Filed under: Parenting, Politics, Travel | Tags: Bangor, Bangor County Down, Edward Bingham, Jutland, Sir Roger Casement, U19
So we are going to commemorate the Battle of Jutland. The expression ‘celebrate the centenary’ seems inappropriate when so many thousands of young men died. Many burned to death, many more drowned, trapped between the decks of their sinking ships. So many died that, at the time, the British people felt it was a defeat. It was a victory only because it kept the German fleet in port for the remainder of the war.
For me, as a child in the Fifties Jutland just had something to do with a gun. Coming up to the centenary of the battle I remembered that the gun I climbed on as a child had something to do with Jutland. I couldn’t remember the connection and so I looked it up. I had always thought that the submarine from which the gun in Ward Park in Bangor came, had been sunk at Jutland. Today I learned that the submarine U19 had been scrapped at the end of the war. Her gun was given to the people of Bangor County Down in recognition of the actions of Commander Edward Bingham at the Battle of Jutland.
I was quite excited to discover that the U19 had been the submarine who landed the Irish revolutionary hero Sir Roger Casement at Banna Strand in 1916. I hadn’t known that when I was swinging on the gun barrel or turning the various wheels that no longer performed a useful function. Personally for me the significance of 1916 lies in the Proclamation of The Irish Republic, but that gun reminds me that every event, everything is connected. Indeed were it not for the Battle of Jutland I wouldn’t have been able to swing on the U19 gun. And had it not been for that memory I wouldn’t know of its connection with Sir Roger Casement. On the other hand the whole point of this piece has really been to share a happy childhood memory of Bangor in the Nineteen Fifties.
Filed under: Scotland | Tags: Desert Island Discs, Honey Bee, In the Ghetto, Ina Mina Dika, Joe Hill, Kirsty Young, Kishore Kumar, Mozart, Paul Robeson, Queen of the Night's aria, Roy Plomley, Steampunk Giraffe, The Magic Flute, Walk The Line
Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed listening to Desert Island Discs back then it was on the BBC Home Service which didn’t become Radio Four until the late Nineteen Sixties. Back then it was presented by its creator Roy Plomley, but for various reasons I was an infrequent listener. These days I listen most weeks. Since Roy Plomley’s retirement there have been several presenters the latest,Kirsty Young. However the program’s tried and tested formula remains unchanged. I think some of its appeal is the memories it evokes of the days when the radio gradually came to life and the valves within lit up the corner of the room, a time when radio stations didn’t have numbers but exotic names like Athlone and Hilversum and the BBC Stations I listened to were the Home Service and the Light Programme. There was a time when Radio was magical, it’s still frequently more entertaining than television.
The guests on Desert Island Discs are not just the usual cast of celebrities, but of leaders in their fields, many unknown to the general public. The guest chooses eight pieces of music that they would want with them if marooned on a desert island, pieces that have significance for them and as the program unfolds the presenter interviews them about their choices and so their life and careers are revealed to the listener. As well as their music they choose a book and a luxury, but most important is the music. I think as well as learning about the guest the listener is always left wondering what their own choices would be. I find my list of eight changes week by week. Were I asked today I think this would be my play list.
A new introduction would be Honey Bee by Steampunk Giraffe, who I have only recently discovered, but am going to see soon.
I would have to have at least one song from Indian Cinema. There are so many I love, but I think I will choose Ina Mina Dika by Kishore Kumar. Kishore Kumar is one of my heroes not only was he a singer, but also a songwriter, actor, writer and director, one of cinema’s great comedians.
I have to have at least one Johnny Cash song and I would generally choose Walk The Line because it makes me think of my wife.
And for my wife I would have to have an Elvis song as we both like him and have done for a lifetime. But what to choose, they are all so good (well perhaps some of the film songs are a bit naff.). If I only choose one I think I’ll take ‘In the Ghetto‘ because it reminds me of the underlying depths behind the facade presented by the films.
There has to be some Mozart. Again it’s so hard to choose so I’m going to plump for the Queen of the Night’s ariafrom The Magic Flute because it just leaves me awestruck.
There must be a Beatle song because they were such a big part of my childhood. There are so many songs, so different, it’s very difficult to choose one. I’ll go right off the wall and choose The Ballad of John and Yoko…no scratch that I’ll have…no, no…okay I’m going to choose the lyrical While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
Oh no only two left, what about The Mavericks, Dylan, Joan Baez, Chris James, Strauss (played by Andre Rieu)? I’m going to choose Hamish MacCunn’s The Land of the Mountain and the Flood because wherever I am it will remind me of Scotland.
My last choice after reflection is going to be Paul Robeson singing Joe Hill because Paul Robeson was one of my father’s favourites and Joe Hill is one of the greatest Socialist Anthems.
There are so many songs I love that ten minutes from now my list may change, but it’s always fun playing Desert Island Discs, why don’t you try to pick eight songs you must have in your life, and then give thanks that you are not limited to eight pieces of music?
Filed under: disability, Gardening, Health, Justice, NLP, Parenting, personal development, Poetry, Politics, Religion, success, Writing | Tags: Hamlet, heroes, humanity, Shakespeare, superpowers, X Men
“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!” (Hamlet Act 2, scene 2)
Today I saw ‘X Men: Apocalypse’. It is one of many super hero films and television programs being released this year and as good a piece of entertainment as any. However I am aware that for many people I super heroes are not so much entertainment as an aspiration. There are actually people who want to be vampires, would you believe? Along the cosplayers whose pleasure is creativity there are those who really do want to be a Jedi or a super hero.
I am not going to condemn anyone who is not happy with who they are, I spent many, many years thinking I was on the wrong planet and very uncomfortable around humans. I do think it a little sad when people are unhappy with their humanity. I can appreciate the anguish of those who know they were born in the wrong body, but while they may need to change their gender they still want to be human. What I find sad is that people don’t relish being human and celebrate it. Sad that people reject the value of their own lives because of some distorted value placed upon celebrity, political power or wealth.
I suppose there is much that is done by some humans that sparks, rightly, horror and rejection in anyone with an ounce of compassion or sensitivity. However there is so much in humanity to be celebrated. Look at our arts and architecture, our literature, our music. For every serial killer, suicide bomber or Tory politician, there is someone risking their lives to save others, there is someone working to cure disease, to end poverty, end injustice. Yes there are evil and selfish people in the world. I believe it is because they are an aberration they impinge so much on our awareness. The majority of humans live our lives of quiet heroism carrying for their families, friends, and communities. And there are many who stand out as real heroes, men and women of courage who risk ridicule, rejection, even death to make the world a better place. People prepared to ask questions and challenge established ideas. People prepared to give of themselves, whatever the personal cost, for the good of us all.
You don’t need superpowers, fame or money to be a hero just the will to be the best you you can be. You don’t need political position or wealth to change the world, you don’t even need a God, you just need people, people who care about others.