About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play.

Friday, August 26, 2011

M ist fur die Maur

It is 50 years since the wall went up, and as there are kids in their 20's who see it as an historic event of the likes of the Titanic or a World War, I get to feel very old!

I was there...and I'm still here, so it was yesterday for me, and gives one a sense of what it must have been like for veterans of earlier historic events, trying to explain to the next generation that it was real. Ever wondered as a kid why the old guy at the end of the street or village always got a bit shirty with you as you played 'war'...

One of the first things any troops did when starting an operational tour of Berlin was have a coached orientation-tour, which basically meant having a tourist-bus ride with a man from the Intelligence Corps shouting stuff to the back of an army white-bus.

While we were being shown the sites round the Brandenburg gate area, I managed - with my old Kodak 33 Instamatic (which I'd been bought for my first visit to Germany, a touring holiday in 1969) - to shoot a Soxmis or Stasi spy-type person in a red Volvo photographing me! [us]. They would then compare these photographs with any movement documents they'd copied from the convoys and military train that ran 'down the zone' to West Germany, along with any passport photographs, to build-up a picture of the new units as they moved in.

I think this was shot as we went round the Victory Column, which celebrates someone other than the British giving the French a good spanking!!!! They love it really...bend over and bite your baguette Frenchie!

Years later I'd have one of these red Volvo's (a 940) with a bit of chrome round the windows! The East German's also had a fleet of 6-door 'stretched' Volvo estates in a pumpkin purple/midnight blue, which were parked outside the town hall in East Berlin, I never understood why one of our Allies would be selling fleets of specially prepared cars to the 'Enemy', then I saw some documentary which tied the subsidiary of the subsidiary of a global drinks company to part ownership of a 'peoples' ball-bearing factory somewhere in the East, making parts for T62's and realised that the world is merely mad, and it's rulers madder still; madder than the rest of us that's for sure.

One of my most treasured possessions, this is a real bit of the 'Wall' chipped-out near the Brandenburg Gate in the early hours of the day it came down by my ex-Girlfriend who was a West Berliner (and not a doughnut like Kennedy) and which she then sent to me. My brother happened to have this piece of hex-bar left over from making hand-tools as an apprentice a few years before, and I can't remember if I found the steel block or if he did, but he drilled it and jammed the bar in.

The East German concrete set like metal so I couldn't drill it, or not without destroying the whole thing, so I propped it all on its side, super-glued the bar to the lump and then fully-married them with a wadge of Araldite!!If you have a piece of 'the wall' smaller than a finger-nail, in a little plastic box from one of the traders down at the Zoo or Ku'damm, with a thin layer of florescent orange or pink paint; I'm afraid you have a fragment of the scammers equivalent of toffee-crackle, probably broken up with a toffee hammer as they make it so thin!!

Genuine pieces of the 'Wall' have a many-layered 'plastic' coating, created by the endless re-painting and over painting of the artists, graffitists and (occasionally) East German boarder-guards, who would come over via ladders and paint sections out at night - until their bosses worked-out that they got more 'runners' among the guards than any corresponding 'worth' of some whitewashing of stuff their own people couldn't read anyway! [They supposedly had the meter 'our' side of the wall, and did grab the odd person, by leaning down from the same ladders, or so it was told??]

I think these were taken in the Summer of 1987, and this one is a favourite of mine, it also appears in some of the better books on Wall Art. Years ago I painted this on the back of a leather Jacket for some guy, I wonder if he's still got it?

Taken over the wall from one of the wooden viewing platforms, and looking at one of the 'killing zones'. Sandwiched between both 'our' Wall and an inner security wall (over to the right) is a tarmacked road for the vehicles used to change and feed the guards, patrol the barrier etc...the sand strip which is a minefield and then a clear area of grass covered by firing ports in the tower in the background.

I think this is part of the area cleared to allow Roger Waters to perform 'The Wall' in 1991 (? I was there so I should know!), a superb event spoiled only by the helicopter lent by the AAC flight down at RAF Gatow (the garrison hung around for a few years after unification) who flew in to do the "You! Yes YOU - Laddie, Stand Still Will YER!" bit, and then decided to hang around for most of the next number having a gander and drowning everything out until one of the lighting guys encouraged them to leave with a white-spotlight!!

Another favourite, if you find this one in a book it's usually missing the anarchist epithet! I have another book on the wall somewhere which is a combination of actual art and the results of a competition which included lots of these 'release' or 'through the key-hole' motifs.

A bit of a story, the long version I may tell one day...me and a chap called Maiden were a gun-team (GPMG) on a live-firing exercise in Sennelager 'up (or 'down') the zone', when we were accidentally shot at by our Platoon Commander! Nice chap, fresh out of Sandhurst and trying too hard! Anyway, being a 'Rodney' he got the weirdest punishment while he waited his real punishment...he was sent from the battalion up to Brigade (in the old '36 Olympic Village) and put in charge of a REME team building a scale model of the British sector of the Wall.

Knowing I had trained as a graphic designer in civi-street, and knowing I wasn't too bothered about the fact he's loosed-off a 7.62 full metal jacket in my general direction, he came and asked me if I could produce some drawings for the guy's to work from, which I duly did.

Being given - then - classified photographs (which any tourist could get with the right lens!), I took copies of the finished drawings before I handed them it. I don't know if the model was ever made, and if it was whether it survived the fall of the Wall and withdrawal of Berlin brigade? It may be in one of the Wall/German Division/Reunification museums, of which there are several in Berlin these days.

I actually got the dimensions of the later-style 'lollipop' tower wrong in my haste, making it oblong when it did in fact have a square floor-plan! I have visions of all the towers on this 18-meter model being wrong and can only hope some bright-spark in the REME spotted the 'grunts' cock-up...

Me photographing them photographing me again! I'm the shadow bottom right, and they are 'photo-guy', left, by the hut and 'I guard he guards I guy' next to him. I wonder if they are still out there somewhere...now 'just' Germans living normal lives like the rest of us?

This was shot down in the 'hippy'/alternative/goth/punk squatter area near Krautzfeld, and one suspects that the lorry is backed right up to the wall for a purpose. As can be seen, there is a maze of 'Wall', 'Wire' and various blockages as road, rail and internal border all meet badly up against one of the canals. I wonder if there wasn't a bit of late-night 'traffic' here than ignored both boarders and politics!

For every inch of the famous 'Wall' there was 10 kilometers of the less famous 'Wire', running along-side the main arterial road and rail links with West Germany, down the middle between the two Germany's' and round the outside of West Berlin.

From time to time we'd get the BMT (British Military Train) 'Down the Zone' and these two shots were taken covertly from the window. A sealed station somewhere between Magdeburg (a big grey soviet industrial town with a Tank Barracks right-up against the railway-line) and Braunsweig, where we re-entered the West.

I think there is an almost discernible 'ghost' of Taff Davis in the window sitting opposite me...

You have to wonder why the current government of the State of Israel are busy building walls, when they always fail...

Jericho, Troy, Mahenjo Daro, Siegfried, Maginot, Hadrian's, Bar Lev, Berlin, French Indo-China even the Great wall of China is in pieces and saw the Mongol hoards swarm across it. The night I got home to see it coming down, I shed a tear, I'm not ashamed to say, not because I was sad to see it go, but because it represented waste, wasted lives, wasted time and wasted money - foisted on all of us by those who would rule over us.

They were - in the mid-1990's - talking about giving us a medal, us 'Cold-war Warriors', or a Berlin bar to the GSM (we were written off the combat-ready strength of NATO due to our 10 minute survivability status if the 'balloon went up' - 99 red one's, who remembers that...and better heard in the original German, thanks Nena!), but then Phony Tony B.Liar took us to war in three new places and our young successors started really dying, while we just thought about it occasionally in the Irish Pub in the Europa Centre. So we - rightly - stop asking for a medal and go back to our memories and a little piece of concrete 'History' on stick!

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