Away

4 February, 2007

Angkor Wat – Siem Reap, Cambodia

I’m off again: it’s been far too long since I ‘headed out‘ and this time I’m travelling to Cambodia. Friends will know that ‘wanderlust‘ is in the Magwitch family blood – my ancestors, dating back to the 18th century, were all itinerant performers and I’ve been carted off around the world since early childhood. My last major trip was across Turkey, Syria and Jordan – a wonderful month and a half spent amongst some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met: particularly in Syria which I just adored – terrible food mind, despite being a neighbour to Lebanon whose cuisine is heaven. Sadly all my photos from that trip are on slide film and I still haven’t got around to converting them to digital.

Usually these adventures are just me, my camera and an itinerary that I make up as I go along, but this time it’s a little different. I met up with Lesley from Gecko Travel at the Daily Telegraph Adventure Show back in January and I’m booked on an organised trip which will also combine a photographic course under the guidance of renown freelance photographer Nathan Horton. Hopefully I’ll come back with a half-decent snap or two. I’ve got my Canon EOS 350 plus lenses and my PowerShot A20 already to go plus the most important thing you can ever take with you when travelling – a smile (never underestimate the power of a smile to a stranger).

Fingers crossed we’re not going to encounter any arrogant Brits along the way – unfortunately the most hideous people I’ve ever met when travelling are ignorant, load mouthed Brits who won’t attempt the language, the food or the culture and are generally obnoxious to everyone.

There’ll be no blogging for a few weeks. I hope to set up a small web-site with the photos (assuming there’s anything decent) upon my return.

Until next time….

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Nothing Much

18 January, 2007


Lazing around and doing nothing much

Well, it’s been a few days since I posted anything so thought I’d better put something up just incase anyone drops by.

I’ve had a few days off and, quite frankly, haven’t really got anything of interest to blog about. I had a successful day at the Daily Telegraph Adventure Travel Show. I was hoping to find two different holidays for this year, one a photographic course/adventure the other a trip abroad. In the end I found both in the same holiday and have spent a lot of time since, sorting out the little incidentals that are commensurate with foreign travel. I also thought it was high time I checked the handbook for my Canon EOS 350D and found out what some of those other dials and buttons are for. I usually just have it set to ‘manual‘ and use it as I did my old Pentax K1000 (one of the best fully manual cameras around and still my favourite – even if it is a bit clunky).

I also found another Hilary Mantel book down at the library. I’ve spent a few happy hours immersed in Beyond Black. A story about nothing much – so far – but Mantel’s use of language keeps me riveted; like reading poetry. Reminds me of the books by D.M. Thomas I read years ago.

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There are some things that it’s acceptable to do when you’re single and one of my favourites is popping out to the cinema – I don’t go that often as so many films are of the “I’ll wait until it’s out on DVD” variety, though I end up missing out on the ‘big screen experience’. This year I thought I’d treat myself to an ‘unlimited’ card for my local cinema. It’s seems reasonable value, I only have to see 3 films a month and I’ve had my monies worth. It also means I can go and see all those films I would have waited for. So this week I’ve been out to see;

  • Apocolypto: not as grizzly as the press suggests – entertaining 4/5
  • Deja Vu: only coz I like Denzel Washington. Really two films stuck together. OK, but won’t be buying it on DVD 3/5
  • Night at the Museum: Jumanji part II. Lighthearted. Ricky Gervais is wasted (trying to recreate David Brent doesn’t work) Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs are wasted (they’re great and could have been used far more) 2/5
  • Miss Potter: Quintessentially English – maybe I’m turning into a sad, lonely old git but this was the best film by far; superb acting – by everyone, witty, great music and superb scenery (the Lakes). If this is the sort of production the UK Film Council is supporting then it’s money well spent in my view. 5/5 – see it

It’s back to work tomorrow – nights again- so perhaps something of interest will occur.


Wide Load

4 January, 2007

 

This week’s award for lack of forethought, poor planning and complete dearth of common sense goes to BJ&C Carberry of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

These clowns decided that transporting a wide load through the morning rush hour was a smart idea. Not only that, they decided to deliver these 2 containers against the flow of traffic. The road they used is the major A road link between my county and the next. I got stuck behind this juggernaut on the way home and it took over half an hour to travel just 6 miles, even if they did have advance ‘escort’ vehicles trying (vainly it must be said) to stop oncoming traffic or move it to the curb.

 

We regularly have to run on blue lights down this road; it’s the main link to a rural area of the county covering about 100 square miles. Imagine if we had to attend the type of incident they had on the M4 last night; or a cardiac arrest; or a status epilepticus: lives would have been at risk – if not lost.

You can see from the above picture how much of the road the vehicle was taking up, and this was on one of the wider sections: in fact we came to a halt here for nearly 5 minutes (which is when I took the picture) while they tried to juggle oncoming trucks and buses so the vehicle could get passed.

 

Trying to get through the town proved a real challenge and brought everything to a grinding halt*.

What was wrong with moving this load during the night when the roads are empty? It’s not as if they needed to have a receiving yard unlocked on arrival. As you can see from the top picture they parked up on the pavement outside the factory.

Luckily no emergency vehicles needed to pass during the time I was stuck in the queue, although a perverse part of me wanted one to come along just to see what these bozos would do. I wonder, had this wide-load delayed an emergency vehicle, due to the ludicrous time of day they chose to travel, would Carberry’s have been committing an offence under the Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Bill?

Rant over; I’m off to bed.

*(Using a bit of local knowledge I’d managed to slip down some country lanes so I got ahead of them to get this picture).


Bet Ya Didn’t Know

1 January, 2007

Passenger passing through US immigration

The Daily Telegraph unearths more skullduggery by sleazy Nu-Labour.

US ‘licence to snoop’ on British air travellers. read the whole story here plus the editor’s comment.

In a nutshell, if you fly to the US and pay by credit card (which is probably what most people will do) the EU has agreed that the US authorities can seek details of other transactions on your credit card account and, if you supplied an email address, they can get access to ALL the emails you sent on that acccount.

The EU has caved in to US demands, and the Blair government has just crumbled.

But what’s even worse….

The government weren’t going to tell us.

The Labour Government has endorsed these measures (which have been divulged only because of a Freedom of Information request)

God bless the Daily Telegraph.


Why is it New Year?

1 January, 2007

The New Year starts – now.

This might seem like a superfluous question, after all it’s January 1st, but what I mean is, why do we celebrate New Year now, at this time of year?

I was having one of my ‘why‘ moments earlier today and it occurred to me that I don’t really understand our western New Year. Consider; if we didn’t have a way of tracking the days through the year, and you came up with the idea of a calendar, why would you start it now? It’s not as if this time of year is celebrating anything significant; it’s not an equinox, or a solstice or any other astronomical/astrologically significant event. It’s not the cusp of a zodiacal sign or the celebration of a solar return.

Our present Gregorian calendar is a Christian one so why doesn’t it start on Christ’s birthday? (we won’t get into the debate on whether that should really be in early January, based on changes in earlier calendars or when the conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars was supposed to have occurred to produce the ‘star’ that the wise men followed). At least Christ’s birthday would be a celebration of a solar return (it’s why we say ‘many happy returns’ in case you’d never considered it) After all a solar return is supposed to mark the anniversary of an important event; like my birthday or the day Inky (the cat) turned up with all his worldly possessions neatly tied up in a bundle (June 9th for those who care – and I’ve no idea when his birthday is; sometime in April so the vet reckons). As Christians view yearly time based on BC or AD it would seem to make sense to have the calendar start on what we now consider December 25th.

Now the Chinese New Year makes sense (much to do with legend): it starts on the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice. – February 18th this year.

The Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanh is even more complicated to work out being 163 days after the first day of Pesach (Passover) which in turn begins on the 15th day of Nisan. It all gets terribly confusing but the Hebrew Calendar, like the Chinese Calendar, is calculated on a rule-based lunisolar calendar. So there is some celestial logic behind it.

Now, if you want to give your mind a real New Year’s work out you could do worse than read all about the history of our Gregorian calendar. It’s a right old historical, Catholic Church botch as far as I can tell. All based around Easter – itself a movable feast.

The canonical rule is that Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the 14th day of the lunar month (the nominal full moon) that falls on or after 21 March (nominally the day of the vernal equinox).

All a bit Pagan wouldn’t you say.

I have to confess that I got totally confused by all this. As far as I understand it the significant date is March 21st – the vernal equinox. The Catholic Church then adapted the earlier Julian calendar with it’s division of 12 months starting on January 1st but still left the vernal equinox at March 21st.

So, in simple terms: you work out when the vernal equinox will be; that’s March 21st (the 80th day of the year). Count back 80 days and you get to today: January 1st.

Result: it has absolutely no significance whatsoever. We’re actually celebrating a non-event.

P.S. The above is probably not completely accurate but it’s as good as you’re going to get from me today.


A Curious Start

1 January, 2007

Curiouser and curiouser

2007 has barely shrugged off it’s New Year hangover and already I’ve done something I’ve never done before.
I read a book. (wow, big deal. Ed)
From cover to cover. (hey Magwitch that’s what you’re supposed to do. Ed)
In one sitting. (ok, for you that is a big deal. Ed)

Still feeling a little under the weather I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself yesterday evening so I thought I’d sit down and start onEight Months on Ghazzah Street” by Hilary Mantel. I’d read another of her books, “Fludd” last week, which I enjoyed immensely and heartily recommend, and I was surprised to find my local library had something else by her.

Apparently I’m a bit of an inept reader, by which I mean that I still mentally talk to myself while I read. According to the experts that’s poor practice and makes for less recall and poorer understanding. In my defense I would say that I enjoy words; I love books that are like poetry; rich sensual phrases that conjure up vivid images; and somewhere I read that to really enjoy and appreciate poetry it needs to be read out loud. So I read to myself – in my head. It does mean that a book can take me a while to get through and this one, at nearly 300 pages did take more than a few hours. Ok, so there were breaks for coffee and sending and receiving a steady stream of New Year’s text messages, but I was finished by the early hours of the morning. The former Mrs M, who’s a very rapid reader, would have polished the whole thing off before midnight and still had time prepare celebration drinks.

Was a great book? No, not really. I certainly got caught up in the atmosphere of the writing. I was right there with the main characters on Ghazzah Street such is Mantel’s ability to evoke the sights, sounds and smells of her protagonist’s location. To be honest, there are also bits of the plot that I’m still not clear on, so this is not going to be a recommended read, unlike ‘Fludd’ which everyone should get hold of.

What, perhaps, was most surprising was that I never got tired. Regular readers will recall that I’ve been sleeping ridiculous hours lately but last night I felt as bright as a button, right up until the end. I’ve got a feeling my circadian rhythms are all back to front at the moment, hence why I sleep in late and seem to be awake at 3 a.m. Might be useful though as I’m back on nights from tomorrow.

So, will 2007 be a year of doing different things? Let’s hope so.


3000 and rising

31 December, 2006

May they rest in peace.

The George W Bush blood bath in Iraq now has a body count of 3,000 with more than 22,000 US service men and women wounded.

Add to that the 127 UK moralities. The 123 other coalition forces killed, and the 10’s of thousands of Iraqis shot, blown up, assassinated and injured since the asinine Iraqi war (jokingly called Operation Iraqi Freedom) was started in March 2003 and you get a picture of the hopeless, diabolical mess we’re in. And what exactly has all this slaughter achieved? Absolutely nothing as far as I can tell; just a sheer, utter waste of life.

And did those service men and women even understand why they were there? Probably not. I’m not sure Dubya and Dumsy even know, even if they do know where Iraq is – now. According to the latest National Geographic – Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy:

Only 37% of young Americans can find Iraq on a map—though U.S. troops have been there since 2003.

OK, so that’s slightly better than the previous 2002 survey when:

Only about 20 percent could identify hotspots like Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, and 11% could not locate the U.S. on a map.

But what’s the objective? and, at this stage, perhaps more importantly how the hell do we get our troops out? Bush reckons he’s working on a new plan – you mean he actually had one in the first place? The man’s a buffoon and his lap-dog Blair’s not much better. The sooner both of them depart and we get some sense into this whole fiasco the better.

Happy New Year Messrs Bush & Blair – arseholes

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I guess the one thing that George Dubya has achieved that his father never did, is the overthrow of Saddam Hussein; and finally, on December 30th 2006, the Iraqis themselves have executed him – despite a farce of a trial, and the execution of 3 of his defence lawyers. Was it revenge? Maybe. Interesting that the majority Shias are now in power while Saddam and his cronies were Sunnis.

I was also surprised that they chose hanging as the execution method of choice – a very British institution. A legacy of our colonial days perhaps? Why not stoning, firing squad, electrocution, lethal injection, garroting, etc.?

I trust the hangman was well versed in his craft; perhaps he dusted down his copy of Charles Duff’s, A Handbook of Hanging complete with James Berry’s rope length calculator; 412/weight of body in stones = length of drop in feet. Failing that he could always have chosen J.D Potter’s the Art of Hanging with it’s easy to use ‘Hangman’s Ready Reckoner’ on the back cover. The execution was videoed so perhaps we’ll get to see how he got on.

Note: Before people start flaming me I should point out that I am absolutely against capital punishment and that both these books, despite their titles, are actually satires on the pointlessness of state execution.