Archive | March, 2015

Spring Weather

31 Mar

SPRING WEATHER

hawthorn photo: Hawthorn img012Correctionresize.jpg Here we are at the end of March and the weather’s hovering somewhere between trousers and shorts.

It’s also hovering somewhere between wet and dry. Looking out of one window the skies are blue and the sun’s warm and comforting: out of another the rain clouds are gathering and, yes, there are wet spots on the glass.

April showers.

That’s what they called them when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and they were as dependent as a very dependent thing. It was April so there’d be showers. At least, that’s how I remember it.

There used to be all sorts of little homilies back then, words of wisdom without which we might venture forth inappropriately dressed.

Cast not a clout till may is out…

Now, this isn’t an order not to clout someone over the back of the head until June. Once an alternative meaning of the word clout was “a piece of cloth or clothing, especially one used as a patch.” And May maybe isn’t the month before June but the blossom of the hawthorn plant, that wonderful whitish blossom that marks many hedgerows and called may blossom.

Whatever the interpretation, it still being the rag-tag end of March and there being no sign of any white hedgerow flowers I’ll cast no clout not venture forth in shorts just yet. Though indoors is another matter…

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THE DREAM

29 Mar

A DREAM.

BURQA photo: kaala burqa blackburka.jpg

I had a dream the other night and for some reason it came back to me in the early hours of this morning, so instead of being forgotten it was remembered.

It was an exciting adventure in which I, as saviour of the sane world, decided to sort out those cultures in which the mistreatment of women is endemic. I decided to invent a few novel weapons and battle my way through bigotry, cruelty and misogyny. That’s my kind of war. For too long has it been accepted that it’s not all that wrong for men to rape women (in some cultures) and for other men to get away with the excuse of alcohol and drunkenness when they beat their wives (in others).

So I devised a light solar-powered microlight aeroplane that could, unaided and without needing to land, circumnavigate the globe if it needed to. It was great, because I could fly from here to there in the course of a single night, when here is home and there is … somewhere vaguely Middle Eastern.

After a few test runs (which didn’t seem to take any time at all) I was ready for my next invention, and it was easy-peasy.

I created a female robot with laser-eyes, powerful enough to cut through sheet steel and certainly capable of doing extreme damage to mortal flesh. She was magnificent and kept fully-charged by utilising the surplus solar energy picked up by my microlight – it could even convert moonlight into usable energy, and why not? In addition to her fantastic eyes she carried an arsenal of tiny nuclear devices in order to combat more serious threats. She was magnificent. And moody: she had to be moody.

Then I dressed her in a Burqa.

When you’re dreaming and in cloud-cuckoo land it’s very hard to distinguish a female-shaped robot from a woman when they’re both wearing burqas. With little more than a slit for her/its eyes (those laser eyes that were so powerful they could bore through steel, don’t forget) and an armoury of unimaginably powerful but tiny nuclear weapons under her black skirts she was ready to go. All she had to do was take aim with her vagina and whole buildings would vanish in a radioactive cloud of rubble.

And I flew her through the night in my microlight, sitting next to her and holding a desultory conversation with her (she sounded exactly like a female version of Professor Stephen Hawking when she spoke and was consequently very sensible). We raced through the night, the wind on my domed scalp, and by dawn there were the streets of a Middle Eastern country before me.

Now I want to make it clear, my only knowledge of the Middle East is via the gift of the kind of images, the stereotypes, that a large number of its inhabitants want me to have. So I see sharp-eyed men and cowering women in all-black costumes, some of them bleeding because they’ve been flogged. I haven’t created that image. It’s been provided for me by what is almost certainly only a tiny minority of the inhabitants because those inhabitants are ostensibly as human as I am and have similar emotions to those I enjoy. And I enjoy my deep and almost overwhelming love for my wife and wouldn’t like to think anyone hurt a single hair on her head. But that tiny minority has created a world in which women are constantly cowering and subjected to a cruel male dominance, and that’s what I’ve flown half way round the world to sort out.

With Mabel.

Suddenly my robot has a name. She’s Mabel and she’s there to sort out some of the misogynist men that populate my misconception of the Middle East.

You might be able to imagine the rest of my dream, because, yes, there was a rest. We landed and sallied forth down the first road we came upon (stucco buildings all around, men in Arab dress and hurling insults from squint eyes, pushing their womenfolk before them with cruel abandon) and Mabel sorting them out.

Using those eyes I had designed for her, she blinded them with multicoloured rays unseen elsewhere on the planet. She scorched through their flesh, dissolved testicles and created unimaginable painful impotence. She did what the real women would have wanted to do, but daren’t. And within nearly no time at all the howling of blinded and emasculated men and the hysterical laughter of joyously freed women filled the air.

There was more.

Using her arsenal of tiny nuclear devices she blasted whole centres in which fierce and uncontrollable yet heavily armed soldiers marched to battle against a cowering civilian foe. The whole land was aglow with righteous destruction! And the frightened victims became the free, the abusive military, the dead.

And, like some super-heroes drawn in ink and coloured with blood, Mabel and I returned to the peaceful green fields of home, knowing we had righted a dreadful wrong…

There are men who believe that the only happy world is one in which the women are cowed and frightened, and they’ve just got to go.

Ask Mabel.

© Peter Rogerson 29.03.05

YOU AND ME AND A DOG NAMED GOD…

24 Mar

YOU AND ME AND A DOG NAMED GOD…

dog photo: Silly puppy :) 465243_4616056329092_127507355_o.jpgHierarchy’s a wonderful thing.
Look at it like this. Since time immemorial whenever there’s been a Sunday (or Monday, Tuesday etc) roast dinner there’s been a hierarchy. The man sat at the top end of the table or stone slab or whatever it was, and the rest of the family, subordinate to him, sat on lower seats in a position that would be indistinguishable from grovelling to a passing alien.

The man took pride of place and his woman (who’d prepared, cooked, lovingly tended) the roast whatever it was sat gratefully below him. He’d done very little, of course, unless it had been he that had hunted the dinner in the first place, dragged it back home and slept the effort off on his comfy bed/lounger/smelly skins.

And this hierarchy was based on the big one.

I’m referencing medieval Europe here, but I might be referencing most pre-modern societies based on religious devotion.

At the top of the tree there’s God. He’s at the head of the table, if you like. Everyone’s subservient to him: absolutely, irrefutably everyone. He’s the important dude because he made everything in the first place. But it’s no good being at the top of the table if there’s nobody looking up at you. So you have a hierarchy.

There’s the King of whatever country you’re thinking about. Or the queen, though queens have been almost as rare as hen’s teeth because us males like to believe the fiction that we’re superior. Appointed by God, the king can do little wrong and is entitled to whatever wealth and women he fancies – and if he can’t get them he sacks his deity’s special envoy (the Pope) and sets up in opposition himself.

And because he’s special, appointed by God, he can make decisions about others, like who’s to be wealthy, who’s to say special prayers on his behalf – and consequently who’s got less manual work to do. The King needed playmates whilst he was hunting or playing with his weaponry in make-believe battles, and he gave his favourites the job – and they were his favourites on account of their wealth and the possibility they might challenge his authority and usurp him. Usurping wasn’t unknown.

His main job was to sire an heir. A male one, of course, because God preferred his representatives to have willies. Throughout biblical writings women are very much secondary to men, who have the right to punish/execute them if their breathing displeases them. Anyway, he chooses a wife, showers trinkets on her and when he isn’t cuddling up to one of a tribe of mistresses he tries to impregnate her. If she conceives and has a son she’s done the right thing and isn’t he a clever so-and-so, but if she only manages daughters there’s something wrong with her. She’s most likely displeased God and perhaps has lived a secret, wayward life. It wasn’t unknown for her head to be lopped off as a consequence of her sin, be it real or imagined.

He never questioned the might of his own royal seed, however.

In the times in which kings behaved as though they were really special most of the people lived and toiled on the land, their homesteads being centred in relatively small communities, and there was always a big house with a big man in it – the Lord of the Manor.

Although a great deal lower down in the scheme of things he was still monumental in his own eyes, and had the power of life or death over those who tilled his land, the peasantry. His judicial decisions, sometimes disgracefully unfair, were law and had to be obeyed – or else.

Parallel to this descending hierarchy was the church, and mighty important it was too. At the top of its divine tree was the Pope and at the bottom were nuns, and all of them in their nunneries, and the church had a special hierarchy of its own. The man at the top (he might even be a criminal – there were some popes who were involved in the seamier side of life) was the Pope. Then around and below him were the rest and below them ordinary folk, the peasantry who donated to his coffers, often being pressed to giving what they couldn’t really afford to give.

And if any convincing was called for, religious buildings were created on a grand scale. The size of a medieval cathedral was enough to convince most people that there was something mighty behind it. And those monuments to religious vanity still stand whilst the humble stick and mud homes of their builders have long been swept away by the tide of time.

And for a great part of human history this hierarchical unfairness wrecked the lives and dreams of thinkers, those who by a unique intellectual contribution might have moved societies forwards, to the betterment of those less blessed with true intelligence. But when you’ve got it made, when you’re at the top end of a hierarchy, then you don’t bark yourself but make it quite clear that wrong-doing and non-believing will be punished by a barking dog named God, and that punishment by him will be eternal…

© Peter Rogerson. 24.03.15

24 Mar

LITTLE ADDITIONS

WILLIAM TYNDALE photo: William Tyndale HF-89_tn20William20Tyndale20Origina.jpg
Purgatory is a really neat concept. If you were a ruler of men, a king or queen, even a dictator, you’d really want your people to believe in a place where they must linger in agony while their earthly sins are dissolved by time.

And it was like that once. Rich men left endowments in order to provide a living for monks or priests to pray for their release from purgatory sooner than their sins suggested they might be released – and who knows more about those sins than the sinner?

So where did purgatory come from? Clearly, it’s part of Christian dogma, so you’d expect that it had its birth in that books of the Christian bible, – but no, there’s no mention of it there.

Maybe we can recall, from history lessons in school, that there was a time when the one and only denomination of Christianity objected when it was mooted that the bible should be translated into the language that the common man could understand. It was in their interests to keep the book obscure, only available to those with a classical education and a working knowledge of Latin. We may even recall the name of William Tyndale who worked on translating the good book into English, and who as a consequence was accused of the really serious crime of heresy and executed by strangulation before being hanged.

Heresy, or the belief in a religious construct contrary to that which is accepted by church and state, was responsible for quite a few learned men being victims of this or that kind of judicial murder.

The reason why providing a true understanding of religious teaching by making the religious texts understandable to all who could read their own language was such a crime lay in what they didn’t say rather than what was in the original gospels and allied books.

Over the centuries the Church in Rome had added bits and pieces to Christianity and would have preferred it if the masses believed that those additions were all part and parcel of the original concept of God in his heaven surrounded by angels all adoring him and Satan in his hell gnashing his teeth amongst sulphurous fumes and eternal torment for unbelievers.

Note that: hell was for unbelievers rather than sinners, but then not believing was the worst of sins anyway.

It wasn’t long after William Tyndale’s demise that the English king shook Christendom by establishing the church of England and separating from the papal powers in Rome. His motives had more to do with a personal divorce than a religious quarrel, but he did suggest an English-language bible, and Tyndale’s work was used as a basis for what is known as the Tyndale Bible. He would have been pleased had he not been executed beyond pleasure!

But thoughts of purgatory slowly slipped away when the original texts were shown to make no mention of the place. It was one of those little additions that had been dreamed up by Rome.

And I should imagine that it’s perfectly fair to suggest that all the rest of the Christian dogma was made up of little additions dreamed up over hundreds of years preceding the new testament. But additions to what, you might ask. Well, I would suggest there were stories back in the beginning that were told to children at night, lovely stories about a Prince Adam and a Princess Eve and a nasty, nasty snake. And over time additions were made.

Purgatory might have all-but disappeared, but there are still ancient additions to snare us, and they’re in black and white in millions of copies of that evil book.

© Peter Rogerson 23.03.15

The Other Side of the Hill – Part 1

12 Mar

I’m not sure how much of this will get to be written. I have a vague outline in my mind and the intention to maybe add a few hundred words every week. And distractions. I have distractions.
primeval forest photo: Forest primeval IMG-20130903-00413_zps76c12c89.jpg  THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HILL -Part 1

In a prehistoric time when everything was very much newer than it is today, and the sky was bluer, there was a land the inhabitants called Gangl adjacent to another land where a warlike tribe, the Bundl, caused bother and occasional mayhem. Ever it has been in the lives of men, even back then before the first human had stepped tentatively out of continental Africa, that blind selfishness can drive events.

There was a stirring over the hills that bordered Gangl. Wongi could feel it in the air, and he was troubled by it. Somewhere there must be burning, and any burning so close to Gangl threatened hearth and home even if home was only an old dried stream-bed that once had issued from the side of the cliff, and hearth was a smouldering remnant of last night’s fire that he’d lit and the rains had all-but extinguished. But now and for seeming ages the weather had been dust dry and everywhere was parched tinder.

“The Bundl doing burn again,” he muttered to Grizzy, his gorgeous wife in whom shades of angels of an earlier age had returned to glorify the fair sex and provide beauty for the eyes of men to devour. Unlike most of the villagers of Gangl, who were, to a man and woman, bronzed with black, twisted dreadlocks of coarse hair, she was paler, and her hair was of a reddish hue, and fine like carmine gossamer. She was beautiful: everyone said that.

“They threat,” she agreed.

The Bundl was a neighbouring tribe, and it had very different habits to those of Gangl, who were happily free and easy in their approach to a life that nobody could have described as particularly difficult. After all, food was plentiful the weather was balmy just about all the year round and nobody had to toil particularly hard in order to live a contented and comfortable life. The Bundl, however, saw things very differently. Despite the richness of their world, they wanted more.

“They need sorting,” added Grizzy, gazing with contemplative thoughtfulness at her man. “They dangerous,” she continued. “The Bundl spoil things for us!”

Deep in his heart Wongi agreed with her. There had been several incursions into Gangl by the Bundl, and none of them had been anything but threatening. The Bundl were wont to burn and steal and, worst of all, take womenfolk away with them, and that was unforgivable.

And even worse. Their appearance was irrational. To start with, they insisted on dressing themselves in animal skins even when the world was steaming hot and any kind of clothing was clearly not necessary. Wongi went almost naked because the balmy weather dictated it, though they did choose to almost cover their genitals for reasons of prudence more than anything, and during the winter period when there were occasional days when the sun went away he wore a coarsely woven garment made for him by Grizzy. But it was no animal skin. It was created , by Grizzy, from a yarn she teased out of the flax that grew in wonderful profusion along the river bank.

“We need Gangl council,” grumbled Wongi. “Before things get bad,” he added sourly.

A smudge of black smoke drifted over the hill and seemed to smother the sun until the daylight dimmed. In the distance they could hear on the smoke-fragranced breeze the fierce whooping of a battle-chant and they knew their neighbours were preparing for something unpleasant. They had to be. Whenever they prepared for anything it was never actually pleasant.

Wongi wasn’t the Chief, but that didn’t matter. The politics of the Gangl wasn’t hierarchical and if any member felt he had something important to say there was no need to go before a chieftain or an elder in order to get action, but to attend to the matter himself. So with no more ado Wongi called a meeting of all who felt they should contribute – and he was surprised by the immediate turnout. It had been more than he and Grizzy who had perceived danger.

The folk of Gangl were prepared to defend their lives and homes, and the other side of the hill had better watch out … or else!

© Peter Rogerson 12.03.15

WOMEN OF THE WORLD

4 Mar

WOMEN OF THE WORLD

lUCY wORSLEY photo: 26 Lucy Worsley Image 1 26LucyWorsleyImage1.jpgLucy Worsley

There have been quite a few instances of young women fleeing to fight the silly and exceptionally cruel war in the Middle East because they want to defend the right to the subjugation and enslavement of their own sex. Allegedly. I’ve not been to the rolling hills of ISIS so I don’t know from first hand experience, but by all accounts the girls – and that’s what they are, teenage girls – are in for a pretty upsetting life. Unless they like being treated as the second-rate sex, that is.

But the tales are everywhere. Muslim women follow stringent rules or they get punished. Physically. Or executed. To death.

But, as I said, I’ve no first hand experience to actually quote from – and don’t want any.

Yet it all gets me wondering whether the rich assortment of female expertise that we are constantly being introduced to on our side of the planet is replicated in the Middle East. Do they have intelligent and informative series of television programmes dealing with every facet of knowledge and fronted by exceptionally able women? I don’t know, and in my ignorance I may be barking up the wrong tree here. But I doubt it. If a Saudi Arabian women isn’t allowed to drive I’ll bet she doesn’t become a highly educated professor with a huge trail of letters after her name.

In the UK (and most probably the rest of the west) we live in the finest age of broadcast information that I can remember, and being an increasingly ancient old fart I can remember just about all of it. Ever since they invented television documentaries there have been wondrous attempts at educating the masses, and for much of the time the presenters of such televisual treats were either elderly professorial types with moustaches or off-screen actors reading a script in a voice that had any humour stripped out of it.

But in recent years the winds of change have blown across my 32 inch HD screen. (32 inches is big enough for me: I’ve no intention of bragging).

The faces presenting the intelligent stuff are experts in the fields that they’re talking about. Take Professor Brian Cox, for instance. He knows stuff about space and can communicate his knowledge with clarity and conviction. Like David Attenborough and his natural history. But they’re both blokes but I’m writing about the fair sex.

There are loads of women doing a similar job to the two gents mentioned. Good, knowledgeable expert women. Women who can communicate so well you get to wondering if they’re better than men!

Let’s think of a few.

For starters, there’s Lucy Worsley. Her day job may be to do with caring for treasured national buildings like Hampton Court, but when she’s on television she teaches us so much about those buildings and the people who built and lived in them, and then goes on, in different programmes, to elucidate about murder through the ages, and she does it with relish. And a twinkle in her eye. And a knowing look when things get a little bit saucy like she makes sure they do.

Then there’s Mary Beard, a little older maybe but just as twinkling at the saucy bits. And with splendid knowledge of classical times, the Greeks, the Romans and so on. A real, genuine expert rather than a bored actor reading from a script.

And science hasn’t been left out when it comes to female presenters. Take space studies, for example. Maggie Aderin-Pocock has enough enthusiasm for ten men – and she knows her stuff, particularly when it comes to the moon. There ought to be more black female documentary makers.

But if it’s bones that fascinate you, Professor Alice Roberts (she of the fascinating vowels) is hard to beat. Another face fronting informative stuff on the television and someone who knows her subject, this time archaeology with reference to the brittle remnants of old bones.

I’ve not reached the end of the list and I won’t, but I must mention Amanda Vickery, historian and defender of her own sex. She has traced the absolute guilt of my own gender down the ages, has contributed to the shame I feel at the history of men since time immemorial and their evil treatment of what’s just got to be the fairest sex.

These five women are members of a newish breed of informers and educators and our lives are all the richer for them. And long may they continue to inform and educate on our oversized television screens. Is 32 inches too big?

And are their equals in the sisterhood of brilliance shining just as brightly in the Middle East where, they say (though I haven’t seen personally) that women are still treated like they were here in the faded past? If not they’ve still got the good times to come….

© Peter Rogerson 04.03.15

I CAN DO IT TOO…

1 Mar

I CAN DO IT TOO…

vicar photo: vicar vicar.jpg  On his way to work the Reverend Oliver Dimwick spotted an old woman sprawling on the pavement, her feet in the gutter and her nose bleeding, turning a whitish stone flag into rusty red.

“You disgust me,” he growled, his sermon for later that morning rolling around in his head. “You should know better, getting into that state at your age!”

“Help me,” she warbled through a filter of blood and snot.

“You should have thought about needing help on a lovely summer’s day like this one before you hit the bottle!” he said severely.

“But … I haven’t…” Her voice faded into pain and silence.

“You can be quite sure that your sins will find you out, in the next world as well as this one!” he admonished her. “It is recorded that the devil’s in the drink you force down your throat even for breakfast, and it’s the devil that has thrown you like a sack of faeces onto the pavement! When you rise up and find your feet … if you can find your feet, that is, I want you to pray to our lord for forgiveness…”

“I don’t need…” she croaked.

“It’s a disgrace!” He was thundering now, needing to spread his holy word into more ears than the old women’s two. “To think that in six days our lord created us and everything we perceive to be around us and on the very day that he rested you decide to numb the brain he gave you with the demon drink!”

“I haven’t…” she spluttered, her spittle blood-stained and her eyes imploring him.

Just then a spiky-haired youth on a motor cycle drove up, and seeing the old woman in the gutter, he pulled up.

“Is summat wrong?” he asked the Reverend Oliver Dimwick.

“The woman’s worse for wear I fear,” he sniggered in reply. “It would seem that she’s hit the bottle really hard, and at this time on a Sunday morning at that!”

“I never…” wept the old woman.

“She’s not drunk!” exclaimed the youth. “She don’t smell of booze, and I should know ’cause my old woman always smells of the stuff! Nah, I reckon she’s collapsed … some medical thing, but I ain’t a doctor though I was taught summat about first aid…”

“Collapsed, you say?” asked the Reverend Oliver Dimwick. “I say she’s drunk! And I should know because I’m a man of God and he tells me the truth!”

By this time the woman had jerked and was lying still as a piece of litter on the airless moon.

Whilst the man of God was ranting the youth loosed the woman’s clothing and put his own mouth through the bloody snot on her face, and administered mouth to mouth resuscitation as best he could, and beat a harsh tattoo on her elderly chest. The vicar might have watched, but had changed from declaiming the contents of his brain to the universe and had started busying himself staring into the lovely blue skies with a seraphic expression on his face and murmuring little homilies about the wonders of his lord to himself, and a snippet concerning life everlasting.

An ambulance, blue lights flashing and hee-haw shouting zoomed up to the scene. Paramedics leapt out and took over from the leather-clad spiky youth whilst the reverend Oliver Dimwick explained to them about the evils of alcohol.

“You’ve done well,” the first paramedic told the youth. “It’s a good thing you came along. I think she’ll be all right now.”

“To hit the bottle again?” almost sneered the Reverend gentleman. “Well, I’ve wasted enough time on the likes of her. I’ve a sermon to preach and a lesson to teach.”

“What about squire?” asked the youth. “The good Samaritan?”

“Could be,” conceded the Reverend Oliver Dimwick. “How did you know?”

“It seemed relevant,” grinned the youth.

OoOoO
See. It doesn’t take the mythical Jesus to tell parables. I can do it too.

©Peter Rogerson 01.03.15