Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Lizard Connection

David Icke in repose

Let me introduce you to the entity called David Icke. In the 1970s David was a professional football player resplendent in the English football league (c’mon the baggies). When his career ended due to an auto-immune condition (rheumatoid arthritis) he became a sports commentator on the tele. He was articulate, opinionated, popular and obviously intelligent. In 1990 he had an epiphany while in a Ryde bookstore on the Isle of Wight. Apparently, a voice commanded him to go to the ‘Psychic Section’ and it was there that he espied a book written by a psychic living in Brighton. He felt compelled to visit the psychic and during the interview, she told him he was about to become an important recipient of supernatural and psychic messages. From that moment the ‘scales fell from his eyes’ and a worldwide conspiracy became evident…… Subsequently, he popped up on a popular talk show, ‘The Terry Wobegone Show’. He appeared in a turquoise tracksuit and calmly announced he was the son of god and the world was about to end. The audience did not seem to be overly impressed and greeted the revelation with howls of derision and laughter. Overnight he went from a respected television personality to a full-blown fruit loop and a bona fide swivel-eyed, looney. Although his views have evolved over the intervening years, as described graphically in his 20 or so books, there are a few consistent themes. In the following paragraph, I’ll outline a few of his ideas: read and weep.

He believes that aliens from another galaxy came to earth several thousand years ago. He calls these aliens, Archons and they are depicted as tall reptile-like creatures. The Archons manipulated human DNA to produce human/alien hybrids. These hybrids have become the leaders of the world and are in collusion to manipulate and control world events. Apparently, the goal of the lizard hybrids is to cause worldwide strife and discontent which releases negative energy. The Archons, residing in their ‘other galaxy’ home are able to feed and gain sustenance from this energy. Also, the moon is hollow and contains reptile aliens, probably on holiday from their home galaxy. They use the moon as a base to broadcast mind-controlling beams in order to manipulate the way, we humans, think and behave. The Queen, the Clintons, the Bush family and apparently Justine Beiber are part human/lizard alien. We don’t observe their natural form as they are able to shapeshift through the dimensions.

So why am I bothering to write about a man who is clearly delusional? David Icke interests me for several reasons: firstly, I honestly believe that he is sincere and earnest in his beliefs. I do not think he is a charlatan or conman in the American tel-evangelist mould. Of course, I may be wrong and it is possible the whole, ‘lizard alien’ conspiracy is a means to fleece the gullible. I suggest my readers listen to the man in action on YouTube in order that they may form their own opinion (refer to the link below). Secondly, David Icke has seemingly/seamlessly tapped into the modern preoccupation with ‘new age’ sensibilities and other- world consciousness. A hash of pseudo-scientific, Eastern spiritual and other associated nonsense. From this wobbly edifice, he speaks to packed auditoriums throughout the world holding forth for eight or 10 hours to an enthralled and captivated audience.

There is no doubt that David Icke has charisma- a quality difficult to define but you know it when you see it. How otherwise is he able to keep people seated and presumably listening for such long periods? I’ve listened to a few of his monologues and I was struck by the way he introduces and delivers his fantastical/phantasmal material without a shred of evidence or coherent progression. He talks a lot about energy and like a lot of ‘New Age folk,’ he appears to have no idea of what energy actually is.  
I don’t think Mr Icke is mad in any conventional sense. Although, I suspect, like me, he doesn’t always take his medication, prescribed or otherwise. When he holds forth on topics not related to lizard folk and a hollow moon he makes a lot of sense. I watched a video of Icke discussing the transgender movement and I found myself in agreement with many of the points he raised. He also makes some very salient points about the world we live in, none of which are particularly controversial or new. A lot of his non-delusional material is actually commonplace and mundane: it is the delivery which makes it appear novel and supposedly interesting. His ideas concerning the control of society by powerful and rich oligarchies would ring true if espoused 2,000 years ago: truly there is nothing new under the sun. Again, I suggest my readers listen to him in action- it is difficult to paraphrase all of his opinions and ideas, mainly because he holds forth on everything and at great length. His mind must be a tumult of ideas and competing voices- reminds me of someone I know. I must admit to a grudging respect for Icke. Whatever his motivation for doing what he does, he clearly is imbued with astonishing energy (whatever that is) and a singularity of purpose which is frankly admirable. I cannot dislike a man for doing what he thinks is right, although, I disagree with much of what he has to say.

I would be interested in what my readers think of David Icke: Is he a charlatan?; a man of vision?; a true prophet of our times?; or madder than mad Jack MacMad on a particularly mad day? Let me know what you think of this rather strange and driven, man. 

In this video he talks a lot of sense. In other videos, not so much.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

On Ancient Greek Mathematics

Now, where did I leave my car keys......

As moderns, all we can do is gape in wonder at the intellectual achievements of the ancient Greeks. With the eclipse of Greece following their conquest by Rome, Greek genius descended unto stasis. In the West, their achievements would not be matched for over a Millenium.

Mathematics is the epitome of clarity of thought. The scientific method, although powerful, can only give us mere mortals a side shifted glance at true knowledge. To view knowledge full-on there is only one vision, and that vision is mathematics. Only mathematics can lead fragile humans to true knowledge. One plus one is always two, at least in base ten, regardless of context and intellectual stance. To think otherwise is to contemplate the mind of a madman, or perhaps a genius.   
The ancient Greeks were the first civilisation to undertake mathematics for its own sake regardless of any practical application. The ancient Egyptians had developed their own mathematics but it was subject to matters of state and engineering. It was a practical discipline and there is no evidence that the Egyptians had any abstract concept of mathematics that was not allied to the practical and mundane.

Although the Egyptians initially influenced Greek mathematics of the 7th and 6th centuries BC, the Greeks expanded and developed mathematical principles far beyond anything envisioned by the Egyptians. The Greeks, as far as we are aware, were the first ancient culture to undertake rigorous mathematical proofs to underpin their geometrical conjectures.     
In the realm of abstract mathematics, the Greeks were supreme for their time and managed to squeeze everything that could be possibly imagined from a straight edge and a compass. They achieved much even though their mathematics was limited by their crude number notation and the absence of the concept of zero. Like the Romans, the Greeks substituted letters for numbers. The system was additive and unlike the system we use today, the position of the numbers was not important. Thus, the development of algebra was denied to them. It can be argued that the development of algebra and its advanced offshoot/offspring, calculus, is the most majestic and exquisite branches of mathematics; they are certainly the most practical. And even though Greek mathematics, of the time, could not work with abstract numbers and notational substitutions, they did manage to develop a form of geometric proto-calculus under the auspices of the last great mathematician of Western antiquity, Archimedes.  The death of Archimedes in 235 BC, at the hands of a Roman soldier, signalled the end of Greek mathematics in any innovative sense. Archimedes’ calculation of the area of two-dimensional figures by the product of the infinitesimal anticipates the great insights of Newton and Leibnitz in the 17th century.

Up until a hundred years ago, Euclid’s 14 books on geometry, ‘The Elements’, were an essential study for Victorian grammar school pupils. All of geometry is laid bare in these worthy tomes. These books are crammed with ancient mathematical wisdom and wonderful expositions of mathematical proofs. The basic geometrical axioms established by ancient Greek thinkers is probably one of their greatest legacies.

Most folk have heard of Pythagoras and the theorem that bears his name, although it is unlikely that Pythagoras ‘invented’ this theorem himself. Why he has become associated with this cardinal rule has been lost in the vast (nay extensive) mists of time. Pythagoras and his acolytes flourished in the 6th century BC and were a rather a strange bunch. If they were existent today we would describe them as a cult. They espoused some rather odd ideas and they were obsessed with numbers. To the Pythagoreans, everything was related to number and they extended their mathematical insight into the realm of musical harmony. When one of their acolytes discovered irrational numbers (a number that cannot be expressed as a fraction) he was taken out to sea and drowned. In this way, they hoped to suppress this seditious and dangerous notion. With the discovery of irrational numbers, mathematics lost its impeccable perfection and symmetry at least in the eyes of the Pythagoreans. The discovery that ‘rogue numbers’ had an abstract existence was a serious blow to this rather weird aesthetic sect- they would never be the same again. I’ve discussed Pythagoras, and his followers, previously in this blog: here is the link.

Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia and parts of India introduced the Greeks to Babylonian astronomy. During his excursions, Alexander founded a number of cities throughout the former Persian empire, the greatest, of course, was Alexandria in northern Egypt. Egyptian Alexandria became a seat of great learning and knowledge and attracted eminent mathematicians and philosophers throughout the Hellenistic world.

With the subjection of the Greeks by Rome and their integration within the Roman Empire, innovative mathematics ceased. The pragmatic/phlegmatic Romans had little time for abstract mathematical concepts. If maths could help with the building of straight roads or the manufacture of engines of war, all well and good, however, the Romans had no interest or aptitude for mathematics in general, especially in the abstract. And it is probably true that all Roman mathematics was wholly dependent and derivative from Greek ideas and principles.                            

Western mathematics would languish until invigorated by Indian mathematical concepts, transmitted through contact with the Muslims, during the early middle ages. The power of ‘Arabic numerals’, our current counting system, was quickly recognised by the scholars of the day, although the Catholic church was against it (O, what a surprise!). It allowed Western mathematics to develop beyond geometry and expand into new and exciting mathematical territory. From the Hindus, the West came to understand the concept of zero. The importance of this simple (?is it) concept cannot be underestimated and historically, together with the development of the positional decimal number system, represents perhaps the most important insight in the development of mathematical theory.

Perhaps, I will be so moved by zero’s noble and lofty countenance, that I will pen a post dedicated to its magnificence: I’ll put it on the list for future contemplation.   

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Sharon Thunderberg-Whine

Sharon in  Repose

Greta Garbage
Great news from the humble Hamlet of Tipton as it nestles within the folds of its grime besmirched coal fields. For it can be revealed today that Tipton is about to receive a state visit from the diminutive juvenile environmental activist and annoying twat, Sharon Thunderberg-Whine. As you will no doubt be aware, Sharon obtained international stardom after burning down her school in her native Dudley as a protest against emissions from burning fossil fuels and the ubiquitous presence of ugly smelly people. She has inspired mentally challenged pupils throughout the world to set fire to their schools in a mass conflagration of mass ignorance.

Little Miss Sunshine
Little miss wonderful will arrive in Tipton by a luxurious and sumptuously appointed barge. In order to save the earth’s precious resources, she will travel up the Dudley to Tipton canal in a barge powered by ferrets. The ferrets will be cunningly arrayed in serried ranks and their little scurrying feet will turn a spindle attached to an oil-burning turbine. In addition, little solar panels have been sewn into their skin and if the guttering Tipton sun manages to break through the smog it will provide enough energy to light one of Greta’s cigarettes (non-filtered, of course). Once alighted, Greta will address a meeting of the Amalgamated Research Society for the Environment (ARSE) in the well-appointed town hall next to the gas works and the lard rendering facility.

Little Miss Gobshite
Previously, she has presided over meetings as far away as Birmingham. In one speech she described the West Midlands as a shit hole full of unwholesome, smelly poor people. In a flood of tears, she blurted out that she didn’t want to live in a world where women shop at Aldi in housecoats and slippers. A world where gas emissions vented by people subsisting on a diet of kebabs, chips and blue pop fill the atmosphere like a miasma of doom. She wanted a future populated by nice, quiet, middle-class folk. Folk who can read and string together coherent sentences and don’t fart in public. She expostulated, in between vales/hails of tears, that she would burn down every school in the West Midlands if that is what it would take to achieve her dream.

Fifteen Minutes of Pain
Miss Thunderberg-Whine has been lauded for her lifestyle and pundits have implored the populace to do as she tells them. She eats only pig’s pudding and whelks washed down with copious amounts of brown Ale. She smokes only the finest non-filtered fags with a carbon emission footprint of a Yeti. It has been speculated that Sharon (pronounced Sharone) is the greatest thing to hit the West Midlands since the German bombing raid of March 1941. It has been put forth by folk, who talk loudly in Indian restaurants, that Greta is likely to win this years prestigious ‘Scowling in Pigtails Award’. An award originally inaugurated by the Tipton impresario, Alfred Nobhead in 1911 for the citizen with the best scowl whilst sporting a pigtail.  

Smelly People and Ferrets
Miss Thunderberg-Whine has not gone forth without criticism. It has been pointed out that the ferrets propelling the barge are apt to release tons of methane gas from their anal glands. In addition, the barge crew is perhaps the smelliest, poorest and most uneducated folk in the Greater Tipton Metropolis. This has prompted some to state that Greta’s penchant for burning down our education edifices is only going to compound the problem she is advocating against, moving forward.

The Inevitable, Mrs Mugumbo
Mrs Impromptu Mugumbo of no fixed bowel movements had this to say when berated by an intrepid reporter in Tipton High Street yesterday: “I wish she would just piss off and return to the obscurity she undoubtedly deserves. Why should we listen to a 16-year-old schoolgirl with mental health issues and who clearly has no conceptual grasp of the complex issues she bangs on about. Go back to your special school and obtain some well-needed education. You are being indulged and cynically exploited by politicians and sundry hippy types. Your unrealistic childlike dream is a but a gossamer phantasm fueled by environmental left-wing liberals with a wider agenda. Perhaps when you are older you will gain a little wisdom and humility. Then you may be qualified to hold forth on some of the world’s most complex and intractable problems. However, by then no one will be listening to you as will have been consigned to the rubbish bin of history".

Wise words Mrs Mugumbo, wise words, indeed……..      

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Choosing Your First Bow III: The Traditional Bow

This is the final article in a series dealing with the types of bow available to the novice archer. It is hoped that these articles will dispel the fog that surrounds the decision-making process as the newbie tries to negotiate the morass of information out there in the big wide world. In this article, I would like to consider a niche bow within a niche sport: The Traditional (Trad) Bow.

Trad Bows
Lately, there has been a resurgent interest in traditional archery. Archers are returning to historical archery and are interested in bows typically used in ancient and medieval times. These bows don’t contain the accessories associated with modern bows. Therefore, they don’t have sights or arrow rests or any of the accoutrements adorning the modern bow, however, it would be wrong to consider these bows primitive or unsophisticated.    

Traditional bows, of all styles, made in the traditional manner, are not as efficient as modern bows. Modern bows are marvels of modern engineering and use materials not available to our ancestors. So what is the appeal of the traditional bow? This is often an emotional question and the traditional archer seems keen to explore the cultural and historical roots of ancient and medieval archery. For some, it is a stand against modernism and a retreat into more simple times……

English Longbow
Let us consider the iconic English Longbow (ELB). This bow is very familiar due to its representation in popular culture. It is the bow used by the mythical (perhaps historical?) English archer, Robin Hood. However, in the recent reincarnation of Robin of Loxley, in Hollywood, he is portrayed shooting an Asian style recurve- may the gods forgive them for they will receive no absolution from me. Typically the bow is made from a single piece of wood. Historically bows were made from Yew although these days most are made from other hardwoods such as Ash or Osage Orange. As the name suggests, they are long, very long and generally exceed two metres in length. They don’t exhibit any recurve and can be best described as a ‘straight stick’. They usually have a horn overlay on the limb tips and in the purest form, there is no dedicated wrapping material on the grip. As with all traditional bows, there is no cut out for the arrow to rest and the arrow is shot off the archer’s hand. Less traditional designs are also available. Thus bows may be laminated with a series of hardwoods and glass fibre and the handle area may be wrapped with leather. I personally own an English longbow in Osage Orange at 66lbs draw weight. It would be great to own a traditional Yew bow, but sadly, good quality Yew is very expensive.

Behold the English Longbow in Action

Horse Bow/Asiatic Bow
Asiatic style bows are also popular with the traditional community and not just in Asia where this style of bow originated. Indeed, in addition to the classic English longbow, I own several Asiatic bows. In truth, this category covers a multitude of bow styles but they do have some features in common and it is these common features that I’ll be discussing here. These bows are a lot shorter than the English longbow and were originally designed to be shot on horseback. Obviously, English longbows are unsuited for mounted archery due to their length.

Unlike the English longbow, the Asiatic bow was often constructed of several materials glued together. Simple self bows (made from a single piece of wood) seem to be less common in Asiatic cultures although there are historical examples. Traditionally, these bows were composed of a wood core with animal sinew and horn attached to the wood base with fish glue. This gave the bow immense strength for its size. These traditional bows can still be purchased today but they are very expensive. More likely the modern Asian bow will have either glass fibre limbs or consist of a composite of wood and glass fibre. What makes these bows distinctive is the aggressive recurve at the ends of the limb. This can be achieved in one of two ways. The simplest way is to add a piece of wood to the end of the limb at an angle. These are called siyahs and they act as non-bending levers. The second method does without the wooden siyah and instead the bow limb is curved toward the end. Regardless the same result is obtained: a sturdy, fast bow capable of high draw weights.

Asian Horse Bow with Syahs

The Rest….
The English longbow and the Asiatic bow remain the most popular bow types on the traditional bow market. But there other bow types that have a minority interest among traditionalists and I’ll just briefly touch on some of these bows. The Yumi bow is of Japanese origin and like the English longbow is very long, but unlike the English longbow, the limbs are asymmetrical. Traditionally they were made from bamboo glued to other natural materials. Viking style bows are also commercially available. However, the Viking longbow is very similar to the English bow and differs only in the design of the nock. The last traditional bow that I’ll mention here is the Native American bow. I’ll mention it only because I own a bow of this kind (Sioux bow). From what I can see bow design varied greatly depending on the Native American tribe, but some generalisations can be made. Native bows tended to be short to facilitate their use on horseback. They are mostly made from a single straight piece of wood. Due to the limitations in the bending properties of short self bows the draw weights and draw lengths of Native American bows tend to be lower than other bow types. 

Yumi Bow: Note the Asymmetry

This is not an exhaustive treatment of traditional bows but merely an attempt to give a general impression of the types of trad bows available for purchase.       


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Choosing Your First Bow II: The Recurve Bow

In this post, I would like to consider the recurve bow. This topic is a little more convoluted than my discussion of the compound bow (see the previous post). Recurve bows come in many forms and I’ll try to limit the discussion to what I think are the most important and salient points.

First off it is necessary to describe the basic form of the recurve bow. Recurve bows have a very distinct profile. The tips, to some varying degree, will curve away from the archer when the bow is unstrung. This is a very old bow design and was favoured by Middle Eastern and Asiatic cultures in ancient and medieval periods. The recurve design enables more efficient storage of energy in the bow limbs when compared to a similar-sized straight, longbow. So, let’s jump in and consider the main types of this highly popular bow.

Entry Level Recurves
These bows are designed for the first time archer. They tend to be ‘barebow’ and of lowish draw weights (18lbs - 35lbs). These bows are free from the fripperies of more advanced bows and have a simple cut out area on the riser which acts as an arrow rest. As said, these bows are marketed to novice archers and therefore are priced toward the cheaper end of the market. Typically the riser is made of wood and carved in an intricate and attractive manner. The limbs consist of a wood core sandwiched between two thin layers of fibreglass. The tips of the bow (nocks) are often reinforced with an overlay of wood or additional fibreglass. The length of the bows varies markedly. As a rule of thumb the longer your draw length the longer the bow you should choose- but this is subject, as always, to personal preference. Recurve bows come in two flavours: the one-piece bow and the takedown. The one-piece bow is self-explanatory while takedown bows are designed so that both limbs can be removed from the riser. Obviously, this design aids portability and is particularly favoured by hunters. 

These bows are often seen as a transition to more advanced bows. After basic archery skills are obtained the archer may hanker for a more sophisticated and versatile design. But this is not invariably so and many archers will be satisfied with this type of bow. If you are only interested in back yard shooting, this bow is all you really need.

Samick Sage Recurve

Target (Olympic) Recurves
These are considered as intermediate and advanced bows depending upon the materials and accessories involved. Typically these bows will be relatively long with sports sights, sophisticated arrows rest, clickers and stabilisation rods. Effectively, these bows are designed for the serious target archer and they can achieve consistent and accurate shots up to 70 and 90 metres depending on the skill of the individual archer. Universally these bows are takedowns and the limbs can be removed and swapped. These bows utilise the ILF system (international limb fitting). This allows the archer to grow with his equipment without discarding the riser (risers can be very expensive). In this way, it is possible to upgrade to more sophisticated limbs and/or limbs with a greater draw weight whilst retaining the original riser.

The difference between ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ bows lies with the materials used in the construction of the limbs and the riser. At the cheaper end of the market, the limbs are made of wood and carbon fibre. The more expensive limbs contain an internal foam core encased in carbon fibres. Supposedly, these advanced limbs facilitate a smooth draw with reduced vibration and torque. Lower end risers are made from aluminium and magnesium alloys. Expensive risers are made of carbon and are lighter, more stable, and better balanced than the cheaper metal risers. That said, it is likely that only the highly skilled archer can obtain the full benefit from high end, expensive limbs and risers.

Hunting Recurves
I’d just like to say a few words concerning hunting recurves. Clearly, large target bows with their paraphernalia and garish colours are totally unsuited for hunting. Hunting recurves are much smaller than target recurves and are typically within 50 to 64 inches while target recurves may be as long as 72 inches. Another difference concerns the power of the respective bow types. Hunting bows are more powerful than target bows and may go as high as 60lb in draw weight. This power is required in order to kill large prey at distances typically no longer than 20 yards. Hunting bows are not designed for accurate long-distance shooting. In addition, hunting bows don’t have many of the features of target bow such as stabiliser rods, although they may have sights. 

Modern Longbow
To be honest there is little to say about the modern variant of this bow. All that applies to the recurve applies to this longbow except the limbs are straight or may exhibit a little deflex.  Due to their design, they are less efficient than comparable sized recurves. This is still an amazing bow though and I own several variants.

Modern Longbow

Okay, this concludes my summary of recurve bows. In the next post, I’ll consider a rather mixed bag of bows: The Traditional, or Trad Bow.          



Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Choosing Your First Bow I: The Compound Bow

I've started to write articles to populate the new website concerning my business enterprise selling archery equipment and I've decided to place them on this blog as well. I'm a lazy man and writing is hard work so I would like the fruits of my labour to receive maximum coverage. Also, some of my esteemed readers may find this information interesting.

This post is the first in a series of posts addressing the needs of the novice archer. The first flurry of posts is dedicated to choosing your first bow. This is not an easy quest as there are numerous styles and types of bows commercially available and newbies can easily be lost in an overload of information and sadly disinformation. I only wish I had had access to this information when I first became interested in the sport. Perhaps, some of my early purchasing decisions would have been less spontaneous and chaotic.

So let’s get to it…..
Okay, so there are two very important questions that need to be asked.
What type of archery are you primarily interested in?
         And importantly
What is your budget?

Let us consider the first question. Archery is a very diverse sport and there are a number of different bow types to choose from. Let’s have a look at a very popular bow type, the compound bow. 

Compound Bows
The Compound Bow in all its Complex Glory
Compound bows represent the high tech end of the sport and were first developed in the late 1960s. The bow consists of a series of pulleys and cams integrated with the bow limbs. Compound bows are engineered to maximise the transfer of muscle power to the bow and hence to the arrow. The archer is able to adjust the draw weight and draw length of the bow within defined limits. In addition, compound bows exhibit ‘let off’. This means that when the bowstring is pulled to maximum length the poundage of the bow experienced by the archer is reduced- often by as much as 90%. This enables the archer to comfortably hold the bow at the fully drawn position and allows the aiming process to proceed at leisure. In comparison, with other types of bows, the archer experiences the full power (draw weight) of the bow when at fully drawn. It is difficult to maintain this posture for any length of time and therefore aiming may be affected. Due to their efficient mechanical design compound bows propel the arrow at relatively high speeds and with a flat trajectory.  All this, together with a sophisticated and often magnifying sight system, means that the bow is very accurate allowing even a novice archer to achieve impressive results after minimal practice. If you are looking for a bow that will give you consistent and accurate results with the minimum of training, the compound bow may be for you.

The compound bow is excellent for both target shooting and hunting and it is possible to buy bows designed specifically for each endeavour. Typically, ‘hunting bows’ are shorter and more compact than their target-orientated brethren and come in a variety of camouflage patterns and colours. Clearly, a relatively short bow is easier to handle in forested and bush terrain in comparison to a longer bow. Dedicated ‘target compound bows’ tend to be longer thus facilitating stability and accuracy at long distance; they can also be obtained in bright attractive colours. Of course, a target bow can be used for hunting and a hunting bow can also be used for target practice. It is just that each type of bow is tweaked for full efficiency for either hunting or target practice.  

I’ll have more to say on the compound bow, in a future post, when I discuss the relative costs involved when purchasing bows.

My Compound Bow- The PSE Stinger X

This concludes the first post in a series of posts looking at the variety bow types available and their suitability for the novice archer. In the next post, I’ll be considering perhaps the most popular bow used in archery, the recurve.                      

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Chicken's Day Off

Henry's good side
In 1403 the Lancastrian king, Henry the IV, marched his army to fight against the rebel army led by Sir Harry Hotspur at Shrewsbury. In the van of the battle was Henry’s son, the future King Henry the V. During the battle Prince Henry was struck in the face by a bodkin arrow shot by a Cheshire bowman. The arrow was propelled by an English war bow at a draw weight likely exceeding 120 pounds. The plate armour of the time was cunningly fashioned so that an arrow would glance off unless it hit the plate squarely at 90 degrees. In order to defeat the armour of the time, bowmen would have been using a bodkin head. The bodkin was the armour piercing missile of its day although only a perpendicular hit could pass through armour (probably not- see update). The prince had lifted his visor in order to gain a better perspective of the proceedings and the arrow had entered the right side of his face, close to the nose. It is likely that the arrow had glanced off the prince’s breastplate before travelling upward to hit his face. It has been conjectured that the glancing blow saved the young prince’s life by dissipating much of the force of the projectile, otherwise it is likely that the arrow would have passed through the skull resulting in the prince's instant demise. The arrow came to rest at the base of the prince’s skull, six inches from the entry point. Astonishingly, Henry continued to fight for a further 90 minutes until the battle was won and Hotspur lay dead from an arrow wound to his face. This showed a degree of fortitude and bravery not given to most men. Twas more wondrous considering that the grievously injured prince was only 16 at the time. Regardless, the wounded prince was in a bad way. If infection set in then his fate would have been sealed and a painful and lingering death would have ensued from ‘wound fever’. And this would have been the undoubted fate of the common soldier…………But the heir to the throne was destined for better treatment. Although even royalty was not immune from infection. It is remembered that Henry’s ancestor, King Richard ‘The Lionheart’ died of an infection after receiving an arrow (actually, it was a crossbow bolt) to the chest in battle.    

Arrowhead of the time
When the shaft of the arrow was pulled from the prince’s face, the arrow point remained firmly fixed in the skull. Indeed, the head was designed to separate readily from the shaft as it was only fixed by wax which melted at blood temperature. The local doctors were at a loss of how to treat the injury apart from potions and incantations. Luckily, the famed surgeon, John Bradmore arrived from London to take care of the prince. Bradmore was no quack. He probed the wound with an Alder stick wrapped in linen soaked in Rose honey. He continued this process with larger probes until the wound was sufficiently large to prevent closure and superficial healing. During the procedure the young prince was heard to softly exclaim: “Gadzooks good physic, forsooth that smarts a tad”. Bradmore commissioned the local blacksmith to make a mechanical instrument for the extraction of the arrowhead. It took three days for the device to be manufactured and I can only guess the agonies the poor prince suffered during the interval. The good surgeon gave a detailed account of the instrument's design in his influential surgical treatise, Philomena, from which it has been possible to reconstruct the original extraction device. 

Bradmore's Arrow Extractor
Once in possession of the contraption, Bradmore removed the honey from the wound and inserted the instrument deep into the prince’s face until the end of the probe entered into the arrow socket. By turning a screw handle the jaws of the probe slowly expanded grasping the inner edge of the socket and by a gentle rocking motion, the arrow was freed from the bone and the arrow extracted. The cavity was flushed with alcohol and again treated with honey. Amazingly the prince made a full recovery and would go on to lead the English to victory as King Henry V, at Agincourt, in 1415.

What is astonishing is Bradmore’s skill and knowledge for the time. This is just 50 years hence from the Black Death which claimed the lives of a third of the population of Europe. A time when other physicians would likely strap a live chicken to a wound in order to draw out the miasma. Clearly, Bradmore was a man ahead of his contemporaries. Not only was his medical insight and surgical technique superlative, but he also had a knowledge of asepsis that would be relevant today. The use of honey is telling. This amazing mixture of bee spit, pollen and nectar is a wonderfully effective antimicrobial. Honey’s high sugar content together with natural immune compounds present in bee saliva makes this delicious comestible extremely effective at destroying bacteria. Indeed, it is this very property that makes honey a useful treatment for infection in these days of antibiotic resistant organisms. Also, we should not deride the skill of the unknown blacksmith who made the instrument. Without modern power tools, he would have had to cut the spiral screw grooves in the metal handle by hand. This was no easy task. A high degree of precision was demanded in order for the device to work at all.    

The prince had indeed been favoured by the god’s of war to be served/saved by men of such consummate ability. The local chickens, also, did rather well not to have their feather’s ruffled or sullied, that day.     

                 Update: This is hot off the press-the video is 6 hours old at the time of writing. I've added a video from Matt Easton concerning the effectiveness of arrows against 15th-century  plate armour. Well worth viewing.