2 May 2010

Posted by DMC on 2 May 2010 in Diary |

A last-minute, but always welcome,  invitation for Sunday lunch from  the W-P’s. Judith is such a splendid cook that one can always anticipate something delicious and we were not disappointed .

As I now have the assistance of my neighbour in updating this blog I am hopeful that from now on it will never be out of date by more than a few days.  The main thing I need to learn is  how to do is how to add, what I have always described to Richard, as the twiddly bits – the Anecdotes; Jokes; Videos Photos. What I intend to do from now on is, to include them in the text even if they are not ready to be viewed by the reader. This will be obvious if the title is not highlighted in red. As and when these ‘ twiddly bits’ are ready to be viewed  the font colour will change.

Today, I finished a fascinating book, given to me by my brother-in-law, Col. Garton Jones, by John Harding, entitled Roads to Nowhere – a South Arabian Odyssey 1960 to 1965. The point being that this was almost the same period of my residence in Aden (late 1959 to early 1964) during which time my brother-in-law also was stationed there the Army.  Indeed, I enjoyed a passing acquaintance with the Author, during my 4 ½. years sojourn  in Aden.

I have  unbounded admiration for the way in which John Harding displays such extraordinary recall of events, of lengthy unpronounceable Arabic names and places and bucket loads  of direct quotes of remembered conversations.. I can only think he must have kept a very detailed diary.

On arrival in  1959, I was a 25 year old sole resident partner of a firm of chartered surveyors responsible for building works throughout,  what, we  then called the Persian Gulf.. I visited the places that the author mentions in his book Dhala, Lahej, Mukulla and the Wadi Hadramaut, to mention but a few. What I did not realise  was the political turmoil which was bubbling away in all of these places, at one time or another, during this period, and how very dangerous it was at certain times to visit them. Of course, as civilians we were aware of what, in the UK, was known as ‘the troubles’ in Aden. Indeed, my office was situated in Crater, adjacent to an alleyway next to the suq (market). It was from the parliament building, opposite my office, that the so-called terrorists, fired rockets through the alley into the suq before being dispersed by British troops. As a result I had to temporarily close the office, on a number of occasions, to allow the teargas  to disperse  sufficiently for the young male staff to continue working. Even this and the evening when a hand grenade was thrown over the wall of the open-air cinema in Khormaksar, whilst we were watching a film, did not really cause much consternation amongst the expats. Had I known then, what I know now, after reading this book, I may not have been so sanguine.

The other extraordinary thing is that we played polo three times a week on an open flat piece of desert on the outskirts of Aden which had no  form of security fence around it and could easily have been mined. Although we were vaguely aware of the possibility I cannot recall any of the players being over concerned about being blown up. Yet this was in a period where almost as many soldiers died in this region as were lost in Falklands, years later.

As I said earlier I entertain great admiration for John Harding’s power  of recall in such minute detail and can strongly recommend this book to anyone who may also have been in the region at the time. I cannot resist finishing with a quote from the book which may well become pertinent in relation to our presence today in Afghanistan.

“British dis-engagements from both Aden (November 1967) and Iraq (April 2009) was largely impelled by economic crises and military overstretch”.

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