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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Early Memories – Philippines I
Let The Pirate Bumper Pass

Author Taking the Plunge - February 1983

After leaving school I went out to live with my parents in Hong Kong. Just before leaving my parents took advantage of Chinese New Year and we went on a diving holiday with a group of friends. We ended up in Cebu in the Philippines on a 61 foot trimaran which came complete with a crew and an unexpected group of German tourists. The Trip was memorable for a number of reasons, not least the fantastic diving, the superb weather and of course the rum.

The following poem recalls an event which took place one morning which highlighted the fact that even in the most idyllic places in the world there are people who are prepared to do almost anything for cash.

The title is a line from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance.

Early Memory – Philippines I – Let The Pirate Bumper Pass

We were on a diving holiday
on a charter from Cebu.
Every day we dived a bit
and sunbathed and rested too.

The food was horrendous
curried eggs at every meal.
But the local rum - called Añejo
made the evenings pass real well.

The swig of rum, a slurp of Coke
then shake the head and swallow,
then pass the bottle on
to some other fellow.

Now pirates ply their evil trade
in the South China Sea;
and unbeknown to all of us;
the yacht had an armoury.

Every night a guard slipped out
and took up his position.
Carrying an AK 47
as he embarked upon his mission.

I didn’t know he was aboard,
until I awoke one morning,
with a rum induced fuzzy head
and my bleary eyes screamed warning!

For there; a few inches from my head
was the barrel of a gun!
and a chap that I’d not seen before;
a lump formed in my tum…..

My mind raced with thoughts of pirates
taking us hostage or worse.
But he left me with my hangover
……..Wishing he’d been a nurse.

John Carré Buchanan
24 April 2012

Early Memories - USA I
Renewable Energy

Image Source

During the mid-80’s I served in the Parachute Regiment. I was lucky enough to spend a period on exercise in Fort Lewis, Washington State working with the US Rangers. The Rangers are one of the USA’s elite units and as such were considered to be almost as good as the Paras.

The US troops were extremely well equipped, but they tended to be body builders rather than athletes, a little gung ho and being totally unaware of things that were not American, a little naive. This coupled with their propensity to shout ‘hoorah’ at every opportunity meant that on the whole the visiting Brits saw them as slow, loud and a bit dim.

Differences in procedures made things even more interesting. The Rangers were bussed back to camp at night whilst their trenches were prepared by engineers using backhoes; the Paras, on the other hand, spent the night digging in.

The scene was set for some great wind ups and pretty spectacular banter.

One evening on a company scale exercise in which we had to attack a platoon size defensive position my Corporal whispered “Fix Bayonets” in a rather loud stage whisper just before our assault went in. There was a flurry of activity and the words “these f….g Brits are crazy’ were clearly heard drifting on the cool night air; by the time we arrived on the position there was no one there.

The exercise was hard work and rewarding. Both units benefited from the experience. My lasting memory was born out of a practical joke I played on one PFC which really took off; the following poem explains all;

Early Memories – USA I - Renewable Energy

It was morning in the forest
And the troops were dug in well
British and American
the aim to help us gel.

There’d been a lot of banter
In the preceding weeks
As we’d competed and compared
our differing techniques.

I reached in to my Bergan
and removed an electric razor,
I was ready for some fun
I’d thought up a real teaser.

I stabbed my bayonet into a tree
to make a small incision,
then slipped a lead into the hole
and started my ablution.

The Ranger who shared our scrape
could not conceal his glee
as I shaved my face with a razor
plugged into a tree.

He asked me to show him
this great ‘British’ invention;
and he begged to swap near all he had
for it was beyond his comprehension.

It quick became a standing joke
As we plugged things into trees
and not one of us would trade one
..... or tell of batteries.

John Carré Buchanan
23 April 2012

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Early Memories - Mauritius I
Mimi's Anchor

Mr Louis-Alexandre Anselme - 2011 (Source)    John Buchanan, Mark, Mimi, Me, Alan Gawith Circa 1976 (Buchanan)    

It is lovely when research leads you to discover the unexpected. I was looking for a photo to go with the poem below and discovered an interview conducted in 2011 which was made with the very gentleman I had just written about (See Photo Source above). I remember Mr Louis-Alexandre Anselme as ‘Mimi’. I had the pleasure of diving from his boat in 1976 when I was thirteen. Back then he told my father that at 50 he considered himself old, I am glad that the years in between appear to have treated him kindly.

And so to the memories;

Mimi would meet us on the beach in his boat and there would normally be considerable jocular discussion about how many fingers of rum had been consumed the night before. Once the boat was loaded we would set off for one of the many dive sites around Trou aux Biches. I remember he called one; ‘Jenny’s Place’ after my mother.

My lasting memory was of his laugh lined face staring across the bay while he lined up the marks, perhaps a tree with a house or some other prominent feature in the far distance, he would then order the release of the anchor which was in fact a stone on a rope. On submerging we would invariably find the rock sitting plum centre on the dive site.

When it came time for us to leave Mauritius we had a final dive at Trou aux Biches. After the dive Mimi invited us back to his tiny house where he offered our whole family large beakers of Advocaat which at the age of 12 and 13 my brother and I found much too much to handle. I seem to remember the two of us slipping them to my Dad, and Mum having to drive us home.

This poem is about Mimi’s anchor which being improvised sometimes fell short of the bottom.

Early Memories Mauritius I - Mimi’s Anchor

Mimi was a fisherman,
he owned his own pirogue.
He used to take us diving;
according to my log.

Mimi was a master,
he knew every local mark.
When he dropped the anchor over
he knew exactly where he’d parked.

Mimi’s anchor was a rock
tied to the only rope he owned.
When we were out diving
his goats were sure to roam.

Sometimes on the deeper dives
you’d hear his propeller turning
and if you didn’t spot the rock
your head would soon be burning.

For hanging ten feet from the bottom
the rock would hurtle round
providing that vital anchor line
that keeps divers safe and sound.

John Carré Buchanan
18 April 2012

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Early Memories - Sark I
The Woodsmen

Image Source


As a child I used to spend many of my holidays staying with my grandmother in Sark. There was a beautiful valley called Happy Valley near to my gran’s guest house. The valley had steep slides and ran down to a very dangerous, near vertical crumbly, cliff face which fell a couple hundred feet to a beach below.

The valley was used by clay pigeon shooters and my cousins, brother and I used to collect the unbroken clays and return them to supplement our pocket money. Once our bike baskets were full of clays we would often spend time playing on the wooded slope pretending to be woodsmen, building hides and traps and generally larking about.

This poem celebrates the time we spent building “Man traps” which in those days was one of my favourite games

The Woodsmen

Dappled green light,
bird song,
muffled voices.

Vine across path,
twisted upward
into branches.

Log hangs high.
Notched stick
bears weight.

Stick pokes vine
Log falls
Woodsmen laugh.

John Carré Buchanan
07 April 2012