Brexit, Johnson and the Virus – cartoons

The debacle continues!!

Working at the bakery – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

After a year or two of working Friday nights at the bakery, I got moved onto forklift truck driving. This was great. The forklifts were electric and fairly zoomed about. My job was to pick up the bread pallets and load them on to the trucks. If you got it right you could swing a pallet on and brake so that it came off the prongs and came to rest in exactly the right place in the lorry. This was an art. I enjoyed that. You could spin those trucks on a sixpence.

One of my fellow forklift truck drivers was called Tiny. Tiny weighed about twenty stone and was not at all tiny. He was Scottish and he’d been a paratrooper and had fought in Korea. At tea break he would tell me about his exploits. On one occasion he had been part of a small patrol who had gone behind enemy lines on special operations. He showed me these huge scars on his legs. He explained that this was where he had got strafed with machine-gun fire on one of this particular ‘jaunt’. He’d been badly wounded in both legs and could not walk. One of his colleagues had incredibly carried him on his back for over twenty miles, over rough terrain, to get him back to his own lines. The alternative would have been to shoot him. Tiny was a huge man. That was almost a superhuman feat.

“We didn’t leave anyone behind alive to be captured,” he explained. “The North Koreans used to torture you, tie you up with barbed wire and leave you screaming for days. They wanted your mates to try to rescue you so that they could shoot them.”

So many people are traumatised by the horrors of war. Tiny was one of them.

Another guy I worked with was Henry. Henry was a huge Jamaican guy. He even made Tiny look small, but he was the gentlest man I have ever met. He spoke in a deep whisper and had this great rumble of a laugh. Because I was so little I think he felt very protective towards me.

One day I was doing a run up to one of the lorries and made a miscalculation. I accidentally put a prong through the side of the lorry. I went to find the driver to explain.

Now drivers are notorious for taking great care of their lorries. It was like a personal pride. The fact that I’d been careless, nay, malicious and stupid enough, to put a hole through the side of this guy’s lorry was inexcusable. The driver was a big guy. As soon as he saw what I had done to his lorry he became incandescent. He grabbed hold of me by the throat and was going to smack me right in the mouth. Just as I was grimacing in anticipation of seeing stars, a big black hand encompassed the driver’s fist as it hurtled towards my face and stopped it dead. Effortlessly the guy was spun him round to face Henry. It must have been quite a shock. Nonchalantly Henry picked him up with his other hand, by the scrunching up shirt and jacket and lifting this large man into the air. He then held him off the ground at arm’s length.

The guy was so shocked that at first, he didn’t even struggle. He could feel Henry’s enormous strength.

“Now what do you think you’re doing hitting my little friend?” Henry asked in a deep murmur.

I can to this day still see this guy being held off the floor with his feet dangling and hands clutching at this enormous arm. His mouth dropped open and his eyes widened and he tried to get loose – to no avail. Henry, as placid as a rock, held him tight. I don’t know if it is my memory playing tricks but I can see his legs kicking wildly in the air.

“Now calm yourself down,” Henry drawled.

Henry stood as firm as a rock and held that driver up there until he’d stopped struggling, then he gently put him down. The driver was in shock and quickly shuffled away muttering and casting wary eyes at Henry and me.

Another of my work colleagues was John a sixties freak like me. He had hair halfway down his back and the ambition to grow it down to his feet. To this end, he refused to brush or comb it. He reckoned that brushing or combing broke the ends off and so it took longer to grow.

John and I would spend the breaks discussing which albums we’d purchased, whether the Doors were better than Country Joe and the Fish, or Hendrix was as good as Cream. We’d talk about Middle Earth, UFO Club and Klooks Kleek, which club was best and who was on next.

John was really into acid and would take it regularly for his trips into the psychedelic cellars of London.

He was always telling me tales of coming out into the morning sun, still tripping, how one night the mounted police in Parliament Square all turned into centaurs, the trees breathed and pavement sweated. He even came into the bakery tripping and spent the evening saying ‘Wow’ and moving his hands slowly in front of his eyes to create slow motion trails. He said that the ovens glowed all colours of the rainbow, the bread was alive and throbbing, and the dough was luminous and pulsed as it was being plopped in the pans.

It freaked him out a bit to think that the bread was alive as it was going through the ovens.

All told, the bakery was an interesting place to work.

5.11.01

 

Some are obsessed with their physical shape and spend their lives counting calories, planning magic diets and refining exercise regimes in-between binge eating.

11.10.01

Entering the Magnificent Temple of Karnak – photos

We headed past the stalls of tourist merchandise and desperate traders. The terrorism that devastated Egypt has frightened off the tourists. Their living had evaporated. My eyes were fixed on the wonders ahead of me.

I could see the great wall of the temple. I was eager to get inside but I also wanted to calm myself down and appreciate everything around me. I did not want to miss anything.

On my right I noticed there was a mosque.

I was very taken with the obelisk, badly eroded but with all manner of heiroglyphs.

Ahead of me was an avenue with rows of ram-headed sphinxes. Back in the days, the effigies of the God Amun would be paraded down this avenue.

A lot of these were quite eroded by time but some were still very clear.

Each one of the sphinxes had a priest  standing between its paws.

This was the beginning. I went in through the gate.

I was confronted with column and rows of more sphinxes.

A number of these seemed less eroded.

I was inside one of the greatest marvels of ancient times. So exciting.

An American Driving License – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

I decided I’d go and get an American driving licence in case we decided to hire a car to travel across the States at the end our time in Los Angeles. My English licence was valid but it caused a few problems when we were stopped and it might not be any use for hiring a car. I’d noticed a licensing centre on my way home and decided to go in to check out what I had to do.

When I dropped by to enquire it seemed that they’d do it there and then. In England there was a three month waiting list.

I joined the line. The first part was a multi-choice written section. It asked all sorts of strange questions about road signs that I’d never seen, highway code that I never knew existed, and insurance details that I had no idea about. It was all American and different to England. You had to get 70 right out of a hundred on this test. I knew some and had a guess at the rest and scored 65. When my test score had been assessed and I had been told I had failed a very pleasant lady went through my wrong answers and pointed out where I’d gone wrong.

“What’ll I do now?”

“You can go away and learn up on it and come back another day or you can join the line and do it again. You’ll have to take another paper though.”

I was enjoying myself. I decided to do it again.

I lined up and took a different paper. Most of the questions were the same as on the first one though, and the lady had told me the right answers. This time I got 92 and was deemed an advance driver. Not bad in quarter of an hour – from failure to advance status in one fell swoop!

I was directed to the eyesight test, which I passed, and then outside for the practical road test. It was the same format. You had to get 70 out of 100. Every mistake you made the examiner deducted points. He was a sombre looking gentleman who didn’t say much, apart from giving me instructions on where to go and what to do, looked thoroughly bored and sat there with a clipboard on which he kept ticking boxes.

We went out on the road and came back. I’d scored 68 and was a failure. I was a little miffed because I considered myself a pretty good driver and hadn’t made too many mistakes that I knew of.

Once again I was led through the sheet. He seemed really friendly now that he’d failed me and apologetically informed me that he’d had to knock points off every time I looked over the wrong shoulder. He looked bemused and asked me about the peculiar hand signals I had been doing? I explained that they were the English ones. He laughed and showed me the American versions.

“So what’ll I do now?”

“You can come back another day or join that other line and take it again with another examiner.”

That’s what I did. I took it again. This time I was equipped with the right hand signals and knew which way to look. I achieved a score in the 90s and was deemed an advance driver! I like this American way! Instant learning! Instant gratification! No hanging about! You can go from complete failure to the pinnacle of success in two easy moves! It’s the American Dream in working practice (or is it?).

I went in with my slip of paper to say what a genius I was, had my photo taken and left with a new gleaming plastic license. From beginning to end it took an hour and a half. No messing! From failure to super-driver in quick succession! That’s the American way!

I’d only dropped in to enquire!

31.10.01

 

I believe we all change the world. The sum total of all our minds is the current zeitgeist.

18.9.01

Three Outstanding World Leaders in the Corona Crisis.

There are three world leaders that stand out to me for the way they have dealt with the Coronavirus.

3. Nicola Sturgeon  – Scotland

She has been cautious, sensible and explained her reasoning clearly. Scotland suffered an initial surge. She brought in policies that brought it under control and have nearly eliminated it.

Because of her calm manner and clear explanations she brought the people with her. If it wasn’t for the fact that Scotland is connected to England she would have the disease completely eradicated.

I give her 8 out of 10.

2. Angela Merkel – Germany

Angela Merkel took charge, explained her policies clearly, brought in an effective immigration policy and track, trace and isolate policy.

Again – effective communication, sound planning and sound policies. She was prepared, effective and controlled the outbreak.

I give her 9 out of 10.

3. Jacinda Ardern – New Zealand

She displayed the same empathy and communication skills that she had demonstrated following the terrorist attack.

She had sound planning and effective management. She brought in rapid measures on lockdown, immigration and test and trace. The disease was rapidly contained and effectively dealt with.

All told New Zealand has only suffered 22 deaths and has now 2 new cases. The disease has effectively been eradicated.

I give her 10 out of 10.

 

India – Kanchipuram – The Ekambareswarar Temple

We were lucky; we arrived in the midst of a festival! The temple was mainly granite and 1500 years old. It was extremely impressive.

Underneath was a maze of granite pillars and corridors, with colourful fantastical statues of beasts, mandalas and holy men. People were wandering through, sitting on the floor having a picnic and generally enjoying themselves.

Poetry – Oven-ready

Oven-ready

 

We’ve got an oven-ready microbe infecting everyone.

It’s a world-beating virus more deadly than a gun.

We’re building track and trace – the envy of the world.

Just like our PPE and app – it’s genius unfurled.

You can’t blame us for locking down too late!

It’s all those bally scientists determining our fate.

We might have forty five thousand deaths but you can’t blame us.

We’ve never told a single lie. Haven’t you seen our bus?

We’re from Eton. We know what’s best!

Bullingdon boys – forget the rest!!

 

Opher – 19.7.2020