Tag Archives: History

Bid for QADAFFI ! going, going,…

“Pick a window, yer leaving”

Do you remember PANAM Flight 103?  Certainly.

Do you remember the people of LOCKERBIE?  Probably.

Do you remember PC YVONNE FLETCHER?  Hopefully.

Do you remember a Berlin Disco bombing?  Perhaps

Do you remember UTA Flight 772 bombing?  Probably not.

Do you remember the invasion of Chad? Probably not.

Do you remember the Libyans bombed in 1986? Probably not.

Do you remember the ‘disappeared’ Libyans?  How can you?

DO YOU REMEMBER the REAL QADAFFI?

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The Battle of Bannockburn (1314) and my part in it

The Battle of Bannockburn (1314) and my part in it

I had two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, …you see the pattern.  It is a mathematical geometric series.  Each generation ‘n’ consists of Pn (for parents) individuals and Pn equals 2 to the power of n.

In symbols, Pn = 2^n.    If you make a running total of the parents, you can calculate how many ancestors you have in total back to any given date in history. A simple way to calculate and illustrate this is on a spreadsheet as below.

For myself I have started at the year 1966 when I was 20 years old.  The interval between successive generations is assumed as an average of 25 years.  I have indicated historical events that roughly correspond to some of the generations.

So for example around the time of Napoleon’s downfall at Waterloo (1815) there were 128 people around that time that I am related to.   See how rapidly the numbers rise, at the time of Cromwell there were over 8000 of my parents living.

Let’s go back further to 1314.

The calculation shows that there were over 67 million of my parents living. In 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn roughly 8000 Scots fought 22000 English.  There is no doubt that I am of mainly the European race, neither aboriginal American nor Australian nor African, nor Asian, at least after 1314. Now the total population of  Europe in 1314 has been estimated by the experts at about 60 million.  Consequently I am related to every single one of them and therefore particles of me fought in the Battle of Bannockburn, on both sides!  And if you are of the European race so did you!

How exciting, some of your little thingummy jigs were slashing and hacking away with sword and axe doing their and your bit for the history books.

Convinced so far!

If you extend the calculation back just another 5 generations to around 1215 and the time of the Magna Carta, I had 1,073,741,824 parents alive.

Over one billion of them!  Hold on! there’s something wrong because the total population of the whole world was only 400 million and Europe less than 60 million.

Can you see the solution?  The 25 year generation gap assumption?  Each child definitely requires two biological parents. The mathematics is unquestionable.

Well it turns out that (this will be very surprising to you) I am not the first to come across this problem.  People have made academic careers out this little problem.

You can read all about it in incredibly unreadable reams of theories and mathematical formulae available elsewhere. Yes, you can Google it or I could give you references but I know you are busy and not cabin bound in the snow as I am so I will save you the bother.

Love thy neighbour

Here is the solution. We are all inbred!  Even those of us not considered members of the monarchy.   Back there through the generations some of your ancestors were taking shortcuts in finding a mate, too lazy to walk more than a few miles for a date and marrying second and third cousins willy-nilly, with no regard for the effects it has had on my spreadsheet and subsequent generations.  The barbarians.  Of course those were the days before phrases like ‘sustainable development’ were being bandied around the stable door or duck pond.   The lazy beggars were just marrying whoever was handy that could hoe turnips or herd sheep.

(This all started with that poem Joker’s Deal)

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PRINCE CHARLES MUTTON HEAD

PRINCE CHARLES – MUTTON HEAD

“Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in the world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule”

[History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Edward Gibbon)]

OK then, so here we go.

Pick a topic – Buildings and architecture.

To become a qualified Architect in England (as defined by the professional body RIBA) takes five years of academic studies and at least two years of work experience under the training of experienced architects, a total of at least seven years full time effort after leaving senior school.  Even at that milestone the Architect is a very junior member of any practice where he may find work, gaining his real experience on projects managed by more senior architects.  Large prestigious projects are designed by large teams of experienced architects, engineers, and design professionals.

To gain acceptance into the academic studies the candidate must have minimum school leaving exam passes. In England school leaving exams are called “A levels”. Results within each A level are scored A, B, C, etc .  For example you may pass only two A level results, say with a B score in History and a C score in French,  as was the case with Charles.  To gain admittance to start a degree course that will lead to becoming an architect a candidate will need probably 4 A levels of which at least three are A grade, so the barrier may be stated as AAAB for example.  Universities will also want one at least of those to be a mathematics or science subject.   So Charles would not have qualified to even approach the starting line in the 7 year training process of becoming an Architect.  Charles went on to get a degree in History and never studied architecture.

Fair conclusion? His opinions on architecture are of no more true value than those held by any other adult person in the street.

He has the same right as that person in the street to criticise any architectural works.  The problem is that he abuses his position of privilege to kill projects, twist arms of developers in choice of architect, and generally puts his untrained fingers in the pie. No wonder the architectural profession shake their heads in dismay, except for the connivers, courtiers and favour seekers that royalty and patronage attracts.

Charles’s interests in model village developments makes one think of Marie Antionette with her model village, dressing up to be a milkmaid or shepherdess and playing at being a real person.  The problem for Charles is that he does not have a real job. He is a dabbler and honorary patron (as in patronage) of over 400 groups, societies but these are figurehead roles.

Marie Antionette's hamlet at Versailles

“What about the Mutton?”  you shout

For those who are unable to see the relevance of the headline to the comments on architecture I will continue.

PRINCE CHARLES HEAD OF MUTTON

Mutton Renaissance

The Mutton Renaissance campaign aims to repopularise mutton, which is meat from a two year old sheep (ewe). Once widely eaten across the United Kingdom, mutton fell out of favour in past decades with the result that sheep farmers found themselves struggling to get a decent price for their ewes.

“The prince said his interest in mutton was sparked two years ago during a visit to farmers in Upper Teesdale, County Durham, who told him about the poor prices being paid for their ewes.” (2004)

The Prince’s Duchy Home Farm supplies mutton to The Ritz Hotel in London.

A revival of mutton could give a boost to under-pressure sheep farmers and help sustain traditional countryside life, Prince Charles has said.  The Prince of Wales was speaking at the Ritz hotel in London at a dinner to launch the Mutton Renaissance Club. The alliance is dedicated to helping farmers, butchers, restaurateurs and suppliers benefit from renewed interest in the meat taken from older sheep.

HE FORGOT TO MENTION  WHY MUTTON FELL IN POPULARITY

26 April 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what was then the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine exploded, sending a plume of radio- active particles – equivalent in toxicity to 400 Hiroshima bombs – more than seven kilometres up into the atmosphere and due east in the breeze. In the days that followed, as a fire raged unchecked inside the twisted, white-hot remains of the reactor, the wind direction reversed and the plume, now a kilometre tall, headed west towards north-western Europe. It wasn’t until workers at a nuclear reactor in Finland detected abnormally high doses of radioactivity on their clothes – up to 100 times normal background levels – that anyone outside the Soviet Union realised the true severity of the accident.

On 2 May 1986, the plume finally passed over parts of the UK and, with fateful timing, so too did a column of cloud carrying heavy rain. The rain fell hardest where it always falls hardest – on the uplands. As the droplets of water fell from the sky, they carried with them the radionuclides – in particular, caesium-137, iodine-131 and strontium-90 – that had been dispersed from Chernobyl. It is estimated that 1% of the radiation released from the reactor fell on the UK. In an effort to prevent these radionuclides entering the food chain once they had settled on the upland soil, the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food, as it was then known, ordered an immediate restriction on the movement and sale of sheep within the most affected areas – particularly north Wales, south-west Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Lake District, where the landscape is predominantly suited to grazing sheep. In total, almost 9,000 farms, and four million sheep, were placed under restriction.

from 13th century verse

Of the sheep is cast away nothing,
His horns for notches-to ashes goeth his bones,
To Lordes great profit goeth his entire dung,
His tallow also serveth plastres, more than one,
For harp strings his ropes serve everyone,
Of whose head boiled whole and all
There cometh a jelly, and ointment full Royal.

INDEED IT DOES

For poetry lovers you are referred to a closely related post  “Fechin eejit”

Next time, Prince Charles Head Cheese


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Filed under Architecture, History, Humour, Poetry, Recipe, Uncategorized

NOW TAKE GADDAFI…please?

I used to visit Libya from time to time for work, between mid 1970s and early 80’s.  I wrote the following very short piece (650 words) about 30 years ago and just left it in a notebook.  It was going to be the first chapter of a thriller that I was going to write and get rich quick!  Once you read it you will see why that never happened! But the tiny episode does give a flavour of Tripoli around 1975.  The recent events in Egypt prompted me to read it again and post it.

The character Ray in the story was a real person , a Canadian ex military ner do well who for his sins was working for a geotechnical company in Tripoli.  I do not remember his real name but I hope it was not Ray Holson.  I encountered the real Ray over a three week period in Benghazi.

The description of the Azizia Barracks is probably no longer true. They were bombed in 1986.  In the mid 1970’s the Tripoli airport terminal building that I remember was a big corrugated steel shed.    When the packed full BA planes took off for Gatwick every passenger (a mix of businessmen, oil workers, engineers) spontaneously cheered and drinks were being served before the plane was 200 feet high and when still steeply rising.

The current photographs in the news show Col Gaddafi in his traditional flowing robes.   He is supposed to have mellowed with age.  Or is he still as he clearly saw himself on the postage stamps that I have from the 70’s?

If you read the latest news Gaddafi is threatening certain ‘opposition’ groups from supporting rumoured demonstrations in Libya “Day of Rage” on 17th Feb. His threats seem directed towards Benghazi . I learned by word of mouth thirty-five years ago (and it seems still to be true) that Gaddafi has his support in Tripoli and Sirte, while the people of Benghazi in Cyrene would be glad to be rid of him.  42 years has been a long time to wait.  It will be interesting to see if there are disturbances in Benghazi.

The coastal plain of Libya is a very interesting place with Mediterranean climate, long beaches, olive groves and excellent Roman ruins so it could be a great tourist destination.  The people I met in the countryside were generally polite and friendly, while those in Tripoli especially the petty officials were the reverse.

Have you got a big yard with space for a very large tent and parking for a few limousines and tanks?  If so, why don’t you give him a call and give the poor Libyans some respite?

Episode 1

Tripoli, Libya (1975)

“Achmed, stop blasting that horn!”

Achmed’s entire body flinched and he instantly obeyed. As compensation he thrust his mangy head out of his side window and roared abuse at a stray woman crossing in front. Swaddled in a white baracan and under Allah’s protection, the stooped ghost shuffled through the battle worn Fiats and Peugeots, each car jostling to gain a few inches on its neighbour. The traffic did not flow. It moved in fits of high-revving pauses, sudden lunges, and squeals. The only steady flow came from the constant metallic bleat of horns.  Like a flock of rust-dipped sheep the traffic made its stupid progress. There was no traffic shepherd, no collie. Drivers’ arms languidly stretched from windows, rose to threaten and curse, drooped to cajole or concede.  Achmed hunched back over the wheel and the VW truck forced its way forward. Only when they were clear of the worst of the chaos did he turn to steal a glance at his glowering companion.

Ray Holson sat stiffly at the opposite end of the tattered bench seat. Short spikey grey hair bristled above his sunbeaten brow and broken nose. Where his eyebrows should have been the skin was scarred and almost bare. His reddish face looked puffed and bruised.  By appearance he could have been a fading boxer between lost fights, of below average height but heavy boned and strong .

Ray was troubled by something more than traffic. After two years based in Tripoli, he was accustomed to the driving conditions.  He yelled above the clackety engine.

‘You’re sure they didn’t say why they want to see me?’

‘No, Mr. Ray, just that you must report to Azizia barracks at once. I tell you this before two, three times.’

Ray cast a cold eye over his subordinate level ‘fixer’ but could detect nothing from his dingy features.  He slumped against his door and became immersed in anxiety.

The Azizia barracks sit stolidly in the southern suburbs. It is a secure residential fortress for top army and police officials and government, those being one and the same. Facing onto the airport road, it is convenient for shopping sorties to Paris, bank runs to Zurich, clubbing binges in London and hospital care in Moscow; and, when the game is up, for a final exile from  rope and bullet. To the casual passer-by the barracks consists of a very high grey concrete wall that runs alongside the airport road for 300 metres. Dense coils of rusting razor wire top the wall. The only visible entrance is sealed by an enormous green door of steel plate, blank as the hull of a ship.

As Ray’s truck approached he saw two soldiers in ill-fitting green uniforms lounging in the shadows under the wall, Russian rifles slung carelessly over their shoulders.  At the sound of a slowing vehicle the sentries stirred, unslung their weapons and pointed them at the windshield. Achmed stopped the truck and they stepped forward. The younger soldier sauntered around behind the truck, pausing to decipher the Arabic words hand-painted below the printed sign on the side, ‘Geotechnic Exploration Inc,, Shara Nassim, Tripoli 2432′. Achmed leant out of the window and talked quietly with the second man. As they spoke Achmed turned to Ray several times and the sentry followed his example, staring intently into Ray’s face.  Moving closer to the door he waved Achmed back from the window, leaned in through the open window and carefully inspected the sand and fly laden cemetery of the cabin. Then he took their papers and walked over to a telephone mounted on the wall. After several minutes he hung up, glanced across to his companion, returned his nod and turning towards the wall he snapped out an order. The suburban fortress silently obeyed. The green steel split and slowly opened outwards from the wall.  The truck crept inside. The huge doors reversed quickly until almost shut but just at the last moment paused, as if for a final breath of fresh air, then sealed with a trembling clash.

*************************************************

End of Part 1  من جانب آخر

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Filed under History, Politics, Stories, Travel

Fechin’ Eejit

overheard in a Scottish pasture

Fechin’ Eejit

But he’s sic a fechin’ eejit

Naw, that wid never dae

For him tae sit doon on oor Stane

When Lizzie gauns away


Caw canny Jenny, an efter a’

He’s nae waur than maist afore

They aye were smit wi’ puckle wit

Kept cuddies an’ a whore


The puir bodie didnae choose

Tae be whae he hais been

Tho there’s nae doot the numpty is

A scunner tae the Queen


Hunners o’ years ago ye see

Fichts ower croon or Cross

Cost mony heids for wicked deeds

An left us wi’ the dross

—————————————

eejit  (idiot)

Stane – (stone of Scone)

caw canny  (go gently)

puckle (small quantity)

cuddies (horses)

numpty (a bumbling fool)

scunner ( a cause of disgust)

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Eelie Ohlie

Eelie Ohlie

Richt efter schule sune they gether

Doon the end o’ Tattie Raw

Fir their sairly wat amusement

A gowden ‘oor wi’ their fitba’


The ba’s nae o’ belted leather

Like the tawse they ken fu’ well

Peesy got frae Syme the butcher

Bladder that’s near lost it’s smell


Wee Billy Smith, big Matthie Weir

Eck and Geordie, Cleikie Shaw

Alec, Jim and Jock and Wullie

Hughie, Malc an’ mair an’ a’


Fir makin’ o’ intae twa teams

Noo they’re staundin’ ruind aboot

“Eelie, ohlie, dug’s toley

Eelie, ohlie, OOT “


With goals o’ jaikets, buiks an’ caps

Nae mair’s needed fir tae play

The rules are by the strong decided

And sae micht wanner day to day


Ner mind aboot the Herts or Hibs

Or sic farflung pairts and deeds

We’re Arns’on Rangers ‘gin the Star

Nitten Bills v. Square Heids


Tackits skite on schuleday shune

Sclaff an’ bauchle, less than braw

Runnin’, heidin’, dribblin’, shootin’

Stottin’ passes off the wa’


In nae time the licht is fadin’

Luvin’ mithers cry them hame

Lament thair oor o’ peace and quiet

Muckle thankfu’ fir the game


Whit an awfy state yer in!

A’ yer claes are thick wi glaur

Whitever if yer faither sees ye

He’ll be giein’ you what for


Ah’ll scrub ye raw frae heid tae fit

In tae that pail ‘hent the door

Och ye are a richt wee midden

Tell me noo whit wis the score?

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