I met this really interesting guy in the pub today; he must be pretty special, as I even dusted down and opened a bottle of the unrivalled ‘87, barely tasted by the precious fortunate few. Into his red though, he appreciated it. He likes art and films too, small world. It’s true I was known as Gordon, but only in this time. I didn’t assume that identity until quite recently actually; it’s a long story…

I was struck by silver lightening in 1649, on the 30th January to be precise, and haven’t been the same since. I remember the date very clearly, as it was the same day we executed the king. Back then, I was called Roxburgh - soon to be Colonel Roxburgh - George: my real name in fact.

The 30s had been frustratingly mad and confusing, Edinburgh was drowning in a thick Scots broth of muttered rumour, sensational gossip and tit-bits of news, when any actually arrived from London. It just seemed unbelievable that Parliament had been dissolved for so long; how could they’ve allowed the king to carry on like that? By 1640, it all came to a head; we, like many others, were totally fed up with Charles Stewart (or Stuart as preferred by the English). The po-faced Presbyterians were behind us – but at a comfortable distance – thanks to his now impossible attempts, as they argued, to turn the religious clock back. But these issues didn’t interest me at all. So, many of my eager colleagues in the Scottish army joined in marching into England to attract attention to our little protest. And, surprisingly, it seemed to work: it was reported a few weeks later that even Cromwell had shown sympathy to the cause.

But this cosy comradeship didn’t last too long; he was growing increasingly weary of Presbies (who could blame him) and their demands to remodel the church from their point of view only. I also decided I couldn’t be associated with this any longer and made my move. Hence why I left Edinburgh for a few years; first stop was London to entwine myself in the real action. There, I offered my services as a respected soldier and certainly no fan of the king, whose contempt for Parliament and any such body had now piled up to a precarious stack of pure treason, as far as we were concerned. By chance, I was soon commissioned as a colonel in the New Model Army and was fizzing with excited apprehension, as the campaign against clustering royal supporters ignited to a blaze.

It was an omnipotent day, sunshine and blood curdled heavily enhancing the supernatural aura hovering over the battlefield. My strongest memory of the war returned to me often: the ‘righteous’ (easy to be judgemental at the time) victory against Charles at Marston Moor on that infinite June day of 1644. Too many men – I don’t now remember numbers of living and dead – locked horns; the din of weapons, shouts, screams and horses was so intense. Yet the power of the battle left me behind, quite distant from my comrades in arms even though I was swimming alongside them in a choppy ocean of bodies, hate and fear. It was a vital day for our parliamentarian forces; in the aftermath, we guessed we’d cut a royalist vein wide open that would bleed dry. And my men certainly knew how to celebrate; the camp was alive with song, beer and wine (but few women apart from the odd local or officers’ wife), even the wounded were intoxicated on victory.

“Where are you from lieutenant, I haven’t seen you before, have I?” I asked the good-looking fading-blond officer, his dark brown eyes glowed orange on and off, as the fire hopped from one foot to the other.
“Essex sir, a small town by the sea,” he informed me whilst tightening the bandage holding his damaged arm, another strapped it to his shoulder. Otherwise, his upper torso was uncovered. “It’s not serious sir,” he added assuming perhaps I was scrutinising his injury.
“Good,” I improvised, “…we need you all fighting fit.” I averted my lecherous gaze and responded suitably colonel-like. “There’ll be more days like today… not too many, I hope.”
“...My parents own an inn...” he continued to tell me about his home and family.
“What’s the name of it?” I interrupted, curious.
“’The King’s Alms’. Honestly!”
“Ironic to say the least.”
“It’s quite busy with travellers passing through, and the locals like the food and ale. That’s what I do normally; I brew the beer.” He noticed my glance at the bottle of red he was drinking from.
“I like wine too!” he laughed.
“So do I.”
We shared and savoured; I found it a little harsh but it fitted the occasion well enough. No comparison with those splendid bottles I was to seize from the Earl of Manchester, his entire cellar in truth. We removed him from power under the terms of the ‘Self-Denying Ordinance’, a pompously titled but simply interpreted law, which I and others often (mis)used. “Unsympathetic to the cause… obstructive,” the words on his arrest warrant ran through my mind. I confiscated his wine and horses.

Thomas, that talkative lieutenant, bolstered the narrative further: “...I joined the army because...” he seemed to pause to think for a moment (motivation was always elusive perhaps; I’d found that too). “Quite frankly, I really do believe the king has just gone too far. He can’t rule without Parliament, although I trust some of them even less. Now we have a real opportunity to make him understand this for good. The opportunity to...” He caught himself again, suddenly wary of his words and my company and realising the red had loosened his lips: obviously that pause had been more deliberate than I thought. But he was quickly reassured he had nothing to fear by my heated approving smile and nod. I would enhance our forces’ strength of by encouraging people like this: intelligent young men with deep-seated morale, guts and committed discipline who believed. Fortunately, Cromwell and others backed me up when the nobles and so-called professional soldiers objected. Thomas served under me at Naseby, where I promoted him to captain, and later in Ireland in 47. There, he stood solidly by my side, as we tried to stop the brutal carnage that had been unleashed. Ideals dissolved on that campaign, actions slipped out of my grasp.


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