Geese on the River Wharfe, Wetherby

We made a further stop on the first day on the way down to the Holland ferry. At Wetherby.

There’s a nicely situated car park hard by the River Wharfe.

There were geese on the river.

Tim Whalen

I have just seen on the club website the news of Tim Whalen’s death.

Though I do not recall seeing him play I’m sure I must have done as a little boy. I well remember his playing comtemporaries Hughie Gallacher, Tommy Govan and Andy Jardine though their stays at the club lasted beyond Tim’s.

Whatever, my father used to mention Tim in reverent terms and he is widely regarded as one of the club’s greats.

Tim Whalen. So it goes.

Berwick Upon Tweed War Memorial

On our way down to the ferry for Holland we stopped in Berwick upon Tweed. (Mainly so that the good lady and I could look into that bookshop we found there when I went to the Cup game last December.)

This also gave me a chance to photograph Berwick’s War Memorial.

This one is surmounted by a winged angel holding a wreath. World War 1 names are in the plaque, an inscription for World War 2 (with no names) is below.

From the Scottish War Memorials website I see that an inscription for war dead later than 1945 is hidden by the wreaths.

A Day of Battle: Mars-La-Tour 16th August 1870 by David Ascoli

Birlinn, 2001, 384 p.

 A Day of Battle cover

I picked this up in a remainder bookshop and was intrigued by the blurb describing it as “one of the most decisive but least well-known battles in history.” I knew of course of the wider war it was a part of, the Franco-Prussian War (the author says that is a misnomer, since after the Austro-Prussian War the South German States were treaty-bound to take Prussia’s side in the event of war so it was really a Franco-German war) but not too much of its detail.

The immediate background of the war is well laid out; the German resentment at continually being pushed around by the French over the previous centuries; Bismarck’s determination to inveigle France into war as a means to unite the German states under Prussian leadership; his manipulation of an impasse over the succession to the Spanish throne (the war is therefore also the Second Spanish War of Succession) and of the wording of the Ems telegram to make it appear as an insult; but the war was totally unnecessary. The well entrenched regime of Napoleon III declared it due to public opinion in Paris, in effect in a hissy fit.

While their soldiers performed admirably the French armies were poorly handled. The commander, Marshal Bazaine – the first Frenchman to achieve that lofty rank after starting his career as a Fusilier (in British terms a private) was in doubt about their prospects from the start, “Nous marchons à un désastre.” (“We are walking into a disaster.”) Sadly General Ducrot’s belter of a remark on the situation the French later found themselves in at Sedan “Nous sommes dans un pot de chambre, et nous y serons emmerdé,” (“We are in a chamber pot, and we’re going to be shat on,”) is not recounted here.

While personally brave and having a distinguished record in the Crimea and elsewhere Bazaine was temperamentally unsuited to the highest command. He did not feel comfortable being in control of other high ranking officers who were his social superiors. His indecision and caution, his lack of appreciation of the possibility of a crushing victory were fatal. With the exception of First Army’s General Steinmetz, who nearly threw victory away, the Germans were much better served.

According to the author the decisive day of the war was not at Sedan but at Mars la Tour (or Vionville.) The French Army of the Rhine was trying to escape to Verdun from Metz as a result of the defeat of the Army of Chalons in earlier engagements. A small portion of the German army attacked it in the belief it was only a rearguard. Eventually realising his position General Alvensleben, in charge of III Corps, bluffed the French by continual attacks crucially backed up by artillery. His last gamble, known as Von Bredow’s Death Ride, was the last time a cavalry charge had an influence on the outcome of a battle. (The writing on the wall for that military arm was amply demonstrated elsewhere in the conflict, however.) Had the French Generals realised the weakness of the German force and the chance of catching the rest of the German army in flank they could have won a crushing victory. As it was it is the authors contention that all that followed, another two French defeats, the retreat to Metz, the investment there, the Army of Chalons marching to the relief of the Army of the Rhine for political rather than military reasons, its encirclement at Sedan, the fall of Napoleon III’s dynasty, the Commune, the Siege of Paris, the unification of Germany, the ceding of Alsace and Lorraine, sowed the seeds of the First and Second World Wars and that this could have been prevented by a different outcome at Mars la Tour.

Like the US Civil War less than a decade earlier, this was an industrialised war. (The heavy casualties in both these conflicts ought to have signalled to anyone concerned the devastation that modern weapons inflicted.)

The book is lavishly provided with maps and photographs of the battleground locations but the text leaves something to be desired. The phrases, “It will be remembered that,” “The reader will recall,” “As we shall see,” “As we have seen,” “And this is why,” occur frequently and annoyingly. In addition the book goes on to recount the Battles of Gravelotte and St Privat of two days later but rather undermines its own main argument by saying that here too better French leadership could have ensured the Germans were beaten.

Scottish Referendum Reflections

In the end I suppose confidence and hope lost out to fear and timidity (or caution if a less harsh word is required.)

I didn’t watch the results coming in as nothing was going to happen for hours. I woke up to the news on the radio.

My first thought was one of relief that none of the apocalyptic things predicted of a yes vote – flight of capital, businesses and jobs, the loss of the BBC to us forever (not that that organisation cares much for Scotland) etc etc – would now be happening, my second that Westminster could now safely go back to ignoring that part of the UK where I was born and live.

My third was a profound sadness that the country I had always suspected I lived in was not the one I had hoped I lived in.

Given, for the first time (the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 was carried out over the heads of the populace at large,) the opportunity to affirm that Scotland was a nation rather than an idea, the Scottish people had declined to do so.

I found myself thinking of Alan Warner’s views on the Scottish literature project – see my earlier post – and changing my mind.

In the light of the result Warner may have a point. If the majority of Scotland’s people see no utility in an institutional reflection of Scottishness on the world stage why should there be a Scottish literature at all? What is the point of reflecting Scottishness when, philosophically – the referendum question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” was a philosophical one – the place doesn’t exist.

I also mused on the fact that there is now an argument that, the people having rejected independence, sporting teams representing Scotland become even more of an absurdity, and that, for example, the Scottish FA and SPFL should be dissolved and merged into their southern counterparts. (Whisper this to UEFA or FIFA, though.)

As to the no campaign’s promises of further powers to the Scottish Parliament I’ll believe in promises of Devo Max when further devolution happens, not before. (See the Alan Warner link above.) In this regard please note that I am entirely in favour of devolution of powers from the Westminster Parliament to all other areas of the UK which wish for that.

I spoke to one of my sons yesterday, who I suspect voted no, and he was of the opinion that there is now a momentum, that independence will come inside 25 years.

Perhaps. Perhaps if Scottish sporting teams were absorbed into a GB framework the process would be accelerated. I had long said that the only way Scots would vote for independence was if the Scotland football team was no longer allowed to play against anyone. Since Scotland ceased to qualify for tournament finals, since we became more or less rubbish, even that might not be enough.

Falkirk 1-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Falkirk Stadium, 20/9/14

Sons fans gave over the first minute of this game to applause in appreciation of Kirsty Mackie, a dedicated Dumbarton fan who died unexpectedly this week. So it goes.

In many ways this was a case of getting out of jail. For at least three quarters of this game we weren’t in it. Falkirk’s players seemed to have acres of space, we didn’t seem to be pressing, our passing was woeful. Their goal followed three missed tackles, an evasion of Scott Linton that was far too easy and a cross to an unmarked man. They also hit the bar in that half and Danny Rogers had to come out quickly and spread himself well to prevent a second. Apart from that though Falkirk were pretty unimpressive.

In the second they made Danny Rogers make one more save, a blinding, twisting, reflex effort that was out of the top drawer.

Credit to manager Ian Murray, though, who made his substitutions and went for it, even to the extent of putting Andy Graham up front in the attempt to salvage a point, a tactic I’ve not seen Murray use before. (Sadly this only showed why Andy is better employed at centre half – but his presence may have been a factor in upsetting Falkirk’s defence.)

We dominated the last ten minutes and the equaliser was coming, their keeper had to make several saves and Colin Nish got just too much onto an Archie Campbell cross. The goal followed a sublime piece of footwork from Steven McDougall to get into the box and square it for Chris Kane to score yet another of his late goals.

Friday On My Mind 102: Let’s Work Together / Reelin’ in the Years 92: Let’s Stick Together

Following on from Canned Heat last week, this live version of Let’s Work Together but more especially Brian Ferry’s reworking of the song as Let’s Stick Together may be deliciously ironic – or not – depending on the outcome of yesterday’s vote. I scheduled this post to appear today before knowing the result.

Canned Heat: Let’s Work Together

Brian Ferry: Let’s Stick Together

Scotland’s Big Day

You may have heard there’s a referendum taking place in Scotland today.

I’ve always felt that the result would be a no vote but it seems the polls over the past couple of weeks have it as being close. I shan’t bore you further with my views on it: it’s a secret ballot after all.

Here, however, is a take on it from the US; delivered by an Englishman.

And Now I’m Back

I’ve been in Holland.

Well, strictly speaking, since it was on the borders of the Friesland and Groningen provinces, make that The Netherlands.

The good lady’s eldest brother lives there. We had been supposed to visit for years but life got in the way.

We needed to renew our passports first. I sent the applications away late in July. Despite all the talk on the news about delays we got the new ones inside a week. (As I remember it was four days.) Maybe the Glasgow Passport office is more efficient than down south.

So another country visited. Apart from the constituent parts of the UK (though I only just made it into Wales) I’ve been to Sweden (Stockholm,) the Soviet Union (Leningrad as was) and Denmark (Copenhagen) on a school cruise when I was at Primary School, Portugal (the Azores, Madeira, Lisbon) and Spain (Vigo) on a Secondary School cruise, and as an adult to Germany (near Stuttgart) and France twice (Normandy for the D-Day beaches and Picardy for World War I battlefields.)

Since the good lady didn’t fancy being on a RoRo ferry overnight we drove down to Harwich (with an overnight stop) and the same on the way back. I’m knackered.

Friday On My Mind 101: On the Road Again

I’m away from home, so this song’s title seemed appropriate.

Canned Heat: On the Road Again

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