It’s the heat Carruthers, can’t stand the dammed heat.
Ok not original, but perhaps because it is repeated so frequently there is an element of insight. Landed in Yangon yesterday after a long flight from London over Singapore and the heat hits you as soon as you step out of the air-conditioned world of an international airport.
This is a very different place to my little Shire on a little island battered at Atlantic storms clutching to the side of Europe. Right from the moment you land through the explanation of the various buildings the British build during their…..is occupation the right word? ok lets use the word ‘stay’ and onto the teak terrace of the “Governors Residence” overlooking gardens and the pool the unmistakable presence of Empire is everywhere.
Benevolent rulers? I guess it depends where you sit. From the Shire reading stories of Carruthers, watching a Passage to India and so on you would be forgiven for thinking that us British were terribly good eggs and we helped the…. well there are words a man of the Empire would use that we can’t now…. to become more civilised. The truth is of course very different. Whilst at least in my mind the British did do a lot of good and where ever I have travelled in the world many of the legacies we have left such as the rule of law, democracy and infrastructure such as railways are highlighted with some degree of pride by guides and such like. We should be under no illusion that self interest was the driving force behind much of what we did. British rule was at times brutal, contemptuous to the cultures of indigenous people and above all self-serving.
So I sit on a teak verandah, drinking english breakfast tea, listening to a young lady plus the stings of a harp like instrument, tucking into dragon fruit & melon, drinking bucks fizz (well it is a trade trip) served by immaculately dressed serving staff connected to the world by another British invention… the internet contemplating whether or not to have red onion in my omelette or not…. ahh… such are the worries of a former master of the Empire….
In terms of Yangon… very large impressive pagoda – lots of gold and people wandering around in bare feet. For the rest of the city….I am doing it a disservice I am sure….but my abiding memory will be traffic, pink robed nuns, very run down buildings, people eating at the side of the street in informal cafes and traffic….did I mention the traffic? At least there is no London smog.