The Price of Peace

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from May 2014

Song Bird Songs

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(Short story for the theme “Loss”)

 Dusk hung over the grim Northumbrian field, veiling, but not obliterating the sights that swam before Edwin’s eyes. Shield and banner, once glorious in their pomp, now lay in jumbled heaps amidst torn limbs and lifeless forms, contorted, muddy, and everywhere was the stain of blood. He leant on the shaft of his sword to steady himself, red streaking the fair hair and face in lurid patterns of death, his lean form panting hard. It was over. They had won! He was alive and relatively unscathed, but inside dwelt a sickening emptiness.

Senses reeling he staggered forward, blue eyes shot with scarlet, searching among the heaving bodies for what he could not find, the living body of his brother. He had seen him go down in the first charge, like a bird pinioned in flight, the bright eye shocked, unbelieving. Wulfric had thought…

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Why I didn’t blog yesterday.

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It’s that time of year when folks from all around flock to my tiny town for the Grand Union Canal boat festival. For two days every year its as if we’ve been transported back to the 70’S (or even earlier). Folks with flowers, smiles, feathered hats and colourful costumes abound, (and that’s just the spectators!) There are three stages for live events, historic re enactment, craft stalls, fun fair, boat rides and much more. Here’s a glimpse of what I was up to yesterday.

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I always fancied a knight in shining armor, these were all very realistic though – not so shiny! There were several contenders (tourney winner announced today). I also watched as they armed the knights etc.

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Wouldn’t be a country festival without Morris dancers! They also roamed around enjoying the festival between performance together with Star Wars personalities.

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Kids petting zoo (we English love our animals) with goats, lambs, rabbits, etc. I didn’t actually do this one, though I’d have loved to if I could pass as a child.

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This one I did do – free speed boat trips round the lake perfect for a hot day – feel the spray!

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Walk along the canal to watch the barge tug of war and admire all the canal boats in town for the festival decked out for the festivities.

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Couldn’t get a good picture of this (due to the crowds of people) but she playing a boat song.

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My favourite (and smallest) music venue featuring folk and river songs. I spent an pleasant hour here while waiting to catch the final trip up the canal.(see tomorrows post when I’ve sorted the photos – guess where I’m off too?.)

I am Vintage!

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Taking the bus yesterday due to an elasticated knee support and bandaged wrist I actually felt a little more like “the mummy” at least on my left side. Then a cute, little, vintage sports car passed by on the other side, canvas roof back, the owners proudly beaming. I thought, “They must have paid a lot of money for that and take real good care of it.”

Then it occurred to me maybe I should think of myself more like that car, that age can mean special! I thought of my granddaughter plying me for stories for her history blog, the old lady I’d met earlier who told me fascinating facts about the conservative little town where I live – that 50 years ago there’d been 42 pubs (if you saw how small my town is you would have been likewise astounded!) I remembered China where the older folks are venerated for their wisdom etc. (I quite enjoyed that lol!)

I realised perhaps I should substitute words like old, decrepit, ancient, with antique, vintage, and valuable. Sure the car took extra care, probably required quality fuel and frequent overhauls, but it seemed to run quite smoothly (as my body usually does) and was far more interesting than the newer models. So from now on I’m going to apply the word “vintage” to myself and forget those other more depressing labels.

My “Chill Pills”

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It seems the words “depression” and “stress” flood social media nowadays, they even emerge to wave their ugly heads in conversations with close friends and family sometimes.

Odd that as a child and young adult (I’m thinking 50’s – 60’s here for all you “spring chickens”) I seldom heard these words and when I did not with the same connotation. It could be due to the increasing pressures of today’s increasingly fast paced world (though I do think surviving a world war either in active service or bombed out London would have produced high levels of stress for the adults around me – not to mention rationing and housing shortages!)

Part of it was doubtless they didn’t have the “labels” back then and had to pretty much deal with their own problems. When my dad returned from Burma (one of the only 3 in his battalion to survive) having seen his friends killed before his eyes in guerrilla style jungle warfare he was experiencing what would now be termed post-traumatic stress. My mum just had to love and support him out of it (God bless her she won that battle).

I am hugely thankful that such help exists now for those in need and wholeheartedly support their free access to it. My concern is that too often nowadays it’s easier to “pop a pill” than to find ways to deal with the stresses and set backs of life. That might seem the “easy way” but unless the real problems are tackled things are inclined to get worse. Sometimes it takes a change of job, ending a bad relationship, going on the attack to save a marriage or a change of location etc. It’s hard to make such tough decisions in the midst of emotional turmoil though.

I’ve lived what could be termed a “very adventurous life” with sometimes huge elements of responsibility (not to mention severe earthquakes and hurricanes). I’m not by nature that strong stable type one usually pictures for such a role. Old friends tend to describe me as “strong” but actually I’m more like the lion in the “Wizard of Oz” a scaredy cat who is brave only when it comes down to the line and  they have to be, because there’s no one else.

All this to say, over the years I’ve developed some ways of dealing with stress, discouragement (which leads to depression), anger and overwrought emotions which may help others too. They are all rather “old fashioned” but maybe that’s how folks dealt with these things before the days mental health became widely established. Perhaps they may help someone else unwind under stress and avoid having to end up with a severe problem. Rather than make one super long post I’ll dedicate my next few to this topic..

Not sure what the cowboy as to do with this but… (Americans please enlighten me?)

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Saw this on a US friend’s FB page. Aside from the cowboy, this seemed equally valid for many places. I noted a comment saying “when you teach rights you get rebellion where you teach responsibility you get revival” (another interesting point.) I’m not sure I agree with the latter but I do feel that it’s a package deal, rights come along with responsibilities. Take the right to free speech and the “I am Charlie” campaign (don’t get me started on that one!) Or a right to vote, to free medical care, to make the 100’s of choices we make every day as free citizens.

I am very much a defender of “rights” and social justice. My grand father, an idealist, was one of the first trade unionists back in the time when such things were dangerous and illegal. Being an avid history student I’ve studied at length Britain’s slow painful path to obtain those “rights”.often written in blood or starvation by their advocates. I value such rights very highly, but I do feel with every one comes a responsibility to use them wisely and with love and compassion for others.

While I believe all should know their rights (otherwise the rich pray on the poor, the educated on the uneducated) there needs to be a much greater emphasis on individual responsibilities lest we spawn further “me first” generations.

What do you feel?

It’s Spring Let’s Dance!

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There’s just something about Morris dancers that brings out my English side (which tends to be quite diluted by my many travels). The bright colors, cheery smiles and simple country dances evoke echoes of a far simpler past.

Like the the Victorian book of hand illustrated poetry that presently adorns my bedside table they recall a rich heritage which so often lies buried beneath, hustle, bustle, cell phones and technology. It must be so for those of other lands also.

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The gay rhythms and crash of the sticks beat to a slower time a life attuned to season and nature. A time morality was more straight forward, the world less complex.

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The childlike naivety of the dance recalls memories of a time when I was young and love and courtship seemed more innocent and pure.

(Photos from my Easter in Weymouth)

Everyone has a story waiting to be told.

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I was overjoyed recently to learn that my teenage granddaughter, unbeknownst to me, shared my love of history. Not the facts and figures kind but fascination for the stories of lives lived before our own. She was asking if there were any interesting stories in our family. Going through old photos (some very old) I pointed out some of the characters from favourite family tales, my  grandfather who got disinherited for marrying a gypsy girl, my father, one of  the three in his battalion to make it back from the early WW2 Burma campaign etc. As I went through the photos I came across more and more stories and then it hit me – everyone had a story to tell, different stories, some adventure, some travel logs, some character studies, some love stories etc. but everyone has one.

I’ve always been fascinated by people’s  stories and have often chatted with old folks to absorb all I could,  finding them a treasure trove of historic information and frequently incredible tales. You just never know who that frail old lady or gentleman perched on a walking stick is! In bygone days (before TV, internet, or even gas lamps and the printing press), it was common practise to sit around the fire at night and tell stories. The old and ancient ones would tell of the battles and wonders of their youth. These stories were retold and passed on from generation to generation (often getting just a tad exaggerated in the process lol!) giving rich earth in which families might grow rooted in understanding of their personal heritage.

I realised in our present high tech age my granddaughter knew next to nothing of her personal heritage, nothing of the heroes, the medals, the great achievements of some of her not so distant relatives.( She was pleasantly surprised).  Considering we English are well known for our historical reverence, I was quite shocked at the realisation that so much, so many wonderful stories are disappearing forever. Perhaps we need to revive an old and ancient custom.

Fancy a Bit of Wassailing This Christmas?

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(Taken from projectbritian.com/Xmas)

Wassailing has been associated with Christmas and New Year as far back as the 1400s. It was a way of passing on good wishes among family and friends.

One of the most popular Wassailing Carols went like this:

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wassailing,
So fair to be seen:
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you,
A happy New Year,
And God send you,
A happy new year.

What is Wassail?

Wassail is an ale-based drink seasoned with spices and honey. It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter. The Wassail bowl would be passed around with the greeting, ‘Wassail’.

There are three main ways of wassailing.

1. The filling of a common bowl or cup often referred to as a ‘Loving Cup’ and passing it around a room to be shared.
2. Taking a bowl of Wassail around houses
3. A celebration of the apple harvest and the blessing of the fruit or trees.

Where does the name Wassail come from?

Wassail gets its name from the Old English term “waes hael”, meaning “be well”. It was a Saxon custom that, at the start of each year, the lord of the manor would shout ‘waes hael’. The assembled crowd would reply ‘drinc hael’, meaning ‘drink and be healthy’.
As time went on, the tradition was carried on by people going from door to door, bearing good wishes and a wassail bowl of hot, spiced ale. In return people in the houses gave them drink, money and Christmas fare (special foods eaten during Christmas time e.g. mince pies) and they believed they would receive good luck for the year to come.

So Who is Satan Anyhow?

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Whether you consider him mythical, symbolic or an actual entity, with Halloween approaching in all its lurid costumes it’s surprising how few folks know his origins.
The story is told in the Bible that Satan was once God’s top man, (or angel) the light bearer, powerful and beautiful beyond imagination. His body embellished with music he led the praise of God. So what happened? Basically it seems it wasn’t enough for Satan being the supreme angel. In his pride he wanted to be God, to be worshiped, therefore he rebelled persuading a third of the angels to join him.
He’s described as “the Prince of the Air” and “the father of lies.” The most common caricature of Satan is a little guy with horns and a tail but I would probably depict him as a handsome, impeccably dressed, intellectual, smooth tongued and alluring, only the eyes giving him away as evil. Genesis has him pictured as a snake persuading Eve with subtle words to doubt God(His Bible knowledge is reputed to be better than most Christians and he tries to use it against them as he did Jesus.)
Halloween costumes are often sexy, but again there in a subtle lie here. Sex was God’s creation instigated before “the fall of man”, it’s sexual perversion that is Satan’s domain. He cannot create only pervert. He’s also referred to as “the god of this world”. In spite of God’s overall sovereignty he is said to have power in this realm giving the “kingdoms of this world” to who he may. (God gave dominion to man and through man’s choices Satan took control to a large extent.) This is an interesting viewpoint depicting Christians as God’s 5th columnists working to bring down Satan’s power explaining why evil runs rampant in the earth unless restrained by good.
Another little known Genesis Bible history is that the angels who followed Satan had sex with the women of the earth and that their children were giants of a vicious and diabolical nature. This could explain a frequent question of why in ancient history God asked his people to slaughter whole populations even women and children (lest the DNA be further corrupted). There are some interesting books on this due in part to the many assertions, photos etc. of giant human skeletons being unearthed. It’s not my intention to get into that here as I’m not at all sure about these assertions but it’s an interesting read.
Whatever you believe I hope this has given some new background to your Halloween celebrations. Personally I shall breathe a sigh of relief when it’s over and I can look forward to Christmas when we celebrate the forces of good.