A new life at 67.Can a woman start all over again?

Archive for October, 2006

At last Burma

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,

There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, an I know she thinks o’ me:

For the wind is in the palm-trees, an the temple bells they say:

‘Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay’

Come you back to Mandalay,

Where the old Flotilla lay;

Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?

On the road to Mandalay,

Where the flyin’ fishes play,

An the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘ crost the Bay!

This poem of Rudyard Kiplings was as a school child one of my great favourites.It definately awakened my fascination of the east.

‘If you’ve ‘eard the East a callin’, why you won’t ‘eed nothin else’

No you won’t’eed nothin’ else

But them spicy garlic smells

An the sunshine an’ the palm trees an the tinkly temple bells!

On the road to Mandalay.

Ship me somewheres east of Suez where the best is like the worst.

For the temple bells are calling and it’s there that I would be-

By the old Moulmein Pagoda looking lazy at the sea.

I didn’t get to Burma but read about Aung San Suu Kyi , and I read today that a 400 000 signature Petition for the release of 1100 political prisoners had been handed to the military rulers. It was the first without the influence of the Nobelprize winner.

I’ll be going soon.



‘Marriage isn’t a word……….. it’s a sentance’

King Vidor1895-1982

The first time it occured to me how ludicrous the ceremony is was in Viet Nam of all places.

We had been there and done it all from the Gulf of Tonking to the Mekong Delta,and now we could relax, like many others before us in Saigon. No, not Ho Chi Minh City,Saigon like it always was and always will be to the people who live there.

Now I wanted a drink and in the Hotel Rex,where I was sure if I closed my eyes I would be able to hear the echoes of the ‘five o’clock follies’-(I belong to the generation who lived through the American War) But today The Rex was experiencing a different type of folly.

Countless couples and their families were seated around tables from parterre to roof garden where amidst the most awfull din they were having their wedding meal. Bunches of brides ,dressed in white, not in elegant ao dais but in mostly tasteless copies of western wedding dresses made out of synthetic lace for the occasion. The ‘occasion’ being so costly that they would probably be in debt for many years to come.

Looking at the faces of some of the brides it was far from being the happiest day of their lives,and I wondered right then and there why do we do it.

Marriage–Does it really fit into todays world be it east or west.With all respect isn’t it laughable.

The novellist Jane Austin wrote in 1814 ‘There is not one in a hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry….it is all transactions,the one in which people expect most from others and are least honest themselves’

Marriage always was a business deal,in some countries still very much so. The woman would be fed and watered for the rest of her days -if she played by the rules. The man would get most probably a start in life.Children came along as a guarentee for many things. Marriage bound two people together. Love didn’t have a lot to do with it,and if it did how long does it last. A famous French film star guessed two years and I think she’s about right.That kind of love anyway.

So why in this modern world do we want to hang on to something that was very practical a century or ten ago. Woman can work, can rear children without sc0rn or scandal, we dont need costly contracts any more. Men- marriage was never for them anyway.


You are our other world.Our world of makebelieve,were we can loose ourselves in the crowds and pretend that nothing else exists. You in your role and I in mine.Wishing, pretending, dreaming, acting out our special play until the last curtain falls. Experiencing every moment with such intensity because it will never be there again. The bus rolls on down the Strand, and we run, and spring, and a cockney voice calls ‘hold on ducks’.


It was a usual 05.15 morning- it cant be the clock making that noise already I only went to bed minutes ago,I’ll just turn over and sleep again. I’m sure it’s my day off anyway. But it isn’t, and that nasty little voice called conscience is already sending messages to my motor neurones and before I can do anything about it I am groping for the light switch.How am I going to survive the day.

The cat has been fed,I’ve downed half a liter of coffee and eaten a sour Kiwi fruit that someone told me wakes you up in the morning and somehow I’m in the car and driving to work.

In the morning race against time in Waldfrieden I hadn’t noticed dawn breaking,but then I looked out of the windows and saw them-the diamonds. Looking down the still dark hillside into the distance there came a point were the rising mist over the lake formed what looked like a sheet of ice.On the far edge of the ice a panorama of the high alps was presenting itself like a line of chorus girls of incomparable beauty. Between the mountains and the ice a black band formed the outline of a distant town where unbelievably its lights were glittering- just like diamonds.

05.15 day,thankyou.


He was a good storyteller. As a child I was awed by the war stories,his war. He was the only one of seven men in the family who didnt experience the arenas from Dunkirk to El Allemein and probably one of the only soldiers in England that during the six years of war never left Blighty’s shores. The others didn’t tell stories.

I didn’t really question why he stayed at home,Iwas too busy listening to his encounter as a very young man with Lawrence of Arabia,or the tank training and the gunnery. His opinion of the Americans or how he happened to be very nearSouthwick House with the car and his driver prior to the Invasion.

My Mother said he would have been sent had he wanted a higher rank but he was contented with his three pips and he liked it up at Bletchley.He didn’t tell me anything about being there.

In the late fifties he took us to see a film, it was called “Carve her name with pride”.On the screen I read the Szabo cypher for the first time.

Years later I met the actress Virginia Mc Kenna and her husband,who also played in the film when their little daughter was a patient of mine.

Last year someone from the county of Hereford brought it all back to me. Was it all coincidence

Violette Szabo

The words of this poem are for me the lovliest words of affection ever written.It is by no means any ordinary poem,it was chosen as a cypher for one of the bravest and highly decorated British women agents working in occupied France during World War II.Her name was VioletteSzabo, and she died in Ravensbruck concentration camp after being captured and atrociously tortured. She revealed nothing. I think with the words of the cypher, which were given her or chosen by her while she was in training atBletchly Park reminded her of her dead husband and helped her through her ordeal.

The life that I have is all that I have,and the life that I have is yours.

The love that I have for the life that I have is yours and yours and yours.

The sleep I shall have ,a rest I shall have, yet death will be but a pause.

For the peace of my years in the long green grass will be yours,and yours, and yours.”

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