Friday, August 31, 2007

A weekend at home

Fachadas en Lavapies
Fachadas en Lavapies, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The end of another week, Friday, time for Club avond and we are back in the Spargo this evening. Last week, because Fred and I were not there, the others decided to go back earlier than had been arranged to the Groene Olifant, where we used to go before we boycotted it. The plan was to go back in September and give it another try, but it was, and still is, August.

As it turned out they ahd such a bad expereince there with bad service the whole evening that there is talk of boycotting the place permanently. I'd be happy with that as I find the Spargo is a much better place, less smoke, better music and most of all, very good service (something which is not all that easy to find in Amsterdam).

This weekend, we are at home, so we can expect the weather to be be quite lousy, it only getting better when we are away in Stockholm or Madrid, but we have a visit to the cinema to look forward to tomorrow to see the renake of the John Walters film Hairspray.

Further, it is ten years since Princess Diana died. We were at Fred's parents'place that weekend and were walking around his father's vegetable patch when Fred's brother Jannes brought us the news of Diana's death. A week later, we were having a big party at home to celebrate thirteen years of Fred and me being together (a delayed twaalf-en-half jaar feest) and we spent most of the day watching our new TV watching Diana's funeral before the party started.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Evolution is censored on Dutch public television

Desert Giraffe III, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Back to evolution, about which we have not written too much recently, but today, we ahd some news. The Evangelical Broadcasting Corporation (EO), who are fundamentalist Christian have been broadcasting BBC nature films and then been censoring them, cutting out any references to evolution. I dont think I have ever seen a BBC nature film WITHOUT a reference to evolution as a generally accepted fact. Yes, there seem to be organisations with the licence to use the public TV channels here in Holland which they can boldly deny this fact. Take their licence away.

Solidarity? With whom and how?

This poster is calling for Cuban Solidarity, saying the future lies with the Revolution (from 1959). Here in Holland we are being told to show Solidarity by our Governemnt, whose motto is Samen Werken, Samen Leven, working together, living together.

The taxes are going up, prices are going up and we're all going to be worse off.

Going up for people who work - Fred and me
Going up for people who drink - Fred and me
Going up for people who fly - Fred and me

At least we do not drive cars, smoke or go to funfairs.

The sad thing is that although almost everyone is going to pay more taxes there is very little information about where that money is going to go. No indication that it is going to old people who happen to be poor (there are very many well-off old people). If they are going to make life more difficult for most of the people in the country then they should at least be able to show how that is going to help the country and increase solidarity... and if they cannot do that then society might become more splintered than it is already becoming.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Turkey, the headscarf and the secular state

Konya - women in scarves 2, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Turkey has just this week elected Mr Abdullah Gul as its new President and today he approved of a new Cabinet which is said to unite Islamist and secular politicians.

His wife insists on wearing teh headscarf, which is banned in most governemnet institutions and she has also fought for the rights of Islamists in Turkey. Mr Gul himself used to be a member of a banned Islamist party. There are fears that he could turn Turkey away from secularism.

However, he seems to be a bright man with modern ideas, who wants to take Turkey into Europe and he was elected through democratic free and fair elections.

Let's hope, for Turkey's sake, that he keeps his promise and keeps his country fully secular.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A street corner in Barrio Lavapies in Madrid

Els' 87th birthday today and we went to the party and, my goodness, did she look well. Els is a ballet dancer and has known and still knows many theatrical types. These two, who we picked out doing their weekly shop in Barrio Lavapies in Madrid last Satyrday, are dedicated to her.

Happy Birthday, Els! Gefeliciteerd en nog vele goede jaren, Liefs, Fred en Charles

Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting lost in time in Madrid

Bourbon Madrid - Columns, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Back in Holland today, a day in the office in Amsterdam. Strange not to be getting out of bed at 11.55 am as I had done the previous two days. By that time today, I had woken up, showered and shaved, bought some bread and milk at the butchers, eaten my breakfast, cycled to the Amstel Station, taken the train to Capelle and done three hours work. A lot more effort than lying in bed asleep.

Still, it has been a nice enough late summer’s day today and the sun was shining as we walked down to the shopping centre to buy some rolls for lunch. I was again with my Norwegian colleague from last week with whom we had bought the ham and today she was wanting to buy some Gouda cheese, nice and old and tasty for her children. It seems that Norwegians are brought up on brown cheese, which, if I can remember, is almost sweet. Anyway, the cheese shop in Capelle shopping centre was quite different from our ham shop in Madrid. At the airport, I had seen a plastic packet of top quality jamon for sale at € 51 for just 200 grams. To think that we had each bought a kilo of the same quality ham for two-thirds of the price. As I told a friend at the weekend, I am Dutch enough to enjoy food more when I know it is not costing too much!

Anyway, back to Madrid and yesterday we rounded off our visit with a couple of large (one litre) beers (San Miguel) at our favourite tapas bar. Fred had his ham and potato croquettes, I had my paella and our Australian friends went bizarrely for the snails. Hmmmm…. So, we were in a fit state for our taxi ride to the airport for a delayed fight back to Amsterdam with Transavia, operated by Air Finland.

Earlier, in the day, but not too early, as you can imagine, we walked over to Retiro Park, where Madrilenos are famed for spending their Sundays in the summer. At least this is what I had always heard and it was partially true. There were lots of people there but not quite the whole city (most of whom were probably still in bed). It was hot and sunny and people were out on the rowing boats on the lake in front of the Alfonso Memorial.

We then walked back through the gay area of Chueca, which was now relatively empty, with just a few foreign couples sitting outside at the tables in the square. It’d have been a lot busier twelve hours earlier in the early hours of the morning, apparently.

It was odd walking around looking for breakfast. By now it was already after 1 pm, but still felt like morning to us and it looked odd to see people at tables eating lunches of pasta and salad and meat and patatas, accompanied by vino tinto or cervezas while we were looking for coffee and a croissant. It was a while before we realized that we were the ones who were out of synch with everyone else and that it really WAS lunchtime.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Last hours in Madrid

Just a quick note from Madrid before we meet up for our last beer/sangria and tapas in our favourite bar in Madrid after which we catch the flight back to Amsterdam.

It is a great fun city and probably best enjoyed by foillowing the rhythms of the locals which means going out and staying out late, getting up late and having an early evening snooze. I think we made the mistake in Andalucia of doing things far to early. Anyway, we both really like Madrid and despite all the photo fo glum looking people, it really is fun. We both certainly look forward to coming back againb.

Yesterday, it was coolish and cloudy and we walked around the monumental area, built by the Bourbon Kings, mostly Charles III. Lots of buildiongs decorated in a classical style with motifs of Greek Gods. Nothing remotely Christian!

After this a walk through some of the older barrios in town, along narrpw streets full of bars and closed shops, lots of Africans and a few Arabs, very coloiurful.

And now the time/money is running out so I better finish... can write more tomorrow and later in the week and I have another two weeks pf mphotos to upload as well! Not all of young men hanging aroujnd the metro station, either!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain

Madrid - The Bear of Madrid, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The rain may stay mainly in the plain, but Madrid is built more on a plateau and after the coasts had been battered by storms, it was Madrid’s turn to get some rain yesterday. As it happened, after a gloomy cloudy and windy start, the clouds broke, the sun came out and it got very warm… until, that is, I finally got off work and was able to start enjoying what the city had to offer.

Fred had moved to a hostel in the centre of town, which was less than half the price of a room in the Novotel on the outskirts near my office. A nice enough businessman’s hotel with a swimming pool, but one which has the cheek to charge € 16 for breakfast and € 6.50 for an hour’s internet. This place here is four stories up in a building facing the Puerta del Sol, which is the centre of Madrid and where a metal plaque marks the spot where all distances are measured from Madrid. It is a little bit basic, but the rooms are quiet enough and it reminds me of the sort of places in which Richard and I stayed in Cambodia and Vietnam. The only really odd thing is breakfast arrangements, where cold coffee comes in a jug from the kitchen, where one pours one’s cup and heats it up in the microwave.

Anyway, there was still enough good light (or so I thought) to take some photos of people hanging around the square, so after a quick shower I was out with my camera and what should I find, but a big black cloud settled over the city ready to unleash its rain. The rain when it came was heavy and I just happened to be near a Museo del Jamon (it is a chain here), where I treated myself to an early evening ham roll and two beers (again for just € 3.40).

Fred and I had a rest in the room, a sort of late siesta, before going out to meet up with our friend Howard and later his friend Michael, for a few drinks in first a tapas bar and then a drinking bar. I had missed out on Howard last weekend at Hartjesdag so it was nice to hear that he was going to be in Madrid the same weekend that we were going to be here.

It is cloudy again outside, although not raining, the only thing is that half the day has gone already and all I have done is write this a drunken my cup of microwaved coffee. Time to step outside with my camera and find a proper coffee and a croissant, which I much prefer over the local churros, a long piece of fatty fried dough, with almost no taste but a greasy texture. Hmmmm…

Friday, August 24, 2007

Jamon Jamon!

Jamon Jamon, the title of a Pedro Almodovar film, I think. Our country manager took us to a Jamon shop and encouarged us to buy a ham, from an acorn fed black pig. It weighed six kilos and we decided each of us to buy a third, for € 35 each, for which we will get 4 shrink wrapped packages of sliced ham, 250 grams each (the meaty bit being about half of the total weight). So, we wil probably be having a ham party at home soon!

Last night out to dinner for paella, which was delicious, iof a bit more chickeny and fishy.

Today, the blue sky has disappeared, it is grey and cloudy and quite windy, a typical Amsterdam summer's day, not exactly typically Madrid. The weather forecast in the bar showed rain all around the coastal regions and one of my colleagues from Guadalajara said it was raining there this morning. Oh well, there seem to be plenty of museums we can visit this weekend, if the weather really doesn't improve.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Agosto mas frio

Madrid - the Cathedral, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The coldest August in living memory, apparently. Still very pleasant here in Madrid during the day, although the evenings are not exactly warm. However, I saw films on the TV at breakfast this morning showing storms, wind and rain and apparently it is like that around Barcelona and the Balearics.

It just so happens that my sister, Fiona, is having a short holiday in Ibiza this week and I really hope it hasn't rained the whole time, after the disatrous summer in London.

Anyway, last night, one of my Spanish colleagues took me out for dinner just below this cathedral in the massive Casa del Campo, which seems to be as big as the whole of Madrid itself. Here we had dinner at a Basque restaurant where we ate some delicious ham, followed by grilled sardines and small green peppers, washed down with some young (and not too oakey) Rioja, red being a much more suitable companion to sardines than white.

Fred in the meantime spent his day doing two long walks in the centre.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Madrid - an evening walk around the historical centre

A quick 'Hola' from Madrid.

Fred and I managed a walk around the old city yesterday evening after an afternoon in the office. We are staying on the outskirts and have a 25 minute bus ride to Plaza Del Sol, in the middle of the old city.

First impressions are of a very clean city with some beautiful highly ornamented buildings in all sorts of styles from baroque to art deco and eclectism.

A five minute stop at the Museo del Jamon, saw us drinking each a glass fofrefeshing Amstel, sharing a large fresh croissant filled with ham and cheese adn scoffing a small plate of delicious green olives, all for less than 5 euros!

The weather is sunny but quite cool, walking around in the evening witha fresh wind, it felt as cool as it had in Stockholm at the weekend. Not excatly what one expects in mid-August. Oh well.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Andalus - the wonderful gardens of the Alhambra

We go to Madrid tomorrow.

We were in Spain for a two week holiday six years ago when we flew to Malaga and hired a car. We toured Andalucia stayed in Granada, Cordoba and Seville, as well as visiting Marbella (in the mist) and Torremolinos (by night). We enjoyed what we could see of the old Muslim culture of what was Andalus, notably the Alhambra in Granada and the Mesquita in Cordoba.

I am now reading the History of the Arab People by Albert Hourani, recommended by my father. Not really the easiest of reads and I know quite a lot of it as well, but it describes very well the spread of the Islamic empire from Mecca to India in the east and Spain in the West, when it proved to be a great conduit for the spread of learning about science, medicine, language study and philosophy.

We now go to Christian Spain, home of the Spanish Inquisition and the Counter Reformation.

Hartjesdgaen (2007 remix) - een mager oogst

Oh well, it was a great day, the rain stayed away and the Zeedijk was very busy and very sociable. Just a pity that my camera decided to eat both of the batteries I had put into it, so that we did not manage to get many photos, despite all the splendid sights on offer...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Back to the seventies

The happy threesome, originally uploaded by walter77.

Here's a photo from the seventies party last week with Ellen, Walter and me (in the wig) striking a pose for the camera. Its a day for dressing up today at the climax of Hartjesdag, but I think I'll give the wig a miss.
Its a beautiful hot summer's day and its to be hoped that the rain will stay away.

In the meantime, I am playing over and over again the video of the remixes of Beyonce and Shakira's Beautiful Liar, having been dancing to it the last two nights at Connection in Stockholm and De Prik in Amsterdam... it s set to be the new Umbrella, which I have been playing non-stop since the beginning of July. At least if the weather hasn't been so good this summer, there are some great pop hits around.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Stockholm after the event

Stockholm after the event, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

On the way out of Sweden again now, using some electricity provided by Arlanda airport, which is just as full as it was when we were here two weeks ago. I treated myself to the Arlanda Express, the train which runs from Central Station to the airport in 20 very fast minutes, very much like the Heathrow Express at about the same price. There is a holiday flight to Antalya and quite a few Turks going home to see their families… reminding me that it was this time last year that we were coming back from our four week trip to south-eastern Turkey, those last few days spent by the pool in Antalya recovering from our earlier exertions.

It has been what seems to be a typical Stockholm summer’s day here, with a bit of sunshine and a few clouds, some wispy some dark grey and threatening, such clouds disappearing as soon as they come. Unlike the previous two weekends when Fred and I were here, this was an ordinary weekend and, I suppose, everything and everyone looked that bit more ordinary as a result. I have been carrying my rucksack on my back, filled with this laptop, my camera, a change of shoes and clothes. It was all a bit too heavy and I didn’t once get my camera out. Sometimes, it is good to have a rest.

Fred is out and around in Amsterdam today, making the most of the first of the Hartjesdagen. We intend to go there tomorrow, but like last year, heavy rain is expected (why not?) and I have given up any plans I might have had to go there dressed a bit fancily. I’ll be lucky to get such a good haul of photos as last year.

Looks like we are being called so time to go to the gate, looking forward to the delicious sandwiches which KLM have taken to providing on their flights. Little brown rolls filled with cheicken and pesto or goats cheese and honey. Mmmm… and as it is an evening flight, nice to wash down with a can of Heineken!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wotan in Stockholm

Wotan in Stockholm, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here, I am, back in Stockholm, trying to upload photos onto flickr using somebody else’s unsecured wireless network. Typical efficient Swedes, almost all of their networks are secured and, of course, it is always the least strong signals which are unsecured. Anyway, thank you Basquiat for letting me use your unsecured network.

Stockholm hasn’t changed a lot in the two weeks since I was last here. The weather is the same, just a bit windier and cooler and no doubt the sun will set a few minutes earlier. I have spent some time walking around places I had not visited before, including one of the major islands, from where one has different views of places we had seen two weeks ago. There are so many surprises here, architecturally speaking, making a walk around Stockholm very interesting. I walked around the building which reminded us of Venice (the one with the three crowns on top) and close up it reminded me of nothing more than the local Catholic church in Amsterdam, The Martyrs of Gorinchem, built in the 1900’s Nieuw Amsterdam/Berlage style. I love the statues and stone work on many of the Stockholm buildings and am trying to upload some examples of them, even if many come from the 1930’s-influenced-by-fascism-style.

I was interviewing earlier today, the interviewee picking me up from the airport and taking me to a castle near a lake, with a glass-blowing factory for lunch. Very nice… and I was never treated to such nice places for all my job interviews. But funny to be so soon on the other side of the table. I am just so glad I was not offered any of the jobs before the one which I have now taken, as this is so much better!

Anyway, I am running out of batteries as well now so better move on to find a place with a stronger signal.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Kebabs or Smorgasbord?

Kebabs and herbs, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I am going back to Stockholm tomorrow, for work. It was a bit of a fight to get me there but I am a fighter so I am going. I will spend the night there and come back on Saturday, maybe in tiem for Hartjesdag. I am wondering whether I will eat posh tomorrow or go to the Iraqi kebab restaurant, in which Fred and I had two delicious and large meals when we were last in Stockholm. Either that or some Swedish smorgasbord (whatever that is... we still are not quite sure...)

Anyway, here are some kebabs from a roadside shop in Beirut from a couple of years ago. How lucky we were to be there in atime of relative peace.

Yesterday the papers were writing about the suicide bombs in northern Iraq which killed 200 people, mostly Yazidis. Yet another bit of proof about how dangerous religion is in the wrong heads.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back home late from the office

Back home late from the office. I had just told my visiting colleague from Atlanta how stress free it was to travel to and from work by train last night, when they cancelled our train this evening. Great timing as I was escorting him and my boss to Schiphol. We ended up catching a train going the other way, where another train had been cancelled, this time without any announcement. So we ended up in Rotterdam Centraal where we caught the international train from Brussels and had to stand on the way to Schiphol, where they got off. Now in Amsterdam Centraal, I had the joy of seeing my train to Amstel close its doors and move away from the station just as I was charging up the steps to catch it. Only a 15 minute wait and soon I should be home enjoying a nice dinner cooked by Fred with Fred and Eric.

Last night, I stayed at a hotel in Rotterdam, after a lovely evening with my colleagues. My Dutch finance colleague and our visitor from Atlanta left the office at about 5 and drove out to the Kaag, where the Dutch country manager has a delightful holiday house. After a couple of drinks in the garden, he took us in his boat onto the Kaag, an old lake just north of Leiden, near where Fred works. Here he took us to the other side to a very posh restaurant, where we first caught the last rays of the evening sun, before moving indoors. All haute cuisine and fancy dishes, but like at Jamie’s restaurant, only very small portions. The bread was useful, but we ended up also ordering a plate of chips with mayonnaise!

The boat ride back at about 11 pm, under a dark clear sky reminded me a bit of our last evening’s journey on the River Omo, two years ago and was made more memorable by seeing two shooting stars!

The train is now leaving on its way to Amstel and it seems like the rain has stopped so I might be lucky to avoid a soaking, yet again. Despite having Eric around, I think I will have an early-ish night. Been a tough couple of days at work, but I seem to be doing the right things and my efforts are being appreciated, so I have a good feeling about it. At least I am not missing any decent summer weather this year!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Whatever happened to the 1970's?

Stockholm Pride - The March, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Last night we went to a 1970's party. It was great fun and people were still dancing away when we left at about 3.30 this morning. Quite a few of us were dressed in 1970's style, including our hosts who had got their costumes from a costume shop, complete with afro wigs, pink sunglasses and scarves and the like. No platform heels as far as I can tell. There were a couple of San Francisco-style gay men with shorts, and moustaches, a few other afro wigs and then me with my early-1970's hard rock wig.

I brought a hastily prepared CD of music from the 1970's, but it was clear it would not be needed as right from the start we were in the land of Disco, with all the disco classics from the time including We Are Family, Relight My Fire, I Will Survive, Boogie Wonderland, Le Freak and so on. THIS has become what the 1970's is being remembered for in terms of popular culture, even though at the time it had to share the spotlight with punk, ska, Grease, heavy rock and so on.

The associated afro wigs and flares and platform heels must come from one or two films made in and around the disco subculture of maybe New York.... Yet, denim suits and polyester blouses and heavy woolen lumberjack jackets were much more of a part of the 1970's than these. Likewise, the association of the 1960's with the California hippie culture.

All good fun, I am sure, and it IS more fun to dress up like a disco dolly than a striking dockworker but it is strange how history gets re-written and how we all embrace easy stereotypes.

In the meantime, it is a lovely summer's day (OK, a bit cloudy) so time now to go out on the bike and get my daily exercise, hopefully before the threatened rain arrives.

Thanks, boys, for the party we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

... and Friday was Trannie-day

... and in Amsterdam next week there are the Hartjesdagen... I am thinking about it...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Looking down to the huts/cafes built in the River Tigris, Hasankeyf

Here we were a year ago today.

We love Turkey.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Een beetje bloot mag wel... in Stockholm

Sorry Mum, they are back again... and there are still quite a few to be uploaded. Another miserable day here weatherwise, which will make the weekend seem all the better when the sun comes out, I hope!

We have just arranged a flight together out to Madrid for later in the month. I can work for three and a half days and spend the weekend in Madrid, while Fred has all the time he likes to wander around town, have his siestas and visit museums. And, Mum, they already had a Europride festival earlier in the summer, so no more of that...

Last night we had Eric around, the night before Henk and the night before our upstairs neighbours but this evening we are at home together. Eric brought round his laptop yesterday and showed us teh photos of his holiday in Turkey, which he had with his two children on a trip organised ofr families with children, ensuring there was enough time spent at hotels with nice swimming pools.

They followed alomst exactly the same path as we had taken on our holidays in August 1991- to Istanbul, Troy, Pergamon and Ephesus. Then they went to Pammukale and Kas before ending up in Dalyan, whereas we had gone to Kusadsi and Bodrum before ending up in Dalyan and catching a flight back up to Istanbul.

It was interesting to compare photos, not just to see if tegh places had stayed the same and whether or not we had taken the same photos from the same places (almost in a few instances), but also to see how we looked like in our young thirties - a lot more hair and a lot less flesh! However, without looking anything like as lean or muscled as the friendly chap in this photo...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Skansen farmhouse

Skansen farmhouse, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Hello Mum!

We did do other things in Stockholm you know..... here is an old wooden farmhouse at the open air museum at Skansen on the island of Djuurgarden, which we visited in the rain last Friday.

Not such a nice day here today, weatherwise, but due to get better leading up to a nice sunny and warm weekend, which is just how it should be.

Time for bed, Good night!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What's going on in Amsterdam?

A colourful Stockholm Pride, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Fred and I were back in Amsterdam to catch the tail-end of We Are Amsterdam Pride, the centerpiece of which was the Canal Parade on the Saturday afternoon. It was a warm summers evening and we were home reasonably earlier so we took our bikes down to the centre to have a couple of beers at De Prik and Amstel Taveerne, where it was still busy.

There has been a lot of discussion about the current state of the self-proclaimed Gay Capital of Europe recently, centred around the increasing level of violence against gay people in Amsterdam. It appears that such incidents are not only becoming commoner but increasing levels of violence are being used. It turns out that an exceptionally large percentage of those being attacked are foreign tourists who have come to Amsterdam thinking that anything goes and that it is quite all right to walk down the street holding hands, for example. This used to be the case ten years ago, for example. What seems to be happening now is that local people realize that things have changed in Amsterdam and they have changed their behaviour, especially when they see a group of young lads, especially if they are Moroccans. The foreign tourists do not realize this and carry on as before with the result that they are the ones who are being beaten up. It is really very bad.

In the meantime the gay rights group COC is starting a number of initiatives to stimulate discussion of homosexuality amongst immigrant groups, where acceptance lags way behind that shown by ethnic Dutch. And, I am afraid to say, that it does seem to be mainly the Moroccans who are causing a lot of the problems, so much so that in many schools where there are many Moroccan children, gay teachers are becoming too afraid to be open about their sexuality, afraid of the reaction of the parents and afraid not to get enough support from the school leadership.

It seems a long time ago since we had the Gay Games in Amsterdam (it was nine years ago in 1998), where we had a wonderful Mayor, the recently deceased but highly amiable and respected Schelto Patijn. He opened the Games, even participated in the Games and kissed the people he presented medals to. For a week at least, Amsterdam was not only Gay Capital of Europe but also of the world, now it is in danger of becoming a backwater, resting on its previous reputation.

A good thing is that the government, through the Ministry of Justice is looking at ways to punish anti-gay violence, the COC saying yesterday that it should not only be the boy whose fist hit the victim but the group as a whole who participate in the violence which should be punished. It is also to be hoped that the Amsterdam City Council will also look ahrd at what they can do to turn things around. Banning street parties during Gay Pride in a couple of streets for fear of what some foreign (mainly English) football supporters might do, is not exactly the best way to start. And, in Job Cohen, we have a Mayor, who like his predecessor, Schelto Patijn, has his heart in the right place.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Goodbye Stockholm

It had hardly started before it was over – the summer holiday of 2007, but I can hardly complain, having had two years off AND being able to spend nine very pleasant days in the Scandinavian capital of Stockholm. Having said earlier that it would not be a place I would ever fall in love with, I must admit to having a growing appreciation of the city, especially as during the last couple of days we got to see more of the city, on the islands just outside the centre and so on.

Of course, with two weekends full of sunshine and colour, with the Tall Ships Race and Stockholm Pride, I am sure we were seeing the city at its most lively and at its best. Good timing.

The waterfronts are lined with impressive Baltic style buildings, mostly large but well proportioned, often faced with neo-classical details such as sculpted faces and animals and so on. Stockholm is built on hard rock, unlike Amsterdam which is built on sand. There are rocky outcrops everywhere and going into the underground is like entering a land of dwarves with high chambers of bare grey rock, through which the trains speed through at regular interval. Our station at Solna Centrum was painted a Christmassy red and green, with paintings of pine trees, tractors, logging mills, mines and so on. Industrial romanticism maybe?

The Parade was wonderful and we met up with some friends at the park where the Patrade was due to start, affording many opportunities to take all sorts of photos of the participants as well as onlookers, from 8 months to eight years. The floats were a mixture of commercial and political and sporty and social, obviously the more commercial the louder the music blearing out. A good mixture of young, middle aged and old as well as a mix ofen and women and those in between. It was eventually a hot sunny afternoon and fortunately we were spared the sight of too many scantily clad bodies.

The streets were lined four to five deep, someone telling me that the Parade was the most exciting thing to happen on the streets of Stockholm from one year to the next.

At the end, Fred and I went to an Iraqi restaurant for a massive yet very tasty kebab/shoarma. Very delicious and more than one could eat, for less than eight euros, after which the evening finished rather earlier than had been planned. I was tired after being on my feet for three days, dancing til very late the previous evening and a fourth day at Pride Park, with a now coolish wind, was more than I could really take. Fred too, so we went across to our bar for a couple of last beers and a chance to say goodbye to the few people we had got to know there before catching an early-ish train home.

The colour had disappeared from Stockholm on Sunday as it was left to the normal tourist hordes in their tourist buses going around teh main sites, as we went for a last walk around town, taking in a couple more of the islands, our eye on the clock to make sure we would be at the airport of time (well, Fred's eye). We'd had our fill of the city for now and it was time to go back, ready for work on Monday morning.

It felt really good going to work today, as I really ahd the idea that I had had a nice summer holiday, coming back refreshed and fired up for some hard work in the coming weeks. And, no doubt, there will be reasons enough to return to Stockholm and probably sooner rather than later as I have to help find a new colleague...

Just a quick word of thanks to Walter for encouraging us to go to Stockholm in the first place and also for giving us tips about where to go. Bedankt, Walter en tot gauw.

Lesbians on Parade, Stockholm Pride

I took hundreds of photos of the Parade in Stockholm on Saturday afternoon and will try to introduce them to flickr under various themes during the course of the week. Today's theme is Lesbians on Parade.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Goodnight from Stockholm Pride 2007

Stockholm Pride 2007, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yes, its goodnight from him and goodnight from me. A great last day to Stockholm Pride with a wonedrfully colourful parade through the main streets of Stockholm, with the sun blazing down.

Time for bed here. No parties or late nights as we're both a bit tired and we are leaving tomorrow.

Two more days of Stockholm Pride

Here we are two days on and it is Saturday, the day of the Parade through the streets of Stockholm. The promised fine weather has still not arrived but there are still a few hours for the clouds to break and for the sun to come through. A strange thing was that I had noticed from the glass lift down from the tenth floor that there was a great break in the clouds and the sun was shining over Western Stockholm, but a half an hour later, after breakfast, it was this which had disappeared, not the clouds. A pity.

Well, Thursday was Schlagerkväll, which means Eurovision and there was an all-evening concert down at the Pride Park, the high point of which was due to be Marija Serifovic, this years winner. However, before that we were treated to a boy band on the small stage who sang, amongst other songs, The Worrying Kind, this year’s Swedish entry from the Ark, before attention turned to the main stage. Here we were treated to an almost never-ending stream of blond Swedish women singing to a backing track of their past Eurovision songs (many of which, I assume had not quite made the final choice as the Swedish entries, as most of the songs were unfamiliar. These women would have their counterparts in Dutch people’s culture as well, to some extent, but here instead of Mokumse liedjes of love and heartbreak, many of these tunes were very much up-tempo Eurovision songs.

A few of the women were not blond and a few even were man, and a couple more even were men dressed as women, but it was all pretty well much the same. There was a great atmosphere and the audience was packed. There was Sonia and Silvia and Sophie and Suzie, their first names saying enough to identify them to their appreciative public. I was very happy to see Imaani from UK from 1998 when she just lost to Dana International in the last round of voting. Where Are you Now was the song, sadly the last decent song which the UK has sent to Eurovision. Further, there was Silvia Night from Iceland from last year and a pink feathered DQ from Denmark, singing his own Drama Queen and a lady from Belgium, who went down very well, but I have no idea who she was. Anyway, sure enough, we ended up with Marija coming on looking so much like a butch dyke, with her baggy grey T shirt over some baggy jeans and her deliberately unstyled hair. She let rip with Molitva, traditional style, before giving us a bonus English language uptempo version of the song, which, unfortunately had lost most of its power from its translation from the original Serbian..

Time at the end to visit our bar outside of the Park, where I was lucky enough to bump into the singer from the Backroom Matches, from the previous day, and even had the courage to chat to him and tell him how much I enjoyed his performance. A pity that Fred was in such a hurry to get inside, otherwise we could have chatted some more.

Yesterday, was a wettish cool grey day, perfect for visiting museums, which is what we did. A pity that we chose to visit the outdoor museum of Skansen in the afternoon when it actually rained almost all of the time, instead of the indoor Wasa Museuem which we visited in the late morning. A magnificent museum dedicated to displaying the whole remains of Gustavus Adolphus’ biggest battleship, which in 1628 met a similar fate as would meet the Titanic, when it sank on its maiden voyage in Stockholm Harbour. The ship was rediscovered in the 1950’s and after about thirty years, it was finally brought to shore and restored and housed in its very own museum, almost intact. One of the best museums I have ever visited, I think, with all sorts of displays and films and so on, and of course, the ship itself. Absolutely massive, yet it was easy enough to see why it might have sank, being not all that wide and too top heavy.

Skansen is an outdoor museum showing off old houses and so on from the Swedish countryside, together with various local animals such as otters, elk and reindeer (not seen). It is just a kilometer or two walking distance from the centre of Stockholm, on a rocky outcrop on one of the islands, yet it seemed as if one was miles away in the countryside, there being so much space and views out over the countryside. In this respect Stockholm gives the air of being very spacious, there being parks and trees and open spaces as well as the water, everywhere.

It seemed as if the organizers of Pride might have had an inkling that the weather would not be so good on the Friday as they had made very little effort to organise anything nice. Instead we had to put up with about three different performances of radical queer and lesbian groups from America and Canada on the main stage, before finally the transvestites were given their turn to inject some glamour and a light touch to the evening.

If I catch you looking at my boyfriend like that again, I will...

Stockholm Pride 2007, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A nice shot from Wednesday evening... it looks like the one is telling the other off, but it was all very friendly.

Friday, August 03, 2007

And here is Marija...

Trade mark glasses, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Stockholm Pride 2007 begins...

Stockholm Pride 2007, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The little summer holiday can now begin. I have finished my three days of work at the Stockholm office and have just written up my reports so am free to join Fred in sampling the delights of Stockholm. Ironically, we have moved out of the city centre to a hotel in Solna, which is quite near to where the office is. It is a lot cheaper than the hotels IN the centre and is, by far, the best hotel we have stayed in. A nice large-ish room on the tenth floor with a view out to the east, from where we could watch dawn breaking already at about 2 am! The beds are comfortable – although a double bed in Sweden means two single beds put together and the breakfast was wonderful.. lots of different sorts of bread and fresh fruit, including delicious fresh raspberries and some rather sharp tasting black currants, along with the usual hotel fare of hard melon chunks, sweet water melon and pineapple.

Fred is back under his white duvet while I have been finishing the reports and editing the photos for upload to flickr.

Last night was the first day of Stockholm Pride. It is in a park, behind metal fences, as if we are animals in a zoo, a bit off-putting at first, but once inside, it was really quite good. Fred had been along during the day when he was able to share the compound with about fifty not-so-lipstick lesbians, but it was a lot busier in the evening, when we went after grabbing a delicious and not-too-expensive pizza and beer at a nearby restaurang (as they are known here).

Unfortunately, we timed our entrance to coincide with the performance of a young rock chick in a red dress and a guitar playing terrible American sounding soft rock, but things could only get better, as they did, especially when a local hip hop group, the Backstreet Matchsticks (?) took to a stage and started rapping away in Swedish. A very handsome singer and some nice humour. Very good. After this there was a major performance by some obviously famous Swedish pop group, with a dreadful looking singer (looking like the Dutch magician Hans Klok) with a squeaky, whiney voice. That said, the electronic music and songs were very catchy and the lighting was excellent. The evening finished off with some very energetic African dancers on the small podium where we had been drinking our beers.

We were able to reflect that the so-called gay capital of Europe, was having its Pride celebrations this weekend, where there would be little more than the same old tired canal parade and a few bars selling drinks outside for a couple of nights, accompanied by the odd drag queen performance on stage (not quite that bad). This was a lot better.

We are not sure exactly how much we like Swedish people as a whole. They seem to be well educated, well organised but lack a bit of joie de vivre and humour. They will only cross roads at a zebra crossing and only when the light is green. They have an annoying habit of getting in one’s way, having about as much awareness of other people as Dutch people, barging and pushing past, and we have noticed that every time we want to go through a door, there is always someone coming from the other side who wants to get through first. They’ll not wait. Otherwise, the very many immigrants here seem to be well integrated, speaking perfect Swedish with a perfect Swedish accent and they look quite affluent. Not too many headscarves.

As for dress codes, they seem to be very individualistic, trying to create a unique image for themselves and in this way they contrast very much with the Dutch who tend to dress and look much of a muchness. Even older people refuse to be bound by convention in their dress sense. Sometimes, it is taken to extremes, with some very odd types to be seen walking around, but very few look at all aggressive or nasty. In fact, we have not seen any signs of aggression and we have not seen hardly any graffiti, which is great.

It has turned a little bit cloudy today, but warm enough for shorts and T shirt. A nice day to walk around town, better than taking a boat out to the archipelago. In fact, Fred might have had the best of the weather these last three days. Anyway, the day promises to end well with Eurovision night at Pride, where we have been promised a visit by the very-great-but-not-lesbian Marija Serifovic!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tall Ships Race, Stockholm

Tall Ships Race, Stockholm, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The Tall Ships left Stockholm yesterday and made for the archipelago to start their race today. They are racing to Poland and the weather is perfect, bright and sunny with a fair bit of wind.

The archipelago consists of 24,000 islands out to the east of Stockholm, some inhabited, many not. I believe that Agnetha from Abba owns and lives on one of these islands.

After another difficult day in the office where my colleague asked me to be nicer to her, otherwise she would go home, we all went out to the archipelago for a lovely fish dinner at one of the many boat harbours. All pleasure boats, not a rusty old fishing boat to be seen. Still, the dinner was excelent, prawns in a lovely white sauce on toast, followed by fried herrings and mashed potatoes, washed down with 'strong' beer.

I am very impressed with the food here, all very fresh, lots of salads, very well presented, meat and fish in delicious sauces and altogether not too expensive . Much cheaper than London and Parisand maybe a bit more expensive than Amsterdam, but better value as the quality is much better. Even the beer is not so expensive at 41 kroner (3 pounds/4.50 euro) for a pint of Falcon, although I was told that Falcon is not the strong beer whch they like. It seems that Swedish are as keen to get as much alcohol inside them as possible and are very aware of the alcohol content of anything they drink.

At the end of the relaxed dinner, Arne, my Norwegian colleague, and I were put on an old steamer boat taking us the 30 or so kilometers back to central Stockholm, the sun setting ahead of us and the near full moon rising behind us. Some excellent views of some very big houses in the forests above the shores of the various islands we passed on the way back. Very big houses.

Fred had had a nice relexed day walking around Stockholm in the sunshine during the day and we both agree that we like this place.

Locations of visitors to this page