Archive for the United Kingdom Category


Your ancient essayist will be on medical leave for an indeterminate period. He has suffered a sledge hammer blow to his lustful heart and his dainty psyche. Recovery is an iffy thing, and rightly so, when the depth of the damage is considered.

The old essayist is looking now for a secluded sanatorium where psychiatric intensive care will always be available. The place that comes to mind is the Pope’s quarters at Gemelli Hospital in Rome. Now that John Paul has gone back to the Vatican, his suite should be available. If a prolonged stay is planned, as it would be in my case, Rome would be the ideal place to seek rest and recuperation. Being in the Holy City may also be rewarding for my spiritual development as plans to be an angel remain in my aspirations. Waving to crowds of on-lookers from the window of the suite is made to order for my talents.

The attack on my heart and psyche were brought on by dispatches from London that say quite openly that our beloved Prince Charles of the English royal family, has decided to marry his long time female companion, thus ending an affair that has gone on since 1970. In those 35 years, Charles and his close friend Camilla, married other people and produced children. In 1995, Camilla was divorced. Charles’ divorce from Princess Diana occurred in the following year.

Glenn Frankel of the Washington Post writes from London that Charles “plans to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, his long time lover and the woman who was part of a tangled royal triangle of scandal and passion that contributed to the break up of his marriage to Diana.” Very hard to believe!

Frankel called Camilla Charles’ “lover.” This is shocking, shocking news. None of us here had any idea of what was going on. It is difficult to believe even now. Didn’t they know how the Anglican Church feels about “lovers” of the same or opposite sex?

That is only the beginning. Sarah Lyall, who has reported from London for the New York Times for several years, wrote a story with the headline, “Charles calls end to the affair.” A head line on a continuing page stated, “The end of a long affair, wedlock now for Charles.”

Ms. Lyall and the Times put together a chronology of their 35 year affair. It is called, “Friend and Lovers.” None of the Americans had any idea that love had anything to do with their affair. Shocked only begins to describe my reaction. Holding hands is one thing, but being lovers is more than an American can bear.

Everyone knows that Charles has a terminal case of daffiness. No one on this side of the Atlantic could imagine him having the intellect to preside over such a thing as a royal affair. The patriots who people the
born-again Bush administration must be as shocked as your old essayist, but they have easy access to Gods and saints and martyrs which makes it easier for them to understand what Charles and Camilla have pulled off for 35 years.

Last fall, a secretary/stenographer on Charles’ staff innocently inquired about her chance for advancement. She was only asking for a chance to make another few pounds per week. Charles must have had a tiff with Camilla when he wrote these lines in answer to the secretary’s request:

“What is wrong with everyone now-a-days? Why do they all seem to think they’re qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities. People believe they can all be pop stars, high court judges, and brilliant TV personalities . . . without ever putting in the necessary work or having the natural ability?”

Everyone knows that Charles only became a Prince after having “put in the necessary work.”

It may be that Camilla whispered to Charlie that he should have told off the secretary/stenographer long ago. Whatever Camilla had to say, the British press hooted. It may be that the fiery letter from Charles persuaded him to end the long time affair with Camilla. While that may be the case, there is no record that the secretary got her raise or was shown the path to advancement on Charles’ staff.

My long association with the Brits has led me to conclude that upper class Englishmen and the royals always spoke in moderate tones that deprecated their standing in British society. But when it came to Diana and Camilla, moderate tones and self deprecation were long gone. In 1996, the year of her divorce from Charles, Diana said of Camilla, “There were three of us in this marriage. So it was a bit crowded.” How shocking. We had no idea. Sarah Lyall wrote, “Even those unable to forgive Charles for cheating on the Princess of Wales can take a certain comfort in knowing that if he had to do it, at least he took the counter-intuitive route, choosing someone older, wrinklier and less svelte than his wife.”

Wrinklier? Sarah Lyall has been reporting from London so long that she uses adjectives like the Brits do. Wrinklier, yes indeed.

Diana also referred to Camilla as “the Rottweiler” which the dictionary tells us is a powerful dog of German origin often used as guard dogs. For her part, Camilla referred to Diana as “that ridiculous creature.” This came after she had recommended Diana as wife material to her lover, Prince Charles. Pretty convoluted stuff, right?

When Ms. Lyall referred to Camilla as “older and wrinklier” than Diana, one has to wonder if our beloved Charles suffers from an Oedipus complex which compels young men to pursue women who resemble their mother. One look at the photograph when Charles announced his engagement may lead casual observers to conclude that Camilla could be his mother’s twin sister or her aunt.

There is one other aspect of the engagement photograph having to do with Charles’s costume. For reasons unknown to the rest of the civilized world, Charlie wore a dinner jacket with crimson lapels and crimson cuffs on the sleeves. There are those who say that when he wears that costume, he looks like a bellhop or an usher in a theater. For all we know, the Prince of Wales may have bought the jacket in a second hand store or at an Anglican rummage sale. A photograph is attached.

To complete this report on royal conduct, we know now that after leaving Charlie, Diana took up with Dodi Al Fayed, the son of the owner of Harrod’s Department Store in London. Dodi was an Egyptian who was employed only as a playboy. It is possible that if Dodi and Diana ever married, he would then assume the burdensome duties of a member of the English royalty opening trade shows and writing put-down letters to secretaries who would like to advance in their work. Ah, but Diana and Dodi were both killed in an automobile accident, so we will never know what might have happened.

Earlier in this essay, it was reported that Charles, the Prince of Wales, suffered from a terminal case of daffiness. It appears that Charles’ son, Harry, has inherited his father’s penchant for goofy and hurtful behavior. Harry is 20 years old and was schooled at Eton, the foremost prep school in all of England. In short, at his age and with his schooling, Harry should have some understanding of his place in the English scheme of things. But that is clearly not the case.

One of his upper class schoolmates threw a costume party with the theme of something like “Colonials and Natives.” Harry’s older brother William went to the party as a bear. But old Harry showed up dressed as a trooper in the German Afrika Korps with a swastika on his left arm. Every veteran of the British Army must have fainted at the sight of Harry dressed as a member of Hitler’s Army. Field Marshal Erwin Johnnes Eugen Rommel who commanded the Afrika Korps greatly disliked Hitler and the Nazi party, thus, no swastikas ever adorned Rommel’s troops. But old Harry wore one. Shocking is it not? And what did his costume as a German soldier have to do with the theme of the party, “Colonials and Natives”? Nothing that can be discerned. But we said Harry was goofy. Guilty as charged.

After a debate among the Royals, old Harry issued a two line apology. He refused to take a trip to the Holocaust Memorial in Auschwitz, Poland which had been suggested. Harry said his semi-apology was enough and presumably, his father acquiesced in his refusal to learn about the Nazis.

Frank Rich, who writes a weekly column in the Arts section of the New York Times said Harry was a “Twit.” My upbringing as a closeted,
born-again monastic was without reference to “a silly annoying person: a fool,” which is the definition of a twit.

All things considered, when it comes to twitiness, the acorns did not fall far from the tree. Twit could apply equally to Prince Harry and his father, Charles the Prince of Wales. But in any case, William and Harry were equally ignorant of their father becoming Mrs. Parker Bowles’ lover and companion as were the colonial Americans. They were as shocked as your old writer of essays.

By this time, it must be obvious that your old essayist finds it debilitating to wrestle with anything having to do with the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Windsor) family. This old observer had no idea that Camilla and Charles were lovers. We simply thought that their love of fox hunting and wearing Scottish costumes was all there was to it. How wrong we were. And how shocking it all is.

During my absence at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, you may be certain that its patients are well fed. Because of my love for peasant food, the Gemella kitchen has ordered great quantities of polenta, spaghetti, anchovies, spumoni and tortonis. Gemelli authorities have been spared the details of what has brought me to such a low state of health. Suffice it to say that the Italians who run Gemelli Hospital would be stunned to know that English Princes and Countesses have affairs and actually become lovers. They would be shocked, shocked, shocked. It is up to me to preserve the innocence of the Italian society and the medical profession.

In the meantime, you may see me waving from my window over the pious crowds gathered below my window in Rome. My waving is pretty good. Perhaps that is what the higher authorities intended for my life’s work. But certainly they did not intend for me to know about royal affairs and lovers. As the Brits say, “NEV-AH!”

February 18, 2005

Post Script:
The title of this piece, “Birds do it – etc” has been lifted shamelessly from Cole Porter, an American composer. It comes from Paris, his first Broadway production.

While your old soldier-essayist is being treated at Gemelli Hospital in Rome, my affairs will be administered by James D for Dog Horney of Clayton, Georgia. He is an old American soldier who specializes in paying electric, gas and property tax bills. He will be attending the Camilla-Charles wedding and will give the groom away.

Woof. That jacket.

It strikes me as odd that we have a 68-year-old prince; it seems oxymoronic.

In site-related news, I haven’t actually been able to create new category tags for years due to a problem with WordPress that I can’t fix. Usually that’s fine, but we’re long overdue for a “Royals” or “Windsors” tag, which would be home to at least a dozen essays. I think once all the essays are published, I’ll make a full site backup and then do some administrative work to make it more searchable.

IS CAMILLA PG? | Meditations – Chapter Seven, Verses 1-17

For the better part of 35 years, Prince Charley of England had played games with Camilla, an upper class English woman who bears a remarkable resemblance to his mother. Charley and Camilla were married to other people for many of those years, so it is fair to assume that Princess Diana and Mr. Parker Bowles were living in a state of cuckoldry. It might be that the Church of England will convey sainthood on those who are cuckolds. Queen Elizabeth is the Pope of the Church of England. Her views have not been made public, but no matter how you cut it, Charley is her oldest son which presumably might work in his favor.

Charley and Camilla got married earlier this Spring and took an extended honeymoon-holiday to recover from the onerous duties of the Prince of Wales. Appearing at garden parties and gracing the conferences of the English hoi polloi demands much of a man. No wonder he needs a honeymoon-holiday. The long time lovers have been gone for more than two months. In that time, there have been no daffy letters written in Charley’s inimitable style. America is baffled! What is going on?

My suspicions are based on my experience with the thousands of women who populated the switchboards and clerical jobs at AT&T. Those women kept tabs on their compatriots. When an operator acquired a husband, they were entitled to a honeymoon trip to Coney Island or to the Jersey shore. Before long, on the wages paid at AT&T, they would run out of money and have to return to work.

Inevitably, other operators regarded it as their God-given right to ask the newly married operator if she was pregnant (PG) and/or did she plan to become PG in the immediate future. No one seemed to regard this as an intrusion into another’s private affairs. Simply put, the question was whether the newlywed was pregnant and if not, what is holding things up.

If the newlywed operator was evasive about her obstetrical condition, the other women would count the number of times she visited the ladies room. They would watch her in the cafeteria to see any signs of gastric distress. And they would keep a sharp eye on her waistline.

The men in AT&T traffic offices had to depend on operating room gossip to forecast their future employment needs. When an operator or a supervisor found out about a pregnancy, they regarded it as a scoop to get to the District Manager first.

So you see my mind set. The people of England and indeed, the Western world would very much like to know about Camilla’s state of health. If she is PG, the world ought to know about it so that bonnets and sun suits may be ordered from London’s most fashionable clothiers. If, on the other hand, she is not PG, there are dozens of former New York operators who will recommend physicians, magicians, chiropractors and morticians who will assist Camilla to achieve that end. The New York operators will probably counsel Camilla to cut down on her smoking as this could lead to undersized babies.

Those same operators from New York are generally of Irish background. They would advise Camilla to explain to Charley how babies are made. It is not a case of ordering a footman to go buy one. Old Charlie has to get into the act. There is a strong chance that he will find the baby making procedure repugnant and distasteful, but the Irish New York operators would tell Camilla’s husband that once he performs, a cookie or a lollypop awaits him. It may be that Charley will be elated at the bargain he has swung.

It is an unfair thing to do, but your old essay writer must tell you that he knows no more than the average bloke on the wharves of London about Camilla’s obstetrical condition. It is shameful to admit that, but whether or not Charley has ever come back to resume writing goofy letters is also something unknown to me.

My advice is simple. Stay close to the old New York telephone operators. My guess is that they will be the first to know about Camilla’s pregnancy. My money is on a new heir to the throne in the Windsor family. My money is also on the thought that old Charley will be among the last to know and will be confused by an event he cannot comprehend. Charley wants his cookie or his lollypop. He needs comfort from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

June 14, 2005


I still don’t quite get why Pop has such a problem with UK royalty. I mean they’re clearly an archaic hold-over that probably should no longer exist in 2017, and I guess in a few different capacities they’re a drain on taxpayers, but his ire seems to have gone far deeper than that. I think he maybe objected most to the utterly unearned sense of entitlement that they carry just for being born into it, but it’s really anyone’s guess. Maybe Judy can enlighten us.


Legend has it that during World War II, an American GI was invited to a fox hunt in England. It was explained to him that being invited to such a supremely significant social event was a great honor. He was told to be on his absolutely best behavior with the royalty and upper class Brits who were his hosts. The GI was a former steel worker from some place in Pennsylvania. He was told that when the fox was sighted, there would be a cry from his British hosts, “Tally ho, the fox.” That was all there was to be said.

But steel workers and GI’s do rough work. They don’t sip tea and trade palace gossip. They call them like they see them. When the fox was sighted by the GI, he is widely quoted as saying, “Tally ho, the God damned fox.” Of course, the British hosts were “absolutely appalled” and so no more fox hunting invitations were issued while the GI’s were in residence in England preparing for the invasion to do battle with the forces of Nazi-ism.

Some of the people who were appalled by the cry of the Pennsylvania GI, were probably also among those who said of the American GI’s, “They are over paid, over sexed and over here.” The comments about being over this and over that, are included to make the account more complete and non-controversial.

In terms of making a complete account, it is incumbent upon this ink stained essay writer to disclose that he is of Irish parentage and enjoys American citizenship. Being Irish and American may cause a small amount of prejudices about the Brits to escape, but the writer will make some effort to suppress it.

The subject of our non-prejudicial essay today, is the upper class English practice of fox hunting, with dogs, which normally results in the death of the fox. To properly hunt a fox, the wealthy Brit must purchase proper boots for riding a horse or horses. He must also have pants appropriate for riding horses. The pants are, of course, stuffed into the boots. Properly clad fox hunters must also have a shirt and a tie with foxhunting scenes painted on it. A proper upper garment with pleats where the sleeves meet the main part of the jacket is worn over the shirt. And of course, the fox hunter must have a gun to dispatch any foxes that are found. Sometimes the hunters wear helmets and sometimes they wear fedoras. Fox hunters are dressed in a fashion that they would always be welcome at a party given by the Prince of Wales.

After the hunter is attired in the latest fashion, he must also have a horse and a dog to chase the fox. If and when the fox is caught and shot, that event will be recorded as a successful hunt. Such a hunt will be celebrated over whiskey and tonics in tony clubs patronized by the hunters.

Whether the horses or the dogs are rewarded has never been an event that has come to my attention. In all of my association with our English cousins, fox has never been served as something to be eaten. The Brits eat kidneys and sausages that would turn your stomach if you knew how they were made, but they seem neither to devour the fox nor do they feed it to the horses or the dogs. Thus, for all their claims of civilized behavior, the Brits hunt the fox for the pure thrill of killing it. As far as this observer knows, the fox population in Britain is peaceful and has never attempted to destroy a city such as Coventry which the Germans tried to do. So the Brits hunt for the “sport” of killing the fox. In other civilized societies, this effort would be called murder, which it is.

Killing for the sport of it seems so un-British. Here in the colonies, well fed people like Richard Chaney and Anthony Scalia go to the marshlands to murder birds. The report from their hunting excursions over the years, says that they ordinarily slaughtered a humongous number of birds. There is no way that those dead birds could be eaten by the well fed Vice President or by the well padded Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. And while they were hunting this year, Scalia and Chaney DID NOT discuss the case involving Chaney that will appear on the Supreme Court’s agenda this Fall. They said they did not discuss it, so that is the final, final answer to this scandal. It would be nice if other cases could be settled so amicably.

In the most recent controversy involving fox hunting with hounds and the English Parliament, there was a vote in the Commons to outlaw the “SPORT” by a two to one margin. Supporters of the ban said hunting with hounds was cruel, elitist and outmoded. The people who wanted hunting to continue said the government should not trample on people’s civil liberties and on the rural way of life. Nobody said anything about the civil liberties of the fox because if he or she is killed, it is all done in the name of British sport. And we all know that English sport is done as a means of proclaiming “God save the Queen.”

All of the recent events took place in the House of Commons. It has been done before with the House of Lords opposing any such fox hunting bill passed by the Commons. And so the bill dies, as does the fox.

As the lawyers say, “Now comes Nicholas Gent.” Mr. Gent is a stock broker, aged 53, who presumably is wealthy. Mr. Gent delivered this sterling comment:

“This (bill) has nothing to do with animal welfare and has everything to do with the people who hunt. It is a form of class warfare and they shouldn’t discriminate against us.”

From the viewpoint of the fox, Mr. Gent is all wrong. The bill has only to do with animal welfare. If there is anything discriminatory about all this, it is clearly the fox that is being discriminated against. He or she is being killed. How much more discriminatory can one be?

Well, the Brits who are supposed to be a role model for other Parliaments and Congresses, had a proper uproar. The Commons was the scene of a near riot, which seems so un-British like. The words they used in the debate about dogs and foxes are ones that shouldn’t be used around well reared children.

But the Brits are making progress in their sporadic march toward civilization. In the Spring of 2004, there was another heated debate, but not about fox hunting. In that debate, there were some protestors who gained entry into the upper gallery of the House of Commons. From that vantage point, they lobbed or threw flour filled condoms at Tony Blair. How uncivilized! How outrageous! How preposterous! And the condoms were unused.

How can the Brits say they are setting a good example for the American Congress or the Indian Parliament or for any of their other former possessions?

If anyone would like to join me in a long overdue tribute to the GI from Pennsylvania who made the unfortunate reference to spotting the fox back in World War II days, perhaps you will lend your support to me in specifying that in the future, flour filled condoms will be hurled at foxes caught by the hounds. It is likely that the Vatican will have something scathing to say about contraceptive devices being used for sport, but that is the chance we will have to take. If Tony Blair knows that in the future all such projectiles will be aimed at the foxes rather than at him, it should be clear that he will support our efforts. He may even say, “Britannia rules the Tally Ho’s.”

September 21, 2004


September 16, 2004
British Ban Fox Hunts With Dogs After Uproar

ONDON, Sept. 15 – After a day of rowdy demonstrations in which protesters broke into the floor of Britain’s Parliament, the House of Commons voted Wednesday to outlaw the centuries-old sport of hunting with hounds.
The 356-to-166 vote followed an emotional debate between supporters of the ban, who denounced fox hunting with dogs as cruel, elitist and hopelessly outmoded, and opponents, who accused the government of intruding on people’s civil liberties and trampling on their rural way of life.
It was the ninth time in 10 years that the House of Commons has voted on a hunting ban, but, with the aristocratic House of Lords vehemently opposed to any ban, the bill has never cleared Parliament. Supporters of the ban said that this time they would force it through the House of Lords by invoking a rarely used law called the Parliament Act. The act allows for bills to become law in the event of a deadlock between the two chambers.
“This practice should have been abolished years ago,” said David Winnick, a Labor member of the Commons from Walsall North. “People will wonder how it was possible for hunting with dogs to continue into the 21st century. It’s a barbaric practice that must come to an end.”
But the debate was soon overshadowed by the raucous demonstrators and the mounting chaos outside. Five demonstrators bolted into the House of Commons chamber and confronted members, prompting a 25-minute suspension of the proceedings. The five men were quickly tackled by doorkeepers and later arrested, but the intrusion raised alarms about security at Westminster and prompted a round of debate about the protests.
Michael Martin, the speaker of the House, said that eight men gained access to restricted areas by brandishing a forged letter. An unidentified pass holder led them into the chamber’s anteroom. Five of the men then entered the chamber.
A security overhaul was ordered a few months ago when protesters lobbed condoms filled with flour at Prime Minister Tony Blair as he spoke in the chamber. This week, a man from the same group, Fathers 4 Justice, climbed a fence and onto a balcony at Buckingham Palace.
“Parliament simply must have modernized security procedures,” Peter Hain, leader of the Commons, said.
Outside, the police confronted a raucous throng of protesters and wielded truncheons to pacify them, bloodying some heads. But most of the thousands of protesters – a mixture of young and old, town and country, tweed and leather – demonstrated peacefully, jeering at politicians and blowing hunting horns. One woman in a fox costume stripped down to her bikini and showed off a bare stomach inscribed with, “For fox sake, don’t ban hunting.”
“This has nothing to do with animal welfare and has everything to do with the people who hunt,” said Nicholas Gent, 53, a stockbroker who stood in the crowd. “It is a form of class warfare and they shouldn’t discriminate against us.”
Others said they worried about the growing urbanization of Britain and the loss of country jobs. “If they ban fox hunting, they will try to ban other things – fishing, falconry,” said Tony Bryan, 52, a falconer from Gloucestershire. Although previous efforts to ban fox hunting with dogs have failed, this time Labor supporters of the bill in the House of Commons voted to use the 1949 Parliament Act to get it past the House of Lords. The act has only been invoked three times: in 1991 to allow Nazi war criminals to be brought to trial, in 1999 to put into effect the European Parliamentary Elections Act and in 2000 to lower the age of homosexual consent.
Hunting advocates said they planned to take the government to court if the bill passed Parliament by contesting the Parliament Act.
“We will, if necessary, fight it in the European Court of Human Rights, where we believe we have a very strong case,” said Simon Hart, the chief executive of Countryside Alliance, at a news conference.
If that fails, opponents of a ban said they would blatantly ignore the law and leave it to the government to try to force the issue.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company



A few things.

First, if the US had an option where the House could overrule the Senate in “emergencies,” I guarantee it’d be used on a weekly basis by whichever party controlled the house.

Second, if the only way that your tradition can survive is that a bunch of people who are literally referred to as “lords” will veto its repeal in spite of overwhelming public opposition, perhaps it is something that deserves to go away.

Third, hunting is stupid as hell, but I did learn something interesting about it the other day. This has nothing to do with foxes, but a lot of big game hunters in particular actually a big part in conservation efforts, because their license fees are so expensive. The guy who killed Cecil the lion, for example, paid $54k for the privilege. In the case of Cecil it was a financial loss for the park because Cecil brought in visitors directly to see him, but if your choice is to have an average lion die and make $54k, or keep the lion alive and make $0, it’s way better for parks to opt for the former option. The idea is that for every hunter that comes in, you can spend those thousands and thousands to support the other lions better and protect the territory.

Poachers are the scum of the Earth.



My friends whose native language is other than English, tell me that the
language of England, which is also spoken in many other countries, is a rich and diverse language. By that, it is assumed that the English language has a term or an expression to fit almost any of mankind’s needs. While the compliment is much appreciated, it seems to me as a sometimes speaker of English, that other languages must have much to recommend them, particularly in the preliminaries to love making. It goes without saying that my foreign language credentials are pretty thin on this subject, with my information coming largely, if not exclusively, from watching telecasts of Spanish speaking programs.

When scanning the TV dial in an attempt to find non-political commentary, Spanish programs seem to me to be super heated affairs. When two performers dance the tango, for example, it seems inevitable for one of the performers to ask the other one, “Mi casa. O Su casa?”
(My house or your house?) The English do not dance the tango. Any intrusion of English language in such a situation would be out of place unless it were to cite the decline in gross domestic products for the second quarter. But the growth or decline of the GDP would not be an appropriate subject for love making, except among economists. There is no record, public or otherwise, of economists or statisticians ever engaging in amorous activities.

In Italian opera, there are hundreds of arias where a tenor or a soprano declares that life is not worth living if their emotional needs are not immediately fulfilled. English has no word or phrase to match the fervor of people who sing Italian opera. When the climax to an aria is reached, an Italian opera singer may kill himself. An English speaker might more likely repeat the latest football (soccer) scores. Perhaps the Latins have fire in their blood when English speakers have only tepid ice water.

All of this is a preliminary to a word that appears to have a significant place in the language of Wales, but receives nothing more than a minimum of emotion in English. The Welsh word is “Hiraeth.” The “ae” letters are, of course, a diphthong, and are pronounced as an English “i.” So the word is pronounced as HEAR’-I-TH.

Hiraeth is a longing for things associated with home. It is a longing for the family and the friends at home. It is a longing for the towns and schools of one’s youth. In other words, hiraeth is a longing for everything associated with home. English dictionaries define the word simply as a “longing.” But that absolutely misses the mark. It would be like saying Mother is defined as a close relative whom we have known since childhood.

Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Bretons in Brittany are the Celtic nations of the world. The Bretons speak French because they live in a French society. The other three Celtic nations speak English because it has been their obligation to do so for hundreds of years. But those three Celtic nations kept their original tongues intact. In my estimation, the Welsh choirs, which have world wide recognition, sing their finest works in the original language of Wales. To non-Welsh speakers, the spelling of Welsh words is a formidable challenge, but the choirs of Wales make them sing in grand harmony.

And so the reader may assume that this is a campaign to have the spirit of hiraeth occupy a place of honor in the English language. Everyone knows it will be an uphill battle all the way, but before more people become angels, it would be nice to know that hiraeth has as much meaning in English as it now does in Wales. It may be a long time coming, but it is worth a vigorous try. A good place to start this introduction would be among the American soldiers in Iraq. Ah, but the trend for the time being is not a favorable one. Right now we seem to like macho words like kill ratios and that sort of thing. Maybe in time, hiraeth will be found in English conversations.

Why Don’t the English Sing?

When the word “hiraeth” is mentioned, thoughts automatically turn to Wales and its many choirs and soloists. At the same time, there are thoughts about Irish singers as far back as John McCormack. And the Scots are good singers. The same could be said for the French, the Scandanavians, the Germans, the Italians, the Spanish, the Polish and the Russians. In short, just about everyone on the European continent sings except the Brits. If they sing, it must be quietly to themselves.

Obviously, singing is not unknown in England, but it certainly does not occupy a place of honor as it does in Wales, in Ireland, in Italy, in Russia or dozens of other countries. Most armies sing even if it is a dirty ditty or a spoof of the generals. But in my time with His Majesty’s forces in World War II, there appeared no song to match the German melody of “Lili Marlene.” That song was taken over by Allied Armies and given English lyrics. Later arrivals did not know of the “Lili Marlene’s” Germanic birth.

At army funerals, the British often have a band that plays “The Last Post” and “The Flowers of the Forest.” Those are moving melodies but they seem reserved for military funerals. Singing the words without band accompaniment would seem be out of place.

Even the Russians with their penchant for secrecy have magnificent choirs. The Latin nations are singers as are the Celtic nations. But the English go their own way without much reference to singing in a group.

My observations about the Brits are never to be construed as a criticism. It is a matter of curiosity. The Brits are good soldiers, but lousy administrators of a governed country as in the case of the United States or British West Africa where the natives were required to address Englishmen as “Master.” Well, it is pretty clear that we can’t have everything. If they sang, they might appear more human to the average observer. May it be suggested that the Brits ought to sing about fox hunting or polo playing to make them appear to be just like other common folks.

Piling On – A Reprise

Earlier in the summer, an essay produced here had to do with a person afflicted with one disease being found to have a second or third ailment beyond the original setback. This is called “piling on” as every schoolchild knows.

All of this is brought again to mind as a result of the recent Florida hurricanes. When a man has his house largely torn down by the storm, he may have no means of refrigerating the insulin for his diabetes. When an elderly couple finds their roof blown off and they receive a grossly inflated bid to replace it, one understands that a heart attack may be the rest of the story in piling on.

In the 1930’s, throughout the American Midwest and Southwest, there was widespread drought. The lack of moisture was so great that a widespread section of the country was called “The Dust Bowl.” So we had a cruel depression which was accompanied by a “Dust Bowl.” That, my friends, is nothing other than piling on.

It has been a source of great pleasure for me to learn that the doctrine of piling on has a historical context. When questions arise having to do with the Jewish faith, it has been a great comfort to me to be able to consult with a matriarch of that religion. My consultant is our neighbor, Frances Licht, who explains the Jewish point of view without proselytizing or evangelizing or patronizing. So Mrs. Licht has all my business when it comes to questions about the Jewish faith.

When Mrs. Licht read the earlier essay about piling on, she offered the thought that piling on was known to Jews who used the term
ala Kletzma” to identify it. If the idea of ala kletzma was familiar to Jews, it is likely that it may be a doctrine that has been around for perhaps 2500 years. My favorite Jewish philosopher is Micah, who advises us to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly. Micah lived 2800 years ago, so there is a strong chance that ala kletzma was known to Jews for at least that length of time. It must be clear that the doctrine of piling on has a historical context measured not in years but in centuries. And it applies to Jews, Christians, Hindus, Moslems as well as to Christian Scientists.

When It Rains It Pours

Closely allied to the idea of piling on, is the thought that when it rains, it never seems to stop. It could also be observed that when the rains go away, drought often follows. Lawyers would say, “in the instant case,” we are being forced to deal with rain of epic proportions. New Jersey has had a wet Spring and Summer, which in no way is comparable to the hurricanes that have tormented Florida. But the weather around here has been wet for some time.

The United States wastes enormous sums on such things as tobacco supports and the billions of dollars invested in the Iraq war. In this country, there are always sections of the country that are dealing with a surplus of rainfall. At the same time, there are other parts of the country always afflicted with drought and wildfires.

It always seemed to me that if the rainfall and the water on the ground were taken to drought stricken areas, we may solve two urgent problems at once.

No one has ever successfully accused me of being a hydraulics engineer, but it seems to me that the waste of funds by the United States Government could be used to ameliorate the effects of drought in many parts of the country. In the past month, the East Coast has had water measured by the foot dumped on it. The water doesn’t run into an old fashioned cistern where it might be used again. That water simply runs away to the sea when it is urgently needed elsewhere in the country.

Of course, it would take an enormous investment to build cisterns, pumps and pipes to move the water from an inundated area to one stricken by drought. Granted, making that investment in cisterns, pumps and pipes is a much better investment for the American people than it is to squirt it away on tobacco subsidies, for example, and on rebuilding countries that have been torn apart by our military. Let’s do something worthwhile for a change.


It seems to me from serving an Army enlistment and from all the news accounts in newspapers, news weeklies and television broadcasts, that soldiers always have home on their minds. It makes no difference whether it is a volunteer army or a drafted army. Women and men think about home. When they lived there, home may have been a place that potential soldiers couldn’t wait to leave. Ah, but once in the Army, home now becomes a place of great interest and influence.

As far back as 62 years ago when my enlistment was served, soldiers had three priorities. First was to finish off the enemy. Second was to get out of this miserable army. And third, was to GO HOME.

Inevitably, soldiers want to GO HOME. Looking back, it is clear that memories of home were exaggerated. The girl friend left behind became a pin-up goddess. The parents were strong Americans. The old job would pay $100 per week when a man came home. Many of these thoughts were completely illusory. Many were the products of imagination run wild. One of my barracks mates had a young wife who became more alluring as he talked about her. By the time he went home, it is my suspicion that, in person, she was not really the sex siren our friend had thought so much about.

The desire to leave the Army and go home could be found in Ted Werre, a Dakota wheat farmer. They could be found in Ralph Tuttle, a wise-cracking Chicago truck driver. There was one immensely likable fellow from Harlem whose name has always escaped me. He and his family were Jewish and had always lived in Harlem – and he wanted to go home to eat the ethnic foods that New York provides. Steve Thorin wanted to go back to Wisconsin to eat the smelt that cavorted in those rivers. And Werner Fredli, an older fellow who loved classical music, wanted to return to Chicago to hear the Chicago Symphony.

As long as there are wars, young men and women will answer the call to adventure. In many cases, the call to adventure results in their deaths. In other cases, particularly in small rural towns, young men join the Army “to get away from this town where nothing ever happens.”

But no matter how you cut it, once a man puts on the uniform, he will soon be talking about home. There is an inevitability about wearing a uniform and talking about going home. This phenomenon has been going on, in my case, for more than 62 years. Today when soldiers are interviewed in Afghanistan or Iraq, they talk about home. Well, all things being equal, the idea of going home, however humble, is probably the best moral booster military service has to offer.


And so for the time being, this completes the thoughts that occur while my face is being shaved. They are not monumental earth-stopping thoughts at all. They are as advertised, which are thoughts that float through my mind when it is temporarily unoccupied by other considerations.

Perhaps when some new thoughts occur sometime in the future, they will be recorded in a following commentary. And so it is now possible to resume my shaving with no burdensome ideas on this ancient mind.

A final thought. On Sunday, August first, Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge announced with great fanfare that we were in danger of being wiped out starting with the financial districts in New York and New Jersey. That was six weeks ago and it will give us something to think about while shaving. It is very difficult to keep ones legs crossed for that length of time. Do you think Tom Ridge is going to say – belatedly – that announcement was an April Fools joke delivered five months late?

September 9, 2004

P.S. from Judy: It is unknown to the author’s wife how so many thoughts could have been collected, since shaving by the retired Ed Carr appears to be an irregular event.

I do remember that Pop quite enjoyed shaving his own head with decent regularity in later years; he’d just run the electric razor around and around it.

This essay series reminds me of another essay called “Whiskers” which I always remember as being one of his oldest essays (despite the fact that it was written in 2007) because it was one of the few that I read shortly after it was actually published. In any event, it would be remiss to not link to the Whiskers essay to conclude the ‘Thoughts that Occur While Shaving’ series.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Pop seems to have answered his own question years before he asked it. In 2007, he wrote: “It is at this point that I must ask, why do men have whiskers?”
Based on these essays, I would posit this answer: “To give them time to think.”


The news from the Royal Family in London continues to be horrid. The holidays at the end of 2003 have become a disaster not only for the English Royal Family, but for the rest of the civilized world as well.

On Christmas Eve, wire services such as BBC and the Associated Press were kept hopping by a report that Princes Anne’s bull terrier, Dotty, had fatally bitten Pharos, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite corgi.

This is that that grim news bulletin evinced from New Jersey:

Now comes another piece of horrid news from London, only one week later, on New Year’s Eve. In this case, we have an issue of misidentifying which of Princess Anne’s bull terriers was at fault. In the Christmas Eve massacre, the dog was identified as Dotty. Now we know that that in the New Year’s Eve attack, the bull terrier owned by Princess Anne was Florence who was also responsible for Pharos’s death. Dotty only bit two children as they walked near Windsor Castle.

The New Year’s Eve debacle took place at Sandringham Castle in Eastern England. The Royal Family owns Sandringham in addition to their own estates and castles. On New Year’s Eve, that bad bull terrier Florence, bit a 50 year old maid. The woman was treated for the dog bites and luckily, did not have to be hospitalized.

It is deeply regrettable that Florence bit a female maid. It would have been more appropriate for Florence to bite a footman belonging to Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. This footman is responsible for squeezing toothpaste onto the Prince Charles’s toothbrush every day. He could perform this vital service to the Crown even if he lost a leg to Florence’s bite, whereas the maid must carry trays of English Champagne to serve members of the Royal Family at the castle at Sandringham. As far as the world knows, the footman is still able to squeeze the paste onto the Prince of Wales’s toothbrush.

A further report from the world wide reaches of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) also tells us that on New Year’s Eve, a giant boa constrictor was captured in one of England’s former colonies in Africa. News reports say that the boa is somewhere near 50 feet in length and weighs at least 500 pounds. Its main food is dogs. Not rats or squirrels or Alpo. It eats only dogs, up to five per meal.

To establish peace in Blighty, my idea for the Nobel Prize for Peace is that the giant boa is to consume some of the obstreperous dogs of Her Majesty, Princess Anne. Boas have no teeth. They simply swallow the dogs and gastric juices do the rest. There are no teeth marks and the process is completed quickly. When the boa consumes its five Princess Anne’s dogs, peace will return to that mighty realm supervised by Queen Elizabeth and her royal brood.

It will be astonishing if the Nobel Committee does not vote me as the unanimous winner of the 2004 Peace Prize.



It is fairly clear that the British upper class have always viewed the Irish as vassals. As a matter of fact, the English word “vassal” means a servant of Celtic origin who owes homage and fealty to the Crown. Those Irish vassals sing and dance in grave contrast to the dour outlook of their former English overseers.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a conservative English poet and writer. Curiously, in later years he converted to Catholicism, the religion of Ireland and its Gaelic vassals.
In Chesterton’s “The Ballad of the White Horse,” he wrote in Book II,

“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”

This is a fine poem, but if he thinks all Irish songs are sad, it would be our pleasure to invite Lord Chesterton’s descendants to come to New Jersey to hear a CD concert of the Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers. I’m sure some minds would be radically changed on that sad song part of Book II of “The Ballad of the White Horse.”

Chesterton’s poem must have inspired a parody. Another poet, Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943) must have had Lord Chesterton’s poem in mind when he wrote these lines in “The Young Celtic Poets”:

For the young Gaels of Ireland
Are the lads that drive me mad;
For half their words need foot notes,
And half the rhymes are bad”

Not bad poetry, but it won’t bring Queen Elizabeth’s corgi Pharos back and it won’t erase the bite on the maid’s leg at Sandringham.

Now before we leave our discussion of Royalty and upper class citizenship in England, a burning question hangs out there. Doesn’t anything belong to Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh? For example, the dogs and the estates and the castles are all ascribed to the Duke’s wife, Queen Elizabeth. It is well known that the Prince was born on Corfu, a Greek island. Being of Greek origin, does that render him incapable of ownership of Royal Family canines? And one other question. What is this Greek born gentleman doing as the Duke of Edinburgh which is one of the homes of the Celtic race? Do you think his dukedom might secretly include Dublin? Or perhaps Boston?

These are monumental questions that must be cleared up promptly. Perhaps, if the Duke composed poems as clever as Chesterton or Guiterman, we might invite him to a St. Patrick’s Day parade, providing he left the Royal dogs back at the Castle. He could also leave Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne and the Prince of Wales at home as well.

January 3, 2004


Editor’s note: Spellings have been changed from the original essay, where Pop thought the dog’s name was “Pharoe” — however, CNN and other sources confirm that it is in fact “Pharos” the corgi. Source: I can also verify that Florence was indeed at fault, after Dotty was incorrectly accused at first.

I’ll also take this opportunity to point out that this type of correction is just one example of the high journalistic standards we maintain here over at If you are ever in need of this degree of diligence in the reading of tongue-in-cheek essays, I’m your man.



Being an essayist in New Jersey, USA, is an exciting existence. There are pageants and banquets and balls to be attended. New Jersey honors its essayists weekly with an uncommon display of gratitude and outright affection. In the midst of all these ceremonies, there is a chance that Americans, particularly those of Irish ancestry, will overlook or forget to pay rapt attention to news from the mother country to us all – England. This small report is intended to acquaint you with recent developments in the country which we lovingly call Blighty.

There is elegant news from Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. The news about his paramour, Camilla Parker Bowles, is somewhat less elegant. Charles and Camilla have not sought the blessings of the Church of England for their living arrangements. And finally, there is horrid, distressful news about fox hunting with hounds. Let us start with the news of the Prince that will cause you to display your Union Jack for all to see.

Before we get too deeply into developments about the Prince, it is necessary to know just which prince will be the subject of our peasantly adulation. If Charles used his family name, he would tell you it is Windsor. That name came about because his proper name is Wettin, the family name of Queen Elizabeth’s consort. Not this Queen Elizabeth, her grandmother. The full name of the consort was Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 1917, the Prince’s ancestors changed the German sounding name to Windsor, a more proper British name. So now we know which prince we are dealing with.

Alan Cowell, the New York Times reporter in London wrote in a mid-November dispatch that our prince has “a magnetic attraction for gaffes,” which is a gross understatement. It began when Elaine Day, a former secretary in Prince Charles’s office went to court alleging sexual harassment from the Prince’s private secretary, Paul Keffard. Ms. Day, who worked on the Prince’s staff from 1999 until 2004, also told the court she had asked whether the royal household offered a route to promotion for secretaries such as herself.

Well, asking about “a route to promotion for secretaries” set off a large size bomb under the lovable Prince of Wales. No one seems to have responded to the charge of sexual harassment, but asking about how one may be promoted set the Prince into a tizzy. He wrote these lines:
“What is wrong with people these days? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things above their capabilities?

“It was a consequence of a child-centered educational system which admits no failures. People seem to think they can all be pop stars, high court judges or brilliant TV presenters or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having the natural ability.”

The thought that the Prince would say “without even putting in the necessary work” strikes this American peasant as a phrase concordant with Churchill’s “blood, sweat and tears.” To think that Ms. Day, while evading her harasser, would have time to ask about a route for promotion without “putting in the necessary work” is, on its face, astounding. Who does Ms. Day think she is?

The Prince got his station in life the hard way, starting from the bottom. In the beginning, he was a rail layer on the London Underground. Then he collected garbage for a few years before getting a job driving a street car. That put him in a good position to become a policeman who started by patrolling the streets in high crime districts of London. Later, he serviced Port-A-Johns with his sister Anne. He ran a Johnny-on-the-Spot toilet facility franchise. The point is that Charles Windsor, nee Wettin, earned every one of his promotions. Soon after he was promoted to a Prince, the people of Wales demanded that he be a candidate for the demanding title of Prince of Wales. The vote was unanimous with every citizen of Wales casting an enthusiastic ballot. As we all know, the Welsh adulate their Prince just as they adore every English person.

So the Prince clearly earned his lofty station in life by “putting in the necessary work.” Hear, hear. When he sees this accolade from this side of the Atlantic, perhaps the Prince will hint that his Assistant Secretary Kefford should refrain from sexually harassing Ms. Day, if that is possible.

The news from the Prince’s Royal household is not so splendid with respect to his companion, Camilla Parker Bowles. The Prince has built an apartment next to his quarters with connecting bedroom doors. But in strict observance of British protocols, he has never been in
Mrs. Parker Bowles’ bedroom. Total abstinence, you know. Whether she has ever been in his bedroom is being shielded by the Official Secrets Act of the British Parliament. There is a feeling that Mrs. Parker Bowles looks very much like Charles’s mother. Make of that what you will.

When the Prince’s mother cashes in her chips, the Brits will have a decision to make about whether Camilla will be a Queen. Or a consort or a companion. My bookie, who guaranteed a Kerry victory in the United States says, “It ain’t gonna happen.” We shall see. Do you think that if Charles called her “England’s proper mother-in-law,” the church would say that is a “saintly title”? We don’t know, do we? The Archbishop of Canterbury has no comment as he is dealing with a gay Bishop in New Hampshire.

The final bit of news from home is that the British House of Commons invoked a rarely used Act of Parliament into law that would ban all hunting of the fox with hounds. The Act stipulates that shooting foxes is fine, but doing it when accompanied by hounds is forbidden.

The unfairness of it all is astounding. People who dig the trenches for the Metropolitan Sewer Commission will be denied their only sport. The men who drive the subway cars and the newsboys and the hotel maintenance workers rely on a diet of fox meat.

After work driving spikes into ties in the Underground, Mike Davis loves to go to his flat, have a warm beer and put on his fox hunting costume. The men from the assembly line of the Austin-Healey Motor Car plant wait impatiently for their weekends when they will go to their country estates to ride their horses and make loving gestures to their hounds. The men who slaughter cows and sheep at Lancaster’s packing houses will be denied the only pleasure available to them. How sad. How tragic.

Oh Britain, what have you done? Simple folk are being deprived of their God given sport. Every Briton will rue the day of November 19, 2004 when this happened. It could be worse than September 1, 1939 when World War II started.

Those of us who exalt England’s name at every opportunity are aware that the Celtic nations, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, have never been absorbed by fox hunting as the ordinary working classes of Englishmen are. Perhaps it is blasphemous to cite an Irish wit in conjunction with our sacred love of hunting foxes with hounds. But blasphemy wins the day. An Irish wit named Oscar Fingall O’Flahertis Wills Wilde once wrote that fox hunting was “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” How absolutely horrid. To think that an Irish author would have the gall to comment on a sacred English activity such as shooting foxes is nothing less than unthinkable.

Well, that is the news of the upper classes of the British Empire. It is deeply regretted that the news about Prince Charles and his letter asking what is wrong with people these days is so soggy.

See here. Charles was a working man just as the blokes in the unions in Britain are. Charles succeeded by hard work. His labor was eventually recognized by his becoming a prince. Any working man could do what Charles has done if he “puts in the necessary work” at dreary tasks until all obstacles are overcome.

Prince Charles is now being unfairly criticized. He knows what hard times are as his family was once on the dole. Fortunately, the Unions that he belonged to during his ascent to princedom are now coming together to sponsor a rally on New Year’s Day. There will be the ditch diggers, the packing house men, and the men who take care of London’s Johnny’s-on-the-Spot as well as old bus drivers and subway employees. They will meet in Hyde Park to hear from the Lord Mayor and titled consorts from the House of Lords. Red Ken Livingstone will lead the cheering for the Prince of Wales.

Delegations from Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Canberra, Wellington, and Moscow and Beijing will be on hand to cheer Charles in his quest for a wider divide between classes in Great Britain. Princess Anne, who scrubbed floors before she was promoted to royalty, will be on hand with her carnivorous dogs.

Until we see you on New Year’s Day, keep your mind on Camilla and on the urgent need to keep the hounds in fox hunting. Don’t worry about the Black Watch Regiment in Iraq. Fox hunting and Charles’s future with Camilla demands your full attention. Until we see you in Hyde Park, “Cheerio!”

November 20, 2004

Post Script: This essay was written with a sense of deep and abiding love for Blighty and the British Royal Family. English editorial cartoonists responded less splendidly. Steve Bell’s cartoon in The Guardian is one example. It is attached. It appeared after our heart felt tribute to Charles, the Prince of Gaffes. It is fair to say that Charles may be the best gift to cartoonists in all recorded history.

PPS: Steve Bell is a cheeky fellow who probably knows little about fox hunting.


I think it would be a lot more exciting to be a prince of Whales than a prince of Wales, personally. Since “Prince of Wales” seems to be a dead-end posiiton for him, he should consider either laboring much harder to become king, or changing tactics to govern marine animals.

Damn I miss essays. Sorry for such a long gap between them!


Now that we have finished with the Iron Curtain, there may be some small merit in a review of the trouble of a Libyan tour group in Heathrow and finally, a call to personally minister to the needs of a fine group of Overseas operators and executives in Pittsburgh.

We may as well start with London where Colonel Quadafi sent his stalwarts to take in the sights of beautiful women on stage, forbidden at home, and frightful amounts of alcohol, also forbidden in Libya. There is no need for a local Chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in downtown Tripoli or in Bizerti, either. Keep your minions at home in Evanston, Mrs. Tooze, and work on the misguided souls being lost in Chicago.


One day, we enplaned for Bahrain. It’s a long trip and not a very rewarding adventure. The plane made a stop at Heathrow, outside London where we were to spend the night leaving early the next morning for the trip to Bahrain. I rarely ever looked forward to visiting an Arab country. They are often grim places. They don’t enjoy the give and take of the Western world that would leaven the mix and make for a little laughter. And, for many of us, we are infidels. I don’t feel all that comfortable in an Arab city except for Cairo. But we did have a little to look forward to in Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia is among the most repressive places around except for the Taliaban in Afghanistan. Women don’t drive cars and they must stay at home. Ah, but on the weekend from Thursday through Friday, there is a stream of traffic over the new causeway bridge from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. And lots of airplane flights. The attraction is alcohol, with maybe a few floorshows thrown in. There may be a little gambling. In any case, the confining chodor comes off as it hits the end of the bridge and doesn’t go back on until Friday night on the way home.

The bridge was new to us so we thought we’d like to see Arabs at play. Mostly men, they acted like school children out of school. They had their fill of alcohol and western food. And they chased girls.

And so we looked forward to seeing a loosened up Bahrain. It sure wasn’t Paris or Amsterdam. But that is what set our hearts to singing a little bit because we might see an Arab capital Manama, warts and all. It turned out that it wasn’t that good. Ah, but back to Heathrow.

Well after a bit of sleep, we step into the check out line at the hotel cashier. There is all the usual confusion as to whether we had breakfast followed by presentation of drachmas, liras, guilders and so forth. The fact is that it took time which we didn’t have with an airplane to catch.

Last night we were “entertained” by a group of Libyans who had a plenitude of alcohol to drink. It may be banned in Libya, but they made up for it in the United Kingdom. And so the next morning a hung over Libyan tried to sort of crash his way to the front of the line at the cashier’s desk. Most of us thought he had forgotten his manners and the clerk would send him back to the end of the line.

Cal Tuggle, Howard Pappert and I were at the front of the long line leading to the cashier cage. When he spoke, the Libyan’s English was pretty good. The problem was his friend on the Libyan tour plane, had not gotten up. He needed to make a call rather than running up several flights of stairs.

After he annoyed the cashier with his questions, he was told to go to the house phone near where we were standing. He couldn’t get it straight. He couldn’t understand that if he dialed 678, for example, his friend would answer. So we went back and forth with all of us becoming more annoyed at the Libyan. Eventually, the cashier put down his pen and said, “Sir, you go over to that phone and dial 678 and it’s all taken care of.” The Libyan still couldn’t believe that this was the way phones worked in a big hotel. Finally, the cashier said, “Sir, you can dial. You do not need to do more. All you do is when the phone answers, you say “Blah, Blah, Blah.” That’s all there is to it.”

As Cal Tuggle, Howard Pappert and I watched, the Libyan was armed with his new information that he had dragged from the cashier. He went to the phone and dialed 678. When the phone answered, he yelled “Blah, Blah, Blah.”

His companion was in no mood to hear “blah, blah, blah.” I think he hung up on him.


U S of A
Now that we have disposed of the Libyan tour group, let’s move on to a presentation to one of our five Overseas groups in Pittsburgh. It was an attempt to show them how they fit into the Overseas scheme of things from the initial advertising to eventual cable layout and settlements of accounts.

While I was out of the country, Dottie Giovi Campbell got some of my major exhibits together. When I came back to the office, I finished my preparation and stood ready to leave the following morning. During that afternoon, Dottie asked, as she always did, what would I need for my use the next day in Pittsburgh.

I told Dottie that she always made good arrangements for me. However, in an afterthought that I threw away, I mentioned that it would be nice to have a watermelon in my room. I was kidding and Dottie knew that. I think she did. But she still told the Traffic Manager in Pittsburgh. Apparently, he thought she was serious or else he decided to find a suitable watermelon. I’m sure that he had his tongue firmly in place, but he was a good guy who would show this apple knocker from New York what Pittsburgh was about.

I forgot to mention that this presentation was being made late in January, a small detail, but very significant for our little story.

I carried a large briefcase to this meeting because I had quite a bit with slides and other materials for use in the meeting. This is the sort of briefcase that lawyers call an exhibit case. It plays a prominent part in the story.

When I checked into the hotel, the Bell Captain cautiously inquired of me if I had any unusual request of the hotel. Then the Bell Captain asked bluntly, whether I always had a watermelon in my room. I almost answered without thinking but then, Dottie Giovi and the local traffic manager came into view. And I told him that “Yes, I always had a watermelon in my room. They more or less made a home for me away from home.” I think maybe he wanted to like me, but that New Yorkers were pretty odd.

Now comes a special call from Bob Christ, who is negotiating a contract in Nova Scotia. The Operator who took the call didn’t get it quite straight. She gave it to the same Bell Captain, who didn’t get it quite right, who brought it to me in the room. He announced that I had better get to this message because it “was from Christ.” It was from Bob Christ – not from any one but old Bob.

I never found out about where that watermelon came from in January but I knew I had to take it home. The watermelon was a round one. I took all the lining out of the large lawyer’s bag, and it fit perfectly. It was ungainly, but it fit and I could button the briefcase covers. When I reached the Pittsburgh airport, my bag was not out of my hands for an instant until a man called out he had a suspicious looking briefcase. Three or four fellows came and demanded that I unload the “Large Object.” I told them it was a watermelon. That only made them angrier. And so I unloaded the famous watermelon. One of the guards who did a little farming agreed that according to his estimate, I really had a watermelon.
I still joke with Dottie Giovi, but I don’t mention watermelons anymore. And let’s hear it for the men who produced that watermelon in the snows of January. Those fellows acted as though they always had watermelon for a guest. I never asked them about it.

December, 1997
Essay #3 (Old Format)


I actually found the first bit of this essay a little harder to follow than usual. I think in the early essays Pop was mainly writing for his own theraputic benefit more than writing for an audience, so he tended to move quite quickly. Not a bad thing, but I do find myself wondering if other essays will shed more light on these traveling companions, the timeframe in which we’re operating, etc.

EDIT: Judy contacted Dottie Giovi herself! Apparently the watermelon incident took place around 1975-6, when she and Pop worked together at the #5 World Trade Center building.



This essay has spent a longer time than normal in gestation. I had intended to dictate it on Memorial Day, but the news from Iraq was so depressing that I could not bring myself to work on it. Now that the essay has emerged from the womb, let us see what we have.

This essay is about the effects of war and uses World War I as its example. You may recall that Woodrow Wilson, our President during the First World War, called that war “The War to End Wars.” The fact that we have had several wars since that time merely validates the title of this piece. The war to end wars was a naïve idealistic hope of Woodrow Wilson. The current administration claims to be conducting a “global war on terror”. This is a cynical attempt for this administration to remain in power because the American electorate is reluctant to vote against a wartime administration. The fact is that wars and terror have been with us since the beginning of time and they will continue to be with us until the world’s history adjourns, demonstrating the truth in Karr’s maxim.

You may also recall that in 1914, Winston Churchill, who was the British Defence Minister, claimed that the German fortress could be conquered by attacking “its soft underbelly”. That soft underbelly was Turkey, who bloodied the nose of the Allies in the Battle at Suvla Bay near Gallipoli. In the current war in Iraq, the Americans elected to invade that country because it was a “slam dunk” which constituted another soft underbelly. We are now in the fifth year of the current war and it appears that the only people being “slam dunked” are our forces. Again this demonstrates the thought that in 93 years, we have learned nothing.

Let us leave Woodrow, Winnie and the current war on terror and turn now to Eric Bogle. That fellow is an extraordinary writer of songs, lyrics, and poetry. Two songs that he has written about the First World War are now sung throughout the English-speaking world. They are “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and “The Green Fields of France,” which is also known as “Willie McBride.” There are three citations from these two songs which were written about events that took place between 1914 and 1918 that have relevance to events taking place today.

Winston Churchill gave the job of attacking the Turkish forces at Gallipoli to the Australians. When the attack began against the Turks, Bogle says that the Aussies were “rained by bullets and showered with shell, which nearly blew us back to Australia.” As a result, our “blood stained the sand and the water.” Any correlation between the Turks’ resistance in the First World War and the resistance we are encountering in the civil war in Iraq is not coincidental. They are quite related. Again, in 93 years we have learned nothing.

There is another elegant Eric Bogle line before the battle at Suvla Bay finishes. The line holds that:

“Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I awoke in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there was worse things than dying”

What is happening today in the battle against the insurgents in Iraq is multiplied several fold from the battle of Suvla Bay. Our soldiers are losing their arms and their legs, but also of great significance, the roadside bombs have separated them from their senses. So in ninety plus years the killing goes on and the results have become much crueler. Have we learned nothing? Obviously not.

The Australian soldier who speaks in this song was saved and was returned to civilian status. We know this from several lines in the song, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” The soldier laments that he will not do much dancing anymore because it takes two legs to go waltzing with Matilda or anyone else. Our legless soldiers have made the same discovery.

As an old man, the legless soldier sits on his front porch and watches “the parade pass before him.” This is a reference to the annual celebration of ANZAC Day, which memorializes the achievements of the Australian as well as New Zealand soldiers. This is much like our Memorial Day. The old soldier sits on his porch as time goes on and watches his old comrades “old, stiff, and sore”…“still answering the call.” A young person asks, “What are they marching for?” The old soldier says, “I ask myself the same question.”

Finally, the old soldier makes note of the fact that as time goes forward, fewer and fewer soldiers will march in the ANZAC parade. He concludes, nostalgically, that someday “No one will march there at all.”

The poet Phil Coulter says, “The minutes fly and the years go by.” For American soldiers of the First World War, only three are left, and they are well past the century mark. For those of us who were involved in the Second World War, we are now well into our eighties, and a number of us are advancing into our nineties. It is fairly obvious that as time goes on, that soon old soldiers will not be there to answer the call. What has happened to the veterans of the First World War is now happening to those of us who served in the Second World War. And when age creeps up on the veterans of the Iraq War, they will find that it is difficult to answer the call in the future. But the call will be there, which is why the title of this piece is “The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same.”

In the second piece mentioned earlier, that being “Willie McBride,” we find a weary traveler sitting down by the graveside of a British soldier. With the name McBride, the soldier could be of either Scottish or Irish parentage. According to the gravestone, Private Willie McBride died in 1916 at the tender age of 19 years. In his imaginary conversation with Willie McBride, the stranger asks, “Did you really believe that this war would end wars?” And then he goes on to ask Willie, “Do the soldiers who lie here know why they died?”

Of course the answer is no, because soldiers do what they are told and they are not paid to think. If they do what they are told and get killed in the process, so be it.

As the story about Willie McBride comes to an end, there is a poignant line. It goes, “Countless white crosses in mute witness stand to man’s indifference to his fellow man.” I suppose that it was this way in the First World War just as it has recurred so many times and continues with the Iraq War.

In any event, Eric Bogle has written two powerful anti-war songs. With one war succeeding another, I believe it validates the thought that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

In this essay, I hope that I have whetted your appetite for the music of Eric Bogle. He was born in 1944 in Peebles, Scotland. Since 1982, he has been a citizen of Australia. Bogle is an astute commentator on the affairs of men. As he said in “Willie McBride,” the “war to end wars” has not resulted in the demise of wars but the fact is they have happened “again and again, again and again, and again.”

The quotation that I attribute to Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr is an apt one. With respect to our wars, it is obvious that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Unfortunately, that is tragically so. Woodrow Wilson claimed that the First World War was the war to end wars. Today we have an American president who claims that he is in charge of “the global war on terror.” So you see, in 93 years we have learned nothing.

Can anyone deny that the more things change, the more they remain the same?

June 3, 2007
Essay 258
Kevin’s commentary: Well, we certainly do get more efficient ways of killing one another. That counts for something, right?

A nice live version of “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” can be heard here. We listened to a lot of Eric Bogle at Pop’s house earlier this week. He’s incredible.

The song about Willie McBride is also very well done. Reminds me, weirdly, of some lullabies that my dad used to sing me. Say what you will about Bogle, Clancy and the like, but they create damn pleasant music especially considering the subject matter. Rap has violence and money, pop has sappy love songs, and this kind of music has war deaths. Guess they’re just popular to write about for this genre.


Haggis is a meal consumed by Scots on ceremonial occasions. I use the word “consumed” advisedly because it is impossible to imagine that anyone would actually enjoy eating haggis. To prepare haggis, it is necessary to have a sheep’s stomach into which are poured quantities of oatmeal as well as the sheep’s kidneys, heart, lungs, esophagus, tongue, and other vital organs. Haggis purists insist that the sheep’s spectacles and dentures also be included in the sheep’s stomach. When the sheep’s stomach is loosely closed by string, it is roasted on an open fire for at least six or seven hours. During that time of roasting, the Scots walk around speaking the Scottish version of the Gaelic language, praising the Presbyterian religion, and drinking tumblers of Scotch whiskey. The wares of every distiller from Glenfiddich, to Johnny Walker to Dewars are slurped up. When the diners have reached the point of complete senselessness, the meal is ready to be consumed. Some diners sit in chairs while other helpless diners are forced to eat their haggis in a reclining position. I hope it is understood that your old essayist is not a haggis eater.

The consumption of haggis occurs mainly on January 25th when the birthday of Robert Burns is celebrated throughout the world. Bobbie Burns was the premier poet in the history of Scotland. He was well-known for his jibes at the doctrine of predestination which is a fundamental concept of the Presbyterian faith, the National Church of Scotland. Bobbie Burns died at age 37 years. It is not known whether he was predestined for Hell or whether he is now eating haggis with the angels.
Several years after Bobbie Burns was born, there came on the scene another Scottish poet and novelist named Walter Scott. As far as I can tell, Walter Scott’s birthday is celebrated nowhere. Perhaps the reason for the Scots to overlook his birthday is that Walter Scott accepted a knighthood from the English monarchy. Officially, Scott is known as
Sir Walter Scott and I suspect that accepting such an honor from the English throne did not set well with his fellow countrymen. Furthermore, Walter Scott was known as a fan of “pub grub” rather than as a devotee of Scottish haggis.

In any case, Walter Scott contributed these lines in one of his works:

“Lives there a man with soul so dead
Who to himself hath never said
This is my own, my native land…”

Those words from Walter Scott have stuck in my memory for at least 70 years. It seems to me that the reference to “my native land” is fulfilled by the flags and anthems that its native daughters and sons adopt. And so it is that I tell you that I have been a vexillologist since the age of 20 years. A man who is afflicted by a case of vexillology is a person to be celebrated and certainly not to be shunned. That term merely refers to a love for flags and their collection. I suspect that around this house today there are at least three dozen flags representing the hopes and aspirations of the people of the world.

I came upon my case of vexillology honestly. During World War II, it was my fortune to be associated with the members of the British Eighth

Army. That army was described as a polyglot army because it contained units from several locations in Europe. There were the Poles, the Czechs, the Norwegians, and of course the Free French who fought under a banner with the fleur-de-lis on it. Those men who came from countries under the yoke of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis put a high price on their national flags. At funerals or at the ceremony the British call retreat, which takes place largely at the close of the day, it was not unusual to see soldiers with tears in their eyes as they saw their own national flag.

So I became a collector of flags. On each of the upstairs windows I have attached flag holders. These are in addition to the flag holders immediately outside the front door. Flags of several nations have been mounted in those flag holders, not out of patriotic reasons but simply because I enjoy the beauty of flags. And I recall what they meant to the soldiers of the British Eighth Army, the polyglot army.

Taking one thing with another, it seems to me that in my collection of flags, the colors red, blue, white, and green tend to predominate. There are a few with black in them but I do not find them particularly attractive. The Scandinavian countries or, if Finland is included, the Nordic countries, all have a large cross which runs from top to bottom and from east to west. Those flags are very attractive. I like the British flag as well as the flag of Ghana, and it goes without saying that I am fond of our own stars and bars. But if there is one flag that stands out above the others, I would have to give that award to the Welsh flag.

Aside from flags, I am also a collector of dragons. In the middle of the Welsh flag is a large red dragon. He is as fierce as can be imagined, snarling at everybody as they look at him.

Seven or eight years ago we located a company in Wales that turns refuse into usable objects. When we asked that organization if they could produce a Welsh dragon, they said they could. Two months later they delivered our dragon which was made out of an abandoned washing machine. That dragon, which measures about three feet tall and four feet in length, now sits on the mantel over our fireplace. I am not a Welshman but it gives me great comfort to know that our living room is protected by a fierce red Welsh dragon.

So it seems to me that when Walter Scott said, “This is my own, my native land,” one of the ways to show devotion to that ideal is a flag. Many brave men have died in defense of their native land and in many cases, their coffins are wrapped in the flag of their native country. This is a touching ceremony and one that I revere.

So my love of flags, my vexillology, goes back nearly 65 years when I first saw the pride with which the soldiers of the British Eighth Army embraced their own native flags. Flags are a powerful instrument of patriotism and I am delighted to collect and to admire them.

Now that we have dealt with flags, there is an ancillary matter having to do with national anthems. Walter Scott’s line about “my own, my native land” takes form in the musical expressions that constitute national anthems. Some are warlike and others are more pacific. Some reflect pieces of beautiful music. Fortunately, none of the anthems are written in the rhymes of Rock and Roll or Hip Hop. Our national anthem was written in a period when we were angry with the British in the War of Independence. It reflects a militaristic outlook. Beyond that, it is almost unsingable because of the vocal range required. On the other hand, our adversary in that war was England. Their national anthem is “God Save the King” (or Queen, whichever sex is on the throne). In this country, we sing a patriotic song having the same tune as “God Save the King.” It is, of course, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. If I had my choice, I might opt for “America the Beautiful” with its amber waves of grain, as opposed to the “Star Spangled Banner.” But that is only one music lover’s opinion.

Jean Sibelius, the Finnish composer, wrote some of the most majestic music in history. The national anthem in Finland reflects the work of Sibelius. In Sweden, “Sverige” is a patriotic song which is not their national anthem, but I find that song very moving.

Until the mid 1980’s, when athletic teams visited the Forum in Montreal, they were greeted by a well-known tenor, Roger Doucet, who sang
“O Canada” and the national anthem of the visiting team in their native tongue. In my estimation, Doucet was a world-class tenor and he was one of Canada’s national treasures. Unfortunately he died much too soon.

While there are marching songs that serve as national anthems and anthems that will put you to sleep, it has always struck me that the single most beautiful piece of music in the anthem category, is the one of Quebec. It is called “Mon Pays,” which of course means “my country.” Montreal and Quebec City have always been favorites of my wife and myself to visit. When I hear Roger Doucet on a CD singing “Mon Pays” and “O Canada,” I sometimes long to be a Canadian.

Well, there you have a few of my thoughts about flags and anthems. When Walter Scott said “This is my own, my native land,” that thought was carried out throughout the world by the use of flags and anthems.

Some flags are more beautiful than others, just as some national anthems are more moving than others. But in the end, flags and anthems provide us with an effective means of saying, “This is my own, my native land.” And for Walter Scott’s contribution to civilized society, I propose that his birthday be marked by a haggis-less dinner. The haggis has to go, but the Scotch whiskey can stay.

April 13, 2007
Essay 249
Kevin’s commentary: Ezra’s Essays often send me mixed messages when the subject of travel is broached. The United Kingdom is supposed to be a wonderful place full of interesting people, but all its food is shitty. Do I go there or not? Do I bring a suitcase full of sandwiches? Who knows.

In any event, Pop’s house is indeed full of flags and dragons. Here are some examples:


In a recent essay, I commented on the Irish propensity for attempting to find humor in every untoward situation, including death. In the case of the demise of a loved one, there is a bawdy Irish song whose lyrics go like this:

“Look at the coffin, with its bloody gold handles,
Isn’t it grand, boys, to be bloody well dead?
Let’s not have a sniffle, let’s have a bloody good cry,
The longer you live, the sooner you’ll bloody well die.”

Subsequent verses after the coffin “with its bloody gold handles,” contend that the mourners are hypocrites, that the flowers have lost their petals, the widow is milking the audience for more tears, and, in one version, the young male choir is referred to as bloody young faggots. The word “bloody” appears often in the speech patterns of England and Ireland. It is not an oath or a vulgarity, but rather it is used solely as an intensifier. My father, for example, referred to the tappets in his Studebaker automobile as “those bloody tappets sounding off again.” And in the final analysis, who can take quarrel with the thought that “the longer you live, the sooner you’ll bloody well die”? That seems to me to be more or less a given. The point in this whole situation is that in unfortunate instances in our lives, the Irish seem to have a penchant for looking for some humor to leaven the sadness. All things considered, I think it is a better solution than hand-wringing and weeping.

Another example comes to mind from the writing of the Irish author, James Joyce. One of his books has to do with the wake held for Tim Finnegan, an Irish laborer. According to the story, “Finnegan fell off a ladder and broke his skull.” Irish custom requires that the corpse be laid out on a bed in the living room and covered by a sheet or blanket. In Finnegan’s case, his corpse was laid out with “a bottle of porter (beer) at his head and gallons of whiskey (Bushmill’s best) at his feet.” As the wake progressed, Mrs. Finnegan served tea and cake to the guests, but soon the mourners began to drink the whiskey. Drinking Irish whiskey commonly results in disagreements of one kind or another. In one such encounter, a man threw his drink at another mourner who was standing near the corpse, which was proclaimed as the “nicest corpse I ever did see.” As the whiskey spilled over Tim Finnegan, he began to rise from the dead. He then said, “What the hell. Do you think I’m dead?”

James Joyce takes several hundred pages to describe Finnegan’s Wake. The Irish have also memorialized it in a bawdy song called, “Tim Finnegan’s Wake.” If you ever hear that song, I am sure that you will be inspired. As far as can be determined, Tim Finnegan went on to lead a lengthy life after his resurrection. James Joyce is a favorite of Irish actors who quote frequently from his plays. If James Joyce said that Finnegan rose from the dead, that’s good enough for me. I believe in the restorative powers of Bushmill’s Irish whiskey, just as the mourners did.

Irish people mourn the same as everyone else does. When a loss occurs such as a death, Irish people are mournful. It is not as though the Irish are without feelings, but it is that from their long history of oppression by the English, the Irish tend to look for any humor they can salvage from every dire situation.

For several years I have intended to write on the sentiments expressed in the song, “Isn’t it Grand Boys.” I neglected to do so because the subject had to do with death. But when push comes to shove, who can debate that “the longer you live, the sooner you’ll bloody well die”? It seems to me that even in the most mournful of circumstances, a snicker or two would not hurt. This of course would follow the advice of “Let’s not have a sniffle, let’s have a bloody good cry.” Once the crying is over, perhaps balance is restored and there is an opportunity for a little bit of humor. Humor has served the Irish and the rest of humanity well for hundreds of years. I hope that will be the case for the next millennium or so.

Even the laid back Cockneys have gotten into the spirit of the bawdy song discussed here today. There is a music hall Cockney song performed by Irish singers which holds, “They are moving father’s grave to build a sewer.” The early verses say, “They’re moving his remains to make room for nine inch drains.” But by the end of the piece, the father has his revenge.

The last verse says,

“And won’t those city toffs begin to rave!
But it’s no more than they deserve,
‘cause they had the bleedin’ nerve
To muck about a British workman’s grave.”

So you see, this essayist is happy to report that the Cockney Brits and the Irish agree on something, even if it is the subject of death.

And so in the Irish tradition, this old essayist has offered you three songs to carry you over your moments of sorrow. If “Isn’t it Grand Boys,” “Tim Finnegan’s Wake” and “They’re Moving Father’s Grave to Build a Sewer” fails to move you, it may be a hopeless case. But I suspect those songs may leave you with a nickels worth of laughter, which is well.

March 8, 2007
Essay 239
Kevin’s commentary: Well to me, Tim Finnegan’s Wake is the best one of the three. Lots and lots of music tonight! I’m publishing this on the same day as this essay which has three more for ya. If you like these, just find a Clancy Brothers album and let the whole thing play through — they rarely make bad music.