Archive for the ‘John Stammers Page’ Category


Posted: February 17, 2021 in John Stammers Page
Tags: , , , ,

I have never been one wowed by military campaigns, or an avid devotee of battles, wars, the armed forces. I hope I never will.
Every so often, though, something strikes home, and the cost of the courage of people makes an impact.
Here’s one example.

The date; March – May 1944
The place: Kohima, Nagaland, India
The event: WW 2 battle between Indian-British troops and a Japanese regiment
Importance: turning point on Japanese front
People:  men from modern-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Japanese forces Rowland (seated, centre) with members of the Punjab regiment, pictured in Bangkok in 1945I was astonished to read this account, of how Indian-British soldiers held off a far superior number of Japanese soldiers for three months.
The impact was to be tumultuous: … by June 1944, with more than 7,000 casualties and almost no food supplies left, the Japanese division retreated and returned to Burma.
This was the first time the imperial Japanese forces had been defeated. The impact on everyone’s morale was huge.

No matter what you think of war, combat, but what these men went through – yes, I am aware of how little choice played in the matter – has to be honoured. 1500 Indian’British troops went through sheer living hell for three months defending Garrison Hill’s strategic entry point to Manipur and Assam, against more than 15,000 so-far invincible, Japanese troops. There was aerial bombardment, and ending in hand-t0-hand fighting.
The relief Punjab regiment-British troops arrived in May. I should think they expected to find a massacre. The scene had that about it, but troops survived, held out, and had held off. The Indian sub-continent was saved.

The relief troops were ordered to pursue the retreating Japanese troops. Cholera and malaria cut down many in retreat, but the main killer was starvation.
These are shocking details. This is the reality of war, fighting. There was no honour in death, here. Were any remembered, except by grieving families who never knew what had happened, or where?

This is very different, however, from the forced Death Marches of concentration camp internees.

Commemoration? Partition swept away a lot of commitment to such memorials. And the new India, Pakistan, later Bangladesh, saw it all as clouded in colonialism.
For whatever reason, the Indian regiment fought and died courageously.

The special bond between deadly enemies is also a thing of surprise, wonder: “When the Japanese and the British veterans of Kohima met, they hugged each other and started crying,” he said. “These were the soldiers who had fired at each other, but still they showed a special bond. It was spontaneous and we didn’t expect it.”
Many from the Nagaland region helped with intelligence and ground knowledge, as well as fighting with the troops. They were hoping for British help in establishing their own Nagaland independence. They felt very aggrieved when in the aftermath of the war this was not even a consideration.
This, also, is a consequences of war – when nations fight, and territory becomes re-ordered, the concerns of smaller bodies become lost, destroyed. No matter what they gave.

Wiki tells us:
In 1944 during World War II the Battle of Kohima along with the simultaneous Battle of Imphal was the turning point in the Burma Campaign. For the first time in South-East Asia, the Japanese lost the initiative to the Allies, which the Allies then retained, until the end of the war. This hand-to-hand battle and slaughter, prevented the Japanese from gaining a base from which they might have easily gone into the plains of India.

Kohima has a large cemetery known as the War Cemetery in Kohima for the Allied war dead maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The cemetery lies on the slopes of Garrison Hill, in what was once the Deputy Commissioner’s tennis court which was the scene of intense fighting, the Battle of the Tennis Court

The Judge and the Hangman, by Friedrich Durrenmatt, Pushkin Press, 2017.
ISBN 978 1 78227 341 7

Occaisionally I dabble with crime novels. Ok, splurge – I was a big fan of the Janwillem van Der Wettering, his Grijpstra and de Gier, novels at one point. A Dutch author; the series was written in English. He lived in America for the latter half of his life.
His biography cites periods of time as working part time with the Amsterdam police force, but also as a Zen Buddhist. And so it was very surprising/dismaying to see how sexist, even racist at times, he could be.
His books are, however, always full of vicarious learning: we find out about Friesland indepedence, and sloe gin; we learn how the furniture import trade works.

Then of course there are the Cormoran Strike novels. Except for the last one, very well written as it is, some of the subject matter….
I do not read to solve the crimes, but to enjoy the craft and skill of the writing.

Pushkin Press, that excellent publisher, brought The Judge and the Hangman to my attention.
And at 126 pages, it is a quite a gem, bijou, and impactful.
Originally published in 1950, revised 1952, it was first translated into English in 1955.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt greatly disliked the early crime-game novels, where ‘You set up your stories logically, like a chess game; all the detective needs to know is the rules, he replays the moves of the game, and checkmate…. This fantasy drives me crazy.
And so he set out to create a different kind of novel, and the novels he wrote in this genre were more psychology-led, more devious, like people, surprising, and full of with-held knowledge.
His compatriots in writing are cited as the French New Wave of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s The Erasers.

There is also lovely, lyrical writing. Set in post-War Switzerland, The Judge and the Hangman gives us:
The storm had relaxed, and suddenly, by the Muristalden, Barlach found himself steeped in blinding light: the sun broke through the clouds, disappeared, came out again, and was caught up in a rollicking chase of mists and clouds, huge bulging mounds that came racing in from the West to pile up in front of the mountains, casting wild shadows across the city that lay spread out by the river between forests and hills…. his eyes glittered as he avidly drank in the spectacle: the world was beautiful.’

Inspector Barlach was an ageing police inspector, mostly stationed in Berne. He had travelled in his life, though, spending time in Turkey, and other points in Europe. His talent was criminology. HIs last posting was Frankfurt am Main, in 1933; he had to leave hastily: ‘his return… was a slap he had given a high-ranking official of the new German government. There is a dry humour in this, as well establishing political credentials.
His boss Dr Lucius Lutz, had also travelled, and forever compared deplorable Swiss police methods with his time in Chicago. Yes, those years, of John Dillinger et al.

The big turn-around in the story is very skilfully plotted, and comes with an in-take of breath, from the arch-villain of the piece, as for the reader.

And there is a follow-up book on Inspector Barlach, Suspicion.
I look forward to reading this.

Painting and Social History

Posted: January 31, 2021 in John Stammers Page

Here is a truly fascinating recent blog by jonathan5485 – my daily art display

In this article Jonathan investigates the paintings and cultural milieu of late 19thCentury England, in particular the art of Ralph Hedley.
It is, like all Jonathan’s posts, immersive and inquisitive, throwing open surprising avenues, and presenting surprising turns and artefacts.

Take this, for instance:

a widespread custom, up to the 19th century, known as the ‘barring-out’ of the schoolteacher by his pupils. On a certain day agreed by the school authorities, the pupils planned to bar the classroom door with the teacher outside and refused to let him in until he agreed to their terms, which were usually for a half-holiday, or something similar.  In Hedley’s painting we see schoolchildren enjoying the North-East custom of barring the teacher from the classroom on the 29th of May,  until the holidays for the next year had been agreed. One boy is wearing a Northumberland hat with a red pom-pom. Ralph Hedley has depicted the setting as a shabby country classroom in which children of many different ages are being taught together. The children’s clothing albeit shabby and multi-patched does not detract from the depiction of happy and healthy children.  However, although some of the children’s clothes are patched, they seem happy and healthy.

Ah yes, the happy and healthy children. Previous to this are two, ok sentimental, paintings of newsboys – neither can be older than seven or eight years old: ragged, exhausted.
This tendency in paintings also reminds of how the newly moneyed factory owners in their palatial homes in the country chose to furnish their walls with bucolic scenes of shepherds and country children.

In the Lords allowed themselves 
Bills of Regulation, bought with blood; 
a house in the country; sculpture,                       
yes, but paintings: English portraits,                   
Nazarene shepherds fat with health, 
children ruddy, without rickets,                          
and the girls demure yet buxom; 
rivers, vales, seashores;                                                                                   
 – mirrors of their assumption.

Every cloth a signature of snicks,                      
invisible watermarks of how man                        
is to man, interdependence between                    
need, require: their lady’s ’good works’,    
and the workable negotiation. 

They never read Theocritus, Homer,                               
nor followed Virgil, yet hatched                         
an Ovidian dialect                                              
with which to address their passing
into power.
(from Union Banner, something I was working on at one time)

Do pay this site a visit, it is always very informed, informative, and hugely stimulating.
In case you missed the link first time:

All death and gloom?

Dr Omar Atiq closed his cancer treatment centre in Arkansas last year after nearly 30 years in business.

He worked with a debt collection firm to gather outstanding payments, but then realised many families had been hit hard financially by the pandemic.

Over Christmas, he wrote to patients telling them any debts would be erased.

“Over time I realised that there are people who just are unable to pay,” Dr Atiq told ABC’s Good Morning America

“So my wife and I, as a family, we thought about it and looked at forgiving all the debt. We saw that we could do it and then just went ahead and did it.”

Breaking ice; Spring on its way.

It is certainly worth noting that the oncologist is of Pakistan origin, and that the decision was taken through consultation with his wife.
Big Yes.

And enormous thanks to Eilidh G Clark
for directing me to Youtube’s far better coverage:

Don’t miss this!!

Lord of Misrule

Posted: December 27, 2020 in John Stammers Page

As this is the period of the Lord of Misrule, let me introduce you to:

Georges Le Gloupier: the Custard Pie Thrower

or, as he was styled, entarteur.

Belgian writer (An Anthology of Subversion), critic, and actor, Noel Godin, developed another character to his list, that of Georges Le Gloupier.

Let us celebrate 30 years of the guerrilla patissiere!

Wiki tells us: Since 1969, when Godin planted a pie on the face of the French novelist Marguerite Duras, he has pied dozens more, including choreographer Maurice Béjart, France’s best-known television anchorman Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and film maker Jean-Luc Godard.

And, diverse authority figures as Microsoft boss Bill Gates, former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe, TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, economist Milton Friedman, conservative commentator Anne Coulter and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy have all found themselves coated in viscous gloop as a result of custard pie-related attacks.

Prof Kershaw said, the use of the custard pie is different from egg, flour-throwing:

It’s all about the clown as outsider – like the fool in Shakespearean drama or the mediaeval court who has the licence to insult the king or queen.
You’ve got to get close to the victim – it’s not like throwing an egg from a distance. This makes the protester stronger.

Noel Godin used a special phrasing for his activities, with terms like “tempêtes patissières” (pastry storm) to describe his practice.

It was when his group managed to target Bill Gates, in 1998, that he knew he had achieved his greatest goal: ‘My work here is done’, he intoned before leaving the stage.
Having used the actorly references, let me assure readers that quite a few films and also books about and starring Noel have appeared since then:ël_Godin

He is also featured in a Bansky-produced hour-long pseudo-TV piece. The Antics Roadshow.

A book celebrating Noel Godin’s anarchy-satiric work, was published in 2005:

‘Entartons, entartons les pompeux cornichons!: 30 ANS DE GUERILLA PATISSIERE : “L’ENTARTEUR” RACONTE’ published by Flammarion. ISBN-10 : 2080685465
Written in French. 

Groups of like-minded anarcho-satirists banded together, expanding the work.
I remember TV reportage from the 1990s of such targetings. The usually well-dressed, i.e. to fit in with the assembled, pie-throwers approached their target chanting ‘Gloup! Gloup! Gloup!
They were an established phenomenon of the time, and if not an expected, at least in most cases an accepted, hazard of one’s position.
There were, of course, the one’s who, perhaps targeted too often (French philosopher Bernard-Henry Levy), lost their sense of humour. He has been targeted eight times, to date.
Did Bernard-Henry’s response betray an inner nature so contrary to his public self, and so therefore reveal a superficiality? Or was this someone for whom losing face so publicly was one insult too far?
It could have been just a particularly bad day. Heaven knows we all have those.

Eight times, though.
Had it become personal? If you look at the work Bernard-Henry Levy has done to date, you cannot but wonder, Why him?
The bigger the profile, the bigger the hit.
Yes, but where does deserving come into this? Bernard-Henry Levy does seem to live his life in public ( but because of his status, the impacts of his campaigns are also that much greater.
The sense of humour; that is so essential. So many big names that have been ‘hit’ have been able to laugh and walk away.
To take oneself so seriously? It is essential to do so in order to get ‘up there’, but to attain, and keep on attaining, the right balance… that is an art. A very difficult art.ël_Godin

Oh, yes, I do really like this.

Star of Caledonia

To be based on the Scottish-English border, near Gretna.
Certainly do need something big to mark that crossing!

Trail’s End

Posted: November 10, 2020 in John Stammers Page
Tags: ,


Donald J Trump in a roadside bar
his cap sliding into his eyes,
nursing his drink like he’s film noir
‘I just can’t get an aide,’ he sighs
‘who’ll stay from round-up to trail’s-end.’
His tenth’s contract came to a sudden end.

The bar man shakes his head, ‘I hate 
to see any man so down on his luck.
All end up here, somehow.’ gives me a look,
then begins to relate… 
but Donald sat up, shook,
insomnia-red eyes glared around the room,
as he mumbled ju-ju into soda and lime

in a whiskey glass. 
Will he phone home? Will he sleep alone?
‘Looking for reporters, TV crew,’ 
the bar man says. ‘It’s what they all do
at the end of their time.’ 


Donald J Trump woke up in his trailer
struggled to put on his too-tight jacket,
grunted with shoes, zipped pants, in that order.
Looked up, straightened tie: ‘Still hack it!’
Checked pockets, sprayed hair, ‘They’ll see!’  
Hummed a voice check, ‘Here’s to me!’
chinking his glass, then downed in one;
rechecked the clock: Will this be the one?

Nearly time to hit the stage again, 
stood, belly in, ok, a little weight gain;
climbed step by step down the stairs
to stand in the wings. ‘Noisy tonight’.
He knew a few things to get them right,
tricks and faces, the names in his cross-hairs.
Then time: stepping out all constraint disappears 
as he puts on his Mickey Mouse ears.

The circus is in town again.

Theatre in your own home

Posted: November 7, 2020 in John Stammers Page

Theatre needs support.

Here’s an initiative by Knaive Theatre: theatre in your own home, your own room.
A digital immersive experience.

Last night we had Stampin in the Graveyard. A very professional piece.

Tonight is the deeply immersive
Covid Lockdown Breath Machine.
Don’t miss it.

Covid Lockdown Breath Machine is a binaural sound project written by 
Lavinia Murray and composed and sound designed by Dr. Robert Bentall.

‘Designed specifically to be experienced in with headphones, alone, with the
lights off and the curtains drawn Covid Lockdown Breath Machine is a fantastical, transformative and ultimately uplifting journey into the symptoms and imaginings of a corona virus patient. Take a breath and let this breeze whisk you to a world of kaleidoscopes, household gods, mushroom spores and a fresh but capricious westerly wind.’

​’You can hear a teaser by putting on your headphones and clicking here.’

Bon voyage.

Bonnie Broukit Bairn

Posted: November 3, 2020 in John Stammers Page

I was wondering how to introduce this choice of poem.
I could have riffed about this or that, but… does Hugh MacDiarmid’s poem need a reason for being?

Bonnie Broukit Bairn

Mars is braw in crammasy,
Venus in a green silk goun,
The auld mune shak’s her gowden feathers,
Their starry talk’s a wheen o’ blethers,
Nane for thee a thochtie sparin’
Earth, thou bonnie broukit bairn!
– But greet, an’ in your tears ye’ll drown
The haill clanjamfrie!

Hugh MacDiarmid.
From Sangschaw, 1925.

crammasy crimson
wheen o’blethers pack of nonsense
broukit neglected
haill clanjamfrie whole crowd of them