Bread Basket

Egypt

Egypt was the most valuable province of Rome for two reasons.  The first is obvious, in a time when any food surplus was highly valued Egypt was the bread basket of the Mediterranean world, churning out a regular, highly dependable surplus of wheat.

Secondly it operated out of step with the Northern summer season.  The monsoons hit Ethiopia in the Summer causing the Nile flood, so the Egyptians were planting when the Italians and Greeks were harvesting.  This allowed the Empire to stagger the deployment of transport.  Ships that transported grain from Sicily and Africa in Autumn could switch to the Egyptian trade in Spring.

When Rome lost Italy, Sicily, North Africa, Sardinia and ruled from Constantinople Egypt gained in importance.

As a result the 6th of July was a black day for the Romans when, in 640 AD a small force of Arabs under the brilliant general Amr ibn al-As al-Sahmi routed the Byzantines at the battle of Heliopolis on the outskirts of Cairo.

The Romans had, after a lifetime of war by Emperor Heraclius, defeated their arch nemesis, the Sassanid Empire, in 622.  As the two punch-drunk empires reeled away from each other the newly unified Arabs exploded out of the Arabian Peninsula and overran the Sassanid lands; the ancient Persian Empire.

The Romans believed themselves safe for at least a generation as the Arabs assimilated the feuding elements of the Persian empire.  They met the Arabs properly for the first time at the battle of Yarmouk in Syria in a battle that lasted for six days.  Rome lost Syria, but that was not a complete disaster.  Rome could survive without troublesome Syria.

But Egypt was another matter.  The loss of Egypt was a near deathblow to the Roman Empire.  Ultimately the Byzantine Empire could only survive by re-organisation of the entire economy.  The grain dole that marked out the highs of Roman Civilization had to cease when Egypt was lost.  Roman dominance of Mare Nostrum, the Mediterranean Sea ended as the Arabs gained a coastline with well defended harbours.

The Arabs by contrast, were unleashed.  Their cavalry thundered across the North African Deserts to Morocco and Spain.  Where horses and camels galloped the ships followed.  The failings of the Byzantines at Heliopolis were felt by Christians across the entire Western World.

 

Skerries

LE_Roisin_at_Rockall

A skerry is a small islet or rocky reef, generally uninhabitable because they are washed by the sea in storms.  The word skerry derives from the Norse sker which is a rock in the sea.  It derives from the older proto-indo-european word sker meaning to cut.

Some say this refers to the fact that a skerry is a rock cut off from the mainland.  As a sailor I wonder if it refers to the result should you cross a skerry by accident.  It cuts a hole in your hull.

The SS Norge did exactly that on the Hasselwood rock, on the 24th of June 1904.  A Danish liner, she sank for the loss of 635 people.  Hasselwood rock is a skerry that lies just to the north of the contested Rockall, which lies far out in the North Atlantic between Ireland, Scotland, Faroe and Iceland.

Rockall has been claimed by the UK for many years, but the claim is contested because the rock is uninhabitable.  The huge Atlantic storm waves regularly break over the entire rock.  They officially claimed the rock in 1955, which would have made it the last imperial acquisition of the UK, if anyone had accepted it.  Nobody does.  But they did stick a plaque on the rock.

In 1971 the Royal Engineers and Royal Marines were dropped onto the rock by helicopter.  They used explosives to level a pad on the top of the rock, and this level base was the site for installation of a beacon.  They also installed another plaque to establish that the British owned the rock.

In 1978 the members of the Dangerous Sports Club held a cocktail party on the rock, and stole the 1971 plaque.

In 1985 survival expert Tom McClean lived on the rock for the month of June, and a little bit of May and July.  His occupation record was expunged when Greenpeace spent 42 days on the rock in 1997.  They wanted to protest any attempt to exploit the waters for fossil fuels.  It was around this time that the 1955 plaque seems to have disappeared.

Nick Hancock holds the current record at 45 days.

Visiting and claiming ownership of the rock has become something of a standing joke at the expense of the British Crown.  But Rockall will never become an “Insta” prize.  It is not an easy place to reach and a harder place to stay.  Still, I guess it’s only a matter of time before some intrepid instagrammer loses their life for the shot of a lifetime.

 

The Rock in the Sea; by Archibald MacLeish

Think of our blindness where the water burned!
Are we so certain that those wings, returned
and turning, we had half discerned
before our dazzled eyes had surely seen
the bird aloft there, did not mean? —
Our hearts so seized upon the sign!

Think how we sailed up-wind, the brine
tasting of daphne, the enormous wave
thundering in the water cave —
thunder in stone. And how we beached the skiff
and climbed the coral of that iron cliff
and found what only in our hearts we’d heard —
the silver screaming of that one, white bird:
The fabulous wings, the crimson beak
that opened, red as blood, to shriek
and clamor in that world of stone,
no voice to answer but its own.

What certainty, hidden in our hearts before,
found in the bird its metaphor?

 

First Zeebrugge Disaster

Reproduction of a Cog

I have vivid memories of 1987 when the MV Herald of Free Enterprise, a Ro-Ro ferry capsized just after leaving the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.  It lay in shallow waters, half out of the water, but still 193 passengers and crew were trapped and died in the ship.

Long before Zeebrugge was a port the coastline of Zeeland and Flanders was very different.  The modern landlocked Dutch town of Sluis was, back in 1340 AD the Flemish port of Sluys.

The English under Edward III decided to land an army in the Low Countries in an opening gambit of the 100 years war, on this day, June 24th.  The French moved to the estuary with their superior fleet of 220 vessels.  In an accepted tactic of the day they chained the vessels together to create a floating fortress.

The English entered the river mouth with their fleet of about 130 ships.   They had few warships and mostly used commandeered merchant cogs.  The deep keeled and high sided vessels gave the English longbow men good elevation over the French galleys.  They also had a good following wind and freedom to maneuver.  As the English rained down shot and arrows the hapless French began to cast off their chains to break out of their “fortress”.

As they broke off piecemeal the French ships were hunted down by the English, operating in packs of 3.  In this way they captured over 160 French vessels and sank another 30 or so.  For a loss of 500 men the English took up to 20,000 French lives.  It was an unqualified disaster for France.

But the English navy did not “Rule the Waves” quite yet, and they were unable to convert the victory into any significant long term advantage either on land or sea.  No surprise given that the war was to drag on for a century.  The Knight’s son, the Squire from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales might well have been at Sluys….

With hym ther was his sone, a yong Squiér,
a lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
with lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse.
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his statúre he was of evene lengthe,
and wonderly delyvere and of greet strengthe.
And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
in Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie,
and born hym weel, as of so litel space,
in hope to stonden in his lady grace.
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
al ful of fresshe floures whyte and reede.
Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
He was as fressh as is the month of May.

The last king of Rome

800px-Gentile_Bellini_003

When he was 21 years of age the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered the unconquerable city:  Constantinople.  He is known as Mehmed the Conqueror for this reason.

What is less known is that he presented his rule as a continuation of the Empire of Rome  instead of a conquest.  He named himself Caesar of Rome – Qayser-i Rûm intending his rule to be a continuation of the Roman Civilization that began some 2,206 years before the capital fell to him in 1453.  His successors did not continue the practice, but we may say that Mehmed was the last Caesar, the last Emperor of Rome.

When a man who besieged and conquered the greatest city on Earth comes to your pesky little fort in Wallachia you pretty much know that there is little to be gained by hiding behind the walls.  This was the astute assessment of Vlad III Dracula known as “The Impaler”.  This is how the Night Attack at Targoviste was born.

On June 17th, 1462 the Wallachian Prince threw the dice in a winner takes all gambit.  He assembled his knights and launched attack after attack on the Turkish encampment in an attempt to assassinate the Sultan of the Turks.  It was a night of confusion and slaughter as the mounted knights made charge after charge into the encampment.

Ultimately the attacks failed because they did not kill Mehmet that night.  Ultimately the attacks succeeded because the Ottoman Army withdrew.  Faced with such passionate and suicidal bravery Mehmed realised that his life was in very real danger.  A number of Pashas; senior officers in Tents very close to the Sultan, had been killed.  So the Turks made for home and steered a course south.

On their retreat they encountered a further demonstration of the resolve of the Romanians.  They passed through the “Forest of Death” where Vlad had impaled 23,844 turks (he recorded the exact number in a letter to Matthias Corvinus).  The Sultan and his troops filed past the corpses of tens of thousands of men, women and children.  It was a clear and unequivocal statement of intent from the Romanians to the Turks.

Mehmed II was a poet who wrote under the pen name Avni and many of his poems are dedicated to his lover, a beautiful foreign boy:

The roses of your cheeks, they made my tongue a nightingale.
The locks on your forehead, they made me desire, lose my mind.

If the fruit of love is for lovers, the worry and grief,
thank God, they have many for us, the fruits of your love.

The breeze is powerless to untangle the ends of your locks.
No, it is not easy to resolve the difficulties at all!

What is the relationship came between us, as the nectar from the lips of the beloved,
this poison of grief is halva for me, but for the rival, the poison of assassins?

How many enlightened men became insane by your love!
How many sensible men have gone mad with desire for you!

To what good is the saying: “Let the arrows of his eyelashes murder you!”?
They are brave inexperienced people who hold such remarks.

O Avni! If one day you were on a pilgrimage to the temple of the Magi*
you would have seen the lights of the wine candles illuminating the company!

 

 

 

Chicken Marengo

ChickenMarengo

One of my bucket list meals is to eat a proper Chicken Marengo on the 14th of June.  It is very difficult to get the dish, and this is reflected in the difficulty of getting a decent free to view photo of it.  The free photos of Chicken Marengo on the internet are dreadful, and seem to be taken by people who don’t know what they are cooking.

First let’s understand the Battle of Marengo and why it was such a celebration and so important to Napoleon.  Bonaparte had just returned from his victories in Egypt and was appointed First Consul of France, but he was at this stage just another lucky general.  Defeating Mamelukes was just not the same as defeating a scientific Western army like the Prussians, Russians or the mighty Austrians.

Napoleon took his army over the Alps into Italy in a moment subsequently celebrated with heroic portraits of the Emperor astride a prancing stallion on the mountainous tracks.  In fact he crossed on a mule.

His army was in bad shape.  Many of his troops were barefoot, starving and sick.  The French moved over the country in loose formation to maximize the ability of the men to live off the land.  This spread a wide net to catch the Austrian Army, but ensured that the French would be weak when the two sides engaged.

The French fought a number of battles in the Italian campaign but matters came to a decisive head at Marengo on June 14th, 1800.  At first when the retreating Austrian army turned to fight Napoleon thought it was merely a diversionary tactic by the rear-guard to cover the retreat.  But the Austrians had other ideas.

Napoleon spent the morning fighting, and losing, and praying that his calls to his distributed divisions would bring him reinforcements in the afternoon.  The Austrian commander Von Melas, was so sure of victory that he handed mopping up operations to his inferiors and retired from the field with his senior staff.  When Louis Desaix, commander of Bonaparte’s reinforcements arrived ahead of his 6,000 men Napoleon asked his opinion of the situation.  The legendary comment:  “This battle is completely lost. However, there is time to win another.”

And win they did, an unexpected and highly significant victory that assured Napoleon of his place at the top table in France.  The Austrians came to the negotiation table and ceded Italy.

After the battle the story goes, Napoleon’s chef was in a conundrum.  He was supposed to make a meal to celebrate a great victory but had little to work with.  He sent his foragers out in the local area to see what they could find.  They came back with a chicken and some eggs, crayfish, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, oil.  The chef chopped up the chicken using a military sabre because his cooking equipment was miles away, escaping an expected defeat.

He made a sauce of the tomato, onion, garlic and herbs and “borrowed” some Cognac from Napoleon’s personal supply. He fried the chicken in olive oil, boiled the crayfish, fried the eggs and added some rough bread from the military supplies.

Although the chef was embarrassed at the rude assembly Napoleon loved it and refused to permit changes to the recipe.  He considered it a lucky dish and called for it frequently.

The truth is a proper Chicken Marengo is just not very photogenic.  It is a rough peasant meal and that’s how it should look.

If you go to a restaurant and they offer you Marengo with pasta, rice, or potatoes, it’s not Marengo.  If they replace the crayfish with lobster thermidor or Dublin bay prawns then it’s not Marengo.  If they serve it in a Provencal sauce – not Marengo.

 

 

 

Stay the course

Stay the Course

Sun Tzu and Terence McSwiney agree on this point.  It is not the side that can inflict the most, but those who can endure the most who will conquer.  It is a constant source of argument in military theory:  which side suffers most casualties; winners or losers?

In ancient Greece when battles were decided head to head on the field by two infantry armies it was accepted that the winning side often lost the most men.  By the time one side broke the winning side was so exhausted they were in no fit state to give chase.

This dynamic changed dramatically with the introduction of cavalry.  No horse alive will charge a well formed phalanx, but a routed enemy is manna to the cavalryman.  Any enemy who could not retire from the field in good order was sabre fodder.

The dynamic changed again with the introduction of artillery, especially mobile horse artillery, to the battlefield.  A solid infantry square was safe against marauding cavalry, but sitting ducks for artillery.  Dispersing to avoid the cannon fire opens your lines to the cavalry.  The Napoleonic wars were choreographed by the interplay between infantry, cavalry and artillery.

With the development of the rifle musket in the 1850’s the dynamic changed again.  The effective rifle range switched overnight from 3/4 rounds per minute at around 50 yards to 5/6 rounds per minute at 1,000 yards range.  The days of bright coloured lines of infantry standing toe to toe on the open field were over.  The US Civil War demonstrated that in such circumstances a defensive force with prepared earthworks could wreak havoc on forces attacking over open ground.

In WW1 the Western Front signaled the death of the horse on the battlefield.  The swan song of the horse in modern warfare was probably the charge of the Australian Mounted Infantry on Turkish Positions in Palestine.

Then at the end of the First World War the tiny forces of the IRA fought the all conquering British Army and Militarized Police to a standstill in Ireland, by enduring the most.

By the end of the Second World War it appeared that the infantryman with his rifle was almost redundant in a world of fighters, bombers, A-bombs, Aircraft Carriers and attack helicopters.  And then there was Vietnam when the people demonstrated again that it is the side that can endure the most who will conquer.  Despite overwhelming superiority of the USA in kill ratio and military technology they still lost.

Given the lack of appetite of the American people for losses in war raises many questions for the presence of US forces in far off battlefields like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq or Somalia.  If you are prepared to quit, don’t start.

 

Don’t Quit; by John Greenleaf Whittier
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
when the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
when the funds are low and the debts are high
and you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
when care is pressing you down a bit,
rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
as every one of us sometimes learns
and many a failure comes about
when he might have won had he stuck it out;
don’t give up though the pace seems slow —
you may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out —
the silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
and you never can tell just how close you are,
it may be near when it seems so far;
so stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit —
it’s when things seem worst that you must not quit

The Pen and the Sword

lesmis

The 6th of June has seen many great days and is, currently, best known for D Day because we still have among us some of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944.

Back in 1832 the 6th of June saw the crushing of the rebels in Paris during the June Rebellion, or the Paris Uprising.  The events were part of a confused series of Republican actions opposing the re-establishment of the Monarchy.  Many such actions have decayed in our memories as the participants died off.  But this one was immortalised when Victor Hugo framed his novel Les Misérables around the events.

This great novel of France was something I was aware of on the periphery in my youth, but there was never reason to read it or pay any particular attention to it.  It served simply as a literary reference.

Then in 1980 a French Musical version appeared in Paris written by Claude-Michel Schönberg (music), Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel (French Lyrics).  By 1985 an English language version with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer reached London and has been on stage there ever since.  It is the longest running West End musical and the second longest running musical in the world.

In 2012 it went on release as a big budget movie version becoming a multi-million dollar success story.

Two years later a schools adapted version was staged in the Ursuline College Thurles in 2014.  My daughter was cast variously as a washerwoman, prostitute, and a rebel on the barricade with minor lines throughout the show.  That was the first time I saw it.

I would suggest that people today know more about the Paris Uprising of 1832 than they know about the Normandy Landings in 1944.  There is a challenge for a quizmaster!

Here is a parody from Key & Peele, in which everything is wrong!

Key & Peele – Les Mis

 

 

 

Shrike

Shrike

Known by some as the butcher bird the Shrike has an unusual approach to the dismemberment of its prey.  Only the smartest of animals have learned how to use tools and the shrike is one of the tool using birds.  After catching its prey; insects, small birds or rodents, they take it to a thorn an impale it.  They use the thorns as a butcher uses meat-hooks, to suspend its prey.  Then the bird proceeds to dismember the unfortunate victim.

Shrikes have easily adapted to man made devices and are regularly seen using barbed wire fences as their abattoirs.

The German name for the Shrike is Würger and this is the nickname given to the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter which first flew on this day in 1930, just 3 months before the outbreak of the second world war.

The great fighters of the day were the British Spitfire and the Messerschmidt 109.  Both fast, maneuverable with big water cooled V12 in-line engines mounted on light air frames.  They were delicate racehorses.

The Focke-Wulf designer Kurt Tank had a vision of designing a fighter aircraft that is a paradigm of nominative determinism.  This is to say the aircraft was to embody the name of the designer and be curt and a tank.  He wanted a plane that was tough, hard to take down, could operate in forward positions on makeshift runways under difficult conditions.

He opted for a radial air-cooled engine, which can take more damage and continue flying than the in-line water cooled engines.  The radials became standard on board aircraft carriers where the risks of ditching in water were higher than they were for aircraft operating over land.  BMW supplied the 801 14 cylinder radial that was the standard for the aircraft.

The design of wings, surfaces and ailerons made handling of the 190 much easier than the ME 109, reducing the requirements for in-flight adjustments.  Rigid push-rods replaced the cables usually used for controls, greatly reducing give and play in the control functions.

The Würger was also better armed than the ME 109.  At low and medium altitudes it was a better performer, but lost power at high altitudes making it no match for supercharged fighters like the Spitfire.  Pilots who flew both the ME 109 and the FW 190 preferred the latter.  Tank experimented with superchargers and turbochargers to improve high altitude performance but did not achieve widespread acceptance.

While the ME 109 is the more famous, as the key opponent to the British Spitfires and Hurricanes, the 20,000 FW 190’s deployed meant that this breed of shrike formed the backbone of the Luftwaffe, operating in every theatre and in multiple roles.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190

 

Riot or Rebellion?

Riot Language

The sun dawns after the third night of rioting in American cities, centered in  Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed by a policeman.  The incident was a mirror of a story arc in the hit TV Series: Orange is the New Black.  Poussey Washington is killed by a Prison Guard kneeling on her neck, and Litchfield penitentiary explodes into a riot and an inmate takeover.

It is doubly poignant that today is the birthday of Countee Cullen, a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance which wrenched a black cultural identity from the grasping hands of the white American establishment.  A movement created by the grandchildren of the freed slaves who were shown a glimpse of freedom before being re-enslaved in poverty, landlessness, segregation and a raft of penal laws known now as Jim Crow.

It is triply poignant that this is the anniversary of the memorial day massacre.  “On Memorial Day, May 30, 1937, police opened fire on a parade of striking steel workers and their families at the gate of the Republic Steel Company, in South Chicago. Fifty people were shot, of whom 10 later died; 100 others were beaten with clubs.” (Dorothy Day)

As cities across the USA burn the frightened middle class want the violence to stop.  They are saying that this is not the way to get the message through.  But lets face it – velvet revolutions are few and far between.  Rebellion generally ends up with blood on the streets.  The elite do not give up power easily.

Since 2016 Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand during the National Anthem at American Football Games.  For 6 years you white Americans have turned your backs and closed your ears to this Canary in the Coalmine.  Kaepernick was the gentle force for change.    “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”  The reaction of the white middle class was to criticize Kaepernick as being un-American.

There is a loaded term if ever you had one.  Remember the McCarthy Era and the Committee on un-American activities?

The problem of course is not the black people.  They just want justice and a fair society.

The problem is not the President, the Mayor or the Governor.  They are the grasping establishment who want to keep what they control.  Donald Trump defiles the presidency, tweeting the words of a famous racist from 1967, Miami police Chief Walter Headley who originated the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.  Trump joins the ranks of the Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome burned, and Marie Antoinette with “let them eat cake”.  But while he is a joke, he is not the problem.

The problem is the police.  In the USA as in no other nation the police are the henchmen of capitalism.  They are the oppressive agents of the establishment.  In other countries the Police Force is there to maintain civil wellbeing.  If the establishment acts against the people then the police eventually protect the people because the police are the people.

When the police in the USA wake up they will see they are standing on the wrong side of the riot.  That is the moment when the riot stops…. and the rebellion begins.

The Wise; by Countee Cullen

Dead men are wisest, for they know
how far the roots of flowers go,
how long a seed must rot to grow.

Dead men alone bear frost and rain
on throbless heart and heatless brain,
and feel no stir of joy or pain.

Dead men alone are satiate;
they sleep and dream and have no weight,
to curb their rest, of love or hate.

Strange, men should flee their company,
or think me strange who long to be
wrapped in their cool immunity.

Thresher

Thresher

Launched in 1960 the USS Thresher was the fastest submarine of its day.  It was a nuclear powered attack submarine – a submarine hunter killer.

This was back in the early days of nuclear powered vessels and a lot of experimentation was happening.  In 1961 while docking in Puerto Rico the Thresher turned off its Nuclear Generator (standard practice in port) and ran on a backup diesel generator.  Unfortunately the diesel broke down and she had to resort to battery.  When it became clear the diesel could not be repaired the officers attempted to restart the nuclear generator, but the battery charge was too low.  So the embarrassed Captain had to ask another ship for a loan of some cables and then connected them to the diesel submarine, USS Cavalla, for a jump start.

In April 1963 the Thresher was engaged in deep diving tests off the coast of Boston.  The lives of 129 crew and shipyard personnel were lost in one of the worst submarine disasters in history.

Subsequent efforts to recover the boat failed.  All through 1963 and 1964 the shortcomings of the USS Navy rescue equipment for deep dive situation became evident.  The Thresher was found in 1964 in five major sections spread out over a 33 acre wide area of the sea bed, and was photographed to ascertain the cause of sinking.

I grew up with the tale of the Thresher because of a subsequent prank.  I was born in 1963 so I have no direct memory of the events, but a bit of detective work will turn up the newspaper clippings of the day dated March 29th to March 31st or thereabout in 1966, three years after the sinking.

Thresher2

In those days we used to spend every summer holiday in Kilkee, County Clare in the West of Ireland.  So it was big news in March 1966 when a mystery enfolded.  A three foot cylinder bearing the name Thresher and with radioactive markings was found on the beach in Kilkee the far side of the Atlantic from the sinking.

The Irish police informed the US Navy as a precaution, but had already established that the object was not radioactive.  Two US Navy officers stationed at the Nuclear Submarine base in Holyloch in Scotland were dispatched to retrieve the “object” and it was a mini-media storm.  The events were widely picked up by news media around the world.

The truth, as I heard it, was that some local wags in Kilkee painted up an old barrel and decked it up with markings to make it look like debris from the wreck.  They then placed it on the beach to be found by a local beachcomber, Jerry McDermott.  Nicknamed “Sailoil” this simple man was, as we say in Ireland “a bit touched”.  Today we would say he is on some spectrum.  The traditional Irish rendition is “leag Dia lámh air” meaning “God laid a hand on him” or “God touched him” hence “touched”.  He was the perfect innocent straight man to perpetrate the prank.

Sailoil proudly bore his prize home and stored it under his mothers bed.   The news of the fine percolated out into town and caused a bit of consternation when people saw the nuclear markings.  So experts were sent for, armed with geiger counters to scan the object.  The press showed up and the hoaxers celebrated with pints as they watched the whole thing unfold on the News.  In 1966 this was the equivalent of “going viral”.

As I say my memory of these events is third hand hearsay.  If you know better let me know!