Tag Archive: Luke 6

Exhibition Road

Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

We knew it would be busy at the museum with it being half term but we were not expecting the crowds to be quite as big as they were. The queue was so long that they took us on a tour of the grounds including garden areas we did not even know existed let alone seen before. Most of the queues was for the dinosaur exhibition which we have visited a couple of times before but this time it was not on our itinerary.

Our destination was the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which features its winners and finalists. Naturally we were not permitted to take any photos so you will have to take our word for it when we tell you that some of the pictures were truly stunning. I can see why the overall winner got first prize but, for myself, I did not enjoy the sight of one fox carrying the bloodied corpse of another. True to life, “nature red in tooth and claw” and all that, but not pretty.

After lunch we wandered down Exhibition Road. This street made the news recently as an experiment in pedestrian/traffic management. There are no kerbs and all travellers are supposed to share the same space. Think of a pedestrianised street down which everyday traffic is allowed to travel: bicycles could and did go anywhere, for instance. It sort of worked in that it slowed everyone down. Meanwhile we came across this sculpture…

"When Soak Becomes Spill" by Subodh Gupta

“When Soak Becomes Spill” by Subodh Gupta

It is supposed to show a drink poured out and over flowing (think of a fizzy drink being poured into a glass, bubbling up and over). It was made from various steel buckets, pots and pans.

close up of "When Soak Becomes Spill"

close up of “When Soak Becomes Spill”

You can see it on the corner between the Victoria and Albert and Natural History museums. The sculpture was said to represent a comment on the wastefulness of consumer society. I thought that there was a resemblance of the ancient notion of a cornucopia: a horn of plenty. That represented good harvests, more than enough for everyone, a generous blessing. How did we get from generosity to wastefulness? Perhaps the difference is whether we use left overs on another day or simply throw them away; whether we use the generous blessings we receive for ourselves alone or to help others as well.

Flanders poppy among the potatoes

Flanders poppy among the potatoes

Over the next four years there will no doubt be much said and written about World War One. Having heard third hand about how my relatives were affected and thinking about what I have learnt, I offer you my thoughts about it. Overall some 10 million people lost their lives as a result of the first war to use industrialised technology to great effect and to involve countries from every continent (with the arguable exception of Antarctica). During those years from 1914 to 1918 there was also some significant social change in Britain whose effects were felt long after the end of hostilities. Although very much only part of the whole story, I shall be writing from a British perspective and concentrating on the Western and Home Fronts about some of the causes and consequences of World War I.

How did it all begin?

You could argue that the roots of the war go back hundreds of years to Roman times. That empire stretched as far North as Britain and Gaul (France) and had the river Rhine at its North-Eastern boundary. To the East lay the lands of the Germanic tribes and the fall of the Roman empire was in part due to the invasion from there. Since then the Rhine has seen invading armies cross it at various times over the centuries. For example, Napoleon went East to try to conquer Russia (and lost) in the early 19th century and later in 1869 Paris was besieged by a German army.

A treaty of 1839 guaranteed the independence of Belgium which was regarded as a buffer state between Germany and France. Both they, together with the United Kingdom and Russia, were signatories to that treaty.

When the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb nationalist, in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914, it started a train of events which led to war. At first, the event was disregarded by most of the world. However, characterised as “Regicide” (constitutionally more serious than another murder) it became the causus belli for the Austrians and Germans. It would appear that the German Kaiser wanted Austria to have a short war with its Serbian province in order to bolster its prestige and to warn off the Russian Empire whose army Germany feared. In other words, Russia was Germany’s main target, Austria its proxy and the assassination a handy excuse. During this time Germany offered a “blank cheque” committing military backing to Austria. The Austrian Emperor eventually signed off on sending an ultimatum to the Serbs – an ultimatum that was “designed to be rejected”.

During this time the German Kaiser and Russian Tsar corresponded with each other – they were cousins, after all. (Incidentally, King George V of the UK was their cousin as well). Meanwhile, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, got involved in discussions with the German, Russian and Austrian Ambassadors (who also were cousins) as well as with the French Ambassador. Britain wanted to avoid war and had hoped to stay out of the conflict. However, diplomacy got nowhere. Austria declared war on its Serbian province on 28th July. Meanwhile, the Russian army began mobilising on 29th July. Germany declared war on Russia on 1st August and demanded French neutrality. Germany attacked Luxembourg on 2nd August and declared war on France on 3rd August. On 4th August Germany declared war on Belgium. What began as a promise of support to Austria evolved into a war for Germany on two fronts.

The French Army was the largest at the time and had built a series of forts and other defences along her border with Germany. Because Belgium was neutral, there were no similar defences on the Franco-Belgian border. Thus it was logical for German forces to go through Belgium, with or without her permission. Bound by the 1839 treaty Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August.

Among the reasons for going to war were allegations of war crimes by the German army against Belgian civilians. While these we probably exaggerated in the press, there was some systematic brutality by the German forces – if not condoned by their officers, neither were they prevented.

“The only way to end a war quickly is to lose it”- George Orwell

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