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North of Nowhere

24 September, 2010 Leave a comment

I wrote in the previous entry of my recent trip and the Danes that I met there. I talked of the traits I saw in them. One I didn’t mention was their renowned fierceness as warriors. History has proven the Danes to be great warriors and their involvement in this current conflict is doing nothing to harm that reputation.

I also mentioned an ‘interesting’ flight home after my visit and said I would write of it in this entry…

Once my work was done it was time for me to return to the safe confines of our desert bastion. On arriving at the departure point I was met by the normal rag-tag individuals heading onwards to their journey home and people going back to their base after a visit for whatever reason. There was also, on this occasion, a group of Danes with enough kit between them to finish the war!*

The LPC advised that these modern vikings were to board first with the rest of following on, we’d then be ferried ‘home’ before they were forwarded to their final destination.

All that changed as soon as the ride landed and the LPC spoke to the loadie, we were bustled on first, including the working dog on his way home for a medal, ann were followed on closely by the squad of tooled up Scandinavians all grunting, back slapping and showing each other the Devil‘s Horns (a la Ronnie James Dio \m/). The lights went out, the rotors changes tone and we lifted into the moonlit night…

I don’t know where we went, I do know it was vaguely North, and after an indeterminate length of time (it’s best to snooze on these journeys) we touched down, and waited…

The rotors surged again and we were once again lifted into the moonwashed skies and heading North(ish). This leg was slightly longer and I tried, once again to doze, to no avail… Even behind closed lids the brightness of the defensive flares are blindingly bright. Given the fact they have to divert attention await from the heat of the turbine engines keeping this thing in the air I can understand it, but it was a bloody rude awakening! After watching through the domes perspex window as the pale grey landscape rushed by not too far below I drifted of into slumberland once more. I was rudely awakened by the sound of weapons, more grunts and back slapping and shouts of ‘two minutes!’ as these guys readied themselves to disembark God only knows where… I must admit to being a tad concerned when one turned to my mate and, with two fingers held in a Churchill manner, shouted ‘two minutes!; at him and looked at the two of us! (Not bloody likely was both our initial responses.)

By this time we could feel the bird dropping fairly quickly and I glanced out the window again to see… nothing. There was a huge vista of  pale grey with light and dark patches here and there but no light, no activity, and more importantly to my defensive mind, no cover.

As we pulled a hand-brake turn (I don’t know how else to describe it) and  touched down they launched themselves into the great unknown (although I’m sure they knew where they were!) and dispersed themselves into defensive positions. We them lifted off and headed back from whence we came. This leg of the journey was far less eventful with little or no chaff or flares and a far greater height being reached. Having embarked on a 15 minute ride on a Chinook I arrived back safely over 80 minutes later.

I mentioned last night that this flight had spawned some lyrical musings. Here’s the bare bones…

Day’s over, the job’s all done
High time now to hightail it home
Light of day in dark of night
Full moon’s overhead

We’re not alone, there’s more to come
For some work’s just begun
Light’s out, head down
All Hell’s gonna let loose soon

Dark of night, flares so bright
We’re headed North of Nowhere
All tooled up, let’s stir it up
We’re headed North of Nowhere

Moon rides high, light’s up the sky
Washing sand and village white
Signs of life show down below
Dropping down, it’s time to go

Dark of night, flares so bright
We’re headed North of Nowhere
All tooled up, let’s stir it up
We’re headed North of Nowhere

* I know we’re not at war, but I hope you’ll allow a little poetic license!

A Little Inflammatory Rhetoric

22 September, 2010 Leave a comment

As far as I’m aware Jesus and Mohammed were great advocates of peace. As were most prophets through the ages.

Not the peace we forge in these days of Government funded conflicts in the name of global stability and world peace. Peace in the true sense of the word, ‘love thy neighbour’ and all those sayings which are paid lip service the world over in quaint old buildings in villages and suburbs as people search for meaning to their existence.

Peace of the kind promoted by the very Gods that armies wage war in the name of.

The World Peace monument in a pond next to a s...

Image via Wikipedia

This is not a new occurrence by any means. All through history nations and alliances have waged war in order to prove their Faith is the one true religion. And they have done so with the impunity only secured by the knowledge that their belief is justification in itself for their actions.

Okay, enough already!‘ I hear you cry!

Yes, I know it’s all a bit heavy but, as I’ve stated before, it’s the whole premise behind this blog’s title. (Look closely…)

Despite the premise that this is a ‘War on Terror‘ everywhere you look there are religious icons to be seen. Crosses made of wood or brass shell casings, Stars of David, Crescents, you name it and you’ll find it here. Each of the sides have their religious elders along for the ride and they hold religious services to glorify the sacrifices made, on both sides.

This, in my Devil’s Advocate of a psyche, raises the question: Are we on a crusade? It was this question that raised its ugly head late last night while I struggled to get to sleep. It was this question that rattled around the empty space that I had been trying to fill with some words to put to the latest track I’d received from Pete. And it was this question which grew to form the lyric I have been searching for, for weeks.

This is not the peaceful, introverted or reflective lyric I’ve produced of late. To be honest I’m a little surprised by its anger, but I’m also pleased with it, as I am with everything produced so far…

Down through the ages they’ve answered the call, they’ll answer again
In history’s pages the worthy stood tall, will they stand there again?

The soldiers of freedom with faith as their guide, they’ll answer the call
Taking lands from the heathen regardless of right, their armies will fall

Holy Wars, fought in whose name?
Holy Wars, always in vain
Holy  Wars, who counts the cost?
Holy Wars, humanity’s lost
In the name of the Cross
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?

Facing down evil at every turn
This is the reason you answered the call
Seeking redemption through others demise
Can’t you see reason? It’s all just a lie!

As hordes stand against them they’ll fight to the end, no matter the cost
When the world stands against them it’s time for the end, we can’t pay the cost

Holy Wars, fought in whose name?
Holy Wars, always in vain
Holy  Wars, who counts the cost?
Holy Wars, humanity’s lost
In the name of the Cross
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?

Answers on a postcard…

To you, perceptive reader…

20 June, 2010 Leave a comment

The first of the new batch of lyrics was inspired by, although it is not based upon, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I have not read a vampire novel which grasped my imagination like this since reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I say vampire novel, I’m not sure it falls into that genre as neatly as those two words suggest. This is no pulp fiction gothic slasher instead preferring to draw vast portraits across the reader’s imagination of the Balkan states during both their 15th century grandeur and more recent decline into communist states.

The Historian cover art.

The cover artwork for the 2006 edition of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian

I have avoided the easy option of writing a vampire song, preferring instead to think of the Order of the Dragon and that of the Janissaries created to oppose them. I saw this as an opportunity to write of the burden placed on individuals by the decisions of past generations. Kostova herself states:

Dracula is a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history.

While I wrote initially from the point of the Western, Christian, Order of the Dragon I was compelled to include a verse from the Qur’an which is included in the book and, to my mind, portrays the attitude of all religions.

Those who do not believe
And die while they are unbelievers
On them falls the curse of Allah,
Of Angels and of men

This may well end up as being my first ‘voice-over’ on a song as I think it may be spoken over the middle eight, we’ll see.

The book has not only spawned this lyric (and possibly a second, slightly darker, sibling) but it has drawn me back to history as a subject, one I have delved into heavily over the years and am now enjoying again with a rediscovered vigour. Expect some historical epics on a grand scale then!

To quote Kostova one last time:

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…

Are you sitting comfortably?

19 June, 2010 Leave a comment

Then we’ll begin…

The point is, I’m not sure where to start? Should I labour the point about the original lyrics? Should I take you back to where (when) this all began? I think not. Going back the last few months should suffice, to the point where the preparations for this year’s crusade were started.

Before I take you back to the start of 2010 I would like, if I may, to reveal to you the goings on of the last few weeks and then, perhaps, the reason for this ‘blog will become a little clearer.

I am currently on a course, not a journey unfortunately, an educational course which is a prerequisite for the role I am to fulfil in Afghanistan. Now, bearing in mind the fact that on returning from Helmand Province the last time I began my studies toward an IT degree which has now been successfully completed, I would like you to put yourself in my shoes (Converse, if you must know) when confronted with the following introduction to a lesson:

The lights on the front panel of the laptop indicate the following:

  1. Solid Green – The battery is fully charged and power is being supplied
  2. Amber – The battery is charging and power is being supplied
  3. Red – 9% or less of the battery remain

Needless to say my mind has wandered for much of the intervening two and a half weeks and will, more than likely, wander for the remaining week or so.

One benefit of the level at which the course is targeted has been the amount of time I’ve had available for reading, and writing. I started the course having read a couple of chapters of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, a book I can heartily recommend to anyone who has a predilection for horror, vampires, history or simply a well written story. Needless to say the book has not lasted long, it has however rekindled my interest in all things historical. In fact I have spent much of my time in the evenings studying 15th century Balkan history which led to Ottoman history, hence to the Byzantine period and finally, for now, Eastern and Western Roman Empirical history.

In addition to the historical interests it has sparked a bout of lyric writing the likes of which I’ve not experienced since the first five or six songs appeared in as many days. I have found myself writing complete lyrics in a little over two hours, something which in the past has resulted in (to my mind at least) some of the best, most cohesive, lyrical content I have written.

So far I have scribbled on such topics as Drakulya, the futility of history as a teacher, I’ve even managed to revisit previously incomplete songs relating to Dorian Gray and childhood fear of the dark and I am now veering off in the direction of Roman Legions and Holy Crusades.

And that is where we are for now.

I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

19 June, 2010 Leave a comment

Yes, I know it’s a Megadeth song title, but I couldn’t think of a better way to put it! And, if you have read the band’s blog, you’ll notice that blog entries are often named with song titles. Perhaps an alternative could be:

Politics and Religion – Never to be discussed in polite company.

The observant among you will have noticed at lease two uses of the word crusade so far in this ‘blog. The first in the previous post. And the second? (Take a peek at the URL in your browser!)

Why? The answer to that lies in a question I posed to myself in 2007, and have continued to do so since. (In all honesty I can’t remember if I heard the question somewhere else first, but for the purposes of this entry it is irrelevant.)

How will history see the recent conflicts in the Middle East?

Will they look back in years to come and see them as portrayed by the invaders? A coalition of benevolent, rich, capitalist states supporting a nation weakened by oppressive evil regimes. Or will they see them as a final war between Eastern and Western religious ideologies, Christian against Muslim. A Last Crusade.

Despite having been involved in both areas I fear it shall be the latter by which we are measured. The wars, for that is what they are in all but name, will be remembered as the predominantly Christian capitalists forcing their will on the predominantly Muslim tribes of the Middle East.

And it makes me sad.

I am a religious man. I am not a church goer, yet I can honestly say that I believe in a higher power. Over the years I have had cause to scratch the surface of many of the world’s major religions and their writings. The one thing which has struck me throughout these dabblings is the similarity, at a higher level, of them all and the intertwined mythology which binds many of them in the dim and distant past.  Yet despite these similarities, or perhaps because of them, we seem destined to disagree.

And so, in less than 6 weeks, I shall embark on my own pilgrimage to join what will not be, unfortunately, the Last Crusade.

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