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Now that we’ve finished off Lord of the Rings, last evening my hand fell on my volume of Kipling’s Just So Stories for the eldest gel’s bed-time reading.  We sampled “How The Whale Got His Throat” and “How The Camel Got His Hump”.  The stories and the poems that go along with them make quite entertaining out-loud reading – I’d forgotten how much fun Kipling could have with language when he felt like it.

The gel was evidently amused.  This morning, she said, “Hey, Dad! I thought of a new Kipling story – ‘ How the Dad Got His Cranky'”.

“Oh, yes,” I replied, “Didn’t he get it by having children?”


Speaking of such things, I’m considering reading Tom Sawyer to her next.  I first heard it myself at her age, read by my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Cook.  She was the very embodiment of Aunt Polly.  I loved every minute of it.

In honour of the day, how about a little Royal Navy pron?

First June

HMS Defense at the Battle of the Glorious First of June, 1794, by Nicholas Pocock.

Yes, today is the anniversary of the Glorious First, the first naval battle of the French Revolutionary Wars, in which the 25 ships of the line of the Channel Fleet under Lord Howe took on the 26 ship Atlantic Fleet of Admiral Villaret.  When it was all over, the French had lost seven ships, with the Brits suffering no loss of ships.   On the other hand, a vital grain convoy that the French squadron had sought to protect managed to make it through without the Royal Navy falling upon them.

In the long run, the aggressiveness of Howe’s tactics in attempting to bring his fleet into close contact with the French line instead of standing off on a parallel course and duking it out with them had a seriously demoralizing effect on the French, starting a long, long period of psychological domination of the seas by the Royal Navy.  Numerous subsequent British victories – including both the Nile and Trafalgar, can be attributed at least in part to French hesitancy based on this sense of naval inferiority.

(Pocock, by the way, served on a frigate relaying flag messages among the British fleet and therefore was an eyewitness to the event.)


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June 2009