28 December 2011

Of mice and men

For some time now I have thought that I have been sharing my home with a mouse! This thought came to me not from nibbled packets of food, but from some droppings on my parquet flooring I noticed when hoovering. Last night I saw her/him for the first time. It was such a wee creature and so sweet as it ran hastily away from me out of the bathroom and into my bedroom. I did not chase it but left it alone......... for now. 
How did such a wee creature get into my flat? I live on the fourth floor. The stairs and corridor floors are made of marble and this small creature could surely not have climbed five flights of stairs, assuming it came from the cellar and not the street level. One step alone is taller than the mouse can be, even standing on its hind legs. So perhaps it took the lift?
 My problem now is, should I be a man and set a trap to kill it or should I be a mouse and catch it alive to set it free in Hanna's garden? It seemed so sweet. Already I have been a mouse and fed it some cheese. Just now before I began to write this piece, I set a piece down near where I know it now to be and it has taken it already. Perhaps I should just keep feeding it and keep it as a house pet? But no, I fear it must go, but how; to kill or catch that is the question?

1 November 2011

Great British Cooking

Lunch caught by me by the Owen Falls Dam, Jinja, Uganda
 One of my tasks in Uganda in 1983, was to buy all the victuals the Officers' and Sergeants' Messes used. Fresh vegetables and fruit I bought in the local markets, but most meat I bought frozen in Kenya, going once a fortnight to Eldoret and once a month to the NAAFI in Nairobi. Sometimes I did visit the slaughter houses of Kampala, but then I tended to choose the meat while it was still on the hoof to try and ensure I got a healthy animal. 
For the Officers' Mess I was the President of the Mess Committee as well as the Food Member and consequently worked out all the menus. I often supplemented what we ate with the fish I caught in the Nile, as we were based in Jinja right at the source, where the Nile left Lake Victoria.  
2 Nile perch caught before tea.
I ran the Officers' Mess just like any other British Officers' Mess with the corresponding meal times, so we had, breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, tea and dinner in the evenings. Feeding young hungry men, who are away from home, and can not visit pubs or restaurants of their own accord to relieve the monotony of barracks life, is no easy task. The food in the mess was consequently always the highlight of the day and having a cake at tea was too. 
The staff we had, as you can see from the photo were all young men, unskilled, desperate for work, willing to learn and tremendously loyal. When I introduced new dishes to the menu I would often have to give a demonstration to the staff of how to cook it, as though one or two could read English, they did not always understand what the recipe demanded of them. The officers were complementary of my efforts in the kitchen and did remark that when I returned to England I should run a restaurant. Well I never did get to run the restaurant, but I shall be taking English Cooking in English at the local adult education centre next term, which is almost the same thing, since we will all sit down to eat what I teach them to cook at the end of the session. I for one am looking forward to the challenge.

10 September 2011


Where were you on September 11th 2001 and if you are old enough for that matter on November 22nd 1963? Did the events of these days affect your life in anyway? When JFK was assassinated I was a teenager and had been out at a typical 60's party listening to the latest songs of the Beatles. His tragic death did not directly affect my life, nor I suspect most of the people living outside America.  That day changed the way the Secret Service does their business of protecting their President, no more riding around in open cars, now they ride in cars built like tanks.

Ten years ago tomorrow, for me at least, it was late at night and I was sitting in a bar of the hotel and marina on Rebak Island, Malaysia. I had just closed my laptop with which I had sent Hanna an email of my progress since I was still sailing alone around the world. An American yachtie suddenly came running through the bar from his boat in the marina on his way to Reception, demanding in a loud voice immediate access to a phone, as there had been a plane hijack in New York. My initial thought was, typical crazy Yank making himself important, what could he do about a hijack in New York. 

I returned to my boat and switched on my small 14inch TV. Where I was in the marina, reception was poor and at best I could get one decent picture of an English speaking Malaysian TV channel and sometimes up to two other non English speaking channels. The picture I now saw was of a commercial air liner flying into a large skyscraper. Wow I thought, this film could be worth watching. But then I realised I was not watching a film, but an actual event as it was happening on the other side of the world!

Up until that moment and since I started my circumnavigation in August 1998, my world had contracted to the immediate space around me and my yacht. Not much else was really important any more, or so it seemed. Yet prior to me starting my voyage I had been aware what was happening in the world and was even, in a small way as staff officer in a major military headquarters  involved in the first Iraq war. Now though I had not heard of Osama Bin Laden or of Al Qaeda even though I had been living in the worlds largest populated Muslim country for some considerable time.  

When JFK died I was 17 and did not think much beyond what party and with which girl I was going to next week. Now though anyone with half a brain must realise that this  disaster that struck America was going to affect us all and change the world for ever.  John Dunne said it first,

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 

if a clod be washed away by the sea, 
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, 
as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine  own were;
any man's death diminishes me,  because I am involved in mankind.  
And therefore never send to know for whom  the bell tolls; 
it tolls for thee." 

2 July 2011

Women's Football

The FIFA Volunteers signed shirt.

Have you been watching the FIFA Women's World Cup? I am a FIFA Volunteer in the Mönchengladbach stadium so I have seen one live game so far and a number of others on the TV. I have also been following the whole thing in the news as well as observing how the people in my town are reacting to it all.

The thing that strikes me most is the inequality of the way the German public are supporting the German team compared to the way they supported the  male team, and I wonder how it is in your country? In 2006, when the men's World Cup was held in Germany and again in 2010 when it was held in South Africa, almost every car  and house sprouted flags. Since I live in Germany I decided to wholly support the German team and was one of the first to hang a flag on a pole from my balcony and, something I did not do in 2006 and 2010, placed two flags on my car! Few members of the general public have done the same, though the atmosphere in the stadium was, to my mind second to none.

What also disturbs me is the way most men view women's football. They generally denigrate it in comparison to the male game, as well as come out with chauvinistic expressions which they assume are jokes and so we should all laugh. I for one do not. 
FIFA Volunteer Team 7

The women, at best are sadly only semi professional as there is not enough money (yet) in the game to support them professionally. That they nonetheless show great fitness and skill on the field, while holding down a day job as well, is a credit to them. Yet somehow it seems expected of women, just like wives and mothers are expected to be a nurse, child minder, housekeeper, cook and bottle washer and when the lights go out a concubine as well. Where do they get their determination and energy from? 

We should remember that women's football, compared to the male version, is still in its infancy. Many countries do not have many league teams, or systems in place to encourage and train young women. But it is on its way. Already this year I have noticed a marked improvement in the way women play the game compared to last year, at the U20 Women's World Cup.

Clearly the male version of the game in all our countries serves as a role model to boys and men alike. In many cases the professional footballer, (David Beckham for example) is also a sex symbol to young women and girls. This is perhaps why it has a bigger appeal. The women though are equally tough (just witness the way Nigeria tackled Germany) and are equally good role models for our girls and young women. As fathers we should perhaps encourage our daughters to watch these games more and even to play the game. The determination, fitness, and the robustness needed to play the game will stand our women in good stead in the game of life.

So come on chaps, before these championships are over, get behind the women of your country and  support your team and stop the male chauvinistic jokes and reporting in the newspapers.

8 June 2011

Some Mothers

The expression, “some mothers’ do ‘ave ‘em!” is a more or less derogatory expression meant to indicate a weird or odd person is the off spring of the mother. It was also the title of a popular sitcom on BBC TV in the 70’s staring Michael Crawford.

I have been reminded of this expression by my observations of certain mothers over the years and especially recently and the manner in which they educate and bring up their off spring, but especially their sons. The relationship between mothers and sons was even a subject for a recent BBC radio series. Sadly they only touched on the positive aspects and not the negative ones where mothers do their damndest to mould and control their sons in all things the whole of their life. A “mother’s boy” is also a derogatory expression for a boy that is timid and weak, always clean and obedient. Mother’s boys are made and not born that way.

All of us are the product of our parents and their upbringing, plus the sum of our experience. We are fortunate if we do not have a heavy baggage of upbringing to carry through life.

Some people believe that a baby is born as a blank sheet of paper, upon which we adults write. To me this is only partly true. I believe that children are born with their inherent nature, which is the sum of their parents’ genes within them. If their parents are introvert, timid and shy, socially inadept, the chances are the children will be too. On the other hand if the parents are extrovert, brave as lions, intelligent then the child should be as well. I further believe that development of a baby's character starts in the womb. If the baby is subjected to loud noise or music, if the mother is prone to fits of shouting and screaming when arguing, then I believe this will affect the character of the child even before birth. Should the birth be traumatic for either mother or baby, then I think that too will affect its character. Then there is the matter of the actual upbringing which does not make all things equal either. We parents carry around with us the heavy baggage of our own upbringing and more often than not, end up instilling it into the new born.

Children are not born with a value system in their genes. They do not know the difference between right and wrong, hot and cold, good and evil, black and white. Children do not know what prejudice or hate is. This all needs to be learned. But they are I believe, born with an infinite capacity to love, though again they need to be shown how to love someone.

The Jesuits said with truth, “give me a child until it is seven and I will give you the man” because they understood that small children until they are seven are like blotting paper. They are so trusting they soak up every little detail of their upbringing and their environment. This is the time when the value system is learned. It is the most critical stage in the life of any person. If we adults get it wrong, it can lead to the formation of trauma and other deep problems, such as the development of prejudice and hate, the child being good or bad, or prone to violence, all of  which will take years to correct, if it can be corrected at all.

I have watched mothers incensed with hygiene continually scrub their little ones for fear they may be dirty. And to have a dirty child is a reflection, they think, of them as a mother! I have seen fathers incensed with a desire for discipline treat their children like soldiers, to be obedient in all things especially trivial things, from a very young age. I have seen fathers duck their small child continually under the water, “teaching it to swim”. Hanna was all set to do this particular large Russian bully father physical harm, but fortunately for all he stopped in time because he was hungry!  I watch mothers who are timid and insecure themselves, hover around their child when playing on the playground apparatus, making it doubly timid in turn. Were it to stumble and fall they are there immediately to worry it and they seem unable to differentiate between a harmless scratch, for which a child can be hardened and a serious injury. Yet at the same time they seem incapable of teaching their child to love or show any form of affection. Some mothers even think their child is their personal possession, and forget that it is a small human being that is merely on loan to them.

Each child is unique and there are consequently no user manuals on how to bring up any particular child. Countless books on the subject do abound of course, but they are all generalisations and a guide at best. All new parents are treading for them, new ground. They wish to do their best, to even correct what is perceived as the faults in their own upbringing and so mistakes are made. Some will have long term consequences and we can only hope that as these children grow into adults they themselves can overcome the majority of them. Insha’Allah!

14 May 2011

An eye for an eye!

One of my father’s favourite expressions was, “it’s humans that have stuffed up this world!” Slowly I am coming to agree with him. Man is a violent animal and the only one on earth that harbours hate and revenge in his heart. Many prophets down the ages have also known this and by giving man laws and regulations have attempted to try and regulate him. Moses tried his best. In Exodus Ch. 21 verses 21 to 25 he attempted to regulate the violence by advocating a like for like style of punishment. An eye for an eye. I think the point many of us have missed is that here he is advocating that within the social system of the time it is like for like.  Should a slave holder poke out the eye of his slave then he must be given his freedom, not that the slave may poke out the eye of his master. In Leviticus Ch. 19 verse 18 Moses advocates to “love thy neighbour!” Something that gets forgotten until Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount. (Mathew Ch. 5 v. 44) to, "love your enemies". Moses qualifies his eye for an eye rule later in Leviticus Ch. 24 verses 19-22 to include one’s enemies as well. The idea here is to limit the retribution, not to increase it.

Mohamed in the Qur’an (Sura 5 verse 45 to 47) repeats more or less what Moses said before him. To my mind he is also attempting to limit man’s quest for revenge, to keep it within bounds. Yet along the way they have all forgotten the fifth Commandment, “thou shalt not kill/murder!” Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount (Mathew Ch. 5 v. 3 to 48) gave man a better system of justice and compassion, for not only did he remind man not to kill but to turn the other cheek, perhaps the hardest thing of all to do.

Since the Munich disaster in 1972, Israel has pursued a policy of, “an eye for an eye”. Their going after the terrorists that planned and executed the Munich hostage taking took state condoned violence to a new level and was clearly the example for America to handle the way they did with Osama bin Laden. That these terrorists deserved to be punished is not at dispute here. Nor do I dispute the need to go after them wherever they may be. There must be no hiding place for terrorists. I mentioned in an earlier Blog that terrorism is a crime against us all and we must hunt these terrorists down wherever they are and bring them to justice before proper courts of law. That is the only way for a civilised society to respond.

To my mind the “eye for an eye” policy of retribution merely breeds more hatred and desire for revenge and then into following generations, which is why we are hardly ever to have peace in the Middle East.

I am caused to make these remarks by the horrid thought that the Judges in Iran have given Ameneh Bahrami the right to pour acid into the eyes of the man who did the same to her. That they have placed Majid Movahedi, the man in question, in a state prison hospital and that there are doctors who will assist or even carry out this (new crime) punishment horrifies me. What about the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath? As I write the authorities have thankfully postponed the punishment. That crimes against women often go unpunished in many cultures is a shame on that society and should not be condoned. That Majid Movahedi committed a heinous crime which must be punished severely, also as a deterrent to other men who contemplate such acts, goes almost without saying. But that we should descend into barbarism to do so must offend all civilised men and women.

I fear that Ameneh Bahrami has added fuel to the fire of hate and will herself become another victim of revenge and retribution by the family of Majid Movahedi. She will need to be looking over her shoulder for the rest of her life.

Mahatma Gandhi was right when he reputedly said that, “an eye for and eye makes the whole world blind.

3 May 2011

Osama Bin Laden

So America have finally killed Osama Bin Laden, but as usual I think they have gone about it all wrong. The World is not the Wild West and America has no right to go trampling on the sovereignty of other nations. Yes they have killed a man that deserved to die, but by shooting him in this manner they have given him not just a martyrs death, but have raised him to be a hero in the eyes of young muslim fanatics. They can now say that Osama died fighting the Great Devil America, that he never gave up.

I believe that terrorism is a crime against humanity,  it is a crime against all of us, whether the bomb goes off in New York, Marrakesh, Bali, Baghdad, Madrid or London matters not, we are all involved. We all have the right to travel where we will and so could be involved whether we like it or not. Hanna and I once missed being killed in a terrorist attack by  less than 24 hours. We had stood in the same place where later French tourists and others were killed.

Terrorists are therefore criminals and MUST be treated as such. They should not be treated like enemy soldiers in a conventional war. Doing so gives them an honour they do not deserve, for they tend to hide behind innocent people,  and they use and kill women and children. America should have copied Israel, for here they showed the way when they kidnapped Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and took him back to Israel to stand a public trial. Osama Bin Laden was a criminal and should have been captured alive, taken to New York and put on trial for his crimes there. Found guilty he should have been hanged by the neck until dead and then buried in the prison cemetery in an unmarked grave. This is they way one deals with criminals and it is not a martyrs death to die in this way. Yes he would have been able to speak his mind, but should a great democracy fear rhetoric? I say no. Remember how sad Saddam Hussein, and Adolf Eichmann looked at their trials, they did not look like martyrs or heros, they looked exactly what they were criminals, deserving of the full punishment of the law.

It is sad and pathetic too, to watch people dancing in the streets at the killing of one man as if the war is over. It is not over, it is perhaps, as Churchill might have said, not the end, it is the end of the beginning. Insha'allah!

30 April 2011

Teddy Bears' Picnic

Katie a rather sweet Australian bear living in Melbourne has invited us all to join her for a picnic. http://thehouseonthesideofthehill.blogspot.com/

This caused quite a stir in my house since a decision had to be made as to who was to go. I nearly had a mutiny as they all wanted to go. Since there are well over 60 bears in my house, and I have to say, not all of them are well behaved and can be trusted not to get into mischief, we had to come to a workable solution. Since Pippa and Squeak the matriarch and patriarch of my family more or less entertain friends to tea constantly in their under the table cave, and are now far too old to go off gallivanting in the woods it should not be them.

After a lengthy discussion it was decided that three bears should go. The eldest, on the right, is  Wagner, who is a Kiwi (note the passport he is holding in his paw) and was made for me by my mother. He is a circumnavigater since he sailed around the world with me. He is wise and can be trusted with your last piece of chocolate. The one in the middle with his "KARMA" hat is called Fred. He comes from Aitutaki in the Cook Islands and was  given to me by my friends Norma and Clive. Norma felt I needed a bear with a roughy toughy name since she felt most of mine had sissy ones! The bear on the left is also a Kiwi and he is an Americas Cup sailor who joined me in Auckland and so is quite a tough chappy. He is called Bongo.

These three bears are great friends, and though they can be trusted not to tell tales or eat your last piece of chocolate they are awful womanisers, so be warned.

25 April 2011


My every day shoulder bag.
I had occasion today to want something I had in my bag. Since when I started my circumnavigation in 1998 I have been carrying some form of bag to hold my things, since pockets alone were not enough. I started with a small rucksack, but in 2006 when Hanna and I first visited South Africa I have been carrying a shoulder bag which I bought there. My first shoulder bag was a small black one, but a few years ago I bought the one you see here. 

I surprised myself today when I opened it to find I seem to carry a lot of stuff. Is it all necessary and how does my bag differ from that carried by other people?

The more or less every day contents of my bag!

In Morocco Hanna and I formulated the rule that we never go out without a camera, sunglasses and an umbrella! That is because the sun always shone, but it did surprise us often in that it also rained. In fact if you look closely there are two sets of sunglasses in their cases. I fancy myself as an amateur photographer who as a travel and street photographer, must be ready for anything. Hence I do carry my camera more or less regularly. I had the flash in it over Easter as well, just in case. My Leatherman tool lives in the bag, as does my passport and the wallet with my driver's licence and the car's documents. A torch is a must, as is spare batteries and memory cards for the camera. A handkerchief, is a hangover from my cub scout days, since today I use paper ones, which are also in the bag. Next to the handkerchief is a red lens cleaning cloth. Then as I am older I need to carry anti diarrhoea pills and something to settle an upset stomach. One does not want to get caught out, it can be embarrassing. Matches are also a left over from cub scout days, since I do not smoke. A nice new cotton carrier bag, a gift from a friend, is a must since one never knows what one may buy, and then how do you carry it? A set of visiting cards, supermarket coupons, a gift voucher and peppermints were found too. Last but not least is a pen and my diary. What you may ask was a I doing with a workman's ruler? Well I have been out a couple of times to buy new window boxes and I wanted to make sure I got the right size.

When I go about by bike, then I change the bag to my bike one and most things then get put in that.

My bike bag

One bag I should perhaps mention, is one I used to carry in the 70's and 80's when I smoked a pipe! It was a small black leather men's handbag, in which I kept up to 6 pipes, a tobacco pouch and other pipe smoker's accoutrements. I carried that every where, even in uniform! However, while I served in Uganda, after Idi Amin, I only had 2 pipes in it, as it then also contained my fully loaded 9mm Browning pistol and spare magazine.

The one other item  I did not mention about today's bag is my mobile phone. It does not tend to live in the bag during the week. I carry it in a pocket most of the time. When travelling in foreign parts I carry it attached to me, or when cycling attached to the cycle bag as you can see here. There are a couple of things missing which every good boy scout my age will know. Fourpence for a phone call and a piece of string. Well with a mobile phone the need for fourpence has been superseded, but the lack of string means I'm a lapsed boy scout. I promise to do better next time.

22 April 2011

Civil War

One hundred and fifty years ago this month the American Civil War started and four years later ended. It was the  first modern and total war and cost 2% of the American population in lives alone. By to days standards that represents over five and a half million men. I say total war because it also involved for the first time, the destruction of the civil populations infrastructure when Sherman's soldiers raped and pillaged and burned cities and farms, on his march to the sea. In the beginning Europe looked on, but when Lea started winning battles, Palmeston, the then Prime-minister of England, together with France considered recognising the Confederacy. However, when Grant also started winning battles they decided to do nothing of the sort. Had they done so I am sure it would have prolonged the war and been even more costly in lives. 150 years ago it was the right thing for Europe to do, to sit and watch and await developments.

Do we ever learn the lessons of history? Today Europe is involved in the Civil War in Libya. The Prime-ministers of England and France are active participants here, but I feel they have not understood the nature of the conflict, which is a true civil war as it is between the western coastal tribes and the internal tribes which support Gaddafi. The Europeans and the Americans have never really ever understood the concepts of tribalism, as history has shown. Or else why are we involved in Iraq and in Afghanistan? These leaders want regime change and think they can bring it about by bombing. Bombing nations into submission was tried by Hitler against England's cities and failed and also by Bomber Harris against German cities and failed. Both only caused wanton destruction and needless bloodshed. Bombing alone has never won wars, only ground forces can win wars. Without Forward Air Controllers (FAC) on the ground in the front line between the forces in the conflict, to coordinate and direct the bombing, it will not be successful.

That Gaddafi is an evil despot who is clinging to power, and that his days are numbered goes without saying. But by getting involved in another nations civil war will only prolong the conflict and add further fuel to the fire of the hatred of some Muslim extremists towards Europe. America has perhaps understood this, or else why is she trying hard not to get further involved and hoping NATO will solve the problem and that NATO should get the flack when it comes, as it will.

What Europe and America has not understood about the uprisings in Arabia, is that it is not all about democracy. It is about young intelligent people, across the tribal system, seeing the corruption in their countries and wanting to change it, but more than that, they want the freedom to work, to feed and clothe their families. These young people have all been infected with the thought  "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This may not mean that they will have democracy as we know it, in the future, but it will mean they will be come a freer fairer nation. Of course we must support them in getting there, but that does not mean we should get embroiled in their civil wars.

Happy Easter

19 April 2011

In Memoriam

Bunty Carter

I learnt yesterday that Bunty Carter, my aunt had died on Saturday 16 April 2011. The news shocked me and has upset me more than I thought it would. Bunty was the widow of my father's elder brother Ray. As a child we had no contact to this side of the family. I am not sure of the reason for this, but be that as it may, after my father died in 2008 and I had buried him next to my mother in New Zealand, I made an effort to visit Bunty and get to know her. 

I met her just the once and found to my delight that we seemed to click and get on as if we had known each other all our lives. To me she radiated charm and a regal serenity. We kept in touch a little by phone and letter.  I made another effort to visit her, but sadly, unbeknown to me at the time, she had had a nasty fall and when I visited her house it was empty as she was needless to say now, convalescing in hospital. 

Time does not stand still and stupidly I rather thought I would manage to visit her the next time I was in England later this year. Now the opportunity is gone and I wish I had written and phoned more. 2011 is indeed a sad year for me as  more relatives and good friends have passed away since the year began, than the months that have passed.

My advice therefore is to seize the moment. Stay in touch with those you hold dear, for none of us know for whom and when the bell will toll. 

13 April 2011

Am I an Expat?

There is a Blogger on the Guardian Newspaper webpage who feels that they should not use the term expat as it smacks of colonialism and is now outdated. Reading the interesting discussion I had to ask myself, "well what am I?" I asked this also because I have just read "The Far Pavilions" by M.M. Kaye, a novel which I thoroughly enjoyed, not just because India is one of my all time favourite countries to travel in, but also because I was able to identify with Ashton in the novel. Being a "halfbreed" myself I have often had the problem of trying to decide what am I and where do I belong.

While serving in the Army and being abroad I never considered myself as an expat, though I did frequent with this breed of person in Uganda in 83. During my mainly solo circumnavigation I did consider myself to be an expat and of course met and socialised with similar cruisers from all nations. We all felt we were one big club, irrespective of the country of origin. It was, and I imagine it still is, a wonderful community and one I do miss.

When I finished my circumnavigation I came to Germany to settle in Mönchengladbach, where my partner of 23 years lives. I have now lived here 9 years and that is longer than I have lived anywhere in the world the whole of my life. Does this mean Mönchengladbach  is now my "Heimat"! The German word means so much more than the English "Home". It is certainly my home, for I feel very much at home here, but we do not have a shared history and all my closest friends do not live her, but are scattered around the Globe. So no I cannot say it has become my "Heimat" yet. Nor can I say that the authorities initially made me feel welcome. I had to register as a "Foreigner", and here I had the distinct impression that only because I was English and had a private income, was I one step above an asylum seeker in their eyes. Yet I have a distinct advantage over such unfortunate people, I can, like Ashton Hilary Akbar Pelham-Martyn, blend in and no one meeting me for the first time will know my origin. I speak the language fluently and with a Hamburg dialect. But that does not make me a German.   In all my travels I have noticed that every country in the world has barriers to outsiders who choose for one reason or another to live there. In certain countries in Asia they have certain expressions for foreigners. Gaijin, in Japan and Laowai in China for example. These terms are not in themselves derogatory, but some do find it so. Much depends on how it is used. Those expats in Japan who left after the earthquake are now known as Flyjin for example.

Being white I can blend in, in a predominantly white country. But I could not do this in the Caribbean, in Polynesia, in Asia, in Africa or in the Middle East. Learning the language of the country you are living in, helps get over the initial barriers, but there will always be one. In South Africa a black person I stopped to ask the way refused to speak to me, because I was white. In the Caribbean I was called "whitey". In Arabia, until I started to learn the language, many thought I was American and treated me accordingly until they learned otherwise. Yet once I spoke some Arabic, and to my delight I was told in Jordan that I spoke it with a Cairean accent, which is where Hanna and I initially went to learn, Arabs became really friendly. So learning the culture and language helps to foster understanding between different cultures at least.

 I do not complain about things here in Mönchengladbach,  except perhaps when the local football team, Borussia, lose. I take part in what goes on here as much or as little as I choose, which suits me. I would not do less or more were I in England. I am happy here, can vote at least in local elections, but not Bundestag ones and have chosen the piece of soil in which my bones will lie. So what am I? I would suggest I am an Englishman abroad. An English emigrant in Germany, and proud to be so.

My Photo of the day.

Christopher Thomas, my Grandson having fun playing with his shadow, while Omi, looks on.

8 April 2011


A couple of tough cowboys
I'm the one on the left!

This week in the German press I read an article about a Lufthansa pilot that had taken Lufthansa to court as he felt himself discriminated against for being made to wear a hat as part of his uniform. Female pilots I gather are not required to! Unless you have worn a uniform seriously as part of your profession I do not suppose you have thought too much about this matter. What is the purpose of the uniform anyway?

In my life I have worn many different types of uniform, from dressing up as a child to a number of Service uniforms and recently to  what I can best describe as a form of corporate dress. To my mind uniform is worn to help identify the individual as part  of the Armed Service, or police or of the corporation in which that individuals is serving. It gives the individual a sense of belonging and fosters "Esprit de Corps". Additionally within the organisation it helps identify the individuals tasks or rank within the organisation to those within it and to those outside it. 

A rather proud Bus Conductor aged 4!

Most people who wear the uniform, particularly those of the police and armed services, do so with pride and rightly so. I even wore my school uniform with a certain amount of pride.

Me as a 1957 schoolboy.

Another uniform I wore with pride was my Cub Scout uniform and that of the Air Training Corps when I was a teenager.

Me as a Sixer Standard Bearer on a St George's Day Church Parade

A proud Cub Scout (not me, but a little boy I used to know) in Osnabrück, Germany

Me as a Butcher's boy in Germany 1958

Me, an Air Training Corps Marksman 1959

My father 1946

A very young looking me as a newly commissioned officer 1968

A Corps Head Quarters Reconnaissance Officer 1984

A smart young major 1990

Why would a Lufthansa pilot not want to wear his full uniform? Would he rather fly his A380 wearing jeans and a t-shirt? Would we have faith in his ability if he were allowed to? The uniform does not make the man, but the training does and the uniform is outside evidence that the pilot has a certain ability. If thanks to his training he cannot wear the uniform with pride, in my humble opinion he should not be a Lufthansa pilot. The court ruled in his favour and so I wonder what Lufthansa will do now . Tell female pilots they must wear hats, or be weak and let it be a voluntary thing?

Also a uniform. The choir of St George's Church, Bielefeld 1990
The bear is mine and is called Benedict.

An RYA Yachtmaster delivering the yacht RAGNA R across the North Sea to London

Me as a Volunteer at the International Football match between Germany and Australia.

I can't say I wore the rather bright yellow and black outfit as a volunteer for the German Football Association with pride. In fact I felt a bit foolish, but I did have a sense of belonging to a larger team and could easily be identified as someone who was there to help the fans have an enjoyable time. So this rather odd informal style of uniform fulfilled its purpose. 

When I was a Trooper in the 10th Royal Hussars, I used to hitch-hike home from Catterick in the North of England to my home in Aldershot a distance of some 500 miles. I did so wearing my best No 2 Dress, or parade uniform. I always got lifts quickly and often people would go out of their way to help me get home. I wore my hat at all times as it was part of the uniform.

We British when we serve, wear our uniform with pride. In Germany they used to too, until Mr Hitler spoiled it for them. Now they tend to be ashamed to be identified with any form of uniform. The hat is part of the uniform, and should be worn. If I were Lufthansa I'd sack the pilot, for I would not want a pilot in my organisation that was ashamed of wearing my uniform.

3 April 2011

Burning Books!

Burning a book in public is a symbolic act by small minded, ignorant, intolerant, bigots. If we look at the history of such events it has happened since time began, with perhaps the first recorded example taking place in China around the 3rd Century BC. Sometimes there are far reaching circumstances from the act, like the Spanish Conquistadors burning the Mayan libraries, thus leaving us now very little written knowledge of this ancient civilisation. At other times they may serve as a warning of worse things to come, such as the NAZI book burning in the 1930s and 1940s. The Bible too, has been burnt on occasions and then by Catholics, Tyndale's  English translation of the New Testament was burned in 1526 as was the Luther translation in Germany in 1624. 

Fahrenheit 451 as you may know, is a novel about the future where books are banned and burnt as they may contain critical thought. The Pastor and his tiny congregation that arranged the burning of the Quran in Florida would fit  well into this sad future. Not only have these Occidentals demonstrated their ignorance of the true nature of the Quran,  but they have demonstrated their bigotry and ignorance of the Oriental mind. The Oriental will sadly not fully understand that the laws of America allow such freedom of expression, but instead will be quick to take offence.

When I transited the Suez canal I thoughtlessly offended my Egyptian Pilot. The incident in question occurred because I wished to stop and dive my boat as I thought I had something around the propeller. The Pilot required me to write out my request and to ensure I put the ship's stamp on the piece of paper. I did this and gave him the document. Later he required that I add another statement to the piece of paper and asked that I put the ship's stamp on it a second time!  Not quite under my breath I made the flippant remark, "Oh! You crazy Egyptians!" and though I did as he requested he heard what I had said and was ready to offer me physical harm as well as abandoning my transit of the canal for insulting him and his country! I was genuinely surprised by his violent and vociferous reaction. I virtually had to go down on my bended knee to offer my apology before he calmed down and we could proceed. 

How much more of an insult is it to a Muslim to burn his Quran? While learning Arabic in Cairo Hanna and I were invited to attend a meeting of intellectual middle class young Muslims who were studying the Quran. This was a great honour and we learnt much. During the meeting I had taken my copy of the Quran to follow the readings and discussions. When I no longer needed to follow the passages I closed the book and dropped it on the floor next to my chair. I was immediately chastised for not treating the Quran in a reverent manner. The Quran was a holy book and must be treated as such. Reading it on the toilet for example was not permitted. Any discussion on how come a bit of paper and cardboard could be Holy was pointless. It was the word of God and so must be treated accordingly. Little did they know that I used to read the Bible on the toilet!

Are we surprised therefore that Muslims in Afghanistan have demonstrated violently against the desecration of their Holy Book? I am not, but I do note that the major demonstrations were in Afghanistan and not in those Arab countries now trying to obtain free and fair elections. Here I feel they may have understood that the laws of America are designed to protect freedom of speech and the freedom of the individual in his pursuit of happiness, which is just what they have demonstrated for.   I do not think the Muslim will realise, however, how little has been made of the event in the Occidental press. The majority of the media do not want to give this bigot the publicity he seeks, and I applaud this attitude. But sadly as the deaths related to this event have shown it is not just a storm in a tea cup and alls of us must do what we can to plead for tolerance and understanding.

31 March 2011


What motivates you? I ask because I had cause to think about what motivated me recently. When I was younger and still serving in the Army I used to get up at the crack of dawn to run  5 kilometres every day except Saturday and Sunday. Now I am far too lazy and opt to do Tai Chi and Qi Gong in the comfort of my home, rather than pound the pavements in the cold and wet dawn. I have another excuse too, in that I have twice been operated on my damaged right knee and so have been advised against such masochistic activities. Cycling is OK, but I don't fancy it in the rain. 

What motivated me in those former times to get up out of a warm bed on a cold and frost morning? In the beginning the motivation was to pass the annual Battle fitness test and not to look a complete fool in front of the men I was required to lead. Later I discovered I was addicted to the adrenaline rush and other endorphins which I released by running strenuously regularly. 

Psychologists tell us there are two types of motivation. Intrinsic which comes from within and extrinsic which needless to say is external. My Army running was done for intrinsic reasons, but it also acted as an extrinsic reason for my men, on the basis, "if that old bastard can do it so can I"!

So what motivated me recently to act as a volunteer at an international football match? I found myself giving out flyers and free magazines to some of the 35,000 fans that came to watch Germany lose to Australia in my home town on Tuesday. It was a more or less mindless task and I had to wear an Adidas sports uniform in black and yellow. It made me look more like a Borussia Dortmund fan, which since they are top of the league maybe no bad thing. Additionally of course I was there to help the visiting fans find their way around the stadium, not that many needed such help. However, by being friendly and  enthusiastic we "volunteers" were to enhance the atmosphere  of the occasion, which I have to say did work, at least I felt it did.

I volunteered last year to be part of the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup because I wanted to help visitors enjoy their visit to Germany and help show them that Germany is a friendly country and a nice place to live. I wouldn't be here were it otherwise. I felt a need to do this as I had been given warm and friendly receptions in all the Third World Countries I had travelled to. But by volunteering I discovered that there was also enjoyment in being part of a large event. The volunteers themselves were great people and came from all walks of life. 

This then is why I found myself again standing around a football stadium in clothes I would not normally wish to wear. You get to watch football for free too. I'd like to have said a good international football game, but Germany did not play well. They played much like Borussia Mönchengladbach do at home. Lead 1:0 at half time then lose 1:2 at the close of play. Well the match was held in the Borussia stadium so what else could one expect. But it has not put me off volunteering, for my original motivation was never to see my team win, but to be part of something larger.

23 March 2011

Environmental Pollution

Before I begin I must declare my self interest. I used to smoke! As a student I started smoking a pipe, because I wanted to be different and to stop my peers telling me I was a "party pooper" because I refused to smoke cigarettes. During my time as Editor of the College newspaper I once had to interview  the Rector, and when he said to me "Oh! You're the pipe smoker!" I knew my tactic had worked. However, I was always short of money for tobacco, but found it easier to cadge cigarettes off of the girls! So I came to smoking cigarettes as well. I was never truly addicted, for a couple of years later I just stopped, for a few years at least. Then when my mother sent me a pipe smoker's ash tray from New Zealand, I picked up my pipe again. Mainly for the image and not for much else, other than using it as a dummy substitute! I stupidly kept this up for 20 odd years until a girl friend asked me to grow a moustache. I soon discovered I had a certain stink under my nose from the tobacco smoke which I did not like so I stopped for good. I also shaved off the moustache, but that is another story. In 1989, after I had stopped, I had viral pneumonia and was hospitalised. Since then I have found I am allergic to all forms of tobacco smoke and ash. Now I am a rabid anti smoker.

Today as the sun was shining I took a walk through my town. People were out enjoying the sun.
But I was also aware of the rubbish left by the smoker. I could hardly walk three paces without coming across "fag ends," "dog ends" or cigarette butts as my America readers will know this type of litter. 
Germany prides itself at being an environmentally concious nation and a leader in environmental planning. Why then is it not possible for them to legislate against the smoker? The Federal Government has left it to the individual Lands to pass laws banning smoking in public places, yet no two Lands have managed to do it satisfactorily yet. These smokers not only pollute our atmosphere but litter the planet as well.
Smokers seem to have a perfect right to do as they please and throw their dog ends where they like.
Singapore is the only city I know in the world that has clean streets. You will not find chewing gum or fag ends littering their streets. So why can't we do it on ours. A shopping arcade is for me a public place, yet here in my town they seem to be allowed to smoke in them. This ash tray is situated in the middle of  one for example. 

Outside virtually every shop in the main shopping street, the Hindenburg Strasse you will find fag ends as customers are not allowed to smoke inside. The boundaries of Sinn Leffers are particularly bad.

Of course one can say that the wind plays its part in distributing this litter, which it does, but that is not an excuse I can accept for allowing smokers to drop their litter where they may. I found this quote on the web :
Considerate smokers don't litter. Those who do deserve criticism as much as any other litterer."
-- SmokingSection.Com (Militant Smoker's Rights Group)

Smokers will try and tell me that their fag ends are biodegradable! I am not sure this is true as the filter contains cellulose which is not so easily degradable and can take 12 years! That they can carry pocket ash trays has not occurred to them yet. Well I think it is time we brought it to everyone's attention that these things do exist.

To the residents of  my town I say it is time we put a stop to this pollution of our streets. If we can't do something as simple as this, how can we say we can control nuclear energy?