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.