Thursday, 10 November 2011

An historical challenge to be relished.

 During the 1960s there started a wave of publishing series of magazines in weekly instalments devoted to one specialised subject. One of the very first was 'The History of the English Speaking Peoples', taking as its template and title the 112 chapters of the multi-volume work by Winston Churchill. (Incidentally, many people are not aware that Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, though rather in recognition of his previous writings rather than for this breath-takingly ambitious and admirable work.)
    I had collected all 112 editions which cover the immense span of history between Julius Caesar's Roman invasions of these islands (in 55 B.C.E. and the following year) right up to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
 Just a few days ago these magazines of mine saw the light of day again for the first time since I parcelled them up in Oxford prior to my emigrating to Germany in 1988. My eyes moistened when seeing them once more. There has been so much water under the bridge for me in the intervening years - status and financial comfort and security lost, but most poignantly, the loss of very nearly every one of the few friends I had, both in England and other parts of Europe..
    I tried to keep up with reading the magazines as they were first published one by one, but eventually fell behind. Then in the late 70s I gave it another go, this time getting up to the 17th century and the English Civil Wars, but then had to put the project aside.
   Now, inspired by the re-broadcast on one of the BBC's digital radio channels, entitled 'This Scepter'd Isle' in bite-sized 15 mins instalments, again based on the same chapters by Winston Churchill, with readings not only from his work but also from other historical sources relating to the period, I'm giving the challenge another shot - which could well be my final chance.

The magazines also fill in those areas where Churchill is inadequate, weak or he just ignores, with articles by other historians. For example here on the left is the start of an article on Britain's pre-Roman inhabitants, showing a giant figure chalked into an English hillside, which is still renowned as a favourite tourist site, though I can't think why, of an early warrior brandishing his big stick. (If you're not familiar with this, the 'Cerne Abbis Giant', look closely!.
                 Each magazine is a veritable treasure-trove of information and reading them sits well with my lifelong unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I plan to read one mag (with all its articles) per week  Really looking forward to this!

Just as a post-script, at secondary school the history we were taught covered the period from the ascent of the Tudor Dynasty (from Henry VII in 1485) up to the Unification of Germany in 1870. Though we learned a lot about the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, there was precious little said about the American War of Independence, which seems rather curious now. Also, given the range of dates, there was, of course, no coverage of either of the two world wars. (I believe that for some time now all children are taught at least something about World War 2). When I was at school, the 1939-45 conflict was still raw in the minds of many families and all of my teachers would have lived through it. Perhaps the dust hadn't quite settled enough.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

My boorish barney with a Bible-pusher

Just a couple of hours ago I had a brief, heated exchange on the doorstep. Well, more accurately, it was I who became the 'heated' one.
Before my own memory starts modifying and embellishing the event in my own favour and against the Bible Lady, here is my best word-for-word recollection of the conversation.
(There were actually two callers, the one I talked to being middle-aged, the other much younger - presumably a 'novice' there to learn the ropes).

BIBLE LADY: "Good morning. We are asking around the neighbourhood for people's views on the Bible. Have you ever....."           

ME: (starting calmly and with a cordial self-satisfied, 'I-know-it-all' smirk) "Actually I've read the Bible six times cover-to-cover in three different versions - and each time it gets more and more preposterous. It's the reason I lost my faith." (Oh, too clever by half! - and why did I say "lost my faith" instead of "discarded", which I am always telling others to use, and which would have been nearer the truth?)

SHE: (After slight delay - of surprise? - But she smiling also.) "Oh, why do you find it 'preposterous'."

ME: "Well, for one thing, Jesus fell so far short of a 'good example'. He said nothing about having love for animals. He even ate them, for Christ's sake." (Even if it was a valid point, it wasn't the best idea to pull this one out of the hat first. And to top it off with a blasphemy wasn't so savvy in the circumstances either).

SHE: (staying calm, unlike me.) "So are you a vegetarian then?"

ME: (voice rising) "Yes, and have been for fifty years!"

SHE: "Oh, I was a vegetarian for twelve years....."

ME: (starting to shout) "Well get back to it then!" (oh dear!)

SHE: "You really love animals?"

ME: (showing additional signs of frustration at this going in a direction I didn't want.) "YES!" (and then adding, just in case she was going to write me off as a rabid animal-rights terrorist-sympathiser) "And I love people too!"  (Oh cringe! Was it really necessary to say that?- Then, trying to drag it back.....)   "And I've read the Koran nine times - and it's the same old shit!" (My voice now quivering and getting higher-pitched.)

SHE: (her calm enviably sustained - her young companion looking on, dumbstruck) "I was wondering if I could just leave you with this leaflet......."

ME: (practically shrieking like a banshee) "NO YOU CAN'T!". (I slam door in her face).


And that was it. The whole mini-exchange probably lasted less than one minute tops, but it got my heart pounding like mad. I was, more than anything, annoyed at myself for rising to the bait, letting my blood pressure shoot up. Even after I'd got back upstairs, looking out of the window and seeing them walking to the next house, I felt an intense urge to call out to them - "And I suppose you think that the earth is less than ten thousand years old and that Adam and Eve really existed - and with the dinosaurs!" (Even now I half-regret I didn't.)

   I didn't  get round to knowing what denomination they were peddling, but it's a fair bet that they were J.W.s.

It would be too easy to say that I was only mad at the lady herself  - even though that was indeed the case. But not so much for her pushing the Bible. It's the fact that she kept her composure while I, in that short time,  completely lost it. I feel embarrassed, ashamed, even sullied by my own reaction. How much better I could have dealt with the situation if I'd also maintained my own equilibrium. But it pains me to have to concede ultimately - she was the one who'd 'won'! (Damn and blast it!!!)

But BEWARE, Mrs Bible-Lady - my dander is up! If you ever so much as dare to come round here again, I'll present such a model of self-composure, and then you'll see how I can really give you 'what for'.  Just you wait!  HAH!!!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

......and nobody is getting fat except MY TWO CATS (do dooo)

But hang on there. Could there now be a THIRD? Oh NOOOOO!!!! (I jolly well hope not. But read on!)

In these days of financial stringency when we're all having to count our pennies - unless you happen to be a member of the jury in a TV 'talent' show, a member of the British Cabinet (21 millionaires out of 29 at the last count - or maybe it's down to a mere 20 since the recent ignominious departure of the Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox?) or a banker slavering after his/her forthcoming bonus. But if you're not one of these then too bad! But there is another group which ought to be mentioned as inured against the financial constraints the rest of us have to suffer, viz. domestic pets, and in particular, my own 'Dynamic Duo', Blackso and Noodles, above.
   We've known for some time that even Her Gracious Majesty, the Queen, regularly glides around Buckingham Palace at night like a phantom, switching off the lights in needlessly illuminated rooms. I have no doubt that when she is succeeded by the lovely Camilla (bless her jodhpur-clad royal thighs!) that this practice will continue unabated.
   Meantime my pussies expect, nay, demand, to be fed at any and every hour as though money grew on trees.
 And now, not only my regular two, but bang on cue, after the prolonged absence (and, surely, sad demise, of one of my several regular window visitors), comes yet another one - and this one owns the biggest appetite of all! :-
  I've no idea where it came from. I suspect with the timing, that it may actually be a replacement for the dear recently-disappeared pussy. I haven't established its sex yet but, with staggering imagination, I've been calling it 'Ginger', which it now responds to. And boy, can it eat!
     It wears no collar but I'm hoping like anything that it does have its own home. It comes in at least twice a day, sometimes more frequently, - every time with an appetite as great as it itself is small. A really forward, cheeky little thing (much smaller and, I'm sure, much younger, than my own two) and with such a loud voice. Blackso has a soft, croaky miaow, Noodles a high-pitched but 'polite' one. Ginger just bellows its little lungs off - and if the kitchen window is shut and it sees me in the room it'll cry out there for attention like it's a life-or-death emergency. Seeing as though I get up at around 5 a.m. when it's still dark, and I can't avoid going into the kitchen, this is not a neighbourhood-friendly cat. So in it comes - and it just will not shut up until I attend to it, never mind the other two who are sitting silently, patiently, looking on curiously The other day I had to open no less than FOUR food sachets because what I'd offered was not good enough for it. And did it eat after the fourth serving? Did it hell! A flick of the tail and it was gone!.
     If I knew that it didn't have a home I wouldn't be able to resist taking it in. Trouble is, I'm not supposed to have any pets at all. My landlord has been aware for some years that I'd got Blackso (who'd left his own house down the road, preferring to move in with me) and said he'd turn a blind eye to that one. Then a couple of years ago when he was in here he noticed Noodles. His reaction led me to believe that he's also a cat-lover, though he didn't say anything to me directly about him. (Noodles, like Blackso, had decided to leave his own home - a different one, on this same road - and also to move in.) But now for me to take in a third? That really would be stretching things. With the cold weather coming I do hope Ginger will be less frequent in presence. But if it's going to be perched on my window sill in frost and snow, crying, I know there's no way I could to refuse to let it in.

      So, while we are all having to tighten our belts (me literally, as through eating less in order to save money, I soon expect to have the flattest tummy in Sussex - West AND East!) my pussies just carry on as before, letting the world's economic problems just drift by them - and even smiling at it. What a life!

Monday, 24 October 2011

No Pink Triangles in this 'classic' work.

My third read of this hefty tome was as long ago as 1985 so a further one should be long overdue. After publication it quickly became considered to be a definitive account of World War II (including its causes and prequel) even though it was written just 14 years after the end of that war. Research since then would be expected to have given arise to revisions, corrections and amendments, but there have been none. (The author has been deceased since 1993 anyway.) However, I do remember it as being so awesomely detailed and so damnably readable. BUT.....
    The second time I read it I noticed a curious omission. The next time it had become an irritation. There is no mention at all of the gay victims of the Nazis, though there is of others. The overwhelming concentration is on the plight and fate of the Jews, which could be argued as being fair enough (the author, by the way, was not Jewish himself). But not only is there no mention of  the persecution, internement and extermination of gays, from what I remember the only times homosexuality is mentioned at all is in connection with the gay Ernst Roehm, the some time leader of the S.A., where his sexuality is perceived as part and parcel of his advocacy of Nazi doctrine and methods - in other words, "What else can you expect from such a degenerate?" And not only does Shirer display that blatant prejudice in language which leaves us no doubt where he stands on homosexuality, to aggravate this horror, somewhere in the book (I can't put my hand on ezxactly where at the moment) he lists the numbers of the non-Jewish victims of Nazism - Poles, Gypsies, Communists, Intellectuals. Liberals etc - every group excepting one!  The message I get is that "the persecution and extermination of gays isn't really worth mentioning, or if it is, it wasn't all that bad". In fact I ask myself if Shirer might even have supported it!

   I've found on the web a well-written piece by Peter Tatchell (1995) on this very subject:- 

I'm now not sure whether I want to re-read the volume now. Like so much literature (fiction as well as fact) as well as films etc of those dark pre-enlightened days, Shirer was probably doing no more than espousing opinions which were, at that time, widely held. But if that was the case and if he did change his views, why did he not amend his book later when he had over 3 decades to do it? I suppose he would have said (assuming that he did regret the omission) that it was a question of priorities. But that's only surmise.

   If I do decide to read it again I'll have a nasty taste in the mouth even before I start.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dental View - Deja Vu.

Well here I am again this very morning - just as I was in my blog of a mere 5 weeks ago (12th Sept) - once more sitting on the sea-front of Hove Actually, waiting for the time of my dental appointment, for treatment for another filling that has fallen out. For the last one she did a temporary filling which may itself come out at any time, and for this recent one she did remedial short-term treatment but strongly advises that both teeth are capped as soon as convenient. Only one problem  - total cost £408 (American $640). Not what I wanted to hear when my finances are already scraping bottom. So, I'd better start saving. At £1 per week should get there by the time I'm 73. But before then will yet another filling come out?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Day of Significance - My Life in Pictures

Yes, today I become what used to be known as an 'Old Age Pensioner', now p.c.'d to a more acceptable 'Senior Citizen'.

So here is a golden opportunity to parade my life in visual stages:-

The only photo of me taken as a baby (1 year old). And the only time in my life I could fairly have been described as 'fat'.

At maybe 7 or 8.

About 10? Left - with my mum, sister & younger bro.
18 - my first ever holiday abroad - in Prague. (Note my relaxedly 'casual' holiday wear.)

21/22? The guy disappearing down in the background was a good school chum, one of only two I kept contact with after leaving. He was tragically killed in a car crash about 2 years later.

24 on holiday in Greece (Athen's port Pireaus in background)

36, in Amsterdam. The bearded era has started - and continues still.

                                   40-ish? Paris?  Practising that 'smouldering' look.

40-ish Munich (or was it Berlin?). All leathered-up for a night of disco-dancing and cruising.
(I must have sweated like a pig!)

50-ish? The grey starts to appear.

And finally, just one week ago - and still truckin'!

Well, in a few days time I should start receiving my state pension. In many cases this would be cause for rejoicing because of the extra income. In my case it means the reverse as I've only survived thus far by eating into my savings until it's practically all disappeared. If it had gone on much longer I wouldn't have had even enough left to give me a decent burial, let alone a funeral service (which I don't particularly want anyway), and it would have left my surviving brothers and sister to pick up the bill. But I think I can stop that from happening. I've got to tighten my belt still further to stop using up what's left - particularly difficult with soaring heating costs plus all the other increases around - not to mention having to provide for my own two pussies PLUS another three (at the moment) 'visitors' who come through the window with nary a thought as to how I can get the money to feed them. But feed them I must. For a long time I've been spending more on cat food than I do on food for myself.  It all still means that there's no possibility of my having a holiday, even though my last one was now almost 21 years ago. (Awwww. Poor me!)
   But today's a day for celebration and I shall mark it by having a main meal of fried-egg sandwiches, using  lashings of butter, with ladles of salt and pepper on it - plus a dishful of twice-fried chips (fries), likewise over-loaded with oodles of salt - and a bowl of baked beans with a tongue-scorching quantity of curry-powder mixed in. And all washed down with a half-bottle of cheap n' cheerful California Red. Can you imagine anything nicer? No, I thought not!