Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Football in Albania

Football in Albania, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

So it was the Champions League Final and Barcelona beat Manchester United 2-0. They deserved to win. In Messi and Iniesta, Barcelona have two very great talents in midfield and it was a joy to watch them play. Well done!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gatecrashing a Spanish wedding in Toledo

This dear young woman reminded me so much of another dear woamn - Anjeza Shahini - who sang for Albania in the Eurovision of 2004 and got their best placing ever with 7th - see the video here: - a Eurovision classic!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A pleasant afternoon in Toledo

Still, can't complain too much as I have had a lovely time here in Madrid. Working with some lovely, positive colleagues, drinking Sangria, eating local food in local restaurants, doing (almost all the work I had set out to do) and, yesterday afternoon, being taken by my colleagues to visit Toledo!

What a treat! No more than an hour's drive on the empty toll road from Madrid, the old royal city with its narrow streets, imposing gothic cathedral and palaces, mighty gates, and old bridges crossing the river which loops around the city. Full of tourists, it must be said - I saw more here in the first five minutes than in a whole week in Albania! It was hot when we arrived at 4, very hot even (although I told my colleagues that we normally don't say that in everyday English - very warm or hot, but not usually very hot (unless referring to an extremely attractive person!). Not sure if I am right though.

Anyway, we walked around for about four hours, keeping to the shade and trying to catch any breeze going, stopping every so often to look at the views and the range of tourist memorabilia on sale, like fluffy bulls _ such a contrast to the blood sport which is si popular amongst many Spaniards

Also flffy donkeys, gladiator helmets (it looked as if Svetlana Loboda might have sources her dancers impressive helmets from here), armour, swords, knives, flamenco dresses with polka dots, tiles saying that 'Here lives (or works) an artist, banker, engineer, adjuster, teacher and everyone except an accountant (who would probably be too sensible to buy such nonsense, there was also moorish tiles, Italian style painted pottery, pottery dolls and metal ckights in armour riding horses. I regret not buying one of these for Harry. Never mind.

We saw guests arriving at a wedding. All the women elegantly dressed, not a grey hair in sight, however old they might be, many red shoes, the men all in dark shoes, not a poorly dressed person in sight (conrast witha typical Dutch wedding). I was assured that these were normal people, not rich, as hey would to English or Dutch eyes seem to be. Inside, as the service started, they played a tape of the wedding march hummed by a choir in Abba style. Endearing!

The walls of Toledo

The walls of Toledo, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

KLM? Royal Airline Company. What a load of nonsense. Taken over by Air France and working with some dreadful US airlines (North Worst and Delta), they made a profit last quarter and told the market they were going to make even more redundancies. This when they already have too few peopl, judged by the queues they have when either trying to check-in or drop one's bag. Even if you perform the tiresome busoness of accessing theior sometimes ropey website and fill in your personal details, despite the fact that they already have those details on their computer files and then manage to print a boarding pass, you are still requires to drop your bag. Easy enough, you would think, but at Schiphol at 6 in the morning already toy are forces into a cattle pen to wait in long queues for them to check your bag in, which somehow takes them almost as long as checking in, leading you to wonder why you had wasted your time doing that in the first place.

After quite a long walk, I am now at the gate and I will wait until I am almost the last before I board.I have a window seat as I had indicated both when I booked my ticket and when I checked in on the way out. But this apparently counts for nothing as, apparently, KLM completely ignores its customer requests until you check-in. On European flights, that is. Most flights. Why then bother to ask?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Madrid - a slice of life

A slice of life: visiting Madrid for three days for work. My dearest collegues _ Vanesa, Patricia and Danny work here - and they have promised to take me to Toledo on Friday afternoon!!!

Anyway, Felipe is taking me out to dinner at 8.30, giving me an hour or two to kill, so I wander around and find myself sitting on the terrace on front of the Richelieu (!!!) Bar on Paseo Eduardo Dato. I am surrounded by a large number of elderly gentlewomen, with an average age somewhere in the 70's with an extraordinary range of hair colours (great business for the local paruccherias

Carrying on.... And they are sipping away at their cervezas and sangria. I sit down and order my beer and get brought dishes of olives, crisps, peanuts and cheesy biscuits. The first mouthful

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Scenes around Bulqize

Scenes around Bulqize, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Bulqize is a mining town in the central northern region of Albania. The town is divided in two, split by some marshland over which this road is built. There are many apartment blocks built in both parts of the town, the ones in the southern part, under the dark mountainside are brightly coloured, the ones to the north. A dull muddy grey. We managed to make an elderly couple very happy by giving them a lift along the valley for about twenty kilometers and they invited us in for coffee, which we politely refused, a pity really as we never made it inside one of these blocks. Despite falling on seemingly hard times, the town had quite a happy air about it.worth stopping if ever going to Peshkopi.

Monday, May 18, 2009

School tie ban in the UK

Loose ties - Edirne, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I am moving this photo forward on my photostream to comment on the fact that the BBC has reported that due to 'Health and Safety' concerns, ties are being banned from some schools in England, to be replaced by clip-on ties.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think this is complete madness. Unfortunately, it is typical of what is going in that country over the North Sea. I hate it!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kesji Tola sings 'Carry Me In Your Dreams' for Albania this evening

Euroviison finally came and went. Norway won by a mile, as we all expected.. this is what I was thinking during the day going into Eurovision:

Here are my favourites going into the last day, not much changed from my first list of a few weeks ago, although I had to find replacements for the two (Slovenia and Montenegro) which failed to qualify:

12 Bosnia & Herzegovina
10 Albania
8 Portugal
7 Ukraine
6 Spain
5 Iceland
4 Moldova
3 Estonia
2 Azerbaijan
1 Romania

I liked the Turkish song but I thought the semi-final performance was rubbish.

And... ANY song to win apart from Greece, which I really don't like (sorry).

BUT... Norway will win... easily...

So, I was right about Norway, but not much else...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Albania makes it to the Final... go Kesji, go girl!

... but do these chaps really care?

Kesji Tola, the charming 17 year old singer for Albania is studying in Tirana but won her first major competition in Shkodra.

Just a pity she is not singing in the beautiful Schqip (Albanian) language.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A special day for Fred!

Fred pointing down, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eurovision in Concert - sweet thing from Iceland

Johanna from Iceland made it through to the Final of Eurovision and came through as the biggest surprise of Tuesday's semi-final. We see her here singing in Amsterdam.

It looked good and she has a lovely voice but you8 have to worry that the song might be a bit weak. Certainly in with a chance but unlikely to win (despite all the friendly Nordic voting).

Bosnia also made it through to the Final of Eurovision but they weren't entirely convincing, which saw their price go out from 7-1 to 20-1, which is not good... The voice was not quite right and the camera angles were not optimal. The camera needs to concentrate more on the singer's face...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Souvenirs from Atlanta, GA

Souvenirs from Atlanta, GA, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Just got back from a week in Atlanta - meetings at head office. Atlanta airport always seems to be full of American soldiers leaving for a posting abroad. They never seem to actually get into a plane, but they are often to be found in teh departure lounges, phoning home, internetting and reading.

The week in Atlanta went well, didn't see too much of the city but we did make it to a baseball match one evening when we stayed at the back and drank beer and ate American delicacies like hot dogs and chicken nuggets.

It's good to be back home.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tricycles in the puddles in Peshkopi

Monday, May 04, 2009

Life in rural Albania - orchard

Sunday, May 03, 2009

And it's goodbye (to Tirana) from him...

Yes, already time to say goodbye to Tirana and Albania. We will be sad to leave having got into the Albanian groove over the past week and we almost feel at home back here in Tirana with our friends at the Villa Tafaj , not to mention new friends like this bus conductor earlier today... Lots of photos to sort through and upload in the days and weeks ahead.

Falimanderit, Albania/Shqiperia for giving us such a warm welcome!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Tirana - painted apartment block

Edi Rama, the mayor of Tirana, has made an amazing difference to the city - by subsidizing paint and ancouraging people/housing corporations to paint their apartment blocks. He is an amazing man, who was interviewed by Michael Palin in his New Europe series on BBC. There is a very interesting article about him on this link:,58,413

Friday, May 01, 2009

The horses of Peshkopi

The horses of Peshkopi, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

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