War and Peas


I’ve declared war.  I am arming up and gathering reinforcements.  As soon as the logistics are in place we march to battle.

In general I am against war and violence.  But all attempts at diplomatic solutions have failed.  I am not about to become some modern day Neville Chamberlain, kowtowing to a rodent Hitler in his quest for increasing Lebensraum.  I do not want peace at any price.  I do want peas.

Yes, this is a war of peas.  I plant them, the rabbits eat the shoots.  Seemingly pea shoots are delicious.  Especially to rabbits.  Now, on top of the pea issue there is the burrow issue.  They seem to think my courgette patch would make a nice new home.  They want to move in on a semi-permanent basis.

Initially I thought we could shoo them away.  Just chase them off.  But they kept coming.

Then I thought the foxes would see to them.  No such luck.

Lately I have taken to carrying a bow and arrow around the garden.  When I encounter them unarmed they stand their ground and try to stare me down.  The moment they spot the bow in my hand they melt into the long grass.  They seem to know somehow that the bow spells danger.  Maybe it’s my body language.  Not that I have a hope in hell of hitting them with an arrow if I do get a shot off.  Rabbits are small and they move fast.  Still, it feels as though I am doing something to stem the tide of invasion.

The long term solution is cats.  A couple of young rescue cats from the local rescue centre.  That will sort them out.  Anyone who knows me well knows my attitude to cats.  I feel like I am signing a pact with Stalin to defeat Hitler.  Cats have taken over the internet.  Now they are taking over the world.


Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw –
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime – Macavity’s not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime – Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air –
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square –
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair –
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair –
But it’s useless to investigate – Macavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
‘It must have been Macavity!’ – but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place – MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known,
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime.

Le Paradis

Bill & Bert at war crimes tribunal

Bill & Bert at war crimes tribunal

May 27th, 1940.  A group of soldiers from the Royal Norfolk regiment were isolated in the French village of Le Paradis, just south of Mons in Belgium.  They were engaged in a holding action to give time for the evacuation of the BEF from France in Dunkirk.

When they ran out of ammunition, with many of the men wounded, the 99 survivors were ordered by their Major to surrender.  They surrendered to Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein, the commander of the SS Totenkopf (Deaths Head) unit.

The SS unit set up two heavy machine guns, marched the Norfolks up against the wall of a barn, and machine gunned them down.  They were then ordered by Knöchlein to bayonet the survivors to death.  It seems this elite group of hard line Nazi’s didn’t need much ordering.

Beneath the dead two wounded Englishmen survived.  Private William (Bill) O’Callaghan dragged Private Albert (Bert) Pooley out from under the bodies.  They survived for three days hiding in a pigsty drinking dirty water, eating raw eggs and potatoes.  When the owners of the farm found them they took care of the two men, under threat of punishment.

The men later surrendered to a regular Wehrmacht infantry division.  O’Callahan was sent to a POW camp in Poland for the duration of the war.  Pooley was repatriated, unfit for service.

Initially the claims of the massacre by Pooley were met by disbelief.  It was not until the discovery of death camps at Bergen Belsen etc at the end of the war that his story gained credibility.  When O’Callaghan returned in 1945 he was able to confirm Pooley’s story.

In 1948 Knöchlein was tried for war crimes and found guilty.  He was hanged in 1949.  He was the only person to answer for the crime.  A mass grave in Le Paradis suggests that Knöchlein was also guilty of ordering the murder of 20 men of the Royal Scots who were isolated similarly to the Norfolks.

For the Fallen; Robert Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

What’s been happening


A big weekend this gone past.

Our oldest son, Jerry,  marked the end of his secondary school education and we were invited to a graduation ceremony and dinner.  Only the Leaving Cert exams now stand between him and his adult life.

Our youngest, Gavin, celebrated his 15th birthday.

My daughter, Esha, has gone to London on her Transition year school tour.

Ireland passed the same sex marriage referendum (and rejected a reduction of the age of Presidential candidates from 35 down to 21).  We are the first country in the world to ratify same sex marriage by popular vote.  We could become the LGBT marriage destination of choice for the coming years.

Ireland did not win the Eurovision Song Contest, and Sweden did.  One more win and they equal the Irish record!  I can’t help feeling we could have won with a song about same sex marriage.  Missed opportunity.

Beauty; by John Masefield

I have seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills
Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain:
I have seen the lady April bringing in the daffodils,
Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain.

I have heard the song of the blossoms and the old chant of the sea,
And seen strange lands from under the arched white sails of ships;
But the loveliest things of beauty God ever has showed to me
Are her voice, and her hair, and eyes, and the dear red curve of her lips.

Simnel cake


Lambert Simnel was a common born child who was crowned as pretender to the English throne on this day in 1487.  The Yorkists of the Wars of the Roses, were still unhappy with the ascent of Henry VII Tudor to the throne of England.

They trained up a young handsome boy to pretend to be Edward VI.  He was originally intended to be represented as one of the “princes in the tower”, sons of Edward IV.  In a late change of game plan he was presented as Earl of Warwick, son of the Duke of Clarence.

Lambert Simnel was “crowned” King Edward VI in Christchurch cathedral in Dublin.  Supported by Irish Lords (who have a tradition of backing the wrong side in English royal arguments) including the powerful Fitzgeralds of Kildare.

The rebellion was defeated at the battle of Stoke Field.  The local “support” never materialised.

Henry was forgiving to the 10 year old boy who was used as a figurehead for rebellion by the Yorkists.  He gave him a job as a spit boy in the kitchens of the royal palace.

Some people believed that he went on to invent “Simnel Cake”.  But this does not hold up under investigation.  Simnel Cake, a fruitcake decorated with layers of marzipan, was recorded up to 200 years earlier.  The name “Simnel” is thought to derive from the latin ‘simila’ meaning ‘fine”.  It is thought to describe the fine white flour used to make the cake.

Simnel cake is traditionally given by daughters to their mothers on Mothering Sunday as a treat during Lent.

Follows a Clerihew, written by the inventor of the form.  Funny four line poems that describe famous people in as absurd a manner as possible.

Lambert Simnel; by Edward Clerihew Bentley

True Lambert Simnel
Was not a habitual criminal,
But it really was hardly historic
To call himself the Earl of Warwick.

A world reflected


˙sʇǝƃ ɹǝʌǝ ʇᴉ sɐ ploɔ sɐ s’ʇɐɥʇ pu∀

‘sʍolloɥ uᴉ ʇnɐʇ ʎlqᴉssǝɹdxǝuI
ɯǝɥʇ puᴉɟ noʎ ʇɐɥʇ ʇno sunɹ pooɟ ɹᴉǝɥʇ uǝɥM

ʎluo sᴉ ʇᴉ uǝɥʇ ‘uo pǝǝɟ sʇɹɐǝɥ ɹᴉǝɥ┴
spǝǝs ǝɥʇ ɟo llnɟ ʇᴉ dǝǝʞ ‘ɹǝpǝǝɟ ∀

ʇno ʇnd noʎ ɟᴉ os ‘ɯɹɐʍ dǝǝʞ ʎǝɥʇ oS
ʎlsnoᴉɔɐɹoʌ ʇɐǝq spɹᴉq ɟo sʇɹɐǝɥ ǝɥ┴

˙sʇǝƃ ʇᴉ sɐ ploɔ sɐ s’ʇɐɥʇ puɐ ‘uǝzoɹℲ
uǝʌǝ ʇoN ˙uǝzoɹɟ uǝʌǝ ʇ’usI

ɹǝʇɐʍ ʇɐɥʇ ‘llɐ s’ʇɐɥʇ ‘ǝᴉp noʎ ʇɐɥʇ ǝʞᴉ˥
ɹǝʇɐʍ uᴉ ‘ǝlᴉɥʍ ɐ uᴉ ǝɔuo ǝzᴉsdɐƆ

˙sʇǝu ɹᴉǝɥʇ ƃuᴉƃƃɐɹp ‘ssɐd sʇɐoq ɹǝʇsqol ǝɥ┴
ǝuᴉɐW ɟo ʇsɐoɔ ǝɥʇ ɟɟo ʇsnſ ˙llɐ ɯǝɥʇ sʞɹɐW

ʇɥƃᴉu ɥʇɟlǝʍʇ ǝɥʇ puɐ ploɔ ǝɥʇ oʇ sn ɹoℲ
sʇᴉɯᴉl ǝɹɐ ǝɹǝɥ┴ ˙ƃuᴉƃƃɐɹq doʇs ʇsnɯ ǝM
ǝuɹɐǝH ᴉʞɔᴉΛ ʎq ;9 ʎɹɐnuɐſ



in 1643 on this day the French defeated the Spanish at the battle of Rocroi.  This was a major shift in the continental power balance.  For over 150 years, since the 1492 “liberation” of Granada in fact, the Spanish were the dominant power in Europe.  Their troops were considered to be invincible.  Everyone lived in fear of meeting the Spanish “Tercio”.

It was the Spaniards who led efforts to defeat the Turks in the Western Mediterranean and in battles such as the siege of Malta and Lepanto.

The power of the Spanish military was supported by a seemingly endless supply of wealth from their American colonies.

At Rocroi the army of the young Louis XIV, the Sun King, was led by a 21 year old general, Louis duc d’Enghien.  In truth the french did not defeat the Spanish Tercios.  They won the battle.  In the process they drove off the fighting squares of German and Walloon troops who fought for the Spanish Empire.  The tercios stood their ground despite repeated cavalry attacks and under savage bombardment from the French artillery.

In the end the Spaniards were offered full battlefield honors by the French in return for their withdrawal.  They departed from the battlefield bearing their arms and with their banners and flags displayed.

Nevertheless, this was a huge blow to the morale of Spain and a boost to the confidence of other continental armies.  The battle demonstrated that the Spanish were not invincible.  From this point on the fortunes of war on the continent were to be decided by France, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Poland and Russia.

At Rocroi the French created their own legend, their own fame.

Below is a Camino poem which  says that we do not follow paths, we create them.  The link here is that Rocroi lies on the Camino de Santiago route if you start from Flanders, Holland, Denmark or Northern Germany.

Caminante; by Antonio Machado

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.

Pardon my translation (suggestions for improvement welcome)

Pilgrim, these are your footsteps

the way is nothing more;

Pilgrim, there is no path,

but that created by your walking.

By walking the path becomes,

and looking back

you see what can never

be traveled again.

Pilgrim, there is no path

only wakes in the sea.



Christopher Marlowe is a far more interesting character than William Shakespeare.  Besides being the greatest playwright of his age he supposedly worked as a spy for the Walshinghams, Elizabeth’s spy masters.  Stabbed to death in a fight over a restaurant bill, there are many conspiracy theories about his passing.  Some believed that he was taken out to protect state secrets.  Others believe that he was aware of nefarious dealings amongst Frizer, Poley and Skeres, his companions at the fateful dinner.

At the time of his death Marlowe was under investigation by the Privy council for heresy.  His friend and fellow playwright Thomas Kyd was found in possession of heretical scripture, an Arianist tract.  Under torture he stated that he had received it from Marlowe.  At other times Marlowe was accused of being both an Athiest and a Catholic.  He was suspected of being the author of blasphemous pamphlets that were distributed about London.

There is even a theory that Marlowe’s death was staged so that he could be smuggled away to safety from some threat to his person from his spying activities.  While hidden away he is supposed to have written all the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

The face that launched a thousand ships; by Christopher Marlowe

Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.
I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy, shall Wittenberg be sack’d;
And I will combat with weak Menelaus,
And wear thy colours on my plumed crest;
Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel,
And then return to Helen for a kiss.
O, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appear’d to hapless Semele;
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa’s azur’d arms;
And none but thou shalt be my paramour!

Fixed V boundless

Francis Swaine:  HMS Flora crossing with a Schooner

Francis Swaine: HMS Flora crossing with a Schooner

My mother likes to tell the story of the time my oldest brother got a new bike.  Someone was playing with his pump and he told them to stop because they would “use it up” as though the pump contained a limited supply of air, or a fixed allocation of uses.

Some things are fixed and others are boundless.  What I mean by this is that certain things have a limit to them while others are quite without limits.

In the poem below Shakespeare talks of things we once thought of as boundless but now know to have fixed limits.  The “soundless deep” has a bottom and we can now measure it.  The “broad main” of Shakespeare’s day conjured up images of an undiscovered ocean, new lands and no limits.  Today our world is a smaller place by far and every ocean is fenced in by well established borders.

Our entire planet comes with limits.  If we don’t respect those limits then there will be no long term future for mankind.  There are too many humans on the planet and we are pushing the environment to its limit with our consumption.  If mankind does not plan and implement a sustainable relationship with the Earth then the future will belong to some later evolution.

If you want to try to use things up have a go at using up things that are truly boundless and are also positive.  Try to use up all your smiles and your laughs.  Try to use up all the compliments you can think of by giving them away to others.  Use up your love, kindness and generosity.  Use up all the music and dance in the world.  Use up the sunrises and the sunsets, watch every one of them.

Try to avoid using up all your frowns, harsh words and criticisms of others.  Save them up in case you need them in the future.

Sonnet LXXX; William Shakespeare

O! how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame.
But since your worth, wide as the ocean is,
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth wilfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or, being wracked, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building, and of goodly pride:
Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
The worst was this, my love was my decay.

Why girls mature faster than boys?


Girls mature faster than boys, both physically and mentally.  Girls can become sexually fertile from a very young age, and by age 16 many girls can pull off looking old enough to get into an adult club with the right clothes, hair and makeup.

Boys don’t hit their full height until about 18, and even then they do not look like men.  They do not have the heavy neck and jaw line and larger muscles of a mature man.

The reasons for these differences go all the way back to our primate roots.

If we look at a Gorilla clan there is only ever one fully mature male silver-back Gorilla.  If a young male acquires the indicators of full maturity then the dominant male will drive him out or kill him.  There is only room for one alpha male in a Gorilla group.  So over time the male gorillas have retained adolescent features until the opportunity arises for them to take control of the group.  Remaining adolescent for longer is a good survival strategy for a male gorilla.

No such imperative exists for the female gorilla.  The imperative for her is to achieve sexual maturity as early as possible and to start reproducing.

These tensions become more interesting as you move into more complex primate societies.  In Chimpanzee politics a tribe is not usually ruled by a single dominant male.  There is a greater mix of physical and social leadership.

What is immediately obvious is that the size differences between males and females are far less noticeable in Chimp society than they are amongst Gorillas.  For Chimps, size is not everything.  The ruler of a Chimp tribe usually has the support of other mature males.  These tend to be brothers, uncles or cousins.

Any male who wishes to rise to the top of chimp society needs to develop a strong social network amongst his male peers.  The longer he can remain in an adolescent state the better are the chances that he can build a support network.  If he looks too mature at an early age the ruling males may drive him out as he represents a sexual threat to their access to females.  So it is that in primate society the males who are sexually successful in the long term are often those who have remained longest in adolescence.  They went on to reproduce and their offspring also carried the genes for delayed maturity.

At the same time the most successful females are those who reach sexual maturity earlier and have a longer fertility period in which to reproduce.  With females able to reproduce only once every 4 years or so in Gorilla & Chimp tribes, the females have less sexual competition at play than the males have.

As society becomes more complex female sexual competition becomes more intense.  A larger tribe has more sexually mature males, but the competition between females for access to the alpha males becomes more intense.

Humans are to Chimps what Chimps are to Gorillas.  We have a society that is even more complex and less dictated by raw physical dominance.  Yet even so we still carry the imperatives of our evolution.

West Point, the US Military College, carried out a study of officers to track factors that contributed to their success.  They took class photos from graduation and assigned physical dominance scores to the faces.  Strong markers of high testosterone are well studied, and include features such as a strong jawline and heavy brows.  There was a strong correlation between these alpha male markers and career success as senior officers.

This makes sense as military success is often a result of the ability to motivate others to follow your orders.  Especially in wartime the best decision may not be the most logical one, but it is the one that is implemented with greatest intensity.

Here is a link to the original West Point study:  http://cogprints.org/696/1/ms96_1~2.html

Pontiac’s War


On this day in 1763 Pontiac’s War began in Detroit.

The British were trying to replace native american transport vehicles with imported European compacts.

A coalition of Native American tribal transport manufacturers rose against the British and engaged in some fairly nasty gang warfare in the streets of Detroit.

In response the British launched a biological warfare campaign and wiped out many of the Native Americans with blanket bombing.

Ever since the Native Americans have been suspicious of British made blankets.

This short account, like all history, contains some facts and some errors.

Meeting the British:  by Paul Muldoon

We met the British in the dead of winter.
The sky was lavender

and the snow lavender-blue.
I could hear, far below,

the sound of two streams coming together
(both were frozen over)

and, no less strange,
myself calling out in French

across that forest-
clearing. Neither General Jeffrey Amherst

nor Colonel Henry Bouquet
could stomach our willow-tobacco.

As for the unusual
scent when the Colonel shook out his hand-

kerchief: C’est la lavande,
une fleur mauve comme le ciel.

They gave us six fishhooks
and two blankets embroidered with smallpox.