Monday, May 31, 2010

In Peace

In Peace, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Dedicated to a couple of dear flickr friends.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Our Eurovision party

Our Eurovision party, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yes, we had another little Eurovision party last night, while it poured with rain outside. We had downloaded the scorecrads from the BBC website and were marking the acts on the basis of Song, Performace, Dance/Dress.

Our votes went a bit like this:

Guests gone now, got the scoresheets and see the following scores given to Germany (out of 30, using the BBC scorecards):

Annemiek 24 (fave was Belgium with 29)
Wouter 23 (fave was Belgium with 25)
Tessa 13 (fave was Belgium with 25)
Rogerio 28 (fave was Albania with 30)
Charles 20 (fave was Allbania with 29)
Rob 5 (fave was Israel with 20)
Ghislaine 5 (fave was Albania with 28)
Fred 9 - (his fave was Albania with 26)

So... well done Rogerio!

AB says:

Lovely shot! All are looking excited and having fun!

It was my first time to watch Eurovision, it's a wonderful show, but the voting part was very disappointing to me! Although Lena's song "Satellite" was a bit fun and catchy, there were many other nice songs who really deserved to win! :(

CharlesFred Pro User says:

Thanks, we had great fun, at least I did, and I got very noisy and excited as I guessed most of the 12 points being given before the votes were announced. Ha ha, and the wine and the excellent company probably hlped, not to mention a wonderful show put on by the Norwegians!

And, yes, Gary, somehow, it does seem to get better and better. I loved that Flash Mob stuff!

Enough to give you goose pimples!

Av says:

So who won yesterday Charles? Lena? The German? So you believe in my supernatural powers now? Hee hee hee
I love the fact that You didnt see it comin :D
Had a great time with you and the fact that my complimentary number won actually won made my day. Long live the King and the Prince and the Princess ahahaha if you know what I mean :p

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Making your mind up! - Juliana Pasha from Albania

Today is a most important day for the 55th running of the Eurovision Song Contest, which we will be watching with some friends at home, for whom I am supposed to be catering...

I used to get as excited as I am now on teh morning of The Grand National and even The Derby, but now it is Eurovision!

Here is my pre-perfomance top ten:

12 Albania
10 Serbia

8 Moldova
7 Azerbaijan
6 France
5 Romania
4 Greece
3 Turkey
2 Ukraine
1 Belgium

Something like that - positions will probably change after the performances.

In the meantime, I think the eventual top 5 will be: Armenia, Turkey, Israel, Greece and Denmark, partly due to diaspora voting and partly due to the running order. I think Moldova might surprise with a high finishing position.

Oh, and if anyomne outside wants to join us in watching - there is a live webstream on this link: ock&medi...

2,000,000 photostream views!

2,000,000 photostream views!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It happened on the same day - the 2 million mark on photostream views and 10 million views on flickr in total (photos + photostream + sets + galleries)

This is me a month or so ago, by a pool in a lovely hot place, with one of my favourite Adidas shirts on!

Thank you so much for all your view, comments, friend invitations, support and friendship over the past few years. It started off as just a place to upload photos from our trip to Middle East and Africa, where our friends and family could follow us on our journey from Istanbul to Cape Town. It has ended up as a place to make friends and keep up with their photos, their passions and their lives. It has led to a number of treasured meetings in places as far apart as Saudi Arabia, Macedonia, London, Amsterdam, Dubai, Italy and, not to forget, Odessa in Ukraine! Hopefully, there will be more meetings and in other places. Inshallah.

I will write more here tomorrow, in the meantime, it is late, time for bed. Big day tomorrow, with Eurovision Song Contest and related party at our place!

Thanks again!

In the meantime, some other statistics (I love 'em!)

Most viewed photo - with over 40,000 views! - The Sparkling Diamond of Africa: The Sparkling Diamond of Africa

Strangest most viewed pic is of two scouts in Qadisha Valley, most views coming from an unidentifiable site outside of flickr - over 24,000 views: Maronite scouts at Qadisha Spring

Over 10,000 views - 30 photos
Over 5,000 views - 145 photos
Over 1,000 views - 1,371 photos

First photo to 100 views: Jordan - Anglo-Arab stallion, Kings Highway
(still one of my favourites)

Most popular set is, obviously, Men of the World, with over 300,000 views - ha ha!
Men of the world
Men of the world

First million came up in 37 months, second million in 22 months.

Going to try to work out how many countries are represented by photos on here - and there are a few countries where I have been (mostly pre-digital age) which are not yet on here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Macedonia - missed out on the Final again

Macedonia, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I have been a big fan of the Macedonian entries to the Eurovision Song Contest for quite a few years now, well since their first entrance back in the great year of 1998. There was a while when their songs DID make the Final and sour people from western Europe put that down to neighbourly voting. However, since the juries have been re-instated, there seems to be some sort of backlash and they have missed out three years running.

I hadn't taken too much notice of this year's entry until last night when I was blown away by the song, singer, performance and the slutty (VERY slutty) dancing girls. The link to the video is in the comments below.

These photos take us back to a lovely afternoon on a crowded beach on the shores of Lake Ohrid, back in the summer of 2008.

Jandorus Pro User says:

Let's boil ! Heavy picture.

CharlesFred Pro User says:


sokole oko Pro User says:

wow, nice picture :)

koolgeek says:

i saw the video but could not understand a word LOL but the music was good and he sung with with a kind of passion....

CharlesFred Pro User says:

That is the lovely thing about these Balkan countries, their languages sound so good when they are sung and it doesn't matter at all what they are singing about.

Albania - goes in tonight's first semi-final

Hoping for Albania and Serbia to make it through tonight's semi into Saturday's final
view profile
CharlesFred Pro User says:

Wow! That was amazing, Juliana!

Will try to upload the video when it gets onto the internet. So powerful.

Here it is:

Greece now... OPA!
Posted 25 hours ago. ( permalink | delete | edit )
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CharlesFred Pro User says:

Bloody hell!

Macedonia was just on - what a surprise! Wonderful! Just would have been better with Eftimov designs for the sexy women.
Posted 25 hours ago. ( permalink | delete | edit )
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CharlesFred Pro User says:

So: my top ten from this evening:

12 Albania!
10 Serbia!
8 Macedonia
7 Finland
6 Iceland
5 Moldova
4 Belgium
3 Bosnia & Herzegovina
2 Slovakia
1 didn't like any of the others...

Funnily enough, Fred's favourites were Serbia and Albania with Belgium and Iceland also being liked.
Posted 24 hours ago. ( permalink | delete | edit )
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ollily Pro User says:

and they are in!!!! ;)
Posted 24 hours ago. ( permalink | delete )
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CharlesFred Pro User says:


Fred's four were the last to be chosen, so that was quite exciting.
A pity about Macedonia (vakjury again?) and a pity that that awaful Belarus song got through...
Posted 24 hours ago. ( permalink | delete | edit )
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peterpeers Pro User says:

There was a lot of shouting instead of singing....
I liked the song (and vitalism) of Greece but Ididn't like the screaming of Portugal
I only started watching from Greece on
Finland seemed quite nice
Posted 23 hours ago. ( permalink | delete )
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CharlesFred Pro User says:

Yes, we particularly didn't care for Portugal or the Christian-hippie thing from Belarus. Oh well, can't have it all. Felt sorry for the sweet girl from Slovakia (who you missed).

Thrilled to see our two favourites going through.
Posted 15 hours ago. ( permalink | delete | edit )
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Jandorus Pro User says:

Like that, thanks for the tip. Great song and I wish them luck.
Posted 14 hours ago. ( permalink | delete )
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CharlesFred Pro User says:

Thanks, Jan. I am glad you like it!

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Peugeot bike

Pinkster mix, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Another one of me on a bike, but this one is the one I picked up this morning, having successfully bid 47 euros for it on - my first time on it!

I have just about given up on the one I bought in November 2008, having sent it to the cycle repair shop aboit once a month so far this year, the latest time to be told that I would need to spend 250 euros on a new back wheel. I was about to hand it over whne I thought, hey! that is a lot of money. Went home, signed onto marktplaats, looked for man's bike for sale within 5 kms of our postcode and found this one!

Received an e-mail the next day and today, I was able to pick it up, from a charming Polish lady called Lidia. This was her husband's bike but his company is giving him a subsidy to buy a new bike, so needed to get rid of this one, there being not too much space to keep this one as well.

So far so good, I have cycled this bike around the city today, cycling inot and with the wind and it rides like a dream. With that Trek bike from November 2008, I had fallen off in slippery conditions within the first 2 kms and damaged my wrist... should have known it would not be my good luck bike.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Recreating a moment in Broek in Waterland

Returning to Noord-Holland this afternoon, we took the bicycles out to Waterland, going to Durgerdam, Uitdam, Zuidewoude and here to the very beautiful village of Broek in Waterland. We were here almost eight years ago around my birthday woith some friends and we posed for a pic with our bikes in front of this house. It would not surprise me if I was wearing the same T shirt then. Will try to find the original and compare.

Found it and uploaded it below and I see that in the group of five, I was the only one NOT wearing blue, being in an odd 'orange' phase.

The house behind, which doubles up as a bed and breakfast, is for sale for 1.3 million Euros, which in USD's is about 20% less than it was a few months ago.

Lounging around on the Bella Ciao

We cycled round to our friends Reinhilde and Frits who are anchoring off Amsterdam for a few days as they start their new life on the catamaran they built themselves in Lauwersoog.

They expect to spend the most of the rest of their lives on this boat sailing around the world and are on their goodbye tour at the moment. Their website is

It was great to see them again, hope to see them in a place like Amasra some time in the next few years.

White Sunday - grass

White Sunday - grass, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is the Sunday before Pentecost, known in England as Whutsun, or White Sunday. According to Christians, Pentecost is when the Holy Ghost part of God came down to Earth which is often depicted as a white dove descending through the sky. There are many hundreds of different forms of Christianity/churches associated with Pentecostalism which emphasise a direct personal relationship with God, baptism and speaking in tongues (gibberish), looked on by some as the 'happy-clappy' brigade.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Charles with Fred

Charles with Fred, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here is a nice photo of Fred and myslef under the trees at the Langemark German WW1 cemetry, taken on his birthday a week ago.

I think that as many Germans died in WW1 as the British and Empire troops but 80% were never identified, denying their families the cahnce to show their respects at the grave of a family member.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pakistani guys on the Deira docks in Dubai

A look back at some nice friendly Paksitanis I met in Dubai earlier in the year. Pakistan has made the news today by banning Facebook and You Tube and, I think, they have a good point.

My very good friend Afraz referenced the current issue on his Fb site before it was closed. Some idiot somewhere thought it would be a good idea to provoke and insult Muslims by getting people to draw and submit images of The Prophet Mohammed in the name of freedom of speech.

I consider myself to be a full supporter of freedom of speech and freedom of expression and find any attempts to block communication between people to be abhorrent.

I do think it is terrible when people use their freedom of speech to deliberately insult other people. Sure they have that freedom, but why debase such freedom for such negative and destructive ends?

As for You Tube, I very much enjoy the opportunity of watching old (and new) pop videos, but I am constantly amazed and disgusted about how much racial and religious nad homophobic hatred gets submitted as comments to any particular video.

Without trying to suck up too much to the folks here at flickr, I must say that they do a very good job at keeping this site clear of that filth, even though their methods may sometimes be a bit questionable.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The intrepid trio

The intrepid trio, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Finally a group photo from the weekend, with us here under the trees at Langemark, one of only four German war cemetries left in Belgium. In fact over 80% of the German dead were never identified. Langemark has a very different feel to the Commonwealth War Graves but this was a beautiful spot and we would have seen Langemark on one of its brightest days.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fred at 50, looking back... to watermelons!

Fred celebrates his 50th birthday on the 14th.. here we are taking a look back 25 years...

This was at our family house in Tontenano in Provincia di Arezzo during the summer of 1985. We are now going away to Flanders for a few days.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Visiting Uncle Jack's grave at Ligny St Flochel, British Cemetry

Fred decided that he wanted to spend his 50th birthday, which fell in the middle of the long Ascension Day weekend, touring the countryside around Ieper/Ypres, visiting the sites of some of the largest battles' of the First World War, as well as bringing my mother to the grave of her Uncle Jack.

We found the location of his grave through the Commonwealth War Graves website and this took us deep into the countryside to the west of Arras, just off the road to Le Touquet. The grave is just outside the village of Ligny St-Flochel, in the commune of Averdoignt, set at the top of a hill looking out across green rolling landscape. A beautiful spot. The cemetry is marked on each of the four corners by a beautifully formed tree, as above, while on two parallels, there were four vertical yew trees, cut into the shape of a cypress. Every grave was well marked and beautifully tended.

The site told us that Uncle Jack's grave would be the fifth one along row 3C and sure enough, there it was, J. H. Stewart with the insignia of his regiment, Queen's Westminster Rifles, with the text ' No Morning Dawns, No Night Begins, But What We Think Of You'

It was very moving. I had to think of the loss felt by my dear Granny Mac, Uncle Jack's younger sister, who I knew and loved, as well as her parents, including my Mum's Grandpa Stewart, whose heart was broken by the loss of his son... and then to reflect that this would have been repeated for all the men laid to rest that this cemetry and then to all the millions who died in that terrible war.

We are very lucky to have had an institution, now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to oversee the founding and maintenance of these cemetries. It is poignant to recall that prior to thsi war, the dead were just buried in mass graves, often unmarked, and all nameless, whilst 80% of the German dead of this war were never identified.

They said never again, but due to the political wranglings and imperial manoevrings of the Treaty of Versailles, Europe and the World would see another dreadful war just over 20 years after the end of this one...

A tuk tuk in Arras!

This is Arras, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Arras surprised us. We knew that it was in Flanders, but did not expect it to be so Flemish wwith its two massive squares full of old gabled houses. Unfortunately, they are UNESCO listed and so subject very much to planning controls and so on, leaving them feel a bit boring, although the weather (grey and damp and cold) didn't help, nor did the fact that this was a public holiday.

Anyway, here is a tuk-tuk waiting for cutstom outside the Town Hall.

This is Arras

This is Arras, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We started our Ascension Day weekend by hiring a car from Schiphol, driving down in the cold and rain to Lille to pick up my Mum, before driving further down to the Flemish town of Arras (pronounced WITH the 's' on the end).

Saturday, May 08, 2010

All pink for the Giro

All pink for the Giro, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Amsterdam went pink this weekend to commemorate the starting of the first three races in the Giro d'Italia.

The first race was a time trial through the streets of Amsterdam, with cyclists going off every two minutes or so, one-by-one, making for a nice long drawn out spectacle. Lots of people were oiut on the streets watching despite it being a cold grey day, the likes of which we have had too much the past few days...

I spent some tiem wandering around the Start area, watching the cyclists coming and going and warming up and cooling down, followed by meeting up with friends for a beer half way along the route.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Found in Antwerp!

Found in Antwerp!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Our dear friend Sergey had been on his first trip to the UK for the past couple of weks and had popped over to Belgium on the long way home yesterday. I went down to Antwerp after work to catch up with him. We didn't have much time and our two hours was cut down to one, due to late arrival of bus, but it was still great to see him and that he loved England, especially the Scotland part - ha ha!

Hope you have a good trip back, Sergey and hope to see you back here soon.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Homomonument, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This photo was taken of the Homomonument in Amsterdam during the Liebration Day festival. The wreaths were left the evening before during the Remembrance Day commemoratiuon.

Sad to say that 38 year old man had to be sent to hospital after the party at the Homomonument on Wednesday because two Moroccans had beaten him up. This happens more often, but to happen on Liberation Day, right next to a monument which commemorates the suffering of gays throughout history and which celebrates their freedom now, this was quite a sickening occurence.

I don't want to say that this is a worrying trend, but it is clear that gays are less safe now than they were ten or fifteen or twenty years ago. A couple of years there was a lot of publicity about anti-gay violence and the politicians took it quite seriously.

Also, it seems to be clear that Moroccans have more difficulty in adapting to normal life in Holland, and certainbly the Moroccan youth has errned itself a very bad reputation. Tough for the good ones, but so often, in my experience, bad and intimidating behaviour in public most often comes from young Moroccans.

We had a local politican in Amsterdam, Ahmed Marcouch, of the Labour Party, who tried very hard to help young Moroccans integrate better, organising meetings between their groups and gay groups, for example, calling for stiff punishments for bad behaviour and so on and even using Islamic texts to show that violence and bad behaviour is unreligious. He lost his seat as head of the local council to another Moroccan, who was sen as being softer on his 'own' community. The good news is that Marcouch was later elected to the City Council and is now high (17th) on the list of the Labour Party in the upcoming Parliamentary elections on 9th June. Let us hope that he can continue his excellent work there, and on a national scale and that we can look forward to a more peaceful Liberation Day next year, inshaAllah.

Harry jumping

Harry jumping, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here we are on the beach at Bergen-aan-Zee after stopping off the whole afternoon to take photos of the tulip fields. It was not altogether warm, but pleasant in the late afternoon sun.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The bulb fields of Noord-Holland

This is really why we went up north - to see these wonderful tulip fields - rows and rows of beautifully coloured tulips.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

North-Holland landscape and skyscape

North-Holland landscapes, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yesterday started off just liken the day before, cool wettish and a bit windy with only a vague promise by the weathermen ( that it might brighten up by the evening. After a late-ish start (without any hangover despite the merriment of the previous evening with our friends old and new outside the Elsa's), we got in touch with Rob and Ghislaine to borrow their car. We set off just before 1'ish with the sky covered by cloud and just a hint that it might be brightening up, but here we are about a half hour later just outside the North Holand cheese city of Alkmaar on the Schermer Polder, with the sky opened up with this beautiful mottled cloud.

Normally, we would go to the Lisse area to see the tuliups, but a photo in one of the freebie newspapers on the train a few weeks ago reminded me that there are many tulip fields the other side, which is why we came up to Alkmaar. After snapping various tulipscapes, we drove the shortish distance to the coast and went for a nice refeshing walk along the beach at Bergen-aan-Zee.

This windmill has beaen beautifully maintained and rennovated and is used to pump water up from the low-lying polder to the canal here in the foreground.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Afsluiten Koninginnedag - bij de Elsa's

And this is how Queen's Day ended up...

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