Alistair’s “Random Rambles” (45)

By Kathy Martin…

Written April 2015

During last week the 1st April, “April Fools” Day came around as it does every year! Our good friend Suzee sent us an e-mail about it, but we received it after last week’s ramble had been sent to “print”. Nevertheless, as 1st April was only last week, here it is.

April Fool’s Day is a day for good-natured pranks, hoaxes, and general silliness. The earliest recorded association between April 1st and foolishness is in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in 1392. Although, this may be a result of misinterpretation, rather than Chaucer’s intention.

In “The Nuns’ Priest’s Tale,” there is a line “Since March began thirty days and two…”

This is probably a reference to the May 2nd betrothal of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia, and not “March 32nd” as readers interpreted it.

Chanticleer, a vain rooster

In any case, the story features Chanticleer, a vain rooster, being tricked by a fox, and some believe that’s how the date became associated with harmless trickery.

Many cultures have light-hearted celebrations around this time of year, and, in the Northern Hemisphere, it may be related to the spring equinox.

One explanation for the April Fools’ holiday seemed plausible, until it was revealed as a hoax itself!

Joseph Boskin, a professor of History at Boston University since the latter part of the 20th century, said the practice dated back to the reign of Emperor Constantine, who was challenged by his jesters that a fool could run the empire as well as he did.

Constantine appointed Kugel the jester “king for a day” and one of Kugel’s acts was to decree an annual day of merriment.

The Associated Press ran with the story in 2009, and didn’t realize Boskin had made the whole thing up, until a couple of weeks later.

Associated Press tried to blame professor Boskin (who was apparently known on campus as a prankster) for supplying a misleading article, but he responded that AP should have checked the facts, and asked why no one had smelt a rat when the jester was named Kugel!

In my dictionary a “kugel” is a Jewish name for a sweet or savoury pudding made from noodles and potato!

However, what jarred my memory was the use of the letter “k” in the jester’s name. I took Latin for only a few years in senior school, admittedly some 50 years ago, but I didn’t remember the Latin alphabet having a “k” in it, a hard “c” was used instead.

Joseph Boskin, a professor of History at Boston University and Emperor Constantine

One April Fools’ Day announcement that was not a hoax was in 2004, when Google announced its new Gmail service.

People couldn’t be blamed for thinking it was a prank, given Google’s propensity for April Fools’ leg-pulling, as the announced 1-gigabyte online storage for e-mail was far larger than anything any other company had offered.

Armenia – Turkey and right a bit!

A few weeks ago part of my ramble was about the European Parliament being urged to acknowledge that, one hundred years ago, yes, a century ago, the Turkish forces, then under Ottoman rule, committed genocide on something like a third of the Armenian nation.

Turkey has, rather naturally, denied the genocide; maintaining that the “popular” figure quoted of 1.6 million fatalities is a gross exaggeration.

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but, even if the alleged genocide did take place, the exact figures on either the Armenian or Turkish side will never be known.

What seems to have been quietly air-brushed out of history is that, during the First World War, Turkey and Armenia were enemies.

Turkey had allied itself to the German/Austro-Hungarian side, while Armenia, although part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, had formed an alliance with Russia, who in turn, was allied to the “Entente Cordial” of France and Britain.

According to records in the Russian archives, at the start of World War One, the Armenians invaded eastern Turkey and were responsible for the mass murder of thousands, if not tens of thousands of Turkish Muslims in the Turkish city of Van, as well as many of the surrounding villages.

The above information was gleaned from the website on “Google”:- “The Armenian genocide – a Russian viewpoint”!

As the Armenians were allies of Russia, I don’t believe that the Russian records would show anything that was detrimental to the Armenians.

However, to continue, as neither Armenia nor Turkey are members of the European Union, indeed the Ottoman rule in Turkey ended in 1922, ninety-five years ago, I have to ask (again!) what relevance or importance does this event have for modern Europe?

Shouldn’t the European taxpayer’s money be better spent on the salaries of politicians who spend time trying to solve the creaking, fragile, political and economic problems in Europe?

But no, the Greek Cypriot parliament passed a resolution on April 2nd (only one day late in my opinion!), that makes it a criminal offence to deny that the Ottoman Turks committed genocide a hundred years ago!

What sparked this action?

Did a customer in a Greek Cypriot bar stand up, after having had a couple of sips of Keo beer, announce that he didn’t believe in the genocide?

Did the barman, fearing that an immediate breakdown of public order would follow this inflammatory statement, call for the riot police, the National Guard, the air force and the navy? Did the Greek Cypriot parliament respond with commendable speed to the situation?

Or, is it yet another ploy and excuse for the Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades not to return to the negotiation table?

As to deny the Turkish genocide on the Armenians is now a criminal offence in his country, will he now take the moral high ground, saying that he won’t deal with “criminals” as neither Turkey nor Turkish Cyprus has admitted that the alleged “genocide” took place?

While on the subject of historic “breast beating”, one of the minor news articles in the local press recently revealed that the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg apologised on Wednesday 8th April 2015 for Norway’s discrimination against its Roma population (Roma are gypsies; itinerant travellers, with no loyalty to any particular nation).

Mass grave in one of the Nazi death camps

Did this discrimination happen last week, last month or even last year?

No, it happened in the 1930’s when, after being refused re-entry after travelling outside Norway, about 60 “Norwegian” Roma eventually died in Nazi death camps.

I have to ask myself (and, of course, my readers) why, about 80 years AFTER the event, is the present-day Norwegian Prime Minister apologising and promising to pay reparations?

Not I hasten to say, do I condone the sufferings and deaths of any peoples in a death camp, but, according to published history, the existence of these death camps was unknown to the world, until the closing days of World War Two!

Therefore, how would the Norwegian immigration authorities and politicians in the 1930’s have known that their actions would lead to such a tragedy and as such they, or their modern counterparts, be culpable?

When or where will this modern “compensation” culture stop?  An outsider studying the human race would rapidly reach the conclusion that many people don’t actually earn money, but get it given to them by a government!

This premise would be based on the apparent “Something nasty happened to my great grandfather, so rather than me having to work for a living, I want the government to pay me a fortune” attitude of the people of today!

As there appears to be no statute of limitations (time expiry limit) on “offences against mankind” perhaps the descendents of the Saxon land-owning nobility can make a credible claim against the French government for their losses after William the Conqueror invade their realm in 1066!

A short time ago my wife and I had the opportunity to watch a made for television documentary programme titled “Teenage Tommies”.

The film was about the lives and (in some cases) the deaths of about half a dozen teenagers aged between 14 and 16 years old who had volunteered to join the British army at various recruiting posts in Britain and subsequently had been sent to different parts of the Western Front.

The filmmakers lauded their patriotism and extolled their desires to follow their ideals.

Now, a century later, another group of young men and women exist, who are willing to risk life and limb to follow their ideals.

Before I continue I must state categorically that I abhor the racial, religious and sexist bigotry of the “Jihadists”, but nonetheless, they have left the comfort and safety of their homes to face an uncertain future where death or crippling injuries are highly probable, simply because they have courage in their convictions (however misguided they are to the minds of many people).

Just a thought!

Next blog will continue with Alistair’s rambles

These rambles were written by Alistair initially for the “The KibKom Times” then “The KibKom Forum