Sunday, 29 January 2012

Aden: Random Memories 5: Swimming.

Life went on in its usual way. Dad had to go to work, I had to go to school, and Mum stayed behind at home doing what mothers do, but there were some differences now we were in Aden. I had to go to school REALLY early in the morning, but the upside was about lunch time I wasn’t in school for the rest of the day! How those free afternoons were spent in the early months I cannot recall, but as a family we used to go to the beach a lot. Our two haunts were at first Elephant Bay and the Lido at Steamer Point. Elephant Bay got its name from the eroded rock jutting out into the sea because it looked like the head and trunk of an elephant.
To get to Elephant bay was not easy. It wasn’t in the middle of bustling Steamer Point. The road down to it was wide enough for only one way traffic, and if you got there just as the lights had turned red, well, you had to wait for ever and ever before they changed to green. And why did they change when there was no car coming up anyway, especially, as my father assured me, there was a man (who, mysteriously enough, was invisible) controlling the lights from a little tin shack just beyond the topmost lights?
When we got down there, the sea that looked calm from higher up was not so placid. Sometimes the sea would come crashing in with big waves (nearly any wave is big if you are only 7 or 8 or 9). We were safe anyway, as there was a wall and a shark net. Nevertheless, I always kept an eye open for sharks, just in case the net wasn’t in perfect condition. It never hurts to be cautious.
It was in Elephant Bay I had my first swimming lesson, and a very big lesson in life. Never believe a word your parents say, they are the biggest fibbers, ever! We went until I was really out of my depth, a sense of security was given by letting me sit on our green Li-Lo. My parents in turn held me while I practised doggy paddle strokes. This happened over several days, and then one day, my mother let go of me and I had to paddle like crazy to get to my father. I was swallowing gallons of sea water. The taste was disgusting. I swear my father kept backing away from me, and of course they thought it was all very amusing.
Despite the fact I had been let down by my parents (and I haven’t even got round to talking about Father Christmas, the biggest adult deception ever), I learned to swim and I have enjoyed it ever since, but swimming in the sea between the tropics (or at a pinch a heated swimming pool) is preferable to anywhere else!
Well, after that, I also spent time in the pool at RAF Khormaksar, getting proper swimming lessons. They always took place late in the afternoon, and most times it was dark, or almost dark, by the time I had changed out of my trunks and back into my ordinary clothes.
I was able to return to Elephant Bay and swim with greater confidence, so much so I could get to the built up part at the far end of the enclosed area. Locals would fish from there and their catch would make a meal. The sight of an angel fish always reminds me of Elephant Bay where they were caught in abundance, and dispatched swiftly and efficiently by the Arab fishermen.
As the time to leave came closer, it seems to me I spent more time at the pool on the base at Khormaksar. Not only could I swim, but I jumped and even dived into the pool and this was from the top board as well! My mother used to sit in the shade knitting jumpers for us. We were due to return in April, Eliot's 'cruelest month'. My mother wasn't going to take any chances!

© 2012 Gwailo54

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Aden: Random Memories 4: Joining Dad.

Some time later it was our turn to go, and unlike my father we would be flying! Before all that, well, when you went to a foreign country everything is not quite as it is at home. You must have an injection for this, and an injection for that, then there’s something else that needs, you guessed, another injection, until you think you’re a pin cushion for doctors and nurses. I was so glad when it was all over.
For some time home for us had been R.A.F. service married quarters, 25 Mottershead Drive, Innsworth, Gloucestershire. Leaving there is a bit of a blur. I know my mother had to do ‘the inventory’. It was something that always happened when I wasn’t around. I had always heard about ‘the inventory’, the counting of the spoons and that sort of thing. My mother was always tense as it got closer.
I imagine it went reasonably well, since we left Innsworth on the start of the long voyage to join my father. I know we took the train to London and got a taxi from Paddington but the driver took us to the wrong building. It should have been Victoria but he took us to Regent Street or maybe it was the other way round, I think. The taxi was one of those really old fashioned ones where there was a kind of cubby hole next to the driver where you would put your luggage. Despite going to the wrong London building, somehow or other we managed to get to the airport, Stansted. My mother told me the terminal was just tents, something that has been borne out in my researches. The plane however was was big and had jet engines, and we would be flying non-stop, so I knew it was modern. Flying direct over long distances was a novel experience. On the way to and from the Far East we apparently stopped off in many places such as Basra, Colombo, Calcutta, Rome. In the 1950s it took us a long weekend to get to Singapore.
Do I remember much about the flight? Only a bit. Mum pointed out the Swiss Alps, and told me when she was young, she and her sister Edna went on holiday down there before I was born. I have since retraced some of that holiday, and it is surprising how little some of the places have changed. I hope to post something about that in the future as well. Oh, and we had pea soup.
Kids being kids, the ‘are we nearly there yet?’ routine must have driven my mother to the edge of hysteria. I must have said it on more than one occasion. I also had new clothes to change into. They weren’t as heavy as those I was wearing when we left Innsworth. I had to change out of pullovers and long trousers into cotton summer shirts and shorts. Eventually we got there. I have seen a photograph of me running to my father after we had landed. In those days it seems the formalities of customs weren’t too rigid. Unless if you are a V.I.P. or a celebrity, I don’t suppose anybody gets welcomed on the tarmac as they get off a plane anywhere anymore. I don’t remember the heat, which must have been intense as Aden was generally 100˚F in the shade between sunrise and sunset. Seeing my father again at last after a very long separation was more important anything. 
Dad took us to our new home, 6 Cherry Buildings, Ma'alla (I have got this right in essence if not in detail). We were very close to the Stim factory (the local producer of carbonated drinks). A sight and sound that sticks in my memory is of crates full of bottles trundling along the rollers.

In the other direction on the same side of the street was a bank (I have stumbled across a photo of Maalla on the internet and discovered it was a Grindlays Bank, but I was convinced it was a Lloyds bank).
Across the road was the NAAFI and an Avon shop where my mother bought so many perfumes. I have a roll of film, in rather poor condition. One of the negatives is of my parent’s bedroom. On the dressing table (it sounds rather grand for something so plain, functional and unimpressive) stand various containers, a jar of vaseline, my father’s Old Spice after shave, Johnson’s baby talcum powder. I recognise the Avon bottles, I am sure my mother liked Topaz a lot. The shape of one of the bottles and of the top is unforgettable. The image is the fourth photo in this blog entry.

My own bedroom in the apartment was enormous in comparison to the tiny room I had had at Innsworth. Also there was a novelty waiting for me, an air conditioning unit. I don’t recall us having air conditioning in Hong Kong or Singapore, we just had ceiling fans. This particular unit was green and noisy. It also had a peculiar odour.
On the window ledge (it was much bigger than a sill!) were some brand new books waiting for my arrival. There was a Billy Bunter, which I didn’t really care for (sorry Dad) and Beatrix Potter’s The Fairy Caravan, which I did like. One of the characters was a guinea pig, and we had had guinea pigs back in Innsworth. I am sure there were other books. I can’t recall if The Wind in the Willows was one of them or if I got that later while we were in Aden, not that it matters much now, some 50 years later. It is peculiar to think that for me The Wind in the Willows and Aden are inextricably twinned, whereas that book conjures up a very English world.
Here I was, in my new home. Thoughts of family and England were set aside as quickly as night follows day in the tropics. Service children always seemed to adapt. We didn’t get homesick, and if we did, it didn’t last long. Aden was going to be home. Not forever, but then, forever is a long time, and two years is forever to a seven year old child.
© 2012 Gwailo54

Friday, 27 January 2012

Aden: Random Memories 3: Bye, Dad.

It was some time later, I can remember a cold morning. My mother saw my father off. They tried not to wake me up. Dad and I had already said our goodbyes the night before, but I did wake up. It was like the reverse of Christmas. The day was very important, not because I would have heaps of presents and new toys, but I was going to lose one of my parents. Grownups try to make you feel good. They tell you it will only be for a short time, but to a child a short time is seconds or minutes, not weeks or months. Years don’t even bear thinking about.
Even though I promised I would be a good boy and sleep, part of my brain was alert, waiting for the moment when he would leave. I woke up. There were sounds which weren’t part of the usual morning routine. It wasn’t the muffled clanking sound of my mother cleaning out the grate and loading it up with fresh coal. It wasn’t the sound of the table being laid nor breakfast being made. No. There were sounds, but they were too muffled, like somebody trying very hard to be quiet. Then a sound. It was the front door opening. The unmistakable grinding sound of my father’s boots, and the much quieter gentle pad of my mother’s slippers on the path.
I looked out of my bedroom window. I tried not to move the curtains too much. I didn’t want my mother to think I had woken up and seen my father go. I had promised. Grownups have an extra sense that children don’t know about until they get older. I am sure both of them knew I was awake and had opened the curtains oh so slightly. I was trying so hard to be brave and not cry, but I wasn’t going to see my Dad for ages, he was going to be so far away. Did I cry? Of course I did. Only an unloved or unwanted child could feel no emotion.
Anyway off he went on his troop ship, the Nevasa, if memory serves me well. Eventually Mum got postcards or letters. If there were postcards, I guess he addressed them to me. It’s the sort of thing grownups do for kids. I also expect he was telling me to look after Mum as I was the only man left at home. It’s the sort of thing grownups do for kids. I know the ship docked for a while in Malta.
He arrived in Aden and began the process of getting accommodation for the family as well as performing his duties. I’m sure the Air Force would not be heartless and not make it easy for a married man to make everything ready for his wife and their, then, only child. Nevertheless, there must have been a lot to do, and he did make it special for me as you will soon learn.

© 2012 Gwailo54

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Aden: Random Memories 2: I'm going to Aden

My father was stationed at R.A.F. Innsworth, north east of the City of Gloucester. My mother’s family was local. There was not an airfield at Innsworth as this had been an administration centre. My mother and father worked there. It’s where they met and started courting and eventually married and had a baby, me. When I was an infant, our family lived in a prefab in the wonderfully named Frogfurlong Lane which ran northwards from Innsworth to Down Hatherley. Gloucestershire has some wonderful place names!
After that we lived in Singapore and Hong Kong. Upping sticks was quite a normal family event. Living in a different country was not extraordinary to me as a seven year old, not that the concept of another country meant anything much. For me it meant not everybody was white and my family lived a long way off. Plenty enough families came and went. It was all part of life in the Air Force. So when I was told my father had been posted overseas again and we were going to live in a place called Aden, it was life carrying on its normal course of events. All I knew was Aden was many miles away. I was probably excited to know I was again going to a place where it is warm and sunny all the time.

Since our return to from the Far East we hadn’t always lived in the married quarters in Innsworth. For a while we had lived in the neighbouring village of Churchdown. My mother’s parents were retired and they had a house not far from us in the village. The garden backed on to the main line between Gloucester and Cheltenham. I knew my grandfather had worked on the railway. I assumed he lived there because it was nice to remember his former work, not that I ever asked. Most children think life is going to be wonderful and happy and grownups enjoy working. My grandfather’s back garden was one massive allotment. As far as I know, he grew all the vegetables he and my grandmother ate.
I was poor at keeping secrets. I am a little better at it now. I imagine my parents told me when it was safe to do so and everyone who needed to know knew. When I told my fellow pupils at Churchdown Primary school I was going to go to Aden one response was “I wouldn’t want to go there, it’s all desert. No grass.” I wondered how this boy knew as he had never been there, and neither my mother nor my father had told me about that.

© 2012 Gwailo54

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Aden: Random Memories 1: Introduction

I was having lunch with my cousin sometime in the second half of 2011. She commented that I was one of the few constants in her life outside her immediate family. That set me thinking about how much we knew each other. It struck me that the years I spent abroad with my mother and father were lost periods in our childhood. My part of the family disappeared for a few years and then reappeared.

When I wrote this I was late 56 with 57 just over a month away. I was trying to remember events from nearly 50 years ago. Some are still vivid, others are dim and some I am sure are real memories but I can’t be too sure. I hope none of them has been subliminally grafted on to my desire to remember from somebody’s website.
Any errors I may have made have been done in good faith. Sadly, my mother has been dead some years and since my father remarried contact with him has been fractured, two letters or so, seeing him and barely talking with him at his elder half sister’s eightieth birthday party (now more than 15 years ago), seeing him and barely talking with him at my mother’s elder sister’s funeral. My brother wasn’t born until we stopped our travels so I have nobody alive to help me verify anything.
My baby brother (he’s 10 years younger than me but I can’t believe or accept he is as old as he is) told me some years ago he thinks my father disposed of all the slides he took. Some would have been from Singapore and Hong Kong but mostly from our time in Aden. So I have very little to provide as extra visual material. I have only a roll of film (which I have already posted in this blog, an album of significant childhood photos, certificates and some odds and ends that somehow came into my possession.
Despite all that, what will follow in this blog is a collection of random memories and images.

© 2012 Gwailo54

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Italian street trading.

This posting comes as a result of reading a blog I like to read from time to time.

The first photo relates to Michael Henderson's beggar woman. It could well be the same woman, even though the photo was taken in 2008. I presume the poor woman's raised finger is either an arthritic affliction, or possibly a gesture used by her and others to indicate their downcast state and extreme anguish.

The next two photos were shot "from the hip" as I was getting rather unpleasant looks from them.

When I took this picture they were too busy looking out for there police to notice me (and this time I had a longer lens!). The guys who look like they come from the Indian subcontinent were selling tripods and sunglasses. To keep sunglasses clean when you're in Venice you could spit on the lenses like one of the guys did. I'm sure they come up a treat.

In Italy these people sell, ahem, "genuine" goods on the street at knock down prices.
To add to the overall picture I include a video with a live commentary.

I have my own true story to add to the list of tourists caught. As I was passing through the Campo San Fantin (where the Teatro la Fenice is) I overheard an American tourist complaining she had given some money to, ahem, a gentleman. He had just popped off to get her some change. He had been gone a little while and she couldn't understand why he was taking so long. Sweetheart, he had your number as soon as you opened your sweet little mouth.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hong Kong, in the 1950s

This photograph I have unearthed, was taken from our apartment in Robinson Road in Hong Kong, probably some time between 1956 and 1959 (I can't remember any longer when my father was posted there). Apart from the fact you cannot see this view from where this was taken (there are so many tall buildings there now) what is really noticeable is the distance between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It's much less nowadays since all the land reclamation that has taken place.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The English Language

Sometimes the vagaries or felicities of language provoke or entertain. English can be rich in misunderstanding or misapplication. I blame my interest in this on the radio comedies I listened to when  I was young, such as The Goon Show, Round the Horne and I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again.

The current use of the word "alarmed" and its ubiquity tickle my perverse sense of humour. I saw this on my way home this evening at Stratford station. Be careful, should you empty a machine of cash, the results could be distressing.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 11: Me again!

When a relative dies, it's instructive to see what they have in the way of old jumble and to try to piece a life that you thought you knew. I didn't know, for instance, my mother's sister had a few slides of me from the time we were in Aden, so here are two photos of yours truly on the beach in Aden. I think they were taken at the Mermaid Club aka the Lido. I have to admit I was happier in the water than out of it.

There's not much context to it, but it makes me happy to remember those days. I hope it may give pleasure by proxy to anybody who was out there too. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 10: RAF Khormaksar Open Day Dogs

I have held back these last images from the Open Day as the Air Force Police Dogs have always had a special place in my affections.

When we lived in Blackpool, my father was involved in the RAF recruitment and he had the dog handlers do their stuff at local football matches. The game at Blackburn was called off as the pitch was flooded, but otherwise I got into the the terraces for free at Blackpool and Preston North End. The Preston game was one of their more crushing defeats, things had not been going their way and the number at the game in 1973 was the lowest on record. After that game, Alan Ball Senior was booted out as manager. I think they were definitely relegated as a result of that game. However, Burnley - you win as the team that knew how to treat a teenager disinterested in football. I got a seat in the director's box with heating gushing out on my poor cold feet. The pre, half-time and post game refreshments were also much appreciated. Getting a little drunk on free hospitality helped me get more involved in the game!

After the Blackpool game, I think, my father entertained the dog handlers at our house. They were very friendly and charming to Seamus, our boxer. They also let him have some beer which he enjoyed immensely. After a while the poor dog was, to say the least, a little uncertain on his paws. The next day he was in a sorry state, definitely hung over. I don't recall if he had the hair of the human to help him get over it.

I apologise for the very poor quality of these last images. I had to crop them as the action was some way from the camera. The first is where the dog captures the "felon" biting his arm (which was well wrapped in padded sacking), the second is the end of that phase of the exhibition. The third and fourth are shots of a white haired alsatian that was part of the dog team, and the fifth is of the MP cycling away with a dog on his back. I don't suppose the dog handlers have changed the routine much since the 60s. There's not much need to. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 9: RAF Khormaksar Open Day

I well remember the Open Days at RAF Khormaksar for one thing only. I think it was the Hunter Squadron (8 Squadron) that was my favourite. For more standard information about the squadron go to

As I am in my cub uniform, I guess I got in free or at a reduced rate (my parents were very cost conscious). I was also not ashamed of the Cubs and enjoyed my involvement in the 14th Aden. Coming back to cold Britain and wearing dull colours instead of cool khaki made it less pleasurable!

In the second picture you can see the squadron had rigged up a toy aircraft, This was controlled by a usually eager child with a joystick type trigger. As the plane descended on the wires it was your task to drop the bomb on the enemy vehicles. It was a coordination test. I Loved playing it and I was pretty good at it.

One other experience that is still seared in my memory is riding on a camel. When I scanned the photo I was surprised I could still remember what the member of the camel corps who took us on the ride looked like. What I don't remember is the soppy girl I had to have clinging on to me. Look at her, she's older than me and soppy and girly and stuff! 

The last two photos are those embarrassing pictures parents always take. I could have censored them from the blog, but that would be wrong. So there am I in the - oh God, no wonder I can't remember this at all - "Chicko's Choochoo". 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 8: Steamer Point

I loved Steamer Point. For me it had a hustle and bustle that Ma'alla lacked. It was like life back home where we lived at RAF Innsworth and went into Gloucester for our big shopping expeditions.

Steamer Point was where all the good shops were. I bought books and even started my, then, modest record collection in Aden. The first photo is looking towards the rocky remnants of the crater which outside Steamer Point and the clock tower was known as "Little Ben". The other photo, looking the other way, is the Crescent Hotel where Queen Elizabeth II is supposed to have stayed in 1954. According to an entry on Lonely Planet, this is now defunct and was guarded by a surly soldier. Even in our time I think the Crescent was a throw back to the past. The Rock Hotel was the place, but I guess that has dated and is now a thing of the past.

If only things were better in Aden, somebody could revitalise the Crescent Hotel and, as with the Raffles in Singapore and the Eastern and Oriental in Penang and bring colonial past into the present era but in a new way. I have stayed at the E&O and while I found it strange to have a butler, it was a level of service that gave me much enjoyment. The butlers we came into contact with were very polite and professional, though I fear some other white people do not treat them with the respect professionals in the leisure and catering industry deserve.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 7: RAF Khormaksar swimming pool

One of the great pleasures of living in Aden for kids was the afternoons were always our own time. We got up early every day to go to school, for me that was Steamer Point Primary. Whenever things got a little rough the school bus had an military police escort and chicken wire over the windows so grenades wouldn't land inside the bus. It's amazing what kids take in their stride.

School was just the prelude to lunch and then swimming! We used to go to the Lido and Elephant Bay. I properly learned to swim at the pool at RAF Khormksar (my first "lesson" was with my parents at Elephant Bay, not so much a lesson as having to swim and gulp in salt water rather than sink). I have fond memories towards the end of our tour. My mother would sit in the shade knitting sweaters for us, preparing for our return. It was cold the morning we arrived in Liverpool! I guess my mother took these snaps in between knitting 1 and purling 2, or something like that.

In all the photos the child in mid flight is me. I admit I loved jumping off the top board but was terrified of diving off it. I did manage to dive sometimes, just not in these photos.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 6: Me

There comes a point where one's past cannot be denied. Yes, I was a sweet fresh-faced kid. Yes, I was in the Cubs. Yes, we went to church. I imagine the Cub uniform was worn for a special reason. Anyhow, I think these photos of me in Cub uniform were taken outside the Church of the Rock which I think was Methodist and the priest was Padre Hurl (not sure of the spelling).

My parents tended to pick-and-mix when it came to religion, not that I am sure either of them were deeply religious.

These remaining photos are probably Christmas photos. On the first one (taken in our living/dining room), where I am wearing a strange straw hat, heaven knows why. Above my head I can see our old Christmas lights trailing down. We didn't have Christmas trees as far as I can remember. They weren't exactly growing in abundance in the area. I do remember the pyjamas I was wearing (isn't it amazing the rubbish information we retain?). They were blue or green or turquoise - somewhere in that colour range - and nothing like the heavy things I wore back in Britain. I am also wearing the Aden regulation flip flops all kids wore! The thong part between the toes and the lower part of the sole was only either red or blue. I don't remember any other colours. In the second photo my parents' bedroom is in an unusual state of upheaval. The largest box I am pretty sure was for my mother's Braun food user she got in Aden. It lasted her a very long time.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 5: Fiat

In Aden we had two cars, the first was a Fiat 500 and this was replaced by a Fiat 600 if memory serves me right. The reason for the exchanging was due to some complex matter whereby a member of the services could buy a car and if it had been held for so long then tax wouldn't be due upon returning to Britain (or something like that - at any rate, it was a legitimised tax dodge!).

The photograph is a rarity as it is my father at the wheel. The camera that recorded our life was his and nearly all photos were taken by him. The shadow at the bottom of the frame is my mother's!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 4: Ships at anchor

I make no apology for continuing until this reel of 36 photos is exhausted!

This next pair are reminders of the glory days of Aden as an active harbour. On the web there are many stories of when the liners were at anchor the shop owners would open their shutters any time of day or night and sell their goods at, ahem, "bargain" prices! We saw military and civil vessels of all kinds. I am pleased I have these two photos. The first is the SS Oriana (I have been advised via a posting elsewhere on the web), and the second is the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now it's time to nail my colours to the mast.

I was stunned when it was announced Britannia was to be decommissioned. As a child of a service family it meant to me Britain was renouncing her naval ambitions. Britannia was never a vessel of naval aggression, but her very existence was a symbol (something politicians never understand, it seems to me) of Britain's belief in her naval forces.

That was under a Labour government. This was trumped by the Conservative policy of depriving the British Navy of any aircraft carriers.

I accept all the austerity talk has to be talked, and the politicians have done a fine job of it. I also accept the need for certain types of vessels changes over time, but Ark Royal was sea worthy. The politicians said we wouldn't need to worry about not having a carrier. Within months the politicians were proved wrong, in my opinion. I would argue that militarily, supporting the civilians in Libya (and I am not going to argue the moral rights and wrongs) would have been better served from a carrier.

Just in case you think I am a child of Empire and miss its existence and believe in British military supremacy (a fallacy if ever there were one), I would like to put you right on that. Britain is no longer an important country. Britain is a small country (and always has been) whose history was of Empire, but where is it now? We have dismantled it.

Just like the Venetian, Dutch and Portuguese glory days, Britain's place in the world has been eclipsed (or usurped?) by greater and younger powers. It's sad but true. And if you replace the world Britain for England in a few places, the sad truth is even more obvious.

This line of thought is leading off into other areas which I don't think I will explore here. Maybe another time when I have more time and can marshall my thoughts better.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 3: Tug-of-war

These photos mean absolutely nothing to me. The camera belonged to my father. I may have been allowed to use it once or twice in my childhood, and I do mean that.

Hold it.

Press the shutter.

Give it back.

Wait for ages for the film to come back and hope to goodness I hadn't chopped off heads, etc.

Well this tug-of-war game was meaningful at the time, I guess. From memory alone, I am guessing this was taken somewhere at R.A.F. Khormaksar.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 2: KOSB

These photos are obviously of something important. I assume from the kilts and bagpipes this must be a group of Scots. There is the larger banner, what is that all about? On the smaller banner I can make out the initials KOSB which I presume must be the King's Own Scottish Borderers. 

From the web (Google helped me a lot here) I found out "From 1962 to February 1964 it was on internal security operations in Aden. In May 1964 it was recalled to Aden in aid of the Federal army, which was fighting Yemeni insurgents in the Radfan Mountains." (Source As we left Aden in April 1964 these photos must be from the 62-64 posting.

Was this a practice run by the Pipes and Drums for their departure? Surely it can't have been the real thing with the banners and they are marching over a football pitch.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Aden Old Photos 1: The Cubs

While having lunch with my cousin last year (2011), she commented I am about the only constant in her life other than her immediate family. This started a sequence of thoughts which made me realise that my father's overseas postings meant there were extended periods she would have known nothing about me beyond Christmas cards and maybe letters from my parents to hers. So I decided to write a small recollection of my time in Aden for her. I intend to post it here, eventually.

The memories I had were aided by the discovery of a reel of old black and white negatives( which is the worse for wear). Although I have already posted these on Flickr, I thought it might be interesting to post them here as well.

I was member of the 14th Aden Cubs. We must have been a pretty unique bunch of kids as we were Sea Scouts and Cubs. I have two identifiers as 14th Aden (Hood) and 14th Aden (Rodney). I am guessing these were the names of the sixes I was in.

I have absolutely no idea what these photos are all about, and apart from my mother (the lady with the sunglasses in the last photo) I don't vividly remember anybody else. Some of the other boys look familiar. Who are you? Where are you now?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Venetian Musings 1 - The First Visit (1980s) and Musings on Today

Of all the places in the world that appeal to me islands and island communities have a special appeal. Venice, made up of many small islands, appeals more than most.

I have been visiting Italy and especially Venice since 2004 after an initial visit at Christmas some time in the 1980s. Then, Venice was deserted. Hardly any tourists were there, and as a consequence not all restaurants and museums were open.

On our first day Venice seemed to be hardly open at all but that all changed in an instant. I can still recall the moment as though it were yesterday that suddenly a mass of predominantly young people entered the Piazza San Marco. Venetian men paraded like peacocks, each checking out the others to ensure the woman on their arm and the clothes they wore were better than any of the others. Every evening was the same, no matter what, they always appeared. This, like so much else in Venice, is now either invisible or relegated to the past.

We saw two people of some fame from back home, Dick Taverne (a politician) and Alan Hacker (a clarinettist).

Our visit to Murano was memorably wet. The afternoon of Christmas eve was spent sitting in glorious sunshine at the Giardini Pubblici, Christmas Day was grey and overcast and below zero for most of the day. Most evenings (and other times of the day) were expensively spent in Caffè Florian. We walked the streets getting lost, finding ourselves in closed courtyards, walking along a street only to find it ended at a canal, a tradition we still keep up!

Since then, Venice changed and continues to change. La Serenissima is still a wonderful old lady (like so many of the old Venetian ladies in their grand fur coats). She is permanently on display, warts and all. Age may not have been kind, but, nonetheless, she overcomes the challenge and matures.

There is a darker side, but this is an ailment of modern life and not the fault of the Republic. For some time Italy has been plagued by handbag salesmen. They sell on the street. They disappear whenever the police appear. They hide their faces when a camera is raised in their direction. I let you draw your own conclusions from these observations.

They have now been joined by other new pestilences. One sits alongside of camera tripod and sunglass salesmen. Another, more randomly spread out has a gloopy mess that when thrown to the ground splats out into a flat blob and then miraculously regains its spherical shape. Heaven only knows what filth these gather when constantly thrown on Venetian streets. The final group is mainly in the Piazza San Marco, sellers of a toy that gets catapulted in the air and falls down. The gimmick of this pestilence is only apparent as it is sold at night. The toy is fluorescent.

"True" Venetians - even those forced into residential exile on the mainland- are still, as were their predecessors, merchants. They never undersell anything, and one must learn to sort the verbal wheat from the chaff. The influx of the foreign salesmen (I have never seen woman selling any of these goods) is a plague, like so many plagues Venice has suffered. There is little enthusiasm to eradicate these new plagues, not even with quack remedies.