It’s tempting to sit back when you think a job is complete, and sink into a well of happy memories and nostalgia. Having recently updated myself on the current situation in Syria, what was bad news 8 weeks ago when I arrived in NZ, is now simply appalling. One million displaced people, living in tent cities across borders, thousands of orphaned children, and more than 60,000 fatalities…..in a civil conflict that the rest of the world watches from the touchline.
The message has to get out. People have asked me lots of searching questions in the Antipodes. Awareness of the Syrian civil war needs to be spread further.
My job may appear to be complete (from the cycling point of view), but the real work is only just starting.
Back in the UK, I will be offering to visit groups and associations with an illustrated presentation of my 2,500 mile venture. I will make no personal charge for the talk, but will happily receive a donation for the Children in Syria Appeal. I sincerely want funds to continue flowing into this cause. We can’t stand by and hope that a solution will magically appear on the horizon. Our ‘grain of sand’, however small, will be of immeasurable importance.
If you know of any group that would welcome me as a visiting speaker, please get the message out by word of mouth, email, or sharing on Facebook or Twitter.
Thank you in advance.
And do give them the link to this blog, so they can get a flavour of what it’s all about.
As I was making my second ascent of El Teide, from the north of the island, I passed through extensive woodland called Esperanza Forest. I had heard rumour that, hidden in the forest in a remote spot, there was still a monument (an obelisk, in fact) commemorating the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Not only was it a memorial of that tragic war, but it also honoured the role played by Francisco Franco as the leader of the rebel forces. I simply could not believe that 36 years after the death of Franco, such monuments were still allowed to stand.
I sought assistance from several locals to find the spot, none of them ecstatic about answering my questions, and this is what I found (see photos). In an age when dictators around the world are tumbling like ninepins, I gazed upon this cruelly majestic memorial that marked the spot where the rebels had held the fateful meeting that sparked the movement of troops from north Africa into Spain, unleashing a three-year bloodbath that claimed over 1 million lives. As I drew closer, I saw that it was not wreaths, bouquets and candles that honoured the space around the obelisk, but broadly-painted graffiti and slogans that shouted to the world “Death to Fascism”, “Canary Islands Free & Independent”,”Out with Spaniards” “They will not pass” (a Republican slogan during the war). And I noted around the base of the monument that visitors had relieved themselves copiously as a mark of ‘respect’………………
A local website tells me that the Canarian government had made a unanimous decision to erase this monument from the face of the earth…………….. but that was nearly 4 years ago :0(