I’ve been asked more than once about what I consider to be my favourite post so far. It’s hard to remember them all and besides, I’m uncomfortable selecting let alone rating my own stuff. Perhaps Dream might be the most satisfying favourite or recently, I enjoyed writing Time Reverses. I also enjoyed being the lead in the story of failing to get a good shot of the moon in Sea and Light, only to get a better shot than I could have imagined. Who knows, perhaps readers might one day tell me their favourites?[Read more…] about Exploding Flowers
I have already been told that my first post on Tax Collectors was pretty dark. This second story will not be much brighter despite being desert based.
Tax collectors have often been brutal down the ages. Just ask the residents of Isfahan why they killed Tamerlane’s tax collectors in the late 1300s. Unfortunately for them, as when the city of Khiva upset the great Timur in 1370, he then slaughtered Isfahan’s citizens and razed the city. Arguably, his most infamous atrocity was that he commanded a pyramid be built from the skulls of the tax renegades. He treated Damascus and Baghdad with similar contempt. Yet he transformed his city of Samarkand to a place of wonder that persists today.
Tamerlane / Timur is a folk hero these days. He’s on the money in Uzbekistan and I’ve seen him on a horse in central Tashkent. Not bad for someone whose no-nonsense ruling style was accentuated by the slaughter of as many as ten million people across the Timurid Empire that once stretched from Ankara to Delhi and Hormuz nearly to Moscow.
I first visited Algeria between reading The Plague and A Savage War of Peace.
‘…the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good …’
Albert Camus’ fiction of the plague in Oran from 1947 is quoted as the Afterword in Alistair Horne’s visceral history of the decade leading to Algerian independence (as written in 1977).
Imagine a shaggy dog story set in a desert. Let’s call it a shaggy fenec story because of a desert fox that liked chickens that pecked after scorpions and camel spiders.
‘There was an old lady who swallowed a bird.
How absurd to swallow a bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.’
There is an acacia tree in the front garden across the road from the Woodbastwick Road Junction in London’s SE26. I’ve seen it in full bloom in early March while I was walking London’s Capital Ring. Between Sydenham and Penge, it is adorned with bright yellow balls that appear light as feathers and grouped together into a conical habit. A tree that dresses to impress. A tree that’s worth seeing.
The day I saw it, it reminded me of the acacia in our back garden. An equally impressive tree that is generally purple. It sometimes shows greenish or yellowish or grey or brown. But as I said, it’s generally purple. We’ve recently shaped it into a topiarists ball. Once it was a wonderful place for two cats to hang out but they’ve moved on and now it’s great song perch for garden birds.
We all depend on movements for effect and those effects drive society. A learned friend introduced me to the term ‘kinetic elite’ that describes highly mobile business and political leaders and I guess global geoscience advisors too. I knew that US military still use ‘kinetic operations’ to describe their overseas interventions. With hindsight, perhaps both concepts were aligned when I was jogging around rocky Algerian deserts on fiery summer evenings deep in the Sahara. We’d wait until the temperature dropped to 44 C, then run an outbound 5 km before sunset to avoid dehydration and ensure the return 5 km could complete before total darkness, avoiding the reportable health or safety incidents used as adjunct measures of our job performance. We were among trails used as caravan routes for millennia, ‘kinetic smuggling’ routes perhaps. I was accompanied by security advisor MdS who joked that he was born into the ‘mobility’. I’ll call him MdS because he was a veteran of the Marathon des Sables as well as special kinetic operations. Discreet when not downright secretive, he had mind-bending stories he considered safe to relate to while away a slow evening jog with me.
‘Can you imagine …?’ is how she often starts … I wrote this a month ago not imagining that government had already restarted their harassment of Nurcan Baysal for ‘inciting hatred and enmity among the public’.[Read more…] about Kinetics