Tag Archives: #OffTheBeatenTrack

Off The Beaten Track 8

More Questions Than Answers

It’s been a gloomier Brexit week (24th-30th March) after MPs failed to pass any one of eight indicative amendments, meant to help find a way forward in our exit strategy from the European Union.  One thing was proved beyond doubt however, that MPs in Parliament know exactly what they don’t want, but have no idea what they do want, with regards to Brexit. I was reminded of the Johnny Nash song “There Are More Questions Than Answers” and found an unexpected cache of collective knowledge regarding this dilemma on Twitter!

By chance I came across a question well known classicist Mary Beard had put to her followers:

Ok one and all, let’s have the future exam questions that might get set on Brexit… 20/50/100 years hence. Any level from GCSE to degree! Make them smart and challenging!

One contributor Jens Wiechers put things this way-Really dark: Discuss the confluence of events that led to the 2nd Gunpowder plot, the destruction of Parliament, and the abolishment of parliamentary democracy in Britain

A disturbing yet scarily plausible scenario I thought. Many were equally thought provoking.

User Arthur Downing asked: Was Brexit a Tory party civil war, English civil war, or British civil war?  Muriel Esposito offered this philosophy exam question: Is the duty of an elected Government to make decisions for the greater good of its country, or to execute the will of its people? Discuss

Somewhat baffling (my medieval history/old English knowledge is scant to nonexistent)

Erica Laine-Discuss the concept of vassalage as seen in the 13th century and the 21st century as seen by Jacob Rees Mogg. Compare and contrast the treaties which informed The concepts. Why was JRM nicknamed Softsword after March 2019?

So it was good to see some science references I understood.

Toby Schuster put forward for Philosophy A-Level: Examine the veracity and plausibility of the Schrodinger immigrant (the one that steals all the jobs while simultaneously raking in all the benefits)

Richard Delevan asked: “Special place in hell”. Explain whether Brexit was endothermic or exothermic. Show your work. Bonus: defend or refute Donald Tusk’s theories on same.

As I read through some of the replies, I was interested to find that many people shared my feelings that the Brexit referendum could be the catalyst that leads to the eventual breakup of the UK. This sober mood was lightened by a healthy dose of much needed hilarity as well. This thread had me chuckling as it just highlights the craziness of the whole Brexit saga, detailing the rapid descent from serious to absurd in brilliant fashion.

To what extent can the break-up of the old United Kingdom into the independent nations of England, Scotland and Wales and the unification of Ireland be said to be caused by Brexit? How does this relate to the current moves for an independent Northumbria and Wessex? Adrian Bowyer

And Cornwall? Tom Scorza

That, united with Devon, became the new South West EU nation, after the “Clotted Cream agreement” in 2021 (jam 1st/clotted cream 1st on alternate days of the week, with two Sundays guaranteed per month on each option) Marta M Gonzalez #FPHD

And how did they solve the cream or jam first backstop? Richard Thomas #FBPE

Mix and spread the result… Adrian Bowyer

Mary Beard later offered another question-How do political systems ever manage to resolve irresolvable disagreements. Athenian democracy tried ostracism (exile one of the blighters for 10 years). Would it work for us. And WHO WD IT BE?

Immediately I thought of David Cameron who got the country into this Brexit mess in the first place. I spotted his name far less times than I expected, perhaps because since leaving Downing Street he has gone into a self imposed exile anyway. Another name I didn’t see as often as I expected was Theresa May. Landed with the Brexit task after Cameron stepped down, I feel she’s done the best job she can, but her inflexibility has made things worse. The Tory “spectre” names came up a lot: Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees Mogg, Michael Gove and to spread the political fallout a little wider Nigel Farage (UKIP) and former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair got an dishonourable mention too! Blair’s name pop up perplexed me a bit as he’s been long out of government. Yet it highlights a stark reality about peoples’ political instincts which can be fickle, because regardless of the issue under discussion, old prejudices and alliances come to the fore, for better or worse.

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Off The Beaten Track 7

Remembering The Ten

Seventy-five years ago on February 22nd 1944 ten USAAF servicemen perished, when their American B-17 Flying Fortress crashed in Endcliffe Park Sheffield England. The plane was returning to Britain badly damaged after a sortie over Denmark, and probably flying with only one functioning engine. The park offered the only green oasis in a heavily built up area, and would have given the stricken craft a safe area for a crash landing. However, a group of boys from two rival schools had gathered there for a fight. They were familiar with the sound of aircraft overhead, but this one didn’t sound right. It flew over them low, circled and returned, and one of the crew signalled to the children to get out of the way. Not understanding the gravity of the situation, the children without moving waved back. The next time the plane circled it barely missed the roofs of housing and crashed into a wooded area. One young boy who witnessed that traumatic event never forgot the sacrifice those men made, so that he and his friends could live. The guilt he has felt over this has only intensified over the decades since.

Tony Foulds was almost eight years old when the aircraft with the call sign “Mi Amigo” crashed on that fateful day.  As a seventeen year old he began making a very personal homage to the fallen men, visiting the crash site, planting and tending flowers and tidying around. When a small memorial plaque was finally erected by the Sheffield RAF Association in 1969, Tony continued his pilgrimage to the ten by keeping the memorial in good order and visiting almost on a daily basis. Tony didn’t want those men forgotten and honoured them the best way he could. His dedication over the years virtually went unnoticed, until a chance encounter with BBC presenter Dan Walker.

Tony Foulds at memorial. Photo credit @mrdanwalker

On January 2nd this year whilst walking his dog in the park, Dan came across Tony and stopped to ask if he was ok. He took the time to listen to Tony as this amazing story was revealed, and heard that the old man’s dearest wish was for the “Mi Amigo” crew to be honoured with a flypast on the 75th anniversary of the crash. Dan said “leave it with me” despite having no military contacts. He took to Twitter after this fateful meeting and his tweet went viral, and so began a lot of background negotiations with relevant groups. Twenty days later, Tony Foulds sitting beside the US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson in the BBC Breakfast studio, heard that his flypast wish would come true. The memorial steps have also been fixed and a flag pole erected too.

https://twitter.com/search?q=%40BBCBreakfast&f=videos&src=tyah

Today on the 75th anniversary I watched a BBC special news report from Endcliffe Park, where thousands of people had gathered to witness this special occasion. Flanked by relatives of the “Mi Amigo” crew, Tony was in tears as he waved and greeted the flypast. The planes taking part were F-15E Striker Eagles from RAF Lakenheath, KC-135 Stratotanker, MC-130J Commando II, CV-22 Osprey from RAF Mildenhall, Typhoon from RAF Coningsby and Dakota from RAF Coningsby. They made a wondrous sight as I watched through a veil of tears myself. It was so nice to be able to celebrate such a sad yet uplifting news report. Having read around the story online, I saw somewhere that Tony has lived with Parkinson’s disease for a number of years. This makes his virtual daily visit to the memorial even more remarkable.

Tony thanked everyone for coming, saying the event wasn’t about him but the fallen ten servicemen. Tony truly believes he lives because they died, and his very humble thanks resulted in 66 years of personal homage in honour of that brave sacrifice. I salute Tony Foulds who grew from a traumatised boy into a dedicated champion of the “Mi Amigo” crew. Let’s celebrate that #tonygothisflypast and #RememberTheTen (Endcliffe Park memorial order) : John Kriegshauser, Lyle Curtis, John Humphrey, Melchor Hernandez, Robert Mayfield, Harry Estabrooks, Charles Tuttle, Maurice Robbins, Vito Ambrosio, and George Williams.

The “Mi Amigo” crew. Photo credit @IWMDuxford

Off The Beaten Track 6

BBC Radio 4 has a morning Book of the Week slot on week days, it’s not my usual listen, but due to intriguing descriptions in the Radio Times I’ve recently tuned in.  I’ve been enthralled by the stories concerning two remarkable women, one trying to escape Nazi occupied France, the other honestly chronicling the effects of living with early onset Alzheimer’s. Both have deeply touched me and I will definitely be buying the books, although I admit that the subject matter are areas I would normally shy away from, finding them upsetting to think about. But the indomitable spirit of both these women shone through the readings, and I found myself eagerly awaiting the next episode, in a kind of “wondering way”. Those ten 15 minute slots taught me more about life, survival, history and compassion than anything I’ve seen on TV.  The books are as follows:

NO PLACE TO LAY ONE’S HEAD Francoise Frenkell (Pushkin Press, £16.99)

My interest was caught when the Radio Times commented the book was initially published in Geneva 1945, and then seemingly forgotten until discovered in a French attic in 2010. A second edition was issued in French and now an English translation has been made. A firsthand account of a Jewish woman’s survival and escape from the Nazi’s in France, printed perhaps in the first few weeks of Europe peacetime in 1945, and then untouched until re-discovered in a modern day world.  Wow!

Frenkell came from a Polish Jewish family, was highly educated to degree level (I believe) having studied in Paris, and ended up opening a French bookshop in Berlin on discovering no such facility existed. Her clientele was illustrious, business brisk and successful and the future looked bright in early 1930s Berlin. Then the rule of Hitler and the effect of his policies kicked in. I listened as her beloved bookshop managed to avoid destruction as it wasn’t on an official destroy list. How she had to leave it behind and flee in the night, traversing through Europe from city to city, always somehow avoiding major crackdowns, or invasion, by a matter of days. Her skirmishes with authority and her escape attempts to reach Switzerland, finally successful. Frenkell’s words seem to be beautifully translated into an eloquent yet matter of fact way, and I listened with my “heart in my mouth” most of the time. I punched the air when her escape was successful and breathed a sigh of relief. My overall feeling was one of admiration for Francoise and her determined nature to survive in an intolerable society. But there was anger as well at the same society for its blinkered rule of law. It seemed to conveniently ignore, no doubt because of her Jewish ethnicity,  the fact Frenkell had all the necessary documentation (residency papers, visa) to live peacefully in France and to travel with ease to Switzerland.  My listening ended with Francoise setting foot in Switzerland where she survived the war to write her memoir, about her life before Nazi rule in Europe and her escape from it. The French publishing company Gallimard discovered Frenkell passed away in Nice in 1975 at the ripe age of 86 but could find no relatives.

SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW Wendy Mitchell (Bloomsbury £9.99)

My listening journey with Wendy began with her describing a “fog in her head” and inexplicable falls whilst she was out running. Doctors suggested she could have had a stroke, having discovered a heart condition that was fixed through surgery. The fog continued and eventually a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s was made after a seemingly painfully slow series of visits with health clinicians. Her description of looking at online videos of people living with the condition was searing, the initial thought of “but these are old people nearing the end of their lives” before finding one of a man in his late 50s like herself, who described his experiences in a mirror like fashion to her own.

Wendy worked as a NHS administrator known for her powers of recall and organisation skills. Slowly she had become aware that her grasp on things wasn’t the same. When she told management of her diagnosis the only thing offered was early retirement, there was no procedure to try and enable her to work within her remaining mental capabilities, which were still considerable. Her co-workers brilliantly rallied around to make tasks less stressful and more easy to deal with, enabling Wendy to continue in her job as long as possible. With unexpected early retirement foisted upon her Wendy decided to use her time attending conferences, doing speaking engagements and becoming a leading advocate for those living with Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Through this work she hopes to educate people to have a better understanding of the condition. I was certainly educated as I listened to excerpts from Mitchell’s book. Hearing how familiar things can suddenly seem strange and confusing, city living becoming too noisy to deal with, the use of technology to help try and trick her condition, the coping strategies Wendy uses to deal with the sudden onset of panic. It was illuminating to literally “see the world through Wendy’s eyes” and to hear how her condition is slowly taking over her mind. Her articulation is heartfelt, honest and at times perhaps unconsciously funny with a wry humour, like her wonderment at experiencing a gliding session and how quiet the flight was, whilst knowing she wouldn’t remember a thing about the safety video if disaster struck. The realisation “if you don’t use it you will lose it” after taking a three week break from her work and finding the computer keyboard incomprehensible for a few hours. How the person she is today is someone she doesn’t really recognise anymore, yet for the joys she has lost (like TV shows, long novels, cooking) an appreciation for new joys (short stories, poetry, old familiar films). I shared Mitchell’s sadness and resigned acceptance when her extra income from government support was removed, having been deemed fit enough to function on a daily basis.  Much of the “medical tests” used depended on the person remembering how they were before, a ludicrous concept when you consider the nature of an Alzheimer’s condition. Wendy’s resilience and determination to live life to the full for as long as possible was utterly compelling. Once again I had found a woman living in a difficult situation, making the best of it and triumphing in a way against the odds. Somehow both Francoise and Wendy made me feel empowered too.

In closing, I will mention a book that has been on my bookshelf since 2001. It’s called HAPPY TIMES by Lee Radziwill (sister of Jackie Kennedy Onassis). I read about it in a Sunday newspaper supplement, and asked my husband to look for it in America when he visited a few weeks later. There is little dialogue in it and is mainly a gorgeous photo book, rather like a family album. I’ve delved into it many a time, but only really read the dialogue this week. I’ve been happily updating my photo album with recent activity pictures, and from Wendy Mitchell’s book there is a strong element of how important photo’s can be for memories. We live in such uncertain times; I’ve chosen to look for the joy in things as much as possible. Photography is a passion and a joy, and my husband suggested I look at Happy Times again and actually read it. A quote in the introduction says it all for me: “I believe that without memories there is no life, and that our memories should be of happy times. That’s my choice”.

Off The Beaten Track 5: FA Carlsberg Trophy Final 2015

On Sunday March 29th at 1330 North Ferriby United faced Wrexham on the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium to contest the FA Carlsberg Trophy final. Both teams started brightly but Wrexham quickly imposed their league supremacy, when Louis Moult opened the score line in the eleventh minute. From what I could ascertain from the BBC Radio Wales commentary, Wrexham remained dominant at least until half time with the score remaining at 0-1. The game appeared to be beyond North Ferriby’s reach when Jay Harris scored on 59 minutes, or at least that was the impression given by the Radio Wales commentary team who implied Wrexham were in “cruise control”. However, that did not take into account the heart and guts displayed by the “little men” from the East Ridings of Yorkshire.

The critical point of the game seems to have been the 72nd minute substitution of Dean Keates the Wrexham captain, when my audio feed began to describe the Welsh side as disappearing! North Ferriby Utd also seemed to have altered their formation to 4-4-2 compared to Wrexham’s 4-3-3. Suddenly the two front men for North Ferriby were causing trouble and Wrexham were struggling without a natural sitting midfielder, as all three on the pitch were inclined to go forward. Under this resurgence North Ferriby forced Wrexham’s keeper Coughlin to concede a penalty and captain Liam King slotted home to bring his team back into the game. It was now 1-2 with 76 minutes on the clock. With new found confidence North Ferriby (known as The Villagers) put increasing pressure on their opponents and were rewarded, when substitute Ryan Kendall scored to equalise four minutes from time. At 90 minutes the score was 2-2 with four added minutes on the clock. North Ferriby still pressing hard could have pulled off another goal to seal victory before regulation time was called, when Clarke’s last gasp effort produced a fantastic over the bar save from Coughlin. This ended a catastrophic fifteen minute period for Wrexham where they failed to peg back their opponents. At the 90+ minute boos rang out from the Wrexham fans end of the stadium.

EXTRA TIME

I wondered if the better fitness of the Wrexham team (known as The Dragons) would play a part in extra time, especially with the Welshmen having fresher players on the pitch. And although The Villagers appeared to be dead on their feet they kept running none the less. Wrexham’s right-back Steve Tomassen had no real support from the second half onwards, and endured a particularly torrid time from the pace of Jason St Juste. It was from this area that St Juste supplied the cross into the box for Kendall to head in North Ferriby’s third goal. A bit of a fluke with the ball having taken a wicked deflection, but a downward glancing header from Kendall ensured Coughlin picked the ball out of The Dragons net. For the first time North Ferriby were in the lead at 3-2 on 101 minutes. Just before the first fifteen minutes were indicated, Wrexham’s Manny Smith just missed connecting with a toe poke to equalise. Despite coming agonisingly close to scoring Wrexham fans once again indicated their displeasure at the team.

During the second period North Ferriby heroically soaked up the pressure from Wrexham who had all their team in the opposition half for much of the time, with as many as seven players in the box at one point. The Villagers Nathan Peat cleared off the line and Danny Hone put in a brave sliding tackle just before Wrexham’s Bishop pulled the trigger. It was inevitable though that this Welsh onslaught could not be repelled forever. On 118 minutes a vicious half volley from Louis Moult gave Wrexham an equaliser to make the game at 3-3 after 120+ minutes.

PENALTIES

Here is a breakdown of how the penalty shootout panned out with each team having to take SEVEN penalties to find the winner. Which keeper would turn out to be the hero of the hour Wrexham’s Andy Coughlin or North Ferriby’s Adam Nicklin?

North Ferriby went first.                                 Wrexham went second

Liam King SCORED 1-0                                    Wes York SCORED 1-1

Nathan Jarman SCORED 2-1                        Andy Bishop SCORED 2-2

Ryan Kendall SCORED 3-2                             Conor Jennings SAVED 3-2

Jason St Juste SAVED 3-2                               Neil Ashton SAVED 3-2

Tom Denton SAVED 3-2                                   Louis Moult SCORED 3-3

Matt Wilson SCORED 4-3                              Blaine Hudson SCORED 4-4

Nathan Peat SCORED 5-4                              Steve Tomassen SAVED 5-4

FA TROPHY WINNER North Ferriby United: 0-1 ht; 2-2 ft; 3-3 aet; 5-4 pens.

Going into this match North Ferriby were in ninth position in the Conference North Division and Wrexham fifteenth in the Conference Premiership Division. Never before until now had a Conference North side beaten a Conference Premier one. North Ferriby certainly punched way above their weight but deservedly won the trophy. It was Wrexham’s accolade for the taking but they inexplicably conceded their advantage.

North Ferriby is a community in the Kingston-upon-Hull area with a population of just under 4000. No doubt many of them were in the 14585 crowd at Wembley where they witnessed a dream come true. I’m sure Jason St Juste was happy to live the dream and receive a winner’s medal, having given up the opportunity of representing St Kitts & Nevis in an international qualifier against Turks and Caicos Islands, to appear at Wembley.

I heard all the action unfold using a battery operated analogue AM radio because I was out of range for the Welsh DAB radio service, and I had no reception for my phone so was unable to use the BBC Radio player app. Thank goodness for old technology, as it was certainly an unforgettable experience listening to the commentary as The Villagers won the FA Carlsberg Trophy. Well done lads and many congratulations on your wonderful achievement.

Off The Beaten Track 3

May 2014 was a good month for quirky bits of news coming my way about cultural, language, sports and women’s issues.

Four Minute Mile

The 60th anniversary of Roger Bannister’s sub four minute mile occurred on the 6th of May. I was listening to a BBC Radio 4 program called “More or Less” on Sunday the 8th and was intrigued to hear a report that suggested a four minute mile MAY have been run in 1770!!! Professor of Sports Science Peter Radford (former Olympic Bronze medallist runner) is fascinated by pre-20th century athletic endeavours, and has correlated old “documented evidence” of athletic prowess over the years. Using statistical analysis to weed out the more ridiculous claims Peter determined that some of the written evidence may carry some credence, and that an average time of four minutes to four minutes 13 seconds may have been possible times for the mile distance run in past centuries.

So we come to costermonger James Parrott (seller of fruit/vegetables and fish) who was challenged in 1770 to run a mile in less than four and a half minutes. The wager was 15 Guineas a substantial amount to James of probably around 3-4 months wages. The measured mile went from the Charterhouse Wall in Goswell Street in London to the gates of Shoreditch Church. Both the contender James and his challenger would have had independent umpires with watches, which would be locked in a box once started. The box would have been driven by horse and carriage to ensure arriving at the finishing line before the contender. When James Parrott crossed the line on a cool May 9th 1770 the time attributed to his efforts was four minutes exactly. He had won his bet, and a report in the Sporting Magazine was made (although some years after the event).

Peter Radford (like myself) is not so ready to dismiss this athletic endeavour as “fantasy”, as watches/ time keeping and other means of measurement had advanced enough by 1770 to be reasonably reliable. And with a lot of money being at stake the event would have been run scrupulously. But there does seem a tendency to rubbish claims from say before the modern day Olympics began in 1896. At the end of the report I was incredibly disappointed to hear Sir Roger Bannister say that Parrott’s achievement was “inconceivable and not at all credible”. Sir Roger’s sub four minute mile fame wasn’t in anyway being taken away from him, and I think he could have been a little more charitable. After all, if you think about it, today’s builders/architects still look back in wonder at the pyramids of Ancient Egypt. So who knows what else man could have achieved before the “modern age” of athletics?

Divergent Language

The divergence of the Korean language since war split the country was reported on Al Jazeera. A short report highlighted how the political divide had created not only social and economic differences but language ones too. With North Korea being somewhat suspicious of the outside modern world, their attitude to foreign words and western influences are markedly different to that of South Korea. As a result an academic study found that about 52% of words in general were not the same but this variation increased to 66% when used in professional terms. It’s clear that this “schism” in the Korean language is a direct cause of the people having two opposing government ideologies influencing their lives. It’s no surprise to find that the modern day westernised South Korea has words and terms probably not used in the more traditional and isolated North Korea. What I find fascinating though is just how much the language has changed in such a relatively short space of time. Variations in English are to be expected as it’s spoken in many parts of the world involving many people/countries/cultures. But Korean is a much rarer language spoken by relatively few. South Korea has been exposed to influences from around the world whilst the North remains much the same as it was before the war. So I wonder if the North Koreans speak a “purer” form of the language or if they themselves have altered it unwittingly as a direct result of the political clout of one family?

West Bank Bus Driver

I was delighted to see a BBC news report (this weekend) on Najaa Asia who has become the first woman bus driver in the town of Tulkarm in the West Bank. Najaa decided to turn her passion for driving into a career and earned her licence to carry bus passengers in April. Since then she has taken to the roads as the ONLY woman bus driver and is flying the flag for women and equality in an intensely male-dominated region. Well done!!!!

Japanese Sumo Wrestling

It seems that the traditional sport/art form of Sumo in Japan may face an inevitable decline. At the weekend an Al Jazeera report highlighted how the Japanese no longer particularly aspire to become involved in the sport. Many foreigners now form the core stables of participants especially those from Mongolia and Russia. The regime demanded by Sumo is also very taxing, particularly eating high calorie foods to maintain weight. This in itself could pose major health risks to the individual and combined with an almost “monastic” type lifestyle of training, is decidedly unappealing to Japanese men. With attendances declining and revenue falling, this manly Japanese tradition could one day be confined to the history books.