life on mars…?

As i sit before my wife’s parents PC (‘evening all… mind how you go…’ – no, not that kind of PC… though one would be forgiven for thinking so, as the yUK is gripped firmly at the neck by security insecurity at the moment)and begin to do the one finger dance on the keyboard that others more skilled than I call typing, I realise that it has been eleven days since I last wrote something on my blog… frankly disgraceful, and I aplologise to all my regular readers unreservedly for depriving both of you of my deprecating blatherings for so long… however, I’m sure that my protracted absence from cyberspace has, in reality, somewhat enriched your lives. I did write a couple of paragraphs en route to the yUK, one in Phnom Penh airport and one in Suvanaboombangabang airport in Bangkok (name changed to protect the innocent (or stupid people who do not actually know how to write/pronounce it – stand up the author)), but they were miserable rantings about how much I hate hanging around in airports, and how much I hate people like me who pull Macbooks from their backpacks and start to write about how much they hate hanging around in airports.I am becoming, or have become,without any doubt, a grumpy old man, which horrifies and amuses me in equal measure.
Anyway, a quick update – I am back in the moist and tepid yUK, reunited with my lovely wife (even more beautiful and kind than I remember) and son (bigger, cheekier and also very regularly visited by the wonderfuls and the beautifuls), am very happy about that, and will write some more about what we have been up to (including a brief visit to Barcelona for our Ani-versary, really exciting – even more so as we stayed in the very hotel room which the fabulous Beatles whom we all know and love etc etc had stayed in during a visit to the city in the 60’s – yay!!)in the near future. I feel quite dislocated from the yUK now, more like an external observer from another world than a genuine living and breathing yUK citizen (with all the perks that brings with it), compounded by watching/catching up with the truly wonderful Beeb series ‘life on mars’, whose protagonist, DC Simms, is suffering from a similar sense of dislocation to that I feel, albeit in a temporal mode…
It’s with a sense of relief that I realise that British television can still pull off these exciting and thought provoking dramas from time to time which helps allay the general media led malaise that can seem to grip the country to the dismay of the outside world (me). I gaze horrified at the blank television stares of the many nonentities that populate the small screen and proliferate on the glossy covers of the magazines and garish tabloids in the newsagents and muse ‘where did it all go wrong?’.
Is Chris Moyles really the epitome of the modern British male? Jade Goody really the girl next door?
God, Allah, Jehovah, Shiva, Buddah and Gaia help us…

‘look at those cavemen go, it’s the freakiest show…

…is there life on Mars?’

‘you’re nicked, sunshine’

The Human Touch

After living for two years in Cambodia I have pretty much forgotten what it was like to live in a country like the UK with four distinct seasons, albeit in Northern Scotland often in the same day. Cambodia has only two, the rainy season, which is roughly June-November, and the dry season, December to May. So now we are in the rainy season. Unfortunately for the farmers who eke out a subsistence living growing rice in the provinces, so far this rainy season there has not been much rain. Some unseasonal downpours at the beginning of May resulted mainly in a spate of deaths from lightning strikes (graphically reported in the local press), but not much in the essential irrigation needed for the rice paddies. This is seen as inevitable, as the royal bulls (!), aided and abetted by the royal fortune tellers, have predicted a bad harvest for this year, and provincial Cambodians are mostly very superstitious and resigned to whatever fate is cast for them. 

I’m very, very fortunate that my work allows me to visit the provinces on a regular basis, as it is so easy to feel removed from reality in Phnom Penh. True, there are many sights in the city that evoke all those white western liberal guilt trip feelings, but it is only by traveling to the rural heart of Cambodia that a true sense of the horrendous poverty that still affects much of this country can be experienced. In many areas the approach to farming is still medieval in western terms, and people literally live from day to day. They do not starve, but they do not thrive either. There is usually just enough to eat, and no more. Healthcare in remote areas is very often non-existent. Often when we visit villages they will bring sick children to us, as if they equate our white professional appearance with some medical skills or knowledge. On a recent visit to a rural orphanage to visit some friends who are spending a year overseas volunteering, my wife and baby and I were shown a very sick HIV+ baby. As we stood around the tiny, fly-covered bundle that was sharing a cot with another child it became apparent that he was not moving or breathing. Little Dominic died in front of us that day, as I held my own baby boy in my arms, and that is something that I cannot, and will never, forget. In the west we are largely shielded from the daily realities of life and death by the distancing effect of the TV screen… another starving child in Africa, another dead Tsunami victim on a beach, another nameless victim of an indiscriminate bomb or landmine… it all blurs into the ‘oh, bad news again – isn’t there anything good they can talk about’ syndrome. Inconsequentiality becomes the norm, there is no space for ‘reality’ other than the ‘Big Brother/I’m a Celebrity…’ sideshows… Reality is something else, it is chillingly and sickeningly real, but do you know,I am really grateful that I have been given the opportunity to go out and actually face some degree of reality myself. I can only sincerely hope that it is somehow contributing to making me better at being a human being… we all need the human touch…

As that greatest of twentieth-century philosophers, Dave Allen, said – ‘goodnight, and may your god go with you…’