Bardiness

"..a bardy view!"

Alfred…A Great Guy!

Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterIn 1899 the Victorians marked the 1000th anniversary of the death of Alfred the Great as the founder of England and saviour of its Christian faith.

In the BBC Millennium Poll of 2000, Alfred didn’t make it into the top ten list of greatest Britons.

Sometime during those one hundred years the British lost favour with her most revered son.

Alfred wasn’t called “great” for nothing. He is the only British king with the title.

So what happened between then and now to change our views, or if not change them, merely ignore his achievements? Perhaps it’s just too long ago?

Alfred did however make it into the top 100, along with such luminaries as David Beckham, Tony Blair, Robbie Williams and even Boy George.

I’ll pause at this point to allow you a gasp of astonishment…..

Some sense prevailed in the top ten. Winston Churchill came out at number one, followed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Princess Diana, Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I, John Lennon, Horatio Nelson and, in 10th place, Oliver Cromwell.

Bearing in mind that the poll was conducted 16 years ago, it’s possible that the nation had an unhealthy dose of celebrity worship and collective amnesia.

It was only three years after the death of Diana; the country was still euphoric basking in the afterglow of a new labour victory, and the nation had yet to be embroiled in the war on terror.

Although Tony Blair didn’t make it into the top ten he did make it into the top 100. If the poll was taken today, it’s highly unlikely he (and many others) would get a look in. The highest ranked living person at the time was Margaret Thatcher, coming in at #16.

60 of the top 100 were alive during the 20th century. Hence the poll was severely flawed for it was indicative of contemporary individuals and populist history. Surely Alfred was greater than John Lennon? Indeed he was, but he died in the 9th century, and not the 20th; nor was he a famous singer/songwriter. Imagine that!

Twelve years after the poll, both Churchill and Brunel played prominent roles in the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics, and both coincidently topped the millennium poll of 2000, so perhaps there is some justice attached to it.

Back to Alfred the Great (those of you who have lost interest may leave now). Herewith follows a compact history lesson from a Bardy view:

When the Roman’s left Britain in AD 410, over 300 years of relative peace, stability and prosperity left along with them.

Her empire was under attack, Rome was in trouble and the legions needed to consolidate and attempt to fend off the vandals and barbarian hoards. For Britain, what followed was a period of substantial unrest, and is known today as the Dark Ages. It lasted for several hundred years, and England as we know it today did not exist. It became a place divided and ruled by feudal chiefs with a hotchpotch of kingdoms, the most powerful being Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex.

Wessex was the most powerful, and during the rules of Egbert (802-839) and Aethelwulf (839-858) it expanded to include most of the land south of the River Thames, although not the Mercian controlled area of London. It was
during these periods that England was under constant raiding parties from the Vikings and Norsemen of Scandinavia.

In 865 the Vikings landed with force and within ten years subjugated the kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia. Wessex was the next in line.By this time Alfred’s elder brother Ethelred was King of Wessex, and together they confronted the invasion of Wessex in 871. But they failed to prevent the advance and during the battle Ethelred was killed. Wessex was the last surviving Anglo-Saxon domain, and if it fell, then the land would be completely ruled by the Vikings.

Alfred took the throne, and through bravery and intelligence, through methods of tactics and guerrilla warfare, eventually prevailed.

He became an honourable and wise king, uniting the kingdoms, constructing the country’s first navy, instigating law and order, and promoting education, with particular emphasis on the English language, art, culture, and successfully creating – out of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora – the nation of England.

That’s why he is known as Alfred the Great.

Perhaps if a new poll is taken, he can take his rightful place along with Churchill, Elizabeth I, and Nelson as one of the nation’s top ten greatest Britons.

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Books, Education, Europe, History, London, Politics, Religion, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s so bad it’s good….

OstaraWhat’s “Good” about Good Friday?

After all, it signifies a man abused and tortured, made to carry his own cross to be crucified, had nails hammered into his hands, a crown of thorns embedded in his head, and given vinegar to drink when he asked for water. It was clearly a very bad day.

“Good Friday”, possibly the most sacred day in the Christian calendar, appears to have been diminished by our secular and consumer led society. It’s certainly a good Friday for the new deities of consumerism – for the shopping malls and superstores, whose temples are open for worshippers. It’s a good day for atheists and agnostics, because they get a public holiday regardless of their beliefs.

Nobody really knows why the day of Christ’s crucifixion is called Good Friday. Indeed, there is no evidence that it actually happened on a Friday. It was a convenient date which married the early Christians to Pagan beliefs back in the post-Romano era.

There are two modes of thought: Good Friday was originally God’s Friday. This would make sense, because as time went by words change and develop. The Catholic Church is fairly open to this suggestion. Unlike Evangelical Bible-Thumpers who argue that it was “Good” because Christ gave his life on the Cross to save our souls. For all his suffering, it was filled with goodness they proclaim. Pre and post Romano Britain, Anglo Saxon, and medieval man would not have considered that, and certainly not the Benedictine monks who ruled with ecclesiastical hammers. Suffering and penitence was the order of the day – there was nothing to be happy about! “Christ suffered and so should you” they said. What’s good about that?

Meanwhile in Spanish Dominions, the Dominican monks ruled, and they would have dictated, absolutely, their expectations and rules, and were directly linked to the seat of the Spanish throne. The Dominicans (the religious quasi political branch of the Spanish Empire) were ruthless in their endeavours.

So what’s all this got to do with Good Friday? The simple answer is politics. Jesus didn’t choose Friday to die, nor did he choose Sunday to resurrect. Why? Because 2000 years ago the calender as we know it didn’t exist! Time revolved around the equinox. Rome and future Popes created the calendar – from the Julian to the Gregorian, and it was expedient for a Pope to embrace pagan celebrations aligned with  Eostra – the pagan god of rebirth.

Emperor Constantine (the first Pope of Power) was a very clever chap. In order to unite his empire he knew he had to embrace all and alienate none. The dates of Easter has no more credence than the 25th December – the date of Christ’s birth. Christian’s do not question the date – it’s the event that matters.

Constantine needed a reference point: that which was before, and that which came after – Before Christ, and After Christ. BC and AD.

My analysis isn’t an academic study, it’s merely an observation. Yet there is little doubt that significant Christian dates were aligned with Pagan celebrations – it was expedient and convenient. Which brings us to Ostara, or Ēostre the pagan Goddess of Dawn and Rebirth. Note the word Goddess. Christianity gave us one god – God – yet here was a goddess worshipped in pre-Christian times, and she became associated with “Easter”. How is that? Easter is the association and celebration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, yet, prudently Constantine combined the two. It was Constantine who brought the papacy to power, and effectively established the Catholic Church.

Does all this matter? Do dates matter? Does it matter that we have Easter eggs (another pre-Christian symbol of fertility and rebirth and don’t forget rabbits – we all know their proliferate skills). How many people actually think about that?

All that matters really is what Easter signifies – the persecution, betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection of one man who changed the world. We celebrate His birth at Christmas, lament his Death, and take joy in his Resurrection at Easter.

You may not believe it – but that doesn’t mean you can disprove it! Maybe that’s why it’s a “Good” Friday.

March 25, 2016 Posted by | Culture, Education, History, Politics, Religion | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Beatles, the Philippines and President Marcos….

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Fifty years ago in 1966 the Philippines fell out of love with the Fab Four. It was also the year that John Lennon made two comments, one which was to be his eventual downfall.

In July 1966 the Beatles toured the Philippines. Little did they know that the dictator President Marcos and his wife Imelda were accustomed to (and expected) absolute attention; and they certainly didn’t take kindly to the fact that the Beatles refused an invitation to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace.

Their manager Brian Epstein politely declined the invitation on the grounds that it was the group’s policy not to accept official invitations. Marcos took this as a personal snub to his family, and consequently revealed this perceived insult to the media, who ran with it, implying that it was also a snub to the Filipino people.

Subsequently all police protection was removed from them. The group and their entourage had to reach Manila airport unguarded. Their road manager Mal Evans was assaulted, and the band encountered a hostile crowd.

Although they managed to board the plane, Evans was removed, and Epstein was forced to hand over all the group’s Philippines earnings before they were all permitted to leave the country.

It led to John Lennon remarking that should he ever return to the country, he “would fly over it with an H-Bomb”. Biographies have suggested that they were all lucky to escape with their lives. 

Of course we can argue now that perhaps the Beatles were not familiar with international diplomacy, but they relied on their manager to manage, and the manager made a decision. Yet the times were different. Marcos was all powerful, and this unwitting act of disrespect was a personal insult which he successfully manipulated his people to generate sympathy for him. It’s a classic example of one man exercising power for his own ends. Indeed, this event is not so much about the Beatles, but about pride and power. It’s about a despot who assumed that his power was omnipotent. 

It would be another eighteen years before the Filipino people finally realised that this was power absolute and had the courage to rebel in 1984.

Of course, John Lennon did not make that remark directed at the Filipino people. At the time he was only 25 years old. Marcos in contrast was nearly 50 years old – so who do you think should have been the wiser? His wife was 37 at the time, and many would argue that she’s still none the wiser. 

Yet this was to be the catalyst of John Lennon’s demise. Three months earlier, in March 1966,he was reported in the London Evening Standard, during a fairly innocuous interview as stating that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. This was picked up by right-wing religious conservatives in the US, and exploited. It further fuelled the anger in the Catholic dominated Philippines, which even today they wrongly regard as the blue touch paper which set the firework off.

Through clever propaganda, instigated by Marcos, the Filipino people, half a century later, believe that their antagonism to the Beatles was because of Lennon’s Jesus statement. It could not be further from the truth.

The story had no merit until a US teen magazine naively ran with it on their front cover, resulting in an evangelic radio station WAQY in Birmingham, Alabama announcing that it wouldn’t play anymore Beatles music and that they were going to burn their records. This led to a domino effect, and other radio stations followed suit.

The English brushed off his comments in the newspaper at the time – they were considered of no relevance, and merely the ranting’s of a young man. Not a single word of complaint came from the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church.

In August when the situation had reached a rolling-stone momentum which threatened the existence of the group, John Lennon was forced to apologise twice – stating that he was not boasting about the fame of the Beatles, and he never intended to cause offence to people of religious faith. It happened in Chicago and proved to be the last Beatles tour.

So let’s put the record straight – here and now! The Filipino people didn’t get angry with the Beatles because of what John Lennon said. They were manipulated and encouraged by a state-run media, controlled by a demigod dictator, who was snubbed by the most popular band of the age. He felt insulted, and it struck at his pride. Such was his bitterness that he ensured that his countrymen would feel the same pain and humiliation.

He controlled the media, the military and the government and therefore he controlled the minds of the people. It is he and his cronies that the Filipino people should be angry with – not the Beatles.

Today, the Beatles are revered in the Philippines and there isn’t one karaoke bar which is not playing a Beatles song and not one Filipino crooner who doesn’t attempt to sing one.

As Paul acknowledged – it wasn’t the people, but the regime that caused the problems, and he’s actually proud in hindsight that it was the Beatles which snubbed the Marcos family and dented their pedestal.

March 20, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, History, Religion, The Beatles, The Philippines | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Crimea…Half a League Onward…….

 

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Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Just over a hundred years ago the world went to war, and the stage for it was set by another smaller but no more less significant conflict almost 60 years earlier. It’s a timely reminder – because it was called the Crimean War.

It was a war which altered the balance of power in Europe, and which subsequently led to the assassination in 1914 of Archduke Ferdinand – heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His killer was Gavrilo Princip a Serbian nationalist who wanted the South Serb provinces to break away and be combined into Greater Serbia – or a Yugoslavia – a union of South Slavic countries.

This ultimately led to other European states being dragged in, all vying for their position and alliances, and so it was that the Great War began. This brief introduction, deliberately short on studious analysis is merely to put the Crimean War into context. And we must go even further back from it’s origins to understand how and why the Crimean War began – as far back as the Napoleonic Wars 200 years ago.

2014 commemorated the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, but last year 2015 also commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the end of Bonaparte’s dream of a European empire, with he as her emperor.

At the end of the Napoleonic war the great powers  Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria and France got together in Vienna to try and restore European stability by suppressing revolutionary republics and supporting sensible monarchies. Known as the Treaty of Vienna, it led to 30 years of peace in Europe. By 1845 this peace was showing signs of cracks, principally because of the weakness of the Ottoman-Turkish empire.

Then as now Turkey had one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, or more to the point one foot in European Christian orthodoxy and the other in Islamic Middle East. At this point enters the protagonist, then as now – Russia.

Tsar Nicholas  was keen to take advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire with a view to carve up the European part of Turkey and gain some valuable strategic areas. This effectively would give Russia control of the Dardanelles, the strait which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean, and more famously known today for the disastrous tragic WWI campaign of Gallipoli.

Due to increased Russian aggression, Turkey declared war against Russia in October 1853. A month later the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, a Turkish city on the Black Sea, which galvanised British concerns because it threatened her trade links with Turkey and India.

The French, who had no particular interest in Turkey, chose to ally themselves to Britain because they were still smarting from their defeat by Russia in 1812 (later immortalised in Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture) and thought that this was their chance to return the bloodied nose.

An ultimatum was issued to Russia to evacuate from the area by March 1854. That month was significant because by then the Baltic ice fields would break up allowing the British to annihilate the Russian fleet should the demand be ignored, which it was. By August the combined Anglo-French fleet took control of the Baltic. Austria subsequently joined the alliance and together contributed to an army of 60,000 to defend Istanbul.

The Russian Tsar ignored the threats (shades of Putin here) and called the bluff. A British plan was formulated to land in the Crimea, and attack Sevastopol with the view of destroying the Russian fleet and the dockyard. What followed was a catalogue of indecision, chess board manoeuvring and glorified Victorian valour which resulted in the Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade. This astonishing display of bravery, courage (madness some will say) into the “valley of death” as Tennyson penned it, so shocked and frightened the Russians that they never again dared to face the British in the field.

Eventually there was a victory of sorts, and the Russians accepted defeat, the demilitarisation of the Black Sea, and for a time the European settlement of the “Turkish Question”. With the 1856 Treaty of Paris, (as with all face-saving treaties of this kind) Russia went home to lick her wounds with a modicum of compensation.

That’s what it’s all about and that’s why the defeated always walk away with a prize of sorts. Political expediency, diplomacy and conciliation make the world go around, regardless of the pain and suffering to get there in the first place. It’s easy to start something, but damned difficult to end something. A lesson we never seem to learn.

Today Russia is on the aggressive ascendancy, and Turkey seeks a political route to European Union membership through clever compromise and negotiation regarding the current mass refugees crisis. History may be the past, but it is also the present and the future, and we ignore it at our peril.

See also Bardiness: Florence Nightingale

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How did Russians conquer Crimea from the Muslim Tatars?

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, History, Politics, Religion, The Flashman Papers, Travel, United Kingdom, World War I | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In God We Trust

usdollarAll American Presidents and candidates believe that God is on their side. The latest being Rand Paul, who says “with God’s help” he will win. That’s in sharp contrast with the UK candidates for Prime Minister. The Labour leader Ed Milliband has gone on record as being an atheist, although he does have faith (whatever that means).

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is also an atheist (but raises his son in his wife’s Catholic faith).

The Conservative leader David Cameron admits that he is a lapsed Christian, as indeed is the UKIP leader Nigel Farage (yet both proclaim that they have not lost their faith – deep down they have Christian values etc. blah blah).

This is a quandary.

I’m a Christian in so far that I believe in Jesus Christ. Any man who suffered as much as He, through persecution, betrayal and crucifixion, yet still decided to return within 48 hours to save those who treated Him so badly surely gets my vote. That’s dedication! Jews of course don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah – he didn’t meet the conditions laid down in the Messianic Hebrew Chronicles – but they accept he may have been a prophet. The Messiah has yet to come – apparently.

Still, we have reached a tolerable medium, and Judeo-Christianity are the scales which balance precariously on the fulcrum of faith.

So how does that leave us in this secular western world? Well, the United Kingdom is a Christian country. Not my words – but the Queen’s. She is officially “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”. She appoints Archbishops and bishops on the advice of the Prime Minister – the “Head of Her Majesty’s Government”.

This puts me, and Her Majesty in a pickle, although it’s more of a pickle for her (I’m just pickled). It beggars the question – how can an atheist Prime Minister advise “The Supreme Governor of the Church of England” on who should be appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury – the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion? How can a Prime Minister of a Christian country in which the laws since Magna Carta were founded on Christian theology, if not exegesis, espouse from his or her political pulpit the importance of Christian values and Christian morals? How can a Prime Minister be a PM without practising what he preaches?

Love it or loath it, the United Kingdom is predominantly a Christian country. Other religions and faiths function very well within it. They are welcome.  Britain is traditionally the home for all – and it’s a worthy commendation. Yet, with a constitutional monarchy, with a Queen as the Head of State, not only in the UK but in other Commonwealth countries around the world, one would expect her Prime Minister to have a Christian faith. It is the bedrock of over 1500 years of British history, and one way or another it has stood the test of time, at home or abroad.

In the USA candidates who declare themselves as atheists wouldn’t stand a chance. “In God we Trust” is written on every dollar bill, and if God was never mentioned in the Constitution He was certainly present between the lines.

So here is my problem. Who do I vote for? An atheist or a Christian? Should it matter? After all, the future of the nation isn’t at stake, what’s at stake is our humanity to our fellow man and how we care for each other.

What’s God got to do with that? I think you know my answer!

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, History, Politics, Religion, United Kingdom, USA | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Walking Dead – the 2nd Amendment Showcase….

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**Possible Spoiler Alert**

Having caught up with the Walking Dead, after its mid-season (4) break, I am left defending my initial observations herehere and here, back when it all began.

The problem with the drama is that it’s walking in circles. Series one saw the motley group of survivors attempting to find somewhere safe to live. Series two found them on a farm which got overrun and they had to leave, getting dispersed in the process; series 3 found them in a prison; and series four sees them overrun, back outside, and dispersed yet again.

Continue reading

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Books, Education, Film, Game of Thrones, Humour, Religion, Science, The Walking Dead, Travel, USA | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Game of Thrones

Game-of-ThronesAs usual I have arrived late to the party.

In this instance the "Game of Thrones" which is aired on Sky Atlantic.

I must admit I shy away from mythological fantasy, especially if penned by such questionable luminaries as J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis, and dare I say, J K Rowling. (Notice how each author initialises their moniker!) 

So not being a Sky subscriber I was ignorant not only of the TV production but also the author who inspired it – George R R Martin (two initials in that one – must be a winning formula) from his collection of epic novels entitled "A Song of Ice and Fire".

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June 1, 2013 Posted by | Arts, Books, Culture, Education, Europe, Film, Game of Thrones, General, History, Politics, Religion, Science, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dan Brown – Inferno

Hell philippines picA restaurant chain in the Philippines has reacted with a marketing coup in response to Dan Brown's new novel "Inferno". 

Unlike the humourless Francis Tolentino, Chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), who has taken great umbrance to one of the book's characters describing his city as "The Gates of Hell".

Tolentino is upset that a fictional character, in a fictional book, views Manila with such disgust and a place where the traffic jams last for six hours, and where prostitution is rife etc etc.

He has even accessed records from the Philippines Bureau of Immigration and discovered that Brown has never even visited the Philippines.

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May 25, 2013 Posted by | Arts, Books, Education, General, Politics, Religion, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pope, the Philippines, Argentina and the British……

 

Sanfernando

Hey! Smoking is bad for your health!

The Via Crucis is the re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion
on Good Friday.

Held in San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines, it has become
famous for people being nailed to the cross.

There are currently 34 men enlisted to participate, with
an estimated 50,000 people, from home and abroad, expected to visit and observe.

Known as "Maleldo" (Holy Week), it will be held in the last seven
days of March.

This year will involve more security and traffic control,
and steel railings will be in place surrounding the crucifixion site, because
the chicken wire used last year proved useless against the ever growing crowd
of onlookers.

Well at least they are not using barbed wire. In addition
there will be a higher presence of medical tents and emergency vehicles.

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March 19, 2013 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, General, History, Humour, Religion, The Philippines, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Solar Superstorm and Asteroid 2012 DA14

SunwikiAnother end of the world scenario hoves into view – not
quite Armageddon but one which will cause much inconvenience.

The warnings of a
solar superstorm are particularly relevant today.

They occur every hundred years or so and the last one was back in 1859. The world was in gas-light
then, and industry was powered by steam.

There was no telephone network, cellular or otherwise,
and the only satellite in orbit was the Moon.

So no aircraft, no GPS, no computers, no internet, and no
electricity, ergo no power stations.

Yes, solar superstorms happened in the
past, but it would merely have been a storm in a teacup.

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February 8, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Education, facebook, History, Humour, Religion, Science, The Walking Dead | , , , , | Leave a comment

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