Between Poperinge and Ouderdom

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Busseboom, famous place, lies between Poperinge and Ouderdom.  Can’t place it?  How about if I say it lies in Flanders, north-west Belgium near the French border.  In World War 1 Busseboom was in the support area behind the Western Front and Ypres.

Perfect place for a concert party.  Edmund Blunden fought at Ypres, at the Somme and at Passchendaele.  His poetry was encouraged by Siegried Sassoon who seems to have been a great man for encouraging others to express their horror in verse.  Sassoon was the muse of the War Poets.

Blunden survived the war, physically, but the mental scars remained with him all his life.  He could never scrape off the sticky mud of Flanders Fields.  He went on to a successful career in writing and academia, and was nominated a number of times for a Nobel prize in literature.

October 31st has come and gone in 2019, one hundred years beyond the Great War.  What have we learned?  Brexit remains on the cards.  The British Parliament persists with the madness of departing from the European Union; the greatest source of peace in the history of mankind.  The British people want to go back to the good old days when you could kick a man to death in a dark tunnel beneath the carnage of the Western Front.  In doing so they dishonour the memories of Blunden, Sassoon, Brooke, Graves and Owen.

Happy Birthday Edmund Blunden, born November 1st, 1896.

Concert Party: Busseboom ; by Edmund Blunden

The stage was set, the house was packed,
the famous troop began;
our laughter thundered, act by act;
time light as sunbeams ran.

Dance sprang and spun and neared and fled,
jest chirped at gayest pitch,
rhythm dazzled, action sped
most comically rich.

With generals and lame privates both
such charms worked wonders, till
the show was over – lagging loth
we faced the sunset chill;

and standing on the sandy way,
with the cracked church peering past,
we heard another matinée,
we heard the maniac blast

of barrage south by Saint Eloi,
and the red lights flaming there
called madness: Come, my bonny boy,
and dance to the latest air.

To this new concert, white we stood;
cold certainty held our breath;
while men in tunnels below Larch Wood
were kicking men to death.

Dedication

Trappist

In 1664 in La Trappe Abbey, Normandy, France, a religious reform movement began.  Monks who were dismayed by the relaxation of rules formed the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.  The went back to the original monastic rules of St. Benedict.

The 48th Rule of St Benedict states ‘for then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands’ and the OCSO set out early on to devote themselves to excellence in what they did.  They made goods for sale, including cheese, bread, clothing etc.  They hit the jackpot when they moved into brewing.  OCSO is a bit of a mouthful, and so is the beer they made.  They rebranded as “Trappists” and continue to make some of the best beers in the world.

Last night I nipped over to the barn and bottled up my latest brew.  12 litres of trappist style beer.  A mahogany coloured ale, rich and malty, thick and foamy already even though it needs in bottle fermentation to condition it.  I can’t wait till it’s ready.

There is a lot to be said for dedication to excellence in your work.  Then again there’s more to be said for drinking beer.

Some people think Trappists take a vow of silence.  This is not true.  They just don’t waste words.  It has all been said, but there is plenty left to drink.

 

Beer; by Charles Bukowski

I don’t know how many bottles of beer
I have consumed while waiting for things
to get better
I dont know how much wine and whisky
and beer
mostly beer
I have consumed after
splits with women-
waiting for the phone to ring
waiting for the sound of footsteps,
and the phone to ring
waiting for the sounds of footsteps,
and the phone never rings
until much later
and the footsteps never arrive
until much later
when my stomach is coming up
out of my mouth
they arrive as fresh as spring flowers:
“what the hell have you done to yourself?
it will be 3 days before you can fuck me!”

the female is durable
she lives seven and one half years longer
than the male, and she drinks very little beer
because she knows its bad for the figure.

while we are going mad
they are out
dancing and laughing
with horney cowboys.

well, there’s beer
sacks and sacks of empty beer bottles
and when you pick one up
the bottle fall through the wet bottom
of the paper sack
rolling
clanking
spilling gray wet ash
and stale beer,
or the sacks fall over at 4 a.m.
in the morning
making the only sound in your life.

beer
rivers and seas of beer
the radio singing love songs
as the phone remains silent
and the walls stand
straight up and down
and beer is all there is.

Another Road

Syria Team

Syrian Terror Squad

I can’t let the recent Paris and Belgian terror attacks pass without making some comment.

The seed of French difficulty lies in the Sykes-Pichot agreement after the Great War, when Britain and France carved up the Levant between them.  France took possession of Lebanon and Syria.

Under Turkish Ottoman rule the middle east was stable.  Perhaps not exactly happy, but stable and mostly content.

Since Western powers took control of the Levant the Middle East has been a disaster.  At what stage do Western “Powers” hold up their hands and admit they are unable to achieve anything positive in the region?

Hate causes many problems, but it solves none.  The French solution to the Paris attacks is yet another bombing campaign.  Do they expect that to succeed in stabilizing the region?  Truth is bombing campaigns are a short term solution.  Politicians thrive on short term solutions.  The voting public has no patience for long slow strategies that eventually deliver the desired results.

We, the voters in the democracies of the West are individually and personally responsible for what is happening in Syria.  We have caused the misery and conflict that has fostered the rise of terrorism.  We have raped these countries of their resources.  We heat our homes and fuel our cars with their oil.

Do you want to feel safe from terrorism?  What do you believe will “cure” terrorism?

Option 1: Attacking Syrians and making them poorer, more fearful, killing their children, razing their homes and driving them into refugee camps, or

Option 2:  Rebuilding the Syrian nation, making the economy prosper, raising the standard of living, rehousing the population, building schools and libraries.  Western nations actively buying up the products of Syrian production including their agricultural produce and their industrial output.

Option 1 involves spending a lot of Western money on bombs and missiles which we drop on Syria.  This is good for weapons manufacturers.  They are lobbying for this option by paying lots of money to the “right” political candidates.  It is also good for the rich capitalists who hold shares in the weapons companies.  In Syria it creates a new generation of ‘terrorists’.

Option 2 involves spending Western money too.  But it is actually a whole lot cheaper than option 1.  Unfortunately it delivers no value to the companies who make weapons.  The rich shareholders of the weapons companies see no return.  The money is just ‘wasted’ on a lot of poor Arabs.

People who have jobs, who own their own homes, who have food on the table and who can envisage a future for themselves and their families, those people are not terrorists.  Terrorists are not born, they are created.  We create them when we take their homes, their food, their lives.  If you want to recruit terrorists I suggest you look in a refugee camp.

In the next election, when the candidates come knocking on your door, ask them how they are going to make you safe from terrorism.  Ask them will they choose Option 1 or Option 2.  Let’s take another road.

 

Paris Winter; by Howard Altmann

That we can breathe and not forget
our dreams entirely. In the cold sun

the warmth of timelessness. There is
panic, rest assured, so much beauty

stirring, I want to touch all that
contains me. We know the questions

and the light shifts without a word.
In the clouds, a philosopher’s chair

rocks. In the riverbed, the buff
and lathe of stones, change glistening

past. And from the afternoon, drops
of her monthly blood drip down

the stairs, the kitchen table, all of her
unopened bills, a cold floor that timed

us. O, the ins and outs of memory
breathe, too, images at rest in the dark

chambers, the gilded daylight whir
a heart’s dusting—one walkup,

one post storm quiet blinking at
infinity. Who shot the moon

and claimed victory in the morning?
The constellations touch down;

the years collapse; the boom
and bust of love lowers the crane

at dawn: in what earth, in what sky
will the soul find its keeper?