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After basic training - a bit like school days, as it turned out I was still just about OK-ish at boxing - was posted to the Far East for almost three years, there living among various peoples; Malay (and Dayak), Sikh, Chinese, Thai and Indian, who each had their own formal brand of philosophy, which I could live with and even feel at home with.

A house in Borneo Early on lived and worked in isolated locations in Borneo, meeting mostly good and kind local people of various creeds:  Buddha, Confucius and Islam.

On jungle-clad Labuan Island, spent months in a tent on a remote mountain-top, near the bamboo hut of the only neighbours: Ali - grower, hunter, fisherman and craftsman cutting and working big-bamboo with razor-sharp golok or parang (slim, keen machetes), his beautiful wife Ayesha - who could find and cook most growing stuff and also make their minimal clothing, and their two children.

We were like a family; close friends and allies against the worst that nature could do to us and sharing the good things of life with each other.

Back in Singapore there were sudden race-riots (instigated by political parties vying for power?) and a 24 hour curfew was hurriedly imposed, only later changed to allow a bare hour for getting food/water.  My Chinese girlfriend - who'd risked her own life to get me back to Camp - lived in the center of the city, and my Army base, out to the west, was under lock-down, so, desperate to be doing something, Youngster in Singapore volunteered to ride shotgun on the `despatches runs', lone dashes by Landrover through the city and around the Island several times a night, taking military/diplomatic messages to and from all the various bases.

A Landrover's a rather fragile vehicle, despite the metal grills bolted over the windows, so I doubt the driver or me would've survived a run-in with any of the mobs roaming the streets.  However, although only a skinny kid at the time, maybe thought I was invulnerable (like most teens&twenties do?).

[ At first a `shotgun rider' had a submachine gun (as in photo) with 300 rounds (in a box), but later the (safe) authorities decided we were expendable and issued us only with pick-helves or truncheons. ]

Later went for a while to eastern Thailand, on the Laos border, and met a bunch of interesting characters - some who carried guns (guarding local warlords - or fighting to overthrow them) but were good folk all the same.  Enroute, some sweet girls in Bangkok took pity on us young soldiers when we were stranded, without hardly any money, after our plane broke down - it made a dramatic landing with engines spluttering.  We were stuck there about a week.

The girls worked in a bar across from our hotel and would call us to sit with them in the bar and, when the Mamasan wasn't looking, poured us Mekong whisky (instead of expensive `bar drinks').  Staid military `authority' had warned us that whisky was lethal, but I had no problem with it.

Life was interesting in the eastern borderlands of Thailand/Laos, along the Mekong River.  When walking alone at night, maybe to/from some nearby village, would sometimes hear a cough from the darkness.  It was a polite warning from an armed man - probably carrying a shotgun or riot-gun - not to stray off the track just there.  That's a sign of thoughtful and considerate folk.

For a while was near to a US Army comms station (atop Phu Mû, a tallish hill near the border), and sometimes went up to socialize - Lootenant Brown was their friendly O.C, and my drinking partners there included the demolition Sgt. (known as `Shakey' by the survivors).
BTW - one time they had a big party (maybe showing Bob Hope's `Xmas Tours Movies') and I borrowed a bed.  Next morning got woken up by a young and pretty `laundry girl' who was amused by my request for a shower (she took me up the hill to an open wash-place where I had to shower in full view of her and her friends).  On our return to the hut, and despite the lack of a common language, she managed to ask if I could take her with me to Singapore when I left (she'd found out where I was based).  Sadly I had to tell her the Brit Army didn't allow that sort of thing.

Must admit that relationships in the Far East featured some of those`strong-minded' women mentioned in preface - of about my own age, or a year or two older.  Me being blue eyed and blond-haired maybe stimulated the interest of some.

[ Those early jobs in isolated places - in Borneo, Thai/Laos border and many `detachment' jobs as a youngish detachment commander with crews often older than me and sometimes even senior in rank (a full-corporal Welsh Guardsman volunteered to be my driver when I was still a lance-corporal), in the mountains and jungles of Malaya - were maybe fortuitous, because entries in one's Confidential Record such as "able to cope in isolation" and "works well independently" and "popular with his own guys", while of no use to an ambitious (pushy) `regimental soldier', probably influenced the Army computer&records office to later continue to select me for those jobs I liked best:  liaising with disparate service or civilian groups at grass-roots level and working in remote places, under pressure, and often alone.

BTW might as well mention it here - apart from formal duties like Orderly Officer or commanding various guard detachments, I've usually only accepted charge of people who've `voted' - one way or other - for me to to run that operation or mission.  And, luckily enough, have most often worked, after early postings, in small and `special' units (i.e. where we used first names and _no_ seniority rules) where that `voting' or group selection was the norm - because it's generally more effective; as the SAS and SBS could testify. ]

In the Army it's often said that one's first posting sets the tone for future military life, and maybe later.  If so, I'm content, for two reasons:
i) in the Far-East had absorbed some of the oriental philosophy* which seems more fitting for life than mere materialism or mindless consumerism;
ii) while there had lived together intimately, either as half of a couple, or as hard-working colleagues, with folk of all colours and creeds, and so became set against racism, bullying* and oppression from then onward.

* i.e - that striving for knowledge, including self-knowledge, is needful for a full life.

* re: bullying / racism -
Found, in later service, that just one or two individuals can stop and eradicate bullying, even in large groups - like regiments of 1,000+ men - simply by speaking out and showing a consistently good example (provided they were / are popular in the regiment anyway).

So when hearing of endemic bullying, in police, military or even schools etc., have to presume the affected group is of low intelligence, or severely lacking morale (i.e. they are "thick" or "sick").

Afterwards was in Germany doing a lot of `exercise work'* in the field, where, incidentally, was reunited with many Fijian pals first met in basic training.  Then to UK for a while, getting involved with satellite comms, doing training and then work with RAF units and also some science establishments.  After a few years went to Italy to train for a different type of communications (on a 6 month NATO course).

Then, back with the British Army, began a longish period of shortish visits to various places, early on with small groups, and, as time went by, increasingly by myself - Africa, Europe, US and the Caribbean, HM Ships (warships) and the Mediterranean islands.

During rotation periods in the UK some relationships were significant;  it may be that a certain respect for wild-life and nature in general came from time shared with a `country-girl' - timewise mostly in England and Scotland, although Wales also featured.

[ Strangely, although I'd maybe considered myself a techie type, when sent on a `military promotion' course - 6 weeks of marching + shouting, plus hiking, shooting and freezing in the winter depths of North Yorkshire - it resulted in being awarded "top student" and having photo hung in the `hall of honour' (actually the main corridor of the HQ building).

Mind you, have always been a good rifle shot, either with high-velocity military weapons or slow-kick black-powder rifles, and scored `First Class' or `Marksman' [highest UK rating] on annual tests (even though never getting time to practise).  Pistol-shooting also came naturally and was pretty good at throwing grenades (only have a tendency to watch too long and maybe not duck fast enough).  When firing anti-tank rockets was also quite accurate, you just have to guard against anyone behind you being fried by the exhaust blast.

[ N.b. Although often carrying a loaded rifle, sometimes at night and through periods of purposeful stress and tension, have never fired a shot accidentally.  That's a surprisingly common occurence - even among `regimental' type soldiers.  Recall one or two clumsy folk doing that during UK range-work, or on exercises in Africa, and in the Gulf - sound carries a long way in the hush of the jungle or desert.]

Thinking about it, maybe another cause of that `top student' recommend was being a sociable character, able to get along with most folk.

Being known as a sociable bloke, was given the job of sailing in some Navy warships in order to improve our mutual communications (having worked extensively with RAF crews already knew the three Services speak different languages).

Initially sailed on the frigate HMS Leopard (on its final cruise to the Med, through Gibraltar - where they dropped me off), then on the much bigger cruiser HMS Blake which was taking part in sea exercises in the Channel (where we detected and picked up that amateur `yachtsman' trying to sail (to India?), winching his boat aboard with little damage apart from some of our wiring).

Both crews gave me a great welcome and fine times in the various messes - the chat&drinking rules on RN ships are liberal, though arcane.

Then followed by a period of several years being sent to do separate jobs in Central America (now sometimes travelling and working alone).

There I met a different ethos, which I'd already begun to notice in Caribbean women, whereby females, from their teens onwards show a more independent and forthright attitude to men - making their own choices and propositions and feeling able to switch to another male fairly readily.

For a while became a regular visitor, enjoying hospitality from grass-roots level, meeting people from different walks of life and finding folk very friendly.
(Although there's always exceptions - maybe see badguys.html).

The Central American period was followed by return visits to Singapore In the Gulf are and Africa, (for a second time), and the Gulf, which I'd been `visiting' - initially as a very young passing-thru traveller - off and on since the mid-late late '60s.
Having hiked and slept-out in various environments - hot deserts, snowy mountains and deep jungles - generally prefer the mountains, although the African jungle is surprisingly `friendly' to humans, much more than say, Central or South America, where aggressive (and some lethal) reptiles and insects abound.

Most African wild-life, even the predators, seems quite polite in avoiding too close contact (after their curiosity is satisfied - e.g. you'll often find leopard prints around your camp when you wake up in the morning, some even passing under your hammock).  All they ask is that the human also respects their privacy and doesn't impede their movements.  As you might imagine, camping, or worse, sleeping on an elephant's usual path through the woods (and thereby blocking it) would be downright rude - and foolish.

Maybe illustrating that point, here's an actual close encounter (it's also in African text file below):

One afternoon, alone in the bush - arriving on a remote hilltop on the southern edge of the Rift Valley - accidentally got in the middle of a large troop of baboons, complete with females, children and babies.  The big males were spooked and surrounded me, showing their very large teeth.  However I had to remain at that location for an upcoming RV, so just lit a smoke and rather fatalistically looked at the view (the wide deep valley stretching northeast), and waited to see what would happen next.

In a few minutes the big males slowly relaxed (perhaps because they thought I was), the females resumed feeding (browsing the bushes), and even the babies peeked out at me over the shoulders, or from behind the legs, of their mothers.

Quite a long time later the expected patrol approached from the north, climbing uphill, but well before the guys crested the plateau all of the baboon troop quietly disappeared into the bushes.

Ever since then I've felt grateful to baboons: just one of them could've ripped me apart in seconds.
[note: "RV" = military for `rendezvous' - pre-arranged time + place of meet-up]


Then was asked to accept a post in southern Italy for two years, which eventually (at the request of my local NATO bosses, and against UK Army regulations) became four years, and incidentally brought a repetition of a somewhat unusual role for a military guy.

Unusual Role
Might as well cover that role now: one visit to Central America was by urgent `request' (maybe because I'd done a few offbeat jobs, appparently Army regs now needed me to officially `volunteer' for further solo missions.  I.e. - the desk-warriors in London were probably protecting themselves if anything went wrong).

Although I'd only just returned from Africa and hadn't hardly had time to unpack or clean my gear, as usual I agreed, and recall getting a ticket to travel by jumbo-jet London-Miami, then buying a seat on a Central American airline to go further south.

On arrival was told I'd been `asked for by name' to be communicator and companion for a young woman of the English gov't establishment [Foreign Office].  That wasn't a difficult job; she was a charming girl and very intelligent so we quickly became pals.  Though our little house and its location was isolated - close by the extensive central jungle & swamplands (lots of wildlife; some very large), and might've been lonely for some folk - we had a great time and kept in touch long after.

(Much later would get quizzical looks from military clerks when picking-up mail from her: like a large official-looking envelope with impressive red wax seals, stamped `From The British Embassy at The Hague' or suchlike place.  I.e. in addition to diplomatic privilege, she also had a sense of humour.)

Then, some time after starting work in Italy, was again asked to be escort / chaperone, this time for a young lady arriving from the US academic / military establishment (like the Foreign Office girl, she held officer rank and was more or less fresh from college).  Maybe because we both found official Euro-ceremonies rather pompous and comical, we were soon close friends, which made me a temporary American, observing Thanksgivings at the homes of US military families, and doing `American' stuff like bowling, and cinema with huge bags of popcorn etc.

Nb. - already had close US military ties, some were neighbours and some colleagues.  A US Navy pal had persuaded me to take him and his young son up the mountains so the lad could experience some `trekking' early on.  Recall we had a good few days climbing, getting overheated by noon, freezing cold at nights and seeing some fantastic sunsets while making cowboy coffee.  Think my dogs were happy with the extra company.

And my `best pal' neighbour was a US Army guy - Dennis - who called himself a hillbilly but was actually expert in all techniques of country-living / working and enjoying life.  Dennis and his beautiful Vietnamese wife gave me many intimate evenings of great food, music and sipping whisky [we began with JB but Dennis eventually succumbed to Glenmorangie, while I got a taste for Bourbon and Rye], when even other Americans were usually absent - except my US `girlfriend'.

BTW - As you might know, the military use psychological profiles as well as aptitude assessments when placing people in roles - and also when finding someone for a particular job.

For instance, as you've seen above, I was an excellent rifle shooter - usually scoring `Marksman' even when tested without practice.  Wouldn't someone like that be asked to be a "sniper" maybe?  No - it was probably contra-indicated by psychological data.  I'm probably not a killer by nature.

On the other hand, from early on while working as a trouble-shooter was frequently asked if I'd like to be an Instructor; a proposal I always turned down (because it sounded boring).

However, when offered the job in Italy was working in hot and sweaty jungly conditions in Central America, which made southern Europe and the Mediterranean sound good, so I sort-of overlooked the fact that it was an Instructor post.

Working and living in southern Italy also made deep friendships among grass-roots Italian folk (especially among my neighbours in the mountains), and other Mediterranean people, also with military and civilian colleagues and their families.

During that time got to renew the enjoyments of hill-walking and mountain climbing, with minimum supplies and mostly alone - especially appreciated after the over-eating and drinking which usually accompanied most festival periods in Italy - see metamail96.html#italy for one example.

[ Although preferring to climb alone, for the sake of the military students, who got claustrophobic after months of classroom work, decided to take each course on a day's (speedy) climb on the nearest mountain after my phase of their studies, so they could get some exercise and enjoy themselves - and speak freely (they knew their exam results and that their reports had already been written).

All military courses seemed to enjoy their day's trek and climb to the peak - the Turks and French especially (they had some tough high-stamina guys who ignore blisters), with Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians, Greeks, Brits & others close behind.

(After a while, some civilian dependents - wives and girlfriends - opted to also try walking/climbing, although seperately, in more sedate hill-walks, which occupied some of my time.)

Apropos, led similar small groups on various occasions in Africa and the Far-East and, glad to say, never lost anybody. ]

A close colleague and friend was Sandro Nicoli, a Sergente maggiore (Sergeant major) of the Alpini, a grand character, with a beautiful wife (who was also a great cook).  Through his Alpine Troops connections he arranged a climbing / sight-seeing expedition in the Italian Alps for some of the younger folk, mostly students and their wives / girlfriends, from our NATO base in southern Italy.

Our `guide' was a retired Alpini, maybe 50 or 60 years old, who led us at a fast pace; we were much younger, a couple of dozen males and females, but he soon had most folk fairly tired, while non-stop smoking Italian MS cigarettes (`morte sicura' - certain death).  He led the column and I took up the `sweeper' role at the back, looking out for stragglers.  However, didn't need to rescue anyone until towards the end of the outing, when (according to folk at the front), our guide just stepped off a cliff!

Yup - he simply rode down the steepish cliff on a mini landslide of loose scree - it's easy enough if you have good balance and've done it myself on occasions;  although nowadays it's illegal in National Parks and suchlike places, as it speeds-up erosion.  The only problem was:  he and the first ten or so skated down on scree - but then the scree was mostly gone.  So by the time I arrived there were a dozen or more blokes and girls stranded, in several groups scattered across the precipitous hard rock-face with no scree left to skate on - and calling for help -

Luckily don't seem to suffer from vertigo in the mountains and can usually trust my footing -

In Snowdonia - as on a military training challenge:- running, non-stop, the length of Crib Goch, and all the way down the Pyg track to Pen-y-Pass valley (the Youth Hostel).
I.e. a `special forces' guy and me were training another Army bloke and walked him across that "knife-edge" twice, the third time we just went for it full tilt, me in front - quite an exhilarating run (it was early in the year and the weather was cold and blowy; no civilians to get in our way);

- so it was fairly easy to work my way down the cliff, criss-crossing the denuded scarp-face to pick up each panicking bunch, and then advise them to choose a safe route and slide down slowly, on their backsides if necessary (most were scared to stand up - the cliff being so steep).  Eventually got everyone down safe, by walking beside and/or above them, being reassuring.

Afterwards, they (a mixed bunch of European and American military and civilian youngish men and women associated with our NATO base in southern Italy), were competing in spinning tales of their experience, to tell friends at home, or future children or grandchildren.

BTW - Maybe because I owned rifles/shotguns, and was seen to use them (usually just for target practise - with friends), my place was never troubled by the Camorra - who usually raided local estates October time when the rich people would probably be away.  Any parked vehicles were stolen (and their documents) and the big houses were totally looted of furniture and stuff.

BTW2 - Apart from that, got the impression that the Camorra guys sort-of approved of what I was doing (and how I was living), and left me alone to do my thing.  The Camorra trucks would rumble into the estate past my open driveway, where there was a saloon car and a new sport-car parked - and never stopped, not even on the way out.

Almost forgot - when the water supply to that estate ran short (rather rarely) due to low water-table for the well at the bottom of the hill, was confident enough about my local friends that I would go on my usual hill-climbing weekends while leaving the house door unlocked, mainly so that an American girl (a neighbour from higher up the hill) could go in to take a shower and maybe fill a few cans (my little house was the lowest in the estate so its water never dried up while I was there).

After four years in Italy, was given a travelling / inspecting role, based in UK, which threw me into contact (and liaisons) with folk in Cyprus, central and northern Europe, and many places in UK, from the south east corner all the way up to the northern-most of the Shetland Isles.

[ To see some of the delights of those islands maybe check bio4.html (text) and bio5.html (photos). ]

Had to travel in Europe for conferences etc., which allowed some amusements.

Leaving the military on completion of my contract (22 years), worked in Saudi Arabia on an M.o.D sub-contract for a year (plus an extra month at their request).

[ Part-way through (during Ramadan leave), returned to that southern Italy Air-Force college, being asked by the Italian Commmandant to present diplomas to a course of Turkish Air-Force guys at their graduation ceremony.  A somewhat unusual duty for a civilian, although maybe apt due to ties with Turkey and Turkish folk (western and eastern) - recently strengthened by archeological and historical research interests.  Enjoyed the visit quite a bit - as you might imagine a holiday break in southern Italy was quite a change from Arabia. ]

In Saudi was teaching Arab military specialists, mostly youngish blokes with a lively curiosity, and became well-known for my use of Heath Robinson's cartoon inventions as a student-friendly lesson `warm-up'.  In return the guys would tell me tales of their legends and of the djinn, who were likely to tempt and trick you when alone in the desert - as I was, on a fairly regular basis.

I.e. in addition to my instructing role, would also drive out at weekends to military comms stations (all in isolated and rugged locations) where the ex-pat `chief' (they were mostly ex-military pals of mine anyway) had officially requested me to lend a hand.

Was somewhat surprised and maybe flattered when my students asked me to grow a beard - so they could call me `teacher' in Arabic.  As you can see I did grow a shortish beard, which was apparently enough.

BTW - Back in UK I found that most folk think Arab womenfolk are shy and reclusive.  Don't you believe it!
If, at the weekend you happen to be in a city's Souk, especially the arcaded and air-conditioned shop area and you decide to step into a gold shop (there are usually many of them all in one place), you'll probably be followed in by a group of girls (along with mother or older chaperone) who will then pretend to be trying on earrings, necklaces and stuff.
That allows them to drop their veils (burqas or niqabs) and ogle any male foreigner they're interested in.  If there are several girls they'll take turns distracting mother or chaperone while the others do the smiling and batting of eyelashes.
People are people the world over.

BTW2 - Present custom in Saudi more or less forbids Saudi females showing more than eyes, hands and feet, and, apart from the head and face, the same is also true for males.  Therefore expats tend to live in high-walled enclosed buildings where we could have swimming pools and sunbathing areas without offending local tastes.

So you can imagine my momentary shock - while relaxing by our pool, wearing swimming trunks - when I heard the sound of high-heels and looked up to see a female figure, in full burqa (covered head to foot in black), coming round the building towards me.

Thankfully, before she reached my deckchair she pulled off the covering, showing herself to be an attractive young girl, who was from Somalia/Ethiopia (so she looked like the model-girl Iman, who once modestly said:  `Back home most girls look like this').

We were already friends, having gotten together at a few parties and celebrations (think one was an Xmas party), maybe because her main European language was Italian, and I spoke it (roughly - from recent work in southern Italy).
She must've been amused at my expression when she'd first approached - and gave me a scare - for she had a secret smile all the time we talked.

BTW3 - Because I was a fast and competent driver, not likely to be caught in Riyadh's traffic snafus (and therefore would sometimes speedily drive certain folk around the city at night to meetings [which I didn't want to know about]), was also asked to pick up the girls (mostly nurses) who attended our parties, maybe a few times a month.
I.e. early on the evening of week-end I would drive a limo to the big car-parks of city hospitals (e.g. `Royal' ones) and wait - until some six or eight burqa-clad girls (covered in black from head to foot) came to the car, got in, and then spoke English (or maybe Italian or French) to me.  Might make several trips, early and late, during that evening and possibly some later at night or early in the morning.
The whole operation was `illegal' in Saudi Arabia, a) because the girls were unchaperoned, and b) because I was driving a vehicle with unmarried women (not married to me).  However the girls trusted me to get us past Saudi police - fast - without accidents or incidents (which I always did).
So, later in that Saudi tour, some of the girls responded by inviting me to their own - securely guarded - quarters for a more private evening party, which was pleasant.

After the Arabian interlude, returned to the UK to live mainly in the countryside, although sometimes doing survey work in major conurbations.

Maybe thought that country life would be quieter and less complicated, but it turned out that the UK wasn't the law-abiding democracy that I and maybe most other people living and working overseas have always been told by the Press, BBC and other media - the MSM.  Quite the reverse, as simple observation showed, even before any investigation.

[It turned out that military technical and academic work had given me `post-graduate' status, so did a couple of years work on a PGCE course - maybe learning more about the inadequacies of UK education than anything else - see ed4.html]

So, while private life passed through various relationships, in `public life' began to apply the logical analysis which under-pinned most of past military and civilian work.

From c.'94 - '97 began work on a reading and `thought-experiment' study concerning basic physics and then particle physics, which quite quickly brought results - a basic proposition paper on `The UEF Theory' was circulated in 1996 (see reply from A.C. Clarke).

During that hectic time - almost as relaxation - was using my own social observations and a great deal of historical research to try to come to a more realistic theory of social evolution - resulting in the `Altruist Survivor' theory (or principle).

Both `theories', although very different in nature, formed the core of the first publications of `Perceptions' in the next few years - although the A.S theory/principle was still wanting most of the corroborating evidence which, however, accumulated over the next ten years or so.

[ An unexpected opportunity to test the forecasts of the UEF Theory came in 1999 at the August eclipse.  Took the trouble to mail /email part of those forecasts to various scientific (and military) agencies.  Those forecasts / warnings were justified, and a year later a second forecast / warning, this time re: `flight trauma', actually began saving lives. ]

In addition, those two contrasting strands - `social & physiological evolution' and `radical new physics' - seemed to chime with the thoughts of a wide and intelligent readership.

Travel and trouble-shooting (coupled with "No-TV"), has maybe prepared-for and even helped-with ongoing investigations - and appreciations - of modern life.

Some results of those investigations are featured in these grouped pages - hopefully more to come.

Ray Dickenson
(May, 2012)

Most of the details above are available - if you have `access' - at UK Army and other M.o.D records, along with more which hasn't been featured here - some for modesty's sake. - Ray D

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