The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

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 year by year 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 rambling between Scots and English 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. 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 the Northern English castles of Norham, Etal and Ford. At one of these castles, the King wasted time with an English woman he knew – Lady Heron. He lapsed from the notion of urgency and contented himself in social discourse. This lasted for some days and was a waste of time. He seemed to have no reason to aggressively secure more English strongholds and land.

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

The Earl of Surrey marched his forces on a wide northeast sweep around the Scottish formation and on to 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 taking the chance of a rebuke. One never knows as the saying goes: Ask don’t get. Or. Don’t ask, don’t want!

The English army began to assemble behind the Scottish forces blocking their return home. They would have been happy to stay put on the north side of the river and wait to strengthen their chosen location.

However, as this new position was in preparation, King James, realised the intentions of the enemy. He ordered his Scottish forces to move their guns two miles towards Branxton village to meet the new English position. As the Earl of Surrey’s men began to disperse and form orderly lines of battle, King James IV and his army were quickly assembled 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/Billmen, archers etc. The English field guns were lighter than the Scottish heavier guns and may also have had the ability to fire at close range with a 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 cumbersome pieces forward when the soldiers advanced over the rough and muddy terrain. The lighter English guns were also too heavy to move, 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 noblemen. This was brave but made the directors, of the Scottish army, targets for the enemy. The English began to fire cannon, arrow and other projectiles at the advancing enemy soldiers. The battle developed into a bitter and fierce struggle with the Scots taking huge casualties. They doggedly advanced over the difficult terrain with English soldiers slinging everything they could muster at the advancing Scots. With each pace, Scottish fatalities were rising. The situation became more desperate. Leading men were killed and the orderly lines dithered 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 encouraged his soldiers into the heart of the fighting he began to chop and hack his way forward. Among the Scots was a Lord Hume. In future generations, his ancestral house would have a British Prime Minister - Sir Alec Douglas Hume. 

The English line fought furiously to repel this desperate attack. The English noblemen 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 edged his mount deep into the furious brawl of fighting men. He tried to reach the Earl of Surrey, hoping to confront and take the English noble one way of another. If he could succeed in this it would cause the enemy rank and file to retreat or run.

The King was but a short distance from the Earl when he was struck by an arrow and then stabbed with a billhook by one of the many spearmen. 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 into an adult. She also gave birth to the 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 halfpenny. Scotland’s King being the gold piece, while England’s Earl being the bent halfpenny. 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 battleship was sold to King Louis XII of France for 40,000 lives. 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. The English king remained in France continuing with his campaign.


Sunday, 24 January 2016

For One of Many Top Sci Fi Books

New Sci fi books are always looked out for. Good sci fi books are in the realms of the reader opinions. For good or for bad, best new sci fi books can only be hoped for by the author. Therefore, keep readers happy and hope for good sci fi book reviews.

For one of many such top sci fi books Click Here

War of the Worlds Adaptation Retro Science Fiction Novel (The Last Days of Thunder Child)

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.

The Robin in the Woods.

Today Carole and I got up and had some breakfast. It is Sunday and we have nothing planned. We drink our tea and talk about the sudden chill in the air that has come about over the past few days. Some semblance of winter is finally here. Up until the New Year it has been very mild for the Fenland.

I suggest a drive out to some woodlands close to March town and Carole seems pleased. We like to go out and do something. We went upon a woodland ramble and saw many things including deer and a far off buzzard. They were too far to get decent pictures, but we enjoyed the ramble along the woodland path. At the perimeter of the woods overlooking the field were several owl boxes.

We came across an old rickety looking bird table where a robin and some blue tits were feeding. I managed to get a few short of the robin as it went about it business of feeding.


Friday, 15 January 2016

The Mad Vigilante. (THE FLYING MAN)

This is a mini film from YouTube. It is called The Flying Man. A mock story of a Super hero going bonkers. A crazy vigilante who goes on a rampage killing people who have criminal records. Its got bite and it's a creepy look at a totally wacky anti-hero. The faceless man just appears above the city and crowds of people are filming him on their mobiles.

In many ways it is having a pop at what it may be like if a real being with super powers could patrol the skies un-hindered and un-restrained as in comic books. 

I Like My Job

When I get up of a morning, I actually look forward to going into work. I'm always out doors and I work in mainly rural areas. The Fenland has a few big towns, but mostly countryside. To get from one town to another, a person must drive across miles and miles of open farm fenland. 

As a kid, living in London, the streets and towns never ended. One went from one district into another. Since moving to the rural fenland, my whole life has changed. I'm middle aged and own my lovely house and just needed any old job to make a few quid each month. 

I took a chance and moved here and hoped for the best. I went to am employment agency and two weeks later was phoned to start work at Fenland District Council. The work's yard was walking distance from my house. I could hardly believe my luck. In all the Fenland the work's yard was 10 minuets from home.

I went out with the garbage lorries and emptied bins from all over the Fens. The towns, the farms the villages - every where.

My work crew are great and we all get on well while plodding about all day emptying wheelie bins with selected waste. The whole environment is calm when I look out across the fields and farms. It feels like I'm a million miles away from the old woes and worries of my former life.

I'm enjoying my fifties and all I seem to do is plod along with great work mates and a job I love. Its incredible because being a bin loader on garbage trucks is something most people would not want. I love it. We are out with our own little crew with no one breathing down our necks. We are left do our round and we get on with it.

In summer its wonderful and there are countless things to see. In the winter we see the sun rise and it all makes for a serene sight.

I was just over 16 stone when I came here. I was over weight to say the least. I walk around 12 miles a day. Now my weight is under 14 stone and I'm much fitter. I was surprised to know that there are still a few bin loaders older than me and some around my age too. As a job for seeing out my working life, I could not want one better. 

I have time to come home and do the things I want and am able to get exercise each day doing my job. At the moment it is cold because the winter is beginning to show up. But still, I like working outdoors in the Fen. Even in winter.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

A German WWI Submarine Washed Upon the Shore of an English Seaside Town 1919.

The Great War was over and hostilities had ceased. By the time of early spring in 1919 people of Britain were beginning to get back to normality after the Great War had changed so many lives. It was a war that many Britons had felt close too, even at home upon their island. Most wars before then had been fought across the sea in far off distant lands. Even wars in Europe had not troubled the civilian population the way the Great War had. But by 1919 it was over.

The people of the seaside town of Hastings had not known of an enemy invader since William the Conqueror in 1066.

On April the 15th 1919 the seaside town's inhabitants woke to a shock. Washed upon the shore was a monumental edifice of Kaiser Wilhelm II enemy navy. A dreaded submarine (SM U-118) The colossal structure looked like a beached whale.

In no time the inhabitants of Hastings were all upon the beach looking at the stricken fighting marine machine in their thousands. A huge lifeless vessel laying upon the shingle while the people walked about it like little ants in awe of the dead thing before them.

The British Admiralty gave the town clerk consent to charge a boarding fee to people who wanted to get up onto the submarine's deck. Also two members of the coastguard were drafted in to show visitors around the inside of the German submarine. This was quickly abandoned because the two coastguards who remained inside the sub, waiting for the visitors, became seriously ill. Shortly afterwards the two coast guards died. It was later realised that the batteries of the German submarine had been leaking deadly chlorine gas. This had caused the men's brains and lungs to burn, leaving acute and fatal abscesses.

The submarine had been surrendered to French forces after the armistice in November 1918. SM U -118 was being towed from France to Scapa Flow where it was to be broken up for scrape. It had been launched in May 1918. The vessel was virtually new. As it was being towed through the English channel, its hawser broke during a storm. It was cast adrift and ran aground on the beach at Hastings. 

There were a few attempts to drag the submarine back into the water and a French navel vessel tried to brake it up with explosives. None of this worked and the close proximity of civilian establishments forced the powers that be to brake the vessel up upon the shore between October and December 1919. All the salvage was sold for scrap.

Why do we want to do daring things?

What is it about absurdly daring things that transfix us? Walking a tightrope with a drop that would kill. There is nothing that can be gained from it. It does not further the human cause. It is something negative. Yet still I feel compelled to watch such people tweak the nose of danger. Sometimes danger bites back.

I think the observer gambles that the walker will not fall, but we watch in case he does. When this happens we recoil and think, 'Good God!' or other such things.

What of the daredevil who is compelled to try such things? What goes on in their mind? I can't stand heights and this is what I think draws me to watch. There is absolutely no way upon Earth, I would ever want to do such a thing, yet I'm drawn to watch someone try.

I remember watching Evel Knievel as a kid jumping the buses on a motorbike. I thought it was great, but I've never entertained the idea of trying it myself. Why do I watch such things. The Isle of Man TT motorbike racing is something else too. All these life threatening things and I get an adrenalin rush watching it. Why?

The other day I bought a DVD about a Frenchman who tightrope walked the Twin Towers back in the 70s. He sneaked in the equipment and secretly rigged the wire between both towers and then began his walk while police got to the top on both building waiting to arrest him. I found the documentary movie gripping and I still keep asking myself why? There is no way I would do it. I thought the walker was a total fruit loop, yet I was compelled to watch.

Who Are These Guys?

Our bin lorry went jostling along a very uneven lane the other day. We were working in a small village called Doddington. As we came out of the village we had to go up a lot of rough and uneven muddy drives towards farms etc.

Sometimes one might drive a good distance to collect a bin from a farm sitting isolated in the Fens. Its all good fun and part of the job we all like. I'm always looking for birds of prey and along this route, I've seen a Little Owl perched upon the cable. I was hoping to catch it on my mobile camera, but it was not there.

We stopped at one very rural location along the drive when all of these, weird, hairy, over grown dysfunctional looking sheep came bounding up to the fence. I think they were hoping we had food for them. They seemed most interested in us and not of sheeply nature. They took me a little by surprise, but I did realise that I had seen such things on TV. I'm told they are called Llamas and come from South America. 

"There are some rather strange farms around here," I said to Dave and Alex.

They agreed and laughed with me as I got out my mobile phone and photographed the llamas by the fence.

Some farms have alpacas roaming about and I have even seen deer farms, plus ostrich farms too. The UK's agriculture is becoming a little more adventurous of late.

China's Ancient and Great Wall.

How long ago was it built? Who placed the first building brick? When was it finished? How many people did it employ?

Can you imagine going back in time to one of the great Chinese dynasties and walking along this wall from one tower to another. From one end to another. Seeing all the various guards along the way. The sentinels of the day that guarded the snake like edifice that can still be seen in this day and age.

How long did this grand undertaking take to complete? It was obviously done in stages and perhaps over centuries. Just looking at the image above takes my breath away. China's civilisation has metamorphosed through many stages of development, yet still the Great Wall remains.

I wonder what ghosts one might see if all the ages could be picked randomly to view? Say 300 BC. Who would be patrolling this walkway? I think the bushes would be gone, but there might be a soldier or two pacing along this battlement. What dynasty would he be of? How old would the Great Wall have been then?

Who was the individual that dreamed of such a monument? Why was it built? Surely not to keep Mongel tribesmen at bay? 


The E Street Bully Boys

"Non-stop action and engaging dialogue. Certainly one of the best reads out there! Both kids and adults will love it."

The Bully Boys were the largest, toughest gang in the city, the undisputed champions of the street. That was until a rival group called the Marauders, led by the evil Nicodemus, stole their turf. Now they are despised and hunted by every cat in Tangy Town. Their only hope is a newcomer from the suburbs with a bizarre talent, a talent that could put them back on top. But can it? This is a story for both children and and adults, a rip-roaring fantasy that you will not soon forget.

Great fun with engaging characters. Highly creative with cats being the centre of the action. Can the unlikely newcomer save the Bully Boys or will it be then end of them all? Follow the cats through their hi-jinx towards a new future.

The E STREET BULLY BOYS A great fantasy tale for cat lovers everywhere. 

A Walk Along Shepard's Bridge

Today, Carole and I went for a walk along Shepard's Bridge. I took the camera with me and there were a few things worth photographing though many did not come out too well. Still with today's photo tech one just scrubs the shot off of the memory card and starts again. I managed to get a cormorant on the cable line and then flying off.

Also, I saw a bird of prey (Common Buzzard) being harassed by crows and seagulls. I'm fast learning that when I see a group of carrion squawking excitedly; it is usually because a bird of prey is within the territory. They gang up and try to hustle the raptor away.

It usually works, but I think they have to be a little careful when doing this. They seem more manoeuvrable then raptors but they only need to get swiped once by the talons and the particular carrion bird will be heading downwards and endgame.

My pictures of the buzzard, hiding in the tree, were not worthy of putting on the blog. The distance needed better patience and each shot looked blurred due to the lens wobble. I got a couple of the buzzard flying off with carrion in pursuit, but again at distance.

After a while we got to Shepard's Bridge and had a look about. Nothing much was happening and although the day was bright, the winter had a chill bite. Not great for January, but just enough to let us know we were in winter.

If You Get Up Early Mother Nature Will Blow You A Kiss

Having just got over the Christmas Bank Holidays, our bin collection dates are all out of sequence. We are collecting Monday's on a Wednesday etc.When this happens we do something called 'catch up.' This means we come in on Saturdays to catch up for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. This involves three following Saturdays on Overtime to make the days go back in order of rotation.

This Saturday 9th January 2016, the alarm went off and I thought, "Errrrrrr - Saturday and getting up for work." Our job always gives us Saturday and Sunday off and we do a rotating rest day between Monday to Friday. A four day week. We do long days when in work, but it is all out door in the countryside most of the time or in pleasant country hamlets. Its a very agreeable job and with great work mates. It's just these odd Saturdays when one is a little spoilt to not working weekends. When that alarm call comes in the winter, one doesn't always get up with great aplomb if you get my meaning.

Still - get up - I did. The shower soon washed the cobwebs away and into to work I went. We were scheduled to do a small village called 'Friday Bridge.' in the Fenland. The approach has open fields. Our driver Alex commented on one shinning star up in the morning darkness. We reasoned it was probably a planet. Using his phone app he was able to point the screen towards the one shinning tiny orb and his screen lit up with stars that would be there if all was clearer. What an amazing app. We were able to learn instantly that it was Saturn.

Feeling pleased with ourselves we got out and began to load the bins of Friday Bridge. We had a helper from another department called Lloyd (Loading bins in picture) and all three of us were marvelling at how great the sky looked in the dawn. The clouds seemed to be of many colours and to the north we could see the sky looked tempest as though rain might come. However, where we were, the climate was agreeable. Especially for January in winter.

I commented on how I did not fancy getting up on a Saturday morning but seeing the sky was all worth it as Alex and I were clicking our mobile phone cameras. Lloyd was laughing at us and our uplifting view on the wonderful morning. In the Fens you can see for miles across the flat drained marshlands that are rich in agriculture. Everywhere are farms and neat lines of distant trees running along the dike networks. All bare and bleak looking. We know that spring is not far off and in a few weeks this will all change.

Alex laughed and said. "See! If you get up early enough - Mother Nature Will Blow You a Kiss."

We all laughed and set about our task of clearing the inhabitants of Friday Bridge's bin garbage.

Just another day in the Fenland, but when one looks up into the sky and out across all the surrounding fields; I realise my lot in the world is a rather fortunate one.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Uriah Heep Singing Wizard. (Reaching back for the Optimism)

Some of these old seventies rock bands really flick an old nostalgia switch. They seemed so modern - an open door to a new world that was waiting with open arms, where personified dreams beckoned. Now even the old dreams seem tainted and sad. The world has changed so much since this time in the early seventies and I never noticed it along the way.

When I look back, I can see the change, but did not notice as the days and months rolled by. Only when looking back, across the years, I realise changes were happening and these caused consequences and so on. However, I'm not complaining that the changes are disappointing. They are just different from what I think I expected. I think songs like this, when I was young, presented a horizon of opportunity - a view of a green meadow with a clean sun shinning just above the lush green wheat. It seemed very inviting. My life before me.

I think I walked to that hill and passed that beckoning sun but never noticed it because there were so many things that I was attending to upon the way. I was young when I heard the upbeat and very pleasant song and the dream was a wonderful indulgence. The romantic journey towards the future was about to begin, then it did and I never bothered to notice the optimism along the way.

Then, I hear this song again and watch the band as they were back then. The echo of that hopeful time brushes me and I remember how jolly it was to be a youth again with naive and grand ideas. Its all part of growing up and now we can go back and touch those memories as an indulgence.

Great song, great band and great memories.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Graf Spee - Germany's Pocket Battleship

Germany had made some splendid ships by the time WWII broke out. In a short space of time, they won great reputation, but most were lost early in the war or were confined to ports and fjords etc. Those that did try to make an impact did, but at cost. There just was not enough of these grand vessels to do too much damage. Not like the submarine Wolf packs did.

However, the design of Germany's WWII ships remains compelling to history fans and many people marvel at the wonderful ability of such Battleships.

The German pocket battleship, Admiral Graf Spee, which fought an epic sea battle with the British Cruisers Exeter, Ajax and Achilles, at the mouth of the River Plate

A lasting memorial has been unveiled to the sailors on all sides who fought and died in the Battle of the River Plate during the Second World War 75 years ago.On the landmark anniversary of what was the war's first major naval engagement, a handful of the battle's surviving veterans gathered to see a plaque unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, today.

The event was made famous by the 1956 Hollywood movie The Battle of the River Plate.

The engagement was triggered after three Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, Achilles and Ajax, crewed by British and New Zealand sailors, began hunting the much larger pocket battleship the Admiral Graf Spee, after the German surface raider had successfully destroyed several Allied merchant ships.

Among the surviving veterans attending today was 91-year-old John Garrard, who said: "Of course, if the Graf Spee had done its job, we wouldn't be here having this conversation. She'd have sunk us."

The memorial, costing about £14,000, was paid for by donations and commissioned by the HMS Ajax and River Plate Veterans Association - it is the 300th memorial to be unveiled at the arboretum.
Among those attending the unveiling today were the family of the man who commanded the Royal Navy's attack squadron, Commodore Henry Harwood, who was later knighted and promoted admiral for his part in the action.

His youngest son, Stephen Harwood said: "The fact this event has been attended as it has been today, with more than 250 people here, is a very good thing."

He added: "It is actually the first memorial in this country to the battle - there's one in Montevideo and one in Ajax in Ontario in Canada, so it's a very good thing we've got this one at the arboretum."

In the opening months of the war the German pocket battleship, under the command of Captain Hans Langsdorff, had been a scourge of the southern Atlantic sea lanes sinking or capturing supply vessels vital to the Allies' war effort.

It was just after dawn on the morning of December 13, 1939, that the Royal Navy attack squadron commanded by Commodore Harwood first got to grips with Graf Spee near the River Plate estuary between Uruguay and Argentina, in South America.

Engaging the ship, Harwood had correctly predicted the German vessel's westward move across the south Atlantic to secure fresh provisions.

Mr Garrard, who at just 17-years-old was part of the forward turret crew on HMS Ajax, said it was the Graf Spee that spotted the Allied ships first, only advertising its presence when it dropped a salvo of shells short of the navy cruisers sending up plumes of water from the ocean.

He added German gunnery was "pretty accurate".

"We started to fire, and we seemed to be firing forever more," said Mr Garrard.

"The actual fighting and manoeuvring lasted about an hour - of course I knew nothing about that because I was manning one of the 6in guns.

"She (the Graf Spee) managed to get into Montevideo harbour and never came out again. She blew herself up - for which we were duly thankful."

While out-numbered, the Graf Spee heavily out-gunned each of the Royal Navy attackers and bearing towards them turned its main armament of six 11in (28cm) guns on HMS Exeter, badly damaging the British cruiser.

HMS Ajax and Achilles then moved in closer in an attempt to draw fire off Exeter and in turn forcing Langsdorff to flee under cover of a smokescreen - but not before it landed gun salvos on all its pursuers, including Exeter which had by then returned to the fight.

While not severely damaged, the Allied ships had mauled the German vessel and destroyed its ship's galley and food provisions, with Langsdorff also left concussed by shellfire.

The Graf Spee steamed for the neutral port of Montevideo and, bottled-up by the Royal Navy and unable to make significant repairs, the ship was later scuttled by its crew on December 18.

Captain Langsdorff, who along with more than 1,000 surviving crew had got off the ship before it was sunk, shot himself a few days later.

During the battle, 36 German sailors and 72 Allied servicemen, the majority from HMS Exeter, were killed.

The result of the battle was the loss of a heavily armed capital ship of which the German surface fleet had precious few, and a morale-boosting victory for Britain.

In a speech to survivors of the Exeter and Ajax at the London Guildhall in February 1940, Winston Churchill, who would later that year become prime minister, described the battle as those "few glittering, deadly hours of action."

He added: "The brilliant sea fight, which Admiral Harwood conceived and which those who are here executed, takes its place in our naval annals, and I might add that in a dark, cold winter it warmed the cockles of the British heart."

Stephen Harwood said it was clear in hindsight that "that battle set a standard for the war" by the manner in which an out-gunned but "fighting" Royal Navy sought and won the engagement with what was on paper, a stronger foe.

"The British ships couldn't believe it - that this powerful ship had run away," he added.

"It wasn't that she was mortally damaged, but she was damaged in her galleys and elsewhere.

"The captain Langsdorff got concussed - it didn't work out."

Mr Garrard said the outcome might have been different had the roles of the battle been reversed. He said "Langsdorff made the excuse that he couldn't feed his men because we'd smashed up his galley. I thought that was a poor excuse, actually."

"If the position had of been reversed, I am sure we'd have come out fighting - probably got sunk anyway. But he decided to save his men and blew the ship up."

The Stealth and Daring of the Admiral Graf Spee (German battlecruiser WWII)

Hans Langdorff was the Captain of the Admiral Graf Spee and within a few short months, at the beginning of World War two, he and his ship would blaze their way into the history books with daring commerce raids on allied shipping.

Below is some information from YouTube by sammarlow77593.

The Admiral Graf Spee was one of the most famous German naval warships of World War II, along with the Bismarck. Her size was limited to that of a cruiser by the Treaty of Versailles, but she was much more heavily armed than a cruiser due to innovative weight-saving techniques employed in her construction.

She was sent to the Atlantic Ocean as a commerce raider in 1939, where she sank nine Allied merchant ships. Numerous British hunting groups were assigned to find her, with three British ships finally tracking her down in December 1939. The Battle of the River Plate ensued, during which the Graf Spee was damaged. She docked for repairs in the neutral port of Montevideo but was forced by international law to leave within 72 hours. Faced with what he believed to be overwhelming odds, the captain scuttled his ship rather than risk the lives of his crew.

Admiral Graf Spee was a Deutschland-class cruiser. Launched in 1934, she was named after the World War I Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee who died, along with two of his sons, in the first Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914. She was the second vessel to be named after him, the first being the uncompleted World War I German battlecruiser SMS Graf Spee. The launching took place on 30 June 1934 with Admiral Erich Raeder delivering a pre-launch speech, and the christening performed by Gräfin Huberta von Spee, daughter of the late Vice Admiral von Spee.

Before Admiral Graf Spee was given her official name, she was referred to as Panzerschiff C and Ersatz Braunschweig, as she would be replacing the old battleship Braunschweig in the fleet inventory. She cost 82 million Reichsmark to build. After World War I, replacement capital ships for the German Navy were limited by the Treaty of Versailles to 10,000 tonnes and 11 inches (280 mm) guns. Electric arc welding was used in her construction instead of conventional rivets, thereby saving considerable weight by not requiring overlapping steel plates.