Friday, 20 February 2015

Christchurch earthquake four years on

Tomorrow 22 February 2015,  it will be four year since the devastating Canterbury earthquake hit Christchurch and surrounding towns and countryside. One of my best friends Brian Taylor was killed that day when the CTV building collapsed. On the first anniversary I got an message from my daughter in Christchurch saying " tomorrow evening I am catching up with Brian's running crew. We are doing a twilight run followed by desert on the port hills. Thinking of you and Brian's loved ones. Love Aroha

 Brian was a reknowned New Zealand athletics coach and trained many athletes, including myself as a teenager, and 35 years later, my daughter Aroha.

The photo above I took in Christchurch with Brian Taylor at QE II in Christchurch with a crop of his athletes in 2009.

I often mull over the fact that Brian should have been with me in Sri Lanka on 22 February 2011 working with Colonel Madugalle, Vice President of the Sri Lanka Amateur Athletics Association. We had been planning to bring Brian over to train Sri Lankan athletic coaches in preparation for the next Coimmonwealth Games to be held in Sri Lanka. Brian was really excited about this visit and so was I. I had spoken to my boys about Brian being able to analyze their running style and coach them a little.

Brian Taylor, right, with Bob McKerrow. Good to see the Speight's beer label there as we were one of their greatest customers in our younger day.

This is what I wrote shortly after Brian was assumed trapped in the building, but not declared dead..

"Tonight the little light blue box beside Brian's name on SKYPE has a cross beside it and strangely, for the last few mornings, I have missed seeing brianwtaylor pop up on screen showing me he is on SKYPE. I never bothered enquiring about him because 'Tails' was invincible and indestructable, or at least, that's what I thought.

Here is the SKYPE message Brian sent me on 31 December last year.

[31-Dec-10 10:38:13] Brianwtaylor: Hi Bob, Happy new year to you too. I can work on a date for the middle of Feb. I will try and check flights as well. We go camping on Jan 4 for 2 weeks. I will try to get flights sorted either while I am away or before I leave on the 4th. I will not have easy computer access, but cell texting is good, if you can send me your cell phone number. Brian

Sadly, we had to postpone his visit until March as the mid- February dates clashed with the Cricket World Cup being held in Sri Lanka and neighbouring countries. We should have stuck to that 10 day period starting 15 February 2011.

I will keep looking every day on SKYPE, hoping for the miracle, for the cross to change to a tick. Usually we chatted a few times a week, about his pending trip, and what we were up to in our lives. Often it was a quick "good morning, how are you."

Brian and Prue invited me to their home on New Year's eve 2008-09 and a few days later in January 2009 I spent time with Brian at QE II Park , where the 1974 Commonwealth Games were held, watching him coach his athletic squad. I wrote at the time: "

It was a joy to meet again with my former athletics coach, Brian Taylor, who lives in Christchurch and coaches some of New Zealand's leading athletes. Brian coached me from the age of 14 to 20, and as a group, including James Williamson, we did some revoluntionary training, an expanded version of Arthur Lydiard's methods. In those days we ran more than 130 miles a week with often a 26 mile run over the hills of Dunedin on a Sunday. Unknowingly at the time, this endurance conditioning prepared me for exploration in later life and I owe a lot to Brian. Forty-seven years after he started coaching, Brian Taylor is still putting in hundred of voluntary hours a month coaching young people. It is role models like this that produce great sportspeople in New Zealand. They are New Zealand's unsung heroes.

On the fourth anniversary of the destructive quake, my heart goes out to all those who lost relatives and friends. And the grieving goes on.....

ZK-BCP de Havilland D.H.89B Dragon Rapide (c/n 6648)

In 1991 I helped organize a reunion of Mountain Guides at Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers  to commemorate 100 years since the New Zealand Alpine Club was formed; Thousands of photographs were sent to me to mount a huge photographic exhibition in the Franz Josef community centre. Whilst I made every effort to return them, some people dropped off unmarked photos and I ended up with a small box full of unmarked and unclaimed photos. At the reunion was Billie Mercer the daughter of the famous NZ pilot Bert Mercer and also I recall a relative of another famous West Coast pilot,  Richard Waugh.

One photograph that was never claimed and has  always fascinated me was this one below of ZK BCP , a de Havilland Dominie that figures in West Coast white baiting and alpine history. Today I dug into Google and found this history and photos below.

This Dominie had served with the RNZAF as NZ524 before being civilianized as a Dragon Rapide in 1953 for South Island Airways.  That company owned a modest fleet of them.
 On 16 September 1959 it was acquired by Air Charter Ltd and owned by Brian Chadwick
 of Christchurch.Charter Ltd .  Chadwick was a former Chief Pilot of Trans Island Airways
  and prior to that South Island Airways, both previous owners of BCP. After the demise of
 Trans Island Airways, Chadwick decided to establish his own air charter company appropriately
  named Air Charter Ltd   
The first photograph below, by Brian Purcel (via the Richard Waugh
  collection) shows Chadwick with the aircraft at Christchurch in January 1962.  Shortly after
  this shot was taken Chadwick disappeared in his other aircraft, D.H. 90 Dragonfly. ZK-AFB,
  on a flight from Christchurch to Milford Sound.  The lower photograph was taken by Dave
  Freeman of ZK-BCP in 1970, by which time it was owned by Mt. Cook Airlines.  It comes
  courtesy of the Ken Tilley collection.   ZK-BCP was sold in Australia in 1975 becoming
  VH-BGP.  It was once part of the ill-fated Wangaratta Airworld Museum.    It is now owned
  by Bruce Ivers who is having it lovingly restored (as a long term project) at Croydon Aircraft
  Co at Mandeville, near Gore on New Zealand's South Island.     At the foot of the page is an
  interesting shot by Sandy Ferguson, taken just prior to its departure to Australia wherein the
 'C" had been changed to a 'G" but the VH- on the rudder still showed signs of 'ZK-" !



  Another photograph from my collection below, is one of Ebenezer Teichelmann, left, after the first flight over the glacier region of South Westland in 1924. The Avro 504K  was piloted by Maurie Buckley    


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Afghanistan cricket steps onto the world stage.

I first saw cricket played in the streets of Jalalabad in 1994 when I was working in Afghanistan. It didn’t surprise me for I knew that  Afghanistan  played  Hockey in the 1956 Olympics which showed the strong influence of  leading sports in Pakistan and India, on their country.

 Hamid Hassan could have had a wicket in the third over of their first World Cup match, if Afghanistan had been quicker to adapt to DRS © Getty Images

 While I was living in Kabul during a period of total anarchy, I read in the Peshawar newspapers that the Afghan Cricket Federation  came into being and later became an affiliate member of the ICC in 2001 and a member of the Asia Cricket Council in 2003. I was deeply moved and impressed by the article written by by Will Davies on February 17 2015, in the Wall street Journal which I copy below:

Afghan shopkeepers in Kabul watch a broadcast of a Cricket World Cup match.
 Afghan shopkeepers in Kabul watch a broadcast of a Cricket World Cup match. Photo: shah marai/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Afghans Find Passion in the Cricket World Cup

For Afghanistan, the Cricket World Cup is a big stage, one that inspires hope among a war-weary people

Wednesday is a proud day for Afghanistan as the country makes its first appearance in the Cricket World Cup.The rise of Afghan cricket is astonishing. Two decades ago, the sport was virtually unknown to Afghans. But in the midst of war, a love of cricket somehow developed. A governing body was formed. Now, 11 Afghan men will don the blue national team jersey and step out on the Manuka Oval in Canberra in front of a capacity crowd and an Afghan television audience of millions.“It is exciting, the start of the World Cup. Everyone is waiting back home, the whole nation is waiting for the match,” Afghanistan’s captain Mohammad Nabi said.Like some of his teammates, Nabi learned to play cricket in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, where his family fled during Afghanistan’s war with the Soviet Union. He is now ranked as the world’s eighth best all-rounder, meaning he bats and bowls. He has scored more than 1,000 runs for his country.Some of those runs came in an October 2013 qualifying match against Kenya, when Nabi top-scored, helping Afghanistan book a place in this World Cup. Afghanistan has featured in international cricket tournaments before, including the World Twenty20, but the World Cup is the sport’s marquee event.Ahead of the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, The WSJ’s Will Davies puts on some pads and tries to explain how the old English sport is played.
Afghanistan has made progress in other major sports such as soccer. The country, which is 144th in the FIFA world rankings, won the South Asian Football Championship in 2013 with a 2-0 win over India in the final in Katmandu. It also has an Olympic medalist in Rohullah Nikpai, who won bronze in taekwondo at the 2008 Games in Beijing and in London in 2012.
For Afghanistan, the Cricket World Cup is a big stage, one that inspires hope among a war-weary people. In Kabul, young men gather to play cricket on muddy grounds covered with garbage, longing for something to look up to.
“I am so proud that Afghanistan will be playing in the World Cup for the first time,” said Abdul Manan, a 15-year-old who aspires to be a professional cricketer. “I won’t miss a second of the game. Afghanistan will be playing alongside the world’s strongest cricket nations.”
Afghanistan's Afsar Khan Zazai plays a shot in front of India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni during a World Cup warm-up cricket match.  
Afghanistan's Afsar Khan Zazai plays a shot in front of India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni during a World Cup warm-up cricket match. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images 
Cricket has become the most popular sport in Afghanistan. Nisar, a worker at a sports shop in Kabul who goes by only one name, said sales of Afghanistan cricket team shirts have rocketed in recent weeks. He is now selling 30 to 40 a day.The Afghanistan Cricket Board even has a department dedicated to women’s cricket, though progress there is slower. “The ACB…is striving to ensure that young women and girls are able to enjoy and participate in the game. This development, however, must necessarily take place in the context of a traditional culture and history,” the board says, adding that the women’s game must display “great sensitivity, discretion and diplomacy.Afghanistan on Wednesday faces Bangladesh, a so-called full member of the International Cricket Council. That means it also plays test cricket—the five-day version of the game—placing it among the elite cricket nations. Until 2000, Bangladesh was an associate member, as Afghanistan is today.Bangladesh made its World Cup debut in 1999 and has caused upsets over giants such as Pakistan, England, India, South Africa and the West Indies. Bangladesh is ranked ninth in the one-day international cricket rankings. Afghanistan is 12th, but is capable of beating Bangladesh, as it did in the Asia Cup last March, the only previous meeting between the two.“They (Afghanistan) are a good team, it should be a really good match,” said former player Sunil Gavaskar, one of India’s greatest batsmen and a member of the team that won the 1983 World Cup. “It is great for cricket they are involved,” he told The Wall Street Journal.Other teams in Afghanistan’s group include 2011 finalist Sri Lanka, England and co-hosts New Zealand and Australia. Afghanistan plays Australia on the rapid surface of the WACA in Perth, where fast bowlers such as Mitchell Johnson will likely give Afghanistan players the test of their cricketing lives. 
 In their first game in the Cricket World Cup, the Afghan cricketers showed their passion for the game.

“The players are very excited. They feel a real genuine honor to be here and they want to do well for the public back home,” Afghanistan’s coach, Andy Moles, said Tuesday.
“Bangladesh is a full member side. We respect them, but we’re certainly not scared of them,” the Englishman added.
Canberra couldn’t be further removed from Kabul and the camp near Peshawar where Nabi learned to play cricket. The match on Wednesday is the first of three that the quiet, clean Australian capital will host during the World Cup. The Manuka Oval is a picturesque ground with grass banks for spectators, in addition to the stands.
The scene will surely please Taj Malik, Afghanistan’s former coach and the man credited for much of the nation’s rise in cricket. Malik’s role with Afghanistan is dramatized in the 2010 documentary “Out of the Ashes,” which follows the country’s attempt to qualify for the 2011 World Cup in the Subcontinent.
In an opening scene in a bus traveling through the hectic streets of Kabul, Malik turns to the camera and says: “There is a lot of problems in the world today. Everywhere there is conflict, fighting and injustices happening. The solution of all the problems is…cricket.”
—Margherita Stancati in Kabul contributed to this article.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Greatest love letters of all times

Johnny Cash penned quite possibly the greatest love letter of all time 


ROMANTIC ODE: Johnny Cash's letter to "the greatest woman I ever met" was voted the greatest love letter of all time.
Getty Image
ROMANTIC ODE: Johnny Cash's letter to "the greatest woman I ever met" was voted the greatest love letter of all time.

Johnny Cash wrote a love letter for his wife June Carter Cash that puts even Richard Mercer's Love Song Dedications to shame.
Cash's letter to "the greatest woman I ever met" was also voted the greatest love letter of all time, according to a new poll.
Written in 1994 for Carter Cash's 65th birthday, Cash wrote:
DEVOTED COUPLE: Johnny Cash and his wife June wave to fans at the end of a tribute in his honour in 1999.
DEVOTED COUPLE: Johnny Cash and his wife June wave to fans at the end of a tribute in his honour in 1999.

"Happy Birthday, Princess,
We get old and get used to each other. We think alike.
We read each other's minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.
But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me.
You influence me for the better. You're the object of my desire, the No. 1 earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.
Happy Birthday, Princess.

Carter Cash met Cash after her family had performed with him for a number of years. In 1968, Cash proposed to Carter Cash during a live performance in Canada. They wed in March and were together until Carter Cash's death in 2003. Cash died four months after his wife.

In second place was Winston Churchill's letter to his wife, Clementine Churchill, which he wrote in 1935.

In seventh place King Henry VIII expresses his love for Anne Boleyn, which may have been romantic if he hadn't later executed her.
Lastly, in 10th place, it was Jimi Hendrix's letter to a mystery girlfriend telling her to spread her wings.
The poll, according to the Daily Mail, was by British life insurance company Beagle Street, hoping to encourage Brits to be more romantic this Valentines Day.
The results revealed that 38 per cent of women had never written a love letter, compared to 24 per cent of men admitting to sending one in the last year.

Johnny Cash wishing his wife June Carter Cash a happy 65th birthday (1994).
"We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other's minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met."

Winston Churchill wrote to his wife Clementine Churchill in 1935.
"In your letter from Madras you wrote some words very dear to me, about my having enriched your life. I cannot tell you what pleasure this gave me, because I always feel so overwhelmingly in your debt, if there can be accounts in love .... What it has been to me to live all these years in your heart and companionship no phrases can convey."
Poet John Keats wrote a letter to his neighbour Fanny Brawne in 1819.
"My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you - I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again - my Life seems to stop there - I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving - I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you."
Ernest Hemingway to actress Marlene Dietrich in 1951.
"I can't say how every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home. Nor too many things. But we were always cheerful and jokers together."
Napoleon Bonaparte wrote to Josephine de Beauharnais in 1796.
"Since I left you, I have been constantly depressed. My happiness is to be near you. Incessantly I live over in my memory your caresses, your tears, your affectionate solicitude. The charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle continually a burning and a glowing flame in my heart."
Richard Burton's letter to Elizabeth Taylor in 1964.
"My blind eyes are desperately waiting for the sight of you. You don't realise of course, EB, how fascinatingly beautiful you have always been, and how strangely you have acquired an added and special and dangerous loveliness."
King Henry VIII's letter to Anne Boleyn in 1527.
"I beg to know expressly your intention touching the love between us. Necessity compels me to obtain this answer, having been more than a year wounded by the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail or find a place in your affection."
Beethoven's letter to his "Beloved" in 1812.
"Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, Be calm-love me-today-yesterday-what tearful longings for you-you-you-my life-my all-farewell. Oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved. Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours."
US President Gerald Ford's letter to his wife Betty Ford in 1974.
"No written words can adequately express our deep, deep love. We know how great you are and we, the children and dad, will try to be as strong as you. Our Faith in you and God will sustain us. Our total love for you is everlasting."
Musician Jimi Hendrix's letter to a mystery women he calls "little girl".
"little girl ... happiness is within you ... so unlock the chains from your heart and let yourself grow —
like the sweet flower you are ... I know the answer –
Just spread your wings and set yourself
Love to you forever
Jimi Hendrix"