In Memoriam

Twentieth anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks is observed at the Memorial Plaza

The National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York 

Lay aside your views on The Hows, The Whys, The Blame, The Cause, The Effect and above all the social media clutter.

Remember 2,977 died. 25,000 were injured. Then there were the losses of pregnancies, the subsequent deaths and severe anguish of relatives and friends, the abuse heaped on the innocent. The resonances remain raw.

People were and still are suffering.

One stark reminder for us all, one bitter symbol of an avoidable world-wide blight.

      

Places of Resolve

Awaiting

‘My poor darling,’ her hand touched his forehead ‘What a dreadful cut. I do wish you would wear your helmet,’

‘My sweet,’ he replied with warmth taking her hand and kissing it ‘There was only a brush of steel against skin. You know how I feel about helmets, they do impede the vision,’

There came the endearing little pout as she set to scolding him.

‘Your vision will be lot more impeded if your silly head was cut off,’ she tugged his nose for emphasis ‘Now let me clean that gash up properly The Good Lord God knows where that rag pretending to be a bandage has been,’

Thus he did sit patiently by the log fire of their apartment as she tended to the wound with her own astringent, following with application of the clean linen bandage. He thought himself the most fortunate man in the Empire to have found this beautiful, caring, able woman who had consented to be his wife, doubly so her being willing to share his lodgings at the outpost while the campaign against the stubborn clan continued.  

Once she was satisfied with her ministrations, a simple evening meal was partaken of and as was their custom, they sat before the fire, she curled up on his lap, head and one hand resting on his chest, each savouring the closeness of the other.

‘I worry for you so,’ she whispered ‘Out there upon those bleak fields and slopes. The risks are so great, and for what? A piece of ground an emperor does not even know about much less care for,’ her breath caught and she looked up at him, deep brown eyes pleading ‘You have rank and some say in the matter. They might listen to you,’

His frustration was shaped as a sigh with a groan.

‘Lord Frygem still wishes to raise his profile with Duke Mereth who remains the favoured advisor of Prince Nahdel who……’

‘…..wishes to prove to the Emperor that he too has his princedom completely under his sway,’ her completion of the litany ended with her own sigh ‘While the troublesome Clan K’ith Sondours refuse to trust the word of known Oath Breakers,’

‘It seems the only Oaths which count are those to The Emperor, know ones dares cross a strong emperor who also has the confidence of The LifeGuard. Everyone else thus scrabbles for their joint or separate favours,’

The frequently visited topic discussed, they sat in silence holding each other, until he said, kissing russet hair ‘Away with our gloom for this night. Let’s read the play: ‘The Adventure of Stefan and Alosia,’

‘This time I’ll be Stefan and you be Alosia,’ she announced, the previous plaintive sadness replaced by a rather appealing nuance in tone and glance. By the time he had returned with the bottle of wine to aid their intended comical narration she was curled up peeking over the script of the popular comedy. They had, a while back agreed the tale of a couple facing an arranged marriage turning the tables on the arrangers to suit the couple was a theme in which they found certain strands of empathy. Their efforts at acting this slightly bawdy theatre always raised their spirits.

She awoke tender with memories of the night. He had, of course risen before her, for duties and profile elsewhere called. As was his practice he had left breakfast dishes laid out, oatmeal and water for coffee bubbling in pots hung over the fire, while there as always a dainty vase of dew damp small star petalled flowers, she held them up and breathed in the freshness. As she drank her coffee she would read her copy of ‘Varow and Betherelle’s Encounter’, based on another factual couple, and the first of a series of verses recording their rather controversial deeds, popular amongst folk at the lower end of society. Good for resolve, she thought in the dawn still a measure away.

Lord Frygem, a stocky man of nearing middle years believed himself to know something of warfare, yet was possessed of enough basic sense to appreciate advice and experience, so was glad to see the outline, albeit hunched, almost furtive. Mercenaries were a variable crew, he would thank Duke Mereth for this one. Checking the large clan raiding force, holding them and pushing them back. Frygem ruefully had to admit his border troops liked the man and his skill. Also he had kept to his ducal contract, some might have given up on the task, particularly with a pretty and shy little wife in tow. That was a puzzle. Risking her safety in The Wilds. Still a man needed his comforts.

What did rankle Frygrem and touched on a raw spot was having the damn LifeGuard here. Observing. Five of them, long dark green coats, wide brimmed black hats. Their officer a hard faced major intoning ‘Imperial Stability’ at him. The Clan was a local problem. Did LifeGuard not have better things to do? He scowled in the direction of the far off group. Beneath their dignity to take part.   

‘Captain Leiding,’ he hailed ‘Surveying the ground I trust?’

‘From dawn Lord Frygrem,’ the mercenary said ‘The Clan has quit the hill and removed themselves. They have given up on the incursion. We can take back the hill and await re-enforcements. The crisis has passed,’

Emboldened by the encouraging news Frygrem’s irritation at Imperial Supervision took hold.

‘A retreat?’ his eagerness unsettling the mercenary captain  ‘We might pursue them,’

‘If we had a larger reserve,’ Leiding said, intending to bring neutrality into the conversation. ‘Our current force needs rest and recuperation,’

‘Whereas I can appreciate your caution captain, as your profession values conservation of resources, in my world, political demonstration is equally as weighty,’ this was accompanied by a brief twitch of his head towards the LifeGuard. ‘I would like to consider the ground myself. Accompany me,’

Since there was no evidence of Clan numbers Leiding saw little point in arguing here and hoped he could dissuade Frygrem during the ride. He gestured to four men selected for skill with crossbow to accompany the lord’s small entourage.

‘This is Lord Frygrem’s idea. Keen eyes,’ he said to his own ‘Bows loaded, but aloft to avoid accidents,’

The approach was not the issue, the slope and the sparse cover would be a risky place for an ambush. Leiding insisted his group reached the crest first, sharp eyed they scanned, dismounting, to avoid being an easy target.

‘Captain,’ the lord called out impatient after the slow climb ‘I would advance,’ Leiding surveyed the grasses, heathers, gorse  and small outcrops; the only true cover a copse in the far distance. The land  appeared safe, though ‘Appeared’ was never a word he trusted.

His pause obviously did not suit Frygrem, the man advanced his horse at a swift trot, until he was amongst Leiding’s group, disrupting their watch.

‘My Lord,’ Leiding said, command in his voice ‘Dismount,’ Frygrem having briefly looked ahead turned his attention back to the LifeGuard.

The brief warning was the gorse bush twitching against the direction of the breeze, too fast though for the message to go from eye to head to hand. The figure rose already losing off their own bolt, before starting to duck. By the time even the swiftest of the party at the crest was physically reacting Frygrem was tipping back from his mount, either it was the bolt in his chest or the fall from his horse, killing him.

Whether he was dead by the time three crossbow bolts flew towards the gorse, one hitting the ambusher it was of no consequence.

Against the backdrop of clamour from the entourage Leiding and his men viewed the body, caution staying them.

‘High Holy,’ breathed one ‘He was swift,’

‘Little,’ added another ‘That’s how he hid,’

‘Patient,’  said the third

‘Steady,’ concluded the fourth, adding, alarmed ‘Captain?’

He was uncaring of the warnings from his men and the indignation from the entourage, drawn to brief view of russet hair loosened as the ambusher fell backwards. There should be anger, anguish, at least confusion. Why was there admiration, laced with hope, melding with confusion?

Voices were but sounds as he reached the body, eyes flickering, the grimace of triumph softening to a smile.

‘It was a lovely breakfast,’ she said, raising her cap ‘Look I wore your posey,’

Her accent was no longer regional encompassing three princedoms, there was the distinctive rolling lilt of these clan folk, an urgency caused a cough, blood running from her mouth.

‘I taught you too well,’ he said.

‘I did not play thee, dear husband. There was no long plan. It was only when your contract drew you here. I had prayed there would just be scraping like wee dogs, then going away,’

He stroked her hair. A lord’s death. Who cared?

‘You do not hold Clan deaths against me?’

‘They should have stayed in our own lands,’ she slurred ‘My father, always counselled  The Chief to stop raiding. Yet, Frygrem had to go, a warning,’

‘It was deftly done,’

‘While you boys were out brawling I learnt the exits,’

 ‘There’ll be reprisals,’

A pained little laugh.

‘With The LifeGuard hovering around. Them and their adherence to Stability? Look not surprised, a Clan Chief’s niece learns a much of politics,’

A tearful chuckle was his response.

‘That was the marriage you were running from,’

‘I think I saw him die yesterday,’

‘What in the Second Hell is he doing?’ someone on the crest demanded.

One of the crossbowmen shrugged. The arrival of the LifeGuard Colonel stilled all conversation.

Their shared laughter stopped, his face grave as he placed the knife in her hand.

‘Also as I taught you,’ he said ‘It makes sense, for I let a lord die on my watch, grave mistake. More to the point, I can’t spend time on this realm without you,’

Her eyes were losing focus, breath ragged.

‘I could not leave you alone,’ she said and plunged in the blade.

Only the Colonel of LifeGuard did not seemed surprised.

The Colonel of LifeGuard bore the tirades of the Duke and Prince with an impassive disinterest. They owed more to the Oakhostian Empire than it did to them. They knew full well. When they ran out of ire, he spoke.

‘You were fortunate The LifeGuard was there to return the young woman’s body to the Clan, the whole business could have spread from Clan to Clan like a gorse fire. Never mind this Clan was an inveterate nuisance, Clans rally when Princes push their luck. The LifeGuard will have to attend to this,’ he let the words hang, the warning, LifeGuard were arbiters of this Emperor. ‘Captain Leiding was obviously being generous in tending her last religious rites. Being confused she stabbed him. Unfortunate. I will tender my report on the matter, both to The Grand Oaken Throne and my Commanders. You should await the Emperor’s Word. Do not venture beyond that crest. It is his wife I feel sorry for, secretly fleeing in distress,’

He left.

The winds blew across the freshly raised twin mounds. Four men crossbowmen, and four Clansmen had stood watch all the day. The sun settled, the quartets nodded to each other, and returned  to their own ranks.

Newly planted flowers quivered in the wind.

The tenth draft might be the foundation for the official report. Only LifeGuard’ s grim fortress Drygnest would know the captain was their own, despatched to act as mercenary, mining fertile battlefields for nobility’s indiscretions. Dangerous road, sometimes a LifeGuard went in so deep they lost perception. Usually going hard rogue taking lives like tankards of ale, conspiring for thrills. Instead here a fellow had stepped off the road, onto softer pastures, tripped when he came back onto the road. Tendered his way out with dignity, and it seemed love.

The Colonel looked to the copies of play and verse. Romance. Just as likely to kill.  

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We Did Not Want To Be Here. And Yet We Are

War

A continuation of…

As Legions Before Us. We Will Be Tested

This not grandstanding; nor doomsaying; nor least of all a rallying call. We are moving past all of that. We are in the place where Reality is demanding our choices. This is how it is. You are being drawn to those choices, you will be asked to judge which paths.  For there are two human emotive tectonic plates grinding together and at some stage one will flip over the other, and there will be the quake. Those are National Domestic Pressures and The War  In Ukraine. Both remorseless, unavoidable, most of the elemental forces out of your control. Your reaction though will still be yours, along with tens of millions of others, each drop, each flake with its own weight and influence. Prepare yourself. And do not look for advice or guidance here I would not presume such arrogance.

The world is still dealing with a pandemic, the, medical, social and financial costs. Nations are facing domestic political upheavals in one form or another. The two closest to my heart being The Fracturing of Consensus in the USA and Brexit in my own UK. While now we have on the European Continent a full scale conventional conflict between two nations; The War that has been on hold since the Nuclear Sword of Damocles arrived. Both nations are locked in. One for survival, the other for a complex mix of motivations, some traditional, others recent. Both have invested great amounts of blood and treasure. One has massive resources, the other is in receipt of a steady stream of support. With each passing day, each shock of more death and misery. While in our own nations the domestic world goes on; at times you could be forgiven for briefly not thinking about Ukraine. But it will not go away.

War on the doorstep, be that literal, continental or geo-political in scope. War in one of its uglier industrial scales. No fast sweep of motorised columns; a hard version of commuter traffic, while folk stand gawping, some shaking fists, and then in a few days, it’s all over. ‘How shocking. I hope our government protests,’ you would have thought. Not this time, this was one militaries prepare for; well to begin with not so much The Russians. This was the grand demonstration to a horrified public what happens when the invaded supplied with latest weapons, trained for this happening, take a stand. The attacker very rarely gives out with a collective ‘Whoops’ and pulls back. Instead they revert using whatever they have in their locker, irrespective of the structural damage. While their troops on the ground, weary, low of morale, confused and angry take out their fear on the civilians. And there are the brutal mercenaries, bringing resonances of the WWII German SS police battalions .

Even so, after a while a certain adjustment can take place, what was in your mind, grabbing all of your attention, slips into the background. Back to the Domestic. Home news pushes to the fore, again. Ukraine: you’ve done all you can, you think; price rises, job security, polemical domestic politicians, they cannot be avoided.

However this war will not go away. The scenarios in which NATO is involved begin to take credible shape. Are you prepared for those? Are you ready to support such a step? Or would you judge it is best for all if the war is let to run down and Ukraine accept it has Fought the Good Fight, but must accept some compromise with Russia? Would you then hope the cost in men, material and economic damage would cause the downfall of the present Kremlin Court, then fences can be repaired, slowly and to salve our consciences money is poured into the surviving parts of the Ukraine. Money? Where from? Our own economies are suffering. National Debt is high. Some economists must be having sleepless nights, more so those in the various Financial Branches of governments. There again as we steer around the circle, NATO being involved would bring its own heavy costs. Unavoidable, pick one.

Whatever path is taken there will be prices to be paid. Militarily, Economically, Politically, Ethically even (Remember, every Ukrainian victory or defiant stance comes with a price in Russian blood, we also are now locked into that one way or another. Remember those days when you thought killing of anyone was reprehensible, but you still do. Except the World doesn’t allow you that detachment)

To re-visit. With the coming of Covid the world changed, though we got off lucky; a different strain could have brought an unmanageable death rate. But we are learning to live with it; just have to stop playing politics and silly conspiracy role-play games . A war in Europe involving Russia vs The West. Now that is no so easy to walk through; if it stopped tomorrow, all arms laid down the resonances would continue for at least the rest of the decade. How long before Russia and Russian stops being associated with brutality?

So far I have used the ‘?’ symbol six times. Could have been more. Strategies still developing in The West and Blindness to Consequences in the Kremlin. We are on a road in a fog, approaching something more than a crossroads.

You and I. We in our places. And we wonder or we resolve. If we take the latter  will we stay the course? (Seven ‘?’s and counting). When we look back all the other stances we took, seemed to have elements of simplicity. ‘We shouldn’t have gone there’; ‘We shouldn’t have got involved’ ‘We shouldn’t be doing this/that’. ‘We should be’; ‘We should be’…. Now, in these early months of 2022, ‘We should be doing…What?’ Your choice of Statement. (Eight ‘?’s and counting).

I did not bring in other issues, such as the catastrophic drought in the Horn of Africa, or the likely famine in Northern Africa due to the disruption of grain supplies from Ukraine & Russia, or…..

On reflection I was likely wrong to use the road, crossroads analogy.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say ‘Make your accommodations, or sketch out your own forecast so you may navigate through the storms ahead,’. Perhaps? (Nine ‘?’s and counting).

A Mature and Reasoned Commentary

For two days I was working on a carefully crafted post…. Then Word Press deleted the whole thing, without any recourse to getting it back.

Portrait Angry older man screaming on white background

I said. 

Then feeling a more eloquent and balanced statement was needed added:

sturm_drang3

This morning I am a measure calmer and able to sum up my outlook in a mature and philosophical frame of mind.

big-raspberry

Moral: When drafting a long post always use Word (or similar) then Copy & Paste onto WP

As Legions Before Us. We Will Be Tested

Child victim of War

Foreword: Two previous attempts at this post binned; five days of rehearsing paragraphs in my head before they made it to the page, and I still don’t know if  it is even close to the original intention. The drive would not let me rest though. Bear with me. Encapsulating these aspects of The Human Condition were never destined to be easy.

Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, then Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Northern Mozambique, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Niger (to name but seven of the approximately twenty plus conflicts in Africa), Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, (blink and you might miss those two) and now a war in Ukraine which is coming into its eighth year when shorn of the curtain of a fight for independence by minorities was elevated to one which cannot be avoided. These are the sometime headline ones; not the ones packaged into small items on the brutally repressive regimes and the bloody conflicts between communities or criminal gangs.

Ukraine. If we are starkly honest with ourselves, and this is a time to be so, this one takes hold of us by the heart and mind, because those folk and their towns look so very similar to our own. And in the next sentences I walk a literary minefield. Do we notice more because of the colour of their skins. Yes? For the simple reason that familiarity brings a greater degree of emotion. Deep inside lurks the feeling with a myriad of deeper causes ‘That could be me. Us,’  You can’t stop it. No more than someone native to any of the nations above would bitterly think ‘Welcome to our world. You, of The First World,’ Human nature: You might be blessed enough to have the gift of Thinking Before Speaking; dare anyone here claim they have the gift of Perception Before Feeling? You will have to accept, I don’t believe you. No person has that sort of Objectivity. The Invasion of Ukraine, an industrial powered, visceral, savage, unavoidable, twenty-four seven media reminder what has been going on non-stop somewhere, sometime, somehow. For some folk who follow the world news, maybe the last straw. If anyone out there and has been weeping, threshing, howling, shutting down their TV or laptop save for rom-coms, sports feeds, domestic themed shows, or wildlife documentaries….I for one don’t blame you. Just come back to us some time.

And of course there are those issues on your doorstep. Pandemic, voter suppression, job security, rising prices, civil rights, domestic and civic violence, environmental concerns; those for examples. We agonise and rage over what is happening in Ukraine, but we worry about doorstep issues. We even might taste fear over one or more of them, dread them starting to link up, like a series of small forest fires merging into one vast wall of speeding immolation.

A short while back, I wrote about the importance of Hope. A plea to not to give way to despair. In all honesty an easier work to write. This is about the application of Hope. … Firstly we can all Hope, and we can all believe we will sustain the intention in a good way. Until our own Reality comes in; the inescapable truth of a War in The First World. Not just in the fierce imposition of the media, or the stream of consciousness interchanges between others. It comes creeping up on us. Sometimes swirling about us when we planned on going to sleep, or maybe dragging us out of a restless half-place, or maybe hovering there while we go about our daily chores, worse intruding upon our leisure time asking ‘Should you be….’  

You will be tested. I cannot predict how, where or when. I can tell you those myriad of emotions you are feeling are part of rehearsal. Steady yourself for a journey into a Batman’s Gotham City grotesque warping of Doctor Suess’ ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’. You could already be finding you are wishing one man dead, perhaps joyfully celebrating resistance and shrugging at the sight of dead Russian soldiers, bitterly seeing those in your country who are ‘soft’ on Russia as not just wrong or nuisances but traitors and possibly paid by Moscow. Be prepared to be feeling emotions beyond anger, to find callousness has become part of your prism. You will be drawn in. Conflict and War are most adept at justifying; the shock being you will believe, In This Case, it was right to embrace them. If you ever thought you were angry over something outside of your own personal life, now you are stepping up (or down-depends on your viewpoint) a piece. Beware how you tread; an emotional solution the Ukraine could became your template for problems at home. You might well feel fatigue at some stage, taking comfort when the news slips down the ratings…’Can’t be so bad anymore?’ Really?

Those words disturb you? Do you feel I have stepped too far into incitement, a tabloid rabble-rouser, safe in his age and home? Are you, instead nodding your head and invoking battle criesIf You Want Peace Prepare For War’, ‘Democracies Don’t Start Wars. We Finish Them,’ ‘Justifiable War. It’s In The Bible’ (it’s not actually -Augustine of Hippo might have been the first to write on the subject). Or are you shaking your head and thinking What is he on about? I don’t understand where he is going with this?’. Perhaps you are there gnawing on your lips and saying ‘Well. Yes. But there has to be a better way. There must be. Surely we can’t keep on killing. Can we?’. There we are then. You, me, others; drawn into in a confused internal conflict where principals, ethics we are told about and the ever raw emotions collide, maybe merging in pairs or a trio only to fly apart like some of the more exquisite subatomic particles, or remain in constant antagonism. Whichever; they will plague us with a constant restlessness, even if that be only a far off rumbling of someone else’s storm.

You might cryTested? I did not sign up for this!’ Well sorry soldier, The Human World’s dynamics has the monopoly on this particular conscription, switch on some communication,  step, outside the door. Yep. You’re drafted. Even trying to be detached is some kind of statement. Your only other option is Hermitage while trying to avoid the Media finding out about you and placing you in today’s circus side-show.   

Regrettably there are no test-papers, no Yes/No/Maybe forms to fill in or on-line courses for you to tackle to see if you have passed as an In-Tune Human. (We don’t count social media for this circumstance, there are too many opportunities for pollution by those who wouldn’t even qualify for consideration to try the test; they come from Right, Left and up underneath). Thus you justifiably ask ‘You are telling me an awful lot of grim stuff. Is that all you are dealing in this time. Some Old Testament prophet re-enactments?’ 

Well, maybe. Or look at it this way. This is a journey. The weather is unsettled, make sure you carry an umbrella, a hat, and a shower proof jacket in a back-pack. Ones woven with judgement, perception and reflection. Unsettled weather. Best carry a bottle of cool reason ease the parched feeling brought on by the sudden heatwave of anger. Take opportunities to find yourself some shelter to get out of the extremes; wait for the breaks, indulge yourself in the respite. If you can grasp a short span of calm and understanding, a wish to be charitable or helpful in some positive and constructive way, thus you are coping, you are not destroying. ‘So far so good’; ‘I could have done worse’ ;’I’ll know better next time’  Maybe not the most positive of statements or evaluations, but, in testing times perpetual excellence leads to burn out, or worse Arrogance – the doorway to…..too many bad choices.

To conclude The Testing will not end in the foreseeable future. Your continued, dogged, sanguine efforts to help the victims and stand against oppression mixed with the realisation we are all fated to stumble at times, not living up to expectations; these will be part of the way upwards and outwards. Surviving and then washing away this latest deluge of the dross of Ignorance and Aggression.

Take care of yourselves folks. You are a precious resource.