Saturday, March 31, 2007

Happy 75th Birthday, Dad!

Dad at fifty, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I know you are not exactly celebrating it today, but we hope you have a lovely day. We look forward to seeing you again in County Wexford in Ireland in June for the opera. It will be good to see you ad Breda and also to visit the land of the Mernaghs.

Here is a photo from the hills above Tontenano in 1982, when you had just turned fifty. You are wearing exactly the same sort of clothes that I wear and in exactly the same way, just my lambswool jumper is more burgundy colour than yours.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Peach blossom

Peach blossom, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here is a photo of a peach blossom, from the tree in front of the house. We planted the tree last year to take the place of a vine which had been poisoned due to the cleaning chemicals which had been sprayed on the facade of the house next door.

It will be interesting to see how many peaches, if any, we manage to harvest, come late summer.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mischievous Magpies

Polderweggebied, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

There was a charming article in the local newspaper yesterday evening about how a major re-development project in Utrecht is going to be held up becuase of a few magpies. I am not the greatest fan of magpies myself as I have seen their numbers increase, seemingly at the expense of the smaller song birds in the gardens. Indeed, it was a magpie which destroyed the nest and killed our blackbird family almost a year ago.

Anyway, back to Utrecht where they are wanting to develop and re-develop the area around the railway station. Included in this project is an area of land which at present has trees on it. The developers want to cut down the trees to make space for their heavy equipment, but they have not yet received permission from the local council to do so, although it seems that the local council is very willing to have the trees cut down, a sthey are in favour of the development project.

Well, despite the fact that the trees were drastically pruned a couple of months ago to stop this from happening, it turns out that the magpies have started nesting in the trees. And the law expressly forbids the cutting fo trees in which birds are nesting, even birds as evil as magpies. Somehow these birds managed to find places to build their nests and, as things stand, the trees will not be allowed to be cut down until the babies have fled the nests, holding the whole project up for a couple of months. Excellent!

The photo here is of an area behind our house, the other side of the Ringdijk canal where they hve been working for the past 2-3 years to clean the soil of all the pollution with which it has been contaminated, preparing the area for building nice new modern flats and shops, bars and restaurants, sports facilities and so on as well as restoring the facades to some of the 19th century industrial buildings which stood on the site. It was a real mess before and hopefully we will have something wonderful when the project is completed at the end fo next year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Arab Slave Trade

Zanzibar, sold now as a tropical island paradise for honeymooners, was a major transit point for African slaves being sent to Arabia. The slaves were transported in dhows like this one, sailing out of Stone Town harbour.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Child Slavery

The Child Slavery documentary on BBC last night was an icredible achievement, very well made, emotional and thought povoking. Very sad, but hopeful. The presenter, Rageh Omaar, allowed the children to speak for themselves most of the time and tell their, quite often, horrific stories. You could tell from their voices that these were broken people, broken by the conditions under which they had to live. One was frequently moved to tears, listening to them.

This is slavery which we have in our world today and yet it goes almost unseen, unheard and unreported, until a programme like this one.

More later...

Monday, March 26, 2007


Slave chambers in Zanzibar, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

On 25 March 1807, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed by the British Parliament, 200 years ago yesterday. This momentous event is being marked in various ways in Britain and, probably, elsewhere in the world. As usual, the BBC has an excellent site dealing with many aspects of the slave trade and its abolition and this can be found on this link.

This evening, the BBC will be showing a programme made by Rageh Omaar, a fellow Somalilander, about the modern slave trade, in its many forms, from child prostitution (in where other than Cambodia?), young Yemeni children being sold to beg on the streets of Saudi Arabia, to children sold to fishermen in West Africa. He also contrasts this with a young chap from near Hargeisa in Somaliland who is tending the family goats. He doesn't go to school but he could and he is well treated. For sure he is a child worker, but this is very different from the modern day slavery which the other children have to put up with.

It is an excellent thing to remember our past and to commemorate events such as the abolition, but it is always a good idea to focus on what is going on now. I think that we in the West so much associate slavery with the transatlantic slave trade, with black slaves being sold by African kings to European sailors who pack them into cramped ships and send them off to the Americas, that it might make it difficult to see and understand the slavery which goes on in our midst.

Hopefully, these commemorations will help us see better what is going on now and may motivate us to do something about it.

They say that the European Union, which just celebrated 50 years with a big expensive party for politicans and civil servants in Germany this weekend, is looking for new challenges to increase its popularity and relevance to European citizens. Well, wouldn't a stated objective to try to eradicate and combat slavery be one such way to achieve this? A commitment to fair trade, to refuse products which have been produced using slaves and to help developing countries eradicate child slavery within their countries and so on.... How about it? We might not achieve the eradication of slavery but we could certainly ebable to reduce it and it is a noble aim.

The photo here is of some slave chambers on Zanzibar, an island which for centuries played a big part in the transportation of slaves from the African mainland.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

We have a fountain!

Yes, indeed, after 75 years without a fountain in our square, we now have one, it being officially started yesterday. The local council, who paid for it, with some of the two milion guilders they 'found' in the treasury a few years ago, organised a great street party with musicians, entertainers, food and wine and beer and speeches. Hundreds of people turned up from all corners of the neighbourhood, and further afield, yesterday afternoon, when the sun also made a late but very welcome appearance. The photo here shows a group of maori drummers, beating out a rain dance to greet the imminent switching on of the water spouts.

There was a book published which told us how the project started twenty years ago by some local people who were intrigued by the fact that when the area was built, there was a fountain in the square. This fountain was removed in 1932 because it no longer worked and in order to create more space for cars. This resulted in the 'square' becoming an ordinary road junction and losing its function as an area where local people could meet and pass the time of day with each other.

The fountain is a modern design, inspired by a fountain in Milan. They had previously tried to find the original iron fountain in any one of the depots of the local councils, but it could not be found. They thought about a replica, but that was going to cost too much money, so they decided on this modest but elegant modern design. The base is made of two circles of pink-ish granite, beautifully sculpted, one on top of the other, with water spouts and floodlights coming out of the one in the middle. The granite came from and was sculpted in northern China (where it is cheaper), whilst the technical aspects of the fountain were left to a German company. It is an 'intelligent' fountain, which can adjust the height of the water spouts on the basis of the strength of the wind and it will switch itself off when the temperature is below 5 Centrigrade, to prevent any chance of the water freezing and damaging the system.

It is really quite amazing to think that we now really do have a real fountain in a beautiful square, just outside the house. It is a great example of what can be done by a group of people with a good idea and a determination to reach their goal. Public spaces are important, probably more so with the increased amount of alienation and individualism there is in modernday western society. Whereas not every street can expect to have its own fountain, I am sure there are substantial benefits to be had from devoting more attention to the provision and maintenance of public spaces.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hello Richard!

Mekong Delta - Richard, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Hello Richard, here is a little reminder of where we were four months ago, having a nice time on the Mekong Delta, our first experience of Vietnam, under bright sunny skies. It seems as if our winter here is coming to an end and from tomorrow we can expect nice warm-ish spring weather. Not sure what is going on in your neck-of-the-woods. Anyway, I am missing you and I hope that all is well with you. I will write to you soon. Lots of love, Charles

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ubique - remembering Somaliland

Illustrating the point I made yesterday about Somaliland deserving our support, here is a quote from a debate in The House of Commons in 2004:

The people of Somaliland have worked extremely hard to rebuild their country and community, and they deserve our help and support. Somaliland supported this country during the Second World War. It is worth recalling that 91,000 Italian troops, together with 200,000 local troops raised by the Italians, confronted 9,000 soldiers, mainly from the Somaliland Scouts and the Somaliland Camel Corps. The BBC documentary, "The Second World War", reported that the Italians

"were held at bay for four days"

and that our troops had

"inflicted over 2,000 casualties at a cost of around 250 men."

The documentary concluded:

"Furthermore, the impression that their defence left on the Italians would greatly influence future actions."

The people of Somaliland stood shoulder to shoulder with us in the past and, as the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said, they have done everything asked of them. They have had free and fair presidential and municipal elections. When we addressed both their Houses of Parliament and said that they would need parliamentary elections, there was no dissent. They said that they had to address some issues to achieve that, but that they want to do so. If ever a community deserved long-term development assistance, it is the people of Somaliland.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

(Very) disappointed with the British Government

Hargeisa - camel herdsman, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair received a petition asking:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Recognise Somaliland as a sovereign state."

Details of petition:

"Somaliland's population have succeeded in creating a working democracy in the north of theSomalia. Yet their attempts at gaining internatonal recognition have fallen on deaf ears."

His pitiful and spineless response was published today and is as follows:

"The Government does not recognise Somaliland as an independent state, neither does the rest of the international community. The UK has signed up to a common EU position and to many UN Security Council Presidential Statements, which refer to the territorial integrity and unity of Somalia. Nevertheless, the UK is aware of the position of the Somaliland authorities and of opinion within Somaliland. Our policy has long been that the Somalis themselves should determine their future relationship and that their neighbours and African countries should take the lead in recognising any new arrangements which emerge from any dialogue.

The Government has urged Somaliland and the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia to engage in dialogue so that a mutually acceptable solution for their future relationship can be agreed. We are also encouraging the AU to explore the issue further with the parties and key players in the region."

I will no doubt come back o this, but where is the leadership on this issue? The UK was quite happy to go on its own course in respect to Iraq, why not with Somaliland? After all, we owe Somaliland for the help they gave the UK in the First and Second World Wars. A plaque in Marble Arch is not enough.

The Prime Minister here talks about the Somalis sorting the issue out amongst each other but does not a 97% vote in favour of independence by the people of Somaliland count? And who is to represent the rest of Somalia where there is no accountable or accepted, let alone elected government of Somalia, and there hasn't been one for many eyars. In fact, we cannot expect such a government to form in the foreseeable future, especially given the recent escalation in violence in Mogadishu, where dead and mutilated bodies have been pulled through the streets, in scenes reminiscent of Achilles and Hector during the Trojan War.

This is a shameful neglect o Britain's historical duty to the people of Somaliland and I think we should be ashamed of ourselves. In the meantime, we are quite happy to pat ourselves on the back for being instrumental in ending the international slave trade 200 years ago, a trade in which the Brits and the French made more money than anyone else. Instead of looking back, let us see what positive things we can achieve now.

I am very disappointed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A day with a Travelcard

Westway to the World, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Last day in London today, as I am back off to Amsterdam this afternoon to attend a couple of job interviews. I had a ' free day' yesterday, another cold windy day with sun and hail/snow showers. I bought a Travelcard at Notting Hill Gate and took the Central Line as far as I could go to the east, ending up in Mile End. I have never really spent any time in the East End, just having driven through it on my way to Dover and I suppose I was looking for the Eastenders.

I was a bit disappointed to find low level estates and parks with views across to Canary Wharf down south. No bustling markets, in fact hardly anybody about. Lots of 1960's and 1970's architecural disasters and a lot of emptiness, little soul. maybe I got out at the wrong stop, but the whole area seemd like this. I ended up walking down the negelcted Regent's Canal down to the Thames, by which time the 1960's had given way to the 1990's with its Docklands dwellings, around a harbour full of old colourful wooden barges and millionaires luxury yachts. Life just as sterile as the estates I had been through before, just a lot more expensive and, no doubt, some better views.

I was now in Limehouse and after wandering around an area full of the smells of curry, I got onto the Docklands Light Railway to Bank, a very quick and convenient journey from Docklands, through the east End to the City. Having been thinking of perhaps looking for a job in the City I was very interested ot see what I would make of it there. It reminded me an awful lot of the times I used to come up to the City in the mid-1980's during my days at Thomson McLintock, visiting the London office or attending training courses. The City reminded me nothing more than a public school, the streets full of men in expensive dark suits and smart shirts and ties, no doubt purchased with their fat cat bonuses. It was as if it was break time and the schoolboys had been let outside. I didn't feel inclined to knock on the door of the first recruitment agency I came across.

After the City another walk out east, in what was now bright sunshine on my way to Brick Lane, where I thought I might find a colourful market. However, there was no market just a Little India community, with all streets having their names written in the Hindi script, Brick Lane full of Indian, Balti and Bangladeshi restaurants. Interesting, but not exactly what I was expecting and certainly not so photogenic.

After a long walk in what seemed to be a northerly direction I managed to find a bus to take me to Liverpool Street, previously well frequented as the gateway to Holland, with the train ride to Harwich, the long ferry journey to Hoek van Holland and then another train to Groningen to find Fred in the 1980's. London buses have changed a lot since those days and none more so than the last few years where they have got rid of the charming hop-on hop-off buses. Now, no doubt due to the Health and Safety fascists which have infected almost every aspect of public life. I sat by the exit door, as it was a short journey - normally I go to the top floor and sit at the front for the best view. I wish I had this time because, whereas before we had an open door at the back of the bus we now have doors which are opened by the driver once the bus has reached its bus stop and doors which emit a painful squeaky, bleeping sound to announce ot passengers that they are open. I hate these (and many other bleeps, such as mobile phones ringing) and I really cannot understand why we need these sounds ot let us klnow the doors are open. For the blind people on the bus? I have no idea. Political correctness gone mad.

From Liverpool Street it was a direct journey on the Metropolitan line to Latimer Road station, near to Fiona's shop, on the way to which I passed under the Westway, here on the photo. It turns out that at Christmas in 1979, The Clash gave two surprise concerts at a small hall around here. I would see them a fwe days later in Aylesbury and it would be one of the best concerts I had ever been to.

No Travelcard was necessary to find my friend Lucy in the evening, as Fiona lent me her car. The streets of London are a LOT freer now that there is this eight pound congestion charge and it was a quick journey down to Chiswick.

Time now to be finding Fiona and getting myself off to Heathrow for my seven pound flight back to Amsterdam..... a flight which is cheaper than bringing a car into London for the day.

The Green's hidden agenda

Cider barrels, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Fiona has just gone out and taken Thomas to school and will be going on to her shop - Dotty Dot at 67a St Helen's Place in London W10 - and left the TV on. I am sitting here imn my pyjamas with ahlf an ear on BBC morning television and we have a programme telling us a sad story from Lightwater in Surrey.

It turns out that there were some recycling bins in the centre of the village near the supermarket. These recycling bins were very popular among the good folk of Lightwater, so popular that they were regularly filled to over-flow, whereby people would leave their waste NEXT to the bins instead of IN the (full) bins. The supermarket manager mentioned this to the local council, with an appeal to empty the bins more quickly such that the rubbish would not build up around the bins.

What did the council do? Did they respond by saying they would empty the bins more regularly? Not at all.... they removed the bins. Silly, silly people..... so now the chap from the BBC is trying to contact the council for an explanation... we'll see....

In the meantime, my Mum told me that she has received a flyer from her local Somerset Green Party, on which was included a ten point plan on Going Green. The first three points were the normal, switching off electronic appliances, energy-saving lamps and taking public transport. Point number was quite a surprise..... none other than a tip to DRINK ORGANIC CIDER, there being no better use for the apples for which Somerset is famous. Sounds fun!

Whilst on the subject of cider, I have to say that I have seen an awful lot of advertising for a brand of Irish cider. On the TV, on advertising boards and in the pubs. I keep saying to myself ' is the world really waiting for Irish cider, especially when we have such excellent cider in this country?' Of course, we don't, but what we are seeing is yet another mutli-national (probably Diageo) trying to create demand for a product from which they can make a lot of money from people who had no intention of buying that product in the first place..... and it is not even organic!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Young men being stabbed and killed almost weekly now in London

As mentioned earlier, another youth was stabbed in London, this time a young man from Plaistow in East London, when last week there was a lad down in Hammersmith in West London who was stabbed to death. Previously, most of the stabbings were in South London.

There was an interesting article on the BBC news last night, where 800 pupils of a comprehensive school signed a 'No Knives' petition. An expert,a previous gang member was asked why it is that so many young people turn to gangs and he mentioned that often the children came from difficult home situations and were maybe bullied at school. The gang is seen to offer them an identity and security and protection from the bullies. This is a clear sign that bullying is a very very serious issue and, given the growth in the number of gangs, probably the schools are failing very badly in tackling bullying.

There are organisations like ChildLine to which children can turn when they are being bullied but I have not seen any forum to help people where the school is failing to deal with bullying. They all seem to assume that a teacher is to be trusted and that any school will take bullying seriously. This appears not to be the case. In some cases, it can even be the teacher who is being the bully. In cases like this, people tend to pull rank and defend each other, leaving the victim even more helpless.

The UNICEF report naming the UK as the developed country where children are the unhappiest identified bullying as a very serious problem. It is a national tragedy and we now are seeing the results on the estates of London on a weekly basis. Terrible.

Dotty Dot, 67a St Helen's Place, London W10

I spent most of yesterday taking photos of Fiona's shop, Dotty Dot in Notting Hill/Ladbroke Grove area of West London.

It is a children's shop selling clothes and toys, of mostly exclusive ranges which Fiona has picked out very well. It was a Monday and the weather outside was a mixed bag of wind, sun, hail and rain and there were not so many customers, so a good day to be moving things around and taking photos. First for a publicity leaflet and also for a website which my Mum is designing. There is a galery of shots on this picasa site here.

Otherwise, not having the best of times here in London and it is very disturbing to read so often about young men being stabbed to death, an aspect of gang warfare, probably to do with drug dealing. Britain might be a rich country, but my goodness it has some problems and finds it very difficult to deal with them. I hae also been involved with some aspects of bullying at school and I have not heard from anyone who has said that the school has dealt with such bullying in a satisfactory way. Very sad.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The daffodils in St James' Park

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Just how good is Kauto Star?

Kauto Star with connections, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, the sixth major race in a row he has won this season. He beat the best over the minimum distance of two miles, won the King George over three and now the Gold Cup over three-and-a-quarter. He has had the best season of any racehorse for probably forty years, since the great Arkle.

The question is just how great a race horse is Kauto Star? Some would like to have him as the best since Arkle, whilst others will say that he has only dominated one season and to be considered amongst the real greats, he will need to win major races in the next two seasons as well. It all depends on what one looks for and values and makes for endless hours of debate.

I will have him at the higher end of the scale for the reason that in thirty years of following the sport, I have never known a racehorse to dominate the season in such a way, beating all comers at all distances. On the official figures there may be other horses which have achieved a higher rating, possibly through one or two exceptional performances. I value consistency very highly and winning six major races tells me a lot more than an ' official' assessment of individual performances.

So, I will have Kauto Star better in my book than the likes of Burrough Hill Lad or Moscow Express who had high ratings, but who were less consistent or raced at just one distance. This leaves us with Desert Orchid who raced for many seasons at various distances, finally winning his Gold Cup in the mud and gloom of 1989, and Best Mate who won three Gold Cups, but who did not have very full seasons, his campaigns being primed at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Both horses captured the public's imagination, something which Kauto Star has not yet done, which is why we need to see him back in the coming years, running and winning at the highest levels.

As for my fancies, My Will and L'Ami, both ran disappointingly, the ground not being soft enough for either of them. I have had my worst Cheltenham betting-wise for about seven years, the main consolation being that I did not put too much money on all those horses who lost.

The joy of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Kauto Star

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A day in London

Commemorating the war dead, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Quickly,as we are runing late for a party this evening at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, near Kew Gardens. We are staying at Fiona's and Fred and I have spent the day wandering around Central London, going from Westbourne Grove, down to Queensway, across Hyde Park to the Albert Hall, a bus to Marble Arch, walking down the Mall to Whitehall and spending the rest of the afternoon around Trafalgar Square. Time enough to have a look at the Midlands National to see Take The Stand run well for most of the journey at 50-1 before tiring in the closing stages. For once, when it didn't really matter he didn't make any jumping errors.

More tomorrow.

Ambulance funded by Comic Relief for the Group Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland

This ambulance was shown on BBC this evening as part of their Comic Relief effort. It is housed at the Hargeisa Group Hospital in Hargeisa, where I was born and was provided by funds raised by Comic Relief. They also showed film of the hospital wards, patients and staff, showing how the money raised helps people in Africa. It was Billy Connolly who was there, wandering around the ward, saying that Somaliland was not the healthiest country in the world. Hmmmm... maybe not the healthiest place, and it coukld certainly do with better medical care but it is certainly not the unhealthiest country in the world. So great to hear the name Somaliland being mentioned.

It is a great effort by the comedians of the UK to raise money for good causes in the UK and Africa and there are many great comedy moments created during a long evening if fund raising on BBC. We had Catherine Tate serving coffee and biscuits to a busy Tony Blair in 10, Downing Street as a young job seeker and later we can look forward to the cast of Little Britain.

One less nice aspect of Comic Relief is the way they use images of sick Africans to boost the amount of money being pledged, combined with the promise that the money raised will help these people get better. To a certain extent it will, but these images encourage the idea that that everything in Africa is bad and that Africans are waiting for our help to make them better. A more balanced approach would, of course, be better.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cheltenham Gold Cup Day

It is the third Friday in March and for the last three eyars, when the race was moved from Thursday to Friday, this means that it is Cheltenham Gold Cup Day. The sun is shining, the daffodils are out in their yellow abundance, the tits are chirruping outside, a dog is barking, but otherwise their is a lovely morning calm, as if everything is quietly anticipating the drama which will unfold on the Cotswolds at 3.15 this afternoon.

I mentioned earlier that this is like 2005 all over again, and certainly we seem to have a repeat of the weather, although it'd be quite a few degrees cooler this year, I will have lots money on the previous days of the Festival but am eagerly anticipating a good show from my selection, My Will, whilst also ready to salute Kauto Star as the new Champion. If I get into the racecourse, that is...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Inglis Drever again!

Here is a photo of Inglis Drever, his jockey, his trainer and his owner, just after he won the world Hurdle for the second time this afternoon. He won it two years ago but was injured last year, so it was a tremendous achievement to come back and win again.

I am now at my friend Philip's and he is out at a council meeting. I was here two years ago, spending teh day with him and he had a free one pound bet from the local newspaper so he put it on Inglis Drever as Inglis sounds a lot like his partner's name, Ingelin. Sure enough, the horse won and Philip picked up his three pound prize money.

This year he had three such voucehsr so we all went into Ladbrokes and placed each pound on Inglis Drever to win again. This time, things did nto look good as Inglis Drever started off towards the back and needed strong riding from his jockey to keep up with the pace. However, the big favourite Black Jack Ketchum had already fallen and as the runners turned into teh final bend, Inglis Drever was hot on the leaders tails and sure enough he came up to win, going to teh final set of hurdles. Philip will be picking up fifteen pounds tomorrow, his odds being 5-1.

No such luck for me, my fancy Kasbah Bliss, coming a gallant fifth, after Too Forward had come last (these two horses being part of my ante-post plan, as mentioned on this blog. A bit of a pity is that fact that a rainer, Ferdy Murphy has had five runners at the meeting. I have backed three and they have come 6th, 4th and fallen (when coming to win or at least get placed) hilst the two I did not back both won - at 50-1 and 20-1. Hmmmm.....

It is nto only been me. It has been a very difficult Cheltenham to win at this year and the favourites in particular have done very badly, with two big favourites in the main races having fallen and the other not having run his race. At least I have been losing my money on outsiders, most of whom have run reasonably well, without quite winning or getting a place,

Still, it has been great fun, as usual, being out there under Cleeve Hill, watching the horses parading, getting saddled, going out, running their races and coming back, all sweaty, to cheers if they have won or been placed and to a wet unsaddling area whne they have not. It is quite remarkable how before a race, every horse is a potential champion or winner and by the time the race has been run, a large number of them have become near-anonymous also-rans.

Tomorrow, it is Gold Cup Day, the main day of the Festival where Kauto Sar has the chance to prove himself to be the best racehorse we have seen, in terms of consistent achievement in one season, if he wins the Gold Cup. Quite often, when this situation occurs, we find out that fater all, the horse in question is not such a great champion, horses being anmals and not machines, all subject to ups and downs and good days and bad days. It'll be great of he manages it, and then does it all again next season. If not, then I am hoping that either one of my fancies, My Will and L'Ami will win, my confidence dented by the fac that the ground has dried out so much these last few days.

The first thing to do is actually to get into Cheltenham racecourse, as it turns out that I do not, after all, have a ticket, and all such tickets have been sold. I will forst try to see if there are any returned tickets and, if not, I will chance my luck with a ticket tout. Unfortunately, I have a bad experience to relate, namely that the one time I did buy a tocket from a tout, was the year they introduced infra-red checking of the tickets, my ticket failing the test, and the tout having disappeared into the milling crowds. I spent a very frustrated afternoon, walking around the perimeter fence, with my transistor radio held to my ears to catch the commentary, whist at the same time trying to hold the binoculars to my eyes so I could see what was going on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A path through the woods

A path through the woods, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here is a photo of the woods just above Mum's house, going up Brincombe Hill, looking a bit like the path on which the hobbits had their first encounter with a Black Rider in the Fellowship of the Ring. This wood is home to badgers, some of whom come down ot the garden at night scrimmaging around for food.

It is another lovely sunny day today and soon Mum will be taking me to Taunton from where I will take a hire car to get me to Cheltenham ofr the races. It is Champion Chase day today, but I am afraid that I have looked through the whole card and I cannot say that any of the horses provide me with much enthusiasm, none of my favourite horses will be running and none of my favourite trainers having particularly favoured runners.

No ante-post bets today, but a horse I would like is Aces Four at 25-1 in the Sun Alliance Chase, where I think the 5-4 favourite Denman could easily be beaten.Otherwise it might be nice to see the 8-1 favourite of the Coral Cup, Burntoakboy win for his small trainer.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Fallen Giant

The Fallen Giant, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here is the fallen tree, showing the size of its girth next to Mum. Apparently the beeches up there are between 150-200 years old, making them older than the Republic of Italy! We walked over Brincombe Hill to view the two fallen trees this morning before doing some shopping for the day ahead. And how delicious?

Lunch was local veined Cheddar on a poppyseed loaf, to be followed for dinner by fish pie, with smoked haddock, prawns and bolied eggs in a white sauce accompanied by mashed potato and broad beans, from Mum's allotment! Yum, yum. A special treat for me, as Mum knows that the only fish I eat at home are fish figers on the occasions when Fred is not at home. Fish pie used to be a favourite of mine in the 1970's in Beaconsfield when due to the costs of feeding a growing family with four children, we had to forego cod for coley. The fishmonger on Crewkerne High Street had fresh cod for sale and I was quite shocked to hear that this was over eleven pounds a kilo, when in the 70's it was already expensive at about a pound a pound, so maybe I shouldn't have been too suprised. At least in those days the cod were a decent size but it seems they have been so overfished that all the big ones have been caught.

I suppose I ought to mention that the horses didn't quite run the way I expected, with Hardy Eustace just being run out of third place in the Champion Hurdle in the last stride, where the big disappointment was the showing of the very strong favourite Detroit City, who was just not having his day. New Alco ended up being favourite in his race but made no show (well, actually, according to the results, he came in 6th, just out of the placings, his chance of doing better having been ruinbed by the quickening ground) in a race won by his 50-1 stable companion Joe's Edge in a very exciting three-way photo-finish. Finally, I thought I had a small bet on Le Duc at 9-1 in the fifth race. He came 3rd, so when I went to look at how much my internet betting account was credited, it showed NO BET. It seemed as if I had forgotten to click on the CONFIRM button before going down town to watch the race at the bookies. Oh well, I might have won three pounds if I had been lucky!

Young man of the forest

Young man of the forest, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

These are the beech trees at the top of the hill above my Mum's house in Crewkerne. Unfortuantely, the tree on the right has fallen over, blaown down in a recent storm, the roots not able to cling onto the rain softened ground. Nick was due to go up there today with a powerful electric saw to start cutting it up for firewood, but the site is being surveyed and he was told that he couldn't take a friend's Land Rover up there. Maybe later in the week.

It is a beautiful sunny day, warm in the sun and away from the cool wind, blue sky with cotton white clouds passing by.

Channel Four coverage of the racing starts in half an hour, the main race, the Champion Hurdle scheduled to go off at 3.15, where I still think Hardy Eustace has a great chance, albeit as the 3-1 second favourite.

Mum will be misisng the race as she has Tai Chi on a Tuesday afternoon and she will be carrying her broadsword down the High Street on the way to the Town Hall. In May, she, together with her group, will be giving a demonstration at the Bath and West Show.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Like 2005 all over again!

Cotswold scene, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, not exactly, but to the extent that we are having such wonderful weather in the third week of March, it is. The sun is blazing outside, light streaming into the house, while I am sitting there, engrossed in my Jenny Pitman novel.

It seems that Cheltenham is having a bot of rain today, to 'freshen up' the ground, but that the rest of the week should be sunny, if not all that wam any more. It should still be ground for the mudlovers and the bets I placed two weeks ago are still looking good. They are as follows:

Tuesday: New Alco 14-1 (now 10-1) in the William Hill Trophy
Thursday: Too Forward 14-1 (now 10-1) in the Ryaniar Chase
Thursday: Kasbah Bliss 12-1 (now 10-1) in the World Hurdle
Friday: My Will 25-1 and 20-1 (now 14-1) in the Gold Cup
Friday: L'Ami 20-1 (now 14-1) in the Gold Cup

Further, I fancy my old friend Hardy Eustace (3-1) in the Champion Hurdle, which he will try to win for the third time) and Roman Ark (16-1) in a race on Thursday.

I am thinking to go on three days - Wednesday to Friday, having arranged to hire a car from Taunton on Wednesday morning, handing it in at Heathrow on Friday evening after the Gold Cup. It is a pity but in the 'old days' one couyld go for three days and see the whole meeting, but now they have spread it out over four days, so I will be missing the Champion Hurdle, amongst others.

There is a race on the Thursday which is the Ryanair Chase which is for the best horses over two-and-a-half miles. In the old days, such horses had the choice of running over two miles in the Champion Chase or the Gold Cup over three-and-a-quarter miles, which made each of those two races more interesting... will such horses be fast enough for the two miler or stay far enough in the Gold Cup. Maybe it is fairer to the horses who are two-and-a-half mile specialists, but it does take away some of the interest from the established races. This year it looks like being one of the best races of the week with the likes of Monet's Garden, Our Vic and Racing Demon due to run. It will be difficult for my fancy Too Forward to win, and I am regretting a little having had a 'punt' on him now, but come the end of the week, he might be the only horse who has won me any money, this being the glorious uncertainty of horse racing.

Unlike 2005 however, Take The Stand will not be running. He has deteriorated badly since last year and he doesn't like the soft conditions so whereas it is a pity not to see him, it is best that he isn't going to be put in a difficult position where ghe cannot do himself justice. Who knows? He may be back for another crack at the Grand National in a month's time.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A sunny weekend

Cotswold sunset, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Another quiet day here, stuck inside, not feeling 100% whilst the sun shines outside. Not that weekends mean all that much to me, given that I do not have a job, but there was a report stating that it is actually true that the weather on Saturdays and Sundays IS worse than the rest of the week and that Mondays and Tuesdays are more likely to be drier and sunnier. Apparently it has to do with the build up of particles in the atmosphere related to weekday activities, such as factories and cars and so on. It always FELT that this was the case, and now we have a study which has shown it to be correct!

It has been a mixed week for green issues, with the EU actually agreeing on some definite targets for reductions in carbon emissions by 2020, such targets being required, not optional. The only thing they seemed to have missed out on agreeing on is how much each country will have to reduce emissions for the EU to meet its total target. I expect the fun will be in agreeing this division.

In the meantime, the Conservative Party in the UK, let its plans for reducing carbon emisisons be leaked and we have an interesting set of proposals which include higher taxes on flights, but also the idea of there being an individual allowance regarding flights, whereby your first flight would be taxed at a low rate, such rate increasing with the more flights you take.

If such a system can be made to work, I think it is a great idea, whereby the principle is established that each person has their quota, whether rich or poor. It would be great if this idea could be spread around between countries as well. I am not sure if taxation is necessarily the right way to proceed thereafter, as it will always be the case that the better off can afford such taxation more than the least well off, but at least it is better than nothing, especially if the taxation can be put to use in developing and introducing cleaner forms of energy.

Again, the ensuing arguments about how we are going to become greener are very interesting. It is just to be hoped that we do not spend more time arguing and discussing various alternatives than actually doing something to reduce emissions.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

300,000 flickr views

Midyat - Yacim - two, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Another landmark on flickr, with the third 100,000 views being clocked up today, this last taking just 83 days, after 110 days for the second 100,000 and 419 days for the first. Since coming back from Sourth East Asia, I have been mainly going through the old sets of photos, looking for photos which, for one reason or anither never made it to flickr the first time around. It is like taking another journey around such places as Jordan, Eritrea, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Namibia and, more recently, Turkey. Here is a picture of a delightful young chap we met in Midyat, Yacim, who we first saw being pushed around in a wheel barrow by his elder brother Ahmed.

Depending on jobs etc, we are thinking of spending a summer holiday either in Sicily or in Northern/North Eastern Turkey, so much do we enjoy being in Turkey.

I have a bit of a cold today, so will sit inside, catching the sunshine, curled up reading a (heavily discounted) Jenny Pitman book, to get me really in the mood for Cheltenham next week.

I missed out on the club-avond last night and watched the first episode of Castaway on the BBC, filling in time before going to bed. I stayed watching, not because I was the least bit interested in any of the characters (who thankfully are not so-called celebrities) but because of the presenter - Danny Wallace. What a great guy he is.... more about him, maybe, another day.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Eritrea-Ethiopia border conflict

Assab-Obock - thirty-five, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It looks as if the Britons captured in Afar lands might have been found, according to the BBC. If so, they may be in the country of Eritrea rather than the country of Ethiopia, for as much as boundaries mean anything in an area like this, of desert, rocks, stones and sand.

Unfortunately, boundaries do mean something, as Ethiopia and Eritrea have bene to war over their boundary with many thousands of people being killed, and millions of dollars being spent on their war machinery.

The most recent war stopped in about 2002 (I think) and a boundary commission was set up to delineate the boundary between the two countries and both countries signed up to this as part of the peace agreement. However, Ethiopia has refused to withdraw its troops from a border village which was awarded to Eritrea and this has been the focus of the continuing cold war between the two countries.

There are not too many issues in intnational politics which are clear, but thius is one of them... that village belongs to Eritrea and Ethiopia should move out. It should be the simplest of things for the West to put pressure on Ethiopia to withdraw and cool it off, but for some reason, or reasons, this does not happen.

The Ethiopian Government seems to lead a charmed existence where it can occupy foreign territory, invade a foreign territory (Somalia), imprison the opposition, kill its citizens on the streets and censor the press and the internet and its still gets all the help it wants and needs from its friends in the West.

Interesting to note that the US drew up a list of the top ten worst regimes ("the world's "most systematic human rights violators") of 2006 this week. This list included all the most demonised regimes such as Cuba, North Korea, Burma, Belarus and Zimbabwe, and while there was room on the list for Eritrea, quite remarkably there was no room for Ethiopia. It just wouldn't do to embarrass one of your great friends and allies in your war on Terror, would it? In the meantime, the citizens of both countries are suffereing terribly under their strong-man regimes.

As it happens, it might be the case that the Britons who were captured a week ago, are being held by yet another player in this area, namely the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front, which presumably just wants to see all Afar lands united, not such a bad ideal, I suppose.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Catching the warm spring sunshine

I caught this bit of grafitti under the motorway, the girl in question bathing in the beam of sunlight thrown down between the two sections of the road. I wonder if she was painted there on purpose.

Anyway, it was a nice cycle ride out to the very western reaches of Amsterdam, almost all the way to Schiphol to pick up my new residence permit - the one to replace the one which was stolen last year. Despite the fact that I twice sent copies of my police report to the Ministry which deals with such applications, it turned out that I was due to bring yet another copy with me in order to pick up the card. Of course, I did not have it and I think I even threw away all the paper relating to the police report, thinking that the insurance money is in and who could need to see it any more? So, if I can find a copy by any rare chance, I think I'll be off again there tomorrow, although we have not been promised the lovely weather we have had today. We'll see.

Different states of Christianity

Midyat and the Tur 'Abdin region used to be the home of the Aramean people. They used their own dialect of the Aramaic language and were Christians.
However, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire when Aramean lands were split between Turkey, Syria and Iraq many Arameans left the area to find homes in the West, forming the diaspora.
They were later joined by more in the 1960's when the Christians of Tur Abdin were being pressured by Kurdish people moving in, extorting money for their armed struggle against the Turkish authorities.
The churches went into severe decline, but recently, with Turkey being more open towards Christians money has been coming in from the disapora to rennovate and bring new life into the churches. However, in Midyat, a town of 60,000 people, it seems as if there are not more than about 20 Christian/Aramean families left.

The Christians are also making a comeback here in Holland as they were the big winners in the electiosn we had yesterday for the Provincial governments (and indirectly, the First Chamber). They saw their vote go up by 60% from 3.4% of the electorate to 5.7%, a reward for stepping into the governing coalition in the national government where they have made their mark on topics such as abortion/adoption, euthanesia and gay rights.

In the meantime, the British government published its planned regulations under the Sexual Orientation Act today, whereby it will be forbidden to discriminate against gay people in the provision of goods and services, and also where gay establishments are not allowed to bar non-gay people.To everyone's relief, there are no new exemptions for religious minded people, whereby the British Government has obviously come to the conclusion that when there is a clash of rights, gay rights must be put before the ‘rights’ of the religious. Excellent news!

This follows closely on from a case where a mischievous Christian magistrate resigned because he did not want to preside over cases to decide whether or not a particular gay couple are allowed to adopt a baby/child and took his case to an employment tribunal. This because to do so would conflict with his Bible-influenced views. Quite rightly, he lost.

So, where in Turkey, Christians are fighting for survival, we have Christians in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom fighting for their rights to discriminate. I know whose side I am on.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Roman Gladiators, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

In line with the general dumbing down and Disney-fication of the world, you can now see Roman Gladiators walking around the Colosseum. A Colosseum, mind you, for which you have to pay a colossal amount to enter and walk around, sharing it with crowds of other people who have paid the same. Much better in the 'olden days' in the 1980's, say, when we (the family) used to live in Rome, when it was almost empty of tourists and it was free to enter. Oh well!

In 1976, the BBC made what is perhaps the best drama series they have ever made, namely "I, Claudius", a dramatisation of the book of the same name by Robert Graves. The series was typified by excellent acting, great dialogues, simple sets and wonderful drama. There was Derek Jacobi as the stammering stuttering Claudius, Sian Phillips as the evil scheming Livia, Brian Blessed as the great Augustus, George Baker as the sad and troubled Tiberius and very memorably John Hurt as the mad and twisted Caligula as well as a host of other marvellous actors and actresses.

More recently, the BBC joined up with the American HBO to make a series, ROME, about the time of Julius Caesar and the immediate aftermath, a time of Marc Anthony and Octavian (the young Augustus). The actors and actresses are almost all British whilst the writers are all American and the series was filmed in Italy. It is said to have been the most expensive television series ever made and it looks it, with lavish sets and outdoor photography and, I must say, that for me, the series really works. High drama, albeit highly fictionalised, the drama concerns not only the upper, political classes of Rome, but also the common people and the soldiers and slaves and so on. It is really quite excellent, but then without maybe the poise of I Claudius. Anyway, it is highly recommended!

They are now on their second series, which has been shown in America, but not yet in Uk, but surprisingly enough, it is already being shown on commercial Dutch TV, which is how I picked up on it, through zapping through the channels one Tuesday evening. I have been watching it for four episodes now and am getting very 'into'it such that I have been looking forward nfrom one wek to the next to the folowingepisode.

We did not have the channel on our video recorder so I spent a good hour yesterday trying to work out how to programme the wretched thing! Well, I just managed it before the off at 20.30 when all of a sudden what looked like an advert for a trash entertainment programme started to run on and on and on,until I relaied that this was the programme itself. ROME had been cancelled. It was due to be shown according to the weekly TV guide, but the daily paper had this trash programme due to be screened.

A look at the TV channel's website this morning revealed that due to low audience figures, the programme has been moved to 23.20 on Wednesday nights! This will have been the best series the TV channel has ever broadcast and the bosses have decided to move it to an impossible late night slot because their viewers prefer to watch trash instead of high quality drama. There is a whole ream of complaints on the website about what the channel has done, but they are only acting in their commercial interests, it is the public which has not bothered to watch and they who are to be blamed for this sad state of affairs.

This is a perfect illustration of why we need to have national broadcasters who are safely removed from commercial pressures in these dumbed down societies of ours.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Going Green

Green, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The BBC programme Panorama had an interesting edition yesterday when they challenged one of their reporters to 'go green' for a year in an effort to reduce the family's carbon imprint by 40%, the idea being to see what the most practical steps would be and how painful it would be.

There were a few surprises, certainly given the amount which can be saved by switching to energy lamps and switching off electrical appliances when not is use (my printer , which I hardly ever use, is now switched OFF). Against that there seemed to be very long pay back periods for double glaxing and loft insulation.

Of course, doing away with the car and not flying were big contributors to saving energy. I had an interview today, which had me cycling in the rain to the station, catching an intcity to Utrecht, waiting out in a wet and windy bus shelter at the station to catch a bus to the office in Nieuwegein where I had my interview... and a half hour later I was making the trip back, arrving back about three hours after I left. Apart from the wet weather, it really wasn't so bad, but to be honest, I would rather have a job nearer to where I work than make the long-ish journey, either way, best to be without a car. However, when it comes to practicalities, there are only so many appropriate jobs available and one has to be considered very lucky to find one such job in, say, cycling distance from your home. And, then this is part of the explanation why the roads and trains and buses are always so full in the rush hours.... even with the best will, it is not easy 'do the right thing'.

An interesting point to note is that as I was going past the offices of Amsterdam Zuid-Oost in the train I looked through the windows to see everyone, yes everyone, sitting in front of a computer screen. Do they really need to be in an office, or at least do they really need to be there everyday and everybody at the same time?

Going back to the panorama programme they looked at offsetting one's carbon emissions, whereby there are sites which calculate how much you can pay to offset the emissions of your flight. The presentor went to Jamaica to test this out and he was told that his journey would cost just fifteen pounds to offset. A very small amount. The calculation seemed to relate to the amount of energy which would be saved in ten years of using energy saving lamps in a hotel in Jamaica. When one realises that such a flight uses as much as a years electricity for a typical family home, fifteen pounds did not seem much to pay as an offset. Too good to be true and some expert said that carbon offsetting is not the answer, maybe just a bit better than not doing anything.

The family concluded that reducing one's direct carbon imprint was really not so difficult or hard after all but they did say they would go back to having at least one flight a year. I am afraid that for myself, it'll be a few more flights than that!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Hasankeyf - Women having a chat

Reading the form guide

Reading the form guide, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We have been counting down all winter and now it is only eight days to go before the start of the 2007 Cheltenham National Hunt Festival. This is a picture of me on Gold Cup Day in 2005, when the sun shone all day and the temperature reached 21 degrees on what was 18th March. Twenty-three years after my first trip to Cheltenham where I saw my favourite horse of all time, Silver Buck, win the Gold Cup, a day I will never forget.

2005 was also exceptional, not only because of the weather, but I managed to bring my mother along and we had a successful day, winning on Moulin Riche and coming second with the 66-1 Take The Stand in the Gold Cup.

Take The Stand is due to run again this year, but as he is a horse who prefers good ground, he may not run, as the ground is likely to be heavy or, at least soft. He has only raced on soft and heavy ground this year and has run badly every time, so time ot leave him out of considerations.

This year we have a big favourite in Kauto Star who has won five of the top races this year over all distances and types of ground. He should win, but his price at 6/4 (more than) reflects that. The distance will be further than what he has run over before, the ground potentially heavier than what he hs been running on and he has a tendency to make a bad mistake jumping (making a hash of the last fence in the last three races in which he has run).

Time to look for value...

We need to find a horse who is good, is reliable, who will stay and who likes the ground and is backable at a good price and I have found such a horse in My Will. I backed him last week at 25-1 an again a 20-1 but now he is 14-1. And, I have been spending my time since trying to convince myself that he will at least get a place. I see Exotic Dancer (4-1) and Our Vic (25-1) as the biggest dangers.

Further, I think New Alco is a good price at 12-1 for the William Hill Trophy and my old friend Hardy Eustace could win his third Champion Hurdle at 5-1. Blazing Bailey could win the World Hurdle on the Thursday at 7-1, where Kasbah Bliss is also interesting at 12-1.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Lac Assal, Djibouti, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is a photo of Lac Assal in Djibouti (formerly French Somaliland or Territoire des Afars et Issas), home of the, now infamous Afar people. The Afar people live in some of the most inhospitable land in the world, based around the Danakil Depression, an area of salt lakes, geysers, volcanoes, black rock, rock pipes and almost no vegetation. It is very bleak, very hot but stunningly beautiful in its own way and holds a fascination for the more adventurous travellers, like ourselves.

Their land is split between three countries, namely Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea, where in each they are a minority. Despite that, borders in such an area do not mean too much to their daily way of lifewhich is centred on the extraction of salt and transporting that by camel caravan to neighbouring markets. Of course, geo-politically there are border disputes, particularly between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Of course, the area is in the news because of the kidnap of some British and French tourists who were travelling in the region despite warnings that the area is dangerous. It is dangerous not only because of the natural conditions, but also because the Afar people are known to be aggressive and war-like with a reputation for castrating their victims. The incredibly tough and difficult terrein breeds a tough outlook on life where one has to fight for ones access to water sources or grasses or salt mines. Their socety seeems to be a bit similar to the traditional Somali society of nomads divided into clans, sub-clans and families and so on.

Who knows what will happen to the people who have been kidnapped, but to put things into perspective, it should be noted that the stories we heard from Yemen (just a short journey across the Red Sea), where the kidnapping of tourists is much more common is that usually the tourists are very well looked after, they have a fascinating insight to local customs and traditions and pay tribute to the tremendous hospitality they received.

I am a little disappointed in the BBC in its willingness to blare out on national TV, a claim by a probably very biased, and crucially unnamed, official of the Ethiopian Government, that the tourists have been abducted by Eritrean security forces. They should know better and even the Ethiopian ambassador to the UK did not want to repeat this claim. Ethiopia will, in general, not stop at anything to bait and denigrate Eritrea and it is a pity that the BBC is giving the oxygen of publicity to unattributed claims.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Hogeweg fountain

Hogeweg fountain, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The fountain has been built and installed and was switched on on Thursday, 1st March (ten months to the day after they started with the project) for a tryout, and to be photographed in the bright early spring sunshine. Beautiful, it is, and such a nice present to us from the local council. Lovely also to hear the splash of water on the stone base.
The fountain replaces the original fountain from 1905, which as removed in the 1930's as it had not been properly maintained.
The fountain will be officially opened at 14.00 on 24th March.
View from south-west to north-east.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Back in the mountains of north-west Vietnam

Just for an evening, as we had Fred's colleague from PE, Michiel round for dinner. He is taking a sabbatical in a few weeks time and is going to the Far east for four months, spending two months on the Cambodia/Vietnam/Laos circuit. So I was able to give him a bit of advice aboiut where to go, where to stay and how to arrange things and we finished the evening off, going through some of the photos of Cambodia and Vietnam, the whole evening spent re-living the great memories of the wonderful trip Richard and I made together, just three months ago!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Catching the moment

One of the great challenges of photography is capturing the moment... a momnet like this when a child is standing in a box, hugging her sister while the mother tries to pick the box up. A happy family moment, here on the dark grey streets of Diyarbakir.

One of the complaints about the current generation of digital cameras is that they take a bit of time before they can auto-focus properly, set the aperture and timing and take a shot. Not long usually, but sometimes, just slightly too long.

Well, the company in which I still have shares (and I have never been one to have many shares, given my dreadful experiences with them) is called Omnivision Technologies (OVTI, listed on the Nasdaq). The company made a lot of money designing and manufacturring sensors for cameras on mobile phones and it has a lot of money in the bank. For some reason, the company is not much liked by various parts of the investment community and there seems to be a vast illegal operation by hedge funds to sell the company's shares short. This is a matter which should be investigated and stopped by the SEC, but it is not.

Anyway, the new big hope for the company is a new product called TrueFocus camera with Wavefront Coding technology. The company describes the technology as follows:

"With traditional digital cameras, a major and frequent consumer complaint is that it is nearly impossible to 'catch the moment'; because the camera requires one or more seconds to focus the lens on the chosen subject, there is an unavoidable delay between point and shoot. OmniVision believes that TrueFocus cameras are the first to offer true point-and-shoot capability; because the entire image is always sharp and clear, regardless of where the subject is in the camera's field of view, there is no focus-related time delay.

Because the image is in focus over virtually the entire field of view, with TrueFocus cameras there will be no more pictures lost because the subject has moved before the lens is focused."

It sounds very exciting and what is more the technology is developed to such an extent that the first cameras are already being launched on the mobile-phone market, where the comapny has its traditional markets. It is not sure whether or not the technology will be appropriate for the specialised digital cameras. Other applications will be in the car and CCTV industries amongst others.

The company releases its quarterly figures with a conference call later today. These are usually used as an excuse to attack the company and cause the share price to drop dramatically, but if the expectation is for the TrueFocus technology to sell well in the coming quarters, with good profits, maybe the price will go up.

I am no expert and I know enough about how things go to realise that share prices reflect more expectations and intangibles than real performance. And yet, in some not too distant future I think the share price is going to come good again, will it be tomorrow, after earnings have been announced or in three months time? The price is just under USD 13 and I wouldn't be surprised to see it hit at least USD 18 before the end of the year, a nice 40% increase.

On the other hand, contrary to my feelings of missing out when my fancied horse won last weekend when I had not the money to back it, I am plased to say that the price of some Dutch shares which I sold about a month ago, are now about € 2.00 less than what I sold them for, which is, of course, exactly what you would want to happen. I still sold thenm for slightly less than what I bought them for, but it somehow feels like I have 'won' a thousand euro's!

What chance is there of catching the moment when google has blocked oyur own blog? It has been blocked since this morning, so anything I say about OVTI will look like it has been said in hindsight. Very annoyoing and oh so typical.
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