Monthly Archives: September 2011

Let Palestine into the UN

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Palestinians have suffered a lot since 1948. Yes, there are some Palestinains. A few Palestinains have committed appalling crimes. But that does not make it right to penalise the whole nation. Palestine has most if not all the characteristics of a nation state. One of the things it lacks is full control over its territory and this is because the Israeli Government illegally occupies it.

Let Palestine into the UN. This is decades overdue.

People criticise Palestine for not using peaceful means to resolve its dispute with Israel. But when Palestine tries to use peaceful means she is thwarted or ignored. There is nothing more peaceful than making a speech in the UN or voting. Yet Tel Aviv would deny Palestine the right to do that. There is nothing more legal than a lawsuit. Yet when Palestine won her case against the security fence at the international Court of Justice the judgment was ignored by Israel.

It is predictable but disgraceful that Obama should block Palestine’s admission to the UN. He is in hoc to the Zionist lobby. Israel gives the US little but the enmity of hundreds of millions around the world.

Obama is being sniped at by his opponents for being insufficiently pro-Israeli. Republicans and Democrats have entered a grim loyalty contest to Israel. It is the tail wagging the dog.

Even the most evil regime in the world – whichever it is – is allowed into the UN but not Palestine.
This is a scandal.

Travel writing Morocco.

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My sister had been on honeymoon to Morocco and been unimpressed by it. My parents had made a day trip to Tangier and found it enthralling but menacing.

I came back from Sri Lanka one summer. I began teaching in Midland School. It was great to have plenty of money for once. I had 1 000 spending money a month since all my bills were paid by virtue of my live-in status. I have since been envious of that amount of dosh. Often since I have not had so much money to pay with. In those days my 1 000 was all beer tokens. I turned much of my pay packet into liquid assets.

I decided on a holiday to Morocco. I had been surfing in Sri Lanka and was not good at it. I have a poor sense of balance. Morocco was the nearest place one could surf. It was an intriguing country in its own right. It was the only close by country that had decent weather at the end of October and the start of November.

I befriended a young Chinese colleague. I shall call him Hoby. I am always like this. I am fascinated by foreign lands and by people of different nationalities. I also felt sorry for him. He was a little boy lost. Imagine going to China and being thrown in at the deep end. We spoke about half-term and he found out about my plans to go to Morocco. He asked if he could come to. Without a moment’s consideration I said yes. My German colleague Bjorn was there part of the conversation. Bjorn later told me he inwardly shuddered at this – the idea that I would have to be with Hoby around Morocco.

Hoby was the only child of a high-ranking communist official. Of course China had he one child policy. A communist in good standing would of course obey this edict. Hoby had led a rather sheltered life in China. He attended a good university and had money to travel the world. He spoke very good English. He was a blinkered supporter of the Chinese Government. He said that shooting dead all those students in Tiananmen Square was absolutely the right thing to do.

Lauren was a colleague of mine too. She was half-Chinese and half-British in her ethnicity. Her Chinese side were American citizens. Lauren was Hoby’s boss. She was also the perfect embodiment of Eurasian beauty. I am not into Oriental chapesses but she was the finest specimen of the race. I took her out to dinner but nothing came of it. ”I just don;t have that romantic spark for you” – that is another story.

Lauren disliked Hoby’s closed-minded attitudes. She told him that Mao was as bad as Hitler and Hoby was mortally offended. Hoby got the day off to go over to London and get a tourist visa for Morocco.

The appointed day came. Hoby stood at the door my classroom and tried to get me to cancel a lesson so we could leave earlier. I could not do that and was embarrassed and annoyed that he should ask. At that most inopportune moment my head of department, Mr Napoleon-Complex, walked past. Napoleon-Complex frowned suspiciously. Hoby came in and observed my class.

Later I went to the bus stop to get the bus to town. The bus came and Hoby did not? Should I stay or should I go now asked the Clash? I stayed. Big mistake. 10 minutes later Hoby ran up. He had been slow packing his bags. The second bus came and we got on it. But it was the slow bus. There were two buses and hour to Bigtwon. One took 20 minutes and the other 40. I was effectively delayed by an hour by waiting for Hoby.

We got the train to London. At the main station we descended the escalator to the tube. I heard the door beeping ran for it and jumped up. Just behind me the doors slammed. I turned and Hoby gave a Confucian shrug. The tube shunted me off towards Heathrow. I looked at my watch anxiously.

I got to the Air France check in desk. It was too late for my flight to Paris. I would have to pay 50 pounds and get the next one. I was quite pissed off. because I had waited for Hoby all this had happened. He who had tried to get me to call off a lesson at the last-minute had not been on time. This wa s my holiday and he was tagging along and I should not be inconvenienced.

We got a later flight to Charles de Gaulle. We were hard up and did not go to the airport hotel. We spent the night in the near deserted transit area. I will say this for Charles de Gaulle – it is spotlessly clean. I only remember seeing a 50 ish Russian couple quietly chatting near us. I have passed through Charles de Gaulle many times. I rather like it. It has dated a little but it must have been a bold and innovative design once with all those underground tunnels and all those satellites coming off the main building. I remember the central atrium area and all the enclosed walkways like pipes crisscrossing it diagonally – going up and down.

It was an uncomfortable night. It was not the richest sleep I had. Then I boarded – sorry, we boarded, the flight to Casablanca in the morning. We were not sitting together. I was beside a Moroccan lady a few years older than me. She was pleasant and we spoke in French. She was full-faced and otherwise amply nourished. She wore western clothes including trousers. She asked me a few questions about English. How does one say ”atterisage?”. Then she notice it in English on a sign – landing.

After a couple of hours we set down in Casablanca. It was mid morning and very bright out. We had to walk through many long marble tiled corridors. The halls were airy but not wide. In one queue I spoke to an elderly little Frenchman. ”C’est une jolie pays” (it is a pretty country) he told me of Morocco. He was a very regular visitor. I thought it was agreeable for him to have French-speaking lands to visit. He was surprised to find out that my friend was Chinese. Hoby did not speak French and looked on scintillate but of course mystified. I always told him what had been said.
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OUT INTO CASABLANCA

We got dirhams out at the airport and took the train into town. It was surprisingly decent – better than one would have expected. But I suppose that was a showpiece train. If any train in the whole country needed to make a good first impression it was the airport train. A Moroccan man engaged me in conversation as the train moved along. He too asked about my friend. Like most people in Morocco he was surprised to learn that this East Asian was Chinese. They were used to Japanese tourists. The Japanese had the money to travel since the 1960s. When Hoby went to Morocco the Chinese had struck it rich only very recently.

We did not go right into the centre. Instead we got out at a suburban station. We had taken some advice from passengers on the train. Hoby and I got out and as the train trundled away I began to wonder if we had been ill-advised. There were some buildings around the station – all tatty residential blocks a good way back from the station. We had to walk across several platforms to get to the station building. When I say walk across platforms I mean we also had to walk across railway lines. In Morocco the platforms are not built up to the levels of the train doors. One had to climb up the ladder as it were. For a fit young man this is easy. How about a multipaturous grandmother or a toddler? Not so easy.

We got to the station building and found a taxi driver looking spare. We had picked out Hotel de Volubulis as a place to stay. No reservation of course. The cabbie took us there. It was a good long drive.

I had picked Hotle de Volubulis mainly because of its price. I was used to paying a niggardly amount for accommodation in South Asia. This place must have set me back 5 for a twin room. The hotel was named after the town Volubulis which has Roman ruins. The fat receptionist was a Moroccan man well into his 30s. We did our transaction in French and soon went up the white spiral staircase. The plaster flaked off the walls. Our room was small but otherwise unobjectionable in its plainness. We had a view over the street. That area of Casablanca has many wide but winding streets that seem to be permanently virtually empty. I say virtually because the Moroccan keep odd hours. There are as many people strolling about at 3 am as at 5 in the evening.

We crossed the road and had a good feed at a half-decent restaurant. Having filled my groaning tummy it was time to compensate myself for the horrendous nights sleep in Paris. That done ablutions were badly needed.

It was mid afternoon before we ventured out.

Casablanca is much the largest city in Morocco. However, it is not the capital – that is Rabat. Casablanca is mainly a commercial and industrial city as well as being a transport hub. Bearing in mind that it is so large it offers little to the tourist. Its name is derived from the Spanish words ‘white house’. It is aptly named. Most of the houses are an off-white.

We made our way through the shabby streets. The men almost all wore Western clothes. The ladies wore western clothes and Arab clothes in equal number. I remember a hefty Moroccan girl, quite tall, waddling past. She wore the Moroccan unisex hooded robe. She smiled broadly but did not look at us. I thought this outfit was singularly unflattering to the female form.

We walked around the main square and the morose Parc de la Ligue Arabe. There is little grass and a few stumpy trees.

We found our way to one of the main squares which had some major hotels on it and behind it lay the Casbah. The Casbah is an area found in many North AFRican cities. A casbah is an old part of town that is a veritable labyrinth of narrow alleys, twisting and coming to dead ends. The higgledy piggeldy houses are built very tall but to no plan. Such places are very densely populated and the lanes are far too narrow to let in any cars. One of the advantages of the narrow lanes and tall buildings is that this casts shade across the street at all times of day. One finds the same feature in many Mediterranean cities and indeed in most hot parts of the world.

The square was busy with traffic. We braved the drivers who consider traffic lights to be purely advisory. We had a look around the casbah. The Casablanca Casbah is by no means the largest in the country. Much of its was knocked down by the French colonial authorities to build a new planned city.

We plied the dark byways of the casbah. The buildings were beige, dun and brown. Some were made of mud. Ancient wooden doors fronted every building with rusty nails through them. We saw only Moroccans there. Moroccans seems to see no charm in living in the Casbah. Why would one live these dank lanes in a cramped flat when one could have a spacious house with all the mod cons? We turned down one lane and a man behind us shouted some, not aggressively. I turned and saw him – a little old man with sunken cheeks, a thin beard and few teeth. I asked him to repeat himself, ”c’est une impasse”. ”It is a dead end” he was saying. I thanked him and we took a different route.

We came out of the casbah onto a large open sand space. Beyond it was a major road and beyond that was the sea. We made our way to the sea. We walked by huge boulders put in place to stop the coast wearing away.

We walked along the coast road for a while and came to an enormous mosque. It was probably the only beautiful building I saw in Casablanca. The tower of it soared and the rest of it was more or less a square. Sorry, the minaret. It was a tasteful shade of brown with turquoise facings. It had been built not long before by King Hassan II. Morocco is not a Shariat state but Hassan II built this enormous mosque as a nod to Islamic sentiment. As practically all his subjects are Muslims he had to make some gesture. Many Moroccan Muslims are low-key about their religion but there are also plenty who are not. Rather few are fundamentalists though.

The mosque was not open for visiting at that time. We could have come back another day. We did not which I regret a little.

That evening the city came to life a little bit more. Casablanca resembles a very run down version of a French city. There are boutiques and French banks. There are probably more signs in French than in Arabic. I do not remember where on upon what we supped. We did go to an ice cream parlour though and happened to espy some white chicks though we did not speak to them.

Hoby complained that Morocco was dirty. I later told Lauren. She told me that much of China is filthy but Hoby is kept away from that..

The next day we did a little more looking around.

My paternal grandfather

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I wrote a piece called when I was 17 entitled Ancestral Lore. I wish I could find it again, maybe I shall.

I will write about my father’s father.

Robert Colm Woode was born in April 1905. I do not know the actual day. He was born into a family of 11 children and he was the 4th if I have that right. There were more boys than girls. Robert’s father had the same Christian name. Robert’s father was a railway man. Robert’s father was also named Robert. He too was a railwayman.

My grandfather was born in Maryborough, Queen’s County. This is now called Portlaoise in Co. Laoix. This is not far from where Obama’s ancestors came from. ┬áThe family was a working class Catholic one. Almost everyone who was a working class Catholic was a nationalist of some kind. Most people of this community wanted Home Rule – that is to say for Ireland to be autonomous within the United Kingdom. A few were republicans and wanted total separation. Very few Catholic proletarians wanted full Union with Great Britain. The family does not seem to have been political. Some people had no views on such matters.

The family originated in North Cork. My great-great grandfather built the railways and moved up with the railway from Co Cork to the Midlands of Ireland.

My grandfather was known as Bob. He lived in a railwayman’s cottage in that small town. Bob’s father had to walk up and down and inspect 10 miles of railway each day. Maybe that is why my choldren and I like trains.

The family was apolitical. Bob’s mother’s father was a sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary. Bob’s mother had the maiden name Brannock meaning British. This indicates Welsh or English ancestry.

Bob got cast off clothes from his father and brothers. He remembered seeing horses being taken off my train for the Great War.

In 1922 he and a friend named FitzPatrick, with a bike between them, ran away to join the army. The South of Ireland had just become independent. An Irish Army had been founded. Bob enlisted and was in the army during the civil war. My father has always said he would show me my grandfather’s call up papers. He never had. I stopped trusting him long ago. I am not aware that my grandfather was involcved in any fighting. It was a small war and only about 2000 people were killed.

In 1924 the Irish Government cut the army from 60 000 to 20 000 men. The Irish Free State did not need such a huge army. Spending had to be slashed. Bob must have been good because he survived the cull.

He was posted around the country. He was in Donegal for a time.

He boxed for fun. What kind of fun is that being hit in the face. He was an amateur.

In 1927 the Minister of External Affairs, Kevin O’Higgins, was shot dead in Dublin. Kevin O’Higgins was murdered by the IRA as he walked to mass. They killed O’Higgins because he had supported a policy of executing terrorists during the Irish Civil War. Thereafter the Polini Airm were formed. This means armed police seen the Garda Siochana were unarmed, In fact military police is a better translation. One of his duties was to guard government ministers.

He was promoted to sergeant. He was recommended to be promoted to an officer but this never happened.

He did not drink much. He saved his money and lent it to his brothers to buy a farm. They did.

he met my grandmother near her home in the west of Ireland. I later read a newspaper article quoting him. He said ti hiw side whenever they returned there and told her to go down on her knees there in honour of the place where she met him.

He was in the Curragh in the Second World War guarding IRA internees who were trying to start a war against our neighbour.

He married my granny near the beginning of the war. She carried on nursing in England. He left the army in 1943 after 21 years service. He went to Great Britain. People said to him that he was a fine looking man and ought to be in the army. He said that the UK had beaten Hitler without him.

My father was born a year after my grandfather moved to GB. They lived in Kilburn in London. I have seen my father’s birth certificate. It says the address where my grandfather worked. I should like to visit it.

Bob worked in a factory as a clock inspector. He moonlighted as a bouncer at the Irish dance halls.

A daughter was born when my dad was 2. The nurses left her out in the cold. She died a few days old. I would like to find her name and grave. I think it was Susan or Mary.

My uncle was born 4 years after my father.

The family returned to Ireland in the summer of 1952. Up until then they had been back each summer.

My father worked for a semi state agency. He was given a whole county to cover by bicycle.

He got a car after a few years. His wife was down as a cleaner for the society and got money. They lived in a flat down town at first.

After some years they moved to a 3 bedroom house in the suburbs – brand new at the time. One room was officially his office.

He was a very tough man and used his fists when he needed to. Human rights wankers would not like that.

He was handy with his fists even in his 70s.

He was very respectable. He obeyed the law, paid tax, was respectful towards authority. He was fairly religious. He voted Fine Gael. He was a small ‘c’ conservative. He put children with abusive parents into the care of the church. Abuse in those days meant being beaten up. It did not mean a smack. It would not have crossed his mind that the priesthood could sin.

He was not anti English in any way. He admired the British Army.

He took out private health insurance and was financially prudent.

He went around Ireland on hols often to family. He drank a little brandy on special occasions. Unusually for a man of his time he did not smoke.

He was a little dull. There was a sports stadium by the house but he never went there.

He hated having to retire. He worked as a tax collector after being forcibly retired from his main job.

He drove his car in the country when a lorry came round the corner – head on collission. A farmer had been teachi g his son to drive. Bob needed a false knee cap.

He had a stroke in his 70s and one side of his face was paralysed.

He was a kindly old soul. I sat on his lap. There was a distinctive old person smell off him – not a bad one. He told me about Kalabunka land. He pretended to blow up his fist through his thumb. I remember him sitting on a chair in the garden and putting bits of wood into a sack. I suppose it was firewood. My mum told me us children should be helping him. Then we did help him.

He died when I was 6.

My mother was told by my grannt in a phone call. My mother is heartless sometimes. My mum decided not to tell my dad right then – it was mid morning. My father came home from lunch. My mother broke the news. My father sat down on a stool and wept for a minute. Then he composed himself.

He is buried in a cemetery by the sea. My father planned to take us all to the funeral. My mum vetoed this. This was the first time I learnt of death. My mother told me about it. I drew a headstone for him and wrote on it. I heard of military funerals. As he had been a soldier I imagined them playing the last post. They did not. He had left the army decades before.

The IRA in the Twilight Years by Uinseann McEoin mentions him. A newspaper clipping mentioned him when a scumbag attacked my granddad outside his house. Granddad tried to find a house for this homeless man. This is about the only documentary evidence that he existed. There was some dinner for his retirement and an article on that.

Amsterdam: travel writing.

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That February Saturday I emptied the bin from my flat in the main bin downstairs. My flat was in a boarding house of a school. The boys had all left the day before. I was due to go to the airport and fly to Holland that day. The housemaster’s wife came up to my flat for the first time ever. I shall call her by an apposite name: Mrs Ugly. Mrs Ugly berated me for putting my rubbish in the bin downstairs. I suppose I ought to have tipped it onto the floor. ”It is gonna stink.” although I had assumed the slow-witted janitor would empty it. He was not THAT slow-witted, I hoped. ”What is it with you?” she inquired. She lowered her eyes, ”you lazy bastard.” I chortled at that one. No wonder she could not say it right into my face. I wanted to tell her what I thought of her. ”Thank god you are moving out. The sooner you are out of here the better. I hope you fall flat on your face in Edinburgh.” In view of what happened to me over the next few years I think the old bitch’s curse may have had some power to it.

I took the bus to the Big Town. I had to go to a public library to print out my flight details and then I made my way to the airport. It was Heathrow. Heathrow had had tanks around it in recent days because of heightened terrorist threat. Ken Livingstone in his usual repugnant manner dismissed it all as a hoax designed to increase support for the liberation of Iraq. In fact the result could be quite the reverse. People may conclude that an attempt to free the Iraqis would lead to more such attacks. They may have been right.

The only thing I remember about the flight is two people. I sat there and the plane sat there in the dark by the terminal. A South Asian child walked up to me and asked tentatively, ”Do you speak English?” I said yes. He asked me to swap seats so he could sit with my family.

I sat in some other row and a South Asian man a few years older than me broke the ice with the typical British intro, ”you all right mate?” He was small and inclined towards chubbiness. We talked about Amsterdam. I had not been since I was 10 and therefore a tad too young to sample its finest attractions. He had been many times and raved about it. I told him I only wanted to see strippers. I did not intend to fuck any prostitutes. He said everyone said that but in the end they are irresistible.

In a trice the kite put down in Schihpol Airport. Sorry, let me spell airport in Dutch for you – ayerpoort. That is a joke by the way. I had passed through Schipohl so many times. It seemed like home to me. It was always shiningly clean and ultramodern.

Once I was at the airport station I made a call. I picked the first youth hostel in my guide book – the Shleter Jordan. I spoke to a Dutch female who of course spoke outstanding English. That was it I had my booking. There was one pause for thought. It did say that it was a Christian hostel. I was there on a pornathon. Not exactly what Jesus preached from the cross. WOuld they know? WOuld they care?

I boarded the train to city centre. I liked the double decker trains. They have them in France, Germany, Italy, Romania and perhaps other countries. In the British Isles we have double decker buses. Why do we not have double decker trains? I suppose the bridges were built too low and no one thought about it. To make doubel decker trains we would have to redo all the bridges. But double decker trains would solve the overcrowding problems on those London commuter trains. My choo choo was lovely – I am a train spotter, ok I will come out of the closest. My beautiful train whisked me to Centraal STation. No that was not a typo – Centraal.

I walked out of the building onto a huge open space – I cannot quite call it a square. People were walking in and out. It was oddly busy considering it was quite late on a chilly night. I saw buildings a few hundred metres away. I got on the tram to my hostel.

The man selling the tickets came up to me. I handed him a 50 Euro not the smallest I had. He chided me in good English. He was a black Netherlander with a reddish complexion and a woolly grey beard, a shortish man. ”I will let you off this one time.” He wagged his finger. Pretty generous to let me off at all. The poor chap had a tongue too big for his mouth and it stuck out as he talked muffling his words.

I stayed on for several stops. I got off and found I had gone too far. I retraced the tram track. I navigated via a map – well how else can one navigate? I did not look at the stars and this was before Sat nav.

There was the street Rosengracht. That meant Roses Canal. Amsterdam is in effect hundreds upon hundreds of islands. They are separated by canals and connected by countless bridges. Much of the Netherlands was marshland. Over centuries canals were dug to drain the marshes. This meant there was dry land to walk on and channels deep enough for boats to sail through between the myriad islands. It must have been very labour intensive to construct and maintain all this.

The houses were brown brick and exceptionally bland even for the Netherlands. The Low Countries do a fine line in dullness but they seldom manage ugliness – it takes Eastern Europe for that or Birmingham.

I walked into the shelter Jordan. The place was hopping. A good two dozen backpackers sat around the communal area chatting or tucked into food. I sidled up to the reception. I cannot remember who checked me in. The staff were all pleasant and efficient.

I found my way to my dorm upstairs and dumped my paraphernalia. My dorm had ten bunk beds at a guess. The window faced a courtyard. The boys had the first floor and the girls had the second. I have noticed this pattern in other places such as halls of residence. This is to make it more difficult for rapists to break in unless of course they are gay rapists.

The ground floor had some books in English and Dutch. There was a telly and some board games. There were quotations from the Bible painted in English on the walls.

I went for a long walk through Amsterdam. It was one of those evenings when I felt unaccountably happy. There was a spring in my step. The world was at my feet. I was so glad to be heard and I had boundless energy. I only had to hit the main street and turn left and follow that to the centre of town. I passed a large church on my right and the homo monument. The homo monument was to the gays persecuted under the Nazi regime in the Netherlands during the second World War. The Netherlands led the world in gay rights.

I saw many Dutch signs that I could translate. It is easy given the context – what the signs are on. Many restaurants had a ”specialiteit” – a speciality. Fast food joints offered portions that were klein, middel or groot – small, medium or large.

Soon I was staring at the back of Dam Palace – that is the residence of the royal family in Amsterdam. As every schoolboy knows (ok only geography geeks) the official capital of the Netherlands is the Hague which is the main residence of the royal family.

To the right of the rear of the palace was a tiny fast food place staffed by an equally tiny Levantine with tidy hair and half-moon glasses. It was Middle Eastern fast food. This clean-shaven Ishmaelite served with the poise and courtesy. I munched down his nameless fare with gratitude.

I walked around on to Dam Square. I remembered being here about 13 years earlier. We had bumped into some American tourists there – a young couple. They asked us for directions. My father had told them, ”This is Dam Square, I am damn sure of that.” I like his verbal jokes however bleeding obvious.

I looked up at the palace. It was a mid grey colour. Somehow this did not make it seem depressing. All the lights were off. It was several storeys high. It was imposing but not quite handsome. I counted how many windows wide it was. I am into counting. Infantile I know – that’s just me. It was a little smaller than Buckingham Palace but that s to be expected – the Netherlands is smaller than the UK.

I looked towards Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky at the far end of the square. I had breakfasted here when I was about 9. I remembered the raven haired hot waitress telling us about people who had their bags snatched, ”it is crazy” she lamented. It was supposed to be sympathetic. No it is not crazy stealing a bag or having it stolen. It is criminal and unfair – it is nasty to be deprived of one’s possessions but crazy is not the right word. However, I had not corrected her.

I remembered Dam Square pretty well from when I was a child. But then there was a white war memorial. I had not remembered that at all. It is odd how one’s memory can just blank things. There was no reason why I would choose to forget it. That is how unreliable memory is. In fact this monument is the kind of thing that I find fascinating.

I walked to the left – as one looks at the front of Dam Palace. I wandered around by one of the canals. People were spilling out of bars and laughing raucously. I saw some gorgeous wide-eyed Dutch girls cycle along on their way to a night out. Their duffle coats and denim skirts somehow won me. They all favoured rickety black bicycles that looked like they belonged in the 1930s. I saw a couple of doors surrounded by neon lights. Much though I like debauchery I knew the price would be too high.

I walked over some bridges and ended up in a residential area a few islets away. I found a bench by a tiny patch of grass. I studied my tourist map. I sat down and felt elated. It was so wonderful to be in Amsterdam. What a fantastic city. I was almost laughing with joy.

Late that night I sauntered back to the Shelter Jordaan. I tiptoed into my dorm. I saw down on my bunk, a lower bunk. I dozed off with only a little disturbance from the snorers around me. I found that having been to boarding school from the age of 7 it is not difficult to sleep with such background sound. I grew accustomed to it. It was either that or not sleep. That said I have little tolerance of girlfriends who snore. It is unladylike. My girlfriend snoring is likely to be met with a poke in the ribs. At school I learnt from a midget named Craig that steady pressure (not acute) will induce a snorer to turn on their front or side and stop snoring. People only ever snore when they sleep on their back.

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A FULL DAY IN AMSTERDAM.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of people getting up around me. I shut my eyes again and tightened the duvet around me and tried to sleep on. It was to no avail. There was too much noise with all those youths dressing. I looked up and saw a curly-haired fat ugly woman with odd-shaped breasts. Only then did I realise that this person was a male with manboobs. He turned out to be a Brazilian bloke and no transvestite at that. He looked like a young and overweight version of sideshow Bob with dark blond hair.

I came to know some of the staff in the hostel. I cannot remember most of the names so some have been invented.

Davin was 18 – a tall and very slim American. He was a gentle boy and no one could have disliked him even if they had tried.

Michelle was a Canadian brunette. She was good-looking and aged about 20. She had a charming smile. She told us all with excitement that she had been accepted into a Bible college in the UK.

Treasure was an American of about 25. She had jet black hair and the poor thing was very unattractive. She was dumpy and had a monstrous face but was always upbeat. She was a very giving person. They must have been paid a pittance there and someone told me she gave most of her money to charity.

Nwabia was a Nigerian in his early 20s. He was of average height and had a little beard. He was in a good mood and had a great sense of humour.

Willem was a Dutch guy in his 50s. He had grey hair and was a dead ringer for Jack Straw. He was quiet and spoke brilliant English. He was very tidy and a bit on the bland side.

Duco was a Netherlander who was about 30. He had thin, short brown hair. He was lean and tall. He too spoke terrific English.

They were all hardline Christians who worked there. They were very agreeable because hardcore Christians are sometimes disagreeable. There was a prayer room and prayer meetings were at advertised times. There was a book on a table with profiles of the staff. The staff explained how they had become Christian.

I breakfasted in the hostel and headed out. Valentine’s Day had been just before so many Valentine’s couples were still in town. There was a war in the Middle East in the offing. There had been a gigantic anti-war protest the day I arrived. Of course it had broken up hours before I landed because I arrived late at night. All around I saw discarded placards. I read their slogans, ”Geen Oorlag vor Olie”. This translates, ”no war for oil.” I knew the word ”oorlog” meant war because I had read about the First South African War of 1899-1902 which the Afrikaners called ”De Tweede Vreihydes Oorlog” – ”the Second Freedom War.” There were slogans in English, ”to start a war is a crime.” I found it mirthful to say this to myself in a Dutch accent – to shtart a vor is a crime. There were images of Ariel Sharon and the words ”the greatest terrorist.”

I strongly believed and still believe that Iraq should be liberated. Setting Iraq free was justified many times over. The 1991 Gulf War had ended by a truce agreement. Saddam Hussein’s regime repeatedly and flagrantly breached the terms of this. Therefore the truce is over the war continues. Saddam funded terorism in Israel. He aided attacks on Kuwait long after 1991. It was up to him to publicly and verifiably rid himself of Weapons of Mass destruction. Because he did not do so one had to assume that he still had them and to act accordingly. He had murdered thousands of his own people – perhaps tens of thousands. I am not talking about killing rebels in combat. I mean people who were arrested and often horiffically tortured before being killed without any form of trial. He deliberately killed women and children who had taken no action against him.

I walked to Dam Square again. I looked up at the balcony. It seemed only just out of reach. I had seen some footage of Queen Juliana retiring – Dutch monarchs do that when they feel they are too old. Queen Juliana seemed very casual when she did so but the people loved it. She said I now present your new queen – it was Queen Beatrix, the daughter of Juliana. Juliana did an informal little wave, it was almost comical. A cry of approval went up from her adoring subjects. They are so down to earth the Dutch monarchy. The Scandinavian monarchies are similarly approachable. It begs the question what the point of having a monarchy is if they are to be so ordinary. The Netherlands had a queen regnant since 1880 and no king. A queen regnant is one who reigns because she inherits the crown from her own family as opposed to a queen consort who is someone from another family – a queen consort is only queen because she marries the king of the Netherlands. Queen Wilhelmina ruled because she had no brothers. Queen Wilhelmina had no sons and only a daughter. Queen Juliana again had a daughter and no sons. However, Beatrix has sons so the next monarch will be a king – Willem Alexander.

The balcony did not seem far above the street. I felt I could almost touch it. I reached up. Of course it was out of reach – 3 m up. It appeared to be deceptively low.

Dam Square – wow., this was it. It was the very heart of the Dutch world. By the Dutch world I mean not just the Netherlands but of all the lands where Dutch or a derivative of it is spoken. The Flemings in Belgian are part of this Dutch world. The Afrikaners in South Africa speak a dialect of Dutch. At one time Indonesia, Sri Lanka and even Brazil were Dutch colonies. This square was the centre of power.

The nineteenth century buildings denoted commerce and stolidity. They were pleasing to look at but not quite gorgeous.

Just off Dam Square there was a large cinema. It boldly advertised the films that it showed – gay pornography. I knew that the Dutch are radically liberal on such matters. Yet I was still surprised and amused that the gay porn should be shown so close to the royal palace. It was not the gay aspect of it but the fact that it is pornography. What is wrong with porn? Everyone has sex so why not show it? SHowing it cannot harm anyone? Doing it can lead to unplanned pregnancy and even fatal diseases. Surely there is less danger and less immorality in watching it than in doing it. I guess the Netherlanders take the view that there is nothing shameful in porn so why not have a gay porno cinema right by the main square.

As it was February is was very cold. I was surprised at just how cold. Amsterdam looks to be well in off the sea connected only by some twisting waterways. However, bone chilling winds somehow gusted across the square. I wore several layers topped off by a big blue jacket – it was only just enough.

When I approached a Netherlander the person would greet me in Dutch. After a moment’s hesitation they would switch into English. I never met someone there who did not speak English. Since about 1990 te Netherlands had a law that any form or any exam could be done in English. They are close to the UK in geography and have alwAYS TRAded a lot with the UK. They had many opportunities to practise their English and their language is similar to English. Many of them were sailors and businessmen leading to even more reasons to get good at English. Their country is so tiny and only two other countries speak Dutch. It was either learn English or never leave the country. It seems to me that everyone but everyone in the Netherlands speaks English and good English at that. Speaking English there is not part of being an educated person it is part of being a person full stop.

I remember visiting the Netherland passing through to Saudi Arabia when I was 8 and 9. I passed through it on the way to Chad aged 11. I remember walking down some back streets and seeing places with naughty T-shirts and signs saying, ”I like the Pope. The Pope smokes dope”. I also saw signs for porn. I was religious then and had little testosterone. i IMAGined coming back as a priest years later and scolding the hookers – they would mock me but I would retain my sacerdotal dignity. How things changed. I had come back to Amsterdam but as a porn addict!

I made a beeline for the Red light district. It is a little way south of Dam SQUARE, beyond a wide canal. It must be half a mile by half a mile. I got to know it very well. My word – what a place. There were porn shops aplenty. There were many girls behind glass doors. Punters walked past and could be invited in for sex. These window booths were very appealing. I saw the sign on them, ”kamer te huur”. I thought that meant, ”chamber the whore.” I found out that it is ”room to rent.” The prostitutes normally wore frilly lingerie often black. Well no surprises there. They mostly conformed to the most popular demographic – 18-25, slender, busty with well-proportioned features. However, every taste was catered for. There were girls of every conceivable size, shape, colour and age. When I say age I mean they varied upwards from 18. My mate Tony who frequents bawdy houses tells me that one of the most important things is to have a diverse stable. Some boys like obese chicks, some like very short ones, some like women over 50. So there must be something for everyone. It was like a human zoo. I notice that some alleyways seemed to be people by girls of certain ethnic groups. Some were for whites, some for Orientals, some for backs and some for Indians. I have read that 95% of these whores are not Dutch. The whites are mostly Eastern European.

Occasionally a prostitute would catch me looking at her. She would open her window and beckon me in but I never succumbed.

There were public pissoirs on the street. These consisted of upright metal almost folded up. This was so one could go in and be out of sight for a minute when taking a leak. It being very cold I had to take a slash often. When it is cold when one goes outside the shock of the temperature change causes one to need to urinate. The smell from these pissoirs was not too bad – being so cold the urine’s smell did not reek that bad. Besides most people have blocked noses at that time of year.

I went into some porno shops. I would choose a film and go into the video cabin and watch it. I was able to control it. I would have a chop. Regain my sperm count. Take a slash into the bin. Then I would wank again. I would hurry out before the guy discovered that I had pissed into his bin. I never went to the same place twice. I always got away with it.

I walked past many coffee shops – mainly between Dam Square and the red light district. These coffee shops gave out cannabis free with the coffee. It is said that cannabis is not legal but just tolerated. Shop keepers are not allowed to sell cannabis they just give it away. I passed some of these. I considered going in and trying some. However, I genuinely dislike the smell of marijuana. I chose not to go in. Maybe that was a shame – perhaps smoking cannabis is part of the Amsterdam experience.

I went into one of the department stores on Dam Square. I saw some English girls there – one of them black. They chatted to the Dutchman at the makeup counter. They were over for the weekend. He made up the black girl’s face for free. Amsterdam is such a friendly city – where Europe goes to let its hair down.

I walked along Dam Rak – meaning Dam Reach. A ‘Reach’ is a stretch of riverbank – an unusual English word that. The sea wind whipped along – it cut through my coat it felt.

The weather got colder while I was there. I always find this. One gets to February as the winter seems to be ending. Then Winter comes back and bites you in the arse. In the morning I found ice in the canals. The ice would melt a little in the daytime but the ice that was shaded never melted.

I considered taking a train to Luxembourg but funds were running low. In the end I decided not it. As it happened I went there three and a half years later. I have noticed this has always happened. There are places I wished to go to but did not. I always got there a few years later. The next one is Cuba.

I like the the broad-minded Dutch attitude. They believe that the twin pillars of freedom are soft drugs and hard porn. However, I have seen the negative side of the drugs policy. People say that cannabis is a gateway drug. It is not only harmful in itself but when people have tried it they are more likely to move on to more harmful substances such as ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. In the red led district I saw a a group of young men who were patently under the influence of some psychotropic drug. Ok I am not quite sure what psychotropic means but it seems to fit. These men were ‘rattling’ as they say in the United Kingdom. They were staggering around, dead eyed, trembling and shouting madly. I suppose they were suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
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IMPRESSIONISTIC MEMOIRS

I normally write chronologically. This is often made easier because I traveled from one town to another. I stayed in Amsterdam for the whole week so it is harder to rememember when things happen. This will not be quite so chronological. I developed a more or less daily pattern.

I often went to a fast food joint just south of Dam Square. A tall Pakistani with a large moustache worked there. He was a smiley soul and we exhanged words of Urdu. There I bought low grade sausages drizzled in cheese. Part of my new healthy lifestyle.

I went to a bit of the university of Amsterdam near the red light district. As I was turning away my jacket caughts on some razor wire attached to the gate – the waterproof layer was badly torn. I had to find a place that did such repairs. I left my coat there. They would not do it for a day. This was quite a loss. The cold was oppressive. The gales seemed to penetrate my jacket but penetrated any other material even more so.

I used to sit around the communal area chatting to people. There was an American guy well over 50 there. I shall dub him Stanley. Stanley was from a Mid Western state and had brown-grey hair and had very pale skin. There was a look of Stephen King about him. He wore large glasses almost rectangular in shape. He appeared to have a mild personality disorder. The very fact that someone so long in the tooth was lodged in a youth hostel was strange. Stanley spent most of the day on the same chair and mouthed off his radical left opinions to anyone whether they were listening or not. He was sardonically amused by George W Bush. Stanley was implacably opposed to the United States taking military action in the Middle East. He would shake his head, snort and smile when he heard something on the news he disliked. It was his way of saying – the right wing, there they go again. Stanley told me of a man who had been very special to him. ”We were lovers for years” he informed me. Since civil partnerships he got himself adopted but his boyfriend. Even though both were adults one was able to legally adopt the other. This gave them some rights in law. One time a Japanese-American guy who worked there came up to Stanley. He said to Stanley that people over 35 were not allowed to stay there and asked, ”you are over 35 aren’t you?” Stanley confirmed that he was. This would have to be his last night.

I chatted to a Vietnamese girl on one occasion. She was pretty and soft-spoken if a trifle dull. I told her of my time in Vietnam and having money stolen. I was tolerably certain that it was the railway staff.

I thumbed through a book in Dutch about the Second World War. I was able to decipher some of the words. I was scintillated by the Nasional Socialist Beweging – the Dutch Nazis. Their views seemed so at odds with the rest of Dutch society. The Vietnamese lady asked me if I could speak Dutch and I told her no, I could only figure out some of it.

There was a tall, lean and serious-minded American there who had recently graduated from Washington STate University. He had trim mid-brown hair, very pale skin and thick-rimmed glasses. He said he had voted for Bush but was not so sure if sending troops into Iraq would be the right decision.

I flicked through trivial pursuit cards – testing myself on the answers, Boys love collecting things. They are stamp collectors, some collect mustard pots and other collect cars. Some of us collect information. A girl sat down to my left. She was tall, medium build and she had chin length blonde hair. She had green eyes with pupils that ran through her irises both up and down to touch the whites of her eyes. I have never seen such eyes. She wore a nondescript top and green combat trousers. She has very fair skin. Being a garrulous sort I turned to her and said, ”hello, what;s your name?” She murmured something demurely. ”Sorry, what’s that?” She mumbled again. ”I am afraid I didn’t quite catach that, could you repeat that please.?” Finally I caught it, ”Judith.” She was a little S-H-Y. It was not a promising start to what was to be the longest relationship of my life.

Judith was a German law student who had been at a students’ conference. She was making the most of the fact that she was in the Netherlands to do a spot of sight-seeing. She was the a year younger than me. I suggested we go out to a bar. She readily accepted.

We walked down the freezing street. I explained my jacket situation. We got to a nearby bar and went in. I had beer and she asked for tea. The barman was a Dutchman who was some way past 50. This ageing rocker had his grey hair tied back in a pony tail. He had a white shirt open to the sternum – revealing his pectoral pubes. He was red of skin and had a hacking smoker’s cough. His crow’s feet indicated a life lived to the full.

Judith ordered tea and sat delicately – enthralled by my conversation. Judith took milk with her tea. There was a very tall and slim Netherlander there. This bloke had long brown hair and a little moustache and was in his 30s. He told us he had an English wife and she always took milk in her tea too.

After a good chinwag there we went back to the hostel. I liked Judith and did most of the talking. I asked her about German history. I threw in the odd German word I happened to now. She found this a little funny. Finally it was time to go to bed. We walked up the stairs together. At my landing I said goodbye to her.

The next morning I had my breakfast and the German girl was not there. I hung around reading those cards until she came down. I made a point of speaking to her again. I fancied her a lot but did not fancy my chances. She had been sociable but had evinced no interest in me romantically.

I visited the Anne Frank house which overlooked a canal halfway between the hostel and Dam Square. I had heard of Anne Frank when I was little. I had seen a low budget British miniseries about it when I was 12. I had dipped into the diaries when I was 17. I took and especial interest in the passages where she described her lesbian proclivities – she desired to fondle the tits of her friend. Nice! So it was not all a sad story.

At the end of the house there was a cinema. They presented various controversial situations. They asked the audience to vote by button whether they thought that in each case freedom of expression should be upheld or some other public interest trumped it. In most cases I voted for freedom of expression.

Later I told Judith I ahd been there. She said it was almost compulsory for every German who visited Amsterdam to go to that house.

I went to the Joods Museum. It was informative and they even had the mikvah baths – ritual baths for women after menstruation. I saw video clips of interviews with Dutch Jews recalling life before the Holocaust.

I went to the ship museum. I saw a resplendent royal barge. I was captivated by royal majesty and pageantry. I was pleased that the Dutch too could put on a good show. I walked around an old wooden warship. In an officer’s cabin at the aft I met a Dutch couple and they pointed to the ceiling – klein, they remarked. They translated in case I had not got it. The ceiling was low.

I went to the porno museum in the red light district. There was all sorts of porn and sex toys. There was even cartoon porn. Someone had drawn cartoons of characters having sex – it was all very unrealisitc, They were not meant to look like real people. I saw a mock up of a hooker’s chamber and chose to listen to the recored voice in French. It said that the girls had no pimp and worked for themselves.

I found the old headquarters of the Vereeinidge Oost Indisch Compagnie – the United East India Company. It is known in the Anglosphere as the Dutch East India Company. There was nothing to see but the VOC log on the wall.

I found West Indisch Huis. It is not that large – a distinguished red brick affair from the 18th century. It had no buildings adjoining it and is near Dam Rak. West Indies House was the headquarters of the Dutch West Indies Company. It is not widely realised that the Netherlands has territory in the Caribbean. Aruba, Barbuda and Curacao are all Dutch territory – known as the ABC islands. Surinam was a Dutch colony. Sint Martin is also Dutch. The Dutch West Indies Company bought slaves from African slave dealers in West Africa. In some cases Dutchmen attacked people and enslaved the Africans themselves rather than relying on other Africans to kidnap people and force them into slavery. These unfortunate people were taken across the Atlantic and set to work in dreadful conditions on plantations. This cruelty generated huge profits for the Dutch West India Company. Some other western European lands were at the same game.

Behind wEST Indisch Huis I saw little children playing in the playground – white and black. I thought the story had a happy ending.

I came to recognise the flag of Amsterdam. It had black and red bars. Three large white X’s are on the black bar that runs down the middle of the flag. It does not seem very dignified. It reminded me of my dad’s rugger shirt.

I got my jacket back once it was mended.

I met Judith again and chatted with her. She opened up to me a little. She was from Bavaria and was the eldest of three. She had a sister four years younger than her and a brother four years younger than that. Judith had spent a year in the US as an au pair. She spoke very good English but not quite fluent. She lived on a famr when not at university. She was very nubile but could make more of her feminimity.

I told her about my day and she toold me about hers. I said I wanted to go to the Van Gogh Museum the next day and I suggested that she come too. She agreed. She looked up her train times and saw that she could delay by a few hours. She had been planning to head out the next morning first thing.

We chatted till we were about the only ones left in the communal area. Again we walked up together and parted on the landing.

The next day I met her at breakfast. We set out for the van Gogh gallery. I had asked a Dutchman how to pronounce van Gogh. I had heard van go, van gog, van jog, van goj, van joj. I cannot spell the proununciation. A ‘g’ in Dutch (unless part of ‘ing’) is prounounced with a strangulatory sound almost like the ‘kh’ sound in some languages or the ‘j’ in Spanish. By the way the ‘v’ in ‘van’ is prounounced as an ‘f’.

We got to the gallery in good time and walked in admiring the art work. We soon realised that it was the wrong gallery. The van Gogh gallery was adjacent to the one that we were in but we did not care. I had eyes only for Judith anyhow.

There was a letter in English from an artist. It mentioned roosters and Judith used the word ‘cock’ in relation to them. I said this could be misinterpreted. She corrected herself and said rooster but was not embarrassed or amused. This was my attempt at flirtation.

We walked back towards the hostel. At a traffic lights we had to stop. A button of mine was undone. She seized her chance. She stepped forward and did it up on my green brown tartan lumberjack’s shirt. Maybe I still have that shirt. I recognsiedf this grooming gesture for what it was – an excuse to come into my personal space. Thank god I left that button undone! I made a move forward – and wavered. I saw her start towards me, then hesitate. We understood each other. In for the kiss. I made is a fairly lingering one. It was quite satisfying. Finally, no more will she won’t she.

I was glad that we had broken the ice. We walked hand in hand. We snogged now and then. We went to an upstairs cafe on our way back to the hostel. I saw a middle-aged slim Dutchman at a nearby table. He was in a formal shirt, tie and smart trousers. On a break from his office. He smoked as he chatted. His two female companions were well made-up though not sexily dressed. They were a few years younger than him. Yes, people could smoke in bars back then. It is ahrd to think now. It was the most normal thing in the world not long ago. Now it just seemes to belong to a different era. I wonder why I remember that threesome – by using tat word I am not implying that they got it on.

We sipped our coffee and chatted. Judith was growing on me. I felt my dick bulging. I wishED I could have sex with her that day. But where? Would she did it so soon? Would I see her again. I made some lustful remark that she did not seem to pick up on.

We walked back the hostel and got her rucksack. I volunteered to carry it. We made our way to the railway station. It was a good long walk. At one street corner we stopped as the traffic went by and had a good long snog. A white van crawled by. The podgy little middle aged man in the driving seat mouthed ‘awww’ at us – in mock disapproval.

We got to Centraal in good time. We found her platform. She had a long journey – about 8 hours. She took a photo of me. She got out her filofax and we exchanged addresses and email addresses. As we sat on a bench canoodling a middle aged Hollander came up to us. This thin ne=er do well addressed us in heavily accented English, ”I am from Amsterdam” and went on to ask for money. Judith gave him short shrift. ”Don’t you think it is rude to distrub people?” She was a lady who was forthright in her views on some occasions. The man went away empty handed. I was impressed with her. I was to be the victim of her tongue lashing sin the future.

Soon she had to board her train. I smooched her farewell. I hoped to see her again but did not bank on it. I was to see her again. It was a splendid and a very difficult relationship. I lament that I am not with her still.

That evening I chatted to a hefty American girl in the hostel. I shall call her Staicey because I do not remember her name. Staicey was from Arkansas and had long brown curly hair. She had graduated from college recently and worked in a doctor’s office. I thought to myself that being a secretary was no fit job for a graduate one should be the doctor. But of course what being a graduate has changed. It no longer marks one out as an intellectual but only as semi-literate. She told me when she was born her mother was 18. I told her when I was born my mother was 36 – double that age. When I did the maths I realised I was a little out – my mum was 35 when I hatched. We agreed to go around a bit together. I was thinking of trying to score with Staicey but never tried in the end. I should have. It cannot have hurt and was not exactly infidelity to Judith.

We went to the church on Dam Square and had a good look around. It was a very historical church an treasure was on display. Signs told us a lot about the place. It was quite bare inside – Cavinistic as one would expect.

Later we went to a cafe where I dined but she chose not to. We went back to the hostel and then our separate ways.

I visited the Oude Kerke which is on the edge of the red light district. It is large and empty inside but very old. It was atmospheric but only plain – it had no beauty to it.

I had seen just about everything in Amsterdam. I walked through a park not far from my hostel. I found the HQ of Amnesty International. I was getting a little bored.

I stayed up all night with Sam. Sam was a red-headed Briton who worked there. He was a Christian and an oceanographer. I had eavesdropped on his argument with Stan the eccentric American. Some of what Sam did had to be kept secret by law said the government. Stanley denounced this as even more state oppression – freedom of expression is important he said. Sam responded, ”National security is also important.” I liked little Sam.

I stayed up all night with Sam. He said the Mormons were not Christians – they had unbiblical beliefs. He showed me a video about their views. It told me how the Mormons believed that before the world was created there was the war in heaven. The devil fought god. Some humans sided with the devil, some with god and some stayed neutral. The ones who took the side of the devil were annihilated. The ones who sided with god were sent to earth and blessed. The ones who had been neutral were sent to earth but were punished for being neutral – by being given black skin. It was a flagrantly racist belief. I was rather shocked.

I was to discover that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) defended slavery. They refused to allow blacks to be priests in their church until the 1970s.

I set out fro Centraal in the wee hours. I got my airport train. I was in adaze as I arrived at Schipohl. I remember seeing a Dutch family coming back from a tropical holiday. They had two children. The mum was about 40 and her age was ctaching up to her. She had flabby cheeks on a face that would once have been pretty. Her full lips were well made up and a tan adorned her body.

I asked for a stamp at passport control. The black haired young immigration officer looked at me from behind his little glasses. ”you are in the European Union so you do not need one.” I requested one. He declined. Ho hum/

Schipohl oh dear Schipohl – large and airy as ever. Tranquil, efficent is a tiny bit banal. I got my plane easy enough,

Later that morning I ran into a boy froms chool named Ormrod on the train. I also got chatting to a teacher on the train – he worked at Fulford Gate near York. I asked him about the battle of Fulford Gate. The man had thin dark hair and thick rimmed black glasses. His goattee suited him. He was a kindly if mundane tupe of person. He was about 10 years my elder. He had been marking papers which was how I clocked him as a teacher. We talked about Ireland in the 1920s. I must have got carried away as a girl my age came and courteously asked me to pipe down.

Back to Midlands school. I jumped into bed and dozed off my staying up all night.

Sir Oswald Mosley reassessed.

Standard

Sir Oswald Mosley was born in 1896. He came from an aristocratic family in the English West Midlands. Mosley’s father was a baronet that is to say that he had the style ‘sir’ in front of his name. Oswald Mosley being the eldest son later inherited the baronetcy.

Oswald Mosley attended Winchester College. Winchester College is a boarding school for boys aged 13-18. Winchester College was founded in the 14th century by King Richard II. Winchester Collge is a very prestigious school and its pupils tend to be upper class. It was and is one of the more intellectually inclined public schools in the United Kingdom. Mosley though was not academically minded. He was intelligent certainly but was not highly so – not a bookish sort of person. Mosley wrote in his autobiography ”My Life” that there was much homosexuality at Winchester but this was not to his taste. Mosley was a sportsman and always urged his followers to have a physically active life.

After leaving school Mosley went to Sandhurst. Sandhurst is the royal military academy. That is to say that it is for training army officers. Mosley worked hard there and did well. He was commissioned as an officer in the British Army just as the Great War broke out. Mosley served with distinction on the Western Front. Later he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps which was the forerunner of the RAF.

Oswald Mosley returned to the United Kingdom as the war was ending. He was elected to Parliament for the Harrow constituency. He was a member of the Conservative Party. However, he said that he was not there to serve a political party but to represent men of his age who had cut their teeth in the war.

Mosley was approached by men who had formerly served under his command. They were Irishmen and complained about the conduct of the Crown Forces in Ireland. The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary was made up of men from Great Britain as were the so-called Black and Tans. Mosley was shocked by what he heard but trusted his former comrades. He complained bitterly in the House of Commons about misconduct by security forces in Ireland. He advocated giving in to the IRA. Tom Barry in the Guerrilla Days in Ireland said that some Conservatives in Parliament spoke up for the IRA. presumably he was alluding to Mosley.

Mosley married Lord Curzon’s daughter. The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston was the grand old man of British politics. Lord Curzon had been Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary. He was tipped to be Prime Minister but it was felt a lord could no longer serve in that office. Lady Cynthia CUrzon had a Jewish grandmother but this did not seem to bother Mosley at the time.

Mosley soon left the Conservative Party. He sat as an independent until joining the Labour Party.

He lived the high life. He had many affairs but a deferential press kept this secret. He said vote Labour sleep Tory. His mistresses tended to be from upper class families with traditionalist views.

Mosley was restless and had drastic plans to abolish unemployment. He grew frustrated that the Labour Party was over-cautious. He felt they were in hoc to middle class opinion. Despite his left-wing views he did not forgo his mansion and fine cars.

Mosley lost his seat in Parliament. He became bitter at what he saw the establishment – the banks, the press, big business and the ‘old parties’ by which he meant Conservative, Labour and Liberal. He looked with envy to Italy where an authoritarian government got things done. He called them Blackshirts.

Mosley founded the NEW Partt in 1930. He advocated a corporatist state to tackle property. He said that all must serve te nation and none must serve the faction. His party did not seem to be extreme at the beginning. Some Labour and Conservative MPs were briefly members.

The New Party failed to win any seats in parliament. Its support was mainly working class and urban. The voters were mostly former Labour voters. The New Party took an increasingly fascist turn. Its members wore black uniforms and modeled themselves on the fascists in Italy. The New Party advocated a small directory ruling the country with almost dictatorial powers subject to being accountable to parliament.

Mosley turned the New Party into the British Union of Fascists (BUF). The BUF were often called Blackshirts. Mosley was hailed as the leader. The BUF went around in black uniforms and did the Nazi salute. They rewrote Nazi and Italian fascist songs. He visited Italy and met Mussolini whom he admired. His called his newspaper ‘Action’. He believed that he was above all a man of action. The BUF flag had a symbol with a circle to symbolise unity and eternity and a bolt of lighting for action. He was a mesmeric public speaker.

Mosley had support from Lord Harmsworth and the Daily Mail. Mosley was attracted by what Hitler was doing in Germany. Mosley started to make anti-Jewish speeches. He later claimed he was not against Jews as such but only against their misuse of the UK for their own ends. He said that Jews controlled international high finance and had caused the Great Depression.

Mosley tried to start a radio station playing popular music to raise money through advertising. This would then finance his party. It came to little Mosley advocated free trade within the British Empire – he really wanted to preserve the empire. He did not recognise that Canada was moving closer to the US in policy. Mosley made inconsistent speeches depending on his audience.

Mosley’s men clashed with communists. He held some startling rallies at Olympia. The violence in repelling communist hecklers became too much. The Public Order Act banned the wearing of uniform by political parties.

The New Party did not even contest the 1935 election. Mosley changed te name to the British Union of Fascists (BUF).

In the east End of London the British Union of Fascists baited Jews. In 1936 he tried to march through the East End. Jews and communists blocked the way. The police could not clear them. The anti-fascists were guilty of riotous disorder. The police told Mosley to caNCEL the march. He did. This is celebrated as the Battle of Cable Street.

I dislike Mosley and his fascist policies. Parties should not have paramilitary groups. His hate speech was repugnant;. However, he proposed a legal march and this should have been allowed to go ahead. The communists were much crueller than the BUF. Free speech was defeated that day and mob rule won.

The BUF went into decline after 1936. The economy had picked up and the initial interest in the party leached away. The BUF was short on money. The BUF was sympathetic to German and Italy and hostility towards these countries rose in the UK. The BUF extended its name to the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists. Despite this it was still known as the BUF. The BUF can be called Nazi since National Socialist is abbreviated to Nazi.

The Civil War in Spain raged from 1936 to 1939. Mosley wanted to see the communists defeated in Spain but advocated British neutrality. He used Spain as a byword for a feeble state of the sort that he did not want the United Kingdom to become.

Mosley’s power was in London especially East London. There were many Jews in East London and some native Britons there were anti-Semitic. He had support in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. He often spoke of England rather than Britain even in Glasgow.

Many people left the BUF and formed the British People’s Party. William Joyce was one of these. jOYCE later broadcast for Nazi Germany to the UK. After the war Joyce was hanged for treason.

Mosley was a ridiculous figure. His facial expression seems a little demented. Was he knocked on the head in the war?

In 1939 war loomed. Mosley started a peace campaign. He had the slogan – mind Britain’s business. He said what Germany did in Easter Europe was not the UK’s problem. The UK ought to stay out of it. People said the UK needed to repel aggression. Mosley said the UK only needed to repel aggression against the British Empire – not against any other country. Mosley advocated beefing up the British military enormously and then staying out of the war. This was a policy of armed neutrality. He said that peace through strength was easily achievable. The UK could rearm well enough to take on all comers and this would be much cheaper than fighting an actual war. I think Mosley got this one right. He had a slogan – who the heck would fight for Beck? He alluded to Colonel Josef Beck – the Polish Foreign Minister.

The war broke out in September 1939. Mosley said that the UK should never have declared war but not the war had broken out every Briton’s duty was to do all he could for victory.

Mosley was very unpopular. He was assaulted in the street. He was accused of being a traitor.

In May 1940 Churchill became Prime Minister. He was a Conservative. Labour formed a coalition with the Conservatives under Churchill. One of Labour’s conditions was that Mosley be interned. Under Regulation 18B Oswald Mosley was interned in Holloway Prison. His wife Diana gave birth that month and just after that she was interned too. Their children were fostered to friends.

Mosley’s oldest son was an adult when the war broke out and served in the army.

Mosley was allowed to hire other prisoners as servants. Mosley was released on the grounds of ill health in November 1943. This caused a public outctry. It says much fro the British love of liberty that even in the midst of such a war he was let out/

After the war Mosley published my answer. This stated why the war should not have been fought. He acknowleged that many Jews had been killed in the war but said so had many other people. He said that Britiash Jews disliked the Nazis for their mistreatment of German Jews. British Jews tried to get the UK into a war against Germany to rescue the German Jews.

Mosley was not given a passport after the war. He moved to Southern Ireland after the war because he did not need a passport to do so. He was popular in Eire which had been neutral in the war. Mosley was also an advocate of the Irish republican view on Northern Ireland. In Southern Ireland it was possible for aristocrats to live an Edwardian existnece partly for financial reasons.

After some years Mosley was given a passport. He moved to Paris and lived there. His sons from his second marriage went to a French school.

In the mid 1950s Mosley returned to the UK to campaign against non white immigration. he said West Indians preferred to be in the West Indies but were force to move for economic reasons. Mosley wished to make it viable for them to remain in thre Caribbean. HE SAID the UK must only buy Commonwealth prodycts in futute.

Mosley tried to be elected for North Kensington but lost. His son Max campaignedf for him. Oslwad Mosley was assaulted. By 1958 Mosley retired from politics.

His book My Life came out in the 1960s. It was peppered with the phrase Europe a nation. He felt that the world wards had broekn out due to European division. He was a strong beliebver in the EEC and European integration. he wnated American troops out of Europe.

He also called for Africa to be divided with 1/3rd for whites and the rest for blacks. Funny that – whites were about 2% of the population.

Mosley died in Paris in 1980. He was cremated there and his ashes were scattered.

I do not like this man. He was a would be tyrant. I am glad he failed. He was right about the war though.

British nazis today in the BNP are not like him. They disagre with him on Ulster and the EU.

A decade on from the two flaming towers.

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There will be numberless comments in the public domain assessing where we are ten years after the New York atrocities. We all know that a number of planes were hijacked in the US on 11 September 2011. Two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. About 3000 people were killed. One planed crashed into the Pentagon. One plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and was probably headed for the Whit e House.

The War on Terror was a phrase coined in the immediate shadow of those events.

The war on terror had been going on for some time. Al Qa’eda had been attacking American targets in the US and abroad since at least 1996. This did not start with George W Bush. Al qAEDA Intensified the conflict. As Blair said if they could have killed 30 000 rather than 3000 they would have done it. 9/11 was not supposed to be Al Qa’eda’s last attack on the West. They would have gone on and on and on. The US and the West in general had to respond. Moderate MUSLIms had to respond. We must remember that most of Al Qaeda’s victims are Muslims – in Afghanistan, in Pak, in Indonesia, in Morocco and so on. The number of deaths suffered by the US and her allies was going to go up in the aftermath of 9/11 as the US escalated the fight againt Al Qaeda. Casualties did go up. In the long run they will go down.

Al Qaeda has not been able to pull off a major terrorist attack in the US in 10 years. That is a testament to the good work of the American securtiy services and those of other securtiy services around the world. I am not saying that Al Qaeda will never be able to do one but 10 years without one is a major success. Al Qaeda have tried many times in the interim.

The 9/11 actoricties lead to the liberation of Aghanistan and Iraq. Much though leftists hate to admit it these countries are among the freest in the region. They have the greatest equality for men and women; the most religious tolerance; the mose genuine democracies and so on. This has come at a price. Obama and co were sctahing in denouncing Bush’s poiliucies with regard to these countries but Obama had ploughed the same furrough as Bush. I praise Obama for tacitly acknowledging that Bush was right and he was wrong. Bush’s policies have finally borne fruit,

The Arab Spring may be a dalyed reaction to the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I do not approve of all the anti terrorist legisdlation. Some has gone too far. There have been bad things done by the coaliotion. Guantanmo Bay should have been closed years ago.

I have to admit that wrongdoing by the US Government was partly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Of course the attackers themselves were responsible. However, unfair US policies did so much to store up hatred for the US in the Arab and Muslim world. Being blidnly supportive of unjust actions by Israel is the main part of this. I am saying these attacks are understandable not in the sense that understandable is a code word for justifiable. I use the world understandable in the correct sense in that I know why the attackers committed this crime. It was hatred for America’s freedom as Busgh said but it was also an attempt to hit back at the US for assisting Zionists.

Lembit Opik a Liberal Democrat MP opined that there was a war on liberalism after the attacks. He claimed that it was waged by the US Government. A person with more perspective would see that the real enemies of liberalism were Al Qa’eda. Al Qa’eda were a rather bigger threat to Lembit Opik’s politically correct worldview thatthe US Government.

A world run by Al Qaeda would be pretty close to hell on earth. Think of unfreedom. The Koran takes centre stage. No equality for women – not religious freedom, no entertainment, no alcoholo, no pork, no Jews or American alive.

A terrorist movement is almost impossibly to comprehgensively defeat. even if they fire one shot a year they still exist. One can reduce them but nto annihilate them. If one negotated and made peace with Al Qaeda some ultra types within Al Qaeda would still carry on. Terrorism is a crime. Like rape and burglary it can never be weiped out only made more difficult.

Much good work has been done on this.
The crackpot conspiracy theories about the US Government carrying out these attacks show how stupid and bigotted many people are. Why would the US Government risk this? Didn;t the US Government look negligent being surprised by these crimes?

I look forward to the day when Al Qaeda is as far as possible destroyed.