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I first visited China in November 1986.  I was representing the New South Wales Government on a multinational mission to our Sister State Guangdong.  My photo taken for the trip is still in the State archive [click here].  The theme was regional and small business development.  The group heard presentations from Chinese bureaucrats and visited a number of factories in rural and industrial areas in Southern China.  It was clear then that China was developing at a very fast rate economically. 

The Canadian delegate and I went for a walk in one regional centre and were amazed by the quantity and variety of machinery on sale in the high street:  lathes; milling machines; plastic extrusion machines and so on; at very low prices.  These were clearly being purchased on a grand scale by small private businesses. 

I had never seen so many pushbikes as in Guangzhou.  The streets were packed; like an endless start at the Tour de France.

One of the things that impressed me about China was the sense of humour of the officials that we met.  They were quite cynical and disrespectful.  It ran counter to my impression of Communism. They made really surprising jokes about all aspects of Chinese life, including government.  In this respect they seemed quite different to the Japanese who at the time appeared to greatly respect authority; at least in the presence of strangers.  More than once negative comments and jokes were made about the Japanese (when the Japanese delegate was absent); which is not surprising in the light of history.  But he did buy a very nice, and inexpensive, rice cooker at one of their factories.

At the factories we visited the whole delegation was struck by the number of employees working on each machine.  It soon became apparent that for each skilled worker there were five or six students or apprentices.  Each, no doubt, would soon have a machine of their own; together with six more apprentices.  There were few safety guards on the machines and virtually no safety equipment was being worn. I understand that due to very high accident rates in these early days OH&S is now a big issue in China.

 


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Travel

Laos

 

 

The Lao People's Democratic Republic is a communist country, like China to the North and Vietnam with which it shares its Eastern border. 

And like the bordering communist countries, the government has embraced limited private ownership and free market capitalism, in theory.  But there remain powerful vested interests, and residual pockets of political power, particularly in the agricultural sector, and corruption is a significant issue. 

During the past decade tourism has become an important source of income and is now generating around a third of the Nation's domestic product.  Tourism is centred on Luang Prabang and to a lesser extent the Plane of Jars and the capital, Vientiane.

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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

Six degrees of separation, conspiracy and wealth

 

 

Sometimes things that seem quite different are, when looked at more closely, related. 

 

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