Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Three generations of first sons

Frank (my grandfather), Jeremy (my father) and Charles (me), with my sister Diana, in the garden in Guildford, Surrey in what was probably 1963.

Having put this photo onto flickr, I received birthday wishes for Dad from two Palestinians, a Belgian and an Indian. I did not tell him this but it is an odd thing which can happen through the power of the internet and worldwide web.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Merkel in Turkey

Gazıantep otogar, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

That silly old woman who made such a mess of helping that poor country Greece at the risk of damaging the Euro, landed in Turkey today to make a viosit she had appaerntl;y been trying to put off for quite a while.

The Dutch news just reported that the first day of the visit went quite well, while the BBC reported that "On every important issue, Chancellor Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seemed to be at odds with each other". My guess is the latter, as Merkel with her awkward buddy Sarkozy and nice countries like Austria want to keep Turkey OUT of the EU.

As you may know, I think that it is far more in Europe's interest for Turkey to join that it is the other way around, as Turkey is in a geographically strategic place, represents a bridge from Europe to the mainly Muslim countries to the south and east, has a large number of well educated people and so on, not to mention the fact that so many Turkish people also live in Europe. Joining the EU can also help the Turkish people better develop and embed their democracy and human rights.

I founjd the comments of this chap on the BBC website to be quite interesting:


I am against Turkey's association with the EU, and Nato for that matter.

Turkey should instead cooperate with its neighbours in the region to promote development and prevent further imperialistic aggression by the West.

I oppose the EU because it is a club for developed countries who exploit the Third World by employing global organisations such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, or through bilateral actions.

Some EU countries are even willing to use force, as we have seen in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. It is no coincidence that support for Turkey's EU membership comes mainly from the business elite and the political classes of UK, Italy and Spain - countries currently supporting the USA's imperialistic adventures.

In return for this support, Turkey is expected to remove all remaining obstacles, including allowing Europe access to its economy and continuing its support for the West in keeping the Middle East, the Balkans and Caucasus under control.

While the US-UK axis may fear that Turkey will move further away from the West without EU membership, the Franco-German axis believes it is possible to keep Turkey as an ally without it.

They use Cyprus as an excuse to stall the whole negotiation process, but it is EU involvement that has exacerbated the Cyprus problem.EU officials declared that the economic isolation of the north would be eased after the UN plan was rejected in the south. However, they let the south join the EU and forgot their promises to the north. Now Turkey is being punished and Turks are crying hypocrisy! Turkish troops should leave Cyprus after a unification deal is reached through the UN. And Turkey should leave EU negotiations immediately.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Signs of spring - our resident stork

Signs of spring, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The local council created these ponds and lakes on the outskirts of our local park, Frankendael, in order to encourage birds like storks, herons and even spoonbills to go wading.

Afrazof says:
Oh your council did a nice thing. I see a few egrets wading in some cesspools near where I live. It would be a nice thing to convert those filthy cesspools into something like this. Good work.

CharlesFred says:
Yes, well, first of all we were annoyed that they broke the law by not asking permission to cut down 400 trees, but these pools are more interesting from a wildlife perspective. Although I must say that before the park was rennovated I did see a greater variety of birds than I have seen since.

Afrazov says:
Uh oh. Why the hell do these people in chrge do this kind of stuff. I mean they should have asked for the permission of people. You are right about the variety of birds too Chalres. Sometimes when we alter the environment it ends up favoring a few species over the others hence the decrease in the variety.

CharlesFred says:
Now you have got me started! The one type of birds to do the best out of the recent changes have been the parakeets, noisy parakeets, who fly around in massive flocks during the winter making a lot iof noiuse, and whio in the spring barge into all the holes in the trees for their own nests, encouraghed by people hanging up apples to feed them. Terrible birds!
The local council created these ponds and lakes on the outskirts of our local park, Frankendael, in order to encourage birds like storks, herons and even spoonbills to go wading.

The it is strange, of course, that you have to go to the council to get permission to cut down a tree and yet they are the very ones who do not get the permisission which they need.

And then we can talk about the yuppies who have taken over the neighbourthood (much like the parakeets) who, on buying a house, first of all completely clear the gardens of anything living (including trees which have stood for many many years - because they block out the sun), before putting down a patio, with teak tables and chairs and a parasol (why? to block out the sun, of course!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

The first photo with the new camera

The faithful Sony R1, which has received very intensive use the last four years has almost had its day, time to buy a new camera. I chose the closest I could find, namely the Sony Alpha DSLR 550, with a Carl Zeiss 16-80 mm lens. Apart from being a true DSLR, the main selling points for me were the live view mode and the moveable viewfinder (enabling shots to be taken at waist level or close to the ground). The camera should be quicker thgan the R1, perform better in poor light, has an automatic HDR function (not that I have ever been much of a fan of HDR) and can also shoot 7 frames a second. The main drawback is that it is noisier than the R1, when taking a photo, not so good for candid photos.
Some annoying things about the 550 are that, the memory sticks used, the battery used and the adaptor are all different from the previous three Sony cameras I have had, for what I can see to be no good reason at all, apart from making Sony richer.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Goodbye Atlanta

Goodbye Atlanta, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

CharlesFred said:

This is a detail from a very large and quite beautiful mural outside the Martin Luther King memorial centre. The point of the placard is that this man, a black man, is also a man and should be treate like a man.

When you see how black people are treated in America these days compared to fifty years ago, it does give one hope that similar changes can be made elsewhere.

iDLg responded as follows:

Charles, as a black man in america, i will say, sometimes the difference in treatment over 50 years (of which i am in age) is so very hard to see/experience, true dat, we don't swing from the trees as often, but discrimination, disfranchisement and distrust to name a few aren't all that different, yeah, we mo visible in social culture, but then again we always have been quite visible yet disrespected just the same; we americans have as of yet to let go of 'race' as real and intelligent basis of society, some 2 cents on this subject..
much respect..

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Survival - by Lt. Gen. Russell L. Honore (US Army retired)

Lt. Gen. Russell L. Honore (US Army retired) gave us a talk on the Tuesday evening. He led the US Army's efforts to help people after Hurricane Katrina. He was very entertaining, if a little paranoid about the threats from disasters, but he has seen many at close hand, so to some extent he has a right to be. He made the very clear point that in New Orleans it was the poor, old and weaker people who suffered the most, as always seems to be the case when disaster strikes (witness the recent earthquakes in Chile and Turkey).

We were given a signed copy of his book at the end of the evening. I don't know whetehr I will read it or not (probably not) but there is no doubt that there are some snippets of very useful onformation.

Living under sea level, with a canal up behind our house, I imagine we should have some sort of dinghy in the garden or basement to be properly prepared.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reading the news at CNN

Reading the news at CNN, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

One of the things to do when visiting Atlanta is to go on a tour of the CNN centre. I was there on the day that all the action was in Washington, when they were debating President Obama's Healthcare bill, which later in the evening, was passed by The House of Representatives. An historic day for the country, remains to be seen how it all works out.

Although USA is the richest and most powerful country in the world, there is too much poverty, poverty which is very evident in the city centres. Many Americans proclaim themselves to be religious, Christina, Muslim or Jewish or Hindu and so on and I wonder how they can be comfortable living in a country where poor people are so much denied access to medical care and why there is so much opposition to a move by the recently elected President to provide this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Aliens arrived in Atlanta

Aliens arrived in Atlanta, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

When it is cold and raining and there is no-one on the streets, you end up taking pictures of these things... got even colder yesterday but should start warming up today. Got meetings all day and diner in the hotel, a really comfortable, pleasant hotel, as it happens.

Yesterday was meetings in the office, where I made my hastily prepared presentation, followed by an early dinner with beer at a Tapas restaurant in the nearby mall. Good company, average food.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Posing in ATL

Posing in ATL, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

And now I am in Atlanta in Georgia in the USA. Work visit again. Lots of meetings, same presentations as last year, just the figures have changed.

Arrived yesterday evening at 7 pm, with the sun still shining on a warm evening. Arrived at hotel almost three hours later, so long does it take to get out of the airport and onto the public train service.

Still, the hotel was really very very nice... so much beter than where we nornally stay, lovely gardens inside and out, spacious public areas - and then this morning, such a delicious breakfast!

Time for some sleep here, I'll try to write some more tomorrow, but it will be a heavy day of meetings and I still have to finish my presentation!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The day after, in the Cotswolds

It is often a bit of a let-down after the Cheltenham Festival - after three or (now) four days of excitement, what to do? Well, five years ago, whne it was very warm - with it being 21 degrees on Cheltenham Gold Cup day - I spent the day up in the Cotswolds with a friend, going for lovely walks in the beautiful countryside.

Today, having spent Cheltenham at home, I have to pack my bags for a week of meetings in Atlanta, Georgia.

Denman and Sam Thomas

Denman and Sam Thomas, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Denman is also a might fine horse, who although does not have the record of Kauto Star in terms of winning lots of Championship races, he does seem to engender more sympathy with the public. This maybe because he has carried high weights in handicaps such as the Hennessy Cognc Gold Cup, which he has won twice. It is also the way he wins his races through total domination. However, he suffered from a heart problem after winning his Gold Cup in 2008 and although he has run two extremely good races since then, he also has fallen twice, which ahs people wondering if he might have lost his confiodence. It certainly diodn't look like that back in November and if the same Denman truns up today, he could very easily beat his old rival. I would love that tio happen but I don't quite see it happening.

We will find out just after 15.20 GMT this afternoon.

Denman came second.... but not to Kauto Star, as we might have expoected but to the (eventualy) inevitable new-boy-on-the-block, Imperial Commander. History should have told us that rarely do Gold Cup winners ever come back to win a second time. Kauto Star had been the first horse ever to regain his crown when he did so last year. Yes, the Gold Cup is almost al;ways won by a hprse which has never won it before. Maybe we thought that history had been suspended for a bit, but no, it grinds on...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Silver Buck wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 18th March 1982

Silver Buck is my favourite jumping racehorse of all time. He was the best horse around at the time when I was first getting involved in racing. A lovely dark bay, almost black horse with a beautiful head, he was traioned by Michael Dickinson and ridden in his later years by Robert Earnshaw, on whom I had a bit of a crush.

He did not appear in the 1980 Gold Cup, I think because fo a slight injury. This was won by Tied Cottage, who was later disqualified, giving the race to the wonderfully named Master Smudge. Second, was the amazing MacVidi who at 14 years of age, suddenly found the best form of his life and ended up running in and running very well in the best race of the season.

Silver Buck did take part in the 1981 Cheltenham Gold Cup and he looked like the winner until near the end when he was beaten by Little Owl and former Champion Hurdler Night Nurse into third place. This was quite a disappointment.

However, he was back again in 1982, not the favourite anymore, and tyo be honest I had my doubts that he would stay the distance. I decided to go to Cheltenham for the first time in my life and was rewarded by seeing my favourite horse win the best race of teh year against a very strong field of horses, including Tied Cottage, Master Smudge, Night Nurse, Diamond Edge, Border Incident and the up-coming Bregawn (Silver Buck's stablemate who would come second this year and next year take the crown for himself - but I will write about this next year, inshallah).

As it turned out, Silver Buck had picked up a small injury just before the 1981 Gold Cup, which explained probably why he was beaten then. I am still elated when I look back to that wonderful day exactly 28 years ago, also on a Thursday.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup has been moved to a Friday now and tomorrow's race wil be the third clash in a row between the mighty Kauto Star and his stablemate Denman. Denman won two years ago, then got injured but came back to run a good second to Kauto Star last year. Since then, the horse seems to have lost his confidence, while Kauto Star just goes on getting even better. He is the big big favourite tomorrow but who knows what might happen? Time for a new horse on the blaock? Tricky Trickster, anyone?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The path carpeted with celandines

This is March in England.

The third week of March.

The most important week of the year.


Because it is Cheltenham Festival time, four days of the best racing in the year, all set in the beautiful Cheltenham racecourse, under Cleeve Hill.

I am afraid I am going to miss it this year, having been probably almost every year for at least ten years and having seen some great horses win there, such as Kauto Star (twice), Denman, Best Mate (three times). Oh, and I missed out one year - 2001, I think - when they cancelled teh meeting because of a very bad outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. What a disaster to miss out!

And, it is always nice to come over and stay with my Mum in Crewkerne and feel the first warmth of spring, and see the primroses and the celandines flower in the brioght sunshine, as here.

Then I wil take her car out and drive west to Taunton and then north up to Cheltenham, wondering what the best exit wil be and how quickly I can park the car in the crowded town. Usually I will find a place on the road, next to Pitville Park, which depending on how mild or cold the winter has been will be flooded in the colour of daffodils (or last year pale crocuses) before walking up the hill to get to the racecourse.

If I am a bit alert, I will have remembered to bring my tiny radio, with which In can tune into Festival radio and hear all the gossips, pundits , commentaries and tips. I wil spend teh whole afternoon (mostly alone) with an earplug in one of my ears taking it all in. In the first years, with Luke Harvey and Alsion Plunkett, they gave me some really good wimnners, like Blowing Wind at 33-1 and I also remember having Young Spartacus at 16-1 in teh same race a year later.

In these years, say from 2000 to 2006, I would win a bunch of money, with these long priced outsiders (and let's not forget Hardy Eustace winning the Champion Hurdle at 401), so much that I would end up the year ahead on my gambling exploits, making up for the period before from say 1979-1999 when I was mostly a net loser. But since I started my new job in June 2007 and after wining at 20-1 on Heron Bay during my first week, I haven't had any luck at all and I have just about stopped betting, just allowing myself a small flutter on the Grand National and Eurovision.

But it is not so much the betting as the wonderful atmosphere and the sense of racing history being made.

To be honest, as I write this, I remember thinking last year that maybe it would be good to give it a miss one year. It can be hard work and one year ends up being a little bit the same as other years and sometimes it is good to have a change. So, now I am happy to be at home writing this and saving my energies for other adventures later in this year - not to mention receovering from the wonderful two weeks I had in Arabia...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Mothers' Day

Happy Mothers' Day
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred
Happy Mother's Day, Mum! - and to mothers everywhere. Here is a little film of my Mum feeding me from the bottle during a picnic in the bush near Hargeisa back in 1961!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A sunny afternoon a few years ago

Here is a nice picture of me from April 2005, during a little break I had on the coast of Tuscany, up by Castiglioncello, just south of the big ugly LIvorno.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Job Cohen to take over

Having a drink together, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It has been a turbulent week in Dutch politics in the aftermath of the local council elections and in wake of the Parliamentary elections on 9th June, caused by the fall of Balkenende's fourth cabinet - careless Prime MInister!!!). First, we had Agnes Kant resigning as leader of the Socialist Party, tghen the heir-apparent of the Christian Democratic Party, Camile Eurlings say he will lave politics to spend more time with his family. And then, the next day, we have Wouter Bos, leader of the Labour Party resign ot say that he, too, wants to sopend more time with his family, especially his three young children.

So, within a few hours, our Amsterdam mayor, Job Cohen announced that he too will resign and put his name forward to lead the Labour Party. He is a great man, who might have led his party and maybe the country sooner iof he had decided to spend more time in politics and less time looking after his wife who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

But now, at the young age of 62, he is ready to lead his party and hopefully to lead the country when/if his party wins the upcoming election. He is the man who likes to bind people together, to talk through the differences, a calm head in difficult times, tough but with a warm heart. He is exactly what the country needs at the moment and, all of a sudden, there is hope that he can give the country the leadership and vision it has been lacking the past ten years or so.

One of his many achievements was presiding over the first same-sex wedding in Amsterdam a few years ago, such wedding being followed by the marriage of our dear friends Henk and Piet a year or two later (in 2004). Here are Fred and me in a boat on the Amsterdam canals after the wedding.

Wishing Job very much luck in his new job and in the upcoming elections!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Having fun with the Somali children in Old Jeddah

It is always a bit of a risk giving one's camera to kids to let them take the photos, as a camera is hardly a toy. On the other hand the other children seem to enjoy posing for their friends and the photos come out looking very spontaneous.

These children went and got their Bugs Bunny-type masks to pose it, another time it would be Tom and Jerry masks.

Both times were joyous times happily imprinted on one's memory in what was a highly memorable few days in Jeddah.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The old mosque at Bidiyah, Fujairah

The mosque at Bidiyah is the oldest in the UAE and is open for non-Muslims to visit, which is not usually the case in this part of the world. It was restored quite recently.

Afraz tells me: The people in foreground are wearing Shalwar Kameez, the traditional dress of Pakistan which implies that they are from Pakistan :)

Whilst Ahmed tells me that Arabs prefer to call a mosque a Mesjid, meaning place of prostration. Green is a colour often associatde with Islam, being the colour of the silk robes we will wear when we are in Paradise.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The wooden houses of Bartin

The wooden houses of Bartin, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Very sorry to hear about yet another natural disaster, this time the earthquake in eastern Turkey, which killed over 50 people earlier today. It seems that one of the reasons why so many pepole died was because their buildings were made of mud, and not the traditional wooden structures which are common in Turkey. Let's hope that when the new homes get built here and elsewhere n teh area that they are earthquake proof, as so many of the buildings in Chile recently seemed to have been.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Somali women in Old Jeddah

Somali women in Old Jeddah, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is the blog I was going to post:

It is International Women’s Day today, something which isn’t so big in Britain or Holland, it seems, but maybe more important in the countries of central and eastern Europe and elsewhere in the world.

One place where it probably isn’t being marked to any great deal is Saudi Arabia where women have a very limited role in public life, not being allowed to drive and not being allowed to be out in public with a man outside of her family, akthough another woman is fine.

I was very excited about going to Saudi Arabia before I went, partly because of these stories, partly because it is a forbidden country (for most tourists at least) and partly because my Dad used to work out there in the deserts during the 1960’s while we were growing up in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, just west of London.

I had planned to visit so as to take in our office in Riyadh and our main office in Al Khobar, which is next door to Bahrain. I had a weekend over and decided to go down to Jeddah on the Red Sea, partly as a result of a kind invitation by a flickr friend of mine, and partly because of the lure of the Red Sea and its proximity to Africa and, of course, Somalia. I had spent a day in Bahrain in any case, during a delayed flight out to see my brother in Bangkok three years ago and it did not seem to be the place to offer as much excitement and adventure as Jeddah.

What to expect of Saudi Arabia? Deserts, modern buildings, wide streets, everyone driving around in big cars, shopping malls and more tall buildings. Maybe outside the cities, a glimpse of some Bedouins but mostly more desert and more dust. I would not expect to see any women. And so it was, arriving at Riyadh airport, there were queues of people arriving from the Indian sub-continent, all men, and a plane load of young women from Indonesia, on their way to Mecca or a new assignment as maids? Outside the airport, of course, I was ripped off by the very charming taxi driver who took me past a city scape of low buildings, industrial scrapyards, petrol stations, cheap motels, shops, medical centres and so on, very much like arriving in some American city , all wide roads and big cars, just as expected.

And Riyadh, in the business area was exactly like one had expected, soulless, empty, modern. But then again, I wouldn’t be Charles, if I didn’t go off looking for local colour and adventure and sure enough, before long, I had met up with some other chap staying at the hotel and we were off chartering a taxi to the camel market. Again, arriving at a quiet time of the day, with not so many people around and not knowing too much what to expect, one is a bit shy about walking around such a place but before long, we were chatting to a Sudanese camel herder in some sort of English or Arabic and he is just as friendly and hospitable as anyone in this region of the world and so it continued.

So, despite the political regime and the strange laws and the discouragement of tourism and so on, you get to see that people as individuals do not have to be affected so much and this is always nice to be reminded of.

As it was, I was to have a wonderful time in the country, albeit not meetinmg too many Saudis, but I had my new friend in Riyadh, a flickr friend, Usman, in Al Khobar and another one, Ahmed, in Jeddah, who generously gave me three days of his time to accompany me around his city, where we came across these Somali women, amongst others.

Which leads us onto the new film of the book, Desert Flower, by the Somali woman and human rights activist, Waris Dirie. THis was premiering in Amsterdam today and deals with the issue of female circumcision, a very barbaric practice affecting many millions of young and older women around the world.

International Women's Day

A beautıful young woman, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Not so big in western Europe maybe, but a major day of celebration in central and Eastern Europe. Today!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

VAT on fruit?

Emirate fruitiness, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The UK's finances are in a mess, with so much money having been gioven to the banks (partly to pay the bonuses to the managers), and they are now thinking of iontroducing VAT on food, including fresh fruit and vegetables.

Surely a tax on hamburgers, chips, seets and chocolates and fast foods, would be more in order than a tax on fresh fruit and vegetables?

Anyway, this fruit stall by the side of the road going down the east coast of Fujairah emirate, provided some welcome colour against the greyness of the rock and the haziness of the skies above.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A night out at Meydan racecourse

A night at Meydan, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The Meydan racecourse arose from the previous Nad al Sheba racecourse within a year. The grandstand houses 60,000 people and their is a lovely lawn at the front. Two racetracks, one on grass the other on a new material tafeta, invented by Michael Dickinson, trainer of Silver Buck, Badsworth Boy and Wayward Lad, amongst many others.

I am not eaxctly a fan of modern racetracks (what a surprise) as they tend to hode the horses away and concentrate on issues such as hospitality and so on. There is never any access to the pre-paddock and the view into the paddock is never so good, not to mention the winner's enclosure.

They totally ruined the ambience of The Derby when they made the change about 15 years ago, a change I have countered by sopending my afternoon on the Downs.

Here at Meydan, I spent my time with the enthusiastic Pakistanis, Gulf Arabs, Indians, Sudanese etc on the lawn areas. Here is a photo of some very enthusiastic Pakistani guys at the races. They were writing little slips and calling on a walkie-talkie type phone and got very excited when a certain horse won. I had a strong feeling they maight have found a way to gamble (which is not allowed in Dubai) but didn't dare to ask them. Anyway, I have sort-of stopped gambling on horses myself, having virtually not been close to winning anything for about three years.... I had a punt on the first race, through a colleague in Birmingham, with whom I was communicating through the blackberry, but this horse started off 6th and ended up 6th after a brief spell at 3rd coming into the straight, which did not encourage me to try another time...

The Eurovision Song Contest is coming up in three months time, so maybe a flutter n that, although the sings I have heard so far sound pretty terrible, favourite being Albania (again!), I suppose. Maybe Serbia, Russia or UK will come up with something good. Ukraine and Macedonia (two old favourites) are really rubbish this time around.

Friday, March 05, 2010

A very good set of results in the council elections

Three days into Spring!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Time for a quick run through of the results of Wednesday's elections.

First of all, the party for which I voted, GroenLinks, won two seats, going up from 5 to 7 in our local council, whilst city-wide, they stayed the same at 7 seats, so not bad.

In the meantime, my favourite party D66, went up from 1 to 5 seats locally and from 2 to 7 in the city council, whilst nationally they were the BIG winners on the night going up from 133 to over 500.

Other good news was that CDA LOST many seats, PbdA lost also, but not as many as they ahd expected to lose, which was also good.

AND, our dear friend Ahmed Marcouch, who was potentially on his way out of politics having lost his place in West Amstetdam, received seven times as many preferred votes than he needed to be voted into the City Council for the PvdA.

Ahmed Marcouch comes from Morocco and has done a great job in Amsterdam West trying to connect communities together, notably Muslims and gay people, whilst also taking a hard-line against badly behaved youths and extremist imams who do not accept Dutch society. He is exactly the sort of chap the country needs more of, sensible, level headed, open-minded, strict, with humour. Well done that man!

Fish on Friday!

Fish on Friday!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I was holding this with my (weaker) left hand and the stupid thing was gradually slipping away from my grasp!

In the meantime, throughout what I saw of the UAE, fish salesmen wear blue, fruit salesmen wear green. Makes sense.

All the fish salesmen seem to come from Pakistan, some of the fruit sellers also from India.

However, there was me wearing green, but not selling fruit, instead controlling financially!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Big fire in Old Jeddah

I was very sorry to hear that there was a large fire in Old Jeddah yesterday, which destroyed seven buildings. Looking through google, it seems that fires occur quite often. There is a lot of wood and the buildings are not always very well looked after. There is also a suggestion that some people are even pleased to see part of the protected Old City be destroyed so they can sell the land for redevelopment.

With so much money in Saudi Arabia and the suggestion that Saudi Arabia may start opening itself up to the outside world, it has to be hoped that money can come in to save and restore at least a major part of the area.

It is very pleasant as it now is, with all the Somalis and Yemenis living there but it is hardly sustainable. Just very glad that I saw it just two weeks ago.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Voting time again!

Voting time again!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This time for our City Council and for our Local Council. As a resident of Amsterdam, I am allowed to vote in these elections, not for the National Parliament, as you have to be a Dutchie to vote in them. Those elections come around more often than once in three years as Holland has become a banana republic led by a buffoon who doesn't know how to lead a country or hold together a cabinet.

I woke up thinking I would vote for 'my' party, D66 (on the bottom right - Anders Ja D66), but when I completed the Stemwijzer (Vote Picker) , it turned out that of all the 12 or so parties running in Amsterdam, I was less aligned with D66 than any other of the parties. Strange, as D66 positions itself as a social liberal party like myself.

However, how liberal is a party which wants to put more police on streets, or which does not want to retain the right for people to squat buildings which have been empty for more than a year, reduce parking tarriffs and so on? At least they didn't want CCTV cameras to be placed at rubbish bins to catch the people who don't dispose of their rubbish properly (this is supported by the Labour Party and the Right Wing Liberal Party).

I could not find a mainstream party which wants to stop work on the doomed-to-fail and totally unnecessary North-South Metro Line, which requires a massive tunnel to eb bored under the main streets of Amsterdam, which is built on sand and marshland and where houses have already started sinking during the preliminary phases of the build. This line takes commuetrs from Central Station to the banking district of Amsterdam-Zuid, despite the fact that there are numerous trams and existing metro lines which can take them there, not to mention a network of bicycle lanes. It is a prestige project for the vain local politicians who lied to us about the costs when they started and are probably still lying about the estimated costs. However, because all the main parties are implicated in this fiasco, they can hardly turn around to oppose it now and I am not going to give my vote away to some lunatic fringe one-issue party which makes a mockery of democracy.

So, I ended up voting for the party which came out top-of-the-list (for the first time with me) , the party which Fred has almost always voted for, namely GroenLinks (Green Left), which has a faulously glamourous and intelligent leader in Femke Halsema. I had to choose a candidate as well as well as a party and looked down the list for anice Turkish name and voted for that person - number 16 both times!

Let's see how they get on later this evening.

I would like to say that I am more than happy how our local council has been doing their work the last few years and our neighbourhood has undergone many improvements.

Not so happy about the City Council or the City Centre Council (which I would like to see abolished immediately), but Amsterdam is still a good place to live, so can't complain too much...

Monday, March 01, 2010

On the rocks - a hunk with trunks!

On the rocks, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here we are at the end of another month and another good one for the blog where the number of visits exceeded last month's which was also good, despite it being a shorter month. And, I, myself had a wonderful time with my memorable trip to Saudi Arabia and later to the UAE.

The key search words were 'hunks without trunks' - searched for 481 times!, Somali people 156 times, horse mating 153 times and footballers 115 times. I could not find too much evidence of Saudi Arabia having cropped up as a searched word, despite me visiting the country during the month.

IN a way, I find it amazing that Fred referred to a 'methadonbus' in a blog over four years ago and still the blog gets found 10 times during this past month because fo that one reference.

Anyway, thanks to you all who continue to read the blog and make comments and so on.

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