When is a Minute’s Silence Not a Minute of Silence?

April 26, 2016

poppy290Nothing is ever silent. Ever. Except perhaps in space but I have no point of reference for that experience and so have no capacity to comment. There can be a stillness, but never silence. There is that moment that sluices into seconds and the feeling of a lifetime of ages when a zealot of some stripe or another initiates his bomb. The crump resonates through every part of you and welds a connection of gazes as your eyes instantly lock on the eyes of others and you all wonder together if you are next.
You hear nothing but feel everything that is decent and right shiver and collapse in that stillness. Sounds then wake and drift in behind the thudding of the blood in your ears, and your thoughts start to shift from your own selfish hide to wonder at those who have been unfortunate enough to have been caught up in the periphery of that sound. Read more


January 7, 2013

heart290_1The old man picked his way up the long road from Verdun. He skirted mules carrying bread, horse drawn wagons full of supplies, the endless procession of coughing munitions trucks and the equally endless procession of ambulances creeping back the other way. No one tried to stop him. He had been here before and they knew his white hair, weathered face, and bandy legged walk. Besides, they had too much of their own cares to be concerned about this man in his tweed jacket and bright rimmed glasses, who seemed hell bent on getting in harms way.

The old man had indeed been here before. It was a trek he knew well but these days the incline up onto the escarpment above Verdun caught his breath and he paused now and then to regroup and to pull out his old tin of cigarettes, light up another and then keep trudging. He had been smoking them ever since the battle started and the pungent scent somehow took him to other places, away from the horrors of what he lived through.   Read more

The Worst Museum in the World

October 24, 2010

ford-tri-motor290.jpgThe museums around Ho Chi Minh City can be derelict but at least there is an appreciation of the role various artifacts have played in the history of the city. That is especially the case when you are talking military artifacts. Port Moresby boasts the worst kept collection of military paraphernalia I have seen. And worse, few if any, seem to place any value in its historical significance. Read more

Kokoda – The Day After

October 20, 2010

bomona290.jpgSitting around the pool the day after walking/flying out of Kokoda was a surreal and dislocative experience. Fraudulent even. Here we were sitting in comparative luxury, able to flop into a tepid pool if we felt too sticky. And yet we had some claim, we felt, to some ownership of the Track. After all we had worked very hard to cross it. Yesterday we felt a modicum of affinity to the soldiers of 1942. Today I felt that affinity dishonest. I wondered what a soldier of 1942 would really think of us. Cec Driscoll a veteran of the campaign who we met at Kokoda, expressed delight at the Australian youth walking the track. But what would the 1942 Cec Driscoll have thought? I picked up my pen and scribbled this first line, and then the second, seeking the voice of that 1942 Digger. Then the rest just happened. We all “own” the Track. So I called it “Our Kokoda”.

Our Kokoda

Who are you that disturbs this track?
Who plods, head down
Under weight of pack?
Who disturbs my rest, my sleep?

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Kokoda D+10 Kokoda to Moresby

October 17, 2010

isurava290.jpgMelodious bird song gets our day started. Another tune and another bird I have never heard before.

The cloud hands heavy in the valley and for a few moments we are concerned about whether any flights will happen today. Then a couple of purple green peaks float into view and disappear again in the washed out morning light, a good sign the breeze is working for us and will clear this cloud out of the way soon enough. Breakfast is held after the usual fashion, we take some final photos, Lee calls “one minute” for the last time and we walk down to the airport in slow motion. Read more

Kokoda D+9 – on to Kokoda

October 15, 2010

butterfly.jpgWe are in something of a slow daze and tents are being set up in Kokoda at a rate that is the slowest I have seen for the whole trip. We swim through a humid wall and move slowly after coming out of the cool air of the mountains. But I am getting ahead of myself. Read more

Kokoda D+8 To Isurava

October 13, 2010

isurava.jpgThe surf fades and I sleep the sleep of a teenager. Helped by the fact that I think we have found the best patch of grass so far. We are all still having those lucid dreams. When I surface it is to the sound of the creek, and light has already steeped into the valley. I peek out and see the porters have gotten the fire going. Pete tells me it is 0545. We have a slower walk today but it is loaded with history. And it promises to be another hot one. The sun has yet to find its way down here and everything is covered in dew and the air around this frigid creek is quite cool. It will take a while to get these muscles unlocked. My knees are feeling it this morning after our steep descent yesterday and a planned nimble jump across boulders turns into a lumbering crawl. Read more

Kokoda D+7 To Eora Creek

October 12, 2010

pi_eora-creek.jpgDon’t take your malaria tablets before eating!  Not the salt tablets after all. Anyway, got the stomach purged in time to get breakfast in and staying down. Attempting any work up here on an empty stomach as I tried the other day would be a mistake. It was a mistake. Just prior to retiring last night I walked out of the campsite and back up the track 50 metres or so. The darkness inside this jungle was absolute. How the soldiers moved through here against each other defies imagination. I can’t see my hand in front of me let alone a track, or someone hiding in ambush. These days night vision goggles make working at night common place but in 1942 there was a Mark 1 Eyeball and that was about it. Read more

Kokoda D+6 1900 Crossing and Myola

October 9, 2010

b25.jpgThe wind roars through the tree tops as it makes it way up the valley before hammering our hut. You can hear it steaming up the hillside like a steam train and you mentally brace for the impact. Each time I woke up through the night I could see a little more of the sky. By the time dawn arrived the wind had ceased altogether and the floor was covered with roofing. There were some giggles through the night as we lay in the dark and listened to sections of palm thatch crash to the floor. Fortunately we had moved our sleeping bags far enough out of the way and no one was struck by anything dangerous. And it did not rain.

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Kokoda D+5 On to Naduri

October 9, 2010

nadurisilouette.jpgThe day started with a strange wailing, hooting call drifting down off the mountain. It was still dark. Twice. Each call elicited a murmur of comment from the porters before they dropped into silence. I waited for more and wondered who or what was out so early or so late.  I dropped off again and woke to someone’s alarm chiming at 0500. We are off early to Brigade Hill.
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