Sailing alone around the world

Spray

Joshua Slocum’s yacht “Spray”

 

Today is the birthday of Joshua Slocum, who invented a new type of literature.  The autobiographical adventure book.  In his travelogue “Sailing alone around the world” the Nova-Scotian come American describes in detail the sourcing and rebuilding of his boat “Spray” and the journey he took around the globe.

The highlight of the trip for me was in South Africa where Slocum was approached during his speaking tour by a group of Boer flat earthers.  They asked him to confirm that the Earth was indeed flat.  Slocum laconically suggested that a circumnavigator was not their best advocate.

Born on Feb 20th 1844 Slocum disappeared with his yacht in 1904, aged 65.

 

February 20 was my birthday, and I found myself alone, with hardly so much as a bird in sight, off Cape Froward, the southernmost point of the continent of America. By daylight in the morning I was getting my ship under way for the bout ahead.

The sloop held the wind fair while she ran thirty miles farther on her course, which brought her to Fortescue Bay, and at once among the natives’ signal-fires, which blazed up now on all sides. Clouds flew over the mountain from the west all day; at night my good east wind failed, and in its stead a gale from the west soon came on. I gained anchorage at twelve o’clock that night, under the lee of a little island, and then prepared myself a cup of coffee, of which I was sorely in need; for, to tell the truth, hard beating in the heavy squalls and against the current had told on my strength. Finding that the anchor held, I drank my beverage, and named the place Coffee Island. It lies to the south of Charles Island, with only a narrow channel between.     

Sailing Alone Around the World;  Chapter 7, near Punta Arenas, Tierra del Fuego in Chile

 

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Telling Lies #9: Dissimulation

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Pope Innocent by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon the 16th century English philosopher wrote one of the most famous essays on lying; Of Simumlation and Dissimulation.  Francis Bacon the Irish born 20th Century artist painted a portrait of Innocence:  Pope Innocent X.

This post is about the 16th Century Bacon, and that unused and poorly understood word dissimulation.

In his essay Bacon argues that people use three broad strategies for telling lies:

Closeness or reservation:  This is the Mafia trick of omerta, complete silence,  “I ain’t sayin’ nuthin'”.  If you don’t say anything you can never be caught in a lie.  But it does not make you the best of conversationalists.

Dissimulation is where you say things that allow people to misinterpret your position, and when they misinterpret to your advantage do not correct them.

Simulation is when you say things that are patently untrue.  Flat out lying.

Many years ago I was serving on a University finance committee distributing funds to sports clubs.  At the same time I was chairman of the Rugby club.  At the end of year awards the Rugby Club and the Canoe Club were in competition for most improved club of the year.  The Committee had the final decision by secret ballot.

The Canoe club won by a single vote.

As with all these situations you have a pretty good idea of the support in the room.  There were only very few floating votes.  After the vote was delivered one of the committee members, let’s call him “the dissimlator”, approached me to comiserate with me.  He said he was sorry the rugby club did not win and said as he parted “you know how I voted”, and I thanked him for his support.

Then later in the evening the Chairwoman of the Ladies Hockey club came over to me and told me she had voted for the Rugby club.  I counted up the votes and realised something was wrong.

So I went over to “the dissumlator” and I said “Hi Kxvxx, you know when you said that I know how you voted?  I have to admit I don’t.  Who did you vote for?”

He was caught and impaled like a fish on a gaff.  He opened and closed his mouth, exactly like a fish on a gaff, and shrugged and walked away.  Guilty!  Caught and very embarrassed.

But he never told an actual flat out lie.  It was a classic dissimulation.  He told me that I knew what he did, and I thought I did and he was happy to allow me to believe an untruth if it gave him any political advantage.  He was trying to burden me with an obligation and he was exactly the type of character who would call in that favour in later life.

As you can tell from this post all that is long gone and forgotten, water under the bridge.  If I met Kxvxx today I would trust him 100%.  NOT.

 

 

Badger Day

DawnGroundhog

Here is a photo from my house this morning.  As you can see the sky is clear, promising a clear dawn and a sunny sky.  Which according to Pensylvania Dutch tradition is a disaster.  Because today is groundhog day, and if the critter sees his shadow he goes back into the burrow and winter lasts another 6 weeks.

Yesterday was Lá Féile Bríde here in Ireland, St Bridgets Day, which sits upon the older pagan feast of Imbolc, the first cross quarter day.  Imbolc marks the beginning of the Celtic spring and involved various fertility rites.

In Ireland we don’t have groundhogs so we don’t actually celebrate groundhog day.  Of course before they arrived in Pensylvania the Dutch did not have groundhogs either.  But they did have badgers.  So apparently you can celebrate badger day.

Sadly there is little cute or cuddly about what happens in Ireland and England to Badgers.  Badger baiting is considered by some to be a “sport”.  They train dogs to fight with badgers, often rescue or kidnapped dogs, because the dogs are damaged in the fights.  They would not risk a valuable animal, so these dogs are considered to be “disposable” and are treated accordingly.  The poem below by John Clare is a pretty fair description of the practice in all its cruelty.  Clare was born in 1793, son of a farm labourer.  He is an important 19th century poet because he gives us a view of life at the bottom of the social divide.

At the bottom I will include some photos from modern badger baiting.  It is an abhorrent practice that serves no purpose but to entertain the foulest of people.  If you are a sensitive type you will not want to look at those photos.

 

Badger: by John Clare

The badger grunting on his woodland track
With shaggy hide and sharp nose scrowed with black
Roots in the bushes and the woods, and makes
A great high burrow in the ferns and brakes.
With nose on ground he runs an awkward pace,
And anything will beat him in the race.
The shepherd’s dog will run him to his den
Followed and hooted by the dogs and men.
The woodman when the hunting comes about
Goes round at night to stop the foxes out
And hurrying through the bushes to the chin
Breaks the old holes, and tumbles headlong in.
When midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole, and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes bye.
He comes and hears—they let the strongest loose.
The old fox hears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry,
And the old hare half wounded buzzes bye.
They get a forked stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.
He turns about to face the loud uproar
And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled where e’er they go;
When badgers fight, then every one’s a foe.
The dogs are clapt and urged to join the fray;
The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,
He fights with dogs for bones and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray,
Lies down and licks his feet and turns away.
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold,
The badger grins and never leaves his hold.
He drives the crowd and follows at their heels
And bites them through—the drunkard swears and reels.
The frighted women take the boys away,
The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, an awkward race,
But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chase.
He turns again and drives the noisy crowd
And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one,
And then they loose them all and set them on.
He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men,
Then starts and grins and drives the crowd again;
Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies
And leaves his hold and cackles, groans, and dies.
Some keep a baited badger tame as hog
And tame him till he follows like the dog.
They urge him on like dogs and show fair play.
He beats and scarcely wounded goes away.
Lapt up as if asleep, he scorns to fly
And seizes any dog that ventures nigh.
Clapt like a dog, he never bites the men
But worries dogs and hurries to his den.
They let him out and turn a harrow down
And there he fights the host of all the town.
He licks the patting hand, and tries to play
And never tries to bite or run away,
And runs away from the noise in hollow trees
Burnt by the boys to get a swarm of bees.

 

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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 late 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.

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

Happy Birthday Tenzing Norgay

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Tenzing Norgay, first man photographed on top of Mount Everest.  Norgay was perhaps born on this day in 1914, three years to the day before John F. Kennedy.  In 1953 on the same day, Norgay and Edmund Hillary were the two first men to successfully ascent the highest mountain in the world.

Norgay had no ability with a camera so the only photograph of the event was of Norgay, taken by Hillary.

Norgay knew he was born in May (from the growth of crops) in the year of the rabbit (1914).  When he summited Everest on May 29th he adopted that date as is birthday.

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A hymn for the defeated

FraVIre

Better remembered as a sculptor William Wetmore Story was born on this day in 1819, so next year he will celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth.  When I saw this poem it immediately called to mind the image above.  If ever a photograph can capture the moment when victory turned to defeat this is it.  Look at those French faces.

Io Victis :by William Wetmore Story

I sing the hymn of the conquered, who fell in the Battle of Life,
the hymn of the wounded, the beaten, who died overwhelmed in the strife;
Not the jubilant song of the victors, for whom the resounding acclaim
of nations was lifted in chorus, whose brows wore the chaplet of fame,
but the hymn of the low and the humble, the weary, the broken in heart,
who strove and who failed, acting bravely a silent and desperate part;
Whose youth bore no flower on its branches, whose hopes burned in ashes away,
from whose hands slipped the prize they had grasped at, who stood at the dying of day
with the wreck of their life all around them, unpitied, unheeded, alone,
with Death swooping down o’er their failure, and all but their faith overthrown,

while the voice of the world shouts its chorus, its paean for those who have won;
While the trumpet is sounding triumphant, and high to the breeze and the sun
glad banners are waving, hands clapping, and hurrying feet
thronging after the laurel-crowned victors, I stand on the field of defeat,
in the shadow, with those who have fallen, and wounded, and dying, and there
chant a requiem low, place my hand on their pain-knotted brows, breathe a prayer,
hold the hand that is helpless, and whisper, “They only the victory win,
who have fought the good fight, and have vanquished the demon that tempts us within;
Who have held to their faith unseduced by the prize that the world holds on high;
Who have dared for a high cause to suffer, resist, fight, if need be, to die.”

Speak, History! who are Life’s victors? Unroll thy long annals, and say,
are they those whom the world called the victors — who won the success of a day?
The martyrs, or Nero? Spartans, who fell at Thermopylae’s tryst,
or the Persians and Xerxes? His judges or Socrates? Pilate or Christ?