Friday, 10 February 2012

Scilly Isles and Singapore

Yes, I know, yet again I have neglected blog posts for well over a week.

Tree lopping; surviving a choir practice minus our pianist (but with competent reserve pianists); re-editing a doctoral thesis for an overseas client with some issues (I'm allowed to help with his English but not the subject matter); and making tiny inroads into my self-proclaimed 'de-clutter' at home. Now, for me a de-clutter mainly means finding a tidy home for everything, and being willing to fill a few bags of stuff to discard. I find that others (the hairdresser, anyway) take the word to imply a wholesale scrapping of half one's furniture and other belongings. Not quite, my dear. But OK, I give myself until next Christmas.

By chance I came upon, among 15-year old papers - as happens in de-clutters - the notes I made for a totally fictitious Dungeons & Dragons campaign involving Vikings setting forth on a voyage from the Norwegian coast in the year 796AD. A novelette rather than notes. My viking crew after exploring the Scilly Isles off the Cornish coast recruited, as one does, a small orchestra of Hungarian gypsy musicians who had found their way to what is present day Latvia. I said it was fictitious, but who knows? This - the D & D Campaign, not the 8th century voyage - dates from my role-playing gaming phase which off and on lasted from 1987 in China until the mid-'90s. You may think that the Chinese were not big on role-play games in the late1980s. Neither they were. My exposure began with the bunch of friendly American post-grad students who were my neighbours in the (so-called) Foreign Experts Building of the Shaanxi Teachers University in Xi'an. We role-played every so often for social evenings and to escape into fantasy worlds which, on the whole, were more soothing and less crazy than the real-world Chinese bureaucracy of daily life. Hard to believe it was a quarter century ago.

Now, strangely, tonight on the excellent series Coast being shown on SBS, where should the presenter be off to but the Scilly Isles, like my above vikings except that the modern traveller goes in the good ship Scillonian on the two and a half hour daily ferry trip from mainland Cornwall. The Atlantic waters are reliably sloppy on the trip, and the ship's nickname suggests the extent of the seasickness experienced by most on board. I would tell you the nickname but my latest senior moment has kicked in, and I forget.

I fully intended to do some more de-cluttering but instead I stayed glued to the box and watched the doco on the WWII Fall of Singapore, with the excuse that I was there, even if it was as an anklebiter. Moving and deeply sad. Interesting as a newer look at events with accounts by now-elderly ex-combatants (and civilians), Japanese, British, Indian, Malayan Chinese, Australian, Dutch. Politically, too, the rift between Curtin and Churchill, and the foreshadowing of Australia's post-war re-alignment with the U.S., not post-empire Britain.

Several readers of this blog commented happily on the recent link to Acker Bilk and his inimitable clarinet. You may find it de-linked now, but of course all you need do is go direct to, then type in Acker Bilk on the search-line, or even the title of a particular song. All-time best was Stranger on the Shore, which, as you probably know, was the musician's own composition. By its commercial success, he called it his "old age pension".

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