Travels in Crete 8 – Boat Trips, Churches, Houses & Cemeteries

So, I had a completely different topic planned for this week but then, as I’ve learnt often happens in Crete, an invitation arrived which made me change my mind!

As you will know if you’ve read my last blog, I’ve been fortunate to spend the last few weeks in Mochlos, Crete – also known to Dud and I as Paradise.  Whilst here I’ve had some time on my own and some time in the company of lovely family and friends.  During each of the two periods when I had company, we took a visit to the village of Plaka, with the dual purpose of a little bit of retail therapy and a trip over to the island of Spinalonga.

Aerial view of Spinalonga, complete with boats taking people over to visit

Now, I’m sure some of you at least will be thinking, oh no, not another piece about Spinalonga, the leper colony and the location for a book by Victoria Hislop.  Well, no and yes… Spinalonga was indeed a leper colony from 1903 to 1957 and is the place where aforementioned authoress based her best-selling book, The Island.  However, the leper colony only occupied a period of just over 50 years in a history that stretches back much further and Mrs H is not the only person to write about Spinalonga.  Also, I’m not only going to talk about Spinalonga, so please stick with me.  Actually, I think the fact that Spinalonga has become synonymous with leprosy is one of the reasons that Dud and I never visited it, which on reflection is a bit of a shame as I think he would have found it really interesting.

Anyhow, I digress….

So, although you can take a boat from Agios Nikolaos or Elounda over to Spinalonga, the shortest (and in my mind pleasanter and slightly less touristy) crossing is from the village of Plaka (although for a ‘village’ it is now more of a thriving community of tourist shops and tavernas – hence the opportunity for a bit of retail therapy).  There are 2 jetties where the boats cross over from Plaka, interestingly (and to our cost, literally), one charges 4 euros for the return crossing, the other 8 euros, so do check before you pay the ferryman!

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Ferry Boat from Plaka to Spinalonga

On the way over, you can see the imposing Venetian Bastion, testament to earlier inhabitants, and on arrival at Spinalonga, you land not at the old jetty on the west  but around to the south of the island, on a small beach area near what used to be the generator but is now a small ‘taverna’ or rather a place to buy (somewhat expensive) drinks and ice creams.

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Venetian Fortifications – bit of a climb to get up there (& down again !) but worth it for the view !

The island of Spinalonga forms a natural defence for Elounda harbour, and in 1579 the Venetians built a mighty fortress here on the ruins of an ancient acropolis. According to the Venetian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli, Spinalonga  was not originally an island but was joined to the adjacent Peninsular Spinalonga which  is a part of the uninhabited Kalydon island area that belongs to the city of Elounda.   He says that in 1526 the Venetians cut a portion of the peninsular to form Spinalonga Island.  The Venetians kept control of the island even after the rest of Crete fell to the Ottomans in 1669 and it remained under their control for almost another half a century until its capitulation in 1715, when the Turks dislodged the last of the Venetians defending Spinalonga.

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Spinalonga, Spinalonga Peninsula and Kolokitha (the small spit across to Elounda marks the site of the now sunken ancient site of Olous – cue another blog!)

Spinalonga was then occupied by the Turks who reconstructed the Venetian houses to meet their needs.  Their population increased and the 1881 census records 1,112 inhabitants, all of Turkish descent.  They formed the largest Muslim trading centre of the Mirabello, listing their sources of income as fishing, agriculture and commerce.  However, what they don’t record on the census is that smuggling was another lucrative means by which they survived!

The numbers of Turks fell sharply at the turn of the 20th century but those who remained, continued with their more lucrative means of income, namely smuggling.  In an effort to rid Crete of these outlaws, Prince George established a leper colony on the island in 1903.  The thought of leprosy sufferers being sent to live among them caused the desired effect and the Turks left immediately.  The first 251 leprosy patients settled on the island in 1904.   Initially only lepers from Crete were sent to Spinalonga but, when the island became part of Greece in 1913, lepers from the rest of the country also came to Spinalonga.

Today thousands of tourists visit Spinalonga by boat from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka each summer and it is one of the most popular archaeological sites in Crete, after Knossos.

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View of some of the buildings on Spinalonga, looking up to the old Turkish Hospital at the top (which was taken over and use by the lepers)

There are two ways in to the buildings of the island, west through the tunnel that is the old entrance to the fortress, or east towards the lepers graveyard and Charnal House (place where exhumed bones are placed when the grave they were buried in is needed for another occupant!).   On the two visits I made this summer I went first to the west, through the tunnel and on the second time made straight for the graveyard to the east.  It’s not that I’m more interested in the dead than the living you understand (well, actually ….) but, as those of you who know me know, in my spare time I dabble in osteoarchaeology, so bones are my thing!  Anyhow, whichever way you approach the buildings, do take your time to wander around, soak up the atmosphere and remember that all of those who lived here organised their space, engaged in the cultivation of the land, fell in love, married and had children.

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Lepers Graveyard and Memorial Plaque (all graves were of a regular size with an even distance between them – when a new grave was needed the current occupant was exhumed and the bones placed in a charnal house)

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Baker’s Shop

I found the buildings particularly interesting and quite reminiscent of the architecture of the earlier Minoan and Hellenistic civilisations on Crete.  There are three churches on the island, Agios Panteleimon, Agios Yiorgos (both still standing) and Agios Nikolaos, where only the foundations remain.

 

We paused at the bakers shop and thought of who had stood there before us – again reminiscent (for me) of visiting other archaeological sites and imagining what life would have been like.  Just inside the main area, after the entrance tunnel is a fountain where there was a small natural supply of water.  Pausing at the laundry and washing troughs we again imagined those who had used them in the past.

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Fountain in the village square

Evocative and well worth a visit !  I can also highly recommend the guide book by Beryl Derby, who has also written a number of fictional books including ‘Yannis’, who comes from the village of Plaka.

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Looking out from the Venetian Fortifications, a reminder of Spinalonga’s military past

Well, having enjoyed the boat trips to Spinalonga, and finding myself on my own again I was wondering what other places could be explored by boat.  Then, and the reason for my change of subject, I was invited to join a boat trip from the Tholos beach in Kavousi over to the island of Pseira (sometimes Psira), where there was a Minoan settlement.

Boat trip and Minoan ruins …. I didn’t need a second asking, I was there !

And so it was that I found myself at the far end of the Tholos Beach outside the village of Kavousi, joining a group of 9 other people, including fellow bloggers Yvonne and Steve (thought I’d give their blogs a mention here).   In another ‘small world’ experience I knew who our boatman was going to be because I’d bumped into him at Dimitris Taverna in Mochlos just a couple of days earlier.  I’d popped in for a quick drink on my way home and got chatting with this chap called Manolis, who told me he was taking a boat trip over to Pseira on the Saturday.  Thinking that couldn’t be a coincidence I asked if it was the one organised by Yvonne and he said ‘yes’ !

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Pseira Island from the main road (the only view I’d seen of it before, apart from cruising past in Nick’s boat on the way back from our wedding in 2011)

Anyhow, digressing again (sorry Dud, I can hear you telling me to ‘get on with it’).

We all climbed aboard the Ferryman (yes, there were shouts of ‘all aboard the Skylark’, giving away our age) and then we cast off and headed off towards Pseira.  Manolis was a great captain and guide, he took us as far around the island as the winds would allow so that we could see the ‘ears’ the ‘heart’ and the ‘mouth’ of the island.  Unfortunately the waves were a little too large for us to completely go around the island, but it was already shaping up to be a great trip.

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This rock is known as the ‘Heart’ of Psira

We moored up at the little beach on Pseira, by the peninsular on which the Minoan remains have been found.  Obviously not everyone was interested in looking round a pile of old stones (how can that be!), and for those that didn’t want to, the clear waters beckoned.

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Our boat moored up on Pseira – we had to scramble a bit over the rocks to get to the beach, but it wasn’t as bad as it looks!

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Site plan of the peninsular of Pseira (taken from the excellent website of Ian Swindale, Minoan Crete)

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Grand Staircase leading up from the beach/harbour (Dud loved Minoan stairs so I had to go up and down these a few times for him)

I, on the other hand, decided to wander around said pile of old stones and tried to understand the site, based on some internet research I’d done beforehand.  Well, it was all a little bit difficult to work out, but I definitely managed to find the Grand Staircase (would have been tricky to miss as it comes straight up from the beach), and also the ‘House of the three buttresses’ – I definitely needed Dud to help me with the interpretation and Dudley Bear was decidedly silent on the matter!  Still, it was a really interesting site and I feel it is deserving of another visit (or maybe more).

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The so-named ‘House of the Three Buttresses’ – hopefully you ca see why!

After a ramble round the ruins, I met up with my fellow trippers and we sat on the beach and enjoyed each others company and a picnic lunch and generally lazed around until it was time to get back on the boat.  Now, this is where what I love most about the Cretan way of life kicked in…..we are on our way back to the Tholos Beach when Manolis asks if we are in a hurry to get back?  ‘No’ we all say, so he says he will take us with him to collect a group of people he needs to collect from the Agriomantra beach and then we will return to Tholos.

So, we turn away from the Tholos area and head out to sea, or so it seems.  The waves are definitely a bit larger out here and as we head towards a groups of rocks we all think, ‘surely we are not going between those – are we?’ Oh, yes we are, and it was fine and we waved to some fishermen and saw some beautiful scenery and then arrived at another piece of paradise – a beautiful, secluded beach.  Now, if we had thought that we were going to ‘just’ pick up the additional passengers we were mistaken.  They had been there for a ceremony at a chapel carved into the rocks and were now celebrating with food and drink (well, raki and water only!).  We were invited to join them and share their food and raki – how wonderful and what a lovely experience.

Finally, and I don’t mean that badly, we packed up the boat and were ready to return to our original point of departure at the Tholos beach.  Oh My, the water was even more choppy now and our ride back wouldn’t have been out of place at Alton Towers  – but it was fantastic!

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Getting on and off the boat required us to ‘walk the plank’ – well not exactly, but I think you can see the rather narrow walkway we had to negotiate to get on and off!

On our safe arrival back at Tholos, Manolis said we must all join him for a beer at the Kantina – – oh, go on then !

Great day out, great company and great Cretan hospitality.   If you are in the area ever and want a boat trip, why not try Manolis

Next time … maybe what I planned this time, but I’d best not say in case other events take over.

 

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PS – the book that Dud was editing at the time of his untimely passing, has now been completed with help from 2 archaeological colleagues and friends and will be launched at a conference in Lewes, Sussex on 22nd October 2016.  The aim of the conference is to celebrate Dudley the man (and archaeologist), publicise the book and launch the ‘Dudley Moore Fund for Archaeology’.  In a blatant attempt at publicity, you can find details of the book here, and of the conference under Events on the Sussex School of Archaeology webpage.

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Talk About ……

Hello there, Mrs Dud here.

Sorry for the big gap between my second post and this one.  There, I’ve said it – apparently you are not supposed to apologise for not blogging, just get on with the next one and leave it at that.  But I don’t feel I can do that, I feel the need to say that I fully intended to keep going with Dud’s blog from the second post I did.  However, what I didn’t take account of was how grief can affect you and your ability to carry out even the most mundane of tasks, let alone trying to be creative.  One of the things I’ve found the most difficult is getting back to doing things in the evenings after work and at the weekends.  Dud and I were never ones for sitting around and watching TV all evening although, don’t get me wrong, we could gorge on a box set with the best of them now and again.  However, we spent more time sitting in the conservatory talking through our next project, be that a talk one of us was giving, some research we wanted to do, or just the next trip to Crete!

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Our cat, Dizzy, in the conservatory wondering what on earth we are talking about!

So, that brings me to the purpose of this blog – talking and its importance.

Since Dud’s passing in January I’ve been out to Paradise (otherwise known as the village of Mochlos in Eastern Crete) on several occasions, this current sojourn being my fourth.  On this latest visit, I’ve been accompanied by some family and friends and on 2nd July we had a lovely little ceremony over on the Minoan island to talk about Dudley over a glass of champagne and celebrate his life.  I’ve even left some of his ashes over there – although obviously I can’t tell you where or I’d have to kill you!    At the same time, I was so proud to be able to announce that a book Dud had been editing before he died had been taken on by two archaeological colleagues and was ‘hot off the press’ that week.  There is also going to be a memorial conference to Dud in October, to launch the book, but more about that another time.

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Getting ready on the island – with a copy of the newly published book

 

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Neither me, nor Dudley Bear, could possibly tell you where this is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Book – click here for more info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, 22nd July, would have been our fifth wedding anniversary (we were together for 19 years, I was just a bit slow at saying ‘Yes’) and I’m joined again by my sister and a couple of close friends. Of course the day will be tinged with sadness, but also with so many happy memories.  I can honestly say that 22nd July 2011 was one of the best days of my life.  Whenever Dud and I had people come on holiday with us, we would prepare a little ‘itinerary’ and called ourselves ‘Bramber Tours’.  I did one for the party that was here for 2nd July and I’ve just done one for my sister and friends.  This second one I’ve called “Return to Mochlos – Old & New Memories”.  So today, 22nd July, we are going to celebrate the time that Dudley and I had together, all 19 wonderful years.  Then, we are going to spend the next few days making some new memories in the Paradise that is Mochlos.

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View of the Minoan Island at Mochlos (and who is that in the olive tree?)

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22nd July 2011

What’s all this got to do with talking I hear you ask?

Well, as I mentioned at the beginning, Dud and I talked and talked about many, many things, often accompanied by a glass (or more) of red wine. Now, one of the things we talked about was death – and not enough people do in my opinion.  Maybe it’s because I’ve studied death and the way past societies deal with it for many, many years but I’ve always thought it important to talk about it.  One of the only certainties of life is death (and taxes apparently).  Anyhow, Dud and I DID talk about it and now I am so glad and grateful that we did.  Why?  Well, it meant that when he was taken so suddenly I knew without a doubt what music he wanted played at his funeral and where he wanted his ashes.  Don’t get me wrong, we hadn’t planned each others funerals or anything like that.  What we had done though was talk about what we would do when one of us went – I always thought he would go first because he was ten years older than me, just not so soon of course. So, we had listened to ‘Mr. Bojangles’ (Sammy Davis Jr version of course) many times and even shed a few tears together because I knew I would have to have it played at his funeral.  However, the upside of that is the comfort it brought me to know that he had wanted that piece of music and that it was something we had shared in life as well as in his death.  I even asked him if he would ‘come back to me’ – now you are going to think I’m a completely mad person but there you go, grief makes you care less about what other people think and you do what you feel you need to.  So, Dud’s answer to my question was that “Yes”, he would come back to me, if he could. Without going into the full details (at the moment) I’ve had a couple of unexplained (to me) incidents with our cat (Dizzy) and some music playing on the iPod that I certainly hadn’t chosen.  These too have given me comfort, so who’s to say what they really mean.

A short while before I came out to Crete for the summer, I happened upon a book called ‘Water Bugs & Dragonflies’.  It’s a small, short book, designed as a way to explain death to children.  However, I’ve found it helpful and aren’t children just small adults anyway – or maybe adults are just larger children.  So, the essence of the book is that there is a colony of water bugs living quite happily below the surface of a pond.  Every so often though, one of their colony climbs up the stem of a water lily, disappears andWaterbugs+Dragonflies is seen no more.  The water bugs get together and decide that the next one of them who climbs up the lily stem must promise to come back and tell the others where they went, and why.  Not long after this the bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk and ended up on the lily pad, where he fell asleep.  When he awoke he had changed completely – he had become a dragonfly.  He flew around and generally enjoyed the new atmosphere he found himself in. Suddenly he looked down and saw his friends under the surface of the water and remembered the promise that had been made.  Unfortunately  though, now he was a dragonfly he could not longer go into the water…..  The story ends that the dragonfly realises that even if he could go back to the water, his friends would not recognise him, but when they become dragonflies too they will understand.

Having found the Dragonfly book so helpful, I actively looked around at books explaining death to children.  The second one I found is called ‘Always and Forever’ – and is about Otter, MoleAlways+Forever, Fox and Hare who live together in a house in the woods.  Fox is the ‘father figure’ of the house and was always on hand with a helpful suggestion and an encouraging word.  One day, fox goes out into the woods and doesn’t come back, but lays down and dies under an oak tree.  His friends find him, bring him back and bury him in his favourite place (under the willow tree).  They are so sad that Fox has gone and spend their days mourning him and saying how he was always there for them and missing him greatly.  This continues for quite some time and then one day Squirrel comes to visit them and asks where they have been.  They say they are so sad they cannot go out and they miss Fox too much.  They are pleased to see Squirrel though and invite her to stay for supper.  Now, this brings about a change in their attitudes.  Otter cooks a meal and this prompts a discussion about how bad a cook Fox was and they certainly don’t miss his cooking!  The conversation moves to how bad a handyman fox was and how he didn’t know carrots from weeds!  Suddenly, they are all laughing and remembering the funny things about Fox.  Mole makes a bench for them, in Hare’s garden where they sit and recall happy times.  They even think they can hear Fox laughing too… and so he was with them …always and forever.

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Dud doing what he did best – smiling

OK, so now you don’t need to get either of those books yourself (but they are on Amazon if you want to) but I hope you can see the reason I’ve mentioned them.  For those of you who knew Dud I expect you can see some of Fox in him (I certainly can).  His cooking repertoire consisted solely of spaghetti bolognaise, he considered that manuals were for wimps (and then wondered why he ended up with extra bits left over when trying to put some flat pack furniture together) and he certainly didn’t know his weeds from his wisteria!  However, he did know his ‘Law from his Elbow’ (there could be a book in there, oh there is!), he was always smiling and laughing and he always had words of encouragement for any and everyone, no matter who you were.

 

 

I do miss him desperately, but I am beginning to laugh again and to remember the happy times, of which there were so many.

So, I would encourage, no pretty much insist if I could, that you talk to your loved ones about death.  You might not find it easy, but one day you might be glad you did.  I would not wish my journey on anyone, but it is a journey that is slightly more bearable because I know we talked about …… death.

Talking of ‘bearable’ for some reason I find great comfort in a little bear that Dud gave me, who I’ve now named ‘Dudley Bear’.  He comes away with me and is always sporting his bow tie and Spartacus badge.

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“Dudley Bear”

I’m going to end now with some words I found just yesterday on the internet and which really struck a chord:

Your grief is your love, turned inside-out. That is why it is so deep. That is why it is so consuming. When your sadness seems bottomless, it is because your love knows no bounds.

Love you forever Dud, Happy Anniversary xx

 

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2nd July 2016 – beginning to smile again

Next time, and I know now that there will be another blog….I’m going to move on to some of the many topics that Dud and I spoke about but that he hadn’t been able to write about….so I’m going to do it for him.

 

Dr Dud and ‘I am Spartacus’

Hello again, Mrs Dud here.

So, last time I introduced you to myself and the reason I’ve taken over the blog from Dr Dud (who sadly and tragically passed away on 28th January 2016).  We have now had the funeral, or rather Celebration of his life and what a day it was!  Thank goodness we had booked the larger chapel at Worthing Crematorium as upwards of 150 people gathered last Friday morning (19th February) – the vicar jokingly said that I had told him it would be ‘just’ family and a few close friends!  After the service there we all headed off to St. Nicholas Church in Bramber (well we physically had to leave Dud behind but I know he was still with us).  St. Nicks church was a subject of an earlier blog by Dud, and you can find it here.

Either if you know the church, or if you look on Dud’s blog, you will see that it is not that large a building.  However, thanks to the vicar and a few friends it was slightly reorganised so that we could seat 150 people. Which, as it turns out was not enough ….. it was standing room only!

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St Nicholas’ Church, Bramber (the area to the left is the vestry, so we all had to fit into the rest!)

The service was indeed a celebration of Dud’s life with readings and tributes by his close friends, his son Toby and myself .  As in life, so in death, Dud would not do anything by half and so following the service there was a further round of celebration in St. Mary’s House, Bramber (also the subject of a previous blog…here).  This particular part of the  celebration took the format of sharing memories over a glass (or several) of wine, beer or soft drinks alongside some delicious food prepared by the Maharajah Indian Restaurant (also in Bramber – bit of a theme there!)

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St Mary’s House, Bramber

Now, at St. Mary’s House Toby and I made brief speeches and I then invited everyone to collect a copy of Dud’s book of his blog (‘Have you got the T-Shirt’ .. still available on Amazon by the way) and an ‘I am Spartacus’ badge.  Why the badge I hear you ask…?

Well, to keep up the blatant publicity for earlier blogs by Dr Dud, there was one on, yes you’ve guessed it, Spartacus.  In fact under the category of ‘Hollywood Fact or Fiction’ just one area that Dud was interested in.  Under these categories, he would take a well-known Hollywood blockbuster and see if there was any connection between what you saw on the silver screen and reality – or if indeed there was ever any reality anyway!

Anyhow, the reason for the badges was only loosely based on the person of Spartacus, or even the film with Kirk Douglas (those of you who read Dud’s blog will know there are often only loose, or tenuous at best, connections!)

The real story is that some years ago, we went on holiday to Greece with our good friends Laurance and Jackie and visited the site of Argos (situated in the Peloponnese and near to Mycenae, Tiryns and Midea, which we also visited).  Anyhow, whilst in the ancient theatre of Argos (originally built in the 5th century BC and updated in the 3rd), Dud and Laurance decided to ‘play’ being Emperors at the gladiatorial games, giving the thumbs up or down (I’m sure they were not the first, nor the last to do this!).  Alongside the thumbs down, were also cries of “I’m Spartacus”  (as only men on holiday can do …..)

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Dud and Laurance in the theatre at Argos

Fast forward two years to 2010 when we again went on a holiday adventure with Laurance and Jackie, this time to Turkey.  We covered almost the entire west coast of Turkey from Istanbul down to Bodrum in 9 days!  The main purpose of the trip was a visit to the site of Troy, which held much fascination and interest for Dud and so it was long overdue that we go there.  I could tell you the story about how we arrived at the ‘hotel’ just by the site of Troy only to find that the description of ‘hotel’ was a slight exaggeration! Or I could tell you that when we went down to get some supper, we asked the young lad there if we could see the menu….   He duly handed out menus and then 5 minutes later collected them in again without a word about whether we wanted to order anything or not.  Well, I suppose we had only asked to ‘see’ the menu!  However, the reason for mentioning the trip is that at the very start, Laurance presented us each with an ‘I am Spartacus’ badge which we all wore for the duration of the trip and the phrase was often recounted, usually over, or after, a glass of wine!

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The ‘original’ badge (now only 3 in existence)

It was only right, therefore, that Dud should wear his ‘I am Spartacus’ badge for his final journey, and in memory of many great times with many, many friends we decided that everyone present at St. Mary’s on 19th February should have their own badge too! I know, it sounds strange, but after a couple of glasses of wine, my sister and her friend thought it sounded a fantastic idea and I got a phone call to tell me that 150 badges were ordered and on their way to me!

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Newer version, but less rare …..

Anyhow, it seemed to work and almost all of the badges that were made were taken and worn…some were even found on the floor of the pub next door by rather surprised bar staff!

So, there you have it….and if you do happen to find an orange coloured ‘I am Spartacus’ badge then you will know where it came from and can think of Dud.

Next time … … ..  I’m not sure at the moment, but hopefully something you will find interesting!

Dr Dud by Mrs Dud

Hello to everyone, whether you have loved Dr Dud’s Dicta since it started or have only just stumbled across it.  My name is Sarah and I was fortunate to have Dudley in my life for the past 19 years until suddenly and tragically on 28th January 2016 he passed from us whilst undergoing emergency heart surgery.

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Dud in Mochlos, Crete on the day of the Epiphany, 6th January 2016 (I know you have seen it before – but I love this picture, even more so now )

The last couple of weeks have gone by in a bit of a haze, but today I opened up Dud’s computer and realised that he had a number of blogs ‘ready to go’ in draft format.  As with so much of our life together, we talked endlessly about the blogs and the topics he would choose to write about – I even proof read them for him (so you should blame me, not him, for any mistakes!).  So, I have decided that I will attempt to keep the Dicta going – I hope you are all ok with that. I know that I am not as erudite as him, nor do I have his flair for writing, but I will do my best and hopefully you (and he) will forgive any wavering from what you have come to expect.

I feel I should introduce myself a little bit to you and set the scene as it were for me and Dr Dud – although I realise that he has written already about our times in Crete and our adventures in life.

To use Dud’s own words,  “Sarah had dragged me ‘shouting and screaming’ (maybe a slight exaggeration) into archaeology when she came home one Friday evening and, over a glass of wine or two, asked me if I wanted to learn about archaeology (she had studied it at university in the 1980s and wanted to start up again). Anyway, I said I might be and she replied, “Good, because I have booked us both into a course on ‘Practical Archaeology’ at Sussex University starting on Monday”…….. the rest, they say, is history – well, ancient history, actually.”

That was in 1997 and as far as archaeology and our relationship was concerned, we didn’t look back!  I won’t bore you with all the academic details, but suffice it to say that the wall by our stairs proudly displays certificates in archaeology, an MA each in Classical Studies, an MSt and DPhil for Dud and an MA in osteoarchaeology for me.  Some of these courses we studied together and some individually, but always we talked and discussed with each other – often over a glass of wine in our conservatory.

Along the way we also found time to visit Crete with a few outings to Greece and Turkey – although always as well as, and not instead of, Crete!  We went to Wimbledon (Dud served as an Honorary Steward for a number of years), to Glyndebourne, to various monasteries in the UK and we punted in Oxford.  We held many dinner parties in the conservatory using any excuse (Burns Night, Trafalgar, Chinese New Year), or none.  The house we live in used to be an off-licence and Dud always said “no change there then” !

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Horatio Bear in our conservatory-good job he can’t talk, or he might have a tale or two to tell about our parties !

The culmination of our relationship was our wedding in 2011, in Crete – of course!  It was the most wonderful day and the celebrations went on… and on …. and each year for the next four years we celebrated in style.  Dud wrote about our 2-day celebration last summer (2015) and you can revisit it here.

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Our wedding in 2011 – we are on the Minoan island of Mochlos

So, now he has gone and I cannot believe it, but somehow just writing this blog is helping, knowing that it will reach out to those of you that knew him personally and those that only knew him from the blog.

For this, my first, foray into the world of Dr Dud, I have chosen to end with a few brief words about something that was a bit of a trademark for him – the bow tie !

Now, you may or may not know (or even care!), but the bow tie dates back to the 17th century in Croatia. Here mercenaries would use neck wears that somehow resembled scarves to bind the collars of their shirts. These neck wears were called the cravats. In no time they were adopted by the Upper Class French citizens who had the reputation of being highly influential in the fashion world at that time. The cravats evolved into today’s neck wear of the bow ties and neckties.

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Croatians celebrating ‘cravat day’ (bet you didn’t know that existed!)

Probably what you will know, however, is that there are two types of bow tie (well, strictly speaking there are three, but the third type is a ‘clip-on’ and should only be worn by children and infants!).  So, there is the pre-tied and the self-tied variations of the bow tie.  Obviously the former is already tied up for you, the latter you have to tie yourself (and of course this allows you to go for the untied look with the bow tie hanging loosely at the end of a party or a dinner – bound to wow the ladies!).

Dudley, I have to tell you, only EVER wore the self-tied variety and was jovially critical of those who wore what he referred to as a ‘stick-on’ version, and which he could spot at any distance!

All in all I would say that the pre-tied bow tie is only recommended for adolescents or somebody who has just joined the bow tie wearing club!  I have just discovered that in America there is a National Bow Tie Day on 28th August each year – so you all have plenty of time to perfect your technique of tying your own bow tie!  I predict that the Google search for ‘how to tie a bow tie’ will go viral any day now …..

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A small selection of the many bow ties owned and worn by Dud

I can’t recall exactly when Dud starting wearing his bow ties on a regular basis, but he wore one every day to work and also to those more formal events we went to (and sometimes to the less formal ones too).  It is one of the many things that made him such a unique character…

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Me and Dud – with his signature bow tie (oh, did I mention he liked the odd waistcoat too ……)

So there you have it, my first attempt at Dr Duds Dicta – I hope you like it and I hope I’ve done him proud.  If I don’t get too many negative comments I’ll try and keep going for you – as I said there are already some posts at the draft stage and there are many more we had only talked about.  My only problem is I don’t quite know how to categorize this blog, so I’ve gone for Bramber History and Crete – our two homes!

Custer of the West: Hollywood fact or fiction?

CUSTER OF THE WEST starred Robert Shaw in the lead role in 1967 and was a vague representation of the facts of the ‘Battle’ of the Little Big Horn and Custer’s last stand. There was also a rather less factual Errol Flynn version in 1941 called They Died with Their Boots on.  What the 1967 version sadly lacked, which the 1941 version seemed very proud of, was the tune ‘Gary Owen’ which was taken up by Custer as the 7th Cavalry’s march – to hear it  Click here (need sound of course).

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George Armstrong Custer was born in December 1839 in New Rumley, Ohio. He went to West Point in 1857 and graduated last in his class in 1861 just in time for the commencement of the American Civil War in April of that year. He performed courageously under the command of General George McClellan who saw to his promotion to acting captain but when McClellan was relieved of his command, Custer was reverted back to lieutenant.  General Alfred Pleasonton took over from McClellan and under him came Custer’s introduction to the world of extravagant uniforms and political maneuvering, and the young lieutenant became his protégé and soon regained his rank of (full) captain. Custer distinguished himself by fearless and aggressive actions in some of the numerous cavalry engagements and he was rewarded (and so not by mistake as in the Errol Flynn film!) with promotion as the youngest brevet [1] brigadier of the volunteers at the age of 23.

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Cadet George Custer at West Point, c 1859 – to be last in his class on graduation in 1861

Whilst on leave during the Civil war he married Elizabeth ‘Libbie’ Bacon in February 1864. Her father was Judge Daniel Bacon who, initially, had not approved of Custer as a match for his daughter as he (Custer) was the son of a blacksmith. Well, this all changed when Custer had become a hero of the Civil War ….. oh,  and a brigadier general.

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Brevet Brigadier General Custer, 1865

When the war ended, Custer was returned to his rank of captain but it was not long before he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel and assigned to the newly formed 7th Cavalry based at Fort Riley in Kansas where he joined the General Winifred Scott Hancock campaign against the Cheyenne ‘Indians’/Native Americans (see last post –  I need to call them ‘Indians’ for context purposes). However after the Hancock campaign, Custer was court martialled for going absent without leave (AWOL) – he had become indifferent and frustrated with the campaign and abandoned his post to go and see his wife – and he was suspended from duty for one year. He returned to duty before the suspension had expired at the request of General Philip Sheridan who wanted Custer for the Indian campaign.

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Libbie Custer (1842-1933)

Now the Indian campaign took a bit of a turn when gold was found in the Black Hills of Dakota. These hills were owned by the Lakota Sioux Indians headed by Chief Sitting Bull as a result of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. The government needed to control them because of the gold and the fact that 15,000 miners had moved into the Hills setting up towns such as Custer and  Deadwood (remember that place from Wild Bill Hickok post August 23, 2014). So, in the autumn of 1875, the government offered Sitting Bull $6 million for the land but the sum was turned down.  President Ulysses Grant then made two fateful decisions: (1) he would not stop miners flooding into the Black Hills; and (2) all Lakota and Cheyenne Indians must report to the reservations by January 1876 or be treated as hostiles (thus reneging on the Fort Laramie Treaty). The Indian tribes refused to comply.

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Sitting Bull portrait

This seemed to be a great opportunity for more glory for Custer. By now he had been gambling and making bad business decisions and was in severe financial difficulties and needed a ‘way out’. A campaign against the Lakota Indians was a good option. Unfortunately he was called to Washington to give evidence at the Congressional Committee trying to discredit President Grant’s Administration’s handling of contracts with the Indian Agencies on the frontier. Custer managed to try and implicate the President’s brother, Orvil, which was a mistake. The President was furious and decided to keep Custer on the sidelines of the Indian war and ignored all requests from Custer to see him to apologise.  Eventually, General Alfred Terry, who needed Custer, eventually got him re-instated. So, in 1876, he headed to the Back hills in search of redemption and glory.

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President Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85)

By January 1876 the Lakota Indians under Sitting Bull had not moved to the reservation and General Terry had orders to force him and his followers to do so or destroy them in the process. The plan was a three pronged assault on the Indian village of Sitting Bull’s alliance of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne around Yellowstone River and four of its close tributaries, the Bighorn, Rosebud, Tongue and Powder (see map below). Terry (and Custer), with 1200 men, would approach from the east from Fort Lincoln; Colonel Gibbon, with 440 men, from the west from Montana; and General Crook, with 1100 men, from the south from Wyoming.  Terry and Custer left via separate routes to clear up any Indian stragglers. Apparently Terry had said to Custer that if he (Custer) got there before him to leave him some action. Custer allegedly replied, simply, “No” (but I have no source for that…).  Custer was a ‘dog off the leash’.

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Plan of assault on the Indian camp at Little Big Horn

On the 25th June 1876, Custer, indeed, arrived about a day before Terry. Crook had arrived first and camped by the Rosebud River only to be attacked by a large force of alliance Indians under Crazy Horse and only just managed to avoid total defeat and retreated south. He reported this disaster to General Sheridan but made no effort to notify Terry.  Custer wanted glory for himself alone and, despite the tiredness of his soldiers who had been on the move all day, he insisted on going into action immediately.  As a result he split his force into three battalions, one under himself, another under Major Marcus Reno and the other under Captain  Frederick Benteen. Neither of these officers liked Custer and the feeling was mutual, particularly as Reno was an alcoholic.  Benteen was sent south and west, to cut off any attempted escape by the Indians; Reno was sent to charge the southern end of the encampment; and Custer rode north, hidden to the east of the encampment by bluffs, planning to circle around and attack from the north.  This split was to prove fatal.

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Major Reno (1834-89)

Custer had 208 officers and men under his command (including his two brothers, Tom and Boston, his nephew, Henry ‘Autie’ Reed, and his brother-in-law, Lt Calhoun), with an additional 142 under Reno, just over 100 under Benteen, 50 soldiers with Captain McDougall’s rearguard, and 84 soldiers under 1st Lieutenant Edward Gustave Mathey with the pack train. The Lakota/Cheyenne coalition may have fielded over 1800 warriors (although reports on this number vary).

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Capt. Benteen, c1865 

Reno was the first to encounter resistance when he was attacked some 500 yards from the village. He was forced to retreat back up into the hills having lost a quarter of his battalion.  Here he met up with Benteen who asked where Custer was. By this time Benteen had received a note from Custer to come quick (see below) but he did nothing. In fact he and Reno sat and talked for about one hour and a half.  A Capt. Thomas Weir, a friend of Custer, was so frustrated with Reno and Benteen’s inaction, particularly as they could all hear gunfire in the distance, that he rode off to investigate. Benteen was shamed into following him.

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Capt. Thomas Weir (1838-76)

In the meantime Custer had arrived on the hill north of the Indian camp and saw it for the first time and realised how mistaken he had been about the number of hostiles involved. He sent the above mentioned note to Benteen, “Benteen, come on. Big village. Come quick. Bring packs.” He then waved hist hat and shouted, “Hurrah boys, we’ve got them. We’ll finish them up and then home to our stations” (bearing in mind there were no survivors I’m not sure of the source of this alleged quote – although one source suggests that a couple of Custer’s Indian scouts were sent away before the final battle). What followed was a complete massacre of Custer’s force. The precise details of Custer’s fight are largely conjectural since none of his men (the five companies under his immediate command) survived the battle. The accounts of surviving Indians are conflicting and unclear.  Custer, himself, died with bullet wounds to the chest and head. With him on the hill were both his brothers, his nephew and his brother-in-law as mentioned above). This was indeed Custer’s last stand on ‘Last Stand Hill’ (as it is known today) as depicted in both Hollywood films, but not the last stand of his whole force.

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Custer’s note to Benteen

Archaeology

There has been an archaeological survey of the battlefield which has produced some interesting results, including around 5,000 artifacts. The finds consist mainly of spent cartridges. It is known that the soldiers used the 1873 Springfield breach-loading ‘trapdoor’ carbine (a point the 1967 film fails to accept as, in the last stand, its soldiers use repeating Henrys/Winchesters), so finds of cartridges belonging to this gun indicate positions of Custer’s soldiers. Any other rifle cartridges indicate the positions of the Indians. It was discovered that the Indians were using 47 different types of guns from muzzle-loading ‘antiques’ to the modern repeating Henry rifle (similar to the famous Winchester). From such finds it is believed that at least 800 Indians were armed with a rifle of some description. Henry rifles had been given to the Indians by the government to shoot buffalo – there’s irony for you!

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Above and below: the 1873 Springfield single-shot breach-loading ‘trapdoor’ carbine

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It was these rifles that gave an idea as to why Custer failed in his encounter – other than being hopelessly outnumbered that is. Simply he allowed the Indians to get too close. The Springfield carbine is great at a long distance skirmish as it has an accurate range of around 600-700 yards, whereas the Henry repeater has an effective range of only 200 yards. However, once close-in the advantage reverses. The Henry can fire 13 rounds in 30 seconds compared with only 4 rounds from the single-shot Springfield. It doesn’t take  rocket science to work out who the odds are against at short range affrays.

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The 1860 Henry repeating rifle

The distribution of the cartridges indicated that something like a third (or more) of Custer’s men had been separated from Custer and killed before being able to join him on ‘Last Stand Hill’ (where Custer was found), about a third were killed on the hill and a third (perhaps less) killed trying to escape down the hill to Deep Ravine near the river Bighorn.

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On top of Last Stand Hill near where Custer fell (see his marker) looking to Deep Ravine in the distance

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In the distance from Last Stand Hill can be seen more markers of those who fell trying to escape to the river through Deep Ravine

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Footnote

[1] A brevet was a warrant giving a commissioned officer a higher rank title as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct, but without receiving the authority, precedence, or pay of real rank.


POSTSCRIPT

One year after the battle, Custer’s remains and those of many of his officers were recovered and sent back east for reinternment in more formal burials. Custer was buried again with full military honours at West Point Cemetery on October 10, 1877 – a great honour for someone who finished last in his graduation class! The battle site was designated a National Cemetery in 1876.

Major Reno was dismissed from the army in 1880 due to alcoholism and died 9 years later. Benteen lasted a little longer but was suspended from duty due to being drunk and disorderly. He retired in 1888 but his inactivity at Bighorn continually hung over him.

Sitting Bull did not take a direct military role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn; instead he acted as a spiritual chief. He escaped to Canada but later found himself working for Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show. He died in 1890 aged 58/59.

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Sitting Bull (1831-90)

You can visit the site of the battle and it has a Visitors Centre (of course). But I did read a guide to the site which said, ‘Where ever you go, watch out for rattlesnakes!’

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P.P.S.  Finally, I always find these topics difficult because I love the Wild West and it’s ‘heroic’ characters.  They are part of the ‘Great American Way’,  However, the the more I read about Custer, the more I dislike him.  Accepted, he was very courageous but that was part of his ego, arrogance and flamboyance – which got him the nickname ‘Lucky’ (he should never have lasted as long a she did with his crazy military antics).  But that luck was to run out. I’m an avid supporter of the Native Americans and believe they were treated very badly by the US government and this leaves an imbalance with the ‘heroic romanticism’ of How the West Was Won. But that’s just my opinion.

 

Kit Carson in the Wild West

I WAS RUMMAGING though some of my books the other day and came across my Kit Carson’s Cowboy Annual of 1958 which had somehow survived my childhood. This particular volume includes a couple of tales of Davy Crockett. Great ‘Boys Own Adventure’ stuff! Of course in those days I assumed these were real characters until one of my ‘friends’ ruined it all by telling me they were only heroic fellows of some writer’s vivid imagination. Bit like hearing Santa Claus is not …… no, I can’t say it. Well, just how wrong was my friend! But I think it took me several years to find out.

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My 1958 Annual – Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, and friendly Native-American (I think he’s Chief Bear Paw from one of the the Davy Crockett yarns in the annual)

If you want more on Davy Crockett, see my Alamo post, August 16, 2014.  As for Kit Carson, or to be more precise, Christopher ‘Kit’ Houston Carson, he was born in Madison County, Kentucky in December 1809. He began his working life as a saddler but that was not for him. He lasted two years at that and then, at the age of sixteen, he joined a group of traders bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico. He learnt (and interpreted) Spanish, worked at a variety of tasks including cook, wagon driver, and in a copper mine, before linking up with a fur trapping party heading for California. He spent a year trapping along the rivers of Arizona and southern California before returning to New Mexico, in 1831, to join the trapper, Thomas Fitzpatrick. With his band of men he headed for the Rocky Mountains.  He spent ten years travelling around Western America learning of all the routes and passages through the territories.

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Early photo of Kit Carson in beaver hat

During this period he came in contact with the Indians (I know we must call them Native Americans but I have to use the old phrase for context). Then in 1836, he married an Arapaho woman named Waanibe (Singing Grass), and had two children of which only one survived (Adeline). His wife also died in about 1841 giving birth to the second child. He married again, this time to a Cheyenne woman named Making-Out-Road (don’t ask), but it did not last. He then split the next eight years between his daughter who was being educated in St Louis (and staying with Carson’s sister) and trapping in Taos, New Mexico.

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In case you didn’t know the whereabouts of New Mexico 

In 1842 he met a traveller/explorer, John C. Frémont, in St Louis. Frémont was planning to survey a route to the west – to be known as the Oregon Trail – and Carson was to be his guide. Three expeditions took place between 1842 and 1845 and both Frémont and Carson had their reputations sealed – Frémont as an explorer and Carson as a frontiersman guide. The American public was fascinated by tales from the Wild West, of Indians and trail blazers, and of unsettled land ‘there for the taking’.  In 1843 Carson married his third wife, a Mexican, Josefa Jaramillo. She was 14 years old and they were to have eight children (not sure where he found the time).

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John C. Frémont                                                                                     Josefa and son

Both Frémont and Carson found themselves caught up in the Mexican War of 1846-48 when the Mexicans demanded that Americans leave California. Needless to say they refused and the Mexicans lost the war and California. Carson spent most of his time as a courier carrying messages/dispatches between command posts and to Washington. It was quite a dangerous task but Carson survived it.

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Billy Williams as Kit Carson in 1950s TV series, Adventures of Kit Carson  (no, I don’t remember it either)

It was around this time (1847) that the first ‘dime novel’ story about Carson’s adventures was produced. It was called An Adventure of Kit Carson: A Tale of the Sacramento. It was printed in Holden’s Dollar Magazine. Many followed.  As with Wild Bill Hickok (see my post, August 23, 2014), Carson’s fame was boosted by these dime novels which bore no relation to his actual activities. Not that it mattered too much to Carson because he was illiterate so couldn’t read them anyway!  Some of Carson’s actual accomplishments were made famous in Dr De Witt C. Peters’ book, The Life and Adventures of Kit Carson published in 1858.  Exactly 100 years later my Kit Carson’s Annual was published!

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One the the dime novels of Kit Carson

In 1849 Carson settled near Taos and became an agent in the Office of Indian Affairs trying to keep peace and to ensure fair treatment with the Native Americans. Quite often Carson did not see eye-to-eye with his Territorial Governor, David Meriwether, and they often fell-out over the treatment of the Native Americans. Although Carson was in favour of good treatment to them he did find himself fighting hostile tribes and this got him repudiation as an Indian-fighter (sorry, Native American-fighter just doesn’t sound right).

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Kit Carson from De Witt C. Peters’ The Life and Adventures of Kit Carson (1858)

The Civil War broke out in 1861 (to 1865) and Carson was appointed lieutenant colonel commanding the First New Mexico Volunteers Regiment for the Union. He fought (on the losing side) against the Confederates at the Battle of Val Verde, but also found himself involved in successful campaigns against the Apache and Navajo  Indian tribes between 1862 to 1864. In fact, he was very tired by this time (aged only 54) and did not want to fight the Indians and asked his commanding officer, Major James Carlton, if he could resign. Carlton said no and told Carson that he was to completely wipe out all the male adult Navajo Indians and capture all women and children. Carson did not often disobey orders but this was one time when he planned to do so. He had no intention of killing a whole tribe of male Indians (actually he couldn’t find them, but that’s not the point!). However, he destroyed their food supplies and crops forcing them to surrender to avoid starvation. There followed the ‘Long Walk of the Navajos’ to Bosque Redondo (a disastrous ‘reservation’ in its own right).  It consisted of some 9,000 Indians and many died on route – the military figures differ greatly from those given by the Native Americans.

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Lt Col Kit Carson

Carson was then involved in a large battle against Comanches and Apaches at Adobe Walls, an abandoned trading post. The battle raged on but proved indecisive. In fact, Carson retreated to New Mexico.  He remained in the army until 1867, retiring as a brigadier general.  Then, in May 1868, eight days before the signing of the treaty allowing the Navajo Indians to return to their homeland, Carson died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm at the age of 58.

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Last photo of Carson taken around March 1868, two months before his death

Travels in Crete 7: the Greek Epiphany

I KNOW I SAID last week that it would be Kit Carson this week, but just back from Crete where I witnessed the Epiphany celebration in the village of Mochlos on Wednesday January 6th. The Epiphany is the twelth night after Christmas and marks the end of that festivity. This is why one of the old wives’ tales has it that it is bad luck to have Christmas decorations up after the twelfth night. Also Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night was written to be performed as a Twelfth Night entertainment. The earliest known performance took place at Middle Temple Hall, one of the Inns of Court, on Candlemas night (festival celebrating Jesus being represented at the Temple), 2nd February 1602 (just thought I’d mention that in case you  have read my post on Middle Temple – December 27, 2014).

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Setting up the table on the small quay by the water (centre right) in Mochlos

The Twelfth Night/Epiphany also marks a visit to the baby Jesus by three Kings, or Wise Men, (Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – representing Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively). The word ‘Epiphany’ comes from Greek and means to show, referring to Jesus being revealed to the world.

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Getting ready to roll …..

The Baptism of Christ symbolizes the rebirth of man which is why, until the fourth century, Christians celebrated the New Year in with the Baptism of Christ on January 6.  In Greece (and other Western Christian Churches) that day is the feast of the Epiphany, called the Theophany, and customs revolve around the Great Blessing of the Waters. It marks the end of the traditional ban on sailing as the heavy winter seas are cleansed of ‘mischief’.  At this ceremony, a cross is thrown into the water, and (sometimes) the men dive into the sea to retrieve it for good luck.

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The Priest blessing the Cross before throwing it into the water – no one dived in after it (well, he had tied a ribbon to it and so it was not going very far!!)

This year the day was sunny and hot (as can be seen from the photos) and a delightful experience. We were all given free raki and cake by the youngsters of the village after the blessing.

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Blessing ends – time for free raki!

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Just to show I was really there – and enjoying the sun after the blessing

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Okay, next week Kit Carson