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Archive for the ‘adventures in Europe’ Category

 

Leopard Tank – Reforger, Germany, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

An odd thing happened to me while I was in Germany. I was injured in a tank accident and I still bear the scar on my forehead.

This is me posing in front of one of the tanks – can’t remember which one it was, but some of the vehicles in the background are M113s – used for carrying the infantry sections that add to the “punch” of a mechanized brigade. We are in an armored defensive position somewhere in Hohenfels.

Being new I was still in the process of experiencing the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Grouping, understanding who does what and how it all fit together. 4 CMBG was tasked with plugging an Eastern Bloc advance if things ever came to that – thankfully they didn’t as it’s unlikely that I’d be telling this story if it had.

Shortly after this picture was taken I found myself in the gunners seat of one of these tanks (Leopard). It was nauseating as the whole turret spins both on top of the tank and in a cone down inside the cursed thing.

The Leopard tank cruises in excess of 60 kilometers an hour and so as you hit trees, holes and whatever at those speeds, going backwards,sideways and all ways with no visibility beyond this scope thing in front of you it doesn’t take you long to start feeling motion sickness. The tank can keep going forward on its own long after the crew within it has been battered to death by impacts – it is a truly terrifying machine whose purpose is to crush, incinerate and kill other people in trenches, lesser tanks, houses or wherever they may be hiding. In retrospect – being part of a tank crew – its an odd kind of career to aspire to (but someone has to do it!).

I can’t remember exactly what the reason was, but the other 3 members of the crew had these tanker helmets on and I did not. The crew commander kept shouting to get my face against the sight, but every time I tried we would hit a tree or a hole and it felt like somebody had just punched me in the nose. Incidentally, a tree in a Leopard at 65 KM/hr is not quite the shock that you’d imagine,it’s generally just a bump. I can’t imagine that anyone can actually sight onto a target like that – they had to be having some fun with me (because I was new???).

Having already thrown up I kept trying to do as instructed when suddenly the tank bottomed out into a large crater and I hit the sight full impact in the forehead. I remember the incline when the tank stopped and we were tipped well forward and then the engines gunned and the tank backed up onto a level and started off again. The crew commander and radio operator also took it pretty hard, but the driver seemed unaffected.

I couldn’t feel my face and when I reached up to see if everything was still there it was totally wet with blood. Around this time my vision started closing in and I knew I was soon to faint.

I had a head set on and I was trying to figure out how to operate the thing and I could just hear my two companions shouting and what have you.

The inside of a tank is cramped and full of nasty, sharp and explosive things. Worst of all, down near my feet there was a hatch that connected to the driver’s compartment and when the turret is lined up you can pass through the hatch, but when the turret is turning its like a guillotine – as I was passing out I was sliding down toward the hatch imagining that I was soon to be cut in two. I had heard that Russian tanks were even more difficult to operate, apparently there was some kind of hazard where the guy who operated the gun was sometimes caught up in the mechanism and loaded into the breach. I can only imagine that it would be lethal as a human being is not meant to fit into a tank barrel.

Somebody must have heard me mumbling and gagging on the headset and they finally figured all was not well within the Leopard. Apparently it took some time to stop the thing. I was too out of it by then to know anything, but I do remember trying to find ways to wedge myself in my seat so I did not slide into the scything hatch thing. While still conscious I still had some control, but as I was passing out I rightly believed with all the shaking and slamming of the journey I’d soon be sliding into the guillotine. The driver, though he had backed the tank out of the crater was actually the most messed up of all he was kind of dazed and he just kept plowing on in shock – trees, holes, whatever was in the way just got knocked down.

Anyway, when the tank was finally stopped, not from direction within, but by someone outside, I got hauled out on top of the tank where I was treated along with the others and sent off to a hospital.

Would I want to go in another tank? – absolutely not, its a real scary machine to operate (not that I was in it long enough to get used to it) and even worse to have it coming at you – 600 km range, massive gun and quick to crush anyone who’s not fast enough to get out of the way.

I believe we still have 114 of these bad boys.

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Trill Mill Stream, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

My mother worked at Christ Church (Oxford University) and she was the first to bring the Trill Mill Stream to my attention. Pictured here the stream appears deep and slow – coming from under the University into Christ Church Meadow.

At one time the stream actually flowed on the surface, but it was eventually buried. The high walls within which the stream is channeled  (just before it reaches the Thames – or the Isis as they call it in Oxford) is because in the 1800s the vapors coming off the water were blamed for causing a cholera epidemic- hence the idea to contain it. Initial exploration of the stream in the 1920s revealed a rotting Victorian punt wedged somewhere within and populated by 3 human skeletons.

Numerous people have traversed this underground waterway, Lawrence of Arabia did it in a canoe and one enterprising adventurer used a sea plane float. Modern urban explorers record their adventure and reveal an arched roof of bricks, the undersides of numerous manhole covers and a passage that makes at least 6 90 degree turns – finally ending in an iron gate – as seen from the outside it is this incredibly archaic industrial age contraption – a plate of metal that is raised and lowered by a wheel.

In Ronald Knox’s book, “The Hidden Stream; the Mysteries of the Christian Faith” he mentions Trill Mill Stream in his introduction in saying that, “if you know the right turning close by the gas works you may thrust your canoe up to the mill-pool under the castle walls where an entrance hardly more dignified than that of a sewer invites you to leave the noise of Oxford behind, and float down through the darkness.”

If I still lived in Oxford, I would certainly have been one of the explorers. I had at one time entertained the idea of using an air mattress. Now that I live in Canada the gloomy tunnels under Guelph will have to suffice – sadly they do not have the history of the Trill mill stream.

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Queen’s Regiment, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Having served a short time in the Canadian Army I left and joined the British Army (Queen’s Regiment).

This is me in Portugal. We spent a huge amount of time in the eucalyptus forests. I remember that we were always short of water. I was so thirsty once that I  filled an old pop can that I had found with stinking water from a tire rut. In plugging the end with plastic I had saved it for a treat later in the day. It turned out that there was an orchard near there and the people who were picking oranges gave us fresh water and lots of fruit.

Most of the time we moved at night and I honed my map and compass skills to perfection.

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Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal

 

scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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Shrunken Head?

Is this a shrunken head or just a severed head? I’m kicking myself now for not having bought it. How would I have explained him at the airport?

I have a collection of various tribal artifacts. The supposed head would have been made in Hong Kong, but it would go just fine on the wall next to this great big Congo mask that I’ve got – I call it Hannibal the Cannibal because it has a mouth of jagged teeth.

On the subject of tribal, check out my malagan mask (I’ts real)

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Mad man yodels out a turkey call

I can’t be sure of the story behind this fellow, but I was sitting waiting for Maggie in a square off one of the main streets in Chester and in the distance I heard this sound like a wild turkey; everyone around me was looking, wondering what it was … and again the sound; it was this sort of crazy cackling – warbling noise. It just kept getting closer.

Finally this fellow sprinted past, looping back he returned to leap up and down, flapping his elbows like he was trying to fly and yodeling out a wild turkey noise.

I couldn’t be sure whether he was serious or not. We locked gazes and I wondered if I was in for a pecking???  I only had time to snap this hurried picture and then he seemed distracted by something in the distance. Unexpectedly the turkeyman dashed off in a crazy zig zag sprint dodging between startled pedestrians, half crouched over, flapping and leaping, but in vain, everyone knows turkeys aren’t so graceful –  in fact they barely fly. The last I heard of the warbler was his deranged turkey call fading in the distance.

Oh turkey man, from whence did you come and where did you go?

Does anyone know the deal?

Does he do this for money?

Is he a drama student?

Somebody who likes attention?

Just plain off his rocker?

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Church and coffin in Chester Sandstone – Chester

Just recently Maggie and I had spent the day walking around the walls of the ancient Roman city of Chester – the town from which her father came and in which her mother had worked as a nurse. Apparently the two of them met when her father was choking after an appendix operation and her mother applied her nursing skills.

We had visited Chester some twenty years ago and had stayed in a bed and breakfast down on the banks of the River Dee.

This ruin was situated above Chester’s Roman Wall and it is part of the structure of the church of Saint John the Baptist. Set up into the wall there is a most unusual feature – a medieval coffin of solid oak. It looks like the coffin was cut from a solid tree trunk and inside it is inscribed “ashes to ashes.”

Nobody really knows the exact story behind the coffin but there are many theories – everything from, “it was bought from gypsies,” to “somebody dug it up while digging another grave.”

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