This is England – Theresa May

 

Scarborough

Armed police on the beach, guarding the donkeys from Islamic terrorists.  Or are they there to protect old blighty from the immigrants?  Will you “fight them on the beaches”?  Those nice Polish men who erected your garden shed, or changed your car tyres, or unblocked your toilet?

This is the England being created by David Cameron and Theresa May today.  It is a land of fear and suspicion.  It is a world of hate.  It is a place where wealthy people become more wealthy, making armaments to sell to despots and dictators, rebels and freedom fighters on both sides of the conflict in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, in South America.  And when those distant people have had enough of killing each other sometimes they take a notion to visit violence on the brokers of death.

This is an England where the wealthy resent the very fundamentals that make Britain Great.   The social contract between the people and the state that was forged from the blood sacrifice of two world wars.  Basic housing provision, social welfare, a national health service, public transport and a civil service built on principles of fairness, honesty, trust, service, you know, old fashioned English public schoolboy stuff.

The puppet masters of the Tory party want to dismantle the public contract.  They want a descent into what they have in the USA.  Richer rich and poorer poor.  They have already dismantled British Rail, British Gas, Water and Electricity and sold off the family jewels.  Now they are going after things like the minimum wage, healthcare and housing.

The European Union was in their way.  The EU demands a social contract as the price of membership.  This does not suit the oligarchs.  To get the world they want they needed Britain to be outside the EU.  They sold Brexit to the working class British by dealing in fear, hate, xenophobia, racism and greed.  Basically they sold the seven sins.  And Britain bought them.

Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.  If you buy the seven sins then you get to live them.  What that means, in a real sense, is armed police on the beach on a sunny day.  This is England!

For those of you out there who blame all this on muslims, I give you a poem to think about.  Sassoon wrote this after witnessing the carnage of the Battle of the Somme.  It is violently anti-Christian, and he never published it in his life.  Islam is an excuse given to you by the Oligarchs to engender you with fear and suspicion of “others”.  If you wipe out all the muslims they will find another target for your hate.  They have a manual for this plan, it is called “1984”, written by George Orwell.

 
Christ and the Soldier; by Siegfried Sassoon

The straggled soldier halted — stared at Him — Then clumsily dumped down upon his knees, Gasping

‘O blessed crucifix, I’m beat !’

And Christ, still sentried by the seraphim, Near the front-line, between two splintered trees, Spoke him:

‘My son, behold these hands and feet.’

The soldier eyed him upward, limb by limb, Paused at the Face, then muttered,

‘Wounds like these Would shift a bloke to Blighty just a treat !’

Christ, gazing downward, grieving and ungrim, Whispered,

‘I made for you the mysteries, Beyond all battles moves the Paraclete.’

II

The soldier chucked his rifle in the dust, And slipped his pack, and wiped his neck, and said —

‘O Christ Almighty, stop this bleeding fight !’

Above that hill the sky was stained like rust With smoke. In sullen daybreak flaring red The guns were thundering bombardment’s blight. The soldier cried,

‘I was born full of lust, With hunger, thirst, and wishfulness to wed. Who cares today if I done wrong or right?’

Christ asked all pitying,

‘Can you put no trust In my known word that shrives each faithful head ? Am I not resurrection, life and light ?’

III

Machine-guns rattled from below the hill; High bullets flicked and whistled through the leaves; And smoke came drifting from exploding shells.

Christ said

‘Believe; and I can cleanse your ill. I have not died in vain between two thieves; Nor made a fruitless gift of miracles.’

The soldier answered,

‘Heal me if you will, Maybe there’s comfort when a soul believes In mercy, and we need it in these hells. But be you for both sides ? I’m paid to kill And if I shoot a man his mother grieves. Does that come into what your teaching tells ?’

A bird lit on the Christ and twittered gay; Then a breeze passed and shook the ripening corn. A Red Cross waggon bumped along the track. Forsaken Jesus dreamed in the desolate day — Uplifted Jesus, Prince of Peace forsworn — An observation post for the attack.

‘Lord Jesus, ain’t you got no more to say ?’

Bowed hung that head below the crown of thorns. The soldier shifted, and picked up his pack, And slung his gun, and stumbled on his way.

‘O God,’ he groaned,’why ever was I born ?’

… The battle boomed, and no reply came back.

Britannic

hmhs_britannic

100 years ago today the largest ship lost in WW1 sank.  The Royal Navy Hospital Ship HMHS Britannic ran into a mine and was lost with 30 lives.

Sister ship to Titanic, and one of the Olympic Class vessels.  Built in Belfast, Ireland, by Harland & Wolfe, for the White Star line.  She was pressed into service for the war.  Britannic is the largest shipwreck in the world and sits on the sea floor in the Greek Aegean.

 

The Sinking Ship; by Dora Sigerson Shorter

The ship is sinking, come ye one and all.
Stand fast and so this weakness overhaul,
Come ye strong hands and cheery voices call,
“Stand by!”

The ship is sinking in a summer sea,
Bless her but once for all she used to be,
Who rode the billows once so proud and free,
If you but loved a little, with a sigh,
“Stand by!”

Gone, all are gone, they neither hear or care,
The sun shines on and life is ever fair.
They shun the struggle, laughter lurks elsewhere.
The ship is sinking, passing echoes cry,
“Stand by!”

The little ships that pass her in the night,
Speed from the darkness in their eager fright.
From troubled dreams they take refuge in flight.
Why should they then, who know they too must die,
“Stand by”?

Then get you gone, desert the sinking ship,
O faithless friends, who on her pleasure-trip
Clung close with gentle words and smiling lip,
And still as ever on your own joys cry,
“Stand by!”

The ship is sinking, parting in a smile,
The sunset waters mark the last sad mile
In dimpling play and in a little while
The waters close, Death and his angels cry,
“Stand by!”

When the world turned

La_Rendición_de_Granada_-_Pradilla.jpg

On this day,  January 6th in 1492, the world turned.  Ferdinand and Isabella entered Granada, ending over 700 years of Muslim occupation of Spain.  The Joint monarchs, Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, ended a journey that began in the year 718 at the Battle of Covadonga when Pelagius led his small Asturian army to glory against the Umayyad Caliphate.  The Muslim armies swept across the Strait of Gibraltar in 711 and by 719 they were across the Pyrenees and fighting in southern France.  For the next 700 years the Spanish and Portuguese Christians fought the long road to drive the Muslim armies from “Al Andalus” ( the land of the Vandals).

The taking of Granada had a profound impact upon the entire world.  For the first time the Spanish could turn from looking inwards to looking outwards.  Instead of devoting their energies to the reconquista, the reconquering of their hereditary home, they could look beyond their natural borders.

In Granada Christopher Columbus presented to Ferdinand and Isabella his scheme to round the world and reach the spice islands by sailing west across the Atlantic.  The Catholic Monarchs decided to sponsor Columbus and funded him to the tune of three ships.

So it was that in 1492 Europe discovered a “New World”.

Winning the war on terror

Improvised British Armoured Car

Improvised British Armoured Car

You cannot win a “war on terror” by military action.  Anyone who believes otherwise should look a the modern history of Ireland.

The Irish people wanted independence from Great Britain.  They moved between violent and political approaches over time.  Ultimately the Irish developed the dual strategy now nicknamed “the bullet and the ballot box”.  the British Empire was at the peak of its powers in the early 20th Century.  Ireland is not a large nation like India.  Ireland is not a powerful nation like the USA.  Ireland is not located far away from the centre of British power, like New Zealand.  Ireland is a small, weak country sitting right in Britains armpit.

Despite holding all the cards the British could not hold Ireland.  They could win every battle but never win the “war”.  The Irish learned that it was foolish to engage in fair fights against the British, so we fought dirty, the guerilla.

The IRA in the 1920’s made it impossible for the British to administer Ireland.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland moved from a guerilla war to a terrorist war.  They fought it on British soil.  It was even dirtier than the guerilla war of the 1920’s. The British evenually learned that they could not win this war.  Every victory they scored against the terrorists was a recruitment drive for the IRA.

The British learned at last that the way to end a war on terror was to build peace.  Engender understanding and respect for your foe, listen to their grievances, right the wrongs and work together to build a better society.

So I was simply astounded yesterday listening to David Cameron crowing like a cock in parliament over the murder of “Jihadi John”.  Simply calling the man by this jingoistic nickname is an indication that the British Government have forgotten all the hard won lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process.

This morning as David Cameron surveys the wreckage of Paris I wonder how bullish he feels about “taking out” Jihadi John?  The important thing here is to take a deep breath and review the situation.

The “war on terror” is going to kill British and French people, and perhaps also Americans and Russians.  You don’t fight a war in Syria.  You care for the Syrian people.  You give them peace and prosperity.  You defend them from violence.  You stop selling them guns and start buying their melons.  You stabilise their economy and give the Syrian people what they want, a safe and comfortable home.  That’s how you defeat terrorism.

What’s in a name?

Portiuncula Chapel Assisi

Portiuncula Chapel Assisi

On this day in the year 1781 a group of Spaniards founded the settlement they called  El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula.  As the name of a small village it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  It took longer to say the name of the village than it took to ride through it on a horse.

Over the years the village grew and the name got shorter.  It became the city of Los Angeles.  At this stage it is a huge metropolis and the name has contracted further so that most of us just call it L.A.

Portiuncula is the Italian for a small portion of land.  Such a small portion was given to the hermits of the Valley of Josaphat in the 4th century where they built a small chapel.  The chapel fell into disrepair but was renovated by St Francis of Assisi who had a vision from God telling him ” go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins”.  Francis sold his horse and some of his fathers cloth to pay for the repairs.

After a row with his father and the local bishop Francis cast off his finery and became a beggar.  He took the message from God to refer to the church in its entirety, rather than the small chapel of Portiuncula.  Because of this story there is a river in California, a  Basilica in Brazil and a Hospital in County Galway, Ireland named after the small chapel repaired by St Francis.

The Spanish name for LA translates as “The settlement of our lady the queen of angels of Portiuncula”

Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself……………………Juliet, Act II Scene ii, Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare

Battle of Crécy

Crecy

For many historians the Battle of Crécy heralds the dominance of the English Longbow on the continental battlefield, a superiority subsequently proven at Poitiers and Agincourt.  Crécy was fought on August 26th, 1346.  It was one of the greatest English victories of the 100 years war.

In truth the big winner at Crécy was the weather.  The English had time to choose their ground, deploying in three divisions on a steep hillside with well protected flanks.

The French arrived after the English and there was a great deal of confusion in their deployment.  The French brought thousands (the exact number is disputed) of Genoese mercenary crossbowmen.  There were three major issues with the Crossbowmen.

  1.  It rained just before the battle.  While the English longbow men could unstring their bows and keep the strings dry it was not possible for the Genoese to do the same.  Bowstrings were made of catgut, which slackens when soaked and loses all power to launch arrows or bolts.  This is exactly what happened the Genoese.
  2. The Genoese Pavises were stuck in the baggage train.  These large metal shields were usually placed in the ground in front of crossbowmen and allowed them to reload without having to take fire.  Without their shields the Genoese were naked on the battlefield, taking 10 to 12 longbow shafts for every bolt they could fire.
  3. The French nobility had low regard for the Genoese mercenaries.  They would tolerate no excuses and attributed the complaints about bowstrings and pavises to cowardice.  They insisted the Genoese go on the assault.

The result was a decimation of the Genoese by the English Longbows.  The Genoese then turned and ran, and were cut down by the French cavalry on their own side.  As a result the French cavalry was in total disarray when the charge was sounded.

The pride of french nobility then pounded up a steep wet slope on horseback straight into a hail of cloth yard shafts.  Downed horses presented obstacles to cavalry in the second and third lines.

When they did manage to ascend the slope they were met by well formed and disciplined lines of English infantry.  Time and again the French charged.  Time and again they were repulsed.

The end result was a highly asymmetrical outcome.  The English losses may have numbered as few as 100.  French and Genoese losses may number as high as 4,000.  The practice of the day was to count only noble losses, of which the French lost in the region of 2,000 men.

One of the direct outcomes of the battle was the fall of Calais to the English, an enclave held for over 200 years until its fall during the reign of “Bloody” Mary Tudor, Queen of England, and a small bit of France, for a while.

And now a poem about the longbow.  One small detail Doyle omits though….the best Yew wood came from Italy.  Reading his wording I think he may have known this and opted to omit it as being unpatriotic.  He says the bow was “made” in England, but specifies that the shaft was “cut” in England.

The Song of the Bow; by Arthur Conan Doyle
What of the bow?
The bow was made in England:
Of true wood, of yew-wood,
The wood of English bows;
So men who are free
Love the old yew-tree
And the land where the yew-tree grows.

What of the cord?
The cord was made in England:
A rough cord, a tough cord,
A cord that bowmen love;
And so we will sing
Of the hempen string
And the land where the cord was wove.

What of the shaft?
The shaft was cut in England:
A long shaft, a strong shaft,
Barbed and trim and true;
So we’ll drink all together
To the grey goose-feather
And the land where the grey goose flew.

What of the mark?
Ah, seek it not in England,
A bold mark, our old mark
Is waiting over-sea.
When the strings harp in chorus,
And the lion flag is o’er us,
It is there that our mark will be.

What of the men?
The men were bred in England:
The bowmen—the yeomen,
The lads of dale and fell.
Here’s to you—and to you!
To the hearts that are true
And the land where the true hearts dwell.

Don’t be disgusting.

One of the key drivers at play in retail situations is disgust.  If you want to sell your product must look perfect, but so should the shelf and the store.

Queen Elizabeth II at the English Market in Cork

Queen Elizabeth II at the English Market in Cork

Disgust is one of the 6 Universal Emotions that are rooted in psychological research (ref; Paul Ekman & Wallace Friesen).

Disgust is a very important emotion that protects us from harm.  Imagine that you leave the office and are walking home when you come across a dead rat in the street.  Do you pick it up and bring it home for dinner?  The very thought is disgusting.

It takes a great deal of deprivation to overcome disgust.  You may be able to imagine a situation where you are starving to death and that dead rat actually seems appetising, but the situation would need to be dire indeed.

What you may not realise is that disgust is operating in the background all the time, affecting your purchasing decisions.  When we go shopping we are driven by this primitive emotion to seek perfection in what we buy.

100,000 years ago, when hominids wandered the forests in search of food the emotion of disgust protected their health.  If you see a piece of fruit that has already been chewed it looks disgusting.  This is an important survival mechanism.  Humans can contract nasty diseases from the bodily fluids of other animals.

People with a genetic disposition to be disgusted by tainted food had a higher survival rate than those with a low disgust threshold.  As a result a sense of disgust became encoded into the Genome of humans.

Our sense of disgust also affects the mating decisions we make.  We are disgusted by pustules, sores, rashes etc on human skin.  All of these are potential signs of diseases such as measles, smallpox, scarlet fever, plague etc.  Those who were fussiest about physical perfection lived longer and had more babies.  Theirs were the winning genes, the genes of disgust.

In the modern world when we go shopping we want to buy things that are not tainted.  We like to go into stores that are clean and ordered, not ones that look like a herd of cattle just passed through.  So retailers must make their stores look pristine to attract shoppers.

Once inside we want to select products that look untouched by others.  We dislike clothes rails that look like someone has been pulling at them.  We like to pick products from shelves that are full to the brim, so we get the “freshest” and “ripest” food.

We avoid the dented tin, the one with the torn paper, the bag of chips that fell on the floor, the bread loaf that looks like someone squeezed it, bruised fruit, wilted salad and wrinkled apples.

It is a huge job for the retailer to keep a display in pristine condition.  As soon as a display looks untidy sales fall.