Sunday, 27 February 2011

Poem of the Week

William Blake

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.


With the very cold winter, we had been harbouring doubts about whether the little froggies in the garden had survived, given that their pond was frozen over for some time.

Yesterday, however, I spotted some movement in the pond and a huge mass of glistening gray frogspawn.  So they've not only survived, but (...insert vaguely bad taste or lascivious comment here).

Saturday, 26 February 2011

A Wish for the Oscars

Yes OK King's Speech blah blah, Colin Firth blah blah.  Fine, but the Academy Award I'd really like the UK to win is that for Best Short Film (Live Action), where the enjoyable Wish 143 is in contention.

Dawn of the Ted

Can you spot where all these zombie teddies come from?

A Touch of Peter

Plonked in front of Mastermind last night.  John Humphries announced the specialist subjects somewhat elliptically at the start - including some 'Novels with a Northern Charm".  Anyway, I immediately thought we were going to get searing socialist realism and family melodrama.  The poverty-stricken 1930s East Ridings perhaps.

But no. 

Instead, the subject turned out to be "The Brandon Family Novels of Peter Tinniswood" and I - in some amazement - immediately started smiling.

And as the questions flew, about Uncle Mort, ointment, Glossop, mint imperials, allotments, cheese and pickled onions, Birkenhead, Count Jugular, manking about, and so forth, my grin grew wider and wider.  And everyone else on the telly was smiling too - including John Humphries and the contestant (one Diane Hallagan, assistant accountant)

I first read the novels after watching the TV series (I Didn't Know You Cared) in the 1970s, with Robin Bailey marvellous as Uncle Mort.  The books - A Touch of Daniel, Mog, Except You're a Bird, and I Didn't Know You Cared  are the ones I remember most - were wonderful, weird, rich and humorous.  Listening to a scattered array of questions on Mastermind brought them all back to me, with immense pleasure and no little joy.

So thank you Diane Hallagan, assistant accountant, for choosing that topic and causing so much enjoyment.

And now I'm going to have to have a ferret around to see if I can find any of them to re-read.

Tree Trail Again

On thinking again, it could of course be argued that we approached the Tree Trail in Peckham Rye Park in the wrong way.

We used a guide from the Park Rangers, which described and named the interesting trees in the park.  We read what it said and then we tried to spot them.  Which is all very well, but it meant we didn't look at the trees that were apparently less interesting (not important)?  And having spotted them, we moved on - so sometimes we didn't look at them very hard at all, I guess.  We didn't go off piste and look at trees away from the Trail, or not very much (and not always on purpose!).  We stayed in the Park, and ignored interesting items outside it - like the Black Willow on the Rye, for example.
Neil used to tell us of a trip he used to organise, where (if I've got this right) he'd send groups of students out with instructions to find one or more interesting-looking trees - and find ways of describing them - and give them names.  When they came back in with their descriptions, they'd all sit down with some books and see what they'd found, and what the 'official' names were, and how they were described by specialists.  He said he thought the kids got to know their trees better that way, and it was more immediate, as it involved feeling the bark, squeezing leaves, looking closely at twigs and vein patterns and catkins... stuff like that.

So maybe I should have remembered Neil's approach, and we should have tackled the Tree Trail like that.  On the other hand, we did enjoy it as it was (missing trees and all). 
For another time, perhaps.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Poem of the Week

Hunter Trials
John Betjeman

It’s awf’lly bad luck on Diana,
Her ponies have swallowed their bits;
She fished down their throats with a spanner
And frightened them all into fits.

So now she’s attempting to borrow.
Do lend her some bits, Mummy, do;
I’ll lend her my own for to-morrow,
But to-day I’ll be wanting them too.

Just look at Prunella on Guzzle,
The wizardest pony on earth;
Why doesn’t she slacken his muzzle
And tighten the breech in his girth?

I say, Mummy, there’s Mrs. Geyser
And doesn’t she look pretty sick?
I bet it’s because Mona Lisa
Was hit on the hock with a brick.

Miss Blewitt says Monica threw it,
But Monica says it was Joan,
And Joan’s very thick with Miss Blewitt,
So Monica’s sulking alone.

And Margaret failed in her paces,
Her withers got tied in a noose,
So her coronets caught in the traces
And now all her fetlocks are loose.

Oh, it’s me now. I’m terribly nervous.
I wonder if Smudges will shy.
She’s practically certain to swerve as
Her Pelham is over one eye.

* * *

Oh, wasn’t it naughty of Smudges?
Oh, Mummy, I’m sick with disgust.
She threw me in front of the Judges,
And my silly old collarbone’s bust.

Arucaria's Party - Meandering - Variants

So it seems Arucaria had a party in the Guardian offices, with guests including Prunella Scales and Simon Hoggart, who are both fans.  And lots of other compilers.  SH had a piece in the paper praising him mid-week, where we also found out that John Graham is an old left-winger who would never work for Murdoch (Yay!).  See Fifteen Squared for party photos.

At one point earlier in the week, I had thought his birthday was St Valentine's Day.  So I started to think about appropriate presents; I remembered the theory that St Valentine's Day was instigated by Chaucer - as the first mention of the 14th of February as a special day for wooing seems to be in The Parlement of Foules.

So I went looking for the text for a POTW, and instead found sites of textual criticism.  It seems that there are two variant readings, which different editors have championed over the years.

Here are the first few lines in each variant:
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Thassay so hard, so sharp the conquering,
The dredful Ioy, that alwey slit so yerne,
Al this mene I by love, that my feling
Astonyeth with his wonderful worching
So sore y-wis, that whan I on him thinke,
Nat wot I wel wher that I wake or winke.
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th'assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye alwey that slit so yerne,
Al this mene I by Love, that my felynge
Astonyeth with his wonderful workynge
So sore, iwis, that whan I on hym thynke,
Nat wot I wel wher that I flete or synke.
I got completely sidetracked by this.  Then I realised that the 14th wasn't Arucaria's birthday after all.

Anyway, which text do you prefer?

Saturday, 19 February 2011


The other anniversary last week - and one which rather passed me by on the day itself, was the 40th anniversary of D-Day.  16th February 1971. 

When the UK switched from pounds, shillings and pence to what Isaac Asimov called, when he visited Britain a few years later, "A Handful of Dimes". 

There was a great advertising campaign at the time, and I can still remember all of the equivalent values they drummed into us (eg sixpence was two-and-a-half new pee).

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


A mistake - sorry. 
Today is Arucaria's birthday.  Not the 14th (or 15th).
So - rejoice!

And also enjoy the editorial, and the extra special brithday crossword.  Set by Enigmatist, Paul and Shed.

Belated Birthday

I have to note - unfortunately after the event - that yesterday was Arucaria's 90th birthday.

Crag snot twisted message!

We should also celebrate the Arucaria Prize Crossword on Saturday, with all those Australian sites and a citation of Mr Flett.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Peckham Rye Tree Trail - 2

As I mentioned in the last post on this topic, the trees around the Bowling Green proved a little tricky.  The first of these mentioned in the booklet were two very old Black Mulberries (Morus nigra) by the bowler's hut.  So we went and searched.

I think we were flummoxed.  We just weren't sure without the leaves.  But these may be they:
However wrong or right we were about the mulberries, the next was easy - a group of blue-leaved Atlas cedars (Cedrus atlantica 'glauca').  Cedars, and blue leaved, not hard to spot.
But then we hit a real hitch - the next tree we were directed to was the nearby Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).  Easy you might think

Except there wasn't one there.  Or anywhere near.  After a lot of searching and several reviews of the map we spotted this:
The site of an ex-Horse Chestnut?  Just how old was this Trail?  The little yellow booklet had no date on it, but the contact phone number began 071.

OK. The fount of all arcane knowledge Wikipedia tells us that '071' came into use as the prefix for Inner London in May 1990, and changed again to '0171' on 'phONE day' (16 April 1995) - 0207 only arrived in April 2000.  Which means that the Tree Trail Guide must have been written between 1990 and 1995 - at least 15 years ago.  We may well have a copy that was still being produced a little later than that (they probably didn't bother to change the phone number straight away), but it means that the document is probably at leasst 12-13 years old.

So trees may be missing.  They may have fallen or been felled.  A new challenge.  And that little patch of disturbed earth, next to a newly-planted tree, probably marks where the Horse Chestnut once stood.

After the sad Horse Chestnut site, the Trail led us to a collection of trees, all quite close together on the map.  A Sweetgum, (Liquidamber styraciflua), a (Red) Indian Bean tree (Catalpa bignonioides), a purple-leaved (sic) Norway maple (Acer platanoides, 'Goldsworth Purple'), a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) and a Box Elder (Acer negundo).  But which was which?  This is what we could see:-
and we wandered amongst them getting quite confused until help arrived in the sign of, well, a sign:
So that was the (Red) Indian Bean.
Which probably made this the maple:
and this was clearly the tall Redwood:
So this was therefore the box elder - possibly:
,,, and the sweetgum must be the small tree on the far right of the earlier group shot.

By that stage I felt like I was playing one of those TV quizzes where you have to get five objects into five holes and hit a button - after which the host tells you what an idiot you've made of yourself.  Even if we identified them properly at the time, I'm sure I may have the photos in the wrong order!

But finally, an easy spot came along.  Two eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus gunii).
The Trail next guided us to look at the Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) along the outside of the Sexby gardens.

This we did with reservation, because we don't think it counts as a tree!  There is one real tree inside the gardens, a Ginko tree (Ginkgo biloba):
And then we were on a run.  Two huge London Planes (Platanus hispanica),
a Weeping Willow (Salix chrysocoma) by the lake
and a group of Yew (Taxus baccata)

The next tree on the Trail was meant to be a White Willow (Salix alba) - but it was nowhere to be seen.  Not another missing tree?  We felt in need of sustenance before unravelling another conundrum, so we kind of gave up and headed off to the new cafe (the old one indicated on the Trail map was demolished years ago). 

The cafe was warm inside and we lingered over coffees.  In the distance was the horrible, growing, Tolkienesque Shard.
We felt exposed, and wanted to be indoors, away from the all-seeing Eye.

So we went home.

Poem of the Week

Ghost Town
The Specials

This town (town) is coming like a ghost town

All the clubs have been closed down
This place (town) is coming like a ghost town
Bands won't play no more
Too much fighting on the dance floor
(A-la-la ...)

Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We danced and sang as the music played in any boomtown
This town (town) is coming like a ghost town
Why must the youth fight against themselves?
Government leaving the youth on the shelf
This place (town) is coming like a ghost town

No job to be found in this country
Can't go on no more
The people getting angry
(A-la-la ...)

This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Peckham Rye Tree Trail -1

Sitting on my desk for some time has been a leaflet from the local Park Ranger service, advertising the Peckham Rye Tree Trail.  It isn't new, we've had it for a while and other members of the family have taken the Trail in the distant past.

So I thought - given the title of this Blog and everything - I really ought to try it out.  So eldest and I went out to do so.

It's a ten page booklet with descriptions of the trees and a map, all on garish yellow paper.  The basic route around the park is easy to follow.  To be honest, though, it is probably better in the Summer. 

It might well be easier to identify the trees when they've all got leaves on and stuff.

The Trail starts at the main gates nearish to the Clock House pub, and heads left past the water gardens.  And here was the first tree we had trouble identifying.  We were looking for some Japanese maples (Acer palmatum).  Where these they?
We just weren't sure, they seemed possible.  We had the Philip's Guide to Trees of Britain and Europe with us, but we couldn't tell.  And since getting home we've looked on Wikipedia and Google, and I'm still not certain.  Let's just say it's possible they are they and move on.

Next on the Trail is a small elm (Ulmus sp.). Apparently new stock growing from an old bole after the Dutch Elm disease of the 1960s.
Again we were a little confused.  There were old, dried oak leaves on the branches.  That didn't seem right, although the tree was in the right place.  Looking up and up, however, we realised that the tree was somewhat eclipsed by a pair of huge oak trees loweing above it (see later).

Following the Elm was lovely white Birch tree (Betula ermanii) - a little lost behind other shrubs.

The next tree on the Trail was again hard to spot, but this time, embarrassingly, because I was misreading the map.  It was this Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum).
Followed closely by the two huge Pedunculate Oaks (Quercus robur) that partially overshadowed the Elm.
I'd been looking forward to the next trees when setting out on the Trail, if only because they are my nom-de-plume on this Blog.  Two bare Hornbeams (Carpinus betulus), just beginning to bud. 
I originally chose the name because when I was very young I thought that Hornbeam was the Ent in Lord of the Rings with the best name.  A silly reason, but I have come to be more interested in the tree since.

As you can see from the photograph above, by this time the Trail had reached the Ranger's hut amd little bridge to the car park.  But we pressed on.  Two more oaks - Turkey Oaks (Quercus cerris) this time.
And then we struggled again, as we headed towards the path by the Japanese shelter, to identify the grafted Snowy Mespil (Amelanchier laevis).  Eventually we decided that this was probably it.
It was certainly easier to identify the 'highly ornamental' Japanes Cherry (Prunus 'Kanzan'):
And I believe we sorted out the large Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) that followed.
But after that, things began to get a little tricky as we tackled the trees near the Bowling Green. 

So I'm going to leave the story of those for another day...


The Saturday Guardian magazine this week - otherwise, to my mind, unreadable - apart from the Quiz - has a piece on Wolfram | Alpha this week.  The site you go to for real facts and data, rather than just everyone else's opinion.  And of course, linked-to from this Blog for ages (see right)

And last week they had a long piece on Michael Moorcock in the Review section that appeared to be quite sensible and understand its subject.  Even mentioned Dark They Were and Golden Eyed. 

Things seem to be  improving, marginally. Usually, the only stuff worth reading in the Saturday are Loomus, the crossword, Quiz, and one or two short bits in the Review. 

Still you have to buy it...

Friday, 11 February 2011

Nobody expects...

This is turning into the Spanish Inquisition sketch.  When I wrote about  Rev and all those other wonderful miserabilist/low-key shows, I thought I'd been fairly complete. 

Clearly not. 

In addition to The Great Outdoors I'd also missed Outnumbered - a fine episode of which was on last night and successfully included Hugh Denis's raptor impersonation(which I'd previously seen him do when warming up for The Now Show).

So what else did I miss?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Pubs Around Nunhead: 12

And as I should have mentioned, The Ivy House has closed.  A Pub that didn't get a mention in these pages while it was open, I'm afraid.  Sigh.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Why so ranty?

It could be thought that I was a little bit intolerant or intemperate in my last post on royalty & its weaknesses.  So this is me calmly setting the record straight. Honest.

But Hell. 

They (the RF) are up there to be challenged, and we seem to be stupidly praising a film that appears to ignore the profound Nazi-philia of the UK monarchy in the 1930s.  Or so I gather.  I'm sure it is well-made, but it seems to have its history and politics skewed.  (I must go and see it sometime to check it out).

And the lack of a coherent, class-based challenge to the current Government is scary in its implications, given their background and their plummy pronouncements.

So do we need to publically celebrate this dysfunctional, inept and wholly unnecessary families' desire to spread their genes in marriage?  I would argue not.

On top of this we have an essentially servile, inept and occasionally corrupt press.  (I'm only observing the evidence on this one, tho' - it isn't really a biased opinion.  Sorry for that).  There are of course a few exceptions.

So in measured conclusion, given a balanced consideration of the facts...
We should:
- in response to the shedloads of money they take off us every year,
- and all the evidence of how horrible they are,
- and recognising their interest in eugenics...


I wrote "Neuter the Bastards" in the first version of this post, but that is perhaps going too far - abstention will do. 

(I am naturally happy to hear counter opinions...)

Anyway, (...calming down...), I think it's clear I was quite reserved. in my earlier comments.

Monday, 7 February 2011

On Kingship

Pterry has shown us Carrot as the perfect King - on Discworld - in a society which doesn't have a hereditary monarchy running the state.

The most appropriate job - he asserts, correctly - is to get a role in the public sector where you have to work closely with large numbers of people/subjects.

Many European monarchies have gone part way towards that ideal.

So, our current scummy, dysfunctional, horribly right-wing, lower-middle-class, caniphilic, German Royal family should learn from this.  Harry or Wills should become Hospital porters, social workers or Librarians.

But they don't.

Instead they pretend to be important, and start creating unhelpful, unpleasant, distracting events only ever intended to stop us protesting about the Old Etonian, Establishment, stupid rotters who are currently in charge.  Just like their Dad. 

They do the circuses in bread and circuses.

Crap, really.

Completely second-rate...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

In Dulwich Woods

A quiet, comfortable walk around.

This was all a tiny, small historic and overgrown part of the route to Crystal Palace we've discussed before...

Pargiter spinoffs

So they had Graham Seed on BH today to comment on the papers and didn't once ask him to say 'Lizzie'  - I call that a waste.

More fun was More or Less a few weeks back - which calculated the height of Loxley Hall from the length of Nigel's scream.

The simple maths (GCSE Physics, what eldest calls SUVAT) shows that Loxley Hall was 60m high to the roof.  As the show pointed out, roughly the height of York Minster.

Maybe he jumped?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Poem of the Week

Lessons of the War
Henry Reed

To Alan Michell

Vixi duellis nuper idoneus
Et militavi non sine gloria

I. Naming of Parts
To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For to-day we have naming of parts.

II. Judging Distances
Not only how far away, but the way that you say it
Is very important. Perhaps you may never get
The knack of judging a distance, but at least you know
How to report on a landscape: the central sector,
The right of the arc and that, which we had last Tuesday,
And at least you know

That maps are of time, not place, so far as the army
Happens to be concerned—the reason being,
Is one which need not delay us. Again, you know
There are three kinds of tree, three only, the fir and the poplar,
And those which have bushy tops to; and lastly
That things only seem to be things.

A barn is not called a barn, to put it more plainly,
Or a field in the distance, where sheep may be safely grazing.
You must never be over-sure. You must say, when reporting:
At five o'clock in the central sector is a dozen
Of what appear to be animals; whatever you do,
Don't call the bleeders sheep.

I am sure that's quite clear; and suppose, for the sake of example,
The one at the end, asleep, endeavors to tell us
What he sees over there to the west, and how far away,
After first having come to attention. There to the west,
On the fields of summer the sun and the shadows bestow
Vestments of purple and gold.

The still white dwellings are like a mirage in the heat,
And under the swaying elms a man and a woman
Lie gently together. Which is, perhaps, only to say
That there is a row of houses to the left of the arc,
And that under some poplars a pair of what appear to be humans
Appear to be loving.

Well that, for an answer, is what we rightly call
Moderately satisfactory only, the reason being,
Is that two things have been omitted, and those are very important.
The human beings, now: in what direction are they,
And how far away, would you say? And do not forget
There may be dead ground in between.

There may be dead ground in between; and I may not have got
The knack of judging a distance; I will only venture
A guess that perhaps between me and the apparent lovers,
(Who, incidentally, appear by now to have finished,)
At seven o'clock from the houses, is roughly a distance
Of about one year and a half.

III. Movement of Bodies
Those of you that have got through the rest, I am going to rapidly
Devote a little time to showing you, those that can master it,
A few ideas about tactics, which must not be confused
With what we call strategy. Tactics is merely
The mechanical movement of bodies, and that is what we mean by it.
Or perhaps I should say: by them.

Strategy, to be quite frank, you will have no hand in.
It is done by those up above, and it merely refers to,
The larger movements over which we have no control.
But tactics are also important, together or single.
You must never forget that, suddenly, in an engagement,
You may find yourself alone.

This brown clay model is a characteristic terrain
Of a simple and typical kind. Its general character
Should be taken in at a glance, and its general character
You can, see at a glance it is somewhat hilly by nature,
With a fair amount of typical vegetation
Disposed at certain parts.

Here at the top of the tray, which we might call the northwards,
Is a wooded headland, with a crown of bushy-topped trees on;
And proceeding downwards or south we take in at a glance
A variety of gorges and knolls and plateaus and basins and saddles,
Somewhat symmetrically put, for easy identification.
And here is our point of attack.

But remember of course it will not be a tray you will fight on,
Nor always by daylight. After a hot day, think of the night
Cooling the desert down, and you still moving over it:
Past a ruined tank or a gun, perhaps, or a dead friend,
In the midst of war, at peace. It might quite well be that.
It isn't always a tray.

And even this tray is different to what I had thought.
These models are somehow never always the same: for a reason
I do not know how to explain quite. Just as I do not know
Why there is always someone at this particular lesson
Who always starts crying. Now will you kindly
Empty those blinking eyes?

I thank you. I have no wish to seem impatient.
I know it is all very hard, but you would not like,
To take a simple example, to take for example,
This place we have thought of here, you would not like
To find yourself face to face with it, and you not knowing
What there might be inside?

Very well then: suppose this is what you must capture.
It will not be easy, not being very exposed,
Secluded away like it is, and somewhat protected
By a typical formation of what appear to be bushes,
So that you cannot see, as to what is concealed inside,
As to whether it is friend or foe.

And so, a strong feint will be necessary in this, connection.
It will not be a tray, remember. It may be a desert stretch
With nothing in sight, to speak of. I have no wish to be inconsiderate,
But I see there are two of you now, commencing to snivel.
I do not know where such emotional privates can come from.
Try to behave like men.

I thank you. I was saying: a thoughtful deception
Is always somewhat essential in such a case. You can see
That if only the attacker can capture such an emplacement
The rest of the terrain is his: a key-position, and calling
For the most resourceful manoeuvres. But that is what tactics is.
Or I should say rather: are.

Let us begin then and appreciate the situation.
I am thinking especially of the point we have been considering,
Though in a sense everything in the whole of the terrain,
Must be appreciated. I do not know what I have said
To upset so many of you. I know it is a difficult lesson.
Yesterday a man was sick,

But I have never known as many as five in a single intake,
Unable to cope with this lesson. I think you had better
Fall out, all five, and sit at the back of the room,
Being careful not to talk. The rest will close up.
Perhaps it was me saying 'a dead friend', earlier on?
Well, some of us live.

And I never know why, whenever we get to tactics,
Men either laugh or cry, though neither is strictly called for.
But perhaps I have started too early with a difficult task?
We will start again, further north, with a simpler problem.
Are you ready? Is everyone paying attention?
Very well then. Here are two hills.

IV. Unarmed Combat
In due course of course you will all be issued with
Your proper issue; but until tomorrow,
You can hardly be said to need it; and until that time,
We shall have unarmed combat. I shall teach you
The various holds and rolls and throws and breakfalls
Which you may sometimes meet.

And the various holds and rolls and throws and breakfalls
Do not depend on any sort of weapon,
But only on what I might coin a phrase and call
The ever-important question of human balance,
And the ever-important need to be in a strong
Position at the start.

There are many kinds of weakness about the body,
Where you would least expect, like the ball of the foot.
But the various holds and rolls and throws and breakfalls
Will always come in useful. And never be frightened
To tackle from behind: it may not be clean to do so,
But this is global war.

So give them all you have, and always give them
As good as you get; it will always get you somewhere.
(You may not know it, but you can tie a Jerry
Up without rope; it is one of the things I shall teach.)
Nothing will matter if only you are ready for him.
The readiness is all.

The readiness is all. How can I help but feel
I have been here before? But somehow then,
I was the tied-up one. How to get out
Was always then my problem. And even if I had
A piece of rope I was always the sort of person
Who threw rope aside.

And in my time I had given them all I had,
Which was never as good as I got, and it got me nowhere.
And the various holds and rolls and throws and breakfalls
Somehow or other I always seemed to put
In the wrong place. And, as for war, my wars
Were global from the start.

Perhaps I was never in a strong position.
Or the ball of my foot got hurt, or I had some weakness
Where I had least expected. But I think I see your point.
While awaiting a proper issue, we must learn the lesson
Of the ever-important question of human balance.
It is courage that counts.

Things may be the same again; and we must fight
Not in the hope of winning but rather of keeping
Something alive: so that when we meet our end,
It may be said that we tackled wherever we could,
That battle-fit we lived, and though defeated,
Not without glory fought.

V. Psychological Warfare
This above all remember: they will be very brave men,
And you will be facing them. You must not despise them.

I am, as you know, like all true professional soldiers,
A profoundly religious man: the true soldier has to be.
And I therefore believe the war will be over by Easter Monday.
But I must in fairness state that a number of my brother-officers,
No less religious than I, believe it will hold out till Whitsun.
Others, more on the agnostic side (and I do not condemn them)
Fancy the thing will drag on till August Bank Holiday.

Be that as it may, some time in the very near future,
We are to expect Invasion ... and invasion not from the sea.
Vast numbers of troops will be dropped, probably from above,
Superbly equipped, determined and capable; and this above all,
Remember: they will be very brave men, and chosen as such.

You must not, of course, think I am praising them.
But what I have said is basically fundamental
To all I am about to reveal: the more so, since
Those of you that have not seen service overseas—
Which is the case with all of you, as it happens—this is the first time
You will have confronted them. My remarks are aimed
At preparing you for that.

Everyone, by the way, may smoke,
And be as relaxed as you can, like myself.
I shall wander among you as I talk and note your reactions.
Do not be nervous at this: this is a thing, after all,
We are all in together.

I want you to note in your notebooks, under ten separate headings,
The ten points I have to make, remembering always
That any single one of them may save your life. Is everyone ready?
Very well then.

The term, Psychological Warfare
Comes from the ancient Greek: psycho means character
And logical, of course, you all know. We did not have it
In the last conflict, the fourteen-eighteen affair,
Though I myself was through it from start to finish. (That is point one.)
I was, in fact, captured—or rather, I was taken prisoner—
In the Passchendaele show (a name you will all have heard of)
And in our captivity we had a close opportunity
(We were all pretty decently treated. I myself
Was a brigadier at the time: that is point two)
An opportunity I fancy I was the only one to appreciate
Of observing the psychiatry of our enemy
(The word in those days was always psychology,
A less exact description now largely abandoned). And though the subject
Is a highly complex one, I had, it was generally conceded,
A certain insight (I do not know how, but I have always, they say,
Had a certain insight) into the way the strangest things ebb up
From what psychoanalysts now refer to as the self-conscious.
It is possibly for this reason that I have been asked
To give you the gist of the thing, the—how shall I put it?—
The gist.

I was not of course captured alone
(Note that as point three) so that I also observed
Not only the enemy's behaviour; but ours. And gradually, I concluded
That we all of us have, whether we like it or lump it,
Our own individual psychiatry, given us, for better or worse,
By God Almighty. I say this reverently; you often find
These deeper themes of psychiatry crudely but well expressed
In common parlance. People say: 'We are all as God made us.'
And so they are. So are the enemy. And so are some of you.
This I in fact observed: point four. Not only the enemy
Had their psychiatry, but we, in a different sense,
Had ours. And I firmly believe you cannot (point six) master
Their psychiatry before you have got the gist of your own.
Let me explain more fully: I do not mean to imply
That any, or many, of you are actually mentally ill.
Though that is what the name would imply. But we, your officers,
Have to be aware that you, and many of your comrades,
May have a sudden psychiatry which, sometimes without warning,
May make you feel (and this is point five) a little bit odd.

I do not mean that in the sense of anything nasty:
I am not thinking of those chaps with their eyes always on each other
(Sometimes referred to as homosensualists
And easily detected by the way they lace up their boots)
But in the sense you may all feel a little disturbed,
Without knowing why, a little as if you were feeling an impulse,
Without knowing why: the term for this is ambivalence.
Often referred to for some mysterious reason,
By the professionals as Amby Valence,
As though they were referring to some nigger minstrel.
(Not, of course, that I have any colour prejudice:
After all, there are four excellent West Nigerians among you,
As black as your boot: they are not to blame for that.)

At all events this ambivalence is to be avoided.
Note that as point seven: I think you all know what I mean:
In the Holy Scriptures the word begins with an O,
Though in modern parlance it usually begins with an M.
You have most of you done it absentmindedly at some time or another,
But repeated, say, four times a day, it may become almost a habit,
Especially prone to by those of sedentary occupation,
By pale-faced clerks or schoolmasters, sitting all day at a desk,
Which is not, thank God, your position: you are always
More or less on the go: and that is what
(Again deep in the self-conscious) keeps you contented and happy here.

Even so, should you see some fellow-comrade
Give him all the help you can. In the spiritual sense, I mean,
With a sympathetic word or nudge, inform him in a manly fashion
'Such things are for boys, not men, lad.'
Everyone, eyes front!

I pause, gentlemen.
I pause. I am not easily shocked or taken aback,
But even while I have been speaking of this serious subject
I observe that one of you has had the effrontery—
Yes, you at the end of row three! No! Don't stand up, for God's sake, man,
And don't attempt to explain. Just tuck it away,
And try to behave like a man. Report to me
At eighteen hundred hours. The rest of you all eyes front.
I proceed to point six.

The enemy itself,
I have reason to know is greatly prone to such actions.
It is something we must learn to exploit: an explanation, I think,
Is that they are, by and large, undeveloped children,
Or adolescents, at most. It is perhaps to do with physique,
And we cannot and must not ignore their physique as such.
(Physique, of course, being much the same as psychiatry.)
They are usually blond, and often extremely well-made,
With large blue eyes and very white teeth,
And as a rule hairless chests, and very smooth, muscular thighs,
And extremely healthy complexions, especially when slightly sunburnt.
I am convinced there is something in all this that counts for something.
Something probably deep in the self-conscious of all of them.
Undeveloped children, I have said, and like children,
As those of you with families will know,
They are sometimes very aggressive, even the gentlest of them.

All the same we must not exaggerate; in the words of Saint Matthew:
'Clear your minds of cant.' That is point five: note it down.
Do not take any notice of claptrap in the press
Especially the kind that implies that the enemy will come here,
Solely with the intention of raping your sisters.
I do not know why it is always sisters they harp on:
I fancy it must ebb up from someone's self-conscious.
It is a patent absurdity for two simple reasons: (a)
They cannot know in advance what your sisters are like:
And (b) some of you have no sisters. Let that be the end of that.

There are much darker things than that we have to think of.
It is you they consider the enemy, you they are after.
And though, as Britishers, you will not be disposed to shoot down
A group of helpless men descending from the heavens,
Do not expect from them—and I am afraid I have to say this—gratitude:
They are bound to be over-excited,
As I said, adolescently aggressive, possibly drugged,
And later, in a macabre way, grotesquely playful.
Try to avoid being playfully kicked in the crutch,
Which quite apart from any temporary discomfort,
May lead to a hernia. I do not know why you should laugh.
I once had a friend who, not due to enemy action
But to a single loud sneeze, entirely his own, developed a hernia,
And had to have great removals, though only recently married.
(I am sorry, gentlemen, but anyone who finds such things funny
Ought to suffer them and see. You deserve the chance to.
I must ask you all to extinguish your cigarettes.)

There are other unpleasant things they may face you with.
You may, as I did in the fourteen-eighteen thing,
Find them cruelly, ruthlessly, starkly obsessed with the arts,
Music and painting, sculpture and the writing of verses,
Please, do not stand for that.

Our information is
That the enemy has no such rules, though of course they may have.
We must see what they say when they come. There can, of course,
Be no objection to the more virile arts:
In fact in private life I am very fond of the ballet,
Whose athleticism, manliness and sense of danger
Is open to all of us to admire. We had a ballet-dancer
In the last mob but three, as you have doubtless heard.
He was cruelly teased and laughed at—until he was seen in the gym.
And then, my goodness me! I was reminded of the sublime story
Of Samson, rending the veil of the Temple.
I do not mean he fetched the place actually down; though he clearly did what he could.
Though for some other reason I was never quite clear about,
And in spite of my own strong pressure on the poor lad's behalf,
And his own almost pathetic desire to stay on with us,
He was, in fact, demobilized after only three weeks' service,
Two and a half weeks of which he spent in prison.
Such are war's tragedies: how often we come upon them!
(Everyone may smoke again, those that wish.)

This brings me to my final point about the psychiatry
Of our formidable foe. To cope with it,
I know of nothing better than the sublime words of Saint Paul
In one of his well-known letters to the Corinthians:
'This above all, to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day
No man can take thee in.'

'This above all': what resonant words those are!
They lead me to point nine, which is a thing
I may have a special thing about, but if so,
Remember this is not the first war I have been through.
I refer (point nine this is) to the question of dignity.
Dignity. Human dignity. Yours. Never forget it, men.
Let it sink deep into your self-consciousness,
While still remaining plentifully available on the surface,
In the form of manly politeness. I mean, in particular, this:
Never behave in a manner to evoke contempt
Before thine enemy. Our enemy, I should say.

Comrades, and brothers-in-arms,
And those especially who have not understood my words,
You were not born to live like cowards or cravens:
Let me exhort you: never, whatever lies you have heard,
Be content to throw your arms on the ground and your other arms into the air and squawk 'Kaputt!'
It is unsoldierly, unwarlike, vulgar, and out of date,
And may make the enemy laugh. They have a keen sense of humour,
Almost (though never quite, of course) as keen as our own.
No: when you come face to face with the foe, remember dignity,
And though a number of them do fortunately speak English,
Say, proudly, with cold politeness, in the visitor's own language:
'Ich ergebe mich.' Ich meaning I,
Ergebe meaning surrender, and mich meaning me.
Ich ergebe mich.' Do not forget the phrase.
Practise it among yourselves: do not let it sound stilted,
Make it sound idiotish, as if you were always saying it,
Only always cold in tone: icy, if necessary:
It is such behaviour that will make them accord you
The same respect that they accorded myself,
At Passchendaele. (Incidentally,
You may also add the word nicht if you feel inclined to,
Nicht meaning not. It will amount to much the same thing.)

Dignity, then, and respect: those are the final aims
Of psychiatric relations, and psychological warfare.
They are the fundamentals also of our religion.
I may have mentioned my own religious intuitions:
They are why I venture to think this terrible war will be over
On Easter Monday, and that the invasion will take place
On either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday,
Probably the Thursday, which in so very many
Of our great, brave, proud, heroic and battered cities,
Is early closing day, as the enemy may have learnt from their agents.
Alas, there may be many such days in the immediate future.
But remember this in the better world we all have to build,
And build by ourselves alone—for the government
May well in the next few weeks have withdrawn to Canada—
What did you say? The man in row five. He said something.
Stand up and repeat what you said.
I said 'And a sodding good job', sir, I said, sir.
I have not asked anyone for political comments, thank you,
However apt. Sit down. I was saying:
That in the better world we all have to try to build
After the war is over, whether we win or lose,
Or whether we all agree to call it a draw,
We shall have to try our utmost to get used to each other,
To live together with dignity and respect.
As our Lord sublimely said in one of his weekly Sermons on the Mount
Outside Jerusalem (where interestingly enough,
I was stationed myself for three months in 1926):
'A thirteenth commandment I give you (this is point ten)
That ye love one another.' Love, in Biblical terms,
Meaning of course not quite what it means today,
But precisely what I have called dignity and respect.
And that, men, is the great psychiatrical problem before you:
Of how on God's earth we shall ever learn to attain some sort
Of dignity.
And due respect.
One man.
For another.
Thank you; God bless you, men. Good afternoon.

VI. Returning of Issue
Tomorrow will be your last day here. Someone is speaking:
A familiar voice, speaking again at all of us.
And beyond the windows— it is inside now, and autumn—
On a wind growing daily harsher, small things to the earth
Are turning and whirling, small. Tomorrow will be
Your last day here,

But not we hope for always. You cannot see through the windows
If they are leaves or flowers. We hope that many of you
Will be coming back for good. Silence, and stupefaction.
The coarsening wind and the things whirling upon it
Scour that rough stamping-ground where we so long
Have spent our substance,

As the trees are spending theirs. How much of mine have I spent,
Father, oh father? How sorry we are to lose you
I do not have to say, since the sergeant-major
Has said it, the RSM has said it, and the colonel
Has sent over a message to say that he also says it.
Everyone sorry to lose us,

And you, oh father, father, once sorry too. I think
I can honestly say you are one and all of you now:
Soldiers. Silence, and disbelief. A fact that will stand you
In pretty good stead in the various jobs you go back to.
I wish you the best of luck. Silence. And all of you know
You can think of us here, as home.

As home: a home we shall any of you welcome you back to.
Most of you have, I know, some sort of work waiting for you,
And the rest of you now being, thanks to us, fit and able,
Will be bound to find something. I begin to be in want.
Would any citizen of this country send me
Into his fields? And

Before I finalise: one thing about tomorrow
I must make perfectly clear. Tomorrow is clear already:
I saw myself once, but now am by time forbidden
To see myself so: as the man who went evil ways,
Till lie determined, in time of famine, to seek
His father's home.

Autumn is later down there: it should now be the time
Of vivacious triumph in the fruitful fields.
As he approached, he ran over his speeches of sorrow,
Not less of truth for being much-rehearsed:
The last distilment from a long and inward
Discourse of heartbreak. And

The first thing you do, after first thing tomorrow morning,
Is, those that leave not been previously detailed to do so,
Which I think is the case in most cases, is a systematic
Returning of issue. It is all-important
You should restore to store one of every store issued.
And in the case of two, two.

And I, as always late, shall never know that lifted fear
When the small hard-working master of those fields
Looked up. I trembled. But his heart came out to me
With a shout of compassion. And all my speech was only:
'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and am no more worthy
To be called thy son.'

But if I cried it, father, you could not hear me now,
Where now you lie, crumpled in that small grave
Like any withering dog. Your fields are sold and built on,
Your lanes are filled with husks the swine reject.
I scoop them in my hands. I have earned no more; and more
I shall not inherit. And

A careful check will be made of every such object
That was issued to each personnel originally,
And checked at issue. And let me be quite implicit:
That no accoutrements, impedimentas, fittings, or military garments
May be taken as souvenirs. The one exception is shirts,
And whatever you wear underneath.

These may be kept, those that wish. But the rest of the issue
Must be returned, except who intend to rejoin
In regular service. Silence. Which involves a simple procedure
I will explain in a simple group to those that rejoin.
Now, how many will that be? Silence. No one? No one at all?
I see. Very well. I have up to now

Spoken with the utmost of mildness. I speak so still,
But it does seem to me a bit of a bloody pity,
A bit un-bloody-feeling, after the all
We have bloody done for you, you should sit on your dumb bloody arses,
Just waiting like bloody milksops till I bloody dismiss you.
Silence, embarrassed, but silent.

And am I to break it, father, to break this silence?
Is there no bloody man among you? Not one bloody single one?
I will break the silence, father. Yes, sergeant, I will stay
In a group of one. Father, be proud of me.
Oh splendid, man! And for Christ's sake, tell them all,
Why you are doing this.

Why am I doing this? And is it too late to say no?
Come speak out, man: tell us, and shame these bastards.
I hope to shame no one, sergeant, in simply wishing
To remain a personnel. I have been such a thing before.
It was good, and simple; and it was the best I could do.
Here is a man, men! Silence.

Silence, indeed. How could I tell them, now?
I have nowhere else to go? How could I say
I have no longer gift or want; or how describe
The inexplicable tears that filled my eyes
When the poor sergeant said: 'After the all
We have bloody done for you'?

Goodbye forever, father, after the all you have done for me.
Soon I must start to forget you; but how to forget
That reconcilement, never enacted between us,
Which should have been ours, under the autumn sun?
I can see it and feel it now, clearer than daylight, clearer
For one brief moment, now,

Than even the astonished faces of my fellows,
The sergeant's uneasy smile, the trees, the relief at choosing
To learn once more the things I shall one day teach:
A rhetoric instead of words; instead of a love, the use
Of accoutrements, impedimenta, and fittings, and military garments,
And harlots, and riotous living.

Great, Great

I finally got to see the last episode of The Great Outdoors courtesy of the BBC i-Player.  The third of three, a tiny number.  But a gem.  Thoroughly enjoyable, a really beautiful episode and show.  Well written and marvellously photgraphed. 

They have to do more, but could they get the cast together again?

And Coming of Age is back, while Friday Night Live started strongly and seems to be improving.

And there will be another series of Rev.

Marvellous.  Keep it up, everyone out there.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Pubs Around Nunhead: 11

Well, that didn't last long. 
The Orange Pizza Place has closed and we await the next incarnation of No 57 Nunhead Lane.

Stratus Update

A bright, cold, clean morning on the Rye, with low cirrostratus (or perhaps high altostratus) clouds covering most of the sky, and with hints of blue peeking through as the sun rose.