SQUARE-BASHING

RAF Hednesford 1953

SQUARE-BASHING

Eight weeks I bashed that square,
Pounded that acre of ground.
Hurt and ached and bled,
The experience was profound.

“Serve your country’s need”
That is what they said,
“Don’t let the enemy win,
Suffer pain instead.

We need more cannon fodder,
Don’t let your country down,
So let’s see what you’re made of,
And get rid of that frown.”

And so I did my service,
My nation needed me.
Became a lowly sprog
By government decree.

Placed in a special POM flight
Given ‘housewife’, fork, and knife,
With such items in my kit-bag
I was number-stamped for life.

“Lay your kit out pronto
Neatly on your bed.
I want to see you bleeding”,
That’s what our corporal said.

Then out to the parade ground,
Twice daily we would drill
Until I ached all over,
Felt positively ill.

I pulled out all the stops,
To keep in step I tried,
But what I wished to do was
To run away and hide.

Route marching was no joke,
‘God Bless the Union Jack’.
I sweated and I faded
With full pack on my back.

Assault Courses were great fun,
Not for us, for our tormentors,
Braving tunnels, barbed wire and mud,
They crucified dissenters.

I cut the grass with scissors,
Painted pebbles white,
Ironed my boots with polish,
All this to help me fight.

I did my share of jankers,
Scrubbed latrines that stank,
Peeled countless grey potatoes,
Flushed out the septic tank.

Cleaned my rifle daily,
Bren guns I dismantled,
Was oft confined to barracks,
All leave and passes cancelled.

This was my National Service,
It taught me to obey.
At the time it was a penance,
It was the British way.

Perhaps it made us what we are,
My fellow sprogs and me.
Did we in our small way help stop
The start of World War Three?

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drill-corporal

A ‘SHOUT’ of Drill Corporals

GLOSSARY of Military Terms and Jargon

National Service:   National Service was peacetime conscription. All able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 30 were called up. They initially served for 18 months. But in 1950, during the Korean War (1950-53), this was increased to two years.  From 1949 until 1963 more than 2 million men were called up to the British Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force.

Square-bashing:  Marching drills and other military exercises practised on a parade ground.  At the outset of their 2-year service, all N.S. recruits were required to go through an 8 week course.

Housewife’:  The Housewife holdall/pouch contained all that a soldier would require to carry out any repairs to his clothing when necessary. Inside it would contain a thimble, two balls of grey darning wool (for socks), 50 yards of linen thread wound around card, needles, brass dish buttons (for Battledress) and plastic buttons for shirts.

POM – Potential Officer Material:  National Service recruits who had attained sufficient GCE level passes in leaving school examinations were all considered as POMs and placed in separate units from other recruits.

Sprog:  Military slang for new recruits or trainees.

Jankers:  In the British Armed Services, jankers is the term used for the official punishment or restriction of privileges for a minor breach of discipline.

Bren gun:  Light machine gun made by Britain in the 1930s and used in various roles until 1992.

Corporal:  A non-commissioned officer in the armed forces. This rank was typically placed in charge of the drill training of new recruits.

Number-stamped:  New recruits were all given a service number which was stamped on their individual possessions, including their ‘housewife’ and their own set of cutlery.

Military Assault Course:  Used in military training to increase fitness, to demonstrate techniques that can be used for crossing very rough terrain, and to increase teamwork and self-confidence.  Often undertaken whilst thunderflashes are being let off in close proximity, and incorporating obstacles representing the most likely difficult terrain that a soldier might come across.

[ With acknowledgement for the assistance given by Des – Sarum5254 ]

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‘The Reason’ – by Stevie Smith

(Poem No.47 of my favourite short poems)

The Reason

The Reason – Poem by Stevie Smith

 

My life is vile
I hate it so
I’ll wait awhile
And then I’ll go.

Why wait at all?
Hope springs alive,
Good may befall
I yet may thrive.

It is because I can’t make up my mind
If God is good, impotent or unkind.

Stevie Smith

 

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Il Dolce Far Niente

‘Il Dolce Far Niente’ translates as ‘Sweet Idleness’, ‘The sweetness of doing nothing’, or perhaps the feeling that doing nothing can be a positive rather than a negative ‘activity’.  The concept is Italian and appears to derive its meaning from the languor of life in those countries which enjoy a Mediterranean climate.

In view of the demands made upon us all in our modern world of hectic activity, where, for many, Facebook and Twitter command more attention than making face-to-face conversation, it seems appropriate for us all on occasion to take time out, to halt life’s frantic pace, to pause every now and again to enjoy our surroundings and our fellow human beings.

The concept matches well with the thoughts of W.H.Davies expressed in his famous poem   ‘Leisure’  (q.v.).   The idea has also long been a favourite subject of both poets and pictorial artists, particularly during the 19th Century.

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‘Dolce Far Niente’ by John Singer Sargent – 1907 (Brooklyn Museum, New York)

IL DOLCE FAR NIENTE

how mellow is the stillness
of a moment’s rest
the tranquility of a pause
to catch one’s breath

 merely to sit
and let life’s gladness in
to squander time
bask in the quietude
embrace serenity
and savour solitude

such dulcet times
are gifted to us
as blessings
to counter
life’s feverish pace
how pleasant to give in
let the world go 
without a fight
relax and let time pass
submit to lethargy
such rest is
cathartic
curative

in the moment
seek stillness
let life lapse
take time out from caring
to sit and look
relax and watch
unbend
allow the strain
to become becalmed

be still
in the silence of the day
give thoughts
the space to bloom
and eyes the time
to gaze

empower the present
and let it be enjoyed
for what it is
not for what will follow
for in the present
the past is severed
and be sure
the future
will have its day

look to the now
the sun, the moon
the stars, the sea
the wind, the rain
the warmth, the chill
ponder upon them
and upon life

or ponder not
just accept them
be glad
and be still

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 ‘Dolce Far Niente’ by John William Waterhouse – … 1880  (Kirkcaldy Galleries)

CRICKET

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© ‘ The Cricket Match’ … Pen & Wash – WHB – March 2017

 

CRICKET

Roll up, Roll up
And buy your ticket
Rejoice and thrill
At the game of CRICKET

Bowlers bowl
Fielders field
Batsmen bat
Never yield

Keepers keep
And catchers catch
All this happens
In a cricket match

Strikers strike
And hitters hit
Sloggers slog
Lickety-split

Floaters float
Beamers beam
Chuckers chuck
While seamers seam

Umpires umpire
Scorers score
Strikers strike
Can’t ask for more

Spinners spin
Sledgers sledge
Captains captain
At the cutting edge

Drivers drive
And blockers block
Bouncers bounce
Eye on the clock

Grafters graft
And Hackers hack
Hookers hook
Better stand back

Openers open
Swingers swing
Sweepers sweep
‘Cos that’s their thing

Oft played upon
A sticky wicket
Best sport of all
The game of CRICKET


 

As in all sports, cricket has over its long history built up a long list of specialist vocabulary, or jargon.  I have attempted to incorporate some of this specialist language in my verses.

My pen and wash painting is of a scene at the Heathcoat Cricket Club in Mid-Devon.
The game of cricket has been played on this ground since the late 19th Century. 

The ground itself is one of the few to be found actually within the grounds of a National Trust property – that of Knightshayes Court , in the village of Bolham, near Tiverton.

 


 

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Three Essex Villages, England

[ Photo Blog #47 ]

Just a few of my photographs taken in three beautiful villages in Essex in South East England – to the north and East of London.

Greensted Church, in the small village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar, near Chipping Ongar, is the oldest wooden church in the world, and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe still standing, albeit only in part, since few sections of its original wooden structure remain. The oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church, dated either to the mid-9th or mid-11th century.

Ingatestone is a village in Essex, England, with a population of about 4,500.

Ingatestone Hall is a Grade I listed 16th-century manor house in Essex, some 5 miles (8 km) south west of Chelmsford. It was built by Sir William Petre, and his descendants live in the house to this day.  William Petre bought Ingatestone manor soon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries for some £850 and commissioned the building of the house. Queen Elizabeth I of England spent several nights there on her royal progress of 1561.

The hall represented the exterior of Bleak House in the 2005 television adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel and also appeared in an episode of the TV series Lovejoy. Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novel Lady Audley’s Secret is set at Ingatestone Hall and was inspired by a stay there.

Orsett is a village and ecclesiastical parish located within Thurrock unitary district in Essex

( Information based on entries in Wikipedia )

OrsettCottage

A timbered and thatched cottage in Orsett

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Greensted Church

Greensted02

Greensted Church –  Wooden South Entrance

Ingatestone01

Ingatestone Hall

Ingatestone02

Ingatestone Hall – Clock Tower & Weather Vane

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Ingatestone Hall

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Ingatestone Hall – Roadside slogan – ‘Never Underestimate A Minority’

Gordon, Fanny, Nora and Jiminy

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Gordon, Fanny, Nora and Jiminy

(A light-hearted tale involving idiomatic language of a questionable kind)

Four one-time friends met up one day,
Their language was extreme;
Given to bombast, bluster, blather,
Just invective it would seem.

Expletives of the milder kind
Soon cut the air like glass,
From’ Fiddlesticks’ and ‘Jeepers Creepers’
To ‘What the Dickens, You silly ass?’

“Well, I must say, sweet Fanny Adams”,
Gordon Bennett said,
“Cor Blimey, you look cute just now,
Why don’t the two of us get wed?”

“Bloody Nora”, she replied,
“You can’t be serious.
Our dearest friend just next to you
She will be furious .”

“Don’t you ‘Bloody Nora’ me”,
Gordon Bennett replied,
“I’ll have your goddam guts for garters.”
Then Bloody Nora upped and cried,

“Oh, Streuth”, she loudly uttered then,
“Crikey and Gadzooks!
I thought ‘twas me you fancied most,
What about my famed good looks?”

But up spoke Jiminy Cricket then
The mildest of the four
Offended that he’d not heard right
“But it’s me, I thought, that you adore.”

“Crikey, you all get on my wick”,
Gordon began to moan,
“I don’t wish any of you ill,
But do cut out the whining tone.”

Before you could say “My giddy aunt”,
“Bob’s your Uncle”, said Fanny,
“Stone the crows you bunch of twits,
Your oafish language is uncanny.”

“You speak in riddles and in slang,
Codswallop is your tongue;
Holy Mackerel and Hell’s Bells,
You all are very highly strung.”

And so this odd exchange went on
In voices loud and shrill.
They hardly stopped to take a breath
‘Twas dubious language overkill.

But then, at last they quietened down,
Ran out of steam I suppose.
Their parting shots were more than rude,
But those I daren’t to you disclose.

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Oscar Wilde – ‘Tread lightly, she is near’

 (Poem No.45 of my favourite short poems)

WoT Churchyard

REQUIESCAT

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

 

by: Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

 

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Brian Patten – Mary’s Lamb

(Poem No.44 of my favourite short poems)

Brian Patten made his name in the 1960s as one of the Liverpool Poets, alongside Adrian Henri and Roger McGough.  He has written over fifty poetry books for both Adults and children.   Patten’s style is generally lyrical and his subjects are primarily love and relationships, but I have taken this, slight, but amusing poem, from one of his earliest collections of poems for children ‘Thawing Frozen Frogs’.

Marys Lamb

MARY HAD A BIT OF LAMB

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

She went into the butcher’s,
Came out with some lamb chops.
I would never follow Mary
Into any kind of shops!

 

Brian Patten (From: ’Thawing Frozen Frogs’ – Puffin Books, 1992; Illustration by David Mostyn)

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Cardiff

[ Photo Blog #45 ]

Cardiff Waterfront

CARDIFF is the capital city of WALES.  It has a very long and fascinating history.  Today I just want to give a brief mention to its waterfront, an area which in recent years has been developed into an attractive and intriguing area with many new buildings, shops, galleries, sculptures and visitor attractions.

The harbour at Cardiff Bay is situated on the Southern coast of Wales, UK.  It has one of the greatest tidal ranges in the world (up to 14m).  This meant that at low tide it was inaccessible for up to 14 hours a day.  However, the Cardiff Bay Barrage was completed in 1999, enabling the creation of a a vast freshwater lake (500 acres) and the development of what is now known as Cardiff Waterfront.  Here can be found the Welsh Assembly Government buildings, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre, the Pierhead Building, Techniquest Centre, the Senedd or Welsh Assembly Building, Butetown History and Arts Centre, the 2000 Lightship, the iconic Wales Millennium Centre, al-fresco cafes, restaurants, and public works of art, giving a truly cosmopolitan feel to the City.

It was here, in the Norwegian seamen’s church, that Roald Dahl and his brothers and sisters, of Norwegian descent but  born in Cardiff, were all christened.  This central area of the Cardiff Waterfront is now named Roald Dahl Plass and is the site of many of the city’s greatest events.

The links between Cardiff and Norwegian seamen date back to the coal boom when Scandinavian ships brought timber for pit props and returned home laden with coal. Churches like this with its attractive white clapboard cladding and pointy spire were built to serve the Norwegian sailors who docked here. Today the restored church features an interesting gallery and a friendly café.

The photographs are by me, taken on a visit to the city several years ago . . .

 

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Model of Cardiff Waterfront

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The Norwegian Church

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Cardiff-03

Commerative photograph of a portrait of Roald Dahl in the Interior of the Norwegian Church

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Commemorative plaque on the naming of Roald Dahl Plass

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The Pierhead Building

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The Wales Millennium Centre

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A bronze of an immigrant couple symbolising the arrival of many to Tiger Bay seeking a better life in Britain.

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Female Beastie Bench – Cardiff Bay, Sculpted bench in brick  ‘My Beautiful City of Cardiff’

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The 2000 Lightship, a Christian centre funded by Associated British Ports and Cardiff council – now re-sited

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Stained glass Portholes on the Lightship

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DEATH Visits The Pound Shop

death-at-the-poundshop

DEATH VISITS THE POUND SHOP

 

I heard it in the Pound Shop,
A cheapish place to be.
At first I wasn’t listening,
It seemed like Greek to me.

On her mobile phone,
Talking to who knows who.
Oblivious to all else
When in the checkout queue.

I’ll give you the milder version,
Don’t wish to spoil your day.
“ ‘Snot goin to’ appen” she shouted,
“Tell ‘im to eff off out of the way.”

Then raising her voice in crescendo,
Turning the air quite blue,
“It reely ‘urts” she said,
“’Urry up ‘cos I want the loo.”

Ignored by her fellow shoppers
This lasted quite a while
And no one tried to stem the flow
Of rhetoric and bile.

Yes, several brows were furrowed,
But no one else said a word.
‘Twas as though it hadn’t happened,
Nothing untoward had occurred.

Until a gaunt and aged chap
Facing her directly,
Said, “It’s H-urts, not ‘urts, you know,
Please do speak correctly.”

“And H-urry, H-appen, not just ‘appen”,
He then went on to say,
“H-ell’s bells and H-old your H-orses too,
Just get it right I pray.”

The woman was stunned for just a moment,
I thought she hadn’t heard.
She looked with disdain on him,
And said, “Don’t be H-absurd!”

And then that old and dark-caped chap
Taking a deep breath,
Wielding a scythe and timer said,
“Lady, you are approaching Death.”

“‘Ow rude”,  she shouted sullenly
And headed for the door,
What cheek to tell me ‘ow to speak
”I ain’t stayin ‘ere no more”.

With this the miffed and coarse-grained lady
Swiftly bagged her phone
Left the shop with deadly speed,
 “I’m effing off back ‘ome”.

CODA . . .

 What happened to the aspirate
Has it become redundant?
Careless speech is everywhere
And coarseness now abundant.