Monthly Archives: August 2013

Egypt: travel writing.

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I was seven years old when we fly from Cyprus to Egypt. One bright morning our plane landed at Cairo. The airport was not big or impressive. The ceiling was notably low but the pale tiled floor was clean. We stood around the carousel for a long while waiting for our luggage. Eventually my parents decided that the bags were not coming.

We walked out into the greeting area and met the skinny youth who was to take us the the Sheraton Hotel. I shall call him Ibrahim since I do not recollect his name. He was smartly dressed and boasted a contemptible moustache. He must have been about 19 but to me he was a man. We piled into a minibus and had a quick introduction to the choked up midday Cairo traffic. Ibrahim was a Canadian of Egyptian origin. He has lived in Saudi Arabia for a while when his father was a professor of Medicine. Ibrahim spoke flawless English.

He had come back to Egypt to visit his relatives and been nabbed by the authorities. You have not done your military service. I am a Canadian! Once an Egyptian – always an Egyptian. I came here on a Canadian passport. We will have that – until you complete your national service. Ok, ok – I will do my six months in the army and then you let me go. Fine.

Ibrahim was still waiting to begin his military service and was frustrated by how long it was taking to get going.

The frenetic honking of horns to no apparent purpose was a theme of driving through Egypt. I saw odd patches of open country. It was pure sand. I noticed the police wore spotless white uniforms and black berets. How did they manage to keep their clothes pristine in a fairly dirty city?

The other image that has stayed with me form this first journey through Egypt’s megapolis is this: a middle aged man sitting on his snazzy motorbike with his jacket on backwards grinning maniacally. I thought that was hilarious. He was going to be a mad man on his bike, or so I thought.

Palestine: travel writing.

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Many years ago I travelled with my family to Palestine. We had a Palestinian driver named Elli. My father first heard this as Ali but he was mistaken. Elli was a Christian and spoke tremendous English. We drove into Palestine and back into Israel. We weaved in and out of the two countries. Palestine was fully occupied by Israel at the time to the difference was not so blatant. 

My recollections of Palestine are of a land that is greener than you might expect for the Middle East. The land undulates and has a goodly sprinkling of stones. There edifices are seldom more than a couple of storeys high. We passed through many drab towns with low, dull, nondescript buildings. Battered Toyota pickup trucks seemed to be the main vehicle on the road. Men mostly wore Western dress but women mostly sported Arab raiment.

We visited Bethlehem. The place where Jesus was born is a long, wide basement room. It is bare and astonishingly unremarkable. How can anyone be sure that this was the actual room? This building must have been constructed centuries after the supposed event. Bethlehem is a town of bland and raffish streets. 

Swaziland: travel writing.

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I was about five years old when we drove up the winding red dirt road, up into the deep green hills of Swaziland. Gullies plunged away beneath us. Thick vegetation crept up the precipitous hillsides and clear streams gushed below. There were very few cars around. Almost everyone in Swaziland is black. My memories of my few days there are necessarily pessimistic as I cast my mind back a third of a century. The people I glimpsed as we sped past were mostly in traditionall attire – biege in colour. There clothes looked as though they were fashioned from gunnysacks. There were numerous mud huts with wattle coming out the top. We stayed in a chalet that was similar to these rude buildings. That is all I recall about this small kingdom.

I am glad that Jim Davidson will not face charges.

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Jim Davidson is a British comedian. He is overly fond of strong waters, several of his former girlfriends have said that he hit them and his racially themed comedy is not my cup of chai. A few months ago he was arrested when he landed at London Heathrow Airport. He was questioned about allegations dating back 25 years and more. He was accused by a few women of touching them in ways they did not want through their clothes. 

The police investigated and the Crown Prosecution Service have announced that he will not be prosecuted because it is unlikely that he would be convicted. Patently there was a feeble case against him. Even if there had been a persuasive case against him I would not have wanted him to be charged. These allegations are so old that it is hard to credit such claims. Why not make the allegation there and then? They were adults when the so-called incidents took place.

If something happened it was no doubt disagreeable for the ladies concerned and perhaps a little scary. However, there would be no justice in punishing someone so long afterwards for what were trivial offences. I have had gay men do similar things to me. Just forget it – drop it. 

Dreams: embarrassment and eroticism.

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I dreamt I was in Baku. I was on the hill by the Wolf’s Gate. I was walking along the street in the day. I suddenly realised that I was stark naked. I dropped to the pavement and crawled along. Later I covered myself with a sheet. Luckily no one seemed to see me. 

This perhaps reflects a worry about going to Central Asia and trouble that could recur.

I dreamt of being in my former flat. There was excreta in the rooms. I knew it but did not see it. There were other men and women around. I pictured that arch bitch Besti in her beige outfit. 

Later I was in a swimming pool with a teenager girl who had glasses and mousy coloured hair. I had congress with her in the water.

I then saw myself being hugged by a woman of about 30. She was average height and physique. She had dark blonde hair.

Judge Nigel Peters got it right.

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There was a case before this learned judge. A 41 year old man copulated with a 13 year old girl. On the face of it this is a distasteful thing to do. The age gap is great, the girl is below the age of consent and it is unedifying to think that she was exposed to the the possibility of pregnancy and STDs. 

Robert Colover, prosecuting, admitted the girl was predatory and experienced. This was a coup for the defence. Colover has been suspended from prosecuting. The judge said he took into account the girl’s looks when passing sentence. The offender was given a one year suspended sentence. The judge’s remarks are being investigated.

It is worrying that the judge and the barrister are being investigated for their comments. These men showed broadmindedness, compassion and commonsense. No one, so far as I know, has questioned the accuracy of their remarks. The factors they alluded to should impinge on sentencing.

It is for the judge to pass sentence and not leader writers in bigotted newspapers. The judge has heard the case. The Attorney General had referred the case and the sentence may be increased. I suspect this is due to the unpopularity of the decision in this case.

I knew a girl named Poppy – who is the same age as me. She told me that at the age of 14 she would go to nightclubs and get picked up by men and brought home by them. As the admission age was 18 at such clubs they of course assumed we was easily over the legal age which is 16. She would get into bed with them and then tell them her age. They would desist. It is very possible for an underage girl to instigate such encounters and for the man to be honestly unaware of her age. She can be tall, well-developed, wear makeup and a push up bra.

I want to prevent crimes of this type occurring. I want to discourage people under 16 from endangering themselves and entrapping adults. Injustice it not the way to achieve this. The good judge was fair. His valour and wisdom ought to be lauded and not dispraised.

What will happen over Syria?

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I think that The United States will support the British motion before the UN Security Council asking for authorisation to take all needful steps to halt the mass slaying of civilians in Syria. These needful steps mean armed action. Beijing and Moscow will veto this. France will probably vote in favour of the resolution. It would only take one permanent member of the UN Security Council to block it.

I suspect that the United States would still go ahead with air strikes or more probably missile strikes. The United Kingdom will probably desist due to majority opposition to such a move. The same is true of France.

Obama will order missile strikes for a few reasons. The ostensible and hopefully the chief reason for so doing is to discourage the Assad tyranny from repeating its horrific chemical atrocity. It will also be to demonstrate to others that red lines will be enforced. The White House publicly warned the Syrian Government not to use chemical weapons or it would be penalised. Assad’s main financial backer and supplier of arms is Iran. For Iran this civil war in Syria has become a proxy war against the West but also against Sunni governments in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Iranian Government may have urged Assad to do this so as to test the will of the US Government. Military action in Syria will also make the American people even more war weary and even more sceptical about the possibility and the sagacity of taking on Iran over her alleged nuclear weapons programme.

I do not think the missile attacks will alter the outcome much. In 6 months Assad will control almost all of Syria and the insurgents will be on the run.