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Archive for January, 2013

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics!.

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It is that time of year again so last Sunday morning we were doing what has become a yearly event eating breakfast community style.  I have mentioned this before, but just incase this is the breakfast in question.

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First they light a large bonfire over which a grill is placed where the salted sardines are cooked before they are taken to be kept warm.

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Whilst this is going on ordinary BBQ’s are going with tomatoes, onions and garlic cooking, then kept warm in trays over more BBQ’s.

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In the meantime the bread is being prepared. Small loaves are cut in half then the center neatly cut out to make a pouch, these are then placed on tables ready to be put together as follows:  one sardine, two tomatoes, one large onion and finally a large clove of garlic.  These then go to the front table where you que, you get a bib – and you need it – and your plate of goodies.

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Now set out to one side are tables  with olive oil – this is an olive oil fiesta celebrating the harvest – red wine and of course olives.  So once you have your breakfast you pick your spot fill your loaf  then stand there munching and drinking (the dribbling goes without saying) not bad for 3Euros it it? We then wandered into the hall where the various villages have stands displaying their oil, with small baskets of bread so you can taste it. Yes, just like wine, there is a different flavour to each oil. Maybe not as different as wine but it is there.  Two years ago when we had our last olives pressed there was a distinct peppery taste to it, can’t say much about last year as we did not have any olives to press because of the drought.  But looking at the trees this year I am thinking we might be in luck this November.

Well that was our Sunday breakfast what was yours?

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The last time I spoke to Claude he was sitting on his fence and very worried about Farmer John who, it seems, had gone missing. At first Claude had not paid much attention to this as he was busy being a daddy. But as the days passed, Mrs Farmer John was getting very worried indeed and Claude liked her, she kept Farmer John in check.  So one morning when she seemed particularly upset he came to a decision, he would find Farmer John and bring him home.

Now this was easier said than done especially as Claude had no idea where he had gone to. So he decided to contact his friend Bruce Gull in case he had any ideas or perhaps knew where the missing farmer was.  However, he discovered that Bruce had also gone missing and this was  a very big blow to Claude.  But he was determined to find Farmer John so he flew off to the air strip to see if he could find any clues. On his arrival there he was in for a small shock. The hangar was now occupied by the Royal Canadian Goose Squadron (R.C.G.S. for short).  The Air Commode there was called Stuffing or Chestnut for short. Anyway he listened to Claude while he told the story of Farmer John, made a couple of phone calls then said he would do all he could to help.  He had around three squadrons at his disposal, with one of them on a training exercise over at Langston Harbour, if Claude would give him a couple of minuets he would call up the S.B.S. and get them to ferry him in on one of their ribs.  Then they hit a snag, there was no spare flight available so Claude would have to fly himself to Selsea Bill where he would be picked up and taken to the exercise ground.

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Well this was not the first time Claude had had to fly himself around, so donning goggles and helmet he took off for the short journey to Selsea Bill.  When he got there he found a strange-looking man waiting for him, he was wearing a hood type woolen hat and covered in dark clothing plus he had a large boat they called a rib full of other men dressed like that. There being no seat just hand holds Claude took a deep breath and climbed aboard. Then the engines were started and with a roar they were off.  As the boat bumped and bounced along poor Claude was thrown all over the place but eventually they arrived in Langston harbour and started to look for the R.C.G.S.  Whilst doing this Claude asked what ‘S.B.S.’ stood for ‘Special Boat Squadron’ came the reply more like ‘Silly Born Sailors’ Claude thought but as he could not swim he never said so out loud.

They eventually found the squadron and left Claude there whilst they went off trying to look mean.  ‘Right young man have to get you to the C.O.’ the Flight Sergent said,  ‘he’s called Goose Grease’  ‘Oh why’s that?’ Claude asked then regretted it ‘because he can slip in and out of trouble, especially if the army’s Territorial Fox tanks are around’.  Claude was introduced to a young goose in a fine shiny black and grey uniform, who greeted him cheerfully.  “Well now what have we here? an ’00’ agent eh?’  he beamed ‘yes that’s correct’ Claude said looking at this goose with a slight mistrust on his face.  “I’m trying to find Farmer John and I need air assistance to do so’.   ‘Well I can do better than that, I can tell you where he is.’ Goose Grease said.  “Every year I take my squadron to Salisbury Plain where we practice maneuvers and landings.  This year we were chased off by a Hawker Hunter outfit, seems we had gotten to near some secret maneuvers, very secret not even told their families. According to Bunny and Badger thats what Farmer John is doing with the Territorial Army and Commando 42. Territorial Fox tank division and the Hawker Hunters mob are all out there as well so it’s a big thing, and you want to go in?. He shook his head as he said this, “Claude you must be mad, but I’ll get you in then you are on your own”.   Claude thanked him then went to get some lunch.

Around 4.30 that afternoon a strange-looking creature arrived at the camp.  He was rather skinny, lots of hair with a lethal looking tail. As he walked through the camp to the officers tent the air crews moved out of his way, silently watching him.  He reached the tent walked in dropped his kit on the floor and asked for a beer.  Everyone stood there looking on, and it was then that Claude entered.  “God what a pong” he said holding his nose “Don’t you ever wash round here?”  The man put down his beer and turned slowly to face Claude “I’ll…” he stopped short “By all that’s good double o’ one at last, someone sensible is here” this last statement was made with a big smile on his face. “Easil Weasil is that you?” Claude gasped as he looked at the very dirty very tired looking S.A.S. man. “What are you doing here?”  “Same as you my friend, looking for Farmer John and Bruce Gull”  Claude was suddenly serious “They are in danger aren’t they!”  Easil nodded and hung his head.   Without saying more Claude turned and headed for the CO’s tent. “I want the fastest Goose who can fly low and get me to Salisbury Plain asap  I will be ready in 1 hour” “Better make it a two-seater”  Claude turned to see Easil standing in the entrance “I’ll be ready to go just got to wash and change my clothes” so saying he turned and headed for the sea.

An hour later saw them high above the downs heading for Salisbury. Their pilot climbed higher to be out of the Hawker Hunter’s range this gave them a good view of the country.  Easil had told Claude that Farmer John and Bruce were in danger from Puffin Billy because they had stopped him from stealing the bombs.  When at last they saw the exercise ground Claude realised it would be harder to get to his friends than he first thought, Commando 42 were not a pretty bunch.  They had landed on the edge of the exercise ground and were watching their plane flying away when they heard a rustle in the hedge turning round they came face to face with the biggest rabbit and badger Claude had ever seen. Easil was relieved, “Billy, Growler, so good to see you what news my friends?”  It seemed that the T.A. along with Farmer John and Bruce had been sent to the other side of the wood to act as the attacking group, thus taking them away from the main body of the army so exposing them to Puffin Billie’s attack.  Puffin had  laid traps in the area where the T.A. would be crossing the next afternoon there were even booby trapps.  So it was decided that Billy, Growler and Easil would go to their aid whilst Claude would tackle Commando 42 and the dreaded Sergent Major Chris.

They said their goodbyes and he watched them melt away into the woods, then taking a deep breath he headed towards the camp. As he approached he was challenged then taken to the guard tent where he faced a rather mean looking Sergent Major, who grabbed him by the neck saying “well well well look here lads, dinner sh…” that was as far as he got, the next thing he knew he was on his back with a wing at his throat and a mean looking pheasant on his chest.  “My name is Pheasant, Double-O-One Claude Pheasant! and you are?”  The Sergent Major looked stunned, he had been stuffed by a pheasant and a talking one at that, not to mention he was a secret agent.  “Sergent Major Chris sir” he stammered. ” Well Sergent Major if you don’t mind I have a little problem and I need your help, so do we talk or fight?”  Before Sergent Chris could reply the tent flap opened and in walked a troop of scruffy, dirty looking men, “Well Chris I see you’ve met our Claude then, we’ll just clean up, rearm then discuss our next move, ok Claude”  “you say so Bertie” “Ok then let Chris up he gets a bit narked if he stays like that for too long” the man chuckled. Claude let Chris get up. Chris looked at him rather bemused.” I have heard of you but never believed it till now you want to join the brigade? anyone who can put me on the ground is more than welcome.” Chris held out his hand and shook Claude’s wing.

Well what do we do now Claude wondered. ‘Big’ Chris cleared a space on the table so that Claude could see the map, after a short study Claude realised that things did not look too good for Farmer John and Bruce.  What they needed was 1) a plan to catch these baddies and 2) some desperately need information, in other words Easil and his squad, where were they? Claude wondered.

Actually Easil along with his squad were busy creeping carefully along damp hedge rows covered in stinging nettles and ditches filled with cold water, disabling the booby traps they found.  This was not an easy task as the traps were well hidden, but they had a secret weapon of their own, Digger Mole.  It was Digger’s job to check the  tunnels then when he found a stick or something sharp in the ground he would carefully pop his head up and mark the spot with a flag so that Easil would know what to check out. In this way Easil’s squad were able to clear a path through some very nasty traps, disabling trip wires designed to trip the humans or fire missiles into the air thus endangering Bruce and his boys. By the time they reached Farmer Johns camp they were tired, wet and covered in dirt. Easil and his squad crept up to the biggest tent where there was a light on. After skirting it to make sure there were no enemy around he pulled back the flap and entered.

Bruce, Farmer John and three mean looking T.A. officers were in the middle of forming their plans.  “What’s all this?” said a surprised T.A. officer.   “Easil what you doing here mate?” Bruce was now concerned.  If Easil and his boys were out at this time of night then something was up, Easil liked his home comforts.  “There’s big trouble out there Bruce. I’ve just got through a load of traps that Puffin Billy had set for you lot. No questions just now what we need is a hot cuppa and a bath THEN, I’ll fill you all in on whats going on. Oh and they have recruited Steevburn Seagull”   Dumping their gear Easil and his squad headed for the wash tent leaving some puzzled humans behind, Steevburn Seagull, what did he want here?

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When at last Easil returned he explained the traps he had found and how they were dismantled but more worrying was the fact that Steevburn Seagull had taken some chicks hostage just in case things went wrong. “This is a job for Claude” Farmer John said “Can we get him over here?” A message was sent to HQ and a little later Claude flew in. Easil told him about the hostages “Where are they being held Easil?” “There is an old barn just at the edge of the wood and he has them in there.”  Claude thought for a moment turned to Easil saying “I’ll take care of Seagull you just get the chicks away.”  “right I wont argue with that” Easil said.  They finished their drinks and knowing that Farmer John and Bruce were now safe headed towards the barn.  They arrived to find it empty except for a ferret guarding a hole in the wall. After knocking him out they squeezed into the barn and found the chicks huddled in a corner.  Easil had begun to usher them out through the hole when he heard a deep evil chuckle Seagull had arrived.

Claude told Easil to get the chicks away whilst he dealt with Steevburn.   Claude walked into the middle of the barn facing Steevburn Seagull the biggest seagull he had ever seen.  “Well who have we here?” sneered Seagull”  Pheasant 001 Claude Pheasant”  Claude answered.  “Ohh am I supposed to be scared?” Seagull said  “Considering I am bigger than you it will not take me long to dispatch you then I think a nice dinner of chicks will make my day.”   Claude said nothing, he kept his eye on Steevburn waiting for his move.  When it came it was sudden and hard. Claude flew across the barn hit the wall and slid to the ground.  For a second or two he sat there then slowly got to his feet. “Ok Seagull if that’s the way you want it its fine by me.”  As he said this Claude jumped into the air aimed his feet at Seagull and flew across the barn.  Seagull saw this coming and dodged hitting out with a wing as Claude passed him. But Claude was quick, he landed and turned crouching low waiting for Seagulls next move.  They circled each other waving their wings looking for an opening. Seagull made a few darting movements looking for an opening, but Claude gave him none, so he got a little closer and dipping on one leg kicked out with the other. Seeing what he was doing Claude grabbed the leg and the fight was on. Backwards and forwards they flew each getting a strike in feathers flying all over the place, suddenly Claude hit Seagull and for a moment he was stunned.  Claude seized his chance, he jumped on Steevburn and started plucking at his feathers. When Easil arrived with some of the SBS he found a rather unhappy beat up Steevburn Seagull trying hard to cover himself with his wings.  “You ok Claude?”  “Yes thanks Easil a little bruised but ok.” Claude said.

Well the story went round the wood and hedgerows making Claude a real hero.  Then to top it all Sergent Chris arrived and made Claude a honnery member of Commando 42 with his own beret.  It was a very happy pheasant that went home that day. And Farmer John? Well he gave Claude a hero’s welcome home even Mrs Farmer John was pleased to see him.  Well done Claude!

© Michael Douglas Bosc

p.s.  You will not find a photo of Easil as for security reasons his face cannot be seen.

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I had been doing some research for my book A Caring Killer and came across the British Columbia B-36 crash that no one can quite get their heads around. So I looked at the political situation of the time, Soviet developement of an Atomic weapon was advancing at pace with spies working frantically to gain technical information. At the same time Britain was building it own Bomb having been left in the lurch by the United States government after the second world war. But there are Governments inside Governments and these people felt it would be useful for Britain to have their own weapon, however to achieve this one had to go missing from the US nuclear arsenal.  As it was illegal to supply any foreign country with nuclear technology a plausible plan had to be developed.  What if a plane carrying the bomb got into difficulties and ‘dropped’ it into the Pacific ocean who would ever know the difference?

The B 36 was carrying a passenger, was his body never recovered? One thing we can certainly be sure of is all the fantasy theories about the plane flying it self is pure hokum.  That aircraft was flown to its destination, engines were re-started and that plane was landed on the plateau near mount Kologet it was in one piece and aircraft do not land close to mountains in one piece they smash-up.

‘Officially’ the captains body was never found, so how did that plane suddenly gain height and fly over the mountains into Canada? I have used my theory as part of my book which is as much about not trusting anyone.

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In the past I have mentioned an organisation called B.L.E.S.M.A., which does so much to help our boys and girls who have lost limbs in the wars.

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The particular branch I know is the South East branch, of which Bill Gillett is the welfare officer.  I first heard about them from my father-in-law Jack Pearce. Jack could not say enough good things about this organisation when he lost both his legs they were there offering support, advice and any help they could give.  Bill was fantastic as was Cath and the other hard-working members.  We try to get to the dinner as often as we can, so this year I delayed my Dr’s visit so that we would be there.  It was nice to see Bill again and he brought his daughter Sophie along.

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The dinner is held at a hotel in Emsworth, and everyone brings something for the raffle which is always large this year was no exception this photograph was taken before most people had arrived and as you can see the table is already well stocked. We brought bottles of St. Emillion wine where we stopped off on our way to England.

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The welcome I was given was very warm (these so I am informed, are my adopted daughters lol) they were both funny and bubbly bullying their brother when they started selling the raffle tickets.  I know he sold a lot to my wife.  Along with their mother they took turns sitting at our table during dinner, and this was only the second time we had met the first being at my mother-in-laws funeral.

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The table at which we were sat  also had the branch president and his family such nice friendly people.

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So to tell you that after dinner were introduced to CPO(D) Ian Fleming – no that is his name – we were treated to a description of his walk in aid of BLESMA dressed in full divers kit including the helmet.  He said the weight was horrendous and where the boots touched his legs they rubbed his skin away to the bone. He walked with his ‘crew’ for two days to raise money, and is already planning this years trek. It was so nice to hear this modest man talk and joke about his exploits.

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Also at the dinner was the Base Commander of Portsmouth Commodore Jeremy Rigby who is very supportive of BLESMA and all they do for the wounded service personnel.

We owe a debt of gratitude to all our service personnel for continually putting their lives on the line to protect us and allow us to live safe and in many  cases profitable lives. That they are dependant in many cases on charity is a condemnation of our society. Thankfully organisations such as BLESMA are there to do what Governments should do automatically.  My heartfelt thanks go out to all the fulltime workers and volunteers of this great organisation.

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My New Year’s Wishes.

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Although I wrote about Stanley, but he was not my inspiration for writing Jason was.

I have always been interested in history especially Naval history, (and once again my sister has come up trumps, christmas pressie of three more naval books)  anything to do with ships and the sea I’m there.

Jason has a huge sexual appetite, but is an adventurer, sound businessman and good Captain.  He lets us into the social acceptances of the late 1700’s in Jamaica, then shows his compassion for the slaves on his plantation.   However, it is when he returns to England that things really hot up.

Sorting out his life, taking a mistress, then setting out on a most dangerous adventure. This he does not mind as he is back on the seas in the world he is most at home in.  He has his sexual adventures which become a little mixed up but he also shows how ruthless he can be when someone he cares for is harmed.

During the writing of this story I have written and re-written things.  Such as the attitudes to the Prince Of Wales and his spending something that was suffered by people too afraid to do anything about it.  There is an insight into the Prime minister’s life and attitude to his borrowing and spending, nothing really changes.  The city as it was then, was a strange creature but just as likely to fold as it is today.  So perhaps we should not be too surprised when things go pear-shaped.

But it is the way merchants got China to let go of their silver that is the main topic. Opium!  China would not trade in silver unless it was for this commodity. They would swap goods for goods but silver only for opium.  So of course, the merchants and governments plotted and schemed to get at it. The East India Company did very well in that department especially with Jason’s help and connections.

But the cost to Jason was a strange one, torture, near death and a princess for a wife. The how and when of this well, read the book and find out oh and look for the little bit of magic…..

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