Travel

The Audacity of Hope

On Wednesday January 21st 2009,  I was in a hotel room in Christchurch, New Zealand, having set my alarm for an early wake up call so I could be witness to a truly historic moment.

I was enjoying the last couple of days of an amazing holiday which had taken me first to Australia and then on to the north, and finally the south island of New Zealand.

But although I had spent more than a month virtually cut off from the world, away from the news, enjoying some solo travel and relaxing, I was determined to be part of something which was happening in the USA.

So it was that, at 4am that morning, I turned on the TV to watch the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America.

Time-zone wise, Christchurch is 16 hours ahead of Washington DC - hence that early alarm because it was at 12noon in Washington DC on Tuesday January 20th that Barack Obama stood at the West Front of the United States Capitol building and took the presidential oath of office - the first ever African American president of the USA.

What an incredible moment in time and history!

I had followed the future president's journey to the White House over the previous year, read some of his books and was inspired. I think I was particularly intrigued because he has some roots in the country of Kenya, where I grew up. His father was from that country although of course, Barack was born in Hawaii in the USA. His book 'Dreams from My Father' is the first part of his amazing life story.

His second book 'The Audacity of Hope' picks up his story and actually the book explained and unpacked many of the subjects that became part of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency.

HOPE became a central feature of the campaign and of the new presidency and that was truly inspirational.

Of course, President Obama would go on to serve another term and among other things later in 2009, he would be honoured wit the Nobel Prize for Peace. The motivation for the prize was President Obama's "...extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." This, the Nobel Committee determined, was at the core of inspiring hope for a better future, not just in and for the USA but also for the world. He encouraged dialogue, co-operation between peoples, democracy and human rights, and this was recognised by the Nobel prize, along with his work to combat climate change.

President Obama still inspires today. His story continues.

His latest biography - 'A Promised Land'  - focuses on the first couple of years of his time as president. I look forward to Volume 2 !

But back to the theme of Hope ... 

It's an intangible thing. We can't touch it but we CAN feel it! We can't see it but we can experience it. When things are going wrong or at least not as we expected, it's easy just to cave and give up believing that life CAN be better. It's easy to lose hope.

But no matter how uncertain life might be, let's not lose that hope that sustains us. Let's keep the dreams we have for our lives, for our families, for our futures, alive. 

And here's a reminder which might help us...

To mark the birthday of President Barack Obama, who was born on this day ... August 4th  ... in 1961, I share an inspiring thought from the man.  

Hope - a belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead!

Now THAT is audacious!

Hope - Barack Obama
What an inspirational thought!

Oh and an interesting footnote about Barack Obama ... if you've done your sums, you'll know that today is a significant birthday for the great man.

He was 47 when he was first elected as president, one of the youngest American presidents in history - the average age of the presidents is 55 and, as we know even from very recent elections, many of the incumbents of the White House are often much older!

Happy 60th birthday Mr President!!

 


Beautiful Destinations

Just a quick thought for this Thursday!

We might think we're on a difficult path in life, but if we persevere we can end up in a beautiful place.

So even if life is tough for you at the moment ... keep on going. 

We don't know our final destination, we will never know where the journey might end.

But we should keep on believing that ...  it could be GLORIOUS!

And then the journey, hard or otherwise, will have been worth it!

Have a great day everyone!

 

Beautiful Destinations

 


An Unused Ticket

This week, in the run up to the celebration of Liberation Day in the Channel Islands I'm dipping into a fascinating series I recorded for radio which ran across 2019 into 2020 and told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey through 50 Objects held in the Jersey Heritage collections.

The series culminated around May 9th 2020 when we marked the 75th anniversary of the Liberation ... it was part of BBC Radio Jersey's contribution to Liberation75.

Yesterday I explained that on July1st 1940 Jersey and the other Channel Islands including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark were invaded by the German Nazi forces - Hitler thought it would be the next step to invading Great Britain.

The invasion came at the end of a turbulent few weeks when, by June 20th,  any remaining British forces were withdrawn from the islands, so leaving an 'open door' for the enemy to invade.

On June 28th, being unaware that the islands were undefended, there was a German bombing raid on Guernsey and Jersey in which 44 islanders were killed  - nine in Jersey and the remaining poor souls in Guernsey. The BBC broadcast a belated message that the islands had been declared "open towns" and later in the day reported the German bombing of the Channel Islands.

Some islanders, especially those with means and those with family members living in mainland Great Britain had already decided to leave but during those last weeks of freedom, as occupation became inevitable, many decided that they could not stay in their island home.

By June 21st it had become clear to the government of Guernsey that it would be impossible to evacuate everyone who wanted to leave, so priority was given to special categories in the time remaining. In total, 5,000 school children and 12,000 adults out of the resident population of 42,000 were evacuated - a third of the islanders left. In Jersey, 23,000 civilians registered to leave but consistently the government encouraged people to stay and in the end only 6,600 out of the 50,000 population left on evacuation ships ahead of the invasion and the start of the five year long Occupation.

And so to today's story from my series '50 Objects' recorded for BBC Radio Jersey in 2019/2020.

Object 5 - an unused ticketEach of the objects, from the collections at the Jersey Archive and Jersey Museum, were selected by the archivists and experts at the Archive. It was a real joy to work with them over the year and to learn so much about this crucial period of Jersey's history.

The most interesting thing is that many of the items selected to tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation appear on the surface completely inconsequential.

Like Object Number 5 - a boat ticket ....

Linda Romeril, the Head of Archives and Collections at Jersey Heritage,  picks up the story of the Unused Ticket

50 Objects - No.5 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 5 - 12 July 2019


Optimistic Monday

The other day I was having a conversation about long distance travel with some family members.

It's been a LONG time since many of us travelled anywhere, let along to the far flung corners of the globe. The past year, especially, with the coronavirus pandemic locking us into our own 'space', even the shortest flights and boat trips  and even car journeys have been somewhat restricted.

But we can dream!

Anyway, I was saying that one piece of advice I received about long distance journeys by air sounds a bit weird, but it actually works, especially when you're travelling to somewhere which is in a different time zone  - say three or four hours 'behind' or 'in front' of home.

And it's this. 

When you get on the aeroplane, immediately set your watch, or your phone, ahead or behind to the time in the place which will be your final destination. In other words, start THINKING yourself into the time zone where you will eventually end up.

As part of this, I usually start to think of my meals differently. So although the crew on your flight may say it's 'lunchtime', in your destination it may be 'dinner' or evening meal time. Actually, to be honest, on very long haul flights I don't tend to eat masses at every opportunity. I find my digestion works better while flying if I keep to small 'meals' and lots of water drinking!

If you are travelling a long distance all this won't stop you feeling tired, that' jet lag' that many of us have experienced, but I've found it cuts down the 'disorientation' which you can feel, for example, when you land somewhere and instead of it being the middle of night (as it is 'back home') it's almost lunchtime. 

Oh, and the other thing I do is to avoid going to bed until it is actually night time in my holiday destination. When I travelled to Australia a while back we landed in Sydney around lunchtime and it was mid-afternoon by the time we reached our holiday home in the suburbs of the city. We were all exhausted and some of the family did have a nap but my niece and I opted to go to the beach, and although we were exhausted, because actually back home it was the middle of the night, we managed to survive until early evening and I, for one, had a good night's sleep. Again, it was a bit of mind over matter and it was such fun, although a bit surreal to be on a sandy beach in the middle of summer when just a day before we'd left London in the middle of winter!

Why am I telling you all this?

Well it's because it's the start of the working week, whatever that may mean for you, and I'm determined today to apply the same principle.

Thinking positively, thinking myself into the week ahead, not worrying about the things that I have to do or the long list of 'must dos' and meetings I have scheduled. Thinking myself into the week with optimism, believing I can handle anything that gets thrown at me and that life is great.

I found this image and it says it all I think.  It works for a Monday, but actually it can apply to any day! 

So - have a great day, and have a great week!

Monday optimism
 


A London memory

I worked in London for many years and so commuting into the City and across the metropolis was a great part of my life for a good deal of time.

At one point and for many years I often passed through one particular London Underground (Tube) Station - Baker Street - almost daily, and I got to know it very well.

It's a fascinating place. It's where lots of different underground lines converge, and it's a labyrinth of platforms and interlinking corridors. 

And it's historic - Baker Street is one of the original stations of the Metropolitan Railway,  the world's first underground railway, which opened on 10 January 1863.  When I was working in London, the Bakerloo Line, which gets it's name because it links Baker Street and Waterloo among other stations, celebrated it's centenary. The line opened in various stages between 1906 and 1915.

Baker Street is also famous because of its links with the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock holmes baker streetHis creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Holmes living at a fictional address - 221B Baker Street - which back at the time when the novels were being written, would have been a high class residential area. Today the Sherlock Holmes Museum is at the address and there's a statute of Sherlock Holmes outside Baker Street station which also draws masses of visitors to the tube stop.

The platforms are decorated with tiles bearing an iconic silhouette of Holmes - pipe and all ! I love the way the powers that be have embraced the mystery of a fictional character, and woven it into a place of historic value.

But I'm thinking about this particularly today because, LONG  before I knew about the Tube station at Baker Street, I was aware of the name, thanks to a fantastic song which bears the same title.

Not that it has anything to do with the story of the underground station, but today is the birthday of Gerry Rafferty, the Scottish singer/songwriter and the creator of  'Baker Street'. Born this day - 16 April - in 1947

I've loved this song since it first made the charts in 1978, and I have to say, often when I passed through the actual station I found it ringing around in my head!

So - in celebration - here it is ... 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Inauguration Day

American  flagToday is Inauguration Day for the the new President of the United States of America.

Now I'm not going to get into the whys and wherefores of the last four years under the 45th President, or all the controversy that has followed the early November election, or recent events and developments in the place that has prided itself on its democratic history, processes and systems. Too many others have done that already.

But today, when Joseph Biden is sworn in as the 46th President at the Capitol Building  in Washington, D.C. he will follow in a long line of men (yes, only men so far) who have held an appointment which has given them immense power and authority. 

Sometimes it's controversial, and often exciting as the new incumbent of the White House solemnly raises his right hand, places his left hand on a Bible and, before the nation and the world, recites the Oath of Office of the President of the United States of America :-

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

It's an important moment in the life of the nation, but sometimes it's more historic than others.

In January 2009, I awoke very early in a hotel room in Christchurch, New Zealand (where I was coming to the end of a fabulous five week Holiday Down Under), to watch the swearing in of President Barack Obama. - his first term of office.

It was 12noon on the 20th January in Washington DC.  For me sitting in my jimjams in New Zealand, it was already 6am on the 21st. But I was absolutely determined to be part of this historic moment  - the swearing in of the first ever African American president. What a day!

So, to mark this next much anticipated inauguration, and as I am a bit of a history nerd, I've been digging further into the history of the Inauguration and I've discovered that it hasn't always been on January 20th or even at the Capitol building in the USA capital.

The first inauguration, of George Washington, took place on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York city. When he was sworn in, the city that now bears his name wasn't even built and Washington lived in New York and Philadelphia - both cities served as the American capital prior to the one we know today. In fact, it was while Washington was in office that he signed a bill which established a new, future, permanent capital city built along the Potomac River ... the place now named Washington, D.C. in his honour.


Follow your Dream

I’ve been a journalist for a long time. I’ve occasionally reinvented myself along the way, from newspaper reporter, to radio and television reporter, presenter and producer, to PR consultant and even to writer and author. Some would say I have a short attention span!

Maybe they’re right.

Down the years I’ve met some very special people, especially in my work as a journalist and presenter, and although I’m not one to name drop – well, not routinely anyway – I am privileged to have been in the same room and even conversed with some of them.

I’m thinking today of someone who I met him a couple of times during his lifetime in a professional capacity and who always left me in awe.

Why I’m mentioning him today? Well, because it was on January 7th 1925 that Gerald Durrell was born.

Writer, naturalist, conservationist, zookeeper, television presenter and a larger than life character, he founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the Jersey Zoo, which is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s no ordinary zoo but rather a place which epitomises Gerald Durrell’s passion for animals and conservation. Here – at its headquarters in the parish of Trinity in my lovely home island, and in its centres around the globe – the Trust is in the business of rescuing, breeding and sometimes reintroducing endangered species into the wild. The animals in its care are not kept in traditional cages and in fact, some of the work in Jersey which champions the cause of endangered species has also helped to change attitudes to 'zoos' and the way animals are kept in captivity.

Durrell statueI first read about ‘Gerry’s’ passion for the ‘little brown jobs’ – the inconspicuous animals which few others cared about – through his books including My Family and Other Animals’ and in recent years I’ve enjoyed the TV series ‘The Durrells’ which documented the Durrell family’s years living in Corfu in Greece.

Gerald Durrell was unorthodox, adventuring and a bit of a rule breaker. He followed his heart, often to the detriment of his wallet and his ambitions. He was a man of perseverance and untold imagination.

But what has resulted from his extraordinary if somewhat unconventional life is an exceptional place and mission, and some astonishing results in conservation. Thanks to Gerald Durrell, his team and legacy, there are dozens of species - many of them small and seemingly inauspicious - that survive today. And as each species is part of a chain, that often means that the saving of that one animal also may ensure the survival of those within its circle of life.

I remember when I was working at Channel TV (now ITVChannel) – the local commercial TV station for the Channel Islands - Durrell was already on the hunt for a strange almost legendary little creature purported to still be existing in the forests of Madagascar. Thought to be extinct, the Aye-Aye is a weird looking little beast  (actually a type of lemur) with bulging eyes and a long middle finger and in 1990, Gerald Durrell departed for that island off the coast of south Africa, to find it. He was accompanied by a Channel TV crew and I remember the excitement surrounding the expedition. And they made a brilliant film on return!

Today you can see some of the offspring of the original Aye-Ayes that were rescued, in the Jersey Zoo, living in a specially designed enclosure which mimics the climate and darkness of the Madagascan forest. It’s one of my favourite places at the Zoo. And if you’re interested you can read about Durrell’s last major animal-collecting expedition  in a book called ‘The Aye-Aye and I’.

We can’t all be internationally renowned conservationists, or even pioneers who change the world. But if we have a passion, perhaps we can determine how much it means to us, and start following it – if we are brave enough?

And so,  the question I ask myself today is – am I really following my dreams?

Gerald Durrell - Wikipedia

Image of statue of Gerald Durrell at the Jersey Zoo .. thanks to Alice & Richard Nunn