Wednesday, 27 April 2005
Remember the Mule
Topic: Special Days
Apparently, today, 27th April, is "Matanzas Mule Day". Never heard of it? Well, neither had I until I saw it on the Internet. Matanzas
is a town in Cuba, (on the northern coast), about sixty miles away from Havana. It boasts one of the finest beaches in the world. Throughout the region old African based customs have been passed on from generation to generation, so the area is also renowned for the richness of its AfroCuban folklore.
The Spanish word "Matar" means "to kill" so how did the area get its name? When Cuba was the home of indigenous Indians living in an Indian town called Yucayo, near Guanima Bay, a Spanish ship with thirty men and two women was shipwrecked nearby. These poor unfortunates were then attacked and killed by the Indians - hence, Matanzas, or The Killings. Later, in 1693, the Spanish founded the city of San Carlos and San Severino of Matanzas, now known as Matanzas, on the site of Yucayo.
One day during the Spanish-American War
in 1898, the United Stated bombarded Matanzas. What did they destroy? Well, only one poor old mule. So, today, the Cubans remember that poor unfortunate equine doubtless giving thanks that no human being perished on that day!
Do you know the difference between a mule and a hinny? The British Mule Society
will tell you all you everything you ever wanted to know about this intelligent animal. They are certainly much more complex creatures than I ever realised.
Monday, 25 April 2005
Tom Skeyhill (1895-1933)
Topic: Poetry and Poets
Today, Anzac Day, is the 90th Anniversary of the A
ustralian and N
orps' landing at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, as part of a British Empire and French force trying to capture the Dardanelles Strait from Turkey. About 44,000 allied troops, including 11,000 Anzacs, and 86,000 Turks died during the campaign. To mark the occasion, I have chosen a poem called, "The Naked Army
", by Tom Skeyhill, a regimental signaller in the 8th Battalion, 2nd (Victorian) Infantry Brigade, serving in the Gallipoli Peninsula.
I first became interested in Tom Skeyhill when I discovered that he was the original author of, "My Little Wet Home In The Trench
", a parody of the 1911 song, "My Little Grey Home in the West
", by Hermann Frederic Lohr and D. Eardley-Wilmot. He trained in Egypt from January, 1915, to April, 1915, and landed with his battalion on Anzac Beach on 24th April. The next week he was with his Battalion at Cape Helles, and was blinded on 8th May, when a high explosive shell burst beside him. He also suffered bayonet wounds to his hands.
In 1916, he published a little book called "Soldier-Songs from Anzac". Some of these had been written "in the firing-line" and some in hospital after he was injured. He was invalided home and then, after the end of the war, went to America where an operation partially restored his sight. He toured the States giving readings and lectures - he was described as "a silver-tongued master of eloquence - a matchless orator, whose powers of description are more vivid, and word pictures of battles are more graphic than those of any other speaker on the war." He edited the War Diaries of Sergeant York and published, "Sergeant York and the Great War" and "Sergeant York, Last of the Long Hunters", (later made into a 1941 film starring Gary Cooper). He then appears to have 'disappeared'. I found one reference, an old request
for information, which indicated that he was killed in a plane accident at Hyanis, Massachusetts, in 1933, and that he may be buried in West Dennis.
The Naked Army
We ain't no picture postcards,
Nor studies in black and white;
We don't doll up in evening clothes
When we go out to fight.
We've forgotten all our manners,
And our talk is full of slang,
For you ain't got time for grammar
When you 'ear the rifles bang.
The 'eat 'ere an' the vermin
'Ad drove us nearly balmy,
So we peeled off all our clobber,
And we're called "The Naked Army."
We never wear our tunics,
Unless it's cold at night;
An' socks and shirts and putties,
We've chucked 'em out of sight.
We only wear a pair of shorts
That don't near reach our knees,
And we're burnt as brown as berries;
Still, we'd sooner sun than fleas.
The Tommies fighting round us
Think we've got a bally rat;
They're all togged up to a button,
An' us, in shorts and 'at.
The air and sun don't 'urt us
In this land of fleas and strife,
So we've chucked away our clobber
An' prefer the Simple Life.
The Rookie, when first landed,
'Angs on to all 'is clothes,
But when the grey-backs bite 'im,
It's to the beach 'e goes.
Then off comes shirt and tunic,
Boots, socks, and putties, too;
'E dives deep in the briny,
An' wears what the others do.
If our girls could only see us,
Just as we're fightin' 'ere,
I wonder if they'd 'ug us,
Smile, kiss, an' call us Dear!
Sure thing, they still would love us,
Although we're burnt and lean;
They'd think of our 'ome-comin',
An' buy a sewin' machine.
Still, clothes don't make the fighter,
Nor speech don't show the man,
But conduct in the trenches
Proves out the fightin' man.
This aint' no bloomin' picnic,
The earth 'ides 'eaps of slain;
And we'll fight on to avenge 'em,
Or we won't come 'ome again.
We were the first at landin',
And we're 'angin' on until
The Turks get all that's comin',
Then we'll be in at the kill.
When we march through old "Connie,"
Some one will yell, "Lor' blahmy!
There lies the Young Turk's Harem.
Double up! The Naked Army!"
"Not since the pre-historic stone ages has such a naked army been seen in civilised warfare as the Australian Army Corps fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. These suntanned, stalwart, athletic colonials display an utter abhorrence for superfluous clothing. They are famous throughout Europe for their hard-fighting, hard-swearing, and nakedness even to a sense of indecency. In marked contrast is the British regular, who never discards his clothing, no matter under what circumstances they are fighting."
Composed: Al-Hayat, Helouin, Egypt, August 25, 1915.
"SOLDIER-SONGS from ANZAC" by SIGNALLER TOM SKEYHILL, 8th Battalion, A.I.F.
Second Edition Published 1916 by George Robertson & Company Propy. Ltd.
Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane.
Sunday, 24 April 2005
World Poverty Day
Topic: In the News
Today is World Poverty Day and thousands of people will be wearing a white band during 2005 to support the campaign to "Make Poverty History
". It is a sad fact that as most of us sit in our armchairs replete after a good Sunday lunch, some 30,000 children will die today and every day because of poverty.
Gordon Brown has been trying to help by campaigning to abolish the crippling debts of Third World countries but not all western world leaders can agree. We should be proud that the United Kingdom is leading this initiative. Rich countries must stop cancelling out the aid given to poor countries by clawing back interest on dept repayments. Debt relief will boost the economy of poor countries enabling them to provide more free education, health care and to combat the spread of diseases.
the party leaders
in Britain are making this important issue of global poverty part of their election campaigns. They are calling for a fairer system for international trade, an increase in aid and the full cancellation of Third World debt.
Do your bit and support this campaign, buy Fairtrade
goods - show that you care.
Niels-Henning ?rsted Pedersen (1946-2005)
Topic: Music and Art
I don't usually check the obituaries in the newspapers so I was shocked and saddened to discover yesterday that the superb Danish jazz bassist, Niels-Henning ?rsted Pedersen
, had passed away last Tuesday, apparently of heart failure. He would have been 59 on the 27th May.
We first came across him in 1975 on an LP of Oscar Peterson with the Stephan Grapelli Trio
, (recorded in 1973), and again on a double LP, Oscar Peterson In Russia
, (recorded in 1974). Then he featured in the 1975 Montreaux Jazz Festival LP playing with Oscar Peterson
on piano; Milt Jackson
on vibes; Joe Pass
on guitar; Toots Thielemans
on harmonica, and Louis Bellson
on drums - what a group! The track from this LP, "Au Privave", particularly sticks in the memory. We also have the set of four LPs from Montreaux '77 in which he 'jammed' with Roy Eldridge
on trumpet; drummer, Bobby Durham; Dizzy Gillespie
on trumpet; Clark Terry
on trumpet and flugelhorn; Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis
on tenor saxophone; drummer, Jimmie Smith and Ray Brown
, that other superb jazz bassist.
From the mid-70's, he was a regular member of the Oscar Peterson Trio - one of the few jazz bassists who could keep up with Oscar's exceptionally fast runs! Again, we are lucky to have quite a few compact discs of the trio featuring his distinctive playing.
Niels-Henning, often dubbed "the great Dane" was one of jazz music's greatest virtuoso bass players with a superb technique and an individual style. He will be sorely missed.
Saturday, 23 April 2005
Much Ado About Mugabi!
I came across this website recently, apparently the 'Official Home Page
' for Robert Mugabi. Only it can't be - can it? It's an absolute scream with some very funny tongue-in-cheek photographs of that unpleasant man. If Mugabi really wrote it, he should have been a comedian not the President of Zimbabwe!
He likes to eat baked beans? Hardly likely! Yes, it definitely must be a clever lampoon of Africa's most infamous President. Wonder who is responsible for publishing it?
If you visit and you are curious about the poll, 'Am I a Good President
', be warned. 'Current Results' and 'Submit Vote' are one and the same, so make sure you put what you want in the little box before clicking on 'Current Results'! Yes, I admit I got caught and inadvertently voted "Yes, most certainly!". Groan...
Can't possibly be The
Official Website, can it?
Friday, 22 April 2005
A Dying World?
Topic: Nature and Our World
Earthrise from Moon Orbit
Today is "Earth Day". So, perhaps it is my mood which led me to choose the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson,"All Things will Die".
We hear that so many life forms are about to become extinct. Did you know that some 1,130 species of mammals and 1,183 species of birds are likely to disappear within the next thirty years? And what about the animals and plants in the rain forests which will be destroyed before we have had a chance to discover and catalogue them?
Scientists from London?s Natural History Museum, the Zoological Society of London and Nottingham University are working together to build a Frozen Ark
in which they are storing tissue samples from endangered species. Perhaps scientists of the future will be able to 're-create' a lost species.
But at the same time, we hear that Antarctic glaciers
are melting at an unprecedented rate and that, if this is not halted, sea levels will gradually begin to rise. The Arctic ice is also shrinking and, eventually, the flow of cold, fresh meltwater could switch off the Gulf Stream
and create a new ice-age in Europe. All a probable result of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, which are on the increase due to world-wide pollution. In addition, we cut down the world's forests, we overfish the oceans, destroy the sea floor with trawl nets and pollute the seas with poisonous chemicals. Dead seas, no trees, no oxygen.
What sort of world will our great-grand children inherit? Will there be enough land above sea level to live on? Will there be any life left in the sea? Will our rich bio-diversity have been lost for ever?
Perhaps I am being too melodramatic? But, this generation must learn to take care of our Earth - after all, it is the only one we have and it is our children's inheritance that we are slowly destroying.
|All Things will Die|
Clearly the blue river chimes in its flowing
Under my eye;
Warmly and broadly the south winds are blowing
Over the sky.
One after another the white clouds are fleeting;
Every heart this May morning in joyance is beating
Yet all things must die.
The stream will cease to flow;
The wind will cease to blow;
The clouds will cease to fleet;
The heart will cease to beat;
For all things must die.
All things must die.
Spring will come never more.
Death waits at the door.
See! our friends are all forsaking
The wine and the merrymaking.
We are call?d-we must go.
Laid low, very low,
In the dark we must lie.
The merry glees are still;
The voice of the bird
Shall no more be heard,
Nor the wind on the hill.
Hark! death is calling
While I speak to ye,
The jaw is falling,
The red cheek paling,
The strong limbs failing;
Ice with the warm blood mixing;
The eyeballs fixing.
Nine times goes the passing bell:
Ye merry souls, farewell.
The old earth
Had a birth,
As all men know,
And the old earth must die.
So let the warm winds range,
And the blue wave beat the shore;
For even and morn
Ye will never see
All things were born.
Ye will come never more,
For all things must die.
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Wednesday, 20 April 2005
Topic: Music and Art
Joan Miro , the Spanish Surrealist painter, was born in Montroig, near Barcelona, (the capital of Catalonia
), on 20th April 1893. Incidentally, the letter 'J', called 'jota' in Spanish, (vocalised as hota), has a hard sound, so his name is pronounced hoan mro
, an alternative spelling of the more common Spanish name, Juan, (English equivalent: John), and not 'Joan', as in Joan of Arc or Joan Crawford!
In his early years, his work was more conventional - I particularly like his picture of the Chapel of Sant Joan d'Horta, an oil on canvas painted in 1917. In 1921, he settled in Paris and his work gradually became more surrealist. By 1930, he had perfected his own style using a limited range of bright colours, especially, blue, red, yellow, green and black, often in abstract blobs of colour with spots and lines - simple forms with a definite childlike quality. He also created etchings and lithographs, worked in watercolour, pastel and collage, and produced some notable ceramic sculptures, such as the two large murals, Wall of the Moon
and Wall of the Sun
, for the UNESCO building in Paris.
After the Spanish Civil War, he returned to Spain. In 1956, he moved to Palma de Majorca, where he died on 25th December 1983, at the age of 90. His villa is now transformed into the Miro Museum. If you visit Barcelona, there is a large ceramic Miro mural on the outside wall of Terminal B at the airport. Other examples of his art can be seen in the Miro Foundation
in Barcelona and all around the city, as well as in many other museums around the world.
Tuesday, 19 April 2005
Topic: In the News
So, the 265th Roman Catholic Pope has been elected and wasn't it quick! I thought we would have to wait a couple more days before the Cardinal electors reached the required majority. And, yes, the rumours that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger might win the vote proved to be correct!
Cardinal Ratzinger, who was 78 last Saturday, has chosen the papal name of Pope Benedict XVI. Will he be a good Pope? Of course, he will! He is highly educated and greatly respected and, above all, he is a good and holy man who understands humility. Catholics all over the world believe he is the one chosen by God to be the new Pope. And so did 114 Cardinals, who will have all accepted the vote of the majority without question and who will have all sworn their allegiance one by one to the new Pope before he emerged on that balcony for the first time.
As usual, lot of nonsense is being said in the newspapers about Pope Benedict?s youth in Germany. Why don't the press grow up and wish him luck for a change? After all, he has just accepted what must be the most difficult, daunting and challenging job in the whole world as the new head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. May God give him the courage, wisdom and strength to fulfil his role as the servant of the Church.
Monday, 18 April 2005
The Conclave to Elect a New Pontiff
Topic: In the News
By now, the 115 Cardinal electors in Rome will have locked themselves away in the Sistine Chapel for the start of the secret Conclave during which they will choose the 264th successor to St Peter. This afternoon, they will have taken an oath to observe the prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis
, which sets out the regulations for the process of election. Then, they will have taken another oath: 'whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church.
So much rubbish has been appearing in the press lately! Rumours are rife that Cardinal Ratzinger has secured 50 or more votes already in his quest to become Pope! Reporter, Richard Owen, in his article for The Times, "Progressive cardinals try to block Ratzinger
", states that 'Cardinals with progressive views were attempting to find a single candidate to challenge Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
'. How does he know? The Cardinals have not been talking to the press or indicating their feelings. This sort of reporting is ill-informed and contentious. Already Mr. Owen is backtracking in his later article
from Rome: 'He may not want to be the next P
The Guardian Unlimited reported
today that 'Analysts said cardinals electing a new pope faced the option of backing an older, skilled administrator who could serve as a "transitional" pope while the church absorbs John Paul II's legacy or a younger, more progressive figure, perhaps from Latin America or elsewhere in the developing world, where the church is growing.
' This is quite ludicrous. Pope John Paul I was 65 when elected and died 33 days later. Pope Adrian I was around 80 when elected on 1st February 772 and died after serving for 23 years and 10 months on 25th December 795.
Speculation is pointless.
The Pope Blog
has stated that in their opinion, 'the next pope will be chosen by (gasp!) the cardinals themselves, with the influence of the Holy Spirit*--not bookmakers or the media
The Guardian Unlimited article also mentioned that: Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, the archbishop of Florence, ... told believers at a Mass yesterday: "The new pope has already been chosen by the Lord. We just have to pray to understand who he is."
Sunday, 17 April 2005
Amazing Animals: Woodlice
Topic: Nature and Our World
This morning, I was coming out of the garage into our porch when I spotted a woodlouse on the brick wall by the front door. It was long dead of course, a desiccated shell, but it made me think of the first time I noticed something unusual about these little beasties. We hadn't been married much more than a year and we were moving into our first house in Worthing. There was a rotten tree stump in the garden, swarming with woodlice, and we were trying to clear it away. One large individual woodlouse fell on its back and froze, with its legs sticking up; it had a white patch on its underside. I bent down to look closer - it was a sort of greyish-white sack. I touched it with a tiny twiglet... A movement, a minute tear, and a horde of tiny baby woodlice started to appear one by one, hundreds, it seemed. The adult was completely motionless. Had I killed it, I wondered?
Woodlice are very ancient creatures which remind me of fossilised trilobites. There are many different species of these amazing little animals worldwide, but only 37 live in the UK. The ones most often seen in our British gardens are the common rough woodlouse (Porcellio scaber
), the common shiny woodlouse (Oniscus asellus
) and the common pillbug (Armadillidium vulgare
). All British woodlice are vegetarians and nocturnal in habit. They like living in damp places, under rotting wood, or vegetation. They actually help to recycle waste by eating decaying wood and plants and thereby improve your garden soil! They have a head, thorax and an abdomen; two large antenna (and two tiny vestigial ones); two compound eyes; seven pairs of jointed legs (one for each of the seven thoracic segments), and an exoskeleton. They breathe through gills on their legs and also have 'pseudo-lungs' which can be seen as white patches at the back of the underside. These allow gases to diffuse in and out through a pore which can't be closed. So Woody needs a damp environment or he will soon dry out.
Woodlice are actually Crustacea
and they belong to a group of Arthropods called Isopoda
, a class of animals usually found living in water. Crustaceans are hard-shelled creatures - which include lobsters, crabs, shrimps, prawns, water fleas and barnacles - strange relatives for a little creature found in all our gardens. (Incidentally, trilobites were also Arthropods.)
Woodlice are usually a dark grey colour but if you find one that is half-pale, then it has just moulted. First the back half is shed and then the front half. This process allows them to grow a little before the new shell hardens. They usually live for about two years.
The 'sack' I had first seen all those years ago is, in fact, a brood pouch called a "marsupium" in which the eggs are stored for several weeks until they hatch. The new babies only have six pairs of legs and are very vulnerable to desiccation so, at this stage, they stay in their mother's pouch for several days until they moult for the first time and get their seventh pair of legs. Most woodlice breed once a year and the larger the female, the more eggs she is likely to produce.[For further information on Woodlice, look here and here]
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