Kabul airport

Kabul airport

28-08-2021MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES HANDOUT

There are heroes and there’s Pen Farthing, a former Royal Marine who served in the British army in Afghanistan during the mid-2000s. Since then, this extraordinarily brave and honourable man has dedicated his life to saving street animals in the country via his charity, Nowzad. With the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, the former soldier worked hard to organise for his staff and animals to be evacuated back to the UK.

Not caring for his own safety, he opted to stay in the war-torn city while his wife returned to her native Norway, anguished that he could not leave with her. Many would have dumped the Afghan staff and animals and fled for a flight out of the mayhem but not Pen Farthing. He loyally vowed to stay until both his staff and animals could be guaranteed safe passage to the UK. With time running out, global supporters raised £500,000 to secure a plane for them. The animals would go in the hold, humans in the plane and there would be room for any other waifs and strays that the various western governments could not accommodate.

Defence secretary, Ben Wallace, claimed that Operation Ark, as it was called, was a distraction and inferred in UK media interviews that Pen Farthing was putting animals’ lives before those of humans. It was a mischievous smokescreen and utterly untrue. Farthing never tried to jump the queue – lest we forget, the poor guy is still stuck in the hellhole of Kabul with his team and 140 dogs and 60 cats.

The plane that Nowzad supporters crowdfunded to provide for Farthing and his team did not take seats away from fleeing Afghans. It was an additional plane and would have offered more places for those in need. The animals would not have taken seats as they would have been stowed away in the hold.

The appalling US and political handling of the situation in Kabul saw further scenes of tragedy and chaos as two suicide bombers unleashed mayhem and butchered more than one hundred innocent people outside the airport. Pen Farthing, who had dutifully taken his turn and reached the final checkpoint with his staff was heartbreakingly turned away and is back in his charity’s compound. What happens from here?

For those who say animals’ lives don’t matter, you are so wrong. These beautiful, innocent creatures have as much right to air and life as any of us on this wretched planet. If valiant and selfless Farthing manages to return to Kabul airport with his staff and animals, I for one will be overjoyed. I pray that they all make it onto their plane and arrive safely in the UK. We need more Pen Farthings to make this twisted world a far better place.

Heart for heart’s sake?
What is it with UK doctors? They seem to be hellbent on turning all Britons into a nation of pill poppers. The latest absurdity comes from Oxford heart professor, Kazeem Rahimi. He has announced that ALL over-50s should be on blood pressure tablets even if they have low or healthy blood pressure levels. His view is that nine per cent of 55–84-year-olds might be less likely to suffer a cardiovascular event. Critics maintain that lowering blood pressure in this way could reduce blood flow to the brain and heart and cause strokes and memory loss. It’s the same argument with Statins.

So many doctors routinely prescribe them to those who simply don’t need them and who knows what the long-term effects might be? There’s very little monitoring of the situation once patients are put on the drug. Instead of shoving pills down our gullets, how about getting those overweight or unhealthy to enjoy healthier lifestyles and to exercise more? There are exceptions (and I know such people) who are slim and healthy but still have high blood pressure but I am not referring to them as they may have sound reasons for taking such medication.

Even here in Spain we must be vigilant. Recently I chatted with a group of elderly, feisty Mallorcan ladies, all in their eighties, and was appalled to discover how many were taking huge numbers of pills. One lady was on 19 different meds and couldn’t quite recall why. She told me that she did as her doctor suggested, unquestioningly. This of course is the problem - elderly people having a blind faith in their GPs who so often do not explain or provide answers. I am not castigating the medical profession at large – and here in Mallorca we are so lucky to have such an exemplary public health service. What I am suggesting is that there needs to be a lot more transparency, honesty and discussion with vulnerable patients about the whys and wherefores and likely risks.

Happy campers
Apparently thousands of Britons have taken to glamping and camping this summer due to Covid-19. A whopping 580,000 nationals headed for campsites this August finding the price levels so much more acceptable than renting property or staying in hotels. Unlike the mainstream hospitality sector, campsites have bucked the trend and have not hiked Staycations prices. It’s a sound move because many are being converted to the idea, enjoying the delights of natural settings and feeling refreshed by their DIY holidays. Long may it continue.

Anna Nicholas’s seventh Mallorca travel title, Peacocks in Paradise, is now available to purchase at all good UK bookshops & via amazon. In Majorca it’s available at Universal Bookshop, Alameda shop in Soller and the Atelier in Fornalutx and in Palma bookshops.

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