Away on a Pelican, home on a Hind.

Golden Hinde (replica), ship of Sir Francis Drake ...

After an abortive November departure for the Pacific Sir Francis Drake left Plymouth aboard  the Pelican on December 13th, 1577.  He was to return three years later on the same ship, now renamed “The Golden Hind” sailing into history as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe.

He carried a drum emblazoned with his coat of arms on the circumnavigation and on his other adventures as Captain, Privateer, Pirate, Explorer and Admiral of Queen Elizabeth’s fleet.  Legend holds that he sent the drum home to his family seat and asked that it be held there against the day England was again in danger.  In which case the drum should be beaten to summon past heroes to the defence of the realm.  A replica of the drum is on display at Buckland Abbey in Devon.


Drake’s Drum; by Sir Henry Newbolt

Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
an’ dreamin’ arl the time O’ Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the Island, yarnder lie the ships,
wi’ sailor lads a-dancing’ heel-an’-toe,
an’ the shore-lights flashin’, an’ the night-tide dashin’,
he sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.

Drake he was a Devon man, an’ ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha’ sleepin’ there below?)
roving’ tho’ his death fell, he went wi’ heart at ease,
a’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
“Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
if the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
an’ drum them up the Channel as we drumm’d them long ago.”

Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
slung atween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
an’ dreamin arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’
they shall find him ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago!

Nyköping Banquet

Walder Frey

Walder Frey from Game of Thrones

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

These prophetic words appear in the Bible:  Ecclesiastes 1:9

I am always amused by fans of Cinema and TV who are astounded by shocking and horrific events, especially those who wonder what kind of sick minds the writers must possess to think up such cruelty.

In truth they are probably just good students of history.  While not as immediately bloody, the events of the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones remind me of the events in Sweden called the Håtuna games and their dreadful conclusion, the Nyköping Banquet.

I don’t want to give you a detailed lesson in the History of Sweden in the 13th and 14th Centuries.  You can check out the details yourselves with the aid of some online searching.

Suffice to say that King Birger of Sweden was imprisoned in Nyköping dungeon for two years by his brothers the Dukes Valdemar and Eric who visited on their way back from a wedding in 1306 AD.  This coup d’etat was called the Håtuna games.

Birger was reinstated due to intervention from the Kings of Norway and Denmark.  He held a banquet for Christmas 1317 AD on the night of the 10th of December.  There was not enough room in the castle for all the Dukes’ retinues so they were lodged outside the castle in the nearby town.  Fans of the Game of Thrones “Red Wedding” are now putting the pieces together.

That night the Dukes were woken up after their drunken revelry by squads of Crossbow men and were escorted to the dungeon.  Birger is said to have thrown the key of the dungeon into the river (and such a key was found in the river many years later).  He starved his two brothers to death.

Breaking the laws of hospitality appears to reap divine vengance.  Fans of Game of Thrones know what happened Walder Frey.  King Birger did not meet so dramatic an end but his actions led to a rebellion that deposed him.  He had to flee Sweden and died in exile in Denmark.


Frey crossbow-men disguised as musicians.


HD Jim Morrison Wallpapers – HdCoolWallpapers.Com

December 8th is the feast of the immaculate conception in the Roman Catholic tradition, and happens to be the birthday of Jim Morrison, the Christ-Like frontman of the 1960’s sensation that was The Doors.

The immaculate conception as a concept was invented in the 11th Century by a gang of men who liked nothing to do with womens body parts, wombs leaking blood and period pains.  They always felt that Christ Jesus had to be born in a special womb that was pure and spotless.  But in the 11th Century the church leaders decided that they needed to go back another generation.  It was not enough that Jesus was magically born without the corruption of the flesh (normal sexual activity) but the mother of Jesus, Mary, also had to be born of immaculate conception.

So Mary was conceived in the absence of an erection, and to celebrate this nonsense all Irish people mark this day by erecting their Christmas Tree.



Stoned Inmaculate; by Jim Morrison

I’ll tell you this…
no eternal reward will forgive us now
for wasting the dawn.
Back in those days everything was simpler and more confused.

One summer night, going to the pier
I ran into two young girls
the blonde one was called Freedom
the dark one, Enterprise
we talked and they told me this story
now listen to this…

I’ll tell you about Texas radio and the big beat
soft driven, slow and mad
like some new language
reaching your head with the cold, sudden fury of a divine messenger.
Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of god
wandering, wandering in hopeless night.

Out here in the perimeter there are no stars
out here we is stoned


Light My Fire (Live at Felt Forum, New York CIty, January ...

Call it out

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Late November and we have hit a relentless spell of misery, dark cold rainy weather.  It is at times like this that the blues can creep in.  People who suffer from depression struggle to get the mental gears engaged.

One thing I have learned over the years is that it is important to engage with your emotion even if the emotion is negative.  When you call out your emotion you can confront it, if you are the confronting type, or you can embrace it if you are not the confrontational type.

When you have the blues its time to listen to the blues.  At least for me.

So here is BB King with an ode to the love of his life:

Lucille; by Donal Clancy

BB holds Her in his arms

when the rain falls cold and wet

he pulls all the right strings

when he sees her fret

one arm around her body

his fingers stroke her neck

& when she sings to BB

he’s ensnared in her net.

The blues are gone,

the blues are gone.

Now that’s what I call a polka!

Image result for Slavko Avsenik

The 2017 Jack Black film “The Polka King” tells the (mostly) true story of Jan Lewan.  It opens the lid on one of Amercia’s greatest dirty little secrets;  the popularity of Polka.

In the 1987 film “Good Morning Vietnam” accordian led Polka music is the preference of Second Lieutenant Steven Hauk who acts as a comedic straight man to Robin Williams portrayal of Adrian Cronauer.  It’s a battle of James Brown vs Slavko Avsenik.

Today is the birthday of Slavko Avsenik, born Nov 26th 1929.  The music might be the butt of Rock & Roll jokes, but try arguing with the success of this Slovene Cultural Icon.

12 million record sales, 31 gold, two diamond and a platinum record.  Composer of 1,000 numbers.  In 1961 he headlined in front of a crowd of 80,000 in Berlin.

Translated into English lyrics his music became the hits of the “Cleveland-Style” and his compositions have been recorded by all the giants; Johnny Pecon, Hank Haller, Fred Ziwich, Fred Kuhar, the Fairport Ensemble, Al Markic, Roger Bright, Al Tercek, and Cilka Dolgan.

He wrote “the most played instrumental song in the world” called variously Trumpet Echoes, or Na Golici or Trompeten-Echo.

OK, my tongue hurts I’ve been biting it so hard.  I rate Polka music as being way less cool than country music and I don’t rate country music.  But hey, all those crowds of prosperous germanic looking people really dig this stuff, and who am I to argue with success?


Gilbert not Sullivan

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Anyone who has trod the boards to belt out a musical theatre number has heard, and possibly appeared in a Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera.  A staple of the amateur dramatic circuit for decades if not centuries.

William Shenwenck Gilbert had a number of careers in his life.  As a child in Italy he was (according to his own account) kidnapped and ransomed back to his family by Neapolitan bandits, a plot point that frequently found its way into his librettos.

He intended to become an artillery officer, but missed out because the Crimean War ended too early for him.  He became a Civil Service Clerk and hated the job.  When he inherited an income from his aged aunt (the plot points keep mounting) he opted to become a barrister.  He attributed his lack of success at the bar to his inability to find the ugly daughter of a successful senior counsel to marry.

He turned his natural wit into a career writing humorous cartoons, sketches and verse for FUN magazine under the nom de plume of BAB.  A successful playwright in his own right it was his collaboration with Arthur Sullivan that ensured his enduring reputation.

Happy birthday Mr Gilbert, born November 18th 1836 and who died, in the style of a musical theatre twist of a heart attack, while saving the live of a young lady he was teaching to swim.


The Yarn Of The Nancy Bell; by William Schwenck Gilbert

’twas on the shores that round our coast
from Deal to Ramsgate span,
that I found alone on a piece of stone
an elderly naval man.

His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
and weedy and long was he,
and I heard this wight on the shore recite,
in a singular minor key:

“Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
and the mate of the NANCY brig,
and a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
and the crew of the captain’s gig.”

And he shook his fists and he tore his hair,
’til I really felt afraid,
for I couldn’t help thinking the man had been drinking,
and so I simply said:

“Oh, elderly man, it’s little I know
of the duties of men of the sea,
and I’ll eat my hand if I understand
however you can be

at once a cook, and a captain bold,
and the mate of the NANCY brig,
and a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
and the crew of the captain’s gig.”

Then he gave a hitch to his trousers, which
is a trick all seamen larn,
and having got rid of a thumping quid,
he spun this painful yarn:

“’twas in the good ship NANCY BELL
that we sailed to the Indian Sea,
and there on a reef we come to grief,
which has often occurred to me.

and pretty nigh all the crew was drowned
(there was seventy-seven o’ soul),
and only ten of the NANCY’S men
said ‘Here!’ to the muster-roll.

There was me and the cook and the captain bold,
and the mate of the NANCY brig,
and the bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
and the crew of the captain’s gig.

For a month we’d neither vittles nor drink,
’til a-hungry we did feel,
so we drawed a lot, and, accordin’ shot
the captain for our meal.

The next lot fell to the NANCY’S mate,
and a delicate dish he made;
then our appetite with the midshipmite
we seven survivors stayed.

And then we murdered the bo’sun tight,
and he much resembled pig;
then we vittled free, did the cook and me,
on the crew of the captain’s gig.

Then only the cook and me was left,
and the delicate question, ‘Which
of us two goes to the kettle?’ arose,
and we argued it out as such.

For I loved that cook as a brother, I did,
And the cook he worshipped me;
but we’d both be blowed if we’d either be stowed
in the other chap’s hold, you see.

‘I’ll be eat if you dines off me,’ says Tom;
‘Yes, that,’ says I, ‘you’ll be, –
I’m boiled if I die, my friend,’ quoth I;
and ‘Exactly so,’ quoth he.

Says he, ‘Dear James, to murder me
were a foolish thing to do,
for don’t you see that you can’t cook me,
while I can – and will – cook you!’

So he boils the water, and takes the salt
and the pepper in portions true
(which he never forgot), and some chopped shalot,
and some sage and parsley too.

‘Come here,’ says he, with a proper pride,
which his smiling features tell,
”twill soothing be if I let you see
how extremely nice you’ll smell.’

And he stirred it round and round and round,
and he sniffed at the foaming froth;
when I ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals
in the scum of the boiling broth.

And I eat that cook in a week or less,
and – as I eating be
the last of his chops, why, I almost drops,
for a vessel in sight I see!

And I never larf, and I never smile,
and I never lark nor play,
but sit and croak, and a single joke
I have – which is to say:

‘Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
and the mate of the NANCY brig,
and a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
and the crew of the captain’s gig!'”

Camera Obscura

Image result for officer and a laughing girl

Officer and a laughing girl by Johannes Vermeer was the painting that started the controversy.  The American artist Joseph Pennell first raised the theory in 1891.  It was during the 1880’s that George Eastman of New York invented a photographic process accessible to the masses.  The slogan for the Kodak camera was “you push the button, we do the rest”.  Eliminating the need for glass plates, dangerous chemicals and home-brewed photographic emulsions and fixers opened the process to the world.

Pennell noticed that the paintings of Vermeer had a photographic quality.  They had the kind of proportions you saw in photographs.  The Officer is twice as large as the girl.

Now it is widely accepted, but still unproven, that Johannes Vermeer used a camera obscura, a primitive pinhole camera, to sketch out his interiors.  Many versions have been used over the years, the best probably being the camera lucida in many variants, which is still in use today.

When you compare an earlier work, with a tiled floor, like Christ Healing the Blind by El Greco (1570) you can see the foreground is almost linear.

Image result for el greco christ healing the blind

How different to the distance created by Vermeer in his interiors, such as the Lady playing a Virginal (or The music lesson).  El Greco tries to create depth by having his background recede, but the foreground is flat.

Vermeer’s interior is bounded by a wall of the room, but he creates great space and depth in the foreground.  this is further enhanced by the perspective given to the room by shadows from the natural light entering the windows.

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Johannes Veneer was born on this day, Oct 31st 1632.