Saturday, September 18, 2021

Seeing Friends in Former Army Barracks

Although we have visited Portsmouth  often, not least as  result of  ferries  from France docking there after holidays abroad, Southsea was until recently,  a coastal town unvisited by the maytrees family.

Friends of ours,   just before Covid-19 lockdown, purchased an un-modernised flat in the old Southsea  army barracks, which the husband who is an architect, spent many months, with assistance from IKEA, Wicks and others, modernising with excellent results. Lynette and David  kindly invited us down for a picnic at Southsea beach which we enjoyed along with viewing their delightful flat. The two friends feature elsewhere on this blog,  for example at: Postal Museum

Rather surprisingly, in view of the pouring rain in Wimbledon, Southsea was quite sunny that afternoon. One or two iPhone photographs probably illustrate the afternoon better than words:

The barracks parade ground  (below right) is  untouched and the beach (below left) deserted

Huge container ships passed by from time to time on their way to Portsmouth

  • We found a large coffee house overlooking the beach near to the barracks and very much enjoyed coffee, croissants and catching up so near to the shore in the sunshine.

The way back along the A3 was about an hour and a quarter's drive.
Recollecting that a former HCPT helper  Robert had been appointed as chief executive of the Portsmouth naval museum in the 1970s I wondered if a visit there could be worthwhile, not least to see Henry VIIIth's Mary Rose. However I believe that   since its initial salvage in the 1980s when we last visited,  The Mary Rose  has been installed in its own museum, which probably makes visiting rather more formal than previously.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Catholic Church in post Covid-19 C21

Having only just resumed Sunday mass going, given the slight relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions, looking at the position of the Catholic Church in these difficult  C21 times is worthwhile.

Last night on BBC Radio 4 there was an interesting talk on Protestantism and Catholicism  during C17. The thirty years  war (1618 - 1648) was was said to have been one of the most destructive wars in European history. 

If my memory is correct, that war turned on attempts by some Europeans to further Protestantism, whilst others wished to retain Catholicism. The Germans in the state of Saxony, developed printing well for Protestantism and produced bibles which could be read by ordinary men and women, which apparently means that even today, Bible reading is  perhaps more significant for Protestants than for Catholics.

The thirty years war according to the erudite BBC Radio 4 speaker, really only ended when both factions appreciated that it was not going to be won by any side.

Today of course, adherence to Christian religious beliefs is waning partly because of scandals, for example that of child abuse within churches but mainly perhaps, because of the attraction many have for the consumer society, illustrated for example by shops being open for business on Sundays which used to be a "day of rest". 

The local Catholic Church now has a new assistant priest and two new deacons so is still working hard for the Church and its people. However, mass attendances are rather lower than they were and with the passing round of collection plates being stopped, probably the  income of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church as well as churches generally, has suffered a steep fall.

Apparently though, according to the Radio 4 talk, Catholic Church income has declined in many places and not entirely caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Germany has suffered an huge fall fall of c. 60% and Ireland too is suffering with a large number of younger people turning away from mass going and reductions in income. The world wide "Peter's Pence" collected for the Church over Easter, has also substantially fallen away

The last thing the Church needs now in the light of the above, is publicity about financial scandals, although ongoing publicity is probably already  a factor in its financial losses.

In October 2021, the Catholic Herald reports that   the trials resume of Cardinal Angelo Becciu and nine others, relating to embezzlement  and money laundering of Vatican finances.

As the Catholic Herald reports:

"The pope has staked much of his moral credibility on reforming Vatican finances, and cleaning up its Stygian accounting practices, a role he first gave to the now acquitted Cardinal Pell. In short a great deal hangs on the outcome of this trial."

The Catholic Herald goes on to suggest that Cardinal Pell who was originally put in charge of reforming Church finances should, following his being "entirely cleared"  by the Australian Supreme Court, once more be placed in charge of the financial reforms. 

I disagree; a new  and if necessary  lay, professional expert should be placed in that role asap.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Time is Short?

When a child at school, particularly post WWII boarding prep school, Ladycross, time appeared to move so slowly though the hated PE lessons were an exception as those  always appeared to come round far too quickly.

There is an interesting article in today's Times newspaper written by a journalist Giles Coran whose children I believe have just returned to school  for the new 2021/2022 academic year. Each year provides them with new possibilities, friends and possible adventures until they are in their twenties when careers, housing, families, debts and other aspects of life begin to catch up.

Clearly there are exceptions to the points  made in The Times, for example children whose parents are impoverished or die very prematurely or who have only one parent at home or hardly have homes at all but for many others  as Mr Coran states:

"But I am finding it very hard this week not to envy my children, and all children, the start of the new term and new academic year. It just doesn't seem fair that they get to begin all over again, to reinvent themselves every year, and we grown-ups who could really do with a change, do not."

One of the other characteristics of youth is the fearlessness that of course tends to wane with age. Thus when leaving Beaumont College, travelling by train from London to Istanbul Turkey as a teenager and from Cairo to Luxor Luxor were fearless adventures, which I doubt could be repeated today. 

Perhaps such  travels could not be safely repeated in C21, given local wars, including the protracted Afghanistan conflict now just ending,  resulting in  barriers being erected in many countries to inhibit refugees crossing their borders. 

Still there was the Vietnam war together with the Egyptian and Israeli conflicts in the Middle-East even at that time (c.1970). I also recall then being compulsorily  vaccinated with an anti Small-pox vaccine before being shipped out of Turkey from Izmir, to Cyprus. Yet the adventures were real and fulfilling.

Pre-Covid-19, travel became  far more widespread from about 1980 onwards and tended to be far safer, yet still exciting; see for example Pre-Covid-19 Travel

However now in 2021  travel has become much more difficult with many fewer airlines flying and of course great concern about CO2 emissions especially from older aircraft. 

Interestingly mrs maytrees, maytrees max and myself booked flying from London City to Dublin airport, early in October, for the wedding of an Irish niece. The fares are not too expensive but the complications of accessing the departure lounge post Covid-19 are more than irritating. The risk of not being allowed to travel because of some failure or other in Covid-19 checks is significant. Indeed there is a story again in The Times about a passenger who made it through to the departure lounge only to be prevented from taking his flight because of a sudden alteration in the Covid-19 rules made in the destination country.

Returning to the  main subject of this blog-post; there is no doubt that the older one becomes, the faster time appears to go. The gap between rising in the morning and retiring in the evening needs to be filled with as much as possible, whether writing a novel or preparing to run a marathon. 

Yet the presence of grand-children and the  arrangements which are usual today, not least to assist their parents in earning livings, made for grand-parents to care for them occasionally, tends to extend once more one's day and is hugely beneficial - hopefully for them and their parents as well.

Looking back at those Ladycross years; perhaps the remaining friend of that time and his wife will be able to meet us in Dublin next month.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Covid-19 and Australasia

Maytrees mi travelled to New Zealand for short term employment reasons almost 3 years ago. I recall when driving him to Heathrow for his flight, we were  all listening on the car radio to  the cricket, a very closely fought test match,  I believe, between England and New Zealand.

I am not usually a cricket fan and indeed chose rowing over cricket when a school boy at Beaumont College - Rowing - yet this game was so close and distracting that I drove to terminal 3 rather than terminal 5 and had to spend  some while re-orientating to the correct terminal for his flight.

Since then the world has been struck by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many countries have and indeed are dealing with the viral outbreaks in different ways. 

In the UK as is usual, people moan about Boris Johnson's government's handling of the illness. Given that many moan about Boris Johnson whenever possible, for example some blaming him for President Biden's disastrous  unilateral decision  to withdraw from Afghanistan by 31st August without even consulting the UK government  and other  allies first, such moans may be discounted. 

However, the UK along now with most European countries, have spent much time and money on vaccinating their populations as far as possible against Covid-19. By contrast, New Zealand's and Australia's attempts to save their people from the virus, have largely been based on bans on travel in and out of their countries and making it hugely expensive even for their own nationals  enter or to come back to their  own countries. 

Initially such attempts appeared successful and even now, outbreaks of the virus seem small when compared with those  in the UK and elsewhere. Nonetheless one effect of Australasian attempts is that maytrees mi has in effect had to remain in NZ for years rather than the months he planned so  is now  increasingly keen to return to England. Auckland where he resides is suffering another lockdown and it appears as if the virus is spreading albeit slowly. Maytrees mi in NZ, has yet to receive his first anti Covid-19 vaccination whereas maytrees min in England has received both of hers.

In England, lockdowns are beginning to unwind and I doubt whether they will be reimposed here although the same may not be said  of Scotland where like NZ, there is a left wing leader. 

Perhaps the further left a county's political system, the more enthusiastic the country may be about lock downs - China being the prime example.

Saturday, August 21, 2021


The decision of  the  USA's President Biden  to quit Afghanistan by 31st August 2021, apparently taken without prior consultation with  Boris Johnson, other European leaders or even NATO was to put it at its meekest, very sad.

The UK media though, including the BBC and  even The Times newspaper, has spent days complaining that Dominic Raab the UK Foreign Secretary, did not telephone his counterpart in Kabul the day before that city was retaken by the Taliban. 

Distressing in my view, to find that domestic media concentrates so much effort on a domestic political issue when thousands of children women and men were having to fight for their safety if not lives. No one could have predicted that the Afghan army would fade away so quickly thus enabling Kabul to be taken in a few days rather than the weeks that had been predicted. Dominic Raab's failure to telephone Afghanistan is irrelevant. What would it have achieved anyway? Would the Taliban have held back for example? There are also complaints in Europe that three members of the relevant EU committee  were also on holiday at the time and only returned later. I have no love for EU bureaucrats but such criticisms of them are also quite misguided and irrelevant.

The BBC tends to complain about Boris Johnson's government at any opportunity but the Times sadly is becoming more like the Daily Mail in some of its recent reporting, almost supporting Mail stories.

The failure by President Biden to consult with or at least telephone, his allies before making his decision that would affect so many innocent people as well as the allies, was in my humble opinion, dreadful. 

If the withdrawal date of 31st August is adhered to by the USA, then many more innocent children, women and men in Afghanistan,  will have to bear the consequences, which may be disastrous for them.

The UK army has too few resources in Kabul to be able to stand alone there; the EU has no European army and NATO is USA led so it appears that the last UK flight out of Afghanistan will have to leave as early as this Tuesday. There would I gather, be difficulties about bringing out British Troops if  the final flight was delayed beyond that date, ie 24th August 2021.

My understanding is that the original entry by Western armies arose because twenty years  ago, ISIS which  had a large presence there, initiated the attacks on NY's twin towers and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. on September 11th (9/11).  Many died in those attacks including McKenzie, a colleague from my class at Beaumont.

President Biden could without losing face (which anyway is far less important than the loss of life) at least extend his deadline to 11th September 2021.

Saturday, August 14, 2021


Earlier whilst looking for information on an Oxford University Tech company a few shares in which I hold as part of a long standing investment hobby. I came across a rather helpful piece on YouTube by a semi professional. I had not used or even considered YouTube media as a method of learning about possible investment choices or indeed any other education yet the YouTube comments were about 20 minutes long and were interesting. Emphasis  was placed on the fact that only TEK's   (the company) figures would be discussed by the speaker and not for example, the prospects for being taken over, international sales or how much TEK might receive for selling off its subsidiaries. 

Furthermore  Mr Wainman the spokesperson on YouTube, slightly mixed up millions and billions of pounds or perhaps dollars, on one occasion at least but overall, his commentary told me more about the company's financial position in twenty minutes than I would have learned in a couple of hours study, not least because financial numbers are putting it mildly, tedious to me anyway, so well done and thank you to him.

Earlier this morning whilst listening to BBC Radio 3 during an early read of The Times newspaper, a particularly stirring piece was played from the Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius. Possibly the BBC archive would have the Karielia Suite for further play back but their search arrangements are rather unwieldy at least to me whereas YouTube searches are straightforward. 

BBC Radio 3 is on the other hand, both payment and  advertisement free whereas  YouTube offers  advertisement free listening only for a fee. 

Much of my favourite music is on old LPs for example Joan Baez, Cold Play and say, Joni Mitchell all of which may  now be found of YouTube. I could of course buy a record player and listen to the old LPs that way but what a faff.

Another advantage of YouTube, is that one  can, on recollecting an old favourite such as in my case Layla or Sit Down, bring that music or those songs up  up and listen to them almost instantly on YouTube.

Long may the ability to listen and learn via YouTube, American though it is, continue.


Saturday, August 07, 2021

Olympic Games 2020 - Part two

The Olympic games in Japan come to an end this weekend. They have been far more successful than many in the media appeared to expect.

Covid-19 cases amongst the athletes  seem to have been few and far between although I recall that one country's swimming team had to pull out after some of its members became affected by the virus. Otherwise a few Games attendants too, were compelled to stay away for similar reasons.

The cost  for Japan so far, of the Olympic Games is huge and unlike previous Olympics could not even be partially set off against ticket sales as no spectators were permitted other than athletes and their attendants. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Brisbane was the only bidder for the 2032 Olympic Games and without any of the usual fuss and publicity for a successful Olympic Games bidder, was quietly awarded the holding of the Games for that year.

However so much that is positive has come out of the 2020 Olympics thus far even though Covid-19 caused their postponement from 2020 to 2021. Team GB has exceeded many people's expectations in keeping their performances up with those of previous Games at Rio and London. Then the Japanese have successfully  endeavoured to attract more young people to enthuse about the Olympics by introducing sports that the young, as distinct from their parents, enjoy such as skate boarding. Team GB's  13 year old Sky Brown's bronze medal in that event was a great achievement watched in Tokyo by her parents and her friendship with the silver and gold medal winners in that event was clear from the medal awarding ceremony. Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald's gold medal in the cycling was also a feat though how they managed to cycle so many laps so quickly is beyond my own comprehension much as I enjoy cycling.

The wall/ climbing was hugely interesting to watch despite the absence of any British involvement. The various athletic races were as interesting as ever though quite why the USA did not do as well as in previous games is probably a question for discussion after the Games as is very sadly, the Team GB's rowing squad's results, which were far poorer than in previous Olympics. On the other hand  there are some great hockey, boxing and diving medals though  boxing is not my forte perhaps because it was compulsory at   school - age 12.

The Japanese  also, probably with the encouragement of the Olympic committee, introduced a number of competitions involving male and female participants working together. Not least, this arrangement increased the number of women competitors overall, which is excellent.

To date,  the ladies modern pentathlon  has proved to be one of the hardest sports to be involved in but perhaps the most interesting to watch. Kate French, with her wonderful laser run performance, fully deserved her gold medal. I hope that she will feature in the British honours' list in due course.

Until the Games, I had not appreciated that Belarus was essentially run like a left wing dictatorship but their attempt to whisk off Krystsina Tsimanouskaya for some political purpose or other, was thankfully thwarted and she was granted a humanitarian visa to live in Poland. 

Sadly, Russia as a nation, was not permitted to compete on the grounds of its doping issues previously. However a team known as The Russian Olympic Committee, was permitted to compete, which is perhaps nonsensical, though individual dope free Russian athletes, do deserve sympathy.

Well done and thank you to the Japanese.

Seeing Friends in Former Army Barracks

Although we have visited Portsmouth  often, not least as  result of  ferries  from France docking there after holidays abroad, Southsea was ...