This post is almost a couple of months old, but on the back of ‘Generations #2’ it is timely to reblog I think. And I love the photo-I often wonder what kind of life Mary went on to have .

City Jackdaw

mary and jasper c1900

‘Mary with her Grandfather Jasper, around 1900’
Separated by generations, 
from each other, and from you.
And time that yellows this paper
fades the memory of us, too.
In our yearning and our striving
spent so quickly, we did leave
behind our youth and our glory,
and came soon to a place to grieve.

View original post

Generations #2

Last week I attended the funeral of my great aunt. She was a lovely woman who squeezed every last bit of fun out of life. For a woman in her eighties she was very switched on-she had an iPad, an iPhone 5, and was even on my Facebook friends list.

She was the last of my grandparents’ generation, on both sides. With her passing, it feels like we have lost so much more than just a beloved member of the family. We have lost the last connection to the causes of which we are the effects. A link to the parts that make up our sum.

Now we move onto the next generational  level. That is the natural order of things. That is how we go on.

When she received the news that she had cancer, she decided against having combative treatment, citing her age and her health. She told me that she didn’t want anybody’s pity, and that she had had a good life. My immediate thought was that there is not a lot of people who, having been an orphan at a very young age, and being widowed twice, would look back and say that they had had a good life.

On the day of her death, she told her grown up granddaughter that she would be happy to go tonight, that the time was right.  I hope when it is my time, I can stare my own mortality square in the face with similar levels of acceptance, of reasoning, of faith.

There were no recriminations, no regrets.

Hers was a peaceful, natural end to a life filled with laughter. That makes things easier.

When we are with others, we sit in the blazing light of their presence, filled as they are with personality and vitality. And life. When their essence leaves us, we are suddenly confronted by the shadow of their absence.

If we are attentive, we can follow still the wake of their journey, track the fading trails of light as they sink over the horizon.

We can close our eyes, and feel still the warmth on our face.


Claws for the Weekend:Waterloo

My my at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender

Sorry, that was a feeble attempt to make a tenuous link to a previous post (July 18)) about Agnetha Fältskog and Abba.

Here is a photograph I came across on Find My Past UK. 

photo (23)

This man, wearing his campaign medal and sitting with his wife, is described as ‘one of the last surviving veterans of the Battle of Waterloo’. There is a worldly weariness about them both, don’t you think?

Wrapped up against the cold. Wrapped up in resignation.

Waterloo took place in 1815, and the photograph is stated to have been taken in 1850. If that date is correct, then there must surely have been other survivors around at the time, particularly when you compare it to the next photograph, which would have been taken around thirty years after the first one. It is dated June 1880.

photo (24) Only recently we have lost the last surviving veterans from World War One, when living memory faded into historical narrative. Events are no longer within touching distance. It’s a reminder that all of us are just passing through eras, be they times of peace or times of war.

Periods phase out, the world keeps on turning. We all move on, casting shadows.

And I have met my destiny in quite a simil-NO!! That’s Abba again!

Forget Eurovision everybody. Pass safely through this weekend, earning your own medals and plaudits. May your shadows be long.

See you on the flip side.

Swifts, Iguazu Falls

Summer is here. At this time I can just step outside and look high into the sky to see Swifts gliding at a great height above as they feed on insects. Swifts are, well, swift, never seem to be still, and even sleep on the wing. Unfortunately my local vantage point never offers anything as dramatic as this photograph does.

Planet Surprises

Swifts, Iguazu Falls

Photograph by Francesco Filippo Pellegrini

View original post

R.I.P Bert Trautmann OBE

In his time as a City supporter during the fifties,sixties and seventies, my Dad saw two great teams. One was the cup team that made it to the FA Cup Final in the consecutive years of ’55 and ’56. The other was the Mercer-Allison team that won several trophies in the late 60’s and early ’70’s. A team which boasted such great players as Bell, Young, Lee, and Summerbee.

Great though these players were, when pressed he always said that his favourite all time player was Bert Trautmann.


His was a great story both on and off the field. A youngster in the Hitler youth, he went on to become a paratrooper, being sent to fight in Russia in World War Two. He was captured, but managed to escape. Being captured again, and expecting execution, he was, however, greeted by a typical British “Hello Fritz, fancy a cup of tea?”

Held here in Britain as a prisoner of war, he declined to return to his homeland when the war had finished, marrying a local girl. When Manchester City signed him to be their new goalkeeper, there was a lot of animosity directed towards him due to his German roots, the local Jewish community, as well as the general public, angry at his arrival.This was just four years after the war.

Especially at away games he drew a lot of vitriol, but slowly, gradually, he began to win people over with his great, courageous displays. Playing in London for the first time, he received a hostile reception, enduring shouts of ‘Kraut’ and ‘Nazi’. In this match he was particularly brilliant, and when the game ended he received a standing ovation from the crowd, while the players from both teams formed lines to applaud him from the pitch. That slow transformation of how he was perceived by the post-war British public spread.

His most famous moment, which seems to overshadow the rest of his extraordinary life and career, came in the 1956 FA Cup Final at Wembley, when he was injured rushing out to block Birmingham’s Peter Murphy, diving at his feet.

Bert Breaks

After receiving treatment he played on, making further crucial saves despite being dazed and in obvious pain. He helped his teammates win the match and thus lift the trophy. It was three days later that it became apparent that he had played the last seventeen minutes of the match with a broken neck. He had dislocated five vertebrae in his neck, the second being cracked in two. The third wedged against the second, preventing further damage which could have cost the German his life.

Bert after

My Dad was at that game, and often told me the story, of how, unknown to him the extent of his injury, Trautmann risked his life by again diving at the feet of an oncoming attacker. Broken neck and all.

That was probably the final cementing into public affection the figure who had provoked so much anger and hatred at the start of his footballing career in England. Just a few months after this match, Trautmann was to suffer the tragedy of losing his firstborn son in a car accident, aged just five years old.

His role in restoring English and German relations acknowledged, Trautmann was awarded the OBE in 2004.

I am too young to have ever seen him play, but I have been at Manchester City matches when Trautmann has attended and been announced onto the pitch either before the game or at half time, and have witnessed the obvious affection and high esteem in which the supporters, particularly the older supporters, held him. He once said that he was born in Germany, but that in his heart he is British.

A legendary figure both on and off the pitch, I have had his biography for some time but haven’t got around to reading it yet. I think now is the time.

Here is the footage of Trautmann’s finest hour-the 1956 FA Cup Final. See the supporters with their rosettes, rattles and Woodbines. A one-armed referee.

And a legendary performance.

Teenage Crushed: The Death Of Denial

You can live in denial all you want, avoiding mirrors and old classmates on the school run with their own kids in tow who are almost as tall as you are now. You can ignore the fact that you now get out of breath going up the stairs, that your face turns crimson whenever you bend to tie your shoelace. That when you pull back the blinds on a winter’s day and see the snow, your first thought is ‘that cold is going to get into my bones’.

You can convince yourself that you haven’t changed since your late teens, that you still feel exactly the same, and in actual fact those carefree times of childhood and school days were not that long ago.

But then this imaginary, self-constructed world gets shattered when something comes along and smashes a thigh length silver boot right through your constructed facade.

That something for me goes by the name of Agnetha Fältskog.


When I was young , way too young to understand what was cool, music in the seventies consisted of whatever existed in my Mum and Dad’s cassette and record collection.

Cassette and record. I may as well be talking about the gramophone now.

In those half-glimpsed scenes from back then I can recall listening to Brotherhood of Man, The Seekers, Bay City Rollers, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and Abba, as my brother and I played drums on an upturned bin or biscuit tin.

(Constant Friend tuts, carries on listening to Slade).

At that age, five or six, the corny lyrics written by the two men were just catchy and appealing, and it was the energy and the perfectly complimentary voices of the women that I liked. Then, as I got older, it was one of the women in particular that I liked, the quintessential Nordic blond, Agnetha.

I hate the word crush, it sounds all puppy dog and juvenile, but I was young, and definitely juvenile. And forming a crush is all part of growing up, although I think the kids these days are starting earlier. I have a daughter who at six years of age tells me constantly how fit Olly Murs is.

(Constant Friend shakes his head, Space Dust crackling on his tongue).

These moments are fixed and immortalised in my mind, my young mind, in my denial untouched by the passage of time. But then, suddenly, out of nowhere, it all comes crashing down. Agnetha steps back into the public eye, breaking her self-imposed exile from the limelight, to promote a new album. And, almost as an aside, it is mentioned that the blond, fresh-faced, forever fixed around 1978 beauty is now 63.

That stopped me dead in my excitable tracks.


The same age as my Mother-In-Law.

Reality washed over me cold. Walls came tumbling down.

Admittedly, she still looks good for her age. But there is no getting away from the fact that my original pin-up girl is now a pensioner. Well, she would have been my pin-up if my Dad would have trusted me with tacks.

Agnetha 2

I am sure that there is an element of air brushing going on here, but still, the rate that the two of us are aging I reckon I will soon be overtaking her and could pass as her Dad. Or at least her elder brother.

(Constant Friend agrees, continues to shuffle his Star Wars bubblegum card collection).

Now my bubble of immortality was well and truly punctured, I began to cast my mind back three decades or so. Who else did I used to like back then?

Erin. Erin Gray from the great Buck Rogers in the Twenty Fifth Century .Full of foreboding, I fearfully began to Google from the suddenly shaky ground of the twenty-first century.


That’s no good, get rid of the silly hat.

Erin 2

That’s the one. Now, what does Wikipedia say? On the plus side, she is still with us.




The same age as Agnetha.

The same age as my Mother-In-Law.

You hear that, Twiki? Colonel Wilma Deering is now a pensioner too.


And no, before you ask, Twiki never did it for me.

(Constant Friend stops eating his Kop Kops, raises a quizzical eyebrow).

Listening to Agnetha’s new album I was touched-this woman who had been written off as some kind of reclusive and eccentric Garbo, said to have turned her back on music, refusing to leave Sweden because of her paralysing fear of flying, was now in my country promoting her new material. She was singing about being back on our radios again. And she still has that beautiful voice, capable of evoking so well a feeling of fragility and vulnerability.

(“Wuss”, says Constant Friend, lay on his bed, hands splayed behind his head, gazing up at his Wonder Woman poster).

If I just close my eyes and listen, nothing has changed.She still has the moves. I have yet to shave.

In a bid to perpetuate the myth of youth, both for her and for myself, and forever anchor myself to a time long gone, I post this video now of how I remember her then. She, the Girl With The Golden Hair, and I, the Boy With The Full Head Of Hair.

The world was bright, and colourful, and young.

Trousers were wider.

(Constant Friend glances over at the video, nods his understanding).


I love learning about the various legends, myths, folklore and traditions of the British Isles.

No story has endured, or captured the imagination, as that of King Arthur. The image that holds today is the romanticised, medieval invention-the good  King and his chivalrous knights of the round table, based in the fantastical court of Camelot.

I have read a few books about Arthur, and he seems to have been claimed by just about everybody-the Welsh,the English,the Scottish, even the Croatians. It reminds me of how you can read countless books about Jack the Ripper- every learned author goes over the same material and then pushes a different suspect as the final unmasking of the unidentified killer.

I have just finished reading another book on Arthur-Christopher Hibbert’s King Arthur. I agree with his conclusion, shared by many, that the legendary Arthur that we are acquainted with today is based upon a real, historical flesh and blood figure who lived here in Dark Age Britain.

A figure who, infuriatingly, is lost in the mists of time, camouflaged by legend. Hibbert relates the story of how, in the 1890’s, a group of antiquarians gathered upon South Cadbury Hill, site of a Neolithic fort that was still in use around the time of the original Roman occupation of Britain. They were looking for signs of a reoccupation of the fort in the late fifth or early sixth century, trying to establish a connection between South Cadbury Castle and the legend of Camelot. An old man approached them and anxiously asked them if they were there to take away the sleeping king from the hollow hill.

Time and legend serves to thwart the serious searcher, but there are a few tantalysing  clues to be found.

What we do know is that Rome, being squeezed on all sides by Germanic tribes, recalled her legions one after another from Britain to help defend her borders. Suddenly the Romanized, tamed Britons were left to take care of their own defences. With Picts swarming down from the north, and Scotti marauding from Ireland in the west, the beleagured Brits were then faced in the the south and east with the pillaging and raiding of the Angles, Jutes and Saxons. The Britons fell back onto old tribal loyalties and connections but were no match for the warring invaders.

In 446 they sent a desperate plea for help to Rome, addressed to Aetius, the Roman General in Gaul:

To Aetius, three times consul, the groans of the Britons; the barbarians drive us to the sea, the sea drives us to the barbarians; between these two forms of death, we are either massacred or drowned.

But the plea was in vain. They had to look to their own defences. As the Saxons gained more and more ground, Bede writes:

Public and private buildings were razed, priests were slain at the altar; bishops and people alike, regardless of rank, were destroyed with fire and sword, and none remained to bury those who had suffered a cruel death. A few wretched survivors captured in the hills were butchered wholesale, and others, desperate with hunger, came out and surrendered to the enemy for food, although they were doomed to lifelong slavery even if they escaped instant massacre. Some fled overseas in their misery; others, clinging to their homeland, eked out a wretched and fearful existence.

Then came forward a tribal leader named Ambrosius who stood up to the invaders. Gildas, writes that other tribes flocked to him ‘as eagerly as bees when a storm is brewing.’ It seems under Ambrosius the Britons prevented the Saxons from taking the whole Kingdom, suffering defeats but also victories too. But what would happen once this strong leader was no more? Would the alliances and the defiance hold?

Now comes the first of one of the few historical references to Arthur. Nennius, writing in the ninth century about the time after Ambrosius’ death:

In those days the Saxons grew in numbers and prospered in Britain..Then Arthur the warrior and the kings of the Britons fought against the Saxons, but Arthur himself was the ‘dux bellorum’, the commander of battles. The first battle was on the mouth of the river which is called Glein. The second, the third, the fourth, and the fifth upon another river, which is called Dubglass, and is in the region of Linnuis. The sixth battle was upon the river which is called Bassas.

The seventh battle was in the wood of Celidon, that is Cat Coit Celidon. The eighth was the battle by the castle of Guinnion, in which Arthur carried upon his shoulders an image of the Blessed Mary, the Eternal Virgin. And the heathen were turned to flight on that day, and great was the slaughter brought upon them through the virtue of the Blessed virgin, His Mother.

The ninth battle was fought in the City of the Legion. The tenth battle was waged on the banks of the river which is called Tribruit. The eleventh battle was fought in the mountain which is called Agned. The twelfth battle was on Mount Badon where in one day nine hundred and sixty men fell in one onslaught of Arthur’s. And no one laid them low but himself alone. And in all these battles he stood out as victor.

Some of the sites listed here are now lost to us, and others have been guessed at using ancient language and place names. This account suggests the various tribal kings were involved in the battles, but it was Arthur as Commander of Battles who led the attacks/defences.

In the book Hibbert suggests that Arthur led in the manner of Romans of old, leading a mobile, disciplined cavalry and an organised response to the more aggressive but (unorganized ) fighting style of the Saxons.

He also attempts to explain the confusing account of Arthur going into battle with an image of the Virgin Mary on his shoulder. This could be a mistranslation of an original text. The Welsh word for shoulder ysgwydd is almost identical to the word for shield ysgwyd. Carrying an image on his shield appears more plausible, and could account for the next reference to Arthur, from a list in Latin written in the tenth century, but taken from sources at least as early as those used by Nennius. The Annales Cambriae (Annals of Wales) mentions only Arthur’s last battle (of those named by Nennius) in the year 516:

The battle of Badon in which Arthur carried the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for three days and three nights on his shoulders, and the Britons were victorious.

Then, in 537:

The battle of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut were slain; and there was death in England.

There are two other hints of the existence of a real life Arthur, from before the examples given above. One is an indirect reference, in an epic poem written by the Welsh bard Aneurin, called Gododdin, written way back around 603. In it, describing a battle between the Saxon invaders and desperate Britons, when extolling the remarkable bravery of a British hero, he adds:

although he was no Arthur.

Another clue is the sudden popularity of the name Arthur in the late sixth and early seventh centuries. One hundred years before Anuerin wrote his poem, the name was virtually unknown on these shores. Think today of obsessive fans naming their sons Cantona, or Lennon, etc, after the heroes of modern times.

The romanticised, legendary telling of Arthur is a wonderful, captivating story- Merlin, the sword in the stone, Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake, the Grail Quest, the Knights of the Round Table, Guinevere and Lancelot, Arthur’s doomed fight with his traitorous son before being taken to Avalon, where he sleeps until his country needs him again.

But for me, this scarcely sighted Romano-Briton  is a more fascinating figure.  A figure who rallied and resisted the Saxon invaders, who won a decisive battle at Badon which effectively ended the Saxon threat for a generation.

A figure whose roots are lost in the mists of time and obscured by the shadows of the Dark Ages. But there are just a few glimpses to be had of the flesh and blood man who would one day become known to us as Arthur, our once and future king.

Claws for the Weekend:Fashion Faux Pas

I came across this photograph on the facebook page If The Cobblestones Were Able To Tell. The date and photographer are unknown, but it is described on the page as the ‘first women’s pants’. Don’t get too hot under the colour people-by pants us Brits mean trousers and not underwear.

First Women's pants


I have never been cool when it comes to fashion. I would wear flares when everybody else wore drainpipes, and was in drainpipes when everybody else wore flares. Much too square to be a rebel, it was more of a case of me being ignorant and naive about what was classed as ‘in’. And speaking of flares, and fitting in, just look at the size of those trousers in the photograph.

I reckon you and I could fit in just one leg. And maybe still do a little skipping.

To you who are hip, and to you who are with me, iconoclasts or not-have a great weekend.

See you on the flip side.

All Coy-Dogs Go To Heaven

A beautiful tribute to the Blonde Coyote, whose travels I followed far and wide.

Travels with the Blonde Coyote

Sad news: Freckles, the original Blonde Coyote – the inspiration for the name of this blog – is gone. I don’t know details about what happened. She was found in abdominal distress and the emergency vet determined she needed to be put down. She was 10 years old and full of life on our last hike together in April. I don’t want to think about the desert without that magnificent coy-dog glowing in the Sun.

Freckles was a coyote hybrid, equal parts sweet and smart, shy and skittish. She wasn’t mine, but we hiked hundreds of miles together and she would have followed me to the ends of the Earth. Hiking with Freckles was an exercise in trust: she was stone cold deaf and entirely untrained. I couldn’t tell her what to do; she did what she did because she wanted to. Having her as an ally– being judged…

View original post 226 more words