Wednesday, 30 November 2016

breathe without you...

Ironically, given I have a chronic, incurable medical condition, I’m not very good at being ill. Hmm. Actually, perhaps that’s entirely unsurprising. After all, I doubt that there are many people who become fonder of hospitals the more time they spend in them.

I have a cold. I don’t think that I’m one of those guys who makes a whole song and dance about their terrible “man flu”, but I definitely don’t like being ill and I try my best to let it interfere with my life as little as possible. I think the only sick days I have ever had were 1 day when I had campylobacter and was delirious with a fever and stomach cramps, and I had to have a few days off after my lumbar puncture when the altered pressure in my central nervous system meant I couldn’t stand up for more than about half an hour without getting pounding headaches and breaking into a cold sweat. So yes, this does mean that I’m one of those people who turns up to work and coughs and splutters my way through a day. Yes, as someone with a compromised immune system myself, I could perhaps be a little more considerate… but the plain truth of the matter is that, unless I feel really unwell, I’m going to come to work. I don’t do duvet days.

With this particular cold – which developed nicely into a case of viral bronchitis – I sounded terrible, but always felt basically okay. 85% of normal, maybe – so I just tried to carry on with my life as normal. Sadly for me, this meant that I could work, but once it descended into my lungs and took up residence, exercise is out of the question. I did my last run 12 full days ago and even had to stop cycling to and from work when I started wheezing on the way home a week ago. I don’t particularly feel like exercising at the moment, but as someone who has run over 1000 miles this year and goes out 5 times a week, this is proving to be very difficult. I’ve started cursing the runners I see out on the streets under my breath. The bastards… what a bloody cheek that they’re out enjoying something I want to be doing but currently can’t. I keep setting myself little targets: I’ll start cycling to work again on Wednesday and will maybe do a little jog when I get home… but so far, my lungs just haven’t cleared up enough to make that possible (at one point this week, my wife woke me up at about 3am to rub Vicks onto my chest. It’s a lovely gesture, to be sure, but I think my coughing in my sleep was starting to fray her nerves). I think I’m going a bit crazy. I’m aiming for parkrun this week (and will be there, come hell or high water, even if I have to walk), but I’ll reluctantly have to play it by ear. Annoyingly, I’ve got a half marathon booked on Sunday next week… at this rate, even if my lungs clear up, I’m not sure it would be a very good idea. Dangnabbit. I hate being sensible.

Mind you. That being said, it’s also sort of nice to have all this time on my hands. It’s amazing how much earlier I’m getting home and how I can actually just sit down and watch telly or something like a normal person. It’s weird.

Naturally, I’ve put this time to excellent use by starting to play Skyrim again. I’m trying to make my character run everywhere.

If I can’t flog myself, I don’t really know what else to do.

Oh, and you know that thing where you cough so hard you rupture something in your ribcage and it makes coughing even more miserable?  Yeah.  That.  Good times.

Monday, 28 November 2016

FACTS


This from the New Yorker today.  As brought to my attention by my friend Marissa.

2016 is pretty much this, isn't it?

Post-truth, post-facts, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Friday, 25 November 2016

I shudder to breathe...


After coughing miserably for most of the last ten days, I was diagnosed yesterday with bronchitis. The doctor also helpfully told me a story about how, when he was at University, he tried to exercise with bronchitis and ended up on his hands and knees on the gym floor coughing up a ball of phlegm the size of a cricket ball.   Hmm.  Cool story, Hansel.

It’s viral, so there’s not much anyone can do about it, but at least we know, eh? (my wife tells me that I’ve even been coughing in my sleep. Sorry about that). What I also know is that my last run was a steady parkrun with C last Saturday and nothing since. I even stopped cycling to work earlier this week when my short ride home reduced me to a wheezing, spluttering wreck.

I’m sure the enforced break is a chance for my body to rest from the 1000-odd mile pounding that I’ve subjected it to so far this year… but at the same time, it’s intensely frustrating. I’m going to parkrun tomorrow to walk around at the back and to hope that a bit of fresh air will do me more good than harm. I’m also – in theory – signed up to do a Turkey Trot half marathon in a couple of weeks. If I’m remotely recovered by then, I’ll probably give it a go with no idea of a time in my head…

Running is the thing that I do that makes me feel better about myself. It can be hard and I’ve been frustrated of late that I haven’t been able to go as fast as I’d like… but I’ve been reminded this week that going slowly is a whole lot better than not going at all.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

rolled and rumbled past my door...


Billy Bragg & Joe Henry @ Nottingham Playhouse, 
17th November 2016

So slack has my gig reviewing become that I’ve left it nearly a whole week before getting round to writing up this one. Well, better late than never. If you want to read a proper review of this gig, then you should head over to David Belbin and read the extended version of the write-up he did for the Evening Post (I have Dave to thank for the setlists too).

I’ve been a Billy Bragg fan now for 29 years. That’s a pretty long stretch by almost anyone’s standard, and can only really be matched by the likes of Iron Maiden in my record collection. The somewhat straightforward pleasures of Iron Maiden, bless them, haven’t quite provided the intellectual and emotional stimulation of the Bard of Barking over the years. Tonight, he’s performing with an old friend, Joe Henry, who, as an American abroad, immediately tells us that he feels he needs to say something about the result of the US Election: “It’s where we are. It isn’t who we are”. They’re touring “Shine a Light”, a concept album of railroad songs in the great American tradition. They recorded the songs in waiting rooms and hotel rooms as they travelled the 65 hours and 3000 miles of railroad between Chicago and Los Angeles. The railway, so they told us, is so much more evocative a form of transport than any other; it symbolises dreams and escape in a way that aeroplanes and cars (unless driven by Bruce Springsteen, Bragg quips) never quite have. Trains, of course, played a fundamental part in opening up the USA, but it seems that they are barely used as a means of passenger transportation at all these days, with some of the trains they caught in the South only leaving once per day, or even every other day. It’s all about freight nowadays, and apparently the USA ships more cargo by rail than any other nation in the world.


Of course, the songbook they’ve chosen is deep and rich and resonant. At one point, Joe tells us how these songs are the language of American culture; every bit as rich and relevant as the works of Shakespeare. He grew up with this stuff in his blood, and Bragg is no recent convert. “We’re making Americana great again” he says, to groans of “Too soon” from his American friend.

The Playhouse is a good venue to see a band. I think I’ve only seen one other band perform here (The Duckworth Lewis Method) and Billy Bragg’s more normal habitat in these parts would be Rock City… but there’s something about the packed and attentive audience seated in the auditorium that suits these songs. The two men perform together, then we get a solo set from Joe, an interval, a solo set by Bill and then some more songs from the pair of them. An obvious highlight in the first section is their cover of Leadbelly’s justly famous “In The Pines”, familiar to most people in my generation as the “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” so memorably covered by Nirvana on their Unplugged album. I’m less taken with Joe Henry’s solo stuff. It was my first listen to most of this, so perhaps it’s unfair to judge, but it felt to me as though he didn’t have a very light touch with his lyrics. He’s probably most famous for the work he did as producer to Allen Toussaint, and it’s no coincidence that I thought the best of the songs he performed in his set was his cover of Toussaint’s “Freedom for the Stallion”.

I last saw Billy Bragg at Glastonbury the day after the results of the Referendum. His set that night was electric as we like-minded souls gathered together in the hope that he would make us all feel better. It’s only been a day since Trump’s victory in the Presidential election, and I find myself again looking to Billy for some comfort. He opens with “Between the Wars”, cutting the song short before the line “Sweet moderation, heart of this nation” and seguing straight into “Help Save the Youth of America”. He also plays a cover of Anais Mitchell’s "Why We Build the Wall"... which of course has particular relevance now.

It’s a really good gig. The album is good and the two men are clearly comfortable with each other onstage and their voices dovetail together well. As ever with Billy, it’s the bits between the songs that stand out nearly as much as the songs themselves, and there’s a good story to tell about every one of these songs, both in their history and in where Bragg and Henry were when they recorded them.

It might be an increasingly crazy world, but Billy Bragg continues to provide me with the same anchor of stability that he has since I was thirteen years old and just starting to see beyond a musical world of heavy metal. Long may it continue.

Verdict: 7.5 / 10

Setlist:

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry
Railroad Bill
The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore
John Henry
In the Pines
Waitin’ for a Train
Early Morning Rain

Joe Henry
Trampoline
After The War
God Only Knows
Our Song
Freedom for the Stallion

Billy Bragg
Between the Wars
Help Save the Youth of America
Accident Waiting to Happen
Why We Build the Wall
There Is Power in a Union

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry
Railroading on the Great Divide
Lonesome Whistle
Rock Island Line
Hobo’s Lullaby
Midnight Special

Encore:
Gentle on My Mind
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
Ramblin’ Round

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

wet...


We need to talk about my bladder.

Well.  To be honest, I think there's a pretty good chance that you could probably do without this particular chat...but I'm going to talk about it anyway.  If you're squeamish, it's probably best to look away now.

In some ways, I'm an atypical MS patient: as I'm very aware, there's not all that many of us who are able to run marathons. That's not to say that I don't have any problems at all.  I know that I've talked a lot here about the loss of muscle strength in my left hand side and the challenges that gives me with my running, but I haven't really talked at length about anything else.  I might have mentioned my bladder before, but not surprisingly, it's not something that I particularly care to dwell on.

I've never had a particularly strong bladder.  I've always been one of those people who goes when I can and not when I have to, and I have a certain reputation amongst my friends as having a smaller than average bladder capacity.  Over the last few years, and like many people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, I've noticed some changes... sometimes, my bladder doesn't seem to empty properly when I visit the toilet, and I find myself needing to go back for another visit almost immediately; I experience something of a 'rush bladder' too: this is where you get a sudden, pressing urge to pee and have to stop whatever you're doing and try to get to a toilet as quickly as you can before you have an accident.  Sometimes, at times like these, there can be a little leakage too; I sometimes also need to get up several times during the night. It's not terribly by any means, but it can be a bit awkward and sometimes a little bit embarrassing.

I did see a nurse about this for a bit, but other than trying to discipline myself to only go to the toilet when I really, really needed to go, there didn't seem much point in doing anything else.  I definitely don't want to go onto medication, and to be frank, nothing I was experiencing was really serious enough to pursue any further.

All these things are very common in people with multiple sclerosis.  If you look at the spectrum of possible symptoms (and, frankly, I try not to), then you'll see that bladder problems are very common -- according to the MS Trust, they will affect up to 75 MS patients out of 100. Self-catheterisation might not be something you care to think about, but for lots of people, this is a practical way of managing an issue that might otherwise dominate your life.

I mention all this because this has started happening to me.  Beyond the frequent need to get up in the night and pee, I actually woke up in the small hours of Sunday morning, made a trip to the bathroom and came back to find that I'd actually already wet the bed.  At first I didn't believe that this could have happened - why on earth did I go to the bathroom and pee if I'd already emptied my bladder? Surely that must be something else, right?  Sweat, maybe? Then I was just shocked and embarrassed. What else could it be? My wife was absolutely brilliant and rushed to reassure me and to get things straightened out... but I have to tell you, dear reader, I was appalled and distressed.  We'd been out at a friend's house for a party, but I'd had a couple of beers and a couple of glasses of wine all night... nothing out of the ordinary for a weekend and nothing much for several hours.  Why was this happening to me now?  Why did it happen at all?  I have a bit of a cold and a nasty cough at the moment and spent about 18 hours of the following day asleep in bed: perhaps that was a trigger?  I honestly don't know.

I'm a rational man, and my brain is telling me that, although this might not be a one-off, I really shouldn't start worrying about this until it become a more regular occurrence in my life.  And if it does start happening more often, then I have the support network in place and access to great medical care so that I can do something about it...... but I have to tell you that I'm now living slightly on edge in case it does happen again.  What about when I'm staying round at someone else's house? I've made some practical purchases, but really... I'm 42 years old and this really wasn't where I hoped I'd be at this stage in my life.  Should I stop drinking caffeine and alcohol or what? Are espresso martinis now a thing of the past for me?

Why am I telling you this?  Well, because I think it's important that we talk about these things. If I'm happy enough to trumpet to you about my wonderful achievements running with MS, then I think it's probably only fair that I'm also realistic about the other ways that my multiple sclerosis is affecting me.  It might feel a bit embarrassing, but there's really nothing to be ashamed of here.

Life can certainly throw a lot of shit in your direction, but it only beats you if you let it.

We will endure.

Monday, 21 November 2016

nothing else matters...


Metallica have just released their first studio album since 2008.  It's receiving some decent reviews, but Metallica being Metallica, there are also plenty of haters lining up to complain that this album isn't anywhere near as good as [insert name of Metallica album here, probably from the mid-1980s, but if feeling awkward then Load].

I'm quite keen to give it a listen.

Sadly I can't.  Not for another couple of weeks, anyway.  And it's all my own bloody fault too... totally self-inflicted*.

It's nearly the end of the season at choir.  In just over a week, and with two more practice sessions to go, we'll be into the Christmas concerts.  I want to perform these 'books down' so that I can concentrate on the cues from our musical director, but this means that I need to actually learn the damn songs.  Unfortunately, this means that I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the last few weeks listening to nothing but my choir rehearsal tracks - rather dull MP3s that very plainly highlight the voice part that you're trying to learn.... bass, in my case... and pretty much nothing else. They certainly don't highlight the songs to their best effect, anyway.


This works up to a point, helping you to learn your voice part (they're especially useful if you think you already know the song, when actually you know the melody but not the harmony you'll be singing).  But there are always a few songs that refuse to completely go in... the final 15% just seems to get stuck and you need to put in that bit of extra effort to get them properly learnt.

Sadly, for me, from this season's songs, the ones that require the work are:

- Merry Christmas Everyone (bloody Shakin Stevens!)
- Jingle Bell Rock (fiddly opening lyrics)
- That's Christmas to Me

...so I'm spending all my spare time at the moment listening to a crappy backing track version of a Shakin Stevens song that I hated before we even started the season.

Brilliant.  It's about the least metal reason there could possibly be for not listening to the new Metallica album.  I defy you to think of a less metal reason than that.

Pah.

* I'm a slave to my art.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

almost so clear...


Dear Mr. Swisslet

This is to update you regarding the MRI you had recently [recently? the beginning of September...but do go on].  It did show low volume of white matter lesions which is consistent with a very mild form of multiple sclerosis you have.  The MRI of the brain and of the spinal cord has been reassuring.

We will meet in the clinic as planned [at the end of next year] but do let me know if you have any new issues.


Yours sincerely

Dicated and signed to avoid delay

[to avoid delay? are you kidding me?]

---

That's pretty good news in neurology speak, I think.  Don't you?  (I think it also suggests that they never did find those comparison scans from 2005, but that's okay).

I clearly have no excuses for not running faster that I am currently, eh?

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

sorrow's native son...

There’s an article about the “alt-right” on the Guardian today and it introduced me to the strange and alarming concept of “the Manosphere”.

"For several years now, I’ve had a dark and fairly unusual hobby. When I’m alone and bored and the mood strikes me, I’ll open up my laptop and head for a particularly unsavoury corner of the internet. No, not the bit you’re thinking of. Somewhere far worse. That loose network of blogs, forums, subreddits and alternative media publications colloquially known as the “manosphere”. An online subculture centred around hatred, anger and resentment of feminism specifically, and women more broadly. It’s grimly fascinating and now troubling relevant. In modern parlance, this is part of the phenomenon known as the “alt-right”. More sympathetic commentators portray it as “a backlash to PC culture” and critics call it out as neofascism….On their forums I’ve read long, furious manifestos claiming that women are all sluts who “ride the cock carousel” and sleep with a series of “alpha males” until they reach the end of their sexual prime, at which point they seek out a “beta cuck” to settle down with for financial security. I’ve lurked silently on blogs dedicated to “pick-up artistry” as men argue that uppity, opinionated, feminist women – women like myself – need to be put in their place through “corrective rape”."

This is all darkly fascinating and troubling, of course, and given a sharp relevance by the appointment of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon to a senior role in Trump’s White House staff. What captures my attention is how this chimes with my own experience:

From the age of seven until the age of eighteen, I attended boarding schools that were, to all intents and purposes, single sex. Sure, there were girls, but they were in an overwhelming minority and were generally treated, at best, as being a completely different species. I don’t have any sisters and, separated from my mother for long periods of time, this meant that I spent the majority of my formative years surrounded only by other boys and with very little feminine influence. I’m pretty confident that this left me emotionally scarred to the extent that I found it difficult to form meaningful relationships with girls. I don’t want to exaggerate the impact this had on me: I’m still friends with one girl I met at school when we were both 17, and I like to think I was perfectly capable of interacting relatively normally with women… it’s just that it took me a long time (and, trust me, it felt like an absolute bloody age) to be able to get myself a proper girlfriend. Even that makes it sound like I knew what I was doing; truth be told, I met the girl who was prepared to look past my rough edges and decide that I was worth persevering with. I don’t think I really had all that much to do with it.

Would this have made me a candidate for the Manosphere? Perhaps, although I’d like to think that I focused all my anger and frustration inwardly. I never blamed anybody but myself for my inadequacies and I certainly never blamed the girls. Actually, the prevailing attitude at my school towards girls was pretty shocking. There was one guy in my year who seemed to delight in using his “power” (he was popular, confident and privileged) to seduce girls. He’d work on them for a few weeks, to the point where they thought he was “the one”, and then, once he’d got access to whatever he needed, he dropped them and never spoke to them again. He was 18 and these girls were 17. He thought this was funny, and so did many others. Lots of the boys, I’m sure, thought this was behaviour to be admired because he was getting some from these stupid girls. To be honest, I was just appalled that you could treat another human being so callously. Did I wish that I was more successful with girls? Of course, but I was damned if this was going to be the way that I went about it…. even if I had that sort of confidence, which I definitely did not.

Then, like so many people before me, I discovered the music The Smiths. It’s cliché, of course, but in my late teenage years, Morrissey seemed to be speaking directly to me and articulating the things that I felt.

And in the darkened underpass
I thought oh God, my chance has come at last
(But then a strange fear gripped me and I
Just couldn't ask)

And then I grew up. I don’t know exactly when this happened, but it wasn’t until some point in my early-20s (well, they do say that men mature more slowly than women). I’m probably definitely still emotionally crippled in lots of ways, but I finally met someone and fell in love and put a lot some of my confusion and frustrations behind me. Perhaps I’ve been lucky (I frequently tell people that I still don’t really understand why my wife ever looked at me twice, or indeed why she still seems to like me), but my life has been filled by intelligent, powerful women. In fact, depending on how you gauge these things, I would say that the women in my life have generally been more successful than the men. Some would probably think that says a lot about the weak “beta cucks” that I hang around with, but I think perhaps it just goes to show that girls are brilliant. Why be threatened by these wonderful creatures?

Why would you want to be that guy?  As Noel Gallagher once memorably said about his younger brother, don't be a man with a fork in a world of soup.

Friday, 11 November 2016

swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget...


Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon.

Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same--and War's a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz--
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench--
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack--
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads--those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.

---

Somehow, this poem is made all the more poignant by the knowledge that Sassoon survived the war and lived to be 80.

In 1939, he got to see it all happen again and to see exactly how much we had forgotten.

We keep forgetting.  We say we don't, but we do.

---

I've tried hard to rise above it this year, but to illustrate again how often I get exercised by the idiots that surface at around this time of year, and in honour of this evening's England v Scotland match, here's a post on the subject of poppies and football.  I wrote it initially in 2009, posted it again in 2011 and could pretty much just as easily put the whole thing up again this year.

How about we just try and pay quiet tribute to the fallen without trying to score points about how much more we care than anyone else?

Thursday, 10 November 2016

ardent for some desperate glory...


I’m conscious that I tend to only post war poetry of the “boom, boom, boom” variety. I suppose the more optimistic stuff doesn’t really fit with the view of the First World War that I’m looking to portray. When we think about “the war to end all wars”, we tend to think of the horror of the trenches and the senseless deaths of all those men walking through No Man’s Land into the machinegun fire.

“Dulce and Decorum Est” seems to be a million miles away from the romantic optimism of Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier”. The one was written in 1914 and romanticises a soldier dying for his country; the other was written in 1917 and captures the brutal reality of trench warfare.

The Soldier, by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

This sentiment seems somewhat at odds with Owen’s most famous poem.

Dulce et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime ...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

The optimism of 1914, it seems, is long dead by 1917/18.  Brooke himself died in 1915 whilst en-route to Gallipoli… perhaps not quite the heroic and glamorous death he imagined for himself: sepsis from an infected mosquito bite...but, in spite of this, he was almost immediately eulogised in England as the first poetic martyr of the war.  Winston Churchill himself even described Brooke as "all that one could wish England's noblest sons to be".

Our own views of the “Great War” are now indelibly bound up with the work of the trench poets like Owen and Siegfried Sassoon – it’s impossible to imagine that a programme like Blackadder Goes Forth - with that famous, poignant last scene of poppy fetishism - could have been made without them. Actually, optimistic poetry about the First World War was written throughout the course of the war. The trench poets tend to be the ones that we remember now, but they were very much in the minority at the time. We might find it hard to imagine when we look at what they were fighting for, but those involved didn’t like to think that they were dying for nothing and preferred to see themselves caught up in a more noble struggle; their betters knew what they were doing and wouldn’t be asking them to die for no reason, right?

Charles Carrington, a survivor of both the Somme and Passchendaele was moved to write, "Just smile and make an old soldier's wry joke when you see yourself on the television screen, agonised and woebegone, trudging from disaster to disaster, knee-deep in moral as well as physical mud, hesitant about your purpose, submissive to harsh, irrelevant discipline, mistrustful of your commanders.  Is it any use to assert that I was not like that, and my dead friends were not like that, and the old cronies I meet at reunions are not like that?"

It's funny how history can be warped over time, isn't it? What you think you know isn't ever really the way it was.

Anyway.

I look around at our “Help for Heroes” culture, where every soldier who has served is a hero serving their country in a just cause, and I do wonder if history has taught us anything.

You don't have to look far to see that the old lie is still very much alive and well today. Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.