An apple a day…
Archive for August, 2012
Hugh Paxton’s Blog will be telling the full tale of England’s wild cattle and Chillingham castle after it has been published in All Nippon Airways in-flight magazine, Wingspan. In January.
But quite frankly some things can’t wait. And this one won’t! My brother Charles, armed only with his wife, Kimmie, and a camera risked Chillingham and were beaten back by burning toast! But fought back and the Wingspan article will be a triumph.
BLOG ED NOTE: From now on in it’s Charles in charge.
CHARLES: The Chillingham castle is everything a good castle should be: haunted, crammed with treasures and bristling with antlers and weapons, turret guns, double-handed bastard swords, lochaber axes, voulges, glaive guisarmes, horseman’s maces, saracenic armour. Dungeon with grill overlooking skeleton, gruesome torture equipment, home of Earl Grey tea and uber cattle.
As Kimmie and I reached the far end of the torture chamber there was a whiff of burnt toast, we emerged into the court yard to see two boys in earnest discussion, one imploring the other to return inside, the other flatly refusing on account of the skeleton. Then the fire alarm went off and we all vacated the castle where we were given a brief history of the place by the amiable owner.
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Hugh Paxton’s Blog loves my daughter and finds her opinions and comments both stimulating and thoroughly annoying. Take Tuscany for example. We were in Siena pretending to be interested in yet another church and while I was absorbed in my guidebook trying to find out whether we were in the right church and why it ought to be interesting, a voice was heard.
“It’s that guy again on the thing again.”
Everybody else in the church looked up from their guidebooks and wondered what would come next.
“That guy on the thing!”
“What guy on what thing?”
“Him! On that thing!”
Ah! I got it! Annabel was referring to Jesus (the guy) and the thing was the cross.
I explained that it was Jesus being crucified. This answer was insufficient. I tried to explain but began to flounder.I’ve got an A level in Divinity but still have no answers and I had a dreadful fear that she might ask me what’s the big deal?
I had another look at the guy on that thing and thought let’s get the hell out of here before we really snarl up!
We made it out without further questions, thank Christ!
Next Annabel question?
“Can we have an ice cream now?”
The answer was so obvious, so simple.
If any blog reader can explain Christianity (or nine year old girls) in a couple of sentences your contribution will be greatly respected!
Hugh Paxton’s Blog noticed several things that were nauseating in today’s media coverage. Top of the list was the Taliban who decided to bring a mixed sex dance party to a halt by slitting the throats of 17 participants (or chopping their heads off –reports vary) A very close second was a Thai woman arrested for eating her grandsons. She thought they were pigs apparently. The Taliban were just behaving abnormally and losing hearts and minds, tarnishing Islam etc. as usual. Granny had clearly gone bonkers. In a dreadful way these two conversational snippets elicited very little interest when I delivered them over breakfast. The Taliban have become boring monsters and the more CIA drone strikes that send them off to their vision of Paradise the better say I. I think the mad granny story got missed in the usual “I’m late for the school bus..where are my socks, Daddy?” stuff. After the normal morning pandemonium I had the grand opportunity of seeing Javier Castano captured by a photographer for posterity.
Javier was covered in blood, wearing a really in your face-homosexual gaudy outfit and was inadvertently standing on his head with a speared bull horning his buttocks. He was doing this in the ‘Bilbao Big Week’ festival in northern Spain.
What a jerk!
And what a very good advertisement for the termination of bullfights. Javier had his anatomy re-arranged, looked like an idiot, the bull was in pain, and the whole thing was great fun for a crowd of people who would most likely turn out to watch hangings or witches strapped to stakes.
Bull fighting may be a cultural tradition, mad grannies likewise, and beheading people who want to have a party, too.
But all traditions are not necessarily justifiable because of their historical pedigree. We can start a new mode of behaviour now. In a couple of hundred years it will be traditional. What say you?
Cheers from Hugh in Bangkok!
That’s my pitch! Here’s the petition!
From: Emily V., Care2 Action Alerts [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 25 August 2012 01:06 PM
To: Hugh Paxton
Subject: No Town Should Be Forced to Host a Bullfight
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I wouldn’t describe our visit to underground Edinburgh as disappointing. While it is true that nobody saw a ghost or was assaulted by one on our trip, the EMF reader registered a lot of activity in several of the vaults. It is a commonly held belief that ghosts emit Electromagnetic radiation that can be measured by the sort of meter used by electricians, pictured above in my hand in one of Edinburgh’s under city vaults.
For the most part the readings were zero as expected, but periodically they fluctuated between 0 and 1.0 in several locations, which is unexpected because I saw no obvious source, however there was a spot in one vault where there was a relatively large variation.
In this picture I was standing towards the rear of our party and was surprised to see a relatively large fluctuation in the reading that I cannot explain, I was stationary and there were no power cables or obvious sources of EMF nearby.
I’ve used this EMF detector in ghost hunting before, at a plantation house called The Myrtles in Natchez, where it also registered EMF in places like the garden by a pond where there was no obvious source.
I cannot account for the readings in the vaults and my feeling is that these chambers are indeed haunted and that the entities come and go.
Hugh Paxton’s Blog lived in Edinburgh for a couple of years and found the city haunting. Complex. Layers upon layers of history. A city of secrets and rapidly shifting moods. Foul weather suited it. Sunshine changed it into a place of smiles. A long time after I’d left Edinburgh I read one of the Inspector Rebus novels by Ian Rankin and began to understand it a little better. Earlier this month I went back and had another look.
It is festival time at the moment and will remain so for a day or two more. Opera, comedy shows, drama, jugglers, mimes, puppeteers, street music, magicians, ballet…think of an entertainment or a performing art and it’s all there. The Edinburgh Fringe (as the festival is known) is the best in the world. And people come in droves. The centre is heaving with people; the ancient streets echo with laughter, music, applause, lousy jokes, the crack of dropped beer glasses, and at night fireworks bang away and throw lights into the sky above the castle. Quite a show!
But underneath the revels there is a very different Edinburgh.
I got in through a small door, a door so small, in fact, that if I hadn’t had a guide I would never have found it.
Edinburgh has a lot of hills and crags and in the days before flush toilets and plumbers who don’t turn up on time, the standard procedure was to bung everything out of the window. The ghastly sludge was then hosed by rain and driven by gravity to the lower quarters where it accumulated shin deep. Or deeper. The poor and landless people lived with this daily bounty and began to annoy the wealthy with their evil stench and depraved behaviour. The Scots have never been short of ideas – if you look at most British inventions there’s probably a Scot involved – and the Edinburgh architects came up with a plan. Build a bridge over this cess pit! And they did.
The bridge is invisible. Houses were built on top of it and the scumbags underneath carried on with business as usual.
Business became increasingly unusual.
The underground houses became a ghastly city basement and passages were dug and holes knocked through walls and anybody who lacked a home sought refuge in them. If they were homeless and didn’t like the prospect they were ordered to go there by the authorities and if they objected they were chucked into jail,l fined and then escorted there upon their release.
Genteel Edinburgh went about its business, complained about the English and bought silk and sipped wine and installed toilets but down below and out of sight things went on.
THINGS THAT WENT ON
If thousands of people live, deprived of sunlight and sanitation, in a labyrinth of clumsy steps, warped chambers, head bashing corridors and with not much space to sleep you can imagine some of the things that went on. Lots of them died. Burke and Hare, two infamous Scottish men (of fame) noticed that the underground was conveniently situated next to the city morgue and sold fresh bodies to the medical professors who needed cadavers for anatomy classes and research. Brothels were established and gambling thrived. The police would not enter and if you went underground you could get away with murder.
MY TOUR WITH BELOVED ANNABEL AND BROTHER CHARLES
“Will it be frightening?” Annabel.
“Of course not! Don’t be silly!” Me.
“Let me show you how to use the ghost detector.” Charles.
We enter the murk,
Upstairs Edinburgh disappears
The experience is immediately loathsome. It’s no Disneyland attraction -this is the real thing . A nasty wobbling walk on uneven floors through a dank passage.
Our guide, wearing a dark cloak and top hat, knows his way (thank Gawd) and then starts to explain the ghastly goings on in the first room. Annabel breaks the tension by applying her ghost detector to the guide.
“What’s that?” Guide
“It’s a ghost detector.” Annabel.
“Yughh!” Annabel after being dripped on.
“That’s just water dripping through the ceiling,” Guide
“Anyone got a light?” Me.
“Ah f++++k! she just kicked me in my balls!” Me.
Brief panic. We are in a coal black chamber that has witnessed multiple murder and the guide hasn’t even got to the really good bits.
“Are you OK?” Guide.
“Yes, fine, just a bash in the bollocks.”
“Don’t worry about noises,” Guide resumes smoothly, “or scratches on your body.”
“Sometimes they follow you home,” Guide adds.
Beloved brother Charles wielding his ghost detector and fearless tackles the most haunted wall.
AN IRRITATING CONCLUSION
Sorry, I’m not going to tell you what happened next.
Charles was in charge of the ghost detector and he detected lots of ghosts…but I will invite him to give his conclusions and results. And Annabel will be giving her own evaluation of the tour.
All of us back in Bangkok
Roman Britain is still very visible, in our straight roads, our language and in the superb architectural achievement that is Hadrian’s Wall and its adjoining forts. Recently my wife and I have made repeated visits to the great roman wall. Stretching from east to west, from Newcastle to Maryport, Hadrian’s Wall is one of Britain’s most popular long-distance walks, but it offers great opportunities for day trips too and is definitely something a visitor to the UK should include in their itinerary. Click on the image below to view the scene at a larger scale. The landscape is wild and lovely.
The Roman forts of Chesters, Housesteads and Vindolanda all have their own distinct charms. Chesters and Vindolanda have good museums and Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum has a superb Roman exhibition. The overwhelming sense of the intelligent organisation of the Roman army facilities is profoundly impressive. They knew what they were doing and the excellent preservation of Roman remains, even of normally perishable organic materials such as letters and sandals gives us a very privileged insight into Roman frontier life.
The bathing facilities at Chesters are particularly nicely preserved, I think. Hot steam baths and dry Saunas were an essential luxury for the auxiliary legionaries in northern Britain, many of whom were used to warmer southern climes. The well-designed bathrooms at Chesters are nicely situated overlooking the River Tyne and both bathing (and using the lavatory) was a social affair. The underfloor heating would be something that the troops would look forward to very much between their stints of all weather sentry duty and sallies north to battle. Bathrooms to die for? Well, certainly bathrooms to fight tooth and nail for!
Good for maintaining morale. The Romans were using renewable energy effectively about 2000 years ago. Their hypercaust underfloor heating systems were fueled with locally harvested biomass in the same way that some progressive northern British farmers are doing today (1).
For the modern visitor it’s fantastic to walk among the ruins and admire the sophistication of the Roman plumbing! In my case, I must confess it is especially interesting as I’ve been working on a website for Logic, a British plumbing and heating firm serving northern England and southern Scotland. It’s funny how history repeats itself and things return to fashion. Underfloor heating in retrofitted British homes today, and particularly in new builds is a growing part of Logic’s business and it’s tied in with the Greening of British home heating.
Underfloor heating is likely to become more prevalent with the widespread adoption of renewable heating technologies such as ground and air source heat pumps (2) because the all-round radiant heating delivers good comfort at lower working temperatures in well-insulated properties. Heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse, ambient energy from air, ground or water source is condensed and used for home heating and hot water supply.
If you’re considering enjoying the same sort of warmth that was appreciated by the CO of The Second Cavalry Regiment of Asturians then getting underfloor heating installed might be a good idea! Use of a timed controller is recommended because it takes a while to warm up and retains heat for a while too.
Happily these days, we don’t have to fight to qualify for, or defend the luxury of underfloor heating. One word of warning though, you won’t want to wear shoes in any room with underfloor heating, so get used to looking a little bit shorter!
What does that matter? The Romans affectionately referred to us as “Little Britons” (Britunculi)
Hugh Paxton’s Blog has just received another post from Anibalan’s Ghost Cities blog. It is typically intriguing and reminded me of EF Benson whose writing thrilled me when I was a boy but who I had largely forgotten about.
WikiLeaks and Free Speech
By MICHAEL MOORE and OLIVER STONE
Published: August 20, 2012
WE have spent our careers as filmmakers making the case that the news media in the United States often fail to inform Americans about the uglier actions of our own government. We therefore have been deeply grateful for the accomplishments of WikiLeaks, and applaud Ecuador’s decision to grant diplomatic asylum to its founder, Julian Assange, who is now living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
Ecuador has acted in accordance with important principles of international human rights. Indeed, nothing could demonstrate the appropriateness of Ecuador’s action more than the British government’s threat to violate a sacrosanct principle of diplomatic relations and invade the embassy to arrest Mr. Assange.
Since WikiLeaks’ founding, it has revealed the “Collateral Murder” footage that shows the seemingly indiscriminate killing of Baghdad civilians by a United States Apache attack helicopter; further fine-grained detail about the true face of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; United States collusion with Yemen’s dictatorship to conceal our responsibility for bombing strikes there; the Obama administration’s pressure on other nations not to prosecute Bush-era officials for torture; and much more.
Predictably, the response from those who would prefer that Americans remain in the dark has been ferocious. Top elected leaders from both parties have called Mr. Assange a “high-tech terrorist.” And Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has demanded that he be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Most Americans, Britons and Swedes are unaware that Sweden has not formally charged Mr. Assange with any crime. Rather, it has issued a warrant for his arrest to question him about allegations of sexual assault in 2010.
All such allegations must be thoroughly investigated before Mr. Assange moves to a country that might put him beyond the reach of the Swedish justice system. But it is the British and Swedish governments that stand in the way of an investigation, not Mr. Assange.
Swedish authorities have traveled to other countries to conduct interrogations when needed, and the WikiLeaks founder has made clear his willingness to be questioned in London. Moreover, the Ecuadorean government made a direct offer to Sweden to allow Mr. Assange to be interviewed within Ecuador’s embassy. In both instances, Sweden refused.
Mr. Assange has also committed to traveling to Sweden immediately if the Swedish government pledges that it will not extradite him to the United States. Swedish officials have shown no interest in exploring this proposal, and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt recently told a legal adviser to Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks unequivocally that Sweden would not make such a pledge. The British government would also have the right under the relevant treaty to prevent Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States from Sweden, and has also refused to pledge that it would use this power. Ecuador’s attempts to facilitate that arrangement with both governments were rejected.
Taken together, the British and Swedish governments’ actions suggest to us that their real agenda is to get Mr. Assange to Sweden. Because of treaty and other considerations, he probably could be more easily extradited from there to the United States to face charges. Mr. Assange has every reason to fear such an outcome.The Justice Department recently confirmed that it was continuing to investigate WikiLeaks, and just-disclosed Australian government documents from this past February state that “the U.S. investigation into possible criminal conduct by Mr. Assange has been ongoing for more than a year.” WikiLeaks itself has published e-mails from Stratfor, a private intelligence corporation, which state that a grand jury has already returned a sealed indictment of Mr. Assange. And history indicates Sweden would buckle to any pressure from the United States to hand over Mr. Assange. In 2001 the Swedish government delivered two Egyptians seeking asylum to the C.I.A., which rendered them to the Mubarak regime, which tortured them.
If Mr. Assange is extradited to the United States, the consequences will reverberate for years around the world. Mr. Assange is not an American citizen, and none of his actions have taken place on American soil. If the United States can prosecute a journalist in these circumstances, the governments of Russia or China could, by the same logic, demand that foreign reporters anywhere on earth be extradited for violating their laws. The setting of such a precedent should deeply concern everyone, admirers of WikiLeaks or not.
We urge the people of Britain and Sweden to demand that their governments answer some basic questions: Why do the Swedish authorities refuse to question Mr. Assange in London? And why can neither government promise that Mr. Assange will not be extradited to the United States? The citizens of Britain and Sweden have a rare opportunity to make a stand for free speech on behalf of the entire globe.
Michael Moore and Oliver Stone are Academy Award-winning filmmakers.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 21, 2012, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: WikiLeaks and Free Speech.