FOOTNOTES & ANECDOTES
(Concerning the first two epistles)
(i) With the arrival of various low-cost airlines, the continent of Europe has open’d up. It is now cheaper to fly to places like Milan & Barcelona cheaper than it is to get from London to Manchester by rail. Crazy! Ryanair intend to put on free flights in the not too distant future, making their cash from selling food & drink on the airplane – a restaurant in the clouds.
(ii) Having master’d the art of fare-evasion sometime in 1998 I find England to be a bit of a bore when it comes to jumping trains. I will not get caught 99 times out of a hundred so I trip round the Reich was a new challenge. Using all the knowhow acquired in the UK I set about taking on the Germans. For ev’ry successful jump between destinations I score a point & ev’ry time I’m thrown off the train, they score a point (in brackets).
(iii) Neville Chamberlain was a nice guy, but he totally bottl’d it when confronted with the fascist front of Hitler & Mussolini, basically signing away part of Czechoslovakia to Germany. Coincidentally it was the bit with all the border defences, so next year when Hitler decided to ignore the treaty & invade Czechoslovakia, there was nothing to stop him. Peace in our time? No chance!
(iv) The Munich Putsch was an attempt in 1923 for Hitler to seize power in Germany. It was a bit of a fiasco, being brought to an end by a row of carbine-wieldin’ coppers, who shot all his mates. Hitler was imprison’d for a while after, & on his release vow’d to take power legitimately. This he did, much to a major world migraine.
(v) The Neibelungen is the German national epic poem, made famous by Wagner with his ‘Twilight of the Gods.’ It is deeply set within the Teutonic psyche & interesting that in its gruesome finale, all the major characters are slaughter’d & the streets run with blood. These images were invoked as a broken Germany near’d the end of the war, & a reason, perhaps, why Hitler went down with his ship.
(vi) Mein Kampf, the Nazi bible & Hitler’s turgid ramblings, have one very interesting fact. In its pages he gives an exact blueprint of how he would conduct the Second World War; First, a reckoning with France, & then the turn East to Russia in search of Lebensraum. If only someone would have read the book – but it’s so mind-numbingly dull I don’t think anyone did.
(vii) The Nuremburg War Trials were some kind of attempt to lay the blame on the war upon someone. With Hitler gone, the Nazis array’d seem’d like little men, but for Hermann Goering, who defended his cause nobly & eloquently. Most of the defenders were hung, but the big G managed to chew on a cyanide capsule in his cell & escape the noose.
(viii) The result of that amazing night in Munich will forever be etch’d into The English soul. 5-1 & a MichaelOwen hat-trick. It was wicked, & the Germans too. As Emile Heskey fired in the fifth I spared a thought for my Bavarian friends & knew that they would have been gutted.
(ix) Colditz castle, or Oflag IVC, was the prisoner-of-war camp for the bad boys. All officers captured repeatedly escaping were sent to this apparently impervious fortress. However, ingenuity won the day & despite being deep in the heart of Eastern Germany a stream of escapers made it out to complete the 800 mile Home Run back to England, much to the constant annoyance of the Germans.
(x) The Potsdam Conference was where the modern world was created. The big three, Stalin, Truman & Churchill all sat round a table, redrawing the map of Europe with big crayons. Despite several years of bloody conflict as friends, the first cracks in the Allies began to show here, over disputes about Poland, which would leave to the silly paranoia that was the Cold War.
(xi) Bomber Harris order’d the destruction of Dresden in 1945, when the war was finish’d bar the shoutin’. Since then controversy has raged as to whether it was justified to kill 40,000 German civilians (more than died in the entire Blitz of Britain) – in the end tho, in that war so many inhumanities occur’d I believe you cannot really single individual events out.
(xii) My first Glastonbury was in 1994, & since then I have only miss’d a year when it was not being held, like 2001. The festival is great, unless it has been turn’d into a quagmire by summer rain, when it becomes a challenge to survive. Rumor has it there was no festival in 2001 coz too many people climb’d over the fences. For 2002 they are gonna put a 30ft fence & install a Colditz like security. I like a challenge & will not pay more than a fiver to some Scouser with a rope ladder under any circumstances – I’ve never bought a ticket & will never do so.
(xiii) These conductors were second only to the ones I came across in the Netherlands. Despite looking like porn-stars they were ruthless & seem’d to possess a 6th sense. However, I’m a pro & managed to hide my cash in the legs of a pair of jeans in my bag. It was funny watchin them searchin for my cash while lock’d up in a Rotterdam police cell. They could not believe I had no cash, but my story that I was meetin’ my mate in the Grasshopper at the Dam eventually got me releas’d, much to their headscratchin’ annoyance.
(xiv) The attack on the heart of American Capitalism, the World Trade Centre, sent shockwaves throughout the world. I remember watchin it as it happen’d live on CNN in Tunbridge Wells – probably the best disaster movie I’ve seen since Airplane.
(xv) With the Allies held up at the heights of Cassino (see 22). They decided to attempt a landing further up the coast at Anzio. They landed right enough, but could only get a few K inland before meetin determin’d resistance. What follow’d was a Gallipoli like situation – trench warfare & supplies from the sea – thus draining much needed resources from the assault on Cassino.
(xvi) The famous eruption of Vesuvius 2000 years ago was so sudden that people were buried in volcanic ash where they stood in the streets. The entire city was rediscover’d about 150 years ago & dug out for the benefit of future generations. Hopefully it will serve as a warnin’ to never build their cities by active volcanoes.
(xvii) One German mountain troop, dug into the slopes of Monte Cassino, held off men from Britain, America, India, Australia, New Zealand & the rest for almost a year. Despite the fact that the Germans were not in the Abbey, respecting its holiness & the wishes of the monks, the Allies decided to bomb it flat in an effort to unlodge these annoying defenders. However, after reducing the centuries old beauty to rubble, the Germans just swarm’d into the ruins & took full advantage of this new cover. It would be months before the mountain was finally taken, & years before the abbey was rebuilt.
(xviii) Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is one of the major deities in the vast Hindu pantheon. There are over three million of them – for all sorts of obscure things. I guess there’s probably gods for scratchin’ yer arse & cleanin’ those stinkin black sweaty bits out from between yer toes. The craziest one is Kali, who wears a necklace of shrunken male heads & wears a dress of sever’d arms. Very morbid, but also very holy.
(xix) Tipu Sultan stuck in the imperialist British throat like a chicken bone. It took them years to defeat him & claim their share of South India. The raja was martyred thro his noble death, personally defending a breach in the walls of his capital. The piss’d up redcoats could not differentiate him from a common soldier thro the smoke of battle & slew him – his body turning up next morning underneath a pile of his dead soldiers.
(xx) Calicut is the site of Vasco de Gama’s 15th century arrival in India. The shock’d natives carried him head high in palanquins to their king, who made the eternal error of doing trade with the white man. Before too long the Portuguese army would arrive with the merchant ships & start taking over.
(xxi) Kanyakamari was one of the sites where Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were scatter’d – the others being South Africa, London & Delhi. Throughout India there are statues of this wiry fakir everywhere & no wonder. His attitude of non-violence completely befuddl’d the warmongering English & won the day, with hardly any blood spilt in anger.
(xxii) The rickshaws in Chennai were the maddest I came across. I had one for the day for free in return for him taking me to some classy shops. For a 10 minute browse he would get 50 rupees from the shop owner. One driver, however, nearly brought on mi temper. With the Andaman permit fresh in my hand & 50 mins til the boat left I got this corrupt geezer who decided to drive me around Chennai with the meter on, clocking up a massive fare. Once I realised his game I scream’d at him, storm’d out in the middle of a busy main road & jump’d in an honest rickshaw. Of course the boat was delay’d 5 hours – but this is India.
(xxiii) The battle of Plassey is a microcosm of the British Empire in India. Despite having just 3.000 troops against 50,000, Clive somehow pull’d off the win. By promising the leader of part of his opposition’s army the Nawabcy of the region, he managed to sew discord & the guy buggar’d off from the field with all his men. What was left was defeated with accurate volleys of rifle fire. Thus, by playing off prince against prince the British slowly conquer’d the sub-continent & held down a country of 300 million souls with just 40,000 soldiers – & their guns.
(xxiv) A perfect example of the Imperial cancer can be seen at Lucknow. The Raja of the area invited the British to his city, to forge trade relations. They duly built themselves a separate apartheided area call’d the Residency, from where they began they political scheming. Eventually they managed to take over the region & a year later the mutiny broke out, epicentred on Lucknow. The siege lasted for five dreadful months, a very dramatic story in itself, until the mutiny was put down. The aftermath of this was the British Crown took over from the East India Company & Queen Victoria became the first Empress of India
(xxv) The fortress of Chittorgarh has been witness three times to the same gruesome event. Three times has an invading army laid siege to the place & three times, after a long siege & when the food has run out, would the outnumber’d defenders ride forth to face the swords of their besiegers & to die a bloody, yet noble death. While the men were doing this, the women & children would be busy jumping into a huge fire prepared for the occasion & joining the men in heaven. Crazy!