Truth or Fiction?

Fray Bentos.png

Fray Bentos is one of the most important port cities in Uruguay.  The name is a Spanish version of “Friar Benedict” a local mendicant who lived in the area.  In the 19th Century Uruguay was the Beef Capital of the world.  Beef exporting made Uruguay a boom economy.  Fray Bentos was perfectly positioned to capitalise on its position as a harbour on the Rio Negro, and the good times rolled.

In the mid 19th Century  a German Chemist named Justus von Liebig perfected a process for extracting flavour from meat.  He invented the OXO cube.  His company opened a plant in Fray Bentos to make the meat extract product.  Over the years they expanded into tinned corned beef under the Fray Bentos brand.

When the British Army included Fray Bentos tinned meats in their ration packs in the Boer Wars and subsequently in WW1 the brand became a household name.  The company flourished during WW2.  After that war they moved upmarket and released the round tinned oven ready puff pastry pies in the photo above.  As a child I remember cooking one of these in a clay oven on a boyscout camp in County Wicklow.

In the 1960s the brand was damaged by an outbreak of typhoid in Aberdeen which was traced back to the Rio Negro.  The company was cooling their tinned meats in river water contaminated by excrement.  Since then the brand has gone largely downhill.  It is associated with working class diets, red meat and saturated fats.  The products have traded between food companies ever since.

Then Game of Thrones arrived on the scene.  G.R.R. Martin is a fan of history and I suspect he has delved into ancient greek history and myths.  There are many myths in the Greek Pantheon of parents eating children, but my favourite comes from Herodotus.  It is related as true history.

King Astyages of the Medes had a dream about his daughter, Mandané, where a flood of water flowed from her that drowned his capital. He feared her child, Cyrus, would overthrow him. So he sent his general Harpagus to slay the child.

Harpagus gave the baby to a shepherd, Mitradates, replacing the child with the stillborn corpse taken from the shepherds wife, which he showed to the King.

Astyagus found out many years later that Cyrus was alive. The King invited Harpagus to a banquet. At the conclusion of the feast Harpagus was asked if he had enjoyed his meal. Astyagus then asked that Harpagus be shown the head and feet of the beast he had eaten, a tradition of the country for truly excellent food. When the basket was brought Harpagus saw that he had eaten his own son.

Fast forward to Game of Thrones and Arya Stark’s revenge on Walder Frey for his actions at the red wedding.  It was one thing for Frey to kill his enemies, but a far worse crime to breach the laws of hospitality by killing them under his roof as they ate his food.

FreyPie

Pie of Frey must be a breach of the Fray Bentos brandname.  The pie of the TV series itself is very similar to that served to the hapless Harpagus.  Inside the pie crust Walder Frey finds the digits of his missing sons.  You may need to use the pause button on the TV to capture the moment.

Truly there is nothing new under the sun!

Game of Thrones: Why Book Fans Love Wyman Manderly - IGN

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.

RedWedding-band

Frey crossbow-men disguised as musicians.

Checkpoint

Image result for Garda checkpoint

Reading:

 

Recent recommendations 

The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell,

Spin – Robert Charles Wilson

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun – Peter Godwin – very topical just now as Robert Mugabe has just passed away – a journalists account of the collapse of Zimbabwe.

 

Current read 

Children of Earth and Sky – Guy Gavriel Kay  (Loving it)

 

Next reads in my TBR pile

In a Glass Darkly – Sheridan Le Fanu

American Pastoral – Philip Roth

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Listening:

The Teachers Pet Podcast

5 Day

This American Life 388:  The Rest Stop

Blindboy Podcast: Soss Potion

Science VS:  The Abortion Underground

 

Watching:

Game of Thrones is over. Do I deleted it from the Sky Box now?

Peaky Blinders

Star Trek Discovery

Lord of the Rings – Movies – Again

 

Playing:

Sniper Elite 4

 

Projects:

Integrated Assurance Management System

Corporate Planning Tool

Selling in Tipperary and Buying in Cork

 

Kids:

Jerry offered an MPhil with TUD in Aerobiology, Atmospheric monitoring and Environmental Sciences:  Fully funded and sponsored by EPA.  Booked into the Point for accomodation.

Esha started 3rd year Elec Engineering in UCC on a WIT scholarship for tuition from Intel.  In a house share in Cork.

Gavin started 1st year Engineering in UCC staying in Deans Hall residence.

 

Fitness:

Rudely healthy but terribly unfit.  Friday lunchtime yoga classes.  Fitbit is broken, but it’s the free one Jerry gave me.

 

Politics:

Still all Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.  UK parliament is prorogued by Boris Johnson the PM.  Prorouge is the word of the year.  Irish parties are pretending they don’t want an election to protect the stability of the country at this sensitive juncture.  In reality they have nothing to gain and the Dáil appears to operate more efficiently with a minorty party in power than it does with a majority.

Greta Thunberg just sailed to the USA for Climate Action.

Donald Trump sent Mike Pence to Ireland to bump his re-election campaign.  Pence insulted the Irish Goverment, many times.  Do Irish American Republican voters even care?

When I read this back in years to come I hope Greta Thunberg is ascendant and nobody much remembers Trump, Pence or Johnson.

 

Car:

I need an oil change.  Driving on an amber light.  Renault megane dynamique 1.4 diesel 131 TN One short of the number of the beast.

 

Louise:

Watching masterchef Australia.

 

Cat:

Likes cheese.  Also likes mice.

 

Sporting Highlights:

Ireland Rugby team are No. 1 in the world rankings.  World cup begins Friday week.

Liverpool lead the Premier League with 4 wins from 4 matches.

Dublin play Kerry on Sunday (again) for 5th Sam Maguire in a row.  The last game was a draw.

 

Poem that sums up my life right now:

Begin; by Brendan Kennelly

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

Image result for cork docks

Happy Birthday Richard Grant Esterhuysen

Izembaro

I’m an actor playing an actor but it’s not inception?

The most famous Swazi actor in the world was born on this day in 1957.  Richard reduced his very Afrikaans last name to a single letter and became Richard E. Grant on his Equity card.

Nobody has ever been luckier in landing their first film role.  Grant was perfect to play the lead in the cult classic Withnail and I in 1987.  He played a tour de force opposite Ian McKellen in Jack and Sarah (1995).

These days he is better known to the world from parts in Dr Who, Downton Abbey and a deliciously hammy part in Season 6 of Game of Thrones in which he plays Izembaro, the impresario, writer and lead actor in the Gate troop of players in the City of Bravos.

Oh we’re all thinkers now, are we? Full to the tits with ideas. You have ideas, I have ideas, he has ideas. Why should my ideas have anymore value than yours, simply because I have been doing this my whole life? Who’s anyone to judge my work? This is my profession, I know what I’m doing! You have no right to an opinion.

Vandalised

Seattle-vandals

Cathage celebrates two really bad days on this anniversary.  Firstly the Carthaginians under Hannibal lost the Battle of Zama on this day in BC 202, and then in AD 439 the Romans lost the city to the Vandals under Genseric.

Genseric, king of the Andals and the Alans,  went on to sack Rome itself, from which we get the modern term “Vandal”.  The Vandals pillaged the city but did not destroy it or set it on fire.  They broke a lot of glass windows, painted walls with graffiti and left with a lot of electronics, TV’s and other valuable consumer goods.  That last bit might be a lie.

From the tribe “Andals” we get Andalucía in southern Spain.  We also get the term popping up in G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.  Jorah Mormont is apparently an Andal.

Furthermore Game of Thrones has a city called Qarth.  The original name of Carthage under the Phonecians was “The New City” or Qart-hadast.

Finally, just to clear up any confusion, the Hex key was not invented by the tribe of Alans.  The clue is in the spelling.  They are Allen Keys, not Alan keys.

 

Bear Island

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Fans of Game of Thrones know all about Bear Island.  It is the home of the family Mormont who play major roles in all parts of the saga.  In Essos we follow the fortunes of Sir Jorah the Andal, disgraced scion of the house, exiled for slave trading by the Starks.

On the wall serves old Jeor Mormont, Commander of the Nights Watch.

When House Stark under Robb raise the North Maege Mormont and her eldest daughter lead house Mormont in support.  The second daughter of Maege, Alysane, joins with Stannis in his struggle.

Later, when John Snow and Sansa Stark need support the youngest child of Mormont, Lyanna, leads her small force, though only a child.  There is a legend that the Mormont women are skinchangers and I kind of hope this turns out to be true.

Bear Island of course is a real place.  It is the southernmost island of the Svalbard group in the North Atlantic off the coast of Norway.  Bear Island was discovered on this day in the year 1596 by the explorer Willem Barents after whom the Barents Sea is named.  The last available census put the population at 9.  However the Bear Island Nude Swimmers Association (Bjørnøya nakenbadeforening) has over 3,000 members.  So if you are trying to raise an army maybe it is worth a visit after all.

Lyanna

Is Bran Stark the Green Man?

adventuresofrobinhood

Most ancient traditions of Northern Europe represent a version of the “Green man”.  He is a very powerful vegetative deity who has a role in fertility rites and particularly in Springtime and May Day celebrations.  Ancient links go back to Nuada Silverarm of the Irish Celtic Mythology, and the Welsh Ludd of the Silver Hand.

Several of the ancient Celtic demigods, Bran the Blessed being one of the best known, become prophetic oracles once their heads had been cut off and, although these figures were not traditionally represented as decorated with leaves, there may be a link between them and the later stand-alone Green Man heads.

There is strong evidence to say that the Robin Hood cycle of stories from the 13th Century are a retelling of the Green Man legend.  Not a noble, but a common Yeoman, Robin takes from the Rich and gives to the Poor.  He lives outside the Law and brings the nobles to book with his archery.  He lives with his band in the Forest of Sherwood.  In a sense he represents the innate and irresistible power of nature over the vicissitudes and greed of man.  When greedy nobles turn the world awry he steps in to set everything to rights.

The notion of Robin being the “Earl of Huntington” is probably a later revision intended to wrest control away from the commons to the nobility.  Alternatively it may be a play on words.  Outlaws were poachers, hunting game that legally belonged to the landowning royalty.  Robin, living on poached venison, might be said to exist on his hunting and archery.  Jokingly the lord of all he hunts becoming “Earl of Huntington”.  If so this can be seen as an early allusion to Marxism/socialism alluding to the theft of property and confiscation of the commons by the nobles.

The Green Man is later represented in the tale of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” from the Arthurian romances of the 14th Century.

The Green Man motif is a common architectural feature in Christian churches, a face made of leaves, often with roots or shoots emerging from eyes, ears or mouth.

Ludlow_Green_Man_misericord

The fact that the Green Knight can have his head cut off and rise from the dead links into the Mystery of Christ.  This idea of death and rebirth is very ancient and goes way back to Sumer, Egypt and Babylon, predating Christianity by millennia.

Prototypes for the Green man from Eastern religions include Humbaba, the ancient Sumerian guardian of the cedar forest, Enkidu, the wild man of the forest in Sumerian mythology, both of which date back to at least 3000 BCE.  The Egyptian corn-god Osiris, who is often depicted with a green face representing vegetation and rebirth.  Attis, a Phrygian god of vegetation and nature; the Tibetan Buddhist deity Amoghasiddhi; the Hindu demon Kirtimukha.

Some experts on Islamic mysticism and architecture have identified the Green Man with a deity known as Al-Khidr from esoteric Islamic Sufism. The name Khidr itself means “The Green One”, and he is seen as representing freshness of spirit and eternal liveliness.

Many Templar churches, including the Basilica of Neuvy St. Sepulchre in France, Garway Church in England and Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, bear Green Man carvings. It has been suggested that it was Crusading knights, with their experience of Middle Eastern culture and architecture, who re-introduced the foliage and Green Man motifs into early medieval Gothic churches. Some of these figures also exhibit small horns, and this may be associated with a Middle Eastern figure of a horned “Green Prophet” rather than with the devil.

If there is a common theme for the Green Man it appears to be a restoration of the balance of nature after a period of turmoil.  In annual terms it is the triumph of spring over winter.  In longer cyclical terms it represents recovery from disasters such as plague and invasion.

In the 20th Century some see Peter Pan as a representation of the ancient figure, an eternally regenerating presence, reappearing always as a child, clothed in leaves, rooted in nature, living beyond the bounds of society and physics.  He can fly!  Peter marks a different type of transformation, that of Wendy, from girl to woman, with its own connotations of fertility.

For fans of Game of Thrones you may see where this has impacted on the storyline of Brandon Stark who is a Greenseer.  The faces carved into the wierwoods conjure up the Green Man Stones of Medieval Architecture.  Is Bran Stark the savior?  When the world goes awry, when the Others clash with the Dragons and there is a war of Ice and Fire how will it end?  For the small folk where is the benefit to being ruled by ice demons or dragons?  Will Bran restore the balance and breathe new life into Westeros?

A tantalizing hint for you, how were you introduced to Bran in the TV series?  Do you remember?  He was practicing his archery!

 

Inscription on a grave in Kirklees Priory, West Yorkshire :
“Hear underneath dis laitl stean
Laz robert earl of Huntingtun
Ne’er arcir ver as hie sa geud
An pipl kauld im robin heud
Sick utlawz as he an iz men
Vil england nivr si agen.”

 

VonSydow