HAPPY NEW YEAR – 1st MARCH

Happy New Year one and all; oh, come on, it’s obvious that today should be New Year’s Day.

For a start, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring starts today – re-birth, renewal, growth, a fresh start, nicer weather – that should be when the new year starts.

Then there’s the name of the months a little later in our New Year – September, October, November, December – there’s a clue there, they should be 7, 8, 9 and 10. Septuplets are seven babies; Octopuses have eight legs; Novena are prayers said over nine days and Dec is, well, Dec is decimal. So, why make October the tenth month? How confusing must that be for octopuses?

Added to all of that is the fact that Christmas could then be: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the day after to recover (what we, in England, call Boxing Day) and then back to work for a couple of months before another little break for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day on 1st March.

This is clearly how it’s meant to be, we even add the extra day in Leap years to February, that’s so obviously supposed to be at the end of the year and, if we set New Year’s Eve as 28th February, we’d get an extra day off (at no cost to anyone) every four years.

Then there’s the Welsh, they’d get St David’s Day off work every year and that might stop them being quite so grumpy about things.

So, come on, don’t confuse the octopus, let’s change the calendar. Happy New Year.

 

DULK

Today I was helped to coin a new word in the English language by my fellow travellers.

Today I took the train and while there are many fine things about public transport,often the worst thing about it is the public. While I do not wish to appear intolerant and I fully support people’s right to believe what they like, live where they like, wear what they like, eat what they like, smoke, cough, drink, fart, take drugs, dance like no-one is watching, laugh like they were two years old, pick their noses, talk loudly on their mobile phones or just about anything else. I just don’t support their right to do it near me.

Worst of all are those hunters of the dulk.

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Dulk is the name that I have now created for that dull click that some mobile phones make on every single key press during the composition of a text message which it is incredibly easy to turn off.

The hunters of the dulk do not turn that dulk off because they love to find more and more dulks;their day is measured in just how many dulks they can find in their world.

They start the journey with “HI HOW R U” or some other such gibberish. They then, inspired by their love for the dulk, build up confidence in their writing until they have reached the point of typing out the entire works of Dostoyevsky. Each letter accompanied by their beloved and eagerly sought dulk. That’s how the journey goes; dulk hunts.

Frank Sinatra at the London Arena 1990

And I was there.

Isle of Dogs Life

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Ol’ Blue Eyes in 1990

The London Arena which opened in 1989 was located in the Isle of Dogs near to the Crossharbour, in an earlier post I discussed its rise and fall.

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London Arena

Whilst a number of top performers appeared there, I was surprised to find out that in 1990, the venue for four nights  played host to Frank Sinatra on his 75th Birthday tour.

Sinatra was no stranger to London appearing here many times, but usually in small theatres or the Royal Albert Hall.

From some of the reviews of the concerts it seems that Ol’ Blue Eyes was still a class act but age was catching up with him.

Actress Penelope Wilton attended one of the concerts and gave her impressions in a interview in the Telegraph.

You couldn’t see him to begin with – you just saw this huddle of figures coming down a ramp, surrounded…

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Sitomagus – The Lost Roman City

The Antonine Itinerary – a sort of second century satnav – was designed to show routes along Roman roads in Britain including where to stop along the way; so, Trip Advisor is nothing new, either.

The Ninth Itinerary gives the route from Venta Icenorum to Londinium – there are no prizes for knowing where Londinium is and a mere 0.58 seconds with Google will guide you to the fact that Venta Icenorum is now known as Caistor St Edmund just south of Norwich, Norfolk in the east of England. What isn’t known is the location of the first stopping off point, the Roman town of Sitomagus. All that we really know is that the town was 20 miles from Venta Icenorum and 14 miles from the modern village of Coddenham in Suffolk; and we’re far from being sure about this.

So, there have been lots of places suggested as the possible site of the lost town: Ixworth, Thetford, Saxmundham and several others. You’ll find some ideas on Joe Mason’s page and a great deal more detail in Robert Steerwood’s article on Sitomagus.

Two of the possibilities mooted by Mr Steerwood are Knodishall and East Green off the A12 in East Suffolk but I have my own nearby theory.

There are several reasons for my suggestion: first of all there’s the fact that there are Roman remains nearby including pottery; a Romano-British urn; kilns and even a bath house and villa.

Secondly, there’s the location, as I said, it’s close to places already identified as possible sites.

Thirdly, there’s the name: Sitomagus (also seen as Senomagus) could mean many things depending on how you translate it but one of the possibilities is Sito = Long and magus = place on a river.

So, where do I think the lost Roman city might be? Well, if you travel south down the A12 through coastal Suffolk, you will reach a sharp right-hand bend at a place called Farnham. If you turn left here you will pass St. Mary’s church on your right which was, formerly, a Roman encampment. Carry on just over a mile and you’ll go under the railway line just before you reach Burnt House Farm just across the road from the bath house mentioned earlier. The road that you’re driving along still retains the name of a long disappeared medieval village, you’re on Langham Road and you’re just about to reach the River Alde.

Langham means long place – perhaps you’ve found Sitomagus.

Of course, it’s probable we’ll never really know where Sitomagus was – as Joe Mason pointed out to me, if the distances were correct then somewhere near what was, much more recently, Eye airfield would be the place to start looking.

We all love a mystery, though – well, perhaps I love a mystery more than most.

 

 

 

SITOMAGUS

Sitomagus – I have my own theory, I’ll try to post it very soon.

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There are Roman towns in East Anglia whose sites are known, and in many cases their names are known as well. With Caister-on-Sea and Burgh Castle there is some discussion about which of these forts was called Gariannonum, but it was certainly one of the two; where Sitomagus is concerned however, we have the name of the place without having a clue where it was located.

This Roman town was perhaps, after Venta Icenorum (Caistor St Edmunds), the major settlement in what was later to be termed East Anglia. Unlike Caistor, however, where the walls are still standing tall for anyone to see, nobody knows exactly where Sitomagus was. From the Antonine Itinerary we know that it was south of Caistor and north of Coddenham (Combretovium), and slightly nearer to the latter. The Antonine Itinerary was a third century document giving details of main road network in the Roman Empire. The distances are given…

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Isaac Asimov

It’s been a while since I posted one of my “You Learn Something New Every Tuesday” snippets, so here’s one for no particular reason, it’s just interesting.

Isaak Yudovich Ozimov was born in Petrovichi in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic some time around the start of 1920. There were few accurate records in the RSFSR (Russia had ceased to exist in 1917 and the USSR had yet to form) and so he may have been born as early as October 1919 (his mother changed his birth date at one point to September 7th 1919 in order to get him into school a year early). His last name came from the name of the winter grain in which his great-grandfather dealt, озимые (ozimiye).  His family left the Soviet republic shortly after his third birthday and arrived in New York after a three week sea voyage.

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The family name transformed into the slightly Americanised Asimov and the young Isaac began to learn English to add to the Yiddish that was spoken at home; he never learned to speak Russian. His father, Judah, had several jobs, often all at the same time, during his first few years in the US and saved hard to buy a candy store in Brooklyn.

It was while at High School in Brooklyn that Isaac began reading science fiction magazines. His father initially discouraged him but was persuaded that, as they had science in the title, they must be educational. It wasn’t long before he was contributing stories to magazines himself.

It is for science fiction writing that he is most widely known; though nobody really knows quite how much he wrote it is estimated that there must be over 500 books in which he played some part.

Science fiction was his first love but science looked like being his career, he gained a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia university in 1948 and joined the Boston University School of Medicine. He became a professor there in 1979 but, due to writing commitments, hadn’t taught there for over twenty years. His personal papers in the library take up 464 boxes and seventy-one metres of shelf space.

Much of his fiction influenced movies including Will Smith’s 2004 movie I, Robot and Robin Williams’ Bicentennial Man; his longstanding friendship with Gene Rodenberry had a huge influence on the science of Star Trek.

That might all be true or, perhaps not but then what is reality? You might find some of the answers here.

On A Still, Soft and Silent Late Winter Morning

On a still, soft and silent late-winter morning, the spider’s webs jewelled with dew in the crypt-cold countryside around Wolverton Manor, the early light was trying with all its insubstantial might to break through the heavy curtains hanging at the half-open French windows of the study and into the room where everything seemed to be clinging onto the gloom of the long night; fighting back the new day.

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A crack in the curtains let past the sun’s first rays; they played and danced in jubilation on every surface. They gambolled on the bloodstained, leather-inlaid desk, they skipped across the lifeless, staring corpse; and they danced on the gaping, oozing exit wound.

The corpse, due in large part to having bits of its brain on the painting behind it, stayed precisely where it had been before the light had entered the room.

‘Michael.’ A voice called from somewhere higher in the house.

Michael didn’t respond.

‘Michael, are you down there?’ The voice called as it moved through the house.

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Meet Your Waterloo

The Honourable Arthur Wesley would be a terrible name for a pub and so it is fortunate that the boy born in Dublin (perhaps in what is now the Merrion Hotel) in 1769 grew up to be the 1st Duke of Wellington.

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His father, Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, died in 1781; the year that Arthur went to school at Eton, where he proved to be quite spectacularly mediocre. He is often quoted as saying that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton but he loathed his time there and left in 1784; finishing his education at the French Royal Academy of Equitation in Angers, making it far more accurate to think of the Battle of Waterloo as having been won in the manèges of North-western France.

On his return to England his eldest brother, Richard, assisted him in gaining a commission in the Army. In March 1787 he joined the 73rd Regiment of Foot and was assigned as aide-de-camp to the new Lord Lieutenant, Lord Buckingham.

He transferred to the Light Dragoons two years later and also became Member of Parliament for Trim in the Irish House of Commons at the age of just twenty.

It was common practice in many European armies throughout the eighteenth century for officers to purchase commissions and promotions and, in 1793 Captain Arthur Wesley borrowed money from his brother to become first a Major and then, soon afterwards, a Lieutenant Colonel in the 33rd Regiment, with whom he first saw battle and rose to successful commands.

Towards the end of the century the family name transformed into Wellesley.

To “meet your Waterloo” suggests defeat and, indeed, it is true that the battle which took place near Waterloo on Sunday 18th June 1815 saw the end of the reign of Emperor Napoleon. It is also true that the battle brought great fame and riches to the victors, most notably the Duke Of Wellington who commanded the Allied armies alongside the Prussian armies of Gebhard von Blücher, but at what price?

Waterloo cost Wellington around 15,000 dead or wounded and Blücher some 7,000. On the morning of 22nd June Major W.E. Frye visited “the field of battle, which is a little beyond the village of Waterloo, on the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean; but on arrival there the sight was too horrible to behold. I felt sick in the stomach and was obliged to return. The multitude of carcasses, the heaps of wounded men with mangled limbs unable to move, and perishing from not having their wounds dressed or from hunger, as the Allies were, of course, obliged to take their surgeons and waggons with them, formed a spectacle I shall never forget. The wounded, both of the Allies and the French, remain in an equally deplorable state.”

Napoleon had lost 25,000 dead or wounded, another 8,000 were taken prisoner. Perhaps this was the price that had to be paid for nearly half a century of peace in Europe.

Another long lasting legacy of the battle was the British Grenadier Guards.

Grenades (the name coming from the Spanish Granado, meaning pomegranate) were first used in sieges during the fifteenth century and the role of grenadier emerged as a distinct job, with the strongest soldiers selected to throw grenades during assaults on fortified settlements. With the changes in warfare over the centuries the role died but the name lived on for elite troops in many armies – with countries such as France and Argentina establishing elite units of Horse Grenadiers; most notably at Waterloo, the Horse Grenadiers of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.

In the battle the First Regiment of Foot Guards defeated Le Chasseurs de la Garde and were thought to have defeated the Grenadiers; so were given the title Grenadier Guards and adopted the French bearskins by mistake.

Following his defining moment at Waterloo he again entered politics; finally becoming Prime Minister in 1828.

He became known as the “Iron Duke” due to the iron shutters which he had installed at his residence, Apsley House (he had refused to live at 10 Downing Street as it was too small) after damage was caused by those protesting about his opposition to parliamentary reform. Wellington’s Tory government fell in 1830 and when they returned to power in 1834 he declined the office of Prime Minister, which went to Robert Peel.