Sunday, 10 July 2005
Fl./Lt. Dennis G. Hornsey, D.F.C.
Topic: Poetry and Poets
The late Dennis Hornsey was a World War II pilot serving with No. 76 Squadron
flying a Handley Page Halifax Bomber. The crew named their aeroplane Excelsior
and had a clenched fist with one finger pointing upwards painted on her side. On the night of 3rd/4th of November 1943, the aeroplane failed to return from an operational flight to bomb Dusseldorf. It had been shot down by a night fighter and crashed at Opgrimbie in Belgium. All seven crew bailed out but six of them were eventually captured and sent to prisoner of war camps. Dennis Hornsey was the only one to successfully evade through Belgium, France, over the Pyrenees and into Spain helped and guided by numerous brave members of the Underground Organisations. He returned to London from Gibraltar on the 11th December 1943.
After the war ended, Dennis Hornsey published his story, and recounted what happened to each of his crew, in a little book called: "The Pilot Walked Home". It is now out of print and very difficult to obtain so I was extremely lucky to find a copy. It is dedicated to the Underground Organisations of Belgium, France and Spain, and those of the R.A.F. who never came back. I was very touched by this poem included at the end of Chapter One of his book. I felt it was appropriate for this special day commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the end of the war.
What Think You, Airman?
by Dennis Hornsey
What think you, airman, when you fly,
So proudly there in heaven's sky?
Do you exult in your great might,
As you go onward through the night?
I think of death beneath my wings,
And of the dire load my bomber brings;
My spirit flinches from the thought
That of this carnage may come naught.
I pray that soon the day will come
When man will offer man his hand,
And peace prevail throughout the land.
I face up to my moment's task
And three things alone of God I ask—
Please help my flesh to stand the strain;
Protect us, Lord, this once again;
And if this cannot be your plan,
Give me the strength to be a man.
Extract from The Pilot Walked Home by Dennis Hornsey. Paperback published by Collins (White Circle) Clear-Type Press: London and Glasgow 1946
I do not know if Dennis Hornsey's widow is still living but if any members of his family read this, I hope they will forgive me for publishing his poem here.
Saturday, 9 July 2005
The English Language
The Reverend Frederic Wagstaff wrote an article in The Boy's Own Paper for Saturday, June 24th, 1882, entitled, "Some Oddities of Speech". In it, he mentions the difficulties arising out of the varying pronunciation of words ending in ough
. He gives an example of the world plough
which we call plow
; but explains that we mustn't say we have a bad cow
when we mean cough
. Similarly, we mustn't say that bread is made of doff
when we mean dough
; nor that ground is row
when we mean rough
. All this reminded me of a poem on spelling which I copied from a book in the Library at Chichester College of Arts, Science and Technology
when I did a secretarial training opportunities (TOPS) course about 28 years ago. (It was a great course, not only did I benefit from re-training, I got paid for doing it as well!).
In case you have not come across the poem before, here is the version I copied.
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, lough, and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sound like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead -
For goodness sake don't call it "deed"!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there's dose and rose and lose -
Just look them up - and goose and choose.
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart -
Come, come, I've hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive,
I'd mastered it when I was five.
I remember being very mean and promising my children, then aged ten and eleven years old, £5 if they could read that poem perfectly. Of course, they couldn't!
The Reverend Wagstaff also mentioned the difficulties of forming plural terminations and gave us this 'aid to memory' by an unknown writer.
Remember though box in the plural makes boxes,
The plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
And remember, though fleece in the plural is fleeces,
That the plural of goose isn't gooses nor geeses.
And remember, though house in the plural is houses,
The plural of mouse should be mice, not mouses.
Mouse, it is true, in the plural is mice,
But the plural of house should be houses, not hice
And foot, it is true, in the plural is feet,
But the plural of root should be roots, and not reet.
Yes, English is an odd, eccentric language - but I like it!
Friday, 8 July 2005
Thursday, 7th July 2005. Four blasts in London
, at least 38 dead, over 300 casualties, some critical and doubtless, the death toll will rise. Countless people traumatised. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people affected by this atrocity; particularly those who have lost loved ones. This was a cowardly, inhuman act of barbarism apparently perpetrated by terrorists calling themselves the Secret Organisation Group of al Qaida of Jihad Organisation in Europe
Also on Thursday, al Qaida terrorists in Iraq have executed the Egyptian Envoy, Ihab al-Sherif
. That incarnation of evil, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is responsible. Al Qaida have issued a statement in which they say they are standing up to all traitors and crusaders and that Iraq is not safe for infidels because "God has empowered the mujahideen
". Are they talking of the ONE God, who is also our Christian God? Or have they got him mixed up with his impostor, Beelzebub/Satan/the Devil? After all, the Egyptian Envoy was an Arab, too.
My reply to all the terrorists is this. Our one, true God has empowered US against evil. We will not be cowered. We will not be divided.
John 8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof."
Wednesday, 6 July 2005
Someone once sent me a copy of this letter to 'Technical Support'. Thought you might enjoy it too!
Dear Tech Support,
Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a slow down in the overall performance, particularly in the flower and jewellery applications that had operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.
In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, but installed undesirable programs. And now Conversation 8.0 no longer runs and House Cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.
I've tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.
What can I do?
Here is the reply from 'Technical Support'...
First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an entertainment package, while Husband 1.0 is an operation system. Try entering the command C:\I_THOUGHT_YOU_LOVED_ME.EXE and download Tears 6.2 to install Guilt 3.0.
If all works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewellery 2.0 and Flowers 3.5. But remember, overuse can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, Happy Hour 7.0 or Beer 6.1. Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will create Snoringloudly.wav files.
Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law 1.0 or reinstall another Boyfriend program. These are not supported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.
In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have a limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. You might consider additional software to improve memory and performance.
Of course, that program only applies to young and inexperienced husbands. The enhanced program for older experienced husbands is running beautifully and does not need any further maintenance!
Topic: Health Issues
- that's what I was told I had when I was recalled for further mammograms nearly three weeks ago. The likelihood is that the condition is completely harmless but, and a big BUT, it could
indicate a pre-cancerous condition. So, off I went early this morning (technically, yesterday morning as I see it is now past midnight) for my appointment at Worthing Hospital for a biopsy "under mammographic control". I can manage not to worry about something beforehand until the last minute - so, I didn't lose any sleep brooding about it. However, I did start worrying last night about getting up extra early (for me, that is) and arriving on time for my 9:15 appointment! I'm definitely a night owl and I've been getting worse recently and staying up until 2 or 2.30 as you will see from the time stamp on some of my posts!
The real anxiety kicked in this morning as I started having qualms about the whole thing. After all, it can't be very pleasant having hollow needles stuck into you removing bits of your flesh! To make matters worse, I had a bad weekend. Hubby wasn't at all himself and complained of feeling weak and dizzy and I felt a bit feverish too - a bug of some sort, I suppose. Then, Saturday evening, I got a very bad spasm in my back, more than once! Something to do with an injury I did to myself last year when I popped a vertebral tendon. Sunday, I had to resort to Ibuprofen, which definitely helped. No more cramps but it is still tender and I move with care!
Well, I was probably right to worry about arriving at the hospital on time! The traffic to Worthing was full of commuters on their way to work, with the inevitable delays leading up to the Arundel roundabouts and into Worthing itself. So, after finally succeeding in finding a parking place in the crowded hospital car park, I was already three minutes late. Oh dear! They had told me not to worry if I was a bit late but I puffed into the Breast Care Centre
full of apologies. "Don't worry. I tell them you're here". Just had time to visit the loo before I was called in.
The Radiologist and her assistant were charming and took a lot of trouble to put me at ease. I was invited to sit down on a very comfortable padded chair with wheels, which they pushed up to the x-ray equipment and then raised to the correct height. The thought crossed my mind that the chair was a precaution in case of a fainting episode - at least I wouldn't crash to the floor! A couple of x-rays later, just to make sure I was in the correct position, they prepared me for the local anaesthetic. "It will give you a slight burning sensation", she warned. I got two jabs in quick succession - then a wait for the anaesthetic to take effect. "Now we're ready to start", she said. "The biopsy needle will make a click and I will have to take two or three". About four clicks later, the senior Radiographer disappeared into a side room with the samples. "She has to check them under the microscope to make sure she has a sample of the microcalcification", explained her helper. Well, she didn't so more samples were needed. I think I counted ten clicks in all, each one giving a burning sensation. I was very relieved when she announced. "We are all done". The whole process had taken about half an hour.
I adjourned to the Hospital Canteen for a coffee and something to eat. Well, I had skipped breakfast and was beginning to feel in need of something. I saw one of the biggest Danish Pastries I have ever seen, at least five inches in diameter! Too big for one person, so I bought a small slice of fruit cake. I must say I was absolutely amazed at the price of my snack, at least half the cost of the same thing down the town.
Yes, it is a bit sore, still that burning sensation, but not too bad. I have got to keep the dressing on overnight and then I can replace it with one of those round 'spot' plasters. I must NOT get it wet until it has formed a scab. Now all I have to do is wait ten more days until my appointment to see the Consultant and get my results.
Sunday, 3 July 2005
A Message for the World's Leaders
Topic: In the News
So, has Live 8
been a success? Well, certainly it has for all the pop artists as there is nothing more valuable than mountains of free publicity, but then perhaps I am a bit of a cynic! And, what about the millions who attended all the concerts worldwide? Did they go for the music, the 'historical event', or do they really care about Africa's poor? Would they have gone if all the tickets had cost £200 each for African Aid? I wonder...
Although many of the people involved in Live 8 are actively involved in fund-raising, the emphasis has been on justice and empowerment of the poor, for debt relief, aid and fair trade. The more voices shouting, the better. However, I personally believe that Gordon Brown
has done just as much in his efforts to persuade other World Leaders to agree to consider negating the crippling debts which so many of the so-called third-world countries are burdened with. That goal would enable the people themselves to invest in their own businesses thereby building up their own national economies. Whilst rich countries are taking a huge junk of the poor countries capital growth this cannot happen. Also, offering the poor countries a pittance of aid in return does not solve the problem as, in many cases, this aid finds its way into the pockets of the corrupt administrators of those lands and those who need it.
"Make Poverty History
" is not just about the continent of Africa, you know, it's about the poor all over the world. Neither is it just about donating aid, although that it essential for the victims of natural disasters and war. The initiative aims to raise awareness of Fair Trade and to change the rules of world trade to favour the poor and also to encourage businesses to invest in international development and development education.
Did you know that 2005 is the International Year of Microcredit
? This initiative involves microfinance institutions changing the lives of people and revitalizing communities by providing small loans to enable them to grow thriving businesses. In other words, giving people a helping hand to start helping themselves. "Microfinance has proved its value, in many countries, as a weapon against poverty and hunger. It really can change peoples’ lives for the better -- especially the lives of those who need it most."
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General.
2005 is also part of the:-
- First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty 1997-2006 which is helping to increase international cooperation for the eradication of poverty in developing countries and emphasizing the need for governments to address the root causes of poverty.
- United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012). Whilst we sit here taking our computers for granted, some 860 million adults worldwide are illiterate and over 100 million children have no access to school.
- International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). This initiative aims to foster a culture of peace through education, promote sustainable economic and social development, promote respect for all human rights, ensure equality between women and men, foster democratic participation, advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity, support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge, and promote international peace and security.
- Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa (2001-2010). This international initiative desperately needs funding for malaria control - a disease that kills more than a million people each year, most of them children.
Yesterday's march, where some 225,000 people turned up in Edinburgh to take part in the world's largest human white band, plus other initiatives planned during the week will, doubtless, also have an influential effect on the G8 Ministers arriving at Gleneagles on Wednesday. I hope so.
But, then, just as I begin to think that humanity is becoming more humane and generous, I came across an article in the e-edition of The Argus for 1st July 2005, which reported this
"Drunken racists hounded a black couple and their two young children from their new home on the day they moved in. The thugs hurled insults from the street outside the house in Brighton and shouted at the family to get out. The mother, terrified for her family's safety, dialled 999 and police were sent to the scene. A man and woman, in their 40s, were arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred and an injunction has been granted to protect the victims."
Utopia is a long way off.
Thursday, 30 June 2005
I'm always looking up words in the dictionary to discover their true meaning or to find a related word which exactly fits what I want to say. I used to use the Thesaurus section of my Encarta English Dictionary all the time - until my DVD drive went kaput
! So, I miss not having it to hand as it was quicker than thumbing through a large and heavy dictionary. Even though calling it up was, increasingly, the last straw for the memory capacity of my ancient laptop (and for its ancient owner!)
However, the normal dictionary cannot help when it comes to finding out what a mobile wallet
or FeliCa chip
is or what a serial communications interface
really does. Yes, I know you can probably find the answers by asking Google but it's so much easier when everything is on the same site. That's why I was really pleased to discover an on-line IT-specific encyclopedia at http://whatis.techtarget.com/
Perhaps I can begin to understand what all the 'jargon' really means as I look through the immense choice of new notebooks, desktops and all their peripherals. At the moment, I use a small desk in the sitting room - not ideal as it get surrounded by papers - and it is barely wide enough for my laptop, mouse mat and small notebook (and most new laptops are much wider than my current one). Also, when I want to use my scanner, it is in the way of the door into the kitchen!
Time to do something and we have been! Large wardrobe shoved round in third 'bedroom', Large chest of drawers removed. Single bed and bed frame moved from second bedroom into third - just fits! Phew! Still got to move two bookcases out of third bedroom, move things round in second bedroom, GET RID OF MOUNTAIN OF JUNK and, maybe
, I can put a new computer desk upstairs. And, maybe, offspring can be persuaded to remove some of HIS junk which dear parents have been storing ever since he moved into his first digs when he left university, including an antique Commodore 64 and games!. Then, maybe, I can make use of the chest of drawers he never finished restoring and kept saying he would take away! MAYBE....
Tuesday, 28 June 2005
A 'Perfect' Day
I have just discovered that the 28th June or June 28th, as is preferred on the other side of the Atlantic, is the only
date with perfect numbers, 6
. What is a perfect number? Well, it is an interger which is the sum of its proper positive divisors. [That sounds very erudite, but I copied it
Six is the first perfect number because it can be divided by 1, 2 and 3. Add them up and 1+2+3=6. Twenty-eight happens to be the next perfect number because it can be divided by 1, 2, 4, 7 and 14. Just as before, 1+2+4+7+14=28. After 6 and 28 comes a perfect 496, 8128, 33550336 and 8589869056. I wonder if anyone noticed on June 28th in the year 496? So the next extra special June 28th will be in the year 8128. Too bad I won't be here to celebrate it!
If you are interested in the mysteries of Egyptian Fractions, or you want to know how to drive your maths teacher nuts, visit Dr. Stuart Savory's Blog
Monday, 27 June 2005
Amazing Animals: The Emperor Penguin
(No. 3 in my series)
Topic: Nature and Our World
I've always been fascinated by that most marine of birds, the penguins
, an ancient branch of the animal kingdom. Ancestral penguins were well established some 50 million years ago, which probably makes them one of the oldest of the class of Aves (birds). All penguins belong to the order Sphenisciformes, a term which refers to their narrow, flipper-like wings. The word comes from the Greek, spheniskos
, meaning 'a small wedge'. Unlike other birds, penguins can't fold their 'wings' because their elbow joint is fixed. The flipper only moves at the shoulder joint - an adaptation which gives them more power when 'flying' through the water. They are also unique amongst birds because, apart from a brief appearance of wing quills early in the embryonic stage, they do not have any flight feathers on their wings. Their large, webbed feet and their tails are used as rudders enabling them to 'dart' about with amazing agility when chasing fish or shrimps. Their unusual beak structure, formed of several layers of horny plates, indicates a distant relationship to the albatross. However, without doubt, they are the champion swimmers and divers amongst all sea birds.
On land (or ice), penguins are rather comical creatures because they are handicapped by their extremely short legs, which are set far back on their chunky streamlined bodies. They are forced to stand upright and hop or waddle along. This make them appear 'human-like' and they have been compared to nuns dressed in a black and white habit or to men in evening dress! Actually, penguins can move very fast on icy ground by falling down and tobogganing along using their feet. It is said that they can go faster this way than a man on skis.
Scientists have recognised at least 32 species of extinct penguins, some of them quite large. Anthropornis
of the South Orkneys and Palaeudyptes
of New Zealand stood more than five feet tall. Today, there are about 17 species of penguin alive although some scientists classify the white-flippered variety of fairy penguin, Eudyptula albosignata
, as an 18th variety. Of these, the most amazing species for me is the Emperor Penguin
, Aptenodytes forsteri
. It is the largest and tallest of the penguins with males reaching some 4 feet in height. Did you know that Emperor penguins are capable of swimming underwater at up to 37 miles per hour propelled by their strong flippers - a speed which rivals that of seals and porpoises? They can also dive up to 870 feet and remain submerged for up to 18 minutes.
For their first three or four years until they reach maturity, the Emperor penguins spend their time feeding in the krill-rich waters off the coast of Antarctica. Their preferred food is fish and squid. Emperor penguin's breed every year and their breeding cycle begins in March, autumn in the southern hemisphere. It is one of the few birds not to start its reproductive cycle in the spring but there is a good reason for this apparent madness, as we shall see. The adult penguins congregate on the ice returning unerringly to the same spot where they bred the previous year. Here they go through their courtship and in May, just as the sun is setting for the long antarctic winter, the female lays her single egg. This is immediately passed over to the male bird and the egg is held carefully on his feet tucked under a warm fold of abdominal skin. The females then disappear returning to the sea to feed leaving the males to incubate the precious egg, a process which takes 62 to 64 days.
During this period, the males huddle together for warmth and for protection from the howling winds (which can reach 100 mph in a storm). Emperor penguins are specially adapted to survive these harsh conditions as their body size and shape gives them a lower 'surface-to-volume' ratio and their flippers are much smaller proportionally than any other penguin. All penguins have developed a heat-exchange system of blood vessels in their flippers and legs so that returning venous blood is warmed up by the outgoing arterial blood. Emperors also have an exceptional heat-exchange system in their nasal passages, which recovers much of the heat added to the cold air they breathe in. They also have long, double-layered, high-density feathers, which cover their legs.
Crowding closely together saves heat loss and each penguin shuffles along slowly gradually moving from the cold outer edges of the group to the warmer centre. During this time, the average temperature is around minus 4 degrees Fahreinheit (-20 degrees centigrade) but can drop to minus 40 degrees (-40C) or more and, if Papa Penguin drops the egg onto the ice or exposes it for just a few seconds, the embryo will die. At last the egg hatches and the starving parent, who will have lost about a third of his weight, still manages to feed his chick for a couple of days from a residue in his crop - all the while keeping the tiny downy chick tucked under his 'pouch' to keep warm. Timing it perfectly, Mama Penguin returns at this point and takes over the chick's care so that the male penguin can return to the feeding grounds. His fast will have lasted some 110-115 days. It is a long journey to and fro over the ice which is where the penguins' tobogganing trick comes in very handy.
Having put back his lost weight, the male returns by the end of August and both parents then take turns to feed the chick for the next three months. Because of the distance the parents have to travel over the ice, this is usually one very large meal every three to four days. However, as conditions improve, the sea ice gradually melts away, so the previously long journey to the breeding ground becomes much shorter and quicker.
By late spring, the chicks have fledged but they are still only 60% of the adult's weight, the lowest of any penguin. In early December, the young Emperor Penguin is finally at the stage when he can fend for himself. This is the most favourable time of the antarctic year, when the shore ice is melting and the antarctic summer is just beginning giving this amazing bird the best start in a life which can be as long as twenty years.
Friday, 24 June 2005
Crowned on this Day in 1509
Now Playing: I'm Henery the Eighth, I am
I always used to think of Henry VIII
, who was born on the 28th June 1491, as a particularly unpleasant monarch: a womanising, selfish, over-eating and cruel man. It seemed that he was responsible for so much evil during his reign. He turned against the Pope in 1532 and proclaimed himself Head of the Church of England so that he could 'divorce' his wife, Catherine of Aragon
(the marriage was actually annulled) and remarry. He dissolved the Roman Catholic monasteries, stole their chattels and their lands, vandalised and destroyed churches. During his reign, about 150,000 of his subjects were executed including his second wife, Ann Boleyn
, and his fourth wife, Catherine Howard
, who were both beheaded. Each of these unfortunate ladies had their marriages to the king annulled prior to their executions.
However, he is widely believed to be the composer of that lovely tune, "Greensleeves
" and, without doubt, he was an accomplished musician. He was highly educated and could converse in Latin, French and Spanish. He owned a large library of books, many with notes written in the margins in his hand. He was himself an author, publishing the Assertio Septem Sacramentorum
in 1521, and he wrote poetry. He was very tall for Tudor times (six feet two) and, in his youth, excelled at sports such as Hare Coursing
and Royal Tennis
So, what went wrong to turn him into such a tyrant in his later years? A sad, bloated old man, weighing around 28 stone, who trusted no one fully with the possible exception of his court jester, Will Somers
The young Henry Tudor
never expected to be King of England. He was the second son of Henry VII
and as such probably destined for the church. However, his brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales and heir apparent died at fifteen shortly after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. At the time, Henry's father was very keen to secure an alliance with Spain and he was probably responsible for 'encouraging' the young Henry to seek a dispensation from the Pope to marry his brother's widow. Within fourteen months, the two were betrothed. However, by 1505, Henry VII had lost interest in an alliance with Spain and the young Henry was forced to declare that the engagement had been arranged without his agreement. Nevertheless, when Henry VII died, the King of Spain insisted on the marriage taking place and Henry married Catherine on 11th June 1509. They were both crowned at Westminster Abbey on 24th June 1509.
Did you know that they had a son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall? He was born on 1st January 1511 and died on 22nd February 1511. In fact, Catherine had six or seven pregnancies in all but only one child survived infancy, her daughter, Mary. It was when it was apparent that Catherine was too old to have any more children that Henry, who up to then had fathered at least six illegitimate children, decided he needed a male heir and resolved to marry again. History would have been so different if the baby Duke of Cornwall had lived!
I used to believe that Henry died of syphilis although there was no evidence of this disease in any of his children. Then I read an extremely interesting article in the April 2005 issue of the BBC History Magazine
which reported that new research suggests that Henry may have suffered from an endocrine abnormality called Cushing's Syndrome
. The symptoms are: obesity, a 'buffalo' hump on the back, a swollen face with fat deposits beneath the eyes, irritability, depression, mood swings, paranoia, headaches, fatigue, aggression, impotence
. This disease would have turned him into a psychotic paranoid with an erratic temper and could explain why he so often turned against those closest to him. He died on 28th January 1547, a feared and despised old man - a sad and ignominious end for one of Britain's most famous kings.
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