Sunday, November 06, 2011

Talking to my father today, I learned he'd flown RAF reconnaissance missions over Holland in 1944-5 - in Mustangs and Spitfires - looking for the V2 rocket sites. Which is the first time I'd ever spoken to him about this. And quite possibly the last, as he's nearing 90 and incapacitated by a stroke of eight years ago. As my father has never committed anything to writing, this means that, in effect, the opportunity to find out more about these awful years has gone for ever.

I was reminded of a conversation that took place in a Jakarta restaurant in 1984. Apart from me and my first wife, there was a visiting cardiologist, his wife and their son, who'd flown up from Australia to see his folks.
Me: So, where did you do your sight-seeing today Dr. X?
Dr. X: Well, I went to Glodok.
Me: Glodok? But that's just a huge shopping centre. Not as good as those nearer your hotel.
Dr. X: Maybe but I wanted to see the place for a particular reason.
Me: What was that, may I ask?
Dr X: Well, I was there for some years during the Second World War. When it was a Japanese prison camp.
The son: What! I didn't know you'd been a Japanese prisoner of war, Dad!
Dr X: No. I've never spoken to anyone about it until today.
Son: But why not?
Dr X: The memories are just too painful.

I can recall the hairs on the back of my neck rising at the significance of this conversation, before we quickly moved on to other matters.

Talking of wars . . . Here's the excellent Simon Jenkins on the prospect of a US attack on Iran. Having lived in Tehran for three years in the 70's, I find it easy to agree with Jenkins' take on things:- Iran is a nation of 70 million people, an ancient and proud civilisation with a developed civil society and a modicum of pluralist democracy. . . . Total war on Iran would be a catastrophe. . . . Every expert report on Iran warns that bombing is the one thing likely to bond the unpopular Ahmadinejad to his people. The idea that they would rise up against him after the Pentagon's reported "shock and awe" three-day blitz of 1,200 targets is demented. Let's hope we don't see it come to pass and some other solution is found to the stand-off.

Finally . . . There've been reports of black rhinos being air-lifted from one place to another in Africa. Which allows me to display my knowledge that 'black' rhinos are so called to differentiate them from 'white' rhinos. But, ironically, 'white' is a mistranslation of the Afrikaans/Dutch word for 'wide' - wijd. Which is a description of the shape of the beast's snout. So there's nothing black about the black rhino. Which really shoud be called the narrow-gobbed rhino. Or something similar.


Ashleigh said...

Let us hope that Iran remains isolated and not invaded...what a story about the prison reminds me of the novel Sarah's Key, which is being made into a movie. It is about a Velodrome in Paris where Jews were rounded up by French police and not the Nazis and no one would ever know because, of course, it is embarrassing to the French. Even the camp that they were taken to outside of Paris has been turned into apartments...Can you imagine the ghosts?

Ex Pat said...


I hope you won't mind if I post a link to a very fine article I found. By which I discovered your blog in fact. With thanks. -

Washed up on the internet shore - Iran Savak murder -


Which lead to some sober thinking, via Robert Fisk.


And remember that Hicks was one of the (comparatively) 'lucky' ones.' Come from a non-western country and you are just 'Disappeared.' Never to be seen again.

Why is torture a 'crime against humanity?'

Let's start with the US bacon slicer.

Robert Fisk memorably put his readers off their breakfasts by describing the torture devices that the US apparently gave the Iranians.

"Weeks later, in Evin prison, he discoursed again on the finer details of stoning to death. I still have the cassette of our conversation, his lips smacking audibly on a tub of vanilla ice cream as he spoke. From where did this brutality come? One of the regime’s new officials said the Shah’s Savak intelligence men were Nazi-type criminals. And how could I argue with this when reporters such as Derek Ive of the AP had managed to look inside a Savak agent’s house just before the revolution was successful? “There was a fishpond outside,” he told me. “There were vases of flowers in the front hall. But downstairs there were cells. In each of them was a steel bed with straps and beneath it two domestic cookers. There were lowering devices on the bedframes so the people strapped to them could be brought down on the flames. In another cell, I found a machine with a contraption which held a human arm beneath a knife and next to it was a metal sheath into which a human hand could be fitted. At one end was a bacon slicer. They had been shaving off hands.”

"Derek Ive found a pile of human arms in a corner and, in a further cell, he discovered pieces of a corpse floating in inches of what appeared to be acid. Amid such savagery was the Iranian revolution born."

- 'Robert Fisk: I saw a mesmeric Islamic uprising turn to savagery,' by Robert Fisk - February 10, 2009 - The Independent -


Now behind a paywall for the non-UK world but the Wayback machine is our friend. - via Wayback -


Lovely stuff. The Nazis would have been proud. In fact, Klaus Barbie -- working for US in S. America probably _was_ proud! ; ). (*) 'Makes you proud!' ER, Possibly NOT!

Colin said...

Thanks, Ashleigh. I occasionally wonder how (some) Brits would have behaved under a Nazi government. There would surely have been some prepared to do anti-semitic dirty work.

Azra said...

I assume you're still in the UK Colin... for how long (or is it indefinite?)

Colin said...

Hi, Azra. Yes, I'm still in the UK but will be visiting Pontevedra for 10 days next week. Then I'll be back to the UK for my two daughters', my two sisters' and my father's birthdays and then Xmas. Back to Spain permanently in early Jan.

Ex Pat said...


I hope you won't mind if I post a link to a very fine article I found. By which I discovered your blog in fact. With thanks. -

Washed up on the internet shore - Iran Savak murder. -


I posted this yesterday as the start of a comment and wondered if you declined to publish it, which would be perfectly fair.

The reason I ask is that our internet 'minders,' who appear to be at plague level these days, may also have 'interdicted' it before it ever reached you. Can you clarify? Thanks.

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