Sunday, 17 July 2016

Turkey Shoot

Europe: in context

When I was a small boy and beginning to read juvenile material such as the Dandy and Beano comicssomebody gave me an atlas and suggested I learn the names of some of the world's countries. I treasured this atlas for years. 

I was immediately fascinated by the shapes of the continents and the oceans and saw that the atlas was not unlike a jigsaw puzzle. It was amazing for a young boy to discover, for example, that Africa was the same shape as South America - if there were no sea between them they would fit nicely together just like the continents of Europe and Asia.

There were many countries with strange names: Belgian Congo, Papua New Guinea, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and so on. The last mentioned was a huge green coloured country stretching two-thirds of the way across northern hemisphere of the world. 

At that time many countries dotted about the world were coloured pink. I was told that the pink countries, places with names like Canada, India and Rhodesia were parts of the British Empire on which the sun never sets.

Naively I imagined that Hungary was called Hungary because the people who lived there had not very much to eat. And I imagined that Turkey was a country where there were lots of turkeys. And I thought, if the people of Hungary are always hungry maybe they should go and live in Turkey.

At that time I didn't know anything about turkey shoots.  But I knew about explorers and adventurers.  I knew for example that explorers who ventured  into darkest Africa had to wear khaki shorts, bush shirts and pith helmets and that they ran the risk of painful death. 

If they weren't being eaten by lions or crocodiles they risked being boiled in a pot by a black man who went about naked, except for a grass skirt and a bone through his nose. 

At this time the black people were portrayed with low foreheads and thick lips and were known in Britain as savages.

Before I was much older  I discovered that there had been two world wars involving Britain in the years before I was born, and that many of my relatives had been soldiers and airmen called up to fight in these wars for "King and Country". 

From my relatives I soon got to know about cannon fodder, trench knee, gangrene, bombs, poison gas, prisoners of war, the Battle of Britain, medals, tattooed numbers, strange diseases, mental illness, shell shock and lingering or sudden death.

In the 1950's a boy at my school informed me that his house had been bombed during  the war. He asked me if I wanted to go with him and see his new house. The new house turned out to be a prefab, a temporary dwelling not much bigger than a shed. It smelled of boiled cabbage and cats. 

He lived in there with his grandmother who lived in a bed, and with his parents. It was a gloomy, suffocatingly hot, but interesting place for him to live I thought at the time. 

One day my mother said that the Prime Minister had told us that we had never had it so good. Then she  laughed. 

Suddenly, almost overnight it seemed, the prefabs were gone. Vanished into thin air.

The Charge of the Light Brigade was my first turkey shoot I heard out about. How gloriously and fearlessly they rode into the valley of death with cannon to the right of them and cannon to the left of them according to the famous poem we were made to read at school.

Some other turkey shoots are Operation Mole Cricket, Pearl Harbour, and the Highway of Death. 

The Globus is a polyester and steel artwork (1964) by Josef Seebacher (1918-1981). It is to be found today in the Vienna Prater outside the Planetarium.

In Turkey more than 6,000 persons have recently been arrested in connection with a failed putsch. The Turkish leader President Erdogan is quoted as saying: This attempted putsch is my gift from Allah. 

The Sultan will now do whatever he likes. 

Europe: viewpoint 1

Europe: viewpoint 2

Europe: viewpoint 3


  1. >the famous poem you were made to read at school<
    __At my high school,(1959) an injured Korean War veteran began his first class, US history. He passed out the texts, and told us to >not open< those books. He quickly phased through that text saying >THIS is the book you will study, THIS is the text we will discuss, THIS is the book you will be tested on. THIS book is your STUDY point<_!
    __He then said as he opened his book, >please turn to page 25< there, there is a mimeograph list of 4 other US histories, and he then said, >please feel free to read and study these different views of United States history, then balance what you've seen among these histories<.
    __He then theatrically SLAMMED his book shut and said, >but THIS is the book you will study, THIS is the book we will discuss in this class, and THIS is the book of your final test_!
    __I found and learned from his interest in us, that there was more than one view of... life that was, and of life that may become. He led us to think as free as we may, but that we were bound to the text we followed.
    __I hope there are broad view teachers of that sort today, teachers that believe students can see beyond the icons that were set by those that "know better"_! _m

  2. Rings a bell. I was always getting in trouble at school for openly challenging the set text. For example when I challenged the fact that Columbus was the first European in America and said that I knew for a fact that what I was being taught was not correct - I had been reading about the Vikings -
    there was hell to pay and I was branded a trouble maker but kept on because I was reasonably good at sports. Such was my education. But I never wavered on that little bit about American history or anything else I knew to be incorrect in any subject whatever it was. And I always questioned, and questioned and questioned and asked for reasons and proofs. And they didn't like it.

  3. "Suddenly, almost overnight it seemed, the prefabs were gone. Vanished into thin air."

    Were permanent dwellings built, or were the tenants thrown out as well?

    1. I'm not aware of any tenants being thrown on to the streets. Council houses for rent were built in many locations.


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