Sunday, 30 March 2014

KLM out of Manston

KLM morning flight from Amsterdam on
the ground at Manston
I had to go to Manston Airport, sorry, Kent International Airport on Friday to pick up a friend coming from Amsterdam on the KLM flight. It is essentially a bus service, requiring about thirty minutes flying time. I drank a pleasant cup of herbal tea in the cafe and watched the plane taxi up to my window.

This is what flying should be like -- informal yet efficient. This KLM service will be withdrawn in about two weeks time, leaving Kent International Airport with no scheduled flights.

Manston before the airport, 1908.
This is the Ordnance Survey map of 1908. The village of Manston has not yet acquired an airport. Look how close the site is to the town of Ramsgate. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the geography of England, this area is the bottom right hand corner of the country. If you sail down the River Thames from London and turn right when you get to the sea, this is the corner of the country that you go around.

Manston now has an airport.
Air Ministry map 1922.
In 1916, during World War 1, which was called the 'Great War' at the time since they did not know that there would be a second war, the British Admiralty installed an airfield at Manston. It was in a good position to defend London from air attack since it was between London and the Continent, the latter being the only place from which we could reasonably expect air attack.

Towards the end of the Second World War, Manston airfield was converted into an emergency landing ground for damaged bombers returning from operations over the Continent. At enormous expense a concrete runway was built of 3,000 yards in length and 250 yards wide. (A 'yard' is British and neater than a metre.) And this is the problem with Kent International Airport. The runway is too tempting an asset to be left unused but whichever map you look at, the airport is still in the bottom right corner of England and the flight path passes over a seaside holiday town of about 40,000 souls. Aircraft are noisier than in 1916 and Ramsgate is more extensive.

Map on the floor of the concourse,
Manston, sorry, Kent International Airport

Is the map on the floor of the concourse of Kent International Airport a statement of where they would like to fly to? 

I suspect it is wishful thinking.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Neither Civil nor Servant but be patient

My latest book, Neither Civil nor Servant, twenty-four years in the Immigration Service will be published probably at the end of April. Please be patient! It is a hardback of 442 pages and weighs in at 1kg and will be available on the Queen Anne's Fan website which you can reach by clicking on the 'What books have I written?' link in the right hand column of my blog. If you want a signed copy you will need to come to one of my talks, which you can find by clicking on the 'Where am I talking next?' link.

UPDATE: The book is now published.  See my post of 17 May where you can read the first chapter for free. Go to:

Monday, 10 March 2014

No sandwich in Sandwich

It was a lovely sunny day on Sunday so I decided to cycle to Sandwich for lunch. I never got there. This was the reason:

National Cycle Route No.1

In the past, unfeeling cycle companions have accused me of making errors of judgment but this time I behaved sensibly -- I waited for a cyclist more stupid than me to arrive from the opposite direction and when I could see the water running over the top of his wheels I decided to turn around.

Mind you, if he hadn't have arrived at that moment it might have been me who would have been splashing through the thigh-high water. I could see that the flood only stretched for about half a mile.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Don't Speak to me I might be a Terrorist

I have just returned from a trip to the other side of the world. In my three weeks of air travel I went through nine passport controls: into Hong Kong, out of Hong Kong; into Australia, out of Australia; into New Zealand, out of New Zealand; into Hong Kong, out of Hong Kong; into London Heathrow. Nine passport control officers perused my photograph and consulted their computers AND NOT ONE OF THEM SPOKE TO ME.

During the twenty-four years that I spent examining passengers at the frontier controls of the UK, I encountered my fair share of forged passports and in nearly every case, I discovered the falsification because I had spoken to the person holding the passport and they had 'not seemed right'. Modern passports are very clever. They can be read by a computer which will then search for the name in a database of naughty people but the only result that this process can achieve is to check the authenticity of the document. Passport control officers are no longer assessing people; they are verifying the status of a piece of paper. 

It is not the piece of paper that causes the problem, it is the person presenting it.

Don't speak to me, I might be a terrorist.

Art Deco in Napier

(Publication of this post was delayed by technical problems encountered in the Antipodes)
Here I am in Napier, a town on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island which is famous for having been totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. The result of this disaster was that the town was completely rebuilt in the modern architectural style of the day which happened to be Art Deco. Napier has probably the greatest concentration of Art Deco buildings of any town on the planet. 

The illuminated porch of the Masonic Hotel in Napier, New Zealand.
 They are everywhere and not only represented by municipal and commercial establishments but also in the simple bungalows built for the young couples of the town on the new land which had been thrown up and drained by the earthquake from a portion of the inner harbour. If you go to New Zealand, don't miss Napier.

Why do my books always make
people smile? The librarian at Napier
Library about to tuck into The Passport.

Napier pleased me greatly. Not only did it have Art Deco and sunshine but Napier Library also had a copy of The Passport on their shelves. Once I had brought this to the attention of the smiling librarian she declared that she intended to read it herself because it 'looked like an interesting book'.

And so it is.

Passport Stolen in Auckland

(Publication of this post was delayed by technical problems in the Antipodes)
Larceny seems to be the fate of my popular titles. My book of erotic short stories, No Harm in Looking which was published under my pseudonym, 'K.T.Yalta' was purchased by Kent County Libraries and put on the shelf in Canterbury City Library from where, within a month, it had been borrowed twice and then stolen.

Whilst staying with my friends Brian and June in New Zealand I popped in to Auckland City Library because the head librarian there had voted The Passport book of the month soon after its first publication in May 2003.

Sam at Auckland City Library, New Zealand
accepting my donated copy of The Passport to replace their stolen copy.

 Sam at the library told me that they possessed two copies of the book, one had been stolen and the other, withdrawn for repair. Luckily I just happened to have with me a fresh copy of the latest edition, latest impression which I promptly donated to them.

The British Mint returns to Perth

(publication of this post was delayed by technical problems)
When gold was discovered in Kimberley, Western Australia in 1885, the gold rush which followed doubled the population of the district in four years. The meteoric rise in economic activity caused a liquidity problem: although the region was awash with gold, with prospectors bringing their finds into Perth to sell and trade, there was a lack of specie to enable commerce to thrive because the gold had to be shipped off to the Royal Mint in London to be made into sovereigns and then brought back. The governor of Western Australia persuaded the Royal Mint to short-circuit the problem and set up a branch of the Royal Mint in Perth, which they did in 1899.

After the Great Depression Great Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931 and ceased minting sovereigns in 1933. The Royal Mint at Perth was handed over to the Government of Western Australia in 1970. Today I visited this proudly Australian mint with my cousins; we saw a gold ingot being poured and saw people still bringing in gold to be sold. I could not resist grabbing the opportunity to demonstrate that despite what they claimed, the British Mint had in fact returned to Perth.
The British Mint has returned to Perth. Martin the famous
 author posing with his tube of Trebor Mints
 outside the Australian Mint in Perth.