Thursday, January 31, 2008

International Day of the Potato

Today is the International Day of Poetry and is also Queen Beatrix's 70th birthday but most importantly, it is the International Day of the Potato, in what is already the International Year of the Potato!

The great indigenous civilization of South America first cultivated the potato and they had a prayer about the potato as follows:
“O Creator! Thou who givest life to all things and hast made men that they may live, and multiply. Multiply also the fruits of the earth, the potatoes and other food that thou hast made, that men may not suffer from hunger and misery."

Having been to Argentina and not eaten much else other than meat (the best you have ever had), I cannot comment too much about South American potatoes. I would just say that some of the very best potatoes we have tasted were in the Middle East and the tastiest chips were served in Yemen.

To celebrate we had cottage pie last night with a topping of mashed potato and West Country organic cheddar cheese.. mmmm...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Charles with Ali

Charles with Ali, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

There was an article in the NRC newspaper reviewing a book called Desiring Arabs, where a number of prejudices were discussed, among them being the idea that all western men who visit the Arab countries are homosexual. I cannot think what they mean...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Australia weekend

Getting married in Paraguay, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is Australia Day tomorrow and last night we had our Australian friend J round for dinner, with P, J having had a function in town to celebrate Australia Day.

Woke up this morning and watched an excellent Australian Open Final won in brillinat fashion by Novak Djokovic of Serbia who beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in four sets. Always a nice surprise for the least weekend of January to be watching the Australian Open final. Strange not to see Roger Federer wining, but I like the Djokovic, so was pleased that he won.

And this evening we treated ourselves to Muriel's Wedding, one of our favourite films, with two of my favourite actresses Toni Colette and Rachel Griffiths. It is, in fact, quite a sad film, but the ending is so uplifting and it is always a treat to watch.

This provides us with the theme for this photo of a wedding dress in Alberdi in Paraguay, on the border with Formosa in Argentina. January is almost done and I have yet to take a single photo... having been living all month on flickr off our photos from Turkey!

Further, we had a bit of a spring clean, tidying up the garden finally after it had been a bit of a mess for the last six weeks due to the work being done on the balconies. Also, rounded up all the old shoes under the beds and in teh cupboards and sorted them out between teh sheos which have to be thrown away (my leather shoes full of holes) and those which can be passed on to a charity shop. Gave the bedroom a very good hoovering, cleaned the sheets, opened the windows, let the fresh air in and now looking forward to a nice sleep between cool crisp sheets.

Nest weekend it with be February and the days will seem longer, the evenings already are but soon the mornings will start getting lighter too and and the garden will be full of the sound of tits as they chatter whilst gathering their food.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Today's catch...

A Lebanese fisherman, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Meanwhile... back in Urfa...

Meanwhile... back in Urfa..., originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This photo was taken by the fishpools of Abraham in Urfa, during our 2006 holiday in Turkey.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mum

Mum with Harry, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Dear Mum, Best wishes and lots of love to you on your birthday. Hope you have a nice time and that it doesn't rain all day.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Most miserable day of the year...

In and around Eminonu, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today, being the third Monday of January, when the mornings are still very dark, it has rained the whole day, back at work, the salary not yet in the bank account, but the credit cards bills already received...

... and, yes, it was not such an easy day in the office, where after the optimism of starting the new year with a positive attitude, the bad habits of other people in the organisation are starting to show.

I have not spoken to South Africa today, but it seems as if there is no electricity there. or, at least, there IS electricity but only for two hours a day... so it could have been very frustrating to be there this week. I am still hoping to go back next month, if I can get my passport renewed in time.

At a bit of a loose end workwise, back here, so tried to plan a couple fo trips elsewhere but it appears not to be so easy .

Anyway, at least Fred has cooked a delicious dinner for us, the house is nice and warm and here is a positive photo of a man in the early morning sunshine in Istanbul. He celebrates 750,000 photostream views on flickr. It was a slower 50,000 views than normal (53 days), due in part to the censorship and a general drop in the number of views I have been having recently.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, dear Harry

Harry, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Still with Istanbul in my head...

Yes, South Africa was not t be, after all, at least, not this time. I took the KLM flight out to Johannesburg, which was very comfortable and spacious, where I had three seats over which to lie and sleep. I was one of teh first off the plane, but when I go to the immigration desk the lady behind the counter toldf me that my passport was full and she was not going to let me into the country. She made me wait a good while before calling over her supervisor who agreed that my pasport was full and that I would not be allowed in. The second supervisor agreed with the first and soon I was shown into an office on the mezzanine floor where a man behind the desk also agreed that it was full and told me, with apparent glee that I would be put on the next flight to Amsterdam and that he would be fining KLM for having let me onto the plane.

A half hour later, I was back on the plane which had brought me to Johannesburg and facing another ten-and-a-half hour flight back to Amsterdam. Again, I had three empty seats over which to stretch out and sleep and before I knew it, I was back in Amsterdam, of course without my suitcase and having wasted 24 hours of my life and a thousand euros of the company's money.

Anyway, it was a great opportunity to sit back and enjoy the thrill of reading Orham Pamuk's 'Istanbul - memories and the city'. A surprisingly easy read, it is a perfect book to obtain a greater insight to that wonderful city, written by someone who has lived there all his life and is, indeed, a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. And, this was just the right time to be reading the book, so soon after we deepened our knowledge and experience of the city. Also better to be reading the book AFTER one has just visited the city and ben to so many of the places being mentioned than reading it BEFORE visiting, where one has no vision or idea of the palces which are being described.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Off to another continent

Off to another continent, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Off for twelve days back to the continent from whence I came... and apparently it is due to rain for the coming week...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Istanbul - life in cartoon motion

Here is a rather attractive grafitti from Istanbul, taken on our last morning there almost three weeks ago.

This week has not bene such a great week as both Fred and I have been at home not feeling too well. Fred has been having a bad cold whilst I have been suffering a second bout of cold whilst not quite recovering from the first. So I have been at home half working half relaxing trying to take it easy.

We have spent the evenings catching up on DVD'swe hadn't got round to watching before. We have watched recently:

Cry Freedom, a film about Steve Biko
Byron,a BBC costume drama about Lord Byron, which was quite disappointing
Charles II , a very good BBC costume drama about Charles II
Great Expectations, the 1948 film
The Constant Gardner,a film of a John Le Carre book set in Kenya
The Last King of Scotland, a film about a young Scottish doctor and Idi Amin
The Kingdom of Heaven, a Ridlet Scott film about the Crusades and the fallof Jerusalem to Saladin

and in the meantime... we hear that they ARE going to make The Hobbit into a film and that Peter Jackson is going to be in charge. Should be in the cinemas by December 2010!

In and around the Church of St Saviour in Chora

Not so keen on religion, but we like religious art... here is Jesus at his resurrection dragging Adam and Eve out of their graves, while the black Devil toils in the ground underneath his feet - as seen in the ex-Church of St Savious in Chora, on the fifth hill in Istanbul, near the Edirne Gate.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Smoking bans

Looking up, fag in hand, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here is a reaction I had to my recent posting about the smoking ban in Turkey. It is written more from a US perspective and comes from someone with an obvious liberarian bent, but I do think he makes some good points (ones which could be used with equal relevance to the question of fox hunting:

The bandwagon of local smoking bans now steamrolling across the nation - from sea to sea- has nothing to do with protecting people from the supposed threat of "second-hand" smoke.

Indeed, the bans themselves are symptoms of a far more grievous threat; a cancer that has been spreading for decades and has now metastasized throughout the body politic, spreading even to the tiniest organs of local government. This cancer is the only real hazard involved - the cancer of unlimited government power.

The issue is not whether second-hand smoke is a real danger or a phantom menace, as a study published recently in the British Medical Journal indicates. The issue is: if it were harmful, what would be the proper reaction? Should anti-tobacco activists satisfy themselves with educating people about the potential danger and allowing them to make their own decisions, or should they seize the power of government and force people to make the "right" decision?

Supporters of local tobacco bans have made their choice. Rather than attempting to protect people from an unwanted intrusion on their health, the tobacco bans are the unwanted intrusion.

Loudly billed as measures that only affect "public places," they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops, and offices - places whose owners are free to set anti-smoking rules or whose customers are free to go elsewhere if they don't like the smoke. Some local bans even harass smokers in places where their effect on others is obviously negligible, such as outdoor public parks.

The decision to smoke, or to avoid "second-hand" smoke, is a question to be answered by each individual based on his own values and his own assessment of the risks. This is the same kind of decision free people make regarding every aspect of their lives: how much to spend or invest, whom to befriend or sleep with, whether to go to college or get a job, whether to get married or divorced, and so on.

All of these decisions involve risks; some have demonstrably harmful
consequences; most are controversial and invite disapproval from the neighbours. But the individual must be free to make these decisions. He must be free, because his life belongs to him, not to his neighbours, and only his own judgment can guide him through it.

Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack. Cigarette smokers are a numerical minority, practicing a habit considered annoying and unpleasant to the majority. So the majority has simply commandeered the power of government and used it to dictate their behaviour.

That is why these bans are far more threatening than the prospect of
inhaling a few stray whiffs of tobacco while waiting for a table at your favourite restaurant. The anti-tobacco crusaders point in exaggerated alarm at those wisps of smoke while they unleash the systematic and unlimited intrusion of government into our lives.

We do not elect officials to control and manipulate our behaviour. They are in office to serve us, not vice- versa.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Richard

Around Sa Pa, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I hope you are well and I hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Travelling again...

Traın, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

In the middle of France again, on a TGV down to Grenoble, where I hope to pass some work off to someone else who can then carry it forward without me coming down every month. It is a grey day outside as we wind through quite attractive countryside, even more attractive in the spring and summer, I should think. The clouds are a little low so I am not sure there will be many views of the snow-capped mountains to the east. But… I am here for work and I will be returning back to Paris again this evening, before continuing tomorrow onto Antwerp for a meeting in the Belgium office.

As an international controller, I cannot help but have to travel, but at least I can try to do it efficiently and take the train as often as I can. A flight out this morning would have gotr me to the office at about 14.00 which isn’t much good, whilst a flight out yesterday evening would have eaten into my afternoon at work and would have deprived me of an evening as well. Taking the train down to Paris after work and then another this morning down to Grenoble gave me a full day in the office yesterday, a couple of hours in Paris last night for a meal and a drink and now gets me to the office on time for a full day here. It is cheaper, less stressful and has a much smaller carbon footprint.

Before Christmas, my French was improving but now, after a week in Turkey, I feel as if I have lost my confidence with my French again. We will see how it goes in the office today, where my two finance colleagues do not speak much English but where the consultant does… a bit…

The papers here are full of Sarkozy, as ever, now looking forward to what the man can achieve in the coming year.It will be interesting to see how far he can go with his reforms, of which I am sure many are needed. I think that reforming France is a very difficult objective, as the French are very good at protecting their own interests and are not so willing to bow to a government’s will. This is something to admire about the French. It seemed that Sarkozy had the people on his side when he came to power with his rhetoric. However, it remains to be seen how many he can take with him as he tries to make the changes he wants. At least he will give it a try, unlike all his predecessors and unlike Mr Belusconi in Italy who promised to reform that country but spent most of his time in power protecting his own interests and protecting himself from prosecution. As for Mr Brown in the UK, it would seem that he has some good ideas but lacks decisiveness in putting his ideas into action and policies. I think the issue of governing and just maintaining the status quo has become so difficult that it is very hard to implement meaningful reforms.

This is also what I have to bear in mind when looking at my objectives for the coming year… there are so many things to be doing just keeping things ticking over and making small improvements here and there, it is best not to be too ambitious and ry bto change too much but to pick out two or three things and concentrate on them

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Chicken Out Campaign

Mother hen, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I received an e-mail from my sister Fiona yesterday referring me to the Chicken Out Campaign - against the practice of battery farming chickens so that they can be served up for next to nothing on the dinner table.

The chicken we had on Saturday was 'free range' although it was reared in France. It was quite large enough for four adults and a child and tasted delicious and cost € 14, (or about ten pounds/twenty dollars) and a much more reasonable price to pay for a whole bird.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Smoking ban arrives in Turkey quicker than we could have ever expected...

(As seen in) Bursa, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Hard to believe... we were thinking this might happen in maybe ten years time but it has already happened according to this news from the BBC

" The Parliament in Turkey has voted to introduce a blanket ban on smoking in enclosed public places. Banning smoking was until recently completely unthinkable in Turkey, where 40% of the adult population - 25 million people - are smokers.

But such bans are now common in Europe. Health campaigners say one in five deaths in Turkey - a major tobacco producer - is tobacco-related.

The new ban will outlaw smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars, cafes and restaurants as well as taxis, trains and outdoor stadiums. It is due to come into force in about 18 months' time.

Many smokers too are outraged by what they see as an infringement of their civil liberties, and are warning that they will ignore the new law. But against this, the new law is being strongly praised by health campaigners. They point out that smoking-related illnesses cost Turkey up to 3bn lira (£1.4bn; $2.7bn) a year.

The anti-smoking lobby has on its side a powerful supporter in the shape of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Well-known for his dislike of smoking, it is Mr Erdogan himself who has championed the new law through parliament and who in this instance, at least, appears more than ready to put principle ahead of popularity."

Hard to believe because everyone lights up, including young school boys and middle aged Anatolian mothers... oh well... Holland follows on 1st July.

Karagöz Muzesi in Bursa

Karagöz Muzesi in Bursa, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Karagöz (left) and Hacivat (right) are the two most popular characters in Turkish shadow puppetry. The Karagöz Museum is opposite the tomb of Seyh Kusteri, who is accepted as the founding father of this art.
These enamel figures have been placed around his concrete tomb.

There is a very good website about Karagöz and Turkish Puppet Show Plays to be found on:

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Christmas Day in Istanbul

Christmas Day in Istanbul, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is where we had our Christmas Day lunch.

Tonight we are eating Roast Chicken, with roast potatoes, caramelised pears, brussels sprouts, sage and onion stuffing and bread sauce, followed by Christmas Pudding.

Our dear friends J&P could not make it tonight as P is down with the dreaded flu/bad cold so we are having M&A plus little Q round instead.

The Green Mosque in Bursa

The Green Mosque in Bursa, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hard to believe that we were here a week ago...

Here are the men cleaning themselves before entering the mosque for Friday prayers at the Ulu Cami in Bursa.

Back here, it was a day in bed for me yesterday while Fred was out the whole day and today was a day of working at home, catching up on what I could not do yesterday. I am a lot more positive about my job, after our Christmas break, so am hoping not to be disappointed in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, Fred returns to school on Monday.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The backstreets of Bursa - as previously described

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A bright 2008 to everyone...

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