Thursday, 28 May 2015


On 25 April an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck the country of Nepal, not far from its capital of Kathmandu. The quake triggered an avalanche on Everest killing 19 people, and overall to date 5,000 people are confirmed dead in Nepal, with predictions of it reaching 10,000.

After just over one week a new report came in from an isolated valley in the Langtang region, where 250 people were reported missing.

We see news reports all the time on our TVs of disasters occurring all around the world, but when we see the report come from an area we recognise then it hits home just a bit harder.

I spent the best part of three months in Nepal a number of years ago, and setting out from Kathmandu I trekked for 6 weeks in the Everest region. When the names of the small settlements were mentioned in the aftermath it tore at my emotions when I remembered the kindness of the Nepalese people, who had now fallen victim to this tragedy.

But it was the report  a week later from the Langtang region that had the biggest impact. Towards the end of my time in Nepal, Pauline arrived and we set off to trek in the Langtang region. It was early May and the spring flowers were out in the valley. We were heading toward a distant peak and the last settlement was Langtang Lirung. This is a picture as it was on the day we stayed.

Now there is nothing left. The next photograph is after the earthquake struck, triggering an gigantic landslide that wiped out the village and its inhabitants. The photo is looking in the opposite direction to the one above.

When I was on the original trek in Everest I met up with an Australian guy called John, who worked in the film industry. We became friends and a few years later he returned to the Everest area. On that trip he set up sponsorship to pay for his Sherpa friend Kanhcha, who had helped him and kept him safe on his first trip to the Himalaya, so he could have a better roof over his head, and for his daughter to go to school.

Just a few days after the Langtang report was aired, another earthquake struck, this time close to Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital perched in a bowl high in the Himalyas. Kancha's house is not far from there. There is no news yet, and after a month has passed we are all getting increasingly concerned.

Nepal relies heavily on it's tourist industry, and with large parts of the capital destroyed, and the effect on the trekking regions, one of the main draws for visitors, the country is in an impossible situation as it needs the tourists back to bring money into the economy to aid the recovery. International aid has been flowing into the country, but when I heard reports of it being held up at customs, and that the government was going to tax it, well, I was more than a little angry. These great people of Nepal really don't need that kind of delay in help.

Sadly I feel it will be a long time before they recover fully.

Thursday, 21 May 2015


When it's filled with the clutter and furniture from the living room!

You don't realise how much dust, and goodness knows what else, collects behind pieces of furniture that very rarely get moved, until you have to empty a room completely. This past few days has seen me clear the living room entirely as the floor was in a pretty poor state of repair, and, long overdue, I decided to have it renewed with an overall sanding and sealing.

As I moved ever larger pieces of furniture out I found odds and ends that I had long since lost. The hoard was so varied at one point I fully expected to unearth the treasure of the Sierra Madre!

But this furniture had to go somewhere, and I had it in my mind that it would all fit, with room to spare, in the kitchen. Big mistake. I am amazed just how much "stuff" I have managed to squeeze into the living room over the years. With the kitchen now rendered useless I turned my attention to filling every available space in the bedroom, which is where I ended up living for 3 days!

Hardest part of all was the three-seater Italian leather sofa. This is one huge piece of quality furniture, and weighs a ton. When it was first delivered it would not come through the door. We had to remove the window and employ several people to haul it through. To make it even more of challenge the room is on the first floor! However, since then I have discovered that it comes apart, but it is no five-minute job, taking two of us the best part of an hour to dismantle and move.

Now of course I have the happy task of putting it all the furniture back. Joy. The finish of the floor is stunning, but of course now everything else looks tired and in need of some TLC.

I'll look at that in another 10 years.

Friday, 15 May 2015


A familiar cry at boxing tournaments, indicating the fight is about to start and the opponents will meet head to head, and try to find out each others weaknesses in order to, ultimately, win.

Over the past week I have spent a small fortune on a new project. A project that I would say I am passionate about though frustrated with at the same time.

The small fortune has been spent on the following:

100m of thin wire
300 x 3ft green canes
A 50m x 1m roll of medium gauge green chicken wire
Plastic rods impregnated with citrus
20 Caleus Canina plants
200 small cable ties
Pepper powder deterrent
40 x 500mm lengths of plastic spikes
And an infrared CCTV camera with radio transmission

For what you may be asking? Well, let me tell you:

Felis Catus!

Or as I like to call them, those pesky (or other alternative word!) neighbours cats!! One cat in particular is driving me mad, as nothing I seem to do keeps it out.

We pride ourselves on the great little garden we have created, an oasis for bird life, and more recently our wood mice. The planting carried out recently looks fantastic as it bursts into new and colourful growth.

Unfortunately it is overshadowed by the pungent odour of cat faeces and pee!

On one side of the garden is a 15foot high wall. Atop this I have now installed row upon row of plastic anti-climb spikes, designed specifically to deter cats.

The cat walked on them.

And today I have placed hundreds of long garden canes, plus wire strung between them, atop the natural garden fencing on the opposite side.

The cat pushed through them.

The CCTV records the garden activity during the night when they are most likely to come out. However today when I took a short break for a cup of tea, guess who took the opportunity to come through the half-finished work in broad daylight!

It is clearly a fight I am losing. I have no idea what to do next. Most likely throw in the towel.

Or buy a dog!

Thursday, 7 May 2015


It's only once every five years, so it always amazes me how many people do not vote.  In some countries, such as New Zealand for example, it is the law. You must vote.

I feel that in a democratic country, if you have the right to vote then you should vote. I would like to see it be made a legal requirement in the UK too. Some cynics say that will never happen because at a certain level some of the parties actually prefer the lower turnout as it seems to favour them.

Countries have fought hard to have the right to vote, and women in particular have fought even harder.

So, as you may guess, today I exercised my right and voted.

I won't say for whom I voted, as I believe that is my own private business. For the past several weeks I have been bombarded by election programs on TV, party political broadcasts, debates, and I've been drowning in fliers and leaflets. Most people however had probably already decided who they were going to vote for before it all started, and to some degree the saturation of everything political can have a negative effect.  I for one will be glad when it's all over.

Over the past decades I've never really seen how the changes in government have affected me directly. I'm sure they have to some degree, but I've just never seen it in real terms. People seem to put so much weight on the outcome of the elections, but at the end of the day, behind the political leader puppets, it's the same civil servants pulling their strings.

I tried not to be sucked in and watch any of the debates, but I did catch part of one. It amazed me how aggressive the audience were in their questioning of the participants, raising their voices and demanding what they wanted from these political leaders. When they didn't get the answers they wanted they behaved like small children who had been refused a sweetie in the candy store.

Yes, some big businesses, such as the banks, have landed us right in it, but watching this programme I couldn't help thinking that a lot of the problems we are facing right now are a result of inaction by ourselves to accept that times are hard, and we need to pull together for the greater good, not continue to be selfish in what we want just for ourselves. But we expect the government, regardless of who is in power, who are left to pick up the pieces, bail out businesses, and find the money to make it all right again. But we have a part to play, and I couldn't help feeling this audience had their heads stuck in the sand.

Which brings me to mention something I heard spoken to a large audience back in 2004. I was privileged at that time to be HH the Dalai Lama's film maker for his official visit to Scotland. He was addressing a sold out crowd at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, and one of the subjects was, bringing about change for the better. He told everyone there that if we want change, then to rely on government, United Nations or such, is unrealistic.

For change to happen, he said, we must turn to ourselves.

As I write this the counting has begun of the votes cast. Whoever is the Prime Minister for the next five years, they can be sure of one thing; they're going to get a hard time, and in five years people will once again blame them for what they didn't get.

When will we learn and listen to the advice of men wiser than us all.