Bjorking Brilliant


Oh yeah, they all laughed in the office when I drew Iceland.  Euro 2016 championship sweepstakes and I got the team that was considered the total no-hoper.

Well who’s laughing now suckers?  Spain, Austria and Croatia all gone.  Ireland, heads high, good effort, but gone.  England….embarrassed, humiliated, shocked.  Brexit 2.

Iceland, a country with a population that could just about fill a decent stadium if you let them stand on the pitch.  Iceland, who have 21 players from their national league in their squad and only 2 players who made it on the international stage.

Iceland may get no further in the competition, but they have been worth every penny of my entry fee.  Come on the land of fire and ice.  Or ice and fire if you are a Game of Thrones fan.  July 3rd we take on the French on their own doorstep.  L’hiver arrive!

Fire and Ice; by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.




The boys of 98


The boys of Wexford, the Croppy boys, the Whiteboys, the celebrated rebels of 1798.  Remember today the anniversary of the Battle of Vinegar Hill.  Irish Rebels foolishly tried to make a stand to fight a pitched battle against the English troops.  Unshod farm-boys armed with pikes standing toe to toe against the cannons and muskets of English regulars.  Foot soldiers trying to stand against professional cavalry.  Brave, misguided and badly led fools.

Think what it says about the English rule of Ireland, that the rebels risked so much with so little.  On this week, when Britain decides to remain or to Brexit the EU there is a voice calling from the depths where Ireland says “good riddance to bad rubbish”.  Truth is we were treated pretty shabbily over here on John Bull’s Other Island.  I doubt the great potato famine would have happened if the blight struck Yorkshire.  It was a kind of handy form of genocide on the Catholic Irish.

Personally I would not like to see Britain depart from the EU.  European Union has become the greatest force for peace (there’s an oxymoron) in the history of the planet.  There are problems with the experiment that is Europe.  You don’t make progress by leaving.  You make progress by engaging.  Britain has ever been the reluctant bride in the Euro experiment.  Vested interests in the London Stock Market have much to lose from further integration.  Stock market traders thrive on chaos and uncertainty.  Stability is their enemy, they see no profit in peace.

These vested interests have a lot of money and they own many media outlets.  Their voices are strong and they chant their jingos to fools to the beat of a war drum.  They tell the uneducated classes blatant lies that suit their own agenda.   They are no friend to those uneducated classes.  Just be clear, if Brexit happens they will simply swap the Polish immigrant workers for immigrants from Africa, Asia or South America.  The English working stiff who waves the flag and votes to leave will pay by throwing out the very protections that are afforded to workers by the EU.

The value of Sterling will plummet, and the market traders will make a fortune selling currency hedges.  They will celebrate Brexit with a new Porsche.


Requiem for the Croppies; by Seamus Heaney

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
we moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
and stampede cattle into infantry,
then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
and in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.

Happy Bloomsday

James Joyce

Here is a photo of James Joyce rockin’ the guitar.  Bet you didn’t know he could do that!  Joyce also won a medal in the Feis Ceol, Ireland’s premier music competition, as a Tenor.  He only came second.   Beaten by some guy called John McCormack.  He was a dab hand at the poetry too, as attested below.  Of course nowadays everyone associates him with the prose he wrote.

Today is Bloomsday, when the literary world celebrates the day which provides the backdrop for Ulysses.  Dublin comes alive with delivery bikes, Edwardian clothing and lookalikes.  Reading events are staged to celebrate his works.

Wasn’t like that when the dirty bird was still alive I can tell you.  Back in the 1930’s he would have been whipped naked through the streets over the ashes of his burning books.  Filth!  Sure it’s only pornography without the pictures.


Now, O now, in this brown land
Where Love did so sweet music make
We two shall wander, hand in hand,
Forbearing for old friendship’ sake,
Nor grieve because our love was gay
Which now is ended in this way.

A rogue in red and yellow dress
Is knocking, knocking at the tree;
And all around our loneliness
The wind is whistling merrily.
The leaves — – they do not sigh at all
When the year takes them in the fall.

Now, O now, we hear no more
The vilanelle and roundelay!
Yet will we kiss, sweetheart, before
We take sad leave at close of day.
Grieve not, sweetheart, for anything — –
The year, the year is gathering.

James Joyce

Seeing is believing

On June 15th, 1878 horses changed forever.  Eadweard Muybridge shot his photographic stills of a horse galloping in Palo Alto California.  When he published them in “A Horse in Motion” he changed the world of Equine art.

Horses galloping move too fast for the human eye to be able to see what is happening the feet.  Before 1878 this is how galloping horses looked:

by Alfred de Dreux

19th century — by Alfred de Dreux — Image by © The Gallery Collection/Corbis

Now called “rocking-horse gallop” it was the best that artists could do.  Even the greatest artists such as this famous painting of the charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo by Elizabeth Thompson entitled “Scotland Forever” painted in 1881, before widespread distribution of Muybridges work, shows the horses with both front hooves raised in the gallop.

Horse scots greys

Contrast this with “A Dash for the Timber” painted in 1889 by Frederick Remington.  Remington has his horses in suspension, with all four hooves off the ground when the legs are bent, not when they are outstretched.


Armed with this knowledge it is a simple matter to date any painting of a galloping horse, with a high degree of certainty, to before or after 1890.

Here are the stills taken by Muybridge that changed how we see horses.





Reign of Terror



June 8th, 793 was the official opening of the Viking era.  Founded by the Irish monk St. Aidan the Lindisfarne priory sat on the isolated “Holy Island” off the coast of Northumbria.  Out of nowhere Norsemen pounced on the undefended Christian community.  What followed was a brief and brutal raid which caused consternation amongst the Christian communities of the English mainland.

For the Norsemen it was a bonanza.  They returned with holds overflowing with silver and gold, fine cloth and a fat crop of well fed slaves.  Overnight the economy of Scandinavia shifted from subsistence farming to rapine and pillage.

In the margins of a manuscript in St Gall in Switzerland a short poem was found, written in Gaelic by an Irish monk.  You get a sense of the awful terror he must have felt when the weather was fair for sailing.

Bitter is the wind tonight
tossing the seas to spume
no anxiety need I suffer
when only crazy Norsemen go a-viking.


Passes a legend

Cassius Clay.jpeg

Upon hearing of the passing of Muhammed Ali I called to mind this iconic photograph of him towering over the supine Sonny Liston.  Ali all piss and vinegar, youth personified, the new sweeping out the old.  The fallen champion exposing his belly in complete submission.

Ali was one of those few individuals who could make a sport accessible to the wider public.  He was not just the greatest because he won the world heavyweight championship three times.  He is the greatest because he made boxing speak to a generation.  A boxer, not a fighter, he moved his considerable bulk with the grace of a dancer.  He entertained both inside and outside of the ring.  He was the modern day embodiment of the Islamic ideal of the warrior poet.

His like will not be seen again.  Muhammed Ali, 1942 -2016


from ‘Ajax‘: by James Shirley

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armor against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings.
Scepter and crown
Must tumble down
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field
And plant fresh laurels where they kill,
But their strong nerves at last must yield;
They tame but one another still.
Early or late
They stoop to fate
And must give up their murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Upon death’s purple altar now
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.