"..a bardy view!"

The Crimea…Half a League Onward…….



Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Just over a hundred years ago the world went to war, and the stage for it was set by another smaller but no more less significant conflict almost 60 years earlier. It’s a timely reminder – because it was called the Crimean War.

It was a war which altered the balance of power in Europe, and which subsequently led to the assassination in 1914 of Archduke Ferdinand – heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His killer was Gavrilo Princip a Serbian nationalist who wanted the South Serb provinces to break away and be combined into Greater Serbia – or a Yugoslavia – a union of South Slavic countries.

This ultimately led to other European states being dragged in, all vying for their position and alliances, and so it was that the Great War began. This brief introduction, deliberately short on studious analysis is merely to put the Crimean War into context. And we must go even further back from it’s origins to understand how and why the Crimean War began – as far back as the Napoleonic Wars 200 years ago.

2014 commemorated the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, but last year 2015 also commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the end of Bonaparte’s dream of a European empire, with he as her emperor.

At the end of the Napoleonic war the great powers  Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria and France got together in Vienna to try and restore European stability by suppressing revolutionary republics and supporting sensible monarchies. Known as the Treaty of Vienna, it led to 30 years of peace in Europe. By 1845 this peace was showing signs of cracks, principally because of the weakness of the Ottoman-Turkish empire.

Then as now Turkey had one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, or more to the point one foot in European Christian orthodoxy and the other in Islamic Middle East. At this point enters the protagonist, then as now – Russia.

Tsar Nicholas  was keen to take advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire with a view to carve up the European part of Turkey and gain some valuable strategic areas. This effectively would give Russia control of the Dardanelles, the strait which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean, and more famously known today for the disastrous tragic WWI campaign of Gallipoli.

Due to increased Russian aggression, Turkey declared war against Russia in October 1853. A month later the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, a Turkish city on the Black Sea, which galvanised British concerns because it threatened her trade links with Turkey and India.

The French, who had no particular interest in Turkey, chose to ally themselves to Britain because they were still smarting from their defeat by Russia in 1812 (later immortalised in Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture) and thought that this was their chance to return the bloodied nose.

An ultimatum was issued to Russia to evacuate from the area by March 1854. That month was significant because by then the Baltic ice fields would break up allowing the British to annihilate the Russian fleet should the demand be ignored, which it was. By August the combined Anglo-French fleet took control of the Baltic. Austria subsequently joined the alliance and together contributed to an army of 60,000 to defend Istanbul.

The Russian Tsar ignored the threats (shades of Putin here) and called the bluff. A British plan was formulated to land in the Crimea, and attack Sevastopol with the view of destroying the Russian fleet and the dockyard. What followed was a catalogue of indecision, chess board manoeuvring and glorified Victorian valour which resulted in the Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade. This astonishing display of bravery, courage (madness some will say) into the “valley of death” as Tennyson penned it, so shocked and frightened the Russians that they never again dared to face the British in the field.

Eventually there was a victory of sorts, and the Russians accepted defeat, the demilitarisation of the Black Sea, and for a time the European settlement of the “Turkish Question”. With the 1856 Treaty of Paris, (as with all face-saving treaties of this kind) Russia went home to lick her wounds with a modicum of compensation.

That’s what it’s all about and that’s why the defeated always walk away with a prize of sorts. Political expediency, diplomacy and conciliation make the world go around, regardless of the pain and suffering to get there in the first place. It’s easy to start something, but damned difficult to end something. A lesson we never seem to learn.

Today Russia is on the aggressive ascendancy, and Turkey seeks a political route to European Union membership through clever compromise and negotiation regarding the current mass refugees crisis. History may be the past, but it is also the present and the future, and we ignore it at our peril.

See also Bardiness: Florence Nightingale

Related articles

Why the roar of the Russian bear also rattles East Asia
How did Russians conquer Crimea from the Muslim Tatars?

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, History, Politics, Religion, The Flashman Papers, Travel, United Kingdom, World War I | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


dodoThe Dodo, an ungainly flightless bird, is extinct. “As dead as a dodo” is a phrase synonymous with finality. Yet in truth it also represents mankind’s ignorance, exploitation, and failure to recognise natural and delicate balances of ecology and habitat.

Today we can frown upon those early seafarers who during the course of trade and exploration systematically devastated indigenous wildlife on their travels. The Dodo was just one of many creatures which provided easy meat. Just as the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands fell easy prey to hungry jack-tar and matelote – the rough sailors who had suffered long sea journeys with maggot ridden food, and succumbed easily to sickness.

Charles Darwin surmised, through his theory of evolution and natural selection, that species will invariably lose their original design if no predators exist to threaten them.

Hence why does a bird need wings if it doesn’t need to fly? All creatures, having evolved over millions of years, will adapt to their surroundings. If the Dodo felt threatened in its environment, it would not have lost its wings.

The Dodo, endemic to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, was a bird over three feet tall, and nested on the ground, which is indicative of it’s perceived security. It would never know that a ruthless predator would pounce one day. These predators came as passing seafarers and found easy pickings. Sailors tell tales, and the news of their experiences would soon spread.

Early explorers and colonists would not have considered the long term environmental impact of their enterprise. Nor would they have seen that introducing domesticated animals like cats and pigs to their new found land would have such a detrimental impact.

The Dodo, having never encountered a cat before, would be at a loss to defend itself. Having no wings was a significant drawback. Similarly, livestock required land, and as harmless as a pig may appear, they were much more dominant in foraging than the humble dodo which survived on fruit and lived in harmony with the tambalacoque tree.

Together with rats which were always unwelcome stowaways, and the deforestation of land to clear areas for human habitation, the Dodo’s peaceful and harmless existence was severely under threat.

Maritime exploration is laced with stories about sightings of strange creatures on land or at sea. The dodo was first sighted during the mid 17th Century in Mauritius by Dutch sailors. Back then conservation and protection would have been as remote a concept as satellite navigation.

Whilst modern man may wring his hands and lament about the extinction of a species, everything must be viewed in the historical context of the times. The dodo is dead, but not forgotten. It’s a permanent reminder – a symbol – that man is the custodian of Earth’s flora and fauna. This is the legacy of the Dodo.

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Education, History, Travel | , | 3 Comments

Prospero’s Island ?

When the world thinks of Jamestown, Virginia it should also think of Bermuda. At first glance they would both appear as historically unconnected as Tuvalu is from Trieste, yet both are interlinked, and neither may have survived without the other.

Bermuda was settled by accident rather than desire, unlike Jamestown which had a settlement plan based on economics, English enterprise, and sailing expertise.

The ship Sea Venture, in the van of an English fleet of seven, carrying settlers and supplies on route to the fledgling and failing colony of Jamestown, Virginia, became separated by a hurricane just a week from destination in July 1609.

Suffering extensive damage, and with almost all hope lost, salvation hove into view. Unbeknown to the forlorn crew and passengers, they were to find refuge on an uninhabited island, a mere 22 miles long and one mile wide, which would eventually become Great Britain’s oldest colony.

2015 celebrates Bermuda’s 406th anniversary.

The story of the survivors is fodder for a Hollywood movie and equally enthralling. One of them was non other than the future husband of Pocahontas.

John Rolfe, later to become Jamestown’s original cultivator of tobacco as an export crop, left a wife and child buried in Bermuda, but along with many other survivors managed to reach Virginia a year after the shipwreck.

Bermuda, also known by early seaman as the “Isle of Devils” due to the dangerous reefs around it, and “Somers Isle” after the commander of the original fleet, Sir George Somers – was originally named after the Spanish navigator Juan de Bermudez, after a passing visit in 1503.

It was subsequently to be visited several times over the next 100 years by the Spanish and Portuguese, but superstitious legends prevented them from making a settlement. This has been accredited in part to a bird, the Bermuda petrel, whose diabolical callings invoked images of spirits and devils. It was factors like these, however strange or unlikely, which would allow the English to plant their flag without conflict and have far reaching impact.

Another survivor of the ill-fated venture was William Strachey, an English writer noted as a primary source of the early history of English colonisation in North America.

Along with Rolfe, he too succeeded in eventually reaching Virginia 10 months after the shipwreck, and it is his account of the expedition’s plight, which is accredited to influencing William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest“.

Together with Admiral Somers and Sir Thomas Gates (who was on route to become governor of Virginia and whose skills at salvaging the desperate remnants of the floundering, were to create the first Bermuda settlement), they oversaw the building of two ships, the Deliverance and the Patience, built from remnants of the Sea Venture and the local timber of the Cedar Tree.

When they finally managed to escape the island in May 1610, they carried with them 142 castaways, leaving just a handful behind to hold claim. They had a mission to fulfil – to save Jamestown, whatever the cost.

They arrived at the Virginia colony in May 1610 finding it all but decimated through famine, disease and hostile natives who had all but blockaded them. Only 60 settlers remained alive of the original 500 sent three years earlier. This period is known as the Starving Time.

Nevertheless, through the courage and endeavours of the hardy and convicted survivors of the Atlantic storm ten months earlier, the Jamestown colony survived. Those Jamestown settlers still alive, watching the two ships slowly appear up the sound, must have thought salvation had come. It was the original thanksgiving.

This crucial episode in Jamestown’s history tends to be overlooked. Had the storm of July 1609 succeeded in wiping out the supply fleet, by the time Lord De La Ware’s relief ships arrived in Jamestown in May, 1610 (3 months after Somers’) nothing would have remained.

It was only through the brave endeavours and sense of purpose of Sir George Somers and his committed followers, which held and reinvigorated life into the dying colony, keeping  it sustained just long enough for De Le Ware’s mission to succeed. Somers, returning to Bermuda to collect more food, died soon after through illness.

So enamoured with the island, he had asked for his heart to be buried there. Legend has it that his wish was honoured. His body meanwhile was pickled in a barrel and returned to Dorset, England where it was buried in his home village of Whitechurch Canonicorum.


March 24, 2015 Posted by | Education, History, Travel, USA | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Air Travel – a necessary inconvenience….

checkin2The best tip for airport security check-in is to ensure knowledge of procedure. You would be as unlikely to leave your passport behind than you would your common sense. Both are essential for travel. Oddly, many people appear to lose at least one of these prerequisites.

Delays at airport security are invariably a consequence of the unscrupulous methods employed by terrorists to cause disaster. The strict impositions imposed at airports today have been common for several years ever since 911, and other attempts by some individuals to detonate devices utilising seemingly innocent and innocuous articles regarded as essential travel requirements. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber was fortunately prevented from attempting to ignite an incendiary device in one of his shoes on a transatlantic plane, thanks to the vigilance of a fellow passenger.

Other attempts have been combated when it was discovered that liquids could be diabolically used as combustion when linked to a remote electronic signal hidden in something as mundane as a cell phone or belt buckle. Over Christmas 2009  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled a bomb in his underwear. He successfully boarded a plane because his nefarious device was hidden in a place where officials feared to tread. This brought in full body scanners, which are an extremely contentious issue.

If we assume that terrorists are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to bring disaster at worst or gross inconvenience at best to international air travel, then delays at airports will be an ongoing and probably never ending imposition which all travellers must endure. Therefore sensible preparation to encourage smooth passage should be common sense.

We all need to wear shoes, most of us need to wear a belt, and underwear is essential. So wear shoes that are simple to remove, and if you must wear a belt then take it off in advance. The implementation of full body scanners may not spare your dignity of having to expose your psychedelic boxer shorts or thongs (depending on taste), and as your face will not be associated with the rest of your torso, there really is no need to feel violated (officially). Besides, any objection, be they on moral or religious grounds will only result in preventing you from going any further. I’m speaking as a man, but female readers can easily equate to my point.

Well that’s the personal matters dealt with, so lets consider the rest. Liquids are permitted provided that they do not exceed 100ml in volume, and no more than ten items. They should be placed in a clear plastic bag and kept easily accessible for examination. Liquids will include toiletries such as perfume, after-shave, toothpaste, creams and mouthwash. Medicines and baby requirements should be allowed, but always check before you travel.

Next – consider sharp implements. Penknives will be confiscated along with anything else considered sharp or dangerous. Keys will be scrutinized – even nail clippers. Expect to lose anything which could fall into these categories (house and car keys will pass as long as they aren’t ringed on a knuckleduster). All metal must be placed in the tray that goes through scanners. Money, cellphones, laptop computers, Ipads/androids tablets, watches, jewellery and even hearing aids will be subject to inspection. Keep the devices in standby and easily accessible – some security staff ask for it to be switched on to demonstrate that it’s genuine. Imagine having to start up a laptop and the time it takes. And whilst I remember – don’t carry spare lithium batteries for computers or phones in check-in luggage – carry them in your hand luggage. If you must open your check-in luggage, then keep the padlock keys handy (and if using a combination lock – write the code down as by then you’ll be too flustered to remember it).

Jackets, overcoats and gillets all go in the tray. You need to pass through the security scanner without a bleep. If one goes off, then back you go. Succeed and you will feel accomplished. Fail and your stress levels will rise. Once through you will have to reconnect with everything previously parted from you. This can be equally exhausting, especially when you are fighting for space, or inadvertently mistaking the wrong tray (it’s a jungle in there!).  I’ve often wondered, having removed all my metals, that I pass through the detectors still wearing my wedding ring. How does that happen? I know it’s gold!

This is not fool-proof advice – airport security varies from country to country. For example your nail-clippers may get unrestricted passage through Heathrow, but definitely not in Hong Kong. You may have to remove shoes and belts in some places, but not in others.

Preparation is the key, but you cannot account for the person in front who may delay you. So if all else fails, be thankful that you don’t have holes in your socks. Now, that could be very embarrassing.

Above all swallow your pride and travel confidently. Wear your best comfortable clothes and invest in the best luggage. Don’t check in cardboard boxes as an alternative – it will be frowned upon – especially if you’ve wrapped them up with so much tape that will have to be removed if you have to open them. Smile, be friendly, be agreeable. Don’t complain, don’t criticise, don’t be officious or arrogant. Remember, you need to get on the plane as comfortably as possible – inconvenience is the price we pay in order to get to our destination. And if you think it is a big hassle – it is. All air passengers are victims of international terrorism and even lone, unstable individuals and dare I say, ignorant and idiotic families.

If you don’t need to fly, don’t – however the alternatives are very limited! If time isn’t money, then seek other methods wherever possible.

This is my baker’s dozen of do’s and don’ts:

1. Don’t tip the security guards

2. Wear slip on shoes. Velcro style is good. Easy to remove and put back on.

3. Don’t wear a belt. If you must, take it off in advance in the queue. Along with your shoes (see #2)

4. Don’t buy water until you enter the Duty Free Area. You will lose it. Unless you are prepared to drink it quickly. If you do then keep your empty bottle. You can fill it up (possibly) at the public drinking fountains. Most airports provide them near the toilets. Bottled water is expensive to buy, so this may be an important consideration.

5. Keep all liquids in a small transparent plastic bag. No more than ten items and each must not be more than 100ml. Ditch the toiletries. Prioritise. Put medicine first if they are important. Many major airlines provide the requisite bags for purpose, but don’t count on it. You could put all these in your hand-carry – but don’t bother. Carry them separately until you have got through, and then put them where you like!

6: Ditch unnecessary metal. Get ready to deposit the essentials in a plastic tray. Think coins, phone, keys, laptops, iPads and tablets, spectacles, hearing aids with metal fittings etc etc….

7: Keep your passport, tickets and boarding pass handy. That should be #1. Are you thinking straight?

8: Be patient. Be respectful and charming. If you can’t do that then just keep your mouth shut.

9: Remove jackets and overcoats. Check the pockets. Just find a nice big tray and throw caution to the wind.

10: Don’t put valuables in the check-in luggage, and make sure you stick to the weight allowance. Three reasons: 1. You may have to open them. 2. You may have to pay a surcharge. 3. You may lose your suitcase altogether.

Lost luggage is a common problem.

11: Don’t be a smart arse. And don’t make jokes about bombs or terrorism. Airport security officials have absolutely no sense of humour wherever in the world they are, and a silly misguided witticism will result in a missed flight and possibly interrogation and examination.

12. Check-in online whenever possible. It’s the sensible thing to do – with luck you can choose your own seat, print your boarding pass, and possibly avoid the queues.

13. And finally… If you are travelling to the USA – read all this again (and again), and don’t be surprised if your luggage (inbound or outbound) has been opened for inspection without notice.

Disclaimer: Always check on airline and specific country regulations before you travel. 

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Air Travel, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t forget your hat…………..

“Are you English?” asks the charming stranger who has suddenly appeared. “I love England. And the girls! Belissimo!” he bellows, whilst kissing his palm and throwing the residue into the breeze. “What size are you sir?” he continues “I have some leather jackets here. I’ve just been to a fashion show and I don’t want to return to Naples with any stock left over, so I’m going to give you one for free!”

So here you are walking around Rome somewhere near the Fountain of Trevi, minding your own business, a snout buried in a street map and suddenly a car pulls up. The driver asks for directions and then discovers you’re new around here too. (Hello? He sounds suspiciously Italian!)

“I’m sorry but I’m only a visitor here myself” you reply with a friendly and concerned gesture. You’ve just given him his cue!

“My goodness, what a nice man” you think. He offers the garment through the window, hoping you’ll caress it like a kitten. Are you smitten? Who cares? It’s free! Just as you’re about to thank him for his generosity and walk away, out drops the metaphorical bombshell.

He’s got an empty tank, and worse, he’s lost his wallet with the credit cards and cash in them! Well do you say to yourself “dear oh dear, the poor man. How is he going to get home? I must give him 50 Euros at once to help him reach his destination? After all, he’s been kind enough to give me a free leather jacket!” Or do you return it to him with a poverty stricken look upon your face, perhaps with a few choice words to suit the moment?

That little scenario happened to me on three occasions in one day. There’s a small platoon of these peddlers around this beautiful city. I was prepared the last time however. Before my lost friend could utter a word I was primed. “Keep your jacket” I said proud and bold, “I’ve got no money!” That sorted him out alright. He happily drove off looking for someone else. He didn’t drive too far either as less than 200 yards further he was accosting some other poor mug (I mean tourist). The nerve of the man!

It struck me then that perhaps I was standing out like a sore thumb. Well, of course I was! It couldn’t have been clearer than if I had “tourist” stamped across my forehead with a flashing neon arrow pointing at it. So I looked around and noticed that the locals all dressed rather stylishly. Italian men in Rome like their hats. I don’t mean any old hat, no no, I’m talking about fedoras together with a tasty flowing scarf worn with aplomb. That was the solution my wife suggested. So off we trotted and bought a trilby from a charming little milliner a stones throw from the fountain. I already had a scarf, it was January. I was made! After that, I happily roamed around Rome free from harassment. Yes, nobody messed with me, it was clear that I was a local lad!

What then, is the moral of my little tale? It is this. Just because you are a tourist in Rome (or anywhere else for that matter) doesn’t mean you have to look like one! So if you’re wearing a baseball cap, carrying a back-pack, have photographic gizmos slung around various appendages, and a bum-bag around your hips, be prepared for the worst. You’ve flagged yourself up good and proper, and you can happily explain to the custom officials how you acquired all that leather wear.

Provided you don’t do this you should pass with flying colours. Reconnoitre the places you are keen to see by climbing on board a hop on/hop off tour bus. They’re one of the few good values for money. Get up on the top deck, plug in the commentary, then plan your route. Most of the great sites are within reasonable walking distance, but remember…. if you want to get ahead, get a hat!

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Culture, Education, Europe, Humour, Italy, Travel | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Oyster Card rakes in the money for Transport for London

Earlier in the year I wrote a post complaining about the unjust, underhand and surreptitious methods employed by the London Mayor and Transport for London to extract money in advance from all public transport users with a view to creating a cashless transport system through their Oyster Card.

The spin then was that cash paying passengers cost TfL £28m per year, and this money could be better spent on the transport system. It was a con then, and a con now. I stated that there must be a great deal of unused fares in the coffers of TfL earning interest. Little did I know the magnitude of that statement. One month today on Sunday 6th July, all buses in London will become cashless, yet it is now known that TfL are sitting on £60million of Oyster balances, paid for by occasional travellers and tourists.

It’s very simple: I cannot catch a bus from then and pay a cash fare. I must buy an Oyster Card in advance. This involves paying a £5 deposit and loading it with enough money to clear at least a return journey. Most people will load it with another £5. A single fare on a London bus by Oyster is £1.40, as opposed to a cash fare costing a quid more. Many who are not commuters will not use their card again for months – even years, but hardly anyone writes to TfL to reclaim their balance, and even fewer attempt to reclaim their deposit. This is especially the case for the millions of tourists visiting London who either don’t know how – or care about getting their money back.

Indeed, the visitor to London is presented with a very complicated series of hoops and roundabouts to manoeuvre, with a myriad of different fares, ranging from one day travelcards, to weekly and monthly peak and off-peak passes. How many will be bothered to go through even more complications just to recover their surplus unused funds? I live in London, and even I can’t be bothered to get mine back – besides, I may need it again in the future. That’s TfL’s trump selling point – once purchased never expired.

However it’s the buyer who will expire before the card – especially if he or she is a one-off visitor to London, and never likely to return. London may be a tourist magnate, but many of the millions who visit and pay for their Oyster Cards may never return. Just because I’ve seen the Valley of the Kings and the Tomb of Tutankhamen doesn’t mean I want to see them again! Even if I do, it could be years hence – and the same applies to visitors to London. So all that unused Oyster fare will sit in the coffers of TfL, earning interest, year on year.

Lets suppose that our imaginary tourist to London returns home to Oklahoma or Okinawa, and realises that he has a £5 deposit outstanding on his Oyster Card (and maybe more of unused advanced fares) – is he likely to contact TfL for a refund? Not likely! How many thousands, tens of thousands – nay – hundreds of thousands over several years will not bother? How many millions of pounds will be in the coffers of TfL? the figure of £60m mentioned earlier was just for one year alone – 2013.

Yet, here we have a Mayor of London, and a profiteering business masquerading as a local government body called Transport for London, which uses spin and technology to remove basic freedoms from the individual. The freedom to just hop on a bus, pay cash, and get to the next stop. That’s not too much freedom to ask for is it? But it gets worse. The alternative to the Oyster is a contacless payment – an embedded chip in a debit or credit card, a key fob, or in a smart phone – one flash and you’re there – designed for small one off payments upto £10 or £15 – direct from you’re bank account. Again, all designed to eliminate the need for cash. It’s the future – a future under constant attack from hackers.

Is it really too much to expect that a bus driver cannot carry a small float, just to give the facility of a cash fare? Should we really enforce tourists to this amazing city to pay in advance for a system they barely understand? Cannot they use the pound in their pocket to just go somewhere? Is this not the nation above all others which embraces simplicity, freedom and choice? A nation which abhors bureaucracy and which is the flagship of individualism. A nation which fought for such freedoms, and which draws people to it like a magnet?

Bit by bit, the invasive nature of technology is slowly but surely controlling us. It may be just a simple bus journey today, but tomorrow it may be the journey of life itself.

Related articles

Oyster – the World of Transport for London
£60m lying unused on prepay Oyster cards
Cash payments to halt on London’s buses

June 6, 2014 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Politics, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Philippine Land Grab – disguised as eco-tourism



Jacques Cousteau the famous explorer and conservationist once described Palawan as the last frontier. For good reason. Here was an archipelago of outstanding natural beauty, and he, more than most, understood that protection was the legacy for future generations.

So how does big businesses, and big property developers, justify their mercenary exploitation of the unspoilt?

To them, natural beauty is a golf course waiting to happen, a resort complex, and an emporium squatted by retail multi-nationals selling designer goods.

They do it by dressing it up as sustainable eco-tourism. The catch all phrase. The tart with a heart. Conservationist capitalism. Mercenary magnanimity. Philippine Profitable Philanthropy.

Ayela Land Inc (ALI) intend to build (purely for altruistic motives of course) a “100-hectare development that shall feature hotels and resorts, tourism and commercial establishments and residential communities with world-class amenities that blend with the natural landscape.”

These are not Cinderella’s, but the ugly sisters which squeeze their feet into jewelled slippers. Convinced that any fit is better than none, and an ounce of blood is worth shedding – even if a scar is the result. After all surely any commercial enterprise which aids the economy is better than none? Right? Wrong!

100 hectares is a substantial chunk of real estate, the first 25 hectares is to become the Lio Beach Village “featuring bed and breakfasts, resorts, shops and dining establishments amid civic spaces” which will be developed by Ten Knots Development Corp, which just happens to be a subsidiary of Ayala Land Inc. (The parent. Keep it in the family!)

This has naturally been lauded and applauded by the Philippines Department of Tourism, whose secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr. describes it as “a new jewel of sustainable tourism in the Philippines.” Note the word sustainable – synonymous with ecology and conservation. These are the key words which mask the reality. Cousteau will be turning in his grave.

The problem with the Philippines however is that in a land with over 7000 islands it’s surprisingly difficult to find a free beach. Most pieces of beach, be it white sand, black sand, or volcanic sand is owned by someone, who charge money just for the privilege of sitting on one. A resort takes away the freedom, and more importantly removes the locals. Especially the fisherman, who will no doubt be expected to pay a premium just to sail out and sail in – with a catch or not!

That’s not progress, that is exploitation, and it is ruthless because it has the support of the government, whose raison d’etre is not sustainability or culture, but greed and the fast buck.

You see, resorts are victims of the global economy i.e. how many bangs for the buck! It’s a volatile and precarious business, and when a downturn happens the infrastructure suffers, people lose jobs (non jobs associated with service: rooms, restaurants, etc totally dependant on the number of visitors) and invariably when the bottom falls out, the land is sold on. It’s a downward spiral, which cuts into the very ecology which was promoted in the first place. The land has been raped and the agriculture such as coconut trees, bananas, and most indigenous farming and fishing are lost.

What the Philippines government should be doing, and is always decidedly incapable of, is investment in the people. Ensuring that they have proper sustainable employment, encouraging and maintaining the skills that have been garnered over a thousand years, and if necessary subsidising them, because investing in the people and caring for their greatest asset – the land and the seas around it – will ensure worth, value and ultimately self sufficiency with profits all round. Technology may be the future, but a reputation of being the call-centre capital of South East Asia doesn’t really cut the mustard. Like India it will only exist for cheap labour and the service industry.

UNESCO have been threatening for the past five years that the famed rice terraces of the Cordilleras are losing their integrity and will inevitably lose their status as a world heritage site. The terraces which are unique, have been farmed and maintained by skilled tribal people for over two thousand years. They argue that “the terraced landscape is highly vulnerable because the social equilibrium that existed in the rice terraces for the past two millennia has become profoundly threatened by technological and evolutionary changes. Rural-to-urban migration processes limit the necessary agricultural workforce to maintain the extensive area of terraces.”

In simple English this means that the young generation are not following in their fathers and forebears footprints and heading to Manila to seek their fortune. Between the lines it also says that this “migration” makes the land redundant, cannot be sustained, not fit for purpose and therefore prime targets for commercial land grabbers. If you want to know what that is and the horrors it produces, just go to the city in the sky: Baguio – where concrete is king.

A responsible government should be sustaining it’s heritage, not destroying it systematically for short term financial profit, nor pandering to wealthy developers whose hearts are purely mercenary, and leave a legacy of shame, exploitation and avarice.

It will get worse before it gets better – but time is running out, and it will have probably ran out before the people of the Philippines wake up – perpetually somnambulist – perpetually sleepwalking – and whilst they sleep, the politicians, the investment bankers, the fund managers and the speculators are wide awake – singing, celebrating and dancing obscenely on the land!

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Coconut Trees, Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Walking Dead – the 2nd Amendment Showcase….



**Possible Spoiler Alert**

Having caught up with the Walking Dead, after its mid-season (4) break, I am left defending my initial observations herehere and here, back when it all began.

The problem with the drama is that it’s walking in circles. Series one saw the motley group of survivors attempting to find somewhere safe to live. Series two found them on a farm which got overrun and they had to leave, getting dispersed in the process; series 3 found them in a prison; and series four sees them overrun, back outside, and dispersed yet again.

Continue reading

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Books, Education, Film, Game of Thrones, Humour, Religion, Science, The Walking Dead, Travel, USA | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tree Slaughter – More Fun in the Philippines……

“Mile after mile, trees have been felled, and mile after mile those still standing have been marked with the executioners axe – a strip of bark sliced from the trunk – the condemned waiting for death.”
There is a disease that is rampant in the Philippines. It’s a virus, spreads like the plague, and infects all that come into contact with it.
It is unforgiving, affects millions of people, destroys livelihoods, and causes blindness. It’s a virus which is unforgiving, because there is no way back from it. The damage it causes can never be recovered. It is a killer.
It’s not airborne, nor is it a bacterial strain, yet it is man-made. It is a disease born of corruption, greed, and ignorance. There is no cure. It is called Environmental Slaughter.

Along the MacArthur Highway, over 2000 Acacia and Mango trees have been destroyed, many more than 100 years old. It is an unprecedented act of vandalism in the name of progress. The Philippines government decreed that the highway needed widening and with ruthless abandon they embarked on a cultural assault, devoid of any regard to heritage.

Mile after mile, trees have been felled, and mile after mile those still standing have been marked with the executioners axe – a strip of bark sliced from the trunk – the condemned waiting for death.
Businesses, small shop-keepers, homes, communities will all be displaced in the name of progress. Perhaps the highway does need widening? Perhaps there was no alternative?Perhaps nobody thought of an alternative? Why does it matter?

It matters because it’s not just about trees. It’s about heritage. It’s about a country which shouts loudly about culture, yet is prepared to abandon it in the name of progress. It’s about a country which has a superficial regard to it’s history, and whose slogan to attract the tourist is suffixed with…”it’s more fun in the Philippines”. “Beaches are more fun in the Philippines”, “Shopping is more fun in the Philippines”, “Food is more fun in the Philippines”, Scuba Diving, Bird watching, trekking…they are all “more fun in the Philippines”. “Tree slaughter is more fun in the Philippines!”

Corruption is more fun in the Philippines.There is a very serious point here.
Greed is more fun in the Philippines.
Exploitation is more fun in the Philippines.
Poverty is more fun in the Philippines.
This is not quite the message the country wants to project. 
A government which destroys it’s trees and allows (or is too impotent to prevent) deforestation on a massive scale  –  uproots it’s fundamental heritage, riding roughshod over it’s flora and fauna, and employs the word conservation as a euphemism for development. It’s the BIG Lie! The Big Con!
A Government which destroys it’s trees with impunity has no respect for life, culture or heritage. 
Still, no matter. It’s fun that matters.  “Fun…it’s more fun in the Philippines!”

Related articles

Philippines Land Grab – disguised as eco-tourism
More trees to be cut for Makiling road
The Pope, the Philippines, Argentina and the British……
1,829 trees to be killed for road plan
Deadline to finish off trees for road: Feb. 12

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Education, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Henry – Hooked, Line and Sinkered – by Hollywood!

Henry hook grave'If our time is come let us die manfully for our brethren's sake, and not have a cause for reproach against our glory.'

These are the words inscribed on the gravestone, in Churcham, Gloucestershire, of Henry Hook. He died aged 54 on 12 March, 1905.

A great injustice was given to Henry Hook, perpetrated by Hollywood in it's desire to spin a good yarn.

Continue reading

January 19, 2014 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, Film, History, Travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: