Friday, June 30, 2006

Summer is back

Frankendael, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It seems like it is going to be a nice hot sunny weekend.

I am taking the 10.07 ICE train to Cologne, booked in advance with a 50% discount. Taking my tent, sleeping bag and light clothes in a rucksack, hoping to picth down somewhere for a couple of nights. Also taking the camera to capture some of the around the games. Will probably pop down to Gelsenkirchen tomorrow, where England are playing, but only if there are not too many hooligans around.

The winners I would like to see come through are:

Argentina - played best football of tournament so far
Italy - deserve some luck and their attcking style should be rewarded
England - cos its Engerland and I'm English
Brazil - because they are capable of great football

However, I wouldn't be surprised to see the home team sneak a win from the Argentineans, or to see Portugal edge out England with a messy goal.

We will see.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Happy Anniversary BLOG!

Fred and Charles, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Just noticed in time that this is the first anniversary of us starting this blog!

It started off as being a way of recording our trip to the Middle East and Africa, written by the both of us..... and now it has become more my blog, with Fred not so interested, having a more-than-full-time job at school.

Thank you to everyone who has come here and I hope we have been able to entertain as well as give you an insight to the places we went to, the attitudes we formed and the way we look at some aspects of life. It has been great to have your support.

It has been great to marry this blog with flickr, where we keep the photos, as I often think of photos as being a pictorial diary to one's life and I enjoy the way the two sites - blogspot and flickr combine and work off each other to give one the opportunity to either illustrate a discussion (blog to flickr) or to describe a photographic moment/image (flickr to blog).

Anyway, I think we will keep it going, at least for as long as anybody bothers to come this way and visit us. Let us see where the next year will lead us....

Over and out

Girly bike, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The prime Minister and the Cabinet resigned earlier this evening... as a consquence of the Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Rita Verdonk discussion.

D66, the smallest coalition party, which is a left-wing free-thinking liberal party decided it could no longer support Verdonk as minister, given the way she had handled the Ayaan Hirsi Ali case. With reason, as the minister refused to accept that she had made any sort of mistake or had acted in haste and so on, when it was so obvious that she had.

The ruling Christian and right-wing liberal parties were not willing to force her to resign, so D66 withdrew its support for the Cabinet, which then resigned.

D66 had for a long time been uncomfortable being in a right-wing domintaed Cabinet and this was a way out for them, after so many. It is a pity that this issue, regarding the treatment of an ex-colleague, was not the biggest issue which has faced this Cabinet, but it did have the advantage of being a clear. well-defined issue upon which one could focus clearly on what was going on.

D66 should never have entered into teh Cabinet. They said before the election that the would not, but after the election, they changed their mind and they DID join. Now they are paying the price for their foolish decision.

We are not sure whether there will be new elections, or whether the remianing two parties might try to carry on, as a minority goverment with support from right wing or fundamentalist Christian parties. The suspicion is that they will want to cary on so that they can get more votes with a give-away budget later in the year.

The Dutch football team came home in disgrace earlier this week, with the Dutch FIFA offering an extension to the contract of the failed trainer, Marco van Basten. Let us hope that when we get a new team in Parliament, that we get a better leader than the one who made the right decision by resigning today.


The colours of Brazil 2, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A few things:

1 The parliamentary debate on the Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Verdonk scandal went on until 05.30 this morning. The Minister is still in place. The motion against her was supported by the smallest coalition partner, D66, but was rejected by the Christians. She might cling on to power, the Prime Minister definietly will, but they both show what a nonsense poltical responsibility is. At least there was great concern in the House regarding the damage the goings on have had on Holland's image abroad. next time they can also think about the damage done to their reputations in the eyes of the voters.

2 Amsterdam is changing from orange to yellow-green-and-a-little-bit-of-blue as everyone is becoming a Brazilian, in anticipation of that country winning the World Cup.

3 I now remember why I was secretly hoping that Spain would be beaten by France the other night. Racism. Apparently those Spanish supporters were making monkey chants at the, largely black, French team before the match. They did this in the stadium during a 'friendly' whenever a black chap had the ball. Also, the Spanish manager was quoted as having made racist comments about the great Thierry Henry earlier in the season. Best stay out of international football, Spain, until you get yourselves sorted out.

4 I am off to Germany tomorrow... back to Cologne, scene of our ill-fated trip in early March, hopefully to enjoy the thrills of being in Germany during the World Cup, watching on large screens in the centre, with a possible trip to Gelsenkirchen for the England v Portugal quarter final on Saturday.

5 And what intriguing quarter finals we have: Germany v Argentina, a repeat of the 1990 final, Brazil v France, a repeat of the 1998 final, England v Portugal, a repeat of the 2004 European Championship quarter final and Italy against newcomers Ukraine, with Shevchenko matched against his ex-Italian colleagues.

6 And in the meantime, the Italian football trial has started and been adjourned, with four top teams facing demotion to the third division.

7 And back to Somalia, it seems as if the African Union, while meeting in Gambia to discuss a charter on democracy are still pushing for a lifting on the arms embargo to Somalia. Interesting. Both on the count of guns being incompatible with democracy and on the count of there being massive shipments of weapons to Somalia during teh past number of months, if not years. What a load of nonsense.

8 That nasty strong man of Ethiopia seems to be using the Somalia situation, with respect to the progress of the Islamists to get support for himself and have a go at Eritrea, which he claims is helping the Islamists. Not exactly sure how a country as poor as Eritrea could do anything like that or understand why. Paranoid.

9 And Tony Blair is setting up another organisation to monitor how the help the West is giving Africa is actually being useful. A nice try..... but please have a look at how Africans can best help themselves.. and I have a tip here... support freedom and democracy and oppose corruption... and let the Africans do it for themselves

10 Finally, there does seem hope that the AU may start looking more favourably towards Somaliland's quest for recognition, as I read somewhere that this will be discussed at an up-coming meeting.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Red cards for Holland

There are still scraps of orange around in the city, people too lazy to tidy up, like here on this balcony.

Most people here realise very well that the Dutch team were not good enough to do very well at this World Cup, although the actual performances were far worse than anyone really expected. There are the usual sorts of analysis going on about why certain players were chosen to play and others (notably Ruud van Nistelrooy) and also about the relative inexperience of the trainer, the cool Marco van Basten and his team. However, he is going to have his contracty extended to 2010 to take him up to and past the World Cup in South Africa.

Of the more extreme viewpoints being taken is that of Johann Cruijff who says that the minister for Immigration, the dreaded Rita Verdonk, is to blame for Holland losing? How? Because she refused to fast track the naturalisation of Kalou, a player from Ivory Coast who is playing for one of the big teams over here. Well, he was. Once the minister turned his request down he decided to move on again and I think he has found his way to Chelsea or Arsenal next season, happy to hang on to his Ivory Coast nationality.

We last heard of Verdonk here when she was involved in the scandal of taking away the Dutch nationality of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali born Dutch Member of Parliament. Well, there was a big debate in Parliament the result of which was that the Minister had to go away and have another look at the situation, as the house thought she acted too quickly. Well, yesterday, it was finally resolved that Ayaan Hirsi Ali could keep her Dutch nationality, but only after she was as good as forced to sign a letter saying basically that the whole problem was created by herself and that the Minister had done nothing wrong. Ayaan signed the letter because she was fed up with the whole procedure and wanted to move on, which she has, but she has also let the world know that she was not ahppy to sign the letter either and that she was, in fact, being put nder pressure by the Minister to sign it. There is a debate going on in the House now regarding this latest development, but the government parties are closing ranks and will probably not vote on a motion condemning the Minister.

My view is that THAT WOMAN should be shown the red card, just like the two Dutch players on Sunday evening. She thinks she can get away with making mistake after mistake, rarely even apologising for any of them. She wants to be clear, have her own way, be a Dutch Margaret Thatcher, but she does not have the qualities. She cannot do it and she makes too many mistakes and this one was a mistake too many. Show her theRED CARD please. Sit on the benches and think about your mistakes, maybe think about working as a team instead of going it alone, not even showing any responsibility towards your captain.

At least the good news is that the whole affair has damaged the Minister's political career in that she was NOT voted by the members of her party to become leader, as was expected before this whole shameful episode started.

So, both in the political arena and on the football field, Holland has not been scoring so highly. At least the economy looks like it finally is starting to pick up again. Things often seem worse than they really are, and despite a couple of embarrassing incidents recently, it is really all not too bad over here, just could be better.

Better also if Mr Cruijff might shut his mouth for a bit too.

‎UK Parliament Group For Somaliland To Be Launched

Members of the British House of Commons from a cross section of political parties are to launch today a parliamentary group to support efforts made by the people of Somaliland to rebuild their country after years of civil unrest.

Since the former British Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, significant social developments have taken place to establish credible three democratic parties which embraced the notion of free and open elections.

British Somalilanders such as Abdul Karim Adan and Keyser Mohamed have strenuously lobbied their representatives in parliament for the formation of the UK parliamentary group on Somaliland.

At least two MPs from Wales such as Alan Michael and Julie Morgan as well as Bristolian MP Kerry McCarthy among others have sponsored the formation of the friends of Somaliland group in the British lower house of parliament.

UK citizens of Somaliland decent have been focal in soliciting the British government to support Somaliland.

Over 30 MPs are expected to attend the launch of the parliamentary group today.

One of the main objectives of the group will be to advocate recognition for Somaliland. The parliamentarians will also use their political experience and knowledge to support the economic development of the country.

The MPs who are involved in this scheme represent constituencies across England and Wales who have a sizable Somali community. - source Somaliland Times

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Top footballers

Top footballers, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Making collages of footballers - sometimes more fun than watching the games. I tried to get as many of the top 11 below as I could.

Boring Brazil, boring World Cup

Brazilians, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here we were two weeks ago.

It was summer in Amsterdam - 28 degrees. henk and I weer out cycling above Amsterdam, swimming in the lake. We met up with Fred and Annemiek in town and had a few drinks outside, watching the world go by.

Brazil were to play their first match of the World Cup and we were looking forward to see the favourites play. Life looked good. A hot summer and great football to look forward to.

That evening, Brazil gave a ve laboured display of football, beating Croatia a mere 1-0. That night the clouds came over and summer evaporated, back only sporadically for a couple of days at a time. The World Cup has been like the weather.

Today tBrazil have won 3-0 against Ghana but they were booed and whistled off the field. Very disappointing, just scoring off counters, with help of the referee, who did not give one definite offside and another probable offside, in the meantime taking one Ghanaian off the field. Whatever, Brazil hardly deserved to win the match, let alone 3-0. They showed very little falir or ambition.

In fact, this World Cup is fast becoming one of the most boring I have ever seen. Few goals, very few surprises and far too much time watching footballers fall and roll around on the ground. So boring.

Exciting matches would be Argentina v Serbia, Germany v Poland, Italy v USA, Argentina v Mexico and..... what else? Not so many.

Football has always had a difficult time living up to its reputation as a beautiful game. We saw it in the Champions League, especially in the performances of Barcelona and Arsenal, but too little here in the World Cup. A pity.

At least Germany and Italy have shown themselves to be in attacking moods, with Germany doing better than Italy in the business of scoring goals. Argentina have done very well and so might Portugal (or England). Maybe one of these teams will be properly rewarded for their efforts.

By the way..... one of the best bets ever to be had is the 11/4 against Portugal beating England on Saturday. I will not be betting as I cannot afford to and I don't really want to bet against the house, but it'd be a good insurance policy against the worst happening to England.

Attractive football and footballers

It is not as easy as it would seem to track down lists of best looking footballers on the internet, although it is apparent that womens and gay magazines around the world have been preparing their own lists.

The main contenders seem to be:

David Beckham, Freddy Ljungberg, Christian Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Alessandro del Piero, Alessandro Nesta, Michael Ballack (?), Raul, Roque Santa Cruz

Anyway... mine would be:

Fabio Cannavaro (with short hair) - Italy
Francesco Totti - Italy
Joe Cole - England
Andriy Shevchenko - Ukraine
Thierry Henry - France (ahem)
Matthew Amoah - Ghana
Iker Casillas - Spain
Roque Santa Cruz - Paraguay
Carlos Tevez - Argentina
Jose Saviola - Argentina
Ashley Cole - England

Not sure how they would play together.
Couldn't be as bad as the two teams playing last night - Switzerland vs Ukraine, with the BBC complaining that Switzerland were killing the game of football. Not letting in any goals but never playing positive.

There is a lot being said in England about it not being the way we play, but the fact that we are winning. Unfortunately, to some extent this is true. But England is loved throughout the world for putting on a great football show, even if they lose heroically to teams like Argentina and Brazil, not for negative, safe football.

This negative, safe football can take you a long way, but it can also cause you to be eliminated like the Swiss have been and the Italians before... and what do you have to show for it? Not a lot.

So, of course, I would rather see England beat Portugal, but if they are going to lose, better to go out in a blaze of glory than as a damp squib.

Monday, June 26, 2006

No gays in football

It all got a bit rowdy last night, watching the match and watching one foul after the other being perpetrated by each side. I got especially mad when seeing the face of "Bog Phil'Scolari, manager of Portugal and his lumbering body jumping up and down on the sidelines. I'd call out 'homo hater' to the screen, remembering his comments that "If I found out that one of my players was gay I would throw him off the team." during the 2002 when he was managing Brazil.

The irony of the quarter final is that England will be playing against a team whose manager was offered the management of the English side (subject to him, of course, apologising for his previous remarks). One has to remain hopeful that England can finally start playing well and can beat what will be a weakened Portuguese side to sneak into the semi finals. Unlikely actually to happen, but we have the rest of the week to dream.

In the meantime,
England and Arsenal player Ashley Cole has received an apology and damages following a series of newspaper articles that wrongly claimed him to have been involved in a gay orgy.

The News of the World and the Sun published a series of articles between the 12th and 19th of February 2006 accompanied with pixelated photographs of Mr Cole and the radio DJ Masterstepz (Ian Thompson) although neither party were named.

The following week, published an unedited version of the photographs that confirmed that the newspapers were alleging that Mr Cole and Mr Thompson were the parties involved in the alleged orgy.

"The newspapers knew there was no basis to name Ashley but arranged the articles and pictures in such a way that readers would identify him. There is no truth whatever in these allegations. Ashley Cole will not tolerate this kind of cowardly journalism or let it go unchallenged."

Disgusting behaviour there by the Murdoch press. Really disgusting.

In a further interesting development, Ashley Cole was wondering what to do with the fact that when people typed in his name into google, google would prompt the users to look for ' ashley cole gay'. It doesn't do that now, so they must have amended their software.

He played very well last night for England and we hope he can do his best in stopping the Portuguese forwards on Saturday.

In the meantime, it is a strange thing indeed that out of the 32 squads of footballers in the World Cup, there are no openly gay footballers, likewise in the English Premiership. Fair enough that if people are gay that they can keep it to themselves, but for there to be no-one to be open about it just goes to show how people like Scolari make life difficult for those who are.

A disgrace

Orange - watching the match, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is how we watch football at home... here at Henk's place, next door, when Holland were playing Ivory Coast.

Now the dream is dead after a disgraceful match between Portugal and Holland, where Holland were virtually robbed of the second half by the cynical and nasty, calculated behaviour of Portugal, aided by an incompetent refereee. We reckon there was not a lot more than 20 minutes of football in the second half despite the six minutes added on for injury time. Each team had two players sent off, but it should have been more like three off for Portugal and the one for Holland as the disgarceful captain Figo headbutted a Dutch player behind the referees back.

On the other hand, the Dutch were no great angels themselves, with Arjen Robben continually falling over in the penalty box looking around for a reaction from the referee. There was pushing and shoving and scrimmaging all over the place.... a terrible sight for such a World Cup - and mostly from the Dutch. Maybe it is all very well picing a youthful side, but these Dutch did not handle the pressure at all well and one felt that a couple of more experienced chaps could have held the team together a bit better.

I think Marco van Basten made a mistake to leave out Van Nistelrooy as this could very easily have been HIS game. His replacement missed three easy chances to head a cross ball into the net, and even moved OUT of the way of one. It is exactly from this position that Van Nistelrooy often scores.

I wonder how long the orange fever will survive here and bhow long the bunting and flags will keep flying. Also half the adverts, or even more than half, are orange related and will probably have to be replaced.

Oh well, there is Wimbledon in the coming week.

In the meantime, England managed to win their match satisfactorily, 1-0 against Ecuador. People had been bleating ot have Beckham dropped, but it was him again who did it for England. Well done. He is not just a show pony. Far from it.

Good luck to England against those nasty Portuguese next week. At least with two players being red-carded, Portugal will not be at full strength. Lets hope at least that Portugal let everyone see more of their footballing skills as opposed to their acting skills.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Be optimistic!

Wees optimisch!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Be optimistic, the advert says.

Always a good thing in life.

Never expect everything to turn out the way you want it, but be cheerful and hope for the best.

A great Englishman

Captain James Cook, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Captain James Cook of Whitby in Yorkshire, a great Englishman.
Here a statue of him on The Mall in London.

Let us hope that the eleven Englishmen taking the field today, and hopefully three more times in this World Cup do great things for their country.

And let those thugs and hooligans who caused trouble yesterday spend their time in a darkened cell with no access to commentary.

It seems like we missed another exciting Argentina match last night, as they set themselves against a vigourous Mexican team. We were at a party at Kaap Kot, near Ijburg, enjoying a long warm evening, with clear skies, stars eventualy shining through as it started getting dark towards 11 o'olock. We were getting running commentary through sms from Rome, which added to the excitement. There are many ways of enjoying the World Cup.

This afternoon we will go into town to watch in a bar. Not sure about this evening with the Holland match. We usually go to friends' houses but no-one has really offered to entertain this time around. Too many parties recently!

Again, England are playing and again, the weather has made a turn for the worse. Was suppoed to be sunny and warm today, but is now cool and cloudy, with spatters of rain. Expected to be much hotter in Stuttgart though.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The last sixteen

Big hair 2, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Not too many surprises in the last sixteen, but particularly well done to newcomers Ghana and Ukraine and also Australia.

We now know the course of the teams until the final

Germany/Sweden v Argentina/Mexico
Italy/Australia v Switzerland/Ukraine

England/Ecuador v Portugal/Holland
Brazil/Ghana v Spain/France

None of these paths looks easy and Germany's looks particularly difficult, having to possibly cope with Sweden, Argentina and Italy. Normally, they manage to clear an easy path through to the final for the host nation (like France 1998), but although Germany will avoid Brazil until the final, if both get that far.

My favoured semi-finals would be Argentina v Italy and England v Brazil, but that is most unlikely to happen.

Least favourite would be something like Mexico v Ukraine and Portugal v France - or is that being nasty?

But, at the end of the day, it just has to be hoped that the best football gets rewarded and that games are not marred by silly refereeing decisions. And, please... not too many penalty shoot outs!

As for England, the English are saying that they have the best chance for a long time to progress in the World Cup. I think this is based on the fact that certain players have been hyped up tremendously, because that is what happens in the world today, more than the fact that they have shown themselves to be playing very well as a team. Sometimes it looks as if the hype is feeding through to egos and this is working against the team. I would like to know, where in this team do we find an Alan Shearer, Pauld Gascoigne, Bobby Robson or Gary Lineker, to name but a few? If England can put on performabes like they did against Brazil in 2002 and Argentina in 1998, and improve on those, they will have a great chance. But, they still have to reveal themselves.

To be honest, I am fearing the worst against Holland, who for once seem to have stopped bickering amongst each other and are playing as a team.

Worried for Italy because they are having trouble scoring goals. Their match against Australia could be ver tough on them. It would be cruel fate for Italy to go out, like in 2002 to a resurgent team led by Guus Hiddink.

Germany seem to be riding on a wave of home team enthusiasm, and you can never right them off.

Interesting to see that Brazil, Spain and france will all have eliminated themselves out to just one semi-finalist, that is if Ghana don't come up and surprise us all again - they also need better finishing, but are capable.

The House of Lords debates Somalia and Somaliland

A couple of footballers, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Labour)

Asked Her Majesty's Government:

My Lords, is it the view of the Government that the Somaliland Government, based in Hargeysa, can play a positive role in this tragic conflict? What contacts, if any, are there between Her Majesty's Government, the international community and the Government of Somaliland?

Lord Triesman (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, there are continuing contacts with the Government of Somaliland. I pay tribute to that Government; although they are not internationally recognized, in the sense of there being a fully fledged state, the stability of Somaliland stands in sharp contrast to the position across most of the rest of Somalia, with the possible exception of Puntland, directly to the east of Somaliland. Anything that can preserve that stability is very important. I believe that that will be the subject of some discussion at the African Union conference in the Gambia in the first few days of July.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Spanish with Dutch lion

Spanish with Dutch lion, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The Spanish came and conquered Holland in the 16th century.

Now they come here on holiday and pose with Dutch lions on the Rokin. Certainly a lot more Spanish parading their colours in Amsterdam than, say French or Italians.

A 1-0 win today keeps them unbeaten, looking forward to a quater final against Brazil, should both tems get that far. One to watch!


Essaouira pastel 11, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A nice picture of Mum in Essaouira.


Because I love her!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

From across the sea...

Fishermen in yellow, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

.. arrived a package we sent by (sea-) post on 22nd November, exactly seven months ago, from Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania.

In it was contained various guide books, post cards and leaflets and a very smelly woollen hat from the Simien Mountains. Fascinating!

In the meantime, well done Italy and Ghana for winning today and getting through to the next round of the World Cup. Excellent. Who knows? A semi-final between Italy and either Argentina or Germany? Interesting. And how will Brazil cope with Ghana, assuming Brazil beat Japan tonight?

Further, my horses have not been running so well, Nyarhini managed to come second last, Ivy Crek came sixth today, despite starting hot favourite (beaten by the draw?) and Dragon Dancer will not be running and wil wait for the Irish Derby instead (worth a lot more money, if more difficult to in).

Off in a minute to meet up with our friend Monique from Harar/Leuven, who is visiting Amsterdam with some American friends.

A lovely scene from Essaouira

Essaouira blue 55, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Blue is the colour...

Essaouira blue 64, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

... the colour of Italy - Gli Azzurri.

... also, the colour of Essaouira, which we visited two-and-a-half weeks ago. Put a bunch of the photos on flickr. 72 with the theme of BLUE.

Time of reckoning for Italy

Union Jack in Napoli, originally uploaded by romeoergatto.

Whereas many of the other teams have been playing out theri last group game without too much worry, this afternoon, Italy really have to win if they are going to be sure of getting through to the last sixteen. They could do it with a draw, but only if Ghana do not win.

I hear that half of Rome was supporting England the other night, in their match against Sweden, my friend Angelo being offered pizza in his car by neighbours as he sat there listening to the match on the radio, thereby avoiding paying-to-view to Berlusconi.

I imagine half, if not most of Naples will be supporting Argentina, with all the history betwen F.C. Napoli and the greatest Argentinian player, Maradona. It could conceivably be those two teams meeting in the final, if only .... they each win all their next games. Easier said than done!

Fake football

Tonight, Argentina and Holland played a match which was as good as pointless, as both teams had already qualified for the last 16. They played weakened teams and played out a 0-0 draw, which was anyrthing but exciting to watch. Eric and I both decided to imagine that neither team wanted to win (and so set up a quarter final against the hosts, Germany), and so did their best to lose the ball or shoot wide. This greatly increased our viewing pleasure, as every loss of possession and missed chance could be seen in the light of what both teams actually wanted to happen. Also, you had to wonder how much the commentators were being paid NOT to point out that this was, in fact, a fake match, talking the match up instead.

Still, tomorrow we have the real competitions, with the Group E matches of Italy v Czech Republic and Ghana v USA promising real action.

In the hope that England beat Ecuador and Holland beat Portugal, we may have a quarter final between these two teams on 1st July in Gelsenkirchen and I have now booked a train to and from Cologne on 30/6 returning 2/7, with the idea of joining the fans and experiencing the atmosphere.

In the meantime, it was midsummer's day. Grey and wet, most of the day, with a maximum of about 18.7 degrees, which is about typical. Promises to dry up and warm up a bit again going into the weekend.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Colourful Worldcup Fever

Worldcup Fever, originally uploaded by *Dario*.

A very colourful World Cup-related photo, lifted from flickr - thanks *Dario*

We wish Ghana the best of luck in defeating the USA tomorrow to become the only African team in the second round.

Like 1978 all over again... only it isn't

Well, not exactly, as it is not the final, but the TV is full of footage of the famous final which, seemingly, Holland were not allowed to win. The second World Cup Final in a row which Holland lost, after their defeat in 1974 against Germany.

It is said that the 1974 defeat has had a big effect on the Dutch character, more than the 1978 defeat, and also given the fact that both teams have already qualified, there is no real sense of avenging that 1978 defeat. Not like in the last two World Cups where England have played Argentina and have attempted to atone for the Hand of God incident in 1986. They failed, just, in France 1998, after Owen had scored HIS goal and David Beckham had been sent off. Revenge then for 1986 and 1998 came in 2002 when England beat Argentina 2-1 and helped send them home after the first round.

Maradona is back, not on the pitch, but jumping up and down in the stadium every time Argentina score one of their excellent goals. The Argentinian side is no longer the dirty, fouling, cheating side of years gone by. They play well and fair and produce great football. It will be very interesting to see if they can get past Germany in the quarter finals, assuming they do not lose tonight. If they do.... we will have another England Argentina encounter, but then one without the great Michael Owen who twisted his knee. A six week injury at least for the poor chap.

And what in heaven's name was the England manager doing bringing only four strikers, two injured one, one very tall on and one who has never even played a Premiership match? Incredible.

Looks like we have some intriguing quarter finals in store:
Germany v Argentina
Italy (?) v who knows?
England (hopefully) v Holland (if they can beat Portugal)
Brazil v Spain

The old guard.

Thinking of going to Germany now for the 30/6 and 1/7 quarter finals.

Well done, Queen and England

Queenie, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

What a day!

Queen Elizabeth, at 80, and dressed in royal blue, officially opens the new Ascot. I remember seeing her mother, also Queen Elizabeth, at 80, at Windsor races, also dressed in royal blue. Must have been 1980 or so. Our present queen is doing a great job. Brilliant!

What a brilliant first day of Royal Ascot! Sunshine. Good horses. Great jockeys. A fairy tale win for a ex-broken-down horse from Australia, wnning the major sprint prize. Excellent BBC coverage. Even well backed favourites winning. Watch out for Nyarhini tomorrow (Wednesday) and, even more so, Ivy Creek and Dragon Dancer later in the week. And if it rains a bit, who knows? The Whistling Teal. What a feast!

And, England top their group in the World Cup and they avoid Germany in the next round, setting up a possible quarter final against Holland, of all countries in Gelsenkirchen on 1st July at 16.00!!!!! The 2-2 result was exactly the one we predicted in the school pool, to match the 4-0 we predicted yesterday, so we are making progress, finally! What a match that quarter final will be, if they both get there! And after that, maybe Brazil in the semi's, again, if Brazil make it that far.

In the meantime, those SWEDES, who were so very very very lucky to score against Paraguay in the LAST minute can pay for their luck by being thrashed by Germany on Saturday, setting Germany up with a quarter final - match of the tournament - against MIGHTY Argentina!!!!!

FIFA have chosen this photo for their website, and like the oranje gek in noord photo, it has been viewed so many times, already almost 1,000 times in 4 hours!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


White, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Decided NOT to go to Germany this week. The leg/ankle is still not recovered and it is better to give it a rest, also the other leg which is feeling the strain - old man, eh?

Instead I have been at the computer this morning, happening across some photos from our trip, finding some real gems amongst them, so will be putting some on flickr in the coming days, I suppose. Here is one from Asmara, New Year's Day.

OK, so Germany, Ecuador and England are playing today, but maybe not os exciting as they have all qualified. Interesting to watch, no doubt. May go into town to some hash bar to watch on big screens with pints of beer, while Fred stays at home going through all the exam scripts - it is THAT time of year..... tough, but it also means almost holiday time again!

Monday, June 19, 2006

My birthday party

My birthday party, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, it was my birthday yesterday, and I had a lovely time with some very nicve surprises. The sun came out and it was a glorious hot summer's day (27.6 degrees maximum in Amsterdam), just like last year and perfect for a party in the garden.

Fred and I spent the morning getting ready, thank you, Fred, for helping me out. We prepared the pizzas and the quail's eggs, salads and on and got the garden ready with a table, some charirs, kelims and a mattress for lounging around, just like last year!

Received a few phone calls and some nice e-mails from friends abroad ( a piy they couldn't be here), relaxed and watched a bit of football before the first guests arrived and the party started. nice and relaxd. I suddenly remembered that I was going to make caiprinhas (rum, limes, sugar and lots and lots of ice) so I enlisted Timon to help me crush the ice and help make some nice strong cocktails to put everyone in a good mood!

The food was all eaten and much of the drink was drunk. A few people turned up who I was not expecting, which was a nice surprise, even though Fred had been a bit naughty trying to tell me they were away on holiday in France and so on...

It was a lovely day and thanks to everyone for making it so.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Its me birfday!

Charles at 41, 43, 44 and 45, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

45 years today, born in the Payment Ward of the Group Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland (then part of the Somali Republic).

Having some friends around for drinks and some bites in the garden later, pizzas, salads, quiches, quail's eggs, humous, bread and strawberries. Anybody want to come over?

The sun is out after a grey start and the birds are singing. The nasturtiums are out in the front of the house, but not the lavatera, although we usually get the first pink flower coming out on my birthday. Things are obviously still abit late after the long cold spring, despite the couple of mini-heatwaves we have had.

A pity they are making such a mess of things in Somalia, all these years later.

Let's hope that these troubles will finally push the world into recognising Somaliland.

In the meantime it is not all such bad news. good news on BBC about gay pride in Brazil, on the day they go into action against Australia! Hope its another good match!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A letter from 45 years ago today

Me, with sister and brother, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Desert Locust
P.O. Box 36
Somali Republic
17th June 1961

Dear Marzie and Father,

Well, we are not parents yet, but I hope we will be by the time this reaches you. Thank you for suggesting putting a notice in the Daily T., but my father has said he will do the same, so I hope it isn't duplicated!.......

... and so the letter went on....

Well, I was born the very next day... nine months after my parents were married in Guidlford, Surrey.

I hope to be celebrating 45 years with some friends in the garden at the back fo the house tomorrow afternoon, despite the distractions of Roots Festival in Oosterpark and the Brazil vs Australia match.

Today, we celebrated Jan, husband of Fred's sister Annie, his 60th birthday in the garden of their house in Rouveen, deep in the Dutch Bible Belt. Good to see all the family again, after more than a year, and good to be out in the sunshine again, as summer returned, just in time, for him and for me!

We missed the Italy match, which is probably just as well, as it sounded as if it was horrendous with an own goal and three red cards. Good to see an African side finally win, and against the mighty Czechs as well! It is anybody's guess who will get through, although I will definitely be rooting for Italy and Ghana. Not sure of Italy are such a good bet anymore though.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Oranje gek in Amsterdam Noord

Oranje gek in Amsterdam Noord, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Amazing, but this photo from a couple of days ago, when it was still hot, of a street in Amsterdam Noord is the most popular photo I have ever put on flickr. I put it on this morning and it has already been looked at by 630 + people*. Strange! But the people up there ARE strange, it seems. Enjoy!

* - now 1,300

and yesterday we did our Amsterdam Noord imitation by stringing orange flags from balconies to lamp posts and trees! The only people to do so (yet) on the Hogeweg.


Charles for Argentina!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Watched it in a pub in town.

What a great match, what a fantastic team!

If possible, can we please have an Italy vs Argentina final? (Of course, I would LOVE it if England were to make the final, but I honestly don't see that happening)

Funny to think that I put money on Serbia and Montenegro NOT to let in goals! Anyway, I have now put the money on Argentina to make the Final and/or win.

By the way, well done to Holland for getting through. It was not an easy match today against Ivory Coast, but the Dutchies did well to keep the opposition to one goal only. Who knows, whether in a couple of weeks we may have an England vs. Holland quarter final? Interesting!


Honeysuckle, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

One day, they may make computers which can bring you smell, in which case I would like to bring you the smell of the honeysuckle, in the garden, just outside this room. The air is heavy and damp and is perfect for carrying scents. The honeysuckle has just started flowering and should last a week or two.

The garden has seen a few interesting birds this last week. A wren is singing now, while we have seen a spotted flycatcher return after an absence of five years, a tree creeper, a jay - which I chased away as he was terrorising a blackbird family - a number of tits, parrakeets and sparrows.

My leg is a lot better. I took the bandages off on Snunday night and I have been hobbling around or cycling and swimming, both of which are easier than walking. Thanks, Mar, for showing an interest and enjoy your holidays!

Americans screw up again in Somalia

Somalilander with camel, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Somalia is in the news again as Mogadishu , Somalia ’s former capital, and other major towns have fallen to the militia of the “Islamic Courts Union” after weeks of fighting against their rival warlords, the “ Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism”.

Islamic extremists, claiming to have won the country, are threatening to turn Somalia into an Islamic State, with full-on Sharia Law. And The West is worried that we are seeing the start of a new Taleban state, harbouring al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. Afghanistan is turning into a big problem again, Sudan is being naughty in Darfur and Iraq is dsecending into civil war, and now this.

And they are right to be worried. The Islamists are trying to sweet talk their way into world, by saying that thety are only interested in peace and ridding the country of the much ahted warlords, but the truth is that there ARE terrorists in their organisation and some of these terrorists were involved in trying to undermine the Parliamentary elections in Somaliland last September (and they were arrested). They also seem to be behind the killing of some aid workers in Somalia. So, they may not exactly be al-Qaeda but they cannot actually be trusted very easily.

The Americans, of course, backed the wrong horse. They backed the warlords, the very people they fought against in 1993 when they had their ill-fated Operation Hope in Somalia which led to Black Hawk Down and terrible humiliation for them. Anyway, what had been kept secret for so long is now in the open. The Americans were backing these nasty people who made life impossible for the people of Mogadisho, bandits who held the development of theircountry up for ransom while they plundered any resources they could. These are the people, who were being funded by the Americans (and maybe also the Italians). And, it looks like they have lost again. How many wars will it take for America to lose before they realise that going to war aint such a good idea?

Now it looks like these Islamists might take the whole country and, who knows?. Maybe they will invade Somaliland as well.

Why would it have been so difficult for the Americans to recognise Somaliland, the peaceful democratic and independent state, just above Somalia? Would this not have sent a clear signal to people in the whole area (including the Arab mainland, source of much grief to Somaliland) to recognise Somaliland's achievement, rather than backing bandits and war-mongerers?

Recognising Somaliland now would be great, but in this context, it is a bit late. Telling Somaliland's Arab neighbours to stop their economic war against Somaliland (they have banned the import of Somaliland meat, for no good reason), a thing the Americans could very easily do, would help Somaliland's economy match the progress made on the political front.

No need here to repeat all the other reasons why Somaliland should be recognised, or that it should be but won't be the African Union which does this first. But here is another reason why the West, and mainly the US should have and should still recognise Somaliland.

Holland's turn today

Oranje gek in Amsterdam Noord, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

... and also Argentina's.

Holland play Ivory Coast at 18.00 and Argentina play Serbia and Montenegro at 15.00. Both have the potential ot be good matches, which should be won by the favoured teams. Let us hope these games are not 0-0 draws until the last five minutes or so, as these matches can be very frustrating. Look at Germany, England and Sweden all winning the last couple of days with the clock almost ticked out. So cruel on the gallant losers always.

We will go next door to Henk's to watch the game.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

England's second test

The Old Friar, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today, against Trinidad and Tobago. A match everyone thought would be very easy until they held the fierce Swedes to a 0-0 draw. A timely wake-up call for England not to be complacent, which would have been a danger.

I reckon that England have an awful lot to do to prove they are capable of winning this World Cup. Not just the trainer's nutty tactics, but seeing the players play as a team at the top of their game for most of a match. So often, England seem to play in bursts of excellence and then drop off again, and invariably there are 3 or 4 players who play well below their best consistently throughout a game. The hope is that against better opposition, Engand can rise to the occasion.

We will see. After this week, we will have a better idea of England's further potential path to the Final. I had a try yesterday, and although they might miss Germany, they'll be taking on the likes of Argentina or Holland (maybe) and Brazil (maybe).

But for now, it is COME ON ENGLAND!

In the meantime, looks like we'll be watching the match at home, as not only is it raining but it is only 13 degrees.... down from 31 two days ago. Cold! This is more like a Dutch summer. At least it might have cooled down for the England lads.

Further, I have found a few interesting World Cup weblinks as follows:


flickr world cup group

Pink news guide to the World Cup

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Enjoying the Amsterdam summer

Henk en Charles, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yesterday, it was 31 degrees in Amsterdam, again the hottest place in Europe. Henk and I took our bicycles out and cycled up into Waterland, along the dyke past Durgerdam and stopping every now and then for a swim in the IJsselmeer. The water was very warm, having had five days of hot sun beating down on the 2 meters of water there is the the lake. beautiful, just right for cooling down.

later, we would meet Fred and Annemiek for a drink or two in the centre watching everyone walk past in their summer clothes, and as the evening wore on , there were more and more yellow T-shirts, being worn by the Brazilian supporters, as Brazil were due to play their first match at 9.00.

Back home, we all sat out on the balcony eating the pizzas we had ordered from the nearby Pizza Pescara, not something we normally do, but it was summer day, of care-free living.

Today, a front came over and it didn't get above 17 degrees, while the garden is getting some much needed rain. Not exactly the best of days, as I often get to feel very tired when the weather changes so dramatically.

Somehow, I have convinced myself that Italy have an excellent chnace of winning the World Cup and had a bet on them to win at 10-1. was also thinking of a bet on David Villa of Spain to score the most goals, having read an article about him. He was 28-1, but by the time the teams had been announced and I went back to put some money on (as he had been picked), they had closed down teh betting market. Two goal later and he is now 5-1 favourite, with the pospect of scoring a bunch of goals against the very weak looking Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Boca al lupo

Peroni girl, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This lady is selling Peroni beer and this is also used to sell Italian football, or the other way round.

I was looking forward to a good match between Ghana and Italy last night and I was not siappointed. Such exciting and attacking football, even from the Italians.

A bit disappointed with Ghana in that although they tackeld and, mostly, passed well, they went to pieces near the Italian goal with some many shots either wide or high, or, if they met their target, too weak. Angola and Ivory Coast did the same.

Anyway, the good news is that Italy showed us great attacking football and good skills, with Totti outstanding in the quality of his passes. There is a chance that Italy may come across Brazil in the next round and I certainly think that they are capable of giving Brazil a good run for their money.

Otherwise, they could se each other in the Final, and what a final that would be!

I would say Forza Italia, but some idiot criminal ex-Prime Minister has stolen that for his own political use. So, I'll just wish them 'boca al lupo'!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Well done, Australia!

Three great goals in the last ten minutes of the game against Japan. The first goals ever scored by Australia in the World Cup finals.

Here are a couple of blackboards, found on the backstreets of Stone Town in Zanzibar, titled the Liverpool scoreboard, where the qualifying games for the World Cup are listed, Australia having to get past Uruguay to reach the World Cup finals, which they did through a penalty, I believe, scored by the man who scored the third goal today, Aloisi. So, Uruguay did not go out in vain.

So far in Fred's school pool, the only score we have correctly predicted was Holland's 1-0 win over Serbia and Montenegro yesterday. Next one up is USA vs. Czech Republic, which I might give a miss to, preferring to see Italy against Ghana.

Wot? No World Cup football? In Somalia?

Hargeisa footballers 2, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The BBC has an amusing article about the World Cup and Somalia, brief extarcts of which are as follows:

"People in Mogadishu say an Islamist militia which has taken control of most of the city is preventing them from watching the football World Cup on TV.

Residents are angry at apparent moves by the militiamen now patrolling the streets to close down cinemas whose proprietors had arranged to show satellite television pictures of World Cup matches taking place in Germany.

It is not clear whether the new Islamist rulers in the city have a problem with people watching football.

Their spokesman, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, indicated to the BBC it was the cinemas that were being targeted because they also showed Western and Indian films that the Islamists say are corrupting to the young."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hup Holland Hup!

Hup Holland Hup!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

After missing out in 2002, Holland start their latest World Cup quest this afternoon with a match against the defensively strong Serbia and Montenegro.

The last and only major football tournament the Dutch won was 18 years ago in Germany, when they won the European Championships, beating the old enemy/rival in the process.

They have a new-ish squad of players, have the hero of 1988, Marco van Basten as their coach, so who knows, if with a bit of luck, some team efforts and good football, maybe they can go all the way again.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

England win, just

Radio Humaita, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, it was scarey, but like I said before, the Paraguayans are very tough and they dealt with the heat obviously better than England. Not the best game ot watch, really, but this will be the first time in many many years that England have actually won their first game of a major tournament.

Good luck, Paraguay, for their next two encounters.

El Chaco cowboy

El Chaco cowboy, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is a photo of a gaucho we came across on the side of the road up to Formosa from Corrientes. It was a 200 km road, almost completely straight across very flat land, filled with wet chaco vegetation and cattle. Big estates and big fat cattle, producing some of the best beef in the world. Free range and organic.

But can we buy Argentinian beef easily here in Europe? In the 1930's and 1940's we could because we could not grow enough beef for ourselves in Europe. The came the Common Market and now the EU with its Common Agricultural Policy and protective tariffs. My butcher opposite tells me that if he wanted to buy top quality Argentinian steak he would have to pay 500% duty on top of the cost.

So, when we needed them (the Argentinins) we bought their cheap products and now we don't need them, we sem happy to let them suffer. Fortunately, Argentina has found strong markets in China and Asia, so they need us less.

Instead, we in Europe are forced to eat European or US (because they have threatened us with war if we do not buy their meat) meat which has often been produced by cattle living in sheds, injected with antibiotics and, in the case of US, hormones, all of which ahs been subsidised by the honest and unwitting tax payers.


Getting married in Paraguay, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Of England's opponents in Group B, I have only been to Paraguay, and that was for the day, crossing over by boat from Formosa in Argentina. Formosa is the capital city of Formosa Province in the wet chaco area of northern Argentina. It is normally very hot and humid there, but I arrived in the middle of winter in August, when the temperature didn't get much higher than 15 degrees on the last day, a pity as I was wearing just shorts and a T shirt all day.

However, on a slightly warmer day, we crossed the Parana River to reach Alberdi a couple of miles up the river on the Paraguayan side. The river is used to transport all sorts of contraband, contraband being the biggest industry in Paraguay, where for example most of South America's supplies of Scotch Whisky originate!

Alberdi looked and felt like a wild west town, guns were freely for sale and all belts had a holster for a gun, plus holders for bullets. Illegal furs were for sale and everywhere there were saddles and leather chaps. This is gaucho country. Real gauchos.

We spent some time wandering around the shops, full of the cheapest and badly made clothes, candles to be lit to any number of Catholic saints, plastic things made in China, hair grips and this wedding dress, which rather took our fancy, the arm stuck on with sellotape saying everything about the state of affairs in Alberdi.

I once read an excellent book about Paraguay, a really good read, called 'At The Tomb Of The Inflatable Pig', by John Gimlette. You get a very good look at Paraguayan history through reading this book and a very good sense of the strength of the Paraguayan character, notably of the indigenous Guarani people. These Guarani people were those who were featured in the excellent film 'The Mission'.

Lunatic South American dictatorship seems to have been invented in that country, way early in the 19th century, with monsters such as Dr Gaspar Francia, Carlos Antonio Lopez and, worst of all, Francisco Solano Lopez. It was he who committed the country to a devastating war against Brazil AND Argentina at the same time, which was pretty reckless. The Guarani soldiers fought exceptionally bravely, carrying out near impossible orders from the generals and in the end, most of the Guaranis in Paraguay were killed. A very sad story.

So, Paraguay has the name for harbouring ex-Nazi leaders and for having had the facsictic Stroessner as President, but this is only an extension of what had been going on for centuries in that country.

So, coming back to today, and the football, we should expect to see a great display of toughness from the Paraguayans. Good luck to them, but I hope England's undoubted class and toughness will see them win.

England make a start

Cross of St George, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A week on from the Derby and England will make their start to the 2006 World Cup. Wondering how far they will get, thinking that anything could happen. Good luck to the boys, play fair and play well.

Friday, June 09, 2006

An interesting bet (or two)

A back pass, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is going to be a great temptation to bet away and lose all the money I won recently on Russia getting placed in the Eurovision Song Contest and Dragon Dancer becoming second in The Derby.

However, I noticed that are offering prices about the teams which concede the fewest goals. I am thinking that 16-1 against Serbia and Montenegro might be a good bet because they have a very strong defence, and being in a group with Argentina, Holland and Ivory Coast, they will probably not make the next round, meaning they will only play three games. A good combination. So I took 5 pounds each way, to win possibly 110 pounds.

Another bet I was thinking about was 8-1 against Mexico to make it to the semi-finals. They have a reasonably good chance of winning their group (from Portugal - could be tricky, Angola and Iran). Not taken the bet yet, as they seem never to have made it to the quarter finals before, so a big leap to make it to the semi's this time. Maybe will look elsewhere.

I think the 66-1 against Francesco Totti being the tournaments leading goalscorer would be interesting, but I have some doubts about Italy. The scandals enveloping Italian football including match-fixing, transfer-fixing and false accounting, involving some of the Italian squad might take their toll. By all accounts, World Cup fever has not gripped Italy. But the other hand, teams often perform better when the least is expected of them and this could all have the perverse effect of galvanising the Italian team. Maybe 1.50 pounds each way on Totti, to win 100. But they have just closed he betting on this. A pity. Time to crawl upstirs and watch the opening game.

The World Cup

Queenie, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Finally the day has arrived.. the opening game of the 2006 World Cup, with teams from all over the world competing for the sport's (or sport's) greatest prize.

After months and even years of anticipation, it all happens within the coming month. A month which will be full of drama and surprises, heartache and joy and the best quality football, a month when everyone, wherever they are can enjoy the spectacle. A month when it doesn't matter how rich or poor you are, how much the players earn per week and so on, a global experience which only sport (the World Cup and the Olympics) can provide.

I will be hoping that England can repeat their 1966 performance and finally win the World Cup again. However, I have a suspicion that England really DOES have a mental block which will probably stop them along the way, such is the weighht of hope, expectations and hype, and, after all, England is only one of 32 deserving teams playing in the tournament, each with their own dreams.

If England are not going to win, then I hope it is the team who plays the most attractive attacking football, and not a defensive team, sneaking through with 1-0 wins, based on counters (thinking old-style Germany and Italy here).

Personal preferences are for the African teams, Angola, Togo, Tunisia, Ghana and Ivory Coast, being an African myself, Iran, as they could do with a break, and, for some strange reason, Serbia and Montenegro (maybe due to their recent Eurovision performances). However, I do not think any of those mentioned are going to come that far and will be lucky to get points, let alone progress to the knockout stages.

Of the favoured teams, I'd like to see Argentina do well and also Italy. I like both countries and they could do with some good news. It also appears that economically speaking, in Europe, the country which would most benefit from winning is Italy, according to ABN-Amro. Maybe the same goes for Argentina as well. Let's just hope the two greats play good clean attacking football.

Otherwise, I think teams to surprise may be Portugal (22-1) and Australia (125-1). I had a strong tip for Sweden (33-1) from a Swede we met in Namibia, but apparently they are not supposed to be as strong this year.

Everyone seems to be tipping Ivory Coast (80-1) as a good outsider, but they are in a very difficult group with Argentina, Holland and Serbia and Montenegro. I think the thought is that if they can come through this 'group of death' they could go on and do very well, maybe making the semis or the final, but that looks doubtful. Holland will be looking to make up for the fact of not qualifying four years ago, and Argentina will not want to be knocked out at the group stage like they were in 2002.

Amsterdam is very orange and some streets are totally orange with streamers and flags spun across the road. Not in our street.... maybe that'll happen if/whenthey reach the final, but the falgs are more to be seen in the poorer parts of the city.

The Dutch have been at the forefront of commercialising football, and for years now (since at least 1988 when they won teh European Championships) shops have been selling orange thingsfor weeks in davance, orange flags are attached to cars and bicycles, all advertisments on TV are football related. It looks like England is catching up, with even ministers and leaders of the Opposition flying the St George's flag (I prefer the Union Jack, myself).

I just think it is a pity that large US-based multi-nationals have decided to muscle-in on the world sport, with Coca Cola and Budweiser being official sponsors and cashing in on the sports popularity. They have all their ethnic sports which are over-commercialised and who are run more for the benefit of the sponsors than the fans. Keep away.

Further, there is the ugly spectre of the world governing body, FIFA oredering the European Leagues to reduce the number of fixtures (and size of the leagues) to create more room for internationals. The FT even talked about a World Cup every two years. No way. No thanks. Once in four years makes the tournament so special. Why change? Couldn't be about money and prestige for FIFA itself, could it? What we have now is good, please do not destroy it.

So.... let the tournament begin. May the most attractive football be rewarded and cheating be punished. Can't wait...

Flags and police everywhere

In London on Wednesday afternoon, there were flags and policemen everywhere, community officers too, police dogs and police horses as well.

It seemed at first to be like a police state, so many policemen were to be seen, but it turned out that they were preparing for a pageant from the Queen, The Beating of the Retreat. It was a nice day for the police to be out and about, in the parks, standing around chatting to each other, helping the tourists finding their way around, answering questionsfrom people about why there were so many police around.

This would be less than a week after the Forest Gate fiasco, where they stormed a house with 250 officers in search of bomb making equipment, having received 'some' intelligence. Nothing was found, but worst of all, one of the suspects was actually shot (presumably by a police officer). A typical row ensues about the tactics and behaviour of the police. I am off the opinion that accidents will happen, but there should not be too many of them. On the other hand, the police do have a duty to protect the public against terrorism and crime and have a job to do. As someone said yesterday, their behaviour needs to be proportionate to the danger and possible crime. 250 against 2 did seem excessive.

Having spent the three hours in Central London on Wednesday and seeing a police or community officer every 20 yards or so, it is quite a surprise to hear that people want even MORE police. Maybe the answer is not more police but better police practices, although that is easier said than done.

Keeping up to date

Arsenal man, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I am off to hospital this morning as I had a fall down teh stairs last night while talking on the phone to my sister. Could not sleep well last night because of the pain, so letting the experts ahve a look and maybe put some bandage round and give me crutches. Not the best time to be incapacitated, with the weather FINALLY getting into gear with warm sunshine.

The last time I wrote, I was in Marrakech, getting excited about The Derby, thinking to buy a riad there, together with my sister. Well, more on that later.

I left Marrakech on Wednesday, flew on an early morning flight to Gatwick and managed to sneak a few hours in Central London, also in glorious summer sunshine. More later...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Derby finish

The Derby finish, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

..... a larger version of the photo below.

Still no news on Horatio Nelson, although the vets are doiung their best to save the horse. Controversy because the horse was thought not to be exactly well before the race, but the millionaire Irish owners whoi had won the Oaks yesterday had had their biggest bets ever on him. Very very sad. And, I just see that he has actually been put down now.

The BBC only have time to consider the winner and his connectiosn before rushing off to analyse and re-analyse a 6-0 trouncing of Jamaica by England in what was only a practice session. So not much news about Dragon Dancer..... such is the distance between winning and losing, just an inch or two. Very happy still for Dragon Dancer.

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