Thursday, March 30, 2006

Red eye!

Red eye!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A young man - from the Bode or the Bumi tribe - who we came across during our trip along the Omo River in October.

Tea time at the Roffeys

Tea time at the Roffeys, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here is a photo, taken about 55 years ago, just after the war, by my Uncle Eddie (brother of my Granny Roffey). My grandmother is pouring the tea and my Aunty Maud has her wrist in plaster. My Dad is looking at teh camera and my grandather is on his haunches, smiling. They would be at Abbotswood, Guildford, Surrey.

Happy times, from the early 1950's, when my grandparents would be as old as I am now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

And here are the McMichaels...

McMichael faces
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A more varied group here, including decorated soldiers, boxers, porn stars and criminals! Almost all American, again.

Roffey faces

Roffey faces
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

They may be a bit blurred, these faces, but they have all come off the internet in my search for the family roots.

We are back in the early 1800's with a Thomas Roffey who lived in Lambeth in what was then Surrey, but is now London. He has six children including one daughter Alice, who did marry, three (Kate, Margaret and Helen) who did not, and two young sons Thomas William and William James. The latter had seven children, his second being Thomas (again) and he is my great grandfather.

I had been hoping to connect into a oneworldtree which tries eventually to tie in everyone's work, but although there have been many Roffeys looking, they seems to have branched off before my Thomas from the early 1800's.

Anyway, I am pleased to have found this collection of characters, most of them from America, which explains their odd christian names. Someone told me that they seem to have big ears. Can't see it myself.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Japanese lady with bird

Japanese lady with bird
Japanese lady with bird
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I found this and some other paintings and drawings recently in the poetry book of my grandmother, Eileen Winifred Mernagh (later Roffey).

There are some more on flickr.

Family trees

Whilst visiting my Uncle Hector and Aunty Marci, who both lived in Hargeisa in Somaliland for a short while, my cousin Peter's wife Catriona mentioned that they were trying to compile a family tree. I mentioned that I could help, as I have the family tree compiled by my grandfather (Mum's father Iain Morrisom McMichael) in the early 1960's. I have scanned it and sent it off to the various members of the McMichael family.

I also have various trees drawn up my my grandfather on my father's side, the Roffey side.

So, with time on my hands I decided to register with, for a 14 day free trial and see how far I can verify and extend what we know about the families. Trying to get as much done within the 14 days as possible and the whole thing is quite addictive.

It is odd that certain family lines end up quickly in a blank, like the forebears of my Mum's maternal grandfather, Frederick Richard Stewart, a silver spinner, born in Birmingham in 1872.

On the other hand, I have done erally well on my paternal grandmother's side, tracing the Mernaghs back to a village in County Wexford, Ireland called Coolamurry, near Enniscorthy with a James Mernagh who was born in 1801. There is now a James Mernagh managing the Coolamurry Stud, which houses the stallion Ashkalani, a brilliant miler of the Aga Khan's!

From the names of my grandparents: Roffey, Mernagh, McMichael and Srewart, I would be 1/4 English (Roffey), 1/4 Irish (Mernagh) and 1/2 Scottish (McMichael and Stewart).

However, three of the men the next generation up all married into English families: Harman, Somner and Manning. The other was a Robertson. This would bring me up to 1/2 English, 3/8 Scottish and 1/8 Irish. And so we can go on.....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Somerset countryside

Somerset countryside
Somerset countryside
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The sun is shining again and we are off to the Quantocks and the North Somerset coast today.

A pleasant day, motoring across the Somerset countryside up to and past Taunton up to Watchet where we got out and had a walk. The wind off the sea was brisk and cold, but the sun was shining.

Later, we stopped off for lunch in a local pub in Wiveliscombe, serving local ale and some soup which eventually did not agree too well with Mum. On the way back, we listened to the football commentary on Radio 5 Live, Liverpool beating Newcastle with ease.

Post-Cheltenham blues

Take The Stand, after a gallant 5th, best of the British
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It feels like the morning after the month before, as Soft Cell once started one of their songs - Insecure Me. Wot no racing? Oh well.. another year to go to Cheltenham and there is the Grand National meeting in three weeks time.

Take The Stand, my favourite horse of the past couple of years did quite well in the Gold Cup, coming home 5th, the best of the British runners, behind three Irish and a French horse. He made a couple more mistakes than he had last year and his trainer is not as on form as he was last year, and the horse is a year older, so he did his best. Hopefully, we will see him a couple of times more this season.

Did not back any winner and the best I did was Take The Stand's fifth and a couple of sixths. Oh well.. . can't win ' em all.

The very sad thing about racing this week is that ten horses have died while racing, three on Wednesday, five on Thursday, one on Friday and another yesterday, at the last fence in a race he was winning. This is shocking, very shocking indeed. Who knows why it happened like this. There are always falls and every now and then a death, but never as many as this week. In the meantime, many horses probably die on the training gallops at home, about which we tend to hear very little unless they were famous horses.

A typical get-me-on-the-latest-bandwaggon knee-jerk response of puritanical politically correct townies is to say that racing should be banned (like fox hunting). This is an utter nonsense, in my view. Race horses mostly live an enchanted life of luxury and attention at home in the stables, often treated better than the stable lads and lasses who look after them. They are bred for racing, many seem to enjoy it and be aware of their triumphs and heroics, ears pricking as they approach the last, doing their best to edge in front as they approach the winning line and so on.

Of course there are to be investigations as to why each of the ten horses died. This is the modern way. However, horses do die, at a certain rate (maybe in 0.3% of races - one in every 320 races). Given that it seems that each death was different, is it not possible for people to accept that this might be just a bad coincidence, albeit one giving the press and radio phone-in callers a chance to rant and rave about something they know very little about.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Like Christmas Day

Here we are Friday 17th March 2006 and it is Cheltenham Gold Cup Day. So exciting, feels like Christmas, only better.

Last year, it was sunny warm and 20 degrees, like in Morocco... today we will be lucky to make 5 in a cold wind under a grey misty sky.

Backing the same two horses as last year: Take The Stand, pictured here after finishing second at 66-1 and Ballycassidy (again 100-1). No Kicking King this year, so might do a saver on L' Ami (11-1) or Forget The Past (14-1). I do not rate any of the favourites at all.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Brother and sister

Brother and sister
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Five days together and we are still best friends.

In the High Atlas

Charles in the High Atlas
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A day away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.

Sixty kms away to the south-east, towards Mount Toubkal, which at 4,165 metres is the highest mountain in North Africa and about as high as Ras Dashen in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia.

Even here, Fiona seemed to know many people, starting off with Mustafa, the muke man who had lmooked after Thomas so well when he was here in October.

The snow was thick on the mountains, now drying in the unrelenting sun, sending strems of clear ice-cold strems over the rocks along the gulleys and valleys of the area.

The leaves were not yet out on the trees, every now and then some white blossom on the grey-silver walnut trees. The ne*w seasons wheat glowed a bright green in the sun.

This is the land of the Berbers, light-skinned people of the mountains with their colourful clothes and multi-coloured wollen caps, the sort of which Richard and I had as children.

After we were met by Mustafa, who seemed to be waiting for Fiona although no-one knew we were coming, he took us up the hill through the woods to the Kasbah, deemed by Conde Nast to have the best rooftop views in North Africa, being the countrys formost mountain retreat. It is a co-operative project run in good part for the benefit of the local people, an excellent example of ethical tourism.

We had a delicious berber lunch - except for the fatty lamb in the otherwise tasty tagine - with gigs and walnuts, sitting on the roofdeck in the sun, looking out across the snowy mountains, as in this photo. After this, we took to the mules with Mustafa and Mohammed, an up-and-down rode over steep slopes, through berber villages all the time with excellent views.

My camera had failed yet again and just like in Argentina and South Africa, it was out of action for a horse/mule ride in the high mountains - strange that - apart from being very annoying and frustrating. A good thing Fiona has Mums old Nikon.

Back here in Marrakech I was very interested to find out what had happened at Cheltenham, a bit disappointed that Hardy Eustace did not win for the fourth time running for me, but he came third so I should win some money on the place part of the each-way bet, so cant complain.

One more day here in Marrakech before the early flight on Thursday morning. And still we have not boughht - or sold - a riad.

Monday, March 13, 2006

It is a colourful place, Morocco

colourful cloths
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Another day spent on the streets and alleys of Marrakech with Fiona, under a hot sun.

Looked at about 5 or 6 riads for sale but at the end of the day we were left wondering why we had spent our day doing this. But maybe this what one does when one comes here. It really is amazing how a crumbly old home housing three or four families can be transformed into a palace of space, peace, greenness and tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Fiona in green

Fiona in green
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Fiona and I spent the day in and out of the sun and cool shade, wandering around the souks and backstreets of Marrakech, drinking fresh orange juice and eating delicious kofte.

It seems like everyone in Marrakech knows Fiona, or judging by the looks some of the young lads give her, would like to know Fiona!

We had hoped to meet up with Youssef and go to the mountains but we werent able to get in touch with him, having spent all yesterday with Colin and his family. We will try to rent a car for a day or two to see some of the lush green and yellow countryside and go up to the snow covered Atlas mountains.

Tomorrow we first see Colin about a riad... yes, another one (or three!)

Looks like it is cold back home.. but sunny. Should be 3 degrees max for the Gold Cup, when last year it was 21! Oh well.

Fiona says a big hello to Thomas!

Off on travels again

Donkey with Charles
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Back in a land of blue skies, green fields, narrow streets full of pedestrians, cyclist, motorcyclists AND donkeys and the smell of donkets.

Monkeys;, berbers, snake char,ers, drummers, tasty barbecues and orange sellers in the main square.

The souks full of exotic spices, fresh mint, lether slippers, bright lanmpshades, colourful candles, ri=ugs and carpets.

Yes, back in the pink city of Marrakech. Here with my sister Fiona, who has a house here, loking either to rent it out or sell it or buy another one.

Last night we saw our friend Youssef and today made friends with another Youssef who is only 4 and who can kick a mean football. His Dad, Colin, would love him to play for Liverpool one day.

All is well here. The weather only got better a couple of days before we arrived, after much rain.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Even worse news

Where ARE we?
Where ARE we?
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yes, indeed.

The seat which Amsterdam Anders/De Groenen thought they had won at the last minute on Tuesday evening eventually went back to Groen Links. There were only 15 out 490 polling stations to be counted and despite winning 2% of the vote, they have lost their seat. A seat which Amsterdam badly needs.

The city is now in the hands of the PvdA, which is bent on building houses everywhere, including the sports fields down the road, next to where I train.

Any joy at seeing the incompetent, bitter-and-twised Annelies van de Stoel lose her place as the leader of the city centre council is tempered by the fact that her successor is a woman who seemed to be obsessed with removing flags from the city centre.... while LARGE multi-nationals are allowed to place mega size adverts all over the place, usually on scaffolding, set up when restoring/painting the fronts of buildings.

Looks like more of the same, after all. Only worse, at least as far as green issues go. Maybe time to go and live in the countryside.. they can't cut down ALL the trees there, surely?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The not such good news...

Flowerpot men and pink women
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

... is that Amsterdam Anders/De Groenen lost most of their local seats, including the one in Oost/Watergraafsmeer last night. A pity, every district needs its green voice.

Further, the leader of the VVD, the right-wing (so-called) liberal party resigned last night. The paper mentioned they might go for that silly Verdonk woman as the new leader.. would they be so stupid? Anyway, at least she has put off her decision on sending back the gay Iranian asylum seekers while her department gethers more information, thanks to the publicity and the opposition from the other parties.

(She was interviewed on TV last night and she said she did not think she was good enough for the job.. finally a bit of self-realisation!)

On to the next big election in Europe... and will there be a big protest vote against Berlusconi, like there was last year in the regional elections? The Italian parliamentary elections are on 8 th and 9th April.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Anders of niets

Anders of niets
Anders of niets
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.


The results are in for Amsterdam (still unofficial). The Partij van de Arbeid (The Labour Party) won very well, gaining 5 seats to now have 20 out of the total of 45, more than expected.

Things were not looking at all well for my Amsterdam Anders party, as they had no seats in the opinion polls. The first prognosis came after 60% of the votes cast and this was confimed... they were going to lose their one seat.

Another prognosis, with 80% of the votes cast and still no seat.

Then finally.... as the mayor introduced the final result, he said there was one suprise - a small surprise... the only change during the evening... Amsterdam Anders had won their seat. Just! At the last minute!!!! Amazing!

And who did they win it from? None other than Fred's Groen Links party, who stayed flat at 6 seats, having bbeen at 7 all evening!

There's a party in town..... but I'm not there.... maybe next time!

Fred's choice

Fred came home certain about which party he would vote for (the same as always - we are creatures of habit) - Groen Links - of Green Left, the party which thinks it is funny to have the word Groen written in red and Links in green. How simple.

Anyway, he did the stemwijzer test and, horror or horrors, it came out with the Labour(ist) Party for the local and, even worse, the Socialist Party for the city. But, at least his party came in a good second and third in each.

(Oh dear, I just did a wider comparison for Fred and he gets his top score in the city elections with the Conservative Democrats!!!)

Time to choose

It is 7th March, the date of the local and city elections. I am allowed to vote being a registered resident of Oost/Watergraafsmeer in Amsterdam.

There is a program on the internet you can use to help make your choice out of the nine local parties and about twenty city parties. It was fun to do and quite rigourous and although I already had an idea who I would vote for this test confirmed exactly what I thought, namely that I should vote for:

Amsterdam Anders/De Groenen ( Alternative Amsterdam/The Greens)

and that I should definitely not vote for the Socialists or the Christians (no surprise there then!).

The main areas of agreement between AA/DG and myself were as follows:

1 keep in sports fields and gardens IN Amsterdam
2 reduce traffic in Amsterdam and making it more difficult to get a parking permit (not that there is so much traffic in Amsterdam)
3 legalise all drugs*
4 no security cameras or ID cards (Don't Panic, it really isn't so dangerous out there)
5 no snooping on social security claimants
6 negative rent subsidies for high income earners in social housing
7 immigrant women should be given their own residence permit (and not be dependent on their husbands)
8 the city should be cleared of advertising on its streets (I'd love that)
9 art subsidies not just for commercial reasons
10 a plan to turn the Western port area into a garden city

Less in agreement about giving 16 year old the vote, creating a car-free prostitute area (???), and all sorts of stuff about social housing about which I know too little to have much of an opinion.

One thing though... just as you do not solve traffic problems by building more roads, you do not necessarily 'solve' a housing shortage by building more houses. In the last 40 years the population of Amsterdam has decreased and the number of housing units has increased, and now we have a shortage. (Why? because there are far fewer people per house than before).

* - if you think drugs are dangerous, then have you considered what bread van do to you - have a look - bread is dangerous

I think I might go this evening to party's election night party in town, although Fred says that they are likely to lose their only seat, so it might not be such a party.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A strange time of year

Frankendael in March
Frankendael in March
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Last year we had to wait for the beginning of March for our first snow and then on the 2nd the heaviest fall for 20 years.

This March again it has been snowing. Every night, or early in the morning, we have a light sprinkling of snow. The streets and cars and gardens are white. The sun gets up and melts the snow. There is a very strong cold wind and in one corner, in the wind, it can be freezing, in another, in the sun and out of the wind, lovely and warm. Every day now... for six days!

Een brief verstuurd naar de redactie van de Volkskrant

South Africa - Fred and Charles at waterfall in Hogsback
Fred and Charles at waterfall
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Uit de Verleiding op zaterdag kunnen we zien dat homo's vooral naakt of semi-naakt op vacantie gaan, geen borst haar hebben en vooral elkaar gaan opzoeken. Wat een stereotype! Mijn vriend en ik hebben zes maanden rondgereist in het Midden Oost en Oost- en Zuidelijk Afrika. We hebben altijd samen op een kamer geslapen en maar een keer een probleem gehad (in Christelijke Addis Ababa) in het verkrijgen van een dubbele bed omdat we twee mannen waren. Zes manaden lang konnen we echt onszelf zijn en hebben we kunnen genieten van geweldige gastvrije, vriendelijke en mooie mensen. Onze blog is op te vinden, voor mensen die geinteresseerd zijn.

Mvg, enz.

Niets van de redactie gehoord, vreemd genoeg, maar zo gaat het in de snelle wereld van e-mails en internet.

She does it again!

Three friends at the mosque 2
Three friends at the mosque 2
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Rita Verdonk, Minister for Immigration and Integration, member of the Liberal Freedom Party... the one who a couple of weeks ago wanted us all to speak Dutch on the streets and who wants to ban the burqa. Her.

What's she done now?

Well, she has decided to turn down asylum requests from a number of gay people from Iran and now she wants to send them back. Amazing!

Apparently there was some mumbling about homosexuality not being a crime in Iran. However, we saw what happened to a couple of young gay men in Iran last August when they were hanged. Just a question of making up some charges and hanging them. This was an internationally renowned incident and tht silly lady in The Hague in her ivory tower didn't notice. Nor her civil servants. Its just too bad.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Monique op bezoek

Happy flower people
Happy flower people
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Dit weekend, hebben we Monique Jansen op bezoek gehad. We hebben Monique in Harar ontmoet, waar we in dezelfde hotel gelogeerd hebben (voordat wij uitgezet waren om ruimte te maken voor Shirley en haar Baobab groep). Fred en Monique hebben erg genoten van de dubbele gin-en-tonics, alhoewel Monique het niet op tijd doorgehad heeft dat Fred dubbele gins had besteld! Nu thuis, ook weer G-en-T's! Het was leuk haar weer te zien!

Zaterdag en vandaag zijn we in Amsterdam gaan wandelen, een beetje in de sneeuw, een beetje in de zon, Monique en Charles allebei met hun foto-toestellen, en we zijn ook naar de Henri Bresson-Cartier tentoonstelling gegaan in de FOAM (FOtographiemuseum AMsterdam). Ook hebben we Hein en Marion bezocht in hun boekenwinkel waar we alle vijf over Ethiopie en Harar kon praten. Leuk!

Charles heeft zijn fotoset op flickr gezet en Monique gaat dat ook doen op haar (geweldige) site. We hopen elkaar weer te treffen in Leuven ergens in de komende tijd!

Round we go again... US meddling in Italian democracy

Football and religion in pink and aubergine
Football and religion in pink and aubergine
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Italy is a great country, for so many reasons.

Jamie Oliver recently published a book about the country's food and the culture of food in Italy, containing some delicious recipes. Oddly enough, on the second page or so, there is a picture of this very wall in the market area of Palermo. It was obviously taken after my photo because most of the football team poster (Palermo had just been promoted to the Serie 'A') had disappeared by the time he got there. What was quite extraordinary was that they were selling aubergines right under the posters, the colours providing a perfect match, but the photo of this did not come out so well.

Well, Sicily was the scene of one of the first major misadventures of the meddling Americans in Italian political affairs. Liberating the island from the fascist forces, the Americans used the mafia orgnaisations (which had been kept very quiet by Mussolini) to keep 'their' order while they moved on up the peninsula. With dreadful consequences, such as the re-establishment of the mafia in control in Sicily, in New York and now the world's financial markets. While they also exercised an undemocratic hold over the governemnt in Rome, notably through Andreotti. This while the Americans worked from another angle to keep Italy out of the hands of the (dreaded) Communists.

However, with Andreotti gone, it was not long before Berlusconi would arrive on the scene, with goodness-knows what connections with the mafia and other forms of organised crime. The mafia would help give Berlusconi ALL 61 Sicilian seats in Parliament in 2001.

Last year, Sicily, like the rest of Italy turned against Berlusconi and his ultra-nationalistic, federalistic, neo-fascist friends and delivered major electoral defeats in the regional and city elections. Maybe the help of the mafia would not be enough to save this rabble.

The parliamentary elections are being held in April and Berlusconi is using all the control he has of most of the media and advertising space to get re-elected. Maybe this too is not even enough.

So... as a last resort, January's Bad Democracy winner, Bush, invites November's winner, Berlusconi to come to address a joint meeting of Congress, in what has been clled by Correire della Sera a 'mega-electoral gift', by giving the man the chance to present himself as a respected world leader instead of the world's laughing stock. Those Americans make such a noise about freedom and democracy and seem to be hellbent on undermining it wherever they think it might serve their uses.

Is this young man still locked up?

Danny's brother
Danny's brother
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is Josef. He was locked up by the Ethiopian authorities working for Meles Zenawi, after the rioting in Addis in October..

He brought us down to the Omo and a couple of weeks later was arrested playing chess outside his house with his brother in Addis Ababa. Released one day, arrested again the next.

The man resposnisible, Meles Zenawi has just won the February vote on openDemocracy as the winner of the Bad Democracy award, so following in the illustrious footsteps of Berlusconi (Italy), Howard (Australia) and Bush (USA), winning a massive 80% of the votes cast.

Let us hope this massive international show of recognition of the problems in Ethiopia, actually does some good in mobilising forces against this nasty man and his hated regime.

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