Communique from Kumbhalgarh

A whole week without seeing any other tourists – until a group of IT workers based in Gujurat rocked up in two coaches and invited us to share their annual get-away party with them. Not sure you could really call them ‘tourists’ though.

Which means we have been sharing our luxury hotel up in the mountain pass with only the staff and an assortment of camels, cows, goats, macaques, dogs, pigs, donkeys and parakeets. No cats, strangely.

The menu is ‘pure veg’ and the chef has been producing other-worldly but in fact basic down-home Rajasthan dishes, all washed down with copious amounts of ice-cold Indian lager.

The manager set us up with a modem and, inspired by the edge-of-the desert landscape and strong beer, I spent an evening listening to a pair of ol’ Neil Young albums, Harvest Moon and Prairie Wind, both written as though for country rockers just past their prime, but still evoking the high-income American mythologies of limitless space and broken dreams – all mixed up with a fuzzy we’re-still-in-love and safe-in-our-old-home after all these years and the kids grown up kind of tone. Quite dreamy, really. The last of these albums dates back to 2005 and I wonder if anyone in America still believes in these kinds of notions more than a decade on. They sound dated to me, however alluring and reassuring they might come across.

Because from wherever I’m sitting – whether high up in the Albanian mountains, on an Apulian beach, hiking in the French Alps, back home or travelling across the Thar Desert – all I’m getting is a country in terminal decline as it continues waging ever-lasting wars on countries that would not give the American people a moment’s thought were it not for their military invasion and destructive terror campaigns launched against their own population. Think Yemen, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and so on. Not to mention all those Latin American countries, with Venezuela now very prominent on the US’s which-country-can-we-plunder-and-destroy-without-fear-of-repercussion-next list.

Set against this is the constant chatter of Hindi and other Indian languages and a fair old dose of jazzy Planet Gong, rocky Kula Shaker and good old Ravi Shankar knocking it out on his trusty sitar.

That and a vast, blue Rajasthan sky.

All very Indian, all very new-world – all very good.

Now, if only we could find some real peace in this world.

Books by Glyn Ridgley are published by Valley Independent Publishing and are available at Amazon and bookstores around the world

Great-Uncle Charlie: War Victim

A plaque that I re-discovered in the High Wycombe museum commemorating  the death of my great-uncle Charlie in the Great War is being reinstated at the Methodist church in his home village of Bryants Bottom on Armistice Day, not far from where I was born.

I never knew uncle Charlie but I would like to think that he would not have approved of the present-day slaughter of innocent people in countries like Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria…

White poppy

If commemoration of atrocities means anything, then we can hope that the death of those like my uncle Charlie Ridgley leads to love, life and peace.

Novels by Glyn F Ridgley available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide




Balkans weblog #6

Albania – where we now are – not only sounds like California (give or take a syllable) but looks and feels like it too: hot, dusty, mountainous, with a long coastline.
Set in the 1930s, in the opening of his anti-totalitarian and nostalgically British novel ‘Coming Up for Air’, George Orwell has his hero contemplating the likelihood of war as he drives his car and ruminates on the life and motives of the self-proclaimed King Zog of Albania…
albania flag
Growing up, Albania was the epitome of a secret surveillance society, but not even Albanians could have dreamed of the manner in which the CIA and Facebook would be using Silicone Valley technology to spy on and try to control its own population. And then blame the Russians for its – the state’s and private business concern’s – failure to do so.

In much the same way, the Soviets were blamed for Albania’s woes back in the second half of the twentieth century, when in fact it was the UK-supported White forces under General Wrangel which put the people under the imperialist heel, thereby setting up the conditions that would eventually lead to Hoxha’s paranoid and totalitarian control.
Albania and the old Soviet bloc were so conveniently othered for such extended periods when it suited over the past one hundred years that it has virtually entered the western democratic rulers’ DNA to blame someone from eastern Europe when something goes against their wishes and they risk losing control of the narrative. For example, when the west’s politicians are found out attempting to manipulate voters’ behaviour patterns through the likes of outrageously-expensive hireling companies like Bell Pottinger or Cambridge Analytica, they immediately set up false flags and blame these ‘others’ for the events. Their friends in the media get on board and there you have it: the perfect cover up and excuse for utter failure.
They wish. Like my old mum used to keep telling me when I was young (my older sister, too, for some peculiar reason that I won’t go into right now), “Be sure your lies will find you out.”
Or as the mystic John would have it, ‘You are the father of lies, for in you is no truth…’
Beware all you would-be World Rulers, when it comes to all your secret shenanigans at home and abroad. “Be sure…”
Never the western democracies.

(As an aside, just after despatching my last blogpost from Cetinje, Montenegro, I received a FB message from a Russian friend who just happened to be staying down the road with her family…)

And so, to the football World Cup. At its first inception the region we’ve been travelling through was represented by the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Kingdom of Yugoslavia, yug = south). That king was deposed by the Yugoslavian people, led by Tito (whose May, 1943 hideout from the fascists we visited at Black Lake in Durmitor), just as the Albanians got rid of their so-called king around the same time. An interesting point: the most recent claimant to the Serbian throne was born in Claridges, London, with Queen Elizabeth II his godmother; while the deposed King Zog immediately headed for the Ritz, London after war broke out (settling for a time with his retinue near my home village). So don’t be fooled by any propagandist bullshit which tries to create divisions between the east and west. The ruling families and big business don’t believe it, or care about it, and neither should anybody else. Which is to say, the ruling elites are all in cahoots.

Ah, yes, the Jules Rimet trophy… What a pity the host nation was knocked out on penalties: England playing Russia in Moscow would have been a great embarrassment to all those propagandists. So far, we have watched England get through the group stage on TV screens in bars around Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, then saw them win their first game of the knock-out stage against Colombia and quarter-final versus Sweden in Montenegro. Now we hope to see them progress further in the semi-final against Croatia at a bar here in Albania.
If the tea leaves of this trip have any meaning, then England will be meeting Belgium once again – this time in the final (we met a group of Belgians straight after the 1-0 defeat, and watched Belgium defeat Brazil alongside a couple of Belgians in Zabljiak.) No French.
fiat doblo
So far we have only seen one British car registration plate since one was spotted on the ferry across the river in southern Montenegro, as its inhabitants headed for Crete. It appears that we are the country’s sole representatives of our national football team currently travelling on the roads through eastern Montenegro and this part of of Albania…
Right now, we are resting up on a campsite not far from the border, planning to maybe take another ferry up the river into Albania’s alpine region for some good hiking, and certainly make the most of our time here before heading into neighbouring Macedonia.

By which time, we hope, England will be FIFA World Cup Champions.

Can it really be true that one country – even the largest country presently on the planet – is responsible for all the world’s troubles? Maybe it is. Most likely it’s not. Maybe it is the capitalist elites. Or maybe it is down to David Icke’s lizards.

How about individual countries taking responsibility for their own societies?

Posted from a spot beside Lake Shkodar, Albania

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide

Nuclear War – so what!

As on old man who just sneaked in as a baby-boomer during its final year, I am no stranger to the threat of nuclear war. We were brought up on the myth that the Americans dropping A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki actually saved human lives. Imagine that! The mass destruction of two of the most developed cities in the world with populations of over 400,000 and 250,000 respectively was promulgated as an act of kindness. God bless America, that most humane of all the nations.

Life-saving A-bomb

Similarly, MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), whereby a simple slip by one side would be matched by the other and the entire world would disappear in one single conflagration, was sold as the most certain way of ensuring it – the end of the world – would never happen. You have to admit, there is a certain kind of sanity in such a calculation; the sanity of a madman who believes that by killing everyone in the world he will never be caught or held accountable.
Such were the imbecilic beliefs the authorities tried inculcating within us.
My hometown of High Wycombe had the dubious distinction in the nineteen-eighties of being the foremost UK target for annihilation by the Soviet Union. First Dusseldorf in West Germany, where NATO housed an early warning system, followed by the USAF base up on Marlow Hill (near my secondary school) where I used to play in five-a-side football tournaments, since NATO had its secondary European communications nerve centre implanted there. Note that Washington DC in America was over three-and-half thousand miles away. The Americans always were cowards, as may be seen by every military campaign they have ever conducted since the inception of their country.
Actually, growing up in the sixties, us boys seriously believed we were still at war with Germany – wanted to believe we were at war with Germany, an attitude encouraged by the adult men around us who always wanted to be regarded as heroes of some kind, whereas in reality they were simply factory-workers being exploited in the newly-built local industrial estates. Some heroes! Still, you gotta look up to someone, aintcha? Might as well be those guys.
In the village we moved to in my mid-teenage, just five miles from where I was born, the UK government under Thatcher decided to build an underground nuclear bunker to shelter them when the Soviets fired their nuclear warheads at us (assuming the immediate destruction of Dusseldorf). SS-22s, were the missiles to which they were attached. See, our Government were just as cowardly as their American counterparts; they would only initiate a nuclear conflagration if they knew that they were personally safe and would not be hurt by it all. While the rest of the nation was being burnt to a frazzle, they’d be safe and sound half-a-mile underground sipping their PG Tips and munching on cheese and pickle sandwiches. The site they opted for was the Bomber Command base used by Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris while conducting the RAF’s fire-bombing campaign of Dresden (not to be confused with Dusseldorf) forty years earlier, in nineteen-forty-four. Which was another bombing operation that we were supposed to believe saved human lives. I know, incredible, isn’t it? Yet another act of kindness, on this occasion carried out by the British.
Some people weren’t too happy with the proposal for the military bunker – saw it as an act more likely to make nuclear war happen – and as such began a campaign of their own, to stop the bunker’s construction. A peace camp was established and protests held on a daily basis, to which the local constabulary responded with harassment and arrests. Until the site had been sold at great personal financial gain to the RAF by a local landholder with – surprise, surprise – previous connections to the military, there had been only woods and meadows. By now the land was occupied by a massive military complex known as Strike Command, surrounded by vast housing estates inhabited by the squaddies who worked there, along with a compound of imposing residences taken up by the officers. A straight ridge road linking our village with the next village two miles away was the only access, making any obstruction of the lorries and earth-moving plant required for the bunker’s construction a straightforward process, the activities of the constabulary notwithstanding. To offset this, a new access lane was built off the valley road running parallel to the ridge road a few miles west. This access route was far more difficult to block and the construction of the bunker carried on apace, as the diminishing group of disillusioned protestors either abandoned their posts or were dragged off to court and turned into criminals by the law enforcers in their blue serge suits and helmets, aided and abetted by the county judges.

SS-22 destined for my hometown

All the while, we were being assailed by propaganda concerning the malfeasant intentions of a trio of nations later christened the ‘Axis of Evil’ by George W. Bush, with one of them being singled out as the main protagonist within an ‘Evil Empire’ according to the incumbent old Hollywood has-been and soon-to-be dementia-addled President of the United States of America. The names of those nations are all too familiar: North Korea, Iran and Russia. The first was bombed flat by the United States military using conventional weapons shortly after they – the USA – had dropped their humane A-bombs on Japan, to the extent that when no more military targets remained the Americans turned to destroying the country’s entire infrastructure instead, starting with the hydro-electric dams and moving on from there, committing a whole string of war crimes for which they were never prosecuted, in the process; the second contains a culture so ancient that it pre-dates written records; while the third straddles a land mass stretching from Asia to Europe and has been the only bulwark to contain US hegemony since the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allies. Also, films were issued by the UK government about how we good people should protect ourselves in the event of a nuclear conflagration by hiding under tables and such like (while they would be comfortably ensconced in their underground bunker drinking PG Tips…) and the media made us feel even less safe with their daily reports of imminent war and destruction.
And all for what? To make us feel happy that we were living in the free world. To distract us from the neoliberal agenda that was patently undermining our well-being with its promises of a drip-drip down effect of wealth creation, as though the rich wouldn’t be getting richer and the poor getting poorer and us apathetic morons having all the hard-won rights of the past hundred-and-fifty years or more stripped away as the government waged war upon those whom the country’s wealth had been built: the miners and steel-workers and all those other hard-pressed types who had left the fields to go and work in the factories and foundries and who stupidly believed they were regarded as heroes. Just as the country’s police force had been set upon those individuals whose only aim was to halt the likelihood of nuclear war and create a peaceful world where societies of people sharing different backgrounds could live alongside each other both locally and supra-nationally (the ultimate horror of any ruling elite group), so were the bastions of law and order in all their blue-serge glory deployed to intimidate and if called to beat up their fellow workers – so degraded had we become.
So, no, to an end-of-an-era baby-boomer like myself of nearly sixty years standing, the threat of nuclear war and the way it is used to demonise ‘the other’ and cower the population while distracting us from the real social issues confronting the nation, comes as no surprise.
It ain’t nothing new. The surprise is – it still works..!



All Hail the Flag

union jackThe Union Jack was always shameful to us. Rightly so. That flag was – and is – the symbol of empire and therefore nothing to be proud of. As children growing up in a little South Bucks village we knew as much, despite what the adults might try to teach us. Those unearthly, archaic crosses of three patron saints combined in one panel has fluttered over some of the worst atrocities ever committed by mankind against fellow human beings. We were aware of that. Watched it on our tv screens. Images of khaki-clad British soldiers were seen patrolling the sun-drenched streets of Aden – part of Yemen – while threatening the local population with their rifles.aden soldiers Even as a kid, you could see this was wrong, a misuse of power. Only later did I discover the British Army were stationed there to protect the oil interests of the privately-owned British Petroleum conglomerate and to help the Saudi royal household sow seeds of religious discontent amongst a growing pan-Arabic movement led by their shared arch-enemy, Nasser. Just as the British Army are there now for much the same reason, helping out their oil-producing Saudi allies as they blockade the old Aden port, destroy Yemen’s infrastructure and condemn hundreds of thousands of human beings to death by bombing, starvation and disease. With that in mind, can you possibly say that you are proud to be British or that you hold any reverence whatsoever for the Union Jack?

who jack
How to look cool in GB circa ’67

Growing up, I never could understand how The Who permitted themselves to use the Union Jack as a symbol of the band; although I got how Mary Quant and Swinging London might adopt it as a logo to increase brand awareness and increase sales. Maybe The Who wanted to make clear they weren’t American, I don’t know. The Jam used the same image a decade later, as did Oasis twenty years after that. Somehow, I cannot link youthful rebellion and the desire for freedom to think and act with such a profound image of conservative establishment authority. And I don’t think that I am alone in this anymore. At last, it is being recognised by a new generation as such. This modern anti-Brexit, pro-world generation is waking up to the awful overtones contained in those crosses, as did the German youth during the nineteen-seventies gain an understanding of what had been done in their name – and then conveniently glossed over by a previous generation – under the aegis of a black swastika emblazoned on a white circle set against a red background. If you think the Union Jack is cool – as it was considered during Blair’s Labour government, the same one that lied to a public supposedly represented by the saintly crosses in order to launch wars against the old anti-British-imperialist foes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – then you are a fool. As a matter of fact, I could only take to the Who after they released ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Hah!

oasis union jack
Quasi-military pose set against the Union Jack adopted by the fun-loving Gallaghers

I watched the collapse of one empire – the British one, and now it looks as though I may be privy to the collapse of yet another empire, this time the American one.
If the Union Jack is the emblem par excellence of British imperialism, and nobody could possibly argue with that as a statement, then the Stars and Stripes, too, conveys the image of brutal military dictatorship and underhand espionage deployed to subjugate whole nations and peoples, those who have no desire to be ruled so. American governments, like their British counterparts use of the Union Jack, have had no compunction about raising the Star Spangled Banner above the heads of those whose lives they despise and whom they would control through the use of unbridled force and lies. And that’s just their own people. Look further abroad and you will discover a whole litany of dirty tricks and military might deployed against the better wishes of peoples around the globe, from Pyongyang to Kiev to Tehran and all the places in between. Full-spectrum dominance means just that, and when the cowardly American generals and politicians feel they can get away with it, they will plunder and utterly dismantle any person or persons or country that stand in their way. Just as the British taught them to do, and still would, if they could. Killing and torture, lying and subterfuge, are second nature within the American republic. Their only goal, like the British before them, is to cower humanity and rob the planet of all its resources while they bestride their imperial thrones and military hardware, lording it while saluting the imperial flag and looking over the remaining quivering mass of virtual human slaves.
usa flag
Nota bene. Just as the Americans had to leave Vietnam, routed by a determined resistance movement prepared to fight back and develop its own ideology , so the British finally had to leave Aden/Yemen in nineteen sixty-seven, driven out by the organised resistance of the nation’s Arabs (although the current activity of the British government shows that old colonial sentiments continue to exist.) Like I said, my first images of British imperialism came by way of the tv screen when I was growing up; they, the politicians, the armed forces and the mainstream media are not prepared to make that same mistake again, showing virtually no footage of what is actually happening in present-day Yemen, and only occasionally providing an – extremely skewed – analysis of the situation. You – and they – have been warned.
All hail the flag!