Halong Bay


During our visit to Hanoi we’d booked to visit Halong Bay for an overnight sail. The drive was about three and a half hours. It was an interesting trip, particularly watching the motorbike drivers taking live pigs to market on the back of their bikes. The pigs didn’t seem distressed, perhaps they were used to days out on the back of a bike!


We would only be away from Hanoi for one night and the standard practice for hotel guests to Halong Bay is for the hotel to lock the guest’s suitcases in a secure area. We only carried an overnight bag. On our return, the hotel allocated the same room as we had at the beginning of our Hanoi visit.

On arrival in Halong Bay we looked for our ‘Junk’, but which on was ours. . . . there seemed to be dozens all clamouring for jetty space. The picture below doesn’t give the full ‘picture’ if you will excuse the pun. We were told that there are 500 junks operating in the bay. . .



Eventually we found ‘Halong Green’ which was our junk – the above picture.
The junk had six en-suit cabins, but as we were a party of four couples, the whole junk had been allocated to us. The cabin size was OK for the one night. The cabin was air-conditioned, had a double bed, plus they also had small fans. We found the temperature to be cool enough not to require the air-conditioning, but warm enough to sleep with just the fans. The en-suite consisted of a toilet, shower and washbasin. Towels etc were supplied.
As soon as we boarded, we sailed. Because of the number of junks involved it was like a small armada when a number sailed around the same time. I wondered if we would be in a race, but all the junks just sailed slowly through the still waters of the Bay.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater our junk rigged the sail, but at the beginning we used the engine.


On the top deck they had sun lounges, which was a little optimistic considering the weather, but we still used them as we sailed past the islands of the bay – we were well wrapped up.

Next deck down from the viewing area was the ‘public’ area – which consisted of a small bar, dining room and lounge area.


All meals were included in the rate and an honour system allowed one to help ones self from the fridge for soft drinks and beer. Wine was also available, and it was chilled correctly!
As soon as we boarded and dropped our overnight bags in our cabins, lunch was served. Three course lunch while we floated past beautiful scenery, with small islands everywhere. In the afternoon we reached an island of grottos called Hang Sung Sot. We disembarked and climbed the stairs to enter the grotto, along with a number of other people from other junks.




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see how large the caves are as the visitors walk along the man made paths.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can just see the fence posts to designate the path way.

Later we stopped at Tip Top Beach on Tip Top island, which gave a panoramic view of Halong Bay as long as you didn’t mind climbing the 500 steps to the top.


Taken from half way up – puff – puff – pant . . . .


Back on board to watch the sunset from the top deck as we cruised in to a secluded bay where we met other junks, all lit up for the night. I had a feeling that they ‘circle the wagons’ just in case anything goes wrong during the night – pirates perhaps?



Then it was dinnertime.




The birds and flowers were carved in the afternoon from vegetables, while we were sightseeing. The chef used cucumbers, large white radish, carrots and melon. The swans were made from the radish plant – note the rose carved in to the melon.

After breakfast we climbed in to a sampan to be rowed in to an old volcano. The entrance was through a hole in the side of the volcano – and for some reason as soon as you passed in to the flooded volcano everyone, without exception, only spoke in whispers.




Once inside the volcano we where not asked to lower our voices, but it was just something about the place that demanded silence. It was a beautiful feeling of absolute quiet except for the occasional bird call. We just floated, even the oarsman at the stern stopped rowing so as to experience such tranquility.



As we started our return others where still arriving – I don’t think the junk in the background is ours.
As we left the volcano area a sea mist drifted in and began to gather all around.
Many of the island now appeared as shadows. Some of the islands had special names due to their shape – Indian Chief – the island on the left.




We were served an early lunch as we were now on our way back to the wharf and civilisation.

homeFollowed by a three and a half hour drive back to Hanoi.


Homeward bound



We loaded tea in Trincomalee for five days before sailing to Madras.  I stayed on board this time because I was not going to be accused of not being aware of our sailing time.

Our next leg took us from Madras to Aden, which is across the harbour from Little Aden – at least we could walk in to the town at Aden. The trip from Madras took us eight days during which time I did my best to teach one of the teenage passengers named Annette, how to play chess.

adenPart of Crater City Aden

Aden is located at the southern end of the Red Sea, and is part of the Arabian Peninsular. It has been a very important trading port and strategic point for hundreds of years. It was captured by the British in 1839 to stop pirates attacking shipping in the area and to protect the route to India. Crater city’s name is due to the town being built inside a dormant volcano.

At that time there was an independence movement that began with a grenade killing one person in December 1963. The British had promised independence, but in the meantime British troops were sent in to keep the peace.



We anchored off to work cargo.

The Company required all cadets to complete regular study after we had completed our ‘watches’ or day work, depending on the day. Any extra curriculum activity, such as teaching someone to play chess in the evening outside the accommodation, had to come out of sleeping time. I didn’t get much sleep.

From Aden we made our way to Port Taufiq at the southern end of the Suez Canal – you can see the town and canal below. We were waiting for a north bound convey to join, so as to transit the canal.


suez-canalThe above illustrates how a ‘convoy’ transits the Suez Canal

On the voyage from Aden to the Port Taufiq the dogs went off their food. I wasn’t surprised, because if I’d been given stir-fried or stewed vegetables for as long as they had, I’d have gone off my food.
So in an effort to encourage them to eat we gave them a curried meat dish. They both gobbled this down and the started to howl and run a round the deck. Obviously the curry was too strong. Then they started to drink and drink and drink. We had our comeuppance later as the dogs lost control of their bowels, and we had the unpleasant duty of clearing up the mess. Fortunately we were able to apply high-pressure fire hoses to the area, and blast it clean with salt water.

After transiting the canal at night we anchored off Port Said. Worked cargo for a few hours in to dhows, and then set course for Marseilles in southern France.

While in Marseilles we were allowed ashore. An interesting town steeped in history. It is France’s oldest city, having been founded by the Greeks over two thousand years ago.

It was a short taxi ride from the berth to the old port, and we were soon walking the old cobbled streets and drinking in the sites of the area that the ancient Greeks would have known. It wasn’t long before we’d forgotten that we were only visiting for a short time. The aroma of food wafting from the pavement cafes, mixed with the smell of Gauloises cigarettes is a lasting  memory of Marseille.

I even went as far as to buy a packet of Gauloises cigarettes as a change from the British & American cigarettes that I smoked at that time. In 1964 Gauloises hadn’t yet reached the stage of adding a filter to each cigarette so it wasn’t long before I was coughing myself to death with a burned throat. I keenly shared the Gauloises with the other cadets so as to reduce the number I had to smoke. The thought of throwing them away never occurred to me. My upbringing, that I was never to waste anything, wouldn’t allow me to throw them away.

We enjoyed our time in Marseille and ended up back at the old port area for a meal and a few drinks.
The bar that we visited for our meal and drinks had two sliding doors at the front that sealed the bar from the street when the business closed for the night.

While we were in the bar we met up with three cadets from another ship and realised that we had friends in common in the BI fleet. Around ten thirty in the evening, I and the other cadets from my own vessel, decided to go back to the ship. We left the bar to look for a taxi.

We’d left our ‘new’ friends in the bar, and they were a little over the top with drink, and had started to become noisy. I was glad to leave. Suddenly we heard a noise from the bar and we saw the barman shoving the remaining cadets out in to the street. Business had been quiet and I think the barman wanted an early night. His English was very limited, and none of us spoke French – déjà vu for me, because I’ll never go abroad, so why learn French.

As the barman shoved the last cadet in to the street he pulled the sliding doors closed. The cadet turned and pulled them open – the barman closed them again while shouting abuse.
This open / closing procedure went on for about five more times until, finally, the barman poked his head out, and shouted at one of the drunken cadets. The cadet shut the door on the barman’s neck and he slid quietly down the rubber seals to the floor. The door was not forcefully shut on the man’s neck, but just enough to cause him to gasp, and to try and haul the doors open, by doing so he lost his footing and slid to the floor.
Fortunately, at that moment, a taxi arrived, and my friends and I climbed in and gave the driver our wharf number. As we pulled away from the old port area the peaceful night air was shattered by the sound of hee haw – hee haw of police sirens. Someone had called the cops.

The following day we sailed from Marseilles for Gibraltar.

The Straits of Gibraltar are only about eight miles wide from Africa to Europe. The Straits were originally known, in the ancient world, as the Pillars of Hercules. Once through the Straits and clear of the southern part of Portugal, we headed north.

It was during this phase of the voyage that one of the dogs gave birth to a number of pups. The nuns knew that the dog was pregnant, and had hoped that it would not give birth until after it had arrived in the UK.
After the pups had been born (about six in total, I think) it was explained to the nuns about the cost of six months in quarantine for each pup. They were devastated, because they only had enough money for the two adult dogs.

One morning, in the Bay of Biscay, when my colleague and I arrived to feed the dogs, only one pup could be seen. We never did find out what happened to the other pups.

Fortunately the Bay of Biscay was calm so we made good time to the English Channel, and finally to the mouth of the Thames, where we picked up the Pilot for the last part of the voyage up the river Thames to the Royal Albert Dock in London.

Three days later I signed off Chakdara and went home for some leave. This time I’d been given eight weeks, and I managed to fill them all, without becoming bored.

Homeward Bound – trivia pursuit – Paul Simon wrote this song on Widnes railway station in 1965. For non-British readers Widnes is a town located in the Northwest of England.

Stay in Melaka & catch the Trade Winds

A ninety-minute drive south of Kuala Lumpur international airport is Melaka (Malacca).

We first visited Melaka for a day trip from Kuala Lumpur – it was a long day, but we liked the look of the place and a few years later, we returned and stayed in a small Chinese hotel. Along the Melaka River bank we saw a hotel called Casa del Rio, being built.

A year later we had the opportunity of returning to Malacca, and the Casa del Rio was open and had ‘opening offers’, so of course we stayed and loved the hotel, the staff and the service.


The finished product.


You’ve guessed it – we have stayed at this hotel more than once. They never seem to get my name the correct way around for a Westerner, but who cares, it is the thought that counts. The cut on my chin was due to me shaving on the aircraft when we hit an air pocket – I bled most of the day – had to replace the lost liquid via the bar.

The picture above is of the view behind where I was sitting in the foyer. We had cold drinks and cold hand towels while the staff filled in the forms – all we did was sign our names. The pool is not for swimming, but ornamental and is lit up at night. See below.


Our room was on the third floor of the building facing.
We sat in the corner on the far left, under the awning,  for our arrival drinks etc.

Our room from a couple of angles.




Photograph taken from inside the bathroom, through the bedroom to the balcony doors.


View from our balcony – which contained table and chairs and could be lit at night, if we wished to sit out.



The horizon pool on the roof of the hotel, with bar of course.



Our hotel is the one with the blue roof, which is the swimming pool. I took this picture from a viewing tower. The building to the left of the hotel contains private apartments, which the hotel manages.

Corner of Casa del Rio, near the road bridge that crosses the river.

The picture below is the other end of the hotel along the river bank. We preferred this end of the hotel, which was more private.


Our preferred bar, where we could sit on the veranda and enjoy the evening breeze.




Even the rain was warm.


Breakfast area that stretched on to the balcony overlooking the river. Inside was air-conditioned – sometimes we liked outside and other times inside.

Each year the hotel industry has a boat race – waiters, maids etc are all involved and during breakfast one day I saw one of the hotel boats out on the river practicing. For what I saw I don’t think Oxford or Cambridge would have anything to worry about.



An evening meal with our friends at the River Grill, just what the doctor ordered after a day of sight seeing.


What more could we want on a warm tropical evening, good food & wine accompanied by the tinkling sound of a piano player in the background. The pianist offered to play  requests, so of course I asked for As time goes by ; don’t we all when the ambiance and the time and place fits?  :- o)

Don’t eat the plate . . .


I’d been out East for just over a year and the Company decided that I should start making my way home.


I signed off the Chanda (black & white picture above) and made my way to a hotel in Karachi  called the Beach Luxury Hotel.beach

This hotel was much better than the Bristol Hotel in Kuwait; at least I could buy a beer. It also held floor shows in the evening. I’d never seen a real floor show in a hotel or restaurant, except via the cinema, courtesy of Hollywood. The nightly show guaranteed at least one person in the audience.

I was to await my next ship the Chakdara, (top coloured photograph), which was a ‘home-line’ vessel i.e she was based in London rather than Bombay or Singapore, and did the UK to India run. I waited eighteen days in Karachi before signing on Chakdara.

The two things that I do remember about Karachi in 1964 was a three-legged jackal in the Karachi zoo, and visiting a horse racing meet and watching a horse called Solomon Star, and in brackets (formally Woodland Star). Never having been very good at gambling I thought the last horse to bet on would be an animal linked to me – so I didn’t bet on Solomon Star, but of course it romped home, thus confirming my lack of skill at gambling.

Fortunately I didn’t receive the same welcome that Paul McCartney received a week or so before my arrival. He’d been mobbed at Karachi Airport and police had to protect him from screaming girls. The Beatles were on the way to Hong Kong for a concert as part of their world tour. I think their transit stop at Karachi airport was supposed to be a secret . . . .


I joined the Chakdara for the voyage back to the UK. She was more modern than my two previous ships, having been built in 1951. She had a very different ‘feel’ to her because she was a ‘home line’ ship, and she carried twelve passengers. She would receive visits from Head Office, whereas the Eastern line vessels never came in contact with HO, and so the onboard atmosphere was a little more relaxed on Eastern line vessels..

We sailed to Ceylon, as it was then – Ceylon didn’t become Sri Lanka until 1972. After which we sailed to our first Indian port of Madras (now called Chennai).

The day after arrival in Madras, I and another cadet were allowed ashore. We were under strict instructions that we had to be back on board no later than 6.00 am the following day, at which time we would sail for Calcutta.

Madras was a pleasant place, but it could not hold our interest until 6.00 am the following morning, so we decided to return to the ship around 11.30 pm.
On entering the dock area we noticed that our ship was no longer at the same berth as she was a few hours earlier. We looked along the quay thinking that she had been moved to a fresh berth – we couldn’t see her.
On reaching the original berth a well-dressed Indian stepped out of the shadows and asked if we were cadets from the Chakdara, with him was an armed soldier.
We agreed that we were from the Chakdara and asked where our ship was berthed. He pointed to a vessel turning in the outer harbour.
‘You are booked on the next train to Calcutta, and an armed guard will accompany you’ said the agent.
‘How were we to know she was going to sail early?’
He shrugged his shoulders and spoke to the guard, who moved towards us to make sure we were not illegal immigrants trying to enter India.

As he did so we noticed a small rowing boat passing near the steps that led from the quay to the water, and we both ran down and jumped in to this boat. The dozing boatman was suddenly wide-awake.
We waved money at him and pointed to our ship in the outer harbour, and we set off in hot pursuit. Behind us the armed guard was not at all happy at losing his prisoners, but at least he didn’t fire at us.

Our ship was turning very slowly in the harbour, and the boatman was pulling on his oars like mad, in an effort to catch the Chakdara. While the boatman rowed, my friend and I stood in the stern shouting and waving like demented fools, in an effort to attract attention.

The ship completed her turn and was now pointing out to sea through the harbour entrance. We could see the white disturbance of the water caused by her propellers as she began to move ahead.
Suddenly the disturbance stopped and a Jacob’s ladder was lowered down to the water’s edge – they’d seen or heard us. The harbour and the quay were all brightly lit so perhaps someone was keeping an eye out, just in case.
We paid off the boatman and began the climb up the steep side of the ship, via the ladder.


The picture shows Chakdara with the Jacob’s ladder hanging over the side – our problem was that it was half past midnight – not daylight as in the photograph. At least the deck crew shone a light over the side to assist our climb.

On nearing the top of the ladder the sound of the engines could be heard as half ahead was rung on the telegraph. Time was money.
As the senior cadet I was ordered to report to the Captain, to explain our lateness.
Even though I’d been told that we were not due to sail until after 6.00 am the following day, I was told that I should have known that we would have sailed early. At that comment from the Captain, I kept my mouth shut – I was not sure if he was joking or blaming us.

Next port was Calcutta.


It was not a long voyage from Madras to Calcutta, but the river transit of the Hooghly was interesting due to the constant changing of the sandbanks. The distance from the sea to the docks is about 126 miles (203 km). We anchored at night and completed the river journey the following day.

riverfront-of-calcutta-in-1960sTwo BI ships working cargo from barges.

Once along side we began to work cargo. The problem was the monsoon season. We had to contend with heavy rain that stopped after about an hour allowing work to resume, and then perhaps half an hour later the rain would start again. We had a system of tarpaulin tents attached to the ship’s derricks and as soon as the rain started the tent was hauled up to cover each of the hatches to protect the cargo. Our time in Calcutta should have been for a few days, but turned in to more like a fortnight, all due to the monsoons. Even visiting Calcutta itself was no longer a pleasure, due to flooding and heavy rain.


Street flooded in Calcutta 1964

Due to our inability to keep dry, when out and about, we entertained ourselves onboard, and of course the entertainment revolved around beer. Each evening around 10.00 pm one of the cadets would go ashore and buy curried suppers for those involved in the entertainment. We used to toss a coin for the first and second nights and after that took it in turns.
I lost the toss on the first night and trudged ashore to the local street stall just outside the dock gates. The food, various curries and rice, was packed in banana leaves, and tied with strong cotton. I hurried back with my load and handed the parcels around, and sat to enjoy my own with another cold beer. Unthinkingly I used the banana leaf as a vegetable. I thought the leaf was edible, forgetting that it was in place of a newspaper wrapping that we used in the UK for fish and chips. Fortunately I didn’t finish too much of the leaf, just enough for me to realise my mistake, but enough to keep me ‘regular’ for the next two days. Of course the others noticed me eating the leaf, but didn’t say anything – friendship?


During the day it was the cadets’ duty to keep an eye on the loading, and that the cargo was being loaded correctly, and in the right order for discharge. This was well before containerisation.
As you see in the photograph it was all manhandled and loaded via the ship’s derricks. One time I remonstrated with the dockside supervisors about the stacking of the cargo on to the pallet, before the pallet was lifted from the ground to be deposited in the hold.
With indignation the supervisor raised himself to his full height, he came up to my shoulder, and stared in to my eyes, while saying with great dignity in his sing song Indian accent, ‘you think I know damn nothing, when in fact I know damn all!’
I nodded as if in agreement, turned and made my way to the officer’s accommodation where I could no longer hold in the laughter.

Finally, in spite of the rain, we managed to load all our cargo in a dry state, as well as a number of passengers who were returning to the UK. The additional faces in the dinning room and saloon expanded our conversational subjects beyond the sea and ships.

Three nuns joined us on their way home for retirement after they’d spent most of their lives in the hills of northern India as medical assistants, and spreading the gospel. They brought two dogs on board, and intended to pay for the six months quarantine in the UK, and keep them as pets. Part of our duties, as cadets, was to look after these animals, feed them, hose down the deck area that they were allowed to use, and make sure they didn’t fall overboard. The problem was that these dogs were vegetarians because the nuns could not afford to feed them meat during their time at hill station.

We had other passengers, which included a couple of teenage daughters who were around eighteen years of age. It was going to be an interesting voyage.
It was the 4th August before we eventually sailed out of the Hooghly River in to the Bay of Bengal.

For the next few days I was as sick as could be, due to the corkscrewing motion of the ship in the monsoons conditions. I hardly ate anything and would get sick cleaning my teeth. One way of losing weight I suppose, but when one is seasick and you are offered a gun to shoot yourself, you’d thank the gun giver. Seasickness is the most horrible feeling I’ve have ever experienced, because you can not stop the corkscrewing motion of the ship.

It was not until we were close to Ceylon that the ship’s corkscrewing changed to a steady roll, which was much easier on the body, allowing me to get used to an even roll in the ocean swell.
Finally we entered Trincomalee harbour, which is a natural beautiful circular harbor on the north east side of the country. We moored to a buoy and began to load chests of tea from barges, using our own derricks.

tea-chestThe loading was very labour intensive – loading a few chests of tea in to a cargo net, which would be brought on board and lowered in to the hold. A different labour gang would unload the net and then stack the tea chests in the appropriate area of the hold. In the meantime the empty cargo net is sent back for another load. This process started in the cool of the morning until lunchtime. After a lunch break the loading carried on until late afternoon. At night we would rig the cargo tents over the holds just in case of rain.
We were quite happy at the slow loading because it allowed us time to use the lifeboat to go ashore for picnics and a BBQ, along with some of the passengers. The lifeboat was powerful enough for me to be taught to ‘water ski’. I used a cargo pallet from the ship; a long rope from the lifeboat and my friends dragged me around the harbour behind the lifeboat.


I must admit it was great fun, and it didn’t take me long to find my balance riding the hatch board, and to bounce over the lifeboat’s wake. The next time I tried water skiing would be in Victoria, Australia, twenty years later, so this small introduction at Trincomalee came in handy.

trincomalee-beachA small part of the beautiful beaches at Trinco where we had a BBQ.

Our next port was Madras – again, but this time I didn’t go ashore.

The Magnificent PC

Earlier this week my son & I went to the latest Hollywood effort of the Seven Samurai.

Seven Samurai (1954)

The Magnificent Seven (1960)


Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966)


Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)


The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972)


The Magnificent Seven (2016)


The latest version for me is so politically correct that it is a pure Saturday afternoon matinee film of my childhood. The hero shoots the bad guy’s gun out of his hand, the goodies never miss with hand guns, and use rifles that fire such distances with such accuracy that it brought back my ability when I was a six-year-old cowboy – I never missed either.

The most noticeable influence for me was the politically correctness of the film.

The leader is a black American (Yul Brynner in the 1960 film))

His off sider is white American (Steve McQueen – 1960 film)

We have an ex sharp shooter form the civil war with ‘problems’ of using his gun to shoot people. He’s not all that keen on Mexicans,

So we have a Mexican, who is not sure of his skills. (Robert Vaughn in the original 1960 film)

We also have an Asian knife thrower (I think James Coburn is the closest in the 1960 film, but he wasn’t Asian).

This time we have something new, a ‘red’ Indian (Comanche) called Red Harvest who is painted red . . . .

Even the baddies have a red Indian, just one, out of what seems to be hundreds on the baddies side.

Don’t let’s forget the leading lady – according to her she has more balls than any man in town as she sets off to look for the Magnificent Seven to help reclaim the town, which is being threatened by a bunch of white Americans. (Mexicans in the 1960 film)

Of course the town people are frightened and only our heroine and one other has the guts to leave and to look for the ‘seven’.

Our heroine is taught how to shoot and uses her new skills to great effect right up to one of the final scenes. The feminist movement should be happy with her character.

Plenty of gun play, bows and arrows, knife throwing, explosions, and not one horse is shot or injured, only the riders – and they are bad guys so they are fair game.

The film has so many ‘tokens’ that I think it has covered everyone who might be offended.

We attended the lunchtime session at 12.50 pm, which allows pensioners like me to have my lunch at 10.30 am, so as not to miss the film. Many other patrons had the same idea, because I think my forty year old son was the youngest person in the cinema. The cinema could seat about two hundred people or more, but I doubt that the cinema would cover their costs, because there were only fifteen people in the whole place – pensioners $8.50 and my son paid $21!

Based on the audience it was obviously a popular film . . .

Places not on my bucket list

Das Island


The photograph of Das Island has been downloaded from the net –

tc-map1I’ve marked the position of Das Is – under the ‘er’ of Persian under lined in cream.

I think the only main change since 1963 would be the upgraded runway. I always had the feeling that the island was floating on a pool of oil.
Das Island is a hundred miles (160 km) off the coast of Abu Dhabi; the size of the island is three quarters of a mile by one and a half miles, and is famous as a landing spot for migrating birds and a place for sea turtles to breed. Not a particularly sexy place to visit, but apparently the turtles liked this place as a holiday island.

Banda Mashur in Iran now called Bandar-e Mahshahr
In August the temperature can reach 50 c (122 F) not a fun place to be at the best of times.


Kharg Island

Memories, memories – every time I smell crude oil it all comes back to me.

Five miles (8 km) by half a mile (0.8 km) – 8.1 sq miles (21 sq km) – another island on a pool of oil
The Kharg Island facilities were effectively out of commission at the end of 1986. Heavy bombing of the facilities from 1982 through 1986 by the air forces of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War had all but destroyed most of the terminal facilities.

It’s other claim to fame is that it has inspired a computer generated a game called Battlefield WiKI . . . enough said.

My final ‘hot spot’ would be Ras al Khaimah. Funny, but Ras al Khaimah means ‘top of the tent’; which is the last place I’d think of in 1963 if I wanted to go camping.

The thought that Tip Advisor would list the best hotels in Ras al Khaimah would have been science fiction in 1963.

On our return from Europe  it was a fast loading and this time we were off to Wilhelmshaven in Germany, via of course LEFO.
In the next few months we focused on Mina; the corrugated canteen, with its joy of the reason for travel, and visits to Little Aden, but all good things come to end and we finally returned to the Isle of Grain where I paid off the tanker, after nearly nine months, and went home to Birkenhead in June 1963.

I was given eight weeks leave, but after two weeks I was bored. The boredom was my fault because I’d changed. I’d seen some of the world, experienced storms, picked up enough Hindi words to make myself understood to our Indian crew, and could now steer an ocean going vessel. I was even beginning to miss the Mina / Aden ferry I was in a bad way.

My friends back home hadn’t changed. They spoke of last night’s TV, football at the weekend, and they looked forward to their annual holiday.
There was nothing wrong with their life, but it wasn’t for me, after all, I doubted that I would have any reason to go ‘abroad,’ didn’t I say that at school?

The thought of another six weeks of boredom was too much, so I rang the Company and asked for a ship.

The Company obliged, and sent me an airline ticket for Kuwait!

They must have hated me in Head Office .. . .


I left Heathrow on a Comet 4 for Rome, next stop should have been Damascus, but we were diverted to Beirut, and finally we arrived in Kuwait. On landing I was met in the arrival hall by a representative of the shipping agent and within minutes I had my bag and was through customs and immigration, while many other passengers were still queuing.

Outside I was escorted to a very large American car; (see similar cars in the picture below) the driver opened the rear door and indicated that I should sit in the back. The agent shook my hand and wished me a safe journey, which at the time I thought was a strange comment. After all we were only going to a city hotel. The driver smiled at me, via the rear view mirror, and put his foot down on the accelerator. Now I understood the agent’s comment, within minutes we were travelling at over one hundred miles an hour along a freeway to the city. At that time nobody wore seatbelts. I just hung on to the roof strap. Thirty minutes later we pulled up at the Bristol Hotel in a cloud of dust and sand. I was to wait in this hotel until my ship arrived in to Kuwait.


I sent the above post card to my parents to let them know that I’d arrived safely. At that time we did not have a phone at home, and e-mail was thirty-five years in the future.
It was mid July and I only ventured out of the hotel in the early morning or late afternoon – it was the height of summer and it was HOT & dusty. The hotel was ‘dry’ i.e they were not allowed to sell alcohol, so one couldn’t have a cold beer in the cool of the evening.
I received a phone call at 4.00 am one morning, and I thought it was the agent telling me that my new ship had arrive – wrong number.
I received another at 10.00 am the same day and this time it was the agent to let me know that I would be collected and taken to my new ship in the early afternoon, the Landuara.
What a difference between this vessel and the tanker. The tanker was just over two years old, and my latest posting was to a vessel that had been launched in 1946, two years after I had been born. Her deadweight was 7200 tons. She didn’t have any air-conditioning, cadets slept two to a cabin, and the cabins were not at all large, in fact the shared cabin was smaller than the single cabins on the tanker.


Our first port of call, after leaving Kuwait, was Basra, about 60 miles up the Shatt al Arab. Many people refer to it as the Shatt al Arab River, but the Arabic meaning is Stream or River of the Arabs, so by putting river at the end we have Stream or River of the Arabs River, which is a bit of a mouthful.


The river itself denotes the border between Iraq and Iran, and it is the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. Basra is about as far upriver as a sea going vessel can reach from the Persian Gulf.

The river flowed through miles and miles of Iraqi and Iranian desert. Khaki was the colour of the day, in fact every day. Sand storms, along with the heat and the flies made this area of the world one of the most unattractive. From memory the only green things I ever saw were the leaves of palms, and the lawn of the British Club, which was not the lush green of England, but a pale green – yellow effort that stood little chance of ever turning a lush green in the searing heat of August. The Shatt al Arab water was a dirty brown combination of local sewers, run off from the surrounding land after oxen had walked in circles to drive water from the river to irrigate the riverbank area, and the occasional shower of rain. It was unthinkable for any of us to wish to swim in such water, walk on it perhaps, but never in it to swim.

palm-treesShatt al Arab river near Basrah

111641They do say that photographs don’t lie – they do, because I’ve never seen the Shatt al Arab look so blue and attractive.

I did hear once that where the Tigris and the Euphrates meet, is where the Garden of Eden is supposed to have been located. Things have changed in the area since Adam and Eve left the garden.

By now it was August the hottest time of the Iraq summer and temperatures during the day were well over the 40 c (106F) mark and when working in the holds of the ship, the temperatures were higher again. At night I used to obtain two very large bath towels, soak them in a bath of fresh water, and put one on the deck of the highest part of the ship, and pull the other over me in an effort to get some sleep before either towel dried out. Sleeping in the cabin was impossible, because of the lack of air conditioning. We did have a small fan, but all that did was move the hot air from over there, to over here, without generating any cooling.
When I was in my fifties I suffered from rheumatism in certain weather conditions and I blame the use of the soaking wet towels as the cause – but without the wet towels we wouldn’t be able to get any sleep. Imagine the conditions for our engineers when they were on duty in the engine room.
At the end of the workday (we were alongside, not moored in the river) we did have the chance to visit the British Club, where we could buy English beer. The members allowed us to use their swimming pool, and they were very kind and friendly to us poor cadets making us ‘honorary’ members. The other advantage of the British Club was that a number of the members had their daughters visiting during the British school holidays (late July to early September), and some of the daughters were my age. . . . . but we were not going to step out of line and cause any problems, after all the Club had been very kind to us, and they sold cold beer.
On the evenings that we didn’t go ashore, we would sit outside our accommodation on the riverside of the ship, not the shore side, and eat watermelon, and hold pip-spiting contests across the river – we never reached the other side. The melons were obtained via barter. Wood in Iraq was expensive and hard to obtain. Our ship used wood as dunnage when stowing cargo during loading cargo (well before containerisation), because it was inexpensive or a waste material from another process. After we had unloaded cargo we would always have plenty of dunnage left over, and we either dumped it at sea (forty years before the PC brigade were invented), or we would reuse some of the dunnage for the next time we loaded cargo. Our old dunnage had value to the local Arabs, so we would swap some for huge watermelons that grew along the banks – we were happy and the local Iraqi boatmen were happy.
After completing our unloading and the loading of export cargo (dates), we dropped down the river to Khoramshah, which is on the Iranian river bank, so we had to remember to refer to the Shatt al Arab as the Arvand Rud (Swift river), which is the Persian (Iranian) name for the river.

kharomInstead of watermelon pips we swapped dunnage for pistachio nuts; we didn’t spit, but flicked the shells across the water. Iran, being the largest producer of this nut ensured we had a regular supply.

Eventually we left the Shatt al Arab / Arvand Rud and sailed for Bombay.


See https://wordpress.com/post/silverfox175.com/1919 for beer & onions in Bombay.



Lefo ? Where’s that?


This blog is a follow on from my earlier blog, ‘The Silver Grey Sea’ on the 30th September.

In addition to tank cleaning we were expected to keep up with our studies, via a correspondence course, for the examination for a 2nd Mates ‘ticket’. Certain certificates were required before we would be allowed to sit the examination in the UK, and this included the ability to steer an ocean going vessel correctly.
The Captain of Ellenga soon had me practising my helmsman’s skills.
After a time one gained the ‘feel’ for steering, even a 37,000 gt tanker.
While at the helm if the wake was not arrow strait the Captain would make him self heard – he didn’t like a zig zag course, because it used too much fuel, and he maintained that because the war was over we were no longer a target for submarines, zig zagging was for cowboys.
Other certificates that were required before sitting the examination consisted of a Lifeboat certificate, RADAR operator certificate and St John’s Ambulance First Aid Certificate. If a British vessel had ‘less than ninety-nine souls on board’ the vessel was not required to carry a doctor, hence the first aid certificate. Of course we had a book called the ‘The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide’ – I still have mine published in 1946, Ministry of War Transport – cost was 3/6d. It has plenty of black and white sketches and photographs to help us remove foreign bodies from eyes, or people.

helm-001Helmsman certificate


Lifeboat certificate stamped in my discharge book.

radar-001Radar certificate.

 Christmas Day 1962, was celebrated in the Persian Gulf, as we sailed through the Straits of Homuz. The cadets were given a day off, with a very slack day for Boxing Day.

breakfast62rc          lunch62c

Christmas Day breakfast menu         Christmas Lunch menu


Christmas dinner –

Don’t forget that we were a tanker, not a passenger ship.

 British India Steam Nav. Co ships were known as good ‘feeder’ ships.

We were off Little Aden wharf at 2.00 am, 27th December and sailed at 4.00 pm the following day. Our departure time from Little Aden allowed us to celebrate New Year Eve and the first day of 1963, at sea, in the Persian Gulf.


After loading in Mina the Company took pity on us and we were ordered to Philadelphia; to be exact the oil terminal at Marcus Hook, on the Delaware River. We didn’t care where our destination was, as long as it wasn’t Little Aden!

The voyage was twenty-eight days, out of the Persian Gulf in to the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, and across the Mediterranean, followed by the Atlantic in mid-winter. The winter of 62/63 was the coldest winter in the UK since 1947. In the Atlantic we had to put up with storms, and mountainous seas that smashed in to the ship and twisted metal ladders, while the wind carried away ridged awnings that were bolted to the ship. All galley fires were extinguished and we lived off corned beef sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs for days. Nobody was allowed on deck because of the wind and waves. I’d read about huge Atlantic waves, but being on a 37,000-dwt ship, and being tossed about as if we were a toy boat in a child’s bath, is something else.


To get from the mid-ship accommodation to the crew’s quarters or the engine room we used the catwalk.The catwalk is a suspended walkway to allow people to get from the midsection of the ship (officers’ accommodation and bridge area) to the aft area, without climbing over the deck pipes. Most tankers have a catwalk, which are a number of feet above the deck piping. Along the catwalk are shelters, also known as bus stops, to protect the walkers during bad weather. The idea being to dodge, from bus stop to bus stop, as you moved aft.
The above photograph shows the Ellenga, and the two bus stops aft of the centre accommodation can be seen – they are the two white objects on the deck. The weather was so bad that nobody was allowed to move from one accommodation to the other – it was too dangerous, which is why we were living on boiled eggs etc.

Eventually we made it to the mouth of the Delaware River and picked up a pilot. I was on the bridge keeping the logbook up to date – every thing that happened was recorded in writing – pilot aboard, pilot on the bridge, when he gave his first order it was Pilot’s advise, Captain’s orders. The Captain was still in command even when the pilot was on the bridge.
I did not record the first comment from the Pilot to the bridge personnel as he walked through the door.

Although we had been at sea for twenty-eight days we managed to keep up with world affairs, particularly those concerning the UK. Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, had his hands full dealing with John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, the Soviet Naval Attaché at the Russian embassy, and a young woman named Christine Keeler, who was supposed to have been sleeping with the Secretary of War, and the Soviet Naval Attaché, at the same time, but not in the same bed!

The American pilot threw out the following to those of us on the bridge –
‘What are Christine Keeler’s favourite newspapers?’
Of course none of us knew the answer –
‘She takes a Mail, a Mirror, a couple of Observers, and as many Times as she can get.’
This caused all the British to burst out laughing, but the helmsman, who was Indian, looked at us as if we were completely mad. He was not aware that the Mail, Mirror, Observer & Times were all British newspapers.

I managed to get some hours off and went by train to Philadelphia. It was extremely cold, which took the edge of any idea of sightseeing. I did buy a Tommy Dorsey LP for $1, which I still have (music transferred to the computer and cleaned of the original scratches)


Sugar Foot Stomp I think is my favorite on this LP – turn it up!

I also bought a black fur ushankahat, which came in handy some years later in Leningrad (now called St Petersburg), where I swapped a ball point pen for a comrades red star!

Our next move, after breaking out of the ice in the river, was to Maracaibo in Venezuela, for a cargo of oil for the UK. At least it would be warm in Venezuela!
During the voyage we were followed and watched by the US navy, because the Cuba crisis had not long been resolved (about ten weeks earlier) and the US & Russia were still a little ‘nervous’. Nothing untoward happened and we were able to load our cargo in Maracaibo, Venezuela and sail for home.

Every time we sailed for a European port we sailed for Lefo – I tried to find this destination on the chart, and in an atlas, but failed. I eventually found out that Lefo is fictional point just off the south coast of England – Land’s End For Orders! Our cargo may have been on sold to another destination.


lefo1The wild coast of Land’s End

Having crossed the Atlantic again and having our destination confirmed at LEFO, we entered the English Channel, which was wrapped in thick fog. There is nothing so
haunting as the sound of ships’ foghorn to warn other vessel of your closeness. The problem is that sound bounces around in fog and the vessel may not be where you expect it to be. Fortunately my own ship, being only a couple of years old, had radar so we were able to ‘see’ our way up the channel. Even so we were only moving at a very slow speed.

We arrived safely at the Isle of Grain oil depot at the mouth of the River Thames. A fast discharge and by mid April, we were back in the Persian Gulf at a new loading port called Banda Mashur in Iran, (Some times known as Bandar-e Mah Shahr), where we managed to load at a rate of 4200 tons an hour. We didn’t wish to hang around, and I think this was fastest hourly rate that we recorded.

They never said ‘If only . . .’

A baker’s dozen of real life, but different, e- books that I’ve read in the last couple of years.

Once again, from a cost point of view, the e-book has the advantage of the printed book. As I said in my last blog I’ll risk a dollar or so on unknown authors to read novels, but I also like biographical books about people who have stepped out of their comfort zone.

I do enjoy reading books written by people who have changed their lives for one reason or another. Perhaps the change was caused by redundancy, or a casual remark that grows in to action, or the thought that you would like to do something in memory of a loved one – I find them all very entertaining and readable. The percentages have been taken from Amazon reviews of each book.

82% – 4 & 5 * reviews – a total of 148 reviews

A light hearted look as to how a family coped with the loss of employment by the bread winner. Having been made redundant myself at 55, I had great sympathy for the family and wanted to know how they coped. I think they had more fun, and really lived `life’ the day they left their secure environment and took up narrow boating. The flow of the story pulls you along with the family, whether it is turning a seventy-foot boat in a sixty-eight foot wide canal or the male leaping ashore to moor the boat, only to realise what he thought was solid ground turned out to be less solid than anticipated. It has drama, comedy, pathos within a travel book that doesn’t travel all that far from its origin. The book is different, and for me it was a pleasure to read.


   64 % 4 & 5 * reviews – a total of 503 reviews

It’s a long time since I laughed out loud when reading a book, but I did with More Ketchup than Salsa. The author captures the feeling of ‘is this all we have’ in a down trodden job in a grimy north of England city. You can feel the dampness and the rain in the author’s writing. For me this was an enjoyable book to read. I was surprised at the low 4 & 5 * percentage.

journey83% 4 & 5 * reviews

Have you ever thought that a casual comment would change your life?
It did for Craig Briggs, and Journey to a Dream is his story. I read this book while travelling in Spain, so  my location added to the overall enjoyment. The story is entertaining and the author’s style of writing makes it an easy read.


sequinsA light, but an interesting read. I enjoy books where people step outside their normal comfort zone and make a ‘go’ of the change.

89 % 4 & 5 * reviews




I wonder what the future will hold for these Anglo-Saxons living in Spain, now that the UK is leaving the EEC. I think they will take it all in their stride, and perhaps produce another book.

walk I like `off centre’ books that tell of personal desires to create, or complete tasks, that others might find a little `odd’. I came across `Vic’s Big Walk’ on Amazon while looking for something to read during an anticipated long flight. Not knowing anything about the author or his goals the thought of someone recording his effort to walk from the Pyrenees to Blackpool at seventy years of age, sparked my desire for an off centre read. I was not disappointed, as the author’s prose is very readable. He drew me in to his, and his wife’s, life as he walked nearly 2000 kilometers towards his childhood home town in the UK. His observations of the people he meets and the places he visits, along with his daily stop for coffee, creates a feeling that the reader is looking over the author’s shoulder and is part of the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed Vic’s Big Walk and at the end of the book I was pleased to note that all profits from the sales would go to pancreatic cancer research – a cancer that caused the early death of my own father.
If you like a well written travel book, which isn’t a travel book, but a personal record of a man’s effort to do something unusual, and still benefit others, read Vic’s Long Walk and enjoy his story, while making you feel good.  93% 4 & 5 * reviews

lifeA very interesting story. I am of a similar age to the author, so his book brought back a lot of memories of my youth. The influence, of the company created by the author, on the music world, comes alive without it being a brag about the author’s accomplishments. I read this while on holiday and found it strange that it stuck in my mind long after I’d finished the book. If you are interested in the history of how they created popular music in the 60’s & 70’s this is the book for you.  85% 4 & 5 * reviews



What an interesting travel book –
It is the type of travel book that you can pick up and put down – each destination has a short 500 word story of the author’s experiences in a particular destination. I was able to dip in and out as I pleased and periodically through the book, the author has included photographs of the previous places mentioned. Besides the author’s admiration of certain places, he also points out the pit falls – particularly when eating street food in Asia. 89% 4 & 5* reviews


An entertaining short book of about 89 pages, read it in a single sitting. It reminded me of the sort of chapters one reads in Readers Digest – condensed information of the writer’s trips. Enjoyable, but only up to a point 63 % 4 * 5 * reviews

yearOverall I enjoyed the book, it was an easy read, and each chapter could be read as a stand-alone piece, if the reader had a particular interest in a specific destination.
This not a negative comment, but I had the feeling that each chapter could have been sent to magazines as a single article. I think it is a book that would interest those who have not travelled a great deal, rather than a person who has travelled. 80% 4 & 5 * reviews – 198 reviews

peace I haven’t met the author, nor heard of her as a filmmaker, but she e-mailed me and asked if I would like to read her book. I checked the outline of the book and found that she worked as a young woman in Afghanistan filming news items, and this sounded interesting, so I agreed.
The first part of the book was exciting as she detailed her time in Afghanistan as a young film reporter for TV stations. The reasons for various TV station & print media showing or rejecting her work confirmed my own thoughts on the moral standing of certain elements of the media in today’s world.
On the author’s return from overseas we are told of her relationship with her then boyfriend, and various girlfriends, as well as her mother. After the excitement of Afghanistan & her visit to Russia during the cold war, for me, the soul searching for a spiritual anchor and her relationships with friends and relatives was of less interest than her work. Overall I found the book to be an easy read at 180 pages, and the details of her  time in Afghanistan was fast paced and read like a  novel. 98% 4 & 5 * reviews



A clear account of how people can be conned. I was surprised that so many Christians were duped when one would expect them to question how such a high daily return could be obtained, and from where the high return originated. 88% 4 & 5 * reviews



An educational read without being force fed information. Obviously one eyed from a US perspective, but that was to be expected considering the book’s title. I enjoyed the book, even though it was ‘shallow’ in parts. It is not a deep historical book of politics and tactical military moves, just many anecdotal tales by those who took apart in WW2.  88% 4 & 5 * reviews a total of 487 reviews




A very funny book with strong Australian overtones, but with sad moments as the author tries to find his son.

95 % 4 & 5 * reviews




Show me – don’t tell me

The title of this blog is a dictate that is drummed in to authors – show the reader, don’t lecture the reader.


A few years ago we were told that the e-book was overtaking the printed book in popularity – today I am not all that sure. I have an old adage that if I think something is not true or not quite right, I know that many others will think along similar lines.

Political spin on any subject brings out the scepticism in me (some call it grumpy old man syndrome), and when reporters throw out huge numbers, for whatever reason, I cannot help but do a quick mental arithmetic (I am old enough not to require a calculator), to see if the statement is credible or just journalistic spin to grab attention.

I have a feeling that the e-book ‘revolution’ may have faltered and printed books are still as popular as ever. I believe that the reading public still like the ‘feel’ of a book and the ability to skip backwards and forwards easily through the pages.

As a reader who haunts second hand book shops, school fetes, library sell offs etc for that particular ‘must have’ book, I am certain I am not Robinson Crusoe. While hunting for the elusive paperback it never occurs to me to check to see if I can buy it as an e-book.
With book prices in Australia being in the $18 / $19 to $30 area for a paperback, I am a strong supporter of Book Depository for the same book at half the Australian price. The wait of eight to ten days is not a problem. I only buy authors that I have read, I never buy unknown paperback authors, because of price.

This is where the e-book comes in to its own. The e-book world allows me to find new authors to read at a reasonable cost. The cost factor, if I don’t like the book is small, but if I do like the e-book, the author’s name goes on my buy list for a printed book as well as their latest e-book. If the author only publishes e-books, so much the better for my pocket.

Over the last few years I’ve read a number (about seventy) of independent self-published e-books and thought it was about time that I passed on information about some of the novels that I have enjoyed. The list is in alphabetical by author, not in any preferential order. The percentages have been taken from Amazon, so the percentages could well be higher when taking all sales in to account.

Mario Almonte – American author.
Of the reviews 80% were 4 * &  5*
Theresa Manning

manningThe location of the story is set in present day New York & Boston. After the first few pages I realised that this author is no novice when it comes to writing. I had not heard of him or read any of his work before I read `Theresa Manning’. His writing is smoooooth, if that word can be used in this context.
The story is a relationship, rather than an action tale, which flows effortlessly from scene to scene. The author brings the characters to life, and at times drops in some great quotes `The wheels of a generation, the mouths of the moment’ referring to a wayside diner. When I read the quote it fitted perfectly in to that particular scene. The relationship aspect of the story has not created a standard romantic novel, it is different, because the author creates tension between each of the characters as he pushes the story to its final conclusion. It is a sharp concise novel that will entertain and linger in the mind after you have read the final page.

John Campbell – American author
Of the reviews 93% were 4 * & 5 *
Walk to Paradise Gardens

cam1John Campbell’s historical novel `Walk to Paradise Gardens’ is a saga that begins during the early days of WW1, and the reader follows a family through all of their troubles.
The story captivated me from the first few pages as I read his descriptions of the medical areas behind the lines in WW1. The author brought the whole horror of this war to life. Later, his descriptions of London in the 1920’s & 30’s has your mouth watering as he describes the simple act of taking tea and cakes in an `acceptable’ (for the wife of a political minister) café. Campbell has the ability to capture the period, regardless of the decade. The historic detail enhances the story without overwhelming the reader with facts. A love story to be read and enjoyed at leisure.

A Lark Ascending –
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*


Rating this book as a five star read was no effort at all. The author has really captured the Lime House area of London during the early 1920’s. I could feel the damp, smell the river, and feel the fear of being out and about after dark during those dark days. John Campbell’s ability to research the times, and the places about which he writes, is always spot on. This is the second of Mr Campbell’s books that I’ve read and enjoyed, both are set around the same period; one in peacetime, and the other during the first world war. A must read for those who love accurate historic fiction.

V.R Christensen – American author
Of the reviews 72% were 4 * & 5*, which equated to 470 out of 653 reviews.
Of Moths & Butterflies


Being a mere male `Of Moths and Butterflies’ is not my normal type of book, but from the first page I was captivated by the characters and their situations.
The story is set in 1881 / 82 and takes place in Kent & London. The author has recreated the time and the place, and the life style of the various levels of society. The main character is a young woman who is being manoeuvred in to marriage because of a shameful act that was not her fault. I found myself wishing this young woman would take a swing at certain family members, but of course this was 1881, not 1981.
The author’s writing is rich in creating scenes, without being overbearing in detail. I read this book on a Kindle while travelling and I would regale my wife with bits and pieces of the story. Now the acid is on me to buy another Kindle so that she can read it, without me being `Kindleless’.

Robert Davidson – British author
Of the reviews 100% were 4* & 5*
The Tuzla Run –


Davidson’s descriptive details of the various geographic areas, and the war damage in the Tuzla region (Boznia), comes across as personal experience rather than research. Once I started the story I found it hard not to keep reading the next page and the next and so on, even at the risk of lost sleep.
The author has produced an exciting story in the mould of the traditional `journey’ style of storytelling, coupled with credible heroic and cowardly characters. It seems to me that The Tuzla Run is tailor made for an action movie.

Susan Denning – American author
Of the reviews 75% were 4 * & 5*, which equated to 662 out of 883 reviews.
I am also aware that this author has sold nearly 200,000 e-book & paperback copies, plus it was released via an audiobook company, as an audio book.

Far Away Home


Far Away Home is a joy to read. Within the time it took to read the first page I was in to the story. Meeting the main character, Aislynn, in New York, is to step back in time. Denning has captured the time and places of the mid 1800’s in America. Her detailed research is not overpowering, but it does help you to feel the cold of winter, the joy of spring, the smell of the trees, which were cut down to create Aislynn’s home. In her desire for accuracy, I believe Denning drove a covered wagon through similar terrain as did her main character when she crossed the wide open spaces between New York and Utah. Denning experienced the trials of such transport and her personal experience adds credibility to the story.
The relationship between the characters moves the story steadily forward. They became real to this reader, so much so, that I was quite sad to reach the end of the book. Perhaps Ms Denning will favour us with a sequel, as I’m sure many of her readers would like to know what happens to Aislynn. If you are interested in the old American west, and you like strong characters, who stand up for themselves and their friends, then this is the book for you.

Laurel Lamperd – a saga over two books, Australian author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*
This author has written a total of eight books.

Wind from Danyari

In addition to the central characters, the Hennessey family, who are rich in emotion and diverse, I found the author’s detailed description of the landscape and the hard climate of Western Australia, as stimulating as the human characters.
The scene is set with the arrival of the first Europeans to the area. This is followed by the introduction of Joe Hennessey, in the late 1800s, who, as a teenager, sets out to attempt to make his fortune in the gold fields of northern Australia.
The story flows as the author paints her characters to the harsh canvas of Australia between 1880 to the outbreak of WW1. The story has romance, tragedy and adventure, which are mixed with the way of life of two cultures. The ancient aboriginal way and the newcomers creates tension and sadness. I found the book to be a page turner. I believe that this book is the first in a series that chronicles the Hennessey family.

Of the reviews 100% were 4* & 5 *wa1

The Hennessy boys go to war, Danny to England to be trained as a bomber pilot, and Will joins the Australian Army and is sent to New Guinea. The story begins in the time of innocence in Australia of 1939. The author showed me the lives of people in outback Australia of that time, and how their innocence changed as the war progressed.
Lamperd has the knack of describing the conditions of north west Australia to such an extent that she had my mouth dry from windblown sand, only to be washed clean in the next chapter by watered down beer in a London pub on a damp wet night, after a bombing raid over Germany. Her description of the Kakoda trail, the mud, the tropical heat and rain, with the expectation of fighting the Japanese brings to life the bestiality of man when at war.
It is not a story of war, but a story of a family caught up in a war. How relationships are made and broken, some deliberate others beyond control of the character. I read the book on a Kindle and after I’d finished, the characters and the locations stuck in my mind for days, even though I was travelling and seeing new places. A well told story.

While trying to find out if Ms Lamperd had written her third book in the Hennessy series, I read that she had died in June 2013. I also read that the third book in the series would be published posthumously, but I don’t know the title, or if it was published.

Ian Stewart – Australian author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*

The Peking Payoff



The story has the feel of James Clavell’s `Noble House’ without being a copy or fan fiction in any way. The detail description of Hong Kong in the 1970’s comes across as `real’ due to the author having lived and worked in the Colony (it was a colony in the 1970’s). The story has action, believable characters for the reader to either sympathise or hate, crafty `baddies’ and an exotic location. I enjoyed the story and wanted to know what happened next when I reached the end of the book. The ending didn’t leave me hanging and wondering what had happened, because it was the logical place to finish the story, without upsetting the reader, but it didn’t stop me wanting more!

The Unintentional Jihad
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*


The Unintentional Jihadi is a damn good yarn. Fast paced and exciting. The author writes about what he knows . . .his knowledge of Malaysia and Singapore adds authenticity to the story. Using details in the book you could drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, and drive around KL without your GPS.
In parts the story reminded me of the `39 Steps’ by John Buchan – the reluctant hero being chased by the baddies, who might be good or bad . . . , but you have to read the book to find out the truth!

Of the reviews 72% were 4 * & 5 *

nanyangAt around 650 pp Nanyang is a solid book. The detail of the history surrounding a particular event in which a character becomes involved is engrossing. My hobby is Asian history so the back ground of the various events was right up my street.
The author has a great love of research, and Asian history, and this shows as the story unfolds. I must say I particularly liked the author’s description of various battle & fight scenes. He never tried to alter history, but he did bring to life the skirmishes and battles of the period, and used them with great effect to move the story forward. I found myself reading faster and faster to reach the climax of a particular battle, even though I was aware of the historical outcome. The book was a pleasure to read.

K. P. Vorenberg – American author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*
Tierra Red


I haven’t read many books set in New Mexico, but I was looking for something different to help pass the time on a long-haul flight from Sydney to Europe, so I chose `Tierra Red’. I wasn’t disappointed, the story flowed and I felt I’d learned something new about the region, which is where the story was set. The characters were believable, and fleshed out just enough to help create mental pictures – I was shown, without being told the various foibles of each character. The story is not a `gunslinger’ cowboy story, but a study of people and how they react under certain circumstances. It is obvious that the author has detailed knowledge of the New Mexico area, and her knowledge adds authenticity to the story. I enjoyed the novel, and the author’s style made the book a very welcome read on such a long flight.

Marianne Wheelaghan – British author – Scottish – Of the reviews 92% were 4 * & 5*

The Blue Suitcase

suitcaseI finished The Blue Suitcase and found it to be a fascinating book. The story is `now’ rather than the reader being told about the political situation of Germany in the 1930’s. In many ways it is a happy / sad story of a young girl growing up in Germany, during that disturbing decade. The author held my attention throughout the book – not once did I skip forward, because I wanted to know every detail of the main character’s life. The story is wrapped around the changing political situation with its highs and lows, the broken political promises and broken family relationships. A bitter sweet story that reminded me of a symphony that builds from the pleasant tones of everyday life to the crashing finish of a destroyed Germany. A novel it may be, but I have a feeling that there is more to this story, for this author, than just a novel.


Geoff Woodland – Australian, author – but also British – half Welsh / half English, I’m still very fond of the UK, but not the weather :-o)

Ice King
Modesty forbids me to comment on this novel, but if you wish to know what others think, try this link.

%d bloggers like this: