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The Day I met a Gladiator

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If you don’t mind, I’ll start with a narrative poem I wrote shortly after my visit to Pompeii . Brace yourselves, one of my hobbies is writing poetry and I like to think that this is one of my better efforts :-
 
A hot summer day in Naples
The dusty road shimmers with heat
Each garage passed is “chiuso”
A thirst we’ll never beat
On reaching our destination
Already I’ve seen the sign 
“This way to ruined Pompeii”
Its destiny is mine
 
A city of Campania, 
Built on volcanic rock,
Still Vesuvius mutters, 
And her smoky vapours mock,
“A life of a mere eight hundred years
I gave only a short span, 
When I took away what I’d given
As I drew the breath from man”
 
In the whisper of a breeze
I hear the City reply
“Won’t you enter the Vesuvian gate
And see who lives or dies?”
So, I take up the challenge
And look! before my eyes
By Jupiter and Apollo
The City is alive!
 
Follow the Via di Stabia
A major arterial road
To the Forum – the sacred Capitolium
Find the Macellum, the merchants abode
Come and see the gladiator 
Drink his wine before the games
Come and see him “per favore”
With his trumpet to call the names
 
Hear the bucolic conversation
Old men talk of years ago
A fight with the Nocerini
Then the Senate delivered a blow
No games to be played in Pompeii 
For a decade or more
“But we showed them that day,
Settled many an old score”
 
The quarrel with  Nuceria
Concerns not the gladiator
He’s too young to remember 
This ancient breach of law
And when in a moment 
His dark brown eyes meet mine
He raises the vessel to his lips
He stands so tall and fine!
 
Then the tavern keeper
Fills his cup again
He says “Put it on my account”
Cuts X in the stone frame
I gaze upon the figure
Newly marked upon the wall
Then I feel a tremor
There is no time at all!
 
Maybe I had a touch of the sun when writing this or I was overcome by the atmosphere of this historic city. Whatever century we live in, we all share our flawed humanity, which transcends time. There is evidence of some poetic licence in the poem, as it is unlikely that the gladiator would have been drinking before the games!  He would undoubtedly have been under the watchful eye of his coach, while waiting to go into the arena, armed with the weapon, in which he had been trained. 
GLADIATORS
Gladiators lived in schools and were mainly selected from slaves, chosen for the potential they showed to take part in the games.
 
 Pliny tells us that Gladiators were known by the somewhat derisory name of “hordearii” which translates as Barley Eaters.  This refers to the fact that their main diet was barley and beans, with very little meat or dairy products.  They drank a supplement made from charred plants, which boosted calcium levels.
 
A diet full of carbohydrates meant that as well as strength, gladiators carried extra flesh, that could withstand wounds that bled, and gave  spectator value, but were not necessarily fatal. Gladiators were in the business of living to fight and not to die, which would affect the prosperity of the school.
 
They were in effect treated like prize racehorses are treated today and received good medical care to keep them fit. The thumbs up  (not down) when given in the arena meant that the vanquished gladiator must submit bravely to death at the hands of his opponent, showing the virtue of courage admired by the Romans.
 
It was true that Gladiators were figures of admiration and attracted romantic attention from spectators. We can imagine excited screams from young fans and assignments, similar to the behaviour of groupies following rock bands today. The Gladiator Maximus in the film starring Russell Crowe, is a fictitious character.
 
Commodius, who fought with him in the film was a real Emperor and liked to fight in the arena himself, with the odds always stacked in his favour! He would fight wild animals provided they were inside their cages.  
 
The most famous Gladiator is Spartacus, who led a revolt of the slaves. He escaped from his school and succeeded in gathering an army of nearly 100,000 slaves. His army was defeated by the Roman General Crassus.
 
The film Spartacus has a spectacular ending, showing his crucifixion, but there is no way of knowing how he died, other than that he was killed in battle in 71BC.  Between 1992 -2000 there was a popular television show  on  ITV called Gladiator.
 
No one was killed, or had to fight wild beasts, but contestants took part in challenging games, taking on the characters, known as the Gladiators. The appetite for adventure and challenging sport in hopefully less violent expressions than the Roman games, continues today.
 
I seem to have come a long way from the Gladiator I met in Pompeii, so I will raise my glass to him, say “thanks for the memory” and bid him “Farewell” 

In the nineteen sixties I worked in London stores. Worked as an Insurance Clerk in the City of London during the nineteen seventies. Divorced in the nineteen nineties. Now I am a retired Civil Servant, managing home and garden and escaping onto social media whenever possible.

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History

For the first time you can visit Buckingham Palace’s gardens

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For the first time, the famous Queen’s Gardens at Buckingham Palace will be opened. Normally only the Royal Family and those invited to the Queen’s parties can see them. The reason for this decision is that this summer there will be no traditional opening of part of the building because of the pandemic and to compensate they open the gardens.

Visitors will be able to wander the garden paths and experience the calm of this garden in the heart of London. You will see Horse Chestnut Avenue, the plane trees planted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the famous lake with its bee island of Buckingham Palace. You can also have a picnic on one of the lawns. The gardens will be open from 9 July to 19 September but there are also weekend tours in April and May. You can book your tickets here

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The statue remembering the children of Kindertransport

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You might have seen the bronze monument at the entrance to Liverpool Street Station. You may not know what it is. The statue depicts the children of the Kindertransport which brought over 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to the United Kingdom.

We can see a little girl sitting on a suitcase with a teddy bear in her hand. The boy to her right holds a satchel and a violin case. The older girl behind him looks away as they wait to be picked up and separated.

The names of the cities on a stretch of track behind them show the places of origin of the children: Cologne – Hanover – Nuremberg – Stuttgart – Düsseldorf – Frankfurt – Bremen – Munich, Gdansk – Wroclaw – Prague – Hamburg – Mannheim – Leipzig – Berlin – Vienna

Between December 1938 and September 1939, nearly 10,000 Jewish children arrived on Liverpool Street via the port of Harwich and the Netherlands. Following the attacks on synagogues and German Jews instigated by the Nazi government at the Kristallnacht from 9 to 10 November 1938, the British government allowed children under 17 to immigrate, provided they found a foster family and a benefactor willing to give a deposit of 50 pounds.

The first to come were nearly 200 children from an orphanage that had been burned down in Berlin. The German authorities allowed children to carry a suitcase and a bag, with no valuables and only a photo. No adult escorts and no train station farewells were allowed. 

10,000 children were separated and ended up in different places in Britain and few saw their parents again, many of whom died in concentration camps. A good number of the children decided to stay in Britain at the end of the war.

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History

The strong tornado that destroyed London Bridge

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Not many of you will know this story, but read on to find out about this extraordinary event that happened in 1091. Extraordinary not so much for having a tornado in London, but for its power.

On the morning of October 17, 1091, it seemed normal and no one was expecting a tornado. Not any  tornado, but the strongest one recorded in London. In fact, it was probably a F4 or even F5 on the Fujita scale. Incredibly destructive with winds reaching 370 km per hour!

London was then almost entirely made of wood. There was just the White Tower of the Tower of London which was about ten years old and a few masonry churches. A tornado of this type blew almost everything away. Including London Bridge at the time that was partly destroyed by the tornado but also by the Thames current, which carried it away. It was still new having been built by William the Conqueror after 1066.

The famous church of St Mary-le-Bow was badly damaged, with the roof being thrown a certain distance violently. With so much force that the nine-meter-long beams were driven into the ground and only about a meter remained outside.

The river flooded the surrounding areas and not many buildings remained standing. London Bridge was rebuilt soon after, the main bridge connecting London with the southern parts of the country. The new bridge also had a short life, in 1140 it was destroyed by a fire.

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