To have a positive effect on someone else’s life is a shared joy. The transformation of one is the transformation of all. Jim had lived the life of the proverbial migrating swallow, travelling Africa, from the raunchy nightclubs of Lagos, to the thrilling splendour of Zanzibar, from the grand awakenings of Ghana to the dusty streets of Harare, and all the spaces in between. Jim lived for Africa, had invested heavily in the liberation heroes and had studied the history of the continent deeply. From the gold mongers of Great Zimbabwe to the matriarchal societies of Nigeria, from the cross Atlantic trade of the bronze age to the extravagant ancient inter-continental diversity from east to west and north to south, he was a mind of knowledge and a university degree in and of itself. On some occasions the pass mark for this degree was two bottles of wine downed within the hour in a vigorous war-time drinking game called Cardinal Puff. Yet, by the time Jim died at the age of eighty he had transferred a certain passion for Africa, her people, her culture and philosophy that propelled me on my journey of life.
… This collection of poetry and images is released fifteen years after the death of Jim Bailey, my good friend and life and spirit guide in afterlife. Jim somehow knew that this is how it would be. I am only realising now. So thank you. It has taken me years to reach this point of humility and service. Jim is a primary mover in my life!
There is no time, only a constantly changing impression of the present. I am therefore delighted to assist in this posthumous collection …
Jim wanted to be a pilot from the age of ten years old. He served in the Royal air Force during World War II : A selection of his poems were published in the book ‘Poetry of a Fighter Pilot.’
The original manuscript of Airborne to Africa included the complete contents of poetry published in Poetry of a Fighter Pilot. This is not included in this section however to give those who did not know Jim an idea of the extremity of human experience world war two was, a few poems are included : We owe a great a deal of thanks to those who lived through humanity’s darkest era. The severity of the experience of War had a profound effect on Jim.
The title of these published poems are : The dream ; The Brief lived fighter, 1941 ; A Match, 1941 ; The lady beautiful, 1942 ; Death in the aircrew Mess, Debriefing ; Hunters, in Pursuit of German Reconnaisance Aircraft, 1942 ; Lancaster Crews coned by Searchlights, 1943 ; The Mess of Dead Aircrew 1944 ; Piccadilly, London, Late at Night, 1945 ; The Fruits of victory, 1946 : One hand washes another ; Victory, which gave back to Germany her youth ; The Tailgunner ; The Flute is common to all men ; The Men in the Ranks ; At the Menin gate ; The need to validate ; Armaments : the hard drugs of Nations ; The Attack of Historian Poets ; The Survivor I – V ; White Sea Convoys ; Tank Politics ; The RAF Dead, 1970 ; The graves of Airmen, 1970 :
These poems are preserved in the works entitled Poetry of a Fighter Pilot.
Somehow Jim knew that his work would only be fully enjoyed well after his death. He prepared for that and the manuscripts had the following passage …
INTRODUCTION BY JIM BAILEY:
“The length and breadth of South Africa exhibits a great South African patriotism: an understanding that our differences are a blessing not a curse. “Let’s get rid of the crap, work shoulder to shoulder and we can produce the greatest country in Africa, perhaps even the world.” I hope the poets eye, cast across the continent, will restore once more that wondrous vision. Poetry is music without sound. Where physicists split atoms poets should split moments and achieve immortality by perfect sensitivity to every second, releasing each seconds vast powers.
“But since poetry is composed of words and words mostly bear sense, it may combine the beauties of silent sound with silent sense and so the poet-thinker, le poete penseur, can supply one type of poetry: with this pensive style I am concerned. Poetry appeals to those who understand the brevity of life. Ideas, conjured in a few lines, should be the springboard to toss the reader into the air, after which his own pirouette.
“I have been privileged , beyond belief, to be able to lead something of a nomadic life in Africa: to be able to move like the migrating birds: swifts, swallows, martins, avocets: and so my writing grows out of this bird-of-passage experience : using the language spoken by the way and the images that have been called up on those long trips across Africa and my various homes there. In this way I discovered how modern Africa and the ancient world of the Fertile crescent even to this day cohabit happily. I hope that this slender volume is the first to do some justice to our African continent as a whole.
“Travels urge me to break away from the stereotypes: to venture preduction rather than deduction and to be sensitive to the paradox of learning – the more we know, the more we can realise our ignorance – to cease to censor out new feelings, new thoughts, but rather to have the courage to open all the doors of my house to them: invert and embrace new axioms.
In well-known words, Fyodor Tyutchev sighed :- “We cannot guess what echo our words will find, and sympathy is given to us like grace.”
Enthusiasm is the vehicle of my life
Contemplation of Allah is my compassion
Faith is the source of my power
Sorrow is my friend
Knowledge is my weapon
Truth is my salvation
Worship is my habit
Love of all men is the core of my belief.
FROM THE MUIR STREET MOSQUE, DISTRICT SIX, CAPE TOWN
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