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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Skin Divers with Iron Buttocks - My Word! (Those Chaps Look Awfully Small)

I think anyone that does this, must have some arsehole. One would need it in such circumstances. It brings to mind just how big sharks are with an awful lot of teeth. The divers look like 'nothing more than' a light snake. The bars look rather flimsy too.

Yes, I take my hat off to these people who take such risks. I don't think it is stupid and pointless. I believe there is much knowledge to be gained. The photo is awesome and I can't comprehend what must be going through the diver's minds. I've a fair idea what would be going through mine. The picture is absolutely WICKED! :D

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Amazing Line of Jim Dunaway's Wolfpack Photo

I was so taken back by this photo of a wolf pack that I came across on LinkedIn. It is from Jim Dunaway and the words below are his. What an amazing blurb about the dynamics of a wolf pack.

"A wolf pack: the first 3 are the old or sick, they give the pace to the entire pack. If it was the other way round, they would be left behind, losing contact with the pack. In case of an ambush they would be sacrificed. Then come 5 strong ones, the front line. In the center are the rest of the pack members, then the 5 strongest following. Last is alone, the alpha. He controls everything from the rear. In that position he can see everything, decide the direction. He sees all of the pack. The pack moves according to the elders pace and help each other, watch each other."

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Scottish King Killed in Battle (King James IV at Battle of Flodden)

Scottish King Killed in Battle (King James IV at Battle of Flodden)

The War of the League of Cambrai was fought in stages. From 1508 – 1510, 1510- 1511, 1511 – 1513, and finally from 1513 – 1516. This papal state war began with various countries honouring alliances and signed pacts. As the wars continued various European states entered or left the conflict, hence the various yearly stages of the war.

When the war first started in 1508, we (British) must look at this papal European war from our island perspective, which in itself, is divided by two. Scotland and England had formed alliances with other European nations, independent of Each other.

Scotland’s kings were Stewarts while England’s were Tudors. It would be 95 years before the Scottish Stewarts would unite both kingdoms under one monarch. At this time Scotland and England were bitter enemies. Always at the point of fighting one another. Over the centuries there had been a number of bloody conflicts. Therefore an alliance by marriage between the Tudors and the Stewarts seemed appropriate.

King Henry VII sent his daughter Margaret Tudor to marry the King of Scotland, James IV. The Stewart Scottish king had ruled the nation since 1488 and was regarded as one of Scotland’s most successful kings. This was in 1503 at the age of 30. His coronation was in 1488 at age 15.

When England’s King Henry VII died in 1509 his surviving second son became the infamous King Henry VIII. He was a young man and still 17. His coronation took place four days before his 18th birthday. The young king was enthusiastic and immediately set about trying to put England on the high stage of European nations. His first act was to arrest and execute two of his father’s senior ministers. He wanted his own chosen men around him.

The year of 1509 was one year into the War of the League of Cambrai. This conflict was fought between the Papal States allied with France against Venice at first. It had not troubled Scotland or England too much. Then in 1510, the Papal States switched sides and joined Venice against France. Then Spain, The Holy Roman Empire, The Swiss, and England, under Henry VIII’s kingship also allied with Pope Julius II in 1511.

Although Scotland’s King James IV was married to the English Tudor King’s sister, he had signed an alliance with the king of France. This treaty made James IV honour bound to attack the King of France’s enemies. King Louis XII of France called upon James IV for assistance when Henry the VIII of England invaded from Calais into France with other members of the Catholic League alliance in 1513.

There was a new Pope Leo X in March 1513. He tried to threaten the Scottish King with excommunication if he did not refrain from invading England to draw Henry VIII’s forces away from France. This was not done and so King James IV of Scotland was excommunicated from Rome.

The first thing James IV of Scotland then did was to send his navy to aid France. This included the Great Michael – a warship with twice the displacement of England’s Mary Rose.

There was some political ramblings between Scots and English political diplomats, but Henry VIII refused to desist from his war in France. Therefore Scotland invaded Northern England with an army of around 60,000 men. It was a well-equipped force with cannon, cavalry and infantry etc.  This was in August of 1513.

Because of all the diplomatic protocols – warnings and threats before the actual invasion; Henry VIII and his advisers were prepared for the Scottish war. He did not leave France and return to England, but left his Queen Catherine (Catherine of Aragon) in charge as regent to confront the Scottish forces. She had formidable help with advisers like 2ndBaron Darcy, the Earl of Surrey, the Lord High Admiral, Sir Edward Stanley and many more capable men of rank.

King James IV’s Scottish army took Northern English castles of Norham, Etal and Ford. At this point the King wasted some time with an English woman he knew – Lady Heron. It was almost as though he had no reason to aggressively secure anymore strongholds and seems to have been lapsed from the notion of any further need of urgency.

A large part of his 60,000 strong force returned to Scotland. The English army gathering to meet King James IV’s remaining force at a village called Branxton. The Scottish forces were stationed just south at a place called Flodden Edge. The English force was now at 25,000 strong. A force that was still outnumbered, but there may have been local militia and so on. It can’t be said for sure. The Scottish army still numbered 40,000.

The English Earl of Surrey marched his forces on a wide north east sweep around the Scottish forces and on the opposite bank of the River Till. He did this because the Scottish forces at Flodden Edge had dug their artillery into fortified grounds that had an excellent view of the expected English attack. The English Earl tried to get King James IV to move his forces to a position where the two armies were more evenly matched.

One might laugh at the attempt of appealing to a king’s notion of chivalry, and one might expect the Scottish King to tell the English Earl to go for a long walk off of a short pier. Well James the IV did do so in, perhaps, more diplomatic terms. He stated he had chosen his ground and would oblige the English army to do its own thing. Hopefully, from the Scottish point of view, attack the gun emplacements.

Perhaps the Earl of Surrey thought it worth chancing the rebuke. One never knows as the saying goes: Ask don’t get. Or… don’t ask don’t want!

What happened next was the English army was moving behind the Scottish forces blocking their return home. The English would be happy to stay put on the north side of the river and wait if they were allowed to strengthen their new position.

However, as the English army were moving into position, King James, realising English intentions, ordered his Scottish forces to move the guns two miles towards Branxton village to meet the new English position. As the English Earl of Surrey’s men began to disperse and form orderly lines of battle, King James IV and his army were already in formation and assembled ready to meet their English foes.

The English formed two lines of battle with a supporting vanguard. The artillery on both sides of the conflict opened fire, trying to break up each other’s formations. When all this canon fire died down the Scots moved forward to confront the English Pike/Bill men, archers etc. The English field guns were lighter than the Scottish heavier guns and may also have had the ability to fire at closer range with crude canister as the Scots infantry and cavalry advanced. At this moment of the battle; the heavy Scottish cannons may have been of little use because they could not move the heavy and cumbersome cannons forward when the soldiers advanced over the rough and muddy terrain. The lighter English cannons were too heavy to move as well, but they had the advantage of an enemy force marching closer to their position.

The Scottish forces were led from the front by their high ranking men. This was brave, but made the directors of Scottish battle targets for the English who began to fire cannon, arrow and projectiles at the advancing Scots. The battle developed into a bitter and fierce struggle with the Scots taking huge casualties from the English as they advanced over the difficult terrain. Scottish fatalities were rising with every minuet and the situation became more desperate. Leading men were killed and the orderly lines began to dither and become unsure without proper leadership. New men of high rank stepped up but they too, were killed.

Eventually the King rallied his Scots in another attempt to break the English line of battle. He led the attack against the Earl of Surrey’s position and as he led his Scots soldiers into the heart of the fighting he began to chop and hack his way forward with other Scottish nobles and men of his larger army.

The English line fought furiously to repel this desperate Scottish attack. The Englishmen of high birth were guiding the battle from the rear. This may sound cowardly, but they could direct troops where they were needed most. The Scots were losing their talented nobles trying to get through the English infantry of bill, musket and spear. As King James IV led and encouraged his Scots forward into the heart of battle, he cohered his mount deep into the furious brawl of desperately fighting men, towards the Earl of Surrey, hoping to confront and take the English noble one way of another.

The King was but a short distance from the Earl when he was struck by an arrow and then stabbed with a bill hook by one of the many spear men. He fell from his horse among the English soldiers as the Scottish ranks broke. What followed next was the route as the fleeing Scots were hacked down with no leaders to organise them.

At the end of the Battle of Flodden (Sometimes called Battle of Braxton) Scotland had lost in excess of 10,000 men. Many would perish in the confusion of the route, though large numbers also fell in the actual battle. Of these vanquished Scotsmen, there were 9 Earls, 13 Barons, 5 titled heirs, 3 Bishops, 2 Abbots and of course; the King of Scotland.

King James IV was the last British king to die in Battle. His English wife and sister of England’s Henry VIII would remain in Scotland while James V grew to an adult. She also gave birth to a second son of King James IV – a son received posthumously.

The English lost an estimated 1,500 soldiers during the battle. A Scottish Lord was said to have advised the late Scottish King against the conflict, comparing the contest to be a wager of a gold piece to that of an unworthy half penny. Scotland’s King being the gold piece while England’s Earl being the bent half penny. If such a thing were so, it would have made the loss even greater for Scotland.

As far as The War of the League of Cambrai went; The French and Venetians won victory. The English were allied to the losing side, but suffered no great loss from it. The Scots were allied to the winning side, but lost much, including their King. Even their fine ship, the Great Michael became a possession of their French ally. Because the huge ship cost so much to maintain and much of Scotland’s nobility had perished, the huge ship was sold to King Louis XII of France for 40,000 livres. It was renamed Le Grand Nef d’Ecosse (The Big Nave of Scotland)

Queen Catherine of England sent Henry VIII the bloodied shirt of Scotland's King James IV as a war trophy while the English king was remained in France continuing with his campaign.


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Mystical Roman Britain of Two Queens

The Cool and Calm Reasoning of Men During Child Birth

I think that most of us blokes try to approach child birth with support for our ladies when they go into labour, but let’s be fair; the vast majority of us are at a loss and can only hold a hand. 

We say things like, “Push,” then look to nurses and mother-in-laws for support, thinking they have all the ‘get out of jail free cards,’ to get us through the experience. Sometimes we get the odd stinging reply back from the partner who is in the throw of labour.

I was talking to my son and daughter-in-law after the birth of our grandson Dennis on the 20th of January 2016. (Mentioned in previous blog) I had been to see him for the first time and was playing with the granddaughter who was toddling about.

The conversation went onto how the daughter-in-law’s labour came about. Claire was saying how she had been tiding up and had just put something on the shelf when her water's broke. Lloyd, my son, reacted the same way as I had during the birth of my four sons. He panicked and called for Mum-in-law and all clambered into the car and off to hospital for delivery and a rather disorganised night out. We were all laughing about the event afterwards and it reminded me of a comical and rather embarrassing thing I did during the birth of my fourth son, Ryan.

I decided to tell Claire the story and Lloyd started laughing because I, no doubt, had told him before and he was about 11 years of age at the time.

It was 1996 when I turned up in the hospital car park at Basildon, Essex about 6am. It was a summer morning on June 10th and I remember seeing the mother-in-law’s partner coming out of the hospital in the early hours as I was running across the car park. He had driven Hayley to the hospital with her mother. Hayley, who I was with, had decided to stay at her mother’s that night because the house was closer to the hospital.

I got into the delivery area to find Hayley and her mother, Barbara, standing in a corridor about to enter one of the many delivery rooms along the corridor. One side of the corridor had delivery rooms and on the other side was a line of doors that were toilet cubicles.

There were a few nurses going about their duties as we entered the small room with a bed and the pull around curtains. There were also monitors and things and a chair either side of the bed. Hayley no sooner got up onto the bed when she said, “I need to pee.”

There followed a commotion where by Hayley would not use whatever it is they bring in and insisted that she wanted to go back into the corridor and across to the toilets. I just watched dumfounded as Hayley got up from bed and walked off with her mother and a nurse trying to advise her. Hayley was often stubborn about odd things and on this occasion she was going to pee in the toilet even though she was having a baby.

So there I am, thinking 'women are rather strange.' I’m here, sitting in a small delivery room in an unusually quite birth area of a hospital. Well, at least the expected baby would have good attention. It did all seem to have a lack of urgencey, or of expectant mothers. Maybe, it was just an unusual quite moment. Well, I waited and I waited but still Hayley, Mother-in-law (Barbara) and nurses did not return. No nurse popped in to say, “Don’t worry Colin, she will not be long.”

There was nothing and the whole place seemed empty. There was a complete lack of screaming mothers and busy nurses or even crying babies coming into the world. Here I was – a bloke alone in a delivery room of a hospital birth unit. I was feeling rather out of place. Perhaps the zombie apocolypse had happened. It seemed as though I was waiting for ages.

Then I heared a sudden upheaval in the delivery room next to me. Some people had arrived. I was sitting there listening to the nurses telling some poor lady to get onto the bed. It seemed more like the sort of thing one might expect in a hospital birth unit. It all sounded wonderfully normal. I could hear the lady moaning and crying out as the people around said words of comfort and so on. It was obvious that the lady was actually giving birth and now everything began to seem and sound normal for a birth unit in a hospital.

For the merest of moments I felt assured and refreshed at such expectant normality. Then to my horror I heard the nurse call out instructions. “Push Hayley push – you’re doing very well.”

I clutched my teeth in total frustration and muttered to myself, “Oh God! They’ve gone back into the empty room next door.” They must have thought I had gone on a walk about or a pee. Isn’t that just like women?

The call of another cry of pain and again I heard, “Push Hayley – good girl – you’re doing well.”

I shot up and marched out of the empty delivery room and proceeded next door, where it was all happening. This was it! The moment was now! I wanted to be in on the action for Hayley. Imagine in later years if I was not there during the birth. No one was going to say, "Colin was not there at the birth."

With great aplomb and gritty determination, I went into the new delivery room as the nurse again called, “Push Hayley push.”

I pulled upon the draw around curtains to see Hayley and the mother-in-law and nurses. The nurses were different from the ones who were with Hayley before she went to the toilet. I would also like to point out that Hayley, who was giving birth, and Mother-in-law were different too. I can’t say if an expectant father was also among the entourage because it was at that moment my skills of perception kicked in. I shut the curtains and walked off, knowing I had made a bit of a pig’s ear of that little escapade.

I saw the Hayley that I 'obviously' knew with familiar mother-in-law and nurses coming across the corridor from the toilet cubicle.

“Where have you been?” I heard someone say. I can’t remember who.

I just mumbled. “I thought it was you in there. Her name is Hayley too.”

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Mad, the Cranky and the Diabolical (Base Jumper of London)

This 'Day in the Life' from YouTube is about an illegal base jumper. He has done in excess of 1,500 base jumps from high rise buildings. Again, it is something I think is mental, yet I can't help watching this guys adrenalin rush. The man is compelling, yet he is also a complete fruit loop in my humble opinion.

I can't help thinking that people who take such chances and push the boundaries so constantly are some how at the forefront of humanity. It sounds weird, I know, but where would humanity be without the chancers?

He is totally addicted to this underworld sport, but when he talks, you can't help getting the smallest of vibes concerning the excitement and head rush.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

New Grandson - Dennis

My new grandson Dennis was born today 20th January 2016. We now have 18 grandchildren - 13 granduaghters and 5 grandsons. Dennis' birthday is exactley the same day as his elder brother Floyd who is 8 today.

Therefore Floyd has a new baby brother for his birthday although he is only wrapped in a blanket and nappy. Unlike the rest of Floyds birthday presants.

There are also three sisters, Emily May, Harriet and Bluebella that are all pleased with their new baby brother. Everyone is excited and we are all planning our trip to Essex to visit the new born.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Twilight of the Great Rock Gods

Things must and do move on. Though it is with some measure of sadness and nostalgia that we look upon the twilight of the Great Rock Icons. Every year another one dies from those heady times when the music was sensational and took the world by storm.

During the heady times of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s so many of the Rock icons were anti-establishment in their appearance and their lyrics. I remember my grand parents bemoaning with words like; "Awe my bleeding Gawd! What does he look like?" 

Then these iconic musicians/artists grew in stature and even though we sometimes stepped back in shock and amazement, we were also compelled by them. At first they seemed twisted and deranged, yet we were still compelled to look and listen. Eventually these demi Gods became respected for their unique styles and presentations. 

When I was an eleven year old kid, I remember seeing David Bowie in TV singing Starman. He and the other guitarist, Mick Ronson looked effeminate with their dyed hair and glittering girl-type clothes. Yet through all of that, I was compelled to watch that totally 'out there' look.

I remember my cousin Debbie had a picture of him on her bedroom wall and he was wearing a skirt on stage. I could not understand how a girl liked this, but she was rebellious as well. In time I found that I always liked David Bowie's music. I thought he was still 'off the radar' with his Ziggy Stardust phase and I started to like the stage act and become a casual fan. 

I remember my friend telling me the meaning of 'John I'm Only Dancing' lyrics and was gob smacked by such audacity as we walked around Romford Market on a Saturday among the normal people doing their normal things.

"Why did you buy that record then?" I asked with my nose probably wrinkled.

"Because he's cool and doesn't care," He replied.

I think I might have replied "Oh!" or something else flumaxed. Hey! That was that then. I got over it and move on. The song was great and he continued to make more. 

Then he metamorphosed into a new persona. He had a neat hair cut and was wearing suits and things. The Sound and Vision song, Golden Years were so un-Ziggy Stardust yet so David Bowie still.

David Bowie could always be different and go against the grain, but David always had a signature. It is sad that he has moved on like so many of the icons of that wonderful era when the music was so good - from the time when my much loved grand parents would say things like; "We fought a war for the likes of people like this."

I think in David Bowie's case and many other icons like him; fighting that dreadful war was so worth it. Freedom of speech and expression moved a long way during this time and I sincerely believe some of the Rock Gods helped in this way.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Robin Left as New Dinners Arrived

I was clicking away for a short time and the then the robin flew off. Imeadiately a couple of blue tits landed and began to feed. It was a very tranquil setting in the woodlands and we were miles from anyone. We later ambled along a public bridal path for some way and saw a buzzard in the distance.

I tried a few shots but the raptor was too far. Its a shame for the open fields looked promising for such sights if we were prepered to stand around. However, we just prefered to stroll along and enjoy the winter morning.