Eleven-Eleven-Eighteen

My great-grandfather’s leaders took England to war,
They’d subdued the Zulu, Sepoys and the Boer,
Plucky Belgians frustrated Von Schlieffen for weeks,
Time enough to recruit and to shake an iron fist,
Backed up by those men fit enough to enlist.

Balkan intrigues threw a spark in the dry, dry tinder…

All be over by Christmas, that is what was said,
Four years later it ended and so many were dead,
Those whose wounds did not kill them contracted the Flu,
Which spread to schools, homes and factories too.
As if the War to End All Wars was not enough…

The Four Horsemen were busy in those days.

Claiming the souls of the weak and the strong,
The talented, gifted, Muse and mundane
The rich and the poor; Death took them all.
So we had The Great Flu and we had the Great War.

Never again, never again, never… until the next time.

Ben A Harvey

August 2018

(C) Gogwit’s Blog, all rights Reserved

Araucaria, A New Poem.

…The Chile Pine put down its roots and grew;
The Monkey Puzzle watches; and is growing still.

Araucaria


You were there when my mother was a child,
In the horsey people’s forecourt up the hill.
She looked at you and
Wondered what you were,
Where you came from and
What you were doing here.

While it is very plain
To see you are a tree,
You are a tree unlike
The others all around.
So very tall and straight,
Your branches at the crown,
Not meant for kids to climb
Unlike the others in the town.

You were there when I was a little boy.
Outside the maisonette block up the hill.
I looked at you and
I wondered why
You were called a Chile Pine,
Araucaria, the Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Maybe it was just a saying,
Or a legend.
Or the exotic, twisted seed pods – not cones,
More like those finger traps
Of fakirs and magicians,
Perplexing monkeys
In the far off forests where
Your ancestors had grown.

You were there, a novelty in the garden of the gentry,
Before my mother ever saw you, as a child.
You were there outside the flats
Where that garden had once been,
As I walked up that hill to school,
A boy in grey serge shorts forty summers on.

No horsey lady, now, rings in the New Year.
In her smock at 12 o’clock with her handbell.
Marching up and down the hill
With her tidings of goodwill,
Bringing merriment and cheer
For the twelve-month yet to come.
The Chile Pine put down its roots and grew;
The Monkey Puzzle watches; and is growing still.

 


Ben A Harvey,

2 November 2018.
(C) Gogwit’s Blog (Ben A Harvey), 2018 – all rights reserved.

Place and Time: A New Original Post and Verse.

History, poetry. What more could one wish for?

Gogwit is pleased to share a new piece of original verse.

Actually, several pieces of verse combined into one, continuing my theme of places in my home city set slightly apart from time, from a viewpoint upon which all matters temporal converge.

When, if, the section “The Up Line” is read, it may be helpful to understand that Witton and Aston stations are still in use; Vauxhall and Duddeston station still has two platforms in use and is now called Duddeston. The Vauxhall platforms long abandoned, left derelict and buried below diverse weeds, flowers, shrubs and the fauna they support.

Nechells and Bloomsbury opened and closed in Victorian times and, look as I might, I have never satisfactorily seen trace of it.

Lawley Street was a later Victorian commuter station for a town – the city of 1000 trades – which grew voraciously enough to require the infrastructures of a city, which it eventually became in 1889. Lawley Street station is long, long since gone.

Curzon Street station, Banbury Street Ticket Platform and the Southern Approaches bear witness to the grand boom years of Victorian railway expansion. Of Curzon Street and Banbury Street all that remains is the elegant Booking Hall, due to receive a new lease of life when the HS2 high speed line runs there in the 2020s.

The Southern Approaches had narrow platforms set like refuges, between the insanely complex track and track junction pathways into the main station; all travellers into Birmingham New Street, formerly Grand Central Station, will have rattled, squealed, screeched, lurched and rattled over a million sets of points, between brick arches, walls and pillars, through pitch-black tunnels: The lasting legacy of the Southern Approaches.

Grand Central lives on as the name of the shopping and leisure mall built atop the main station recently, replacing the 60s concrete version. Now trains arrive and depart Birmingham New Street; up at street level the trams arrive and depart Grand Central.

That was the history lesson. Here is the verse.


Place and Time.

A38(M) – Aston Expressway.

I looked out from the highway
To the distance, on the right,
For a place, a school,
Where I had used to work.
Where was it now,
Where had it used to be?
Along the railway line –
Follow the railway line, of course.
Composite cladded steel obscured my view,
Yet a little further onward found
The building which I sought
Where it had always been
Since the beginning of its time.

Yew Tree Road, Witton B6.

In the playground of the school –
That school, where I had been
So happy in the dappled light filled
Grounds beneath the trees,
I looked out across the open fields
And Victorian terrace houses
To the place where was being built,
In concrete and in steel,
The elevated highway from horizon to horizon.
And In that instant locking eyes,
Over rooftops, distance, time;
Intuition left no doubt
That the eye beams were both mine.

Aston Railway Junction.

Between that school and the stilted concrete ribbon,
Beyond the Victorian terrace houses and the rails;
The weathered, time-stained rails of the railway line,
That railway line – which had always to be followed.
Radius curve merged with main line track of the up line,
Which ran always into Town, into Birmingham.

The Up Line.

“Witton, Aston,
Vauxhall and Duddeston,
Bloomsbury and Nechells, Lawley Street;
Curzon Street, Banbury Street, Southern Approaches,
Grand Central Station – All change! Alight here!
Change please at New Street for all onbound journeys.”

Birmingham, New Street Station.

Change here for everywhere, any place and any time –
For every destination that will take you far from here;
Board the express, or the stopping train, to promised time and place:
The remainder of your season until you return to clay.

Here, Now, Always.

But I digress; forgive the musings of mortal man
Who has looked across the rooftops, space and time
And locked gazes with
His younger self,
His older self;
Both time past and time future, perpetually now.


Ben A Harvey,

31 May 2018.
(C) Gogwit’s Blog (Ben A Harvey), 2018 – all rights reserved.

The image of Birmingham’s LNWR station, 1 June 1854, reproduced from The Illustrated London News of 3 June 1854 and is public domain, used here with gratitude.
In great appreciation of TS Eliot.
With great love to ….

Wilnecote’s World War 2 Bomb

AN INTERESTING STORY, to me a very accessible one. I have watched as houses expand into hitherto under-utilised spaces, and roads, and the M42, and the Toll Road, and soon the HS2.

Folk will argue over details but these projects march on.

As for the bomb; a new generation of midlanders are awakening to the reality of what the city of a thousand trades, and it’s environs, endured during the bombing of the Second World War. Played down for many years a considerable toll of death and destruction was visited on this conurbation which provisioned the war effort; from tyres for Spitfires and Hurricanes to the munitions and explosives to automotive components, trucks and tanks.

Around the city and wider environs, UXBs are unearthed from time to time and, decades after their deployment, bring chaos to road and rail.

Of course the counter to this is that this, or that, device was uncovered during renovation or development; not a situation the Luftwaffe had in mind when they dropped their payload!

Attempts were made to place false waypoints for the bombers. Fields flooded and sheds filled with searchlights to encourage pilots and navigators to believe they were bombing factories along the Tame, not fields in Tamworth, Minworth or Shenstone.

Thank you for this enjoyable read, which I am sharing on Gogwit’s Blog.

Site Title

One morning in the spring of 1984 the wooden windows of Tamworth’s newly built Manor Hill estate were rattled by the sound of an explosion. It was ten past eight on a Saturday morning and my wife and I, who had been up most of night with our four month old baby, looked at each other in horror.

“What on earth was that?” we said.

In those pre internet days we had to wait until the following Friday, when the Tamworth Herald arrived to find out. There, on the front page was the explanation to our mystery explosion. The men constructing the M 42 had unearthed a German WW2 bomb right where the bridge at the junction of Trinity Road and Overwoods Road was being built. It reported, workmen had discovered an unexploded bomb at around lunchtime on the Friday and immediately sent for the army engineers while construction work…

View original post 399 more words

Rally Against School Cuts, Birmingham.

The venue is Victoria Square, the date and time: 1pm, Saturday 28 April 2018.

img_2291

“Schools in this country are under threat. Across the West Midlands, 1,887 schools are still facing Government cuts. This is simply not acceptable. Together we need to create a noise so loud that no one can ignore what’s happening to our schools and children’s education.

Join parents and teachers coming together on 28th April to rally against school cuts in the heart of Birmingham. We’ll be dropping a massive banner to showing the schools facing cuts. Rally and speeches will follow.

Speakers confirmed:
Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington
Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council

Other speakers TBC. Bring banners, your home-made signs, and tell every parent you know in our community. This is a family-friendly event. Everyone welcome!

This action is organised in collaboration with Save Our Schools West Midlands.”

The above text was reproduced from the Facebook Event page.

This rally is set within the context of growing popular disquiet spilling over into activism – increasingly from people with no history of engagement – targeting the attacks upon our system of universal educational provision by the state, whether this be though savage cuts which force schools to shed subjects, resources and loyal, loved and well-regarded members of staff; or perhaps being subject to cherry picking, asset stripped by rapacious multi academy trusts.

Yet others are withdrawing children from stressful and meaningless key stage testing, or questioning the need to baseline pupils from their first day in school.

img_2292

Gogwit is going, if you are thereabouts on Saturday why not come along.  Whatever you do, please wish for warm, sunny weather!

Links of Relevance:

Event Facebook Page

School Cuts

SOS – Save Our Schools

Let Our Kids Be Kids

Sad Little England.

GOGWIT IS FEELING annoyed and downbeat today, this brief blog is the substance of what is getting under my skin.

I was born 10 minutes walk from the centre of Birmingham. I have never driven and my passport expired in the early 90s, I did not replace it, there seemed no need.

Fortunately I have my birth certificate.

Even so, a growing number of situations require production of valid photo ID and it is then that we encounter the true meaning of the “insolence of office” which is stressful in the extreme and which pushes me – yes, me – to the verge of losing my temper – which would be unfortunate, embarrassing and rather unpleasant.

But at least I do not have to prove, in addition, my residence status over several decades, failure to comply potentially resulting in losing employment, being detained or even being deported.

Compared to the trials being experienced by the so called “Windrush Generation” my problems seem insignificant.
They do not seem so when some functionary is required to tick boxes for documents I do not possess.

There is so much that is good about this country to be proud of and to rejoice in and celebrate.

However, the way this country has, in recent years, treated so many of its subjects of Commonwealth and New Commonwealth heritage is not among those matters for celebration. It is a matter for shame, it is a blemish and it summarises, most succinctly, where we are wrong and could do so much better.

Today, our Prime Minister apologised publicly to Commonwealth Heads of Governments for this outrageous state of affairs, until recent days UK Home Office policy. The current Home Secretary has already had to backtrack, in Parliament, on this toxic legacy from the days when the current Prime Minister was the then Home Secretary.

Fine words are, well, fine words but alone they butter few parsnips. Harm has already been done and action is required to make amends and to resolve this issue. There were fine words issued after the Manchester concert bombing.
There was an outpouring of fine words following the Grenfell Tower fire, so dreadful that one only need say “Grenfell” and everyone knows exactly what one is talking about; vanishingly few of the issues have been addressed and resolved, few of the promises have been delivered.

We often hear the call to “make a bonfire of the red tape” by which is commonly meant the checks, balances, safeguards and protocols that protect us from unscrupulous exposure to unsound and dangerous processes.

I would like to call for a bonfire of the red tape used to discriminate, deter and debar those resident in this land from living and thriving in productive and happy lives.

Gogwit.

April 2018, (c)

This is an opinion piece; it represents my views and was created as a sole enterprise.

Why is the obesity rate continuing to rise in the U.S.?

Fascinating. Everything nice that one would hope to find in a well researched, referenced but readable article. A bit like Eton Mess or one of those desserts served in a metal pail with ice cream, chocolate, brownies, M&Ms and sparklers stuck in the top.
As a Brit I confess that the sentiment expressed in the opening paragraph about the ‘build’ of the average American does appear to be held as true this side of the pond.
However, I’m in no position to talk on this subject; too much ice cream.
It will take me a while to digest (no pun) and, as always, you have provided food for thought. (Sorry!)
The risk factors are pretty much universal across the developed world. It is not always explicitly stated that individuals may be exposed to multiple risk factors; also that medication prescribed for many mental health disorders themselves disorder appetite, reward and goal oriented behaviour. Pleasure to reblog on Gogwit’s Blog!

The Secular Jurist

By Robert A. Vella

There is a long-held international view of Americans as being fat, lazy, and obnoxious.  How this perception originated and evolved over time is open to speculation, but opinion polls have consistently showed a marked decline in favorability for both the U.S. and Americans since the turn of the millennium.  What initially triggered the world’s negative opinion of Americans can probably be traced back to the early 20th century when U.S. involvement in global affairs rose in ascendancy, and when the image of the nation was portrayed by powerful and overindulgent industrialists like Wall Street banker J. P. Morgan.

However, widespread obesity in the U.S. is a relatively new phenomenon.  Prior to World War II, malnutrition and disease were much bigger problems.  From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

The latest statistics clearly indicate a continued rise in obesity.  From The New York Times…

View original post 798 more words