Friday, 22 March 2013

The Day Jimmy Cheered on Celtic

Image Source: John Buchanan

Jimmy the West Highland Terrier was my SSgt's dog in the early 90’s, his diminutive frame was packed full of character. The poem below records a true story which is also captured in the image above. For the protection of the guilty I will not mention the culprits name, suffice to say it was not me and the perpetrator meant it to be a friendly prank.

Having spent the morning supporting Celtic FC, Jimmy returned from a bath with an eerie green tinge which so annoyed Joe that the next time we saw the poor little thing his hair had been clipped back significantly.

For those that do not know Rangers FC and Celtic FC are Scottish soccer teams both based in Glasgow. The two teams, collectively known as the Old Firm, are arch rivals. Rangers are traditionally a protestant and dress in Blue whilst Celtic are predominantly Roman Catholic and dress in Green Stripes. The two clubs share a history rooted in sectarianism and there is considerable ill feeling between them. In fact their games have been described as having an "atmosphere of hatred, religious tension and intimidation which continues to lead to violence in communities across Scotland."

In this instance the whole affair was a friendly prank, which resulted in no real harm, except for an element of lost pride. I hope you enjoy the poem;

The Day Jimmy Cheered on Celtic

Jimmy was a Westie
and a Rangers fan was he
and Joe, his loving owner
was from a protestant family.
So imagine the offence
When Joe spent a day away
And Jimmy's fur was painted
with green! To his dismay.
When Joe returned
The air turned blue
and Jimmy had a bath
but poster paints stain white fur
so Jimmy stayed, well half
That is until a set of sheers
was bought into the fray
and Jimmy's tainted coat
was quickly cut away.

John Carré Buchanan
22nd March 2013

The Day Bill Got Turfed Out

Image Source:  John Buchanan

When people retire from the Army or left a regiment it is fairly common for some form of event to be initiated to mark the occasion. Bill was the Second in Command of 1 Armoured Division Transport Regiment in 1988 and was very popular with the regimental subalterns.

The poem is an account of how we turned his office into a golf green on his final day serving with the regiment. I will always remember how we underestimated the task of turfing the office, and of course the clean up which came after the big reveal. That said the smile on his face and his thanks made the effort worth it.

The Day Bill Got Turfed Out

Bill was always at the golf course
or talking about the game.
The Regimental Golfing Officer
his nick name fast became.
When in the mess or in the field
you would see him take a swing,
then pause to look out thoughtfully
as the imaginary ball took wing.
When his final tour was over
and it was his time to go
the subalterns decided to
say a fond adieu.
They came up with a cunning plan
To bid their boss farewell
and laid a green in his office,
with a hole and flag as well.
The turf came from the garden
and was laid on a plastic sheet.
The task took the lads all night
for they had to be discrete.
Next morning, when Bill arrived at work
he found a group of subalterns
chatting with the clerk.
They were there to see his face
when he walked through the door
and saw his landscaped office
with grass upon the floor.
His face was a picture,
as it registered his delight
at being turfed out of the Army
by friends who'd worked all night.

John Carré Buchanan
22nd March 2013

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A Soldier’s Dawn (Sparrow’s Fart )

Image Source:

Soldiers in the British Army know the dawn as ‘Sparrow’s’ short for ‘Sparrow’s Fart’. I guess the concept of the birds waking up scratching their bums and making their first utterance really appealed to the soldier’s sense of humour.

One thing is for certain, at that time in the morning the only things that seemed to be awake were the birds, soldiers and the occasional deer.

The poem below refers to a shell scrape which is a shallow trench designed to give its occupant a degree of protection from shrapnel and bullets should the location come under fire. In this instance the scrape is covered with a basha which is a very low shelter made out of a poncho stretched between two trees. The fact that the soldier is in a shell scrape indicates that it is in a temporary location. I hope you enjoy the poem.

A Soldier’s Dawn (Sparrow’s Fart )

The occasional sharp rattle
as droplets fall on the poncho
from the invisible branch above
prevent him from sleeping.

Lying in a shallow shell-scrape,
beneath a low slung basha
cold, tired and awake,
his mind fills the pitch black space.

Low cloud obscures moon and star light
and creates a pure darkness,
which, having no horizon,
becomes infinite.

Time passes slowly,
there’s an imperceptible change,
the darkness has a different quality
an air of expectation.

Gradually a slither of grey
creeps skyward in the East,
faint shapes loom from the dark
and life begins to stir.

A lone bird chirps to welcome the new day
and then, from every tree top
the dawn chorus erupts
as if it were nature’s call to prayer.

John Carré Buchanan
21 March 2013

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Percpectives of Ceticide*

Image Source:

I thought I would write this poem to demonstrate one of the key factors in all environmental issues; that of the differing perspectives of all the stakeholders, and the tendency for activists to get involved.

I greatly admire organisations such as Sea Shepherd, these people risk their lives to save the oceans. I know that they do things that many people consider a step to far, possibly even illegal, but while governments do take a passing interest in the environment, their priorities usually remains with the short term affect on voters. This all too often results in agreements being made but not enforced.

Where governments fail in their duty to enforce the laws that they sign up to, they leave the way open to activists to step in. Unfortunately these people tend not to be as well-resourced as governments and as such they take a less subtle approach to enforcement.

My view is that if a government signs up to something it should be prepared to provide the resources needed to enforce it and accept the consequences of that agreement. Where governments fail to enforce agreements they should not be surprised if people step in and honour the agreement made on their behalf. Most importantly they should not complain if activists don’t play the game using the conventional rule book. Perhaps a better way of putting this is; “they should put up or shut up”. I hope you like the poem.

Percpectives of Ceticide*

The Whale

Our music used to fill the oceans
but that was when I was very young.
Back when the oceans were quieter and clean.
Now the water reverberates to mechanical roars,
explosions and the screams of my kind;
and our song grows ever quieter.

The Conservationist

The oceans are too crowded, too noisy
Too polluted, and over fished.
We need to do something - now,
We need a moratorium on whaling and sanctuaries.
We must study whales and determine their needs
Or we will lose them.

The Politician

I’m down ten points in the polls,
this bloody scandal is killing me,
I wish I’d never have got involved with her.
I need something to divert the public’s attention.
The green vote is popular, something international
might broaden my appeal, Whaling – blame the foreigner!

The Whaler

My father and his were both whalers, it’s in my blood.
There are plenty of whales in the ocean,
Whales deplete our fish stocks and damage the industry.
I operate within a quota and aid important research
and I use most humane method to catch them.
Anyway it is my right to hunt, I have a family to feed.

The Public

Interesting program on the telly last night.
I didn’t know the harpoon exploded inside the whale
Or that they pump air into the body to keep it afloat.
That said, I think the kids are right, it does look barbaric
I can’t see myself eating whale.
Next time I see a collection tin I will put some money in it.

Governments

The public want everything and they want it all done green.
Every ministry needs more cash but the treasury’s been wiped clean.
This bloody whale debacle demands we do something
But we can’t upset our trade partners; we need the cash they bring,
So we won’t mention whale meat, stockpiles or poaching.
Let’s let some other nation start that fight. Now about the Euro zone…

The Activist

They’ll hunt whales to extinction, having agreed to save them.
The other governments will just bite their tongues
and refuse point blank to condemn them.
If these nations, who swore to protect whales
won’t honour their commitments - then I will
and to hell with those that don’t like how I do it.

The Courts

These activists are out of order
Just who do they think they are?
This nation may be in breach of the law
But none of the others condemn them.
We can’t let private citizens enforce international law.
They’re vigilantes and pirates of that I am quite sure.

Earth

My oceans are turning murky and silent
Mankind is at it again
They’re aware of the damage they’re doing
But their too self-centred to refrain.
They talk a good talk, but won’t do the walk
and it’s me that ends up paying.

*Ceticide: The killing of whales and other cetaceans.

John Carré Buchanan
05 March 2013

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Saviours

Image Source:

I make no secret about the fact that I support Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They describe themselves as; ‘an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. [Whose] mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.’ In order to achieve this they use; ‘innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.’ The words ‘direct action’ mean that they are prepared to put their lives on the line. For More information please visit their website here; http://www.seashepherd.org/.

During the last couple of months they have been protecting the whales in the Southern Ocean from the Japanese whaling fleet who have been illegally hunting in a sanctuary. The Japanese were aiming to kill 950 whales, but thanks to the efforts of Sea Shepherd they have taken less than 70.

Sea Shepherd has achieved this by cutting the Japanese fleet off from it’s fuel tanker which has been attempting to refuel the fleet within the sanctuary, (an action which in itself is illegal given the fact that it is within the sanctuary). They have also made it extremely difficult for the harpoon ships to transfer the dead and dying whales to the factory ship by sitting directly behind the vessels ramp, and of course they have used their RHIBs and helicopter to prevent the harpoon operators from getting a clear shot.

I wrote the following poem as mark of my respect for the brave men and women of Sea Shepherd, and I thank them for what they do to protect the wildlife in the world's oceans.

Saviours

The fluke rises and falls effortlessly
as it propels her through the friged polar water.
The graceful motion conserves the energy
She has stored as fat during her time
in the krill rich Southern Ocean.

The cooling water has signalled
it is time to move North towards Australia.
Here, in the warmer tropical waters
the changes she feels within her streamlined frame
will come to fruition, and her calf will be born.

A brass propeller roils the water
leaving a broad streak of foaming bubbles
in the churning wake of the ugly predator.
High on the elevated bow a harpoon gun gazes down,
primed to deliver its grotesque load.

The hunter does not work alone,
other vessels ply this stretch of ocean
with the same murderous intent.
They work together to harpoon and butcher
graceful cetaceans for a fast buck.

A cloud of vapour rises ten feet
from the surface, as she takes a mighty breath.
Off in the distance excited figures point
And the harpoon ship turns menacingly towards her
its crew preparing for the slaughter.

As the ship closes, the whale,
aware of its presence, picks up her pace.
Mile after mile the chase continues.
Gradually the whale tires and her dives shorten.
The hunt is drawing to a close.

A frustrated operator is ready to fire.
The harpoon, tipped with an exploding head
which will rip into the whale and embed a hawser
with which to recover the wounded beast, is ready to fire.
But he has not got a shot.

For there protecting the tiring, frightened whale,
Is a Sea Shepherd RHIB manned by four brave souls.
Hour upon hour they position themselves between the
predator and its prey. This time, with their help,
the whale manages to slip away.

John Carré Buchanan
26 February 2013

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