Archive for October, 2012
I’m off to Singapore and Malaysia on Friday, flying the new budget airline ScootAir. I will be away for less than two weeks but lots can happen in that time. When I first booked my flight I went for the economy seat with the extra leg room and took the last seat at the back. It has a space between it and the aisle seat and as the tail survives more often in crashes than the nose, I figured I could quickly escape providing I was still ambulatory. Then reality sank in and quite frankly eight hours in a seat precisely as wide as my butt did not appeal. I upgraded to ScootBiz and now I’m at the sharp end. Weighing the odds I am confident of getting there and back safely. New Boeing 777 aircraft and Singapore Airlines maintenance schedules all add to the equation. In fact, I am at more risk getting to and from Sydney Airport!
Once in Singapore I will be staying at a small hotel across the street from where I lived as a boy in 1969 and 1970. In those days the hotel was a row of shop houses with a ‘makan’ or restaurant on the corner and a mechanic next door. The intersection is where I was hit by a car one evening when a local drove through the red light and sent me flying over his bonnet. The forecourt of my old apartment building is also filled with memories. I was bitten by a dog, had my collar bone broken by a kid showing off his judo skills and my nose broken by a flying cricket bat during a game of Rounders. The field the giant python slithered out of is now housing and the street where my sister was nearly dragged into a car now seems so much narrower. I know this because of the magic of Google Maps and their street view camera. It has allowed me to recce my trip in infinite detail. I am keen to ensure this trip to Singapore, my first in 42 years, will be less accident prone.
Singapore isn’t the real concern though. Malaysia is a different story and as I will be taking a coach form Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur, there is mild cause for concern. More concerning will be driving the rental car I will use to recce Muar, Gemas and other WW2 and Malayan Emergency battlefields. To avoid the notorious KL traffic I will rent from the international airport, a swift 25 minute train ride out of the city center where I will be staying. It will be much simpler and less stressful to get off the train, pick up the car and drive out onto the motorway and head off in multi-lane safety. YouTube is full of video clips demonstrating the road behaviour in the country, again a 21st Century tool being used to full advantage to prepare and plan this trip.
The Internet has helped me locate all the main sites I wish to visit, as well as determine to the minute the bus and train timetables, comparing them to what it would cost to take a taxi. I know what the fares should be, the buses to catch, where to transfer and so on. Is this taking anything away from the joy of travel? The adventure of the unknown? Not for me. I have ten days to accomplish a ton of stuff. I want to collect information for various papers and essays on the conflicts of the 40s and 50s, experience a little W. Somerset Maugham like magic and also relive my halcyon days as a schoolboy in the immediate post-colonial days after Singapore became an independent nation. And eat satays. In fact the risk of my gout flaring up thanks to inhuman quantities of satays and peanut sauce is a concern.
My health is not what it was prior to my death in 2009. Despite serious attempts my weigh is still an issue and now I am diabetic with gout and cellulitis in the left leg. None of which will stop me doing what I wish but it does give me reason to plan ahead, to throw caution in rather than to the winds. This trip has objectives I wish to achieve and as I was taught in the army decades ago, always keep the objective in mind. The first objective is to return home safely and healthy. I will be wary of strangers, especially overly friendly ones and I plan to stay away form known red light areas. I have no interest in fleshspots any more and they are a magnet for criminals and trouble. Like avoiding shark attack, just don’t swim where the sharks are.
I will be careful crossing the street, choosing modes of transport and the security of my belongings. I will double check my luggage to make sure I am not carrying anything that will get me into trouble. Drugs means death in these countries and you must guard against anyone slipping anything into your bags; it happens. Alcohol is also a trigger for unwanted consequences so I will be careful where I enjoy my Singapore Sling (Raffles Hotel is the only place!). Food is another issue, but common sense will keep me away from salads, unbottled water and of course ice if it is not from a decent establishment. Fortunately hygiene standards are high in these two well developed South East Asian nations but you still need to take care.
I will buy my toiletries when I arrive as regulations against carrying even a large but half empty toothpaste tube are strict, let alone liquids or aerosols. Better to nip into the nearest 7/11 when I get there than worry about arguing with an airport security officer over a few dollars worth of deoderant. I have prescription medication so I will take the prescriptions, just in case I am questioned about them. Money is another issue and fortunately ATMs are everywhere nowadays. I plan to have some cash but keep the rest in my VISA Debit card. I bought one online from Australia Post I can charge online if need be and if it is stolen then they won’t have access to much, plus I will have a backup stored somewhere else. Online security is another issue as all hotels have free WiFi, but you never know who might be monitoring the signal so I have precautions in place to manage the risk. In the evenings I will roll down the sleeves and protect against mosquitoes and generally be aware of infection from cuts and so forth, carrying a small first aid kit in my day pack.
So is this paranoia or simply common sense? I think the latter and because I am prepared, have done my homework and have a good but not overly rigid plan to follow the trip should be a great success. Time will tell.
This morning the wife and I were at the Blacktown Drive-In car boot sale markets. We were two stalls away when a car suddenly accelerated from where it was parked, tore across the crowd milling around the stall and drove through the stall and into a parked van. At first we thought there was a woman trapped underneath but fortunately it was only a shoe from the items on sale, spread on the ground in front of the van.
The driver was in shock and so too the man he had hit and the little boy, bleeding from a cut to his temple. It was a close run thing that could have ended in a tragic fatality or two. I administered first aid to the boy, sitting in his father’s arms and determined he was not concussed or otherwise seriously injured. I was more concerned for his father who kept saying how it happened so fast and he was only able to pull one of his two boys to safety. He was distraught that he couldn’t stop the car from hitting his other son. I empathised with him completely, I have five children and would have been in a worse situation. He didn’t have time to decide which lad to save, it was all instinctive reaction, yet no doubt he will suffer over this incident and feel he failed his son and his family in some way.
With all the casualties being monitored by someone and the young stall holder doing an admirable job in keeping the roadway clear I moved off to a where I was able to direct the first police officers arriving on foot to the scene, then the first ambulance. Both arrived within five to ten minutes which is pretty good considering we were at the farthest boundary of the drive-in. I could hear sirens from other emergency vehicles and moved up to the exit gate where I was able to intercept the fire rescue truck and send them straight down the exit road to the scene, saving them having to wend their way through the crowded car park from the entry gate.
By now there were several police units, four ambulances and three fire rescue teams on the scene and as I didn’t actually witness the crash, I had just heard it and the screams of those who did witness the accident, I felt there was nothing to gain by adding to the crowd and we left. In hindsight I could perhaps have taken a more active role, marshalling the crowd, organising a triage for the injured and segregating witnesses and those involved from the rubber neckers… but I didn’t. I chose not to ‘take control’ of the scene for several reasons, one of which is that I wanted to observe what happened next rather than make it happen.
I didn’t think anyone was in immediate peril or had sufficient life threatening injuries that weren’t being given appropriate immediate assistance. The writer in me took over and I wanted to document the event in my head, yet when I saw the 8 year old boy bleeding and cradled in his father’s arms with his family crowding around and nobody seeming to know what to do next I just instinctively stepped in to help and away it went from there. The old Military Police training kicked in and I couldn’t help myself.
Should I have done more from the beginning? What duty do we have to involve ourselves in such incidents? Is it right to think well there are plenty of other people around and as I was not directly involved, why me? It wasn’t my car, my stall, my family or anyone I knew from a bar of soap. But what if it had been my family? Different story then. Very different story. I am only glad my kids were safe at home and my wife was beside me at the time.
An anti-homosexual group in St Petersburg, Russia, has alleged a milk carton depicting a man and a rainbow is obviously an attempt to convert children to homosexuality. Homosexual groups are, of course, seriously concerned about this after anti-homosexual propaganda laws were introduced there recently. First of all, homosexuals are people, just like heterosexuals. They are made that way and their only choice in the matter is to engage in same sex relationships or not. For many years they have been persecuted because of their orientation, so it is no wonder the more assertive in their community are active in addressing these matters, often to the other extreme which is what always happens regardless of the cause.
At first the word gay was taken and now is considered by many to only refer to homosexuals. Long gone are the days when it was in regular use by heterosexuals to mean happy, light hearted and so on. Now it appears rainbows, the symbol of the homosexual movement for equal rights, has been usurped. This time by the opposite side. What next? All representations of humans must be androgynous ? No more bumps, lumps or hair styles that can be labelled to identify a person as one or the other of the two sexes?
It was Euripides in umpteen hundred BC who said there are ‘three sexes, men who love women, women who love men and those who love their own kind’. Back then orientation was not considered grounds for discrimination, except perhaps when choosing a partner. As for the belief that homosexuals actively seek to corrupt young boys, far from it. I have known many homosexual men in my life and some have been very close friends, particularly those I served with in the army. Not one of them, once they learn I am heterosexual, has made any improper advance. As a 15 year old lad I often spent time alone with a homosexual couple who were friends of the family and I was safer with them than many of my parent’s other friends. I enjoyed their company as we shared similar interests in military history, both of them having served the Colours, one in the Royal Australian Navy, the other as a Royal Marine Commando.
One trip to Thailand in the 1990s found me at a street bar chatting to two Brits, both homosexual and both former Royal Marines as it happened. At the bar was a vile man forcing a Thai teenager to drink the local whiskey and fondling him in public. Before I could intervene one of the two ‘pooftas’ dealt with the man effectively, allowing the lad to escape. Both men had children of their own and despise such scum. From my reading of the subject, most pedophiles consider themselves heterosexual and those who prey on boys do not seek relationships with adult males, hardly the behaviour of your average ‘queer’.
Some years ago I presented a self defence seminar to volunteers of the Oxford Street patrol, a group set up to try and protect homosexuals from being assaulted while out for the night in that bastion of the ‘Gay community’. I opened the presentation with a barrage of invective like ‘poofta’, ‘fag’, ‘bum bandit’, ‘poo pusher’, ‘queer’, ‘ginger’, shirt lifter’ and so on. I warned they would be called this and worse and to ignore it. I asked what derogative names they had for heterosexuals and the only one offered was ‘breeders’. I thought at the time how that sums things up and indicated the average IQ of a homosexual is usually a few points ahead of the rest of the community. Trying to induce some aggressive spirit into this group of well-intentioned do-gooders was a task and a half as they were not inclined to violence, even in self defence it seemed. Of course just as many homosexual partners suffer the disgrace of domestic violence as heterosexual ones, per capita, yet it is often not reported and when it is too often it is laughed off or not seriously prosecuted.
Homosexuals are different to heterosexuals, but then left handers are different to right handers and tall people are different to short ones. Much as we need to reconsider our attitudes towards those with autism and aspergers as ‘just another kind of normal’, we need to change our thinking collectively towards homosexuals. Perhaps when we no longer hold such negative thoughts ourselves, they will no longer feel the need to agitate for reforms. I don’t agree with same sex marriage, preferring as many homosexuals actually do to reserve the word marriage for heterosexual union. But I wholeheartedly endorse allowing same sex couples to formalise their partnerships and enjoy the same rights and protection under our laws as I enjoy as a heterosexual married man. I admit I feel uncomfortable watching two men kiss, but that is my problem, not theirs. Many homosexual couples feel the same way about engaging in public displays of affection believing it to be private and personal. Until the day comes when we are required by law to practise homosexuality, let us all live and let live, ignore the revulsion one may feel when considering same sex activities and focus on our own behaviour rather than being so quick to condemn others’.