Thursday, 16 May 2019

Judgement Day

The multitude chattered animatedly as it waited for something to happen. Then, from the mist, a stranger appeared. He was dressed in formal evening wear, his bow tie having that slightly less than perfect quality that real ones possess. He said nothing as the crowd hushed. The silence was broken by a lone voice. 
“Who are you?”
“God,” replied the stranger.
A low murmur rippled through the crowd.
“Yeah, I know. You thought I’d have a long beard, flowing hair, one of those dress things that your priests like to wear. I’ve read your stories. Nope, not me. I prefer to dress appropriately for the occasion and the occasion is... Judgement Day.”
There was another murmur amongst the throng, but this time tinged with some apprehension.
God smiled. “Yes, Judgement Day. Don’t look so surprised. I know you’ve been expecting it. You’ve been banging on about it in your stories for centuries. So today’s the day.” He turned to his right and indicated a tall, young woman who appeared to be dressed for the occasion too, in a fine gold trimmed red dress. “This is Gaby... Gabriel’s her proper name. I guess you were all expecting a bloke but blokes don’t get called Gabr -“
There was yet another murmur.
“What?” God said. “Oh, yeah. I get it. That angel stuff you made up. You were expecting some weird looking bloke with wings!” He laughed. “Wings! That’s funny. Actually, one of the bits you did get right in your books was the God made man in his own image thing. Take a look at yourselves. I didn’t give any of you guys wings did I? I mean, that’s why you invented airplanes, wasn’t it? Anyway, we’re wasting time here... uh, not that it matters as we have plenty of it, eternity in fact... whatever that is. I don’t do time. So, yeah, Judgement Day. Gaby here is helping out with the processing. She’ll direct you to the appropriate place for judgement.” God noticed some of the crowd shuffling and getting agitated. “Hey, don’t look so worried. It’s straightforward, simple even. I like to keep things simple, unlike some of you lot.” He smiled and then raised a hand. “Okay, step forward all you who have... let’s see, given up things for Lent. Like... say, chocolate. Or, I dunno... fasted.”
A whole host of people stepped forward. Gabriel led them to one side. A voice came from the crowd. “What about semolina?”
“Semolina?” God said. “What about it?”
“I gave up semolina for lent, not chocolate.”
“Blimey, that must’ve been a hardship. Come and join these guys. I didn’t mean just chocolate.” God then turned back to the rest. “Okay, step forward all you who went to church on a Sunday or your other places of worship on whatever day of the week you decided was good.”
A whole raft of people moved forward so that the crowd diminished dramatically. Gabriel moved them to one side.
God turned to them and said. “Good. Now, we need to sub-divide you all further. So... step forward if you prayed to me and kept asking me for ‘stuff.’”
A bunch of people did so.
God continued. “Now, go over there to the right if you declared undying love for me in your prayers.” Gabriel beckoned and another bunch of people went towards her. 
“Great. Right, now go over there to the left if you regularly sang those dreary... sorry, those tuneless... I mean... if you regularly sang all those hymns in church that said how fabulously wonderful I am and used words like ‘ye’ and ‘triumphant’ and ‘adore’ and the like.” Nearly all of the remaining crowd in that section moved forward but Gabriel singled out a whole bunch of them and directed them to stand to one side.
God addressed them. “You guys, you go through that door over there. It’s marked ‘priests, vicars, evangelists, born agains, holy men’ ... and a whole lot of other titles too.”
There were barely a few people left by then and God looked at them. “I know who you guys are. You’re the ones who declared war, destruction and damnation in my name. Cool. Gabriel will show you where to go.”
When everyone had gone, God turned to the small group that was left, the group that hadn’t been able to step forward with any of the others. They were all silent, a look of trepidation on many faces. One of them, an older man, raised his hand. God spotted him and said. “Yes, what can I do for you?”
In a shaky voice he said, “What’s to become of us?” He indicated the group around him. “It seems none us has given up chocolate or semolina for Lent or fasted. None of us worshipped you at churches and things or praised you. We don’t seem to have sung a single hymn between us and I can see none of us are priests or holy men. And we don’t seem to have promoted you much... err, well, at all. And none of us went to war for you. We’re just... ordinary people. I guess we’re for the... the chop... the everlasting flame thing that we didn’t believe existed. Is that what’s to become of us?”
God laughed. “Relax my friend. The ‘everlasting flame’ thing doesn’t exist. Do you think a God who made mankind would think up such an evil punishment?”
“Well, no, I didn’t,” the man replied, “but Gabriel has taken all those people away who did all that good stuff and we’re left here.”
“Good stuff? Those people have been taken away to be judged. Judged on their deeds, not their religions. You guys get a straight pass into the place they called ‘heaven.’ And you know why?”
The man looked puzzled but relieved, as did many of the remaining crowd. “No... why?”
“I’ll tell you why. Because you are good people. You led good lives. You looked out for other people. You didn’t go larging it up with all that charity stuff but when a helping hand was needed, you offered it; when a word or two of comfort was required, you said it; and sometimes you went out of your way to help; sometimes you just smiled at your fellow human and made them smile too; you made them laugh and you helped when they had a tear. And best of all... you used the brain I gave you to think for yourself; you didn’t blindly, unquestioningly follow all that man-made religion nonsense that the deluded created to keep you in check. And you certainly didn’t try to impose beliefs on others. You were free spirits, giving rein to that spirit whilst remembering your place in the big scheme. Sure, you you all screwed up a few times - Gaby’s got your rap sheets - but then I never intended to make robots. I gave you humanity and I applied a heavy dose of nature that allows your humanity to flourish, not be controlled. And because you used all of that in the right way you’re A-list up here. Come in, grab a drink.”

Friday, 26 April 2019

What if... Dallas, Texas

Friday, 22nd November 1963
The bullet severed Jackie Kennedy’s right carotid artery before anyone had even heard the shot ring round the Plaza. The President lunged to his left as his wife pitched forward, catching her in an instinctive reaction to the unexpected. Blood spattered his suit jacket. Within seconds a secret service agent had grabbed onto the back of the limousine and hauled himself onto the trunk.
“Get the fuck back, Clint, there’s nothing you can do,” the President screamed.
“Get down, you get down... now!” Clint Hill screamed back. “It’s you they’re after.” He lunged forward grabbing at the President’s jacket, trying to pull him below the seat level.
The bullet came from the right side, from above street level across a green expanse of grass. It hit Clint Hill in the right shoulder sending him sprawling into a violent roll across the back of the car. He hit the carriageway in a heap causing the police follow up bike to swerve hard across to the far side kerb.
A third shot sent a fragment of concrete kerb into the face of a bystander, blood instantly seeping from his cheek.
“It’s a fuckin’ ambush, they’re gonna kill us all,” Roy Kellerman shouted. “Get outta here.” Bill Greer hit the accelerator just as a fourth shot pierced the windshield narrowly missing Governor Connally’s wife. Behind the limousine, the secret service’s follow up car swerved to a stop, two agents running to drag the stricken Clint Hill off the road. Agent Hickey leapt from the car, scanning his AR-15 rifle around the Plaza to give cover. With the exposure to crossfire in what was now a kill-zone urging their actions, the two agents manhandled their colleague into the back of the car.
“Evacuate! Go. Go,” yelled Hickey, once Hill was in the car. The driver floored the gas and in a smoking screech of tyres, accelerated down Elm Street through the triple underpass after the Presidential limousine.

Eighty minutes after the attack, a shaken and visibly distressed John F Kennedy, blood on his jacket and shirt, emerged from Parkland Hospital. He made his way across to a podium that had been set up with three microphones, outside the emergency entrance. He took hold of the lectern in both hands, hesitated while he cleared his throat and then raised his head.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you, my fellow Americans, that my wife Jackie has been murdered by an assassin’s bullet.” The President’s voice faltered, struggling with the words, for he knew that he had no words, no words that could ever give vent to his rage, his anger, his sorrow or his dismay. He swallowed the choke that caught his throat and said, “Today... today, my wife has paid the price for... for being my wife, for being the First Lady. Nobody wanted to kill such a sweet and innocent woman... a woman with a good heart, a woman with a soul that reached out to people. Nobody wanted... no. She paid the price for my actions. For my desire to bring peace, equality and opportunity to America. The desire to end war, to stop unnecessary bloodshed just because people think or look different. To end the cult of self-interest in this country at the expense of others. To stop those who would gain from bloodshed and the suffering of others, those who make material gain from the spoils of war. They know who they are.
“Today, an atrocity has been committed. That bullet was meant for me. If I could have stopped a good woman dying, I would have been happy to be in the firing line. But fate has decreed otherwise. Spared me from those that put their self-interest before the common good of the American people. But I promise you today, even as I have to look at the blood of my wife on my hands... on my clothes, they shall not gain, not prosper. My brother, the Attorney General, and I will renew our resolve and will continue the fight... the fight against crime, corruption and the corporate leeches that suck and drain our society. We shall not be diverted from our aims.”

Ninety minutes after the attack, a young man carrying an ID card naming him as Alek Hidell, is arrested at the Texas Theatre. He is rushed to the Dallas Police Department where he is formally identified as Lee Oswald, former US Marine. He is questioned by homicide detective Jim Leavelle and charged with the murder of a police officer, patrolman J D Tippit. Oswald denies the charge. Later that day he is interrogated by FBI Special Agent James P. Hosty and Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz about the murder of Jackie Kennedy. Oswald denies any involvement and requests legal assistance. None is forthcoming, and he is held at the Dallas Police Headquarters. By midnight, he is charged with the murder of the First Lady.

Sunday, 24th November 1963

The prisoner looked straight ahead, his gaze fixed but seeing nothing. His pace was dictated by the two detectives bundling him past the throng of reporters and bystanders. A narrow corridor opened up as the trio moved ahead, trying to avoid the jostling crowd. The detectives hustled the prisoner forward. They were focussed on the task and didn’t notice the sudden movement to their left. No one did. Eyes were on the prisoner. The movement was quick. A surge forward, right hand held out. The prisoner caught a fleeting glimpse, a moment’s recognition, the grey hat, the dark suit. Instantly he recoiled. The detectives lost step. The gun clicked. Pointed at the prisoner’s gut and it just clicked. The prisoner twisted and jerked, trying to get away from the gun, pulling the detectives with him. The man in the hat squeezed the trigger again. Another click, no explosion. It was the last thing he did. In a hectic flurry of uncoordinated activity that contrasted with their earlier shocked stupor, a group of bystanders piled onto the gunman flinging him to the floor, face down. A uniformed cop pushed his way through and pinned the gunmen to the floor, a knee firmly in the small of his back.
“What the fuck you doin’, Jack?” he screamed as he clipped the cuffs onto the gunman’s wrists so that his arms stretched out behind his back.
The prisoner only had time for one backward glance as the two detectives manhandled him away from the scene. Ahead, a steep ramp led out to the street. An armoured truck, its exhaust sending plumes of blue smoke into the confined space, reversed fast down the ramp. The detective on the prisoner’s right pulled open the door, spun round and dragged the prisoner by the arm. A firm push from his colleague sent the prisoner headlong onto the vehicle’s floor. In an instant the two detectives jumped in the back, either side of him as the truck accelerated up the ramp, its tyres screeching, rubber burning against cold concrete.

Monday, 6th July 1964, a.m.

Lee Oswald scanned the courtroom, his eyes alighting on no-one in particular. In the overcrowded room faces blurred into one staring entity. His moment of absence was cut through by the raised voice of the prosecutor.
“The curtain rods, what happened to them?”
“Sir?”
“You said it was curtain rods in the brown paper package that you were carrying into work that morning.”
“Uh, that’s right, Sir. I... uh, left them under the fire escape. My locker was full... with stuff that I took with me when I... left Marina. I was going to put up curtains at the weekend.”
“But when your apartment was searched no new curtains were found?”
“Because I hadn’t bought them yet, Sir. I was going to do that on Saturday.”
The prosecutor glanced at his notes. “Did you purchase an Italian bolt action Mannlicher–Carcano rifle through mail order in March 1963, using the alias Alek J Hidell?”
“Yes, I did.”
“For what purpose did you purchase this rifle?”
Oswald paused and stared out across the courtroom.
“Mr Oswald?”
“Uh.., Sir?”
“I asked you, for what purpose did you purchase this rifle… the Mannlicher–Carcano?”
“I intended to join a gun club… I’m a former marine… and I wanted to join a club for sport and recreation.”
“Is it not true that the package you were carrying on the morning of Friday, 22nd November 1963 when you entered the Texas School Book Depository, contained the  Mannlicher–Carcano rifle and that you intended to assassinate the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy?”
Oswald blinked. A voice broke the moment. “Objection. Intention is not the reason we are in this courtroom. The facts are, my client has been charged with the murder of Jacqueline Kennedy and is here to answer that charge. No charge has been levied regarding intent to assassinate the President.”
The judge raised his head, his gaze directed over the rim of his spectacles. “Objection sustained. Proceed.”
Oswald turned to look at the judge. “Sir, if I may answer the point about the rifle?”
The judge nodded.
“You have heard from my colleague, Wesley Frazier, that I told him the package I had with me on that day when he drove me to work… uh, Friday, contained curtain rods. You heard him say too that I carried it to the Depository building, in a vertical position, with one end tucked under my armpit and the other end cupped in my hand. If you do your research properly, you will find that the Mannlicher–Carcano M91/38 rifle is just over forty inches long when assembled. If it was disassembled, the longest piece is just over thirty-four inches long. In both cases, it would not be possible to carry it in that way as it would be too long.”
There was a murmur around the courtroom. The judge banged his gavel. Silence was restored. The prosecutor gathered his notes and continued.
“Mr Oswald, do you know or have you ever met Jack Rubenstein?”
Oswald smiled and said. “Jack Ruby, yes, Sir, I have met him, but I didn’t know him. He was no more than an acquaintance.”
“An acquaintance? And how did he become an acquaintance?”
“Everybody downtown knows Mr Ruby. From his club mostly… the Carousel. I went there a few times. I saw him there. He mixed with the regulars. Maybe we spoke… I can’t recall, Sir.”
“Why do you think Jack Rubenstein attempted to shoot you in the Dallas Police Headquarters on Sunday, 24th November 1963?”
“I don’t know, Sir. You will have to ask him that.”
“Were you aware that he had connections to organised crime and that he has been linked to Sam Giancana, Joe Campisi and Carlos Marcello?”
“Objection. Calls for speculation. The question asks the witness to speculate rather than to rely on known facts.”
The judge turned to the prosecutor and asked the reason for the question.
“Your honor, I am attempting to ascertain whether there is a link to organised crime sources that may establish a motive for the attack in Dallas for which Mr Oswald stands accused.”
“Objection overruled.” The judge nodded for the prosecutor to proceed.
“Mr Oswald, were you aware that Jack Rubenstein had connections to the aforementioned organised crime persons?
Oswald shook his head. “I wouldn’t know that Sir, no.”
The judge then called for a recess.

Monday, 6th July 1964, p.m.

On returning to the courtroom, the prosecutor resumed his questions.
“Mr Oswald, on the afternoon of 22nd November 1963, the Presidential motorcade passed directly in front of your workplace, the Texas School Book Depository. Many of your colleagues came out of the building to watch. Did you?”
“No, Sir, I did not.”
“Why not?”
“I was having lunch on the first floor.”
“Lunch? The President of the United States is passing your front door, and you decide to go to lunch? Isn’t that unusual behaviour?”
“Objection. Leading the witness.”
Oswald intervened. “I would like to say, Sir, that I have two witnesses that will testify that they saw me in the lunchroom on the first floor that day. James Jarman and Harold Norman saw me there, and I believe they will testify to that when my defence calls them.”
The prosecutor ignored Oswald’s comment and continued, trying a different tack. “Mr Oswald, you were arrested at the Texas Theatre on the afternoon of 22nd November 1963. It would seem odd that after the incident that took place outside your workplace, an attempt to assassinate the President of the United States, that you should immediately leave the building and go to a movie house. Can you explain this?” 
Oswald smiled, stared around the courtroom and took a deep breath. “Sir, there is something that you should know. I have been unable to reveal this up until now, but I believe I am being set up here… a patsy. Set up to take the rap for others who had another motive.” The court fell silent. Oswald continued. “I am not prepared to be silent any longer. Not prepared to be the patsy. And so…” Oswald pursed his lips and looked down at his hands. Then he raised his head and stared straight ahead. “For many years now I have been a CIA asset.”
There was an audible intake of breath from the packed courtroom.
“I was recruited while I was in the Marines, trained in intelligence and sent to Russia as an agent. You will know that I was involved in the ‘Fair Play for Cuba’ movement. This was a cover, a cover so that I could infiltrate Cuban intelligence. You ask why I left the Depository and went to the movie house. Okay… at 11.45 on that morning I made a call from the first floor… you have already heard from my colleague, William Shelley, that he saw me do this… well, that call was to my CIA handler. I was told to go to the Texas Theatre where I would be given further information relating to a visit to Cuba. I was supposed to be flown out that day from Red Bird Airport by my New Orleans contact, David Ferrie, to Cuba for the start of a CIA undercover operation against Fidel Castro. I was told to meet Officer J D Tippit and - ”
The hushed courtroom erupted in a cacophony of noise. A single shout rose above the din. “Liar, you shot Officer Tippit.”
The judge slammed his gavel onto the wooden sound block several times until order was restored. “Mr Oswald, continue your evidence,” he said.
Oswald turned his gaze in the direction of the shout. “I’m no liar, Sir. I didn’t shoot anyone. I was told to meet Officer Tippit who would furnish me with specific instructions for the meet at Red Bird. I was meeting Officer Tippit a block away from my rooming house and – ”
“Officer Tippit? J D Tippit? Who was murdered that day?”
“Yes, Sir. He arrived at my rooming house in his patrol car... car 10, as identified by my landlady. He was a go-between with the CIA operative I was told to meet. He drove me to the Texas Theatre. I arrived there about 1.20. I was supposed to meet this person at 1.30. I had a box top with me that would match a box carried by the contact, which was a method used so we could be sure it was the right person. I paid for a ticket and went in as I had been told to do in the call. By 1.40 the contact hadn’t showed so I went back out on the street to see if anyone was coming. I saw nothing so went back in. That's when your witness, Mr Brewer, said that he saw me dodge into the movie house and called the police. But, as I told you, I had already been inside. About five minutes later the house lights went up and I was arrested.” 
Once again a murmur flowed through the courtroom. The judge banged the gavel twice.
“Mr Oswald,” the prosecutor continued, “when you were arrested you were armed, carrying a .38 revolver. For what purpose did you have a firearm with you?”
“I took it with me from my rooming house. A precaution. Undercover CIA work can be dangerous. I did not know who I was scheduled to meet at the theatre. I was aware that there might be a risk to my safety. So, I took the revolver.”
The prosecutor cleared his throat and glanced at the jury before returning his focus on Oswald. “You are aware that a bullet taken from Officer Tippit’s body and cartridges found at the scene of his murder match those from your .38 revolver and – ”
“Objection,” called Oswald’s defence attorney. “The question assumes facts, not in evidence and it is a leading question.”
“Sustained.”
Oswald turned in the direction of the jury. “I did not know that Officer Tippit had been shot until I was arrested. My defence will show that the cartridges mentioned were planted. Revolvers do not eject cartridges.”

Wednesday, 5th August 1964

After four days of deliberation, the jury returned to the courtroom at 3.15pm to deliver their verdict on whether Lee Oswald was guilty of the murder of Jaqueline Kennedy. When asked by the judge if they had reached a unanimous verdict the foreman replied, “Yes.” A verdict form was handed to the Clerk of the Court who read aloud the verdict. 
 “Not guilty.”

Aftermath

Lee Harvey Oswald was given a new identity by the United States government. His further revelations about the illegal activities of the CIA - its involvement in covert operations in Cuba that were not sanctioned by the White House and its willingness to work with the Mafia on mutually beneficial projects – put his life at risk. His precise whereabouts were never uncovered, but many believe that he emigrated to Russia with his Russian wife, Marina, and their young daughter.

Jack Ruby was tried and convicted of the attempted murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. He admitted the charge (the attempt having taken place in a live broadcast of Oswald’s jail transfer, in full view of the American television public). He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was released after serving seven years. On his release, he went back to the nightclub business and his notoriety attracted many visitors to his clubs. Over the next ten years he was able to open a string of night spots in Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio and run a highly successful business.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy won a landslide victory in the 1964 election. His popularity enabled him to pass much of the legislation that he put before Congress and to enact the political strategy that he had embarked upon following his election in 1962. At the end of his Presidency in 1968, his brother Robert, the Attorney General, who had decided to run for the office of President was elected 36th President of the United States. Three years after his second Presidential term, John F Kennedy remarried.

The shooters in Dealey Plaza, believed to be French assassins, were never found.
As a result of the Kennedy administration:

American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the war never escalated; the lives of 58,000 American military personnel were spared along with hundreds of thousands of civilians on both sides.

America and Russia signed a binding peace agreement, initiated by Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev that included a nuclear test ban treaty. The Cold War diminished and the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961, was gradually dismantled.

The power of the Central Banking System of the United States of America (the Federal Reserve) was reined in and transferred to the United States Department of the Treasury, thus blunting the power of independent banks and their ability to control the economy and interest rates.

Richard Nixon was never elected to power and faced corruption charges through association with Mafia connections. Watergate never happened.

Martin Luther King went on to become a US Senator as the Kennedys rolled out their Civil Rights reform legislation across America. Malcom X became an advisor to the programme.

Organised crime lost much of its influence in the United States. The empires built by mob leaders such as Giancana, Marcello and Trafficante, were relentlessly pursued and whilst it was impossible to wipe them out, they were significantly reduced losing most of the influence they had over government officials.

The CIA was dismantled into smaller manageable sections with direct accountability to the US Government. It was renamed The USIA (United States Intelligence Agency). J Edgar Hoover was removed from the FBI.

Texan oil businesses were targeted to root out corruption and the secret societies that had many of the oil tycoons as members. Lyndon Johnson was dropped from JFK’s 1964 Presidential campaign and subsequently left politics.

Muhammad Ali did not have his heavyweight title removed for refusing the draft and went on to hold the heavyweight championship of the world for a full ten years, until 1974 when he retired unbeaten.

A single bullet theory…

Authors Note: The above text is a work of fiction, produced for the purposes of reader entertainment and interaction only. Whilst the text is based on a real, historical incident and contains the names of real people, there is no intent to suggest that any named person was actually involved in any of the incidents or scenarios depicted and no intent to suggest either guilt or innocence where any act or criminal activity is portrayed.

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.”