The Hawkstour

The brace of Hawks are winging it (well, driving in an old Volvo) across northern Europe.  Read all about it here!

 

 

 

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Otto Dix at the De La Warr Pavilion

It was raining in Bexhill; nonetheless, the De La Warr Pavilion was promenading splendidly.  It’s a spacious and grand building, but inside it feels (and smells) rather municipal.  It suffers from too many blank walls, giving it an air of emptiness:  a few paintings (by artists and local school children) would make it busy and warm, and add to, rather than subtract from, its grandeur.  A few signs wouldn’t go amiss, either:  we found the Otto Dix exhibition through sheer perseverance (it was, rather ungrandly, next to the cafe-cum-restaurant).

The first and second Galleries were taken up with contemporary art of variable quality, with an exhibition name of stunning crassness:  ‘I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart.’  Yes, really.  Those who are familiar with the poem, and even more so with Butterworth’s amazing setting of it, will know how heart-rending and horrible it is.  In the gift shop there were for sale yellow t-shirts with – I kid you not – ‘I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart.’  Sack the person who thought of this:  they clearly have no soul, no understanding of poetry and little of life and death.

And now on to life and death.  When we finally found Otto Dix, he was 19 pictures of Great War hideousness.  19 was about the right number:  enough to illustrate all sorts of war horrors, but not too many to dilute them.  There were corpses from gas attacks, bombs, guns, hypothermia;  soldiers and civilians.  The pictures (aquatints and etchings) were crafted so that they took some looking at to let their full stories emerge.  The – from the distance – beautiful mountain scene was in fact a load of dead soldiers strewn over mud.  The abandoned trench was a sinking grave with rags turning into vultures and grim reapers.  The retreating soldiers were stepping on corpses, not ground.  Was the poor soldier sitting by a skeleton on a freezing mountain eating his lunch or spewing it up?

These images should be known to every pupil studying the First World War – not least as a reminder that the Germans had a foul time, too, and that the whole thing was utterly pointless and grim.

A slight disappointment was the accompanying leaflet.  It gave very little contextual information, and was in several instances rather confusing.  A woman asked me what the things were in the ‘Gefunden beim Grabendurchstich’ (translated as ‘Found while digging a trench’), as the leaflet had said ‘To this day, the ground along the Western Front is filled with surprises’.  She’d seen them as bodies, but thought from the blurb that it was a more optimistic picture.  It wasn’t.  They were bodies – as the German caption makes clear:  ‘Graben’ means ‘grave’.  This word featured in another caption:  ‘Zerfallender Kampfgraben’, translated as ‘Collapsed trenches.’ ‘Collapsing war-grave’ would be more accurate and less blandly neutral.  The ‘Appell der Zurückgekehrten’ (‘Roll call of returning troops’) was a line-up of mentally and physically wrecked soldiers, being called by a smartly-dressed, intact sergeant.  Presumably these troops were returning to the front line, and the point is that they should not have been.  The leaflet said ‘The war took a great toll on all its participants.  Here the living are barely distinguishable from the dead.’  What dead?  There are no dead in this picture.

Unfortunately, the leaflet was written by a moron.  The pictures, however, were drafted by a genius.

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It’s a mothtery

This is the loveliest time of the year.  Everything is bursting with life, and the moths have started flying.  I’m just getting into moths, thanks to Jon’s moth trap, which is a strong light with a basin underneath, in which you leave old egg boxes overnight.  In the morning, your egg boxes are covered with moths.

Then you spend the next three days trying to identify just which brown thing that one is.  A combination of the Lewington moth book,  ukmoths.co.uk and Sussex Moth Group helps.  We’re sticking to the macro moths – micro moths are a whole other universe.

So far, in April and May, we have seen:

(April) Pebble prominent, Pale prominent, Spruce carpet, Hebrew character, Common Quaker, White ermine, Chocolate tip, Birch mocha, Yellow horned, Lunar marbled brown, Scorched carpet, Swallow prominent and several unidentified brown jobs.

(May) Great prominent, Cinnabar, White ermine, Chocolate tip, Poplar hawkmoth (aka Klingon Warhawk), Poplar grey, Ingrailed clay, Common (or possibly Powdered) Quaker, Flame shoulder, Miller, Muslin, Waved umber, Scorched wing, Blood vein, and several unidentified brown jobs.  

Here are some.

Here are some I can’t identify.

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The Tyranny of the Skirt

The British Army has declared that women can kill people just the same as men can.  More women are joining the Army; there are more female officers; women can now be submariners in the Navy.  Equality is making leaps and bounds.

On the other hand, the tragic story of Anne-Marie Ellement shows that there are still fundamental problems – problems not confined to the armed forces.  Part of the problem is that female soldiers still wear skirts.

women_combat_uk_2

This is not a trivial matter.  Skirts are restrictive of movement and therefore not practical army wear in any case.  (Kilts are different:  they are cut to allow great freedom of movement.)  Notice, in this picture, that one out of the three soldiers is kitted out fit for battle.  He’s the bloke.  Ideally you wouldn’t do battle in ceremonial garb, but he could; she and she couldn’t.  Joanna Lumley managed to do all sorts of stunts as an inappropriately-dressed Purdey in the New Avengers – but that’s telly.  A barrister friend said that at a case the other day, the small hearing room was strewn with suitcases full of briefs (the paper kind), and one Lady Barrister asked them to move the cases as she couldn’t open her legs enough to step over them, owing to a ludicrous ‘smart’ skirt.

More than this, however, is the fact that skirts differentiate the sexes on sight.  Surely soldiers are soldiers, whether they’re male or female?  If you’re going to allow them the same duties, and treat them the same in law and war, then you must allow them to wear the same uniform.  It’s called ‘uniform’.  Not ‘biform’ (see my post on school uniform for further ranting.)  Women in skirts are sexualised objects; women dressing different to men are different to men.

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Scotland the Free

And another thing.  Why did the British Government let Scunner Salmond get away with Scottish independence being the ‘yes’ option?  How STUPID is that?  Give them the positive answer, and the far more sensible option, to stay within the United Kingdom, the negative ‘no’.

WTF?

 

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Scottish Independence

I’m awfully afeared that the Scots will vote for independence, simply because humans have an inbuilt propensity for making bad decisions.  Fiona Laird’s article in the Grauniad today (April 30th) was stonking, pointing out that we have to divorce Scottish independence from short-term politics:  it’s forever, not like voting for the next 5-year government.

Tom Heap’s programme on Scotland’s power suggested that English/ Welsh fuel bills would see a sharp spike if the Scots detach themselves, as we’ll have to pay for new nuclear power stations (WHY does anyone think building new nuclears is a good idea?????), whereas much of the renewables infrastructure is already underway in Scotland, and renewables are cheaper to build, anyway.  (I think I got that right.)  In effect, we’re paying for Scotland’s past fuel consumption, because the Scots used the same sources as every other Brit and the decommissioning and recommissioning of power stations is all our expense.  No doubt there are other cases like this:  the rest of the UK will have to foot the bill, while the Scots go free.

If this is the case, surely Scottish independence should be voted on by every UK citizen?

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Poor people more likely to be savaged by dogs

So said a report in the Grauniad.  That was just the headline grabber; the article was about the use of statistics, more than anything else.  But the dog issue is interesting.  There are a few reasons that people from deprived backgrounds and areas are more likely to be attacked by dogs.  First, the breeds of dogs:  fashionable amongst the masses at the moment are bull terriers.  However nice Fifi is, she’s still a bull terrier.  Just like our Toby, a greyhound:  he’s a lovely hound, but he’ll eat your cat.  He can’t help it, and there’s no training him out of it.  Bull terriers have been bred for fighting and for cramping their powerful jaws over nice soft throats.  Good training, from puppyhood (we only got Toby in adulthood, and you can’t teach an old dog…), and a happy home will probably mean that these jaws are kept to munching Winalot or teddy bears.  But, second point, a lot of people – from whatever class/ background – don’t realise the amount of training that dogs need, and don’t realise that training’s often needed for the human as well as the dog.  If you’re inconsistent at all, the dog will notice; if you don’t mean what you say, the dog will notice.  You have to be alpha pack leader:  that’s hard to pull off if you by nature are not, and most people are not:  humans are pack animals too, and it stands to reason that more people will be led rather than lead.  I have seen many people who are not in control of their dog, and there are times when I have not been in control of mine:  entirely to do with me, and not the dog.

Thirdly, dogs need time and not to be left alone for huge periods of it.  If you have to work and leave your dog home alone for hours, of course it’s going to have a negative effect on the dog.  Fourthly, working breeds, such as terriers, need a lot of exercise – much more than a quick walk round the housing estate (they also need good food, not Bakers or Butchers or other similar crap; but this is expensive).  Lastly, violence has a lot to do with things.  Not necessarily physical or extreme violence, but the lack of quietness and contentment that accompanies lives full of scarcity.  Households where shouting is the norm will not produce placid dogs.

Dogs are not playthings or toys:  they are intelligent, working creatures.

 

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