Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Little Engine That Could

The Washington Nationals.

A team that in 2005 crawled away from the godforsaken poverty of being the Montreal Expos to move to Washington D.C., becoming the first baseball team in the USA's capital city since the almost equally godforsaken Washington Senators left in 1956.

A team even their fans wrote off at the end of the 2018 season when they failed in the playoffs for the umpteenth year in a row.

A team that subsequently sold a couple of key players - starting with the great batter Bryan Harper - and who everybody assumed had gone into rebuilding, aiming at getting good again circa 2021/22.

A team that had won just 19 of their first 50 games this season by May 23rd, just a few weeks after the season started.

A team that could not even win their division, coming second to the Atlanta Falcons with 93 wins in the season, and who were therefore a Wildcard team.

A team that some how, some way, beat the Brewers in the all-or-nothing one-off Wildcard game, and then went on to beat the over-powering LA Dodgers (106 season wins) and sweep the St Louis Cardinals.

A team that were total underdogs against one of the best teams in baseball, the Houston Astros - 2017 World Series Champions and with the best record in baseball this year of 107 season wins...

... have won their first ever World Series.

For seven innings it looked hopeless as they scored just one hit off an Astros pitcher who looked totally in control, throwing just 74 pitches into the 7th inning. At the same time the Astros put the squeeze on the National's great pitcher Scherzer, putting two men on base with nobody out or one out in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th innings and scoring two runs. Scherzer was lucky it was only two.

But a Nationals solo home run, followed by a walk in the 7th inning saw the Astros starting pitcher pulled - and from that point on the Nationals just got better and better. In the end they cruised to a 6-2 win.

Like most New Zealanders I root for the underdog. So two years ago I wanted the Astros to win their first ever World Series. This year it was the Nationals - and to come back from such seemingly hopeless positions all season, as the undoubted underdog at every stage, just made it even sweeter.

Well done guys.

Now I just want the Cubs to beat the shit out of you next season!

Almost As Bad As Melbourne

This mornings temperatures

0650          13.3
0700          10.8
0758          14.2
0830          15.0
0920          12.3

Accompanied by 50 kph wind gusts and hail showers.

People are complaining this is the coldest start to summer in decades.

Must be all that global warmenising.

It's Halloween Boys and Girls!

Growing up in New Zealand meant that Halloween was some strange, exotic and definitely foreign thing that we saw referenced in the cartoons we watched and read, as well as other TV shows. I have vivid memories of the Charlie Brown TV special that introduced Linus's sad dream of sitting in the pumpkin patch waiting for The Great Pumpkin to rise in order to bring presents to children.

Not until I got to live and work in the USA did I realise how big a thing it is and how much Americans, with their characteristic Joie De Vivre approach to life, get into it. It's not just for little kids.

But what has made me really laugh is the degree to which Halloween has become a thing here in NZ, at least in Auckland and Wellington.

Naturally my family is all into it, although with the kids being too old for Trick-or-Treating, it's slowing down a bit now as the burden falls more on me to prep the place.

You see it's not just the people who get into costume - it's the houses. Here's some of my faves:

The pirate ship crashing out of the garage is probably my No.1. The amount of work required is ... daunting. But these others aren't bad.

Stuck in my favourite decade!

I actually copied the UFO one as best I could a couple of years ago, with plywood, canvas and aluminium spray paint producing a good result, though I couldn't figure out how to build or find a clear, plastic dome for the centre of the spaceship.

Oh well!

Of course if you have an old-fashioned looking house then it makes things easier, especially in giving it that Monster House look.

But even modern houses can be made to look pretty cool, as the following  examples show.

And then there's the lawn art, which can be effectively and cheaply done with little more than black plastic bags, cardboard for fake gravestones, wire netting and so forth..
Lawn Ghost done with wire netting

Witches from Black Plastic & Op Shop stuff.

Right. Well having been inspired I'd better go get ours set up so the local kids will know where to go. Last year was a zero effort!
I figure the usual dry ice ready to go with hot water. The youngest is carving a pumpkin to sit atop one bowl on the porch so that gas will leak out through the eyeballs. Ghosts to float in the front yard and the usual gravestones - last year's still usable if beaten up.
I also have the stereo system set up in the front living room with all the horror noises ready to go at 45 on the Power Amp with the windows wide open. Chains sliding, wolves howling, Mad Scientists cackling, bells tolling,.....
The little ones can get a bit frightened but their parents, especially the Dads, love it. The teenage girls just scream.
Oh - and candy. Lots and lots of candy.
 …. Come in little ones. Be corrupted by America……
Heh, heh, heh.


In a first comment on my post on the tactics being used to defeat Trump by the increasingly erratic and socialist Democrat Party having failed totally so far and now apparently having reached a conclusion they will not succeed in a years time using the Ballot Box, Steppen Wolf in a rant that only exposed a revealing ongoing case of TDS closed with an advisory I should concern myself with matters I knew something about such as the cost of Sherry at Four Square.

In that moronic attempt at ridicule Wolf revealed a disconnect and shallow mental ability.
Four Square last time I checked does not retail Fortified Wine, only Wine and Beer.

Just saying

Election influencing.......

Boris Johnson has just announced that parliament will be dissolved on the 5th of November.... . I knew he was a bit miffed ..but.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Oh to be a Gay Englishmen in America

Andrew Sullivan is one of the few gadflys of US political commentary. An eager immigrant to the USA from Britain in the 1980's he gloried in what he felt was a better gay scene in the US, despite the supposedly worse homophobia of the general population.

He has always incorporated a number of conflicting aspects. A longtime passionate advocate of gay marriage, he's also a serious practicing Roman Catholic. HIV-positive, he once advertised for anal sex with other HIV-positive men, getting a lot of criticism from the gay community. He supported the Iraq War and George Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 and strongly argued against Islamic cultures that persecute gays. But then he shifted away from the GOP and supported Obama in 2008 and 2012. And there's a lot more like that.

Still, such characters are interesting precisely because they can't be pigeonholed. Sullivan has recently entered the fray around transgender issues and to say the least, as a gay man he's not happy with the recent bolshiness of the trans community.

So his recent take on comparing Boris Johnson and Donald Trump is worth reading in The Difference Between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.
First up, he deals with Brexit:
It’s clear to me now — as it should be to any dispassionate observer — that the pro-Remain parliamentary and media elites in all parties have never had any intention of honoring the result of the 2016 referendum. And they still don’t. They are sabotaging that democratic decision simply because they did not like the result, and they’re too chicken to take that case to the polls. So they’re keeping this zombie minority government in power, while preventing it from achieving its primary goal indefinitely. For all this, in my view, they deserve nothing but contempt.
But the following passage is an example of Sullivan's ability to see both sides of an issue as he reveals how strongly he supports the idea of Britain being an EU member - recalling wearing a "Britain in Europe" button to school during the original 1975 referendum - and describes the economic damage he thinks leaving will cause, and that he would vote Remain again if given the choice.
But, call me crazy, I also believe in abiding by the result of legitimate national, democratic votes. Upholding that principle, even when it goes against our own strong wishes and personal vote, is foundational to liberal democracy. And retroactively nullifying by waiting out a referendum result solely because you lost is unacceptable, period. Consistently bullshitting about your own motives thereafter is contemptible. Preventing a new election in order to keep a zombie government in power, even when it is begging to be put out of its misery, is unprecedented. 
Yes, I’ve become radicalized. But anyone who believes in democracy or national sovereignty should be radicalizing every day this anti-democratic stonewalling farce continues.
It would be great if more Remainers were equally honest and decent about this process rather than screwing democratic results while at the same gaslighting people about how the EU and British Remainers are supporting democracy.

He then goes on to write about another political shitstorm, the one across the Atlantic in his adopted nation; Trump and Impeachment.
But while both stories provide a pretty good analysis, it’s marred by two things.
First, Sullivan fails to make the connection between an elite in Britain and Europe that has refused to accept the 2016 referendum Brexit result in Britain – and the same sort of trans-Atlantic elites in the US who have simply refused to accept that Trump won the 2016 Presidential election. The “throw-sand-in-the-gears” approach of the vote losers is also the same in both cases, but Sullivan simply ignores that in the case of the USA.
Second, Sullivan has a history of getting unhinged about “oik” candidates. He really came unglued about the last one who was a precursor  to Trump – Sarah Palin. For months he banged on about how her baby, Trig, was actually her daughter’s. It was a different kind of “birther” conspiracy and he got labelled, "The Trig Truther".

I can't recall any gay man ever being so obsessed with one woman’s vagina!

Finally, there is Sullivan as an example of where politics can lead the human soul. He provides a synopsis of each Democrat candidate, which Kiwiblog boiled down further:
  • Joe Biden: confused, addled, over-briefed, and clearly past his expiration date as a politician.
  • Bernie Sanders: appealing to millennial Marxists who have no memory of the 1970s.
  • Elizabeth Warren: unelectable by pledging to rip everyone off their current private health insurance. A supercilious, smug, know-it-all Massachusetts liberal who reveals contempt for the deplorables.
  • Cory Booker: On paper, he’s perfect. In reality, he comes off as an earnest cyborg from outer space.
  • Kamala Harris:  a feckless, authoritarian, lying opportunist who treats the Constitution as cavalierly as Trump, but without his excuse of total ignorance.
  • Tulsi Gabbard: despised by too many Dems to have a hope.
  • Amy Klobuchar: a ball of nerves and insecurity who seems to shrink upon exposure.
  • Beto O’Rourke: a woke, moronic bigot, who believes we live in a white-supremacist country....Of all the candidates, he’s the only one I actively loathe.
  • Julian Castro: an open-borders globalist panderer dedicated to the vital cause of free abortions for transgender male illegal immigrants.
Ok. So it's a hopeless field of candidates, but then we get this:
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll vote for anyone, including Warren or Sanders or even the vacuous “Beto” to defeat Trump. We proud human scum will not be distracted from the central task at hand.
Wait! Only "Vacuous"?  No, no, no.

You, Mr Sullivan, said that "Beto" was "a woke, moronic bigot" that you "actively loathe". But you would still vote for such a person if the alternative is Trump, who is presumably an unwoke, moronic bigot that you actively loathe? And here I thought you hated all the woke bullshit?

Not to mention the implication that you would vote for Harris, a person you describe as knowingly treating the Constitution "cavalierly". Surely such a person is more dangerous - especially when she's also a "feckless, authoritarian" - than one who acts out of ignorance? She certainly was to Californians she prosecuted.

The whole concept of, vote-for-the-candidate-who-will-push-your-central-political-idea-irrespective-of-anything-else, remains intact, if unmentioned. 

Which is worth remembering the next time you're confronted by some yowling, screaming ethical and moral void trying to pull the usual game of moral and ethical one-upmanship by telling you that you can't possibly vote for a given candidate because "they're the worst person ever (sob)".

As in much of life the answer is, "sez you".

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

You cannot recreate the past......

Believe it or not there is a ray of sunshine that Brexit has brought to the EU.  Marine Le Pen the feisty leader of the hard right National Rally party ( Nee National Front) of France has abandoned any thought of running on a Frexit ticket as the polls show that an overwhelming number of people would not support or vote for it. Even her own people have told her to drop it.

One of the main reasons, apart from Le Pen accepting a big wedge of Russian cash and a court ruling that she misused EU funds and has to repay 300,000 euros out of her own kick is that the French far right have taken a really close look at their far right brothers in arms across the border in Germany and don’t like what they see.

The Austrian far right Freedom Party makes them break out into cold sweat as the last Austrian leader to visit France did not leave a good impression and nicked four million bottles of halfway decent plonk.

France has the control of most road movement in the EU and the Italian far right are having a bit of trouble explaining to their rapidly shrinking business base that on an Itexit they would have to pay large surcharges to deliver goods to the UK or Spain on the excellent French autoroute system.... and so the Brexit lessons are becoming apparent with cost and time analyses being done by the bean counters. Traffic movement across the Alsace border is right up there with Dover and any disruption will cause permanent tailbacks right through some of the most picturesque villages in Europe.

Of course we wont mention the thing that Italians are not very good at...queuing, bugger I just said passport controls for Italian holiday makers flying to Spain or Greece or anywhere for that matter is not something the general public has thought about very much......aah, lets just leave it to the crazy Brits.

Forty years of urban sprawl and industrial estates have swallowed up old border posts, on the Spanish, Belgium and German borders the old demarcation line runs down main streets similar to Tweed Heads NSW/QLD border to those who know it. Borders now are all in the mind and the battle for peoples minds on Social media by competing interests are about to get nasty and the first rule is to demonise the enemy and strip them of any vestige of humanity.

Trolling Level - Grandmaster

A Tweet so good it even had one anti-Trump right-winger writing the following:
How much did I enjoy this tweet? Put it this way: I’m thinking of voting for him next year now.
Although he did follow-up by saying: "The dog, I mean. Not Trump."

I did appreciate some of his other comments...
Word on the street is that his name is Conan. Another Conan once famously said that the best experience in life is 
“to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”
Conan the dog actually did that two days ago, bro. 
I like to imagine the photo was taken 10 minutes after the raid, in fact. He looks happy because he just got done burying Baghdadi’s femur.
Still,  not liking Trump, he could not resist this last crack, which is entirely accurate...
What if Conan is ultimately revealed to be a Never Trumper? In that case, Trump will tweet that the dog is highly overrated and actually contributed nothing to the Baghdadi raid.


The swamp is upset Trump did not tell the Dumbocrats about the raid to remove Baghdadi  from his role as a butcher of ISIS.

In their latest moves to undermine the duly elected President - based on the minor fact he defeated "She who was ordained" - The Dumbarse Dims have avoided beginning Impeachment by a House resolution, taking "evidence" in secret and then leaking everything anti-Trump and hiding anything that might weaken their improbable effort.

Had the House leadership gone with protocol they would have given Trump an ability to maintain the long-held assumption of innocence and the right of his legal team to carry out discovery and the  opportunity to cross examine witnesses in public forum. But that is something the House Democrat leadership did not wish to do.

How surprising then, in such a toxic atmosphere that has many Americans questioning the loyalty of the Anti-Trump brigade, that he withheld such explosive security information until the successful withdrawal of the Special Operations troops involved!

I understand the Dems have decided the only way to defeat Trump is to remove him - before the Obama operatives who treated the law with total impunity in the strong belief they would never face discovery from a Clinton Presidency come up against Barr and Durham for their day of reckoning.

It was significant in recent days when Attorney General Barr elevated that investigation to Criminal. That move increased underwear laundry costs in Washington DC.

America's new Paper of Record

At least it seems that way as satirical website The Babylon Bee, maintains its track record of puncturing the inflated egos and puffed up pretensions of the US MSM.

Washington Post To Run All Headlines By In-House ISIS Marketing Rep

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In order to ensure all headlines about Islamic terrorism are culturally sensitive and do not offend any brave freedom fighters in the Middle East, The Washington Post has retained an ISIS marketing representative. 
All headlines published about terrorism will be run by the marketing rep. The PR rep was immediately put to work as headline writers worked to come up with a sensitive take on the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 
"Do you think we should call him an extremist terrorist leader or is that considered offensive?" one intern asked the representative, Aarif al-Samarrai, in a brainstorming session Sunday. 
An angered Samarrai began firing his AK-47 into the air and screamed, "ALLAHU AKBAR!" at this suggestion, apparently not happy with the angle. Post writers frantically tried to come up with different headlines to appease him,...
Sure it's satire, but nowadays it's increasingly hard to tell the difference between that and the published news.

I liked this one too, although it's not from The Babylon Bee because even they're not this mean.

Fake - but accurate:

A picture paints a thousand words........

The situation room 2011.......real humans watching online realtime judicial killings and worried about the human cost to their own. Look at the faces.

The situation room 2019......a 1960's politburo meeting is in progress. Look at the faces

Monday, October 28, 2019

Die MSM, Die 2.3 - The Narrative of the Saintly Terrorist

If you were under any doubts as to the degradation, uselessness and sheer assholery of the US MSM then today's Washington Post effort to write an obituary for the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the latest example.

Yes! Really

The thing is that they had actually produced an accurate headline the first time up, where he was described factually as the "terrorist in chief" of ISIS.

And then they changed it to the above. Incredible. I would love to know what the discussions were behind the scenes on this change. Was the first too judgmental? Too "othering"? Too colonialist? Too redolent of White Privilege and Western European superiority? Too much of a deviation from "One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Freedom Fighter"? Too positive for Trump?

FFS - this piece of human garbage was the religious, philosophical and political inspiration and leader of ISIS, a group of Islamic Jihadists that gleefully terrorised a good chunk of the Middle East for several years by killing men, woman and children in the most brutal ways they could find. Who can forget the shit they "advertised" across the Internet, with men in Orange jumpsuits paraded before the cameras before a mass head slicing routine. Or the Jordanian fighter pilot they captured who was put in a cage and burned alive. Not to mention the untold thousands of Christians, Yazidis and Muslims they slaughtered to build their "Caliphate".

And yet the hatred for Trump, the President of the US who demanded that Baghdadi be found and who ordered the raid on him, is so great, so visceral, so unhinged, that even a supposed sober and mainstream media publication like the WaPo could not help trying to cleanse Baghdadi in order to prevent Trump getting the same win treatment that Obama did with Osama Bin Laden's killing.

About the only good thing to come out the WaPo's fantastically stupid coverage is the stream of Twitter responses they got. Here's my favourites:

And my absolute fave....

Apparently the WaPo is still shameable - slightly - because after getting humiliated on Twitter they changed the title for a third time.

Too late fucktards. Hours too late. We know how you think because you showed us.

When Socialists Run A Business

I heard an odd story the other day.

Apparently, about forty years ago one of the BBC's symphony orchestras operated a policy of docking a player's pay if one of them played a wrong note during a performance. 

Image result for bbc welsh symphony orchestra

I thought that was quite remarkable.

My initial reaction was 'the bastards would never get away with that today!'   Later, I wondered who decided which player had played a wrong note.  Further, what recourse did a player have in the event of a false accusation?

This was Naziism at its finest and all for what?

The best players simply walked out as there was no longer any enjoyment to be had from the act of performing.

Don't bring dogs into this fight you utter bastard...

There is no cartoon appropriate for this..... I have greatest love of dogs and I’m sure a cross Cocker and Collie ( not the Brightest) would make a better President.

“[Baghdadi] running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said.

Cornered, Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest and killed himself and three of his children, Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” he said.

Trump thanked the governments of Russia, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, ( Yeah, well he would) as well as the Syrian Kurdish forces, for their assistance. US special forces reached the compound onboard eight helicopters that flew through Russian-controlled airspace with Moscow’s permission, he said, while the Kurds provided intelligence. (S'cuse me Vlad, can we fly over "your" airspace WTF)

Trump again, this time with American dogs who apparently don’t “die like dogs”.

“The compound had to be cleared at this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed,” he said. “Eleven young children were moved out of the house and are uninjured.
“The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to a certain death. He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down.

To dance or not to dance......

Ah.. the Haka, where would we be without the Haka? Unfortunately it’s turning out to be a double edged sword  because it now invites ridicule and derision. This is a natural reaction to something that played potent mind games with the opponents for so many years where you had to stand back and respect the cultural traditions.....that may have been true at one time but it’s utter bollocks now.

Culture my arse, somebody like Retallick who could not name single English player last time out of the blocks would have vocabulary of about twenty Maori words....all place names.

It’s overdone, overplayed and overhyped, Youtube is inundated with Haka’s, at the drop of a hat a Haka appears. ....Donald Trump has just pulled out of Syria...OMG quickly lets do a Haka.

 The smile on Owen Farrell’s face said it all and the fact that  where there used be silence there is unremitting noise, so much so that they might as well be chanting a Mongolian mating ritual. My particular dislike are Haka’s at “ramp” ceremonies where the military dead are offloaded.......if it were my son I would be upset if he were met by a bunch of Roman catholic priests chanting in Latin and as he is not Maori why is that culture inflicted on him just because he is in the military.

There is photo of the English pack having a team talk  ( lost it in a crash) where someone has put in a speech bubble.......” Very soon some men will come out dancing, don’t be afraid, they are not dangerous”.........98 seconds.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Ho Ho Ho

stilton’s place, stilton, political, humor, conservative, cartoons, jokes, hope n’ change, national period day, menstruation, beto o'rourke, menstrual equity act, tampons

Saturday, October 26, 2019


On her appointment as Prime Minister by Winston she was clearly not prepared in any way shape or form going on to make some rather lofty and entirely false assertions that she would somehow be different and better.
Feelz and talk were high on the agenda but to promise "The Most Transparent Government Ever" was doomed to be a manifestation of her equally stupid claim  "There was no need to lie in politics".
Everyone now knows and understands  her ideas on lying are somewhat at odds with those of us who value Truth and Honesty at levels far higher than she does.

Back to Transparency, a quick scanning of Farrars Blog alerted me by way of a comment from "Slightlyrighty" on Treasury wonks jousting with the dark side operatives to suppress exposure of some embarrassing machinations by that most transparent administration

Perhaps small clue was a bit of an understatement, more accurately the latest boulder in an ongoing rockslide that for any administration before a Fairy Princess was elevated would have had a clamour from all and sundry for the charade to end and normality to be restored.

To a one the entire administration has an aversion to truth and honesty.  Labour,  Winston First and the Melons have discovered exposure to be a minor impediment to their over-riding drive to treat the People and those bold enough in the Media as minions who have no right to be informed just how inane and stupid the coalition of losers actually is.
Of course a growing number of voters are coming to the realisation  how out of their depth they are.  
It is afflicting the few persons who have some time served under their belt but still choose to wilfully go along with the total misinformation and outright lying that seems so easily adopted.
Mallard as Speaker, Ardern as Part Time Prime Minister, Winston First the michaelivalian master manipulator, Twyford who would be astonished if a shred of honesty ever appeared before him, and Now Robertson who established his creds for honesty when he stared down the lens of a TV camera and asserted his squeeze,Alf could not attend the function while Alf walked through the shot carrying a jug of beer. 

The "Year of Delivery is delivering for sure but the product is having to be discounted with every day that passes.


Most definitely yes .... but not the present operating model.     I get to travel a fair bit around the country and, wherever time permits, I make a point of dropping by the local RSA club.    With a few notable exceptions most are struggling to survive and I predict the next few years will see many more closures.   Up here in the Far North the Keri2 RSA closed its doors last year; in July the Kaikohe RSA went belly up while the Russell RSA is doing it hard.

RNZRSA two decades ago recognised they had a problem and commissioned the M&M report to chart a way forward.    IMHO it was too little, too late and failed to recognise the  'club' operating model was broken and that no amount of rebranding will fix it?  People's lifestyles have changed.   What might have worked for baby boomers and earlier doesn't cut the mustard with Generation X let alone the Millennials or the Post-Millennials.

The focus of RNZRSA must be on welfare, commemmorations and advocacy to government with welfare being the prime focus going where VANZ can't/won't.    Welfare support can be delivered through Regional hubs comprising a mixture of paid staff and volunteers.   Commemorations can be managed nationally and regionally while advocacy is a national office function.

In respect of the latter and in recent years it has been lacking running a poor second to the Minister's Veterans Advisory Board.    The concept behind the Board was admirable but the reality is that the Minister controls the agenda.   RNZRSA needs to cover off the gap by providing full and frank advice to the Minister on matters of concern to the veteran community regardless of whether the advice will be welcomed or not.

I know there are others who share my views.   I suspect however they will be a bridge too far for some mired in the past.    The challenge for RNZRSA is to embrace change and make the running or have change forced upon them by events outside their control in which case everyone will be the loser.

And one final message for Wellington ... get your act together ... having your Board Chair and CE resign within days of each in somewhat bizarre circumstances suggests you had/have a governance problem.    You had better sort that out quick smart.

Rugby World Cup - Semi Finals

Down to the last four now and had French lock Yahaamahina kept his elbow in check I would have correctly picked the four participating teams from the quarter finals. South Africa, England and the All Blacks were all easy winners but the Wales v France game was tight with France having the upper hand until reduced to 14 men for the last 30 minutes of the game and even then Wales were lucky to have the winning try awarded after what seemed a clear knock on and offside in the try scoring movement. Now to the semis.

All Blacks v England
Some scribes say that this match up should be the final but personally I don't think England are that good. Eddie Jones talks a big game but I think they will struggle to stay with an All Black team which still has some improvement even after a dominating performance against Ireland. Charlie Saxton preached that rugby was about the 3 P's - possession, position and pace and there is no doubt that if the All Blacks get sufficient possession the other two will take care of themselves. England on the other hand will be very conservative and look to dominate field position and give themselves the opportunity to kick goals.

I am expecting a very big game from Brodie Retallick while Scott Barrett has been selected at 6 to do a job in the lineout and around the fringes. With George Ford at 10 for England they will do a lot of kicking and readers of this blog will know how dangerous it is to kick the ball to the All Blacks.

All Blacks by 14.
Referee is Nigel Owen (Wales).

Wales v South Africa
Neither side was very dominant in their Quarter Final but I think South Africa will be too big, too strong and have a greater will to win than Wales. Players like du Toit and Vermeulan in the loose forwards are likely to over power their smaller Welsh opposites while I expect Handre Pollard to control the game far better than he did in the Quarter Final. I wonder about the pace of the Welsh team - we all know that when in New Zealnd Hadleigh Parkes was a ponderous tradesman in the mid field and last week the French No7 outpaced and ran away from George Northe to score his try.

South Africa by 16.
Referee is Jerome Garces (France).

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Strangeness of History

I'd had our trip to Italy planned for over a year, and mostly booked for two months, before I realised that there was one possible side-trip we could do almost purely by accident.

On one day we would be driving between the coastal towns of Riomaggiore and Portofino, passing through a larger town called Chiavari, which is on the blue line in the upper left of this picture.

And it just so happens that near Chiavari in 1941/42 my Dad was a POW in PG52: Campo di concentramento per Prigionieri di Guerra no. 52. Perhaps I'd be able to visit whatever memorial existed for the camp, if any. Investigations began and produced the following website sub-section, Camp52, Chiavari.

Modern day site of Campo PG52 

And that in turn produced many interesting snippets of information, including where the camp had been located, a few miles inland from the town.

But most important was the information that a small museum dedicated to the POW camp had been set up in Chiavari. It was part of a larger military museum located in the base of the Scuola Telecomunicazioni Forze Armate - the School of Telecommunications Armed Forces.

But even more important was the information provided by one commentator who visited the original site in 2007:

The camp was beside the bridge and bordered the river. Believe it or not we met the Italian Camp Commandant (then 92 - in 2007), he struck us as being a nice man. He, nor his 2 sons could speak english, and my italian is limited, however, he had the original books, in pristine condition, recording all the names of the PG52 POW's.
Campo PG52 as it was in 1942.
And later in the thread came the information that some years later, after the old man died, his sons had passed all those books and other memorabilia to the little museum, and that this included the original POW index cards, according to another poster writing twelve years later.
Lt. Zavatteri, the adjutant at the time of the armistice, took away what I have always understood to be the entire collection of prisoner of war records on 9/10 September 1943 or thereabouts - before the Germans arrived to take over the camp. When Lt. Zavatteri died his son gave the material to the Communications Museum.
I had to see if Dad's was one of them. I'd made the whole day available for the drive anyway, to allow time for photostops, lunch and so forth. An unhurried day of some 94kms driving narrow, coastal roads: three hours if we did not stop at all. I had the time and finding the place would be easy in these days of Siri and Google Maps.

We arrived at about 1pm and there was the base as advertised. We pulled straight in and a guard opened the gate and let us park. Some confusion followed as he looked at my hand-written notes, then made a phone call. A few minutes later a bloke in his fifties, wearing the uniform of an Italian Naval Officer, turned up on a bicycle and explained in fairly good English that visitors were allowed to see the museum only with a letter of invitation.

My heart fell for a second.

Then he smiled and told me that since we had come all the way from "Nuova Zelanda", he would allow us in, at which point we were introduced to Warrant Officer Venuto who would be our escort, since it's still an active military base.

A few minutes and many keys later, we were inside. The museum, which is predictably enough dedicted to the history of Italian military telecommunications, occupies an entire building. Warrant Officer Venuto was very proud of the place and enjoyed showing us around the other sections as well. All very cool - but I was keen to get to my real objective: the PG52 archives, built into a bedroom-sized annex.

PG52 Archive Collection

In this photo you can see the boxes of index cards at the bottom of the picture, with a large photo of the camp on the wall above it and shelves of memorabilia like helmets, canteens and boxing gloves. Not seen on the right is a pair of shoes made by the prisoners, which was a pretty sad reflection on the sparse life of a POW.

Having said that, Dad had no real complaints about either of the Italian camps, which were run efficiently but without the edginess of German camps.

The POW Index Cards

A couple of minutes searching through the boxes and there it was: my Dad's POW card, created when he entered the camp in December 1941. That's the red one sticking out in the picture to the right.

And below is the card itself.

There's a lot more information on it than on the German one Dad filched from the Commandant's office at Stalag IVB in 1945 just after the Germans fled and before the Red Army arrived. The capture date here is likely out by a day, although different groups of 24 Battalion were captured for several days after Nov 30. Dad reckoned his capture was Dec 1st and that's what's recorded on the Stalag IVB card.

Also there's no mention of Sidi Rezegh, just "S. Tobruk", which is at least reasonably accurate and understandable in the chaos of war. It was also good to get the exact departure date for PG57 nailed down, as I'd had only a range of dates based on the letters he wrote to Mum.

Dad's POW card for Campo 52
In one respect the card is nothing, and I wondered what Dad would have said about my journey to this place. Probably something along the lines of "Why the hell would you bother doing that?". To him it was simply a year in one place, not fondly remembered, in a time of vast and terrible events that millions of other ordinary blokes like him experienced.

But to me this small thing meant a great deal. I felt a wave of mixed emotions as I extracted the card and eagerly read the details. A simple piece of cardboard - but touching it, reading it to confirm it was really him, that he had really been there, seemed overwhelmingly important and still does as I write this. Perhaps it's the fact that history wipes most people from the face of the earth, leaving not a trace, sometimes not even memory. I reflected upon the dialog from the TV mini-series, Chernobyl, where the main scientist involved is threatened by the head of the KGB:
"You will remain so immaterial to the world around you that when you finally do die, it will be exceedingly hard to know that you ever lived at all."
This card, and other small things, are the answer to that, at least for my Dad.

PG52 living conditions
Warrant Officer Venuto
There were other bits of memorabilia in the place, including the wonderful drawing on the left, of the inside of the huts and the bunks the men lived in, and a large drawing of the camp, probably made by the same artist.

And this photo to the right, is of our escort, Warrant Officer Venuto, in his workaday clothes, who spoke only broken English but was a warm companionable man who could see what I was feeling.

I'm very grateful to him, the base commander and the guard at the gate who did not simply turn us away when they could have, and I must write them a thank-you letter.

Arthur Douglas's drawing of PG52. Unfortunately the scan is not precise enough to capture the dialog.
Thanks Dad!

I drove away feeling light-headed and light-hearted. A long-shot effort to trace a little piece of family history had come off. That evening, as I sat in an open-air bar just below the Portofino lighthouse, I could see across the way the lights of Chiavari and the hills behind it where PG52 once was, so I raised a glass to Dad and the men who gave so much of their lives for us, sometimes everything they had.

I'd like to think that Dad would be amused that his son would one day travel through the same place in a time of peace and prosperity, but I think he'd say that it made the sacrifices of he and Mum worth it.

And I remembered the words of the historian Simon Schama, in the last episode of his great documentary series, A History of Britain:

But history ought never to be confused with nostalgia. It's written, not to revere the dead, but to inspire the living. It's our cultural bloodstream - the secret of who we are. 
And it tells us to let go of the past even as we honour it, to lament what ought to be lamented, to celebrate what should be celebrated. 
And if in the end that history turns out to reveal itself as a patriot, well, then I think that neither Churchill nor Orwell would have minded that very much. 
And, as a matter of fact, neither do I.