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My speech in support of the Kurdish people – 10th Feb, 2018

I regard myself as an ordinary Australian. Nothing more and nothing less. I do not regard myself as left-wing or right-wing, nor am I a member of any political party. I am an Australian and proud of it. Being Australian and probably because of our beginnings being rooted in prisons, chains and the lash I firmly believe in freedom of the individual. That is freedom to be who we are, believe what we believe as long as it brings no harm to anyone else. However, my life has taught me that there is always some bugger trying to take your freedom away. There is always some tin pot despot wanting to make you conform to what they regard as the way to be. They want you to toe their line and if you don’t they will try to punish or destroy you.  This may be religiously, politically socially but often it’s not the way most of us want to be.  In other words, they want to impose on us ways of life we don’t necessarily want to take up.  We are quite happy to live by the code of “Don’t do anything to anyone else you wouldn’t want done to you”. To achieve these aims, despots use fear in all forms of threats, armies, walls and structures they regard as strong, brutal, impregnable and forceful. But the smell of freedom is like love, it’s like the wind. The wind blows where it blows. It blows through the windows of buildings; through the cracks in and over the walls and in the hearts many of those who hold the weapons....

A follow up to my blog “In Paris remembering Charlie Hebdo………

All my efforts to contact the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo failed. Not to be outdone, though I decided I’d add some of the compost to the Memorial tree either before or after the Memorial Service. I ventured onto the site on Saturday evening but, couldn’t get near the tree for the security.   So I decided to scatter the compost around the tree roots after the Memorial Service the next day. So, on the morning of Jan 10, 2016 I stood with thousands of Parisians in the Place de la Republique for the memorial for the victims of Charlie Hebdo, The Bataclan and all such acts of terrorism in France. The ceremony was beautifully simple, short and flawless.  The sound was superb.  There was some singing and some reciting.  Johnny Hallyday sang.  The French President Francois Hollande and The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo laid a wreath. The Choir sang La Marseillaise and it was all over. Like all these things I have gone to whether in France or Australia, most people were there because they could not not be there.  There was the same silence and the same walking whilst being deep in yourself.  The same reflective mood. In fact people were so reflective, when the Marseilles was being sung, they were too within themselves to sing along, which for French people really says something! Later that evening, after it was all over, I went over to the memorial tree and scattered the compost over the roots.  I said a prayer for peace and in honour of all the victims and for all those decent Australian and French...

Visiting “The Jungle”, Calais for the second time – This needs to be read in in conjunction with my earlier blog of 12th October, 2015 called “My trip to the Jungle – Walking with the Refugees on Wednesday, 7th October, 2015”.

    I was apprehensive. How will I find it? Had it changed much? Had the attitude of the refugees there hardened? After all, three months had gone by since I was there last and the fear always was that if these refugees found themselves stuck in one place for too long with no hope over the horizon, trouble would ensue. I was therefore glad this winter there hadn’t been as cold as we feared. All these thoughts were flowing through my head as I got off the train and headed there. As I was waiting for the taxi to take me as close as it was prepared to go I began feeling quite vulnerable and stupid.  After all, several months had passed since I was there in October and during that time, many more refugees had arrived.  I’d also read the newspaper reports of trouble there, I’d also seen the reports that many goodly Calais citizens wanted those refugees gone. This wasn’t helped by my being passed by two armed gendarmes “escorting” what seemed to me to be two perfectly dressed neat, tidy and respectful young men into a Police Van. “This is the beginning of the road to The Jungle” the taxi driver told me. She really needn’t have, because just like last time, I could see all the people walking along the side road, just walking.  All with back packs, some pulling travel bags with wheels.  Some walking toward the camp and others walking away.  But what I did notice was how proudly most were walking, straight and erect.  Like I’d seen in so many African...

In Paris – Remembering Charlie Hebdo

Today, January 7, is the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter.  I arrived in Paris yesterday with an urn of composted Martin Place flowers left at the time of the Lindt Cafe Martin Place siege. I intended to scatter some with the myriad of French flowers I fully expected to be left at the site and at The Place de la Republique today. As I wrote in my earlier blog I wanted to do this in honour of the victims, but also as a gesture of the solidarity I witnessed in the endless floral tributes, the deep reverential silence, the love and the prayers for a better world I saw expressed in spades, by the ordinary people of both cities, Sydney and Paris.  To me, that is what will link these two great cities, the love expressed, not the terror. Getting the composted flowers here was not easy. They were only released to me late on Christmas Eve and, to be honest, the contents given to me in a clear plastic bag would, to a Customs Officer look very much like Hashish. I had no doubt they would not believe they were what I told them they were! The other problem was that I was leaving for the USA pretty much straight after Christmas day and go from there to Europe, so time was of the essence. I took advice and ultimately arrived here in Paris with the material.  Exhausting!! I arrived In Paris with no idea of what I was going to do!   I found really no one could help me and remember yesterday sitting on St Pancras...

The reason I am in Paris in memory of Charlie Hebdo

I’m here in Paris now because I buried Tori Johnson of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place after the dreadful siege there. I was also in Europe at the time of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter and went with Charles Miranda of News Ltd to pay my respects to the victims there. It was at the Memorial Service for the Lindt Cafe a couple of weeks ago that I realised I was one of the few people to have been involved in both ‘situations’. What I found so moving at both places, Martin Place and Charlie Hebdo was the mountains of flowers that literally appeared out of nowhere and the absolute silence, the so respectful silence of the onlookers/flower bringers who like the flowers appeared out of nowhere. In Sydney, this was typified for me by a young couple who I noticed.   She held a small bunch of flowers. He held her hand. As she laid the flowers, she shed a tear and he held her tenderly and comforted her. They like all the others turned up because they simply could not stay away. They came in solidarity with the victims. I noticed the same thing in Paris. What really got to me was the flowers and the absolutely reverential silence.   I’ve been part of a silence thing before but this was complete silence even with thousands there.  I have never experienced anything like it and to witness and be part of that in both Sydney and Paris was a really humbling awesome experience. The flowers left at Martin Place were composted to go into a memorial to be placed in...

My trip to The Jungle – Walking with the Refugees on Wednesday, 7th October, 2015

Like many people, I have been following this European Refugee Crisis, probably closer though than most, because of my radio commitments. I have known for quite some time that I would have to be in the UK for a couple of weeks in late September, early October and so I began thinking about, from there, heading over to Europe to have a look for myself particularly by walking and being with the refugees. As this thought hardened I began to study the situation more closely, particularly  after that photo of that dear little drowned boy, his sneaker covered feet falling from beneath his blanketed body being so lovingly held by a rescuer, so moved the world.  Being who I am, I thought it would be easy to find someone who would ‘help me get over there to be with the refugees’. I should have known better! All overtures to charities in Australia seemed to come to naught. That didn’t worry me so much as I felt it would be easier in England. Well, that didn’t happen, either! What I learned in England was even more concerning. I was told, amongst other things, was of killings, raping and sexual violations of young girls etc., that snipers were also shooting some of the boy children in the legs so that they could not return one day as soldiers and fight ISiS or any other group.  I was also told that about two million refugees were expected to be in Europe by winter and if not substantially more aid was given, many would die from the cold.  It quickly began to dawn on me that this is the greatest crisis the world has experienced since World War II. I...