Category Archives: Thoughts

Wrong telephone number

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For the last two days my mobile phone has been hot with calls, but they were not business calls.

In England and Wales, our police force which are split into regions, will soon be overseen by commissioners for police and crime, one elected person per region.
Apart from The London Metropolitan Police Force, which has Mayor Boris Johnson as the “overseer” or “commissioner”, the people of England and Wales will be voting for representatives for these new posts, and as this is the first time any such post has been created, people have questions, so a help-line telephone number has allocated, a freephone number.
Unfortunately, people ringing this freephone number were forwarded to my mobile number.
I have spoken to so many nice people, who were asking me questions about the vote, about the candidates, the system, which I have no knowledge about, and it has been quite a change from all those “cold callers” trying to sell me computer virus checking on my PC which I do not have, I am an Apple user, and companies trying to sell me their services to recover money from banks that I have not spent on protection schemes for loans I have never had.
It took me two hours to find a person at the , who would listen to my problems of receiving their calls on my mobile.
It is a pity I cannot charge the Home Office for my time and telephone charges I have incurred, but then I have had many nice conversations today.

Isabella Plantation Richmond Park

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An area of the Royal Park of Richmond Park waits to be discovered, a fenced-off garden, full of trees, plants, shrubs, colour, clearings, streams and ponds.

Originally fenced off in the 1700’s to grow trees, this area was transformed in the 1950’s by George Thomson and the head gardener at the time, Wally Miller. They cleared areas of plants to be replaced by rhododendrons and azaleas and other exotic shrubs and trees. Over the years since, streams and ponds have been added, including heathers, camellias and magnolias to name just a few.
So much bird life can be found within Isabella Plantation.
In April and May, Isabella Plantation is so full of colour, and I have tried to capture it on a short video.
I hope you enjoy.

Dover Castle, English Heritage

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The first sight many people see of the UK, or England in particular, are the White Cliffs of Dover. These are the chalk cliffs on the English side of the Strait of Dover, (in French Pas de Calais), and is the narrowest part of the English Channel at some 21 miles (34 km). At this distance it is possible on a clear day to see the coast of the other country, and at night see the lights over the other side, even as one local Dover person told me, the car lights as they travel along the French coast roads.
The White Cliffs of Dover
So, the first sight as people catching the ferry plying the Channel are the brilliant white chalk of the cliffs, and certainly on the many returning flights to the UK, as I look down to catch a glimpse of home, the white cliffs stand out above anything else on a cloudless day.
Atop the cliffs of Dover has been a significant position for man since before the Roman’s invaded, as a lookout position to repel invaders, place for navigation, a place for communication.
In the 1180’s, the then King of England and provinces of France, (King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou), Henry II, built a castle on top of the cliffs at Dover, and over the next 800 years, the buildings and grounds have been adapted to the changing needs and demands.
Dover Castle of Henry II
On my first visit to Dover Castle, I caught the high speed train (130 mph, 210 kph), from London, and arriving at Dover Priory train station it was a short walk, but very steep climb to The Castle. (Listen to my hypnotic The Castle CD).
My first impression was, “this is not a real castle, it is not in ruins“, it is pristine unlike many other British castle I have visited. Despite the bombardment in the Second World War, it is said that Hitler had stated that the castle should not be attacked as he wanted it as a base for himself, the buildings where like they had just been completed.
So Henry II built his castle to impressed his many foreign guests, as was said, the castle was built as a bed and breakfast, an overnight hotel, as well as a garrison, and as people crossed from France, the elegance and richness would show what a powerful King he was.
Inside the battlement walls, the buildings are well maintained, it was still a military garrison until it was handed over to the Ministry of Works in 1963, and then onto English Heritage who now run the castle. But, it is not only the buildings above ground, there are extensive secret tunnels cut into the chalk, which housed up-to 2,000 persons in WWII, including a hospital, now mostly open to the public, exhibiting the history they have played over the years. The sights, sounds and smells are recreated to give a great understanding of what went on there.
In the Great Tower, there awaited another shock for me.
Dover Castle Great Tower
English Heritage have laid out displays, showing what it would/may have looked like in the days of Henry II. On level one, the guest bedroom, level two the Kings bedroom, throne room, and a small chapel attributed to Thomas Becket, who had been murdered by said agents of Henry II. Henry denied any involvement in the murder, and it is said this small chapel, still in use once a year, was Henry’s penance to St. Thomas Becket.

Dover Castle Thomas Becket Chapel
The shock for me was the quality of the furniture, the vibrant colours of the paint and cloth. It looked too modern.
As with all the guides situated throughout the castle grounds, eager to engage and full of knowledge, I was able to enquire as to the authenticity of the exhibits, surely they could not be true, as all the movies (mostly American) I had seen of those times, I thought that everything would be dark and grey. The guide had found his ideal visitor, for he was able to give me all his acquired knowledge, the fact that the woodworkers had the skills to produce such stunning work, that they had the ingredients to produce dyes of such striking colours for paints, murals and cloths.
Dover Castle Royal bedroom
Wow, I was shocked, as were the other visitors I spoke to as we toured the castle. Perhaps the British were and are a colourful lot after all, with OK some French influence.

Double Rainbow, Why?

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A double rainbow
In the UK, after having such warm and dry period of weather at the start of spring, and over the last couple of years a reduced level of rainfall leading to the South East of England being declared in a draught, with reservoirs at all time low levels, the last few days of April has been cold and wet, with some areas having record rainfall.
The sky turns black, blacker than I have seen for a longtime, and the rain comes down, and yet, typical of UK weather, the dark clouds soon pass, and we find ourselves in sunshine. 
We call this weather April Showers.
So here we are, the dark cloud passes over in the early evening, yet to the west, the setting sun is in a cloud free sky, the result was another rainbow, not just one but a double rainbow.
I have never seen or realised there could be a double rainbow, so typically, I needed to know what causes this natural show.
A rainbow is caused by the light from the sun passing through the raindrops, resulting in a multicoloured arc. The light as it enters the droplets is refracted, split into the seven colours of the spectrum of light, as the picture above shows, being red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, with blue on the inside and red on the outside.
The process as the sunlight passes through the water droplets is that the light is refracted as it enters the droplets, then it is reflected back from the opposite side of the inside of the droplet, and as the light passes out of the droplet it is refracted again.
This was first described by Sir Isaac Newton, 1642 to 1727.
A double rainbow is a secondary arc outside the primary arc, and the colours are reversed, so the blue is on the outside, and is caused by the light being reflected twice within the droplets.
Now I know.

A surprise meeting

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It is when you have expectations that there could be something around the corner, when you start to look for something unexpected, even at a subconscious level, and perhaps using Phillip’s Sausage, that we are in for some surprises.
It could be looking above the shop windows to the roof-line that we will see some architecture from a bye gone era, unseen by the majority of shoppers, or below the shop front, lying on the footpath, a high valued bank note, or a small coin.
If we spend a little more time just being aware of what else is around us, seeing more than George Miller’s 7+/-2 visual deletion, we can enrich our experiences.
In the photographs below were creatures that I had walked passed not seeing them only five minutes previously, preoccupied in my mind with other issues, it was not until I was walking back having resolved my thoughts and had a relaxed mind that I saw them.

Praying Mantis Malaysia

Praying Mantis Malaysia

The first one, a grasshopper was camouflaged in a hibiscus bush whilst I was in Malaysia, and the second again in Malaysia, a praying mantis, its legs held in a strange position, and a look on its’ face as shocked of seeing a strange human as me seeing it.
Grasshopper In Malaysia

Grasshopper In Malaysia

Look beyond what you see, go below the surface level, chunk down, as things are not what they seem to be.

Just around the corner a surprise

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You never know what is just around the corner, as you walk along the pathway of life.

Isabella Plantation Richmond Park
In Richmond Royal Park, hidden away is the wonderful Isabella Plantation, offering a wide variety of trees, shrubs, heathers and plants, flowering and blooming at different times of the year, which is in contrast with the wider Royal Park, being open spaces, clusters of trees some old, some just planted, valleys with hidden waterways and deer, free to roam, eating their way around the park.
Contrast of colours in Isabella Plantation Richmond Park
The difference in colours of the trees, bushes and shrubs within Isabella Plantation in the warm sunlight of a Spring day, is better than any painting masterpiece, for if you look deeply, often there is something special that you have not seen before, if you use Phillip’s sausage there is so much more.

Isabella Plantation Colour

In contrast to the Isabella Plantation, walking across well trodden pathways of Richmond Royal Park itself, is an open landscape, and in the early spring devoid of much colour, but by keeping oneself aware, there is hidden beauty to be seen.

Grey Squirrel in tree in Richmond Park
Grey Squirrel eating in Richmond Park
Hidden in an old tree a grey squirrel watches down as walkers pass beneath, waiting for them to go so it can descend to pick-up a seed to eat.
Then a flash of colour as parakeets take flight as they are disturbed from feeding by a passing walker.
Parakeets eating in Richmond Park
Parakeets eating in Richmond Park
Parakeets take flight in Richmond Park
How much do we miss about us, as we tread the old pathways, not concerned, not interested as to what may be around the corner?

English Electric Lightning – The Lightning Boys

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It was 1967 that I was invited to the Royal Air Force base at Biggin Hill to attend the five day RAF Officer Selection, to be tested and interviewed as to my suitability to become an RAF officer.

I had always had an interest in flying machines, being taken as a small boy to the now closed RAF Fradley also known as RAF Lichfield, for their open day to watch the Hurricanes, Spitfires and Lancasters doing their displays, laying in bed listening to the propeller powered aircraft flying over my parents house at fifteen minutes past midnight every night, thinking it maybe a Royal Mail flight, flying letters from London to the north of the UK. I seem to remember a Lancaster crash into a wooded area on the on the far side of the Fradley air display, but it could be my mind playing games with me.
I was interested in the aircraft, knowing as many schoolboys did in those days the flying heroes, the fictional pilots like Biggles, the manufacturers and aircraft models and names, both military and civilian. This interest has stayed with me, noticing an old abandoned English Electric Lightning jet in a scrap metal yard next to the A1 road near Newark as I drove from one computer customer to another, sitting at the end of a runway at RAF Conningsby watching Lightnings and especially Phantom jets take off and feeling the power of their after-burners, driving passed RAF Waddington marvelling at the delta winged bomber Vulcans waiting on their pads to take to the skies trailing long black dirty exhaust fumes to perhaps deliver the UK’s nuclear bomb.
I still visit aircraft museums, seeking new knowledge, linking ideas, marvelling at the vast array of aircraft that British industry once produced, pushing the boundaries of knowledge.
English Electric Lightning P1A

English Electric P1A Lightning prototype at RAF Cosford, note air intake later to contain the radar.

English Electric Lightning P1a

Stubby Wings of Lightning P1A

English Electric ZF579 Gatwick Aircraft Museum

English Electric Lightning ZF579 Saudi Arabian Air Force

Now being restored at the Gatwick Aircraft Museum
But going back to 1967, and my potential to become an officer in the RAF, not as a pilot but as an Air Traffic Controller. The five day selection by the RAF, tested the knowledge of the applications, their health, their fitness, their IQ, their team working, and we were being tested from the start as soon as we entered Biggin Hill’s gate house.
I was allocated along with three other applicants a “Bat Man” to look after us and who showed us to our shared bedroom, to unpack and prepare ourselves for the evening meal. My room mates rather put me in my place as one was from Eaton School, one was an Air Commodores son, and another was a Prince from a Middle Eastern country. Me? I was a son of an electrician and Secondary School educated, a country yokel.
Now, I knew how to conduct myself at the dinner table, my parents had prepared me well for life, teaching me etiquette, social skills the does and don’ts, how to conduct myself in a high quality restaurant like The Ritz, how to hold a tea cup with the pointy little finger, but nothing had prepared me for so many knifes, forks and spoons at a place setting. Nothing had prepared me for so much silver wear on a table.
The next day the selection process continued, for example the medical tests, writing skills, aptitude tests, and for me in the afternoon an interview with the Camp Commander, the Chaplain, and a Senior Flying Officer.
Those whose turn it was to be interviewed waited in a small anti room, and one by one we were called in. Before I was called, my room mate from Eaton School went in, and I sat there wondering what was to come. My room mate came out white as a ghost, as if he had seen the end of the world, and this did not bode well for me. I asked him what was wrong, and he replied they asked him so many deep and difficult questions, including pointing to framed photographs of RAF aircraft hanging on the walls of the room, testing his knowledge of the RAF, and he said that he was asked what was the name of the missile hanging blow the wing of the fighter, and he did not know so they told him it was a Firestreak air to air heat seeking missile.
It soon became my turn to face the panel, and I was called into the interview room, sitting alone in the middle of the room facing the three senior RAF officers as if I was a capture spy, and they grilled me, asking deep questions, seeking out my knowledge and interest of the RAF.
Then the Chaplain pointed to a photograph hanging and asked what was the aircraft.
My heart jumped because there was only one aircraft like it in the world, the English Electric Lightning, a supersonic fighter jet, designed to intercept any incoming target, especially from the Soviet Union, as it was the height of the Cold War. With its’ polished silver metal body, short swept back stubby wings, its’ two Rolls Royce Avon jet engines mounted on top of each other making up the fuselage, and its’ conical pointed radar dome mounted in the open round air intake at the front of the aircraft.
There was no mistaking this aircraft, I was in my element.
Then he pointed to the missile hanging from the wing, and with all the confidence in the world I answered, “It is a Firestreak Air to Air heat seeking missile“. Thank you my friend from Eaton.
Today I finished reading the book by Richard Pike called the LIGHTNING BOYS, and it is a collection of stories, true tales from pilots of the English Electric Lightning aircraft, from flying virtually non stop from the UK to Singapore and the adventures along the way, to the need to constantly having to refuel midair by Victor airborne tankers. It gives insights of what the pilots did, their thoughts, their missions, and how they sometimes nearly died. It tells the tales of those involved flying the Lightning from the first test Lightnings, the P1 and P1A (see photograph above) in 1954, to the decommissioning from the RAF in 1988.
This book is highly entertaining and informative as it tells the stories of those who flew this iconic aircraft, with little or no technical details, it makes an easy read for all, the general reader and the enthusiast.
In the book it tells of an RAF Lightning pilot who as a youth wanted to join the RAF, and was invited to go to Biggin Hill to the Officer Selection along with a fellow student from his school. His school friend, he said lasted a day before being sent home. I lasted two days.
I packed my bags and caught the train back home, at a time when there were no mobile phones, in fact a time when most homes did not have their own phones, so I did not inform my parents of my impending early arrival from RAF Biggin Hill.
On reaching home, there was no-one there, but I knew where my parents would be, at my Aunty and Uncle’s house, so I went there.
Entering the house, the family were sitting around the table, and my father looked up and said. “Oh you are back, we were expecting you.
Another lesson they taught me, to aim high, go for my dreams, but to know my limitations sometimes, and accept failure gracefully, and just because the RAF was not for me, that there would be other places, things and jobs that would be for me.

Time Out

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It seems that we all have our problems, health, money, relationships, work, family, the list goes on and on, and the more we think of them the worse the problem becomes and the worse we feel.

Going through some health issues myself at the moment, I have not really told many people about them, I kept my aches and pains to myself and my doctor, until there came a time when I had to divulge my little secret aches and pains to those close to me and loved ones, as I was told I would have to go into hospital and would need some home support for at least twenty-four hours.
Are people really interested in my aches and pains? Not really, they have their own to dwell in and to solve.
How are you? is a question asked of us when we meet an acquaintance.
Oh the pain in my posterior is giving me so such problems, I can’t sleep or sit down.

“Yes you are like the pain in my neck” the acquaintance is probably thinking to themselves, “if only I could get rid of this pain.
In the hospital ward as I waited to be taken to the operating theatre, feeling such a fool for nearly passing out, I reflected on the other patients, and realised that they were in a far worse state than me health wise. I even got to the stage where I asked myself if I should have been in the hospital in the first place, as my symptoms were nothing compare to others.
I went through the procedure and investigation, and yes I need work done upon me, but in the meantime I have to get on with life, to get my strength up again to be ready to give my next courses and talks, to cook, to clean, to face other problems as they surface, and to be there for others to help them through their problems.
And so I found myself in another Royal Park near to where I live, Bushy Park, which lays across the road from Hampton Court the palace of Henry VIII.
Bushy Park is a large area of open land, with scatterings of woodland, inter-linked lakes fed by small rivers that will eventually flow into Hampton Court and then eventually into the River Thames. There are fenced enclosed gardens to relax in, and even a Water Garden recently renovated back to its’ original early 1700’s spender, and the whole Royal Park has a history going back perhaps 4,000 years.
It was time for me to have some time out, to go for a long walk, to get some fresh air in my lungs, to take exercise, to take in a different perspective on life.
As I walked across the wide open parkland on a crisp spring day, along well trodden pathways once taken by many others over the thousands of years, my mind emptied of all my problems as I noticed and realised that nature had been there and will be there beyond my brief visit, and that I was part of this natural vista, emerging from the winter hibernation, to sprout new leaves, to blossom, to spread and create new life ideas.
I saw the deer relaxing amongst the dead old brown bracken that was so green and lush last year, I saw people sitting having picnics, geese feeding on the green grass, I marvelled at a tree festooned with delicate pink blooms, and watched the never ending cascade of water in the Water Garden.
Deer in Bushy Park
Deer and Picnickers in Bushy Park
Tree full of blooms in Busy Park
Blooms in Busy Park
Egyptian Goose in Busy Park
The cascading Water Garden in Bushy Park
I needed that time out, to relax and reflect that even though I am now sitting at my computer typing this blog, life still goes on around me, the water still cascades in the Water Garden, the the deer will still be there in Bushy Park taking things easy, that the pink blooms will soon drop away, but will be replaced by new sights just as beautiful if only we look for them, and that my problem is just my problem and will soon be resolved, to be replaced by a better future.
I needed time out to get out of my perceived pain and problems and see the world about me, to be there for those who are worse off than me, to lend an open ear and shoulder to cry on, to help them to come to terms with and resolve their problems, their fears, for that is my job, my desire, to help others to help themselves.

Passing Out at Sight of Blood

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I am not a wimp, a weak person, but over the last week I have had two experiences which made me feel that way, to feel an idiot.

A few days ago, I was preparing some food for a meal and I pricked my little finger with a sharp knife, and as you will see from the mark on the end of my little finger, it was minor.
Phillip Holt's little finger with a little cut
A little cut on my finger
A little bead of blood appeared, but no problem, wash it away and continue (yes with caution not to contaminate the food) with preparing the food.
Within a few moments, I felt my head going light, the room beginning to spin.
I had to sit down.
The blood drained from my face, my lips and face turned grey, and I broke out into a cold sweat, as my blood pressure dropped.
I lay down with my feet higher than my head to get the blood flow back into my head.
There was nothing I could do to stop this irrational reaction to that small little cut. I am not afraid of blood, I can watch operations on TV, I have blood drawn at the doctors and hospitals for tests without problems, but why, oh why, is this happening to me?
Two days ago I was in hospital to undergo a procedure called an angiogram, and internal investigation of my heart. It is the second one I have had, so I know what is going to happen, and was quite prepared for it, and had little or no stress. As I waited to be registered at 7:30am, waiting with another gentleman, I was reassuring him, smiling, joking, putting him at ease.
They needed a blood sample from me, and the ward sister came along with the tools of her trade, telling me she would put a cannula into my arm, so that she could drain some blood for testing, and that the cannula would stay there during the procedure just incase they needed to give me some medication.
As I sat in a chair next to the hospital bed, waiting for her to start, I told her of my experiences of nearly passing out, just to warn her, and that the last time they did this I had a reaction.
She laughed at me, asking if I was OK, which I was. I felt fine. I did not look at her putting the cannula into my arm, and was laughing and joking with her.
Then it hit me.
My head began to swim, I broke out into that cold sweat, turning grey, and the ward sister called for help. I was lain down on the bed, feet higher, just like the last time.
I felt like an idiot, a wimp. I was out of control of my own body. I tried everything I teach in my courses to relax myself, I tried Fred, Antonio, Mustafa, deep breathing, relaxing, nothing I could do would relieve the situation. The irrational behaviour had to run its’ course.
Why do 10% – 20% of the population experience passing out at the sight of blood?
There is a theory that this physiological response is genetic, inherited from our parents. But I remember my father having many an injury without any ill effects, and on occasions my mother cutting herself with reacting. And, where would a woman be if every month she had this reaction?
Another theory says that the reaction to the sight of blood stems from our far distance past, from our cave man days, becoming an evolutionary outcome. This theory says that when under attack, the defender would faint, falling to the ground pretending death, the blood would drain away from the face, looking like a dead body, thus the attacker would cease the attack.
This fainting strategy, could also help stem the flow of blood to an injured part, thus reducing blood loss, increasing the survival rate.
When the danger had passed, the person could get on with their life, producing offspring which would be passed-on to the next generation, producing a survival gene.
Some other theories say it is a phobia, and irrational response to a situation, the sight of blood, a learnt experience. If this is so, then I should be able to deal with it as I do with other clients in a couple of seconds.
But no.
Oh Poo Poo, I hope I can get rid of it before my next visit to hospital in the next few weeks for an angioplasty, to have a couple of stents placed in my dear old heart.