A busy weekend

I am paying a flying visit to Bristol today to see an old friend (and fellow wargamer) Installed as the Worshipful Master of his Bristol-based Masonic Lodge. The meeting will be followed by what we Freemasons call a ‘White Table’, which is a celebratory meal where non-Masons (usually wives, other family members, and friends) are invited. My wife has accompanied me to Bristol, and whilst I am in the meeting, she will no doubt be undertaking some retail therapy. She will be joining me for the ‘White Table’, after which we will drive back to London.

We could have stayed overnight in Bristol, but as the weather forecast isn’t good (snow is predicted for Monday) and the CAVALIER wargame show is taking place in Tonbridge, Kent, tomorrow, we decided to drive back home to South East London tonight. With luck (and assuming that the weather is not too bad), I should be able to go to Tonbridge tomorrow … where I hope to meet up with some of my fellow wargame bloggers, buy one or two items for my current projects, and see my PORTABLE WARGAME rules in action!

Looks like I am in for a busy (and hopefully very enjoyable) weekend!

One down … three more to go!

My talk about Freemasonry in the British Army to Lambourne Lodge (No.3945) in Loughton, Essex, yesterday seemed to go down quite well, even if the attendance was badly affected by illness. (There were eight apologies, most of whom were too ill to attend as a result of the virus that seems to be affecting so many people at the moment.)

The after-meeting meal (or Festive Board as we Masons term it) was a typical Burn’s Night affair, with soup, followed by Haggis, ‘neeps, and ‘tatties. The main course was roast beef with all the trimmings, and the dessert was peaches and ice cream. Despite the lack of numbers – and the absence of a piper – the Haggis was brought in with due ceremony, carried around the room, and then ‘addressed’ in Burns’ own words … in the full ‘Doric’!

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang ‘s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

It was a great meeting, followed by an excellent meal … and I hope that the next three meetings I attend go just as well!

‘Doric’ is a general term for the dialect spoken by Lowland Scots during the period when Burns was writing his poetry, and is a reference to the fact that the Doric dialect of Ancient Greek was thought to be harsher in tone and more phonetically conservative than the Attic dialect spoken by Athenians.

A busy fortnight coming up

I’ve a busy couple of weeks ahead of me. On Wednesday 17th I am giving my talk about Freemasonry in the British Army to Lambourne Lodge (No.3945) in Loughton, Essex, and on Friday 19th I’ll be at Boundary Lodge (No.7695), Ashwell House, St Albans talking about the Halsey family of Hertfordshire.

On Monday 22nd I’ll be in the Chair at the Veritatem Sequere Lodge (No.9615) meeting at Royston, and on Wednesday 24th I am off to Letchworth to attend the Burns’ Night meeting of the Iceni Lodge (No.5975), where the members of the Lodge are presenting a talk (with poetry) about the Masonic poetry of Rabbie Burns … and I will be eating a traditional Burns’ Night dinner!

Whilst all this is going on I have a couple of writing projects that I hope to get finished. The first of these (which is almost finished as far as it can be) is the centenary history of the Hertfordshire Master’s Lodge (No.4090), and the second is a book about Eric Knowles’s Madasahatta campaign.

The latter book will contain all the background information and the maps that Eric produced along with copies of the campaign newspapers and memories of some of the participants. The book will also have two appendices, one of which will be about Eric’s South East Asian naval campaign, and the other will cover Eric’s ‘Quest of Thane Tostig’ rules. I hope that Eric’s family will give me permission to publish the book so that it will be available to the general wargaming public and can serve as a memorial to this pioneer British wargamer.

Another busy Masonic week

I have another busy Masonic week ahead of me. On Monday I will going back to Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street, London, to attend a meeting of my London Lodge. It will make a change to go to a normal Masonic meeting where all I will have to do is to sit and watch the other members of the the Lodge perform a ritual.

After the meeting we will adjourn to the Kingsway Hall Hotel for a post-dinner champagne reception and four-course meal. (My London Lodge prides itself on being a champagne and fine-dining Lodge, and the food, drink, and company is always excellent.)

On Friday I will be going to Radlett in Hertfordshire for a meeting of the Veritatem Sequere Lodge. This is Hertfordshire’s research lodge, and at this meeting I will be Installed as the new Worshipful Master. Once in the Chair, I will then invest the Officers of the Lodge before delivering the lecture about the Halsey family that I finished writing last week.

After the post-meeting dinner I will be taking part in a question-and-answer session about the lecture. This sounds more intimidating than is actually is, and is always an invigorating and educational experience.

Two days of Masonic activity

I will be very busy for the next two days. On Wednesday I will be attending the Hertfordshire Provincial Grand Lodge meeting at Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street, London. It takes place towards the end of September every year, and is when anyone who is receiving their first Masonic appointment or a promotion is personally greeted and given their symbols of rank and office by the Provincial Grand Master. This takes place in front of Masons from every Lodge in the Province as well as leading representatives of neighbouring provinces.

The meeting is followed by a formal dinner in the Connaught Rooms, which is next door to Freemasons Hall. The quality of the food and service can vary from reasonable to downright awful, and in the past several of us have ‘opted out’ and eaten in a nearby restaurant. As a number of us are getting appointments or promotions to ‘active’ offices this year, we are sort of expected to eat at the Connaught Rooms.

On Thursday I have to attend another event at Freemasons Hall, but this will be a much smaller affair as it is a meeting of my Holy Royal Arch Chapter. On this occasion we do not have a specific ritual to perform, and as a result I will be delivering a lecture about Sir Charles Warren. This meeting will also be followed by a meal … but as it will be in the Trattoria Verdi, Bloomsbury, I know that it will be excellent.

So I’m going to be quite busy for the next two days … but hopefully I’ll be well fed as well.

Well that’s one task completed; only a load more to do …

I’ve spent the last three days putting together the talk I have to present when I am Installed as the new Worshipful Master of the Veritatem Sequere Lodge in Hertfordshire. It is the Province’s Research Lodge, and it is a tradition that the incoming Master gives a talk on a subject of their choosing.

I have chosen to talk about the Halsey family of Great Gaddesden, Hertfordshire. They held the major offices in Freenasonry in Hertfordshire for a period of over one hundred and fifty year, and many of them had distinguished non-Masonic careers in politics and the armed forces. The latter includes a naval captain who wore a Maori war-skirt on the bridge of his battle cruiser at the Battle of Heligoland Bight and the Battle of Dogger Bank!

They don’t breed them like that anymore … or do they?

A small diversion … or two

Back in May I was asked if I would be willing to accept promotion to the rank of Provincial Grand Orator for the Masonic Province of Hertfordshire. To be asked to do this particular role is a great honour, and I accepted.

One of the reasons why I was considered for the role was the work I have done over the past few years researching Masonic history – particularly in Hertfordshire – and giving talks to Masonic Lodges in Hertfordshire, London, and Berkshire. I also wrote a book entitled BROTHERS IN ARMS AND BROTHERS IN THE LODGE about the part played in the First World War by the members of my Mother Lodge, The Grove Park Lodge No.2732. This was the second book that I had published via Lulu.com, and it was a small paperback.

Last Wednesday I was at a meeting of Hertfordshire’s Research Lodge – the Veritatem Sequere Lodge No. 9615 – at Ashwell House, St Albans, and during a conversation I had with one of the guests they asked if a hardback edition of my book was available. When I said that it was not, he expressed regret as he would have like to have bought one.

On the drive home from St Albans I thought about what the guest had said … and for the past few days I have been converting the text of my paperback so that it can appear in a hardback edition in the near future. That task is now complete, and the hardback edition of my book – with a new cover – should be available from Lulu.com later this week.

I was recently asked about the non-availability of another of my books – LA ULTIMA CRUZADA – which was published in 1993 by Caliver Books. I understand that copies can be bought from some second-hand book dealers, but that it is often priced well in excess of its original published price.

Having just converted one book from paperback to hardback format, I began to think about doing something similar for LA ULTIMA CRUZADA. I have continued to do research since 1993, and producing a revised, hardback third edition might make sense. It is certainly something that I am going to give some thought to over the next week or so. The only problem is that if I do choose to be diverted from the other projects I have been working on (e.g. my Napoleonic Portable Wargame book, renovating, varnishing, and basing my collection of 25/28mm-scale Del Prado Napoleonic figures, and my Portable Naval Wargame book), the dates I hoped to have them completed by will have to go back.