Saturday, 9 February 2019

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations.

Published by Faber, Strauss and Giroux, New York 2007.

It's a fine biography of a remarkable, courageous, wise, foresighted, and utterly determined Englishwoman.

Born to a prosperous Co. Durham family, (wealthy industrialists with a liberal conscience), she obtained a First in History at Oxford in just two years; traveled in Europe and became a renowned mountaineer (in the days before crampons were invented, and women climbers were rare).  

She was fluent in six languages.

But her passion became what we used to call the Near East, or Mesopotamia:  the modern lands of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

There she traveled the great deserts, seeking and exploring  ancient archaeological sites; making maps of  the ancient desert cities and camel routes.

She might have gone down in history as a great archaeologist, but Gertrude Bell could not be placed in a convenient small box.   

She began to delight in the various and sundry Arab cultures, clans, tribes, religions; (Sunni and Shia Muslims and other faiths) she respected them and learned from them. She was certainly the most brilliant and wise "Arabist" of her generation ( 'though T.E. Lawrence gets most of the credit).

Above all, she became a fierce and determined advocate for the right of self determination of the Arab peoples, when and if the Ottoman Empire overlords were driven out.

She became the most trusted English person by the various Arab leaders in the Arab world.

At the end of WWI  many of her insightful hopes for Mesopotamia were not realised, partly because of the secret Anglo/French "Sykes/Picot" agreement; and partly because the British Government, having been given a League of Nations mandate to oversee modern Iraq was largely deaf to her wisdom ( the most deaf being one Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill  to Gertrude Bell's left in the book cover picture, who always knew that he knew more about any topic under the sun that anyone else knew).

Gertrude Bell's life defies all our stereotypes about Victorian/ Edwardian English woman.   

And a tip of the hat to her father Hugh Bell who was one of her greatest boosters, financial supporters, and tenderly loving Dad,

Gertrude Bell probably took her own life in 1926.   She was buried with all Iraqi State and Protestant Church ceremony and honours in Baghdad.   I hope that her grave is yet well cared for.

The wikipedia article below will introduce you to Gertrude Bell.

It's good as it goes, but it is more like the bones on a nice piece of (say) Trout.  Read the book  (see above) to savour the flesh.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Bluebirds on Cape Cod

From Cape Cod photography blog, via Chris G

Bluebirds feasting on a meal worm feeder on Cape Cod, MA  during the recent very cold weather.    Fabulous photography  eh?

Thursday, 7 February 2019

1949 - "I wish, I wish, I wish"

 Image -  nothing to do with my story -  just to get your attention!


1949 at Nanny Povey's house  (she was my paternal grandmother).

My two older sisters and my twin sister were teasing me.  I was think skinned then (and I am often thin skinned now).

I cried out  (or so I seem to remember)  "I wish, I wish, I wish I had a brother".

Well, you never know.  Between 1950 and 1956  I was given four brothers,  and another sister.

The first of this gang of brothers, Andrew James, was born on 7th February 1950.


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

(1) Lovely. (2) Silly

LOVELY   Snowcycles at Bard College, 2nd Feb 2019 (via Martha S)

SILLY   via Bruce L

Monday, 4 February 2019

Filching a line from a Christmas Hymn

I sit down on my Lanai to read. 

Then this appears, and rests his head on my thigh.

"Who would not love him, loving me so dearly"

WNYC "On the Media"

Great programme, broadcast in Sarasota on WUSF,  Sunday afternoons at 4:00

Do take time to listen to the most recent -  compelling reports on the situation in Venezuela; on the legacy of Simon Bolivar; on U.S. interventions in Central and South America; and on the fate of the Vigher people in China.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

His name is Bodie

As I've mentioned previously, one of the things I love about Sarasota's Arlington Park is that I see a lot of children there, maybe riding their bikes and scooters, or kicking a soccer ball, or simply goofing off  - without a heliocopter parent in sight.

It's a wonderfully safe place for children to play.

Today Zion stopped to engage in that canine obsession with a single blade of grass.  Up trotted a lone boy child, maybe eight or nine years old.  He asked if he could pet Mr. Z.  

Given the fears about children and strangers I said yes, given that we were in full sight of the dog park and therefore in view of many adults.  The boy and Mr. Z engaged in a love fest. 

I told him Zion's name, and asked what was his.  It is Bodie.

Bodie wandered on.  I rounded a bend,  There he was, crouched down and trying to entice a squirrel to come near.

The squirrel bounded away,  and in a sight which I found to be touching, Bodie waved it good-bye.

The best was yet to come.  As I was beginning to drive out of the car park,  here came Brodie, clutching his dad's hand as they walked out of the park.

Zion's head was outside of the back window.  I rolled my left window down and said "hi Brodie".  Then I spoke to the dad.  "Brodie" I said, "met Zion a little while ago".

"Yes ", said the dad (with a broad smile) "Brodie told me that he met a nice dog and a nice man"

Oh to live in an America (and world)  where this kind of gentle encounter is the norm.


Back at home I was ready for a hearty and home cooked lunch.

A casserole with butternut squash, cauliflower and pork, cooked with mango salsa.

Did anyone say "yummy"?