Wednesday, 30 March 2005
Airey Neave DSO OBE MC MP (1916-1976)
I can remember hearing the news on the 30th March 1976 and feeling so shocked that a Member of Parliament had been killed by a car bomb as he was driving out of the House of Commons car park. At the time, I only knew that Airey Neave was the Conservative Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary and the Member of Parliament for Abingdon. Apparently, he had been assassinated by the Irish National Liberation Party, probably because of his policy on Northern Ireland and the IRA. He was also a close adviser of Margaret Thatcher, the then Conservative Party leader.
His murderers have never been brought to justice and there are rumours that a 'sympathiser', even an 'insider' had helped the INLP. [See The Day I met Airey Neave's Killers
an article by Paul Routledge of the Mail on Sunday, originally published in 2002.]
Airey Neave was a distinguished Barrister as well as a politician. But did you know that he was also a War Hero? At the start of the Second World War, he joined the Army as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and was sent to France. Wounded at Calais in May 1940, he was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp, Oflag IX near Spangenberg. In February 1941, he was moved to Stalag XXA Thorn in Poland. Shortly afterward, he escaped with Flight Lieut. Norman Forbes RAF, but they were both soon recaptured and were sent to the maximum security prison at Colditz Castle
In January 1942, Airey Neave became the first British Officer to escape from Colditz (his second attempt). He escaped with a Dutch officer and they reached Switzerland having travelled on foot and by train through Leipzig, Ulm and Singen. He then evaded through France, Spain and Gibraltar using the escape and evasion route which later became known as the Pat O'Leary Line
. On his return to England, Airey Neave helped to train aircrews in the means of escape in occupied territory. He was also recruited as an intelligence agent for MI9
, a branch of MI6 responsible for the support of the French Resistance. As a result of his war service, the French awarded him the Croix de Guerre.
In 1946, Airey Neave was also a member of the Nuremberg war crimes team. He wrote several books about his war experiences.
Monday, 28 March 2005
Many Happy Returns
Topic: Family Days Out
We have had a lovely Easter weekend! It was my husband's birthday on Easter Saturday and we were all invited up to my son's for the day to celebrate. The morning was sunny and warm and we had a very good drive up to London. Andrew was asleep when we arrived but soon woke up from his nap. He is growing fast and really tucks into and enjoys his food! I don't think his parents will have any faddy eating problems with him! We gave him a noisy farm animal book and some Lego Duplo for Easter plus a little outfit which was a little too big! No chocolate, of course. Andrew's mum, Shelley, thinks it can cause hyper-activity so she had prepared an 'egg case' full of fruit for Andrew for his Easter Sunday treat.
After lunch, we went down the road and up the hill to the Horniman Museum
Park. It was a delightful little park with a small farm animal corner and beautiful flower borders. You can see how warm it was - my son in his tee-shirt.
Hubby was spoilt! Lots of presents, including a double DVD with four films on it (yes, four!) to play on his portable DVD player. And two very scrumptious looking special bars of chocolate from Stephanie and Elliot.
Friday, 25 March 2005
Have a Goog God Friday!
Received an email from my son in which he wished me a 'Goog God Friday'! I think it was a typo but it made me laugh anyway.
Do you use a spell checker when you write emails? It is an extrememly helpful little tool but, if you are a really bad speller and can't tell the difference between words like 'write' and 'rite', it is probably of little use! Take this silly example found on the Internet:
Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marks four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rare lea ever wrong.
Eye Have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My checker tolled me sew.
You Can Count Me Out!
Funny what you stumble on weaving your way around the Internet. I was reading a news item and clicked on a 'Google Ad'....
So, you can still send an old-fashioned telegram
and order it online. For the princely price of #3.50, you can even send the Royal couple your own special Congratulations Telegram! This will be delivered to Buckingham Palace in London, within 1 hour (during office hours, of course) of you placing your order....
Wonder how many they will receive?
Thursday, 24 March 2005
British Ceremonies and Pageantry
Now Playing: God Save The Queen
Every Maundy Thursday, the British Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, distributes Maundy Money at the Ceremony of the Royal Maundy
. This ancient custom dates back to the 13th century when the Sovereign gave gifts of food and clothing to the poor. As an act of humility, the Monarch would even wash the feet pf the recipients - as Christ washed the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper - although the last King to actually do this was James II
, who died in 1701. Maundy Money
consists of sets of small silver coins which are specially minted for the occasion. The Queen presents them to local deserving pensioners who are chosen because of their outstanding services to their church and community. During her reign, the ceremony has taken place each year in a different cathedral or abbey around the country. In 1986, it took place at Chichester Cathedral
and I seem to remember that we were all let out of our offices to line the route and wave to the Queen!
At the ceremony, each person receives two purses from the Queen, one red and one white. The white purse contains one silver Maundy coin for each year of the monarch's reign. The red purse contains ordinary money in place of the other gifts which used to be given to the poor. The silver Maundy coins originally consisted of a penny and a groat (4 pence). In 1551, a threepence was added and in 1667, a twopence.
It was Henry IV
(ruled 1399-1413) who instigated the practice of relating the number of people receiving maundy money to the sovereign's age and sex. This custom was revised under Queen Elizabeth II and now equal numbers of sets are presented to both male and female recipients. As the Queen is 79 this year, this means that 79 men and 79 women will be presented with Maundy sets at today's ceremony in Wakefield Cathedral
. [For a chuckle, also view this news item
Victorian maundy money is fairly common as the general public could order sets from a bank. This changed, from 1908, when King Edward VII
instructed that only recipients involved in the ceremony were entitled to receive the sets. So after this date, Maundy coin sets became one of the most collectible and sought after numismatic items.
Tuesday, 22 March 2005
Topic: In the News
It was on the BBC News at Ten last night, it was on the Radio Two News this morning, there is an article in today's Times Online
and probably lots of other newspapers are running the story as well. What is it about? Well, apparently we have had such a dry winter in the South of England that the Environment Agency is predicting a water shortage and warning householders of impending hosepipe and sprinkler bans. "Save water", we are told - don't buy plants!
So, what did it do last night? It poured and poured and poured with rain - all night and well into the morning. So heavy was the rain that there was a constant thundering waterfall from next door's faulty guttering at the back of their house. Good job we sleep at the front of our house.
Apparently, the average rainfall for the last four months is down by about 140mm, which means that a lot of reservoirs are down to 57% full instead of 85-90%. Well, they told us that last year and we still got the normal amount of average rain - it just came later than usual! April Showers will probably turn into April Floods - we will wait and see.
Monday, 21 March 2005
Topic: Health Issues
This week, 21st to 27th March 2005, is Prostate Cancer Awareness Week
in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in this country. However, many men do not know where their prostate gland is or what it does. For those who don't, the gland is located at the base of the bladder surrounding the urethra and it produces some of the fluid that makes up semen. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age and increases further if your father, uncle or brother has the disease. Nearly 10,000 men die from this disease every year so, if you experience any problems with urinating or find blood in your urine (like my husband did), you should see your doctor immediately.
It is a fact that ALL men, if they live long enough, will get prostate cancer. Many do not know they have it and many never have any serious symptoms. So, if you are in your eighties or nineties, the odds are that it will not kill you. However, if you get problems in your forties or fifties, DON'T IGNORE IT, it will not go away.
My husband first found blood in his urine in November 2003. The doctor found his prostate to be slightly enlarged (normal for his age) and sent him for a routine blood test to measure his PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). This measured 13, so the next stage was x-rays, ultra-sound and a cystoscopy at the end of February 2004 (which showed some small kidney stones) and also a CT scan in March to investigate a possible lump on the liver, which turned out to be fat! The cystoscopy (when they pass a little tube with a light through the urethra) is a little unpleasant! Apart from feeling embarrassed, it is a bit uncomfortable and burns when you have to go to the loo for a few hours afterwards. However, my husband said that he could see the inside of his bladder on the monitor, which was very interesting! And it confirmed that his bladder was healthy. The next stage was a biopsy (more discomfort) of the prostate gland and that confirmed that he did have prostate cancer.
Last September, his PSA count had risen one to 14, last month it was 17. If it stays around this level, he will continue with his "watchful waiting". As he is in his seventies, the consultants in this country do not recommend having a prostatectomy (removal of the protate). His options are conformal radiotherapy or wait and see. Unfortunately, radiotherapy can have some potentially very unpleasant side effects. So he chose not to have it done, unless it becomes absolutely necessary, especially as he is not experiencing any real problems at the moment. He gets up two or three times a night, has to go to the loo twice within ten minutes as a precaution if we are going out - nothing he can't live with. In the meantime, medical research is advancing, hopefully, at a much faster rate than his cancer.
A Voice Spake Out Of The Skies
Topic: Poetry and Poets
A brief verse for World Poetry Day
and, I suspect, a little known work by one of England's greatest poets, Alfred Lord Tennyson
A Voice Spake Out Of The Skies
A Voice spake out of the skies
To a just man and a wise?
'The world and all within it
Will only last a minute!'
And a beggar began to cry
'Food, food or I die'!
Is it worth his while to eat,
Or mine to give him meat,
If the world and all within it
Were nothing the next minute?
from Ballads And Other Poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson Poet Laureate.
London: Macmillan And Co., Limited New York: The Macmillan Company 1906
Food for thought?
Sunday, 20 March 2005
Palm Trees and Parrots
Topic: In the News
Apparently, Christian churches are amongst the largest consumers of palm trees, especially on Palm Sunday. Palm fronds, usually from the Date Palm, are handed out to every member of the congregation to commemorate the triumphant entrance of Jesus riding on the back of a donkey, into Jerusalem. So, I was surprised to come across this news item last night, Palm Sunday Pact for Parrot
about an initiative in Columbia.
Apparently, there are only 540 or so yellow-eared parrots alive in the world today and they all live in the Colombian mountain forests. This is where the world's tallest palm tree, the Wax Palm
, (Columbia's national tree) grows. For centuries, Colombians have used the fronds of the wax palm for Palm Sunday. However, when fronds are cut off young wax palms, they die or their growth is seriously stunted. The practice has led to a dramatic thinning of the towering palms, which in turn, affects the poor parrot living amongst them.
So, in a special ceremony in Bogota, a priest has blessed thousands of palm seedlings of the Alexandra palm - one of the alternatives to the wax palm. These will be planted for future Palm Sundays and, hopefully, this initiative will save the wax palm and the yellow-eared parrot from disappearing from the planet.
I knew about date palms, coconut palms and ornamental palms but I had never heard of the wax palm or the Alexandrian palm before, so it made me wonder how many varieties of palm trees there were. Would you believe that there are between 210-236 genera comprising some 2,000 to 2,500 species of palm trees?
Also, I thought palms were mainly tropical plants growing in desert oases or on sandy beaches on coral atolls. So, I was surprised to discover that the great majority grow in gloomy rainforests and perhaps never see the sun, certainly the young plants don't! Apparently, there are many species thriving a long way from the tropics, which actually prefer cool climates, and will happily thrive outdoors in temperature areas such as the United Kingdom. (So, you don't need a conservatory or a greenhouse after all!)
It seems that palm trees, which first evolved during the late Cretaceous period about 85 million years ago, must be one of the most successful and wide-ranging trees on the planet.
Friday, 18 March 2005
Topic: Poetry and Poets
The English poet, Wilfred Owen
, was born 112 years' ago, on the 18th March 1893, in Oswestry
, Shropshire, United Kingdom. He enlisted in the army in 1915 and fought as an officer in the Battle of the Somme
. In May 1917, he was hospitalised for shell shock and during his convalescence, met Siegfried Sassoon
, the poet and novelist. They became firm friends and Sassoon took him under his wing, guiding and influencing him with his writing. It is thanks to Sassoon that Wilfred Owen's war poems were eventually published.
The horrors of war and Wilfred Owen's own sense of outrage at the senseless waste of life permeate through his work. Sadly, his war poems often seem to echo what is happening in today's battle zones and only serve to emphasis the futility of war. Something that human beings, whom I once dubbed 'Homo Hostilis
' (a mutated form of 'Homo Sapiens') never seem to learn! Sadly, Owen was killed in action on 4th November 1918 - just seven days before the end of hostilities. This is one of his dark poems, penned in 1917:
ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayer nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs?
The shrill, demented choirs?of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmer of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Taken from "Selections from Modern Poets" made by J.C. Squire. Published 1934 - London: Martin Secker
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