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A Pivotal Year

 

1963 was a pivotal year for me.  It was the year I completed High School and matriculated to University;  the year Bob Dylan became big in my life; and Beatlemania began; the year JFK was assassinated. 

The year had started with a mystery the Bogle-Chandler deaths in Lane Cove National Park in Sydney that confounded Australia. Then came Buddhist immolations and a CIA supported coup and regime change in South Vietnam that was both the beginning and the begining of the end for the US effort there. 

Suddenly the Great Train Robbery in Britain was headline news there and in Australia. One of the ringleaders, Ronnie Biggs was subsequently found in Australia but stayed one step of the authorities for many years.

The 'Space Race' was well underway with the USSR still holding their lead by putting Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova into orbit for almost three days and returning her safely. The US was riven with inter-racial hostility and rioting. But the first nuclear test ban treaties were signed and Vatican 2 made early progress, the reforming Pope John 23 unfortunately dying midyear.

Towards year's end, on the 22nd of November, came the Kennedy assassination, the same day the terminally ill Aldous Huxley elected to put an end to it.

But for sex and scandal that year the Profumo Affair was unrivalled.

The Profumo affair has been eviscerated in the media and in books many times and has been glossed-over in almost as many.  The Netflix drama series: The Crown comes to mind.

The most recent manifestation is: The Trial of Christine Keeler.  A BBC television series that:  "takes us behind the headlines to tell a human story about the sexual and cultural politics of one of the most revealing and iconic stories of modern times". 

According to the blurb:  "The Trial of Christine Keeler takes a fresh look at one of the most infamous British stories: the chain of events in the 1960s that came to be known as the Profumo affair."

"At the center of the storm was 19-year-old Christine Keeler - a young woman whom the powerful, male-dominated establishment sought to silence and exploit, but who refused to play by their rules."

Christine is represented as a 19-year-old ingenue, drawn-in, under a powerful man's spell. Presumably for the purposed of dramatisation, serval of the events depicted as contemporary were not. They began in 1961 and took place periodically - over nearly three years - coming to a head with the trials in 1963, when she was 21.

 

Profumo

John Profumo was a British cabinet minister, Secretary of State for War, in the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan. Profumo had been targeted by a Soviet agent as a possible source of strategic information.

Christine Keeler was the bait and Stephen Ward was the, perhaps unwitting, facilitator.

At the height of the scandal there were fresh revelations almost daily, involving all sorts of colourful characters: West Indian drug runners and jazz musicians;  Russian spies; Royals and members of the British aristocracy; actors and entertainers. 

It had the potential to bring down the British Government and to damage the Monarchy. But the real interest for me was simple:  I thought Christine Keeler was hot.

It amazed me that Christine was only three years older than me and her equally notorious friend, Mandy Rice-Davies, only a year my senior. Time would tell that I chose the wrong one to set on a pedestal. Mandy used her notoriety to good effect; kept herself smart and remained a minor celebrity until her death in 2014 (aged 70). Not so Christine.

The Profumo scandal was the Bill Clinton - Monica Lewinsky affair of my teen years.

 

 

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Travel

More Silk Road Adventures - The Caucasus

 

 

 

Having, in several trips, followed the Silk Road from Xian and Urumqi in China across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan our next visit had to be to the Caucuses.  So in May 2019 we purchased an organised tour to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia from ExPat Explore.  If this is all that interests you you might want to skip straight to Azerbaijan. Click here...

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The McKie Family

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

 

This is the story of the McKie family down a path through the gardens of the past that led to where I'm standing.  Other paths converged and merged as the McKies met and wed and bred.  Where possible I've glimpsed backwards up those paths as far as records would allow. 

The setting is Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England and my path winds through a time when the gardens there flowered with exotic blooms and their seeds and nectar changed the entire world.  This was the blossoming of the late industrial and early scientific revolution and it flowered most brilliantly in Newcastle.

I've been to trace a couple of lines of ancestry back six generations to around the turn of the 19th century. Six generations ago, around the turn of the century, lived sixty-four individuals who each contributed a little less 1.6% of their genome to me, half of them on my mother's side and half on my father's.  Yet I can't name half a dozen of them.  But I do know one was called McKie.  So, this is about his descendants; and the path they took; and some things a few of them contributed to Newcastle's fortunes; and who they met on the way.

In six generations, unless there is duplication due to copulating cousins, we all have 126 ancestors.  Over half of mine remain obscure to me but I know the majority had one thing in common, they lived in or around Newcastle upon Tyne.  Thus, they contributed to the prosperity, fertility and skill of that blossoming town during the century and a half when the garden there was at its most fecund. So, it's also a tale of one city.

My mother's family is the subject of a separate article on this website. 

 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Emergency

 

 

 

emergency
/uh'merrjuhnsee, ee-/.
noun, plural emergencies.
1. an unforeseen occurrence; a sudden and urgent occasion for action.

 

 

Recent calls for action on climate change have taken to declaring that we are facing a 'Climate Emergency'.

This concerns me on a couple of levels.

The first seems obvious. There's nothing unforseen or sudden about our present predicament. 

My second concern is that 'emergency' implies something short lived.  It gives the impression that by 'fire fighting against carbon dioxide' or revolutionary action against governments, or commuters, activists can resolve the climate crisis and go back to 'normal' - whatever that is. Would it not be better to press for considered, incremental changes that might avoid the catastrophic collapse of civilisation and our collective 'human project' or at least give it a few more years sometime in the future?

Back in 1990, concluding my paper: Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis I wrote:

We need to focus on the possible.

An appropriate response is to ensure that resource and transport efficiency is optimised and energy waste is reduced. Another is to explore less polluting energy sources. This needs to be explored more critically. Each so-called green power option should be carefully analysed for whole of life energy and greenhouse gas production, against the benchmark of present technology, before going beyond the demonstration or experimental stage.

Much more important are the cultural and technological changes needed to minimise World overpopulation. We desperately need to remove the socio-economic drivers to larger families, young motherhood and excessive personal consumption (from resource inefficiencies to long journeys to work).

Climate change may be inevitable. We should be working to climate “harden” the production of food, ensure that public infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, utilities and so) on are designed to accommodate change and that the places people live are not excessively vulnerable to drought, flood or storm. [I didn't mention fire]

Only by solving these problems will we have any hope of finding solutions to the other pressures human expansion is imposing on the planet. It is time to start looking for creative answers for NSW and Australia  now.

 

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