Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ivy Creek

Atlanta - MARTA, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Nothing too much to say today, a quiet day at home, up late, listening to music, chatting with the family on the phone. Fred is still working hard despite there being only two weeks left of the school term. It was nice to see Bram and Mar, back from their holiday in France, Eric comes round soon for dinner and then we go to Mariette and Arnoud's joint 40th birthday party later in the evening, where hopefully there will be enough room INSIDE as it looks very much as if it might rain soon.

Diana told me about all the flooding in and around Sheffield, where although it did not seem to have rained all that hard, teh rain which did come was on top of a lot of rain which they had before. The reservoirs were alreay full and houses had been built where they should not have been built, namely on the flood plains and sure enough, it was these houses which suffered the most damage. Sheffield itself has five rivers and the valleys are quite step, so in this respect it was easy for the rivers to burst thir banks. Meadowhall, the very big shopping centre outside of town is still closed apparently... what a disaster for shoppers!

At least Diana did not suffer any damage, although James was due to play a concert in the local park today, but that has ben cancelled due to the weather.

The weather is affecting the going for the racing and it will not help either Take The Stand nor Ballycassidy in tomorrow's Summer National at Market Rasen. Kock de Vesvre looks to have a better chance at about 5-1, not sure if I'll have a punt. In the meantime, after I was blocked from the Racing Post site last week, I managed to read about Ivy Creek's listed race win at Pontefract last Sunday. He was the horse who did me such a favour on the first of the month down at Goodwood. It turns out that he has won all his races on going softer than good and lost all those firmer than good. They also reckon he could be a Group 1 or Group 2 horse, so connections will be hoping that the rain sticks around for a bit longer. His next assignment is the Group 2 Princess of Wales Stakes at Newmarket on July 12 and the forecasters here in Holland do not expect much of a let up in the rain much before the 10th!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Watching Wimbledon again

Back home in Amsterdam, back to the rain and back on flickr and my blog. Feels good.

I flew back with British Airways, frankly a bit disappointed with the quality of the service, although the bed, food and wine were all good. A pity that I have to use the company travel agent to book all my flights as they were unable to get me onto a direct flight home, with KLM, despite KLM advertising available seats on their website the day they booked my ticket. Still, it was nice to travel back with some colleagues from the UK, although we doubled the quota of maximum three senior employees in one plane at a time.

Also, I had a stop at Gatwick Airport, with time to kill which I spent mainly in HMV buying cheaply priced CDs and DVDs. Nice poppy CDs by artists such as Rihanna, The Pussycat Dolls, Dame Shirley Bassey, Dead or Alive, The Scissor Sisters, The Sugababes, Shakira and Take That. A nice reward for all the hard work of the week before.

Still, I had a nasty surprise at home when looking at my credit card statement where the costs of the missed flight in Birmingham were debited. A good thing that I'll soon be having money coming in.

Fred is snowed under with tests to mark, end of year tests, so very important, although he does not have any examination classes this year. Nevertheless he had time to prepare a delicious smoked chicken and grape salad for dinner.

I spent the weekend having my hair cut by my favourite Turkish barber (while I struggled to keep awake), followed by Wimbledon where I watched the excellent match between Janko Tipsarevic and Fernando Gonzalez, won by Tipsarevic after being 2-5 down in the final set and after saving a match point against. Excellent. Tennis really is such a good spectator sport where fortunes can turn one just a few crucial points and bounce back and for the between the two players very quickly. And wonderful that the Grand Slam tournaments are still being broadcast by the BBC. The most one saw on the TV in the US were a few scores beingvreported in the text stream at teh bottom of the screen while they broadcast rounders or basketball or whatever it is they are more interested in.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Goodbye Atlanta

Time to say 'goodbye' to Atlanta. I have not seen very much of the city being in meetings all day and dinner and drinks in the evening with my new colleagues. Still, all being well, we should have another meeting like this next year and another chance to have a look around. I received just this morning an e-mail from a flickr friend, Carlos, who lives here offering to show me around, which was nice just a bit too late. I am still not alowed on flickr so was unable to thank him. Again, hopefuly next time.

Alos, I now know why I was not allowed on the Racing Post site and that is because all forms of gambling are baned in Atlanta, just as all internet gambling is banned in the USA. Oh well. One good thing about my company is that there are a number of peopole who are interested in horse racing and one who seems to have good inside information every now and then!

I will fly back with British Airways to Gatwick then have the nightmare of transferring to an Amsterdam flight, arriving just before mid-day. In the afternoon, I will try get access to my new work e-maiul address and watch the first floods of e-mails streaming in. Life will not be the same again!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Goodbye Tony

Tony Blair is going to resign as Prime Minister today, after serving for (just) over ten years. He is not someone I have usually liked but nor is he someone who I have ever really disliked. I think the UK has changed for the better under his premiership, but how much that is down to him and how much to general changes in society and to buoyant worldwide economic conditions, it is hard to say. At least he did not screw things up too much. He really is a great leader with the knack of giving inspirational speeches, which often made one proud to be British. I did not agree with his decision to join the US in the war against Iraq and I never believed the stories about the weapons of mass destruction which provided the pretext for the war. This war has cast a shadow over his last years.

However, I do think he has harmed democracy by centralising so much of government and over-riding his cabinet and parliament, as well as relying too much on 'spin'. I also think he has been too cautious in many of his policies, afraid of what the right-wing gutter press might say about any progressive policy he may pursue. That said, after ten years he has achieved a lot for a number of people in society and, certainly, gay and lesbians find themselves living in a much better country than they did under Thatcher, for example.

So, it will be interesting to see how Gordon Brown will fare, although by all accounts he has had tremendous influence over what has been done over the past ten years. When Tony came in we won the Eurovision Song Contest within two days. Now if Tim Henman were to win Wimbledon just as Gordon Brown takes power, that would be nicely symmetrical. Somehow I doubt that wil happen. Maybe Tim will win his second round match...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


This might be my last post for a couple of days as I clicked onto this blog's address: and was blocked!!! This time a keyword of Adult Content, it was a bit silly of me to type those words in maybe as now the detective software on this computer has picked those words out and is denying me access. My goodness!

Being blocked

I think I know a little bit what it must be like in China, with the strong walls of censorship built into the computer I am working on at my hotel. Almost everywhere I go, I am blocked. No Flickr (no buiness related use). No Racing Post (keyword gambling). No Sqidoo (keyword adult content). No Google images (not sure why). No Rainbow Network (keyword lesbian) and so it goes on... It is very very frustrating. A man behind the check-in desk tried to get me access to flickr yesterday and tried for a good half-an-hour without luck. He will try again today.

At least, I do not think there is a report being sent to the CIA about my clicks onto the internet, at least if they are, they cannot necessarily trace it is me, as I have not had to type in my room number (maybe they will have this facility next time I come here). In China, in a disgraceful episode, Google and Yahoo offered to send everyone's internet cativities to the Communist Party, just so they could 'access the Chinese market'.

Anyway, it is breakfast time now. They have the best breakfast I have seen in an American hotel, despite my sarcastic remark yesterday about two pork chops. It is the first time I have seen unsweetende cereal in the US, plus fresh fruit, yoghurt and the like. The coffee isn't too bad either!

Rain in Atlanta

Here is a picture of the hotel where I am staying. This is the entrance and there are, in fact, about 12 stories, so it is quite high. Strange to take a photo with the forecourt all wet, stranger still for them to put THIS photo on their website. Anyway, it seems that we Brits (there are four of us here) have brought some much needed rain to Atlanta as we had a major thunderstorm earlier this afternoon, with rain they badly need over here.

It was a day of meetings, financial controllers meetings, and they went quite well, although one is left with the feeling that there really is FAR too much to do altogether. Anyway, a way will be found through, no doubt. A nice bunch of people and we are just about to go out and have dinner at a restaurant in one of the nearby shoppingt centres.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Report from Atlanta

Greetings from Atlanta in Georgia, where it is six hours behind Amsterdam time and only 7 in the morning. I had an excellent flight out with KLM in Business Class, making sure I tried as many of the wines they had on offer, whilst eating a delicious meal, which had been 'devised' by a young chef working in a restaurant in Zwolle, of all places. After lunch, I managed to get the seat to extend to a near horizontal and have a very good sleep which took me almost all the way to Atlanta.

The landing proceduires were a nightmare as they undergo the same controls on everything coming IN as what one has on leaving in Europe, so had to hand over my suitcase for a second control and stand waiting twice for half an hour for it to turn up on the conveyor belt. The airport was teeming and it appears to be one of the busiest airports ion te world. You wonder why so many people would come to Atlanta.

I picked up a tourist magazine and there seemed tro be quite a lot to do here with museums, art galleries, a sea-life centre with some captive whales, the Coca Cola experience and a CNN thing - both those companies having their headquarters here in Atlanta.

Of course, the office and the hotel are completely the other side of the city, but fortunately there is a train connection to near the hotel, from where one has either to catch a taxi or call the hotel for the shuttle bus. Not very easy of you do not have the telephone number, as I didn't when I went out later, so had to walk along teh side of a motorway in the darkl for a kilometer or so. Not such a nice experience.

I checked in here, but there being nothing much to do here and there being the Atlanta Gay Pride in the city, I was soon out again, hoping I had not missed all the fun. And, sure enough I hadn't as there was a big festival going on in Piedmont Park, with a Coca Cola stage and a large number of stalls, both commercial and non-profit. The big surprises were to see how many lesbians there were and also how many gay black people there were. In European gay events, one does not see many black people and in Africa being openly gay is asking for big problems from society aropund you. Yet, here, at the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, there werev very many black gay and lesbian people. Very nice to see.

No pictures unfortunately as the hotel computer has blocked flickr. Yet another form of censorship of this photo site, after the yahoo imposed controls placed in Hong Kong, Korea, Germany and Singapore a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, time for breakfast at teh Great American Grill... is that two pork chops you wanted, sir?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A stud farm and European integration

Stables, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here we were a week ago, in Ireland at the stud farm with my Irish family. Today was spent at home in Amsterdam, in and out of the showers outside. It is still warm, but it is wet and we are not having that hot long summer which we seemed to have been promised in April. Maybe we'll see the sun again in July.

I will be seeing the sun next week., if the BBC is to be believed, as I will be goint to Atlanta in Georgia, USA tomorrow, for my work. I wil have meetings during the week and it will mean that I will have spent my first five days at work in three countries and two continents! I have never been to Georgia and I am not exactly sure whereabouts it is. I t is said to be where the Civil Rights Movement in the US started in the 1960's and I know that the song 'Georgia On My Mind', was written by Ray Charles and it has been adopted as the State's anthem.

No anthem for the European Union, it seems, thanks to the efforts of the Dutch Government. They say there will not be a European Flag either, but what is that blue flag with aring of yellow stars which we see everywhere, particularly at large road-building projects?

It was a nice surprise to wake up this morning to see that they did finally come up with an agreement about the Constitution/Treaty and it really does seem to be less than what they were putting foward last time, when such constitution was voted down by the good people of France and The Netherlands. A bit of a cheek though to change the name so that no-one has to call any more referenda.

I blame the politicians, who lack courage to support Europe and explain to the people why Europe is good for us and how it can be used to make the world a better place. Instead we always have the Press scoring cheap points taking the mickey out of the latest silly bit of regulation to come out of Brussels. Certainly in Holland they are too scared to come out and comfront the people.

Another good thing about the Treaty, in my view, is that the Dutch proposal which was made with the sole aim of making it more difficult for Turkey to eventually join the EU was not incorporated. Gelukkig! It was a particularly mean idea and I am glad it did not get through. On the other hand, I know there was a plot between Germany and The Pope to make some mention fo Europe's Christian Roots in the Treaty pre-amble. I have no idea whether they have succeeded. I think and I hope not!

In the menatime, the European Union will press on and WILL affect the tax systems amongst other things. They have already closed many concessions in the Dutch tax system which encouraged companies to make The Netherlands their European headquarters (which I found to my cost when looking for a pan-European Finance job). Europe is also responsible for Ireland having to change its benefical tax schemes for stud farms and I wonder how the family will be affected in the future by this measure.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Lovely Day for a Guiness

It's a Lovely Day, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A better day for a Guiness than a day for flying, it seems. I am now in the departure area of London City airport, waiting for my delayed flight back to Amsterdam. They have taken my briefcase off me because the Home Office thinks that more than one piece of hand baggage is a security threat, and this wuill delay me a further half an houtr the other end, when I have to wait for it to come through. Oh the joys (not) of travelling.

I read in the newspaper on the way here that the police at Glastonbury are carrying hidden cameras in their clothes as they wander around. Pictures/live video will be streamed into a special unit where the polifce will be checking for people taking drugs, Thre is going to be a tough stance against drug taking this year. Why? What is wrong with a bit of cannabis? Why will there be so many hundreds of police on patrol at Glastonbury? And you can be assured that there will be hundreds of security people of various costumes wandering around. It was like this at The Derby three weeks ago. It never used to be like this. There used to be more people in the early 80's and there were never any incidents. What has changed? May be the security firm bosses have friends in high places and are able to earn lots of money on these jollys.

It would have been 22 years ago at Royal Ascot. I was up in London on one of my accountancy courses. It was my birthday and it was also Royal Ascot. I skived off the afternoon session and took a train to Ascot to find that the tickets had all been sold out (this was at a time when such events were never sold out). So desperate I was to get ion that I wandered around the periferal fence and found an opportunity to climb up a wire fence and jump down into a hedge of conifers the other side, an opportunity which I took up, without so much as a sprained ankle. Nobody saw me, nobody was even looking. This would not happen these days, as every twenty yards there would be someone in unifrom patrolling.

What I DO think IS a safety danger ios that there are so many hundreds of people in this small departure lounge, more than its proper safe capacity, I should think. There is hardly even any standing space and the air is very stuffy. If a fire were to break out I can quite imagine that many people would be killed in the crush to get out, not that thre are ANY fire doors to be seen. This is allowed and yet my briefcase is not allowed. What a load of nonsense.

Now I have had my rant maybe I can join the crush at the bar and order my pint of Guiness. Mmmmmmmm!!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Heron Bay wins at Royal Ascot for Geoff Wragg

Heron Bay (in the chocolate and gold colours, on the right) wins the King George V Handicap Stakes to give Geoff Wragg his 18th Royal Ascot winner and his first since Cassandra Go won the King's Stand Stakes in about 2001. Geoff Wragg is my favourite trainer and my favourite owners are Mollers Racing (a trustfund set up on the death of the two Moller brothers to buy and race good quality racehorses, to be trained by Geoff Wragg).

Ivy Creek won at Goodwood for connections and netted me a nice 200 pound profit at 8-1, on a day when I had earlier visited my Uncle and Aunty. This evening I was due to meet them again and, after work, I walked round the corner to the bookies and put a fiver each way on Heron Bay at 20-1, which netted me a very nice 125 pounds! Quite a coincidence really!

Moreover, it was the only winner I have managed to pick out in three days of racing, yet crucially, he was the only one I had put any money on. My luck is definitely in these days!!! He was leading within the last furlong and was headed by Frankie's mount, but unlike the 1995 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamong Stakes, when the same thing happened and Frankie on the Derby winner Lammtara headed the Wragg/Moller combination of Pentire, Heron Bay managed to fight back and get his nose ahead at the line. What joy!

It was great seeing my uncle and aunty before they go back to Malaysia, after what had been a little bit of a boring day at work... too much like work it was!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How quickly things change

Four Roffeys, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here we all were two weeks ago, enjoying the sunshine on a beach in Cornwall, not a care in the world.

Now, I am back in England, dressed in a suit, which has becoem a little too tight around the waist!, in a hotel next to St Paul's Cathedral in London, at the end of my second day at work.

Today, I was invited to attend a big meeting in Atlanta next week, leaving Sunday, arriving back on Friday morning. It looks like it is going to be a busy job....

But first, I will go and join my new boss for dinner...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First impressions (of Ireland)

Hook lighthouse, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, the first imperssion was from the aeroplane as we looked down across the Atlantic Ocean to the south-eastern tip of Ireland, the coast was clear, and dark clouds were brewing a little bit inland, and as I mentioned we arrived to a mixture of sun and rain, both at the same time. Although low pressure systems were circling around, we were quite lucky with the weather and it only rained a bit on the cold Saturday lunchtime. Sun all Friday afternoon and Sunday all day.

We found the Irish very approachable, very talkative, inquisitive, their accents were not as thick as I had expected, maybe due to their closeness to Britain. They were less dark than I expected and a lot redder/gingery than I imagined, possibly a mix between Celtic and Viking.

The food was excellent, if expensive. € 2.60 for a bottle of diluted Ribena and € 3.60 for a packet of Hob Nobs! But the more serious food we ate at Fordes Restaurant in Wexford and The Lobster Pot at 'Our Lady's Island' were excellent.... with lots fo fresh seafood. I will make Mum and Richard, if he is reading, very jealous by telling them that I had a plate of delicious unshelled crab meat. Mmmmm....

It had not taken long before we saw some political slogans, the first even mentioning Cromwell, comparing him favourably with the Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. It was all to do with his policies towards the fishing industry. No exact details, but it seemed as if the Irish fishermen are suffering as much as their counterparts all over the world, smaller catches and smaller fish and supplies diminish. We saw a lot of small fishing harbours during our weekend. I particularly like them as they provide great opportunities for photography.

History is always near the surface in Ireland and as an Englishman (mostly) one feels a bit ashamed to read about the continuous waves of bad treatment we have meted out to the Irish over the last 800 years or so. It was interesting to note that the churches were all built in the same style and all built at a similar time in the mid 1800's (I think). I believe this is due to the fact that until then Catholicism was as good as outlawed and people had to be careful not to be too open about their religion. We were generally disappointed with the churches.

The countryside made a mixed impression. It was less wild than I had imagined, but was as green as anyone could imagine. It was often difficult to see too much countryside as it was quite flat and there were very high hedges. Many fields did not seem to support much cultivation and it looked at times quite messy.

A big blight on the landscape are the houses which seem to be built almost anywhere and everywhere. Big big houses in a modern tasteless style. Almost American in their bigness and brashness. One has heard about the Celtic Tiger and with low interest rates, a favourable tax climate, influx of money from Europe, there has obviously been a housing boom which has fed on and fed off a consumer boom and, all of a sudden, south east Ireland is under bricks and mortar!

Otherwise, we had a lovely trip from waterford to Wexford, crossing a river on an € 8 ferry (I told the ticket collector that such ferries are free in Holland and she just glared at me!). We took the coast road and had some beautiful views across the bay, the estuary, some cliffs, some beaches. The hedgerows may be high but they are full of beautiful flowers, including the fuchsias which Fred had told me so much about. Amazing... hedges red and pink with the flowers of fuchsias!

Tomorrow, I go to London, but should have the evening off and if I find any internet access I can talk about what it was like to discover my Irish roots! Getting a bit late here, for a working man!

Arriving in Ireland. My first time.

So, what did we think of Ireland? Fred had been there twice before to stay with my Dad and Breda, but this was my first time.

First of all we had trouble getting there because our flight was delayed in Amsterdam due to a big thunderstorm which had me soaking wet by the time I arrived at the station, despite the fact that I was carrying an umbrella. It really poured down. In order to save about € 240, I had booked flights from Amsterdam to Birmingham and from Birmingham to Cork. We had two hours to transfer flights in theory, but we were delayed for an hour-and-a-half, which gave us just 30 minutes to transfer. And, of course, instead of just wandering from one gate to another like one does in Amsterdam and many other airports, one had to go through passport control, find one's way over to departures, going through one shopping center after another, have our bags and our bodies checked, wander along many passageways and corridors to find that our plane had just pushed off from the gate and we had missed our flight. This despite the fact that we were told many times that they knew we were coming and that we would catch the flight. Very frustrating. BMI Baby was the company who proved to be very unhelpful all along bthe way, right from the start in Amsterdam where no-one communicated the fact that we were going to have any delay.

Anyway, we ended up spending the night in the Birmingham Etap hotel (only 35 pounds for a double room and highly recommended) and going to a pub to watch transvestite karaoke. Priceless!

About 500 euros later, we continued our trip by flying to Waterford, which was much nearer to Wexford than Cork anyway, with Aer Arran and had the whole afternoon ot get to Wexford before meeting up with Dad for dinner at Forde's on the quayside. We landed to a mixture of sun and showers, which was exactly what one would have expected, going to Ireland.

The bag came through quickly and we were soon trying to hire a car and were immediately shown the legendary friendliness of the Irish, as the two men behind teh desk started chatting to us and taking the mickey out of me being English on my first trip to Ireland. It was a good start even though they were stealing from our wallets with their rip-off Ireland prices!

Starting work today

Charles at 46
After the fun of yesterday, more fun today, the first day of Royal Ascot, as I start work! After two years off work, I start a new job today. Looking forward to gettiung started. Today, I have a couple of meetings in the Dutch office before spending the rest of the week in the London office.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wet birthdays

Wexford harbour, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It was a rainy day today, my 46th birthday.

The last time I had my birthday on a Monday, when I turned 40. it also rained.

On that day in 2001, Marc Almond's Stranger Things album came out. Not really his best. Marc's new album, Stranger Things came out two weeks ago and, as a birthday treat I allowed myseldf to listen to the whole album. Wonderful it is, and how great to play the song 'Kitsch' loudly a number of time sbefore Fred came home!!!!! Fantastic, and what a treat!

Both times we had a small party and had to have it indoors, not such a bad thing as it saved carrying everything upstairs and downstairs, and it is just as fun inside and on the balcony anyway. I spent the day making pizzas and buying stuff for the party and there was enough to eat and drink. Thanks to everyone who came, I hope you enjoyed it.

Tomorrow is another big day, as I start my new job. I do not have to be there too early, thank goodness! Good night.

At home with my 'new' Irish family

This is how the evening ended up.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Friends, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

And here I am making friends...

Threatening sky

Threatening sky, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We arrived to a mixture of sunshine and rain and had the afternoon to drive from Waterford across to Wexford in the east. We took the coastal road and had some lovely views enhanced by some wonderful skies, bright sunshoine alternating with dark threatening skies like this... in fact, just how I imagined it would be like.

Storm clouds across the estuary

We are back from Ireland, after an eventful few days, more about this tomorrow, but here are a couple of views.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Off to Oirland

Adored and Explored - one, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yes, indeed, we are off to Oirland, The Emerald Isle, the land of my forefathers, tonight!

Not only are we going to Oirland, but we are alos going to Wexford, which is where my great grandfather, the father of my paternal grandmother came from. The Mernaghs came from Coolamurry, a small hamlet/farm, near Enniscorthy, just above Wexford Town. Wexford is in the south-east corner of Oirland and there is said to be a bit of a Viking influence there as that is where the Vikings had their main base on the island. I assume there will be lots of redheads and people with green eyes. I wonder. Not like this chap here, spotted at The Derby, who has a more Celtic look with his dark hair and dark eyes.

Tomorrow, we will be meeting my father and Breda, his ladyfriend, at La Dolce Vita for lunch, after which we will go to an open-air opera (what happens when it rains, as it no doubt will?), followed by dinner. I think they are leaving the next day which'll give us time to explore more of the town, the surrounding countryside and the land of (some of) my fore-fathers. So, we will probably have an enforced blog break.

In the meantime, you will notice that this chap, like so many these days is revealing his underpants, just above the trousers. well, last night I was contacted by a chap in the US who wanted to use a photo of mine, from flickr, to illustrate an article he had written about 'saggy pants'. Apparently the mayor of a certain twon over there wants to ban them and give people fines if they have saggy pants.He said that he has nothing against saggy pants but thinks people who wear them should use discretion. "It's gotten way out of hand out here." Is anyone complaining?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Birds of a different feather

The Derby - dirty dancing, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Spotted at The Derby, not long ago.. in the Member's Enclosure, after all the gatemen went home and allowed me to wander around at my leisure. It was a great atmosphere, as can be seen from this photo.

Mute swans with their cygnets

English white - mute, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A white English rose

English white - rose, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The most famous meanings of the white rose arise from mythology. Many of these surround Aphrodite (Venus) as Goddess of love. She sprang forth into life from the foaming sea, and where the foam fell to the ground, white roses grew. This and later myths about Aphrodite display the dual nature of love: purity and innocence represented by white roses; desire and sexual gratification by red ones. In one story she runs to help her wounded lover Adonis and catches her flesh on the thorns of the white rose bush. Her blood falling on the bush turns the roses red, symbolizing the way innocence and purity change to experience and motherhood.

From The Meaning of Roses website

Monday, June 11, 2007

Marc Almond's "Stardom Road"

Mrac Almond's new album "Stardom Road" came out last Monday and I managed to pick up a copy at Get Records in Amsterdam's Utrechtsestraat yesterday afternoon. Much better to go to a record/CD shop and buy a copy than to order it through the internet, much like winning a bet at the bookies and being handed over, say, ten 20 pound notes than winning the same on an internet bank account. And to think that so many people nowadays can't even be bothered about a CD and just buy the download version.. incredible!

I have allowed myself to listen to the first four tracks of what promises to be an excellent CD, fullof Marc's covers of other people's songs, songs which tell stories about his own life. Marc was very very badly injured in a motorbike crash in October 2004 and, amongst other things, finds it difficult to concentrate and write his own songs, and he has alreadty had great success at interpreting other people's songs, that this CD seemed to make great sense.

Here is what Marc has had to say about the four songs to which I have listened so far:
I Have Lived
This Charles Aznavour song ... speaks without remorse or excuse for embracing the joie de vivre, seeking neither redemption nor forgiveness on the day of reckoning.

I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten
As a kid I used to watch the great ballad singers of the Sixties, female singers with too much make-up and torch-singing crooners, inevitably recalling lost loves and missed chances.

Bedsitter Images
When I left home to live in a city, I moved into a small squalid bedsit, but I recall, looking back, that it seemed to be like a palace at the time...

The London Boys
Originally a sixties Bowie song, it was a song which lured me into London, and in so doing, life imitated art...

Although I have lived a very different life to Marc Almond and am a very different person, I have often felt during the past 26 years since I first heard Tainted Love that his songs said something about my life, in many ways enhancing various experiences which I have had. I wrote some of this down a few years ago, but I am sure I'll not be able to find all that. Still, great to have the opportunity ot listen to Marc recounting and interpreting the songs which have meant so much to him on his way through life.

You can hear clips of all the songs on Marc's own website by clicking on the following link: Stardom Road

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Imperial Leisure

Imperial Leisure - jumping, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A week ago, a lovely sunny day in London. Fiona and I would go for a picnic and we thought about Regent's Park, for a change, but they did not allow dogs off the lead. We had Fiona's chocolate labrador, Oona, with us. so we had to go a bit further to Primrose Hill, with its great views across the capital and across to the City and Canary Wharf in the east.

We spent the first hour or so under a tree having our picnic, all bought that morning in Tesco for less than ten pounds: pita bread, humous, guacamole, yoghurt, bananas, taco chips and so on, water, no wine. However, we were a little bit too close to a gobby scouser girl, so decided to move on after a while. Not so much shade so I had to sit on the grass with a tea cloth over my head!

Great to see all aspects fo London life pour out into the parks on a lovely summer's day. What a multi-cultural city London is!

Fiona went home after a while, whilst I walked into town to get a new sim card for my mobile, and walking through Regent'Park, I came across the Camden Green Fair/Bike Fest, with group playing on a stage. Lots and lots of people there and the group sounded excellent, so I stuck around, really getting into the music.... a sort of ska, mixed with hip-hop, punk, latin sounds, two rappers, a singer, a very energetic trombone player and a few others. It turns out that they are Imperial Leisure and you can hear their music on this link. Bloody good they were and well recommended. They do guerilla gigs around the country in car parks and shopping centres and, even, on Newquay Beach, last month! Their music and their energy is infectious! See them if you can and I dare you not to dance or jump up and down!

It was too late to get Fiona to come over, so I had to enjoy it by myself. It was interesting to look around the stalls after the concert to see so many green ad organic organisations encouraging people to consume this green product or that... whereas the point of a good green is not to consume or to consume much less. I was handed a leaflet for a naked bike ride through London for this weekend... a protest by bikers against the lack of cycle lanes in London. I wish them luck... but despite the congestion charge the roads of London seem to be quite full enough... and mostly full of large modern red buses, all queueing up one after the other. Great that there is so much public transport available but it is becoming a victim of its own success, with the buses clogging up so much of the space on the roads. Not much room for bicycles. London will never become an Amsterdam in that respect!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Last photo from Watergate Bay... for now

Two dalmatians, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We had two dogs of our own - Ellie and Cuddles, but these two dalmatians were very photogenic as they ran around the beach. Very nice looking dogs but I am not sure they are the friendliest.

Back to Amsterdam

Three generations, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Back in Amsterdam, the rain started about ten minutes after I had struggled home on the crowded and steamy hot train, then tram back from Schiphol to Centraal, back home. It was very hot and dark clouds threatened, in the meantime there must have been about 30 children playing in the fountain and then a party of 20 or so standing outside Klein Jansen, celebrating something. Within a flash, the street was empty as teh clouds tipped down their rain and thunder rolled and lightning flashed. Good to get the oppressive heat out of the house... but quite a dramatic return home, all-in-all.

Fred had cooked a nice Jamie Oliver meal which we ate together before Eric turned up later to finish off the left-overs, after which we went off to Spargo for our Friday evening çlub avond'. Maybe this is teh last time I go and drink lots of beers as I felt rotten most of the day and stayed in bed well into teh afternoon. Well, I did get up at about 10 to answer the door to find a young smiling girl with a young smiling father asking me if I would like her to read me something from the bible. I assured her that if I wanted to I could read the bible myself and closed the door on her.

In the meantime, everything has shot up in the ten days I was away and I have had to cut back the vine quite ferociously, although Fred seems to enjoy hiding behind the mass of stems and leaves of the vine. The hollyhocks are not quite out, but the lavatera is. Normally they come out on about the same day - usually my birthday, but this year the lavatera was flowering already in May.

Otherwise, not too much to report. I finally received the draft contract fro my new job, which I sent back with a few queries and it looks very much as if I will be starting at the beginning of next week, hopefully on the 19th, so I had better make the most of my free time here at home.

The last thing to mention is that the blackbirds have come back and built a nest where we managed to stop the wood pigeons from building their nest. So now we have to share the balcony with our feathered friends and not be too obtrusive. Nice to have them back and I hope they have more success than last year when the babies were attcked and killed by the magpies.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Back in Crewkerne

The surf instructors, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Time to leave the beach and just in time, as the clouds have come over today. We finally left just before 6 pm, having taken full advantage of the hotel facilities for the day, including the hot showers, the sunbeds and the heated outdoor pool, while we were not in the surf.

It was an easy 120 mile drive back to Crewkerne which took us just over two hours, unlike the fours they took to get down, having taken a wrong turning and travelled along the north Devon and north Cornwall coast.

We had a quick-ish dinner last night before going to bed early as Diana and the boys needed to be in London early today to see our uncle and aunty. I had Harry sleeping in my bed, which was very nice and he did not kick like his cousin Thomas used to. He was missing Uncle Fred so hopefully we can have him over to stay sometime in the summer, whilst Jmaes might come over for Lowlands if it looks like some decent bands will be playing.

A quiet house here now, with the others gone and Mum will be taking me to the airport at around lunchtime. I have been promised a big thunderstorm to welcome me back to Amsterdam, after which Fred has promised to cook me a nice dinner!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Diana's birthday

Charles and Diana - still going strong!

It is Diana's birthday today and for the next eleven days she will be the sdame age as me. Harry thinks she is 112, so thinks I am that age as well.

It has been another long day on the beach, in the waves, gliding along with the surf. Some great waves earlier in the day taking us well over 60 meters to the shoreline.... and what a sense of adreneline as the wave breaks over you and accelerates you through the white surf, propelling you to shore. Wonderful. I gave up trying to stand up or kneel on the board, great if you can do it, but if you can't it tends to break your surf and you either slow down or fall off.

The others are getting ready to go, driving back from here to Mum's house in Somerset. Time for a nice long snooze, I think, the sea air, the sun and the sea making one feel deliciously tired.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A great day surfing

Watergate Bay, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Another day spent on the beach. The waves were spectacular and Diana, James and myself had great fun in the surf later in the afternoon, both on the body boards and the surf board we rented for two hours. The waves were massive today, bigger than any waves I have seen here before, almost as big as those we saw in Australia when we were living there as children. Funny to be there again, next to my sister surfing in the waves, much as we had done all those 35 years ago! Mum watching us from the beach, but now Diana is a Mum and her eldest son James was out with the main surfboard trying to catch a good wave and stand up.

It is a spectacular place, especially when the tide goes out to leave a very wide beach, below the grass covered cliffs, a typical North Cornwall bay. It also helps very much when the sun shines the whole day, like it did today.

Diana took us out for a little drive in the evening to a small village called St Mawgan (Cornwall has some very particularv saints) where we found a perfectly charming country pub, with a lovely grass lawn behind, where we feasted ourselves on seafood mornay with cheddar cheese... mmmm... washed down, in my case, by Cornish bitter.

Tomorrow, we have to leave. Diana will take us to Mum's in Crewkerene, after another day on the beach. After this I am going back to Amsterdam on Friday afternoon, after what has been a most wonderful stay in England.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Watergate Bay

Diana and the boys, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A wonderful day on the beach at Watergate Bay, the sun shining almost all day with the surf pounding in off the Atlantic.

We started off with a wholesome English breakfast before going for a walk along the beach with the doggies - Ellie and Cuddles. After this, we got our wetsuits on, grabbed the body boards and charged into the waves. Great fun!

Later, we would pop inot Padstow, reminding me of the holiday where Fred and I camped nearby and took the car in every evening to order a lasagne and chips at the Old Custom House pub. I had to see if it was still on the menu, but this part of Cornwall has had the image consultants in and now the pub serves fancy Italian food like goats cheese and cherry tomatoes and so on. Ten years ago, lasagne was thought to be exotic enough for most tastes. Still, great to see the comeback of raspberry ripple ice cream.

Diana and Mum went to Fifteen, just below the hotel while James and I had another excellent dinner in the Brasserie, while Harry watched The Wild on dvd with the hotel nanny. Great to be outdoors in the sun all day, it makes one very sleepy... time for bed, methinks.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Free Ride

Chavs on the Downs, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Not so much internet access in the last few days, but I am now in the teenage room at the Watergate Bay Hotel, near Newquay in Cornwall, where there is an internet terminal and all the teenagers have gone to bed. I am here with my Mum, my sister Diana and her two boys, James and Harry. They had arranged this holiday quite some time ago, where the two adults get to stay 5 days in this excellent hotel, with breakfast and three dinners, including one at Jamie Oliver's 15 restaurant for just 200 pounds each. The boys come for 50 pounds each and, by the sounds of it, James ordered himslef a 50 pound meal last night at The Beach Hut last night!

The hotel sits just above Watergate Bay, a wide-ish Cornish bay facing the Atlantic Ocean, with a good surf, with views across to Newquay in the west. Not so far from where Fred and I watched the Eclipse in 1999 on our last visit to Cornwall.

I came down today from London on a 10 pound coach ride with National Express, not bad for a 400 km journey in a near empty coach with took just 6 hours, just 2 hours more than I would have needed to have taken a 120 pound carbon emitting flight from Gatwick! Watch out for their ' Fun Fare', excellent value for a great service.

It has been a very cheap stay for me here in England, starting off with my free Marc Almond concert on Wednesday, followed by a gallery opening in London on Thursday with free champagne, snacks and entrance to a top night club. Friday evening saw me joining my cosuin James for the races at Goodwood, almost two years after I had previously joined him there. Just as last time we were among the winners, ending the evening about 200 pounds up, thanks to Bob's Surprise at 9-1 and Ivy Creek (my BIG fancy) at 8-1 I would lose some of this the next day at The Derby, where I spent the hot afternoon on the Downs where there is no entrance money.

Finally, after a picnic with Fiona on Primrose Hill in London, I came across the Camden Green Fair and Bike Fest, where I was brilliantly entertained by a wonderful and energetic 10 man group playing a mix of ska, punk and hip-hop, called Imperial Leisure (they can be found on Excellent... what great thngs there are to enjoy in and around London in the summer time.

I had thought about spending this week in Dubrovnik as there was a cheap flight for 50 pounds return all inclusive, but I was asked if I would like to join Mum and Diana and the boys here in Cornwall and this sounded a much better option.

And so it is turning out to be. James is expecting me to join him surfing tomorrow and Diana has brought with her a wet-suit for the purpose. The sea will be much colder than it was when I went swimming in Holland recently, this being ocean water rather than sea water.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Frankie Dettori finally wins The Derby

It was a great day on the Epsom Downs. Blazing hot sunshine, big crowds and Frankie finally winning The Derby after 14 unsuccessful attempts.

Locations of visitors to this page