Monthly Archives: July 2012

Excerpt from “The Valley of the Shadow” by H. Oloff de Wet ~~Death Row~~

Nearly two and a half years was I at Plötzensee under sentence of death; and of that time twenty months were spent in Section Seven, the quarter particularly reserved for the most mature candidates for the Fallbiel. The end of that wing led directly across a yard bordered with grass to a line of sheds, with the water-tower behind them.

The shed on the extreme left was the Chamber of Decapitation, having the number Ten painted upon its black door in large white figures. Why 10? I do not know. But ten it was and that’s all there is to it.

Now, for all that I lived very close to the instrument for a long time – for all that – was I really familiar with it in the intimate manner that I was to be later? The shed marked Ten, its contents, ritual, and the fate of those who had a rendezvous there were all rather an impersonal affair, at any rate in so far as knowing all the details with my own eyes. But hearing much with my ears, naturally my imagination worked; it had to!

The thought and picture of man’s last hours was much in my mind during that time: a sort of mental drill to which the individual expecting execution must subject himself, continually at first and periodically as time moves on. All needful if he desires to die with dignity, composure, and the other essentials of indifference calculated not to detract from his tranquillity. So when the cortège of Death arrived to take away those about me, then I would wait my turn and make myself ready.

It is natural to think the worst part of the drama would be those penultimate attentions – the clamping down of the collar-band immediately preceding the final act – the dropping of the knife. Considering the matter very closely over a period of years, several of which were spent in daily anticipation of my end, I have come to the conclusion that the worst moment is that in which one’s cell door opens, when the key turns, and there they are. That must be the worst moment. And it is for that moment that the candidates wait each evening for months and sometimes years. Seldom are they disappointed; eventually their evening does come; even after a long time, perhaps just when they feel the long wait may signify a reprieve.



Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

I Was Only 19 (A Walk In The Light Green) released by Redgum






Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal,
(it was long march from cadets).
The Sixth Battalion was the next to tour and it was me who drew the card…
We did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left.

And Townsville lined the footpath as we marched down to the quay;
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean;
And there’s me in my slouch hat, with my SLR and greens…
God help me, I was only nineteen.

From Vung Tau riding Chinooks to the dust at Nui Dat,
I’d been in and out of choppers now for months.
But we made our tents a home, VB and pin-ups on the lockers,
and an Asian orange sunset through the scrub.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And night time’s just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen.

A four week operation, when each step could mean your last one on two legs:
it was a war within yourself.
But you wouldn’t let your mates down ’til they had you dusted off,
so you closed your eyes and thought about something else.

Then someone yelled out “Contact”‘, and the bloke behind me swore.
We hooked in there for hours, then a God almighty roar;
Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon: –
God help me, he was going home in June.

I can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
on a thirty-six hour rec leave in Vung Tau.
And I can still hear Frankie lying screaming in the jungle.
‘Till the morphine came and killed the bloody row

And the Anzac legends didn’t mention mud and blood and tears,
and stories that my father told me never seemed quite real
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn’t even feel…
God help me, I was only nineteen.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me,
I was only nineteen.

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Filed under Lyrics, Military

Excerpt from “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin ~~Escape~~

Had it not been for the horse peering at him from behind the woodshed, the downed man might have stayed down. His name was Peter Lake, and he said to himself out loud, ‘You’re in bad shape when a horse takes pity on you, you stupid bastard,’ which got him moving. He rose to his feet and addressed the horse. The twelve men, who couldn’t see the horse standing behind the shed, thought that Peter Lake had gone mad or was playing a trick.

‘Horse!’ he called. The horse pulled back his head. ’Horse!’ shouted Peter Lake. ‘Please!’ and he opened his arms. The other men began to drop to the near side of the fence. They were taking their time because they were only a few feet away, the street was deserted, he was not moving, and they were sure that they had him.

Peter Lake’s heart beat so loud that it made his body jerk. He felt ridiculous and out of control, like an engine breaking itself apart. ‘Oh Jesus,’ he said, vibrating like a mechanical toy, ‘Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, send me an armored steamroller.’ Everything depended on the horse.

The horse bolted over the pool of ice toward Peter Lake, and lowered his wide white neck. Peter Lake took possession of himself and, throwing his arms around what seemed like a swan, sprang to the horse’s back. He was up again, exulting even as the pistol shots rang out in the cold air. Having become his accomplice in one graceful motion, the horse turned and skittered, leaning back slightly on his haunches to get breath and power for an explosive start. In that moment, Peter Lake faced his stunned pursuers, and laughed at them. His entire being was one light perfect laugh. He felt the horse pitch forward, and then they raced up the street, leaving Pearly Soames and some of the Short Tail Gang backed against the iron rails, firing the pistols and cursing – all twelve of them save Pearly himself, who bit his lower lip, squinted, and began to think of new ways to trap his quarry. The noise from their many pistols was deafening.

Already out of range, Peter Lake rode at a gallop. Pounding the soft snow, passing the shuttered stores, they headed north through the awakening city in a cloud of speed.

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Jerusalem by William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of god
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: o clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariots of fire!
I will not cease from metal fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

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Filed under Poetry

Excerpt from “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad

“He shivered a little, and I beheld him rise slowly as if a steady hand from above had been pulling him out of the chair by his hair. Up, slowly- to his full height, and when his knees had locked stiff the hand let him go, and he swayed a little on his feet. There was a suggestion of awful stillness in his face, in his movements, in his very voice when he said ‘They shouted’- and involuntarily I pricked up my ears for the ghost of that shout that would be heard directly through the false effect of silence. ‘There were eight hundred people in that ship,’ he said, impaling me to the back of my seat with an awful blank stare. ‘Eight hundred living people, and they were yelling after the one dead man to come down and be saved. “Jump, George! Jump! Oh, jump!” I stood by with my hand on the davit. I was very quiet. It had come over pitch dark. You could see neither sky nor sea. I heard the boat alongside go bump, bump, and not another sound down there for a while, but the ship under me was full of talking noises. Suddenly the skipper howled, “Mein Gott! The squall! The squall! Shove off!” With the first hiss of rain, and the first gust of wind, they screamed, “Jump, George! We’ll catch you! Jump!” The ship began a slow plunge; the rain swept over her like a broken sea; my cap flew off my head; my breath was driven back into my throat. I heard as if I had been on the top of a tower another wild screech, “Geo-o-o-orge! Oh, jump!” She was going down, down, head first under me….

“He raised his hand deliberately to his face, and made picking motions with his fingers as though he had been bothered with cobwebs, and afterwards he looked into the open palm for quite half a second before he blurted out-

“‘I had jumped…’ He checked himself, averted his gaze…. ‘It seems,’ he added.

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Excerpt from “Deliverance” by James Dickey


He came back and behind him was an albino boy with pink eyes like a white rabbit’s; one of them stared off at a furious and complicated angle. That was the eye he looked at us with, and with his face set in another direction. The sane, rational eye was fixed on something that wasn’t there, somewhere in the dust of the road. ‘Git yer banjo,’ the old man said, and then to Drew, ‘Come on, play us a little something.’ Drew grinned, rolled down the back window of the wagon, got out the big cracked Martin and put on his finger picks. He came back to the front of the Olds and hiked himself onto the hood with one leg up to hold the guitar. He tuned for a minute, and Lonnie came back holding up a five-string banjo with a capo made out of rags and rubber bands.

‘Lonnie don’t know nothin’ but banjo-pickin’,’ the old man said.
‘He ain’t never been to school; when he was little he used to sit out in the yard and beat on a lard can with a stick.’
‘What’re we going to play, Lonnie?’ Drew asked, his glasses opaque with pleasure.
Lonnie stood holding the banjo, looking off from us now with both eyes, the eyes splitting apart and all of us in the blind spot.
‘Anything’, the old man said. ‘Play anything .’

Drew started in on ‘Wildwood Flower’, picking it out at medium tempo and not putting in many runs. Lonnie dragged on the rubber bands and slipped the capo up. Drew started to come on with the volume; the Martin boomed out and over the dusty filling station. I had never heard him play so well, and I really began to listen deeply, moved as an unmusical person is moved when he sees that the music is meant. After a little while it sounded as though Drew were adding another kind of sound to every note he played, a higher, tinny echo of the melody, and then it broke in on me that this was the banjo, played so softly and rightly that it sounded like Drew’s own fingering. I could not see Drew’s face, but the back of his neck was sheer joy. He eased out of the melody and played rhythm, and Lonnie took it. He emphasized nothing, but through everything he played there was a lovely unimpeded flowing that seemed endless. His hands, full of long scratches, took time; the fingers moved only slightly, about like those of a good typist; the music was just there. Drew came back in the new key and they finished, riding together. For the last couple of minutes of the song, Drew slid down and went over and stood beside Lonnie. They put the instruments together and leaned close to each other in the pose you see vocal groups and phony folk singers take on TV programmes, and something rare and unrepeatable took hold of the way I saw them, the demented country kid, and big-faced decent city man, the minor civic leader and hedge-clipper. I was glad for Drew’s sake we had come. Just this incident would be plenty to satisfy him.

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Cricket: 1993 England vs Australia – 1st Test ~~Beautiful Delivery~~

BBC Radio Commentary

Jonathan Agnew:
And now at last

Trevor Bailey:

Jonathan Agnew:
We’ve been looking forward to this.

Trevor Bailey:
Yes. This is the moment we have been waiting for . . . erm . . .

Jonathan Agnew:
Shane Warne coming on and taking off his floppy hat to reveal a shock of blond hair.
He has an earring in one ear as well and certainly a member of the new generation of international cricketers . . . modern-style haircut.

Trevor Bailey:
Hasn’t got a ponytail though.

Jonathan Agnew:
Hasn’t got a ponytail… has got one of these new shave jobs . . . number two or three razor ‘round the back, and a lot more hair on top.
Anyway here he comes on now; he’s going to bowl from the far end, which is the end from which Peter Such did all the damage in Australia’s innings – 6 for 67 he took.
And I just wonder, Trevor, there must be, I think, a little pressure on young Warne’s shoulders here because he will know his team are expecting him to come on and take some wickets here, or at least turn the ball.

Trevor Bailey:
Well, if he doesn’t turn the ball, England will have a very good time indeed.
Split field, deep square leg, and then three saving one on the leg-side.

Jonathan Agnew:
Just rehearsing one or two deliveries there to Brendan Julien, who’s at mid-on.
There’s a slip, and a short extra cover, a ring of three on the off-side, three on the leg and a deep backward square leg.
And here come Shane Warne, off only two or three paces, he bowls and Gatting is taken on the pad . . . He’s bowled!
Well, Gatting is still standing there.
He can’t believe it, but that must have turned… a very long way.
We haven’t had a view of this, but it took his off-stump.
Gatting can’t believe it.
That is Shane Warne’s first delivery in a Test Match in England.
He’s comprehensively bowled Mike Gatting and well, we’ll have to wait for a replay I’m afraid, to tell you exactly what happened, but that must have turned an awful long way.

Trevor Bailey:
That was a champagne moment . . .
Jonathan Agnew:
We’re still waiting for that.
Mike Gatting is still walking off now, shaking his head; he just can’t believe it at all.
Bowled for 4, and England are 80 for 2.
Warne, as you’d expect, is being surrounded by Australia’s fieldsmen.
They’re all clapping on the back.

Trevor Bailey:
Here’s the replay.

Jonathan Agnew:
See the replay now.
It’s tossed up and pitches around about outside the leg stump, and turns absolutely . . . that turns feet . . .

Trevor Bailey:
That was a jaffa.

Jonathan Agnew:
. . . and it’s taken the top of the off-stump.

Trevor Bailey:
That was an absolutely . . . beautiful delivery!

Jonathan Agnew:
Well he’s got a huge smile on his face and who can blame him.
We’ve got the benefit now of a view of it from a stump camera.
That ball pitched outside the leg stump.
Gatting played it with a perfectly straight bat, or tried to.
That’s unplayable.
And that I’m sure will send a shockwave right through the England dressing room because that didn’t pitch in the rough; that turned off the pitch.

Trevor Bailey:
That was a glorious ball.
Well I must say that, to me, is the champagne moment.
Really that was . . . you can’t ask for a better delivery than that.

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