Gloomy entry alert: If (literally) an army of soldiers rushed by my house, the last thing I would do is pull out a gun and shoot.

I have not been in battle (knock on wood) so have limited credibility, but it seems to me that for every war hero who does something fanatical (like charging a machine gun nest) and survives, there are a thousand would-be heroes who are flat out killed, but we only hear about the one survivor (partially due to propaganda).  So the last thing I would ever do if an army of soldiers was passing by my house is race out with a gun and fire at said army (being part of a militia might be one thing, but an individual and overt act is quite another).  Yet, here is a German soldier’s diary excerpt from the Battle of the Frontiers in World War I, compliments of history.com: “Nothing more terrible could be imagined….We advanced much too fast—a civilian fired at us—he was immediately shot—we were ordered to attack the enemy flank in a forest of beeches—we lost our direction—the men were done for—the enemy opened fire—shells came down on us like hail.”  I truly wonder what that unfortunate civilian was thinking.  Had he given up hope?  Was he suicidal anyway?  Did he have a fleeting moment of invincibility?  A burst of desperation?  One of my favorite lines about war is from The Civil War (Ken Burns), who quoted someone: “War is all hell.”  I can’t think of a worse human instinct than war, especially since it is so often “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

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Gloomy entry alert: If (literally) an army of soldiers rushed by my house, the last thing I would do is pull out a gun and shoot.

Most of the Spanish Conquerers died violently

Am re-reading the section in Don’t Know Much About (US?) History about exploration of the Americas, and it is amazing how many of the Spanish conquerers who wrought destruction and death on the natives ended up dying violently themselves — often just a year or two into their campaign.  They were killed by natives, killed by their own people or died of some exotic fever.  Which means all the lives they destroyed in pursuit of riches ended up only benefiting a few people in Europe who stayed in the comfort of their own castles.  

Commentary: This is a recurring theme in human history – people in power benefit from the legions of masses who are willing to do the dirty work of terrorizing the masses.  I truly hope there is a special place in hell for the lieutenants who do the dirty work of madmen (and madwomen) in power, whether it is the Nazis, death squads or VPs/Executives of ruthless Corporations (which are very much like the conquistadors who destroyed innocent lives in remote places).

Most of the Spanish Conquerers died violently

Edinburgh Plague Doctor story…

My parents attended a lecture on the history of Edinburgh (Scotland), and learned that (like many European cities) plague ravaged Edinburgh in the 16th and 17th centuries.  At one point, Edinburgh asked people to stay inside and to hang a sheet on the door if they had the plague, so the plague doctor would know to visit their house.  But the doctor died of (what else?) plague.  So the city advertised for a replacement plague doctor, offering a lot of money for anyone willing to accept the role.  One man did, and before stepping into homes designed a special leather suit with a breathing mask (a long beak stuffed with cotton with air holes at the end) to wear while treating patients.  The doctor survived, and eventuallly the plague abated.  But the city of Edinburgh was unable to pay, since they had expected the doctor to die of the plague so had not set money aside.  The doctor never did receive his money. 

Source: Lisa Didier, History of Edinburgh Scotland (lecture), 2016

Edinburgh Plague Doctor story…

Loved Liverpool England

We spent the day in Liverpool England.  My great grandma Stone was born in Liverpool (her father was a merchant marine before he met my great great grandma).  Meanwhile, my great grandfather worked on the railroads across the bay in Birkenhead.  My grandfather was born in Birkenhead before immigrating to the US, and it was wonderful seeing where part of my family comes from.  

We had a wonderful guide.  She had been a librarian before becoming a marketer before becoming a tour guide, and she was caring and passionate and genuine.  We started on the pier on a windy and rainy morning, and walked along to St. Nicholas cathedral, which was impressive.  A peaceful lawn bordering the cathedral was a mass grave during plagues in the 16th and 17th Centuries.  Because Liverpool was a shipyard, it was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War II (2500 citizens were killed), and the cathedral was heavily damaged by bombs, but the minister took two burning embers to form a cross which is still on display today.

We saw the Exchange building, where at one time 40% of all trade in Europe took place, from slaves to tobacco and so on.  

We saw The Cavern, where The Beattes performed 292 times in the famous milk bar (the focus was music, not alcohol).  The Cavern was two or three stores underground, and the barrel ceilings created wonderful acoustics.  I asked the bartender what beer a local might drink and she suggested the British beer Henry James, which was good.  

We learned that Liverpool was a fishing settlement before the king chartered it as a city in the early 13th century, primarily beause it was a good launching point for the king’s men if he needed to quell an Irish uprising.  The original Liverpool Castle was pulled down in the 17th century, and standing on the grounds now is a statue of Queen Victoria from 1906, who was the longest reigning British monarch (63 years) before Elizabeth surpassed her last year.  We saw pictures of the statue following German bombers did their thing during World War II whree all the buildings surrounding the statue were reduced to rubble.

I spent a little time chatting with our guide outside the Beattle Story, since I had no interest in the Beattles’s life stories.  I learned she has twin adult daughters and a son who just graduated college.  She loves having twins.  College tuition has gone from free to 3K a year before jumping to 9K a year.  We talked about the nightmare of Donald Trump and the shock of Brexit (“people mainly wanted to send a message but without having to leave Europe”) and how Britain is similar to America in taht it is becoming every person for themselves.  Like me, she believes that there should be higher taxes and using that tax money to fund/increase social programs for the greater good.

Wife M, daughter L and I had a delicious sandwhich and fabulous brownie at Cheese & Co., which also had very friendly workers.  Following that, they walked along the shopping street like the ones that are found in every European city – a long gray brick street lined with upscale shops.

We had a difficult time understanding people’s accents 🙂

The city was a mixture of new and old, lots of glass but lots of old brick and Victorian era.  The people were very friendly.  I liked Liverpool, and would like to spend more time here.

  

  

Loved Liverpool England

Brief History of Port St. Peter, Channel Island

The Channel Islands were formed 6,000 BCE as the ocean levels rose.  Initially it was just farmers, and there was an ancient trading post at one time, but Europeans fleeing Roman armies ended here, as well.  In 10th Century (938) monks from St. Michel established a priory.  In the 1204, King John lost Normandy, and for the next few centuries the place was at the mercy of pirates.  The area profited in the wars between France, England and Spain, both due to trade and privateering.  In the 19th century its granite was prizd, but the 20 Victor Hugo (Les Msierables, Hunchback of Notre Dame) from here.  

Update: A larger island than I expected…  Arrived at a quaint historic old town that reminded me of some of the Carribean island towns, but was a mixture of medevial and rennasiance.  In the back countryside, reminded me of Normandy countryside, and in fact has been heavily influenced by French over the years. The area is famous for its cows (who knew?) and in modern times is driven by finance, since it has lower tax rates than Britain.  Population of entire island over 60,000.  There are left over forts from World War II and Napoleonic Wars.  

  

Brief History of Port St. Peter, Channel Island

Vikings History, Etc.

Attended a lecture on the Vikings by Lisa Didier on Celebrity Silohouette.  My notes on her speech:

Vikings began in Petty Kingdoms in Norways in 800s.  King at top, the “Thing” was high society, craftsmen were the “high flyers” and bottom ley were the slaves.  Farming based society, but they grew hemp for linen and livestock, also did iron mongering for other areas.  Lived in long house (including cattle, for heat and saftey).  They were personal hygiene freaks, pressed their clothes, carried sword and pouch of silver and wore jewelry, woold capes and hats.  Females ruled the household.  

Vikings began with Harald, king of a petty kingdom, who proposed to the princess Gyda.  She said only if he became king of all Norway.  He vowed not to cut his hair until he did this.  He increased his slab from western Norway to king of all of Norway in 10 years in 9th Century.  They have 10 sons, and Harald breakes up the kingdoms between each, so they fall into 100 years of civil war, so the remaining kings in southwest kingdoms sent their armies out to “get stuff.”

THey had been sailing merchants along the coasts, modernized their ships to become Viking long ship (speed and flexibility) made from Oak.  Flexibility came wool tucked between long slats, from 13-34 rowing positions.  Open boat, could go 18 knots, shallow allowed to get close to shore.  Rowed from Norway to CHicago in 44 days in 19th century to prove it could be done.  Navigated using a “magic stone” that turned yellow in sun and pointed to East (cordierite).  

Viking was a job, not a title.  They were Pagans with 118 pagan gods, they beleived if die in battle go up to Valhala.  THe one big sin was stealing, but it was okay to take booty from someone killed in battle.  King built the ship and providing helmets and swords.  In winter, stayed home, late Spring “they went Viking.”  Hunted for silver and slaves, with a share given to the king and Thing.  Initially leather helmets, but switched to metal over time.  A viking with a wolf hat was a Berserker (word comes from SHape SHifter).  INgested a mushroom drug, jumped off the ship first, attacked any and all like madmen – may have created the legend of the werewolf.  

First Viking raid recorded by ENglish Monks.  793 Lindisfarn Abbey, slaughtered the monks.  They took slaves and silver, but missed gospels hidden in dung pile.  795 began attacking Ireland, so monks built ring towers for protection.  VIkings took to rivers, and peasnts developed crannogs in bogs, and island bunker.  823 Beflast.  900s changed tactics organized fleets to 3-5 ships, all first viking to touch shore became Captain for the summer.  Ulster cut off his hand and threw it to shore to be Captain, called off Red Hand of Ulster.  Esat Russia, South to into Byzantine, Novgood in RUssia (Rurik).  

Last Viking Raid was 1000.  

Vikings History, Etc.

Cathedral notes from The Gothic Enterprise

I love European cathedrals, so am re-reading the book The Gothic Enterprise.  Notes from the book:

  • The earliest Gothic great church was the Abbey Church of St. Denis outside of Paris, began in 1137, supervised by ‘the influential” Abbot Suger.
  • The distinction of cathedral from other churches is the cathedral is the seat of the bishop.
  • Common materials included “blocks of stone, pieces of iron, mountains of sand and quicklime…”
  • Canterbury cathedral would have been started by measuring off the outline, then trenching a four-foot wide foundation.  The first 20 years built the chancel, choir, transepts, first bay of nave.  Another 12 years completed the nave and west front.  Another 8 years completed roofing, vaulting, exterior of west front.  
  • Note: Chapel, chancel ( near the alter, reserved for clergy and choir), choir, east/west transepts (arms), nave (central part for most of the congregation).  

To be continued…

Cathedral notes from The Gothic Enterprise