Tag Archives: Glasgow Scotland

In Remembrance…Since humans emerged from the primordial slime, man has waged war.

National_War_Memorial

Since humans emerged from the primordial slime, man has waged war.

And I do say “man” Dearies, because with all of that male testosterone raging, women in general, have kept the home fires burning.

Like other members of the animal kingdom, man has lifted his leg and marked his territory, fighting and dying to protect it.

From Biblical battles, to the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens, to The Crusades,

Thermopylae                    Crusaders

The War of the Roses, The Hundred Years War, The Napoleonic Wars and the Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo,The War of American Independence, The Civil War, The Anglo-Egyptian War,The Russian Revolution, The Boer War, WW1.

Battle_of_Waterloo_1815  civil-war-generals-and-statesman-with-names-war-is-hell-store

WW1 – The Great War, The War to End All Wars, sadly didn’t. WW2 and the Holocaust followed, the Korean War, The Cold War, Vietnam, Margaret Thatcher’s sort of Falklands War. Ethnic Cleansing became the euphemism for genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. These are just a few of the many wars waged around the world.

Archduke Ferdinand  hitleer  rwanda

And then came 9/11, and the subsequent War on Terror. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan/India/Kashmir, Iran, Korea.

twin towers

The Berlin Wall may have come down and détente prevailed, but Vladmir Putin takes Russia’s failed war in Afghanistan and turns to reconsolidating the old Soviet Union, starting with Crimea and the Ukraine.

Hutus/Tutsi, Hindus/Muslims, Israelis/Palestinians, and on and on and on…

The latest global threat is seen as Al Qaeda and ISIS. The radical Islamic World is at war with those who are non-believers. And so, history keeps repeating itself from The Crusades and beyond.

The world’s rivers have run red with blood. Empires have risen and crumbled. Democracy continues to be won and lost.

Canadians are world renown as Peace Makers but we descend from and can be the fiercest of warriors. Canada has never failed to step up to the plate, albeit with quiet humility.

My Canadian grandfather fled the Russian pogroms to join the French Foreign Legion and eventually the British Army in WW1. He married then, and emigrated to Canada to start a new life. A short, wiry, stoic man, he raised 4 children and never talked about the horrors he experienced.

My father lied about his age and joined the Royal Canadian Navy. He served in North Atlantic convoys throughout WW2. His older brothers joined the Navy and the Air Force. While the Navy lads rarely discussed the War, my other uncle was a war artist for the Air Force. He accompanied Canadian troops as they helped liberate the Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald concentration camps. The horror of what he saw there, forever changed his life and influenced his art.

My father met my mother during a layover in Glasgow, when my Scottish grandfather came down to the docks to invite 3 sailors home for Saturday lunch. He regretted this generosity for the rest of his life. Dad returned to Glasgow after the war, and I was eventually born there. This is how War shapes lives.

On this Remembrance Day, I think about Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, standing ceremonial watch outside of the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa. Cpl. Cirillo served in the Argyll  and Sutherland Highland Regiment . He was gunned down as he stood safely at ease, after serving in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, the killing zone. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run over and killed near his barracks in Quebec earlier in the week. Both were murdered by acolytes of an ideology gaining ground among marginalized, disenfranchised youth.

Patrice Vincent  Nathan Cirillo

From pitched battles to trench warfare to guerrilla warfare to the current insurgencies and proxy battles of lone wolves and drone warfare…

And of course, War breeds spies, from ancient regimes to fictional Britain’s’ Cold War-weary George Smiley and America’s War on Terror, bipolar Carrie Mathison. Perhaps traitorous mole Bill Hayden said it best when explaining his betrayal to Smiley in John le Carre’s Tinker,Tailor, Soldier Spy: “We were bluffed, George. You, me, even Control. Those Circus talent spotters, all those years ago. They plucked us when we were golden with hope, told us we were on our way to the Holy Grail… freedom’s protectors!”

We have always commemorated War in stone and bronze and oil on canvas. My fondest wish is that we will also continue to fight for and commemorate Peace and Freedom, but at the same time remember the history that has brought us here.

Dearies, after much dithering am committing pen to paper, metaphorically speaking.

After watching the sumptuous John Oliver interview the equally yummy Dr. Stephen Hawking on the brilliant new “Last Week Tonight”, have been inspired to write my first blog post. Have also had a few glasses of champers…so here goes

It has been quite the week. Honour killings in Pakistan,  Iraq descending into hell once again, cannibalism at FIFA World Cup Brazil, Mayor Rob Ford’s return from rehab, all counter-balanced by the sublime sounds of Sachal Music, Dragon Boat Races in Vancouver, the joyful documentary about Roger Ebert “Life Itself”, and the knock-out performance by Emil and Dariel on America’s Got Talent.

And then there was the Scrabble Nazi. Lately, have been winding down a tough day in the trenches, by playing a few games of online Scrabble. Have always loved the game, and find that there is generally a global community of like-minded folks out there on the net. It helps keep the old brain cells active. Since the game is being played in the ether, there are often tech and even human-beings-behaving-badly issues. So, one is required to “Ask a helper”…

Although my life pretty much revolves around sarcasm (from the British side of my family), have been startled and somewhat dismayed by the ongoing sarcastic non-help offered by ISC’s so-called helpers. Granted, it’s a tough job just waiting by the screen for some inane question, comment or winge to appear, but hey…you volunteered.

The most relentless of these “helpers” calls himself CariBOUman, and he brooks no nonsense from players. He is smarter than they are, and he can dish it out, but Dearies, he can’t take it. One of the joys of playing is that you have to see conversations between the helpers and members of ISC whether you wish to or not, while you are involved in a game. It can be distracting and downright annoying.

Recently, after a particularly long stream of sarcastic remarks to players in various states of confusion, added my own comment, between firing up the tiles, that “sometimes your sarcasm drips too much”. The response was immediate and vicious. Which is interesting, considering they either ignore your query or respond with totally unhelpful info. As a paid member (to help kep this enterprise afloat), I find this offensive.

My point is this, Dearies. If I wanted to pay to be abused, would find a good S&M parlour. Sarcasm/humour has a place,  i.e in this blog. It really should not interfere with the Not-Quite-Beautiful-Game. And if you don’t like hyphenated words, then you shouldn’t be reading this. Ohoh, CariBOUman is rubbing off on me!

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Leads to WW1

Cannot end this inaugural blog post on a sour note. For something far more uplifting will close with a few thoughts about the 100th Anniversary of WW1. “The Shot Heard Around the World” reverberates yet today.

But it was a simpler time. My grandfather uprooted himself to join the British Army, and survived to tell the tale. He never talked of the unspeakable horrors of trench warfare. He transplanted himself from Russia and England, to  Canada, where he started a family. My grandfather published ” The Daily Ragweed” and doted on my grandmother.

He would often drag me to Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, built by that titan of Canadian Industry, E.P.Taylor (who also bred the great Northern Dancer, Dearies). We both loved the horses. We were buddies when I was little. The one and only time he ever spanked me, was when he found the 5 year-old Miss M smoking his cigars (and loving every moment of it).

That world was complicated to my grandfather, but he engaged it on his own terms. Am glad that he is not here now to see how truly complicated the world has become. He fled the pogroms of Russia. Now it seems, the world has become one big pogrom, from Africa and South Asia to Bosnia and beyond.

Grandpa never lost his thick Russian accent through it all. This embarrassed his children, I think, but never concerned me. He was a short, wiry man who could type-set a column while puffing on his cigar. He helped in his small way, to set the stage for the world as we know it. He was brave, he was hopeful, he was pragmatic, he was kind.

These are all traits that I hope somehow have been passed down.

All three of his sons followed in his footsteps and enlisted to fight during WW2. My father lied about his age and joined the Royal Canadian Navy. North Atlantic convoys were treacherous. German U-boats were everywhere. But the danger was momentarily forgotten in ports of call like Glasgow, Scotland.

In that very port on the River Clyde, one Sunday afternoon, he and several of his friends accepted an invitation to “come home for lunch” from a dapper man (with a decidedly Hitler-like moustache, of all things). Little could my father guess, that 3 lovely daughters would also be sharing lunch.

My grandmother had created a magical feast from limited rations. She welcomed the three Canucks with open arms. One particular daughter caught my father’s eye, and he hers. It was love at first sight. My grandfather regretted making that lunch invitation until the day he died.

Promising to reunite after the War, as many did, my parents married in Glasgow.  They faced a brave new world together. It seemed so much simpler then, evil had been vanquished and the future was bright and unknown…

The point of all of this Dearies,  before I get too misty-eyed and tedious, is that we are all part of History, however unwilling we maybe. The world is a dangerous, volatile place. Of course, it always has been.

We continue to bear witness to the worst and the best of human nature. Evil will always be present, in forms and ways that are familiar and unimagined. It is how we confront it that matters. Each in their own way. Our grandfathers and grandmothers shared a strength and grace that the world so desperately needs at this moment.

To them and those who followed, I raise a glass of champers. Cheers Dearies, Cheers!

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