Popular Posts

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Arrivederci / Animadverto vos iterum


Evans D. Martin, Evans D. Morgan and
If I remember right -
There was a third 'Juffy' Evans at class roll call.
We also had a D.J Roberts and an A.W. Roberts.

Chester is very Welsh for an English city
The surnames said it all -
But then again not using first names is very English.

I once went to school with a rose
In my lapel for St George’s Day –
I was a strange child.

So it was with fascination
That I find Dai Morgan Evans hosting:
‘Rome wasn’t built in a Day’.

It was a long time ago but
We both loved archaeology -
Our heroes were
Glyn Daniel and Mortimer Wheeler.

As D.M. said a couple of years back:
‘I'm fairly ancient - I'm 66, so I've been around for a while.
I became interested in the Romans by being brought up in Chester’.

As his classmate, I was super impressed that he studied Anglo-Saxon
At Robin Alden’s Georgian townhouse in Abbey Street -
After school!

As a country bumpkin, I had 90 minutes travel either way
And had to talk to the cows along the Long Lane -
As I biked home to the farm from the C84 bus.

But Dai and I
[or David as I remember him] -
Were bonded by relics, ruins and inheritance.

Again I was super impressed that he was one of the Ordovices
Who was still living near the Land of his Fathers - Wales
[‘A place of bards, bigots, tenors, drapers, milkmen and journalists’] -
When I was a sort of war orphan who was a bit of a
Spare wheel.

But I hung on to the fact
That my step-dad was an English yeoman:
‘Cheshire born
And Cheshire bred
Strong in the arm
Quick in the head’.

One time, D.M. and I took part in a dig
In Watergate Street -
Hoping for evidence of the Roman docks.

We got down about 10 feet
And found planking – but it was still fresh -
The ground had been used in WW1
As a training area for digging trenches.

Nothing changes that much.

The Ordovices got a pasting
When Caractacus or Caradoc ap Cunobellin
Lost the Battle of the Wrekin or Caer Caradoc -
around  AD 51.

Craddock took refuge with the Brigantes
[My lot, I have since found out
Through YDNA testing] -
And our Queen handed him over to -
Publius Ostorius Scapula in chains.

Paraded as a trophy in the Eternal city,
He had this to say:
'Does it really follow that everyone should accept your slavery?
And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them –
Covet our poor tents?’

After that the Cornovii, who wore bulls' horns and had hill forts
[My Cheshire relatives],
Used the Pax Romana to build Uriconium into
Britain’s fourth city.

They were descendants of Himilco
The Carthaginian -
So they knew their
Elephants [and cows] as far as the Romans were concerned.

They were a cunning lot, with an eye for
A bargain and what is practical –
And reinvented themselves again under the Angles
As the Wrekin Set -
With Chester and Shrewsbury
And their department stores and tea houses -
Browns and Quaintways -
Very nice too!

And 'the gardens of Blandings Castle
Are that original garden -
From which we are all exiled'.

And so it goes.

My uncle had a farm and then a pub in South Shropshire.
And my cousin [another David] and I
Cycled over once from Wenlock Edge to Wroxeter -
And brought back some shards of Samian ware.

'What’s that rubbish?’ his dad said.

That David died of AIDS in the 1990s.

As Housman has it:

‘On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon’.


For more on D.M's Roman Villa reconstruction at Wroxeter / Uriconium, see:


For an update on the Cornovii at Blandings, see Carol Midgely’s article at:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Now for Something Completely Different


While I was out titivating the driveway a few months back, I got chatting to our beautiful blonde postie [post delivery girl]. I had remarked that she must get very fit walking Wellington’s hills and I reminded her that one of NZ’s premier poets James K. Baxter had also been a local postie.

The obvious follow-up in my chat-up line was whether she was also a competitive runner or biker? [I haven’t entirely lost the knack – or maybe it was just a reflex action like an old dog chasing cars in its sleep].

She then volunteered that she had become addicted to Roller Derby but that despite her strength and stamina, she had so far been unable to get into the first team of our Richter City Rollers team [‘Richter’- after our proneness to earthquakes]. She also gave me a brief intro to the rules and suggested that I try it myself [as a spectator].

So last night, I put on a surprise package for the family which consisted of a mystery tour to the Chicago Bar on Queens Wharf and then tickets to the 2013 Season ‘Aggro’ Opener between the Wellington Richter City Rollers and the Auckland Pirate City Rollers.

While my wife was initially sceptical and the boys started listless and grumpy, we were all soon totally enthralled.

For a similar epiphany the report by Wellington’s Blogging Chick [at: http://bloggingcafechick.blogspot.co.nz/2012/04/richter-city-roller-derby.html]

There is just so much in-your-face speed, noise, exuberance and louche sexitude.  I adored the girls’ names - a sample:

‘Jem Molition, Suffer Jet, Switchblade Betty, Rusty Stiletto, Princess Slayer, Lady Trample, Myrtle Kombat, Sick Puppy, Sugar Gorilla, Machete Confetti, Scary Maclary, Venom de Plume, Gin & Toxic’.

And as ‘Heidi Contagious’ comments on the costumes:

‘In derby there isn’t an official dress code but I’ve observed some unwritten rules like, black is good (but hell when is it not?), Goth works, frilly knickers absolutely, bright coloured short skirts, fishnets (a wardrobe staple), leopard print (a winning choice by Smash Malice), tight shorts, knee high socks with optional print – tartan, skulls, stripes and accessories – earrings, necklaces, belts’.

This is all very Autumn-Winter 2013, as my recent Fashion Page explained.

With the names, the athleticism and the camaraderie, it reminded me of my much beloved Mother Hash, the Manila Mens’ Hash House Harriers - except to say that the Hash is positively sophisticated and even effete by comparison. I would love to be a fly-on-the-wall in the dressing room or the apr├Ęs derby drinks [always assuming I wasn’t swatted].

There was tragedy just before the end of the first half when our key jammer 'Skanda Lass' was stretchered off in tears of pain and frustration [it has taken me 24 hours to figure out that her name is not a Nordic reference, and that instead it is a pun on the word scandalous]. She was subsequently reported as OK.

We had to leave to get the boys home soon after this and things were looking bleak for the Richters.

Anyhow, it seems that they won 194:192 - after putting their heads down and getting their leotards swinging in the last tight stretch. Wunderbar! and Magnifique! [or should that be 'Wanda Bear' and 'Maggie Physique'?].

Summing it all up, my wife's view was that it was pretty 'Virginia Dentata'. I'm not quite sure what this means but I'll pass it on as a feminist insight.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Spirit of 1945


I look forward to seeing Ken Loach’s new film ‘The Spirit of ‘45’.

For Rosie Boycott’s reflections see:

Rosie takes a challenging line:

‘How impossible it would be today: the creation of a welfare state in Britain where extreme social inequality is the norm. In his film The Spirit of ’45, released yesterday, Ken Loach tells the extraordinary story of that year, when Churchill, who had led this country through its “darkest hours”, was soundly defeated in the election that saw Clement Attlee, the determined Putney boy, ushered into Downing Street.

‘Britain was exhausted.

‘There was very little food; there was huge debt; the pleasantries of life which wartime had dried up were still just a memory. And yet, within five short years, the new government managed to transform the nation into something that resembled a socialist democracy.

‘In the January 1947 edition of The Picture Post, the outline of a welfare state is clearly laid out: free healthcare, free schooling, housing, the promise of work and security if you are unable to earn. The public utility companies were nationalised. They belonged to us. It was nothing short of a revolution.

‘Even when the Tories returned to power in 1950, they did not change the new status quo. It was to be the world I grew up in, one where social mobility prevailed and the gap between the pay of the banker, doctor and schoolteacher was nothing to be remarked on.

‘I assumed that some version of this would last forever but, like most people, I bargained without Mrs Thatcher. “This idea had been bouncing around my head for some time,” Loach says. “I was asked if I would do an archive documentary. I think it’s opposite now.

‘We are now in the midst of a great depression and a recession – as we were at the end of the 1930s. There is a large amount of anger at the cuts and at the destruction of the NHS. You wonder, as the remnants of a civilised society are destroyed, whether people might consider an alternative.”

I’m not so sure that we can go back. Much has changed.

But we can continue to search for alternatives to Government by Distraction and Deceit.

Of course I am a War Baby and one who has always felt a special affinity with the Welfare State. After all, it was the 1944 Education Act that gave me the opportunity for higher education. It provided the 11-Plus as a stepping stone to secondary school. It paid my fees for attending the 'direct grant' King’s School, Chester and later gave me a scholarship to take up a place at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.

Without this I would probably have ended up selling heifers at the local auction [well, that would not have been so bad - or "A great relief", I hear you say].

I grew up as the step-son of a ‘bailiff’ or farm manager who got £8 per week and a ‘free’ house. Compared to farm labourers who got £6 per week and had to pay rent, it was better money but no fortune.

The picture above shows my mother [at centre on the garden seat] and my widowed grandmother [at right] on a summer holiday at Barmouth, North Wales around April 1945. I am the chubby baby at bottom left and my sister is the bright-eyed 7-year old girl. We are with a lady and her children who were staying at the same boarding house.

My mother’s face is too deep for tears. Almost certainly suffering from post-natal depression [then unknown as a clinical diagnosis], she looks so very sad and anxious. I wish that I could go back and give her a cuddle.

She had lost my father in the RAF in 1943 and her father in the Merchant Navy in 1918.

All this may go some way to explaining my scepticism on the inevitable social benefits of untrammeled neo-liberalism. 

As the lady in the Film Trailer says:

‘The Older Generation has an absolute duty to come forward and engage Young People on this issue’.