ’twas writ could dry,
Their plundered homes, their ruined shrines, their women’s parting cry,
Their priesthood hunted down like wolves, their country overthrown–
Each looks as if revenge for all were staked on him alone
On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, nor ever yet elsewhere,
Rushed on to fight a nobler band than these proud exiles were.

V.

O’Brien’s voice is hoarse with joy, as, halting, he commands
‘Fix bay’nets!–charge!’ Like mountain storm, rush on these fiery bands!
Thin is the English column now, and faint their volleys grow,
Yet, must’ring all the strength they have, they make a gallant show.
They dress their ranks upon the hill to face that battle-wind–
Their bayonets the breakers’ foam; like rocks, the men behind!
One volley crashes from their line, when, through the surging smoke,
With empty guns clutched in their hands, the headlong Irish broke.
On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, hark to that fierce huzza!
‘Revenge, remember Limerick! dash down the Sacsanach!’

VI.

Like lions leaping at a fold when mad with hunger’s pang,
Right up against the English line the Irish exiles sprang:
Bright was their steel, ’tis bloody now, their guns are filled with
gore;
Through shattered ranks and severed files the trampled flags they
tore;
The English strove with desperate strength, paused, rallied, staggered,
fled–
The green hill-side is matted close with dying and with dead.
Across the plain, and far away, passed on that hideous wrack,
While cavalier and fantassin dash in upon their track.
On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, like eagles in the sun,
With bloody plumes, the Irish stand–the field is fought and won!

Golden Words

The theme today is Gold.  Gold as a metal has little useful purpose.  It does not corrode, so it is useful in certain applications, such as filling teeth and in certain electronics.  In truth though, you can easily find a cheaper substitute.

Gold is valuable because of its symbology and rarity.  In terms of Symbology Gold is an enduring and pure element.  A person who is described as “gold” is pure and good, as in the Spandau Ballet song.

Tolkien describes Aragorn as Gold that does not glitter.  A true element disguised as something base.

This is a reversal of the Shakespeare quote from the Merchant of Venice.  All that Glisters is not gold, do not be swayed by the surface of a thing, look deep for the “true gold”.

Frost also contrasts the enduring power of metal gold with the ephemeral quality of youth, natures first green.

Finally, Carlyle supports the idea of “concealed worth” by labeling Silence as Golden, Words are Silver, in contrast to the commonly held tenet of the “Golden Tongue”.

Pardon how rough these thought are, this is a rush job.

Firstly here is “Gold” by Spandau Ballet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSq8ZBdSxNU

Merchant of Venice Act II – Scene VII: by William Shakespeare

All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgement old
Your answer had not been inscroll’d
Fare you well, your suit is cold.

All that is Gold does not glitter: by J.R.R. Tolkien

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king

Nothing gold can stay: by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Silence is Golden; by Thomas Carlyle

Speech is too often not, as the Frenchman defined it, the art of concealing Thought;

but of quite stifling and suspending Thought, so that there is none to conceal.

Speech too is great, but not the greatest.

As the Swiss Inscription says: Sprecfien ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silvern, Silence is golden);

or as I might rather express it: Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity.

Off-Grid Opportunity

these days, when you’re talking to one person, you’re talking to a thousand

these days, when you’re talking to one person, you’re talking to a thousand

Yesterday the news was dominated by footage of the shooting of Walter Scott by South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, who has now been charged with murder.  In the past it was possible to cover up mistakes and indiscretions, because it was the word of a policeman against the word of a black man, and (in the US media anyway) an assumed criminal.

These days there are people with mobile phone cameras ready to film anything that is vaguely interesting.  It is possible to become rich and famous overnight if you capture the right piece of footage and it goes viral.  There are also people wearing devices such as GoPro cameras on the look out for a juicy capture.

Graham Dwyer almost committed the perfect murder in Ireland, but CCTV footage of his movements helped the police to build the case for his arrest and conviction.  Dwyer was also nailed by phone records, which were also used to convict another killer, Joe O’Reilly.

We now live in a world where Big Brother has become a reality.  There is a strong potential that every movement you make can be retraced.  Criminals hate this world.  Michael Slager hates this world, where the truth of his actions are displayed for everyone to see.

Even on the front lines of battlefields the actions of troops is under scrutiny.  One of the recent trends in watching Soccer is to post a Vine of a foul, or a dive, so that everyone can see what happened, even if the ref makes the wrong call.  Mary Bale, the woman who dumped a cat in a Wheelie Bin in a moment of madness, discovered the danger of life in the public view.

I suspect there will shortly be a demand for holidays “off the grid”.  Places you can go where it is guaranteed that there are no cameras, no mobile phone signal, no wi-fi.  Could be very popular hangouts for those who need to disappear for a while.

Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House: by Billy Collins

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

£10 boat

Boat

A pair of Essex boys decided to build a boat for under a tenner.  Last weekend they took it out on the water and had a successful day of fishing.  Next day they braved it again, but the oars let them down.  They had no way to get back to shore, they had no life-jackets and nobody to look out for them.  They called the coastguard and were rescued by the Clacton RNLI at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, on their way out to the North Sea.

It is a common tale, oft-repeated whenever the weather picks up.

If they were in an inflatable dinghy they would have gone under the radar.  What made the story interesting was their £9 boat.  It is an easy target to poke fun at because it looks so crude.

What amused me about this story is the shoddy journalism.  The boat is described in the news as a “Heath Robinson” contraption.  Do journalists not know the meaning of the phrases they are writing?  Do editors not check over the copy?

This boat is made of sheets of builders ply and insulation board glued together and roughly sanded into a boat-like shape. It is the modern day version of a simple type of craft, a dugout canoe.   You can describe it as shoddy, improvised, makeshift, rickety or Jerry built.  Call it basic.  Call it low-tech.

In no way can you describe this as a “Heath Robinson” contraption.  Heath Robinson was the English predecessor to Rube Goldberg in the USA.  He became famous as a cartoonist who drew fabulous and intricate contraptions for performing simple tasks.  Where a Heath Robinson contraption or a Rube Goldberg machine are complex and elaborate, the vessel above is simple and functional.

If you want a Heath Robinson boat, it will look more like this one below!

Steamboat

The Jumblies; by Edward Lear

I

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, ‘You’ll all be drowned!’
They called aloud, ‘Our Sieve ain’t big,
But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!
In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

II

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
‘O won’t they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

III

The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, ‘How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

IV

And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
‘O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
In the shade of the mountains brown!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

V

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

VI

And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, ‘How tall they’ve grown!’
For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore;
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And everyone said, ‘If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,—
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.