Sunday, April 27, 2008


Australia New Zealand Army Corps Day commemorates the great losses at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. Nearly a century later this date is still remembered as the defining moment in the founding of national identity for the new antipodean colonies. On Sunday April 27th 2008 ANZAC DAY was commemorated at the National Cemetery in Westwood, California, and the Australian, New Zealand, Turkish Consuls General and the British Deputy Consul were present at the flagpole.

This field set with plinths and crosses
Fanning out in rows as far as you may scan,
Last depository for that supreme premium
The ultimate sacrifice for freedom and the chosen cause,
This flag surmounted garden of sorrow
Where the debt that never can be paid is sown,
This pyrrhic commemoration emblematic of Passchendaele,
This is a good place to remember the price paid at Gallipoli.

This Nation’s monument to those who fell
Offering up their blood to serve the ‘greater good’
Whose dust now moulders where they lie
Gives small comfort to us who here remaining stand,
To learn the news that Marathon was won
That tattered remnants of the Light Brigade returned,
This retreat of careworn grim faced veterans
This is a good place to remember the price paid at Gallipoli.

When the bugle’s piercing clamor fades away,
As flowers we brought and laid grow limp and wilt
And we retreating thoughtful of the loss
Retrace our steps and wonder at the cost
Our nations meet to hold their place in time
Until we all are called upon that fateful day
When faith and duty meet the final cause,
Until then we will remember the price paid at Gallipoli.

The family with Patricia Schwarzmann FSA

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Doctor Ginny's Escape

For twenty five years my friend Doctor Virginia Van Osdel has been taking a camping trip with horses to Wutchumna. She recently wrote to me about this years trip, and I could not resist scribbling the following lines. She wrote: “I wish I was still up in the mountains! This was the best Wutchumna and clear with no rain and an abundance of wildflowers! To say nothing of the wine, the music and the food! Our new tent functioned beautifully, it feels like the Taj Mahal after our old dome tent. The hot tub and showers (yes, this really is upscale camping) were nice and warm, quite a party in the hot tub, as always...very relaxing! And the best part was being with dear friends!”

In my heart I'm still up in the mountains
In the cool clear Wutchumna air
With no trace of rain
Just sweet thoughts remain
Of flowers blooming abundantly there.

Oh I wish I was back in the mountains
To say nothing of food and of wine
How our hearts were aglowing
How the music was flowing
Oh Lord! we had such a good time.

Our tent it was just like a palace
All cozy with plenty of room,
We relaxed in warm showers
Or hot tubbed for hours
And were longing to be back there soon.

It's the fresh air the horses and mountains
It's the turn back to camp at the bends
It's the relish we feel
With each ride and each meal
It's relaxing at peace with your friends.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

To Toast the Scots

Beneath the glass table, under the glass of Talisker, you can see a Cauri shell from Mombasa, a Kenyan elephant hair bracelet that was momentarily owned by Swami Muktanada, my father's cap badge from his days in the Black Watch, the Royal Highland Regiment, and also Dad's officers skien dhub, his sock dagger.

The dedication to the book I am writing called "The Thistle and The Silver Fern" is this poem. The book is about our family heritage, and tells the tale of the hardship of life in the Clan Lands of Coigach and the emigration by sea to New Zealand in the 1870's. It is the sort of story that legends are made from, the type of story you shell out when sitting with friends with a drink in hand when the memory of myth is toasted, and you feel the spine of worthiness, something worth living for and worth remembering.

So as a sat gabbing with Mike Mills and Al Ramseyer, Mike, who is never short of a tale himself, mentions Randall Wallace who of course he knows. I wanted to put my two bits in and recalled when the post "Braveheart" celebrations were being held at the Bel Air Hotel, and the Clan MacLeod Dancers were asked to provide entertainment at a very swank reception. It was there that I first recited this poem for Randall and the gathering. I offer it now for those with whom I share a dram, and all my Scottish friends.

for Roddy, Maran and Oliver

To all my Scottish friends I lift a glass,
To you, who've kept alive in song and rhyme
The memory of our ancient heroes past,
Across the dark and misty moors of time.

To you who know this simple truth so well
And show it where you live both near and far,
It is the tales we tell about ourselves
That carves the myth and makes us who we are.

So let us drink a toast to Scotland fair
Let us recall its sorrow and its solace,
And let us lift our glasses in the air
To all our kin, to you, to Bruce and Wallace.

And to the clan I love whose name I bear,
My parents, and my sisters and my brothers,
I'd rather be a man in your eyes there
Than be a king in any of the others.

A parody on Randall Wallace's poem 1994

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Carved Ebony Buffalo

Buffalo Heart

We gather possessions in life which remind us of special times and places. Sometimes directly from the source, and others quite inadvertently by stumbling upon them or as gifts. This poem is for Nace Benun, a financial wizard, who loved Kenya and has fond memories of his safari there years ago. He has a big heart, and he gave me a beautifully carved Buffalo.

I sat ’cross his desk in the tower
With its window view over the city
And there on the sill I saw with a thrill
A carving I thought very pretty.

I remarked “That’s a beautiful figure,
You don’t often find them like that,
The work is so fine you can see with each line
That the artist knew what he was at.”

“It’s a buffalo, Lord of Jungle
Nyati’s his Swahili name,
And he’s carved in Mpingo, which in African lingo
Is an Ebony wood from the plain.”

I told him my tale about hunting,
From the back of a truck as a lad,
How long shadows were getting, when the sun was a’setting
When I was just four with my Dad.

Then his generous heart leapt in that moment
Like a buffalo’s by the thorn tree,
And with watery eyes he picked up the prize
And he handed that carving to me.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Petticoat Lane - London

Years ago, when I was training at Guy's Hospital in London, I managed to get the keys to a small flat in Wentworth Dwellings overlooking Petticoat Lane. Getting the keys was the operative point, for without paying the key money, which was £200, a small fortune back then, we would never have been able to move in. I shared the flat with Stephen Milner, a very bright lad who was also studying at Guy's, who eventually became advisor in surgery to the British Army. Anyway all that aside, we had a lot of fun living over the Lane, and this poem will give you a flavoring.

If you go to the Lane ov a Sundy,
You never know wot you'll find
'Cos there's row after row of barrers
An' stalls wiv people be'ind.
They'll sell you most fings for a penny
'arf a quid or a dollar or two,
It really don't make any difference
So long as you keep passin' fru.

'Tween ve barrers all mixed up wiv people,
To a tune or a well know rhyme,
There's a band of colourful beggars
Beatin' out double quick time.
Those barrers are loaded wiv bargins
Fings you won't see again
"So hurry up love if ya wannit
Come on now it's startin' to rain".

Who'll buy this fine set of china
It's goin' fer two poun've lot
At only a fird of the shop price
'Cos it's not in a fanciful box.
Now Lady jus' try a tomato
'Ave you seen 'em like this one before
You really can't go wive out buyin'
They won't grow 'em like vis any more.

Any shirt ’ere for a smacker
For one fifty I'll let you ave two,
They'll fit any neck that you, Sir
So you really can't grumble can you.
These coats are of genuin' leaver
You don't ave to check em ya know
If you ave any doubts jus smell vis one
Oh! I'm sorry that's only fer show.

The Lane is just bulgin' wiv people,
Of every persuation an hue,
But I'll tell you who gets a good look in
It's either a Paki or Jew.
The Lane is terrible 'igh brow,
Wiv it's delicate nosh from Marks,
You can when it's closed on Shabbes
By the place where the Daimler parks.

Above the Lane live the locals
They know it all this cocky crew
And no matter whatever your business
They'll tell you a thing or two.
They know the chap sellin' razers
At only three bob a shot
And the drunk from the Salvation Army
Who'll pick up old apples and grot.

I live in a dwelling in London
My window looks over the lane
And the noise wakes me up in the morning
But really I never complain.
I can sit in my bed and just listen
All cozy and never alone
With thousands of people parading
All mad, an' right outside my home.

It's a real old edjamacation
To come and live local 'ere
Wive the Cockneys all cheeky as sparrows
And 'apply the whole bleedin' year.
So when you come to the Lane of a Sundy
Be grateful and never forget
There's a lot goin' on all around you
That you 'aven't fort ov yet.