The posts below are some of my favourites that were written over the past few years. They cover a number of subjects and I am sure you will enjoy them.



​​​Spare A Thought For Refugees

"Man's inhumanity to man"

Man Was Made to Mourn 1784-Dirge
Robert Burns, Scotland's national bard

"Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -

Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

I have a habit of reading the BBC news app on my mobile telephone every morning. It occurred to me this morning that virtually every day the lead news item is based on someones war or more to the point someones destruction caused by that war.

The above aphorism ‘Man's inhumanity to man’ came to mind.

Wars annihilate thousands of people, displace millions of people and destroy infrastructure. Resources are taken from where they are needed most and assigned to the ongoing war effort.

I ask myself why is it so, why do men wage war on each other?

If wars are so bad, and if in reality almost no one benefits, why do leaders resort to them?

In ancient times people waged wars for land, for water, for resources in order to survive. In modern times that is not the case.

I think perhaps the first thing we should clarify is that individual people do not go to war, in most societies it is the leader, then the leadership group that make the decision, they in turn convince their people or their followers that war is the only way to solve the perceived problem.

Based on the extensive study of inter-state wars since 1648, Richard Ned Lebow outlines his analysis of the motivations which underpin warfare. He finds that contrary to the expectations of most international relations theories, wars fought primarily for reasons of security, or material interests, have been relatively rare. Rather, motivations related to a nation’s ‘spirit’, such as the standing of a country or revenge, have been the principal causes of most wars.

My own opinion is that there will always be war wherever human kind exists. Wars are initiated by leaders whether they lead a whole country or a group of followers. Leaders by definition are dominant personalities. Dominant personalities are usually self-willed and self-righteous. If there is a grain of hatred buried in the psyche of these people, this can easily be turned into conflict.

In psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud defined hate as an ego state that wishes to destroy the source of its unhappiness

Leaders who go to war always seem to have patriotic and righteous reasons which they are able to disseminate via persuasive speeches, when in truth it is usually for personal pride, power, glory or the misguided defence of religious superstitions. The attacker and the attacked are then embroiled in conflict which continues sometimes for many years before a settlement is reached. This is usually by the death or removal of the instigators.

For most citizens in a country at war there is no choice, they either follow the leader, oppose the leader, and risk retribution or in order to protect themselves and their families, they must flee.

They then become displaced people----Refugees.

Spare a thought for refugees, they are not refugees by choice!




The Case For Reincarnation

I was reading an article the other day written by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. The article discussed the proposition that he may before his death end the historical tradition of a reincarnated successor. The main reason for this is that with the involvement of the Chinese Government in the administration of Tibet the fear that a candidate may be chosen for political rather than spiritual reasons.

The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are believed to be enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.

Reincarnation is the religious or philosophical concept that the soul or spirit, after biological death, can begin a new life in a new body. According to Tibetan tradition as explained by the Dalai Lama, reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her. On this basis, it would seem that being the person who is to be reincarnated, he would have the power to halt any future reincarnations.

The concept of reincarnation is found in many Eastern religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. It was adapted in the West by many of the New Age groups in the sixties and seventies on the back of an influx of popular would be Gurus of the time.

In Western culture probably the most well-known and respected person to have offered proof rather than mere philosophy or hypnosis for the existence of reincarnation is the late Dr. Ian Stevenson.

Dr. Stevenson’s credentials are impeccable. He was a medical doctor with many scholarly papers to his credit. He was also the former Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia.

 Dr. Stevenson collected literally thousands of cases of children who without hypnosis, spontaneously remembered a past life. He then identified the deceased person the child remembered being and cross checked the facts given to him by the child relating to the deceased person; even to the point of matching birth marks, scars and other bodily defects. These were verified by the deceased person’s medical records. He used the strictest possible methods for his investigations in order to rule out any possible normal explanations for the child’s memories.

He used this method to investigate more than 3000 cases. Many people including both skeptics and scholars agree that they cannot find fault in his investigations and agree that he has offered the most convincing argument for the proof of reincarnation.

Having read much about the subject my own opinion would be to agree with the concept.

How can a thought process be created from flesh and bones?

I am reminded of the words of Waldo Emerson on the matter.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON
It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from site and afterwards return again…Nothing is dead; men feign themselves dead and endure mock funerals and mournful obituaries, and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some new strange disguise. Jesus is not dead, he is very well alive; nor is John, nor Paul, nor Mahomet, nor Aristotle; at times we believe we have seen them all, and could easily tell the names under which they go.

_Nominalist and Realist



Coming Your Way Soon

In 1950 Science Fiction author Isaac Asimov published a collection of 9 short stories which were linked together with the same theme. The book was entitled ‘I Robot’ and told the story of the interaction between humans, robots and morality. They created Asimov’s fictional history of robotics.

The robots created in Asimov’s fictional stories were supposed to operate under the ‘3 Laws of Robotic’ quoted as being from the "Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 A.D.", these laws are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
It would seem that Asimov’s fictional tales of human like robots are now fast becoming a reality.

Unfortunately the ‘3 Laws of Robotics’ will not apply.

Physicist Stephen Hawking and inventor Elon Musk along with over 1000 scientific experts have signed a letter advocating a ban on autonomous weapons stating that such technology could create a third revolution in warfare. The letter was released as the world's top experts in artificial intelligence congregated for the 2015 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires.

This ‘third revolution in warfare’ follows on from the invention of gunpowder and nuclear arms. These scientific experts maintain that the production of these ‘Autonomous Weapons’ are not decades away but years away.

These weapons could be used to kill individuals or even whole populations. They could also be the introduction of non-human devices to subdue whole populations.

Whilst the optimistic amongst us can envisage robots carrying out all those boring tasks such as housework and painting walls, the more pessimistic or dare I say realistic amongst us can see the inevitable use of autonomous weapons as a further scourge on mankind.

To say they should be banned, is wishful thinking, so should nuclear weapons.

I watched a news item the other night showing a small drone, the type which can be bought over the counter, which had a hand gun connected to it. The hand gun was firing off shots at random.

With such technology available over the counter, who needs suicide bombers? The prospect is quite frightening.

To build a nuclear bomb requires vast amounts of money and technology. These new autonomous weapons will be manufactured or purchased for relatively low cost. The major powers in the world today are already using un-manned drones to drop bombs on selected targets. What will they be using in ten or twenty years’ time?

It’s not difficult to imagine countries in the Middle East arming themselves and their supporters with such weapons. Some already see no problem with chemical weapons, so why should they be worried about using autonomous weapons?

The more I think about it, the more I tend to agree with Stephen Hawking and his associates.

In a very few years’ time these weapons will be the starting point for the predicted Armageddon, which will not be God made, but man made.

As with a worldwide nuclear conflict, mutual destruction is assured.

 

Life's Road to Reward and Punishment

I was reading an article recently on ‘Operant Conditioning’. Now that might sound extremely intellectual or extremely boring depending on one’s point of view. Operant conditioning is the psychological theory of the learning method that occurs through rewards or punishments for a behaviour, it was first brought to public attention by behaviourist B.F. Skinner (1904-1990). It focuses on using reinforcement or punishment to increase or decrease a behaviour.

A typical example would be that of a dog trainer trying to teach a dog to fetch a ball. Every time the dog fetches the ball it is given praise and a reward, when the dog fails to retrieve the ball the praise and the reward are withheld. Eventually the dog links the praise and reward with the action of fetching the ball and thus a conditioned behaviour is created.

It occurred to me that variants of this methodology have been used throughout history in the evolution of mankind. The dominant forces in society have controlled the rest of the population with this reward or punishment psychological conditioning throughout history.

Rewards can be real or ethereal. Punishments can be real or psychological. The political systems of most countries are a typical example. In a democracy we hear, ‘Vote for my party and you will receive more benefits vote for the other party and the country will go down the drain’. In a dictatorship you support the dictator or risk potential persecution.

Perhaps the best or worst example depending on your point of view would be the religious context. The system of reward and punishment for ‘sinfulness’. Or in other words, ‘Believe and do as I say or be punished by God.
This belief in reward and punishment has been used by the purveyors of religion since ‘Gods’ were first used as a psychological control method for the masses.

The afterlife is where it all happens. If you do what you are supposed to do according to ones beliefs or persuasions, you are rewarded, if you do not, then you are cast into some kind of hell.

This has been the case since ancient times with virtually all religions.

The Hindus who believe in reincarnation are judged by Yama the God of death. Who will either punish or reward in the next incarnation depending on one’s earthly deeds. The adherents who perform well will be reincarnated into a higher class and even spend some time in between in heaven. Those who did not follow the rules will receive the opposite, they will be reincarnated in a lower class or even as animals as well as being sent to Naraka (the equivalent of hell) to be tortured in between lives.

Buddhists have the same principle of reincarnation. However, there are several different versions, some involving no God and others borrowing from the Hindu traditions with the judgement of Yama as well as the concept of Naraka which is also borrowed from Hindu beliefs.

Christians believe that on death, their spirit leaves their body and then faces the judgement of God for their sins. Since all humans sin, the only way into heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ who is both Gods son and God in human form. The good people get to stay in heaven till judgement day the sinners go to hell to suffer eternal punishment.  

Christianity differs from other World beliefs in that while it allows a distinct avenue for judgement by a Higher Power, passage into heaven and eternal life cannot be earned, but happens due to the self-sacrifice of that Higher Power.

In Islam after death there is Jannah, the equivalent of paradise or Jahannam the equivalent of hell. Again one is assigned to either of these two places depending on one’s earthly deeds. The good who follow the rules and perform good deeds enter Jannah. Those who do not believe in Islam or are unfaithful to it are punished in Jahannam. The believers who carry out good deeds live the perfect life in paradise whilst the un-believers and sinful are tortured for eternity or until Allah wills it to stop.

It can be seen from the above that the reward and punishment factor along with the fear of the unknown imposes a psychological control over believers. This control if enforced rigidly by various priests, preachers and Imams can make people believe that they are doing their Gods work and will be rewarded accordingly.
And thus the gullible and the fearful do as they are bid in order to avoid the punishment. The violent and the criminal carry out despicable acts in the name of their God or their leader in the misguided belief that they will be rewarded.

Unfortunately, it seems that operant conditioning will remain with us.

How different it would be if ‘Operant Conditioning’ was used to spread the simple message that ‘Love is everything.’

The reward in this life of a peaceful existence for mankind.
The punishment in this life, the current existence of fear and uncertainty.



Whatever Happened to ‘Sutekh’ (High God of the Whole Nile Valley?)

There seems to be so much conflict in the world today, so much misery, and to be honest the perpetrators of a great deal of this on-going misery claim to have God on their side. And let’s face it with a backer like that, there is nothing that can be disallowed.

Everything done in the name of God is seen as a commitment, a glorification, and a sacrifice. Even if one is killed when carrying out Gods will, no problem, you become an instant winner, go straight to Heaven and be rewarded with all kinds of goodies. In fact being killed doing the work of God is the preferred option by lots of misguided followers whose current life has been made so miserable mostly by circumstances beyond their control.  

And yet where are the Gods of past times. These same Gods who men laboured years on end building Temples and Pyramids to celebrate and glorify their existence. And in their time all of these Gods were of the highest standing and dignity worshiped by the greatest civilised races of their time. They were worshiped and believed in by millions of people. All were seen as omnipotent and immortal.

And yes, in those days there were also thousands of High Priests, Wizards, Deacons, Archdeacons and ‘Chosen’, all installed mostly by each other to interpret the needs and whims of their Deity. And would you believe it, they sent armies out in the name of their God who pillaged and burned and killed woman and children all in the name of their Omnipotent Deity.   

The list of Gods no longer in vogue in various parts of the world and in various cultures would be in the thousands. Historical research says that generally speaking the Gods die or begin to wane in popularity somewhere in the world every century whether this is true or not I cannot say. But this could be argued with the birth of Jainism and Buddhism in India which originally denies the existence of a God yet as time has progressed, the various Buddha’s have themselves have been worshipped as Gods in order that the worshiper receive benefits from them.  

In1923 the American journalist H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) held a memorial service for the Gods, who, as he put it “had gone down the chute”. He then listed two pages of names of Gods who have disappeared. Some, five or six thousand years ago, ranked on the same level as Jehovah himself.
Some people believe that God or Gods are embedded in the human psyche and will always play a part in human history.

This is probably true.

It would be nice to believe that in modern times, the use of God as a motivator for human destruction will eventually be recognised for what it is. Unfortunately, history seems to repeat itself in these matters. As the old God’s die they are replaced by new ones. Despots and Dictators know how to manipulate the masses.

The names change but the story is usually the same.




'Nobody' supplied this photo

In all probability ‘nobody’ will enjoy reading this post

‘Nobody’ is to blame for most of our problems

My wife looked out the window yesterday and made the comment ‘I see ‘nobody’ mowed the lawn’. ‘Yes’, I agreed. ‘He didn’t do a very good job of it did he. If I get time I’ll have to do it again myself.’

On reflection I had to admit that ‘Nobody’ is one of the busiest individuals in the world. When I started making a mental note of everything that ‘nobody’ did, the list was endless. In fact ‘nobody’ would believe it.

Around the house ‘nobody’ is involved in all kinds of tasks, painting, gardening, cleaning, you name it and ‘nobody’ is involved in it. When I was still working full time I can remember clearly that ‘nobody’ liked doing all the tasks that were considered time consuming and boring. ‘Nobody’ liked the boss, especially when he finally went broke. And guess who got paid when that happened, that’s right ‘Nobody.’

Nobody’ believes in all kinds of rubbish like pink elephants and flying pigs, even most politicians’ promises.

On a more serious note there are things which ‘nobody’ gets involved in that cause problems and grief around the world.

Things like climate change, where ‘nobody’ really wants to take hold of the issue, especially in Australia. Too many large coal mining companies putting revenue into Government coffers. Unfortunately the biggest polluters are usually the wealthy multinationals who use their leverage to get what they want.

Millions of displaced people around the world, especially in the Middle East. ‘Nobody’ in power or aspiring to power wants to give ground. Just killing each other all year round, creating massive humanitarian problems. None of these people have armament factories. If the major powers in the world stopped supplying the weapons, they would eventually have to sit down and talk to each other, only ‘nobody’ thinks that’s a good idea.

Am I starting to sound a bit cynical? I hope not. I recently read an article in ‘Pacific Standard’ which stated that new research from Finland has found that cynics are at a higher risk of developing dementia.

(No wonder I keep forgetting where I put the car keys)

I mentioned this to a few friends of mine and ‘nobody’ would believe it.

I questioned it myself. Does that mean that we have to believe stuff that ‘nobody’ believes just to prove we are not being cynical?

When President Putin says he is not arming rebels to fight in the Ukraine. And I say ‘Well ‘nobody’ believes that'. Am I being cynical?

(Now where are those car keys)?

The way we are going I think that most thinking people in the world will end up with dementia if the research proves to be correct.

It would be nice if somebody could explain why ‘nobody’ seems to believe half the stuff we hear nowadays on news bulletins, from advertisers, or any type of public media.

Maybe people are so used to hearing half- truths or untruths, ‘nobody’ cares anymore.

Trouble is, if ‘nobody’ cares then nothing changes, in that scenario ‘nobody’ wins. 


Old People Say Hello

I was putting mulch on my garden today. The mulch was right on the footpath in a big pile and had to be put into a wheelbarrow and spread around the garden. This meant I was working all morning next to the road.

There were cars going past, people walking their dogs and people just walking by themselves. 'So what', you might say. Well the reason I mention this is because something kept happening on a regular basis. I began to notice that most elderly people acknowledged me even though I did not know them, either a wave, a bip on the car horn, a G’day mate etc. They live in the area and thought it appropriate.

Conversely all of the younger generation completely ignored me. Not even a glance. I said hello to one young guy running with his dog by his side and he looked at me as if I had asked him for a fifty dollar loan.

It got me wondering why this is so. Is it because younger people are just rude, Is it because they are antisocial, do they lack confidence?

On reflection I realise how society has changed over the years. When I was growing up in the UK we lived on a council house estate; all rented properties, very working class. People who lived there had very few material possessions, even owning a motor car was a big deal. I remember when my father bought his first car it was a Morris 10 with the registration plate number WF9919. I recall it clearly. That purchase made us one of only three family's in the whole street to own a motor car.

Every person knew their neighbors, I can still remember the surnames of at least 20 different families. All the kids used to walk about two miles to school every day, we used to play with each other, either in the street or in the local woods nearby. The older kids and the younger kids mixed together, the older ones taking charge and organizing games and teams. We used to play Cowboys and Indians, running around, hiding behind bushes all armed with pretend bow and arrows or finger pointing pistols. We also played football on the local green. The group had to be careful not to upset the kid who owned the ball otherwise he might take his ball and leave (He was usually allowed to pick his own team).

That was nearly seventy years ago.

How things have changed.

I have lived at my current address in Adelaide South Australia for thirty years. As people have moved out and new people have moved in, I can state that at this point in time I know my immediate neighbors on either side quite well, I know their first names and surnames. The family across the street, I know their first names but not their surname. And that’s it.

I have never seen any young people playing in the street, probably because they would get run over. Young people, or I should say their parents have to pay for most of their social activities outside school hours, all of which is usually supervised by adults. Everybody over the age of about ten years has a smart phone and that’s their main method of communication. Most people over the age of sixteen have a motor car and always seem to be in a hurry. Parents take their children to and from school in the car.

There is no good or bad here, no right or wrong, it’s just the way society has evolved.

Physical and personal communication is slowly disappearing.

On the other hand it could be me, am I out of touch?

Maybe I should get on board, find out my neighbors names, then I can Tweet them and ask them to be my Facebook friend.



A Person of Less Consequence

It was not something I even thought about before I reached retirement, even in early retirement I chose to pass it off as my own over sensitivity. But now after 12 months of retirement I am forced to accept it. In fact I now purposely observe it and make a mental note of it. What I am talking about is the invisibility of old age.

It’s not that I am unable to be seen, but more that I am of much less consequence in society as a retired person. Even my dentist shows very little interest in my teeth knowing that I am now not the potential mouthful of extra business that I was prior to my retirement.

It’s the small things that really annoy me like standing in front of a counter with four other people and being served last. Some rude and insensitive people actually stand really close to me and talk into one of my ears presumably on the assumption that I am deaf. Worst of all are the people who talk really loud in your face and use mono syllables on the presumption that you are both deaf and stupid. A recent example of this was when shopping at the local market for vegetables. Most really old people use a shopping trolley to carry their vegetables. The man serving me had forgotten that I had already given him two shopping bags for my vegetables.

He came out from behind the counter and shouted in my ear ‘Trolley, where’s the trolley’. I played the game and shouted back at him in his ear ‘Don’t have trolley, have bags,’ and pointed at my bags behind the counter. He patted me on the back ‘Oh okay’.

I will not repeat the expletives that gushed into my mind at the time. I just smiled at the man took my bags and walked away.

Then of course we have the footpath challenge. A typical scenario would be, a two metre wide footpath, I am walking one way and coming towards me are a group of four males all in a row taking up the whole footpath usually they are in the 35-40 age group, dressed in suits talking very loudly to each other (obviously very important people). Now the assumption that that they make is that I must step on the road and let them pass without breaking file. I know this to be true because I have had the experience so many times and I used to step off the pavement and let them pass which they usually did without even a glance in my direction.

Now however, I accept the challenge it’s a bit like jousting. When they are about three metres away and obviously not going to let me pass on the pavement, I pull out my mobile phone and shout loudly into the phone ‘Hello grand dad how the fuck are you? I thought you were dead.’

The loud voice combined with the unexpected statement and accompanying expletive, takes them totally by surprise; their conversation stops and they split in two allowing me to pass without breaking stride.

I think that older people over the years have been stereotyped. When reaching the age of retirement, younger people mentally consign the elderly to Gods’ waiting room where they’re supposed to stay out of the way, just hang around till they get the final call.

Good manners and common courtesy are just not taught anymore, but what can one do.

Maybe I should go to the local supermarket food hall, order a cut price ‘Seniors’ coffee and think about what other strategies I can use to become a person of more consequence.




The Best Thing My Parents Never Gave Me

Perhaps the greatest belief option which is thrust upon us at an early age and stays with us all of our lives is the religious ‘faith factor.’ For the most part, depending on where in the world we are born and which culture we are from will dictate whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or any of the myriad of options available. As the Hindu saint Ramakrishna remarked: ‘Everyone believes their watch tells the right time.’ And so it has been for thousands of years.

Bearing this in mind, I consider myself fortunate that my own parents did not give me at birth a religious doctrine to which I must give my lifelong allegiance. Sure, I was baptised in the local church as was every other newborn in our small Welsh town, but that was where the indoctrination ceased. My father was an agnostic whilst my mother was a Christian who believed in the basic tenets of the bible. They accepted all religions on the basis that it was an accident of birth rather than a spiritual awakening.

The result of this introduction or non-introduction to religion was not negative, I believe it was positive. From an early age I always had a spiritual leaning. What was my relationship with God or was there even a God to have a relationship with. I have a library full of books on various world religions. Studying these books has been an interest of mine for many years.

When I was in my mid-thirties,  I had an unusual experience, not a great awakening or enlightenment, but something that has remained with me for all those years. At the time I was daydreaming just sitting in a chair by myself doing nothing in particular.

I heard a male voice, not inside my head, but inside the room, it was very clear and distinct the voice said:

 ‘Love is everything.

The voice didn’t frighten me, there was no implication that it was a profound statement nor did it change my way of thinking at the time.

It did however stay with me.

I very rarely buy religious books anymore. They all say the same thing depending on their historical and cultural belief system.

The universe; billions of atoms joined together to give form to what we see or think we see. The consciousness and profound dynamic of creation.  

How preposterous to think that the human thought process could comprehend this profound existence of   ‘What is.’

That which is creation does not require followers or converts. If you exist then you are already on the team. Like a grain of sand in the desert or a drop of water in the ocean.

Yes I still believe in God, but my name for God is:  ‘That Which Is’

After all my years of studying the various faiths, it all comes back to those three words.

‘Love is everything.

For the most part, the practical progression of the major faiths has been expounded and disseminated by many who have taken advantage of the power that comes with being the accepted spokesperson of their particular belief. I think many of these spokespersons have a lot to answer for. Perhaps their God should put someone else in charge? 

If all the religious leaders in this world expounded those three simple words and junked everything else, I guarantee the world would be a better place.




'G Day Mate’

I am not normally the type of person who writes about anniversaries, 2014 however was a special year. On November 22nd 2014 I celebrated 50 years in Australia. It doesn’t seem like 50 years. I still remember the journey and my arrival quite vividly. As a migrant from the North of England I came to Australia with my parents, elder brother and younger sister. I was 18 year old. In those days the ‘poms’ were given the added title of ‘Ten Pound Tourists,’ which was the amount of money English migrants paid to travel to Australia.

Unlike most migrants at that time, we did not come by ship, we came by plane. I had never been on an aeroplane before and remember feeling quite apprehensive at the prospect. ‘British Eagle Airlines’ were our hosts for the journey, the aeroplane we travelled on, was quite small and had propellers. ‘No jet engines for the ten pound tourists.’ The plus factor of travelling on this plane was the fact that it flew at a much slower speed and lower altitude than its more powerful jet propelled cousin. During our long journey, except whilst flying over the Alps we were able to view the landscape all the way to Australia. Travelling via Bombay, Singapore and eventually Darwin we experienced panoramic views of vast oceans, deserts and jungles. I particularly remember seeing the smoke rising from what looked like a small village in the middle of the jungle.

Eventually after what seemed like forever, we landed at Darwin airport. Sitting on the tarmac in the crowded plane there was a buzz of excitement as we all waited to step out onto the tarmac. ‘Maybe we would see a few kangaroos or even crocodiles’! After about twenty minutes a tall sun bronzed man came through the doorway. He was wearing a khaki shirt, shorts and a hat with a huge brim. He was carrying a pump spray unit, one of the old types which were used before the modern day propellant sprays came in. This man did not say a word, he proceeded to walk the length of the plane spraying every single person on board with what smelt like a mixture of fly spray and kerosene. When the coughing and spluttering stopped and the man had left we were informed that this was the decontamination procedure.

As we disembarked onto the tarmac I can remember the blast of hot air that hit like a huge hair dryer. I was still wearing the suit and tie that I wore when we boarded the plane at Heathrow Airport in London. In Bombay and Singapore we had disembarked straight into the air-conditioned airport lounge so it was only strange oriental odours rather than the heat which assailed our senses. This was different. When I left my home town of Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire it was 15 degrees Fahrenheit. I had never experienced anything like this before. In a few short minutes we were dripping with sweat and looked like boiled lobsters.

The man at the customs desk was dressed like the man who had sprayed us on the plane. I reached the desk first and nodded to him as I waited for the rest of the family.

He looked at me and smiled.

‘Gday mate. Welcome to Australia.’