The Ragman Was Cool

The Ragman Was Cool

Well the Ragman was very cool

                In his Carnaby clothes,

                Safety pins through his nose,

                Rings on his fingers, paint on his toes.

Serving up life’s rich gruel.

Preening like a peacock,

                Strutting down the street,

                Winkle-pickers on his feet,

                Shuffling to the beat,

Generating major shock.

Dean and Brando all rolled into one.

                The rebel with no cause,

                Seeking all the right applause,

Entrances through many doors,

Has no time for fun.

Now he’s done and had his day;

                The colours are all faded

                Feelings become jaded,

                Annals all are raided;

Hair sparse and turned to grey.

The Ragman was cool.

                Now just another sad and lonely fool.

Opher 3.12.2023

Fashions come and fashions go, substance usually lacking. The philosophy of cool is subjective.

Every dog has his day and the time ebbs away and they are washed up on the beach.

What was cool is now derisory. What was young is now old.

But time goes round in circles.

Fashion freaks are trapped within the meaningless glory of their own narcissism.

Response to Neil Lock’s ‘Rant To End All Rants’.

Neil is a friend who goes back a number of years. We agree on a number of things but disagree on others.

That makes for an interesting exchange of views.

Neil sees himself as a liberterian. I am all for freedom but also want a social order where the powerful are held in check.

My response to Neil’s Rant – Part 1

Bloody hell Neil!!  Fifteen thousand words is a book!

I shall do my best to respond to things as they come up.

Straight away we hit this major crisis that you brush off as a global conspiracy. Global warming. How you can think this is a conspiracy is beyond me. Why? What is the ulterior motive for all these diverse governments wanting to do this? What do they gain?

I can clearly see why the oil, gas, fracking, cement and steel industries might want to buy off bent scientists. They make big big money out of pollution. But all the governments around the world??? They hate each other. They couldn’t conspire if they wanted to.

You glibly brush over the devastating effects of global warming. That’s easy to do when living in a temperate country. We have our floods, heatwaves, droughts and, like this year, messed up weather, but we don’t get the full impact. For us it’s an inconvenience. We don’t get the massive floods like Pakistan, China and Bangladesh, the huge forest fires like Greece, Australia, California and Portugal. We don’t get terrible droughts like South Africa, Ethiopia, Texas and Spain. We haven’t had unbearable temperatures like they are getting in Africa, the Middle East and now in Europe. But that does not mean we aren’t going to be badly affected.

As more areas become uninhabitable due to arid conditions there will be mass migration. Millions, perhaps billions, will no longer be able to live in these extremes. They will either move or die. We are already suffering from an influx of immigrants. This is the thin end of the wedge. Who can blame them.

Food prices will soar. Crops will fail. We, as a planet, will not be able to feed a population of eight billion.

With the melting ice and warming seas we can expect more extreme weather, higher winds, storms and a substantial rise in sea levels. As most major cities are at sea level this will mean catastrophic flooding and billions spent on flood defences. New Orleans is testimony to what happens when that fails.

This is without consideration of the massive impact on nature and the delicate ecosystems already stretched due to the impact of human beings.

I know you always put people first Neil and take nature for granted but, as a biologist, I can tell you that it is not as simple as that. We are part of that ecosystem. Our food, oxygen and the chemistry of our own bodies depends on a delicate interaction of millions of species. Soil, on which our crops depend, is a living interaction of millions of organisms from bacteria, fungi, thrips, insects, nematodes and worms. Pollination is dependent on insects. Our health depends on the commensal and symbiotic organisms that inhabit our bodies. What we eat and how we interact with the world affects that balance. We are only beginning to understand how it works. Gut bacteria can affect your mood, your thinking and your health. They live on what we eat. We cannot live apart from nature.

And that is quite apart from the joy of interacting with wild life.

We already live in a vastly impoverished world. Our ancestors lived in a far richer world. We have the rump of nature; of what was. The teeming herds, flocks and shoals have gone. We have the vestiges.

I move on.

You make the point that mankind seeks to ‘make its mark’. That is certainly not the case. We are hunter/gatherers. All humans were hunter/gatherers. There is hardly any evidence of the hunter/gatherer societies that filled the planet. That is because they did not seek to leave any mark. They lived in some kind of harmony with nature (even though they wantonly and stupidly hunted all the mega fauna to extinction). Black Elk talked of walking through the landscape without leaving so much as a footprint and castigated the whiteman for wanting to make everything that lives crawl.

It was with the advent of farming, ‘civilisation’, huge populations, cities and nations, that we started having powerful leaders, politics and religions, and narcissistic power which made individuals want to ’leave their mark’.

That’s an aberration.

As for politics; we might be on a slightly similar wavelength, but with vastly different reasoning.

I agree, the world is run for a powerful elite for their own benefit. We are given the least they can get away with without provoking a revolt. The system was set up by the rich for the rich. Politicians are bought and sold. Profit for the wealthy is all that matters. They deal with megabucks; we get the crumbs. They do not care about the impact of what they do on people, nations, or the planet; as long as it makes them very rich.

That means most (not all) politicians are crooks, in it for themselves. They seek power and wealth. They are bought off and controlled by the wealthy.

However, this is where I think we digress.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but your solution is to devolve into small autonomous communities, each controlling itself.

My solution is much more global. I want complete scrutiny and accountability. I want the bank accounts and all communications open to scrutiny. I want the elite and politicians held accountable.

You always claim not to have exterminated any species and that you are innocent. That is not true. We are all guilty. What we have with species destruction and global warming is an incremental damage. Your defence does not hold.

If a fatal dose of a poison is a million moles and one million people all deliver 1 mole so that the person dies, it is no good all those million people all claiming innocence.

By living we impact on the environment. By using power, eating and moving about we add to the destruction around us. Of course, some individuals have far greater impact than others.

Under your system there would be no accountability for the international organisations, nations and individuals who are presently plundering, exploiting and killing with impunity. We’re beset by wars, tyrannies, massive pollution and environmental degradation. These greedy, power-mad nutcases require controlling and being brought to justice.

War, exploitation, tyranny, pollution, crime and poverty have no national boundaries. If we retreat into our own communities we leave them to do what they like. They are bad enough now; with no controls they would be beyond all levels of bad.

The only way of dealing with this is a fully accountable, fully scrutinised global government.

And yes, I can see all the dangers involved with that, but……

The Voyage – Part 20 – In the doldrums

Travel and Photography


For some reason the journey back across the Atlantic only took three days this time. Perhaps the captain was in a hurry to get home?

We were heading for Cape Verde – that volcanic archipelago off the coast of Africa. This time it was Santiago and its capital Praia. But that was three days away.


The captain thought that we might get bored so they put on quizzes and organised a chocolate event. I slunk away for the quizzes and read or wrote elsewhere but I was intrigued by the chocolate. I am a nascent diabetic and alcoholic. I show no signs of being either but I think it is something you have to work on. Chocolate was, as the Incas well knew, the food of the gods. Wine is the drink of the gods.


I was expecting big things. What I got was chocolate cakes in every shape and size. That was OK but I found that there is only so much chocolate that even I could consume.


What I was more taken with were the amazing sculptures the cook put together using fruit and vegetables. He was quite an artist. He also did these remarkable ice sculptures. It was quite incredible, in the heat of the tropical sun, to see a guy attack a block of ice with a knife – ice shards spraying in all directions, and end up with a couple of intertwined birds or fish. He did it so quickly.


There were great sunsets but the journey was choppier than it had been on the way across when the sea had been silken. It seemed troubled. We soon lost the boobies and there were few sightings of whales, turtles or dolphins. But the sun still shone and we were in the tropics. Life was good.

    The coffee machine – the most important bit of equipment.

We went up to the bridge and had a go at steering the ship. It was easy. I’d quite like being the captain. You just told people what to do, sat in your seat with your cap on, and everyone did it. From what I could see the boat was being commanded by a young guy with a pair of binoculars.


The radar was good. You could see all around for tens of miles. It could even pick up whales. It confirmed my suspicions. We were all alone in the middle of the Atlantic. There wasn’t even another vessel over the horizon and even the whales had buggered off.

The Voyage – Part 19 – Natal Brazil – the biggest nut of all

Travel and Photography


I was suffering from a feeling of despondency. At the beginning of the trip those fifty five days had stretched out before me like an infinite universe. I had not been sure if I would enjoy the motion of the boat, the relentless drone of the engines or being confined to a small ship and the company of an assortment of humanity. I thought I might find the tiny cabin claustrophobic and the endless days boring. But there were the delights of those destinations to look forward to. Well there were lots of things about this trip that I had grown used to and thoroughly enjoyed. I felt as if the cabin was home. The motion of the sea and constant drone was soothing. I had greatly relished having time to read, write and think without the constant distraction of chores or people to contact. In the middle of the ocean you could not communicate with people and if something went wrong at home there was nothing you could do about it. That was a weight lifted. There was a freedom to cruising and being pampered – meals and drinks on demand. I was enjoying it. But we were running out of destinations and soon would be running out of sun.

News back home was of cold, rain and snow.

I sat on the deck with my book, visited the Jacuzzi, wrote a few pages and contemplated our last visit to Brazil – probably the last time we would ever come back.


As we approached Natal the sun was rising, filling the sky with pink, orange and mauve. By the time we were passing under the famous suspension bridge it was already up and the light was bright. The tub brought us in to dock and I peered over the rail. On one side was the sky-scrapers of Natal with its traffic and hordes. On the other was the verdant mangrove swamp. I knew which side I preferred.


We knew what we wanted to do – we were off to see the biggest cashew tree on the planet.

On the way through the city we saw the familiar tall buildings of concrete and glass, the new concrete evangelical churches, and ubiquitous graffiti. Natal looked a bit more prosperous than most places in Brazil. There did not appear to be either shanty towns or favelas – but then perhaps they were in another part that we weren’t driving through.


We headed out of the city on a highway and into green fields and countryside. We stopped briefly to see the Brazilian contribution to the space race. There was a launch site for satellites complete with a very slender missile, which looked little more than one of the ten penny rockets I used to buy as a kid, and a device that looked as if it sent out death rays.


Eventually we reached our tree. It was not quite how I had imagined it but was very impressive none-the-less. The tree was a low sprawling affair – about twenty feet high but covering the area of a football pitch.


We made our way through the myriad of stalls selling everything from snacks, coconut drinks and coffee to cashew nuts and trinkets. There was no time to shop; we had branches to peer at.


There was a path laid out so that you could walk in a circular fashion under the whole tree. Above my head the branches interlaced and dived back to the ground. The tree went on and on, dipping and rising. It was very impressive – like being in the middle of a giant rhododendron bush!


At the end we climbed up on to a platform that enabled us to look out over the whole huge expanse of the tree. It was a great green mass of bright leaves. I bet it produced a pound or two of cashews. There were brown lizards charging around fighting with each other and defending territory. I guess we had come in the mating season!

We sampled a cashew juice drink supposedly high in antioxidants and bought enough cashew nuts to sink the ship. Then we headed for the beach and a welcome cooling coconut or two.


The beach was a long expanse of yellow sand with bright beach umbrellas but of more interest to me was the black volcanic rock that formed reefs at intervals along it.


Back in Natal we went along the beach to the fort that stood at the entrance to the port. There was a shelf of volcanic rock alive with sea birds.


The Atlantic pounded in with crashing rollers that sent spray up into the air. I noticed they had one of those goddesses of the beach here as well.


Perhaps they had them everywhere in Brazil. It was a superstitious country. Those beaches were very beautiful. I wasn’t sure about the way they built their high-rise apartment blocks on the edge of the beaches – but that was Brazil. The temperature was hot – the breeze pleasant – the people friendly. I would have like to have stayed longer and chilled out; to have bathed and soaked it up. I would have liked to have gone inland and checked out the jungle and wild-life. Brazil was a violent place but it was also the place for lovers.


And that was it. Our South American adventure was at an end.


We had three more stops on the way home but they felt to be like fillers. We were leaving Brazil and South America.

Once again the timing was immaculate. There was a party on deck and the samba beat belted out as we glided under that huge suspension bridge. Two little boys were in the middle of that bridge as we passed under and they waved us away. I waved back.


The sun was setting. It was setting on us, on South America and on our voyage.

As we passed I looked back along reef along the beach and the fort where we had walked. I looked back at the bridge as it receded with the sun setting behind it. It seemed appropriate.


I could see that bridge in the orange light for a long, long time.


Goodbye Brazil.


There were eleven days still to go and three more destinations, that was as much as most people had as a whole vacation, but it felt as if the adventure was already over. we were on the return leg.

The Journey – Pt. 21 – Let’s Hang at Penang – Photos

The Journey

Penang was another example of a city of decaying colonial buildings and amazing temples. It would appear that the only things that are properly maintained and painted are the odd colonial building (kept for tourist potential) and the religious temples, mosques and churches. Everything is left to slowly rot in the humid heat.

The first choice we had was how to get around. We opted for the hop on hop off bus, which took us past the clock tower and other well-kept colonial buildings.   It is incredible to look back at the amazing reach of the British Empire and to appreciate the scale. All of these Asian/Indonesian sites had an array of buildings to house the ruling British Governors and associated military, bureaucratic and business people. They were all there in their little enclaves, ruling, exploiting and systematically stripping assets with their mansions, servants, polo clubs and cricket grounds. One can imagine the public schools, in the 18th century, churning out a stream of these people destined to live the life of Riley. Now the remains of their hegemony are preserved as part of the tourist attraction.

We hopped on and hopped off at the first temple.                                                                                             

The Burmese temple was probably the most garish yet, and the sister temple was a near match. We saw huge reclining Buddhas, gold Buddhas, standing Buddhas, white Buddhas, black Buddhas, blue and green Buddhas, fierce warriors, dragons, golden stupas and fair dancing maidens. All with gold, blue, red, yellow, orange and scaley glitter, bunting and adornment. All with sparkly splendour. All intended to create an impression.

Back on the bus to the next stop and off up the steepest funicular railway in the world to the incredible views and coconut ice-cream. The restaurant at the top was exorbitantly priced so it was back to the bottom and lunch with the locals. We observed where the taxi drivers and locals ate and jumped in. As we could not speak the language we are not quite sure what it was but it was spicy chicken with rice, with a mug of sweet coffee, and tasted excellent, and all for thirty pence.

Back on the bus we were dropped off at the biggest temple complex ever. Temples are great aren’t they? So much human energy, endeavour, creativity and hope poured into proving that there is a foundation to choosing this one over all the others. The drive to bigger, brighter and more elaborate (coupled with various attire, rituals and prayers) is like an arms race! If only they put as much energy into the city infrastructure!

We climbed up through covered markets with the sweat dripping down our backs. We inspected temples, Buddha’s, fountains, chanting, retail opportunities (what religious site is without them) and new building sites before making the final ascent through a lift in a shop to the biggest Buddha of all on top of the hill.

Back waiting for the bus we tasted the local pastry delicacies – both savoury and sweet – and both delicious, before hopping back to the boat.

Still – many stops to make –     

Much to see and wonder at. Thailand next!

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The Journey – Pt. 20 – A Lump of Kuala Lumpur – photos

The Journey

Kuala Lumpur was rather a halfway house between moped madness and car craziness. My main lingering thoughts are of pot-holes, huge gold statues and the Petronas Towers. We (four of us) procured a taxi. The driver used carriageway, road signs and traffic lights as only a passing guide and enthusiastically illustrated what he was talking about with both hands coupled with turning around to grin at us while travelling at high speed. His taxi was the grimiest we had encountered and appeared to have no suspension and little left of the silencer so the cab filled with noxious fumes. He was very cheap though! We hurtled along, dodging around pot-holes, ducking in and out of traffic and driving, seeming suicidially straight at trucks. Somehow we managed to negotiate the twenty miles without separating our spirits from our body.

We visited the Batu Caves and marvelled at the massive gold statue that loomed above us as we drew near. We trudged up the thousands of steep steps past the massive carved figure and into the caves. Some devotees carried bricks or buckets of sand up the steps to demonstrate their sincere devotion (the ancient shrine was still being constructed).

The caves were an ancient site of worship. It was an impressive huge cavern with a collapsed roof allowing light to flood in. We fed the monkeys and photo’d the hundreds of shrines.

We climbed back down to check out the many temples around the base. Then I went in this cave that was like a Hindu version of Disneyland – very strange.

People and babies were painted up with yellow paint and were all in their best duds. It was a hive of activity! Throngs of people were milling about with women in bright coloured saris and the men with bright clothes and robes.

Clambering back in the death-mobile we headed off for Kuala Pumpur and parked up right by the central square.

The Petronas Towers were remarkable and very picturesque but we couldn’t go up because there was too long a queue – you have to book in advance. So we contented ourselves with staring up at it.

Diving in and out of traffic we somehow arrived at Independence Square, where we jigged about, stood in the middle of the large grass area and wondered at the array of different architecture then visited a museum which featured a model of the city.    

Time was running out so our manic driver thundered off to the war memorial. We then had a brief glimpse of the Palace before thundering back to the ship.

For some reason we had sore backs, sore throats, stinging eyes, were pumped with adrenaline, had developed a cough and were deaf. But it had been another great day.

Christmas – the time of giving! of joy to all people! Peace, love and gifts! Not in Broken Britain! Toryland is a land of despair and broken promises!

My door is open! But you’ll get nowt! Key workers? More like Key Plebs.

You get nothing unless you’re a Tory donor!

Sunak, the toff with the new bland. He doesn’t lie – just hides away and does nowt! Trying to do a Thatcher and break the unions and coming over like a soggy teddy bear.

The Disaster of Brexit portrayed as a Triumph

The Disaster of Brexit portrayed as a Triumph

The true costs are staggering!! Johnson negotiated an appalling deal!!

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Poetry – The Death of Democracy

The Death of Democracy

It whimpered.

                It’s tiny cry

                                A beacon of hope.

Strangled at birth

                By greed,



                And disdain.


                Under a mound

                                Of lies.

Its ashes




In the machine

                Of power

                                Where the big dogs play.

All that’s left

                Is a game,

                                A hollow farce.




Play up! Play up!

                As the red meat

                                Of unlucky scapegoats

Is fed to the timid runts.

                Only the powerful


We are controlled

                Like mindless


                                                In a game

Of tiddly-winks.

Opher 18.1.2022

They play us for fools.

They think we will believe anything.

Our short attention spans are so limited.

Our forgetfulness makes us easy to manipulate.

We are being played.

They are good at it.

Only occasionally does their arrogance create a misstep.

The trouble is that they are right.

Too many of us are taken in by these smarmy conmen.

The game of power was never going to allow democracy to live.

Power lies in the hands of consummate liars.

Java – Borobudur – Spectacular – climbing up into the massive temple complex.

Java – Borobudur – Spectacular – climbing up into the massive temple complex.

Posted on  by Opher

Borobudur is a simply amazing structure. Built out of carved blocks of volcanic rock, stuffed with statues, cupulas and carvings.


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