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A message from John Waller
The website Freedom Books and Plays brings together my views on Britain’s imperial history and its relevance today.
I was born within sight of the ‘continent’ on the hills above Hythe in Kent, six weeks before the Dunkirk evacuation of British, French, Belgian and Canadian troops.
In Hitchhiking to India in 1962 I wrote about the end of the Raj. On my return from India the German driver of my lift said: “Adenauer liebt De Gaulle” – the German Chancellor loved the French President! At that moment I knew we could build a peaceful Europe. Sadly, in December 1959 the Tories had rejected the Liberal motion to join the EEC; Labour abstained. Britain would have no say in the future of Europe for 13 years.
Today, we face a second ‘evacuation’ from Europe. As Churchill, the great advocate of a United Europe, said: ‘Wars are not won by evacuations’. With half my books sold in Europe, I fear leaving the Customs Union and Single Market. Hitchhiking to India has sold well to Sikhs in the UK, but failed to sell in India as “the price has to be halved as Indians buy cheaper books”. This does not bode well for the promises made of new exports.
Summers in Connemara have increased my love for Ireland – are we now returning to the Economic War of 1932, mentioned in the final scene of the play Flames of Freedom, and the friction before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement inherited from the 1920s as witnessed by my half-brother Peter in Irish Flames – the Arrival of the Black and Tans? I am particularly sad to see the treatment of youngsters from Europe whose future is uncertain.
We have cruised the world: to Japan and back; to Cape Horn; to the US, Mexico and up the Amazon; to Scandinavia and Russia; in the Med from Morocco to Israel and from Turkey to Venice and Spain. It has opened my eyes to a world very different to that before 1953, as described in the play The CIA coup in Iran, when the UK Exchequer’s major income was from BP’s Iranian oil revenues. Do we still believe the song Rule Britannia – Britain rules the waves?
John Waller trained as an IBM engineer, worked in New York where he saved money for some land in Greece, built a summer house on Corfu in 1971, founded a computer company, was a Liberal councillor in Richmond for 17 years and three times parliamentary candidate for Twickenham. For his sixtieth birthday, he cooked his friends a thirteen course Greek dinner and they gave him a punt, which started his writing. Three Persons in a Punt will be published when he has finished his journey from source to sea down the Thames. He sent his first book to 99 agents. 98 said "No"; one said "Self-publish" and Yiannis Books was born. It has published his own books in:
Peter Waller, John’s half-brother, on the cover of “Irish Flames” was born in Ireland in 1911. He worked in the American Red Cross in World War II, as house manager at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, as salesman of vast Crown Derby dinner sets to the sheikhs and kings in the Middle East and as joint founder of the American School in London.
He was a friend of Gerald Durrell, author of "My Family and Other Animals", and organiser of his US fund-raising tour. In retirement he spent much of the year in Corfu, appearing as a major character in "Greek Walls". He died in 1990.
A Garden in Lockdown
In 1982 John and his wife Jannie bought a derelict house from the estate of Dr. Roles, the founder of the Study Society. In the jungle of a garden was a man meditating. By 2014 the garden was restored and they went on their first world cruise to Japan and China. By 2020 the garden was again in need of much work. In March, returning from their last world cruise, to South America, just the two of them used the lockdown to restore it: Jannie, with one new knee, cannot dig but knows all about flowers; John know nothing about them but has a spade, like his ancestors.