Tuesday, February 27, 2007

No Computer for a week

So you think you cannot live without your computer for a week, well you can and by the way the exerience is very rewarding except when you are thrying to get football results and you are on an island in the middle of the Pacific.
I left Fiji this morning and am now in vanuatu, for those of you who do not know where Vanuatu is it is north west of Fiji and back about 50 years in time, though they do obviously have an internet cafe , with a very slooooooow connection. so typing fast defeats the purpose as nothing is fast or ontime here in the Pacific.
It truly is a vacuum of civilisation in a nice way, it as if 911 never happened and the war on terror is something that means nothing. For example
I arrived here in Vanuatu and have seven hours before my connecting domestic flight north to the Island of Santo.
I walked into the Domestic terminal without any security or a gun or uniform to be seen , flight are announced by wooden signs over the desk and the departure board is a whiteboard that has seen better days.
I asked the checkin guy whether it would be possible to checkin early so i could go into town and kill some time and find an internet cafe.
"No, checkin for that flight is not till 3pm, but do not worry just leave your bag with me behind the counter" was his reply with a smile as it is the normal thing here to do. So I did, no questions about security , I just had to smile when we live in a goldfish bowl of paranoia, in the pacific that is not the case.
Fiji was good, caught up with my brother Rohan whom I have not seen for 7 and half years and my nephew Matthew who is now nine, and Rohans wife Kuntha.
Rohan is working as a builder on a resort on the outlying Islands, and rather than give him time off they simply offered him free accomadation for me and his family so that he could keep working.
managed twelve great scuba dives in five days, from sharks to man eating sized Moray Eels, (if you ever remember that great Jacqueline Bisset movie The Deep, the one where she dives in a white t shirt) there is a mOray that eats the bad guy, well I found the real macoy here a monster Moray Eel.
Off to the North and diving the wreck of the President Coolidge, and hopefully the world will remain in peace whilst I remain in the void of events
Port Vila

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Coat Hanger

If there is one Australian icon that everyone around the world can instantly recognise it is without doubt the coathanger or as many know it The Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Well Sunday I took the girls for a walk up on to the top of the bridge, it is a massive tourist market and a chance to get without doubt the best view of the city and the harbour, there is something magic about Sydney and Australia in general.
Not something I can put my finger on, but standing on the top of the bridge under this massive Australian flag with a bright blue sky. It felt strange to be homesick in your home country, there are things you do not want to end and standing on the top of the bridge I tried to suck in the view and capture the image in my mind.
Now you would expect photos , well they will not let you take anything up on the bridge as you might drop it onto a car on the bridge
Off to Fiji later today , sans computer. Well why would I need a computer when I will be scuba diving in the South Pacific Islands
Have fun everyone, because I am going to
As they say in Fiji "Bula"

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wait till later ....

Quick Post 5:50 in the morning about to go and do something so cool with my girls
Guess what ? hint "coathanger"
Sydney Australia

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Doonside, Rooty Hill, Next Stop Penrith

Four days ago, last I was sitting in a train in Wales watching snow covered fields flash past. Fast forward to the 12:27 from Parramatta to Lithgow in New South Wales Australia and the other side of the world.

Train travel remains the best way to travel, you can think on a train unlike a plane. Where you waste energy worrying about the fat person in front of you suddenly putting his seat back when you are halfway through your meal or that the person sitting next to the window will develop incontinence and have to climb over you every 30 minutes.

Here in Oz the trains are simple and basic the seats are green plastic that must have been bought as a job lot in the seventies. People smile as they pass you getting on and off, and they do say g’day if you give the nod.

The names of suburbs you pass are worth the trip to hear the tannoy come on with this very classical broad aussie accent saying next stop “Emu Plains” which actually used to be a prison back in the early colonial days. The car park at the station is not filled with trendy SUV’s and 4wd’s that never leave the road, Jacaranda trees flow over the platform and the only industry you see from the train is a concrete pipe factory.

We have left the sprawl of suburbia and home of the Westies, this is a part of the world where people wear Ugg boots and here that is not trendy by any fashion statement. (The saga of Ugg Boots will be the subject of another entry)

Perhaps the images that have most ingrained on me sitting on my plastic covered green seat are the kid behind me asleep with his Mp3 so loud that I can hear the beat of his heavy metal music and across the aisle is a grey haired old lady with her hair up and also with ear plugs.

I looked down expecting to see an Mp3, but to make me smile and realize that life in Australia maybe does not move that fast, she has clutched in her hands an old portable tape deck, held together with a rubber band to keep the door shut. I just wondered what she is listening too.

It is nice to be back down under the world is a lot different when you look up on the globe, just looked up and a young man looked across and gave the g’day smile

Dying for CNN

Just finished the Hostile Environment Training Course in the Snow of Wales, all went well but I did die and for of all people trying to rescue a CNN crew.

The reality is naturally that I am not dead as if I was how the hell could I get an internet connection from the other side, we all know that broadband wireless is good but I doubt it goes that far, up or down.

As part of our examination evaluations we got to play scenarios for the afternoon yesterday in the snow. Yes real snow, now for those of you used to snow excuse me but I do not get to see it very often and the novelty of it.

Anyway we split into groups and go from scenario to scenario, the first scenario we approach a building and are told that collegues from CNN are waiting on the other side to meet us in the car park (covered in snow) the compound is safe. Well we approach and as we did an explosion goes off, I was in the rear of the column of 5 and the others stopped not having a clue as to what to do to be honest, it was the first time that they had probably heard an is that ything louder than a firecracker.

So they just stand there doing nothing after about a minute of scouting the hills and trees they have still not moved and our “friends” from CNN are moaning by the car complaining they have been hit. I jump to my feet and make a beeline for them only to have another bang go off next to me ten feet away I keep going diving into the snow next the victims from CNN only to be yelled at that I am dead.

Such is life, apparently we were being mortared, Now having been under mortar attack in the real world I was annoyed because the bangs and flashes were not mortars, but I was dead for the game, such is life.

On the other scenarios I top marked so hopefully I redeemed myself in the scenario exams. Luckily they were just a road accident in a remote area and a hostile gunmen at an illegal checkpoint were they waved Ak47’s in your face, hell I do that everyday so I past those with flying colors.

Many people asked what was the value of me doing such a course and all I can say at the end of it is I learnt so much that I want to do the Advanced training course with more intense First Aid.

Bit all in all a great afternoon in the snow, but the last time I will take one for CNN.

Bloody Sock

Thursday Feb 8 2007

On a Hostile Environment Course in Wales, you would expect men with guns abducting you and putting sacks on your heads and yelling that you have been taken hostage. Well that is what the training promotion videos may portray. But to date the only injury and discomfort I have felt has been from a nail in the heel of my boot coming through during our map reading exercise in the mountains and causing extreme pain and a sock full of blood.

It always surprises me how much information I can get out of courses, to be honest the sections of dealing with media and hostile environments has nothing to do with the real world, but then again it would be illegal to actually tell people the difference between the real and the academic world.

The First Aid section of the course has been incredible and if anything this has been worth doing the course more than anything. The course is structured for very real hostile scenarios and how to deal with major battlefield injuries.

By the way have learnt a great way to combine legal painkillers bought off the shelf to make a super “your in deep shit” mega painkiller. So if you want to know how to concoct a mega painkiller that is fast acting I will pass it on, but you can never say who told you the mixture.

Woke up this morning to snow

Allt Yr Ynys Country Hotel

Welcome to the country of Wales, Now first up can you please try and pronounce the above hotel name.

The Welsh people decided a few years back that they were to become traditional and return to their roots. Aka Kunta Kinte but with Leeks. I mean Welsh, lets face it Esperanto has a bigger chance of being understood.

Now the most pronounced way they could achieve this back to basics and were proud to be Welsh campaign was to decide that the Welsh Language is to be resurrected and become mainstream, thus every street sign has to be bilingual announcements need to be in both English and Welsh.

If you have ever had to listen to a train station announcement they all tend to come out like the person is speaking Swahili, then you add the fact that it is Welsh and you might as well give up.

Coming down last night to Allt Yr Ynys, come on can you pronounce it yet?.

The train was full of rugby supporters, now they also had the funny aspect of that more than one beer had been consumed and the fact that they had lost to the Irish was to be factored in. The good news is that the average drunk rugby supporter is very funny and is more enthused about trying to get a singalong going on the train rather than your average drunken football fan (most likely either Man Utd or Chelsea) who after a defeat of their team seems to want to pick a fight to prove they still superior.

The good news was that the drunk Welsh rugby fan was also incapable of speaking Welsh, but he could sing and moon.

Now how do you pronounce this hotel – Allt Yr Ynys.

Halt (without the H) so “Alt”

Yr naturally becomes Your

Ynys – win ‘ ees , sort of win ease

Thus Halt your win ease Country Hotel

Reflections from 30’000ft


As the plane took off this morning from Tel Aviv, I raised my glass of champagne to the window and looked down the coastline to the South and Gaza.

Smiled and looked away from the window to a day old English Newspaper, which did not have one mention of anything at all about Gaza troubles. Polar Bears on melting icebergs and Women turning 50 and being happy with themselves filled the pages. Liking coming out of decompression it is refreshing to start my trip.

Gaza has descended into Civil War and the world does not care, to be honest neither do I much more. It has been a horrific week in the most unholy of the Unholyland, fighting between Fatah and Hamas reaches new lows with each breaking of a pathetic ceasefire.

The ceasefires that they arrange have about as much credence as your check is in the mail and I am from the Government and I am here to help you.

As I write this I am smiling for the next two months I am holidays, Gaza will be there when I return, we may even go down there again one day to film then again does anyone really care anymore and should we risk our lives.

Hang on I am off to do my Hostile Environment Media Orientation Course so I will be able to answer that question in a few days. I am waiting to the magic moment when we all sit down in the classroom for the first time and the Course Instructor says, “ Has anyone ever been in a Hostile Environment? “

Promise I will try to keep a straight face