Random musings from the front line (well, more like the support trench, or perhaps the castle 10 miles away, supping Chateau Lafite with the General Staff) in the battle for curiosity, inertia, grammar and a Dachshund called Colin.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Help this man.... NOW!

Short but sweet...


We HAVE to help him win. Spread the word!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Cry God for Harry! England! and St George!

Another Celt standing (not so) proudNow, I'm as patriotic as the next Englishman, and have always had a slightly uncomfortable feeling about the way that the minor patron Saints of minor Celtic countries (you know who you are - Andrew, Patrick, David) manage to get acres and acres of newsprint, public holidays and loony devotees with vegetables pinned to their lapels, but that poor old St George is pretty comprehensively ignored by everyone. It could be something to do with his murky past, his dodgy ethnicity and the fact that His Toniness has hijacked England's national emblem as a party political logo, but not many people know anything about Andrew either and that doesn't stop grown Scotsmen wearing dresses and showing everyone that, yes, they're not wearing underwear even when performing in front of several thousand pre-teens. It might even be to do with his position in the Beazer Homes League of saints, since his fall from official (ie papal) grace in the late 1960s. But even so - why do we know so little about this chap? He's renowned for being "hard as nails", a bit of a ladies' man and with a neat line in off-the-shoulder chain mail. But, Godammit, who was he?

I'll have a special messy dragon burger, please, with chilli sauceGeorge appears to have been Turkish (I'll be sure to mention this, next time I'm in Bodrum Kebab Emporium) and was beheaded by the Romans on April 23rd, 303AD for refusing to renounce his Christianity. For various reasons, he is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine and Portugal. AND, amongst other fanclubs, he is also patron saint of soldiers, and those suffering from syphilis, and farmers! A fairly busy, and popular man, it seems. But still, the Roman Catholic church downgraded him in 1969 from "Saint" to a much lower category, somewhat akin to "famous mythical pest controller". But what about the English? And the Portuguese? And the soldiers, and syphilitic farmers? If there was ever a demonstration about how little the modern Catholic church cared about .... er .... Palestinian farmers with debilitating sexually-transmitted diseases, this is it. What better sign would there be of the new ecumenical order of modern Christianity if the new pope (bless his ex-Hitler Youth silk socks) pronounced old Georgie boy as a Grade A, premership, 24 carat Super-Saint.

Bless you my son, you have sinned But here's a question. How do you get to be the patron saint of a disease? I can understand 1st century AD martyrs who were, say, garotted becoming patron saint of neck injuries, or those whose ass were "got mediaeval on" by an early version of Marcellus Wallace becoming patron saint of haemmorhoids. But syphilis? Ugh. What happened - did St George actually infect the good Emperor Diocletian with a bit of old Treponema pallidum bacteria? After all, he WAS the only Roman Emperor to ever abdicate - maybe it was after being caught in flagrante delicti after catching a dose from a bit of top Christian dragon-slaying totty. Or perhaps our favourite Turk didn't so much slay the dragon as shag it senseless. I'd always been sceptical of rumours about the possibility of catching a dose from one of our furry friends, but maybe here we have historical proof. Given that I once read at Copenhagen's "Museum Erotica" that the Vatican Library holds the largest collection of erotica and pornography in the world, maybe the Roman Catholic church knew something we didn't when they downgraded George, and it was actually for carnal knowledge of a large lizard.

Diocletian - looks a bit like John Peel to meSo there we go. A 1700 year mystery solved by The Merkin - St George was a bona fide herpetophile, caught a dose of VD from his pet dragon (who he then had put down, but invented some chivalrous story to avoid the attentions of the RSPCA) and then infected the one Roman Emperor who had precious little time for Christians in the first place. Head chopped off, cult built up, cool flag, instant hit. Shakespeare was so impressed, he managed the rather impressive feat of both being born on this day and passing away on the same date a few years later. And we thought stalkers were a modern phenomenon. Happy St George's Day.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

State of the Union? Jack....

It's the 400th anniversary of our national flag, which is (predictably) being ignored by President Blair and his corrupt cronies, so here's one I prepared earlier!

Flag. Fashion statement! For reasons lost in the mists of time (er... or red wine induced amnesia) I learnt from an early age how to translate the immortal phrase: Azure, the Crosses Saltire of St. Andrew and St. Patrick, quarterly per saltire, counterchanged Argent and Gules, the latter fimbriated of the second, surmounted by the Cross of St. George of the third, fimbriated as the saltire. Or, as most people call it, the Union Jack. You see, unknown to most people, the our semi-official national flag actually has a right way, and a wrong way, of flying it, and once one knows this information, it becomes strangely irritating to see it flying upside down. And I, by an accident of education and curiosity, know which way that is. However, spurred on by a chance riposte to my "predantry" (good word!) about this subject by the incomparable Mr Lupin, I took to wondering why indeed the "flagologists" designed a flag that all but the most bored of ex-public schoolboys cannot tell if it is being flown correctly.

Well... what a can of worms. For a start, the flag perverts of the world (and there are as many of them on t'internet as there are of the more traditional sort of pervert) can't even agree what they are called: vexillogist or vexillologist. I can put that to rest straight away - the answer is the latter (from the Greek vexillos = flag and logos = word). Especially considering the topic of this week's post, I am pleased to report that it is our cousins across the Atlantic who can't spell, but that's hardly a surprise. Anyway, I digress...

Queen Anne's Jack According to Wikipedia, the Flag Institute and others, the story of the flag itself is fairly simple. The crowns of England and Scotland (although not the countries themselves) were combined in 1603, and in 1606 King James issued an edict about English and Scottish ships flying a flag at sea to indicate that they were subjects of the same monarch. This flag was the simple combination of the St George's Cross and the St Andrew's Cross, and was called the "Grand Union Flag", and apart from the post civil-war Commonwealth, was adopted as the representative flag of the monarchy and (after 1708) the national flag of the new country of "Great Britain" under Queen Anne. So far, so bleedingly obvious. The difficulty from a vexillological (first time I've ever written THAT word) point of view came in 1801, with the addition of those charming Celts to the nation, so forming the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". Ireland had never had a defined national flag, so the "Cross of St Patrick" (a wishy washy compromise flag that had never been widely used) was added to the old Union Flag (generally nowadays referred to as "Queen Anne's Jack") to form the new Union Flag. Hurrah.

But here's where it get complicated. For some reason, it was decided that the red saltire (diagonal cross, DO keep up) of St Patrick wouldn't look sexy enough centrally superimposed on the white saltire of St Andrew, so they shifted each limb (similar to, but not exactly) clockwise a tad. Unfortunately this meant that for the last 204 years, our national flag has had a "right way up" and a "wrong way up", and hardly anyone knows which is which. Incidentally, the unseen bit in the middle of the flag, where the displaced limbs all meet (but which is hidden under St George's cross) looks a bit swastika like to me. Weird, huh? The strange swastika thing

So here it is - Merkin's guide to our flag, and how to get it right when you are next flying the thing:

According to Wikipedia, "a mnemonic to remind those flying the flag which end is up is Wide white top - the broad white stripe (composing part of the cross of Saint Andrew) should be above the red stripe (the cross of Saint Patrick) in the upper hoist of the flag (the hoist is the half of the flag near the flagpole). Flying the Union Jack upside-down may be regarded as a distress signal."

Neil Kinnock incurs the wrath of JackThat's fine and dandy if the Union Flag is being flown in real life, but traditionally, if a flag is just being displayed (not flown), or hung, or painted without a flagpole, the hoist is considered to be on the left. So, all the images on this page are as if there is an invisible flag pole on the left. However, if a pole is shown , or the strengthening cord that edges the hoist is visible (that runs up the pole), then the broad white stripe is uppermost on whichever side that is. Understood? Good! So, for example, at Labour's 1992 pre-election rally in Sheffield, the Union Flag was flown from the ceiling with the pole on the right, but with that all-important stripe uppermost on the left. So the flag was actually upside down, and Labour lost the election. And it's all the Union Flag's fault. Similarly, at Eurovision that year, the large Union Flag that Michael Ball wore on his suit was also upside down. And he came 2nd.

The right way upThe motto of this story? Don't mess with Jack!

(Images borrowed from various open source sites, and also Justin Broderick's US Naval Site. Thanks Justin!)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Rum Ration - Unofficial Home of the Royal Navy

Rum Ration - Unofficial Home of the RN and RM

Just found this marvellous site....

Royal Navy and Royal Marines Unofficial Community - Rum Ration

We'll see if it catches on, seems a slow start at the moment, but who knows.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Information Overload

I know I'm meant to be on a break, but this is the most thought provoking thing I've read for years - The Cure for Information Overload.