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« Musings: A languid Sunday ramble around Pisamoni village | Main | Pacific moves to suppress the media while Australia rests supine »

29 November 2015

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Keith, During the Civil War in Spain at least one of my wife's family were members of the communist party and had been active supporters of the leftish government against rebels led by Franco who eventually would win and rule for the next 39 years.

The family had been involved with the International Brigade in Wales that sent fighters to Spain and through that met and admired historian and Marxist Christopher Hill then lecturing at Cardiff University who one day would be master of Balliol College Oxford. They had even had a Basque refugee.

I often wondered in 1969 why it had taken so long to approve my moving to Australia despite having already been offered a teaching post in West Australia. Were they checking on my wife's antecedents.

Anyway we were given permission to sail from London at the end of that year on Shaw Savill's MV Akaroa. We eventually docked at Capetown just before Xmas.

Wanting to let my family know where we were I went to a post office to send my post card. As I started to swing open the door I suddenly stopped. My eye had caught the sign 'Non Blankes' or 'Not whites' as was the ethos of the regime in those late 60s.

I recoiled and looked about expecting to see a secret service eyeing this Taffy who had family connections to Commies. No hand descend on my shoulder and so I walked a few yards to a well marked 'Blankes Only' door and walked in.

Once inside I smiled ..albeit inwardly...as I noted that both the doors opened into the same large public area but I saw the queue of white faces at one of the counters and joined that group to do my mailing. I was amazed too when I saw segregated bus - atleast during the daytime - apparently at night double decker buses saw black down stairs and white on the top deck of the same bus.

I enjoyed the few hours in town where I paddled on a beautiful beach, went up the table Top mountain in cable car and much to the annoyance of my family managed to get stuck in a huge traffic jam circling the city centre to see the beautiful display of Xmas lights.

My final visit to apartheid S Africa was leaving Durban at the end of the year.

My only other connection with the regime was when I taught at a primary school in S Wales . My Headmaster, ironically a communist, had been one of many rugby union supporters that had been coached into Swansea to ensure the Springboks could play without any anti-apartheid spoiling the South Africa 1969 tour. He said that the burly volunteer guards prevented any major incident but alas Swansea lost after failing to score.

Of course even my stint as a new Kiap on Lavongai was not free from the cold war worry about the Red Peril to the north as apparently seen by villagers in Australia's reaction to the 1964 so-called Johnson Cult.

One reason for the alleged heavy handedness of the Oz administration...and the stories are still alive in those were punished... was Canberra's fear that this northern New Guinea island might be just the tip of a commie plot coming from Sukarno's left leaning Sukarno government.

The phrase we often heard in the Cold war days was 'a red under the bed' and in the late 60s and well into the 70s even 80s it was still much perceived threat.

So today seems strange that when Australia and NZ and others joined with the USA in the ill fated Viet Nam War Britain failed to openly send any forces. Actually 22 UK service men are alleged to have died there.

Of course it had also declined together with an earlier USA President to help our French ally in the original post war fight in Viet Nam.

Geo-politics is a strange activity as we are currently witnessing in the demand by the UK PM for UK planes to bomb in Syria like they already do in Iraq. Even in that debate we have the actions of Vlad Putin an old Soviet Cold War intelligence official.

So from my earliest childhood years when an ex-Russian Aunty made me practice the clenched hand-fist salute; my visit to S Africa and early married life on Lavongai; teaching and not forgetting being secretary of a Labour ward in S Wales I have seemingly be touched by red.

But perhaps the greater perceived peril has now changed colour to orange as witnessed by some outpourings against Australia allowing Port Darwin to be flogged to Communistic China.

'So I say to myself what a wonderful world'.

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