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Friday, 25 May 2018

More reflections

At 6 a.m. GMT tomorrow - that's 1a.m. EST - I will have completed 78 years of life on this planet, years in which I have set foot in 37 countries, met national leaders (Mandela, Smith, de Klerk), and all in all, led a very interesting and accommodating life. I have achieved 250 catapult launches and carrier arrests, survived a mid-air collision and a separate crash landing, appeared in repertory theater in a dozen or more plays, ridden in mine-proof vehicles with a police escort to assess the damage wrought by terrorists on lonely farmhouses, and  I have swum with barracuda off the Kenyan coast. Sure I have made some mistakes - don't we all? But I have striven to make my life both interesting and the life of a gentleman. I get livid when I read or hear of someone mistreating a woman, and though I admit to having sowed plenty of wild oats in my time, I don't believe that I have ever treated a woman with disrespect, and this may be backed up by my 13 years of marriage to Lizzie - still to this day without a single argument or fight. I pray every day that I will get to live at least as long as my late dad, who crossed over in his 94th year.

So what have I learned? What advice can I pass on to my peers, my relatives, and my friends far and wide? I have written extensively in another earlier post about Time, and I sincerely believe in all of my previous comments thereto. Namely, that Time is the most important and valuable asset that you will ever be given. Cheerish the Time that you are given, for you never know when it is going to be taken away from you.

I have been writing my memoirs - The Graceful retirement of an English Gentleman and to boost the page count have included as an addendum all of the poems that I wrote in my earlier days and all of the blog posts written in the Internet age. I am up to 236 pages so far, and when complete will distribute it to friends and family - for posterity and so that I am not completely forgotten.

I am an avid reader, getting through a couple of novels every week - but then I have a lot of Time on my hands. To keep myself informed of political affairs and the like I have taken to regularly read the Reporter at Large column in the  New Yorker magazine. Now that the warm weather is here (83˚ F today) I shall start painting again. I would have been doing so today but for the wind, which at a steady 17 knots was trying to get my easel airborne. Lizzie bought me a set of gouache tubes so I will try painting with those as a medium - there's a first for you.

Well guys, as you can see I'm still around and for any of you who are in the business am looking for some writing jobs, so if you're interested, do drop me a line.

Friday, 4 May 2018

No Collusion, No Obstruction of Justice, No Witch Hunt

No Collusion, No Obstruction of Justice, No Witch Hunt. Remember those words in a few months' time when the Special Counsel Robert Mueller eventually publishes his report or issues more indictments.

I am not a Trump supporter - indeed until I am a naturalized American citizen and have the right to vote, I will remain an unbiased onlooker, but will base my thoughts on what I observe in the so-called "fake" news. Frankly, the only real fake news is that published by Fox News and other right-wing news outlets.

Let's start my post with Korea. Many people are advocating that Trump should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize - not a bit of it! Let's not forget that North and South Koreas leaders got together and started the peace process without any help from Trump. My own view is that it could have just as easily been Kim Jong Un's sister that made the first overtures to her brother after her visit to the Winter Olympics.

Judith Thurman wrote in Time Magazine in January of /2017 in an article comparing Nixon, GW Bush, and Trump "But whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English."

This week has seen Trump take on Rudy Giuliani as part of his legal team in the White House, only to result in dropping the president into deeper water regarding the Mueller probe. Does it not bother anyone, especially House and Senate Republicans, that Trump is a compulsive liar. I have never in the many years that I have been here on Earth come across anyone who is such an obviously bare faced liar. But then there are many people here in the USA who have known for a long time that he is a con-man.

At yesterday's White House press briefing Sarah Huckabee Sanders was so confused that she didn't know whether she was coming or going. She was asked point blank by the gathered press corps yesterday how she expected them to believe her when she contradicted herself time after time. I guess that's the trouble when a buffoon of a president changes his mind so often. The Washington Post stated today that the president has knowingly lied publicly more than 3,000 times since his inauguration. Trump has stated that there was "no collusion" and "no obstruction of justice' so often that it has to raise doubts in any sane person's mind. You are wrong Mr Trump - there is NO Witch Hunt.

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.