*take nothing for granted!
  • Sydney Australia

  • Luang Prabang Laos

  • Angkor Wat Cambodia

  • Halong Bay Vietnam

  • Yangon Myanmar (Burma)

  • Forbidden City Moat Beijing China

  • Great Wall Shuiguan China

  • Shanghai China

  • Terracotta Warriors Xian China

  • Giza Pyramids and Sphinx Cairo

  • Jemaa el-Fnaa Marrakesh Morocco

  • Damascus Syria - (Oct 2010 pre destabilisation)

  • Istanbul Turkey

  • The Sphinx ANZAC Cove Gallipoli Turkey

  • Saltzburg Austria

  • Cezky Krumlov Czech Republic

  • Prague Czech Republic

  • Champs Elysees Paris France

  • Oberbaum Bridge (over the Spree) Berlin Germany

  • Budapest Hungary

  • Rome Italy

  • Florence Italy

  • Venice Italy

  • Valletta Malta

  • Lisbon Portugal

  • Plaza Mayor Madrid Spain

  • Seville Spain

  • Alhambra Granada Spain

  • Mosque–Cathedral Córdoba Spain

  • Moscow Russia (from Moscow State University)

  • London England

  • Mumbai India

  • Udaipur India

  • Taj Mahal - Agra India

  • Varanasi (Benares) India

  • Kathmandu Nepal

  • Madurai India

  • Havana Cuba

  • Pyramid of the Sun Teotihuacán Mexico

  • Zócalo Mexico City

  • Buenos Aires Argentina

  • Ipanema Rio De Janeiro Brazil

  • Iguazu Falls Argentina-Brazil

  • Machu Picchu Peru

  • Lake Titicaca Peru-Bolivia

  • Queens New York USA (from the Empire State)

  • Boston USA (across the stern of USS Constitution)

  • Washington DC USA (from Arlington House)

  • San Francisco USA (from Alcatraz Island)

  • Los Angeles USA (from the Getty Museum)

Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2015

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>  United States of America - Hawaii

Hawaiian Flag

In February 2018 we travelled to Hawaii.
Hawaii has a special place in my family's lore because it was here on my father's 25th birthday, December 7 1941, "a date which will live in infamy", that Japan committed to war with the United States.
With this in mind I determined to find out more about the events leading up to that Sunday morning on Oahu, as they led my parents' marriage and so to my conception.
Thus what happened here and I are linked - in that these events were essential to my being here to contemplate them.
If you are similarly interested in the events leading to your birth you might like to read my researches.  For example, why the US Pacific Fleet was in Pearl Harbor in the first place?
Otherwise you might skip forward to the less dramatic chapters relating our travel experiences.




>  United States of America - 'middle bits'

Old Glory

In October 2017 we returned from the United States where for over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations.
In these travel notes I've provided a separate chapter for each significant stop along our way, whether we stayed overnight or not.  My notes have turned out to be very long but could well have been much longer - as it's a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible and interesting.
Much of our time was spent in states that were for a short time in a separate country: The Confederate States of America.  Thus slavery, The Civil War and its consequences loomed large there. 
By far the longest chapter is Andrew Jackson's Hermitage - Tennessee that contains an explanatory short history leading up to that period and beyond that informs many of locations we travelled to.
Readers might like to 'cherry pick' chapters that could interest them for other reasons, like Graceland or NASA or the Grand Canyon, from the contents table.




>  The Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon

The  musical comedy: The Book of Mormon has begun a run in Sydney so if you are considering going you might like to read my review.
We saw it in Melbourne in July 2017.
It brought back memories of a visit I had in 1964, very much like the one depicted at the beginning of the show.
I soon began to smile; then to giggle; and then to laugh uproariously; mopping my eyes. And the happy ending is very clever. I loved this musical.
It had topped off a Sunday during which we also visited couple of churches and a synagogue. So it seemed especially relevant.




>  Luther - Father of the Modern World?

Luther and the witches2

Continuing the religious theme, 2017 also marked 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his '95 theses' to a church door in Wittenberg and set in motion the Protestant Revolution.
It's caused me to recall an exhibition in Germany in 2016 - Luther and the Witches - and to wonder how much impact this superstitious man might still have on my decedents, two of whom are German.
My research and speculations made this article quite long enough. So if you're interested in the witch hunts Luther contributed to click on the linked album within and see the exhibition for yourself.




>  Japan


Here is the story of our 2017 Japanese sojourn, when we took a short introductory package tour: Discover Japan 2017 visiting: Narita; Tokyo; Yokohama; Atami; Toyohashi; Kyoto; and Osaka.
Japan has been an important theme throughout my life.  Their unconditional surrender came exactly four weeks before my birth, as a result of the first A-Bombs. 
So that my life spans the nuclear age, the cold war, the space race, Japanese recovery, détente, the digital revolution, biomedical science, and the rise of China.
I couldn't help making one or two historical observations.





>  Hong Kong and Shenzhen China

2 IFT Hong Kong

After our trip to Japan, reported above, our little group returned to Hong Kong.  From here Craig and Sonia headed home to OZ while Wendy and I headed into China once again. Here are some observations on developments in Hong Kong and China.





>  Korea - addendum or: - How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Jongno Tower, Seoul, S Korea

The biggest news last year was on American Independence Day, the 4th of July 2017, when North Korea had launched a rocket that travelled vertically to reach an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles) well beyond the orbit of the International Space Station. Thus demonstrating that they could put a nuclear weapon into orbit, to strike anywhere on the planet. That N Korea is not bound by The Outer Space Treaty, the convention that prohibits putting these weapons in orbit, is a point the media seemed to ignore.
Since then there have been even better performing rockets and an H bomb test.
So in the new year I've brought this article up the list a bit and added a further update.  Yet irrespective of these recent advances, not a lot has changed. 
As was already evident last July, it is now even more obvious that a land attack on N Korea would risk a retaliatory nuclear attack on the US or an indefensible ally like Australia and ,as ever, any solution needs to be diplomatic.
But like Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, we've learned to 'stop worrying and love the bomb'.
This is largely because of MAD - mutually assured destruction.
So, strangely, I find I'm not too worried.
Unless President Trump really is mad.



>  Southern England

Port_Isaac thumb

In mid July 2016 Wendy and I took flight again to Europe. Those who follow these travel diaries will note that part of out trip last year was cut when Wendy's mum took ill. In particular we missed out on a planned trip to Romania and eastern Germany. This time our British sojourn would be interrupted for a few days by a side-trip to Copenhagen and Roskilde in Denmark (later posts to come).
We spent the initial week in London and after our return from Denmark, toured about the West Country to Cornwall and then east along the South coast as far as Sidmouth.




>  Denmark

Danish Royal Palace

Today I'm feeling pleased, as if I'd finally got around to repairing that annoying scratch on my car. All I had to do was commit a full day to inserting the images to publish my notes from Denmark last year. Now only Germany and Japan remain before our next trip. Anyway, better late than never... so here is Denmark:




>  Romania

Capitoline Wolf

Here it is at last.  I've finally given up my fight with Google Pictures and accepted URLs the length of small essays, just so that I can store my images in The Cloud.
The essay on Southern England uses the old Picasa image storage. But in the middle of writing this, a few days later, Google withdrew it and introduced their mega-URLs. Then, before I could get any further with a solution, I found myself in hospital.  See below.

Anyway I hope this was worth the wait - particularly for those of you who like to travel and have not yet been to Romania.



>  Climate Change - a Myth?

Ice core data

Partly in response to my article Carbon Footprints (below) several friends and acquaintances have told me that Climate Change is a myth.

Might this be true?




>  Mega Battery for South Australia

Have I still got the energy?Energy

The deal is now signed.  South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has contracted Elon Musk to provide the world's biggest battery, a 100 MW/129 MWh Tesla Powerpack, in a 100 days... 'or our money back'.  
Federal Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, cautiously welcomed the forthcoming delivery of "the 'world's largest' lithium-ion battery to help secure South Australia's power grid", while humbly submitting that: "it will not solve all the state's energy problems".  
Was he implying that 100 MW is a drop in the bucket, in a State with 1,600 MW of rapidly fluctuating wind generation?  
In an attempt to regain the initiative Josh proposed his 'superior' solution - a bigger bucket - 'package' pumped hydro-electricity.  The present cost of both these storage methods certainly brings water to the eyes. Yet could both 'fixes' be woefully inadequate?
Nevertheless, like Ol' Blue Eyes': 'ant and the rubber tree plant' both Jay and Josh have 'high hopes'.



>  Skydiving

Coming Down to Earth

For my 70th Birthday Wendy took me at my word and bought me a voucher to go Skydiving.  I've always wanted to try it and 75 is a limit for insurance. Not that I was likely to benefit from any insurance payout.  Skydiving accidents are usually fatal.




>  The Meaning of Death

Etherial Richard

On the subject of death, I was subsequently restored to life after being dead for several hours. 

'Really?' you say, 'dead?' What does: 'dead' really mean?

At one time a person who was no longer breathing; who had no heartbeat; was limp and unconscious; and failed to respond to stimuli, like being poked with a knife; or having their heart removed; was pretty certainly dead.
Yet while a death certificate may well have been issued for me in the not so distant past, today we set no store by the heart or the lungs or even reflexes as indicators of life but rather the potential recovery of the brain and central nervous system.

Thus I was not actually dead. The colony of cells that is me remained relatively undamaged, still a viable living organism thanks to continuing oxygenated blood supply. In particular my brain was undamaged, so my mind could be restored to awareness when anaesthesia ceased. 



>  The McKie Family

McKie Ginger Beer

This is the story of the McKie family down a path through the gardens of the past that led to where I'm standing now.  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.
In six generations, I, like most people, have 126 ancestors.  Around half have become obscure to me. But I know the majority had one thing in common: they lived in or around Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England.

During that time Newcastle grew from a small port town into one of the World's most important and innovative cities.  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.



>  The Craft - Chapter 12 - The Cloud

John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball

This is a sample chapter from my somewhat saucy novella The Craft (be warned). It's a prequel to the earlier novella, also called The Cloud. So it's promoting or killing two birds with one stone.
If your interest is piqued go back to the beginning - don't click (Next >>)
Like painting, writing fiction amuses me, painting with words, but I acknowledge that I'm just a dilettante, messing about in retirement.  Yet some obviously find my stories amusing.  These two have attracted well over twenty thousand hits each and hundreds of sessions, in their various iterations, having evolved and grown over time.
Does practice make perfect? 
When I flick the pages at the remaindered book-stand at the Mall I'm quickly disabused. No perfection there! How on earth do all these books get edited, published and distributed - complete with cover art?  Most represent months or years of someone's life - now remaindered at less than the printing cost. And all those trees killed to no purpose.  At least I'm not guilty of that.








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USA - middle bits






In September and October 2017 Wendy and I took another trip to the United States where we wanted to see some of the 'middle bits'.  Travel notes from earlier visits to the East coast and West Coast can also be found on this website.

For over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations. This involved six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving on America's excellent National Highways and in between on many not so excellent local roads and streets.

We had decided to start in Chicago and 'head on down south' to New Orleans via: Tennessee; Georgia; Louisiana; and South Carolina. From there we would head west to: Texas; New Mexico; Arizona; Utah and Nevada; then to Los Angeles and home.  That's only a dozen states - so there are still lots of 'middle bits' left to be seen.

During the trip, disaster, in the form of three hurricanes and a mass shooting, seemed to precede us by a couple of days.

The United States is a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible. So these notes have turned out to be long and could easily have been much longer.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Egyptian Mummies





Next to Dinosaurs mummies are the museum objects most fascinating to children of all ages. 

At the British Museum in London crowds squeeze between show cases to see them.  At the Egyptian Museum in Cairo they are, or were when we visited in October 2010 just prior to the Arab Spring, by far the most popular exhibits (follow this link to see my travel notes). Almost every large natural history museum in the world has one or two mummies; or at the very least a sarcophagus in which one was once entombed.

In the 19th century there was something of a 'mummy rush' in Egypt.  Wealthy young European men on their Grand Tour, ostensibly discovering the roots of Western Civilisation, became fascinated by all things 'Oriental'.  They would pay an Egyptian fortune for a mummy or sarcophagus.  The mummy trade quickly became a lucrative commercial opportunity for enterprising Egyptian grave-robbers.  

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Australia and Empire




The recent Australia Day verses Invasion Day dispute made me recall yet again the late, sometimes lamented, British Empire.

Because, after all, the Empire was the genesis of Australia Day.

For a brief history of that institution I can recommend Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Scottish historian Niall Campbell Ferguson.

My choice of this book was serendipitous, unless I was subconsciously aware that Australia Day was approaching.  I was cutting through our local bookshop on my way to catch a bus and wanted something to read.  I noticed this thick tomb, a new addition to the $10 Penguin Books (actually $13). 

On the bus I began to read and very soon I was hooked when I discovered references to places I'd been and written of myself.  Several of these 'potted histories' can be found in my various travel writings on this website (follow the links): India and the Raj; Malaya; Burma (Myanmar); Hong Kong; China; Taiwan; Egypt and the Middle East; Israel; and Europe (a number).  

Over the next ten days I made time to read the remainder of the book, finishing it on the morning of Australia Day, January the 26th, with a sense that Ferguson's Empire had been more about the sub-continent than the Empire I remembered.

Read more ...

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