Friday, April 28, 2006

Day 16 - 28th April 1483

"On the 28th we went out of our inn in the morning through the streets of the merchants and went to St. Mark's to hear service there. When service was over, we walked about the open square in front of the Doge's palace. In this square, before the great door of St. Mark's Church, there stood two costly banners, raised aloft on tall spears, white, and ensigned with a red cross, and they were the banners of pilgrim to the Holy Land. By these banners we understood that two galleys had been appointed for the transport of pilgrims; for when the lords of Venice beheld a number of pilgrims flocking together there, they chose two nobles from among their senators, and entrusted the care of the pilgrims to them. The names of these were, of the first, Master Peter de Lando, and of the second, Master Augustine Contarini. The servants of these two noblemen stood beside the banners, and each invited the pilgrims to sail with their master, and they endeavoured to lead the pilgrims, the one party to the galley of Augustine, the other to that of Peter; the one party praised Augustine and abused Peter, the other did the reverse. Hence it followed that these two lords, Augustine and Peter, had become deadly enemies, and each abused the other and defamed him to their worships the pilgrims, and each tried to make the other odious to the pilgrims, and suborned men to do so. From this there began to grow another evil, namely, that the pilgrims themselves had, as it were, taken sides with the factions of these two captains, and each of them were zealous for their own captain and master. So my lords were at a loss, not knowing to which of these captains they had better entrust themselves, since they heard such different accounts of each. I myself approved of Master Augustine Contarini, whom I knew to be a wise and trusty man, because in my former pilgrimage I had crossed the sea on board of his ship; but others abused him and praised the other. So for peace's sake I did not interfere in the matter, but declared that they were both good pilots if they would take us quickly to the port for which we were bound, adding that if I knew which of the two would be the quickest and soonest ready to sail, that would be the one whom I should recommend pilgrims to choose. Both, however, promised that they would begin their voyage directly, which I knew to be a lie."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Day 15 - 27th April 1483

"It should be noted that I have described the places between Feltre and Innspruck because when we came home again I did not travel along that road to Innspruck, but came another way, as will be told in its proper place. Beyond this place I shall not describe any place during our journey out, but shall describe all the places at which I stayed during our journey home. Therefore I shall reserve my description of Treviso and the other cities until I come to my return. For I am now pressing forward to Jerusalem, towards which I have steadfastly set my face, nor will I rest until I again see that most famous and desirable city.

On the 27th, which was the Sunday called 'Centate,' we heard Mass at Treviso and dined. After dinner we hired some of the horses which they call 'Martyrs' to carry ourselves and our baggage to the sea, and we set out towards the seashore. We arrived at the town of Mestre, desiring to proceed further, to Malghera, which stands on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Howbeit, in the former town we were met by a German who inquired whether we were of the company of the Lord John, Baron van Cymbern. When he heard that we were, he took us into an inn, and showed us a table already spread with food and drink, and told us that the Lord John van Cymbern had ordered this for us. He also took us into the garden of the house, and showed us a large boat in the river, which there runs down from the mountains to the sea, which boat had been sent to Mestre from Venice by the Lord Baron van Cymbern, that we might sail thither down the river. On beholding this we were cheered in spirit, and we sat down and ate and drank what had been made ready for us. Afterwards we carried all their lordships' baggage on board the vessel, and all of us got on board of her, which loaded her pretty heavily, for there were many of us, and the baggage of their lordships and their servants was of no small amount. So we bade farewell to the land, and committed ourselves to the waters, and, having embarked, sailed down the river for about a mile towards the sea. When we were come to the place where the river glides into the jaws of the Mediterranean, at the edge and border of the sea, and sailed into the bitter salt water, we began in loud and cheerful tones to sing the pilgrims' hymn, which those who are journeying to the Sepulchre of our Lord are wont to sing: 'In Gottes Namen fahren win; Seiner Genaden begehren wir: Nu helff uns die Gottliche Kraft, und das heylige Grab: Kyrie eleyson,' which, in the Latin tongue, would be ' In God's name we are sailing; His grace we need: may His power shield us and the Holy Sepulchre protect us: Kyrie eleeson.'

Meanwhile we had come near to the castle of Malghera, and were passing the tower which is called the Torre de Malghera, when we met a boat which some strong young men were rowing very furiously towards Margerum, which ran into our boat, so that the bows of the two boats clashed together, and our boat was driven to one side by the shock, and struck upon a post which stood in the water, so as to threaten to overset; and it did very nearly overset with all the people and things in it, so that we were sore afraid. The sailors of each ship abused those of the other, and so we went on our way. After awhile there met us another boat with people on board, one of whom asked us what inn we meant to put up at in Venice. When we told him St. George's, where Lord John van Cyrnbern had taken rooms for us, he began to abuse that inn and its landlord, and stood on the prow of his boat, trying to prevent our going there, and pointing out some other inn to us. As he stood there and noisily tried to persuade us, he suddenly met with an accident, and fell from the prow of his boat into the sea, from which he was with much trouble dragged out by his comrades and saved from death. He was dressed in new silk clothes, which received baptism together with him, which caused great laughter on board of our boat. As we sailed further on, we found before our eyes the famous, great, wealthy and noble city of Venice, the mistress of the Mediterranean, standing in wondrous fashion in the midst of the waters, with lofty towers, great churches, splendid houses and palaces. We were astonished to see such weighty and such tall structures with their foundations in the water. Presently we sailed into the city, and went along the Grand Canal as far as the Rialto, where on each side of us we saw buildings of wonderful height and beauty. Below the Rialto we turned out of the Grand Canal into another canal, on the right bank of which stands the Fondaco de' Tedeschi, by which we proceeded among the houses right up to the door of our inn, which was called the inn of St. George, and in German commonly known as 'Zu der Fleuten.' Here we disembarked, walked up about sixty stone steps from the sea to the rooms which were prepared for us, and carried all our things into them. Here Master John, the landlord, and Mistress Margaret, the landlady, received us with great good humour, and greeted me with especial friendliness, because I was the only one of us whom they knew, through my former pilgrimage, during which I had been a guest in their house for many days. The rest of the household also met us, greeting us and showing their eagerness to wait upon us. The entire household, the landlord and landlady, and all the manservants and maidservants, were of the German nation and speech, and no word of Italian was to be heard in the house, which was a very great comfort to us; for it is very distressing to live with people without being able to converse with them. Last of all, as we entered, the dog who guards the house came to meet us, a big black dog, who showed how pleased he was by wagging his tail, and jumped upon us as dogs are wont to do upon those whom they know. This dog receives all Germans with the like joy, from whatever part of Germany they come; but when Italians or Lombards, Gauls, Frenchmen, Slavonians, Greeks, or men of any country except Germany, come into the house, he becomes so angry that you would think that he was gone mad, runs at them, barking loudly, leaps furiously upon them, and will not cease from troubling them till someone quiets him. He has not grown accustomed even to the Italians who dwell in the neighbouring houses, but rages against them as though they were strangers, and obstinately remains their implacable foe. Moreover, he will not on any terms allow their dogs to enter the house, but he does not meddle with German dogs. He does not attack German beggars who come asking for alms, but falls upon poor Italians who wish to come in to beg for charity, and drives them away. I have often rescued poor men from this dog's teeth. The Germans say that this dog is a proof that as he is the implacable foe of the Italians, so German men can never agree with Italians from the bottom of their hearts, nor Italians with us, because each nation has hatred of the other rooted in its very nature. The animal being irrational, and governed only by its passions, quarrels with the Italians because its nature bids it do so; but human beings restrain their feelings by the aid of reason, and keep down the feeling of hatred which is engrained in their nature. We found in the inn many noblemen from various parts of Germany, and some from Hungary, all of whom were bound by the same vow as ourselves, and intended to cross the sea to the most Holy Sepulchre of our Lord Jesus at Jerusalem. In other inns were more Germans, and they had all formed themselves into companies, some large and some small. Now, in our company there were twelve pilgrims altogether, counting both nobles and serving-men, whose names are here set forth:

The Lord John Wernher, Baron van Cymbern, a man handsome and wise, remarkable for the grace of his manners, and learned in the Latin tongue.

The Lord Henry von Stoeffel, Baron of the Holy Empire, a strong and active man, of a manly character, as a true Suabian nobleman should be.

The Lord John Truchsess van Waldpurg, a nobleman of tall stature, a man of respectable and lofty character, serious, and deeply concerned about the salvation of his soul.

The Lord Ber (Ursus) von Rechberg, a noble of the Hohenrechberg family, who was the youngest of them all, and the liveliest, bravest, tallest, most cheerful, kind and liberal of the party.

These four noble lords had with them their attendants in waiting on them, whose names, together with their offices and duties, are here set forth, to wit:

Balthazar Buchler, a sensible man of great experience, by whose advice all their lordships were guided and governed, and whom they regarded as their father.

Artus, their lordships' barber, a man who could play so sweetly and so well on musical instruments, that one cannot believe that his like could anywhere be found.

John, surnamed Schmidhans, a man-at-arms who had fought in many wars, and who came on this pilgrimage as servant to their lordships.

Conrad Beck, a respectable and sensible man, a citizen of Merengen, who was their lordships' manciple and steward.

Peter, a good simple fellow, patient under hardships, who came from the town of Waldsee, and who was cook for their lordships and for the entire company.

Ulric van Rafensburg, who once had been to sea as a galley-slave, and had undergone much misery, who was by profession a trader, and was their lordships' interpreter.

John, a man of peace, eager to serve their lordships, who was a teacher of boys and schoolmaster in Babenhusen.

Brother Felix, priest of the Order of Preaching Friars at Ulm, a pilgrim for the second time to the Holy Land, chaplain to their lordships and to all the others aforesaid.

These twelve held together inseparably, and lived at the common expense of the four lords aforementioned. Wherefore the four lords called the host to them and made an arrangement with him for their lodging, their table, and all the other things of his of which they made use. When this arrangement had been made before us all, I thought of another plan for myself, and without the knowledge of my lords, I went in a boat to the convent of St. Dominic, and asked the prior of the convent to receive me as a guest until the pilgrims' galleys should leave the port, which, after much importunity, I prevailed upon him to do. For it was unpleasant for me, and very distracting to my thoughts, to live entirely among secular persons. So I returned to my inn and packed up my baggage, and then waited on my lords and told them of my intention.

Howbeit, this proposal did not please them; indeed, it displeased them much, nor would they on any terms consent to my leaving them. So, in order that I might be more willing to remain with them, they made arrangements with the landlord, and he let me have a cell of my own, wherein I could be quite alone, and could sleep, pray, read and write, and escape from all the noise of the inn as well as if I were in my own cell at Ulm. So I remained with the rest of our party all the time that we were at Venice; but I often, indeed, almost once a day, used to visit the convent of the brethren of our order."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Day 14 - 26 April 1483

"The 26th was the feast of St. Desiderius, who is buried in the cathedral at Treviso. The citizens celebrated the day grandly by a solemn procession through the city; and when all the common people were assembled in the greater market-place, they acted a miracle-play, wherein the legend of the saint was shown by the acting of men taught for the purpose, in a very splendid show, at which we pilgrims also looked on with admiration-I do not know whether with devotion also. After dinner, many Italians came to our inn, who wanted to see our horses and buy them, and while we were selling them the Italians squabbled among themselves in a wondrous fashion, for they ran up to us, each trying to outstrip the other, and each interfering with the other's bargaining, and they poured abuse one on another, all alike, even old, rich, and respectable men fighting with one another like children, each one offering more than the horses were worth to spite the others, and each outbidding the other purposely. While this squabble was going on we stood still and held our peace, and we sold our horses well, and so that day passed."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Day 13 - 25th April 1483

"The 25th day was St. Mark's Day. We wished that we were at Venice, because this feast is celebrated there in a most elaborate and splendid fashion. Howbeit, we heard the Mass for St. Mark's Day in the village, and afterwards dined and set out on our way. From that village the road leads down to the foot of the mountains, and leaves them behind, and thus we came into a flat country, very fertile, full of crops, fruit-trees, and vines, through which we journeyed till we came to the city of Treviso, where we intended to remain for several days, until we could sell our horses. Horses were now no longer needed by us, because we were close to the sea."

Monday, April 24, 2006

Day 12 - 24th April 1483

"On the 24th it still rained without intermission, as it had done on the day before and the night before, and this caused the water to flow and the mountain torrents to be full. Howbeit, in spite of the rain we went to the church which stands above the town, and after hearing Mass we viewed the town itself. Feltre is one of those towns which were built by Antenor for the defence of the mountain country, and is very ancient, as its buildings prove. It is a very long town, lying along a mountain ridge, and it has a bishop and some monasteries, which lie at the foot of the hill on which the city stands. We returned to our house and took our food, and while we were at table the rain ceased; so we saddled our horses and left Feltre, and rode on our way in great danger because of the rising waters; for tiny rivulets had swelled into swift rivers, and dry torrent beds were overflowing with waters. Howbeit, as the weather was fair, the waters were gradually sinking. It was towards evening that we left Feltre, and we came to a great river, on whose banks we passed through a Venetian guard-house, and thence we came into a town which is called Ower, where we spent the night. Now, our inn, like all the rest of this village, lay at the foot of a delightful grassy hill. While our supper was being made ready I went with my lords into the courtyard of the house, and, looking up, I said, 'See, if a man were on the brow of that hill, he would be able to see the Mediterranean.' When my lords heard this, they said, 'Let us climb up thither, and see the sea, which perchance will be our tomb.' And straightway my three lords, and two serving men, and I climbed up the hill, which was much higher than we had thought. Casting our eyes southwards, we beheld beyond the mountains the plain of Italy, and beyond the plain country the Mediterranean Sea, on beholding which my lords, being delicately-nurtured youths stood in some trepidation, reflecting on the dangers which awaited them at sea. And, in sooth, I myself was something cast down at the sight of it, albeit I had already had a good taste of its bitterness, for as seen from these hills it had a terrible appearance. It seemed to be very close, and the setting sun shone upon the part which was nearest to us; the rest, the end of which no one could see, seemed to be a lofty, thick black cloud, of the colour of darkling air. Satisfied at last with our view of it, we turned away to look at the mountains which stood round about us, and saw many ancient castles in ruins. On the very mountain on which we stood there were beneath our feet the ruins of huge walls, and a ditch enclosing part of the mountain; a fair cistern, which still contained water, and a hill to pasture cattle upon within the walls. It is believed that all these castles were built by the army of Antenor the Trojan, who, after he had built the city of Padua on the plain, ascended into the hill country, and built towns and castles for a defence against the folk beyond the Alps, who at that time were still savages, dwelling in the woods like wild beasts. While I and my lords were standing talking on this mountain the sun set, and we began our descent; but before we reached the inn it had grown dark, and we supped by candle-light and went to bed."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Day 11 - 23rd April 1483

"On the 23rd, being the feast of St. George, knight and martyr, the lords begged me in the morning to celebrate the Mass of St. George for them, for all noblemen regard St. George with special devotion. There was only one chapel in the village, with no priest, and I had great difficulty in prevailing upon the sacrist of the church to open this chapel and to bring out the things necessary for the celebration of Mass. When I was dressed in my priestly vestments, and my noble lords and the other people of the village had been brought together by the sound of the bell, and I, as is usual, wanted to prepare the chalice before the Confiteor, I found that there was no bread or wafer in the pyx in the ambry, nor was there any in all the village, so I turned myself round to the people and told them that the Host was lacking. However, that we might not go away altogether empty, I read from the altar the service alone, and all the prayers of the Mass, leaving out the canon, just as is done in ships at sea. These Masses are called 'torrid,' or 'crude,' or 'dry,' or 'empty' Masses. After this service I turned to the people and gave them a short sermon upon St. George, and an exhortation. While I was doing and saying this, the people of the village stood by and viewed me with wonderment and surprise, for they were Italians and perhaps had never heard a sermon preached in their church in German except by me. When this was over we returned to our inn for our morning meal. After we had eaten it began to rain, but nevertheless we mounted our horses and left the village. The rain grew heavier and heavier, and we were wetted to the skin, and so we were wet through when we arrived at the city of Feltre. As it was raining in torrents, we entered an inn there, meaning to wait for an hour or two, until it left off. Howbeit, the rain grew worse and worse, and so we were forced to remain there for the day, which was disagreeable, for the inn was small and was full of Italian country people, and the landlord and landlady and all the household spoke Italian only. Besides this, they were not accustomed to serve the nobility, nor had they the materials for serving them with proper respect. However, they were good, simple people, and did all that they could, which I took into consideration; but their lordships' servants were discontented with them."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Day 10 - 22nd April 1483

"On the 22nd we heard Mass at the altar of the holy child Simeon, and ate our dinner in the inn; after which we saddled our horses and left the city. Immediately outside the gate of the city we ascended a steep hill, leaving the lower road, which leads along the valley of the Adige to Verona. This hill, besides being steep, is all one piece of the hardest red marble. Wherefore all the walls and buildings of the city of Trent are of precious and fair marble, albeit unpolished. After a long climb we descended the other side of the hill, and came to the village of Persa. Persa is a large village, and on a rock above the village stands a great castle, like a city, with lofty towers and a great enclosing wall. Many are of opinion, from the name of this castle, that it was built by Perseus, the father of all the nobles of Greece, and that it is called Persea at the present day after his name, as is also the kingdom of Persia, which he came to from Greece and conquered, and called Persia. In this castle the Duke of Austria always keeps many soldiers, who guard both the castle and province. We passed beyond this castle and came to a lake, from which flows a river called Brenta, which runs from thence to Padua, and afterwards joins the sea near Venice. Beyond this we came into a long, wide, and fertile valley, and to a town called in the vulgar tongue Valscian, where we put up for a short rest. Now, this town, and consequently the whole of this country as far as the sea, is of the Italian speech; however, almost all the inhabitants know both languages, German and Italian. I asked one of them the meaning of the name, why the town is called Valscian, and he answered that Valscian means 'the dry valley,' and received this name because in very ancient times, before the sea sunk to its present level, it came up as far as this, and the whole of this valley was filled with its waters; wherefore on the sides of the mountains which look down upon the valley on either side iron rings to moor ships to are found fixed in the rocks. When the sea fell back the valley became dry and kept its name of Valscian. From this story I was able to note that all the valleys in these mountains which trend towards the sea were once full of water, and were channels leading into the Mediterranean Sea, even as now happens in lands close to the sea, as I have said before. The Germans call Valscian In der Burg, because there are two castles overlooking the town, and the town lies within the castle wall. From Valscian we went onwards, and late at night reached a village named Spiteli, that is to say, "Little Hospice,' where we stopped for the night."

Why we must challenge this Government

Read this.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag Your Majesty!

Imagine the scene. Its the screening of "Abby Titmuss, the Movie!" Pushing the limits of your imagination still further, the Queen is playing the role of Abby, Devils Kitchen is playing the part of John Lesley, camera in one hand, cock in the other, whilst Floreat Aula plays the part of the black girl crouched beneath Abby who at this stage has her legs akimbo whilst supporting herself with the couch. "Whats she doing?" enquires the drooling DK, "I think she's got her tongue up my ass" says the slightly disturbed, but mostly loving it Queenie.

That in a nutshell is the Onanistic orgy that is today's coverage amongst the Royalists. So the Queen is 80, well done you! As you might have guessed, I'm of the republican persuasion. Or traitor, to use DK's own words. Well if being a traitor requires you to be a true democrat wishing to give the people a say in who the hell their Head of State is, rather than leaving it to a bunch of unelected inbreeds to govern upon account of the accident of their birth without due regard to their abilities, well then I'm proud to be labelled a traitor. At least I've taken the time to think about the situation and its consequences unlike most dumbfucks who unthinkingly support the monarchy because its been about as long as they can remember. Not even sheep, a bunch of fucking goats. I have yet to hear a sound, rational argument in support of the monarchy from a Royalist. I would love to hear a sound argument.

I say this advisedly. This is because I used be be a Royalist. Why? Well, by birth I'm a Northern Irish prod. It comes with the rest of the package, "Ah a baby, penis, good, its a boy, eyes not too close together, left foot the same size as the right, royalist, protestant, all present and correct!" However, a University education is very useful, and having met many Sloanes (or Yahs as we call them) who would never have to worry about their degree, finances etc, set for a job for life simply because of their birth, I realised that my idea of a meritocratic society is simply not compatible with a Constitutional Monarchy. The more I thought about it, the more of an anachronism this regime appeared.

Actually, I don't have anything against the Queen personally, she's done a fairly good job, hasn't pissed off too many people, and kept her interference down to a minimum. Phillip is possibly the only thing going for the Monarchy, but I can always get my comedy elsewhere. William is a gentleman, having met the man after "bumping" into him without the ball on the rugby pitch, but he is without any talents that mean that he is automatically better than anyone else to be sovereign. The less said about Harry the better. He couldn't even do his Art coursework himself.

No, my objection to Monarchy is based on principle. I am equal to everyone else in this country, no better, no worse. Why the hell should I bow before any of this shower? The King or Queen should not be sovereign, the People should be. The Monarchy is a privileged based system that discriminates on the basis of birth, sex and religion. It has no place in 21st Century Britain. In fact, most of the population are actually subconsciously republican. They would prefer William succeeded instead of Charles. What they don't realise is that this can't happen for the simple reason that in the current system their views don't count.

But we have bigger fish to fry than the Monarchy. The reason its lasted so long is because it has had no real effect over our lives. We can safely leave to one side for the moment to fuck itself up when Charles succeeds. The more pressing issue is our "elected dictatorship" that runs this country with so much unbridled power and contempt for the populace. The Executive has taken over most of the powers of the Monarch, and must be restrained. Reform must be concentrated on redistributing these powers to the Legislature, and to local government, whilst instituting a voting system that reflects our wishes. We need to put the people back at the centre of power. The Crown can wait. DK and Floreat Aula can go back to the rimming for the time being.

Day 9 - 21st April 1483

"On the 21st of April, after hearing Mass and dining in the convent of our order, we left that place, having on our right hand the river Athesis, or Lavisius (Adige), which is commonly called Etsch; and beyond the Adige we saw a very fertile hill country, full of castles and villages, of which the chief is that called Tramingum, which is a large village. Near it grows a noble wine, which is imported into Suabia, and is known as Tramminger, from the name of the village. Between us and the Adige, in the direction of the town of Meran, are deep morasses, and beyond the morasses, over against the town of Trent, are low hills, on the angle of which stands an old castle, named Firmianum, from whence the noble family of the lords of Firmianum, some of whom I have seen, derive their origin. The castle is at present possessed by Sigismund, Duke of Austria, who is rebuilding it on a larger scale, with exceeding thick walls, and surrounding it with great and lofty towers. The thickness of the wall is twenty shod feet. It contains in the four angles large and strongly-built dwellings, separated one from another by the intervening walls and towers, and each dwelling has its own Courtyard and its own stables for horses, so that four princes might dwell there in safety I have been in the castle and seen all of it. It has no water, save what they draw up by a wheel from the river Adige, which runs past the rock on which the castle stands. This place was once of evil repute as an abode because of the miasma from the marsh, which quickly caused the death of the inhabitants. Wherefore, to remove this drawback, the Duke caused ditches to be dug through the morass, from the river Adige right up to the mountains; so that now there are fair meadows where before was a soft and pestilent swamp. The ditches themselves are so full of the water which drains out of the marsh, that people pass up and down them in boats. Along the banks of the ditches on either side the Duke caused a very long vineyard to be planted, from which is gathered in the vintage season more than twenty cartloads of excellent wine. Yet, notwithstanding all this, and albeit the miasma of the marsh has been taken away, it is said that no one is able to live in the castle any longer than before. The reason of this was lately told me by the governor of the castle to be that it stands high, and has a fresh, strong air, which makes the men who live there hungry and thirsty, and greatly stimulates their appetite, which, if a man tries to satisfy intemperately, he destroys himself; for there is no lack there, but a table always stands ready spread with food, and the wine is not locked up. This profusion makes the place less dear.

I asked the governor what object the lord Duke could have in incurring such great expense in thus strangely fortifying this castle, when all the country round about belonged to the country of Tyrol. He answered that he did it in order that if the common people were to attempt to drive out their lord, and free themselves from their allegiance, as the Helvetians, or Swiss, had done, then the Duke might take refuge in that castle, and so harass them that they would be forced to submit; for the castle is, as one may say, impregnable, and stands in the throat of that valley. We rode on our way and came to Neumarkt, a large village, where we stayed for an hour in an inn to bait and rest our horses. Here a serving-man came to me from a house which stood opposite, and said that he had been sent by a brother of the Order of Preaching Friars to ask me who I was and whence I came. I answered that if that friar wished to know who I was and whence I came, he might come to me and I would give him a civil answer; 'but,' said I, 'I will not give any answer to a servant.' I spoke thus to him because I suspected him of being one of those wandering brethren of our order who range about the hill country-for discontented and runaway brethren both of our order and of other orders betake themselves to these parts and to the hill country, where they find the safest of hiding-places, and as everything there is very cheap, they are able to live a dissolute life, and they visit the country people, telling them about the value of Masses, so that their hearers buy Masses of them, both for themselves and their dead relatives, not knowing that the sin of simony is incurred by so doing. So they give these men money that they may read Masses, whereas they had much better give them the money as a free gift, for they never would approach the altar to do any honour to God. I have seen wretches of almost every religious order wandering in those mountains, and they are actually tolerated by the bishops and priests. From Neumarkt we rode through the valley which leads towards Trent. The vulgar have a tradition that through this valley or channel the sea once came up as far as Meran, and that the Adige ran down from the mountains above Meran and fell into the sea there. In proof of, this in the rock on the mountains of Tyrol are found to this day iron rings, to which ships used to be fastened; thus the whole district through which the Adige now flows into the Mediterranean was once sea. This I can well believe, because the sea in old times was much higher than it now is. We came to a village named Nova, where there runs a rapid mountain-stream, which marks the frontier of Italy and Germany. Above the stream on our side stands a chapel, in which the bowels of St. Udalrich, Bishop of Augsburg, are buried. The story goes that the aforesaid saint had been at Rome, and on his way home began to be seriously ill. So he begged God that He would permit him to die in Germany, and not in Italy; and so it was, for as soon as he had crossed the bridge over this stream he died, and his bowels were buried there, but his body was taken on to Augsburg. From this place we rode to the city of Trent, and stayed the night there. Trent is one of those very ancient cities which were founded in these mountains by the Trojans, who came thither with Antenor; the Adige runs past its walls. It is placed in a most beautiful, airy and healthy position, and consists, one may say, of two cities, an upper and a lower, on account of the two races which inhabit it. In the upper town dwell the Italians, and in the lower the Germans. They are at variance both in language and habits of life, and seldom are at peace with one another; indeed, before our own times the city was often ruined, sometimes by the Italians out of hatred for the Germans, and sometimes by the Germans out of hatred for the Italians. Not many years ago the Germans were but a few strangers in that city; now they are the burghers and rulers of the city. The day will soon come-indeed, has virtually come-when Duke Athesis (sic) of Innspruck will altogether join it to his dominions and to Germany, as has been done at Botzen, for the number of Germans there increases daily. What the reason of this increase is, and why our race should spread over other people's countries instead of theirs spreading over ours, I have never learned, unless we choose to say, to the shame of our land, that on account of its poverty and sterility we are driven to other countries, or on account of the fierceness of the Germans, whose near aspect no other race can endure, but all make way for them, yielding to their rage, which no man can resist. Over against the city, on the banks of the Adige, the Preaching Friars have a right fair convent, set about with most lovely gardens, which is called the Convent of St. Laurence. This convent was built by St. Jordanes, the immediate successor of our Father, St. Dominic, as head of the order; but in it there is no service or rule of life, only a few miserable brethren dwell therein to no purpose. In this city, in 1475, the holy child Simeon was martyred by the Jews with great torture; wherefore the Jews were condemned to be hanged after suffering great tortures. I myself beheld their accursed bodies hanging on gibbets the next year when I went to Rome. The body of the holy child, when it was found, began to be famous for the miracles which it wrought, and is still said to be famous. Wherefore people from distant parts of Germany, France and Italy make pilgrimages thither, and bring offerings of wax, clothing, gold and silver plate, and money, in such quantities as is wonderful to behold. In consequence of this they have pulled down the old church of St. Peter, in which the body used to be kept, and have built a new and spacious one upon the same site out of these offerings; moreover, they have cleansed the house of the martyr and consecrated it as a church. So when we pilgrims had taken off our riding-dresses, we went to the churches to obtain indulgences, and in the Church of St. Peter we saw the body of the holy child and the place of his martyrdom, and the old cathedral church, and other chapels and churches. For this is what is done by all respectable pilgrims to Jerusalem, namely, that at whatever towns they stop on the way, they straightway make inquiries about the churches and the relics of the saints, and visit them. Thus did my lords, and I together with them, as will appear hereafter. When it was late, and we were all sitting at supper, there came a minstrel, or jongleur, and his wife. He carried a flute, and his wife sang in good tune while he played his flute. This man, albeit he was sensible enough, yet while playing made mops and mows like a fool, which foolery made us laugh heartily in addition to the pleasure of hearing the music. When he had finished playing, my lords the barons, as is usual, consulted with one another as to what they should give the jongleur. One of the noblemen, however, said that he would give nothing, and declared that his parish priest had often said in his sermons that either to give or to receive money in such cases is damnable and a mortal sin. 'Since, therefore,' said he, 'I am on a holy pilgrimage, I am lath to soil it by giving away money sinfully; but I will give it to the poor.'
Hereupon there arose a great dispute among the noblemen, and they argued long and angrily.

At last they asked me to settle the question, declaring that they would abide by my decision and sentence. I therefore decided, not without fear, that he ought to give money to the jongleur. So they gave a present to the flute-player and his wife. After I had returned home, I searched the writing of learned casuists to see whether I had decided rightly, and I found the decision which I had given in Gerson in two places, when he treats of 'Avarice' in the matter of the seven mortal sins, and of converse with sinners, where he declares that such flute-players, jugglers and posture-makers are not in a state of damnation, and that such things may be said or done without mortal sin, even though the words said may be idle, jesting, and sometimes faulty, provided there be nothing shameful said, and unless he does it merely for amusement; but that it is right if he practices it for his own sustenance and profit, and in order to afford recreation to princes and nobles when they are oppressed by care. This we discovered to be the case with this jongleur, who was a mechanic dwelling in Trent, who did not make a constant practice of playing, but only on the arrival of princes or nobles; for when he heard that they were pilgrims to the Holy Land, he played for their diversion and for his own profit, in order that our sadness and anxiety might for a short time be laid aside."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Day 8 - 20th April 1483

"On the 20th, which was the Sunday called 'Jubilate,' we stayed for divine service and for dinner at Neustift, and then left the monastery. We passed hurriedly through the town of Brixen, because their lordships were told that the plague was raging there. At other times when passing I have stayed the night there. There is a rich bishopric. Consequently, on the death of the bishop there often arise quarrels among the nobles about the bishopric, and the whole of this country is vexed by interdicts and ecclesiastical censures. I can remember the time when the present Duke of Austria, Sigismund, and all that country was laid under a strict interdict and most severe excommunication on account of that bishopric, so that every man who passed through that country, whether knowingly or in ignorance, became excommunicated. There is a beautiful cathedral church. Once I and a brother of my order stood and repeated the canonical hours in that church, whereupon my lord the Superior and great canon of the church, sent his chaplain to us, and asked whether we were Mendicant Friars, and when he learned the truth he gave us a good fat alms. A convent of good brethren would do very well there, for in the whole diocese there is no convent of Mendicant Friars. The canons there are so grave and reverend that they will not suffer any monks save Recollets in Neustift. Now, the monastery of Neustift belongs to those canons, and not very long ago the church at Neustift was the cathedral church, but when it was moved into the town the Canons Regular were placed there. Leaving Brixen behind us, we came to the Kuntersweg, along which we easily proceeded, because the Duke of Austria has so strengthened it that now people go up and down it with wheeled carriages, and have deserted the old bridle-paths. So now the aforesaid Duke is erecting at the end of this road a very lofty and costly building to serve as a toll-house. Not two years ago this road was so bad and dangerous that a man could only pass along it with the greatest difficulty, leading his horse after him. I know with what peril I passed along that road in the course of my first pilgrimage, for on the right hand there are very deep valleys, and the road was very narrow, having on the left a lofty precipice of rock, and on the right an exceeding deep valley. So narrow and dangerous was the road, that Volksliider were commonly sung about it. But now, as I have said, the Duke has contrived by art to blow up the rocks with gunpowder, to cut away the face of the precipices, and roll away great masses of stone, and at a great expense has made the rough places plain; and that not only here, but in many other parts of Rhaetia which are subject to his rule. The aforesaid road is two German miles in length. When we had passed over it, we came to the town of Botzen, which we found had been lately, to its sorrow, almost entirely burned; indeed, the fire had not yet gone out, but we saw flames and smelt smoke still rising from the heaps of ruins. The monasteries, however, and the churches, remained unharmed, as though by a miracle. The convent of our order of Preaching Friars caught fire in many places, but, by the zealous labour of the brethren, who ran about on the roofs, the flames were extinguished; nevertheless, the fire caught such a hold even of our convent, that the brethren could not have saved it without more than human aid, for when the roof of the dormitory blazed up, I am told by most trustworthy witnesses that the venerable Prior, Father Nicolaus Munchberger, fell on his knees beneath the flames, and called upon the Blessed Virgin for help, which he received. Many years ago, in the sight of all men, fire came in at the city gate, ran through the streets, and burned the whole town. Wherefore, as the former fire was clearly caused by the vengeance of Heaven, so, it is thought, was this latter. For the people there are sinful, given to drunkenness, luxury, and pride beyond measure. Indeed, everything there is exceeding cheap, and there is an abundance of good things; the wine is especially good, and all fruits are sweet. But the air is unwholesome, because, it is said, on the side from which fresh wholesome air would blow there stand very high mountains, which were pointed out to me by the brethren, while on the quarter from which the town receives the wind, there lie most pestilent marshes. The consequence of this is, that there are always many persons there suffering from feverish symptoms, and it is so common to have fever that they do not count fever as a disease. When one of them meets a friend, and sees him pale and altered in face, he says to him, 'Friend, what is the matter, that I see you so pale and altered?' To which he replies, 'Of a truth, my friend, I thank God I am not ill, but it is the fever that alters my looks.' So it happened that once I was visiting Botzen in company with a secular friend, and when we saw the town, he said to me, 'Look there, brother! I do not believe that there is any town in the world which is colder than that.' Surprised at this, I said, ' Not so; it is, I think, one of the warmest.' He replied, 'I never have come into this town, even on the hottest day in summer-time, without always seeing many people there sitting in their winter fur pelisses pale with the cold, and with their teeth chattering.' This he said in a joke, alluding to the sufferers from fever. Many are of opinion that men do not contract fevers from bad air, but from good wine and good cookery, with which they gorge themselves and become diseased. A few years ago this town was Italian, and the Italian language was the common speech of the people; indeed, I know an Italian Father who cannot speak a word of German, and who in the time of his youth was a runner and preacher in the convent at Botzen; but in process of time, as the Germans increased in numbers, the town has become a German town; and that convent which formerly belonged to the province of St. Dominic, has now been added to our province. We passed the night in this town, and saw much misery, for many people were living among the ruins of their houses, without any roof or place of shelter, and many were leaving the town as beggars who had heretofore been rich men. But at the present day the town is being rebuilt, and the buildings which they are putting up are more costly than those which stood there before the fire."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Incarcerate Clarke!

So the Fat Bastard wants to remove compensation from victims of miscarriages of justice? Note the victim word there. This is typical New Labour, some victims are more equal than others, and seeing as New Labour est l'etat, well, its obvious that they can't really do anything that is wrong, therefore there is no such thing as a victim of miscarriage, especially if its only due to a "process."

I think that Tim and Mr Eugenides aren't too wide of the mark for what Clarke deserves for this. But actually, thinking about it, the Safety Elephant deserves a taste of the medicine he proposes to dose us with. I think we should arrest Charles Clarke right now on a preferably trumped up charge, convict him on unsafe grounds, seize all his assets, deny him access to his family and incarcerate him for a very long time indeed. And hope that his jug ears are used as handlebars as he gets some attention from the sisters. Let him appeal and see if he doesn't want some compensation from the state.

Day 7 - 19th April 1483

"On the 19th of April we left that place after dinner. As we passed by the monastery of Neustift, belonging to the order of Canons Regular, near Brixen, the abbot of the monastery met us, and brought us all into the monastery with him, out of respect for Lord John the Truchsess, whom he regarded as his patron, for he had come from Waldsee, the seat of Lord John the Truchsess, to be appointed abbot of that monastery. The aforesaid abbot would not let us go that day, but forced us to stay there, and treated us with great honour, for the monastery is very grand and very rich. I have scarcely anywhere seen so much gold and silver plate as in the abbot's dining-hall. It possesses a large church, richly ornamented, and a good library. The men there are grave and reverend, and pay attention to the celebration of divine service. I do not think that I have anywhere heard such correct and good choir-singing as in this monastery."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Day 6 - 18th April 1483

"On the 18th I climbed yet higher up the mountains, and crossed the pass which is called the Brenner, where I suffered from the intense cold-for there even in summer time there is always ice, snow, and hoar-frost. From that ridge I went down the other side a long way till I came to the town of Stertzing, where I found my lords in the inn with other noblemen and their followers. I found there Lord Heinrich von Stofel, and Lord John the Truchsess, and Lord Ursus von Rechberg; but the fourth member of the party, Lord John Werner, Baron van Cymbern, had ridden on in advance of them, that he might prepare a suitable lodging at Venice for their lordships and all our party."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Day 5 - 17th April 1483

"Early on the morning of the 17th, when we all rose, there was a great disturbance in the house, for two carriers were complaining that they had lost their purses with all their money: for, while they were asleep, those miners, who were robbers, had entered their room, drawn their purses from under their pillows, emptied them, thrown the empty purses into the garden adjoining the house, and had made their escape with the money while everyone was asleep. When the sun rose I left that place and went on my way with fears lest these robbers might be lying in wait for me on my road. Howbeit, no harm befell me. At midday I reached the town of Innspruck, where I hoped to meet my lords, but I was disappointed. Innspruck is called Pontina in Latin, from Pons Ini, the bridge over the river Inn, which is what is meant by the German name of Innspruck. As I was approaching the bridge of the town and was about to enter it, I met five men-at-arms, followers of my lords, whom they had sent home, while they themselves had set out from Innspruck that very day. They had been at the court of the Duke for many days, and had become weary of it, and therefore, as soon as they had finished their business there they had taken their leave one day before the end of the time which Lord John the Truchsess had appointed with me. The business which they had been transacting with the Duke was to entrust to his charge all that they left behind them-their wives, children, lands, villages, towns and castles, counties and lordships; moreover, they had received from the Duke letters commendatory addressed to the Doge and Senate of Venice. When they had accomplished this they started. As I did not find my lords in the town I passed hurriedly through it, following after them. I ascended the mountains, and after passing along many winding paths among them, came to a large valley named Matrae, and passed the night there."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Day 4 - 16th April 1483

"On the 16th I left Reutte alone in the early morning, and began to climb the Rhaetic Alps, for at that place lies the entrance to the Rhaetic Alps, up a steep road, which in rainy weather is very bad travelling, being deep in mud. I found the road very bad, because it had rained the day before, and during the following night snow had fallen on the mud, so that I could not see the swamps and deep holes. So my horse, whom I led all the way up, sunk up to his belly at every step, and I likewise up to my knees. Moreover, we sunk into deep holes. Howbeit, at last I passed to the frontier of the Rhaetic Alps, which is at a place called Ehrenstein, and came to where the road leads up Mons Fericius, and when I had got to the top of this and down the other side I found that I had still a good part of the day before me: so I passed through the village of Nassereit, and again climbed a very high mountain and came to the village of Schneckenhusen, where I decided to pass the night. In the inn sat some miners from the silver-mines, who were gambling, drinking, and taking their pleasure. I regarded them with suspicion, and was cautious in my talk with them. The landlord put me into a small room by myself, where I carefully fastened the door and went to sleep."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Day 3 - 15th April 1483

As you may have guessed from the sparse blogging, I am home for a couple of days over the holiday. So, I've got a slow dial-up connection, a keyboard where you have to hammer the "r" key and a father that would prefer that I didn't use his internet. When I get back to the flat in England, I'll try and provide my take on the story so far, especially the case of the insane girl in the castle. In the meantime, I'll keep Felix's diary entries up to date.

"On the 15th we rode fast from Memmingen as far as Kampten, and there we dined together: after dinner I sent away the servant, and bade him return to his master. But I went on in a great hurry to the foot of the mountains, for I feared that my lords might leave Innspruck before my arrival there; so I went as far as the village of Reutte, on the banks of the river Licus, commonly called Lech, where I passed the night."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Day 2 - 14th April 1483

"On the 14th, which is the feast of Tiburtius and Valerianus, after reading Mass and breakfasting, I called together all the brethren, and said to them that I wished now to leave them for good; and I begged for a pilgrim's blessing from our Reverend Father, Master Ludwig. He led me into the choir, whither the whole convent accompanied me, and kneeling in the midst of the choir in the presence of the Holy Sacrament, I received a blessing from the altar, amid the exceeding bitter weeping of the Prior of the convent and all the brethren. When I had received my blessing, my sobs and tears made me unable to bid my brethren farewell in words, but my tears, my sorrowful face and my sobs spoke for me. I therefore embraced and kissed each of the brethren, and begged to be remembered in their prayers. But I could scarcely persuade the Reverend Father Ludwig to stay quietly at home, for he wanted to see me safe as far as Memmingen, as he had done before; but I altogether refused to permit him to do so, that we might not both suffer fresh grief and trouble when we parted. For albeit I set out on that pilgrimage with a joyous spirit and a cheerful heart, yet when I was leaving the Father, my most faithful friend, and my much-loved brethren, who all were so sorrowful and downcast, I could not refrain from shedding many tears. So, having got together the baggage which I intended to carry with me, and having placed it on the horse which I had bought, I mounted, and was about to ride away in company with the Count's servant. However, as I sat upon my horse, all the brethren flocked round me and eagerly begged me to take careful note of all the holy places I saw, and to write an account of them and bring it to them, so that they also, in mind, if not in body, might enjoy the pleasure of visiting the holy places. I promised the brethren that I would do this, and with that the Count's servant and I went out of the convent and rode stealthily, as though hiding ourselves, out of the city, crossing the river Danube by the gate which leads to the sheep-bridge. It chanced that this pilgrimage agreed with the other one, as far as the day on which it began; for I began my former pilgrimage on the day of SS. Tiburtius and Valerianus: indeed, after the lapse of two years, I began my second journey on the same day and hour as the first. The Count's servant and I soon rode to the village of Dissen, and up to the castle above it, wherein dwelt my lord the Count. Now, the reason for which he had sent for me was the following. In the village of Jedensheim, or Iheidemsheim, at the foot of the hill on which the castle stands, there was a maiden bereft of her reason, whom many declared to be possessed of a devil; he showed me this maiden for me to look at and examine, that I might decide what was to be done with her; whether she ought to be exorcised or not. My decision was that she was out of her mind, and therefore fitter to be entrusted to the care of physicians than to that of theologians. This affair being thus ended I told my lord the Count that I had already begun my journey, and begged him to send a servant with me to escort me as far as the foot of the Alps, because as far as that distance the road is often very dangerous, and I feared to ride there alone. So I, with the retainer assigned to me, left Thyssa that same day, and went as far as Memmingen, where we passed the night."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Day 1 - 13th April 1483

"So on the 13th of April, which was the Sunday known as Misericordia Domini, in the year 1483, as it was growing dark, there came a messenger sent to me by the noble Lord Philip, Count of Kyrchberg, asking me to come on the morrow without delay to visit the Count and to transact some business with him. I was in a manner the head of the family, for all the household used to confess to me, both counts and countesses; and whenever any difficulty arose in which I could be of use, they always wrote me word of it or sent for me to come to them. So I arranged with the servant that I would go with him on the morrow."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Treat yourself

Click here and click on the "Million Ways to Dance" on the sidebar. Go on, you know you're worth it.

Leaving on a Jet Plane - 1483 stylee

"I SHALL now begin my wanderings on my most desirable and delightful pilgrimage, which pilgrimage I intend to describe in the following order, arranging it in twelve chapters, according to the twelve months, more or less, for which the pilgrimage lasted, and dividing each chapter into as many heads as there are days in the month, so that each month makes a chapter and each day a heading. I shall begin with the day of my departure, and end with that of my return, and shall faithfully set down all the places which we saw month by month and day by day, and will tell truly all that befell us in each month and on each day, adding descriptions of the holy and other places the better to explain my narrative. For I never passed one single day while I was on my travels without writing some notes, not even when I was at sea, in storms, or in the Holy Land; and in the desert I have frequently written as I sat on an ass or a camel; or at night, while the others were asleep, I would sit and put into writing what I had seen.

Now, when the time was drawing near when I should have to depart, I watched for a convenient day upon which I could leave Ulm unnoticed and without assembling a crowd of people: for my friends and well-wishers were greatly disturbed and very unhappy at my departure, and troubled me much by their advice to me to stay at home; and their foolish fears and their lamentations seemed to me to be ravings, because I was as joyous and fearless as though I were going to fulfill an invitation to a feast with my dearest friends."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Manner in Which Brother Felix Fabri Prepared for his Second Wandering or Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jerusalem, Sion, and Mount Sinai

What follows below is Felix's introduction to how he managed to wangle his way onto a second pilgrimage. It fills in the time between the account of his first pilgrimage and his setting out on the second. Its well worth the read as it gives a good insight into the man as he did his best to get out to the Holy Land again. He was extremely well read in classical texts and its a theme that will come through again and again. Apart from this, imagine if you put a cake in front of Felix, there is no doubt he would have to have it and eat it too. I'm going to experiment over the next few weeks with online maps like those through Google to see if I can replicate a map of the route he took. But that's for when the journey starts:

"HAVING accomplished my first wandering, as I have partly described, I came back to Ulm healthy in body, and appeared to be happy and cheerful, but in my heart and spirit I was sorrowful and disquieted on account of the anxiety which I felt I should endure about another pilgrimage, and returning to the Holy Land and Jerusalem, according as I had determined to do when I left the Holy Land, which determination, however, I had communicated to no one. For I was by no means satisfied with my first pilgrimage, because it was exceeding short and hurried, and we ran round the holy places without understanding and feeling what they were. Besides this, we were not permitted to visit some of the holy places, both within Jerusalem and without. Nor were we allowed to walk over the Mount of Olives and its holy places more than once; and we only visited Bethlehem and Bethany once, and that in the dark.

So after I had returned to Ulm and began to think about the most holy sepulchre of our Lord, and the manger wherein He lay, and the holy city of Jerusalem and the mountains which are round about it, the appearance, shape, and arrangements of these and of other holy places escaped from my mind, and the Holy Land and Jerusalem with its holy places appeared to me, shrouded in a dark mist, as though I had beheld them in a dream; and I seemed to myself to know less about all the holy places than I did before I visited them, whence it happened that when I was questioned about the holy places I could give no distinct answers, nor could I write a clear description of my journey. Wherefore I was grieved beyond measure that I had undergone such sufferings, toils, and perils, and had spent such great sums of money and so much time, without receiving any fruit, consolation, or knowledge.

Oftentimes when I tried to solace myself by turning my thoughts to Jerusalem and the holy places, and was only able to conjure up a vague image of them, I have said to myself in a rage: 'I prithee cease from thinking about those places, for you have only been there in imagination.' From this I used to conceive a burning desire to return and prove the truth of this. But this wrought new sorrow in me, for that I could not see any way of returning thither-nay, I thought that to return was impossible.

Thus I remained troubled in mind, nor did I dare to speak of this matter to anyone. I was afraid to mention this to the Reverend Father Lord Ludwig Fuchs, even though he was my familiar friend, the sharer of all my secrets, to whom I did not hesitate to tell all the hidden things that were on my conscience; nevertheless, I did not dare to reveal to my Father in God my scheme for returning to Jerusalem, lest I might trouble his spirit, and lest both he and others when they heard it might be scandalized at me, judging me to be light-minded and impatient of the quiet of the cloister, or perhaps suffering from temptations of the devil, or guilty of the sin of idle curiosity, or moved by frivolity. So I remained undecided, and made no sign of what I felt, save that when questioned about Jerusalem and the Holy Land, I could not speak without sighing, and sometimes said that I did not know whether I had really seen Jerusalem or no. And when they asked me whether I had any wish to go back again, I simply answered that I had.

Meanwhile my wish to return threw me into a fever, so that no study, no writing gave me any pleasure, except the stories in the Bible and elsewhere which make mention of Jerusalem. So I read with care everything on this subject which came into my hands; moreover, I collected all the stories of the pilgrimages of the crusaders, the tracts written by pilgrims, and descriptions of the Holy Land, and read them with care; and the more I read the more my trouble increased, because by reading the accounts of others I learned how imperfect, superficial, irregular and confused my own pilgrimage had been. In these labours of reading and writing I passed one year; but after this year of disquietude was over, there came into our province the General of the whole of my Order of Preaching Friars, to wit, Salvus de Casseta of Palermo, sent by the Holy Father, Pope Sixtus IV., to oppose - the Lord Andrew, Archbishop of Carniola, who, moved by I know not what spirit, was trying to assemble a General Council at Basle, and who dwelt there under the protection-of the Emperor Frederick III. Now, in order that the aforesaid Master of the Order of Preaching Friars might act more effectually against the archbishop, he invited all the best-known preachers of our province to meet him at the convent at Colmar. Among these I was sent, and came to the aforesaid convent to hear and obey his orders. So, while I was in the presence of the Master of the Order, among the other things which I had to speak of with that Father I told his reverence about my desire to return to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. He straightway, without making any difficulties, gave me leave to go, and gave me a testimonial letter, signed with the seal of the Order, wherein he even forbade anyone of lower degree to throw any hindrance in the way of my accomplishing that pilgrimage. Having obtained leave I joyfully returned to Ulm, and kept the Master's letter secret, awaiting the longed-for opportunity of making it known.

Not many days after this there came to Ulm our Reverend Lord in Christ, Udalricus Gislinus, Bishop of Adramyttium, and suffragan bishop to my Lord Bishop of Augsburg, who was acquainted with me and honoured me with his favour. With him there came a certain Doctor of Divinity, a friar of the Minorite Order, who desired to go to Rome to receive consecration as a bishop because the Lord Bishop of Frisia had created him his suffragan. I visited these lords, and begged the aforesaid Doctor to be so good as to obtain from our Holy Father the Pope a license for me to visit the holy places beyond the sea, which also the aforesaid Reverend Father Lord Udalricus begged him to do for my sake. So he promised to do it, and kept his promise, and sent me the letter containing the leave to travel. When I had obtained this I still kept silence and hoped for a more convenient occasion, hoping that the desired chance would present itself and gratify my longing without my asking for it, as indeed happened.

There was at that time at Ulm one Conrad Locher, a respectable man, the Bailiff-in-Ordinary of the Holy Roman Empire in that place, who was well known to many noblemen, and who regarded me with especial favour. To him as to a trustworthy friend I first opened my heart, and revealed to him my desire and the licenses which I had obtained, begging him, if he knew any of the nobles of the country who wished to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, who was in need of a servant and chaplain, that he would recommend me to such a person as being a man of experience and helpful on such a pilgrimage both in temporal and spiritual matters. The aforesaid man therefore looked over the list of the nobles of the country and found that the nobly-born Lord John Truchsess von Waldpurg was preparing to make a pilgrimage beyond seas together with several other barons and nobles. He visited these gentlemen and most loyally recommended me to them, as the event proved.

For directly after this-and it was in the year 1483, on the day of St. Gertrude the Virgin-the aforesaid noble Lord Truchsess van Waldpurg came to Ulm together with many other noblemen, his friends, and straightway sent a messenger and summoned me from the convent. When I was come to him at the inn where he lodged he began to question me as though he would ask my advice about how those who wished to cross the sea and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem ought to set about the matter. 'I have heard,' said he, 'that you have been in the parts beyond seas: advise me, I pray you, what I ought to do in order that I may return home safe. I intend,' said he, 'to visit the Holy Land, and the famous city of Jerusalem, and the most-sweet manger of the Lord, and the most glorious sepulchre of the Lord. Tell me, I prithee, what are the difficulties in my way, and how to surmount them.' While I was answering each of his questions he looked at me very earnestly, and, ceasing to question me as he had begun, he asked me whether I still had any wish to return to Jerusalem. I replied that there was nothing in this world at the present time which I longed for more ardently than a second view of those holy places. Having thus learned my willingness to go, this nobleman made me return to my convent, assuring me that I should go to Jerusalem in company with him and his friends. For the following noble lords had sworn to make the pilgrimage together: to wit, the Lord John Wernher, Baron von Cymbern, Lord Henry Baron van Stoefel, Lord Ursus van Rechberg von Hohenrechberg, and the aforesaid Lord John Truchsess von Waldpurg, who was, as it were, the father of all the aforesaid, and from whom they all received the impulse which sent them on their pilgrimage. And straightway, in the same hour that I returned to my convent, the aforesaid nobleman sent a respectable man, escorted by his own retainers, to make a speech, begging the Reverend Master Prior, on behalf of the aforesaid noble barons, that he would have the goodness to grant to that brother who had already been in parts beyond sea, and whom they had all unanimously chosen as their chaplain and confessor, a license to depart, and permission to leave the country with them. It was for this purpose, added the Lord John Truchsess, that he and his friends the other noblemen were come even now into the city.

When the Prior heard this he made a great many difficulties, and took time to consider the answer he should give. The Lord John, seeing this, and fearing that perhaps a long deliberation would end in something opposed to his wish, straightway on the following day brought with him all the noblemen, his friends, and also the noble Countesses van Kyrchberg, who had come with him, and, accompanied by them, went into the court wherein the civic magistrates and all the municipality of the city of Ulm were assembled, and begged that he might be heard. When this request was granted he begged the Consuls to use their influence with the Prior of the Dominicans that he should let Brother Felix, whom he and his comrades had chosen as their chaplain during their pilgrimage beyond seas, depart without hindrance, more especially as they knew that he was willing to go. Wherefore the mayor and some of the judges entered the convent and begged the Father, for the sake of the municipality, to agree to the prayer of those noblemen. When he said that he had no power to grant me a license to travel to Jerusalem, but that this business lay in the hands of our holy Father the Pope, and of the General of our Order, I straightway produced my letters, both from the Pope and from the General of the Order. When he saw them, he at once gave his consent in the name of the Lord.

I therefore called upon the Lord John, the Truchsess, and arranged with him the day and the place where I was to meet him, and my three other masters. He decided upon a particular day, and for a place the town of Innspruck, the seat of the Duke of Austria. After arranging this, his lordship went home with his company.

So I from this day forth let my beard grow,and adorned both my cap and my scapular with red crosses, which crosses were sewn on to my clothes for me by virgins, dedicated to God, spouses of Him crucified; and I assumed all the other outward signs of that holy pilgrimage, as I had a right to do. There are five outward badges of a pilgrim, to wit, a red cross on a long gray gown, with the monk's cowl sewn to the tunic-unless the pilgrim belong to some order which does not permit him to wear a gray gown. The second is a black or gray hat, also marked in front with a red cross. The third is a long beard growing from a face which is serious and pale on account of his labours and dangers, for in every land even heathens themselves when travelling let their beards and hair grow long until their return home; and this, they say, was first done by Osiris, a very ancient King of Egypt, who was reputed to be a God, and who travelled throughout the whole world. The fourth is the scrip upon his shoulders, containing his slender provisions, with a bottle-sufficient, not for luxury, but barely for the necessaries of life. The fifth, which he assumes only in the Holy Land, is an ass, with a Saracen driver, instead of his staff. So in my heart I looked forward with great longing to the day of my departure, and silently and calmly equipped myself for my holy pilgrimage, because of the trouble shown by those who were anxious for my safety and who kept disquieting me."

Changing our World

I read Charlie Whitaker's post over at Perfect last night and couldn't help but comment on one of my own experiences a couple of days ago:

"My findings were very different unfortunately. I’ve told as many people as I could interest, but the most disconcerting came on Saturday night at a party. Was chatting away to some young civil servants from Whitehall, many of them doing internships on a year out from Uni. It went something like this:“Have you heard of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill?”“No, whats that?”“Well, its not as boring as it sounds, it could do with some more press, but what it gets has got it labelled the ‘Abolition of Parliament Bill,’ basically it allows Ministers to pass legislation without a vote in Parliament or due scrutiny.”“Never heard of it.”“Well, if you are interested, why not check out, its/”/”Save Parliament, God, if it says that it sounds like a pile of crap. Usual suspects probably./”/”No, not the usual suspects, this bill is actually really dangerous to democracy…”At this point, they wandered off en masse leaving me standing there like a loon. Our difficulty is how the hell do we get through to people like this? Perhaps it will have to come down to them having to suffer the consequences of their own indifference for anything to happen."

This is a fairly broadstroke recollection of the conversation. Amongst other points I had also tried to impress upon them the fact that Clifford Chance also were concerned by this. It was all in vain. Anyway, Charlie kindly took the time to reply to my comment, and I reproduce his reply with his permission below:

"This is the 'too cool to care' problem. It's not going to make my generation look good. Time to make some (much) older friends, perhaps.

Best, Charlie"

I understand where Charlie is coming from on this, but I really have to respectfully disagree with him. As I replied to him, I actually don't consider the people I met to be have been the "too cool to care" type. Most of these guys were about 21, which in my estimate usually puts them out of the "Huh Politics" phase, in addition to which, many of them were interested enough by mainstream politics to have pursued jobs or placements in Whitehall. Besides, when it really comes down to it, it shouldn't matter what age they were, they should be our natural constituency. The subject of this post revolves around what I think are the problems that are going to hamstring any attempt by Bloggers to exert mainstream influence.

I have been supporting the SaveParliament since my attention was drawn to it and doing my best to raise its profile with everyone I know. In fact, the best thing you could do right now would be to go over there and sign up if you haven't already. But therein lies the problem. In talking to you through the medium of this blog I am probably already preaching to the converted. I'm going to set out my positition right now though so that I can approach this position head on. I think that it is a great idea that as much as possible is done to raise this critical issue to the public attention. Just because I am critical doesn't mean I don't think we shouldn't be trying. What I do think is that if we don't analyse the problems facing such a web-based campaign then we will be doomed to failure as we will not devise the necessary solutions.

Nosemonkey has covered this problem in the past here. Unfortunately the article doesn't seem to be available at the moment. To recap briefly from memory, we are all similar people who read and write these blogs, caught in a vortex of our own confirmation biases that is resulting in our becoming ever more insular and ever more irrelevant just as we seem to be on the cusp of really providing something fresh and incisive. Ironically, this mirrors my own thought and I fully agree with it.

Charlie's dismissal of the disinterest shown in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is unfortuate as I believe that it perfectly demonstrates what we are up against. That our efforts are treated as the typical fare of the loonies whose views aren't worth the time of day does not mean that we should disregard what's being said just because it is insulting to us. I think it shows that we have not yet hit upon the best form of communication to those outside the blogging community. I don't pretend to have the solutions, but, perhaps optimistically, I would like to outline what I believe the problems to be. This is because I believe that there is enough brainpower and creativity amongst us to find those solutions. Forgive me if I state the obvious, its necessary to give the full picture.

Blogging is a fairly exclusive past time. For a start you have to have a computer with internet access, and to be taken seriously you basically have to post everyday. This not only requires the resources to own the equipment but also assumes that you have the spare time on your hands to actually blog. This doesn't even include the necessary education and inclination to not only want to write but to be able to write well. Automatically we are in a position where we have already ruled out a very large part of the most disadvantaged and disillusioned parts of our society, voices that in a democracy have every bit of importance and weight as our own. Our resulting community mostly consists of a spectrum running from socialist to liberal to libetarian whilst maintaining a social homogeny. This is not an attack on this homogeny, it is not to say that Bloggers are "hideously white," (the beautiful thing is that you are completely unaware of how fellow bloggers look, what race they are, if they are ginger, etc.) but rather it is to say that we have to recognise that our activities are actually quite limited. Blogging has allowed many of us to communicate as never before, you only need to look at the map of signees over at the Save Parliament site to see how disparate and yet connected we now are. But it has allowed us only to connect with our peers. This is a double-edge sword.

The majority of us look down upon the Tabloids, and many of us hate the Daily Mail and Sun and its ilk, even its readers with a fervent passion. I make a habit of trying to read as many broadsheets as possible so that I can be as informed as possible. My boss reads The Sun. Only one of us is the most informed as to how the man in the street thinks and how his mind is shaped. We need to know our enemy. I'll come onto why in a bit. We limit ourselves by our very nature. Look at many of our arguments across the political Blogging spectrum. On the whole, they are reasoned and almost gentlemanly. We respect our differences. Voltaire would be proud of us. It is our badge of pride, we are nothing like the Americans. But the American blogs have much, much more influence. I recognise that this is in part due to a larger audience, but I think there is a much more critical factor at play here.

Viscount Bolingbroke said something along the lines of, " You can convince half a dozen men by your reasoned arguments, but emotion can lead a nation by its nose." As well as our badge of pride, our reason is the source of our failure. Those who do not read blogs are our natural constituency. They are ignored by the politicians, used only when they are needed. But why should they be interested in what we are doing, the issues that we believe are critical. Many struggle to make ends meet day-to-day. Others worry about how to raise their children. How many of us have to fret about our debts to the banks and to the credit card companies? Now, consider what difference does it make to these people what happens in a distant Institution in which they seem to have little or no say and doesn't seem to be willing or able to affect their lives for the better? They're all just pigs with their snouts in a trough. What else do you think they would do but try and get more slops? Anyway, what can we do about it? And this attitude is the best you would get even if the Plebs actually knew what the hell was going on.

The reason that the Tabloids are so effective is that they connect with people emotionally regardless of their social spectrum. They push all the right buttons. Actual information is scarce, but the emotions are heavily played upon. This is the recipe that sells newspapers. I think that what we despise most of all about the Tabloids, and increasingly Broadsheets as well, never mind Politicians is the use of scaremongering. Almost nothing sells as well as fear. But it's currency is being debased. Nightmares most consequently grow to fill the emotional vacuum. What have we got to offer that can counter such a poison?

We have ideals. The parties have abandoned them. It is only right that we take them up and restore them to their rightful place. We may all differ, but that is what engenders real choice. There has seldom been such an opportunity for positive idealism in our society. People are crying out for it, it is all how we communicate it. Take "Make Povery History" for example and remove the pricks that are Bono, Geldof and Chris Martin. We all have to deal with reality, this is true. But realism leads to realpolitik, which, without idealism leads to nothing but an empty power grab, an ambition for nothing but power itself. We all have seen where this path has led and the fruits it has borne. Idealism can bring out the best in us, it leads us to strive for greater goals. Even conservatives on the most basic level have the ideal of attempting to keep things as they are, or return them to a golden age. I for one wholeheartedly agree with Garry that we need to expect and demand the best of our politicians rather than just cynically dismissing their latest self-serving antics. This is my ideal regardless of what party they are from. As Justin repeatedly points out, these people are here to serve us, not act as our masters. Perhaps the greatest ideal we can resurrecte is that of Noble Service. God, what price "Greater love have no man than to lay down his political career for his constituents"? But I'm off on a tangent. What can we do to appeal to those outside of the Blogging community, for example the likes of those I bumped into the other night? Well, I think that first of all, we must play our strengths. And our greatest strength is our shared set of values. We need to aggressively appeal to the emotions of the wider society in a way that they find irresistable. We need to challenge their beliefs that these issues do not affect them and find ways of communicating just what is at stake. The talent for innovation is there. We have to harness it. We need to take the tactics of the Government and media and turn them on their heads. Start hitting the emotional buttons. Don't pull the punches. When people question a system, the sneering reply is usually, "Well what's your alternative?" There's our opportunity. I don't pretend to hold the answers, but I do know one thing, there's only one political speech everyone remembers, and the tenor of the emotion is unmistakable:

"Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the

Hard day?

Music might generally be crap, but every so often you come across a real gem. Had a tough day of it? Listen to this. If there is any justice, it'll be a summer No. 1. Cheers to the Friday Project for its usual top work.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Book of Wanderings

3 years ago I was researching for my dissertation, (The Knights of St. John, 1453-1566: A Mediaeval Hangover? since you ask,) when in between looking for Hospitallers and mediaeval porn I came across - not literally - "The Book of Wanderings of Brother Felix Fabri." Procrastination immediately set in, so I read it. And boy is it some read. Or it is to me. Brother Felix was a Dominican monk from Ulm in Germany who went on a pilgrimage not once, but twice to the Holy Land. Woohoo I hear you say, what's so special about that? Well, the first pilgrimage is in 1480 and the second is in 1483. Pilgrimage was one of the most dangerous things you could undertake. The chances of snuffing it were incredibly high, whether through disease, accident, or murder, not to mention the high risk of robbery or being taken as a slave by the dreaded Turk. This incredible man was one of the best selling authors of his day. His writings were principally for his Dominican Brothers who were unable to make the journey. He deliberately structured his account so that there was a chapter a month and a paragraph a day. Through this we get an incredibly vibrant account of his journey, which gives us a feel for the man, his hopes, his fears, his prejudices and his humanity. One thing that really struck me was the similarities with the world today, especially the current conflict with the War on Terror and the poor relationship between the Christian and Muslim world. Of course he is a biased writer, but what really hit me is the false pride we have in ourselves and our society. We think we have come so far, that we are above barbarity. I fear we are far closer to the dark side of our nature than we would like to admit. If you read this account, why not use it as a mirror to hold up to yourself and your friends and family as much as anything else. And don't worry about doing it either, History has always been used this way, even if its just on a subconscious level.

What I would have loved to have done with this would have been to have reconstructed Felix's exact journey in a documentary, so we could directly contrast modern and mediaeval. But as its never likely to happen, why not take the journey with me in your minds. I'm going to go from his account of his second journey as its a fuller description. But there are a few choice snippets from the first that I really have to throw in along the way. His account starts from the 13th of April, 1483. (Yes, this is the Julian calendar, but lets not get hung up about this.) Over the next two days I'll provide his introduction to his journey, and then post a paragraph a day, so you can check in as you go and see where dear old Felix is now and what the hell has happened to him this time. Its entertaining. I promise.

Why do I blog? Reason No. 1

I'm going to start what's hopefully going to be a successful little project with this blog that I've planned for quite some time and I want to give a little bit of background as to why I'm going to do it. Its not going to be the blog's central focus, but it'll be an important part of it.

I've noted for a long time that more established and better bloggers than myself having been having arguments over their raison d'etre. Why blog? What difference does this make? This discussion is not only commonplace, but I'd hazard a guess that it will be a feature of blogging for as long as it exists. I have no wish to reopen the argument but I would really like to add my two pennies as to why I blog. Or rather, just introduce one of my main motivations. Its only fair really, and hopefully it will give you a little more insight into the person who writes this.

I blog to beat the system. The system is dictated by who you know, not what you know. So far, so full of truisms. I, like many of you out there believe passionately in a meritocracy. But I also realise that this is an ephermeral thing, like notions like freedom, and democracy. It honestly does not exist. I'm going to share with you a little bit of my experience to illustrate my points. The immediate caveat is that this will be immediately subjective, not objective. But hey, you know better than that already, right?

I've been to University and I've seen plenty of the "Yahs" who never had to worry about their grades. Daddy not only supplied them with a credit card to cut their coke, but he will also make sure that they will never have to worry about unemployment. Having financed myself through University, I was broke by the time that I graduated. I had to go back home to the farm and then work my way from there to Belfast. After doing everything from frying eggs, waiting tables and working in call-centres, I finally managed to get a full-time job in the NHS. After that I came over to England for the girlfriend I met in Uni. Stuffing envelopes followed, then work in another call-centre, until finally an administrative position with a major corporation. Now, I've just had an unexpected promotion and you would think that I'd be all fine and dandy and everything that happened in the past doesn't matter anymore. Unfortunately I'm human, and its not fully the case.

There are three directions my life could go in for me to be happy pursuing a dream career. One of which is politics, which it should be plain from this blog is a major part of my life that I am very passionate about. The second would be life as a writer; this has seen efforts in the forms of the odd film script, two short movies and countless other ideas that await being brought to fruition. The third would be to write and present History documentaries. History is something that I've loved since I could read. It may have made me a boring, strange child, but hey, the only difference is that now I'm older.

To the end of getting into History documentaries, I managed to beg, borrow and steal just enough resources to do a month long placement with an independent television company in Belfast. The people there are nothing short of brilliant and I won't have a word said against them. I learnt loads, but in the end there wasn't a full time position to go to with them, although they employed me quite a few times as a freelance researcher, something I'm very grateful for. But I needed to get a paid position with a bigger company, or even the BBC. The difficulty with this is that I never got any answers back from all the speculative CVs etc sent around. The marketplace is saturated with people looking into the meeja. I also quickly learnt that the only way into BBC Northern Ireland was that you have to be blood. I have seen more contracts and jobs go to those with relations than sense. Nepotism, sheer unadulterated nepotism. Anyway, I had had my chance, and I couldn't afford another stint of unpaid work, so back to reality as my old man is fond of reminding me.

The only problem is that you don't ever really lose your dreams, instead, smothered by the reality of needing to earn a living, and subject to the vagaries of chance, they lie dormant, sometimes wandering about just to remind you of what you really would have loved to have done with your life. And sometimes they erupt as wild, jealous furies.

Now is one of those times. An old friend of my girlfriend managed to get an internship with the BBC in London. This, I will admit is pure chance. Grudgingly, I wished him the best of luck, but not before letting rip out of earshot. My particular problem is not that I'm not up to the job, I've already proved that. My problem is that I don't have rich parents. Don't get me wrong, I didn't grow up in poverty, but when you come from a family of seven, it would be a bit selfish to ask your parents to cough up so that you can provide the public broadcaster with free labour. (And you thought you paid too much with the TV licence.) Anyway, he duly went on to do his internship, complained about not having any money, and the last I heard of it, he had had a falling out over a particular subject matter, (I sided with him on this) and was probably not going to get anything further.

Since I have now got promoted, my current role is now up for grabs. Believing him to be without a job, I alerted him to the vacancy so he could have a go at getting it. (This is not the same as arranging for him to get the job.) I got a text back from him:
"Hey buddy, thanks for letting me know. Sorry about the delay in replying but I'm in France at the moment. I won't need the job as I've just signed a contract with the BBC as a History Researcher."

Needless to say, my blood boiled. I summoned up the restraint needed to send a text back, "Well done." But it just sums the whole situation up. He didn't even study History at Uni! And he's in France living it up! It pisses me off to think about it. But there are two things I have to learn from this, and this is where the self-centred moaning ends. Number 1 is that this is the way of the world, and no amount of moaning will change it. Its a market. Companies are overrun with people who would do anything to get a meeja job, so they can dictate any terms they want. And the only ones who can accept those terms, which amount to slave labour, are those with parents who are rich and willing to fund them. This has knock-ons in terms of the types of programmes broadcast, the social make-up of the media, and what the rest of us are forced to endure. It says a lot when you read a story related by Nick Cohen that a clown's surefire act when all else goes wrong at a children's party is to do theme tunes and impressions of the characters on TV never works at a party for children of TV execs. This is because they won't allow their children to watch the tripe that they produce. Number 2 is that if you can't play by the rules of the system, you have to find a way of undermining it. This is where my aforementioned project comes into play. Come up with a better idea than they can and try to execute to the best of my ability with my limited resources.

Am I bad person for letting my jealousy get the better of me? Overall, I don't think so, not when I see him waltzing into a job just because he is from a better off background. But it isn't pleasant, and I feel deeply uncomfortable with these all too human feelings. When it comes down to it, he is one of many friends of mine who fall into this bracket. Its not their fault they were born into those backgrounds. I appreciate them for who they are on an individual basis, as I think they do me. When he gets back from France, I'm going to buy him a beer.

And then glass him...

Putting my money where my mouth is

Just received my poll card today. Can you guess which Party will be getting my vote? What's that Patrick? No Patrick, don't be so silly. Tit.

Do what you will with your little part of this fleeting democratic right, but don't waste it by voting Labour.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sejanus makes himself useful

Having been having a great day, happy as larry as just getting an unexpected promotion when I read this over at Guido's:

"As an actor whose work stretches from science fiction to Shakespeare, I am often asked why I am Labour. No matter how many times the question is put to me, it always takes me by surprise. I could not imagine being anything else."

Ah Patrick, is that you dribbling? I see that Paul Linford has already beaten me to it in the comments and brought up the I, Claudius link, but I hope he doesn't mind if I expand on it a bit further. (I, Claudius by the way is in my opinion one of the finest dramas ever produced.) Devils Kitchen has also laid into Patrick in his own initible way, so I'm going to approach from a different direction.

Patrick Stewart definitely gave one of his best performances in I, Claudius as Sejanus. If you're not familiar with Roman History, or with the story of I, Claudius then you might like to know a little about the character in question played with such flourish by the young Patrick.

Sejanus was, in short, a lying, disreputable ambitious shit who would stop at nothing to achieve absolute power. He happily bullied the Roman populace into cowered submission as he went about building a police state ostensibly for the benefit of his master, Tiberius, but in fact was creating the instruments that would allow him to replace the Emperor. His spies were everywhere, and he justified his subversion of justice with the need for Security, exploiting his powers to torture and kill his opponents based on the trumped up threat of treason to the person of the Emperor. His contempt for the traditional liberties of the Roman people led him to savagely undermine them. He didn't lack enthusiastic followers who thronged to hop on the bandwagon to ensure they had some part in the inevitable spoils. He treated them well, showering them with honours and ennoblements and using his position as gatekeeper to the Emperor to ensure that only his friends had access to the patronage of the state. With absolutely no morals or principles this man was prepared to sacrifice anything or anyone for power.

This may all seem eerily familiar to you, even if you have never heard of any of this before. That might be because History has a nasty little habit of repeating itself, if you let it. The subject had inspired Juvenal, who had seen plenty of mini-Sejanus' by his time. In my favourite piece of his, "On the Vanity of Human Wishes" he had this to say, which should cause some of the Sejanus mob to stop and ponder, or they would if it was in their nature.

"Silly, or downright disasterous are all the things that we pray for,
Weighting the knees of the gods with the words in the wax of our
Power and consequent envy hurl some men down to their ruin:
They are sunk by the long andd illustrious list of their honours.
Their statues come dow, they follow the rope, the axe cuts to pieces
The wheels of the car and the legs of the horse (who didn't deserve
Now the fires hiss hot - in the roar of the bellows and furnace
Burns the head adored by the people. The mighty Sejanus
Makes a crackling sound, and out of that countenance, second,
Not so long ago, in the whole wide world, there are fashioned
Wine jars, frying pans, basins, and platters, and piss pots.
Laurel your doors and lead the great chalked bull to Jove's altar!
Sejanus gets the hook, he is dragged along. What a picture!
Everyone is glad. "Believe me, I never could stand him.
What a puss he had! But what were the charges against him?
Who were the witnesses, the informant? How did they prove it?"
"Nothing like that at all: the only thing was a letter,
Rather wordy and long; it came from Capri." "Thats all right, then.
That's all I wanted to know."

And what are the people of Remus
Doing now? What they always do; they are following fortune,
Hating her victims, as always. Had Nortia favoured Sejanus,
Had the leader's old age been unexpectedly stricken,
This same mob would have hailed as Augustus the man no
Ever since the time their votes were a drug on the market,
The people don't give a damn anymore. Once they bestowed
Legions, the symbols of power, all things, but now they are cautious,
Playing it safe, and now there are only two things that they ask for,
Bread and the games.

"I hear that many are going to get it."
"Not a doubt in the world. They got a big furnace already."
"Bruttidius looked a bit pale when I met him beside Mars' altar.
The beaten Ajax, I fear, suspects he's poorly defended.
Now he'll get even for that." "All right, let's go, in a hurry -
While he lies on the bank, let's give Caesar's foeman a few kicks."
"Yes, and be sure the slaves can see, so that all must admit it.
We don't want to be dragged to the court at the end of a halter."
That was how they talked, at the time, about their Sejanus.
That was the way the crowd muttered and grumbled about him.
So - would you like to have been Sejanus, popular, courted,
Having as much as he had, appointing men to high office,
Giving others command of the legions, renowned as protector
Of that Prince who's perched on the narrow ledges of Capri
With his Eastern seers and fortunetellers around him?
You would certainly like the spears, the horsemen, the cohorts,
The camp all your own. Why not? Even those with no craving for
Wish that they had the power. But what good would it be if it
brought you
Risk in equal amount? Would you rather be robed like Sejanus,
Dragged along the streets like him, or would it be better
Taking charge of affairs in some little town like Fidenae,
Mayor of Gabii, or Inspector of Weights at Ulubrae?
So you acknowledge Sejanus did not know what to pray for,
Seeking excessive renown, excessive wealth, and preparing,
All the time, a tower whose stories soared to the heaven,
Whence he had further to fall, a longer plunge to his ruin.
What was it overthrew the Crassuses, Pompeys, and that man
Under whose lash the people were made to bow in obeisance?
What brought them down? High rank, sought after with never a
And ambitious prayers, granted by gods who were evil.
Few are the kings who descend without wounds or murder to Pluto.
Few tyrants die a dry death."

Patrick, you might be loaded and living it up in Los Angeles, loving the OBE you bought for £120000, but from now on I can no longer imagine you as anything else than a complete and utter tit.