Friday 9 September 2011

Silver linings

Last night on my cycle home, I bumped into a couple of policemen. I stopped to tell them that I'd seem a pile of credit cards...several hundred of them spilling out of a plastic bag beside the canal. Although we were just by the Olympic Stadium, they weren't familiar with the area. It turns out that they were from SOUTH Yorkshire (I was corrected when I just said Yorkshire) and were in London as part of a very large posse, including 160 police vans, brought to the capital to control any rioting following Mark Duggans funeral today. Very nice and friendly they were too. Clearly the forces of law and order are taking no chances.

In a period of reflection I realised how hypercritical it was that during the riots which briefly broke out in the brief heat of the summer that the government called for a ban on social media to prevent gangs of thugs from organising themselves to fight the forces of law and order. These are the same politicians that have praised the role of the self-same social media to promote dissent in Iran and encourage the Arab Spring. Now we all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and that the video evidence suggests that our own unrest was a call for all hours footwear shopping, but are we really that well placed to decide between goodies and baddies in foreign countries. I somehow doubt it. I must admit that I've never been a great fan of democracy, as our own version spent centuries in a state of absolute corruption and then just as it evolved, the world has become so complex that it seems the real issues are beyond the understanding of most voters, who therefore fall back on uninformed prejudices. For many countries and cultures, democracy is so alien that attempts to impose it are bound to fail.

School has resumed, and it has come as a shock to realise that the sweet darlings we escorted to school just five minutes ago are now verging on the edge of adulthood. No longer for them school uniform, instead business suits which make them look smart, sassy and grown up. I may just decide to feel old and retire. The Cat will be able to follow her theatrical passion with a drama AS alongside her more traditional academic subjects. The Boy is starting with the First XV team on Saturday, which is a real achievement for him....and an interesting coincidence as the Rugby World Cup has just kicked off. A real, real shame I don't think I'll get to see him play as I have to get a new set of tyres on the motorbike at the same I have a nail in one, I guess the urgency is reasonable?

It may have been a pretty miserable summer weather wise, but I don't know if you've been lucky enough to see the amazing sunsets this year. I can't remember when I've seen glorious sunsets so often..practically every night I would say. Dramatic clouds and amazing red and orange light. Truly spectacular, and more than enough to lift everyone's spirits. The odd thing though is that they've really given a lie to the old saying 'Red sky at night, shepherd's delight' - but we can't have everything.

Monday 5 September 2011

Le monsieur croque

With the teen urchins off to the Black Mountains for a four day hike as part of their DofE Silver, The Cat's mother and I took the opportunity to grab a few days away. We both really needed it being more than a little bit frazzled over the summer - frustrated that commitments had prevented us from getting a proper break giving us the rest and relaxation we needed.

As we only had a few days it didn't seem sensible to be flying off into the sunset, so instead we took the train to Paris, managing to secure a room in the George V hotel. So what to say about Paris in the balmy, sunny late summer days? I've been there dozens of times, for both work and pleasure, and love going there...the Cat's Mother has been there less, but was very excited about a few days in Paris.

An interesting coincidence for us was that we were there at the same time as Cameron's cohorts and Sarkozy's servants were in conference with the Libyans, planning for a non-Gadaffi future. It did feel a bit like the colonial conferences of the past with the imperialists just carving up their share of the booty. The nearest we came to it was that our hotel filled with men who may well have traveled from Saudi Arabia or there abouts.

The Cat's Mother was adamant she didn't want to ascend the Eiffel Tower (in case it fell over or blew down!), so we stayed nearer the ground. Under it in fact, as we descended to the catacombs where some six million Parisians are piled up. That's quite a few isn't it? Anyway, the kingdom of the dead is the strangest of places to enter, and hear about its creation due to (literally) overflowing cemeteries which would mean decaying bodies appearing in people's cellars, and an atmosphere bad enough to curdle milk in an hour. Cheerful place eh?! But the bones are beautifully laid out. Obviously death was on our mind as we discovered that we were staying just a short chase by the papparazzi from where Diana Spencer died.

We did art...a lot of it really - suffice to say the French don't really do modern art, but the Musee D'Orsay is just absolutely spectacular and just the perfect size. The Louvre was great too....but really just too big for its own good. And anyway, who wants to stand in a gigantic crowd to see some dappy woman smiling from the canvas? But we loved it anyway.

Our culinary experience included a restaurant that was so hip it hurt, and patrons who clearly loved themselves. Fortunately the waitresses wore the shortest skirts imaginable, and the food wasn't half bad. Even if one dish came complete with rubber band that they didn't know from it had emanated. We went in one brasserie, sat down ready to order when the waitress came over and demanded to know how we wanted our meal cooked. It took a moment to realise all they served was steak frites. And delicious it was wonder that evening we saw a queue for it snaking down the road. I'm not going to mention staggering down the Champs Elyssee after a couple of very fine Martinis...that would be just too embarrassing.

And that was it really. All very, very nice. Apart from when we ascended from the catacombs, I acquired a stiff back pain which lingered for most of the day until it suddenly turned nasty in the Louvre gift shop and spread to my chest as well...I got very hot and sweaty and began to pass out. Thoughts of my brother's heart attacks added to the panic, but eventually it passed, I recovered, and after a good massage that evening I was as fit as a fiddle.

A good wave off

Should this boat have stopped here?

That's me!

We may have had a wine or two

Smiling woman, and another with a picture of her child

The only queue in Paris, and the man in front had the same sandals as me

Alas poor Jeanne Pierre

Of course we went shopping

That car really would go in the river...designed and built in Britain

Notre Dame

Flowers in our hotel...more than in all of the Netherlands

Going underground

Sunday 4 September 2011

Japing Ape

We have been away. It has nothing do with the fact that the Japing Ape appears to have moved in next door I'm sure he'll make a fine neighbour.