Vietnam – Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) – Temple in the park.

A little temple we found in the park.

Interesting to see Ho Chi Min now venerated as a god.

Sri Lanka – Colombo – Buddhist Sambodhi Chaithya Temple

The Buddhist temple was quite near the docks. It was a big Stupa on stilts. A very interesting structure unlike anything I’d ever seen.

When the sun was setting it stood out on the skyline. Lots of women in white robes were heading off to worship.

Biodiversity – the big disaster. The Anthropocene.

The tragedy of our destruction of biodiversity has been like a slow-motion car-crash that I have been observing throughout my life.

The destruction is ongoing, continuous and horrendous.

I have witnessed it in the UK and as I’ve travelled the world I have seen the evidence everywhere I have one.

In The UK.

The plants and animals I used to see regularly are disappearing fast. As a boy, I used to play in meadows full of wildflowers. I used to collect caterpillars, newts, frogs, toads, slowworms and grass snakes. They were common. Hedgehogs were everywhere. The fields were full of the buzz of insects. Big flocks of swifts and swallows swooped and fed. Streams were full of sticklebacks, dragonfly and caddis.

Those fields are sprayed with pesticide and herbicide. The streams are polluted or culverted. The hedgerows have been grubbed up, trees chopped down and ponds filled.

Where can the wildlife live?

Abroad.

The rainforests – the lungs of the earth – are disappearing at an alarming rate. Flying over the Amazon the sight of the vast areas of cleared forest is alarming. But the same thing is happening in Borneo, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Africa. What was once impenetrable jungle (only fifty years ago) has roads running through it. The loggers and hunters have moved in. The farmers follow. The forest, along with the creatures it supports, is burnt.

I was quite shocked by a statistic that came out of the David Attenborough programme last night concerning the biomass of organisms.

60% Livestock

36% Humans

4% Wildlife.

That is what we have done in the last hundred years.

Our seas are being denuded of fish by huge supertrawlers. Our rivers are likewise overfished. Travelling down the Mekong I was amazed to see that through the whole length there were fishing enterprises taking even the smallest fish to batter into fish paste. What hope is there?

In Vietnam, everything that moves is killed. Even the paddy fields have traps to catch and eat insects. The jungles were silent.

I am appalled by the cruel, inhumane way we treat animals. They are caged in tiny cages, driven mad and killed in the most horrendous ways – being boiled alive, skinned alive or cut open to extract blood or gall bladders. Such insensitivity.

What is wrong with people?

This is not sustainable.

The delicate balance of nature not only supports this wondrous array of life but provides our climate, our food, our oxygen and atmosphere that keeps us alive.

Already we are seeing the huge fires due to global warming, the floods, droughts, heatwaves and changes in air and sea currents.

Nature can bounce back but we have to help it. We have to stop the destruction, reduce our population, stop the waste, put back the forests, the ponds, streams and hedgerows and start to act responsibly (and far less cruelly).

I think we are on the brink.

https://populationmatters.org/campaigns/anthropocene?gclid=CjwKCAjw74b7BRA_EiwAF8yHFEU-83LimHv9sMS8kwfZm2wvo6wFi4wIkrpz3f3bBLz-zj0Dp9YsJBoCzyEQAvD_BwE

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 May 2016

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Birth – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Henry was our last born of our four children. He is the baby of the family.

It is strange.

There is something magical about conception. Every single time we made love that resulted in a pregnancy, it was magical. I could feel that life start from that instant. Something amazing happened. I could feel it.

This was no drunken moment, no mistake or condom failure, nothing mundane or inconsequential; this was magic.

I felt this with all four of our children – something mystical. I knew we were starting a new life.

Henry was born at home.

I was watching football, not a cup final, as with Hester’s birth, but some European match, late in the evening. Liz was sitting on the settee and the first thing we knew was when her waters broke. She had to quickly put a cushion under her as the fluid poured out. Only then did she start having mild contractions. I went and called the mid-wife. We were having a home delivery and I didn’t want the sort of mess up we’d had with Barnaby’s birth (where the midwife had gone to pieces) so I’d vetted the mid-wife. She was good. She’d passed the test.

She came and examined Liz and found that she really wasn’t very dilated. As the contractions were mild it was decided that nothing much was likely to happen that night. The midwife, optimistically, thought that it was best to go to bed and try to get some sleep, or else Liz would be too tired to push Henry out the next day. The midwife assured us that the contractions would die down if she could sleep.

We went to bed. I cuddled up to Liz and put my hands on her big belly. I could feel the contractions going through her belly and making her uterus hard. They were not hurting too much and we tried to get some sleep, but we were both too excited. It was strange to think of our other three kids asleep in their beds down the corridor. I wanted to wake them up to share in the excitement.

I didn’t though. They slept and we lay awake talking and feeling the contractions. Soon we would have another baby. There would be another human being in the world.

The sad thing was that my dad was not going to be there to hold him. He was not going to be able to chase him around threatening to ‘cut off his tail’ as he had done with the others. He was not going to hear him squeal with delight as he was chased.

Far from dying down, the contractions were becoming stronger. It became obvious that we were not going to get any sleep, indeed we were not going to last until morning. Henry was coming. I eventually gave up trying to sleep and called the mid-wife back.

It was a smooth and easy delivery.

Henry was born in the early hours of the morning.

Our family was complete.

Our genes were passed on into the next gene pool.

Our purpose was all but over. All we had to do was get them to adulthood in a state where they were able to breed. We then had to sit back and wait for the grandchildren to arrive.

That was biology for you – the natural imperative.

I took Henry’s placenta into school the next morning. My 6th Form Biology group had a look at it and were all a bit horrified. We bottled it and it sits on the shelf in the Biology lab to this very day, eighteen years on.

What is maybe more important, than a bunch of genes, is to pass on to them some of the wonder of life. What is it for? What do we do with it?

As you can see I don’t have a clue!

Hey kids – it’s out there! There is a thing called life! You’re living it! Experience all you can, be fulfilled, but don’t for fuck’s sake kill yourself. There’s awe and wonder out there, don’t lead a boring life, don’t get bogged down in religion. It’s bollocks.

But then, that’s just an opinion based on my view of history and humans. People are basically good but we’re all flawed. Given half a chance we’ll mess everything up. You could do worse than spending your life trying to put it right or doing something purposeful or creative.

What do I know?

I am your father. I love you. I am proud of you.

My father was proud of me for some unfathomable reason. I guess that goes with the territory. My father is dead. I will die. That is natural. I hope I die before you. But I’d love to meet the grandchildren first. We’ll see.

Remember me.

I spent my life trying to make sense of what to do with the life I was given. I didn’t do so bad! I could have done a lot worse.

11.11.01

 

Could any of us have done it any better? Who’s to judge? In the final end, I suppose we all have to judge ourselves!

26.10.01

Malta – The Cathedral in Valetta – Photos

The Cathedral was wonderful.

I loved the floor with its skeletons – meant to scare you into fearing death.

The colours and patterns.

The ornate embellishment and paintings. It was meant to overpower and impress.

Look at all this – it has to be true.

Splendid.

There seemed to be a religious theme!

Egypt – The Colossi of Memnon

We drove out of Luxor and made our way out on to the plains to the impressive Colossi of Memnon – and they were colossal.

We went past the harvested fields and stopped by two huge restored statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III

We then went on to the massive Colossi of Memnon –  statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III.

They were much eroded and damaged but still mightily impressive. They are all that remains of the temple that stood there.

The images on the side panel were still very clear – the god Hapi and the royal wife Tiye.

 

Egypt – The Temple complex of Karnak – Incredible columns, hieroglyphics and statues

Moving further into the temple complex I was really taken with the massive columns all covered in hieroglyphics. They were enormous and supported great stone lintels.

I could just imagine how impressive this must have been in ancient times – with the ceiling, decorations, embellishments and many more statues. Religion, ceremony and power. Above all – power.

This whole temple was one huge statement (as are our present-day cathedrals and mosques) – it reinforced the importance of the belief system that unites the people.

It also reinforced the power of those who presently ruled. It was as much about them as the gods.

The temple complex has been sacked, pillaged and burnt (one power replacing another). Statues and artefacts were stolen. These are the remains. What must it have been like?

The belief system has gone. The gods are no longer worshipped or considered real. Is there a message here for our present belief systems? We make them and they are replaced. Christianity? Islam? Judaism?

I found all these amazing columns different and interesting – aesthetically as architecture, as works of art.

And we were nowhere near done yet!

Egypt – the Temple of Karnak – Amun’s Temple – photos

Once inside the temple complex I began looking around. There was so much to see and photograph.

The rows od ramshead sphinxs in front of huge columns holding up great lintels.

A great column in the centre and a massive statue of the god.

As I went towards the Temple of Amun I was confronted with a whole row of statues – priests?? Gods?? Pharoahs??

Inside the temple I could see the old decoration. My imagination ran back to when this would have been gaudy with colour and rich costume.

All the walls and columns were carved with hieroglyphics and reliefs of gods, Pharaohs and inscriptions. The ceiling lintels still had some of their decoration.

The columns were enormous – creating avenues of majesty. It was huge.

The walls were intricately carved and decorated. Everywhere you looked there were incredible details to look at.

Egypt – across the fertile plains around the Nile

We emerged from the midst of the desert mountains and began crossing the fertile plains served by the river Nile. Everything was green. There were irrigation channels and fields full of crops.

I took lots of photos through the window as we went. I wanted to capture a picture of rural life in Egypt.

There were the ubiquitous Check Points with their machine-guns and bored guards, speed bumps and chicanes. It felt a bit like we were in a war-zone. That was enhanced by the presence of an armed guard on the coach and a heavily armed police escort.

But the people we passed waved, beamed and were incredibly friendly.

There were churches and mosques.

There were no signs of tractors. It looked as if Egypt remained hundreds of years in the past. Everywhere there were donkeys, carts, horses and people harvesting by hand.

Life went at a different pace in Egypt.

Then we arrived at Karnak and the incredible temple.