The Fairies of Cornwall (1)

We humans live short lives and then we die. At that point, because of our short lives, we have learnt nothing definite of any great significance.

We have not managed to find a single concrete, scientifically testable, answer to the most basic of our questions. We have not managed to find a single conclusion that will convince the scientists in their laboratories that we have made any real progress.

Why are we here?

Some answers do seem to make more sense than others, though:

At least with this poster, you can see where they’re coming from:

Why do we exist?

Every single answer we have found so far can just be handed back to us and they will say “Well, that’s just what you think. Nothing more. All you’ve got there is opinions, not facts.” or “How is this anything more than just belief and blind faith? Where’s your proof?”

We have discovered nothing that will make those scientists read our conclusion, nod sagely and say:

“Well, well, well, the Great Pumpkin is what it was all about after all!!”

Some people think about the world and find new questions to ask:

“Where were we before we were born?”

“Where will we go after we die?”

Some of them may actually sound very scientific:

“Is our world just one dimension of a hundred million others?”

“Are we in a huge computer where every single thing that happens to us is designed to test us out, to see if we are good enough to move on?”

“Is everything pre-ordained so that we cannot escape our inevitable fate?”

Are we free to do whatever we want, subject to any man made rules we have established for ourselves?

Well, nobody could have put it more succinctly than Johnny Nash:

And don’t worry about all these posts concerning fairies. They are not the same fairies that Walt Disney had. Far from it.

And this is all leading somewhere. Honestly. It is.

And we’ll meet those other fairies next time.

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Filed under Cornwall, Criminology, Cryptozoology, History, Humour, Literature, Personal, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

Three war crimes, two Sunderlands and one Ashley Wilkes (7)

Last time I related how the crews of two Sunderland flying boats, having spent the entire war without seeing a single U-boat, found two German submarines on their way to surrender and sank both of them. I used two pictures borrowed from the Internet. One was a beautiful painting:

And the second was a genuine black and white photograph:

The Coastal Command airmen that Fred had met in the pub, probably in north Scotland, explained to him that they sank the two U-boats because they had spent so many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of their young lives out on dreary patrols over the cold grey waters of the Atlantic. They had risked their lives in the pursuit of an enemy that they had never ever seen, as he hid in the cold grey metal waters of the Atlantic and emerged only at night. In similar fashion, Fred himself had never ever seen a German aircraft in combat during any of his nineteen missions. And even if they never saw a submarine, flying for ten hours over the cold grey featureless ocean is not without its dangers:

 

Most of all, these young men knew that they had wasted their youth, the best years of their lives, pursuing not pretty young girls at the village dance, but elusive submarines in the featureless cold grey seascape of the Atlantic Ocean. And it was revenge for this irreparable loss of their youth that they sought. If the RAF lads had a six or seven year gap in their young lives, then the Germans, who had now started their second major global war in twenty years, would not be allowed to have the rest of their own lives, certainly if the RAF had anything to do with it:

Sinking a U-boat which was on its way to surrender, after the end of hostilities,  was, of course, a war crime.

“Thou shalt not kill” the Good Book says, although the original words of the Torah, “לֹא תִּרְצָח”, should really be translated as “Thou shalt not murder” rather than our rather wishy washy “Thou shalt not kill”. And this was indubitably murder, so it was a war crime, although in many ways it was an understandable one.

It was the waste of so many years of their short lives that had finally got to them. Fred himself very much resented the years that he had spent “stuck in a Nissen hut in the middle of nowhere.” He was stationed at one stage at Elsham Wolds which was not a particularly beautiful or interesting place. It must have provoked great boredom and frustration among the hundreds, if not thousands of young men who were all forced to be there. Here’s the old runway, with its present-day green half and its grey half:

severn trent

Yet despite their boredom and their frustration, these young men would all have felt raw naked fear for much of the time. They knew that they were laying their own young lives on the line pretty much every single day.

My Dad told me that the only things that got him into that Lancaster were the fear of being thought a coward, and the fact that the crew all depended on each other and were all in it together:

Because of his never ending fear, like thousands of other combattants, Fred also despised the comfortable lives of many of the older people in the area where he was born and where he spent the majority of his leaves. They lived out their humdrum existences without any risk whatsoever, while young men in their early twenties were killed in large numbers every time there was a raid. The contempt Fred felt was, of course, just a measure of his own fear, at the possibility of having to fly over burning Berlin, or some other heavily defended Bomber Command target:

Having joined the RAF as a volunteer on September 29th 1941 at the age of nineteen, Fred expected to return home in May 1945. Alas, he wasted yet more time after the end of the war.

Fred was eventually discharged from the RAF well after the date when his favourite team, Derby County, whom he followed for more than seventy years, won the FA Cup for the only time in their history. Fred missed the game as he was “busy, doing nothing” with the RAF:

Fred eventually left the Second World War on November 19th 1946, after just over five years. Not much in a lifetime of over eighty years, but as he himself was never slow to explain in later life, these were potentially “the best years of my life”.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, Criminology, History, Personal, Politics

What would you do ? (4) The Solution

Here’s the problem from last time:

And the correct solution given on page 2 of the comic is:

“The referee would rule “No goal”. The rules of the game state that the ball must be a certain weight (14-16 ounces). He would then restart the game with a bounced ball at the spot where it was last kicked. The ball would be bounced between two opposing players. “

First, a few words of explanation. 14-16 ounces is between 0.40-0.45 kilos or 340-397 grams. Nowadays a “bounce-up”, as it is popularly known, is no longer contested between two opposing players, because it was found that having two burly men face up to each other and then having a football dropped between them, tended to encourage the players to kick each other rather than the ball. With aching shins, they would then start a punch-up as they argued.

Nowadays, I suspect that the ball would be given to the player who last kicked it with no opponent involved, but I’m not totally 100% sure of that. The “burst ball” has happened a number of times in football history. You can find quite a surprising number if you just google “burst ball in cup final”.

The two most famous times for a burst ball were firstly in 1946 when Charlton reached the FA Cup Final, only to lose 4-1 to Derby County in extra time. When the Derby centre-forward, Jackie Stamps, shot for goal in the closing minutes of normal time, the ball burst en route to the back of the net. A week earlier, when the same sides had met in the League, the match ball had also burst then. Here’s the winning Derby County team, complete with directors, the most important people in any successful football team:

The odds on this bizarre event happening again must have seemed very unlikely, but the following year in 1947, in the first live televised FA Cup final, Charlton reached the Final again, this time beating Burnley by 1-0. And again the ball burst!  The theory at the time was that because of the war, the quality of the leather in the balls was not what it should have been.  Here’s Charlton, in their white and black change kit:

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Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Literature, Personal, Writing

What would you do ? (4) The Puzzle

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover, which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation:

The yellow box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation. Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

Here’s the yellow box enlarged:

What an unusual event. The centre forward shoots very powerfully, the goalie can’t stop it, and the brown leather ball sizzles into the net. Thousands of people are ecstatic. Their team has scored. But the referee has found some nits to pick. He saw the ball deflate in mid-air as it flew towards the goal. Will it be  a goal ? What will his decision be?

Depends on who the teams are, I suppose. The forward who has just had a shot is wearing a yellow shirt and white shorts. That’s an old Tottenham Hotspur away kit from the late 1960s. And the red and white stripes is Atletico de Madrid. No problem for the referee there then.

Incidentally, the yellow box’s infatuation with the orange arrow quickly diminished, and she soon parted from him. She realised that he was only after her puzzle setting skills and once she’d set the scene a few times for him, he left her high and dry in a cheap hotel room in Cromer:

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Filed under Football, History, Humour, Literature, Personal, Writing

“Of course, we were much younger then” (2)

This is a second series of photographs taken by the Reverend Charles H Stephens. They portray some of the actors in the Junior Plays during the academic year 1976-1977. All of them were in Form 2L. What is most striking is how the actors have begged, stolen or borrowed, items from ordinary life and then, by putting them all together, have created a character for their own particular Junior Play.

The first picture shows the actors in a drama whose plot I cannot begin to imagine. It must surely involve a huge admirer of Harpo Marx, whose hobbies include cross dressing in those night dresses you get in the Hammer Horror films of the period. Just to prove the point, on the right is a sinister Christopher Lee type figure, presumably waiting patiently for a cup of luke warm blood from the demented waiter in the middle:

Picture Two shows the Exorcist in the middle, apparently wearing some of the Reverend’s robes that had shrunk in the wash and were therefore surplice to requirements. The little boy on the left clearly has completely the wrong end of the stick when it comes to the rule that “Junior Plays are not performed in School Uniform”. Just taking your tie out of your jacket will not be enough. And on the right, the happy little chap who won the North of England “Neat shirt sleeve folding” competition for the next fourteen years running:

The third photograph shows a capacity for violence compatible perhaps with “Straw Dogs” or “Clockwork Orange”, two films of the time. On the left is the little boy who had clearly decided that the winner of the Junior Plays will be decided not by the judging panel nor the Ballot Box but by the Armalite. In the middle is the representative of the Metropolitan Police, looking a little morose, perhaps, but with his plastic policeman’s helmet, just like you get in toy shops, jauntily on the back of his head:

The boy on the right looks rather sad too. The police had promised to help him find, and then recover, his trousers. Still, that dress is rather nice and compliments perfectly his top garment, whatever it may be. A housecoat? Or the “Something more comfortable” that dubious young women with dyed blonde hair are keen to get into?

Next is the Junior Play set at Woodstock with three classic haircuts, two state of the art guitars and one army surplus coat in two extra small. Note the camouflaged ex-US Army cap that fishermen wear and always cover with lots of badges. Note, too, the denim waistcoat complete with war surplus sew-on USAAF wings:

The final photograph shows the final three actors. On the right is the cowboy, whose costume is the easiest of the lot. A pair of jeans, a heavy, thick shirt, your Dad’s fishing hat and your little brother’s cap gun. And in the middle, somebody to whom you’d really have to pose that embarrassing question “And who are you meant to be, sonny?”. Well, he has made a fair attempt at reconstructing the beret of the Parachute Regiment, but the shirt and the trousers are a strange combination. Note the snake belt fastening, incidentally, which was then compulsory for all small boys to wear at least once before they reached the age of fourteen. On the left, he must surely be something Arabian, but exactly what I am not so sure. He has his mum’s tea towel over his head, held on with elastic, and a pair of wide, flared, bell-bottomed trousers which belong to his sister. Presumably his mother hasn’t noticed her missing Laura Ashley curtains in the third bedroom. Let’s hope too that that is a plastic scimitar and that the bra-like garment over his shirt has not been borrowed from his sister:

Next time, we’ll look at some of the School Plays over the years.

They laboured under a terrible handicap, which is clearly stated in the School Magazine:

“After the First World War, the Dramatic Society would put on an annual play for their parents and their siblings and friends to come and see. Usually, it was a classic, although not always by Shakespeare. The problem was that the School was for boys only and, in the words of the School Magazine: “The Dramatic Society has always hesitated to produce a modern play because of the difficulty of finding boys capable of filling the female parts. Twentieth Century dress does not lend itself so well to the purpose of transformation as do Elizabethan and Georgian costumes”.

 

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Filed under History, Literature, Nottingham, The High School, Writing

What would you do ? (3) The Solution

Here’s the emergency from last time:

And here’s the situation:

“…… the firemen are thirty feet from the base of the main front wall of “Wobbling Heights”, set on fire by a mysterious arsonist. The ten storey building will cover around one hundred and sixty feet when it falls. What will they do?”

And page 2 says that the solution is:

“The firemen ran straight towards the base of the building. They reasoned that the lowest part of the wall might stand intact. They were right. The façade  cracked eight feet from the base of the building against which they were flattened. And, as the crumbling masonry fell outward, they were unharmed.”

Well, I didn’t get anywhere near that solution. I just thought to run sideways would do the job. Silly me.

This fire was in Sao Paulo, and, because nobody stood anywhere near it, nobody was injured.

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Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, Literature, Personal, Writing

What would you do ? (3) The Puzzle

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”.

Here’s the situation:

The yellow box would have set the scene, but at the moment she has run away with the orange arrow, so don’t expect too many maps either. Instead, the blue box steps manfully into the breach and describes the situation which is yours to solve.  Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

Here’s the blue box enlarged:

Soooooo…… with seconds before the building falls, the firemen are thirty feet from the base of the main front wall of “Wobbling Heights”, set on fire by a mysterious arsonist. The ten storey building will cover around one hundred and sixty feet when it falls. That’s a “A grilled dilly of a roasted pickle”.

Be sensible in your suggestions. No, there isn’t enough time for:

Or even for :

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Filed under History, Humour, Literature, Personal, Writing