Theresa May Prevail

boudica

On the birthday of William Blake here is what is probably, in England anyway, his best known poem.  It is one of the most popular and patriotic English hymns of the Anglican Church.

It is the essence of what it is to be English.  The English Rugby song is “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”.  Queen Boudica, that very embodiment of Britannia, is portrayed riding her Celtic Chariot.

As the British Parliament prepare to vote on the Brexit deal with the EU it is not the Northern Irish that matter, nor the Welsh, nor the Scots.  This is England Theresa May.  This is the time to embody England, to don the mantle of Alfred the Great.  To hell with those pesky Celts, this is an Anglo-Saxon matter.

Jerusalem: by William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
on England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

Also sprach Zarathustra

The link above takes you the the opening credits from the film 2001 : A Space Odyssey.  The opening title runs to the music of Richard Strauss, a tone poem  inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical novel which translates into English as “Thus spoke Zarathustra”.  Zarathustra is of course rendered in English as Zoroaster the prophet who converted ancient Persia to Zoroastrianism.  From Zoroaster we get the Wise Spirit:  Ahura Mazda one of the five radiant spirits.  On the dark side is my favourite Angra Mainu which means hostile spirit and seems in English to read “Angry Man You”.

Today is the anniversary of the first performance of the Strauss opus, in Frankfurt 1896.  The famous piece used by Stanley Kubrick to open his film is only one of nine movements from the work.

Now, open the pod bay doors Hal.

Montgisard

Schlacht_von_Montgisard_2

The Battle of Montgisard, 1177, by Charles Philippe Larivière

In the film “Kingdom of Heaven” the masked Baldwin IV, dying of leprosy, reminisces on a great victory in battle when he was only 16 years old.  That victory was genuine.  It was the battle of Montgisard, on this day in the year 1177.

Saladin led his Mameluke army from Egypt to attack a Crusader Castle, possibly Blanchegarde on Tell es-Safi near Ramla.

Baldwin IV, king of Jerusalem,  Raynald of Châtillon, Bailan of Ibelin and the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Odo de St Amand all featured and you will hear these names bandied about in the movie, but beware the poetic licence taken by Ridley Scott with the characters.

The truth is that an outnumbered army of Christian knights prevailed and drove Saladin out of the Holy Land.  Saladin returned to Egypt with only one tenth of his force.  It was a disastrous defeat for him.

It took ten years for Saladin to get his revenge at the Battle of the Horns of Hattin in 1187.

Unpicking the details it seems that Saladin sent a detachment of his forces to bottle Baldwin up in Ashkelon and mistakenly thought he had neutralised that threat.  Believing himself in control Saladin permitted his forces to break up to pillage the country and forage for supplies.  Recent rains caused a stream to flood and his baggage train became enmired in the crossing.

When the Christian knights appeared the Mameluke army was in disarray.  Many of them charged back to the baggage train to retrieve weapons.  The Christian army brought out the relic of the true cross.  Baldwin IV dismounted and prayed before it for strength from God.  He rose to the accolade of his troops, his leprosy bandaged, and charged the Muslim army.  Saladin, it is said, escaped only because he had a racing camel at his disposal.

The Crusaders; by Edward George Dyson

What price yer humble, Dicko Smith,
in gaudy putties girt,
with sand-blight in his optics, and much
leaner than he started,
round the ‘Oly Land cavorting in three-
quarters of a shirt,
and imposin’ on the natives ez one Dick
the Lion ‘Earted?

We are drivin’ out the infidel, we’re hittin’
up the Turk,
same ez Richard slung his right across the
Saracen invader
in old days of which I’m readin’. Now
we’re gettin’ in our work,
‘n’ what price me nibs, I ask yeh, ez a
qualified Crusader!

‘Ere I am, a thirsty Templar in the fields of
Palestine,
where that hefty little fighter, Bobby
Sable, smit the heathen,
and where Richard Coor de Lion trimmed
the Moslem good ‘n’ fine,
‘n’ he took the belt from Saladin, the
slickest Dago breathin’.

There’s no plume upon me helmet, ‘n’ no red
cross on me chest,
‘n’ so fur they haven’t dressed me in a
swanking load of metal;
We’ve no ‘Oly Grail I know of, but we do
our little best
with a jamtin, ‘n’ a billy, ‘n’ a battered
ole mess kettle.

Quite a lot of guyver missin’ from our brand
of chivalry;
We don’t make a pert procession when
we’re movin’ up the forces;
We’ve no pretty, pawin’ stallion, ‘n’ no
pennants flowin’ free,
‘n’ no giddy, gaudy bedquilts make a
circus of the ‘orses.

We ‘most always slip the cattle ‘n’ we cut out
all the dog
when it fairly comes to buttin’ into battle’s
hectic fever,
goin’ forward on our wishbones, with our
noses in the bog,
‘n’ we ‘eave a pot iv blazes at the cursed
unbeliever.

Fancy-dress them old Crusaders wore,
and alwiz kep’ a band.
What we wear’s so near to nothin’ that it’s
often ‘ardly proper,
and we swings a tank iv iron scrap across
the ‘Oly Land
from a dinkie gun we nipped ashore the
other side of Jopper.

We ain’t ever very natty, for the climate here
is hot;
When it isn’t liquid mud the dust is thicker
than the vermin.
Ten to one our bold Noureddin is some wad-
dlin’ Turkish pot,
‘n’ the Saladin we’re on to is a snortin’
red-eyed German.

But be’old the eighth Crusade, ‘n’ Dicko
Smith is in the van,
Dicko Coor de Lion from Carlton what
could teach King Dick a trifle,
for he’d bomb his Royal Jills from out his
baked-pertater can,
or he’d pink him full of leakage with a
quaint repeatin’ rif1e.

We have sunk our claws in Mizpah, and
Siloam is in view.
By my ‘alidom from Agra we will send the
Faithful reelin’!
Those old-timers botched the contract, but we
mean to put it through.
Knights Templars from Balmain, the Port,
Monaro, Nhill, andl Ealin’.

We ‘are wipin’ up Jerus’lem; we were ready
with a hose
spoutin’ lead, a dandy cleaner that you bet
you can rely on;
And Moss Isaacs, Cohn, and Cohen, Moses,
Offelbloom ‘n’ those
can all pack their bettin’ bags, and come
right home again to Zion.

 

Happy Birthday Rugby

RWC-2015

William Webb Ellis, alleged inventor of Rugby, was born on this day in 1806.  The Rugby World Cup trophy is named for him, the William Web Ellis Cup.  We next compete for it in Japan 2019.

In the History of Rugby written by Edmund Van Esbeck, the retired Irish Times Rugby Columnist, he surmises that Ellis learned about the game in Ireland.  His father was a Cavalryman and was stationed for a time in Ireland.  The young Webb Ellis would have seen the local Irish lads play Cás, the gaelic version of football, which uses hands as well as feet.

It was only natural then, when he attended Rugby school, that he should take the ball in hand and run the field to score.  Rugby school adopted the new style and set the first laws of the game.

Today tiny little Ireland play the mighty United States of America.  On the rugby field an island of less than 7 million people take on a nation of over 327 million people.  What hope do we have?

While we wait for the Kick Off here is a rugby poem by an ex-lawyer turned poet.  It’s a poem in the tradition of Banjo Patterson, the bushmen and the diggers.

Why we play the game; by Rupert McCall

When the battle scars have faded
and the truth becomes a lie,
when the weekend smell of liniment
could almost make you cry,
when the last ruck’s well behind you
and the man who ran now walks,
it doesn’t matter who you are,
the mirror sometimes talks.

Have a good hard look son
that melon’s not so great
the snoz that takes a sharp turn sideways
used to be dead straight.
You’re an advert for arthritis,
you’re a thorough bred gone lame
and you ask yourself the question;
why the hell you played the game?

Was there logic in the head knocks
in the corks and in the cuts?
Or did common sense get pushed aside
for manliness and guts?
And do you sometimes sit and wonder
how your time would often pass
in a tangled mess of bodies
with your head up someone’s arse
with a thumb hooked up your nostril
scratching gently on your brain
with an overgrown Neanderthal
rejoicing in your pain?

Mate, you must recall the jersey
that was shredded into rags
then the soothing sting of dettol
on a back engraved with tags.
Now it’s almost worth admitting
although with some degree of shame,
that your wife was right in asking
why the hell you played the game.

But then with every wound reopened
as you grimly reminisce it
comes the most compelling feeling yet
Christ! you bloody miss it.
You see, from the first time that you lace a boot
and tighten every stud
that virus known as rugby
has been living in our blood.

When you dreamt it
when you played it
all the rest took second fiddle
and now you’re standing on the sideline
but your heart’s still in the middle
and no matter where you travel
you can take it as expected
there will always, always be a breed of people
hopelessly infected.

If there’s a team mate
then you’ll find him
like a gravitational force
with a common understanding
and a beer or three of course.
And as you stand there telling lies
like it was yesterday old friend
you know that if you had the chance
you’d do it all again.

You see, that’s the thing with rugby
it will always be the same
and that my friends I guarantee you
is why the hell we play the game.

Bloody Sunday

TippDub

Eighty eight years ago for the admission price of a shilling, you could have participated in a massacre.  British Auxiliaries and RIC entered Croke Park in Dublin during the Tipperary V Dublin football match and opened fire indiscriminately at the players and spectators.

It was the lowest ebb of the British Empire and mirrored the Amritsar Massacre, also known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April 1919, only one and a half years before.

What led to British Irregulars taking such action?

On the morning of Sunday 21st November 1920, under the orders of Michael Collins, military commander of the IRA, 15 men were shot.  The assassinations wiped out the pride of British Military Intelligence in Ireland, the Cairo Gang.

The attack in Croke Park was a direct response to the IRA action.  It was followed later that night by the murder of three IRA prisoners held in custody by the British Security forces.

This day, like no other, undermined the legitimacy of British Rule in Ireland and led ultimately to a truce in July 1921 and the eventual end of British Rule in the Republic.

Over Seventy innocent bystanders were wounded or killed in the football ground, victims of anger and frustration.

The Hogan Stand in Croke Park is named after Michael Hogan who was shot and killed on that day.

Happy Birthday Moby Dick

Essex

It was on this day in the year 1820 that the Whaling Ship out of Nantucket called The Essex was rammed by an enormous Sperm Whale.

What followed was a dreadful tale of survivors adrift on the Pacific Ocean in small open boats.  Dehydration, starvation, cannibalism and survival.

Two of the crew wrote accounts of the ordeal and it was from these that Herman Melville fashioned his novel, Moby Dick.

And now a small quiz………how many Whales appear in the Bible?

 

 

Answer

None.  P.S.  Jonah was swallowed by a “Great Fish”.

And “Leviathan” could be any Sea Monster.

 

 

John Moynes

JM

A poem from John Moynes, author of “Scenes of Moderate Violence” available here:  Scenes of Moderate violence

How succinctly this sums up all that is wrong in the workplace.  You know, when you throw yourself body and soul into a project, and then you hear whispers and mumblings filter back to you, originated by people who don’t have the decency to pick up the phone to you or tell you to your face.

And remember this, if you find yourself criticizing someone else, but not to their face, just stop.

 

Moynes

Superlatives

Stockdale

Jacob Stockdale scores the games only try, closely supported by Josh Van Der Flier

In the years to come I want to come back to this moment.  The second Irish defeat of the All Blacks, and the first on home soil.

A game of superlatives.  Two teams who left every inch of energy and commitment on the park.  A clash of giants, an epic battle, the stuff of legend.  If all that sounds too much, it is not.  In fact it will be very difficult in the years to come to express to people just how important his match was.

The Haka had a different character.  This intimidating tribal challenge and statement of intent was never expressed with greater intensity.  And yet, for the first time Ireland stood toe to toe with the All Blacks on equal terms.

As we begin preparation for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 this was a unique fixture.  The number 1 in the antipodes against the number 1 Northern Hemisphere team.  Ireland V New Zealand.  In the end the only difference between the sides was the try by Jacob Stockdale and the Sexton conversion.

Despite the loss New Zealand retain their number 1 position in world rankings.

Final score Ireland 16 – 9 New Zealand.

Man of the Match:  Peter O’Mahony

Kapa o pango

Let me become one with the land
This is our land that rumbles
And it’s my time! It’s my moment!
This defines us as the All Blacks
It’s my time! It’s my moment!
Our dominance
Our supremacy will triumph
And will be placed on high
Silver fern!
All Blacks!
Silver fern!
All Blacks!
Hi Ya!

Peter

Haka

The Spartan General

Monty

Colonel Montgomery accidentally caught in Churchill Photograph

Born on this day in 1887 Bernard Law Montgomery was a hero of two world wars.

Son of an Ulster-Scots Church of Ireland Reverend Minister from Inishowen in Donegal.  Born in Surrey and grew up in Tasmania where his father was appointed as Bishop.

When he attended military college he was almost expelled for “rowdiness and violence”

He was already an adjutant in the British Army when WW1 broke out.  He fought in the famous retreat from Mons and was shot in one lung.  He recovered and returned to duty to fight again at Arras and Passchendaele.  He finished the war with a rank of lieutenant colonel and it was in this capacity that he was caught in the photograph above in a prophetic juxtaposition with Winston Churchill.

He married Betty Carver in 1927, widow of an Olympic Athlete who died in WW1, mother of two sons.  She had a moderating effect on Montgomery, smoothing out the negatives in his character, his violence, his intractability, his single mindedness.  The qualities that made him a successful battle commander did not serve him well in the 20’s and 20’s.  She helped him greatly to advance his peacetime career.

In a tragic set of circumstances she died of an infected insect bite that gave her blood poisoning and she died in his arms, leaving him grief stricken.

When WW2 commenced Montgomery immediately demonstrated his fitness as a battle commander.  He retreated from France with his command intact, ordering a night time march to reach Dunkirk, and returning to Britain with minimal casualties.

His abrasive manner ruffled feathers at military command and he was openly and frankly critical of the command of the BEF.  He had a reputation for physical and mental toughness and insisted on the physical fitness of all his men, including the senior officers.  He was ruthless in sacking men he saw as unfit to command.

When Winston Churchill sought a commander to replace Auchinleck in North Africa he was convinced to select Montgomery.  His transformation of the 8th Army and his defeat of Rommel at 2nd El Alamein are the stuff of legend.

From then on the march of Monty was the March of Britain.  Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, until he tarnished the polish of his legend in Arnhem with that Bridge Too Far in Operation Market Garden.  Had he succeeded Monty could have ended the war a year earlier.  But perhaps not.

Peace time was not good for Montgomery with no understanding wife to iron out his worst tendencies.  He upset many with his memoirs of the war and even faced legal challenges to what he wrote.  He demonstrated himself as the worst kind of bigot with his stances on issues such as apartheid and homosexuality.

 

Montgomery: by A.P. Herbert

Field Marshal, few, and foolish, are the lands
that do not hail the baton in your hands.
They labelled you a ‘showman’. But we know
good showmen must have something good to show:
One does not capture by the showman’s art
the people’s confidence, the soldier’s heart.
They said you were ‘eccentric’. We could do
with several abnormalities like you:
It needs a not quite ordinary man
to start at Alamein and take Sedan.
Master of craft, and horror of the Huns,
one hundred salvos from a thousand guns!
September 3, 1944

Monty2

Normandy 1944 at the height of fame.

 

For Brexit Posterity

Resigned

Dominic Raab_________________ Esther McVey________________ Shailesh Vara

I wonder will anyone even remember their names in five years time.  Big news today as they resigned posts in the Tory Party in rejection of the Brexit deal agreed with the European Union by Theresa May and her dwindling cabinet.

The British Press continue to push hard to see the most hard landing of Brexit realised.  How do we know this?  The following Tweet puts it perfectly:

Mogg Tweet

As the Tory Party implodes you get the sense that everyone just wants the pain to end.  You can almost imagine Theresa May praying that the dissenters reach their target of 48 letters to the 1922 committee to trigger a no confidence motion.

As one columnist put it today it is far easier to criticise the Cabinet for failure to deliver the promised herd of Unicorns, than to engage in the tricky task of Unicorn breeding.

The cabinet may accept the deal only to be rejected by the party, the parliament or even the people, who might just vote the Labour Party back in.  Not that Jeremy Corbyn deserves a crack at the whip.

I have no further predictions.  The plot of the Brexit story reads a lot like G.K. Chesterton’s “The Napoleon of Notting Hill” where the people defy all political predictions on national direction by stagnating.