Monday, April 30, 2007

Queen's Day 2007

Carousel, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Queen's Day this year has been of the warm and sunny version, something it looks like we will have to get used to. I will not write much as I am sneezing a lot. My face and head are a bit burnt after spending too much time under clear blue skies these past few days.

The festivities around the house were similar to many other years, although the area is spreading more and more into the side streets and right up to the end of Hogweg. We have our own beer - Breed Bier - which is brewed by handicapped people but is not, in fact, all that nice!

Despite being publicised by the Amsterdam press as being Amsterdam's best kept secret for Queen's Day, it was not a lot busier than normal, although the day did seem to last longer than many other years. Fred is at the Elsa's Bar, where there is a great blues band playing on a stage. I would be there too were it not for my incessant sneezing every time I go outside of the house.
Thoams was earning money by having people drop a coin into a bucket of water in the hope that the coin goes into a glass at the bottom of the bucket. If the coin goes in you double your money (and Thomas loses) but most coins miss their target, which gives Thomas his profit. Just a pity that the glass he chose to use was a glass whjich Foiona had given us years ago. She saw it when she arrived and told us it was a collectors item, the designer of teh glass having since become famous. Unfortunately and inevitably, the glass broke! Thomas spent his money on 'stuff' he says. Meanwhile Vera was making money by dressing up as fortune teller with a wizards hat on and telling people's fortune. She didn't quite make as much money as Thomas, but nor did she berak anything.

Fiona is having a bath next door and trying to encourage Thomas to do well in his upcoming exams. Thomas does not want to go upstairs because he saw a mouse running around the kitchen and doesn't particularly want to get close to it again. He said it was white with a red tail. A bit strange, as all the mice we normally have in the house are of the dark brown variety, but now Fiona confirms that it was indeed brown.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Three lollies

Three lollies, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

At the Queen's Dinner this evening. We had a wonderful day today. Just a pity for all the people here, that despite AZ not winning Ajax did NOt win the Championship, because PSV won 6-0 today and ended up with a better goal difference of just one goal. So near, so far and many fans in the neighbourthood were visibly disappointed.

Still, a great Queen's Dinner, before which we managed to commandeer some bicycles and go cycling together (with Henk) along the Amstel to Kalfjeslaan, stopping to view the rhododendrons flowering in the Amstelpark and along to Amsterdamse Bos, where there was an international rowing competition, all under clear blue skies.

The calm before the storm

Ajax man, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The day before Queen's Day. The day of our local Queen's Dinner and Opera op Straat. It is quiet and sunny outside, not many people out and about yet, although this will change as the day goes on, whereby by 5.30 thre will be 350 people sitting down to eat around the fountain.

The temperature keeps falling day by day, despite the clear blue skies. Hot out of the wind in the sun, pleasantly cool in the breeze.

In the meantime, it is the last day of the Dutch football season. There are three teams at the top with the same number of points: AZ Alkmaar, Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven. PSV have been in the lead all season long, but this lead has been reduced almost on a weekly basis since their return from their winter break. Drawing last week meant surrendering the lead to AZ who have the best goal difference. All AZ have to do today is win and the championship is theirs for the forst time in over 15 years.

If they slip up and Ajax win, Ajax will be champions and the big headache will be how to keep the supporters OUT of the city, as they have a tendency to go on the rampage and do lots of damage when celebrating winning a championship.

Back n England, well done to Manchester United for coming back from 2-0 down to win 2-4. At half time they had the same number of points as Chelsea who were winning their game. By the end there was 5 points difference as Chelsea only managed to draw. I have decided to support Man U for the title as they have indeed played better, more attractive and attacking football than Chelsea, and deserve to be rewarded.

I have not been too keen on the fact that Man U have been owned by some Americans for the past couple of seasons, but Chelsea are owned by a Russian oligarch, who may or may not have blood on his hands. And anyway, it seems that my team, Southampton may soon be owned by a very rich American (a co-founder of Microsoft), so I might as well accept the inevitable and go with the flow... Whereas back in Holland, good luck to small town, small team, AZ this afternoon.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Neighbourhood time

Drinking fountain - Nemi, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Another hot sunny day here in Amsterdam, most of the day spent on te pavement in front of the hpuse chatting to various neighbours as they passed by and attending to the flower-beds in front of the house. I managed to raise the street tiles around the peach tree so that when I water it, the water stays in the soil rather than running over and into teh street drains. I put in some compost, not entirely ready, such that it still smelt of decomposition rather than healthy dark compost. Still full of fatbellys and ants.

Fiona and Thomas arrive soon. KLm had booked Thomas on the 06.35 flight to Amsterdam rather than the 18.35 flight (which is also 6.35 pm with a12 hour clock). A bit silly that they have planes leaving exactly 12 hours apart such that such mistakes can be made. Fortunately, Fiona noticed this and managed to get KLM to change Thomas onto the evening flight.

Fred is cooking something delicious, a Jamie recipe with pork replaced by chicken.

Our local Bredeweg Festival kicked off last night with a baroque concert in the nearby Catholic church. Tomorrow, we have the neighbourhood buffet - 350 local people being fed by the local shopkeepers, followed by the Street Opera on the Bredeweg, before we get to Queen's Day on Monday. And all under clear blue skies. How wonderful.

Save the fountain

Save the fountain, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

There is a campaign to save a local fountain in Nemi in the Colli Albani near Rome.

The latest gossip from the Hogeweg is that there is a secret campaign afoot to get rid of our new fountain. Nobody knows quite who these people are but it is rumoured that they have met up with each other and have been writing letters to the local council. The main claims are that the fountain is ugly, is too noisy and attracts the '' wrong sort of people'. Well, we have our won ideas about who these people are and in no way can these be thought as the 'right sort of people' themselves. They have even claimed, it seems, that the noiuse of the fountain is so loud that they cannot even here when there washing machines have stopped washing. How terrible!

We don't tghink they have a chance of winning, but I would not be surprised if, at some time in the future, we get some restrictions on when the fountain is switched on. The odd thing is that since the founatin has been switched on, we have been having Italian like weather with this April being by some large degree the warmest April ever. Also, an April without a spot of rain.

Now, I am not a global warming denyer, far from it, but I do think that the recent rin of month after month being the warmest such month ever recorded here in Holland must be due to some natural or random cause. The variations from previous experience is so extreme that I cannot believe that an accumulation of greenhouse gases has caused it, unless we have reached and passed a 'tipping point'.

Still, our fountain cannot have arrived at a better time. It has been very funny to see these last few days a group of young children (aminly girls) in their swimming costumes running in and out of the water and then lying down on towels sunbathing in the hot sun. A great antidote to the complaining old bags who want to have it switched off.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The answer is 'no'...

Well, despite coming back from Italy a day early for the interviews and spending eight hours being interviewed by nine people, I did not get the job. A good strategic thinker I may be but it seems they felt I did not display the energy levels to convince them that I would relish a return to day-to-day accounting and the monthly closing of the books.

It is a pity as the company was a very good one adn the people I met were all very nice, but if I am honest the job to whiuch I was applying was not a job I have had much driect experience in, such work being generally performed by people who used to report to me in my previous job (which I ahd for ten years).

Anyway, it seems like the market is good and since Wednesday I have received details of a number of interesting jobs in the Amsterdam area, so no need to despair just yet.

Sunday evening in Castiglion Fiorentino

Here is the scene just ouside the walls of Castiglion Fiorentino, an old town just south of Arezzo, overlooking the Val di Chiana, towards Montepulciano and Monte Amiata in the west (south west).

It is Sunday evening, at the end of a lovely warm spring day and it is the time of day that Italians take their passeggiata, gathering at a town square to meet their friends and walk around, looking at who else is out, maybe look at what they are wearing and talk about the events of the weekend, the politics, the harvest, the football or the latest scandal.

The men will have been out alrready in the morning, but their wives will have stayed indoors (maybe after church) to cook the family lunch, but now, in the evening, men and women meet up for their wander.

Many years ago, maybe in 1994, Fred and I took Fred's parents to Tuscany where we stayed at an old rented cottage near Cortona, just south of Castiglion Fiorentino. Fred and I would come here every third day to go swimming, the two days in between having been taken up with driving around and visiting the country towns and villages of Tuscany, this third day being our rest day. A curious thing about some Italian swimming pools is their insistence that one wears a plastic skull cap when swimming. This always struck me as being very German, having first come across this in the German part of Switzerland many years ago. Anyway, however German it is, it is ceainly very Italain as well.

One day we took Fred's parents who were now 80 (his father) and 75 (his mother) to Castiglion Fiorentino, to walk around the medieval town, up to the castle and the archeaological park at the top. It was reasonably hot at the time but both managed it very well. A trick we used to have was to drive to teh top of any Tuscan hill town and drop them off there. I would go and park the car and we would gradually walk our way down, stopping off to visit any particular places of interest, which often included a local grocery shop, where Fred's father would like to look at the variety and quality and the prices of the fruit and vegetables on sale. At the end of our walk, I would go back to find the car and bring it round to pick them up again, ready for our next destiantion.

This time in Castiglion Fiorentino, it was exceptionally busy and it turned out that there was a street antique market within the walls and a traditional archery competition in the main square, with participants band judges all dressed in clothes and carrying arms and flags as if they had just appeared from a Piero della Francesca painting.

Just as in the instance of the passeggiata, it is remarkable to see how certain Italians remain close to and true to their traditions, despite the relentless advance of commercialisation and consumerism.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nature's wonders

Arco verde, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A marathon session on the job hunting front yesterday with eight interviews from 12 to 8 pm. Most of them went well except the one where the big boss said the very thing which was most important to him from Finance was the very thing which I had previously said was not my strong point. Oh dear. Anyway, it seems like a decision will be made soon, so am crossing my fingers.

Summer continues in Amsterdam and today the air seems to be a bit fresher than it was yesterday when it was very humid. The rhododendrons are flowering in the back garden and our first parrot tulip has decided to flower - a spectacular pink.

Meanwhile, at the front of the house, the peach blossom which was flowering so vigourously at the start of the month has now turned, almost miraculously into tiny grey furry peaches. I might have said it before, but the miracles of nature are far more wonderful than the biblical tricks of turning water into wine or raising a drunken man from his sleep. Just imagine... a tiny bud, opening out to become beautiful pink flower, which in turn transforms itself in a matter of days into a tiny fruit.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Spring colours in Tuscany

Casentino, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Legend of the True Cross

Here is a photo of Piero's masterpiece, The Legend of the True Cross, in the Bacci Chapel of San Francesco Church in Arezzo, as seen from the floor.

As I mentioned before, the colours and the scenes are wonderful, especially the two mighty battle scenes at the bottom, an early Renaissance version of the big 1950's and 60's Hollywood films, with flags and swords flying and blood gushing, but altogether in a peaceful sublime way.

Monday, April 23, 2007

St Georges Day

The Resurrection of Christ, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today is St Georges Day. St George is one of the best loved saints and his image can be found all over the Middle East and he is also the patron saint of England. Maybe being a Protestant country, England did not bother too much with its patron saint, but his flag, the red cross on white is making a comeback, as the people of the United Kingdom become more aware of their own countries within the union, especially at sporting events such as football, rugby and cricket.

The Resurrection of Christ by Piero della Francesca is on display at teh Museo Civico in his home town of Sansepolcro. It is a wonderful painting and also shows Christ, the dying and (now) resurrecting godman, holding the flag of Saint George as he rises from his tomb over the sleeping Roman soldiers in their impressive armour, all set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside as seen around Arezzo.

It should also be noted that St George is often associated with Green George, a tree spirit, celebrated by amongst others, the gypsies of Transylvania and Romania, the Slavs of Carinthia and the English, in the form of Jack-in-the-Green. Part of the celebrations involves a ritual slaughter and re-birth, as the leaves grow back on the trees, just as they are now, all over Europe.


Luce, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A weekend spent visiting the various sites of the Piero della Francesca exhibition in the Province of Arezzo... the spring countryside looking so much like the landscapes painted by Piero, certainly in his Legend of the True Cross series in the San Francesco church in Arezzo. These frescoes realy do represent some of the most beautiful art and images I have ever seen. Each one is wonderful in its own way and there are twelve of them. When you see guides talking about some of his more simple individual paintings for half an hour you wonder just how much can be said about all twelve of these in total.

The weather is hot, as hot as it ever was in July or August when we used to come up here, the landscape is covered in the bright green of new leaves and the food is wonderful.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Blue (hyacinths), originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here are some blue hyacinths, being grown in the tulipfields of the Bollenstreek.

Our new fountain turned blue last week. This because two idiot boys from the neighbourhood decided that they would vandalise the wonderful fountain which had just three weeks before been opened. They poured a blue colouring into the water and added some detergent as well, for good measure.

The result is that the fountian has been switched off, so was off during the three hot day we had over last weekend, just the most perfect weather for a gushing fountain. The authorities have managed to test the water for chemical traces and found that it was safe to empty into the public drainage system and just today, the fountain has been switched back on. Too cold though to sit around and enjoy it.

But what a pity that the Doubting Thomases in the neighbourhood should be proved right, with the fountain out of action and heavy costs being incurred already within a month of being switched on.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Raspberry ripple

Raspberry ripple, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I am preparing today for a job interview, second round, at a company I would really like to work for. So, I have to concentrate.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The tulip fields

DSC08605, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yesterday, I decided I would pay a visit to the tulip fields while they were still looking at their best. I had seen them from the train on the way to The Hague on Saturday morning and felt that the photo opportunities were too good to miss.

I decided to go by bike, despite the fact that it was a good deal cooler than the previous days (we had a maximum of 14 degrees instead of 25 the day before) and despite the fact that there was a stong wing blowing from the west, the direction of the tulip fields. The weathermen had promised more sun in the afternoon, but that only really happened for an hour or so around 6 pm, so not much use in the end.

Still, despite thinking of turning back a few times I made it all the way down there and was rewarded in the end by some spectacular views down across the tulip fields, from high up on a dyke, following a road I had never been down before. This photo is typical of the view one gets from above, a lot better than from the level. Here the heads of the red tulips have been cut off to allow the energy to flow into the bulbs, rather than seeds, whereby the bulbs will multiply, ready for sale and planting in the autumn.

I took a train back to Amsterdam from Hillegom, but was unable to buy a ticket for the bicycle through the ticket machine, so was a bit afraid of being caught out. I thought about cycling abck from Haarlem, with the wind behind me but decided to risk the journey to Sloterdijk, at least and here I got chatting to a couple of Romanian gypsies who come over to Holland for about six months a year to play music. On the way back from Sloterdijk, I had another look at Bos en Lommer in the late afternoon sunshine, where the parks and public spaces were full of people enjoying the late afternoon sunshine until the sun disappeared whereupon everyone quickly went back indoors.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Somali discussion

Elephant, Hargeisa, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

On Saturday, the Evert Vermeer Stichting organised an Afrikadag in The Hague, which I attended after an invitation from Khaalid who I have come to know through the blog. He had organised a Somali Round Table workshop.

With all respect to Khaalid, I found it all rather a disappointing and frustrating experience, albeit a perfect lesson in why Somalia has been without any sort fo government for the last 16 years since the fall of the military dictator Siad Barre. This was the main question which was being posed. Why out of all the countries in the world is it that Somalia is the country which has been unable to have a functioning government, not even a dictatorship, but nothing.

First fo all, despite being on time at the appointed classroom, the session was half empty and there were very few Somalis. Gradually as time went by the room became fuller and fuller, and just like what happened in Birmingham, the Somalis took their own time to attend the seminar.

Khalid introduced the session and handed the floor over to a Dutch jourrnalist who wanted to hear, predominantly from the Somalis their ideas about why Somalia has no functioning government and whether or not the current transitional government has any chnace of succeeding where others have failed.

Well, the discussion started with one elderly gentlemen giving us a potted view of Somali history since the 1950's delivered in a slow deliberate way, much like the Ents in The Lord of the Rings. he was not going to be hurried and when pressed to do so, he became quickly offended. However interesting it was that he was saying, it did not seem to be getting to anywhere near the point and eventually, even at the risk of offending him further, the floor had to be given to someone else.

Well the discussion went all over the place, without getting anywhere at all. There were a couple of flare ups, notably between the two grey beards in the room. In the meantime, I was getting frustrated about the fact that the floor seemed to be ignoring the fact that Somaliland, whether or not a part of Somalia DOES have a functioning government and has had one for almost 16 years. I got the chance to mention this in pointing out that it IS possible to come up with a political system which gives due recognition to the particulars of Somali culture in respect of clans and the elders and so on.

However, despite some support from some of the other people in the room who thought I had made a good point, the journalist reacted with a very catty remark about Somaliland being a very corrupt, to which I replied that many countries are corrupt and that corruption is probably better than the anarchy down south where the economy is controlled by gun wielding warlords. Anyway, he was not having any of it and gradually the discussion got more and more out of control, the main lesson being learned by everyone in the room was to see how difficult it is to get Somalis to agree on anything...

I was told later that we were lucky, as some years similar discussions at Afrikadag became so heated that security men needed to be called in. One thing though, very positive, was the contribution of the young women around the table, illustrating clearly what is often said that if Africa is really going to start progressing in a positive way, it is going to have to give far more say to the women.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Beach life, again

Blijburg - 16th April 2007, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Another afternoon down at the beach today, when I even went for a swim in the water, taking advantage of the summery weather, which lasted until about 4 pm when all of a sudden a cool wind blew down from the north. I have swum in The Netherlands in early May on occsaions but never in mid-April. Amazing! Tomorrow, we can expect a maximum of 10 degrees lower than it was today... so I can use tomorrow to catch up on tax forms, e-mails, job searches and so on.

This morning, I finally got round to planting the plants we bought on Good Friday in Deventer, namely the forget-me-nots and blue pansies. The pots on the balcony at the front of teh hosue have totally dried out , which provided a good excuse to get rid of the tangly ivy I had planted a few years ago, as well as the dried out dianthus plants. I got rid of everything in the pots and gave them a good wash ebfore filling them with compost from my compost maker, a big green plastic container in the garden into which all the organic kitchen scraps get emptied into.

Almost everything had decomposed nicely into a rich black compost, apart from certain items such as eggs shells, mussel shells (how did they get there, as we do not eat mussels), corks from wine bottles and chicken bones. What is interesting is the intermediate stage of decay, usually at the bottom of the rubbish bin we have upstairs. It is a stinky gooey mess and you have to try hard not to be sick when breathing in the smell when emptying the contents into the compost maker. And yet, a year or so later, after all the fatbodies and worms and other beasts have had there way, this disgusting slime becomes prime compost. A wonder of nature! We will ahve to see how the forget-me-nots and pansies get on in their new environment. Or maybe we should be planting palms and other tropical plants?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hottest April day ever recorded

Blijburg, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yes, indeed, with a maximum of 28 degrees, today was the hottest April day ever recorded in Holland and it will no doubt be one of the hottest days we will have all year unless global warming really is going to start kicking in in a dramatic way this summer.

After my tour of Bos en Lommer, I cycled home and tried to get Fred to join me at the beach but he was keener on chatting with the neighbours, doing some work for school and getting dinner reasy (he he!), so I had to go by myself. My goodness, it was full, even allowing for the fact that it was a Sunday and the second really summery day we have had (yesterday was high summer too), it was very very full as can be seen from this photo.

I took a few pics, but mostly had a nice snooze with the hot sun on my back before coing home and enjoying a nice evening on the balcony at the back of the house, listening to the blackbirds singing, intimidating a couple of randy wood pigeons who want to use ourt balcony for their marital home and nursery, and later, watching Venus beam her light to us from the western sky. She's in the same place in the sky as the Hayle-Bon comet a few years ago. A wonderful sight.

Bos en Lommer

Bos en Lommer, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This morning I was given a guided tour of Bos en Lommer, a district of Amsterdam, completely the other side of the city from here, namely West as opposed to our East. With the Centre in the middle, there is never normally much reason for we easterlings to go West, with the result that we don't tend to know too much about that side of the city. Anyway, my friend Walter (from the blind date last weekend) kindly invited me to join him on a walk/cycle aroujnd his neighbourhood. He is a planoloog (town planner) by education and profession and worked for the local council so knows a lot about the area.

Very interesting too. One could cycle through and around the area and just see a rather down-at-heel area of low cost housing mostly inhabited by Moroccans and Turkish people, with satellite dishes finely tuned to the latest soap from Rabat or Ankara. However, there is far more to see than this, some good, some less good, but where it IS bad there seem to be plans to improve or even destroy what there is a replace it with something better, and this is what Walter was able to show and explain to me this morning.

So it was that for the first time I noticed the metal plates fitted at the bottom of front doors, so that people could use their feet to kick open the front door rather than use their arms to push the door. Also, we were able to contrast a block of flats with restored old wooden doors with those whose doors had been replaced in the 1970's (say), all flat and painted in a primary colour (probably to match the colour of the balconies). There was a row of houses where the ground floor was used for storage with a small stairwell to get to the doors into the flats above. It all looked nice enough, but Walter would tell me that such storage places all too easily get used for illagal prostitution and/or drug dealing.

But there were the better aspects afforded by having one or two ends of a large four-sided block left open, the public spaces such as a children's swimming pool and, on a larger scale the parks, with their duckponds, statues (including one very impressive white bear), trees and park benches, affording a feeling of space. And everywhere there were gevelstenen, architectural details such as a series of sculpted stones depicting scenes from the Old and the New Testaments and a plaque dedicted to the Housing Association which built the houses in the late 1940's and so on...

So, plenty of reasons for this easterling to make a return trip out West and se what else the area has to offer.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Silver Birch wins the 2007 Grand National

This is what I wrote on the BBC website yesterday:

"I'd love to see Ballycassidy continue as he left off last year only this time jump all the way to the finish, however he seems to have regressed this year, like his stable mate Take The Stand. McKelvey could do very well, although at 20-1, any value seems to have slipped away.

Otherwise, Slim Pickings ran a great race at Cheltenham and could do well at 33-1 and there is Le Duc at 50-1.

Victor Chandler are giving you your stake back if your horse falls, which is something which could have been useful last year when seeing Ballycassidy topple over at 100-1 when seven lengths in the lead"

What happened is as follows:

Ballycassidy did set off in the lead and stayed there all the way, jumping brilliantly until losing his jockey at the eighth from last fence, having fallen when in a clear lead at the sixth from last fence last year.

There were two horses in contention at the last fence Silver Birch and Slim Pickings (who I pinpointed yesterday). The latter jumped badly and so gave the lead to Silver Birch, whilst ten lengths back McKelvey was jumping in the third place. There is a very long run in to the finishing line and unlike yesterday when I was shouting for Dunbrody Millar to hold on, I was now shouting for McKelvey to catch up and overtake Silver Birch. He nearly did, but the line came just too soon, so we had to make do with 2nd and 3rd places.... and I can tell you that that is a long long way from actually WINNING! Oh well, 'my' horses gave me a great run and I end up after three days of racing with as much money on my bookmaker account as I had to start off with. Could have been better, could have been worse, but it was mostly fun.

Grand National Day

Let us hope it doesn't end up like this Battle Scene.

I am off to Den Haag now to attend the Afrikadag, back in time for the big race this afternoon. Have a great day.

This image was scanned from book "Piero della Francesca" by Ronald Lightbrown.. The painting is called "Battle Scene" by an unknown Ferrares artist after a lost fresco by Piero della Francesca.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Dunbrody Millar winning the 2007 Topham Chase

Here is the horse jumping the last fence (se previous post). Photo taken from Racing Post website.

Warning: avoid these horses!

It is the Grand National tomorrow and I can tell everyone that the safest thing anyone can do is to avoid any horses I mention here. Every bet goes wrong, consistently.

Yesterday I bet on five horses. Two came second, for which I won 75 pence as I had him each way. The other three all fell. They had never fallen before. I had never nacked them before. Sure enough, the first day I back them is the first day they fall.

Today started with me not doing what I said I would on the BBC site, namely back the horse which carried and lost my money at Cheltenham. In the case, the horse was Aces Four, who, at 20-1, ran very well until almost falling at the third last when a close second, still second at the last but just run out of place money (1,2,3) in the run in to the post. Aces Four was favourite today at 2-1, on the basis of his run at Cheltenham but I decided ot have somefun with an old favourite Yes Sir, who was 33-1. And strangely enough Yes Sir ran exactly the same race that Aces Four ran at Cheltenham, in the lead all the way round, until headed by the winner three out, jumping the last in second and just missing out on third place (and a 25 pound pay-off for me) in the run in to the post. Incredible! Needless to say, Aces Four steamed it (won very very easily).

My fancies for the Grand National are, for the sake of the record, McKelvey (from the Yes Sir, Take The Stand and Ballycassidy stable of Peter Bowen), Joe's Edge (favourite and from the Aces Four stable) and Slim Pickings (at 33-1) and maybe Thisthatantother (at 100-1), although this list will probably have changed by tomorrow.

Can it get any worse? Sure.
I decide that in the second race I will put my money on Chief Dan George at 25-1. I click onto the betting site and it stalls and stalls. By the time it starts up again I cannot place my be because the race has started. Half waty through the race and the two favourites have a long lead and Chief Dan George is 'doing nothing 'according' to the commentator. However, the two up front have had quite a battle and start tiring and who should show up from miles behind? None other than Chief Dan George, who now comes along with awet sail and goes on to win. This is really getting VERY VERY frustrating.

OK, it DOES get better... The Topham Chase and I am thinking that Iron Man from the Peter Bowen stable ran quite well at Cheltenham and might be good value at 25-1 and I am fiddling around with the bet before deciding to halve it and put the other half on Peter Bowen's other runner, Dunbrody Millar also at 25-1, who has twice ran really well over the National fences. Dunbrody Millar takes off in the lead and Iron Man falls at the first fence. Dunbrody Millar stays in the lead, jumping the massive fences with ease, until the back straight where he looks as if he might get swallowed up by the others, but turning for home, he finds new energy, quickly takes the lead, jumps the last two fences magnificently and storms hoem to win by 5 lengths. Wow! That was so thrilling!

Mrs Bowen, the wife of the trainer says that Ballycassidy looks to have come back on form the past couple of weeks and could run well again, so I have split my winnings between two each way bets on BALLYCASSIDY at 40-1 Aand stablemate MCKELVEY at 16-1 and . You have been warned!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Somali Round Table

Leefbaar Somalia, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

On Saturday mornihg, before the Grand National, I will be going to The Hague for the 2007 Afrikadag (Africa Day) organised by the PvdA (Dutch Labour Party). I will be attending a fully booked session 'Somali Round Table' organised and facilitated by Khaalid Hassan, who I have got to know through this blog, but who I have yet to meet.

The programme is set out as follows:

Maanta maanta maanta waa maalin weyne maanta. Maanta maanta maanta madaxeen bannaane manta.

Today today today it’s a great day today. Today today today freedom we gained today.

With these majestic and unforgettable words, at least for those who lived during the glorious first decade after independence, the Somali and Somaliland nations used to wake up on the anniversary days of 26th of June and 1st of July 1960. These were the years of Somali independence, Somali renaissance and Somali nationalism (Midnimo). At that time in the Horn of Africa, Somali’s were divided by colonial powers in five different countries. For many people this was a decade of great hopes and lofty dreams about uniting all Somali’s within one nation.

Nowadays, the Horn of African is one of poorest and most violent regions in the world. And more than four decades later, the dream of Unity is gone and Somali’s seem to be more divided than ever. The (British) Somaliland reclaimed its independence in 1991, (French) Djibouti never joined the Union; the (Ethiopian) Ogaden and the (Kenyan) NFD regions seemed to have accepted the Ethiopian and Kenyan reign over their territory and for at least 17 years (Italian) Somalia was engaged in a bloody civil war following the collapse of the central government.

In this Round Table Discussion Somali’s from the Horn of Africa of all ages have the opportunity to discuss the past, present and future direction of their region. The Round Table will be moderated by Rik Delhaas, Journalist for the VPRO, Trouw en De Groene Amsterdammer and has worked in Somalia and Somaliland. Rik Delhaas is the author of the new published book De President, de Hyena en kleine Hagedis, a book on Africa after the Cold War.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Life on Mars

Cybele, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

An interesting story on the BBC news last night, presumably timed quite coincidentally, the day after we have celebrated Easter, the Christian remnant of ancient fertility rites.

It was the story of a woman who had had some eggs fertilised by her boyfriend's sperm before she went to hospital for cancer treatment. The woman had survived and had then wanted to use one of the embryos to create a baby by having it planted in her womb. However, she had by this time split up from her boyfriend and now he did not want to become a father of this woman's children, despite having had his sperm used for the purpose of fertilising her eggs. The law says that both 'parents' of an embryo need to agree before such embryo is to be used to make a baby. The news was that the European Court of Human Rights upheld British Law in requiring both parties to agree before having these embryos brought back to life.

We saw the woman in tears, hardly able to read her statement where she claimed she was being denied 'her human right' to have a baby. The man avoided the question about being mean towards his ex-girlfriend in denying her the chance to have a baby and claimed in his statement only that the decision was a victory for common sense.

We then saw a 'wimmin-type' women come on to the screen to tell us that there is some good news for wimmin because technology had advanced so far recently, that they can extract eggs and store them in frozen conditions, after which they can be thawed out and fertilised presumably by whichever man the women in question is seeing at the time.

However, I do not see much common sense in any of this. What on earth are they doing extracting eggs from women, having them fertilised in a test-tube after which embyros are frozen and stored for five years, pending a use to be made for them? What sort of science fiction horror story is this? Why should anyone think they have a right to have a baby? Why should a man be able to change his mind about having a baby after he has allowed his sperm to be used to make embryos?

Just before the news, we reached the climax of the excellent Life on Mars series, where a Manchester policemn, Sam Tyler 'had an accident and woke up in 1973'. Obviously he did not feel very comfortable about living in 1973 when all his friends and family were carrying on in 2007. However, he was finally brought back to 2007, during a violent train robbery in a tunnel. But after meeting his Mum and thinking about the 'girl' behind in 1973, he was sitting in a meeting of modern day police officers discussing some ever-so-politically-correct and technological issue, and decided that maybe 2007 was not quite the place to be. Sexism and racism might have been rife in 1973 and the police station was always full of smoke, but life was simpler then and he chose 1973.

Not such a bad choice maybe, given our Frankenstein present.

Grand National amongst the Oaks

A line of river Oaks, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today is the Wednesday before Grand National Saturday, a week later than normal because of Easter last weekend. Five years ago, my Mum and I were up in Mendocino County, staying at the Hopland Inn in Hopland. I hate to miss the Grand National, the race which first got me interested in racing when Red Rum just beat Crisp in 1973, whilst I was staying at my grandparents in Guildford. I think I wrote about this on the blog last year.

Anyway, I had travelled up to Hopland hoping that there might be an internet cafe somewhere in the village where I could follow the commentary of the race, but a quick perousal on the Friday evening when we arrived told me it was not to be found in Hopland itself, so I got up early in the morning and took the hire car up to Ukiah, the nearest town. It was so early that the only place which was open was a petrol station and no internet cafe as far as I could tell. I asked at the petrol station and they said I would be out of luck.

A little dejected, as I had not really exzpectde to find anywhere, I drove back to Hopland, under a beautiful clear sky, the sun rising from the east, casting a wonderful golden light accross the green and fertile countryside, a countryside of vines, hops and apple orchards, backed with osk covered hills.

I played around with the radio, hardly daring to think I might find the race being broadcast in northern California, but low and behold, I heard an English accent on one of the channles and sure enough, it was the BBC commentary on the race which was just about to start, being broadcast by the Berkeley College radio. I brought the car to a stop by the side of the road, moving back and forth to obtain the best reception. I was absolutely thrilled to be listening, and my memories of this national are more vivid than many of those for which I have sat the whole afternoon watching it and the build-up on TV.

I remember Davids Lad and Ad Hoc being up at the front and disputing the lead, my money being on Davids Lad. However, with the horses having covered a circuit and a half, the reception broke off for a couple of fences and by the time it was back, both horses were no longer being called (they had fallen) and the race was now between What's Up Boys, a beautiful and brave grey horse and the upstart chestnut Bindaree, who went on to win by a length or so, after four-and-a-half miles.

We ended up having a wonderful day, at least until the late afternoon, where, by the Pacific Ocean, we decided to go whale watching. It had been a lovely sunny and calm day inland, as we drove past apple orchards, pine forests and rocky cliffs and, indeed, in the harbour it was still nice and peacefiul, seals playing around in the clear water or lying in the sun. However, the Pacific had more for us that the odd sight of a bit of a whale reaching over the surface, for it had a bit of a gale and some rough waves which had Mum and most of the other passengers more than slightly regretting they had made the trip out. Still, we had seen our whales and Mum was feeling a lot better by the next morning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Five years ago

Here's a nice photo of Mum and me on the shores of Tamales Bay, near Point Reyes in West Marin County, just north of San Francisco.

I was over there for the quarterly close at Metron and Mum came over for a week to see both me as well as her cousin Janet, who has lived in California for a long time and lives in a lovely house in the Richmond area of San Francisco, with views across to the Golden Gate Bridge. They also have a house up here in Inverness, although we did not visit it on this occasion.

The boat in the background in the Point Reyes and it is a wreck. The white paint is rusting and it is altogether a wonedrful subject for photography, changing its appearance with the light and the time of day. This was the first time I saw the baot and we were under a blanket of early morning cloud which, in fact, turned out to be the best light of all to capture all the colours.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Madonna del Parto

Madonna del Parto, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The Madonna del Parto was one of the first paintings/frescoes which really fascinated me and which I loved. When I first saw it, it was still in a small chapel by the side of the main road from Arezzo to Anghiari. Fred and I were being taken for a drive by our friend Rosanno from San Leolino and his girlfriend Carla. This was the first stop on the way, after which we also made it to Caprese Michelangelo, the birthplace of Michelangelo, high up in the Casentino, before ending up at Locanda Castel di Sorci where we had a most delicious dinner.. and lots and lots of it.

Anyway, back to the small village of Monterchi, rising above a valley planted mainly with tobacco and sunflowers. There was a little dirty looking chapel by the side of the road and an old crone sitting nearby, with the keys. She opened the doorts for us and we were treated to the wonderful sight of this masterpiece, with its wonderful colours and sensitivity on behalf of the expectant mother, flanked by two identical angels.

We had seen, with my Mum and Dad, the frescoes of The Legend of the True Cross in the Bacci Chapel of the San Francesco church in Arezzo, but they were dark and relatively inaccessible and being 14 scenes, were difficult to take in in one go. This Madonna, by contrast, was a simple painting, all on its own in its little chapel, a chapel which used to attract young women wanting to have a baby. It was very easy to like, and through this experience, it was time to better appreciate the True Cross frescoes in Arezzo. Luck would have it that these frescoes remianed inaccessible for many years while being restored... indeed it was over ten years later in 2000 that they were revealed again.

Since then, the Madonna del Parto has also been restored and been moved to her own museum, nearer the centre of Monterchi, away from the main road. Instead of tipping the old crone wfor opening the doors there is now an entrance fee to be paid, but it is all worth it, as the colours have been restored to their former glory and the painting can be viewed in good light at all times of the day.

Other favourite Piero works are The Resurrection of Christ in Piero's home town of Sansepolcro and The Flagellation of Christ in Urbino, which requires a wonderful drive over the Mountains of the Moon to get to. All highly recommended!

There is an excellent website organised by the local councils to support the current 'Piero della Francesca and the Italian Court' exhibition to be found by clicking here.


300 in Leicester Square, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Fred and I went to see the film '300' on Saturday night and ended up almost walking out half way through, so terrible was the film. It became very quickly one long sequence or a repeat of the same sequence of fighting whereby 300 Spartans would be killing hundreds and hundreds of Persians without one of them even getting a scratch. In this respect it reminded me of the film 'Black Hawk Down' where the Americans went on a killing rampage shooting hundreds of Somalis, who would drop like flies. We were then asked to be concerned with and have sympathy with the handful of Americans who became trapped in Mogadishu and died. Why should we? What is so important about an American life over a Somali who is defending his country from foreign invasion and interference?

Anyway, back to Sparta, we were being asked to buy into the Spartan ideals of freedom and liberty against the dark brooding masses of Persians and feel sympathy when the son of one of the commanders is beheaded in battle.

Well, I have read my 'History of Western Philosophy' by Bertrand Russell where he devotes ten pages or so to describing Spartan society and political organisation. What is interesting is that almost all the elements of Spartan society described by Russell found their way into the film, albeit in a fictionalised way.

However, there was one major omission and that was to do with the fact that the aristocracy lived off the back of their serfs, called helots. They owned such serfs and could trade them. They also declared war on their serfs, the helots, so that they could legally kill them if they had any dispute with them.

One of the main taunts against the Persians in the film was that they were slave drivers. Well, maybe the Persians sent their slaves to war, in their armies (I am not sure) but it was hypocrisy of the highest order for the Spartans to be claiming to be fighting for this freedom and liberty.

What was strange in the film was that they showed very clearly what a militaristic society, Sparta was, showing how weak babies were killed at birth, how boys were put into schools to learn how to fight, to put up with pain and hardships and generally get tough and become highly skilled and well disciplined soldiers. (What the film did not show was that girls received a similar education and would perform sports with the boys, both sexes being naked - modern sensibilities being such that scenes like these could not be filmed). Anyway, the point is, even within the film it was clear to see that Spartan society was a militaristic, totalitarian society where individual needs were subjugated to that of the state, whereby the battle cries for SPARTA!!!, for freedom and for liberty ringed pretty hollow.

The film not only portrayed the Persians in a negative light but also the Greeks, the Arcadians, who were taunted as being boy-lovers and were shown as being weak, cowardly and unprofessional. Well, it was the Greeks who eventually beat the Persians (albeit with Spartan help) ten years after the battle of Thermopylae. And, it sems that the Spartans were also not averse to homsoexual love and relations themselves. However, in the context of the film, there was this easy association of homosexuality to weakness, which was quite distateful.

However, historical quibbles aside, the film failed because it lacked any real sense of drama and became very easily and quickly an exercise in digitally recreating bloody battle scenes, which despite the expertise involved, were very boring.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Jesus, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Happy Easter to all readers of the blog and thanks for checking in. The photo uploaded to the blog is the result of a wonderful piece of software called AndreaMosaic which can create mosaics using a selection of ones photos, matching the colours of the individual photos to those of the image which one wants to create. The image being created here is one of the head of Jesus which had been painted as some piece of grafitti somewhere near the Forum in Rome last May. The grafitti states that Jesus protects Italy, whatever that is supposed to mean. The image created out of the mosaic looks a bit like the Turin Shroud, it becoming clearer the further away one stands away.
It was a beautiful sunny day today, not a cloud in the sky all morning or late afternoon, just some high cloud during the early afternoon, while there was also a bit of a cool wind. Still, one of the better Easter Sundays one could wish for. Fitfully, for a festival which has its origins in marking the spring equinox and the coming into leaf of all vegetation, the trees were all bursting out in leaf and the city looked a lot greener than it had just a week ago.
Green leaves are what Amsterdam really needs ot come into its own, together with bright sunshine. The chairs are all outside every cafe and every chair in the sun is occupied. The city is full of locals, people from outside as well as tourists, creating a gerat atmosphere. Fred, Henk and myself walked into town and back stopping by one of the canals for a tostie and a drink, me with my camera trying to gather the enthusiasm to take photos once again.
Back home we had drinks on the balcony while I cooked roast organic chicken, stuffed with home-made sage and onion stuffing. Quite a traditional English dish for Easter and delicious too!
In the meantime, last night we went to the cinema to see a film about which I might write about tomorrow. After the cinema we went to a bar to meet with a couple of chaps who I hae got to know through the flickr photo site. We had never met before so it was a sort of blind date. The bar was very full and we looked around to see if we could recognise anyone from the photos on their sites, but to no avail. Eventually, Walter did find us, but what he has done since he last put photos of himself was to grow his hair, which hardly made things easy to identify him. Anyway, he and his partner Marcel were excellent company and we hope to see each other again soon. Funny how this internet thing can work sometimes!

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Adonis, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Adonis is the Phoenician dying and resurrecting godman. A beautiful youth, he was the lover of Astarte (Aphrodite). His death and resurrection was celebrated in the spring in Syria and in the summer in Cyprus, where it was marked by a red rose, represnting the blood of Aphrodite as she trod over some white roses on her way to meet her wounded lover.

There is an excellent site on the myth and cult of Adonis on this site

Byblos in modern day Lebanon is one of the oldest cities in the world and was one of the main centres of worship of Adonis. Indeed, there is a River Adonis which flows out to the sea just south of the town. We saw this from the bus which we used travel to Byblos from Beirut, further south.

A look at the name Adonis on google shows that he lives on in the names of the following: the Adonis Cabaret, a girls' night out hen night in various cities in England, Adonis Grooming, a stockist for male grooming brands, Adonis Construction, oh well, (ADaptive Optics Near Infrared System), an Adaptive Optics system for telescopes, Adonis Beauty Consultants, Adonis Travel and Tourism, Adonis furniture, the Adonis Blue butterfly and, inevitably, Adonis Gent, an erotic gay male club in Belgium as well as an eating disorder called the Adonis Complex. So it is safe to say that Adonis is still very much with us as the personification of youthful good looks.

Friday, April 06, 2007

English football fans

Fooling around in the mud 8, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here were the days of summer... England had just been kicked out of the World Cup after being beaten on penalties by Portugal. It was a hot sunny day in a field in Gelsenkirchen. The fire brigade had been spraying water to keep fans cool and, by this time of the afternoon, the ground was very soggy, which had lads diving onto the muddy grass and see how far they could go. All great fun, as can be seen on the faces of the lads in this photo.

So, why now, all of a sudden do we have to see shameful pictures of English football fans of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur fighting with other supporters and the police? One always hears that such fans are being provoked, or even taunted by fans from teh other side when their team goes a goal down. Well, if the fans are not grown up enough to accept that their teams might lose as well as win, then maybe they should think again about going to foreign countries to watch their teams.

Maybe the Italian and Spanish police should take some of the blame about the way they dealt with the trouble, as the British Foreign Secretary has suggested, but it'd be better if there was less trouble to start off with.

The odd thing is that it used to be the followers of the English national team who were bigger trouble-makers than the club supporters, but I am thinking that everyone's expectations from the England football team are so low now that no-one gets too upset if they yet again play badly and get a bad result. Sad but true.

In the meantime, I am with Liverpool this year, given the excellent way they played during the week against PSV, winning 0-3 away.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Attis, the Phrygian version of the dying and resurrecting godman. A young shepherd, he was born to Cybele, the Earth Mother by her putting a pomegranate sprung from the severed genitals of a man-monster named Agdestis.

Attis died on March 23rd, an event marked by cutting down a pine tree and decking it with violets, such violets representing the blood of Attis, this ceremony being popular in Rome, Gaul and Phrygia.

On the third day after his death, on March 25th, Attis was resurrected and rose from his tomb.

This date also happens to be the date on which the Christian Easter was first celebrated in Rome. It can also be noted that all legends of the True Cross have it made of pinewood.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Great news from Somaliland - release of Haatuf journalists

Women of Hargeisa in red, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Great news from Somaliland, where the journalists of the Haatuf newspaper have been pardoned by the President and released.

There is more on the Somaliland Times website here (also permanently linked in in the righthand column)/

Further in issue 271 (31st March 2007) there is a very good article pointing out the fallacies in Tony Blair's pathetic response to the petition he was presented with regarding recognition of Somaliland's de facto independence in the article called 'Noteworthy Historical Facts Challenging Blair’s Perception Of So-Called ‘Somali Territorial Integrity’. It makes one almost ashamed to be British.

We British do go round the world thinking that everybody likes us and respects us, we British with the mother of Parliaments, with our great history, sense of fair play, manners and our sense of humour. However, it is not so long ago that we were a calculating imperial power, playing local people off against each other, with very little respect for these people.

There are so many places in the world which have to live with the results of Britain's scheming and calculating. Not just Somaliland, but also, very tellingly, Palestine, Iraq and Iran. What has come out of the current hostage crisis is the knowledge that when Iranians want to blame somebody for something which has gone wrong, it is a part of their culture to blame the British, not necessarily literally, but metaphorically.

We owe it to places and peoples to do what we can to help them deal with the consequences of our actions, especially if they ask us, as Somaliland and its people are doing so currently. It is time we shaped up and deal with the problems of our own making rather than run around after other people's problems.

Great news in the meantime for Iran and Britain, that the fifteen hostages have been released.
And further good news in that the foreign (Lebanese, British and Dutch) hostages in Nigeria have been released tday as well!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Directors of Distillers

The Directors of Distillers, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Distillers Company Limited (DCL) was the company was the largest producer of Scotch Whisky in the world and owned brands such as Johnnie Walker, Haig, Black and White, Teachers Scotch Whiskys as well as Gordons Gin. Whenever I see these for sale or being advertised I still look upon them as being 'our' brands.

The company was taken over by Guiness in the 1980's, after my grandfather retired and there was talk of fraudulent share trading on the Guiness side which meant that Distillers shareholders did not receive as much for their shares as they ought to have had.

The company would send the family a Haig Christmas pudding, which we all looked forward to, my mother slipping in a silver sixpence while serving it to us.

My grandfather worked on the chemicals side of the business, having a PhD in Chemistry and having made a career with ICI, Britain'largest chemicals company. There was a culture of drinking in the company and I remember my grandmother telling me about her husband's colleagues lives which had been ruined by drinks.

My grandparents could take their drinks well and in a disciplined way, their favourite being gin and martini, a drink which they had discovered on their business trips to the New York. Such business trips would involve taking a cruise liner across the Atlantic from Southampton to New York, a journey of a week. No telephones, no internet, no disturbances, just time to write up reports during the day, play games on deck and socialise in the evening, no doubt with a drink of choice.

Looking again at the photo, I am comparing it with my own experiences of Board meetings. Today, we would be seeing a mass of cables on the probably plastic- or formica-topped board table. Such cables would be connected to everyone's laptops and mobile phones, which are being recharged. There would be a few telephones around and probably a TV screen for video-conferencing, as well as an overhead projector for the powerpoint presentations as well as overhead sheets.

Definitely no chandeliers, no polished shoes, no standard dark suits and ties, no wall ornaments and no beautiful wooden board table.

The directors would probably be a good deal younger now, many with MBA's, but most lacking in the cumulative experience shared by these men. Oh yes, and there would also be a few women now, possibly involved in HR or Customer Services, or having an affair with the boss.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Twenty-five years ago - the start of the Falklands War

2nd April in 1982 was a Friday and it was the day that Argentina declared war on Britain and invaded the Falklands Islands/Las Malvinas and started a war which would last 74 days and see Argentina lose the Belgrano and the war. Argentina was then under a military dictatorship who thought they might win popular support by invading and winning the islands for their country. However, it was Mrs Thatcher who won the popular support in Britain by having Britain successfully defend the islands, dressing her misison up in Churchillian language which appealed to the masses.

A great pity for many reasons, especially as Argentina and Britain had very warm relationship with each other before the war. The war is also a personal tragedy for the people who fought in it and both sides, not only for the ones who died but also the ones who survived, many of whom have deep psychological scars, with may cases of suicide.

Since the war, reltions between the two countries have warmed up considerably, although recently there have been signs from the Argentinean side that relations are cooling and taking a harder stance against Britain, looks again like it could be an election winner.

Anyway, I have the diary I was keeping 25 years ago and I can see that whilst I was living with my grandmother in Beaconsfield and wad more pre-occupied on the day itself with what was going on at the horse races, at Aintree, and with some issue with insurance papers with my sister's then boyfriend in Slough. I did write that it was going to be a serious risk to the lives of British soldiers to recovery the Falkland Islands, it being no foregone conclusion at the time that we would win the war. Also, then just as there is now, there are doubts about the legality of Britain's claim to the islands in the first place. However, it can be said that the vast majority of the Falkland Islanders themselves wanted to be governed by Britain and that whatever the legality of each side's claim, an invasion of the Islands by Argentina was neither legal nor the best way about furthering theur aims.

I have since had the privilege of going to Argentina myself and I fell in love with the country, especially the wines, the gauchos, the mountains, the horses, the birds and so on. Even the Spanish I heard spoken there was a lot better on the ear than the Spanish I had heard in Spain a couple of years before.

Anyway, the economy is performing better now that the country has stopped with its IMF-imposed policies and there is a healthy democracy, so it can be hoped that Britain and Argentina can continue to find a way to co-operate with each other with regards to the islands and that good relations can be maintained.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Homosexual tendencies

Where we left off last summer, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I found a site about magic mushrooms, which looks a lot like it has been set up by some Dutch people. it can be found on this link: magic mushrooms.

In the bit about sex it warns: "Sex is a bit repressed in our society, but lots of people like to experiment with sex and drugs, in all kinds of combinations and with all kinds of substances. This can be fun although the lust, the libido, on a trip will often come and go in waves, you'll get easily distracted. Especially because we often have deep frustrations and wounds in this area, this can result in deep encounters and unexpected landscapes during a trip. It can be quite scary to see what lives deep inside you, what almost all of us keep secret, while we often condemn it in others. Unsuspected homosexual tendencies can easily startle you. Be reassured, everyone has similar feelings deep down, that doesn't necessarily mean that this will change your `normal' behavior.

I am absolutely not planning on trying paddos or any other sort of drugs but I certainly would be startled to find any hetrosexual tendencies deep down. But, who knows?

Paddo's, miracles and saints

Polderweg grafitti 2, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A French girl killed herself in Amsterdam not too long ago. Fred says that she jumped off a bridge into a canal. She was under the influence of magic mushrooms, or paddo's as they are known over here. Her mother is very upset, of course, and she wants to prosecute the Dutch State for allowing the sale of these paddos. I don't think she will have much luck, but what do I know about international law in such instances?

Paddo shops are to be found in many of the touristy areas of Amsterdam and they no doubt provide a point of interest for tourists coming to the city, as they are oin many other tourist haunts around the world, from a paddy field in Sumatra to the beaches of Thailand. Of course, the politicians in Holland have jumped on a bandwagon and are now calling for the sale to be banned, a clear sign that we have left the general concensus of liberalisation to nanny-statism.

I have not much idea how safe they are or not, but they are natural substances and can be plucked from the wild and have no doubt contributed much colour to human existence.

In the meantime, we hear from France that some young lady has received a 'miracle' cure by writing to the dead pope, John Paul II and that through this miracle the Catholic Church may be able to fast-track the beatification of their late leader.

I can't help but think that these superstitious ideas about miracles and saints is a big embarrassment to the current church leadership, but maybe I credit such leadership with too much sense.

Anyway, reading through some to the tales of saints and miracles, I can't help wonder under what sort of influence, certain witnesses or saints might have been under as in the following, where I question the nature of such ecstasies:

ST. LYDWINE OF SCHIEDAM (d. 1433), a victim soul who endured numerous afflictions that kept her perpetually bedridden, was once visited by the prior of the monastery of St. Elizabeth, which is situated near Brielle on the Island of Doorne. The Saint gave him a description so detailed of the cells, the chapel, the chapter house, the refectory and the porters’ lodge that the prior was astounded. “But how can you know all this?” he asked in amazement, knowing that she could not leave her bed. “My Father,” she replied with a smile, “I have been there frequently when I was in ecstasy . . .”

and also:

ST. CATHERINE DEI RICCI (d. 1590) was born of a distinguished Florentine family. She became prioress of St. Vincent’s convent at Prato and was outstanding among mystics for the intensity of her gifts and ecstasies. A stigmatic who suffered the agony of the Passion twenty-eight hours every week beginning at midday on Thursday and ending at four o’clock on Friday, Catherine also had the gift of bilocation. She is known to have had frequent conversations with St. Philip Neri while he was in Rome and she in her convent at Prato. Although they had exchanged a number of letters, they never met, except through their mystical visits, which St. Philip Neri readily admitted had occurred and which five reputable persons swore they had witnessed.

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