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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Happy New Ear!

 

The expression, “Blow in my ear and I’ll follow you anywhere” was first popularised in the late sixties when Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In was one of my favourites on TV.

My GP, Dr Ravindra Jayalath, blew in my ears today and I'm inclined to follow his advice anytime after he successfully restored my hearing.

He emptied a couple of syringes of warm water into my ears, after which the evidence popped into the kidney dish: a blob of wax the size of an aspirin tablet.

"Just put a drop or two of olive oil into your ears to stop it from happening again", he said. I was so happy to hear again, I forgot to ask if that should be extra virgin.


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Be warned!

 

How will you survive? Maybe you won't need facebook. Maybe you can make friends outside of facebook by applying the same principles in your neighbourhood?

Every day walk down the street and tell everyone you meet what you have eaten, how you feel, what you did the night before, and what you will do for the rest of the day. Also give them pictures of your family, of your two dogs and of what you have done in the garden. Also listen to their conversation and tell them that you love them.

 

 

It's working for me! Already I have three persons following me: two police officers and a psychiatrist.


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Monday, February 27, 2017

Don't speak English - Parlez Globish

Download two free chapters from 'Globish The World Over'

 

There are 615,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary. This is a collection of all the words that have been used in the English language. Very few native English speakers know more than 80,000 of these words (on their best day). And though they may remember 80,000 words, very few native English speakers will use more than 7,500 English words in their communication.

The English Language can be extremely complicated if an English speaker or writer wants to show off all of its possibilities in words and structure to other English speakers. However, the form of English called Globish gives us a simpler, more universal tool to communicate with more than five times as many people.

Globish is a simple, pragmatic form of English codified by Jean-Paul Nerrière, a retired vice-president of IBM in the United States. It involves a vocabulary limited to 1,500 words, short sentences, basic syntax, an absence of idiomatic expressions and extensive hand gestures to get the point across.

Mr Nerrière, 66, originally sought to help non-English speakers — and notably his compatriots from France — in the era when business meetings are invariably held en anglais. He advised that instead of struggling to master the Queen’s English, they should content themselves with Globish.

“Globish is a proletarian and popular idiom which does not aim at cultural understanding or at the acquisition of a talent enabling the speaker to shine at Hyde Park Corner”, he wrote. “It is designed for trivial efficiency, always, everywhere, with everyone”.

Mr Nerrière says that his globalised version of English is now so common that Britons, Americans and other English-speakers should learn it too. “The point is that Anglophones no longer own English”, he told The Times in Paris. “It is now owned by people in Singapore, Ulan Bator, Montevideo, Beijing and elsewhere”.

He says that in multi-national meetings, Anglo-Saxons stand out as strange because they cling to their original language instead of using the elementary English adopted by colleagues from other countries. He said that commercial ventures could depend upon the mastery of Globish. “If you lose a contract to a Moroccan rival because you’re speaking an English that no one apart from another Anglophone understands, then you’ve got a problem”.

Here's a short reminder of how English got started:

Aware that purists may baulk at his ideas, Mr Nerrière insists that Globish should be confined to international exchanges. Other languages — French, German, Italian as well as orthodox English — should be preserved as vehicles of culture.

Try this Globish scanner to see if your English passes the test.


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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Sense of an Ending

Here is a sampler of some of Julian Barnes' many other books

 

This novel by Julian Barnes is so compelling that it begs to be read in a single setting - and again and again because each page is so compelling that you don't want to get to the end but when you do, you want to get right back to the start.

It's about Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, as he contends with a past he never thought much about - until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony thought he left this all behind as he built a life for himself, and his career has provided him with a secure retirement and an amicable relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world (or, as my Canadian friend dryly remarked, "we make our own realities in order to survive, otherwise the guilt would make our lives unbearable").

I loved this novel so much that, when I bought it in 2012, I also mailed a copy to a friend who replied, "Thank you for 'The Sense of an Ending' but I'm still very much alive'. Perhaps the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication worthy of a Henry James were lost on him.

It would be a very tricky book to adapt to the screen but they just did. The movie will be released next month and I shall order the DVD when it is available on ebay.

Surprisingly, I found a copy of the book on the website english4success. Not that I need to read it there. Being what's known as a "completist" in the jargon of the trade, I bought every one of Julian Barnes' books.


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P.S. Julian Barnes also wrote the 26-page-long "My Life with Books", probably the shortest book ever published, if you don't count "A Guide to Arab Democracies" and "Amelia Earhart's Guide to the Pacific Ocean" ("Italian War Heroes" has been out of print for some years now). Some - most? - of the book was republished in this article in The Guardian. Reading it I began to wonder if he's quoting me or I'm quoting him? ☺

 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Get well soon!

 

After many years of living in free company housing with domestic help laid on, I became all "house-proud" after I had returned to Canberra in 1985 and spent a small fortune on renovating the previously tenanted house.

I would get heart palpitations if friends came in without removing their shoes, and if they did so in the hallway while holding themselves up with one sweaty hand against the wall, I would go into convulsions.

Maybe it was a throwback to my German days when it was customary to have a "Gute Stube", a 'best room', which was set aside for receiving visitors and displaying the family's best furnishings and other status symbols. A very anally retentive thing which probably lost us the war.

These days I'm quite at ease in a house which is just clean enough to be healthy but dirty enough to be comfortable. So come right in, keep your shoes on and by all means steady yourself with one hand against the wall as you inspect the mementos on the mantelpiece.

Noticed the 'Get well' cards? They're there to make unexpected guests think we've been unwell and unable to clean up. Works every time! ☺


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Friday, February 24, 2017

Thank you, New Bay Mowers!

Steve Spicer, the owner of New Bay Mowers

How do you save $450? You go and see Steve Spicer at New Bay Mowers which is what I did to buy a new water pump. The old one had snuffed it but I took it along to show him what size I needed to fit into my existing plumbing set-up.

"I might be able to repair it", said ever-honest Steve, talking himself neatly out of the sale of a new pump because, half an hour and one replaced capacitor later, the old one was as good as new again.

That's $50 for one replaced capacitor versus $500 for one new pump.

Thank you, Steve!


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My Cambridge days

Seatrade Academy Selwyn College, now the Cambridge Academy of Transport

 

Seven days, to be exact! What little I learnt there I've long forgotten but not the carousing and merry-making after a particularly long dry spell in Saudi Arabia. And it still comes in handy today to refer to "my Cambridge days" whenever people like to look down their noses at my somewhat humble primary school education ☺.

Anyway, as I was saying, during "my Cambridge days" I met a great bunch of people who were also in the shipping industry, including Crista (not her real name) from São Paulo, the only female attendee.

Yes, it had been a particularly long dry spell in Saudi Arabia and, no, I wasn't going to waste any time. So, drawing on all my social skills acquired at Barton House, I plonked myself next to her and said,
"Hi, I'm Peter from Saudi Arabia" (pity my name wasn't Lawrence!)

Crista (not her real name) turned out to be a German-Brazilian, one of Brazil's twelve million people of German descent. Her German was a lot better than my Portuguese and so we hit it off really well. Day One went in no time at all, and the remaining six days just as quickly, not to mention the extra few days at the LONDON MARRIOTT in London's Grosvenor Square, before I returned to my cloistered life in Jeddah.

I learnt little about "Practical Aspects of Chartering" but a good deal about Crista (not her real name) with whom I kept in touch until time and distance made it clear that another meeting would be impossible.

I haven't used the "Hi, I'm Peter from Saudi Arabia" line since then; instead, I sometimes mention "my Cambridge days" - and it works! ☺


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Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Secret Sharer

 

Best known for "Lord Jim" and "Heart of Darkness", Joseph Conrad wrote countless novels and stories, a number of which have been adapted to film, the somewhat lesser known "The Secret Sharer" being one of them.

Joseph Conrad was a man of three cultures: Polish, French, and English. Brought up in a Polish family and cultural environment ... he learned French as a child, and at the age of less than seventeen went to France, to serve ... four years in the French merchant marine. At school he must have learned German, but French remained the language he spoke with greatest fluency (and no foreign accent) until the end of his life. He was well versed in French history and literature, and French novelists were his artistic models. And yet he wrote all his books in English — the tongue he started to learn at the age of twenty.

In his "A Personal Record" he remarks that English was "the speech of my secret choice, of my future, of long friendships, of the deepest affections, of hours of toil and hours of ease, and of solitary hours, too, of books read, of thoughts pursued, of remembered emotions — of my very dreams!"

I can relate to that.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A burnt-out case

 

No, this one is not on the upper reaches of a tributary of the Congo River - you work it out for yourself! - but right here on the Clyde: a totally burnt-out pump which left us without water in the house.

But never mind as there's always the guest cottage until I can get into town to spend a small fortune on a new one. Whatever Italians are good at, it's not the manufacture of pumps; so instead of this CALPEDA rubbish I'll go straight back to the trusted old DAVEY pump.

And what's that tall, upright thing next to the pump and why is it even there, I hear you ask? Well, it's something else I've just spent a small fortune on: an electric outboard motor (plus dry-cell battery plus trickle battery charger), and it's there because I didn't want to waste film on an extra photo.

My bluewater sailing days are over and my Rowing Blue is a bit moth-eaten, so the only way to propel myself across the water is with the help of an almost silent electric motor hooked up to a 26AMP battery.

Not that the silence would matter much because for the past two weeks everything I hear seems to have come through a layer of cotton wool anyway. It got so spooky that I finally went to my Sri Lankan GP who prescribed a bottle of WAXSOL Ear Drops and told me to come back in a couple of days when he'll blow out the loosened wax.

After that, he said, all should be well. Or not, he added because, in addition to teeth, hair, memory, good looks, and several other things, I may also be losing my hearing which, come to think of it, is not with-out its advantages for a married man.

You'll hear from me again in a couple of days. If not, put a few drops of WAXSOL in your ears.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"


Click here to open document in separate window

 

Well, cake it is after BHP came in with an underlying EBITDA of US$9.9 billion, up 65%. And the half-yearly dividend is up as well, from last year's miserable 16 US cents to this year's 40 US cents (52 cents Australian ?)

We can eat cake again!


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To Have Or To Be?


An Interview by the BBC with Erich Fromm after the release of this book in the mid 1970s

 

The Wild Ass's Skin - or, to give it its original name, La Peau de chagrin - is a story by Balzac, set in early 19th-century Paris, of a young man who finds a magic piece of shagreen (untanned skin) which when rubbed fulfills his every desire.

For each wish granted, however, the skin shrinks and consumes some of his physical energy. The protagonist greedily surrounds himself with wealth, only to find himself miserable and decrepit in the end. Balzac’s plot is simple: if you could have anything you wanted or simply be, alive and physically well, which would you choose?

Which leads me neatly to Erich Fromm and his book To Have Or To Be? which starts off by stating that "The alternative of having versus being does not appeal to common sense. To have, so it would seem, is a normal function of our life: in order to live we must have things. Moreover, we must have things in order to enjoy them. In a culture in which the supreme goal is to have - and to have more and more - and in which one can speak of someone as 'being worth a million dollars', how can there be an alternative between having and being? On the contrary, it would seem that the very essence of being is having; that if one has nothing, one is nothing."

To whet your appetite, here are the first few pages:  

... and pages 4+5 and 6+7 and 8+9 and 10+11 and 12+13 and 14+15

'To Have or To Be?' (1976) was Erich Fromm’s last major work. In it he argues that two ways of existence were competing for ‘the spirit of mankind’ – having and being. The having mode looks to things and material possessions and is based on aggression and greed. The being mode is rooted in love and is concerned with shared experience and productive activity. The dominance of the having mode (as he argued in 'The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness') was bringing the world to the edge of disaster (ecological, social and psychological). Erich Fromm argued that only a fundamental change in human character ‘from a preponderance of the having mode to a preponderance of the being mode of existence can save us from a psychological and economic catastrophe’ and set out some ways forward.

 

It's not an easy book to tackle but should be required reading for all, but especially young people, before they sacrifice their youth and their health in the pursuit of possessions. They may not agree with it at the time but at least they'd know where to turn for consolation later when they find life still wanting, either because they have amassed every possible possession or because they haven't.


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Monday, February 20, 2017

It's time we outsourced the ATO to India

 

Staff at the Australian Taxation Office have one of the shortest working weeks in Government but when they were asked to work an extra nine minutes a day to boost productivity, they responded with a backlash until the proposal was dropped.

Documents obtained by the ABC under freedom of information laws reveal the push to extend working hours to 5:00pm — an extra 4.5 working days a year — proved "highly contentious" and was ultimately dropped to ease concerns.

ATO staff have finished work at 4:51pm for many years despite management acknowledging the roster is out-of-step with community expectations and the rest of the bureaucracy.

We've just about outsourced everything else in this country to India; why not outsource the Australian Taxation Office?


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WARNING: This is no feel-good movie

 

The 2006 British-American dystopian science fiction thriller film Children of Men is not an easy film to watch. Based on P. D. James' 1992 novel by the same name, it shows what happens when society can no longer reproduce because hope depends on future generations.

James writes, "It was reasonable to struggle, to suffer, perhaps even to die, for a more just, a more compassionate society, but not in a world with no future where, all too soon, the very words 'justice,' 'compassion,' 'society,’ 'struggle,' 'evil,' would be unheard echoes on an empty air."

This is a deeply unsettling movie, at the end of which you see a lot of hope if you're a hopeful person, and complete hopelessness if you're a bleak person.


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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tomorrow, when the war began

Tomorrow, When the War Began is a 2010 Australian action-adventure war drama film based on the novel of the same name by John Marsden. The story follows Ellie Linton, one of seven teenagers, waging a guerrilla war against an invading foreign power in their fictional hometown of Wirrawee.

 

On 19 February 1942, World War II was brought to the shores of Australia when the Japanese dropped bombs over Darwin. On this day 235 people, both armed forces personnel and civilians, lost their lives. Eleven ships were sunk, many more damaged, and 30 aircraft destroyed. The main wharf was cut in two, and the Post Office levelled , killing many civilian workers. Over the next 21 months, Darwin, Adelaide River, Katherine, Milingimbi in Arnhem Land, and many other targets across the Top End were attacked over 200 times.

At the time Australian had no idea what the Japanese intentions towards Australia were. For decades they had feared invasion, and Prime Minister Curtin predicted that Australians faced a 'Battle for Australia', but was that the case?

Not according to Peter Stanley, Professor at UNSW, Canberra at the Australian Defence Force academy, Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society, who argues that this was a pre-emptive strike by the Japanese to immobilise Darwin as a staging post against the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies, including Portuguese Timor.

Despite the "Brisbane Line" and other 'scorched earth' scenarios, Australia was then and remains today unconquerable - why else, do you think, I chose to come here? ☺ -, so relax and enjoy the movie 'Tomorrow, when the war began'.


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Saturday, February 18, 2017

10 Pfennig BILD Zeitung

 

The German   Bild Zeitung    was like television in print: plenty of pictures (BILD means 'image') and mindless commentary. Sold for 10 Pfennig, or the eqivalent of a box of matches, everyone could afford it and, with just four pages, read it all in one sitting - literally!

Because, being just four pages, it could easily be folded - lengthwise to be slipped down one's trouser leg, or twice across to fit into one's back pocket - and taken to the office loo which in those days was the only place where one was allowed to take some time off from work.

Speed reading hadn't been invented yet and so, in an office with over twenty people and just one windowless loo, slow readers could be a bit on the nose, made worse on a Monday morning when the reporting of the weekend's footie results in the "Kicker Fussball-Illustrierte" slowed down some football-mad readers' bowel movements even further.

Such were the working conditions in my office when I was an articled clerk back in Germany in the early 60s, so is it any wonder I emigrated to Australia? But it wouldn't have happened without the   Bild Zeitung   which at the time carried advertisements by the Australian Embassy showing a smiley face in the shape of the Australian continent with rays of sunshine around the edges under the header "Come to sunny Australia!" - in German, of course, or I wouldn't have understood it.

No, I didn't write to the embassy while sitting there in that windowless loo, but I did so shortly afterwards, which is how I finished up in sunny Australia, the land of wide open spaces - and plenty of loos - and the freedom to read a newspaper even at work.

As for the 10 Pfennig   Bild Zeitung  , it's still around today, albeit a lot dearer. And I am still in Australia, too, a lot older but still grateful for having read that ad in one of my "quieter" moments.


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Friday, February 17, 2017

Yap, that's it!

Riverbend's version of the wooden nickel, 1 metre across
Don't ask me for the circumference; work it out yourself: think π
(but not the steak-and-kidney one!)

 

There's a tiny island called Yap out in the Pacific Ocean. Economists love it because it helps answer this really basic question: What is money? In fact, the economist Milton Friedman, who compared Yap's monetary system to the gold standard, wrote a 1991 paper about it.

There's no gold or silver on Yap. But hundreds of years ago, explorers from Yap found limestone deposits on an island hundreds of miles away. And they carved this limestone into huge stone discs, which they brought back across the sea on their small bamboo boats.

Then, at some point, the people on Yap realised what most societies realise: they needed something that everyone agrees on you can use to pay for stuff. And like many societies, the people of Yap took the thing they had that was pretty — their version of gold — and decided that was going to be their money - huge stone discs.

One thing about this money was that it was really heavy. A big piece could weigh more than a car. As a result, this very concrete form of money quickly made the jump to being something very abstract. So imagine there's this great big stone disc sitting in a village. One person gives it to another person. But the stone doesn't move. It's just that everybody in the village knows the stone now has a new owner. In fact, the stone doesn't even need to be on the island to count as money.

Seems crazy? Why? We do the same thing! We don't actually trade gold bars. We just trade ownership over the gold bars! When we write a cheque or use a credit card, the physical money doesn't actually move. It's just the ownership of that money that transfers.

So you could say the people of the island of Yap, being truly 'yappies', were a couple of thousand years ahead of us. But I'm catching up with them fast: I've just started my own version of the 'wooden nickel'.


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Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Fall of Singapore 75 years ago

 

The fall of Singapore to the Japanese Army on February 15th 1942 is considered one of the greatest defeats in the history of the British Army and probably Britain’s worst defeat in World War Two. The fall of Singapore in 1942 clearly illustrated the way Japan was to fight in the Far East – a combination of speed and savagery that only ended with the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945.

Singapore, an island at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula, was considered a vital part of the British Empire and supposedly impregnable as a fortress. The British saw it as the “Gibraltar in the Far East”.

The surrender of Singapore demonstrated to the world that the Japanese Army was a force to be reckoned with though the defeat also ushered in three years of appalling treatment for the Commonwealth POW’s who were caught in Singapore.

Improvements to Singapore as a British military base had only been completed at great cost in 1938. Singapore epitomised what the British Empire was all about – a strategically vital military base that protected Britain’s other Commonwealth possessions in the Far East.

Once the Japanese expanded throughout the region after Pearl Harbour (December 1941), many in Britain felt that Singapore would become an obvious target for the Japanese. However, the British military command in Singapore was confident that the power they could call on there would make any Japanese attack useless. One story told about the attitude of the British Army in Singapore was of a young Army officer complaining that the newly completed defences in Singapore might put off the Japanese from landing there. “I do hope we are not getting too strong in Malaya because if so the Japanese may never attempt a landing.” British troops stationed in Singapore were also told that the Japanese troops were poor fighters; alright against soldiers in China who were poor fighters themselves, but of little use against the might of the British Army.

The Japanese onslaught through the Malay Peninsula took everybody by surprise. Speed was of the essence for the Japanese, never allowing the British forces time to re-group. This was the first time British forces had come up against a full-scale attack by the Japanese. Any thoughts of the Japanese fighting a conventional form of war were soon shattered. The British had confidently predicted that the Japanese would attack from the sea. This explained why all the defences on Singapore pointed out to sea. It was inconceivable to British military planners that the island could be attacked any other way – least of all, through the jungle and mangrove swamps of the Malay Peninsula. But this was exactly the route the Japanese took.

As the Japanese attacked through the Peninsula, their troops were ordered to take no prisoners as they would slow up the Japanese advance. A pamphlet issued to all Japanese soldiers stated: “When you encounter the enemy after landing, think of yourself as an avenger coming face to face at last with his father’s murderer. Here is a man whose death will lighten your heart.”

For the British military command in Singapore, war was still fought by the ‘rule book’. Social life was important in Singapore and the Raffles Hotel and Singapore Club were important social centres frequented by officers. An air of complacency had built in regarding how strong Singapore was – especially if it was attacked by the Japanese. When the Japanese did land at Kota Bharu aerodrome, in Malaya, Singapore’s governor, Sir Shenton Thomas is alleged to have said “Well, I suppose you’ll (the army) shove the little men off.”

The attack on Singapore occurred almost at the same time as Pearl Harbour. By December 9th 1941, the RAF had lost nearly all of its front line aeroplanes after the Japanese had attacked RAF fields in Singapore. Any hope of aerial support for the army was destroyed before the actual attack on Singapore had actually begun.

Britain’s naval presence at Singapore was strong. A squadron of warships was stationed there, lead by the modern battleship “Prince of Wales” and the battle cruiser “Repulse”.

On December 8th 1941, both put out to sea and headed north up the Malay coast to where the Japanese were landing. On December 10th, both ships were sunk by repeated attacks from Japanese torpedo bombers. The RAF could offer the ships no protection as their planes had already been destroyed by the Japanese. The loss of both ships had a devastating impact on morale in Britain. Sir Winston Churchill wrote in his memoirs: “I put the telephone down. I was thankful to be alone. In all the war I never received a more direct shock.”

Only the army could stop the Japanese advance on Singapore. The army in the area was led by Lieutenant General Arthur Percival. He had 90,000 men there – British, Indian and Australian troops. The Japanese advanced with 65,000 men lead by General Tomoyuki Yamashita. Many of the Japanese troops had fought in the Manchurian/Chinese campaign and were battle-hardened. Many of Percival’s 90,000 men had never seen combat.

'The Fall of Singapore' on ABC's Four Corners

At the Battle of Jitra in Malaya (December 11th and 12th 1941), Percival’s men were soundly beaten and from this battle were in full retreat. The Japanese attack was based on speed, ferocity and surprise. To speed their advance on Singapore, the Japanese used bicycles as one means of transport. Captured wounded Allied soldiers were killed where they lay. Those who were not injured but had surrendered were also murdered – some captured Australian troops were doused with petrol and burned to death. Locals who had helped the Allies were tortured before being murdered. The brutality of the Japanese soldiers shocked the British. But the effectiveness of the Japanese was shown when they captured the capital of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, on January 11th 1942.

All the indications were that the Japanese would attack Singapore across the Johor Strait. General Wavell, the British commander in the region, was ordered by Churchill to fight to save Singapore and he was ordered by Churchill not to surrender until there had been “protracted fighting” in an effort to save the city.

On January 31st 1942, the British and Australian forces withdrew across the causeway that separated Singapore from Malaya. It was clear that this would be their final stand. Percival spread his men across a 70 mile line – the entire coastline of the island. This proved a mistake. Percival had overestimated the strength of the Japanese. His tactic spread his men out far too thinly for an attack.

On February 8th, 1942, the Japanese attacked across the Johor Strait. Many Allied soldiers were simply too far away to influence the outcome of the battle. On February 8th, 23,000 Japanese soldiers attacked Singapore. They advanced with speed and ferocity. At the Alexandra Military Hospital, Japanese soldiers murdered the patients they found there. Percival kept many men away from the Japanese attack fearing that more Japanese would attack along the 70 mile coastline. He has been blamed for failing to back up those troops caught up directly with the fighting but it is now generally accepted that this would not have changed the final outcome but it may only have prolonged the fighting.

The Japanese took 100,000 men prisoner in Singapore. Many had just arrived and had not fired a bullet in anger. 9,000 of these men died building the Burma-Thailand railway. The people of Singapore fared worse. Many were of Chinese origin and were slaughtered by the Japanese. After the war, Japan admitted that 5000 had been murdered, but the Chinese population in Singapore put the figure at nearer 50,000. With the evidence of what the Japanese could do to a captured civilian population (as seen at Nanking), 5000 is likely to be an underestimate.

The fall of Singapore was a humiliation for the British government. The Japanese had been portrayed as useless soldiers only capable of fighting the militarily inferior Chinese. This assessment clearly rested uncomfortably with how the British Army had done in the peninsula.

The commander of the Australian forces in Singapore later said: “The whole operation seems incredible: 550 miles in 55 days – forced back by a small Japanese army of only two divisions, riding stolen bicycles and without artillery support.”

Sir Winston Churchill had stated before the final Japanese attack: “There must be no thought of sparing the troops or population; commanders and senior officers should die with their troops. The honour of the British Empire and the British Army is at stake.”


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Sit back and relax and be amazed

 

Lower than shark's dung' was one friend's answer when I asked him for his opinion of real estate agents. A very fitting aphorism to which I can only add, 'much lower'.

Anyway, here's one of them, Neil Jenman, who believes the majority of real estate agents are "dishonest or use dishonest methods" and character-assasinates competitors in his industry for profit which proves that 99% of real estate agents give the rest a bad name.

"The biggest insult you could give me is to say I'm an ex-real estate agent", he says while pretending to be the Robin Hood of the real estate industry. Read more about him here.

His one redeeming feature, in my eyes, is that he's said to own the world's biggest collection of Somerset Maugham books. I hope he's read them all as he would find some parallels in Maugham's short stories.


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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

You can't choose your neighbours

 

But they can choose you - and these two did, one yesterday morning and the other one this morning. And I don't mind them because they have been good neighbours, peaceful and quiet, right in keeping with the spirit of "Riverbend".

 

 

The houseboat people seem to have discovered this peaceful bend in the river, as have others who come down Sproxton Lane and then stop by the gate, awestruck and seemingly reluctant to drive away again.

 

I discovered this boulder at Blessing Hills at Trawas, a cool mountain resort near Surabaya

 

I know because, even after more than twenty-three years, it still happens to me sometimes. "Riverbend" really is the kind of place "where hearts can heal and souls can mend ..."

 


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