This has been a very hard and sad letter to write – but it does seem the right thing. Rather than give further explanation or input, I’ll just leave it to speak for itself. It was sent to the church council over the weekend and is now going out to the All Souls church family. Read more
Trying to write in the wonderfully balmy sun of Pembrokeshire this week has been a struggle! But I’m not complaining. it’s been a joy to be down here, heatwave and all. But I’m particularly thankful to have got out for half a day yesterday to visit Skomer Island at last (been coming to Dale for years, but this was a first). So here is some jollity from the delightful puffins of Skomer. What fun they are… Read more
I’ve got a problem. But it’s not the sort of problem that you’re going to have much sympathy for. In fact, it’s not the sort of problem that you’re allowed to have much sympathy for. Because my problem is that i’m far too privileged – for my own good or for anyone else’s good. Which is why, in this day and age, anything I say or claim will be subject to greater suspicion than what practically anyone else on the planet will say or claim. If you don’t believe me, check this succinct quote out from Gene Veith: Read more
I’ve no evidence to back up this claim, but I strongly suspect that those who have the news on 24/7 will go mad. Simply because 99.9% of news items (which usually consist in the urgent rather than the important) are bad – and when taken in such large doses, they can propel one into the deepest of pits. Or perhaps that’s just me. Anyway, we need antidotes, things that bring joy, delight and perhaps even a little dose of optimism. In other words, things to be grateful for.
Notice how none of my list involves spending much (if any) money. Which says something in itself, does it not…? Read more
Yes, I realise this is rather too late for helping with your Christmas shopping. But think of it as an aid to early preparations for the next one. Following up Q’s astronomically popular board games review back in July 2011, we’ve taken on board (geddit?) a number of other TV alternatives in our repertoire and felt that an update was definitely required. So here it is: 11 games of varying degrees of difficulty, intensity and delight. Trying to grade them has caused not a little debate around the kitchen table, but it was clear that three games in particular came out on top in chez Meynell: FORBIDDEN ISLAND, PUERTO RICO and TICKET TO RIDE (Asia Maps edition).
But there are definitely other options for those who don’t like their games so overly complex or involved. Have fun. Read more
Half term was not idly spent by Joshua and my nephew Hudson (despite consistently dismal weather). Over the week, the fused their considerable talents to produce this short, which is little short of a masterpiece (IHMO). Read more
This post is not motivated simply by beaming paternal pride – I also got to have a cameo role in Joshua’s latest triumph… albeit as banana. And I got to be musical director. I have to say that I doubt my acting career will ever get much better than this. (And don’t forget, I ‘starred’ in an oscar-winning movie). Read more
All is not what it at first seems. It starts out like the classic boast of the school playground. But the playground is certainly not where it all ends…
Steve Turner is a wonderful poet whose poems always twist and jive with the best of them. I just wish he’d get back on the case and write some more… Get on with it, Steve!!
I’m sorry for being so rubbish at posting recently. There’s been lots in my head that I’d love to speak on but it’s been manic, what with Christmas and all (quite apart from recently Langham jollies in Athens and Sarajevo). But after getting back from Bosnia on Saturday, we started the annual decoration rituals… with a difference. Bonkers, I concede, but we decided to throw together a rather rough and ready stop-motion animation of the tree going up. Read more
Here was a bit of fun from our holiday in Sicily – a stop-motion jolly directed by my son Joshua, involving my parents, me and my children plus my brother! Perhaps a new movie dynasty is born…
Having failed to come up with the goods yet again last Friday, I suppose you could say that this counts as a bit of delayed Friday Fun … on Monday…
Well, this is a lot of fun – done by my son and nephew. It’s amazing what you can do with a camera and some poker chips when you put your mind to it. Enjoy
and that concludes Q’s service for this academic year. Off for a couple of weeks – may be the odd photo posted. But normal service will resume in September.
One of the challenges of recent months has been to find ways to help our kids spend a little bit less time immersed in electronic entertainment – whether it be from the TV, internet, DS or Wii. As any parent will know, this is a constant, Sisyphean struggle. But one tactic we’ve come up with (having vainly and naïvely tried to impose some sort of daily time limit on such things) is to have a weekly electronics-free day (in our case, Thursdays) – this (theoretically at least!) includes the TV. The idea is to get on with reading, or creating something or generally doing something with us. Read more
My parents have been doing what we in our family call ‘rootling’ – searching through family roots, trees and provenance. They’ve been doing some digging on their area in Norfolk and suddenly came across this utterly bizarre little mediaeval detail.
It is a scan from Blomefield’s Topographical History of Norfolk published c1739 – and I can only imagine what must of gone through the learned Mr Blomefield’s mind as he recorded the annual (Christmas, no less!!) duty of Baldwin le Pettour of Hemmingston. I just love the fact that he takes the trouble to include a quote from a contemporary Latin chronicle, just in case we doubted his word: per saltum, sufflatum, et pettum).
The mind boggles about what Baldwin must have initially done to deserve such an honour; or, for that matter, what particularly provoked King John (right) to demand such a duty. Read more
Just back from a week over New Year in the glorious Derbyshire Peaks. We walked up Dovedale several times over the week, including a wonderful ascent (which makes it sound far grander than it really was!) of Thorpe Cloud just as the sun was setting. Truly magnificent. I can assure you that no filters have been used in the production of these images…
A hatched together panorama from Thorpe Cloud looking due west:
Some views along Dovedale:
Then some from earlier in the week
Click here to see the whole set…
How about this for an opening paragraph?
January 15th, 1918, was a cold, sparkling, sunny day. Not much happened in the Great War that day. As usual, about two thousand men (of the millions along the Western Front) died; some because they stuck their heads up too high and got shot; some because they got their feet wet too often and caught pneumonia; many by accident; and a steady few by their own hand. It was one thousand two hundred and sixty days sine Britain and Germany had declared war. Not that anyone was counting.
So begins Derek Robinson’s 1971 novel about the Royal Flying Corps, Goshawk Squadron. It is now regarded as something of a classic – and it’s easy to see why. Set in the last year of the war, the opening paragraph sets the tone: matter-of-fact and sardonic, cynical and war-worn. Robinson searingly conjures up the brutality and insanity of war, as these young men, commanded by a deranged and fatalistic young major, Stanley Woolley (aged only 22), flew S.E. 5‘s (see left). They were lambs to the slaughter, in some ways even more vulnerable in their flimsy planes than the millions ranged in the trenches thousands of feet below them.
This gives another flavour:
‘Somebody did tell me he thought they might be a tiny bit stronger than us at the moment. I believe the figure mentioned was one and half million in rifle strength… Of course I got that from a chap in Intelligence,’ Woodruffe said. ‘They’re always wrong.’
‘What I can’t understand,’ Richards said, ‘is why we have to wait. Why don’t we hit them first?’
‘It’s been tried,’ Lambert told him. ‘Remember Passchendaele? That was our idea’
‘Passchendaele,’ said Dickinson softly. ‘Passion Dale. There’s something almost Miltonic about it. or do I mean Bunyanesque? Ranks of valiant warriors crashing to catastrophe, with a great deal of rolling thunder and rather too much sulphur and brimstone.’
‘It was pretty horrible,’ said Kimberley severely.
‘Don’t tell me, chum. I was there. I flew forty-three patrols in one week.’
‘Have you really been in the Corps that long?’ Woodruffe asked in surprise. ‘I had no idea it was that long.‘ (p75) [NB Passchendaele was only about 6 months before]
As Robinson says in the afterword, he was deliberately seeking to shatter the myth of airborne chivalry, Lloyd-George’s so-called cavalry of the clouds. Far from fighting with decorum and dignity, the only hope was to get the other guy in the back before he got you – no evenly matched noble dogfights here. Woolley is determined to see his young recruits kill rather than survive – he doesn’t even bother to learn some of their names – because he knows they won’t last.
The squadron spent the rest of the day settling in. Three replacements arrived: Callaghan, Peacock and Blunt, straight from Flying Training Schools in England. The adjutant, holding his head with one hand, took them to Woolley, ‘Replacements, sir,’ he said. ‘Their names…’
‘I don’t want to know,’ Woolley said flatly. He looked at their fresh, serious, eager-to-impress faces and turned away. He was eating a cold sausage; his tongue located a piece of gristle and spat it out. ‘I am a genial, jovial and well-liked commanding officer,’ he told them. ‘My warmth and charm are exceeded only by my old-fashioned courtesy and my f***ing sympathy.’ He started at Lambert’s stranded plane. ‘As long as you are in this shoddy squadron, there are certain words you will not use. Here they are. Fair, sporting, honourable, decent, gentlemanly.’ Woolley felt in his pocket, took out a flimsy telegram, read it, blew his nose on it, and threw it away. ‘Those are bad words,’ he said. ‘Bad, murdering words. Don’t even think them.’ (p105)
Robinson uses the 12 forces of the Beaufort scale as a nice device to ratchet up the tension – each chapter begins with the description of the next force up. This grows the sense of chaotic doom – who survives or dies is as much a matter of chance as anything else. It is as raw as it can get – the ultimate expression in the bestial side of human nature. Just as for those who fought, this book is remorseless and dark. But all the more important for that. Because in this war, as with so many, there were no real winners
Goshawk Squadron does in prose what so many of the greats like Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Rupert Brooke did in poetry. It’s an extraordinary read.
Now, regulars may well wonder what on earth sparked reading this book.
Well, my great-grandfather, Henrik Loeffler, (right) was British (having naturalised aged 14 when his father did, having been born here 1876), despite the fact that the rest of the family had all been born in Germany. He subsequently married a Swedish wife, and lived in England for the rest of his life – but even more extraordinarily, he himself was a member of the Royal Flying Corps (although we’ve not yet established what his role exactly was). So he fought for the British … against the Germans.
Now that’s a story I’d love to know more about…
My brother, Francis, has set up a B&B in North Norfolk and has now set up a web-presence for it. It’s called The Old Gatehouse, and is a beautiful old house, set in an historic village, only a few miles from the sea. The perfect place to escape for some R&R.
Having just returned from South Africa, my heart was stirred afresh by that great continent of life. So I thought that this week I’d celebrate with our very own QUAERENTIA AFRICA week. The Southeaster will lure us back in time I suspect…
Johnny Clegg has been called the White Zulu. And his is certainly an extraordinary life. Born outside Manchester in the UK, an early childhood in Israel briefly before moving to southern Africa where he has been ever since. And his music reflects all these different influences – singing fluently in English and Zulu, as well as occasionally in French and other South African languages. Having seen a poster for his outdoor gig at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the very day we arrived, we jumped at the chance of getting tickets (having heard him back in the UK summer at Mandela’s 90th concert). We had a right laugh going - a few pix on our Flickr page here.
Here are 2 of Johnny’s protest songs which seem particularly poignant when placed side by side. The first, written in 1987 years before a multi-racial government seemed possible, is perhaps one of his most well-known in the UK: ASIMBONANGA. It is Zulu, meaning ‘we have not seen him’ and is all about Mandela’s imprisonment across Cape Town’s bay on Robben Island. But watch this clip – and see who appears! From Frankfurt in 1998, at Mandela’s 80th.
This one is more recent. Recorded in Jo’burg in 2006, this song is about another African president who was heralded at the start in terms not unlike those used of Mandela 10 years later. But how differently the tyrant of Zimbabwe is now regarded. This is: THE REVOLUTION WILL EAT ITS CHILDREN (ANTHEM FOR UNCLE BOB).