Sunday, 5 October 2014


People quite understandably think that that line is  from the Thomas Hardy novel, Far From The Madding Crowd, although it originates in the Grey's sublime Elegy in a Country Churchyard and refers not just  to  rustic seclusion but also to  Death's permanent exiling of us all, in far Eternity.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
  Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
  They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

It is not all plain sailing, however, in this particular, Northern vale of life.

The minister for whom my house was built preached his horrid, scoldy Presbyterianism  in this old kirk and now lies, his tomb enscribed in latin, segregated from  the common  crowding dead, ancient and modern, in its sea-threatened precincts.
Tranquil now, the Sound,  although when the gales come, when the tides are high, they maul and  claw at the stoutest sea-walls, undermine the road and threaten us with the sight of coffins bobbing away towards Norway, maybe America.  One of those big, freaky seas is all it would take. Funny how those closest to the sea underestimate its terrifying power, when  it is they, Tragedy's fools, who should really know better.

Never Morning Wore 'Til Evening But Some Poor Heart  Did Break. Tennyson.
Oil Painting by W. Langley, 1884, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
A once-upon-a-time  mariner,  I  have a print of this kitsch melancholy on  my wall, as much for the title as for the painting, an antidote to the serialised nightly sorrows on skymadeupnewsandfilth - murdered schoolgirls; doughty, fundraising cancer victims and now headless recreational martyrs;  Tennyson could simply have said Shit Happens but poets are ever showy and  extravagant.

The cause of our local watery imperilment  is the continued existence of the Churchill Barriers, 

causeways linking  the archipelago,

 built with slave labour 

following the incursion to Scapa Flow of Gunter Prien's 

U Boat 47 and his sinking of HMS Royal Oak with the loss of nearly all hands, 

men whose ghosts could not but question the value of their fateful service, should they hear Mrs May and Mr Grayling introducing measures which they fought and died to defeat; For Shame! they would shriek. One day, when God is in his Heaven, skeletal hands will, as he takes his fat leisure on the shoreline,  grasp the ankles of Villainy's stooge, Orkney's Big Al Carmichael,  LibDem MP, 

and drag him, spluttering bulbous lies and wormy pledges, down to Davy Jones's Coalition of the Doomed Locker.

The Barriers, though, were erected by Eyetie POWs, in a belated, post-Royal Oak attempt to block  the sneaky entrances to  Scapa Flow, as well as  to provide previously non-existent road links between formerly separated islands and seventy years on, our smart, successful council has not found the wit or the means to replace them and as well as endangering motorists crossing in bad weather, 

as well as needing frequently to be closed, marooning many on the wrong sides, the Barriers obstruct the tidal current; where once it simply rushed from the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea headlong into Scapa Flow it now hits the barriers and rebounds, gnawing at, scoring-away the coastline, eating farmland, threatening not only the grateful dead in the kirkyard but roads, businesses, properties and - inevitably - lives.

Coastal erosion is just part of life, as is turbulent and destructive weather, no use whining about it, unless, as in this case,  it is due to man's interference, and now, seemingly,  something which we must bear until it washes us away.

 Scotland, after all, has no experience of bridge building,

The Kessock Bridge at Inverness.

Over the sea, to Skye.
The Forth road and rail bridges.

 our civil engineers would struggle to span thes vast Churchill Barrier distances, one of them as much as a few hundred yards long; Project Europa, after all, has no experience of funding massive post-war infrastructure projects.

Happy to slash at a skyline unchanged since the Ice Age, Orkney Islands Council, force-feeding us pious, nonsensical Greenery, welcomes carpet-bagging windmillers bunging small landowners bribes funded from their neighbours' inflated energy bills;  councillors  have lied shamelessly to public enquiries investigating dodgy windmill planning applications from former councillors, clad in Green Pragmatism's sandals they tell us it is necessary to shit on everything of value in order to meet facetious and irrlevant Green targets yet bleat helplessly about the irreplaceability  of these wretched barriers, as though it was still 1939, as though  we might yet suffer attack from prowling unterseebooten.

But then here, as everywhere, we do suffer the madding crowd's infernal strife; here,  retiring councillors awarded themselves thirty grand, as a reward  for doing the decent  thing and allowing new blood to come in;  here, the last leader of the council, Steven Hagan,
tried to fund his second home from expenses  and remains outraged that his fiddle was disallowed;  here, a career public sector grafter, 

Mr Albert Tait, retired as the council's Acting Chief Executive, immediately took up another lucrative public sector post, paying himself virtually tax-free via  a limited company set up solely for that purpose. Al's current brief is with the local NHS, wouldn't wanna pay any tax towards that, now, would he?

There is no escaping corrupt and staggeringly incompetent local government, no escaping the rank hypocrisy of the career public servant, no escaping his or her stout indignation when found-out. At least in Rotherham a partial truth may yet emerge; here, in order to bury the infamous Orkney Child Abuse scandal - which was, in fact, largely an import from England -  a local sherrif, acting far beyond his  legal powers, simply ruled that there was no case to answer;  a local councillor, a bloated, insufferable bully, Cyril Annal, he of the thirty-grand retirement bung, endorsed - on national television -  the threatening of social  workers, going about their entirely lawful child protection business, with loaded shotguns. Far from scrutiny all sorts of Shit Happens.

Et in Arcadia Ego, Nicholas Poussin.1637
Musee de Louvre, Paris, France.

There are as many interpretations of Poussin's et in arcadia ego as there are art critics and of such there is a pestilence.  The one I like is that Arcadia was ancient Greece's pastoral, rural community, far from the shore and her cities, far from the madding crowd and that the ego of the inscription was Death and corruption - Even in Paradise am I.

Quality of Lifers, Northbound, racing towards imagined Paradise, take note.


yardarm said...

I like the thought of those who paid the price of the Admiralty dragging the modern thieving careerist political rubbish to their doom in the deep....

In her youth Royal Oak will have guarded the Kaiser`s battlefleet in its internment during the Armistice: scuttled to prevent its seizure. Some still lie on the bottom of the Flow, too deep to have been raised with the others in the twenties, monuments to bombastic folly, apart from a few foggy hours of confusion at Jutland they served only as incubators to the revolution that toppled the Imperial fool. There`s a lesson there.

yardarm said...

If the Germans had used the resources and manpower locked up in their dreadnoughts to build more U boats we may very well have been fucked by 1917.

Great beautiful deadly follies: Hood punching her way through Arctic seas to her doom from the guns of Bismarck, the horror of the Prince of Wales, capsizing in the Gulf of Thailand with hundreds trapped below deck. The Americans preserved some of them, we so allegedly history conscious did not, not even proud Warspite who broke her back at Sennan Cove on the way to the breakers yard.

Rosevidney Rustic said...

I admire the William Langley painting showing an elderly woman attempting to comfort the young widow. The harbour in the background is at Newlyn. We don't seem to produce artists of that ability these days, more's the pity.

call me ishmael said...

They were examples of cousin-rivalry, the Grand Fleets, so much of Europe's monarchy being related, to itself, inbred, then, as now; Czar Nicholas, Kaiser Willhelm and King George the Fifth being spiteful cousins, Willhelm, especially, wanting to play boats against the British, we should've hanged the whole mad, filthy gang of them. Still should, mr yardarm, still should.

I was told a story here, a while ago; when the German Fleet was scuttled, Orcadians on this side of the Flow were raging, jumping up and down because the current was carrying the floating booty to the other.

That's right, Uncle Sam kept the New Jersey and I believe others, whilst we, typically, made razor blades of our battleships, now, the only way to see them is to dive down to them.

I always see the dead of Scapa Flow as representing my right to free speech, bowing my head, metaphorically and sometimes in reality, as I pass, indeed, as I glance from my windows.

call me ishmael said...

And I admire it enough to have it on the wall, mr rr, I like other Langley paintings, too. I'm just a bit dubious about most Victorian art, although not as dubious as I am about current British art, beds'n'sharks.

There has been a tremendous series on PBC 4 recently about British art, Constable, especially, and one a while back about Turner's Thames, both by Matthew Collings; Waldemar Jabberwocky, too, is always a joy, especially on the Baroque period. If only so much of the license fee didn't go to depravity and beasting of children one would never begrudge it.

Bungalow Bill said...

That chap Prien looks a bit of a hard bastard. I see he missed with 5 of the 7 torpedoes he fired at Royal Oak. Extraordinary men and courage all round but as you say Mr I we know where the debt lies.

call me ishmael said...

It is an on-patrol photo, mr bungalow bill, in others he seems, and by all accounts was, a decent enough man, like most U-boat men, ne didn't survive the war. A tremendous feat of arms, were he ours we would have raised a statue to him. He sailed past here, visible to locals who had no idea.

Oh, yes, and I should mention that German clergy stayed here, in what is now my house, before the war and people commented that they spent a lot of time rowing up and down the Sound, throwing things in. Only later did Presbyteria realise that the visiting clergy had been sounding the depths for Prien or someone like him.

Anonymous said...

Mr I, I cant always remember to check out your blog every week, but when I do, then I know I am assured of a really good read. In fact, most times after reading, I almost have to go change my trousers. You have some great people commenting on here almost up to and sometimes exceeding your high standard of writing.

Gunther Prien only managed a few more Uboat patrols before failing to return home. The story of how the scuttled German High Seas ships were raised and salvaged is well worth reading. We had real men around in those days.

Dr Yllek said...

It really is 'The Arcadian Shepherds' so the question is who are the sheep? Hmmmmmm......

callmeishmael said...

Les Bergeres Arcadie is, I believe, dr, an alternative title; both versions of the painting being generally known by the latin inscription. As for the sheep, aren't we, all of us, falling over them?

SG said...

There is, of course, HMS Belfast - though I appreciate that it is WW2 vintage. Still it saw action with the arctic convoys amongst other things. However it is sad that there are not more intact vessels from our naval and seafaring past. Regarding the green stuff, I think that with the proper harnessing of science and engineering most of the environmental challenges could be managed effectively if not resolved. However it is not helpful that the 'green' agenda is a function of an unholy alliance between shamans and idealogues on the one hand and the windmill 'entrepreneurs' and the like on the other. Plenty for the sceptics to get their teeth into there.

call me ishmael said...

Sorry, mr sg, HMS Belfast did cross my mind but I didn't think she was a battleship.

I agree that energy needs, at least, could and should be managed but MediaMinster cannot manage anything, apart from the truth.

A life-long conservator and recycler, I consider Green to be another word for Tyranny.

Dr Yllek said...

Internets is such a poor medium for sarcasm, irony, and sodomy...sorry

The question should be...who is that bloke standing on the right in Poussin painting? Is he one of the guys who, in distant past, standardized the value of gold bars for everyone who inhabited the Earth or is he the same one who standardized the democracy thingy for us now and here?

SG said...

No you are right Mr I she was, in fact, a light cruiser but an impressive vessel nonetheless. I have clambered about it a couple of times wondering what it must have been like in the freezing and ferocious arctic conditions.

call me ishmael said...

I am afraid, doctor, that I do not know the answer to either of those questions, although I assure you that I will continue to consider them and the issues which they raise. Apart from the sodomy, that is.

call me ishmael said...

I sailed the North Atlantic in mid-winter. And in peacetime. Sod the Arctic convoys, wonder what Help4Heroes would make of that shit.

mongoose said...

The windmill thing makes me cross. Not because the notion of a windmill in the 21st Century isn't stupid, although it is, but because it seduces otehrwise sensible and well-meaning people and drags them off into tomfoolery.

Google yourself a comparison of life cycle energy balance of the different methods and you will see the simple truths that need to be faced. Ideas? Wave power is effectively free and without meaningful disbenefit - and methods of harvesting it are being worked on. Oceanic wave power is where to go as it doesn't clog up the estuaries. Solar? ALmost all of the solar energy emitted by the sun passes us all by and gathering some of it in would only worry ET. But failing that there is a huge brown swathe of the earth where humans cannot comfortably live but where the sun shines intemperately for much of the year.

Orcadian bridges? Now there is a lifetime's work worth doing for someone.

call me ishmael said...

It is one of the things which enrages me about Salmond the Patriot. The Highlands wilderness is a world treasure of consolation and renewal, even travelling through it at speed lifts the spirit battered by the city, like the Northern Isles, the Highlands are remarkable for what is not there - structures, signage, neon - there is only vast emptiness, as though the ice retreated only yesterday. Smirky Fatman has decreed that from Inverness to Stirling the skyscape must be adorned with pylons; the cables could go undergorund but that would cost Fatman's sponsors a little more, so it is in Scotland's very best interests that the SNP destroys her unique beauty, the rotten fucking bastard needs a quick rubdown with a housebrick. And deportation.

Mike said...

Mr I: since you unpatriotic, ungrateful, old-buggers, voted NO I wouldn't hold your breath expecting much by way of rebuilding, or indeed anything.

call me ishmael said...

Absolutely right, mr mike, bribes and rotten boroughs, although even the SNP-voting Western Isles, heavily SNP-bribed already, voted No, too.

There will be more tomorrow, on how Salmond has hugely underestimated the very deep shit which he and his people are now in. What, for instance are they for? An Independence party which for all its bribery, fiddling, bullying and gerrymandering couldn't deliver Independence?

jgm2 said...

Salmond is a cunt. A single-minded cunt. I read a potted biography of his on the BBC and it seems as if his hatred of the English, learned at his uncle's (I think) knee came to a head at university when he was obviously so scathing of the English that his then (English) girlfriend told him to fuck off and join the SNP. Which he did. Too bad she didn't tell him to kill himself.

The cunt doesn't care what happens to Scotland as long as he gets to spite the English. Hence handouts to each and every fucker for whatever madness in order to establish the narrative of SNP largesse as opposed to English austerity. Free university education? Free prescriptions? Free elderly care? Free windmills? Free boilers? Free LPG conversions? No problem. I'm able to do this because I'm prudently managing the money I get from London. No mention of the extra £1200 per head per year which, were we not printing it to hand to Alex, so he could kid on that he was 'prudent' and making 'choices' and, if the money actually existed, then I reckon we here in England could probably 'prudently' manage to award ourselves free university education etc too.

The man is a cunt. And the damage he has done may be irreconcilable. 45% of the fuckers MrI, irrespective of threats or reality of no currency, no EU, no NATO, only their scenery to eat and their oil to drink and still they didn't give a fuck - their one thought - get away from the hated English.

Were it not for the fact that 10% of the population of Fucking Scotland is actually English then you might already be staring down the barrel of a gun.

Salmond is just a lightning conductor for the successful nurturing of resentment and hatred and jealousy of their richer, more successful neighbours, through the centuries by the Little Scotlanders.

Run. Run like the fucking wind away from the vile cunts. The writing is on the wall.

oldrightie said...

"Recreational martyrs". Classic.

call me ishmael said...

That's what I thought, too, when mr tdg coined it, brilliant.

call me ishmael said...

I have a differently nuanced view, today, of Scottish nationalism, mr jgm2, which I will set out elsewhere; not so much that it has peaked but that it has dangerously roused the more powerful unionist majority but thank you, anyway, for your concern; more later.

Woman on a Raft said...

It is obvious what is going on in the Poussin painting. The bloke kneeling down is jabbing at the pointing on the wall and saying it is all going to have to come out, who did this? Was it you? His two labouring mates are nodding in agreement with the gaffer's analysis and tutting sympathetically. They carry those bars not for moving rocks but for leaning on, since they are consitutionally incapable of standing up unaided.

Then Curly will suck the air through his teeth, get the Big Stick of Charcoal out from behind his ear and write down the largest number he can without the lady of the household fainting.

She is standing there with her hands on her hips, hmmm, anticipating all this and wondering whether this marauding band of fwits will be any more likely than the last lot to rebuild the altar so it stays up this time, or whether to really have a go at it herself and sod the fucking lot of them.

Guess how I know.

mrs narcolept said...

mrs woar, from now on whenever I see that painting there will be a phantom motorbike where the altar-tomb stands.