Geo-political headlines this month were dominated by the situation in Northern Syria, an area populated by the Kurdish people otherwise known as Kurdistan. Trump announced the US was making an immediate withdrawal of US stationed across the area. This relatively small contingent, of about 1000 US military personal, was all it had taken to maintain peace and stability. They were backed up by Kurdish fighters who’d undertaken much of the ground war against ISIS, on behalf of the US led alliance. Now the Kurds found themselves abandoned by their well resourced allies, with hostile forces to the North and South and several thousand ISIS prisoners to look after (across a number of prison camps).
The Turkish army, had been strengthening at the border for some time, with clear intent to attack the Kurds from the North at the first opportunity. Syrian forces regrouping from the South were Russian backed and apparently intent on reclaiming and defending Syrian territory from any Turkish invasion.
On 9th October (within days of the Americans beginning their rapid withdrawal) Turkey launched an offensive into Northern Syria to remove, what they described as, the threat of Kurdish terrorists. Trump cautioned President Erdogan of Turkey against slaughtering the Kurdish people and issued hollow threats to destroy the Turkish economy if things didn’t ‘get done right’.
By 19th Turkey had taken significant ground and it was reported that 750 ISIS fighters escaped during shelling of their Kurdish captors. I haven’t kept track of how many ISIS fighters broke out, not sure if that’s public knowledge. By the end of the month we had reports of millions of Kurds potentially in the line of fire and on the move, in fear of their lives, with Turkish forces on a war footing, thousands of ISIS fighters broken out of prison and Russian back Syrian fighters retaking territory from Turkey. We had news video coverage on TV of Russian reporters with Syrian fighters behind them walking freely around a recently evacuated American airbase.
Russia will prosper, whether Turkey or Syria end up governing Northern Syria. Russia, who also supplies arms to Turkey will be happy to edge the Americans out take the role of ‘peace broker’ between the two opposing forces as it blatantly extends it’s own influence and overarching control across the region.
We celebrated Imogen’s 18th Birthday this month. A day to remember. The family joined Immy in the dining-room before heading off to work and school in the morning. The table was laid with presents, cards flowers and birthday cake and we enjoyed singing happy birthday and watching her blow the candles out and open some cards and gifts. I treasure these intimate family occasions, created by Sonja and evolved into something of a tradition perhaps for our children to take with them into the next generation if they wish.
Our daughter is now old enough to legally buy a round, which she duly did in the evening at The Albany. We were en route to Maloncho Tandoori, our favourite Indian restaurant in town (Immy’s choice).
By the weekend she was sampling other thrills and spills of being a young adult, celebrating in town with her mates, drinking and clubbing. Due to the increasingly busy schedule of our 18year old, the earliest we have been able to arrange the birthday ‘gathering’ Saturday 2nd of November. It’s all planned, prepared and 40 guests are expected.
I remember attending an Open Evening when we were looking at secondary schools, the Headteacher advising us how quickly it all happens, one mo he next moment she’s preparing to leave school as a young woman.
At 7:30am the following Wednesday I am wishing Immy bon voyage on Platform 4 at Guildford station. She looks calm and confident in her outdoor pursuits gear, carrying a fully loaded 70ltr backpack, waiting for her connection to Reading. Immy is heading off to Wales for her Duke of Edinburgh Gold practice expedition in the Brecon Beacons. Quite a bold move, to go for a 60mile off-road hike across the black mountains, only four months after a cruciate ligament reconstruction. The physio had cautioned against any scrambling. With amber weather forecasted and warnings in the media torrential rain, high winds and flash flooding. I recall we were all apprehensive about a potential slip or over-work causing further ACL injury.
As another birthday treat, we’d agreed, to drive over to Wales to collect Immy and make a long-weekend of it. We found a wonderful barn-conversion called Neuadd Wenn to hire for the three nights in quite a remote hilly area just north of Brecon Beacons. . I cannot remember seeing so much flooding on the roads, a lot of it was. so deep that that vehicles were forced to crawl through, taking it in turns to pass through one a time from either end so each vehicle could occupy the most elevated part in the middle of the road. The river through Abergavenny had broken its banks and had taken over the flood plains. It was a relief to drive over and collect Immy on her final day, and return back to Neuadd Wenn
So good to be away for a weekend, as a family, with the dog and enjoy the great outdoors.. The holiday-let was really well equipped and cosy, with an amazing rotating log-burner in the middle of the main living-room.
Outside the property, it was a different world: Cold and damp and getting dark by mid-afternoon, almost completely devoid of the sound of traffic and aircraft, just the distant mooing of cows and occasional dog bark reflected off the hillsides and bird song echoing through the woods in the valleys.
England Rugby continued their World Cup quest earlier this month by brushing Argentina aside 39-10, to put them at the top of the Group. England was due to play France in the final group stage match, but the final round (at group-stage) was cancelled due to arrival of biggest Typhoon in the past 50 years hitting Japan that weekend. England, being well clear at the top of the Group, went through to the quarter finals to play Australia a couple of weeks later on Saturday 19th October: More about that in this month’s interstitial post (link).
In the UK, Politics and Brexit hit a couple of new crescendos this month:
Prime Minister Johnson has been bustling around Europe again, allegedly trying to get agreement to a ‘new deal’ which is reported to be a variation of an early proposal put to the UK by the EU and rejected by Theresa May and her cohort a couple of years ago. Essentially the proposal replaces the ‘Irish Backstop’ with new customs arrangements that puts a customs divide down the Irish Sea as Northern Ireland is treated slightly different to the rest of the UK on selected goods. Was he able to sell it to everybody? ….. Nah! Of course not!
On the evening of Tuesday 29th October, agreement was announced to hold a general election on 12/12/2019, the first to be held in December since 1923. So now, three years after Brexit and only two years of forming a minority government we have a potential path to break the deadlock in Parliament.