Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Himba girl - 1,000 views

Himba girl, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Almost six months qfter this was posted on flickr, it has received its 1,000 visitor/viewer today. It is by some long way the most viwed photo of mine on flickr and has been rated as being the most interesting photo uploaded onto the whole of flickr on that day, although it seems recently to have lost its position.

It really is a lovely photo, of a beautiful person, taken at just the right time of the day. All of the photos in this set turned out really well. We were driving along the road, past the Zebra Mountains and saw a group of four young girls with a donkey, whereupon we stopped and chatted, while I took some unposed photos with my sneaky Sony DSC-828.

Funny to think that I am back in Africa now, here in Marrakech, so far awy from Kaokoland. Ther Himbas live right up in the north western part of Namibia, against the Angolan border, next to which we camped the first night, along the side of the river, by the Epupa Falls. The story of our trip can be read in the December 2005 section of this blog.

Odd too, to think that next week, Angola will be playing in its first World Cup and, indeed, have a patch against the old colonial power, Portugal on Sunday 11th June in Cologne, amazing how these things work out. I wish them all the best.

In the meantime, all is well here in Marrakech. It is not too crowded and not too hot and we have just had a simple but delicious meal. Good to see Colin and his family and they have a new, very large riad for us to look at while we are over.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Indigo man

Indigo man, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Off to Marrakech tomorrow, with Mum, Fiona and Thomas. Should be 30 degrees there, a bit warmer than the 12 degrees we are having here. Looking forward to it.

The biggest rhododendron in the world

Between the showers, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

..... is apparently to be found in Nagaland.

I do not have aphoto of it, having never been there, but as they are flowering so beautifully in the parks and gardens of Amsterdam, I managed to capture this one, between the showers this lunchtime.

Rhododendrons always remind me of Bournemouth, as throughout June, every year the flower profusely along the smart roads of the town, above the cliffs along the way to Sandbanks, a favourite haunt of we students at Southampton University, after the exams at the beginning of the month.

Nagaland Baptists

Nagaland house, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is a house in Dimapur, which is the "commercial" capital of Nagaland, primarily because it is in the lower lying land and the train station is located here. In many ways it is very much like a typical "border" town where there is a mix of both Nagas and Indians.

I do not actually know too much about Nagaland, although I should, but in the context of the country banning The Da Vinci Code, both book and film, this week, I have been having a little look at 'the most baptist country in the world'. Apparently over 90% are baptists.

A hundred years ago, the Nagas were 'fierce' headhunters , illiterate and hostile, according to the very kind American missionaries, foremost among them being Dr Edward W. Clark. By some accounts, "the fruit of these early missionary efforts has been wonderful indeed: Naga tribal people wholeheartedly embraced the Gospel, evangelized their own people, and established churches and schools. Naga Baptists are extremely active in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ through the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), sending hundreds of their own missionaries and evangelists to work in other parts of India and in nearby countries." Dr Clark obviously did such good work, that one of his successors, Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern (US) Baptist Theological Seminary cheekily suggests that he has an idea that he and his wife sit close to Jesus in Heaven's throne room!

All good stuff, if you think it right that westerners should go round converting other people from their beliefs. But now there is a threat, worse even than the Da Vinci Code and that is that the Nagas are being “swamped by the encroaching typhoon of theological liberalism among American Baptists.”

“What an incredibly sad ending to one of the greatest mission societies in history. How easily the same thing could happen to us. It may not be good news to some, but I returned more the opponent of anything other than orthodoxy than I have ever been in my life.”, said Mr Patterson from the Southwestern Baptists, who lso makes the point that "the Naga people are vulnerable to charismatic teachings". Well, who'd have thought?

“Imbibed from some television preachers in the West", he said that Southern Baptists should pray that the Nagas are not too heavily influenced by such elements".

“Because they are so vital to reaching the unsaved population for thousands of miles around them, they must remain pure in doctrine and practice, and we must pray that India will not restrict them.”

Some ideas for prayers are as follows:

1. Please pray specifically for the end of fighting among the Nagas
and for them to show the whole world that, because of Christ in their lives, they live in peace.

2. Please pray for an end to the human rights violations as a result of the occupation of Nagaland by India.

Heaven forbid then that the Nagas become exposed to liberal Christian thought through the inflitration from these people! That the Nagas may in fact develop their own ideas about their religion. That would never do. Fire and brimstone, that's what they need.

In the meantime, I wish the Nagas well in their search for peace amongst themselves and with their neighbours.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pale pink

Pale pink, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Not all bad here.... beautiful springtime (between the rain) in Amsterdam. The Rhododendron Valley is found in the Amstel Park, near the Amstel on the site of the 1960 (I think) Floriade.

The 'valley' was full of, mainly elderly, people enjoying the sight and the smells of the rhododendrons and azeleas.

Fred tells a nice story about whne he was young and was in the mood for swearing, his father would encourage him ot say rho - don - den - de - ron. And he still does, to this day.

The joys of life in Western Europe

Stop!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Ik moet dit even kwijt:

I don't have so much to do otday, just a few things, but even this is not so easy.

I go to the Post Office. I have to take the bike through a sand pit because the road, still after a month is open, nothing having been achieved. The fountain project has been put back to February and the latest story is that is is the fault of the water company, not a case of bad planning by the project leader, at least this is what he tells us.

The bikes tyres are going flat, maybe through having ridden across all those sandpits.

The Post Ofice is closed. There is an electricity cut.

I go to the computer shop and they tell me that I have indeed lost all my e-mails and e-mail addresses as they had jut assumed that I used Windows and not Mozilla.

I go back to the Post Office to pick up a letter. The doors are still closed and there is a queue. Eventually I get served. The letter is from the Postbank and was brought to to be delivered when I was not at home, so finally, after a signature and an electrical scanning of my passport, I get to receive a letter asking for information which they had previously thanked me for sending them in good order.

I akl if they can track a foreign payment I made, but despite all the adverts for the Postbank and the fact that they do pay and take cash etc, they tell me they are a post office and, of course, they cannot help me with anything like this, (as if I should have known).

So I phone up the Postbank and after I have typed my account number (which they can now link to my telephone number) they tell me I have phoned the wrong number and have to phone a different one.

I do this, and the lady cannot find any evidence of any foreign payment made. Apparently, they had phoned me about the payment on the same day as the postman had tried to deliver me their letter, but I was not in. So, they sent me a letter to ask me to get in touch with them, but the postman never delivered this letter, so I was not to know that the payment had not been made.

So now I have to do the whole payment again and no doubt it'll arrive just after it needs to be where it is going.

At least it is not raining.

A divided Europe

Krakow, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Looks like a pretty Italian church facade, but it happens to be in Poland, in Krakow, to be more precise. And one thing which Italy had and Poland has is fanatical Catholicism. Fortunately, Italian people are finding their own way in the world without the excessive influence of their Roman Church.

This seems not to be the case with Poland, where all of life seems to be more and more influenced by Catholic 'family values'. Indeed, the new Pope, Sister Bernadette made Poland his first port of call for an official pope-mobile visit.. and there they all were yesterday. Hundreds of them , thousands of them, in a large field outside of Krakow, to welcome the new pope, successor to their Karel Wojtyla, Sister Bernadette. Not so far away, maybe from the Auschwitz camp.

Sister Bernadette has looked at the map of Europe and all he could se were falling church attendances, until he stumbled on Poland. Lots of Catholics there and glad to be rid of communism. And they had just voted some parties into government which are inspired by Catholic family values. Indeed, they just appointed a new minister of education whose main objective seems to rid Poland's schools of the influence of homsexualists, who might not condemn homosexuality at every possible stage.

The plan seems to be to build on the church's strengths in a nice big country like Poland, and who knows, maybe Europe's spiritual revival may spread out from there?

And, yet on the day, the Poles shed tears in the presence of their new spiritual leader, the rest of Europe was getting on with life, many going to the cinema to see The Da Vinci Code.

The churches and the snobby film critics would not have us go to the film, but to the film we are all going, where it has had a very successful introduction in most markets outside the US (and Poland). We went yesterday afternoon and very much enjoyed the expereince. It might not be the best film ever made, but it certainly wasn't as bad as many of the snobby critics would have us believe.

The film used music a lot to create the atmosphere required, and was in this way a typical blockbuster. I found Tom Hanks a bit too much like Forrest Gump, but he annoyed me much less than the character in the book. Silas could have bene a bit creepier, but he had a couple of great scenes. Ian McKellen was great, playing a role which fitted him perfectly. I enjoyed very much the flashbacks, especially the one of the militant Catholics pulling down the pagan statues in Rome.

And I can see why the Catholic Church, in particular, might not really appreciate the film as it portrays the Church as a malevolent organisation, not stopping at any cost to protect itself, its memebrs and interests (like almost any large multi-national organisation) but combined with some strange and exotic practices, such as eating the flesh and drinking the blood of The Saviour.

I also read that the film has been banned in Nagaland, India, where some American evangelicals encouraged them to abandon their traditional beliefs and become Protestants. So, it seems like my brother Richard will not be able to see it. A pity for him.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Getting ready for the World Cup

Orange at Ruk en Pluk, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, in fact, Ruk en Pluk just stayed orange from Koninginnedag right through to the World Cup. All one colour, one oranje-gevoel. Last night Holland beat Cameroon 1-0 in a warm-up match. Seemed silly to watch with the real thing coming up soon, but it appears that 40,000 people have bought tickets to see a Brazilian training session.

I am planning a trip to Germany next month, despite the failed trip to Cologne earlier this year. The idea is to take the bike on the train and find a campsite in one of the three Ruhr-Gebiet cities in which games are being held and take in the atmosphere of the World Cup, watching the games on a big screen in one of the squares.

Was thinking of the week 19-23 June, where I could see teams such as Brazil, Japan, France, Togo, Switzerland, Portugal, Mexico, Sweden AND England! But, it is the same week as Royal Ascot, the highlight of the flat racing year, to take place at the new Ascot course, which opened yesterday and looks fantastic, although there are no trees around the paddock, which was as predictable as disappointing. Anyway, we'll see.

It has stopped raining for a day and after a cycle ride, we go off to see The Da Vinci Code in Tuschinsky with Chanelli.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


It has been raining here all day.

In fact it has been raining most of the week.

A good week to stay inside, tidy the house, attend to paperwork and re-install everything onto one's computer. It seems like I have lost all my e-mails and my e-mail addresses,a s somehow theese were not saved when my hard disk was saved. Not exactly a tragedy, but a bit of a nuisance nevertheless.

Back with a hard disk full of 88 GB worth of photos! Here is one from the vaults, from our trip to Berlin about 15 months ago.

Rain is good for teh garden and good for the ducks. It had been so dry for so long. Great to sit upstairs with the back door open and listen to the rain falling on the leaves which remain on the tree in the garden, although the past day or two it has been a bit cold to do that.

With all this talk of global warming and climate change, about which there was a very good programme by David Attenborough earlier in the week, we should be happy to have as much rain as we can get.

Friday, May 26, 2006

England, at the Derby

England, at the Derby, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

England flags at the Derby four years ago, as 'we' were getting ready to play against old rival Argentina. A game of sweet revenge, but because we had not beaten Sweden, we lost first place in the group and had to play Brazil in the next round. England took the lead and then lost it to an amazing shot by Ronaldihno and we were soon out. Hoping for better luck next time, with a last 16 tie against Germany on the cards if we again do not beat Sweden, which we have not done in over 30 years.

The rain continues to pour down in Amsterdam, getting worse every day, time to plan ahead for the World Cup and complete the World Cup questionnaire/competition, prepared at Fred's school. He came last in the school four years ago, partly by having England winning the World Cup. I'll be helping him, and we have an Italy v Brazil final, which Brazil might win.
A word of advice to the organisers: it might be more interesting to seed the teams, such that you give more points to people who nominate less fancied teams than to those who nominate the favourites.

My computer came back from HP today, four weeks after it broke down. All my files and programmes erased. Fortunately, they have been saved and I imagine it'll be at least a week or two before evrything is back to what it was before the break-down. Again, we'll see. For the time being, I'll continue to be a regular at the Vibra internet point on the Linnaeusstraat.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

More troubles in Somalia

Out in the bush, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The situation in Somalia goes from bad to worse, with many many people being killed in Mogadishu, as fighting takes place between Islamic Court militias and the warlords, while the Trans Federal Government (TFG) cannot do anything to stop it. See the BBC site for details. Weapons seem to be pouring in from all sides, from the US and Italy, from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, maybe also Ethiopia and Djibouti.

It seems that the TFG are now requesting the so-called UN arms embargo to be lifted so that it can arm itself and also enter the fighting... and no doubt make the situation even worse than it now is. See article on UNPO site.

I am quite convinced that what Somalia needs now, more than anything is LESS weapons and LESS involvement from outside parties. It can only be through the meddling and involvement of foreign powers that the Somalis can continue their fighting and warring between each other. How else could they buy their weapons to perpetrate such violence when the country is so poor.

It is quite clear that the country needs to be cleared of weapons and that Somalis themselves should work out between themselves what they want to do with their country. The Somalilanders have done this and have created their own country of peaceful, stable democracy, so in time Somalia should be able to do the same... IF THEY ARE LEFT TO THEMSELVES. But other countries are using Somalia to fight their own proxy wars - such as the US in its so-called war on terrorism, and the Arabs (Yemen and Saudi Arabia) in their struggle to control the Gulf of Aden.

Leave the Somalis alone.
They can best sort out their own problems.
ENFORCE the UN weapons ban.

Recognise Somaliland as an independent country.
Help it build up its economy (by, for example, forcing Saudi Arabia to lift its politically motivated ban on the import of livestock from Somaliland)
Show the world that a country which behaves the way Somaliland does, is appropriately rewarded.

Ascension Day

Ascension, by Giotto, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today is Ascension Day, a public holiday, here in Protestant Holland, not so in Catholic Italy (they celebrate Maria's ascension in the middle of August).

Jesus's ascension to the heaven is recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, when it says that 40 days after his Resurrection, The Savuiour was taken up to heaven by a cloud.

There do not seem to be too many traditions associated with Ascension Day, unlike Easter or Christmas, but in the East of Holland, we find the tradition of Dauwtrappen, walking on the dew. The idea is to go out early, before dawn and walk on the grass, presumably wet with dew (or today with rain), with bare feet. This dates back to some old fertility rite. Nowadays, this tradition has changed into becoming an excuse for a trip into the country, sometimes on foot, sometimes on bike and even in a convoy of Fiat 500's. Thinking of carrying on this tradition by going for a cycle ride when teh weather clears up this afternoon.

Further, Ascension Day, or Hemelvaart, is now a day when everyone can go to their local Ikea or Garden Centre and go shopping!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Biblical inconsistencies

This is one of the most famous paintings of one of my favourite painters, Piero della Francesca, who we got to know when visiting our house in Tuscany, in Tontenano in the Province of Arezzo. This painting can be found in the Pinoteca Comunale in Sanseplocro, where Piero spent most of his life. It can be seen for free from the street by looking through the window of the museum.

Tomorrow is Ascension Day, the day which Christians celebrate the ascension of Christ to heaven. There is not a lot said about the Ascension in the bible and the day has been chosen as it is 40 days after the Resurrection. 40 days, being an ancient magic number, used many times in Judaeo/Christian mythology. Its origin may relate to the cycle of Venus with respect to the earth - where there are five movements each lasting eight years, mapped out in the shape of a star.

Anyway, I had a look at what the gospels had to say about the discovery of the empty tomb, after Christ had bene resurrected. Our friend on the Real Da Vinci Code programme had mentioned the presence of Mary Magdalene and the angel at the tomb. Well this is what they say:

Matthew: Mary of Magdala and the other Mary, early Sunday morning,violent erthquake, angel descended from heaven and roilled away the stone, angel's face shone like lightning and garments as white as snow

Mark: after sunrise, Mary of Magdala, from whom Jesus had cast seven devils and Mary, mother of James, stone had already bene rolled back, saw a youth sitting on the right hand side, wearing a white robe.

Luke: very early, the women who had accompanies Jesus from Galilee, stone already rolled away, no body, suddenly two men in dazzling garments were at their side

John: early, while it was still dark, Mary of Magdala, stone had been moved away, she runs away to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, they (the men) had a look, saw nothing and went away, Mary stayed outside and saw two angels sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet.

Great stories, all of them. Necessary to create the drama of the resurrection, but all different versions of the same myth. Nothing wrong with this, if we all accept that the Bible stories are myths and have a deeper meaning than the pure literal meaning presented. The Roman church pushed the literal understanding of the Bible stories at the cost of the spiritual meaning, as it was easier to control people's thoughts and actions in this way. Such inconsistencies in one simple story such as this show what a nonsense it is to maintain this literalist approach.

I find it also odd that there are so few representations in art of the discovery of the empty tomb. Maybe artists were confused about the varying versions of the same story. Maybe too they were worried about the fact that it was the women who discovered the empty tomb and it was Mary Magdalene, of all people, whom Jesus chose to first reveal himself after his resurrection. This gives Mary, and therefore womenkind, an importnace, which maybe the Church was keen to suppress. And is STILL keen to suppress.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

Red bus, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

There seems to be a lot of talking about the Da Vinci Code film and an awful lot of noise from the Christians who think someway that the book or the film might be damaging. I am sure that the reason why there was so much advertising in Rome, where the book was not so popular was to provoke the church into a reactin which feeds into publicity for the film.

We go to see the film tomorrow, not expecting anything too great but we enjoyed the experience of reading the book (somehow) and will see the film.

There was a UK made documentary on Belgian TV last night called the Real Da Vinci Code presented by a comdey actor-turned historian. In trhe short space of time devoted to reasearch for this programme he felt able to give us the real facts relating to episodes and stories mentioned in the book. Good for him. And, of course, he found most of the claims made could be proven to be wrong.

It was very interesting that while he was looking for ways to disprove some of the stories used in The Da Vinci Code, he recalled the story in the Bible that when Mary Magdalene went to look inside Jesus' tomb, after he had been lain there, the tomb was empty except for an angel perched around somewhere. He did not raise an eyebrow... of course there would be an angel in the tomb. If the Bible says so, then it must be true and, of course, we all see angels everywhere. Seems like one way to measure the truth of the Bible and another for anything else.

I, too, having read a few books on various of the stories presented in the bok am also sure that an awful lot is untrue. I am sure that the Priory of Sion is a hoax anbd that the story of Mary, wife of Jesus, arriving in the South of France in the 11th century was just a ploy to encourage religious tourism into the area. And the rest of the story about a bloodline through French kings is also probably nonsense.

However, I do think that the major issue of whether or not the early Roman church influenced the course of Christianity by puttinbg forward their accepted texts, outlawing any other texts, burning libraries and persecuting dissidents, forging various parts of the letters of Saint Paul and so on, DID happen and that we should have a good look at all this.

The role of women for example is a major issue where revisionism could lead to a better religion for the Christians. Now that Mary Magdalena is no longer a prostitute, as was claimed by 1,000 years worth of popes, maybe people can have a better view of who she really was and whether or not she really was Jesus' beloved disciple and that she could very easily be the disciple, sitting next to Jesus in Da Vinci's Last Supper.

My own view is that Jesus did not exist and that he is the Jewish version of the dying and resurrecting man-gods of the time. Even still, the stories which do exist, which I would call legends or fables DO have worth because they are providing an illustration of the philosophies which are being taught. So, to get the right meanings from the stories one should read the stories in the right way and read all of them, not just the ones chosen by the church elders about 300 years after Christianity was really getting going.

It is all too much for a blog, but tomorrow, I might try to quote some passages from Paul's letters which would seem to contradict each other, begging the question why and whether or not his letters may have been tampered with.

On the other hand, it is amazing how the established church is closing ranks and trying to forestall argument, encouraging boycotts and even picketing of cinemas. It is also trying to focus attention on the more bizarre aspects of the story in the book in order to discredit everything which is written there. Not really the sign of an organisation with a lot of confidence.

P.S. Interesting to see that militants are using the same tactics of 1,600 years ago by burning copies of the Da Vinci Code book (in the village of Ceccano, near Rome), according to the BBC. And Fred tells me that they were burning books also in the 1930's in the time of Mussolini.

P.P.S. Just been down to buy tickets for tomorrow's showing of the film in Tuschinsky One, the beautiful art-deco/nouveau cinema in the centre of Amsterdam, and it has ben sold out... a private showing... interesting... maybe someone does not want us to SEE the film! Mmmmm!!!

P.P.P.S It seems as if people in Rome are queueing in droves to see the film!

P.P.P.P.S. Would like to relate the fact that in the Independent newspaper in the UK last week, in just two days worth of papers I read three major articles written about the film and the book and every reviewer/writer had to inform us, the readers, that THEY had NOT read the book. One even said that in general the more a person reads, the less likely he is to have read The Da Vinci Code. Long live British snobbery!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Annie's commentaar op Eurovision

Mazara frutte di mare, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Zwitserland - groepje met vreselijke nichten en ?? - 0
Moldavie - groepje, lekker ding, tekst moeilijk, geen engels funky -4
Israel - wit op piano (het was zwart Annie - ed), gemengd taal - 2
Letland - acappella in witte pakken, geestig, gedurft, knap - 9!
Noorwegen - keltisch, witte tzoelen, aaaha, ahaha, aha - 0
Spanje - Las Ketchap, rode dames, spaans? saai - 1
Malta - eikel met sik - 0 (min 5)
Duitsland - country en western, cowboyhoeden, maar wel swingend - 5
Denemarken - twistachtig - 2
Rusland - vent in hand, russisch engels, scoort hoog - 4
Macedonie - Miss Fine (?) - 1
Roemenie - man, Gordon, talen door elkaar, scoort hoog - 7
Bosnie & Herz. - ballade in eigen taal, witte kleren - 7
Litouwen - 0
Engels - rap, school, scoort hoog - 8
Griekenland - mevrouw - 3
Finland - 0
Oekraine - Shakira, benen! - 3

(lost the rest)

She did not like the silly numbers, with shouting and hard rock guitars.

Italian football in a mess

Italy no longer participates in the Eurovision Song Festival, but it does attend the big football tournaments.

Italian football is in a big mess as can be seen from this article on the BBC, from which I quote below.
Despite all this, let us hope we see you at the World Cup next month and that we can meet you in the final in Munich on July 9th, England to win with a Wayne Rooney goal before half-time, followed by another from Michael Owen, rounded off with one from Joe Cole! (How's that?)

On Monday, Moggi turned his fire on AC Milan as he blamed their owner Silvio Berlusconi and vice-president Adriano Galliani for his problems.

"Cursed is the day I ever met Berlusconi," he told the Quotidiano Nazionale website.

"Two weeks after my meeting with Berlusconi, the Football Federation received the intercepted phone calls concerning me, as well as others, from the Turin prosecutors office.

So many countries

Schoolchildren, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

These children have their own country, Somaliland, a country which against all reason and logic is not being recognised by the rest of the world.

In Europe, new countries are sprouting up all over the place and it looks like we may soon have a new one... Montenegro. They seem to be getting their independenmce, which will be recognised by all and sundry because a mere majority (just over 50%) voted for it. In Somaliland, over 90% have voted for independence, which they have but on e which is not recognised. Shame on the world.

If The US and UK can start a war in Iraq to bring democracy to that country without obtaining permission or blessing from the rest of the world, then they should have no problems in over-riding the etiquette which would have the dreadful African Union recognise Somaliland first.

Anyway, we in Europe are overflowing with nations such that the Eurovision Song Contest of last week had 37 competitors, with even some countries like Italy, Austria, Hungary and Luxemburg not competing.

We had Jon and Peter and Annemiek round on Saturday to watch the final, make comments and give out votes. Was great fun.

We did NOT like the shouting of Lithuania or the hard rock of Finland with the Orc masks, we did not understand the least thing about Croatia, thought Israel was dull and felt that Holland had not deserved to get through. We were amazed by the legs of Turkey and Ukraine and FYRMacedonia (?). Bored to death with Spain and scared by Sweden.

Our favourites were Bosnia and Herzogovina (for four out of the five of us) and Latvia (not mine AT ALL) although we thought Russia might do well..... without really understanding much about the ballet dancers.

As it was the Orcs from Finland won, a little bit too easily, but Russia was second and Bosnia and Herzogovina third. We would have liked the fourth, Romania more, had the singer not dyed and permed his hair to make him look like a Dutch singer called Gordon.

Holland will no doubt decide to send in a heavy rock number in 2 to 3 years and will ask themselves AGAIN why they did not make it through teh semi-finals.

Roll on 2007!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Somaliland event

Back home now. The event went off well, with about 60 attendees. We just started a bit late which meant we had to rush through a little with our presentations, but it all went fine. Good to hear from everyone and to meet everyone there, especially Ahmed and Izzy, who organised the event.

The event started a little later than planned - well 2 pm instead of mid-day, as we had to await the delegation which had come up from London. This was a bit of a pity because it meant we were a little rushed, as we still had to finish by 5 pm.

We had talks as follows:

Somaliland and the role of Diaspora: Abdi Jibril (Writer, teacher and community officer)

Passed elections in Somaliland: Aly Verjee, Steve Kibble (Progressio election observers, Somaliland Focus UK)

International Aid: ActionAid-International (Robin Le Mare)

Somali language and culture, also introduction of his new book about the role of women in Somaliland society: Mahamed Baashe (writer)

Health and Education: Mohamed Aden Hassan (Nomad International) Mahmoud Hashi (SLAP coordinator)

Personal experiences - myself

Somaliland youth - Ahmed Mirreh (organiser)

Connecting Histories - Izzy

Not much time now, so will write more soon.

Further, would just like to thank Nick and Abs and Bruce and Caroline for their hospitality - it was great to see you and the children as well. Hopefully it won't be so long before the next time.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Congratulations Somaliland on 15 years of peaceful Independence

Somaliland, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

May 1991 was the date that Somaliland declared itself independent. The past 15 years can be looked back in with pride by the Somalialnders who have rebuilt their country and instituted a peaceful democratic system of goverenment with free and fair elections.

It has not been easy with a host of not-so-friendly neighbours, particularly the Arabs the other side of the Gulf of Aden and without formal international recognition. Maybe not such a bad thing as it is often better to do things oneself than to rely on other people or parties.

Anyway, I will soon be attending the event here in Birmingham to mark this occasion and will be giving a short talk about my personal experiences there, concentrating mainly on the photos I took when I was there in November last year. Not exactly extremely well prepared, but I have a nice powerpoint presentation, full of photos, so hope it will all go OK.

Looking forward to meeting A. Mirreh, the organiser and other Somalilanders.

Well done, Arsenal!

This young Somalilander, along with many other young men in the Horn of Africa, and indeed the rest of the world will be feeling a little sad that Arsenal did not manage to hang on and win the Champions League/European Cup last night. It was a great match and Arsenal played so well, but it seemed that they wqere playing 10 against 14 - the Barcelona side and the Norwegian referee and linesmen (I believe it was Norway's national day yesterday - so congratulations to them). Still, Arsenal can be proud of having played some of the best football ever seen in their way to the final and have changed everyone's perceptions of them being a boring team. Well done!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The final nail in the coffin of Dutch tolerance.

Geen Mens Is Illegaal, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Text to follow: the disgraceful behaviour of the Dutch system against Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

My least favourite person in Holland, that horrible Rita Verdonk, has declared that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an illegal person and is taking away her Dutch citizenship. This because a TV programme showed that she had lied about her name, her age and her country of departure, all facts which she had already admitted many times.

Ayaan is a member of parliament and is due to resign and leave the country, to take up a paid post at a US think tank. She is a member of the VVD party, the so-called Freedom Party, which is in government. The party knew of the facts surrounding her asylum request when they asked her to join. Now a member of this same party, indeed someone who wnats to lead the party (and the country), this Verdonk, is the one who is threatening to take away her citizenship. The party used her when it needed her (after the death of Fortuin), but now the party thinks it can do better without her they are dumping her... and in such a way. Being forced out of the country.

Earlier, she was being forced out of her home because she was an apparent danger to her neighbours (being a possible target of Islamic extremists). Not one politician has stood up for her.

She doesn't fit in Holland any more and the way she is being dumped has parallels with the way her collaborater Theo van Gogh was murdered, almost outside teh internet cafe in which I am sitting.

What is particularly galling is the way the establishment is closing her out, happy to see the back of a nuisance. The second most destable person in Dutch politics, ex-leader of the VVD Hans Weigel showed what a bad sport he is by saying she will not be missed and that we will probably never hear anything form her again.

I did not agree with the way she went about things, and I don't even agree with many of her views, but I do feel sorry for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, suffering from the Dutch tendency to demonise anyone who does not fit. The final nail in the coffin of Dutch tolerance.

A couple of extra points:
1 there are two curent ministers who have lied to the House of Parliament in recent times, at least two well known examples. Minister Verdonk and Minister Zalm. From what I hear, these two are a couple (as in having a relationship). They have lied and they keep their jobs as ministers. Ayaan Hirsi Ali lies and loses her nationality, job and home.

2 there is (yet) another unsavoury man lurking around in Dutch politics, namely Mr Nawijn. He was one of the first to scream that Ayaan Hirsi Ali should lose her nationality. And yet! HE was the responsible minister when Ayaan Hirsi Ali first admitted to lying... and he did .... nothing..... nothing either because he was lazy, incompetent in his job or was part of the system which was still USING her.

It stinks... but at least I hear that the majority of Dutch people are more in favour of Ayaan Hirsi Ali than they are of Verdonk.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The celebration of 15th anniversary of Somaliland Independence

See the flyer above.

I have been invited to speak at the meeting in the Library Theatre in Birmingham, this coming Thursday.

Been busy preparing some things to say but I am running into trouble as without my PC it is a bit difficult to creat a powerpoint presentation.

Quite nervous, but proud to have been asked and looking forward to it. More to follow.

The Italians and Somaliland

Somaliland freedom monument 2, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It seems that Italians are supporting the idea of a united Somalia, where they think they may have some influence over the people in Mogadishu. The Italians did very little, it seems, for Somalia apart from building some nice buildings inm the capital and did nothing to prepare the Somalis for their independence. So really they have very little to say on the matter and yet it seems that Italy is the country blocking progress on Somaliland recognition in the E.U.

And, by all accounts, Italy is making matters even worse in ' their' Somalia by supplying weapons to warlords there. Tut tut.

The British, on the other hand, were actively encouraging politics, education and health in the Protectorate of Somaliland in the years leading up to independence. Not only woukld Britain seem ot have more of a right to be involved now, but also they recognise the situation for what it is. Somaliland is a free democratic country, fully independent and deserves to be recognised as such.

Il Calcio - the pride or shame of Italy?

Juventus wins the Serie A and the chairman resigns. Seems like he has been caught making telephone conversations with the chief of referees to arrange with referee will be present at the crucial Juventus games.

And not only Jueventus, but also AC Milan, Lazio and Arezzo.

I'd be happier for Italians to be bothered with their football scandal and to stop working AGAINST the U.K. in the European Union on the issue of recognition of Somaliland recognition. See the next post.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Birthday, Fred!

happy!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Happy Birthday, Fred! Another year older and you are not even celebrating, but we hope you have an enjoyable day!

Thanks again to Annemiek for such a lovely evening and delicious meal last night. Good luck with Mr P.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Rainbow roundabout

Rainbow, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is a scene from our street from two weeks ago on Queen's Day, a day when the Dutch celebrate the birthday of an ex-Queen, in what is basically a National Day.

A tradition in Amsterdam is that people are free to sell anything (within existing food health and safety laws) on the streets and in the parks of the city, especially the children. These children will often sell off the toys and games and books and clothes they have grown out of, to generate money to buy more toys or to give to charity. They will also play musical instruments, organise games and even predict your future. Great fun it is, espcially in our neighbourhood, where there are also circuses, marching bands, fun fairs and musical performances.

James and Harry were here and enjoyed themselves very much and James especially enjoyed going into town later to see some rock bands playing.

Just after Queen's Day, the local council was due to start work on placing a fountain in the street, a modern fountain but one which replaces the original which was removed in the 1930's. They did not start as planned on May 1st, because it poured with rain, but were there the next day in the bright sunshine, making a lot of noise, digging up the road and the pavements to make room for what was needed to be done. They worked for three days and in that time, they have blocked the road off to traffic and made it quite difficult for cyclists and pedestrians to get through.

A week later, after my return from Rome it was the same as it was when I had left. No more work. Typical, it seemed, as the authorities often dig up roads and leave them a while before the real work begins. Maybe something to do with planning. But then... yesterday afternoon a letter from the council. In this letter, they explained that due to delays in another nearby project and due to the fact that the traffic situation was so confusing, they will delay the continuation of the project to late-June or even late August. In the meantime, they WILL put the road and pavement back. Amazing! No apologies. No explanation of how much it will all cost. No explanation about how they could have started last week, already knowing that the other project was facing delays. There was a number to phone. I phoned it to speak to this project leader, as I was invited to. But, no, the project leader had taken the afternoon off (well it WAS nice weather and he could expect an angry reaction) and will be back on Monday (apparently). What an example of incompetence, spending and wasting other people's money is very easy apparently. Not so very important on a world scale, but indicative of the way things go.

Friday, May 12, 2006

War? no grazie

Il Vittoriano, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is a strange wide-angle perspective of the Vittorio Emanuele Monument in the centre of Rome. The flags are flying half-mast to commemorate the soldires recently killed in the War in Iraq.

Let us hope, and maybe more than hope, that this will not be repeated with a War in Iran. It cannot and should not happen. I am thinking we should be out on the streets already telling governemnts we want to have nothing to do with a war against Iran. By the time direct action happens, it is usually too late.

It is quite chilling to think that Jack Straw, the UK Foreign Secretary can say that it is inconceivable that we would go to war against Iran, and then lose his job and be replaced by someone who will NOT rule out starting a war against Iran. So much for the word of governments and the ministers.

At least, Italy's new leaders should not be so open to 'encouragement' from the US to join them in starting a war against a very civilised people, such as we find in Iran.

There is an awful lot wrong with the regime in charge in Iran, but this applies to so many countries and really WAR is NOT the way to go about it, for sure.

Just recognise the Government of Somaliland, on the 15th anniversary of the country's independence. A much easier way to encourage freedom and democracy and one which can only encourage other peaceful and responsible movements around the world. Can we in the west finally set a good example? Please?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Campari skirt

Campari skirt, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

One of the great joys about being in Italy is going to the bar in the early evening and having an aperatif. Mine is a Campari Soda, usually served with lots of nibbly things. Fred goes for Campari straight, strangely enough!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The tenth of May

Explaining something to Fred, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today is 10th May which is well known to every child brought up in Beaconsfield as being the date of the annual fair. A fair which is set up on the main A40 road going through the Old Town. Just the one day. A good old-fashioned fair which'd have us invariably bringing a goldfish or two home to replace the ones which we had won the previous year but which had subsequently had died.

38 years ago it was the celebration of 700 years of Beaconsfield being granted a fair, which now must be 738 years old!

It is also The Cat's - Angelo's - birthday, so would like to wish him a Happy Birthday and thank for the hospitalit6y his has shown the both of us during our time in Rome. Here he is last weekend, explaining something to Fred. I just hope it was not yet another Italian lesson!

Rainbow red

Rainbow red, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today, the Italian parliament voted in a new President. His name is Giorgo Napolitano. He was born in Naple, quite appropriately and was not-so-long-ago made a life-long senator and used to be a member of the Communist Party. Before that he worked in the resitance movement. One very good thing which Napolitano has going for him is that Berlusconi does not apparently like himand he urged his faction not to vote for him in this election, stillup[set at having lost the Parliamentary elections last month. A bad loser..

The Italian system is good in the way that the President does not have too many powers and is elected only by an electoral college of Members of Parliament and regional representatives, such that he does not get involved in day-to-day politics, leaving that to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet and the Parliament. A much better situation than in France and the US which both have directly elected Presidents with far too much power. Berlusconi has tried to change the Italian system to be more like these two, thinking, of course, that the people would vote HIM President. First, there needs to be a referendum to change the Constitution and it seems very unlikely that this will be passed when voting takes place in June.

Antonello da Messina Portrait Of A Man 1475

Yesterday, I went to the Antonello da Messina exhibition at the Quirinale Stables, opposite the Presidential Palace.

I had come acros Antonello when we were in Sicily two years ago, with Annemiek and Henk. We came across his wonderful Madonna, a close-up of her in blue, reading a book, when visiting a museum in Palermo - the Regional Gallery of Sicily in the Abatellis Palace. She reminded me a lot of La Madoona del Parto, by Piero della Francesca in Monterchi, near Arezzo. She has the same blue dress and both images have an enigmatic quality about them.

After our first encounter with Antonello in Palermo, we saw his Portrait of a Man, or a Fisherman, in the Mandralisca Museum in Cefalu, a man who seems to remind me of a friend of my Mum's although she does not see it herself. Later, I would find San Girolamo in his study in the National Gallery in London, along with this Portrait of a Man.

The exhibition in Rome is the first major exhibition to be made of jhis works. He was an early Renaissance painter, who painted in Sicily, Naples and Venice. Only 50 of his works remain and they are scatttered all the way round the world. It must have taken some great effort ot bring so many to Rome.

Apart of the works I had already seen, a major highlight of the exhibition is the restored-to-all-its-glory San Sebastiano. About the largest painting (for most of them are very small indeed) - it shows a beautiful young Sebastian standing in a sunlit Venice, up against a tree, with five arrows sticking out. A magical work.

Despite my negative comments about the Catholic or Roman Church, I can always appreciate the way the stories and legends have managed to inspire people in art and literature, adding still more levels to the legends as they do.

Highly recommended, this exhibition, but if you want to go you have to be quick-ish, as it ends on 18th June.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Da Vinci Code in Rome

Da Vinci Code, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The Da Vinci Code film is being given a massive advertising campaign in Rome. Very fitting and extremely appropriate, given the accusations made against the Roman Church in the book.

I believe that the book did not sell well here and that even the pope suggested to people not to read it.

I found the book to be an exciting read, if the characters are rather annoying and the plot so unrealistic. But I was very glad that the book was written and has been so widely read because it brings to very large numbers of people the fact that the Romans perverted the course of Christianity by applying a totalitarian regime, similar to what mibght have been seen in Russia and China in the 20th century.

A small committee sat down and decided which books could and could not be read. The state then outlawed anyone with opposing views, often killing them, certainly confiscating and burning books, indeed whole libraries of books, which were not deemed to accord with the official line, they re-wrote existing books to reflect their views, forging whole parts of the nasty parts of the letters of Paul, for example, made up stories to ' explain' inconsistencies in their own texts, and generally re-wrote history.

One of the effects of this was to plunge Europe into ignorance during the so-called Dark Ages, and when real learning came back with the Renaissance, the Church responded with the Inquisition.

We have been thinking of erecting monuments to all those pagans, so-called heretics and anyone else who has been persacuted and murdered in the name of the Roman Church. We always hear so much about the martyrdom-obsessed early Christians who were supposed to have been so persecuted, well maybe it is time to recast history and give time and consideration to those who have suffered from the Church.

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A famous daughter of Rome, born 20 September 1934. Sophia Loren, always one of my favourite actresses and one of the most beautiful women in the world, with her big eyes and beautiful curves.

There was an exhibition of her life's work in Il Vittoriano, where we popped in for a quick visit and discovered that she was also a singer!

Favourite Sophia Loren film: Una Giornata Partiocolare.

Getting water

Getting water, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Thirsty work, walking around Rome.

Piazza di Spagna

Piazza di Spagna, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is a photo of the Spanish Steps, which in May is decked out with bright pink azeleas. Difficult to see the azeleas in this photo as there are so many people.

We have been to Rome many many times and I have never seen it so full of people. I always said that, unlike Florence, Rome is big enough to take all the tourists which can be thrown at it. But no more it seems.

Everywhere one goes, at least in the touristy areas, the city is full. Full of Christians. Full of schoolchildren. Full of Americans. Full of Pakistanis. You cannot see the latter here but they were there, all standing around selling contraband, fake Prada and Gucci bags and belts and sunglasses. People who may or may not have permission to live in Italy selling goods which are almost certainly illegal.

Maybe it is because it is May, and the guidebooks suggest that this is the best month for visiting, that there are so many people. Maybe it is because the previous pope died last year, that gave the city some extra publicity (like Brad and Angelina in Namibia at the moment). Maybe it is the effect of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. But there are lots and lots of Christians around town. They even have their own bus service, which happens to be sponsored by the European Union (strangely enough). Many of them go to see His Holiness, Sister Josephine in the Vatican. He of the red Prada shoes.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Relaxed in Rome

Relaxed in Rome, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Fred is back and I am still there - in Rome, where we have had a very pleasant few days relaxing by wandering around the city, eating and drinking and enjoying the weather.

Lots more to tell, maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The boys are on their way back

Harry, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It was summer today, as warm outside as in the tropical jungle, at Burger's Zoo in Arnhem, about 100 kms to the east of Amsterdam. We all enjoyed ourselves, with Harry seeing the five most wanted being a lion, elephant, hippopotamus, zebra and camel. I enjoyed the great views we had of a family of gorilla's but less enjoued the creepy looking chimpanzees opposite. Some looked bald and others had large pink growths on their backsides. James enjoyed the tropical area and he took many many pictures. I'd like to download some but seem to be unable ot on the computers here today.

This is now the next day, and Diana and the boys have just gone. Feeling a bit lonely so here at internet cafe to catch up on the blog and some e-mails. Need to book some flights too. To Birmingham for the Somaliland independence day celebrations on May 18th and to Gatwick to catch the next flight to Marrakech, to buy the riad... more later.

Today was another scorcher, getting a bit humid towards the end of the day. We spent the morning getting ready and the afternoon at the Flevopark swimming pool, a first for me as I usually go to the Mirandabad, near where I used to live but it is not such a nice cycle ride there. Plenty for the boys to do there, including swimming, just no big slide. Just got a message from them to say that they have made it to departure lounge, after a very slow taxi ride to the airport.

Tomorrow, I go to Rome to join Fred. He went yesterday and seems to be enjoying himself. Seems like we have a very nice apartment near St Peters, for not too much money. He has been looked after by the Cat and stayed up in a bar until, shall we say, quite late, last night! Maybe it'll be as warm there as it is here - 26 degrees today.

It is Remembrance Day today, and there is the annual service with the Queen and the Mayor on the Dam at 20.00 hours, about 40 minutes, so I think I'll cycle up there, maybe take a few pictures. Normally it is a very cool evening. Not this year!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

James on his third glass of (juice)

James on his third glass of grape juice at the Queen's Dinner, organised by local residents, taking place outside our house every year on the evening before Queen's Day. Food is provided by the local shopkeepers and this year Kees and Tom from the Scharrel Slagerij prepared confijt de canard, which was excellent... and they made it for 400 people!

Monday, May 01, 2006

H D and C

H D and C, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is May 1st, about 10 degrees and pouring with rain. A good thing the Dutch chose to celeberate a Queen's Birthday on April 30th than international labour day. Actually, this year iot was 29th April, a Saturday, as we cannot celebrate on a Sunday, (it seems).

Diana and the boys are having fun nin the Mirandabad and I am at an internet cafe, writing a short blog, while my computer is out of action with a configuration error. It took about two hours ot get ready this morning, getting the boys dressed, getting the bikes ready, cleaned, unlocked and ridden to the swimming pool. It is a lot of wiork keeping two yopung men happy, but happy they seem.

Yesterday, we took them to the Tropen Museum, where we could re-trace our steps in Yemen and Syria, with their multi-media, interactive displays.

Later, we watched, as a family, a DVD of The House of the Flying Daggers, a story, eventually about two free spirits, rounding off the evening witwh an interesting discusison with a 12 year old (James) about religion (a little bit in the light of the last blog).

I should say, that the last blog had to do with circumstances as they relate to a good friend of a good friend and his relationship with his parents. I am happy to say that my parents have never tried to influence us religion-wise and I have never suffered any bad consequences or unfair treatment as a result. Thanks, Mum and Dad!

Tomorrow, we can expect sun and 17 degrees, and Wednesady sun and 23 degrees... role on the summer! The boys go back to England on Thursday.

Locations of visitors to this page