Friday, September 29, 2006

All ears

All ears, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Just a quick blog from Paris!

Mum, Nick and I went out on Wednesday to a couple of llocal cider farms and an organic pig farm where we met some Gloucester old spots like these. Business is booming in the world of specialised organic pig breeding and farming and they want to expand. Meanwhile the cider presses were working at full speed trying to cope with all the apples being brought in.

Yesterday, Mum took me to Sidmouth for a day amongst the octogenarians before bringing me to Exeter airport for the trip to Paris. Now staying at a hotel which is near to Notre Dame in the sense that it is IN Paris, but otherwise it is a walk of an hour or so. A nice sunny day today and took my fair share of photos. Off to look for something to eat now.

In the meantime, a big HELLO and THANK YOU to all you who I saw and stayed with in England last week. Hope to be back before too long.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Apples, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Arrived at Mum's yesterday, after a lovely train journey from Clapham Junction, past Woking, Hook, Basingstoke, Salisbury and Sherbourne and some deliciously green countryside to Crewkerne, in time for delicious cheddar cheese sandwich, ate in the back garden, in the sun, under the apple tree.

I had popped out of the station at Clapham Junction to buy myself a copy of Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion, which was so much the book I have been wanting to read. I devoured it on the train and I can thoroughky recommend it. It encourages people to think about their beliefs and make a choice between being theistic (a god believer), agnostic (sitting on the fence) or atheist (a non-believer in a god) and then for the atheists to 'come out', just like gay people come out. Apparently, according to surveys in the US, people have said that they are less willing to vote an atheist into office than a black, a muslim or a gay person. H ereckons that if more people would come out as atheists it would encourage others to do the same. Anyway, I digress.

It wa s alovely sunny day, Mum had het tai chi in the afternoon so went around Crewkerne with my camera taking some shots at the allotment, including these decaying apples which I found on top of the compost heap.

For dinner we had fish pie and mashed potato followed by blackberry and apple crumble, after which we watched the Champions League match weher Manchester United beat Benfica 1-0. It was a lovely day.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Trip to Natural History Museum

Monkey fish, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I left Fiona down in Brighton after our walk with the dogs and took the train up to London, where I had hoped to walk around with my camera and take a few photos before hopping over to Kensington to visit the Natural History Museum. As it turned out, the weather was worse in London that it had been in Brighton, so it was a trip along the excellent Jubilee line ot Westminster and the Circle to South Kensington, our local Underground station from when we had the flat in Chelsea, in the mid-1980's.

It took a while to get my bearings and after a tuna salad ciabatta, I found my way to the Cromwell Road and entered the Natural History Museum for the first time in what might have been 30 years! The skeleton of the dinosaur was still there to greet us and everything seemed, at first glance to be pretty much as I had left it. However, I was to see eventually that the museum has moved away from stuffed animals and boxes of dead insects and butterflies to more interactive exhibits and, of course, dinosaurs. These seem to dominate the museum, and certainly the shop, where it is clear that children seem to have as much fascination for the amazing dinosaurs as they do for living creatures. I was fascinated too at their age.

Well, I could not believe my luck at being surrounded by the very animals about which I had been reading including the salamanders, frogs, sharks, rays, bony fish and, even, lampreys.... all concestors discussed in Richard Dawkins' Ancestors' Tale.. and this was just for a start, as there was also a section upstais about the apes and our more recent ancestry.

However, I was disappointed `to be told that the Darwin Centre was closed and that today, the Monday, there were to be no tours, as was advertised... especially as there seemed to be enough staff standing around in their red uniforms.

Anyway, there was plenty else to gaze at and admire such as the duck-billed platypus, the thylacine, the blue whale and various mammoth skeletons, a section on insects and spiders. It was great seeing all these and understanding better how they are all related and what defines each group. No doubt amongst the men at the Museum about the truth of evolution, facts being presented as facts. And one of the great things about the theory of evolution is that the more one discovers about living organisms, the more the theory of evolution can be used to explain their looks or behaviour or whatever has been observed.

Later I would take a long journey on public transport to Chiswick to spend the evening with my god-daughter and family.

Monday, September 25, 2006

What do our doggies say about us?

I have been around a lot of dogs this weekend and Fiona and I have just taken Thomas to school and taken two dogs for a walk in the park. It was raining so we spent most of the time under a tree chatting with other dofg owners whilst the dogs played amongst themselves.

There is a bit of discussion about dogs today in the media as a five month old baby was killed by two rottweillers at the weekend. The parents and owners of the rottweillers had left their daughter alone in the company of the dogs. The dogs had been trained as guard dogs and used to patrol the roof of the pub where they lived.

The dgos have been killed now and the media is talking about dangerous dogs and whether more breeds ought to be put on the list of banned dogs. However, it is clear in trhis case that the problem was not with the dogs but the stupidity of the parents. How about sterilising the couple to prevent them from bringing more hapless children into the world? Surely a more appropriate measure.

I was walking Bailey, a large male labrador with a penchant for barking loudly. We were walking up the hill to Thomas' school and I could sense that the mothers were a little bit on edge, as I was too. Not a good day for bringing dogs to school. Indeed, Fiona identified a mother who has a rottweiler who had left her dog at home today. Interesting.

Anyway, I will be going up to London soon and will pay a visit to the Natural History Mueseum in Kensington. One of the best in the world and, thanks to the Labour Government, it is free to visit.

Friday, September 22, 2006

In Memoriam - HRM 1926-2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Alzheimer - the Opera

Alzheimer - the Opera, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today is the premiere of Alzheimer - The Opera at the Muziekgebouw aan de Amstel.

The opera has been written by our neighbour Bert Keizer, who is alos a philosopher, writer, journalist and doctor. A busy man. He has spent many years working with old people in old people's homes and has become an expert in their care and various difficult issues surrounding old people, such as death, euthanesia and Alzheimer. He is very direct but full of humanity and has been a big help to certain friends in time of loss.

I was a little shocked to read in various articles which I found about him through search engines that the Americans insist on referring to euthanesia as doctor-assisted suicide. They are always so literal in their use of language but I can't help but think that this term has been developed by the religious fringe to turn people against it.

Anyway, this opera deals with Alzheimer, and, would you believe it, evolution. We were lucky enough to catch a sample of it during the Uitmarkt in Amsterdam about three weeks ago. The music was beautifully sung by some very attractive women and the texts were easy enough to follow.... so we are looking forward to a good evening.

And we wish success to Bert in this new venture of his.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Starfish, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The answer to which two of the three are closest related is of course, the man and the cod. An octopus, or a lobster or a starfish are way way out, all being invertebrates, man and cod being vertebrates.

Another interesting day for evolution as the BBC presented a special report on teh discovery in north-eastern Ethiopia of a fossil of a three year old baby, 3.3 million years old. The news report said some oddthings like talking about humans adn apes, as we ourselves arenot apes... no doubt an example of dumbing down. Anyway, there is an excellent article on the BBC website, under the title of 'Lucy's baby found in Ethiopia'.

In the meantime, I started a Darwinist group on flickr today.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The wonders of nature

A worm, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I was thrilled to read yesterday about the discoveries made in the sea off Irian Jaya/Papua, whereby a team has discovered a number of new species of fish and coral, including a shark which walks under water.

I am slowly getting through Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale, where he goes on a journey back through time, meeting our 'concestors' - common ancestors. It is hard going and a little repetitive but we are now at the stage between land mammals and reptiles. The ebbs and flows of evolution are fascinating and all life on the planet can be explained through its actions.

We were just looking at why humans are relatively hairless and also why we walk to two feet (are bipedal) and here we have a shark, living in teh sea who has decided to walk. One of the often sited critisisms of Darwinistic evolution is that there are no intermediate animals. This is plainly a nonsense argument, as we are all changing in one way or the other and are part of a chain which will last until our extinction brings us to a dead end (like over 99% of species) or evolve into something else. Anyway, here we have it - a perfect example of an intermediate - a walking shark!

We also have an unspectacular, dull brown male wrasse transform into a spectacular blaze of yellow, blue and purple to impress females in their harem and persuade them to mate. Again, a typical Darwinistic phenomenon... the development of extravagant displays of colour as part of the game of sexual attraction... what a male has to do to attract the attention of the females. Like what we see in a peacock, a bird of paradise and even the common blackbird, with his bright yellow beak set against black plumage.


Here is a photo of a worm living in the sand in Dar Es Salaam. I wonder which concestor we share with each other?

As an aside, we were asked in the Blind Watchamler to guess which of the following three species are closest to each other: man, lobster and cod... the answer being, of course.... (see you tomorrow)


Monday, September 18, 2006

"Basket-case" Somalia

There is an excellent article which I found on the Somaliland Times site, but which had first been published in the Economist magazine, which talks about some of the problems facing Somalia, and the Horn of Africa, in particular.

It talks, of course, about the tensions between the Islamists and the Transitional National Government and between Somalia and Ethiopia, the introduction of the Shari'a law and so n.

It also spends a lot of time talking about birth control, family planning and environmental collapse. Our trip to Africa left us in little doubt that one of the biggest problems facing Africans is over-population, as a result of little attention to family planning and birth control. the Economist article mentions that, unbelievably, Tony Blair's report on Africa last year, hardly mentioned population growth. Yet it is clear for anyone to see if one goes to many places in Africa.

The article also mentions a book which I am reading at the moment - Collapse - : How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”, a study of environmentally ruined societies by Jared Diamond (the one of Guns, Germs and Steel). This book looks at past societies which have collapsed in the past, and so often the reason has been environmentla degradation, often caused by over-exploitation of the natural resources, notably trees. I had been reading this book in the context of the West's over-dependence on oil and other raw materials, but, I am afraid to say, I think Collapse looks to be a lot nearer for the people of the Horn of Africa. The natural conditions and weather are harsher and are getting worse.

In the meantime, we hear more horror stories coming from Somalia, like the bomb which went off earlier today with the aim of assassinating the Interim President, but which killed 11 others instead. And there is also the story of the 65 year old Italian nun who was murdered in the capital, Mogadishu, maybe as a response to the Pope's unwise address in Germany last week. And, this coming after the murder, under Shari'a Law of a young man who had converted from Islam to Christianity and so become 'apostate'.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Henk's opening

Today, finally.. the opening of an exhibition of Henk's drawings and paintings, from his three month walk from Amsterdam to Santiago de Compostella in March-June 2005.

The opening can be termed as a great success as there were so many visitors, at least half of them had to spill out and stand in the road or the narrow pavement.

There were 35 drawings/sketches and 3 oil paintings and they were greatly admired and many of them had a red sticker next to them by the end of the afternoon. We had had our eyes on a couple of them but they were sold before we got round to expressing an interest.

I was asked to take some photographs, which I did and I have now put them onto a new special site as follows: Henk Renema. A change from flickr!


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Aleppo photo festival

Aleppo citadel, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We read in the NRC Handelsblad (to which we have just subscribed for six weeks for € 15) that the authorities in Syria have been doing their very best to make it difficult to put on the Aleppo Photo festival. About three Dutch photographers, among many others around the world were asked to submit photos and they have been supported by various charities here, such as the Prins Claus Fund, which seeks to support artisticand cultural achievement in other countries.

However, it seems that the Syrian authorities are very scared of the power of photography and have beeen refusing permisison ofr the festival to take place in any place other than a small gallery in town (not wanting to be accused of stopping it completely). They have also restricted teh amount of post that any Syrian citizen can receive to one parcel a month(apparently) and teh organisers had great difficulties in getting their hands on the photographs which had been submitted. I do not claim to be any expert on the Syrian Government, but after two weeks in the delightful country of Syria, we were baffled by the attitude of the authorities and why they so much seemed to want to cut their country off from the mainstream of the world. Maybe many reasons and I doubt if many of them are very good reasons.

Anyway, we also hear on flickr about various Middle Eastern regimes which ban the site, countries such as Iran and United Arab Emirates, no doubt Saudi Arabia too. It is a testament to the power of photography as well as a monument to the closedness of the societies that things should get so far.

Good luck to the people in the great city of Aleppo and let's hope that as many people go as can fit into the tiny gallery.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Sharia

Burka on the Hogeweg, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

There is a big storm-in-a-teacup discussion going on in The Netherlands at the moment. The Minister of Justice said that if it came to pass that two-thirds of the members of Parliament (what is normally required to change the Constitution) voted to introduce Sharia Law into the country, it should be allowed.

This is a long way from suggesting that this is a possibility, but is a reaction to the leader of his party who want to ban political parties who have it in their programmes to introduce the Sharia Law. This in turn because wholesale introduction of Sharia Law is anti-democratic and goes against various Human Rights treaties to which The Netherlands has signed up. It cannot be right, they say, that a political party can operate within a democratic system if there aim is to eventually break down democracy.

This seems to have been the case in other parts of the world where democracy has led to the wrong results, with people voting for parties addicted to violence, like Hama, Hizbollah, the President of Iran and so on. In this way you have a one-time democracy... it is set up and brings into power a political party who then goes about destroying the democracy through which they achieved power.

Others are saying that the essence of democracy is freedom and debate and that when one starts picking out political parties and ideas and then ban them you are undermining the what democracy is about in the first place.

I am with the latter argument, although ideally there should be some mechanism to protect the minorities from the tyranny of the majority and to protect various values such as the equality of all people under the law.

As an aside to this debate, we have been fed photos from Somalia where the Union of Islmic Courts have introduced Sharia Law into the areas which they control. So yesterday in the Volkskrant we see a picture of a teenage with a sharp knife stabbing the man who killed his father, this man, being on the floor, hands bound and a cloth ovr his head, blood seeping from this chest. Also, photos of women being flogged for selling drugs or committing adultry.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Diyarbakir bomb

Diyarbakir - unruly, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Unfortunately, we had to read yesterday of a bomb attack in Diyarbakir, the Kurdish city in Eastern Turkey, where we were just over a month ago. The bomb went off in a park in the poor part of town and killed 11 people. It was set off by a mobile phone, in all probability.

Too bad to be true and very cowardly, whoever put the bomb there, whether a Kurdish organisation or a Turkish one, wanting to stir up trouble. We cn never be too sure these days, who is doing what to whom.

Hogeweg fountain project

Another lovely late summer's day here. A lot of activity on the street, as a new group arrived to join the men fixing the new sewers, getting ready for the new fountian, now expected in February next year.

It was fun scrambling around the sand amongst all the big machines and bit of brightly coloured heavy metal It felt like being a boy in a sandpit with earthmovers and the like, only these were man-sized and real.

The men were kind enough to let me walk around taking pics until an elderly foreman with a wizened face came up to me asking me what I was doing and suggesting, very clearly, that I was not supposed to be in the sandpit, I mean, working area. A pity. Still it was a nice atmosphere out there in the shade provided by the horse chestnuts (which have not yet been moved) from the warm hazy sun.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Beach time again

Blijburg - looking out, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yes, we are really being treated after the wet August we had. A nice big high pressure system has been hanging around, giving us some beautiful weather these past few days and is even lingering longer than expected.

Yesterday was a good day to return to Blijburg and re-live the days of high summer in early July, when it seemd that Holland had moved 1,600 kms down towards the Mediterranean. There were slightly fewer people, it being a Tuesday and the schools being back, but there was still a great atmosphere down there.

It would just not cool down and it would have been the perfect evening to have stayed and had dinner, but the beach is a little out of the way and Fred was havinga drink in town with Annemiek, so it was a spaghetti nothing (aglio, olia e peperoncino) dinner on the balcony, listening to Marc Almond's Vermin in Ermine and Ali Farka Toure, by candlelight. Sublime.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Fred and Charles

Charles and Fred, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

11th September again, our special day... 22 years since meeting in London, when Fred was on a week's holiday with Ida and I was in London for a couple of days for my work.

It was a nice late summer day, as they used to have in the 1980's before the influence of global warming. It was a Tuesday evening and I had just come back from a two week holiday in Tuscany with my sister Diana. My ears were a bit blocked from the flight and I could hardly hear. However, it was my luck to be sent to London for two days audit of a brewery in Barnes. So, I went up by car (an apple green Mini Metro) to stay with my other sister, Fiona, at our family house on Oakley Street in Chelsea.

Fred in the meantime, was studying at university in Groningen, in northern Netherlands and had come over for a week's holiday in London, with his hosuemate Ida, having enjoyed his previous visits to England. They were staying in Earls Court in West London.

He took Ida to the pub he had visited on a previous visit, where he had spent an enjoyable evning withsome Italian anarchists.

I had gone to the pub to meet up with someone to whom I had previously lent some money. It was a busy evening ass, Earls Court tended to be in the early 1980's and there were not so many seats. I found one which looked free and asked the chap sitting next to it whether it was free. He told me it was, but this didn't stop me from asking him the same question again a few minutes later... and so it all began.....

Happy New Year

Facing the church, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is 11th September, which means that it is New Year in the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This time last year we had just arrived in Asmara late in the evening on the 10th, on a flight from Sana'a in Yemen.

We could hear the singing and chanting of the churchgoers, above the music from the discos all night from our room in the Hotel Khartoum and left very early while it was still dark to find the Cathedral. It was dark and misty and there were crowds of people in white robes, standing outside the church, in the garden, underneath the trees, by the walls, against the walls of the church and also many actually inside, while the priests chanting and prayed. An impressive sight. They would carry on most of the day, while we went back to town and found a cafe for a cappucciono and a pastry, Italian-style.

Anyway, we wish the people of both countries a happy year ahead, despite all the misdeneamours of their governements.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Something of Sophia about her

Something of Sophia about her, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Sophia Loren, that is... a young lady from yesterday's Nine Streets Festival fashion show. All the girls had too much black around the eyes. I know my sister Fiona could have done a much better job... and we will not talk about the clothes, alythough this outfit looked very pretty.

Another beautiful September day here today, even warmer than yesterday. Recovered from a very late night last night, took Angelo to the airport, recovered the two bicycles left in town last night because someone was too drunk to cycle home, sat out on the pavement with Henk, cleaned Fred's racing bike in the afternoon as Robbert and Linda could not make it over from Paris and then went out for a couple of beers and a rather disappointing meal with Howard and Hugo before coming back to watch Dalziel and Pascoe getting involved in some crooked dealings in the horse racing world. Off to bed now, feelong a little tired.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Rode Loper Festival

Rode Loopsters, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This weekend, in Amsterdam-Oost/Watergraafsmeer.

A nice sunny weekend, albeit with a cooling easterly wind. It is dry and it is set to get warmer as we go into the week ahead.

The Rode Loper Festival grew out of a local small festival which had bands marching up and own our street on the same weekend (the second in September) as the Last Night of the Proms, the St Leger and Monumentendag. It is now a very broad cultural festival in our neighbourhood, but one we have fouynd to be very elsuive, not being such cultural types ourselves.

Anyway, after a day in town with our friend Angelo, from Rome, we met up with Bram and Marja at the big red tent on the Linnaeusstraat yesterday evening and enjoyde thre equick bers before going home to eat the leftovers of the day before (a baked pasta recipe with mozarella from Jamie Oliver).

Today, a cycle ride around town, to markets and parks and along canals, coming across another festival in the centre, and a street fashion show. Followed by an evening eating Indonesian food, cooked by Fred, by candlelight, on the balcony, listening to Marc Almond and Led Zeppelin. It is what Septembers are all about!


Friday, September 08, 2006

Early one morning in the Simien Mountains

The latest discovery from the CD archives.

As you can see, it was a cold morning, just like the evening had been cold, almost the minute after the sun had set at 18.00. We were 11,000 feet (3,300 metres) up in the Simien Mountians, of northern Ethiopia.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Happy Birthday, Freddie!

Queen memorabilia, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I am not usually one who goes round celebrating the birthdays of famous people who I do not know, and then not ones who have passed away, but I thought I should pay tribute to the late and great Freddie Mercury, whose 60th birthday it was/would have been yesterday. (I would have posted this yesterday, but the BBC were saying his birthday was on the 6th).

In the pop music world I doubt if there ever was or will be such a perfect entertainer. I was lucky enough to see two Queen concerts at the Empire pool in Wembley in the late 1970's and still have excellent memories of both of them. Putting it into perspective, we now have Madonna as a world pop phenomenon going on year after year, givng sell-out and much-talked about concerts but despite all the props and help she has, she came across totally flat compared with Freddie Mercury. And he had a great sense of humour too.

I have been playing Queen records today, listening to such excellent songs as Somebody to Love, Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, It's Late, I Want It All and We Are The Champions, amongst other gems. How amazing is it that at every big sporting event, we can hear Freddie tingling on his piano, dressed in his black and white leotard, snging We Are The Champions? Amazing.

Happy Birthday, Freddie!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Losing my Madonna virginity

Marc Almond at Summer Rites, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

August seven years ago, in 1999 was also very cloudy and wet. Fred and I went on a camping holiday to Cornwall, where we just managed to get some decent weather while the rest of Europe was suffering from flooding and so on. We timed our visit for the solar eclipse, which was going to be at its maximum in Cornwall.

However, on the way there, we drove through incessant rain, down to Calais and then up to South London for Summer Rites in Broxton Park. Marc Almond was due to perform and we were due to meet up with a bunch of Marc fans.

Fortunately, by the time the afternoon arrived, it started to clear up and we had a nice time wandering around, seeing friends, having adrink or two before Marc was due on stage. He had just a year before strated on his slow smokey sounding Open All Night album, giving six concerts in a row in the Almeida theatre, of which I attended about five, including one with my nephew Thomas who was not yet three at the time!

Anyway, for festivals, Marc had an up-tempo set, these days usually culminating in a bouncy version of his 1989 hit Tears Run Rings (the angels sigh, the little girls cry, tears run rings around my eye), complete with as many sexy Latin dancers as he could get his hands on, followed by a teary sing-along Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.

These days, I would be right up at the front jumping up and down, ecstatic to see my great hero, now with a camera to sneak a phot every now and then.

Last night I gate crashed someone else's party... namely the second Madonna concert in Amsterdam Arena. I had planned only to go to take some photos of the fans and the Christian protesters, but I noticed a lot of worried people waving around the tickets which they were trying desperately to sell. I did nto have so much money apart from the scrunched up 50 euro note I had been carrying around me for the past few days. Eventually a cross-eyed Czech girl with pretty red hair and pigtails agreed to part with her 90 euro ticket for what I could find in my trouser pockets and I was off to see Madonna!

Losing my Madonna virginity, I was treated to an entertaining show, with very loud and excellent music, great lighting, imaginative videos, sexy Latin dancers (reminding me so much of that day back in 1999) and of course, Madonna herself.

She's a bit older than she used to be and she has never had the best of voices, but she still did very well. Goodness knows what she has done to her body, because she used to be quite rounded and now looks to have lost half the flesh around her hips. She lets the dancers do most of the dancing for her and when she takes a break she puts on a multi-media spectacular video/music/dance show.

My only gripe is that during Like A Virgin, one of the few old hits which she performed, she showed a very nasty video of horses falling in cross country and steeplechase events, even going so far to repeat, fast forward and fast reverse what were really not very nice scenes. I really didn't see the point at all, especially as during the first song she showed us a video of very very beautiful horses and had two big pink horses as her logo for the concert. Oh well, maybe she was trying to make a statement, not her first of the evening (we even had "We want peace", "we don't want war" and other such banal comments). Better to stick to what you are good at lady.....


Monday, September 04, 2006

Moulin Rouge, reaching for the sky

Five years ago to the day (well yesterday)... the UK premiere of Moulin Rouge at the Odeon Leicester Square..... and as one of the film's biggest fans, I was lucky enough to be invited. A Royal Charity Premiere, in aid of the Prince's Trust, in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales.

It started off with a Fanfare, from the Thames Fanfare Brass, the the National Anthem and then the Film, after which the National Anthem would not be played. Onto the stage came the director, Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce and the main actors, Nicole Kidman, ewan McGregor, Jojn Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh.

And then the film..... what a film..... there could hardly ever be a more perfect film for me..... loud and colourful, a film about Beauty, Freedom, Truth and, above all, LOVE, a musical, a comedy, a tragedy.

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return"

I had already seen it three times before the premiere when I was in California for my work. It had been a very hard year end close with working almost around the clock for many days, so once the pressure was off, it was time to fianlly see the film. I was blown away by the film in the first few seconds and was totally taken into the world of the Moulin Rouge. And I went back the next day for more and the following for yet more.

I would eventually see the film about 14 times at the cinema, with friends and almost all members of the family and I would never cease to be emotionally involved with the characters. Of course, the DVD followed and the books and the posters and films stills and the music score, biographies of Ewan McGregor and so on and so forth... but nothing can beat seeing the film in a large cinema with an excellent sound system in the company of a good friend.

After the premiere there was a party in the East End of London, which was rumoured to have cost over a half a million pounds. They had set up a large pink elephant and a red windmill, they had brought over can-can dancers from Paris, created green absinthe-looking cocktails, invited snake charmers and sex-dwarves and just created the most excellent space for a party.

By the end of the evening, emboldened by drink and with a VIP card in my hand, I managed to get to speak to both Baz Luhrmann and Kylie Minogue, telling Baz just how excellent and, indeed, important the film was to me, and telling Kylie that I thoght her next single (Can't Get You Out Of My Head) was much better than that the the Spice Girls and that it would surely get to number one (this was the major issue with which the British tabloids were busy in these days).

It was an excellent evening and the next day, I was there with my camera taking photos of the posters being taken down in Leicester Square.

The first Sunday in September

Blijburg - sandstorm one, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Two festivals today - both on Blijburg - the first a children's theatre festival and the other a Dream Festival. They wanted 15 euro's entrance money for the latter and in the time I was there photographing the windsurfers there appeared to be more performers arrived than public.

The wind was very strong all day, a very warm and moist wind, although it did not actually rain. Ijburg is being built on sand and there is a lot of loose sand which meant frequent sandstorms coming our way.

Tomorrow we are promised more sun and for the first time since we have been back the percentage chance of sun for the coming days is higher than the percentage chance of rain. Hopefully, the good weather will hold for next week's festival - the Rode Loper festival in our neighbourhood.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Another summer festival in Amsterdam

Looking around, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yesterday, there was a Moroccan music festival in Sloterpark, called 7ouma, way out in Amsterdam West. I had arranged to go there with GeertJan, a friend I have recently made here in Amsterdam. We were to meet up, have a coffee, catch a tram and go to take some photos, this being another in a series of festivals we have been having in Amsterdam recently.

Neither of us having much experience of Amsterdam further west than the ring and there being places called Sloten, Nieuwe Sloten, Slotervaart and Sloterdijk and Sloterpark, it was all a bit difficult to know exactly where we should go. I always had the feeling that the number 2 goes out west so we alighted, only to be told that we were on teh wrong tram and that we should pick up the number 7 at Leideseplein, wich we did, after a short wait. The tram was fairly full of Moroccans so we thought we must be onto something. However, most of them had hopped out by the time we had finished with the Kinkerstraat and soon we were into unknown territory beyond the ring road.

Eventually, the tram came to the endpoint which seemed pretty well much in the middle of nowhere, quite near a park but not much else. the conductor said that our festival was probably beyond 'that' hedge and we could hear music, so we set off. Already it seemed a lot coler out here than it had been in the city, it was grey and getting darker and a wind was brewing up. And so began what must have been a good 2-3 kilometer trek to the other side of the park, round the lake and past the fountain. I had known this park from 10 km runs I used to do here, normally running a good time through the woods, along the paths and round the big grey lake.

It was clear that the weather was taking a turn for the worse and from a distance it didn't look like there were more than 10 or 20 people at the stage, a big disappointment, no doubt for the first-time organisers of this event. Anyway, there was some children's festival, with art clases, outdoor Turkish cinema, candy ladies and a man from the telly. Time for a beer and a couple of photos before proceeding in the drizzle to the music satge, water streaming off the roof now. There might have been about 60 people there listening and dancing to the live music, provided by Orchestre Abderrahim, so we photographed as best we could in the circumstances before catching the number 17 tram, which stopped right next to the stage and brought us back in no time to the centre, from where I cycled home, just in time to have a warm shower before welcoming Henk to his birthday dinner, cooked by Fred.


Candy ladies

Candy ladies, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.


Friday, September 01, 2006


Lean, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I am going to look like this chap in a couple of month's time... why?.... because I just joined a gym and they have made all sirts of promises about burning fat, getting into better shape, strengthening one's heart and lungs and so on... so apart from the skin colour, I fully expect to look like this.... although I promise not to walk down the street, showing off like this man!

It is 1st September today and that meant I could join the Sport City gym, in the old Renault garage by the Amstel Station for free, albeit having to commit to being a member for 12 months. Our neighbour Monique goes there and recommended it.

it was good... all sorts of apparatus in a very roomy light environment, all very well looked after. Friendly and helpful staff. I warmed up on the rowing boat machine and was then invited to join the hourly stomch and back muscle exercise group for a 15 minute session before finishing off with a sirt of langlauf machine. I could tell what my heart beat was, how fast I was going and what distance I had covered, which is sort of interesting and a good way to pass the time, if not watching both Disciovery Channel and Eurosport on the wide screens in front of me. To be a good fitnesser though, I think one needs an i-pod as I spotted a lot of these and really the music they were playing over the loud speakers was pretty awful ... disco mixes of dreadful American 1970's soft rock. Urgh!

Anyway, I was expecting the exercise machines to be the trickiest part of the whole business, but that was not the case. no, there is the tricky busines of inserting your ID card into the locker the right way round, changing clothes and gym shoes, filling my bidet (or was it bidon?) adn then doing everything in reverse when finished. I had no soap or gel for the shower and my towel was wet already from the sweat, not to mention my underpants, a spare set of which I forgot to take and so on. Putting on clothes when half wet and a bit sweaty is not an easy task and something which needs time, more time in fact than the exercising. And then there is the business of taking everything out and washing/drying everything when back home. I remember school when I would take my spirts clothes to school at the start of the term and bring them back at the end, and I understand better why we were not allowed to do PE or sport wearing underpants... just imagine!

No doubt it will all get easier as time goes on.... and on Monday I have an introductory session to assess what sort of program will be best. Better write a list of all the things I need before I go.

It IS September now and it means that bthe sun is allowed to come out again. Amsterdam is proving yet again that it is ALWAYS in the wrong part of Holland for the sun, but finally it is starting to peep through the blanket of greyness above us. Here's to a fabulous late summer and autumn!

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