Wednesday 1 December 2021

Marcus Aurelius, Omar Khayyam and a New Beginning

Two of my favourite non military books - highly recommended for resetting one’s perspective on life

As we stare down the barrel of the fast approaching Christmas holidays I have often found myself reflecting over the various events of the last six months. There have been numerous ups and downs (rather more of the latter if truth be told) and I am not about to repeat the details of the various travails my family and I have experienced, and, to a certain extent, still are.

The inestimable value of the support of friends and family has never been more gratefully received and unconditionally given than now and that is worthy of high praise in itself. What then, of the times when the darkness seems all encompassing and no light to speak of shines in your direction? For sure I have had a few of those! 

I have previously mentioned that in the absence of any dedicated hobby time I have caught up with a lot of reading which has helped me no end. Aside from the usual round of military history, fantasy and science fiction that constitutes my routine fare, there are a couple of other books in my collection that I seem to have used almost as a form of therapy and are therefore, certainly worth mentioning.

I have enjoyed the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam for many years and the book you see above was picked up at a boot sale sometime ago for 50p. It is unusual in that it features some 500 quatrains (4 line stanza with alternate rhyming lines) rather than the more usual 80 or so that formed Edward Fitzgerald's translation. E.H. Winfield was a translator of Persian literature and so his version is a more literal translation than the more popular Fitzgerald version. It is unlikely that all the 500 or so quatrains were written by Khayyam exclusively - more likely they have been lumped together as examples of a popular type of verse.

Khayyam's work has always appealed to me as it comes across as being unashamed of life and of living and of how we are but a part of it. I find it curiously settling.

I first came across the meditations of Marcus Aurelius via a penguin classic edition many years ago. The rather smart looking hardback you see above was published shortly after the release of the award winning film Gladiator starring Russel Crowe which featured the late Richard Harris playing the emperor Marcus Aurelius. The meditations are very much a list of guidelines as to how one should live one's life and are largely common sense based. Marcus Aurelius was described as being a 'Stoic' and the pages of his works certainly bear this out. Again, I have found many of his writings to be insightful and for me at least, aspirational in that logic and reason - two skills I am less than generously endowed with - should have an important part to play in one's life.

They say that wisdom comes with age and whilst I do not claim to be wise I do appear to have a better handle on the lessons that life has to give and how they impact on me. It also means that the words contained within those two books resonate far more effectively than in the days of my youth.

From the wargaming perspective both of these titles have featured as being support for a couple of projects that I had un days gone by. Many years ago I toyed with the idea of an Islamic Persian army for use with WRG 6th edition but reluctantly abandoned the idea as the painting would have been quite beyond me (at least to the standard I would have liked!). Marcus Aurelius and Gladiator - I had no interest in the armies of this period but I have long enjoyed gladiatorial combat games - it all started with Avalon Hill's Gladiator board game - as a great way to set up quick games that can add numerous players into the mix.

As an aside, another example of how my wargaming mind works goes back to when I first discovered WRG 6th edition ancients. I had a hankering for an Arab Conquest army so I duly undertook the appropriate research and as part of this decided to read the Koran - to see what drove the whole thing historically. It was quite a revelation and without going into detail I was quite taken with it.

Moving away from the above and the rather tenuous wargaming links, I have some other news to share. On the 13th December I shall be joining a new company and recruiting on an 'in house' basis rather than via the agency side. I have long wanted to do this but felt that at 61 years of age that particular ship had sailed. Aside from the very generous salary uplift the best news for me (especially given the current situation with Laurel and her back) is that the role is designed to be fully remote. This means that I will be saving some twelve hours so a week on travelling time as well some £4K a year on a train ticket. I will need to pop into town from time to time but certainly not on a regular basis. The company will supply me with a brand new laptop and mobile phone and any stationary requirements I need are delivered to my home.

I cannot tell you how pleased I am with piece of good news after the horror show of the last six months - for the record I have only touched on some of the 'stuff' we have been dealing with - and so hopefully we will be able to look forward to a 2022 that will be - god willing - better.

Let us hope so....


Graham C said...

Very interesting and informative post re your readings, I can’t match you other than I keep looking longingly at a return to WRG 6th edition
Brilliant news on the new job and with all the added perks that goes with it the biggest being working from home enjoy.

Paul O'G said...

Great news on the new gig DC - hopefully a great indicator that the worm has turned!

Aly Morrison said...

Splendid news David…
61?… you are such a youngster… of course someone would want a go ahead lad like yourself 😁
Anything that allows you to have more time for your loved ones and the small pleasures in life is a good thing…

Many years ago I had a beautifully illustrated edition of the Rubaiyat … sadly long lost it time, house moves and divorces… I really should find a replacement.

Here’s to a brave new future…

All the best. Aly

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


After a pretty awful few months, it’s good to read that you will be starting a new job in just a short time … and that it will enable you to be on hand to support Laurel when she needs it, you will have more free time, and you will be saving money on travel costs.

I’m sure that once Christmas is behind you, 2022 will be a better year for you and your family … and that you find plenty of time for wargaming.

All the best,


nundanket said...

Interesting musings David. I think you’re a similar age to me, and we’ve both had bad things happening to those in our families. I think that’s a feature of our age. It does seem at times like there’s no light shining.

However, like you I think there are some things we’ve learned that help us. And other sources of comfort around like the two books you’ve mentioned.

And some great news for you at the end. Congratulations!

David Crook said...

Hello there Graham C,

Many thanks old chap. Back in the day I really used to enjoy WRG 6th edition and owned a number of armies in both 25/28 and 15mm. The one that I found the trickiest to use but the most fun if you got it right was Later Carthaginian.

Good times indeed!

All the best,


David Crook said...

G’Day Paul,

Thank you old chap - I certainly hope so! Congratulations on your new role as well - very exciting indeed!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Aly,

It has been an incredibly difficult few months for sure and whilst many of the difficulties are still with I think that we have at last gotten some degree of a handle on that which we can meaning that that we cannot does not seem quite so trying!

The new job is such a tonic for all the right reasons and so has lifted my well being immeasurably - I hope the positive vibes will spill over into areas of life for 2022!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello Bob,

Thank you old chap. It is a good feeling knowing that I can now stick my head above the parapet without it getting shot off (despite the presence of the ongoing shelling!).

I feel cautiously optimistic about the new year and certainly hope to be getting some more hobby time in.

All the best and thanks,


David Crook said...

Hi there nundanket,

You are absolutely right re the age thing - aches, pains and more funerals than weddings seems to be the order of the day. I tend to veer between extremes in my ability to cope with life ‘stuff’ and so contending with multiple dramas has really taken it out of me in the short term. All is more settled now and the two books mentioned have certainly helped - along with the unconditional support from friends and family.

The new job is a huge development and in one fell swoop has addressed a number of issues so next year will be better methinks!

All the best and thanks,


tradgardmastare said...

Congratulations on the new job and all the good things that come with it.
I enjoyed reading about your reading too.
It has been a stressful year for you and yours, may the coming weeks and months bring better times.

David Crook said...

Hello there tradgardmastare,

Thank you old chap - much appreciated! I have found the last six months to be a real challenge and it has certainly taken its toll on me but all being well a better new year will follow.

We still have some issues to be resolved but I will be far better placed to deal with as I will be able to make far more effective use of my time - that includes packing parcels....:-)

All the best and thanks once again,


Steve J. said...

A very interesting post David and one that I can relate to in many ways, both good and bad. I think as we get older we hopefully learn to live with the deck that life has thrown at us and to enjoy it as much as we can. After the 'Big C' diagnosis 3 years ago, I have taken the Scottish "Enjoy your living', you're a long time dead" to heart!

Congrats on the new job, with all the associated benefits that go with it. Having more time at home is certainly something that we've all come to enjoy much more since Covid struck.

I've wanted to read both books for many years, having dabbled with the Meditations via one of those very cheap, small books published a good few years ago that gave a 20 top list of his sayings as it were. The Qu'ran is also on my list to read but I'm not sure my wife would be too happy, given all the religious violence she experienced and her family still are in Nigeria. Maybe one day...

David Crook said...

Hello there Steve J,

Thank you old chap. If I have learned anything over the last few years then appreciating what you have rather than what you keep wanting must be one of the key points. Both books reinforce this, albeit in different ways and for me, one of life's inveterate tail chasers, they have proven to be consistently good at 'grounding' me.

The Qu'ran is an interesting read and for me it came across as a very practical, yet absolute, guide to life. One for your future reading list for the reasons you mention although personally I cannot see an end to religious based violence anytime soon.

I hope that the new job will allow me to spread my time out rather more effectively than I can now and with many positive benefits as a result.

All the best,


Maudlin Jack Tar said...

Congratulations on the new job - sounds like it's perfect for you!

David Crook said...

Hiya Maudlin Jack Tar,

The new job is very much bigger than the sum of its parts and I am properly excited about it - even at 61 years of age!

All the best and many thanks old chap,


david in suffolk said...

Shows how a hobby like wargaming can get you reading and learning in all sorts of areas, and broaden the mind.
And congrats on your new job - there's hope for us 'mature' folk yet!

David Crook said...

Hello there David in Suffolk,

I have always enjoyed reading around the period of military history I am gaming as I believe it helps to give a more rounded overview of the era. That is the theory anyway!

I was genuinely surprised to have gotten this new role but delighted that I have - there is hope for us after all!

All the best,