Yesterday, the 7th of May 2017, will be long remembered. It is the day of the Fall of France.
This is not the first Fall of France. In 1940, German troops stormed through the Ardennes, completely surprising the French General Staff.
Nobody who has read Chester Wilmot’s ‘The Struggle for Europe’ can fail to recognise the similarities. In 1940, the French Establishment was represented by octogenarian and even nonagenarian generals. Their incompetence was complete. Counter-attacks were so badly organised that battalions engaged on different days or in the wrong place. Communications were by carrier pigeon. The French armour, superior in numbers and quality to the German, was not allowed to operate freely and instead was used as semi-mobile artillery for infantry support.
The result was that France capitulated. That was the first Fall of France. An uneasy truce was declared, in which the Germans gave the French permission to govern themselves in territory not already under a German jackboot, but it didn’t last long; in 1942 the Germans assumed complete control.
Seventy-two years later, the second Fall of France has just occurred. Instead of dottering relics from bygone wars, fought decades before, today the French establishment is represented by a dandified fop called Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frederic Macron. This poodle sans couilles is now the President-elect of France.
I had no idea what I’d find in Baler. I just knew I wanted to see the sea. After months in Plaridel, which, while nice, is neither favoured with mountains nor sea. I needed it. People like me, who grew up by the sea, pine away if we are too far from it. I’ll do another post about it later in the week, but for now I just want to say it is an unspoiled paradise. Beautiful.
Baler is on the Pacific coast of Luzon. The Pacific is magical and I was awestruck by the fact that I was literally standing on the edge of the Earth — or at least, the edge of the Sunda plate, which is advancing inexorably towards the distant and unseen America, subducting (lovely word) the Philippines Sea plate as it goes.
Anyway, this a wee taster. We’ll be going back to Baler and I’ll write more about it. Meantime thanks to our new friends Rich and Fely Cleaver, who run the Saltwater Lodge on Sabang Beach. Economical, comfortable, clean and good company, just like staying at home!
On Sunday March 12th we went to watch the ‘Mr Lady’ beauty pageant at Robinson’s Place, Malalos, here in the Philippines. These pageants are a regular and important feature of life here.
During the event, an award was presented for Most Supportive Boyfriend. The winner took both his beloved and the crowd by surprise when he proposed to her on bended knee. The crowd went absolutely wild!
These events are very much family affairs and each of the contestants was supported by a strong turnout of highly partisan cousins, siblings and parents. It’s just good fun and everybody has a great time.
A long time ago, when I was a young lad, I had the acquaintance of a dog called Seumus.
Now Seumus was of, shall we say, indeterminate lineage. There seemed to be a fair bit of black Labrador in there, but it was mixed with some distinctly non-pedigree characteristics, including a tail that curled over his back. When Seumus was feeling full of himself, he carried this high and showed to the world his anal sphincter. I’m sure that’s not in the Labrador breed book.
Well, a belated Happy New Year to everyone and my apologies for the long hiatus.
I came here to the Philippines in early December after three months of flat-out work, to the point of exhaustion. I achieved a lot but I think regular readers would have noticed that my focus was not on the blog here but on other things, notably my new books — of which, more later.
Thai kathoeys have long been recognised in the Kingdom of Siam and are now known globally. This article was translated from the original French, by me, and edited and improved.
According to Buddhist precepts, being kathoey might be a “punishment” from a previous life: in it, the man cheated on a woman and to understand how she feels, he is reborn as a woman in a man’s body. In part thanks to this legend, the kathoey are accepted in the Land of Smiles. After all, in a culture where male philandering is practically standard, being a kathoey might be the fate of all such men, in a future life.
Arbroath January 1972 . I was living in the house at 9 East Grimsby. My Dad had died the previous year and I was still struggling with it. But I had a few things going for me: music, a camera and my books. It wasn’t a lot but it helped.
Russ Black, the art teacher at school encouraged me to use its darkroom. I had lost my own a couple of years before when we moved house. This is one of the earliest rolls I still have from then.
The camera was a Leica Model III fitted with a Ross Xtralux 50mm f2, an excellent lens. I used the name ‘Xtralux’ for a band some years later, in Exeter. Film was Ilford FP3.
The Philippines has become very important to me over the last four years. It’s now the focus of much of my life and I want to spend more time there. The winters in France are just too cold for me now.
When you visit a country for longer periods, months at a time, as I do, you can’t do quite what the holiday tourist does. It’s partly to do with budgets but also with burnout. You have to learn to chill and take it easy.
It’s Easter. In fact, this is the 60th Easter I have passed on Earth, although I don'[t remember the first few. Or, for that matter a good selection of those that came after. However, Easter is an important time. It is the beginning of Spring, officially defined as the first full moon after the Spring Equinox and, perhaps more importantly, the moment when the year comes into bloom. I know this might not be apparent in Canada and suchlike airts, but still. You should have left them to the Indians.
As the beginning of the year of fertility, Easter is a great Goddess festival and was such, long before it was hijacked by Christians. Indeed it was celebrated in ancient Sumer, 7,000 years ago, when the High Priestess would take a young man as consort for the year. We do not know what his fate was at the end of it. Still it is a time of giving thanks, when we should express our gratitude. And so I do.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Mount Arayat National Park in Pampanga, here in the Philippines.
I’d been invited by some friends to spend the day, with a walk in the mountain park in the morning followed by socialising later. This meant first taking a bus to San Fernando and then another, local bus. We wanted to be there for sunrise, which is why I found myself sitting in a taxi at 3.30 am, hurtling through Quezon City at speeds in excess of 100 kph. It was a good adrenaline rush to start the day.