Thursday, 1 November 2018

The 1066 World Cup Final

“Right lads. Remember, this is your big opportunity. You can become legends, write your own history.” Harold Godwinson drew himself up to his full height, paused for effect and said, “You can win the World Cup on home soil!”
A cheer went up from the group gathered in a huddle and then, when a hush finally settled, a voice cut in.
“Yeah but gaffer, why –”
“I’ve told you before, Norbert of Styles,” interrupted Harold, “it’s Sire. For am I not King of England?”
“Oh yeah, sorry gaff... err, Sire.”
“And your question, Norbert?”
“Uh, yeah. Home soil you say, gaff... err, Sire. More like home stones. How come we’re playing at Hastings?”
Harold stroked his chin. “Well, it’s closer for the French team, isn’t it. Bit closer to Normandy... English hospitality and all that. Why, where would you suggest we play?”
Norbert smiled, his gap toothed grin making him a favourite with the ladies. “We don’t wanna be making it easy for the French do we? I’d have said Wemblee would’ve been better.”
“Wemblee?” said one of the team members in a yellow jersey. His name was Banks of Gordon, but he was known affectionately as Banksy because he didn’t give much away and was suspected as being the mysterious artist who had sketched an unfinished work called the ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ all over a public wall in the town. “Where’s that then?”
Well, it’s a bit north of here. Big open field. Plenty of space. You can move round a bit. Better for Big Jack here,” Norbert said glancing behind at a tall guy standing to the rear. “I mean, he won’t find it easy moving on these pebbles, being the lanky fella he his, and that’s gonna make us vulnerable down the middle.”
“Vulnerable? Vulnerable, Norbert? We’re English. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island were defeated today in this Final, then our teams shall go beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the FA, and will carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the next generation, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and we shall win the World Cup.”
Several of the gathering stared at each other for a moment, unsure of how to respond. And then a young man stepped forward. He was known to many as an astute and level headed member of the community and a part-time soothsayer.
“Sire, if may make so bolde. My name is Peter Martins and I am of the parish of Weste Hame and I bege your leave to speake.”
Harold nodded. “Yes, I have heard of you. Some say that you are ahead of your time but why do you keep adding an ‘e’ to the end of many of your words?”
“Sire, it is my accent. I was raised in the shires of Essexe and we speake in our own dialecte. I hope I do not offende your majesty?”
“Not at all. We are all Englishmen. Roger the Huntsman is from the land where they say the fabled Liver Bird roams; George the ‘Priest’ is from the region of Londinium; Norbert from the Manc tribe; Alan, the Earl of Ball, from the Black Pool. A fine mix of men here about to make history and win the 1066 World Cup. Now say your piece, Peter Martins.”
“I thanke thee Sire. I wanted to saye that Norbert of Styles may have a point about Wemblee. One day I can see a greate amphitheatre there that holds thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of our fellowe Englishmen, 52% of them willing us to win, 48% wanting the opposition to win with 4% just pitching up for the hospitality. This is what we neede... support. I see no supporters on this wilde and windy beach, Sire. I fear that if we do not get support, it may be 900 years before we have the chance to win the Worlde Cup again.”
“Thank you Peter Martins. I hear your wise words and your fears but we have men of valour amongst us. Robert Carlton, a champion of many battles, a man of shooting accuracy few, if any, can match. He will take the fight to the French, supported by the rest of you brave warriors.”
“Sire, if I may,” a tall, proud looking man with a shock of blonde hair said.
“What is it, Mooro? What is it my general has to say to his troops?”
“Well Sire, as you know, I too am from the Parish of Weste Hame, and I understand Peter Martins concerns. But last night I was in the pub and I ran into my friend, Alfred of Romsey and we got talking. He has an analytical approach to battle and he pointed out a few things. He said that playing on the pebbles of Hastings beach might even things up a tad. He said we have the best personnel but beware that the beach might be a problem. He suggested that they are weak at the back. Take their key central people – Barnier, Tusk, Merkel and Macron. They are a one trick pony, only one set of tactics. Put pressure on them and they’ll cave. Get ‘Bally’ to sling high ones into their box for the big guns and Sir Robert to fire off his cannonballs and they won’t like it. Get through them and then you’ve only got Junckers to worry about and the word is, he’s distracted working on some new invention called an ‘air o plain’ or something, that he hopes to sell to the Germans. But Alfred said, you’d be better off at Wemblee. Oh, and he also said the boys should fire at Will.”
“Fire at Will?” Harold said, looking puzzled.
“Yeah, he suggested that Ray of Wislon and George pepper their leader, Will… the fellah with the big nose, since he seems to pull the strings in the middle of the field.”
“Ah, yes, William the Conk. Good thinking, I’ll grant you. Control him and you take charge.” Harold tugged at his beard and looked thoughtful. “But this Wemblee thing, all a bit late now, Mooro and anyway, that Alfred of Romsey spends all his time up at Ipswich these days so he’s out of touch. I say we press on, get ourselves organised. Time is of the essence.”
There was a low murmur amongst the assembly and then one of the number, an athletic type wearing a green hat, stepped forward.
“Sire, I beg to ask, will you require my services this day?”
“Harold looked him up and down and said, “And who might you be, young fella?”
“Sire, I am Geoffrey of Hurstville.”
“Hurstville? I have roamed my Kingdom from coast to coast, from forest to forest and from hill to dale and yet I have never come across such a place. Pray, where is Hurstville?”
“It is but a tiny hamlet in the shires of Essexe, not far from the Parish of West Hame, Sire.”
“Ah… another of the Weste Hame clan. It seems you are many. Wait, I think I have seen you before. Were you not here with your fellow Hammers just two days ago? Yes… you were the fellow with the blue hat. I remember now. What is going on with your hats, Geoffrey? Are you trying to disguise yourself, fool your King? What is this trick?”
“Sire, I have but three hats, one green that I wear today, one blue and one red. I change them regularly so that I keep them washed and fresh. It is no foolery. I only wish to serve my King and my Kingdom on this day against the French in this final. I want to be remembered for that for evermore, not remembered for some hat trickery.”
King Harold smiled. “My son, spoken like a loyal Englishman. This very day, Geoffrey, you shall take your place here in Hastings, by my side. You shall battle with your King and his loyal subjects. We shall win this final and give our opponents one in the eye so that never will they venture upon these shores again…
A rousing cheer drowned out the rest of King Harold’s words and then, when silence returned Harold raised himself up to his full height, drew his sword and held it aloft. “Once more unto the beach dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead…”
At the back of the crowd Ray of Wislon whispered to Banksy. “Here we go. One of his bleedin’ soliloquies. I hope he’s right about Hastings and wrong about closing walls up with English dead otherwise we might as well all go into the undertaking business.”

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Words

In a recent news item that escaped mainstream public attention, probably due to the focus given to the posturing of world leaders, it was reported that an important discovery had been made in the ancient Sterkfontein cave site, in the Province of Gauteng, South Africa.
A team of anthropologists specialising in linguistics, happened upon a vast array of wall inscriptions in a previously unexplored cave whilst searching for evidence of a primitive tribe that had relocated from the Kalahari Desert region some 700 kilometres west of Sterkfontein. The inscriptions were so well preserved, having been sheltered from light and weathering for well over 100,000 years, that the team were able to get clear details almost as if they had been written yesterday. They spent months on deciphering the individual sections and were surprised to find that there was a natural progression to the inscriptions and, rather than random blocks of ‘writing’, there was a sequence that formed a narrative. What was even more revelatory was the discovery that the inscriptions were by a hominid tribe that crossed the divide between Homo Heidelbergensis and Homo Erectus and the content indicated a much higher level of development and intelligence than anyone had expected. Linguists were able to discover that the tribe consisted of almost three hundred settlers who had lived in an area of the Kalahari Desert that in the modern era is known as Tshabong. Now thanks to newly developed linguistic software, the full transcript of the cave writings has been made available in a select number of scientific publications. The full collection of inscriptions is lengthy, the equivalent of a novelette, so for the purposes of this post, only a small sample has been included which, it is hoped, illustrates how important this discovery has been.

“Awright Dagga? How you doin’?”
“Good Teekay. You?”
“Cool. What’s that?”
Dagga glanced downwards and then raised his right hand. “That, my friend, is a thing for cutting stuff.”
“A what?”
“A thing for cutting stuff.”
“What... that?
“Yeah... and, it’s gonna change the way we live.”
“Err... yeah... okay, if you say so. But it looks like a thin bit of stone to me.”
Dagga held the object up and said, “Well, yeah, it’s made out of stone but look close. I shaped it using other stones. See, this end is sharp and this end is blunt. You hold it by the blunt end and use the sharp end to cut stuff.”
Teekay scratched his chin and said, “Right... but what’s it called? I mean, you can’t just call it a stone ’cos everybody will just think it’s... uh, another stone.”
“Dunno yet. I’m meeting up with the rest of the clan at the Henge and thought I’d ask Lexic to come up with a name. He’s good with words.”
“Yeah, I heard him and Dik is making something called a book with all them words wot he’s invented in it so we can talk better to each other. I’ll come with you.”

Dagga and Tekay headed off to the Henge where they found a throng of people standing around enjoying the last of the evening sunshine, for it was a record temperature not seen since the ice age, the last recorded record temperature.
“You a bit late this evening,” an older guy with a long beard said.
“Yeah, running late, Lexic. Been inventing something.”
“Inventing? What’s that? I don’t have that word in my notes. What’s it mean? I might use it.”
“I just made it up.” Dagga held up the long bit of stone and said, “I was clearing out the air vent in my cave… you know how they get clogged up with moss and that in this heat... them meteee ologists don’t like us gettin too hot. Anyway, this bit of stone wot was in vent came loose. Looked a bit different so I played around with it and made this.”
“Yeah, but he ain’t got a name for it yet,” Tekay said.
“What’s it do?” one of the men standing around asked.
“Well… it cuts things and, I dunno, can kill things. Gonna save us chasing round after them bleedin speedy things with the pointed horns and throwing stones at them.”
“Yeah… that don’t work,” said an exceptionally tall guy who was leaning on a rock. “Too bleedin fast to be caught for food.”
“Don’t despair,” Larjmac, “with this, one day you’ll catch them horny fast food and things will be different. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”
“Since what? What’s that?” Larjmac said, his brow furrowed in puzzlement.
“What’s what?” Dagga asked.
“Hang on,” said Lexic, “you can’t say that. You can’t have two words the same next to each other... that’s a new rule. Ask Mattmat here. Ain’t that right Matmatt?”
“Uh... s’pose it is,” answered a short chap who was fiddling with some beads strung around his neck. "Not too good with words, me. More better with sums."
"Sums? Sums what?" asked a young guy with a ready smile.
"Don't worry about it Dik," said Mattmat. "I'm working on it."
Larjmac raised a hand to interrupt and smiled at Dagga. “Anyway, I was only asking what sliced bread is. I mean, I never even heard of bread so dunno
what ‘sliced’ is.”
Dagga stared at Lexic for a moment. “Yeah, well it’s just a... a...”
Lexic shrugged. “Let’s call it a ‘turn of froze’. And don’t ask... I’ll sort it. “ He scratched his head and then said, “so, Dagga, this new invention of yours, we gotta give it a name... and by the way, ‘gotta’ is a type of chat wot me and Dik is... err, to use your new word... inventing, and we calling it ‘slang’ innit, so some people don’t av to communicate proper wot doanwanna, yeah. Anyway, I got a great name for your bit of stone. I’m working on words that rhyme and -"
“Rhyme?” Dagga said.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it now but I got this new word for a woman that you own and then it sort of just comes outta that.”
“What’s that word then?” asked Dik. “All these new words wot you keeps comin up with can be fusing.”
“You know... what I said this morning, Dik... member? I got a new word for a woman wot us men own? Named it after my own woman, Wyva, in her honour.... like I said, member, yeah? ‘Wife’... innit. And then I got ‘life’ and then ‘strife’ and then ‘rife’... which is rhyming innit, like singing wot will be words wiv, you know, people screamin an wailing an that. Not sure wot it’s I’m gonna use them lot for yet but how about... nife?”
“Uh... okay,” said Dagga. “I like it. An, if you got it spare...”
“Hold on a bit,” a young woman with short dark hair said. “My man Dik here has made words too. Wot bout his words wot he’s come up wiv?”
Lexic stroked his beard and said, “Don’t worry Chenerry, Dik and you will be recognizzed. I will make sure you get credit for Dik’s work. Maybe do more books, yeah.”
“Well, anyway, I like nive too,” said Teekay. “It’s different and I’m starting a thing called a shop so I could sell it for you.”
“Good idea,” said Larjmac. “What about we sell it for getting them fast horny things for food? We could do it together... call it... LarjmacsTeekay. What d’you think?”
“Hang on,“ said a young man who’d been sitting on a rock listening intently. “I’m the one that catches most of them horny things and brings them to yer caves. And I make clothes for you outta them skins. I gotta be in on any deal going on here.”
A woman named Lope stepped forward. “Cool it Max. Let’s use our brains here. Why don’t you and Teekay sort something? He’s starting a shop, you supply him with the stuff.”
Max looked slightly embarrassed. A woman speaking up for a man wasn’t going to do his image any good in front of the crowd, especially not a member of his family.
“I’m on it auntie Lope. I ready thought of that. I get it. I hunt the horny things and bring ‘em to Teekay. If Dagga’s new... uh, what you say it called Lexic?”
“Nive... I’m calling it ‘nive’,” Lexic said and shot a glance at Dik. “You still good with that mate?”
Dik nodded.
“Great,” Max said. “We in business.” He winked at Teekay who smiled.
Auntie Lope stepped forward. “Don’t forget me,” she said. “My idea... .”
Max, Dagga and Teekay nodded to one another and then Dagga said, “cool, yeah. No worries. “He glanced at Lexic. “We’ll get your name in there somewhere Auntie Lope. But we gotta sort them horny fast things first.”

Monday, 9 April 2018

The Elders

So, anyway, a rumour flew around the village that a dragon was on the loose. The elders got together and the senior elder asked, “What shall we do? What shall we do?”
One of the younger elders (for there were such things back in days of yore) asked, “Why do you say everything twice?”
The senior elder replied, “I don’t. I don’t. I was just -"
“There you go again, see!”
The senior elder looked non-plussed. One of the other elders, who was not as elderly as the senior elder but older than the younger elder said, “Look, we’re wasting time here. There’s a dragon running amok on the outskirts of the village and -"
“Running where?” asked one of the other elders who was not as elderly as quite a few of the older elders but a bit older than most of the younger elders and considered a middle aged elder.
“Amok. You know... uh, kind of wayward, out of control, frenzied, in an unrestrained manner with no.... no, err... forward planning.”
“Oh, right, yeah,“ said the youngest elder. “Sounds about right for a dragon. They ain’t that up on strategy.”
“Yes, but out of control dragons are not good for the village,” said the senior elder. “What shall we do? What shall we do?”
“Dragons? With an ‘S’? There’s more than one?” The middle-aged elder said.
“No... no. Just one. It was a figure of... look, we’re wasting time here. What shall we do? What shall we do?”
“I’ve an idea,” said one of the elders who wasn’t really an elder because he was still only sixteen but, with wisdom beyond his tender years, had been elected as a teenage elder.
“An idea?” the senior elder said, his eyebrows arching involuntarily. "What's that then?"
"Uh... it's an original thought, a sort of -"
"I know that! I meant, what is it, this idea of yours?"
“Oh, right. Well, why don’t we get some of the peasants to go down the street and beseech George to come to our aid?”
“Do what?” several elders said in unison.
“Get George to come -"
“No... beseech. What’s that?”
“Beseech? Uh... ask. It means ask... like urgently.”
“Why didn’t you say that then?” said the middle-aged elder?
“I dunno... because... well because, I’m only a teenage elder and if I use words like ‘beseech’ it gives me gravitas.”
“What?”
“Isn’t that a song?”
“A song? What... gravitas?”
“No! I’m only a teenage elder... by Wheatus?”
“Dirtbag.”
“You what?”
“Teenage Dirtbag.”
“Oh yeah... right.”
The senior elder looked perplexed. “We’re wasting time. The dragon will be upon us. I say that we do as our teenage elder suggests and beseech George to help. It's an original idea for such a young elder.”
So, the elders organised four peasants to go to George’s house and beseech him.
George was chilling when the urgent door knocking started. For years, after many battles as a warrior with his trusty lance, Ascolon, across the Middle East, George had forsaken the life of a warrior and decided to be a trainee Saint. He realised it could be quite a lucrative profession after his good mate Patrick had taken up the challenge to strive for sainthood. Patrick was now revered for banishing serpents and snakes from the island across the water and was not far off sainthood. George needed a similar act of bravery that also showed him as a commanding presence. A break was needed.
Ascolon was gathering dust in the corner. Life was at an all time low. The knock on the door was about to change that.
George strode across the straw strewn floor and flung open the door.
“Who are you?” he asked, as he laid eyes on the ragtaggle quartet that stood on his threshold.
“We are but four peasants from the village who have come to... be seek... err, bysch... beezeash...” The lead peasant turned to his comrades. “What was that fancy word?”
“I think it was ‘beseech, Jezz,” said one of the group.
“Oh, yeah. Thanks,” the lead peasant said. He turned back towards George. “Uh... yeah. We’ve come to beseech you on behalf of the village.”
“Beseech me? For what?”
“Err... oh yeah. There’s a dragon running amok, toasting our sheep and frazzling our pigs."
“Frazzling your pigs? Is that a euphemism?”
“A ufo what?”
“Never mind. A dragon you say? But surely dragons are mythical creatures, figments of the imagination. A dragon that toasts sheep and frazzles pigs? That’s not the way of the dragon.”
“Ain’t that a fillim?” one of the peasants said.
“Course it ain’t a fillim cos fillims ain’t been invented yet, stoopid,” Jezz said. “Anyway, I read about dragons in books, so they exist. Like in them holy books where bushes catch fire and the seas part. If it’s in a book it’s kosher.”
George rubbed his chin. He was dubious but he saw an opportunity.
“Peasants, men of the soil, beseech no more. I am suitably beseeched. Fetch my trusty steed.”
“Steed?” said one of the peasants. “What’s that?”
“My horse, Shergar, you ignoramus. Fetch him and saddle him for battle. You... whatsurname... Jezz, prepare my armour and dust off Ascolon. I go to war!”
“Uh, I’m not that comfortable with war,” Jezz said.
George rose to his full height, his nostrils flaring. “Comfortable! Comfortable! Do you -"
“Err, why are you saying everything twice,? Jezz asked.
George looked down his nose and ignored the interruption. “This is not about comfort. The dragon cometh, breathing fire, a desire to dominate our village, take our livestock, change our way of life. Are you an Englishman, Jezz? You and your peasants? If you are, you rise up, you grab Ascolon and you defend what is your heritage. Now, out of my way all ye who are faint-hearted.”
With his armour in place and Ascolon tucked firmly to his saddle, George rode purposefully to confront the dragon.
There, on the edge of the village, stood the giant scaley creature, it’s nostrils expelling plumes of flame that consumed the brushwood instantly.
George clicked his heels and Shergar strode forward, his proud head high, his eyes intent and gleaming. The dragon roared, his long neck waving his head high above the approaching George.
As they got closer George dismounted, looked at Shergar and winked. “Odds on old chap? Distract this scaley-backed intruder who woudst change our existence. Oh.... and don’t go disappearing on me!” He grabbed Ascolon and strode forward.
The blast caught George by surprise. A flamethrower of hot yellow sparks enveloped him.
“Shit!” The metal armour suddenly reached temperatures that were going to boil George alive. He pulled off his visor and just managed to avoid another jet of flame from the dragon. He rolled across the moorland towards the shrubb. As quickly as he could he removed his breastplate and armoured leggings. If you are going to defend your land sometimes you have to do so in your Calvin Kleins.
The dragon roared. Shergar reared. It distracted the dragon for a moment. George ran towards the dragon. The dragon hesitated, a moment’s doubt. It had never encountered resistance from one man in his underpants. It was all conquering, roasting the sheep and frazzling the pigs of Europe. George grabbed Ascolon and took aim. Shergar took off at speed, distracting the monster. George threw Ascolon. It caught the dragon in the eye.
“That’s for Hastings, sucka. Welcome to our Village.”