Tag Archives: colchester

Roses and Memorials

A tragic stupid war that should never be forgotten.

I placed a rose down at the Myland War Memorial.  The First World War should never be forgotten.

I placed a rose down at the Myland War Memorial in Colchester. The First World War should never be forgotten.

In 1909 my town of Colchester declared its own holiday as everyone indulged in a pageant celebrating the history and stories of the town.  One of the young pageant performers was Jack Clarke aged 14 who I randomly selected as a subject of research into his historical era.  Jack and the pageant was a small part of a society ended by war.  Jack died in the First World War.  An attempt to hold a pageant in 2009 failed for lack of community interest and money, a far cry from a hundred years before.

It was for people like Jack Clarke that I yesterday purchased dark red roses, something living yet temporary and fragile like the lives so easily extinguished by machine gun and explosive shell.  Colchester has many memorials to the fallen, I visited seven of them, placing one rose at each of the memorials.

There was no ceremony or words as I placed each rose at each memorial, I let action speak for me.  I placed a rose in the Colchester Town Hall war memorial, the building where the elected rulers of Colchester make their decisions.

I walked a few miles to Myland which has a war memorial opposite a church.  A bunch of flowers was already placed at this monument, ribbons trailing down the edges of the memorial.  I placed my one rose upon the memorial.  I sat a while at a nearby bench.  It was tranquil. The church clock struck twelve midday, I had no watch and I left my cellphone at home, I wanted to step out of time for a while.  I notice the names on the memorial: four Wheelers; three Munsons;  many names repeated; many families of this parish were hit hard by this war.  An elderly woman came, placed her flowers on the monument.  I said how stupid this war was, she nodded.  A dozen laughing children walked past, always the hope for a happy bright future.  Each rose I place has a little note attached, my hope that some might read, this war should be remembered.

The day the lamps went out

The hundred year anniversary of the First World War.

Colchester War Memorial of the First World War.

Colchester War Memorial of the First World War.

One hundred years ago today Britain declared war on Germany.  As the airwaves drowned in telegrams of nations declaring war on each other, the lamps of the world said a newspaper had gone out.  Church bells rang throughout Europe, no weddings or celebrations, the harbinger of war, mud and death.

The rulers of the time said the war would be over in weeks, at worst by Christmas.  In my town of Colchester they marched to war, the drums and marching feet echoed in every other town and village in Britain, and across every hamlet in Europe.  Those happy optimistic faces fighting for their king and country, the memorials of their passing stand tall and silent in every corner of Colchester, many of those laughing faces never came back.

The rulers gambled like drunks in a casino, millions of lives like little poker chips on the table.  At the head of the table was Death, his perpetual grin marking the only winner in this game.  The casino always wins, the harvest of dying empires like butchered cattle hanging on meat hooks.

Verdant green grass cover the angry fields of agony; crimson-blood coloured poppies replace the dying men;  the sweet singing sky lark drowns out the explosions and screams amidst a thin wall of time.  All the players in the Greek tragedy of human stupidity are gone, death takes all.

The last ancient soldier who marched and came back home nearly alone.  Today on the hundred year anniversary of war he would hear a British Prime Minister calling for increased military spending, NATO armies deployed to Russian borders.  The soldier might question the sacrifice.  In their casino the rulers gamble; in austerity the Colchester town lights go out again at night; the grinning man smiles.

Nature is stronger than humanity

Nature is stronger than humanity in any struggle.

Nature is opportunistic taking advantage of any situation to live, grow and procreate.  This young starling in Colchester is a member of a species that successfully uses the roof structures of town houses to nest in.

Nature is opportunistic taking advantage of any situation to live, grow and procreate. This young starling in Colchester is a member of a species that successfully uses the roof structures of town houses to nest in.

Walking in a location called Hilly Fields in Colchester with my camera I met a fellow visitor who remembered the place as an empty set of fields for cattle during the 1970’s.  Over forty years later Hilly Fields is woodland, and it is hard to imagine this place now with no trees but grassland for cows.  Nature will quickly take over a place and return a wasteland to a living chaos of rampant plant and animal if the opportunity arises.

Even in my garden I see the procreative power of nature.  I can mow the lawn and four days later it flowers and fast growing vegetation cover the lawn again.  I remove the so-called weeds from the paving stones in the same garden, but days later the same plants emerge again.  In battle with nature over my garden, nature is winning.

There is a wonderful set of photographs showing how nature has run wild in Detroit in the USA, which was hit hard by the economic chaos from 2007.   People have abandoned whole neighborhoods in Detroit, and nature has taken advantage, a metaphor of the power of nature against human civilisation.  It is highly unlikely humanity can kill off all plants and animals on planet earth, there will come a tipping point when it becomes unsustainable for humanity to survive as a species, and nature will from the remaining plants and animals create tens of millions of new versions to replace the losses.  Detroit is a perfect metaphor of natures strength against humanity, a lesson to heed unless humanity wants to experience Detroit across the face of human civilisation.

The importance of symbolism

Symbolism helps you remember important information.

I look for a story or symbol in many of my photographs.  This is the Mercury statue on the Colchester Mercury Theatre reaching up to the sun.

I look for a story or symbol in many of my photographs. This is the Mercury statue on the Colchester Mercury Theatre reaching up to the sun.

Each day I sadly pass sections of Roman wall in Colchester that are missing, part of a quarter of the two thousand-year old wall lost to history, demolished in the English civil war between King and Parliament.  The siege of Colchester, which supported the King, ended in defeat for the royalists, their leaders executed by firing squad behind Colchester Castle. Parliament later executed by beheading the English King Charles I.

Through symbolism the modern English Parliament reminds the present Queen who is in charge.  Today was the re-opening of Parliament for the final year before national elections.  The Queen’s representative the Black Rod visited Parliament today, then had the door slammed in his face.  The Queen has to attend Parliament today to read a speech prepared for her by Parliament to inform the nation what they plan to do over the next year.

As a sign of good faith the Queen is given a hostage of a Member of Parliament who she imprisons at her palace in case anyone chooses to harm her whilst she visits Parliament.  Soldiers search the cellars under Parliament in case anyone has stored gunpowder to blow up the British Government with the Queen, as Guy Fawkes attempted to do in 1605.

As a reminder to the Queen of who is in charge, she puts on her robes in a room with a large portrait of her beheaded ancestor Charles I looking down upon her.  After the Queen delivers her speech, the Members of Parliament initially ignore what she said and debate on the subject of outlaws instead.

The event today was not without its own unpredictable symbolism when there was heard a loud thud when the Queen was announcing UK plans on Iran, when a page-boy fainted.

Unpredictable nature

Nature is always full of surprises.

Amber the fox reflects the unpredictable face of nature showing up in my garden by surprise.

Amber the fox reflects the unpredictable face of nature showing up in my garden by surprise on random days.

I went camping and woke to frost on the ground. I wrote yesterday that summer had arrived in Britain.  A pool of water from recent rains had frozen over.

One thing you quickly learn about nature is its unpredictability.  Everything in nature has its own free will, and will determine its own unpredictable path regardless of what humanity thinks.  Those that are able to let go of control enjoy a nature full of surprises.

The death of John Harding

I mark the death of a child over a hundred years ago.

The memory of John Harding most recently featured in a play called Depot at the Colchester Mercury Theatre, resulting in addressing an injustice over a hundred years later

The memory of John Harding remembered recently in a play called Depot at the Colchester Mercury Theatre, resulting in me addressing an injustice over a hundred years later.

Around the date 22nd April 1870 a 14-year-old called John Harding ran away from home in my town of Colchester fearing a beating for losing a brush.   Being a good runner John evaded capture by his parents for several days, hungry, cold and with no safe home.  Today marks the anniversary of the death of John Harding by murder on 26th April 1870.

John remains part of the folklore of Colchester remembered in books and stage plays.  A few years ago I paid for a marker for John’s grave, whilst over a hundred years later in the same newspaper that recorded in detail the inquest into his murder, I marked justice by placing on record that his parents murdered him.

The story is here.

The fool who gambled his son

Treasure is not always gold.

Inattention and carelessness risks the loss of the essential.

Inattention and carelessness risks the loss of the essential.

I sit in the middle of Colchester, people watching.  A father and son stop, the father abandons the son on the sidewalk to enter a shop to gamble money on a horse race.  The son is about 3-years-old and calls for his father, he tries to push against the shop door, but it is too heavy.

In my imagination multiple dangers lurk, the boy could be abducted, the pushchair could roll into the road into the path of a car, or the child walks into the road with the same result.  I dislike intervention, so I watch and wait.  The father eventually leaves the shop, the father-and-son go on their way.  The unwise father is oblivious to the precious treasure he risked the loss of by leaving his son on the sidewalk alone as he pursued the fools delusion of treasure won on horse races.

Nature in the background

Nature provides a dramatic theatre if only people can see it.

I witnessed a dramatic moment of natural theatre as blackbird mother protected her young against a giant magpie.  Only I saw this free theatre, the rest of humanity was blind to it.

I witnessed a dramatic moment of natural theatre as a blackbird mother protected her young against a giant magpie. Only I saw this free theatre, the rest of humanity was blind to it.

It is a beautiful place in this Colchester square, the great water tower to my right, the Mercury Theatre in front, the many restaurants to my left.  Upon this seat, near blinded by the sun, a hot laptop, and another free wi-fi point, I take a temporary rest to enjoy a moment in the sun.

It is the Easter holidays, and many people parade past me, the children with their parents.  I like people watching, but I also have the sense of nature around me.  Sadly most of these people who walk by me live in a different world to me, they live in a world of facts, figures and material concerns, they are blind to the nature around them.  It is a blessing that I stand between two worlds, like the statue of Mercury who proudly runs atop the Mercury Theatre.  I see both the mundane world of humanity and the organic world of nature, both worlds wash over me like waves of the sea.

Nobody but I saw the battle that came about behind my seat.  The sudden commotion of a chattering female blackbird as a magpie appears.  There is a dramatic moment as the blackbird dive bombs the magpie that is twice its size, the magpie flees.  The theatre for humans in front of me, the theatre of nature behind me.  My intuition tells me there is a nest nearby, the eternal story of the mother defending her young.

Greenshoots

The cycle of life and death in nature.

A storm killed the parent tree last year in Colchester, its children live on.

A storm killed the parent tree last year in Colchester, its children live on.

In October last year I wrote about the loss of my soul mate an oak tree called the “Castle Tree” killed by a UK storm.  I rescued thirteen acorns from around the fallen tree, planting them in pots hoping that I could salvage something from the death of the tree. In the last few days three oak saplings have appeared in the pots.  I have witnessed the cycle of death and life via the “Castle Tree” and its children.

New beginnings

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.

My fallen comrade, a tree, which dominated a field boundary.

My fallen comrade, a tree, which dominated a field boundary.

The eve of the Celtic new year, marked by what feels a new cycle in my life.  The eve of the first day of winter, the land marked by the passing of Storm St Jude.  The last 24 hours is like a rollercoaster of creative connections, like pieces of a jigsaw, connections fall into place, revealing the picture of solutions to long-standing challenges such as business branding and the direction in my life.

Escape from death

I returned to my camp site in the wood, the nighttime temperatures fell to a new low of 5 Celsius, I am testing my limits in nature, I passed the night challenge comfortably.  I had enclosed the camp on all sides with a boundary of branches, cut in half by the fallen tree, a victim of St Jude.  I previously considered locating my tent under the tree, had I done so, potential death.  Had I been standing under the tree at the wrong moment, for I had stood under it as St Jude smashed into the wood, I would be dead.  I am thankful for good fortune of life, the fallen tree and my escape from death teaches me about the impermanence of life, that life is a risk.

Spirit of Place

I believe all places have a spirit, essence, or life.  When I camp I ask the spirit of place to protect me and my belongings when I am there, for life is partly random chaos, thus there is a risk of harm from random events.  I would like to think the spirit of place watched out for me, I suffered no harm from the fallen tree.  From challenge, a hidden blessing, the fallen tree offers satisfaction of needs for a seat, protection from the wind and a place to hang clothes. This morning I made a dedication to the spirit of place in the Roman fashion:

“To the Spirit of this Place, Alexander faithfully fulfills his vow.”

A gift from ancestors

This morning, I cut through Cymbeline Meadows, in a field I find a tool from my ancestors, at least 3000-years-old.  The stone tool shaped like part of a pickaxe, the sort one might use to carve out a hole in the ground to plant crops by hand.  I shall visit the archaeologists to get their view on this tool.  The find is ironic, for today I was planting acorns.

Visit to a fallen friend

I pass where the oak tree I named “Castle Tree” fell, a tree whose death I grieve. There are thirteen cows in this field where the tree fell of mixed variety, some with horns, that like to shelter near the fallen tree from the weather in what is a field exposed to the elements.  I practice mindfulness and respect for the cows, who are at the other end of the field, mindful to what the cows do, and respect for their unpredictable nature.

Cow guardians

A pheasant flies away at my approach to my fallen friend, another unknown creature is moving amongst the fallen branches.  It is a sad scene of destruction.  The tree stump stands tall at the field boundary, a monument to my friend.  I look for acorns on the ground, there are none.  My mindful attention notes the cows galloping towards me, forcing me to run to a gate in an adjacent field.  The cows gather like watchful guardians on the other side of the gate, wary of me, sniffing at me as I talk to them, rejecting my offered grass.

Gathering of acorns

On the other side of the gate I find acorns that I was seeking from my fallen comrade.  I collect fourteen acorns, all brown and cracked, some with little roots seeking life-giving anchor into the earth.  Like a loving parent I place the acorns into my breast pocket.  I climb over several gates to avoid the watchful cows, I make my way to civilisation.

Challenges and Blessings

In civilisation I find pots and compost, I plant and water fourteen acorns, placing them at a location I thought was safe.

I visit a retail store in Colchester, purchasing two items for £2.00.  I tender £10.00, I leave the shop discovering I have been given £13.00 as change.  I look at the strange blessing in my hand, which should have been £8.00 rather than £13.00.

I return to my home in civilisation.  A challenge, as my landlord has been gardening and has disposed of some of the planted acorns.  I am upset, I keep my composure, there are no arguments.  I recover acorns, but one acorn is lost, I am now down to thirteen acorns.  The landlord offers additional pots and compost – a hidden blessing.

Thirteen appears a significant number today: thirteen cows; thirteen pounds(£); thirteen acorns.

The challenge over the acorns reveals another hidden blessing, the delay means I am available when a business customer turns up with little warning at the door with the final items that completes a jigsaw of a major business project.