Wednesday, 30 March 2011

"Quote, un-quote".

Any military presentation or publication has to be started with the inclusion of a suitable quotation from a long-dead specialist in the subject that is about to be passed before the eyes of the expectantly waiting audience. Whether or not this enhances the overall effect of the presentation or ensures the readers’ full enjoyment of the soon to follow text is debatable.  Often we are provided with a quote from an unsuccessful military leader or a statesman whose words were noble but his action said otherwise.  
However, other peoples’ quotes can have their uses.  Often they say things that we have failed to express adequately ourselves in the past, but wish we had been able to find the words.  Sometimes they can stimulate thought or motivate us to take action in our own lives.  And sometimes these quotes just sum up what we already knew and felt......but had just not bothered to vocalise or put down on paper.
Well I like a good quote; something to make you smile or stop and think or something that just sums up a moment in time.  If you have looked at my website or at any of my books you will know this and I thought it was time to add one to my blog.  
This is one by Robert Louis Stevenson from his book Travels with a Donkey. It reminds me of all those special nights when I slept under the stars and felt at peace with the world - wonderful times:
"Night is a dead monotonous period under a roof; but in the open world it passes lightly, with its stars and dews and perfumes, and the hours are marked by changes in the face of Nature. What seems a kind of temporal death to people choked between walls and curtains, is only a light and living slumber to the man who sleeps afield. All night long he can hear Nature breathing deeply and freely; even as she takes her rest, she turns and smiles..............."

Friday, 25 March 2011


For anyone who as ever stopped and looked at a sailing yacht, like me, I am sure that you would have only briefly glanced and given a passing thought to all those ropes, wires, struts and cables that seem to hold the sails in graceful flow around the mast and above the boat’s hull, preferring to admire the overall effect as the yacht elegantly cuts its way through the water.  But, as I discovered today, it’s worth looking closer at this infrastructure and learning just what it is all about.  

Why? Well, like any vehicle, if you want to get the best out of it, to make it go faster, you have to operate it efficiently, to have it correctly 'tuned' and you need to understand the why’s and how’s to put this into action.  So today was spent looking and learning about the rigging, putting meaning to terms such as ‘rake’, ‘pre-bend’ and ‘centering the mast’ and finally taking the yacht to sea to check the handiwork and making any final adjustments where necessary.
I will not attempt to reproduce that information in this blog, for those of you that want to know more then I would recommend the RYA book “Sail Trim Handbook for Cruisers” written by the gentleman up the mast, Rob.
A great day’s training and another small step towards the dream.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


For the few of you that have been following my blog.............hang-on, there is something I need to ask before I finish that sentence.  Who is it in Estonia and Hungary that has looked at my blog??? - Please do get in touch and tell me who you are - I am intrigued!  I can understand the hits from the US and from the Netherlands (thanks gents, it was a pleasure working with you in Palestine - let’s hope our colleagues who followed on from us are safe after yesterday’s events in Jerusalem), but who in Estonia knows me?

Anyway, I digress.......for the few of you that have been following this blog (my thanks to the lads of COP Hockey Club who seem to have vastly boosted my ‘hits’), you will probably have noticed the absence of new entries this week.  That’s not because there isn't anything is happening in my life or because of any onset of apathy, it’s more to do with the fact that I have been back at work* and work is one of those things that I am trying to shed from my life and therefore I choose not to write about it on here. (* By the term work, I mean being stuck in the office and working for someone else.)  
I am now heading back to the south coast for the next few days to undertake some additional sail-related courses and will hopefully have some photos of what I have been doing to show you on here.  In the meantime, after yesterday’s beautiful weather, here is a picture that I hope shows just how beautiful the English countryside is.  

Is there anything to match it in Estonia?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

It doesn't get closer than this!

Just in case you missed it last night, here is the moon:

Well done the COP.

A beautiful sunny day containing a long drive from Bournemouth to Peterborough and then home: and could I resist taking the roof off my car......could I heck!  In the past I have often mocked those people with convertibles who decide to drive with their roof down, just because the sun is out, even though it is freezing...........but now I have joined that club of people to be mocked and you know what?  It felt pretty good!!

The purpose of today’s journey was to go and watch my son play hockey with the City of Peterborough’s First Team.  They were playing Bedford, their biggest rivals in the league, but started from a position of strength as they have already qualified for promotion to the National League - well done lads!  I am not going to try and compete with the sports pages of the local newspaper within this blog, - all I will say is........ 5-1 and let you look at the photos...........hopefully they say enough? 
What I will mention is the quality crowd.  Not a particularly large gathering by any means, however, the standard of heckling and banter was world class and one particular gentleman would do well on any stand-up comedy circuit.  His comment to one of the referees after he had made another dodgy decision was along the lines of: “by the laws of probability you would have got at least one decision correct if you had just guessed them all” was timed to perfection and had his fellow spectators in hysterics.  I hope he makes it to next years fixtures. 
 Obviously full credit must go to the team and the trainers- some entertaining play and a fitting result: great effort - keep it up next year, you deserve the champagne.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Car Stealing Made Easy

Another interesting and informative day in the classroom.  I now have the necessary skills and knowledge to steal diesel cars.  Well that’s not completely true.  I now have the necessary skills and knowledge to steal a diesel car, so long as it’s not locked, doesn’t have an immobilizer/alarm fitted and I have in my possession a short piece of wire made of a conductive material.  It would also make my task more achievable if the engine was mounted on a table and I was able to locate and have easy access to the solenoids associated with the glow-plugs and starter motor - apart from that, it’s a piece of cake!  I did come away from my 2 day introductory course to boat electrics a little worried that in the same building a large number of young men (I will give them the benefit of doubt on this as to me they all looked 12 years old or younger.) were being taught these very  same skills, only to a deeper level.  I hope they manage to complete their training and find regular employment as an outlet for these new found skills and don’t just come away armed with the necessary knowledge to boost the local crime statistics.
It was, however, heart warming to see these men engrossed in the process of developing a variety of skills.  In one corner of the workshop was a collection of engines that the instructors would dismantle and vandalize, instructing the students to bring them back into working order and in another area was a collection of wooden boats about  4 ft in length, each lovingly hand-built using traditional methods and individually finished with a figure head on the bow.  If only they had built them a little longer and wider then they would have made fine tenders for yachts, but as our instructor pointed out “if we sold them and one sunk, the training centre would be sued.”  Good point, but I did think their actual destiny to become garden ornaments is a waste of such fine handicraft.
Whilst I do not intend to rewire any yacht I own in the future, the course has been a useful addition to my ‘yachty’ knowledge.  Next time I am looking around a possible purchase I will be able look behind the various breaker and switch panels and nod knowingly, being aware of the different wiring colour-coding systems, the varieties of plastic joining-blocks and cable ends and be able to pass comment upon their adherence to Herr Ohm’s taming formula.  Hopefully, tomorrow’s blog will have more of a sporting theme.
Is it Red-Nose Day today?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Homage to Ohm.

Well the simple answer to that last question (yesterday) is yes............but then something better came along so the answer has changed; the telling of that tale will have to wait a while longer, until I have something a bit more definite to tell you.
Today was day one of ‘an introduction to small boat electrics’ and as you can see from the photos, they were certainly small boats.  Whilst I think I mastered the wiring techniques, I was not convinced by the seaworthiness (is that the longest word in this blog so far?) of our vessels.  What did impress me though was the intelligence of Herr Georg Ohm. Not only did he manage to tame electricity and bring it under control for the enjoyment of the civilized world, but he also managed to do it with the minimum number of letters from the alphabet in his formula.  A long time ago I had previously suffered from a month or so of studying radar theorem which qualified me to decide when it was necessary to call out a trained engineer to fix the associated radar systems for surface to air missiles.  So I am well aware of the inherent need for physicist and engineers to include as many digits, underscores, letters and wonderful symbols such as  ∑ or ∞ or ≈ in their formula, thus proving (they believe) to the world how intelligent they are. But I believe in KISS, as does Mr Ohm.
So ‘Well done!” to Georg and many thanks for making it possible to have a fridge on my yacht so that I will never be without cold beer!  Life is good.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Sailor's Life.........

Hurst Castle and Lighthouse
For those of you that have known me for a while, you will be aware of my dream to retire early, to buy a yacht and to sail into the blue yonder, off chasing the sun around the world (the snow-hole experience has left me with a desire to feel the sun on my back as often as possible - my bones have never really warmed up after that experience). I am fully conscious that I seem to socialise* my dream at every opportunity with whomever is willing to listen to me, or maybe whoever is cornered by me, and I find it interesting to notice peoples' responses when they realise what I am actually saying and intending to do.  Some people glaze over as they cannot image life without Tescos and Corrie, others are incredulous that I can retire at 50 and I might be living on a boat for the next 30 years and some people have had the same dream.....but have just not managed to fulfil it.
(*Sorry, that is a terrible use of that word, but I had to use it here to get it out of my system. Managements generally seem to have adopted the word to replace 'talk', 'discuss', debate' etc, where in fact they actually mean "This is my idea, you can discuss it all you like, but we are doing it anyway."  Socialise to me implies meeting, a get together, to entertain and going out. Anyway, I digress, I'm not going to use the word 'socialise' in that context again - promise.) 
Some dreams come true with little effort, some are waiting around the corner and surprise you as you bump into them going the other way.  But the best dreams that come true are the ones you have to work for, the ones you have had to plan, toiled over, refined and strived towards for some time.  Because when when you achieve that kind of dream, you know you deserve it, it wasn't just luck (although fate might have played a part in it), it wasn't just circumstances that allowed you to arrive there; it was your effort and your drive that made it happen.  Often, to achieve your dream, there are many steps to take and hurdles to negotiate before you can claim your prize.  And this is the case for me.

I took up sailing back in 2006. My dream then was of driving around the world in a camper problem!  After working in Sierra Leone for a year I came back to the UK to realise how much I disliked driving.  I am not sure if it was the change from the rally-style driving in West Africa to the car-park-style driving on the M25 in the UK, but I was not happy sat behind the wheel of a car........I needed to review my plan.  So I tried sailing and loved it!!!  To be able to take my home with me, to travel in such a 'green' way and to be able to live life at my pace seems too good to be true.
Over the last 2-weeks or so I have been on courses down in Poole, consolidating the sailing experience I have built up over the past 5 years and spending my Enhanced Learning Credits allowance (many, many thanks to the almighty British tax-payer) on one of those small steps towards achieving my dream.  A week in the classroom studying charts, the ‘rules of the road’ and the weather before “casting off the bow-line” to work on my practical sailing skills.  The two weeks culminated in a practical exam onboard an Elan 333 yacht called ‘Energy”, with a RYA examiner testing me on every aspect of the sailing curriculum at both day and night.
It was shortly before midnight last Friday that I found out that I had passed the exam and I now had the lofty qualification of ‘Yachtmaster Coastal Skipper’.
I mentioned words such as ‘toil’, ‘strive’ and ‘effort’ earlier in today’s entry and as with many things in life, it’s often team work that helps you achieve goals, and it is no different in this case.  So as this is my blog and I can put whatever I are a few words of gratitude.  Steve (my fellow Yachtmaster Coastal Skipper - well done!) thank you for being such a good shipmate and I hope I was as much help to you as you were to me in getting through and succeeding in those 2 weeks. Our other shipmate, also called Steve (Chip), thank you for staying on board during the exam and crewing for us - it made life so much easier as we knew we could rely on you - I hope you go on and further your sailing Qs now.
Angus -  thank you for the classroom instruction and for all your stories - your ‘chalk-and-talk’ technique is a skill quickly passing out of the classroom, keep it up.
Rob - you are a star and absolutely unflappable!  It was a pleasure to sail with you and you provided the highest level of instruction I have ever encountered on the water.  Is there anything you do not know about sailing?  Many, many thanks for sharing just some of your knowledge with me, I am looking forward to my future courses with you.
Mike - Thank you and Poole Sailing Ltd for putting together the courses for me - I would recommend your courses to anyone - keep up the good work!!

I’m back down to Poole tomorrow for a course on boat electrics - another small step..........

Monday, 14 March 2011

Not Another Blogger!!

Yes, I'm afraid it is another blogger.  And to be honest, I don't know where this blogger is going with this particular blog......but there is a reason for starting it.
After 32 years of travel and adventure courtesy of HMG, there is a light at the end of this particular military tunnel and new, undisciplined adventures are just opening out before my eyes.  During those 32 years of being sent here, there and everywhere I have often written to the folks back home spinning yarns about wherever I might be and the locals that I have encountered there and my Dad has repeatedly suggested that I should put pen to paper and write my memoirs.  This suggestion from him was based on the small snippets of sanitized stories that I had put in those letters and I can see his point; I have been lucky enough to work and visit some extraordinary places on mother Earth and get paid for the privilege. I have stood on the tops of mountains and looked down on the beautiful, wondrous world and I have slept in a snow-hole feeling so cold that wondered if I would wake up the next morning, I have been made welcome in the homes of both some of the richest and the poorest people of societies around the world and also seen how badly man can treat man. I started that book on several occasions, and the first few paragraphs lay electronically degrading somewhere on a now unused external hard-drive: for those of you who are interested, it was going to be called  "Military Travel - what the tax-payer should know" or something along those lines.  The mammoth task of remembering and regurgitating 32 years worth of sandbag-pulling and tilley-swinging stories and then getting them down on paper is just too much for me at the moment.  Not because I couldn't do it, but because I reckon I could have another 32 years worth of travel stories to add to them. So hence this blog - starting it is a small step in two long journeys and is linked to my recently published website  The website links to one of those journeys - the past - it is a pathway into my photographic records of my previous adventures and travels and will continue to grow as new adventures unfold.  This blog will be the link to my current journey, what am I up to now, where are my plans taking me and......well anything else I want to get off my chest.
Already I have used some military slang and colloquial terms in this blog and because of this: God created Google!  As I shed my military skin these terms should become less of a feature on these pages and hopefully my waffling will become easier to digest and understand........we will see.
For those of you that decide to come here regularly (thank you) but please do not expect a new entry everyday.  Life is for living and I need to get out there so I have things to write about - it's a chicken and egg thing!
It would be fantastic to receive feedback and comments from anyone out there but I really do understand if you do not have the time - thanks for visiting, let the future begin...................