Remembrance Sunday 2018

November 11, 2018 6 comments

I know it’s probably a little greedy of me, but I support three football teams. The reasons for that are maybe the story for another time, but not today. One of those teams – Leyton Orient (the Os) – has a proud history which is relevant today. In its earliest incarnation the club was known as Clapton Orient, and players and officials from that club played a significant role in the history of recruitment for the First World War. I thought I would share their story as my mark of respect and remembrance today.

Two years ago, to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the British Legion published the story of those brave footballers who gave their lives. You can find the full story here but I thought I’d present it as a series of screenshots for you. (If they are too small to read on your screen, clicking on them makes them much larger, then you can press the ‘back’ arrow to return here):

That story holds a very special place in the heart of every Os supporter, and has been the basis for some very moving ceremonies when the team has been playing at home on the Remembrance weekend. It is also at the heart of a play called The Greater Game, which is currently playing a limited run in London.

The words on this poppy are very familiar: they have featured in those ceremonies and reflect the losses suffered by so many at that time – like the Clapton Orient lads – and in subsequent conflicts:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

(Taken from ‘For The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon, September 1914)

On Remembrance Sunday, those words by Laurence Binyon never lose their meaning or their simple power to remind us of the sacrifice made by so many to protect the way of life we enjoy today – above all, our freedom.

I believe war to be abhorrent. However, that does not stop me from marking my respect for anyone who has ever taken part in a campaign to protect my freedom. I will observe the official silence in my own way, and will give them my silent thanks.

This year marks the Centenary of the end of the First World War, and there is much publicity for it. But I fear that with the passing of time, and without this major anniversary to remind us, the significance of this act of remembrance is decreasing, as this little poem illustrates:

Wherever you are, however you do it, I hope that you will be able to spare a moment today to give thanks for those who have died to protect your and my way of life. We should never forget. We owe them so much.

 

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#SaturdaySongs No.14 – Great Lake Swimmers

November 10, 2018 4 comments

When I reblogged my #SaturdaySongs post of songs for Bonfire Night last weekend, I had a slight pang of guilt, as I have posted so few of those recently. The idea for this post came about when, earlier in the week, I was having one of my late evening sessions watching YouTube videos. I was in the middle of a run of several by one of my favourite bands, the Canadian group Great Lake Swimmers, and was scrolling through the comments when I came across someone saying they were looking forward to seeing the band play in London. This struck a chord, as I went to that show, and I then had one of those D’oh lightbulb moments: the comment was by me! Here it is, in all its glory, second one down:

As this was six years ago I guess I can be forgiven for not recalling this, and in any event I rarely post comments on YouTube so wasn’t really expecting to see myself there! This brought back some lovely memories of the gig, which actually has a very special meaning for me, and it reminded me that I had written a post about it. After digging back into the darkest recesses of my library of posts, I found the piece. It was originally written on 23 April 2013 in response to that day’s WordPress Daily Prompt. I used to write a lot of those, until they spoiled it all by moving to single word prompts that did nothing for my limited imagination. These prompts have now stopped: it seems I may not have been the only one who didn’t like the change! I was going to do this as one of my reblogs but I thought the occasion deserved a fuller post, so I’m going to share the full text of what I originally wrote and will then round things up at the end. Here’s me in April 2013:

Daily Prompt: Earworm

“The question posed in today’s prompt is “What song is stuck in your head (or on permanent rotation in your CD  or MP3 player) these days? Why does it speak to you?”

The song which I have played most since the album it’s on came out last summer is unlikely to be known by many. It is ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ by the Canadian band The Great Lake Swimmers. Here’s the official video:

“Easy come and easy go

That’s what they say when they’re about to go broke

So try not to choke

And put your arms around me and don’t ever let go”

Have you even heard of them, let alone know their music? They have been together in various incarnations since 2003 and the album this song is on – ‘New Wild Everywhere’ – is their fifth. If you’d like to find out more about them they are at www.greatlakeswimmers.com

Apart from the fact that I love this band’s music, and this song in particular, there are two answers to the question about why it speaks to me. Firstly, the message is a simple one: “everything can be collapsing around you, but I’m here to look after you” – I know it’s more complex than that, but that’s what I take as the underlying message of the song. It’s a message I like and which I think we all want to have from a special someone if life reaches the point of being dismantled around us, as in the video, or should we be going through a difficult time. As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my previous offerings, I am in recovery from depression and started this blog to encourage others that things can and do get better. But I don’t just sail blithely through life, and I still have my black dog days. I had a spell of these last week and didn’t really start feeling better until yesterday morning. This was the first song I played – it is hard not to get carried along by the tune, and the words seemed comforting after a very rough few days. That’s what the song does for me.

The second level is that this band will always be special to me for a very personal reason. Before I was ill I used to love going to live gigs, usually at least once a month. I went through a period of nearly two years when I just didn’t feel like going to one – Great Lake Swimmers at Bush Hall in London, 26th November 2012, was my first after all that time. Being able to overcome my apprehension at going, on a horrible wet Monday night, to be part of a crowd and to enjoy losing myself in the music again is something that will stay with me forever. And just to prove I was there, a very quick snippet of ‘Ballad of a Fisherman’s Wife’ :

Just to finish that evening off, a final part of the story: on the tube home I tweeted the band and thanked them for a great show. Most bands don’t reply to fan tweets like that, but GLS did – I had a very nice tweet back from Miranda, the rather lovely red headed one, saying how much they appreciated that. The perfect end to my first show after the long break!

I hope you have a special song, piece of music, poem, painting or whatever that says something for you when you need a comforting ‘voice.’ Why not share yours via the comments box, it would be interesting to see what helps, comforts and encourages you.”

Back in the here and now: as a little bonus I thought I’d also give you the song on which I made my comment. It is the title track from what was then the band’s new album, referenced in the 2013 post, and the video is nice, too:

I still play that a lot nowadays. As I said: special band for me, with special memories.

Bonfire Of The Insanities

November 5, 2018 8 comments

On Saturday I reblogged last year’s ##SaturdaySongs post of Bonfire Night songs

As this little rhyme that we all learned in primary school reminds us, this is actually tonight:

Remember, remember

The fifth of November:

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason

Why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

I won’t repeat the potted history lesson here but do take a look if you need to know more: there is also a link in that post to a very detailed Wikipedia article on the Gunpowder Plot. These events took place 413 years ago but there are, sadly, echoes in modern day life: religion as the basis for differences and even violence; a threat to democracy from those who want another form of government and are prepared to go to illegal and destructive ends to attain it. Sound familiar? We don’t learn as much from history as we might like to think, do we?

Democracy cannot be underestimated: there still exist too many tyrannies in the world: well, actually, one is too many. But the majority of those of you who read my ramblings are based in countries which are long used to enjoying democratic freedoms. The US, for example, fought to achieve its independence from a British king and government which treated them abominably, and created the free country that has since thrived. And, after a troubled first thousand years or so of the current calendar, during which it seemed to be open season for anyone wanting to invade us, we in the UK haven’t had any such invasion since 1066, despite the best efforts of the Spanish Armada and Hitler. We have gradually built our democracy since then.

The US midterm elections are tomorrow, and it is the great hope for the rest of the world that they might come to their senses and look back to what their founding fathers fought for and established. They might then realise their mistake in electing as President a man completely inexperienced in politics, who has spent the past two years pushing his agenda of lies, hypocrisy and hatred. But at least he was elected by public ballot, rather than by blowing up the seat of democracy. Well, almost, as he actually lost the public vote by nearly 3m votes, but that is apparently ‘fake news.’ In what is largely a two party system, how is it possible that the loser can actually win the election? That Electoral College system needs to be revisited, as it is way past its ‘best by’ date!

We get a lot of news coverage of Trump’s government here in the UK. Allowing for the filters for bias which may need to be applied, one inescapable fact emerges: Trump and his cowardly Republican Party have lost sight of the true meaning of democracy, and are governing in an autocratic manner. Democracy was worth fighting for, and it is to be hoped that enough people recognise this and exercise their democratic right at the ballot box tomorrow before it is too late. Am I scaremongering? I don’t think so: take a look at both Trump’s and John Bolton’s statements about the recent election in Brazil. They have both spoken in glowing terms of the new Brazilian President: how long before they take the US down the same path he is treading, a very undemocratic path indeed. If they hold onto control of the House and Senate tomorrow, having cheated their way to controlling the Supreme Court, autocracy may be closer than you might think. Add in the copious evidence of corruption and it ceases to be a true democracy, as a dubiously elected President exercises his powers to ignore the Constitution.

And we here in the UK know how well the public ballot can result in a terribly bad decision. It is becoming clearer every day that the Leave campaign broke a lot of rules in their campaign funding, which could well end up with prison sentences for some if the legal process is allowed to take its proper course without further political interference – and that’s even without the lies on which the vote was won. What is also abundantly clear is that there is no actual plan for how an organised withdrawal from the EU might be managed, amid growing public disquiet. A few weekends ago an estimated 750k marched in support of a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final terms of whatever deal is eventually cooked up. This is much more democratic than blowing up the Parliament buildings, though we could be forgiven for thinking that our government needs explosive help to shake them out of their collective torpor, indecision and ineptitude.

I wouldn’t mind betting that there will be quite a few ‘Guys’ tonight who will be wearing images of present day politicians. The Gunpowder Plot was far from being a democratic process, but after all this time it retains its place in our history as a reminder of how we as a country are able to celebrate our freedoms. Generally, we live in less violent times than Fawkes and his co-conspirators, and we have adapted our expressions of democracy since then. Tonight is a timely reminder that governments can be unpopular. The problem comes when the people become complicit in taking away their own democratic freedoms, by believing the lies and false promises of the self-interested. Do we really deserve our democracy if we misuse it? I wish I had an answer to that!

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