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 In April 2010 we travelled to the previous French territories of Cambodia and Vietnam: ‘French Indochina’, as they had been called when I started school; until 1954. Since then many things have changed.  But of course, this has been a region of change for tens of thousands of years. Our trip ‘filled in’ areas of the map between our previous trips to India and China and did not disappoint.  There is certainly a sense in which Indochina is a blend of China and India; with differences tangential to both. Both have recovered from recent conflicts of which there is still evidence everywhere, like the smell of gunpowder after fireworks.

As the Ganges dominates north-eastern India so the Mekong River dominates this region. From the Tibetan Plateau it flows through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Laos and Thailand meandering more slowly as it crosses Cambodia and on into Vietnam.  Its plain is flat and fertile and numerous societies, cultures and religions have left their marks here. 

 

Not so long ago, in geological terms, Indochina was a lot bigger.  When humans first arrived it was possible to walk all the way to Java. The Gulf of Thailand across to Borneo and Java was a low-lying plain probably intersected by substantial rivers. 

Stone Age and early Bronze Age humans lost this territory and overland routes to inundation due to sea level rise and tectonic activity (making Australia even more isolated around ten thousand years ago);  this rise continues slowly today, ever-changing the shorelines.

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From Wikipedia:  Early Human Migration & Sea Level change 

With the advent of metals technology and organised agriculture, civilisation began to develop across these lands spawning trade routes, great empires, great tyrants and maybe a few benign rulers.  In turn, these cultures were a great breeding ground for religion; to give meaning and succour to the disadvantaged; to justify power and the rule of law; to give the powerful hope that their power would never end; and maybe, to encourage the well off to help those less so.   As one empire fell so another took its place; from dust unto dust; ‘for all is vanity’; to borrow from another religion.

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Travel

Bridge over the River Kwai

 

 

In 1957-58 the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai‘ was ground breaking.  It was remarkable for being mainly shot on location (in Ceylon not Thailand) rather than in a studio and for involving the construction and demolition of a real, fully functioning rail bridge.   It's still regarded by many as one of the finest movies ever made. 

One of the things a tourist to Bangkok is encouraged to do is to take a day trip to the actual bridge.

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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 descendents; 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

Jihad

  

 

In my novella The Cloud I have given one of the characters an opinion about 'goodness' in which he dismisses 'original sin' as a cause of evil and suffering and proposes instead 'original goodness'.

Most sane people want to 'do good', in other words to follow that ethical system they were taught at their proverbial 'mother's knee' (all those family and extended influences that form our childhood world view).

That's the reason we now have jihadists raging, seemingly out of control, across areas of Syria and Iraq and threatening the entire Middle East with their version of 'goodness'. 

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