The port of Saint Ives, Cornwall UK

Beautiful rain the whole night through, but we woke up to even more beautiful sunshine. Let’s start the day with a nice cup of Java… And then decide how to idle the rest of it away. http://www.amazon.com/Clemens-P.-Suter/e/B005C1GXTE

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Famous castaways, jettisoned and marooned – stories from people that were left alone

The adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS tells the story of a man who is the sole survivor of a post-apocalyptic event.

How is it possible to survive as the last man on earth? In adventure literature, Robinson Crusoe is probably the most famous imaginary character in such a situation. But real-life people have been separated from humanity for extended periods of time – if not the remainder of their life. These include the likes of Thorgisl, Grettir Ásmundarson, Fernão Lopez, Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina, Gonzalo de Vigo, Marguerite de La Rocque, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos (the first westerners to set foot in Australia), Miskito Will, Alexander Selkirk, Philip Ashton, Pedro Serrano, Ada Blackjack, Jesus Vidana, Salvador Ordoñez, Lucio Rendo, Leendert Hasenbosch, Chunosuke Matsuyama and Charles Barnard – and there are many more names of people that were forced to live in isolation over extended time periods. Some lived isolated for a few months, others for years… What unites these involuntarily castaways is their tremendous drive to return to humanity.

Some also select to be alone for extended periods of time, such as Gerald Kingsland and Lucy Irvine or Tom Neale (the latter spent 16 lonely years in solitude on the Cook Islands – by his own choice).

Survival is possible, and depending on the character of the castaway, might even be seen as enjoyable … one of the reasons why I selected this theme for my novel Two Journeys: how does an individual thrown from modern society, deal with the prospect of being alone…perhaps for the rest of his or her life?

In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But recent outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again in the past years. Is humanity prepared? In my books, I show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appears to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping to the higher ground morally shows that we are human.

Learn more about the adventure books by Clemens P. Suter here.

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More from Japan – our trip to the land of the rising sun

More images from our trip to Japan – this time mainly Tokyo and Kyoto.

Below a snap from the Shinjuku Gyoen park. We visited a number of parks on this trip, and this one had a beautiful conservatory, a koi pond and two teahouses. Shinjuku is densely populated, and to escape into the green is a great distraction. But the high rises are always visible!

We also visited several museums and the MOMAT (museum of modern art Tokyo) was definitely a highlight. Especially intrigued by the paintings originating from the time of Second World War. Most were quite oppressive and disturbing to look at.

Better not travel by subway around rush hour- but sometimes it can’t be circumvented.

Below: a delicious cup of coffee with Macha-based cream!

The picture below was taken in Kyoto (the place where the Kyoto Protocol was signed). Ironic to see this air conditioner in action: cold air exits the smaller tube, hot air is released from the bigger exhaust. Great for the patrons, but not truly CO2 conscious.

More travel news here.

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From Tokyo to Kyoto – travels in Japan. Highlights of Shibuya.

No trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the Meiji shrine. Below the iris garden created for the Meiji empress at the start of the 20th Century. A beautiful, well balanced park, you can see a lot of gardening effort goes into the maintenance.

Visitors leave their wishes at the temple, which are later burned by the priests.

In Shibuya there’s a cafe where you can stroke cats! It costs a few hundred yen for an hour or so. You can just see a white cat at the top of the arrow. We didn’t go in, the idea made us feel a bit guilty.

You think that’s weird? How about a cafe where you can stroke hedgehogs? The lady holds up the sign to invite you in.

Or would you rather pet an owl?!

Then again, Shibuya is a wild place, heavily frequented by hipsters and tourists, and full of weird stuff (which is not typical for mainstream Japan).

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Our visit to Japan – cityscape & art. PART 1.

Flying JAL we experienced terrific service and great leg space in a brand new 787 plane.D259832B-5704-47FA-AF7E-443CC51BE4E4.jpeg

The familiar corner shops to get a quick nibble or a hot or cold coffee:

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Our Airbnb in Shinjuku- an intriguing neighborhood with some interesting nightclubs (ladies pay 0¥ !):9EDA2A26-81E8-4E2F-9069-83F0A37543B2

We thought this was a supermarket, but this is a gift shop where you can buy mainly melons as expensive giveaways. We witnessed a customer buying a banana wrapped in cellophane with a gift string attached to it. Probably for his superior?FF570D8D-84DD-49FB-8C23-045EC801E84B

Next we went to Roppongi Hills, a 40 floor business tower with a great museum. Last time we saw an exhibit by Warhol. Take a look at that roof garden in the building opposite.6F9E23BD-D416-45C8-9324-978DE947D9A6

That must be Shibuya in the distance, the district built on top of the second busiest train station in the world. The busiest station is Shinjuku, which handles more than 3.5 million persons … EACH DAY! “The station was used by an average of 3.64 million people per day in 2007, making it, by far, the world’s busiest transport hub” (Wikipedia)4B9F5B09-2EE8-48DE-99DE-D0510C519292

On the top floor of Roppongi Hills is the Moro Art Museum – with a great exhibit by Shiota Chiharu. “The Soul Trembles” – a very dreamy exhibit, beautiful work.65F980CD-1542-4A13-A94B-6AABDEE71EBD4EF21E17-D4E1-48F3-8C7E-437CFADE6165B6FA652C-FF71-4A9D-871E-AE41AC7D8DDAE744F9F0-669A-4795-8CB4-F1A25E50471E

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At the foot of the tower, an evaporation system to keep people cool.

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Sushi bar Genki Sushi in Shibuya, a bit overcrowded, but OK quality.

Drinking an ice old coffee in XFLAG STORE Shibuya. It isn’t every hot, but humid.516328E3-719A-4B09-B52D-837FB1F13E16

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Surprise! You won’t BELIEVE what I saw in Kansas City. The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

I had a chance to visit Kansas City. First surprise: this town isn’t in Kansas, but in Missouri, a relatively flat place with an abundance of farmland and space. Looked quite rural yet attractive from the air.

As usual I only had a couple of free hours in between, so how best to spend my time? Most US cities do not have an inner city that invites a leisurely stroll, so I had to come up with a plan B (although later I did discover that downtown Kansas City does have its charm). An Uber driver pointed out that the city had an art museum – he wasn’t impressed by it, but by his looks he wasn’t into art too much; more a baseball kind of guy.

So I took two hours for a fast visit to the Nelson Atkins museum of art, and indeed was in for a very big surprise, as shown on the photos below.

An impressive facade protects a rich exhibition, which was assembled by art scouts during the 1930 crisis: with wallets full of hard dollars earned the years before the economic collapse, these scouts bought artifacts and paintings from all over the world.

All in all, a visit to this temple of art is definitely time well spent!

 

The façade of the museum, with Rodin’s Thinker in the sculpture garden
An early Piet Mondrian, created before his more abstract style
An early Piet Mondrian, created before his more abstract style
A beautiful impressionist painting by Monet
A beautiful impressionist painting by Monet
A painting by Rembrandt van Rijn
A painting by Rembrandt van Rijn
A Kandinsky
A Kandinsky
A painting by Max Beckmann
A painting by Max Beckmann
A Indian deity in the historic section
A Indian deity in the historic section
I statue from the small but exquisite Egyptian section
I statue from the small but exquisite Egyptian section

The Experience of a Lifetime – Airtravel Back Then and Now

I just returned from a business trip Germany to Kansas City, and as I sat on the plane, it suddenly occurred to me that I must have witnessed this utterly stupefyingly safety pantomime over 400 times. That’s a whopping 1000 or so minutes shaved of my life, thank you FAA and EASA. And it doesn’t help either: just ask a colleague or fellow traveler to repeat what’s in the safety instructions and what to do if the plane must land on the Hudson River, and you will only get back embarrassed smiles. I can guess what passengers will do if a plane makes an emergency landing: I suspect some will continue to push and shove to get to the exit first – countermeasures to that are alas not in the instruction booklet.

OK, I’m exaggerating. Mostly I feel sorry for the crew that needs to go through the exercise, while the passengers are staring into their smartphones and picking their noses.

It’s not that I fly excessively, but thanks to my adventurous parents I had an early start getting airborne. I recall times when air travel was still special; reserved for a few businessmen or tourists that were a bit better off than the ordinary citizen. The countries were more exotic then: half of the world was out of bounds being communist and therefore utterly boring, and many of the other countries had no infrastructure to support any mass tourism. Nowadays, if you haven’t visited Iceland, the Arabian peninsula, Chili, the Congo or Detroit you do not count as a well-traveled tourist. And in every country you can buy exactly the same stuff these days. I know a Japanese couple that vacations every year in Tuscany, Italy, and friends of ours from Switzerland have been traveling with a camper through Yellowstone – every summer, eight years running. Get a life and stay at home folks.

But I’m getting distracted. Back then (I am talking about the seventies and eighties) if you entered an airplane, smoking was naturally not allowed. In the non-smoker section and until after take off that is, after that you could light up your cigarette, cigar or even pipe; and relax. The ashtrays in the armrests was emptied continuously by the crew, since air travel makes nervous (surprisingly very few people are aware of this observation), and together with the cheap cigarettes bought in the tax-free shop, the soothing effect of a relaxing smoke could be enjoyed intensively.
The smoky air and the lack of water offered (in those days nobody realized that dehydration is an unpleasant accompanying effect of air travel) put a terrible strain on travelers, leading to colds and coughs. My mother suffered from asthma, so we usually sat in the non-smoking section; enjoying the recycled, second hand smoke coming from the vents.
Halfway during the flight, a movie screen was lowered in the front, and a beamer came out of the overhead. One or two movies were projected on the screen to keep passengers occupied. These systems regularly crashed, so sometimes there was no movie to watch at all but in that case we could revert to six radio channels. After an intercontinental flight you knew all the tunes by heart and singing along wasn’t a big challenge.
The door to the cockpit was unlocked and even stood open sometimes (thanks, Osama bin Laden, for putting a stop to that ridiculous practice) and the captain regularly walked through the cabin to chat. if you asked the stewardess (no stewards then) you could actually go to the cockpit and the pilot would explain the instruments and the basics of aviation.
Due to security, you had to arrive at the airport early: for intercontinental flights this meant at least 45 minutes before takeoff. For domestic flights three minutes sufficed. Security checks consisted of a quick look at your passport,  hand luggage wasn’t scanned, and I recall passengers sitting on the plane with taped-up carton boxes and the like; anybody’s guess what they contained. Customs usually took those boxes apart after landing; I once witnessed the extraction of a 6 pound freshly caught fish from such a package (its freshness clearly debatable after an eight hour flight). Once, on a flight in the USA, a gun was confiscated. This didn’t upset the passengers too much, after all, in the lines for passport and customs checks we all enjoyed a relaxing smoke, ashtrays were available next to all waiting lines, so we didn’t need to flick the ash on the floor. We did throw our cigarette buts on the floor, I recall that a lady once scolded me and a cousin, stating that this practice was “frowned upon” in US airports. I was young and very much ashamed, I do recall that.
On most flights you had to pay for alcoholic beverages (but even as a teenager I could buy beer or whiskey, if my parents agreed, which they did). At the airports there was very little distraction: the tax free shop and one restaurant was all that you could visit, if those were available at all. Many terminals were rather empty buildings; a counter and uncomfortable metal chairs.
A few things didn’t change over the years: the aircrew was just as polite back then as now, which is surprising in light of the extreme stress due to higher numbers of passengers and increased security measures these days. There are a few more female pilots and a few more male stewards, but there is still a way to go on emancipation of the sexes in the transportation industry. The passengers are the same too: most compliant to the unnoticeable, a very few very obnoxious – usually explainable by higher levels of flight anxiety.

And United Airlines back then was just as ba… – but don’t get me started on that tangent.

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The Author Clemens P. Suter enjoying early days air travel

The Author Clemens P. Suter enjoying early days air travel