Saturday, June 25

Pillows for a King

All that you wanted to know about headrests..most fascinating story behind this amazing piece of bedroom furniture, click here.

A Headrest is made in a variety of materials, unique in shape, form and meaning and is considered strange to modern society. Discoveries of headrests in many tombs and burials would first answer the query of use with the fact that using one was considered essential to everyday life, sleeping well and most every ancient household possessed one. Naturally taken into the tomb at death, little is known of Middle Eastern and Egyptian bedroom furnishings with the exception of bedsteads and sleeping mats. Sitting and sleeping took place mostly on the floor on a reed mat or linen sheets and on a higher elevation or roof with the necessity for catching the night breeze, especially under one’s neck. Simple headrests were made of perishable woods like sycamore, tamarisk or acacia, and were very simplistic in design. Materials such as earthenware, stone and ivory were also used. The early headrests appear to be a simplistic columnar style with solid block pedestals and a curved end for the head. Stone headrests were not uncommon and thought to be made solely for use in the afterlife and a tomb object only due the durability of the hard material perhaps not intended for everyday use.

Monday, June 20

Those who pray, those who work, those who fight -

There's the Hindu caste system. Where everybody is divided into castes based upon what you do. And then a bewildering array of sub castes. It's all rubbish of course but still exists I'm afraid. I read about how Dalits, the untouchables and lowest caste people were sold off as slaves by upper classes to the Dutch in the 18th century in India. Tragic. 
But it was curious to read how this kind of work/profession based societal classification and how it was in the Middle Ages in England and France eh? It took a revolution to remove it in France. You still have it in England but hopefully the class based society will get removed soon without a revolution. 
Have a lovely day kids. 

Those who pray, those who work, those who fight -
(via Instapaper)

When people first start learning about the Middle Ages, one of the first concepts they are told was that medieval society was divided into three groups – those who pray, such as priests and monks; those who work, like farmers; and those who fight, the warrior class. How did this idea get started and what does it actually mean?

Cleric, Knight and Workman representing the three classes – from British Library Ms Sloane 2435, f.85 '
The concept of the three orders for society is not something you find in the Bible, or in classical sources. The closest thing that to it comes from the seventh-century encyclopedia writer Isidore of Seville, who makes a short reference to the Romans having divided themselves into three groups: senators, soldiers and plebeians.
It seems that our first reference to the idea of three orders comes from a curious source – an Old English translation of Boethius' The Consolation of Philosophy. This work was written by King Alfred the Great (probably with a team of scholars to help him) in the late-ninth century, and he often included his own commentary. It is here that you can find this statement:
I wished for tools and resources for the task that I was commanded to accomplish, which was that I should virtuously and worthily guide and direct the authority which was entrusted to me. You know of course that no-one can make known any skill, nor direct and guide any enterprise, without tools and resources; a man cannot work on any enterprise without resources. In the case of the king, the resources and tools with which to rule are that he have his land fully manned; he must have praying men, fighting men and working men. You know also that without these tools no king may make his ability known. Another aspect of his resources is that he must have the means of support for his tools, the three classes of men.
In his article, "The 'Three Orders' of society in Anglo-Saxon England" Timothy Powell explains some of the thinking behind this statement:
Alfred's formula is descriptive rather than prescriptive. He is not instructing the three orders in their duties, he is doing the reverse; he is meditating on his own duty to the effect that it is incumbent upon the king to ensure the three orders have the wherewithal they need to fulfil their functions. Alfred does not dwell on the theme; he mentions it as an aside. The point of the passage is not social commentary but a reflection on how he, King Alfred, should exercise his talents to ensure that his memory not be forgotten.

Sunday, June 19

The Double Victoria Cross Winner who never fired a shot in anger and how I am connected to him

A simple cross, right? a simple wooden cross. I went to my son's college at Oxford yesterday, a parent lunch. In the Chapel, there was a drinks reception and I was just wandering around doing my usual church investigation. And that's where I spotted this. 

so what's the story? This cross was the first wooden cross erected on the grave of Noel Godfrey Chavasse. His father, Rev Francis Chavasse, founded St. Peter's College where my son studies. 

Here's the gentleman concerned and his story is amazing. The master of the college alluded to him and then it was so fascinating that I went looking for more details. The man was an olympian. He got a first from Trinity College Oxford. Became a doctor. Joined the Army and then went over to France during World War 1. He won the Military Cross. Then was promoted. And then was mentioned in Dispatches. And then two citations follow when he became the only double VC winner in the war. 

Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, M.C., M.B., Royal Army Medical Corps.For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty.During an attack he tended the wounded in the open all day, under heavy fire, frequently in view of the enemy. During the ensuing night he searched for wounded on the ground in front of the enemy's lines for four hours.Next day he took one stretcher-bearer to the advanced trenches, and under heavy shell fire carried an urgent case for 500 yards into safety, being wounded in the side by a shell splinter during the journey. The same night he took up a party of twenty volunteers, rescued three wounded men from a shell hole twenty-five yards from the enemy's trench, buried the bodies of two officers, and collected many identity discs, although fired on by bombs and machine guns.Altogether he saved the lives of some twenty badly wounded men, besides the ordinary cases which passed through his hands. His courage and self-sacrifice, were beyond praise.

this was on 9th August 1916. Then next year around the same time..

War Office, September, 1917.
His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of a Bar to the Victoria Cross to Capt. Noel Godfrey Chavasse, V.C., M.C., late R.A.M.C., attd. L'pool R.
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in action.
Though severely wounded early in the action whilst carrying a wounded soldier to the Dressing Station, Capt. Chavasse refused to leave his post, and for two days not only continued to perform his duties, but in addition went out repeatedly under heavy fire to search for and attend to the wounded who were lying out.
During these searches, although practically without food during this period, worn with fatigue and faint with his wound, he assisted to carry in a number of badly wounded men, over heavy and difficult ground.
By his extraordinary energy and inspiring example, he was instrumental in rescuing many wounded who would have otherwise undoubtedly succumbed under the bad weather conditions.
This devoted and gallant officer subsequently died of his wounds. 

The other two double VC winners ever were related to him. The first one, Lt. Col. Arthur Martin Leake actually treated Chavasse for his wounds. The second double VC winner in WW2, Captain Charles Upham, was related to Chavasse by marriage. He was engaged to Frances Gladys Ryland Chavasse, one of his cousins who was also mentioned in dispatches in 1945 at Monte Cassino.

I am simply dumb-struck at the man and the connections thereof. Can you believe it? this chap, got a first at oxford, then studied medicine, then showed bravery of a level that you cannot imagine (and not that of anger, but of mercy and healing which I believe is of a higher level than just shooting) and then the most incredible coincidences.

most extraordinary story. You can read his letters here. The letter show him as a most humble man..and then his courage! I am totally amazed and humbled.