Monday, 30 June 2008

To boycott or not to boycott, that is the question.

There is an argument currently under way that suggests that Dwain Chambers should not be allowed to contest the ruling by the British Olympic Association that he be excluded from Britain's Olympic Team to the Beijing Olympic Games this August.

The question for me right now is not that he be excluded, or indeed included, despite his ban following his use of performance enhancing drugs, or whether or not there should be such a high profile public debate about it.

The Daily Telegraph quotes an open letter from the BOA as saying,

"The core foundation of the Olympic Movement is its values of fair play, respect and friendship...

My own opinion is that this core value has been missing for as long as I can remember and that it is bound to be missing for as long as nations compete in sport under their national flags. It is, I believe, of such importance to some countries to win at all costs, that they will condone the secret use of drugs in their teams on a massive scale.

The USA, along with China, and the Soviet bloc, as they were, used drugs and politics to get one over on their competitors. We all recall the stories years ago alleging Bulgarian women shot-putters of needing to shave twice a day. But joking apart, these countries and others have lost the ability to play the game.

I also feel that China should never have been awarded these games, purely on their record of human rights, and so now, for what it may be worth, I say "Boycott The Games."

I for one will not watch or cheer any team at the Beijing games. I don't for one minute imagine it will make any difference to anyone other than me. But it will sit well with my conscience. If enough people who felt likewise, were to do the same and let the sponsors know, then a real change could be made.
That would mean not buying Coca-Cola for instance; or a McDonalds, or using Visa to buy them. There are enough sponsors apart from those giants, to be influenced.
And I would like to see the Chinese people that have recently been arrested and detained in mental institutions for their outspoken oppostion to these games, released...

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Roadside Remembrance

Every June for the past few years I have remembered to stop at a little stone marker in a beautiful village in France in the Alpes Nord. The village is Abondance, and through it runs the Dranse on its way from the mountains to join other small rivers and streams that flow into Lake Geneva and then out of the lake where it becomes the Rhone in France and flows south gaining in size and strength as it irrigates the vineyards that run its length, until the Mediterranean is reached.

But this year I forgot.

I spend time in and around this village either cutting the grass at chalets of absentee owners, or walking amongst the meadow flowers and pine woods or climbing on the Via Ferrata in nearby Chapelle d'Abondance.

What made me stop the first time was noticing some flowers by this small stone marker and then I saw it was the site of the death of one Calixte Burnet killed in battle on the 17th June 1944.

Was this man from around here or from elsewhere in France as one of the hundreds, the thousands, of resistance fighters that struggled against the Nazi invaders, and who spent the days following the Normandy Landings, the Débarquement, creating as much of a nuisance as possible ?

It doesn't explain his origin, and perhaps it is not as important, as what he did. But his falling in a small battle here is remembered and acknowledged by someone, somewhere. However this year it was some ten days later as I stopped at the nearby Boucherie Maulaz to buy some lunchtime Feuilletee Sausisse that I spotted his marker and felt sorry that I had forgotten. But fresh flowers were there.

And that reminded me of other markers; other commemorative stones. Ones not often showing recent flower placements. And not all those are for people fallen in open battle. There is one that stands on the RN5 being passed daily by speeding cars along the lake road from Thonon and Evian towards the haut-lac and the Swiss border crossing at St Gingolph.

I wonder how many of the vehicles' occupants are oblivious to the events this stone commemorates. Were these men caught here at this spot, or were they brought here ? Was it a beautiful day like today with the lake water blue below them, warm and a soft breeze blowing from the south across France and towards Switzerland. Had they tried to escape ? Were they made to face the freedom that Switzerland offered as their lives were taken from them.

The Lac Léman offers many pleasures; perch and fera to eat, warm waters in which to swim, beaches of pebbles upon which to lie and sunbathe as the paddle steamers cross it; the black kites migrating from the Middle East and swallows swooping and feeding throughout the day and into the dusky evening light, when the setting sun reflects its rosey rays onto mountain railways on the far Swiss shore as the trains creep up through the vineyard covered hills opposite.

They knew then they would not enjoy these again.

We should not forget these people.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Poems from the Savoyard's Stable

# 1
empty restaurant
waiters waiting
Friday's lunchtime fish eaters.

Let out of boxes,
starter's orders
orders started;
the wine carafe ignored for water,
all at once the cars draw up
the vans spill their workers wanting.

If I could draw,
I'd draw her...
Ms FitasFuck lunching in laughter;
ignores her watching man,
opposite, she taps text
into telephone,
reads her sms; smoke curling through
her tanned thin fingers.

Her legs longingly crossed,
easily; below the table,
above she dips & pokes,
pushes & moves morsels around her dizzy plate.

Her desirable lean form
having pushed a leaf again,
she lights another cigarette.
and sips her anorexic water.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Junk on Blogs

I saw the following quote on a Blog in the Daily Telegraph... see

Part of the quoted post said....
"It's possible the euro will break up as weaker Euro economies balk at ECB rate hikes - Spain might be the first to go... Our Eastern European friends will go home as unemployment rises in the UK. (and then)...
Already parts of the Eurozone are refusing to take Euro notes printed by Greece, Portugal and Spain."
Posted by inh on June 18, 2008 8:22 AM"

Where does someone find this kind of crap? Well it appears they found it on The Daily Telegraph website in an article of Friday 13th June last. I had no idea.

Is it wishful thinking because they don't want to see the Eurozone as successful?

I have right now, a wallet full of Euros, 10's, 20's, a 50, and secretly hidden away several 100's & 200's.... I can tell these notes were printed and issued in Germany, Italy and Spain.
However, there are, only a few kilometres from here, Portguese, Spaniards and Greeks all attending the various Euro 2008 soccer matches with pockets crammed with euros which are being accepted along with the euros offered by their German, Dutch, Swedish, Italian, Croatian and French fellow fans. In amongst them, there are Irish and British fans whose teams are not included, but who are spending their cash in euros, and in a country not in the Eurozone - Switzerland.

We have a responsibility when we post on blogs. As has been pointed out to me a few times today. If those blogs are run by newspapers, then they have a responsibilty too. I guess that German banks do too. Should they allow their customers to change one euro note for another on the basis of which country issued it?
It is a free country after all.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Letter from Lennie James

I first saw the responses to the following letter in the 15th June 2008 edition of The Observer. It made me want to read Lennnie James's letter as published in that newspaper on the preceeding Sunday... it took me quite a bit of persistent searching as I am still a novice in this part of the web. Here's the link;

Some of the respondents to his letter were concerned that this letter may not reach the target audience. I hope therefore that The Observer and subsequently The Guardian newspaper will not object to me reproducing it here, in the hope that anyone searching for Lennie James's letter and not finding it easily on those newspaper's website will find it here. It is the content that matters.

If they do object, then I am sorry, but somehow we have to stop our kids killing our kids.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Lennie James. I am a 42-year-old father of three. I grew up in south-west London. I was brought up by a single mother. I was orphaned at 10, lived in a kids' home until I was 15 and was then fostered. I tell you this not to claim any special knowledge of how you've grown, but to explain how I have, and from where I draw my understanding.
I want to talk to you about the knife you're carrying in your belt or pocket or shoe. The one you got from your mum's kitchen or ordered online or robbed out of the camping shop. The knife you tell yourself you carry for protection, because you never know who else has got one.
I want to talk to you about what that knife will do for you. If you carry it, the chances are you will be called on to use it. It is a deadly weapon, so if you use it the chances are you will kill with it. So after you've killed with it, after you've seen how little force it takes for sharpened steel to puncture flesh. After your mates have run away from the boy you've left bleeding. When you're looking for somewhere to dash the blade, and lighter fluid to burn your clothes. When your blood is burning in your veins and your heart is beating out of your chest to where you want to puke or cry, but can't coz you're toughing it out for your boyz. When you are bang smack in the middle of 'Did you see that!' and 'Oh, Jesus Christ!' here's who to blame...
Blame the boy you just left for dead. Blame him for not believing you when you told him you were a bigger man than him. Blame him for not backing down when you made your chest broad, bounced into him and told him about your knife and how you would use it. Blame him for calling you on and making you prove yourself. Tell yourself if he had just freed up his phone or not cut his eyes at you like he did, he wouldn't be choking on his blood and crying for his mum.
Then blame your mum. When the police are banging down her door looking for you, or she hears the whispers behind the 'wall of silence', tell her it's all her fault for being worthless. Cuss her out for having kids when she was nothing but a kid herself, or for picking some drug or some man over you again and again. Even if she only had you and devoted herself to you, even if she is a great mum, blame her anyway. Blame her for not being around more to make sure you took the chances she was out working her fingers to the bone to give you.
When you're done with her, blame the man she picked to make you with. Blame him for being less than half the man he should have been. When he comes to bail you out and starts running you down for the terrible thing you've done, tell him straight: 'I did what I did coz you didn't do what you should have done.' Even if he did right; respected your mother, worked to provide for his family financially and spiritually, taught you right from wrong and drummed it home everyday... Even if he nurtured you as best he could, blame him for the generation of men he comes from.
The one that allowed an adolescent definition of manhood to become so dominant. The one that measures a man by how many babymothers he has wrangling his offspring, or by how 'bad' his reputation is on the streets of whatever couple of square miles he chooses to call his 'ends'.
Damn them for letting you believe that respect is to be found with gun in hand or knife in pocket. Damn them and everyone who feeds the myth of these gangsters, villains, thieves and hustlers. Anyone who makes them heroes while damning hard-working, educated, honest men as weak, sell-outs or pussies.
If you are black, blame white people for the history of indignities they heaped on you and yours. For the humiliation of having to go cap-in-hand or get down on bended knee or having to burn shit down before you are afforded something so basically fundamental as equality. If you are white, blame black folk and Muslims for taking all your excuses. Failing that, blame a class system that keeps you poor and ignorant so the 'uppers' and 'middles' can feel better about themselves.
You have good reason to blame them all. I wouldn't be you growing up now for love nor money. Your generation has so little room to manoeuvre. We had more space to step around the bullshit. We weren't excluded at the rate you lot are. Teachers hadn't given up or lost their authority over us. They still tried to protect and guide us even through our most disruptive years.
The police stopped and searched us, but we fought that right out of their hands - we hoped into extinction. But they want to bring back that abusive practice. They are still hooked on punishment rather than prevention. They seem ignorant to the fact that they are feeding you acceptance of an already prevalent gang mentality. As far as you can see, the police are not protecting and serving you, they are coming at you like just another street gang trying to boss your postcode.
When I was where you are now, generations of state agencies, social services, policy-makers and politicians had not abdicated all responsibility for me. We weren't left to our own devices like you have been. Is it any wonder that you end up expressing yourself in such a violently pathetic way?
We should be ashamed. I am. You have shamed us into a desperate need to do something about ourselves. We have collectively failed you and we should take all the blame that is ours for that... but so should you.
I blame you. I blame you because as a generation you are selfish, self-centred and have little or no empathy for anyone but yourselves. You are politically stunted and socially irresponsible and... you scare us. What scares us most is that you would rather die than learn. Your only salvation may be that still most of you aren't playing it out dirty. The vast majority of young men, even with all that is stacked against them, are finding their way around the crap. The boy you will kill, should you continue to carry that knife, almost certainly had the same collective failures testing him. He probably felt no less abandoned and no less scared. He also, almost certainly, wasn't carrying a knife.
Whatever it seems like, whatever you've read, whatever you tell yourself about protection being your reason, statistics show the life you take will be that of an unarmed person. That is what that knife will do for you. It will make you escalate a situation to where it is needed. It will give you a misguided sense of confidence. It will make you the aggressor. That knife will make you use it. It will bring you nothing worth having. There is no respect there. The street may give you some passing recognition, but any name you think you might make will soon be forgotten.
Your victim will be remembered long after you. Name me one of the boys who killed Stephen Lawrence. Once you've bloodied that knife you may as well be dead because you'll be buried for 10 to 20 years. Banged up for that long, only a fool would look back and think it was worth it. You'll be nothing more than a sad, unwanted, unnecessary statistic.
If you were mine, this is what I would tell you. I would make myself a big enough man to beg. I'd get down on bended knees if I had to. I would beg you to take that knife out of your pocket and leave it at home. I would tell you that I know you are scared and lost and that I know the risks involved in what I'm asking you to do. I know that what we could step around, you have to walk through, and that there is always some fool who isn't going to make it any other way but the wrong way. I'm just begging you not to be that fool.
Be a better man than that. Let the story they tell of you be that you exceeded expectations... that you didn't drown. Don't spend your days looking to be a 'bad-man' - try to be a good one. Our biggest failure is that our actions have left you not knowing how precious you are. We have left you unaware of your worth to us. You are precious to us. Give yourself the chance to grow enough to understand why.

Be safe.Lennie James

Fallout, part of Disarming Britain, Channel 4's season on gun and knife crime, is to be screened at 10pm on Thursday 3 July

Friday, 13 June 2008

Coco rose* in a sort of Spanish/Italian English way

Take a whole bunch of Coco Rose, pod them, photograph them for the blog and thence cook 'em...

20 mins at a simmer. While that is merrily cooking, cut up a pepper (red or green) into small dice, chop up an onion red or yellowy-white as ya like and slice finely some garlic. Chop up also a large ripe tomato or two, and remember people, never keep those tomatoes in your fridge!!

Pour some olive oil (a non virgin is good enough for me) into a pan and fry lightly the veggies for a few minutes. Once you are happy with that little lot, you should add it to the pan with the beans...

Now then, do you want to eat it as a soup or as an accompaniment to something else. Your answer will depend on how much of the bean cooking lquid you want to keep back.

Me? I drain the beans keeping the liquid and then add the onion/pepper/tomato mix to the beans and add little by little, the liquid until I get the consistancy I want.

Cook this beans/pepper/tomato mix for 20 minutes or until you like the beans that way, and then check and adjust the seasoning...

Wow!! Almost baked beans, and just wonderful. Very moreish and probably why I weigh the amount I do. A good bottle of Sablet, from the Rhone will accompany that really well. The spicy nature of the syrah or shiraz grape should grab you....

* also known in parts as Coco paimpol, or Borlotti beans

Bon appetit.


Thursday, 12 June 2008

Pondlife... couldn't resist it.

Agrion jouvencelle (fr) or Common coenagrion (en) Coenagrion puella. Male.
There ya go, for anyone interested and who might be passing this way. It is identified.
Photographed at the pond in Parc de Neuvecelle. A day that inspired me to get out and run off some of these kilos, pounds, stones; call them what you will, they add up to too much weight being carried around for no good reason. So I did the parcours de santé up and around the pond and marais doing the exercises that one finds at various points along the course.
I doubt I lost any weight doing it, but at least the mojito before, and the Côtes Du Rhone with, dinner went down well.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Quote of the Day... The Victorian Sex Explorer

"This is the way we live in India; a pitieous situation."
This off-camera remark was made to Rupert Everett during a visit to a prostitute's room in a seedy part of Bombay and was part of Everett's fascinating documentary about Sir Richard Burton called "The Victorian Sex Explorer.>

It was a shocking scene in many ways; the candid manner in which the girls talked about their way of life, a life they had been forced into. The quote is issued just after one of the prostitutes reveals her small son, a baby, in a box, covered and concealed under a bed.

So having decided to include the quote here, I looked through photos I had taken during visits to Kerala and Rajasthan, but all I could find were pictures of people smiling, kids with siblings, a grandmother straight faced holding her grandchild; very poor, but not pitieous. And it would be wrong for me to include them when they have left me with some far better memories.

A lesson perhaps in photojournalism.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


That is the age of two of the last British Soldiers killed in Afghanistan.


...just 19. Kids. They should be watching Euro 2008.
Forgive my anger but I would really like to know what they were doing there and why?

It is only my opinion but I do not think the British Government has a clue. Democracy to the people of Afghanistan is meanlingless and if it were ever achieved at any point, it would not be long before that democracy was superseded by some other system more acceptable to those that want power.

Just because I DO NOT support the British Government does not mean I do not support our troops. I do indeed. They are prepared to do what I was never prepared to do, and for that, with not a little embarrassment, I thank them.

But I am so angry at PM Gordon Brown. The decisions are at his desk. The buck stops there.
(I hope he doesn't mind me using it...)

Sunday, 8 June 2008

It has rained constantly...

... it seems for the past two or three weeks. Certainly it was raining on the Monday I went over to the UK, and it continued until the Thursday morning that Jag wrote about, which I spent in Whipps Cross Hospital waiting for my Mum to be treated for acting her shoe size and not her age. More about that another time. But it rained on the Friday as we left to walk to the Underground Station to get the Central Line tube into central London and Kings Cross/St Pancras. It rained as we caught the 11 0'clock Derby train that would deposit us at Luton Parkway and continued while we jerked along in the shuttle bus making pointless stops to the Luton departure terminal. It may have stopped while we wandered around the shopping mall that is Luton Airport, but it chucked it down as we walked to the aircraft.

It rained in the clouds. Above the clouds it rained some more by virtue of the higher level above.

As we diverted to Lyon the pilot told us to expect rain and then we started our long slow descent down into rain-heavy clouds, where it continued to fall as we sat immobile on the tarmac. Ninety minutes later we turned to takeoff and the taxi-ing lights of receding aircraft diffused in the droplets clinging to the windows before the speed of lift off turned them to thin streaks then nothing.

Eventual arrival into Geneva welcomed us with rain, and it hit and spattered the train windows as we hurried towards Lausanne. The streets shiny wet in the early evening low light as the sun made an attempt to burn through the thick Europe wide cloud base. Even when it wasn't raining it was very damp... in an Olthwaite like way.

The next boat bound from Ouchy to Evian-les-Bains would not be for another hour, so we sat at a street side café, shielding our Cardinals from the dripping clouds.

Like Hitchcock's Birds the rain hit beat beak like onto the windows of the boat as it crossed the lake and as it fell heavier still Mrs Pondlife waited in the Caytrois to carry us up the mountain side to our home.

Nine days later and the rain has stopped. Roses are rotting on their branches. Petunias are dripping colour and perfume from flowers is negligible to all but the more sensitive of noses but the rivers and down hill streams bubble with fury over the tumbling stones.

So much for flaming June.

And I still have so much gardening yet to do.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Fagiolo All'uccelletto - Feve/Broad beans..try it.

I don't recall where I found this recipe, but at this time of the year, young fresh broad beans are finding their way into French supermarkets and then into my bean pan...

Here's what to do with them once you have the following:

450 gr freshly shelled Broad Beans or Feve
3 tbspns olive oil
garlic, 3 or 4 or 5 cloves depending on how big the cloves are and to your taste...
1 sprig of fresh sage.
450 gr of good ripe tomatoes - and don't keep 'em in the fridge.
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Simmer the beans in unsalted water until cooked (about 40 mins or so...) and then drain them. While they are cooking peel and roughly chop the tomatoes. Heat the olive oil in a good sized heavy type casserole and lightly brown the garlic and the sage leaves. Add the beans, stir them around to coat them well with the garlicky oil and then add the tomatoes and their juice. Season to taste and cover and simmer them for about 15 minutes letting the flavours really mingle.

This is very moreish. Eat them on their own or as a side dish to some barbecued meat.

Enjoy...Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

About A Year Ago...

One Wednesday evening, me an 'er went to see Bob Dylan in concert in Geneva. I had looked forward to the concert although not passionately so, having agreed to go to keep her happy, she being the Dylan fan from decades back - not me. Having said that, I think a Desert Island Disc might well be Girl From The North Country, from Dylan's Nashville Skyline album. But I digress, so off we toddled.

Upon arrival at the venue, the Arena we founds hundreds, maybe thousands of people queuing to get in, being funneled around the side of the building from the car parks, to wait patiently as people, mostly middle aged and middle class, are wont to do. The two security staff frisked the masses, asking for mobile phones to be turned off, or cameras to be deposited at a safe store. These same people then waited while attendant audience members then had to hurriedly consume drink from the bottles they were prevented from taking in. Security reasons you understand. These rock concert goers despite so many being in their late sixties and early seventies, are obviously temperamental and rowdy folk, who are likely to storm the stage to rip Dylan's clothing from his skinny but aging frame.

The conversation in the crowd was carried on in many languages some of which I could not identify, but Geneva, being more international than Swiss, can supply almost upon demand a few people from every country on the world. French were shrugging their shoulders and saying how long they had waited to see, Dylan. A man next to me explained that Dylan was from his époque - he had seen him on film and had all his records. A family in front of me, Anglo-Americans judging by their accents, were made up of three generations and this was not unusual. Several older people had teenage children or even grandchildren in tow, giving them an opportunity to see and hear a Master.

But we couldn't get in. The queue wasn't moving. The concert was due to start at 8pm, it was now 7.58, and we'd been in the same place give or take a few metres for 40 minutes. The Missus got through and I was asked to wait, eventually being allowed in, and past the bars, staffed with several good looking young women. No drinks allowed inside due to security measures ? I think not.

Then I heard the music. The show had begun and Dylan's unmistakable but definitely older and raspier voice, the band in full flow, sounded good. Through some draped curtains and into the auditorium, and into pitch black. Our tickets had numbered allocated seats, but no one, it seemed could find where they were, and on the band played. We found our section and stepped to our right and occupied two places but stood as everyone else was. Every few moments one of three usherettes with tiny torches got down to ground level to find which row belonged to which anxious ticket holding audience member. Some people were being asked to move. The situation was quite ridiculous by this time. It was now 8.45 and Dylan had been singing almost non stop since 8pm, audience members were still shuffling in the dark back and forth looking for somewhere to stand, usherettes were continuing to move on hands and knees with torches lit looking in vain for row KD seats 41/41 in zone ZG.

This was Swiss organisation in reality. They had a ticket with a seat numbered and, by William Tell, that was where they would sit!

Surrounding me were people who had finally got to see Bob Dylan. Two guys behind me, screamed loudly whenever they discovered the song Dylan had just started was known to them, they then started to sing along, not loudly but often in their own languages, then when the refrain they knew well, from songs like She Belongs To Me, would sing in English, loudly mispronouncing the words. It was wonderful! A couple in front stood after a few numbers and started to boogie. She was overweight and a little unsteady, and maybe had never tried to boogie like that in such confined space, her grey haired spindly husband was doing better, his head was moving, his arms and legs jerkily gyrating, having the time of his life. It was a privilege to be part of this.

Two leather clad, cropped haired and bearded Germans in suits standing in the aisle next to me swigged their beer and clapped each other on the back as they recognised songs from their youth. Not your average middle management bankers, these guys. Spanish speaking women moved into vacant seats in front, stashed their holdalls, and clapped, singing along when they knew the words. I was as much aware of the audience make up as I was of Dylan's presence on stage, shielded by his white stetson, looking mostly downward, growling into his microphone, while playing some mean licking guitar.

And suddenly, it was over. Two hours later after non stop performance the lights were extinguished, and Bob Dylan was gone. The crowd of old timers, clapped, they stamped, the whistles grew as people who had previously forgotten how to whistle with fingers filling their mouths remembered how it was done. The noise grew, some people left, and still Dylan didn't return. More whistles, some frantic shouting, stamping feet found a rhythm. From a festival memory in the distant past sounded a chant, and after what seemed an age the lights went up, and Bob Dylan and his Band gave us an encore. A couple numbers more and again he was gone, and we filed out quickly, into the warm Geneva night, past the peddlars and their t-shirts "cinq francs!".

Swiss organisation. A misnomer if ever there was one. But the aging international fans would forgive that. They had boogied like they hadn't for years. And those old albums would soon be dusted off, and neighbours would complain again...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Pondlife or Stream life ?

Late May early morning run down to the river and around the man-made lake, that is now home to a large gaggle of incontinent Canada geese and their goslings. The sky, heavy with rain and the constant sound of the speeding traffic on the nearby motorway threatened an enjoyable workout as I plodded 16 stone past the dog walkers who seemed surprised at having me greet them...

I'm used to greeting and being greeted here on my various hikes up mountain and down valley, but on my journeys to Britain it rarely happens. There is never much eye contact either.

The river was swollen from the past days constant rain; the muddy brown whirlpools as quickly as they appeared, disappeared again as the river flowed towards the Thames.

Yellow lilies amongst the leaves and rushes brightened the overwhelming sense of greenery, and darting about, quickly resting for a second or two were several damsel flies. Some brightly shiny green and others a deeper blue. Laying an egg on a leaf here and another egg there...

Beautiful. I like this time of year, even in heavy rain when the landscape is covered in a grey cloud from one horizon to another. Even grey has its shades.