A Himalayan Trinity - Foreword

Foreword by General Sir Sam Cowan, K.C.B. C.B.E.

Former Colonel Commandant, The Brigade of Gurkhas and
Ex-Chairman of the Gurkha Welfare Trust



Commanding Gurkha soldiers can have a profound effect on one's life and attitude. Many visitors to the Kingdom of Nepal will also attest to the fact that a trek underneath the high peaks of the Himalaya can have a similar impact. Those who have had to go through the dark valley of a struggle against cancer confess to similar life-changing transformation. Mark has been through all three of these experiences and in this remarkable book he tells his story of where it has left him in terms of outlook, values and attitude.

I have had the privilege of doing ten treks in Nepal, journeys which have taken me to most of the areas of the tribal people we call the Gurkhas when they are enlisted in the British Army. It is a land of amazing cultural, ethnic, geographical, linguistic and religious diversity. It is the place of the celestial snows - the great peaks that have captured so many people's imagination over the years. It is also a land of great poverty, and of course, it is the abode of impressively hardy, good natured and resilient people. Gurkha soldiers in the British Army often ask me why I keep going back and my initial response always leaves them a little dumbfounded when I tell them that they must understand that I do not go for trekking. When I tell them that my real purpose is a pilgrimage, the warmth of their smile indicates immediately that they have understood perfectly the importance of such journeys to me.

You will not read very many pages of this book before you realise that Mark takes the same approach, not just to his visits to Nepal but also to his battle against cancer. As Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales related so well, the point of a true pilgrimage is not to reach the shrine or to complete the journey: what is important is what happens on the trail in terms of the interaction with those one is travelling with, and, even more particularly, the challenging thoughts that can confront one when freed from the mundane reality of ordinary existence. Mark's extraordinarily wide ranging thoughts and ideas on a whole host of subjects reveal not only an amazingly versatile mind and very wide reading but also an ability to bring disparate thoughts together in a way which sheds new light on some extremely difficult issues. Nowhere is this more obvious than when he writes about his personal battle against cancer. This is really the central theme of the book, but it is one that is dealt with at many different levels and it is this achievement which makes the book such an interesting and challenging read.

In summary, Mark tells an intensely personal story but he does so in a way which will have wide and sympathetic appeal. He is very much a pilgrim who is still on the road, but his eyes remain alert, his mind remains open and he has already learnt much as a result of some searing experiences on the way.

It is a pleasure to commend his insight to you.