Saturday, 30 January 2010

A 'Grrr' on things short and tweet

Hullo ma wee blog,

As usual, I don't get it. {nothing unusual about that, the lovely G would say!} It could actually be said that 'thankfully' I don't get it, since what I don't get is 'Twitter'. I'm not a member so again thankfully I don't receive these irritating 140 character or less messages from anyone. It doesn't mean that I am immune though as often Twitter is linked to blogs and therefore I have experienced some of the deep and meaningful messages that 'Tweeters' are wont to share and with nephews and neices there is always twitter, tweeting and facebooking going on. I'm impressed by the sheer lack of any kind of meaningful content in most instances.

Most of it seems to be absolute babble: what they are sitting down to eat, how good the coffee is, that they've just bought a pair of shoes/aftershave/hairdo, Gillians just been tweeted by James and other absolute banalities. I have been put off by the amount of absolute tripe that's involved. Why is it so important to immediately read and respond to the bilge that comes through while at work, the dinner table or even the cinema for Gods sake?...... {Strangely the guy next to me in the gents at the last concert I went to was tweeting skillfully one handed while busily engaged in other things} What is the point of 140 characters or less? Is there anything meaningful that can be communicated within those parameters?

Well, yes, of course there is and I imagine that hopefully many people do just that. I don't have any evidence of it though. 99% of what I have seen is just drivel. The kind of stuff that, if it was being sent to me at the rate that many of the exponents seem to punt it out, would have me hunting them down taking their whatever off them and jumping up and down on it in front of them while I screamed " If you don't have anything important or interesting to say then leave me alone!" at them.

Since I wont ever sign up to Tweet myself its never going to happen.

I love communication. I love language. Often, regardless of how banal, mundane or out of my sphere of experience the content, I am swept up by the pace, style, tone of language used - the way a thought is constructed, an argument is posited, a claim is staked - and I am enjoyably immersed in someones thoughts, feelings and cares as they share their perspective, their intelligence or their involvement. I am in awe of people who communicate well, craftsmen who delight in language and can use it playfully or creatively to suit the mood, the message and the audience perfectly. But language {and understanding} is so precious that it shouldn't be abused by shoe horning into something that just doesn't fit. It should be delivered in its own time, enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of communicating and seeing understanding or thoughtful reaction in return shouldn't it?

I do believe that communication is good. But is it any communication, or is it only 'good' communication. Ach, I don't know - I wouldn't know what is 'good' communication is except that it surely has to be satisfyingly meaningful and clear for the parties involved perhaps. Can it be done consistently in a tweet? { or am I really saying that I couldn't do it in a tweet?} All this tweeting about nothing is just an interruption, an irritation, a statement that you think what you have to say is more important than what I am doing at the moment. {even if I am reading a blog and you are winking away in the corner of my eye, determined to distract me from my item of choice} Are inane tweets a sign of sad old 'Billy no mates' just punting stuff into the ether as a way of saying "I'm here" and two minutes later, " I'm still here so no use ignoring me cos I won't go away!"?

Loving language, even if I've not mastered it fully myself, I regret when someone can't express themselves. Its got to be as frustrating for them as it is for me sometimes, but sometimes people don't even see that they can't express themselves effectively. They cant debate an issue or argue a case, make a point, or state an opinion because they don't have the skill of language and the effective experience of practice and these are things which take time to learn and time to deliver. It can't be done in 140 characters. I'm worried we are in danger of neglecting the skills to acquire understanding and love of language. What next - Shakespeare in tweet form?

Today we are being fed information in ever shrinking chunks. Everything reduced to a sound bite, an easily digestible chunk, just as easily incorrect or misinterpreted and easily accepted as gospel as it covers only the bare bones of content and context. Much is simplified to the lowest common denominator {and then the presentation can be complicated by 'blabber' boards across the bottom of TV screens for instance}. It really scares me that in the future many parts of society wont be able to form an opinion on anything, to challenge anything effectively. {at least in 140 characters or more} This is another facet of what Twitter represents for me and why I see it as potentially debasing what language and communication is there to do.

I know, I'm getting older, the world is changing, life is faster and I should just accept that I can't keep up. If the kids can handle it then surely it must be ok. Well of course there is the potential for it to be either hugely damaging or hugely beneficial.

So is Twitter all bad?

Well not really. Perversely there are also real benefits to instantly connected limited scale messaging.

During the 2008 Mumbai attacks eyewitnesses sent an estimated 80 tweets every 5 seconds. Twitter users on the ground helped compile a list of the dead and injured. In addition, users sent out vital information such as emergency phone numbers and the location of hospitals needing blood donations. CNN called this "the day that social media appeared to come of age" since many different groups made significant use of Twitter to gather news and coordinate responses. Of course me being me thought that most of them would have been better putting their phones and blackberries away and actually HELPING the injured not bloomin' tweeting!

The Australian Country Fire Authority used Twitter to send out regular alerts and updates regarding the February 2009 Victorian bushfires. During this time the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, also used his Twitter account to send out information on the fires, how to donate money and blood, and where to seek emergency help.

Also in April 2009, some American public health departments used Twitter to provide updates on H1N1 cases.

The Distance College of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, use Twitter with native Chinese students as a tool to train communicative and cultural competence. Students have to post a certain number of English tweets and react to the tweets of their fellow students. Twitter was viewed as a supplement to practice in authentic environment different aspects of the target language as it was taught in the classroom.

The University of Vienna, Austria, used Twitter as an evaluation platform for student ratings. Every student had to send a tweet after each course unit with feedback to the teacher. Twitter turned out to be "a useful tool for evaluating a course formatively. Because of Twitter's simple use and the electronic handling of data, the administrative effort remains small."

At the University of Texas at Dallas, Twitter has been incorporated into the actual classroom setting of History courses with big groups of students. This innovative approach gives more students the opportunity to express their views in class discussions. Another advantage of this approach is that the limit of characters forces them to get to the central point.

According to, Twitter is to be put on the new primary school curriculum. Children should be able to "organise and adjust" speaking and writing skills depending on the technology being used, including using "emails, messaging, wikis and twitters". During the primary years, children should also be taught to speak, write and broadcast using "blogs, podcasts, websites, email and video".

There are other areas which could benefit from Twitters need to be concise. It would be wonderful if celebrities {the Twitterati?} could only accept BAFTA's or OSCAR's by Twitter for example.

Encouragingly, when Twitter themselves won an IT industry web award Twitter staff accepted their prize with the remark "we'd like to thank you in 140 characters or less. And we just did!

Less beneficially Twitter collects personally identifiable information about its users and shares it with third parties. The service considers that information an asset, and reserves the right to sell it if the company changes hands.

Another reason why I'll not be signing up.

Twitter has now been assimilated into language with one new addition to Oxford English Dictionary this year being a 'Tweeting' - a meeting arranged by the use of Twitter.

That'll be one meeting I wont be going to.............

see you later.

Listening to REM 'Shiny Happy People'

Thursday, 28 January 2010

153 Sqn. 28th January 1945 - zuffenhausen

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

On the 28th, following strenuous efforts by all station and squadron personnel to clear the runways of snow, the squadron sent 17 aircraft to attack the Hirth aero-engine factory at Zuffenhausen (Stuttgart). Leaving Scampton at 1925, flying conditions were poor, solid clouds shrouded the target and bombs had to be aimed at aerial sky-markers. Flak was light to moderate, but enemy fighters were active. PB 638(P4-O), flown by an all-RAF (VR) crew, piloted by F/O Owen Jones DFC, assisted by F/Sgt Peter Jenkinson DFM (the Squadron's only Flight Engineer to be awarded this honour) was shot down and crashed at Michelbach, a small village about 12 miles south-east of Heidelberg.

All are buried in Durnbach War Cemetery. Sgt Jenkinson's DFM was Gazetted 11Dec45. His skipper was an Oxford University graduate. P/O O.M.C.Jones DFC KIA Sgt P.R.Jenkinson DFM KIA F/S J.F.Dormer KIA F/S E.W Fletcher KIA F/S J.W.Milburn KIA F/S J.Coles KIA F/S H.Ferguson KIA

Especially among their fellow pilots, the loss of both the 'Jones boys' was particularly felt. Individually they had each carried more 'second dickies' than anyone else; this introduction to operational flying is never forgotten by any pilot - neither is the crew that provides the outing. Although a vital part of the newly joined pilot's training, this was a chore for the host crew, as it created a hindrance to normal crew working. The Flight Engineer suffered the most, as the 'second dickey' occupied his usual station, blocked access to the engine instrument panel and even occupied his seat. But this was never allowed to show, and the 'new boy' was always made to feel welcome.

The hazardous nature of operational flying was recorded by 'Big Tom' Tobin who flew on every one of the seven January raids. Extracts from his recollections include:

7 Jan Munich Over dense cloud. Met with accurate flak and fighter activity. Near miss with another Lanc. Is my luck running out?

14 Jan Leuna Accurate searchlights and flak. Mid-upper turret lines severed. Also, hit in port outer engine, so feathered. 3-engined landing. Engine had to be replaced due to severe damage.

16 Jan Zeitz Rear turret became unserviceable from hydraulic failure. Flak intense, suffered flak hole damage, but aircraft flyable.

22 Jan Duisburg starboard outer engine failed 5 mins from target. Bombed anyway.

28 Jan Zuffenhausen Heavy fighter activity. Another near miss with another Lanc.

Co-operation between Pilots and their Navigators did not prohibit friendly insults being exchanged between 'Drivers' and 'Naviguessers'! The problems they had to face were however not funny, as the following further report by one navigator reveals:

"Nuremburg. 2 Jan. Shortly after take-off the GEE {navigation system} set caught fire. I changed the fuse, but no good. Fire put out by extinguisher, which meant GEE completely u/s. Given this situation, had perforce to follow the {bomber} stream and turn with it at turning points. Could pick up no pinpoints due to 10/10 cloud, {cloud cover was described in 10ths with 10/10 being complete cloud cover} but on the assumption that the stream was on correct course, was able to calculate estimated winds. As darkness fell we could no longer see the stream, so I went over to dead reckoning (DR) using estimated winds. At approx. 7.30 degrees East obtained two fixes on H2S {radar system} which showed us about 5 miles off track. After 30 minutes, the H2S packed up. Then the Wireless Operator's W/T set went u/s and soon after, the Mid-upper gunner's helmet also failed. Navigating solely on DR, saw Target Indicators ahead. Bombed at 19.36hrs (four minutes ahead of our allotted time), but thus obtained an accurate fix over a known position! Going home entirely on DR I tried changing leads on GEE (or H2S) set but it again caught fire and had to be extinguished. Reaching 7 degrees East had to fly a very long leg of 253 miles to French coast (DR time 83 mins). After 78 minutes purely on DR without any confirmatory fixes we hit the slipstream of another aircraft and were relieved to find ourselves back with the main stream. Thus, we were able to cross the coast on track and avoid the flak from Dunkirk, reaching England via Orfordness. After identifying the Woodbridge pundit to the left, we were able to navigate by the crew looking out for pundits and occults from which I took an approximate visual bearing to determine our estimated position and thus Scampton would appear about 4 miles ahead on the port quarter. All eyes strained looking for it, and thankfully it appeared just ahead to port flashing the welcome letters 'SA'."

At debriefing he was asked, "When was the first time you knew exactly where you were?". He truthfully replied "Not until we were over Nuremberg and being shot at".
The stress of incidents like this on a crew in combat conditions must have been incredible. {It also shows that little has changed with the reports of inadequate equipment currently being made from forces in Afghanistan and Iraq today.}

On 31st January the Air Ministry advised the decision that in view of a prospective shortage of crews in heavy bomber squadrons, the much shorter penetrations usually made into enemy territory and the 'much lesser risks involved' compared with those of 1942 and 1943, that the length of a first tour in Main Force groups would be increased from 30 to 36 sorties, whilst a second tour would remain at 20 sorties. AOC's of Groups 'would continue to assess sorties involving short penetration or little enemy opposition at less than the value of the full sortie'.

Although crews became aware that tours were being extended to 36 sorties none appeared to have heard of the depreciated value being accorded to some of them - which perhaps is just as well considering the losses the squadron had sustained over the last 4 weeks.

The number of crews on squadron strength fell to just 30 - the lowest total in its existence. This was partly caused by inclement weather in December, which restricted the number of replacement crews passing out of OTU's and Heavy Conversion Units.

On 29th January, while awaiting replacements for 6 operational losses (plus return of LM 754(P4-E), undergoing lengthy repair of combat damage) the Squadron could muster only 16 serviceable aircraft.

Taken together, these figures illustrate why January ushered in an unhappy period for the squadron. In the preceding three months, it had launched a total of 448 sorties for a loss of 5 crews. During January, another 5 crews were lost in flying a further 121 sorties. This equated to 15% of flight crews lost from what was a small and close knit group in just 4 weeks. It would be fair to assume {I can't confirm} that a similar number of aircrew would return injured to some extent based on injured/KIA statistics at wars end.

No obvious reason emerged to explain this steep upsurge in the rate of casualties.

While the squadron licked its wounds and tended its injured crews and damaged machines February ushered in the nine most momentous weeks in the Squadron's history. Losses would continue to mount with increased frequency of ops over the period leading up to the end of hostilities.

See you later.......

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

To be - or Not To Be.........seen.

Hullo ma wee blog,

I don't often wander into such dramatically hot political/religious waters perhaps but I hope you forgive me on this occasion.

A French parliamentary committee has recommended a partial ban on women wearing Islamic face veils. The question being asked now is should there be a similar ban in the UK - and would it work?

Just across the English Channel, allowing a woman to veil her face in public places such as hospitals, government offices and on public transport could soon be called into question. In a country where the separation of state and religion is enshrined in law, a parliamentary committee report ruled the veil was "contrary to the values of the republic" and called on parliament to adopt a formal resolution proclaiming "all of France is saying 'no' to the full veil".

France - which is home to five million Muslims - has a history of debating the full veil, with President Nicolas Sarkozy declaring it "not welcome" in 2010.

The country banned Muslim headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious symbols at state schools in 2004.

The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women.

These scarves, regarded by many Muslims as a symbol of both religion and womanhood, come in a myriad of styles and colours.

The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.

The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like scarf.

The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.

The khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.

The chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath

The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.

The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.

On Monday in the Independent newspaper the journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote:

"It is gratifying that so many white British liberals have come out to defend shrouded Muslim women. Their generosity of spirit and messianic belief in liberty makes them recoil from a state ban on the burka.

Here, we are reassured, such a ban would be impossible. OK, the bonkers UKIP lot and rabid BNP bang on about it; noisy nuisances, easily ignored. Liberals say it just isn't British to prohibit and limit the personal choices of freeborn citizens.

Really? The British never accept any curtailment of individual preferences? So how has it come to pass that in this green and free land, we have more state surveillance and imposed restrictions and regulations than any other EU country ? Why, we can't even take snaps in the streets without a hand of authority falling on the shoulder.

Naturists would love, I'm sure, to wander down Oxford Street, just window-shopping of course. They can't, because for most people that would be too much out there. Women in the full burka are the other side of that same coin. They give too little out there and, using passive violence, disconnect from the humanity around them.

Then the creed of liberalism, that passion for freedom and choice which sustains and vitalises Western civilisations. Ever more precious and fragile in today's world, I can see why it must be honoured and sheltered from the armies of repression.

However does liberalism have any duty to those who use liberal values as weapons to promote illiberalism? Is it obliged to become a suicide bomber, to self-destruct to prove itself?

We Muslims worldwide are engaged in ideological struggles against the Saudi Wahabis who have the cash and cunning to lure disenchanted middle-class and impoverished, powerless Muslims into their caves, where light itself fears to enter. Yet some liberal Westerners take dilettante positions on freedom because their own lives are unaffected. Instead of standing with modernists, the staunchest defenders of freedom, they defect to the enemy. The retrogressive Muslim Council of Britain is now back in bed with the Government.

You people who support the "freedom" to wear the burka, do you think anorexics and drug addicts have the right to choose what they do? This covering makes women invisible, invalidates their participatory rights and confirms them as evil temptresses. Does it stop men from raping them? Does it mean they have more respect in the home and enclaves? Like hell it does. I feel the same fury when I see Orthodox Jewish women in wigs, with their many children, living tightly proscribed lives.

I also understand that as society becomes less restrained, fear makes Muslims opt for separation. Used as a political protest, veils have potency – but the price is too high. Farzana Hassan of the Muslim Canadian Congress wants the burka banned because gender equality is non-negotiable. British Muslims for Secular Democracy (of which I am chair) are against a ban but do support restrictions in key public spaces, and point out that during the Haj pilgrimage no woman covers her face, that the burka makes women more, not less, conspicuous, and that communication is unequal because one party hides all expression."

Its a difficult question to be sure. There are no easy answers.

My view is constantly updating. I firmly hold against injustice and for peoples right to live as much as possible without interference and regulation in whatever way they choose. I'm protective of the freedoms that we have in our society while feeling that we need to work hard to make society more, not less accepting of the potential benefits of immigration and the ability of other cultures to enrich our society, our understanding and our future. But I'm also aggrieved by those who choose to come and take the advantages of our culture, our society, our freedoms and yet will not participate, will not engage, will not embrace the culture that provides so much. To me the burqa and niqab represents this rejection of the west, of our culture and values. Its alien. They deliberately prevent direct communication. It clashes visibly, incontrovertibly and deliberately with our beliefs and values in a dramatic, physical and for many, highly intimidating way. It says I am not to be trusted to treat you with respect. It says you want to be separated and protected from me and that you reject my cultures heritage and values. For that reason I would support a ban on these items of clothing in public places and any other symbol which refuted our values so strongly. I'm not against the hijab, Al-mira, shayla or any other version or covering of heads etc.

Simply put if wearing the burqa or niqab is a statement of who you are and your values, you have no place in my society just as I want no place in yours, nor for instance in a society supporting someone who wants to walk down our streets, pray in our religious houses or teach in our schools in riot gear or a Nazi uniform.

I believe that we Britons, the Muslims, Christians and all religions and elements of our society have a huge challenge working together in overcoming the obstacles which create divisions that should have no part in a free, fair, open and multicultural Britain in the 21st century.

see you later........

Listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter 'Stones in the Road'

One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night...........

Hullo ma wee blog,

Of course it's not unusual for me to be awake at 4.00am. It is unusual for me to be quite happy and relaxed about it though, like I was today. Rarely for me I had gone to bed at 11.30 and slept right through till 4.00. So there I was refreshed and ready for the day but needing to be quiet for another few hours so that the lovely G got the sleep she needed.

Having put on the heating and hot water {the lovely G prefers not to rely on timers but perversely gets up to switch the boiler on manually. She loves being able to go back to bed for another hour, but also likes to be told sometimes that she doesn't need to come down as I will deal with it for her} and with coffee in hand I retired to the library and a comfy chair by the window so I would see the first lightening of the night into day. I had taken with me my current read; Bill Brysons 'Made in America' which I am enjoying immensely even though its just begun. I've read several of his books and he seems like a familiar voice to me now.

I've not often sat in the library this winter so far. Usually it's been too cold to be in there in the mornings and anyway, my usual haunt is the kitchen table where its warmer and a bit more distant in case of any noise disturbing the notoriously light sleeping G. It's rare that I can sneak out of the bedroom at any time of the night without a sleepy "love you" or "coffee again?" before I even get my hand on the squeaky door knob. {Aye, I know. I should do something about that. Quit nagging me will you!} Today though, it's quite balmy for a change even though it's been windy most of the night. The temperature, though the heating hasn't had a chance to make a difference, is fine and although I took a fleece with me I don't need it.

My favourite chair is across the angle in the corner and sitting there the window is on my left, its wooden blind still smelling fresh and new. Beyond it the small bookcase holds mainly my paperbacks, some favourites but mostly cheap and tacky, holiday reads yet to be read or discarded. On top is a Christmas cactus belonging to my Grandmother, probably older than I am and valued beyond belief. Next is a cacqualon {ceramic fondue bowl} hand painted in Swizerland and filled with odds and ends - pens, tiny screwdriver, things I know I will need some day - and then a photo of Dad and crew under the Lancaster. Beyond that, almost the full width of the wall, are the pale gold varnished wooden louvre doors of the built-in double wardrobe that shows the library for the bedroom it used to be, framed either side by a map from my collection and on top by a long framed photograph of 153 Squadron taken in July 1945. Then at the corner opposite me, the door out to the hall and then the large brown leather sofa bed with yet more maps above, these ones showing Edinburgh, The Lothians and Fife changing slowly over the last two hundred and sixty years or so. The corner hides a carefully stacked and tastefully cloth covered pile of boxes from the lovely G's parents house containing thousands of her fathers photographs still waiting to be checked and divided between her and her brothers. Unable to face the size of the task when we moved here shortly after her dads death they have lain apparently forgotten but calling patiently and with quiet insistence to be dealt with ever since. The last wall holds the big bookcase. Solid, wooden, the strong shelves are crammed with my hardbacks, originally filled by subject: history, architecture, religious history, arcana, Scotland, England, France and the like. My system is now somewhat degraded due to overcrowding and that too needs to be dealt with some time, sooner than later, preferably.

Behind me in the corner are two favourite maps: a 1550 woodcut map of Switzerland made in Zurich and a huge map of Scotland made in France for the Dauphin, by his court cartographer in 1690, reflecting the status and hopes of the Jacobites, newly arrived at court and probably at the height of their importance, influence and expectation of restoration to the British crown.

Then there's me baukit* in the corner

The coffee is hot and strong to the taste, just the thing for a first cup. Smiling, comfortable, I pick up my book and begin to read........

see you later.

listening to Debussy 'The Girl with the Flaxen Hair'

*baukit - comfortably settled/Not likely to move anywhere soon. {The Minister came in and got baukit by the fire.}

Monday, 25 January 2010

Burns Night poem............

Tonight is Burns Night and we celebrate the works of 'The Bard' Robert Burns and eat haggis neeps and tatties {Haggis, turnip and potatoes} - and a wee drop or two of whiskey!

Here's 'Tam O Shanter', one of his best. A translation is in brackets after each verse to help you along or you can read along with the recitation in the clip.

I hope you enjoy it....

When chapmen billies leave the street,
And drouthy neibors, neibors meet,
As market days are wearing late,
An' folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
And getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Where sits our sulky sullen dame.
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

{When the peddler folk leave the streets,
And thirsty neighbours, neighbours meet;
As market days are wearing late,
And folk begin to take the road home,
While we sit boozing strong ale,
And getting drunk and very happy,
We don’t think of the long Scots miles,
The marshes, waters, steps and stiles,
That lie between us and our home,
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame (wife),
Gathering her brows like a gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath, to keep it warm.}

This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,
Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses
For honest men and bonie lasses.

{This truth finds honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he from Ayr one night did canter;
Old Ayr, which never a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonny lasses.}

O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise,
As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was nae sober;
That ilka melder, wi' the miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That every naig was ca'd a shoe on,
The smith and thee gat roaring fou on;
That at the Lord's house, even on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou would be found deep drown'd in Doon;
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.

{Oh Tam, had you but been so wise,
As to have taken your own wife Kate’s advice!
She told you well you were a waster,
A rambling, blustering, drunken boaster,
That from November until October,
Each market day you were not sober;
During each milling period with the miller,
You sat as long as you had money,
For every horse he put a shoe on,
The blacksmith and you got roaring drunk on;
That at the Lords House, even on Sunday,
You drank with Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied, that, late or soon,
You would be found deep drowned in Doon,
Or caught by warlocks in the murk,
By Alloway’s old haunted church.}

Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd, sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!

{Ah, gentle ladies, it makes me cry,
To think how many counsels sweet,
How much long and wise advice
The husband from the wife despises!}

But to our tale:-- Ae market-night,
Tam had got planted unco right;
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely
And at his elbow, Souter Johnny,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony;
Tam lo'ed him like a vera brither--
They had been fou for weeks thegither!
The night drave on wi' sangs and clatter
And ay the ale was growing better:
The landlady and Tam grew gracious,
wi' favours secret,sweet and precious
The Souter tauld his queerest stories;
The landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

{But to our tale :- One market night,
Tam was seated just right,
Next to a fireplace, blazing finely,
With creamy ales, that drank divinely;
And at his elbow, Cobbler Johnny,
His ancient, trusted, thirsty crony;
Tam loved him like a very brother,
They had been drunk for weeks together.
The night drove on with songs and clatter,
And every ale was tasting better;
The landlady and Tam grew gracious,
With secret favours, sweet and precious;
The cobbler told his queerest stories;
The landlord’s laugh was ready chorus:
Outside, the storm might roar and rustle,
Tam did not mind the storm a whistle.}

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himsel' amang the nappy!
As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious.
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!

{Care, mad to see a man so happy,
Even drowned himself in ale.
As bees fly home with loads of treasure,
The minutes winged their way with pleasure:
Kings may be blessed, but Tam was glorious,
Over all the ills of life victorious.}

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You sieze the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white--then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.--
Nae man can tether time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

{But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow fall on the river,
A moment white - then melts forever,
Or like the Aurora Borealis rays,
That move before you can point to where they're placed;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form,
Vanishing amid the storm.
No man can tether time or tide,
The hour approaches Tom must ride:
That hour, of night’s black arch - the key-stone,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in
And such a night he takes to the road in
As never a poor sinner had been out in}

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand,
The Deil had business on his hand.

{The wind blew as if it had blown its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallowed,
Loud, deep and long the thunder bellowed:
That night, a child might understand,
The Devil had business on his hand.}

Weel mounted on his gray mare, Meg--
A better never lifted leg--
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire;
Despisin' wind and rain and fire.
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet;
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet;
Whiles glowring round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares:
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.

{Well mounted on his grey mare, Meg.
A better never lifted leg,
Tam, raced on through mud and mire,
Despising wind and rain and fire;
Whilst holding fast his good blue bonnet,
While crooning over some old Scots sonnet,
Whilst glowering round with prudent care,
Lest ghosts catch him unaware:
Alloway’s Church was drawing near,
Where ghosts and owls nightly cry.}

By this time he was cross the ford,
Whare, in the snaw, the chapman smoor'd;
And past the birks and meikle stane,
Whare drunken Chairlie brak 's neck-bane;
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,
Whare hunters fand the murder'd bairn;
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Whare Mungo's mither hang'd hersel'.--
Before him Doon pours all his floods;
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods;
The lightnings flash from pole to pole;
Near and more near the thunders roll:
When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze;
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing;
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

{By this time he was across the ford,
Where in the snow the pedlar got smothered;
And past the birch trees and the huge stone,
Where drunken Charlie broke his neck bone;
And through the thorns, and past the monument,
Where hunters found the murdered child;
And near the thorn, above the well,
Where Mungo’s mother hung herself.
Before him the river Doon pours all his floods;
The doubling storm roars throught the woods;
The lightnings flashes from pole to pole;
Nearer and more near the thunder rolls;
When, glimmering through the groaning trees,
Alloway’s Church seemed in a blaze,
Through every gap , light beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.}

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippeny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!--
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle,
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle.
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,
She ventured forward on the light;
And, vow! Tam saw an unco sight

{Inspiring, bold John Barleycorn! (whisky)
What dangers you can make us scorn!
With ale, we fear no evil;
With whisky, we’ll face the Devil!
The ales so swam in Tam’s head,
Fair play, he didn’t care a farthing for devils.
But Maggie stood, right sore astonished,
Till, by the heel and hand admonished,
She ventured forward on the light;
And, vow! Tam saw an incredible sight!}

Warlocks and witches in a dance;
Nae cotillion brent-new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge:
He scre'd the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl.--
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the dead in their last dresses;
And by some develish cantraip slight,
Each in its cauld hand held a light.--
By which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the haly table,
A murders's banes in gibbet-airns;
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristen'd bairns;
A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,
Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape;
Five tomahawks, wi blude red-rusted;
Five scymitars, wi' murder crusted;
A garter, which a babe had strangled;
A knife, a father's throat had mangled,
Whom his ain son o' life bereft,
The gray hairs yet stack to the heft;
Wi' mair o' horrible and awfu',
Which even to name was be unlawfu'.
Three lawyers' tongues, turn'd inside out,
Wi' lies seam'd like a beggar's clout;
Three priests' hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinking, vile in every neuk.

{Warlocks and witches in a dance:
No cotillion, brand new from France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
In a window alcove in the east,
There sat Old Nick, in shape of beast;
A shaggy dog, black, grim, and large,
To give them music was his charge:
He screwed the pipes and made them squeal,
Till roof and rafters all did ring.
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That showed the dead in their last dresses;
And, by some devilish magic sleight,
Each in its cold hand held a light:
By which heroic Tom was able
To note upon the holy table,
A murderer’s bones, in gibbet-irons;
Two span-long, small, unchristened babies;
A thief just cut from his hanging rope -
With his last gasp his mouth did gape;
Five tomahawks with blood red-rusted;
Five scimitars with murder crusted;
A garter with which a baby had strangled;
A knife a father’s throat had mangled -
Whom his own son of life bereft -
The grey-hairs yet stack to the shaft;
With more o' horrible and awful,
Which even to name would be unlawful.
Three Lawyers’ tongues, turned inside out,
Sown with lies like a beggar’s cloth -
Three Priests’ hearts, rotten, black as muck
Lay stinking, vile, in every nook.}

As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The piper loud and louder blew;
The dancers quick and quicker flew;
They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,
And coost her duddies to the wark,
And linket at it her sark!

{As Thomas glowered, amazed, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew,
They reeled, they set, they crossed, they linked,
Till every witch sweated and smelled,
And cast her ragged clothes to the floor,
And danced deftly at it in her underskirts!}

Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans,
A' plump and strapping in their teens,
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen,
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linnen!
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,
That ance were plush, o' gude blue hair,
I wad hae gi'en them off my hurdies,
For ae blink o' the bonie burdies!

{Now Tam, O Tam! had these been queens,
All plump and strapping in their teens!
Their underskirts, instead of greasy flannel,
Been snow-white seventeen hundred linen! -
The trousers of mine, my only pair,
That once were plush, of good blue hair,
I would have given them off my buttocks
For one blink of those pretty girls !}

But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,
Louping and flinging on a crummock,
I wonder did na turn thy stomach!

{But withered hags, old and droll,
Ugly enough to suckle a foal,
Leaping and flinging on a stick,
Its a wonder it didn’t turn your stomach!}

But Tam kend what was what fu' brawlie:
There was ae winsome wench and waulie,
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;
(For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her cutty-sark, o' Paisley harn
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie,-
Ah! little ken'd thy reverend grannie,
That sark she coft for he wee Nannie,
Wi' twa pund Scots, ('twas a' her riches),
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!

{But Tam knew what was what well enough:
There was one winsome, jolly wench,
That night enlisted in the core,
Long after known on Carrick shore
(For many a beast to dead she shot,
And perished many a bonnie boat,
And shook both much corn and barley,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her short underskirt, o’ Paisley cloth,
That while a young lass she had worn,
In longitude though very limited,
It was her best, and she was proud. . .
Ah! little knew your reverend grandmother,
That skirt she bought for her little grandaughter,
With two Scots pounds (it was all her riches),
Would ever graced a dance of witches!}

{But Tam knew what was what well enough:
There was one winsome, jolly wench,
That night enlisted in the core,
Long after known on Carrick shore
(For many a beast to dead she shot,
And perished many a bonnie boat,
And shook both much corn and barley,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her short underskirt, o’ Paisley cloth,
That while a young lass she had worn,
In longitude though very limited,
It was her best, and she was proud. . .
Ah! little knew your reverend grandmother,
That skirt she bought for her little grandaughter,
With two Scots pounds (it was all her riches),
Would ever graced a dance of witches!}

But here my Muse her wing maun cour;
Sic flights are far beyond her pow'r;
To sing how Nannie lap and flang,
(A souple jade she was, and strang),
And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch'd,
And thought his very een enrich'd;
Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain,
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main;
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason ' thegither,
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.

{But here my tale must stoop and bow,
Such words are far beyond her power;
To sing how Nannie leaped and kicked
(A supple youth she was, and strong);
And how Tam stood like one bewitched,
And thought his very eyes enriched;
Even Satan glowered, and fidgeted full of lust,
And jerked and blew with might and main;
Till first one caper, then another,
Tam lost his reason all together,
And roars out: ‘ Well done, short skirt! ’
And in an instant all was dark;
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied}

As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke;
As open pussie's mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud;
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
Wi' mony an eldritch skriech and hollo.

{As bees buzz out with angry wrath,
When plundering herds assail their hive;
As a wild hare’s mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts running before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When ‘ Catch the thief! ’ resounds aloud:
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
With many an unearthly scream and holler.}

Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin'!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin'!
In vain thy Kate awaits thy commin'!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane o' the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle -
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain gray tail;
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

{Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! You will get what's coming!
In hell they will roast you like a herring!
In vain your Kate awaits your coming !
Kate soon will be a woeful woman!
Now, do your speedy utmost, Meg,
And beat them to the key-stone of the bridge;
There, you may toss your tale at them,
A running stream they dare not cross!
But before the key-stone she could make,
She had to shake a tail at the fiend;
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie pressed,
And flew at Tam with furious aim;
But little was she Maggie’s mettle!
One spring brought off her master whole,
But left behind her own grey tail:
The witch caught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.}

No, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilk man and mother's son take heed;
Whene'er to drink you are inclin'd,
Or cutty-sarks run in your mind,
Think! ye may buy joys o'er dear -
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.

{Now, who this tale of truth shall read,
Each man, and mother’s son, take heed:
Whenever to drink you are inclined,
Or short skirts run in your mind,
Think! you may buy joys over dear:
Remember Tam o’ Shanter’s mare.}

Apologies for any confusion.

I posted this a bit earlier with another recitation which I didn't think quite right so I have added this. Reminds me of Paw in many ways. When I went to remove the previous post I lost everything and have had to redo it, hence the wee delay.

{Scudder - you had posted a comment which was lost with the deleted post but I have recovered it from mail and reposted it myself as the first comment}

see you later.........

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Routine/Habit - Familiar/Unfamiliar

Hullo ma wee blog,

6.00am this morning: I had been awake for a while, not long but maybe 10 minutes. Instinctively, still half asleep I had been yawning and stretching under the covers, rubbing my eyes and wiping the palm of my hands from forehead to chin as I stroked myself out of sleep. Having gone to bed at 2.00am, that's not bad for me but the lovely G, facing her 6th day at work this week and still struggling to contain a cold that has dogged her across most of the preceding week turned to me and said,

"Please, get up. Give me just another 15 minutes of peace before I have to get up too."

Aware now of my inconsiderate behaviour I apologised and got out of bed straight away and went out to the hall where I dressed, groggily and oddly in the dark, stuck bare feet into slippers before heading down to the kitchen where I pressed the on switch of the laptop on my way to kettle and coffee. A fill of the kettle and a wander back to the laptop to tap in the password meant that by the time I returned to my familiar chair at the kitchen table, in the corner by the patio door, coffee cup in hand I was ready to switch on my morning radio station and go to the blog dashboard to see who had posted overnight or if anyone had dropped a comment to be published.

In the next few minutes I followed whats become pretty much my morning routine of blog checking, saying hello to Jess and making a fuss for a moment or two, of changing the litter tray and checking food and water are there and taking milk and butter from the fridge in preparation for breakfast porage or whatever takes my fancy from our stock of cereal. All totally mundane and familiar to many millions nae doubt. I often find I have done something, often very ordinary, but cant for the life of me remember doing it. Tidying up that scattered post, putting that dish in the dishwasher or even driving that last 5 miles to home. All done perfectly well and safely but without conscious thought.

And so I found myself here having done several of those things {except driving home I hastily add} this morning but not having realised it until I reminded myself to go and feed the cat only to find the bowl washed and refilled and Jess turning from her breakfast with a quizzical look over her shoulder. I smiled and considered old age, senility and kinsthetics and turned ruefully back to kettle and coffee.

Later, having dropped the lovely G at Dunbar station I again found myself pulling into a parking space at the bottom of the high street as I wanted to get some rolls and butter at a local shop. I had found myself coming around the corner and immediately checking for one particular parking space, then on seeing it taken, searching for another, but very particular, place. I realised that I have favourite parking spaces! And a pecking order of favourite parking spaces! And in an almost deserted street {at that time of a Saturday morning}. As I stepped out of the car another of those odd things happened to me.

Have you ever found yourself in a familiar place and yet, even knowing it should be familiar, feeling like its brand new, the very first time you have ever been there and that like the first time in a new place you are keen to experience it, to become familiar, and have a heightened awareness of the place somehow. { You probably think I'm nuts. I'm not explaining this very well.}

The first time I remember experiencing it was as a small child walking back home from Grans house through the village. It was night but not very late as I was young, Gordon, my older brother was with me, and we were walking the route back home that we always took, just a simple five minute walk. The path and road were frosted and glistening in the street lights, car windows and lights frosting over and the whole scene indelibly etched in my memory was that it was all new. Never before had I experienced that walk. Every familiar house and garden gate, every turn and distance between lit lampposts was totally new and yet that didn't mean I felt anxious. I was enthralled. I wanted to linger, recognising that this should all be normal to me and yet wasn't. I wanted to stay and enjoy the sensation of feeling dislocated in my own surroundings. Misplaced and exhilarated in equal measure.

Over the years I have experienced the same feeling perhaps only ten times and every time takes me back to that first frosty walk down the hill to home. Today as I got out of the car in a dark Dunbar high street, noise muffled by a the kind of feather light drizzle that we call 'smirr' in Scotland I knew before I raised my head to stand up that I was in that place again. I stood all grown up at the side of my car and experienced Dunbar in the morning smirr like I was 7 or 8 years old and it was all brand new. Amazing, wondrous and unexpected. I walked slowly to the foot of the high street and looked up its length, standing for several minutes just drinking it in and hoping that the feeling wouldn't change. As I walked towards the shop where I knew I had intended going the feeling stayed with me and I walked on enjoying the sensation, the connection and the peace that I always feel in that experience.

A 50 year old wee boy just walking up a new street in the smirr. Deep in thought and comfortably lost in feeling.

And it was.......Braw.

see you later.....

Friday, 22 January 2010

153 Sqn 22nd Jan 1945 - Duisburg

Flying through a flak barrage.

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

Due to hostile weather conditions, only two further attacks would be mounted in January. On the 22nd, 19 aircraft left Scampton at 1645 and joined an attack on the Benzoil plant in the Bruckhausen district of Duisburg. The target was clearly identified by moonlight; the attack was concentrated and reported as most successful. Further bombs also crippled the nearby Thyssen steelworks.

Bomber Command lost only two aircraft that night- both from 153 Squadron.

NG 185(P4-A) flown by 33 year old F/O Ken Winder (RAF) with his two Canadian and four RAF (VR) crew was shot down over Holland. At 18, Sgt Hamilton was one of the youngest Canadians killed in Bomber Command . F/O K.W.Winder KIA . Sgt D.B.George KIA. Sgt A.J.Rabin KIA. F/O M.A.Smith RCAF KIA. SAgt R.Evans KIA. Sgt G.B.Hamilton RCAF KIA. Sgt T.O'Gorman KIA

Flight Engineer David George
{Photo courtesy of Shelagh and Sue Wright}
Ken Winder and crew.
{Photo courtesy Shelagh and Sue Wright}

PB 636(P4-D) flown by F/Lt Alan Jones (RAF) with his two Australian and four RAF (VR) crew (including the 39 year old Flight engineer, Syd James) was never heard of again. At 39, Sgt James, whose second Christian name was Strettle, was well over the age of operational aircrew. F/L A.E.Jones DFC KIA. Sgt S.S.James KIA. F/SJ.J.L.McDonell RAAF KIA. F/S C.L.Cullen KIA. W/O J.E.Bateup RAAF KIA. Sgt R.V.Trafford KIA. Sgt A.Simpson KIA.

Sgt. Sid James

Sgt Reuben Trafford.
Jack James Lewis Mcdonell {on right}
Photo courtesy of Guy Mcdonell

All are commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial.

The Ruhr -  'Happy Valley'

A major logistical center in the Ruhr and location of chemical, steel and iron industries, Duisburg was a primary target of Allied bombers. As such, it is considered by some historians to be the single most heavily bombed German city by the Allies during World War II, with industrial areas and residential blocks targeted by Allied incendiary bombs.

The Ruhr valley was known by aircrew euphemistically as 'Happy Valley' due to its intense concentrations of anti aircraft guns, searchlights and extensive cover by German night fighter squadrons. It was the industrial heartland of wartime German heavy industry and many key targets were within this area.

Lancaster in action

A total of 299 bombing raids almost completely destroyed the historic cityscape. 80% of all residential buildings had been destroyed or partly damaged. Almost the whole of the city had to be rebuilt after the war, and most historic landmarks had been lost. 

THe Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede.

The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede commemorates by name over 20,000 airmen and women who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves. They served in Bomber, Fighter, Coastal, Transport, Flying Training and Maintenance Commands, and came from all parts of the Commonwealth. Some were from countries in continental Europe which had been overrun but whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force, some from USA {and other countries} who joined the RAF to fight before their country joined the war. The names in their thousands are inscribed on panels in a courtyard.

The memorial sits on a hill overlooking an historic part of the Thames Valley where Magna Carta, enshrining basic freedoms in English law, was signed in 1215.
The Memorial commemorates by name, inscribed on stone panels, some 20,389 airmen and women (including those of 153 Squadron) lost on operations from UK & NW European bases during WWII in the fight against tyranny.

All have no known grave.

The memorial is cared for by the National Trust and is open 7 days a week. Entry is free.

All Clear for Jessie...........

Hullo ma wee blog,

Having lost Bailey to a feline virus last week we took the precaution of having extensive blood tests done on Jess to check she was as healthy as she seems. Today the results came back from the lab to say that she is as fit as a fiddle.

We have been on tenderhooks since the vet explained that as the two lived together that there was a chance that Jess had been infected too, possibly through a bite given in one of the fairly rare scraps that they would have.

She got a big hug when given the news but the photo basically shows the reaction I got.

'Yea, and your point is?'

Still there are two of us breathing easier as a result.

see you later.

Listening to the soundtrack to the film 'The Insider'

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Merry Christmas, Darling.........

Cape Wrath Lighthouse.

Hullo ma wee blog,

As I get older I like to hear or read news, whether its newspapers, evening news programmes or news bulletins every half hour on my favourite radio station. It keeps me in touch with whats happening around the country, nation and around the world - well what they want to tell us about anyway, but that's another post -and somehow I feel better for it; grown up, able to have an opinion on whats happening, informed and more appreciative of far away places and goings on, perhaps even moved to want to persuade my government to do something or to change my ways to help reduce global warming or change my view on some part of current affairs.

I remember my parents always being determined to hear the 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock news from the BBC and as a child not understanding, and as a teenager scorning their need to listen to 'gossip' and 'hearsay' about folk and places they would never meet or visit from our parochial lifestyle.

I have come to to wryly appreciate some of the odder curiosities that drop out of news now and then to trigger my senses of fun, irony or just plain sarcasm.

The header for this post is the start of an imagined conversation between Kay Ure, and her husband John, who live in, and run a cafe from, the lighthouse keepers cottages at Cape Wrath at the tip of Scotland. Cape Wrath is the most northwesterly point in Scotland, and boasts Britain’s highest sea cliffs. Customers face a ferry ride and a three-hour trek up a stony path before they reach the most isolated café in Scotland.

Kay left home on the 19th of December to travel to Inverness, over a hundred miles away, to do the Christmas shopping, and was only reunited with her husband yesterday afternoon, having been trapped by the bad weather. John managed to get to her yesterday having finally made it across the Kyle of Durness in his boat and crossing the remaining miles of snowy road in his 4 x 4 all terrain vehicle. They are planning to have their Christmas dinner together today. A lovely story full of human interest and just the kind that gets my attention. I bet they don't dream of a white Christmas again any time soon.

And I hope she didn't forget anything off her shopping list......

Today too, I see in the Scotsman that one of my favourite singer songwriters of years past, Billy Bragg, is urging people to join his facebook campaign in his refusal to pay their income tax in protest at the bonuses to be paid out to RBS bankers unless they are curbed by the govt. Its fantastic to see that the socialist firebrand of years past is still fighting the good fight even though he is greying round the edges a bit. It made me think of my favourite album of his 'Talking with the Taxman about Poetry'. All great stuff, full of fire and brimstone, bursting with energy and righteous indignation.

So why do I feel a wee bit piqued that he is doing it all on facebook from his cosy farmhouse in Dorset.

see you later

Listening to Jackie Wilson 'Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher'

The Post With No Name...........

A pig with six legs......

Hullo ma wee blog,

I have spent an enjoyable hour or two surfing down the back of the interweb bloggery thing and visited some favourite blogs from here, there and everywhere covering almost any topic from hobbies to the life affirming quality of daily existence in all its spectrum from mundane to exuberant joy. I've been reading latest posts and backtracking down the lanes of posts done and dusted, many unread until now and some favourite posts which I've gone back to once or twice {or more} before. I've looked at followers and tracked through into some of their blogs to see if I find anything which tweaks my interest or my conscience so I may visit again. I've listed a couple on my favourites list so I can track them down again when I have time or curiosity strikes.

Some of my favourite blogs, the ones I have been following, and the ones I am most familiar with, have over time shown individual personalities and now as I read them I am no longer hearing my inner me reading them to me in my head but they have become distinct accents, familiar ways of speaking, some slow and measured, some bursting with enthusiasm, fun, love, boredom, irony; some worried, some frustrated, some laconic and some softly serene. Characters of people I have never met and from places I have never been. I wonder if the images I feel and voices I hear are anything close to the people that write the words I'm reading. Only one do I know what the voice really sounds like, and that only today from a video clip posted.

I've never really thought about it before. I always considered it as a conversation, like a letter from a friend or a relative, but then the voice is familiar and I always hear that voice as I read the words. I've been wondering today about my efforts. Of course when 'I' read them over I hear me, but I wonder what you hear? I know if the accent grated on your ear then you wouldn't be reading any more so you must be hearing something. So is it me or is it you talking to you? The history thing probably confuses the issue perhaps as I get all strait laced.

It's amazing how I can post a thought out there in the ether along with all those other words, thoughts, languages and somehow it gets to those that want it and hangs there for others to stumble on. I wonder if it will always be there now. Is it our little bit of immortality. Its not what I considered when I started the blog.

If it is, maybe I should be picking my game up.

But that's for another time. The inane ramble is over for tonight as its now 2.15am and sleep is quietly calling for once. So I'll be off and try not to clumsily stumble going up the stairs or wake the lovely G as I climb into bed.

See you later.

Listening to Supertramp 'Babaji'

Monday, 18 January 2010

Best Wishes, Wee Man............

Hullo ma wee blog,

I would just like to send a message of congratulations to my old mate Sir Fred Goodwin, aka 'The World Worst Banker' and ex boss of Royal Bank Of Scotland on his new job as a senior consultant with architect firm RMJM.

Good on ye pal! I never even KNEW that you were a wiz at architecture!

Its great to see that having, like me, to leave a job you had done and enjoyed for a number of years that you have been able to overcome the general lack of job opportunities in the current market and got a nice little earner tucked in your back pocket. I'm so jealous of you, ya wee rascal.

{Aye, I'm still looking, ach, but don't you worry.}

Its great too that this job will mean you travel the world for a couple of weeks a month and still earn enough that you don't have to touch your pension of £343,500 a year. {I never thought by the way that you got enough credit for taking a reduced pension when you were 'entitled' contractually to the full £750,000 a year. God bless ya Guvnor}

Its nice too that you will be working for the firm where one of your old mates, Sir Fraser Morrison, is Head of Operations, so that you will have a wee pal to play with and to talk to. Don't let anyone play with your calculator this time. Saying 'it got broken' isn't an excuse to use twice.

And Fred, don't you listen to those nasty people left behind at the RBS who say that its ridiculous that you can do this when so many of them have been made redundant and the rest have had to take a 10% pay cut. Some folk can be SOOO petty. And anyway a few of them will be getting bonuses of over £500k so boo hiss to them.

Just don't you listen and away and have fun wee man.

Ta ta.........

Don't forget your sandwiches.
Write to me sometimes.......

Aw, Bless!!


see you later.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Title Tattle.........

Hullo ma wee blog,

{No the headings not dyslexia; just my liking for puns.}

I feel like I am getting to grips with the wealth of material in the history of 153 Sqn/end of the war script I'm doing and coming to an understanding of what I want to include and exclude. I don't want it to be completely overwhelmed with technical detail and to be great long posts that ultimately no one is going to enjoy wading through and be put off the next ones so I want to be able to read them in a couple of minutes, but to hopefully create some afterthought. I know I'm coming to better appreciate what these men went through and the circumstances in which they found themselves, so for me, its really interesting.

There is a huge amount of information on the internet, much of it highly technical and dispassionately detailed, so for the more human aspects of their experiences I have turned to a couple of books in my library: Christina Mattingley's 'Battle Order 204' which is a recounting of her husbands experiences of being a Lancaster pilot, based in Lincolnshire, though not at Scampton and coincides chronologically almost exactly with the timeframe I am looking at here and is a marvelously human work based on his diaries. It effectively has brought together for me the bond between the crew which I want touch on in a couple of posts not specific to operations maybe.

The other book is a compilation of accounts by British and Commonwealth flight crew of operations called 'Flying Into the Flames of hell' by Martin H Bowman. It conveys the feelings of terror at being coned by searchlights over targets, the effects of night fighters and carefully nursing damaged aircraft back home.

Both books are written in a gentle unassuming style which is typical of the way which Dad remembered or reminisced certain events. Both books quote liberally from poetry written by the men, a common release from tensions of life threatening situations, and I may also use some of these in later posts too. At least the feeling of muddy waters is receding a bit so hopefully there will be some kind of coherent structure emerge shortly.

The gap in the narrative will help this weekend as the lovely G and I are about to head off for an overnight stay at an old friends,someone that as is often the case I have lost touch with over the last twenty odd years and who's daughter - who I remember only as a toddler - is now a mother twice over herself. Jings that makes me feel OLD!

So I have to get up from the table here in the kitchen and go have a shower and make myself pretty before the two hour drive across the west coast. No doubt, all being well, you get to hear of events in due course.

Got to go - 2 hours may just about be enough time to make myself............



See you later.

Listening to Cherry Ghost 'Thirst For Romance'
{If Only!!!}

153 Sqn 16th Jan 1945 - Zietz

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

Leaving Scampton at 1730 to join aircaft from other Squadrons at the bomber stream concentration point Sudbrooke, 16 aircraft were sent to attack the Braunkohle-Benzin synthetic oil plant at Zeitz (about 30 miles south-west of Leipzig) on the 16th. For once, the weather was clear. Good ground-marking by PFF assisted an accurate and concentrated attack, hindered only by moderate flak and slight fighter activity. During this raid, F/O Clyde Byers RCAF whilst flying in PB 872(P4-2ndX) was posted missing, together with his four Canadian and two RAF fellow crew members, lost without trace. all are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. F/O C.W.Byers RCAF KIA Sgt J.B.M.Kelleher KIA F/S E.C.McLeneghan KIA F/s F.C.Irving RCAF KIA WO1 R.K.Crow RCAF KIA F/S R.C.Shilliday RCAF KIA F/S M.Frank RCAF KIA

 Robert C Shilliday {L} and Michael Frank

Getting an aircraft into position to do its job entailed not only the flight crew but a team of skilled and dedicated people behind the scenes on the ground at base who ensured that the aircraft was in fit condition. These 'Erks', as engineers were called and Armourers were just as important as the flight crew in delivering the job and getting the aircraft and crew back safely and they cut no corners in ensuring that 'their boys' were looked after.

After each op the ground crew would go over the aircraft in detail and assess and repair minor damage and check that all the electrical and mechanical systems were in good working order. Compared to modern machines these were very basic aircraft and extreme cold and wet from rainy conditions could play havoc with wiring and electrical systems for radar, communication and navigation, each of them vital for safe operations. Aircraft would be withdrawn from service to deal with any major damage and of course there was the routine mechanical maintenance needed to keep operational in these times of heavy use. Groundcrew would have a very clear and graphic picture of what the Lanc and crew had gone through written large on the body and internals of the plane. The average lifespan of a Lancaster was 13 ops efore it was lost or so badly damaged that it required to be withdrawn from service and broken up for spares. A few machines made very many ops of course but 'centurians', survivors of over a hundred missions were treasured icons of skill and good fortune in the squadron.

Groundcrew would be keen to speak to flight crew as soon as possible and get reports of any malfunctions or concerns of the crew so these could be rectified as soon as possible. Everyone understood how important it was for crew to have confidence in the aircraft at all times. Armourers would remove guns after each raid and strip down and clean the internals for safe operation as well as check the bomb loading gear.

Once the Lanc was passed as fit for next use - as little as a few hours at times - the ground crew could rest until flight crew were ready to take the bird up for a pre op check before the next mission. Once again feedback on any issues from this flight would result in frantic activity to have the issue dealt with in the 3 hour window before ops began. A tense time for all. The aircraft guns needed loading and aircraft would also have to be bombed up with the required number and type of bombs required for that particular mission. Some of the large bombs would take 45 minutes each to be safely fitted into the aircraft. All of these groundcrew operations of course took place at all times of day or night and in sometimes poor weather.

Confidence in ground crew was an essential part of confidence on the part of flight crew and over time naturally each would come to know the other. It was very normal for ground crew to be at dispersal watching their crew leave on missions, watch their bird lift off and head away over the countryside, red and green navigation lights fading into the distance and many groundcrew found themselves keyed up for the duration of ops and back outside at scheduled return time with ears straining for the first sounds of Merlin engines in the distance, enduring a sometimes long and sometimes fruitless wait for returning comrades.

Due to hostile weather conditions in Uk and Europe only 2 more attacks would be launched in January, the 22nd and 28th.

Friday, 15 January 2010

B-A-L-A-N-C-E ........Balance

Hullo ma wee blog,

I've been indoors pretty much all day yesterday and today. Its bloomin freezing and, like my lovely G, I am headachy and feeling the chill.

During the course of perusing the paper today I noticed a wee stramash {commotion} going on because someone had posted a clip on you tube of a policeman sledging down a hill on his riot shield. All the officers involved have been reprimanded by their High Heid Yin {commanding officer} and advised this is not the way to behave if they want to get on in the force.

Now, I expect that some of you at least might be expecting me to go off on one and have a wee rant about abuse of position and waste of taxpayers money and shouldn't they be spending their time on better things. And aye, you can have that argument. But I was struck by how welcomingly human it was, how engaging it is to see an adult in a moment of fun. Even more so when these very people have no doubt been pulling many many hours dealing with the weather and its aftermath, never mind the often stressful job they have in the normal working day. I,m often struck by how professional these guys are and how well they cope with the majority of situations. I can have a grumble here and there of course like all of us, and I have never felt that I for one have ever been victimised or mistreated by police in any way like some folk certainly feel.

I rather enjoyed the sight of these guys just taking a moment to be light hearted. I think many people who at times may feel stressed do the odd thing that perhaps they shouldn't and, all the more so perhaps because of that, get a release of tension and can get on with the day all the better for it.

Of course I don't want to see multitudes of coppers belting down the snowy hillsides on shields when there is plenty of work for them to do. But I also don't want to see anyone pilloried for a bit of harmless momentary fun.

so come on Mr Chief Super or whatever you are, cut them some slack. Its not the end of the world.

And maybe they were trying out a new, carbon friendly, stealthy means of sneaking up on the bad guys. At least they would arrive fully kitted out for a riot.

And guys - whatever happens " KEEP SMILING!"

see you later.

Listening to Snow Patrol 'Run'

Thursday, 14 January 2010

153 Sqn Jan 14th 1945 - Leuna

Lancaster dropping incendienry bombs. Duisberg, Oct 14 1944

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

16 aircraft were sent to the Leuna oil plant on the 14th, but NG 184(P4-U) had to abort when the rear-gunner was taken ill. The other 15 crews, again in heavy cloud, aiming at skymarkers dropped by the Pathfinder Force, considered the raid to be scattered and unsuccessful. Perversely, after the war, the Germans stated that this was one of the most damaging raids ever mounted against the synthetic oil industry. Light flak was encountered and there was little interference from night fighters. No operational losses were reported on this mission.
Leuna is a town in the Saalekreis, Saxony-Anhalt, eastern Germany, south of Merseburg and Halle. It is known for the Leunawerke one of the biggest chemical industrial complexes in Germany.

The Lancaster was 67 ft long and had a wingspan of 102ft. Powered by 4 Rolls Royce Merlin engines it had a cruising speed of 216mph, a maximum bomb load of 14,000lbs and a maximum ceiling of 22,000ft. Maximum fuel would give it a range of almost 2,000 miles in theory but this would be dependant on bomb load and wind conditions. Other weather conditions, such as ice could also threaten the aircraft stability, operation and ultimately its flying capacity. The bomb load compared to other aircraft used in WWII was immense, being almost double what a flying fortress could carry. While all metal construction and considered a solid and dependable aircraft to fly, the toll on these aircraft was considerable. The average 'lifespan' of a Lancaster was 13 sorties before it was either lost or so badly damaged it required replacement. Its worth comparing this to the number of sorties in a crew tour of operations which was 30, and at one point was raised to 36.

The difficulties encountered by Navigators were severe. F/Sgt Freddy Fish found that to reach Leuna oil plant (which lies 12 degrees east of Greenwich) required flying 250 miles after leaving the allied lines. His last GEE {radio navigation} fix was at 8.30 degrees East, so the remaining 175 miles to the target was all on DR (Dead Reckoning) a manual calculation of airspeed and direction taking wind and drift into consideration. His concentration was disrupted by having to traverse a flak belt of around 50 miles in depth before reaching the target, which was bombed just one minute over their allotted time. Similar conditions applied for the return journey; it was some 97 minutes before he was able to obtain another GEE fix, during which time they had flown 350 miles on DR alone. Long journeys would often incorporate a number of course changes on the outward journey, designed to keep the enemy guessing as to the actual target. These would also be calculated with DR where required. This gives some indication of the skill and concentration that went into navigation at the time.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

And then there were three

Hullo ma wee blog,

Sadly Bailey had to be put to sleep this afternoon after blood tests showed that her treatment had failed and her immune system had crashed due to a viral infection which she just could not fight in her frail condition. I left the vet with a heavy heart and an empty cat box, but with the consolation that I had held her at the last and she had nuzzled me gently as if to say 'let me go'. I cant believe it.

Having come for some short term temporary accommodation she and Jess had stayed with us for 9 years and we all got along just fine.

I'll miss her serene, know it all look, her heavy weight on our spot on the sofa, eager nuzzles and the face at the patio door staring at me with her Jedi mind tricks to let her in. I'll want to give a whistle across the garden and expect her to come charging in at a hundred miles an hour with an accusatory 'MEH' before heading to the utility room and a double portion of whatever is on offer. I'll miss her heavy purr whenever she was near me.

Like many cats she was a personality. Like a few, she was a star.

I'm glad she came to stay..........

And the lovely G and Jess and I will miss her.

On Biting Off More Than You Can Chew.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Having decided to do this blog on Dads wartime Sqn during the last few months of the war I find myself immersed in huge amounts of information and currently being at the overwhelmed stage. Partly its just me, loving history and becoming involved in the subject, having a determination to understand as much as I can about the story at hand, especially since it in many ways involves Dad directly or indirectly and partly trying to decide just how much of this should be published through the blog without it becoming completely devoted to the subject. Its not after all what the blog is about or is SUPPOSED to be about.

Since that first post though I have found myself sneaking off at odd times to go hunt some bit of info that has occurred to me or even sitting with the lovely G at the table thinking about the story, the format, the inclusions, exclusions and the level of detail - when actually I should be just being with her, having a bit of us time.

And of course I'm supposed to be looking for a job here. No 1 priority, lets not forget!.

On the plus side though I'm not at too much of a loss for something to do in my insomniac night times spent at the kitchen table, but the danger is that I get so involved that sleep becomes the secondary consideration, like two nights ago when I didn't go to bed until 2am, couldn't sleep and got back up at 2.45 to be up for the rest of the night. At least that too allowed me to keep a close eye on our Bailey cat who is really not well and not responding to medication. I'm leaving in about 15 mins to take her back to the vet for the third time in a fortnight, and to be honest I'm really worried about her, poor wee thing. She has suddenly turned into a bundle of bones and spent last night curled in the crook of my arm on the sofa, safe and warm but really not moving, nose just touching my hand for hours. Its not good.

got to go.

see you later.

listening to Eagles 'Hotel California'

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...