The Rod Blog

25 September 2006


Hello All

Finally found an internet point and its as slow as a wet week I just typed you a lovely long email and the damn thing timed out and ate it so here we go again!!!!!

Luckily the weather here has been good so we have done heaps of walking up and down the mountains. We did an interesting walk the other day, right up through a mountain to the top. This area was a front between Austria and Italy during WW1 and the Austrians were on top of the mountain chucking bombs down on the Italians in the pass so the Italians dug a tunnel right up through the rock to the top of the mountain underneath the Austrian position and blew the crap out of them. Wars are so dumb but the tunnels are still there and now you can climb up through them to 2752m it is very steep with a wire rope to haul yourself along and steps. We had to wear helmets and head torches as it is also very dark inside a mountain!

Missing you all, although I am still having fun. We have 1 more day of walking here then off to Padua then Ill get the train to Ancona which Im not looking forward to at all. I wish Id never agreed to it now!! Then I fly back to London then up tho Scotland to visit Cathy then over to Ireland then back to London and finally home. I cant wait to bore you with all my piccies and stories!!

Better go before the computer eats this message.

23 September 2006

A Shithouse Movie

One quick thing before I start...I did suspect, but now I know.

Claire's a basket case.

Katie & I just got back from watching the Australian move Kenny.
It was great! Go and see it.
Oh - "shithouse"? That's a silly joke. You'll need to watch it to find out.

It reminds me a little of the classic The Castle.

Rather interesting in the light of the current waffle about "Australian values". Whatever that is, it comes through in this film. The wonderful, raw sense of humour.

And then, when I got home, there was a story about Terry Hicks, father of David currently rotting, without any proper legal process.
Australian values? Phhhhhhhaaa!

18 September 2006


We have done loads of excellent touristy things in Venice gawping at churches, St Marks and the Dogos Palace and the Camponella and the canals and all the funny little narrow streets.

It’s really easy to get lost and you can wander around back alleys for ages going up and down and around in circles and because all the buildings are so tall you can’t see where you are and then suddenly you come upon another square or canal.

I’ve been for a ride down the grand canal on a ferry but not on a gondola.

The train ride down from the top of the mountains from Chamonix to Switzerland was really spectacular very steep along the sides of a huge gorge and lots of tunnels on a very small train with rack and pinion to help it up and down the steep windy bits.

It has been very wet in Venice and that plus the high tides have caused lots of flooding. Half of St Marks square was under water the other day.

I’m glad Im not walking in the mountains in it we were amazingly lucky wjth all the good weather we had on our 2 weeks in the alps. It is supposed to be improving so I hope the Dolomites wont be washed out.

We are picking up a car tomorrow and driving up there. Phil went back to Ireland today and Paul is still with us he is coming to the Dolomites for a few days. I will go over to Ireland and spend a couple of days after Ancona and also go up to Scotland and visit Cathy.

17 September 2006

Sinking in the deep end

Well that was interesting.

There’s nothing like jumping right into the deep end. Let’s not start with L-plates, I’ll hope straight into the sports car, and hit the first corner at 200kph.

I conducted my first ever radio interview yesterday. I might have started by going to the church fete, and interviewing somebody about their flower arrangements. But no, it had to be the communications director of a major international aid agency to discuss the most dire topic of the crisis in the Congo.

There’s nothing like a bit of naivety… correction…did I say a “bit”?...make that a truck load. Good ol’ Rod, here he comes. Knows little about interviewing, stuff-all about the Congo, and even less about international aid. Launch him towards a long-time media veteran. French, patronising, somewhat arrogant, and clearly annoyed by the simple fool interviewing him.

And I thought the worst I could get would be the single grunts of someone not talkative. But the problem wasn’t his lack of words. Instead, it was the little gems like the one when I asked him what is the budget of his organisation. This was the only time he paused. Then he said “that is not a clever question”!

I’ve got to say it was not a pleasant experience.

I may have been – be ignorant, but he was completely unhelpful about one of the key things I wanted to understand. That is - how do you sustain any sense of hope when things are so utterly bleak.
Of AIDS, and of child soldiers, and tragic circumstance. It is hard enough look into the face of a starving child, but when you feel powerless to help it becomes unbearable.

And of course, through all my chewing over a bad experience I know there are people out there who are really suffering: people who would gladly swap a little ego-anguish for a good meal.

10 September 2006

Creative Depravity

It’s been said that Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree when a naked woman fell on him. And so he discovered the law of depravity (boom boom!).
Okay, not really. Perhaps you know it was actually the law of gravity.

George de Mestral went for a walk, and got the idea for Velcro from the hooked seeds in his dog’s fur.

More recently, some bright spark must have been watching some people throwing frisbees. I was reading about it in today’s newspaper, and he’s come up with this idea of a frisbee-like weapon. It whizzes around, delivering bombs to some target.

It quotes blurb which says “combatants in complex urban terrain and provide precision [fire] to neutralise…hostiles”.

“Neutralise” does, of course, mean to kill or mame. That’s “kill”, as in “to use lethal force against another human”.

I’d just like to pause a moment, and let that thought sink in. Here we have some creative person, perhaps sitting in a park watching kids throw a frisbee around. Hey!, he thinks. I’ve just thought up a new way to kill people!

Doesn’t that strike you as weird?

08 September 2006

News from MumInBoots

Well here we are in Switzerland we walked 20km today over the Col Ferret (very high mountain pass) from Italy across the border which is at the top of the Col down into Switzerland.

There were no eidelweiss but we were moved to sing all the sound of music songs any way. We are staying in a very small village in the mountains called La Fouly, in the Eidelweiss Hotel. There is a little hut with internet, amazing.

My knees are pretty sore after all the ups and downs today and yesterday but luckily tomorrow is reasonably level and then we are in Champex and have another rest day so they should get me there.

There were a lot more people on the trail today but most disappeared of into the hills after we reached the top of the Col and were obviously day walkers. There are a few people in groups of 2 & 3 who we bump into along the way who are doing "the tour" the most amazing thing that happened was that we met am older English couple in a refuge (Motetts) in France which we literally staggered into at 7pm just as dinner was being served after an exhausting 9 hr day climbing up from Les Contamines via the Col Des Four and down again.

We didn't talk to them much as we were so tired, then the next day they set off ahead of us to the next Col and then waited for us at the top and we toook a couple of photos together and we went down a short way and stopped just after lunch (at the Refuge Elizabetta) as it was starting to rain they went on to Courmayeur. Then the next day we walked half way to Courmayeur and then caught the bus the rest of the way as Jenny was sick.

The next day we were heading off for our amazing cablecar trip and bumped into them as they were setting off for Refugio Bonatti (where we stayed last night) and we were chatting and it terned out he was Kev Reynolds and she his wife (only the man who wrote the guide book which is our TMB bible) So we took a couple of photos together and completely forgot to get him to sign our books we were so overwhelmed, we won't get the chance now as they are a day ahead of us now.

We are still having a great time, there is a big storm brewing and lots of thunder so we might be walking in the rain tomorrow, luckily we are down low all day so we won't be missing any views.

Yesterday we arrived at the refuge in the early afternoon and we were sitting out the front enjoying a well earned beer and admiring all the snow capped peaks and glaciers opposite and suddenly there was a big rumble and an avalanche came down the glacier near Mt Blanc.

05 September 2006

Mum in Boots on Blanc

This posting care-of Mum who's somewhere around Mt Blanc at the moment. With simulated graphics of the scene supplied by you-know-who.

"Wonderful to read all your news you are all busy and apparrently coping well without me I am pleased. Sorry I can't reply to you individually but this is the only internet connection ie 1 computer available in Courmayeur and it is very expensive for only 45 minutes and very slow took me half an hour just to load and read all your excellent news.

Had a brilliant day today the weather was superb and we caught a series of cable cars to the top of the Aiguille du Midi 3842metres high and right next to Mt Blanc!!!!!

The veiws over the top of the Alps were absolutely spectacular and yes I took lots of photos! We went right over the top of the Alps from Courmayeur in Italy to Chamonix in France by cable car and then came back to Italy by bus through the Mt Blanc tunnel right under the Alps, how cool is that???

My knees are much better and I got some elastic support bandages for them too, Jenny is over her bug so we are all set to stride off into the mountains again tomorrow!"

02 September 2006

Ritual combat with drums

Claire and I just got back from a Drum Tao concert.

Amazing! Perhaps the most remarkable display of pin-sharp controlled agression I've seen.
I cannot adequately describe the disciplined energy these performers throw into their playing. They wallop these massive big-arsed drums with full force and perfect timing.

At one point they came out with these drumsticks - and I'm not exagerating - they were bigger than baseball bats, and proceeded to clobber the bejeebers out of a drum the size of a small barn.

Huge fun. I am confirmed fan of Japanese taiko drums.