Friday, December 22, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Thursday, November 30, 2006
This one has been with me in various guises since 1957, when I bought it whilst in the army, wanting something to ride. It was then 10 years old, a 1947 Raleigh Record Ace and belonged to the owner of a little back street bike shop in Canterbury who sold it to me for £10 (2 weeks army pay then!). In the 50 years I have owned it, it had one complete recondition in 1976 and that is how you see it now, 30 years later.
I was a club cyclist when younger (still a member of C.T.C. but ride solo now) and have ridden and owned many bicycles, but this old faithful has stayed with me because I have never found one so responsive - other bikes you need to pedal along, for some reason on this one I feel I need to pedal to keep up with it! It gets used regularly for cycle rides and for meets of the Veteran Cycle Club, where it is much admired (which is more than can be said for its rider!).
Motor Cycling is exhilarating ("detail is lost, but sensation is enhanced" as T. E. Lawrence remarked) - cycling is relaxing, good exercise and gives one the chance to see more, stop to examine things and meditate on it all whilst twiddling along.
All this is by way of an introduction so that my next posting will not come as too much of a surprise to those who know my lifelong love of motor cycles!
Monday, November 06, 2006
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I went into a public 'ouse to get a pint o'beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, ``We serve no red-coats here.''
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ``Tommy, go away'';
But it's ``Thank you, Mister Atkins,'' when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's ``Thank you, Mr. Atkins,'' when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music 'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ``Tommy, wait outside'';
But it's ``Special train for Atkins'' when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's ``Special train for Atkins'' when the trooper's on the tide.
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ``Tommy how's yer soul?''
But it's ``Thin red line of 'eroes'' when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's ``Thin red line of 'eroes'' when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints:
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an ``Tommy, fall be'ind,''
But it's ``Please to walk in front, sir,'' when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's ``Please to walk in front, sir,'' when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an'schools, an' fires an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ``Chuck him out, the brute!''
But it's ``Saviour of 'is country,'' when the guns begin to shoot;
Yes it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool--you bet that Tommy sees!
Can I also recommend Kipling's short story "The Gardener" (the whole of which can be read at this site) which is appropriate to this time and is one of his greatest short stories - full of allusions and hidden meanings. (And, of course, he lost his only son at the battle of Loos in WW1)
This is dedicated to all those who died then and those still fighting, wounded and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq now. We will have our own opinions and politics on these matters. Servicemen and women do not have that luxury, but still get on with the job they are given to do, as they have always done.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Well - Vita always has such great bike pix on her blog - so that's my excuse! Here is my old friend the BMW - we have been together for nearly 25 years and have got to know each other very well. A few days ago we rode down into my favourite hunting grounds.
Monday, October 09, 2006
I sent the "Free Hugs" video to the whole membership of The Ermine Street Guard. Those attending our last display for 2006 (gets a bit cold around the knees after October in the UK)decided to go for a mass "hug-in" for this blog. (You see, Valonia, we really are quite nice, off duty!)
Sunday, October 01, 2006
We were invited to attend the 8th Römertage event at this Limes Fort Site near Stuttgart. Some 35 members flew out to be met by a coach at Stuttgart airport, whilst Russell and Terry did sterling work trucking a very slow lorry across half Europe with all the kit.
We were billetted in a Youth Hostel in the woods above the town. Built in 1937, the "Hitler Youth" swastika symbol had been carefully chiselled away from its stone plaque, but one could easily imagine the enthusiastic, lederhosen clad youth assembling and swinging down the woodland road singing appropriate marching songs.
The Guard preferred to mill around then shamble down to the town in odd groups – some staggering back in the early hours suitably uplifted by a more alcoholic stimulus.
The burgomeister of Aalen welcomed us on the first evening and we were presented with a very handsome bronze votive statuette of Eros and a stone head of Aalen’s genius loci.
We set our static camp display up on the site of the Limes cavalry fort, together with other groups and traders. The activity display area was very small and was surrounded with houses on three sides and the display tents on the other. We were thus diffident about shooting our artillery weapons. However the organisers were completely blasé about this. We loaded the onager and ballista with melons and oranges instead of the usual hard stuff, but could not shoot the catapulta with its lethal delivery. A German group’s tent was in the firing line, but when we warned them about this they said they would buy us a drink if we could hit it! (We managed it) Such is the laid back attitude to the same European health and safety laws which we in the UK "gold plate" so stiflingly.
Some 13,000 people watched our displays with repeated and enthusiastic applause. Outside the display ground was a large square which had been turned into a beer and refreshment area for the event. As we marched away at the end of the day, back to our changing area, we passed through this square and the whole crowd of several hundred people rose as one to cheer and applaud us. Such spontaneous appreciation sent a frisson down the spine.
Off duty and in the evenings we sampled the excellent pavement bars and restaurants.
One evening Exeter John did his best to promote international harmony when he became the object of a very friendly young German male in a bar. They had just got to the stage of exchanging tee shirts when he was quickly rescued by other Guard members who, with the benefit of being onlookers to the encounter, realised that the German wanted to take home not just the teeshirt, but John with it! Our last day was free and Juri, the organiser arrived at the Hostel to walk us up to Aalen’s famous thermal baths for free immersions. We asked him how far this walk would be – about two and a half kilometers was the reply – it turned out to be more like 3 miles and halfway up a mountain. For some this was the last straw after a physical weekend and hectic nights and the relaxing baths were sorely needed by the time we got there.
We were very fortunate in having a German girl, Muriel, as our minder. She spoke excellent English, often smoothed our way and gave a very efficient German commentary during our displays. She became very much part of The Guard and we gallantly presented her with a bouquet of red roses on our goodbyes. She subsequently sent an email saying that everyone at Aalen thought the success of the Römertage was largely due to the participation of the Ermine Street Guard and how she was envied by everyone for her job working with us. She thinks that, once fed, we are an amazing group.
By common agreement this must go down as one of the very best events The Guard as ever attended. Perfect weather, good billet, enthusiastic audiences, excellent organisation and relaxing beer gardens and restaurants. Here’s to the next time!
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Watch the sunset at Red Bluff ( In Western Australia), with the Bear and a hip-flask full of good Malt whisky.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
No - this is not a self portrait, but another member of The Ermine Street Guard in "marching order". This seems appropriate as we are off again next week to the German city of Aalen (see:http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9003199) to give displays over two days at the major Roman Festival they hold each year (20,000 people there last year). All the kit (armour, artillery weapons, leather tents, etc.) go by lorry in the early hours of next Thursday and we fly out in the evening.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
We were worried that it would be wet for the Roman Army displays up in the North of England at Hadrian's Wall - the forecast was not good. However we had brilliant weather. It was not all playing Roman soldiers though - on our "off days" we (my wife and the dog) went walking along the famous Wall. It is spectacular countryside with wide panoramas over the moors. To have it as clear as this during August is quite unusual. You are high and wide above England, the air is clear and breezy and is a tonic for the soul.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006
Jo - 14 year old grand daughter rang to say she was bored at home and could she come to stay for a few days.
Collected her in car (45 mile trip), Every evening long walks with the dog (who thought heaven had arrived) day 2: to cinema (Pirates of Caribbean 2 - great fun), day 3: 80 mile run on the motorbike, day 4: we ride around Romney Marsh on push bikes, day5: reverse delivery in car.
Return home, handed large gin and tonic by "grandma", collapse in chair. Great fun, hard work, but at least you can spoil them and then send them home!
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I have seen photographs of concentration camp victims, but have never been so involved and affected as by reading this book.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Have recently read "Men of Honour" by Adam Nicholson about the personalities involved in the Battle of Trafalgar, with asides about the continuing battle - a new slant on an often told story and a great read. This decided us that we should make an effort to visit Portsmouth and spend a day with the ancient ships and Museums, Victory especially, but also The Mary Rose (Tudor flagship) and The Warrior (First British "Ironclad").
Having just read the book, Victory was full of atmosphere and the rest made a fantastic day out. Too much to see in one day but, hey! the ticket lasts for a year and you can go back for those you missed.
If this sort of thing lights your candle give "Men of Honour" a try - I take my hat off to the absolute sang froid under fire of those men