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Growing up with Napoleon

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As we navigate the ocean of life through a flotilla of fanatics, it appears to me that there are only two people remaining in the world with a grip on truth and reality.  You and me.

Accordingly I would like to donate the following grain of historical sand to add to your expansive beach of general knowledge.

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I was born at Ajaccio on the island of Corsica. My childhood friend, Napoleon, was a painfully shy and introverted boy who rarely ventured outside the family home.
When we were both eleven years of age our families moved to Brienne-le-Chateau in France, and by sheer coincidence lived on the same street. The Gof’s at No.17 and the Buonaparte’s in No.26.  The year was 1778.

Unlike me, Napoleon had grown into a rather saturnine and bedraggled looking lad with a ruddy complexion. Truth be told, he was still very much a ‘Mummy’s boy’ with no sense of adventure at all.

Eventually I tempted him to come and play in one of the sand piles on a nearby vacant allotment. It had once been the site of a glass factory which produced Waldglas utilitarian products until Great Britain started to dominate the world table-glass market in the 1750’s at which time our little factory had been abandoned and demolished.

When Napoleon first saw the forts and battlements which I’d constructed in the sand pile he was very upset because he was such a peace-loving person. We decided instead to build cathedrals in both Gothic and Romanesque styles, complete with classical motifs. Then we carved figurines and sacred objects from leftover lumps of clinker and furnace slag, and we had great fun moving our bishops, cardinals and parishioners around the cloisters and ambulatories of our many churches.

Occasionally Nap’s eyes would glaze over and he would utter really weird things like “Religion is excellent stuff for keeping the common people quiet” and “A constitution should be short but obscure”.  Funny boy. I think he might have been an escargot or two short of a full banquet.

Eventually we ran out of sand in our pile, so one dark night I dragged Napoleon along to help me steal some more from the piles which all the other kids were using.  When we’d doubled the size of our sandpit Nap said to me “ Shit GOF, that was a lot of fun. I’ve really got the taste for expansionism now. What else can we do now?”.

At that point I knew I could trust Napoleon so I shared with him my ultimate dream.

“You know Nap, when I grow up I’d like to go to military school then unleash an unprecedented wave of invasion and carnage on the world. I’d just love to go and belt the crap out of some Austrians, Russians, Germans, Prussians, Sardinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Swiss, Ottomans, Portugese and Poles.”

Sadly I was never able to realise my dream because of what happened in 1785.

My father relocated our family to La Rochelle near the Bay of Biscay and one weekend Dad and I went fishing in a crude little sailboat.  A tremendous storm blew us out into the Atlantic Ocean then southwards into the Roaring Forties until we eventually made landfall on Terra Australis driven by the South-East tradewinds.

Even today I find it difficult to believe that we had actually survived for two years adrift on the high seas.

We were the first Europeans to discover the continent of Australia.
The year was 1787.  Much of the gloss of our epic achievement was removed twelve months later by some overdressed pompous Pommie bastard who sailed into our little settlement of Goftown and renamed it Cooktown.

Gof family voyage of discovery to Australia 1785-87

Despite my fame and advanced years (243) I still sometimes wonder whatever became of that unobtrusive and bashful little friend who I left behind in France all those years ago.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

17 responses

  1. You know, if I didn’t know you better, GOF, I’d say you were having us on…

  2. On behalf of all of us pompous pommie bastards I apologise for my countryman stealing your thunder there GOF. As for Napoleon? I bet he never amounted to much. Those types never do…

  3. Looking at the path that your travels took and thinking to myself, “Oh so close to Rio …”

  4. I heard Nap got killed by arsenic in the wallpaper. A rather lackluster end to someone with a severe case of “small man syndrome”.

    243 eh? A hell of a lot has happened in such a small period of time no wonder my history has holes in it like the one you just filled.

    • I think there might be some serious gaps in my historical memory Pete…..especially as I can’t even remember what happened last week. 🙂

      • I justify that with Liz by saying I don’t have enough brain cells let for things like “coming in out of the rain” because it’s well down the list of priorities.

        I think the slow shaking of the head means she agrees with me.

        Seriously, though, a lot of things have changed in a couple of hundred years. Especially wallpaper.

  5. Wow, I knew that you were old, but that old?

    • “Wow, I knew that you were old, but that old?”

      Yes, and I know I look at least 10 years younger than that….fools everyone that does.

  6. Love it! I laughed out loud at your course over the ocean! Damn that Cook!

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