Monday, 12 March 2012

Coming off-air


We have business at court. The court doesn't like me talking about matters before them, and therefore I am removing my messages to you from the public domain, whilst this takes place.

Over fifty thousand page views have already told very many people of the excruciating suffering we have experienced, and one day will tell you who I am and where you came from. Nobody can change that.

Take care, little mate.

Love from Daddy.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Sisters are doin' it for themselves

An hilarious little 'spat' erupted yesterday when rather a few disgruntled fathers decided to ask questions of Gingerbread on their Facebook site.

Gingerbread, which receives massive chunks of Government funding, and were addressed in 2009 by no less than David Cameron, are trying to make it clear that they are only interested in certain kinds of single parents, viz:
"Hi all, we just wanted to be clear about who we are actually here to support as a charity. We will give advice, support and campaign for anyone (of either gender) who's a single parent. When we say single parent, we mean the mum or dad who is the main carer for a child under 18 (sometimes a foster, adoptive parent or grandparent). A single parent may be single, widowed, divorced, or separated. 
For parents who aren't the child's main carer and who want to speak to people in a similar situation, you should be able to get more support by contacting Family Lives, or if you are a dad you can contact the Fatherhood Institute."
I posed the question as to how they derived this explanation of a 'single parent' - and whether on this basis they refused assistance to women who had moved another man (or another woman!) in with their children, since they are not single parents, in the same way that they were saying that men like me (even prior to marrying Step-Mum!) are not single parents.

Predictably, they responded in the only way they know how, given the gathering siege situation. They deleted my question rather than answer it, along with many other comments, locked their Facebook page to comments from people who haven't 'liked' them, and banned all of the trouble makers, me included.

I thought I would share a specific example of how these female supremacists work.

This is taken from their leaflet 'Contact between your child and their other parent' (which immediately undermines their stand referred to above - Dad must be a parent!) which you can find here.

"Can the court force me to follow a court order against my wishes?
If you consider a court order to be wrong you may be able to appeal against it. This is difficult and you should get legal advice. If you do not follow the contact order, for example by not making your child available for contact, the court has the power to enforce the order. Before enforcing an order, the court will first consider whether it is still in the best interests of the child. 
The courts have a variety of powers they can use to enforce a contact order, including ordering a Cafcass officer to monitor contact or ordering the payment of compensation for any financial loss caused by a breach of the contact order. 
In extreme cases, the court has the power to order a parent to be sent to prison as a result of not following a contact order, or move the child to live with the other parent. These powers are not used very often. 
If you have breached an order or are likely to be affected by the courts enforcement powers, it is important that you get legal advice. See the list of useful organisations on pages 8 and 9." 
So, let's be clear. Nowhere do they even suggest that breaching a court order is something that you shouldn't do. They even, helpfully, explain the odds that you will be picked up for it.

In fact, it specifically says that if you withhold contact, the court will look at things before making you do anything at all. This is an invitation to withhold contact.

Can you imagine if just the following paragraph had to be rewritten in the light of case law to say 'These powers are used regularly and with little or no warning to a parent who flouts the court's orders'?

The sisters are under siege, and they don't like it up 'em, but let's face it, the law is still on their side.

Love from Daddy

Monday, 5 March 2012

Departed Heroes

"I don't suppose he's is expecting you?!" quipped the cemetery attendant, as he helped me locate plot 'A3/51'.

Quietly reposing by a couple of trees, towards the top left-hand corner of Pinner New Cemetery, sure enough, we found a grubby, somewhat weatherbeaten plot, where lies the earthly remains of (Colonel) Bramwell Coles.

In one of those chance conversations, it transpired that the groundsman had Army ancestors, and I explained to him that this chap was arguably the most famous of his 'residents' (and not Screaming Lord Sutch, who is a neighbour 100 or so yards away), to whom the equally great Erik Leidzen wrote:
"Dear Bram,
...I cheerfully stake both my American citizenship and my professional reputation on the truth that Sousa never wrote anything so sparklingly melodious, so thrillingly soul-stirring, as the marches which flowed from your pen, or rather your keen mind and heart. You yourself, in spite of gentlemanly modesty and true Christian humility, must now be aware of this. Moreover, should you run into dear old John Philip on one of the golden streets, he too - in the all-revealing light of eternity - will corroborate my statement, and in his gentle way, join in my little chuckle..."
There are other 'non-martial' Coles masterpieces to which I suggest you listen - 'The Divine Pursuit' (listened to in conjunction with the poetry upon which it is based) is a favourite of mine.

Clearly in possession of a history he had never known of until today, my companion left me alone, and, having taken a few pictures, I put my bike down, sat down on the grass, propped my iPhone up against the marble and put on probably his finest composition in the genre for which he became most famous.

Lt. Col. Norman Bearcroft wrote of his disappointment that there was no band on duty on that Friday in August 1960 when the 'Army march king' was bidden, as the marble records, 'Go forth, Victor Acclaimed!' by his peers, in what must have been a remarkable gathering in the Army hall I pass every week. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the enduring appeal of his work, fifty two years on as I tried to picture the scene, I was able not only to listen to my Grandad's favourite march, but to listen to our corps band's rendition of it from yesterday afternoon, with your Dad giving it big licks on BBb Bass...

I offered a silent prayer of thanks for the life and work of two of my 'Departed Heroes', before removing the weeds from the Colonel's memorial, scraping the mud from my cleats, and riding home.

Remember the other week, I was talking about how my favourite march, Leidzen's 'Steadily onward', is made up of tunes to which I know no words? Well, I have to admit, that was the case with 'In the Firing Line' as well. W.L. Court's biography of Coles, of the same title, references the source of one of the tunes, and another as a musical quotation written by the composer himself, but alas, I could find no trace of either in old song and chorus books in my library.

Sure enough, though, with the kind assistance of a friend at THQ, I have settled at least part of the mystery.

Even when 'In the Firing Line' was first published (General Series 935) in 1925, the tune from the bass solo was nearly twenty years old. I have no idea how well known it was at that time, but Coles was clearly following a definite theme with the words of the song whose chorus he chose for that wonderful 'dogfight' section.
"We are forced to endless strife for our goal, eternal life,
And our foes would overcome us were we left to fight alone,
But our succour is at hand, pow'r against all sin to stand,
While we rest upon the might that guided David's sling and stone;
Tho' our enemies disdain, tho' some falt'ring ones are slain,
And the battle rages hotter if we forward cease to move;
We're discouraged, not cast down, vict'ry brings a victor's crown,
So we'll rally round our banner with the motto "Love".

Fighting for God, shall we waver?
Victory's sure through our Saviour;
In life, in death,
His foes are ours for ever!

We endure without complaints; we were sinners, now we're saints,
All our fighting is with purpose where we used to beat the air;
Soldiers we are under arms, war replaces worldly charms,
Having weapons forged in Heaven, sure, to strike for right we'll dare.
Comrades brave and comrades true, faith will weakened strength renew,
And the mastery is certain though its coming seems so long;
An unfailing captain leads, glorious hopes bring glorious deeds,
So we're marching always upward, banded 'gainst the wrong."
Not exactly a difficult chorus to remember, then, and just as relevant today as it ever was. Perhaps, then, rather than writing off old Army marches as no longer relevant on account of the disuse of the tunes from which they were formed, we should aim to rediscover, and resolve, the challenges our composers left us - not just the 'dots', but the messages behind their music.

In this case, that gift, which Bramwell Coles chose and prepared, was wrapped and given to me by my Grandad to be opened by me today. In the same way, I pray that discovering something I pass on to you might one day give you similar pleasure and encouragement.

Love from Daddy.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Making a mark

I wonder how many songsters have sung that song over the years. It will be thousands.

Whilst it may be said that we are all called to be 'Awakeners' - it strikes me how much more special and personal it must have been for my Grandfather and his sessional colleagues to sing 'their song'. "WE are 'The Awakeners'!" - it must have been an intrinsic part of the identity of the cadets of that session, for whom it was written; particularly since it subsequently remained popular.

It must have been an exciting time to have been in training. Catapulted from being the young bandmaster at a small corps in North Wales, to the then almost brand new training college at Denmark Hill, my Grandad sang a sessional song written by no less than Eric Ball, would have been in London at the time of General Higgins retiring and the second high council electing a woman, General Evangeline Booth, and was commissioned in the same summer as the first Silver Jubilee celebrations to be held for a British monarch. Lots of similarities to the last year or two!

Mind you, If I'd been him in 1935, I'd have wanted to go over to King's Cross and see for myself Sir Nigel Gresley's mythical new streamlined locomotives...

"Go" said the manager at the coal mine, where Grandad had laboured since he was a boy. "There's nothing for you here".

Returning to his village these days shows the prescience of that remark. A month or so after he left, there was a disaster at the pit, affecting over eighty families and killing one of the soldiers of the corps. When the pit shut, things never really picked up again, and a few more distant relatives who still live there are amongst those trapped in unemployment on the council estate looking out over the hill their forebears toiled to hollow out.

My Grandad was, then, a classic example of the church, particularly the nonconformist traditions, inducing 'social lift'.

His maternal grandparents, Charles and Sarah, were married in a Calvinist Methodist ceremony in 1862, in that same village. In contrast to Charles' job as a 'Collier', Both their respective fathers, George and Edward, appear on the marriage certificate as 'Labourers'. Most tellingly, though, of the four signatures on the certificate, three - the bride and both the witnesses, made only a cross on the paper, annotated by the registrar as "The mark of...".

They were illiterate.

I am a strange person to be making biographical report of my Grandad, since I never met him. He knew I was expected, but didn't live to see my birth. I wouldn't recognise his voice if I heard it.

But I recognise his words - written in the covers (and margins!) of the books of his which I inherited.

I recognise where he has been; on the roll of former Commanding Officers, every time I walk in the back door of the Army hall.

And I recognise his influence, when so often people say "Oh! you're his grandson! I remember him from..."; usually followed by a remark about how smartly turned out he and his wife were renowned for being - at which I instantly feel a little dishevelled! It is often told how they used to brush down each others' tunics before heading out onto the platform for a meeting. I often think it feels unfair that so many people who I know, knew my Grandad - but not me. That could yet be true of relatives of yours that were around in your lifetime.

I do know much of my Grandad's legacy to us though, because he was a man who 'made his mark' - on the lives of very many people - and it was he, one might argue, that turned his family line from unskilled, illiterate labourers into preachers and teachers.

Today, far from North Wales, on St David's day, the day when he would have celebrated 75% of his birthdays his grandson was to be found, in his trademark high collar, speaking of his Welsh roots at the Palace of Westminster, and 'giving it the amps' as we sang 'Tydi a roddaist'.

In many ways I am the antithesis of my Grandad. I willingly try to speak Welsh(!), I possess the 'talents' of being messy, loud and thoroughly disorganised, and whereas Denmark Hill said 'yes' to a 22 year old coal miner in 1934, they gave a hard time to a 22 year old railwayman of the same name seventy years later, and have lost him, at least for now.

But what Step Mum and I, with our helpers and friends, have embarked upon this week is no lesser calling to make a mark on society than was his. Indeed, when so much of the prevailing culture runs contrary to what we know is right, I reckon that makes me something of an 'Awakener', too. Don't you?

Love from Daddy