Welcome Aboard

Like all of you who blog, I always notice and am pleased when somebody follows this blog. Normally I figure they are finding what they want here, and so no particular effort towards them is warranted. And that is, of course, also true for the blogs I follow; if I wasn’t finding what I wanted/needed, I wouldn’t be following.

But, you know, once in a while, somebody follows, whom you really didn’t expect to, and even more rarely they are somebody whose work absolutely enthralls you, although you can rarely figure out how to comment intelligently about it. :-)

So it is today, as I say welcome aboard to one of my favorite authors. I’m glad you are here, dear lady.


Broad Stripes and Bright Stars

633701545In one of her first posts here, Jess said this:

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marvelling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever; but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being stuck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too.[...]


I think she had a point, America is special, and it always has been, ever since the first settler came, and one of them a stern preacher named John Winthrop (by the way, he was born not far from where Jess lives in England) said this.

For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Soe that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.

That still, 400 years later speaks to us, doesn’t it? We Americans are of the elect, our ancestors chose for us to be by coming here. And that is why so many of us care so passionately about America. That is much of what motivates me in writing here. And it is an American thing. You don’t see Europeans worrying much about morality, ethics, or indeed freedom in their lands. We’re different, and we always have been.

And this weekend is our birthday party. Yes we started from the English concept of freedom, fair play, and justice but, we have kept far closer to it, than even they have. Much of that, I think is the wisdom of the Founders in writing it down, and making it difficult to change. But enough.

Let’s party!

But before George M.we had already fought our hardest war, with ourselves

And more after

One of the unique things about us is our love of our armed forces, particularly when you realize that the Founder’s detested a standing military. But they have proved to be the best friends freedom ever had.

But it’s not all guns, God and soldiers, either, It a beautiful place

Are we perfect? Nope. we’re just people who try to do the right thing. One of the bloggers I most respect Cassandra at Villainous Company wrote this yesterday

I love my country not because she is perfect, but because she wants so badly to be. I even love her faults, even the kind of obsessive navel gazing angst that mistakes fallible humans and imperfect realization of our ideals for evidence of pervasive moral rot and in so doing, makes conscience the scourge that would make moral cowards of us all…It is a dangerous moral equivalence which is so afraid of sinning that it would not kill a rabid wolf, lest it starve the flea on its back.

America is not a destination but a journey and in loving her, we must not become so firmly fixed upon the goal that we lose heart when we stumble a time or two upon the road. For stumble we will. After all, we are but human; all too imperfect clay with which to form the more perfect union our founding fathers envisioned.

I love this country because she was born in turmoil; baptized by fire and lighting; conceived from the highest aspirations of Enlightenment thinkers: words that ring as true today as they did over two hundred years ago:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

After everything, those words can still bring tears to my eyes. America is a nation of idealists, founded by men who risked their lives and fortunes to reach for something the world had never known before. Something that is spreading like wildfire across the globe.

Democracy, with all its faults and upheavals and failures. And successes.

May it ever be so.

And that about sums it up.

But certain songs have become America to the world, and to us as well

And some speak of that Banner of Freedom, and our hopes for the future.

And some of the best were written by that American, who will always be known as “The March King”.

Happy Birthday America








An Actual Saturday Post

I could pick apart the history in this, and it is a bit sketchy here and there but, you know, it’s also true history because America has always been about movement.

So go ahead and enjoy.

And because I can, and I haven’t in what seems like forever, my very first girl singer crush:

Petula still reminds of one the most wonderful friends a man could have, as well.

Makes me so happy, and I’m not even Downtown. ;-)

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Au Revoir, No. 617 Squadron

200px-617sqn-600The RAF stood down No. 617 squadron the other day as they withdrew their Tornado GR4B aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth. They were tasked with a maritime strike role using the Sea Eagle missile. Usually we don’t really note things on the squadron level but No 617 is rather special.

It was originally set up on 21 March 1943 at RAF Scampton with personnel from the RAF, RCAF, RNZAF, and RAAF (UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia). It was set up in great secrecy to carry out one mission, codenamed OPERATION CHASTISE. The objective was the three dams that provided hydropower and flood control for the Ruhr valley. The mission, which was extremely difficult technically, was accomplished on the night of 17 May 1943. This mission is where the squadron got its nickname “The Dambusters”. After the raid, the original commander Wing Commander Guy Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross. The squadron motto, on the crest shown above, was personally approved by King George VI.

For the rest of the war they continued with the specialist and precision bombing mission, which included sinking the Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord.



After the war they replace their Lancasters with Avro Lincolns and then English Electric Canberra jet bombers. After their return from Malaya they were stood down for a time and then returned with the Vulcan strategic nuclear bombers, in its various missions.


article-2591409-1CA5F59F00000578-107_964x639In 1983 they transitioned to the Tornado, first in a nuclear strike configuration and then in a maritime strike role.

They carry the following battle honors;

Second World War

  • Fortress Europe 1943–1945
  • The Dams 1943
  • Biscay Ports 1944
  • France and Germany 1944–1945
  • Normandy 1944
  • Tirpitz, Channel and North Sea 1944–1945
  • German Ports 1945

Gulf 1991
Iraq 2003

As a unit who has even had a movie made about it, there is of course an appropriate march, as well

Their website is here:http://www.dambusters.org.uk/

The good news is that No. 617 Squadron is scheduled to come back as the lead squadron with the F-35 Lightning II



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A Memory

Cap badge of the Royal Marines Image of UK Mil...

Cap badge of the Royal Marines Image of UK Military Cap Badge, originally Crown Copyright, Images that are pre 1953 are now Public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, Father Robert of Irishanglican and I got to chatting about the Royal Marines and it triggered a memory for me. If you didn’t know Fr. Robert was a Royal Marine and served with USMC in Vietnam. Along that line, never forget that we weren’t the only ones in he ‘Nam.

But this was a much happier memory for me. When I was in high school I got to go to band camp at Purdue, and it was a rather incredible experience. Humbling too, but that I don’t talk about too much. When suddenly you’re around about a thousand high school bandsmen, you tend to find out how good you are (or not) :-)

Still it was a very good experience, made better by our guest conductor, who was Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Vivian Dunn KCVO OBE FRSA, the director of music for Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. It doesn’t get much better as Fr. Robert noted:

Wow, you saw Sir Vivian Dunn (Lt. Col.), architect and builder of the Royal Marine Band, simply legendary! [...] Yes he was and is part of the whole Royal Marine Band, and their history and glory!

He didn’t understate either, from Wikipedia

Francis Vivian Dunn was born in Jabalpur, India. His father, William James Dunn, was bandmaster of the Second Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps and later director of music of the Royal Horse Guards. Dunn studied piano with his mother, Beatrice Maud, and undertook choral studies in Winchester. He attended the Hochschule für Musik Köln in 1923 and, two years later, the Royal Academy of Music. He studied conducting with Henry Wood and composition with Walton O’Donnell. As a violinist, he performed in the Queen’s Hall Promenade Orchestra (under Wood), and in 1930 was a founding member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (under several conductors).

Dunn was released from his contract with the BBC and on 3 September 1931 commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Marines to be director of music for the Portsmouth Division of the Corps. His duties included directing the Royal Marines Band on the Royal Yacht. He participated in the royal tour of South Africa onboard HMS Vanguard in 1947 and a Royal Marines band tour of the United States and Canada in 1949.

His promotion to lieutenant-colonel and principal director of music of the Royal Marines followed in 1953. Dunn and the Royal Marines Band accompanied Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on the SS Gothic for the post-coronation Commonwealth Tour. Upon its completion, the Queen appointed Dunn CVO, and in 1960 OBE.

Pretty impressive resume, isn’t it? But the music is the thing

And so, I got to play a legendary piece of music under the baton of a legendary conductor, before I was even out of high school.

What did we play? This

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I’ll be Home for Christmas

Mary and Child

Mary and Child (Photo credit: windygig)

Or at least as close as a family of tumbleweeds can manage.

I mentioned yesterday that I’ll be gone over Christmas, and that Jessica will be taking over for a week or so here. I also said that I’d tell you a bit more about it. So I will.

When you reach a certain age, you will find that your family starts to shrink a bit. My parents, both of my sisters, and one of my brothers in law are gone now. One is still here and I have some nieces and their families, but we are getting a little thin on the ground. So when we have a chance to get together, it’s important to do so. Like you all, we talk about the things we did back in the day, in truth, my nieces are of an age that they’re more like cousins really, ours was one of those families that nearly had two generations of siblings. No complaints, mind, we’ve pretty much all reached an age when we have lived full and rich lives, and wouldn’t have any real complaints, no matter what. Not that any of us are going to volunteer, or anything.

But anyway

And yes, I picked that version for you for a reason. Jess and I are both rather fond of Dolly. She’s one of the few celebrities that I’ve met in my life, more years ago than either Dolly or I would care to admit, when I was maintenance foreman for a Holiday Inn that was connected with a dinner theatre. And yes, she is just as sweet and nice as she appears.

And that brings us to Jess, ordinarily I wouldn’t talk much about her but, her career and good works (not to mention running her exceptional blog) have been keeping her insanely busy, so we haven’t seen all that much of her here lately.

Most of you probably know that she is British, although she pays a good bit of attention to our politics, in fact, our reading lists aren’t that different. But her take is often subtly different from mine, and I think it valuable.

By the way, the other day Buzzfeed had an article for you to find out how British you are. I now have to walk my Corgi outside the Palace according to them. I wasn’t overly surprised, there are very few places in the world that I’d like to visit, and Britain leads the list. The two of us are a good indication of why our countries get along as well as we do.

Over the time we have been friends, she has become as good a friend as I’ve ever dreamed of having, when I have problems in my life, either personal or even business, I always ask her advice and nearly always take it. She’s a very wise young woman, and I do love her and admire her greatly. I hope she likes me half as much.

I’ll probably pop in occasionally but doubt that I’ll be writing any posts, so I’m going to jump the gun a bit here.

My mom’s favorite carol and one of my favorite choirs :-)

I’ve given Jess no direction, so she’ll write about anything she pleases, she’s told me she has some ideas, and I’d bet money I don’t have they’ll be good ones. My only fear is that you’ll be sorry to have me back!

From the first Chapter of the Gospel according to Luke:

39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

46 And Mary said,

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He hath shewed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54 He hath holpen his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy;
55 as he spake to our fathers,
to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

And one from my favorite choir, not least because a few of my cousins have sung in it.

Merry Christmas to you all

Have fun Jess, my dearest friend! :-)

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