Sunday, 8 November 2015


No-one watches over
Watchman’s Island

It sits just 600 meters from the shore in Auckland, New Zealand’s Waitemata Harbour and no-one owns it or administers it. Auckland is experiencing an unprecedented housing boom, but no-one has yet applied for a building permit for Watchman’s Island.

In any of the nearby suburbs, finding a house priced at less than a million dollars is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But Watchman’s Island remains uninhabited.
Watchman's Island, Auckland, New Zealand

The state of affairs on Watchman’s Island is really quite remarkable (the words ‘state of affairs’ should not be taken as meaning an independent state that encourages affairs with other people’s spouses, even though there is a single shade tree ample for the purpose). What is remarkable about the island is that it is really prime real estate with excellent sea views, a private sandy beach, quiet neighbors, and no taxes.

Although never permanently inhabited, Watchman’s Island has an interesting history.

It first appeared on a British Admiralty chart in 1857 as Sentinel Rock. No-one knows why it was called Sentinel Rock, but it appears to have been given a name change in the 1970s when an Auckland journalist wrote a weekly report on New Zealand goings–on, as seen from ‘Watchman’s Island’ and the name stuck.

The New Zealand Tour Commentary
At about that time someone interested in buying the island failed in his quest because he was unable to find an owner who could sell it to him. The island was ownerless.

All government departments and local government denied responsibility for Watchman’s Island. Officially, it does not exist. But the island certainly does exist and is clearly visible from the shore and to traffic crossing the Auckland Harbour Bridge and it seemed that anyone who wanted the island could have it for the taking. As Watchman’s has no defence force, a full-scale invasion could be mounted successfully from a single row-boat.

In spite of the island’s zero population it has a thriving yacht club. In the 1990s some radio-control yachting enthusiasts formed the Watchman’s Island Yacht Club. They sailed their miniature yachts briefly from the island but found it to be too hard going without a suitable marina and all the other facilities that old salts enjoy at the end of a hard day’s sailing.

In 2005 the island was briefly inhabited by a crouching Adidas metal figure promoting the British Lions’ rugby tour of New Zealand. But the figure was soon toppled by a saboteur on the grounds that it was culturally insensitive and the island was once again uninhabited.

Watchman’s Island was next in the news when an agent for a local realty company had a sign erected on the island advertising it for sale. No information is available about a sale price, or prospective buyers, and the sign has since been taken down or washed away.

Meanwhile, the island has not applied for a building permit, or United Nations membership.


Saturday, 31 October 2015


The first crossing of Australia’s Great Dividing Range
A free sample read from Nathaniel’s Bloodline by Peter Blakeborough

The explorers left Blaxland’s property with several servants, pack horses, dogs, equipment and rations for five weeks in the bush. They crossed the Nepean River at a ford and pressed on to the west until they were under the first ridge. Close up the ranges looked higher and more rugged than they appeared from Sydney Town prompting Lawson to comment:

‘People refer always to the blue hills but I think we should suggest to the Governor that they be named the Blue Mountains.’

‘Why do they always seem to be blue?’ Nathaniel asked Wentworth who had a ready answer for most things.

‘It’s the Eucalyptus oil vapor from the trees, otherwise known as koala bear’s breath,’ Wentworth replied cheerily.

Lawson, a landholder and magistrate, placed his knapsack against the base of a tree and looked about for a moment.

‘Here’s another name for His Excellency to ponder – Knapsack Gully.’

‘I shall make a recommendation to the Governor,’ Blaxland promised and he then set about laying down the strategy for their assault on the Blue Mountains and the Great Dividing Range.

‘Almost all previous explorations have attempted the crossing by following the rivers and valleys. Always they arrived at an insurmountable sandstone wall hundreds of feet sheer. Caley followed the ridges and, though he failed to cross over, he went further than other expeditions. Caley was correct. He may have erred with regard to which ridge he chose. There may only be one ridge, of hundreds, to take us across.’

At first light they broke camp and started climbing the first ridge. All day they sweated and toiled hacking a path through the bushy undergrowth, retreating again to bring the horses and equipment through. When the sun slipped below the higher ridges to the west they had made only three miles and they had no idea how far they must go to clear the mountains – thirty miles, a hundred miles or a thousand miles.

The older men were exhausted and Blaxland suggested camping again for the night.

‘We could have done better today,’ Wentworth said with some impatience, ‘If we had not spent half the day retreating for the sake of confounded animals.’

‘That may be so, Wentworth, but our pack horses could be our savior in the end,’ Lawson said.

‘And they could be the death of us all. They will never handle the steepest country. They’ll fall and break their legs,’ Wentworth retorted.

Asker listened quietly. He had an opinion but considering that he was there to serve them all, chose not to side with one party or the other.

‘We could save a lot of doubling back on our tracks if we knew which of the myriad of ridges and spurs was the main ridge,’ Blaxland said thoughtfully. ‘Perhaps you should be an advance party, Wentworth. You could take Asker with you and survey the way ahead each day.’

‘It would save the wasted time and effort hacking a path through the bush only to chance upon impassable terrain,’ Wentworth agreed.

Five days later, a Sunday, the blistered and sore advance party, rested for a full day. They had covered a little more than ten miles in a straight line from their first overnight camp. Back to the east the Cumberland Plains stretched to the horizon.

‘By God, we’ve got a way to go,’ Wentworth said impatiently after first looking at the plains below and then turning to survey the rugged peaks ahead. ‘I can understand why so many expeditions failed.’

‘We shall not fail,’ Blaxland stated firmly. ‘By God, we shall not!’

The next morning Wentworth and Asker set out before the dew had left the undergrowth. An hour later their clothes were soaked but they pressed on trying first one ridge and then another and another. They decided sometimes to separate and explore in opposite directions. As the sun dried their clothes they eventually found rising ground that led them higher and westward. Periodically one of them would return with a progress report for the main party as they hacked a path for the horses. Late in the afternoon their course led the advance party onto another dead end spur surrounded on three sides by a steep precipice.

‘I’ll be damned if I shall let these confounded hills beat me,’ Wentworth declared angrily.

Asker sat on a fallen tree and let his head rest in his hands. His limbs ached and he could smell the foul sweat of his unwashed body. He wondered about Isobel and the children and wished that he were at home with them. Slowly he got to his feet again. Wentworth was looking to the west, his face filled with determination. Asker stepped up alongside him.

‘These friggin’ hills ain’t gonna beat me neither!’ he said resolutely. ‘This is me chance to get a land grant an’ make somethin’ of me life. I ain’t gonna let it go. We’ll find the ridge that’ll take us t’ the other side an’ a new life.’

‘We shall, Asker. We shall.’

Both parties pressed on doggedly over the next few days. Wentworth and Asker covered many extra miles searching this way and that for the best route forward and upward while the main party continued to clear the path and return for the horses and equipment. As they climbed higher the air became cooler and sometimes it froze at night. Feed and water for the horses became scarcer and several times the men had to descend precipices on ropes to obtain grass and water from a valley below. In spite of that the horses continued to lose condition at an alarming rate.


Tuesday, 13 October 2015


The origins of the old Irish family name of Fuddpucker

From the Life and Times of Freddie Fuddpucker by Peter Blakeborough

The infamous Guy Fawkes (or famous depending on your point of view) was a mystery man who was known to change his name. To the Spanish, when he fought for them in the Netherlands, he was known as Guido Fawkes. Recently some authorities have suggested that Guy Fawkes was an alias too.
Guy (or whatever his name was) was born of Irish parents in Yorkshire in 1570 and it is popularly believed that he was the leader and mastermind of the Gunpowder Plot to assassinate King James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening on November 5th 1605. However history records that the real leader of the conspirators was one Robert Catesby and that the hapless Guy – Guido – was merely the fall guy.
The conspirators’ first plan was to dig a tunnel beneath the Parliament Buildings but that failed when they ran out of places to hide the dirt and debris. Next they rented a cellar beneath the Parliament and over several months stocked it with barrels of gunpowder.
Guy was led to believe that he was chosen to be the man with his finger on the pulse because of his previous experience with war and explosives. But the truth was that Catesby was too cunning to be caught standing guard over thirty-six barrels of gunpowder while in possession of the means for lighting a fuse and wearing a great-coat and boots and spurs in readiness for a rapid departure into an otherwise cold night.
When the plot was discovered the luckless Guy was the first of the notorious gang of thirteen to be arrested and charged with treason and conspiracy to assassinate the King.  His trial took place at Westminster on January 27, 1606, and he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
Connect with Peter on Facebook or Twitter
The ancient sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering – the male version of burning at the stake – dates from the thirteenth century when Edward I used it while trying to bring Scotland, Ireland and Wales under British rule.
The process involved first dragging the prisoner on a wooden frame to the place of execution. The prisoner was then hanged for a short time and cut down while still alive. He was then disemboweled and emasculated in front of his own eyes before being beheaded and his body cut into quarters.
In the case of Guy the gunpowder man, like everything else in his life, his execution went wrong too. After the brief hanging he jumped from the scaffold to avoid the disembowelment and emasculation and broke his neck when he landed.
But to return to the question of the true identity of the hapless Guy it is believed that before the execution the King wanted to see the man who had so nearly brought an end to his life and Protestant rule in England. When the prisoner was brought to the royal court the King ordered that effigies of the prisoner be burnt throughout the land to celebrate the King’s survival. But then, in a moment of nervous confusion, the King turned to Guy and shouted, not blood-sucker as he intended, but fuddpucker and so the infamous Irish family name of Fuddpucker was accidentally created.
Ten generations later Frederick Fergus Fintan Fuddpucker was a throw-back to the first Fuddpucker.

Freddie was the black sheep of the Fuddpucker family. He stumbled through life in a never-ending chain of accidents, disasters and tragedies starting the day that he was born on the back seat of a speeding taxi.

Other books by Peter Blakeborough

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


A million die in road traffic accidents every year

Meanwhile, governments do little and the United Nations does even less

The United Nations was founded in 1945 by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.

This year the UN, now with a membership of 193, is celebrating 70 years of progress and achievements. The world body has expanded to include 17 major agencies covering many aspects of the daily lives of billions of people worldwide. The UN is often criticised for its failures, and there have been many, but the UN is also the world’s greatest ever political and humanitarian success story. This is often overlooked by critics.

As the celebrations wind up, the UN should be resolving to include among its agencies, by the time of the 75th anniversary celebrations, an international road traffic organisation dedicated to reducing death and injury from traffic accidents worldwide.

Currently, the UN has as an agency the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which has been largely responsible for making airline travel the safest form of transport ever, while reducing substantially the rate of general aviation accidents. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for regulatory control, safety and efficiency of shipping. Many other UN agencies are well known like the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and The International Labour Organization (ILO). There is also a raft of lesser known, but vital agencies, like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and The World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Many UN agencies have come in for severe criticism over the years and in some cases the UN may have failed, but the bulk of the criticism comes from a lack of understanding, suspicion and from people with extremist political and economic views. But without the UN the world would be a poorer and more violent place.

However, there is no UN organization dedicated to saving lives on the world’s highways, even though over a million people are killed every year, scores of millions more are seriously injured, and the cost to society is astronomical. The United Nations leaves it to national governments to do their own thing and almost all fail dismally. It is time for the world body to establish an organization that can bring uniformity, standards and targets to a global campaign for road safety

Although there are currently several non-UN organizations that have been established for transport and traffic, most represent commercial interests.

However, the United Nations Economic and Social Council was responsible for the 1968 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, a treaty intending to establish standard traffic rules, but only 73 countries have ratified the treaty. In addition, the Council set up the Convention on Road Signs and Signals, but only 15 states ratified that treaty. There was also the earlier 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, which dealt mainly with International Driving Permits, ratified by only 95 states, and generally regarded as a failure.

An International Road Traffic Organization could have more clout if it was a separate UN body, independent of the UN Economic and Social Council.

The Organization could set target dates for member states to adopt standards for driver training, testing and licensing. Instead of having a national license and an optional, but worthless, International Driving Permit, all licenses would be classed as international, but containing an endorsement for left or right side driving. Data sharing could prevent suspended drivers from driving in other states.

A target date for achieving uniform traffic rules and signs could be set, including a target for adopting metric measurements, rules, symbols and signs.

Like ICAO, an International Road Traffic Organization could establish universal standards for the investigation and reporting of accidents. Each member state would have an accident investigation unit operating independent of any other governmental body.

Commercial drivers currently have their driving time restricted in some states, but not in others. Amateur drivers can do as they please everywhere. A worldwide body could establish uniform driving time limitations for all.

Vehicle design standards vary from country to country, and currently many countries do not require periodic vehicle inspections. The Organization could greatly increase vehicle safety. The practice of disposing of unsafe vehicles in countries with lower standards, or no standards, could end.
Continued below . . .

The mandatory installation of GPS tracking, vehicle data recording and access limiting technology could have many benefits including improved road safety and lower insurance costs.

In this world of increasing international mobility, it is going to be vital to plan for even greater mobility in the years ahead and to adopt rules that will be understood and accepted everywhere. Wherever a person drives in the world, he or she should be able to do so confident that the rules are the same, and that other drivers will also be driving to the same rules.

Universal rules for flying and shipping, with few exceptions, have applied for many years and work well. It is time for motorists and their passengers to expect no less. It is time for the United Nations to take the lead.








Saturday, 12 September 2015


This Is A MUST Read: Take A Gander at This Amazing, But Little Known, 9-11 Story
Days with Lorna Subritzky Friday, 11 September 2015, 10:16AM

This incredible story is from a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15:
On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic.
All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.
As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”
No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.
He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately — no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.
While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.
We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland, to have it checked out.
We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM …. that’s 11:00 AM EST.
There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the US.
After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.”
Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the US. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.
The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane.
In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were US commercial jets.
Continued below . . . .

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.
People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada . Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.
Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.
We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.
We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.
Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.
Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing.
And they were true to their word.
Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.
About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.
After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel.
We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander!
We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the US airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.
We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.
Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.
Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.
What we found out was incredible…..
Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers.
Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.
ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.”
Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.
Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.
Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.
Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.
During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips.
Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests.
Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.
Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.
In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.
Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully.
It was absolutely incredible.
When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time.
Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.
Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.
And then a very unusual thing happened.
One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days.
He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.
He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.
“He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte.
He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!
“The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.
As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.
“I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them.
It reminds me how much good there is in the world.”
“In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward. Let’s not forget THIS fact.

This is one of those stories that need to be shared. Please do so…

Peter’s Point of View

What an amazing story!

On that tragic day in 2001 I was in a shopping centre in Stockton-on-Tees, England, and I heard the news on a shop radio. My first thought was that an amateur pilot had got lost in bad weather and hit a building accidentally. The scale of the ‘accident’ was still unknown. It was just an aircraft hits New York building story.
Peter in a Boeing simulator

That was a Tuesday and I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Los Angeles on the following Saturday morning. For several days the airline was unable to confirm that the flight would depart as scheduled. On Friday they said to go down to London and be ready, but they were still awaiting decisions by others and it was out of their control.

The scene at Heathrow was chaotic, but some trans-Atlantic flights were departing while others were cancelled. It all depended on the ability of individual airlines and destination airports to meet the new security requirements that came into force that day, the first day of resumed trans-Atlantic flights. The airline that I was with (American) had lost two aircraft on the last day that they had aircraft in the air. The big question for many people was, would they lose more aircraft on this day?

Thousands of distressed people milled about at Heathrow, queued, slept and protested the lack of information. It was a jittery day for everyone. Eventually, my flight was ready for check-in. I joined the line with four months of luggage including a camera and film in a lead-lined bag and a small tool kit. I declared these items at check-in, but they opted not to make an inspection.

Later, on board the aircraft, my name was called and I was asked to identify myself at the front door of the aircraft. I proceeded from the rear row to the front door while 300 pairs of eyes pierced the back of my neck, certain that a murderous hijacker had been discovered on their flight. A silver-haired captain met me at the door and explained diplomatically that they had decided to examine my luggage. I was escorted by guards to a small room in the terminal. After a short delay, the inspection was completed and after another delay my bag was loaded again. As I made my way back to my seat again, with the same 300 pairs of eyes boring into mine, I could see that many were surprised to see me again, and as I took my seat I was asked, “What was that all about?”

My answer for just such a question was ready. “Well, I have to be careful how much I tell you,” I replied. “But they wanted my opinion on a technical matter, and what I can tell you is that this Boeing is now perfectly safe.”

The push-back began as I spoke and we had a perfect flight with AA all the way to LA.