Coronavirus Diary 78 – Selling your belongings because the government has left you #ExcludedUK for 15 months

As the world continues to go back to normal for many of us, at varying degrees, I’ve just had my second Oxford vaccine on Friday 30th April and am pre-writing this post in anticipation of feeling as ill as I did after the first inoculation on the 3rd of March; still they say it is a sign of being young and your immune system reacting with the vaccine so there are some silver linings on that particular cloud.

Where there is no hope is on the ExcludedUK front where 3 million of us continue to be left entirely without any help or government support during the virus and lockdowns.  I myself am on week 67 tomorrow since I had a proper days work and with absolutely zero help from the government.  It’s so sad, I know 19 people personally in my position who have committed suicide and it’s not hard to imagine there have been many more.

It’s also sad that it is Excluded people who tend to work in areas worst impacted by the virus and lockdowns.  The campaign continues and a week or so ago I received another mention in Parliament, this time through a video debate but it’s recorded in Parliamentary Hansard so is still recorded for posterity.

You can view the short clip by clinking on the link above.  The ExcludedUK campaign generally and myself as an individual continue to garner support from a wide range of prominent figures such as from possibly the biggest name in British political campaigning history, Gina Miller.

Just as no-one can know what it is like to be entirely left behind, it is also hard to describe the alarm when an hour from my iPad sees me with hundreds of social media alerts.  I instinctively blame myself and wonder if I misspoke but of course I very rarely do but some forthright opinions often spread like wildfire and some people are just stupid.

Going 67 weeks with no proper income in London obviously has its detrimental impacts and the last week has seen me sell off and give away a large selection of my books and DVDs, which were always my main way of enjoying time at home.

I used to have films and television programmes on all the shelves behind the television but now 3/5ths of them have gone and their space has been taken by some of my books which I managed to keep from the shelves below.

Still at least as Rishi Sunak said, no-one will be left behind or without hope.

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Stamping your mark in history

I noticed a few days ago an announcement of a new set of commemorative stamps from the Royal Mail.  I’m not one to be obsessed over stamps but the theme of these ones caught my eye as they are all relating to the War of the Roses.

As you’ll see below, these aren’t stamps that are ordinarily to be used on letters and parcels but are instead aimed at stamp collectors but whether you like stamps or not, I’m sure you’ll agree that these are beautiful to look at.

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The Yorkist King Edward IV is seen leading his men forward. Royal Mail released the set of commemorative stamps to mark the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Tewkesbury on May 4th 1471

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King Richard III is seen with his men before his final charge in The Battle of Bosworth (depicted above). It was one of the last battles of the Wars of the Roses since Henry VII killed Richard III. King Henry VII married Elizabeth of York which united the two sides together going into the Tudor era.

There are quite a few stamps being released along those theme but the one that really caught my attention is the one below however as it is just up the road from where I live.

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You may remember a few weeks ago I wrote about finding a Holy Well, said to be visited by the father of King Arthur.  That all took place in St Albans and though there has been a slight bit of artistic licence with the painting, it’s clearly recognisable from the street today.  For some reason the Cathedral tower has been put where the clock tower is but you can see the details of the two towers precisely match up with the photo and the painting must surely be centred roughly on the where the photo below was taken.

Screenshot 2021-04-20 at 08.22.30

The scene depicted is from the start of the War of the Roses on the 22nd May 1455, the struggle for control of the government of England boiled over into armed conflict. The following thirty years would see the throne itself become the prize for the rival Royal houses of Lancaster and York.

When King Henry VI regained his sanity in January 1455, the Duke of York`s brief protectorate came to an end and his chief rival, the Duke of Somerset, regained his position of influence at court.

the Duke of York withdrew to the north and began mustering men, supported by his brother in law, the Earl of Salisbury, and Salisbury`s son, Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, later known as the `Kingmaker`.

Advancing towards London, the Yorkist force found the Royal army positioned in the small town of St. Albans. When negotiations for the Duke of Somerset’s surrender broke down, York`s men stormed the town`s defences while Warwick broke into the market place through alleys and gardens, attacking the Lancastrian centre.

Graham Turner`s painting dramatically recreates the scene as Warwick’s men, wearing their red liveries and badges of the Bear and Ragged Staff, advance through the medieval market place, while the ‘Kingmaker’, in the latest Milanese armour, raises his visor to greet the Duke of York. York, with his Standard bearer beside him, is indicating in the direction of the Castle Inn, site of Somerset`s last stand and if you’re not fighting hand to hand combat, about two minutes behind the photo and artists viewpoint.

It was a momentous moment and one even immortalised in the writings of William Shakespeare.

So, lie thou there;
For underneath an alehouse’ paltry sign,
The Castle in St Alban’s, Somerset
Hath made the wizard famous in his death.
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Coronavirus Diary 77: Haircuts and toilets

It’s hard to believe that I bought my house on the 31st January 2020 and in all that time, I haven’t had my hair cut. As hard as it is for some in government and business to believe, there were lots of us all ready thinking about the Coronavirus epidemic several months before it became official.

As someone with frequent lung-related illnesses, it seemed inherently too risky to go and get my hair cut in January and February 2020 as was borne out by the fact the government made it illegal to do so, at least after the deaths of umpteen thousands of people a month or two later.

For many there was the opportunity to have their cut in the hot summer when life regained some measure of normality all the way through towards Christmas but it seemed a bit strange to me to just do something that was illegal a day before but was now perfectly safe just because the government said that was the case.  A little bit like declaring it illegal to jump off a cliff but then suddenly it is safe to do as the government has decided gravity is no longer a thing.

Additionally was the fact that I wasn’t going to waste a precious £10 or so of money on just getting a hair cut, such a simple and inexpensive thing to do but just one of the many differentiations between the vast majority of people and those of us who the government has deliberately decide to ExcludedUK from all help whatsoever.

Back in December when some people made a 10 hour return journey to drop me off food and supplies for the winter, arrangements were made for me to get a free haircut but another lockdown happened and that was that.

Me in my Cousin-It phase from The Addams Family!

Me in my Cousin-It phase from The Addams Family!

This week, 16 months after my last hair cut, I finally got round to getting it done.  Not only was my haircut free but so was most of my travel and with absolutely nothing else to fill up my day (much like every other day), I hopped on a deserted train for my date with destiny.

It must be said there are many places closer to where I live that cut hair and whilst not having my hair cut has saved me £200 or possibly more, these same local businesses have lost that money, a small indicator of the wider financial impact on excluding 3 million people from any help whatsoever.

I got the train to the little town of Apsley, nestled in a valley in the edge of the Chilterns, not too far from Berkhamsted where I had a day out last September.  It was all very exciting to go out and about and I found the barbers no problem at all.  The tricky bit was getting my free cut as I had no guarantee it wasn’t some weird ruse.  As it happened there was no joke but the lady in question couldn’t remember her offer until I showed her the screenshot of a conversation and then it all clicked into place.

It’s a little bizarre getting your hair cut with a mask on and to me it was a little bizarre just to be in building other than my house and have someone to talk to.   There was a general consensus that not only did I have a lot of hair but also very thick hair.

What a difference a haircut made, no longer was I constantly getting hair in my mouth and food, at risk of setting it on fire from candles or having to wear a thick wooly hat just to keep it nominally in place.  I was free again!

It was whilst musing my light-headedness and awaiting for the return train home at the railway station that I decided it wouldn’t hurt if I used the toilet.  It was clean enough inside, not particularly thrilling but just what you’d expect from a deserted toilet in the middle of a pandemic.

It was only when I came out of the toilet however that i realised I had actually been in the ‘Ladies’ toilet.  In my 15 months of Shielding alone, I’d completely forgotten that Men and Women had separate toilets.  Fortunately there were no witnesses and at least now I know that toilets for ladies are in fact barely any different for men.  Just thinking about it now, I thought it odd at the time there was no urinal but I just thought it was one of those things.

Post Hair Cut

Post Hair Cut

As an aside, you might remember back in September a builder knocked at my door asking to speak to my parents, perhaps my already lengthy hair and baggy clothes fooled him into thinking I was a schoolboy. Well today I had to buy some replacement scissors and was asked to produce proof that I was over 18 and could legally purchase scissors… despite my having reached that age very nearly 30 years ago!  

Oh well, what have you completely forgotten about during the pandemic?  Don’t say happiness or hope, I reserve them for myself!

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Morton’s Tower at Lambeth Palace

There aren’t too many early Tudor buildings left around these days but Central London has a few.  One of them is within sight of Parliament itself and it’s at one of the palaces that is much less visited than some of its near neighbours.

Lambeth Palace is the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and despite it being almost but not quite opposite the Place of Westminster, it is all but forgotten about. Perhaps this is because for much of the time Lambeth Palace is closed to visitors but then again it doesn’t stop people taking photos of Parliament or Buckingham Palace… though just across the road, St James Palace is again forgotten!

Though you can see it across the river, it’s much better if you get your skates on to Lambeth on the south shore if only to ogle at Morton’s Tower.

Morton's Tower, the early Tudor gatehouse to Lambeth Palace. The Palace of Westminster or Houses of Parliament can be partially observed across the river.

Morton’s Tower, the early Tudor gatehouse to Lambeth Palace. The Palace of Westminster or Houses of Parliament can be partially observed across the river.

Morton’s Tower, an impressive red brick Tudor gatehouse, is the formal entrance to Lambeth Palace. It was built in 1490 by Cardinal John Morton, who lived in the tower for a short time. He used the large room in the centre, above the gates, as an audience chamber.

You can see from the architecture how it fits into that part of history when outright castles were becoming less necessary and desirable as people of statues aspired to houses, palaces and buildings with those expensive glass filled windows.  However they weren’t quite certain things had calmed down and so the building had to be defensible, especially as a gate house, and so military features from castles remain… just to be safe!  I suppose it is understandable when previous holders of office had been so horribly killed. The Terrible Tale of Ælfheah – Archbishop of Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral:- The murder and martyrdom of Thomas Becket

On the ground floor in the South Tower there is a small prison cell. It was only used briefly in the 16th century, but you can still see two iron rings fixed to the wall.

Like many other buildings, it suffered from damage during the 20th Century but incredibly Morton’s Tower is staffed by a team of gatekeepers, who still lodge in the same part of the tower as when it was built.

I think it is one of the most atmospheric buildings south of the River Thames and it’s also a stop off point on London Walking Tour with Ye Olde England Tours.  It takes us from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge (and a bit across the river back to Big Ben) so I have imaginatively called it The Lambeth Walk.

Morton's Tower

Morton’s Tower

If you’re wondering about the old looking church steeple on the right, that is St Mary At Lambeth and you can read about a recent discovery there which includes the unexpected resting places of various Archbishops of Canterbury.

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Coronavirus Diary 76 – Why does the government care more about rich football clubs than destitute workers?

It might be just me but as half the country and all of the charlatans in Downing Street nimbly jump from ‘greed is good’ to ‘lets stop greedy football clubs because it might win votes’, but I really couldn’t care less.   Ok, not too big a secret given that an old post of mine has had tens of thousands of views How football sounds to people that just don’t care

As 3 million people in #ExcludedUK are now well into their second year with no help whatsoever, it does rather highlight not just the ‘couldn’t give a sh!t’ness of the government but of the media too.

How can it be too hard to find a way to help 3 million destitute individuals whose taxes are all on computers and yet interfering in the affairs of six private football businesses, ran my very wealth businesspeople, all acting entirely within the law suddenly becomes the most pressing issue in the news?

Whilst I have no time for the billionaires who own our football clubs and believe each team should be owned by the fans and if needed local business-figures, in this instance they aren’t doing anything wrong.

If people are complaining about money, it’s a bit too late for that. Everyone had the chance to reject foreign ownership of football clubs. Back in the early 1990’s the English Premier League was all about greed and money for a select group of clubs and club owners as was the soon to be formed European Champions League.

And of course greed goes much further back, the foundations of the Football League in Victorian times is all because clubs and owners rightly thought they could make more money playing ever week than in the annual FA Cup and unofficial sporting events.

Whilst everything about the proposed European Superleague is an anathema to British and indeed European fans, it follows the standard practice of American sports franchises who put profit very firmly as their goal with none of the excitement of relegations. It’s all about the money.

The special link between English football fans and their teams was broken long ago when for example my team Newcastle United would have players working in the same heavy industries as the thousands who would watch them every Saturday afternoon. Now a weekly footballers wage could easily be more than a life-time salary of some people.

I’d say if the clubs want to play in the Superleague, let them bugger off and never let them back in, or their players either. To me watching football is all about local connections and local rivalries; I have no interest in watching my team playing one in another country let alone paying money to watch 2 teams I don’t support overseas. I’d rather watch two heated local rivalries at a lower professional level and then tease other supporters mercilessly the following week after they lost. If Chelsea beats Barcelona, who really cares? How many Barcelona fans is someone in London going to meet in their office on Monday morning or vice-versa?

It’s one of the many reasons I take little interest in football and prefer Rugby, Snooker, wrestling (maybe not real but the acting is better and the product more exciting) and especially Cricket. Even dull, boring, traditional cricket has its money obsession trying to ruin the game but thats ok, I don’t watch those modern games that are over in a few hours. If Cricket match is worth watching then it’s worth watching for 4-5 days!

Whilst football and sport generally is important to many people, it’s hard to match up how nothing is too much effort for the government to thwart the plans of the football teams who are entitled to do what they please and the absolute desire to ethnically-cleanse private citizens who have been begging for help for over a year and who can be helped in an instant.

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The old General Lying-In hospital in Lambeth

Do you remember last Monday I wrote about the Leake Street tunnel of street art?   Well there is a good reason why the street carries that name and that is because it is just round the corner from the old General Lying-In hospital which was created at the behest of Dr John Leake.

The General Lying-In Hospital was an initiative of Dr John Leake, a physician, and the site chosen was on the north side of Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth, then on the outskirts of London. Its foundation stone was laid in August 1765 and the facility opened as the Westminster New Lying-in Hospital in April 1767.

With a view to expansion, the governors bought a lease of a plot of ground with 100-foot frontage on the east side of York Road, Lambeth in the early 1820s. The new building was designed by Henry Harrison and was built at a cost of about £3,000. On 22 September 1828, the minutes record that “On Friday Morning a Patient was delivered of a Son in the New Hospital and the Committee met this day in the new Hospital for the first time.” The facility was incorporated by royal charter as the General Lying-In Hospital in 1830. A new ward and a training school for midwives was established in 1879.

The famed Joseph Lister became consulting surgeon in March 1879 and Sir John Williams and Sir Francis Champneys were appointed physicians the following year. Two houses on the north side of the hospital were converted into a nurses’ home (i.e. staff accommodation) in 1907; this facility was re-built between 1930 and 1933. The hospital was evacuated to Diocesan House, St Albans during the Second World War, but returned to Lambeth and joined the National Health Service under the management of St Thomas’ Hospital in 1946.

The hospital closed in 1971 and in subsequent decades the building fell into a state of dereliction. Happily it was restored and refurbished in 2003 at a cost of £4.27 million financed in part by a grant from the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. Since March 2013 the building has comprised part of the Premier Inn Hotel Waterloo, though I have never been fortunate enough to have a look around here. The modern elements of the hotel were nominated for the 2013 Carbuncle Cup for bad buildings and sadly I have been fortunate to visit there!

The Lying-In hospital which is just across the river from the Houses of Parliament as you might be able to guess from the road sign.

The Lying-In hospital which is just across the river from the Houses of Parliament as you might be able to guess from the road sign.

If you’re wondering what Lying-in means, it doesn’t refer to having a bit of extra time in bed one morning as we use it today and is actually archaic term for childbirth.  Lying-in refers to the month-long bed rest at one time prescribed after giving birth to a child whether for the health and well-being of the mother or as is still the case in some parts of the world for cultural/religious reasons.

As with the Leake Street tunnel, the Lying-In hospital is one of the places we visit in my new Lambeth Walk Tour 

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That time the Duke of Edinburgh gate-crashed my walking-tour

With the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh last week it reminded me of when I met him.  I remember at least two occassions though saw him in a non-speaking capacity at other times.  One time was when I had to sing Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit in Maori to the Queen on Commonwealth Day (a long story as mine always are) 🙂

 

But just a few years ago I was taking a rather important elderly foreign visitor on some tours who it turned out was a rather important person in the world of security.  

We were walking along Birdcage Walk between Parliament and Buckingham Palace and I was in mid conversation when a black London taxi stopped right next to us and the window went down. The driver was Prince Philip who listened briefly to what I was saying as I ended that section as hastily and with as good grace as I could.  

A black London taxi was a preferred method of transport for the Duke when he wanted to be out without Security and with there being thousands of identical black taxis in London, for all intents and purposes it allowed him  some independence without any undue risk.

After a brief introduction from my tourist who we can call Michael, so as not to get anyone in trouble, Prince Philip said “Michael, are you the man whose ducking up my traffic lights?”

He didn’t actually use the word ducking but something a little ruder and he may well have mentioned ducks more than once!

As it happened, poor Michael was overseeing some new security system and had indeed been doing the upgrade work in front of the Palace, indeed that is likely the main reason he was here in the first place.

I managed not to say anything stupid or indeed get insulted before I promised I’d make sure my tourist got to Buckingham Palace afterwards.  So I think I got his seal of approval.

Prince Philip told me to keep doing a good job before he drove off. And then the tour continued liked it never happened lol.  It was one of those things that so often happens to me when I am out and about though no less surreal for being so.

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The Leake Street Graffiti tunnel

One of the great things about London is that it has so many facets.  History, big-business, entrepreneurs, literature and theatre, shopping and so much much more including modern culture and that includes street art.   A few years ago I blogged before on Whitechapel Street Art itself a perhaps unexpected side to an area known for its famous serial killers and gangs of times gone by and lively restaurant scene today.

Somewhere al together different is the Leake Street Tunnel.  It’s only 5 minutes from the Houses of Parliament and very easy to get to, especially from Waterloo Station as it is actually underneath the platforms.

The entrance to the Leake Street Tunnel

This 300 metre tunnel is the largest legal wall for street art in London and has been a bastion of London’s street art scene since 2008. Before then it was a dark and dingy tunnel until the famous Banksy decided to spend a weekend brightening up the place with his Cans Festival.   

Don’t look back in anger

He invited the biggest and brightest names on the international street art scene to come down and put up a piece of work in the tunnel and within days it was transformed into colourful and rather cool place it is today where artists can showcase their work.

As with other places on London, all work here is only ever temporary which means that your favourite art can vanish at a moments notice but the plus side of this is that no two visits are ever the same and I’ve never been there and seen artists in action creating new pieces.

Lets Dance. How cool is this street art of a lego David Bowie?

Despite it being right in the heart of the action, just 2 minutes walk from the London Eye, for some reason it is all but unvisited which means you can enjoy the art and the vibe without those sometimes annoying Instagrammers trying to strike a pose as can happen at more high profile locations, not naming any names… Shoreditch.

That moment when you want to photograph a trendy venue sign but also want the world what you think of the Prime Minister!

If you don’t like slightly lonely tunnels then you might not want to go there on your own after dark particularly as the end if blocked off but it’s not something I would particularly worry about especially as there are some amazing bars and restaurants built into the railway arches down the sides.

The far end, a dead end just behind the camera

The Leake Street tunnel actually features on my latest London Walking Tour with Ye Olde England Tours.  It takes us from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge (and a bit across the river back to Big Ben) so I have imaginatively called it The Lambeth Walk.

Posted in Cool Britannia, Life, London, Photography, Travel, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Solving the mystery of Captain Henry Every – The Pirate who became the subject of the first world-wide manhunt from India to North America

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on Colonel Blood and his audacious career that involved stealing the Crown Jewels and in the last few days I’ve been reading about a discovery of some Arabian coins unearthed in an orchard on Rhode Island that might shed new light on an incredibly infamous pirate, Captain Henry Every who was subject to the first global manhunt.

Why did this all happen?  Captain Henry Every and his crew,  plundered an armed trading ship of the Mughal empire. The ship went by the name of  ‘Ganj-i-Sawai’ (‘Exceeding Treasure’) and had been sailing to Surat, India, from Yemen, carrying pilgrims returning from Mecca as well as vast riches.

Captain Every and his crew initially took their ill-gotten gains to Bourbon (now Réunion), before making way to the island of New Providence in the Bahamas.  Nevertheless news of the bounty placed on their heads soon caught up with them which forced them to to keep a low profile leaving what happened to the pirate and many of his crew to be a mystery.

Recent discoveries  include a 17th-century Arabian coin found by amateur historian and metal detectorist Jim Bailey, 53, in Middletown may offer some answers.   It is thought that the coin belongs to the haul from the Ganj-i-Sawai, & so raises the possibility that some of Every’s crew and perhaps even the captain himself found their way to New England.

‘It’s a new history of a nearly perfect crime,’ said Mr Bailey, who coincidentally works as a security professional for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections.

In August 1695, Captain Every and his crew of the ship ‘Fancy’ teamed up with five other pirate ships led by their captains; Joseph Faro, William Mayes, Thomas Tew, Thomas Wake and Richard Want in the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb.

With Every in command of the pirate flotilla, they set their sights on a convoy of 25 Mughal empire ships — including the 1,600-ton Ganj-i-sawai, which was armed with 80 cannons, and its 600-ton escort, the ‘Fateh Muhammed’.

For any pirate of the time, the fleet was easily the richest picking in Asia and perhaps even the world.  Captain Every rightfully told his crew that if successful, it would leave them glutted with ‘gold enough to dazzle the eyes’.

Four or five days into the chase, the pirates caught up with and sacked the Fateh Muhammed, and a few days later on September 7th 1695, the Fancy and Mayes’ ‘Pearl’ engaged the Ganj-i-Sawai, which was owned by one of the world’s most-powerful men, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

The Mughal Empire ruled much of the Indian subcontinent during the 16th and 17th centuries and are known for consolidating Islam in South Asia, spreading both the Muslim faith as well art and culture. The empire reached its zenith under the leadership and conquests of Aurangzeb, who is often called the ‘last great Mughal emperor’.

However, the size of the empire along with Aurangzeb’s unpopular intolerant rule and aggressive taxation saw it go into decline.

Aurangzeb was the owner of the armed Ghanjah dhow (trading ship) Ganj-i-Sawai, which was ambushed by pirates led by Henry Every in 1695. On board the Ganj-i-Sawai were not only the worshipers returning from their pilgrimage, but tens of millions of dollars’ worth of gold and silver.

According to some historical accounts, the marauders tortured and killed the men aboard the Mughal vessel and raped the women in a so-called ‘orgy of horror’, seeking to extract information on where in her hold the Ganj-i-Sawai’s treasures had been hidden.

Some versions of the story also suggest, grimly, that Captain Every himself found ‘something more pleasing than jewels’ onboard the vessel — often said to be the daughter, granddaughter or another relative of emperor Aurangzeb.

The battle between the Fancy and Ganj-i-Sawai

The battle between the Fancy and Ganj-i-Sawai

Captain Every left the ransacked Ganj-i-Sawai to limp back to Surat and after compensating the crew of the Pearl for their share of the spoils, the Fancy set sail for Bourbon, today the island of Réunion, arriving two months later.

Here, the pirates divvyed up the treasures — with each man receiving £1,000 (the equivalent of around £128,000 today, and far more than any sailor could typically expect to make across their lifetime) as well as a selection of gemstones.

The attack had significant ramifications for both England and the East India Trading company which was still recovering from the disastrous Anglo-Mughal War if 1686–90 with the very future of English trade in India placed under threat.

Both the attack on the Ganj-i-Sawai’s pilgrim travellers and the raping of the Muslim women were seen as a religious violation. The local Indian governor took the step of arresting all English subjects in Surat, partly as retribution but also to protect them from rioting locals.

Meanwhile, Emperor Aurangzeb closed down four of the East India Company’s factories in India and imprisoned their officers, even threatening to attack the city of Bombay with the goal of expelling the English from India forever.

To appease the Mughal empire, the East India Company promised to pay reparations for Every’s crimes, while Parliament declared the pirates ‘hostis humani generis’ (‘enemies of the human race’).

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This maritime law term placed them outside of legal protections and thereby allowing them to be ‘dealt with’ by any nation that saw fit.

Alongside this, the government placed a £500 bounty on Captain Every’s head — one which the East India Company later doubled to £1,000 — with the Board of Trade coordinating what became the first worldwide manhunt.

‘If you Google “first worldwide manhunt”, it comes up as Every. Everybody was looking for these guys,’ explained Mr Bailey.

Given their wanted status, Captain Every’s crew disagreed on where to sail next. Ultimately, the French and Danes elected to stay on Bourbon, while the rest of the crew set course for Nassau, the capital of New Providence in the Bahamas, which was considered a pirate haven.

Shortly before setting sail, Every is said to have purchased around ninety slaves, an acquisition which served the dual purpose of providing labour on the journey to the other side of the world, as well as serving as a resource that could be traded.  In this way, the pirates were cleverly able to avoid using their foreign currency, an act which would have served as a clue to their identities.

Breaking their voyage at the uninhabited Ascension Island, in the middle of the Atlantic, the crew succeeded in catching 50 sea turtles — enough food to last the rest of the voyage to Nassau — while losing 70 men who decided to remain there.

By the March of 1696, the Fancy had passed through St Thomas in the Virgin Islands where the crew sold off some of their treasure before dropping anchor near Eleuthera, some 50 miles (80 km) northeast of New Providence.

Masquerading as one ‘Captain Henry Bridgeman’, Every presented his crew to the island’s governor, Sir Nicholas Trott, as unlicensed English slave traders who had just arrived from the coast of Africa and were in need of shore leave.

In keeping with this deceit, the crew promised £860 and their ship the Fancy, once her cargo was unloaded, to Sir Trott in return for permission to make port and his keeping secret their claimed violation of the East India Company’s trading monopoly.

The arrangement was an attractive proposition for the governor, who also saw the benefits, with French forces reportedly en route, of having a heavily-armed ship in the harbour along with enough extra men on the island to properly man Nassau’s 28 cannons.

When the Fancy was handed over to his possession, Sir Trott discovered a further bribe had been left on board for him totalling 100 barrels of gunpowder and 50 tons of ivory tusks, as well as firearms, ammunition and ship anchors.

Understandably, Sir Trott initially turned a blind eye to the pirates’ possession of large quantities foreign-minted coins, as well as the patched-up battle damage on the Fancy. However, he was also quick to strip the ship of anything valuable and according to some accounts, deliberately arranged for her to be scuttled in order to dispose of evidence that could have later proved inconvenient for him.

When word finally reached Nassau that both the Royal Navy and the East India Company were hunting for Every/’Bridgeman’, the governor maintained that he and the islanders ‘saw no reason to disbelieve’ the crew of the Fancy’s story.

Nevertheless, to maintain his reputation, he was forced to disclose the location of the pirates to the authorities but not before tipping off Every and his 113-strong crew, who succeeded in escaping the island before they could be apprehended.

Exactly what happened to Captain Every after leaving New Providence in the June of 1696, however, has remained unclear. Conflicting accounts suggest he retired quietly back to Britain or some unidentified tropical island, or squandered his wealth and ended up destitute.

According to one tale, for example, the former crew of the Fancy split up with some remaining in the West Indies, some heading for North America and the rest returning to Britain. After this, Every and twenty of the men supposedly sailed aboard the sloop (a one-masted sailing boat) Sea Flower captained by Joseph Faro  eventually arriving in Ireland.

Unloading their treasure, however, the pirates aroused suspicion, the account goes, with two of the men arrested while Every escaped once again.  According to Mr Bailey, however, the coins he and others have found are evidence that the pirate captain first or at the vary least, a member of his crew, made their way to the American colonies where they spent their plunder on day-to-day expenses.

The first complete coin surfaced in 2014 at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, a spot that had piqued Mr Bailey’s curiosity two years earlier after he found old colonial coins, an 18th-century shoe buckle and some musket balls at the site.

Waving a metal detector over the soil, he got a signal, dug down and hit his ‘paydirt’ — a darkened, dime-sized silver coin that he initially assumed was either Spanish, or money minted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

However, it was the Arabic text on the coin, he said, that got his pulse racing.

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Analysis confirmed that the exotic coin was minted in 1693 in Yemen, a fact which immediately raised questions.

As Mr Bailey explained, there’s no evidence that American colonists who would have been struggling just to eke out a living in the New World, travelled to anywhere in the Middle East for trade purposes until decades later.

Since the 2014 find, other detectorists have unearthed 15 additional Arabian coins from the same era — ten in Massachusetts, three in Rhode Island and two in Connecticut (one of which was found in 2018 at a 17th-century farm site.)

Another coin, meanwhile, was found in North Carolina, where records have indicated that some of Every’s men came ashore at the end of their voyage.

‘It seems like some of Captain Every’s crew were able to settle in New England and integrate,’ said Connecticut state archaeologist Sarah Sportman.

‘It was almost like a money laundering scheme,’ she added.

‘There´s extensive primary source documentation to show the American colonies were bases of operation for pirates,’ added Mr Bailey.

In fact, he said, obscure records show that a ship named the ‘Sea Flower’ — the same as the vessel Every supposedly reached Ireland on — sailed up the Eastern seaboard, arriving in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1696 bearing nearly four dozen slaves.

Finding the Arabian coin is not Mr Bailey’s only pirate-themed find — in the late 1980s, he also served as an archaeological assistant during explorations of the wreck of the 18th Century pirate ship the Whydah Gally off of the coast of Cape Cod.

‘It seems like some of [Captain Every’s] crew were able to settle in New England and integrate,’ said Connecticut state archaeologist Sarah Sportman.  ‘It was almost like a money laundering scheme,’ she added.

‘There´s extensive primary source documentation to show the American colonies were bases of operation for pirates,’ added Mr Bailey.

In fact, he said, obscure records show that a ship named the ‘Sea Flower’ — the same as the vessel Every supposedly reached Ireland on — sailed up the Eastern seaboard, arriving in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1696 bearing nearly four dozen slaves.

The exploits of Captain Every and his crew have inspired a variety of modern-day tales of swashbuckling — including the characters of ‘Captain Henry Avery’ who appear in PlayStation’s popular ‘Uncharted’ video game series (left) and the 2011 Doctor Who episode ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’

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While Captain Every may have successfully vanished from recorded history after fleeing from the island of New Providence in June 1696, not all of his crew similarly evaded justice.

At the end of July the same year, Every’s coxswain, John Dann, was arrested in Rochester on suspicion of piracy, after his chambermaid discovered he had sewn £1, 045 of gold sequins and ten English guineas into his waistcoat and reported as much to the local authorities.

Dann ultimately agreed along with another captured crewman, Philip Middleton, to testify against other members of the Fancy’s crew, who had been caught after trying to sell their treasures to jewellers.

Six of the pirates were convicted at trial with five hanged and the sixth, Joseph Dawson, shown leniency for his guilty plea.

What became of Captain Henry Every and his final resting place remains a complete mystery but if you fancy becoming very rich then here is a guide to some of the most valuable missing treasures.

Captain Henry Every

Captain Henry Every

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Roe v. Wade (2021) Movie Review

It’s been a long time since I did a film review, understandably so as with so much of public life, film-going has been all but shut down at least in the old-fashioned going to the cinema sort of way.  Thankfully there are now streaming services available where we can in some way satisfy our craving for new movies.

For those in North America, Roe v. Wade likely needs no introduction and this movie takes a fascinating look at one of America’s most iconic court cases with a cast that lives up to the very contentious events which we see play out and which are still hotly debated to this day.

Roe v. Wade is a film that looks at the events leading up to the  landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion, relatively free from government restrictions.

Jon Voight as Warren E. Burger - the 15th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court

Jon Voight as Warren E. Burger – the 15th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court

It has a fantastic cast featuring the likes of Jon Voight, Corbin Bernsen, Stacey Dash, Jamie Kennedy, Steve Guttenberg, Robert Davi, William Forsythe and many more. Writer/director Nick Loeb plays one of the main protagonists Dr. Bernard Nathanson who helped start the abortion movement and he’s a fascinating character who at first comes across as rather arrogant and unsympathetic but as the film progresses he begins to question himself and when he breaks down at the end it’s the most moving scene of the movie.

Roe v. Wade takes us on a journey that explores how the ‘right to choose’ movement essentially gained traction due to the  lies and manipulation of the media by Nathanson and Larry Lader.  In fact some of the most shocking scenes illustrate how smug and self-satisfied they were with themselves, not due to their progress through the judicial system but by the outright lies they told to gain popular support as they battled  Dr. Mildred Jefferson (Stacey Dash) and the Catholic church.  At times it very much reminded me of tech-films where businessmen and whizz kids can’t believe their luck that they have pulled the wool over the eyes of their customers or regulatory authorities.

There also seemed to be a feeling of not taking things seriously by some of the characters in the Dallas District attorneys office who assumed they had to be very obviously correct in their Right to Life policy and if they less laissez-faire then they might have put up a better fight.

In a film like this there has to be air-time to both sides and thats what happens here.  To be fair, at different points in the film I couldn’t decide which point of view the film was in favour of and I was pleasantly surprised not to be able to put my finger on it.  I hate films where we are meant to sympathise with characters just because we are told to do so.

Plots are hatched in D.C.

Plots are hatched in D.C.

There are discussions from both sides throughout with several key politicians out to help themselves but they have their own issues as members of their families work in Planned Parenthood which complicates their decision making process.  Mention is also made that Dr. Bernard Nathanson is from a Jewish background as indeed is Nick Loeb who plays him.

Of course we all know what the findings of the court will be but their is a twist in the tale which for me is the most emotive part of the film.  ‘Modern’ ultra-sonic equipment appears which clearly shows that the tiny little things in the womb of the mothers are very recognisable as humans and Dr. Bernard Nathanson is overcome with remorse for the tens of thousands of deaths he has caused, including one very close to home we see towards the start of the film.

Nick Loeb as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the main protagonist in Roe v. Wade.

Nick Loeb as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the main protagonist in Roe v. Wade.

I would never say Roe v. Wade is a fun-film; it’s serious, engaging and thought provoking.   As someone who lives in the U.K. I was only familiar with the verdict of the court and Abortion is one of those subjects that America seems to get tangled up in whilst many of the rest of us give it next to zero thought as it’s just a given.

That being said however in someways I got to enjoy the ins and outs of this movie even more as I’ve never really given it any consideration at all.  I have to say that my feelings took a pretty similar route as Dr. Bernard Nathanson and indeed Writer, Director and Actor Nick Loeb and I just found it all very thought-provoking.

On a lighter note, I really appreciated the look of Roe v. Wade.  The events of the film took place in the year of my birth, 1973 and the makers have effortlessly captured the look of life in the 70’s.

Roe v. Wade is out on April 2nd on streaming services such as Amazon Prime and iTunes. If you think you know the story of this case, it’s worth watching for the new perspectives offered.  If like myself you know next to nothing about what transpired then it may well be revelatory.  Whatever side of the debate you come down on; there’s a lot to mull over and a lot of great performances to enjoy.

RVW_Poster

Posted in Life, Movies and Films, Opinion, Popular Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments