Rhymes with June

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014

E-pistle 1032 Bones of Verdun. Posted 6/28/14

As we’re at the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War, here’s a poignant insight to those Guns of August from my friend Roland Kleewein. Roland’s Italian and is a cultured, artistic man (even his lovely Karin’s an artist) who lives in Holland. He recently visited the ossuary of the battlefield that the Germans called ‘The Hell of Verdun.’ It was a place where a generation of young French and German men died.

Roland writes: “I had the chance to visit a few outstanding exhibitions in this extremely-in-culture-interested nation. But my highlight for this year will remain the visit to the hinterland of Verdun on the trail of WWI. We were a party of six friends including a journalist who wrote an article for one of the most known magazines in the Netherlands. Four of the guys were unbeatable historians to this catastrophe and knew every stone, hill and hole in the open, tortured landscape. It is an enormous desolate, abandoned area still housing the craters of the 100 years old explosives. It is impressive and morally destroying to the visitor and made a profound impact on me. I was thoroughly prepared and had many numbers in my head but could not realize the number of 170.000. When I stood in front of the gigantic “Ossuaire de Douaumont” with its length of nearly 140 meters I could look at the immense heaps of bones of unknown soldiers who lost their lives for exactly nothing, apart for the contempt and disdain against the human race of some unscrupulous politicians and ruthless generals. I still can not grasp the number of 170.000. “

Those were just the bones of unknown soldiers, the ones who were not buried. The battle was the world’s longest, and was fought for 300 days in an area of less than eight square miles. The soldiers’ average lifespan in the front lines: less than 14 days.

It all came about, says Roland, because : “In 1916 the very humane German general Erich von Falkenhayn decided to “drain the blood” of the French by forcing them to (attritional) battle. The tragic result was 362.000 French and 337.000 German soldiers, all between 20 and 30 years old, lost their lives.
The same gentle general was forced to transfer a part of his army to the Russian front. In order to keep his position secure on the western front he decided to use the Germans’ newly invented poison-gas. The chemist got a Nobel Prize and the general died peacefully and highly respected years later. Bravo!!”

Von Falkenhayn

Kevin Golden, a very fine loose forward at rugby and an assertive something or other at soccer, was recently revealed as the usual centre of a whirlwind during our rugby club’s soccer matches. He sends this memoir of his footie days: “I always enjoyed playing with the Seahawks soccer team. The after game beer and talk was lots of fun. The team stayed together for over twenty years. It was always funny when the little Mexicans would run up to us and they would be smaller and 70 lbs lighter.” Kevin assessed his team mates: ” Ken Bousfield had the best toe poke kick to score all his goals along with his size and speed, brothers Pat, John and Paul Earley were the legitimate soccer players along with Ray Boreham who was the last to buy a pitcher of beer. His sidekick Darryl Heywood kept goal. Doug Hummel was usually getting into scraps or yelling at the referee, (Umberto Ambrozzini, the little Italian referee who started soccer in San Jose. If you said anything to him he would take ten seconds reaching into his pocket threatening to give a card). He didn’t like Doug.”

There were certain less-skilled players, too: “Lloyd Jones would kick the opposing player’s leg and when the player was complaining he would always say “Just going for the ball friend,” and Bill Morrison, playing fullback, would run into who he was marking so the guy couldn’t get around him.” Kevin recalled some gallant, sad moments, too: “Dave DeClercq trying to play soccer not knowing he had ALS , and Gerry Hummel dying from his second bout of cancer but still coming out to play soccer.”

The same suspects played indoor five-a-side, too, often co-ed, with ladies like Christina Harrison, Kathy Hudson and Katie Desmond, who were unafraid to slam some unsuspecting saint or Austrian ski bum like Sepp Schwarzl into the wall and could usually outrun him, too. In Alaska once, where we’d gone to play rugby, this female trio played the first women’s rugby game on record in that state, and the tactics were simple: get the ball to Katie, who could outrun almost anyone. It worked like a charm, too. We guys won our three matches, including one against a team from Homer called the irish Lords, but known locally as the Homer Sexuals, and the girls won their Anchorage match against a Presidents’ XV. Kathy’s husband Ken Hudson was there post-game, as usual offering to help them remove their wet bra’s.

World Cup: The saint has been mourning England’s failure at the soccer World Cup, (ps: check this very upbeat link sent by Revel Barker, lovely, cheery short vid- http://www.purpleclover.com/life-reimagined/2682-just-try-and-count-how-many-times-you-say-wow-while-watching-its-impossible/ ) and at the heartbreak loss to the All Blacks in NZ, where his favorite tee shirt was on display: “I’m not an alcoholic. I only drink when Richie McCaw is offside,” reference to the ABs’ captain’s cynical cheating. To revive his spirits, the saint considered the upcoming Tour de France and learned about the rabid Dutch fans who line the famed Alpe d’Huez each time the race goes up there. They often camp out for a week of partying and are in a state of frenzied hysteria when the cyclists actually come through. Roland K. sheds surprising light on the usually-dour Hollanders’ activities.

” Alpe d’Huez: you certainly know that once a year the Dutch organise a climb on this mountain. it takes place on the very beginning of June and the idea is to mount the hill on a bike for six times, therefore it is called the Alpe d’HuZes (zes = six). Everybody can be a sponsor and the accumulated money is given to a fund of combat against cancer. Thousands of people are involved and nearly all of the fietsers have a relative or friend lost to this flagellation of the human race. This initiative has started in 2006 and its success is growing continuously. The collected money since then is over 140 millions €. ($182 m).
The 2014 edition brought 12,351,000 € (about $16 mill) in to the fund.” When you consider that Holland is pan-flat, riding a bike up one of the most-feared climbs of Le Tour not once, but SIX times, means you have to tip your clogs to them.

World Cup 2: After Joe Mullins shared his footie memories came this about that Glorious Day When England Won One: “It was the best damn wedding reception I barely attended, ” says Jack Grimshaw. “Upstairs, at the pub in North Manchester, seriously outnumbered by irate females, was my cousin John. The poor sod had to be there, he was the groom. One hour in, he was doubtless already henpecked and getting a preview of the upcoming decades. Downstairs, I and 97% of the male guests were busy getting hammered in front of the TV. It was July 30, 1966, and Geoff Hurst was waltzing around the Germans on his way to the only World Cup Final hat-trick.

“England leading 3-2, the moments right before the final whistle were chaotic, with dozens of the 98,000 crowd expectantly invading the pitch. BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenhome provided a classic moment: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over … (Hurst scores) … It is now!”
And the disputed goal? Never a friggin’ doubt. Nineteen years old and five pints to the good, I saw both balls hit the crossbar and go in.”

Ken at the mic
Adds the saint: “48 years on, I still get Christmas cards from my pal Gerhard Schlecht (yes, he’s German) saying ‘It never was a goal.’ “

Traffic 1: Ron Haines climbed out of his canoe at some NE waterside for a few minutes and viewed last week’s vid of free-flowing traffic chaos in Addis Ababba to explain: “I’ve driven in Ethiopia. The traffic is governed by one simple rule: Worry only about what’s ahead of you.”

Traffic2: Here’s a 90-second vid clip of an old F1 wheelchange, and a modern clip of Liverpool FC supporters stealing the wheels, repainting, rebadging and selling a car to the McLaren team. They got a case of Boddington’s, 200 ciggies and an unknown quantity of grass for the vehicle. http://m.wimp.com/pitcomparison/ Alert Dan McDonald notes that they didn’t polish the windscreen.

Swordhenge: A small excitement this week, as the cover for the fifth book of my historical fiction series arrived. True to form, the publishers included an error. The cover for book one had knights with footballs under their arms; the next, about sea battles, featured horses.Two more covers were equally unrelated to the content. For the fifth go-around, I suggested using a sword and Stonehenge or a pestilence symbol like a skull. They listened, dumped my ‘King Arthur’s Plague’ working title for ‘A Fragile Peace,’ which left me, er, OK, I suppose. They did use stones and sword, but put a Knights Templar seal on it, an anachronism 700 years off the book’s period. Ah, well. At least, they got the right henge. The epic will be available as an e-book on Amazon in a week or two and a sales surge is expected as Tom Wilbur has advertised it to his mailing list of 23 people.

Bait and Sue: More about publishing and the internet: my photogger son in law Bob Williams says certain New York law firms hire snappers to take high-quality stock pics of various subjects and put them up on the web. In time, and they leave the bait out there for a year or so, people see and steal the images for their own use. At a certain point, the legal trappers trigger their images’ ‘call-home’ signals and see who’s using them without permission. Then they send out copyright theft letters, and correspondingly large demands for $$$.

Get well soon wishes 1: to my bro Don Bannister, who sustained two cuts to his head. He was dive-bombed by a crow in Oldham.
GWS wishes 2: Graham Timmins, sickened by inhaling weed and feed. He not only came down with a bad rash and ‘flu-like symptoms but he’s now nine feet tall.

Odd fact unearthed by Malcolm Nicholl: “Elvis Presley, no less, liked to quote favorite lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Mal nudged me, wink wink, to recall a night when a group of us saw the Pythons live on Broadway. The saint had a couple of spare tickets, so thriftily offered them for sale in the foyer, pre-show. I was accosted by 20 or so people, all of whom were ex-pat Brits. They had no interest in buying the tickets, but wanted to connect with a fellow Englishman. Except for John and Virginia Miller, they all seemed to come from Cincinnatti, and during the show the whole audience chanted the script along with the actors. Surreal. Typical of newshound Nicholl, he sniffed out Tom Jones, who was there, “Drinking, not performing,” he said.

Ken Potter has the last word: “For students in an advanced Biology class, taking their mid-term exam, the last question was: ‘Name seven advantages of Mother’s Milk.’ The question was worth 70 points or none at all.
One student, in particular, was hard put to think of seven advantages. However, he wrote:
1) It is perfect formula for the child.
2) It provides immunity against several diseases.
3) It is always the right temperature.
4) It is inexpensive.
5) It bonds the child to mother, and vice versa.
6) It is always available as needed.
And then he was stuck. Finally, in desperation, just before the bell rang indicating the end of the test, he wrote:
7) It comes in two attractive containers and it’s high enough off the ground where the cat can’t get it.”

Says Ken: “He got an A.”

E-pistle 1031 St P to the Footiefans and Dutchmen posted a bit early: 6/19/14

Well, the world’s presently focused on World Cup soccer – football to (the grieving) Brits, footie to True Brits and Aussies, so my idol (I may have misspelled that) Joe Mullins nudged me to point the epistle, too, in that direction. Well, my footie memories are of a limited variety. Schoolyard games of 30-a-side, the goalposts a couple of bundled blazers, the ball a thing not much larger than a large orange, skinned knees on the gravel, sweaty afternoon smells in the classroom, all excellent stuff.

The saint never went in for school footie on actual grass, as we had 11 rugby teams and only one football team turn out each Saturday. I knew just one boy, a tall, strangely-pale bloke from Oldham called Peter Glynn who actually played the round-ball game. However, when I began working and the office wanted to turn out a football team, I was pushed into volunteering. After all, I was a teenager, I was a bike racer and had big legs. Came the day of an inter-office match and the team captain spat his cigarette end at my feet and asked me what position I played. “I’m a cyclist,” I said, “I don’t play footie.” “Is that ALL you do?” he asked, incredulously. “Well, I do some rock climbing.” “Well,” he said, thoughtfully, “go and climb the goalposts.”

At the Daily Mail, the soccerites like Mullins, Edgecombe, Smith and Rees put together a team to play Leeds Press Club. They secured the professionals’ ground at Stalybridge and dragged me out as a fullback. The first half I did my usual aimless fly hacking and girly screaming; in the second half I challenged my own team mate for an air ball and knocked him out, which earned me a few beers later. Years on, someone asked Mullins about the game, recalling that Joe and I played ‘like a stone wall’ at fullbacks. I blushed with pride until Mullins told me the fellow meant neither of us actually moved. The only other footie thing of note was falling over the ball and breaking my leg. It was during a five-a-side game in a rented gym and helpful Jimmy Grylls kept shouting in thick Glaswegian: “Gerrim off! We’re payin’ seven an’ sex for this hoor.” I assumed he meant ‘six’ and ‘hour,’ but didn’t dare ask.

My soccer career continued at the Enquirer where people like Kevin Cosgrove, Mike Vohmann, John Cathcart, Scott Hunter and Jimmy McWilliam really could play, while John Cooke looked pert and nicely dressed in full Man U kit and fearsome former Aussie rugby pro Ken Potter chopped down anyone who came near. I recall one incident where a knife-wielding Latin gent went after Scott, but didn’t have the speed to catch him, even after several laps of the field.

Memorable, too, was the all-star international game in which I featured, as did Mullins and Lee Harrison. There were only the three of us, a goal made of coats and we played under the shadow of the Space Needle in Seattle when we should have been covering a medical conference. We even supplied the world-broadcast commentary: “Harrison makes a move around George Best, beats him like a bass drum, flattens Tommy Smith with a powerful shoulder and unleashes a cannonball at Gordon Banks, who’s totally beaten by the man’s amazing skill. Gooooaalll !!! ” You get the picture.

Fantasy football did me no good in San Jose, where I helped our rugby club’s soccer team to stay firmly in the bottom division. We had some decent players, including Ken Bousfield and our own enforcer, Kevin Golden, the mildest man in the world off-field, but whose Irish O’Hooligan blood surfaced seconds after he put on his cleats, and who usually was to be found in the centre of five or six Latinos, swinging wildly. We had a trio of brothers, one of whom was fast in a straight line, two of whom reported skills they cleverly kept concealed from us, and we had Dr H Lloyd Jones who used his kicking leg like a nine iron and could be relied on, should it somehow connect with the ball, to cause consternation among low-flying seagulls. I popped a hamstring in a game, remembered my other leg injury and decided footie caused hurty bits, so retired gracefully from the Beautiful Game.

But this is a sermon, there’s more: when Mr Mullins suggested I bang on about footie, he said he’d send some copy. Here’s the fine result, and it’s as topical as can be, seeing how England have just lost both their opening matches:

By Joe Mullins
dateline: Boynton Beach, Florida

“As a 12-year-old in Selby, Yorkshire, I read about the upcoming game a few days before and how it was going to be televised. What a chance. England vs. Hungary at Wembley. I woke up coughing, feeling woozy and told my mam that I was too sick for school. ‘Nice try,’ she said. ‘Get up.’ I was supposed to catch a train to the grammar school, dawdled and missed it. Knowing mam had left for her factory job I went back to the semi-detached house on a council estate where we’d lived for three years. She was due home at 12.30 to have her lunch, although we called it dinner. What’s now called dinner, we called ‘tea.’

“Just before she got home, I climbed into the attic and sat there shivering in the rafters as she made a cup of tea and a sandwich. After listening to the news on radio – not knowing that I was perched shivering 10 feet above her – she left for the second half of her 10-hour day, walking a mile and a half to the paper factory. As soon as I heard her close the door I got down and switched on the tube (the ‘telly’ then); black and white, of course, and something like 14inches diagonally. There was no fire as the house was supposed to be empty and I wrapped myself in an eiderdown.

“Nothing bothered me because I was sure Billy Wright and his team would light up the dull November day. We’d make mugs of the Magyars. Stanley Matthews would waltz through them. Ninety minutes later my football world had collapsed. Sometimes I still have a nightmare of my hero Billy Wright sliding over the byline on his backside as Puskas pulled the ball away from his charge and scored in what seemed like one movement. It got a lot worse. Hungary won 6-3. Tell me it didn’t happen. I went for a walk and arrived home just after my mam got back from her shift, making her believe I’d gone to school. ‘England got beat,’ she said. ‘Oh no,’ I replied, and helped her make the fire.

“I saw that England wasn’t invincible…in football or anything else. The Suez debacle and the shrinking empire convinced me that there was nothing super-special about us..something Republicans have difficulties with now.

“But the football fire burned bright. I went to watch Selby Town play in the Yorkshire League on their field built on a rubbish dump and saw the game’s grassroots. After a brilliant save, Harrison Fearnley, Town’s ace goalkeeper, came behind the net where I sat on the grass and showed me his finger, at right angles to his hand. “It’s not all glory and glamour,” he said, pulling the dislocated digit back into place. Just what is glamour, I asked. Or glory?

“I learned some of the mysteries of becoming a man. Our striker once broke off from play, strode to the side of the pitch and shouted to a pal in the crowd who was watching with a girlfriend at his side. “Shove it well up, Cyril…she’s a long bodied woman.” Cyril laughed, the girl blushed red. What on earth could he mean, I wondered. It worried me for quite a while before all became clear.

“My wife Christine was a schoolgirl fan of York City and their hotshot striker Arthur Bottom (Q: What’s got 22 legs, two wings and a dirty Bottom? A: York City) I’ve always been told she knows more about the game than I can hope to.

“In the 60’s we would not miss a Sheffield Wednesday game. In ’68 Christine was heavily pregnant and the Wednesday were threatened with relegation. We had to go to the game. Manchester City stuffed us. Walking away from the Hillsborough Ground, Christine fell down a flooded manhole. It was open and unmarked. I pulled her out. Could anything worse happen? Yeah, Wednesday really were relegated.

“Footie has always been a driver of newspaper sales in UK. Reporters chased stories about players, managers, their girlfriends, their crazy fans. I’ve spent too much of my life on their doorsteps. One Sunday, chasing Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty after a weekend story that he was having an affair, I caught him sneaking through the bushes at his girlfriend’s home. Upstairs was the United physiotherapist Lawrie Brown. Downstairs was Tommy’s innamorata Mary Brown. An hour later, Docherty asked me to come in and discuss the situation. “It’s Adam and Eve,” he said. That’s not a bad headline, I thought.
The following weekend, when United played Liverpool, the Kop crowd chanted, “Who’s Up Mary Brown?” to the tune of Knees up Mrs. Brown.

“So, this week, with the US playing in the World Cup, I listened to the entreaties of my friend Bobby Burns. He suggested we watch the game against Ghana surrounded by genuine Americans. It didn’t happen. No Yanks turned up at the bar we chose. They missed one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time. We watched it together, sipping quietly. For 40-some years, I’ve waited for a soccer springtime in the States…looks like it’s going to be a few years yet.”

Phlegmatism Abandoned: My long-ago flatmate in London, an erudite and sophisticated Italian called Rolando Kleewein, presently lives in the Netherlands (whose Dutch national team recently routed the world champions Spain 5-1) Here’s his atmospheric, wonderful note, remembering that English is merely Roland’s fifth or sixth language:
“The usually cool, analytic and rational Dutchmen and Dutchladies (Calvinism is omnipresent, it is the root) never lose their continence, exception made for soccer and the monarchy. In those two cases the boiling point is dramatic and there is no way to stop them, there even the King is powerless. Now with the championship going on the streets are fully decorated with national flags and orange pennants stretched between the buildings like the laundry in Naples.”

Last footie word to Paul and Dottie Moura, who sent this 30-second vid:


In confessional mode, the saint is inspired by Joe’s tale of dodging off school to admit to similar misbehaviour. On certain schooldays, I used to sneak off to our cycling clubroom, because I had a key, and would nap there before going for a bike ride. I also got out of a weekly double German period by using an old hospital appointment card of my brother’s and forging convenient ‘appointments.’ It worked well until my mum found the card and thought I had some terrible illness and was too brave to tell her.

John Garton shares a favourite quote, of TV’s Judge Judy Sheindlin asking a prostitute: “When did you realize you’d been raped?”
“When the cheque bounced.”

Educational: My niece Lesley Roberts tells of the round-Sicily cruise she took with husband Eric.. “We sailed around the Sicilian islands, listened to and witnessed the rumblings of Mount Stromboli and visited Libya. I don’t know of anyone else to visit this place. It was really interesting and I felt at ease during our time there.” I always thought stromboli was just a sort of calzone, a cheesey/sausagey turnover, and I’ve had a few rumblings from one myself.

Shameless Fred Wehner emerges from the Wehnar Republic palace of Schloss Schlossed with a droll, golden oldie that is sending him straight to hell: “A guy goes into the confessional box after years being away from the Church.He pulls aside the curtain, enters and sits himself down. There’s a fully equipped bar with crystal glasses, the best vestry wine, Guinness on tap, cigars and liqueur chocolates nearby, and on the wall a fine photographic display of buxom ladies who appear to have mislaid their garments.

“He hears a priest come in:”Father, forgive me for it’s been a very long time since I’ve been to confession and I must admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be.” The priest replies: “Get out, you idiot. You’re on my side.”

Ethiopian traffic thrills: here’s a video bit from Addis Abbaba – no need there for traffic circles…http://devour.com/video/meskel-square-intersection-/

One of my cousins, Jo Groves, is the family genealogist and has been working at it for donkeys’ years. She pieces the clues together, like those of the great, great grandma who had a bastard, and seems to have been expelled from home, but things ended well enough. She married her lover and they had 11 children. Now, out of the blue to add hundreds of entries to the growing family tree comes my cousin Angela Hulse, who’s working on another branch of the family. She tells of the four Walter Woods, the first of whom died in WW1 in France, the others were her granddad, father and brother. The last opted not to continue the confusing tradition when his son, putative WW5 was born, but Angela’s still pondering a photo of a handsome young man with his arm around her grandma…E-1030 St Paul’s e-pistle to the beaten and beatified.  Posted June 14 ’14



Last week, as we all know, was the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and on the day big John Bradley fired me a note about it. Like so many WW2 military, John’s dad, John Henry ‘Jack’ Bradley had little to say about his actions during the war, when he served in the Andrew – the Royal Navy, to you. Decades later, a firefighter,  he met a fellow who also served at Normandy. Here’s  John, who is himself an Old Sweat: “Reminds me of my own father today, poignant as it’s  D-Day +70 as he never spoke of his D-Day driving a landing craft back and forth to the beach, landing Canadians of the Regina Rifles. Not until visiting Canada in 1976, meeting my then work partner Barnie McGough. Barnie never spoke of his exploits once landed on Juno beach except to mention the slaughter of the Falaise Gap. (Where about 10,000 German troops were killed – Ed).  Introducing Dad to Barnie didn’t take long before they realized that they shared a common bond:  June 6 1944. Dad had been one of the landing craft drivers delivering Barnie’s company to the beach. My father’s landing craft was hit by a shell and he spent three hours of pure hell being protected by those very same Regina Rifles until he grabbed a ride back to his ship once the beach head was secure. Two bottles of a fine single malt later the sun was coming up, I was fascinated by the whole adventure. It was the only time my father or Barnie spoke of that day, but I will never forget that treasure of a night. They laughed, they cried, they hugged, they remembered, but amazingly after that night they never spoke again. Both passed away the same year in 1984, both the same age,  both separated by an ocean.”  Jack’s ashes, btw, were scattered on the 18th green at Canons Brook golf course, Harlow, Essex.


John’s a ginger, so naturally he had forgotten the real purpose of his note: to respond to the saint’s bullying/brutal  teacher sermon, to remember his own special teacher and to send him greetings: “I digress, the purpose of this memory jog was the BASTARD who had me birched with a bamboo stick at school twice and stood and watched.” JB’s crime: “I bunked school to go fishing. Twelve on the buttocks each time, couldn’t sit for a week……..BASTARD. ”  The bastard in question was one William Bramfit   of Netteswell Grammar School in Harlow.  Said JB: “He was a short horrid little fat fuck, with small man syndrome. I still hate the man to this day for what he did to me.”   OK, Mr Bramfit, you’ve been warned, and considering John’s British Army training and decades as a big nasty prop forward, I’d regard with caution any invitation to afternoon tea that carries a Canadian stamp on the envelope. 


Dawna Kaufmann agreed with the sermon: “Excellent point about the child abuse we Catholic schoolers suffered. Where were our attorneys? Or parents?!”


One of my favourite Yorkshiremen, and that’s a phrase you don’t often see,  Joe Mullins shares a story of his schooldays and points out that even non-Catholics knew how not to spare the rod. A Catholic, Joe was one of a small cadre of RCs who attended a non-Catholic school.  “Just in case your readers get the impression that only Irish Catholics beat pupils in the 40’s and 50’s let me say that I went to a Church of England grammar school and was rarely out of trouble. The headmaster wielded a hooked bamboo cane on my arse on a regular basis. Once I ‘jigged’ school and spent the day getting a tan. Before going in the next day I wrote a ‘sickie’ explaining I had had ‘diarrhoea’ (Brit spelling) but was OK now and signed it in my mam’s name. After an hour, the headmaster called me to his study and told me he knew I’d played truant. “In 30 years of teaching, no parent has ever spelled diarrhoea right,” he said. I was noted for my spelling (but little else). The result: three strokes on the backside in public, with each one leaving a double ‘tramline’ of raised, bruised flesh.


” My canings became a joke…. In a physics lesson, the teacher drew a cartoon of a boy getting beaten with the caption, ‘Mullins looks forward to next week.’ He wrote something on the school website a couple of years ago and I emailed him wishing him well and saying that his cartoon pissed me off more than the whacks. He said not only did he not remember the joke he didn’t remember me….but allowed the head was a brute and a bully.” 


The physics master eventually apologised, and Joe graciously omitted something:  “I was going to remind him of another incident but didn’t. He caned Billy (Sunbeam) Talbot in class with a huge blackboard set square and then realized he’d made a mistake. He let Billy cane him back with the same set square, across his tightly-stretched gray pants…always thought it a bit odd. Billy, a farmer’s boy, broke the wooden square and our physics guy shuddered and grimaced but didn’t scream. Took it like a man…”


Travel Notes 1:  Wee Scots keelie Jim Leggett says he’s of no fixed abode, but is in Donegal.   “Still riding my old Goldwing  (motorbike), flying WW2  (Beechcraft here) aircraft and, last week, defying gravity over the wild Irish 700 foot sea cliffs at Slieve League – part of the Appalachian Trail for the geologically minded. Then onto Loch Lomond where I found as yet unreleased Balmaha single malt whisky – Only 270 bottles will be released. I snared bottle No 100 – Hic!  Slainte!”


TN2:  Five weeks into their 10-week stay in central Florence, or Fiorenze as the Italians call it, Malcolm and Sandy Nicholl  say they’ve been eating and drinking their way through the sights, but are walking it all off. Next month, they head to Umbria, to Orvieto in particular, then on to Prague and England. Send sympathy cards for their tough life.


TN3:  Welcome home to Oregon from Capetown, where Francesca Silvestri has just spent several months as an intern in a refugee organisation. Among her memories: being encased in a shark cage and dangled as Great White bait. Only the cocktails oozing from her pores kept her safe. 

TN4:  Jim and Kathleen Floyd raced down to California in time for the arrival of their first grandchild, Olivia Lynn. Congrats all around!


TN5: Sad news from Francesca Martina and her sisters. Their mother Margaret passed away this week, the girls are presently enr Newfoundland from the USA and Italy. Our commiserations.



One of the rewards I get on a particular bike ride is to pass within 30 ft of an osprey nest. It’s on the iron bridge over the Willamette River at Harrisburg, a Parker Truss structure that shakes and rattles when heavy trucks roll across, and from the pedestrian walkway you can observe the nest at close range. It’s a construct of small branches, is about six feet wide and probably 30 inches deep. It’s a very des res, fabulous river views, close to shops and fully air conditioned. Over the past few years Mrs Osprey  – I’ve never seen Mr O – has raised a pair of chicks there each year. By chicks, I mean big nestlings the size of hawks, and you see them gazing out beakily, looking here and there for the fish lunch mum’s collecting. Two years ago I sat by the river, which is about 150 yards wide and watched Mrs O and one fledgling circling over it, while she uttered harsh keeks of encouragement and presumably advice about the best places to collect a salmon. Last weekend, at the half distance of a 50 mile ride, I stopped as usual to gaze up at this year’s chicks and mom swooped in to observe me. She came close, maybe 20ft away, then turned and headed for a tall cottonwood where she sat and considered whether to pick me up and drop me in the drink or not. And, magnificent bird she is, she seemed capable of doing just that. The image of her splendid markings stayed with me for the next 25 miles and beyond.  


I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over this exchange, though the usual Yorkshire response to  ‘a bag of chips in Bakewell?’   would be ‘You were lucky: LUXURY!’  Keith Farnsworth, former Sheffield Telegraph reporter, wrote in FaceBook: “Is there any wonder that many people have stopped going to the theatre when seat prices are so expensive? Looking for what was available for a matinee performance of West Side Story at the Lyceum, Sheffield, the cheapest available were in the rear circle (with restricted leg space) and cost £38 each. That’s £76 for a couple of pensioners for an afternoon at the theatre. Ridiculous! We’ll settle for watching a DVD of the film.” His pal Anton Rippon responded: “Went to see the D Day Darlings at Derby Guildhall for £11, but then there were only three of them (sort of Andrews Sisters tribute act). Then again the Silk Mill pub over the road wanted £11.95 for fish and chips. Few expensive days out these days. Bus pass to Bakewell and a bag of chips by the river is still best value.”


Pat Penn:  “Bag of chips – luxury – we had to grovel outside the chip shop for the potato peelings – if we were lucky!!!!” Then again, she’s from Stoke on Trent.



Fans of Father Ted Crilly may enjoy this: Mary Kline reports that George Clooney‘s mother has given her future daughter in law the thumbs-up, saying that Amal Alamuddin “is a lovely girl.”  Mary K wants to know if she’s like the beauty contestants judged by Father Ted: “Does she have a lovely bottom?”

(Father Jack wants to know: ‘How did that gobshite get on the television?”) 

Apropos of something that need not concern us, Mary wrote: “On being told that my future husband was a Lutheran, my grandmother exclaimed, “and what in the name of God is that?!”  I should simply have told her that he was “an Orange dog” (her words, not mine).”


Last word to Jack Grimshaw, who advises: “The California Highway Patrol recently announced it’s trading in its BMW motorcycles for Harley Davidsons. Speeders being written up by one of these officers will probably not advance their cause by referring to him as a pig on a hog.”


You’ve been warned….












E-pistle 1029 Maya and Dawna, St P’s ranting again. June 7 ’14.

Brush (and hug) with fame and a crim: LA author and journo Dawna Kaufmann has a history of covering celeb stories, was once a member of the Jeopardy! clue crew and has been a top crime reporter for longer than you’d guess from her youthful appearance. Now she shares a brush with a great. She says: : “At a TV taping once, I was standing just off camera as R&B artist R. Kelly performed his quite astounding “Bump and Grind.” As he finished, he walked over to me and I said, “Jeez, that was hot!” A voice from behind me added, “No shit!” I turned to see Maya Angelou.

“Robert hugged us both together, so I guess I kinda had a three-way with Maya and R. and he didn’t pee on either of us. (As he did in a sex tape to a minor. Possibly the only benefit to being older). Later, in the green room, I got to talk to Ms. Angelou — or actually, just listen because she was so very present and full of great stories. I had hoped she would live forever. There aren’t many people who are so inspiring. Look how she inspired me to remember this story!”

The saint met Ms Angelou (who was not a serial kiddie fiddler like R Kelly) once and briefly, merely to shake hands with her in the DC office of psychic Jeane Dixon, for whom I was writing a book. There is nothing much to report, but it did remind me of a small humiliation I suffered in that same place. I had called Jeane and told the receptionist who I was. She not only misheard my name, but she even got my deep, masculine tones confused with some unbroken soprano altar boy’s. Jeane came to the phone much more eagerly than she usually did when I called. “Pearlie, darling!” she exclaimed. She mistakenly thought it was Pearl Bailey calling and despite my protestations, regarded me with some suspicion after that.

Late notification came Thursday from Dawna about the ISS on a favourable trajectory for viewing, but she rather spoiled her display of scientific knowledge:
“You’ll have a three minute show. Use it to wave in case anyone’s watching. Who knows? Maybe Sandra Bullock is on board.”
Huh. Doesn’t Bullock have an aisle seat?

Anybody else view the security cam vid of an Ohio kindergarten teacher who grabbed a six year old boy by the neck and twice bounced him against a wall? The woman was given ten days’ suspension, pretty meaningless as the school’s out on vacation anyway, and that has stoked the online indignation. Legal experts say what she did could be a criminal act. Well, that got me thinking about where it would leave Brother Richard and his cohorts at De La Salle College, Pendleton? From ages seven to 16, the saint was regularly beaten with a bamboo cane, usually across the hands, four or six strokes at a time, and twice, the proud highlights of his DLS career, received a flogging on stage at assembly, bent over a chair so he could grin with an unconvincing lack of concern while the beating went on. And jt was regarded as normal….

Fact was, like my contemporaries, we didn’t report it to our parents as they’d have added some physical abuse of their own, reasoning that if the kindly, god-fearing brothers needed to chastise us, the least they could do was to join in. School beatings were so routine that our form masters all had their own canes, which they kept tucked inside their cassocks. Brother Philip called his after Ranjit Singh, a cricketer, and even the solitary woman teacher in prep school Miss Gannon used the bamboo on us seven year olds. Years later she told my classmate Kevin Heakin that the headmaster had specifically instructed the teachers not to spare the rod. She obeyed with gusto.

One lunatic pseudo-monk, Bro Constantine, ironically named for the emperor who brought Christianity to the Roman Empire, attempted to teach us woodwork and injured at least several boys by throwing sharp implements at them during his frequent explosions of rage. One fellow got a wood chisel to the face, I had my watch broken and my wrist bruised when Connie slammed down a length of dowelling as I committed Talking During a Lesson. I used to think that all this clerical violence was meted out only by the Christian Brothers, because the parish priests seemed kindly souls. These days, I know a bit more, with Magdalene laundry slaves, secret irish and Guernseyan graveyards and regular updates on predatory priests the Vatican has been assiduously protecting.

My classmate Tony Taylor, who posted his verdict on a DLS old boys’ site: “in some cases, the teaching was appalling – with a totally unnecessary emphasis on systematic beatings, enormous amounts of time-filling homework and unpredictably violent behavour from a small group of teachers. Very 19th century. This seemed to encourage subversive behaviour amongst pupils, like prisoners in a POW film – eg spitting in staff milk..” (The saint specialised in letting down Connie’s bike tyres twice a week – Ed). One poster wrote on the reunion site “would like to see a selective group of teachers invited if only to tell them what lies they wrote on our reports and if (teachers) Alec Curtis and Joe Rabbit are invited I would hope that someone could guarantee their safety. The last thing I want to see is someone being chinned. Really though, it would be mad to invite anyone with any history of disturbed behaviour and I mean teachers, not pupils.”

So the rough-handling kindergarten teacher, Barb Williams, of Riverdale School, Ohio or the racist-talking Alabama teacher Dalsity Pinkston who was terminated after she planned to ‘ smash the bitch-ass n—–‘s face’ of an honours student who protested an unfair grade might not be as big offenders as some of the folks who dedicated themselves to a life of poverty, chastity, obedience, monk’s underpants and over-cooked cabbage, but the US duo were caught.

As for the poverty bit, the Vatican’s senior cardinal, 79 years old Tarcisio Bertone is hardly a poster boy for frugality, though his claim last week that he paid for his uber-luxury retirement condo (four storeys and 7,500 sq ft) from his own money may be sort of true, as he’s under investigation for ‘mishandling’ $20 million from Vatican bank accounts, and the Pope has sacked the entire watchdog board. The cardinal’s modest (sarcasm font in use) penthouse apartment (with 1000 sq ft terrace) is at least five times bigger than the Pope’s own quarters, but it will also accommodate three nuns who’ll act as the retired cardinal’s domestics. So he’s an example to us all.

Sad news from California, where our rugby and cycling friend Lee Overbeck has died after a battle with bone marrow cancer. Lee, a founder-member of the Seahawks RUFC, San Jose, and former athletic director at San Lorenzo Valley HS, leaves his wife Gail, daughter Brittany, and son Joeben. Lee was a fine loose forward and keen cyclist with whom a group of us rode 480 miles across Iowa on a RAGBRAI week, a feat he did about eight times, although unlike us, he tended to leave the beer slides alone. Contact Phil Perry for funeral details, please.

Hola from Baja, Mexico where the Oregonian Stolls, Debi and Sandy. have their new, other home. Debi writes: “Is it time to complain yet? It is hot and humid (90 degrees, 62% humidity) – but somebody’s got to do it…might as well be us! Actually, we have been sleeping outside on the upper deck, The stars we can almost touch and the breeze off of the sea is refreshing. We have been staying out of the sea this past week because of the jellyfish. Swimming in the pools is nice as the temperature of the sea now is approaching 88 degrees. Anyway, we rise early and do most of our work before 1:30, then a short siesta in the afternoon.”

Speaking of warm water, David Attenborough told of his trip to the edge of space in the Vomit Comet. He related how the instructor told the passengers what to do if there was an emergency and they had to parachute. Opening the ‘chute too soon would mean they could freeze to death at the extreme high altitude, so the parachuting survivor should count to 60 before pulling the ripcord. They should not, he repeated, pull the cord sooner than that. “On the other hand,” he told them, ” if you find cold water is coming up your leg and meeting warm water trickling down your thigh, you’ve left it too late.”

The saint met a Polish bloke who works at a call centre in Eugene, and the fellow was so excited. “We’ve just been told our jobs are going to Calcutta,” he said. “That’s great news. I’ve always wanted to see India and Pakistan, and I’ll be able to live like a maharaja on my wages there.”

Tough break: Graham Timmins’ lawyer brother Stuart recently splurged $140k on a new GT3 Porsche only to have the vehicle recalled because of a fire risk. Porsche took the car back to fit a new engine and told Stuart he would not have his toy back until September. There was a small silver lining: they’re paying about $2000 a month in compensation for loss of use, and oh, yes, Stuart could go to the showroom in Lancashire and pick out any car to use free until his own GT3 comes back. Stuart chose a Porsche Cayenne. Our GT – the one in Oregon, not the GT3 in Lancs. – is green with envy.

Grandma Patti Paris suffered anxiously for a few days this week after her 10 years old grandson Griffy swallowed three magnets. He was showing a pal how to put the magnets in his ear, eyebrow, nose and so forth, when he next put them on his tongue, hiccupped and swallowed the lot. The ER staff tried giving him prep fluids suitable for a colonoscopy but the magnets had not yet emerged at time of going to press. Griffy’s been having X-rays every four hours to chart progress. but there’s not a lot of, er, motion. He’s no stranger to ER’s, as he recently broke his hand demonstrating to the same pal how to punch a gym mat, dis-remembering that there was a solid wall behind it…

Speaking of grandmas, Pat Sear is already a great one and granddaughter Jayne has a second great-grandchild on the way for her. Pat’s husband David is recovering from prostate cancer, but then again, Pat ordered him to get better, and he does not dare defy his wife. She’s a former Waller, and one of them, Sir Hardress Waller was a famous Cromwellian major-general who committed regicide, one of the world’s rarest crimes. (He signed the death warrant and was responsible for the execution of King Charles I). For that, Sir H was later himself condemned to death, but with Waller luck, he was reprieved, given life imprisonment and died in jail.

Untiring raconteur Ken Potter has this: “Doug Smith is on his deathbed and knows the end is near. His nurse, his wife, his daughter and two sons are with him. So, he says to them: “Bernie, I want you to take the Mayfair houses. Sybil, you take the apartments over in the east end. Jamie, I want you to take the offices over in the City Centre. Sarah, my dear wife, please take all the residential buildings on the banks of the river.”
The nurse is just blown away by all this, and as Doug slips away, she says, “Mrs. Smith, your husband must have been such a hard-working man to have accumulated all this property.” Sarah replies, “Property? …. the asshole had a paper route!”