Odd Jobs That I Have had

Like all of us, at various points in my life I have had a wide range of jobs.   Also as with most of us, the great majority of these jobs were ones I had on my holidays when I was a student.  And most of them were pretty mundane – factory work, truck driving and so forth – they produced the money that I wanted to enable me to wander around Europe as a hitchhiker, but did nothing much else for me.

Ice-cream Anyone?

However, some of these holiday jobs had a profound effect on me in one way or another, and there are a couple that really stand out in my memory as significant to me and my world view.

The first of these jobs that I can bring to mind was when I was a driver/salesperson in one of those vans that chug around selling soft ice-cream to people.  On the face of it, a harmless occupation – but it had its dark side too….

This was the relatively large number of people in the Council house estates I trundled around in with my van and chimes, who came out every day (I did this 7 days a week) with large jugs that I had to fill with the soft ice I sold… Literally every day these misbegotten people bought kilos of ice-cream from me, and presumably ate it too…

Can you imagine a diet based around about 5 litres of ice-cream every day?   It really saddened me – no, lets be honest, it disgusted and revolted me to think of the harm these people were doing to themselves and their kids by eating the chemical rubbish I was selling as ice-cream…

yuk!!!!

Death Of A Centurion:

However, the job that really got in amongst me was when I worked as a Ward Orderly at a huge mental hospital.  Though frankly to call it a hospital seemed to me to be a wild overstatement, as the poor people in the ward where I worked never saw any doctors, except on rare occasions when they flipped completely and needed stronger tranquilizers to keep them calm and easy to control.

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The Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra – Unbelievable Joy

The other day I was reminded of this incredible phenomena, El Sistema, in which kids all over Venezuela receive a musical education outside their schools, with an emphasis on kids in the poorer sections of Venezuela such as slums and villages.

As you can see from this video, these kids are obviously having a total ball playing their music. Such energy and exuberance is so good to see.

Many years ago while I was Production Manager at the Roundhouse Theatre in London, we did a whole series of concerts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Pierre Boulez (a delightful man to work with by the way), but what struck me most forcibly about the musicians was their apparent boredom with what they were playing – it was obviously all a matter of rote for them.  I found the same attitude with most of the other major orchestras I also worked with in those years.

So watching these kids playing, laughing their heads off, swaying and obviously truly enjoying what they are doing is so refreshing, and to my mind what playing music should be about.

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Aldermarston Marches – I Become A Revolutionary.

Back in the mid 50’s of the last century (God that makes me feel old to say that – the last century indeed!), owing to my mother’s very left wing attitudes I attended the first meeting of what was to become the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in London, and became a fervent anti-nuclear activist – well, a moderately active one perhaps I should say.

At this meeting it was decided to adopt what has since become the universal Peace Sign, that upside down “Y” thing, and that as a form of protest, an annual march from Aldermarston Atomic Weapons Research Establishment which was about 80 km from London to London – or vice-verse – would take place.

aldermarston march
We couldn’t afford to buy new banners when we changed the direction of the march!

I took part in the first three of these marches, which each took three days of gentle marching through the countryside, in the company of many thousands of other peaceniks and were actually very enjoyable to be honest. Lots of friendly people, lots of singing, happy songs, as well as the sort of dismal dirges more normally associated with such demonstrations of people’s will.

And it was quite fun marching in the company of such people as Bertrand Russell and Michael Foot as well.

Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria and mountaineer:

A short diversion here, My maternal Grandmother who had been a member of the Communist party since about 1895 – at which time she was a Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria – and who was a splendidly eccentric woman, once went on holiday to Crete with Bertrand Russell and together they both made the first recorded ascent of a large mountain there, which the locals renamed Mount Lilly in honour of my splendid Grandmother.  So if you happen to visit Crete, check out Mount Lilly and think of Lily and Bertrand clambering up to the top of it – as unlikely as that sounds!

Back to the marching now:

Continue reading “Aldermarston Marches – I Become A Revolutionary.”

Chinglish – One Of The Joys Of Living In China

While we were living and working in Beijing, I became totally besotted with the wonderful ways in which Chinese was often translated into English – Something we ex-pats called Chinglish, and which all of us loved with a passion, and made a hobby out of collecting examples of this form of English.

I shall probably post occasional small jewels of this art form for your pleasure, but here to start with is a sticker I saw in the back window of a very large SUV in Beijing.

BABY ON ROAD

Alarming I think you will agree……  (O:

Share with us:

Do you have any examples of this art form?  From China or anywhere?  Do share them with us here please to spread the joy.

Brisbane Jazz Club – The Joys Of Being A Volunteer

Since arriving in Brisbane, and no longer being able to spend my free time scuba diving as I did every few days whilst living in Cebu (more about this in another post), I looked around for some other free time activity that would be amusing and might bring me into contact with other friendly souls.  Oh, and not cost me a load of money too – important when you are an old retired geezer like me.

Happily one day a friend took us to the Brisbane Jazz Club one evening, and apart from enjoying the music, I discovered that one could work there as a volunteer – what is commonly called a “Volly” here in Australia.

BJC

So I promptly signed on as a volunteer, without having the slightest idea what the work of a volunteer actually consisted of.

Well, I discovered this pretty quickly when Rita, the dauntingly efficient President of the club gave me her training course.

Rita is a lady who takes the way the club and its staff present themselves  very seriously, so I was initiated into the correct way to set up the tables – Cold water bottle to the left of the Table number card, glasses, upside down to the left of the bottle, and in line with it… and so on.

What the work actually consists of is setting up the room before the club opens, welcoming people to the club, showing them to their tables, telling them where the lavatories are and other useful information, and generally being friendly.    And then through the evening ensuring that they have enough cold water to drink and that they are happy and content.  And then at the end of the evening, clearing everything away and setting it up for the following evening’s crew.   Basically a sort of glorified waiter.

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All Of Bach – An Astonishing Site…. Everything Bach Wrote, And Free!!

I have discovered a website that anyone who loves the music of Bach simply has to visit and keep track of.

It is called All of Bach, which is a very reasonable description of what they are setting out to do – i.e perform and record the entire works of Bach and to bung them onto the internet for us to enjoy.

Bach_face

So far they have finished about 55 of his works, ranging through massive choral works, such as the Mathew Passion, through pensive cello suites and splendid organ works and a range of his Cantatas, all performed with enormous love, pleasure and professionalism.

So, 55 done, only another 1030 to go, more or less.

Currently they are producing videos at the rate of one a week, bit occasionally they manage a couple more as well.

So who are these Bach Fiends?

Not surprisingly, they are in fact a group of musicians who specialise in the music of good old Bach, the Dutch Bach Society, and I can do no better then to quote fully from their given reasons for this epic undertaking, so here they go……..

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Angola, Land Mines and Dead Tanks.

Some years ago My wife and I got work at an international school in Luanda (Angola).  A country that made a huge impression on us.
When we arrived in Angola, the civil war that had been raging in that country for about 30 years had just ended with the shooting to death of Savimbi – the leader of one of the three waring factions, (UNITA) and a sort of uneasy peace was being observed by all the various parties to that terrible war.
The end of Savimbi, and thus of the war
It had started as a war of independence against the Portuguese who had colonised the country in the late 19th century, and then once they had gone, it turned into yet another of those wars in which the USSR and the USA fought each other using surrogate armies. In this case it was the Cubans being the strong arm of the Russians, and the South Africans doing the USA’s dirty work for them.
The net result of all of this was a country that had an estimated 17 million land mines scattered around and endless shot up towns and villages, and a more or less totally destroyed infrastructure. Vast numbers of war injured people and an internal refugee problem of gigantic proportions – A real mess in other words.
In our work contracts with the International School of Luanda we were obliged to go away from the school compound during all our holidays, so most of our colleagues went off to South Africa, Namibia or further afield during the school holidays. Lotty and I on the other hand used those breaks mainly to explore Angola a bit, as Luanda itself is, or was, a horrible, slum ridden smelly dirty place. Relatively untouched by the war in the sense of not having any shot up buildings or other physical signs of the war, simply the millions of refugees living in unbelievable squalor around the city in vast slums.
We went off to towns such as Huambo, Lobango and Benguela which showed us a very different side of Angola. Huambo was a rather pleasant small city up country, which hadn’t been particularly damaged by the war, even though it was the city that Savimbi used as his main base, so there were some sections that had been seriously bombed and damaged. Most notably the house where Savimbi had lived, this was a total ruin, with what was all too typical of Angola back then, several dead tanks in the garden. Angola was notable for an almost total lack of garden gnomes, but lots of burnt out tanks in people’s gardens instead.
Impressive what you can do with a heavy machine gun
Bigger and better than any garden gnome, a T60 tank in the back yard
Savimbi’s bombed house
This was also the base from which the good folk of the Halo Trust set out to clear up all of those land mines the country was so plagued with. This work was being carried out by (among others) two young friends of ours from the UK, Nathaniel and Ali. So on one of our several visits to Huambo, they organised a visit to a mine field for us. This was in a small village nearby, where a largish mine field had been planted around a military base, just on the edge of the playground of the village school.
 What landmines actually look like….  Small and inoffensive mostly…  But……………………..
We arrived there and were taken under the arm of the Angolan guy who was in charge of this particular bit of mine clearing. He explained to us exactly the whats and hows of this particular mine field,and then kitted us out with the same sort of body armour that Princess Diana had so famously worn during her visit to these mine fields in Angola.
Us walking in the middle of the minefield
Me pretending to be Princess Diana – But in drag obviously
Another view of the minefield, the green bit is it.
Not surprisingly this armour is extremely heavy, hot and uncomfortable….. But thinking of the alternative made us extremely happy to be so protected. We also had the labourious process of mine clearing explained to us in fine detail. It is a very slow and painstaking process, and can only be done effectively by means of men digging narrow trenches through the mine field with small hand trowels, and thus locating each individual landmine, and removing it carefully and exploding it later in a pit.
We had earlier been shown some landmines, and the thing that stood out for me was how small they tended to be. Logical enough as the idea is not to kill but to maim. A dead soldier is sad, but not a problem, a severely wounded soldier on the other hand is lousy for moral, and requires other soldiers to help him to an aid station…
The only really effective way to clear mines, and this in a temperature in the high 30’s as well

Continue reading “Angola, Land Mines and Dead Tanks.”