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You see, it’s like this…

I suppose there’s no point having a friend in Old Blighty (that would be me) if you can’t get insight into current events out of it. Ummmm…so. A lot of American commentators are saying that Brits soured on the Iraq war after it went off badly.

Not so. They hated the Iraq war from the get-go and never wanted any part of it. Why should they? That it went badly was widely seen as inevitable, as the Brits (under both Labour and Tories) have cut their defense budget to the bone. They feel like they threw their boys into a meat grinder for no good reason.

Blair telling them they had to go to war or Saddam would use weapons of destruction right here in Britain was the kind of stupid scary story you tell kids to make them turn out the light and go to bed. That just added insult to death toll.

Oh, and speaking of insult, Barky started piling it on from “hello.” Forget the little things — the stupid bust of Churchill controversy, Her Maj’s iPod stuffed full of the Speeches of Chairman Obama — what really stings is the lack of support in the Falklands. Oh, and Kerry calling France America’s oldest ally tonight, that didn’t help.

So, without even going into Cameron’s failings, Syria was always going to be a hard sell.

I laugh whenever politicians talk about damaging the Special Relationship, though. They think it has something to do with them, and treaty obligations and shit like that. The Special Relationship is that we’re fundamentally the same people. Until almost the 19th C, we were fellow citizens. Well, subjects. We still watch each other’s TV and read each other’s novels in high school and follow each other’s newspapers.

This really happens: strangers hear my accent and come tell me about the vacation they took in Vegas or Disney Land or their kid who’s studying in Massachusetts. Politicians don’t own the relationship, and I get the feeling that pisses them off.

Right, then. Good weekend, all.

August 30, 2013 — 10:57 pm
Comments: 29


Didja see this? It’s the newest photo of the Loch Ness Monster. Hit the link if you care.

I never thought it was all that outlandish that there might be something big and uncatalogued in a remote Scottish lake. I never thought it was all that interesting, either.

I mean, unless it really is something awesome like a leftover plesiosaur.

But look here at the famous photo of Nessie, in its not so famous uncropped state. That doesn’t look much like a honking big dinosaur, does it?

That photo is known as the surgeon’s photo, because the doctor who took it refused to be identified by name for years.

On a more interesting note, a Google Images search on “surgeon’s photo” turned up a link to the Burns Archive of Historic Photos. From which is derived this CBS News slideshow of cancer images from the 19th C.

Warning: gross. Fascinating, but gross. Medical books always make me feel intensely grateful to my boring functional old bod.

August 29, 2013 — 9:45 pm
Comments: 15

And finally…

The circus. Our semi-official end of Summer.

We’ve been going to this one since before we lived down here, so it’s about as old a tradition as we have together.

This year’s show was excellent. I mean, for a little podunk small town circus. As usual, everybody did multiple acts, and when the jugglers weren’t juggling, they were selling balloons and popcorn.

Every year we hold our breath, waiting to see if the circus comes. The owner (and ringmaster) wants to keep going; the rest of the family is tired and wants to quit. That’ll be a sad year, my friends…

August 28, 2013 — 9:47 pm
Comments: 13


We’ve promised ourselves we’ll get out and Do Stuff as much as possible while the nice weather lasts, so today we took a field trip to Pevensey Castle. Haven’t been there in years.

This is an old one. It started its life as a Roman fort some time before AD 300, and it looks as though something big and pissed off has been teething on it ever since.

To the East is the Church of St Nicholas, where this man lies in effigy. They had held their flower festival over the long weekend, so the was church full of flower arrangements. Also, someone had laid close-cropped living turf down either side of the central aisle, so grass was growing in the church, for all the world like the opening chapter of Phantastes (a story that freaked infant me out a little). Spooky.

We walked West past the castle to the Church of St Mary, Westham, which calls itself the first church built by the Normans after the Conquest. Unfortunately, it was locked — which is quite unusual. I hope it doesn’t mean they’ve had vandalism trouble.

And we also visited the old courthouse and jail (now museum), which was being minded by a daft old Yorkshire woman, for some reason. There I bought a half crown from my birth year. And I gave the old lady two bantam eggs I discovered in my pocket (Violet laid them under the lavender), for her tea.

And then we went to Mickey D’s and had a Big Mac. The End.

August 27, 2013 — 9:41 pm
Comments: 30

The last of the village fêtes

It’s a long weekend here in the UK (euphoniously described as the August Bank Holiday), the last long weekend — believe it or not — until Christmas. Really, we need to jigger our vacation days around a little.

We went to two of the last village fêtes today. Probably the very last; must have Uncle B consult his calendar.

I bought a picture frame, a cut glass wineglass to drink my mead from and a little embroidered Chinese bag to put my pencils in. Uncle B bought a cherry pitter (don’t ask).

Also, I haggled with a bookseller. He wanted to sell me four hardback books for 40p, but I persuaded him to take a pound. Because that’s just the way it is here.

Yes, there was maggot racing. No, I didn’t bet on the maggots, though I believe Uncle B has played the slimy ponies in years past (and won).

On the way through Rye, we noticed the circus tent pitched in a field. The circus. That really is the very end of the season, right there.

Where did the Summer go?

August 26, 2013 — 9:22 pm
Comments: 38

Round 53: they’re dying to win this one

JC takes the dick with Elmore Leonard. Here’s an old NYT post (pinched from Ace‘s) on Leonard’s Rules for Writing. Dude hated him some adverbs. See? This is why I can’t write fiction. My dialogue is all retarded.

Okay, ready? Here we go:

0. Rule Zero (AKA Steve’s Rule): your pick has to be living when picked. Also, nobody whose execution date is circled on the calendar. Also, please don’t kill anybody.

1. Pick a celebrity. Any celebrity — though I reserve the right to nix picks I never heard of (I don’t generally follow the Dead Pool threads carefully, so if you’re unsure of your pick, call it to my attention).

2. We start from scratch every time. No matter who you had last time, or who you may have called between rounds, you have to turn up on this very thread and stake your claim.

3. Poaching and other dirty tricks positively encouraged.

4. Your first choice sticks. Don’t just blurt something out, m’kay?

5. It’s up to you to search the thread and make sure your choice is unique. I’m waayyyy too lazy to catch the dupes. Popular picks go fast.

6. The pool stays open until somebody on the list dies. Feel free to jump in any time. Noobs, strangers, drive-bys and one-comment-wonders — all are welcome.

7. If you want your fabulous prize, you have to entrust me with a mailing address. If you’ve won before, send me your address again. I don’t keep good records.

8. The new DeadPool will begin 6pm WBT (Weasel’s Blog Time) the Friday after the last round is concluded.

The winner, if the winner chooses to entrust me with a mailing address, will receive an Official Certificate of Dick Winning and a small original drawing on paper suffused with elephant shit particles. Because I’m all about giving.

August 23, 2013 — 6:00 pm
Comments: 125

I can too accessorize…!

Jake Cleland made this copy of a continental seax and it can be yours for £750.

Here’s something I discovered through my friends at the Steadfast Trust: this knife. It’s called a seax. It was common throughout Northwestern Europe. In Britain, a seax was carried by men and women alike, and was widely recognized as emblematic of their status as freeborn Englishfolk. (Not every Englishman was freeborn. At the time of the Domesday Book (1086), 10% of England’s population was slaves. There’s something I didn’t know until recently).

The seax is a single-edged blade with a thick, sometimes bent, spine, a narrow tang (the metal bit that extends into the handle) and a natural wood, bone or leather handle. The blade ranged from a few inches, used for eating and kitchen tasks, to a proper short sword almost two feet long. The seax was usually worn in a scabbard hanging from the belt, sharp side up, in front of the body.

Also, covered in runes. Check out the Seax of Beagnoth, fished out of the Thames in 1857 and now in the British Museum. “Beagnoth” was inscribed on it (probably either the smith or the owner) along with the only known complete inscription of the twenty-eight letter Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet. Because writing is magic.

Seax is the origin of the word Saxon. Also Middlesex, Wessex, Essex and Sussex. From the online OED:

Saxon (n.) c.1200, from Late Latin Saxonem (nominative Saxo; also source of French Saxon, Spanish Sajon, Italian Sassone), usually found in plural Saxones, from a Germanic source (cf. Old English Seaxe, Old High German Sahsun, German Sachse “Saxon”), with a possible literal sense of “swordsmen” (cf. Old English seax, Old Frisian, Old Norse sax “knife, short sword, dagger,” Old High German Saxnot, name of a war-god), from Proto-Germanic *sahsam “knife,” from PIE *sek- “to cut” (see section (n.)).

Also from the same entry:

Accordingly they all met at the time and place appointed, and began to treat of peace; and when a fit opportunity offered for executing his villany, Hengist cried out, “Nemet oure Saxas,” and the same instant seized Vortigern, and held him by his cloak. The Saxons, upon the signal given, drew their daggers, and falling upon the princes, who little suspected any such design, assassinated them to the number of four hundred and sixty barons and consuls ….

Um. We’re sorry? Say, that woke up some old braincells. I bet they don’t teach Hengist and Horsa in Middle School history any more.

Google Images is chock full of seax porn. There are tons of independent makers. Ooo, this is a nice one.

This is a lovely example, too. When Chrome translated that page from Polish to English, it informed me that “the vagina is no longer an accurate reconstruction.” So, ummm…I guess we know something about the Polish word for “sheath” now.

Anyway, I have to have one. No, a seax, you fool!

Remember: here. Tomorrow. Six sharp. Dead Pool Round 53!

August 22, 2013 — 10:51 pm
Comments: 23

No, YOU wear it to town

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “you couldn’t wear that here.” I know that’s what you’re thinking, because we’re all thinking it, because you couldn’t safely wear this anywhere, not even here in the heart of all things historically Anglo Saxon. Especially not here.

I bought this at Sissinghurst on Sunday, at a booth for an organization called the Steadfast Trust, a group with the perfectly uncontroversial aim of preserving English history and passing it on to English children.

Ha ha! Just kidding! It’s incredibly controversial!

Last year when we walked up to this booth, someone was chewing out the nice blonde lady behind the counter. Because I think how it works is, one minute you teach childrens how to thatch a roof and the next thing you know, coloreds have separate drinking fountains. Word.

I’m surprised the show organizers have allowed these people in for a second year (whether they were here before that, I don’t recall). The Smallholder’s Fair is very aspirational, not to say a bit twee, and this sort of thing…isn’t a good fit.

Oh, here’s the thing…the folks we chatted with at the booth were very nice, very earnest people. But the Left has made the very idea of an identity group based on Englishness (for which read: whiteness) so off limits that most decent people are afraid to come within miles. So, over time, organizations like this one will genuinely skew to the weird.

It’s a damn shame, but you know what? I don’t have the courage to push back, beyond buying a lapel pin I don’t have the balls to wear.

August 21, 2013 — 9:49 pm
Comments: 32

New Dead Pool coming atcha

Well, I’ll be damned — jc had Elmore Leonard in the Dead Pool. We don’t want to know how he knew that was coming, do we kids?

Jc, you want your prize, you cough up the goods. Everybody else, meet back here:

6 sharp WBT.
Dead Pool Round 53!

August 20, 2013 — 6:41 pm
Comments: 14

Good times, bad business models

Hey, I have some language trivia for you. In olden days, when a British family kept a pig, he’d be put in a pen down at the bottom of the garden and fattened all year. Then in the Fall, when the old boy was ready to go, a specialist hog butcher would go from house to house taking care of business. He’d set up out front, and the pig would be “led up the garden path” to his doooooom.

Zo! This weekend was the annual Smallholding Fair at Sissinghurst Castle. They’ve held it for four years now and, though it’s a trek for us, it’s a highlight of our late Summer. I don’t think we’ve missed one.

Technically, a smallholding is an agricultural concern that is bigger than an allotment and smaller than a farm. But really we’re talking middle class people with a vegetable patch and six chickens who love artisanal beers, free chutneys on stinky cheeses and rustic garden furniture made from railroad ties and ploughshares. In other words, us.

This is something we see an awful lot of down here. People whose first career was marketing or engineering or nursing — people who did pretty well for themselves, in other words — who retire to the country at just past their peak and decide to open a little shop. Or weave blankets. Or throw pots. Or raise rare breed hogs. Or brew beer or bake cakes or make soap or forge knives or cane chairs.

And they make absolutely gorgeous stuff…for as long as they can make a go of it. Most of them crash and burn after a year or two. Problem is, they expect to make middle-class money out of old-fashioned working class trades. They charge eye-watering money and still barely manage to cover expenses, let alone what they believe their time is worth. The ones that survive end up modulating their expectations — and working harder than they ever thought possible, back in the days they sat in cubicles.

Anyway, these are our people — in many cases, literally our friends and neighbors — and we love to turn out and pay stupid money for their high class gee-gaws and listen to lectures on the difference between cyder and cider.

There was a fancy beer tent. ‘Nuff said.

August 19, 2013 — 10:30 pm
Comments: 26