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March 31, 2008

Job lists ....

Today is one of those days when the job list seems to be a lot longer than the day. It is the last "free" day before I go to Iran later this week for a three week job and there just seems to be a far more to get cleared away than I really have time to do. Several of the jobs require time at the computer, and having done my back in on Saturday (Yes, I know, getting into a bath isn't exactly strenuous!) sitting isn't the best thing I can do for it. Nor is putting on my socks and shoes!

So, I plan to tackle all the things I can do standing up first. Which means that this post will be it for today.

Mutter, mutter, mumble, mumble, mumble .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2008

The joy of motoring ....

Having taken Mausi to Birmingham airport last night for her flight home to Germany, I hopped back into the trusty car and set off home, expecting the usual fifty minute run. Just passing Junction 5 on the M42 I got a strong sense of deja vu - the information signs were lit up with the message "M42 J3 to J4 closed." Oh joy!

For those who don't know, the M42 connects the M5 - the route I must take too and from Birmingham - to the M40 and the M6, skirting around the city of Birmingham and its satellites. The M5 Junction is - you guessed it - Junction 1. With the stretch between Junctions 3 and 2 closed, you have several options, none of them particularly good, unless you are a Brummie and know the southern end of the city well. Now, I do use a GPS, but, unfortunately, it has a rooted objection to rerouting itself - especially through a city like Birmingham. The other option is to come off the motorway at Junction 3A for the M40 bound for Warwick and then try to find your way to Henley in Arden in order to find the A435 and then the A422 so you can cut back across to Worcester and pick up the M5 that way. And all the while the GPS is trying to get you to turn around and go back to the closed M42 ......

I still don't know what the problem was on the M42, it was probably a bad accident since it was raining cats and dogs and the wind was pushing things around as well. I can tell you that the Henley in Arden route was pretty full of people trying to find a way round the blockage as I was. I was struck once more by the thought that there seem to be an awful lot of people who don't seem able to drive safely or comfortably in these weather conditions - but who always seem to find it essential that they do. To frustrate the rest of us no doubt.

All went well however, and I arrived home safely, a little later than planned. The most noticeable thing is how empty the house feels now that it is just me and Madam Paddy Cat again.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 29, 2008

End of Holiday

All good things must come to an end sometime and in this case it's Mausi's holiday. She'll board a plane back to Germany this evening. As always she has deeply enjoyed all the time spent at the Abbey during Holy Week, Easter and on other occasions. Yesterday afternoon, for example, the Abbey had visitors from the Central Memorial High School in Calgary, Canada. Three busloads of young musicians who gave a Luchtime Recital which was a very interesting performance. The first pieces were played by the Symphonic Band, followed by the Concert Choir. The Abbey with its acoustic properties is of course a splendid place for musical presentations.

After the concert the Monk gave the musicians a short tour of the Abbey. Mausi thinks they were quite impressed. One of the teachers said "We don't have things that old in Canada". We Europeans who are surrounded by relics of history all around often forget what it must be to live in a country where the oldest stone buildings are only between 200 and 300 hundred years old. An Abbey that has stood there for 900 years must have been something special to the young Canadians indeed. They had been on a concert tour through the UK for 14 days. Tewkesbury was their last stop before going home today. They have certainly seen a lot of buildings like the Abbey and Mausi hopes they have enjoyed the tour and come away with a lot of new and different impressions of the "old world".

Well, Mausi had better get her things sorted out and packed up now. Fortunately, she'll be able to fly from Birmingham and will not have Heathrow T5!

Posted by Mausi at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2008

Waiting anxiously

I am waiting anxiously to hear from a publisher. Like watched pots, it seems the e-mail I really, really want to see isn't likely to come until I am not in a position to deal with it.

The sequel to my book was submitted in a competition run by a new publisher to select five they would publish and promote. The cut off date was January and the decision date is end March. I have (probably in common with hundreds of others) had a message to say "due to the number of manuscripts ..." and so we wait. I really do hope that mine will be among the selected few, because, even if it isn't one of the top five, they have said that they might make an offer for later in the year for the runners up.

Having taken time to address all the issues the Writer's Services editors identified as weaknesses in the story I think (But I would, wouldn't I?) that "The enemy is within!" is now a really good story and read. I know at least one person who has read "Out of time" has said he can't wait to see the sequel. Well, to be honest, neither can I! In the meantime, why not visit my Amazon.com Blog and have a look at the excerpt I posted there?

And, if the competition doesn't produce a winner, there is another publisher considering the book. They have promised a decision by mid-April .....

Patience is a virtue?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2008

Visit into Past Times

An almost clear blue sky and encouraged the Monk and Mausi to take the car out of the garage and drive south to Cirencester today. Cirencester, known as Corinium in Roman times, started out as a fort to help defend the provincial frontier in AD 49. When Wales was conquered and the frontier moved northward the fort changed into a
town which eventually became the second largest Roman settlement in Britain after London. The Monk and Mausi spent a delightful couple of hours in the Corinium Museum. It houses a vast collection of objects from everyday life in Roman times and especially quite a number of mosaics from houses of apparently wealthy members of the Roman society. A great deal of thought has obiously gone into how best to display the objects in the museum and it is well worth a visit.

From the museum the Monk and Mausi took a stroll through the narrow streets of Cirencester.

Narrow street of Cirencester with houses in the typical Cotswold style

Not far from the Corinium Museum stands the Parish Curch of St John Baptist, one of the largest Parish Churches in the country. In medieval times farmers in the Cotswolds went into wool production on a big scale. The wool merchants brought real wealth into the Cotswolds' area and often money would be invested in parish churches, known as the "wool churches". St John Baptist in Cirencester is one of them.

One of the Cotswolds wool churches - St John in Cirencester

The Church is an example of English Perpendicular. Construction work on the nave started in the 12th century but bits and pieces were added until well into the 16th century when the nave was rebuilt and raised in height by 20 ft. Mausi was most taken with St Catherine's chapel, right next to the Chancel.

St Catherine's Chapel inside the Parish Church

It was erected in 1150 but the delicate fan vault was installed 350 years later. On the left side remains of the original wall painting, depicting St Christopher carrying the Christ Child, can still be seen. The Monk and Mausi had a good time exploring the church from end to end.

At last they had to make their way back to the parking lot before the meter ran out of coins. The drive back home through that lovely Cotswold landscape just made a perfect ending to a beautiful day.

Posted by Mausi at 08:45 PM | TrackBack

March 26, 2008

An interesting day ....

The Monk had a job scheduled for today, so he and Mausi were on the road early and arrived timeously - only to find that no arrangements had been made for the job to be done. It was a small teaching job, supposed to take all day, but it seems the student hadn't been told either ....

Just as the Monk had decided he and Mausi could make the most of the day and depart for a small visit to a site nearby, the student arrived. A flurry of activity, and the Monk had a day of teaching a single student. Now this may seem crazy, but teaching one person is almost as hard as teaching thirty. At least with a larger group you get some feedback and the interactions allow you to expand and explore the subject. With one that is a little more difficult which means that you have to concentrate on ensuring you not only cover the basics but explore the peripherals as well.

All in all, it went reasonably well, the student is pleased with his day, and the Monk's bank account is suitably topped up. Our exploratory visit will now take place tomorrow or Friday ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:58 PM | TrackBack

March 25, 2008

One of those days ...

Today has just been one of those days. The Monk and Mausi had a slow start this morning having had to sleep off yesterday's repast. They had been invited to dinner at some of the Monk's friends and it had been an excellent dinner - steak! And done just to Mausi's liking. The meat still red but without blood oozing out of it.

Having redecorated one of the rooms in the Monk's flat during last week between Holy Week services which involved the hanging of wallpaper and the laying of a laminate floor the Monk and Mausi decided to go to into the next town and look for some new curtains that would match the new wallpaper. They found just the right thing in the second shop, only to discover that they had forgotten to take the exact measurements of the window in question. As these were mandatory for the new curtain to be sewn from the fabric they had selected there was nothing they could do but return, measure the window and come back later.

So home they went, took the measurements, refreshed themselved with a cup of tea and went back into the curtain store. And had a nasty surprise! Would you believe it - their fabric sample was gone! A lady had borrowed it to take home with her and to see if it matched her room. That shop was full of fabric samples in all colours, couldn't she have chosen another one? If the Monk is lucky she will have returned it by Thursday or the shop will by then have obtained another sample from the manufacturer. So the Monk might still be able to place his order for the curtains before he goes abroad on another business trip for the next three weeks. And they will be ready for him on his return.

At least the Monk was able to buy a new white net curtain for the window which looks rather nice, Mausi thinks. Mausi could kick herself that she didn't think of measuring the window before they went out for the first time that day. But then - there are days when you just can't win ...

Posted by Mausi at 07:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 24, 2008

Who's normal?

You Are Fairly Normal
You scored 55% normal on this quiz

Like most people you are normal in some ways...
But you aren't a completely normal person. You're a little weird too!

Why You Are Normal:

You rather be screwed over than screw someone else over

You prefer the sun to the moon

You think glasses can make someone more attractive

You would rather be an astronaut than a movie star

You think fishnet stockings are trashy

Why You Aren't Normal:

You find the Chicken Dance to be the more embarrassing dance

You don't keep up with your horoscope

You know a little about many subjects

You'd rather have cockroaches than rats in your home

You prefer non fiction to fiction
What's Normal About You... And What's Not?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:43 PM | TrackBack

Gone beyond the rim ....

Arthur C Clarke has long been one of my favourite reads in Sci-fi. Alongside Isaac Asmiov, Robert Heinlein and one or two others who wrote scientifically plausible and realistic fiction. You don't get lost in the science with them, and you can enjoy the story without falling over scientifically impossible technology or concepts. Even their monsters were phgysiologically plausible and followed the "rules" as far as inter-species reactions were concerned. The most remarkable part of them was the fact that Clarke and Asimov were scientists by day and wrote for fun. Even Heinlein had a degree in Science.

Now Arthur C Clarke is dead, called to join his fellow travellers at last in the next dimension. To put it in the language of Babylon 5 - inspired in many ways by their writing - they have gone beyond the rim.

Personally I have found a couple of things Clarke wrote philosophically interesting in an intellectually provocative way. These have all appeared in different guises in his books, but he has also stated them in various interviews over the years. They include: -

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

This one always reminds me of the fact that many of the theories on which much of science is founded, are just that, our best guess at the "rules" as we understand them at present. The wise scientist almost always adds - "with the information/data currently available ..." to any "definitive" statement somewhere in his/her paper. Think of the Phlogiston theory popular in the early 19th Century - or the theory that cholera was spread by the stink of sewage - a view the medical profession refused to give up until forced to do so by incontrovertible evidence of the bacterial source.

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Again, a hundred years ago many thought it would be impossible to launch men into space. But then only a few years before that it was considered that flight was an eccentric idea unlikely to ever be practical. Yet in living memory flying has gone from canvas and string gliders to hi-tech carbon fibre/titanium alloy powered by engines of unimaginable power at two and three times the speed of sound. We have even achieved one of the sci-fi writers stock-in-trade vehicles - the reusable passenger and goods shuttle.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Think of the impact electricity has had, of the ability to transfer our voices and our images around the globe in the blink of an eye. To any society that had never seen this - magic!

One of the truly interesting things about Clarke's writing is just how much has already become science fact. Space stations with men permanently in space, shuttles, moon walkers and even computers now edging into Artificial Intelligence.....

HAL 2000 may be just around the corner.

I hope that Arthur C Clarke will join his fellow scientists at rest beyond the rim and continue their exploration of the universe in both fact and fantasy. What an interesting company they must make.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:31 AM | TrackBack

March 23, 2008

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Halleluljah!

As the scripture says, don't look for him in the tomb, because he is not there. Recently I attended a Requiem Mass for a long standing member of our congregation and we sang all his favourite hymns and used his favourite setting of the Mass. It wasn't a mournful celebration of a life, but a celebration of the life to come - a Mass of the Resurrection. Way to go Gerald!

We look in vain at the graves, tombs and memorials of our friends and family for, just as Christ's tomb was empty of his living presence, so are ours. That is the message of the Easter resurrection.

Christ is risen!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:19 AM | TrackBack

March 22, 2008

Decorating ....

Mausi and I have been decorating one of the rooms in my domus as I mentioned the other day. After a disaster with one of the wall papers we had selected, we exchanged it for a better one and have now got a beautifully decorated room. Now to lay the laminated flooring. That is today's task. The only problem is that my son arrived late last night and is still asleep in the living room - on the couch and surrounded by the stuff taken out of the spare room. And we still have to get the last three items of furniture out of the room into which the floor must now go....

At least the wallpapering is done - mostly thanks to Mausi - and is looking good. Mausi is meticulous in these things and the Monk is not. He hates wallpapering and only went with it because to paint these walls would have required considerably more work and preparation. Difficult to believe how many holes it has - or how many have been filled and then remade at some time. Wall paper certainly hides a lot of sins! Once the floor is done and before I put the skirting back, I have some plugs to install a long a tricky task if it is to meet the Quality Control imposed by Mausi!

And some people do this for fun?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2008

Good Friday ....

The Solemn Liturgy always moves one in unexpected ways and it moves individuals differently as well. It is very dramatic - exactly as it is intended to be.

Somehow, trying to deal with the mundane after taking part in it, just seems to be all wrong. So, back to the quiet and contemplative mode.........

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:26 PM | TrackBack

March 20, 2008

Keeping up with events ....

Sorry folks, no post yesterday, there was just too much happening. To deal with that first, I have a lot on at the Abbey and at the same time, Mausi and I are busy trying to redecorate one of the rooms in my Domus. A disaster with a wall paper that refused to behave as it said on the box meant taking time out to go and shop for more to replace the faulty stuff. That on top of a day already crowded with a Requiem Mass and funeral, a Said Mass and Meditation and a rehearsal for the Good Friday Solemn Liturgy.

Exhaustion set in around about 22.00 last night!

This morning at least got off to a better start and some early progress has been made in getting the room decorated. I have to say that I detest wall papering and redecorating largely because it never goes as planned, it always takes longer than anticipated and invariably reveals other urgent work that must be done first. Wallpaper is one of those messy tasks which is never as easy or straightforward as it is supposed to be and never, ever, provides the "finish" one was looking for. Add to that the need to clear the room of all furniture and relocate everything to another room where it is not only out of place but in the way of everything else that needs to be done - and you know why cats hate change as well.

Throw in a number of "three line whip" Church services and you have a recipe for extended decorating times ....

Today's major service was in the Cathedral in Gloucester. The Lord Bishop of Gloucester, +Michael Glevum, presided over the Eucharist to which clergy, Readers, Ministry Team members, Church Wardens and other members of "ministry" roles in the church (and there are far more than the liturgical ones) are "invited". The priests renew their vows of service and obedience at this service and a nice touch, the Bishops renew theirs to the people - on this occassion lead by a Choir Boy. It is at this service that the Oils of Annointing and the Crism of Holy Unction are consecrated and blessed in the presence of all the Bishop's congregation.

This is a service this present Bishop has built up - it has been a major event for the clergy in years past but only recently has it become a major event for "other" ministries as well. This year is one of the largest congregations I have seen - the Cathedral was packed. As the Bishop said, if those who claim the church is dying took the trouble to attend such services, they might find that their predictions of death are premature, especially when they see the diversity and scope of the ministries the church is exercising and encouraging in the world today.

On which thought, the wallpaper calls .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:02 PM | TrackBack

March 18, 2008

Something special ...

There is something very special about a small all male voiced choir singing a plainsong setting in the Abbey. This is what the building was built to resonate to - and it does so magnificently. Last night Mausi and I attended Vespers. The men of the Chor Anglais, a local group of music scholars and singers who are normally the adult line in the Schola Cantorum at Tewkesbury Abbey, sang the office with a congregation of about eighty in the Quire. These were certainly the numbers of "the living" present, but there was a strong sense of a vaster gathering about us as this music soared around the vaulting.

Vespers is one of the monastic services the monks were required to say in the late evening before retiring to their cells until Midnight when Matins began the new day for their prayer round. It was a very fitting way to start our Holy Week and to finish St Patrick's day.

Dropping off to sleep last night I still had the soaring chants running through my ears. A peaceful night, and a blessed sleep at the end of a full day.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 17, 2008

Saint Patrick

It's nice to be quoted and rather flattering to be quoted as a source. The e-zine Residential Aliens has a short biographic piece up on Saint Patrick, quite my favourite saint and the one person I will forgo all other pleasures to meet one day. The man who could write in stilted and "old fashioned" Latin, probably in his old age, "Ego Patricius, pecator ...." I, Patrick, a sinner and most unlearned ...

Magnus (or Magonus) Succatus Patricius was born sometime around 385 AD of Romano British parents probably in the West Gloucestershire region now called the Forest of Dean. His family were well off, owning land, a villa and holding important positions in local government. As he himself tells us, he was the son of Calpornius, Decurion and Deacon of the Christian Church and grandson of Potitus, Presbyter (Priest). His mother was from Gaul and her family owned estates near present day Tours.

The Roman naming system complicates any effort to identify his movements until he returned to Ireland in the spring of 429 AD as a Bishop, the first missionary Bishop since St Paul began his journeys in Asia Minor and Southern Europe. His first name would have been given at birth, but was probably only used by his family. It means "Great". His second name is a "Family Name" and is thought to be derived from the name of a Celtic War God - Sucret. The thrid name, the one by which we know him today, is probably a "Nickname". For example, Gaius Julius Caesar's names are "Gaius" (Prenomen) or "given" name and Julius (Nomen familias) or "Family" name. "Caesar" actually is a nickname - poor Julius was bald - and the name means "Hairy". Thus Patricius is probably a nickname given because he wasn't patrician in his manner, education or lifestyle. And he probably saw that as a compliment.

All of that means that we know little or nothing about him that he doesn't tell us himself, and trying to find him, as some people have, in papal or monastic records is almost impossible. This is in part down to the fact that the church was much more "local" in government of things like training, ordination and even consecration of Bishops. Rome did not achieve its universal authority for at least two hundred years after Patrick's mission to Ireland. In Patrick's Church the Bishops were far more autonomous and far less tied to the dictats of Rome. Germanus of Auxerre is probably the man who authorised Patrick's mission and ordained and consecrated him as Bishop.

From Patrick's own words we know that he was at first rejected and Rome's chosen man, a Deacon named Palladius (And also nicknamed Patricius) was consecrated and sent to the southern part of Ireland in 428 AD. According to later historians this mission failed because Palladius died a year into his episcopate, but other evidence suggests that this may not be entirely accurate. What is plain is that Palladius' was not sent as a missionary, but as a Bishop to minsiter to an established congregation. This is where Patrick's mission differs radically - he went to an area that was not Christian, an area in which the only Christians were slaves as he had been. Even more daringly - he returned to the area in which he had been a slave.

And under the Law of the Brehon, once a slave, always a slave. You could never be freed and you could not buy your freedom. Even after twenty two years, his former master would have been able to lay claim to his person and demand his life be forfeited for his having run away. Yet he triumphed, very likely because the Irish could not understand a man who walked into their midst unarmed and unafraid of the consequences of their law. He describes himself as a slave of Christ and therefore no man can touch him. Even now we find it hard to understand that faith and the centuries have cloaked it in legend.

His first "church" was a barn located at a place today called Saul, some four miles from Downpatrick. The barn is long gone, its place taken by a stone church in medieval times and replaced in the 1930's by a modern church. It is here too that he died on the 17th March 461 AD as he had lived, quietly, unassuming and deeply and fiercely loved by everyone he had touched.

As I said, I will forgo all else, just to sit at his feet one day and learn to know this man whose faith changed history and a nation, a faith so steadfast and unshakeable that it brought the fiercest and most feared warriors in the West to a faith they have held ever since. Truly Christ's Steadfast Man.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:22 PM | TrackBack

March 16, 2008


Today is Palm Sunday and we enjoyed the company of a very well behaved donkey (Actually, being a "she", technically a "Jenny") named Rosie in the Abbey today. As it was also very inclement outside the normal procession with donkey could not be held in the grounds, so Rosie very kindly led us around the inside of the Abbey. There was only one moment of tension, when, as she passed through the Lady Chapel and beneath the Milton Organ, the organist opened the Tuba stop. Rosie's ears went flat along her neck and for a moment her eyes showed white as she contemplated a quick exit, then she decided it wasn't a threat and ambled on around the aisles. Her end reward a bag full of carrots which she then happily munched in the proch.

No mess, no "accidents" and one very sweet tempered visitor departed full of carrots and a couple of happy brays as she joined the hymns from the porch once or twice.

This day also marks the start of Holy Week and we have a full schedule of services for every day. The highlight of the week is, naturally, Good Friday and Holy Saturday as we prepare to celebrate Easter next Sunday. I suspect most of us will be exhausted by that time, but it will be a very worthwhile tiredness. Almost lost in Holy Week (Unfortunately in my view) is the feast of St Patrick tomorrow. I shall keep it even if the rest of the Church of England is focussed on "higher" matters.

On which note - A happy and blessed St Patrick's day to you all.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:36 PM | TrackBack

March 15, 2008

Bureaucratic games ....

Yesterday's trip to London was an interesting experience. Firstly, having followed the web site times for applying for and collecting a Visa to visit a middle eastern state, I turned up at the Consulate at 10.45 only to be turned away again because "visas can only be applied for between 12.30 and 15.30". And no, you can't wait in the waiting room .....

So I found a quiet cafe and had breakfast (to get there as early as I had meant leaving home at 07.00 in order to get an early train which meant not being able to get a cheaper fare ...) and reviewed and got the missing details for my application sorted out. Eventually I returned to the Consulate fortified and armed with the form, correctly filled in, photos and all the other items demanded of visitors to the country concerned. Now there was a queue. I joined this queue in order to get a queueing number to join the visa queue. Ahead of me was a young lady, training she told me at Oxford to become a doctor. She was bareheaded, her blonde hair on view. An elderly man, obviously official, approached and informed her that she could not enter the Consulate without a headscarf. As the queue wasn't moving I suggested she nip round the corner to a shop that sold suitable items and get herself one and that I would keep her place. She hadn't realised that once across the threshold of an embassy or consulate you are technically in the country of that embassy .... So, off she dashed to return about fifteen minutes later (the queue hadn't moved so I let her back into the row ahead of me), her head now suitably covered in a rather heavy cashmere type scarf. I wish her well of her trip, no doubt she will discover a great deal about religious bigotry once she gets there.

Having got the ticket I now went downstairs as directed to make the application, joined a queue there only to be told, on arrival at the window, that I should have been upstairs - so back up the stairs, find the right queue (fortunately my number had not yet come up!) and waited. Eventually I managed to get my application in and was told - OK, come back Tuesday at 16.00. Aaaargh! Aother trip to the cesspit! Could they not do a "same day" service I asked as I live some distance from the said cesspit. Ah, well, OK, but it costs more. Fine - just give me the bl**dy visa.

So, at 15.35 I returned expecting to have to wait and queue again, only to have the passport and the shiny new visia returned to me immediately. Obviously as a representative of the Great Satan's ally I am fair game for these little bureaucratic games. I wonder if the rules will have changed when my colleague goes to sort his out next week? Probably, they seemed to make it all up as they went along anyway.

Still, I get paid for it ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2008

Running late ...

Sorry folks, had an idea for a post today, but ran out of time to compose it. Just back from London and the frustrating experience of trying to get a visa (I succeeded) to go and earn some money on a job in a country run by Ayatollahs, and now have to head off to Birmingham to fetch Mausi who is due in from Frankfurt for a short break over Easter.

Oh, and MuNu has been attacked by the Spambots again. I have just cleared over a hundred spam comments. After a rest for the last four months from this plague it is depressing to have them attack again. It might be more interesting if the comment wasn't so damned repeptitive - "Sh**t is happened Forrest Gump" Obviously some damned idiot with nothing better to do with his hands ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:30 PM | TrackBack

March 13, 2008

Another day, another ......

It seems that my former employers have suddenly discovered a hole in their delivery system. I'm currently getting more days work from them than I really want to give - but can't afford to say no. This week I had all neatly mapped out with tasks and jobs I have been putting off for some time - and suddenly I have had to shelve all those plans so I could help out and salvage a situation. Now I have another day with them today and again tomorrow, time I really did need to spend on something else.

Still, it pays the mortgage.....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2008

The right to choose?

The row currently in the news over the challenge to the government's new legislation governing embryology and genetic research comes from the unlikely source of a deaf couple who are challenging the legislation on the grounds that they should be allowed to choose that any child born to them by IVF treatment should be deaf. Now, leaving aside for the moment the concept of screen embryos to check for the genetic defects that cause congenital deafness, surely the debate should be addressing the question of giving any future child the opportunity to be born fully equipped for this life with eyes, ears that function and all the other organs functional as well - and not about whether or not the parents should have the right to decide whether or not a future child should be deaf, blind or limbless?

I found myself listening in disbelief to the arguments advanced by this couple and their supporters who are arguing on an emotional level that satisfies their needs - and completely ignores the childs. THEY want the child to be like them - deaf - and not to have the chance to be able to hear and appreciate all the things they cannot. THEY do not consider themselves disabled - and want their children to "fit into their 'culture'". Excuse me? So being deaf is now a "cultural" issue? So now perhaps we can look forward to demands from the wheelchair warriors for "cultural recognition" of their right to cripple the rest of us as they barge their powered wheelchairs through crowded shops and supermarkets?

This is definitely the thinking of the lunatic asylum. Offered the choice between bringing into this world someone with the full use of all their faculties and all their limbs and bringing in someone whose entire life will require a huge amount of support and assistance, will be handicapped in so many ways, these people would seem to be saying that they would deliberately choose to bring someone into it deliberately disabled.

I sincerely hope that the Judge in this vexatious case rules that the parents have no right to deliberately choose to disable their offspring when they have the choice. I know what my response would be if I learned that my parents had made this choice and that I now had to live with their bigotry. Bitter doesn't describe it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 11, 2008

Its beginning to get to us ....

This is doing the rounds, and rather than send it on by e-mail, I thought I'd share it with the blogosphere. This is the sort of form filling, paper shuffling bureaucracy that I always get mad at ....

Subject: Passport Application

Dear Minister,
I'm in the process of renewing my passport but I am a total loss to understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to jump through.

How is it that Bert Smith of T.V. Rentals Basingstoke has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a satellite dish from them back in 1994, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date?

How come that nice West African immigrant chappy who comes round every Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell me every film or video I have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet you still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were with contractors working for the government?

How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not, and yet if I win the government run lottery they have no idea I have won or where I am and will keep the bloody money to themselves if I fail to claim in good time.
Do you people do this by hand?

You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one with all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 30-odd years. It's on my health insurance card, my driver's licence, on the last four passports I've had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the planes and boats over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our lords and masters are up for re-election.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, I was born in Maidenhead on the 4th of March 1957, my mother's name is Mary, her maiden name was Reynolds, my father's name is Robert, and I'd be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and the day I die!

I apologise Minister. I'm obviously not myself this morning. But between you and me, I have simply had enough! You mail the application to my house, then you ask me for my address. What is going on? Do you have a gang of Neanderthals working there? Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don't want to activate the Fifth Reich for God's sake! I just want to go and park my weary backside on a sunny, sandy beach for a couple of week's well-earned rest away from all this crap.

Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to back to Salisbury and get another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one. AND to the tune of 60 quid! What a racket THAT is!! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day? But nooooo, that'd be too damn easy and maybe make sense. You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it's really me on the goddamn picture - you know... the one where we're not allowed to smile in in case we look as if we are enjoying the process!
Hey, you know why we can't smile? 'Cause we're totally jacked off!

I served in the armed forces for more than 25 years including over ten years at the Ministry of Defence in London . I have had security clearances which allowed me to sit in the Cabinet Office, five seats away from the Prime Minister while he was being briefed on the first Gulf War and I have been doing volunteer work for the British Red Cross ever since I left the Services. However, I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am -- you know, someone like my doctor...
who, before he got his medical degree 6 months ago WAS LIVING IN PAKISTAN ...

Yours sincerely,
An Irate British Citizen.

I think the letter encapsulates exactly what drives me up the walls with rage at the way we are treated by the faceless wonders of Whitehall. They can make the most mounmental botch of anything without even trying, but they are NEVER held to account for it. In a case exposed recently a Taxi driver was made bankrupt by the incompetent nincompoops at HM Revenue and Customs. How? Easy, they LOST his files and declared he owed them £12,000 in unpaid tax. Where that figure came from they are unable to explain - and, when he rightly refused to pay, they dragged him into court, declared him bankrupt and seized his property (including his cab - his means of earning a living) and left him destitute.

It has taken a year to sort it out. His outstanding tax was just £0.88pence. But he still has the label "Bankrupt" attached and even though he has been declared "rehabilitated" still cannot get a mortgage or any other finance deal - all due to the incompetence of some little toe-rag in the tax office. A faceless wonder who has now, no doubt, been promoted as a reward for his or her utter contempt for truth, justice or actually doing a useful job.

Coupled with that comes the admission from a senior civil servant that HMRC never pursue the rich - they have accountants who make life for the incomptents in HMRC difficult and look like the fools they are - so they target self employed middle class earners and working men, hounding them and accusing them of non-payment or underpayment of tax.

It really is time to hold the Whitehall W*nkers to account for every mistake, every unnecessary form and every wasted penny of our money.

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March 10, 2008

Stormy weather ....

As the old sea shanty says: - "For the stormy winds do blow, and the raging seas how they flow!"

Got up this morning to prepare to go to work today to wind howling round the windows, rain slashing across the landscape and threats of flooding, fortunately not here. The road reports are of trees down and slow journeys, so this is a very short post. I have to drive some thirty miles to the job - and I better get going.

Seems the forecasters got it right for once.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 09, 2008

Passion Sunday

Passion Sunday is now drawing to a close, but the Passiontide is just beginning. This is the Sunday that marks the start of the run up to Easter. We keep this Sunday with gospel readings that include the resurrection story of Lazarus, one of the miracle signs that Christ used to signal his own resurrection. St John tells us that many who witnessed this event came to believe as a result - hardly surprising really. After all, its not every day that you open a tomb (which should by that stage be rather smelly) and the supposedly dead man walks out, still wrapped in his grave clothes. It sounds almost like something from a Stephen King novel. Yet this is the story of Lazarus and we have a number of reliable witnesses to an event which scholars have been trying to explain for centuries.

There is also the story of the widow's dead son, called back to life and restored to this "vale of tears" as the psalmist describes it. There are, of course, several aspects to both stories which we miss at this distance in time and in displacement and "Europeanisation" of the gospels. Not least being that both deaths involve the man, the bread winner, dying and leaving unsuported women to fend for themselves. That was a serious problem for the women unless they had powerful relatives or were themselves very wealthy. A poor woman left bereft like that had a major problem. The second aspect which is not addressed in these, or any of the other miracle stories, is what did the "victims" feel about it?

In the Jewish understanding of the period, the dead gathered in a place called Sheol, a place of waiting. It was not a place of "living", but a place in which the dead "waited". Both Lazarus and the widow's son seem to have experienced something very different - and both had certainly not had the classic "near death experience" but something much more profound. Sadly, we are not told what.

The third aspect is the foreshadowing of what is to come for Jesus himself. Death to be followed by a resurrection which transcends this life completely. It is that aspect which we celebrate this week and in the coming days, reliving the run up to the entry into Jerusalem, the betrayal, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and finally, on Easter day itself, the resurrection. Lent can be anything but dull!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:56 PM | TrackBack

March 08, 2008


Recently I applied, as one can, to the professional Institution of which I have been a corporate member since I passed the Member examination in 1981, to upgrade my membership to the next level. There are two ways you can become a Fellow of the Institution, one is by election and is usually as a result of outstanding achievement or services to the Institution, the other is by application and assessment of your portfolio since attaining the highest examination grade.

I have now received confirmation that my application has been successful and I am now elected to Fellow of the Institution.

I am delighted with this outcome since, having been a member of the Institution since I began my fire and rescue service career and have served in a variety of capacities at branch and regional level over the years. It is nice to be recognised in this way even if it is right at the end of my career. At least I won't have the Spell Checker trying to tell me that one of my Post Nominals should be "Mafia" any longer. The new one beginning with "F" should give it a new challenge however!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 07, 2008

Left/Liberalism a mental disease?

Da Goddess (See my Blogroll) has posted an excellent piece outlining the dilemma many people face now that the "Liberal" trend is gaining dominance. In her piece labelled Liberalism Leftism As A Disease, she quotes a study made by Dr Rossiter - a doctor of psychiatrics - and analyses the problem of the "Liberal" who is anything but.

This is something that has worried me for years, the term "liberal" used to mean someone that followed a "live and let live" approach, Someone who was tolerant, recognised the individuality of people and stood for the right to be individual, free to speak as we saw even if we disagreed. Not so anymore. Today, certainly in Britain it has come to mean someone who subscribes to what Da Goddess calls "victimology" and wants to tie everyone up in "rules" which are supposed to be "for the greater good." Nothing, in recent years, has made me more angry than being told that "in order to redress the imbalances in our society, some people will have to sacrifice their rights and choices in order for others to be advanced." This is the mantra our Civil Service has adopted as an article of faith and what it means is a disproportionate number of immigrant minorities being recruited, often regardless of ability, to fill posts in the Whitehall Departments. Considering that across the nation the immigrant population numbers around 8% of the total - and roughly a third of that is from Europe and Eastern Europe in particular, we have to ask the question - why is it that some Departments now have amost a third of their staff from Asian or other non-european backgrounds? This is not liberal, it is a deliberate policy of exclusion aimed at the majority of Britons. The "sacrifices" that have to be made are notably NOT being made by those who espouse these policies or their families. The BBC recently rather bravely highlighted the plight of white working class Britain, excluded, unemployed and now invisible behind the rampant promotion of "Immigration is Good for Britain."

One problem with that is the news headline today that RAF personnel in Peterborough have been ordered NOT to wear their uniforms in public. Why? Because that centre of Christianity has become an Islamic ghetto under Labour and the servicemen and women are now being subjected to verbal abuse and physical threats whenever they leave the Base just outside the town. But the RAF personnel, argues the Left, are seen as the "oppressor" by these Muslim "victims" of the West's aggression.

Some years ago I was accosted in London by a protester waving a petition he demanded I sign. I refused as I did not, and still do not, believe that what was being demanded then was right. He immediately called me a "racist" and began to harangue me for my "Right wing" fascism. He never even paused to ask why I was not willing to sign, or to support his view, he was only interested in his own narrow vision. Angry, I told him that it took a racist to know a racist and walked away, followed by a torrent of abuse from him and his fellow protesters. Ironically, I recognise that twerp - now balding slightly, still arrogant and loud, and dressed in bespoke Saville Row suits, chauffeured by men worth a hundred of his sort. You guessed it, he's now in the Cabinet. And his petition was in support of Robert Mugabe .....

Dr Rossiter highlights several things about the "Left wing" mindset, including:

.....the liberal agenda preys on weakness and feelings of inferiority in the population by:

- creating and reinforcing perceptions of victimization; satisfying infantile claims to entitlement, indulgence and compensation;

- augmenting primitive feelings of envy;

- rejecting the sovereignty of the individual, subordinating him to the will of the government.

One thing I learned when studying Political Science some years ago is that the political spectrum is rather like a rainbow - it is a circle or a curve, it is not linear. At both ends of the rainbow you find yourself standing in the same place. If true Liberalism and Democracy are on one side of it, the other is where the dictators sit. The Left of today - I can't call them "Liberal" - sit on that end. Why? Because their clutching at regulating every aspect of our lives and their constant desire to "redistribute" wealth from the pockets of those who actually work, to their own and their "victims" pockets spells out very clearly where they are coming from and going to. Take a look at the denizens of Westminster - desperate to hang on to power at all costs, desperate to "prove" their credentials by constantly introducing more and more regulations to impose control on our lives - and desperate to defend their view of the rest of us needing their guidance and defence in order to manage our lives.

I think the good Doctor is right. It is a mental disorder, but I have no doubt that he is already under attack from the Left for even thinking it. Watch this space .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 06, 2008

Misleading Parliament is a crime ......

Misleading the public seems to be a stock in trade. One does wonder, having watched the performance of the treasonous bunch who voted to deprive us of our democratic right to determine whether or not our nation is subsumed into the United States of Europe, what the penalty should be when the entire House "misleads Parliament" on a scale that must defy comparison. Gordon Brown dares to stand at the Despatch Box and declare that this is not the same as the treaty the French and Dutch electorates threw out. That it does NOT create a US of E, yet, every other government in Europe is saying that it DOES! The French President, the German Chancellor, all say that it is a constitution and that it does create a European State - so why is Brown lying?

It is easy to understand why this Parliament refuses to allow the democratic process to be followed, every opinion poll taken in the last six months has indicated that the electorate will reject the Treaty - and Brown and Labour cannot afford that. So they hide behind the lies.

Several newspapers and one of the political parties have said that this is the day our democracy died. They are wrong, it died, for England, on the day Blair's Party ramraided the legislation through Parliament creating the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament without providing a separate Parliament for England. Again, they didn't dare since Labour could not expect to ever be elected to power in it. So we now have the spectacle of a Scottish MP as Prime Minister, elected to a seat in Scotland which is ruled by the Scottish Parliament and not bound by any Act passed in Westminster, passing legislation and formulating legislation which affects people who did not elect him and would not elect him. Nor does it end there, since the majority of his cabinet and tranche of "Junior" Ministers are in a similar position. Even the occuppant of the Speaker's Chair is a Scottish MP, representing a Scottish constituency. They do not represent English constituents, they do not control what is happening in their own "countries" (Again, if they are elected by Welsh or Scottish voters, why are they sitting in a Parliament that does not 'govern' their constituents?) It goes further, for, as the government itself admits, more than 75% of the legislation they now rubber stamp is drawn up in Brussels by the unelected and unaccountable Commission. In other words, we, the voters have no say in the process of government. And in England we are now the subject of the rule of the Scottish, Welsh and Immigrant minorities in our own country.

The only conclusion one can draw is that democracy is dead, Westminster is now an irrelevance and we are ruled by an unelected elite of bureaucrats based in Brussels. Parliament is not only being mislead, it is being deliberately mislead, mismanaged and used to mislead the electorate - by the very people who so jealously guard their own interests and freedoms. Misleading parliament is a heinous crime, but misleading the elctorate is now the stock in trade of all politicians and their bureaucrat parasites.

I may be wrong, but was not the American Revolution fueled by the sentiment that there should be "No taxation without representation"? Perhaps it is time to ask what representation I have in Brussels - since my taxes pay for it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 05, 2008

Fortifications ....

Mausi's piece a few days ago on the Hohenburg mentioned Sebastien de Vauban, the military engineer who changed the face of fortifications and brought them to the point where assault became so costly it was considered almost impossible - or, at worst, so costly in lives that it was not worth it. That didn't stop wars, but it did change the way places defeneded like the Hohenburg were dealt with. And, like everything else, it led to the development of other ways of attacking such fortresses. In truth, the full impact of Vauban's innovations was not appreciated until well into the twentieth century, and examples of "impregnable" fortresses were still being built in 1939. They include the famous (or infamous!) Maginot Line, the Fort Eben Emmanuel in Belgium and Hitler's Siegfried Line and Atlantic Wall.

So what did Vauban do to fortifications?

Well, he laid them out in the classic "star" design, but he wasn't actually the inventor of this pattern, he took it the next logical step. Instead of building normal walls as his outer curtains and bastions, he built first huge earth and stone embankments. Then he faced these with sloping dressed stone facings, the angle of the wall being around 10 degrees from the vertical as it rose. Atop this he placed firing platforms and embrasures and within the bank built tunnels and huge chambers for storage and accommodation and in some cases built in batteries for cannon and smaller chambers with loopholes for musketry and grenadiers. The angles between bastions and curtain walls were not built at ninety degrees, they turn back slightly on themselves so that the bastion stands away from the curtain and men placed at the angles can enfilade the full length of the linking curtain wall.

Nor could you simply march up to the walls or the bastions, since these are both covered by each other, and fronted by a deep moat or ditch - with an outer bastion standing in front of the inner curtain and filling a space between the inner bastions. More such outer bastions were then placed in front of the main inner ones and are overlooked from behind. In other words, if you succeeded in taking one of the outer bastions, you could not use it to assault the inner one since your occupying force was now exposed to fire from above and behind.

Obviously you have to be able to get in and out under normal circumstances and gates always provide the weakest link in any fortification. Not so in Vauban's designs. The gates could only be approached along deliberately indirect corridors overlooked by embrasures for musketry and grenadiers on both sides. Effectively only the suicidal would even consider trying to send a force up one of these approaches. Even if you got as far as the gate house you found yourself in a tunnel which could be closed at both ends by huge gates and portcullis' and effectively you were now in a kill zone from which there was no way out. As I said, Vauban didn't actually invent most of these ideas, he simply combined them in new and much more effective ways. It speaks for itself that most of his fortresses were never captured by assault, they fell usually after very prolonged sieges and more frequently through treachery.

So how did this influence modern warfare? Well the first thing it did was render all previous forms of artillery obsolete and it led to the development of new guns and more effective siege weapons. One of these was the mortar, a stumpy short barrelled "gun" set in a heavy cradle which fired an explosive "shell" over the heads of the defences to burst inside the fortress. It led too to the development of siege engineering - again, not new, but now taken to a higher degree of science. Ultimately commanders realised that Vauban's fortresses, while superb for defence, did not, in themselves win wars, they simply tied up vast numbers of men which led, in its turn, to heavy losses from disease and starvation on both sides. The answer then, was to fight more mobile wars, to lure an enemy out of these fortresses and fight in open country. A lesson not fully learned until the bloody aftermath of Ypres, the Somme, Thiepval and many, many more attempts to assault the German fortified trench systems in WW1. And that echo of Vauban's fortress design, a design which relied on defences interlocked with others in depth, brought about the development of the modern tank and the heavy artillery we now deploy on battlefields.

Simply walking through one of the remaining examples of Vauban's designs - and there are many of them still in evidence, such as Wurzburg, St Goar and many more along the Rhine and into Holland (Try Sluys on the Scheldt estuary) and in northern France, and you get a feel for the futility of attempting a frontal assault on them. As a military engineer Vauban stands out and his shadow is a long one.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:48 AM | TrackBack

March 04, 2008

One of those days ...

Everyone has them. You set out to do one thing and something doesn't go to plan. Well I shouldn't complain, the morning went well. Its the afternoon that didn't.

I started an interesting post. Then got distracted. When I tried to save it I got "Invalid date" and .... The post has vanished into the ether. So this is it for today, I promise to try again tomorrow. Now I have a cat demanding her supper and a meeting to prepare for. Not my favourite occupation attending meetings.......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 03, 2008

Prince Harry

It is a great pity that some journalists simply can't help themselves. Common sense dictates that some stories are better not told - especially when it will put lives in danger. Yet the newshound named Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report simply could not resist publishing the news that Prince Harry, or to give him his correct title, Lieutenant Windsor, was on active service with his troop in Afghanistan.

He knew when he decided to publish it that this would have an immediate impact on both the Prince and everyone around him. One has to ask therefore, what his motive was in doing it. Public interest? That beloved catchall of the journalist hack? Try the other one, certainly the US audience is hardly interested in what the Prince does for a living, so perhaps he hoped that shooting his pen off with this would get Harry killed - big headline in that and masses of press coverage in the funeral. You can just see the banner headlines - "Tragic Princess' Tragic Son dies at the hands of the Taliban" and in the byline - "XXX British Soldiers die in massive bomb aimed at the Prince" followed by acres of handwringing prose agonising over "why was he sent there?"

Prince Harry is a soldier. It is what he was bred to be. A leader of men under pressure and by all accounts he's a damned good one. What he doesn't need now or at any time in the future is a bunch of idiot journalists hounding him everywhere he goes and endangering him, everyone around him and everything he and his troops represent. My sympathy lies entirely with Harry on this one. I wouldn't want to be kicking my heels in the Regimental Barracks either while my troops were out in a war zone. Like Harry, I'd want to be with them, but patently, as long as people like Matt Drudge can't behave responsibly, this desire to serve his country well will be frustrated.

What the Drudge Report has exposed more than anything else is the media obsession with "Celebrity" and their desire to destroy anyone who stands above the common herd - a herd they claim tomrepresent, yet do everything they can to stand aloof from while trying to influence and steer it. Prince Harry and his brother Prince William have been bron into one of the toughest roles anyone could have to assume. They did not choose to be what they are and now they have to learn to be something the media and politicians loathe while under the constant surveillance of the media circus. Neither of them can even pop out to their local club or pub without some damned idiot trying to embarass them, provoke them or get a "story" on them. In my book, both of them are a thousand times the men that the media hacks will ever be, and ten thousand times the people any politician will ever be.

Prince Harry is, in my view, a damned fine young man, one I would be proud to serve under or with. I hope he does get his wish to return to his unit and his role, he has a lot to offer and the media should butt out and let him get on with it. As for Mr Drudge, he should be asked to answer charges of endangering the lives of our troops in Helmand Province and attempting to undermine the effort to suppress the terrorism the Taliban represent. I, for one, think that was his intention - to get some British troops killed and to sabotage their efforts to overcome the Taliban. Perhaps the FBI should look into that for us.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 02, 2008

Mothering Sunday

Also called "Refreshment Sunday" it marks the middle of the Lent fast (assuming you had decided to give up something!) and traditionally it is a day on which you may break the fast and indulge yourself. But it has a more important function as well, hence its more common name. It is a day when we celebrate mothers and motherhood.

At the Abbey we mark it by wearing vestments that are "Rose" in colour (Pink to everyone else!) and with Asperges, the sprinkling of the congregations with Holy water using a sprig of Rosemary while the Penitential Psalm is sung. Children (Young and old) are then invited to collect small posies specially made for the occassion by our Flower Guild and present these to their mothers. Today I think one of the most poignant moments was the sight of two little girls collecting posies which they then presented to their father. Their mother died very suddenly late last year of undetected cancer and he led them round to the cloister Garden of Rest where her ashes are interred and helped them place their flowers on the spot in which she rests.

The Rose vestments are worn for the Virgin Mary of course, the model mother who, like so many mothers over the centuries have carried their chidlren to full term, then watched as they grew up and finally struck out on their own. Some have had the joy of watching their children go on to become pillars of society, or simply become well balanced and well rounded people. Others have had to watch as their children sink into the clutches of drug dependency or alcoholism. And some have had to bury theirs as a result of wars or crime. Being a mother is never an easy task and it is very far from being a "right" in some dusty legal code. It is a God given gift filled with both joy and pain.

Today the Church at large remembers mothers and motherhood - and celebrates the many mothers who shape our lives and mould our futures.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:01 PM | TrackBack

March 01, 2008

The Hohenburg

On top of the hill into which Europe's biggest coloured sandstone caves have been dug are the remains of a former castle and fortress, The Hohenburg.

Part of today's remains of the Hohenburg

The Hohenburg was first mentioned in 1123. In 1351 it was sold to Count Wolram of Zweibrücken and finally castle and town fell to the Counts of Nassau in 1453. During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) Hohenburg's archives were moved to Idstein and later to Frankfurt. Unfortunately all documents were lost somehow and the Counts of Nassau couldn't prove their ownership of the castle, town and the surrounding lands and forests any longer. The castle was finally conquered by the Imperial troops after it had beaten them back several times. Fortunately for the Counts of Nassau Emperor Ferdinand III gave Hohenburg back to them during the Westphalian Peace Treaty in 1648.

In the late 17th century the French King Louis XIV strengthened his eastern border and Hohenburg was just perfect for turning it into a fortress. This plan was carried out by his famous engineer Sebastian de Vauban who turned the castle into a fortress, built a strong wall around the town and added four bastions - Deuxponts, Fontaine, D'Mure and D'Autage.

Model of Castle and Town during in the late 18th century. The trademark of Sebastian de Vauban is easily recognisable.

According to the Peace Treaty of Rastatt in 1714 Louis XIV had to give Hohenburg back to Emperor Karl VI which he wasn't prepared to do, of course. The French soldiers blew up the whole fortress leaving only a pile of rubble for the Germans. Obviously no one took the trouble of rebuilding the castle ever since.

The Federal State "Saarland" of which the Hohenburg is a part has always been of interest both to France and Germany because of its coal and steel industry. After various attempts of France to annex the Saarland in the first half of the 20th century in 1948 the Saarland even became an independent state, though not internationally recognised. But during this period the Saarland had a national football team and almost stopped the Germans qualifying for the football world championships in 1954. It doesn't bear thinking of if the Saarlanders had become world champions instead of the Germans...

In 1955 the population of the Saarland voted against becoming part of France or a western union and instead opted for joining the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the Federal Republic of Germany, which they did in 1957. But in the early 1950's a bunker was built into parts of the sandstone caves underneath the Hohenburg. It was supposed to provide shelter for the government of the Saarland in case of a nuclear strike.

bunker.JPG   bunker02.jpg
The bunker that was never finished

In order to keep the population in ignorance of this bunker a hotel was erected on top of the hill, right beside the ruins of the Hohenburg at the same time the bunker was built. The hotel, however, was finished while work on the bunker was stopped after 1955. Apparently, parts of the bunker are still used for local festivities by the local townsfolk. A very good idea, Mausi thinks.

Posted by Mausi at 02:36 PM | TrackBack