Thursday Thought: Our Gang and Other Warfare

I am currently giving my lecture series “CORNWALL: History, Mystery, Mansions, Mines and Modernity” to OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Cincinnati).

They are fascinated with what it was like growing up in England during the Blitz in World War II. You can read my “Memoirs While Memory Lasts”  of a little boy in Cornwall getting through this troublesome time here. My story is titled “Our Gang and Other Warfare”.  Read more here.

Barrage Balloons

Barrage Balloons


Thursday Thought: How much did the ancient Celts influence English?

The first lecture in my new course to the OLLI group in Cincinnati stirred a fascinating discussion. OLLI is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of the University of Cincinnati. (For a description of the course, click here.)  Were the Celts pushed to the fringes of Britain by the Anglo-Saxon invasion? Or did they remain and assimilate into Anglo-Saxon society? And what effect did they have on the development of the English language? — Contact me if you would like more details.

Message from Student (retired English teacher)

“I spoke to you yesterday about the hypothesis that Celtic influence on later English is more profound than many linguists admit.  John McWhorter has been an exception to this trend and has given solid bases to his premise that the Celts of pre-Anglo Saxon Britain were not pushed to the edges, as is often stated, but rather blended with the new populations and helped create a language far different from the other Germanic tongues that the invaders brought with them.
“Thank you for the course.  Tuesday’s class was fascinating.”

Response from a leader in Cornwall

“I think that the truth of what happened with the Celts when the Saxons (and others, including the Angles, who gave their tribal name to ‘England’) lies halfway between the ‘expunged to the fringes’ and the ‘stuck around and blended’ schools — I suspect that some stayed, and some went!

The survival of, and evolution into Cornish, Welsh (and Breton) ‘dialects’ of British, in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany clearly demonstrates that these places were predominantly colonised by Celts. The Patagonian colonisation also shows that there is an instinctual motivation in these Brythonic groups to protect their culture and its attritbutes by seeking a degree of insulation, and that ancient links and fraternities survive the passage of time. So, one can find in the exceptional diaries of Harold Nicolson (September 1941, from memory) a description of Nicolson being sent by the Ministry of Information to witness a speck in Kernewek, commissioned by the British government, to welcome and make feel at-home Breton refugees who took refuge in Cornwall after the scuttling of the French fleet. The irony is that Churchill found Kernewek an expedient in servicing wartime alliances (and brutally necessary acts) but his successors have only reluctantly acknowledged the existence of the language and remain cussed in their denial of resources to support its development. As I say, ancient resonances endure.

It is true to say that there is strong Celtic influence in the English language. We should never forget that monasteries were also seats of learning and that the beginnings of scholarship, writing and linguistic development happened here, and that monasteries were as much repositories of the ancient as they were developers of the new. So the blending may have had as much to do with monkish predilection as with the movement of peoples.

I would commend to your correspondent the career of John of Cornwall, widely credited as being one of the founding fathers of the English language. Irony abounds! A search of the net might throw up a second hand copy of Julian Holmes’ translation of John’s prophecies of Merlin. Nuts!


Thursday Thought: Revolution!

I greatly enjoyed a visit with my daughter Tori and her family last week. They live in Pennsylvania near Valley Forge. She took me to Washington Crossing where the general crossed the Delaware as he positioned for the battle of Trenton.

Durham boat

Durham boat

I was fascinated by the Durham boats, 42 foot long replicas of the original 65 foot boats that George Washington commandeered to carry his army across the river. They were sturdy freighters, mainly carrying iron ore with the current down river to Philadelphia and rowed back up empty. The great oars were some 16 feet long, stout and heavy. It amazing that one man could handle an oar — particularly since Washington had few mariners in his army.

I learned that the famous painting had a major inaccuracy. The horses were taken across on a ferry that was a raft, NOT in the boats. Altogether an amazing feat of leadership.

I’m working on a sequel to The Miner & the Viscount. The working title is Rebellion & Reform. I wonder if Washington Crossing will play a role?



Thursday Thought: Fag!


My recent article about Oliver Sacks http://wp.me/p4LySx-jM took me back to my days at Oxford, and that took me further back to my days at boarding school. The result? A “Memoir While memory Lasts” about amazing experiences.

What was the point of the weird traditions, the regimentation, the hierarchies, the pettifogging rules, the code of privilege and punishment? We certainly enjoyed a magnificent education that enriched our lives to an extraordinary degree. But beyond the scholars and the academics and the scientists, the great public schools set out to train leaders, rulers of empire, explorers, statesmen, military officers, public servants, business executives, entertainers, sportsmen, community leaders. Before we became leaders we were taught to become followers and to serve; when we became leaders we had already learned to exercise authority with responsibility.

Read more on my blog: http://wp.me/P4LySx-lW


Thursday Thought: St. Piran’s day

This Saturday, March 5th, I’ve been invited to a St. Piran’s Day party. It’ll be a rollicking good time! Unfortunately it is in Australia, which is a bit far.

St. Piran

St. Piran

Piran is the patron saint of tinners and of Cornwall.  I tell his legend in the Prologue to The Miner & the Viscount. You can read it here.

The story speaks to Cornwall’s mystical origins rooted in the Celtic culture and language. Piran, or Pyran (Cornish: Peran) was an early 6th-century Irish Christian missionary who became a Cornish abbot and saint. It was Piran’s demise and miraculous escape from martyrdom that gives him legendary status.

Druid priests in Ireland tied Piran spread-eagled to a mill-stone and rolled it over the edge of a high cliff into the stormy Irish sea. Miraculously, the storm immediately calmed and Piran floated safely over the water to land upon a sandy beach on the Cornish coast. It became known as Perranporth.

St. Piran's Oratory

St. Piran’s Oratory

My daughter Sarah and I visited St. Piran’s Oratory when we were in Cornwall on our book tour last summer. We expertly guided by Eileen Carter, who led the restoration effort, and by Colin Retallick, who plays the role of the saint in the annual reenactment of his arrival in Cornwall.

Happy St. Piran’s Day!







Thursday Thought: Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks, the extraordinary neurologist who became famous through his detailed narrative writing about odd case histories for a lay audience, published an autobiography On the Move shortly before he died in August 2015. His best known book was Awakenings that was made into a movie with Robin Williams and Robert de Niro.

Oliver Sacks (Wikipedia)

Oliver Sacks

I knew him when we lived in neighboring rooms at Oxford. He left his home in London to live in America.

I have been invited to join a panel of physicians for a discussion on Dr. Sacks’ life and work.

It is at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, February 13, 2016, at the Cincinnati Center For Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis, 3001 Highland Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45219-2315.


Thursday Thought: Did the American Constitution Get It Wrong?

Montesquieu Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Is it possible that the French philosophers upon whom the Founders relied for guidance in creating the American Constitution got some things wrong?  Montesquieu in “The Spirit of the Laws” advocated the separation of powers, with the executive, the legislative and the juduciary maintaining a check on each other.

In my historical novel “The Minor & the Viscount” Edward Eliot disagrees. Historically he actually visited Montesquieu in France and talked with him. I create a scene in my story where Eliot concludes that the great philosopher was wrong in his interpretation of how the British constitution worked in practice.

In Chapter 57 Eliot describes how he and his friends went on the traditional Grand Tour of Europe, visiting European culture and influential people. His wife seems to have been a little improper.

“We went to Bordeaux and stayed at the Château de Brède with the Baron de Montesquieu the year before he died. Brilliant fellow. Thought himself an expert on our British constitution after spending a mere eighteen months living among us. Talked some sort of claptrap about the separation of powers. Couldn’t have noticed that half the members of the government are related to each other and the other half spend much of their time in and out of each other’s wives’ bedrooms!”

“Oh Edward, really!” said Catherine, not amused. Edward looked rather crestfallen.


Thursday Thought: Historical Fiction

Every time I give a book talk people come up to me afterwards and describe how much they enjoy reading historical fiction. Of course, some readers simply enjoy a jolly romp in four-poster beds where the heroine is divested of her elegant eighteenth century gown.

Others say that they find an historical novel an enjoyable way of learning about history and the way people lived in the past. This view is very much in tune with the current search by educators for ways to teach history in a more engaging way, including notions of “big history” where students are challenged to think about the fundamental issues of human existence by learning about the distant past. After all, as the cliché tells us, those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

It gives me endless pleasure to talk to readers of The Miner & the Viscount and hear about their fascination with the amazing progress accomplished by their ancestors with tools that we consider primitive and systems that to us are cumbersome.

Just think of the ingenuity of Thomas Newcomen, the inventor of the steam engine, and the imagination of John Smeaton, the engineer who linked water wheels to steam engines to ensure plentiful power whether it was raining or the sun was shining. Then there is John Williams, the powerful mine captain who designed and built the Great County Adit, the ambitious drainage system that linked 60 mines across Cornwall. Imagine the strength and energy of the

Dangerous work

Dangerous work

miners who dug deep shafts through hard rock and under the ocean with hand tools to extract the tin and copper they had the skill to find. And picture the sheer brilliance in mathematics it took to make the essential scientific calculations by hand with standards that varied from place to place.

Here is an example and the story behind the story. To make my story authentic I dug up fascinating information, including a contemporary textbook on arithmetic for mining captains and engineers.

The following passage shows Edward Eliot’s determination to understand the numbers. He is attending his first cost book meeting after becoming an “adventurer” (an investor) in the Wheal Hykka mine.

The cost book system was characteristic of the management of Cornish mines before the limited liability company. The adventurers would meet every quarter and the Purser would present the accounts and share out any profit or loss. The disadvantage was that typically no reserves were maintained.

Eliot is a man after my own heart. He wants to dig into the details and understand how things work so that he can make intelligent management decisions. He quickly learns how much he has to learn, and is impressed by how much his underlings understand. Eliot is different from his partner Viscount Dunbargan whose only interest is the money coming to him.

How do you arrive at the correct weights and measures?” He dipped his quill into the ink and prepared to resume making notes.

John Williams gathered up the thread. “For one thing, the smelter won’t pay for wet tin stuff. So we accurately weigh out a sample of one pound of ore, then dry it over a fire and weigh it again. This gives us the neat weight, the percentage of reduction. Then we weigh the whole parcel wet in pounds and calculate the neat weight of the total by taking the percentage reduction.”

“What would be the weight of the whole parcel of tin stuff that you send off?” asked Eliot.

“It varies. We’ll give you a recent example. Look in your Assay Book, Penwarden, that’ll tell you,” said Williams.

“The last sample came from several kibbles, sir,” Addis said, reaching into his desk, pulling out the leather bound ledger and thumbing through the pages covered with his assistant clerk’s neat copperplate penmanship. He was not very quick at reading words yet but he could readily discern figures. “’Yes, ’ere ’tis. This last lot was one ton, five ’undredweight, three quarters, seven pounds and eleven ounces.”

“I see,” said Eliot, raising his eyebrows.

John Williams warmed to his subject. “The rule of thumb is that every pennyweight of black tin produced from a sample of one gill of ore, wine measure, will give a hundred pounds avoirdupois in one hundred sacks. Of course, that would be eighteen-gallon sacks, beer measure. Did I say avoirdupois? That’s tin. Copper produce is weighed in troy.”

“I see,” said Eliot again, scratching his chin. “At least I think I do. Wine measure, beer measure?”

“Oh yes, sir,” said Williams. “There’s thirty-two gills in a gallon, but a wine gill holds twenty-two percent more than a beer gill. Course, if you were asking about noggins, I’d say there are sixteen in a pint.” Eliot put down his quill and stared at Williams.

Willy Bunt’s jaw dropped. He was about to ask a question when Polkinghorne caught his eye and put a finger to his lips. Bunt kept his counsel but wondered whether someone clever enough could devise a simpler system. Bunt realized he must be educated, learn reading, arithmetic; he needed education to earn more responsibility in his job, get better wages. But how would he ever understand all the different standards and customs for different materials, even different parishes?


Read the Chapters

To read more about the challenges overcome by the mine managers every day, go to LINK and see Chapter 49 “Management” and Chapter 50 “Inventor”.


Book Talk

If you would like a talk for your group about the book or life in 18th century Cornwall, email me at cornishchronicle@gmail.com.





Thursday Thought: Fire!

18th Century Infantryman

18th Century Infantryman

This is the story behind the story of Chapter 6o, “Order”. There is trouble at the mine. There is an accident. People are killed. The miners are angry and riot. Captain Addis Penwarden has lost control. The viscount takes matters into his own hands and calls in the militia with disastrous results. The young officer does his best to calm the situation.

“I have my orders sir,” said the officer. “Restore order whatever it takes. There’s destruction here, arson, civil disobedience; this is a riot. I came fully prepared.” He handed the bridle of his horse to the drummer boy who walked it to the rear of the platoon. He turned towards his men. “Serjeant, you know what to do.”

The serjeant turned to face the men. “Platoon, forming rank of fours, march!” The soldiers performed the complicated maneuver flawlessly. The serjeant barked out more orders. “Fix bayonets. Load!”

The crowd quieted, watched in awe as they carried out the order with speed and dexterity. Each man took a paper cartridge from the pouch at his belt, bit off the end, sprinkled a little powder into the pan of his musket, pushed the steel back to cover the pan, poured the rest of the powder down the barrel, then inserted the paper cartridge and a ball into the muzzle. Then each man removed his ramrod from its position under the barrel, rammed the charge and ball down the barrel, returned the ramrod to its stowage position, and finally pulled the cock back to the “full cock” position.

“Phew!” muttered Addis Penwarden. “No more than fifteen seconds!”

The soldiers were ready for another order. The serjeant shouted again. “Front rank, kneel!”

The ensign signaled the boy, who beat a tattoo on his side drum, silencing the crowd. The young officer addressed Eliot. “Sir, I advise you and your companions to stand aside in case there is trouble.” Then he took a document from the pocket of his tunic, unfolded it, and said in a loud clear voice: “Under the authority duly given to me by the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall I hereby give notice as follows.” He read, “Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King!”

He looked round the faces in front of him to see what effect he was having. Some appeared cowed. Others, like Tom Kegwyn, were defiant.

The officer continued to speak. “The Riot Act makes it a felony punishable by death without benefit of clergy for any persons unlawfully, riotously and tumultuously assembled together to cause, or begin to cause, serious damage to places of religious worship, houses, barns, and stables.” He looked up and added in his own words, “That undoubtedly includes buildings such as this mine or places of manufactory.”

“Go home, for God’s sake, go home!” shouted Penwarden, turning towards the mob.

Some of the crowd moved back, including all the men who had worked on repairing the damage of the past days. Reverend Perry and his group urged those around them to move back and leave.

Tom Kegwyn didn’t move, but stood his ground, his chin lifted. He picked up pieces of wood, threw one on the fire, and kept another as a cudgel. “I’d rather swing than starve!” he yelled. “Come on, arm yourselves, there’s more of we than they.” He started towards the soldiers.

Lizzie tugged at his arm to stop him charging. Tom broke into a run. He ignored an order to halt. The young ensign nodded to the serjeant.

“Platoon, present, fire!” A volley of shots cracked out and echoed from the walls of the engine house. The crowd groaned. Three bodies slumped to the ground. Two were tinners who had been at the side of Tom Kegwyn. One was the woman who had been trying to save him from himself.

To my mind it is vital to ensure that descriptions like this are authentic. I was proud of my first draft. I sent it to the regimental museum of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in Bodmin, Cornwall, and asked the historian his opinion. His comments yielded many corrections. Here is part of what Major Hugo White wrote.

“The ‘slope arms’ was not used till the late 19 th century. The musket was normally carried when marching to attention in a position known as the ‘shoulder’. Troops marched in file (twos) or columns of fours until about 1935. Sergeant was always spelt ‘serjeant’ at this time (and still is in many regiments).  Sashes are silk or woollen material.  These were of heavy buff leather known simply as belts. The term should be coat.  Tunics were first introduced in 1855. Trousers were not part of male attire till much later.  They would have worn white breeches with long black gaiters reaching above the knee. Soldiers wore tricorn cocked hats.  Shakos were not introduced till 1806. An officer is never addressed as Ensign or Lieutenant.  If Eliot knew the officer’s name, and he would doubtless have asked, he would have addressed him as ‘Mr Maitland’. Kettle drums were carried by cavalry mounted bandsmen, slung in pairs either side of a horse’s withers. The drummer would have had a Side Drum.”   

All this led to correcting multiple details, not least the type of drum used in an infantry regiment to signal orders and the terms that describe them such as “tattoo”. I was so relieved to have found such a knowledgeable source. On top of all this came Major White’s description of the 18th century drill for loading and firing a musket.

“On the command load, the soldiers would have taken a cartridge, bitten off the end, sprinkled a small quantity of powder into the pan, pushed the ‘steel’ back to cover the ‘pan’, poured the rest of the powder down the barrel, followed by the ball and the paper cartridge (to act as a wad), remove the ‘ram rod’ from its position under the barrel, ram the charge and ball down the barrel, return the ramrod to its stowage position, and, finally, pull back the cock to the ‘full cock’ position. The order would be ‘Present, fire!’ A well trained soldier could accomplish this highly complicated evolution in 15 seconds.”

And I often wondered about the origin of the idiom “reading the riot act”. It was fascinating to find out the form of words that was actually used under the law at the time.

It was rewriting this chapter that made me realize that my lofty goal of dashing off an historical novel in a year or two was totally unrealistic. But it was, of course, all so very worth while. Rewriting and rewriting made the book better.

I visited the museum during my 2012 visit to Cornwall and met Major White in person, a delightful and enthusiastic man. It was absorbing to learn more of the history of the D.C.L.I. It was my father’s regiment. He volunteered in World War I and served in India, Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq), Palestine and Egypt. I cherish his stories and souvenirs.

I am enchanted with all the connections I have enjoyed as a result of writing my book.

Read more…





Thursday Thought: One way to deal with Bullying

Another memoir while memory lasts

I feel embarrassingly left out of conversations about unhappy childhoods and their devastating effects upon our adult psychology. I was the youngest in the family, the only boy spoiled rotten by three mothers, if you count my two adoring older sisters as sharing the maternal role. It was a perfect existence. I have no complaints.

There was one upsetting moment when I was four years old. I overheard my eldest sister Pam making a comment about me to our mother as she was helping her in the kitchen. It sounded disparaging and I stormed indignantly to my own defense.

“I am NOT a kizzling doney child!”

My sister reassured me. “No, no, I was just saying to Mummy that with Pat and me being ten and thirteen years older than you, you are equivalent to an only child.”

Well, what was so bad about that? I got lots of attention, and I had playmates close to my age all around. And I had just spent three months in Copenhagen alone with my mother with her undivided attention except when my father took us over and then came to bring us back. The stormy North Sea crossing from Harwich was horrible and my mother and I were seasick most of the way. However, she had to go to Denmark for specialized medical treatment that was not available in England. She had contracted lupus though careless dental surgery. The dangerous infection was in her jawbone and face and could only be eradicated with cauterization. The Danish doctors were kind as well as skilled and saw her through a grueling experience that would end her beauty, although that loss was much more important to her than to us children or our father.

The food in Denmark was disgusting and smelled foreign. I so looked forward to jam and clotted cream and the saffron bun my father promised to bring when he came to bring us back. And there was a young woman in the rooms next to ours where we were staying. She was an aspiring soprano and she practiced shrill scales and arpeggios hour after hour, day after day. My father telephoned and said I should just stuff an onion in her mouth.

Anyway, after we got home to England my parents decided it was high time for me to go to school. I was close to the compulsory school age of five. So at the start of the new school year in September my mother dragged me on the short walk, about a mile, to the small private school in the center of Liskeard.

Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any of my friends on the way. It would have been really embarrassing. You see, actually the full name of the school was Highwood House School for Girls. My sisters had gone there but I did not want to go. A few boys were admitted to kindergarten and thereafter until they were old enough at ten to go on to the secondary school. Older pupils were girls only. I imagined that only soppy boys went to the school and I did not want to be perceived as one of them. However, I was soon to learn that there was a nasty little tough among my schoolmates.

Liskeard Book Shop

Liskeard Book Shop

Memories of the school were among the many brought back during my book tour of Cornwall in July. I gave a talk at the Liskeard Book Shop. It is on Barras Street, just a couple of buildings along from Highwood House. John Rapson, a nephew of the headmistress was in the audience and shared professional photographs he had taken of me as a boy.

Miss Rapson was a precise no-nonsense teacher as was her companion Miss Wilkes. The school was in their house. They were both formidable disciplinarians with acerbic tongues. To start the day each of us had fifteen conduct marks, which were whittled away with each passing infraction of studiousness or behavior. In the first form we sat in rows on long benches attached to long wooden desks. There were grooves along the top to stop our pens and pencils rolling down and ink wells at every place. There were individual lids so that we could keep our pencil boxes and exercise books and pen wipers and spare nibs inside our own desks. There were still one or two slates in the room but Miss Rapson had decided to get up to date and provide her pupils with exercise books and paper.

I was a good little boy and hated getting into trouble. I usually sailed through the day with conduct marks intact. I paid attention in class and avoided the sarcastic scolding that some pupils endured. I memorized the multiplication tables, right up to twelve times. My sisters helped me practice spelling so I did well in the daily tests and quickly learned to read. My handwriting was not very tidy and was abundantly decorated with ink blots, like my fingers, but I was careful to make the loops upright. I hated drawing and painting and had trouble not going over the lines. Fortunately, we boys were not made to do needlework like the girls.

Every day there was recess. When it was really wet and cold, Miss Wilkes would make us play singing and rhyming action games indoors. I remember the one about the bells of London’s churches.Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement’s. You owe me five farthings, Say the bells of St. Martin’s. When will you pay me? Say the bells of Old Bailey. When I grow rich, Say the bells of Shoreditch.”

Pamela Raymont kept choosing me as a partner, which was pretty embarrassing and I avoided her. She was a farmer’s daughter and lived in the country. She was very pretty with blonde hair, blue eyes and a beautiful pink and white complexion. After we both went to the secondary school she really blossomed and I wished I had paid her more attention but by then it was too late. Vivian Danners was the son of one of the local butchers and he got pretty rough when it came to the bit about “Along came a chopper to chop off her head!”

On fine days recess was outside. There was a big upper playground for the girls and a smaller playground for the boys. Vivian Danners always wanted to play rough games, like fighting, and wrestling. He was a lot stronger than me and always beat me. I did not like that but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I tried to avoid him but he always found me. You couldn’t tell Miss Wilkes because that would be sneaking. My father said I should punch him on the jaw but I was afraid he would just punch me back harder. I would think of something eventually.

Most of the time school was pretty enjoyable. One term my sister Pat came to teach part time while she was waiting to start her training as a physiotherapist. She tried to be strict with me so that the other children would not think I was her favorite, but she could not help being pretty nice. And once every term there was a special treat.

The whole school was invited into the private part of the house to sit in the big front hall where Miss Rapson would show us her museum. Her father had been a Methodist missionary in Africa and she would tell us lots of stories about converting the heathen and persuading them to give up being cannibals. I thought I would like to be a missionary but then I learned it was pretty dangerous and very poorly paid. Anyway, Miss Rapson had a marvelous collection of things her father had brought back from Africa and we loved looking at them and even holding them. There were masks, costumes, sculptures, primitive art, assegais (those sharp short stabbing spears), shields made of rhinoceros hide, knives, elephants’ tusks, stuffed animal heads, beads, pots, and letters and old photographs about the missionaries.

We learned a lot at Highwood House. We certainly got a solid grounding in the three Rs. We learned manners and good behavior. We learned about the world and developed an interest in geography. Those were innocent days. It never occurred to us to wonder exactly what were the living arrangements for these two spinster ladies living all their lives in the same house. Our parents never brought up the subject. We just assumed it was convenient and perfectly natural. Sometimes when we are nostalgic for the good old days it is that kind of innocence that I most miss.

There is one more memory. Vivian Danners went to the secondary school at the same time as me. We were not in the same form but we had recess at the same time. He was still rough and strong and liked wrestling and fighting and I was still unable to avoid him. But then the war started. The whole British Empire came to the aid of the home country. My father had cousins in New Zealand and George Rawstron came and stayed with us for a few days. He was in the RNZFAA, the Royal New Zealand Fleet Air Arm, and I think he had come over on convoy escort duty.

George had just taken a course in unarmed combat. He gave me the booklet and taught me how to knock a man down with two fingers, but you had to be careful if you didn’t want to kill him. We practiced until I could even knock George down. The next day at recess Vivian Danners grabbed me with a hard squeeze around my neck. I tried the two finger trick. It worked! Vivian Danners lay in a heap at my feet. He never bullied me again.


Richard Hoskin © 2015