Sunday, September 28, 2008

Religion gets stupid again

Reading at the mosque, Amman, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Restaurants in Amman are accusing the authorities of the heavy-handed closure of legal businesses to appease religious conservatives during Ramadan.

Jordan introduced a new restaurant grading system three years ago, to help promote tourism. It allowed establishments with a three-star tourist rating to open for business as usual - including serving alcohol - during Ramadan.

However, the change appears to have upset the more traditional elements of Amman society, who have lobbied successfully for certain restaurants to be shut.

One such place is Books@cafe, a restaurant, bookshop and internet cafe in Amman's old quarter. Co-owner, Madian al-Jazerah, told the BBC News website what happened.

"Eight people turned up from different ministries. They walked into the kitchen and one accused us of allowing cockroaches, insects and mice to run around. We were baffled, asking them to show us what they were talking about. Of course there was nothing, but with every accusation, he ordered one of his committee members to write it down."

We went to Books@Cafe a few times and had some wonderful evenings, notably one with a couple of jugs of beer, which we drank with two locals. The cafe is up on the hill, in a posh neighbourgood, surrounded by large houses and is absolutely not a place which would have many passers-by. Anyway, the terrace is upstairs and hidden away from the street, but with lovely views acros the hills of Amman. Seems like people have been trouble-making...

We recommended this place to our friends Hans and Otty who are now on a month's trip to Jordan and Syria. We hope they are having a great time and enjoying a nice cold Heineken somewhere...

A postcard from 1963 - Straight Street in Damascus

Very sorry to hear about the car bomb in Damascus yesterday as Syria had been the most peaceful country in the whole area.

Border Country | Rogue State

Border Country | Rogue State, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

hat seemed like the slowest Land Cruiser in Africa. The country is dry and rocky with some spectacular mountains rising from the plain. There are no roads and we followed a track through the desert.

Somehow, this area has been brought into the USA's War on Terror, as they have managed to manipulate a border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti.

The USA has always been anti-Eritrea and pro-Ethiopia, with its ally Djibouti (where they ahve a massive military base). Eritrea has been labelled a haven for Islamist terrorists (especially since offering refuse for various Somaliis from the Islamic Courts).

Anyway, there is nothing really here apart from sand and rock, yet soldiers were set in and people were killed in order to promote the idea of Eritrea as a rogue state.

daniel.virella Pro User says:

Again one example of the mostly wise foreign inteligence police of the USA: for almost a couple of decades, the USA backed Eritreans agains the conmunist regime in Ethiopia and they didn't realized what were they really doing on matter of middle term stability in the area...

I suppose the Americans inherited the big base the French had in Djibouti...

CharlesFred Pro User says:

Yes, and the funny thing is that by the time the Eritreans won, the Americans were thinking that they should side with 'Christian' Ethiopia.

The French are still in Djibouti but I think their President upset Sarkozy by asking him for more money so they apparently are transferring quite a few of their troops elsewhere.

The French soldiers can be seen around Djibouti City, doing their shopping etc and going off on touristy jaunts around the country. The Americans, it seems are too scared, so they hide themselves away in their base most fo the time and have their supplies all flown in. We did not see one American during our week there.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In front of the house

In front of the house, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today is also a memorable day because we have finally paid off the mortgage on our house, just over 15 years after we moved in. So the house is finally all ours.

We moved here with the idea that this would be our home for teh next 30 years. We are halfway there and are more than happy to stay here, despite all the changes of the last few years.

After the closing of the cheese shop, we saw the betting shop close last month. Now, toiday, we read that the restaurant opposite, KleinJansen is closing next week, after more than ten years. No idea why they are closing but it might have something to do with a possible row between the owner and the landlord. No doubt we will find out what. Fortunately, the restaurant will continue with a new owner and, presumably, a new name. I hope they just increase the size of the portions.

Still, we have some nice new neighbours, one of whom is sitting opposite me as I type.. better give her some attention....

Happy Birthday, Grannie

Happy Birthday, Grannie, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is my Grannie's birthday today and she would have been 103 today, had she not died 21 years ago, may she be resting in peace. 25th September is always a day which sticks in my memory and in particular the fact that from the mid-1980's onwards, we often had very nice weather on her birthday. And we had it again today. Beautiful warm golden autumn sunshine.

Here is a scanned photo from Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, Australia, whne she (and my grandfather) came out to visit us (by ocean-going liner). We were in Canberra for two years and we had a sailing boat at the lake. My grandmother is here with my father (her son), my Mum and myself (the scrawny one on the right).

Friday, September 19, 2008

Goodbye and good riddance Mr Friedman

Feet up!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, I was going to be gloating, but seeing as many shares already went UP 20% today maybe I can't gloat as much as I would otherwise. As usual, too slow to get in while the prices were low. Still, this could be the beginning of the end of the neo-liberal Chicago School economic system, which has done so much harm to the world in the last thirty years or so, breaking up societies, creating poverty and obscene wealth whilst building up one big speculative bubble. And this while the Financial Times and the Economist were telling us there is no alternative. Governments were all taken in by it, Labour in UK wined and dined with the city fat cats and the Dutch government through away its welfare state in order to embrace liberalism. Share prices went up, people borrowed money to chase the prices up further and those borrowings were used to create even more loans, from which book profits could be calculated and paid in mnoney as bonuses to the people lucky enough to be working in those banks, who spent that money forcing up the prices of houses so no ordinary people could afford them. They spent money in fancy restaurants and created the celebrity chef culture, where less is sold as more and nothing tastes any more...OK, I am losing my way here, but you know what I mean...

I have never been comfortable owning shares as I cannot resist looking at the prices and I never sell them at a profit always waiting for that moment to pass and end up minimising my losses. So, at least I have no investment products and my pension from Metron is (or WAS) all based 100% on bonds and not on shares and the mortgage was a straight pay back mortgage and my savings are on a safe bank account earning very little interest. Safe all the way... if one is going to have money (and I am lucky to be in that position) it is best not to have any worries about that money, even if it just the little worry that you could be doing slightly better..... such feelings which disappear so quickly when yet another bank collapses...

Holland stands alone in Europe

... AGAINST Serbia. Holland is the only country wanting to stop negotiations between the EU and Serbia about eventual membership of the EU. This is because the Dutch Government, supported by all parties reckon that Serbia is not doing enough to deliver the war criminal from the Bosnian-Serbian war to justice. Karazic was not enough, they want Mladic as well.

Not only is The Hague the host to the International Tribunal against War Crimes but Holland was the country which was implicated in the Srebrinica disaster when all those Bosnians were murdered by the Serbs, after the Dutch soldiers had separated the men from the women and children, the most painful episode in Dutch history since the Indonesian War of Independence in the 1940's.

Holland stands alone in Europe

... AGAINST Serbia. Holland is the only country wanting to stop negotiations between the EU and Serbia about eventual membership of the EU. This is because the Dutch Government, supported by all parties reckon that Serbia is not doing enough to deliver the war criminal from the Bosnian-Serbian war to justice. Karazic was not enough, they want Mladic as well.

Not only is The Hague the host to the International Tribunal against War Crimes but Holland was the country which was implicated in the Srebrinica disaster when all those Bosnians were murdered by the Serbs, after the Dutch soldiers had separated the men from the women and children, the most painful episode in Dutch history since the Indonesian War of Independence in the 1940's.

Monday, September 15, 2008

From the garden - sweet grapes

These grapes are from our fiteen-year-old vine at the front of the house. The vine and the grapes did fantastically well and have been very much appreciated by the pigeins who started eating the grapes at the top and are working their way to the bottom. Fortunately, there are more grapes than fat pigeons and the grapes are now wonderfully sweet, great for picking every time one comes back home...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

24 years together with Fred

24 years together with Fred, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Anniversary time again as it is now 24 years since Fred and Charles met that fateful day in the pub in Earls Court, London.

Happy anniversary, Fred!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Pieces of the UNMIK wall in Prishtina

daniel.virella says:

I am really concerned about such help...

CharlesFred says:


daniel.virella says:

'cos EU and NATO were supposed to help people to live in peace together, in cooperation, free trade and freedom of movement, not helping the different peoples of Europe to tear their countries apart.

It was not without a sense that the expression "balkanization" was born and it was not a good sense...

I am not so unrealistic that I would believe that it would be possible to "force" Serbian Kosovars and Albanian Kosovars to become good neighbours again in a couple of years, but the facts are clear: all the peoples of the former Yugoslavia were able to live in peace and within a certain prosperity and solidarity for almost 40 years. Demagogue, populist politicians, hunger for power led the country to disaster, war, manslaughter and disarray. All those people were sadly misled.

I cannot forget all those mixed ethnicity families and good neighbours that were forced to choose sides or die or both. Those were the living symbols of the success of Yugoslavia and they too are gone (for good or away from their homeland).

CharlesFred says:

Thanks, Daniel for your explanation. I agree with you in many parts, I just think there is still a problem with exactly with the way these countries were created. Many of the boundaries were set by the western powers in the early part of the 20th century and have never really been fully accepted by the people that live there.

For instance the boundary between Albania and Kosovo cut off the northen part of Albania from its main trading centres in western Kosovo, a natural geographical, ethnic and economic area split down the middle.

That being the case, there is no doubt that populist politicians have exploited the end of Yugoslavia and are still doing so.

It is very nice for Albanian Kosovars to have their own country but it has very little to offer the world apart from contraband and smuggled goods and people. 60% of the workforce are unemployed, possibly under-educated and there are few natural resources. It is just a beginning and maybe when enough funds have been procured from the EU/US over the next thirty to forty years, maybe the situation will change.

And, in the meantime, the US will have had a large military base in south eastern Europe as gratitude for their complicity in giving birth to Kosovo.

daniel.virella says:

I subscribe everything you wrote.

I just add that History made almost every corner of Europe an ethnic mix where the balance of living together has never been easy. And every ethnicity calls those areas their home!

Both of us, as our entire generation, have grown up seeing the EU as a place where those differences have been softened (even if not gone though, which may even be a good thing, because homogeneity is not a desirable goal). It gives me a sense of failure that we aren't able to export it to parts of Europe as the Balkans (or the Baltics), whose people certainly need it...

CharlesFred says:

Yes, but I have always been doubtful about the UN/EU/US or whichever power being able to bring peace or make many changes, in the short term.

I am willing to forgive, to some extent, what is going on in the Balkans, if one looks back and sees how many centuries it took for the boundaries in western Europe become reasonably settled, let alone all the conquests and wars which followed between the various countries. And that was without any meddling on behalf of 'greater' powers.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Michael Palin's New Europe - Oil wrestling in Edirne

When Michael (Palin) said he was crossing the border from Bulgaria to Turkey, I knew I ought to grab my camera. The border town is Edirne, home of the 640 year old tradition of Oil Wrestling and sure enough...

Hats off to Michael Palin, he really is one of the world's best natured travellers... an example to us all.

So all of a sudden from about a week ago, this photo becomes very popular, one of the most viewed photos on my flickr stream. Flickr allows us to se where the hits are coming from and in this case, it turns out that people have been looking for the word Palin and if they do this on yahoo images, this photo comes up in fourth place... so there's the explanation.

To be honest, I am a bit annoyed. To me, tegh name Palin belongs to Michael Palin, a really nice, cheerful, positive character and it is a pity that it is now being taken over by some right-wing pitbull terrier of a woman in the US. I see the name Palin in the paper and I instinctively think they are writing about Michael, but in every case it is this new upstart.

As it happens, I am really not too bothered about who wins those elections in the US as I reckon both sieds are probably as bad as each other, some worse on certain aspects and some better. I know for example that Obama/Biden are very pro-Israel (wanting to drive the Palestinians out of Jerusalem) and very pro-Greece (and anti-Macedonia) but maybe they will be slightly less inclined to destroy Iran and kill thousands of Iranians than the other side.

And, it seems that the people who I know in the US and whose views I respect are more in favour of the Democrats, so I suppose I will be happier if they win...

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Smorgasbord!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I was in Oslo, for my work from Wednesday to Friday:

It is a very quaint thing, but there is a lady who comes to the Oslo office every day and lays out a lunch in the canteen, for the people in the office to eat. Lunchtime begins at about 11.30 and I wonder whether or not people rush down to make sure that all the best stuff is still there.
They are moving office later in the week, and most things are in boxes. I understood that they will be dispensing with the canteen, which is a pity. It keeps people in the office and encourages colleagues to be sociable.
We have just as large a canteen area in my office in Holland, but most people eat at their desks while surfing on the internet...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Garden produce: now it all has to be cooked and eaten...

Carrots, beetroot, oregano, mint, dahlia, lettuce, pepper, pears, runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries...

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