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September 22, 2009

98 - Epilogue

...We migrated to Australia together. It was a cultural shock. Like most English migrants, I expected Australia to be 'England but with sunshine'. I was wrong: Australia turned out to be a country with its own individuality and character and attitudes and customs...

John Powell brings to a conclusion his wonderful autobiography.

To re-read it from the beginning - a most worthwhile venture - please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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September 15, 2009

97 - Australia Bound

John Powell decides to make a new life for himself in Australia.

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September 08, 2009

96 – Reasons For Deportation

John Powell discovers why he was deported from Syria.

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September 01, 2009

95 - Deported From Syria

John Powell is forced to leave the Middle East.

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August 25, 2009

94 – Time For A Change

..."I'll be leaving I am afraid; leaving very reluctantly. I love these countries and the Arabs, but it's time to go; the warning signs are there for the future."...

With great reluctance John Powell decides it is time for him to leave the Middle East.

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August 18, 2009

93 - Questions

..."Passport!" he demanded loudly. I handed it to him. For a moment he looked at it and then tossed it back so that it fell on the floor. As I stooped to pick it up, he turned to the other officer and said, in Arabic,

"Look at him; another son of a dog Englishman on his knees to pick up his dirty passport. Welcome the day when they all leave."...

Day by day John Powell realises that his time in the Middle East is almost up.

To read earlier chapters of John's vivid autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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August 11, 2009

92 - A Pair Of Glasses

John Powell treats his old friend Hassan to a pair of glasses.

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August 04, 2009

91 - The Unpopular English

...Several Arabs who had been to England remarked to me on the difference between the English in England, for whom they had the highest regard, and the English in the Middle East, for many of whom they had no love...

John Powell was far from proud some of his fellow countrymen whom he encountered while working in the Middle East.

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July 28, 2009

90 – Winds Of Change

John Powell realises that the time has come to relinquish his job in Syria.

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July 21, 2009

89 - A Tent As An Office

...The Chief grinned. 'Well, the Police have checked up on them and they are all prostitutes except one of them. What do you say to that?"...

John Powell, newly returned to the Middle East, finds himself in hot water when he appoints 20 new housemaids.

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July 14, 2009

88 – Home Again

...Before long, in the peace and tranquillity of Tadmarton, I sat down and penned notes on all the happenings, conversations, anecdotes, adventures, laughs and people, that I could remember in my life....

After working in the deserts of the Middle East for a number of years, John Powell returns home to England.

To read earlier chapters of John's engaging life story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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July 07, 2009

87 - Ladies Of The Night

...When the time came to take off, we had forgiven the pilot for the fright when landing at Malta; we were all now on Christian name terms; the air hostess was flirting with everybody and everybody was flirting with the air hostess. When the time came to take off, passengers and crew were all red in the face, laughing at anything, laughing at nothing, and cracking jokes or attempted jokes. The Airport Manager, also red in the face and reeking of garlic, insisted, and succeeded, in kissing most of us on both cheeks, the air hostess receiving a double tribute...

John Powell continues his account of a fraught flight.

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June 30, 2009

86 - A Bumpy Landing

...At about ten thousand feet over the Mediterranean, I was happily reading a book when an engine started faltering, then recovered...

John Powell tells of a flight into fear.

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June 23, 2009

85 - Hopscotch

John Powell visits Baghdad.

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June 16, 2009

84 – A Furious Brawl

...Then it erupted: bottles, chairs and tables flew in all directions; bodies lay on the floor insensible, others locked together trying to exchange punches and often succeeding. There were shouts and curses in American and North Country accents, intermingling with the screams of the womenfolk as they fled to safety...

John Powell tells how a farewell party for a pipelaying gang deteriorated into violence.

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June 09, 2009

83 – Appreciative Belches

John Powell tells of a huge feast in the desert - and the customary expressions of appreciation for the food.

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June 02, 2009

82 - May Your House Catch Fire

...I mounted in Bedou style and from the moment that I was in the saddle, the stallion knew who was the master, and so did I — he was. Sensing joys to come, he bucked several times, lashed out with his hind legs, pirouetted gaily and then tried to knock out my clenched teeth with the back of his head. The Arabs had set me up; they had given me a half-broken-in horse and had turned up to witness the fun...

John Powell recalls the day he had the last laugh.

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May 26, 2009

81 - Waltzing With A Horse

...Mac appeared for his ride. He strode out wearing jodhpurs, highly polished riding boots and looking immaculate in silk shirt and cravat, with a brooch on it in the shape of a horse's head. He carried a leather whip and wore the black, peaked cap of the Huntsman. Sheik Muneef turned to me looking puzzled...

But was Mac really a horseman?

John Powell tells of horse laughs in the desert.

To read earlier chapters of his autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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May 19, 2009

80 - Trial By Horse

...With much laughter and with no regard to my dignity, they heaved me up into the saddle, as they called it. There was hardly anything of it. I was expecting a huge saddle that John Wayne used, like a miniature lounge chair from which you could not fall. This Arab saddle was small and as comfortable as sitting on a brick...

John Powell tells of his first experience of riding an Arab horse.

To read more of John's superlative autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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May 12, 2009

79 - Four Wives

...The intense heat caused problems with the construction. The steel pipes were so hot that the welders were unable to handle them, even though wearing their thick welding gloves. The barrels of tar used for anti-corrosive protection, when split open, poured their contents of tar like water into the desert before there was time, or even any need, to put them into the fire-pots. Operations were switched to night work under floodlights...

John Powell tells of hot times in the Iraqi desert.

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May 05, 2009

78 - Red Puts On A Show

The pipeline is completed Red the Texan bulldozer driver puts on a show.

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April 28, 2009

77 - Another Little Problem

John Powell tells how he solved a big problem by offering a cup of coffee.

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April 21, 2009

76 - Checking The Pipeline

...we walked right across Israel. Sometimes the thorny shrubs alongside the line were above our heads, while some of the pipes had been dragged away and used as antitank defences, and were scattered around the settlements....

John Powell goes on a long trudge to check an oil pipeline.

To read earlier chapters of John's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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April 14, 2009

75 - Posted To Haifa

John Powell recalls how for two weeks he became a Cypriot citizen.

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April 07, 2009

74 - A Lucky Escape

Somehow the shackles broke, snapping with the strain, and while the cabin and chassis turned left, the tray-top with the sixty labourers on board, became airborne and continued its journey travelling straight ahead.

At that moment, I came out of the office and saw, to my astonishment, a tray-top in steady level flight, sailing majestically through the air with its sixty passengers stll in their positions, as though on a magic carpet of the Arabian nights. It then came in for a perfect landing, skidding along to a halt in a large cloud of dust. Not a soul was hurt.

John Powell continues his account of working in the deserts of the Middle East. To read earlier chapters of John's brilliant autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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March 31, 2009

73 - A Bumpy Ride

...Some Americans bore a charmed life. One day I saw Floyd step out of his pick-up truck. There was nothing particularly unusual about that except that he had inadvertently overlooked the fact that, at the time, his truck was travelling at about 45mph....


John Powell tells of drunken madness in the desert.

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March 24, 2009

72 - Crusaders' Castles

...What an incredible place, the Middle East. Crammed to overflowing with such interesting history; interesting places; interesting people; interesting sights and views and interesting events....

John Powell visits a Crusaders' castle.

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March 17, 2009

71 - The Menacing Needle

John Powell tells of fun and games when it was time for annual booster inoculations.

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March 10, 2009

70 - Rafiq Tells A Story

...God was sitting on his golden throne from which he rules the universe...

But what would happen of God left his throne. John Powell tells of a tale which brought a big laugh.

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March 03, 2009

69 - Match Abandoned

There's only when course of action when a referee joins in a football match melee, as John Powell reveals in the latest episode of his autobiography.

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February 24, 2009

68 - A Series Of Presidents

John Powell tells of the night he entertained three Syrian customs officers.

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February 17, 2009

67 - The Loudest Belch I Ever Heard

...Undeterred, he removed the cap of the bottle with a flourish, then slowly and deliberately, took a deep inhalation of the fumes, choked, and followed with the loudest belch I had ever heard; a belch that seemed to ricochet off the walls with an ever-increasing Doppler effect, until it flung itself out of the window into the desert..

John Powell tells of supressed laughter in the Syrian desert.

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February 10, 2009

66 - A Mad Rush

Recruiting workers in Syria quickly turned into a rugby scrum, as John Powell reveals.

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February 03, 2009

65 - The Brains Of A Donkey

...We turned round and started heading back to be met by Hassan. As we stopped, Hassan ran up to our driver's window. 'You fool!" he shouted at Mike's driver, "By Allah the Almighty, may he damn you for your stupidity.'...

John Powell tells of an accident averted. To read earlier chapters of John's outstandingly-readable autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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January 27, 2009

64 - A Lifetime In Pyjamas

...Mike turned to me during an inspection and handed me his stethoscope and asked me, "What do you make of this, Doctor? I'd like a second opinion."

I listened and diagnosed, "Valvular disease of the heart, Doctor, without a doubt."

"Thank you, Doctor."

"Not at all, Doctor; any time."...

John Powell found himself cast in a different role while working in the Syrian desert.

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January 20, 2009

63 - A Snapped Blade

Hassan and I would visit the line daily, stopping to speak to the workers to see if they required anything, or asking the Americans if there were any labour problems; or settling disputes and fights between rival tribesmen. Once I saw a Bedouin grasp the knife blade of an opponent and snap it in half.

John Powell continues his brilliant autobiography. To read earlier chapters please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/shalom_and_sheiks/

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January 13, 2009

62 - A Brilliant Idea

After tribal conflict, John Powell decides to round up and arrest the desert Sheiks.

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January 06, 2009

61 - The Riot Continues

..."Good man! Come on, then." As we drove off I saw groups of Bedou forming up for an attack. Using the car like a tank, I drove at them with car horn blaring; they scattered in all directions: one, caught by the mudguard, rolled in the dust. Mohammed put my mind at rest when, looking through the rear window, he reassured me "Don't worry, he's up and running like a gazelle." ...

John Powell continues his account of tribal trouble in the Syrian desert.

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December 30, 2008

60 - Rioting Tribes

...The office tent became a reception centre for a succession of Sheiks coming to pay their respects. They sat on their chairs, each of them trying to look more important than the others, and noisily sipping coffee through their moustaches.

Their bodyguards, with loaded bandoliers across their chests and curved daggers at their waists, sat cross-legged on the floor, holding their rifles on their knees...

John Powell recalls the day when the tribes became restless and started firing rifles.

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December 23, 2008

59 – Brothers In The Eyes Of Allah

...Our host, although poor, killed a sheep in our honour, and we sat on the floor in the low black tent as evening fell, and fed, eating the meat with our fingers. Afterwards, we sat cross-legged in front of a twig-and-dried-camel-dung fire, drinking cups of coffee and talking into the night...

When his vehicle ran out of petrol in the Syrian desert John Powell became an honoured guest.

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December 16, 2008

58 – Extracting The Basics

..."Where do you live at the moment?"

He answers as quickly as a Rhodes Scholar. “The Spa'a tribe, oh Sir."

A good answer to another stupid question. Nomads, they could be anywhere. But still, these are the questions on the form to be completed for the Auditor to see. No good asking a Bedou where he lives. I try another way. "Where is your tent now?"...

Interviewing job applicants for pipe-laying work in the Syrian desert had its problems, as John Powell reveals.

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December 09, 2008

57 – A Visit To The Bedou

...I always enjoyed a visit to the Bedou. Stooping under the black, low-slung, tent entrance of the Sheik I am met with smiles as I call out, "As salaam alaykum!” and back comes the reply from the Sheik and his friends, "Wa alaykum as salaam!", followed by more words of welcome from the Sheik....

John Powell had to meet and negotiate with the Bedou while working with an oil pipeline gang in the Syrian desert.

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December 02, 2008

56 – The Bedouin

...The Bedou are a wonderful people, simple, proud, and very, very hospitable. They are also genuine. The Bedouin will ask you how you are and wait for your reply, all attention, almost anxiously. Then in turn he enquires about the health of your father, mother, brother and children. My parents would have been flattered to know the number of times a Bedouin enquired so seriously about their health and welfare...

John Powell continues has account of working with a pipe-laying gang in the Syrian desert.

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November 25, 2008

55 – A Productive Desert Walk

John Powell gets a close-up view of laying an oil pipeline across a desert.

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November 18, 2008

54 – Meeting The Pipeline Gang

...The smell and taste of dust gave me my baptism to a sandstorm. It blew with undiminished fury, and the visibility from my tent was only a few yards.

I felt alone in a wilderness until, from the depths of the dust, I heard a slow, Texan drawl, "Well I'll be hawg-tied, Hank, it's jerst like a dust storm from way down in l'll ol’ Texas. Yes siree."...

John Powell meets the pipeline laying gang in a desert wilderness.

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November 11, 2008

53 – One-eared Salukis

John Powell joins a gazelle hunt in the desert.

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November 04, 2008

52 – Impressive Constructions

...Nearby were more tall columns leading to the remains of a large building with its walls covered with small holes. I was told that they were originally filled with gold, long since plundered. It must have been an imposing building in its day. I marvelled and wondered; how did the Romans manage to transport those huge pillars of stone over the desert, and how long did it take them?...

John Powell, heading through the Syrian desert towards the site of oil pipeline construction, is impressed by the work of those who built there nearly 2,000 years ago.

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October 28, 2008

51 – Desert Journey

..."Ah, Johnny, better get your bags packed again. The Personnel Officer in the pipeline gang has had to leave. I want you to go up there and take over the duties. They are at T2 now, so I'll fix transport for you to leave first thing in the morning. Go to Homs and report to Farouk Shaabani, the Personnel Officer for Syria. You'll be under him while in Syria. He'll be very helpful to you.

Tell me, how is your Bedouin dialect?"...

John Powell tells of being posted to work in a man-made oasis in the Syrian desert.

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October 21, 2008

50 – Tripoli Style

...In the evening, in Tripoli, there would be a parade of townsfolk up and down Tel Street and round the town square. By custom, the men sometimes walked with arms linked, twirling key chains around their fingers as they greeted friends with the familiar call of welcome, "Ahlan wa sahlan," and sometimes, "Ahlan! Ahlan! Ahlan!" followed by "Keef es saha?" or 'How is the health?'...

John Powell continues his account of working in the Middle East.

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October 14, 2008

49 – Invited To Lunch

...It was now about 8 pm and we were still having lunch. When the table was cluttered with empty plates, bowls and trays, there was another delay for a while. In the background was a small waterfall, and its stream ran gently through the centre of the restaurant. I dipped my glass in the stream; it was deliciously cool and clean. ..

John Powell tells of a magnificent Lebanese meal.

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October 07, 2008

48 – In The Old Lebanon

...The Lebanon that I was coming to live in was the 'old Lebanon', a Lebanon of friendly, hospitable people, who wanted to work hard and also relax to enjoy life. It was a peaceful Lebanon...

John Powell becomes acquainted with another Middle Eastern country.

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September 30, 2008

47 – The Painful Birth Of Israel

John Powell was an eyewitness to the birth of the State of Israel.

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September 23, 2008

46 – The Battle Is On

...In my office the Arabs and Jews worked side by side without any apparent animosity. At night, they would go and shoot it out in the streets. The battle was on...

John Powell continues his account of the turbulence which accompanied the setting up of the State of Israel.

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September 16, 2008

45 – Sad Goodbye To The Haifa Arabs

...One car pulled a trailer with two cows in it. Another truck followed, overflowing with women and children shouting and weeping; another trailer passed with a cargo of goats. One truck had about twenty fowls in the back and as the truck jotted to start, the fowls all took off, trying to fly away but unable to do so as each had a leg tied to the truck with twine. It would have been a laughable sight, had it not been so tragic...

John Powell was a sad witness as Arabs packed their things and moved out of Palestine.

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September 09, 2008

44 – The Deir Yassin Massacre

John Powell continues his account of the violence and savagery which accompanied the setting up of the state of Israel.

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September 02, 2008

43 – Reciting The Duet

...Sitting on the large balcony I had a grandstand view of the battles taking place. Sometimes there would be the flash of a mortar followed by the 'crump' of the explosion and periodic bursts of machine gun fire, the tracer bullets hurtling between the Arab and Jewish areas while, in daytime, I would see the occasional column of smoke and dust rise into the air as a mortar shell found its target...

John Powell had a grandstand view of the battle raging in Haifa as Britian began to withdraw its forces from the area.

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August 26, 2008

42 – Here’s The Good News

John Powell is told he has to remain in Haifa to help close down his company’s headquarters in the city. Not an easy task, but there is good news...

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August 19, 2008

41 – Never Volunteer

...Behind us, the hijackers, were gradually dropping back in the race. Then, to my alarm, I saw one of them try to lean out of a window with a rifle. ‘Crack!' went the bullet near us. Sami looked alarmed, and I had no doubt that my pounding heart reflected the same look on my face...

John Powell tells of a day of high nervous tension.

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August 12, 2008

40 – A Fascinating Interview

...My interviewer was a kindly man, who greeted me in Arabic and continued with a few easy questions, which caused me no trouble. After asking me where I had learnt it, I told him and then, breaking into English, I sidetracked and asked,

"What interests me, Sir, are the different dialects. I have never met a Bedouin. How does the Bedouin dialect sound?"...

Demobbed from the Army, John Powell lands a job with the Iraq Petroleum Company, which takes him back to the Middle East.

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August 05, 2008

39 – Off With The Uniform

...As soon as the train shuddered to a halt, I looked out and saw the troops jumping from the train. 'Surely not desertion at this stage,' I thought, 'not on our way back to Blighty.'

But no. The troops charged into the orange grove and plundered as many oranges as they could cram into their battledresses and pockets. For a few moments, the engine driver, fireman and guard watched, then they also jumped down and joined in. Except for me, the whole train was deserted...

John Powell heads for Port Said, and a ship to England, where he takes off his Army uniform, never to wear it again.

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July 29, 2008

38 - A Distasteful Operation

...It was a distasteful operation. The immigrants were all so poor, so shabbily dressed, their pitifully few belongings bundled in knotted sheets or in battered, dilapidated suitcases. The young were jubilant, singing, laughing. The old were more sombre and silent, their faces bearing the signs of weariness and past sufferings. Now, so near to a new life of hope, security and personal dignity, yet not to be for the moment, with more delay, more frustration....

John Powell tells of the arrival of would-be immigrants into what was to become the state of Israel.

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July 22, 2008

37 – To the Promised Land

...In 1917 the British Government's Balfour Declaration had promised Palestine to the Jews as a national home, into which Jewish immigrants were to be allowed to enter under a quota system. It also promised the Arabs that they could remain and that their rights would not be usurped. The authorities now promised the army that they would leave in 1948 and return home. They also promised the United Nations that this would be done in accordance with resolutions passed by the U.N. General Assembly.

In the Welsh Guards, as we platoon commanders (having diligently studied a booklet given to us to swot up) explained this to our Guardsmen, I heard one of the men in my platoon remark, "Indeed to goodness, Dai, I know now why they call Palestine, The Promised Land. It's because it has been promised to every bugger, look you!"...

John Powell continues his account of serving in Palestine in the 1940s.

To read earlier chapters of John’s engrossing autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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July 15, 2008

36 – Pointless Acts

...Slowly they drove alongside the edge of the barbed wire then whipped off the tarpaulin, pulled a lever, and the drum rolled down the ramp, over the side of the truck, cleared the barbed wire, rolled across the ground, collided with the front of the building and exploded...

John Powell tells of terrorism and death in Palestine.

To read earlier chapters of John's autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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July 08, 2008

35 - Terrorism

....The worst case of all was the kidnapping of two British Sergeants, Mervyn Paice and Clifford Martin, by the IZL. They were imprisoned under appallingly claustrophobic conditions in a small, underground concrete cell in complete darkness. A fortnight later they were found dead, hanging from eucalyptus trees with hoods over their heads and with their hands tied behind their backs. One body had a notice on it reading, 'This is the sentence of Irgun's high tribunal'. The IZL had booby-trapped the bodies. When they were taken down, a mine exploded, wounding those carrying out the task....

John Powell, who served in the British Army in what was then Palestine, tells of acts of terror carried out by Jewish armed organisations.

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July 01, 2008

34 – They Usually Open

..."Red light on! Stand to the door!" the instructor yells to me. I move up to the exit and wait, left hand on the padded door jamb, the other gripping the front of my trouser leg as the drill demands. Standing in the exit, the wind from the slipstream flaps the flesh of my cheeks.,,

John Powell tells of his first parachute jump.

To read earlier chapters of John’s vivid autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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June 24, 2008

33 – The Second Biggest Thrill

...The parachuting course was a mixture of the humorous, the serious and the scary. Prior to the opening lecture we were taken on a short, acclimatising flight in a Dakota aircraft. At the jumping height of 800 feet, two instructors, grabbing hold (I hoped firmly) of the back of my battledress, let me hang out of the exit but, thank heaven, with my feet still very securely on the floor.

It was a lovely view but not one, under the circumstances, that I could enjoy...

John Powell begins a parachuting course.

For more of John’s hugely entertaining autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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June 17, 2008

32 – The Have A Bash Method

"You've only got a few months to go to your demobilisation. I've got a job to see you through, if you'd like it. It's with the 6th Airborne Div’ as an S.O.P.T.,’’ said the Major.

Without realising what he was letting himself in for, John Powell took the plunge and transferred to the Airborne Division.

To read earlier chapters of John’s splendid autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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June 10, 2008

31 – Locally Adapted Sports

…I arose early and walked down the steep hill from our camp to the Sea of Galilee. I changed and, diving in, swam in those holy waters, and swam, and swam. Some way out I stopped and looked back at Tiberias, then all around me, taking in the whole scene just as it would have appeared to St Peter as he fished…

John Powell tells of peace keeping duties in Palestine.

To read earlier chapters of John’s invigorating autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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June 03, 2008

30 - In Palestine

That evening I strolled away from our camp in Tiberias and, wandering to an isolated spot, I sat down to enjoy the solitude and the magic of the scene. Before me I could see the whole panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee. In the far distance, miles to my left, was the snow capped peak of Mount Hermon. Much nearer, on the lakeside itself, I could see Caperneum, the home village of St Peter.

John Powell and his Welsh Guards colleagues arrive in Palestine.

To read earlier chapters of John’s engaging autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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May 27, 2008

29 – Leading In The Staff Car

…From time to time the MPs had erected signs of a skull and crossbones as a reminder of the scene of some fatal accident, or, maybe, to sharpen the concentration of the drivers on the long, never-ending drive. When we stopped for lunch, the empty desert suddenly erupted with Bedouins appearing from nowhere, and carrying baskets of eggs and scraggy chickens to supplement our rations…

John Powell leads a convoy of Guardsmen into the Sinai desert.

To read earlier chapters of John’s richly enjoyable autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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May 20, 2008

28 – Captivated and Entranced

…What a fascinating, pulsating, intriguing, vibrant, lively city — Cairo! As I stood there, feasting my eyes on everything that I could see, everything so very new and strange and exciting to me, I realised that I was well and truly captivated and entranced…

John Powell visits the old part of Cairo.

To read earlier chapters of John’s splendid autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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May 13, 2008

27 - Destination Gold Mine

…An Egyptian rode his bicycle, unconcernedly dressed in a pair of striped pyjamas. Another, sauntering along the crowded pavement, had strapped to his chest, like a Salvation Army Band bass drum, a large brass container. Through its glass top I could see ice blocks floating in lemonade. As he walked he was shouting out, "Lamoonada, lamoonada," and at the same time, holding in his hands small brass drinking cups, which he was clicking with his fingers like Spanish castanets…

John Powell is enchanted by the busy streets of Cairo.

For more of John’s exhilarating autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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May 06, 2008

26 – Old Tricks

…I went in to the Long Bar, a 'Watering Hole’ over many decades for the famous and the infamous who had refreshed themselves there: from Lawrence of Arabia to Generals Kitchener, Allenby, Alexander, Montgomery, Eisenhower and also Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden...

While having a drink in the famous Shepheards Hotel in Cairo John Powell receives proof that he has been conned.

To read earlier chapters of John’s gloriously readable autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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April 29, 2008

25 - Assailed By Guilt

John Powell, on a visit to Cairo, takes pity on a man who in desperation is selling off the family jewels.

To read earlier chapters of John's sparkling autobiogrpahy please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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April 22, 2008

24 - Fascinating Land Of Contrasts

...With wonder I heard the soft pad of camels' feet and the jingling bells of their harness. I was intrigued to see the overladen donkey trotting along under its massive load, the Arab womenfolk balancing large bundles of spraywood on their heads and walking so gracefully, with swinging hips. Even the Arab sitting alongside his barrow in the market, selling a load of carrots, the same and yet so different from his counterpart in a London market...

John Powell is entranced by his first glimpse of the Middle East.

To read earlier chapters of John's equally entrancing autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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April 15, 2008

23 - Officers

...I reported to the Welsh Guards Training Battalion at Sandown Park, and at once, we junior officers were back on the parade ground — square bashing, this time under a Regimental Sergeant-Major but with a slight difference. With Sergeant Daly it had been, "Guardsman Powell, you idle man, swing your arms up!" Now, from the Regimental Sergeant-Major, it was, "Swing your arms up, Mr Powell, Sir, please."...

John Powell becomes an officer in the Welsh Guards.

To read earlier chapters of John's buoyant autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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April 08, 2008

22 - Stunned Into Disbelief

..."I've never seen anything like it in all me life!" It was like coming home again. He was reputed to have the loudest voice in the army. Nobody ever disputed the claim and his drilling of all the companies of the whole OCTU was an unforgettable event.

"BATT—ALLEE—UN—SHUN!" would be heard all over Aldershot. Then without fail would follow, "That third man from the left, centre rank of C Company, you are idle. Take his name, Sergeant, for being idle on parade." And the unfortunate individual 'lost his name'...

John Powell's training as a Guards officer becomes tougher - and louder!

To read earlier chapters of John's splendid autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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April 01, 2008

21 - A Good Combination

...As we progressed we took turns in drilling the squad. If the command was given on the wrong foot, the squad would continue onwards. Once I kept failing to allow my voice to carry the distance. The squad went further and further away, heading for the main gate. Sergeant Daly turned to me and said, "Well, for God's sake, before they disappear for ever, tell 'em something, even if it's only 'Good bye'." With a barked command he brought them to a halt...

John Powell recalls his days of training to be a Guardsman.

To read earlier chapters of John's exhilirating autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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March 25, 2008

20 - The Brigade Of Guards

...The interview was pleasant, his first question being that of a typical Welshman, "So, you were at Tonbridge; were you in the rugby football team?"

"Yes, Sir, I was; I love the game, I have been playing it since I was five."

There was an intake the very next day and he added my name to the list. There followed a hectic dash for another medical, then a quick haircut, short back and sides, and the next day I reported to the Guards' Depot at Caterham, conveniently located next door to a lunatic asylum. All the months I had been waiting for the RAF call up, had taken me as many minutes to join the Brigade of Guards...

John Powell enlists in the Welsh Guards - and loud voices are soon bellowing into his ears.

To read earlier chapters of John's ebullient autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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March 18, 2008

19 - Old Zeke

Old Zeke was on sentry duty one very dark, pitch-black night when he heard footsteps near the camp gate and challenged, as all good sentries do, unless they have dozed off. "HALT!" he yelled. "Who goes there?" He was absolutely word perfect.

He became suspicious at once when, from the darkness, came the reply, "Aw, piss off, Gran'pa!"

John Powell continues his hilariously entertaining autobiography. To read earlier episodes please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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March 11, 2008

18 - A Rocket For The Rockets

...Complaints flooded in very promptly from the hotel managements, the police, the ARP, all and sundry. A Fleet Street night editor even phoned to ask if it were true that Hyde Park had been blown up, while fire watchers reported a rocket in vertical position, flying horizontally, leaving a trail of sparks across the dome of the Albert Hall and wobbling along like a pregnant duck...

John Powell tells of the kerfuffle which followed the firing of anit-aircraft rockets.

To read more of John's invigorating life story please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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March 04, 2008

17 - Droppings From Dad's Army

...Suddenly, the ear-splitting alarm bell rang. TAKE POSTS!" yelled Sergeant Walters.

As usual, old Joe, the Lambeth Council lavatory attendant, rolled out of bed, forgetting that he was on the top bunk, and crashed on top of Bill Steers, businessman and factory owner. As they sorted themselves out, Sir Ernest, of the Foreign Office, pulled a boot half on then let out a yell, "Something bit me."...

John Powell tells of the night when the ainti-aircraft rockets were at last fired.

To read more of John's wonderfully engaging autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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February 26, 2008

16 - An Insane Idea

...Our battery was composed of four Troops, each of twenty rocket projectors, thus a salvo blasted off 160 rockets at once. The object was not only to shoot down aircraft, but also to make a bomber change course when on a bombing run due to the box-barrage effect. In this way we could protect very important locations such as the War Office, the Admiralty, Lords Cricket Ground and the Windmill Theatre with its nude revues...

John Powell volunteers to man a rocket anti-aircraft battery.

To read earlier chapters of John's memorable life story please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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February 19, 2008

15 - Payback

...They came out, standing on the path down to our front gate. Dad, hearing the commotion, came out too. The traffic was stopping. People came out of shops and houses to look, and there we all stood, our necks tilted back and everyone gazing upwards. For there, as far as we could see, from horizon to horizon, at different heights, all at the same speed, all droning steadily onwards towards Europe, were hundreds and hundreds of bombers. But this time they were OUR BOMBERS!..

John Powell tells of a sight which gladdened the hearts of Londoners who had survived repeated German bombing raids.

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February 12, 2008

14 - Two Grins Meet

...What a pleasing meeting. Two grins met; two pairs of eyes laughed at each other and two young, firm hands clasped in a steel-strong grip of friendship. He and my folks were delighted to meet at last, and I to welcome, Second Lieutenant Peter Mitchell of the Rifle Brigade to my home...

John Powell tells of a wartime encounter. To read more of John's sparkling autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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February 05, 2008

13 - Gnawing The Nail Of Hurry

...During the whole time, the only interesting happening was when some old fool of an officer told us that to do street fighting it was necessary to be able to jump from heights, such as a first floor window. Why, I could never understand. He then demonstrated in the Drill Hall, by climbing onto a balcony, then, explaining how to land without hurting oneself, hurled himself from the balcony with a great show of confidence and unparalleled bravery. We watched as they carried him away with a broken leg, his screams echoing and bouncing off the Drill Hall wails as he left...

While waiting to be called into the RAF to train as a pilot John Powell joined the Home Guard.

To read earlier chapters of John's autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

Continue reading "13 - Gnawing The Nail Of Hurry" »

January 29, 2008

12 - Beastly Things

...As I climbed back into our attic window, I stood for a moment on the window ledge and, holding on to the edge of the flat attic roof, I gazed in awe at the view. Looking about me, the whole of our district seemed to be on fire; I was in the centre of a complete circle of flames, in all directions...

John Powell conveys the horrors of the London blitz, and the bravery of ordinary citizens amidst death and destruction.

To read earlier chapters of John's exhilaratingly well-told life story please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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January 22, 2008

11 - Our Turn Tonight

John Powell captures the drama, the humour, the bravery and good-neighbourliness which prevailed in London during World War Two bombing raids.

To read more of John's vividly-told life story please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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January 15, 2008

10 - Teamwork In The Blitz

...Dad had finished his evening surgery and over supper he was telling us about the German airman who bailed out high above Victoria Station. He drifted across the Thames and landed in Harleyford Road, alongside the Oval Cricket Ground which was filled with coils of barbed wire.

The cockney women, some of them Dad's patients, rushed out of the shelters arming themselves with broomsticks, frying pans, rolling pins, dustbin lids, hat pins, and knitting needles and any other weapon they could lay their hands on, and went into battle against the German airman...

John Powell tells of bombing raids on London. To read earlier chapters of John's gripping life story please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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January 08, 2008

9 - Enjoying Life While It Lasted

...But still people went out to enjoy life while it lasted, no matter how heavy the air raid. The Queens' Brasserie, (known to everyone in London as the 'Brass Arse'), was always filled with RAF boys on leave, who did not give a damn about the Luftwaffe up above. The Navy frequented The Captain's Cabin, where, especially on a cold winter's night, one could warm up with a hot rum punch...

John Powell vividly conveys the life-must-go-on spirit which prevailed in London during World War Two.

To read earlier chapters of John's highly-entertaining life story please lick on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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January 01, 2008

8 - Endless Comedy

John Powell, in the latest chapter of his autobiography Shalom and Sheiks, tells of the bustle, public speaking and good humour which prevailed in London during the war years.

Continue reading "8 - Endless Comedy" »

December 18, 2007

7 - London Belonged To Me

...There had been some changes: Dad had used his World War I experience, and in our dining room basement had arranged for thick wooden planks to be placed under the ceiling, supported in position by strong wooden joists. It looked like a mineshaft and we nicknamed it the 'Dugout'.

They had moved a bed into the corner and there in the Dugout they ate, slept and lived during the Blitz. I slept between the Dugout and the kitchen, on a box ottoman underneath the stairs, often the only intact place in a bombed-out house...

John Powell, who studied at a school in rural England, returns to his London home while the aerial Battle of Britain is still being fought and German bombers are carrying out raids on the city.

To read earlier chapters of John's engrossing life story please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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December 11, 2007

6 - Tonbridge School At War

John Powell has haunting shcool-day memories of wartime dramas and unsung bravery.

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December 04, 2007

5 - Some Wonderful Nut Cases

...Once Pan and I were arguing about the bombs being dropped on us, when he said, "I tell you what, old fruit, to prove my point I'll build you a bomb."

And he did, but I never thought he would do so in our study. Gradually, from old biscuit tins, the damned thing took shape...

John Powell tells of some gloriously memorable characters that he knew during his school days.

To read earlier chapters of John's autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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November 27, 2007

4 - A New Tonbridgian

...As one progressed, certain privileges were bestowed upon the blessed; thus a second-term boy was allowed to have the bottom button of his jacket left undone; a third-term boy was in bliss, being allowed to have two buttons left undone, which was quickly pointed out to us Novi, with not a single button permitted to be undone at all, in keeping with our peasant status....

John Powell recalls his days at an English public school.

For earlier chapters of John's notable autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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November 20, 2007

3 - Joy And Good Fellowship

...Stepping into the water I felt the cool, soft mud oozing between my toes. I paused a moment to admire the gracefulness of the emerald-green water reeds, plainly visible under the surface of the crystal-clear water as they bent over while moving gently to and fro with the current and softly brushed and tickled my legs...

John Powell, continuing his life story, vividly conveys the boyhood joy of swimming and playing in a rural brook.

To read earlier chapters of John's engaging story please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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November 13, 2007

2 - The Brook's Still a-Flowin'

...It was Troy who took me to see a bull mounting a cow, then gave me a learned explanation of the proceedings; it was Troy who taught me how to handle a ferret without being bitten, then showed me how to use it to catch rats in the barn and then how to use it for rabbiting...

John Powell recalls idyllic boyhood days when he and his brother roamed with other lads through the Oxfordshire countryside.

To read earlier chapters of John's engaging autobiography please click on Shalom And Sheiks in the menu on this page.

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November 06, 2007

1 - An Army Of Cockney Characters

...Dad had an army of useful and interesting characters among his many patients in this working-class cockney area of South London. Once, when locked out by mislaid keys, Dad picked up old George, a burglar of unsurpassed reputation among his fellow professionals, and he had our top security front door opened in a blink. He refused payment, saying that it was nice to get a bit of free practice...

John Powell, continuing his exuberant life story Shalom And Sheiks, tells of growing up in a working-class cockney area in London.

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October 23, 2007

Prologue

Today we begin the serialisation of John Powell's book Shalom And Sheiks.

The story begins in a military hospital during World War I.

John's a fine writer and a splendid raconteur. His autobiographical words will be appearing on consecutive Tuesdays in Open Writing. Do watch out for them. They are a guarantee of reading pleasure.

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