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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Goodbye to the Autumn of my days

I started writing this post in longhand on Sunday evening last, seated in my recliner in the Northeast Kingdom and sipping a Manhattan cocktail. Vermont's Northeast Kingdom is comprised of Essex, Orleans, and Caledonia counties and had a population of just 64,764 at the 2010 census. It is in the state's far Northeast and borders Canada. I relocated here in order to be close to my daughter and her family, and to see out my remaining years - hopefully still quite a few, but you never know!

Right now the temperature outside our Cape Cod style apartment building is 3˚F, but last night it plunged to -36˚F - colder by far than Alaska! It is likely to be the same tonight and has not been above freezing for several weeks. It is so cold outside that the salt that has been spread on Route 5 in order to melt the snow lying n the road has absolutely no effect. We have had two separate storms so far this Winter - one that swept in from the Great Lakes to the West of us, and the other a bomb cyclone that swept up the East coast from Florida, giving snowfall in that state and every other coastal state from Georgia to Maine.The ski resorts of Northern New England are crowded, and well over 90% of runs are open.

A couple of weeks ago Liz and I enjoyed watching my granddaughter in her debut stage role, a real treat for someone who has spent so much time walking the boards. I was so impressed with her performance and her singing,. If I had started my acting career when I was at her age I might have ended up as a professional actor rather than a naval aviator. But then the circumstances around my acting career were very different as will be found in detail in my autobiography, The Graceful Retirement of an English Gentleman when I eventually distribute it to family and friends. So far I am up to 97 pages and a little short of 20,000 words.

I have had a pretty good life - have set foot in more than 30 countries and resided in four. Unless I should happenstance make a big win in one of the state's lotteries I am here to stay. The alternative would be somewhere like St Martin or Guadeloupe - somewhere in the French Caribbean anyway. I have met presidents, prime ministers, and even a princess. I have designed websites (currently have three of my own) and have had more than 6,500 articles and web pages published on the Internet so one way or another have left some sort of legacy.

It has been an interesting couple of years here in the United States. I spend a fair amount of my time watching MSNBC (never Fox) and their coverage of the country's political news. It seems that we are getting closer and closer to a Mueller - Trump face to face. That indeed will be very interesting, although it will probably never be made public.Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury has disclosed how most staffers in the White House describe Trump as being childlike. He is certainly a liar and an egomaniac. In a couple of month's time, I will be eligible for citizenship, so I am swotting up on the Constitution and other citizenship-related subjects.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Arctic Winter

When I lived in sub-tropical Africa, it was rare for the temperature to drop below 16˚C (61˚F) even in the depth of Winter, Now that I have relocated I have had to acclimatise to a whole new environment, one where it can go for weeks on end with temperatures straight out of the Arctic Circle. Today is a good example. Those temperatures that you see on this jpeg are all Fahrenheit where, for those who are not familiar with the scale, the freezing point is 32˚F. So the temperatores on the graph below represent -16˚C to -25˚C!

I cannot say that I was not forewarned, for when basking in the African sun I used to follow the New England weather that my daughter was experiencing. On Christmas Eve we had a Winter Storm. The weather forecasting here is excellent. When a winter storm is forecast to start in a certain place at a certain time, the chances are that it will do just that. This one was predicted to start at 11 p.m. and to go on until 4 a.m. on Christmas morning, depositing between 6 and 8 inches of snow, and it did just that. In fact because the forecasting is so reliable, Lizzie and I went to drop off our presents with Julie and Jake on Christmas Eve. Sure enough when we awoke on Christmas morning, there was a good 8 inches on and around the Volvo, and the area did not geet snow ploughed until the late afternoon - so we would not have gotten out on the snow-covered Route 5 anyway.

The Christmas Eve storm
I have to admit that I miss the weather of southern Africa - but then I spent 42 years there, certainly more than enough time to get acclimatised. With a change in climate comes the inevitable change in the wildlife. We have Moose, white-tailed deer, black bears, turkeys galore, skunks, foxes, coyotes, lynx, and a few others. No big five, although in some parts of the country you can find the mountain lion and the grey wolf.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Doctoral Degree

I recently read a study of the Gulf War air campaign that was written by Tom Clancey with the help of retired Air Force General Chuck Horner, who led the air campaign. In chapter 3 he describes the 6-month course at the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base. The course is essentially the same as the Royal Navy's Air Warfare Instructors' course that I completed in  July 1968. The course includes a full month at HMS Excellent, the Royal Navy's weapons school at Whale Island and several months' tactical flying. Subjects include avionics, ballistics, air navigation, the theory of flight, radar and electronics, air combat and air weapons and fuzes, and is a high-intensity learning curve. In addition, candidates receive training in instruction techniques as they will be passing their knowledge on to squadron comrades in briefings and lectures once they have completed the course.

What struck me about General Horner's description of the course was that he claims that those few pilots that have successfully completed the course have, in effect, completed a doctoral degree in Fighter Operations. The academics of which, he claims, are fiercely difficult, and the flying almost endless. It was during the equivalent Royal Navy course at RNAS Lossiemouth that I experienced my two "close calls" when in the one we lost an engine at 24,000 feet (my pilot was killed when he ejected at the last second) and in the other I experienced a mid-air collision with a second aircraft in our formation.

The Hawker Hunter after forced flame out landing
I recall that, according to the Daily Telegraph, a few years before my joining the Royal Navy, a group of air warfare instructors went to NAS Miramar to give instruction in air warfare to US Navy aviators. The original eight navy aviators became the original instructors at Miramar's Top Gun school. The modern version of the manual that was brought about by these AWI's can be seen here. Looking back in retrospect I wonder how different my post navy life could have been if I had included a doctorate in my résumé. I guess I'll never know.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Passing Time

It seems like only yesterday that I was writing my post of seven months ago when we had just suffered our final Winter storm of the season, yet here I am about to have my studded winter tires fitted to the Volvo's 18" wheels. In the average year, it would have already snowed some time during late October. But to date, there is none forecast in the foreseeable future - which in my case is about 12 days. Good. I hope that we are in for a mild Winter for a change. However, it is still a wise precaution to have the tires changed (and anyway, Liz insists!).

April 1st, 2017
I make no apology for writing once again about Time as I am well aware that I am slowly running out of it. I have certainly tried to make the best of that which was allocated to me. Along my passage, I have made plenty of mistakes, and there are many times when I wish that I could travel back forty-something years. However, I know that that is not possible just yet. Maybe when scientists have learned how to play with quantum mechanics someday in the future, it will be. Not for me though - unless that quantum world includes Life after Death (which has been suggested by some, by the way). Time has taken its toll on my body, in particular, my spine and my knees. I have had major spine surgery twice - once to screw a plate across C6 and C7, and once for a laminectomy L2 to S1. The former does not bother me at all, but the latter has me taking painkillers each morning. I had my annual medical last week and it looks as if I may still be around for another 10 years or so.

There are plenty of things that I would like to have accomplished during my Time on Earth. I would love to have visited the islands in the Carribean - especially some of the French-speaking ones like Guadeloupe and Saint Martin. However, to offset that disappointment I did once spend a few weeks vacationing on Isle Maurice in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius for those that are not aware of it). As Maurice is largely French-speaking I was very happy and felt "at home". I even get to speak the language here in the Northern Kingdom from time to time, as we are less than 100-km from Quebec Province and get many French Canadian tourists visiting the region.

Fall in New England
Another Halloween has come and gone, and last Saturday evening Liz and I got to spend some very valuable Time with family - this time with Julie, Jake and the Grandkids around the firepit toasting marshmallows. A couple of weeks back we drove down to Massachusetts to spend the Saturday night with Liz's side of the family, Dena, Andrew and family. Fall has really hit hard - just a month ago the leaves were starting their annual change to the brilliant colors of the New England Autumn. Today, the trees are almost bare and the ground beneath them covered with their shed colors.

My message to my readers is this. Time is the only asset that is given to you for free. It is up to you to make the best of it for you do not have any idea how much of it remains in your account. Whereas you may believe that you have plenty of it left - in reality, what is remaining can be taken away from you in a flash, and there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. I recall in my youth wondering whether I would still be around to see the turn of the Century - well I guess I am lucky for I am now 17 years past it.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Trump - a Disaster

Those who either know me or who follow my Facebook posts will almost certainly know that I am not a Trump supporter - I could never support a buffoon, a racist, a misogynist and a liar. I am well into the Winter of my years and have traveled to 30 or more countries. During my travels, I have met all kinds of people of many races. Presidents, princesses, prima ballerinas, and prime ministers lie at the one end of the scale, and at the other are down-to-earth people like Headman, the local preacher close to my Eastern Cape farm and who enjoyed a joint of dagga, and Julia, who ran the local shebeen. Since I was a young man I have always had a second sense about people - and in particular whether they were genuine or not, or whether they were trying a con. Now everyone knows or at least should know, that all politicians, whichever country they are from, are liars. That is something that comes with the job. But some are bigger liars than others. And Trump is one of the biggest.

I heard an apt description of today's White House the other day - Senator Corker last week likened it to an Adult Day-care Center. Trump is a joke. I mean, can you imagine any other president visiting a hurricane-devastated island and throwing paper towels into the crowd? What on Earth was the man thinking? He is extremely ignorant (water purification pills - do you really drink the water afterward - durr!), and clearly spends much of his spare time watching television and tweeting when he could be bettering his mind before it goes off the rails altogether. At our expense, he spends every weekend playing golf - what is his handicap, btw? No - not that handicap! At the time of writing and after nine months in office, there is still no Secretary of Homeland Security. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is said to have recently called Trump a f***ing moron. We appear to be at a stage where no-one wants to work for him for fear of losing their reputation when his name appears on their résumé.

Trump and his original team - courtesy CNN
Trump's time in the White Tower has been something of a debacle. None of the original team in the CNN photograph above are now in the picture - although some are being investigated by Mueller.  The main problem seems to be that Trump is completely impulsive. When something comes to his child-like mind he immediately tweets about it - whether or not his thoughts are those of his staff. Only two days ago when holding a photo session with his top generals and their spouses he stated that "This is the calm before the storm". "What storm?" demanded the press. "You'll see." was his non-presidential reply.

Mostly because of Trump, I have become an avid follower of several late-night comedians - Trevor Noah, Stephan Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and John Oliver being my favorites (in no particular order). I enjoy the way that they mock him. If you are one of my followers that have not had the opportunity to do so, I urge you to check out some of the Facebook clips of those television personalities listed above.

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